Robot 6

Don’t fear the silly

This is completely serious

This is completely serious

The ill-considered comments made last week by screenwriter David S. Goyer highlighted an embarrassment for an intrinsic part of older superhero characters and comic books in general: A lot of them are just downright “goofy.” However, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Goyer’s go-to ridicule of the silliness of Martian Manhunter’s name, concept and origin nicely encapsulated a school of thought that’s been running throughout comics for a long time. It most strongly peaked when all the wrong people misinterpreted the success of Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as due to an over-serious, grim-and-gritty take on superheroes that focused on distorted realism.

“What if superheroes really existed in our world?” is such a tired premise at this point, but it has proliferated to such a degree since the 1980s that it keeps getting recycled every year or so by someone, whether with an established property or new creation. I admit that, back in the day, I got caught up in that swirl of faux-maturity too. Comic books were still struggling to find respect and appreciation in broader pop culture, and this seemed like the easiest way to prove they could have artistic merit. If it wasn’t completely serious, it somehow wasn’t good.

In some respects, that isn’t necessarily a comics problem. When a lot of people think of artistic and/or literary masterpieces, and what’s recognized as such, they’re almost always serious works. Moby-Dick, Crime and PunishmentGreat Expectations. Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now, Schindler’s List. Somehow being an important and significant work of art or film isn’t a laughing matter. As we all know, the Best Picture Oscar never goes to a comedy. However, that is easily upended as a falsehood. After all, I’m leaving out Don Quixote, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Gulliver’s Travels. And what about The Gold Rush, Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and Annie Hall (which did win Best Picture)? More commonly, masterpieces mix the desperate and dire with comedy, sometimes resulting in tragi-comedies, dramedies and other hybrid genres. There’s really no reason to think that a lack of levity is required for acclaim. And yet, somehow too many within comics, and those reading them, did just that. (Meanwhile, a whole other corner of comics didn’t have this same trappings, and was producing masterpieces like Ghost World and Love and Rockets.)

With the weight of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, the Silver-Age goofiness of DC Comics was put to rest for good. Soon teeth-gnashing, back-breaking and angst were expected of every superhero comic book from DC, Marvel and most other publisher of that genre. A few exceptions existed, and more recently silliness, fun and irreverence have been making a comeback. However, the standard approach for a very healthy chunk of superhero stories are still absolute stone-cold serious to the point of dour humorlessness presented in contrived extremes of violence and titillation. The joke is that this over-compensation is sometimes funny in and of itself, although usually not intentionally. Any hint of acknowledging that silliness in the characters and their worlds is apt to be smacked down as unrealistic or too unsophisticated for modern audiences.

To be fair, DC’s Silver Age was extremely goofy, formulaic and not always good. Don’t mistake me for saying silly is automatically good, or the only thing superhero stories do. As much as the New 52 is criticized for its generic sameness in grim and gritty, so too could a good portion of DC’s line 50 to 60 years ago be criticized for all being a bit repetitive. It’s not that good equals silliness or not silliness. It’s that a good story is good. A good character concept is good. Maybe it’s silly, maybe it’s not. If it’s a superhero, it probably has a level of silliness in there, whether or not it’s intentional.

Goyer’s big problem with Martian Manhunter was that he would never work today. He’s from Mars? That’s silly, because we’ve landed on Mars and know there aren’t green men running around everywhere. Martian Manhunter used his great powers to simply be a detective? That’s silly, he should immediately set out to save or change the world. Plus, detectives aren’t glamorous anymore. They work from home doing Google searches on cheating husbands. It just couldn’t work today because we’re all too hip and sophisticated. Martian Manhunter is just silly. Well, guess what? Yes, yes he is! Look at the cover of his first appearance in Detective Comics #225 above. I mean, Bruce Wayne is attending a Batman convention. Superheroes are silly! And that’s OK. We can admit it; we can like silly things. Let’s just be honest with ourselves, and maybe we’ll even feel a little better. If we fess up, maybe people like Goyer won’t feel the self-conscious need to ridicule those who have heard of a somewhat-obscure character, much less have an appreciation for him.

The ’60s Batman TV series was absolutely despised by comic fans because it turned the Dark Knight into a goofball. Never mind that the show was genuinely funny and fun. Now that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has re-established the grim-and-gritty Batman in pop culture, some of those same detractors are a little more OK with it getting some acknowledgement. The Batman ’66 digital comic was celebrated upon its release for capturing the show’s antics so well.

From the wry Hawkeye to the absurd Harley Quinn to the irreverent Quantum and Woody, comedy has crept back in to superhero comics, and it’s a wonderfully refreshing thing.

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Comments

38 Comments

Doug Glassman

May 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I’m fine with silliness, as long as it’s well-executed. I’m kind of surprised that you didn’t mention “Nextwave”, which makes no sense and is fully over-the-top, but is so brilliantly written and drawn that you don’t end up caring.

Oh yeah, good one, Doug! I wanted to feature comics that were currently running but that is definitely a worthy one.

And agreed, well-executed is key, whether it’s silly or serious.

Well said. It’s all in the execution.

But it is true, though. These are fictional characters who put on capes to fight crime. Is silly becuse it embarrasses us as human beings. How realistic can you get with these ficional characters? Probably not so much. I make fun of Marvel comics, because I do believe they are a bit outdated: when Hulk, Spidey, Thor, etc first were introduced in the 60′s, they were part of this new trend of scientific enlightenment. Where someone can turn into this big green guy or turn into a Spider. Forward 40 years later, you think is possible to turn into a Spider or turn into a Hulk? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean that is not rewarding to your brain. As The Avengers movie did.

That’s why the movies are out today, and to some extend, the tv shows, need to look real. Times do change, but behaviors don’t. Men are still as masculine today as before and women are still as emotionally today as before. For comic books, is more about than looking real. Is about looking compatible. Bruce Wayne works because there are rich people in our world. But Wonder Woman? Can a Wonder Woman work? Think about it.

A Wonder Woman movie, on paper, does look like it has potential. But in theory and practice, is a disaster wating to happen. Not only you have to find a costume that looks real as our clothes, but you need to make her be different than your average woman. What’s so special about WW than what is special about girls in general? So she fights. Girls don’t like fighting. Heck, they are more likely to approve gun-control than men. And what? Her Lasso of Truth? You really think a Lasso would appeal to women? Forget one gender, but what about the general audience? The casual fan? Yeah right. Is silly and corny. One of Wonder Woman’s greatest weapons is a rope that forces you to tell you the truth. Try makng that work on the big screen. Good luck on that.

But is far beyond psychological realisms. I do think there are those out there in the comic book world that do make it work. And if you dive deeper, it don’t look silly at all. Take Superman. Is a simple, generic, unmask type of costume. He’s a man(spoiler alert, lol), and a man who stereotypically is masculine makes sense. It makes sense to categorize men as masculine, because men are men. That’s probably a simple decisionz. But let’s try Aquaman. Can Aquaman work? Men + water = does not exactly give you a man answer. So that’s why terms like “King” are often use to categorize him as a socially and recognizable masculine trait. And talking to fishes or underwater animals? Not the easiest categorization to make. Even the video game, Injustice, had to give Aquaman a new physical look. A more manly one.

Is easy for us to enjoy these stories because we feel like we’re kids all over again. And our imagination runs wild. But it is silly when you break it down. That’s right is so fascinating how successful these characters are on the big screen. Let’s be fair: is still a working process. Thor has failed to give us that realistic comic book feel, they made his solo movies more about peer-to-peer relationships. After all, having a romantic partner? Everyone has one. But others, like Cap, just worked masterfully. That individualization is very appealing, and yes, while his costume is still changing to meet todays modern version, the character, Captain America, is a real human being. And he has no girlfriend. That self-gratification and self-serving heroism is very appealing.

I think some characters are natural to be in the big screen that you know it will work once the minute you hear a movie is being made about them. Or your hopes are up and you just want it to work, regardless of what your brain constitutes as “real”. You can see it work. Other times, it only works on the comic book forum.

“The ’60s Batman TV series was absolutely despised by comic fans because it turned the Dark Knight into a goofball. ”

That really depends on the fan’s age, I think. The TV show, like it or not, accurately reflected the sensibilities of the comic book at that time, the Dick Sprang illustrations of gigantic typewriters and Rube Goldberg-worthy death traps, with the Joker reduced to practical jokes and slapstick and the rest of the rogue’s gallery a collection of OCD cases. It was silly, and the deadpan performances made it hilarious for anyone over the age of 12.

But little kids don’t understand sarcasm or irony. I was in the second grade then, and I took the show seriously. I didn’t get the jokes or the sly innuendo until I saw the show 10 years later in re-runs. What angered me then wasn’t that it played Batman as a goofball, but that adults were laughing at my hero who wasn’t doing anything funny.

Later, younger fans who only saw the show in re-runs grew up with the universal popular perception that Batman (and by extension, all superheroes, and by further extension, all comic books) were silly and stupid. Any mention of comics in any context would be met with “BAM! POW! OOF! na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na… BATMAN!”

The natural reaction was to demand that comics were SERIOUS, DAMMIT!, pointing to the Englehart & Rogers Batman, the O’Neill & Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and later, the works of Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Over time, this insistence on seriousness above all else metastasized into a demand for constant violence and moral ambiguity.

This phenomenon is most commonly seen in fans who came into comics in the years when the Adam West Batman show was still widely seen in reruns, basically 1968-1985, more or less, which means fans born between about 1960-1977 or so. For fans younger than that, the Batman show was not a particularly prominent cultural landmark.

Incidentally, this time-frame corresponds to the rise of the direct market and the gradual disappearance of comics from mainstream distribution. When comics were in every 7-11, readers faced more open hostility from their peers; there were more opportunities for the bullies to harass and jeer. Buying a comic off the rack was sometimes an act of courage. Younger fans have never known a world in which comics were not a limited edition collectible sold in specialty stores, and they haven’t had to defend their reading choices the way the old guys did. For the really young ones, it’s a golden age where their geeky interests are dominating the mainstream. They can afford to appreciate silly and goofy comics.

TL,DR: The comic fans who think Martian Manhunter is goofy (and that it’s a bad thing) are almost all between the ages of 35 and 50. People older than that are in on the joke and can relax about it, people younger than that never felt the stigma of having to defend silly nonsense to an entirely hostile world.

P.S. Wonder Woman would be spectacular on film, IF the people making it aren’t ashamed or embarrassed by it. Take the Lasso of Truth back to its original function (anyone bound by it is compelled to follow every command they are given, not just to tell the truth), let the Amazons be badass, and make the gods real characters. It will work and it will be grand.

That’s sad that the Martian Manhunter doesn’t have a place in the modern comic book world, when in fact he should. The JL animated series retooled him to something relevant in today’s world. He is J’onn and an outsider. When has being an outsider become out of date? He represents and ancient and proud people and is its last survivor. It’s worked for Superman for decades.
DC could reboot J’onn into someone really awesome. Take away a few of his uber powers like they did on animated JL and focus on his shape changing, telepathy and intelligence. And there is nothing shameful in being a detective. In fact, having him be the stereotypical detective in a modern world could be fun. I bet fans of the Question wouldn’t think being a on the streets detective is out of date.
I haven’t followed Justice League America because I simply can’t afford to follow everything Justice League oriented but from what I heard, the J’onn and Stargirl relationship has been a good one and why couldn’t they transfer that into its own comic? J’onn as a detective trying to figure out the world he is in and Stargirl as his girl Friday. It could be fun, silly and a good comic I would buy.

Robin’s trollface on that cover just makes it funnier.

The problem with overly silly superhero stories (particularly after the end of the actual Silver Age) is that they often feel a little too self-conscious in how they “embrace” silliness.

Let me take a page from Dr. Wertham and make a comparision between superheroes and gays.

If grim & gritty superhero stories are like gays that are in the closet and try to act uber-macho, some retro silly superhero stories are like gays that act up and go uber-camp. Both are defense mechanisms, I feel. 1960s Batman was like this. “Embracing the silliness” as much as possible is a way to legimate your enjoyment of superheroes, it’s like “Hahaha! I know it’s silly! Do you see? I know it! Hahaha! Don’t make fun of me! I’m on the joke!”

It’s as much a defense mechanism as clinging to uber-serious, uber-tragic vigilantes to prove superheroes are okay for grown-ups.

What I’d say is: just enjoy what you enjoy. You don’t need to excuse it in either way.

Now, Martian Manhunter. He isn’t as much “silly” as he is tied to a specific time period. MM is where two 1950s cultural phenomena meet: the noir police detective genre and the covert alien invasion genre. He fit right in when Darwyn Cooke wrote THE NEW FRONTIER. The need to always update superheroes for a modern setting may be problem. Or it may not.

Martian Manhunter works in post-1950s stories when we realize that he is the one Leaguer that feels like the Justice League is his family, and that despite his “alienness”, he may be as human or more human than the other heroes. Those are qualities that work better in an ensemble and in a continuing series, I think.

What can we say, people are stupid. They think grim and gritty equals great. No one respects the jester that is able to liven up the mood. No on understands that contrast and happiness are just as important. Silly kids, pretending to be adults.

Martian Manhunter needs to be in a road movie comic. Solving crimes, having weird, varied oriented relationships, making friends, and learning about the expansive American landscape. I’d read that.

Then again, I’d also read a Jimmy Olsen slice-of-life come where he get’s dating advice from a depowered Mr. Mind who’s constantly trying to persuade him to join up in taking over the world.

it came from the fridge

May 29, 2014 at 4:04 am

Remember the first couple of appearances of Ambush Bug? If there’s one thing today’s grim and gritty, straight laced, super serious heroes need, it’s someone like that. Exactly like that. Someone who isn’t afraid to tug on Superman’ s cape. There’s nothing wrong with laughter, and there’s nothing wrong with silly super heroes.

A little bit of joy in comics is not a bad thing at all. And after years and years of death and destruction I would RELISH a bit of “silliness”. Merely a sense of humor occasionally would be a welcome breath of air, in all of the stagnant miasma of dismemberment and gloom.

Hear, hear!

portraying little boys wish fulfillment as adult and or realistic entertainment is silly. (Nolan Batman springs to mind)

Weisinger Superman?
Captain Marvel Adventures?

still the best superhero comics ever.

“In some respects, that isn’t necessarily a comics problem…”

In all respects, it isn’t. The idea that somehow negative emotions are more valid than positive ones is easily the greatest critical fallacy of the current age.

What fans have always wanted is to have comics that are “serious” in the sense that the treat the characters and worlds that they live in as “real” and their actions as having real emotional consequences for the characters. The reader should care about the characters, hope things turn out okay for them, and be worried when they don’t.

It’s not impossible to write a story that does this and simultaneously “embraces the silly.” Good examples I can think of include “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck,” “The Princess Bride,” “All Star Superman,” “Mythadventures,” “Scott Pilgrim,” and Alan Moore’s “Supreme.” All these stories managed to have their cake and eat it too. They had lots of glorious silliness, but they also had compelling characters, gripping suspense, and an emotional climax.

But it’s very easy to fall into the trap of not taking anything seriously when you write a silly story. You write a story where it’s obvious that the author doesn’t really believe in the characters, where they are laughing at them and expect the audience to as well. You don’t take the audience seriously. This is the problem with a lot of “camp” and a lot of Silver Age comics. People don’t like being patronized to. They don’t like being told that the stories they love are big jokes; because they aren’t big jokes.

Grim and gritty stories manage to escape this trap. Since the entire story is serious you can at least tell that the author is taking the subject matter seriously. And I suspect it takes less skill to write a good grim and gritty story than a good silly one. You don’t need to tread the same sort of delicate balance.

So it’s no surprise that grim stories took off. After years of being patronized they were a breath of fresh air. It’s unfortunate that people thought they were successful because they were grim, rather than because they took things seriously. But I’d rather live in a world of serious stories that are afraid to be silly than a world full of patronizing goofball stories.

@mckracken
>portraying little boys wish fulfillment as adult and or realistic entertainment is silly.

Wrong on two accounts. Anything can be serious, realistic, and adult entertainment if it’s well written and made by dedicated creators who believe in it. Plus, superheroes were never just for children. The Scarlet Pimpernel and Zorro were both intended for adult audiences. GIs in WWII were reported to read lots of comics.

>Weisinger Superman?
>Captain Marvel Adventures?
>
>still the best superhero comics ever.

I’m inclined to doubt it. I’ve been going back and reading some Silver Age comics (mostly Green Lantern and Adam Strange) and while they aren’t nearly as terrible as I feared, there’s no competition with modern stories. “Planet Heist” is better than every Adam Strange story from my Showcase volume put together. And while John Broome is quite good, his GL can’t compete with the Lanterns envisioned by Geoff Johns, Judd Winick, or Peter Tomasi. The epic adventures that modern comics can tell simply outclass the little one-shot stories that cram events into 11 pages without any time to properly develop them.

And this isn’t my adult mind finding more adult-target material more appealing. I know that I would have also liked them more as a kid. People like their stories being taken seriously even from a young age. When I was little I preferred “Godzilla vs. Biollante” to “Godzilla vs. Megalon.”

“Anything can be serious, realistic, and adult entertainment if it’s well written and made by dedicated creators who believe in it.”

Quite right. David Goyer was apparently unaware that one of the better “serious” graphic novels with an established DC hero was 1992′s MARTIAN MANHUNTER; AMERICAN SECRETS.

It may not be a great favorite, but it’s a good deal more “mature” than anything Goyer’s written.

Elongated Man remains my favorite male DC character. Silly is my favorite kind of DC Comic.

ghatanatoth:

green lantern and adam strange were very formulaic and boring. (there was lots of boring stuff in the silver age)

and when i think of superhero silly i think of Miracleman from Alan Moore and not Superman ca. 145-169 for instance.

In terms of Warner Bros./DC Filmmaking, there is this growing trend of striving towards realism. As if, the more realistic something is, the more validity it has. This tactic worked with Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but as can be seen with Man of Steel, the same kind of realism doesn’t always translate well to other characters.

In the words of Grant Morrison “It’s all just bullshit”, and he’s right! I really hope that the WB/DC/Goyer can realize that these are comic book characters, and it’s okay if there are fantasy/pulp elements to them. Marvel has figured this out, as seen with Avengers and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention all the time travel silliness in Days of Future Past, because who cares, its fun to watch!

Goyer is deeply entrenched in this same mindset focused on “realism” as if the more “real” something is, the more relatable it is. This is so not true…just watch Man of Steel.

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Sorry Goyer was right. The stuff was made for 14 year old boys back then. Now those 14 year old boys are grown up and romanticized simple silly stories. Thats all he was saying. Thats why fanboys go nuts over what he says they cling to the camp like flies to shit. As you grow up you develop a need for a more mature story and thats what we are getting now. Get over it people getting all bent out of shape over a guy joking about a comic from back in the day is pretty ridiculous. Please look at yourselves and remember all the sh*t you talk about comic movies and other pop culture things before you get on your internet soapbox. I laugh every time i see someone write 5 an essay this..

If you want silliness go watch Batman and Robin. Which sank the Batman franchise. But, by all means bring that crap back..lol

I find silliness can be off-putting to an outsider but once inside it’s easy to embrace and instead reject any attempt to make it less silly.

Though I believe it is not just silliness this concerns. Goyer is TOO cynical and jaded. He doesn’t seem to get concepts such as nobility, decency and selflessness. These qualities are not silly – they exist in real people and are not the result of psychological disorders. Fiction should feature such qualities too.

Great article! My favourite fiction, be it comics, novels, tv or movies, blend a healthy amount of humour with drama (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, Twin Peaks, Scott Pilgrim, Godland, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Young Justice (Peter David), Impulse, Batgirl [2009], and most recently, Young Avengers, FF, and Ms. Marvel). Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns are critically-acclaimed but among my least-favourite comic books ever because they just aren’t fun.

This isn’t really what the article is about but I think that the holding up The Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns as responsible for the grim&gritty era of superhero comics is really becoming tiresome and it doesn’t make all that much sense. First of all, they weren’t all that grittier and more somber than other comics of the time. What they were was a couple of superbly executed comics with superior technical production. What followed in their steps was Year One, Born Again, Suicide Squad, the Hawkworld miniseries, The Longbow Hunters, the Adam Strange 90s miniseries, Batman Cult. Not the most joyous of comics, but for the most part good comics, comics that got what DKR and The Watchmen did and still not what most people associate with the grim and gritty era.

The grim and gritty era, the Lee/Liefeld X-Men comics, the killing of Superman and maiming of Batman, the early Image Comics, those were tapping full on into the zeitgeist. And they were silly as hell. They stink of Robocop, Aliens and Terminator clones, of VHS ninja movies, of 90s fashion, advertising and of everything R-rated they could strip for pieces in order to claim that comics aren’t just for kids anymore. The same thing happened with video games in the 90s with stuff like Mortal Kombat, Doom, Carmageddon and the FMV titles. It happened with music with grunge, nu metal, gangster rap and increasingly weirder genres of metal.

The 90s comics weren’t a product of people misunderstanding The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen. They were a product of the 90s.

The silliness is what would make a Martian Manhunter movie work. He’s an alien shape shifter who lost his his people. So of course we found it barren and without little green men. The comedic aspects of him as a detective work because he is trying to understand humanity before he makes that leap to trying to change the world and figuring out how. All around the silliness is exactly what’s needed as a prelude to Justice League with his character. (Sometimes when I hear different Hollywood voices talk like that, it makes me wonder if they truly understand the material or what they are doing at all.)

The silliness in comics is what’s needed for balance. This piece covers that beautifully. The thing that some comic fans seem to forget is how it works for balance. The 66 Batman was brilliant for how it approached this. Adam West had some amazing commentary about this in the film docudrama about the making of the show when the actor playing him went to audition for the show.

The costumes aren’t silly anymore, because they’re presented in manners that contain the essence of the character. Ironman is his armor, but the comedy can be played up from other aspects because of it. Captain America’s uniform is a symbol, a rally point. His personality is what allows for wider dynamics and more fun interactions. Thor’s costume is native attire from his realm. Hulk is a big green Jekyll and Hyde allegory. Black Widow is a spy and needs a suit that allows her to move and use her skills while also holding the tools of her trade in a compacted fashion. Hawkeye’s is a variation on a uniform as well, until he may start wanting to inject some style into it to form himself as an icon or whatever other reasoning we get presented with during Age of Ultron. (Speaking of which Marvel, we need a Hawkeye movie. Where has Clint been this entire time? The silly could work wonders with his character onscreen!)

X-Men is the only one that is hindered by this. The school aspect makes the team more towards uniforms that are representative of their unity. Individualized suits don’t fit for that narrative barring how outside of the school aspects are presented(so the black leather or even yellow and blues are better). The silliness and individuality of Magneto’s suit works because of his standing for individuality and mutant pride. The same to Mystique if hers starts to go more towards the comics route of the white dress for various character driven reasons(say she wanted to inject some femininity because, hell she just wants to feel pretty while being bad ass). The silly can work in their favor. Even for wolverine when he acts independently of the school. His costume could work onscreen because of that distractive nature to it to avoid immediate conclusions of his involvement with the Xavier institute.

There are other areas though where the silliness is the highlight intentionally entirely. Super for example. Dark and scary was the tone, but the silliness of his actions and costume is what pulls it together. Kick-Ass is another that uses this to highlight the point of the silliness turned serious.

It’s a matter of finding that right blend to the story and how the character is supposed to be conveyed for their essence. Jubilee for example, her yellow coat and teenage rebellion is her character. So her lack of maintaining a uniformed approach like other X-Men makes sense. It’s a balancing act of juggling the reasons that makes whatever work per the character. This is the methodology industry talents need to look at instead of scoffing. Sometimes even a healthy injection of no reason can work too so long as it doesn’t break the confines of the overall narrative trying to be told.

It’s not about silly for silly’s sake. It’s about conveyance for what it is and represents, but not taking itself too seriously along the way. Balance. We can have dark and serious, but also those surreal moments that stand out. We can have silly and surreal if it fits to the narrative trying to be told. These situational moments present themselves quite often in the real world as it is.

Look at X-23 target X for example. Dark and scary at many spots overall, triumphant in others, but it still manages to have lighthearted situational humor and oddball comedic moments that breaks the tension and help the overall story stay fluid and not overwhelming. The best stories manage to walk this line of happy, sad, laughter, and oomph. They make the reader or viewer cry, laugh, and cheer. Making an audience feel the full spectrum of emotions is what keeps them attached to properties.

Too add on with the Hawkeye example.

His being on a “superhero” team, may want him to push himself to have more showmanship. The carnie background of the comics character can help filter through to the big screen to inject some silly into his character while still maintaining the serious appeal of the MCU. He needs a standalone feature that covers this as well as hints towards his current ongoing comic. Kate Bishop needs to be added to his individualized narrative as well. It could even help start building towards some form of Young Avengers spin-off that could be used within the confines of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ant-man presents a unique opportunity to do similar. Juggling classic scifi fun, but also the current modern world tropes and reasonings.

How do you put realism into comics when you’ve got people with abilities that would let them make short work of the police and military if they tried to be stopped?

QuintessentialDefenestration

May 31, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Moby Dick and Great Expectations are hilarious!

Just like goofiness, seriousness can be a recipe for a bad superhero story. And not every comic should be ‘Bat-Anti-Exploding Powder’ or ‘Gordon has a beer and cheats on his wife’.

And for anyone who thinks goofiness in superheroes is all bad, two things:
-Justice League International
-Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Corey Blake is onto something, here! I believe that David S. Goyer did himself no favors by dissing She Hulk, for example, because she was conceived as a serious character and; other than some provocative covers; has been presented as a serious character in bulk. Going after Stan Lee for being subversive is never a good idea: his Mike Murdoch character during his Daredevil run with Gene Colan is as funny as anything in mainstream comics, Stan has a fine sense of humor, he “gets” it. David S. Goyer just comes off as tone deaf when he pushes back against She Hulk or tries to deconstruct Martian Manhunter. Martian Manhunter was used to great effect in Darwyn Cooke’s NEW FRONTIER; warts and all; as Cooke used Manhunter’s vulnerabilities (or silliness) metaphorically to address societal bigotries. In much the same way as the X-Men; beginning with the God Loves, Man Kills graphic novel by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson; have been used to address prejudices against sub-cultural groups. Silliness can work wonders in the right context! When Stan Lee created Falcon in the 1960s, he was essentially Friday from Robinson Crusoe, and subsequent efforts to make Falcon relevant have largely failed, entertainment-wise. But my nephew totally loved Falcon in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER because he was cleverly updated into our post-Afganistan Surge world. My nephew didn’t care about the Falcon’s post-Vietnam War/Civil Rights/Black Power cultural baggage, he just dug how Falcon fit into Captain America’s world, and there’s nothing silly about that! Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers run on Batman had plenty of silliness to it, particularly compared to The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale and Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller: that sense of fun has been mostly drained out of post-Watchmen mainstream comics. I believe that David S. Goyer and even Zack Snyder came of age during the “please take comics seriously” Watchmen era; the mid-1980s; in comics, but comics have been around since 1938 and were massively successful in the 1940s. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously that we forget our knitting! Silliness still works in comics, in small doses. The upcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy movie looks to be leaning more towards Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” (itself a reaction to Kevin Costner in the “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” remake) than to Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie”, but we will have to wait and see. But a dash of ironic distance in superhero movies is a good thing! Superhero movies can continue to entertain as long as they remember that satire is what closes on Saturday night and that laughter is the best medicine! Laugh with us, David S. Goyer: that’s all that we ask.

Goyer’s own suggested origin for Martian Manhunter is him being grown in a petri dish. That is straight out of Marvin Martian. “Just add water”.

Goyer is a massive snob and is the main reason I will never go to any more DC movies. I have no use for elitists.

Don’t fear the serious. Everyone and their mother seems to be vocal about comics being too serious now a days. I like comics that are good whether they are serious or goofy. Can we talk about comics that are good. It would seem that the author of this article places himself in the minority of opinions on this subject but these comments are continuously repeated as if comic fandom was in an echo chamber. From what I understand Goyer was joking so there goes that fake rage. Even if he was half serious he has a point about no intelligent life being on Mars thus making the Martian Manhunter a shitty character if in fact he is from Mars. If the Manhunter was a newly created character that would be called weak writing (he gets a pass because of his age). Stupid and Fun are not the same thing. There is a place for goofy. It is Doop and Broo, Smiley Bone, Archer and Armstrong, Quantum and Woody, Maybe Rocket Raccoon… all goofy written well. Lets talk about good comics. Not lazily written shyte comics.

a grown guy who plays dress up like a bat, including pointy ears and cape, should never be taken seriously.

thats why it was for 50 years a kids comics. Now you go ahead and add all that teenage level angst to “cops and robbers who dress like animals” and it reads silly :)

I think a lot of superhero books today read silly, because they have all the trappings of being written like they have a teenagers sense of what adulthood is about as they are full of adult actions but largely lack adult consequences. For example, if we really had a Batman comic book for adults the Joker would be in the damn ground by now either by Batman’s hand, the American Justice System, or some grieving relative’s vigilante act. A guy like Bruce Wayne would also be so busted up and punch drunk after his nights out that he really couldn’t do that for long. The real world just makes mince meat out of all of this superhero stuff. This is why I think Nolan’s Batman movies actually do more to point out how ridiculous a Batman would be than to present a costumed crime fighter in any serious light. Just like you can make a video game like Call of Duty full of realistic combat action, but the player walks away with no sense of the horror of war or the burden of combat fatigue.

Maybe the answer decades ago would have been for the Big Two to just maintain their superhero lines for a medium age group, (like a Raiders of the Lost Ark level of adult action), but at the same time offer a dedicated line of books that put more focus on offering a “mature” reading experience. Comic book companies should operate like a book publisher or movie studio and offer a variety of material to various demographics, instead of just trying to turn their established properties into dark shadows of what they once represented.

Just remember, that silliness inspired alot of talent that has got us where we are today. As a fan, I don’t need characters, who’s origins were created in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, to be over analyzed, criticised, and rewritten to fit what todays fans might see plausable. I just accept the origin and move on. If the comic book industry is in a slump, maybe editors, writers, and artist should stop competing with Hollywood which has had a few successes along with alot of flops. Hollywood writers that think they know best, rewriting characters so that they can be used in movies that flop because the fan bases either find them too lame, or find that the changes totally changed the character into something it was never intended to be, and that fans neither recognize or like. Maybe comics should never be translated into movie form. Maybe it’s just too big a change. I guess we’ll see what works and what doesn’t. But until we find out, maybe comicbook writers would stop trying to be the next smash movie writer, and keep the story arcs down to 3 or 4 issues , and quit stringing along back storylines for years until the writer either leaves or totally loses track of what was originally meant to happen, fans might be for loyal to the medium. I as a fan get so bored with these mega story cross over events that happen every year, across every title in the companies line up. By the end of the storyline, I either get lost in what happens, or drop the last few issues because I frankly don’t care anymore. Treat the characters with dignity, quit trying to become the next break out star so you can go to Hollywood and write a movie, and quit trying to make the comics reflect what movies look like and maybe fans will return. And maybe fans should just accept that the medium should stay within a certain age group. Audiences that want more mature subjects should move on to other, more adult forms of entertainment, or just accept the limitations of the characters and their origins.

I think an auter of such prodigious talent as Mr. Goyer would do well to forgo his insightful literary critiques & adhere more towards his natural disposistion for virtsusotic filmaking best embodided by such cinematic powerhouses as Blade 3 & Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence. Nothing goofy about those movies.

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