"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Much has been written and said about the dearth of female characters in superhero films, but I’m not sure anyone has addressed the issue quite like Agnes, an 18-year-old blogger from Hungary: She created a series of incredible portraits gender-swapping the cinematic Avengers.
For her alternate movie universe, Agnes recasts Captain America as Amber Heard, Iron Man as Kate Beckinsale, Bruce Banner as Mila Kunis, Thor as Jennifer Lawrence, Hawkeye as Shailene Woodley and Loki as Kristen Stewart.
The problem is that heroes win. Episodic storytelling can only get away with formula for a short amount of time before something has to change, and if there’s one constant to mainstream comics, it’s that the heroes should win. Maybe not all the time, but eventually.
When heroes lose, it bums us out. I’m not saying comics called “Magneto” or “Sabretooth” don’t sell well, it’s just they’re not going to sell as well as one labeled “Wolverine.” As readers, we come to see our heroes face a peril they will eventually overcome. Marvel’s Civil War and Dark Reign were great examples of the heroes ostensibly losing the battle, but in time (and a couple of other events later) they would win the war.
With every success our heroes experience, a greater challenge should be on the horizon. No one wants to see Spider-Man fight street-level criminals forever; let’s take him into space! Or put him with the Avengers! And so the stakes rise higher and higher with every foe defeated. Instead of having heroes face bigger and bigger catastrophes — Earth can only be in peril in so times each week — there has to be a different kind of challenge to keep our heroes on their toes and readers on the edge of their seats. So, we change the hero; maybe it’s some new powers, maybe it’s a new supporting cast, maybe we go facelift, costume change or new personality.
Take The Superior Spider-Man: Pretty much all of the above were thrown at Spider-Man to give the character a new look, new cast and new outlook. Stories began focusing less on if Spider-Man was going to win and more on how he was going to do it with Doctor Octopus in control. And because books with Doctor Octopus’ name on the cover won’t likely sell as well as those with Spider-Man’s, there’s little risk in making the switch for a while to see if it shakes things up. The old status quo eventually returns, and everyone feels like they got a little vacation.
Probably the best example of the personal shake-up is the Hulk. He’s somewhat of a cottage industry of protagonists in himself. He has tons of supporting characters, and some of the most important ones to the Hulk mythology are those in his own head.
WARNING: Some talk of Hulk #6, so please grab a copy and read along!
Even superheroes need to go to the doctor once in a while. And in an inventive advertising campaign from stock photography agency Shutterstock, they’re prescribed a host of medicinal cures.
Created with illustrator Ryan Quickfall, Shutterstock’s RxMen offers treatment for “comically exaggerated ailments” some heroes might experience. From Cerebrex migraine meds for Professor X to Purple Smash mood-swing remedies for the Hulk to Noiroprine insomnia spray for Batman, there’s something for just about any super-sufferer. If symptoms persist, please consult Night Nurse.
As Man of Steel, with its spiritual themes, soars toward a $590 million worldwide box-office haul, the Vatican’s official newspaper has turned its attention to the faiths of other prominent superheroes, asking in the headline, “Is the Hulk Catholic?”
The answer, according to L’Osservatore Romano writer Gaetano Vallini, is yes, and he points to the wedding of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross as the most concrete evidence of this. “Bruce Banner, the incredible green man, in fact married his beloved Betty Ross in a church and a Catholic priest presided at the ceremony,” he writes in the full-page article. “There are other indications dispersed among the hundreds of comic strips dedicated to him that are said to unequivocally reveal his faith.”
Of course, Adherents.com, the go-to source for the religious affiliations of comic-book characters (and other figures, both real and fictional), lists the Hulk as a lapsed Catholic, but the website appears preoccupied with the Ultimate and live-action TV versions of the character. A final determination may require Pope Francis to intercede.
I used to think Marvel was, consciously or unconsciously, driving its readers to quit serial comics and start reading trades. As evidence, there’s the standard list of complaints: inflated pricing, ads that don’t seem to generate any revenue, trade-ready scripting, variant covers, irregular but accelerated publishing schedules, etc.
The Marvel NOW! initiative has me starting to rethink that, however. See, I’ve been trade-waiting a lot of the Marvel comics I read, including the Jason Aaron-written Incredible Hulk. The first trade paperback collection of his run, which began in 2011, was released in late December. I just read it this week. And, of course, Marvel relaunched the Hulk with a new writer, new direction, new title and new numbering with Indestructible Hulk #1.
That’s one of several Marvel NOW! relaunches that happened almost on the heels of the previous relaunches — Wolverine went 17 issues in its new renumbering, the just-relauched Captain America was only on Issue 19, the similarly relaunched Thor on Issue 22 — and it was the first time I can remember reading a new trade that’s contents were made completely obsolete (from a keeping-up-with-the-goings-on-of-a-superhero-universe perspective only, of course) before it was even published.
I imagine a lot of the new NOW! premises won’t be around more than a year or two — Captain America can’t stay stranded in a different dimension forever, the Fantastic Four have to come back from space eventually, the original X-Men can’t be time-lost indefinitely — so I suppose this sort of thing could be happening on a more frequent basis. So if you trade-wait, maybe you’re waiting too long!
So, what did I wait for?