O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
(Time once again for ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman to email each other about the year in DC and Marvel superhero comics. This year’s exchange took place between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30.)
Tom Bondurant: First let’s address the elephant in the room — or, more accurately, the infinite number of parallel rooms, each containing a slightly different elephant. In 2015, both Marvel and DC are building Big Events around their respective multiverses. Conventional wisdom predicts that DC is doing this to address fan criticisms of the New 52, perhaps resulting in some continuity tweaks.
Carla Hoffman: Oh, man, I hope that’s true! Honestly, I have a hard time judging the inner workings of our respective companies sometimes because I always hear more from the fan side than the production team. Enough customers come in, day in and day out, with a piece of their mind on how things should be run or changed, but rarely do the people in charge — not creators and editors, mind you, the people who sign the checks at the end of the day with real power — come forward to say, “We feel this is the right direction.” Tom Brevoort on Tumblr comes close with his tireless open forum, but even then there’s always going to be company policy. If DC is brave enough to go “Maybe we shouldn’t have thrown the entire baby out with the bathwater” and massage their continuity into a more pleasing shape for fans, that’s going to be a heck of thing that will have an effect on readership, for sure.
Director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) once was campaigning pretty hard to helm a Judge Dredd movie, but the producers were already sold on Alex Garland’s script. Jones was rumored at one point or another to be in the running for Man of Steel and The Wolverine, but now he’s working an adaptation of World of Warcraft, which has been the basis for graphic novels from Tokyopop and a comics series from Wildstorm. So he (sorta, tangentially, kind of) is finally getting his wish to make a comic-book adaptation.
He’s been musing on Twitter about the sort of pipe dream that gets fans enthused: The stream of consciousness started this morning with the doubtlessly sarcastic, “When are we finally going to get a Batman reboot?” and “I’m bored of Marvel films. Can’t Kevin Feige move to Archie comics?” This train of thought then came back to Jones’ native United Kingdom, with the joke “I’m in talks with Wayne Rooney to make a Biffa Bacon tv show for HBO.”
The footballer Wayne Rooney does somewhat resemble the comic strip character Biffa Bacon: Bacon and his thuggish family are a recurring feature in the U.K. adult-humor institution Viz. This gag obviously tickled Jones, but also sent him in another direction: What if the U.K.’s film industry started to get as excited about exploiting U.K. comics for its raw material as the United States has been with its comics for the last decade?
I’m hard pressed to think of a more unexpected development in superhero comics over the past half-decade or so than this: Somehow, the Avengers and Green Lantern have become the genre’s biggest franchises. On a one level it’s not much more complicated to explain than “Brian Bendis and Geoff Johns are very good at writing superhero comics people want to read, and their editors are very good at recognizing this and structuring their lines to support those comics.” Both writers reimagined these perpetual also-ran concepts — Bendis broke the team up, reassembled it with a mixture of Marvel superstars and personal favorites, and placed it at the center of years’ worth of shadowy conspiracy storylines; Johns revived the character at the core of the concept as we know it, then cracked that concept open to reveal a sprawling sub-universe of heroes and villains that arose from the original concept in a totally intuitive way; both of their publishers crafted multiple major event comics in which these freshly popular properties took center stage.
But in Marvel’s case, the newfound primacy of the Avengers was startling in that the franchise appeared to eclipse the properties that used to be Marvel’s bread and butter, the X-Men and Spider-Man. Sure, Wolverine and Spidey are members of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and adding them to the team likely gave it that initial push to the top, but it’s really the “Big Three” of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America who’ve driven the Marvel Universe’s meta-plot for years now. It doesn’t take an omega-level intelligence to notice that these characters, and the team they’ve historically led, fall under the Marvel Studios movie-rights umbrella, while the Web-Slinger, the Ol’ Canucklehead and company belong elsewhere.