Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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.
While comics fans — joined by none other than Stan Lee himself — line up to lambast screenwriter David S. Goyer for his recent podcast comments about She-Hulk, Scriptnotes co-host Craig Mazin has stepped forward to clarify his own remarks, insisting, “I wasn’t saying that I think she’s a slut.”
Goyer, the writer of Man of Steel and the upcoming sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, sparked controversy by asserting that She-Hulk was created as “a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck.” However, Mazin has also been criticized for suggesting, “The real name for She-Hulk was Slut-Hulk. […] The whole point of She-Hulk was just to appeal sexistly to 10-year-old boys. Worked on me.”
Writing Thursday on the Scripnotes blog, Mazin emphasized that he “used the word ‘sexist’ in the podcast,” and explained, “I said this because I believe it. Unlike the Hulk, whose appeal was clearly divorced from any kind of normative standard of physical beauty, She-Hulk was initially drawn (and consistently drawn for many years) as slender, long-legged and large-breasted with flowing locks. Her face was the same old media-model-pretty version we see time and time again.”
Stan Lee scoffs at screenwriter David S. Goyer’s suggestion that She-Hulk was created as “a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck,” responding that, “Only a nut would even think of that.”
“Never for an instant did I want her as a love interest for Hulk,” Lee, who with artist John Buscema introduced She-Hulk in 1980 as Bruce Banner’s cousin, told The Washington Post.
One big potential problem with any Superman incarnation is his relationship with the audience. Even if the story centers around a credible moral dilemma, it risks having him make a choice with which the audience disagrees. Put another way, you can start with a Superman with a definite code of ethics, who always tries to do the right thing, and who puts others’ welfare above his own, and you might still end up with the Injustice comic, the pure-Straczynski issues of “Grounded,” or Superman Returns. For a significant group of fans, these are cautionary examples of How Not To Do Superman (although apparently those Injustice comics sell reasonably well…).
Accordingly, it helps if the audience trusts the particular Superman writer, which is where Scott Snyder, David Goyer, and Christopher Nolan come in. Snyder is already a big deal at DC thanks to his Batman work. Likewise, last year Goyer (screenwriter) and Nolan (producer/director) wrapped up a wildly successful Batman film trilogy.
Still, it’s easy to do Batman. For one thing, Batman doesn’t need to be a nice guy. Like James Bond or Don Draper, his main focus is the work, and the style with which he gets the particular job done. If Bats gets to make a hard moral choice, as he did at the conclusion of The Dark Knight, that’s just gravy.
With that in mind, we turn to the week’s two newest Superman vehicles, one an ongoing comic book, and the other a new film incarnation, to see what choices they present to our hero.
It was quite the week for DC Comics, as John Constantine’s returned to the DCU proper, a new Justice League International series was announced at the end of Generation Lost and an “Earth-shaking twist” happened to Doomsday. But it was a short story in the back of Action Comics #900 that really set the Internet on fire this week. Spoiler haters beware …