The Biggest Superhero Films That Didn't Happen, Part 2
Comic Books, Film
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.
Between movies, comic books and TV, Man of Steel screenwriter David S. Goyer has written quite a few superheroes in his career. On the latest episode of the Scriptnotes podcast, he made his feelings for two of them clear — Marvel’s She-Hulk and DC Comics’ Martian Manhunter — and upset quite a few fans in the process.
In an episode recorded last week in front of an audience at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, Scriptnotes hosts John August and Craig Mazin asked their guests — Goyer, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and “Legend of Conan” writer Andrea Berloff — to play a game where they randomly drew a name of a superhero, and disclosed how they would handle a contemporary film adaptation of that character.
Around 33 minutes into the podcast (full episode here), the conversation moved to She-Hulk, with Markus stating that the character has “the worst, most demeaning character name possible,” due to being presented as only a female adjunct to Hulk. That led to co-host Mazin calling the character “Slut-Hulk,” and Goyer describing her as “pretty chunky” and similar in stature to former WWF performer Chyna. Goyer then elaborated on his thoughts of the character, including describing her as a “giant green porn star.” Here’s the full quote:
I have a confession to make: I had a complete geek tantrum over the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is finalizing a deal to produce, and possibly star in and direct, a feature adaptation of Neil Gaiman and company’s The Sandman. I actually blurted out, “Who asked for this?!” Quite loudly. In a well-populated room.
I’m not proud; I should be above such pettiness. In fact, I should be thrilled because we all know what this means: DC Comics’ recently remastered collections of The Sandman are going to get a nice sales boost from the movie promotion (see Watchmen, 300, Scott Pilgrim, Hellboy, et al).
That’s nothing but good news for the creators, retailers and DC. It’s also good news for a new generation of readers that will likely be introduced to the landmark Vertigo series. More people being exposed to such an excellent example of comics is great, and when it comes down to it, I just want comics to succeed. So my feelings should be put aside, and I should be trumpet the adaptation as good news. But …
I don’t wanna. I really don’t wanna.
So have you heard there’s a new Superman movie out? It’s mostly playing in small art-house theaters with a minimal marketing budget, so you might’ve totally missed it. You should check it out.
If you haven’t seen it, fair warning: Here there be spoilers.
This isn’t a review because, honestly, you’ve probably already made up your mind. However, it is a look at how the changes to the Superman mythos made in Man of Steel have altered the origin, and indeed the character, intrinsically.
A lot of these observations were inspired by a podcast discussion of the movie at Part-Time Fanboy, in which host Kristian Horn caught on to something that hadn’t really stood out to me on my first viewing (the episode was recorded earlier in the week and should be available today). Since the recording, I’ve been thinking about what he said, and the more I think about it, the more I see how it seriously alters Clark Kent, and may in fact be the root of my problems with the Man of Steel.
Most people just looking for an exciting movie or a badass Superman enjoyed Man of Steel, and there is plenty to like: There’s some excellent design, particularly of Krypton, the bar has been raised on super-person battles, and most of the acting is fine to actually quite good; Kevin Costner’s delivery of the line “You are my son,” despite being over-used in trailers, choked me up.