Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
This past week (ish), DC Entertainment was so pervasive in the television upfronts, it almost made me forget the company still publishes comics. Joining Arrow on the 2014/2015 TV schedule will be adaptations of The Flash, iZombie and Constantine, as well as the Bat-prequel Gotham. (And hey, that was Caity “Black Canary” Lotz reprising her role as Don’s pregnant-hippie “niece” on Sunday’s Mad Men!) Moreover, we’ve now seen a moody black-and-white photo of Ben Affleck as Batman, standing next to his new Batmobile and ready to dominate the next Superman movie; and The CW has shown us a nifty little clip of the Flash in action.
While I’m prepared to like all of these shows, and certainly willing to give them reasonable opportunities to succeed, once again they remind me that no comic — and certainly no superhero comic — can be adapted to live-action with complete fidelity. Indeed, by taking its cue directly from the comics of the ‘40s and ‘50s, the old Adam West/Burt Ward Batman show was one of the more faithful projects. Likewise, the pilot of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series didn’t go too far from Diana’s earliest adventures in All Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1. However, I don’t think that approach would work these days.
“When I first got this role I just cried like a baby because I was like, ‘Wow, next Halloween, I’m gonna open the door and there’s gonna be a little kid dressed as the Falcon.’ That’s the thing that always gets me. I feel like everybody deserves that. I feel like there should be a Latino superhero. Scarlett does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie. I don’t care if they make 20 bucks, if there’s a movie you’re gonna lose money on, make it Wonder Woman. You know what I mean, ’cause little girls deserve that. There’s so many of these little people out here doing awful things for money in the world of being famous. And little girls see that. They should have the opposite spectrum of that to look up to.”
– Captain America: The Winter Soldier star Anthony Mackie, discussing playing the Falcon, and the need for more representation of women and minorities in superhero movies
Separate from Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Marvel Studios cover story, Bloomberg Television chats with Stan Lee about the current popularity of superhero movies, concerns about “superhero fatigue,” and the differences between the box-office performances of the Marvel and DC Comics properties.
“I wish my friend Bob Kane were still with us — he’s the fellow who created Batman,” Lee says. “Bob always used to tease me about the fact that Batman was a big deal on television and in movies, and we at Marvel had done nothing. I wish he was here now so I could return that teasing. A character should be somebody that the reader, or viewer, really cares about, and maybe at Marvel we put a little more effort into refining the characteristics and the nature of our heroes, maybe a little more effort than they have on the other side of the aisle.”
“They’re missing the full spectrum of these character’s emotional lives. The most important thing is the long, involved soap operas. It’s a type of narrative that you don’t get anywhere else except on very long-running soap operas, where characters can go into depth. 20 pages every month going into these characters lives over decades give you a lot more insight and a lot more involvement than say a two hour movie, even with Robert Downey Jr.”
If it’s the first Grumpy Old Fan of 2013, it must be time for “Ten From the Old Year, Ten For the New.” For those who came in late, every January I evaluate 10 predictions/observations from the previous year, and present 10 for the next. Accordingly, first we have commentary on 2012’s items.
1. The Dark Knight Rises. I had three rather superficial questions about the final Christopher Nolan Batman movie. First, “[c]an it make a skillion dollars?” Not quite — while it did make over a billion dollars worldwide, it didn’t make as much as its predecessor domestically, and it came in second to The Avengers. Next was “[w]ill it have Robin?” Well … [SPOILER ALERT] it depends on your definition of “Robin,” I suppose. And finally, referring to certain issues about Bane’s elocution, “[w]ill it have subtitles?” Nope — as it turns out, they weren’t needed. Instead, Bane’s accent was perfectly suited to breaking not just Batman, but Alex Trebek as well.
At the end of every year Carla Hoffman and Tom Bondurant exchange emails about the fortunes of the Big Two. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday!
Carla: Here we are, heading toward the year the Mayan calendar might not have thought would ever come: 2013. The future gets closer and closer! Technology advances! Politics change! And yet, comic books are still here. How cool is that? It’s been a heck of a year, full of ups and downs, movie premieres, new #1 issues and the never-ending race to produce better, faster comics.
I have to admit, Image has been doing a really great job keeping up with the Big Two, producing award-winning books in a variety of formats and getting involved in TV to draw new readers into a wide array of comic book genres. But we’re not here to talk about them! We’re here for the greatest shows in town, the Merry Marvel Marching Society and … our Distinguished Competitors.
My first question is kind of a no-brainer: How’s the New 52 treating you these days? And, after a year, is it still the “New 52″?
Tom: Well, as a practical matter, it’s the “New 52″ for as long as DC wants it to be. Actually, I think I have stopped seeing that little blurb on the covers. I happened to look at Aquaman #15 yesterday, kind of out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised it was there. Part of me thinks that it could confuse those hypothetical new readers, but then I thought that about “Earth One,” and that doesn’t seem to have hurt those books.
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Passings | Cartoonist and animator Bill White has died at the age of 51. According to his Lambiek page, White studied animation at the Kubert School and was a penciler and inker for a number of publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, Disney and Harvey. His animation work included stints on Ren and Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. Infinite Hollywood has a nice remembrance. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | Jim Beard looks at the apparent contradiction between the mass popularity of superhero movies and the relatively limited audience for the comics that spawned them; Mark Waid attributes this to a lack of comics shops, while Ethan Van Sciver thinks that most people simply have a hard time reading comics. Two local retailers weigh in as well, making this an interesting and well-rounded overview of the problem. [Toledo Free Press]
An uncomfortable familiarity hangs over much of The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy. Some of it comes from the disquiet of watching familiar characters and settings suffer. However, some of it comes from the use of overly familiar movie tropes. For example, one of the early “Batman must come back” scenes feels lifted from a style guide. Another scene, much later, echoes Luke and Han’s join-us-no-join-me exchange just before the Death Star attack. Oh, and William Devane shows up in a very William Devane-esque role.
Accordingly, The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect movie. It doesn’t have the intricate plotting of its predecessor (2008’s The Dark Knight, like you didn’t know). Any socially conscious message about “the 99% vs. the 1%” is lost in Bane’s repurposed sloganeering and Selina Kyle’s disillusionment. In one spot, the movie seems to skip dusk entirely, going from twilight to pitch-black night in less than eight minutes.* Furthermore, although I hate to disagree with Sean, at times Bane sounds like Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery (and apparently — beware of spoilers past the link — I am not the only one who thinks so).
Nevertheless, its epic ambitions are mostly realized, and it exists mainly to give its principals (i.e., just about every major character still left from 2005’s Batman Begins) closure. This, I want to emphasize, it does exceptionally well. Four years ago I compared The Dark Knight to David Fincher’s serial-killer meditation Zodiac, but this time I’m going with Doctor Zhivago by way of James Bond. A macro-level exploration of Begins’ “why do we fall?”, it builds to a thrilling, triumphal, bittersweet final shot. I’m looking forward to seeing it again, and eventually to examining the trilogy as a whole.
Poor reviews and mediocre box office for the Green Lantern movie, and news that aspiring genre films no longer need Comic-Con, may be combining to signal the end of America’s love affair with nerd culture. However, Super 8, director J.J. Abrams’ tribute to the Steven Spielberg movies of his youth, celebrates nerdity in a few different ways. Protagonist Joe Lamb is a middle-schooler in the summer of 1979 (a summer when yours truly was transitioning similarly from fourth to fifth grade). He collaborates with a filmmaking friend and does makeup for the latter’s amateur movies. On one bedroom wall is a poster of the yet-to-fly Space Shuttle, and on another is a reproduction of Detective Comics #475’s “Laughing Fish” cover (by the great Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, of course). He builds model kits, and not just so they can be blown up for an inexpensive visual effect. Obviously I recognized a lot of myself in Joe, and just as obviously, I was not alone. More importantly, though, Joe’s nerdity is endearing, not off-putting. Contrast that with Green Lantern’s fidelity to its source material, which reinforces the expectation that superhero comics must lead rookies through mazes of dogma more easily navigated by longtime fans.