Tagged: Batman v. Superman

Mike Gold: The Great Superhero Movie Backlash

Mike Gold: The Great Superhero Movie Backlash

Over the millennia, I’ve written enough reviews to denude the Shoshone National Forest. My fellow commentators here at ComicMix have as well, and some of my best friends have been critics. So, as you read the following rant, please keep in mind I am not referring to those people… but I am referring to damn near every other critic practicing their arcane craft these days. From reading their recent criticism, I have come to the following conclusion.

Most critics seem to be sick to death of superhero movies and teevee shows. Even many of those who are enthusiasts of the superhero genre.

It’s not hard to understand this. Even if you have seen 90% of all the superhero movies and teevee shows released in the past decade and enjoyed most of them, there’s an important difference: you made the choice to see them. For critics, it’s their job. They are more-or-less forced to watch these productions, usually in exchange for a paltry paycheck. I am sympathetic to their plight, although I do not believe anybody is writing criticism to fulfill their court-mandated obligation to community service.

If this was a reaction to Batman v Superman or the Fantastic Four movies or Amazing Spider-Man 2, I’d be more understanding. Now that the embargo has been lifted, I’ve read the “advance” reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and, while it did garner some very good notices, it is clear to me that a rather large gaggle of such critics really went far out of their way to put some hate into their criticism. The comment most typical to these writers is some variation of “Well, yeah, it’s fun and entertaining and the performances are solid, but it’s too much like the first one.”

By this, I gather they mean that Star-Lord, Rocket (he will always be Rocket Raccoon to me), Drax, Nebula and Groot are in this movie as well. Well, they are the Guardians of the Galaxy, so they’re in the movie. That’s the deal. National Periodical Publications once made a Superman movie without Jimmy Olsen and Perry White; that was as wrong as it was cheap. Critics who feel Guardians 2 was overcrowded with already-seen characters are missing the point… and went to extremes to damn it with faint praise.

If you think Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 sucks, fine. You’re the critic; tell us why. But if you think a movie is “fun and entertaining and the performances are solid,” then don’t hold your dissatisfaction with the quantity of superhero movies against any one movie. It is obvious that professional critics have minimal impact on box office – at best – and by putting a movie you found to be enjoyable in a negative context, you are doing absolutely nothing to reduce your forthcoming superhero movie burden.

Besides, I doubt anybody ever told John Wayne there were too many westerns. Well, maybe John Ford, but I certainly doubt anybody ever told John Ford there were too many westerns.

Are superhero movies a fad? I don’t think so. We’ve always had a lot of them, but the passage of time has painted them with a nostalgic afterglow. Zorro, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, James Bond and their ilk have been in the theaters for over a century, and the industry is still making movies about these same guys.

Each movie should be evaluated on its own merits. If it’s a remake of a great movie, okay – the bar is higher as the filmmakers must justify why they’re remaking a great movie. But the argument should be about quality and not quantity. When it comes to sequels, let us remember that there have been quite a number that many critics define as superior to the original. Godfather II and From Russia With Love come to mind. Rotten Tomatoes gave Spider-Man 2 (the one that was good and not Amazing) four points over its well-received predecessor.

There’s a more direct way to say all this.

Before sitting down to watch a movie, pull that stick out of your ass. And don’t get wrapped up in the capes.

Marc Alan Fishman: A Tale of Two Trailers

This week, the gods of the interwebs granted us a look at two dichotomous trailers for a pair of blockbuster comic book films soon to be hitting the mega-multi-plexes. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Justice League gave us somewhere around four-minutes total of titillating three-dimensional text, brief respites of prose, and the best action snippets CG could render. But beyond those stark generalities comes two massive worlds apart.

This should come as no surprise to any of us. Spider-Man is packed with wit, charm, and street-level action amidst the hints at bigger set pieces. Justice League is a dark and sordid affair – not without its own charm and wit, but punctuated with the Synder-trademarked sepia-hued gravitas and angst. At this point, would it be enough to say I was ear-to-ear smiles at one trailer… and terribly nervous about the other?

Two guesses which is which. Then again, if I give you two guesses you’d guess right no matter what.

Spider-Man presents a balanced picture that has me in giddy anticipation. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is presented as we saw him in Civil War. He is as close to the original source as we may ever get in an adapted character from comic to screen. He’s young, funny, nerdy, and oozes those immortal words of his late Uncle Ben between his not-quite-adult pores.

The story we’re presented seems rote. Following Civil War, Peter returns home to Queens to be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man as per the direction of his would-be father-figure, Tony Stark. But, in the 616 Cinematic Universe, we already know what evil lurks in the shadows. Enter Birdman. Err, Batman. Err, Michael Keaton. Before the trailer ends we’re given what appears to be the entire plot of the movie. Destruction, loss, redemption, snark. It’s almost too easy; I anticipate several key turns before we resolve to whatever happily-ever-sequel there is to come.

Meanwhile in the DCU, Justice League leaves us with a much murkier picture – not counting the actual cinematography. From what we’ve been given, we can safely assert that Batman is assembling a team (let’s go ahead and call them a league) of super-powered individuals to fight some unseen threat. Diana of Themyscira, Barry Allen, Vic Stone, and Arthur Curry appear to be on board to fight said threat. That aside, we really get nothing else specific. Of the snippets we are given though, a few streams of light pierce the typically dark DCU movieverse. From the sneer-grin of Aquaman as he rides on the exterior of the Batmobile, to Bruce Wayne revealing his super power (“I’m rich”), Justice League seems to at least made some minor commitment to be a slightly more mirthful affair than Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Sadness.

Unlike Spider-Man, Justice League’s trailer leaves me more guarded than enthusiastic. League’s teaser is simply too short to get a feeling if we’re taking a step forward or laterally. While BvS was quite profitable, the fan consensus was one of great disdain. What should have been billed as an Avengers level tour-de-force was more or less a maudlin, middling meh-fest. And far be it from me to throw a stone here, but Suicide Squad was a solid popcorn flick – but not one that moved the needle of fan-appreciation that DC desperately needs. Wonder Woman … you are our only hope.

So here we are. Four minutes of film, and we’re right back to where we started. While Marvel revels in whatever phase they’re in at present, DC seems to still be stuck at the starting block trying to impress everyone with how badass they are. And therein lies the truest sentiment of all.

While Marvel leaned into their inner nerd and gave us straight-faced superb tertiary titles like Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy, DC can’t get out of its own shadow. Spider-Man already feels like a homerun two minutes and several posters in. Justice League is somewhere between an intentional walk… and a beaned batter.

Mike Gold: Batastrophe

Mike Gold: Batastrophe

Nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh

Nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh

Batman!

Wow. I never thought I’d miss that little ditty. Granted, whenever that tune consumes my brainpan it’s the version recorded by The Who and not the one from the ancient teevee series. I find myself humming Neal Hefti’s remarkably enduring theme song every time a new Batman movie screws up. Yup, this means I’ve been humming it a lot lately.

The latest batastrophe – as of this writing – came down last week when the director of the upcoming release The Batman quit the picture. That’s a big problem, as he is also the co-writer of the movie… and, oh yeah, also its star.

Arguably worse, the top choice for replacing director Ben Affleck, Matthew George Reeves (no relation to anybody who starred as Superman), quickly dropped out of the negotiations. One is reminded their March 16, 2018 release, The Flash, also has gone through multiple directors.

Of course, as soon as Affleck walked away from the director’s chair, the trolls started jabbering about how great it would be if he walked away from the cowl as well. And that soon morphed into a belief that he would turn his back on the whole Momma Martha complex. This is not a surprise, as the Internet is quite capable of meeting Donald Trump’s dark vision of the media in general. And maybe he will – but I kind of doubt it. He’s in Justice League and he’s contracted for at least a couple more appearances in gray battlegear. But, hey, it’s Hollywood and as we all know, Hollywood is the one place where gravity does not work.

Some fans won’t forgive him for Daredevil. Jeez, I know I’m in the minority here, but Daredevil was an okay movie. In fact, I think the director’s cut was “good.” And maybe some people thought everybody involved with Batman V Superman should be punished, just like our sensibilities had been punished. I belong to the slightly larger pool of eyeball owners who thought that Affleck turned in a fine performance as the world’s oldest Batman. The movie sucked, but Ben did not.

Some fans – and there’s a lot of overlap here – seem to be taking the position that Warner Bros should just drop the whole Batman thing. Yeah. Dream on. If they’re desperate enough, Warners would offer George Clooney enough to fulfill Auric Goldfinger’s most golden wet dream. It’s Batman.

For example. For the second week in a row, The LEGO Batman Movie out-earned everything else on Popcorn Row. I haven’t seen it yet, although I have enjoyed most of the other DC Lego movies. But, just as Batman is also something of a regular on Robot Chicken, one cannot deny that the Darknight Detective (who doesn’t really do much “detecting”) has massive and enduring appeal. I don’t know why – many of the extra-media interpretations of the guy have really, truly sucked – but I’m rather fond of The Bat myself and I’d love to see another really good Batmovie.

But, probably, not as much as Warners wants to see another really good Batmovie… even though the crappy ones did well at the box office. That Clooney movie brought in $238,207,122 when it first was released, and – by way of comparison – that’s at least $364,353,620 in 2017 dollars.

If they’re still seeking a director, maybe Frank Miller is looking for work.

Marc Alan Fishman: When Page Does Not Translate To Screen

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The battle lines are drawn each time a leaked picture hits the web. The tattooed Joker. The dark-costumed Superman. The old-school-but-with-new-web-shooters Spider-Man. The Flash — the TV one or the movie one? Aquaman, a.k.a. the WWE’s Roman Reigns. Starlord by way of Han Solo. And whatever the hell Lex Luthor was doing with wardrobe from the porn parody of The Social Network. It sets the nerds on fire in heated debates and discussions. At their core, no true fan of a character can draw peaceful breath while their favorite character is reinterpreted by Hollywood costumers and art directors who totally do not even know what comics are!

And then the stories themselves! What good is Batman v. Superman when it seems like the writer’s room and director are hell-bent on cramming eight major stories into a single bloated cry-fest? Or what of Marvel basically rewriting the same script over and over, but changing the lead character to whatever name is on the title page, to fill in a roster spot for the next massive crossover planned in 2021?

And of course, the studios get their fair share of the blame. How many more retreads of the Fantastic Four will we have to sludge through until the owners of the license finally figure out they can’t make work? Who will tell DC that it’s not a great idea to take the notes on your universally not-loved picture and just apply them willy-nilly to the next movie in line? And I haven’t even scratched the surface on some of the indie debacles we’ve seen that utterly miss the point of their source material.

For every amazing adaptation like Sin City, Hellboy, Deadpool, and Iron Man, we are made to suffer through the muck of Ghost Rider, Catwoman, and Green Lantern. And in all of those cases, it’s seemingly impossible for the nerd masses to unite in love. And even sometimes when the creators totally get it right — Scott Pilgrim, American Splendor, or Ghost World — it doesn’t always spell mind-blowing blockbuster. Which in turn causes the studios to intervene and hire writers and directors to apply their “Hollywood Magic,” and thus we get Batsad v. SuperSerious: Dawn of RainFights or the recently released Batman: The Killing Joke of Barbara Gordon Having Sex With Batman, WTF!

So, how do we deal? Well, I’d say you take a page right out of John Ostrander’s book. No, please don’t tear up the man’s comics! John’s review of Suicide Squad was the best review of the film a fan could ask for. Why? Because John proved that one can love the source material separated from the film is winds up inspiring. What a novel idea! Taken without the source material in mind, Suicide Squad is a loud-brash-loud-angry-loud-bright-loud action flick. A decent one, in fact. Is it Hamlet? No. But it’s a good popcorn flick where things go boom, and the one-liners make you giggle. Are there better comic book adaptations? Yup. Plenty. But taken for what it is — an action movie that will tie-in to future action movies — it was a nifty romp.

This, of course, leads to my unanswered question of the week. How can we, the nerdiest of the nerds, separate ourselves from the horded minutiae of the pulpy roots we commit to memory that now morph into multiple new media? I am truly of two minds on the subject. I think immediately of an adolescent girl who sees Suicide Squad without any knowledge of the source material. I think how she walks away loving Harley Quinn. And I bristle at the thought. “How could you like that vapid one-liner spouting Hot Topic walking advertisement!” I chortle in my mind. But then, the counterpoint seeps in creepily behind the bluster. “If she truly loves the character, she might seek out more information, with which she might partake of Mad Love, or several other better interpretations of the character and come to love Harley more wholly!” And that my friends may end up being the grey answer out of our world of black and white.

We simply can’t blame Hollywood for attempting (and failing) to stick closely to the roots of any license they gobble up. They are in it to make money. That means casting Will Smith and writing Deadshot less like John Ostrander did and more in line with what puts butts in seats instead of eyes at the local comic shoppe. At the end of the day, the character is able to live in infinite iterations. The cream will always rise to the top. Lest we forget: Harley Quinn was made for a cartoon long before she was comic cannon. Starlord as a wise-cracking anthropologist with a love for scoundrels just looks and feels cooler than an uptight space-Nazi.

In a world where every comic has potential to become a great TV show or movie, we are actually allowed to have our cake and eat it too… so long as what makes it to screen is treated with depth, clarity, and care.

Suicide Squad – The Big Reveal (Not A Review, Seriously!)

Suicide Squad Beacon Premiere

This is not a review of Suicide Squad, the latest movie that pisses off the critics. John deserves first crack at that, and you’ll see it in his regular space here at ComicMix this Sunday. And Arthur does his weekly review thing, and I wouldn’t usurp his turf. And I’ll bet our pal Robert gets a few comments in well before the home video release. Yeah, I’ll offer a few opinions here, but after reading the inner-most thoughts of so many of those professional movie reviewers I feel a strong desire to pull the bedsheet off of the painting.

Here’s the bird’s eye lowdown: the professional movie critics are sick and tired of superhero movies. Be warned – no matter what’s up there on the screen, the critics have wandered out of the theater in search of Elvis. Capes and cowls are crap. Enough is enough. Screw you, Robert Downey Junior.

Suicide Squad is not the Gone With The Wind of superhero flicks, and after Batman v Superman and The Killing Joke, it probably seems better to me than it should. Yeah, there’s too many people in it: without them, you can’t establish a squad. There’s one completely unnecessary supervillain plotline, which seems to be the hallmark of recent DC-based adaptations. Big deal. Suicide Squad belongs to three of the most compelling characters in contemporary comics: Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, and The Joker. And The Joker is only there to establish why Harley is Harley – and Harley is… complicated.

Here’s my big review: if you pull the stick out of your ass before it, and you, plump down into your popcorn-littered seat, you just might have fun.

Suicide Squad the movie is fun. It’s not Deadpool type fun, although the first DC/Marvel movie crossover should be Harley Quinn Meets Deadpool. Yeah, I don’t think that will happen either.

If you’re a movie critic or a professional Internet crank, “fun” doesn’t pay the rent. Critics’ vitriol should be measured the way most guys measure their penis, confusing inches with millimeters. The genre is not done. The genre has been with us since Douglas Fairbanks Senior first donned Zorro’s mask. Costumed heroes are a movie staple. If the earth didn’t open up and swallow those theaters playing Batman v Superman, the genre is safe.

Pick up a newspaper. Read about Donald Trump. The zika virus. ISIS. Killer cops. Hurricanes and tornados. Mongo crashing into Earth. After all that, trust me, Suicide Squad is a fun movie worthy of your time and your need to relax after all that heavy lifting.

Superhero movies have been with us for 100 years and, whereas the current fad will lessen eventually, they will be with us for the next 100 years.

Critics: deal with it.

Love, Mike Gold, professional crank

Ed Catto: Geek Culture Wins with an Intramural Pickup Game

Avengers Annual2justice-league-of-america-56It’s been a month of big wins for Geek Culture, both domestically and internationally. Last weekend, we celebrated the 15th Year of Free Comic Book Day. FCBD was sparked by Joe Field’s sweet tooth and love of Free Ice Cream Cone Day and has now grown into a worldwide phenomenon. In anticipation of it all, there were articles like this from the Guardian helping Brits find the best Free Comic Book Day Comic Shops in the UK. And you might have read my column last week. I covered the enthusiasm of thousands of FCBD fans in metro NYC.

The other big news was the astounding box office results for the new movie, Captain America: Civil War. This picture’s opening weekend was $181.8 million, making it the best debut of any movie this year, and ensuring it will be one of 2016’s biggest successes. Worldwide, it’s a similar story, and the international box office embraced the picture with an additional $496.6 million.

Much has been written about Warner’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The distinguished competition tried to steal a few pages from Marvel’s cinematic playbook and they enjoyed strong box office revenue. But they also suffered through fan backlash and critical analysis.  Many feel that like a car crash, there was an urge to slow down and check it out. Did fans begrudgingly see the movie? One critic nailed it with the phrase “The Cinema of Obligation.”

Avengers SSCMy Little Pony vs Adenture TimeThis third Captain America movie debuted as the U.S. is coming to grips with a contentious national election. So many voters complain that they don’t like either presidential candidate, and the negative ratings that pollsters report confirm that.

But Geek Culture has known a secret for a long time. You don’t have to hate the “other guy” during an argument. In comics, you can call it a Civil War or you can call it an unfortunate misunderstanding. In Geek Culture when the good guys fight, it’ s more likely there’s been some miscommunication that leads to a short-term conflict. But in the end, they patch up their differences and their friendships supersede their temporary conflict.

The visual of super heroes, who are usually friends, squaring off against one another was a central part of this movie’s marketing. These visuals have been around for a long time. I’ve peppered this article with a few favorites.

Avengers SSCOrdway JLA vs JSALast week, actor Bryan Cranston was educating Bill Maher (!) on how a generation ago, Washington’s social events would routinely include folks from both sides of the aisles. They’d duke it out all day on issues like segregation, then get together for cocktails (with their spouses) and exchange stories about their families. They became friendly off the battlefield of politics.

That’s kind of the way it has always worked in comics, and I wish people passionate about politics would learn a thing or two.

NY Times critic A.O. Scott observed that Captain America: Civil War was less of a civil war and more of an intramural basketball pickup game. He was right. And that’s what makes it so much fun and so successful.

Marc Alan Fishman: Dear DC Entertainment…

Justice League War

Dear DC Entertainment,

I quit. I’m out. I’m done. This past week I’ve paid actual money I earned to view Batman v. Superman, as well as Justice League: War (on Netflix. And yes, I know that’s not new, but it’s still new enough to count). I freely admit my expectations were low. Lower than low in fact. I was hoping for some decent visual effects, maybe a few more jokes since the last time, and I prayed for some semblance of lessons learned from Marvel.

I got none of it.

Instead, you produced 2 ½ hours of angst, rain, punching, and death. And then you took your New52 Justice League comic series and ran it through the wringer in order to produce it as an animated adventure designed solely to appeal to 13-year old bitter tweens. You’ve sullied both mediums so egregiously that I’m honestly having trouble concocting any legitimate snark for these abortions given birth in motion. Alas, I honest-to-Rao can’t do it. My eyebrow is not cocked high. No smirk remains emerging from the corner of my mouth. I sit here in a bent-over stupor wondering who specifically allowed for either of these films clearance to see the light of day. Especially given that Marvel hasn’t made a single misstep in their recent releases… and Age of Ultron wasn’t even half the quality of its predecessor.

It’s not a shame. It’s not sad. It’s not depressing. It is soul-crushing.

You clearly couldn’t have missed the tidal wave of the zeitgeist in the aftermath of Man of Steel. Nary a stone was left unturned where the public did not denote in every feasible outlet in print and online that Snyder’s Big Blue Boy Scout was a banal shell of his former celluloid self. In the wake of every Marvel movie, it was clear what you needed to do, DC. A little humor and life-saving could go a long way. But you never wanted that for us, did you? You couldn’t deal with a little humility in the face of your financial defeat.

(And before the DC flamers decide to load their Trump cards of the current box office numbers of BvS, let’s just make this abundantly clear: Marvel’s movie profits since Iron Man utterly decimate DC’s by billions. With a ‘B’. If you need me to show you the math on it… e-mail me at info at box office mojo dot com.)

Offering us up a fight between your biggest two licenses sounds good on paper, until you forget within two and a half hours to develop any other plot or characterization to build a universe with. Instead of that, you chose to celebrate murder, nightmares, thievery, matricide, patricide, and wanton destruction. Spare the death from that aforementioned list and replace it with snarky one liners? You get Justice League: War. In both pieces action trumped all else. And because of it, we your once loyal fans leave exhausted but not sated.

In contrast, lesser sequels at Marvel – like Iron Man 3 or Thor 2 – upped their action ante but kept the bigger picture in mind. Tony Stark was a PTSD-suffering futurist thinking about macro-metahuman issues. Thor contends with having to grow up and be the demi-god he was meant to be… all while the cosmic conundrum (building toward Infinity War) leaves Earth in the center of the battlefield. While both films were shadows of their original counterparts, neither left me in a punch-drunk stupor; wondering how a 20-year veteran of crime fighting suddenly dropped his guard over the coincidental nature of matriarchal nomenclature. A bit too complex a thought, I know. I digress.

DC Entertainment… I am ashamed of you. You hold in your possession the world’s most recognizable licensed properties in super-hero-dom. With the financial backing by the same financiers of the multi-billion dollar Harry Potter franchise writing the checks. With all the potential you’d ever need to level the playing field by the competition now nearly a decade ahead of you in world building. You’re akin to Ohio’s Governor when it comes to wanting the throne with literally no path save for chaos in order to achieve it. Look upon the world left in ruin. The smoldering ashes of fan’s hope left glowing hot by hours of endless, needless violence. All you’ve left to show for it are a pile of Martha and Step Brothers memes. You can lie to yourself with your international box office ticket sales. But you can’t lie to your fans anymore.

Now lay in the coffin you put in the ground and pray your rewrites and reshoots for Suicide Squad right your ship. That being said… I’m not holding my breath for it.

 

Ed Catto: World’s Finest Anticipation… and Trepidation

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There’s something about team-ups that fascinate fans. And on the big screen, movies like Frankenstein Meets Dracula to Godzilla vs. King Kong, and AVP: Alien vs. Predator were all “can’t miss” affairs. Well, I actually did miss the last one, but it you get the idea.

317514-18006-124029-1-world-s-finest-comicAs I write this, the newest superhero blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premieres tomorrow. I’m sure the debut has been analyzed to death by the time this column is out, but there’s some strange things going on. And I wanted to analyze it all before the starting gun officially went off and pop culture runs full speed down the track.

One peculiar thing is that I can’t believe I’m not more excited about this movie. If I were to go back in time (ala last week’s column) to tell my 10-year old self that there will one day be a blockbuster movie starring Batman and Superman –together – he’d never believe me.

For years, comic fans delighted to Batman and Superman teaming up in the pages of World’s Finest Comics.  That was one of those comic series with a heart that was hitting its super-stride just as I was really getting into comics. In the late sixties, World’s Finest released a bunch of classic issues in quick succession:

  • World's Finest 169-00fcIn World’s Finest #168, Batman Superman and Robin fought the Composite Superman. He was a creepy bad-guy sporting a half-Superman, half-Batman look with Kryptonite skin. And he had all the powers of the Legion of Superheroes characters. He was one bad guy that gave me nightmares.
  • Batman and Superman struggled to change the Batmobile’s flat tire while Supergirl and Batgirl snickered at them, hidden behind a fence in issue #169. How could that be? A must-read!
  • Issue #175’s powerful Neal Adams art detailed Superman and Batman’s annual contest. But that particular year, the tradition would be interrupted by two criminal clubs bent of revenge of the World’s Finest Duo.
  • Superman and Batman had a King Arthur adventure in issue #162. This story contributed to my life-long interest in all things Arthurian. Of course, in this story, each of the Knights of Round Table had a different super power. I don’t think Mallory ever could have envisioned that plot twist.ad_wf170oct1967
  • Issue #170 was an 80 Page Giant – a real treat back then –representing seven classic World’s Finest
  • World’s Finest #184 was a shocker, even though it was an “imaginary tale”. Batman dies and Robin seeks revenge!

And I’ll never forget that 1968 double page spread ad for CBS’s new Saturday morning cartoons. There were Superman, Batman and Robin. I clearly remember wondering if they’d all be in one adventure, ala World’s Finest. Spoiler alert – they didn’t team-up.

It’s easy to forget that in the mid-80’s, John Byrne’s Superman reboot and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns presented fans with an idea that was radical at the time – what if Batman and Superman weren’t friends? By now, it’s baked into the mythology and not a radical idea at all, but back then it was almost sacrilegious. But after forty years of the World’s Finest team-ups, we all knew it was time for a change in the status quo.

For this Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, there is a lot of anxiety in Geek Culture and beyond. Before the movie debuted, the 13th Dimension wondered what effect early negative reviews will have on the cinematic plans for the DC heroes and Forbes had written about how Warner Brothers had destroyed the Superman brand.

On the other hand, let’s compare and contrast this to the other big super hero team-up. In Monday’s episode of CBS’s Supergirl, the Flash is scheduled to drop in for an adventure! With his incredible speed powers, he can travel through time, across dimensions and between networks!

This reminds me of when Oscar Goldman was hopping between networks to spend time with both of his bionic friends. The Six Million Dollar Man was on ABC and The Bionic Woman, having been cancelled by that network, was picked up by NBC.

I’m not hearing any anxiety about this TV team-up of Flash and Supergirl. In fact, it’s more reminiscent of a favorite cousin coming to visit during the holidays. It will be fun and you just can’t wait. There’s no overthinking involved.

But the brands of these heroes are different. The cinematic Superman and Batman are dour and serious, while their television counterparts have picked up the mantle of fun and hope. In fact, you may have seen this wonderful open letter a mom wrote to Supergirl stars Melisa Benoist and Chyler Leigh after meeting them at the recent C2E2 comic convention. She talked about what an inspiration these women are in their roles, and especially as they deal with issues of adoption and the effects on families. Carrie Goldman’s article is worth a read.

Movie and TV adaptations are a big deal. I’m currently enjoying Sundance’s Hap and Leonard, adapted from the Joe Lansdale novels. For me it’s still fresh and astounding to see these characters live as a TV series, even though there have been about a bazillion detectives who’ve made the leap from the printed page to the screen.

And that’s why I have this perplexing anxiety about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. I hope it’s wonderful and everyone –from the creators to the studio to the theaters to the promotional tie-in partners – enjoy great success.

But now that this World’s Finest movie is finally here, I feel like I have to tell my 10-year old self, in classic geek fashion “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.” We’ll see. And I’m eager to hear your opinions, too. What did you think?

Oh, and I’m also worried I’ll eat too much popcorn. But that’s a worry I have with every movie.

CBS SATURDAY MORNINGS 1968

Review: BvS Is A Four-Letter Word

Batman v Superman

Did you ever endure some sort of traumatic injury knowing full well that a minute or two after the moment of disaster it was going to hurt a hell of a lot worse?

That’s how I felt after seeing Batman v Superman. Bright-eyed fanboy that I am, I walked into the theater with the highest of expectations. I had heard from a couple of friends who saw the Los Angeles screening that it was pretty good. Now I’m reconsidering my position on medical marijuana. Maybe the fault here is mine: I had been on OxyContin following some dental surgery earlier in the week and I guess I quit taking that shit too early. I wanted to like the movie – for one thing, it took two and one-half hours out of my life. For another, successful movies inure to the benefit of the comics medium and, arguably, my cash flow.

Here’s the good stuff. The camera really loves Gal Gadot, particularly when she’s in her Diana Prince guise. I enjoyed her work so much I even briefly considered watching her Fast and Furious movies, and I lamented the fact that I lacked the foresight to join the Israeli army when she was a part of it. Also, and I guess this is critical, Ben Affleck was fine as Old Man Bats. Granted, standing next to Henry Cavill would make Emo Phillips seem like Robert Redford, but Ben did just fine. Diane Lane is always a joy to behold and her talent exceeded her part. And Jeremy Irons seems to have found Michael Caine’s Miraclo stash and became Alfred the Butler for about an hour.

All that in the aggregate does not come close to balancing out Jesse Eisenberg’s turn as Lex Joker Junior. If you saw him in any of the trailers then let me assure you that what you saw is what you get. Spoiler alert: he channels Gene Hackman at the end. Somewhere Kevin Spacey is buying him a condolence card.

And, holy crap, why does everybody in the damn movie have serious mommy issues?

The story is irrelevant. And negligible. Clearly, director Zack Synder thought he wasn’t spending enough money so he finagled a nice big CG Doomsday for reasons so oblique they do not bear repeating. Lois Lane starts out as the awesome investigative reporter she’s supposed to be and then quickly devolves into perpetual rescue bait. Jimmy Olsen turns out to be something Jimmy Olsen would and could never, ever be. The Flash zipped through just long enough for the audience to realize the filmmakers are idiots. And Aquaman was portrayed as an angry deep-sea fur ball with a fork.

The blame for this fiasco is squarely on the director. Zack Synder should not be given a blank check. By the end of the movie I was hoping the after-credits scene (note: there is none) was of John Wayne Gacy returning from the dead to eat Zack’s brains. Gacy, of course, would have been played by Samuel L. Jackson.

I’ll see Suicide Squad because I was there at its conception and because Affleck was swell. I’ll see Wonder Woman because Gal Gadot is that impressive. But the Justice League movies? If I succumb to peer-group pressure (the comics world remains a small donut shop), I’ll be hoping for that Gacy scene.

The best part of Batman v Superman? The trailer for Civil War.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Super Hatred for Batman v. Superman

Batman V Superman Doomsday

Let’s get this point out straight away: I haven’t seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Just Angry Dudes Who Like Destruction-Porn.  Beyond the trailers, I have done everything in my power to not read spoilers. I’ve put on blinders on whilst perusing my social media feeds, allowing me to catch only shreds of the shared rage boiling over amongst my closest 927 friends. So, my column this week explores the deeper issue fans are complaining about the most these days: gritty realism.

The clamber in the streets is about how DC is taking itself too seriously. How leaning into grit, grime, explosions, and death is ruining childhoods, and fans. But I beg the question: when your director previously worked on 300, and the lukewarm sepia-washed Watchman adaptations and delivered his own mighty opus in the video-game-cum-popcorn-film Sucker Punch, well, pardon me: what the fuck did you think he was going to do with Batman and Superman?! The output of Snyder shouldn’t come with a single measurable iota of surprise.

The deeper issue then gets tied back to Chris Nolan’s interpretation setting the table for what has come since. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises were once applauded for removing the kitch from the Bat-franchise. Nolan’s Knight was as real as you could get with the base-concept. The interpretation of the Joker was chilling – and not in the gutter-punk way Jared Leto appears to be aping Ledger’s performance mind you. And Bane? Well… he spoke in a weird accent, and had an appreciation for coats of the 70s. Those three Bat-films begat what we’re getting now. And that includes the popcorn fart that was the spectacular – Trump-level – Green Lantern movie.

So why is Marvel so beloved? As we’ve seen the table set for Civil War… for all the fun we had laughing at SHIELD agents playing Galaga, and Ant Man cracking wise, we’ve been privy to just as much world destruction. New York? Invaded. Washington D.C.? Had helicarriers dropped on it. And that fake-sounding country in Avengers 2? Well, it done went and turned into a low-grade meteor. Pair that with a few Hulk-smashed cities, and all those dead goats in Ant Man, and you have plenty of grit to chew on.

The difference being the actual plot and characters in service to it.

Man of Steel, much like The Avengers featured the destruction of a city (and maybe a few suburbs). Iron Man, Cap, and pals were lauded as witty-brilliant. Kal-El was deemed a dour dolt by the very same folks. One movie was held up in reverence. The other, kicked to the dollar bin with a sigh. For the record? This is as it should be. The Avengers took the time to showcase their heroes making attempts to save the people of New York. Superman was basically shown punching for the last 40 minutes of his film; subsequently followed by the murdering of the villain, a quick bit of snark, roll credits. It would seem, based solely on the 10-20 sentences I’ve half-begun to read on my feed… BvS is much in the same vein. And not a surprise either… I saw the trailers, and can put one and one together.

Spoiler-free knowledge of BvS dictates that Batman was in Metropolis during the Kryptonian scuffle. And true to his comic-counterpart (to whatever degree you agree with me), he sees an unchecked level of power on display and finds need to be fit to control it. Superman is the gun that took Bruce’s mom and dad until he can prove it otherwise. What follows – I’ll safely assume – is 90+ more minutes of fighting, yelling, and teeth gnashing. And Wonder Woman is there to make girls happy or something.

Don’t get me me wrong. I believe we need to look to our ComicMix cohorts Mike Gold, Denny O’Neil and John Ostrander when we talk on the topic of grit and realism. Pick nearly any yarn spun (and edited) by those gentlemen, and you’ll see how the heaviest of topics can be touched on without leaving a fanbase in ruin. Hell, check out the very first issue of Wasteland, and ask how the material could be covered within its pages and still leave you with a bit of a smirk.

When it comes down to it, I will see the new Batman and Superman movie. I’ll do my best to withhold judgment until the last frame is projected. I’ll do whatever I can to suppress expectations to anything higher than a whisper. I’ll give credence to the filmmakers, writers, and producers to prove to me they have a way to bring the heroes and villains of their catalog to life in direct completion to the House of Mouse.

But, at the end of the day, the devil is in the details, not the CGI decimation of untold thousands. So, I’ll just guess there won’t be a need for any follow up review, kiddos. No worries: Civil War is just around the corner.