Don’t give us any more of “The Dark Knight Rises”… if you’ve been reading comics for a while, you know what the original stuff was, from Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley. And now, DC Animation (via MTV) is giving us our first glimpse at what looks to be a very faithful adaptation of “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, pt. 1″.
…it’s been a decade since Bruce Wayne hung up his cape, following most of the other superheroes who had been forced into retirement. Facing the downside of middle age, a restless Bruce Wayne pacifies his frustration with race cars and liquor – but the bat still beckons as he watches his city fall prey to gangs of barbaric criminals known as The Mutants.
The return of Harvey Dent as Two-Face finally prompts Wayne to once again don the Dark Knight’s cowl, and his dramatic capture of the villain returns him to crime-fighting – simultaneously making him the target of law enforcement and the new hope for a desolate Gotham City. Particularly inspired is a teenage girl named Carrie, who adopts the persona of Robin and ultimately saves Batman from a brutal attack by the Mutant leader. Armed with a new sidekick, and re-energized with a definitive purpose, the Dark Knight returns to protect Gotham from foes new…and old.
The film stars Peter Weller as Batman, is David Selby as Commissioner Gordon, Ariel Winter as Robin, Wade Williams as Two-Face, and Michael McKean as Dr. Bartholomew Wolper. The film is directed by Jay Oliva, written by Bob Goodman and executive produced by Sam Register and the legendary Bruce Timm.
“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1” hits Blu-ray Combo Pack & DVD and download on September 25, 2012 from Warner Home Video. “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2” is due in early 2013.
You don’t have to be born with a comic book in your hand to be a fan. As I’ve mentioned, my early exposure to comics was mostly in the form of movies and TV. These days, I read comics too; but I know a lot of fans who’ve primarily discovered comics through the movies, and often stay mostly with that medium.
Recently, there’s been a flurry of talk about who gets to be a geek, and I agree completely with John Scalzi’s assessment that anyone who shares a love of geeky things is just as much of a geek as anyone else, and that we can all come at our love of pop culture and fandoms from very different backgrounds and tastes. Given all that, I thought it might be fun to get the perspective of an awesome female author and blogger who’s so known in pop culture and geek circles that people have actually written articles studying her blogging habits and who clearly fits into comic book fandom but doesn’t come at it from the usual angle of reading comics. Also Cleolinda is just awesome and fun to interview! So here we go!
What kind of exposure have you had to comics generally – as a reader, a viewer, etc.?
Um… there were some tiny comics that came with my She-Ra dolls? I remember walking past racks and racks of comics at the grocery store every weekend and being really intrigued, but I was a very quiet, bookish child, and didn’t even bother asking my mother if I could have one. When I was in my 20s, I started picking up graphic novels based on which movies I had become interested in, and Watchmen on its general reputation.
How did you get into comics movies, and what was the first one you watched (as a child, and/or in the modern resurgence of comics movies)?
I think it says a lot about the genre that I don’t think of them as “comics” movies – I think of them as superhero movies and thrillers and action movies and whatever genre the actual story happens to be. I mean, technically, you could say that The Dark Knight and Wanted and From Hell and 300 are all “comics movies,” but if you say “comics,” I’m generally going to think “superheroes.” And those are such a box-office staple that it’s hard to think of them as something you get into, you know? They’re just there, and everyone goes to see them, and there are so many of them that some of them are awesome and some of them aren’t.
The first superhero movie, certainly, that I remember was Tim Burton’s Batman in the summer of 1989. I was probably ten or eleven at the time, and didn’t actually see it until it was on HBO a year or so later, but I remember that it was a big damn deal at the time. That black and yellow logo was everywhere, as were the dulcet purple strains of “Batdance.” Maybe it’s the Tim Burton sensibility that really got me into Batman movies initially; Batman Returns is pretty much my favorite Christmas movie ever, shut up. I just straight-up refused to see the Schumachers at all. But I’m a Christopher Nolan fangirl, so that got me back in. Which may be the roundabout answer to the question: I get into these movies depending on who’s making them and/or who’s playing the characters. Nothing I read or saw about Green Lantern really attracted me from a filmmaking point of view (well, I love what Martin Campbell did with Casino Royale, there is that), so, in a summer crowded with movies, I didn’t go see it. And, you know, I’ve had Green Lantern fans tell me they really enjoyed it; that’s just the kind of choice you end up making with the time and money you have when you’re more interested in movies as a medium than comics.
What are your thoughts on the accessibility of comics movies, as someone who doesn’t primarily read comics? Are there any you found incomprehensible or confusing because you didn’t know the source material? Which do you think has been most successful as an adaptation for non-comics-reading viewers?
Well, despite my lack of comics-reading background, I usually hit up Wikipedia to get a vague idea of what happened in the original storyline. So the moment I heard that Bane was the TDKR villain, I went and looked it up and immediately wailed, “Noooooo I don’t want to see Bane [SPOILER SPOILER’S SPOILERRRRR]!” Because I keep up with movie news very closely, I knew when Marion Cotillard was cast that she would probably be [SPOILER]. And then, of course, they mixed it up a little anyway.
I guess The Avengers could have been confusing – which was something I lampshaded a little in the Fifteen Minutes I did for it, the umpteen previously on bits. But I felt like they explained it fairly well as they went. I had randomly seen Captain America (“It’s hot. Which movie you wanna see?” “Uh… that one? Sure”), so I knew the Tesseract back story, but I didn’t see Thor until two weeks after I saw The Avengers. But pop cultural osmosis plus the explanations in the movie meant that I understood the Loki business just fine; all seeing Thor did was give me more specific punchlines. (I do think that humor relies on knowing what you’re talking about, so I usually do a little research after I’ve seen something when I’m going to write it up.) Really, though, it’s hard to say. I’m usually aware enough of the movie’s background by the time I see it that I’m not confused. I mean, I’m already aware that Iron Man 3 is using the Extremis storyline, and there’s some kind of nanotech involved, and an Iron Patriot? Something – not enough to be spoiled, per se, but enough to have a frame of reference going in.
Just going by the numbers, it seems that The Dark Knight and The Avengers have been incredibly successful adaptations – and I don’t even mean in terms of money, but in terms of how many people flocked to those movies, saw them, enjoyed them, and were willing to see them again. You don’t make a billion dollars without repeat viewings. And that indicates to me that these movies were rewarding experiences for people, rather than frustrating or confusing (the Joker’s Xanatos gambits aside). And I think familiarity helped in both cases, though through different means. The Joker is obviously the most iconic Batman villain; in fact, The Dark Knight actually skips the slightest whiff of genuine back story there, instead showing the Joker as a sort of elemental chaos, almost a trickster god who comes out of nowhere and then, as far we viewers are concerned, vanishes. There’s no background for non-readers to catch up on; the TDK Joker is completely self-contained. Whereas Marvel’s approach with The Avengers was to get the public familiarized with the characters, very painstakingly, with this series of movies that built up Iron Man as the popular backbone, and then filled in the others around him, either in their own headlining movies or as supporting characters in someone else’s. One movie started out with very recognizable characters, and the other endeavored to make the characters recognizable by the time it came out.
Have you read a comic because you saw a movie about it? Or, have you read a comic because you were going to see a movie about it? How did that change your movie viewing and fan experience?
I got interested in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and read the trade paperback a few weeks before it came out – and then hated the movie. And you know, I think I would have actually enjoyed the silliness of it if I hadn’t “known better,” so to speak, so if it’s not already too late, I try to hold off on reading a book until after I’ve seen the movie. I did read Watchmen first – and did enjoy the movie. I think those are the only ones I’ve read beforehand, though. I did go pick up From Hell and a Sin City set, and I bought the second LXG series in single issues as well; I keep meaning to get V for Vendetta. I’ve never picked up a superhero comic. I just look at the vast history of Marvel and DC and think, where would I even start? (How could I even afford it? Do they have comics in libraries?)I’ve never even read the Sandman series, and that’s supposedly the traditional gateway drug for geek girls.
You write hilarious parodies about all sorts of movies; and the recent The Avengers in 15 Minutes is no exception. Can you talk a little about what it’s like writing the parodies (including how you started and your experience with that generally), and whether it’s any different for comics vs. other movies? Was there anything unique about writing The Avengers one?
Well, the short version is that I came home from Van Helsing (2004) and started writing a script-format bit on a whim; I thought it was just going to be one scene plunked into a Livejournal entry, but it took on a life of its own. I published a book of ten print-only parodies in 2005 with Gollancz; the original Spider-Man (2002) is in there, but there’s also fantasy, sci-fi, overly serious historical epic, etc., spread pretty evenly throughout. Looking back, I think The Avengers is the only other superhero movie I’ve done; 300, V for Vendetta, and Wanted might count generally. It helps for the movie to have some sense of silliness, or at the very least absurdity or over-seriousness. If nothing else, there’s something humorous about movies as a medium – the tropes they run on, the expectations, the necessary coincidences, the mundane things they conveniently skip, the way that this stuff just would not work in real life. And you can point this out and have fun with it without saying, “And that’s why this is a terrible movie.”
The real difference with the Avengers movie – the material it provided – was that it had all of these background movies leading up to it. So you immediately have more opportunities for cross-referencing and in-jokes, in addition to a running “previously on” setup. There were few comics-only jokes (although I did enough research to mention the Wasp and Ant-Man), because the movies themselves were plenty to deal with. Whereas the various Harry Potter in Fifteen Minutes writeups I’ve done played more on the “This Scene Was Cut for Time” idea, referencing the books and the plot holes incurred by leaving things out – what wasn’t there.
If anything, The Avengers was incredibly hard to do not because it was good, but because it was self-aware. I mean, I did Lord of the Rings, a trilogy I love, for the book, but I consider what I do to be “affectionate snark,” and… that’s kind of already built into The Avengers. So, while a gloriously absurd movie like Prometheus took four days and all I really had to do was describe exactly what happens, The Avengers took six weeks.
What’s your favorite comics storyline and/or character?
I seem to be drawn to characters who have just had enough and start wrecking shit. I think I’m so drawn to Batman not because I want to be rescued by him, but because I want to be him. I discussed last week how the Omnipotent Vigilante just can’t work in real life – but it works as a fantasy. Because every time I hear about something horrible on the news, or even just someone on the internet being a complete and utter asshole, I wish I could go be Batman and show up in the dark and scare the fear of God back into people (“Swear To Me!!!! 11!!”). Also, I didn’t really grow up with the more light-hearted TV version(s) of Catwoman; my frame of reference is Michelle Pfeiffer. And that’s a Catwoman whose story arc is almost a “vengeful ghost” story. She has been wronged, and now she’s back, and you are going to pay (maybe for great justice, maybe not). Whereas the Anne Hathaway Catwoman, while a really interesting character, is more about Selina wavering between conscience and self interest, not vengeance. And maybe that’s closer to the “cat burglar” origin of the character – which, again, speaks to how meeting these characters through movies may mean that you have a very different experience from a comics reader.
And then you have someone like Wolverine – I think my favorite scene in the entire series is in the second movie, where he ends up having to defend the school pretty much entirely by himself. You wish you could be that badass, in defense of yourself or someone (everyone) else. This also may be why I saw X-Men: First Class and kind of wanted an entire Magneto Hunts Nazis movie – and maybe why Magneto, even as an antagonist, is so compelling in the Bryan Singer movies. The X-Men universe has some genuinely interesting moral ambiguities, you know? Gandalf has a few legitimate grievances and now he is tired of your shit. *CAR FLIP*
Also, I have a little bit of grey hair at my temple that I wish would grow into a Rogue streak.
Marvel, DC, or neither?
You know, as much as I love Batman, I tend to be more interested in Marvel characters as a whole; not sure what’s up with that. Actually, it may be that Marvel has been so much more pro-active about getting movies made and characters out there; I like about three of the X-Men movies a lot, the first two Spider-Man movies are good (the reboot was good except for the feeling that half the story got chopped out, I thought), and now the Avengers-based movies are turning out really well. There’s just more to chose from on the Marvel side at this point.
Do you have more of a desire to pick up paper (or digital) comics to read after seeing a comics movie? Or do you prefer sticking with the movies?
I seem to be more interested in reading stand-alone stories, which is probably why I picked up Alan Moore books pretty quickly. Even if it’s a somewhat self-contained Marvel/DC storyline, it’s like… do I need to have read twenty years of story before this? Can I just walk in and start reading this, or am I missing volumes and volumes of context? And then, if I get really into this, are they just going to reboot the universe and wipe all of this out? And then you have to figure out what the movie was based on in the first place. I might be interested in reading the comics a particular movie is based on – but then you say, well, The Dark Knight Rises was inspired by ten different comics. If you put all that into a boxed set with a big The Dark Knight Rises Collection plastered across it, I would be more likely to buy that than if you shoved me into a comics store (complete with disdainful clerk) and said, “There Is The Batman Section, Chew Your Own Way Out.” The decades of stories and do-overs and reboots, the sheer flexibility and weight and history, are what appeal to a lot of comics readers, I guess, but they’re exactly what bewilder movie viewers, leaving them no idea where to start.
What comics movie are you most looking forward to in the near future; and is there a comic book story or character you’d like to see a movie about who doesn’t have one yet?
I’m curious to see how Man of Steel turns out, even though Superman has never done that much for me as a character. (That said, I always talk about “going into the Fortress of Solitude” when I try to seriously get some work done.) I once heard that Metropolis and Gotham are, metaphorically, the same city – one by day and the other by night – and I don’t know that there would be enough sunlight in a “gritty” Superman reboot, if that makes any sense. And I was just fascinated by the idea of Darren Aronofsky doing The Wolverine, of all things, but it looks like James Mangold is directing that now. And, you know, in checking on that, I see “based on the 1982 limited series Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.” I see the words “limited series” and “trade paperback rated Must Have” and I think, okay, maybe this is something I have a chance of catching up on first.
I would really, really like to see a Black Widow movie, at this point. As much as I liked Anne Hathaway’s Selina, I wonder if a character that arch doesn’t work better in small doses. I mean, I’d still like to see them try a spinoff movie, but somehow, I think Black Widow might work out better. Everyone’s remarked on how great a year it’s been for people actually going to see movies with active heroines – Katniss, Merida, Selina, Natasha, even warrior princess Snow White – and I’m hoping that idea sticks. I know that the comics industry in general has a problem both in writing about and marketing to women. Maybe movies can lead the way on that.
Thanks for a fascinating perspective on your comics (and movie) fandom, Cleo!
Some people think that comics are a kid thing – the bright colors; the often cartoony style of art; the people parading around with their underwear on the outside – and they are for kids. But they’re also for teens, and adults, and all of us. They are a medium of storytelling that can be just as beautiful and terrible and effective as any other. If done right, the stories within a comic can bring joy, and can hurt, and inspire, and educate, and much more.
It’s funny when I try to talk about comics to someone who doesn’t read them, like my dad. His first response is “We didn’t have those in my house growing up. Some of the other kids did, I guess.” You know – because it’s a kid thing. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not criticizing my love of comics; he just hasn’t read many, and might not be aware that they can contain nuanced and complex storytelling, both for kids and adults. But I’m a well-read adult, and comics engage me, they bring me joy, they make me laugh, and yes, sometimes, they even make me cry. I know I’m not the only one.
In today’s hyper-connected society full of Internet news and forums and blogs, we know, more than we might have in the “old days,” that there are tons of us adult comics fans out there, and that, indeed, at least in media like movies, comics have gone mainstream – people who’ve never read a paper comic have watched movies about Superman and Spider-Man and the X-Men and The Avengers and Batman and all the rest. Parents of children who are themselves adults have gone to see these movies. These days, as pointed out in John Cheese’s article, if you don’t get excited about the newest comics movie, or aren’t planning to see it, people might even think you’re out of the loop. Everyone now has exposure to comics, and all of us adult fans know we are not alone.
We also know that even though comics are a pretty big thing these days, there are still going to be people that think they’re only for kids, and/or don’t see the value within. There are also going to be people who look at art of Spider-Man in mid-fight and only see people beating up on each other. And they’re going to be concerned (maybe for the kids, or maybe because of the violence in general) and think that comics don’t hold much value, or that they are a bad influence. But Spider-Man landing a punch is only part of the story.
In the wake of the horrible and senseless Dark Knight Rises shooting tragedy, I know people are already questioning whether comics (and their affiliate media, such as movies) were responsible for the violence, and how violence in comics is affecting people, including children. I also know that comics creators and fans are trying to understand how a man who was presumably at least some sort of a fan could have done such a terrible thing. I certainly don’t know, except that quite probably, he is mentally ill.
Having studied media in culture way back in the dark ages of college (was it really so long ago??) I know that we don’t know, and probably won’t ever know, exactly how much influence violence in media has on people, although we do know that there can definitely be a correlation. But by the same token, we also know that two people being exposed to the same violent media can have completely different reactions, and for some people, there may be no correlation at all. For the majority of society, seeing a violent movie, or reading a violent comic, doesn’t directly cause violence; otherwise we’d have a lot more tragedies like this recent one.
I don’t believe we will ever be able to definitively answer the “effects of violence in media” question. Does that mean we should just shrug our shoulders and give up on our studies of this issue? Of course not. But at least at this point in our cultural learning, we don’t know what exact factors may have caused a man to methodically plan to shoot into a crowded theater. And although the news is reporting that the man said he was the Joker and had dyed red hair (presumably to emulate the Joker in the hospital nurse scene of The Dark Knight), I don’t think that necessarily means that Batman comics or movies caused him to do what he did. They may have narrowed his focus of where to attack people, and that is awful; but if The Dark Knight Rises hadn’t been there for this man to focus on, I’m guessing he would have found some other place to focus his violent acts.
I also think that as long as any kind of popular media, including comics, exists (which it always will) there are going to be some stories that may need to include violence in order to make their point, and there are going to be people out there who will miss the point of all of the complex and nuanced storytelling we can possibly include, and only see the violence; whether it be a concerned parent, or a politician, or a news reporter, or tragically, a man who thinks violence against random people in a theater is okay. But that isn’t a reason to censor necessary elements of storytelling.
Yes, Batman as a character can be violent; but as my friend Cleolinda Jonessaid about The Dark Knight Rises, “The sad thing about this theater tragedy is, the major theme of the movie is about inspiring others to stay strong and do good, even in the face of tragedy.”
As comics creators, I think the best we can do regarding the “violence in media” issue is continue to create nuanced stories which frequently show the good in our characters, and hopefully inspire readers with messages like staying strong and doing good, or helping others; and in which any violence is included because it is necessary to the point of the story, and does not champion violence for the sake of violence or as something without consequences. As fans, I think it’s important to tell people about the parts of the stories that move us or inspire us to be better people.
In that vein, here are just a few snippets of stories that I think show the goodness, heroic sacrifice, and bravery that is almost always present in comics. (Caution: Potential random STORYSPOILERS BELOW.)
Spider-Man: During the Marvel Civil War storyline, after years of actively and carefully protecting his identity, Spider-man bravely unmasks on national television as a gesture of support for the Superhuman Registration Act, despite his discomfort with the idea and his fear for his loved ones (who he takes steps to protect first). He makes this choice because he thinks, like Iron Man, that the Registration Act is the best way to protect American citizens and the superhero community.
That in itself would be pretty brave, but later, after Spider-Man discovers the extreme and unjust measures that are being taken to capture and imprison “rogue” superheroes whose only wrongdoing, in many cases, was helping people without registering, he switches sides to fight against the Registration Act, even though he nearly dies because of it. That’s an admirable devotion to doing what’s right.
Richard Mayhew: In Neil Gaiman’sNeverwhere (adapted for comics, which is where I first became familiar with it), Richard Mayhew, a young businessman with a steady job, a flat, and a fiancee, stops to help what looks like a homeless woman who is lying injured in the street. Despite his fiancee’s protests, he takes the woman home (she insists he not take her to a hospital) and cleans her wounds. Unfortunately, helping this scruffy woman causes him to become invisible to regular Londoners, and visible only to the “London Below” of which the woman, Door, is a part. Naturally he panics at first, but then he stays with Door to help her escape the assassins who have killed her family and are hunting her down. There is a fair amount of violence and death in this story; but ultimately, it is about a hero’s journey, and helping others in need, and that is the part that stays with you.
Deadpool: Come on, you knew I’d include Deadpool. The ultimate screw-up most of the time, in Joe Kelly’s run, Deadpool is sought out as a predicted savior of the world. After a lot of scoffing, Deadpool finally believes that maybe, just maybe, he can be the hero he keeps trying to be, and throws himself into getting ready for his new role, where he is to destroy a monster who will arrive to stop the Mithras, a being who will supposedly bring good to all mankind.
As it turns out, what the Mithras brings is bliss in the form of a loss of free will; and after agonizing over the choice of giving mankind blissful but blank happiness, or protecting free will, Deadpool defeats the Mithras and saves the world. He is utterly broken by his choice – the fact that he had wanted so badly to be a hero, and yet had still, through his (heroic) choice, brought the continued pain and suffering that goes with free will to the whole world. But he did it anyway, because it was the right thing.
Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle): In her earlier years, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter trained herself as Batgirl so that she could fight crime like Batman, and she did so for awhile. However, by the time of Batman:The Killing Joke, she is semi-retired, and at home when the Joker comes to the door and shoots her, which causes her to be paralyzed. After spending some time in deep depression (as you would), Gordon rallies and decides to use her mental gifts (such as her intelligence and photographic memory) to help fight crime instead. She develops a complex computer system, uses her photographic memory to read dozens of news sources every day, and turns herself into an invaluable resource for Batman, the Birds of Prey, and other superheroes. She pushes past her own trauma to continue helping others.
Iron Man: During Marvel’s Dark Reign storyline, Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) tricks the government into thinking he’s a reformed villain, and they replace Iron Man with Osborn as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. To keep the mentally unstable and untrustworthy Osborn from acquiring superheroes’ identities from the Registration Act database, Iron Man destroys all copies, but still has one remaining copy in his computer-like brain. To protect the information from Osborn, Stark, as a fugitive, goes tirelessly from one location to another, deleting the knowledge from his brain bit by bit. He knows this will also lead to the loss of his highly valued intelligence, and will eventually cause brain damage, but chooses to sacrifice himself to protect others. That’s heroic.
Batman: Since I’m not as big a reader of DC Comics, the live-action more immediately comes to mind, and naturally, right now, specifically the Christopher Nolan version – but there is so much to Batman generally, and in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, about sacrifice, and bravery, and doing what’s right, that if I threw a dart at the script (or the comic) I’d hit an example. Essentially, Batman’s whole story is about sacrifice – he’s not a superhero with superpowers, but rather just a rich dude who had a tragic thing happen to him. Yet he chooses to turn that experience, and his resources, into something that can constantly help others and his home city, by training his body and mind and developing and perfecting his gadgetry so that he can use both to fight crime. And in the movies, every time he chooses to protect his identity by turning his public self into something neither he nor others would respect; or takes a beating to foil a villain; or what-have-you; he’s showing that it doesn’t take superpowers to be a hero, or to protect and help people.
The above are just a few examples I happened to be thinking of. But comics are so full of examples that if you read almost any storyline you’ll find them in spades. And although as with many stories, sometimes reflections of real-world violence have a prominent place in the storylines, the violence is not the point of the story – the heroism and bravery of the protagonists is. Those things are the things that stay with most of us, and the things that make me and so many others love these stories.
I don’t know why a few of us miss the point, but I am saddened by it, and I am more saddened by this recent tragedy, and whatever connection it may have had to what is, for the most part, the wonderful world of comics. My heart goes out to all of the victims, and to everyone affected by it – which is all of us.
Good morning, DC! Please, have a seat. Why yes, this is a new office. Thank you for noticing. Would you like a mint? Oh go ahead, pocket a few to take home with you. Are you nice and settled in? Excellent.
I wanted to stop today – just a bit shy of your one year anniversary as the “DCnU” – and give you an evaluation. And let’s be honest… this time last year? You were phoning it in something fierce. Anyways… I’ve assembled some thoughts about this leaner-meaner-DC you’ve tried to become. How about we take a little time now to go over my thoughts.
I’d like to start with something positive. Frankly, it took balls to announce to the world you were resetting things. Or rebooting them. But not ret-conning them. However you want to phrase it. To take your entire line back to #1 certainly got you the attention you wanted. Suddenly all the Internet was ablaze with rumors and opinions. You even got TV, newspapers, and traditional magazines interested in you again. I bet you hadn’t seen this kind of love since you killed Superman. For a few months. But not really. How is the Eradicator doing these days anyways? Ha ha ha! But I digress. If nothing else, you like to look like you’re a risk-taker. Frankly, we both know you’re not, but that’s a lengthy discussion we’ll have at another time.
Looking over your line, I can’t help but feel like you couldn’t stop yourself from playing favorites. For every amazing Batman you put out, you matched it on the shelf with less-than-stellar clones like Detective Comics and The Dark Knight. Action Comics got the world talking about Superman again. Superman reminded us why we stopped reading his book somewhere between Electric Blue and New Krypton. And four Green Lantern books? I mean, I know you were trying to suck up to me with giving Kyle Rayner his own book… But did you actually read what you put out?
Justice League was your pride and joy. Justice League International was made with scraps from the bottom of the fridge. And for all the love you gave Animal Man and Swamp Thing, you couldn’t match the complexity and depth in Resurrection Man or the abysmal Suicide Squad. I just kept getting the sense that you unnecessarily spread yourself too thin, DC. You published fewer books per month than you had prior… but in getting leaner, you didn’t realize it would make each effort you put out that much more important.
I feel like I’m being a bit harsh on you. Here… stop crying for a second. You did good things too. I mean, let’s talk about Batman, Action Comics, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing, OK? Here you were able to really play with people’s expectations. Your gamble paid off in spades. Grant Morrison proved (well, I should say is continually proving) that he can marry his love of the golden/silver age while still spinning modern yarn for the lynchpin of your universe. Scott Snyder’s pair of books were decidedly different, and elegant in separate ways. In Batman he was able to prove his deft hand at writing a plausible difference between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, when under the cowl. And while I didn’t have the patience or wallet to enjoy the entirety of “The Court Of Owls,” just keeping to the main Bat-Book proved all the epicness I needed to thoroughly enjoy the event. And over in the “The Dark”? Well, all I can say is you’re finding the perfect way to release Vertigo books with a different logo on them. And I mean that in the best way.
See… Don’t you feel better? And hey, also keep in mind that for the first time Aquaman was really selling well. And the core Green Lantern title has never been sharper. Now, of course we both know you slapped a #1 on it, but it never really “reset” after flashpoint. Very smart of you. Well, it doesn’t hurt that Geoff Johns is the one writing it, so he didn’t have to apply his whole “make the universe over” rule to his own book. When you have that many letters in your title, I guess the rules don’t apply. Say, how did OMAC sell, anyways? Cough, cough! Excuse me. Nervous tic.
As I sat to prepare your report card, it became increasingly taxing to determine a final grade. I mean, if I were to be harsh about it? I would just give you a D, and call it a day. The greatness achieved from the top talent you employed just can’t hold up those who only tread water. For all the interest you garnered from the mainstream media, you never figured out a way to hold on to their attention, lest you revert back to the old days of just throwing anything out there in hopes of someone paying attention.
Who did you decide to make gay this week? Whose backstory did you change, just to get the message boards flustered? And don’t even get me started about your “girls should wear pants” fiasco. The continual desire to turn amazing artists into mediocre writers, and your desire to employ Rob Liefeld even after his one book was basically universally jeered. And of course, your commitment to force needless crossovers throughout the line, to bump up sales. All of these things pull your GPA (Geek Projected Approval) down into the gutters.
I could go on, but I see you’ve stopped paying attention to me, DC. I know you want to focus on the future – by raping the past. Batman is about to enter “Nightfall.” There’s all that “Before Watchman” stuff you keep cramming down our throats. Oh, and I’m pretty certain I heard you muttering something about more Justice League teams and the resurrection of WildCATS. I can only hope you learn from your mistakes, in going forward. So for now, I’m ready to give you a final grade for your first year, you get an Incomplete.
Am I the only one that could give a flying fish about the new Spider-Man movie?
I have no desire to see that film. You would think that a Spider-Man junkie like myself would be counting the days until it opened.
Nope. It could have opened already and it would still not be a blip on my must see radar. It would be great if the reason I have no yearning to see this film is because The Avengers was so good it made waiting to see any other superhero film unattractive.
Nope. I still can’t wait to see the next Dark Knight movie.
I simply have no desire whatsoever to see the new Spider-Man film. Is it the new actor that turns me off? Maybe, in the clips I’ve seen I have none and by none I mean no emotional attachment to him. Granted, I only get to see snippets of him in coming attractions but in those snippets I can garner no interest in this guy.
Perhaps I’ve gone extreme fanboy and by extreme fanboy I mean, perhaps Marvel Studios has done something that just does not sit right with me so I must go to a dark fan place.
I’ll admit to being a fanboy and I’m mighty proud of that distinction, but being an extreme fanboy is something I’d never thought I’d succumb to. The difference between fanboy and one who is of the extreme kind is this; an extreme fan boy will spend endless hours, debating, blogging and otherwise conversing about whatever is bugging he or she. A regular old fan boy will just enjoy the ride and revel in all that is his or hers pop culture drug of choice.
I think with regards to the Spider-Man movie I have made the move to the dark side of fan boy domain and I think I know why. The more I think about it the more I’m certain what has brought me over to the dark side of fandom.
The side in which I must make my ire known to all that want to listen and more importantly those who don’t want to listen and more importantly still is to get my message of disgust out to those who simply could give a shit about any to this stuff.
That is the essence of the true extreme fanboy; talking passionate shit about something most of the world could give a fish about!
So, what has gotten me to extreme fan boy status over the Spider-Man movie? What has sent me from can’t wait to I could give a shit?
Gwen Stacy is in this retelling of the new Spider-Man movie.
Why? Oh why is that?
There were plenty of places to take Peter Parker after the third movie but someone had the bright idea to dig up Gwen Stacy. My beloved Gwen Stacy.
Why? Just so I can watch her die again? Everyone knows that Capt. Stacy, Gwen’s police chief dad and Gwen bite the damn dust. Well every real fan of Spider-Man knows that. I guess killing Gwen all over again for the delight of the millions who don’t know is O.K.
It’s O.K. to kill the first non-real woman I ever loved?
Well, it’s not O.K. with me. No, I have not seen the movie nor do I have any insider knowledge that Gwen will be killed in the movie but whatever other reason is there to jump back in continuity? What other reason is there to bring back dear, sweet, lovable, I’m old enough now to tap that ass, Gwen?
I can’t think of any reason except Sony and Marvel studios desire to reinvent Spider-Man and bring in some Twilight or some other pussy franchise’s fan base. What better way then getting you to take your girlfriend to a superhero movie and get you to cry like a little bitch when Gwen dies?
That, my friend, is just cold blooded. Or, to put it another way, that’s Hollywood.
So, no I won’t be seeing this Spider-Man. If I’m wrong and Gwen survives I still won’t see it. If she survives this film you can be damn sure she will be toast in the next one.
I’m not going out like that-seeing her neck broke when I was a little kid was enough for me.
Sony, Marvel you killed Gwen Stacy!!!
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten, real girls, and costumes!
It’s beginning to appear as though we’re moving away from one of the pillars of superherodom, the secret identity. Even though this movement started back in the early 1960s with The Fantastic Four, it’s moved slowly up to the breakthrough moment in the first Iron Man movie.
Of course, that was telegraphed a few years before by my pal Mike Grell during his run on the comic book, but Marvel squeezed that back in the tubes where it sat until the movie people showed them Mike was right in the first place.
Such pettiness aside, I welcome the departure from tradition. The secret identity was almost always a stupid idea. Clark Kent became Superman to protect his friends and loved ones from harm? Okay, fine. I can appreciate that even the Man of Steel can not keep an eye on Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lex Luthor (well, they used to be friends…), Linda Lee, Lionel Luthor, and Leslie Luckabee simultaneously, 24/7. But let’s do a little reality testing here: all Toyman has to do is grab Agnes Applebee off of the streets and hold a gun to her head and Superman is in the exact same pickle.
There were worthy exceptions. I can see why Bruce Wayne covers up: he doesn’t want all those people inconvenienced by the Dark Knight’s activities to sue the poo outta him. Going back to the dawn of the pulp era, the incredibly wealthy nobleman Don Diego de la Vega was committing high treason every time he dressed up as Zorro: to the natives of California he was a hero, but to the Power he was a terrorist. Even then, Zorro revealed his identity at the end his first tale, The Curse of Capistrano, but author/creator Johnston McCulley overlooked this aberration in his five-dozen subsequent stories.
Arguably the first costumed hero (Spring-Heeled Jack was a villain, and was further disadvantaged by being ostensibly real) was the Scarlet Pimpernel, created 14 years before Zorro by Baroness Emmuska Orczy in 1905. He had the same excuse as Don Diego: he was committing treason, in this case against the French Revolution. He and his 19-member legion ran around rescuing their fellow aristocrats from the best of times, the worst of times. So, sure, he had a good reason for his secret identity.
But Superman? Not so much. Wonder Woman? Give me a break; army nurse turned Second Lieutenant Diana Prince was wasting her powers as anything other than Princess Diana. The X-Men? They had no lives; did they need masks because “Hey, Beast!” sounds better than “Hey, Hank!”? Doctor Strange didn’t have a secret identity; in real life, he was Doctor Strange. If the wrong people got the right idea, he’d mystically brainwash them. Spider-Man? C’mon, we’d be better off without Aunt May.
The man with one of the most famous secret identities of all time – or, perhaps, two – in fact didn’t have a secret identity at all. Were he to be unmasked, he would be nothing.
I’ll tell you about him next week.
THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil Talks About Mike Gold’s Old Boss
We each saw The Avengers at fan-filled midnight screenings, separately but equally. We tried to avoid any spoilers here, but we can’t guarantee we hit that mark. And, being who we are, there are a couple of teasers in this dialog.
MIKE: Did you see it in 2-D, 3-D, or IMAX?
MIKE: Me too. This was the first movie ever that I can recommend in 3-D.
GLENN: Which is amazing, considering it was upsampled to 3-D. The film was converted to 3-D during post-production for the theatrical release. But it certainly paid off.
MIKE: The 3-D imaging credits were as long as the Manhattan phone book.
GLENN: Someone asked me point blank if The Avengers is the greatest superhero movie of all time. I said I don’t know about that, it has some very tough competition. But hands down, it’s the greatest superhero battle movie of all time. Act Three in particular is just completely packed with the loving destruction of the New York skyline, and in 3-D it’s incredibly staggering. It’s also fast and fun, as compared to the smashing of Chicago in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon… that just felt drawn out and more akin to a disaster movie. Here, it’s battle, action, and a much better feeling of scope and scale.
MIKE: Yes. It was a real superhero battle in the classic Marvel sense: everybody fights each other then gets together to fight the bad guys. And I’ll never be able to look at Grand Central Terminal the same way again.
GLENN: Or the Pan-Am building. Or 387 Park Avenue South, or Marvel’s address on 40th Street. All of that and they didn’t blow up any of DC’s offices. Have we reached detente?
MIKE: Well, they blew up CBS’s first teevee studios. Which is funny, as this was a Paramount movie.
GLENN: Not really a Paramount movie, Disney bought ‘em out but they had to keep the logo on.
MIKE: And, of course, Paramount got a truckload of money and, I’ll bet, a piece.
MIKE: Did you notice they hardly ever referred to anybody by their superhero name – other than The Hulk, who is obviously different from Banner, and Thor, who is, obviously, Thor.
GLENN: I think everybody got name-checked at least once.
This past week on my podcast (which you’re not listening to, but totally should), a debate sparked that was left largely unresolved. Since I have this digital soapbox, might as well use it to bring said debate to you.
In a few weeks, the mega-multiplexes of America will be screening the culmination of years of work by the House funded by the Mouse. The Avengers will see the fruition of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger in one massively multiplayer action adventure flick. About a month or so later, Warner Bros. unleashes the end to Christopher Nolan’s bat-child, The Dark Knight Rises. There’s no doubt in my mind that both of these movies will be amazingly profitable. But the debate is this: which will bank more bucks? Which will be a better movie? Let’s look at the tail of the tape.
First up? Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes. Behind the scenes, we have the consummate king of the nerds… Joss Whedon as director. His writer team? Well… Whedon wrote with Zak Penn. Penn you’ll note wrote the successes such as The Incredible Hulk and X2, and the failures such as X-Men: The Last Stand and Electra. On the screen itself, the cast is of course a veritable galaxy of stars. Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scartlet Johansson, and Gwyneth Paltrow will all be in the film. Unlike any other franchise in history, The Avengers will coalesce four franchises into a single picture. From here? It’s all but a given that the there will be a sequel, as corresponding sub-sequels for all the individual characters. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of money growing on trees. Trees that became paper. Paper that became comic books.
The Dark Knight Rises, as previously mentioned, is helmed by Christopher Nolan. Nolan’s career has been nothing short of a meteoric ascent to directorial gold. Nolan also helped pen this end to his triptych with his brother Jonathan, and David S. Goyer – who, as you will recall, helped pen Batman Begins and Blade 2. And Ghost Rider: Spirit of Bad Acting. But you can’t win them all, can you?
Under the cape and cowl will once again be Christian Bale, joined by series stalwarts Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. The villain this go-around will be played by Tom Hardy. You’ll recognize Hardy as the mildly funny Brit in Inception. While not as big in scope as Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises is the follow up to the single most profitable comic book inspired movie of all time. For those who don’t recall, The Dark Knight did so well in the movie theaters, comic retailers reported sales of The Watchmen had gone up in response (which is nothing short of amazing, if you ask any retailer these days). With TDKR, Nolan puts his series to an end. Speculation on the plot, and how things will resolve has most everyone around in a tizzy.
The question then to ask: Which movie will make more money? Needless to say, both will bank boku bucks. For the sake of this argument, I’ll remove revenue from merchandise. Why? Because face it: Nolan’s Bat-Flicks haven’t spawned successful lines of toys; Marvel’s has. Specifically speaking on ticket sales? This is quite the toss up, is it not? On one hand you have the obvious ultimate popcorn movie in The Avengers. From the trailers we can safely assume there’s going to be wall to wall action, explosions, the Hulk, fighting, one liners, and boobs. Opposing that mentality, Nolan will nab those looking for a bit more substance. Whereas Marvel’s flicks were squarely targeting tweens and teens (with a side of general comic nerds and action geeks to boot…), DC’s Bat-Franchise has been nothing if adult in its complexity.
Gun to my head… if you asked me to choose, I’d end up with the nod to the Avengers making more moolah at the end of the day. The Dark Knight had the death of Heath Ledger, on top of the oscar buzz for his performance, on top of previous audience gained from Batman Begins. But TDKR features a villain most people aren’t familiar with (Bane ain’t exactly a household name now, is he?), and a star whose potential is only just now being noticed. And if other comic book trilogies are to be looked at (Spider-Man, X-Men, and previous Bat-Incarnations), the end of an era does not always translate into positive earnings. With The Avengers, we simply have too many stars to not draw an amazing crowd. Fans of any of those feeder movies no doubt want to see a team up. It’s the whole reason books like The Avengers and Justice League always sell so well!
Now, I would give The Dark Knight Rises the edge ultimately in terms of potential film quality. Not a knock on The Avengers mind you… I think from what we’ve seen, Whedon will deliver the goods. But The Avengers has more chance to pratfall than ascend to nerdvana. With so many stars on screen, there’s a real chance too much time will be spent assembling, mocking, and joking. And we can tell much of the movie will be dealing with a Loki-lead invasion fight scene. And just how much CGI action can we effectively sit through? Given the spectacle (and disappointment) of the last Matrix movie, suffice to say I’m fretful.
With Batman, Nolan seems to have been methodically building a dramatic arc. Bruce Wayne by way of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight has been an evolving force of nature. But Nolan’s best job has been grounding that force in reality. He’s delivered where so many others have failed: comic book movies without heroic quips and a knowing wink to the camera. When that theme of the dissonant chords let us know the Joker was at work, it was truly chilling. To think that Nolan is ending this series, one must postulate he’s had an ending in mind since the start. On that knowledge, I give the edge over to DC. Simply put, I’m more excited for their flick because I genuinely do not know what will happen.
In The Avengers? I’m almost certain we’ll have the following: Loki attacks. Avengers assemble by way of initial in-fighting. Disaster. True assembling. Fighting. Explosions. Boobs. Victory. Open ending for more sequels. Not that it’s a bad formula… but it’s just that: a formula.
So, plenty of points to discuss. Flame me, Internet, for I have opinions. Will Bats take more money? Will Avengers be the Return of the King for Comic Book movies? Discuss!
It’s been almost twenty years since Batman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves and kicked off the doors of what could be done with the character and with animation in general and television animation in particular, in the wake of the successful Michael Keaton movies.
Ever wonder what it might be like if they made The Animated Series today, in the wake of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? Perhaps it would be something like this…