By the time this column posts, I will have seen the new Ghostbusters flick from the Freaks and Geeks guru Paul Feig. I have chosen to see the film based not on any lingering love of the first two incarnations of the franchise (but put a pin in that until next week). I am not seeing it because of any particular love of the paranormal. And I’m especially not seeing it because a who’s-who of amazingly funny women are starring in it.
I’m seeing it because it looks like a fun flick to shut my chattering brain off for a couple of hours. Maybe giggle and marvel at some special effects in the process.
Meanwhile I also saw this week that Iron Man will be played by a black woman in some upcoming issues of the series. I’ve literally no doubt that the move isn’t permanent. I’m chalking it up to Marvel’s occasional jones to do the unexpected. It’s a great marketing plot to enrage Old School fanboys, while making millennials have hope for the future. It’s the battle-cry of the embittered old farts of fandom… “It’s not my Iron Man / Ghostbusters / Peanuts / Voltron / Power Rangers!”
Ahh, but that’s where you’re wrong, Grandpa. It’s merely a horse of a different color.
I’m personally mollified by the continual degradation of our pop culture society’s abandoning the shades of grey that better fit our worlds of fiction. To take a hard line stance over the casting of a female in what was once a male role, a black person in what was once a white role, or even a CGI character where hand-drawn animation once stood is just lunacy to me. At the end of the day, I don’t care who. I care what, why, and how.
While the 2003 Daredevil film will be fondly remembered as dreck, I actually liked it quite a bit. Sure it was muddied by Collin Farrell clearly ingesting a bit too much coke before filming. Sure it introduced the Greek ninja goddess Elektra as a supremely white chick. But you know what? It also gave us Michael Clark Duncan owning the Wilson Fisk role. I recall some sects of fans going banana-sandwiches over the darkening of the character. And then I recall seeing the film, and basking in the depiction. Duncan was strong, stoic, and the apex of scene-eating-villainous. It never mattered once that he was black. Nor did he speak in jive, or really reference his ethnicity at all.
And yes: Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk is a million times better… but you’re taking a slow burn performance in a carefully built show vs. a blockbuster built to bank bucks in the short term. But I digress.
In the last decade or so, specifically in comics, we’ve seen a veritable gold rush of diversity. To quote Vox: “[Marvel] has already given us a black Captain America, a female Thor, a Muslim American Ms. Marvel, and a black-Latino Spider-Man. That push has been met with applause from fans who want to be included, praise and recognition from critics, and prickly criticism from comic purists who believe their beloved titles have been shunted aside for gimmicks and stunts.” And while those purists poo-poo the notion of such hypocrisy, I’ve been able to enjoy hearing about new readers coming to comics because they now had a character to relate to. Comic books (and I’d go far as to say science-fiction and fantasy) have long been the secret playground for those with a better vision of society. Where the world is color and gender blind. Where the story above all else determines the validity of a character.
Maybe I’m just that liberal a person; I don’t balk at any casting of any character in any fiction for any reason with regards to sexual orientation, gender, creed, religion, or pizza topping preference. It will always be about the character in context to the plot around them. If Riri Williams dons the red and gold armor to do battle with nefarious ne’er-do-wells, so be it. So long as she provides depth and clarity to the book; giving me, a long time reader, something new to respond to. If the Ghostbusters of 2016 are women? That’s fantastic. More so, if they provide a new take on the classic model of snarky comedians waging war on special effects. Regardless of erogenous zone paraphernalia… plot overpowers all.
And at the end of the day, if you want to call it a marketing gimmick, so be it. Because if the final piece of fiction is good enough, then you’ll swallow your ignorance with a smile and a changed mind.
No joke – we are back and we’re stopped binging on DAREDEVIL long enough to talk about the show with ol’ Horn Head himself. Charlie Cox shares what it was like putting this season together and how he thinks fans will feel when they finish. Plus ROGUE is back for a new season. Cole Hauser and new cast member Ashley Greene talk how this series is changing yet again.
Last week when Marvel announced the all-female team of Avengers, you better believe we were stoked! We studied the A-Force artwork to figure out who everyone was and got right to researching the superheroes we didn’t know. Now, we’re even more excited and can’t waitread Secret Wars in May.In this week’s video we’ll tell you why A-Force is rad, which mutant powers we’d use to make lunch, and our thoughts on the girls not included (namely Maddy’s #2 favorite superhero, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). A-Force Assemble, indeed!
No matter that if you live in the midwest there may be snow on the ground, and if there isn’t, there was recently. It is, dammit, spring! What you gonna believe, Skippy – your eyes or the calendar?
And to herald spring, here comes one of my favorite holidays – Easter. You know the story: humanity’s savior gets crucified, chills in a tomb for three days, comes out and starts a religion. If you’re into comparative mythology. you can find that similar things happened to earlier deities, including Adonis, Osiris, and Mithra. The myths, and their attendant holidays, celebrate something real – the emotions,including hope, that we desperate humans experience when the long gloom of winter goes away and life returns to the Earth. Our ancestors tended to give phenomena they didn’t understand names and identities. Maybe that tendency still exists in their descendants.
Do we feel that you can’t keep a good god down?
Then what about comic book characters? They seem to have difficulty staying dead, too. I have personally participated in the demise of four that I can immediately remember, all of whom popped out of the afterlife in one form or another, and they’re only a few entries in a rather long list that includes some of the biggies: Superman, Captain America, Robin the Boy/Teen Wonder version two. And then there are the lesser but still prominent characters, including Cap America’s young pal Bucky, Elektra, and one of my personal favorite supporting cast members, Batman’s butler Alfred. (Full disclosure: Alfred wasn’t really dead, only, you know, deadish. For two years.)
And why do I feel compelled to include a spear-carrier who died and stayed dead? We’re talking Larry Lance, the detective husband of the original Black Canary. We gave him a one panel funeral in Justice League of America, sent his widow off to another universe and sweet love with Green Arrow, and forgot about him. Maybe I’ve given Larry a paragraph as a service to serious trivia freaks.
But Larry wasn’t even a superheroes and superheroes who die are our subject, so back to them. DC Comics has recently killed two prominent costumed good guys and raised a bit of a stink in the doing. The (late) characters are (were?) yet another incarnation of Batman’s youthful sidekick, Robin, and, evidently, John Stewart, the African American Green Lantern. What’s notable about the Robin is that he is (was) the first of his ilk who was Batman’s biological son. John Stewart? The stakes are a bit higher: he was one of the earliest of comics’ superdoers who wasn’t a white guy and for a time, he was pretty much the only Green Lantern in the DC Universe. I’d say that as fictional beings go, he’ll be missed. (The Robin? No idea.)
But will John (and Robin?) stay deceased? Well, they’re not gods, not exactly (though they are first cousins to the mythological deities). Will they return? History may be nodding its head yes, but I’ll content myself with a shrug.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a blast from the past! After years and years of intending to, I finally bought and watched the Director’s Cut of Daredevil (thank you, Black Friday sales! $4 is a reasonable price, eh?). I remember watching the original in the theater when it came out in 2003, and enjoying parts of it despite the overall unbalanced and less-than-cohesive feeling of the whole product. I also remember the cascade of negative reviews, and I can’t say I disagreed with a majority of what they said. I know after the Director’s Cut was released, however, it got more positive reviews, and it turns out those were also deserved.
With the re-watch of the movie in its more fully intended form, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most egregious error made was the inclusion of Elektra, or at least Elektra as we get her in this movie. There are two problems with the Elektra storyline. The first is that it gave the director an opportunity for one more cheesy fight scene than would otherwise have made it in, that being the horrendously cheesy and overlong almost dance-like fight scene when Matt meets Elektra. That thing is so ridiculously choreographed that when it starts, you feel like you’ve hopped movies into West Side Story and they’re about to run up and down the playground see-saws singing or something. I can almost see Matt Murdock balanced on the end of a park bench, arms flung wide as he delivers a little solo. It’s cringe-inducing, and pulls me out of the story.
I actually like most of the fight scenes in this movie, but there are snippets of others that are cheesy, too, namely when first Daredevil and then Elektra whirl their weapons around the first time we see them suited up. I could have enjoyed those bits if they were shot a little differently, to show Daredevil, say, routinely checking his weapons to make sure they’re functioning before he goes out, or to show Elektra warming up for her little sandbag-vendetta practice. But as shot, they just look like they’re posing for nobody, and are hilariously too comic book for an otherwise fairly serious and dark movie. Added to that first fight scene, those bits also pull me out of the story.
The second issue I have with the Elektra story is that it’s just too much story to be trying to fit into one movie with all the rest. Granted I understand it’s part of the larger storyline here, but if the entire Elektra thing was lifted out, almost nothing except a tiny bit of Daredevil tragic-story-ness would be missing, and the storyline could surely have been reworked in a way to close any gaps caused by her absence.On the other hand, by including it, we get a hurried “romance” that isn’t firmly established enough to make it feel very real or engaging, as well as the too-minimal establishment of Elektra’s father as a character. If the elder Natchios existed just to be eliminated or shown to be part of Kingpin’s empire, his being a mostly stock character would have been fine. But given that we’re supposed to care about him and his connection to Elektra thanks to her larger part in the storyline, his negligible appearance and then disappearance as a character is not the tragedy we’re supposed to feel it is.
As opposed to the whole Elektra storyline (and despite the fact that I’ve loved Jennifer Garner in action roles ever since my addiction to Alias), I think the movie would have been much better served to have used the established story of Elektra as an ex if she needed to be there at all; or to have found another Kingpin patsy than the Natchios family for this particular story. Also, in my imaginary world, cutting out the Elektra storyline would have eliminated Fox’s ability to introduce the Elektra movie, which, let’s face it, could not have been made better by any amount of cutting or tweaking, despite Jennifer Garner’s ass-kicking ways and dimpled smile. Man that thing was terrible, boring, and disjointed to the point of complete incoherence.
However, I will say that there was one thing I loved in the romance storyline: the bit about Matt being able to “see” Elektra via the rain. It was beautifully done, and was later used to great effect in the funeral scene with the umbrella.
Despite Elektra and the bits of cheese, there’s actually a lot to love about this movie. The main storyline is pretty good when the additional scenes of the Director’s Cut are added. With those, we actually get a cohesive story, rather than the chopped version we saw in theaters. The cast is mostly super-enjoyable, too. I know Affleck got flak for his portrayal of Daredevil, but honestly, I think he’s very good, particularly as Matt and when Jon Favreau is around to add a little warmth and comedy as Foggy Nelson (I liked Favreau as Happy Hogan in the Iron Man movies, too. He should be in more movies). For some reason Affleck looks a little weird in the mask (he has a strong chin and jawline and yet it makes him look slightly chubby-cheeked) but I blame the costume department, rather than Affleck, for that (and I liked the rest of the costume).
The late Michael Clarke Duncan is wicked menacing and convincing as the Kingpin – you get the sense of both his business smarts and his street smarts from his scenes, plus the feeling that you really, really just do not want to be in the same room as him, ever, because you never know what he might do next. Joe Pantoliano is perfect as reporter Ben Urich (Urich’s always been a favorite of mine in the comics, and being a journalist, I loved the way they have him popping up everywhere as he diligently goes after the story, and when they show him writing at the end). And I got a kick out of Kevin Smith’s cameo, as well as all of the shoutouts to Daredevil writers and artists.
I have to say Colin Farrell as Bullseye might be my favorite casting in this movie. That may seem surprising, given that every single second he’s on screen he chews scenery like it’s the most important meal of the day; but given the character he’s playing, that’s actually perfect. Pardon my French, but Bullseye in the comics is bug-fuck nuts, as well as being crazy arrogant and not giving shit one about the lives of others, and Farrell pulls that personality onto the screen with every swagger and look of madness-laced annoyance at everyday occurrences. I love the little scene where he chokes the chatty old woman with a carefully aimed peanut, as well as when the Kingpin walks in and Bullseye’s just casually hanging out in his office waiting for him, boots up on the desk, sharpening a pencil like the ones he just killed the guard with. The scene where he goes through the airport, while completely over the top, is priceless too. I also love how he asks for a costume (but happily, doesn’t get one) and the fact that they let Farrell keep his Irish accent for the movie, even though it doesn’t fit with the comics origin. I like the idea of Bullseye as a crazy Irishman (who gets mad when people call him a crazy Irishman).
Some of my absolute favorite parts of the movie have to do with both the look of the movie – with all the night scenes, the blue-tinged lighting, and the gritty streets, we really get the feel of this being Hell’s Kitchen NYC and Daredevil’s NYC, not the tourist variety – and the fight scenes. Despite the high leaps in those scenes looking weirdly fake to me (something about the way they were shot, I think), I absolutely adore everything else about the way they portray Daredevil’s unique and fluid fighting style, including the way he uses his white cane/weapon (although his is red and white) and the way he uses the city as basically one giant jungle gym from which to move and fight. More than anything, though, I love the way they portray both his enhanced sonar senses and how he lives as a blind man. Even years later, I remember my original viewing of the scene that shows him moving through his apartment, choosing his suit by the Braille tag labels and folding his money, stored in separate Braille-marked boxes, into different shapes to differentiate the denomination. Less well-remembered but equally cool are the parts of fight scenes that show, from his viewpoint, how he uses sound to fight, as well as how sound can be used to overpower him. And, as mentioned, the effect of water on his “sight,” used both in the Elektra scenes and in the Kingpin fight scene, is brilliantly done.
Oddly, in looking back at this movie, which appeared two years before Batman Begins, I can see how with some adjustments this could have been, if not as great (Batman Begins being just one of those pretty-much-perfect movies to me), something a bit closer to that; and how it actually was in much the same vein as that movie in mood and tone. I think that realization was lost to me (and probably a lot of other people) on first viewing by the lack of the Director’s Cut scenes and the inclusion of the cheesier story elements. However, with the darkness (both visually and in the story) and the noir feel of the movie that stems from the Frank Miller stories by which it was inspired, as well as the modern sense of a gritty NYC, the full version of the movie actually holds up pretty well nine years after it was made.
But, fun as this retrospective may be (for me, at least; your mileage may vary), why am I writing about all of this nine years after the movie’s release? Well, mainly because in October of this year, the film rights reverted back toMarvel Studios; and I’d really, really love to see a new Daredevil movie from Marvel. There is a lot I love about the character and his surrounds, including his stance as a crusading lawyer and helper of other superheroes and his unique fighting style. I also like his devotion to and the stories’ focus on Hell’s Kitchen, which infuses the area itself with its own unique comic-book character and makes it one of the more “real”-feeling settings in comics, since it’s both a strong presence in the stories and based on a real and not-too-overwhelmingly-large area. And, cheesy as it may be, I love the fact that in the Daredevil stories, justice is literally blind. What can I say: I’m a sucker for a good double-meaning.
As of a few days ago, Marvel has not announced any plans for a new Daredevil movie, but I hope to see that change sometime soon. I’m not sure what storyline I’d want them to follow – but a reboot could be a lot of fun if they kept the basic origin and some of the great elements from this one but did a different introductory storyline. With Daredevil, I think that would be entirely possible, since his origin itself doesn’t need to take up too much of the movie (they established it pretty efficiently here and I didn’t feel anything was lacking) and his job as a lawyer gives plenty of opportunities for crime-fighting stories that encompass both halves of his life. What do you think a good focus for a new movie would be? Tell me in the comments!
Many of the comment that follow are lifted directly from a blog post I wrote after seeing Marvel’s The Avengers opening weekend. I stand by these words and note that I have since then seen it in 2-D in a theater and on my home screen via the just-released Combo Pack. The movie is so well-crafted as to remain entertaining on repeated viewings.
Disney Home Entertainment has released this in a dizzying assortment of collections, some exclusive to certain retailers, such as the Walmart one that comes with a graphic novel by Peter David and an army of artists. The four-disc commercial set comes with the 3-D and 2-D Blu-ray discs, standard DVD, and digital copy. This one also has a link to download music inspired by the film. What I was sent for review is the slightly less spiffy two disc set (Blu-ray and DVD) but it is certainly sufficient.
The major success that was not being discussed during the May release is that for the first time, four franchises have been strategically designed and executed to culminate in the launch of a fourth franchise. There have been numerous all-star films where actors arrive and perform thinly veiled versions of their famous screen personas (and we had a trailer for the latest such examples, The Expendables 2) but this move is unprecedented. While there have been previous winks and nods to a larger universe in other films and television series based on comic books, this team film was carefully planned, laid out, and executed.
Starting four years ago with Iron Man, the Marvel Movie Universe has been carefully structured, taking the very core elements from the 1960s comics, filtered through the 2000 Ultimate Universe and distilled in an easily adaptable essence. Each film was not without its flaws and they didn’t all work with Hulk going 0 for 2 but still considered a key piece of the puzzle. But, when we first saw Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) waiting for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) after the first film’s credits and heard about “The Avengers Initiative” we knew what was coming.
The question was then: could Marvel Studios deliver on such high expectations The answer is a resounding yes but let’s look at why. First, Kevin Feige gets it. He understands the comics and the characters, but also understands film and how changes need to be made. As studio head, he made certain the egos and budgets were kept in check, focusing squarely on bringing the four-color characters to cinematic glory. That he’s remained in place has helped tremendously. So has Feige using the resources at his disposal and involving former EIC Joe Quesada from the outset, and setting up the writers committee that allowed the current architects of the print universe to help make the movies hew closely to the status quo and assure the storylines were strong.
Zak Penn also gets it. He’s clearly grown as a writer, going from things like Last Action Hero and Elektra to X2 and The Incredible Hulk. As a result, he was able to help set up the threads in the other franchises to dovetail in The Avengers. Then it was handed off to Joss Whedon, who clearly is comfortable with scope, scale, comics, and movies. He entered the Marvel orbits with Astonishing X-Men beginning a relationship that led his doing uncredited script work on Captain America which had him in mind when the current film came up. There was comfort between Feige and Whedon which led to entrusting him with a $215 million production, Marvel’s most expensive, despite Whedon only previously directing the commercially disappointing Serenity.
Fans got what they wanted: all their favorite film heroes together in one rousing story with the fate of the world counting on them. They also wanted to see the heroes bicker and battle one another, a Marvel staple dating back to the first Human Torch/Sub-Mariner squabble. They wanted tidbits connecting the film to the greater universe and got that in the form of the Chitauri (the Ultimate Universe version of the Skrulls). The general moviegoer got spectacle, humor, action, carnage, and adventure.
Given what got accomplished, the 2:23 running time is fairly tidy, especially considering how many alpha characters had to be juggled and spotlit. But that’s where Whedon excels; working with an ensemble of quirky people, each putting their foibles on display until it was time to demonstrate why should care about them. As cool as it was to watch Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, CGI, voiced by Lou Ferrigno) duke it out, the confrontation between Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) was equally satisfying.
Each character was true to themselves, which was perhaps the trickiest aspect of bringing these franchises together, since their motivations varied and it required Fury to wheedle, cajole, and manipulate them into coming together to save the Earth. The parallel of Fury’s efforts with Loki’s need to keep them distracted and in-fighting was well handed, putting the emotions on display. Similarly, just as Loki cut a deal with the Chitauri to gain control of the limitless power contained within the Tesseract and the Chitauri answered to Thanos (as seen in the first of two wonderful end credit sequences), Fury answered to the international council (Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Arthur Darbinyan, Donald Li) and if the film had any false notes, it was the usual cluelessness displayed by his superiors.
Loki is fittingly the foe given his role in the team coming together in the 1963 comic book and his ability to elicit sympathy from the audience given his tortured past and wounded pride. His scenes one on one with Fury, Widow, and eventually Stark are terrific and most of the credit goes to Hiddleston.
It was also good to have moments directly connecting The Avengers to the other films such as the wonderful cameo of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), a reference to the whereabouts of Jane Foster, and the display of Hydra weaponry.
The change from Edward Norton to Ruffalo for Bruce Banner brought a level of sympathy to the scientist that was missing from the previous two film attempts. He was clearly channeling the late, great Bill Bixby and the CGI Hulk was a near-Neanderthal brute that finally looked and acted spot on. When he was ordered to smash and smiled before cutting loose, it was a clue we were in for some unbridled destruction. His confrontation with Loki may stand out as one of the single best film moments this year.
The entire second act is introspective, explosive, and fun to watch the actors put through their paces, but once the Tesseract is engaged to open the door to the Chitauri, the film puts things into fourth gear and never looks back. The final act is breathless, heroic, and tremendously exciting to watch.
This was war and with it come sacrifices. Despite all of Stark’s hubris and arrogance, when the time came, he was ready to give his life to save Earth and that changed how everyone around him looked at him. But there had to be some loss, something to make the victory bittersweet and the death that came was not unexpected but it was heroic and sad all at the same time. Clark Gregg was part of the glue that held the films together and his confident, somewhat geeky Agent Phil Coulson will be missed. We were introduced to Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), clearly set up to be his replacement going forward, but if any character lacked Whedon’s dialogue flair, it was her and it’s shame because she looked ready to rock.
Apparently, that wasn’t always the case as is revealed in one of the many worthwhile extras included in the set. There is a nice assortment of Deleted and Extended Scenes (14:59) that includes alternate opening and closing scenes with Hill that actually gave her a more important role. I can sort of see why Whedon excised them and would have added yet another layer to the goings on. There’s also an extended vignette of the isolation Steve Rogers feels in the 21st Century but it would have dragged the film’s pacing so while it’s missed, it made sense. Similarly, there’s a nice exchange between Mark Ruffalo and Harry Dean Stanton that also was dropped since the pacing of the final act demanded speed.
New to the disc is the first of the Marvel One Shot original stories intended to explore the new cinematic universe. “Item 47″ (11:20) stars Jesse Bradford (Bring It On) and Lizzy Caplan (True Blood) as would-be bank robbers using a Chitauri weapon they managed to recover and make work. Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) is sent after them while Agent Titus Welliver deals with the paperwork. It might be the merest hint of what’s to come with the proposed ABC SHIELD series for next season.
The gag reel (4:05) is the usual jolly stuff. There are just two featurettes: “A Visual Journey”, on the visuals coming from page to screen; and “Assembling the Ultimate Team” (14:37), which is the usual cast and crew saying nice things about one another. Whedon’s commentary, as it was on Cabin in the Woods, is dry, funny, and insightful.
Finally, there’s the Soundgarden Music Video “Live to Rise” (4:49). which I didn’t need since their music does nothing for me.
I couldn’t check out The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience since it only goes live tomorrow, release day.
So how’s the resurrecting going in your neighborhood? Despite a very warm March, it’s pretty much on schedule here in Rockland County. Oh, most of the trees are still barren, but here and there, some of them are getting beleaved; the dogwood in the front yard is growing buds and wow! – the forsythia bush in the back is covered with bright yellow flowers. So fecundity is returning to southern New York and I guess Gaia will make it through another growing season.
I’m thinking of death and resurrection partly because I’m typing this the day after Easter – a real holiday, this, because it acknowledges and celebrates something real and vital, the aforementioned fecundity. The proof, I guess, is that it – the return of the fecund – is reflected in a lot of myth/religion, the area in which we humans often attend to stuff like this. Give a quick Google to Persephone, Osiris, Adonis if you doubt. (Am I leaving a name off that list? An obvious name? Ummmm….) And don’t forget that the word itself – “Easter” – is derived from the name of a pagan goddess of fertility, Eostre.
For a while now, I’ve had an unparsed and maybe dunderheaded notion that the history of comics recapitulates the history of religion (the way ontogeny is supposed to recapitulate phylogeny?) Maybe I’ll someday do something with the idea, maybe not, but for our present purposes I’m happy to remind you that resurrection is not a stranger to comic books, though sometimes it has been more reincarnation than resurrection. I have (he said, thrusting out his chest) personally presided over the demise of Jason Todd, a.k.a. Robin The Second and, editing Marvel’s Daredevil when Frank Miller was doing the title, the very thorough scragging of Elektra and behold! – both characters are back in business, seemingly unharmed by their stays in the afterlife.
Superman is probably comics’ best known resurrectee. His fans know that, in a long, much-crossed-over storyline that appeared in the early 90s, our favorite Man of Steel was put down by the villainous Doomsday and later revived by a visit to the regeneration matrix in his Fortress of Solitude. (Should I have prefaced that last sentence with a spoiler alert? Sorry…)
Superman may be the numero uno returner-to-life in the DC Comics universe, but there are others, including Green Arrow, the Flash, Donna Troy, Elongated Man, Green Lantern…You might want to complete the list yourself.
Across town, in Marvel’s universe, the death of Jean Gray, known as Dark Phoenix, was a big deal in the X-Men saga and generated some pretty a deluge of fan mail from – brace for it! – die hard fans. I’ve already told you about Elektra. Again, the list can undoubtedly be amplified.
There are pros and cons to this reviving the dead and they might be worth a longer discussion. Maybe later. For now…get your nose out of the damn comic book and look out the window. The dogwood’s blooming!
RECOMMENDED READING: The Superman stories mentioned above are available in book collections that your comics shop or online book purveyor will be happy to sell.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases Takes Us From To Kill a Mockingbird to Mein Kampf
(Maxims: Political, Philosophical, and Moral, by Edward Counsel)
Except in comics.
I was doing a search for quotes about death when I found this one, which is so apropos. I never heard of Edward Counsel; did a Google search, but couldn’t find him?? Found a reproduction of his book on Amazon; the original was published before 1923. All I can gather is that he was an Australian who was born before 1900. Anyone who has more info is welcome to let me know in the comments section.
The reason I was looking for a quote about death – of which there seems to be milllllllllions – is because all us comic fans are buzzing about the YouTube video The Death and Return of Superman, by Max Landis (son of John Landis), who stars in The Chronicle. I was going to post it here, but Martha (Thomases) beat me to it three days ago – which amazingly points out that DC actually thought Tim Drake’s/Robin’s new costume was more of a P.R. event than Supe’s kicking of the bucket – so I won’t do that. All I can say is that, if by any chance you haven’t seen it, do so at once. You have my permission to stop reading this column, go watch it (it’s about 16:00 long) and then come back. It is bitingly hilarious, and exceptionally on the mark!!!! (Major kudos to Landis and his fellow actors btw!)
SPOILER ALERT!: Okay, I’m going to assume that you have either already seen the video or have taken the 16:00 to watch it before returning here, because I’m going to give away the ending here.
Landis concludes his short film by stating that Superman’s death and return opened the floodgates for other comic characters to die and then resurrect. In other words, said resurrection cheapened the dramatic impact of said death, and ended the ability of readers to mourn the loss of the character, because the reader knew the character would eventually return. Cynics like me will always point out that the death of a character in the comic book world is always due to (1) marketing; and (2) the dictates of Hollywood – as Martha ably points out in her column concerning Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
As a comics writer, a editor, and a reader, the “make-believe” of death in comics really pisses me off.
I’d like to point out that the ability of fiction (any fiction, from comics to television to movies) to help children understand and cope with finality of death is incredibly important. J. M. Barrie understood this, as he has Peter Pan say “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” And of course, J.K. Rowling did not flinch from the meaning of death in the Harry Potter And The novels; it was one of the themes of her “magnus opus” – beginning with the main character. Need I remind you that Harry was an orphan?
Okay, young readers of comics are scarce these days. We all know that. But they are still out there; my eleven-year old niece Isabel being one of them. And children are curious about death. About six months after my husband left me, the family was out to dinner. Right in the middle of the laughter and the eating, Isabel, six years old at the time, said to me, “Is John dead?” (That was a conversation stopper, let me tell you.) Of course her parents had explained what had happened. But obviously Isabel couldn’t grasp the concept of marital separation and divorce, so all she knew was that John was gone, which in her thoughts equaled death… because, as her mom told me later, she had just seen a movie – I don’t remember which one, it might have been one of the Harry Potter’s – in which one of the characters died. And she was trying to wrap her young mind around “death.”
Which I think is good; our society tends to put death into a dark, dusty corner where it molders and mildews and mutates into something unbearably monstrous. Remember the uproar over Terry Schiavo? How about the Republican bullshit of equating Obama’s healthcare bill with death panels? And as a registered nurse in the operating room, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen terminally ill or extremely aged patients subjected to the stress of unneeded or useless surgery or treatment because the family insists on it because they can’t deal with the impending death of their loved one.
Death can be welcomed as an end to unending pain and torment. Death can be aggressively fought against with all the tools of modern medicine. Death can be sudden, or it can be stretched out into nanoseconds.
But death is real.
I’m still reeling from the death of Kara Zor-El – Supergirl – in Crisis On Infinite Earth. Don’t talk to me about the reboots.
The Very Short List of Comic Book Superheroes Who Have Died And Returned: Alfred Pennyworth, Aquaman, Aunt May, Big Barda, Bucky, Captain America, The Doctor, Elektra, Fahrenheit, The Flash, Firestorm, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, The Human Torch, Jean Grey, Moon Knight, Negative Man, Punisher, Robin, Supergirl, Superman, The Thing, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (many if not all), Wonder Man, Wonder Woman, Yellowjacket.
TUESDAY: Michael Davis. Sponsored by the Bacon Council.
So, I just watched the trailer for The Avengers. I had to change pants. Because I pooped them. Why the premature defecation, you inquire? One movie with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Worthless Chick and Bow and Arrow Man… that’s why! In all seriousness (that would be the seriousness of a comic nerd geeking out at maximum dorkatude), it’s because this is the culmination of years of planning on Marvel’s part. And simply put, it looks like they aren’t going to screw it up.
In their own rights, each of the Marvel heroes who have been given a solo movie have done spectacularly well. Iron Man grossed over $318,000,000; Thor nabbed over $181,000,000; and the glorious Captain America took in over $175,000,000. Bob Wayne at DC once said “You vote with your dollars…” and by the looks of it, America (nerd and non-nerd alike) has proven its love for the Marvel movies.
Speaking purely from a fan-boy perspective, I’ve had nothing but mad love and respect for their cinematic endeavors. Iron Man was grounded in reality (for 4/5s of the film), and elevated by a continuously energetic performance by Robert Downey Jr., Thor was able to mix the completely ridiculous with powerful mythology and gave us perhaps one of the hardest to believe Avengers such that we as an audience believed a God could be a superhero. Captain America was able to build a fantastic period piece that gave the world an iconic and fearless leader. And now, Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios is cramming all of them (and a handful of others) into a single picture.
The basic fear most fanboys have had since the idea of an Avengers movie was dropped on our collective consciousness revolved around over-complexity. Rumors of Loki, the Kree/Skrull war, Red Skull, and numerous other villains danced on message boards. And let’s face it. Putting 4 or 5 “A-Types” into a team picture will potentially numb any chance at character building and nuance. If Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk each required their own picture, how can they share the limelight? And on top of it… Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury looks to be far more than just a cameo to boot. In simpler terms, The Avengers could easily become 10 gallons of Superhero in a 5 gallon hat.
If the trailer is to be any indicator of what the final product will be, I feel like Marvel is headed in the right direction. With the origins of every character now “public knowledge,” things feel natural. Iron Man and Captain America are both formidable leaders in their own right. In the trailer, they knock heads almost instantly. Whedon, who wrote the script, has a real clarity of character. Tony’s response is pitch perfect. Thor, while not uttering a word, carries himself as we expect… Regally, with a dash of arrogance.
Other glimpses of the titular characters are equally impressive. Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner certainly holds himself with a quiet struggle. And the choice to make Loki the villain creates a real urgency for the assembling. A mad god? Yeah, that’s a job for the Avengers. I know this all seems a bit of a hyperbole of analysis, given that all we’ve really seen is 12,000 seconds of footage (with a solid third of that dedicated to ominous shots of New York, explosions, and Iron Man flying)… but I’ve watched the trailer a couple times now, and each time I retain the same silly grin.
Marvel’s missteps – Wolverine, Elektra, Daredevil (which I actually liked), and most likely one (if not more) of the Blade flicks – all shared a plethora of groan worthy moments. In each, the self-seriousness never felt earned by the fans. That, and Wolverine was given Clark Kent’s origin part-way through his movie. I wish I could pinpoint exactly why the Avengers, with its surplus of superheroes, seems to capture my glee, with no bitter aftertaste of “this could be a train wreck.” Could it be I just want it to succeed too much? With Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor all leading up to this, it may very be such that I can’t fathom this flopping. I’ve dropped far too much cash at the multiplex to see Marvel bellyflop.
At its core, the Avengers is true fanboy porn. An assembling of Marvel’s best and brightest (and Hawkeye, cause, you know…) to fight the biggest of fights, is the stuff dreams are made of. To see it in live-action glory, with a bevy of computer effects and explosions is everything comic fans have dreamed of. I postulate it’s akin to The Dark Knight, where the general masses will appreciate our medium in a new light. It raises our collective mojo up just a notch. And anytime a comic nerd looks better than a Trekkie or LARPer… well, that’s just gravy. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do go watch the trailer… and come back here to tell me if I should stave my excitement, or just invest in a few more pair of paints prior to its debut.
Based on the Novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Adaptation by Roger Langridge Art by Filipe Andrade Cover by Skottie Young The comic-book adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tale continues! See John Carter meet the beautiful but deadly Princess Dejah Thoris! Watch him make a dangerous enemy! And discover the fate of those who dare to cross the Martians, when Carter takes the life of a Thark warrior! The world of Barsoom continues to unfold in this brand new interpretation of a great classic. 32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99
JOHN CARTER of Mars: world of mars #1 (of 5)Based on the Novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Written by PETER DAVID Art by LUKE ROSS Cover by ESAD RIBIC If you thought all the action on Mars began with the arrival of John Carter—are you in for a shock! John Carter: World of Mars is the official prequel to the upcoming Walt Disney Pictures blockbuster film releasing March 2012 and reveals the shocking events that transpire before the hotly anticipated motion picture! Plus it features some of the greatest characters ever conceived by Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Princess Dejah Thoris, the valiant, four-armed Tars Tarkas, John Carter and Burroughs himself! Dejah Thoris has yet to meet the love of her life, but she has her hands full with the malicious Sab Than, would-be ruler of Zodanga, who sees kidnapping the princess of Mars as a short-cut to winning the thousand year war between his people and her city of Helium. Meanwhile Tars Tarkas is not yet the leader of his people, but instead an unambitious warrior who is caught between the desires of the female he loves and his best friend who needs Tars’s help to become Jeddak of the Tharks…assuming that his ambitions don’t kill them all. It’s a compelling tale of romance, court intrigue and an unending war on a distant world. Take an unforgettable journey to Barsoom. It’s a trip you can’t afford to miss! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
DOROTHY & THE WIZARD IN OZ #2 (Of 8)Written by ERIC SHANOWER Art & Cover by SKOTTIE YOUNG The Wizard of Oz is back and the Mangaboos have him! These deadly vegetable people also have Dorothy, her cousin Zeb, their horse Jim and kitten Eureka. To save their lives, the humbug Wizard must win a contest of magic against a real Sorcerer—using only his wits and nine tiny piglets. The beloved Oz adaptation continues with the critically acclaimed and Eisner Award winning team-up of Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. 32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99
BLACK PANTHER: THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN ALIVE #524Written by DAVID LISS Pencils & Cover by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA SPIDER-ISLAND TIE-IN! First it was American Panther, now it’s…Six-Armed Panther? The arachnid infection griping Manhattan hits T’Challa, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying to protect Hell’s Kitchen! And when Overdrive breaks into the quarantine zone, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Panther swings into a deadly race across the streets of New York City. What has the Spidey villain stolen that’s worth smashing through a hero-protected border, and why is the lethal Lady Bullseye trying to keep him from getting back out? 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
AVENGERS 1959 #1 & #2 (Of 5)Written and Penciled by HOWARD CHAYKIN Cover by HOWARD CHAYKIN EXPLODING FROM THE PAGES OF NEW AVENGERS… It’s the tail end of the fabulous fifties. NICK FURY and his AVENGERS roar into their secret mission, hunting down NAZI SUPER VILLAINS…men and women relentlessly preparing to unleash hell on a troubled world barely holding onto peace…only to find the Avengers have what appears to be serious competition in their manhunt for these escaped ubermenschen…when their mission is suddenly compromised by interference from an unlikely source. 32 PGS. (each)/Rated T+ …$2.99 (each)
CAPTAIN AMERICA #4Written by Ed Brubaker Pencils & Cover by Steve McNiven Fantastic Four Anniversary Variant by MARKO DJURDJEVIC Brubaker and McNiven continue their heart-stopping run on Cap with a nightmarish trip down memory lane – and that’s bad news when your memory lane goes right through World War 2! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
RED SKULL #4 (of 5)Written by GREG PAK Art by MIRKO COLAK Cover by DAVID AJA The life of Johann Schmidt has been a tragic, tortuous road. As his destiny and doom drag the future Red Skull to his inevitable crossroads, Johann plots a shocking assassination…one that could change the course of history… By the acclaimed writer of MAGNETO: TESTAMENT, Greg Pak, and the breakout SECRET WARRIORS artist, Mirko Colak 32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$2.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY #623Written by ED BRUBAKER & MARC ANDREYKO Penciled by CHRIS SAMNEE Cover by ED McGUINNESS Behind enemy lines! Bucky and Cap have faced the horrors of war on many fronts, but this issue, they go further into the depths of evil than our young heroes realized possible. And what is the secret that connects the Cap and Bucky series to the modern day stories – the clues begin to add up this issue, as Brubaker, Andreyko, and Samnee keep the pedal to the medal. 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
THE PUNISHER #4Written by GREG RUCKA Penciled by MARCO CHECCHETTO Cover by BRYAN HITCH MORE PAIN. MORE GAIN. Last month, the Punisher fell. Hard. Now Frank Castle is a man brutally and violently broken and barely grasping onto life. And for Frank Castle… it means he’s more dangerous than ever. 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
KA-ZAR #5 (Of 5)Written by PAUL JENKINS Pencils & Cover by PASCAL ALIXE The Pangean people confront their utmost limits as the calamity in the Savage Lands hits its critical apex. Corporate oil has seeped throughout the jungle and children perish from foreign remedies. Now two battles erupt that will ultimately decide the fate of Pangea. One man stands alone in the austere chambers of the United Nations, while one nation must finally rise against the threat from within. Amidst the bloodshed, can Ka-Zar protect the integrity of the land and people he swore to? Or will exploitation and internal strife ensure the destruction of his beloved home? 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
LEGION OF MONSTERS #1 (Of 4)Written by DENNIS HOPELESS Art & Cover by JUAN DOE A monster adventure to scream over! Elsa Bloodstone hates monsters – and when the trail of a mysterious serial killer leads to their underground city, Elsa’s ready to kick some horrific butt. Morbius the Living Vampire, Werewolf by Night, the Living Mummy and the slithery Manphibian have news for her, though; the monsters are innocent, and the real killer is out there…a creature so terrifying and vicious that even monsters are scared to death! Elsa Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters are on the case! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
PUNISHERMAX #18Written by JASON AARON Penciled by STEVE DILLON Cover by DAVE JOHNSON The Punisher is at his lowest point. Homeless, penniless, gun-less. But none of this changes the fact that he’s got his sights aimed squarely on the most powerful man in the country: the Kingpin of Crime. Fearing for his life and paranoid, the Kingpin brings in a new bodyguard, the best money can buy: a hard-as-nails woman going by the name of Elektra. 32 PGS./Explicit Content …$3.99
PUNISHERMAX: FRANK PREMIERE HCWritten by JASON AARON Penciled by STEVE DILLON Cover by DAVE JOHNSON His final confrontation with Bullseye left Frank Castle wounded and reeling in more ways than one. Now confined to a prison hospital bed, Frank must begin the long painful process of healing — not just his broken body, but also his horribly scarred soul. To do that, he’ll have to face the darkest secret of his past — one he’d hoped would stay buried forever. Collecting PUNISHERMAX (2010) #12-16. 120 PGS./Explicit Content …$19.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-5208-8 Trim size: standard