Tagged: Iron Fist

Dennis O’Neil: Team-Ups!

So it’s a ball boiler inside the Manhattan office building because although I’m pretty sure air conditioning existed it did not become ubiquitous until after the war that the good ol’ US of A was sliding into. What we’re looking at is an open window on an upper floor and somehow (are we pigeons?) we get inside and behold! Three middle-aged men, suit jackets draped over chairs, ties loosened, discussing the comic books they edit. They have had solid successes with characters a couple of young guys named Bill Everett and Carl Burgos brought in. The topic under discussion: more! More of Burgos’s Human Torch, of Everett’s Sub-Mariner: and yes, of course, more profits, and maybe this year’s Christmas bonus will be worth more than a subway token. Then one of the three (wise men?) has The Idea: Combine ‘em! Put them in the same issue…no, put ‘em in the same story.

And so they did, and a few months later your grandpa (great grandpa?) was sitting on a porch swing with his best gal reading about the meeting of Subby and The Torch, and being scolded by Best Gal for wasting time and money on those stupid funny books! (Okay, skeptics, can you prove that this stuff didn’t happen? Go ahead, Mr. Philosophy Dude, let’s see you prove a negative.)

Whatever the particulars, regardless of what did or did not actually occur, the Torch-Sub-Mariner stories went on sale and the few readable copies left are very early examples of what would later be a comic book staple, the team-up.

And then, the passing of years and The Justice Society of America, the Marvel Family, and a plethora of other costumed teams, until the arrival of the X-Men just abut the time when comics as a whole were getting a mighty, second wind and emerging from a decade-long obscurity, victims of the Eisenhower era witch hunts.

Comics were back!

And movies were following the trail they blazed. After a few single-hero flicks, the movies found the X-Men and a billion dollar franchise was born. Hold it! – not exactly born: rather, evolved from earlier existence as comic book characters. Fortunes were, and are, being made. More of them to come.

And the fossil who goes by my name can kick back and realize that the Netflix video enterprise, a first cousin to the movies mentioned above, is a super-group comprised entirely of character I’ve worked on. Yep, The Defenders, starring Iron Fist and Power Man, who were partners in their comic book home, and Daredevil and Patsy Walker.

Who?

Patsy made the giant leap from comics about post-teens to grim superheroic private eye Jessica Jones. Patsy’s light and bright escapades were closely related to other Marvel stuff like Millie the Model and if you didn’t know that, well, now you do.

As of this writing, I’ve only seen two of the Defenders programs and so have not earned the right to have an opinion about the whole series.

Catch me next week. Maybe by then I’ll have earned the aforementioned figured out the subject of the preceding 517 words.

Martha Thomases: Defending…?

Last Friday, my pal Larry Hama invited me to a “friends and family” screening of the first two episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders. I mean the new series debuting on Netflix today, not the classic television show, The Defenders, the source of many many jokes made during the screening.

Also in attendance: Tony Isabella, Michael Gaydos and his adorable son, Arvell Jones, and the families of Archie Goodwin and George Tuska. Plus a bunch of current Marvel folks who had probably already seen the whole series, but who were gracious hosts.

Before the screening began, I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about seeing so many of my old friends and meeting people whose work I admired. Hence, I was psyched to enjoy two hours in a comfy chair in a screening room.

Mostly, I had a great time. I have a huge crush on Charlie Cox, the beautiful man who plays Matt Murdock. And I love Rosario Dawson, Mike Colter, and Kristin Ritter. The production design for the series suggests the color schemes associated with each of the four main characters so that Daredevil’s scenes are dark and red, Jessica Jones’ scenes are blue, and Luke Cage’s seem to have been shot in the 1970s.

If only there were no Iron Fist.

I don’t blame Finn Jones. He’s working as hard as he can. Unfortunately, the way Danny Rand has been written for these series, he’s a narcissist. A benevolent narcissist, but still a man who only sees the world as it relates to him. Daredevil is trying to keep crime out of his neighborhood. Luke Cage is the Hero of Harlem. Even Jessica Jones goes out of her way to help a stranger.

Danny Rand only thinks about Danny Rand. Even in his guilt, he can’t see past himself.

I guess this makes a certain amount of sense, given that he was raised by Buddhist monks and taught to look within himself for strength. Buddhists can be rather solipsistic. They aren’t the only ones, certainly, and that’s not all there is to Buddhism, but that’s what I infer from the Netflix series. In any case, his self-absorption has the effect of making the character and his struggles seem less important.

(For another perspective on Buddhism and action heroes, you might want to check out this series, co-written by my high school friend, Tinker Lindsay.)

A few supporting characters from each series are here, so our heroes have someone to provide exposition. I like to see Colleen Wing and Misty Knight and Foggy Nelson and Trish Walker. Sigourney Weaver and Waitlist Ching Ho make excellent villains. And there are many many, many other characters, enough so that it feels like it’s actually shot in New York City, where many millions of people live.

I can’t give a real critical overview of a series from just the first two episodes. It felt like they were taking their time getting to the real story because when the screening ended, the four main characters had not yet all met each other. That seems to me to be a bit too slow.

Still, it’s the tail end of August. What else do you have to do this weekend? I certainly have nothing better.

•     •     •     •     •

An important reminder: If you haven’t already, get thee to this Kickstarter page and pledge some money for Mine! the anthology book ComicMix is producing to benefit Planned Parenthood. You might not know it from the Fake News Media, but Planned Parenthood provides necessary health care to millions of people of all ages and genders. In some communities, it is the only place where women can receive pre-natal and post-natal care. In some communities, it is the only place where poor women can get vital cancer screenings. In some communities, it is the only health clinic available, for women and men.

You might also want to pledge so you can get a cool book, with stories by Neil Gaiman, Trina Robbins, Rachel Pollack, Jill Thompson, Becky Cloonan, Stuart Moore, Mark Said, Amber Benson, Louise Simonson, Jody Houser… and me me me!

 

Dennis O’Neil: Iron Fist and the Costume Unseen

In peril, poor Polly Pearlwhite plunges from the pinnacle… And I, a superhero, really should fly up and save her and so I shall as soon as I change into my hero garb and… But what is this? I don’t seem to have worn the cape and tights under my Brooks Brothers suit and how could I forget such a thing? Well, come to think of it, I didn’t have my morning coffee and I’ve been Mr. Cottonbrain all day and… Never mind. Sorry, Polly.

So there I was – this is me taking now and not the fictitious person in the previous paragraph – and I’m about to reveal that early this morning, at about one, I finished watching the Iron Fist television serial and can report general satisfaction with it. But during the final minutes of superhero action I wondered if the film makers were going to give Mr. Fist a costume. He had one in the comic books where he first came to life and back when I was editing his monthly biography I regarded him as another one of Marvel Comics’s costumed dogooders, in the same area code as Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Hulk, et cetera: not as popular as some of Marvel’s output, but clearly of the same ilk.

The show I was watching earlier today ended – mild spoiler-alert, one you needn’t pay much attention to – with Mr. Fist and a companion climbing to the top of a mountain and finding… not what they expected but rather things that must certainly have ruined their day and, not incidentally, provided a hook into another story. That, we will probably be seeing soon. Mr. Fist was wearing clothing appropriate to climbing snow-covered peaks, but it was just clothing, not a costume.

Marvel’s last adaptation of one of the company’s characters to television went costumeless too. This was Luke Cage, a.k.a. Power Man, who, in the comics I worked on, was Iron Fist’s partner. Coincidence? Probably. But might it not also be the harbinger of a trend?

The costume trope has been a part of the superhero narratives ever since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced it with Superman in 1938. But they didn’t give us the first costumed hero. That honor goes to Lee Falk who began syndicating a newspaper strip titled The Phantom a couple of years before Superman appeared on the cover of Action Comics #1. The Phantom wore a skin-tight costume and a pair of holstered automatics. He lived and operated in the deep jungle, which makes the costume a bit puzzling: it doesn’t seem appropriate. But we won’t be foolish enough to quarrel with success.

Back to Mr. Fist. There’s no reason why action folk have to wear odd suits and a reason or two for them not to. The reasons usually provided are, well… as much excuses as reasons and I don’t completely buy them. It might be that they’ve outlived their time.

Certainly, Iron Fist did just fine in something he could have gotten at a mall.

 

Mike Gold: Iron Fist – Your Mileage May Vary!

I must admit, I agree with Roy Thomas and Larry Hama.

Unfortunately, this puts me in opposition to at least three of my ComicMix fellow travelers – Martha Thomases, Joe Corallo and Adriane Nash. And, probably, many others who occupy these premises. That should make our next staff meeting amusing.

Iron Fist – I’m talking about the Marvel/Netflix series – most certainly is not The Prisoner of 21st Century. It’s not even as good as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. But from reading the reactions of the aforementioned critics and many others, I do not find it to be the You’re In The Picture of the 21st Century, a show so obscure and godawfullousy that only Bob Ingersoll remembers it.

To be fair, I’ve only seen the first four episodes. Then again, Martha’s only seen the first four as well. But those critics who have been vocal in their distaste for the show seem to take umbrage at a number of the show’s elements:

  • It moves too slowly.

Yeah, well, there’s some truth to that but, damn, BFD. Epileptics deserve the opportunity to watch heroic fantasy without going into a seizure.

  • The lead, Finn Jones, sucks.

Maybe, maybe not. Stephen Amell was pretty lame when Arrow got its start, and he got a lot better. While Jones hasn’t quite reached the level of, say, Peter Capaldi, I’m willing to give him some time. How old is he, anyway? About 11, I think.

  • The plot is a rip-off of Arrow, isn’t it?

This particularly bothered my pal Joe. I respond: “Nope, it’s the other way around. In Arrow, Oliver Queen got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and came back five years later as a world-travelling, murderous superpowered member of the Russian mob who was cut off from the family fortune. Danny Rand got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and he came back some 13 years later a fully-powered superhero who was cut off from the family fortune. The difference is, the storyline in Arrow was mostly original to the teevee show – yes, Oliver did disappear for a while only to come back as a costumed non-superpowered, non-murdering hero­. But Danny Rand did it first: when Roy Thomas and Gil Kane created the character, at that time Oliver Queen was nothing more than an occasional back-up feature in Action Comics. So there.

  • Shouldn’t Iron Fist be Asian-American? After all, it’s 2017, damnit.

Yeah, well, here I agree with Roy. You want an Asian-American character, go create an Asian-American character. In fact, you should. Somebody should. And, get this, Joe – ComicMix’s diversity columnist – made this same point a year ago. Iron Fist was created in (arguably) less-enlightened times. You can’t change the past but – and here’s where I differ greatly from some of my revisionist brethren – you can learn from it. They call this a teaching opportunity.

There are many positive elements in the Iron Fist teevee series. First and foremost: there’s the character of Colleen Wing, as performed by Jessica Henwick. She is not a side-kick. She is her own person, a fully capable young woman struggling to make it in the Big City. Yes, I’d love to see her spin-off into her own series, but let’s face it: a Daughters of the Dragon series with Colleen Wing and Misty Knight (Simone Missick) would kick-ass. Quite literally. Besides, Tony Isabella could use the check.

The bad-guy, Harold Meachum, is wonderful. Sure, we figured out he’s a finger in The Hand roughly well before the first commercial, but his motivations and his truly bizarre technique in handling Rand are fascinating. Better still, actor David Wenham is wonderful in the part.

The Netflix crew, under the direction of Marvel’s own Jeff Loeb, understands the need for and the approach to Mighty Marvel Continuity. We’ve got Madame Gao as the big baddie. We last saw her in Daredevil. Jeri Hogarth appears in three episodes; she was the lawyer who didn’t get along with Jessica Jones in the series of the same name.

Rosario Dawson is in this show. Of course, Rosario has been in just about every superhero show or movie since Kirk Alyn hit puberty, and the world is a much better place for that. Her Claire Temple is the glue of Marvel’s Netflix miniverse and I enjoy seeing her move about the continuity.

I appreciate that Rotten Tomatoes has an 81% audience score but only an 18% critics score. This has nothing to do with your opinion. I mention this only to point out that the critics are sick and tired of being forced to watch all these superhero programs and movies, but they do not pay for the privilege. The audience does. It is their money that shows up on the balance sheets, and thus far, the audience seems to enjoy the genre greatly.

I have done little but give Iron Fist faint praise – Larry Hama, who knows something about martial arts heroes, liked it more than I did. Maybe my opinion will change when I finish watching the first series. Yes, there will be a second – it’s already been picked up.

But, as Dennis Miller used to say (and might still, but hardly anybody cares), “your mileage may vary,” and that’s totally cool.

Joe Corallo: Iron Miss

This past week I finished watching Iron Fist. I also went to a discussion at Manhattan’s Strand bookstore on queer representation in comics, with speakers including Jennifer Camper and Phil Jimenez, but I really want to focus on Iron Fist. Well, I checked out some of the old MST3K episodes they just added to Netflix too. That last part actually ties into my Iron Fist discussion. Yes, really.

The Internet has been flooded with reactions to Iron Fist that have been all over the place. Praise to malaise. I had already seen all the other Marvel Netflix series so I was diving in regardless of what the critics had to say. I got through it all in about days of watching.

It was a rough three days.

I’m not going to get too deep into spoilers, but if you want a 100% spoiler free viewing experience of Iron Fist and haven’t watched it yet, you may want to check it out first before reading ahead.

Welcome back! Okay, so is it just me or was there way too much of a similarity between this and the first season of Arrow? This all happens in the first episode, but Danny Rand coming back from being assumed dead after traveling far with his family and there being an accident and coming back to reclaim his dad’s company, his best friend’s dad being the bad guy, the Triad and the Hand both being Asian led criminal organizations, and that’s just off the top of my head. I might like the show more if I hadn’t seen it done a few years ago now.

Arrow was able to avoid the implications of cultural appropriation. As ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases pointed out in her last column, there is nothing inherently white about the character, so why did he have to be white? I totally understand the argument that casting an actor of Asian descent just because the character knows martial arts wouldn’t be ideal either. That’s what I talked about last year when I wrote about Iron Fist as a lose/lose. I’m not convinced that I was wrong yet.

The show also feels like it thinks it’s more clever than it actually is. I, like I imagine many others, figured out a major plot point a good ten episodes before Danny figured it out. I also liked the “thrown in an asylum when you’re actually magic and they just don’t know it” trope better when I saw it in Return to Oz and Buffy the Vampire Slayer many, many years before that.

Later in the week I ended up watching the MST3K classic, The Pumaman. This clumsy 1980 superhero outing is about a white guy who has the powers of an ancient God/alien worshipped by Aztecs and has a man of Aztec descent as his sidekick despite the fact that guy was definitely more knowledgeable of what was happening. The part of person of appropriate background to serve as sidekick this time was played by Jessica Henwick, whose opinions on this can be read here. Her character, Colleen Wing, is hardly the first character to play this role, nor is the sidekick in The Pumaman. The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and more franchises have this premise. It’s dated and at this point it’s just boring. Give us something more creative.

Between all that and the character of Danny Rand quite possibly being the most annoying, unlikeable, mansplaining protagonist in a Marvel property makes this a bit hard to watch. If you enjoy it, great. There are people that do and they’re not wrong. I just found this to be a clumsy, ham-fisted attempt at the genre.

For the sake of fairness I will also say what I enjoyed about Iron Fist. It had a great score.

Another martial arts based franchise got a reboot recently. I saw Power Rangers with some friends over the weekend. It’s definitely a movie for a younger audience. I was impressed by how the character of Billy is a black autistic teenager, has a lot of screen time, was easily the second most consequential Power Ranger. The heroes in this were more diverse than in the original, but Rita was whitewashed with seemingly little backlash to that, which seems strange to me. Why care so much about diversity in one element of your film and not the other.

That said, I’d still recommend Power Rangers over Iron Fist. It has a little more heart, is about 11 hours shorter, and cares a lot more about Krispy Kreme.

Martha Thomases: Iron Fist and America’s Original Sin

If racism is America’s original sin, it’s not surprising that racial issues hold such a central place in our popular entertainments. It also affects our response to these entertainments.

Especially mine, and especially this weekend.

It started with a semi-binge of the Iron Fist, the new Marvel Television series on Netflix. All sorts of people were angry that the actor cast as the lead, Danny Rand, is white. While this is faithful to the source material, it would not have been blasphemous to cast an Asian-American actor. The character, as written in the television series, is not particularly white.

He is, however, really boring. I don’t know if this is the fault of the actor or the script. There are so many things that are not discussed that might fill in the characters’ inner lives. What does Rand Industries do? Do they make things? Do they just do real estate deals? Why does Danny run around like a crazy person instead of asking questions? How do they get from Gramercy Park to Chinatown so quickly? Did they chase each other through subway tunnels?

Maybe these details are filled out in later episodes. I expect to finish the series, although probably not until after I watch Dave Chappelle.

In other words, while I understand that race might be an issue for some viewers, it was not the most notable part of my experience.

I also finally saw Get Out, an amazingly brilliant movie. Race relations are absolutely the point of this movie. It offers a view of the world as experienced by African-Americans that I don’t get to see very often. It also offers a view of white people that I, a white person, rarely get to see. It’s funny and frightening and very important while never making me think I’m doing something that’s good for you. Broccoli should have such a good script.

Should we only have people of color as leads when the story is about their particular subgroup? I don’t think so. There are all sorts of stories that can be filled with people of any race, gender or ethnicity. For example, I love Jesse Martin on The Flash, and I am sure he was cast because he is Jesse Martin, not because they needed an African-American in the part. That said, the fact that he is black adds a definite je ne sais quoi to the series. So does his height. So does his goatee.

My ComicMix colleague Joe Corallo and I have spent hours arguing over these and related issues, usually consuming a good deal of tequila in the process. We have very different responses to the Aftershock series Alters. I really like it, and Joe likes it less than I do (although I think he’s coming around). I’m interested in the story the creative team is trying to tell, and Joe has less patience with the story than he does with the creative team. This is not an argument either one of us can win, because we like what we like and don’t like what we don’t like. Still, these are interesting reactions to have when a series is launched about a character who isn’t a straight cis white guy.

There are times when a character cannot be a straight cis white guy. There are times when a character must be a straight cis white guy. Most of the time, the only reason it matters to certain audiences are our cultural assumptions about which people are worthy of stories.

Dennis O’Neil: Authority Figures Are Often Full Of…

Pay attention now. There’s a lesson to be learned here today and you should believe what I’m about to write, but we’ll get to that later… after we produce some evidence.

Here’s the lesson – in italics to emphasize its importance: Authority figures are often full of shit.

I’m not saying all authority figures are wicked per se. They are, after all, a gift of evolution and anything that evolution offers has a reason for being. But keep your skepticism at the ready when visiting the experts, especially if they’re speaking outside of their specialties.

You might want to heed a brain surgeon’s recommendation regarding your gray matter, but pass on his political opinions.

And about those specialties: be at least a tad skeptical there, too. A few months a medical specialist with the white jacket and the framed certificates on the wall – the whole package – gave Marifran a pretty alarming diagnosis. She accepted it – he’s the doctor – and we got on with our lives. Then the lovely Perri Pivovar suggested we visit a university-affiliated clinic that specializes in the kind of illness Mari allegedly had. But she didn’t. A thorough examination revealed no trace of the illness, just some residual damage from a stroke Mari had seven or so years ago, eminently treatable.

Now, that evidence. But first: by some criteria I’m an authority. No kidding. Not a claim I’d make for myself, but over the years I’ve occasionally worked as an editor and a college professor, and those are authority-type jobs. So here is what this “authority” wrote last week:

“The best of them was Master of Kung Fu for which Roy Thomas had the bright idea of making his hero the son of Fu Manchu, a master

The only problem here is, Roy did not create Master of Kung Fu. That chore was handled in 1972 by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. It was published by Marvel Comics, of which you may have heard. Roy and Gil Kane created another martial artist hero: Iron Fist, a.k.a. Danny Rand, who first appeared in 1974 and was the subject of last week’s column and of a television series that may be streaming on a TV set near you if you’re a Netflix subscriber.

Now, I’m willing to affirm that everything in the preceding three paragraphs is true and the only reason you may have to doubt it is that it comes from someone who has admitted to being an authority and we have agreed, have we not, that authorities are inherently untrustworthy. What to do?

Perhaps you could join a cult? Scientology may have a few openings.

Martha Thomases: Too Much! Too Much!

By the time you read this, I will be even more behind.

The Iron Fist series starts on Netflix today. I still have not seen Stranger Things or most of Black Mirror, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. I haven’t finished the most recent seasons of Orange is the New Black or Love. I haven’t seen the new Amy Schumer special, or Trevor Noah’s.

On my DVR is the entire last season of American Horror Story, which is one of my favorite shows. There’s more than half a season of Taboo, which I really like but it’s very dense. The Americans started up again, and I haven’t watched yet. I also have episodes of Ripper Street from, like, two years ago.

Part of the reason I’m so behind in my television is the huge pile of graphic novels I have to read, along with my weekly fix of floppies.

Sometimes I even read books that don’t have pictures or conversations. They don’t pile up as much as they used to now that I read so much on my Kindle, but, I assure you, the virtual stack is quite tall. As is the physical stack of the books I want to read that aren’t available digitally.

I’m behind on movies, too. When I think about going, I realize I could stay home and catch up on last year’s films with pay-per-view for less money. And then I realize I could watch some of the stuff on the DVR for free.

All of this is on top of the things that all of us have to do — meal preparation, sleep, work — and things we might not need to do, but should, like exercise and bill paying and laundry. Toss in as well my responsibilities as a citizen, like calling my representatives regularly to vote against the latest GOP rollback of civil rights, or sorting my recycling.

This would be okay if I was a normal person. I would accept that there are only 24 hours in a day, and only seven days in a week, and that there are only so many things a person can do within that amount of time. There is such a thing as speed reading, but I don’t enjoy it. I like to bathe in a story, let myself soak it all in. For the same reason, I don’t want to watch my television sped up.

Instead, I choose to feel guilty. We are living in a Golden Age, at least as far as media choices are concerned. I have a responsibility to keep up. I am supposed to enjoy it all and talk about it so that I can contribute to an environment in which there are so many choices. By doing so, I’ll help writers and artists (including actors and directors and film crews) get paid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to spend an hour playing fetch with my cat.

Dennis O’Neil: Of Fists and Dragons

Spring already? Well, okay, but I look out the window and see ten inches of snow. (And you may now imagine me sniffing and grumbling.) But, alas, just because I may not happen to like it, this spring bushwa, doesn’t mean anything surprising is about to happen. I can’t help noticing that the universe seldom alters its plan to accommodate my preferences. Rotten, but there you are,

So I guess we make the best of it, which is what we grumbling homo saps have always done, more or less, when we’ve gotten our grumbling out of the way. (First things first.) Okay, anything interesting on the immediate agenda? Ummmm – nope. But before I offer a tepid correction to that last sentence (if sentence is what it was) let me call your attention to an entertainment that lurks in the shadows of Thursday night. You might as well call it Iron Fist since that’s what its presenters are calling it and before them, what the creators who produced the Iron Fist comic book called it.

There haven’t been many martial arts comics, which is maybe mildly surprising since action/adventure are the very stuff of martial arts melodrama and, for a brief, shining moment in the sixties and seventies, pop culture as a whole seemed to be paying attention to it. You’ve heard of Bruce Lee? The TV show Kung-Fu?

Then the moment passed. Oh, martial arts excitement is still available, as something a good guy does or a bad guy does, and occasionally as a full-out big screen motion picture, usually with an Asian origin. (They don’t seem to be booked in theaters since the Chinatown screens have gone away. But Amazon will still sell you some and maybe they’re available elsewhere, too.) The best of them was Master of Kung Fu for which Roy Thomas had the bright idea of making his hero the son of Fu Manchu, a master villain created for the pulp magazines much popular in the 1930s.

There may have been a couple-three other comic book kung-fuers – someone is whispering the name “Richard Dragon,” but not very loudly. The next member of the club was today’s subject, the aforementioned Iron Fist, who made his Marvel Comics debut in 1977, looking maybe a bit more like your garden variety superhero than Bruce Lee. Soon, he joined another Marvel Luke Cage: Hero For Hire in issue #48.

Could the mighty television be far behind? Luke Cage had his time before the camera last year in a maxiseries that ran on Netflix and that I thought was pretty good. This Luke Cage was a street guy. To hell with mad scientists and wannabe world conquerors – our man wanted only to protect the citizens of Harlem. Will he re-partner with Fist? Will they be a good pair? Or will the universe gobsmack me with a surprise?

Here’s hoping.

Mike Gold: Good ‘Till The Next Drop?

I’ve heard quite few comics fans say (write, text, think out loud, bitch, moan, complain) that because of the large number of good comic book teevee shows they’ve found themselves having to cut back on their comics reading.

Let’s see. I think I sympathize. After all, we’ve got Legion, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, Gotham, Marvel Netflix (hey, that’s the same as a series, isn’t it?), Flash, Legends, Riverdale, Supergirl, and Powerless. Soon we’ll have The Inhumans and The Punisher (part of the Netflix rotation) and The Defenders (another part of the Netflix rotation) and Cloak and Dagger and Black Lightning and The Runaways and maybe Ghost Rider and maybe still Damage Control and maybe The New Warriors (so long, Stamford!), and maybe Scarlett and maybe a Matt Nix-produced X-Men spin-off show. And I am certain there are other shows that I can’t remember right now.

I get the point. When I was born, there were two and one-half networks beaming to our black and white remote-controlless 16-inch round cathode ray tubes. Two and two-half if you count the DuMont network, a severely under-programed effort whose best-known show, The Honeymooners, didn’t even air on their own network (long, irrelevant story; Google it). Combined, they offered slightly more programming than the list of superhero shows I noted above.

Then again, at that same time there were dozens and dozens of comics publishers and many titles sold over a quarter-million copies. A few sold in the millions. Today, we’re ecstatic when we see a circulation of 40,000.

Of course this can’t last. I suspect we will have new comics-birthed programming as long as there are comics to birth them, but pop culture phenomena tend to roll in fads. Do you remember when there were about two dozen westerns on the tube 39 out of 52 weeks of the year? If so, then keep your eye on upcoming Medicare legislation.

In a couple hours Marvel Netflix will drop Iron Fist, the final introduction before The Defenders event. The advance word isn’t strong, and that may be so. However, it’s come to the point where a lot of people simply want to see a major superhero series fail. Yes, Iron Fist comes with some unfortunate whitewashing baggage, and a guy with a green costume, a tattoo instead of chest hair, and glowy knuckles isn’t as compelling as, say, an all-powerful mutant with severe memory and relationship issues. I’m not sure I care as much about the lead character as I do about Claire Temple (Marvel’s Netflix glue) and Colleen Wing, who has always been one of my favorite characters.

So, between all this television, a plethora of movies (which usually come in plethoras) and an infinite number of comic books, how much rock’em sock’em action can you fit into a single attention span?

Ask me again if and when somebody gets off his ass and gives us a GrimJack series.