Tagged: superhero movies

Mike Gold: Too Many Heroes?

Super-hero movie fans are awash with anticipation. I’ll avoid the obvious jokes.

A couple weeks ago, executives from 21st Century Fox, the corporate head of 20th Century Fox, met with their counterparts at The Disney Organization, the corporate head of everything named “Marvel” except for Marvel Mystery Oil (see lengthy footnote, below). Evidently, Fox owner Rupert Murdoch needs some cash, as the purpose of the meeting was to see if Disney might be interested in purchasing the Fox movie and teevee operations, save for the sports-related stuff. Said meeting lasted several hours.

Of course, this is not a done-deal. It’s not even a deal. And to the best of my knowledge, there have been no further meetings. However, any such real offer was neither presented nor accepted. Disney appears to be… well, interested. So I guess it was a successful meeting.

Some fans are salivating over the prospect of an Avengers / X-Men / Fantastic Four crossover movie. Others – including me – firmly believe there’s such a thing as too much. I define too much as the maximum number of characters one could put in a 150-minute movie before they squeeze out an understandable and entertaining story. Avengers: Infinity Wars already sports at least 27 costumes, and that’s not counting Stan Lee.

What comes to my (admittedly diseased) mind is the stateroom scene from the otherwise somewhat overrated Marx Brothers movie A Night At The Opera. It’s phenomenal. It’s hilarious. And it runs four minutes and four seconds. Stretch that out to 150-minutes and, well, “Tain’t funny, McGee.”

Some are concerned that a Disney takeover will result in fewer Marvel super-hero movies. I respectfully disagree: the marketplace will determine how many Marvel super-hero movies it will support in any given year. It doesn’t matter how many studios split up that pie – it’s the overall size of the pie that matters.

I think what many of us want is to see the quality of the Marvel Studios movies subsume the quality of the average Marvel movie made by Fox. That would be nice, and it worked for Columbia when they “hired” Marvel Studios to take over the production of the Spider-Man franchise.

But the inside pressure to make Avengers / X-Men / Fantastic Four crossover movies would be inevitable and, I think unstoppable. It addresses every stupid marketing philosophy that Hollywood has embraced for decades.

Shirley Temple said it best. “If you eat too much, oh, oh, you’ll awake with a tummy ache.”

Pop Culture Trivia: In case you never heard of Marvel Mystery Oil and you think I made it up as some sort of twist on Marvel Mystery Comics, well, thanks for the compliment but, no, it is a real thing.

After World War I – you know, the great war – a guy named Burt Pierce invented the “Marvel Carburetor.” It was so successful it was deployed to roughly 80% of all vehicles. Unfortunately, they suffered from a clogging problem due to the high-lead content of the gasoline used at the time (and, in fact, up to about 40 years ago). So, in a blast of innovation so powerful it would have knocked Andy Granatelli’s socks off, Pierce came up with a lubricant that would allow him to continue to sell his Marvel carburetors. Why he named it Marvel Mystery Oil was the matter of some debate.

Did Pierce’s goo influence Timely (a.k.a. Marvel) Comics’ publisher Martin Goodman? Well, the stuff was very popular and it continues to be marketed today, but against massive competition.

The company was headquartered in Port Chester New York along the Connecticut border; back then you could throw a rock in any direction and hit somebody involved in the comics business. However, the oil company moved to Port Chester in 1941, more than a year after the comic book titled “Marvel Comics” changed its name to Marvel Mystery Comics.

John Ostrander: Holding Out For A Hero

Bill Maher, noted iconoclastic and increasingly misanthropic host of Real Time on HBO, announced about ten days ago that he was taking July off because, after six months of President Trump, he really needed it. I sympathize. Not before he took what I regard as some ill-informed and gratuitous swipes at comics, comic book movies, sci-fi/fantasy books, movies and TV and anything else I assume that he considers intellectually lowbrow.

Among his gripes that the stupid summer movies were increasingly infiltrating into fall, the time for more serious, adult movies. His biggest gripe is that they make us, the unwashed public, stupider because it makes us want a savior, someone who will descend from on high and rescue us instead of getting off our duffs and doing what needs to be done (i.e. deal with Trump) ourselves.

Except they’re not.

What bothers me about Maher’s criticisms is that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I have severe doubts Mr. Maher has seen any of the superhero films, let alone read a comic book. It reminds me of the people who used to criticize Harry Potter films and books (which Maher also dislikes) as Satanic without ever having seen a film or read a word of the books. Somebody told them they were Satanic and that’s all they needed.

I can’t entirely blame Maher for thinking that films such as Man of Steel present the superhero as a godlike being descending to save the masses. The director, Zack Snyder, appeared to make the same mistake, presenting Supes in various Jesus like images. However, Superman is more like Moses than Jesus. Moses comes as a baby in a basket floating down the Nile to the Egyptian princess; baby Kal-El comes to Earth in a small rocket to the Kents in Kansas. Moses grows up as an Egyptian; Kal-El grows up as part of the Midwestern farming community.

However, Superman is neither. One of the key moments in the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie is the first time he takes off his glasses and opens his shirt to reveal the iconic S.

Not only does he become Superman: we become Superman.

That’s one of the big keys to the success of Superman over the decades. It’s part of the myth. Yes, we may seem meek and mild-mannered like Clark Kent but, if we took off our glasses and opened our shirts, people would see we were Superman.

It’s the same thing in the Wonder Woman movie, the first time Princess Diana shows up in the Wonder Woman regalia. [SPOILER ALERT!] It’s a great moment as she climbs out of the trench and starts determinedly to stride across No-Man’s Land. She deflects the murderous gunfire of the Germans. She has been outraged by the suffering of innocents and she’s going to do something about it. The Allied troops, inspired, join her and drive the Germans from the suffering village.

At that moment, Wonder Woman is us. Male and female, we identify with her. We become her. That’s the power, not only of the movies but of the story in general. We identify with that hero. They can inspire us to become our best selves.

That is what Bill Maher doesn’t get.

I don’t dislike Maher. He speaks up on topics and takes positions with which I agree – such as climate change. In doing that, he speaks for many people. It’s why I listen; to hear what I think and feel put into words. That’s why it’s frustrating to hear Maher denigrate the field in which I work and that so many worldwide really enjoy. The global revenues on these films are greater than the U.S. take. This suggests that the films speak to people outside our shores and, I suspect, for much the same reasons. It’s not simply the special effects; it’s how they make us feel.

It does make me question. If Maher is so blind on this, how much else is he blind about and that I ignore because they fall into my own prejudices and beliefs.

I hope Maher comes back from his time off refreshed and ready to do battle again. I don’t expect him to backtrack from his previous statements. I’d just like to see him leave comics alone.

Because, Bill, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

Dennis O’Neil: Après View

So all hail, Princess Diana! For the second week in a row, she has conquered the all mighty Box Office!

You commerce-and-finance majors might consider declaring a holiday. Liberal arts dweebs like me will be satisfied with being grateful for a genuinely satisfying movie-going experience.

There’s a lot to be said for the film and no doubt a lot of it is already being said, with, again no doubt, more to come. It’s the kind of flick that prompts après theater discussion, which is kind of rare these days, especially among those of us who have logged a load of birthdays. We were so happy with the afternoon’s entertainment that we didn’t mind not remembering where we left the car.

I’d like to focus on only one aspect of it and maybe get in some opinions about superhero movies in general. And it affords a chance to blather about something that’s been bothering me for years.

Somewhere in the mists, when I was first creeping into the writing dodge, someone must have told me about the storytelling virtues of clarity. In order for the story, whether you’re experiencing it on a page or on a screen or by hearing it on a recording device, to be fully effective you must know what’s going on: who’s doing what to whom and if we’re pushing our luck, why. Where are the characters? How did they get there? Where are they in relation to one another? How did they get whatever props they’re using? How did they get the information they’re acting on?

Et cetera.

I’m particularly annoyed at lame fights. Surely, way out west, the movie crowd is aware that there’s entertainment value in well-choreographed kickass. If there’s any doubt, let them unspool some Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, the patron saint of cinematic brawling. Many modern action movies – or maybe most of them – render action in quick cuts, blurs, blaring sound effects. Not my idea of amusement, at least not in mega-doses.

Back to Wonder Woman (and maybe we can, please, have an end to complaining?) None of what I’ve bitched about applies to WW. While in the darkness, I never found myself wondering what was happening on the screen. This, the director was kind enough to show me and thus allow me to relax into her work.

A word about the lead actress Gal Gadot: she’s extraordinarily beautiful (duh!), but her face is not only gorgeous, it is expressive – it seemed to change from shot to shot. And that quality is a blessing for a performer.

So, yeah, all hail to Wonder Woman, I don’t expect to see a better movie this year.

Mindy Newell: Bend Over

“I won’t be ig-NORED, Dan,” said Alex Forest (Glenn Close) to her illicit lover Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) in Fatal Attraction. And so said a large enough number of disconcerted people who were fed up with being ig-NORED by the political elite gathered around the Potomac basin to swing the Electoral College vote in favor of Donald Trump. Go fuck yourselves, they said. Bend over, said Trump.

It’s been one lie after another, one alternative fact after another, and one tweet after another since the inauguration, all to assuage the ego of the malignant narcissist who sits in the oval office. His sickophants trip over each other in their eagerness to obfuscate the truth and stay in their own bubbles of power. Erstwhile enemies, thugs, and bullies are welcomed and coddled and credit is taken where it is not due. Everything is upside down and inside out. And then this happened:

The Washington Post, Friday, May 26: “Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.”

Reuters, Saturday, May 27: “U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.”

What the fuck?!!

And what did his father-in-law have to say – I mean, tweet? “It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.” He also said: “Jared is doing a great job for the country… I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.” Which statement do you think reflects the real Donald? One is from the gut, the other, im-not so-ho, came from some political toady assigned to make Il Trumpci sound more erudite.

Today is Monday, May 29. Jared Kushner still sits at his father-in-law’s right hand, his Senior White House Advisor.

Get fucked, said the people to the Washington establishment.

Bend over, said Trump.

Look, I know this isn’t a political site, and I’m supposed to be talking about comics and pop culture. But some days – and it’s becoming more and more difficult not to say every day – it’s really hard not to dwell on the way words like integrity and honor and truth are fading away from the American zeitgeist.

And this brings me to yesterday’s column by my pal John Ostrander.

I do not miss an episode of Real Time. I love Bill Maher. I love that he is not afraid to say what he thinks, despite – and maybe just because – he knows he has a large bulls-eye painted right between his eyes, that he would be among the first to be jailed, and maybe even worse if Il Trumpci could have his way and arrest journalists, as the New York Times reported on May 17 (“Trump’s Urging That Comey Jail Reporters Denounced as an ‘Act of Intimidation’”). Yes, I know Maher is a comic and a political commentator, but Il Trumpci is incapable of splitting hairs.

My love of Maher doesn’t mean that I always agree with him, and when I watched and listened to his diatribe during the “New Rules” segment, I was, at first, like John, angered and dismayed. I was surprised that he didn’t get it.

Just as in the Great Depression, when people escaped the misery of their lives by escaping to movies in which an impeccably tuxedoed Fred Astaire and gorgeously gowned Ginger Rogers danced and sang in front of a backdrop of fantasized night clubs and hotels and apartments, and the plucky and adorable Shirley Temple beat insurmountable odds to survive “happily every after,” today’s audiences seek relief from the constant negativity around them, and they (we) find it in super-hero movies and television shows. Not because they are waiting for “Star-Lord and a fucking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses” (well, some, maybe, and if so, they have a long wait), but because underneath it all there is a yearning for the abstract principles we learned in Social Studies class or in movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day and even Camelot to be true – not might is right, but might for right.” A yearning for “truth, justice, and the American way.”

But, people, I also get where Bill was coming from. He was saying that We, the People must not wait for King Arthur to return. He was saying that We, the People must not pin our hopes on fictional heroes in colorful costumes. He was saying that We, the People must be our own heroes. He was saying, “get your noses out of your asses and smell the roses. Stop looking at your phones, and look at the fucking world. For fuck’s sake, act.”

He’s angry and mystified and screaming what the fuck!!?

But here’s another thought: Everybody needs a hero. And you, Bill Maher, and you, Stephen Colbert, and Samantha Bee, and Jimmy Fallon, and John Oliver, and Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyer, and every other comedic commentator, every public persona who speaks truth to power, are real superheroes; are Star-Lord and Superman and Wonder Woman and Iron Man and Black Widow and Captain America and Batman and Supergirl and The Flash and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. They are Jessica Jones and Luke Cage and The Defenders.

Bend over, Donald.

Mike Gold: The Great Superhero Movie Backlash

Mike Gold: The Great Superhero Movie Backlash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Gold: Moore Than You’ll Ever Know


When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do • William Blake

jerusalemLast Thursday, the Guardian – last real newspaper on Earth – carried a story by Sian Cain revealing Alan Moore was retiring from comic books. I guess Alan was promoting his William Blake-inspired novel, Jerusalem in a unique manner.

Being a professional cynic, my initial thought was “hadn’t he done that already?” No, Alan has quite publicly left the services of various and sundry publishers – DC Comics, Marvel, IPC – because he is a man of principle, and I mean that with the highest respect. And a reading of the piece reveals he hasn’t double-locked the door behind him, telling Cain “I may do the odd little comics piece at some point in the future, (but) I am pretty much done with comics.”

That saddens me, as I’m part of the rather formidable horde of readers that feels Moore is about as good as it gets. His current work in Cinema Purgatorio, one of the most interesting anthology comics I’ve seen since the debut of 2000 A.D., meets that standard. But I totally understand his point about what superhero comics mean to him and why it’s time to move on, and it is simply the rock-solid truth:

“The superhero movies – characters that were invented by Jack Kirby in the 1960s or earlier – I have great love for those characters as they were to me when I was a 13-year-old boy. They were brilliantly designed and created characters. But they were for 50 years ago. I think this century needs, deserves, its own culture. It deserves artists that are actually going to attempt to say things that are relevant to the times we are actually living in. That’s a longwinded way of me saying I am really, really sick of Batman.”

alan-moore-2Damn, Alan. That’s right on the money. Including that last bit.

I’d said Alan Moore is a man of principle. In some ways, his behavior reminds me of Steve Ditko, another important comics creator who stands up for his beliefs. And like Steve, this behavior has bewildered some of his fans, promoted criticism well before the Internet made that totally defatigable, and even caused people to doubt his sanity because he wouldn’t simply take the money and run. I don’t have to agree with all or even most of Moore’s views to respect his stand, and I say the same about Ditko. Hell, I’ll say the same thing about me – I change my mind from time to time. I like to think of that as keeping an open mind, but it’s also the result of a short attention span.

Nonetheless, in this time of massive political turbulence in both the United Kingdom and the United States, Alan Moore’s most important contribution to our shared culture is that he has always been the real thing. If he were running for office… well, I might move if he won, but I think he would as well. However, unlike those who actually do run for office, I’m absolutely certain I know where he stands.

Alan is a man of principle.

I welcome to see his future works that he will be doing because they are outside of his comfort zone. But as far as his comics work is concerned, well, Alan Moore, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

Mike Gold: Who Needs Superhero Comics?


Nope. This is not an old guy rant about how you-all young’uns are ignoring comic books because you’re too busy enjoying the movies and teevee shows being made out of those same comic books. I’m beginning to think that if you lust for heroic fantasy, maybe the plethora of such fare in our theaters and our sundry home electronics will serve your needs.

Back when I was doing public relations for DC Comics, which was so long ago it was well before my pal Martha Thomases was doing public relations for DC Comics, I was fond of telling the press that we had it all over movies because we weren’t restricted by reasonable special effects budgets. We only were restricted by the imaginations of our writers and artists, and that posed no problem at all. We had, and we continue to have, lots of people with wonderful ideas along with the ability to get those visions inside the reader’s brainpan. We could blow up a planet on page one, resurrect that planet on page two, populate it on page three and then blow up the new place on page four.

Today… well… we’ve got computers and brilliant people who never see the light of day to put all that in a movie at a reasonable price and at reasonable speed. And then a bunch of other moloids add music and sound effects and maybe some 3-D crap. Movies – and, now, television – can boldly go where comic books always have been… and get there first.

Better still, the consumer’s cost per minute is far lower in these new venues. Movies and cable bills are expensive, but two hours worth of comic books can run you maybe forty bucks.

This is not to suggest I no longer enjoy comics. To paraphrase a famous ape-fighting gun nut, they’ll have to rip that comic book out of my cold dead hands. And I hope it’s a goddamned expensive one. But this does offer me the opportunity for praise my fellow American publishers that are not owned by mammoth movie studios for moving well beyond traditional superhero fare. Today we can tell virtually any type of story, even true ones, and if that story is well-told and well-marketed we’ve got a pretty good shot at not losing the rent on it.

Maybe we haven’t quite reached the level of selling comics to, say, bored grandmothers who pine for their days of child-rearing. There are very specific comics in other countries, particularly Japan and Belgium, that cater to audiences we rarely think of in the American quadrasphere. But we’re almost there.

Today I am more interested in the new Marvel Netflix series than I am in the post-Battleworld Marvel comics. I am much more interested in the next season of Flash and Arrow than I am in DC’s next reboot – or their previous dozen reboots. That’s where the superhero mojo lives these days.

I see coming up with superhero comics that are more involving than other superhero media as a challenge to our comics creators. Having worked with at least four generations of such talent, I know this will be a wonderful thing to behold. However, right now I’m in the middle of producing at least a half-dozen original graphic novels (editors get to multitask, which is another word for “short attention span”). Some sort of fall into the category of heroic fantasy, maybe, but most do not.

As far as I’m concerned, happy days are here again.

Martha Thomases: A Whale of A Comics Story

What do whales have to do with comics? I’m glad you asked.

According to this study, in times of trouble, whales turn to the post-menopausal females to lead them. They trust these elderly females to know where the food is.

Besides humans, whales are the only other mammals to live after menopause, sometimes decades longer. Males tend to die at 60, but it isn’t unusual to find a female whale at age 90 or more.

(For the record, but without any evidence whatsoever, I like to think whales would also respect a male who lived to be 90. Just saying.)

There’s a lot of money going into comic book companies lately. Valiant just entered a partnership rumored to be worth nine figures. That means at least $100,000,000. Another company, Black Mask plans to grow its audience, not just with comics, but with videos and movies. That kind of outreach isn’t cheap.

Reading these articles, I was once again struck by the way popular culture equates graphic storytelling with superheroes. Yeah, lots of comics have superheroes in them, but so do a lot of prose novels (like this and this for example). And there are successful movies based on graphic novels that have no superheroes, like this and this, again, just as examples.

But superheroes are considered to be a film category now, with seepage onto television (where it is often more successful, in my opinion), so the big entertainment money is looking for comic book properties to buy. And there are lots of graphic stories out there, in a variety of genres, that would make terrific movies. The challenge is going to be finding the best ones.

Which brings us to the post-menopausal whales.

Like other forms of popular entertainment, comic book publishers and fans are always looking for the next great thing. Historically, sometimes the next great thing is terrific, like the way the Beatles shook up pop music in the 1960s, or Alan Moore opened up comics in the 1980s. Sometimes, the next great thing is terrible, like Justin Bieber.

Most often, we don’t know which new thing is truly great until it has a chance to stand the test of time. A by-product of looking for the next great thing is that, too often, these same people fail to consider the possibility of failure when making their decisions. A few years ago, Jerry Ordway wrote about being overlooked despite the hundreds of millions of dollars his work had earned, either directly or indirectly, for Warner Bros. At any comic book convention, if you go to Artists’ Alley, you’ll see lots of other professionals, all successful at one time and still possessing awesome skills, who can’t get work.

Like the post-menopausal whales, these folks know how to find food in tough times. They know the difference between a good story and a bad story, and how to make a so-so plot into something thrilling.

If I were a Hollywood investor, in addition to my nine-figure deals, I’d hire a couple of these old pros.

(Ye Ed notes: The art, above, is of Black Lightning villain Tobias Whale. Get it? Whale! Look, trust me, you wouldn’t want to see my first choice.)

Mike Gold: Who Needs Comic Books?

disney-marvel-mickeyAre you reading more comics now but enjoying them less? Worse still – if you happen to be a comics publisher – are you reading fewer comics now and still enjoying them less?

If the Internet is any indication, plenty of people are cutting back, bailing out, and getting highly more selective about their purchases. I realize the Internet has but three purposes: 1) as a medium for obtaining free porn, 2) as a platform for spirited anonymous bitching, and 3) to prove to the world that your cat is cuter than everybody else’s. Only #2 is relevant here, but you can’t use the Internet’s bitchy overtones to dismiss everything you don’t like. I think there’s a real problem here.

Part of this response is due to the fact that Marvel and DC have been making it exceptionally easy to rocket out of their universes by rebooting, refurbishing, and retconning their family jewels. Good lord, if you’ve been reading any of their major product lines for more than a decade and you know what’s going on and what was going on and look forward to what will be going on – those are three separate things – then William Shatner was correct: get a life.

Donate some of the money you’re spending on comics you don’t like to the CBLDF.

I think there’s another contributing factor, a big one. Forget about the plethora of superhero movies; your “television entertainment media” systems have been invaded by latex costumed nano-bedbugs. Right now, this week, there are at least five original broadcast series based upon Marvel and DC superheroes, six if you think Agent Carter is a separate program. In two months we’ll be getting another show, this time on Netflix, and they’ve got at least four more in active production. Powers, published but not owned by Marvel, will be appearing on Sony’s entertainment network pretty soon. And next season, which is only about seven months away, we may see several more as the broadcast nets are churning out superhero pilots as if they have no other ideas with commercial potential.

Here’s the rub. Of the five weekly series currently on broadcast teevee, people seem to like at least four of them. Constantine may or may not make it. I’ll bet, based on 100% presumption, that those who do like it include a hell of a lot of comics readers.

So, let me ask you this: how much time do you have to spend on spandex adventurers? Teevee, movies, comic books, e-books, trade paperbacks… the whole enchilada. Personally, I enjoy Arrow, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Constantine, The Flash, and Gotham and I’m looking forward to Daredevil. Add four superhero movies this year and I’d be spending at least 120 hours in the next twelve months watching comic books. Is it any wonder why I bought a new TiVo?

Comic book teevee shows used to be pretty stupid, shallower than the pretty stupid shows that surrounded them. A great many baby boomers were greatly embarrassed by the 1960s Batman show. I know one major comics writer/editor/producer who wanted to kill Lorenzo Semple Junior, who developed and wrote or story edited the show. I don’t quite share that feeling: Semple also wrote The Parallax View and Papillon.

But I digress (hi, Peter!). Today’s superhero shows are much, much better. Not Citizen Kane better, but they’re entertaining and they don’t condescend.

In a good year comics do not make enough money to impress the stockholders of Time Warner and Disney. Comic book movies make those same stockholders giggle like piggies (hi, George!).

So, I ask you: who needs superhero comic books? Well, honestly, not the conglomerates who own DC Comics and Marvel.


Dennis O’Neil: The Big Christmas Movie

So here we are again, doing our annual dance with me on one side of the time gap and you on the other. For me, Christmas, 2014, is yet to occur – heck, I haven’t even seen Christmas eve yet – and you’re reading this on Christmas morning, at the earliest. Maybe you’ve gotten the big feast and the accompanying burps out of the way and you’re in the family room with the relatives watching the game (there’s always a game) or sulking in your room because you didn’t get the loot you were hoping for and you did get something you won’t take out of the box… Cripes, you haven’t worn spats in years. Or maybe you’re alone in a motel room wondering what skewed the universe.

What you probably arent doing is sitting in a theater watching one of the holiday offerings titled The Interview, starring those laughmeisters James Franco and Seth Rogen. By now, you know the story: someone did a monstermother of a computer hack on the Sony cyber equipment, saw the film, threatened unspecified acts of terror if it gets shown, anywhere, anytime.

It all seems to make cinema’s new best friends, the superheroes, as obsolete as Santa’s sleigh. It’s likely that you’ve seen a superhero flick or two, if you watch movies at all, because there are a lot of them out there. And there are a lot more to come – 30 in various stages of production for release over the next five years.

They’re kind of quaint. A villain menaces the common good, the hero responds, has problems, and then does some major league supering and the malefactor is vanquished and tranquility is restored, at least until the sequel. That, or some iteration of that, is usually the plot. Not always: for example, The Dark Knight was an exception. But usually.

Visible menace. Understandable problem. And victory by application of superior force. Satisfying entertainment because it absorbs us without straining our mental resources and pushes some emotional buttons. And the super feats are fun to watch. Good way to hide from your personal woes for an afternoon. I’ve seen most of these movies and I’ll see more and I’ll probably be satisfied when I do.

But with each passing year, they have less and less relation to real life, even metaphorically.. Who knows what’s in Kim Jung Un’s mind? Whatever it is, he isn’t trumpeting it in the media. Who knows who’s even a member of ISIS? Who could have guessed that persons unknown would attack the U.S. economy through an amusement owned by a Japanese corporation? The lines are rapidly blurring and the modern brand of treachery can’t be overcome by punches. Or bombs.

I wish our noble politicians would learn that, or at least be aware that there might be something to learn.

Meanwhile, we have the superheroes and, by golly, they are entertaining and at the end of the day, that’s all they have to be.

I wish you light and warmth.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since Denny submitted this column, Sony Pictures has changed their mind and allowed showings in some 200 theaters – possibly one near you. It’s also rentable and purchaseable through You Tube and other online streaming services. For the record, we will note that the major theater chains which refused to show The Interview continue to hold to that position.)