"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
… since I’ve actually watched Guiding Light before, (for most of my life, actually (don’t judge me! (too harshly))), so I thought I might be able to add some perspective to any reviews that might possibly be out there, beyond “Boy, that was lame.”
That was before I read Tom Spurgeon’s minute by minute break down. There’s no way I can top that. On any level. Even if he lost interest in reviewing it about 2 minutes in. But I’ll still tell you what I thought anyway, just to keep this from being glorified link blogging.Â I kind of feel obligated, since I’m quite possibly the only overlap in audiences they have for this whole thing.
I haven’t read the Marvel half of the crossover yet, and given Paul O’Brian’s brief mention of it at the X-Axis, I’m not particularly looking forward to doing so, but the GL half is done entirely tongue in cheek. Which makes sense. Given the already risky proposition of devoting a whole episode of a daytime soap opera to a superhero story, I can see why they’d play it for laughs.Â Â
They picked the bestÂ actress on the show, Beth Ehlers, for the job, as she can be genuinely funny, and she and the rest of the cast get a couple of cute lines in amongst the mountain of puns andÂ theÂ sledgehammer subtlty of the foreshadowing.Â Her character,Â Harley, was also the best choice for a superheroÂ amongst the cast,Â particulary one loosely related to Marvel, asÂ she’s got the blue collar backgroundÂ that facilitates the kind of struggle between being a superhero and having a normal life that’s a trademark of Marvel Comics. Not that much of that comes through in the actual episode or anything, but in the 5 minutes or so where they tried for pathos, it was there.
The episode wasÂ obviously taking its cues from the ’60s Batman show with its togue and cheek style, without Adam West’s absolute earnestness to balance things out. I can see why they went that direction, given the normal viewing audience. A serious take on the genre would have been a lot worse, I imagine.Â That doesn’t excuse how bad it was, but I can at least understand why they went with that tone, as painfully cheesy as it was at times. Â
I didn’t really find it entertaining, as a semi-regular GL viewer, superhero fan, or even a fan of “so bad it’s hilarious or at least fun to mock” cinema, which is where Spurgeon and his brother seemed to get their kicks during the episode. Other than the sharp, stabbing pains to my brain that some of the more terrible puns elicited, I didn’t hate it, I just couldn’t find it entertaining on any level.
Spurgeon pretty much covers the rest my thoughts on the episode itself, from how generic the comic art sprinkled throughÂ it to any jokes about soap opera storytelling conventions and the quality of the episode I could make, so I won’t be redundant in that regard. I found his closing thoughts on theÂ whole endeavor prettyÂ interesting:
My brother and I concluded this crossover likely failed to satisfy fans of soap operas and fans of superhero comics, if not made them outright angry, because both sets of fans consider the other form frivolous in a way the object of their enthusiasm is not, and a crossover on this basis almost always plays to the more absurd, silly elements
Which ties in to my thoughts when I first head thatÂ MarvelÂ was doing a Guiding Light crossover: Why? My mom, a regular viewer of the show (and the person who got me watching it in the first place), got aÂ kick out of it, but how many members of GL’s regular demographicÂ really wanted to have an episode of the show devoted to a cornball superhero story? Did they expect an influx of viewers from Marvel’s readership? I just don’t understand how this benefits either party. I’m genuinely clueless as to why they did this, other than “for shits and giggles.” That makes a modicum of sense, but I don’t get the feeling that the business people involved in the decision making here have the kind of absurdist sense of humor or frivolity required to make decisions on that basis. I could be wrong, mind you, I just don’t get that impression is all. I will allow that the possibility of drugs, alcohol, orÂ a bet of some kind were very likely part of the decision making process here.
I have no problem with trying to grow the audience for comics beyond the current readership. Certainly, Marvel and DC get hammered on this point regularly and deservedly so in a lot of ways. The point’s been made many times; Greg even devoted a recent post to it. And hey, if nothing else, points to Marvel for trying to do it with a demographic that no one, anywhere, ever, had thought to market comics to before. I just don’t see how there’s much of a chance ofÂ comics activism, or whatever you want toÂ call this attemptÂ at corporate synergy, workingÂ here; the overlap between these two audiences just seems too small, despite the fact that long running super hero serials and soap operas are functionally the same thing on a whole lot of levels.
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