"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
It’s taken me very many years to realize this about myself, but basically funny sells me over just about anything else. I mean, we almost universally all love to laugh and so we naturally like funny things, but I have realized I prize it more highly than I understood, and more highly than do a lot of others. I find time and again, what can keep me hooked when it comes to media – especially serialized media like comics and television – is if something is funny. If I can get good laughs week to week (or month to month), out of your creation you have a really good shot at keeping me invested and perhaps even more impressively, becoming a die hard fan.
So, I thought about writing about a few different things this week, maybe a focus on some great books or something, but the state of our industry and sister industry of gaming just has me too damn wound up and frustrated to focus on anything else.
For those playing catch up, gaming has been thrown into absolute chaos as it continues to deal with the growing pains of facing some really long gestating problems with sexism and misogyny in the industry. It’s a problem we here in comics know well. Many of us are “gamers” (or players perhaps is a better word) and even for those of us that don’t play games, there’s still a bond between comics and games – as “geek hobbies” we’re sister industries for good or ill. I guess it makes sense that both our industries are pushing on these boundaries and trying desperately to grow past these limitations at the same time and with some of the same disturbing results, but man has it exposed some truly nasty people and agendas.
I’ve spent most of my life aching for great superheroine portrayals on film. To see some of my comic book heroines reflected back to me on 40-foot screens. With a few awesome exceptions (X-Men, X2) I have been disappointed again and again (Catwoman, Elektra, Sue Storm in Fantastic Four, Batgirl in Batman & Robin, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, Supergirl, Mary Jane in Spiderman, okay not a superheroine, but still) the list of bad performances, bad writing, bad directing, and just bad ideas is painfully long.
Though some of my columns from 2012 have apparently been a bit controversial it’s been a long time since I engaged in a full on rant. Are you ready for it? Good.
Still high from my Avengers viewing a couple weeks ago I was working on a post for today called “Black Widow: Required Reading” when I happened to check out Sue’s DC Women Kicking Ass site and stumbled across this gem from Joe Quesada via Ain’t It Cool News:
In a chat afterwards, Joe told me that he’d love to make a tentpole [sic] movie with a female lead, but that he really doesn’t think there is an actress right now who could carry it, or a character that would work either. I’m thinking I might agree with him on this one actually.
As Sue said, this sentiment from Quesada manages to both insult all of Marvel’s female characters and all actresses everywhere in one fell swoop. But even more impressive is the fact that less than two weeks ago a movie debuted that is destroying box office records everywhere AND getting huge critical and fan acclaim. A movie with a large ensemble cast, that stars, in part, one of Marvel’s greatest female superheroes, and one of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses, and this character and performance are also getting huge kudos. I speak of course of The Avengers, and Black Widow, and Scarlett Johansson.
Like a lot of people, last weekend I went to see The Avengers movie (and if you haven’t, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil any surprises here.) Anyway, I saw the movie and had a revelatory moment while watching it. Before the movie, I always thought that I was part of this big community of adults who all enjoy reading the same superhero comic books. I had assumed that all of us were basically in the same boat, enjoying the same things about them. In fact, it never really occurred to me to question what it was that I was enjoying in contrast to what other adults got out of it.
Many of you know that I’m a massive unabashed Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan. I rarely write about Buffy here, I’m not really sure why, but all that changes today. Why today you ask? Well, because Buffy impressed the hell out of me this week and it warrants discussion.
I’ve been having a fairly random rekindling of my love for Buffy The Vampire Slayer of late. As such it seemed like the perfect time to finally take a look at Joss Whedon’s Fray. Based in the Buffy universe, but propelled forward a few hundred years into the future, Whedon’s 8-issue mini-series from Dark Horse focuses on Melaka Fray, a new slayer called forth after many years of a world without a slayer.
Fray works as a great introductory character, because she knows as little about her destiny as any new reader might, which makes a natural fit for introducing those unfamiliar with Buffy lore to Whedon’s universe. And it’s done skillfully enough that readers already well familiar with the universe won’t be bored by the history lesson. In the series, Fray, a thief and “runner” for a fish man called Guther, is called as the first Slayer in a couple hundred years, to fight a war brewing and a hellmouth about to open up to let in all sorts of dimensional hell beasties. A guide of sorts, though not her watcher (that dude lights himself on fire in front of her, whee!), named Urkonn has been summoned to help train her for the coming war and the complexities he finds in her makes for some nice plot twists that are especially satisfying I suspect for readers already familiar with Whedon’s universe. Regardless, the plot twists, which I won’t spoil here, come just at the right moments to keep you off-balance in all the good ways that a smart engaging story does. Fray doesn’t have the rich cast of allies that Buffy developed over time on the television series and that continues in the books, but what Fray does have here, some real family and some adopted family, plus Urkonn, her fishy boss, and an arch-nemesis all works well and gives just enough of a tapestry to keep everything very interesting.
Today the final arc of season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer kicks off, and with Joss Whedon back at the helm this is definitely a must-read. In tandem with a recent marathon of the old TV series, I’ve been reminded how much more has been packed into just a couple of years of the comic book continuation. World travel, confrontations with all manner and scale of monsters and armies, sexual misadventures, lovers found and lost, entire epic battles…
At times it seems as if writing a comic about an established character is some sort of twisted game. Writers are asked to not only write compelling storylines, but also honor the existing character of the heroes depicted, have them speak with their own voice and language, and behave as people expect them to. While I love the freedom my favorite writers get when they create their own characters, I’m much more curious to read how they deal with well established characters. Continue Reading »
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