David Thompson
Subscribe
Blog powered by Typepad

« Friday Ephemera | Main | Elsewhere (199) »

May 08, 2016

Comments

sk60

LOL. I was just going to send you this.

David

Years ago, my nephew owned a set of Marvel heroes Top Trumps cards. I picked them up jokingly and then a strange compulsion kicked in and I lost track of time. I remember being strongly tempted to ask if I could borrow them.

Oh, and obviously, once Wanda and the Vision declare their love for each other and team up, everyone else is screwed. Game over, man.

WTP

Slightly OT and being decidedly pro-Batman, mostly because CA seemed old-school and access to comic books were rather limited in the household of WTP's childhood, I still find this rather disconcerting:

Scenario 2) Captain America, or more importantly, someone or something he is trying to protect is not in mortal danger in event of his defeat. Under such conditions, Cap will hesitate and slightly let up when he notices Batman get tired, since he will almost always use proportional force. Batman would take advantage of that moment of hesitation and defeat Cap at that time.

https://www.quora.com/Who-would-win-in-a-fight-Captain-America-or-Batman

Daniel Ream

I come from the realm of tabletop roleplaying games, where these arguments have been raging since time immemorial. Marvel themselves have addressed the topic a few times.

I don't find these kinds of arguments interesting. To me the interesting question is "under what circumstances does Superhero A beating Superhero B make a good story?" I think the recent Dawn of Justice movie makes it very clear how easy it is to screw that up.

David

I don’t find these kinds of arguments interesting.

It can be fun when playing Marvel Top Trumps, but that’s not the same thing as making a satisfying film.

To me the interesting question is “under what circumstances does Superhero A beating Superhero B make a good story?”

I was thinking along similar lines after watching Civil War. The thing was fun enough, at times very much so, but it doesn’t quite cohere, tonally. It may partly be a result of trying to add “real world grittiness,” which is rarely successful, at least in terms of an entertaining film. Adding “realism” (politics, U.N. oversight, bureaucracy, etc) tends to draw attention to the absurdity of the premise, rather than making it seem more realistic, which isn’t what you want when watching two hours of escapist entertainment. And the thrill of watching heroes acting directly, unconstrained, is, I think, a big part of the appeal.

I sneeze in threes

Isn't Iron Man meant to be just technology and a suit rather than superpowers (just like Batman)? I assume g-force impact have been explained away by the power of "meh why not".

Ray

The problem with any episodic story is that nothing permanent can happen. If Moriarty kills Watson or puts Holmes in a wheelchair it might make a good story, but then there can be no more Holmes adventures.

David,
I completely agree with your remarks about "realism", made worse because the realism isn't real. How about Bruce Wayne vs. Lois Lerner, Captain America vs. ISIS or Wonder Woman vs. FGM?

billdehaan

I still find this rather disconcerting

Indeed. I shall channel my inner comic book geek and point out that there has been a few officially sanctioned joint Batman/Captain America comics.

In "Batman and Captain America" Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers fight it out, and Bruce realizes Steve is "matching me move for move", and that "he seems almost to have a slight edge", but the fight ends without a winner as they realize they're on the same side.

In "JLA/Avengers #2", after a one page fight that's just feints and counters, Batman states "It's conceivable that you could beat me, Avenger, but it would take you a very long time. Tell me this, though, do you want to?"

So while there are no doubt circumstances where Batman could defeat Captain America in a fight, I'd say the accepted wisdom is that at least in terms of combat, Captain America has the edge.

John D

Ant Man = Giant Man. I demand a recount.

mojo

This guy needs a girlfriend.

Daniel Ream

Adding “realism” (politics, U.N. oversight, bureaucracy, etc) tends to draw attention to the absurdity of the premise

The very first attempt at adding Relevance (yes, it was actually capitalized like that back in the day) was probably the much-ballyhooed Hard Travelin' Heroes plotline, which I will not summarize here because you'd think I was taking the piss. That plotline has been much lauded, feted and awarded over the years by critics and pundits and social justice types, all of whom miss one very important fact: it killed the book. Fan reaction was overwhelmingly negative and sales cratered so quickly that the Green Lantern title was cancelled for three years and Green Arrow was relegated to backup feature for thirty years.

The comic book event that the new Captain America movie shares a title with (it's not exactly "based on" in any meaningful sense) was a similarly hamhanded attempt to metaphorically address gun control. Like Hard Travelin' Heroes, it torpedoed sales.

Between this, and the collected works of Warren Ellis and Brian Michael Bendis, I'm inclined to believe that old adage about the best way to understand a large organization being to assume it's being controlled by a cabal of its enemies. By all accounts, Marvel and DC's executive and creative leadership hate comic book superheroes.

David

all of whom miss one very important fact: it killed the book.

Heh. I was thinking of things like the film of Watchmen, which is dramatically flat and practically lifeless. But yes.

Oddly, though, one of the better bits of the generally uninteresting Iron Man 2 is the hearing scene near the beginning, where Stark is asked to hand over his Iron Man “prosthesis” to the state. He refuses to surrender his property, boasting “I’ve just privatised world peace.” I can’t help wondering if pursuing that might have made for a better story than the one they actually went with.

Daniel Ream

I find even the Watchmen graphic novel to be a pointless slog through Alan Moore's IngSoc-addled psyche, based as it is on a question no one was asking ("What if superheroes were real? I betcha it sure wouldn't look like comic books, eh?"). It certainly isn't one of the best 100 novels of all time or whatever award it won.

Iron Man 2 seemed to be a bit muddled on what it was trying to say. Stark is a straight-up Ayn Rand hero, all Roark and Rearden, but at the same time the whole point of IM2 is that like dynamite and nuclear weapons, the genie of the arc reactor can't be kept in the bottle. Stark can't rely on private property rights to keep his superweapon out of the hands of bad guys, and all he's done is raise the stakes to a new, more dangerous level.

I can’t help wondering if pursuing that might have made for a better story than the one they actually went with.

One thing that I find jaw-droppingly unbelievable is how unabashedly morally traditional the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. America is presented as fundamentally good, but riddled with evildoers at the higher echelons. Stern and Pierce's party affiliations are never explicitly stated (if you follow American media, this is code for 'Democrat'), but the government trying to control everything is presented as a bad thing. The first Avengers movie ends with shots of people getting American shield tattoos. The Hulk is kept in check by the love of a good woman. Black Widow is devastated by the fact that she can't have children. Hawkeye's family is Rockwellian. It's like the entire MCU is a thumb in the eye to SJWs.

David

One thing that I find jaw-droppingly unbelievable is how unabashedly morally traditional the Marvel Cinematic Universe is.

I suppose the thing is, if you go too far deconstructing the moral universe in which well-liked characters operate, the whole thing falls apart, or becomes nihilistic, dreary, even squalid. There has to be a sense of a world worth saving. Which, so far as I can see, presupposes something very like conventional, dare I say bourgeois, morality.

[ Added: ]

It’s as we said in an earlier thread, if you look at Zack Snyder’s pouty, “grimdark,” supposedly complicated version of Superman, it’s all a bit of a shambles. And worse, it’s quite dull. Synder never even approaches the elation offered by, say, Iron Man 3’s “barrel of monkeys” scene.

It’s like the entire MCU is a thumb in the eye to SJWs.

A happy thought. I hope you’re right.

Daniel Ream

Synder never even approaches the elation offered by, say, Iron Man 3’s “barrel of monkeys” scene.

As deeply flawed as the 1978 Superman movies are, they reward rewatching just for the subtle understated sense of humour Christopher Reeves imbues his Superman with. It's almost puckish, especially when he's playing around with Lois Lane on their first date. He presents Superman as someone who truly exults in doing good, and is anguished when he fails. And at the same time, who never falls into the Lawful Stupid trap - Superman won't lie, but that doesn't mean he'll let you use that against him. It's that What's so Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way? sensibility superheroes have lost. DC has forgotten how. It's ironic that it's Marvel that's remembered.

Hal

The comic book event that the new Captain America movie shares a title with (it's not exactly "based on" in any meaningful sense)

I had a general memory of the C.W. comics being some all out mass of assorted issues . . . . Which did rather beg the question of how all those concepts were going to get compressed into a single movie, or was this to be the first movie of a series---Oh, apparently mebbe, pending analysis of the returns by the Disney bean counters---orrrr . . .

Ultimately, I basically went to see the movie as a variety of homework, where I kept getting yanked out of the flow of the movie when noting particular bits of totally unlikely combat physics(1), and definitely egregiously ghastly costuming and makeup details(2) . . .

And my overall reaction; all in all, Ehn, it was a movie, wasn't wonderful, wasn't horrible . . . .

---Of a trailer that I didn't manage to nap or read through, the Dr. Strange attempt that's about to come out does look like it'll be merely be a color and CGI remake of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBhQhKWOZmk . . . .


(1) . . I think I'm remembering Black Widow . . . a relatively small woman with relatively conventional training smashes a fist into a relatively huge man, and the man goes tumbling head over heels. Ah, No. If the rather large male just stood there or dropped to to the ground screaming, that would be rather unsurprising given the damage that can get done to assorted nerve centers, clusters of muscle, Etc. When a relatively small mass slams into a relatively large mass, the large mass just doesn't really react . . . . See, also and equally demonstrative, Bond kills Dryden.

(2) The ostensible heavy and pretty much just a MacGuffin is claimed to have been former absolute top rate active service military. As a part of showing off Just How Totally Important And Capable this ex Colonel MacGuffin is, there is even footage of a personnel file, Military ID, Etc., and in every single such appearance, the MacGuffin has a bathtub ring on his face. Again, ah, No. Active military, especially officers, are going to clearly have shaved, or, when operating in the field of some sort, can have a beard given assorted mission details, but it's going to be an actual beard by that point . . . .

Stark has a beard. This is demonstrated and works just fine. Rogers does not have a beard. This is demonstrated and also works just fine. In turn, the MacGuffin with the bathtub ring keeps being just silly looking . . . . as, unfortunately does Antboy, as does Black Panther when he doesn't have his mask on, as does . . . .

Hal

The comic book event that the new Captain America movie shares a title with (it's not exactly "based on" in any meaningful sense)

I'm cleaning out my email inbox, and just found out that Amazon didn't notice, or didn't care . . .

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

Today, May 6 only, select Civil War digital graphic novels are just $2.99 each. Read the Marvel comics that inspired the new movie, "Captain America: Civil War."

Heh. And I'm mentally flipping a coin as to which . . .

Daniel Ream

particular bits of totally unlikely combat physics

While I can't stand the roundhouse-kicking cop chick trope, I'll give a free pass once superpowers are invoked (and KGB "Red Room" training counts, for me. This is comic book "espionage"; I'm pretty sure MI-6 doesn't train its agents to paraski on tidal waves either). Black Widow bothers me a great deal less than Elizabeth Jennings on The Americans, an otherwise nicely grounded show.

Comic book superheroes and physics have never been on friendly terms, and I don't think movies need to change that.

and definitely egregiously ghastly costuming and makeup details

I think that's just the curse of being an expert in a technical field that's often mined for entertainment. I'm a software and systems engineer. If I got offended by the way computers (a.k.a. "magical wizard boxes") worked in movies I could never go to the theatre. I just chalk it up to the Magic of Hollywood, like how no one besides Chris Farley, John Goodman or Melissa McCarthy is ever overweight.

billdehaan

all of whom miss one very important fact: it killed the book.

Far be it from me to go SJW on anyone, but no, that didn't kill the book.

The book was already the walking dead. I remember reading it as a kid. Prior to it becoming GL/GA, it had already been downgraded to bi-monthly, and Gil Kane and John Broome had already decided to leave.

Looking back, people think of O'Neil and Adams as an all star ticket, but I was a kid at the time these things came out, and Gil Kane was the Green Lantern artist; this Neal Adams was just a kid (literally; I think he was something like 19 when the book came out. Kids weren't happy with that, and this was in the days when, you know, kids were actually the audience for comic books. I think there had been three or four changes of direction in the book over the previous two years already, DC had no idea what to do with it.

O'Neil didn't take the reigns of a popular book and drive it into the ground. He was an unproven newcomer, who was given a dying book because it was a dying book. They went with a new direction because the old one was dying.

This is a pretty common strategy, actually.

Old timers don't want to risk shaking up the status quoa. If they try something outside of their comfort zone and it fails, their reputation takes a hit. If it takes off, well, they were a star already, it was expected. High risk, low reward.

For newcomers, it's the opposite. Someone starting out has no reputation to lose. If they try something new and it works, they're a hero who saved a dying book (Starlin on Captain Marvel, Peter David on Hulk, Walt Simonson/Archie Goodwin on Detective, Claremont/Byrne on X-Men, etc) with their bold new direction, and they're a visionary. If it doesn't work, eh, the book was going to be cancelled anyway.

It was actually a good thing that the book was cancelled when it was, even though there were still a few stories left that had to be finished as backup stories in the Flash over the next year. As Neal Adams admitted, if they'd kept going, they'd run out of material, and descend into self parody, becoming an "issue of the month" comic, which was never their intent.

billdehaan

It’s as we said in an earlier thread, if you look at Zack Snyder’s pouty, “grimdark,” supposedly complicated version of Superman, it’s all a bit of a shambles. And worse, it’s quite dull.

The most common term I've heard used to describe it is "joyless".

There's a trend of directors taking a property, and pretty much just keeping the name, ignoring the history, and just using it to tell the story they want to tell, regardless of how that story fits (or doesn't) in the context of the property being used. Or worse, they decide that they need to "improve" the property they've been trusted with.

I knew that the 2015 Fantastic Four movie was going to be a dud a year out, when I read an interview with the girl playing Sue Storm. She'd never read the FF, and went to a comic store to check it out. When she saw that there were 600+ issues over 50 years, and the clerk wanted to know what era she was interested in, she asked the director, who told her not to bother, because he thought the comics were stupid, and they were going to do their own thing.

The Equalizer was a very unusual 1980s drama, in the sense that a crime-filled drama had a 65 year old as the lead. The show succeeded by showing how he used his intellect, his skills, and CIA training to defeat enemies, explicitly not by shooting everyone in sight. Queue the 2014 movie, where the director raved about loving American 1980 cop and spy shows, especially Miami Vice, because of all the explosions and constant action. When asked about the Equalizer show, he'd never even seen it, but, you know, he loved those 1980s action shows. As has been pointed out, the Robert McCall of the movie is the sort of person that the Robert McCall of the TV series would have gone out of his way to put in prison, or worse.

And so it was with both Superman, and Superman/Batman. We got a grim, joyless Superman, a decent but not fantastic Batman, five other movie pilots, and a completely pointless CGI battle shoehorned into what was supposed to have been a highlight for both characters. It's adorable that they expected a sequel for this.

Hal

It's adorable that they expected a sequel for this.

Heh!!!

I'm reminded of a headline from a few years ago, as the US population mark reached a certain number. A proclamation on a website was something to the effect of:

US population reaches 330 million.
Oh, that's just so cute!!! announces China.

Daniel Ream

Far be it from me to go SJW on anyone, but no, that didn't kill the book.

Actually...

It's not hard to find scans of the original issues online, if you know where to look. That's what was so interesting: reading the fan letters and the editorial responses. Fans hated "Relevance" by a factor of about 5 to 1. When GL started up again three years later, there was an occasional question about the return of "Relevance". The editorial response was always the same: fans hated it, sales tanked, it's why we cancelled the book. We're not going to do it again.

I suppose you can split hairs about the difference between "killed the book" and "failed to save a failing title", but the editorial staff was pretty clear that Relevance was a dirty word around the DC offices for a long time.

billdehaan

It's not hard to find scans of the original issues online

Actually, I just need to go pull them out of the longbox in my basement.

Yes, a lot of fans hated the relevance. But the point was that fans weren't buying what came before the relevance either.

When they restarted it a few years later, they tried another Hail Mary, this time making it a science fiction strip, which GL had been, but GL/GA had not been.

This is generally known as the "keep throwing things at the wall until something sticks" rule of plotting.

My point is that the relevance was just one of many Hail Mary attempts. It's not like it torched a top selling book; it was already on its' way out. They tried something, it failed. But the book's failure wasn't attributable to it focusing on relevance; if the book had been selling well, they never would have even tried.

Daniel Ream

They tried something, it failed. But the book's failure wasn't attributable to it focusing on relevance

That may well be true, but it's not what the editors said at the time or in the years following. I'm not arguing that the book wasn't doing well. I'm saying that Relevance had such a negative impact that three years later, the editors still blamed it for the book's failure and were adamant that it would not be retried. That says a little more than "ehh, we tried a thing and it didn't work out".

billdehaan

the editors still blamed it for the book's failure

The editors blamed the writer and artist for failure rather than aimless direction and poor editing. That's not a shock.

It wasn't retried (I don't think it really could; the times had changed by the time the series was rebooted), but they didn't go back to their pre-relevance approach, either. Sometimes, a book is on its' way out and can't be saved.

One of the main reasons that O'Neil and Adams were handed the book was because no one else wanted it. While critically acclaimed retrospectively, the sales didn't increase. They didn't really plummet, either. Of course, the actual sales numbers weren't even really known; in one infamous sales conference, the GL/GA book had three different sales figures quoted during the span of a two hour meeting. Unlike today, it often took months of lead time to collate sales data; there were all sorts of regional differences (like the fact that westerns sold at five times the national rate in places like Arizona and Texas... big shock there).

I do remember someone from DC once telling me that they had six months to triple the sales; if they didn't do that, the book was gone, which is pretty much what happened.

The comments to this entry are closed.

For Amazon US use this link .

Your filthy consumerism supports this blog.

Blogroll