Sunday, March 05, 2006

Of Heroes and Superheroes

Something about the Marvel Comics characters irk me. Growing up reading comic books, Marvel heroes always seemed to be just a little shadier than the DC heroes. They were too human with their problems and their real world locales. What I loved about the DC characters is that they are god-like, put on this earth to protect us regular people from forces we could not possibly fight against.

Superman is still one of my favorites, despite those awful wretched films that they adapted from the comic book character called Superman III and IV. My goodness could they have screwed those films up more than they did? They are bad beyond belief. Superman I and II were great, if dated. The grittiness and cheesiness of the Seventies and early Eighties comes through both films but if you grew up watching them you must have a special place in your heart for them. Batman suffered the same fate. While the first two movies were passable, the next two just fell off the cliff. What happened there? Tim Burton set the bar too high is what happened. No one could decipher the genius of his Goth-art. (Big Tim Burton fan here!)

Except for that mess of a film, the snore fest Hulk movie, Marvel comics have translated to the big screen relatively well. Spiderman and X-Men have made good showings with the first two films. I hope they can keep up the pace because so far they’ve been almost flawless. I actually found the first Spiderman uneven but after watching the sequel I forgave the first film of its faults. Fantastic Four and Daredevil were both very sub-par and as I mentioned, Hulk was a train wreck played in super-duper slo-mo.

With the resurgence (or dare I say renaissance) of Superhero movies, I hope for the best with the new Superman and Wonder Woman flicks. I have my doubts. The casting of Superman seems all wrong and Wonder Woman, if done even slightly wrong will be a mess-unless the rumors are true and Joss Wheaton does it. Did I forget to mention a DC adaptation that disappointed tragically, Batman Begins? Great Scott what were they thinking? Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone loved the film because it got to the roots of his psychology and training in a believable way but I thought it was atrocious for those reasons. I want the man to be a mystery. A brooding, billionaire, up in his castle, much like Citizen Kane but with cool toys. What made the Tim Burton Batman work was the small glimpse into his motivation. That was enough. I don’t need a psychological work up. I just need to know that a happy childhood was torn asunder and a poor little rich kid was left without a Mommy and Daddy. Scene set. Bring on the gadgets while we watch this guy spend his resources chasing ghosts down the perverted dark alleys of Gotham City. Why do I need to have Qui-Gon Jinn gone bad? Why do I need some complex political organization and a side plot that barely ties into the main story while wasting a brilliant, dark character like the Scarecrow? Terrible stuff that Batman Begins. It should have been Batman: The only crazy running around in tights while his former mentor laughs his ass off at him. That’s what it should have been called. I waited two freakin’ hours for the Scarecrow and it was unsatisfying to say the least.

People just don’t know that the DC formula does work. Why do you think they are icons of American pop culture much more than Marvel Characters? Because they are seemingly simplistic characters who hide complex backgrounds that are only seen in glimpses. Not complex characters with complex lives just like you and me. Superman is a god trying to fit in to the human world and failing miserably as Clark Kent. He has to be a god. It is his destiny. Despite his troubles and his loss and the fact that he is a man, literally without a world. Notice how when they talk about Superman and Earth they say that he adopted us? That’s because if he didn’t love humanity so much he would have flown off anywhere else in the universe and settled there. He didn’t. He stuck around because he has a purpose here.

All the DC characters seem to be chiseled out of stone. They walk their worlds doing what they are driven to do inside but a force that is as mysterious and magical as their powers. They are noble, honorable and just. It may be a dated ideal but I think that in this world, with all the gray areas and our own government even more distrustful than ever before in history, we need to look to the uncomplicated ideal for inspiration. I don’t think of the real world as black and white and I definitely don’t think that every piece of fiction should be as uncomplicated as a DC comic book but in those pages, I like to see great beings struggle with the evils of this world.

Spiderman contrasts Superman. He is a geeky, nerdy, awkward teen pretending to be a hero. He has gifts but he rejects them. He seems on edge and lets personal issues get in the way. That’s just not my definition of a Superhero. A hero? Maybe. We can all be heroes just by doing what we do everyday with the gifts that G-d gave us. But that’s not a Superhero.

I thoroughly enjoy the Marvel characters. They are engaging, fully flesh-out real world characters that could be found just as easily in a good genre novel as well as a comic. I just prefer superheroes whom are bigger than myself, have more money which grants them greater access to cool, wonderful toys and come from far distant places only imagined in myth. Those are the superheroes I want to save the day when the world is in peril once again.


The Phoenix said...

I like the three-dimensional characters Marval has presented. However, I love the mythology behind the DC comics.

The issue is, I think DC heroes just won't transfer very well onto film. Cinema favors Marvel in this respect. Especially these days, people just don't buy into the idea that the world is black and white, as it's portrayed by the classic DC characters.

By the way, my podcast is up and running on my blog!

poet CAConrad said...

It's HIGH TIME we have a superhero who can be male, wear a dress, KICK ASS, change the world, save the world!

Seriously, check out TRANSBOXER:


:P fuzzbox said...

I enjoy the description of Superman in Kill Bill. The thought that Superman is the greatest hero due to the fact that everyone else's alter ego is the superhero. Superman's alter ego is one of us.