Crisis of the Infinite Earths.
This is when that world changed, DC took strong steps to bring some of the same energy that Marvel had, in my opinion. Marvel stories had always been grounded in a sense of realism to the world. They used ‘real world’ cities, monuments, and stories. DC’s world was a world of optimism, with an occasional baddie popping up here and there.
The ‘Crisis’ storyline was DC’s attempt to rewrite DC without disregarding their history. I thought that they did an excellent job. And subsequent DC titles after that paved the way for many of the stories that you see today. John Byrne’s Man of Steel incarnation of Superman brought some vulnerability to America’s #1 Boy Scout. He now grunted and shuddered when he lifted a 200 ton train. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight served as the impetus for today’s Batman. Batman was forever changed, and made more popular that Superman, when Frank Miller did this epic series. DC made similar changes to other popular comic book characters to modernize them with realism, trying to match Marvel’s stronghold in that regard.
This brings me back to my first sentence…..This is a good time to be a comic book fan. Old and new.
Technology has finally caught up to the comic book action so eloquently covered by writers and artists throughout comic book history. Sure, we were super hyped when Bill Bixby transformed into Lou Ferrigno a.k.a. The Hulk in the late 70s. George Reeves as Superman, Adam West as Batman. And Linda Carter as Wonder Woman…..whew, I had dreams about that woman. But I digress….
When Christopher Reeve first showed up on the screen as Superman, we were mystified and excited. Superman II is still in my top five of all-time favorite comic book movies. Everything looked real, the emotion was real. KNEEL BEFORD ZOD!! Whooooaaaa.
And then, Tim Burton’s Batman…..I still don’t think we give Michael Keaton enough props for his run as Batman. Frank Miller helped influence this manifestation of Batman on the screen and he didn’t disappoint.
Throughout all this time, there were various superheroes brought to the small screen – and sometimes much smaller screens that they didn’t even last long. Fantastic Four, weird looking version of Daredevil, Punisher, etc. This had a lot to do with publishing and ownership rights to various characters. Marvel’s financial troubles were well documented as they had to sell off rights to many characters in order to survive.
The 2000s were when things begin to really kick into high gear. Technology, a rabid comic book fan base, and some solid storytelling did Marvel, Sony, Fox, and Universal well. Spiderman exploded on the scene at the perfect time. And the X-Men movies were pretty good. Fantastic Four was okay to me, I didn’t like the second movie. How can you have Silver Surfer, mention Galactus’ name, and show him as a cloud in space? This foretold what was going to happen to the Fantastic Four in the future….
DC was trying to keep pace – in my opinion – with the advances that Marvel was making on the big screen. They missed with Superman Returns, which sent that franchise back almost 10 years. But they hit big with Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy. That’s when the next evolution in comic book movies became stronger….getting A-List actors for key roles in movies.
When I heard about Marvel casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, I remember believing that this was a coup for Marvel. Why? Well, Robert Downey Jr. had his struggles that were well documented through the years. He is also a very gifted actor, one of my favorites. Have you seen Less Than Zero? Great movie and he killed that role as Julian. So the casting was perfect because I thought that he would play well into the narcissistic, impulsive, and insecure life of Tony Stark. Tony Stark, although not covered in the movies, struggled with alcohol abuse. It got bad for Tony as James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes had to don the suit in his absence for a while. So I believe that Robert would convey the Tony that I had in my brain and he hasn’t disappointed.
Marvel’s financial issues, although horrible to go through at the time, were probably what made them the strong company (with Disney’s backing) that they are today. Because they have crafted out a vision or path that doesn’t have any limits, in my opinion. I disagree with Steven Spielberg statement in an AP interview where he said….
‘We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn't mean there won't be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns. Of course, right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I'm only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.’
The reason that I disagree is that there are a great number of stories left to be told in the comic book world – by both DC and Marvel. Consider this – the current three Marvel phases of films are culled from stories spanning 30 plus years. When Thanos’ ugly mug eloquently graced the screen in the post credits of the first Avengers movie, my eyes almost popped out of my head. It was a great gamble by Marvel that paid off. By forecasting the presence of Thanos, Marvel has basically guaranteed that they were going to tell these stories their way, no filtering, and going for the gusto. Many people were asking me ‘Who is Thanos?’ I’ve told people that the word villain doesn’t even come close to describing him. I said that he is a Mad God who worshipped the embodiment of Death. By bringing in Thanos, it ensured that one of my classic favorites was going to make an appearance – Adam Warlock. That’s why the Guardians of the Galaxy were featured because they are going to more than likely be a gateway to Thanos and his tyrannical quest for universal and Godlike dominance that is going to rock the Marvel universe – on the big and small screen. And this storyline is running through 2019! And it is a very small fraction of stories that Marvel has in its repertoire. Spielberg is crazy and hasn’t read enough comic books.
This is a good time to be a comic book fan. Old and new.
DC, understandably, is trying to emulate what Marvel is doing. They are barely in the game and they are throwing potshots at Marvel as Zach Synder – echoing some of Steven Spielberg’s sentiments, recently said to the Daily Beast…
‘I feel like he’s right. But I feel like Batman and Superman are transcendent of superhero movies in a way, because they’re Batman and Superman. They’re not just, like, the flavour of the week Ant-Man – not to be mean, but whatever it is. What is the next Blank-Man?’
I mean, Zach has somewhat of a point especially regarding Batman and Superman. But c’mon man! There’s enough in this game for everybody. Some stories are great. Some are bad. But at this stage of the game – DC is just starting. I thought Man of Steel was a good movie. I do believe Batman v. Superman is going to be good. I don’t think DC should be trying to compete because this can get in the way of good storytelling. If they are going to be doing this strictly for profit, they stand a chance of sullying their stories. They should make solid movies with a good story arc. There’s enough room for everybody. People are always going to have their preference to what they favor. However, why can’t we like both – equally? I want to see good stories. And I believe if both studios do the right thing, we’re in for something unprecedented as comic book fans old and new.
Thinking back to when I started collecting comics, I was hoping and praying that this day would arrive. That Wolverine’s claws would be perfectly captured on screen (hey, when is he going to go into Berserker mode – go pull up Uncanny X-Men #133 to see Wolverine unhinged. This cover only tells a small part of the story. I think his movies would be R-Rated if they allowed him to go there!)
Marvel and DC are both giving fans what they want and that’s great. I’m a firm believer that their stories will carry on much longer than the Western movie genre. Again, as long as they stick to solid storytelling, the future is very bright to me.
This is a great time to be a comic book fan. Old and new, ‘nuff said…..
writer, proud Texan , Gamer, nerd
Writer, reviewer, and all around podcasting BadAss!
Raafeeq Ali the newest addition to FOP help us welcome him!
K. Lorenzo is New to the FOP pose. Long time comic nerd and fan junky, He's a bit uncomfortable with the mic so he prefers to write.