Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Few More Superhero Words...

...though it's not as if I'll probably ever end the occasional (or more than occasional) supers posts. Sorry.

[BTW, school has not QUITE started for D: it was an hour Monday and an hour Tuesday and will be ramped up to 3+ today. Spent the last couple days building pirate ships and sushi restaurants out of legos (no, these aren't existing sets...we're cannibalizing the shit-ton of Duplos he owns). The sushi restaurant was especially nice as it was based on the Medieval Nights franchise and had a large acquatic pool surrounded by two tiers of tables...after the seafood (plastic sea life toys) had been fished out, there was then a "show" that featured a show between Aquaman and Black Manta for the pleasure of the clientele. The pirate ship is gigantic and managed to use all the pieces save a handful that was left to construct a dock with a gas station/inn we named "The Admiral Benbow." Ugh...I was never this creative as a child...]

First off, did a lot of research on Marvel's Cinematic Universe the other day: what it is, how it came about, why it's been successful, etc. No, I'm not going to post about it...I just wanted to take a look at the phenomenon that I mentioned in my last post (regarding the proliferation of super-hero flicks) and its impact on other film studios (and why or why not comic franchises like DC have had such a hard time catching up). And even though I wrote that I am unlikely to watch EVERY hero film that's coming out these days, I do find myself really looking forward to seeing the two new MCU flicks scheduled for the summer: Avengers: Age of Ultron and the Ant-Man. The former only because I like James Spader and I dig on Ultron and I want to see how both translate to the screen, the latter because...well, because I always liked Ant-Man.

Not the original Ant-Man mind you (Hank Pym was always Yellowjacket for me), but the Scott Lang, ex-criminal version. That was my introduction to the character and, for whatever reason, I always thought it was a cool character, despite what most would probably admit is a rather lame suite of super powers. The great conceit of supers comics, of course, is that the writers can make ANY character central to the story and devise plots whereby the particular application of power (like shrinking and talking to insects) is necessary to "save the day." But part of enjoying the genre is voluntarily forgetting this conceit on a regular basis.

[part of what makes it difficult for a supers RPG to work in a true "sandbox-y" fashion is that ignoring this conceit makes it tough for such "minor league heroes" to have an adequate impact. Hence, you find games like Mutants & Masterminds where a level 17 Ant-Man should be able to take down a level 12 Silver Surfer (f'ing ridiculous) or games requiring heavy Heroes make the game work. Don't bring a stage magician to a cyborg super-soldier fight!]

"Superhero? Hell, yeah! Anything but Aquaman..."
Anyway, love the idea of Paul Rudd as Lang, love Michael Douglas as former Ant-Man Pym, even dig the concept of Evangeline Lilly's character. All in all, I may be looking forward to Ant-Man more than either Ultron or Dawn of Justice. But then, I've always liked "quirky" huper hero flicks (I've watched Mystery Men multiple times).

Now, as for Wonder Woman...

If I had bothered to do any research on-line before semi-ranting the other day, I would have seen I'm not the first person to bring up the question of why it's taken so long for this particular hero to get her own live-action film (many of whom are much more amusing than myself). It IS fairly ridiculous, considering how film studios will throw any type of idea against the wall, especially ideas that have a built-in, cash-paying fan base...but I'm really not all that qualified to sit down and start banging out a screenplay for the Wondrous one. The fact is, I really don't know squat about Wonder Woman.

Aquaman's lucky she lets him hitch a ride.
I mean, I know (most?) of the basics of her character, her powers and original origin and whatnot. But my information is almost entirely informed by television, specifically the old Superfriends series of the late 70's, early 80's (drawn by Alex Toth) voiced by Shannon Farnon. Despite her skimpy outfit, Farnon lends her a no-nonsense delivery that includes humor while never skimping on command; it's pretty much the archetypal "warrior-queen" that never goes soft, even when calling for help from some Legion o Doom trap (i.e. like her male counterparts, she's sometimes outmaneuvered but we never hear the voice-cracking panic of a distressed damsel).

[funny can actually pay Ms. Farnon to leave personalized voicemail messages as Wonder Woman through her web site. Great Hera!]

Lynda Carter's live-action portrayal is, of course, the other main "source" of my WW knowledge, but it was so long ago since I've watched it, I really have difficulty with the recall. I have watched youtube clips lately, of course (my boy is a big fan of Wonder Woman, as he is with most all DC heroes), and while the product seems a little light on quality (as does a lot of dated programming aimed at younger folks), there's quite a bit of ass-kicking that takes place. I mean, setting a person with the strength to stop a small plane or German tank up against non-powered goons is grossly unfair...but it can sure be fun to watch. I especially enjoyed the scene where she steals a motorcycle and uses it to run down a bunch of bad guys. In a way, it's the same type of campy ridiculousness as the 60's Batman without the "Pow!" and "Zowie!" effects...which considering the source material and the time in which it was created isn't too bad.

My first (and last) WW comic.
But that "source material" has a lot more to it than what's in the television show: over 900 self-titled issues, to be exact. And of those, I've purchased/owned exactly one issue. I never did purchase many DC titles (I did enjoy those Blue Devil comics back in the day...quirky, you know?), but it was more than just "DC superheroes are dull" (which IS what I thought when I was a kid with my first allowance and purview to purchase comic books). The inclusion of mythology in comic books was a definite source of irritation, because so often I didn't agree with the liberties the writers would take. It's probably safe to say I was (and am) a bit of a snob when it comes to ancient tales and myths, and while I was fine with origin stories based on those myths, building stories on those myths or that contradicted things in those legends was...well, irritating.

[take Thor, for example. The idea that Loki and Thor would continue to have ongoing conflicts in the Marvel universe is acceptable to me because, according to Norse mythology, Thor and Loki would have ongoing conflicts with each other until the end of days (i.e. Ragnorak). What's NOT acceptable is the recent Thor movie where neither Loki nor Thor are aware of the former's frost giant roots (only discovered in the film), despite this being a part of the traditional Norse lore for centuries. That kind of poor writing really chaps my hide]

Anyway, much of Wonder Woman's conflicts appear to involve the Big Names of Greek Myth in a way that...well, let me put it this way: Wonder Woman is a 20th century invention. Making the incarnate war god Ares a fisticuffs opponent seems a little beneath his dignity (as if a god doesn't have better things to do than pick fights with 20th century superheroes). *sigh* Can't she just have a giant robot or alien tyrant or random demon prince or something. I mean, once upon a time Ares was sacred to someone.

But...whatever. The point is: I'm NOT an expert on WW's body of work by any stretch of the imagination. My understanding of the character is based on a couple (perhaps faulty) translations to the television screen and whatever characterization is described in Wikipedia. I thought she was supposed to be kind of an embodiment of female power in its most positive form...but these days it seems she's more like some demigod of war, complete with swords and spears and a willingness to take life which kind of contradicts the original precepts of the character.

[oh, wait...I just read she actually BECAME the God of War by killing Ares. Um...]

I mean, even Batman with his messed up childhood and messed up life and penchant for violence and whatnot seems to be able to avoid killing dudes like, say, the Joker after the villain murdered Robin. You know, holding himself to a higher standard or something? Why make Wonder Woman so weak? Of course, if she's been trained to be a war god (as opposed to a heroic ambassador of peace and love to the people of the outside world) than I suppose you've gotta' give her the whole battle-born shtick, or else the reboot doesn't make, does it make sense? Wasn't the reason for Ares being in Wonder Woman's rogues gallery is because she was always crossing-up his schemes to bring the world into war (like, starting in WWII?). Um...

Perhaps the folks who would like to make a kick-ass Wonder Woman movie find themselves in the same quandary that WotC found itself in when trying to design a fifth edition of D&D: there are lots of folks who are fond of the "old school" version of Wonder Woman and plenty of people who like the "new school" version and trying to reconcile these things in a single film (or single game) is a nigh impossible task. Are you going to give her the invisible plane? Or are you going to allow her to soar the skies like Superman? Are we going to see the magic lasso or the magic sword?

Or, rather than pick a side, are you going to attempt to create some mash-up of both that ends up feeling like weak-sauce compromise to most everyone who really cares (i.e. the true fans of the character)?

I doubt there really is a perfect solution, but the great thing about the superhero genre (especially when dealing with iconic superheroes) is that you don't have to wait for a perfect solution. You just need to do it, and if it doesn't work then you do it again in a different way. How many times has Spider-Man been rebooted? Looking only at live-action (he's been rebooted multiple times in both the comics and in animation) I count three, including his old television show. Cinematically, Superman's been rebooted four times. Batman's scheduled to be rebooted for the fourth time (since his appearance in Dawn of Justice will be unrelated to Nolan's franchise). Daredevil was released to dismal reviews, rereleased as a better "director's cut" (that explored different angles of the character), and will be showing up in a Netflix series in April this year. And then there's the whole X-Men deal...

The thing is, existing IP like Wonder Woman have a built-in fan-base that is going to see a film regardless...because they're super-fan completists, or because the character's their favorite, or simply because they're curious as to what will be presented and which one of the character's enemies will appear and how the special effects will look. I've never been an Electro fan, and I'm not terribly thrilled with the story direction the latest Spider-Man franchise is taking, but I watched the latest film anyway (one of my options on the last plane flight) just because I know the characters and I wanted to see how they were handled this time. And the Spider guy's not even a Top Ten supers draw for me. There's really no excuse to sit on Wonder Woman for so long...she should have been making money for DC and Warner Brothers for the last two decades. With the possible exception of Superman IV (I don't have its international numbers) there has never been a major superhero film created that has not made money at the box office...that's before rentals and toys and whatnot.

[wow, wouldn't it be cool to have a WW action figure based on the Lynda Carter TV show that had a bunch of different outfits and vehicles and...]

Cash money, my capitalist-swine amigos. How have you been turning that down for so many years?

All right, I've got to go work on some design-writing stuff. I told D that we'd build him a lego submarine when he gets home from school today, so I better knock some stuff out now.

The pirate, sadly, in Davy Jones Locker.


  1. Personally, I love Wonder Woman always have. I did read her comics, watched all TV incarnations of her and I even have a couple of academic papers out on her.

    The fact the studios have not put her in the movies is a crime, but also shows they have no idea what sort of property they have.

    The truth is that Lynda Carter left a long lasting and deep impression on millions. Heck we only just got her TV series on DVD a few years ago.

    I get very irritated at the notion that a Wonder Woman movie wouldn't sell. We have seen Batman on the screen since the 40s; Superman just as long. We are WAY past due for Wonder Woman.

    1. @ Tim:

      Dr. Strange will be getting his own movie (2016) before Wonder Woman. How long before they get around to Zantana?
      ; )

    2. Why do you taunt me?

      Personally I think DC is killing it on TV. So I can almost ignore the movies. Almost.

      Though to be 100% fair. Dr. Strange is my favorite Marvel character and I am thrilled to death that he is getting a movie.

      Plus it was 10 years ago on this day that Constantine (starring Keanu Reeves) hit the big screens, so hope springs eternal!

    3. @ Tim:

      I taunt because I respect the hell out of you and your passion.
      : )

      Yeah, they've done well on the WB, though I still haven't had the chance to see Flash.

    4. I appreciate that! Gotta have our passions.

  2. The Flash might be the best show on TV right now.