Comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis recently gave an interview with Marvel on his approach to writing, and during the exchange he took time to discuss Invincible Iron Man’s Riri Williams. He said that at this stage in the game the character “doesn’t know who she is yet,” which is interesting since it appears as though he is equally lost.
It is perfectly okay for a character to lack self-awareness, but readers should generally be able to peg the character and empathize with him/her within the first or second issue.
The problem with Mr. Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man after six issues is that he seems to think readers should just love his character because the entire Marvel universe loves her. Unlike DC’s Jessica Cruz, who became a hero after overcoming crippling anxiety and fear, Mr. Bendis’ creation stresses out because too many individuals and groups want to experience her awesomeness first-hand.
For those who have been wondering why Marvel’s sales have faltered over the past year while DC’s Rebirth continues to impress, look no further than IIM #6. It should serve as a case study in what not to do if you want to build momentum for a new character.
Anyway, check outmy latest YouTube review for a full rundown of why IIM fails while books like Green Lanterns: Rage Planet have guys like me saying, “Who is this Jessica Cruz character? She seems kind of cool.”
DC and Warner Bros. didn’t have a memorable roll-out when the first images of Jared Leto’s Joker were released. The “Damaged” tattoo on his forehead, for all intents and purposes, flopped. With that said, if “Suicide Squad” is as good as its first trailer when it hits theaters Aug 5, 2016, then all will be forgiven.
As someone who doesn’t particularly have a vested interest in DC projects — my allegiance was to Marvel growing up — certain questionable aspects of film (e.g., Joker’s unique dental work) do not serve as deal-breakers. The essential question is “Does it look cool?”. The answer appears to be “Yes.”
Does Will Smith look like he will do an admirable job as Deadshot? Yes.
Does it ever get old hearing Mr. Smith say things like “Let’s save the world”? No.
Does Margot Robbie sound demented while looking absolutely gorgeous? Yes.
Does Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc look cool? Yes.
Does Karen Fukuhara pull off Katana? Yes.
The only real question mark will be Leto’s Joker, and even that can be turned into a plus for opening weekend. Countless fans will want to see how he performs out of sheer morbid curiosity.
Warner Bros. has done an admirable job — with its trailer. I know this because I am not fond of movies that turn twisted men and women into heroes. From a cultural point of view, I would prefer movies like “Suicide Squad” were never made. I don’t think it’s healthy to portray evil as “cool.” Regardless, from a cinematic point of view, I would be lying if I said “Suicide Squad” looked like a bad movie.
If you have a strong opinion one way or the other on the trailer for David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad,” then let me know in the comments section below. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.
When you live in a country where college campuses have to issue “trigger warnings” any time a discussion might challenge a few worldviews, it’s only a matter a time before hyper-sensitive millennials bring their crybaby-dictator personalities into the real world. The most recent example can be found with DC’s decision to pull a variant cover of Batgirl 41. Joker is apparently no longer allowed to be Joker if he’s interacting with women.
Here is what artist Rafael Albuquerque had to say after a campaign started by “Feminist Batman” picked up steam.
“My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled.”
Since when was it the artist’s job to produce art that doesn’t upset someone’s sensibilities? Since when did artists begin torpedoing their work when it was deemed offensive to feminists and Gender Studies majors on Tumblr? At what point are we allowed to tell “Feminist Batman” and her friends that they’re acting like whiny kids who need to grow up and behave like a adults?
There are a lot of potential Joker variant covers that would have been amazing. I would have loved to see Barbara stepping on the joker’s face after punching him to the ground, perhaps using that iconic camera of his to take a selfie. But a violent, bloody cover of a weeping Batgirl as the man who molested her smiles by her side is sickening. It’s disgusting. And I am tired of her scenes in The Killing Joke being referenced while the serious issues involving her assault are casually ignored.
The great thing about art is that you can produce as much as you want. There is a 100 percent chance that Feminist Batman will find future covers and variant covers to her liking, so it seems incredibly bizarre for her to act as if this one variant cover somehow negates whatever progress her favorite character has made since the publication of 1988’s The Killing Joke.
As Patrick Bissett pointed out for The Daily Caller on March 17:
The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book villain whose raison d’être is to cause mayhem, to injure, to hurt, and to provide the Yin to Batman’s oftentimes complicated Yang. It doesn’t make sense to find the actions of a fictional character offensive, especially when those actions are central to the personality of that character.
Sadly, for every Mr. Bissett there is a Joshua Rivera out there who simply doesn’t get the big picture.
Mr. Rivera writes for Entertainment Weekly:
There are those that aren’t pleased with this decision, who think we’re seeing art being censored because it’s offensive. The claim of “censorship,” however, is objectively false. The art was never suppressed. You can look at it all you want—in this article, even! The fact that the creators themselves were involved in the cover’s cancellation is further proof that this is a move for artistic integrity—the people making the book have a vision for it, and the cover did not match that vision.
Josh can’t see that what is happening is worse than censorship — we now have artists who actually think it’s their job to produce art that doesn’t offend contemporary culture. We now have artists who will scrap their projects when the shrieks of politically correct kids reach a high enough decibel level. The artist willingly capitulates to the caprices of fickle feminists, online bullies, and ideological censorship clowns who inadvertently remind us that the seeds of tyranny exist within all of us.
If you’ve ever wondered why the comic industry seems to be in dire straits, then look no further than DC’s decision to pull its Batgirl 41 variant cover. The scope of what artists and writers can create these days is incredibly narrow because one wrong move results in an “off with their heads!” campaign, which only serves to stifle muses and crush imagination. Coddling the likes of “Feminist Batgirl” and her online allies may make Rafael Albuquerque feel good for a few days, but it does long term damage to the industry he loves.
Before the weekend was out on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s successful box office debut, Marvel Studios released some news the size of an oak tree. Or, perhaps a Groot. The reasoning is also likely to enrage DC fans. Marvel’s Phase 3 will include ‘I am Groot,’ to be released in the summer of 2017, which all but guarantees that the plant from Planet X gets his day in the sun before “Justice League.”
“We are Groot!” Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige said at a press conference late Saturday. “It’s a go. It’s happening. I know a lot of people are wondering how we’re going to pull this off, but I assure you that ‘I am Groot’ has an amazing creative team behind it. The screenplay is great and we’re close to sealing the deal with a director who I’m sure will knock it out of the ballpark.”
The Hollywood Reporter reached out to ‘Man of Steel’ producer Wesley Coller for a response and was told that a reply would be forthcoming. Entertainment Weekly likewise said that calls to DC’s front office were not returned.
DC’s silence, in many ways, speaks louder than words. ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is scheduled to be released May 6, 2016, which would put Marvel Studios in a position to have ‘I am Groot’ in theaters before fans ever get a chance to see an official Justice League movie. While all comic fans can rejoice at the sheer volume of superhero films being made, it’s sure to inflame the rivalry between the two industry giants.
In a recent article with the Belfast Telegraph, actor Vin Diesel said that playing Groot was a challenge for him as an actor, due to the character’s limited vocabulary. When asked about the ‘I am Groot’ movie by the Los Angeles Times, he said “I love the character. He’s challenging, but it’s worth every second. The world fell in love with Groot this weekend because he’s innocent and pure and good. I consider it an honor to be able to bring this character to life in his very own movie.”
Besides DC fans, diversity activists voiced “serious concern” with Marvel’s decision.
“I…I can not get behind this,” said Eileen Einhorn, a Gender Studies major at U.C. Berkeley. “It’s troublesome that although Vin Diesel is not white that his true nature must be hidden behind tree bark. I’m worried that Groot’s limited vocabulary sends a coded racial message about the mental acuity of minorities and, worst of all…Groot is a man. Until Black Widow gets her own movie I urge anyone who loves diversity to boycott ‘I am Groot.'”
When asked during his press conference if Rocket Raccoon would be getting his own movie, Feige just smiled and said, “Phase 4 may have some surprises to your liking. That’s all I’ll say right now. Sometimes I feel as if all of this isn’t real. Like it’s satire. The fans have been good to us. As long as they keep seeing Marvel movies, we’ll keep making them.”
Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche took to the The Wall Street Journal this past weekend to address an issue that guys like myself, Hube at Collossus of Rhodey, and Avi Green over at The Four Color Media Monitor have been spotlighting for ages: moral relativism in the comics industry.
Over the years, fewer and fewer superheroes had a functioning moral compass, and the result is that these days its often difficult for to distinguish between the hero and the villain. As the industry lurched to the left, conservative voices were elbowed out. The result: A politically correct schizophrenic comic book market, where creators see themselves as “social justice warriors,” one day, and writers with no social responsibility the next — usually when a cultural event turns the nation’s attention towards moral relativism practiced in much of the entertainment community.
In the 1950s, the great publishers, including DC and what later become Marvel, created the Comics Code Authority, a guild regulator that issued rules such as: “Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal.” The idea behind the CCA, which had a stamp of approval on the cover of all comics, was to protect the industry’s main audience—kids—from story lines that might glorify violent crime, drug use or other illicit behavior.
In the 1970s, our first years in the trade, nobody really altered the superhero formula. The CCA did change its code to allow for “sympathetic depiction of criminal behavior . . . [and] corruption among public officials” but only “as long as it is portrayed as exceptional and the culprit is punished.” In other words, there were still good guys and bad guys. Nobody cared what an artist’s politics were if you could draw or write and hand work in on schedule. Comics were a brotherhood beyond politics.
The 1990s brought a change. The industry weakened and eventually threw out the CCA, and editors began to resist hiring conservative artists. One of us, Chuck, expressed the opinion that a frank story line about AIDS was not right for comics marketed to children. His editors rejected the idea and asked him to apologize to colleagues for even expressing it. Soon enough, Chuck got less work.
The superheroes also changed. Batman became dark and ambiguous, a kind of brooding monster. Superman became less patriotic, culminating in his decision to renounce his citizenship so he wouldn’t be seen as an extension of U.S. foreign policy. A new code, less explicit but far stronger, replaced the old: a code of political correctness and moral ambiguity. If you disagreed with mostly left-leaning editors, you stayed silent.
Messrs. Dixon and Rivoche note that there have been bright spots over the years (e.g., “Maus,” Pixar’s “The Incredibles,”) but that a.) those creative endeavors are generally apolitical, and b.) they are now the exception rather than the rule. They conclude that most modern comics send the message: “in a morally ambiguous world largely created by American empire—head left.”
Perhaps the most recent glaring example of the industry’s moral relativism came from Marvel’s Spider-Man scribe, Dan Slott.
Here’s what moral relativist Mr. Slott said during the start of his run on Superior Spider-Man in an interview with Newsarama:
Nrama: With Superior Spider-Man, you’re writing Doc Ock as a lead character for really the first time, and a more long-term Doc Ock story than has really been seen before. We’re seeing the character put in very different situations, interacting with totally different characters. What kind of task has that been — approaching his mindset and his attitude in the position of a lead character?
Slott: He’s trying his best to be a hero, but he’s doing it in a very Doc Ock way. And Doc Ock’s an egotistical, annoying sh*t. It makes him an interesting character. At his core, he’s someone we don’t really think of heroic. But is he any more annoying than [former villain] Hawkeye used to be?
Yes, that’s right. Dan Slott actually asked if a man who tried to incinerate 6 billion people was any more annoying than Hawkeye in his very early days as a villain.
Slott: Also, when you look at Doc Ock, he was so much like Peter Parker. Peter Parker, if he didn’t know the lessons of power and responsibility, that teenage nerd would have grown up to be an Otto Octavius nerd, with the same kind of, “I’m going to make them pay.” This is the flip of that. This is Doc Ock getting to go back in time and be as young as Peter Parker, and have force-fed into him this sense of power and responsibility. He has that lesson from Uncle Ben in his core. That was Peter Parker’s parting gift to the world — I’m not going to leave the world a villain, I’m going to leave them a hero.
So either Dan Slott was lying in his interview, or he forced Peter Parker to make one of the dumbest superhero decisions of all time. If Dan Slott’s “hero” had Uncle Ben’s lesson embedded in his core, Inception-style, why did he blow a guy’s face off at point blank range or engage in Nazi-like torture practices? Great “gift to the world,” Mr. Slott.
The funny thing about moral relativists is that when the culture spins out of control they refuse to take any responsibility for the disgusting cultural mosaic they’ve helped to create. It’s always the fault of someone else.
In the mind of a moral relativist like Dan Slott, the creative work he puts out into the world has zero effect on his reading audience aside from being innocuous “entertainment.” In the mind of a moral relativist like Dan Slott, he can make an American cultural icon into a genocidal maniac “Spider-Man” for over a year, have that character blow a guy’s face off and engage in Nazi-like torture, and then say with a straight face that what he does for a living has no effect on our cultural consciousness. It’s a great defense mechanism: “Hey, I ‘just’ write comics. Don’t look at me.”
Dixon and Rivoche end their piece by saying that they “hope conservatives, free-marketeers and, yes, free-speech liberals” will join them in entering the field with a renewed sense of purpose. Conservatives may have an uphill battle when it comes to getting their work seen through traditional outlets, but modern technology has helped level the playing field. If you’re a conservative or libertarian writer with a story that’s been sitting in your head for years, get it out of there. Crack open your laptop or go old school with a typewriter. Do whatever it takes to get your story one step closer to reality. Start that snowball rolling downhill and see where it takes you. The same thing goes for artists and musicians.
There’s an old saying that the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist. In a similar vein, the greatest trick moral relativists play is convincing people that what they read and listen to on a daily basis is incapable of warping their minds in dangerous ways.
If you see yourself as a creative conservative or libertarian individual, you owe it to yourself and your community to share that gift with the world. The ideological battle may be a long tough slog, but it’s one that is worth fighting.
In August I said that the thing that would hurt Ben Affleck the most as he attempted to become Batman was his outspoken politics: “If I were a betting man, I’d say that Mr. Affleck will continue saying and doing things in public that will make it harder for roughly half the nation to lose themselves in his version of “Batman” on opening night.”
Affleck: People now know me as a Democrat, and that will always be the case to some extent.
Playboy: Does that polarize viewers?
Affleck: It does, and you can bifurcate your audience. When I watch a guy I know is a big Republican, part of me thinks, I probably wouldn’t like this person if I met him, or we would have different opinions. That shit fogs the mind when you should be paying attention and be swept into the illusion.
Playboy: Still, won’t that happen whether you take positions on candidates or causes?
Affleck: I have misgivings about it, counterbalanced with the larger things I care about. I don’t blindly do this stuff when it makes it harder to do my own job. And there’s an awful lot of gross money-raising going on that has made me want to pull back a bit from pure electoral politics. […]
Yes Ben, if the guy you’re watching on screen is a Republican and you’re a Democrat, it’s safe to say that you’ll have “different opinions.” Your powers of deduction are not quite at Bruce Wayne’s level at the moment, but you are correct.
Here’s the part that is somewhat bizarre for the future Batman to disclose: “I probably wouldn’t like this person…”
There are a lot of things I think about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and most of Hollywood’s liberal activists, but I only tend to think “I wouldn’t like them” when they come across as elitist jerks. How someone comports themselves dictates how I feel about them as a person — a political party affiliation alone does not. Does Ben Affleck have zero Republican relatives? He must not, or he wouldn’t say such ridiculous things.
I love my fellow Americans. I want to like all of them and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard when guys like Ben Affleck and President Obama keep dividing people.
“We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”
Here’s what Slate’s John Cook said in his maybe-sorta-kinda piece of satire (but not) titled ‘Thanksgiving Tips: How to pick a fight with your relatives this Thanksgiving.’ It was written just in time to coincide with the White House’s push to get family members to discuss Obamacare over the holidays:
First off, you should wait until everyone’s seated at the table before you try to get things started. That way you have a captive audience that has to watch the fireworks, and everyone is settled in for a nice long time. Getting the topic of conversation to politics shouldn’t be too hard. Stick to short, sarcastic, tendentious remarks to get things going. “I’m thankful for all that free stuff Obama gave me.” Once you’ve engaged the enemy, it won’t take much effort to pivot to whatever particular subject you feel most comfortable with.
Yes, according to the president and his most ardent disciples, your fellow Americans are “enemies.” Does anyone else find it weird that the president won’t call any number of thug-nations around the globe an enemy of America, but he will refer to his political opponents as such? But I digress…
Instead of just admitting that activist actors “fog the mind” of the audience with all sorts of extraneous junk, Ben Affleck lets us all know that an ‘R’ next to your name makes him immediately think that he “probably” doesn’t like you — even though he wants your money.
Why should I cough up my money for ‘Superman vs. Batman (vs. Wonder Woman?)’ when one of the lead actors openly conveys his disgust for me as a person? Because of my love of free markets, limited government, traditional American values and a strong national defense, Ben Affleck “probably” wouldn’t like me? It’s weird.
Yes Ben, it is possible to disagree with someone without being disagreeable. I know it’s hard for someone who lives in a Hollywood bubble, where everyone thinks along the same lines and tells each other how smart they are at cocktail parties (“Pass me the gruyère, will you?”) — but in the real world some of us get along with our politically-diverse family and friends just fine.
If Zack Snyder is smart, he’ll sit down privately with Ben and tell him to shut up with the political commentary until ‘Superman vs. Batman’ comes out. There are a lot of people who aren’t thrilled with the idea of Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight, and alienating roughly half the viewing audience out the gate is probably not a good PR move.
Hat tip to douglasernstblog.com reader PersonIsPerson for the story.
DC’s animated original movies have a strong track record, and in 2012 they added to an impressive library with Superman vs. The Elite. In short, the movie explores the modern superhero’s dilemma: To kill or not to kill? More specifically related to Superman, perhaps we can ask: Should he be more like Christ or Gen. George S. Patton?
Is it a moral failing for superheroes to repeatedly capture super-powered villains who exist completely outside the rule of law? How much blood, if any, does Superman have on his hands due to his refusal to kill evil incarnate?
At the start of Superman vs. The Elite, a monster known as Atomic Skull kills two people on the city streets of Metropolis — infusing his victims with radioactive energy that turns them into volcanic ash or Pompeii-like sculptures. Superman asks why. The answer: they serve as Superman bait. That’s it.
Atomic Skull exists to kill, and he kills to draw out Superman.
Superman refuses to end the monster’s life, and after a battle tears up half the city Atomic Skull is sent to a holding facility. Will it restrain him for long? First comes an exchange between Superman and Professor Baxter ensues at the United Nations:
Professor Baxter: “So was this justice, Superman? Millions in property damage. Helpless bystanders killed by a repeat meta-human felon who is now enjoying three square meals a day as a guest of the state. You had the power to end Atomic Skull’s criminal career — permanently. Why didn’t you?”
Superman: “I’m not anyone’s judge and jury, professor Baxter — definitely not an executioner. My powers do not put me above the law.”
Professor Baxter: “A noble sentiment, but are you the Superman that the 21st century needs? Why not use your power to fix the world? Let me reiterate that I am playing devil’s advocate. I’m a huge fan [of yours].”
Superman: “First, I don’t believe the world is broken — because when we say ‘the world,’ we’re really talking about is people. It’s always been my belief that people, at their core, are good. The grace of mankind is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes. Humanity has a limitless potential for good. My purpose it to help people reach that potential.”
Indeed, we can talk about the nature of man all day. Are people at their core all good? It’s a tough question — it depends on how you define “good.” They certainly have the potential for either great good or great evil — but Superman dodges the initial question: “Was this justice?”
Perhaps the right answer is that in a world with Atomic Skulls roaming around, the death penalty would need to be applied much more liberally. If humanity in the DC Universe can’t get its justice system right, why should Superman have to be the one to play judge, jury and executioner? As it stands, Atomic Skull escapes soon after his apprehension and kills Professor Baxter in the middle of the street.
Manchester Black steps in and does what Superman won’t — he blows Atomic Skull’s head into a million pieces. Superman predictably flips out, but the citizens of Metropolis do not. One “woman on the street” interview sums up the mood of the city:
Citizen: “I’ve lived in Metropolis all my life. Superman has always been there for us, but so have those criminals he’s put away so many times.Maybe his way doesn’t work.”
Or maybe Metropolis’ justice system doesn’t work?
The Elite, led by Manchester Black, are a shady group of anti-heroes whose tactics go too far. They wantonly kill anyone who doesn’t fit their definition of “good,” even going so far as to slaughter the entire political leadership of two warring countries. (Oddly enough, the media in the DC Universe give The Elite a pass on the execution, essentially saying: “Well, they did end the war…”.) Regardless, Black does have a point.
Manchester Black: “You probably won’t believe this, but I used to love superheroes. But masks are for hiding. Capes are for playing. You were the first. The best. But now you’re a cliche and you don’t fit in anymore. Mad scientists, idiots in underwear, bank robbers — knock yourself out with that lot. But the real work — fixing the world — is ours.
The rules of engagement in a war zone are different than the rules of engagement for a local cop, and the vast majority of villains in comics are walking war zones. They should be dealt with like an enemy on the battlefield, particularly since they’ve erased any lines between civilian and military targets.
In many respects Superman is his very own deus ex machina, but writers would weave better tales if they didn’t always have that escape hatch at the ready. That is, unless … we see Superman as a Christ-like figure. If the writers would openly admit to giving him that role, I would be willing to accept that.
The following exchange between Lois and Clark is telling:
Lois: “Why do you have to do this? Why can’t you call someone else? …
Clark: They have to be stopped.
Lois: “I think they can beat you. I’m sorry, but they’re willing to go places you won’t — and they are so damn strong.”
Clark: “I heard a child say that he wanted to be in the elite when he grows up because it would be fun to kill bad guys. Fun to kill? People have to know that there’s another way. They have to see that someone believes in humanity strongly enough to…
Lois: “…to die for them?”
Is Superman a Christ-like hero, or is he just one heck of a superhero? If he’s just an “elite” superhero, then I will now quote Patton:
“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
Regardless of what you think, you should give DC’s creative teams for their original animated films a thumbs up. They’re doing great work. Now, if they could only get those movies in order…
Marvel comics has some interesting priorities. It allowed Dan Slott to kill one of the most popular characters of all time — Peter Parker — and has been dragging its feet on bringing him back ever since. It recently announced an embarrassing new origin for Tony Stark. Tens-of-thousands of long time readers might be livid, but Marvel wants you to know that it’s all going to be okay because this February they’ll be introducing … a Muslim superhero who has the ability to look a lot like “Cock Knocker” from Kevin Smith’s ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’? Weird.
Marvel announced to the New York Times that G Willow Wilson (writer of the short-lived revival of the Crossgen series Mystic) will be writing a new Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenage girl with the ability to shapeshift. According to the Times, Khan idolizes Carol Danvers and takes up her original codename after discovering her powers.
Okay. Fair enough. Marvel gets to put out a press release and pat itself on the back for being “diverse.” Sure. But questions remain: Is this going to be a book on how all Americans are apparently fearful of Muslims, or will the superhero use her powers to save Muslims like Malala Yousafzai before they’re shot in the face and left for dead by Pakistani Taliban psychopaths? Or, will the book primarily just be about the struggles of a teenage girl?
Kamala will face struggles outside her own head, including conflicts close to home. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” [Marvel editor] Ms. Amanat said. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a respite.
The creative team is braced for all possible reactions. “I do expect some negativity,” Ms. Amanat said, “not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light.”
But “this is not evangelism,” Ms. Wilson said. “It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.” The series, Ms. Wilson said, would deal with how familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics, which can require rules to be broken.
It’s really hard to comment on the book before it’s come out. I want to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt, but how can I? History indicates that they’ll go the politically correct route. Remember when Marvel wanted Spider-Man readers to know that Muslims are safer in Iran than New York? I do.
Let me set the stage. Something is very wrong in New York City. Citizens have been taken with fear, and they’re acting out in irrational ways. Spider-Man is working overtime (what else is new?) to keep the city from tearing itself apart. Cue Naveed Moshtaghi, a taxi driver and Iranian immigrant. Naveed’s vehicle is hit by an angry white guy, who then blames the accident on Naveed: ”He’s one of the terrorists. He wants to kill us all!”, says the aggressor. A mob is swarms around Naveed, swallowing him whole until Spider-Man saves the day.
At this point I’m willing to give writer Chris Yost a break. Maybe the “God of Fear” is really behind it all. I’m even willing to shrug off a narrator who begins, “Naveed Moshtaghi is afraid of the same thing he’s been afraid of for ten years,” (i.e., Americans are just itching for an excuse to bum rush Muslims post-9/11 to infinity and beyond), right before the story unfolds that way.
But then something interesting happens. All alone on a rooftop, Spider-Man tells the man he’s dealing with the crisis very well. Naveed responds: “I’m a second generation Iranian in New York City. Living in fear, that’s what I’m used to. What is happening down there, sometimes I think it was only a matter of time.”
Regardless, the point is, Marvel wonders why fans roll their eyes every time there is a new character seemingly invented for the sole purpose of throwing a diversity parade. Usually, those creations have less to do with adding an interesting new personality to the universe and more to do with beating readers over the head with a particular worldview. Don’t believe me? See DC’s Muslim Green Lantern.
Will I check out Ms. Marvel when it hits shelves? Perhaps. Although, quite honestly, it seems as though Marvel should get right with Spider-Man and Iron Man fans before it starts asking readers to fork over cash for teenage shapeshifters.
Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ was one of the few films this summer that actually managed to live up to the hype, but it wasn’t without controversy. Whether it was on social media websites or just in the comments sections of many reviews, there seemed to be many fans who were upset with the ending because “Superman doesn’t kill.”
David Goyer has now weighed in on the subject, and he’s spot on in his analysis: The “Superman doesn’t kill” rule hurts the character.
“We were pretty sure that was going to be controversial,” Goyer said. “It’s not like we were deluding ourselves, and we weren’t just doing it to be cool. We felt, in the case of Zod, we wanted to put the character in an impossible situation and make an impossible choice.
“This is one area, and I’ve written comic books as well and this is where I disagree with some of my fellow comic book writers – ‘Superman doesn’t kill’. It’s a rule that exists outside of the narrative and I just don’t believe in rules like that. I believe when you’re writing film or television, you can’t rely on a crutch or rule that exists outside of the narrative of the film.
“So the situation was, Zod says ‘I’m not going to stop until you kill me or I kill you.’ The reality is no prison on the planet could hold him and in our film Superman can’t fly to the moon, and we didn’t want to come up with that crutch.
“Also our movie was in a way Superman Begins, he’s not really Superman until the end of the film. We wanted him to have had that experience of having taken a life and carry that through onto the next films. Because he’s Superman and because people idolize him he will have to hold himself to a higher standard.” …
Boom. This is the exact argument I had with Dan Slott’s version of Peter Parker (before he killed the character and replaced Spider-Man with a guy who tried to exterminate six billion people). In Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott’s Peter Parker had a “no one dies” rule, which came across as absurd and silly because sometimes heroes are placed in impossible situations. Sometimes they must make a decision that ends a life in order to save a life. Those are the sorts of stories that add new layers and depth to a character, and the response from advocates of “no one dies” or “Superman doesn’t kill” rules tends to be weak.
Dan Slott’s response to my critique of the “no one dies” mentality was to call me an idiot over and over again while abusing the caps-lock button, and then to distort what I said. The “Superman doesn’t kill” crowd often goes into a realm of thought occupied by anti-war protesters. “War is bad. Always. Nothing good ever comes from war. Nothing. … Superman doesn’t kill. Ever. Because taking a life is always bad. Always.”
Well, okay. On some level, yes. Sane people don’t thirst for war and don’t enjoy the thought of having to kill. But war did help end slavery in the United States and it also brought down Nazi Germany, for example. That’s why we honor the fallen. We know that in many ways the price for liberty is often paid for in blood.
Thomas Paine puts it more beautifully than I ever could:
“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated,” (Thomas Paine)
Years ago I worked with a Quaker, and she said there was nothing — nothing — that could convince her to take up arms against her fellow man. I said that I respected her decision, but that it would be nice if she acknowledged that her safety and security was then dependent on better men and women than she, who would stand up to those who would deny her of life and liberty. She was livid — and I was unapologetic.
If armed men burst into my Quaker-coworker’s house in the middle of the night and tried to harm her children, would she just stand there and watch? Or, would she find her inner Superman and attempt to extinguish the threat to her children? Would she, placed in that situation, be willing to possibly end lives to save lives? I would hope so.
If Superman fans want the best stories possible, in print or projected on the big screen, they should stop trying to get writers to adhere to random rules that limit the possibilities for character growth. It would be bizarre if creators tried to turn Superman into Batman, but at the same time he should not be spared the pain, sorrow, anguish and regret that can often come by making a life-or-death decision. If he truly is a hero, then he will exit the gauntlet a better person and teach us all something about ourselves in the process.
Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ aims for epic, and on almost every level it delivers. That is probably why it set a new best-ever opening weekend record for June. It has grossed $125.1 million by its first Sunday in theaters. Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and yet the “professional” critics have been less kind. That is because ‘Man of Steel’ is about big ideas, and many critics have small minds.
A snapshot of some of the worse reviews indicate critics wanted something “fun,” which is probably a euphemism for “This isn’t anything like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.”
“Skimps on fun and romance.” (Newsday)
“There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Richard Roeper
“Man of Steel (has) a cold heart that no amount of spectacle can compensate for.” (Art House Film Guide)
“Where’s the fun?” (Movieline)
Could Zack Snyder have made a plucky Superman film? Sure. But that’s not what he wanted to do. He wanted to explore what it would really be like if someone like Superman walked among us. How would it affect him? How would the world react? Would it be a blessing or a curse?
The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.
If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.
That is exactly the movie Zack Synder has made. It’s a movie about finding out why were put on this earth and what our purpose is. It’s about first knowing the difference between right and wrong — and then choosing the hard right instead of the easy wrong. It’s about having faith and hope and trust in our fellow man, but acknowledging that we are all fallible. It’s about a hero who we call Superman, but it’s also about the hero inside each and every one of us. ‘Man of Steel’ honors the individual, but stresses the importance of selfless service and the commitment we have to our family and our community.
The critics who say this movie has no “joy” are the ones who sound like they’re from another planet. ‘Man of Steel’ is one of the most uplifting superhero movies I’ve seen in ages, and it’s made better by a cast of actors who all basically knock it out of the ballpark.
Diane Lane is fantastic as Martha Kent, and the scene it which she soothes a young Clark as he struggles to understand his powers is pitch perfect. The tenderness she shows reminds us all of our own mother’s best moments — all heroes in their own right.
Kevin Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is equally as impressive. He understands that work is a virtue. He has strong hands and a dirty shirt from his labor, but his heart is pure. He does his best to instill honesty and integrity in his boy in an imperfect world. And, even as he wrestles with moral conundrums, he gives his son a road map that will help him navigate life’s most difficult terrain.
Henry Cavill is Clark Kent. He is not Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent — nor should he have been. Director Zack Snyder knows that when you start asking questions like “Who is Superman?” that you are also asking “Who is Clark Kent?” and “Who is Kal-El?” And the answer is that at his core he is pure, he is strong and he is kind. He embodies courage and selfless service. He represents our highest ideals — the ones we know we can never fully attain, but die honorably trying to pursue. How Clark’s essence manifests itself on screen will very from actor to actor, but Henry Cavill’s Superman does the character proud.
‘Man of Steel’ has its flaws, but one of them is certainly not the absence of joy. Zack Snyder knew exactly what he wanted, and everyone from the actors on screen to the special effects guys gave it to him. Love it or hate it, ‘Man of Steel’ is the finished product born out of a very clear vision of what a modern Superman movie needed to be in order to succeed.
At a pivotal point in the film, Clark realizes that as impressive as his powers are, he has not even begun to tap the well of potential inside of him. It’s a powerful scene — one in which millions of viewers will likely reflect on their own efforts to harness the greatness within them. That is a joyous thing. That gives us reason to smile, and hope for the future of all mankind.
Don’t worry about the critics, Mr. Snyder. People around the world have now listened to the words of Jor-El and know that while he was speaking to the character Clark, he was also speaking to them: they too can “accomplish wonders.” And for that, we are thankful.