The Donner Illusion

Some segments of the film and comic community are being extraordinarily tough on Man of Steel.  And some are, bizarrely, appealing to the Superman given to us by Richard Donner, Richard Lester and Bryan Singer.

I am not addressing the folks who are equally critical of those films. But the people appealing to The Donner/Lester/Singer version either have poor memories or are willfully ignoring celluloid history.  I am about to really blow it if you have not seen the movie.

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A Foundation of Steel

Dave Poland, among others, have harped on the fact that the Man of Steel never really addresses “What do you think will happen when people find out there are people like Clark Kent out there.” It really doesn’t. There is just to much action to get around to it. But it seems likely it is a setup for another film. People seem to be forgetting in their criticism that this is the start for a franchise. Man of Steel is not meant to be a “done in one tale”. It is a setup for more films. And that matters. You cannot ignore that.

A franchise film should tell a story, but it also will leave some questions unaddressed. Batman Begins did not tell us anything about the Joker other than his calling card. X-Men introduced all sorts of questions about Wolverine answering pretty much none of them.

The film shows a Lexcorp truck, which suggests we will see a businessman Lex Luthor in the sequel. In the comics, Lex has, in more than one incarnation, been driven by a fear of aliens. And Man of Steel certainly sets that up. I can easily see a subplot where Lex is ranting against Superman and trying to get people to his side, while the Daily Planet is championing Superman.

The funny thing is we DO see how people react. There are civilians thankful Superman saved them. The soldiers accept him. Lois and the scientist accept him. We get our answer. Jonathan Kent was wrong.

You just cannot force a Franchise starting film to follow the rules of a one off film. You cannot hold them to that standard. There are a lot of problems with Man of Steel, but not answering every question is not one of them.

What MoS Was Missing Was Grim Lead

You know…I did like the Man of Steel, but I found plenty to be critical of. One of the problems is we never got much of Clark building relationships with people. Now, instead of a sequel, we are getting a team up movie. Warner Brothers is desperately trying to catch up with Marvel’s cinematic success. The Nolan Bat trilogy was not made to open that door to a shared cinematic universe. Green Lantern could have been made to acknowledge the growing Super-hero universe. Man of Steel was the first film made with a larger universe in mind. But Marvel really committed to the shared Universe concept. And they planned for it to lead up to the Avengers. They started laying their groundwork in the First Iron Man through Captain America three years later, they built up characters that appeared throughout various films, and lead into the Avengers. And they managed to bring all their actors back with one exception (replacing the terrific Ed Norton with the talented Mark Ruffalo). DC has one movie and the next film they announce is a sequel to Man of Steel starring…Batman? Then a Flash movie? Because, apparently Wonder Woman is a really hard concept for DC. Then A Justice League movie. But while DC wants the successes of Marvel’s films, they want to do it without the commitment or effort of setting it all up. They are rushing it and it shows. I cannot imagine this will improve the problems of Man of Steel, it might even make them worse.

Jor El Sent His Only Son

And lo, there was much controversy and arguing. So I it was I saw finally got around to seeing the tale Man of Steel. Zak Snyder, David Goyer and Christopher’s grimmer take on the Superman mythos.

In a lot of ways, this is a response to the toughly reviewed Superman Returns. One of the cries was “more action” and boy do we get it.

First, the good. I think Henry Cavill did a solid job as Superman. The film spends it’s time focusing on a Superman who is not working for the Daily Planet, but rather Clark Kent roaming the planetsaving people. It is borrowering an idea from Mark Waid’s terrific Birthright…and while not quite as nicely executed, it mkes sense to use it as a reference.

The film opens on Krypton, one like we have not seen in previous film or television adaptions. I am pleased to see they opted to break free of the influence of Donner for this film. It is a Krypton that has evolved to genetic engineering, something scientist Jor-El seeks to set his son free of. This happens in the midst of a military coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon). He and his followers are sent to the Phantom Zone, shortly before the destruction of Krypton.

Amy Adams is a tough and fearless Lois Lane who is on the trail of the mysterious hero. I liked her quite a bit in the role. She was aggressive and dedicated to finding her story. I also felt Zod and Faora were solid characters. As Superman’s parents, Russell Crowe, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are all quite strong. Lara’s role is short, but she is strong and full of courage. Crowe is mainly there for exposition, but he makes it work.

The visual effects were great, seeing Superman use his powers was exhilirating. I truly had fun watching him use his powers.

The tougher stuff…while I liked Costner, I had the same problem with Man of Steel as I did with Smallville. Pa Kent is obsessed with “keeping the secret” extends to “let people die”. This is troubling on a lot of levels. The action in the film is relentless, giving little time to catch our breath. The characters are also given little space to grow, so we get familar, b it new sketches, rather than full blown character moments. And the destruction becomes numbing…it is just to much.

In the end, I still enjoyed this more than Superman Returns. It is imperfect, but I still found more to like than dislike.

Main Ingredients: Jealousy and Sexism

So, recently, a bit of controversy reared it’s ugly head.  It is not the first time.  Not for the same person.  It is a controversy born out of jealousy and more than a little sexism.

It should be noted that two very celebrated writers currently working in comics are Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction.  If you are unaware, they happen to be married.  To each other.  With two adorable kids.  The kids do not play any role in this rather stupid controversy though.  I just thought I would mention they were adorable.

The core of the supposed controversy is just how DeConnick got her job.  Most recently, some guy wrote to Tom Breevort of Marvel on his tumblr blog.  He was basically whining about the supposed improbability of a married couple both working for Marvel.  Clearly, one of them only got the work because the other got them the work.

Where is the sexism, you ask?  Clearly this guy is criticizing nepotism!  I will tell you where the sexism lies.  He had the audacity to pretty much accuse Matt Fraction of getting work with Marvel because he shares a bed with Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Oh wait, that is not what he insinuated.  Because nobody really accuses men of sleeping their way into a job.  It is an automatic assumption Fraction got his work legit, while Kelly Sue needed his help getting through the door.  Brevoort pointed out this is pretty silly, DeConnick got work with other publishers before her Marvel work.  And Kelly Sue notes that at one point, Matt was her guest at Marvel Functions…

I find this endlessly annoying.  There was another writer who was dogged by rumors about dating her way into the business.  She left the business, which is unfortunate.  but it seems like we guys do not want to accept or believe women want to write comics, or are incapable of getting noticed without the help of a boyfriend in the industry.

Why?  Why is it so improbably that a married couple happen to be powerhouse writers in their own right?  Why the assumption that one has to be riding the other’s coattails?

DeConnick has faced this before, and she always handles it with intellectual grace.  She should not have to.  Frankly, a simple “fuck you” should suffice.

I get that people want to work in comics.  And I get that for writers, it looks especially hard to get attention.   But the assumption that who they are dating or married to is the main reason they got work is insulting.  And again, it pretty much only gets leveled at women entering into the industry.  It is making me tired.  Kelly and Matt seem like real swell folks, and I get tired of seeing a talented writer have to defend herself against stupid insinuations.  And for women, “ignoring” trolls does not kill the problem.  If they do not respond, it is seen as almost validating the trolls claims. 

Kelly Sue already responded terrifically via Tumblr.  But I think that we need to start standing against this crap in unison.  When we see this garbage we need to no longer pretend it will just go away.

In regards to breaking in?

Certainly, Kelly herself notes that it really helps to have people in the business to support you.  She did have writers like Neil Gaiman and Brian Michael Bendis as cheerleaders.  This is not bad.  Writers like to help people…that is good news!  When they see potential talent, they want to tell people they know…instead of looking at how to tear down writers, by attempting to invalidate them and their achievements, treat them with respect.  Value their information.  Many writers are very active online.  Don’t flood them with questions…but show an interest in what they can offer the aspiring writer in advice.  Be interesting.  Be thoughtful.  Be friendly.  Be sincere.  It will get you much closer to the door than hateful accusations ever will.

Thank You & Good Night

Really bummed to discover that AOL pulled the plug on Comics Alliance.  They were the only comics site I visited regularly.  I appreciated their humorous reviews of comic themed movies and TV shows (Smallvillains was classic stuff).  I had been a bit worried when Laura Hudson announced she was stepping down I was a bit worried.  But Joe Hughes stepped in and really kept it going strong.

Their ability to jump between goofy fun and thoughtful commentary regarding comics and race/gender/identity/sexuality was pretty rare.  They had a great team assembled, and I hope to see them all get paying replacement gigs soon.  But I will miss finding their insights together in one place.

Thanks for the fun and commentary, Comics Alliance.  You will be missed.

Spider-Man and Aunt May…

I feel like one of the strangest and unfair portrayals of Aunt May throughout the history of Spider-Man was that of the woman scared of Spider-Man.

For a long time, in the world of comics, Aunt May was one of the people who thought Spider-Man was scary and or untrustworthy.  This really seemed to last a long time.  It would either come up or be ignored until needed for a story point.


It was only after Aunt May made a shocking discovery that she became a fan of Spidey…

ImageYeah, once she knew Spidey was Peter…all was good.  The story where she writes a letter to the editor expressing her change of heart is actually a wonderful story.   But May functioned solely to be a plot point for Peter.  There were many reasons that she was fearful and could not know…but it always came down to how frail and generally weak she was.

And I just find the portrayal hard to believe.  Aunt May raised her nephew for years, she and Ben were perfectly capable and loving stand ins for Peter’s parents.  Peter is the man he is because of the influence of Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  Yes, it is Uncle Ben’s words at the heart that drives Peter…but it was both Ben and May that taught Peter right and wrong.

And I find it hard to believe such a weak, fearful and frail person could have managed to raise someone who puts their life on the line for strangers.  This is one of those areas where Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Clark Kent/Superman meet.  They are the product of their environments.  They are who they are because of their parents.  Not in spite of that parenting.

It would have been nice if May got to be shown as a source of Peter’s strength from day one, instead of an impediment for it.  Spider-Man exists in part because of her…the idea that she would be frightened of Spider-Man is silly.  I noticed in the Sam Raimi movies, May gets over her concerns about masked vigilantes quickly, becoming the voice of Peter’s conscience.  It is May who speaks to the importance of Spider-Man in the second film.  May recognizes heroism in those movies and has no fear of it.

Raimi gave us the Aunt May we should have had the whole time.

Miracles and Warriors

Big Barda & Mr. Miracle by Hoa PhongI always loved the characters Mister Miracle and Big Barda.  My first real introduction to them was in the pages of Justice League in the eighties.  I knew they were part of Kirby’s Fourth World characters.  But it was in the Justice League International books that I was hooked.

Mister Miracle-Scott Free-was a super-hero and escape artist.  His wife was a warrior hero.  But the truth is, they were born of the worlds of Apokolips and New Genesis.  Son of the good High FatherIzaya, Scott Free was traded to Darkseid as part of a truce.  Orion, son of Darkseid was raised on New Genesis and Scott was raised on Apokolips by Darkseid and his minions.  Scott grew up, unaware of who he was, always feeling out of place.  He joined underground opposition, where he met Barda, who was trained to be a Female Fury by Granny Goodness.  They fell in love.  They escaped to earth where Scott was trained as an escape artist.  His manager Oberon knew of their past and was ultimately a cohort in their adventures.

What stood out to me about Scott and Barda is that they sought domestic life.  They did not want to lead lives of action if possible.  But their strengths were constantly at odds with the attempts at living a domesticated lifestyle.  Barda and Scott wanted to do normal and mundane things, even if their skill set was not necessarily cooking and house cleaning.

It made them such charming characters.  Scott and Barda depend on each other…support each other.  They find strength in they other.  Barda is a skilled and superior warrior.  She does not need Scott to rescue her.  She wants to be with him-not because she cannot get by on her own-but because she is drawn to his noble and heroic qualities…qualities that compliment her.  Scott is devoted to Barda not because he needs to protect her.  But rather, he is drawn to her forceful nature-her desire to do right.  It is a beautiful portrayal of marriage.  Plus, I have these images in my head of Barda using things like a vacuum cleaner as a weapon.  Maybe it never happened…but if it has not?  I want to see it.

So far, the Nu52 has avoided the fourth world characters for the most part.  Have they appeared outside of the first Justice League story arc?  The Nu52 has been mostly a combination of disappointment and crushing disappointment.  Fans have rightly expressed frustration with choices regarding Superman, Lois and Wonder Woman (Superman and Wonder Woman are an item not, according to DC?  IT’S AWESOME!!!  But people who like Clark Kent and Lois Lane are…less pleased).  So, maybe we are lucky Scott and Barda Free are not around.

Search and Destroy

This week, discussions I was a part of collided. Over in political land, it was a discussion about the Website Jezebel.  In case you were unaware, after Obama was re-elected, Twitter and Facebook lit up with dis-satisfied voters who thought the best response to the news was racism and hate.  Some of these people were teenagers doing that thing teens do so well…say stupid things.  Jezebel was understandably put off by these comments.  Their response was to compile a list of these folks…their names, their schools, their extra-curricular activities, what sports they play, etc.  The idea is, apparently, to really hit these kids by ruining their chances at college and so on.

In comic world, the other day, someone found a website post Director James Gunn did two years back (possibly closer to three).  It was a list of the 35 comic book characters folks want to have sex with.  So, it was a mature list.  I was actually familiar with the list…and the less controversial list (one with none of the commentary that bothered people) has comments by me.  I used to be pretty active at Gunn’s site.  He was very interactive, and in spite of random moments that made me cringe, seemed pretty open minded.  The list I commented on, Gunn and I had an exchange about our shock that the only Watchman character to make the list?  Comedian.  Seriously.  The rapist.  The list was compiled by a vote, and on one version of the list, Gunn made commentary that was a bit…uncomfortable.  Rachel Edidin addresses it nicely.

Some have stated it was satire of Misogyny.  Maybe.  But it failed because it did not lampoon the outdated attitudes…it seemed more to lampoon it’s subjects.  But the point is, people wanted to do something about it.  And this is where stuff collided.  People seemed to want to destroy Gunn.

I am not crazy at all over the idea that the right answer when someone offends us is to try and get them fired.  People have the right to express the most heinous of ideas.  I have every right to decide whether I want to give them my money.  I have every right to express how wrong I think they are.  I have every right to take to twitter and express that.  Or Facebook.  It is important to have that outlet of protest.  But when we take it the step ahead and force destruction to rain on their heads, we start to lose our righteous ground.  Especially, I am concerned because these are tactics that were used on the left for decades.  Threat to out gay people, petitions to get people with unpopular opinions fired, etc.  Look at the pro-life movement.  There were some within the movement that publicized the names and addresses of doctors who performed abortions.  As some doctors were shot and killed, they were crossed off the lists in blood.

Do we want to have a legacy like that?  Where we start keeping a list of people who “think correctly” and those who fail to meet our standards are not allowed to move on in life?  Do we really think it is different when we do it to them?  It’s somehow different to try and get someone fired because they are homophobic than to get someone fired because they are gay?  Should something you said years ago be held in higher regard than where you are now?  The person I was long ago held very different opinions on issues than the person writing this post.  There was a time in my life that I saw homosexuality as evil.  I was vehemently pro-life.  Do the views I evolved to mean less than the ones I held when I was decades younger?  I cannot comfortably agree that punishing kids as Jezebel seeks to do is wise or good.  It is not the right step forward.  Especially hurting their ability to get into schools.  Yes, lets try and keep them teens from going to the place that often results in a personal re-evaluation of one’s beliefs.

Gunn, btw, apologized. And hey, he avoids the “sorry you were offended”…he takes credit for the failure on his own.  Considering that other recent offenders took the “Stop being offended route? (including defenders of Gunn) it was kind of refreshing.