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.