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Posts Tagged ‘superheroes’

Apparently it’s hard to let a good meme go–especially when you’re desperate to come up with a good meme. And so it is with casting yesterday’s stars as today’s heroes. This time, though, I’m giving it a twist: In the spirit of the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman, we’re going to have some fun with the genre…

The Fantastic Four will be portrayed in their latest film epic, “Dr. Doom Soup,” by none other than The Marx Brothers. See Groucho as Mr. Fantastic, stretching logic to amazing lengths. See Chico as the irascible Thing, and Harpo as the fiery Human Torch, using his flame to do the talking. And as Sue Storm, we feature (no, not Margaret Dumont!), platinum bombshell Thelma Todd.

The West/Burt Batman was, as we’ve always known, not the first theatrical Batman. That honor belongs to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Robin!” (Look for the episode featuring Charlie Chaplin as the Penguin.)

Before there was Daredevil on TV (what, there was a movie? Please, I’m trying to forget.), there was another “daredevil,” a real man without fear who did his own stunts, Harold Lloyd. (The guy hanging off the clock tower in downtown LA? That was him.) This version does tend to play to Lloyd’s comedic gifts a bit heavily, as Daredevil often as not comes across as blind and without powers, but it was an important early effort to bring superheroes into the mainstream.

And of course (a tip of the hat to frasersherman), William Powell and Myrna Loy are at the top of their game playing the super-powered version of The Thin Man, the Elongated Man, and his always-in-the-midst-of-it wife, Sue. You’d think these actors were born for these roles, and if you flipped that reasoning, you’d be absolutely right.

It’s not surprising that these characters took so long to return to the screen (if they have) after being played by such iconic actors. And there are those (including myself) who secretly believe that the older versions, black & white, even silent, were better…

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With the onset of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is no longer quite so embarrassing to admit that one was reading comic books all through one’s youth and beyond.* I quit about 20 (!) years ago now, but I still follow the genre (and watch the movies). So it’s not surprising that my mind still goes down those roads on occasion (okay, all the time). And that has lead to the following question:

In that world, with superpowers, mutants, AIs, self-contained battle suits, aliens, time travel, superweapons,  and everything, how does anyone write science fiction? SF consists of stories that extrapolate from known science, or at least scientific theory. But if you know that mutants and superweapons and aliens exist because you can see them fly by your window, what is there to extrapolate? By definition, everything you’re writing is simply “fiction.”**

Does that mean that writers like me would be in Fiction & Literature at your local Barnes & Noble? Would there be a reason for a SFWA to exist–and would I not have to regret the fact that I’m not at Nebula weekend right now?

And what about the liability issues? What if some hulking green guy comes up to you and says you’re defaming him in your latest story–which just happens to have a large, green character? What if he claims you’re appropriating his image? And if you write a story about the Skrulls invading the Earth, will the real Skrulls take umbrage and actually invade the Earth out of pique?

Even if you started with the concept that none of the above existed, and then created an SF story, would anyone read it? Science fiction isn’t supposed to be about a world more boring than your own. The only choice left would be alternate history, and that field would get crowded fast.

What would happen, I think, is that all those writers would migrate to another genre, like romance, or mystery. Mystery would be a fertile field in that world, with questions like: What’s with those capes, anyway? How do those young sidekicks explain all those bruises without social services investigating? And why are there so many super-powered people in the world, anyway? How did they get that way?

Oh, wait, that veers into science fiction. And then we start all over again.

*The same thing happened to science fiction with Star Wars, and fantasy with Lord of the Rings.

**Fantasy writers would have the same problem.

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Recently, Entertainment Weekly ran an piece on “The 50 Most Powerful Superheroes.” Not limited to actual power(s), this article used criteria such as “mythology,” “modern relevance,” and “bankability,” in addition to sheer strength. Each item was worth 10 points, with the exception of “cultural impact,” which was worth 20. A perfect score was 100.

In the main, I had no argument with their choices; after all, there were 50 heroes to choose from, and all of these studies are as subjective as they are non-scientific. But right up front, I have to take issue with their choices. You see, before I started the list, I thought: “Well, obviously Superman is number one.” Wrong. Superman was number four. Number one was Wonder Woman.

Now I have never been a Wonder Woman fan, but I understand her standing in the pantheon. I also understand that at this particular moment in history, she is leading the DC charge. (Forget Superman and the guy with the mask; they’re blown until DC figures out how to make a Marvel movie.) But

Wonder Woman is not Superman. She is not as powerful (10 points), doesn’t have the nemesis (10 points), the mythology or the cultural impact. She does have the edge in cultural relevance, but bankability? She has had one TV series which lasted longer than it should have. She has a movie coming out, and it may be a huge hit, but it hasn’t come out yet. Superman has had four TV series (counting Superboy), and seven movies. Like it or not, Superman is the reason there’s a DC movie universe today (or a Marvel movie universe, for that matter).

They picked Wonder Woman because she’s the trendy choice. She has a long way to go before she reaches the international and historical plateau that Superman occupies. DC is choosing to lower the bar that she must hurdle (not her fault), but she still has to hurdle it.

I’ll give her credit, though. She’s off to a running start.

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So now Fox News is defending supervillains. Fox and Friends recently defended the Supreme Serpent against Captain America (who is now apparently not living up to his name), because preying on immigrants only meant that he was concerned with illegal immigration. Yeah, well, other than the fact that Fox is now taking its talking points from a comic book, and the bad guy at that, who could have a problem with this…?

In fact, I think Fox has dropped the ball–and so have comics. For years we’ve been beaten up, kidnapped, threatened, terrorized, and even killed by supervillains who didn’t grow up here. If the government were doing its job, none of these guys would be a problem, and Cap, Batman, Spider-Man…those guys could concentrate of real, home-grown American crooks. As a public service, then, this site is going to call out some of those non-native invasive species who should be deported post-haste.

Doctor Doom. Let’s cover the big guy first. Sure, he’s got diplomatic immunity as dictator of Latveria, but can’t we revoke his diplomatic status or something? I mean, who’s more important, Doc Doom or the New York-born Fantastic Four?

The Red Skull. I know we let in a lot of Nazi rocket scientists after the war, but he wasn’t one of them. So how does he get here to fight Captain America all the time?

Batroc the Leaper. French. Again, Captain America (contrary to Fox) is the only hero living up to his name.

Ra’s Al-Ghul. I mean, the guy’s the head of the oldest criminal gang in the world. And Batman is the only one who wants to send his sorry behind home?

Pretty much everybody Iron Man’s fought in the movies. Whiplash? Russian. The Mandarin? Supposedly Asian, probably English, but certainly not American. And while we’re on the English, haven’t there been about a thousand English bad guys in movies in the last thirty years? We’re way behind the curve here!

Loki. Now there’s somebody we can agree doesn’t belong here. Good thing we’ve got Thor. Wait, what? He just plopped down without a visa? Good gravy, we’re going to need some heavy hitter to boot him out. How about Wonder Woman? Seriously? Okay, Superman. He’ll take them all–no. No way. Superman? Really? I thought he was from Kansas!

I guess he’s not from Kansas anymore…

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