Wow folks, it has been a long time since the nurses have given me a chance to get some computer time. I have been jonesing to get some of my thoughts down on cyberpaper. If I had had the time before now, I would have. So as a caveat before I fully dive into this latest blog entry, if I ramble or this seems a wee bit disjointed, please indulge me, it might take me a bit to knock off the proverbial rust where it concerns the written word.
As Zandrax aka Seth had me on the Geekville podcast about the recently revealed Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3, I began to analyze, as I am apt to do, the comparisons between the differing worlds of DC Comics properties on TV and film versus the Marvel Properties on the same mediums, I thought this could be an excellent blog entry. The biggest problem I have had as I gathered my thoughts are simply where do I start? With that in mind, I thought I would start with TV, and if my ramblings take me into the world of motion pictures, so be it, I will go there. So here I go on my latest pontification.
I have openly spoken about my love of comic books. I have never hidden this. Even as a teenager in the 80’s when comics were not cool, I avowed my appreciation of the comics medium. Like most comic geeks, I would wile away the time with hopes and dreams of these colorful characters and unique stories being translated into a live action film or TV show. To be totally honest, outside of the 70’s era translations of Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk, what little had been done in this regard for years was less than satisfying to say the least.
Well fast forward about 20 years and all of a sudden this all changed. A lesser known comic book character, Blade, got an A-list actor (Wesley Snipes) to star with a writer (David S. Goyer) who respected the source material and BAM!, you actually had something special. One can also not discount the advent the strides made in CGI effects that enabled the visuals of these multicolored pulp pages to come to life in a live action arena, and the comic book geeks of the world rejoiced…and paid money to show their support. Then the flood gates opened. The Hollywood bigwigs now realized that this was an untapped market that had financial legs, and the race was on.
Now I was like every other comics fan, what did I want to see translated to the screen, big or small, next. This conundrum was complicated by the decades long debate amongst the comics fans of DC versus Marvel. I am like a lot of folks in the sense I have a love for both DC and Marvel, so either way was fine by me. Cool thing was I, and everyone else, got the best of both. We also got some of the worst, but we will get to that in a moment.
So time has passed since the days of Blade, and it seems every other big Hollywood production, whether motion picture or TV show, has been inspired by, or is a direct adaptation of a comic book. Of course, this is because they make money. The biggest summer blockbuster (Guardians of the Galaxy) and one of the most watched TV shows (The Walking Dead) found their creative births spawned on the pages of comics. In between that we have had lots of good (original Sam Raimi Spider-Man, Superman Returns, Thor), a few great (Dark Knight Trilogy, Iron Man Trilogy, The Avengers), some so-so (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk), some wretched (Jonah Hex, Ghost Rider, the Ang Lee Hulk), and still many heavily anticipated (Batman vs. Superman, The Avengers: The Age of Ultron, Shazam!), and that is also just the motion picture side.
As is wont to happen in Hollywood, TV often mirrors, or flat out copies, its bigger brother motion pictures. The great thing for comic fans is though the results have been all over the map for movies, the TV shows have all been good to downright excellent. As it sits right now, the list of top rated shows include the following comic based titles: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, and The Walking Dead. Constantine has made its debut, but NBC has put it on hiatus. They haven’t cancelled it, but for sure put it in TVland purgatory. I guess with the background of the seminal character, that is only kind of fitting. We all will have to wait to see how Agent Carter and all the Marvel Netflix-only miniseries will pan out, but I am stoked.
So the once two big boys of comics jumped in bed with Hollywood, and the money started rolling in, I guess it surprised no one that both were absorbed into larger media conglomerates that both had years of a proven track record with films and TV. I’m fine with that. If it helps these products continue to have a high quality, then I am all for it. Now HOW Warner Brothers and Disney approached these newly acquired cash cows is a bit different.
Marvel/Disney got the jump on DC/Warner Brothers. It wasn’t just Blade, but the first Iron Man that did this. It became very obvious from the jump that Disney wanted to expand their comic based universe. As time rolled on, this became what we have today, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a collection of several movies, a TV show, and upcoming entries of both that all exist in the same shared universe. This is a land where Captain America, Star Lord, Hulk, and Nick Fury would be the same no matter what title they popped up in. They would have a continuity of background stories and be portrayed by the same actors and actresses. That is cool. That makes it much easier to follow from one story to another.
Now over at DC/WB, they were behind the proverbial 8 ball. Their biggest and fiercest adversary had beaten them to the punch. All comic fans sat back to see their counterpunch. Well DC took a different approach. They released less titles and didn’t even attempt to enter the world of the boob tube. What did we get though? An AWESOMELY done Batman trilogy, a solid retelling of Superman’s origins, and a vile turd based on Jonah Hex. But these were all different. They didn’t exist in the same universe, even if in the world of their source material they did. Some complained, but I didn’t. I was appalled one of favorites like Jonah Hex was reprehensible, but in exchange I got three of the best Batman adaptations ever. I was cool with that trade off.
So why do so many complain about the differences here? I am not a devout and ardent subscriber to the idea that one company is better than the other. I find good and bad in both DC and Marvel. For those who want my analysis and opinion I sum it up this way: DC has better villains and Marvel has better heroes…generally speaking. Ghost Rider and Spider-Man are my favorite superheroes, but Batman is right there with them. I like Dr. Doom and Magneto, but both pale in comparison to the Joker and Darksied. So I for one wasn’t going to bash either company as long as the final result was good.
And where are we now? Well, both franchises have picked up steam, and continued with the same approach. I’m just fine with that too. Yes, I enjoy the references to the movies in SHIELD episodes, and like any fanboy, love the occasional cameo by a character/actor from these films, but that NOT happening on The Flash, Arrow, or Constantine do NOT diminish my enjoyment of those shows. Quite the contrary, I like the differences.
I guess my challenge to all comic fans is to chill out. Be happy we finally have quality comics based films and TV shows to watch. Remember David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury or Jeffery Combs as a poorly veiled Dr. Strange? Do any of you want to return to those days? I know I sure as hell don’t. Plus, look at the facts when it comes to these two worlds.
Marvel has a unified front BEHIND the cameras in Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon. These two men are juggling chainsaws that are lit ablaze while spinning twenty plates on sticks and hopping on one foot, an this is while having blindfolds on, to keep all the continuity together between all these properties. The one key factor they have is Agent Phil Coulson. This character is the glue that hold these tenuous and disparate titles connected. Major kudos to Clark Gregg for pulling this off. Side note on Clark Gregg, major man props for hooking up with Jennifer Grey as well. Yummy.
So DC doesn’t have this, and have announced they have no plans to do this. Why is everybody whining? Is it wrong that they don’t have a Joss Whedon who CAN and WOULD perform that juggling act for them? NO! As a matter of fact, as an artist myself, I can see the merit in NOT taking Marvel’s approach. If you have advisors (and believe me they will) for all the different directors of all their different projects to keep them true to the source material, all while showing their creativity with these loved characters I would bet the results are strong. You cannot strap creativity with rules and limits. That sort of goes against the grain of what creativity is at its core. Once again, if the final product is of high quality, why are you complaining?
If you doubt the high quality, check out The Flash and Arrow. Now DC did take a similar approach here. These two shows ARE in a shared universe with cross over, and I enjoy that as well. They can do this effectively by have another Whedon who happens to be named Greg Berlanti in this case, and another Coulson who happens in this case to be the Arrow/Stephen Amell to hold it all together. Since these two shows are outstanding do you really want DC handcuffing Berlanti and what he has created by having him concerned with what is movies based on other DC titles? If they do and it makes these shows suck, and I bet it would, I say HELL NO!
One last thing to consider is patience. DC has only released ONE of its motion pictures (Man of Steel). How about we all wait and see what they have in store for us? We know that several actors have signed multi picture deals. That would signal to me there WILL be continuity amongst the motion pictures. Plus though I loathe the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce, the idea of The Rock as Black Adam has me smiling. I feel after all the years of entertainment DC has given me, the least I can do is be patient with their approach.
So maybe you love the intrigue of what the hell all the alien things are and how they all tie into multiple characters in TV shows and movies. Or maybe you are giddy waiting to see what minor, but cool character will drop into the world of Oliver Queen and Barry Allen. Or maybe you are just waiting to see how they retell the story of the Justice League’s formation on the silver screen. I think overall, what the world has gotten so far is pretty damned good, and since it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
All this comics talk has me wanting to reread Kingdom Come or the issue where Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch meet for the first time. Guess that means it is time to hand the laptop over to the nurse’s here at the asylum and dive into a good comic book. I have to have something to tide me over until all the things I wrote about are on my TV or at my local theater. I have already started a campaign amongst the other patients here to have our monthly May outing be The Avengers: The Age of Ultron. Me and Teddy are two votes for aye, so we shall see. Please remember to listen to the A-1 Wrestling.com and Geekville podcasts to continue to hear my rantings, ravings, and ramblings. Also don’t forget you can leave comments and questions below or at the forums on a-1wrestling.com/forum. If you want to reach me directly or privately you can find me on Twitter @CrazyTrain_jb or at email@example.com. Off to the land of superheroes and supervillains I go, so until next time you pull into the depot here at the asylum…ALL ABOARD!!!