When the Audience is Bored of A-Listers, The B-Listers Will Inherit the Superhero Movies.

For an indeterminate amount of time, comic book fans have been ranking their heroes (and villains) like celebrities with  “A” through “D” rating.

In DC Comics Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have always been A-List heroes. However, characters like Green Lantern, The Flash, and Aquaman have fluctuated, falling to B-Listers in the 90’s, then rising again to A-listers in the mid-oughts.

Marvel is a bit stranger. In the early oughts, Brian Michael Bendis disassembled the Avengers for a good reason. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America struggled as B-Listers in the late 90’s. Thor had been killed off, Iron Man was turned into an alcoholic and then a teengager  and Captain American in general seemed directionless. The rest of the Avengers just didn’t have the popularity of their other franches.  Marvel spent years building the Avengers back up to A-List characters, and thanks the  X-Men and Spider-Man being licensed to other film companies they had no choice but to build a movie universe on the back of the Avengers.

If they had owned the licenses for those two powerhouse franchises, Iron Man would not have been the first cinematic universe film under their own film company. They took a character, Iron Man, which the mainstream audience did not know and turned him into one of the biggest characters they currently have. They did it again with Guardians of the Galaxy, which people knew even less than Iron Man. Likewise, 2003’s Daredevil was an embarassment as far as movies go but Marvel took the franchise and turned it into the most watched and highest rated show on Netflix.

By regaining, rebooting, and revitalizing the Spider-Man franchise they’re also pushing back the inevitable. Marvel knows this, that’s why movies like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel were merely pushed back rather than replaced by Spider-Man movies. Then, with the rest of the Defenders series on Netflix they’ll turn Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist into characters people know essentially raising their ranks from B and C-Listers into A-Listers. They took a character like The Vision and made him the most standout character of Avengers: Age of Ultron. They took a character like Ant-Man and made a entertaining and successful movie about him, which some people found laughable when announced.

On DC’s side it is a bit more worrisome, as far as movies go. Thanks to the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Warner Bros. believes the grim and gritty approach is the way to go as far as their own cinematic universe goes as evidenced by their dark approach to Superman in Man of Steel, the trailer for Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad. This may work at first, but the novelty of it will end quickly. What makes The Flash television series so refreshing is how far away from the Batman tone it is. It’s optimistic, funny, light hearted, and colorful. No dreary colors, no over serious faces, and 90% less angst.

The novelty of Suicide Squad, and Batman v. Superman has a problem. If it wasn’t for Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman the appeal of these movies is what they’re doing differently with Ben Affleck’s version of Batman, and Jared Leto’s version of the Joker. This’ll only last so long. They need movies with different tones with different characters. If they try to Batmanify characters like Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman (which is what it looks like they’re doing anyway) people will become fatigued. Marvel realizes an Iron Man movie should not have the same tone as a Captain America movie, but does Warner Bros. realize that?

The B-Listers will eventually inherit the Marvel movies but if Warner Bros. relies too much on the success of Batman to see what is unique about their other characters they’ll be doomed to fail before they even begin.

G. Willow Wilson’s Fantastic Observation on Genre Fiction and Tropes.

“Genre–whether it’s action/adventure, romance, scifi, fantasy, or superheroes–largely differentiates itself from “mainstream literature” by its heavy reliance on tropes. The lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The reluctant paladin called to defend his or her homeland. The white knight. The savior-sacrifice, who must pay the ultimate price to keep the darkness at bay. Good genre books and films succeed because the authors or artists have manipulated these tropes in a particularly skillful way, either by subverting them or unpacking them or, occasionally, pointing right at them. Some of the most stunning works of SF/F produced in the past couple of decades–those that have shifted the cultural conversation–have been those that rely the most heavily on tropes, on what we think we know about a certain genre, and which then proceed to show us, almost by slight-of-hand, what we have overlooked. The Walking Dead. Gravity. District 9. The superb Children of Men. What is masterful about each of these is that the creators exhibited no embarrassment whatsoever about their pulpy source material–instead, they dug deep into the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ and used tropes we might have considered all played out (the astronaut in trouble, the zombie apocalypse) to illustrate profoundly heartbreaking things about the human condition. That is, perhaps, genre in a nutshell: it is cliche turned on its head.”

Dr. Lepore’s Lament

May 14, 2015 at 03:03PM

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DC Comic’s Convergence and Marvel’s Secret Wars: Too Messy for Me.

I was reading The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett when I ran into this quote.

Then the Dean repeated the mantra that has had such a marked effect on the progress of knowledge throughout the ages.
“Why don’t we just mix up absolutely everything and see what happens?” he said.
And Ridcully responded with the traditional response.
“It’s got to be worth a try,” he said.”

That’s how I feel about these two events coming out of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. These are the premises straight from Wikipedia.

DC’s Convergence.

Set on a world outside time and space, Brainiac has used his access to Vanishing Point to roam the history of the DC Universe. Using it to abduct heroes from different lost and defunct eras (pre-Flashpoint, pre-Zero Hour and pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths) and across the multiverse, Brainiac amasses a collection of 40 cities. Taking them to this mysterious world within domes (very much like the one that he has kept the city of Kandor from Krypton in over DC publication history) he opens them to see what happens. The ensuing chaos pits various DC heroes and villains and their historic or multiverse counterparts against each other as a villain known as Telos arises to take advantage of it all.

Marvel’s Secret Wars

The basic premise involves the collision of the Marvel 616 Universe with the Ultimate Marvel Universe which destroys both. But pieces of the two universes – with other universes – are mysteriously saved and combined with other post collision universes creating the “Battleworld”.

All the DC characters you remember existing pre-New 52 are now trapped under a dome by Braniac fighting characters from other universes that you don’t give a damn about. Everything you can think of is being thrown at the wall for this event. Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are back but so is all the characters from Flashpoint. Kyle Rayner is in his ugly original costume once again but so is Hal Jordan in his Parallax costume. I guess they figured the New 52 never really did bring in new readers so they decided to write a comic that included years and years of history in eight forty page comics and hope nobody cries.

Meanwhile over at Marvel they’ve been trying to figure out a way to get rid of their failing Ultimate line for years, the problem is they created a hugely successful character in Mile Morales. The Ultimate Universe exists to this day because of MIles Morales but having a comic book universe for one successful character doesn’t make sense in the long run.

So they came up with this idea of smacking the Ultimate universe and the 616 Universe (which is the original Marvel universe for those not in the know) to see what kind of chaos comes out of these two universes having to coexist. If the event doesn’t end with Miles Morales in the regular Marvel Universe and the Ultimate line over with I’ll be surprised. The only other result I can think of is the Marvel Universe being completely reset.

It’s not the long history of both DC Comics and Marvel’s continuity that makes me disinterested. To me, it looks like when I try to spring clean by emptying all my shelves and draws at once then organize it all in one day. Just looking at the solicitations is such a mess it gives me a headache. How can you possibly get a coherent story by throwing in every version, every universe, every character of your entire history? How? Then how can you possibly write a good story with that? I don’t think you can and I certainly don’t think you can write one good enough to be $4.99 an issue.

To me, from both publishers, it sounds like Countdown to Final Crisis, a much chagrin and poorly review weekly series, all over again.

Sometimes in interviews comic book writers complain about continuity, that it can be a shackle to creativity in comics. This however, is too much freedom from continuity. Continuity can be a structure for which you write your story and to throw that away for an event comic in no way seems like a good idea.

Plus it’s kind of insulting to let fans have this taste of characters and histories that have gone away in comics for a couple months only to take it away in their post-event comic world. No thank you.

Featured image by Charlie Layton.

Killing Off Wolverine is the Right Decision by Marvel.

The Death of Wolverine is an event comic currently running at Marvel by Charles Soule and Steven McNiven and I could not be happier the 5’3 Canadian is being killed off. He has become the most oversaturated and uninteresting comic character without any clear or consistent motivation for years now.

He is an Avenger. He is an X-Men. He is part of a black-ops team. He founded and teaches at a new school for mutants. He was possesed by a demon. He discovered his past. He lost his healing factor. He does what has to be done e.g. murder, cut, and dismember people including his own son but doesn’t want young mutants to be on the frontlines when the X-Men are needed. This is just the last ten years of stories for Wolverine so obviously death might be one of the few storylines left to explore with this character. The problem is, with a timeline that basically perpetually frozen so their characters don’t age all of this jumbling of progress and motivation has made Logan impossible for me to care about.

The other problem is that he’s in every book. In one book he’s lecturing Scott Summers about how teenagers aren’t soldiers, in another he’s telling Captain America that sometimes killing is the only solution, in another he’s drinking beers with Spider-Man playing the gruff stoic friend to Peter Park and then in another he’s killing people with his teenage clone X-23 with the rest of his black ops team. The character needs consistency and if they need to kill him off to do that then I am all for it.

There is no change in comics, just the illusion of change. Wolverine coming back from the dead isn’t an eventuality but an inevitability. Hopefully he is in a limited capacity, like say, in one solo ongoing and one team book. If he’s going to be in the Avengers, don’t put him in X-Force or the X-Men. If he’s in one ongoing where he’s trying to fight moon mutant don’t have another one where he’s underneath the Earth’s soil marrying a mole woman. When you put him in all these different books so close together acting differently than he does in all the other books he appears in you’re telling me that Wolverine doesn’t matter, the storyline doesn’t matter, and making me well aware of the illusion of change.

For people who don’t read comics it is much easier to like Wolverine. He is like the definition of power fantasy. He has sharp blades coming out of his hand, he heals from almost anything, has a clear purpose in life (finding out his past) while doing and saying whatever he wants because he’s not to be messed with. Imagine what it’s like to be around that guy all the time but everytime you hang out he contradicts himself. That is what it’s like to read Wolverine in comics.

So go ahead Marvel, kill him. Make X-23 the new Wolverine for a couple of years, explore what motivates her and then when you bring Wolverine back give him a motivation I can get behind instead of plopping him into a story to raise sales of an issue. It makes sense to me. One of the most interesting storylines to happen to Batman in the last couple of years was for Bruce to get lost in time while Dick Grayson took on the mantle. While you’re at it, kill off Deadpool too.