Tag Archives: Marvel

Rant Alert- The Amazing Spider-Man

*Mild Spoiler Warning if you haven’t seen the film*

As an adult comic book geek I’ve come to a place where I’ve learned to accept one really tough truth- the movies I loved as a kid/teen sometimes just don’t hold up as well later. Christopher Reeve will always be Superman. I’ll always remember how incredibly cool I thought the Burton Batmobile was. (I had posters of it all over my room.) I’ll remember how much fun I had watching the original Spider-Man movie at the theater…3 times. However, if I’m being honest and objective, those movies just don’t hold up as well now.

The Chris Reeve Superman movies, while groundbreaking at the time, are really kind of cheesy and boring now (Addendum: The Donner Cut of Superman II is still pretty good). Chris Reeve is still a perfect Superman, but if you’re honest with yourself the plots were generally kind of lame, the humor was cheesy, and they could never agree on what Superman could actually do- memory-wiping kiss, eye beams that could rebuild walls, S logo that turns into a large fruit roll-up to trap enemies, to name a few. Burton’s Batman movies are just plain boring and ridiculous now. I can’t sit through the first one without getting bored, and Returns is so bad it’s painful. We won’t discuss the travesty that is the Schumacker movies that came afterwards. Raimi’s Spider-Man movies (not counting 3) are worshiped on many a fan-geek’s alter, but they aren’t the end-all be-all either. Kirsten Dunst was a horrible and boring Mary-Jane. Toby McGuire made a decent “geeky” Peter, but he was always a bit too whiny and his portrayal was severely lacking the cocky-wisecracking that makes the comic book Spidey so much fun. They, too, could be kind of cheesy, as they were made at a pre-Nolan time when comic book movies were still not treated as serious cinema. Raimi’s movies did a good job in helping to fix that mindset, but they were still just not quite on-par with the quality of storytelling we’ve been spoiled with in the last few years. I loved Spidey 1 and 2, but they’re not as fun for me to watch as Iron Man or Avengers. They were just too plodding and were missing the sense of fun that the comics have when Peter is being Spidey. As a Spider-Man fan (especially ASM and Ultimate) I was excited when they talked about rebooting, because the Raimi movies never really nailed it for me.

Now that The Amazing Spider-Man has hit Bluray the discussions about just how good a Spidey flick it is have begun again. I felt that over the summer Spidey got lost among the Avengers hype, and it never really got the recognition it deserved. It certainly had a few issues, a few of which had more to do with cuts that the studio made, but overall I felt that it was a very solid foundation for a Spider-Man series. Andrew Garfield brought a large range of emotion to the part that really sold it for me. He could convey emotion without going into “whiny” territory, and he sold the fun, cocky wisecracking when in the Spidey suit that was really missing in the Raimi series. Yeah, he could be kind of a jerk at first, but that was kind of the point. He’s a kid that’s had it rough, he’s lost people he cares about, and once he lost Uncle Ben he snapped for a while and was lashing out. It was authentic. It made sense. He never quite became the “comic version” of Spidey, either ASM or Ultimate, but there were large traces of it and I could definitely see him growing into that characterization with further movies. He had great chemistry with Emma Stone, who played Gwen. Their relationship felt natural, not forced, and I love that Webb didn’t play into the same tropes as so many other comic movies do. He treated the audience, and the characters, as intelligent people. They don’t drag out Peter telling Gwen who he is. (The audience I watched it with in the theater cheered when he webbed her in and kissed her). When Peter tells her he can’t see her anymore, she doesn’t act like a mindless twit. She realizes right away that it was because her dad made him promise. Best of all was how Aunt May was portrayed. She isn’t a doddering, blind old woman. You know by the end that she’s figured out who Peter is and what he’s been doing without the movie having to telegraph it. The scene after the last fight, when Peter limps in covered in bruises and cuts, and painfully pulls out the carton of eggs while muttering “I had a rough night” was beautifully done. The casting of Sally Field and Martin Sheen as May and Ben was inspired, and while many a fan had a problem with Ben not using the “With great power comes great responsibility” line, I think the way he referred to it when talking with Peter got the same point across in a meaningful way.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man was a great foundational movie. It sets the stage for what is very likely to be a great Spider-Man movie series that gets us closer to the Spidey we all know and love from the comics. I’m really looking forward to what they do with the next couple of movies. Maybe you felt the same way. Maybe not. Feel free to comment down below and discuss.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, and the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, both available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about both books can be found here.

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Rant Alert- Star Wars, Disney & Haters

I think I established my Star Wars pedigree when I did my rant about Clone Wars. Needless to say, I’m a big fan. Star Wars means a lot to me, outside of the traditional geek reasoning. As a kid growing up Star Wars was my “happy place”. I’m a “thick” guy and grew up that way. I was picked on a lot. I had a lot of other issues going on as well, such as struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts (I tried to hang myself when I was 11). Star Wars was always the thing I could get lost in, be it the movies, books, or comics. I could escape my reality for a bit in that galaxy far, far away and when I was done things didn’t seem so bad. For a kid like me that was a very important thing. So when I say Star Wars is important to me now you have some idea of just how much and why.

I got the news about yesterday’s big announcement in the form of a text message from my girlfriend. Like most other people I was completely shocked and then I checked to make sure it didn’t inexplicably become April 1st somehow. Disney bought out Lucas? New Star Wars movies? What the what?!

I read all the articles, watched the videos of Lucas and company discussing the deal and the future of Star Wars, and then I headed straight for Facebook & Twitter- like you do. Most of my close friends and fellow nerds had the same general reaction I had- cautious optimism. Lucas has had a profound impact on movies- no one denies that. He is a genius in his own way, and as a fan I owe him a great deal of gratitude. That said, Star Wars has always been best when Lucas was a “creative consultant” and other talented people were left to do the heavy lifting. The original trilogy worked so well because Lucas had no choice but to make it a collaborative effort. Empire Strikes Back is a perfect example as Lucas came up with the story and produced but left the rest to other people. It’s the reason it is the best film of the entire series. As another example The Clone Wars, as i stated previously, has grown to be a genuinely good show. Sure it has a few episodes each season that fall flat, but overall it’s quite good. The reason for that is Lucas has a lot of talented, creative people working on the show, and he’s only there to give his two cents. The prequels, in contrast, were the way they were because Lucas had complete creative control and there was no one to tell him otherwise when he did horrible things like Jar Jar Binks.

With Kathleen Kennedy (who has a great professional pedigree) in charge while Lucas is only a “creative consultant” and is otherwise retired, we have a real shot at getting the kinds of movies we all hoped the prequels would be. That’s not even mentioning the TV shows and other additional movies that will result (Pixar Star Wars anyone?).  As I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter I found exactly what I was expecting- a ton of people generally being hipster naysayers. You have the “rape/take a dump on my childhood” set; the “Lucas sold out!” set, which genuinely amuses me to no end; the douchebags who are going to crap on everything regardless because they think it’s “cool”; and then the largest group, who are genuinely concerned and/or just outright negative because the prequels completely turned them off towards Star Wars. This last group I can completely understand. Whoever ends up helming Ep. 7 is going to have a HUGE job ahead of them, because the movie is going to have to be damn near perfect to win back a lot of the goodwill that was squandered with the last three movies. I still have hope. Call me cautiously optimistic. Here’s why:

Let’s look at Disney’s track record and ignore the ridiculous “The mouse owns everything and they’re going to turn Star Wars into the mouseketeers in space!” people. Disney currently owns Pixar, Miramax, & Marvel. All three have not only NOT been turned into something they were not previously, but they have arguably improved greatly since the Mouse took them over. Let’s look at Marvel specifically because it’s the closest example to the current situation with Lucasfilm. There were cries of “DOOOOOOM!” when the deal happened a few years back, with people saying the same kinds of things as they’re saying now about Star Wars. What really happened? None of it. The comics side of things pretty much kept doing what they always have done (for better or for worse). Marvel Studios was now able to make the kinds of movies that fans and general audiences who know nothing of comics want to see. The results have been a shared Marvel movie universe with awesome quality ultimately resulting in a movie that a lot of people never thought they’d be able to pull off well- The Avengers. You remember The Avengers don’t you? The third highest grossing film ever? The movie that was pretty much an overwhelming hit with both critics and audiences around the world? Yeah, that movie. Under the Mouse.

What I’m saying is let’s give them a chance to show us what they have in mind. Lets stop peeing in the Cheerios of fans who are actually excited and hopeful that their favorite universe might get the treatment we’ve been wanting for decades. That’s not to say I don’t have my own reservations- most notably what might happen with the comics once the contract with Dark Horse runs out. However, even in those areas I’m willing to wait and see rather than freak out. For the first time in over a decade I’m excited about Star Wars. I feel like that teenager again who would hunt the internet for rumors, any rumors, about the new movie. That guy who talked for hours with friends both online and off about the possibilities. I missed that guy, and I’m hoping he’ll stick around for a while.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, and the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, both available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about both books can be found here.

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Rant Alert- Marvel & DC

I’ve always been interested in comics and comic characters. Like any little boy who grew up in the 80’s I used to run around with towels tied around my neck and pretend to be Superman or Batman. I watched the Chris Reeve Superman movies; I begged my parents to take me to see Burton’s Batman. My room was covered with posters. I had all the toys and would act out my own stories with them. I waited with baited anticipation every time a new episode of Batman: The Animated Series would come on. I loved the idea of superheroes.

I never got the chance to really read many comics, because it was a habit that was just too expensive. I’d occasionally be able to read piles of my friend’s comics whenever I went over to their house, but it wasn’t until my first year of college that I got the chance to really start a collection of my own. When I worked for a bookstore as a summer job I was able to pick up with my store discount Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and the incredibly awesome Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Like everyone else, I loved the Killing Joke, but it was Kingdom Come that really had an impact on me. I was a pastoral ministry major at the time, with the intent on going into the ministry after I graduated (which I did). The way that Waid and Ross weaved the book of Revelation from the Bible into the story about DC’s biggest heroes mesmerized me. I didn’t even know who half the characters were, and I had to constantly refer to the beautiful double spread character pages in the back of the book to know who was who, but that didn’t matter- I was in love.

A year later me and my two best friends were living together and running a summer camp for a local church in Chattanooga, a church I’d later go on to work for full time as a licensed minister. Matt was a huge comics nerd and had brought a large part of his comics collection with him from Memphis, so every night after work I’d spend a majority of my time (when I wasn’t playing Knights of the Old Republic) reading comics. Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, I devoured them all. At the end of the summer I spent nearly my entire paycheck on starting my own collection. Three years later and my library of trade paperbacks rivaled Matt’s.

Comics have been a passion of mine ever since, and it’s been a dream of both myself and Shawn to create comics for a living. I have a huge amount of respect for many of the creators working today, but I, like many fans, have grown increasingly concerned with the direction that both of the “Big Two” have been going the past few years. While the movie side of things, especially for Marvel, has become brilliant, the comics side feels more like it’s about short-termed planning rather than ensuring a legacy of quality for the long-term. I understand completely that it is a business. As an indie writer I know all too well how difficult it is to market and sell your creations.

I didn’t have a problem with the New 52 sorta-reboot of the DC universe. I was actually excited because I felt like it was something that has been needed for a long time. The problem is the relaunch, while financially successful, has felt incredibly “short sighted”. It’s become obvious over the past year that the reboot wasn’t completely thought through as much as it should have been. A reboot meant to correct continuity problems and start fresh caused more problems than it solved in many areas, mostly because DC failed to fully commit. The bat-family’s history is “mostly intact” but is instead crammed into 5 years, where some things have happened, some haven’t, and some just wasn’t thought through and has changed several times over the course of the last year *cough*Tim Drake*cough*. The same could be said for Green Lantern, though the problems there have been less substantial given that much of the GL universe has been pretty self contained away from Earth. Still, it leaves the long-time reader feeling as though the whole thing was more a short-term money grab than the long-term quality enhancer it was originally sold as. That’s not to say that good things haven’t come out of the reboot: Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run has been nothing short of amazing. Wonder Woman got a much needed shot in the arm. Animal Man and Swamp Thing were both surprisingly engaging, and they actually made Aquaman a legit hero again rather than a joke. But overall, the line-wide quality, constant shuffling of creative teams, inconsistent storytelling, continuity confusion, and creators very publicly breaking down have all tarnished the initiative.

On Marvel’s side they’re entering their own not-reboot, and many of the decisions thus far have left fans wondering if that same short-sighted decision making is in effect there as well. In my personal opinion the 616 Marvel universe as a whole has been in trouble for a couple of years now (with the exception of a few select titles like Waid’s run on Daredevil and Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man). Marvel’s done one “Event” after another to the point where in some cases they’re already promoting the next “big event” while the current one is still going on. Readers often haven’t had a chance to see the consequences of the larger story in the stand-alone titles before another “big thing” happens which often renders the previous stuff moot. Then the Avengers scored HUGE at the box office, and now we have 40 Avengers titles in the lineup of the new Now! initiative. Tell me, what’s so special about being an Avenger when EVERYONE is an Avenger? Do we need the same 3 characters in 15 different books? I’m exaggerating here, obviously, but it still feels like decisions are being made that are more about selling comics than about quality storytelling. Again, I understand it’s a business, but it doesn’t make sense to me to cater to supposed “new” fans that might pick up an issue or two because they like the movies only to alienate the long-time loyal readers that regularly buy multiple comics each week. Is there no real balance point there?

Then there’s digital comics. I’m a HUGE fan of digital. I love having direct, instant access to stuff. I’ve gone largely digital for both my comics and my novel collections. I still like having hard copy trades for my collection, but for singles digital is great for me. I’m very glad that the comics industry has finally embraced digital content in a big way. Where I have the problem is it is utterly ridiculous for us to have to pay full price for a digital copy of something that we, as a consumer, don’t even technically own.  Again, I understand the reasoning behind it: they don’t want to scare retailers who are afraid that digital is going to put brick and mortar store out of business. I get it. Still, it’s incredibly unfair to the consumer at the prices we’re currently being charged. $4 for something that takes 5 minutes to read and we don’t even have a physical copy that we can claim ownership of? Horsecrap. Both DC and Marvel would find that those new readers they’re so interested in finding and keeping might be much more apt to check stuff out if they didn’t have to sell their children to be able to afford it. Hell, especially if those new readers are kids. How many parents can afford dropping $20+ a week in comics? I know MANY fans that would gladly buy dozens of titles a month for a cheaper price in digital and then would still buy the trade for their collections. You’d get them twice. Dolla dolla billz ya’ll.

Casual fans, parents buying for their kids, or fans of the movies who are interested in checking out the books are much more apt to make purchases digitally, even on a whim, than they are to actually hunt down a brick and mortar comic shop. Even ignoring that, it’s still a pile of crap for publishers to charge consumers the same price for a digital object they don’t own as they do for a hard copy of the same product- and that’s for ANY publisher, be it comics or traditional novels. It’s the reason why Shawn and I agreed that our digital products would ALWAYS be cheaper than the physical copies. In fact, the digital copies of the two books we currently have for sale are the lowest price point we could charge for our system of distribution, and it’ll continue to be that way for everything we do, be it a novel or a comic. Period.

I love the comic industry. I want to see it flourish, especially now that the movies have made comics less a “kids thing” or a “nerd thing”. Now is the time where the comic’s industry could really shine as a medium, but it feels like the two biggest companies are squandering away the opportunity with short-sighted cash grabs, rather than focusing on telling quality, engaging stories that will keep the new readers they may gain wanting to come back. There’s a balance there between quality and need. I really hope that they can find it, especially now that more and more creators have been jumping ship mostly due to frustration with many of the things I’ve been talking about. Fans can be jackasses and whiny b*tches. We can be very fickle, and  they’ll never be able to please everyone. In the end, however, most of that passion, no matter how misdirected or inappropriately expressed it may be, is only because they love these characters. I love these characters, and I love many of the creative teams that are working on them. I’d just like to see things be more about the quality, and less about the quantity. When the quality is there I truly believe the rest will take care of itself eventually. I think the movies are proving that now- like with the Nolan Batman films and Avengers. I just hope that the people in charge of both companies will realize that soon. /endrant

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