Love it or hate it, The AMC channel hit series The Walking Dead is a mirror of our culture. The show is nominally an apocalyptic zombie series but it is really about how people deal with a total societal collapse.
The answer is: Badly. Usually very badly.
Episode #14 of season 4, “The Grove,” is a thoughtful and tragic examination of what a society should or can do with a psychopath. (Spoilers!) Set in the woodlands of the American south after a zombie apocalypse, in this episode a group of five refugees find a cabin to stop and rest for a few days. There, disturbed young Lizzie goes homicidal. She stabs another little girl to death. Her mother-figure, Carol, then asks her to “look at the flowers” while she prepares to execute her, the only solution possible in their terrible new world.
The clues were all there, laid out carefully in past episodes. The girl had an obsession with capturing and cutting up live rats. She had sudden outbreaks of violent rage and anger. She was fascinated with zombies and couldn’t distinguish between the living and the dead.
The clues are all here in the real world as well, and we are no better at preventing the slaughter when a mentally disturbed person decides to kill. The Sandy Hook killer, the Aurora theater killer, the murderer at Virginia Tech, the killers at Columbine High School, all exhibited distinct indicators of violence and psychosis. All of these killers were under psychiatric care and on medically prescribed drugs. Each of them showed signs like little Lizzie on The Walking Dead, and her path ended the same as theirs, in blood.
In “The Grove,” just as in America today, we wait until a disturbed person becomes a killer and only then do we do something about them. Only then do they receive the confines of a cell or a grave. We can do better than this. Unlike Carol on The Walking Dead, we have options.
In the heartbreaking and frightening essay “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” the mother of a mentally disturbed boy explains how she cannot find care for him. “With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill.” This mother doesn’t want to put her innocent (but violent and disturbed) twelve-year-old boy in prison. Would you like to live in a world where people are jailed for crimes they might commit? Instead, we need to re-build our mental health care system in this country and that includes treatment centers and hospitals. If we don’t, we will continue to endure the slaughter of innocents at the hands of the mentally ill.
The Fantastic Four returns to theaters in 2015 with a new and controversial cast. The New York Daily News reports:
Within minutes of the bombshell reports that Fox has found its titular superheroes in the Fantastic Four reboot, naysayers flamed on social media to pick apart the reported selections of actors Miles Teller (Mr. Fantastic), Kate Mara (Invisible Woman), Michael B. Jordan (Human Torch) and Jamie Bell (The Thing) .
Complaints ranged from the good points (Teller’s track record of one-liner spewing parts is a poor fit for the super-serious Reed Richards) to the bad (Mara isn’t blonde) to the ugly (Jordan is not Caucasian like the character in the comics).
The author leaves unclear what makes that last compliant “ugly.”
Changing the racial identity of an established character in order to cast the best actor for the job works in many situations. The Avengers‘ Nick Fury was Irish in the comics long before Samuel L. Jackson portrayed him onscreen.
The offbeat casting choices in Zack Synder’s Man of Steel worked despite diverging wildly from past iterations. Laurence Fishburne starred as Perry White. Photographer Jimmy Olsen became a Latina intern named Jenny. And red-head Amy Adams portrayed the traditionally brunette Lois Lane.
However, there are times when a character’s physical characteristics or racial identity serve a narrative purpose. When Idris Elba, a black actor, was cast as the Norse god Heimdall in Marvel Studios’ Thor, it seemed like a gratuitous bit of multiculturalism. Then again, the Marvel version of Asgardians prove more alien than divine, so perhaps racial diversity makes sense in that context.
But casting a black man to play Human Torch makes no sense whatsoever. The character’s given name is Johnny Storm, biological full-brother to sister Sue, the Invisible Woman played by the decisively Caucasian Kate Mara. Unless this turns out to be some kind of artsy color-blind thing like you might see in a stage play, the relationship between these characters which has been integral to past narratives will have to be changed.
Will one of them be adopted? Will they be related at all? I suppose it could be handled in any number of ways which would not necessarily throw off the story, but for what purpose? Why do this? The only answer I can come up with is gratuitous multiculturalism, which this black author regards as an insulting bit of pandering.
Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.
This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle, released by Dark Horse Comics.
What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.
Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.
America is celebrating The Beatles’ Jubilee. 50 years ago this year The Fab Four landed on this side of the Atlantic and the ’60s officially began. (At least, that is, according to PBS.) With the announcement that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, will reunite at the Grammys on January 26 and perform a concert to air on February 9, 50 years to the day of their Ed Sullivan premiere, it would seem that Beatlemania (unlike much of organized religion) is making a resurgence in pop culture. Think the Fab Four are so yesterday? Think again:
A 2009 Pew Research Center survey placed the Beatles in the top four favorite music acts of Americans ages 16 to 64 — suggesting the band that helped create the 1960s Generation Gap ultimately helped us come together. Perhaps that’s the Beatles’ greatest gift: music that can be shared not only across the universe, but across generational lines.
Imagine a mathematician trying to quantify each Beatles’ album with Martha Stewart-like graphics. Wait, you don’t have to, just check out one Millennial’s 4 Simple Charts Visualizing The Beatles’ Major Albums and you’ll find out that The Beatles aren’t just for rock n’rollers, they’re for nerds, too. ”A new project on Kickstarter aims to tap into the passion of teenyboppers young and old withVisualising the Beatles, a book of infographics about each of the Fab Four’s major records.” Seriously: If that doesn’t make you want to start a Revolution, nothing will.
Huff Po details A Comprehensive Guide to The Beatles’ Invasion of Comic Culture for Millennial comic fans:
“Thanks to a book by Enzo Gentile and Fabio Schiavo, appropriately titled “The Beatles in Comic Strips,” we’ve been enlightened on the Fab Four’s history of comic book appearances. From subtle cameos to entire issues, the group managed to squeeze their iconic faces and psychedelic style into more than a few works of comic art.”
In March, Vans will release four pairs of Beatles-themed shoes for their Millennial audience:
“The most expensive of the bunch, the Sk8-Hi Reissue, features stylized portraits of all four Beatles running up the ankles apropos to cartoon portraits of each as they were animated for the film. The other shoes each feature psychedelic tableaus from the film. The Classic Slip-Ons play off the movie’s Sea of Monsters, showing trippy marine life swimming in an ocean of pink. The Era shoes depict all four band members, some wearing rainbow pants, hanging out in a yellow garden. And the final pair, a model called Authentic, is adorned with a pattern that reads “Allyouneedislove” running over and over again and into itself in purple, yellow and green.”
Like perpetually conflicted district attorney Harvey Dent, I find myself of two minds regarding the new Fox television show Gotham based in the years before Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl. Early indications proved more inspiring than recent news. Entertainment Weekly reports:
…The network’s licensing deal with Warner Bros. includes the rights to ALL the classic Batman characters — The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin and Batman himself. They will all be young versions of the characters and the show will tell how each became the psychologically damaged character we love today.
“This is all of the classic Batman characters,” [Fox chairman Kevin] Reilly said during the panel. “It follows the arc of how they all became what they were. I’ve read the script its really good. It’s going to be this operatic soap that has a slightly larger-than-life quality.”
Batman will be followed from the time he’s a child to “the final episode of the series when he puts on the cape.”
That formula should sound familiar to viewers of Smallville, the ten season exploration of Clark Kent’s journey from high school junior to Man of Steel. Around the time of Smallville’s debut, a young Bruce Wayne show was considered by Warner Brothers. It was reportedly scuttled by Christopher Nolan, who did not want to shift focus from The Dark Knight film franchise.
Nolan’s objection may factor into why we currently have Arrow, a series on the CW network following lesser known billionaire vigilante Oliver Queen as he battles many of the same villains who make up Batman’s rogues gallery – Deadshot, Ra’s al Ghul, and Deathstroke among them. In many ways, Arrow seems to beat around the Batman bush.
The announcement of Fox’s Gotham, timed as it was around the reveal of director Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel in which Batman will headline, seemed likely to steer clear of Bruce Wayne and focus on police lieutenant and future commissioner James Gordon. That led many to believe that Gotham might be a police procedural set in a comic book world, much as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a secret agent thriller set in a comic book world. These new revelations from Fox head Reilly indicate that Nolan’s lockout has been lifted, and the adventures of young Bruce Wayne are upon us.
The Muslim terrorist is a cliché. But only in real life. And in post-9/11 comic books, “Muslim superheroes” are becoming a cliché. As a cartoonist and as a recovered Muslim working on an anti-jihad graphic novel called The Infidel, featuring Pigman, I’ve identified certain truths that Marvel and DC Comics have to evade in order to shove their “Muslim superheroes” down the throats of their readers.
Before I move on to my list, I want to add that I put “Muslim superheroes” in quotes because Marvel and DC Comics want to promote “Muslim superheroes” without promoting Muslim superheroes. They want to promote their fantasy version of what they would like Muslim superheroes to be, not Islam’s version. As I’ve argued in my work, a good Muslim by our standards is a bad Muslim by Islamic standards. Therefore, a true Muslim superhero would be a Muslim supervillain.
1. We Are At War.
9/11/01 was 12 years ago, yet those behind the attack are still undefeated. The greatest state sponsors of terrorism on earth — Saudi Arabia and Iran — operate as if 9/11 never happened. And we’re still not ready to identify Islam as the enemy’s motivation. Can you imagine American comic book publishers during World World II publishing Italian, Japanese and German superhero comic books? That would have been unthinkable back then. Almost as unthinkable as it currently is to see Marvel and DC create anti-jihad superheroes. While Marvel and DC are presenting Islam to us in the most politically correct possible way through their comics, in the real world Muslims are on the warpath, killing non-Muslims Every. Single. Day. These “Muslim superheroes” are in the end a way for liberals to deny the reality that an entire part of the world is at war with us, while we do everything we can to focus on Muslims who are not at war with us, as if they’re the true representatives of a violent religion like Islam.
The victims of September 11, 2001.
The Most Controversial Voice Ever in in the History of Recorded Music, Steve Taylor, is Back. And He’d Better Behave. (UPDATE)
Since I gave up hope of ever expecting to hear from Steve Taylor again, I felt a lot better. Because I blame Steve Taylor for pretty much everything.
Sure, I could blame myself for picking up his Meltdown record back in 1984. That was a fateful choice. But I was a kid. How was I to know how damaging that record would turn out to be?
Steve Taylor was already controversial back then. He had debuted in 1983 with a mini-LP (that was a thing in the 1980s, Google it), I Want to be a Clone, that made an awful lot of people mad at him. They had every right to be. In “Bad Rap” he seethed “You save the whales/You save the seals/You save whatever’s cute and squeals/But you kill that thing that’s in the womb/Would not want no baby boom.” Green Peace denounced it, but they couldn’t deny it. In the title song, he mocked “Be a clone and kiss conviction good night/Clone-liness is next to Godliness, right?/I’m grateful that they show the way ’cause I could never know the way/To serve Him on my own?/I want to be a clone!”
Then he did it again, in “I Manipulate.” There was pretty much no one and no issue that Steve Taylor wouldn’t write about. He’s arrogant like that.
To a 14-year-old Christian, Taylor’s mix of art, humor, rebellion, truth and nasal vocals was just too much to resist. “We Don’t Need No Colour Code” beat up on Bob Jones before it was a mainstream thing. The haunting “Hero” took the nice-boy notion of being something more than another corporate type and turned it all on its head. “Meltdown” burned the rich and famous long before the Kardashians showed up to beg for every thinking person’s derision.
Then, there was this hideous cover photo on CCM. It set the magazine publishing industry back 10 years. The music industry almost never recovered.
Steve Taylor taught me that it was possible to be right with God and still have a healthy skepticism for those who claimed to speak for Him, and that it was possible to make a difference in one way or another. What a jerk. I’d probably be rich and own a Gulfstream if not for him.
Taylor’s entire career is littered with wickedness. He ripped amoral state-run education in “Lifeboat” decades before CSCOPE and Common Core showed up. He tore up celebrity cults in “Jim Morrison’s Grave.” Then he got lost in “Sock Heaven.” I followed him the whole time, and even saw him wear a bizarre confetti suit in concert once. But it’s all his fault.
The reason I started caring about issues more than just having a regular job? At least partly Steve Taylor’s fault. The reason I started wanting more from the artists I support than just a good back-beat I can badly dance to? Also partly Steve Taylor’s fault. My collection of Flannery O’ Connor books? His fault too. Have fun Googling that one. The two years I wasted in the Hindu Kush searching for the perfect backup band? Totally Steve Taylor’s fault. The money I blew on yodeling lessons because he made the Swiss mountain call rock star cool? Absolutely, 100% Steve Taylor’s fault. I’ll never forgive him. Neither will anyone who’s ever heard me yodel.
So now he’s at it again. After 20 years of producing hits like “Kiss Me” with Sixpence None the Richer, being the shadowy hand behind the Newsboys (yep, they’re both his fault) and making movies, Taylor is going to inflict himself on the music world again. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ll be right there with him. I’m already backing his next album on Kickstarter. I can’t help myself. If you know what’s good for you, you won’t join in. But I’m living proof that people who like Steve Taylor never seem to know what’s good for them.
Update: I’m not sure yet who deserves the most blame, but they’ve made their goal. There WILL BE another Steve Taylor album.
We're all slightly in shock at the size and speed of your generosity. I'll send out a video update later today. http://t.co/Am5B7kGwgh
— Steve Taylor (@theperfectfoil) November 27, 2013
If you love movies, you owe it to yourself to subscribe to the AMC Theaters channel on YouTube. You will enjoy the thoughtful commentary offered by the crew at AMC Movie Talk.
Responding to a viewer question asking whether Hollywood will ever make an action hero or superhero film with a gay leading character, AMC’s John Campea offers several well-considered insights, none more so than this one:
The other thing I think is a little bit less nefarious than homophobia. And that’s simply the idea of cognitive identification. A lot of times, when we’re watching superhero films like – ridiculous guys like me. I watch Captain America and there’s a part of me that feels like I can be that guy. When I’m watching Iron Man, there’s a ridiculously disconnected [from reality] part of my brain that thinks, “I can be Tony Stark.” There’s an association with it… There’s very few things that are more strongly embedded within us, with our identity, than our sexuality.
The moment Captain America starts making out with another man, the ability of a heterosexual male to relate drops off substantially. Campea goes on to apply that observation beyond the context of sexual orientation to race, dialect, and other cultural differences.
Let’s say we see a guy, a character onscreen who is a small – speaks broken English – Asian gentleman. We have a hard time identifying with that. That’s not us. We can’t identify with him. And so we don’t really get attracted to those types of characters, those types of movies, and those types of projects.
It comes down to business and math. There just aren’t enough gay men in the world to justify catering a big budget action film to their particular tastes.
There’s a documentary coming, too, which I’ll watch with a big bowl full of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.
H/T, Virginia Postrel.
Late-night comic Conan O’Brien tweeted Friday night: “Marvel Comics is introducing a new Muslim Female superhero. She has so many more special powers than her husband’s other wives.” The predictable self-righteous firestorm ensued.
O’Brien was referring to “Kamala Khan,” Marvel Comics’ new Muslim superhero, unveiled with great fanfare last week. They are only introducing this Muslim superhero because of the hugely successful post-9/11 campaign by Islamic supremacists and their Leftist allies to portray Muslims as victims of “Islamophobia” and “hatred” — when actually the incidence of attacks on innocent Muslims is very low (not that a single one is acceptable or justified), and the entire “Islamophobia” campaign is an attempt to intimidate people into thinking that there is something wrong with fighting against jihad terror and Islamic supremacism.
Will Kamala Khan fight against jihadis? Will Marvel be introducing a counter-jihad superhero? I expect that the answer is no on both counts.
In any case, O’Brien’s tweet was just a silly quip, but as the Ayatollah Khomeini said, “There is no humor in Islam.” One of those who were offended wrote: “I didn’t know that @ConanOBrien had Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller writing for him now. Interesting.” A legion of Leftists descended upon O’Brien’s Twitter feed, accusing him of being a “f***ing racist scumbag” and “Islamophobic,” and his joke of being “kinda tasteless,” “really ignorant and terrible,” “in very poor taste,” and “f***ing gross and racist.”
“Racist”? What race is Muslim polygamy again? I keep forgetting. O’Brien’s joke has a factual basis. The Qur’an says: “And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” (4:3)
But as O’Brien is discovering now, calling attention to uncomfortable truths about Islam is “racist” and wrong, even if they’re undeniably…truths. I am sure that Conan O’Brien will not make this mistake again: almost immediately after people began criticizing him for it, he took the offending tweet down. After all, he wants to stay on television; bringing uncomfortable aspects of Islam to light is the quickest way to be read out of polite and decent society. Just ask Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, formerly darlings of the Leftist intelligentsia — until they touched that third rail of American public discourse and dared to criticize the violence and brutality that Islamic jihadists commit and justify by reference to Islamic texts and teachings.
It’s been all of six months since the last so-so Marvel superhero movie, and yet here comes another weak entry: Thor: The Dark World. Despite the hype, this one is easily skippable. Here are six reasons why the Thor franchise is strictly B-list.
1) A hammer? Seriously?
Thor’s all-powerful weapon “mjolnir” is simply and literally a blunt instrument. What else can you do with a hammer except smash things with it? It’s not like flying, or the ability to cast webs out of your palms: It doesn’t open up a world of possibility.
A hammer is such a short extension of reach and force that Thor might as well just punch enemies in the face. And when he winds up the hammer by swinging it in super-fast circles he just looks as ridiculous as a character from an old Warner Brothers cartoon.
Superhero weapons are supposed to be deeply marinated in myth, not in cheap jokes, and yet you can tell from Thor: The Dark World exactly how seriously the writers take this supposed all-powerful item when Thor, on a visit to Earth, simply hangs the object on an ordinary coat rack. Isn’t the hammer supposed to be so heavy only Thor can lift it? Why doesn’t it rip the coat rack off the wall and maybe smash through the floor below it?
Even as the follow-up to Man of Steel introduces Ben Affleck’s iteration of Batman to the rebooted DC Comics universe, the Dark Knight’s ally in the Gotham City police department, Commissioner Gordon, lands his own series on FOX. IGN reports:
The series will focus on a young Detective James Gordon and “the villains that made Gotham famous.” Bruno Heller (Rome, The Mentalist) is writing the Commissioner Gordon, which will presumably launch during the 2014-2015 TV season. Gotham will take place before Gordon meets Batman, who will not be a part of the series.
The news comes as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. premieres on ABC to rave reviews. Should we view this as the dawn of a new trend, superhero series without superheroes in them? Hopefully, the Gotham show proves to be more than a conceptual copycat.
Marvel Studios has done an incredible job managing its brand, maintaining an on-screen continuity which ties together its many separate franchises. In the wake of Marvel’s The Avengers’ tremendous box office success, it was apparent that Warner Bros. execs were eager to dust off the Justice League and get in on the superhero cash stream. The move to follow Man of Steel with a Batman/Superman team-up seems to indicate the studio’s desire to fast-track a DC Comics film dynasty to rival Marvel’s.
Loved The Avengers. Loved, loved, loved that movie. After one viewing it was added to our short & selective Go-To Movies playlist in Ye Olde iTunes Movie Library. The wife loves it, the kids love it, and I think the dog even loves it.
That’s why I’m pretending the new Avengers spin-off TV show, Agents of SHIELD, doesn’t even exist. The reason? They brought back Agent Phil Coulson. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great character and Clark Gregg plays him with just the right mix of authority and humanity. But Coulson died for a reason in the movie. His death meant something. Only by a beloved character getting stabbed-through-the-chest dead was Nick Fury able to forge his dysfunctional group of feuding heroes into a team.
Take that away, and you take away what made The Avengers something more than just popcorn fare. Coulson’s death didn’t just galvanize the heroes; it galvanized the audience.
Yes, I know comic books bring back characters from the dead all the time. But you’re talking about decades-old franchises in need of freshening up every now then. The Avengers is a movie that came out just last year — it still has that new franchise smell. It needs freshening up like I need water in my brandy glass at bedtime. What the hell good did that ever do anybody?
So it doesn’t matter to me how compelling of a backstory Joss Whedon & Co. come up with to explain Coulson’s return, or how much success I wish for Gregg. I’m not going to watch this show, period.
Bring Coulson back for the inevitable reboot, please. But he fell a hero, and that’s how we should remember him.
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit
If you need help digesting the news that Ben Affleck has been cast to play Batman in the 2015 sequel to Man of Steel, feast upon the “true Hollywood story” above. In it, Kevin Smith relates the tale of how he came within a hairsbreadth of writing a Superman film which would have been directed by Batman auteur Tim Burton and starred Nicolas Cage as the super-powered Kryptonian. Smith demonstrates in entertaining detail the fundamental problem which plagues the development of big-budget blockbusters, namely executives and producers whose talents belong in the business office taking creative control of properties they know nothing about.
While the overwhelming majority of reaction on social media to the news about Affleck as the Caped Crusader has been negative, the occasional Pollyanna pipes in to remind us of how we first reacted to the casting of Christian Bale in Batman Begins and Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Indeed, Affleck may surprise us all with an inspired performance none could reasonably expect. I’m not taking that bet though.
Some of the better reaction on Twitter:
Six movies into the X-Men series, it’s clear that this is the superhero franchise with the most overt and unapologetic leftist sympathies. As the series continues with The Wolverine, let’s review some of the most outrageously politicized elements of the saga. Here are the top four loony leftist lies that sneaked into the X-Men movies.
1. Animal rights trump human rights.
The Wolverine begins with the title figure (Hugh Jackman) living like a caveman in the lonely Yukon, where he can’t stop himself from fighting for justice and righting wrongs. He comes across a grizzly bear that’s been fatally wounded with what turns out to be a poison arrow. This kind of hunting may be poor sportsmanship and it may be illegal, but what Wolverine does is far worse: He finds the hunter in a bar, slaps him around and rams one of the man’s own poison arrows into the man’s hand, leaving him to die. Rough justice? No, that’s just murder. Sorry, X-Men, but hunters are not evil and a bear’s life and a man’s are not equivalents.
Hugh Jackman owns the on screen role of Wolverine. Next week, he dons the sideburns again, and with a “Snikt!,” The Wolverine takes on the Yakuza and the Silver Samurai.
In a recent interview, he told Collider he’d love to see all the movies in the Marvel universe start crossing over:
When speaking with Jackman, Steve asked him what it would take to get all of these characters together onscreen, and the actor noted that he’s been asking the same exact question:
“Mate, I ask the same question. I literally asked the same question the other day to Tom from Marvel who works with all the other studios, he works with Sony and Fox, that’s his job to liaise. I said, ‘Man, can this happen?’ and he goes ‘Look, it’s not gonna be easy because you’re working with different studios and they’re their properties.’ But I believe—maybe I’m optimistic, I understand at Marvel they’ve got The Avengers, they’ve got a lot of big things going on, but at some point I just find it almost impossible that there’s not a way to bring Iron Man, all the Avengers characters, Wolverine, the X-Men characters, Spider-Man, and somehow get them in together.”
Being the fan boy that I am, I’d just prefer Marvel took back the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-man and rebooted them in movies more faithful to the comics, but that’s about as likely as Jackman’s wish coming true.
But, if Marvel hadn’t sold the rights to all its characters and could make crossover movies as frequently as they make crossover comics, there are a few people I’d love to see Wolverine battle on an IMAX screen.
This weekend I dropped my eldest son off at Boy Scout camp for the first time. He’ll be gone for a week.
Prior to leaving, I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I know the boy had been. I asked him how he was feeling.
“Good,” he said.
“Nervous?” I asked.
“A lot,” he replied.
I smiled, ruffled his hair a little and told him he’d be just fine. I don’t know if it eased any of his worries. I hope it did.
Later, when it was time for me to leave him at camp, it hit me.
That feeling in your gut. It was then I knew how the boy was feeling leading up to that moment.
As he was about to walk off with his troop to start his week away, I pulled him close.
“I love you, son,” I said and kissed him on his forehead.
“Love you too,” he said and joined his group.
Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!
Every week, in addition to my Wednesday Bad Advice column featuring questions from you, the readers, I’ll be doing a Thursday advice column for fictional characters, celebrities, and anyone else who didn’t ask for it. If you have suggestions for characters or celebrities you’d like me to give Bad Advice to, send them to the email address above!
Dear Bad Advice,
My brother gets all the glory and I’m done. I want to be a hero too. I have the skills, I just need to get out there and make a difference. But my brother always seems to beat me to the punch, and it doesn’t help that our dad favors him. People look at our family and think we live in Valhalla, but it’s not all perfect and I think I need to make a break with the whole rotten crew if I’m ever going to shine. Will my big chance ever come, or should I go ahead and create a little chaos to make my own opportunities?
- Loki Self Esteem
This is going to sound like bad advice, but stop trying to be a hero.
This one comes with a serious SPOILER ALERT. If you have not gotten out to see Man of Steel and plan to do so, you may not want to read further. The same goes if you’ve somehow managed to get this far without seeing each entry in The Dark Knight trilogy.
Throughout the Dark Knight films, Bruce Wayne pursues his crusade against crime following a single rule. He refuses to kill. That sole self-imposed limitation becomes a huge liability in the second film once his enemies begin to leverage it against him. Nevertheless, he abides by it until the end, never killing even when the act could be wholly justified.
By contrast, the recently released Man of Steel produced by Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan from a script co-written by Dark Knight scribe David S. Goyer ends with Superman choosing to kill his Kryptonian nemesis, General Zod. Acknowledging that each franchise takes place in different universes, there nonetheless exist significant stylistic and thematic similarities which spawn from their common artistic pool. We may therefore ask whether Superman’s morality proves inferior to Batman’s. Is Clark less of a hero because he chose to kill? Does Bruce present a higher standard?
As we mull such questions over, we do well to consider the inadequacy of Bruce’s standard in the Dark Knight finale. Recall that Batman is rescued by Catwoman, who kills Bane in the process. Since Batman goes on to remove a nuclear weapon from Gotham City, it can be accurately said that Catwoman’s willingness to kill ultimately saves not just his life, but millions of others. Can we derive a lesson from there?
Sometimes, the lack of a product proves more noteworthy than the presence of one. To date, we have seen no video game tie-in to the recently released Man of Steel. Given the infamous history of subpar Superman titles, gamers welcome the omission. However, past developers’ inability to capture the experience of being Superman does not preclude modern developers from taking a fresh look at the challenge.
For inspiration, they should look to the Man of Steel’s DC Comics compatriot, the Dark Knight. The experience of being Batman was nailed by Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham Asylum. Playing that game and its even more successful follow-up Arkham City leaves the impression that the developers cared immensely about the character and his world. Rather than start with the goal of making a Batman video game, which had been done many times before, they set the bar much higher and sought to convey the experience of being Batman.
No doubt, the development process on Arkham Asylum began with a list of questions. What does it feel like to be Batman? How does he interact with his world? What are his limitations, and how does he overcome them? The answers then informed the game’s mechanics. Batman uses fear against those who would prey on the fearful. That means stealth, surprise, evasion. Batman depends upon his physical prowess and high-tech gadgetry to gain the upper hand in the face of superior numbers. That calls for a deep fighting mechanic and appropriate weaponry. Thus Arkham Asylum was built as a playground tailored to the character.
The challenge of producing a Superman game as successful as the Arkham franchise is accommodating that character’s immense power. When asking what it feels like to be Superman, how he interacts with his world, and what his limitations are, the answers prove much more intimidating. Batman remains mortal, bound by the finite strength and ability of a human being. Rocksteady can therefore confine him to an island, or entrap him within the walls of a city district, without it seeming like an unreasonable limitation. Superman, on the other hand, never met a wall he couldn’t bust through. Imposing limitations in the way video games typically do, with natural barriers, invisible walls, or some other contrivance, just doesn’t work with the Man of Steel. Ultimately, by limiting him, you take away from what makes him Superman.
Note: The following was originally published nearly a year ago upon the initial release of the first teaser trailer for Man of Steel. In the many months since, we have learned much more about director Zack Snyder’s approach to reinventing Superman for the silver screen. In celebration of this week’s long-anticipated release of the film, we’re revisiting this wishlist, adding commentary on how the trailers, interviews, and behind-the-scenes material released thusfar indicate whether Snyder and company will land these punches.
In the 2004 film Finding Neverland, playwright J.M. Barrie is depicted seeding orphaned children throughout the opening-night audience of Peter Pan. He does this to break the ice for the surrounding adults, gambling that the children’s earnest reactions will suspend disbelief in grown-ups.
I was reminded of Barrie’s strategy upon watching the teaser trailer for Man of Steel, which was attached to the recent release of The Dark Knight Rises. For those not expecting it, the teaser plays its subject close to the chest. Shots of rural America are interposed with footage of a black-bearded, blue-eyed migrant worker hitching rides between jobs. Visually, all is ordinary, even a bit mundane. Only the voice-over hints at something special about this man. In the version I saw (there are two making the rounds), Kevin Costner speaks of a moral choice ahead and states that this man, his son, will undoubtedly change the world.
It is only after that subdued montage, when our interest is piqued regarding how this seemingly ordinary person could change anything, that we get a brief glimpse of something up in the sky, a caped figure propelled without effort, zipping through the clouds at such speed that he leaves behind a sonic boom. Then, we behold the iconic S shield.
It was at that moment during my viewing that a young child among the audience gasped and cheered.
I doubt he was a J.M. Barrie plant, but the moment played as he would have intended. The whole audience took that kid’s glee as permission to get excited. After the Dark Knight legend ends, the Man of Steel’s begins.
The grounded portrayal evident in the teaser offers hope that this on-screen iteration of Superman will depart significantly from the increasingly cartoonish super-powered soap operas of the past thirty years. Lending credence to that hope is a familiar creative team. Christopher Nolan, who directed the Dark Knight trilogy, is producing Man of Steel. He also came up with the story, which was put to script by Dark Knight scribe David S. Goyer. Direction is provided by Watchman and 300 auteur Zack Snyder.
Assuming Nolan can tame Snyder’s often chaotic visual style, it seems likely that Man of Steel will revitalize the Superman mythos for a generation that’s never been properly introduced. Sure, there was Superman Returns a couple years ago, and the adventures of a young Clark Kent in television’s Smallville. But neither of those efforts effectively captured the essence of the character or his world.
Those of us with young children today grew up with the films of the late ’70s and ’80s. For us, Superman was and shall in spirit remain Christopher Reeve. The earnest humanity he brought to Clark Kent was eclipsed only by his steadfast portrayal of Superman.
Richard Donnor, director of the 1978 original, famously sought verisimilitude.
You will believe a man can fly.
So read the teaser poster. And we did believe. The film is still regarded as one of the best in the genre. But it was not without flaws, and things have slid downhill since.
Superman II was only partially shot by Donnor. It was finished by and credited to Richard Lester, who added heavy camp reminiscent of super hero parodies like the ’60s Batman television series. Though much of Donnor’s verisimilitude endured in the final cut, it was wholly absent from the absurd entries which followed. Reeve remained impeccable as Superman, but could not overcome his increasingly ludicrous surroundings.
After Donnor and Reeve, Kent and his alter-ego retreated to the small screen in various iterations until 2006’s Superman Returns. Coming off the success of the X-Men franchise, and in light of vocal reverence for Richard Donnor, it seemed the Superman property was in good hands under director Bryan Singer. Alas, what emerged in theaters was a super disappointment for reasons we shall explore.
In order to set things right, and restore Superman’s verisimilitude, there are several things next year’s reboot must do. The fact that Nolan and company are proceeding as though no previous films exist provides an opportunity to recast the godfather of all superheroes in an image long lost. Here are six punches director Zack Snyder must land in Man of Steel.
Having written for some weeks now on the villainous archetypes found in our entertainment culture and how they both express and influence our philosophy, I now come to a personal favorite: the cliché of the corporate villain. The greedy, unscrupulous capitalist stands so well established that the introduction of a successful businessperson in our stories elicits animus just short of audible hissing. As with the black-hatted, silent film villain twirling his mustache, or the masked burglar wearing white and black stripes while holding a bag bearing a dollar sign, we know immediately upon beholding a well-dressed corporate executive that he is not to be trusted.
Much as The Princess Bride’s Vizzini abused the word “inconceivable,” far too many of our storytellers wield “capitalism” haphazardly. It does not mean what they think it means.
To explore this point further, let us first consider a few of the myriad examples of how capitalists in general and corporations in particular are portrayed on screen. No such listing would be complete or even adequate without mention of Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko, orator of the infamous “greed is good” speech. Gekko flaunted his villainy as a badge of honor. His sole and unapologetic purpose was to make money, with the secondary but no less coveted objective of making more than anyone else. He didn’t care how he did it either. If blowing out a company and laying off hundreds or thousands of workers would turn a more certain profit than keeping its doors open, he pulled the trigger without a second thought.
Lex Luthor, arch-nemesis of Superman, evolved into a corporate villain over the franchise’s many years and several iterations. Luthor began life in fiction as a mad scientist, an embodiment of fears surrounding the nuclear age and discovery run rampant. In Richard Donner’s 1978 film, Gene Hackman portrayed Luthor as a scientific genius who proudly applied his talent to crime. The decade of Ronald Reagan saw Luthor reimagined as the chief executive officer of LexCorp. He was provided with more realistic motivations, coveting the Man of Steel’s power while fostering a xenophobic fervor to protect humanity from an alien. Luthor was even elected to become president of the United States in the comics, expanding his villainy to include the corporatism later reviled by both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.
Then came Star Trek’s Ferengi, a troll-like species of “Yankee traders” introduced in The Next Generation and more fully explored in Deep Space Nine. There may be no more egregious example of a “capitalist” strawman in all of entertainment history. The Ferengi were obnoxiously unreputable, cheating in their dealings with such regularity that their political leader saw the discovery of a wormhole leading to the another part of the galaxy as an incomparable opportunity to get one over on new life and new civilizations. Quark, a Ferengi bartender and regular on Deep Space Nine, proselytized exploitation and demeaned those around him who fairly traded value for value – or worse, expressed generosity.
On this Memorial Day reflecting back on the heroic men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, I recall a symbol in our popular culture who signifies how much we’ve lost. Back in January I published a 7000-word polemical analysis of the religious, philosophical, and esoteric themes in my favorite superhero film: 10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film.
In the article I make the case that the reason why these characters resonate with us at such a deep emotional level is because they reinvent mysterious themes and symbols buried within our culture that we don’t fully understand. Here’s what I had to say about the significance of Captain America and how we can apply his lessons to our own fight against today’s tyrants both big and small:
5. Captain America Embodies the Disk, Steve Rogers Has Mastered the Physical World. As the Super Soldier He Stands Shield-in-Hand as an Inspiring Symbol Against Nazi Slavery.
Back to Stan Lee’s deposition on the origins of the Marvel universe’s pantheon of demi-gods:
Q. To your recollection, were there any characters that Kirby had created before he was working with you or anyone at Marvel that he brought to Marvel and then were then published by Marvel?
STAN LEE: No, I don’t believe so. I don’t recall any. Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Captain America, for God’s sake. He and Joe Simon had created Captain America.
STAN LEE: Now, by the time in the 60s, Jack came to work for us, we weren’t — there was no more Captain America. We weren’t publishing it because Martin Goodman thought it was just a World War II character and people wouldn’t be interested in it anymore.
I always loved the character, so I decided to bring it back. And I tried to write a story where he had been frozen in a glacier for years, and they found him and he came back to life, and so forth. And I tried to give him some personality where he always felt — he was an anachronism. He was living in our day, but yet he had the values of 20 or 30 years ago. And I tried to make him a little bit interesting.
Captain America reflects the ideal American soldier both in body and patriotic values — two realms not often understood as interrelated. He reveals that the real power lies in ideas. Captain America’s authority flows from his moral character — the pursuit of mastering one’s mind, emotions, and will generates the strength to control one’s own body and then the rest of the physical world. One must master his body in order to accurately project his will out from it.
We don’t often realize that the shield is not just a big hunk of metal one hides behind. Captain America reminds us of its devastating use as a weapon. With shield in hand one can deflect an opponent’s attacks back at him. Then, when the moment is right and they are most vulnerable, you fling your shield with precision like a discus. Just because the shield is smooth doesn’t mean the edges can’t cut deep.
Here’s a clip of Breitbart.com Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro providing an example of how to do this in real life:
And here’s what the edge of the shield feels like:
SHAPRIO: This is what I wanted to ask you, Piers, because I have seen you talk about assault weapons a lot, and I have seen Mark Kelly talk about assault weapons. The vast majority of murders in this country that are committed with guns are committed with handguns, they are not committed assault weapons. Are you willing to ban handguns in this country, across this country?
MORGAN: No, that’s not what I’m asking for.
SHAPIRO: Why not? Don’t you care about the kids who are being killed in Chicago as much as the kids in Sandy Hook?
MORGAN: Yes, I do.
SHAPIRO: Then why don’t you care about banning the handguns in Chicago?
Click here to read all of 10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film. But really you should just bookmark that for another day. If you read one article today before starting up the barbecue make it Paula Bolyard’s moving reflection:
There’s nothing that makes Hollywood more nervous than portraying Islamist terror. As far back as 1994, James Cameron’s True Lies was denounced as racially insensitive for imagining a chillingly plausible Islamist terror threat involving nuclear weapons. Cameron, anticipating accusations of unfairly linking terrorism with Islam and Arabs, took care to try for “balance” by placing an Arab-American character on the good guys’ side (the actor who played him, Grant Heslov, this year won an Oscar as one of the producers of Argo). Yet the advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) slammed the film anyway. The hysterical 1998 movie The Siege imagined that, in an overreaction to a terrorist attack, Brooklyn would be placed under martial law and all young Muslim men would be interned in Yankee Stadium. Ridiculous.
Since 2001, of course, Hollywood has almost completely avoided showing any Muslim involved in terror, changing the bad guys in 2002’s The Sum of All Fears from Palestinians to neo-Nazis. The 2005 Jodie Foster movie Flightplan, about an abduction on an airplane, used a hint that Arabs might be responsible as a red herring. The actual villain: an all-American air marshal played by Peter Sarsgaard. Several Middle East themed movies like Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies essentially saw a moral equivalence between the U.S. and the Islamists, saying both sides were up to comparably nasty stuff in the War on Terror.