At the Movies Episode 56: Spider-Man Homecoming

After stealing the show in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland returns for his first solo outing as Marvel Comics’s signature webslinger in Spider-Man: Homecoming. How does he stack up to the two previous cinematic Spiders? How does he fit into the MCU? And is it wrong to find Aunt May kinda hot?

And what’s cool this week? Kenny wants everyone to hunt down some cool stuff on Patreon, Jason is already missing the wrapped-for-the-season Silicon Valley, and Blake recommends the first issue of IDW’s Clue!

At the Movies Episode 56: Spider-Man Homecoming

Episode 325: Summer Movie Preview 2017

Is it true? Can it be? Are Blake and Erin back on the microphone, talking about the big summer movie releases for 2017? Join us as we walk through the next few months at the cinema, as well as explain where they’ve been for so long.

And what’s cool this week? Erin is still in the midst of a Dark Tower re-read, and Blake throws his support behind the relaunch of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the Batman/Flash crossover The Button!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 325: Summer Movie Preview 2017

Episode 322: Free Comic Book Day 2016

Once again, Free Comic Book Day has come and gone. Blake and Erin spent the day at BSI Comics, hanging with the readers, talking about nerd stuff, and having a blast. This week, they review some of this year’s FCBD offerings and get in-depth with their thoughts on Captain America: Civil War!

And what’s cool this week? Erin is looking forward to Ron Miscavage’s book Ruthless, while Blake is doing a simultaneous read of Iron Man: Armor Wars and Captain America: The Captain!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 322: Free Comic Book Day 2016

Learning the Wrong Lessons From Deadpool

Deadpool Movie PosterIn case you somehow missed it, the Deadpool movie was released last weekend and immediately began shattering box office records: best February opening of all time, best opening ever for an R-rated movie, best opening ever for a first-time director (that’d be Tim Miller), and it came in third in the swimsuit competition. And of course, as always, the movie industry began to thoughtfully and meticulously scrutinize the film’s success to determine what qualities helped it reap the bounty, then implement carefully-considered strategies to create new content that may also be prosperous for the studios.

Ha! I’m kidding, of course. No, the movie studios immediately concluded that the American public wants superhero movies to be full of F-words and Ryan Reynolds’s ass. So today, in what could easily be the first in an infinite series of columns, I would like to discuss how 20th Century Fox – and probably every other major studio – has completely missed the point of what made Deadpool kick butt.

Let’s start with what is probably the least significant part of its success: the timing. Like I said, Deadpool’s $135 million broke the record for the highest February opening of all time. But look at the competition: Zoolander 2, the sequel nobody asked for, and How to Be Single, a movie built around Rebel Wilson playing the only character she ever plays, and who wasn’t even entertaining the first time she did it. That’s not to say Deadpool wasn’t a good movie – in fact, that’s my whole point. January and February, traditionally, have been cinematic graveyards where studios try to bury movies they don’t think anybody will want to see in a season where they don’t think people want to go to the movies. I’ve long believed this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not that people don’t want to go to the movies in February, it’s that the studios don’t give them movies worth watching. Deadpool demonstrates that if you make a movie people want to see, they’ll come out to see it no matter when it is released.

WolverineAnd that brings us to the second question: why was Deadpool a movie people wanted to see? The blood? We have the news for that. The nudity? We have the Internet. The profanity? We have public high schools. All of these are easy answers, and all of these are wrong. And yet, when Fox immediately followed the box office number announcement by saying the third Wolverine movie will be rated R, they’re essentially saying that’s the reason that Deadpool worked. This is incredibly small-minded.

(To be fair, making an R-rated Wolverine was at least under discussion as far back as the first solo movie starring the character. It’s not a new idea. But man, they made sure to let everybody know that after the weekend box office closed, didn’t they?)

The reason those elements worked in Deadpool is because all of the hyper-violence and irreverent dialogue helped to create a tone that is faithful to the character. We didn’t want to see violence, necessarily, we just wanted to see the Deadpool we love. In fact, I’m going to be a little controversial here: I don’t even think Deadpool needed to be an R-rated movie. I don’t mind that it was, I very much enjoyed it, but despite what a lot of people seem to think the majority of his comic book appearances have not been full of F-bombs and boobs. (Sure, the violence is there, but the MPAA is way less concerned with violence than sex or language. Chop off all the limbs you want, but God forbid you show a nipple.)

What are they going to do in an R-rated Wolverine movie that will make it better than the first two? Curse more? The word he’s most associated with in the comics is “bub.” Bury him in naked women? Wolverine’s romantic relationships are classically tortured. Sure the fighting may be more explicit, but does anybody really think X-Men Origins: Wolverine would have been a good movie if only they showed more blood when Hugh Jackman cut off Ryan Reynolds’s head?

Superman the MovieThe best superhero movies (and in fact, most of the best adaptations of any kind) are those that maintain the spirit and feel of the source material: Richard Donner’s Superman, the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe work for precisely this reason. People who have read about a character for years – decades even – don’t want to see a version of a character whipped up by committee, they want to see the version they love. (This, of course, will cause debate when a character has been around long enough that there are multiple valid interpretations, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Compare that to the most epic failure of recent years, the 2015 Fantastic Four. The movie takes a comic whose best stories are about a family of explorers and turns them into a militarized unit who barely share any screen time. Director Josh Trank maintains that studio meddling sank his movie. I tend to think that when the director reportedly tells his actors not to read the comics the movie is based on, there isn’t much more a studio can do to screw it up.

Batman-The Killing 1Let’s not forget that tone is dependent on the individual story as well. There was a lot of buzz last year when the producers of the upcoming Batman: The Killing Joke animated movie announced they were given permission by the studio to go for an R-rated film. It doesn’t have to be, but this is the story that forever entrenched the Joker as a true icon of evil. Gone was the bank robbing clown of the Silver Age – now he was a horrific, unhinged psychopath acting out on a twisted fixation with Batman by torturing his friends. It would be hard to tell that story faithfully and still maintain a PG-13. But that doesn’t mean a Ben Affleck Batman movie or an animated version of the first appearance of Bat-Mite should suddenly be rated R.

All of this is to say that, yes, you probably could make a good R-rated Wolverine movie, but it won’t be good because it’s rated R. The other elements need to be there too.

But what about all of the people who enjoyed Deadpool but don’t read comics? They don’t know if the depiction on screen is faithful to the comic book, and most of them wouldn’t care if they did. So why did they come out in force to see this movie? For one thing, of course, the marketing campaign was as brilliant as the marketing for John Carter was abysmal, but good marketing will only get you so far. People also liked the movie. Why? Obviously, the answer for each individual person will differ, but if I were to venture a guess for the majority, I would say it’s because it’s something different. Look, I would be perfectly happy all day long if they just took the scripts of my favorite comics and put them on screen in front of me, but I also know I’m a 10th-level nerd and what I want probably doesn’t apply to the public at large.

Spider-Man BittenWhat does apply, however, is that people get tired of seeing the same thing. Origin stories, for example. Not just comic fans, but viewers in general are done with origin stories. Nobody needs to see Krypton blow up, Thomas and Martha Wayne gunned down, or Peter Parker bitten by a spider ever again. We get it.

Even with less iconic characters, origin stories are largely unnecessary at this point. If a character in a movie is a cop, a firefighter, or a baseball player, people don’t demand we spend half the movie explaining how we get to that point before the real plot begins. Granted, superheroes follow a less conventional path than those other occupations, but at this point the public is familiar enough with the tropes that all but the most convoluted of origins can usually be dealt with in a quick flashback or a few lines of expository dialogue.

“But Blake,” you say, “Deadpool was an origin movie. Doesn’t that contradict your point?” Man, you can be kind of a jerk sometimes. But no, it doesn’t contradict my point. I said that origins are unnecessary, not that they can’t be done well. Audiences – myself included – will accept even the most tired premise if the execution is entertaining and original enough.

M Payoff 1shtAnd that brings me to the most important part of Deadpool’s success. It didn’t matter that it was an origin, because it still felt different from any other superhero movie of the last 17 years. (I consider the modern era of superhero movie to have begun with 1999’s Blade. You know, that other R-rated Marvel movie everybody seems to have forgotten about.) Look at the major successes since then. After the first few years, when superheroes were still a novelty, the biggest movies all brought something new to the table. Iron Man was cocky, witty, and did away with that secret identity jazz right away. It was unique at the time. What’s more, the after-credits stinger (another novelty in 2008) opened the doors for the then-revolutionary Marvel Cinematic Universe. That eventually led to Avengers, another mega-hit, because we had never before seen six superheroes from four different movies come together as a team. The best movies of the eight years since Iron Man all bring something different to the superhero. Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political thriller. The Dark Knight was an epic crime drama. And none of them – even the ones that were sequels to other movies – felt like anything else we had ever seen.

SuicideSquadPoster-181c2In an odd way, this actually makes Suicide Squad the most interesting superhero movie for the rest of 2016. I’m the most die-hard Superman fan you’ll find, and I’ve been waiting to see him on screen with Batman and Wonder Woman since I learned how to read. I couldn’t be more excited for that movie. But Suicide Squad is the first time, as far as I can remember, that a superhero movie has actually starred the villains. (You could make an argument for Magneto and Mystique in the most recent X-Men movies, but the moral ambiguity in those films is so thick that nobody could hear you anyway.) We’ve seen villain-starring comics plenty of times, but it’s never really happened on screen. That means the success or failure of this movie will be one for the books. The trailer was very well-received and people seem to be excited about it.

Which means the weekend after it comes out, expect Fox to announce a new X-Factor movie, starring the classic line-up of Sabertooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Toad, and Galactus. Because they just don’t seem to get it.

Superman and Spider-Man: How to Have it All

Superman Lois and Clark 1 TeaserOne of the books I’m most looking forward to in the coming months – and this will come as no surprise to anybody – is Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks’ Superman: Lois and Clark. At the end of Convergence (and consider this your spoiler warning) the pre-Flashpoint Superman went back in time to help stabilize the multiverse, taking with him his wife, Lois Lane, and their newborn son, Jonathan. When a comic about their continuing adventures was announced, I assumed it would be set on one of the other worlds of the multiverse. Last week week, though, Jurgens did an interview with Newsarama that showed me I was wrong. Lois, Clark and Jon have been in the Prime DC Universe, the one that we called the “New 52” until a few months ago, all this time. Hiding. Watching the exploits of this new Superman, trying to live their lives… but now they’re going to be forced out of complacency.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, I was happy about the book before, even when I thought it would take place “elsewhere,” but this brings me to a whole new level of excitement. You see, the problem with any comic set on an “alternate” world is that it can be easily dismissed by readers as insignificant. True, DC managed to avoid that stigma with their Earth 2 series, but they did so by linking it to the New 52 Earth almost immediately.

Setting Lois and Clark in the Prime DCU gives it more weight. This Clark is a part of things, or can be. He can guest star in other titles. He can cross over during the next worldwide crisis. Hell, he could join the Justice League again, if the winds blew in that direction. And what’s more, this is my Superman. The one I grew up reading. The one who fought Doomsday and died, the one who turned electric blue for a while, the one who married Lois Lane and stayed with her. He’s back. They’re back.

Justice League V2 12The dissolution of the Lois/Clark relationship four years ago always stung. Ever since then I — and a lot of fans – have been waiting for the old status quo to resurface, but it hasn’t. Lois and Clark aren’t an item, and their story has taken such a turn that such a thing seems impossible. But that’s still what a lot of us wanted. So in a way, this new title even helps the current Superman. Those of us who never quite saw his romance with Wonder Woman as “real” may feel more charitable now that “our “Lois and Clark are back. For Superman fans, DC has found a way to have their cake and eat it too.

Which brings me to the point of all this. Although they would be loathe to admit it, Marvel Comics would be well-advised to take a page from DC when it comes to their own cosmic marriage annulment: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. With their own universe-restructuring story, Secret Wars, Marvel has shown us a lot of different worlds lately. One of the most commercially successful (and in my opinion, most entertaining) of the assorted spin-offs has been Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, which shows us a world where Pete and MJ are still married and have an elementary school-aged daughter, Annie. This isn’t the only difference in that world, mind you, but it’s certainly the crux against which that whole story turns. We’ve seen them as parents before, of course, in the former Spider-Girl series, but that was Mayday’s story. Pete and MJ were supporting characters. This is something totally different, something that we once thought we may even have a chance to taste.

Amazing Spider-Man 545As much as Lois and Clark’s separation hurt fans, at least it didn’t feel like a personal attack. Not so, Peter and MJ. Whereas Lois and Clark were victims of a line-wide restructuring, one where many characters underwent similar changes, Peter and MJ were targeted. They were placed in a ridiculously convoluted situation and behaved out-of-character to get them to a point where eradicating the marriage was possible. It always felt — to me and to a hell of a lot of others — that MJ and her marriage to Peter were being picked on by a certain vocal former Marvel Editor-In-Chief, one who made no bones about the fact that he wanted to gleefully wipe it out. (The same story that wiped out their marriage also cruelly teased the notion of their daughter that Dan Slott is playing with in Renew Your Vows.)

The official line, though, was that the marriage made Peter seem too old, and Marvel wanted a young Spider-Man. The problem with that argument, of course, was that they already had a younger Spider-Man over in the Ultimate Universe. That Peter Parker was having his own teen adventures, so the notion that fans had nowhere to turn for such a thing seemed pretty disingenuous. Of course, that could be chalked up to the whole “alternate universe” thing again. No matter how good the Ultimate comics were, they still weren’t the “real” Marvel Universe, the one that had existed since 1961, were they?

Well, here comes Secret Wars, changing all that. And here’s a chance for Marvel to give fans the best of both worlds.

Amazing Spider-Man-Renew Your Vows (Secret Wars) 1We already know Ultimate Peter’s successor, Miles Morales, will be part of the new Marvel Universe, whatever shape it eventually takes. And we know that both Peter and Miles will go by the name “Spider-Man.” So Marvel has their young Spider-Man in the mainstream Marvel Universe in Miles’s book. How awesome would it be, then, if we opened Dan Slott’s new(est) Amazing Spider-Man #1 this fall and discovered that the marriage and Annie Parker had survived the transition into the New Marvel Universe? Miles would still fill the role of classic teen Spider-Man, and there are dozens of single male superheroes out there. But with the Fantastic Four still AWOL, does Marvel have any title left that features parents and their children? (Well, okay, Spider-Woman, but that’s a whole different dynamic of its own.)

This is a chance to give everyone what they want. Marvel has Teen Spider-Man with Miles. They even have Teen Peter Parker in the recently-announced all-ages Spidey series. Elsewhere we have Spider-Girls and Spider-Women and Spider-Gwens and Spider-Pigs, all represented in one way or another. The only people who are still left out are fans of the Spider-Couple and Spider-Kid.

This is your Mulligan, Marvel. Your Get Out of Jail Free Card. Your chance to make it right. Secret Wars is already delaying pretty much the entire line, so take advantage of the time to make this happen. For all the talk of “diversity” in the new Marvel Universe, here’s your chance to give us the one thing that seems to be missing from every other title: family.

Episode 316: San Diego 2015-We Weren’t There Either

Last weekend was the annual bacchanalia of nerddom known as Comic-Con International: San Diego. And just like every year, Blake and Erin… weren’t there. Instead, with the help of Showcasers on the Facebook Page, they spent the week gathering the coolest and most interesting info from the con to discuss on this week’s show. Their thoughts on the Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer. New directors announced for Star Wars. The return of some classic comics and the launch of some new ones. This week, we go through it all…

And what’s cool this week? Erin enjoyed the first two issues of Starfire, and Blake gives his endorsement to Archie #1 and Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 316: San Diego 2015-We Weren’t There Either

Episode 315: All-New All-Different Marvel

Last week, Marvel released their new slate of titles to follow Secret Wars. This week, Blake and Erin peruse the previews and talk about which ones look like they’ll be worth reading and which ones they’re probably going to pass on. And they also discuss the most important question: just how “all-new, all-different” does it really look like Marvel is getting?

And what’s cool this week? Blake is enjoying Bizarro #2 and Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 315: All-New All-Different Marvel