I wanted to clear my head, thought writing about Marvel comic book hero collective The Avengers would help.
The Avengers are possibly the most important superhero group. Based on the Justice League, they are meant to showcase the top talent in the Marvel Universe. When I was younger, everything was about the X-Men, The Avengers were not so interesting. In the MU the X-Men are connected with every other “X” book, kinda like how Batman is connected with all the Gotham books, one has a higher likelihood of seeing these characters mixing through their comics versus say Thor and DareDevil running together.
This summer, the big fight is going to be the show down at the box office, Batman, with the conclusion to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and The Avengers, Joss Wheddon’s first directing/writing effort for Marvel’s upstart superhero franchise. Marvel, with it’s amazing roster, has mostly let other companies use their characters. Fantastic Four, X-Men, even Spider Man are untouchable to the company in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that can’t be too hard, if Batman on his own can do what the last two Nolan Movies accomplished, the fans should respect that The Avengers will be pretty interesting in their small side of the MU, or now MCU.
Though, on the comic book stands an event will take place that the big screen won’t see for a generation: AVX, the Avengers side of Marvel and the X-Men are going to war, for some reason. This is the event comic. A series, linking many different ongoing titles, as well as many writers/artists under the main editor(s)/writer(showrunner), this is the big concept in modern comic-booking. Every year, something grand has to happen that will tear their universe apart and leave it forever scarred, for about a year. The event comic, with it’s chance to let one vision shine across all of the titles can shift the spectrum, hi-lighting operatic visions of cosmic level destruction, heroes pushed to the brink, but usually the pieces on the board are shaken up just enough that by the fall everybody finds their way back to the same titles, maybe with writers and artists changed. The idea being that people will follow characters to their new books, find new characters they like, just find themselves having to buy a lot more comics on Wednesday than they did before the summer event.
Movies have been something like this for years. Creatives work for several years on a project, writing, directing, acting, props and computer graphics, only the finish up years later some Friday afternoon, hoping that teenagers will feel like it’s a good night to go to the movies instead of staying home or partying. Maybe the movie gets lucky, the weekend numbers come in and it’s time for a sequel. And so on and so on. The thing is, this sort of cycle hasn’t necessarily been the greatest boon to storytelling. Sure, the industry has had some great advancements, and we have some of the most creative people trying to write fun, exciting movies of every genre. But we also have 21 Jumpstreet, Green Hornet, etc. So when I look at comics, I remember the first Avengers comic. Loki causes problems and the Avengers team up. Iron Man has his original suit, Giant Man was still Ant Man(yes, his power was just to shrink to ant-sized proportions, and talk to insects….very useful), Hulk would leap into an Avengers comic, get sad and leap out by the end of the issue back to his own story. This might have been because the Hulk was emotionally worried, or because the editors wanted him to work his own book alone for some reason, probably the latter. The thing is that event comics show the hands behind the muppets, they remind readers that stories really don’t come from a personal place, that creatives can be pushed to write whatever their bosses want.
What’s interesting about The Avengers movie is that Marvel Studios are basically an Indie. They have connected with Disney now, they always wanted to make big movies, but they aren’t trying to sell-out, per se, they wanted to take these legendary characters and make the movies which could sear them heroically into the public’s minds like the original Superman movie did in the late 1970’s. Remember, the way Superman was interviewed by Lois Lane, the middle of this action oriented hero’s journey sage stops for these two characters to have a romantic moment flying over Metropolis. It might be lost on people now, but these characters are legendary, they are made interesting because these larger than life characters connect to something real. Even if it was played for laughs there was always something touching to Stan Lee’s monologue from Mallrats.
Hopefully, not to totally jump the shark, this will be a good year for movies. They’ve been building some of these titles up for years. However, like the event comics they fail for the same reason, this is pulling people away from great stories to push hyped stories. Warren Ellis wrote for Secret Avengers late last year, each issue was a one-and-done self-contained story. Each issue was amazing. He used the medium to it’s fullest. Ellis is a genius. But there’s something about the way The Avengers trailers are looking, like this movie might pull cinema to the level it’s supposed to be at. Hollywood keeps making these awful movies that nobody wants to see, or takes interesting ideas and changes everything until it’s the movie the studio wanted, art by committee. But there’s a reason people keep going to the theater, even though there’s a chance Hollywood is going to rip them off. There’s a reason teenagers decide to go out to see a movie instead of stay home or party. This process does connect us to the world that’s beyond us, to the people who are bulletproof because they stand for something more. Whether it’s Batman and his twisted devotion to something greater than himself yet destroying himself, or The Avengers trying to ride out another attempt to destroy/enslave the universe in one piece physically and emotionally.
But seriously, why couldn’t Green Lantern have been better? I don’t think I can forgive Hollywood for doing that to Hal.