Superheroes postsTuesday March 10, 2015
Look! On TV! It's Melissa Benoist as the 21st ... or Seventh ... or Is She Just the Second Supergirl?
Add Melissa Benoist to the list of ... um ... Well, gee (and Great Scott), how many actresses have played Supergirl?
IMDb lists 21 appearances of Supergirl as character (cf.: 248 appearances for Superman, 301 for Batman, 54 for Aquaman), but many are duplicates, or cartoons, or essentially fan fiction. So who really counts?
Helen Slater appears on the list twice, for example: from the abysmal 1984 theatrical movie, and in a 2010 documentary called “Heroic Ambition,” all about Metropolis, Ill., and its annual Superman celebration. The second actress to play Supergirl was Nicholle Tom, who voiced the Girl of Steel in five episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series,” one episode of “Batman: The New Adventures,” and seven episodes of “Justice League.” Other cartoon Supergirls include Nicole Sullivan (of “Mad TV” fame) in the short-lived “Super Best Friends Forever,” Summer Glau in “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse,” and Molly Quinn in “Superman: Unbound.”
For live-action Supergirls after Slater? There's Laura Vandervoort, who had a recurring role as Kara/Supergirl on “Smallville”; but IMDb also counts Michelle Prenez, who did a comic turn as the Girl of Steel on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” Lissy Smith in Max Landis' straight-to-YouTube hit “The Death and Return of Superman,” Kristen Bell as “Fake Supergirl” in “Movie 43,” and various forms of fan fiction (Briana Stancer; Jaclyn DeDoux).
If you eliminate the fan fiction, short comic turns, and dupes, you wind up with only six previous Supergirls: Slater, Vandervoort, Tom, Sullivan, Glau and Quinn.
If you eliminate the cartoons, you wind up with only two previous Supergirls: Slater and Vandervoort.
But if you only count actresses who have played Supergirl in movies or TV shows about Supergirl? Then it only happened once before. And that one sucked.
SLIDESHOW: A HISTORY OF SUPERGIRL ON SCREEN
It was hardly a Betty Friedan-like impulse that led DC Comics to create Kara (Supergirl), cousin of Kal-El (Superman), in Action Comics #252 in May 1959. This was an anodyne era (pre-Marvel, yo) in which Super Everythings were created so Superman would have something to do. Chronologically, Kara came after Krypto the Superdog and Beppo the Super Monkey, but before Streaky the Super Horse and Comet the Supercat. Just so you know where girls stood in the DC universe. But she quickly made it into the cinematic universe ...
... 25 years later. Here's a review of the painful 1984 movie produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind. Poor Helen Slater. She never had a chance. Neither did Supergirl. She was #1 at the box office for a week, then bellyflopped. It was 14 years before she showed up again.
Here: In “Superman: The Animated Series,” voiced by Nicholle Tom. Apparently they thought bare midriff and short-shorts equaled girl power in the age of the Spice Girls and Britney Spears. Why does this image make me think of Pink's song “Stupid Girls”? “They travel in packs of 2 or 3s/ With their itsy-bitsy doggies and their teeny-weeny tees.”
This is Michelle Prenez on “Jimmy Kimmel.” She's got comic timing anyway; but Kimmel and anything female is suspect.
Our second true live-action Supergirl: It's Laura Vandervoort of Ontario, Canada as Kara, cousin of Kal-El, in the long-running series “Smallville.” As a Lundegaard, forever dealing with the double-a, I love her last name, but I checked out of that series long before she showed up.
Yes, Lissy Smith's comic-y turn in Max Landis' straight-to-YouTube video “The Death and Return of Superman” made the cut on IMDb. Does anyone know what the rules are here? A certain number of hits maybe?
This direct-to-home-video production is all about the origin of Supergirl (Summer Glau) and yet it's called “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.” No respect. On the plus side, she saves Superman from Darkseid even though she's been treated as a suspect alien by Batman for the entire movie.
Still with the midriff. This is Molly Quinn's Supergirl from the animated movie “Superman: Unbound.” In the Wikipedia synopsis, her character is called “unpredictable” and “fear-filled.”
Kristen Bell is described as “fake Supergirl” in the abysmal “Movie 43” because she's really the Riddler. Robin (Justin Long), you see, is speed dating, Batman (Jason Sudekis) keeps showing up to mess things up, and the Penguin (John Hodgman) has a bomb somewhere. Penguin even straps a bomb to Supergirl (as if) but Robin saves her (as if), and then of course it's revealed that the girl he kissed is really the Riddler (Will Carlough). Joke's on him. Or on us if we saw the movie.
Jaclyn LeDoux. Seriously, I don't quite get why this is on IMDb.
So for the first time in 30 years, and only the second time in her long, sad history, Supergirl is the star of her own live-action movie. And who is Melissa Benoist? You probably know her from “Glee,” but I've only seen her as Nicole, the cute ticket-taker that Miles Teller is dumb enough to dump after two dates in “Whiplash.” That's a good sign, no? That she was in something of that quality? Fingers crossed. *FIN*
Wonder Woman: All the World's Waiting For You
In case you haven't seen this yet. It was tweeted by (who else?) Zack Snyder, director of the upcoming “Superman vs. Batman” movie:
A lot of fanboys were up in arms when Gal Gadot was cast, but she looks fine. But it's just a still photo. We'll see.
(Imagine the whining, btw, if we were all online in 1987 when Warner Bros. chose Tim Burton to direct “Batman,” and Burton chose Michael Keaton to play Batman. There would've been bitching right up to the first trailer; then silence.)
So is she in a volcano or something there? I never quite got Wonder Woman. What were her powers again? She's not invulnerable so she should probably suit up a bit, particularly if she's in a volcano. Other thoughts about the character in my review of the 2012 documentary “Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.”
After this shot was leaked, and coupled with the leaked photos of Affleck as Batman and Cavill as Superman, “DC Comics Talk” tweeted a shot of all three along with this challenge: “Your turn, Marvel.” To which I had to tweet back this. Because, I mean, c'mon.
Ranking the 5 Spider-Man Movies
The first Batman movie came out in 1943 and we got the fifth one in 1992—49 years later.
The first Superman movie came out in 1948 and we got the fifth one in 1981—33 years later.
The first Spider-Man movie was released in 2002 and here we are with the fifth film—a mere 12 years later. Time keeps speeding up. Are we getting tired yet? Do we have franchise fatigue? A little. Speaking for myself anyway.
Worst (5) and best (1) are easy. But there’s a good debate to be had in the middle.
5. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
One of the worst ideas in any superhero movie is the “evil” version of the main character, and “Spider-Man 3,” following the lead of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, goes that exact route. It also creates a pretty tepid version of evil. Superman in “Superman III,” you’ll remember, rights the Leaning Tower of Pisa, gets drunk in a bar, and sleeps with a blonde. That’s about it. Peter Parker? Kinda the same. He struts down the street like Travolta, styles his hair like Hitler, and makes an ass of himself at a bar. He also has the Russian girl across the hallway make him cookies. With milk. But that’s not nearly the worst part of this awful, awful movie. Spider-Man’s psychological motivation to fight crime—and it’s one of the best in comicdom—is based upon the fact that he let go the man who later killed his Uncle Ben; that if he’d cared enough to stop the dude in the first place, Uncle Ben would be alive. What does “3” do with that? It actually makes someone else responsible for the death of Uncle Ben. I can’t begin to state how incredibly wrong that is. It’s as if Bruce Wayne found out that all this time his parents have been alive and hanging out in the Bahamas.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
The point of most of our stories is this: What does the guy want and how does he get it? So what does Marc Webb’s Peter Parker want? In the beginning, he wants to find out about his parents but never does. Then he wants to bring Uncle Ben’s killer to justice but doesn’t do that, either. Then he wants a girl, particulary Gwen Stacy, and gets her, but she has to do most of the heavy lifting. Plus he promises a dying Capt. Stacy to stay away from her. Which he doesn’t do. But he does act like James Dean from time to time. As if that’s a thing.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
It’s not as bad as everyone is making it out to be, but it’s not quite good, either. It’s got great fight scenes and great smart-ass patter out of Spidey, but it’s overlong and unnecessarily convoluted. It’s as convoluted as the number of screenwriters it has: four. Was this movie fixable? Maybe. Lose the Richard Parker storyline, give us less Hamlet-like dithering on the Peter-Gwen romance, emphasize Harry more. Maybe lose Electro. Not only does his story not resonate, it pushes Green Goblin to the side. Which is like putting Baby in the corner.
2. Spider-Man (2002)
It’s a pretty faithful adaptation—one of the first. Tobey Maguire is your Steve Ditko-era Peter Parker, though a little sweeter, and with the ability to shoot webs out of his wrists rather than out of homemade web shooters. He calls the Green Goblin “Gobby” and M.J. calls him “Tiger.” Our hero is happy as Spider-Man and unhappy as Peter Parker, and that’s pretty much how it works. Hell, they even improve upon the origin. In Amazing Fantasy #15, when the petty thief runs past Spider-Man, we recognize that Spider-Man’s refusal to help is the act of a selfish jerk. Peter’s not us here; he’s other. In the movie, the petty thief rips off the wrestling promoter who has just ripped off Peter Parker. “I missed the part where that’s my problem,” the promoter tells Peter when Peter complains. This allows Peter, 30 seconds later, to throw the words back at him. “You coulda stopped that guy easy,” the promoter complains. “I missed the part where that’s my problem,” Peter tells him. Here’s how good that is: When I first saw “Spider-Man” in 2002, some moviegoers, who obviously didn’t know where the story was going, actually laughed. They’d been trained to expect put-down quips from their action heroes, and this was a better quip than most. The laughter is indicative. Peter’s not other here; he’s us. Thus when the horrible lesson is imparted, it’s imparted to us, too. With great power comes great responsibility. It’s a lesson our culture doesn’t deliver much.
1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
It’s based upon one of the classics of the Silver Age of Comics, Spider-Man #50, “Spider-Man No More!,” written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita and published in July 1967, in which our hero, tired of losing as Peter Parker as often as he wins as Spider-Man, dumps the Spidey costume in a back alley and gets on with his life. The filmmakers internalize this dilemma—he doesn’t reject his powers, he’s losing them—but it’s all in his head, and it’s all because he’s denying the love he feels for Mary Jane Watson. So it goes. The movie’s battles up and down the skyscrapers of Manhattan are still thrilling 10 years later, the superhero pieta inside the elevated train is still touching, and we get one of the great reveals in superhero movies. From the Scarlet Pimpernel to Zorro to Superman to Spider-Man, there’s been a girl. The girl loves the hero but dislikes, or is disappointed in, or doesn’t even acknowledge, the hero in his secret form. It’s the classic love triangle of superherodom and a solace for unrequited lovers everywhere. I.e., she rejects the nerdy me (Clark) because she doesn’t see the real me (Superman). She rejects me because she fails to see what’s super in me. The superhero love triangle plays upon our deepest, saddest fantasies. And here, in one scene, the girl finally gets it. The disconnect is connected. The two men become one.
What about you? How would you rank them?
Spider-Man is Here: Obey
Last week, in anticipation of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” I rewatched the second installment of Sam Raimi's “Spider-Man” trilogy (review up soon), and during the opening credits, as they panned in and out of actors' names, this flashed on the screen as a portion of lead actor Tobey Maguire's name:
Good thing I'm not a conspiracy theorist.
'Yankees Suck': A Message from Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
With “Amazing Spider-Man 2” on the way, is it time to ask the question that the first “Spider-Man 2” suggests? Namely: Do the Yankees suck?
Here’s the guy who finds Spidey’s outfit in a garbage can and brings it to J. Jonah Jameson. He winds up selling it for a measly $100:
And here’s the guy on the elevated train who helps carry Spidey back, in pieta fashion, after his epic battle with Doc Ock. He’s also the one who says, “He’s ... just a kid. No older than my son.”
He’s also the last one to let go of Spidey when Doc Ock returns to finish him off.
So is it better to be a Mets fan than a Yankees fan in the Spider-Man universe? Do the Yankees suck according to Spider-Man? In the series, Yankee fans can always point to this in their favor. But Peter Parker did grow up in Queens, which is where Shea Stadium was and Citi Field is. And he is an underdog.
One wonders how the rest of the Spider-Man universe divides itself up. Norman Osborne probably had a suite at Yankee Stadium. He probably gladhanded with George Steinbrenner. Kingpin? Yankees, totally. Flash Thompson? Yankees again. J.J.J. should be rooting for the Mets (Daily Bugle/Daily News) but the Yankees sell newspapers, so he's probably going there. Robbie's probably a Mets fan, though, if not an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Maybe he's still loyal to the Dodgers. Quietly, though, the way he's loyal to Spider-Man.
We'll see how the baseball caps line up, if they line up, in “Amazing Spider-Man 2” in a few weeks.
UPDATE FROM A COMICS FAN: “Spidey is canonically a Mets fan in the comics. Glad to see that the movie got that right!”