Superheroes postsWednesday January 27, 2016
Captain America vs. Donald Trump
Researching this post, I found myself reading the last issue of the 1950s Captain America series. At that time, superhero comics were on the outs and Timely/Marvel was down to Cap, who was in his “commie smasher” persona; but his run finally ended with issue #78 in Sept. 1954.
In the last story of that last issue, he battles Chuck Blayne, the idol of American boys everywhere, who counsels them to keep clean minds, strong bodies and “play to win.” Cap is suspicious.
As he should be, since Blayne is really a Soviet spy. To be honest, Blayne's plot is lame. He tries to turn American boys against the U.N. by showing how weak it is, and, in this regard, plants a bomb and laughs that no one can do anything about it. It's a little over-the-top. Surely someone could've come up with a less maniacal plan.
After Cap wins the day, he talks up who Blayne initially reminded him of. These are the last panels of Captain America until he was resurrected by Stan and Jack in Avengers #4 in March 1963:
Two things in particular struck me about this story:
- The U.N. is seen as a positive force, something our enemies are trying to undermine. I guess it would be a while before the whole “black helicopters” meme took a stronger hold in the right-wing mind.
- Play to win vs. Good sportsmanship. Cf., any Donald Trump speech.
Comic Book Spinner Rack, May 1956
I don't remember where I got this photo, but it reminds me how much I miss the comic book spinner racks that used to be in every drug store, and quite a few supermarkets, when I was growing up in the 1970s. When did they disappear? Late '70s? I think specialty comic stores began to get better deals from the manufacturer/distributor, comic book geeks flocked there, boom. Another example of our social fragmentation.
The photo must be from around May 1956 since the Superman comic in the kid's hands is this one, which is May 1956. Other clues: The Action Comics on the rack is most likely this April 1956 one, while the real key is “Matt Slade, Gunfighter,” which only ran for four issues, all of them in, of course, 1956. The one on the rack appears to be Matt Slade #1. Collector's item!
For all the nostalgia of the photo, it was a bad time for comic books. The post-war comic bonfires of the late '40s were followed by Dr. Frederic Wertham's denunciations of how comics warped young minds (made us violent and/or gay); this was followed by U.S. Senate hearings. As a result we got the Comics Code Authority and a lot of westerns and kids comics (Little Lulu, Casper, Woody Woodpecker) as well as celebrity comics, such as “The Adventures of Bob Hope,” which ran from 1950 to 1968, believe it or not. What superheroes remained became toothless. Marvel/Timely was in fact out of the superhero biz: Its remaining hero, Capt. America, ended his run in Sept. 1954.
Kid seems happy enough, though.
From the Studio that Brought You Elektra, Daredevil, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, X-Men: The Last Stand, and the First Two Shitty Fantastic Four Movies...
How bad is the new “Fantastic Four”? Its director, Josh Trank, who directed the well-received “Chronicle” a few years ago, is already making excuses, blaming the movie studio in all but name in a tweet that was posted yesterday and then quickly removed, but not before it was archived.
Which movie studio? Fox, of course. The studio that would give goddamned webshooters and a bat cape to Wolverine.
Here's the list of superhero movies they've released since their own “X-Men” reinvented the genre back in 2000, along with Rotten Tomatoes ratings and IMDb ratings:
|2003||X2: X-Men United||Bryan Singer||86%||7.5|
|2003||Daredevil||Mark Steven Johnson||44%||5.3|
|2003||The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen||Stephen Norrington||17%||5.8|
|2005||Fantastic Four||Tim Story||27%||5.7|
|2006||X-Men: The Last Stand||Brett Ratner||58%||6.8|
|2006||My Super Ex-Girlfriend||Ivan Reitman||40%||5.1|
|2007||Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer||Tim Story||37%||5.6|
|2009||X-Men Origins: Wolverine||Gavin Hood||38%||6.7|
|2011||X-Men: First Class||Matthew Vaughn||87%||7.8|
|2013||The Wolverine||James Mangold||70%||6.7|
|2014||X-Men: Days of Future Past||Bryan Singer||91%||8.1|
|2015||Fantastic Four||Josh Trank||9%||4.1|
Essentially Bryan Singer started them off with two good “X-Men” movies, then they screwed up for the next decade with crappy, mind-numbing movies until they revived the “X-Men” series in a positive-ish way. Plus Josh Trank's “Chronicle.”
It could be that Trank's original vision wasn't that good. It could be that the Fantastic Four, Marvel's first superheroes, who are more or less updated versions of 1) Plastic Man, 2) The WWII-era Human Torch, 3) The Invisible Man and 4) every rock creature out of every crappy 1950s Marvel mag, just don't work in the 21st century.
But I'm betting there are idiot execs at Fox who ruined this thing with their dumb ideas. Or at least ruined it further.
Whatta revoltin' development.
ADDENDUM: My friend Ciam pointed me to this Vulture piece on the long, tangled, gossip-ridden buzz for the new FF movie, and which mostly blames Trank and lets the studio off the hook. Maybe. But that doesn't explain all of the above.
From the studio that brought You Elektra, Daredevil, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The Last Stand, and the first two shitty Fantastic Four movies.
The Avengers '78
This is pretty good although the “'78” is a bit of a misnomer. I'll give them the Hulk but the Thor episodes came about in, I believe, 1988, while the Captain America movie was from 1979. I know that one for sure because I suffered through it last year.
Anyone know the “Black Widow” or “Iron Man” or “Tony Stark” characters? I love the Hawkeye takeoff. But my favorite joke is probably “Paul Lynde as Loki.” You had to live through the '70s to truly appreciate that one.
Good theme music, too. Yes, we were lame.
Now these characters, who barely made it onto TV in the '70s in this watered-down form, gross $1.5 billion worldwide from one movie alone.
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*