Column 1: Alas, superheroes are still naff
I work in the Film and TV industry and occasionally write comics, so Rich has asked me to write a column about how comics interact with and are treated by film and TV. I’ve written a couple of superhero projects: JLA: AGE OF WONDER for DC Comics and the recent LA MUSE for Big Head Press.
So, just to kick off:
It’s interesting to watch the trends in Film and TV, and the most notable one right now is the increase in superhero movies and TV shows. What this means is that people want to see them if they’re well-made and tell good enough stories, and they’re certainly a lot better than the cheesy attempts on TV and the movies back in the 1970s and 1980s, all of which anyone can check out on DVD and cable TV reruns to see just how awful they were. To film and TV producers, superheroes were always a kind of embarrassing, retarded cousin – the fact that they run around wearing unflattering skintight spandex and capes is proof right there. And producers and executives tend to think anyone over 16 that likes superheroes has to be immature and juvenile. Since the 1990s, there has been a slight sea-change in the attitudes of filmmakers and studios. Many producers, writers, agents, assistants grew up reading comics and superhero stories, and see no shame in continuing to enjoy them, and now they’ve grown up and have reached positions of power within the media industry to be able to produce superhero movies and TV. Of course, the studios would not have greenlit those projects if they didn’t make money. Superhero stories are perfect fodder for event movies: they wear colourful costumes and engage in big explosive set-pieces that make people want to leave their houses to see on a big screen in the cinema.
Superheroes and cartoon characters are very easy to market: they wear costumes that make them immediately recognizable, and the image also makes them copyrightable and easy to trademark. Well, superheroes are cartoon characters. They were originally aimed at children, after all. The original superman costume, with his underpants on the outside of his longjohns, his cape and boots, were inspired by the costumes worn by circus performers and professional wrestlers. That became the archetypal superhero costume and now it’s become a stereotype. And I notice that everyone that wants to write and draw superhero stories often immediately leaps to that costume without thinking about how impractical it is or how ridiculous it looks. And everyone knows this deep down, no matter how much some of them try to take it seriously. Just because there are more superhero projects out there doesn’t mean they’re gaining respect. They’re getting attention mainly because they have the most potential to make the most money right now. And studios will continually second-guess and fall over themselves trying to put their oar in so they can take credit when a project hits big, and then distance themselves when it bombs. This column is going to look at all that stuff. And probably laugh.
Next time, I’m going to talk about more specific topics, like the very different progress of two recent comic book blockbuster movies. And then I’m going to look at the TV pilot of an upcoming show based on a DC Comics character and talk about other shows based on comics.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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