Sunday!

I admit to not yet having seen Justice League.

When I was a kid, the idea that there would be two or three superhero movies coming out every year would have struck me as wonderful. I mean, between 1978 and 1989, there were a grand total of *THREE* good superhero movies. Superman, Superman II, and Batman.

That’s *IT*. There were a handful of not-awful television shows… You had the George Reeves Superhero reruns (at the end of the day, still a pretty good show), The Incredible Hulk (which holds up in weird ways… Bill Bixby’s David Banner stuff is pretty good… the scenes with the Javert-ian reporter are surprisingly strong… Lou Ferrigno’s flexing is kinda silly… but, come on… it’s the stuff with the threat-of-the-week cast members that are fast-forward material), but, for the most part, you had to make do with stuff like The Bionic Man or do without.

And now we’re in a place where we’ve had Lego Batman, Logan, Spider Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok, and Justice League all come out in the same 12 month period. (And that’s not counting superhero-adjacent stuff like Power Rangers or Transformers or Kingsman: Golden Circle.)

“Wow! That’s going to be awesome!”, I can imagine myself saying back when I was still skeptical about hearing that Michael Keaton was going to be Bruce Wayne/Batman. And then boggling when told “Yeah, you’re actually going to skip most of them or only watch them when you’re on a long plane trip.”)

Being more of a DC partisan than a Marvel one, Justice League is one of the movies that I would have wanted to see the most when I was a kid. I was even kinda looking forward to it when they first started showing trailers earlier in the year… but there were a number of red flags.

First off, Henry Cavill (the guy who plays the current incarnation of Superman) had a mustache in real life during filming. It was removed via CGI. Why didn’t they ask him to, say, shave it? Because Henry Cavill was also making Mission Impossible 6 (“oooh! They’re making Mission Impossible movies? Six of them?” “Yeah, you’re going to be conflicted about those movies too”) and Paramount would not let him shave it off.

Red Flag #1: Authentic Real Mustache For New Guy In Mission Impossible Franchise more important than uncanny valley issues related to being Superman-with-CGI-upper-lip in Justice League.

Red Flag #2: The story is by Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio. Chris Terrio is the guy who wrote the script for Batman vs. Superman. Then they brought in Joss Whedon to tighten the screenplay up. This is not as much a red flag as, say, there being 17 people with writing credits. The whole “wait, let’s bring in (big name) to fix some of this stuff up” thing, however, is a red flag.

Red Flag #3: Before Marvel’s Avengers, there were approximately five (!) movies that came out to establish what you needed to know. Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, and Thor each had their own movie and the main bad guy in Avengers was the main bad guy in Thor. On top of that, Iron Man and Captain America were pretty good movies in their own right and both Thor and Hulk (the 2008 one, not the 2003 one) were pretty good popcorn fare. Before Justice League? There were four movies that came out: Superman, Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman. Those first three were pretty bad. Like “the people who made this movie not only don’t understand the story they want to tell or the characters they’re using” bad. Since those are the building blocks for Justice League, that’s also a red flag.

Not a red flag: Rotten Tomatoes has it at 40% Fresh but 86% according to the audience. If you ask me, those are good numbers for popcorn fare.

But those are a lot of red flags.

So… what are you reading and/or watching?


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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23 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. I’m always curious about why people jumped from DC to Marvel comics, or vice versa. I was about eleven (early 1965) and went from DC to Marvel. The best description I’ve come up with for my own reason is that DC’s characters were all grown-ups. Marvel’s, OTOH, were pretending to be grown-ups, and sometimes the act slipped. That’s still how I occasionally think of myself: doing pretty good at pretending to be a grown-up, but sometimes the act slips.

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    • I preferred the superhero stuff to the soap opera stuff when I was a kid. Zap! Wham! Pow! At that point, either DC or Marvel would do (but I’d skip past the drama stuff to get to the action).

      By the time I was old enough to read the stories for Theme rather than for Plot, I preferred DC all the way. I wanted stories about right and wrong. I wanted stories about trying to do the right thing using broken tools. I wanted stories about crime not paying. I wanted Bible Stories (but, unfortunately, they stopped making Bible Stories more than a dozen centuries earlier and so if I wanted new ones, I was stuck with cheap knockoffs).

      When it comes to the day to day mundane issues of doing the right thing (but still struggling to make rent), I cared so much more about the “doing the right thing” than about the “struggling to make rent” that DC was the one I went to and Marvel was left behind.

      The Infinity Gauntlet was cool, though. (Though as I look back on it now, I can’t help but notice that it seems to suffer from a somewhat muddled morality at the Cosmic level.)

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      • I’ve always preferred at least a bit of ambiguity in my heroes. The first heroic fantasy I read was Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions. In one scene, the hero gropes the female lead while she’s asleep. A giant breaks through the wards around the camp. During the ensuing standoff the giant says he could break the wards because of someone’s “impure thoughts”. The woman blames the dwarf in the party, and the hero says nothing.

        The hero subsequently outwits the giant in a mildly amusing fashion, but he wouldn’t have had to play hero in the middle of the night at all if he’d just kept his hands to himself.

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        • Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind ambiguity. (I’m currently writing an “mindless diversions extra” for The Punisher.)

          It’s just that a storyline where The Hero is trying to figure out whether it’s worth using Evil to defeat an Even Bigger Evil resonates with me. A storyline where The Hero can’t explain to his mom why he keeps showing up late for dinner (and sometimes has bruises) makes me feel alienated.

          When given a choice between the former and the latter, I will take the former every day and twice on Sunday.

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      • I love the comparison to Bible Stories. That’s perfect.

        And yet, so many of the stories in the Bible are about highly flawed individuals, who nonetheless do what their culture and their crew need. Like King David, for instance. What a horrible person he is. There are many highly questionable things.

        I spent a lot of time in my youth reading DC and I don’t regret it. I’m planning to see JL. I love the Flash TV show. And yet I prefer the Marvel approach to heroic fiction. Everyone pretends to be an adult. That’s how it works.

        Also, I adore Ang Lee’s Hulk. But then, I was always an Ang Lee fan. I get that I’m in the minority. I just want to represent for the King of Repression.

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        • I also love the Flash show, even if the last season was weak. The Flash was always my favorite; that’s one reason that I’ll go see Justice League: it looks like Ezra Miller will make a good Flash–I want a Flash movie.
          I like some of Marvel and some of DC. I’ve always leaned a bit more towards DC. I was soooooooooo disappointed in the Green Lantern movie, especially since Mark Strong would be an excellent Sinestro villain.
          The wife and I saw Thor yesterday–it was good, but not mind blowing. But that’s true of most superhero fare. The preview for Black Panther looked really good.

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        • I don’t mind flawed individuals. Flawed individuals are awesome.

          Heck, let’s use King David as an example. 2nd Samuel Chapter 11 has this amazing verse as its opener:

          In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Jo?ab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

          (That’s the RSV.)

          How’s that for a setup? “It was the time when Kings go forth to battle… and David was sitting at home.”

          The story continues and we see The Hero suddenly turn and, HOLY CRAP! HE’S THE VILLIAN!

          And Nathan shows up and lays the smack down upon King David and David realizes how badly he screwed up. Kinda. (Then the next few chapters get all Godfather II.)

          It’s not that I want the heroes to be pure, necessarily. It’s that I want them to be dealing with issues that can be dealt with rather than the stuff that leaves them flailing about helplessly (like rent or trying to explain weird behavior to their mom).

          I can get the whole “flailing about helplessly” thing whenever I want it.

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          • Depression is hard to watch, that’s for sure. Like, for instance, Spiderman II was all about depression, I thought. I find feelings of helplessness to be one of the worst things I can experience, and I tend to react kind of angrily about it.

            I think that’s because I’ve had kind of an intimate relationship with depression – it’s not so much that I’ve been depressed as depression has been stalking me all my life, just out of reach.

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    • My first superhero comic book was Captain America 185 (1975), so I don’t remember jumping from DC, but looking back what I remember that struck me about that story was that the Red Skull was freaky scary, the NAZI henchmen had the verisimilitude(*) of being real world threats, and when it was revealed at the end of the issue that the Red Skull had created the Falcon, I was like “NO WAY” even though this was the first time I’d ever heard of the Falcon. The whole story set the Falcon up as Cap’s best bud; I’ve got to read what happens next, and there were short flashbacks to stories in older issues I had to read.

      Cap is probably the most DC of the Marvel heroes, and certainly the most grown-up, but the art stood out, there was a greater attempt towards realism, and the comics ended with a cliff-hanger. I think a typical DC superman comic would have had a cover story with Jimmy Olson betraying Superman that would turn out to be a misunderstanding that was resolved at the end. I learned not to trust the covers of DC comic books.

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  2. I understand what you mean about Superhero movies. It’s gotten to the point where even the ones I am excited about, I don’t go to see. (I was sure I would see Guardians 2 on opening weekend because the first was such a hoot. Now it’s been out on video for a while, and I don’t see myself watching it any time remotely soon.)

    I did have a just-me-in-the-house night a week or two ago where I saw the latest Spiderman, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. But not enough to start seeing all the other movies I’ve missed, I guess.

    Not watching or reading anything at all these days, because work has been uncommonly time-consuming. Hoping that changes after Thanksgiving. Any book or TV suggestions welcome.

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  3. Did anyone watch Marvel’s Inhumans? Unwatchably bad. I stuck with it because failure fascinates me, and because I can tough through 8 episodes of just about anything (and this mess was clearly not going to merit an extension).

    There’s a lot to say about its failures, but the most interesting to me was that they didn’t even think to create likable leads. Any other superhero franchise, you could have maybe gotten away with letting the characters grow into people you’d admire. But there aren’t a lot of people who would stand by Black Bold and Medusa through thick and thin.

    There were three likable characters, and I’m using the male definition of likable (“likable and/or looks good in shorts”). The two actually likable ones were bad guys. This is the remarkable thing about the show: the royal family, who we were supposed to root for, were totalitarians running a genetic caste system. The black sheep of the royal family, the ostensible bad guy, was trying to liberate the society from the ubermenschen. Who signed off on this project? Who thought we would root for the mute guy and the angry bald chick because they were part of the master race? I mention his inability to talk not because it makes him unlikable, but because it really limits what an actor can do. And as for her hair, according to internet rumors, they shaved Medusa’s head because they were getting such bad feedback about the special effects they used for Medusa’s hair.

    Anyway, there were a lot of other problems with the show. Bad acting, predicable plot, and special effects that were good enough for my tastes but didn’t cut it for a network superheroes show. It’s a study in what can go wrong.

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    • I think I read somewhere that The Inhumans was (were?) an attempt to find a solution to the whole “X-Men is owned by Sony” problem.

      You want an ensemble? Hey, we got The Inhumans right here! From the hand of Jack Kirby himself! What an impeccable pedigree! They’ve got wacky powers! They’ve got a base on the moon! Nobody else has done anything with them! And we can push the heck out of them while killing off X-Men books because we don’t want to do free advertising and script-writing for Sony! Just do a tweak here and a nip/tuck there and, voila! The X-Men script is now an Inhumans script!

      It made perfect sense to the suits and the beancounters.

      Unfortunately, there is no discernable difference between those suits/beancounters and the people who keep okaying these execrable DC movie scripts.

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      • I can believe that. Although this Inhumans script may have been an X-Men alternate reality where Magneto was in charge.

        But one thing X-Men has going for it is that over its multiple iterations, the cream has risen to the top. No one’s calling for a Toad movie. But Inhumans hasn’t had that kind of purification. In this show, Trident and some generic hot girl were being chased in the first five minutes of Ep 1. Trident was apparently killed. But then the big reveal in Ep 5 or so was that Trident was still alive. Think about it! Trident! A character who has so much meaning for me that I had to imdb his name, and it turns out that his name is actually Triton.

        Filter, filter, filter. Franchises are going to have more characters who are misses than hits. Fantastic Four is never going to become a successful movie franchise as long as Reed Richards is good and Dr. Doom is evil, because they’re both boring that way.

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  4. That’s *IT*. There were a handful of not-awful television shows

    I should catch Greatest American Hero when it’s on one of the Rerun Nostalgia Channels. I remember it being Not Good (even by the standards of a pre teen) (it’s got a pretty high IMDB rating tho). But it also was way ahead of its time on the Deconstruction thing.

    To wit, A Team, Knight Rider et al were superhero shows, genre wise.

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    • A-Team was not superhero. It was a sub-genre of military-themed stuff. Perhaps the realism was not what it could have been.

      Knight Rider is adjacent to stuff like Six Million Dollar Man but not really superhero either. The dude had a car. The car talked. That’s not superhero. It’s sci-fi adjacent.

      Manimal! Now that’s one that we could seriously discuss.

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  5. I’ve mostly been reading a lot of picture books because of my stuff I have going on. They relax me. Most of the oeuvre of and also a ton of Allen Say…. as much as I dig on Chris Barton I may just be in love with Allen Say, and I don’t think they’re so much for kids, as for anybody who knows kids, remembers being a kid, had to raise kids at some point, etc. Kids might like them too, of course. So far my favorites of his are The Sign Painter and Drawing from Memory. Consulting my inner kid chorus, they liked Emma’s Rug the best.

    I read La Belle Sauvage, the first in Philip Pullman’s prequel trilogy to His Dark Materials. Liked it a lot better than the last of the His Dark Materials, less than the first two but not much less. His adult preoccupations are definitely on parade from time to time. That said, the writing was absolutely captivating.

    Have not finished watching much of anything lately (though if you like Epic! Chinese! Historicals!, Warlords (Jet Li) was decent). Still re-watching Dark Matter, started watching a super-scandalous very British miniseries about Versailles which appears to be the grown-up version of Reign, 15 minutes in. (This is a good thing for Maribous, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it good tv. Dark Matter is pretty delightful, though, some things even better on rewatching.)

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    • Oh yeah! I also watched the first episode of Legends, which stars Sean Bean and kinda sorta reminds me of Burn Notice only they work *for* the government….

      I loved it but mostly because 1) Sean Bean, 2) that woman who played Mac in Veronica Mars…

      I suspect the two of them will be more than adequate to carry me deep enough that I get hooked.

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