I’ve always loved a good hero story.
Whether it was Indiana Jones punching Nazis or the man with no name adding another coffin to his bad guy list, there’s just something about a hero that ignites the imagination of youngsters, creating hours of emulation in the playground. Recreating the films and making your own stories with the same characters, wearing your parents’ baggy clothes and turning tree branches into machine guns. There’s no denying that heroes are amazing.
My first brush with superheroes was probably the same as many Padawan nerds. Watching (the now 25 year old and making me feel incredibly old) Batman: The Animated Series. The one true batman Kevin Conroy providing the voice for amazing exploits from the minds of writers like Paul Dini and creative influence of Bruce Timm. I was instantly hooked, hanging up my spurs and archeologist fedora in favour of a makeshift tea towel cowl. Batman was an extension of hero emulation, here was a human out there doing amazing things because he thought it was the right thing to do. His origin of a youth facing adversity and turning it around to better himself is a instant lifeline for any bullied child like I was. And that mask, just like the bat, was a symbol I could get behind. It meant he could be you, and you could put yourself in that story, effectively becoming your own hero when you watched it.
My next brush with superheroes was perhaps a natural progression from that, and opened up more of the superhero world for me. When my mum got cable I found Spider-Man on Fox Kids. Spidey not only showed a hero coming from similar origins and beliefs as Bats, but he took the mythos of the mask even further. Spidey is one of the rare heroes of his time to wear a full face mask. Stan Lee has been quoted and paraphrased as saying so much over his reasoning for this, but the general consensus falls down to two reasons;
1. It’s to protect his identity and to keep those close to him safe from harm.
2. It’s been said he wears it so the bad guys can’t see him being afraid.
This sums up Spider-Man perfectly for me. Bruce is the bat, there’s no illusion about who he has become. But Spidey is Peter Parker. The mask is something he has to wear because he feels he has to do the right thing. When I saw this as a kid I instantly fell in love. Here’s a shy nerd like me putting on the mask and a brave face to do what needs to be done.
Back then there was no clear divide, only kids sharing mutual admiration for their heroes. Swapping comics and predictions about what the next episode would be or plotting how we could get hold of a radioactive spider. Funny but passionate nerdy mates like Jack who gave me my first comic, a one-shot of Venom vs Spiderman which I still have stashed away to this day. I started collecting Ultimate Spider-Man soon after, and would save up my money to buy different graphic novels like The Long Halloween or The Killing Joke, the whole time falling deeper and deeper in love with these new stories and iterations of the characters and discovering new ones through them.
What I’m getting at with all of this reminiscing is that I feel like in today’s day and age of social media and the geek pop culture explosion, we’ve all lost sight of that initial magic that sparked our love for our heroes in the first place. To feel that affinity for these iconic characters and wait so long for a live action representation for them was a childhood dream. I can only imagine what it was like to see a Batarang fly into Jack Nicholson’s face, but I do remember seeing Spidey web-slinging through the Manhattan skyline for the first time.
Ever since the MCU debuted with Iron Man in 2008 we’ve been spoiled rotten with superheroes. Every facet of television, cinema and now even Netflix are all building these massive universes to compete with each other and captivate the audience’s imagination in new and creative ways. And with all of this going on now for the best part of a decade it’s no wonder we’ve lost sight of how we got started in the first place.
When Zack Snyder first released Man of Steel, it was The Dark Knight in reverse. He turned the playful bickering between Marvel and DC fans into all-out internet war with his ambitions for a DC Cinematic Universe. Marvel fans were picking apart every scene and failed reference, comparing every line and directorial choice to their own favourite Marvel film’s exploits. And vice versa! Before there was even a mention of a potential Justice League movie, DC fans have complained that The Avengers was too light-hearted compared to the gritty, character-driven Nolanverse, (forgetting that Blade is the darkest of all superhero films and was even executive produced by Stan Lee.) I’ve seen a night out with mates turn into arguments verging on fisticuffs over these films.
It goes even further with the advent of anonymous online trolls. People picking fights with complete strangers over an interpretation of a character. Snyder has become a modern day supervillain, and clickbait articles are taken as gospel, spreading like wildfire as each side angrily clamours to “prove” that their movies are the best.
Is it just me that thinks that some people are missing the point?
I know that this is a case of a few rotten eggs spoiling the bunch, but can’t we all just return to being those innocent children debating who would win in a fight between Batman and The Punisher? Children who would excitedly trade comics and see the other’s point of view through the story itself rather than demonising films before they even come out.
I honestly miss the spark we all got when we first saw Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, or losing count of how many times we watched that incredible trailer for The Dark Knight.
I’ll admit that personally, I prefer DC Comics now for their darker tone and the tighter overlaying arcs of the past. For me, Black Lantern Corps and The Battle for the Cowl worked better than the current Hydra arc or head-scratching tie-ins like Deadpool kills the MCU or Deadpool vs Deadpool, but that’s just personal taste. It doesn’t make me biased, it simply illustrates my point. I’ve seen petty much every Marvel and DC film the week of their release, and I’m happy to say that I’ve enjoyed every single one of them.
I enjoy them because I’m seeing characters come alive in new and interesting ways. I enjoyed the terrifyingly grounded Joker of Heath Ledger and the retro, family themed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. I enjoyed the humanization of Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 and the journey of self discovery of Clark Kent in Man of Steel. All of them were well done in their own way, and each made you feel like you were part of something larger that will play out in the years to come.
So I ask you, can’t we just let these films make us feel like kids again? Can’t we appreciate what we’re seeing on their own merits, rather than bickering and sniping about whether Marvel or DC is better? Because at the end of the day, I think it’s clear – and the staggering box office numbers being churned out on a monthly basis will bear this out – that no matter how much we complain about directors and casting, we’ll still go see these movies every time they’re released, and most of the time, we’ll bloody love it!
That is, unless Howard the Duck gets another solo film. That film sucked.
The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
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