Superhero Fatigue

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In the late sixties, there was an anti-war slogan “Suppose They Gave a War and No One Came.”  It was popularized in a McCall’s magazine article of the same name (link here) and later in a movie.

My head has been in a similar place lately regarding the deluge of comic-book related movies.

Suppose they made an intergalactic war-themed movie featuring outlandish CGI special effects and heroes in spandex and nobody watched?

Okay, it doesn’t have the simple punch of the anti-war theme, but you get my drift.

I’ve become numb to the sheer volume of comic-book movies that are thrown at us and it’s gotten me to the point where I no longer care.

For you to understand why that matters, you need to know that I’m a comic book fan.  I read them diligently as a kid all the way up through my late thirties. For years, I even collected them, taking care to individually bag them with protective backer boards.  I then placed them into small cardboard boxes and categorized them alphabetically.

My habit even grew to where I was buying high-grade (expensive) comics.  I owned a CGC graded 9.2 Iron Man #1 which was worth over $700 a decade ago.  I can’t imagine what its value is today.

I also collected memorabilia and toys related to superheroes.  I wasn’t as bad as Steve Carrell’s character in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, but I was close. When I turned forty, I sold off all my comics and related paraphernalia, but I still loved watching comic-book movies. 

Now, Marvel and DC won’t care about my stepping back from the superhero trough.  There are more than enough fanboys and fangirls out there who will continue to walk up to the ticket counter.  But for me, I think I’ve had enough.  This has gone on too long.

The current Marvel universe really kicked off in 2008 with the release of Iron Man.  Oh, there had been plenty of movies before then, but 2008 is ‘Year One’ for what is called the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  For quick and easy reference, these are the movies that are centered around the “Avengers” story line.  Other movies like X-Men and earlier Spider-man titles don’t fit into the MCU.

Besides Iron Man, only two other Marvel movies were released in 2008 – The Incredible Hulk and Punisher: War Zone, but Punisher did not factor into the MCU at that time.

Also in 2008, DC released The Dark Knight, the second Batman movie starring Christian Bale. 

So that was four comic book movies in 2008 between the two biggest publishers in comics.

How about 2009? Marvel released the forgettable X-Men Origins: Wolverine and DC dropped the amazing Watchmen.  Good lord, Watchmen felt like something worth viewing over and over.  That is what a comic book movie should be.

In 2010, Marvel released the mediocre Iron Man 2 and DC released the dreadful Jonah Hex.

Then the floodgates opened in 2011.  Marvel released two MCU movies, then another X-Men movie and Ghost Rider: Spirt of Vengeance.

To compete with their rival, DC gave the world Green Lantern.  Damn you, DC.

Regardless of how many comic book movies came out, I watched them all, even Green Lantern which I bought on DVD no less.  Again I say, damn you, DC.

Between 2012 and 2017, the big two released a combined 26 movies featuring superheroes (DC – 6 / Marvel – 20).

I’m not even counting the TV shows.  During this time, DC has had shows like Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and several more.  Marvel has had Agents of Shield, Legion, Runaways, Inhumans, Cloak & Dagger, and five Netflix series which I’ll mention in a minute.

When 2018 happened Marvel came out full force and released five movies (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Ant-man and the Wasp, and Venom). DC deemed it necessary to add Aquaman.

Doesn’t this seem like a bit much?

Seeing my childhood heroes on the big screen had always been a huge deal.  It blew my mind when I first saw Christopher Reeves in Superman.  I still watch that movie with the eyes of child.

“Easy, Miss,” Superman said when he caught Lois Lane in mid-air after she fell from the top of a skyscraper. “I’ve got you.”

“You’ve got me?” she exclaimed.  “But who’s got you?”

I’ll always love that moment.

Then twenty-years later the wall-crawler made his way to the movies and I couldn’t believe how amazing the friendly neighborhood Spider-man looked swinging through the big apple.

Ben Affleck’s 2003 Daredevil may be my favorite superhero big screen moment, though. DD is my favorite comic book character so it’s only natural that I would love that movie. Many folks have complained about Affleck’s turn as ol’ horn head, but I think he did a great job.

I was disappointed when they only did one Daredevil movie, so it brought me great joy when Netflix created a Daredevil series.  The first one blew my mind.  It was so good that as soon as I finished it, I re-watched again.  The other Netflix/Marvel series (Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) were good, but DD was where it was at.  I watched the second series a couple of times as well.  I just couldn’t get enough Daredevil!

The third series came out in late 2018 but (I’m going to let you in on a secret) I still haven’t watched it. I guess I just don’t care.  And this is about my favorite comic book hero!

How did this happen?

Earlier in the year, I went reluctantly to Infinity War and didn’t feel a blip of anything when Thanos wiped out half the world’s population, including some of our greatest superheroes. Spoiler alert.  (Isn’t this where I’m supposed to put that?).

I’ve read comics. I realize that there is no permanent death in the worlds of Marvel/DC.

Superman died, and they brought him back.

Elektra died and they brought her back.

Batman had his back broken by Bane but was able to fully recover to fight crime.

Hell, these characters are ageless.  You and me, we are going to get old and die.  The X-Men are going to get rebooted.

So what is going on with me?  Have I turned into a curmudgeon? No, I’m simply burnt out on comic book movies.

I didn’t see last year’s Venom nor Ant-man and the Wasp.  I don’t feel like I missed out on anything, either.  I only recently watched Deadpool 2 on HBO and I kept thinking there were other things I should have been doing while it played.

When the marketing campaigns began for this year’s comic-book movies (Shazam, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, X-Men: Dark Phoenix), they only elicited a yawn from me. I haven’t seen any of them and I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.  If you want to share a spoiler with me, I’m not going to freak out.  This isn’t like The Sixth Sense where you watch the whole move to only learn in the end that Bruce Willis is dead. (spoiler alert)

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Instead of superheroes in tights, I’ve been more into watching old, CGI-free movies.

I watched the amazing Get Carter with Michael Caine (1971).  Holy crap, that was a fantastic movie!  It was remade in 2000 with Sylvester Stallone.  The remake is also worth a viewing, but definitely watch the original. Michael Caine was fantastic as a gangster out to find his brother’s killer.

I also saw James Garner’s Marlowe. It’s a 1969 updating of Raymond Chandler’s private investigator, Phillip Marlowe.  The movie is based on the novel, The Little Sister.  It was a blast to watch, mostly because Garner is one of those cool guys from the ‘60s and ‘70s that I just love to watch.  The movie also had a small roll for Bruce Lee.

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There are no over the top special effects in these movies.  The characters face life and death.  In Get Carter, death is ugly and people are mean.  In Marlow, while there may be witty comebacks, death was no less permanent.

Even though those movies were fifty years old, I cared about the characters in them.  What happened to those people seemed important and interesting.

Unlike what was occurring at the edge of the galaxy with some talking racoon and his limited-vocabulary stick.

 

Colin ConwayComment