Thursday, February 9, 2012

"The Death & Return of Superman" Breakdown

So I've been hard at work writing the new Lunatic Fringe episode (I might take a day next weekend to review Ghost Rider 2, but aside from that finishing this is my goal for the month), when I come across this little video that's been circling the web. And since it is tangentially related to the last movie I reviewed, I figure than enough of an excuse for me to rant about it.

See, the screenwriter of Chronicle was Max Landis, the son of John Landis. Apparently Max is a comic book fan (seeing as he wrote Chronicle, that's not surprising). He is such a comic book fan in fact, that he apparently got angry enough about a comic to make a 15 minute short film about how much he hates a comic book. The object of his disdain is the 90's publicity stunt known as The Death of Superman and it's follow-up The Return of Superman, as well as that weird stuff that happened in between. Certainly not masterpieces, but considering some of the shit that the industry pulled during the 90's, The Death of Superman was one of the relatively less crappy in my opinion

Landis however, does not agree, and is willing to devote a significant amount of his time and resources to letting the world know. The video is overall pretty hilarious and well put together. However, Landis has billed this thing as "somewhat-mostly-accurate educational parody film" and it's that educational part I have beef with. All comedy aside, Landis does have an actual point to make, and the problem is that point is completely asinine. I probably should just ignore it and get on with my life, but it's been stuck in my head for the past few days, and honestly I just need to vent my thoughts so I can get back to work. So join me in this minute to minute breakdown of the entire film after the jump.

And right off we start this "somewhat-mostly-accurate" parody film with the most laughably inaccurate statement ever made by a comic book reader presented with complete sincerity. No one cares about Superman? Are you fucking serious? One of the most influential fictional figures in the last 100 years, never mind in this industry alone? A character whose adventures have inspired passion in the likes of creative giants like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and even Frank Miller? A character whose been in continuous publication for over 70 years, and despite all the reinventions and reboots has stayed essentially and spiritually consistent throughout? And you honestly believe no one cares about him? Give me a break.

And yes, him being "first" is a large part of why people have stubbornly kept him around for so long. But that nostalgia is was has driven writers to find meaning and depth in such an initially shallow character. That's what led Alan Moore to write "For the Man who Has Everything" or Grant Morrison to write All-Star Superman. Classic, inspired stories about a classic, inspired character. There's this thing called "timeless", Max. Look into it.

Ah, I see where you're coming from now. This is what I like to call "The Marvel Mindset". It's the kind of thing you inevitably hear coming out of a Marvel fanboy's mouth. They like to talk about how all of DC's heroes are supposedly outdated and two-dimensional, while Marvel's characters are fully realized and developed because they have problems and shit. Now I'm not gonna go into a full analysis of the difference between the two company's general philosophies, the "where you are" vs the "where you would like to be" and whatnot, because that's a debate that can go on forever. I will say that a) Just because DC's characters are larger than life figures does not make them uninteresting and it certainly does mean they don't face adversity (I refer you once again to "For the Man Who Has Everything") and b) having "pathos" does not make you more interesting. It just makes you a whiner. In my experience, "pathos" in comics just means " being a jerk, never smiling, and being considered deep and badass for it". I'll pass on your "pathos".

Yeah, of course everyone has the same powers now. As you mentioned mere seconds ago, he was first. HE FUCKING INVENTED THEM!! Isn't this more of a slam against Rogue or Captain Marvel than it is against Superman? The fact that everyone ripped him off is his fault now?

I imagine the marketing reason behind the entire "The Death of Superman" was less about making him "relevant again" than it was about a shallow grab for attention. They knew they had a cultural icon and they knew it would get the attention of the mainstream media if they did something drastic (not that he hadn't died before, they just made a bigger deal of it this time). It's they exact same reason Marvel had Spider-man get married. Now with the benefit of hindsight we know they didn't even need to kill him off and do a big media boost. All they had to do was have him offhandedly renounce his citizenship and people would've lost their minds.

OK, that summary/reenactment of Doomsday's origin was pretty damn hilarious (Hi Jimmi Simpson! Can't wait to see you in Knights of Badassdom!). That said, calling Doomsday a Hulk ripoff is cheap. There have been many giant ogreish characters like the Hulk both before and after the actual Hulk showed up. The connection is loose at best. Now Blockbuster, THERE was a Hulk ripoff.

Hey look, the disposable love interest/glorified second camerawoman from Chronicle! I kid, I kid I'm not here to talk about Chronicle anyway. Though I love how flippantly you disregard the Justice League. You know Max, Justice League International was actually a very fondly remembered series, I'm sure the fans of that comic really appreciate you calling it's heroes "losers".

So apparently Booster Gold sucks so much you just needed to pause like Jar Jar Binks had walked into the comic, because clearly this is a character with no fans whatsoever. I'll have you know Booster Gold rocks, sir. You complain about DC heroes being unrealistically noble? Well here's a guy that is openly in it for the fame & money! Plus he has Skeets, and Skeets is awesome. Hell, one of the only good things coming out of the New 52 is the fact that Booster is now LEADING the JLI. That is friggin' genius.

Ok, it's been awhile since I read this comic, but I do not remember this part about the wrestling match at all.

Technically they were reintroducing the Guardian, and I'm not sure who "Titania" is supposed to refer to. The only character by that name I can find in DC lived in the future with the Legion of Superheroes. Wait, do you mean Maxima? Jesus dude, I know this is a parody, but do your research.

Um, hello Mandy Moore. Fancy seeing you here.

Goddamn you people as your Batman worship. You actually make me hate the character sometimes, and I LOVE Batman! The only reason that might've happened is because writers have this ridiculous hardon for Batman and are obsessed with making him look better than all the other superheroes, which is hard when he's just an mortal man amidst characters that move mountains, so they turn him into this ridiculous Marty Sue who always is three steps ahead of everyone. Speaking of Batman, was that the girl from Birdemic?

That said, yes, many people complain that the comic was just a big slug fest with no real character. Valid point. But that argument's been beaten into the ground. What else you got?

Ok, I will second that. Go see Chronicle. It's pretty good, as we've already discussed. BTW, this song parody of It's Not Easy is pretty damn spot on.

Oh, so now Superman is iconic and he means something to people? Then what was that bullshit at the beginning!?

Oh, so now Steel sucks too? Yes, he's named after the folklore figure, what of it? Sure, it's a little on the nose, but it works. Hell, Steel is probably one of the best new characters to come out of the 90's outside of Deadpool.

HOLY CRAP, IS THAT ELIJAH WOOD?! Wow, this thing's got some star power. Guy's got some serious slapstick chops too, he should look into doing more comedy roles.

Why are you recapping Emerald Twilight? Sure, it spun off from Reign of the Supermen, but it's not really that relevant.

Yes, the return of Superman affected sales, but I imagine that was due to so many people who hadn't read comics in years if at all jumping on when Superman died, most of whom weren't familiar with comic books revolving door policy regarding death. Avid comic readers were probably not at all shocked.

And now at last we come to the point of it all and HOLY CRAP, WAS THAT SIMON PEGG?! Ahem, anyway...we come to the point of all this, which was that the The Death & Return of Superman story arcs destroyed the suspension of disbelief as far as death in comics. Which is a complete falsehood. Comic book characters, INCLUDING Superman, had being dying and returning long before this story took place. They just were always faking it and were back within an issue or two. Hell, "The Death of Superman" was already the name of an issue from back in the Silver Age. If there was any major character death & return that can be blamed for creating the concept of "comic book death" is the death of Jean Gray ten years prior.

So in conclusion, I'm off two minds on this.
On the one hand, I find myself disagreeing with virtually everything this video said. On the other hand, the fact that comics are at the point culturally when a bunch of big name stars will take time out to participate in a low-budget reenactment of one to make a point about it's impact on the industry is amazingly awesome. Plus it was very funny and well made. So rock on, Max Landis. Just leave Booster Gold alone next time, 'k? If anyone's still reading this, thanks for indulging my ramblings. I got shit to do. Peace.

Oh, and one last thing...

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