Saturday, May 10, 2008

Comet the Super (creepy) Horse and DC Comics Movies

Comet the Skeevy Superhorse

Randy suggested I blog on this topic: Cracked Online has identified the creepiest characters in comics. And, yeah, they knock it out of the park.

Of all Superman lore, Comet the Superhorse is probably the number one concept I just can't get behind. In case you don't click over, here's the rundown:
In order to make Supergirl appeal even more to the little girl audience of the 50's and 60's, they gave Supergirl a pony. Just as she had a cute little kitty with superpowers (Streaky the Supercat, who was actually hilarious on the recent Krypto cartoon), and Superman had Krypto and Beppo*, it seemed a pony was a good idea. What could go wrong?

Really, Comet is a study in "sometimes the simple ideas are the best", and you really don't need to muck about with the winning super-pet formula. But, this is comics, and in the world of comics, why have a lovely idea when you can have a really convoluted and bizarre idea?

Somewhere along the lines, Mort Weisinger fell asleep at the editorial wheel and Comet the Superhorse went from being a cute horse with powers to having a secret origin which revealed that he was once Centaur who had been transmorgified into a horse. And lusted for Supergirl. And would occasionally transform into a cowboy of some sort.

I dunno. It was the Silver Age.

No. Just... No.

I'm all into star-crossed lovers, but there's just something a bit creepy about a horse having romantic notions about a 16 year old girl. Or a 3000 year old Centaur who was lusting for Superman's young cousin. And, really, any way you slice it, I think Superman should have been going after Superhorse with a Super shotgun.

Also, they mention Terry Long, who even when I first saw him in the first Teen Titans story I ever read, I found a little skeevy, and I never understood the Donna Troy/ Terry Long romance and what the hell the editors were thinking.

*According to trusted site Wikipedia, Beppo was also a name for monstrous Nazi evil-bastard doctor guy Josef Mengele. I am... without words. Here. And here.

DC can't get a movie out, but Iron Man made $100 million its first weekend

Ah, DC Comics. It's not enough that DC Comics are the wallflower comics in the comic shops. For the past ten years, Marvel has been putting out profitable movie after profitable movie, all while Warner Bros. has been sitting on their sub-divison, DC Comics, unable to figure out how to bring anyone but Superman and Batman to the big screen.

Randy sent along this article, which takes a quick look at DC's stalled efforts while Marvel has another bonafide hit on their hands.

As a greater fan of DC Comics than Marvel Comics, it can be frustrating watching Marvel's characters make it to the big screen. After all, in theory, DC has had all the advantages for years. They're not licensing characters to get the movies made. In theory, they should be doing it in house. Marvel, meanwhile, should be struggling with bad deals.

According to the article, Marvel is simply decimating DC. And in a lot of ways, that's true. Especially if you go by volume of movies coming out.

And with Iron Man hitting theaters with a solid win, its tough to see DC having much success. That is, if you forget Dark Knight is coming out in a little while. And if you forget Marvel's recent efforts which may have made money, but also landed with a thud. FF2: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, and even Spidey 3 didn't do much to get audiences terribly excited. X-Men 3 made more money than X-Men 1, but ask anyone which of the X-Movies is their favorite...

This isn't counting movies such as Daredevil, Elektra and the Hulk, all of which made some money, but which were mostly disliked. And a quick show of hands for anyone who is particularly jazzed by the trailers for the new Hulk movie?

So I'm not sure what to make of all of this, honestly.

DC should be out there trying to compete. But of their two feature film releases, Superman Returns received fairly decent critical reviews, but forgot it was supposed to be an action movie when it opened just a few days before the steamroller of Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Batman Begins continues to be a favorite. And the trailers for The Dark Knight look promising.

Attempts at a Justice League movie, which should incorporate Batman, Superman and 5 other super hero mainstays (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and Flash) was scuttled after the writer's strike, ostensibly for cost reasons, but rumor control still leaked dissatisfaction with the script, and the cast listings for these iconic figures boiled down to a lot of talent which seemed more appropriate for a CW TV show than a superheroic epic.  This, of course, was getting negative web press from the comic dorks.  And I wouldn't be surprised if the studios didn't take notice (hey, we seem to be irritating our built in market...).

Speaking of the CW, the 7 seasons of Smallville will roll into an 8th season in the fall, as Smallville continues on as the highest rated show on the CW network. I wouldn't recommend the show at this point, but 8 seasons? That's got to say something fairly positive.

With Marvel Studios recent establishment and the success of Iron Man at the box office, the relationship DC has with Warner Bros., unfortunately, is seeming to become more of an albatross than a bonus. Rather than Marvel having the freedom to find the right package to get a movie off the ground with talent associated who they can guide in staying true to the concepts they're bringing to the big screen, DC is still fighting off directors and writers who are seemingly being gifted with superhero films with minimal input from DC.

The article states:

• Aquaman: "According to Comic Book Resources, the producers want to make a screwball comedy of it." • The Flash: Wedding Crashers' David Dobkin was signed to direct last year. • Green Lantern: Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters, Eli Stone) is writing a script; Jack Black won't star—at least he promised as much back in 2006. • Justice League of America: "Tabled." • Superman: The Man of Steel: Director Bryan Singer's on board. Superman Returns star Brandon Routh's on board. Filming might begin "early next year," per Routh, who admittedly doesn't have the power to schedule such things. • Wonder Woman: "Sitting uncomfortably on the backburner."

-A wacky Aquaman? Any particular reason? Not enough to work with there with the Lord of the Seas, his super strength and various other powers and a largely unused environment full of all kinds of potential? I assume this is because stand up comics have been taking pokes at Aquaman for the past few years.

-A screwball comedy director for The Flash? Because that worked so well for the FF movies. I can only assume they think The Flash is a barrel of yuks, or I can't imagine what drove that decision. And while I agree that the Flash should be a huge amount of fun, letting Owen Wilson and Co. mug for the camera doesn't seem like much of a qualification. But I'd be curious to hear what the story is, first...

-Am I seeing a trend here? About four years ago it was rumored Jack Black would star in a Green Lantern movie. Once again, it seems that the now 45 year old Batman TV series seems to dictate how writers are thinking of superheroes. Its particularly disappointing when Geoff Johns is doing so much to make Green Lantern such an engaging read. And could probably hammer out an outline for a movie in about three days at this point.

-And I'm going to go out on a limb here about Whedon's Wonder Woman, but... Whedon's financial track record isn't that great. He has a small, core audience that will follow him anywhere he goes, but remember the shakiness regarding the final seasons of Buffy? The quick cancellation of Firefly? The non-existent box office for Serenity? I'm glad the man got a shot, but perhaps whatever script he handed in just wasn't looking like much to the producers but "Serenity Deux".

That said, there's a lot of room for Wonder Woman to be very, very bad. I'm not interested in seeing this movie until there's a solid script and talent behind it.

How, after 3 Spider-Man movies, Iron Man, and whatever success you want to assign to the various other Marvel movies at this point, Warner Bros. still can't help but see their potentially profitable action franchises as anything but silliness to be milked and discarded is a mystery beyond my ability to solve.

Add in what they seem interested in doing when they do get a well-written property, and you wind up with "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (wtf?) or "V for Vendetta" (let's all be non-conformists, together!). Or the ability for things to go off the rails when the money guys get too involved (see: Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Actually, don't.). Or they rush out a movie that's just not a good idea ("Steel". Starring Shaq. Oh, yes.).

So it doesn't do much to make me think that DC's woes as far as not meeting Marvel's output are as much of a problem as the article suggests. I would rather have fewer, better movies (and I still think Superman Returns was much better than folks gave it credit for) than a machine just dumping the DCU out onto a populace with minimal regard to quality. There's no guarantee that every Marvel flick to come will be Iron Man. There's a lot of room to go off the rails with Thor, Cap and the rest.

And if DC wants to test the waters... there's no rule that says you need to roll out the big seven. I don't think most people have a solid idea of who the heck Iron Man is/ was before the movie. So are people really going to not show up for a Blue Beetle movie if it looks fun and cool? And isn't there a great movie somewhere in there with Shazam!? Green Arrow and Black Canary? Heck, I think people would turn up for Plastic Man.

Understand, too, that WB has felt burned in the past. After the Catwoman debacle, it seems that they're aware of the potential for things to go poorly, and will do what they can to manage their properties. So while there may be a wacky Aquaman script out there, I think they're genuinely ting to do right by these characters.

Sometimes, less is more.

Now, if DC could get their comics straightened out...


Fantomenos said...

The "wacky" Aquaman may also be the result of an Aquaman movie being a running joke on HBO's "Entourage" where the shows lead is playing Aquaman in a costume referred to as "underwater Elton John" Anyway, your points seem accurate, but seem like a reversal from my youth, when I was a devoted Marvel reader, and Superman and Batman were dominating the box office while Marvel's attempts at the Punisher and Captain America fell on their faces, to say nothing of the aborted Fantastic 4 debacle.

Also, I'm the only fanboy who wanted to see Jack Black's take on Guy Gardner? We could get John Cusack as Hal, and Todd Louiso as Kyle, that would rule!

The League said...

That actually explains quite a bit about Aquaman. I'd forgotten about the Entourage thing as I've never seen the show and only heard about the storyline second hand.

DC certainly did seem to have the upper hand when we had the Batman movies and even the Superman movies. But I think the 20 years of development between Superman IV and Superman Returns, and all the bizarre stuff that went along with that (and certainly treating Superman like a gift to directors who'd had a big opening weekend) has led to a lot of the mess with the current inability to bring DC to the screen. Marvel, by making a stake with its own studios, seems to have the upper hand as they choose how their properties are treated. Not some suit from a studio.

I recall seeing the poster for Captain America at the theater several months after Batman came out, and being very excited Marvel was getting into the game (I was far more into Marvel at the time). It was just the shield. And then it never came out. And I couldn't even find it on tape. I eventually saw it on TV at 2:00 AM, like 15 years later. And even that print was kind of a mess. And I rented the Punisher when it was released, and wondered what on earth had gone so wrong. It was such a straightforward concept, and Dolph Lundgren didn't necessarily seem wrong for the part, per se.

Part of me would have been amused by a wacky GL movie, but I think that the current dynamic of using Guy as a bit of hot-head comic relief to what could be, admittedly, overly serious proceedings could work well in a movie as well. I'm not just blwing smoke when I say I think you could have your next big space-opera with GL as is being charted in GL and GL Corps each month. The universe they're creating has seemingly unlimited potential.

If I could blue-sky, I would plan a trilogy. Hal's (and maybe John's) origin in movie 1 (with fall of Sinestro). Hal, John and Guy in movie 2 vs. Sinestro Corps. Hal, John, Guy and Kyle in movie 3, with whatever the Blackest Night turns out to be (only Geoff Johns knows for sure).

But I've seen the JLA pilot, and I think I can do without a wacky GL. And without DC trying to turn its properties into comedies.

Fantomenos said...

Yeah, I was 1/2 kidding about a funny GL movie. You're right, with modern special effects and a screenplay respectful of the source material, a GL trilogy could be jaw-droppingly good.

And now that I think on it, movies haven't really nailed the super-hero comedy that I can remember. I'm a big fan of the Tick, and thought the cartoon was great. But then I think about the awfulness of "Mystery Men" and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" and the negative buzz about Hancock... Has Hollywood ever gotten this right? I would totally dig an "Ambush Bug" movie, but, really, what are the odds?

The League said...

It is tough to make a comedy out of superhero material. I think, partially, because the folks who try to do it never get past the incredulous "will you look at these kooks!" thinking that was prominent in the trailers for "Superhero Movie". If the Batman TV series was funny and succeeded, I think it's thanks to the bizarre world of the show and the dead-pan delivery. As a kid I watched the show (I mean, a tiny kid. Batman was among my first words). And I had no idea it was supposed to be funny until they aired the series again with the release of the Keaton movie. At which point, I found parts of it pretty funny. And I think the Tick works in the same vein. It's just a bizarre environment in which the characters aren't in on the joke. How the Tick makes it work, and only parts of Mystery Men works (I think "Casanova Frankenstein" is one of the greatest character names ever on screen), is beyond me. But one does get the feeling its all a little precious.

If you dug "Ambush Bug", look in the quarter bin for "The Heckler". It was only six issues, but I still think its one of DC's funnier efforts, also by Giffen, and very much in the same spirit.

J.S. said...

Batman also worked because it found reasons to put a number of woman in skimpy tights.

Anonymous said...

Well, JLI was also one of DC's funnier efforts . . . . .

The League said...

And I certainly think that success came out of Giffen's take on comedy coming from the characters, and not at all because of "look, superheroes are weeeeirrddd!"