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Sunday, April 05, 2015 

Comics films destroying the deep mythic history of their source material

A writer on Boing-Boing says that all the comics-based movies coming out now have only managed to wreck the best history of storytelling. But, he's also got some arguments that aren't entirely accurate:
...when a superhero comic fails, and many have, critics never put blame on the source material, but on the interpretation and the execution.
I'm afraid that's missing something. Even some would-be critics have a problem of blaming the characters instead of how they're written. It's not just these rank-and-file audience members who do that. Also, some ongoing superhero titles have failed because the companies refuse to give them all their backing, or to promote them based on the story rather than the characters alone.

He also sugarcoats modern writers who aren't doing as good a job as the comics press would like us to think:
At mid-life and still reading, it’s a golden age for comic book fans. There is considerable talent in the superhero comic industry, with writers like Scott Snyder, Matt Fraction, Ales Kot, Mark Waid, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jason Aaron writing smart sophisticated stories with characters strong enough to inhabit a variety of narratives. Daredevil, currently being written by Waid, has gone through considerable changes since his first appearance in 1964. In 1979, Frank Miller took over writing the blind red-costumed crime-fighter and brought the once smiling B-lister to the depths of New York City where he came up against organized crime. His girlfriend became a junkie. In 2001, Marvel handed the reigns to Brian Michael Bendis, and with artist Alex Maleev, wrote Daredevil as crime noir and stripped him of almost all superhero pretension. Since 2011, Waid has injected levity back into the comic, but retained the edge and drama that keeps it from being lighthearted pulp.
What a groaner. There's nothing very sophisticated about Waid's run on DD, and Bendis' run was overrated too. What's so smart about stories taking such incredibly leftist slants as Waid's have? And he didn't help matters with his take on Matt Murdock's mother. Again, Miller's far superior efforts were enough, and Waid's is just too much.

Here's where it gets more interesting:
The lexis of comics (Marvel in particular) versus the language of film is often incompatible. Comic book characters have labyrinthine histories. Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, along with her brother Pietro (also known as the lightning fast Quicksilver) grew up as gypsies, were raised on Mount Wundagore by a Dr. Moreau-like creature named Bova, a saintly cow woman, created by the High Evolutionary. Wanda and Pietro would later discover their father is the mutant anti-hero, Magneto. And so it goes. The compressed storytelling necessary in film and television makes these rich origins almost impossible. As comics and other media entangle the companies who are banking heavily on the films and television shows, the comics books themselves will become more like those media vehicles, and risk lose their integrity.
But, he's still ignoring a ton. They lost integrity long ago, even before Joe Quesada took over as EIC. Furthermore, he should consider the real problem may lie with the editors and publishers (and maybe even movie executives) in charge: they seem to think moviegoers who might try the comics aren't smart enough to realize liberties can be taken with comics adaptations just as much as other media like sci-fi and fantasy novels. There's also a lot of older books the moviegoers might like even more, yet all the editors/publishers care about promoting to the filmgoing audience are brand new pamphlets and not letting the audience decide for themselves which takes, old or new, are the best they like. Towards the end, he says:
Maybe it is time to let go. My own son will see every superhero movie with me, but no matter how I strategically litter the house with comics, he won’t pick one up. He sees them as impenetrable, something that adults like, flavored with nostalgia he can’t identify with. [...]
Which ones is he scattering around the house? If it's the brand new items of the 21st century, no wonder he won't try them out. In a manner of speaking, they are aimed at adults...except they're aimed at arrested adolescents who care more about juvenile elements than intelligent storytelling. Such is the case with much of Bendis' writing since Quesada brought him in, and the same goes with Geoff Johns. Aaron's take on Thor isn't intelligent if all it's been written for is deliberate attacks on the audience, claiming they're wrong to defend the coherency of their favorite products. If I were in his position, I'd want to offer the children older tales to read, and there's plenty of Golden/Silver/Bronze Age archives now that can serve that goal. But don't offer them the newer products post-2000, most of which aren't even suitable for children. In fact, it'd be better now if parents would look for books other than superhero tales - sci-fi adventures in a general sense - since they might offer something more that mainstream superhero stories are failing to deliver now that they're in the hands of such awful editors.

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Actually, it might not be a bad idea if DC and Marvel were to publish family-friendly, all-ages comics that were directly based on (or, at least, reasonably consistent with) their movie and TV counterparts. Those comics could be marketed through general retail outlets (grocery stores, drug stores, news stands), not just comic book specialty shops.

Personally, I wouldn't care if the current "adult" (actually, arrested adolescent) versions were all cancelled. But, if there is still a sufficient market for them, then they could still be sold in the specialty stores and through subscriptions.

As it is, I doubt if comic book sales will be helped by movie adaptations. Even if movie fans do make a special trip to the comic shop and buy some comics, they will quickly get turned off. Not only are the comics radically different from the movies, they are also bogged down with convoluted continuity, and tie-ins with other titles. Plus, the left-wing propaganda and depressing grimdark style are both turn-offs for a lot of people.

Sooner or later, both Disney and Time-Warner will realize that publishing comic books is just not profitable enough to be worth the trouble. The comics exist as IP, to maintain trademark and copyright, so the owners can use the characters and plots in TV, movies, games, and toys.

But, sooner or later, the parent companies will realize that they can retain TM and copyrights just by using the characters in those other media.

The comics medium is on borrowed time.

What everyone else said. I recently came up on the Pet Avengers series, and I found it light-years more enjoyable than anything Marvel has done with the actual Avengers in some time.

And why is DeConnick is so popular? She can write, okay, but I can't say I've read anything that has impressed me from her work. Besides, she's just another leftist, like her husband, Matt Fraction. (If only he wasn't a leftist cretin, as I might actually enjoy his work. If only...)

I think DC and Marvel's biggest hiccup at this point was hiring crime and sci-fi novelists to write their stories for them.

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