Saturday, May 7, 2011

How Thor and the Comic Universe Will Take Over The World

Every time I pass a bus stop, Thor is looking at me. The problem is that his face is covered by words that look like some kind of super-heroic acne. So, we begin another summer with another comic book superhero movie. How is Thor a superhero, anyway? Obviously I don't know much about the comic, but yeah, I always did wonder how a deity fit into the Marvel Universe. Is Asgard really an alien planet or something?

I suppose these and other questions will be answered if I just go see the movie. I've had a troubled relationship with comic-spawned superhero movies: Superman, Batman, Spawn, Spiderman, Batman, Hellboy, Hulk, X-Men, Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Ghost Rider, Punisher, Wolverine, Watchmen - those are just some of the more famous ones. Now we've got Thor and then Green Lantern and Captain America and Avengers all coming up. I'm not holding my breath for my favorite Grell era Green Arrow to show up any time soon. Gotta love the Sherwood Florist!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they are all bad. I really like some of those movies. I'm not passing any kind of judgement at all. But how far away is the day when you go to your local 24 screen megaplex and see nothing but superhero movies? It seems harder and harder to find something that doesn't follow the Hollywood secret formula to success of "Just like X, but slightly different." And that "slightly" part is becoming more and more slight, and usually involves roman numerals. See if you can guess which superhero movie this is:
We begin with an Act-1 origin. Then our hero somewhat reluctantly decides to do heroic things. Wait, a Love Interest of some sort interferes with "doing heroic things." In the first part of Act-2 our hero manages to kick some lesser bad guy butt. Here's a good place to throw in a catchy one-liner that can be used in the trailer. Halfway through Act-2 there's a bit of a reversal where the eventual Boss Bad Guy cuts the hero down to size. Some more romance. Then the hero Does Something Stupid, and actually endangers people he is supposed to protect. Then Act-3 is the big confrontation with Boss Bad Guy where the hero wins with the help of Helpful Sidekick, redeems himself and sets up all the sequels. There's probably another catchy one-liner, too. Don't forget to have something cute/cool/mysterious after/during the credits.
Even the few cool new ideas like The Matrix quickly become More Of The Same. And if that's not enough, after a few sequels too many, franchise X gets a "reboot" which pretty much ends up being the same places with different faces.

Note: this isn't some random tirade about "quality" or the lack thereof. This is more a random tirade about quantity. With Hollywood's focus on things that already have a built-in audience, maybe we are missing out on some new, original cool stuff. If you're name isn't Cameron, the soup line of superheroes waiting for studio dollars is just too long to navigate.

Oh well, they say everything goes in cycles, right? I'm sure in the not too distant future somebody will be writing a 3D Telepathic Blog complaining about the glut of 19th century period pieces. "Enough Jane Austin," they will cry, "Give somebody else a chance!"

In the meantime, pass the popcorn and enjoy the show.


  1. Yeah, I agree with your sentiments. I quite like superhero fiction in general, but I'm not interested in any of the current movies because well, like you said, the formula is boring. It's all DC/Marvel heroes who are primarily white, male, and American. Yawn. Coming from an SF/F geek who's Canadian, female, and not white, I sometimes wonder why the most accessible fantastic fiction isn't just that… fantastic with regards to character backgrounds and setting. There's entire worlds and totally different POVs to write about. But of course, the big comic imprints will keep peddling their big mainstream American creations.

    There's a superheroine I'll probably be blogging about soon named Darna. I'm not a big fan of any of the comics/movies/TV series or spinoff media that she's in, but I feel like I grew up with her when I was a kid in the Philippines. She's been around since 1950 and there's constantly new fiction about her, and she fights a combination of b-movie monsters and Filipino folk creatures. It deals with some Filipino mythology (albeit in a very superficial level) but repackaged into superhero tropes. It's pretty interesting. Pulp from outside of America, represent!

  2. Nice. That is pretty interesting! There's definitely a vast untapped gold mine of different fantastical stuff out there. Shine that spotlight, Frida :)

  3. Hi Frida,

    It looks like Blogger ate my post. Thanks for that link! Yeah, it is very cool to get away from the same old stuff and find new things :)