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Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? It’s A Comic Book Stunt?

Superhero comics run on the old serial narrative. Hero faces death. Hero is threatened by death. Then Hero saves the day. And then after a few hundred issues you have to give the threat some credibility by killing the Hero. Then you replace him with something else. Then you bring him back.

Four Supermans. Three Batmans. Doc Ock as Spiderman. And then once you’ve shaken things up, cleared the ground, you use that 8f_118056_0_SupermanVol1250HaveHorseWillFlas an opportunity to give the whole thing a fresh look before going back to the way things were all along.

Nothing really changes in comic books. That’s truer than ever because the comic book audience is now 40 year old males and they want more sophisticated storytelling without changing the stuff they grew up with. Those two are irreconcilable. And this is how you reconcile them. You make big changes and then reset them. Spiderman reveals his secret identity and then makes a deal with the devil to undo it. Big stuff happens and then it doesn’t. Everything changes and then it doesn’t.

The one thing that comic publishers fear for their IPs, even big ones like Spider-Man, is that they will be shelved and ignored. Event comics are a cry for attention. Making big changes gets readers to browse it on their iPads one more time. They make it seem like the comic is going somewhere when it’s not. When it can’t.

What can you really do with an iconic character that hasn’t been done before? Nothing.

Every comic book character has died, been replaced, had to kill, been accused of murder, lost the loves of their life, been defeated, had their identity exposed etc…

There is nothing else to do. Not a thing. Oh you can make him gay. That’s about it. And then change him back. See Vampire Slayer, Buffy. And once every comic has done its gay love story, there will be even less out there.

Superhero comics stopped being relevant a while back. Even Spider Man, one of the younger of the top superhero comics, is out of it. These aren’t stories, they’re IPs. Like Mickey Mouse or the Simpsons they’re just around because people remember them and kids buy the merchandise. That’s it.

There are no more stories left to tell. Just lunchboxes to sell. Or Apps. And the kids who buy Spider Man gear aren’t reading the comics now, they’re seeing the cartoons or the movies.

The comics began it all, but now they’re just this odd relic tagging along. Disney isn’t interested in Spider Man because it wants to sell Spider Man comics, but because it wants to make Spider Man movies.

DC and Marvel are relics full of characters to be monetized by movie studios who put movies first, games second, cartoons third and comics zeroth. Their target audience is 17. The comics audience is 37.

Batman, Superman and Spiderman comics have become the ugly stepchildren of their own IPs. Their audiences are too old, their medium is dated and they have to pull off new stunts that their audience is familiar with because their audience is pushing 40 and grew up on those stunts.

Comics aren’t dead, but the big boys are irrelevant. And being irrelevant means fighting harder for oxygen. It means more stunts which get reset and alienate whatever audience remains after the initial buying frenzy for the issues that aren’t going to be worth anything in twenty years dies down.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s a dying industry trying to pull off one more comic book stunt. Peter Parker dying in Doc Ock’s body is a metaphor for the entire industry. Old fans. Old characters. No reason to go on.

The Spiderman Reboot… it Bombed

I never saw any sense is such a rapid reboot of movies that were doing pretty well, but Sony knew better. Sony was so smart that it cast some Twilight emo kid and decided to make a worse version of the same movie that they made 10 years ago. That was a move intended to capitalize on teenagers who were just learning to walk when the first Spider Man movie was released and who were just trying to make it to puberty when Spider Man 3 was released and can’t be expected to relate to a thirty something Spidey.

the Amazing Spider Man poster

It’s like the Dark Knight… but with more teen angst

But studios forget that they’re not the only audience out there.

The original Spider Man cost half of what the Spider Man reboot did and made more faster. The original Spider Man hit 400 million bucks. The Spider Man reboot got plowed under by The Dark Knight Rises and made 11 million over the weekend bringing its total to 228 million dollars out of a 230 million dollar budget and unknown promotional budget.

That’s not quite a bomb bomb, but even with foreign box office those are bad numbers. Spider Man 3, which had an oversized 258 million dollar budget still had a 336 million total and that was enough to trigger a reboot. Spider Man reboot probably won’t clear its full budget domestically and while its opening weekend is big enough that much of the money doesn’t go to the theaters, this is still bad.

As usual the Spider Man reboot has made more money in the foreign box office than the old domestic one, but the Amazing Spider Man is underperforming internationally too.

Does this mean Andrew Garfield will be sent home, along with Marc Webb who went from directing a few TV episodes and music videos to a summer tentpole? Will Sony give Sam Raimi a call?

Probably not. In their defense a chunk of the problem was releasing this puppy right before Dark Knight Rises and after Avengers without figuring out a way to make the Amazing Spider Man into an event movie.

The original Spider Man was an event movie. The new one would have done better in a barren season, but this summer had actual event comic book movies and it couldn’t compete.

Superhero Movie review

Superhero movie PosterCraig Mazin has spent the entire decade of his career writing, directing and producing superhero movies and spoofs, often both, directing the Specials and writing Senseless and the last two Scary Movies. Superhero Movie is the natural and inevitable culmination of Craig Mazin’s career but it’s also the weakest of those movies to date. While Superhero Movie may be a world away from the completely disposable parodies like Date Movie, Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans, it’s also a world away from the classic Zucker comedies like Airplane and Naked Gun. Instead Superhero Movie’s closest cousins are the Naked Gun wannabes like Spy Hard that came out in the 90’s, movies that loosely try to spoof a genre but without the timing, energy or clever writing of the originals.

Superhero Movie begins with a dead on spoof of the overly dramatic opening credits of Spider-Man right down to having the hero shine the flashlight on his own chest. Unfortunately as the movie continues, it becomes more and more obvious that rather than a parody of superhero movies, Superhero Movie is primarily a parody of Spider-Man and Craig Mazin’s idea of parodying Spider-Man involved remaking Spider-Man on a smaller budget and throwing more jokes into the mix. There is the Batman flashback and a pretty funny X-Men interlude but mostly it’s a scene by scene remake of the first Spider-Man movie with occasional pop culture references thrown in.

Superhero Movie isn’t anywhere as bad as Meet the Spartans, it has its genuinely funny moments but they’re too thinly spread on the ground and while pros like Leslie Nielsen and Jeffrey Tambor have bulletproof timing, the younger cast members mostly flail around aiming for comedy and hitting empty air. There’s enough here to remind you of Airplane but not enough to actually make you laugh the way you did at Airplane, especially since those gags have become comedy staples long ago.

After Meet the Spartans it seems strange to complain about a spoof movie having too much of a plot, but Superhero Movie is more narrative than comedy and that might have worked if it hadn’t been borrowed narrative that we’re a little too familiar with. Only the final showdown at the Humanity Awards breaks the cycle and it’s in those moments when Superhero Movie steps away from aping Spider-Man, such as the introduction of Stephen Hawking who provides some of the movie’s funniest lines, that Superhero Movie comes closest to its potential. Craig Mazin admires the Zuckers but their movies didn’t regurgitate another movie’s plot wholesale and that’s exactly what Superhero Movie does. So much so that at times it’s unclear if Craig Mazin is trying to make a spoof movie or is trying for a superhero movie of his own.

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