Cross-Hatchings for August 2013

No one subject struck me as column-worthy on its own this week, so here are a few little things. Column-ettes.


The Batfleck Thing Dep't: Ever since the news was announced that Ben Affleck was signed to play Batman in the Man of Steel follow-up, the internet has been having... well, I guess you'd call it an 'episode,' or maybe a 'seizure.' I'm not exactly sure what kind, because sometimes it looks like panic and other times it looks like schaedenfreude and once in a while it looks like dangerously crazy road rage. All day, every ten minutes or so, all my various social media feeds exploded with stuff like this....

It's not just fans, either. I've seen comics pros and other Hollywood actors weighing in on this particular piece of casting, and some of them are just as outraged as the most deranged message-board guys. Even our own Dread Lord and Master put up a post about it.

So it's reached the point where I am almost starting to feel foolish for not caring.

You'd think I would care. Batman has been my favorite costumed hero for over forty-five years now. And I own almost all the Batman films here on DVD, from the first couple of 1940s serials on up through the animated Dark Knight Returns. It's not like I'm not invested in the character.

But then I realized why I just don't think it's worth all this hysteria. Somewhere in my brain, my inner Bat-fan had already shrugged the whole project off once Man of Steel turned out to be a hit and Zack Snyder had teased this sequel as being "in the spirit of" Frank Miller's Dark Knight.

Because I don't want to see that movie, no matter who it stars. I didn't care for The Dark Knight Rises or Man of Steel, and now that it's clearly the new direction and not a one-off or a fluke, I'm out. For me, it's kind of like what happened to X-Men comics back in the late 1980s... something I really liked a lot got taken in a different direction and that direction was hugely popular even though it wasn't my thing. So I shrugged it off and found other super-team stories to enjoy.

This new Superman-Batman movie project strikes me as being the same kind of thing. So I'm moving on. It's not as though I don't have a couple of longboxes full of other Superman-Batman stories here. A lot of people are fans of this new Nolan-Snyder approach but I'm not one of them.

Second-- and for me this probably was the deciding factor-- my first thought was, "Hell, that means they're doing the first meeting again."

Well, I already have at least four different versions of that right here in the home library. Probably more. I can't even remember all of them, to be honest.

I've already crabbed at length in this space about movie adaptations wasting time with the whole origin-first thing, so there's no need to take up more space here reiterating that. But it is a major reason I'm just not that interested in seeing the first Batman-Superman meeting again, especially from a creative team that doesn't do it for me.

But none of the hysterical internet rage is about any of those things. It's all Affleck. Almost as though the entire, free-floating cloud of internet snark and anger and cynicism that exists at any given moment has all lasered in on this one guy.

All of which leads me to wonder... why does everyone have it in for Ben Affleck? Is it just his turn, or something? Because if that's how it works, that's really kind of creepy.

Think about it. He's a guy that said yes to a job offer. He's not a criminal getting off scot-free for something because he's a celebrity, he hasn't been going around making nasty remarks about how he's really too good for the material, he's just an actor that took a gig. If somebody offered me a million-dollar payday to put on a Batsuit, I would do it. I bet you would too.

I really want to ask all the people circulating their petitions and whatnot, most of whom are in a spit-spraying rage, What the hell did the guy ever do to you? (I know that's asking for it-- I can already see the furious comments replying "Daredevil. 'Nuff said.")

But so what if Ben Affleck's been in shitty movies? What actor hasn't? Actors, for all that they like to brag to James Lipton about craft and so on, have very little to do with whether or not the story works. Sure, The Bodyguard would have been an infinitely better movie if it had been made with Steve McQueen like it was originally supposed to be, but Kevin Costner didn't ruin it. Daredevil wasn't the fault of Ben Affleck either. I thought he did okay. The problem was the story. (The first courtroom scene with Murdock is so laughably wrong in its details that it instantly pulls the audience out of the movie, and once that happens you don't ever get them all the way back.) Ben Affleck didn't write Daredevil, but somehow he gets all the blame.

The actors just say the words. The writer makes them up. When I wonder if a particular project is going to turn out well, I want to know who's writing it. Especially considering that superhero acting today mostly consists of matching closeups to a CGI double, the idea of obsessing over the casting of a particular actor seems... well, silly.

But then again, we always do this. I don't know why movie adaptations bring out the worst in fans, but it inevitably goes like this...rage, disbelief, snark, and acceptance. I used to be the admin for CBR's Movies and Television board and whenever any casting news for anything was announced, the wave of anger that followed was as predictable as the sunrise. Every time. When Daniel Craig was picked for James Bond. When the first pictures of Brandon Routh in the Superman outfit showed up, there were people throwing fits about the damn belt buckle. Even Jack Nicholson as the Joker got people pissed off. ("Too old! Too fat!") I think the only recent superhero movie decision that didn't get fans screaming all over the internet in a seething fury was casting Patrick Stewart as Professor X. For some reason nobody felt like they had to litigate that one on message boards for weeks.

As I was writing this-- (Literally! Right in that moment!) Patton Oswalt suddenly showed up in my newsfeed with his take on it all, and his comments are well worth sharing. So here you go.

Anyway, all of you having a tantrum over this should relax. We almost had Sylvester Stallone as Superman, back in the day.... that would have been a decision worth a vast internet seizure. Ben Affleck as Batman doesn't even rise to the Please, no level that comes with the perennial "Nicolas Cage is interested" rumors that accompany most superhero movies. People should let him up off the mat now.


From Out Of The Past! Dep't: For research purposes, I have been reading a lot about stage magic and magicians and spiritualist scams the last few weeks, and it reminded me how much I used to really love all that stuff. There were a couple of times-- usually after I was done with the latest book I'd found-- that me and the neighbor kids would put on our own magic shows.

I've been tracking down books I used to check out of the library all the time when I was in the third grade and it turned out my favorites were all written by the King of the Pulps, Walter Gibson. If I'd just done my online searches under his name instead of trying to remember various titles and dust jackets from forty years ago, I'd have saved myself all kinds of grief.

Apart from my delighted re-discovery of these books, though, it also reminded me of a great genre that we just don't see any more... the magician-detective. It used to be very popular in comics.

Today, of course, the landscape has changed. The magicians in comics are all real sorcerers now. Even with that tweak of the basic concept, no publisher seems to be able to make a new magician-hero series work, even with the characters that seem to be popular.

I wonder what the problem is, and I don't really even have a guess. It's another one of those genres that just kind of went away. Shame, really. But then, I think that about westerns and war comics and crime comics, too.

Anyway, in the meantime I've got this pile of Walter Gibson books to wallow in. That will keep me happy for quite a while. If you have any interest in the subject, his The Master Magicians and Secrets of Magic are especially awesome. They're both out of print but if you follow the links above, those will take you to Amazon dealers offering them for ridiculously low prices. Mine came to about six bucks for both and that was with shipping.


Outdoor Theater Dep't: Just a reminder, for any of you around the Portland, Oregon area-- this weekend is the last ever performance of Trek in The Park, and they are doing a production of "The Trouble With Tribbles" that's been getting terrific reviews.

Five PM, free admission, Cathedral Park in St. Johns, under the bridge. Tonight the Doubleclicks are playing a set as well, apparently. Julie and I will miss that, but we're driving down for tomorrow's show. Well worth it. But you have to show up early, because by showtime the place looks like the Nerdstock Nation. Bring a blanket and sunscreen.

For those that can't go, here is something cool-- the writer of "Tribbles," David Gerrold himself, showed up for last weekend's show. Here's the video. A little wobbly but worth it, just for Gerrold's anecdote about Robert Englund.


And that's it. Back next week, probably with tales of our travels. (We built in some time for bookscouting, too.) See you then.

EXCL.: Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Knightfall Promises a New DC Crisis

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