So my wife and I are watching our recently-arrived Season 2 DVDs of Lois & Clark, and I found myself doing it again. The thing that all comics fans do, whether we admit it or not. It was the fifth or sixth episode from that season, the one where the cloned gangsters are trying to take over Metropolis, and Emil Hamilton turns out to be the guy that did the cloning.
And my fan reflex kicked in. It was an instantaneous, instinctive reaction. I immediately stopped caring about the story and instead I thought, “Wait a minute. That’s all screwed up. They got it wrong.” And I spent the next minute or so riffling through my mental Superman Fan Rolodex ticking off all the continuity mistakes the show had made.
Then I got over it, thankfully without starting to rant to my wife about it. Julie really loves Lois & Clark — I rather like it myself, at least the first couple of seasons, but Julie really loves it — and she would quite probably have thought I was being mean and making fun of her for liking something I didn’t.
But I thought it through a little bit, and realized that this fan reflex of mine was a bit ridiculous. First of all, there was no way that the show could have got Hamilton “wrong,” since it was his first appearance on it. Secondly, even if you are judging the portrayal as being consistent with his appearances in the comics, it WAS consistent — because if you asked for the quick summary of Hamilton, it would be “He is a brilliant but misguided scientist, whose well-meaning experiment results in creating a menace that it takes Superman to put down.”
Well, that’s what he was on Lois & Clark. And in the Dini-Timm cartoon. And on Smallville. And, oh yeah, in the original comics. None of these Hamiltons bear more than a passing resemblance to one another, but the same through-line and plot points apply to all of them. So what was my problem? I should relax and let it go. The ESSENCE was there.
Realizing this made me think about how weird we get about the movie and TV versions of superheroes. Remember the seething fan rage about Spider-Man and his organic webshooters? Or when it was announced Michael Clarke Duncan was playing the Kingpin? Or when Jessica Alba was announced as Sue Storm? Or… I’m sure you can come up with your own example. God knows there are hundreds.
So what’s that about? I’m just as guilty of it as anyone — nobody has been snarkier than me about the cinematic versions of Captain America — either version, whether it be the horror that was the Reb Brown Cap —
— or the Matt Salinger straight-to-video version, with the Red Skull as an Italian concert pianist.
So, you know, I do it too. I’m just as picky and vicious as the next fanboy.
But what I’ve noticed in recent years is that even though Hollywood has been doing a lot better — no, if you are honest you have to admit it, they have been. Take a look at the old Nicholas Hammond Spider-Man from the 70’s show or the Rex Smith Daredevil from “Trial of The Incredible Hulk” and THEN come bitch at me about organic webshooters. Most comic-book movies, these days, seem to work fine AS MOVIES, they hit a reasonable minimum-entertainment value as popcorn action flicks, but we are just as crabby and hard-to-please as ever. This despite the fact that not only is Hollywood doing better at adapting… but they are actively COURTING us. San Diego has become overrun with studio flacks and actors pushing their next Hollywood project. Want to be really weirded out and vaguely embarrassed? Check out Jennifer Garner’s videotaped message to the San Diego convention about how great the Elektra movie is going to be and how sorry she is that she can’t make it to the con to show the clip package. “You’ll all be happy to know that the costume WILL BE RED this time,” she vows. Seriously. She said it. It’s on the Elektra DVD as a bonus feature.
Think about that. Jennifer Garner taped an announcement begging the geeks not to boycott her new movie because her costume was the wrong color in Daredevil. I’m sorry, but there’s something deeply messed up about that.
And this isn’t even an isolated incident. Every major superhero movie has somebody out there hitting the convention trail, pleading for our good will. In fact, I was shocked to see, on our recent DVD acquisition, a bit in the documentary with Deborah Joy Levine talking about how scared she was to bring a clip package to the San Diego con back in the early 90’s, trying to push this Lois & Clark show she was putting together.
So if the complaint was that we weren’t being counted, or our opinion wasn’t being considered, that’s just not the case. That fight’s over. We won.
Which leads me back to my original question… what WAS our complaint, exactly? Think of a certain comics-based movie or show that really annoyed you. What was your issue? That it wasn’t done “right”? That there was no “respect for the original”? Bryan Singer’s been stumping pretty hard for his new Superman movie. He knows what running the fan gauntlet is like after two previous cinematic outings with the X-Men. Fans are already lining up with their tomahawks after the first shots of Brandon Routh hit the net (The S is too small! The belt buckle’s all wrong!) and yet, of all the characters in superhero comics, Superman is easily the most adaptable and resilient. Check out this amazing collage I found at the Superman Supersite:
Now tell me which one is the “real” Superman that Bryan Singer has to respect or we will spend the next six months on the internet screaming for his head on a platter.
See where I’m going with this? Maybe we should unclench about this Hollywood stuff a little bit. Enjoy the good and ignore the bad, and otherwise don’t worry about it. Because if we’re at the point where the studio requires that Bryan Singer or Brett Ratner have to show up at a con and swear they did their best to a room full of pudgy guys in homemade costumes, I think we can relax and move on.
See you next week.
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