I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN SPIDER-MAN THREE
Of course like everyone else who's serious about comic books I've just returned from the big Comic Con International in San Diego and all that implies. It always seems to be a logistical challenge making sure the AiT/Planet Lar army mobilizes in a strategic and efficient manner.
"It's herding cats," Mimi always says.
It's particularly challenging, getting back in the saddle this year, in that we've also just moved the AiT production offices into our palatial new operations facility in downtown San Francisco, so while Making Comics Better and Recovering From San Diego, Mimi and Josh Richardson and I have also been Moving Boxes.
So after finding a new spot for my "Mission to Mars" spacesuit, and the big frozen Han Solo, and Cap's shield and Iron Man's helmet and the Larry Young action figure and the mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex and the giant penny and the enormous Joker-faced playing card and all the other souvenirs of my adventures, we got down to the computers and phones and the graphic novels and the other boxes of stuff from the old place.
So just as I'm telling Josh that the British sci fi mag "SFX" has reported that Bruce Willis is up for playing Nick Fury and I ask him who he thinks Thomas Haden Church will be playing in the next "Spider-Man," he drops a box of all my Mego-sized Marvel and DC superhero action figures and as we're picking them up he starts makingfun of me about them.
"Yeah, 'Mister King of Independent Comics,' you're a fanboy just like the rest of us," he says.
Well, sure, I admit, you can't be good at comics if you don't have at least some sort of underlying appreciation for the form and its rich history. Some folks like the nostalgia of it, some the fact they're invested in a modern pantheon of epic heroes. Some like the action-adventure and some like how Los Bros. draw Maggie. There're all sorts of ins to comics. Guys my age usually have a fondness for their favorite superheroes of their youth, no matter what sort of entertainments they produce as adults. Superheroes are the start for most comics fans, but the field is so rich now that there's literally comics for everyone and every taste.
"I gotta pretty good idea for a comic," Josh says, as we're making Hawkeye and Green Arrow face off against each other on the shelf, so I tell him to pitch it to me. He's seen enough people pitching me their stuff on the fly that he knows to start out with a good title and a decent hook. Which he does. His title's awesome. Puts a thought in my head. His tagline is decent, too, but then he starts pitching me the story. It starts out good enough, but he eventually gets to "… so, see? The crime guys are all clones."
OK, I tell him, that's where you go off the rails. You gotta not be so obvious. You gotta tell the one story that only you can tell. Writers trot out the evil twins and the dopplegangers and the clones and whatnot when they're vamping from one plot point or set piece to the next. "General Kenobi, years ago, you served my father in the Clone Wars; now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire." That's great as a throw-away line, but it's hard to hang a whole flick on it. You want to shorthand your main character, it's time for the transporter accident that splits the Captain into milquetoast and sex offender. Making your bad guys clones has been done. Gimme the story only Josh Richardson can do, I tell him.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. When I was a kid, Spider-Man was my favorite comic, and I just gave up in disgust when they did the Clone Saga. The Spidey I grew up with wasn't the real Spider-Man? Comics shouldn't treat me like that."
And believe it or not, that's when my Spider-Sense began to tingle.
Josh, man, I'm getting ideas.
"What are you talking about? What ideas?" He knows it always ends up with the fun when I say this.
I'm with you, I tell him. Comics shouldn't treat you like that. But you know what would redeem that Clone Saga story? If Hollywood treated you like that. The Clone Saga would be the most revered bit of Spidey history, ever.
"What do you mean?" Josh wailed. Seriously, he wailed. "What do you know?"
Nothing you haven't read on the Internet, too, I tell him. Thomas Haden Church is in it. Smart money says he's the Sandman. James Franco's in this one, too, so it's hard not to think maybe the Hobgoblin finally shows. But Topher Grace has signed up, and he's a bad guy. But what if he's not a bad guy, but… a clone?
Josh looked at me blankly. "What?"
If I was Raimi, and I've cast an actor who looks enough like my lead actor to be his twin brother… or his… clone, this is what I'd do.
"What?" Josh said again, weakly. There's a bit of fanboy fear behind his eyes now.
You tell your story, yeah, and you have your fistfights and your swashbuckling and your romance, sure. You even have a clone subplot to make the end sing.
"What?" Josh said. This time blankly and weakly.
You just say that Tobey Maguire was the clone the whole time, and Topher Grace is the real Peter Parker. That way Tobey retires in honor, the Spider-Man franchise gets some new blood with an award-winning actor, and we all get three more Spidey movies to go with our popcorn and Jujubes.
"Dude, you've invented dynamite. Fanboy dynamite."
Naw, man, I tell him. They'd never do that. It'd tank DVD sales just like The Clone Saga tanked Spidey comics sales, and they're not going to mess with that kinda cash.
But you get what I'm saying, yeah? Stay away from clones.
But, wait; that Michael Bay movie The Island looks pretty good…
Forget I said anything.
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