I'm Just Sayin'…#42

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY!

[Happy New Year, Greg! Sorry for the delay in putting this up everybody, direct the hatemail to me!

–The Ever Lovin’ Greek Editor]

Let me kick this off with a special thanks to those three or four of you who’ve decided to come on back and join me as we enter 2009 with this latest edition of…

I wanna open with a quote from an October 30th article from IESB.com, that I have been meaning to use for quite some time…but week after week, one topic or another would come up that I just had to dig into. But then the overall theme for this week’s entry just seemed to hit me out of nowhere. It never ceases to amaze me when that happens; it’s like being visited by something divine…I think this is what J.M. DeMatteis was talking about when he described how he came to write KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT, and it’s led me to adopt a new creative mantra. If I ever teach a course on the subject, I would keep this on my blackboard all year: The writer is not the writer. The writer is the pen.

Deep, right? I think so…

Anyhoo, the following is from an interview IESB.com held with Brandon Routh, who of course is the latest to don the most famous red cape of all time…he was asked about the possible directions that a sequel to SUPERMAN RETURNS could take, and here is what he had to say on that:

IESB.com: A lot of people don’t think Superman can be that dark, or that you could make such a dark Superman film.

BRANDON ROUTH: I don’t know, I don’t think the character necessarily has to be darker, I think he is kind of dark in a sense, emotional dark, in SUPERMAN RETURNS, and the movie as a whole was slightly dark…I don’t know how much darker you want to make it necessarily. You make the stakes higher, you make the villain darker, I think that’s a way to do it. But I don’t think Superman himself needs to be darker. He definitely has to struggle, how does Superman be a part of the world? And does he have to make sacrifices to be a part of that world? To fit in and what purpose does he really play in the world? Those are all kind of dark places to explore. But, I don’t think Superman should ever be dark and brooding, that’s not his nature. And that’s not what people what to see. Like Brainiac or something like that, a situation when the villain is…

IESB.com: Would that be a good, if you had a choice is that the villain you’d like to see in the next Superman?

BRANDON: I think it would certainly be interesting, I think there are a lot of things you could do with Brainiac. He’s been given a lot of power and a lot of different abilities over the years in the comics, as far as I understand. I know that DC is working on a Brainiac storyline that they are excited about and I think combining the two and have that flow between the comics and the movie would be a nice thing. I honestly think there are a lot of interesting things you can do with Brainiac. Controlling people, controlling technology, a lot of cool things.

Once again, that was Brandon Routh on the kind of dark that a property like SUPERMAN can pull off. That’s right – this guy right here:

To the good people at Warner Brothers (LOL, like they know I exist!), I can only say this: I hope you were paying attention.  Even if you decide to ditch Bryan Singer and find another director, fine – but you gotta keep Brandon. He is that rare breed of talent who truly understands the character he plays. He gets his role, and that is what the sages call Indispensable with a capital “I”.

However, SUPERHEROHYPE.com has reported of a blog entry by screenwriter John August, stating that his treatment for DC’s SHAZAM! – which had Peter Segal directing – is being shelved in favor for something…darker?

Quoting the article: Superhero Hype! has spoken to both John August and Peter Segal a number of times in recent years about the developing project, both of whom confirmed it would be handled as an action-comedy. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had pretty much been sewn up to play Captain Marvel baddie Black Adam. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Warner Bros. is interested in John August’s comedic direction for the character anymore, despite that being the way the character was mostly depicted in comic books over the past 70 years.

Okay, taking a moment to be bummed about the fact that we won’t get The Rock as Black Adam…

…okay. Aaaand we proceed:

On the blog, August goes into great detail about his dealings with New Line and Warner Bros. both before and after last year’s writers strike and how communication stalled when it felt like Warner Bros. wasn’t on the same page to do an action-comedy take on the character that could appeal to younger kids as well as adults. Rather, they seemed to want to go into darker territory following the success of THE DARK KNIGHT.

Rumor has it they wanna make the Wizard Shazam a pimp, and give Billy Batson a meth habit. And y’know what? That’d be pretty funny…if it weren’t actually VERY POSSIBLE.

I wonder how many times Hollywood will continue to run into this brick wall before they realize that the Batman-y approach doesn’t work for every character…certainly not Superman, and certainly not Captain Marvel…which of course brings me to the main course for this week, Grimm N. Gritty’s latest victim – FRANK MILLER’S WILL EISNER’S THE SPIRIT.

I like to think the true Spirit was sent on a wild goose chase on another set, while Frank Miller got to work on committing the REAL crime upon an unsuspecting public...

I got a chance to watch it at home during my week off, and I gotta say, it was no small consolation that it was pretty much a free experience. I was very curious about this movie, but (A) my instinct was that I shouldn’t lay down  money to see it, (B) I didn’t want to wait a year until it was available on cable, (C) I’m pretty sure the MPAA’s issue is with whoever made the film available, not whoever happens to find it, and (D) I sincerely doubt Frank Miller’s losing any sleep over my having watched his film for free. I’m not, I can tell you that much!

In fact, with the permission of my comic book heads, I’d like to take this moment to *BEGIN DIGRESSION* Here’s the thing – I don’t hold the same opinions of piracy that the entertainment industry does. Quite frankly, the only thing I think I should have to pay for is quality. If it holds true that the proverbial buyer must always beware, then as that buyer, I reserve the right to use any means that I can discover, to determine if this CD or that DVD is actually worth buying. If it is, then – and only then – will this fool part with his money, and if anybody reading this column has a problem with this stance, well…in the immortal words of the eminent scholar Flavor Flav: I can’t do nothin’ for ya, man. *END DIGRESSION*

So anyway, I’m watching this thing, and…I’ll tell ya, Frank had such a big swing and a miss here, I almost wanna go easy on him…for one thing, and this is going back to Brandon Routh’s quote, I don’t think Miller quite understood one particular element of the Spirit mythos – at least, as I presume Will Eisner intended it. If I’m way off-base here feel free to write in and tell me so, but from what I’ve gathered, while Central City may be a bleak, hopeless, melancholy sort of place full of millions of little tragedies around every corner…the Spirit himself is not inherently a bleak, hopeless, melancholy character. I mean, look at him roughing up these thugs – he practically whistles while he works!

Moreover, I think that contrast between the nature of the city and the nature of its protector – probably the closest approximation I can think of would be if Clark Kent had decided to set up shop at the Gotham Gazette instead of the Daily Planet – is an integral part of what makes him so enduring as a literary vehicle. The Spirit approaches his job with a level of clarity that you just don’t see in many heroes, especially in the modern age when every protagonist is so laden with angst.  And what’s really interesting about that, is how his “death” as Denny Colt is what gives him that clarity. Because it is the “death” of Denny Colt that actually sets him free.

Those same trials and everyday minutae that dominates our waking lives no longer apply to our hero. Juxtaposed against the things that make us susceptible to our baser instincts; that make some of us desperate enough to lie, cheat, steal and even kill, the Spirit becomes something of an Enlightened Everyman.

He’s able to look at all things with a different set of eyes than the rest of us; to take a step back and see the forest from the trees. Have you ever noticed, especially when reading this current incarnation of his comic, there’s almost an air of the absurd surrounding everything and everybody that he encounters?

Part of it is because we are seeing the world through the awakened third eye that is Denny’s blue mask – through the Spirit’s interaction with this case or that, we’re seeing just how…silly it all is, the things we lend so much importance to. Peter Parker’s swinging through New York, constantly dragging his Uncle Ben, Aunt May, Gwen Stacy…all this baggage with him. Bruce Wayne’s skulking the streets of Gotham City, carrying the specters of his parents everywhere he goes. Denny Colt would be the kind of guy who’d come up to either one of them and go, “oh just lighten up, already!”

This, more than anything, was what was missing from Frank Miller’s interpretation of Eisner’s blue-collar Buddha. Instead of a truly unique film starring a truly unique protagonist, we got  a gravelly-voiced Gabriel Macht in a black suit, an Eva Mendes with an apparent obsession with all things shiny and a script full of dialogue that would silence George Lucas’s critics once and for all. Three strikes, Frankie. Best sit on down now, before I have to get into your choice of Samuel L. Jackson as the Octopus…

It really is a shame, because it’s not as though there were enough examples of what happens when you let ol’ Grimm get his paws on the wrong kind of property. You’d think with all the love that Frank Miller and scores of other writers and artists in the industry heap upon the shrine of Eisner, THE SPIRIT would’ve gotten a more suitable treatment. As it is, the best you could say about it is wait til it shows up on cable. On a rainy Sunday. When there’s nothing on TV except golf. I mean, it’s not a horrible movie…there are some parts that’re all well and fun…but after a point, I kept checking the lower right corner of my computer screen for snarky robots.

Just sayin’, is all. Once again, Happy New Year and don’t forget…

…two more weeks, baby!

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