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Keith R.A. DeCandido

Fiction and Excerpts [3]
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Fiction and Excerpts [3]

“Everything’s always complicated with Peter” — The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Despite the reboot of the franchise, Spider-Man continued to be a hugely popular character, and The Amazing Spider-Man did very well in 2012, continuing the web-slinger’s streak of being a hit almost no matter what. Long the face of Marvel, Spidey’s popularity continued unabated, and Marc Webb was brought back to direct a sequel, with genre veterans Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci brought in as co-writers and co-executive producers to help build a new Spider-verse intended to stretch out over many movies—and which instead we wouldn’t really see after this. Kurtzman & Orci had already been involved in the financially successful reboots of Transformers, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible, so one can understand the desire to add their Midas touch to Spidey.

[On behalf of the fine people of New York and real rhinos everywhere, I ask you to put your mechanized paws in the air!]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“Easy, Bug Boy!” — The Amazing Spider-Man

Even though the Sam Raimi-directed, Tobey Maguire-starring Spider-Man movies were each big hits, the third one was kind of a dud critically speaking, and Raimi was having trouble making a story work for the next one. This, despite Dylan Baker being right there in the second and third movies as Curt Connors, thus setting up the Lizard as a likely villain for the fourth movie.

As it turns out, a fourth movie was made with the Lizard as the bad guy, but once Raimi departed, Sony decided, for reasons passing understanding, to reboot the franchise from the ground up, thus giving us, not Spider-Man 4 in 2012, but instead The Amazing Spider-Man.

[“No, Dad, I do not want cocoa. Honestly, I’m seventeen years old!” “Okay, I just thought I remembered somebody saying last week that her fantasy was to live in a chocolate house.” “Well, that’s impractical—and fattening.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“Earth’s mightiest heroes type of thing” — Avengers

While Marvel is often credited for revitalizing the superhero genre in the early 1960s, in truth they were simply following DC’s lead. It was in the 1950s that DC came out with new versions of the Flash and Green Lantern, created characters like the Martian Manhunter, and revived World War II heroes Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, including bringing them all together into a team known as the Justice League of America.

The JLA in particular was hugely popular, taking the various solo heroes and putting them together into their own team title. So in 1963, Marvel followed suit, as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby put Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp together into a team book that they called The Avengers.

[“I have an army.” “We have a Hulk.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“I don’t like bullies” — Captain America: The First Avenger

In 1940, the United States hadn’t yet entered the war after the War to End All Wars, but two comics creators didn’t like what they were seeing. Two young Jewish men, who were born Hymie Simon and Jacob Kurtzberg, but who changed their names to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby to better assimilate, saw what the Axis powers were doing to Europe in general and to their fellow Jews in particular, and were angry and frightened.

And so, in December 1940, Captain America #1 debuted. Dressed in a costume with a flag motif and carrying a red-white-and-blue shield, the cover of the first issue had Cap punching Adolf Hitler in the face. The character was very polarizing—Simon and Kirby got several death threats interspersed with the avalanche of fan mail, as there were plenty of people in this country who wanted to stay the hell out of the fighting overseas—but ultimately proved hugely popular, especially after the bombing of Pearl Harbor a year later put the U.S. in the war.

After an awful movie serial in 1944, two terrible TV movies in 1979, and a 1990 film that never got (or deserved) a theatrical release, Captain America finally got a proper feature film seventy years after Pearl Harbor.

[“What is it?” “Steak.” “What is in it?” “Cow.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“We drank, we fought, he did his ancestors proud!” — Thor

In Marvel’s grand pantheon of heroes that debuted in the early 1960s, you had an impressive cross-section of genres. The Fantastic Four were science fiction, Iron Man was technothriller, Hulk was horror, Spider-Man and Daredevil were New York-based adventure, Captain America was bigger nationwide adventure, the X-Men were YA social commentary, and so on. (Yes, I’m simplifying.)

It was left to Thor to give us high fantasy. Grand adventure, sword-and-sorcery stuff, with a huge dollop of Norse mythology and a lot of pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue to give it the appearance of weight. But it was a very convincing appearance, and Thor quickly became the powerhouse of the Marvel Universe.

[I am not dying for six college credits!]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“You’re just so clearly over-caffeinated!” — Star Trek’s “Runaway”

First of all, a note to the fine folks at CBS All Access: If you want people to actually, y’know, watch your Short Treks mini-episodes, it might perhaps behoove y’all to put the episodes on the main Star Trek Discovery page, not just on the page you go to when you click “full episodes.” I’m a fairly intelligent, college-educated individual who’s been using the world wide web for the entirety of its existence, and it took me the better part of ten minutes to find the fershlugginer episode on the web site.

So anyhow, CBS is doing four short 10-15-minute episodes to whet our appetites for season two of Discovery, and they’re putting their best foot forward by leading with the ever-delightful Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly.

[Oh yeah? Did you calculate the precise protein concentration and small-particle dispersion of emulsifiers to make a matter synthesizer dispense nothing but spumoni ice cream when you were nine?]

Venom Without Spider-Man is Just a Big Ol’ Mess

As is often the case in superhero movies these days, especially ones featuring Marvel’s heroes, Venom has both a mid-credits scene and an end-credits scene. The former sets up a potential sequel in a manner that manages to be both inevitable and confusing, while the latter is, of all things, a clip from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the forthcoming animated film starring several different versions of Spider-Man.

The latter is notable because it’s by far the most enjoyable thing in Venom. Which is kind of a problem, as it’s from a completely different movie.

[“Let’s bite off all the heads and pile them up in the corner.” “Now why would we do that?”]

“I’m going to have to ask you to exit the donut” — Iron Man 2

One thing that made the release of Iron Man a bit of a risk was that Iron Man has always been a B-list Marvel character. Important enough in the grand scheme of things to be a major player, but not someone who had impinged much on the popular consciousness beyond comics readers. Spider-Man, thanks to three successful animated series and his use in The Electric Company kids show in the 1970s, and the X-Men, thanks to their immense popularity in comics as well as a hit animated series of their own, had a Q-rating outside comics readers. So did the Hulk, thanks to the Bill Bixby TV show and followup movies. Indeed, going into 2008, Iron Man was a much bigger risk in most people’s eyes than The Incredible Hulk.

Then 2008 actually happened, and by 2010, everyone was waiting for an Iron Man sequel…

[“We need you.” “More than you know.” “Not that much.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“Why are you always hitting people?” — The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Ang Lee Hulk was something less than a howling success. It did decently enough at the box office, but the word of mouth was pretty terrible, and the movie was deeply flawed. (It also led to a ridiculous number of comics fans with little knowledge of movies deciding that Lee, one of the finest directors alive, was a terrible director.)

One of Marvel Studios’s first orders of business was to get the rights back to the Hulk, though Universal retained the distribution rights. The same summer that saw the release of Iron Man also gave us another new interpretation of the Hulk.

[Don’t make me hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting — Season Two of Marvel’s Iron Fist Portrays Martial Arts Better, But Still Isn’t There Yet

A major complaint about Marvel’s Iron Fist season one (from me and others) was its weak-kneed portrayal of hand-to-hand combat and martial arts. This was a problem on several levels. One, the lead actor had no experience with martial arts or choreographed fighting. Two, the fight choreography was dismally bad. And three, that first season showed absolutely no understanding of kung fu in particular and martial arts in general.

The second season improved on some of these issues, but not quite enough of them. And in trying to fix one problem, they introduced more.

[SPOILERS for Iron Fist season two]

“Don’t waste your life, Stark” — Iron Man

Iron Man was part of the huge first wave of superheroes co-created by Stan Lee in the early 1960s, in collaboration with a variety of artists, mainly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but also Bill Everett, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck.

While never a headliner in the Marvel Universe, ol’ ShellHead was always a major player at the very least. He was a founding member of the Avengers, a presence in a lot of stories as the inventor (or at least the owner of the company that invented) much of the Marvel Universe’s fancy tech, the financial backing of the Avengers, and the centerpiece of several major events in the comics, from the Kree-Skrull War to the Armor Wars to Operation: Galactic Storm to Civil War.

Since the movie rights to most of Marvel’s biggest names—Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, and the Fantastic Four—were already gobbled up by other studios, Marvel decided to focus their nascent Marvel Studios endeavor on the Avengers characters, starting with Iron Man.

[You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction. Now that I’m trying to protect the people I’ve put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out?]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Sons of Lei Kung, Daughters of the Dragon — Marvel’s Iron Fist Season Two

Two of the major supporting characters for Iron Fist from shortly after his debut in Marvel Premiere were Misty Knight—an ex-police detective with a bionic arm—and Colleen Wing—a sword-wielding martial artist. The pair of them teamed up as private investigators as Nightwing Restorations, and also have done the superhero thing as the Daughters of the Dragon.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Netflix edition), Wing was introduced in Iron Fist, while Knight was introduced in Luke Cage, and where Danny Rand dated Knight in the comics, he falls into bed with Wing in his series, and they have remained a couple. Wing and Knight finally got thrown together in The Defenders (where Knight lost her arm) and they reunited for two glorious scenes in Luke Cage season two (where Knight got her bionic arm).

Then we have the middle episodes of Iron Fist season two and can we for the love of all that is good and noble in this world have a Daughters of the Dragon series PLEASE?????

[SPOILERS for Iron Fist season two]

“I used to hang out with a lot of losers” — Kick-Ass 2

Both the comic book and the movie Kick-Ass were successes, so each got a sequel. Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. did a more open-ended sequel to the original miniseries, which lasted seven issues, and followed it with a bridge between the two series, Hit Girl, which focused on the breakout character from the comic.

Matthew Vaughn returned to produce a sequel film based on those two new miniseries, tapping Jeff Wadlow to write and direct.

[This is not a comic book. This is real life! When you’re dead, it’s done. There’s no sequel.]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Punching Upward — First Impressions of Marvel’s Iron Fist Season Two

Wow, this is so much better.

I was not kind to Iron Fist season one when it aired, nor did it deserve it. Show-runner Scott Buck evinced no understanding of kung fu or martial arts in general, nor of the character that Marvel has been producing comics with since 1973, and then he doubled down by casting an actor with no martial arts experience whatsoever to play one of the greatest martial artists in the Marvel canon.

After that, the character appeared in The Defenders—where they leaned into his being a twerp—and an episode of Luke Cage season two—in which Finn Jones acted and sounded more like the Danny Rand I’ve been reading since I was a kid than he had anywhere else.

M. Raven Metzner took over the show-running duties with IF season two, and while I was a bit nervous that they were giving the show to the person who co-wrote the script for the Jennifer Garner Elektra movie, based on the first three episodes, things are looking considerably up.

[SPOILERS for the first three episodes of Iron Fist season two]

“With No Power Comes No Responsibility” — Kick-Ass

Mark Millar sold the film rights to his four-issue comic miniseries Kick-Ass before the first issue was even published, and before the miniseries, which was drawn by John Romita Jr., was completed.

Inspired by conversations Millar had with his friends as a teenager wondering why no one had ever tried to become a superhero in real life, Millar’s goal with Kick-Ass was to take those conversations and see what would happen if a kid decided to actually put that thought to an action. It’s pretty much what the original Nite Owl decided to do in the 1930s in Watchmen, except for the Internet age.

Millar’s comic and Matthew Vaughn’s film both were finished simultaneously, though both worked toward the same general ending.

[Like every serial killer already knew: eventually fantasizing just doesn’t do it for you anymore.]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

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