Category Archives: Comics

The Marvel Movie Decade: A Blog Retrospective

This Friday night, 7/22/11, I will most certainly be going to the movies. Captain America: The First Avenger premieres, and along with it comes the inevitable post-credit scene. In this case that scene is more than just a vague sequel setup; this time it is an official trailer for next summer’s superhero team-up extravaganza, The Avengers. Grainy footage of this teaser hit the internet earlier this week, as grainy footage is wont to do, but all of the vaguely watchable versions have been taken down by Marvel copyright claims as of today.

Avengers, be it good, bad, or terrible, is truly going to be something special. It will mark the first time in movie history that one of the grand traditions of the comic book, the all-star superhero team, will make its way onto the big screen. With the exception of Mark Ruffalo, who will be the third actor in a decade to play Bruce Banner/The Hulk, all of the main actors in this movie have already starred in films dedicated to the solo exploits of their respective characters. Marvel has been explicitly building toward Avengers for the past 4 years, but the approach of Captain America got me thinking about how next summer is really the culmination of a decade of Marvel movie dominance.

Since the superhero movie craze really started to build up steam in the early part of the 2000s, nearly all of the successes in the genre (and most of the failures) have been based on Marvel Comics characters. The only notable exception is Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise. Superman Returns and Green Lantern were both considered failures for DC. The Hellboy films have a following (and I’m part of it), but they didn’t set the box office on fire.

This has been a big change of pace from Marvel adaptations that pre-date the streak. In the late 70s, Marvel was best-known as the inspiration for the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Incredible Hulk TV series. During the era when the best offerings of superhero cinema were Richard Donner’s Superman and Time Burton’s Batman films, Marvel’s movies served up stuff like this (skip to about 5 minutes in):

As for why Marvel has been so clearly on top in more recent years, there are several possible reasons — there’s the timing of a generation of filmmakers and movie-goers who grew up when Marvel was the best-selling comics publisher; there’s the producers who have a serious plan for what a Marvel movie should be; it’s even possible that the Marvel Universe’s birth in the tumultuous 1960s made it perfectly suited for this past decade of global unrest and upheaval.

Whatever the reason, for a (debatably) grown-up Marvel geek and movie nerd like me, it’s been quite a ride. So I’ve decided to take on a little project over the roughly 9 months remaining until Avengers debuts in May 2012. I am going to go back through the Marvel movie decade in chronological order, blogging my thoughts along the way. I am going to watch the great, the good, the bad, and the awful. There will even be some first-time viewings, as I elected to skip some of these when they were new based on word-of-mouth.

Here’s the roadmap:

  • Blade (1998)
  • X-Men (2000)
  • Blade 2 (2002)
  • Spider-Man (2002)
  • Daredevil (2003)
  • X2 (2003)
  • Hulk (2003)
  • The Punisher (2004)
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  • Blade: Trinity (2004)*
  • Elektra (2005)*
  • Fantastic Four (2005)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
  • Ghost Rider (2007)*
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007)
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Punisher: War Zone (2008)*
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • X-Men: First Class (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (supposedly 2011; we’ll see what happens when the execs see the final cut …)

*These are the movies I’ll be watching for the first time as a part of this project.

Obviously this is actually slightly more than a decade; 14 years in total from Blade to Avengers. But for reasons I’ll get at least a little bit into in my next couple of posts, I think of Blade as a sort of prologue and X-Men as the real beginning of the Marvel movie phenomenon. But that’s 25 movies at roughly one every 3 weeks.

I hope at least a few people will read this and decide they give enough of a shit about what I think to follow along (or are at least in sufficient need of an excuse to waste time on the internet). I really hope at least one or two people decide to join me and share their thoughts in the comments.

So until next time, in the words of Smilin’ Stan, “Excelsior, true believers!”


What Chris Sims Forgot

Chris Sims, the excellent geek humorist behind Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog, recently ran a post in which he listed the 25 Things Every Comics Collection Truly Needs To Be Awesome. The list is both entertaining and informative, as it actually touches upon a lot of comics tropes that some may not be familiar with. But I submit he forgot one very necessary component of an awesome comics collection:

Grant Morrison’s Doom Force #1

Grant Morrison was writing a now-legendary run on DC’s Doom Patrol in the early ’90s that was full of legitimately edgy, weird ideas with some really cool art while most of mainstream comics was obsessed with “dark” superhero books full of ridiculous violence and terrible artwork that all the 13-year-olds of the time thought was cool (and yes, sigh, I thought that crap looked good at the time too). One of the worst artistic offenders was Mr. Rob Liefeld, who had become something of a superstar in the field despite knowing nothing about perspective, anatomy, or how to draw feet.

So for a one-shot special, Morrison hilariously parodied all of the terrible conventions of the time. Anyone who was reading superhero comics in 1992 can appreciate Doom Force as one of the funnier things ever. It probably doesn’t work as well for an audience not in the know, but if you are trying to put together a truly awesome comics collection, then you are in the know, and you need a copy of this book. It probably wouldn’t hurt to get Morrison’s seriously great Doom Patrol run, either.

Possibly the funniest thing about Doom Force was all the fan mail Morrison recieved from people who didn’t get the joke and thought the writer and DC were finally doing something “cool” with Doom Patrol.

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