The Superadaptoid has returned! I moved into a new place at the end of last month, and even though it was just a cross-town move, it still wrecked my writing schedule. But now I’m starting to settle in, so more blog posts will be coming soon.
I’m working on a series of Flash-related posts, but have decided to set them aside for the time being until I get a better feel for the direction that the current season of CW’s Flash TV show is taking. For my newest post, I’ve decided to tackle a more serious topic than usual: the effects of the real-world events of September 11, 2001 on the fictional settings of super-hero stories.
This is the final installment of “Universe Lost.” I’m working on a new feature, “Mapping the Multiverse,” which will begin in two weeks to coincide with the season premiere of CW’s The Flash. I’ll also post a couple of standalone entries to fill the gap between now and then.
I’d really like to hear what readers think of the blog so far! You can contact me directly via the form at the end of the post or get a conversation going in the comments section below.
From 1978 to 1997, four Superman movies and four Batman movies grossed a total of $1.7 billion, giving DC Comics a virtual monopoly on successful super-hero film adaptations.
Now let’s compare that run to feature films adapting Marvel Comics characters to the big screen between 1978 and 1997.
There was only one: Howard the Duck.
“THERE CAME A TIME WHEN THE OLD GODS DIED!”
That is the single most awesome sentence ever to appear in comic books. The caps lock on my computer turned itself on as soon as I started typing, such is the power in those words.
In 1971, Jack Kirby put those words on the first page of DC’s New Gods #1, setting out the themes of what would become known as the “Fourth World Saga.” It began with the end of the world, an apocalypse playing out over four exclamation-pointed sentences.
In New York City, anything is possible! Anything can happen … and it usually does.
— Stan Lee, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends S1E2 (“The Crime of All Centuries”)
Stan Lee was a pest. He liked to irk people and it was one thing I couldn’t take. … He hasn’t changed a bit.
— Jack Kirby, The Comics Journal #134 (Feb. 1990)
There are no two comic creators more fascinating to me than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Kirby passed away in 1994, while Lee today is most visible through his perennial cameos in films based on Marvel characters.
If, between 1940 and 1970, you were adapting a DC Comics property for radio, film, or television, you would have to answer to DC’s editorial director, Whitney Ellsworth. DC made sure that every adaptation of their characters into other media received personal attention from the publisher’s creative top dog.
In 1944, when Republic Pictures started production on a movie serial featuring Marvel Comics’ breakout character, Captain America, Marvel editor-in-chief Vince Fago was not quite as attentive.
All that Republic Pictures apparently got from Fago was a handful of sample pages from Captain America Comics that they couldn’t make heads or tails of.
I’m traveling right now, so my writing schedule is a bit off. As I work on the next installment of “Universe Lost,” I thought I’d fill the gap with some remarks on why I started this blog.
In May 2008, just days after Iron Man‘s US premiere, Marvel Studios announced its plans to produce a cycle of films that would lead into 2012’s The Avengers (originally slated for a 2011 release). The news astonished me. Previous cinematic adaptations of super-hero comics had always dealt with individual characters in isolation from one another, even when they were close associates in the comic books.
The next installment of “Universe Lost,” continuing a comparative look at Marvel and DC’s attempts to reach the big screen, will be up on Monday once it’s been edited and fact-checked. I expect “Universe Lost” to run a half-dozen or so entries (see Part 1 and Part 2), but I’ll also be interspersing some slightly off-topic posts along the way. This post is one of those, and I also hope it might inspire feedback from you, the reader.
In the upcoming 2016 Warner Brothers release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck will become the latest actor to play the role of Batman on the big screen. This comes not quite four years after The Dark Knight Rises, in which Christian Bale wrapped up his three-film portrayal of Gotham City’s resident vigilante.
What distinguishes Batman v Superman from prior Batman films is that it is both a reboot of the Batman film franchise, as well as a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, which was itself a reboot of the Superman franchise. Thus Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be the first time that Batman and Superman, without a doubt two of the most venerable and recognizable characters in popular fiction, have met on the big screen.
Tales of Suspense #84 (Dec. 1966), art by Jack Kirby
“You know why I like plants? Because they’re so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.”
— John Laroche (as played by Chris Cooper), Adaptation
In the movie Adaptation, Nicolas Cage’s screenwriter character has to figure out how to adapt a nonfiction book about flowers into a Hollywood movie. He has to somehow transform the story of a horticulturist’s passion for rare plants into something that a movie studio will want to spend millions of dollars on, in hopes that they can then make those millions back – and then some – because people will want to watch that story while eating popcorn in the dark.