Monday, 3 January 2011

Overrated: Underrated - Superheroes

First of all, Happy 2011. Hopefully your New Year's celebration was made of win. I spent the evening as I believe all New Year celebrations should be carried out: playing Mass Effect. My resolution: figure out a non-violent way to invade and take over a country. Anyway, on with the unstoppable momentum that is E14.

Here at Emotionally Fourteen we're all about smashing sacred cows. If someone were to point to a particular cow, and say "That one there, that's a sacred one", I would make it my mission to instantly hop the fence, pick up the nearest blunt object and beat the cow to death, such is my disdain for the concept. Thinking about it, I would probably more likely find the gate for the fence rather than hop it, such is my disdain for exercise recently. Man, I need to hook up my Kinect.

Anyway, I've tried to keep these as organised as I can, but the heroes I've chosen aren't really grouped by powers, so they're done loosely by label.

Overrated: Superman

Probably not a popular start, but I have a real problem with Superman. It mainly stems from his powers. I am of the opinion that he is overpowered as a superhero. Firstly, he's nigh-on invincible. Now, I know that the argument is that on his home planet he was vulnerable from a naturally growing mineral. What the hell is all that about? That's like me going into a spaz every time I'm near tungsten. Anyway, so he was vulnerable on his home planet. Guess what? He's no longer on his home planet. Even when he fought Doomsday, and they called it his death, it didn't feel like there was really closure.

Then there's his heat vision. Oh wait, there's his X-ray vision. He's been given half the electromagnetic spectrum, and yet lacks the basic social graces. Every time I watch a TV or movie version of the film, Clark Kent walks and talks like a man who's just soiled himself and doesn't want anyone to know. I mean, presumably he interacted with something on Krypton, I find it hard to believe that he's had only himself for company until now. I imagine he'd have bored himself to unconsciousness.

As if that wasn't enough, overpowering Superman like the original writers did has left comic book writers unsure as to quite what to do with him. Some good examples include Superman: Red Sun, a 'what-if' scenario supposing that he landed in Russia rather than the United States of America. As ideas go, it's a clever one, but it seems to be the case that writers have to go with suitably outlandish situations in order to actually get anything done.

Underrated: Batman

Now, this one is a bit of a strange one, but I'll do my best. Although Batman has increased in popularity recently, with the success of the Christopher Nolan movies as well as the critically acclaimed (and rightly so) Arkham Asylum video game, I don't think Batman gets enough credit. Maybe it's just because the character is the subject of some recent good films, or alternatively maybe it's some leftover trauma from the Joel Schumacher era, but people just don't seem to appreciate the awesomeness that is Batman.

First of all, there are really no superpowers to speak of when it comes to Batman. The majority of his arsenal is gadget-based rather than having to rely on superpowers. He's even got gadgets that replace some of the electromagnetic spectrum, as if to say "Fuck you, Superman. Fuck you." Otherwise, he's just a badass who kicks the crap out of criminals. Awesome, right?

The second reason he's awesome is best described in the same way as the reason that Terry Funk called Vince McMahon the most hardcore WWE competitor in history, simply because he's a billionaire CEO who can sit in a board room all day, but instead chooses to push himself as the company's top heel and get smashed by chairs. Bruce Wayne is a similar character. He could sit back and live comfortably off the interest from his considerable wealth, but instead he's out righting wrongs and vanquishing criminals. It's like a Chartered surveyor who's also a hostage negotiator, an almost implausible combination.

As well as the aforementioned movies and video games, some recommended Batman stuff includes the animated series, as well as the graphic novels Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke, and Knightfall (not to everyone's taste, but a particular favourite of mine).

Overrated: Spider-man

This is based mainly on the films, though I have some gripes with the comic books as well. Again, not the most popular one to consider overrated: The Spider-Man franchise has generated millions of dollars in movie theater admissions, as well as seeing a number of licensed TV shows, video games and toy lines. Then, if it was called Overrated: Underrated and just talked about how awesome and sparkly everything was, I imagine people would feel pretty cheated too. Damned if you do...

Anyway, my main issue is with the way the character develops, and as I say most of my problem is mainly with the movie franchise, in particular the second one. Firstly, I'm all in favour of the science nerd turning out to be a superhero, and the idea of him trying to juggle a double-life is something that I think should be a staple of every superhero's life (and is done well in many of the examples I cite in this edition). I personally don't think he should be so much of a smart-arse (as just the week before he was being thrown through the nearest sheet metal), but that's just me.

What I'm not OK with, however, is that by the end of the second film, half of New York knows the identity of their number one superhero! Think about it: there's Mary Jane (necessary for the advancement of the plot in the third one, debatably, but still could've been done differently). Aunt May blatantly knows what's going on, and is so obviously going to talk to that socially inept kid down the road who helps her move shit around. Come on, she's got no mates. Of course it's going to get the better of her eventually. Then, of course, there's the entire contents of a New York city monorail car that time where Spider-Man stops it going over the edge of the rail.

I know, before you start. "Oh, but none of those people know who the hell Peter Parker is." All well and good saying that, but all it takes is for that kid who handed him his mask and said "We won't tell anyone" to get a whiff of the newspapers offering a hefty sweet-based reward for the identity of Spider-Man, and before you know it Peter Parker is in front of a line-up making a constipated face and trying to rip two bath towels off some faraway door frames (I can't really think of a more appropriate way to re-create the scene, and so gave up trying very early on).


Underrated: The Punisher

Another one on my list tainted by a lukewarm response to movies, but one of my all-time favourite characters. It's also probable that the Dolph Lundgren movie has left an irreperable scar on people's minds. I personally really enjoyed the Thomas Jane iteration of The Punisher, which set out simply to establish the backstory and provide some end-game carnage (which I feel it delivered effectively) and thought that Punisher: War Zone was a really effective movie for what it was trying to do, which was abandon plot for the most part in favour of over the top action and violence in the vein of classic 1980s action movies.

Yet again, this is another hero who doesn't rely on powers in the least bit. His power is in guns, military training and nothing holding him back - everything he had is gone, and he never stops punishing as a result. Another good thing about him is that he doesn't have an alter-ego to speak of. Once his family is killed, Frank Castle is The Punisher from that point on. There's no secret double-life where he has to deliver pizzas or drive bikes over buses.

Frank Castle is another one whose treatments have been kind in other media as well. Though one might argue the toss for Ray Stevenson as the definitive Punisher, mine has been and always will be Thomas Jane. When I hear Castle speak in the comics, it's Thomas Jane's voice I've always heard, and for him to shout after Howard Saint in his movie sold it for me. Thankfully, when they adapted it to a video game, they kept the Thomas Jane voice alive and reinforced that feeling. Since then, I only hear Thomas Jane when I read The Punisher.

It's certainly not Dolph, in any case.

No comments:

Post a comment