The Fan Dilemma: Comics and Their Movies
It can be hard being a fan today. Fringe nerd and geek culture is becoming more mainstream. If you had asked me seven years ago whether Marvel would be such a major movie powerhouse, if they released a movie with a talking raccoon and a tree that could only say “I am Groot,” I would have laughed because no one really knew who The Guardians of Galaxy were, so how could it possibly succeed? Well they did, and it’s worldwide gross was $774,176,600.*
That isn’t the problem though, this isn’t why it’s difficult to be a fan of comic books at the moment. Maybe difficult is the wrong word. Comic books has been an insular world for a long time. Comic book movies haven’t always been very high quality–you just need to look 1989’s “The Punisher” or 1990’s “Captain America” to see how bad they used to be. Even the Batman movies took a serious dive in credibility once Joel Schumacher got his hands on the franchise–bat nipples, anyone? I guess what has happened is that the movies have gotten good, really good, from the special effects to the stories they tell, and Hollywood sees the dollar signs.
This isn’t a problem in my eyes. I am glad that the comic books I loved reading are on the big screen being enjoyed by millions of people, but I understand what fans of the comics get upset about. It’s ownership. After loving these heroes and villains for so long it can be difficult to let see them loved by people that may have mocked you about them growing up, or how the creative process has changed a particular hero or villain. I was personally very disappointed with how the Mandarin was handled in Iron Man 3, but I don’t own these characters. While they played a part in my youth and shaped the nerd that I became, I understand that sometimes they just don’t work as well as they did fifteen, twenty, god thirty years ago. Some things don’t stand up to the test of time, just look at the first generation of Transformers cartoons.
This can be the case with superhero movies, too. Every movie that has come out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with Iron Man, has had its own continuity with its own origin story leading to a giant pay off with the two part Infinity War to wrap up what will have been a near-twenty year movie journey. So the dilemma comic book fans face is trying to separate themselves from what they have known and accept what the new fans are excited about.
The benefit of Hollywood interest is that it has created a resurgence in comics books themselves, both paper trades and digital. Representations of X-Men, Batman, and all the rest of the characters that have hit the screen have made comic books cool–well, they’ve always been cool just everyone else sees it now. Good stories and special effects that look amazing have made something that has traditionally been thought of as silly or childish into something that can tell a serious story. What long-time fans need to remember is that more is better. More people reading means more sales, more sales means that an industry that was on the verge of collapse little more than a decade ago is seeing a new golden age with more women and people of color than ever before, who are better written with much less tokenism. It also means being able to try new stories, new franchises and being able to take risks on niche markets because it’s easier to absorb the costs of failures.
I have adopted a system for watching movies or television shows about comic books I’ve read and I’ve found that it works pretty well. In comic books you have a multiverse–DC has different Earths, Marvel has the 616 and Ultimate universes. Movies and television shows can be handled the exact same way; they exist in their own separate universe. They may share similarities with the titles you know and love but they are their own continuity, their own cannon. They exist separate from the books and thus can have their own fans whether or not those fans ever pick up a comic to see where it all came from. So be welcoming, enjoy it all., Just because it doesn’t match up to what you remember doesn’t make it less valid. It’s just a new multiverse.
If you can adopt this mindset I can guarantee that you’ll likely hate the movies less, or avoid raging that Vision wasn’t created by an Infinity Stone in the comics, or that Superman never killed Zod, or any number of creative differences that exist between these multiverses. Remember that changes to what you know isn’t an attack on what is established but a tool used to imagine something new and introduce people to something that they may have never experienced before. So sit back, relax and enjoy what is fast becoming a new “Golden Age of Comics” where fans from all walks of life can enjoy the stories being told and no one can say that comic books are childish anymore.
*source Box Office Mojo