Et Me?

Unlike many of my MD and LoOG brethren, I am not one for comics.  I just never really got into them as a kid, as I generally struggle with such forms of fantasy fiction.  I’ve enjoyed some of the “grittier” super hero reboots lately, particularly (or perhaps exclusively) those of Iron Man and Batman.  I attribute my enjoyment of them to the fact that they do not seem particularly comic book-y… they are based in relatively realistic settings and do not rely on magic or voodoo or anything supernatural.  They’re also just genuinely good action movies, regardless of where they derive their stories from.

I also caught the first three X-Men movies plus the Wolverine prequel.  I thought the former were sort of hit-or-miss while the latter was pure crap, frustrating because I always appreciated Wolverine’s bad assery.

Tonight, I finally caught “X-Men: First Class”… and let me say… holy crap was it a good movie!  While it obviously was a comic book movie, it didn’t feel like a comic book movie.  It required a relatively minor suspension of belief… simply accept that individual humans have mutated to develop special powers.  But there was a well-developed story arc, character development, and special effects were used to enhance the story, not tell it or make up for its absence.  They actually addressed potential plots holes (“Why is Mystique the same age as everyone in the 60’s but half their age in contemporary times?”) even if it was a bit deus ex machine-y (“Oh… her cells age at half the rate of other folks…”) and any parts that did feel a bit dumb were largely because they were the comic book-y parts that seemed out of place (to me) in a movie that I stopped thinking of as a comic book movie because it was so much more than that.  Most of the performances were excellent, a nod to some really fantastic casting.

So, my questions are these… Do real comic book fans feel the same way?  Or does the treatment it received that made me enjoy it make it less palatable to you folks?  And if y’all did enjoy it, why can’t we make all comic book movies like this?  And how much of the reason that we don’t because of Michael Bay?


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.


  1. I thought it was the best Cuban Missile Crisis movie I’d ever seen.

    That said, I found it vaguely pornographic because I was cheering things that I had wished had happened that didn’t. (Wouldn’t it have been awesome to have Magneto as a Nazi hunter in the 50’s and 60’s?)

    Now, of course, Kevin Bacon *STOLE* the movie. He stole the crap out of it. Yet I still found myself weirded out by the fact that the biggest shots of endorphins the movie had for me involved things that were related to things that happened rather than related to the things that hadn’t.

    I saw it once, enjoyed it, never need to see it again.

      • No matter what I do, I always seem to run afoul of this rule.

        But let me ask you… how did your enjoyment of this compare to your enjoyment of other comic book movies? And, if it did compare less-than-favorably, how much of that had to do with the historical retcon?

        While I’d probably agree with you regarding the endorphin-boosting moments, I thought there were a number of other powerful scenes that were wholly based on the what-didn’t-actually-happen… Mystique’s relationship with Beast… Lehnsherr confronting Shaw and becoming Magneto… Xavier’s valiant but failed efforts to save Lehnsherr from Magneto… the final turn in their relationship…

        This wasn’t just super humans punching each other in the face… though there was enough of that to sustain 132 minutes…

        • I watched this movie in Parker’s living room, for the record.

          I think it was when Magneto killed those two Nazis in South America and I went “YEAH!” inside of myself that I made myself say “hey, wait a minute…”

          • Why did cheering Nazi deaths give you pause? Aren’t we supposed to cheer when the bad guys lose?

            And if we’re venturing too far into politics we can just talk about what sort of mutant power you’d want… I’d opt for the ability to freeze time, though that’s not REALLY a mutant power and is more of a magic trick.

          • Because it didn’t happen, but I knew that this guy was a good guy and those guys were bad guys because of things that did happen.

          • Hmmm… I’m not sure I follow but there are different ways to view and respond to art.

            From my vantage point, it helped develop the character, indicating he was on one path (revenge) before later events indicated maybe he was on another path (stopping Shaw for the right reasons) when he ultimately ended up seeking something both very personal and very sweeping.

            Also, he controlled missiles with his magic magnet powers!

          • Re-read the post Jaybird wrote about Captain America on the front page.

            Because I suspect he feels something of the same way about that as he does about Magneto as a Nazi-hunter.

            FWIW, I don’t think that’s so much politics as it is the distinction between fantasy and propaganda.

            Which, come to think about it, is kind of about politics.

          • I gather that this wasn’t a very good movie, even with both Vic Mackey and The Bunk in supporting roles. But if you’d seen it, you’d know why I take a moment to refocus my thoughts when you talk about your friend Parker. The book the film was made from ends with this exchange between Parker and the cop he’s convinced to let him just drive away.

            “I’ll always wonder,” Farley said, “if I could have taken you.”

            “Look on the bright side,” Parker told him. “This way, you have an always.”

          • It’s pretty violent, and it stars Mad Mel, and they changed his name to “Porter”, but 1999’s Payback is a pretty good Parker movie IMO.

          • I seriously hate all of you… I finally feel able and ready to take part in one of your dorky comic book conversations and all you want to do is blather on about the geopolitics of the 60’s. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?! WHY CAN’T WE JUST TALK ABOUT MUTANTS!

            Nerds can be such bullies…

          • I’m feeling you Kazzy, I don’t get what the objection is all about. X_Men:First Class is how you competently do an ‘explanation on the turn to the dark side’ prequel.

          • I thought that the Cuban Missile Crisis part would bug me more than it did. I should get points for that!

          • JB,

            Was any of the Cuban Missile Crisis stuff canon? Or completely invented for the film?

            If it wasn’t canon, I could understand having some objection to co-opting history to offer a backstory, though this was less of a stretch since they already co-opted history… or at least placed the backstory in a historical context. If they had switched Magneto’s motivation from being a social outcast in middle school to being a Holocaust survivor, that is a much bigger deal. But X-Men, as I understand it, was always allegorical for historical events around that time period.

          • Within X-Men? I don’t think so (but know that I am a DC guy). It wasn’t until the 80’s that Magneto became a Holocaust Survivor and that we learned that Xavier and Magneto knew each other “before”.

            Keep in mind: X-Men #1 came out in 1963. The Cuban Missile Crisis happened the year before. While I suppose that this *MIGHT* fit in with canon, I don’t know what the canon is now. Pyre? You out there?

          • “…but know that I am a DC guy.”

            Let me ask about that… Is the DC/Marvel divide largely tribalistic or is there a legitimate difference between the two, e.g., DC focuses more on character development and Marvel more on action?

            What makes you a DC guy?

          • Kazzy, for most people. I think it just comes down to what they got into first. I’m sure there’s a few people for whom it came down to actual characters and such, but like most things, you tend to side with whats in front of you. So, if you’re first five comic books are Batman, Superman, and JLA, you’re likely to be a DC guy. Same thing w/ X-Men, Spider-Man, and Captain America on the other side of the ledger.

          • Kazzy, historically DC has focused more on icons while Marvel’s characters are more… human, I guess, and nuanced*. Superman would stick out in the Marvel Universe and Iron Man would stick out in the DCU. More in the past than in the present, though. I think these distinctions are less clear than they used to be with DC moving more in a Marvelish direction.

            I’m not sure because of my comparative lack of Marvel reading, but I *think* DC has always been more obsessed with defining continuity than Marvel. That’s actually an area where I prefer Marvel’s approach, if this assumption is accurate.

            * – My framing of this makes Marvel sound better even to me, and I’m a DC guy (or was). I appreciate good characterization (which is one of the reasons I typically avoid Superman and Wonder Woman, and read Batman primarily for the characters surrounding him), but I also want things to be more fantastical. If I wanted things more down-to-earth, I’d get cop comic books.

          • Thanks for indulging my ignorance, Jessie and Will. And I hope everyone recognizes that my various “nerd”-type jokes sprinkled in were just that and not meant to confer any actual criticism on what seems like a fascinating hobby.

            From the sound of it, I suppose I’d be a Marvel guy if I had to choose, which is reflected back in my limited experience with the genre… big into recent Iron Man and Batman movie series… always thought the X-Men were cool… always thought Superman seemed sort of stupid… owned some of those Marvel Series II cards back in elementary school… always thought Ghost Rider was totally badass even if I really don’t know anything about the character.

            Ultimately, as I mentioned, I struggle with fantasy. I did the whole Harry Potter series (much of it via audio book… with the reader (whose name is escaping me) being an otherworldly talent) and it really disagreed with me for a host of reasons, many related to the fantasy elements and required suspension of belief. I have yet to see any of the LoTR movies (I saw the first half of the first one and was bored out of my mind). GoT initially seemed interested until my eyes glazed over when someone starting talking about the race of people descended from dragons.

            But I really, really enjoyed Maus/Maus II, in part because I thought the comic book/graphic novel medium was great… so… go figure.

          • I really, really want telepathy and telekinesis – the two of them pretty much cover anything you could want any other power for. (Plus, they’re basically equivalent to being a Jedi.)

            Flying? Check. Finding out anything you want to know? Check – you could probably even learn languages by reading/’downloading’ them from other people’s minds. Retrieving your keys from upstairs when you’ve forgotten them for the nth time and already have your shoes on? Check.

            Plus, in the comic-book world, they are (or should be – if they’re not, the people with them are using them wrong) complete trumps in combat. Never having to worry about who to trust? Check. Interrogating enemies without use of force? Check.
            Knocking out opponents while avoiding physical damage? Check. Pretty near unbeatable tactical superiority in any combat situation? Check – if you’re telepathic you can know what someone’s going to do before they do it, any you could win fights purely by dint of stopping someone’s heart or causing a stroke. Or just steal people’s weapons, or use telekinesis to send them unconscious, for the non-lethal variant.

          • Cuban Missile Crisis: Not canon, but who cares. The strength of the X-men movies has been that they take something that’s oftentimes absurdly fantastic and tie it much more strongly to the real world.

            For that matter, the only thing I liked about Wolverine is that it incorporated the Three mile island disaster.

            On DC vs. Marvel: They’re usually pretty distinct, but not with any consistency. So the DC comics coming out today are different from today’s Marvel comics, but the comics that each company was putting out 20 years ago were even more different. So I’d say it’s often an initially established pattern based on the legitimate distinctions that existed when you first became a fan. I’m a DC guy because of Chuck Dixon and Bruce Timm, not because of anything DC’s putting out today. If I were discovering comics for the first time, I’d probably be a Marvel guy.

          • I couldn’t really get into Superman.

            Batman, yes. Superman? Not so much. I realize it’s an old complaint, and almost a cliche, but Superman seems to be less ‘How does Superman react, as a hero and a person, to this conflict’ and a lot more of ‘How do we make make for a meaningful conflict for freakin’ Superman’

            Batman, for lack of a better word, bleeds. Spider-man was defined by great tragedy and difficult choices (Uncle Ben’s death and having to let whats-her-face fall).

            Sometimes Superman is good. But too often it was like….Anakin in the new Star Wars movies. I don’t feel the depth. When Anakin fell to the Dark Side it was…not a surprise. After seeing him as an adult, the only question was what took so long. It’s just not giving me what I want.

            Watchmen’s take on it with the Blue Guy (sorry, it’s late. Brains failing. Names inaccesable) was quite interesting. He was…distant…from people and their problems. Nothing touched him.

            X-Men First Class wasn’t great. But it was solid. And I’ll take that. 🙂

          • I prefer DC to Marvel because DC is more likely to deal in archetypes and Marvel is more likely to get down and dirty in soap opera stuff… like Batman is going to be a detective chasing down a serial murderer before he kills again and Spiderman is going to stop a bank robbery and go home and get in a fight with his girlfriend and get grounded by Aunt May because they think he’s brushing them off and, really, he’s doing stuff like stopping bank robberies.

            The Ultimates universe for Marvel is really impressive and I’m enjoying the New 52 Universe for DC. If I were to tell someone just starting up which one they should start with, I’d probably tell them Marvel… but, once they got their hands on the tropes? I’d send them to 80’s and 90’s DC.

          • Morat,

            Two things always bugged me about Superman… or, at least, my perception of Superman (never read a comic book or saw a film or the show… (there was a show, right)):
            1.) Too goody-two-shoes: This isn’t unique to the Man-of-Steal, as I also prefer Wolverine’s play-by-his-own-rules attitude to Cyclops’s whining, but I’m just generally drawn to darker characters. By definition, they’re more nuanced, showing different and competing sides of their persona. Superman, as I understood it, was a nice guy who turned into a super-powered super-nice guy. Bor-ing.
            2.) Too powerful: Besides kryptonite, I understand Superman had no weaknesses. That, too, is boring. Batman is interesting because, ultimately, he’s human and mortal. Not so much for Superman.

            This last point reminds me of the “Death of Supermen” story arc that came out when I was 9 or 10, right at the age when I might have possibly gotten into comics. “Superman’s dead?!?! Holy crap! How’d that happen? How’d the writers let that happen?!?!” Then, I understand he came back to life one way or another… and I was all like, “Oh… he’s not dead? Of course he’s not dead. They can’t kill him. That means he can’t lose. And that is boring. Also, this is quite obviously a blatant money grab. Bah-humbug!” (I was precocious in my curmudgeoniness.) I tend to find that the best stories are the ones that are willing to sacrifice major characters and/or have the good guys lose sometimes. That seemed antithetical to Superman.


            Thanks for weighing in. It seems there is indeed a stylistic difference between the two houses.

          • Rent the movie “Superman vs. The Elite” or get it from the Amazon (you can pick up the DVD used for about 5 bucks).

            Most Superman stories are stories where you can swap Superman out with more or less any Superhero. You just need someone who can fly and hit hard, right? Superman can do that.

            This one is a Superman Story that couldn’t be told using any other hero. You’ll see the kernel of what makes him such a great hero.

            That said, he should be a supporting character and only used sparingly.

  2. I think that’s the only kind word I’ve ever seen about Payback. And I do have to wonder about your appreciation of the tao of Parker if you can write “It’s pretty violent, but …”

    • Well, I wanted people to be aware :-).

      Yeah, I thought it was a fun movie, but I appear to be in the minority (and, I saw it in the theater, so it’s been a while). IIRC, opinion on it was pretty sharply divided amongst the group I went with.

      It’s sleazy, nihilistic, black comedy.

      But very viscerally-effective sleazy, nihilistic, black comedy.

      • The universally acclaimed Parker movie is, of course, Point Blank with Lee Marvin, though he’s called Walker. It co-stars Archie Bunker, Pepper Anderson, Colonel Bat Guano, and Dean Wormer, but what makes it great is the single-minded sociopathy of Marvin’s performance.

      • I liked Payback. (though I’ve always liked Maria Bello) (though I often get her confused with Mary McCormack) (they’re the female version of Bill Pullman/Bill Paxton)

        • And Will Patton. It’s like they’re trying to confuse me.

  3. If you want the serious answer to why _all_ comic book movies can’t be like this, it’s that a lot of them are inherently too goofy to have something as serious as even X-Men : First Class or The Dark Knight transposed on to them. To a mainstream audience, Aquaman, Green Lantern, or even Spidey is inherently a bit goofy. Even though I could point you to good serious runs for all those books. Hell, probably one of the most geopolitically dense books of the past 20 years was Christopher Priest’s run on Black Panther.

    Also, having a movie with intelligence is kind of a risk. The only reason First Class was made was because X-Men 3 and Wolverine were such bad movies that under performed expectations that going slightly smaller and with not such a great budget as the previous X-Men movies was something worth doing.

    Even then, First Class only made $146 million dollars domestic, which is even less than the original X-Men did. There’s a reason that not only is the sequel to First Class bringing back Bryan Singer, but is also bringing back almost the entire class from the prior three X-Men films.

    • Comics — and superhero movies — suffer from hero bloat like crazy. You always have to up the stakes, directors and producers always seem to feel they have to ‘top’ what happened before.

      Defeated one villian? Find a more powerful one. Or two. Or three. The city at risk? Make it the world next time. The universe after.

      And that’s…really impossible to do, after awhile. It just gets..silly. So you got to reboot.

      Retell the origins, which tend to be less..inflated. With villians less powerful because the hero is less powerful.

      • That’s a great point.

        My friend once described what he called a “Peter Jackson fight”… wherein a hero would come across a singular enemy and have a gnarly battle from which he barely emerges victorious. He would then come upon a horde of that same enemy type and maim them all instantly. And at no point were we supposed to say, “Wait a minute… he barely beat the one dude… how did he just slaughter twenty?” Apparently, this is a common trope of PJ’s movies, though I haven’t seen enough to really weigh in.

      • The problem with hero bloat is that they result in CRAPPY MOVIES. They could have *EASILY* had Spiderman 3 only deal with Norman and Sandman and then had Venom proper show up for the last seconds of the movie. Spiderman 4 could have been nothing but Venom.


        Heck, I’ve got a Spiderman movie formula that I repeat to anyone who will listen: first 10-15 minutes begin in the middle of the action of Spiderman and a 2nd tier bad guy beating the crap out of each other. Rhino or Scorpion or something. Spiderman wins. Opening credits. Start the movie proper. Spiderman fights a top tier bad guy. Goblin or Doc Ock or something. Spiderman wins. Count money.

    • I’m giving a hypothetical Aquaman movie 50/50 odds on being blockbuster hit of the year. For all that we make fun of the idiot superfriends version of the character, Aquaman has a compelling and easily approachable premise (exiled heir to a fantastical kingdom), compelling villains (a half-brother rival to the throne and a mysterious warrior in a black breathing mask). His comic book & cartoon adaptation appearances have been pretty kick-ass from Peter David to today. Sure Aquaman’s superpower is to talk with fish, but Batman’s superpower is a fat wallet and he does alright.

  4. I am also not a comic book fan and love X-Men: First Class (whereas X1 and X2 are merely okay and X3 and Origins are dreck). The character focus and the acting of the main actors are far above that of most comic books movies.

  5. Of the X-Men movies, I’ve only seen X2, and I thought it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever had to sit through in my life.

    Yet all my friends into comics thought it was good. I don’t know what to take away from that.

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