It’s 10:12 Thursday morning.
I’m sitting at the front desk reading Yahoo!’s front page news.
LeBron beat the Pacer’s with a three point sinker.
Our president’s lawyer is to plead the fifth in a porn actress’ affair.
And I’ve just read that the movie I’ll be attending tonight, the movie that’s kept us in waiting for ten years, got its rating from Rotten Tomatoes. In nine hours, I’ll be in a movie theater surrounded by adults and kids alike seeing the biggest event that should make any comic book artist, writer and full on geek spurt Mountain Dew and Red Bull since the first trailer dropped – Avengers: Infinity War.
Granted I love superhero movies, I haven’t bought a comic since the day Mary Jane and Peter Parker were unofficially divorced by the devil back in 2008. I grew tired of how comic book writers would write what they thought was the greatest idea ever to sell comic books and only found they had painted themselves into a corner – and their only lifesaver was by hitting the restart button on whatever universe had been written since the 1960’s. I missed the act of verisimilitude.
In case you’re wondering, verisimilitude is not only the longest word I can type without misspelling it, but it also means the act of being truthful, authentic – which is not an easy feat in the world of fantasy and superheroes.
So far, I’ve seen both Batman AND Superman die and be reborn three times, Flash twice, Spider-man is on his third incarnation after he did a Freaky Friday with Dr. Octopus not counting the multiple universes of Miles Morales, and don’t even get me started on Spider-Gwen and Gwenpool.
Yeah, Gwenpool (basically for those of us who’s not a comic book geek like me, as far as I’ve learned, Gwenpool is a cross between Gwen Stacy – Peter Parker’s love interest who died an Emmy-winning dramatic death back in the 1960’s and every parent’s nightmare, Deadpool).
Anywho… this isn’t about me bashing modern-day comics, it’s me writing about why I still go to the movies.
Back in my childhood, we had movies like The Never-Ending Story, Return to Oz and The Dark Crystal – all of which could give kids nightmare to this day. Furthermore, neither of them had superheroes. Granted Atreyu wasn’t bad, but even he would admit, he could never hold a candle to the late great Christopher Reeve. The 70’s and 80’s Man of Steel’s last praiseworthy Superman movie was in 1981 with Superman 2 (there was a 3 and a 4, but even Reeve said the last one was garbage).
Then there was Tim Burton’s Gothic Valentine to the Dark Knight. Batman didn’t hit the screens until ’89, and by that time, I was coming on into middle school daydreaming about cars, D.J. Tanner, and Trapper-Keepers; so for the most part, my childhood was fading. By the ‘90’s, there weren’t as many live-action kids’ movies or fantasies. Thankfully we had classics like Hook, Jumanji, and Hocus Pocus; then there was The PageMaster and Richie Rich with Macaulay Culkin breaking his typecasting curse from Home Alone. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tore out of Saturday Morning cartoon status and onto the big screen with not one but three movies via puppeteering, since we hadn’t perfected CGI yet – and Free Willy had so many movies, even Shamu switched to watching Blackfish.
But as far as fantasy and Sci-fi, the cinematic world had gone pretty … well … bleak.
Movies grew dark and cynical.
Dark City, 12 Monkeys, Gattaca, The Matrix … now I’m not saying all of these are bad movies, but if we’re talking science fiction and fantasy, you wouldn’t want to chance your child seeing Keanu Reeves’s belly button worm. By that time, even Batman and Robin had nipples on their costumes… and there is nothing darker than sitting in a theater with grown adults watching your favorite superheroes run around with their own credit cards, getting drive-thru from McDonalds in the Batmobile… with nipples on their super suits.
Needless to say, my Junior-Mints went uneaten that night.
That all began to change however when we heard that our hero, our savior had returned from his sixteen-year directing hiatus.
George Lucas had announced that not only would there be Star Wars prequels, but he would direct them all himself!
— Okay, I’ll give you a quick sum up so you won’t be led down the same gut-wrenching path we were.
They came out from ’99 to 2005, we were disappointed.
The point was this … color had come back to movies. Sci-Fi wasn’t so stark and gray and black or white. The first spaceship we saw in Episode One was red! Granted so were our faces by the end of the movie but STILL we had color back in movies. Sunlight, characters that wore more than black trench coats or suits. Then a few short years later, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-man swung out on the screen, the X-Men (I know they all wore black but they started in the 90’s too) were making movies, and THEN … Paramount Studios announces a partnership with Marvel Studios in 2008 to start the Marvel Cinematic Universe and make Iron Man starring Robert freakin’ Downey Jr.
We were STOOOOOKED. Then we saw the movie. And we were more STOOOOOKED!! Then Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury comes out at the end to say there were more coming, and we FLIPPED the flannel-cakes OUT.
Now here we are.
It’s 2018, ten years later, and fresh off the heels of Black Panther – a monumental movie that has both dominated at the box-office, reinforced the superhero genre and pushed forward the ever-important movement and need for diversity in film. For the first time since I can remember, there’s a movie with a black superhero, and a mainly black cast, and no one was a stereotype.
And here we are… hours away from seeing all our favorite characters gathered on one screen in what’s led up to be the most hyped and biggest crossover since Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue ’90.
And color’s back in theaters.
When I first started writing KnightWatchers, one of my main goals was to create a universe that was both warm and inviting but still had an edge. But most importantly, there was color. There was diversity. there were people from all walks of life. There was a world where kids could laugh with grown-ups. Everyone could escape into a world away from the harsh words, news, politics and scary moments that made our world so cold. When I first began writing it out as a novel, I remembered an old documentary on the making of the first Superman movie. What stood out to me over the years was that director Richard Donner wanted the look of the movie to be set apart from the campy style so was popular in the 1960’s Batman, and have a realistic feel to it. So he posted several signs in the studio for the crew. It had a picture of the Man of Steel with one-word underneath: verisimilitude.
Minus the Black pimp stereotype, it worked.
And that word was posted on my computer as I wrote KnightWatchers every day.
So when you buy a ticket with your kids this weekend or next to see the superheroes clash – and you see grown adults who are wearing Spider-man shirts or Captain America shields or Hulk gloves or Black Panther necklaces, these are people who had the same childhood as you and me. These are the kids who grew up with Spider-man, Cap, Superman and Batman.
So when they cheer and woo for certain spots, it’s because they’re seeing Spider-man No More actually happen on the screen.
They’re seeing Cap and Iron Man duking it out, arc-lasers to shield.
We’re seeing Superman and the car like it was first imagined back eighty years ago.
Imagine being in the theater forty years ago in the summer of 1978, and Christopher Reeve taking off for the first time in a romanticized Oscar-winning cinematic spectacle.
He gave kids a reason to throw on a towel and pretend it was a cape. To paraphrase the tagline, “We all believed a man could fly.”
Red tights and all.
We could see color again.
See ya’ in the funny pages, kids.