Recently, film writer David Goyer made some disparaging remarks about She-Hulk and Martian Manhunter. Chris Sims over at Comics Alliance wrote about it recently, which you can read here. In short, Goyer believes She-Hulk is basically a porn star character made specifically to give Hulk someone to bang. Which is ridiculous on multiple levels.
In the same interview, he also called The Martian Manhunter “goofy.” Maybe he just has a problem with green-skinned characters or the colour green in general (except the piles of money Hollywood keeps inexplicably throwing at him.).
However, he does bring up a good point Martian Manhunter: he is goofy. Or silly. Or ridiculous. Or whatever other description you want to use. He’s a shape-shifting, green-skinned telepathic Martian who can also turn invisible and becomes powerless from fire. Not Kryptonite, a rare element from another galaxy. Fire. As Batman said to him once, “I have a $70,000 sliver of a radioactive meteor to stop the one from Metropolis. All I need for you is a penny for a book of matches. ” (Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier). How could anyone be a superhero, rescuing people, with a weakness to fire? It’s ridiculous! And don’t get me started on the dude who talks to fish.
But here’s the kicker: the superhero genre is inherently silly. It’s part of what makes it so great.
If you take any common aspect of superheroes, they constantly fail under modern, logical scrutiny. For example, how could anyone in this day and age keep a secret identity? With a huge online presence and every phone with a built-in camera, it would be near impossible. Who in their right mind would wear spandex to fight crime? Who would ever wear a cape? How would you hold down a job and still have time to patrol the city or save the world on a regular basis?
That’s without even getting into the ridiculous science of superheroes (why doesn’t Spider-Man shoot webbing out of his butt?) or just some of the completely ridiculous things that superhero comics have offered over their seven-decade run. We’ve seen everything from a evil giant starfish, Nazi dinosaurs, anti-matter monsters, demons and creatures from hundreds of planes of existence, madmen who control everything from the weather to colours, and immortal gods shooting lighting out of their eyes.
Put too much thought into even Batman or Superman and those two iconic figures are ridiculous. Sure, there could be a scientific explanation behind Superman’s strength and flight due to the planet’s gravity compared to Krypton, but how does he have heat vision or cold breath? Then there’s the ever popular “Why don’t people see he’s Superman if he’s just wearing glasses?” Then you have Batman, who is basically just a scared little boy who never grew up and lashes out at the world with his toys. No wonder one of his only friends is a teenage boy. And why hasn’t anyone followed the money trail for where Wayne Enterprises’ expenditures go?
But you know what? That’s what I love about comics. I love that anything and everything happens in it, no matter how ridiculous. I love that Superman has a pet dog with the same powers. I love that Batman had a Bat-hound of his own. I love Starro the Conqueror. I love the ridiculousness and honestly, I don’t think many can be a fan of the superhero genre without accepting or loving at least part of it.
One must make huge leaps in logic in order to love the superhero genre, but that’s part of what makes it so great. Superheroes inherently fly in the face of logic. Scrutinize them even for a second and very little of the genre makes sense. The science rarely makes sense (that’s not how radioactivity works, dammit!). The law doesn’t work (“I mean, he’s really good at swooping in and catching the bad guys, but he’s not so hot at the little things, like Miranda rights, due process,” – Lex Luthor, Superman Returns). Realistically, society and politics in general are just not accommodating to superheroes.
Except that’s their whole point. The superhero genre is and has always been escapist fantasy. The genre is for dreamers. It’s for optimists who wish the world was a little simpler. There’s a reason that children are so strongly drawn to the genre. It offers them a simple morality system about good and bad, fighting injustice, and helping the downtrodden or troubled. Are there deeper, more complex stories within the genre? Absolutely. I could list off hundreds of great examples. At its core, though, the comic book world simply does not – nor should it – apply to the real world. The real world is an incredibly scary, complex, and not at all black and white place. The superhero genre, no matter how ridiculous it gets, is comforting in its simplicity.
Warner Bros, David Goyer, and DC Comics in general need to accept that. You can absolutely have mature stories without being grim and dark. You want to make movies about an alien who shoots lasers out of his eyes. You want to make stories about a nutball who dresses up as a bat. Read that again. He dresses up as a bat. A BAT. Superheroes are already inherently ridiculous, no matter how hard you try to make them realistic. It’s better to embrace the ridiculousness rather than actively trying to avoid it. If you can make room for the alien and the nutso in the bat-suit, you can make room for the shape-changing Martian.
And while WB continues to fight against the inherent ridiculousness of superheroes, Marvel’s new movie this summer – The Guardians of the Galaxy – will have a space raccoon and a talking tree. Marvel’s films not only understand but embrace the ridiculousness of the superhero genre. They understand that not everything has to be grim and dark like the recently completely Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan. Why can’t WB do the same with their struggling movie franchises?
Of course, I’m just saying all this because I want a big screen version of Starro the Conqueror. Seriously, how awesome would that be?