Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Spoilers ahead.

There's been a lot of consternation about this film on line. It seems people are very upset about it.

Now, I hardly find these Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield-led Spider-Man films to be without flaw, you can find my review of the original film here. That being said, my initial reaction upon leaving the theatre after seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was that it was my personal favorite of all the Spider-Man films that have been made.

Strong words? Possibly, and perhaps repeat viewing may change my mind. However, this film FELT like the Spider-Man I have enjoyed in the comics, and the changes made from the comic all made sense and felt OK, to me.

Now, am I overjoyed that the Sinister Six are all, apparently, Oscorp-based, and tied directly to
Richard Parker's research, and therefore, Peter Parker directly? No, not really, but it also wasn't such an egregious breach of storytelling that it made me upset.  As I have always said about "cannon" and "retcons," if they open storytelling doors, I am fundamentally in favor of them.

And, here's the deal, I am interested in what they will do with this Sinister Six movie, and what will happen with the team that Harry Osborne is building. Do I think it's the best idea in the world? A film (apparently) totally about villains? Maybe not, but I'm willing to concede that it could result in an interesting film. Also that where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 leaves that storyline makes me more interested.

OK, so why did I love this film so much? Because for a specific reason that a lot of people have chosen to criticize it. This being Gwen Stacy's death and how Peter, and the film chooses to deal with it. I've heard a lot of criticism that the film "let's Peter off the hook" for Gwen's death.

Well, yes, but I'd argue that's the whole point.

See, as opposed to the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy, Webb and his team have embraced "with great power comes great responsibility." Whereas Raimi (with star Toby Maguire) presented a Peter Parker who was CONSTANTLY wallowing in, and almost solely motivated by guilt, Webb and Garfield have crafted a Parker that, even in the face of his greatest losses, embraces a responsibility to something other than himself and his martyr complex. The film is about moving past fear and pain.

When Peter returns to the suit and faces down The Rhino in the closing minutes, it is a statement about heroism that Raimi simply never made. The added bonus of the small child who tries to be the replacement for the missing Spider-Man only reinforces the point. Spider-Man is a hero because he does what he can, what only he can to do, because it is right. That sacrifices will be made, and forced on him, but that is HIS choice. Just as it was Gwen's choice to put herself in harm's way. And those sacrifices, they're part of living life to the fullest. Standing by a doing nothing? Not trying? THAT is true failure.

On top of all that, even in the comics, Gwen's death was NEVER Peter's fault. He may have failed to save her, but The Green Goblin killed her, period.

Not to mention that this film, more than any other Spider-Man film, FEELS like Spider-Man. The character is spot-on. The situations are solid superhero fare (is the Electro storyline somewhat reminiscent of The Riddler in Batman Forever? Sure. There are no new stories). The direction is flat-out stunning, and the action set pieces are pure, unfiltered Spider-Man.

It's just a fucking fun movie to watch, and it got me truly emotional at least twice. You really can't expect much more than that.

So, yes, I really enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I'm sure I'll take heat for that opinion among my friends whom I think were more interested in stoking a personal rage over a Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci scripted film than anything else. For me, it's about how I felt watching the film, and this certainly did not have the third-act trainwreck of Star Trek Into Darkness, for example.

I'm recommending it. I had a great time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cold Sweat: Stuck in My Head 5.14.14

Cold Sweat
By Thin Lizzy

I put my money in the suitcase
And headed for the big race
I felt a chill on my backbone
As I hung up the telephone

Stone cold sober and stone cold sweat
Running down the back of my neck
To lose means trouble, to win pays double
And I got me a heavy bet

Cold, cold sweat

They say chances on the outside
Are looking pretty slim
I've been so lucky on the inside
I feel I'm going to win

Stone cold sober and stone cold sweat
Running down the back of my neck
Take a little money, there's nothing left to lose
And I got me a heavy bet

Cold, cold sweat

I've got me a whole month's wages
I haven't seen that much in ages
I might spend it in stages
And move out to Las Vegas

Stone cold sober and stone cold sweat
Running down the back of my neck
To lose means trouble, to win means double
And I got me a heavy bet

Cold, cold sweat

I put my money in a suitcase
They say chances on the outside
I got a whole months wages

Stone cold sober and stone cold sweat
Stone cold crazy
Place another bet

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Sad Tale of Bill Finger Continues

Check out this article at Bleeding Cool. 

 The relevant section, a statement from Athena Finger, Bill Finger's Granddaughter:
75 years of Batman! No one could have predicted the longevity and the continued relevance of this comic book hero that has become a cultural icon when my grandfather, Bill Finger, collaborated with Bob Kane back in 1939. My grandfather has never been properly credited as the co-creator of Batman although was an open secret in the comic book industry and is widely known now. It is now my time to come out of the shadows and speak up and end 75 years of exploitation of my grandfather, whose biggest flaw was his inability to defend his extraordinary talent. Due to what I feel is continued mistreatment of a true artist, I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves.

I'm sure this will lead to another round of "oh, look at how evil DC Comics is!" With our kneejerk vilification of any corporate entity.

This issue isn't about DC - it's about Bob Kane and his estate.

DC has been sending, admittedly modest in relation to the value of Batman as a property, checks to the Finger heirs for years. There's even an interesting story of how a lover of Finger's now-deceased son was receiving checks from DC, instead of Kane's granddaughter, the rightful heir. When Finger biographer Marc Tyler Nobleman brought this to DC's attention, they rectified the situation quickly. At his San Diego Comic-Con presentation in 2012, Nobleman specifically pointed out that DC were not the bad guys in this story.

Finger is denied his rightful credit because of the contracts that Bob Kane, and his estate, have with DC Comics. Aside from the quote in his "autobiography" (Kane didn't really even draw 90%, and that's being generous, of what's credited to him, I doubt he wrote a book), Kane NEVER admitted Finger's central role (likely greater than Kane's) in the creation of the Batman mythos. During the 60's he even wrote personal responses, lashing out at anyone who suggested Finger's contribution.

I am almost certain that if the powers that be at DC could legally name Bill Finger Batman's co-creator, even just to set the record straight, leaving aside the money (which again, is really about Kane's contract - not DC welching), I honestly believe they would. Every creator, editor, etc, etc, I've ever heard speak on this issue knows EXACTLY what happened and how Kane, via his contact with National/DC, secured for himself sole credit, and the financial benefits thereof, for perpetuity. That doesn't mean they can speak openly about it, as legal matters often go.

Kane clearly benefited from coming after Siegel and Schuster, and seeing the vast monies that Superman was bringing in. He, or his father, was smart enough to secure a legally binding agreement with National/DC that paid off for him handsomely. Would that Siegel and Schuster had gotten such advice.

This also allowed Bob to keep Finger, and the multiple other "ghost" writers and artists he employed, from sharing that windfall. It may seem Machiavellian to our modern eyes, but that was the way cartooning worked in those days. Comic strips were often written and drawn by underlings in the paid employ of the person who's name actually graced the newsprint page. All the greats, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, had "studios" to accomplish the massive amounts of work they would undertake in order to make actual money. The difference, really, is that Bob Kane, reportedly, rarely drew or wrote anything himself.

In 2006, at the San Diego Comic-Con, I had the good fortune to witness a "Golden Age Batman" panel that brought a lot of these creators together. Their differing responses to working for Kane were illuminating, Shelly Moldoff, for instance, was very upfront about who Kane was, what he did, or didn't, actually do, but also felt that Bob had lived up to the agreements they had. This seemed to upset Jerry Robinson, who had long felt Kane had kept him from proper recognition as, at least, the co-creator of characters like Robin and The Joker. It was a lovely panel to attend, but it did leave me with one overriding impression...

Bob Kane was mainly interested in Bob Kane, and making sure that Bob Kane got as much money, attention and fame as he could. Bob Kane made a great deal for himself, and he enjoyed the fruits of his legal foresight. He also guarded his position jealously. You really can't deny it, and I see fewer and fewer Kane apologists as time goes on.

Let's take another look at Kane's quote about Finger from Batman and Me:
Now that my long-time friend and collaborator is gone, I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero…. I often tell my wife, if I could go back fifteen years, before he died, I’d like to say, ‘I’ll put your name on it now. You deserve it.
Yes, he does, and perhaps Kane's widow, Elizabeth Sanders, might remember those times (if they actually happened, frankly) and extend this courtesy to the memory and heirs of Bill Finger. She's the one who can do it, not DC Comics. So, while we can celebrate the legacy that Bill Finger left us, and bemoan the injustice of his lack of credit, let us not forget that DC Comics has already gone beyond the compensation they were legally required to provide (which was nothing). What they cannot legally give, and it's probably the most important, the most meaningful, gesture, is credit. Only Bob Kane's estate can do that...

...And they don't seem to want to.

*I would've provided more pictures of Bill Finger, but very few actually seem to exist.