Why pandering to fans is pandering to everyone

Marvel’s The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time, on a global scale, so I’m going to ask an obvious question; “Why.” Don’t get me wrong, the Avengers was a brilliant movie, but there are more factors that went in to making The Avengers a success. Without a doubt this is because Marvel marketed the movies to fans, and not just to the general public. In the not too distant past, when comic book movies were made, they were marketed to those unfamiliar with the characters, but over the years, companies seem to have learned that they should be marketing these movies to people who are already fans. If you treat the fans well, they are more likely to spread positive word of mouth, drawing in future fans. A portion of these new fans will check out the comic and the whole cycle will start over.

Comedian Lewis Black said “We always feel better in anticipation. You don’t think about something and think “Aw, it’s gonna be shitty.” NO! You say “This is gonna be the greatest weekend ever! Sonuvabitch!” The anticipation of an event builds and adds to the event itself. Now, let’s look at the lead up to the Avengers movie. Thor, Captain America, two Hulk movies, and two Iron Man movies. This is a lot of build up for such a major picture, and each has spawned its own series upon that (With the exception of the Hulk movies). But the anticipation machine goes even deeper than that. Hidden in each movie are a number of Easter eggs, the holy grails of geekdom. These hidden gems reference bits of the past that fans can pick up on and discuss with like minded friends, or people on the internet. However, these Easter eggs are also a reward. Subconsciously, aficionados will feel that their fanaticism is being acknowledged and rewarded. It strikes a cord with the viewer, reminding him that he is part of a community. That’s why it works so well. That brief little flash is a common thread that releases a flicker of good feeling.

In addition to respecting the fans as a community, the movies have to respect the source material. Without this, the people who love the comics will most likely pick apart the movie, spreading negative word of mouth, and turning people away from the film instead of drawing new viewers in. On the other side of things, if a film is respectful to a beloved source, community will praise it. New viewers will be drawn in, fans will be happy, and more leeway will be given to future films. Now this is not baring companies for making new and interesting adaptations of a character. Batman for instance is a character of many different portrayls, and the campy Adam West Batman is just as valid of a character as Christian Bale’s Batman. That being said, an unusual version of a loved character will face a great deal of resistance, and any character changes need to be important to the story. The mythos of a character or characters is built around a history that took decades to solidify.

Michael Bay’s changes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hit a wall of resistance because a group of aliens is needlessly contradictory to the classic origin story. The 1980’s TMNT story, however was beloved even though it was different from the dark and gritty Laird and Eastman group. The lighthearted turtles were still the beloved characters from the comic book, even though they were modified into their kid friendly forms. Good writing is about both psychology and history, and few people know these aspects of a character like a true fan. When characters are retooled and reworked in movies, some of this is lost and, perhaps only subconsciously, the fans will pick up on it. So, while writers and directors may complain about having to appease the fan-boys, its that same group of devoted followers that keep the characters true to themselves, making every new iteration better. After all, the fans are just as responsible for the creation and life of the characters as the writer.

Dossier: John Constantine

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Name: John Constantine

Approximate Age: 59 (Born 1953)

Height: 6’0

Weight: Average Build

Approximate Lifting Strength: 150-200lbs

Powers and Abilities: healing properties and age management due to partial demon blood. This also gives him a defense against vampires. Ultimate Con Man. Various magics, including stage magic. Synchronicity, Real Time Aging

Created By: Alan Moore, Steve Bisette, John Totleben

Publisher: Vertigo, DC

Debut: Swamp Thing Vol 2. 37 (1985)

Portrayed on Screen By: Keanu Reeves, unfortunately

Fan Casting: Sting (not the wrestler) Misha Collins, Christopher Eccleston, Hugh Laurie, David Tennant.

Bio:
John Constantine is what happens when you put all your points into Charisma and Arcane Knowledge. Constantine was created on a whim by writer Alan Moore, who simply wanted to make a character that looked like Police frontman Sting. Not only is he a master magician, but he has been able to manipulate even Superman and Batman. Since his debut in 1985, Constantine has managed to con, cheat, or magic his way through just about any situation, with one notable exception. In the early days of his career, Constantine performed a failed exorcism on a nightclub in Newcastle, inadvertently allowing a demon he summoned to drag a child to hell with it. Constantine had a nervous breakdown because of this and spent many years in a mental hospital. Another storyline famous in the world of Constantine was titled “Dangerous Habits” and was adapted into that shitty Keanu Reeves movie. Constantine, dying of lung cancer, promises his soul to each of the three rulers of hell separately. When John then commits suicide, the three rulers come forth to claim his soul, however, because none of them want to give up their claim to another, they are forced to bring John back to life, curing his lung cancer in the process. John extended his middle finger in thanks. Because of his adult nature, Constantine has been mostly relegated to DC’s Vertigo label, which deals with occult themes and “adult situations.” This, however is not what makes Constantine unique. First, Constantine is unusual among comic creations in that he shows real time aging. In the first year of his series, John celebrated his 35th birthday, 5 years later, he turned 40, although it unclear how his aging will be managed in his New 52 series. The second thing that makes Constantine unique is that creator Alan Moore claims to have met him shortly after his creation. Moore was sitting in a sandwich bar when, up the stairs, comes John Constantine. A man with short blonde hair wearing a trench coat. Moore claims the man turned as he walked past, giving Moore a knowing smile and then disappeared around a corner. Constantine is most noted for his frequent work with the Swamp Thing, even being possessed by the Swamp Thing in order to sire a daughter named Tefé. Constantine’s long running series will end in mid-January, to be replaced with a New 52 Series that promises to keep some of his edge to it.

Captain America Profile

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Name: Steven Rogers

Approximate Age: 90 (Born 1922)

Height: 6’2

Weight: 220 lbs

Approximate Lifting Strength: 1,200 lbs

Powers and Abilities: Super Soldier Serum granted peak physical condition. Expert Tactician. Expert Martial Artist.

Created By: Joe Simon, Jack Kirby

Publisher: Timely Comics, Marvel Comics

Debut: Captain America Comics #1, March 1941 (Golden Age)

Portrayed on Screen By: Reb Brown (1979 and sequel), Matt Salinger (1990), Chris Evans (2011 and Sequels)

Fan Casting: Chris Evans, Robert Sean Leonard, Arron Eckhart

Bio:

Steve Rogers was born and raised in New York, New York and grew up in the family of young Irish Immigrants. However, Steve’s father died early on, and his mother passed away when Steve was in his early teens, leaving him orphaned. By the early 1940’s Steve held a promising career as Joe Simon…I mean a promising comic book illustrator. Unlike real life Joe Simon, however, Steve gave up his career for a life of punching Nazis. When the United States entered World War Two (or “The big one” as your grandfather might refer to it) skinny Steve Rogers volunteered for a top secret project that scientifically turned him from a scrawny teen into a man, a big strong man. Unfortunately, everyone concerned with the project died, except for the few scientists that crop up as plot devices from time to time. Some time after personally punching Hitler in the face, Steve and his young ward partner Bucky squared off against the Red Skull, the antithesis of Captain America. The battle would leave Steve frozen in ice for decades, until discovered by the Avengers. Cap would go on to be one of the most beloved leaders of the Avengers on and off for years. Steve has fought over the years for truth, freedom, and liberty, even after abandoning the American government to make his way as Nomad. In recent years Steve has given up the mantle of Captain America, passing the torch on to his young protege Bucky Barnes. Over the years, Captain America has wielded more than just his trusty shield, including the Infinity Gem that controls time, a Stark Tech exoskeleton, and Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. After over 70 years in production, Captain America is truly Marvel’s ultimate Avenger.

Superman does not belong in the Justice League

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Forgive me for mixing companies here, but as Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As we’ve seen, time and time again, Superman’s power is unrivaled. Even Doomsday, once powerful enough to “kill” Superman, has been reduced to another of Superman’s personal punching bags. So what should Supes do with all this power? Should he use it to defend the Metropolis, Kansas, The earth, and the Universe? Or should he ally himself with half a dozen other heroes whose powers are now being wasted? The choice seems obvious to me.

That being said, let’s take a look at the other members of the Justice League. We have the Martian Manhunter, who is basically Superman, with a much more common weakness. I suspect Martian Manhunter hasnt Aquaman, super strong, talks to fish, you know this guy. We’ve seen that the Flash is faster than Superman, but he is constantly wasted on crowd control and disarming military forces. Green Lantern, the power of the human mind in the force of a small green ring. Green Lantern has other duties, but seems to spend all his time on earth helping the League, however, there are 4…no wait, 5 Green Lanterns from Earth, so they can share their responsibilities. Wonder Woman is also on the team, if you stripped Superman down to his core powers and gave him breasts you would have Wonder Woman. (But at least she’s better than the Wasp). Finally Batman, who is barely on the team to begin with. I’m going to go ahead and leave Batman out of this, because I don’t plan on getting beaten about the head and neck by fan-boys.

So, the problem we run into is that Superman, a veritable Swiss-army knife of super powers, is just in the way. Most Justice League encounters devolve into Superman handing out busywork and then going to punch somebody into submission. This is not the best recipe for compelling stories.

Ideally, the Justice League should be composed of heroes who need to work together and can feed off each others’ strengths while covering their weaknesses. I’m not suggesting we use Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, because we’ve seen that fail in the past, but I am suggesting a more power-diverse team. Its not necessary to have Superman team up with anyone, but if DC decides that they want or need it to happen to sell comics, then I suggest the Trinity style team that they ran in 2008.

I encourage you to leave your JLA dream team in the comments section

Justice League and Superman and all that are trademarks of DC Comics, while Uncle Ben belongs to Marvel