Marvel Comics still king of the movie moun­tain

The Casket - - Wheels - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­[email protected]­cas­

As a kid grow­ing up in the 1970s and 80s, I re­mem­ber al­ways hop­ing for two things to hap­pen. One, for my favourite Bos­ton-area sport teams (Red Sox, Patriots and Bru­ins) to win cham­pi­onships and, two, for the Marvel Comics’ char­ac­ters I fol­lowed, as an avid comic col­lec­tor, to get a proper big — or even lit­tle — screen treat­ment.

Nei­ther hap­pened for me as a youth; save for an OK Hulk treat­ment on CBS in the late 70s and early 80s. Yeah, it hasn’t held up well in the years since but, for its time, it was as good as it was go­ing to get and, re­ally, what fan­tasy ac­tion shows have held up well over the years?

As I reached adult­hood in the 90s, the drought con­tin­ued but, as we moved from the 20th to the 21st cen­tury, that all changed, start­ing with the first X-men movie in 2000 and the Patriots up­set­ting the then St. Louis Rams — the so-called ‘Great­est Show on Turf ’ — in Su­per Bowl XXXVI, af­ter the 2001 NFL sea­son.

And, wow, has it ever changed.

The Pats have won four more Su­per Bowls since to be­come one of the great­est, if not the great­est, dy­nasty in the his­tory of the NFL. In dra­matic fash­ion, the Red Sox ended one of the long­est cham­pi­onship droughts in the his­tory of the MLB in 2004 and have since added three more ti­tles; in­clud­ing one this past fall.

Even the Bru­ins, in 2011, slipped in a Stan­ley Cup vic­tory amidst strong runs by Chicago and Los An­ge­les.

And still, even if the Pats had won the other three Su­per Bowls they played in this cen­tury, and the Bru­ins the other Cup fi­nal they played in ver­sus the Black­hawks, noth­ing could match the suc­cess of the Marvel char­ac­ters in movies.

As I write this, the an­i­mated Spi­der-man: Into the Spi­der-verse movie won the week­end box of­fice bat­tle with an im­pres­sive $35.5 mil­lion and did so with an even more im­pres­sive 97 per cent critic score on Rot­ten To­ma­toes. At the same time, the trailer for the fourth Avengers film — Avengers: Endgame — is break­ing vi­ral records for view­ings.

This all tops off a year when films Avengers: In­fin­ity War, Black Pan­ther and Dead­pool 2 were both crit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial suc­cesses while Ant-man and the Wasp and Venom en­joyed one but not so much the other (good crit­i­cal re­cep­tion for Ant-man and the Wasp, fi­nan­cial for Venom).

It’s an as­tound­ing run of suc­cess for any stu­dio and there doesn’t seem to be any slow­ing down as ma­jor films — the afore­men­tioned Avengers: Endgame and Cap­tain Marvel — are al­ready build­ing up mas­sive mo­men­tum, de­spite be­ing months away from be­ing re­leased.

Stan Lee

Of course, 2018 will also be re­mem­bered at the year Marvel lost its real-life hero as the great Stan Lee passed away last month.

The co-cre­ator of such iconic char­ac­ters as Spi­der-man, the Hulk, Iron-man, Thor, the Fan­tas­tic Four, the Black Pan­ther, Black Wi­dow Hawk­eye … the list goes on and on, Lee was fa­mous to this gen­er­a­tion for mak­ing comedic cameos in the Marvel movies.

When I col­lected comics, it was just af­ter the time he stopped writ­ing and be­ing ed­i­tor-in-chief for Marvel Comics, turn­ing over most of those du­ties to Roy Thomas who would go on to fash­ion his own im­pres­sive legacy of amaz­ing cre­ations.

Still, Lee re­mained the face of Marvel Comics, and it was way back then he started work­ing on what took decades to achieve — get­ting those char­ac­ters in live­ac­tion fea­tures on the big and small screens (there had al­ready been plenty of car­toons star­ring his char­ac­ters, to vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess).

I don’t think even Lee could ever have dreamed of the suc­cess his char­ac­ters would even­tu­ally achieve.

Marvel on Net­flix

Of course too, it wasn’t all suc­cess for the com­pany in 2018 as Net­flix started can­celling their shows in­volv­ing Marvel char­ac­ters; start­ing with Iron Fist, then Luke Cage and fi­nally, my favourite, Dare­devil.

Jes­sica Jones and the Pu­n­isher are likely to fol­low as their re­spec­tive third and sec­ond sea­sons con­clude in 2019. It’s un­for­tu­nate be­cause the can­cel­la­tions have noth­ing to do with qual­ity or view­er­ship and ev­ery­thing to do with Dis­ney, which owns Marvel, start­ing their own stream­ing busi­ness that will be in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with Net­flix.

Los­ing the Dare­devil show is def­i­nitely the hard­est to swal­low for me since it, in my view, even more so than any of the de­pic­tion of char­ac­ters in the movies (sorry Robert Downey Jr.), re­ally cap­tured the essence of the char­ac­ters, led by ac­tor Char­lie Cox as Matt Mur­dock/dare­devil and Vin­cent D’onofrio as Wil­son Fisk/king­pin.

Mind you, not the Dare­devil as co-cre­ated by Lee and Bill Everett in the early 1960s (Lee, show­ing his age, would say he was in­spired by Er­rol Flynn’s swash­buck­ling char­ac­ters in cre­at­ing Dare­devil); more the early 80s ver­sion ren­dered by Frank Miller, which re­mains one of best runs of any comic book se­ries.

Har­dened by the real-life crime which plagued New York City at the time, Miller wrote and drew Dare­devil in a gritty film­noir crime-story style, which res­onated deeply with read­ers and was im­i­tated by cre­ators through­out the in­dus­try.

It was ob­vi­ous the cre­ators of the Dare­devil Net­flix se­ries were fans of the work and re­main true to it dur­ing the three sea­sons of the show. Its av­er­age Rot­ten To­ma­toes score is 91 per cent, sea­son one (99) and three (96) brought down by the lesser sea­son two (79).

It would be great to see some rem­i­nisce of the show saved, but it sounds like show busi­ness red tape is go­ing to achieve what King­pin, Bulls­eye, the Hand, Elek­tra and the Pu­n­isher could not, elim­i­nate the Man With­out Fear.

2018 will also be re­mem­bered at the year Marvel lost its real-life hero as the great Stan Lee passed away last month.

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