The “superhero movie” [less reverently, the “comic book movie”] has always been an ‘implicitly White’ genre, for fairly obvious reasons; indeed, the whole notion of a “black superhero” seems a contradiction in terms, despite heroic efforts on the part of good-thinking Liberals in the MSM, hoping to expiate their guilt over profiting from such a “white supremacist” enterprise. [Stuff Black People Don't Like has covered this issue in all its ramifications, from the failure of M.A.N.T.I.S. to the casting of Black Thor, collected here].
While preparing an essay on Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, which I think is the greatest superhero movie ever made, I came across the following review of 300, which for reasons now forgotten, I never got around to publishing. Since my readers have come to expect untimely meditations on movies, I thought I would dust it off. Give me your thoughts.
In 1954 an obscure psychiatrist penned a book called Seduction of the Innocent which almost put paid to the entire comic book industry in the United States. The whole incident is almost forgotten today, but it is highly instructive over how “fire-storms” and cultural wars can break out. It is also reasonably true to say that–unlike the parallel film industry–it took American comics about three decades to fully ingest and recover from Doctor Wertham’s assault.
Frank Frazetta was an artist who created countless paintings, comics, and book and album covers with a focus on the superhero, fantasy, and science fiction genres. He lived between 1928 and 2010. Read more …
The Brave and the Bold
A Team-up comic featuring Batman and the Joker
D.C. Comics, #111, March 1974
This comic was published in 1974 by DC comics or National Periodical Publications. It retailed for twenty cents, and I bought it in the United Kingdom for eight new pence. The author was the veteran scripter Bob Haney, and it was drawn by Jim Aparo. None of the other contributors—the inker, colorist, letterer, or editor—is recorded. Read more …
In my review of Christoper Nolan’s Batman Begins, I argued that the movie generates a dramatic conflict around the highest of stakes: the destruction of the modern world (epitomized by Gotham City) by the Traditionalist “League of Shadows” versus its preservation and “progressive” improvement by Batman.
After being blown away by director Christopher Nolan’s Inception, I decided to give his Batman Begins (2005) another chance. The first time I saw this film, I did not like it. Not one bit. I must have been distracted, because this time I loved it. Nolan breaks with the campy style of earlier Batman films, focusing on character development and motivations, which makes Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight both psychologically dark and intellectually and emotionally compelling.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) looks like director Guillermo del Toro’s audition for The Hobbit. (He got the job, but backed out because of scheduling problems with the studio.) The root mythology is Tolkienesque: In remotest antiquity, elves, trolls, and other beings shared the earth with mankind. The visual style is pure Peter Jackson: The elves look like Tolkien/Peter Jackson elves; the trolls look like Tolkien/Peter Jackson trolls; etc.
Last time I saw Jonathan Bowden, I asked him how he was. His answer, delivered with bared teeth and so typical of him, elicited peals of laughter from Bowden himself, “I am always superb and getting stronger!” Bowden, you see, loves an audience, but he is quite able to entertain himself without one, as the second volume of his art eloquently shows.
Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy (2004) is grounded in a highly entertaining fusion of occult history and lore—including elements of Traditionalism, Esoteric Hitlerism, and even H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos—although cut and pasted and juggled around without any regard for truth.
David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (New Line Cinema, 2005) is truly a superb movie, with a tight and economical script (the whole story is told in 96 minutes), a remarkably subtle and gripping performance by Viggo Mortensen (his best ever, in my opinion), excellent performances from the rest of the cast, and an unostentatiously elegant directorial style (unmarred by the middlebrow pretentiousness and penchant for the juvenile and repulsive that ruin most of Cronenberg’s movies).