Thread: The Avengers
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Old 05-11-2012, 12:35 AM
Originally Posted by Shinigami View Post
Whedon did a great job. Working with icons is just as difficult as working with any other character set. But comic fans have the benefit of decades-long relationships with these guys, and I think it's almost inevitable for comic fans to enjoy the depth (and you know someone like Whedon was writing with a depth of knowledge). Soda's bullet points on a few choice character moments - Coulson, the banter between Steve and Tony, and the commanding presence Whedon gave Steve in the movie - are well written and well realized, defining a few characters who are probably older than well over half of the audience turning out for Avengers, and comic fans have a mythology which frames these things.

But the scene with Coulson calling Black Widow while she is working has been done over and over and over in 'heightened reality' movies, most of which aren't met with this kind of response. We watch a suit and tie man call Jason Statham when he's tied up and on the floor to tell him to get going for another operation, and Statham throws out his one liner (give me a minute, I'm kind of tied up with something at the moment, etc) before getting the upper hand on a group of foursome bad guys, and it's enjoyable, but we're not thinking about it and we're not considering it characterization. The scene has been done so often that it's almost an archetype of that context, as an introduction between the suit and tie man and the badass whoever. But I'm not talking about originality, because that's an old hat and movie fans overuse the term. I'm talking about why some audiences are reacting to this scene in the context of the Avengers when they would react differently to the same scene in another movie not steeped in mythology. We have also watched uncountable characters who gained power from a suit, technology, weapons or money be challenged with the idea they are nothing without their suit, technology, weapons or money, and what makes the banter interesting is because they have a long mythology giving importance and resonance to the lines that separates them from throwaway situations acted out between throwaway characters. It's not what is present onscreen. It's what has come before.

And I think that's a different skill set than most filmmakers are used to. This goes back to the idea of 'serialization', and I'm assuming it's a new experience for audiences. I'm not not used to serialized storytelling in movies. I'm not used to a movie that is able to exist as a climax, and I'm not used to acknowledging continuity to this extent.
Comics probably has the most long running continuity in popular culture. Whereas a tv show may have a continuity of a few seasons, comic book continuity can span decades (which is odd, because a lot of people who were fans a decade or so ago aren't now, and vice versa). This is especially true in DC comics. Marvel tends to embrace their continuity when it suits them and totally disregard it when it doesn't. DC thinks that everything has to have an in story explanation, even universe reboots. So, for example, when Geoff Johns wrote Infinite crisis a few years ago, he was picking up the threads of a story that was published in 1985, over two decades had passed, but the old story still "counted".

To that extent, when fans got to the last page of Infinite Crisis #1, and saw:

To guys like me, who had read COIE (I'm not old enough to have read it when it first came out, but its one of the must read trades), that was the pinnacle of unbelieveably cool. Johns pulled out something that hadn't been used in twenty years, and gave it a brand new direction. That last panel (much like the shot of Thanos in the Avengers) turned the entire story on a dime, and was the talk of comics. People may not be used to continuity over decades, but you know was? The Ancients. Ancient mythology and story-telling was the same kind of deal: a shared mythology, where stories were added, the archtypes designed, and the accepted core mythology something that was hashed out over many generations. Homer didn't invent Greek mythology, and after Homer, that wasn't the last myth that was ever told in ancient Greece. The tales were embellished, discarded, updated, created, and revised over the coming generations.

As a historian and a mythology nut, I'm very comfortable with this brand of storytelling because, in viewing the differences in the stories generation after generation, you get an effective mirror for what a society is at any given time. Some things never change about humans: we, like those who came before us, love "big dumb fun". The ancients weren't above a dirty joke, or a raunchy comedy. Other things do, as time goes on. Back in the day, every character in superhero comics was white, and there were a handful of women.

Comic book companies have made a conscious decision to be more inclusive. There are gay and lesbian hereoes and villians, open ones too, and others don't treat them any differently. There are black hereos, hispanics, asian. We've seen an explosion in female hereos and villians. The most popular ones are still the old, white males, but there is a conscious effort towards social change. The Avengers you saw in the film are by no means representative of what the team looks like in comics right now. That tells me a lot about what our society thinks about itself. We're an increasingly diversified (and in many places, like where I live and went to school, and extremely diversified) society, one that's trying to figure out what it all means in a world that's more and more connected. Some fear that, others are excited by it. Comics reflects that part of our civilization very well. You have terrorist organizations that would make OBL (if he were alive, good riddance) stop and think "holy shit, why didn't I think of that?" (there's fanatical devotion, and then, there's the league of Shadows and HYDRA.)

That mirror changes over time, I got a stack of the wolfman/perez teen titans a while ago and read through it, and it amazed me how different social views and norms were back in the 80s. That constancy, the fact that someone didn't just write something then, and someone else wrote something now, but that its continuous, and that you can read it and follow along, is a part of the process I find very appealing. However, at the end of the day, whatever works for you, or, as the classic eighties tv show would say: "different strokes for different folks."
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