Monday, February 06, 2012

Killing Superman

(Warning: some rough language)

This video has been making the rounds on the internet for the last week or so.  Max Landis, son of movie director John Landis, has made this short film apparently to rant about his dislike for Superman.  The young Landis focuses his drunken scorn for the Death (and Return) of Superman publicity stunt--er-uhh.. storyline from the early 1990s. The film's mocking, sarcastic tone wears thin pretty quickly, as does Landis's unconvincing Dean Martin act with an adult beverage and everything.

As a fan of Superman, I didn't find Landis's criticisms of the character particularly funny or original, but his lampooning of the Death of Superman crystallized the absurdity of the storyline, the pathetic lack of creativity of the writers and Editors at DC comics in the 90s.  I can remember thinking at the time, "Is this the best they can do?"  The whole thing was just so silly, uncompelling and uninspired, especially given this was the medium's flagship character, and how much DC was investing in the project.  It just reinforced everything I disliked about DC at the time:
  • Lame characters, outside the top 10 or so.  Booster Gold?!  Was Aqualad not available?
  • Lame stories (i.e. lame writers)
  • Lame art
And it reminded me why Marvel Comics was so much better.  Which brings me to today.  DC comics made huge strides forward during the last decade, equaling, perhaps even surpassing Marvel in talent and creativity.  Last year, DC decided to reboot their entire comics line (The New 52!), apparently to re-invent and re-ignite their brand. Trouble is, if the first six months is any judge, DC has taken several steps backward. And if they keep this up, smartasses like Landis won't have to go back twenty years to find material.


Jason Campbell said...

I don't think I've ever watched a 16 minute youtube video before. Couldn't stop watching. Your commentary on it led me to believe it was going to be horrible, but I found myself cracking up multiple times. The guy is a dorky postmodern knucklehead but I'm pretty sure everything he said about comics and the entire DC antics surrounding it were all true. And he's lying about thinking Superman is lame with his little rant at the beginning. He must not think too poorly of him, otherwise he wouldn't have felt compelled to go to all this work and gotten all the incisive analysis right on. Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

What bugs me the most about this video is that nothing this guy says is new or original. Everything he is saying was said by people like me, Jason, and Jake while it was freaking happening. Two decades ago. But then, none of us has a famous film maker for a father upon whose shoulders we can conveniently camp out. I highly doubt Landis, Jr. could have scored any of his cast, let alone the cameo by Ron Howard, if he had to rely on his own skill and talent.

I've seen John Landis in several interviews and on a couple of documentaries. He's a genuinely interesting and funny guy. His son comes off as an annoying parody of the dad. He's not intoxicated from what he's drinking, he's drunk on his own opinion of how sly and clever he is.

And to leave out any mention of the fact that Steel was made into a movie starring Shaquille O'Neal is quite an oversight if you're shooting for a rant on how DC screwed up.

I agree that DC made incredible leaps and bounds in the past fifteen years. I also agree that their new revamping of their entire universe is a misstep. But look at the timeline there. Fifteen years, give or take, that their comics have either been improving or maintaining a high level of overall quality. What's the shelf life for a comic fan? How long does a comic keep its reader buying monthly comics? I would bet that typically it's somewhere between 10 and 15 years. Then they need to do something to try to draw those readers back and also attract the attention of new readers. So instead of building up buzz with incredible stories and mind-blowing art, they settle on throwing a big haymaker to end the fight. Whether it's a revamp of the entire universe a la Marvel's Ultimates, or killing off a ton of their characters as DC did in the Doomsday debacle, or an entire reboot of their entire line with all new #1 issues, this is what they usually come up with. And none of it is new. I'm honestly surprised that DC's reboot of their entire catalog was received as well as it was. It has been done before and with results similar to what DC is seeing now - that is to say that they sell a pant load of comics at first only to have fans and critics alike look at what they've been sold and realize that it's the same characters drawn by the same artists into stories written by the same authors.

The fact that it has worked to produce an infusion of cash into a comic publisher leads me to believe that we will see this from a major comic house about every 15 or so years from now on. That is to say either Marvel or DC, since I doubt we're going to see Dark Horse kill off all the Predators and Aliens only to bring them back in new #1 issues.

So what all this really boil down to is that once sales start to slip, comics, like so many other entertainment outlets, don't try to improve their quality. Instead they resort to using what is essentially hucksterism to push the same old same old on us, the great unwashed masses.


Jake Shore said...

I admit, I chuckled a few times.

And I think Ted nailed it. We had his discussion twenty years ago. This guy was a little kid at the time, so he's just discovering this crap.