Wednesday, July 27, 2016

SDCC wrap-up: A salute to Mark Hamill's COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE and Superman: Rebirth

The older I get, the more my trips to Comic-Con take out of me. This is almost a week past due, but I wrote a piece for Film School Rejects about Mark Hamill's little-seen directorial debut COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE. It went live while I was at SDCC and had no opportunity to write a post here. However, Mark Hamill himself RT'd the link to it and I'm told that at one point, the article was on the front page of Medium, so I hope you enjoy it.

When I was in college, some friends and I had a ritual we’d do on nights where several of us were bored. We’d grab my friend Joe’s high-8 camera and wander into the bowels of the library to shoot our own improvised movies. These were all done with editing-in-the-camera, meaning we shot in sequence, one shot at a time with no post-production work. We never started with a script, though by the end we were bringing along an array of costumes and props.

None of these were great films, but there was an infectious energy about them. The first film was just myself and Joe, and we took turns holding the camera depending on which of us was in the shot. We had fun but wouldn’t have repeated the experiment had the friends we showed it to not said, “When are you doing another one? Can I be in it?” This goofy time-waster looked like so much fun that its energy transcended its low production values and creative constraints.

Mark Hamill’s 2004 directorial debut, Comic Book: The Movie, is the closest I’ve ever seen a feature film duplicate that energy. It’s an improvised mockumentary in the tradition of the Christopher Guest films like This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show. This is a shaggier effort than those films. CB: TM was apparently shot on digital video, but I’d swear the visual quality isn’t much more impressive than High-8, particular when displayed on an HD screen.

[...]Hamill’s repertory company of players is largely made up of voice actors whose work you’ve heard in shows like Pinky & The Brain, Futurama, Animaniacs and many, many more. But that’s all part of the infectious joy of this film. It really feels like Hamill was hanging out with his buddies and said, “Why DON’T we make a movie about something we all love? And let’s do it in a place we love: San Diego Comic Con.”

You can find the rest on Film School Rejects at:  Mark Hamill’s Comic Book: The Movie Shows That Luke Skywalker is One of Us.

In additional Comic-Con news, two of my experiences work as follow-ups to earlier posts. Years ago, I wrote about how when I was in college, I wrote a letter to TV writer Ron Moore (TNG, DS9, Roswell, and Battlestar Galactica) and much to my shock, he tracked me down to call my home and thank me for the letter. It felt like one of the coolest things that had happened to me. Since then, I've always wanted to meet him, even if just to shake his hand and thank him for being so cool. Well, I briefly got to meet him following the Writing for Star Trek Panel and he could not have been a nicer guy. There have been some shifts in positive direction as far as my career lately, and I'm taking this encounter as a signpost of big things on the horizon.

I also attended the DC Rebirth: Superman panel, which focused on the newly relaunched Superman titles. About four years ago, I wrote two very long posts about my relationship with Superman comics and what eventually led me to break up with collecting comics after 23 years of consistent buying. This came a year after DC Comics began a massive relaunch known as The New 52. You can find those old posts here and here.

Well, this May, DC relaunched yet again via DC Universe Rebirth and they knew the exact way to lure me back - Superman writer extraordinaire Dan Jurgens is penning ACTION COMICS, and the Superman of the New 52 is dead. In his place, the pre-New 52 Superman has taken over in this universe and he's not alone. He and his wife Lois have crossed into this new continuity and they've brought with them their 10 year-old son Jon. (This whole story was told in the CONVERGENCE tie-ins and SUPERMAN: LOIS & CLARK, also written by Jurgens.)

I can't tell you how much of a difference this has made. Superman has felt heroic and confidant again, a hero worthy of being looked up to. Better still, his relationship with Lois helps humanize him. The big element the New 52 got rid of was Lois and Clark's marriage, but it also severed ANY real relationship between the two. Superman's romantic interest was Wonder Woman, and it felt wrong to pair him up with another super, as it's always been more interesting to show that Lois Lane is more than up to the task of being Clark's equal.

As much as losing Lois hurt Superman, losing Clark REALLY hurt Lois's character. They're really yin and yang, particularly since the previous two decades-plus where she's in on the secret. No one really seemed to know how to develop Lois on her own and she never had the same chemistry with other characters that she did with Clark when there was romance on the table.

At the Superman panel, Dan Jurgens said that he considers ACTION COMICS #1 to be a significant book not just because it introduced Superman, but because it's also the first appearance of Lois Lane. There are few writers who understand Lois Lane as well as Jurgens and I really believe that she is in good hands with him and Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, who are writing the SUPERMAN title. Fans who are frustrated that Lois's role has only been that of Jon's mother since REBIRTH are advised to be patient, because it was hinted that a few developments are very close on the horizon to restore her to prominence.

Let's talk a little about Jon Kent, who might be my favorite addition to the Superman mythos in a long time. He's got Clark's powers and Lois's inquisitive attitude. It's only been recently that he found out his dad is Superman and both writing teams really have a strong handle on his voice. He's a good kid, but also isn't afraid to stand up to his parents when he wants to be heard. There's something very endearing about seeing Superman as a father, taking his son on a routine rescue and using the adventure as an opportunity to teach him about his powers.

The Superman books have not had this much heart in a long time. Some characters feel too "aged up" when given children, but Superman's always been such a paternal figure that it feels natural to give him a child. I'll admit, in Jurgens's first issue of ACTION, it brought a smile to my face to see Jon cheer "Go Dad, go!" as his father flew off to a confrontation. (Art by Patrick Zircher.)

I can't speak for the quality of most of the other Rebirth properties (other than urging you check out BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY, written by THE 100's Julie & Shawna Benson), but if you've been a lapsed Superman fan, the stories being crafted by Jurgens and Gleason & Tomasi; drawn by Gleason, Zircher and Tyler Kirkham, are some of the most original and heartfelt tales the character has had in a very long time. It's the perfect antidote to the missteps of the New 52 and the darker tones of BATMAN V. SUPERMAN.

For the first time in a long time, the greatest superhero in comics is in the hands of creators who understand what makes him great, and I for one am enjoying the ride.

No comments:

Post a Comment