In the comic book universe, it’s no secret that I fall on the side of DC Comics, the home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. You know, the holy trinity of four-colour, sequential periodicals – the world’s most recognized pop-culture heroes – the Justice League.
As evidenced by the many debates with comic book loving pals (many of whom write for and/or read this very site) about the pros and cons of the DC and Marvel universes, that means I’m not a big Avengers fan. You can’t love the Leafs and the Habs, City and United, Yankees and Mets. You have to choose. At ten years of age, I chose DC.
And on the eve of one of this summer’s most highly anticipated movies, I’m still not a fan. Not really. How could I be?
All due respect to Glenn Walker’s enthusiasm (love ‘ya Glenn!), to me, the Avengers are just a crazed group of disparate superheroes, running around in flashy-coloured tights and armor, throwing arrows and bullets and laser beams and hammers and shields and punches, willy nilly around town, trying to hit the bad guys while missing the good guys, leaving chaos and destruction in their wake. David Ward was right. Sure, it’s spectacularly exciting stuff to read and see, but, at the center of it all, the Avengers are a bunch of characters that I don’t really identify with. How have they lasted at the forefront of popular culture for so long?
I mean, Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy with the ingenious intellect, hi-tech suit of red and gold armor and the sexy supermodel hanging off of his arm? Ha! I like to drink the odd single malt whiskey too, these days, but that’s just the stuff of little kid daydreams. What place do they have in the here and now?
And then there’s Thor, the Norse God with parental issues that got grounded for being disobedient and obstinate and needed to be taught a lesson in humility. Who has time for learning humility in this fast-paced world? When you get knocked down (and you will), you get right back up and knock harder. Yeah, I got grounded once or twice when I was a kid but that was in the eighties. Thor was created in the early sixties. Time and relevance sure have passed him by.
Captain America? Who the heck would want to epitomize the “best” ideals of their home nation? Countries, through decades of immigration and emigration, are melting pots now. We’re all individuals – most of us posting anonymously on the Internet these days. There is no common ideal to live up to anymore, nothing that we really share with one another, so why bother faking it?
The Hulk? He’s just a man trying to repress an awesome anger that exists within his very core – an anger that turns him into an out-of-control monster when it gets the better of him. Sounds like a one-way ticket to a nervous breakdown and a hefty psychiatrist’s bill – a hallmark of the late twentieth century. Emotions can be wonderful but they can also hurt, especially when one doesn’t fit into the mainstream of society. They’re probably best avoided, as timid Dr. Banner (surely a comic book reader and collector himself) would tell you in one of his science labs. There’s nothing even remotely philosophical, by today’s standards, in that meek man and giant green character.
And then there’s the Avengers supporting cast. Sure, I could pick them out of a comic book line-up, but that’s only because I’m entrenched in this art form. What do Hawkeye, Ant-Man, The Wasp, The Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver offer the world today? What can we derive from their personalities, trials, tribulations and joys?
But I’m not all doom. I’m one to take a flyer.
Biff Bam Pop! Editor-in-Chief, Andy Burns, lent me his precious Ultimates Omnibus a number of years ago and I’ll be the first to admit, it was fun comics. It had an interesting update on the origin story of the Avengers wherein Nick Fury puts together the team of super heroes to fight an invading alien race. When I first read it I thought it might make a decent cartoon for kids, you know, so that maybe they could see that people could set aside their individual differences for a common good. Evidently, some studio exec thought the same thing. Evidently, some other studio exec had even bigger plans.
A few years ago an eye-patched Samuel L. Jackson started showing up, unannounced, in various Marvel character movies. You had to wait until the end of the credits to see him, but finally the prize for the devoted would be given, first in the Iron Man film and then its sequel.
Then he showed up again in Captain America.
World building between these films was a curious and new endeavor. It became a game, the waiting, the sense of anticipation, as the movie screen faded to black and then lit up again with one more scene featuring the guy who played Mace Windu, Jules Winnfield and Elijah Price, this time as Nick Fury.
A strange feeling took me: at each movie, in each instance, I kind of felt like a kid, dreaming of all sorts of possibilities.
It was a revelation.
How have the Avengers stayed relevant at the forefront of popular culture for so long? Maybe the characters have changed to suit the times. Perhaps, as a culture, we haven’t.
In the comic book universe, it’s no secret that I fall on the side of DC Comics, the home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. You know – the Justice League. But on the eve of one of this summer’s most highly anticipated movies, I’ve found that I’ve definitely warmed to the Avengers. After all, they have a “Hulk”.
There’s room enough, in my comic book universe, for two superhero teams. If nothing else, The Avengers taught me that.