For those of us comic book buffs, we might have had to take a deep breath before explaining to non buffs what just happened this year, with both Captain Marvel and Shazam hitting the theaters when they are technically the same person.
In the late 30’s Captain Marvel made his debut and was owned by Whiz Comics and Fawcett Publications. It was a competitor’s response to Superman and the comics did very well.
According to Wikipedia:
But after a series of disputes and lawsuits, Captain Marvel was semi-retired until DC Comics/National in the 1970s licensed Captain Marvel and then purchased him in the 1990s.
Marvel Comics, however, was able to secure the trademark of Captain Marvel, so DC Comics couldn’t use the Captain Marvel name anymore. So in renaming the superhero, DC Comics combined the electrical powers of Captain Marvel with the word used by the wizard’s spell, Shazam!
So rather than Billy Batson becoming Captain Marvel when he cries “Shazam”, he simply becomes, Shazam.
Shazam hits theaters April 5, 2019.
Disney and Marvel Studios have agreed to rehire writer/director James Gunn following his July 2018 firing over dozens of online statements he made regarding women and LGBT folks. So, what exactly happened (and for some folks - who is James Gunn and why should I care?):
James Gunn, he’s a writer/director of feature films who had to back to back hits with Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy 1&2 both of which were surprise hits and have combined for a total world box office of $1.5 billion. So, when conservative personalities dug up old tweets on the Trump hating Gunn, they could not wait to manufacture some fake rage. Like most things in internet outrage culture it didn’t matter that Gunn wrote the tweets ten years ago and that, while tasteless and sometimes insensitive, they were clearly not to be taken seriously. But no matter. Disney caved to the faux rage and fired Gunn from the upcoming Guardians 3.
At the time, when reporters were questioning him about the tweets, Gunn clarified his earlier comments via Twitter: "Many people who have followed my career know, when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I've developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It's not to say I'm better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it's shocking and trying to get a reaction are over."
After Disney fired him for the decade old tweets, Gunn responded: "Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all."
And if you read over the tweets some of them clearly go to far. In fact, what I thought was far more inappropriate was Gunn’s post titled, "The 15 Superheroes I Most Want to Have Sex With," which was filled with some pretty idiotic fanboy misogynist writing. ( Editor’s note: We are unable to find a link to that now deleted story, but numerous op-eds exist in which they discuss it including this one at the Marysue.com).
So, my general take on the firing was, “Gunn wrote stupid tweets, probably when he was drunk.” He should apologize, not do anything that stupid again and move on with it. And that should have been the end. Alas, Disney caved to outrage culture and so Gunn was fired. And that as they say - is that.
But didn’t you say he got hired, again?
I did. Which means that, as they say, was not that. How did Gunn get hired back? Well, shortly after the firing, a pretty obvious narrative emerged - Gunn was an often harsh critic of President Trump and so therefor - angry conservative personalities manufactured some engineered fake rage to shut him up! And it worked. It did not matter that all the movie stars that worked with Gunn on Guardians were like, “Um, this is BS. Please hire him back.”
But that wasn’t exactly enough to get him hired again. Thankfully, according to Deadline, Disney felt Gunn’s apologies were very sincere, and they were impressed with how Gunn handled the firing and how he didn’t blame the company. The other thing Disney noticed is that Gunn’s firing didn’t stop other companies from hiring him as he had signed on to direct the next Suicide Squad film. Which means, Disney probably figured, “Well, if other studios are hiring him - maybe we screwed up what with that firing thing we did to him.”
And so Gunn won his job again and is back to directing Guardians 3. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Most of those tentpole flagship franchise films are so predictably cookie cutter that the director no longer matters - that much. Obviously, you need A director. But if it’s James Gunn, or Peyton Reed, or Joe Johnston, or Scott Derrickson, or hell even Brett Ratner or Katherine Hardwick … I mean, they’re all basically the same. The idea of the auteur director is mostly gone. At least, it’s mostly gone in Hollywood franchise films.
Stan Lee, age 95, has died and with him goes a portion of my heart. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, he apparently always wanted to be a storyteller. And he worked a few odd jobs until finding himself an assistant at Timely Comics. He worked his way up at Timely Comics which, in 1950 rebranded as Atlas Comics. He worked his way up at Atlas Comics which, in 1961 rebranded as Marvel Comics. And from that point on, as you know - history was made.
Stan received his first writing assignment in 1941 for a Captain America comic and used the pen name - Stan Lee. He said, at the time, that he wanted to use a pen name for comics and his real name for novels. As it turned out the novel career never quite got off the ground. Regardless of that, I believe his storytelling prowess was put to fine use.
And then, after decades in the comic business Stan, “The Man” Lee became Marvel’s first Editor-in-Chief and he really did revolutionize comics. In 61’ there were a host of comic heroes we recognize today; a lot of the DC core folks from the Justice League - Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc, etc. But DC comics, and comics in general, were mainly marketed to children. Lee pushed Marvel founder Martin Goodman, and publisher John Nee to market to an older audience. And they listened. And so Lee and his co-plotter and artist Jack Kirby turned in Fantastic Four #1. According to wikipedia:
“...broke convention with other comic book archetypes of the time by squabbling, holding grudges both deep and petty, and eschewing anonymity or secret identities in favor of celebrity status. Subsequently, Marvel comics developed a reputation for focusing on characterization and adult issues to a greater extent than most superhero comics before them, a quality which the new generation of older readers appreciated. This applied to The Amazing Spider-Man title in particular, which turned out to be Marvel's most successful book. Its young hero suffered from self-doubt and mundane problems like any other teenager, something with which many readers could identify.”
Lee, along with Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and John Romata created many of the comic book legends we recognize today: Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Thanos, Doctor Doom, Red Skull, Loki, Green Goblin, Magneto. The list goes on and on.
Personally, I was a huge Spider-Man fan. I don’t quite recall exactly my first Spider-Man comic but it was sometime around kindergarten so - 1977? Which means, I probably fell in love with Spider-Man the exact same year I fell in love with Star Wars.
Actually, I think I just found it. Spider-Man #168, “Murder on the Wind,” featuring little seen since villain Will-o-the-wisp. In fact, I believe he died in that issue. But, it is Marvel comics so he probably came back, eventually. I would certainly not suggest that was the best Spider-Man comic in history (in fact, it’s not that good) but it certainly captivated my heart and soul and from that moment on I was hooked. Pretty sure I still have the comic.
I would even go so far as to suggest that much of my young morality was shaped and formed by Spider-Man’s struggles, actions and choices. “With great power comes great responsibility.” To coin the famous phrase by Peter Parker’s uncle. To me, Spider-Man and Peter Parker will always be the greatest of all super heroes.
And that’s all because of Stan Lee. I know there was controversy about ownership of some of the characters and the historic lessening the roles Ditko, Kirby and a few others played. It’s true. A lot of it played out behind closed doors and in legal corners. I hope it all worked out but I honestly don’t know. But for more on that, I will leave you with these very fine and true words by author Lance Parkin who tweeted, “There's a time for cynicism, there's a time for a more jaded, footnoted, analysis of Stan Lee's contribution and impact.
One of the great creative powerhouses of our era is dead. One of the great creators of children's characters is dead. One of the most important, influential and talented editors and publishing promoters of all time is dead. An artist whose audience, for over half a century, has been measured in billions is dead.”
Stanley Martin Lieber, the scrappy Jewish writer from NYC was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame (1994), the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame (1995), given the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush (2008), nominated for a Hugo Award for Iron Man in 2009, and given Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Saturn Awards (2002), the Visual Effects Society Awards, and the Producers Guild of America. May he rest in peace.