I got hit by the Flu. Hit hard. On Christmas. The doctor put me in quarantine, so I sent my lovely better half to stay with relatives and forbid anyone from coming to my domicile to check on me. I’ve been all on my own, and have whiled away the hours, when not puking, shivering with fever, hacking my lungs up, and praying for a speedy death, watching old movies. And TV shows. I binged my way through at least half of the original run of THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

I was in the first grade when the show debuted on CBS. For the next several years, each Friday night found me transfixed in front of the screen, watching the exploits of the jade juggernaut. As a kid, I watched it exclusively for the Hulk, of course. As a grown-up, looking at it now, I still appreciate just how GOOD the show is, overall. Yes, it was limited by the technology of the day. They didn’t have CGI. They had to render the Hulk’s superhuman actions via slow-motion, sound effects, and careful camera work. Yes, watching the DVDs, you can sometimes see the ropes pulling the stuntmen into the air when they are supposed to be “thrown” by the Hulk. You can sometimes see that Lou Ferrigno is wearing the equivalent of green pantyhose (so he wouldn’t have to run around the set barefoot, one assumes) and see the patches where the green greasepaint has sometimes smeared away. Some of the episodes are played a little too much for laughs. But overall the writing is excellent and the acting is on par. In particular leading man Bill Bixby is superb. The Hulk is the star, and Lou Ferrigno both looks great in green and manages to lend the character the necessary humanity to make him relatable and make you root for him, but it is leading man David* Banner who must anchor the whole thing, serve as the foundation for the entire series, and Bixby is more than capable.

*The changing of the name was stupid. Show producer Kenneth Johnson has said that he just didn’t like the alliteration of “Bruce Banner,” but Stan Lee stated that Johnson, or someone at the “studio,” was afraid people would think the character was homosexual if his name was “Bruce.” Who is telling the truth? That’s easy. Why would Stan make that up? And the name change sounds like exactly the kind of lamebrain move a TV exec would pull. It confused the hell out of me as a kid. I couldn’t understand why the character I watched on TV had a different name than the character I read about in the comic books.

There were reports that Gal Gadot would refuse to do WONDER WOMAN 2 unless Warner Brothers severed ties with Brett Ratner. (Ratner, like Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and other prominent actors, directors, and producers, has been accused of sexual misconduct. That’s just a polite way of saying the guy’s a pervert.) Then Warner Brothers said Gadot DIDN’T make such a demand. I tend to believe the latter report. Why? Because it would have been unnecessary. Any contractual deal WB has with Ratner’s company will have expired by the time WONDER WOMAN 2 gets underway.

Is this another case of the media exaggerating, if not outright fabricating, headlines and stories to garner ratings? While the person currently occupying the Oval Office uses claims of “fake news” to cover every misstep and underhanded move he pulls–and 99.9% of the charges made against him by the major news agencies are legitimate, by the way–it is true that some reporters have the unfortunate habit of sensationalizing. This is more a problem with entertainment news than with “real” news. Is that what happened here? I expect Gadot did say something along the lines of “I’ll never work with that _____ (add pejorative of your choice here) again!” and someone took from that a threat that she would leave the movie–which wouldn’t be necessary, as WB has ALREADY cut ties with Ratner and, as stated above, the contract of projects already in development with his company will run out before WW2 goes into production. So did she or didn’t she? Probably a bit of both, but worry not. She’s not leaving Wonder Woman behind.

Man, everything’s happening all at once. Reports are coming in today that Ben Affleck definitely WILL be replaced as Batman in the new trilogy from Matt Reeves. This is a part of the bigger behind-the-scenes shakeup at Warner Brothers in the wake of JUSTICE LEAGUE failing to perform up to expectations. (If they’d just listened to me in the first place, I could’ve saved them all that money.) The only way I can conceive of for the DC cinematic universe to remain remotely coherent is if they use the upcoming FLASH movie, which is supposed to chronicle the “Flashpoint” storyline, as a way to reboot everything, as it did in the comics, leaving some things unchanged and some radically altered. New Batman, same Wonder Woman, in other words. If–and that’s a BIG if–the WB is smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity.

Even bigger comics/movie news this week is that, at long, long last, Marvel is getting the X-Men back! A deal between Marvel and Sony will allow what fans have long dreamed of. It means Marvel will get the Fantastic Four back, too, but I suspect they’ll wait a while before rebooting that franchise, to let the odor of the previous two dissipate. If any of us were a little doubtful about where Marvel could go in the future with its cinematic juggernaut, we aren’t anymore! Secret Wars! Avengers vs. X-Men! The possibilities are endless!

That’s what this article highlights. DC screwed the pooch with JUSTICE LEAGUE by tampering. Studio tampering NEVER results in a better movie.

My review of JUSTICE LEAGUE is available at our sister site, vampires.com, but I’ll encapsulate for you here. I thoroughly enjoyed it, because of my love for these characters, even while acknowledging its one big, glaring, impossible-to-miss flaw: its villain. Steppenwolf has no personality, no motivation other than being “evil.” All the references to Darkseid lead to nowhere. We now know that the original ending had Steppenwolf’s origin fleshed-out and led to the REAL threat showing up at the end of the film: Darkseid. But for whatever reason, DC chose to truncate that subplot and that ending. Unfortunately, that subplot and ending are necessary for the film to float. To succeed, the movie NEEDS Darkseid. But the studio wouldn’t leave Zack Snyder’s original version alone, instead thinking they could “fix” it. They failed miserably. They thought Joss Whedon could “fix” it. He only hamstringed it.

What there is of JUSTICE LEAGUE I loved. But it’s incomplete. There’s a part missing from it. A big, important part. A vital part.

Stupid studio. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

How about a smart move for a change? How about releasing Zack Snyder’s original version of the movie? It’s what you should have done in the first place.

You can’t believe half of what you read on the Internet, and that’s including the supposedly credible news sites. All it takes is for one site to post something of dubious factuality, and then the others start citing that original article as a source, and pretty soon there are countless articles floating around in the ether that aren’t worth squat. Or maybe the original article was mostly accurate, but they misconstrued what it was actually saying. Sensational headlines are more likely to get clicked on, after all. Doesn’t matter if they’re true or not. That’s the way it is with the SERIOUS news stories, and it gets so much worse when we’re dealing with entertainment news.

I read that Warner Brothers is in danger of losing a hundred million dollars on JUSTICE LEAGUE. Then, I swear, not two minutes later I read another article reporting on the good second week performance of the film. Which one’s telling the truth? It IS a fact that JUSTICE LEAGUE did NOT suffer a huge falloff in its second weekend, as most such “tentpole” movies typically do. It delivered a solid box office return, in fact. Perhaps those sensationalized negative headlines were premature. Perhaps they were never truthful to begin with. JUSTICE LEAGUE might just do better in the long haul than was expected. Especially if they release that extended, Zack Snyder version of the film, the one lacking Joss Whedon’s reshoots, which fans want. Why would they not? The film is already shot. Returns from releasing it would only be gravy at this point. Almost like releasing an all new film. Don’t wait for the DVD release, WB. Give it a couple’a months and release the movie all over again!

Warner Brothers have really painted themselves into a corner. If the entire DC cinematic universe had been a flop, as this past weekend’s JUSTICE LEAGUE was a flop (and undeservedly so, it bears mentioning; for my official review of the film, check out vampires.com!), they could just scrap everything and start over. With rumors of them getting rid of Ben Affleck as Batman and starting fresh with a new upcoming trilogy of Batman films, it would seem this is the plan. Problem is, the only true bona fide hit (in terms of both critical consensus and box office clout) WB has had thus far with its DC cinematic universe is WONDER WOMAN, and the latter is firmly a part of that universe. With that Aquaman movie in the works, and a Flash movie coming later, they aren’t about to do away with what they’ve constructed. They are too heavily invested at this point. But what they have built isn’t working, not like they want it to.

NOTE: I blame the poor box office performance of JUSTICE LEAGUE on them releasing it on the heels of THOR: RAGNAROK. They should have known better. The two films are dividing the audience, and fans are preferring the Odinson.

Reports are that the upcoming DC films will be standalone features. I think this is the way to go. WB tried to jump ahead; they gave us the Avengers, if you will, before they’d given us Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk. They tried to go for the big payoff first thing. They built the tower upside down, with the pinnacle as the foundation. Now they need to focus on the individual pieces. Make them each as good and as strong as WONDER WOMAN. Then and only then give us a sequel to JUSTICE LEAGUE. And go all WRATH OF KHAN with it. Course correction time, WB.

I’ve given this one a bit of thought, and there’s no way to look at it that doesn’t equate to it being bad news for Marvel. Like, really bad news. More than any other creator, Brian Michael Bendis deserves the credit for making Marvel what it is today. Think back to the time before him, before his AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLES rewrote the rules. The Avengers, all of them, were second-string or even third-string characters. The idea of Iron Man being Marvel’s hottest property would have been laughable to any comics fan. Marvel had the X-Men, and after that they had Spider-Man, and then there was everything else, and the everything else got short shrift both by the creators and the readers. Bendis changed all that. Today, where the Avengers are the biggest thing in Marvel Comics, in comics in general, arguably, that’s due to what Bendis started, what he shaped.

Now Bendis has signed an exclusive deal with DC. He’s going to work for the Distinguished Competition. This is great news for DC and DC fans. It is potentially devastating for Marvel. Of the five “architects” who shepherded Marvel’s overall narrative the past few years, and made said narrative so damn good–Bendis, Aaron, Fraction, Brubaker, and Hickman–only Jason Aaron remains. The new creators that Marvel has brought in have not yet proven themselves to be worthy successors. And Marvel is going to need all the talented storytellers it can get. There’s Aaron. There’s Soule. There’s Slott. Who else they got? Who will be the new architects? And will they be up to the challenge? DC just got a LOT more formidable.

Racists raised hell over the casting of a black woman as Valkyrie. I didn’t know. I hadn’t heard anything. Nor does it matter. The racists claimed the movie would bomb, and it was a MONSTER hit. As for those people, Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, put it succinctly: They are “horrible people” who “should crawl back under the rock and stay there.” I concur completely.

What troubles me, though, is the possibility that not ALL the ones doing the bitching are racists. Some of them could be mere passionate fanboys. Is there any way *I* could ever be in agreement with them? I wouldn’t want to ever be found agreeing with the horrible people. Yet I have bitched myself over changes made to characters with a longstanding history. I was fine with Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. But was that because SHE was fine, i.e. that I found her gorgeous and effective in the role? No. I DID, but that isn’t why it didn’t bother me. Thompson’s character was identified as *A* Valkyrie, not necessarily the Valkyrie from the comics. (I believe THAT Valkyrie was shown briefly–being killed–in that flashback/memory scene with Hela.) But they made Heimdall a black guy, and in the comics he’s white, and I was fine with that. Is it only where more minor characters are concerned that I give moviemakers a pass? Aquaman isn’t a minor character, and I don’t mind that they made him Polynesian. I would, however, have raised holy hell if they’d made Captain America–Steve Rogers, that is–Asian, or Peter Parker Indian. I simply must admit to myself that sometimes it bothers me when they change characters’ histories, in this case their ethnicity, and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the character.

This isn’t BASED ON ethnicity, though. I’d raise an equal amount of hell if they made Black Panther a white guy. (Not that it could ever happen.) The comics depict the Panther as a black man. And I think they should have cast a partially Asian guy as Iron Fist, because the character in the comics is established as being part Asian. I’m a hardcore stickler for established continuity, period. Except when I’m not. And it seems particularly arbitrary for me.

Anyway, THOR RAGNAROK is amazing. Possibly the best Marvel movie yet. with perfect casting. Skin pigmentation never entered into my mind when I was watching it.

It would have, though, if the Hulk had been any color but green, so I guess SOMETIMES skin color matters.

A little time and distance–and the fact that I just got around to reading the final issue–have, I hope, lent greater clarity to my appraisal of the “event.” For all its controversy, and the fact that it felt a little drawn out to me, the ending was satisfying. It was great to see the real captain America come back and kick the sand out of fake Nazi Cap. Those who claimed that it somehow tarnished the character of captain America are, I believe, wrong. And now Nazi-pseudo-Cap is going to be a recurring villain, looks like. I dig it. With a white supremacist sympathizer in the White House and white supremacists marching in the streets, it seems fitting that we’d have this new villain to represent that. Two visions of America–of Captain America–one false, one true; one evil and one good; the one promising to stand, always stand, in staunch opposition to the other. That’s potent allegory, there. And those scenes in SECRET EMPIRE: OMEGA, which consisted of the real Cap and the fake Cap debating ideology, that was some powerful, heady stuff.

On the flip side, the whole thing would have worked better if Marvel hadn’t diluted the character by deciding to make the Falcon a Captain America, too. Now that we’re into LEGACY, will Marvel make like Kobik, the living Cosmic Cube, and put things right again, by restoring the historical characters to their rightful places? Tony Stark is Iron Man. Steve Rogers is Captain America. Bruce Banner is the Incredible Hulk. Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Sam Wilson is the Falcon. I’m not saying they should get rid of the “new” versions of those characters–although I despise Amadeus Cho as a Hulk. I just want them to stop trying to replace the characters I’ve always known and loved with new faces. There is room in the Marvel universe for all those characters–and for new superhero identities, too. (Hint, Marvel. Take a hint.)

I could wax nostalgic all day over “the good ol’ days” (which were for me the 1980s) and its pop cultural touchstones that no longer exist as such in our dreary modern world, and how said world is a sadder place for it. There are no more Saturday morning cartoons, since the basic networks are now required by law to air educational programming on Saturdays. Sure, some of those programs are pretty cool, the nature-based ones, and there are entire networks devoted to nothing BUT cartoons. AND all, or almost all, of those beloved series of yesteryear are available now on DVD, to watch anytime. Still, it isn’t the same. Kids today will never know what they missed out on.

Could these cartoons get made today, or has our homogenized, PC, nerves-on-edge, reactionary culture made that impossible? The TRANSFORMERS cartoon wouldn’t be able to get away with having its Arab villains come from a country called “Carbombia,” probably. And what about the SMURFS featuring black magic rituals that gave rise to claims that it was being controlled by Satanists? Claims that in-jokes in shows like HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE were some kind of homoerotic conspiracy, though, are stupid. They were just in-jokes. Would they keep the ‘toons from being made today? Um, hello, anybody ever heard of SOUTH PARK? Some of the cartoons mentioned by the article, though, like BEVERLY HILLS TEENS and RUDE DOG, I’d never even heard of. Are they sure those were made in the 80s?