I was a geeky kid and alone often when I was growing up. I dug comics and science fiction, probably because Star Wars came out when I was six and my cousin had a million comics. Or maybe it was something else. Not sure how I got started; but I got started. One thing I was very consistent about was that DC comics – the ones with Superman, Batman, the Legion Of Superheroes and all those guys for the uninitiated, were boring to me; and I couldn’t relate to anyone in them. Marvel blew my mind. I would look for the Stan Lee box in the letters page and though I had no idea what, ‘Excelsior’ meant, it was awesome because he kept saying it. He could have said, ‘Baba ginouj’; and I’d have thought that was awesome too. Whatever. Guy was and is a genius of both marketing and mythmaking. I’ve at least made sure my kids have seen him a couple of times and heard him speak, so they crack up when he does all these cameos in the Marvel movies.
My point though, is this. The big stories we’re seeing in movies now that draw a billion bucks each time out, the ones drawing all the crowds, I read those stories the first time around. They were amazing on the page; and I felt just as excited back then sprawled under a pool table or up in a tree reading those on a summer day as a kid. I felt like Peter Parker was a buddy of mine, just a little older; and I absolutely rooted for him whether he was in the red and blue tights and swinging around buildings or getting crap from somebody at school because he was smart and quiet. He made sense to me. I remember being shocked that they’d actually let Bullseye kill Elektra, that Jean Grey was going crazy as Dark Phoenix, that all those X-Men were actually dying in, ‘Days Of Future Past’, and how awful and sad it was that Captain Marvel (the one that was a guy) had cancer like my grandmother did. One big thing I understood well was just how badly Peter Parker just really missed his uncle, and that, even though these were picture stories, Uncle Ben wasn’t coming back. Wow, you know? Those guys like Chris Claremont and Stan and Frank Miller made things that are timeless and powerful.
So my family makes fun of me when I see Captain America or some of these other guys up on the screen now and they’ve nailed the character so well. I watched, ‘Superman Returns’ and ‘Man Of Steel’ and thought they were awful. I’ve seen every X-Men movie; and they’re okay. I avoided, ‘Batman V. Superman’ because I’m just done with crappy adaptations that dodge the heart behind these stories and make slap-happy noise that looks like a video game. Somehow though, for whatever reason, the people at Marvel under Disney have managed (mostly) to make changes where it doesn’t matter at all and to keep the things that were so great. No joke, when I watched ‘Civil War’ with my wife and kids and Tony Stark was recruiting Peter Parker in Pete’s bedroom, pulling down the uniform, I was almost wiping away tears. That’s the Peter from when I was a kid! He was nervous and hiding his secret and smart and awed by being around the Avengers. They nailed it. Again. I don’t know who to credit for that; but they’re bringing back some old stories and some old friends that I hadn’t thought of in years and making me feel like I’m up in a tree on a July day with a comic book rolled up in my hand, munching on a fruit roll-up. Keep it up, guys!