Why Are Marvel The Only Studio To Remember That Superheroes Are Meant To Be Fun?

it's not that hard to make the fun thing fun, surely?

Superhero films are now the biggest things in the world with Avengers: Endgame now the biggest earning film in history and the massive and consistent hits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

However, this is a very new development and also almost exclusively MCU-related. While Disney/Marvel have enjoyed box office blockbusters on the regular other studios like Fox, Universal and Warners (who own the DC Comics franchise) have been rather more hit and miss.

If superheroes were as popular as the Marvel box office would suggest, then how would something like Dark Phoenix – a film based on some of Marvel’s most popular characters, the freakin’ X-Men – land with such a thud?

Why did Captain America: Civil War get plaudits in 2016 when Batman vs Superman was getting nothing but complaints and mean-spirited Martha memes?


Here’s my guess: because Marvel are the only studio who keep remembering that superhero movies are meant to be fun.

Think about it: the non-Marvel hits in recent times have been the films which were just goddamn fun. Wonder Woman. Aquaman. The Amazing Spider-Man. Deadpool. Even Suicide Squad, some of the time. Films that weren’t afraid to go “well, this is a hoot!”

My theory is that it’s all because of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The first two Christopher Nolan Batman films were gritty and dark, putting objectively silly characters in the real world and somehow making it work artistically, critically and commercially.

Batman, Scarecrow, Joker, Ra’s al Ghul and Two-Face were impressively rendered as being plausibly real figures in a recognisable modern setting, and then everyone went “oh, that’s what we need to do, then.”

And it’s still possible to do gritty and make it work – Logan was a great way to round Wolverine’s very hit-and-miss cinematic arc – but too many times it leans into an exhausting slog, as with Man Of Steel or Dark Phoenix – or, god forbid, any of the Fantastic Four attempts. Or worse yet, Green Lantern.


And let’s honest, Joker seems like a dour couple of hours in the cinema.

So hey, studios: I know you have plans and licenses and so on, but would it kill you to make your films starring costumed magic-people doing s’plosions be a bit more… well, fun?

That said, Shazam! did kinda underperform, so maybe we’re already over fun. Guess we’ll find out.

Endgame Spared Captain America His Comic Book Drug Nightmare

Didn't he already get trapped in ice once?

Captain America’s arc came to a largely satisfying conclusion with Avengers: Endgame, with Steve Rogers using the science-magic of the quantum realm to time travel back many decades and live out his life with his beloved Peggy.

But it did mean that we can only wonder how the MCU would have dealt with some of his other comic plotlines, like when he was an agent for Hydra, and that time he was hooked on ice.

Did… did he not think to just say no?

Yes, you read that right. Captain America had a meth problem in the comics.

The run of comics in which this little-loved piece of drugs-are-bad finger-wagging occurred was in Captain America issues #373 to 378, back in the innocent pre-Breaking Bad world of 1990.

You might want to strap in because this is a ride.

So: Fabian Stankowicz decided that he wanted to destroy the Avengers for… um, reasons? And used his technical nous to create a mighty robot body and fight them as The Mechano-Marauder.

Iron Man kicked his shiny metal ass, thus setting the precedent of him being beaten by everyone: Spider-Man, Thing, Black Widow, Wasp, She-Hulk, and David Letterman.

Yes, that David Letterman. He hit him over the head with an oversized door handle, apparently. As I said, it was a ride.

Anyway: Fabes then changed his allegiance to the goodies and reinvented himself as Mechanaut, who also sucked and didn’t get to join the Avengers. However, he was offered a staff job helping upgrade things for the real heroes who couldn’t be beaten by middle-aged TV hosts – but the pressure got to much for him and he started using meth.

After sending him to rehab Captain America went to the meth lab where Fabian’s dealers were operating, which then blew up (so you know, a touch of reality there at least).

But the fumes from the drug got to him, giving him a mighty surge of adrenalin, and after that he was jonesin’ for another fix.

That’s how we know you have a problem, Cap.

And readers of the comic knew that he was spiralling into addiction because he had stubble.

After passing out with a hallucination that he was getting the super-solider serum again, which is obviously GOOD DRUGS AND NOT BAD DRUGS IT’S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT DON’T EVEN SUGGEST THAT THERE’S A PARALLEL, he awoke in Hank “Ant Man” Pym’s lab having undergone a complete drug transfusion like he’s Keith Richards or something.

And while this cured his addiction (note: that doesn’t cure addiction) it also robbed him of his superpowers. For a couple of issues, at least, once Marvel realised that comic book fans didn’t hunger to read “Steve Rogers: Claims Adjuster”.

Anyway, the important bit here is that Captain America was on meth. Which is ridiculous: surely of all of the Avengers, he’d be the one most acutely aware of the dangers of ice?


The Story Of How Marvel Cast Simu Liu As Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, Is A Fanboy Dream

He's a master of tweet-fu.

You know how many actors like to airily insist that no, they had no idea about this comics thing until they were cast, others – like Samuel L. Jackson, for example – are total fanboys who all but forced themselves into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Another such is the Canadian actor Simu Liu, who will be the lead in Marvel’s 2021’s Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings.

So much so that he did that thing you always dreamed of and just tweeted at Marvel that hell, he should totally get the part. And then he did.

That was in December 2018. And then, the following July, he added the following comment:

And it’s a huge deal, being the first Marvel film with an Asian lead. But it’s not like Liu was some complete unknown, or that his life doesn’t already sound magical.

And damn, the man is nimble!

His family immigrated to Ontario from China when he was five and he worked as an accountant until he was sacked, at which point he thought “eh, might try acting” which worked out pretty well – roles in Fresh Off The Boat, Orphan Black and Bad Blood before becoming a star on Kim’s Convenience.

And after his tweet put him on the radar, and his manager on alert, things moved along with gathering speed. He auditioned for the role on a Sunday. He then had Kim’s Convenience shooting on Monday. And then, as he related to ET Canada,

“It’s about 6:19 p.m. Tuesday and lo and behold, I’m in my underwear eating shrimp crackers and there’s an unknown number from Burbank, California. Now I know Disney Studios is in Burbank so my heart’s thumping out of my chest and I jump and am like ‘Hello!’ and it’s the divine voice of Kevin Feige. I’ll never forget it, it’s so calm, it’s so booming. He’s like, ‘Simu, hi. We’d like you to play Shang-Chi. Also, we need you go to Comic-Con in four days.’”

If that sounds insanely quick then yes, it was. As he said on stage at said Comic-Con: “I feel like I was kind of this social experiment: let’s just take this guy, an ordinary guy, living in Toronto. Let’s tell him he’s going to be in the next Marvel movie and give him four days to prep for it.”

Mind you, given the history of people who were cast and then blabbed (or, in the tragic case of Dane Cook, auditioned to be Captain America and then blew whatever chance he had by excitedly Tweeting about it) maybe not giving him a chance to reveal spoilers was a strong idea.

Still: Marvel have their Shang-Chi, and I’m going to tweet at them about how a bearded, middle-aged Australian with zero acting ability would be a bold choice for the next Jean Grey. See you on the red carpet!

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