Superhero Movie Malaise

I haven't seen Kick-Ass yet. I haven't seen Iron Man 2 yet. I don't know when I am going to see either one of those movies. I am not all that excited for the Green Lantern movie, or a Flash movie. I am in a superhero movie malaise. Without the art, I can't get all that pumped up.

Let's start with Kick-Ass, a comic book that I really enjoyed reading. Part of that reading experience is the John Romita Jr. art. Take away that art and show me previews of Nic Cage? Good luck getting me interested in that story. A comic book when properly executed is the complete package to me. A great story and great art makes it easy to lose myself in the story. Peter Parker in a comic book is just Peter Parker, not someone acting like Peter Parker. That sounds like a real nit-picky distinction to make, but it has begun to bother me. 

What is the first thing that comic book fans get concerned about when their favorite property gets the movie treatment? We immediately start speculating on who the actor is going to be to play ouf favorite character. We need to see them in the costume. The appearance has to be right and I have to be able to imagine the actor melting seamlessly into the role. Personally I don't want to watch Iron Man and think, "That is so RDJR!"  Dark Knight makes me think "Why is Christian Bale talking like that?"  I can't help myself from thinking those things, my brain is broken when it comes to the film versions.The whole movie process adds another layer of disbelief that needs to suspended. The last few years it has gotten hard for me to do that. I am glad people are loving the movies, and I don't begrudge anyone their excitement. I hope they are incredibly successful, but there is something missing for me right now. 

The funny thing is that the best visual shorthand for how the movies make me feel is Alex Ross' painting of Barry Allen as the Flash.  I look at that painting and I don't see the Flash, I see a painting of guy wearing a Flash costume. My eyes are drawn to way it bunches at the neck, and how the cowl hangs around the eyes. In the effort to bring the visuals to life, it actually steals some of the vitality. 

Does anybody else feel this way about the movies? Am I just sad old man? Will Iron Man 2 blow me away? Let me know. Get me excited….about movies. Just about movies.


Tom Katers would probably get excited about a Justice Society movie. Thor looks kind of interesting as well. My issues are my own and I am seeking a cure.


  1. I’ve always hated that painting of the Flash. it’s just awful in more ways than i even want to talk about

  2. I get what you’re saying. I like Alex Ross’ work but I completely understand what you mean about him painting people just wearing costumes. I think part of the problem with the movie depictions is that its making it too real for you. The idea of a guy in a spandex outfit, cape, or armor suit running around is kinda silly. I mean if we saw a dude like that on the street we’d laugh our butts off and point at him….prob call the cops and say there is a crazy person running around in under-roos. 

    Comic art is a nice escape from reality, and it gives you just enough information to let your imagination fill in the "reality" for you.  

  3. I see where you are coming from.  What about cartoons based off of comic properties, do you feel the same way? I like to see the differnet interpretations and sometimes someone like RDJr really steps into the role and becomes that character. Other times you get a shit-tastic Daredevil movie.  The one thing I hope we get from all the comic movie hype is more readers to the fold.

  4. I look at comic book movies the same way i look at the books. the director and the actors are artists and its fun to see their take on the characters. I’ve never seen Mark Bagley draw a Flash book but I would love to see his take on it. I feel the same way about RDJR on Iron Man. This is his take on the character as an artist of his medium.

  5. I actually really like most of the Superhero cartoons.

  6. I am beginning to feel the same way Tom. And yes, we are both just sad old men. However, yes, Iron Man 2 WILL blow you away, and so will Kick-Ass. I’ve begun to just see these films as totally different animals than the comics, and I’ve found that in the case of characters like Iron Man, where there have been hundreds of different artists drawing him, the actor doesn’t really have a significant bearing on the role visually. It’s more about their actual acting ability. It’s ironic that, for me at least, the actor’s actual talent is more important in these movies that many see as throwaway action flicks, since there is such a preconceived notion of what the character is, and the actor has to transcend the likeness of the character.

  7. Uhm, if it’s good I usually like it.

  8. Tom, I look at the movies as Elseworlds. Same heros, dif universe. LIke the books, each stands on it’s own merits. I couldn’t beleive how awesome the director’s cut of Daredevil was.

  9. Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000105 EndHTML:0000004697 StartFragment:0000002318 EndFragment:0000004661

    There are a few things going on here Tom, first off, you (and I for that matter) are getting old. In our youth Superman blew us away on the big screen. After that film all of us wanted to be the man of steel. The magic of nostalgia translates that memory for all us if not with Superman then maybe with the Hulk, Wonder Woman, or even The Greatest American Hero.  In our youth crossing over from the comic medium to film wasn’t a huge leap because we were seeing our heroes alive on screen and it was new and exciting. We were not yet in a mindset to go back to our friends and complain that Christopher Reeve was a bit simple minded to be Superman or nit pick some other stupid detail. All that mattered is that Superman was “real”.  Flash forward 100’s of movies and 1000’s of comic books later, our experience and ideals of what passes for top notch entertainment has evolved and each medium has gone it’s own way with the advent of experimental art, mature plots and computer generated story telling.  That being said we will always we disappointed in comic book films if we continue to see the film through the eyes and mind of a comic book reader. In order to purely enjoy movies we have to relax and unfortunately let go of our comic book vernacular.  I can honestly say there are a few hero movies I have fallen in love with as an adult… Spiderman 2 comes to mind immediately although I never did like Toby McGuire as Peter ….. but there is the reader in me coming out again.  Once I learned to let go and not “care” as much – Iron Man, Dark Knight, hell even Fantastic Four was sincerely fun for me. I have also grown to really enjoy the animated features as well, most notably the latest DC attempt with Crisis. As far as Kick Ass goes I think you should see this ASAP – they really did a great job and the changes the movie accomplished (dare I say) may have improved upon the book. Iron Man 2 was – (sigh) just ok for me… again, I am still working on taking it for what it’s worth and just relishing in the fact that the comic geeks have taken over Hollywood.

  10. I have to compromise on the movies thing. I love Curt Swan, I love Christopher Reeve. I have separate my love for each of those things and understand them as basically unrelated.

  11. I’ve always been able to look at the movies as completely different entities. Some people I know have a hard time seperating them from the comics and it ruins it for them.

  12. I have to completely agree with @JumpingJupiter.  If the movie is good, I like it.  If the comic is good, I like it.  ("Good" being a completely subjective term, of course.)  I’m not going to look down on anything because of the medium in which it is presented, which is sort of what TK is doing here, I think.  For years we were all complaining that nobody could make a "good" (again subjective) comic book movie.  Now that we’ve had several years that have given us several "good" comic book movies (as well as many just as subjectively "bad" comic book movies), some of us still aren’t happy, which it should be noted is not a crime.  People are free to feel what they feel.  

    So as it turns out that some comic fans, including TK perhaps, didn’t actually want comic book movies.  What they really wanted was more and better comics.  Well, I think the movies have probably gotten us that, too.  Win-win. 

  13. Something always bothered me about the Alex Ross renditions of superheroes.  I think its cool how someone can draw so realisticaly but in the end the flaws are exposed.

    As far as movies go, like all movies If it’s good I like it. I am also an old fart and the idea of going to the movie theater is less appealing everyday, but that’s for all movies. I wait till I can see at home.

    Lastly, I have 10 year old girl and an 8 year old boy.  They have lived on Batman,JLU and Teen Titans cartoons all their lives.  I make a point to show them Smallville episodes when other characters show up like Zatanna, Green Arrow, Cyborg and the JSA.  Each and every time 10 minutes in the turn to me and ask me play the cartoon episodes they appear in.


  14. Alex Ross art is perfect on the right project ("Marvels", "Kingdom Come"), usually a project that strives to show superheroes as human and real and flawed and not much more than men and women in costumes, proving that sometimes that is enough.  On 95% of projects, his art is misplaced.  But it is great and unique for what it is.

  15. You can watch the Kick-Ass movie and still enjoy JRJr’s art.  There’s an animated sequence in the middle that is an homage to the comic.  But that’s beside the point; I get what you’re saying.  I try to look at movies as just another medium to tell the story.  Just as different artists will draw Peter Parker differently, so to will different actors portray him since one guy can’t play a teenager forever. 

  16. That costume makes my eyes thor…..

  17. Wrong thread….I meant to comment in the "Furry" section of the site….

  18. I can see what you mean with Alex Ross’ art–it works at times, but a lot of the time all the characters just look like fat, middle-aged old men. Even the women. Especially the women.

    As for the movies…I don’t wanna call you a "sad old man," but I don’t really see what you mean. Both of the actors you mention here, RDJ and Bale, really went the extra mile to literally BECOME the characters in the movies. You should also definitely see Kick-Ass–I’m more than willing to say that the movie is far better then the book. 

  19. People are too picky….

  20. Can’t say I agree with your point Tom, mostly because actors always playing a role.  It’s a conceit that I gave up when I found out that Big Bird was just a guy in a costume.  As for Alex Ross, he is one of my favorite artists because I feel like he tries to make these characters work in a practical matter. 

    Keep the articles coming, I thoroughly enjoy them.

  21. @RaceMcCloud: I this the best example of Alex Ross fitting a project his cover work for Astro City.

    @brassai2003: Wait, are you serious about the Daredevil director’s cut? Because the prospect of that movie being watchable is too intriguing… 

  22. @360Logic – Good example, and a good time to point out that his work is possibly best suited for covers and pin-ups.

  23. First off, great article, Tom!

    Now that that’s out of the way, it’s pretty easy to say that I understand where you’re coming from and can disagree (like other have) but it’s not really something we can argue about or even debate. It’s just a personal preference thing. I’m with you on not digging Alex Ross. He’s fine and all for covers and pin-ups, but I think his visual storytelling is atrocious. 

  24. Yes, yes and yes. My favorite artists don’t use light boards to trace photographs. My favorite artists, draw artistic representations of people or superheroes. I don’t need to see an ultra realistic version of The Flash or an actor who looks like Tony Stark. 

    I’ve enjoyed some comic movies, but I’d rather just read the comic. I was reading another article, somewhere, and the mentioned a letter to Frank Miller in the nineties. The fan asked, "When are we going to see a Sin City movie?" and reportedly Frank’s reply was, "What, don’t you like the way I draw it?" 

  25. @blulew23–are you trying to say that Alex Ross is a tracer? The guy is one of the most talented American Illustrators working today…he’s up there with Rockwell, Wyeth and Leyendecker in terms of talent. Ross’ work is definitely a tough fit for comics and doesn’t always work for every type of book, and you’re all right. He does bring too much of a human element into comic art at times. If anything he shows us that Superheroes that we read in Comics are too ridiculous to ever really walk among us in reality. 

  26. Possibly the movies are just not your thing. I personally like to see movies based on characters that I like, but like others, I seperate them as 2 different things. It’s okay for you not to be pumped about certain movies based on comics.  

  27. @wally Absolutely not. Alex Ross is not a tracer. He is a fine artist. I was referring more to some of today’s artists who are obsessed with realism as opposed to story telling. Alex Ross, is not my favorite artist. I want my comic artists to be storytellers as well as artists. Mr. Ross does great portraits. In my opinion his storytelling is not the great, Kingdom Come being the exception, in my opinion. Not trying to hate on Ross at all.

    What I was trying to say was that, I’m not interested in realism in my comics. Manapul does not draw ultra realistic characters, like say Greg Land who traces porn stars. Yet Manapul’s work is more appealing to me. This is why I’m not as excited about the super hero movies as most people. I enjoy them, but when it comes down to it, I don’t want a super realistic Batman or X-Men. I don’t care how these characters fit into the so called, real world. 

  28. Alex Ross draw realistic superheros like when Batman’s eyelashes come out of his cowl.

    Anyway, movies about superheros. i like ’em because I like ’em. Same for comic books. I don’t know! It’s a movie, whatever!

    Daredevil director’s cut was cool. Listen to the commentary. Mark Steven Johnson is practically saying "See! See! Told you so!" by the end there. I like it.

  29. Directors cut of DD is soooooo good. The only reason i still own the regular DVD of the movie is for the awesome behind the scenes documentary which si worth it for the scene where the stuntman can’t land right when Kingpin throws him and then Affleck suits up and lands the fall on the first try. That’s a man who truly wants to make the best movie he can and doesn’t care if he has to get thrown against a wall to do so.

  30. I love the Daredevil Director’s Cut.  Seriously. 

     Tom, you need to get back to Superhero movie roots.  Watch just a little bit (the right bits) from the original Superman.  That epic score, sweeping camera work, and genuinely shocking (for the time) effects will get you in the mood again!  That being said, any movie should be judged on its own merits and not the genre it belongs to.  I mean, how many Pulp Fiction ripoffs did you see before you got tired of those? 

  31. Kick Ass is supposed to give you the feeling that it is just some ordinary person dressed up, so I suppose it doesn’t apply. But otherwise I completely agree that the superhero needs to be highly stylised to work and art on the page can be the best at doing that. Do see Kick Ass, it’s fun and doesn’t need to be analyzed.

  32. Well, you guys were right. Watched the Director’s Cut last night, and it’s almost like a different movie.