Heroes on the Fringe
Top Five Non-Marvel, Non-DC Superhero Movies
Contributors: Ron Graham & Rob Graham
When my son Rob was in preschool, every week I would pop him and his sister into a red wagon and pull them a few blocks to Tomorrow’s Heroes, a local comic book shop. Once there, I’d buy them a few age-appropriate comics or maybe a Studio Ghibli film. I love comics, and they grew to understand and value the medium.
That’s something my kids, now grown, share with me today. Rob, especially, is a film school grad and connoisseur of movies, so we will talk about films for hours, especially superhero pictures. He thinks, like many fans, that Marvel and DC may be overdoing it. I don’t agree – yet – but I see his point.
After seeing Doctor Strange, we had a conversation that led to an exercise…
We ranked 11 superhero movies that were outside the mainstream cinematic Marvel and DC universes. It was our way of trying to give context to the phenomenon of mainstream superhero movies.
We judged the films as follows: the films had to be outside the mainstream Marvel and DC cinematic universes. They had to either result in comics or (preferably) be derived from comics, or both. They had to involve at least one main character with “powers” or “special abilities,” even if those were augmented or the result of technology. And, we both had to have seen them, so goodbye Super and Infra-Man
After that, we took a list of 11 such films and ranked them. Our result here is based on the composite ranking. We made some comments about the top two movies and added quotes taken from Wikipedia (you will need to go there to find the primary sources).
Here was the individual scoring:
V for Vendetta (5)
The Incredibles (4)
The Crow (1)
Honorable Mentions: Scott Pilgrim v. the World, Watchmen, Kick-Ass, The Heroic Trio
V for Vendetta
What bugs me the most about V for Vendetta isn’t the movie itself. It’s that Alan Moore, writer of the graphic novel it’s based on, wanted so little to do with it when it came out. “The words ‘fascism’ and ‘anarchy’ occur nowhere in the film.” Sorry, Alan: to me the ideas are clear and inescapable whether the WORDS are there or not. The message of political satire is as pointed as Moore’s original writing, even if the execution is somewhat different. To me it’s timeless. (Read more here.)
The Incredibles grabbed some important oft-used ideas from comics and translated them for younger audiences:
– The danger behind killing dreams: the death of a dream brought Syndrome to be.
– The need for training young heroes: if older heroes won’t help the younger, they feel they must figure it out themselves. This is an idea behind the Teen Titans, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Spider-Man and many others. Likewise for Violet and Dash.
One thing we find from Darkman is that the common theme of an injured character out for revenge (most notably found in the Joker and Lex Luthor) is not found in villains only. Darkman was given a skill set resulting from his injuries that ideally suited him for vengeance upon his enemies – who just happened to be the bad guys.
And Darkman had a wonderful but quick surprise ending.
Rob: Robocop is the first great superhero movie because it combines genre action sequences, satirical humor, and a well-realized cyberpunk future. At $13M to make, it was cheap. It carried gravitas but combined it with a plot – something that is to me largely lacking in the genre.
And this: “[It is] the fantasy of a person who does not want to stay dead but returns again and again to pose a threat to the living.”
Ron: I think part of what makes The Crow important to me is its historical contribution to the genre. Which is largely due to the passing of Brandon Lee after the movie was released.
And this: “If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.”