Monday, July 3, 2017

'Pirates' and Marvel overwhelm 'Superman' and DC projects in 2006 (CCC flashback)

December 2006 -- Back in 1973, singer Jim Croce warned people not to pull on Superman's cape.

Apparently, Captain Jack Sparrow, who proved to be Supes' box office version of Kryptonite this year (2006), didn't get the memo.

"The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" made over $1 billion worldwide, while "Superman Returns" struggled to make more than $391 million overall. The third "X-Men" film put a further smackdown on the Man Steel with a final overall gross of about $458.8 million.

To add insult to injury, Superman temporarily lost his powers in the comics during the "One Year Later" storyline. That storyline abruptly jumped the entire DC Comics universe forward exactly 365 days -- a year when the Man of Steel, Wonder Woman and Batman weren't around.

On the positive side, critics have praised ALL STAR SUPERMAN by writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely. The comic industry magazine WIZARD named the character its "Hero of the Year."

The WIZARD staff also named the DC series 52 as the year's "Boldest Move," since creative teams used to producing monthly titles were forced to crank out weekly issues featuring second-tier characters.

Batwoman (Kate Kane) first appeared in
52 No. 7 (August 2006). 
DC also: introduced a new Atom, Flash and Batwoman (a lesbian whose alter ego is named after the original character); retired the original Catwoman after Selina Kyle had a daughter; and killed off Booster Gold as well as the Earth-2 versions of Lois Lane and Superman.

As innovative as DC was this year, 2006 was Marvel Comics' year. It started when 600 suburban residents were killed in a reality TV stunt gone terribly wrong when the New Warriors confronted several super villains.

Then came the CIVIL WAR storyline where Tony Stark/Iron Man pushed for the Superhuman Registration Act, requiring super heroes to register their secret identities with the government.

The tension escalated as Captain America and his followers opposed Stark's supporters. Spider-Man decided to unmask at a press conference, but Peter Parker soon realized the deadly consequences of being a public hero. Disaster struck when the cloned Thor killed Black Goliath and that appears to be just the beginning.

The CIVIL WAR fall-out, which is rumored to include killing off Parker's wife Mary Jane, will challenge Marvel writers about how to handle secret identities and heroes' motivations for years to come.

During the summer, Marvel Studios announced plans for no less than 12 films. Eight of the featured characters in those movies most likely will appear in "The Avengers."

You might recall how wrong I was Jan. 12 (2006) when I predicted DC would "slowly, but surely start to dominate the silver screen."

I also brazenly used the following bone-headed sentence: "The potential for more bonafide Marvel moneymakers is coming to an end."

Wrong, Ashby!

Elsewhere in the super hero film industry, "out of nowhere" casting decisions ran rampant. Heath Ledger will play the Joker in "The Dark Knight" (in theaters July 18, 2008) and Robert Downey Jr. has the lead role in "Iron Man" (May 2, 2008).

They were either brilliant decisions or mind-boggling, depending on which fan you asked.
The late Heath Ledger claps while in a holding cell in this scene from "The Dark Knight."
Speaking of Ledger, here's something I can crow about. You're reading the same column that ran the Joker casting news July 27 (2006) -- four days before Warner Bros. made the official announcement.

(2017 addendum: This remains true, as far as I know. That same CCC column also made the NORWALK REFLECTOR the first newspaper to report the casting news that Ledger would play the Joker. Pretty darn cool, huh!? While I need to find the hardcopy of that column so I can post it here as one of my CCC flashbacks [reviews or op-eds published years ago that I have resurrected for this site], in August 2006 I wrote an op-ed for Batman-on-film.com in which I wrote why Ledger was an unconventional casting choice.)

So what about 2007?

With "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" filming within months of each other, "Ghost Rider" coming out Feb. 16 and "Spider-Man 3" opening the summer movie season (not to mention a second "Fantastic Four" film in theaters July 8), make mine Marvel!

EDITOR'S NOTE: This op-ed originally was published in the NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper, which ran "Cary's Comics Craze" every other Thursday for nearly 10 years, starting in January 2005. CCC blogger/webmaster Cary Ashby has worked for the REFLECTOR since September 2004. He writes human-interest features, covers Norwalk (Ohio) City Schools, government and is the general education reporter. 

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