Geoff Johns is younger than you'd expect, for a guy in charge of steering DC Comics' superheroes into new incarnations on the movie screen. Back in March I sat at his feet, almost literally — the "chief creative officer" of DC Comics was up on a conference-room dais at Seattle's Emerald City ComiCon, and I was in the front row.
Naturally, the 2011 Green Lantern movie with Ryan Reynolds came up. Johns, who by now had turned the galactic policeman into just one color on a spectrum of highly marketable power rings, assured the crowd that he'd be hands-on with that project, just as he'd been with recent arcs on "Smallville." "You'll see the stuff start to represent the comics a lot more than it has been in the past," Johns promised, to general applause.
It's what we all want, of course, if we've geeked out over four-color champions and dreamed of seeing them filmed. Just make the comic book, we pray. The comic book is perfect. Why mess with perfection? Like the consumers who demanded a Starbucks or Starbucks-like coffee at every corner, we're getting our wish. And what a monkey's-paw wish it's turning out to be.
The media companies that own these characters are finally getting their acts together, decades after Richard Donner's Superman showed them how much the public would shell out for superheroes in the cinema. They're consolidating and streamlining, building pipes that run direct from Editorial through Marketing to Merchandising to the film studio. Marvel has its own studio, of course, and now its riches can be bankrolled and harvested by Disney. DC has its own entertainment division, which Johns also heads -- Johns, who got his start as an assistant to Richard Donner. In their film adaptations, both companies promise faithfulness to the original vision of the comics, to their characters and continuity (whatever that last term means). They're inviting us into their "universes," where, we're told, Batman will protect Gotham under Christopher Nolan at least once more, Spider-Man will be a teenager again, and Iron Man will soon take his seat in Avengers Mansion.
It would be naive to think that film franchise possibilities, with literally hundreds of millions of dollars to be earned, have no effect on the creative end of this pipeline. Both Marvel and DC have tightened control over their stables of characters, always focused on the next crossover and its potential to spotlight saleable heroes. Spider-Man had too much romantic angst for either print or film versions, so now he'll be unattached in both. Johns was personally in charge of resurrecting Hal Jordan, dead since 1994, as Green Lantern, and Barry Allen, 1956-1986, as the Flash. They're just being populist, giving the readers what they want: the fantastic married to the familiar. It just so happens that that's how you write a successful movie script too.
They're giving us what we want, more's the pity, and we will never fail to be unfulfilled by it. We wanted to know everything about how Wolverine became Wolverine, so they gave us that ... first as a comic, then as a shitty, shitty shitball of a movie. We wanted Rachel Dawes, the only character in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight who had no basis in the comics, to go kablooie. We wanted to see Galactus try to eat the planet, so ... oh God, the tears burn. And we wanted the Black Widow to work her curvy leather-clad magic on Tony Stark's joystick, and we wanted War Machine to bust shit up, and we wanted Samuel L. Jackson -- who was the artist's model for Ultimate Nick Fury long before he was actually cast as Nick Fury -- to be motherfucking Nick Fury. This is pop, eating itself.
So ... what impressions of this latest stab toward an onscreen Marvel Universe? Does Iron Man 2 measure up to Iron Man? Surpass it? Merit Walter's review? Give your thoughts.