Day 219: The Long Dark Knight Of The Sole

In your face, Bane!

August 7 main

I am a Marvel man. By that, I don’t mean I was the product of immaculate birth or the only human on the planet who can extract just one little polythene bag at a time from those boxes by the fruit and veg in supermarkets.

I mean that when it comes to the big two comic companies, I’m a Marvel fan through and through. Always have been, ever since I read a black and white UK reprint of Fantastic Four when I was about six, and was as fascinated by the entertaining bickering as I was by the stretching and the flaming. I next fell in love with Spider-Man; again, I loved the snappy dialogue and fact I was learning as much about Peter Parker as I was Spidey.

X-Men 108After that it was X-Men. The very first US copy of X-Men I bought was #108, the first John Byrne-drawn issue  and the start of a new era of greatness for Marvel. My God, what a time to join the party.

I have to admit, I actually didn’t have much clue what was going on. It was the last part in a multi-issue space opera story and I couldn’t make head not tail of either the plot or the superteam at its heart. It was quite a few issue before I could work out who had what powers, and about two years before I even realised that Wolverine had a healing factor! I just thought he had metal bones and claws.

It  didn’t matter. I still loved it. These characters felt more real – more like individuals with their own lives and hopes and concerns and loves – than any comic characters I had ever come across before. And they were misfits more than superheroes, often in an ongoing battle to come to term with their powers. Even better, they weren’t all bimmin’ Americans.

DC’s main characters, though, left me cold. The action was great. The art was often better. But Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and co all felt like distant, alien, icons; characters carved from pure myth, who stood for abstract concepts. This is, of course, a vast oversimplification, and proves I never read those classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics when the two emerald heroes suddenly came over socially aware about drugs and stuff. I also accept that DC in the ’80s – with Goerge Perez’s makeover of Wonder Woman, Frank Miller’s reimagining of Batman and John Byrne’s new take on Superman – did a lot to humanise its core characters. But allegiances are forged at an early age.

I had made mine Marvel.

dark knight batman joker

So, I’ve always felt a bit of a traitor that my favourite superhero movie is a DC one. I still recall the thrill of seeing The Dark Knight on the big screen for the first time. I’ve rarely had a cinema experience like it. I came out feeling like I’d lived through a film – properly experienced it – rather than  just watched it. It was a superhero film that was actually about something, with thought-provoking themes and vivid characters and ethical questions and a totally unexpected, yet ruthlessly logical, choice by Batman at the end. All that before you even factor in Heath Ledger’s Joker. Which was awesome, and probably never worth trying to match.

Even more amazingly, I hadn’t enjoyed Batman Begins that much at all, so I hadn’t gone to The Dark Knight expecting much. Begins started out interestingly enough, but ended up a pretty standard superhero movie slugfest, not helped by some action films were that so ridiculously edited it was difficult to see who was hitting who (actually, this is a problem with all Nolan’s Bat-trilogy, but improved as the series went on).

dark knight rises

The Dark Knight Rises, thankfully, a lot more like its immediate predecessor in terms of quality, and while I had some problems with it, overall it’s a massively ambitious and impressive film, with so much more depth than your usual blockbuster. Shame I needed subtitles to appreciate it fully, though.

Don’t get me wrong. I love nearly all the Marvel movies (Captain America: The First Avenger and Iron Man 2 being the only ones I don’t think are up to par). They are supremely fun movies, full of great characters, pulse-pounding action, invention and wit. Guardians Of The Galaxy is awesome, and I love it to bits, and need to see a sequel NOW because waiting for years for more Quill, Groot, Rocket, Drax and co feels like cruel punishment. But there’s something about those final two Batman films that connect to me in a way that Marvel comics did when I was a kid. It’s like they were made just for me.

As for Superman Vs Batman… I’m worried. I have no problem with Ben Affleck as Batman; I actually think that’s solid casting. But after seeing Superman being reinvented as a weapon of mass destruction in Man Of Steel, I dread to think what Goyer and Snyder’s take on Batman will be. Dirty Harry in a gimp suit?

See you tomorrow.

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