I have a confession to make. I’ve always hated comic books. Actually, that’s not true. What I really never liked were superhero comic books. I do love a good Peanuts or Archie. To all the young people I know and have taught: Please don’t hate me for telling the truth.
This would put me at a horrible disadvantage if the sole way I still supported myself these days was as a screenwriter. As I tried to explain to a student recently, at one time the majority of projects in the biz that people really wanted to work on ranked this way:
- Movie dramas with characters
- Subtle and broad movie comedies.
- Geek-related ventures on either of the above that involved explosions, computers, cartoon people or anything from Marvel, DC or that ilk.
If you were in the last group you had peers and an audience but not much street cred (Note: Walt Disney accepted, though somehow it was he rather than any of his employees that got credit for anything Disneyesque. Plus, he never did superheroes. He was the superhero).
Well, what a difference a handful of decades make. Comics have taken over the industry – if not the world – and not the kind you see at the Laugh Factory or on a cheap cable special. Which seems sort of apt since more and more we’re living a comic book existence. This is apparent every time you turn on your television or surf the web and see the surgically altered faces on almost all of your favorite actors.
Though here in Los Angeles it’s obvious every time you step into a store that isn’t located in a shopping mall in Sunland.
This is not meant to be a putdown of comics or superheroes or even cartoons but merely an observation of where we are. This week it was announced that the Emmy award-winning Mad Men writing team of Andre and Maria Jacquemetton would next be tackling the DC Comic book series DMZ for the Syfy Channel.
It doesn’t get more prestigious for most writers than Mad Men, though it is certainly more financially lucrative to be on any number of television series and movies. So it certainly says something about us and them that after all of the choices open to this dynamic duo after six years of riding the MM crest that they have decided to devote themselves to a pulp tale centered on a young man in the near future, Matty Roth, who lives in the demilitarized zone of Manhattan after a second American Civil War. He might not dress like a superhero but certainly, in post apocalyptic red and blue state America, he will at some point have to emerge as one.
If you think I am pushing the metaphor or overreacting in even the slightest we can look at all of this another way. Here are the top 10 grossing movies worldwide in 2013:
- Iron Man: 3
- Despicable Me 2
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- Fast & Furious 6
- Monsters University
- Man of Steel
- Thor: The Dark World
If we were to look at this list for the U.S. and Canada only the rankings might shift around one or two places but the films themselves would remain exactly the same. Oh wait, there would be one change – Oz the Great and Powerful would replace Thor, which would drop down two notches to #12. Do you see where I’m going now?
Okay, fine, I’ll be a little bit more blunt.
Anyone arguing that Fast and Furious, Hunger Games and even Gravity aren’t super hero movies in a cartoon world, well…uh….I suggest you watch some footage of Russia’s President Putin at this week’s Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Sochi and tell me whether you believe the flesh and blood star of a current worldwide spectacle isn’t simply our 2014 version of The Terminator.
No, I’m not going to say I told you so. But like Matty Roth in post apocalyptic Manhattan, we’d all better get on board with this kind of thinking in order to survive the inevitable global warming-over meltdown of everything we’ve ever known. To this end, I propose some new lenses and labels for how we look at and categorize all current and future newsmakers in the world and the events that surround them. (Note: This will also save a lot of creative time if any of the above rights are purchased or even thought of as the subject of a new Hollywood movie).
The Incredible Sinking Man
In a live, near two-hour television press conference, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) announced that he fired some of his top staff people for causing the largest four-day traffic jam in the history of the world. This was due to their choice several months ago to close down multiple lanes in Fort Lee, New Jersey leading into the George Washington Bridge (Note: the world’s busiest bridge) behind his back. However, now the governor’s former people are seeking plea deals through high-priced lawyers while he and his present people are countering this disloyalty by calling them idiots and releasing accounts of their misdeeds as 16 year old high school students. All of this while Gov. Christie, previously the most popularly touted choice among Republicans to run for president in 2016, couldn’t even get Texas Gov. Rick (“oops”) Perry to pose for a photo op with him on a recent trip to the Longhorn state. How much lower will he go? If anyone thinks they can predict, well, I have a bridge I can sell you…..
Puff The Magic Drag, Man
When I was 20 years old I was too afraid of getting less than an A minus in college in any one subject. So I can’t imagine how I’d be if I had the adulation of half of the young people my age around the world, were loathed by the other half and possessed $130 million to both play with and use to ease the pain. I do know that I would be thrilled that I could make my living as a singer – a talent that not all the marijuana in the world could convince me to believe I had. Still, you can’t smoke up foot long doobies on a private plane with your soul-patched father or allow friends to egg the mansion next door to your mansion without getting some sort of….blow back (Note: See what I did there?).
Dude, Where’s Our Woodstock?
A future action comedy about a group of baby boomers who hold the twenty-something owners of a string of pot dispensaries hostage because they are sick of all the legalized marijuana/nee commercial appropriation of their drug of choice for the masses. Soundtrack by: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The New Riders of the Purple Sage and anyone who’s left alive from the original Grateful Dead.
There is no other name for Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly. Yes, he’s a foot taller than me, has a million times more money and certainly can sue – but I don’t care. This moment of writing it publicly just made it all worth it. You can’t have the child of a man who died during 9-11 on your TV show, yell and berate him for his anti-war views and top it all off by saying “your Dad would be ashamed of you if he were alive” and then get off without periodic bitch slapping for the rest of your national (or unnatural?) lifetime. At least not by me. I’m nothing if not Captain IDontForgetAnAHole.
Queen of the Hills
Hillary Clinton’s moniker might have to one day be retitled The Bionic President because we all know that in order to have survived this long she must have some special sort of armor that the rest of us mere humans were born without. We also know the latter title will probably be the one to last because eventually Mrs. Clinton pretty much gets everything she sets her mind to. Unless she’s simply content with where she is now – writing the best tweets and texts the world has ever known. I know the latter would be my choice. But then again, I’m not that kind of queen.
The Salacious Sex Six
Woody Allen & Mia Farrow & Dylan Farrow & Moses Farrow & Ronan Farrow & Soon-Yi Previn. It’s horrible. All of it. From every side. Which means that someone will make it into a film at some point. Or a web series. Or a comic something or other in the second new millennium. What is Alan Alda’s line about funny in WA’s Crimes and Misdemeanors — Comedy is tragedy plus time? This is why everything in this paragraph will eventually be deemed offensive, inoffensive, moot or in need of a rewrite. Which one is it now? That’s not for me, or you, to decide.
The Inhuman Thing
The new name for Oscar if movies keep going down the too narrowing road they are now on.
The Straight Arrow
What everyone fears will be Jimmy Fallon’s upcoming super hero tag once he starts steering the ship of The Tonight Show in the next few weeks. Though perhaps he will surprise us all and be The Not So Straight Arrow. No, we don’t mean it THAT way. Although in a comic book world, unlike television, anything is possible.
The Fifth Ring
This will be Hollywood’s take on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. It all started when that snowflake stayed intact and didn’t light up as the fifth ring. Question: Doesn’t Putin know that there is ALWAYS a gay on the light board??? #Homohubris.
Some of you might not agree with our take on the inevitable comic book/cartoon world of the movies and in life. This is your prerogative. So for all of you doubters I have just one last thing to say: The #1 film this weekend – by a lot – with an estimated $69.1 million at the box-office in just three days – is:
THE LEGO MOVIE
Your future has arrived. And it is our present. Though not necessarily the one we all asked for. Or, is it?