Friday, May 27, 2011

What Do You Give the Superhero Who Has Everything?

In Brightest Day, In Darkest Night
Scarlett Johansson is my Ex-Delight.... 

What do you give the Superhero Who Has Everything?

 In the case of Green Lantern, it’s a big budget 3D mega-movie promising to be one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters and starring Scarlett Johansson’s ex-husband,  a man whose any one orgasm with his former wife would probably serve to satisfy the sexual needs of the entire male population of a pretty good sized Midwestern city.

Talk about having everything!

But you’d also have to give the guy in the form-fitting green stretch top and black leotards a Kryptonite-like vulnerability to go along with the awesome capabilities of the power ring he wields. Because Green Lantern is the one superhero actually more powerful than Superman because with his mighty power ring, he could make a Superman!

Superheroes are as omnipresent these days as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s progeny. The array of mythic men and women who’ve been portrayed on stage, screen, and all but enacted live in your living room include Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Green Hornet, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Watchmen, Catwoman --- draw deep breath! --- Supergirl, Captain America, the Phantom, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Spirit, the Crow, and Spin Cycle, whose superpower is the uncanny ability to locate missing socks from the dryer. (OK, so I made up Spin Cycle!)

What a far cry from the way it was when I was a super-starved superhero-loving small fry in the Fifties!

Back then superheroes were thought of as strictly kid’s stuff, something you’d magically grow out of as soon as you hit puberty and began to think of Lois Lane not as Superman’s wise-cracking girl friend but as the secluded narrow country road to which you fantasized you’d one day squire off Nicole Halaylos!

The only contact an adult was supposed to have with a superhero flick was the flickering cognizance that he was sitting through one when his 11 year old woke him up to go get the popcorn.

If a superhero movie or TV show got made at all back in that day, the best level star it could muster would be some blandly handsome actor whose greatest claim to fame was having been briefly elevated to the rank of playing Ronald Reagan’s rubbed-out-in-the-first-reel best buddy, the dialogue would have all the depth and conviction of a phone number written on the back of a match book cover, and it would have all been shot on a budget equal to or less than Beaver Cleaver’s annual allowance.

Mostly we kids had to content ourselves with the Adventures of Superman. But although the show did feature George Reeves, the best actor ever to play the Man of Steel, the Adventures of Superman in truth was about as exciting as a Vice-President Richard M. Nixon pin-up calendar.

Week after week, the most malevolent villain Adventures of Superman presented was a bald, weasily, Damon Runyoneque actor named Ben Weldon whose plans for world domination didn’t extend much beyond knocking over the corner Fanny Farmer outlet and making off with the nonpareils. Aside from its passable main effect of Superman flying, other special effects were largely limited to the Man of Steel showing off his super speed by standing in place and saying to the bad guys “want to see it again?”

And that’s why, Gen X and Y’ers, you never see a big budget A-movie superhero flick any earlier than the late 70’s. Why do you think Humphrey Bogart, the greatest tough guy of all time, never played Batman? “You know, Robin, this could be the shtart of a beautiful friendship” does have a certain ring to it, but not to mainstream movie audiences of the 1940’s and 50’s.

Jimmy Stewart would have made a wonderful “aw shucks, turning that lump ‘a coal into a diamond weren’t nuthin'” kind of Superman, but then every Christmas we’d have all been forced to endure:

“Clarence, I don’t know how you know these things.  But tell me, what became of Lois?”

“You're not going to like it, Clark!”

“It’s all right, Clarence.  Just as long as she isn’t an old maid who never married who’s about to close up the library.  Anything but that!”

“What the hell would be wrong with that, you 1940’s superhero chauvinist pig!  No, Clark, she’s Lex Luther’s mistress, she’s about to close up his zipper!”

Would Katherine Hepburn have made a great Wonder Woman? Actually it’s a better question if Wonder Woman, invisible plane and all, would have been up to playing Kate!

But all these attitudes, all these inhibitions, all these limitations --- everything --- changed when the kids of the fifties and sixties grew up and somehow didn’t grow out of superheroes. And now we once super-starved superhero-loving small fry are superhero-saturated!

Even so, I think I might yet check out the Superhero That Has Everything when he opens this summer. Even now, I get a small thrill every time I realize that what would have been so untenable and unthinkable to movie moguls and audiences not so long ago is daily happenstance today.

And as for Green Lantern’s vulnerability? For those of you amongst the great unwashed who know not, it’s the color “yellow.” That’s right; the greatest power in the universe can’t handle the color of bananas.

Hey, even I’m not afraid of bananas!

Scarlett, call me!!!



Ann Mauren said...

Hey Perry,

Would your 'super-starved small fry self' from the fifties have believed the reports of your 'superhero saturated self' from the teensies?

Great post, and as always, it was both heroically AND villainously funny!

Perry Block said...


My super-hero starved small fry self would have said:

"Superheroes?! Monsters?! Aliens?! And Richard Denning is not the star?!!! INCREDIBLE!!!

Yes, times have changed! Thanks for your comment.