Comic Books On Screen
Over the last couple of days, when I’ve taken some time away from reading and absorbing everything going on in the world, I’ve distracted myself with a solo game of the Marvel Champions card game while watching Avengers: Infinity War and then today, Endgame.
Watching movies and playing a game based on superhero comic books is about as good a form of escapism as you can get and it really hit the mark for a few hours after lunch each day.
I’ve written about the two movies extensively when they both came out so I’m not going to go back over everything, just one point that really stuck out at me this time through that I’ve not heard other people talking about; the format these movies in particular but the MCU on the whole has taken and how it mirrors modern comic book story telling.
Take Infinity War as the prime example. This movie has so much to do in terms of setting up dominos, bringing characters together from literal corners of the galaxy and telling essentially three or four completely different stories that may or may not crisscross paths with one another over the two and half hour run time.
I think many filmmakers would look at such an ensemble movie with so much going on in such vastly different settings and feel the need to keep checking in with each grouping of characters for fear that if they don’t the audience will forget about people or what was going on.
The Russo brothers, under the guidance of producer Kevin Feige don’t do this though. They respect the audience enough to hang on scenes and characters for long stretches at a time, telling bigger chunks of each story before moving away to another group.
I don’t know if it is intentional, inspired by or purely a coincidence but to me this format feels far more akin to issues of a comic book than to an ensemble blockbuster.
In an event comic that takes place over six or seven issues you may find you spend each of the first four issues telling with different characters or groups with only minor amounts of crossing paths, possibly at the end leading into the following issue. Then the last few issues all the groups come together to tackle the threat or threats.
That’s a very rudimentary rundown of how it may play out and not necessarily a new format but it definitely is how these movies, Infinity War in particular, feel to me as someone who read a lot of comics, and Marvel super heroes in particular, for fifteen or so years throughout the two thousands and into the twenty tens.
It’s also worth noting that it was in that time that the ‘Event Comics’ became more and more of a focus and that leads into me next point.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting back in 2008 with Iron Man, has had a single creative direction thanks mostly to the head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige.
The way I look at these movies is the same way I look at Marvel Comics from the past twenty years or so; each character has their book where they’re telling their story, often times there will be cross overs from other characters or plot lines will weave in and out of multiple characters books and things will be set up that will eventually lead to a big universe engulfing event. That will be its own book and will include all the primary players and tell the story.
Ideally, and how it used to be, that will be all you need to read to get the plot but often now there will be countless tie ins and books that cross over with the main event and it can lead to a convoluted mess.
They also reached a point where these events were becoming too regular with one ending and leading straight into the next.
Fatigue from that is actually what drove me and many readers away after a while but that isn’t the point I’m getting at.
What I’m trying to get at is that the MCU has followed that same formula and done so magnificently; we’ll get multiple movies introducing us to characters setting up stories that are mostly self contained but will often leave breadcrumbs or story points that lead to the next and set up something larger.
They then crescendo in the Avengers movies which act as the ‘events’ with Infinity War and Endgame being the biggest and a culmination of everything that had happened before.
It really is a marvel, pardon the pun, that they were able to pull it off so well.
I’m excited to see smaller scale stories for a while now, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for hints as to what the next event could be.
My guess right now, with everything that we know, is that it will involve mutants and a certain school in Westchester for gifted youngsters.
I want to wrap up with a quote I heard today that I think is important. It sums up how I am able to keep going, keep moving forward, in the face of all the terrible shit in the world right now and explains why I can write a post about dumb movies when there is actual important things to be said and done.
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
I’ll add to it a bit too by saying that when you have rested and taken care of yourself you get back up there and fight for what you believe in. They might be through protesting, that might be through talking to people or it might be by reading and educating yourselves on the matters at hand. It’s the act of doing something that counts.