ROB-BOX: Villains on the Silver Screen

(This post was originally published on socalcomics.com. In this post I give my opinions on comic book films with villains in the lead, but more importantly, I lie about the Rob-Box having returned… seeing as how, prior to today, the Rob-Box had not been updated in many moons. Do not hold this against me, I beg of thee. Also, obvies, I wrote this prior to some of the mentioned films actually being released. So… in the past.)

Hullo! After an admittedly lengthy hiatus the ROB-BOX has returned! And as the writer of the premiere (and only) Southern California Comics blog I always keep my finger right on the pulse of the comic world, and right now the lifeblood coursing through veins of our community is… MOVIE ADAPTATIONS.

Now I’ll tell you right from the get go that I’m not here to add another voice to the inarguably unnecessary chorus of “DC sux, MARVEL rules,” or “DC is gritty, MARVEL too funny” echoing throughout the internet. Both DC and Marvel appear to be putting their best, most competent foot forward with their big headliners this year-“Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Captain America: Civil War respectively. No, what I’m here to weigh in on is the bold decision both DC and Marvel have made to have villains star in their upcoming films Suicide Squad and Deadpool. Now before you angrily email me yes, I know Deadpool is technically not a villain (heck, he’s a member of the Uncanny Avengers now, which is as bonafide as one can get in the Marvel U) but if you were to ask the average person where they would classify a mercenary/assassin who frequently murders people for fun on the “hero-to-villain” scale, where do you think they would place him?

And that question is really the heart of what I find interesting about these films; Suicide Squad and Deadpool are both movies about villains: violent people committing and enjoying acts of violence. In Suicide Squad it’s for the sake of the protagonist’s freedom and in Deadpool it’s for the sake of vengeance (my personal favorite motivation for any action), not the lofty goals of protecting the innocent or that power and responsibility mumbo jumbo we’re used to seeing from our costumed crusaders. These characters are liars, murderers and thieves (to quote the recent object of my obsession, Kylo Ren) who cause pain and turmoil to the heroes we know and love, and generally represent the darker side of what Marvel and DC have to offer. I’m sure parents everywhere are balking at their children’s frenzied requests to see these films, but for what it’s worth I could not be more thrilled. I’m not thrilled, however, because both movies appear to have been projects of passion, although that certainly helps.

I’m thrilled for three reasons.

The first is because, like Guardians of the Galaxy two years prior, these movies represent an opportunity for growth in comic book films. Marvel and DC have an extraordinary wealth of characters to draw from outside of Bats, Supes and Spidey, but you wouldn’t know that from the mainstream media produced prior to 2008. Even the well received Marvel films to date have been populated with safe, well known characters like Thor and Captain America. Guardians represented the first major deviation from well-publicized characters, and while Deadpool might be a popular name among the comic savvy and the Harley/Joker dynamic is fairly well known in pop culture, the average movie-goer probably only knows a superficial amount about the two films. If these films do well, that’s an indication to both companies that movie-goers are open to the more obscure franchises in the publishers’ arsenals, and that my dream for a Booster Gold centric film would be (slightly) more than a pipe-dream.

The second reason I’m excited is that, from a content stand-point, these films will hopefully help dismantle the “comics and comic-related material are for children” mindset. Deadpool looks like it’ll be a bloody and humorous romp, and Suicide Squad looks at the very least to be every bit as competent as the generic action films pumped out every year. If these movies are well received, then the comics’ medium adds another notch to its respectability belt, and we fans can proudly say “see, it’s not all boy scouts in capes. We’ve got some nuances in our craft as well.” Variety is the spice of life as we all know, and the more variation in tone and genre there is in the comic film field the more reputable and viable the field will be for future investment.

But the third and most important reason I’m thrilled is fairly obvious, I think. All of this hype, all of the attention paid to these films, all of the casual references being made to superheroes in pop cultures these days will hopefully, HOPEFULLY, contribute to the comics industry. When the crowds walk out of Suicide Squad, or Deadpool, or Batman v. Superman, if even one person who had no interests in collecting comics prior to that day considers waltzing on in to their local comic shop, then we all benefit. Your favorite publisher can keep dealing their funny books, and your favorite retailer can keep pushing them.

Ultimately, without the decades of work and care put into this industry there would be no films, no franchises, no funny deadpool t-shirts and Joker hats. So long story short? Bring the violence.

Bring the noise.

Bring the laughs.

Bring whatever it takes to keep the funny books and their films healthy and striving.

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