How to meet a superhero

I’m going to take a moment to talk about some superhero movies. The Avengers movie will be coming out soon, so this is a topical discussion, but the thing I am speaking about today probably isn’t going to be a factor in that movie. (But while I bring up the Avengers, there is an Avengers Handbook coming out sometime this month, I believe, that I did some work on, but I couldn’t find the solicitation on Marvel’s website, so I didn’t do my usual announcement post)

What I’m talking about is superheroes meeting their friends. There are a lot of superhero movies I haven’t seen, but something I’ve noticed in the Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-Man films is that they all include a close bond between the hero and another character that I thought interesting in how it differed from the same relationship in the comics:

In Iron Man we are given the friendship between Tony Stark, Iron Man, and Jim Rhodes, his friend in the military who goes on to become War Machine. When the movie begins these two guys are already friends even before the whole Iron Man thing happens. Not so in the comics where Tony didn’t meet Rhodey until after his origin in a war zone and he needed to find a way home. The two became friends then. We never see how they meet.

In Captain America, Steve Rogers and James “Bucky” Barnes have been friends since childhood, then Steve goes on to become Captain America and Bucky becomes his ally in the art of punchin’ Nazis. Again, this differs from the comics, wherein, Captain America didn’t meet the orphan Bucky until after he became a super soldier. Like Tony/Rhodey, we’ve got a pair of friends established before we even get there.

And the one that bugs me the most even though I care the least, Spider-Man. In the movie we meet Peter Parker and the girl he has loved for all his life, Mary Jane Watson. As before this is different from the books. In the original stories it went like this: Peter (already Spider-Man by this point) had a ton of complications, one of which was his Aunt’s constant attempts to fix him up with her friend Anna Watson’s niece. Peter, who had never met Anna Watson’s niece, assumed the worst of her and was blown away when he met her. And even then the two didn’t become a couple right away. But in the movie, they went with the much more trite Girl He Always Loved idea, even though the comic version is much more interesting and new. (I understand the Spider-Man movies are being rebooted soon, so I don’t know how things’ll go there)

I can see a bit of why this is. In a movie you’ve only got so much time where you can story in there. To an extent, especially the first two examples, you’re just giving your character friends from way back who we’ll understand as being friends from way back and be able to relate. But there’s something the comics can do, as an ongoing medium, that the movies can’t. They can show us the start of a friendship, and its growth, and get us more invested into it. Obviously the comics also manage to mess this up plenty of ways (not least of which being contrived plot twists), but it is still a thing we can get from the books that we can’t in the movies. And when it comes to a romantic interest, I think this is especially important.

So, I guess, the way to meet a superhero, in the movies at least, is just to already know a superhero. I guess I’ve run out of rant on this topic now. Good night.

  1. I liked Mary Jane in the old spidey comics. She was always stoned out of her mind. Aunt May was like “Oh, Peter is sick right now.” And Mary Jane barges in and fires up the record player starts dancing. It was hilarious.

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