Midway through his terrific new memoir Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life, Michael Greenberg describes pitching a potential film to someone he considers an up-and-coming directer.

I had pitched him a story I had lying around: A police reporter affects the outcome of the crimes he covers, then writes about them, hiding his involvement. ‘That’s the plot of Superman,’ he said without hesitation. That I had not considered this similarity myself made me realize I was out of my league.

I too felt that way, laughing at the description. Who would think to explain Superman this way? To boil it down to this one particular element of the story? Not a Superman that emphasizes heroism, immigration, America, or the continuing capacity for reinvention, but a Superman defined by his reportage.

This description of the Superman saga is akin to Gordon Hutner’s great description of the plot of The Sun Also Rises in What America Read:

The Sun Also Rises tells of an American newspaper writer with a war injury living in Paris who drinks heavily and gets involved in a frustrating romance with a promiscuous aristocrat.

Yes, both descriptions are true, but they leave out too many of the elements we consider essential to have much worth. Where is World War I in this description of TSAR? As beneath the Iceberg as in Hem’s account; or the trip to Spain? or Robert Cohn?

No, Greenberg’s pitch doesn’t quite describe Superman. Writing reportage that leaves Superman out of the story is something that Clark Kent could never do. Superman, after all, isn’t Batman trying to stay in the Shadows, more powerful, as the Burton films tell us, as an urban legend than a known quantity. It’s the uncertainty of Badman that makes him so terrifying in Burton’s gothic vision.

So I briefly considered writing a post arguing that Greenberg should write Superman. Beg, Borrow, Steal is one of the best books I’ve read recently. The prose is taught, unadorned but affecting, and the book is filled with funny moments that magnify Greenberg’s intellectualism. Moreover, his life experiences show that he can write anything. At least, he’s had to in order to make a living. But, in the end, I can’t see his style working for the Man of Steel. Maybe a one-shot or limited series about Clark Kent, something like “Under a Yellow Sun.”

No, in the end this is a post about the director who made the Superman connection. Does it show an ability to distill plots down to their barest elements? Or the ability to connect ideas to myth? Either way, it’s yet further proof of an idea in Steve Hely‘s How I Became a Famous Novelist: that Hollywood thinks on a different scale than other media.

“You’re realizing I’m much better than you at this, right?…I deal in movies. I need to get four, five million people watching, minimum, or I’m on my ass in this town. I can’t afford to fuck around like you can.”

How I Became a Famous Novelist was a terrifically entertaining book and I hope it was a big success. But while I was reading it, I kept trying to think what type of movie it would be, how I would adapt it. Oddly, I think the only way to go is to turn it into an art movie, something with an extremely limited release that can stay true to the characters and critique.

Or maybe I just don’t think about things on the right scale.

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If you aren’t yet doing so, check out The New Republic‘s new online book review. It’s great.

One of the most interesting attributes of comic books as a media form is the frequency with which creative teams change. It’s rare to see a show-runner leave a successful TV show, and even rarer to see multiple executive producers within a year. (Commander in Chief, is the rare recent exception, but one that hardly bodes well for the system’s prospects.) Movies sometimes change personal between sequels, but, most likely, no-one gave thought to the prospect of the sequel before the first movie was made. Creators also sometimes change in genre fiction, especially after the initial creator has passed (like the new Bond novels), but authors hardly change in serious fiction. Although I’d pay money to read Thomas Pynchon write a Zuckerman novel, it’s not something anyone’s likely to see.

It’s really quite amazing how regularly comics change their creative teams. It’s such an established part of the genre that we don’t really think about it, yet something truly different and worth thinking about. Comics exist within a push-pull of long-term storylines and attracting new readers; being “true” to a character’s history and reinvention; remaining within continuity and a continuum and being accessible to anyone who buys the issue. Some stories, like “Final Crisis,” don’t even pretend to be comprehensible to the amateur reader, but other comics, like Superman, have to belong to everyone. Superman is such an American myth that any American needs to be able to read Superman and understand what’s going on. It’s why you can’t do anything truly radical to the character (like make him electric blue!)–at least not for too long. Also, while a storyline may be very good on its own (like upgrading Metropolis), there’s a strong chance that it will be diminished by later authors. Frank Miller’s “dark” superhero stories of the 80’s were brilliant, but much of what came after only cheapened them.

So it is that the first issue of the James Robinson run on Superman is just so-so. Robinson is one of the best authors working in comics. His Starman was probably the best superhero comic of the 90’s/early 200s; at least the most consistently great. Robinson made us care about every aspect of the character’s universe. His history, his city, his rogues gallery, his personal life. The lives of the families in the city. It was a completely unique world. His recent run on Batman was highly enjoyable, and one of the better Two-Face stories, even if not so unique. But his Superman, while promising, leaves a lot to be desired. Robinson clearly wants us to care about the characters, but his initial attempts (let’s let Krypto narrate part of the issue!) fell flat. Robinson has more than earned the benefit of the doubt (though, there’s always the danger that some characters are just too stupid to succeed) but on it’s own, Superman 677 was not an especially good issue and only time will tell if Robinson, a great writer, is a great writer of Superman.

After Thursday’s episode, I’m not so sure that “Lost” still deserves to be reckoned as one of the greatest shows on TV. Don’t get me wrong, the episode was still good, the acting still crisp and the story still intriguing, but things aren’t quite the same over on the main, non-Hydra Island. The “Lost” that we fell in love with is gone. Gone is the focus on character and exploration of personal redemption; in its place, mystery and obscurity for the sake of obscurity, the introduction of ever more and more organizations for the sake of further narrative complications, and the transformation of Walt into a spiritual Ghost Walt because of the producer’s inability to stop the effects of aging. For shame, Carlton Cuse, for shame.

I’ll say right off the bat that it is without a doubt too soon to write off “Lost.” The third season got off to a slow start, with the show turning into a bizarre version of Cool Hand Luke as Sawyer and Freckles went to work on a chain gang for the others.

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He Just Bugs the Establishment!

Still, things righted themselves in the end, and season 3 turned out to be incredibly entertaining. If not quite as good as season 1, the show was certainly better than in season 2, and the season 3 finale introduced wonderful new storytelling opportunities that had the show poised for greatness. Unfortunately, that potential is currently being squandered. The creators have unleashed a torrent of new characters rather than working them in gradually; instead of a flash(back/forward) focusing on an individual castaway or other, we received a jumbled flashback of multiple characters. It’s as if the show started to listen to its critics, started to listen to those who said everything was moving too slowly and that nothing was being revealed (legitimate criticisms), only the creators didn’t know what to do and decided just too move everything really fast and to have characters ask direct questions (yet without answers).

Although past experience has told me that the show will probably recover, there are more than a few reasons for concern. To adumbrate but a few:

1) Poor track record with new characters. There have only been two unmitigated successful additions to the main cast: Ben and Desmond. Now think about just how many characters they’ve introduced. Every other one, including Juliet and Ekko, has had a problematic relationship with the show. All the (new) tailies were killed off, casting a pall over the entirety of season 2. Only Bernard is escaped alone to tell thee, and he was a preexisting character. Why were so many new faces introduced only to be killed-off? Were there stories necessary? Why does no-one ever grieve? Each new character presents new challenges, and the show rarely rises to the task, leaving a mess of unsolved problems. We’re still waiting on the Desmond-Odysseus connection and any number of other mysteries. Read the rest of this entry »

NOTE: This is a blog post dedicated to ridiculing Heroes, particularly Season 2 of Heroes. If this sounds despicable to you, don’t read this blog post. If it seems despicable to you and you’re going to read it anyway, please note that there are a few mistakes in the post – something that the author has admitted in the comments section. If you came here looking for information on Season 3 of Heroes, it’s not here, and it never will be. When someone says that they are going to fix something that doesn’t yet exist – with a gun – it’s usually safe to assume that that person is joking in some way, shape, or form.

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For a few episodes, it seemed as if Heroes might rescue itself from the slow stupid suckage that has been its second season. This past week’s episode, however, plus another clause, was probably the single worst of Heroes’s’s’s short history. Probably, this is because it dealt not with a handful of worsening characters with worsening storylines, but two handfuls of worsening characters with worsening storylines.

Moreover, the show creators have not followed the advice that I offered in this post. A-hem:

  1. Ali Larter is not dead. Kill her. I don’t like her. I’m not sure anyone else does either.
  2. Hiro might as well still be stuck in ancient Japan, for all you are doing with him.
  3. Peter Petrelli is back, thank you for that. But instead of kicking ass, he is just turning into a dummy.
  4. Sylar is back to being a baddie, but instead of rediscovering his power, he has discovered how to be Darth Sidius.

In regards to number three on that list, let me just say that Peter is not the only character getting dumber by the episode. Everyone is getting dumber, if not in what they say and do then in what THEY DO NOT DO WITH THEIR SUPERPOWERS!

Case(s of beer) in point:

Read the rest of this entry »

Writer’s Note:  Ibiteyoureyes was (mistakenly!) under the impression that the Who Should Write Superman series was started in order to discuss who should write the sequel to Superman Returns, and not the comic book(s). Blame his bad memory, and blame the disappointment that was this movie, and blame The Bush Administration (why not?),  for this mistake.

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My first experience reading Frank Miller was not a good one. I picked up a copy of one of the Sin City graphic novels, “watched” a guy get hit by a car while grumbling campy dialogue for a few pages, and then put that copy right down.

There are two important points that I want to make, before someone from the Legion of Geeks (of which I – in addition to most of the saladeers – am probably a low-ranking member) flips out starts an anti-salad video blogging campaign (leave Frank Miller alone!) against this sweet and innocent textual blog.

  1. Let’s get this much gay at the inset: Miller has some serious talent. As some of his work has shown – he can take everything that is good about what is generally understood as the noir genre – and hone it into something special. Unlike some people, he can successfully turn style into substance. It just seems to me, though, that after a few early successes with this strategy, he got too big for his britches. And then his britches snapped open, like the britches of a certain other someone, and he was left with just some junk hanging in the air.
  2. I, as a person, and a biter of eyes, subject “the everyday” and “the mundane” to unhealthy levels of analysis and critique. It’s just the way I shook out. What does this have to do with Frank Miller? As I’ve pointed out, Miller uses many of the themes and devices inherent to noir, and I am a big, big noir fan – and one that places a lot of value on the importance of this genre’s roots. And I believe those roots should be respected. So when Miller (in my opinion) exploits the melodrama and the wisecracking and the tough-guy acts and the sex and etc. that serve as the genre’s main devices and tries to pass them off as the essence of the genre itself – rather than simply utilizing them to their fullest dramatic potential – that, quite simply, boils my bum.

Now…that being said…I firmly believe in battling my own early prejudices and judgments and giving everything as fair a shake as I can. So come over here and let me show you what things look like 180 degrees in the other direction.

I have read two Miller novels since that first, dirty dip in his bibliography, those two novels being: The Dark Knight Returns, and The Dark Knight Strikes Again. The quality and the success of these novels (particularly the first one) have convinced me that Miller should reach back in time, remember what made him good, and write Superman.

Read the rest of this entry »