​Why Are Superhero Movies So Much Better Than Superhero Comics?

Greetings, my stamp stars. I must escape this land ruled by apes. Generally it's pretty great here — the apes are chill, the banana wine is pretty good — but they have me delivering the mail here too, and half of what they send to each other is their own feces, because they're too civilized to throw it at each other.

I smell like Death pooped.

Comic Timing

Andy H.:

Mr. Postman,

As of 2014, after Guardians of the Galaxy, it's starting to feel like the Marvel Cinematic Universe can do no wrong. These folks haven't been 100% successful, but they have a far higher hit rate than the comic books. My late-90s self would vomit if he heard me say that. At what point in our future/your past did the vibranium-tower comic nerd elite admit that the blockbuster movie is at least as good a medium as the comic for superhero intake? When did we lifelong comic readers stop claiming we know the "real" story which is superior to the one seen by the movie-going public?


I'm going to ignore your two questions and answer your implicit question instead: "Why are comic books movies better at superhero stories than comic books?" Partially because it's a much more interesting question, and partially because you're lying to yourself.

It's true that at the moment Marvel has a much higher success rate with its movies than its comics, but to say that is extremely misleading. Marvel Studios has made about a dozen movies; Marvel Comics has made hundreds, if not thousands of comics over the last 75 years. Even if you only consider Marvel's current crop — over 60 unique titles in September alone — it's still way easier to make three quality projects a year than it is 60 a month.

There's another advantage that superhero movies have over comics in that they're still very very new. (Well, good superhero movies, I should specify.) We've seen hundreds of Captain America comics over the years, some good, some crap; but seeing him on screen was a new experience for fans and non-fans alike. It's much harder for a comic writer to do something new and impressive in a Captain America comic, but seeing Cap for the first in live-action and with a $100+ million dollar budget? Yeah, that's going to be impressive almost no matter what. Even the sequels are still new enough that they knock people's socks off, although it's notably easier for new franchises like Guardians to wow everybody.

But for hardcore fans, the real benefit these superhero movies have is how they can cherry-pick through god knows how many decades of comics history and streamline it into its best, simplest version. Obviously, they do this mostly for new non-nerd audiences, but fans can appreciate how the movies can drop all the weirdness and inconsistencies that have piled up over the years in order to present the One True Captain America.


Basically, the movies have a huge advantage over the comics of being able to see what worked and what didn't, as well as decades of material. Meanwhile Marvel still has to churn out a Captain America comic every month, and sometimes it's going to be good, sometimes it's going to be crap. But man, ignoring the comics entirely because you think the movies are intrinsically better is going to do nothing but make you miss out on some great, great comics: Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Secret Avengers, Thor… and unlike the movies, these titles are coming out monthly.

Now, a much better question would be to ask why WB/DC completely ignores its heroes' most quintessential elements like origins, relationships and villains, as well as its best-loved stories, in order to do weird shit like making Batman older than Superman and Lex Luthor younger. Maybe someone will ask me that for next week…



End of Days



I found your site (specifically Google results for the 'Doctor Who' fan-fade letter above) via a Google search with the syntax of: "you feel sci-fi fandom was finished for you with the lord of the rings movies."

I've been asking myself this question- or have been coming to terms with the answers I can wrest out of my reason and what dedication I've had to science-fiction fandom over the last 13 years or so. I think I was deeply touched by the Lord of the Rings movies. I really felt a torch had been passed, nonverbally or otherwise. It had finally been proven that modern filmmaking, at least to the degree of what the Lord Of The Rings movies was able to encompass, could put out a really sharp fantasy movie, at least in my lifetime as a science-fiction fan. Or at least that seemed a strong contender for why I felt that way.

I don't know if the change was anything other than cathartic relief of some sort, but I felt when I saw that ending, what I was as a science-fiction fan finally broke free of the 'iceberg'; that there was no more for me to do.

I've never talked to anyone about this. I really don't know how to explain the conceptuals to someone who really isn't into fantasy or sci-fi, and I've felt very uncomfortable with the possibility of being seen as (or seeing myself as) a 'traitor to the fandom' if I was to relate it to someone in science-fiction who had no real stake in my well-being

I thought this might be worth passing your way, then, at least now that I've gotten a lot of the emotional baggage surrounding it out of my system recently. Science-fiction and fantasy got me through some really rough spots in my life, more than a few long-term ones, too, and I guess I didn't care much for admitting to myself, much less anyone else, that I'd apparently reached and surpassed this aforementioned milestone. It's still important to me, and it'll probably become more important in recent years; at least I've felt a lot more confident about being part of it. But I've never gotten back from being a wallflower concerning it since.


Don't feel bad. I think a lot of us have times when we feel like we fall out of love with our nerdy objects of affection; it doesn't mean it's necessarily permanent (although if it is, that's nothing to be ashamed about either) nor does it mean that you're really any less of a nerd. So you watched a fantastic live-action adaptation of arguably the greatest, most important fantasy series of all time. Your nerd-dom, for all intents and purposes, peaked. It's no wonder that it would be hard to maintain the same level of interest after that improbable, seemingly impossible, goal had been achieved.

Although it would strike everyone who knows me as deeply hilarious now, I thought there were a few times I'd similarly fallen out of fandom. I dropped all my scifi/fantasy reading and viewing habits to reads classic of literature and watch important foreign and/or black-and-white movies back in my college days as many pretentious young men do. While I've certainly more than made up for it in a variety of fields over the years, a couple of years ago I got the hankering to read some good scifi and fantasy fiction, and I've been devouring just about any series I can get my hands on. Hell, they don't even necessarily need to be good, as my book club can tell you. I just enjoy them.


What I'm saying is this stuff is often cyclical. Give yourself a break and chances are you'll come back around to it eventually, because if it's something that made you happy for so long it'll likely make you happy again. Wait a decade and the nostalgia factor for stories about intrepid adventurers fighting orcs in barely concealed Tolkien rip-offs will seem like the most sublime of pleasures.

As for being worried about your former comrades giving you grief, I'd love to tell you to give them the benefit of the doubt, but as we all know some nerds can be extremely short-sighted about this sort of thing, and often they take a rejection of the things their cherish as a personal attack. Telling a dude "Enh, I've not been in the mood for fantasy novels recently" can earn you bitter recriminations and personal attack. It's shitty, but it's true.


The best way I've found to deal with this — and it's most likely the truth too — is to tell them you're just taking a break. Chances are you aren't really truly done with the genre, nor do you disavow everything you have loved in the past. This keeps your fellow nerds from feeling like you've "turned" on the fandom, or are somehow attacking them for loving what you loved — like you "grew out of it" or something. Maybe the break will never end, in which case oh well. That doesn't diminish how much you loved scifi/fantasy before, nor how it informed who you are today. It's still a part of you, even if you decide the only thing you want to read is the New York Times.


Phantom Zone

Jason H.:


I have a kinda-secret: I sorta enjoyed watching the Phantom Menace in 3D. I went with a friend more as a lark, but was surprised at how much the 3D improved the experience. You really felt as if the world existed, space was deep, the pod racers were racing, etc. Oh, sure, the movie is still craptacular, but the 3D moved it up to "tolerable."

Is there any chance at all Disney will chase this cash cow and continue with II and III once they get their canon/not-canon house in order, or is this idea as dead as latin?


I'd give it 50/50. The problem is not that Disney doesn't like money — I'm pretty sure they purchased Star Wars in order to give all their executives Scrooge McDuck-like vaults of gold — but that they clearly believe they can make more money by making sequels and spin-off movies instead of trying to squeeze more out of the original six movies and they're almost certainly right. The question then is if Disney will bother going back to the 3D well.

If the movies are as universally successful as I think everybody's anticipating (note I didn't say "good," I just said "successful") then there's really no reason for Disney to bother. If a couple of the spin-offs do poorly and a few of the executives get cold feet about new Star Wars projects, maybe they'll return to the idea of re-releasing the original six in 3D. But it'll only be when they think those have a better shot at filling their money vaults than new movies.



Stand In The Place That You Are

Jason C.:

Hi postman. Given the trend started with books like Harry potter and the deathly hallows, hunger games and the hobbit, do you think turning Stephen kings "the stand" into a 2 or 3 movie arc is possible? I would much rather see that than trying to edit the material down into 1 3 hour film. What do you think?


I think Warner Bros. is wondering this exact same thing. Unlike the Lord of the Rings, The Stand is one book, not three, so it doesn't easily narratively fit into two or three separate installments. Not like Fellowship of the Ring is Part One of LotR, for instance, which means The Stand Part One would not have a satisfying narrative arc, which could vastly affect viewer enjoyment and sequel prospects. But Warner Bros. knows that if they adapt it into a single movie, then they lose the prospect of making sequels, and if the first movie is a hit they'd be basically dicing themselves out of major profits.

So they're too scared to go ahead and plan to make it as a trilogy, in case the first movie bombs, but they're also scared to make it as a single movie, because the movie could be a hit and they'd lose all that sweet sequel dough. And they are completely paralyzed with greed and fear and that's why they haven't made a decision yet. Probably never will.



Kree as a Bird

Concerned Marvelite:

Dear Mr. Postman,

The Kree have been introduced on "Agents Of SHIELD" and "Guardians of the Galaxy." Mockingbird, who was a Skrull plant in the comics, is coming to "Agents Of SHIELD." But how can a MCU version of the Kree-Skrull War happen? Last time I looked, the Skrulls were more frequently associated with the Fantastic 4, whose adventures are not being produced by Marvel Studios. Can such an intergalactic throwdown still show up on movie screens anyway?


Well, one, no, the Kree-Skrull war probably cannot happen because I'm 99% sure the Skrulls are locked in with the Fantastic Four license (mostly because of the Super-Skrull being one of the FF's best foes). Fox would have to be willing to let Marvel borrow the Skrulls, but, since they reportedly turned down an identical request to allow them to use Galactus in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, does not seem likely.

But that's not that big an issue, really. All Marvel needs to do if it wants an intergalactic war is to switch the Skrulls to the Chitauri, or maybe the Sh'iar (if they aren't part of the X-Men license). If Marvel wants a Secret Invasion, they just invent a new alien race of shapeshifters called Llurks or something, and boom, it's otherwise the same. If they really want Mockingbird to be an alien spy, maybe she's a blue Kree in disguise, which would have more interesting ramifications for Agent Coulson and the show.


Or maybe Mockingbird just isn't a Skrull or an alien equivaent and Marvel plans to make a Secret Wars movie first, hoping Fox botches up the FF reboot and sells them the FF rights back in the time being. There are plenty of other options, is what I'm saying.


Animal Style

Robert G.S.Jr.:

Dear io9, Why are there no big animals on "The Walking Dead" or any zombie productions? Without regular animal control to keep their numbers down, the coyotes or bears or other big predators would be feasting on the zombies constantly, and in the space of a year or so, would outnumber them!


Because filming any animal is difficult, and filming large animals is difficult and dangerous and expensive, and because zombies shows like The Walking Dead would rather put that money towards zombie sfx which are easier and usually of more interest to their audience. Also it's probably Carl's fault. (The adorable image is by Greg Ham, by the way.)


God Damn

Tony S.:

What's up with Godzilla's dick? Why isn't it swinging around, knocking over buildings when he's stomping around Tokyo?


Assuming Godzilla isn't female but is a mutated reptile, or at least comes from the same evolutionary line, then he likely has a couple of hemipenes stored away in his tail. A hemipenis is basically a spiked sack that erects/inflates inside sexy lizard ladies and conveys its load; the spikes are to keep the male lizards attached to the lady lizards, because nature is terrifying. So if Godzilla were aroused, one of the hemipenes would inflates, and then he could use it like the bulbous end of a mace or morning star to knock over shit.

On the other hand — and I will be the first to admit my knowledge of lizard reproductive systems and nerve ending is limited to say the least — I imagine that would be as fun as trying to knock over Lego structures with your testicles, which is to say exceedingly painful and probably less effective than using almost literally any other part of your body.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!


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