Greetings, imperators and gentlemen! I hope this week has found you well and, if you’re a War Boy of some kind, you finally got your hands on some Chapstick. Anyways, do you know why Spider-Man keeps getting rebooted when Transformers doesn’t? You will if you start reading.


Equal Fights

Peter W.:

Dear Mr. Postman,

If Wonder Woman symbolizes the strength of women, why is it so hard to come up with a good arch-enemy for her? The Joker works for Batman because they have so many reasons to personally clash. There’s sanity vs. madness, order vs. anarchy, and life vs. death among others.

Wonder Woman, by contrast, has had The Cheetah, Ares, and The Angle Man for sparring partners. But aside from one or two surface differences (insanity, unbridled militarism, and being a male jerk), these opponents don’t have the staying power of a Lex Luthor. So what keeps writers from finding the Amazing Amazon’s perfect opposite number?

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To be fair, it’s really, really hard to create the perfect archenemy for a superhero. In fact, it’s kind of impossible, because the perfect archenemy is only revealed over time. It took years, decades even, for the Joker to evolve to point where he’s Batman’s funhouse mirror image. Here’s an even better example: Say Lex Luthor had been created in 2013. Would you deem him Superman’s greatest foe? Of course not.

So that’s part of the reason Wonder Woman has never really found a foe worthy of her, but the bigger problem is that DC has also never really figured out what Wonder Woman’s deal is. I’ve discussed this in P.A. before, but how can you figure out Wondie’s perfect opposite when you can’t decide if she a warrior, a god, a working woman, the embodiment of love, a killer, Superman’s girlfriend, or what? All these takes have been tried, some on multiple occasions, but even if some had a pretty good idea for a Wonder Woman foe — like, say, Ares — he can’t become her perfect archenemy when she’s running around breaking supervillain’s necks on her own recognizance.

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Also, it should be noted that comics’ greatest female superhero was written by men for boys for most of her 75-year life, which I don’t think has been conducive to finding WW’s perfect foe. Given her status as pop culture’s preeminent superheroine, I’m not saying that Wonder Woman needs to fight a dude named The Glass Ceiling or anything, but I would think that some aspect of the evils of men would be her most natural enemy, and that’s obviously something that wouldn’t have worked for the comics’ makers or readers from 1940-90 or so, which is when such a character would have needed to have been introduced to reach the iconic status of Joker or Lex Luthor.


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Rebootcamp

Jeff LaL:

Dear Apocalyptic Postmaster,

Not long ago (in my time) you discussed Michael Bay, and how his awful movies make money, which allows him to keep making awful movies. That got me wondering about all the reboots happening in my time.

For example, Spider-Man 3 made gobs of money ($890 million or so), but was nearly universally panned. A few years later, the series gets rebooted. Amazing Spider-Man 2 also made gobs of money ($709 million), but was also nearly universally panned. Casting rumors are currently circulating for yet another Spider-Man reboot.

I guess my question is, what makes some awful-but-lucrative franchises immune to reboots (Transformers), while other awful-but-lucrative franchises are not?

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Ooh, good question! And kind of a complicated one. I’m going to need to bust out the box office charts from Box Office Mojo, but bear with me. Here’s how each Transformers movie did, box office-wise, both U.S. and worldwide (and all in millions):

  • Transformers (2007) — $319, $710
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) — $402, $836
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) — $352, $1124
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) — $245, $1104

Note that with the exception of Age of Extinction, all the Transformers movies substantially increased their worldwide box office (and the Age of Extinction drop was so slight as to be negligible). However, after the travesty that was Revenge of the Fallen, American audiences knew better to than to go see Dark of the Moon, causing a sizable drop in U.S. box office.

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The goal for studios, as always, is to make as much money as possible. The drop in the U.S. box office is bad, which is why Bay and Hasbro dumped Shia LaBoeuf and replaced him with Mark Wahlberg in AoE. Now, this didn’t pay off, but as long as Michael Bay’s movies are pulling in over a billion dollars, they’re going to keep Bay in charge, and then keep tinkering with the other bits until the U.S. box office gets back on track.

Okay, as for Spider-Man (still U.S. then worldwide, in millions):

  • Spider-Man (2002) — $404, $822
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004) — $374, $784
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007) — $336, $891
  • Amazing Spider-Man (2012) — $262, $758
  • Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) — $203, $709

As you can see, the American box office for all Spider-Man movies has decreased with every movie, even in between the reboots. The same is true for the global box office, except for Spider-Man 3, which for some reason did bonkers outside of the U.S.

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Now, you might think that Spider-Man 3’s increased worldwide box office would mean Sony would want to keep Sam Raimi on to make Spider-Man 4… and they actually did! Raimi was in talks to direct it but was finally fed up with studio interference and walked. By that time, years had passed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had begun, and someone at Sony thought rebooting the franchise was what Spidey needed. Obviously it didn’t, because Amazing Spider-Man performed worse than any of Raimi’s movies, and Amazing 2 performed worse still.

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Now, you might also think that $709 million is still a great deal of money, but these studios don’t think about what they’ve actually earned as much as they could earn. For instance, Sony know that at a minimum, a Spider-Man movie should be making $822 million, because Raimi proved it could happen. Anything less is a failure. And actually, since Chris Nolan’s Batman movies and Iron Man 3 have made over a billion dollars — and knowing that Spider-Man is literally the most well-known, profitable superhero character in the world — well, Spider-Man movies should be making at least a billion dollars. They just have to find the right director and star and script, and since Marvel’s been doing much better picking those things out, they’ve subcontracted it out, so to speak.

Short version: Michael Bay’s Transformers movies make so much goddamn money Hasbro is going to let him do whatever he wants. Sony thinks Spider-Man movies should be making more money than they have, so they’ll keep trying different things until they hit the box office they think they deserve.

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Face Offed

Humberto C.:

Dear Mr. Postman of the Apocalyptic Wasteland

I write this letter because in the 6th episode of the 5th season of Game of Thrones, a show i’m sure you’ve heard about, when Jaquen H’gar (or Arya’s mentor) is taking Arya to the deepest level of the Faceless Men lair and shows her all the faces acquired by their society, a shocking image was revealed before my eyes.

I’m sure many others have asked this question before, so I hope it is answered in your next mail... the face that Arya stares and touches, was it from her mother’s Catelyn? And if it is, why would the showrunners do that? I get it that it’s a nice easter egg for book readers because spoilers but, wouldn’t it go against the purpose of a faceless man which is to not be detected? If they were to use her face, maybe people (in Westeros of course) would notice.

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I absolutely 100% do not think it’s Catelyn’s face. I had the impression the vault got the faces of the people whom the Faceless Men killed, either because they drank the water or they were assassinated. Because the alternative is that the Face Vault would contain the faces of every human being on the planet, and that seems a bit much, even for face-changing super-assassins. But even if it was, who would recognize Catelyn at this point? The citizens of Winterfell and an assorted handful of nobles, all an entire continent away. I imagine Arya could walk around Braavos all day for six straight months before running into someone who recognized her.

Also, I’m not sure that becoming a Faceless Man also gives you the power to grow, shrink, or change your mass wildly. Tiny Arya might be stuck playing kids and wizened old women. Or a very, very short version of her mother.

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Every Rose Has Its Thawne (Flash TV spoilers ahead)

-m:

The Reverse Flash (Eobard Thawne) evaporated at the end of this week’s episode because his ancestor (Eddie Thawne) committed suicide, yes? In other words, by killing himself, Eddie Thawne made sure that Eobard Thawne would never exist.

If Eobard Thawne never existed, who killed Barry’s mother? Does Barry get his mother back? Shouldn’t Barry’s reality fork at the point his mother died, even though Barry himself didn’t do anything to prevent his mother’s death? Just wondering.

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Me too. I imagine the crazy paradox that Eddie Thawne created when he killed himself was what re-energized the singularity. I’d still place money that when Barry is done running around the black hole to stop it (Flash science, everybody!), he’s going to return to Central City to discover he’s in a new timeline, one where his mother’s alive. Now, whether the point of the second season is him trying to fix the timeline — and emotionally struggling with the knowledge that he has to effectively let him mother die — or whether Barry even knows there’s a problem, who knows? Remember, Barry wasn’t going to remember anything about his original timeline after he saved his mom. Oh, and what about that vision Barry had of him sitting in prison while his dad talked to him? Is that going to be part of this new timeline? Is it something else? Was it just a trick to throw us off the scent?

I honestly don’t know, but I love that The Flash can keep me guessing. Besides, all I really need is for Tom Cavanaugh to stick around, and he’s confirmed as a cast member in season 2. I’ve mentioned before he could come back as the real Harrison Wells if Eobard Thawne never existed and ran into the past to murder him and steal his identity, and that works for me — especially if the SuperSTARS are forced to trust someone with the face of their greatest betrayer.

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Immigrant Song

Jude K.:

Sir - I recently watched the astonishing Mad Max Fury Road and have been devouring whatever snippets related to it I can find. Presumably you need only look out your window for such insights. This led me to reflect on how some comics needlessly delve into the backstory of Immortan Joe. Now we all know that there are certain parties who benefit greatly from the absence of an origin story, such as The Joker. However, who already has one but would have been better off without? Superman immediately leaps to mind. Imagine just how radically his character would change minus the whole sympathetic Kryptonian orphan business. Sure he does good stuff but absent a known motivation he becomes pretty terrifying. And much, much more interesting.

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He does become more terrifying, since his motives would be unknown, and while that’s an interesting take, it’s better for an Elseworlds tale than a Superman story. Superman has always been uniquely American in the sense that he’s the ultimate immigrant. He came to America from another land, was raised here. America adopted Superman, and Superman adopted America just as much as he adopted humanity. Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were the children of Jewish immigrants themselves. As Alan Moore writes in a 2013 essay in Occupy Comics #2:

Almost certainly by instinct rather than by psycho-social analysis, two Cleveland teenagers had crafted a near-perfect and iconic fantasy which spoke to something deeply rooted in the psyche of working America: propelled to Earth (and, more specifically, America) from an exploded home-world during infancy, the character, like many of his readers or their parents, was an immigrant. Then there’s the usually-unexamined matter of his humble rural upbringing …

At his inception, Superman seems very much a representative of the downtrodden working classes his creators hailed from, and a wonderful embodiment of all the dreams and aspirations of the powerless. Dressed in bright primaries where most of his Depression-era readers were confined to threadbare black, or brown or grey, here was a character that in a single bound could leap above the worn-out city streets which his impoverished countrymen were forced to trudge in search of work.

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As America’s identity has changed over the past 75 years, Superman’s representation of “Truth, Justice and the American Way” has gotten more… complicated. But Superman is still an icon of human potential, and the fact that he chooses to be human, as opposed to an outsider, is a major, major part of that.


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Inhuman Trafficking

Olivia L.:

A few weeks back you wrote that you doubted that Agents of SHIELD would ever get to use the term ‘Inhumans’ before 2019, or use them meaningfully storywise in a way that could make the future film inaccessible to mainstream audiences. Now that the show is using the word ‘Inhuman,’ and the last few weeks of this season gave us a fair bit of their backstory/mythology - not to mention the Terrigen crystals leaking into the ocean and making their way onto grocery store shelves by way of fish and the potentially massive ramifications of that (smooth move Skye, did no one at SHIELD think that maybe it was a bad idea to leave that Quinjet and its crystal cargo in the sea?), I’m wondering if your initial analysis of the way the MCU will be handling Inhumans in the next four years leading up to the movie has changed? With all of those Terrigen fish oil pills out in the wild now, it’s hard to imagine how the MCU will have an relatively clean slate when it comes to Inhumans in 2019. Thoughts?

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Yeah, I got that one wrong. Again, guys. I am a fake mailman from the future. I think my track record is pretty good, considering.

Anyways, I still don’t think Marvel Studios will let Agents of SHIELD get too far into the Inhumans, especially not stuff that will featured in the movie. You’ll note there hasn’t even been a hint of a mention of Black Bolt, Medusa, any of the main Inhuman characters, or the fact that there’s another, much more important city of Inhumans out there. There’s a difference between the idea of Inhumans as a race of random superpowered people, and then the specific cast f the Inhumans, like Black Bolt and the others. Clearly, Marvel is giving Agents of SHIELD some leeway as long as they don’t dip their toes into the core franchise they’ll eventually be putting on-screen.

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But what do I know? Maybe Marvel is loosening their grip a little. Maybe eventually Lockjaw the giant Inhuman teleporting dog will appear in SHIELD headquarters, give Agent Coulson’s face a lick, and then teleport away. I will happily be wrong forever if I can just see that scene on television.

Oh, hey — Postal Apocalypse is taking a break next week, but I expect the mailbag to be overflowing with thoughtful questions, insightful comments, and complete nonsense by the time I get back on June 11th. Don’t let me down!

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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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