When I was a kid, the Toys R Us theme song was my motto. I refused to grow up. Unlike the stereotype, I was not a child that wished to grow up any faster than normal. Yeah, I sometimes thought it would be cool not to have to answer to parents but I didn’t necessarily want to be an adult either. If there was a way a 12 year old could rent an apartment, fill the refrigerator full of New York Seltzer and ice cream sandwiches, I would have been just fine. Besides being too young to get a job and no way to pay for my life style, I think it would have been rad.
I was the kid that had anxiety for the next school year. That meant I was growing and getting older. Although there was some anticipation for new Star War movies, new G.I. Joe figures and new episodes of He-Man, I enjoyed just living in the moment. Another year could mean change and not always for the good. I was traumatized when the cable company removed my favorite channel for afternoon cartoons. I refused to leave my room when I learned Knight Rider was cancelled.
My friends made fun of me because I still played with my G.I.Joe action figures in the 8th Grade. I continued to buy toys through High School. Kenner Batman figures, Micro Machines and the occasional G.I. Joe. By then, I “collected” them instead of “played” with them. This “collecting” would continue into adulthood. I can’t even fathom how much money was spent on toys in the 90s and early 2000s. I had a compulsion. I didn’t need them but I “had” to have them. My kids hated me because I had better toys than they did. I used my children to get the Wal-mart guy to take pity on us and go into the back and pull cases of new stuff. My wife became addicted to collecting too.
Then, one day, I realized I couldn’t buy it all. Heck, I was having trouble buying any of it. Toys had put me into debt. I had to make some hard decisions. The entire garage and spare bedroom was full of boxes of my collection. I decided I would sell some of it off. Over the years, I sold more and more. Eventually, I didn’t have much left. I actually got burnt out. The new stuff at the store just didn’t excite me. I got tired of buying something just to put it in a box and not enjoy it. This year will see nearly all of those toys sold off. I’ve decided to keep the Star Wars figures and G.I. Joe figures I had as a kid (the old 80s stuff). But everything else, gone. And you know what? It feels good.
I guess I have grown up. It just took me an additional 20 years….
So, I wrote how history was different in the mid 90s and we had the awesome luck to have a Superman and Batman movie in 1995 with Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton. The geek world would have truly rejoiced if that had happened nearly 25 years ago.
Yet, I also want to point out that the movie back then would have been completely different than what we finally got in 2016. It would have been a positive and heroic journey – a team-up in every sense of the term. Back then, we wanted movies that inspired. Movies to look up to. We wanted reassurance that the world is still great – where good defeated evil. Our super-heroes were symbols of hope and perfection. They were role-models. We wished we could be like them. Superman was super because he didn’t represent the stereotypes but instead represented righteousness. The character taught us morals and ethics. Then, this changed….
Somehow, the studio (publisher too) in charge of our favorite characters (more specifically my favorite character: Superman) needed to be part of the modern status quo. He/Them is/are flawed. Superman needed to have inner demons. He needed to question everything and everyone around him. Johnathan Kent thought him he couldn’t trust anyone so why would anyone trust him, and vice versa. We got a Superman in the post 9/11 world (you know, where parents sue the Kents because Clark could have endangered lives when he actually saved them. No one blames the tire. Or the guys at the garage for putting faulty tires on the bus. The parents should be thankful instead they call him out. It’s not a positive scene anyway you look at it.) This is a world where Superman should be feared. A Superman with all due respect was not super. This disappointed fans. They even tried to force feed us hope stating his S was Kryptonian for the very word. (Not just a family crest but a perfect time for some moral lessons). Superman wasn’t there to save kittens from trees and stop jewel thieves. Instead he was running from his destiny. How’s that sending a message of hope? Oh well.
Batman was now introduced not as a dark, lone vigilante but an aging cynical man that feared Superman. Not only fear him, but to blame him for the rain of destruction on Metropolis or more specifically the Wayne Building in Metropolos (say what? That’s convenient). The entire point of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman was for everyone (not just the characters in the film but the audience) to fear Superman. Why? Is it just the time we’re in today or does someone think that he’s more interesting as flawed, unpredictable, scary, powerful alien. In Superman II (1980), Superman battled General Zod (and his henchman). That Metropolis had its citizens cheering Superman, supporting the fight even though it was causing millions in property damage. Heck, they even tried to take on Zod when they thought Zod had killed him. In the new version, citizens of Metropolis are blaming Superman for bringing evil to our planet. They blame him for wrecking the city – they demand justice. They are inconvenienced. They have no loyalty. Everyone seems out for themselves. It’s a world where they demand security but forgot that it takes people to risk their lives for it. They forget how Superman is there to unite – to save them. Now, it’s politics and pointing fingers. We can’t just have simple heroes anymore. No. We must be skeptical. We must reject the ideology. We have lost faith in truth, justice and the American way!
The 1980s (filmatically) was an era of hope and positive community. The movies were fun. They made us laugh. They made us cry. They were great movies because we’re still talking about them to this day. I just feel like the post 2010 movies are more about dividing and trying to direct blame at our faults than working together to over come them. Maybe its just me but I felt we’ve definitely lost something not only in society, our culture, but our pop-culture too. I’m curious if anyone in 20 plus years will be still talking about Man of Steel or Justice League. They may be it wont be the same….
So, let’s pretend that history was slightly different.
It’s 1990. The world has just experienced Batman as a big budget (and dark) movie masterpiece. Fans are rejoicing and dancing in the streets. We’ve not been this excited since …. well, I don’t know…. but its BIG!
The intelligent minds and businessmen at Warner Brothers green light a sequel. Duh. Who wouldn’t, right? So work begins immediately on the next chapter. They call it Batman Returns. (Not sure why this was the title since its not like he went anywhere. Maybe they could have called it Batman Strikes Back. Nah, what’s he striking back at? It’s not like he lost at the end of the first movie. Maybe, Batman Again! Yeah, we get Batman AGAIN! That’s kinda dumb. It’s the title that doesn’t so much refer to the movie itself but to the audience to tell us, “hey! Batman RETURNS!!! Go buy tickets!”) [back on topic] The movie starts production but there’s one tiny difference….
Batman saves Gotham again. Bruce Wayne finds a stray black cat and he thinks of Catwoman with one life left. We pan up to see the Bat Signal and Catwoman pop her head up. Then the clouds of the signal are broken by something zooming through them. We cut to the credits. After a couple minutes the credits are interrupted – fade in to Wayne Manner. The Batmobile blasts out of the Batcave. A blur of red and blue flies into the frame and block the Batmobile – which slams on the bat brakes! We cut back to the thing blocking Batman’s path – It’s SUPERMAN! Christopher Reeve’s Superman. His blue eyes look down at the Batmobile as the roof slides open to see Batman poking his head out. Wide shot of Superman and Batman. Superman speaks, “Batman – or should I say Bruce Wayne (x-ray vision folks) – I need your help in Metropolis. I’ve got a problem right up your alley. See, there’s this little problem with an old Kryptonian computer….” Cut back to the credits. Fade out.
The style is beyond its time. But don’t discard it. Let’s also move forward on the assumption Superman III never happened in 1983 (or the bad Superman IV: Quest for Peace in 1987). Because the original story plot for Superman III was meant to be a story about Brainiac but due to budget constraints and a studio that demanded Richard Pryor be in a Superman film, we got what we…got. Warner Bros. begins production on the next block buster super-hero movie for release in 1995. The title: WORLD’S FINEST: Superman & Batman. Today, you could have just stuck to World’s Finest, but in the 80/90s you had to put the characters in the title or no one would know it was a Superman and Batman movie.
1995. World’s Finest opens starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton in a double bill, and the fans go crazy. The movie breaks records. It destroys the 1993 record for Jurassic Park. Revolutionary special effects from Industiral Light & Magic creates a marvoulous Brainaic. Batman works to hack into the system and manipulate the ex-Kyptonian computer program. And Superman flies in just at the right moment to fling Brainaic and his ship toward the Sun! It sets up for a new status quo for super-hero films. And the world rejoices!
Oh I wish that were the way things went. Fanboys have always dreamt of a Reeve/Keaton team-up. It would have been stunning….it would have been legendary!