Shouting Into Darkness

It’s Not Easy Being Green (Goblin)

Posted in Comic Books, Kooky Observations by Chris W. on July 19, 2011

Being a New Yorker (or at least someone who lives here and likes to call himself a “New Yorker” because it scores points with chicks out of town) and a comic book geek, there is a lot to get excited about. The Big Apple is home to several pillars of the comic book world, most of them coming from Marvel. Stark Tower is located in Manhattan (don’t believe that hack movie; Iron Man lives in NYC, damnit!) and is home to the Fantastic Four. Matt Murdock has his practice in Hell’s Kitchen, where he also patrols the alleys as Daredevil. And, of course, there is the hero that Marvel and the rest of the world associates most with New York City, a teenager from Queens. Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is synonymous with New York City. He came from a suburb in the outer boroughs, swings around famous landmarks, and was the character Marvel chose to represent them when tackling the attacks on 9/11. In Spidey’s 40+ years in our culture, he’s touched every bit of media you could think imaginable, including the subject of the video above: Broadway.

I’m not going to give you a detailed history of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’s” troubles, as I’m sure you’re well familiar with them. Cast changes, skyrocketing budget, shitty reviews, and a few high-profile injuries to stuntmen. People who saw the show in this state say it was an unmitigated disaster, and if it ever saw Opening Night, it probably wouldn’t last long out of the gate.

Theater people, as far as I know, are a superstitious lot. Makes me wonder why the whole cast didn’t just walk and “Spider-Man” would become as feared a name amongst theater actors as “Macbeth.”

But the show went back to the drawing board, retooled, and relaunched. The result still wasn’t a critical darling, but people are going. This being the tourist season and all, they’re probably enjoying a bit of a bump due to all the people who want to see it just to say they were there. While I’m normally a cynical asshole and am quick to point the Finger of Doom at a project that doesn’t immediately take off and soar, I want “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” to be at least a financial success. Can’t really put my finger on “why,” though. I don’t have a personal stake in the production, nor do I know anyone in the show or working for it. Could be the fact that it’s Spider-Man and the comic book fan in me is rallying behind one of my demigods. Could be the fact that the show got beaten up in the press and I feel bad that it’s got such a deep hole to dig out of.

Or it could just be this song.

This is video from last night’s “Late Show with David Letterman.” The number features Patrick Page as the Green Goblin singing “A Freak Like Me Needs Company”, the opening song of the second act and far and away the best song on the soundtrack. Now, your musical and artistic tastes may vary from mine, but I gotta say, the song is awesome and seeing the Green Goblin costume/make-up move with the actor lessens some of the fanboy disgust I had with the design. I love the chorus melody, especially when a dozen people are singing and putting everything into it. “A Freak Like Me” is the big villain song in the show, Green Goblin stating his plan to turn everyone in New York into mutant freaks like him, and it helps when the villain’s manifesto sounds like it has a pair of Spaldings. To me, the whole show is worth it for the three minutes of that song.

Now, before you start commenting, yes I’m aware that there’s a lot about that number that can be criticized, especially from a comic book fan’s perspective. While I’m okay with how the Green Goblin looks (and Carnage for that matter, too), there is absolutely no excuse for what they did to the Lizard. They took the villain that fans will come to fear in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man movie and turned him into Nega-Barney. The choreography can be a little weak at times, but my expertise does not include being able to critique dance. Besides, I’m listening to the dancers, but my eyes are on Green Goblin, strutting around the stage like an evil marriage of Gene Simmons and a pickle.

I hope to see the show sometime soon and have a full opinion. From what I see now, putting my fandom aside, there are the makings for an okay musical here. The soundtrack has some decent moments (other highlights are “Pull the Trigger”, “DIY World”, and “If the World Should End”), the visuals can be both goofy and really cool, and it carries the same tried-and-true Spider-Man themes that carried three top-grossing movies. Plus, the tickets for a really good seat are still less than the crappiest “Book of Mormon” seat.

For the full song, edited to footage from the Spider-Man films, click below:

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REVIEW: Daredevil: Guardian Devil

Posted in Comic Books, Reviews by Chris W. on March 23, 2007

As a member of the movie community, I think I’m required to regard comic books as the redheaded cousin nobody likes to talk about. But I think everyone could benefit from a reading of Guardian Devil, as it’s one of the best story arches I’ve read in a long time.

For those uninitiated, I’ll briefly summarize. The story is about Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, who’s senses are super-humanly heightened as a result of his handicap and spends his nights as vigilante Daredevil. At the start of the book, Murdock is paid a visit by a woman who asks him to tend for her (immaculately conceived) baby, as she’s being pursued by bad people, and she believes her child to be the Savior of mankind.  As difficult as this is to accept, another person visits the following day to tell Matt that the child is in fact the Antichrist, and will bring pain and death to whomever comes in contact with it. As Murdock tries to solve the mystery of who this child really is, his world is systematically decimated, nearly driving him to insanity, suicide, but only increasing his resolve to get to the bottom of the case.

The above paragraph certainly didn’t do the story justice. Penned by lifetime comic book fan Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith), the story balances enough insider comic-trivia to keep fans like me in an aroused state throughout its duration. I polished the whole thing off within two hours, and never stopped once, despite a bus ride, and elevator trip, and a nagging amount of homework. While Smith is more known for writing about convenience store clerks and a lovable duo of drug dealers, he shows that he can get by without using four letter words or lengthy discussions on the proper way to perform oral sex. And the story is fabulous, escalating like a great episode of 24, and (in terms of plot) tighter than a Buddy Rich drum solo. The only gripe I had about it was the final step in the plot, where, since the plot is so complex and multi-layered, once the big reveal is given, you have to re-explain the entire plot in order to show how the villain accomplished it. It’s a very James Bond-ish plot device, and somewhat dangerous to your enjoyment. I know that Smith has to tie up all the loose ends and such, but a lengthy monologue may not have been the best way to go.

The artwork is very modern cartoon artwork. When I read Daredevil issues today, the style of the current artist is very gothic anime. But Joe Quesada (current Editor in Chief at Marvel) has a style that reminds me of the old time Marvel artists, like Jack Kirby or John Romita. The muscles aren’t too accentuated and everything feels realistic. Karen Page’s breasts seemed to have a lot of attention paid to them, but I think that was Smith’s influence more than anything (just kidding.) Quesada also has a great way of panelling the page, lots of times with the background of the page being one frame and lots of little frames put on top of it. It’s cool, but at times it gets confusing and you don’t know which  panel to read next.

Final Judgment: 4 Fanboys out of 5

Guardian Devil is a great book, and a must read for any comic book fan. Stories like this are the kind that get me excited about reading comics again. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up right now. I mean right now. Don’t worry about the website; It’ll still be here tomorrow. Go!