'All-Star Superman' will get animated. Does this mean we're finally done with gritty superheroes?

dark-knight-supermanImage Credit: Stephen Vaughan; DC ComicsThe formula for superhero movies hasn’t really changed that much since Bryan Singer’s X-Men ten years ago. Make it grim and gritty. Remove all primary colors. Tell the actors to scowl. Don’t put anyone in a costume unless you have to. The post-Matrix vogue for bleakly dystopian action movies merged with the post-Frank Miller trend of “realism” in comic books, and the result was Batman’s Alec-Baldwin-with-strep-throat voice.

Friends, there is another way. Look no further than Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s epic All-Star Superman, a miniseries that supercharges all the hokiest elements of an unabashedly hokey character – Bizarro talking funny! Time-traveling Superman from the future! Kryptonite in every color! Jimmy Olsen! – and becomes a funny, sad, world-beating epic. According to The Hollywood Reporter, All-Star Superman is next in line for DC’s well-regarded series of direct-to-DVD animated movies. (Christina Hendricks is voicing Lois Lane, and I’m already sweating.) A DVD-movie intended for kids ain’t exactly a blockbuster, but could we be witnessing the end of the Grim Superhero era?

Short answer: probably not. Captain America is set during World War II, and only Mel Brooks and Quentin Tarantino can get away with making funny movies about Nazis. Thor looks like hobo-Jesus with daddy issues. Speaking of daddy issues, The Green Hornet is shoehorning in a backstory about a disappointed father. But look farther out on the horizon, and you’ve got Avengers (directed by screwball-dialogue loving Joss Whedon) and X-Men: First Class, a purposefully retro treat (check out January Jones!) that seems like a purposeful rebuttal to the everybody-in-leather style of the original X trilogy.

Of course, there’s also Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie, which presumably will continue the franchise’s unremittingly grim streak. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I kinda like the Bat-voice. But going gritty has ruined some superheroes. Neither of the Punisher movies were as funny as they should have been. Ghost Rider just looked underlit. Hancock was chugging along as an enjoyable super-farce before the mid-movie twist turned it into a mock-tragic love story. Iron Man 2 sapped all the fun out of the original by turning Tony Stark into a tragic figure…with, yes, daddy issues.

PopWatchers, are you excited for superheroes who smile occasionally? Or do you prefer things bleak and hopeless? Should we just put these poor heroes in therapy? And has there been a comic yet about a superhero therapist? Because if not, TRADEMARK!

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • Josie

    I want to have the option to choose, and not be forced to watch only grim batman movies. I love them, don’t doubt that, but I’m also excited for the ‘holey rusted metal, batman’ jokes – cheesing it up. And of course, Joss, right in the middle, doin his thing.

  • Vic Nardozza

    All Star Superman was a great comic book series and the DVD version should be enjoyed by young and old alike.

  • therealeverton

    Iron Man II is superior to Iron Man on every level. There’s no new “dark side” To Tony in Iron Man II, it was all there in the first film and is a mjor part, if not THE major part of Tony Stark’s character in the comics. It’s one of the reasons, (the alcoholic, self destructive part) that Marvel fans thought Robert Downey Jnr was such perfect casting. Also how anyone can think that a Iron Man 2 had less fun than a film that had a mahor chunk of its run time set in a cave in the middle East with torturers and butchers I don’t know.

    “is that a helmet? Can you fit your head in there?… he can’t get his head in ther..” Awesome, all the scenes with Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell were comedy gold!

    • John

      Agreed. Wanted more action but it was a pretty funny film without being campy. And seeing how Spider-man 4(?) is going dark and gritty I guess I still have to wait for a wise-cracking Spider-man.

    • Brian

      The problem with IM2 is that it became more about the Avengers than Tony–Fury and Widow were pretty pointless.

  • Rion

    We live in a dark world–our superheroes should reflect that. The bright, fluffy superheroes are nonsense stuff for children.

    • BlackIrish4094

      So why shouldn’t they make some super hero stuff for children? You sound like you take this stuff too seriously. I love comics and there has always been room for both the lighthearted and serious stuff. You osund like you could use some lighthearted.

    • Brian

      Or maybe the world’s not just dark or light and a balance should be struck. There’s room for both light and dark heroes and a mix of the two.
      I’ve always felt that superheroes should be what we aspire to be, symbols of hope and light in that dark world you’re talking about.
      And when you go too realistic, like Watchmen, Kick-Ass, or TDK, it sucks the fun, ‘magic,’ and hope out of it; “superheroes” become nothing more than thugs and cops who dress up in costumes and kill people.
      I liked “Batman Begins,” but the Burton movies were better, especially the first one. Those actually felt like superhero movies and have an indefinable “cool” that the best, iconic superheroes have. And TDK is not a superhero movie, IMO: you can’t make a good superhero movie by removing all the superhero aspects from it. That’s cheating and TDK feels more like a cop/mafia movie with a guy in a suit than a superhero movie.
      Just because it’s “light” doesn’t mean it’s just for kids. Adults don’t have to be depressed all the time.

  • Jay

    I see the merits of both, but I have to admit… I enjoy the gritty style a bit more. It makes for a more enjoyable theater experience.
    And I’m not sure I ever wanted the Punisher movies to be “funny”. I enjoyed War Zone immensly. Not because I thought it was a great story or anything… it was just fun. Lots and lots of violent fun. (Which is all I’ve ever wanted from The Punisher)

  • steelerdaddy

    There is a superhero therapist…Doc Samson, a recurring character in the “Hulk” comics.

  • BlackIrish4094

    You know that Bale’s Batman voice had more to do with sounding like the animated Kevin Conroy voice than a trend to darker superheroes? Not saying the article is incorrect but the Batman voice is a seperate case.

    • Brian

      Keaton’s Batman voice is closer to Conroy’s and probably inspired it (like many aspects of the Burton movies). Bale’s is a growl.

  • g

    Despite what Hollywood shows us, comic book characters have always been multi-facted.

  • mtraptor

    The Fantastic Four movies weren’t especially grim, were they? Neither were the Spider-Man movies. Especially SM3, which I actually loved.

  • darclyte

    If anyone reading this hasn’t yet seen it, go out and buy, rent, or get from On Demand, NetFlix, RedBox, the last DC Comics Direct DVD that was released called Batman:Under the Red Hood. It might be the best one of all of them (including the Marvel DVD Directs.) I wouldn’t advise allowing small children to watch it, especially the opening sequence. But really, do yourself a favor and watch Batman:Under the Red Hood. Holy Schnikes it was awesome!

    • therealeverton

      It is excellent, certainly the best DC animated Batman since Mask of The Phantasm. And yes, even better than the Marvel DVD movies, although Batman has long been the lone DC ranger when it comes to chanllenging Marvel.

    • Katja

      Oh my goodness, yes. My husband and I watched it this summer and I thought it was really good. This coming from a girl who never especially cared for superheroes until she married a comic book geek.

  • Brian

    I don’t think the “non-grim” heroes ever went away (and if they had, a Direct to DVD movie wouldn’t change it). Like others have mentioned, there’s the Spidey films, the Fantastic Four films, Incredible Hulk was pretty fun, and Iron Man. And on TV, Smallville’s been around with a hopeful Superman for 10 years now.

  • Laura W

    I like grim superhero movies they give the comic world a interesting noir look. But yes I would like to see them smile once in awhile. A teen titans movie would be nice for that!

    • therealeverton

      Ah yes, DC’s answer to the X-Men & New Mutants. As long s we get the Puffy Ami Yumi theme tune! 1-2-3-4-Go!

  • tracy bluth

    Petition for Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane and Jon Hamm as Superman please!!!!!!!!

  • Otaku-sempai

    The direct-to-video animated super-hero movies haven’t had much impact on theatrical trends. I don’t see ALL-STAR SUPERMAN changing that.

  • Gem

    In what universe is Iron Man 2 a grim movie? Seriously, that movie was a lot of fun. Even when there was that tiny bit of angst it was still entertaining to watch. And if you’ve ever read the comics you’ll know that Iron Man’s all about the angst as much as it’s about the babes, suits and technobabble.

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