While I’ll Hate to Admit It, I Pick You, Mr. Wayne
I have a somewhat strange relation when it comes to comics and comic book heroes. Despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of mostly Marvel characters and stories, I’ve never actually read a comic.
Strange, I know.
When I was younger, I visited the orthodontist on a pretty regular basis. Unlike most people I know, the orthodontist was by far my favorite doctor-who-puts-things-in-your-mouth (because there are a lot of those…?), helped in part by the fact that the office was located down the street from the Barre comic book shop. Now again, I’ve still never read a comic book, but in those days I was into collecting trading cards and every visit to the orthodontist meant another chance for a few packs of cards. Over the years my preference for cards fluctuated between baseball (my first trading card exposure), Pokemon (because I was a kid of the 90s) and Marvel superheroes. While I was pretty meticulous with baseball and Pokemon (I had every card from the 1999 Topps MLB series, and have a vast majority of the original 150 Pokemon) my collection of Marvel cards seemed to be more of what looked interesting that week vs. trying to have some reason in my purchases. I had cards that were meant for an actual card game, I had cards that created comic pages on their reverse side when you lined up the correct ones together, and other miscellaneous styles, artists, and series.
While I can’t really say what was going through my mind at that time, looking back over my cards brings to my mind a few things. For starters, I was not a fan of DC comics. I respect Batman with every fiber in my being as a true hero, but Superman seemed corny and unbalanced as far as powers went, and after that I really didn’t give any attention to others (I apologize for my younger self Flash and Green Lantern, for not at least giving you a chance). I also know that from my childhood, my favorite Marvel heroes were Gambit and Iron Man. Gambit was more of a love affair in the sense that he was the smooth talking french-cajun, who slung a deck of playing cards as a weapon. To me, pretending to be able to fling fire cards like Gambit was a great way to put my imagination to use. Iron Man was for me the Marvel equivalent of Batman: neither was born a mutant or with superpowers, but through the uses of their technology and wealth created personas to help others in need. And of course like most Marvel characters, Tony Stark was real in the sense that he did take the lives of evil doers and he did have personal problems just like any other human.
Flash forward now to the age of the big screen. I loved “Iron Man”. Hands down my favorite superhero movie. After that though, I hand it off to the new Dark Knight saga. I’ve now seen every pre-Avengers movie (“Captain America” the most recent, and easily second best to “Iron Man” as far as Marvel movies go) and both of Nolan’s Batman so far, and while next summer will be a fun summer for sure, I have to admit that “The Dark Knight Rises” will be bigger than “The Avengers”, and I’m actually looking forward to it more.
It’s not that both movies won’t be great. Casts for both are pretty unbelievable, with “The Avengers” touting Downy Jr. (my boy), Evans, Hemsworth, new man Ruffalo (no offense, but Norton will be missed), Renner, Johansson, Jackson, and even Smulders (great pickup for “How I Met Your Mother” fans) and Bettany (who voices Jarvis, but is a great actor). But I’m afraid to say Batman gets the slight edge in that category with Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman, Hardy, Hathaway (Hathaway vs Johansson, what a battle), Gordon-Levitt, and (rumored) Neeson.
Then there’s also the director battle. For “The Avengers” Marvel has brought in Joss Whedon, who in this case will be battling Christopher Nolan. Of what I’ve seen, there’s nothing that Whedon has created or directed that I haven’t liked (“Firefly”and “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” are my favorites), but his works have mainly been TV shows, while Nolan has impressive big screen credentials (“Momento”, “The Prestige”, “Inception”, and of course the other Batman movies). It also plays into Nolan’s favor that the Dark Knight saga is his, he’s done it all the way through and will continue to produce what we have come to expect. Whedon on the other hand inherits characters from 4 different directors and many different writers, but does have Stan “the man” Lee their for consulting.
One final battle is, well, the battles themselves. From what has been released so far for “The Dark Knight Rises”, we know that Bane will be a villain. We don’t know how much of Catwoman there will be and in what manner, and it’s only rumored at this point that Neeson would return as Ra’s Al Ghul, although if he did that would clinch it. “The Avengers” on the other hand, seem to be facing off against Loki, Thor’s brother and really the only villain of any of the previous movies who wasn’t killed off by the end. I realise that this is how the original 1960s Avengers began (more or less), and while I won’t rule out that there could be another villain in the mix, at this point I’m not too thrilled about another battle with Loki. Personally, Thor and his realm are my least favorite, mostly because the other Avengers are all real people who became enhanced one way or another other, while he’s a Norse God. While needing a “super being” to be the villain makes sense when he has to face off against a team of superheroes, I really hope Loki assembles his own team or plays it so some of the Avengers turn on each other (only to reunite at the last minute for dramatic effect!).
With all those things in mind, I have to admit that Batman will be the bigger movie of the 2012 summer. Both movies, however, will be great in their own ways, and really it’ll be a great time for comic geeks, casual fans, and the general public.