The start of a new year is a time for looking forward - and as a fan of Comic book movies and shows, there's definitely lots I'm excited for in 2015. But looking back on the last year, I find myself hoping that all the Comic loveliness ahead of us remembers one of the best lessons learned in 2014: it's okay to be fun.
Comic Book adaptations have long been dogged by the spectre of having to look 'serious' to appeal to a wider audience. Christopher Nolan's template for Batman etched out over the Dark Knight trilogy is perhaps the obvious turning point most people think of when it comes to this ethos - and it definitely made a mark on things like Warner Bros.' approach to Superman in Man of Steel for example, or even arguably in the approach the CW took with Arrow. But it's a reputation that stretches far back to even the Keaton/Burton Batman that essentially kicked off the era of Comic Book movies, this perpetual chip on the shoulder that in order to sell these characters to people, creators had to eschew any sort of silly, overtly-comic-booky aspects of them. These characters had to be mature. They had to be serious. And it's not just a DC thing either - even Marvel's own movies, which are lighter in tone, haven't really been that jokey or light hearted - funny in a different way, with the trademark snark of the likes of Tony Stark becoming their way to loosen up a little.
But then 2014 happened, and some of the best Comic Book media we got - Guardians of the Galaxy and The Flash - and they weren't just great, but they were positively joyful. They relished in their nature as comic book creations, completely owned that aspect of themselves and were never afraid to have fun. Not only that, they were confident in that tone as well, where a lack of confidence in that approach could have easily scuppered either of them. It's kind of ridiculous that it took so long for this to happen, but it did, and it was incredibly refreshing. The boundless enthusiasm of a hero like Grant Gustin's Barry Allen, or the general happy go-lucky vibe of the Guardians, in the face of the adversaries they come across, feels like such a breath of fresh air in a sea of much darker heroes - or funnier heroes trapped in darker, more melodramatic stories (see Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). And the fact they were both massive successes was a much needed jolt to the long held belief by some that heroes have to always find themselves in dark worlds with dire consequences - especially if they're making the transition from the pages of comic books to film or TV. If anything, by choosing to embrace that lighter, comic-book sort of fun made them more admirable - unafraid of staying true to their nature, and coming out better for it.
Now, this is not to say that this is an approach that works for every character or property being adapted - The Walking Dead is one of the biggest comic book shows on TV and it's hardly laugh-a-minute fare - or that all comic book adaptations have to be light hearted. After all last year we also had X-Men: Days of Future Past and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both great comic book films, with entirely serious stories without much humour between (there was obviously still some of course, but both are still tonally very different to the likes of Guardians and Flash). It's no bad thing - but what these adaptations need to remember that it doesn't have to be all one side or the other, like it has been. There's room for the serious and the joyful together. It's just that it feels like it's only been recently that Comic Book media has started to embrace having fun with itself, so hopefully going into 2015 and beyond we'll see more of that side coming out.
We've definitely got opportunities for that sort of thing this year too. There's the rest of The Flash's first season to play out, but I think there's room for a little light heartedness in things like Agent Carter or maybe even Daredevil - Matt Murdock has always had a sort of swashbuckling sense of humour to him, even amongst his darker aspects - then there's big-screen chances like Ant-Man, and in a roundabout way, Fantastic Four as well (although what little we've seen so far does little to help me think they're going to embrace the lighter hearted side of the FF, in all honesty). If there's anything Comic Book media learns from what was a pretty stellar 2014, it's that it's okay to have a bit of fun.
It doesn't always have to be a laugh and a joke - there's plenty of time for serious drama, and there will be with the return of Arrow, Agents of SHIELD and the arrival of Age of Ultron. But likewise, it doesn't have to be that way all of the time. Watching a comic book show or movie that revels in its own fun and joyfulness can be good for the soul - I hope we get to see that more often this year.
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