WriteMovies Director Ian Kennedy explores the works of Stan Lee and why superhero stories unleash our imaginations better than any other kind of stories…
At the heart of every superhero story is a central question that fires our imaginations every time, and nobody took it further than Stan Lee. The extraordinary array of well-known characters he brought into the world, which return again and again across many formats and platforms, is testament to that.
Cosmic stories like the creation of the universe are just too big to really relate to as stories, at least in the scientific telling – but many mythologies and religions make these stories relatable by ascribing these vast events to recognisably humanized figures. Gods like Zeus/Jupiter and Odin/Woden are presented like more powerful versions of human beings, able to shape the world with their powers and the sometimes arbitrary logic of their choices and lives; ancient heroes like Hercules and Beowulf are humans but given extra powers or significance. Superhero stories are clearly following in this tradition – and grasp towards almighty powers at times (DOCTOR STRANGE, CAPTAIN MARVEL, The Phoenix in X-Men).
By bringing these forces down (or up – SPIDER-MAN!) to our scale, we get to explore how people like us would act if they were capable of so much more than we are. It’s no coincidence that the modern superhero genre and many of its biggest characters have their origins in the Great Depression – when ordinary people were powerless against global economic forces. The flimsy justifications that the storytellers find for giving these figures their powers, are really just an excuse to let our imaginations run riot, and are quickly delivered and forgotten about in most of the origin stories, so that we can get onto the fun and exciting bit.
Nobody grasped the potential of these stories more, or took them further, than Stan Lee and the teams of writers and illustrators and filmmakers who he has worked with – the list of now-famous characters he created is vast. But at the heart of all these stories is just one very powerful central question, which is deceptively simple but really fires our imaginations. “What would you do if you could…?”
Superheroes and supervillains both play out these powers and their potentials and hazards throughout every story. Here are some of our favorites at WriteMovies from Stan Lee’s creations.
If you could… move and sling webs like a spider!
On the one hand, Peter Parker is just an ordinary teenager, worried about the same kind of things as any other teenager – on the other, he finds himself equipped with the awesome powers that make him SPIDER-MAN. We can all relate to his troubles at school while rooting for him to become a true superhero as he learns an important lesson: “with great power comes great responsibility”.
If you could… fly around in an armored suit!
IRON MAN’s Tony Stark is basically another Bruce Wayne, but with much quirkier personality. As an outright arms manufacturer, he’s also more morally compromised than Wayne. While Wayne has an orphan sob-story, Stark has an ego. And unleashing an ego that size, on a suit that powerful, creates excellent conflict throughout – so much so that in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, he can fight against many of our other heroes, without losing our empathy.
If you could… use you other senses to fight despite being blind!
DAREDEVIL has found immense success on Netflix, and with good reason. Matt Murdock is a deep, conflicted character, living in a world of darkness after being blinded as a child. With his other senses heightened, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is so captivating because he doesn’t just overcome his physical disability but turns it into a strength, proving that anyone – even someone who is blind – can become a superhero.
If you could… shrink to the size of an ant!
Scott Lang may be a former criminal, but his desire to reform himself makes us support him all the same. As ANT-MAN, he proves that even the smallest person can make a huge difference – and all while showing us a crazy world around us too small for us to even see!
Stan Lee has given us plenty of amazing creations over the years, and the world is a lesser place without him. Take a look too at our thoughts on two films based on his other superheroes, THOR: RAGNAROK and BLACK PANTHER!
With the recent announcement of a BLACK PANTHER sequel, we look at why this will be a good thing for superhero films.
They are just not going away. Disney, Marvel, DC, and any other company making superhero films will continue to make them. They just make too much damn money. At least, in the case of BLACK PANTHER and its potential sequels, we might be going in the right direction.
BLACK PANTHER shows us cinema currently evolving. It has a strong black lead (and incredible supporting cast) and it has very sparing references to the wider MCU, almost making it a standalone film. We’ve written why both of these things already, so go check those two articles out! (Links below…) But in short, BLACK PANTHER allows black audiences, regardless of nationality, gender, religion, etc. to relate to a superhero character, for almost the first time. Sure, Blade and Storm (X-MEN) kinda count, but this is the first time that a superhero film has had a majority black cast, and the reaction to the film has been great. This has been a rare film where both critics and audiences agree on how good this film is. And now the film has even surpassed $500 million at the Box-Office – overseas! (Over $1 billion worldwide, which is just as incredible).
But BLACK PANTHER really sums up the way cinema, and specifically superhero films, is going. Black leads are becoming more prominent and production companies can bank on black actors more and more. But I particularly like BLACK PANTHER because it was essentially a standalone film. You don’t need to have seen IRON MAN, CIVIL WAR (which was Black Panther’s live-action debut), or any other Marvel flick to understand what’s going on with this film – and that’s great. Marvel seems to be adapting and evolving and moving away from every film being inherently connected – and that’s just fine with us!
Read more about BLACK PANTHER’s Box-Office success here: http://deadline.com/2018/03/black-panther-china-tomb-raider-wrinkle-in-time-international-box-office-weekend-results-1202334223/
Read about why scripts with black leads are big right now here and why it might be time for superhero films to stand alone here.
With the success of MOONLIGHT, GET OUT and many more, just why exactly are black leads in films and script in right now?
We’ve been noticing a trend recently among the leads and protagonists for films – more and more successful flicks have leading black characters. It seems like maybe the current state of the States is why these films are growing so well.
As well as Oscar winner MOONLIGHT, this year has seen the likes of GET OUT, which became the highest-grossing debut film of all time. Directed by Jordan Peele, and starring Daniel Kaluuya. A black director and black lead – this film shows the appetite for movies that tackle the issues of black identity in America in new and distinctive ways.
Halle Berry and Sam Jackson have both been driving forces this summer, but they’re already well-established black actors. The big one, for me, is Idris Elba in THE DARK TOWER. Originally in Stephen King’s books, Elba’s character, the Gunslinger, was white. Now people may complain about this being PC, but this shows the pull and power of black actors such as Elba that a studio is willing to alter a character’s race to positively benefit the film.
The new black led superhero film, BLACK PANTHER, is also coming soon and this represents how strong commercially black actors and black led scripts and films are becoming. Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington have all been big names for years now. You can even go back to the 70s when Pam Grier was a mainstay in Blaxploitation cinema – this was hugely popular back in the day. But now more than ever, black actors are headlining huge Hollywood films.
Read more on black actors heating up the Summer scene here: http://www.eurweb.com/2017/08/stay-cool-this-summer-as-these-black-actors-heat-up-the-scene/
Based on the quality of the scripts and their commercial potential, our last two Grand Prize winners have coincidentally been black-led scripts – but then, maybe the extra edge of having a black lead helped dynamize these scripts in our eyes. For example, let’s look at our Spring 2017 and Winter 2016 Contest Grand Prize winners, RINGMASTER by Tory Williams and BLACKOUT.COM by Ruben Bush III.
Here’s their loglines…
RINGMASTER: “An African-American student enters an underground MMA tournament to pay his way through college.”
BLACKOUT.COM: “Two young African-American men find a unique and dangerous way to handle white supremacists and help their community.”
We believe these are particularly prescient scripts and concepts. And as our Elite Script Mentors Bobby Lee Darby and Nathan Brookes say “scripts with black leads are big right now”. Considering the current social, cultural, and political climate, we’d like to think that with the right script development support paying off, these scripts are right on the money.
If you have a black protagonist in your script – now is the time to get it out there – and with just over a week to go in our Summer Contest you can trust that we’d give it the attention it deserves.
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© WriteMovies 2017