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Superheroes everywhere! I am living the dream

December 3, 2014

In 2003, my then-boyfriend, my bestie, and I went to the movies. I don’t remember if we brought my daughter, who was then about six. I don’t think so. We went to see X2. We had loved X-Men, but the rumors for X2 were that it was going to be focused on Jean, and I was especially excited. I’d grown up on the Spider-Man cartoons, Superfriends, Batman: The Animated series, and the X-Men cartoon in high school. Jeph Loeb’s stories, especially Hush, were about to bring me back into the DC comic universe, with Identity Crisis solidifying that the next year. We didn’t have cable, but the occasional episodes I could catch of Justice League were impressive, and I would soon warm to the anime nods in Teen Titans. But there was something about the big screen, about real live people acting out these roles, that brought something out in me. Like I said, my daughter was six, and I was settling into the fact that pregnancy had changed something in me chemically and now I would tear up at the most ridiculous things. Nostalgia was the biggest trigger of all. And Jean Grey was my girl from way back.

When we left X2, I wasn’t the only one crying. I was the only one flat-out sobbing, but my big grouchy bestie was crying too. We weren’t just sad over the sacrifice of Jean Grey. We were also joyous about it. To see something that was such a huge part of my childhood being acted on screen was…amazing. Even though I was pinching every penny, I went right back to see that movie again with bestie, this time with a box of tissues.

Justice League Unlimited was an amazing show. Characters I’d never heard of, characters I’d barely heard of, and characters I’d loved since childhood were all there, on my television screen, cast superbly, written superbly. I became incredibly invested in the show and the expanded universe that had been created from that little show that could, Batman: The Animated Series. When JLU ended, I was heartbroken. But I had my comics. Everything in the DC comic universe was strong. I even went along with the really stupid time jump. (Time jumps were so “in” then, man.) My boyfriend and I broke up and money became even tighter, then stopped being there at all. I used the library to “keep up” with trades, but there was a gap. Sometimes a big one. Still, I was a fan. You couldn’t keep me from my superheroes.

In 2008, Iron Man came to the screen. Iron Man, and the Avengers in general, were not my jam. I mean, they were okay, in the right hands, but as a team, they were kinda boring compared to the X-Men or the Justice League. I’d read a few older runs and nothing had really attracted my interest except the Ultimates. Ultimate Spidey forever yes, Ultimate FF okayish, the Ultimates pretty good. Except I couldn’t keep up with it because the library didn’t order the trades. I knew Iron Man could end up being a good movie. I was a big RDJ fan from Ally McBeal (he made the show watchable again, when he wasn’t in jail and they had to awkwardly write around him) and especially from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I knew he was going to be great. But would the movie be great too? Edward Norton had been a great casting choice for the Incredible Hulk, but the movie itself was nothing to write home about. After all these years, I literally only remember one thing from the movie, and I’m sure if you’ve seen it you know exactly what I’m going to say.

The three of us: bestie, ex-bf, and I sat in that darkened theater. It was opening night, and it was mostly filled with comic book nerds and their reluctant girlfriends. There were these two black guys behind us, about our age, and as the movie began, we were all entranced by RDJ’s captivating performance. As my brain started screaming, “THIS IS IT THIS IS IT,” the guys behind us couldn’t hold back their excitement when Rhodey said, “Next time, baby,” and they yelled out “WAR MACHINE!!” I knew that excitement. That was my X2 Jean Grey’s death excitement all over again. (And it made me cry more because I was happy that they were happy. The stuff they don’t tell you about pregnancy, I swear to God.) That was a kind of fan excitement I hadn’t seen in the theater for Keaton’s Batman. And we all felt it. The theater was filled with excitement. I don’t think anyone left disappointed, even those people who had come as reluctant plus-ones.

“There’s something after the credits!” we called out to the people leaving afterward. Some left. Some stayed. We’d heard about it on the internet but not what it WAS. We waited. The screen went dark again. And then…

I screamed. No, seriously, I high-pitched, flat-out SCREAMED. I think I embarrassed my guys. THEY GOT SAMUEL L. JACKSON FOR NICK FURY JUST LIKE IN THE COMICS.

And here it was, the ultimate (oops, no pun intended) sign that the people making this movie, they knew who we were and they were after our hearts and wallets. Who else would freak out over that little scene but a comic book fan? I gave the MCU my heart willingly. I didn’t even love Thor, and Captain America was solidly great but no Iron Man, but it didn’t matter because the people making these movies had stopped fearing that people wouldn’t come see their movies if they geeked them out. Spidey had taught them that. X-Men and X2 had taught them that. If anything, we were getting older, and our disposable income was getting larger, and we were ready for them and they were ready for us. And they had a PLAN, a real plan. None of this X3/Spidey 3 shit. (Although I think Spidey 3 gets a badder rap than it deserves.) Everything culminated in The Avengers, a straight-out great movie that proved that a large cast is not the killer that everyone acts like it is. Dumbasses.

And then there was DC, getting its ass handed to them for Superman Returns, and I didn’t even bother with Green Lantern even though I love me some Ryan Reynolds, and oh God, don’t get me started on the mediocre Wolverine movie, and…and…

The MCU’s stock went way up (I mean figuratively but also, $$$), and supposedly the CW/DC had learned the hard way by the end of Smallville how to make a superhero TV show, and they took that lesson and concentrated on the small screen. Arrow, and now The Flash. Arrow is not a perfect show, but it immediately introduced a larger universe, the universe we’re all craving in live-action, and people are eating it up. The Flash, on the other hand, is just so great. I know people give it a hard time because of the CW drama, but suck it, you’re a comic book fan. All you read growing up was emotional drama, if you grew up when I did.

The episode “Flash vs. Arrow” last night, the first of a two-part crossover, made me feel like I was watching X2, or Iron Man, again. Part of it is the casting of the Flash himself, Grant Gustin. His huge grin when he sees Oliver was reflected on all our faces. He’s so geeky and happy and bright; he makes Ollie seem darker, but he also makes Ollie want to be a better person, and that’s wonderful. Watching the characters play off of one another is a nerdy dream come true, and that fight scene was just gorgeous. On top of that, you’ve got all these villains–even the dorky ones!–coming into play and it’s so awesome. Jesse Martin (another Ally McBeal alum, btw) is fantastic, and Tom Cavanaugh’s smarmy face is put to good use. (Is that just how his face is? Like, I think his mouth is just naturally turned up, so he always looks like he’s smiling at you even when he shouldn’t be.)

I’m already about to watch the episode again, and am super (heh) mad that I don’t have broadcast TV to watch the Arrow episode tonight. And then I have to wait for my husband to get home, argh! But can I really complain that much? I’m living the dream. It’s like the entertainment industry is catering to my every desire at this point (except for Laurel, but we’re just not getting into that). I wake up in the morning, and there’s Suicide Squad casting, for God’s sake! Is Gail Simone on that? Because she totes should be.

I’m so happy. I’m such a happy, happy nerd.

PS Felicity Smoak forever.

PPS Picture courtesy of the CW, obvs.

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