As a kid growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I remember always hoping for two things to happen. One, for my favourite Boston-area sport teams (Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins) to win championships and, two, for the Marvel Comics’ characters I followed, as an avid comic collector, to get a proper big – or even little – screen treatment.
Neither happened for me as a youth; save for an OK Hulk treatment on CBS in the late 70s and early 80s. Yeah, it hasn’t held up well in the years since but, for its time, it was as good as it was going to get and, really, what fantasy action shows have held up well over the years?
As I reached adulthood in the 90s, the drought continued but, as we moved from the 20th to the 21st century, that all changed, starting with the first X-Men movie in 2000 and the Patriots upsetting the then St. Louis Rams – the so-called ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ – in Super Bowl XXXVI, after the 2001 NFL season.
And, wow, has it ever changed.
The Pats have won four more Super Bowls since to become one of the greatest, if not the greatest, dynasty in the history of the NFL. In dramatic fashion, the Red Sox ended one of the longest championship droughts in the history of the MLB in 2004 and have since added three more titles; including one this past fall.
Even the Bruins, in 2011, slipped in a Stanley Cup victory amidst strong runs by Chicago and Los Angeles.
And still, even if the Pats had won the other three Super Bowls they played in this century, and the Bruins the other Cup final they played in versus the Blackhawks, nothing could match the success of the Marvel characters in movies.
As I write this, the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie won the weekend box office battle with an impressive $35.5 million and did so with an even more impressive 97 per cent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. At the same time, the trailer for the fourth Avengers film – Avengers: Endgame – is breaking viral records for viewings.
This all tops off a year when films Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther and Deadpool 2 were both critical and financial successes while Ant-Man and the Wasp and Venom enjoyed one but not so much the other (good critical reception for Ant-Man and the Wasp, financial for Venom).
It’s an astounding run of success for any studio and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down as major films – the aforementioned Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel – are already building up massive momentum, despite being months away from being released.
Of course, 2018 will also be remembered at the year Marvel lost its real-life hero as the great Stan Lee passed away last month.
The co-creator of such iconic characters as Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron-Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, the Black Panther, Black Widow Hawkeye … the list goes on and on, Lee was famous to this generation for making comedic cameos in the Marvel movies.
When I collected comics, it was just after the time he stopped writing and being editor-in-chief for Marvel Comics, turning over most of those duties to Roy Thomas who would go on to fashion his own impressive legacy of amazing creations.
Still, Lee remained the face of Marvel Comics, and it was way back then he started working on what took decades to achieve – getting those characters in live-action features on the big and small screens (there had already been plenty of cartoons starring his characters, to varying degrees of success).
I don’t think even Lee could ever have dreamed of the success his characters would eventually achieve.
Marvel on Netflix
Of course too, it wasn’t all success for the company in 2018 as Netflix started cancelling their shows involving Marvel characters; starting with Iron Fist, then Luke Cage and finally, my favourite, Daredevil.
Jessica Jones and the Punisher are likely to follow as their respective third and second seasons conclude in 2019. It’s unfortunate because the cancellations have nothing to do with quality or viewership and everything to do with Disney, which owns Marvel, starting their own streaming business that will be in direct competition with Netflix.
Losing the Daredevil show is definitely the hardest to swallow for me since it, in my view, even more so than any of the depiction of characters in the movies (sorry Robert Downey Jr.), really captured the essence of the characters, led by actor Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin.
Mind you, not the Daredevil as co-created by Lee and Bill Everett in the early 1960s (Lee, showing his age, would say he was inspired by Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling characters in creating Daredevil); more the early 80s version rendered by Frank Miller, which remains one of best runs of any comic book series.
Hardened by the real-life crime which plagued New York City at the time, Miller wrote and drew Daredevil in a gritty film-noir crime-story style, which resonated deeply with readers and was imitated by creators throughout the industry.
It was obvious the creators of the Daredevil Netflix series were fans of the work and remain true to it during the three seasons of the show. Its average Rotten Tomatoes score is 91 per cent, season one (99) and three (96) brought down by the lesser season two (79).
It would be great to see some reminisce of the show saved, but it sounds like show business red tape is going to achieve what Kingpin, Bullseye, the Hand, Elektra and the Punisher could not, eliminate the Man Without Fear.