David S. Goyer seems to have an idea for a comics character reboot. And it begins with that most fundamental of tenets: going back to the basics of the character.
The very basics.
In recent a Podcast of Scriptnotes, presented and recorded before a live audience, the film director, comic book writer, screenwriter and self-professed “comic book fanatic” was given a spontaneous reboot pitch challenge by screenwriters and podcast hosts Jon August and Craig Mazin. He was not the only screenwriter presented with the reboot challenge. Andrea Berloff, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who were also part of Scriptnotes’ aptly named “The Summer Superhero Spectacular” panel also had to choose superheroes at random to make an imagined pitch and appeal to an eager audience.
Yet while they had to settle for poking fun at amplifying and ridiculing the angst of Spiderman (an oldy, but a goody), selling others on the merits of the Incontinent Hulk, keeping Ororo Munroe–or Storm– in Africa and limiting her elemental powers to an uncontrollable “Carrie-level” of temper-tantrum, and sowing some creative confusion as to whether or not Wonder Woman really should protect her ancient Greek roots in the Southern American Amazonian rainforest, Goyer took his innovation a step further.
He got the Marvel superhero Jennifer Walters–She-Hulk–to reboot. Goyer didn’t waste any time. Faster than a speeding bullet of Kryptonite, Goyer cut to the heart of the matter. He ignored all the superfluous details of continuity added to the character throughout the years: her painfully obvious intellect, the fact that she was a lawyer for Heroes for Hire and the Superhuman Law division of the New York law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, & Holliway, her tendency to break the fourth wall in order to let the reader know that she was a character in a comic book, and the fact that her transformation through a Gamma-irradiated blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner brought out her own natural assertiveness and self-confidence with an integrated personality instead of a propensity towards anger and destruction.
No, instead Goyer came right to the point of origin. He explained in some detail that She-Hulk is a female shadow of the Incredible Hulk–you know, the pre-reboot one that still has control over his basic bodily functions–who captures all the sexy musculature of the Hulk without challenging the sexuality of pre-pubescent boys. As Goyer himself put it, She-Hulk is “a giant green porn star.”
But that is just the starting point and she is much more complicated than that. Goyer goes on to explain to the audience that if all pre-pubescent boys identify with the Hulk’s strength and muscles, then the idealized, or fetishized She-Hulk is the woman “that only the Hulk could fuck.” If you are not the Hulk, however, you can’t fuck her and she will break you. You know, ignoring the fact that She-Hulk had lovers that were both superhuman and ordinary men she had varying degrees of affection for–who were not at least physically broken–this statement would be absolutely true. And after all, fanboys would surely know that in order to have any real chance with She-Hulk, they’d have to relate to her, I mean literally to be related to her.
You know, like Bruce Banner: Jennifer’s cousin, the one who gave her that life-saving Gamma-radiated blood transfusion, and the very person who actually is the Incredible Hulk.
However, Goyer seemed to have a rather ingenious solution to this conundrum. It came after Martian Manhunter was chosen. After Goyer made sure to ask if anyone in the audience knew who the superhero was and then took some extra time to voice his concerns in asking “How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?” he proceeded to afford Martian Manhunter some of the same courtesies that he had gifted the character of She-Hulk.
He went right to the root of the issue: putting aside the fact that J’onn J’onzz had a whole life and family on his home world before becoming a survivor of his entire race’s genocide, that he adopted his identity and even the idea of being a Martian through being exposed to Ray Bradbury’s stories, to shapeshifting into a human just so that he could help others and no longer feel lonely, and was a founding member of the Justice Society of America (the Justice League’s predecessor) in order to critique the Martian part of his superhero identity and his “overpowered nature” in spite of his inherent weakness to fire.
Goyer’s reboot treatment solution was therefore two-fold. He decided to make Manhunter, as he’d like to call him, something angry and green grown out of a petri dish (perhaps with some influences from the aforementioned Hulk and Swamp Thing) with the sole purpose of, get this:
That’s right ladies, gentlemen and other beings throughout the universes. Apparently with his ongoing work on Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice weighing heavily on his mind, Goyer decided to kill two birds with one stone because, after all, what is a combination reboot and crossover other than an excuse for pornography?
But now let me talk about something a lot less serious than David S. Goyer’s ad hoc collaborations with the panel on Scriptnotes. I’m not a screenwriter or even a comics writer, so consider this an uneducated opinion. I do think that while it’s almost excusable for a panel of writers presumably involved in the Hollywood industry to generally not know what they’re talking about outside their own medium of film–save for the asinine manner in which they are making fun the fandom around the comics medium they clearly do not understand–I do think there is something very unprofessional in a comics writer and script writer of comics-based movies denigrating not just two franchises (including one that he’s already in the process of working with), but the people who love them.
Then again, I could be wrong. I mean I’m also not a woman so perhaps I might be wrong in thinking there is something terribly wrong with making fun of a powerful female character who might have started out from sexist origins but has attained some sense of self-agency with her love life and career, but hey: I’m not a woman. I’m also not a pre-pubescent fanboy. Or green for that matter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, right?
I mean, I only have a few modest ideas of my own. After all, a screenplay where Jennifer Walters is shot, only to be saved by her cousin, having to struggle with her personal life, adjust to her powers, her apprehensions, and her newfound nature that’s really always been inside of her while the news media calls her She-Hulk does seem pretty amateurish. It’s just like my idea of J’onn having his own movie where he has to deal with the loss of his people and, perhaps as Goyer suggests, he is reconstructed in a military laboratory from basic building blocks of life, becomes a detective later after his escape and gets a partner that calls him the Martian Manhunter because of his zeal and his love for reading Bradbury fiction. He is, however, afraid of Fahrenheit 451 because if there’s anything that the Martian Manhunter knows, it’s definitely not a pleasure to burn.
But no. I’m probably wrong. Green crossover porn would be so much more interesting. Did I mention that I’m looking very much forward to Goyer’s work in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice? And The Sandman movie?
For some more interesting insights into the Scriptnotes Podcast, please read Alan Kistler’s article on the matter in the Mary Sue. And if you’d like more information on She-Hulk, you might also appreciate Kistler’s Mary Sue article Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. – Gamma Ray Glamor With She-Hulk: Part 1!
And please listen to the original Scriptnotes Podcast Episode 144: The Summer Superhero Spectacular. 28: 14 on the track is where the rebooting fun begins.