Our local paper called for the top three comic book characters in film--and, while Superman deserves always to appear on such a list, I decided to make room for smaller fry--but worthy entrants, as ironic-satiric as they may be.
The author of the autobiographical comic American Splendor, Pekar was played by Paul Giamatti (and himself) in a 2003 film that re-defines the term “comic book hero.” Dour, frustrated, suspicious that Something is catching up to him (and he’s always right), able to outrage David Letterman and inspire Robert Crumb, Pekar emerges as the nerd-world Superman (not that Superman himself doesn’t already hold that title), able to leap postmodern angst with a single, ragged sigh.
From cliffhanger serial to High Camp TV to Tim Burton’s/ChristopherNolan’s take on the Dark Knight, Batman has endured all manner of violence—more to his character than his body—but manages to soldier on. Burton and Nolan, in particular (with help from Michael Keaton and Christian Bale), have done the most to deepen/broaden the Bat-myth.
The 1999 film, based on Bob Burden’s comic, not only spoofs the superhero genre but contributes to it, with a welcome eagerness to allow anybody to enter the pantheon, as long as you can stay in character. As The Shoveller (William H. Macy) put it, “We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering.” Now, isn’t that super?
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