Michael Davis is an artist, writer, mentor, entertainment executive and co-founder of Milestone. He writes,
The granddaddy of all comic book Oscar nominations up to now is The Black Panther for Best Picture and Heath Ledger's win for best supporting actor in 2009. Movies from the superhero genre are the ugly stepchild of the entertainment industry. Almost no love is given during awards season that isn't for some tech stuff. Joker changed all that. The most nominations of any film this year with eleven and in the important categories to boot.
If you think about it DC's Joker has been the most celebrated character from the comics to make it in Hollywood. It's easy to see why. Superman. Batman. Thor, Spider-Man, any hero of that ilk it's always going to be about that character, not the actor. An actor really doesn't play Batman or Spider-Man as much as they play Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker.
Batman will always be more important to the film than any actor who plays him. George Clooney and Ben Affleck, two of the biggest actors working today, learned that the hard way. The character of the Joker is different. He's the type of oddball of a thing actors love. An actor can make Joker his own.
What's the difference between the buzz on Joker as opposed to the other comic book Oscar contender, Black Panther? Black Panther was never going to win Best Picture; it was too close to the source material too much like the comic. Joker has a real shot.
Hollywood has no respect for the source material if it comes from comics. Yes, comic book movies are a lot closer to the source materials than years passed. Case in point the 1989 Punisher movie starring Dolph Lundgren, Mr. Lundgren did not wear the Punisher costume. That was a thing in old Superhero movies. Steel staring Shaquille O'Neal featured a horrible costume that didn't feature the Superman "S." Louise Simonson's character was created as a Black Superman. When Doomsday killed Superman, he was one of the heroes who stepped in to replace the Man of Steel.
Fun Fact: Quincy Jones, Steel's producer originally wanted Milestone's Hardware for a Black superhero film. "Q" as he's called in the industry met with Milestone and was about to leave with Hardware as his pick. That is until a Milestone founder decided Q should "…meet our partners at DC Comics." There he was introduced to Steel as a character.
At the time, I was livid and said so. Why would anyone steer Quincy Jones towards DC Comics? They have Steel, and Steel wears the 'S'. Exactly what I was afraid would happen did. Q decided to do Steel and just like that Milestone is screwed. But it was our own fault. Yeah, it's possible Q would have found out about Steel but he came to US looking to US for a hero.
"Oh, hey sexy person! What's that, you find me attractive? You came here looking for me? You want me? Cool! You wanna be alone with me? GREAT! Let me just go get my movie star friend who happens to really dig people like you who has much more to offer than me."
Said no one EVER. No one with any common sense that is. Turns out Warner Bros. and DC decided Steel would not get the' S.' Those in power no doubt rejoiced at their decision when Steel bombed. The movie was god awful. Compared to Steel, Showgirls was Citizen Kane.
How bad was Showgirls? It featured beautiful women butt naked, I walked out anyway. THAT BAD. Disclaimer: NO I am not reducing women to sex objects there for men's pleasure with no other redeeming value. If I would have stayed because they were butt naked THEN that tag would fit. It was a joke, period. But I digress. Peter, your check is in the mail.
Comic movies now are much closer to the source materials which they are based on. That's because comic book writers and artists know what they are doing. We know how to tell a story, and our imaginations are not colored by box office appeal when we sit down to create. Creators of comics are motivated by the joy of that creation. Most comic book publishers share that insight. Bitch as I do about DC Comics, the people at the top love comics. Jim Lee and Dan Didio are real fanboys, as are most who head up comic companies.
Hollywood is one big elitist bunch of so and so's. Last year Variety ran a piece throwing shade on the Eisner Awards. The major complaints were names that presenters mispronounced and an off-color joke about Sergio Aragones. Really now? This from the industry who made Ricky Gervais host of the Golden Globes 5 times. This Mr. Gervais made jokes about the Pope being a pedophile. Didn't notice any shade thrown at that from Variety.
Hollywood controls entertainment worldwide. That's not in dispute. The majority of Hollywood's public relations is all about Hollywood and box office. Money, money, money and more money is what fuels those who run the 'business' what insiders call it.
They are plenty bold about letting us know it's all about the Benjamins. You don't see "Hollywood Most-Loved Movie" on the news. Nope but "Weekend Box Office" is a staple all over the world. They are the king, but sometimes the king is pretty stupid.
The director of a film does just that, directs. The director sucks the movie will suck. A good director can save a bad actor, a bad actor can't save a poorly directed film. For all intents and purposes, it's the directors work above all else you see on the screen.
Little Women is up for Best Picture and well should be. The director of the film Greta Celeste Gerwig. did not get a nod for Best Director. Let's say the Eisner Awards had the best art as a category. If the Long Bow Hunters drawn by Mike Grell was up for that award and won, but Mike Grell didn't win best artist, how is that not stupid? Actually, stupid isn't right. That implies they don't know any better. They do, they don't care. Often a slight is given to teach someone a lesson in that way they share a bit with comics.
This has happened before, there was an uproar previously, Hollywood could give a damn then, they don't give one now. If pressed the answer is some serious bullshit about craft as art or some high brow crap. Whatever materials the director is working with it becomes their vision presented to an audience. Their vision does not lessen the important of the material. The movies made from comics that work the best and sell the most are true to the comics. Hollywood isn't stupid when it comes to making a buck. They may not like it, but they will bleed comics source materials dry because it earns serious bank. But, comics don't get to sit at the adult table and will not as long as Hollywood plays us like little bitches. To hear Hollywood talk comics are not entertainment worth mentioning unless it's to dismiss us as tripe.
Funny, Joker is a mega-hit in the same year Hollywood decides to screw comics over in public. Bill Maher's ill-timed Stan Lee comments, Martin Scorsese damning superhero films among the loudest of many haters. What was the point to even bring that up? Did someone get wind of how good Joker was and decide to make sure comic book movies are not taken seriously? What made comic book movies the new 'it' thing to hate?
Joker has a shot at the best picture award, but only because the hype around it has nothing to do with the comic book. It's curious how the minds justify the ways of Tinsel Town. The Lord of the Rings is an outstanding literary achievement. The movies have a ton of award nominations, but at its core, it's a fantasy-like Superman. I'd wager just as many if not more scholarly papers have been written about Superman as Rings. If LOTR was from a comic? You can bet tripe would be its level of art also. I'm willing to bet there has been little or no mention of the comics from the Joker filmmakers. Don't take that bet, you'll lose I've already checked.
The following from the director upon learning of the 11 Oscar nods for Joker:
"Joker began as an idea, an experiment really— could we take an "indie approach" to a studio film by inverting it into a character study to reflect the world around us? Explore what we're seeing and feeling in society, from the lack of empathy to the effects of the absence of love. I am deeply honored by the overwhelming recognition of the Academy this morning, and I want to thank the genius that is Joaquin Phoenix, and all my incredible collaborators. We are beyond humbled that our peers in the filmmaking community have embraced the film and its message." – Todd Phillips
NO nod to comics no nod to creators whose idea it was. Mr. Phillips, the list of your "incredible collaborators," should include Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, Bob Kane and DC Comics. Lastly, Joker began as an idea, yes, that is true. That idea began in a comic book.