David S. Goyer wrote the Blade trilogy, co-wrote Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, and is currently working on the sequel to Man of Steel.
He also has some unexpectedly terrible ideas about how to appeal to comics fans. For example, this week he called a popular Marvel character a “porn star” and “an extension of the male power fantasy,” and then joked that anyone who has heard DC’s Martian Manhunter comics must be a nerd who never gets laid.
Unshockingly, Goyer’s audience of comic book fans doesn’t appreciate the stereotype that they are all basement-dwelling dweebs. Plus, it’s not as if Martian Manhunter is a particularly obscure character in the first place. He even appeared in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which is read by a far wider audience than most superhero comics.
Goyer shared these sentiments on the latest episode of the Scriptnotes podcast. The episode has since been removed from the podcast’s website, but you can still listen on iTunes and Podbay, and the Mary Sue has transcribed the relevant sections.
His line about Martian Manhunter fans being unpopular losers was probably just an ill-thought-out joke, but the section about She-Hulk is just plain weird.
In the podcast, Goyer described She-Hulk as “chunky” and “a giant green porn star,” saying, “I have a theory about She-Hulk. Which was created by a man, right? And at the time in particular I think 95 percent of comic book readers were men and certainly almost all of the comic book writers were men.
“So the Hulk was this classic male power fantasy,” he continues. “It’s like, most of the people reading comic books were these people like me who were just these little kids getting the shit kicked out of them every day… I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could fuck if you were Hulk, you know what I’m saying? She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk, then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck.”
As Alan Kistler points out in the Mary Sue, She-Hulk was indeed created by male writers, one of whom was Marvel superstar Stan Lee. But that was in 1980, by which point an awful lot more than 5 percent of readers were women. In fact, there has probably never been a time when the gender divide in the Marvel comics readership was so extreme. The main thing backing up Goyer’s opinion here is the fact that She-Hulk wears a skimpy costume—kind of like her male counterpart’s famous purple pants.
Far from being a “male power fantasy,” She-Hulk is often marketed directly to female readers. Her alter-ego is Bruce Banner’s cousin, a lawyer who works as legal counsel to various Marvel heroes.
Along with Rogue from X-Men, She-Hulk was recently chosen to launch a new series of tie-in novels starring female Marvel characters. The She-Hulk Diaries combines chick-lit with the superhero genre, taking inspiration from Legally Blonde and Bridget Jones’ Diary. Hardly the sexist porn fantasy Goyer describes.
Goyer’s comments are worrying, not just because many people found them offensive, but because they show a superficial understanding of his supposed area of expertise.
If anything, Goyer’s behavior in this podcast seems reminiscent of Star Trek reboot writers J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci. In the past, Orci has visited Star Trek message boards to mock and pick fights with fans, while Abrams has the odd habit of repeatedly telling people that he was never a fan of Star Trek.
This defensive attitude has a lot in common with Goyer’s desire to remind everyone that he was a skinny nerd who got bullied at school, while simultaneously making fun of nerds himself. It comes across as a kind of self-conscious superiority.
You know if they stopped giving David Goyer comic book movies, it sounds like he’d be as happy about it as us.
— Tony Heugh (@standardman) May 21, 2014
This mindset seems to come from the idea that the best way to “modernize” popular sci-fi or comicbook franchises is to make them less geeky. And the best way to do that is to make them darker, or to copy Transformers by creating a bombastic disaster movie and belittling female characters. In other words, to cater to the imaginary fanboy audience: A lowest-common-denominator demographic made up of bloodthirsty teenage boys who want to watch skyscrapers collapse while Anne Hathaway sprawls over a motorcycle in a leather catsuit. Of course, the truth is that this audience is only a small fraction of the people buying tickets for summer blockbusters. But that doesn’t seem to matter.
Oddly enough, a lot of real comics fans take issue with the idea that this is how superhero adaptations should work. After all, the Avengers movies manage to succeed without resorting to casual misogyny, pointlessly gritty violence, or active insults directed at the original audience.
Hey @DCComics, I’m not buying any more comics from you as long as David Goyer is working for you guys in any capacity. You just lost a fan.
— Evan Flanagan (@evanoflanagan) May 21, 2014
Just occcured to me that David Goyer is going to ruin Wonder woman. Wonderful.
— Michael Deneen (@This_Is_Mike_D) May 21, 2014
So, David Goyer just went from boring hack to boring hack who is also a huge asshole.
— Joshua J. Bell (@JoshuaAnarchist) May 21, 2014
One of the criticisms often leveled at Goyer’s Batman and Superman movies is they’re trying not to be superhero movies in the first place. In this podcast, Goyer went on to say that the only way he could include a character like Martian Manhunter in the upcoming Justice League movie would be if they rebooted him entirely. Because “Martian Manhunter” is a ridiculous name, and the character is too “goofy” to work on the big screen.
The thing is, while Martian Manhunter’s name and backstory both sound silly, so do Batman’s. Ditto Captain America, and Spider-Man, and pretty much every other superhero in existence. Not only that, but “goofiness” rarely damages the success of a good movie, particularly if it’s a summer blockbuster.
This overt embarrassment at the original source material is one of the greatest and most problematic divisions between Marvel and DC adaptations. While David S. Goyer makes cracks about comic book fans being unbangable geeks and the Martian Manhunter being too weird to film, Marvel Studios is laughing all the way to the bank with unrepentantly weird and light-hearted movies like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. They also have no problem drawing in new audiences, even for relatively obscure titles that most people have never even heard of.
Looking at reactions on Twitter, it seems likely that Goyer’s public image is going the same way that Bob Orci’s did among Star Trek fans. Along with the mixed reception to Man of Steel, Goyer’s latest comments are doing little to endear him to the people who should be his fans. Goyer has made a career out of adapting superhero comics for the big screen, but this type of statement suggests that he has little respect either for the genre or for its audience—especially female fans.
This doesn’t bode well for his Justice League movie, and it will likely strike fear into the hearts of Sandman fans. Why? Well, Goyer has already signed on to write the screenplay for a Sandman adaptation, a deeply weird (and potentially “goofy”) comic that would surely be ruined by a Man of Steel-esque gritty reboot.
Photo via JD Hancock/Flickr