The Hydra Files: Mark Onspaugh: ‘Superman And Batman Have A Common Enemy: Hollywood’



Welcome to the Hydra Files, a ongoing series of feature articles, essays and more from Hydra authors? What is Hydra? It’s an ebook-only imprint devoted to bringing you the best in dark fiction: SF, horror and beyond.

This week we have the first part of an essay on Batman and Superman’s portrayal in Hollywood  by Mark Onspaugh, author of The Faceless One.

About The Faceless One:

In 1948, when he was just a boy, Jimmy Kalmaku trained with his uncle to be the shaman of his Tlingit village in Alaska. There he learned the old legends, the old myths, the old secrets. Chief among them was that of a mask locked in a prison of ice, and of the faceless god imprisoned within: a cruel and vengeful god called T’Nathluk, dedicated to the infliction of pain and suffering.

Now all but forgotten in a Seattle retirement home, Jimmy finds his life turned upside down. For when an unwitting archaeologist pries the mask free of its icy tomb, he frees T’Nathluk as well. Stuck in spirit form, the Faceless One seeks a human to serve as a portal through which he can enter our reality. The Faceless One can control—and mercilessly torture—anyone who touches the mask, which means there is no shortage of slaves to ferry it across the country to its chosen host.

Yet the Faceless One has foes as well: Stan Roberts, a tough New York cop whose pursuit of justice will lead him into a dark abyss of the soul; Steven, Liz, and Bobby, the family of the doomed archaeologist; and Jimmy Kalmaku, who must at last become the shaman of his boyhood dreams.


by Mark Onspaugh

Part One of Two

By now you may have heard that the movie pitting Superman against Batman has been delayed nearly a year to 2016.

While such delays can be indicative of a troubled production with a potentially large SF (Suck Factor), perhaps the filmmakers will use the time to help them fend off their greatest enemy: Hollywood.

Seriously, Superman and Batman – have the movies gotten them right?

Not lately, in my opinion.

Let’s take a look at the Dark Knight.

Since the first “serious” Batman film in 1989, Hollywood seems obsessed with grounding Batman in a real, physical world – our world. This has led to guns that fire grappling hooks, strange voices and body armor that must weigh a hundred pounds. Even if it is comprised of some miracle polymer compound, it is clear that Batman’s suit is cumbersome and only allows limited movement.

No, no, no.

Batman is driven to perfection in all aspects of his chosen profession: fighting crime. He trains for hours nearly every day, honing his skills in both known and obscure martial arts. He is a first rate gymnast, aerialist and acrobat. This is a man who can react instantly and gracefully, swinging onto a narrow ledge and then jumping down into a room filled with criminals without making a sound. Combine the skills of Bruce Lee with a cat and you’ve started to come close to what Bruce Wayne has achieved.

So, put this agile and active Batman in spandex, or some similar material. Marvel Comics had often relied on its genius scientists to create new tech. DC Comics has a few eggheads of their own – surely Ray Palmer (The Atom), Barry Allen (The Flash) or Superman himself could create a suit for Batman that is light, tough, offers protection against bullets and knives and allows freedom of movement. And I’d prefer to see Batman in black and gray, but solid black is fine – he is a creature of the night, after all.

Further, Nolan’s films put Batman/Bruce Wayne in a very real world where Wayne’s body is suffering from numerous injuries and early onset of arthritis. That’s Nolan’s take and it’s fine for those movies, but that’s not what I want in my superheroes. Beat them, injure them, even break their back, but they’ll keep coming back – they will die fighting, even into their twilight years. Recast our heroes (a la James Bond) every once in a while, but don’t consign them to retirement with a walker and severe rheumatism!

Also, Hollywood, remember that Batman is a genius at deductive reasoning and strategy – he is a detective on par with Sherlock Holmes. Too often most of Batman’s screen time is given to him being dour, cynical and brutal. Surely writers can give him a juicy mystery to solve along with some colorful villains!

Before I leave the subject of Batman, I’d like to mention the Batmobile. I have loved this vehicle over all others in fiction… that is, until the films of Schumacher and Nolan. Please, Hollywood, move away from “real world” vehicles like The Tumbler or strange, baroque vehicles like the one seen in Batman Forever. (Seriously, that car looked like something Liberace would drive.) The Batmobile should be badass – a fast and powerful one-of-a-kind muscle car that strikes terror in the hearts of evildoers – it should be sleek and dangerous-looking, not cumbersome or fanciful. (And stop blowing up Batman’s vehicles, I know he’s rich, but it just seems an excuse to re-design them, and your re-designs get progressively worse.)

Next time, we’ll talk about Superman and his eventual team-up with Batman.