By Érico Assis
It was a true hit: the Serengueti tribes, the Carmelite Hermits, tourists from the Varginha UFO crash site, your dad, your mom, people who only watch three DVD’s for ten bucks, all the stray dogs from the street, you and yourself from another dimension paid to watch Avengers last week. Twice. That’s the only explanation for the $640 million box office in ten days.
That comes out to $2.5 million per hour. That’s a minimum of 64 million movie tickets. That’s more people than the sum of all the hands that ever held an Avengers comic. In fifty years. Being pessimistic, that’s probably higher than the total number of people who read comic books in the world. And as you’re reading this, 2,000 more box offices are putting up their sold out signs and helping bring the film’s revenues closer to a billion dollars.
I contributed my 0.000000024% to the revenue stream. I enjoyed the dialogues, I enjoyed the Hulk, I wanted to go back in time and tell my eight year old self “it will have everything”. But my friends gave me a different explanation: it’s all thanks to Scarlet Johansson’s booty. Their very male conclusion was that there was no way for the movie to flop showing as it did Scarlett’s booty in those skintight pants. The special effects cost millions of dollars, the dialogues are awesome, The Hulk is actually pretty cool, but the butt is what made the big bucks.
Hold on right there.
The Black Widow, the character played by Scarlett and butt, has been around for about forty years. She is obviously a creation of the Cold War: a Russian spy infiltrating a group of American heroes. As an old-school friend of mine said, the Widow has been around the Marvel Universe more than any other character, dating between half a dozen and a dozen superheros (who must not have gotten her codename). But what’s of interest here is that, in the last half century, her butt has been drawn by at least a hundred artists.
Drawn by skillful hands, Hulk has smashed across a thousand desks without ever getting Mark Ruffalo’s face. Batman gets smaller or bigger pointy ears, getting more or less threatening, depending on the artist’s disposition and how much black ink’s left. Wonder Woman would not turn around, but always kept her hair flawless after running, fighting or piloting invisible jets. The Man of Steel practically got a new armor with each artist. Superman always had that confident stare, even before he was Christopher Reeve. And the Black Widow always had a nice derriere.
And so, why is it that with all the choices for designing, representing, idealizing these characters and their poses, claws, repulsor rays and laser visions in hundreds of millions of strips that cost a fraction of a movie ticket we still prefer to continue watching superheros in CGI flesh on the screen? Do they seem “more real”? Just because they move? Because they talk? Because they’re Scarlett Johansson?
Ok, so I’ve also felt that desire to see my favorite stories from the comics portrayed by people with special effects on the big screen. But nowadays I’m able to see the two things separately: comics are comics, movies are movies. I feel secondhand embarrassment for that guy every time I see him dressed up as Captain America. It’s possible to imagine it in an alternate universe, deformed and stylized by the artist’s pencil. In the flesh, the wealthy urban batboy would be considered a pervert at most.
The point is that in comic books, you can idealize the world as much as you want, both as author and reader. Their lines express ideas that not even Robert Downey, Jr. can get away with. The speech balloons suggest voices, rhythms, intonations that you orchestrate in your mind. There are also the onomatopeic sounds. And the colors. And the unlimited use of special effects, models, locations. In other words, you have your imagination working hard to visualize that narrative in a reality that is usually much better drawn than the one that exists, the real one, outside of it. Or than the reality constructed for a movie. Why is that not worth $640 million in ten days?
With all due respect for my friends and the genes, plastic surgeons, personal trainers, nutritionists and Photoshop artists that make Scarlett Johansson’s booty what it is, I still prefer spending hours imagining George Pérez’s Black Widow. Scarlett Johansson’s butt may even be real, but let’s be honest: none of us will ever find out. A comic book Black Widow is much more real to me than Johansson in spandex.
This text is a translation from the original Portuguese text by Érico Assis, a Brazilian comic-book translator. It was posted on May 7, 2012 in the literary blog of Companhia das Letras, a Brazilian publisher. View original article.