Saturday, February 26, 2005

On 'The Incredibles': Who are you calling 'derivative'?

In The Los Angeles Times, author Michael Barrier talks with Brad Bird about The Incredibles, and considers grumblings from some comic-book fans that the Oscar-nominated film bears similarities to The Fantastic Four, Powers and even Watchmen:
Bird says he has never been much of a comic-book reader. "When fans ask if I was influenced by issue 47 of Whoeverman, I have no idea what they're talking about," he said by telephone. "I'm perfectly willing to believe that I'm not the first to come up with certain ideas involving superheroes. If there are similarities, it's simply because the same thoughts that occurred to other people also occurred to me."

... There's irony in the complaints about The Incredibles, because comic books that take superheroes seriously — even comic books as well executed as the ones Bird has been accused of plundering — are highly derivative themselves. They owe everything to Superman, a brutally simple idea that has been reverberating since 1938.

The few cartoonists who have done work of lasting value in the superhero genre — Will Eisner of The Spirit comes immediately to mind, as does Jack Cole of Plastic Man — have adapted its crude mythology to larger purposes. The same is true of Brad Bird. The Incredibles is playful where Watchmen and Powers are grim, and serious where those comic books have nothing to say. Complaints about borrowings are beside the point.
A caption with the article points out that a scene from Powers, shown above, "has a look not unlike that" of an exchange in The Incredibles between Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) and his supervisor.

(Link via Cartoon Brew.)