How comics get journalism wrong

Comic books and their Hollywood equivalents just do not understand journalism.

Last week, I talked about one of my favorite films, “Ace in the Hole,” which follows an unethical writer played by Kirk Douglas who makes the news instead of reporting it and ultimately gets a man killed. It’s a pretty hyperbolic movie, but that’s the point, and the message is simple: don’t lie. By the end of the film, our main character gets a well-deserved comeuppance.

However, plenty of comics and their movie counterparts don’t really get what’s going on in the world of newsprint.

Here’s a little history. A looooooong time ago, journalists were actually well-revered members of society. Can you believe it? People really trusted the Washington Post when they said “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Now, ehhh, not so much. Every way you turn, someone is screaming fake news and calling reporters biased hacks in some rich person’s pocket. But back in the day, journalists were seen as the real-life superheroes. Superman: journalist. Spider-Man: journalist. Venom: journalist. The Creeper: journalist. The Question: oh you better believe he’s a journalist.

I’m a comic book fan, but I didn’t make this connection between superheroes and journalists until I attended a seminar at a reporter’s convention in college.

Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is just a disappointing film in general, but I won’t subject you to my geeky comic book opinions. Instead, I’ll subject you to my geeky journalism opinions.

As we all know, Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent works for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Originally it was the Daily Star, and it was based on the Toronto Star. That’s right, a man who served in truck stop bars and worked on off-shore oil rigs gets a job as a reporter at a major newspaper out of nowhere. No college. No internships. No working at some local paper in Kansas for five years. He’s thrown into the bullpen with no experience whatsoever.

Superman’s editor Perry White also doesn’t seem to know how news works. Toward the start of the film, Kent is working on a story about the Batman of Gotham City. It’s hard-hitting, investigative stuff. The story revolves around how Batman brands all the criminals he catches with a hot iron, and when they’re sent to prison, they’re targeted and killed because of the bat-shaped burn. Perry White comes in and says something like, “Stop working on the crime fighting nonsense. You’re on sports today.”

Whoa. Hold up. Pump the brakes for one freaking second.

Nobody just gets put on sports. That is a very particular beat handled by sports writers. You can’t just take your crime guy and make him write football highlights. That’s like asking your primary physician to remove your kidney. Yeah, they might be a doctor and capable of learning those skills, but that job would go to a trained surgeon.

Let’s move over to Marvel now and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Personally, I like the way Peter Parker is presented in the Sam Raimi films from the 2000s. Toby McGuire plays the character well. He’s a nerd, awkward, doesn’t have any friends, hangs out with his elderly aunt all the time and he’s not that attractive. Most importantly, his job as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle barely pays the bills. That’s why he lives in that crappy apartment.

However, Peter takes selfies for a living. Just like Kirk Douglas in “Ace in the Hole,” Peter is making the news and not just reporting it. It’s highly unethical. Most of the photos don’t even make any sense. They’re hundreds of feet up in the air in between buildings. From where could Peter be shooting these photos?

Spider-Man and Superman have been unmasked plenty of times. If this were real life, before thinking “My enemies now know my secret identity and will hurt my loved ones,” they’d be saying, “I got to find a new job.”


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