Through most of its lifespan gaming was a niche pastime, reserved to the socially inept or sweaty basement dwellers, and while shows like the Big Bang Theory would have you believe that nerds and gamers are still social pariahs, nerd culture has found its way into mainstream media. Dungeons and Dragons has slithered its way into the Netflix hit, Stranger Things, comic book movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe completely dominate the box office year after year with movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther making around 700 million dollars each, and the gaming industry raked in 108.4 billion dollars in revenue in 2017, with eSports bringing in about 1 billion dollars alone with things like the Overwatch League being featured on ESPN broadcasts. The world has been introduced to everything geek and, overall, the response has been with open arms to many of the new consumers. For many of the lifelong nerds, the media explosion was met with some controversy. Where some met the new exposure with happiness at finally being able to see their favorite characters on the big screen, garnering the appreciation that they deserved, others met it with disdain, fearful that the popularity of the mediums that they so dearly loved would be watered down in order to appease to a wider, more casual crowd, and there may be some weight to that argument, for example, Old Man Logan.
Comic Logan Vs. Live-Action Logan
Old Man Logan is one of my all-time favorite comic story-lines of all time, it is everything that is right with comic books, and that is that it does not take itself seriously, it is pure unadulterated fun, and it is fucking weird. Old Man Logan is an eight-part story arc written by Marc Millar, and art done by Steve McNiven. The story takes place in an alternate Earth in which all villains banded together in order to eliminate the heroes and take over the world, and in one such attack the X-Mansion is overtaken by villains, all of which Logan kills one-by-one, however after his rage Logan finds himself surrounded by the dead and mutilated bodies of his X-Men family after Mysterio, an illusion master, used an illusion to trick Logan into killing his adopted family, after which he went into hiding and aimed to become a pacifist never to release his claws again. Opening on our titular character we come to see an older, broken Logan and his family of a wife and two kids living in a post-apocalyptic California now dubbed Hulkland. Hulkland gained its name from its self-appointed ruler, Hulk, now fully in control of the body of Bruce Banner. The region is populated by Banner’s children, who through years of inbreeding with Hulk’s only suitable mate, Banner’s cousin, She-Hulk, ended up as twisted, dim-witted, bullies. The bullies accost Logan and his family for money that they don’t have and threaten with acts of violence and or death. This results in a cross-country journey with an old, blind Hawkeye featuring a tyrannosaurus rex with the venom symbiote, Red Skull as the President of the United States, and Logan clawing his way out of someone’s stomach. The story is not subtle and doesn’t try to be. It doesn’t hold hands and is 0 to 100 all the way through.
In contrast take the critically acclaimed box-office hit, Logan. Logan is about a disheveled, older wolverine, living with the death of all of his former X-Men family, and trying to survive in a world where mutants no longer thrive. Charles Xavier lives on as a dementia fueled old man being kept away from society by Logan’s fear of losing him, and what fires of the journey of Logan and company are unwelcomed and unwanted, in the shape of Laura, Logan’s clone. The adventure is tense, and fearful with a few heartfelt and moving moments peppered throughout but overall the movie takes on a very serious and desperate tone constantly showing Logan’s decaying body and dwindling powers along with extensively overwhelming odds. And through this, the movie pulls at your heartstrings and tries to relate in ways like fatherhood, family, and growing old even resulted in a few heartbreaking deaths.
Now by no means do I think that Logan was a bad movie, in fact, it was one of my favorites of 2017, but I think that aside from it being a compelling piece of cinema there are a few underlying issues when thinking about it in the sense of nerd culture.
Logan took quite a few cues from the Old Man Logan storyline. An older, weaker Wolverine, a man out of time in a world that no longer accepts him knowing nothing but violence but still trying to protect what he holds dear in whatever way possible. Where the two stories start to differentiate is how they go about their storylines. Both begin with a desperate Logan trying to make some money for a particular reason, and seemingly little way to make it, but that’s probably the last point that the stories are the same. The comic pulls no punches, holds no violence, and answers to no one. The movie, in contrast, is more pandering, and while vulgar and gory by comic book movie standards, has to uphold a tradition identity in order to appeal to as many people as possible.
The problem here is that the movie has to make money on an established base of X-Men movies with a dedicated following. If the movie was weird, if it was alienating, if it had a lack of filter then it wouldn’t have performed as well at the box office, and that is the most important thing, money. In the Marvel Civil War comic, the death of elementary school students sparks the event that eventually leads to the death of Captain America, whereas the movie was a small ideological difference that led to no lasting consequences. The comics were willing to say something while the movies were just trying to entertain.
That’s what the problem is. Nerd culture is built upon the different, the weird, and the curious. When you force that into a box to fill in some checkboxes you start losing what makes those things special. Instead of Overwatch, you get Call of Duty 11. What makes nerd culture special gets watered down when you stretch it so far.