Worst thing you'll see all week: Brightburn

...with great power comes great pubescent angst.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2019/05/26/worst-thing-youll-see-all-week-brightburn/

It was the worst thing I saw this week!

I guess they put some craft into the gore?

This has been done many times in comics. Irredeemable, by Mark Waid, as one example was more fully baked.

Folks have likened it to some of Moore’s Miracleman in the early 80’s.

The trailer turned me off enough that I knew I wouldn’t see this at the theater, so I read the plot synopsis and now I’m convinced I won’t even watch it for free on TV.

The movie feels like a support structure for three gore effects. Poor Matt Jones’ – Badger, noooooo! – sheared-off jaw, the sheriff lady’s slashed up face, and the brief glimpse of the dissected woman.

Hmm, I might have to Google these. Superheroes as horror villains?


I’m not sure that either Irredeemable or early Miracleman are quite horror in format and certainly not in tropes. But the former at least definitely explores the territory of what would happen if Superman went bad. (With the Superman intellectual property serial numbers filed off, of course.) I did read that Miracleman run, or the early parts, but I don’t remember it well enough to say why it’s being brought up as a comparison.

More about the flip side of the assumption that a kid given super powers would be good, and instead would be a monster.

Not sure if it’s really required to blur spoilers from a story that is nearly 40 years old, but…

Following the attempted assassination of Kid Marvelman, Young Marvelman and Marvelman by their creator, Dr. Gargunza via an atomic explosion, the program is cancelled and all knowledge of it buried. Kid Marvelman survives, and believing the others dead, is left alone in the real world (versus Gargunza’s virtual reality, in which he had lived the last few years of his life). Rather than return to human form, he decides to remain in his invulnerable superhuman form, which continues to mature, leaving the Johnny Bates persona in limbo.

By the early 1980s, Kid Marvelman has become a violent, sadistic sociopath and the head of a corporation known as Sunburst Cybernetics. Keeping his true nature a secret, he nurses a deep, unreasoning hatred toward Marvelman, who suddenly re-appears. He locates Marvelman’s human identity, and invites him to his corporate headquarters. Kid Marvelman reveals the depths to which he has sunk, murdering his own secretary in front of his former mentor and threatening to do the same to Marvelman’s wife. The two battle, the former sidekick easily dominating the hero with vastly increased abilities and new powers (developed through decades of remaining exclusively in superhuman form). Saying “Marvelman” by mistake while gloating over Marvelman’s beaten form, Kid Marvelman reverts to the traumatized, innocent form of young Johnny Bates. He is found at the scene of the battle by the authorities, who place him in a government mental facility. Kid Marvelman lurks within Johnny’s mind, trying to tempt him into once more saying the word and allowing the mad superhuman to re-emerge. Johnny gives in at last when he was about to be raped by a group of older boys at a group home. Free again, Kid Marvelman butchers Johnny’s rapists, then moves on to everyone else in the facility.

A battle between Kid Marvelman and Marvelman, Marvelwoman, Firedrake, and the Warpsmiths results in Kid Marvelman ravaging London and horrifically murdering much of the city’s population. Throughout the battle, Kid Marvelman shrugs off the others’ attacks while inflicting terrible damage on his foes. Marvelman’s critically injured ally, the Warpsmith Aza Chorn, teleports a chunk of debris halfway into Kid Marvelman’s head and a girder through his chest, crippling him and forcing him to resume human form to escape the unbelievable pain. A wounded Marvelman cradles Johnny in his arms, assures him everything will be fine, then swiftly kills him, both to end the long suffering he has endured from Kid Marvelman’s mind games and to prevent Kid Marvelman from ever escaping again. Marvelman and his allies use the destruction of London as a pretext for taking over Earth’s governments.

Following Marvelman’s establishment of a global utopia, the dark allure of Kid Marvelman as an anti-hero figure makes him the object of admiration and veneration for the rebellious subculture known as “Bateses”. Kid Miracleman’s injured body is still held in statis in infra-space, right next to Young Miracleman’s body. Later in the unpublished #25 Kid Miracleman appears as a vision to Young Miracleman tempting Dicky Dauntless.

For legal reasons, Kid Marvelman became Kid Miracleman when the 1980s series was republished in the United States. Since then, having been purchased by Marvel Comics in their acquisition of the Marvelman franchise, the character’s original name has been restored.

I mean, it’s nearly 40 years old, but it was also out of print for decades due to legal battles over the IP.

Hey, I blurred it!

It’s definitely done as a horror thing- Marvelman #3 (where all the bad shit with Kid Marvelman/Bates goes down) is illustrated by John Totleben, who illustrated Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing back in the day, has done a ton of horror illustrations (Frankenstein, for example), etc.

Marvelman was Moore’s first big hero deconstruction, before Watchmen. And it is excellent.

As a hardcore Superman fan, I enjoyed this. My 16-year old did too.

But I don’t watch much horror, so if the horror part was by-the-numbers, that didn’t register with me.

This looked immediately unfun to me from the first trailer. I’m glad to see I miss nothing by skipping it.

I believe Moore’s script/idea that inspired what turned into Kingdom Come also had a significant plot thread (or three) that were impacted by Kid Miracleman basically being a sociopath.

I really wanted this to work, but I have to agree with the criticism. They started off with a somewhat interesting premise brought up very briefly in a classroom science class scene…then decided to chuck that all and go for gore horror with the “highlight” being a nod to Lucio Fulci’s eye piercing scene from Zombie. And boy, they really want us to know this as they spend a LONG time on that scene.

And comparing this to Miracleman overlooks so much nuance and depth from that series that I can’t even begin to see any justification for it beyond a “ooh, there’s super violence” standpoint.

Mostly I just felt annoyed by the whole thing. Although I did think the kid actor did a decent enough job, given the material he had. Hopefully he’ll get a part in a much better film in the future.

There’s a moment at the end of the movie, when he’s flying into the air with Elizabeth Banks, and they show a close-up shot of him all fresh-faced and handsome, with the wind lightly teasing his bangs, and he even looks pretty benevolent. That’s the sort of thing they should have done with that actor. Making him seem like a perfect and handsome Superboy instead of a leering villain. Tension between how he looked and what he did would have been far more interesting if he hadn’t constantly played it like Damien from The Omen staring down some hapless priest.


Good thing that has come out of this movie, is that it got me to start reading Miracleman. You can pick it up in digital form (you get it on Kindle and comiXology) for about $11.
Miracleman Vol. 1: A Dream Of Flying (Parental Advisory Edition) (Miracleman: Parental Advisory Edition) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K0MHQ6Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_kza9CbACRDNSG

Its a compilation of the first 4 comics, plus a bunch of other stuff like sketches, classic marvelman comics, related warpsmith stories, etc. Part of a 3 book series that goes through the whole 15 comic arc, all of them around $11 each for the digital copies.

It’s well done, and offers an interesting take on the super hero. Is recommend it for anyone who likes Alan Moore’s stuff. (He’s only listed in the credits as “the original writer” because of issues he had regarding the weirdness of the copyright claims on the character)