Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Spider-Man/Deadpool 6, originally released June 29, 2016
Ryan: Meta-narratives come in varying levels of sophistication. On one end of the spectrum is the simple cultural reference. With the tact of a name-drop, a creator can acknowledge that she is aware of and potentially influenced by other pieces of art. The next step up in complexity involves a character being aware of art and having opinions that directly reflect back upon the source work. This character can directly address the form of his own story or invite the audience to have a relationship with the work that mirrors a character’s. When the fourth wall has begun to break down, a creator can be even more explicit with commentary. A character like Deadpool can act as a mouthpiece because his self-awareness lends itself toward dark humor at the expense of the tropes of his world. In Spider-Man Deadpool 6, Scott Aukerman exploits Deadpool’s meta tendencies and ends up with more meta than narrative.
As a CBB-listening, practical effects-loving Angeleno who enjoyed Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool and thinks Zach Snyder wiffed the team-up of the year, the issue seemed tailor-made for my people. The story takes place before the regular continuity of the series and focuses on Deadpool’s trip to Hollywood to make sure that his movie is done right. He brings Spider-Man, because S&M is old-hat at anchoring a franchise. They encounter a rude studio boss and a creepy stuntman who tries to kill Deadpool. It turns out that the stuntman is actually the star of the movie who wants to oust Deadpool so that he can play the character with none of the humor or charm. It’s a very thin plot, but dense with jokes and references.
Take Spider-Man and Deadpool’s arrival on the studio lot, for example.
On one page, Aukerman and Brown juggle the tropes of the backlot (tour trams, building facades, random extras) with commentary on the state of Marvel characters in film and comics. There is a germ of something in the second part that doesn’t get fully explored. A meta-narrative about what it would be like for Storm and Wolverine to find themselves as separated and ignored as their films are by the MCU would have been interesting. Aukerman elicited a chuckle from me with Daredevil’s reaction to Captain America saying “Hail Hydra.” I mean, what else do you say to an icon who says something bonkers? These smaller moments succeed in way that the primary plot never tries to. Spider-Man and Deadpool don’t act like people. They don’t even act like predictable archetypes. Deadpool’s motivations in the issue vary from page to page and Spider-Man is along for the ride but rarely reacts with more than detached bemusement to the events of the issue.
The lack of character development and interpersonal story leaves a lot more room for Aukerman to lampoon Hollywood and superhero movies in general, as well as to target specific movies.
Aukerman taps into a special part of my nostalgia centers by celebrating Jurassic Park with a T-Rex eating a villain who spouts a Dinosaurs reference. This is all fun, but it also feels too easy. Picking on last year’s Jurassic World or this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice feels like low-hanging fruit.
Maybe I am asking too much from a fill-in issue. There are laughs to be had, narcissists to skewer and a few fun action set pieces. When Deadpool explains that his ideal movie is “funny, rude and violent,” it’s hard to argue against. Because of the pace of the issue and the plethora of easter eggs scattered on each page, the issue introduces several ideas that it has no time to pursue.
Aukerman seems to acknowledge as much on the first page of the issue.
Even though it would mean losing Donald Dryans’ little butt, focusing on one of these small threads could have yielded something funny and weird. I don’t know what Aukerman’s 20 page version of Deadpool fighting the anachronisms of Marvel’s New York looks like, but I would love to see it. The abundance of Hollywood satire, Comedy Bang Bang in-jokes, and Comic Book Movie critique makes for a crowded issue. It feels like Aukerman stuffed everything he wanted to say into a single issue, but without space for these elements to develop, the issue doesn’t have the impact it could.
Patrick, what did you think of the issue? How did you feel Aukerman handled Deadpool and Spider-Man in terms of character voice? I didn’t get too much into Reilly Brown’s art. Were there any images in particular that you found striking? How did you feel about the quantity and quality of references within the story? Heynongman.
Good, now we can reset. Er, wait, I don’t want to reset I want to continue down that line of questioning you were asking. I liked this issue, but I can definitely see where it’s got conflicting goals. On one hand, it does seem like it’s an extension of the Aukerman comedy empire — “not the mama” is a favorite ironic catchphrase for Lauren Lapkis’ characters when she appears on Comedy Bang Bang, and I believe the phrase “little butt” started on one of the first episodes of U Talkin’ U2 to Me? — and on the other hand, there’s that fun meta-stuff Ryan outlined above. What’s a little frustrating is that Aukerman might actually be better at the more subtle comic book commentary than at the broad, let’s-all-take-a-shit-on-Batman-v-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice jokes. Take, for example, the very first page of the issue, wherein Brown lovingly recreates the cover to Amazing Fantasy 15 (first appearance of Spider-Man), just with some extra Hollywood landmarks thrown in for good measure.
It’s a simple reference, and like the best Aukerman references, gets more mileage over there being no point to the reference than evoking the actual meaning of the original. But that’s also a concession that we have to make about Aukerman’s comedy – it’s driven by goofs. The more goofs, the better the show, and this thing is chalk-full of ’em. Even that first page I posted includes a handful of Aukerman in-jokes, from his obsession with who’s number one on the call sheet, to a sly reference to Andy Samberg’s Hollywood Facts theme song.
But it’s where those two sensibilities intersect that the issue really gets cooking. When Deadpool and Spider-Man actually get into it with the Salmon Stunt Man, they naturally start slinging insults at each other. I mean, that’s what Spider-Man does, right? He quips.
In one panel, Aukerman both delivers on one pretty clever quip (which is shockingly dirty), and demonstrates how fun it can be to deliver poorly on the same premise. “Salm-y Davis Jr.” I swear I could hear Jason Mantzoukas’ voice in my head asking Aukerman if he was proud of that one. But proud of it or not, that’s playing the Spider-Man game. That is what this story is about after all: you’ve got to be true to what your characters are – even if that means letting them utter “not [their] best quip.”
I do feel bad focusing so much of my attention on Aukerman, but the writer’s personality is all over this thing. It’s a testament to Brown’s workmanlike product that he can get out of the way of that Comedy Bang Bang freight train and express Aukerman’s ideas as clearly as possible. There’s a page late in the issue where Spidey and Deadpool are chasing Salmon Stunt Man through various TV show sets, and it’s about as conceptually chaotic as this story gets. They blow through the sets of Netflix’s Daredevil, some unnamed Detective Munch series, The Walking Dead, and of course, Comedy Bang Bang!. That final panel brings the characters within spitting distance of their writer (and Weirdo Al), so the whole thing really should be collapsing under the weight of its own absurdity, but Brown cleverly anchors all four of these panels in similar proscenium perspectives, tracking our characters from left to right.
No tricks, nothing crazy, just selling Aukerman’s premise with a straight face.
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