I live in New York now. New York City, NYC. Which means I need to remember to change that in my bio for the site.
If you have noticed that I haven’t been particularly active on Twitter lately or that my columns of late have consisted of pretty evergreen subject matter, it’s because I have been spending the last 6 or 7 weeks executing the most exciting and immense move of my life. In that time, I went from being a college grad in Pensacola, FL, who desperately wanted to some day move to New York, to being a New Yorker. I have been trying to do this for years, and the Big Apple always seemed just beyond my grasp. But there was something different about this summer, something in the world around me that just seemed to say “Go, jump, now, this is the time.” And I did, and it was. Moving to New York City wound up being one of the easiest transitions I’ve ever had to make, and one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I still can’t get over how easily everything fell into place. It almost has me wondering if there were higher forces at play. More on that in a second.
Now, I realize that moving to New York might not carry the same weight for everybody else as it does for me. I know there are people out there who have never been to the city, aren’t interested in visiting, would never want to live here in a million years, or who just flat out hate everything that the city represents. And that’s fine. I’m just trying to write about my own experiences in making something come true that I thought was totally outside of my grasp. For me, that was New York. For others, it might be learning to fly a plane or getting a date with the person you’ve been secretly admiring for too long now, or maybe just acquiring a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. So if you’re reading this and you couldn’t care less about NYC, or you think I’m being a jerk and bragging about how awesome I am for living here, I totally understand. But regardless of what you think about living in the city, I think what we can all agree on is how important this city is for the comic book community.
Fans have been looking forward to the summer of 2012 for at least 2 years now. Not just looking forward to it, climbing up the walls with anticipation for it. In one summer we were promised the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (the most sophisticated and technically astounding collection of super-hero cinema to date), the culmination of newcomer Marvel Studios’s efforts with The Avengers, and a 3-D reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. Just one of these films would have been enough to create a memorable summer at the movies. But all three? The end of Batman, the beginning of a new Spider-Man, and the first ever super-hero team-up film. All in one summer. That’s freaking nuts! I swear, for a second I seriously wondered if the end of the world could be upon us and this selection of super-hero cinema was to be our crescendo. Or, at the very least, the high note for super-hero films as a whole. There’s no way anything could top this summer. I was sure the year 2012 would be the apocalypse for super-hero movies (but let’s hope it’s not).
While each of those films has its own approach to super-hero storytelling and has its own story to tell, there was something very important tying them all together. All three of these films for this super-hero high-water mark of a summer are all good New York movies. In The Avengers, Tony Stark’s new high rise, Stark Tower, which goes on to become the Avenger’s headquarters, is based in Manhattan. While much of the film takes place onboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier that holds Loki captive, the epic third act battle royale between the Avengers and the Chitauri takes place in New York. Director Joss Whedon takes us on a sprawling aerial tour of the city as we see the heroes take down the outer space goblins and dragons that seek to conquer Earth’s greatest city. It’s a very Marvel moment, and it’s made complete later in the film when we see news footage of New York citizens proclaiming their admiration for Earth’s mightiest heroes. The message is clear. These are Marvel super-heroes, meaning they are New York’s super-heroes, and as Marvel completes its most ambitious project to date, it pays homage to the city and the people that made it possible.
Next was The Amazing Spider-Man. While the Avengers showed us the gleaming Manhattan skyline during the day, this showed us the red, white, and blue pulsating city starscape of New York City at night. I’ll never forget when I went and saw this movie for the second time in the theater right after finding out my apartment in New York had been secured. I was watching the movie with two of my best friends and they were excited as hell for me, but they’d never been to the city, and it was hard for me to really stress how wondrous the place can really be. In the third act, as Spidey is swinging from crane to crane in order to make a b-line for the Oscorp building, Director Marc Webb gives us this amazing first-person view of the city at night, with each low swing taking you to the very floor of the concrete jungle, where all the cars and cabs fight for space, all the way back up to the canopy. Seeing it in IMAX 3-D was like being in a dream of the future. I looked at my friends and said, “That’s fucking New York.”
In my opinion, Spider-Man is, more than any other super-hero, New York’s hero. He and the city form a symbiosis far more profound than anything the Venom organism could hope to accomplish. Spider-Man, with his red, white, and blue costume, working-class background, and smart-ass attitude, is New York. He’s the Ramones, he’s Run-DMC, he’s a hipster, he’s a student, he’s a kid (in his current Ultimate Universe iteration he’s a minority), and he’s a romantic. He embodies the most about New York of any other super-hero. And so his film took us to many places that we didn’t see in The Avengers. We went to the other boroughs for night scenes in Brooklyn and Queens. We saw him take the subway home and watched him take a swing above the streets of Harlem. The Amazing Spider-Man is, from start to finish, a celebration of New York.
Lastly, The Dark Knight Rises returned Gotham City to its roots in the streets of the real-life Gotham (which is derived from the Old English for “goat home,” which is hilarious and off-putting). While The Dark Knight didn’t feel as much like a New York movie as maybe a Chicago one, DKR plays with themes of civil unrest and hostile terrorism that resonates particularly with NYC. There’s also more of the city to be seen this time around in the wide shots of the “Gotham City” skyline (or maybe I’m just seeing it more now because I live here). It was definitely a strange experience to see this film with a New York audience and watch people point at the various buildings and chuckle because they know it’s not a building from a made-up city because, in fact, it’s one of the buildings right down the street from the theater. It sort of takes you out of the movie, but also sort of replaces the word “Gotham” in your head with the words “New York,” and when you watch the movie like that, you can see what’s actually being said with these themes and with these characters. And when Bane attacks the stock exchange or blows up the city’s bridges and tunnels to hold the city hostage, you begin to take it a bit more seriously.
So yes, there was a lot of New York coming at me this summer, a lot of super-heroes fighting to save the city. In fact, when I came up to visit family near the city in June and we took a train in, walking around the streets of Manhattan made me feel like a super-hero. I felt like I was part of the Marvel Universe just by being here. And so I moved here, and it turned out being such a smooth transition that if I was a more superstitious person I’d say it was “meant to be.” I guess what I can say is that I’m able to proudly call myself a New Yorker, and the reason I can do that is because of the super-heroes. I was able to move here because of them.
No, no I can’t say that. I was able to move here because I happen to be friends with some of the most amazing people that the human race has ever produced, people who supported me and knew I could do it even when I didn’t. And I was able to move here because my roommate is a bloody genius who managed to take care of all the logistics of the relocation and find us the coolest place ever. And because I have the best mom EVER.
But I’m sure Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Batman played a part as well.