On the Internet, every second of every minute seems to produce some absurd fanatic mashup. Take a stroll down any artist alley in any comic book convention around the world and you’ll witness confusing crossovers of property. STAR TREK beams onto the PLANET OF THE APES, DOCTOR WHO meets the cast of SAVED BY THE BELL, THE MONKEES battle SCOTT PILGRIM’s Sex Bob-Omb. Years of trolling the black hole of Deviant Art can transform you into a wonderless and unimpressed cynic. Until you witness an image that re-sparks a fire you thought long extinguished.
In the wake of Gene Wilder’s passing (as happens after every celebrity death), fan art celebrating the comedian bombarded my inbox. Most of it obvious, most of it effective in eliciting emotion, or straight up man tears. However, only one piece halted my trigger finger from the never-ending stream of click bait abyss. Artist Nick Perks has recast Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor as Marvel’s HEROES FOR HIRE; Iron Fist and Power Man, soon to be legends of Netflix’s unstoppable THE DEFENDERS.
Perks’ mashup is so utterly ridiculous that you immediately want to share it with all of your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and Snapchat groupies. It was created several years ago as what seems like a snarky response to the unrelenting onslaught of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The tagline screams, “You’ll Laugh! You’ll cry!* You’ll wonder just how Marvel can sell their souls for a buck!! COMING IN SUMMER 1981 *if you have ANY respect for the source material.” Well played, sir. Well played.
As we still bask in the awesome that was CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and as we desperately wait for the multiple bouts of the epic INFINITY WAR, it is actually hard to remember those dark days of Comic Book adaptations when we had to find ways to love Dolph Lundgren’s PUNISHER or stifle the distaste of SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE. We took what we got, and we loved it. If Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor actually strapped on some spandex for an imaginary HEROES FOR HIRE in 1981 we probably would have worshiped at it’s alter for the rest of the decade.
Wilder & Pryor were the odd couple successors to Abbott & Costello and the progenitors to Riggs & Murtaugh, and the whole buddy cop genre was the result. Starting with SILVER STREAK in 1980 and concluding with 1989’s SEE NO EVIL HEAR NO EVIL, Wilder & Pryor not only defined my generation’s sense of humor, but also our concepts of humanity through diversity. With mockery and slapstick assault, their jabs at our culture’s inability to see beyond the color line highlighted our failings as a society. This theoretical HEROES FOR HIRE film would have fit perfectly in line with their other movies as well as the original comic’s genuine (if sometimes misguided) point of view.
Ultimately, I cannot look at Nick Perks’ creation without feeling that pang for a bygone era of “We Tried” comic book movies. While SWAMP THING and SUPERGIRL stunk up the box office, Wilder & Pryor were at the top of their game. Their HEROES FOR HIRE would certainly not be in tone with the current MCU, but I must dream that it would have fit ridiculously well with their other collaborations. At the very least it would have been a far funnier outing for Pryor than SUPERMAN III. Yikes.
Now, I must return to skulking the caverns of the Internet, hunting for that next piece of fan art to provoke such a rambling adoration.