Tagged: Christopher Nolan

John Ostrander: Revamp, Reinterpret, Regenerate, Reinvigorate

Ostrander Art 130303There’s been a lot of pushing the reset button in pop culture recently and I find the results interesting. J.J. Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise a few years back and, while some fans complained, I think it was successful. Certainly it was financially successful, which is what the Hollywood moguls really care about.

At the start of Daniel Craig’s run, the James Bond movies were also rebooted, culminating in the recent spectacular Skyfall, which – again this may be heresy to some – was the best Bond film ever. It’s visually stunning and takes Bond himself to greater depths and heights than I’ve seen up until now.

Sherlock Holmes has been reinterpreted into the modern age with two versions, the BBC’s magnificent Sherlock and Elementary on CBS. Both are true to the basics and it’s amazing how well the classic fictional detective gibes with modern times.

Of course, we’ve witnessed DC’s rebirth with the New 52. Again, you can argue as to whether it is artistically successful but I don’t think you can argue that it hasn’t been financially successful thus far. This summer will see a movie rebooting of Superman with Man of Steel. The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy rebooted that cinematic history as The Amazing Spider-man did with that character’s movie version. X-Men: First Class reimagined Marvel’s mutants and so on. The next Star Wars chapter and the announced Star Wars solo films, while they will undoubtedly respect the previous movies, will probably play hob with what is known as the Extended Universe, the complex continuity that has sprung up around the films via novels, comics, games and more. Depending on how they turn out, that may not be a bad idea.

All my professional comic book writing career, I’ve played with and enjoyed continuity. I respect it but I don’t worship it and I don’t think it is cast in stone. Sometimes, continuity becomes like barnacles on the bottom of a boat and need to be scraped off in order to make the boat (or the franchise) sea/see worthy again.

One of the most successful franchises is the BBC’s Doctor Who and part of its longevity (it celebrates 50 years this year) is its ability to change the actor who is playing the Doctor. It’s built into the series; the Doctor is an alien being who regenerates from time to time into virtually a new character, played by a different actor. The new Doctor doesn’t look, act, dress or sound like any of the other incarnations. The re-invention is a part of the continuity and that’s very clever.

I think this is very healthy; characters and concepts can and should be re-examined and re-imagined for the times in which they appear. They have to speak to and reflect concerns that its current public has if they are going to remain vital and alive.

Can it be overdone or badly done? Absolutely. Some remakes get so far from what the character is about that they might as well be a different character altogether. You want to take a look at the essence of the character, what defines them, and then see how you get back to that, interpreting it for current audiences. Some folks revamp something for the sake of revamping or to put their stamp on the character. I don’t think that usually works very well. Change what needs changing, certainly, but be true to the essentials of the character or concept.

Have I always done that? I don’t think so; when I was given Suicide Squad, I didn’t go back to the few stories that were originally published and work from that. I created a new concept for the title. However, I did reference the old stories and kept them a part of continuity, albeit re-interpreting them. I think we played fair with the old stories.

On The Spectre, Tom Mandrake and I took elements from as many past versions of the character as we could while getting down to what we felt were the essentials. Really, our biggest change was not the Spectre himself but his alter-ego, Jim Corrigan. Originally, he was plainclothes detective in the 30s and our version reflected that. I think that was a key to our success.

Even with my own character GrimJack, after a certain point I drop kicked the character at least 100 years down his own timeline into (shades of the Doctor) a new incarnation. I gave him a new supporting cast and the setting changed as well. It made the book and the character fresh again and made me look at it with new eyes.

The old stories will continue to exist somewhere; they just won’t be part of the new continuity. At some point, that new continuity will be changed as well as the concepts and characters are re-interpreted for a newer audience. That way they’ll remain fresh and alive. Otherwise, they’ll just become fossilized and dead. Who wants that?




Watch the new trailer for “Man Of Steel”

For those of you that can’t wait for the weekend to see it in front of The Hobbit, we have the new trailer for next summer’s Superman movie, Man Of Steel, starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, Christopher Meloni, and Russell Crowe, written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, and directed by Zack Snyder.


Useless trivia: it’s been 34 years and one day since Superman: The Movie was released.

Emily S. Whitten: What I’m Watching – Arrow

I love TV shows, but sometimes I’m terrible at keeping up with them. As with comics, I tend to skip a few weeks and then mainline three or four episodes in a row, mostly because I hate getting just a tiny bit of story and character interaction and then waiting a whole week for more. Impatience is one of my little flaws, and the mandatory waiting is made more bearable if I get a miniseries collection of stories first.

However, given that it’s often harder (or more inconvenient) to find and watch back episodes of current shows, this fall I did take note of two shows I was excited about and wanted to actually try to keep up with, one of which is Arrow, the new CW show about Green Arrow. So far, I’m succeeding. Go me!

I always try to give a new show at least two episodes to decide what I think of it. Sure, a pilot is supposed to grab you and draw you in, but sometimes it takes even a potentially good show a couple of tries to establish a balance (and sometimes it takes half of a season and by the time they’ve worked out the kinks the show’s canceled. I’m looking at you, Dresden Files). For instance, during the first episode of Dexter I was unsure of whether my long-time friend had been insulting my character or serious when he’d said “Oh, you’d love Dexter. It’s about a serial killer!” but by episode two I’d realized that he was absolutely right and I wanted to see more. We’ve had two episodes of Arrow so far, so I feel like I’ve given it a fair shot and it’s time for a frank assessment. So here we go!

 (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

The storyline is centered around Oliver Queen immediately after his return from a yacht wreck and five years marooned on The Island that Makes a Man Out of Him – or a Future Vigilante, whatever. He returns to Star(ling) City to discover that his mom has married the CEO of his dad’s company, his sister Thea’s a recreational drug user, and his best friend Tommy Merlyn’s a slightly smarmy partier – which apparently means he’s the one person who hasn’t changed at all in five years. Ollie’s ex-girlfriend, now-lawyer (Dinah) Laurel Lance, is mad he’s not dead because her sister Sarah died on the yacht because Ollie was cheating on Laurel with her. Classy!

Pretty much from the first moment Ollie arrives back in the city, he begins his purposeful transformation to (Green) Arrow with his stated (literally stated, in an Intense Voiceover) mission being to take down a list of corrupt people his dad told him about who have ruined the city.

Even in the comics, Green Arrow bears a lot of superficial similarities to Batman; but in this show, it’s obvious that they’re actually trying to channel Christopher Nolan’s Batman in particular. Ollie hides behind a more shallow “playboy” persona that he switches on in public so people won’t suspect his vigilante skills and activities; he’s most genuinely affectionate towards the household staff (which plays weirdly here, since it doesn’t seem like either his mother or sister are heinous people at this point); and he magically sets up a fully stocked and wired Arrow-cave with what are apparently two Bags of Holding containing computers, lights, weaponry, and an entire exercise setup.

The problem with all this, though, is that it’s done so quickly. In the Batman movies there’s a clear progression and motivation behind everything Bruce Wayne does to make himself into Batman, and we get to savor the transformation of an ordinary man into a superhero. In this show, it’s like they’re rushing to get the setup out of the way and don’t bother to appreciate what’s so cool about a superhero’s origin, or to go through the reasoning for his behavior. Which is puzzling, because if you’re going to have ridiculously dramatic voiceovers in your show, what better way to use them than to say things like, “I had to pretend to be something I’m not – a shallow, callous party boy – so people wouldn’t suspect the truth.” I can just hear Stephen Amell intoning that now. (Although hopefully he’d stop short of saying, “I also had to don a green hood of vigilante-ism. Because I cannot complete my mission as Oliver Queen. But as a symbol…as a symbol I can be incorruptible; everlasting…”)

Okay, I’m making a big deal about the Nolan parallels; and it could be argued that those movies redefined certain types of superhero cinema, and naturally a serious superhero show might resemble them. But there are actual shots in Arrow that are so cinematically similar to those movies that I can’t think it’s remotely a coincidence, and they’re a little too on-the-mark to be enjoyed as homages.

For instance, in the pilot we get a scene with the head bad guy sitting in a car looking scared as Arrow takes out his men just outside – a la Carmine Falcone at the docks in Batman Begins. And in episode two we get the previous part of that same Batman scene, when a different head bad guy looks around in fright as an unseen person starts taking out his men around him with projectiles in a warehouse-like area (a la the Batarang striking the light bulb and the ensuing mayhem in the movie). And that’s just a couple of examples. Let’s not even get started on things like Tommy driving Ollie into the bad part of the city (does that make Tommy Rachel Dawes?) and the dedication of an applied sciences building in episode two.

I’m not saying that stealing a few pages from Nolan’s playbook is a bad idea; in fact, I think it could be really enjoyable to watch. But as I said, here…everything is so rushed. It’s like they were in this huge hurry to slot every family member, friend, and piece of Arrow’s persona into place so they could get down to the nitty-gritty plot of the show. Which would be okay, except that so far, the plot isn’t a plot, it’s a…routine? I’m not sure what else to call it. Other than all of the establishing information (including the shipwreck and island flashbacks), if I had to sum up what has happened in real time so far, it would be: Queen goes after someone on his Bad Guy list and makes them pay somehow that involves trick arrows; Laurel is involved because she’s a lawyer who fights against the Bad Guys in court; and Detective Harry-Dresden Lance gets involved either because of his daughter or Arrow or both, which makes me happy because so far, he’s my favorite part of the show. (Seriously, I love Paul Blackthorne as Detective Lance so far, and I really loved him as Harry Dresden. Can you tell?)

And… that’s it. Sure, there’s ongoing character drama – sister Thea is alternately begging Ollie to let her in and angry at him for judging her, and the interactions between the two, while not always logical, are pretty well done. Mommy Queen is now married to his dad’s old friend, and is apparently in the midst of Evil Doings but still loves her son… maybe. Ollie and Laurel are back-and-forth about where their relationship is (and their interactions are probably the best part of the show so far, because actress Katie Cassidy, whom I last saw as Ruby in Supernatural, is killing it as Laurel). Meanwhile, there’s some undefined nonsense going on with Laurel and Merlyn; and Laurel and her dad have fights about The Right Way to Do Right. It’s all potentially interesting, but somehow the interesting moments are so disconnected that they turn into background noise for Ollie’s quest; and so far, Ollie’s quest is boring.

To compare: while Smallville, the last CW show to feature Green Arrow, was often goofy and sometimes entered downright “WTF?” territory, the same zaniness that allowed for total mis-steps like “Lana becomes a vampire for an episode” also allowed for stuff like Red-K Clark partying and knocking over banks in Metropolis, and Ollie leading a young Justice League into Lex Luthor’s evil labs and blowing them up; and seriously? That was kind of awesome. There were some really fun plots that only happened because the fictional world was wide open to stuff like Lois & Clark somehow getting sucked into the Phantom Zone via both simultaneously touching Clark’s Fortress crystal which had just been anonymously mailed to him. All in a day at the Kent farm, as it were.

In that universe, which features a different take on Green Arrow’s core personality (and one that I grew to appreciate despite his clunky introductory scenes), somehow Green Arrow targeting Bad Dudes and giving their money to charity managed to be both not boring and not the only thing we were supposed to be invested in. Ollie in Smallville had heart, a certain playfulness despite his tragic past, and, frankly, more firmness of purpose than Clark a lot of the time. Despite the Smallville-ian costume Arrow dons here, however, this character is pretty dour (too much firmness of purpose?), and while I get that he’s supposed to be suppressing his emotions for his mission, I miss the heart that the Smallville character had. Even when he was in pain and being a jackass about it, you felt for him and could understand why his friends would rally together to help him, as they did more than once. I don’t find that here.

I guess I’m having a bit of trouble collating how I feel about Arrow overall, because I’m torn between how much I really wanted to like it (especially given all of the good advance reviews) and my thoughts when watching it. Despite my criticisms above, there are some good pieces to this puzzle; but it seems like all of the pieces I might enjoy are jumbled in with each other in a way that makes it hard to enjoy any of them or put together a coherent picture. The good pieces include the aforementioned interactions between certain characters; Tommy Merlyn as the comic relief; the fun little nerd references to Andy Diggle, Mike Grell, and Deathstroke; Amell, who is gaining traction in a more nuanced portrayal of Oliver by episode two, and is plenty pretty for a CW show (it’s a requirement, dontchya know) and impressively fit (the salmon ladder exercise in the pilot is memorable); the flashbacks to the wreck (and Sarah’s whooshing out to sea, which was very well done); the trick arrows (I like how they’re modernized into technology arrows); and the Lance family (really I’d watch a whole show about the Lance family, as played by Blackthorne and Cassidy, and am thinking right now that maybe the network should have gone with that).

But there are also jarringly bad notes, like the over-the-top (and sometimes unnecessary) voiceovers; some not-stellar dialogue (“What…happened to you on that island?” “A lot.”); and the fact that Oliver Queen, Our Hero, cold killed a dude by straight-up breaking his neck (after presumably killing another dude by putting him in the way of about fifteen bullets to the chest). This happens in the pilot, when Ollie and Tommy are abducted so that some mysterious person (Ollie’s mom, as it turns out) can learn if his dad told him about all the Bad Guys in Star(ling) City. And I get that Ollie is in danger here, since the thugs Ollie’s mom hired are spraying bullets everywhere in a way that would have killed anyone who wasn’t trained to escape them (and since Ollie’s mom doesn’t know about his bad-assedness, that really makes me wonder about her); but still – he kills the guy in cold blood, just because the dude saw him do some sweet parkour and martial arts. I feel like this isn’t very heroic, you know? Also it’s uneven writing, because after that, he purposely doesn’t kill any more bad dudes (even the really bad ones specifically named in his book), instead “bringing them to justice.” Hm.

Taken all together, I would have liked to see a lot more of Ollie progressing from “traumatized guy with a purpose” to “full on superhero,” rather than the rushed bits we get here. Hell, I’d probably watch at least a half-season of just that. Instead of trying to pull every thread of his life together at once, I think if the show had focused in on Ollie, slowly drawing in and examining his interactions with others, I might already have become more invested. I also think that if they threw some challenges in Ollie’s quest path, instead of making it seem like each week he’ll just knock another name off of his list, no problem, I’d be more eager to watch.

As it is, the flashbacks have been interesting, the nerd references are fun, and there have been some snippets of good character interaction. What will keep me watching (for a few more episodes at least) is mainly my appreciation for seeing any adaptation of a superhero to a major network show; my love of the nerdy bits they throw in here and there; my appreciation of The Pretty (hey, Amell’s abs and chiseled looks are impressive); my interest in the Lance family; and my hope that the show is going to jump to a more surprising trajectory than it’s on now, and hopefully get better.

…So I guess I’ll keep watching and see how Arrow does next week, and until then, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis? Really?

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Gets Mad, For A Change

Taking Down “The Dark Knight Rises”

The Dark Knight RisesOuch, ouch, and more ouch.



After DC COMICS reminds everyone of their shitty new logo, HANS ZIMMER plucks a couple strings until HOODED TOM HARDY and nuclear scientist ALON ABOUTBOUL are taken on board CIA AGENT AIDAN GILLEN’S PLANE.


We were only expecting the scientist, who the fuck are you?

(in 5.1 surround)

Remember how the lasht villain was introduced in a full-head mashk, only revealing hish true face ash he pulled off an overly elaborate plan that involved shacrifiching hish own underlingsh?

(removes hood)


via If ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Was 10 Times Shorter and More Honest | Cracked.com.

And just for good measure, we have the folks at How It Should Have Ended weighing in:


Sadly, I can’t find much wrong with their critiques.

Then we have word that The Dark Knight Rises passes $900 Million in worldwide box office, while at the same time selling fewer tickets than Tim Burton’s Batman. Amazing, ain’t it?

REVIEW: The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy

The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy
By Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy
304 pages, Abrams, $40

There is so much visually wonderful about Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films that this book seemed an obvious event. An oversized hardcover, it has amazing production values with gorgeous photography on heavy paper, cleanly designed (thank you, Chip Kidd), and overall appealing. Clearly, the authors had access to everyone from Nolan on down and they spoke freely about the challenges of conceiving themes to marketing the films.

And yet, everything feels like we’ve just touched the surface and each chapter –Screenplay, Production Design, Cast, Costumes & Makeup, The Shoot,  Special Effects & Stunts, Editing, Music & Sound, Visual Effects, and Marketing – all leave you wondering about what else happened. For example, during the Shoot, one chapter per film, you never get a feel for how Nolan directs his cast, or how he adjusts to the needs of each actor. How did Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal differ in their interpretation of Rachel Dawes. We’re left wondering why the comic book antecedents for most of the characters are referenced but not Henri Ducard nor are we told about the various reveals through the films (such as Ducard really being Ra’s al Ghul, echoed in the third film by Miranda Tate being revealed as Talia). Michael Caine writes an introduction that extols Nolan’s virtues as a director, but after that, we’re still left wondering what those are.

This reads about two steps above the usual press materials sent out when films open, the canned features sent to media outlets hungry for content. The writing is clear and facile, but a little too fawning in spots and far from critical about things that worked and didn’t work.

Perhaps the most glaring omission is a real in-depth look at the wildly successful viral marketing. This section needed more content, more images of the viral marketing at work, and more examples of the Internet phenomena, especially for The Dark Knight, which raised the bar for films.

You get some great shots of how the costumes, sets, and vehicles were built and see some of the shooting challenges that were presented over the last decade. It certainly works as a primer to Nolan’s take on the caped crusader and his world, but you don’t necessarily get into the filmmaker’s head, especially why he felt he was done after three. Nor does he comment how his successful reinterpretation of the hero led to supervising next summer’s Man of Steel. The contributions from screenwriters David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan are acknowledged but hearing more from them would have certainly helped us better understand how the films evolved, especially the themes for the final film in the wake of Heath Ledger’s death. Nolan writes in his foreword, “I never thought we’d do a third – are there any great second sequels?” Well, there’s The Last Crusade for starters, but Batman has endured monthly for seventy-five years so the answer is yes.

The book is a fine read but given the size and weight of the tome, one would have hoped for depth in the written content. It leaves you want much, much more and at this price, readers deserve all that and more.

Emily S. Whitten: Marvel Movies: Are They Going Too Far?

I suppose we could call this a follow-up or at least sister piece to last week’s column, in which I interviewed the fantastic Cleolinda Jones, author of Movies in Fifteen Minutes, about her experiences with comic book movies. Cleo noted that she tends to be more interested in Marvel characters because “Marvel has been so much more pro-active about getting movies made and characters out there;” which is true. Let’s look at some numbers for live action comic book movies, just for kicks.

Marvel Movies: 37 (33 + 4 from other Marvel imprints)

DC Movies: 33 (23 + 10 from other DC imprints)

Marvel Movies since 1998: 31 (28 + 3 from other Marvel imprints)

DC Movies since 1998: 18 (8 + 10 from other DC imprints)

Forthcoming Marvel Movies: 16 (8 announced – Iron Man 3; The Wolverine; Thor: The Dark World; Captain America: The Winter Soldier; The Amazing Spider-Man 2; X-Men: Days of Future Past; Avengers 2: Guardians of the Galaxy; Ant-man. 8 speculative – The Amazing Spider-man 3; Deadpool; Doctor Strange; Nick Fury; Runaways; The Hands of Shang-Chi; The Inhumans; Fantastic Four)

Forthcoming DC Movies:   9 (1 announced – Man of Steel. 8 speculative – Constantine 2; The Flash; Green Lantern 2; Justice League; Batman reboot (again); Wonder Woman (maybe?); Suicide Squad; Lobo)

Sources: Wikipedia’s Marvel and DC movie pages; IMDB; tooling around the Internets for all the announcement mentions I could find.

As we can see from the numbers, Marvel consistently beats DC overall in live action movies and soundly whups DC’s behind in live action movies (released and upcoming) from 1998 forward, which I think of as the current/modern comic book movie era (it started with Blade and gained momentum thanks to X-Men and Spider-Man in 2000 and 2002). In the upcoming movies department, not only does Marvel have almost twice as many movies as DC, but at least eight of them are pretty definitely moving forward; as opposed to the one DC has in the can and ready to go. Although DC has announced or sort-of announced several more, they have been much less forceful in confirming their future line-up, and most are not yet locked in.

The Dark Knight Rises (and Christopher Nolan’s trilogy in general) was a huge success; but The Avengers is currently ranked third overall  in box office sales, and Marvel is pushing full steam ahead with a long list of upcoming movies to expand on that success. But is their current success making them go too far? With future movies pulling from somewhat second-string characters like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and The Runaways, is Marvel stretching itself too thin and being too ambitious? Are they going to burn out moviegoers with a plethora of new movies about characters people might not know?

Actually, I’d say the answer is no; Marvel is doing exactly what it should to continue producing quality comics movies, and to continue beating the pants off of DC. There are two reasons Marvel’s exuberance in greenlighting all kinds of characters is going to pay off. The first is that Marvel’s attempt to interlock its movies and continue to build off of its shared movie universe, as it has built off of its shared comics universe, has been a resounding success; and if the quality of upcoming movies is consistent, there’s no reason why that should change. In fact, if the future movies are quality, things can only get better for Marvel. Everyone loves a good series, and Marvel’s movies promise to be an ongoing and expanding series like nothing we’ve ever seen in mainstream cinema. They will pull in, if they haven’t already (and dollars to donuts they have) those who don’t read comics but love sci-fi and fantasy series’ like Lord of the Rings, or even those who just like stories that keep on giving. As long as the overall weight of the expanding universe doesn’t drag down the individual movies, love for the whole series will increase exponentially.

The second is that making movies about possibly second-string-ish but still fully developed characters gives Marvel more creative freedom. Despite Ant-Man being a member of The Avengers, he doesn’t have the pull and wide recognition of Iron Man or Captain America. And while Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways was a great series, since it doesn’t often cross paths with a lot of the more enduring characters, even core Marvel readers may not have picked it up before. By greenlighting some less familiar faces, I’d say Marvel has the leeway to be a bit looser with the source material if it will result in a better movie. Similar to what DC has tried to do with the New 52 comics, Marvel can make these characters accessible to the modern audience, but in an easily digested format in which it’s already accepted that stories may be adapted to serve the medium. I see this as a strong benefit, because often being too enmeshed in the sometimes complex source material can drag a movie down. Thanks to the successful movie platform they’ve built, Marvel now has a great opportunity to introduce some less known characters, including to casual or even serious comics readers, for the very first time through the movies, as they continue to build a more and more of a “realistic” and layered movie world that viewers can lose themselves in.

So I predict that Marvel’s method of movie-making (say that three times fast!) is going to keep working for them. And with that in mind, even though Marvel’s got a super-awesome and full line-up in mind already, here are some other (slightly more minor) characters I’d love to see greenlit for movies:

Taskmaster – He’s a villain, he’s a hero, he’s a villain, he’s a…oh, who knows. Probably not him. All I know is that his backstory is already intertwined with S.H.I.E.L.D. (and Deadpool!) so he could be woven into the overall movie universe; and that he’s fun to read about. And that I’d like to see those photographic reflexes at work on the big screen.

BAD Girls, Inc. – A group with ambiguously good/bad members, Diamondback, Asp, and Black Mamba have crossed paths with Captain America, Iron Man, and more. They could eventually be folded into the wider universe, but given that there are three of them with great interplay and distinct personalities, and given their eventual status as reformed criminals, I could first envision a great mostly standalone strong female action/adventure/crime-related movie with solid and engaging character arcs and redemption. Unfortunately, one of the three, Asp, has been revealed to be a mutant, so I’m not sure if there would be rights issues; but then again, Marvel is doing Runaways, and in that group, Molly is a mutant; so maybe FOX only owns the rights to mutants who have been tied to the X-Men.

Hawkeye/Mockingbird/Black Widow – Marvel’s teamed these three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents up in the comics before, and Hawkeye and Black Widow have already been introduced in the movie universe. I definitely want to see a movie featuring those two, but I like the idea of bringing Mockingbird in as well. I’d love to see a movie that casually establishes that she was already a known entity with an established history with Hawkeye in The Avengers but was just not part of that particular fight; it adds to that “layered universe” feel to have characters who have been presumably going about their lives offscreen before being brought in to the event we’re watching. Plus there’d be some great interplay between those three, and I feel like a S.H.I.E.L.D.-focused movie would benefit from a small team of fairly equal major players.

Ms. Marvel – Okay, she’s not actually a minor character. She’s a major character, an Avenger, and a fucking badass powerhouse. Despite the horrifyingly fanservicey costume, she’s a super-strong (literally) female character, and we need to see her on the big screen. Like, yesterday.

Black Panther – He’s got an interesting backstory and eventually does a stint with The Avengers, but is also powerful and important in his own right. There’s a lot to choose from in his history, since he’s been around since 1966. Also, obviously, it’d be great to see a minority character getting first billing.

…And after Marvel does all of these movies, when we’re all eighty-five years old and hobbling to the movies on our walkers…then they can finally wrap it up by thumbing their noses at us with a Nextwave: Agents of HATE movie. And then maybe close out with X-Babies to make us feel better about everything. Because awwwwwwww, X-Babies.

After all this talk of Marvel, one obvious question is: what can DC do to be more successful in the movie arena? One answer is that they can build up an interlocking universe like Marvel; and it looks like that’s what they’re now planning to do. But as they’re developing that, there are a couple of other things I’d recommend for them. One is to put a lot of energy and love into making a Wonder Woman movie a staple part of that interlocking universe, and do it right. There have been several attempts to get a modern Wonder Woman something off the ground, but the proposed TV series never came to pass, and although the modern animated movie was fun, it didn’t reach a wide audience. Wonder Woman is a major and much-loved DC character, and perfect for the current climate of successful strong female character movies. For whatever reason, though, adaptations seem to struggle with what part of her giant backstory to tell. I’d advise DC to simplify things by deciding how Wonder Woman would be living today, and picking up only the threads of her long-running story that will play with modern audiences. Look first at what makes the best contemporary story that embodies who she is, and second at how faithful each individual bit is to the preceding comics.

Another thing DC can do is to stop rebooting Batman. There have been three versions of Batman to date, and now there’s talk that Christopher Nolan will eventually be helming another Batman reboot. Now, it could be that this rumored reboot is actually going to continue the story Nolan left us with at the end of The Dark Knight Rises and connect it to Man of Steel and other DC movies. If so, great. But if it is indeed a fourth iteration of a character that just wrapped a super-successful trilogy…well I don’t even know what to do with that. DC should be focusing on characters it hasn’t featured instead of relying too heavily on continuously reimagining its two staple stars, Batman and Superman. I hope it does.

Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to the movies that are in the works, and continue to cross my fingers and hope that they’ll all be amazing.

Until next week, Servo Lectio!

(And thanks to my friend @wmslawhorn for inspiring this topic while in a WSFAn’s kitchen eating brownies and drinking beer.)

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold’s Cold Ennui


Michael Davis: The Death Of Batman

From the second I saw the original Batman television show I was hooked.

Just that quick, Batman had replaced Spider-Man as my absolute favorite superhero. Bruce Wayne replaced Peter Parker, Dick Grayson replaced Gwen Stacy and the Joker replaced Dr. Octopus.

When the TV show became corny to my friends, I was still a fan. I didn’t care that they had all switched to the Green Hornet. Yeah, Kato was cooler than Robin and the Green Hornet was just, well he was just cool, but Batman was still my guy.

When Michael Keaton was cast in the 1989 film I was all in. When people started bitching that Mr. Mom was going to play Batman like a joke I didn’t care. I just wanted to see Batman on the big screen. Batman the movie was one of the first DVDs I ever brought and this was when DVDs cost a lot more than they do now.

I’ve seen every episode of every Batman animated series. I own hundreds – maybe even more than a thousand action figures. Without a doubt the single action figure I own more of is Batman.

I write this in my office under a framed 1966 Batman movie poster. To the left of the poster is a cabinet full of porcelain and bronze action figures, of the 18 figures in the cabinet there are four Batman’s and that is the only figure that is represented more than once.

I was very close once to buying a replica of the 1966 Batmobile. How close? I was filling out the paperwork when I realized I was buying a fucking Batmobile.

What kind of asshole buys a fucking Batmobile when he lives in Manhattan and rarely drives the car he already owns? Hell, what kind of asshole buys a fucking Batmobile anyhow? For about two hours I was that type of asshole and a few years later I regretted not buying the car and yes, on occasion I still think I’m that type of asshole.

I own every single Batman movie on DVD and some even on VHS. I’ve watched and own every single Batman TV episode. On many occasions during late nights in my studio I watch from episode one until I stop working. I once did more than 24 hours of watching the show. I was high on coffee and Adam West and loved it.

There has not been one Batman movie I have not seen the opening weekend. In most cases I’ve seen the movie the day it opened, except for the current one. I had every intention of seeing The Dark Knight Rises the opening weekend. I wanted to go to an all day screening of all of the Christopher Nolan Batman films with my dear friend and business partner Tatiana El-Khouri that would climax with The Dark Knight Rises but I was too busy.

I missed that boat and with it I think I missed my one chance to see the film I’ve been waiting well over a year to see. I hear the latest Batman may be the greatest yet. I fear I may never know because I have no intention of seeing it.

I was unable to write my column last week and it’s most likely a good thing that I didn’t. Undoubtedly because of the Aurora shootings and my personal experience with violent crimes my article would have been a hate filled call for revenge against the shooter and his friends and family.

Yeah. His friends and family also.

I’m well aware (now) that makes no sense, but in my initial rage it made all the sense in the world. My piece would have been filled with all sorts of reasons to just beat the living shit out of the crazy motherfucker who committed this sick act.

My heart goes out to the victims of the massacre. There is nothing and I mean nothing that can prepare you for the news that someone you love has been murdered. Trust me. I know.

Because of my history and the way my stupid mind works I simply cannot bring myself to go see The Dark Knight Rises.

I hope and pray that I’ll get over this but I fear that is not to be. I have issues and as much as I love my ComicMix audience I’m not prepared to give you the low down on the details of those issues that prevent me seeing The Dark Knight Rises because of that revolting motherfucker’s actions.

Alas, the people the madman killed and their families are what is important and what we should be thinking about. On a much and I do mean much lesser note that coward with a gun also killed Batman for me. My favorite superhero has now been corrupted in my mind.

To many I’m sure it seems silly for me to give that asswipe the power to corrupt one of my favorite things but unfortunately I have no defense over how I feel. If I associate something with something that’s bad I’m powerless to stop it as much as I try to do so.

I take some comfort in the knowledge that America has rejected the bastard and the hold he has over me is insignificant for America has made The Dark Knight Rises a big hit.

Bravo America. USA!! U S Fucking A!

My demons are mine alone and I rejoice in the fact that the film is doing well in spike of the doings of a limp dick psychopath.

I stop people from telling me about the movie. Not because of my issues but because I’m going to make every attempt to see it. If I don’t manage to see it on the big screen then I will endeavor to watch it when it’s available on pay for view if not then I’ll try and see it on DVD. If those efforts fail I’ll try and watch it on HBO.

Somehow, somewhere I’ll see that movie. That sick motherfucker may have won the battle in his demented mind, but America has already won the war and as for me, I’m determined to win my personal battle.

I don’t know a lot but I do know this, crazy sick assholes do not make the rules, they just make noise. Today that bastard may have killed Batman for me but everyone knows that killing a superhero is just temporary.

I’m sure that Batman will be back in my life and I’m just as sure that the shooter will be forgotten and his victims remembered at the same bat time on the same bat channel, forever.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Goes To A Party!


The Point Radio: Nolan & Bale – The Final Words On DARK KNIGHT

As the nation continues with the healing process, we look again at THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. We talk with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale (and Anne Hathaway, of course) on the pressures they felt even before the first tickets were sold. Plus THE HOBBIT may be three movies, and an ill John Noble halts production on FRINGE.

Don’t miss a minute of pop culture news – The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Emily S. Whitten: Heroism and Bravery

Some people think that comics are a kid thing – the bright colors; the often cartoony style of art; the people parading around with their underwear on the outside – and they are for kids. But they’re also for teens, and adults, and all of us. They are a medium of storytelling that can be just as beautiful and terrible and effective as any other. If done right, the stories within a comic can bring joy, and can hurt, and inspire, and educate, and much more.

It’s funny when I try to talk about comics to someone who doesn’t read them, like my dad. His first response is “We didn’t have those in my house growing up. Some of the other kids did, I guess.” You know – because it’s a kid thing. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not criticizing my love of comics; he just hasn’t read many, and might not be aware that they can contain nuanced and complex storytelling, both for kids and adults. But I’m a well-read adult, and comics engage me, they bring me joy, they make me laugh, and yes, sometimes, they even make me cry. I know I’m not the only one.

In today’s hyper-connected society full of Internet news and forums and blogs, we know, more than we might have in the “old days, that there are tons of us adult comics fans out there, and that, indeed, at least in media like movies, comics have gone mainstream – people who’ve never read a paper comic have watched movies about Superman and Spider-Man and the X-Men and The Avengers and Batman and all the rest. Parents of children who are themselves adults have gone to see these movies. These days, as pointed out in John Cheese’s article, if you don’t get excited about the newest comics movie, or aren’t planning to see it, people might even think you’re out of the loop. Everyone now has exposure to comics, and all of us adult fans know we are not alone.

We also know that even though comics are a pretty big thing these days, there are still going to be people that think they’re only for kids, and/or don’t see the value within. There are also going to be people who look at art of Spider-Man in mid-fight and only see people beating up on each other. And they’re going to be concerned (maybe for the kids, or maybe because of the violence in general) and think that comics don’t hold much value, or that they are a bad influence. But Spider-Man landing a punch is only part of the story.

In the wake of the horrible and senseless Dark Knight Rises shooting tragedy, I know people are already questioning whether comics (and their affiliate media, such as movies) were responsible for the violence, and how violence in comics is affecting people, including children. I also know that comics creators and fans are trying to understand how a man who was presumably at least some sort of a fan could have done such a terrible thing. I certainly don’t know, except that quite probably, he is mentally ill.

Having studied media in culture way back in the dark ages of college (was it really so long ago??) I know that we don’t know, and probably won’t ever know, exactly how much influence violence in media has on people, although we do know that there can definitely be a correlation. But by the same token, we also know that two people being exposed to the same violent media can have completely different reactions, and for some people, there may be no correlation at all. For the majority of society, seeing a violent movie, or reading a violent comic, doesn’t directly cause violence; otherwise we’d have a lot more tragedies like this recent one.

I don’t believe we will ever be able to definitively answer the “effects of violence in media” question. Does that mean we should just shrug our shoulders and give up on our studies of this issue? Of course not. But at least at this point in our cultural learning, we don’t know what exact factors may have caused a man to methodically plan to shoot into a crowded theater. And although the news is reporting that the man said he was the Joker and had dyed red hair (presumably to emulate the Joker in the hospital nurse scene of The Dark Knight), I don’t think that necessarily means that Batman comics or movies caused him to do what he did. They may have narrowed his focus of where to attack people, and that is awful; but if The Dark Knight Rises hadn’t been there for this man to focus on, I’m guessing he would have found some other place to focus his violent acts.

I also think that as long as any kind of popular media, including comics, exists (which it always will) there are going to be some stories that may need to include violence in order to make their point, and there are going to be people out there who will miss the point of all of the complex and nuanced storytelling we can possibly include, and only see the violence; whether it be a concerned parent, or a politician, or a news reporter, or tragically, a man who thinks violence against random people in a theater is okay. But that isn’t a reason to censor necessary elements of storytelling.

Yes, Batman as a character can be violent; but as my friend Cleolinda Jones said about The Dark Knight Rises, “The sad thing about this theater tragedy is, the major theme of the movie is about inspiring others to stay strong and do good, even in the face of tragedy.”

As comics creators, I think the best we can do regarding the “violence in media” issue is continue to create nuanced stories which frequently show the good in our characters, and hopefully inspire readers with messages like staying strong and doing good, or helping others; and in which any violence is included because it is necessary to the point of the story, and does not champion violence for the sake of violence or as something without consequences. As fans, I think it’s important to tell people about the parts of the stories that move us or inspire us to be better people.

In that vein, here are just a few snippets of stories that I think show the goodness, heroic sacrifice, and bravery that is almost always present in comics. (Caution: Potential random STORY SPOILERS BELOW.)

Spider-Man: During the Marvel Civil War storyline, after years of actively and carefully protecting his identity, Spider-man bravely unmasks on national television as a gesture of support for the Superhuman Registration Act, despite his discomfort with the idea and his fear for his loved ones (who he takes steps to protect first). He makes this choice because he thinks, like Iron Man, that the Registration Act is the best way to protect American citizens and the superhero community.

That in itself would be pretty brave, but later, after Spider-Man discovers the extreme and unjust measures that are being taken to capture and imprison “rogue” superheroes whose only wrongdoing, in many cases, was helping people without registering, he switches sides to fight against the Registration Act, even though he nearly dies because of it. That’s an admirable devotion to doing what’s right.

Richard Mayhew: In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (adapted for comics, which is where I first became familiar with it), Richard Mayhew, a young businessman with a steady job, a flat, and a fiancee, stops to help what looks like a homeless woman who is lying injured in the street. Despite his fiancee’s protests, he takes the woman home (she insists he not take her to a hospital) and cleans her wounds. Unfortunately, helping this scruffy woman causes him to become invisible to regular Londoners, and visible only to the “London Below” of which the woman, Door, is a part. Naturally he panics at first, but then he stays with Door to help her escape the assassins who have killed her family and are hunting her down. There is a fair amount of violence and death in this story; but ultimately, it is about a hero’s journey, and helping others in need, and that is the part that stays with you.

Deadpool: Come on, you knew I’d include Deadpool. The ultimate screw-up most of the time, in Joe Kelly’s run, Deadpool is sought out as a predicted savior of the world. After a lot of scoffing, Deadpool finally believes that maybe, just maybe, he can be the hero he keeps trying to be, and throws himself into getting ready for his new role, where he is to destroy a monster who will arrive to stop the Mithras, a being who will supposedly bring good to all mankind.

As it turns out, what the Mithras brings is bliss in the form of a loss of free will; and after agonizing over the choice of giving mankind blissful but blank happiness, or protecting free will, Deadpool defeats the Mithras and saves the world. He is utterly broken by his choice – the fact that he had wanted so badly to be a hero, and yet had still, through his (heroic) choice, brought the continued pain and suffering that goes with free will to the whole world. But he did it anyway, because it was the right thing.

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle): In her earlier years, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter trained herself as Batgirl so that she could fight crime like Batman, and she did so for awhile. However, by the time of Batman: The Killing Joke, she is semi-retired, and at home when the Joker comes to the door and shoots her, which causes her to be paralyzed. After spending some time in deep depression (as you would), Gordon rallies and decides to use her mental gifts (such as her intelligence and photographic memory) to help fight crime instead. She develops a complex computer system, uses her photographic memory to read dozens of news sources every day, and turns herself into an invaluable resource for Batman, the Birds of Prey, and other superheroes. She pushes past her own trauma to continue helping others.

Iron Man: During Marvel’s Dark Reign storyline, Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) tricks the government into thinking he’s a reformed villain, and they replace Iron Man with Osborn as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. To keep the mentally unstable and untrustworthy Osborn from acquiring superheroes’ identities from the Registration Act database, Iron Man destroys all copies, but still has one remaining copy in his computer-like brain. To protect the information from Osborn, Stark, as a fugitive, goes tirelessly from one location to another, deleting the knowledge from his brain bit by bit. He knows this will also lead to the loss of his highly valued intelligence, and will eventually cause brain damage, but chooses to sacrifice himself to protect others. That’s heroic.

Batman: Since I’m not as big a reader of DC Comics, the live-action more immediately comes to mind, and naturally, right now, specifically the Christopher Nolan version – but there is so much to Batman generally, and in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, about sacrifice, and bravery, and doing what’s right, that if I threw a dart at the script (or the comic) I’d hit an example. Essentially, Batman’s whole story is about sacrifice – he’s not a superhero with superpowers, but rather just a rich dude who had a tragic thing happen to him. Yet he chooses to turn that experience, and his resources, into something that can constantly help others and his home city, by training his body and mind and developing and perfecting his gadgetry so that he can use both to fight crime. And in the movies, every time he chooses to protect his identity by turning his public self into something neither he nor others would respect; or takes a beating to foil a villain; or what-have-you; he’s showing that it doesn’t take superpowers to be a hero, or to protect and help people.

The above are just a few examples I happened to be thinking of. But comics are so full of examples that if you read almost any storyline you’ll find them in spades. And although as with many stories, sometimes reflections of real-world violence have a prominent place in the storylines, the violence is not the point of the story – the heroism and bravery of the protagonists is. Those things are the things that stay with most of us, and the things that make me and so many others love these stories.

I don’t know why a few of us miss the point, but I am saddened by it, and I am more saddened by this recent tragedy, and whatever connection it may have had to what is, for the most part, the wonderful world of comics. My heart goes out to all of the victims, and to everyone affected by it – which is all of us.

Until next time, Servo Lectio.



Mixed Review: Glenn and Mike and “The Dark Knight Rises”

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As with The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, Glenn and Mike saw The Dark Knight Rises separately to do this Siskel and Ebert style review. We were going to run this last Friday on the movie’s opening day, but as we’re sure you can appreciate the events of Friday morning in Colorado demanded we delay this publication to give our readers more time to see the film.

Again, we offer our standard disclaimer: there are all sorts of spoilers in this review. And this time around, there is an observation that may actively ruin the end of the film if you haven’t seen it and you intend to do so.