Tagged: Constantine

Joe Corallo: Wonder Woman Queer; Restrictions Apply


wonder-woman-templetonLast week Greg Rucka, current writer on Wonder Woman Rebirth, confirmed in an interview that Wonder Woman is queer. Whether you agree with Greg Rucka’s approach on the character, it’s a good interview and worth your time. Basically, the ideas delved into are that since Wonder Woman’s home Themyscira is an all woman’s paradise that whereas they may not exactly consider it being queer since same sex relationships are all they could have, we would consider it queer by our standards. And certainly any women that come to our world from there would almost certainly be queer by our standards.

This is certainly important for queer representation in comics. However, there are some factors here that limit this milestone that are worth discussing.

First, Wonder Woman has not always been queer. Some sites like this one make the claim that she always was, and that was always creator William Moulton Marston’s intentions. We have absolutely no evidence that was his end goal. Yes, he was in a polyamorous relationship with two women and enjoyed BDSM. While he clearly drew on some of his bondage experience for the comic, that does not mean he wished the character to be openly queer and to ultimately acknowledge that in the comics. Seeing as William Moulton Marston passed away in 1947, there are little to know formal interviews his creating Wonder Woman. Believe it or not, people didn’t care a lot about comic creators back then.

When it comes to Wonder Woman in comics as well let’s keep in mind that Comics Code Authority. The code as it stood in 1954 banned any reference to sexual deviations as they saw it, so any form of queerness, straight through 1989. While both Marvel and DC had printed a few comics that could not get the Comics Code Authority seal, it was almost always for something related to drug use. Rarely if ever was the seal denied to Marvel or DC for queerness.

gal-gadot-wonder-womanThe companies followed those guidelines so closely that Chris Claremont was forced to drop the idea of a queer relationship between Mystique and Destiny from his X-Men run. As a result, multiple generations of Wonder Woman writers had no intention of writing her as queer as it would not be published. Furthermore, straight cis white men (with the arguable exception of William Moulton Marston being polyamorous) exclusively wrote Wonder Woman for over four decades until ComicMix’s own Mindy Newell got to write three issues in 1985 before George Pérez took the reigns after Crisis On Infinite Earths.

Since 1942, various incarnations of Wonder Woman appeared in comics, on TV, and now Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman in the DC Cinematic Universe. From cartoons spanning Super Friends, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited to the live-action Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman has presented straight or at most warm and welcoming to other women. Her love interests didn’t stray far from Steve Trevor or Superman. With Steve Trevor cast in the Wonder Woman film debuting next summer in addition to the movie having mostly been filmed already, it is highly likely if not entirely impossible she will be presenting as queer in the film. Though I do fear there’s a chance she may appear queer briefly in the film in a cringe-worthy-for-the-male-gaze fashion. I’m hoping that won’t be the case.

wonder-woman-60sIt’s also worth noting that DC has retconned quite a few characters as being bisexual/queer. These characters include Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, John Constantine and now Wonder Woman. All of them are cis and white with only one of them being male. Many of the characters named have appeared in other media recently; when the Constantine show premiered on NBC, the showrunners stated they would not portray him as bisexual. Harley Quinn was just in the film Suicide Squad with no reference to her bisexuality. It’s hard to say you’re pushing for diversity when you’re pushing for it in the medium with the least amount of people engaging in it, while not demanding it with those characters’ counterparts on TV and in the movies.

The characters being cis and white are part of the limitations DC has when they retcon characters. The overwhelming majority of the characters created decades ago were straight cis and white. When you aren’t creating new characters and are retconning queerness into them, the result is a lot of white queer characters and few to no queer POC. This sort of backdoor diversity approach to queerness isn’t the best approach. As I’ve been advocating on this column for a while, we need more new queer characters and to use some of the queer characters who were made with the intention to be queer like Coagula, who granted is white, but would still bring DC’s trans superhero count from 0 to 1. DC needs new characters, not more backdoor diversity.

wonder-woman-race-colorWe have decades of a straight-coded Wonder Woman in our culture. Yes, she has often been a symbol of feminism, but we cannot conflate feminism with queerness. Whether people want to admit it or not, Wonder Woman being queer is a retcon and we need to treat it as such.

We can embrace this news as positive and push for more overt queerness in Wonder Woman, which is what I plan on doing. We can praise Greg Rucka for taking positive steps in this direction and for his handling of Wonder Woman. What we can’t do is go around acting like DC Comics has been progressive on this front for decades and we just didn’t realize it. And we can’t praise Wonder Woman being queer in the comics and not acknowledge how she’s presenting as straight in other media. That’s not how this works.

Joe Corallo: Comics and Bi-erasure

Angela_Queen_of_HelAs promised in my last column, this week is about bi-erasure in comics. It’s come up too often as of late and deserves its own column rather than being crammed into an already dense essay on critiques of Iceman’s coming out. It’s a problem that extends beyond the comics themselves, and has reached the TV adaptations as well.

Before diving in, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page. Bi-erasure is varying levels of denying bisexuality truly exists, whether intentional or not. In comics, this manifests itself in rewriting bisexual characters as being straight or gay, having characters tell other characters they’re definitely just gay and not bisexual despite many decades being written as straight and refusing to even entertain the idea that maybe that character would be bi, using shapeshifters to skirt around the issue of bisexuality, and that’s just a few general examples.

Marvel has recently given us two examples: Hercules and Angela. Hercules, a historically bisexual demigod, will definitively be straight according to editor-in-chief Axel Alonso. He did address that Hercules was in a relationship with James Howlett in X-Treme X-Men at one point, but that was outside the main universe and doesn’t count.

With Angela, despite her being intimate with Sera in the first issue of Angela: Queen of Hel, Axel makes it a point that he doesn’t want to put any labels on these characters to let the readers decide. Angela’s actions with Sera make it clear to the reader that she is bisexual, pansexual, or possibly a lesbian. Sera herself is even considered a trans character at Marvel, as she was assigned male at birth. Her being an Angel of the tenth realm and not someone of earth makes me a little hesitant to consider her Marvel’s first trans superhero. Axel saying that Hercules is definitively straight, then saying with Angela he doesn’t want to put labels on these things within a couple of months of each other will make just about anyone scratch their head in wonder.

On a positive note, the director of the Deadpool movie has said that Deadpool will be depicted as openly pansexual. I’m cautiously optimistic about this. It could be great, or it could be using Deadpool’s pansexuality to make lazy homophobic jokes where the entire joke is it’s funny because he’s hitting on a guy! We’ll have to wait and see.

Over at DC, they’ve made some very positive strives towards bisexual representation. They’ll have four ongoing series with a bisexual lead: Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and Constantine: Hellblazer. Granted, all but Constantine are very recent revelations, but this is a great step forward. All the characters are fairly well known to general audiences, have had some suggestions in the past of their bisexuality, and now it’s just been confirmed. And with Constantine, since the latest reboot, his bisexuality has been more prevalent than ever.

On a negative note, one of the larger missteps in bi representation lately was NBC’s decision to make Constantine straight for their TV adaptation. From NBC’s perspective, Constantine’s bisexuality was rarely delved into in the comic, that it wasn’t important for the adaptation. This is probably one of the best/worst examples of bi-erasure as of late. Unlike Axel Alonso, the excuse of “That’s a different version of the character!” isn’t even viable here. It was NBC flat out stating they were perfectly aware of the character’s bisexuality, but it wasn’t important enough so it got nixed. That might not have been a factor in the show getting cancelled, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t something in all that happening that wasn’t at least kind of satisfying to see.

It’s easy to see how bi-erasure comes about. We live in a society where the end goal for most people is to find a partner to maintain a monogamous relationship with. When someone is coupled off in a monogamous relationship, others view you as being actively straight or gay. If you aren’t perceived as being actively with both men and women, it’s easier for people to assume you’re just one or the other, regardless of what you tell them.

Part of that also comes from the antiquated idea that gays and lesbians used the label of bisexual as a transitioning term, being unsure or afraid to commit to the labels of gay or lesbian. When I was a teenager I didn’t come out as gay at first, I came out to a few people as bi before identifying as gay. And to be entirely honest with you, bisexual, pansexual, or queer are probably more accurate labels for myself, despite being far on one end of that spectrum. Perhaps I’ve been unintentionally adding to bi-erasure. It’s something for me to think about. In the meantime, I’ve decided to update my bio here to queer rather than gay.

With more openly bi leads in comic books at the big two, we are starting to combat bi-erasure. However, it’s still rampant throughout comics because of the mentalities of some of the people working on them, even though it’s usually unintentional. If we’re going to push for an end of bi-erasure, we need to support books with openly bi leads, let them know about other bi characters we’d like to see more of, that we want more representation, and make our voices heard every single time the comic industry gets it wrong.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Mystery of Mr. Rhee

The whole time I’ve been on the creator side of Artist Alley here in the midwest, the name Dirk Manning has been omnipresent. The ebony-coifed, Cthulu-befriending, ne’er-do-well of independent horror comic writing fame has long been a stalwart presence on the periphery of my own indie tunnel-vision. Finally, I decided to be more than a passing conversation and Facebook poker and converted myself into a paying customer. And with his first volume of Tales of Mr. Rhee sitting proudly over the potty where I watch my toddlin’ son enjoy bathtime, I’ve consumed the initial batch of madness. I am elated to post that I didn’t carve a single mystic rune into my skull whilst enjoying it.

The book itself is a hoot. A collection of web-comics presented in the standard printed comic format, the series straddles the line of the occult somewhere between the blue collar and the black robe. “Mr. Rhee” himself is a tough-as-nails savior of the damned in the same vein as folks like Constantine or Hellboy. He’s got spells and a bad attitude to keep him safe from demented and deranged demons. In all, the first volume covers bits and pieces of the titular thaumaturgy, from his humble and tragic origin to his current dangers regarding the dastardly demons that lurk in Mr. Rhee’s barely-kept-closed-closet. Say that three times fast.

Upon completing the trade, I was left in a bit of a stupor. The forward, by fellow midwestern writer “Uncle” Raf Nieves – which I oddly chose to read last – dealt entirely with the damn, I wish I’d thought of that feeling a creator might get reading somebody else’s work. While I had none of those feelings, I get entirely what was being communicated. It’s actually what drew me into making comic books in the first place. Mr. Rhee and the universe he occupies shares so much space with so many other occult/horror universes that it left me pondering mostly how talents like Mr. Manning, Nieves, and the rest all end up traveling down the same dichotomous road.

As mentioned above, Tales of Mr. Rhee lives on the line between the blue collar workaday world and the epically macabre. The evil and horrific worlds created in horror comics (and TV shows, movies, what-have-you) rely heavily on balancing the mundane with the insane. A Friday the 13th movie without the overnight camp set-up is simply never worth your time. And even when a story shuffles harder towards the blue collar – like Hellboy or Goon – there’s always a strong undercurrent of truly wicked things that anchor the story down. The balance is the key to the quality.

And for those seeking to dispel my thesis with Ghostbusters… go watch the boogyman episodes of The Real Ghostbusters and get slimed. But I digress.

The best scares – like the best laughs, or even action beats – come when you least expect it, and hit at issues underneath the surface. The best terror one might ever feel (aside from the kind you get when you sign your first mortgage) contains a large portion of plausibility, with the right dash of the impossible. A spider catching you off guard might make you jump. A spider that whispers to you that you’ve always been a failure is terrifying.

Tales of Mr. Rhee begins as an unassuming monster hunter rag. So true that it ultimately excels when the supernatural takes form as annoying neighbors, transitory spirits hanging at the bar, and even within the crevices of land purposely sold to a unassuming family to spare those in-the-know from the potential danger. The tales themselves are presented all without backstory, and finish as quickly as they start. As chapters tick off, the creeping crescendo of the final reveal ultimately provides the biggest scare of them all: We thought these tales were merely random short idiosyncratic occurrences, devoid of greater machinations. All-the-while, amidst his own decaying network of former associates, Mr. Rhee, unyielding bad-ass we thought him to be, is caught with nary an alacazam to mutter in the face of the evil that lurked underneath him the entire volume. Plausible, with that pinch of the impossible you say?

Chilling indeed.


Mike Gold: Who Needs Comic Books?

disney-marvel-mickeyAre you reading more comics now but enjoying them less? Worse still – if you happen to be a comics publisher – are you reading fewer comics now and still enjoying them less?

If the Internet is any indication, plenty of people are cutting back, bailing out, and getting highly more selective about their purchases. I realize the Internet has but three purposes: 1) as a medium for obtaining free porn, 2) as a platform for spirited anonymous bitching, and 3) to prove to the world that your cat is cuter than everybody else’s. Only #2 is relevant here, but you can’t use the Internet’s bitchy overtones to dismiss everything you don’t like. I think there’s a real problem here.

Part of this response is due to the fact that Marvel and DC have been making it exceptionally easy to rocket out of their universes by rebooting, refurbishing, and retconning their family jewels. Good lord, if you’ve been reading any of their major product lines for more than a decade and you know what’s going on and what was going on and look forward to what will be going on – those are three separate things – then William Shatner was correct: get a life.

Donate some of the money you’re spending on comics you don’t like to the CBLDF.

I think there’s another contributing factor, a big one. Forget about the plethora of superhero movies; your “television entertainment media” systems have been invaded by latex costumed nano-bedbugs. Right now, this week, there are at least five original broadcast series based upon Marvel and DC superheroes, six if you think Agent Carter is a separate program. In two months we’ll be getting another show, this time on Netflix, and they’ve got at least four more in active production. Powers, published but not owned by Marvel, will be appearing on Sony’s entertainment network pretty soon. And next season, which is only about seven months away, we may see several more as the broadcast nets are churning out superhero pilots as if they have no other ideas with commercial potential.

Here’s the rub. Of the five weekly series currently on broadcast teevee, people seem to like at least four of them. Constantine may or may not make it. I’ll bet, based on 100% presumption, that those who do like it include a hell of a lot of comics readers.

So, let me ask you this: how much time do you have to spend on spandex adventurers? Teevee, movies, comic books, e-books, trade paperbacks… the whole enchilada. Personally, I enjoy Arrow, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Constantine, The Flash, and Gotham and I’m looking forward to Daredevil. Add four superhero movies this year and I’d be spending at least 120 hours in the next twelve months watching comic books. Is it any wonder why I bought a new TiVo?

Comic book teevee shows used to be pretty stupid, shallower than the pretty stupid shows that surrounded them. A great many baby boomers were greatly embarrassed by the 1960s Batman show. I know one major comics writer/editor/producer who wanted to kill Lorenzo Semple Junior, who developed and wrote or story edited the show. I don’t quite share that feeling: Semple also wrote The Parallax View and Papillon.

But I digress (hi, Peter!). Today’s superhero shows are much, much better. Not Citizen Kane better, but they’re entertaining and they don’t condescend.

In a good year comics do not make enough money to impress the stockholders of Time Warner and Disney. Comic book movies make those same stockholders giggle like piggies (hi, George!).

So, I ask you: who needs superhero comic books? Well, honestly, not the conglomerates who own DC Comics and Marvel.


Martha Thomases: Superhero Salespeople

Girls like superheroes. I can prove it, because a major media division has done the market research for me.

You can learn a lot about what people think of you by what they try to sell you. I don’t mean this personally. It’s not like some guy you meet at a conference who sizes you up and either offers you one of his room keys or life insurance, depending on his evaluation of your sex appeal.

No, I mean this on a more macro level. I mean the multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to discovering what you like and using that data to sell you crap.

For example, when I watch the network news in the evenings, I see a lot of ads for prescription medicines for diabetes, arthritis, and erectile dysfunction. From this, I understand that the advertisers think the people who watch the news are old, infirm, or both.

This is in stark contrast to the ads on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where the ads are all new movies, new video games, beer and Doritos. This is where Millennials get their news.

If I have Maury Povich on while I do my morning chores, I see ads for payday loans, attorneys who specialize in personal injury lawsuits, and for-profit colleges that offer two-year (or less) degrees. From this, I understand that the advertisers think I am an unemployed idiot.

When we get into prime-time television on the major networks, the stakes are higher. The audiences are larger, and the advertising rates more expensive. The networks don’t compete to attract fringe audiences. They want the mainstream.

Not just mainstream, but young, unattached, 18 – 29 mainstream. People who are just starting their independent lives … and forming their brand allegiances.

And to television networks, mainstream means both men and women. Some shows may skew more male or more female, and we can tell which is which by the advertising on the program. We see beer and Doritos when the target is the bros. We see make-up and fashion when the target is female.

When I watch the current crop of shows based on superhero comics – Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Constantine, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – I see a lot of Revlon commercials.

Doesn’t the conventional wisdom maintain that women don’t like superheroes? Why are women watching these shows?

I have theories, none of which I can prove without procuring the services of expensive market research firms. However, in the absence of evidence, here is what I think:

  • These shows feature a variety of attractive young people, many of whom are in great shape but none of whom are so over-endowed that we wonder how they can stand up. I mean that for the actors as well as the actresses. They are better-looking versions of people the audience might know in their real lives.
  • A substantial number of the writing teams include women. I don’t have the percentages, but, while I would guess it to be less than half, I think it’s more than a third. This means that there are women creating dialogue that, to them, sounds like something a woman would say if she found herself in a situation with, maybe, Valkyries.
  • The emphasis is on action, not violence. This might seem like hair-splitting (but watch long enough and there will be a commercial for a shampoo that will fix that), but there is surprisingly little gore on most of these shows. There are fights, but they aren’t bloody. Major characters rarely get killed, and not for the sole purpose of motivating the male hero. There aren’t a lot of women in refrigerators.
  • The female cast members often have their own storylines that are not dependent on the male cast members to be interesting. This is most true on S.H.I.E.L.D. and absolutely true on the spin-off mini-series, Agent Carter, least true of Constantine (at least so far), but even then it is more true than it is in the current version of the comic on which it is based.

None of these traits seems to be turning off male viewers. If it does, the advertisers have decided that the women in the audience will spend enough money to be worth the loss.

I hope that the success of these shows encourages editors to hire more women to create mainstream comics. I hope the success of these shows encourages publishers to offer comics that will appeal more to female readers.

But mostly, I want to see a Felicity Smoak / Melinda May team-up.


John Ostrander: TV Midterm Report Card

Well, we’re now in the Christmas doldrums for TV. The regular series are on hiatus until January or later. A couple of columns ago I discussed which shows I was anticipating or not (So How Was It For You?) and this seems a good time to revisit them and give my evaluations.

Warning: there may be spoilers sprinkled here and there. You have been warned.

The Flash – my favorite in this group. Grant Gustin is doing good work as Barry Allen/The Flash and the supporting cast is good. The writing is also first rate and they keep adding little nods to DC continuity that pleases the Old Fan in me.

Grade: A

The Blacklist – The show has kept my attention and James Spader as main character/anti-hero Red Reddington is worth watching all by himself. I thought the premise would get old fast but I find it holding up.

Grade: A-

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The show has gotten a lot more complicated and more imbedded in Marvel continuity. Is that a good thing? Depends on your own taste. More characters have been added but a few were killed off in the finale. They’re taking a hiatus until March and, in its place they’re bringing in Agent Carter. It’ll pick up Captain America’s “best girl,” Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell in a series about the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. It takes place after the events of the first Captain America film. The two series appear to have ties to one another and I think it’s an interesting experiment.

Grade: B+

Arrow – There’s some interesting stuff going on here and they’re capable of taking twists and turns and surprising me. They also take a lot of characters and ideas from DC continuity. My problem with it is that it wants to be Batman and I don’t think that’s who Green Arrow ever was. Still, it’s worth watching and, every so often, Amanda Waller shows up. A skinny Waller, true, but she still puts change in my pocket.

Grade: B

Gotham – This may be my most controversial judgment. Lots of people love the show but I’m not one of them. I don’t hate it but it’s not must see for me. I’m not really interested in any of the characters. Frankly, it needs Batman but Bruce Wayne is a kid at this point and Bats won’t show up for ten years and I doubt the show will go that long.

Grade: C

Constantine – The show is creepy enough at times but it isn’t really setting me afire. I like it okay (although some folks – and critics – hate it) but it, too, is not must see viewing for me. The title character just isn’t snarky enough to suit me. He needs to borrow some of James Spader’s attitude from The Blacklist. Matt Ryan is okay as Constantine but they’ve made the character a little more haunted by his past. They want us to like him. Spader doesn’t give a damn if you like Red Reddington or not and thus is a more compelling character. Charles Halford is good as Chas and I’d like to see more of him but Angélica Celaya is vapid as Zed.

There’s a lot pf questions as to whether or not the series will be back for a second season. NBC isn’t commissioning anything beyond the first 13 episodes so it’s doesn’t look great although everyone connected with the show keep making positive noises. I guess we’ll find out in January.

Grade: C-

Castle – sadly, once my favorite show is now running on fumes. The characters don’t have the same life and sparkle that they once did and some of the plots have just stunk. If ABC announced the show’s cancellation, I wouldn’t be too sad. Or surprised.

Grade: D

So that’s my scorecard at half time for the season. Your mileage may vary.


The Point Radio: Why You Should Be Watching CONSTANTINE

There is no shortage of comic properties on network TV this year, but one that may have escaped your attention is NBC’s CONSTANTINE. Executive Producers David S. Goyer and Daniel Cerrone talk about their plans for the future, where it all fits into DC’s New 52 Continuity and how they want to continue to make it the truest comic adaptation ever to hit the small screen.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Martha Thomases: Free Comics, Convergence And More!

This is going to be a slap-dash column, full of random thoughts (and, I hope, insights) because I’m having a slap-dash episode. The plumber is supposed to be here fixing my kitchen sink at some time in a four-hour period. I don’t know when he will arrive, but I’m pretty sure it will be when I’m in the middle of something really complicated.

The super in my building is supposed to come by to hang a picture for me that is too heavy for me to hang by myself. Again, that time thing makes it difficult to plan properly, or to think and act in an orderly manner.

My son and his girlfriend are coming to visit (hence the increased urgency for a working kitchen sink) and I have to make up the guest room, make sure there are snacks in the fridge, and explain to Salina the cat that she can’t sleep there at night.

So yes, I’m not thinking a lot about comic books, nor their spin-offs into other media. Except that super-speed and super-strength would be especially useful right now. Together, they would put my plumber and super out of business. Working people will have enough problems from Congress over the next two years without me wishing for extra abilities that make their lives more difficult.

Anyway, here are my random thoughts.

  • Convergence, the DC event that lets the corporate staff move to Burbank and get settled, sounds great to geek me. No, it won’t draw in new readers. No, I won’t like everything. But I’m psyched for Tom Peyer on The Atom, Larry Hama on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on Nightwing/Oracle, Alisa Kwitney on Batgirl and Greg Rucka on Question.
  • That said, it seems that event-driven comics are not the guaranteed sales they once were and this is only good for comics. I mean, I’m fine with Spider-Man showing up in the third issue of every new Marvel series (god, I’m old), or a new DC character finding herself in Gotham, because that’s a way to introduce new readers to the book. Universe-spanning crossovers are the antithesis of this. Instead of using something familiar to make a new reader comfortable with taking a chance on a new title, crossovers tend to be so complicated (especially if one reads only a few titles consistently, not all of them) that it’s easier to skip the whole thing.
  • You know what would bring in new readers? Free comics. And, yes, Free Comic Book Day is a wonderful thing. So wonderful that I think we can take its success and use it to try to reach more targeted audiences. For example, if I, as a single woman living in Manhattan, could get a Groupon for a free first issue (or trade paperback) of Saga, redeemable at my local comic book shop, I might try it.

Yeah, it’s not cheap. Image would have to support the plan with co-op dollars. Still, I think it would draw in a bunch of people that comic book marketing doesn’t normally reach.

  • I’m liking Matt Ryan as the title character on Constantine. He seems to enjoy the hell out of all the snark he’s supposed to convey. The scripts aren’t terrible – a bit heavy on the exposition, but that’s what happens when there is a new universe to introduce to viewers. I like the way they use comic book art as Easter eggs.


His tie is always askew in exactly the same way. I just know there is someone on set whose job it is to wrangle the tie. It doesn’t look casual. It doesn’t look reckless. It doesn’t look like John Constantine, man of mystery, is caught in a world beyond his control.

It looks affected. More than anything, it reminds me of Miami Vice.

It’s a tie, John Constantine. If you don’t want to wear it, don’t wear it. If you put it on in a half-assed way, day after day, every day, I will think (and I’ll try to use words you’ll understand) you are a wanker.

  • Like a good geek, I get my comic books on Wednesday, usually in the morning because that’s how it fits into my round of errands. Often, I don’t actually sit down to read them until the weekend.

For the last few weeks, I have left-overs on Tuesday.

Are comics worse? Am I outgrowing them, finally, fifty years after all my childhood friends? Is it just a fluke of chance, that storylines aren’t appealing to me?

I take my own advice and try to pick up something new, from an independent publisher, on a regular basis. Lots of these comics (see Saga, above) become part of my regular list. So I don’t think it’s happening because I’m a slave to super-heroes. I still like them.

Any suggestions?

  • There is a new Stephen King book out this week. It’s titled Revival and I know almost nothing about it. I love Stephen King books. Reading one feels like getting into a warm bath, because I know that he can tell a story, and create characters I’ll care about. He cares about them, too.

And I’m probably not going to have the time to read it until the kids go home. And I like having them here and don’t look forward to their leaving.

Maybe I can stay up all night reading. When I finish reading my comics.


John Ostrander: So How Was It For You?

We’re now well into the new TV season and there were a number on new shows to which I was looking forward as well as some returning ones. I’ve now seen at least one of each and have formed some opinions. Since that’s what this column is all about, off we go.

On the returning shows, let’s start with The Blacklist. I was wondering if it could maintain momentum but so far it has, anchored by James Spader’s mesmerizing performance as Raymond “Red” Reddington. Terrifically charming, utterly lethal, ready with a quip, a story, or a bullet, Spader gives a wonderful performance.

I also wondered about Castle and the “cliffhanger” with which they left last season. They aren’t explaining things right away, making what happened part of the overall mystery for this season. It’s working. It feels as if there’s new steam in the engine and I’m enjoying the ride.

Arrow remains a little sudsy for me. I mainly tune in to see if Amanda Waller shows up; no sightings so far but she’s mentioned a fair amount. They’ve made Green Arrow (here just called “Arrow”) very dark and grim ‘n’ gritty. It’s like it wants to be Batman, without having Batman.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show I came to enjoy last season and it’s better this year. It’s throwing in some supervillains and characters known from the Marvel Universe and I look forward to it each week. There are some characters I would drop (buh-bye Sky) but it’s a good series.

On to the new shows. Let’s start with Gotham, the other non-Batman Batman show. I’ve long felt that the city is as important a character in the Batman mythos as any of the other characters but I don’t know if it works as the central character. It’s not helped by Ben McKenzie’s performance as Detective James Gordon. He plays everything stone faced and one note; he’s the only one who is like that in the show. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot {the Penguin) is far more animated, almost over the top, and more fun to watch. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be sticking with this show.

I was really looking forward to Constantine and, by and large, I’m pleased. It looks right, it sounds right, it keeps largely to the mythos in the comic book. My main caveat so far is that Matt Ryan’s John Constantine is a little too guilt ridden and tortured. He could use more snark and be a bit more of a bastard. It’s as if the show runners want to make sure that we like Constantine and find him sympathetic. They should take a look at Peter Capaldi’s Doctor on Doctor Who or, again, James Spader on The Blacklist. You don’t have to love them but it’s hard not to watch them.

And then there’s The Flash, my fave among the new shows. DC seems to be about gloom, doom, and grim in order to show how serious they are. The Flash is light, bright, has fun, and makes good use of the comic’s backstory and the Rogues Gallery while adding their own characters and adding new slants on so much. It makes everything feel fresh.

I like Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash. His Barry is younger than in the comics but I think that works to the series’ advantage. The character is learning how to use his new found ability – its limitations and applications. And he enjoys being The Fastest Man Alive and he wants to be a hero. That is also refreshing in this day and age of tortured, self-doubting characters.

He also has a good supporting cast and some are stand-outs. It’s a pleasure to see John Wesley Shipp (who played The Flash in the earlier TV version) cast as Barry’s Dad who is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit: the murder of Barry’s mother. It’s a nice tip of the hat by the producers; they didn’t have to do it but they did and that’s classy, in my book. And Shipp does a good job.

The other stand-out in the supporting cast is Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West, father of Iris West, Barry’s great love and wife in the comics and here just a friend… so far. Martin has always been a good actor; I remember him especially on Law & Order where he was a favorite of mine among the cops, right behind Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth. Here he’s a mentor and father figure to young Barry. I hope they keep him around.

So – that’s my scorecard so far this season. I don’t know how they’re doing in the ratings but I hope most of them stick around. There will be more comics related shows a-coming on both the big screen and the little one until it exhausts the genre and maybe goes the way of the Western.

Or the vampire.


Box Office Democracy: Avengers trailer, Constantine (TV)

Box Office Democracy: Avengers trailer, Constantine (TV)

Hi everyone,

I’m moving this weekend and didn’t have a lot of spare time to spend doing activities that weren’t packing so we have something a little different for you this week.  Here’s a review of a much shorter cinematic experience and a TV show based on a comic that once had a movie based on it.  It all comes back to movies, it all still counts.

Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer


Making a trailer for a movie like Avengers: Age of Ultron is a tricky proposition but one with absolutely no stakes. Everyone is going to see the film practically no matter what. This trailer would have had to be crudely drawn stick figures instead of CGI effects to have a negative impact on the gross and that’s probably underrating the drawing power of Robert Downey Jr.

Unfortunately, none of the stuff in this trailer is going to be what makes this movie special. Any major superhero franchise could produce a trailer with most of these shots. Massive destruction, iconic symbols shattered, big explosions. None of that is what makes The Avengers franchise special. What separates The Avengers is the wonderful character work and the exceptional dialogue. None of that makes for a particularly compelling trailer. If they are going to give me nothing but snippets of action shots and brief shots of people looking anguished or menacing I would have appreciated much more Hulk.

Everything they gave us looked great. I want to see more Ultron, I want to hear more James Spader doing Ultron, and I’m especially enthusiastic to hear Ultron dialogue that doesn’t feel like Marvel is using these movies as a backdoor plug for their old animation catalogue. I’m excited to see more from the characters that get the short end of the stick in the Marvel movies that have come since the first Avengers flick. It’ll be refreshing to see more from Hawkeye and Nick Fury. Black Widow got the closest thing to a punch line in this trailer and as long as Marvel stubbornly refuses to give Johansson her own movie I’ll have to take what I can get.

The characters I was surprised to see get so much screen time, probably as much as any Avenger not named Stark, were Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. I guess you need to energize the geek base without showing too much of your big Ultron effect but is this connecting with anyone else? Those are fringe characters at best and they eat up a ton of this preview. It almost felt like they were putting as much footage out as possible as leverage is Fox decides those are X-Men after all and want to sue closer to the film’s release. It was a fine trailer but those parts felt a little more like notes from a future deposition.




I’m so glad that DC/Warner Bros. finally decided to make a TV show starring John Constantine. Sure it was easier to just keep collecting those payments that Grimm, Once Upon a Time and Hemlock Grove kept forking over for taking the basic concept from the Hellblazer books but it’s so noble of them to give that money up and compete on their own. What’s that? No one was paying Warner any money for those? They just let one of their established franchises sit on the shelf while other people ate their lunch using a strikingly similar idea? How very latter-day Warner of them.

Constantine is a good pilot with a big problem: they do a ton of work establishing a character they wrote out of the series. Liv Aberdeen is the focal point of the entire episode, the lens through which we view the fantastic world of John Constantine, and she seems to be riding the beginning of a long narrative arc. Somewhere between pilot and series they decided they had no use for the character and hastily wrote her out in the last two scenes. I’m still very much interested in watching the show, they’ve hooked me that much, but unless every week they plan to introduce and overdevelop another temporary character they’ve given me no clear perspective on what I’ll be watching every week. I appreciate that it’s very expensive to reshoot an entire pilot but it feels weird.

I do like the bits of the show they plan to keep. Matt Ryan makes for an excellent John Constantine and I liked the way they did Chas although I’m sure they plan to take a lot of liberties with the source material there. The score seems a bit like they’re aping the sound of BBC’s Sherlock and while it stood out like a sore thumb the first time they used on of those cues by the end I rather liked it like that. Both shows benefit from that bit of musical whimsy. The show feels a smidge too Catholic for my tastes but that might just be the way shows about angels, demons, and magic have to feel and I should just get over it.

I don’t watch a lot of network dramas but I am a dyed-in-the-wool Hannibal partisan so know that it means something when I say this show impressed me with both its disturbing imagery and its slickness.  The cockroach scene at the asylum kicks things off especially well being unsettling without going too far.  Constantine is painting with a brush of the grotesque and rather than coat the walls the way a CSI or a Criminal Minds does it instead uses it just around the edges and that’s so much more compelling to me.  I’m not entirely sure this is going to make for an exceptional TV show over a 22 episode season because I find those too long in general but I’m excited to give this one a shot and am thankful I was forced to sample it for this review.