DC’s ‘The Button’ offers lesson for Marvel, Axel Alonso

I used to have an irrational disdain for DC superheroes as a child. I was a “Marvel kid.” Sure, I loved Batman, but outside of his adventures I turned up my nose at DC fare. The echoes of my own irrationality reverberated into the future as I stuck to reading The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, and then occasional X-Men book as an adult. But somewhere along the line, Marvel decided to adopt a business model that needlessly alienates long-term readers. That, my friends, is where our discussion on DC’s The Button comes in.

Marvel Editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and everyone who takes their marching orders from him would be wise to look at what DC is doing under the watchful eyes of Geoff Johns. DC Rebirth was a creative home run, and now it seems as if the same can be said of The Button.

Check out my latest YouTube review on parts 1-3 of The Button, which is a great blueprint for Marvel to follow if it wants to win back fans. And, as always, I’m interested in hearing your feedback in the comments section below.

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Super Sons #1: Peter J. Tomasi writes Super-Awesome DC book

It has been some time since your friendly neighborhood blogger purchased a superhero comic book that made him think, “These guys get it. They really get it,” but that is exactly what happened with Super Sons.

Long story short, writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Jorge Jimenez have put together a DC Comics product with “Superboy” Jon Kent and “Robin” Damian Wayne that is a pure joy. I have historically groaned any time young kids with superpowers appeared in my favorite books, but Super Sons is pitch perfect across the board. Even better, it’s only $2.99.

There’s much more to say, but for that you’ll have to check out my latest YouTube review. If Mr. Tomasi keeps this kind of work up, then Super Sons will be my favorite book on the market. Bravo.

‘Batman: The Killing Joke’: First 30 minutes, odd sex scene overshadow Joker’s tale

Joker glass

Fans of Batman: The Killing Joke waited since 1988 to get their hands on an animated version of their beloved tale, but it has finally arrived. Is it possible for the product to be anything less than amazing with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill providing the voiceover work to a big-budget production of Alan Moore’s tale? The short answer: Yes.

Before we move on, let me first stay that I find central premise of The Killing Joke — we are all just “one bad day” away from becoming the Joker — rather intriguing.

The Joker says:

“Let me ask you something. What does it matter if you send me back to the asylum if it doesn’t matter to me? I’ve proven my point — Gordon’s been driven mad. I’ve demonstrated there’s no difference between me and everyone else. All it takes is one bad day. That’s how far the world is from where I am — just one bad day. You had a bad day once, am I right? Oh, I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Dressing up like a flying rat doesn’t hide it. It screams it!

You had a bad day and it drove you as crazy as everybody else, only you won’t admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there’s some point to all this struggling. You make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are?

Without getting into too many spoilers, I must say that specific scenes are incredibly thought-provoking, particularly when it comes to exploring the rule of law in a world populated with vigilante superheroes. The Joker conjures up a scheme to prove to his rival once and for all that moral relativism reigns supreme, and he certainly makes the case to those who are not eagle-eyed when it comes to spotting spurious arguments.

Joker Batman book

Where The Killing Joke fails, however, is its well-intentioned attempt to add extra depth and dramatic tension to the script.

Two words come to mind: Batman sex.

Batgirl kiss

Longtime DC readers can correct this Marvel fan if he is wrong, but has Batman ever appeared as anything other than a father figure and mentor to Barbara Gordon? This version of The Killing Joke turns Ms. Gordon into a smitten girl with impulse-control problems and Batman into a caped crusader who robs the cradle.

One can almost hear the internal monologue of screenwriter Brian Azzarello: “If Batman sleeps with Barbara Gordon, then it will sting him even more when he finds out that she was shot by his arch enemy. Then, when he realizes that the Joker raped her — yes, they have both been with the same woman — the audience will understand why Bruce might go over ‘the abyss’ in the end…”

The problem, however, is that a self-contained 30-minute tale simply cannot set the stage for a relationship between the two to grow. It comes across as forced and, quite frankly, creepy. Perhaps this reviewer is in the minority, but the bizarre nature of the scene lingered with me for the entire movie — so much so that I would recommend fans of the comic book consider skipping the first 28 minutes all together.

If you are a fan of DC’s animated movies, then I would suggest watching Batman: The Killing Joke when it comes out on Netflix. It is not worth the $14.99 YouTube charges if you are by yourself, although a fun night can be had if you split the cost three ways with a couple of friends.

Did you see Batman: The Killing Joke? If so, then let me know what you thought in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Editor’s Note: I always thought that the story behind “The Red Hood” was rather dumb. Moore’s attempt to humanize the Joker by turning him into a failed comedian always seemed lame to me, but I would like to hear a hard-core Batman fan’s take on the subject.

‘Justice League’ trailer arrives: Fool me twice, shame on me…

The new Justice League trailer arrived today, and the good news is that it looks awesome. The bad news is that Batman v Superman looked just as amazing and then turned out to be a sloppy mess.

Zack Snyder is an strong visual artist, but at this point in his career it seems like his Achilles heel is a propensity to sign off on scripts that are half-baked.

Check out the trailer below, watch my YouTube video, and then let me know that you think about the fate of Justice League in the comments below. I really hope Warner Bros. took the fans’ criticism to heart, because overall they know what they’re talking about.

Exit question: Can any movie be bad if the trailer use’s “Icky Thump,” by the White Stripes? If Justice League doesn’t do Jack White proud then your friendly neighborhood blogger we be one angry blogger…

Batman v Superman: Jesse Eisenberg’s Turd Luthor almost destroys film

Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Fans finally get to see the two titans of D.C. Comics square up against on another while simultaneously setting up numerous other movies. Was it good? Was it bad? Does the “Sad Affleck” viral video convey what millions of moviegoers will feel by the end of the weekend? I think that the one thing people will remember 10 years from now about the film is just how big of a turd Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor turned out to be in the D.C. Punch Bowl, but I will try and lay out what worked and what didn’t in bullet points below.

First off, it should be reiterated once again that director Zack Snyder knows how to make a movie look cool. There are scenes that are incredibly gorgeous and he seems to have a great gut instinct for the shots fans want to see — probably because he is a fan. His problem, however, comes from the writing side of the equation. It is glaringly obvious that someone mandated all sorts of things that should have never been in the movie, in part because Hollywood producers have a penchant for being idiots. The script paid the price.

The plot of the movie is fairly straight forward and essentially told in the trailer. Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne both view Superman’s existence on earth a threat to humanity and both pursue a monomaniacal quest to end his life.

Superman struggles with the role he plays living among humans and then a studio-mandated monster is shoehorned into the finale because needlessly spending lots of money somehow translates as “good” to executives in Hollywood (One would think they would learn a thing or two from X-men Origins: Wolverine, but no!) The credits roll and then everyone wonders if there will be an extra scene at the end because that’s what Marvel does. The end.

The question — Is it good? — still remains. First, let us acknowledge what worked:

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman. He put in the time required to succeed, and it showed.
  • Henry Cavill did a fine job as Clark Kent and Superman, even if he took a back seat in what was initially supposed to be his movie.
  • Jeremy Irons makes an excellent Alfred.
  • The fight scenes are exactly what you would expect from the guy who knocked it out of the park with 300

Now, let us cover what did not work:

  • Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an embarrassment. The entire film is dark and gritty and then he plays Luthor like he drew inspiration from Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever (another Warner Bros. movie that suffered because it had too much going on, among its many other problems). Worse, the ominous music that plays when he’s on screen — juxtaposed with his goofy performance — reminded me of the “Large Marge” scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Any scene with Eisenberg that was supposed to be dramatic was not because he wasn’t believable as a Superman-worthy villain.
  • The movie was disjointed. Luthor should have been a serious businessman and there was absolutely no need for him to create Doomsday. The way it all unfolded was cringeworthy, which again begs the question: Was it Synder’s fault or studio-mandated? I will give Synder the benefit of the doubt since he stuck to his guns on Watchmen and wisely changed the ending for its film adaptation.
  • Batman v Superman was too long. There was a good 30 minutes that could have been cut from the film if they weren’t trying so hard to set up Justice League.

Jesse Eisenberg

In short, Batman v Superman is the classic case of “What might have been.” Parts of it are good. Parts of it are excellent. Unfortunately, some of it is just bad. In fact, just looking at Jesse Eisenberg’s face right now makes me shake my head in disgust. It’s not as bad as the time he likened San Diego Comic Con to “genocide” (yes, seriously), but it’s pretty bad.

I recommend seeing Batman v Superman to long-time fans because the impossible was made possible. For a kid who grew up in the 80s, I cannot help but feel as though this generation is spoiled rotten when it comes to cinematic superhero fare. See the film, but know that you will also walk away frustrated at the wasted potential.

It wasn’t your fault this time, Ben. Really. It wasn’t.

Editor’s Note: Check out Hube’s take over at The Colossus of Rhodey.

Geoff Johns’ ‘Flashpoint’: Time travel done right

Flashpoint2

It is a rare thing indeed for a guy who gravitates almost exclusively to Marvel fare to read a book by DC comics, let alone one featuring The Flash. Your friendly neighborhood blogger recently checked out 2011’s Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and was impressed. (Regular readers will note that I was not thrilled with his introduction of Simon Baz in 2012.)

Flashpoint1

I am generally not fond of alternate-universe tales where heroes have become darker versions of their normal selves. With Flashpoint, however, Johns enters territory that was superbly explored by Rian Johnson’s Looper in 2012. When my wife and I watched Looper she asked, “If I was murdered and you could go back in time to stop the person who did it, would you?” My answer: No.

Flashpoint asks the same question, with Barry Allen having no clue that in an attempt to save his own mother’s life he inadvertently created a much darker world than he could have ever imagined.

The challenge for Barry throughout the book is to a.) figure out how he woke up in this new world — where his mother is alive, Bruce Wayne died instead of his father, and Wonder Woman’s Amazons are at war with Aquaman’s Atlanteans — and b.) how to make it right.

Looper

Where things get tricky for readers like me, who are somewhat indifferent towards Flash’s history, is judging a book where writers took liberties with his origin. A friend of mine told me that historically Allen became a cop just because he was a good guy — not because his mother was murdered by the Reverse Flash.

While it is odd to imply heroes need to experience tragedy in order to prompt them to fight evil, in this case Johns inoculates himself from a lot of criticism by simply writing a good story.

Flashpoint3

The final thing to note about Flashpoint is that its ending is amazing. There is an incredibly powerful scene with Bruce Wayne that makes the $17 price of the trade paper back worth every penny. The emotional impact of the moment can only be appreciated by reading the whole book — and for that Johns should be applauded.

If you get a chance, then check out Flashpoint. It’s a product worth adding to your comic library.

Editor’s Note: If you haven’t seen Looper, then make time to do so. Director Rian Johnson is the guy who will bring Star Wars fans Episode VIII

Batman #44: Bruce Wayne and readers beaten with racial guilt baton

Batman 44

Last month Superman: Action Comics #42 took on police brutality, which meant it wasn’t long before Batman gave it a go. DC Comics is back at the political activism again, although it appears Batman #44 is a much stronger product thanks to writers Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello.

As I have said in the past, the fact that writers insert their personal politics into their stories doesn’t bother me — it’s that industry activism operates along a one-way street.

The latest issue of Batman alludes to the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City, but when will DC Comics write an issue inspired by the Officer Down Memorial Page or the many cops killed in gunfire each year? Don’t hold your breath.

Here is what Bleeding Cool had to say about Batman #44:

Throughout the story’s twists and turns, and there are several, certain themes begin to emerge that prove to be compelling and thought provoking. As Batman follows his line of investigation, he begins to discover that true culpability, however far removed, may ultimately rest with none other than Bruce Wayne. It’s an interesting commentary on the notion of vigilantism in general, as the genuinely well-meaning effort to rebuild Gotham undertaken by Wayne inadvertently create issues that he must confront as Batman.

And all those years ago Bruce’s parents were responsible for their own murders, right DC Comics?

Batman 44 Penguin

Here is what Emma Houxbois of the Rainbow Hub blog told The Guardian:

“The issue is ‘unprecedented’ in how the authors ‘make race, and the impact on black children in specific, central’ to Snyder’s four-year reimagining of Gotham as “a place that reflects all of the most urgent issues facing contemporary urban populations, like the destruction of public services, using prisons to house the mentally ill, militarization of police forces, and large scale gentrification in the wake of natural disasters.’ The story holds not just Batman but the book’s ‘white readers accountable for their complicity in the real-world situations that the comic analogizes”.

There we go. The truth finally comes out. Again. White readers must be repeatedly flogged for “complicity” in … out of wedlock births and black-on-black crime in places like Chicago and Detroit.

Somehow, someway, when I enlisted in the military years ago and was on a field training exercise in Germany I managed to create the “real world situations” now tearing Chicago apart. Weird.

Somehow, someway, when I was working the overnight shift at Target stocking shelves while putting myself through college I was sowing the seeds for violence on the streets of Brooklyn. Odd.

But how does Snyder feel? He tells The Guardian of officer Ned Howler’s decision to shoot teenager Peter Duggio:

“Of course you want Batman to beat this officer up, and be like, ‘How could you?’ But the point of the issue is that wouldn’t solve the problem. Batman throwing the officer off a roof, or throwing the officer in jail, it wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter at all. And that’s the thing I think is ultimately infuriating.”

And let us not forget the issue begins with a young black child, shot in the stomach and dying in the street, rendered food “for the crows.”

Batman 44DC

On one level I respect DC Comics for putting sharp writers on a book as important as Batman, but at the same time I resent the industry’s relentless attempts to shove activist propaganda down its readers’ throats. I refuse to buy a product that is specifically designed to flog me over the head with a racial guilt baton.

Are there bad cops out there? Sure. But most of them are good people. It is highly ironic that the same people who are complaining of being negatively painted with broad brushstrokes in the media do the same thing to law enforcement personnel, but I digress.

The next time you read a story about police brutality in a Marvel or DC Comics product, be sure to ask yourself if the writers and editors have deputized themselves society’s Thought Police. When you do, you will better parry and counter their ideological beatings.

‘Batman v Superman’ trailer: Zack Snyder goes were Marvel Studios fears to tread

Batman v Superman 911The Batman v Superman trailer is out, and one thing is obvious: Zack Synder is going with a level of realism that Marvel Studios has shown no desire to duplicate. Anyone who lived through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will not be able to see Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne engulfed in dust and debris without thinking of that day. If they decide to accept the director’s decision, then they can appreciate what the visual does for the story — while everyone else sprints away from the carnage, Bruce Wayne hurls himself head first into the chaos. That is the kind of bravery (bordering on psychosis) a man would need for him to seriously attempt to challenge Superman.

Batman v Superman flyThere are plenty of valid criticisms that could be made of Mr. Synder’s DC Universe, but it is hard to deny that his Superman exudes raw power. When he is on the screen, he demands respect. The argument that his costume is dated and cheesy just doesn’t fly (no pun intended), because if you can be led to believe that a character possesses the power to exterminate the entire human race, then you will respect him in almost any outfit.

Batman v Superman desertThe strength Superman wields is what will (understandably) cause Bruce Wayne to fear the alien and, at least for a portion of the film, seek to destroy him.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor telegraphs exactly what “Batman versus Superman” is about:

“Black and blue. God versus man. Day versus night.”

If a man had the power of a god — but he wasn’t God — wouldn’t he have to be destroyed? The same question would, of course, apply to a … Wonder Woman.

Batman v Superman Wonder WomanMarvel Studios has a track record of making great movies, but for the most part it has shied away from the level of realism embraced by Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and Zack Synder’s “Man of Steel.” Both kinds of movies can happily exist in the summertime blockbuster market, but Marvel’s problem is that there are only so many times the world can be demolished in a shared cinematic universe before the cotton candy-ish tone seems weird. Perhaps Marvel Studio’s “Civil War” will finally address that problem, but as of now DC has the pole position on superhero fare that makes an audience think about real-world issues.

If you plan on seeing “Batman v Superman,” then let me know what you think about the trailer or anything else related to the movie in the comments section below.

Batman v Superman teaser trailer: ‘We as a population on this planet have been looking for a savior’

Superman v Batman angelThe Batman v Superman teaser trailer is out, and it looks amazing. I may be biased given that it looks like many of the ideas director Zack Synder is going to explore were covered on this blog when the Man of Steel trailer was revealed.

Here is what I wrote December 11, 2012:

“The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.”

Now, here is what an assortment of pundits said during the Batman v Superman trailer released April 17:

“Is it really surprising that the most powerful man in the world should be a figure of controversy … We as a population on this planet have been looking for a savior. … Human beings have a horrible track record of following people of great power … Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. … Now we know better now, don’t we? Devils don’t come from hell beneath us. No, they come from the sky.”

The world wants to believe that the perfect human could exist, but if he were to ever really walk amongst us then they would destroy him. They would call him a false prophet. They would fear him. They would seek to make him bleed because a perfect man would change everything. (Hmmm. This story sounds familiar…almost like it really happened.)

Superman v Batman False GodIn a world where Superman existed, there would be those who rightly conclude that if he was not a god, then a check on his power must be put in place. A man with the power of a god — a fallible man — could not be trusted with absolute power. There would always be the chance that he could turn evil, which would beg the question: Then what?

Superman v Batman bowThe answer: Batman.

Superman v Batman cowlThe one man who could create a plausible contingency plan for dealing with a rogue Superman would be Bruce Wayne. He may be a mere mortal, but he has the necessary combination of attributes necessary to pull off such a mission.

Zack Synder has a lot to juggle with Batman v Superman. Audiences won’t know how strong the script is until they step into the theater, but as of Friday, April 17, 2015, they at least know that thematically and visually things appear to be right where they need to be.

Batgirl 41 variant cover pulled after SJWs cry like babies, demand Joker not act like Joker

Batgirl variantWhen you live in a country where college campuses have to issue “trigger warnings” any time a discussion might challenge a few worldviews, it’s only a matter a time before hyper-sensitive millennials bring their crybaby-dictator personalities into the real world. The most recent example can be found with DC’s decision to pull a variant cover of Batgirl 41. Joker is apparently no longer allowed to be Joker if he’s interacting with women.

Here is what artist Rafael Albuquerque had to say after a campaign started by “Feminist Batman” picked up steam.

“My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled.”

Since when was it the artist’s job to produce art that doesn’t upset someone’s sensibilities? Since when did artists begin torpedoing their work when it was deemed offensive to feminists and Gender Studies majors on Tumblr? At what point are we allowed to tell “Feminist Batman” and her friends that they’re acting like whiny kids who need to grow up and behave like a adults?

Ms. “Feminist Batman” said on Tumblr:

There are a lot of potential Joker variant covers that would have been amazing. I would have loved to see Barbara stepping on the joker’s face after punching him to the ground, perhaps using that iconic camera of his to take a selfie. But a violent, bloody cover of a weeping Batgirl as the man who molested her smiles by her side is sickening. It’s disgusting. And I am tired of her scenes in The Killing Joke being referenced while the serious issues involving her assault are casually ignored.

The great thing about art is that you can produce as much as you want. There is a 100 percent chance that Feminist Batman will find future covers and variant covers to her liking, so it seems incredibly bizarre for her to act as if this one variant cover somehow negates whatever progress her favorite character has made since the publication of 1988’s The Killing Joke.

As Patrick Bissett pointed out for The Daily Caller on March 17:

The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book villain whose raison d’être is to cause mayhem, to injure, to hurt, and to provide the Yin to Batman’s oftentimes complicated Yang. It doesn’t make sense to find the actions of a fictional character offensive, especially when those actions are central to the personality of that character.

Sadly, for every Mr. Bissett there is a Joshua Rivera out there who simply doesn’t get the big picture.

Mr. Rivera writes for Entertainment Weekly:

There are those that aren’t pleased with this decision, who think we’re seeing art being censored because it’s offensive. The claim of “censorship,” however, is objectively false. The art was never suppressed. You can look at it all you want—in this article, even! The fact that the creators themselves were involved in the cover’s cancellation is further proof that this is a move for artistic integrity—the people making the book have a vision for it, and the cover did not match that vision.

Josh can’t see that what is happening is worse than censorship — we now have artists who actually think it’s their job to produce art that doesn’t offend contemporary culture. We now have artists who will scrap their projects when the shrieks of politically correct kids reach a high enough decibel level. The artist willingly capitulates to the caprices of fickle feminists, online bullies, and ideological censorship clowns who inadvertently remind us that the seeds of tyranny exist within all of us.

If you’ve ever wondered why the comic industry seems to be in dire straits, then look no further than DC’s decision to pull its Batgirl 41 variant cover. The scope of what artists and writers can create these days is incredibly narrow because one wrong move results in an “off with their heads!” campaign, which only serves to stifle muses and crush imagination. Coddling the likes of “Feminist Batgirl” and her online allies may make Rafael Albuquerque feel good for a few days, but it does long term damage to the industry he loves.