Jun 14, 2017

Wasted Opportunities: War of the Gods





In the wake of Wonder Woman's success, there's been a lot of talk, and justifiably so, of George Perez's run on the character (see here and here). Perez redefined the character in the late 80s, and was responsible for one of the best and most overlooked runs on an iconic character in comics history. So it's only right that the beginning of his run is talked about, but I want to talk about how it ended, and how DC squandered such a...

Wasted Opportunity: War of the Gods 
by Duy

In 1991, towards the end of his run on Wonder Woman, which revitalized the character, George Perez pitched a five-part mini-series entitled War of the Gods. It was meant to be a celebration of Diana's 50th anniversary and was also meant to be the big crossover that year.

It was an interesting concept, in which the different pantheons of gods fought to remake the world in their own image, headlined by the Roman gods...



...fighting the Greek gods...


...for sole ownership of Olympus. Needless to say, superheroes get caught in the middle, with Diana protecting her heritage and Captain Marvel being roped in to fight for the Romans.



Here's Ares vs. Mars.

And it features gods of other pantheons, including the Aesir, so this includes DC's versions of Thor and Loki.


And of course, all the gods in the DC Universe include the New Gods.



Turns out, the one manipulating everything is Wonder Woman's arch-enemy Circe, she of Greek myth who turns men into animals.


As you can tell, this is a Wonder Woman vehicle. And unfortunately, it underperformed both commercially and critically. There are several reasons that contributed to this, but really, the main one is simply a lack of support from DC Comics. George Perez was writing and drawing layouts, and he got derailed. Things in his professional and personal lives were distracting him, and he also took on an extra project over at Marvel. It was called Infinity Gauntlet. You may have heard of it.

On the other hand, it gave us this awesome cover.
Perez couldn't put in full effort on War of the Gods, nor could he even finish Infinity Gauntlet. One of the reasons he was so demotivated was because he had worked out a detailed plan for how War of the Gods would cross over with the main DC Comics titles, only to find out too late that the plans weren't even communicated properly to the creative teams. In fact, his close friend and New Teen Titans collaborator Marv Wolfman had to find out from Perez himself — and by that point, Marv was in the middle of a storyline involving Wonder Woman's younger sister Donna Troy, and War of the Gods was the storyline equivalent of throwing a monkeywrench into the works.

The lack of editorial support was evident when DC made this their big 1991 event push instead.

Armageddon 2001 centered around a new villain named Monarch coming from the future. The only thing known about Monarch is he's a former hero, and the storyline is centered on finding out who he is, with the main suspect being Captain Atom. At the end, it's revealed to be Hank Hall, the Hawk of Hawk and Dove. That was DC's big event of 1991.

Let me just clear that up: DC Comics pushed a glorified time-travel whodunnit starring Captain Atom and Hawk over a literal WAR OF THE GODS that centered around Wonder Woman.

The reason for this lack of support is simple: Karen Berger, then-editor of Wonder Woman and yet-to-be future editor of DC Comics' legendary Vertigo line, and still a ways away from being the Third Greatest Comics Editor of All Time, went on maternity leave. And that's when it was made obvious that all the support Wonder Woman was getting from within centered around one female editor, and that the rest of the company still saw female-led comics as a hard sell.

Hopefully, with Wonder Woman being a huge box-office success, we'll have moved past that mindset and we can see more risks like this in the future. I'd be cool with seeing War of the Gods completely remade. Just have the same exact premise and tell it now, in 2017.

How badass is this image? This is the cover for the first issue. Unfortunately, this is the best it got.


Jun 2, 2017

After Wonder Woman: 10 Superheroines Who Should Get Their Own Movie

Wonder Woman is easily the best DC movie since 1978 and, arguably, the best since 1966. That's not really a high bar, nor, really, a bar of any respectable height, and also, in the big scheme of things, not really important.

Yay! We made a good DC movie!
What's more important is it's the best female-led superhero movie ever, projected to beat the box office of every female-led superhero movie combined. (The magic number is $136.1 million if you count Ghost in the Shell; $95.6 million if you don't, as per Forbes.) That's important because it means the glass ceiling is well on the way to being broken. In 2004, Warner Brothers made a bad female-led superhero movie called Catwoman and studio executives decided female-led action movies don't sell. With a high success rate, Wonder Woman can break that stigma, and studios should strike while the iron is hot. If I'm working in Hollywood, I'm pitching the following characters first thing tomorrow.

After Wonder Woman: 10 Superheroines Who Should Get Their Own Movie
by Duy


She-Hulk


My personal favorite one is Attorney Jennifer Walters, the one character I really want to see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like her cousin, the Hulk, she turns from meek civilian to a superstrong green giant. Unlike her cousin, the Hulk, she loves every second of it and uses it to whup ass and make sarcastic comments while doing it. She-Hulk fits right into the Marvel Cinematic Universe's group of wisecracking ass-kickers.

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld


Gemworld is composed of twelve great houses, each named after a gemstone, and each with plans to take over all of Gemworld. The sun rises from the Eastern sea and will have become a moon by the time it sets in the West, and Princess Amethyst gets sent to the human world, unaware of her heritage, until such time that she needs to return. A great escapist premise that would look great and provide variety to the genre.

Silver Sable



Sony is apparently already talking about this, but Silver Sablinova is really an easy fit for film. She's queen of the nation of Symkaria, heads an mercenary group called the Wild Pack, and is a great hand-to-hand fighter. It may sound like a basic action movie premise, but set it in a superhero setting and dress the lead character in all silver, and I think we've differentiated it enough to give it its own identity.

She-Ra


She-Ra should kick off a Masters of the Universe franchise instead of her more famous brother, for all the reasons I mentioned here.

Storm


I don't even know why there isn't a Storm comic, since she's actually arguably been Marvel's most popular superheroine. So maybe Fox can do something with her and show she can carry a story on her own.

Bandette

Bandette is the world's greatest thief, and her stories are like if scientists were able to put joy and whimsy in a bottle and make a wonderful perfume out of it, except the perfume became a printed page.


Okay, fine, bad analogy. It's late. Here, read my old column on Bandette so I don't have to explain.

Catwoman



Because, really, do we want the Catwoman movie that exists to be the first thing we see whenever we Google Catwoman?

Zatanna


I'm a huge sucker for stage magic. Okay, fine, I really have no idea how a Zatanna movie would work, especially since her comics have rarely worked. But with her job and powers, it would work great visually; we just need to find an actual story.

Black Canary



DC's other fishnet-wearing ass-kicker, like Silver Sable, would be an easy fit for film. Leather-wearing motorcycle-riding Dinah Lance wouldn't cost much to translate to the big screen. Unfortunately, she would share the same challenges as her Marvel counterpart, and our final pick...

Black Widow



I mean, seriously. It's time. The fans want it. Kevin Feige apparently wants it. Scarlett Johannson wants it. I get that yes, it may run the risk of looking like a generic spy movie, but guess what? That's what the creative people are for. And honestly, the entire time I was watching Ghost in the Shell, you know what I was thinking? That all the effort in building the (very impressive) set, all the budget going into paying Scarlett and the marketing campaign — all that should have been put into a Black Widow movie. So come on, guys. Let's get this going.

Jun 1, 2017

5 Filipino Superheroes and Their American Counterparts

With the recent official announcement that Liza Soberano is going to be the new Darna in a movie directed by Erik Matti, I started looking up sentiment on the internet and seeing how people perceived Filipino superheroes, and  I ran across an article, which I shall not link here, but is titled similarly to the title of this post, that was just so poorly researched and it really bugged me. Yes, a lot of Filipino superheroes are based on American superheroes. But to say that Darna is based on Wonder Woman or Lastikman is based on Mr. Fantastic ignores so much comics history. I get that not everyone's as into comics history as I am, hence the article I read, but that doesn't stop me from making my own list. So...

5 Filipino Superheroes and Their American Counterparts
by Duy Tano

DARNA IS CAPTAIN MARVEL

It is incredibly easy to say that Darna is based off of Wonder Woman, as both are raven-haired women with super strength and flight. But Wonder Woman didn't fly on a regular basis until 1988 (if she could fly, why did she have an invisible plane?), and Darna is an alien from the planet Marte, who took the place of young provincial girl Narda. All it took was for Narda to swallow a magic stone and shout "Darna!"


Billy Batson is a young boy who yells "Shazam!" and turns into Captain Marvel. He was also the most popular superhero in the 1940s (over Superman, Batman, and Captain America). That's what Mars Ravelo was working off of when he was creating Darna. Darna is based, more than anyone else, on Captain Marvel. And as Budjette Tan once said, it was imperative that she be part of a family unit from the province.

Alan Moore once pointed out that creativity is taking something existing and changing parameters. Creative success is built on figuring out the right parameters, and Darna did that. (Another one that did that, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, which takes Darna and turns it into an LGBTQ story, and is very successful.)


CAPTAIN BARBELL IS ALSO CAPTAIN MARVEL


Everything I said above, except more obvious. Tenteng is a skinny dude who lifts a barbell, screams "Captain Barbell!" and then turns into Captain Barbell. So he's not based on Superman; he's based on Captain Marvel. It's in the name!

LASTIKMAN IS PLASTIC MAN


Lastikman is based not on Mr. Fantastic, but on Plastic Man, one of the biggest superhero icons of the 1940s and the 1970s. Plastic Man was a former crook named Eel O'Brien, and he was going to be called India Rubber Man, but there was this new invention called "plastic" back then that was all the rage, so creator Jack Cole proved he was pretty good at marketing just with that name change. Plastic Man is also one of the best, most creative comics series to have ever existed, although I knew him first from the 1970s cartoon with his girlfriend Penny and their kid Baby Plas. Lastikman is an alien who lands on Earth with the exact same stretching powers.

So no, Lastikman is not based on Mr. Fantastic. He's pretty clearly based on Plastic Man. It's not just in the costume — it's in the name!



COMBATRON IS MEGAMAN

Combatron is a cyborg from the planet Omicron (we Filipinos like to take archetypes then turn them into aliens) who has powers called "Omega Laser," "Nuclear Eye Beam," "Space Thunder," and "Teleporter Punch." He also looks like Megaman:


Megaman, originally a video game character and known in Japan and other markets as Rockman, is a robot with powers like "Hyper Bomb," "Fire Storm," and my personal favorite (and everyone's) "Metal Blade."

ALEXANDRA TRESE IS JOHN CONSTANTINE

Alexandra Trese is an alien who... wait, no.

Technically Alexandra's origins come from Marvel's The Shroud, who Budjette Tan pitched a series for some years back. But she takes most of her inspiration from John Constantine, the Hellblazer, investigator of the paranormal in a trenchcoat.


As with Darna, Trese's tweaked parameters not only include gender (what's in the genre that hasn't been done before?), but also a strong laser focus on the Philippines. The parameters are changed enough that it's distanced from the source material, and it just works.

I have no idea who Liza Soberano was before I heard the news, except for her name. And I have only seen one Erik Matti movie, which was 90% great and 10% bad. So I really have no prior experience to have a real opinion about this. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this movie will actually be good and by the numbers, the equivalent of 2008's Iron Man in the local scene. Good product benefits everyone. Let's hope it's good.

May 31, 2017

A Definitive List of Groups of People for Whom Wonder Woman Should Be Great

In just over 24 hours, I will be watching Wonder Woman. It's one of the movies I've looked forward to the most, probably ever, and it looks like the movie's gonna be great. Now, this is going to be a movie that will be impossible to judge objectively — it's the first large female-led superhero movie, the first movie featuring this particular classic icon, and a very feminist movie in the age of Trump. It's going to be impossible for it to be judged devoid of cultural context, and that doesn't matter because that's exactly what makes the movie so important. So with that, I give you...

A Definitive List of Groups of People for Whom Wonder Woman Should Be Great
by Duy Tano

For Anyone Who Just Wants to See a Great Movie

No two bones about it. If you're going to the movies, you want to have a good time. So let's start off here: in a vacuum, this movie should be great. That's impossible to judge now, but context tends to get forgotten down the line except by people who were there (and sometimes even by the people who were there, which is how LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan is still a debate when anyone who's seen both players side by side would know it isn't a contest). So let's just hope the movie is good enough that when we're watching it in ten years when America has a female president that this whole political atmosphere feels like a distant dystopia, it's still enjoyable.

For Anyone Who Wants Better Movie Posters

Seriously, we all benefit from a better poster scene.

For Anyone Who Wants More Female-Led Superhero Movies

Thirteen years ago, Halle Berry starred in a very very bad Catwoman film, and when it flopped, studio executives blamed the fact that it was led by a woman whose last name wasn't Jolie. Now that's very stupid, but that's how it goes. The people at the top with the money don't have the time to watch every movie and judge for themselves, so they rely on quick analyses, and when a report says that this flopped movie's differentiating factor is that it stars a woman, it sticks in an exec's brain. 

Now, take a look at these people.



Those are the three greatest superhero actors of all time. I'm not saying they're the best in a vacuum, though they are all great — Chris Evans plays the earnest inspiring beacon of hope just as well as Christopher Reeve, Robert Downey Jr. is basically playing himself (not that that's a bad thing, considering Iron Man outside of RDJ is a really boring character), and Hugh Jackman is arguably not the best choice for Wolverine. So why are they the top 3? Because in one way or another, their performances have both stood the test of time and changed the game. Reeve kicked off the real modern era of superhero movies and is still seen by some as the gold standard. RDJ kicked off a cinematic universe and opened the door for a wider range of characters you can make a movie out of (does anyone remember 2007, when Iron Man was not a household name?), and Hugh Jackman just proved that you can hold this role for 17 years, turning in his best performance for last.

That's my Tier 1 of superhero actors. And if Gal Gadot makes it to Tier 1, it's going to be because she kicked the door down for female protagonists.

For Anyone Who Wants More Female-Led Comics

There's that bogus claim going around that diversity is killing Marvel Comics, which isn't true (their price point is what's doing it, and Marvel isn't the only brand floundering). So more demand for female-led protagonists will give you more female-led comics.

For Anyone Who Wants More Female-Led Anything

Take everything I just said, and then apply it to everything else.

For Fans of the Character


Because we would all benefit from more Wonder Woman.

For Potential Fans of the Character

There isn't a single character in comics that I've seen more potential fans of, meaning, they like the idea of Wonder Woman, but they haven't actually consumed anything Wonder Woman related. A lot of that is due to a dearth of truly great product out there regarding Diana — there's only a handful. But a great movie gives potential fans something to turn them into a fully fledged fan. 


Read more below


For Fans of DC


Because we deserve a good movie for once, damn it.

For Fans of Marvel

Because competition is great for everyone. Keep this in mind: DC has been trying to find a niche that Marvel doesn't fill, and they're going straight to grim and gritty with questionable results. You know where Marvel really has a need to be filled? Lack of female characters. Wonder Woman may break the doors open for female heroes — and that will include Marvel's. (Yes, I know Marvel already has Captain Marvel out next year, but that doesn't really change my point. And also, do you realize that if this is a hit, that means the DCEU's two most beloved characters so far are both women?)

For William Moulton Marston

The credited creator of Wonder Woman, who once wrote "Tolerant people are the happiest, so why not get rid of costly prejudices that hold you back?" and created a hero to stand for that.

For Olive Byrne and Elizabeth Marston

Marston's two wives in a polyamorous relationship who co-created Wonder Woman and got no credit for it simply because of the time they lived in. The world has come far, and this is going to exemplify that.

For Any Other Creators Who Made Their Mark on Wonder Woman

George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Rich Buckler, Gene Colan, Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, Len Wein, Jill Thompson, and everyone else I definitely missed — they deserve it.

For Anyone Who Wants to See this Scene Happen in the Movies


Because Batman sucks.

For Anyone Who Dreams of a Better World

Two of my favorite superheroes of all time are Superman and Captain America, who represent hope and the ability to inspire humankind to greatness. You know who else does that, and actually does that more? Wonder Woman. Superman inspires by being Superman. Captain America's first instinct is to defend, also inspiring by his actions. Wonder Woman is a proactive inspiration, and it's time the world saw her that way.



For the LGBTQ Community



Wonder Woman is bisexual, and really, always has been, even if they never mentioned it. But even before they came right out and said it, she's one of two characters whom I've always seen LGBTQ fans online relate to on an empathetic and deep level. Two of the most important creators of Wonder Woman in the past 20 years have been a gay man (Phil Jimenez) and a man who identifies as female (Greg Rucka). Even during a period of time when no LGBTQ topics were broached in the comics at all, people just knew, Wonder Woman was an LGBTQ advocate.

For Women Everywhere


I'm a dude. I will never understand what women go through. But I'm going to keep trying. This movie means something important and its success or failure will say something about the woman's place in society. (And yes, if they want to go to a female-only screening and celebrate such an event with other women, they can.)

For Anyone Who's Ever Been Ostracized for Being Different




For Every Single Child Who Identifies with This Picture, and Every Single Person Who Knows One


And on my long, uncategorized list, I think they're the most important.

Please be great, Wonder Woman.

May 9, 2017

Hidden Gems: Geoff Johns and Butch Guice's Olympus

Hidden Gems looks at some comics you may not have heard of. This time we'll look at a comic published by Humanoids/DC Comics in 2005, called...

Olympus, by Geoff Johns, Kris Grimminger, and Butch Guice

It's 2003 and Geoff Johns is still a year away from Green Lantern: Rebirth and claiming his undisputed place as DC's top writer. DC Comics at the time has a partnership with Paris-based comics publisher, Humanoids. Johns, working with Kris Grimminger, pitches a series featuring "every great monster from Greek mythology, from Medusa to the Stymphalian Birds." So they contact Butch Guice, who's fresh off of drawing Ruse (from the criminally short-lived company CrossGen) and colorist Dan Brown, and the result is a fun and aesthetically gorgeous, if narratively shallow, comic.


We start with a shot of one of our main characters, Brent, diving and exploring. And, man, look at that art. Look at those lush colors. They're gorgeous. Reading this comic was like if your eyes had taste buds and you fed them candy.


We learn that Brent is part of an archaeological group in Europe, and this is their vacation before heading back to America. We meet the studious Rebecca and lackadaisical Sarah, sisters who couldn't be more different.

And basically Sarah walks around in that for the entire comic,
because apparently Johns watched that GI Joe episode.
We're introduced also to their professor, Gail Walker, and together they find what looks to be a historical version of Pandora's Box, the jar that brings demons into the Earth. Their ship is then hijacked by a bunch of pirates, but a storm shipwrecks them on an island. And that island is beautiful.

Seriously, look at that. Look! 

Turns out it's Olympus, of Greek myth, and the jar really is Pandora's box. And damn, they need to get that thing to the top of the mountain where it belongs, or things like this come after them.

Okay, so there isn't much to the story other than a glorified mountain climbing experience. Johns does Johns and introduces some very basic plot elements to make us sympathize with the characters more. The Archaeology program is getting shut down. Brent's dad is in jail. Rebecca and Sarah are disappointed in each other. That's all the emotional depth to the story, but hey, that's not the point of it.

Really, it reads like a survival thriller movies where the goal is just to move from Point A to Point B (think of something like Gravity or The Shallows). But man. It sure is damn pretty.


May 8, 2017

The Crime Corner: An Introduction

Noir/Crime Comics: An Introduction
by Christopher Cornejo

So I was trying to think of a witty introduction to say on this piece. How I got a serious hankering for comic books and all its glorious (and crappy) splendor. How it gave me an escape from the monotony of life and how it allowed me to explore various worlds without leaving the comfort of my bed or couch.

True as it maybe that I’ve experienced those things in comic books, it wasn’t necessarily my first love and my first foray into escapism and worlds unimaginable. I got that high first on crime. Now I know what you’re thinking “Did this guy just confess how messed up he is?” (A topic that should not be questioned, for that is between me and my therapist) but fret not, for your fears are unfounded.

I LOVE CRIME. CRIME FICTION THAT IS (who knows how much explaining me and the editor would have to do if it was the act itself, not the medium I confessed to love).

One way or another I’ve always been a fan of (almost) everything that is crime and noir. There’s always something so elegantly stylish, captivating, and dare I say it, sensual about these kinds of works that I can’t help surrender to its appeal. This article could go on and on and on if I tried to enumerate all the great things crime (and noir for I feel they almost always go hand in hand) fiction has given me in all my years growing up but since this site is about comics, I will (try very hard to) limit myself with crime/noir comics.

As an introduction, I’ll be listing down the elements of crime as I understand and appreciate it. These are the elements that give crime comics its particular style, theme, and own identity. Consider this a primer of sorts. Now, these things need not be present at all times, but they’re kind of like a guidepost on what to expect from the plot and themes when you get to sit down and enjoy a crime comic and yes, yes, yes, this is not a definitive and objective list (because, let’s face it, facts are for wimps).

Think of these things as some bloodstained comfort blanket you wrap around yourself to feel safe and secure. And in the spirit of trying to be witty (and failing spectacularly to do so, I may add), I would like to call this as my own crime comic checklist (or notable noir niche, whichever fits your fancy).

The Seedy Underground (or the City behind the City)

“The streets were dark with something more than night.” – Raymond Chandler

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Most fiction deals with the location as something or someplace people thrive and live on. At times, it’s part of their identity (like East and West Baltimore of the groundbreaking HBO series, The Wire); other times it’s just any other nameless place that stuff happens in. All those things can also be applied to crime and noir comics but the city that people inhabit in the pages of the topic at hand (or the streets if you feel inclined to call it that) is much, much more.

The city is a character in and of itself and not just a plot device. It is a like a colorful (if you feel like red, black, and varying shades of grey colorful) tapestry that shows the world as we know it and flipped it upside down. A ragged canvas that is a wonderful breeding ground for all the things that is wrong in the world. The streets get to be where bad things never stop happening and that the misery and hurt of it all becomes routine.

This is the place where businessmen sharpen their crooked ways to ensure their legitimate dealings lead to a profit often at the expense of the people they deal with and crooks act all like serious businessmen to professionally setup a score that guarantees they get to live another day.

“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” – Raymond Chandler

Criminal: Coward by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
The urban jungle that I’ve come to know in crime comics as the city is the habitat of people where they give in to their most basic and animalistic urges such as living (and mostly dying) by the needle and need of a fix, along with the predatory folks who prey upon the people barely scraping by. The city ensures the nights are just a little bit longer and the promise of a new day is something that is never guaranteed for everyone.

This is the place where justice is a word that has all but lost its meaning; where the only path to salvation is also the sure path to one’s ruin. There’s no law save the laws of the streets and you can be damn sure that those rules are not enforced by the police but by the thugs, dealers, and soldiers who bleed for what they claimed was theirs.

Emasculation

“We’re designed to be hunters but we’re in a society of shopping.” – David Fincher

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Most stories often have their protagonists overcome great challenges that pretty much redeem them in the end. This is a trait also shared by noir and crime comics. The only difference is, more often than not, our leading man takes more of a beating rather than give it and doesn't really catch a break in between. Our guy is always the fool who is always way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaay in over his head and often has to deal with various situations that he hardly (if ever) gets to get out on top. Sure, the world is unfair, but noir and crime comic makes damn sure that our guy gets to feel most of the brunt of said unfairness.

“People are lucky and unlucky not according to what they get absolutely, but according to the ratio between what they get and what they have been led to expect.” – Samuel Butler


100 Bullets by Brian Azzarrello and Eduardo Risso
That’s right, our guy who once in his life believed he can be a two-time champ gets a serious slap of reality and rude awakening that all he can be is a two-time chump, punch drunk and half dead going in to the last round with no idea how he’s gonna (or will he ever be) get saved by the bell. And just to rub it in, no one can save him, in fact, since misery loves company; no one gets to be saved.

No one.

Yes, I know I should point out the obvious here. All our protagonists (if you could even call it that) happen to be from the male side of the kingdom. Make no mistake; this theme is deliberate. Maybe to all the more ensure that the point gets across, and the point we’re talking about here is that “it ain’t pretty and it never will be”. A man’s pride and ego is what makes him who he is and what better way to serve a lesson about things going as bad as they can get than robbing said man of his identity and what makes him, uh well, him?

To the fine, fine, fine ladies reading this, don’t worry because in the world of crime, you’ll have your own woes to deal with. Just keep reading on.



Femme Fatale

“I say all the things I swore I’d never say again. She owns me. Body and soul.” 
– Sin City: A Dame to Kill For


The Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker

Imagine yourself, sitting at a bar. You’re there minding your own business, a drink in your hand and just killing time when lo and behold, this lady walks in straight out of your wildest dreams and fantasies. Everyone in the room feels it, the undeniable smoldering sensuality of her every step. You became aware of your own heartbeat because anytime now it will jump out of your throat. You feign detachment and cool disregard to the hell on high heels taking over the place, but you and I both know she knows better. She rewards you with a look that could have a corpse breathing hard. The promise of just the touch of her skin leaves you gasping for air, and why shouldn’t you be? You’re way out of your depth and breathing underwater while your mouth is filled with thoughts of her.

But like all good (and pretty) things in the wonderful world of crime, that beauty most likely is just skin deep. Underneath all the glamorous looks and amorous come-ons, hides a sly and conniving predator that ensures you take the bait before she leaves you lying on the floor, with no control of your senses and no possessions in your name, wondering what and how you get to reach the bottom this fast, wishing all that she’d given you was a dream come true but only turning out to be the endless waking nightmare that you’ve now come to know as your life.

“Yes I killed him. I killed him for money and for a woman. I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty isn’t it?” – Double Indemnity

Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips


The femme fatale has become a landmark character in crime and noir. She’s the foil and oftentimes the cause of our protagonist’s troubles. At best, she gives our guy something to think and tide him over while he’s spending the foreseeable future in prison or a life that will be a continuous downward spiral. At worst, she’s the catalyst that causes our hero to gain redemption but that comes at the expense of his own soul.

The objectification and misogyny these women get, they turn it to weapon that gives them the capacity to go after and take whatever it is that suited their fancy because the only way to get even is to trample every men that stands in their way and use them as cannon fodder and a means to their own ends. Cruelty for the sake of personal gain is not something that is original only to femme fatales but nonetheless the effectivity of this theme is something that keeps readers coming back for more because like sick voyeurs in awe of the accident waiting to happen, we could not avert our eyes away from this road of damnation that leads to everybody’s ruin.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, right?

And speaking of ruin, on a final note. . .

Redemption (or the Road to Ruin)

“I have to believe there’s redemption in the darkest of circumstances; otherwise it’s too bleak for me” – Paddy Considine

The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

For all intents and purposes crime and noir is a story of inherent if not preordained tragedy. A modern tragedy set in the landscape of the urban jungle where the fatalistic nightmare of the lead characters comes into vivid reality. The insurmountable odds stacked against our protagonist are only rivaled by their perseverance to get away from the problems that haunt their everyday lives. Yes, everything is pre-ordained to be doomed, but this will never stop the people from seeking reprieve whatever form it may take shape.

The superficial goal of crime comics, at least from the lead character’s perspective is that they have to get what they want. That could be in the form of a successful score from a heist or finally getting their revenge by giving the well-deserved comeuppance to the source of their seemingly unending misery. But more than that, crime comics is a story about one’s redemption.

But since this is crime comics we’re talking about, said redemption comes at a considerable cost. We mostly meet our characters down in the dumps knee-deep in trouble and not a source of hope in sight. Everything is turning bad and it will just keep on getting worst. The only way to stop or even ebb this unending stream of problems, our character needs to devise a plan to get out from under. These thoughts turn into unsavory schemes that they must execute if they want to make it. They get tangled with bent people with personal desires and not above a double cross to get what they believe were theirs.

“I never wanted to kill, I am not naturally evil.  Such things I do, just to make myself attractive to you.
Have I failed?” - Morissey (The Last of the Famous International Playboys)


Gotham Central: Half a Life by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Yes it’s a difficult path that needs to be taken. Despite all these problems plaguing our protagonist, they can’t help themselves in trying to do the right thing (or at least the closest thing in doing right by the people they promise to save). Because what is a person (however crooked they might turn out to be) if not for the principles that defines them?

And that’s the problem. That principle that serves as their (possibly only) saving grace is a double edged sword that they have to fall on later. The best-laid plans of mice and men have never been more destroyed than by walking the road to redemption, which also happens to be one’s road to certain ruin. This theme never loses its charm in noir and crime, because when you get a good crime story, no matter how messed up and vile the protagonist happens to be, you can’t help but root for them as they go through the paces and follow the path to redemption, regardless of our knowing too well that not everything will end up smelling roses and a happy ending is the last thing these characters will ever get.

Because our knight does not have a shining armor, they’re vulnerable from pretty much everything and they are tainted by the nature they got acclimated to as well as the people they’ve surrounded themselves. Despite the questionable things they did, our lead character can’t help themselves but behave like honor and faith has anything to do with the life they’ve lead up until now.

Like any heroes, we want them to triumph and prevail unscathed and unharmed. But that kind of ending is reserved elsewhere. That kind of conclusion will never be found in the pages of crime and noir comics. That makes it all the more compelling, because regardless of how high they manage to get up we know they’re bound to fall. In the world of crime, everything and everyone is set to fail.

So there you have it, a primer of sorts about all things crime and noir in the wonderful world of comic books. I hope you got something out of it. As for me, I’ll try to follow this up with other crime/noir comic related stuff to post in this blog because it would be such a shame if you people do not get at least a chance to pick up any of the numerous comics out there for crime (I mean crime as a story not a propaganda promoting crime), I’ll be back with other stuff but until then, take a chance and pick one up for the team, yes?

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