Dec 16, 2008

Top Five Properties I'd Love To Write Comics For

Let's imagine for a second, that I lived the dream and got paid to be a comic book writer. While it'd be a hoot to write the icons, like Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, as a new writer, I wouldn't be given those books, and also, I wouldn't have a lot of freedom on them. So here are the ones I'd absolutely love to do:

5. Sleepwalker


A friend and I came up with an idea for this very underused mid-90s Marvel superhero a few years ago. Taking advantage of the fact that Sleepwalker's realm is in the mind, we came up with a lot of visual treats that'd look great in a comic book. And, best of all, for me, our idea powered up and used this guy as the main villain:


I love Electro and I think he's severely underrated. I'd love to power him up and make him a real threat.

4. Gargoyles

Gargoyles, for my money, is a damn near perfect cartoon. It's got great protagonists, great villains, great designs, even if some of them scream "Make me into an action figure", and great conflict. It's so planned out that it could branch out into science fiction or fantasy in either extreme and it works perfectly. I think the cartoon ended with a lot of possibility left in the way of story, and I'd love to see it in comics form, not in the way it's currently being published (as a poor printed version of the cartoon), but with a somewhat more serious tone in the art.


3. Batman Beyond

Pretty much the same as above. I think the animated series was a fully formed world that drew from Batman's history but didn't rely on it. I think Terry McGinnis is a great character with a great supporting cast and villains. In fact, the rogues' gallery in Batman Beyond did something I never thought possible - create a whole slew of villains in the modern day, but make them all look cool and timeless. In a story set in the future, it would have been easy for those designs to date themselves, but they don't. At all.

I'd love to have a crack at it. Why DC refuses to put out a Batman Beyond comic, with more traditional art and more substantial story arcs is beyond me. I think it could be the critical equivalent of Marvel's Spider-Girl, and would sell more.


2. The Scarlet Spider

Spider-Man's clone from the much lampooned Clone Saga actually has his own cult following of supporters, and I'm one of them. He's Spider-Man without the baggage, or rather, a different set of it. He's trying to find his place in the world, so Ben Reilly traveling around the world looking to fit in, knowing he never will, I think, is a great concept. It also provides writers a reason to do a complete overhaul when they take over the book, as writers are wont to do with 2nd-stringers in this day and age. When writer A leaves, writer B can easily have Ben move to another setting, introduce a new supporting cast, et cetera.

Also, his constantly being on the move would explain why he's sticking with the sweatshirt look - he just doesn't feel like making the superhero thing full time, so he doesn't feel like making a complete costume.

The problem would be how to bring back Ben from the dead, but of course, it can be done.

This Scarlet Spider is by Steven Butler, whom I would pick as the artist.


1. Nightwing

Nightwing, by concept and by characterization, is one of my all-time favorite heroes. I even like him more than Batman. But when I think about it, I can't think of a single Nightwing story I absolutely love, just small Nightwing moments here and there that make him cool.

It seems to me that he's one great writer away from being a really critical breakout. I think he could be the critical DC equivalent of Daredevil - he's got enough baggage to make him prestigious and iconic, but yet not enough "iconicity" in the name and costume that you can't screw around with him. And it seems that every time a writer shifts, his supporting cast changes.

Dick Grayson has more history and legacy in comics than just about anyone this side of Batman, and he deserves to be treated better. Unfortunately, writers tend to treat him just as a junior Batman or an adult Robin, and with both a Batman and Robin running around, this simply will not do. Perhaps the problem is that Dick is too well-balanced - he's so put together, so untraumatized by things. Guilt isn't what drives Dick to do what he does, and it shouldn't be made so. Dick should be the bright light in the Bat universe, the one who smiles and cracks jokes, but then that just risks turning him into Spider-Man.

This is the inherent problem with working with Dick Grayson: he is the perfect balance of so many superhero ideas that he never fully exemplifies one. In addition, he works so much better in a crowd than individually. I would argue that Dick is the heart of the DC Universe, the one that everyone on some level trusts implicitly. He's already been established as the best leader they have, exceeding Superman and Batman themselves.

The balance is hard to work out, but someone like Dan Jurgens did it perfectly for a while:



If I were writing Nightwing, I'd introduce a pretty solid supporting cast, and have a guest star pop up every few issues because Nightwing's strength - what sets him apart from the entire Bat family (and Spider-Man) - is in his ability to work with others. The Flash is his best friend. Superman trusts him completely, and sees him as something of a nephew (I'd say). There is no reason that these heroes can't hang out.

I would also give Dick a hobby, much like Jack Knight's hobby was collecting antiques. It'd give him a human touch, something we could relate to.

But most of all, I'd just have him be Dick Grayson - the coolest guy in the DC Universe.

Aug 18, 2008

Solo 7


One of my favorite comics of all time contains one of my favorite Batman stories of all time.
Solo#7, by Mike Allred, features the story "Batman A-Go-Go", which uses the Adam West Batman and puts him through the deconstruction and darkening that the character went through gradually over the years in the span of just over 10 pages. The result is a very stark disconnect, and a declaration that comics can and should be fun.

I ran into this blog, and it has a great review of the issue. But this part really sticks with me:

The '60s Batman story is probably the best overall, with Mike drawing comparisons between the campy television version (which heavily influenced DC's comics at the time) and the current Dark Knight version. He does a splendid job of showing just how sharply the two contrast even though it was more or less a gradual change in tone over the many years. Putting the two side-by-side really gives an indication of how much comics (and readers) have changed. The question is, is it for the better?

I enjoy reading Silver Age stories. And I understand that even though real life was just as bad as it is now, it was kept out of the comics for a reason.

Nowadays, readers feel that stories and characters (especially super-hero ones) can't be taken seriously without having a real-life authenticity about them. And forget about not taking them seriously. It's unheard of.

That's my current problem with comic book movies-- but then, you all know that anyway.

Jul 25, 2008

Top Five Comic Book Movies I'd Like to See Made

The title of this post is "Comic Book Movies I'd LIKE to See Made", and not "LOVE to see made", because if you know me at all, you know I have absolutely no faith in Hollywood. But! Let's pretend I do.

5. The Question

Victor Sage meets a lot of the criteria Hollywood is looking for these days, so why not? It'd be noirish, full of intrigue, mystery, and zen meditation. Plus, trenchcoats are always fun, and there's always something cool about a guy with no face.


The Justice League Unlimited cartoon really did wonders with The Question.

4. Green Lantern


I'm back and forth on whether the Green Lantern in this movie should be Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner (as Kyle's more imaginative), but it'd probably be Hal, and his rising up in the ranks of the Corps, ending with a big blow-out between him and Sinestro. The lightshow would be amazing, but the problem is that there's a fine balance between the inherent silliness and awesomeness of Hal's power, and, as a friend of mine just told me, "When the power you have is only limited by your will and the color yellow, Hollywood wouldnt know what to do."

3. The Flash

Like the above, I'm torn as to who should be the Flash in the movie, Barry Allen or Wally West. I guess we could have them both, promoting Wally to the lead role in the sequel, which would be more interesting because Wally's a far more interesting character than Barry, who really has no emotional baggage.

The big problem with making a movie about the Flash is the same thing that makes him so cool in the comics. He's incredibly fun. His villains are colorful, sympathetic, and act as a fraternity, who are not out to kill him, but to evade him.

Unfortunately, you can't tell the story of Wally West in full without killing off Barry Allen. So there may be that unfortunate dark side to what would be a GP movie, ending with Barry sacrificing himself to save the world.

So I don't know if the mainstream Hollywood audience would go for such a movie. One thing's for sure, though: mainstream comic book fans would love it, and so would kids.

2. Original Superman

Superman, as conceived in 1938 at the height of the Great Depression, was not the virtuous role model you see today, fighting evil with a smile on his face, and saving the world from alien threats and mad scientists. Superman originally was a social crusader, who took matters into his own hands. If a politician was corrupt, then Superman would go over and rough him up, with no regard to proper avenues of how to complain about these things. If he saw a man about to get the death penalty and he knew the man was innocent, he'd spring him - no questions asked. Superman was a two-fisted champion of the oppressed, and honestly, I think there's a place right now for that kind of hero.


In addition, he could be hurt by an exploding shell, could only leap an eighth of a mile (not at all fly), and run faster than a locomotive.

I think it'd be fun, but it's obviously not commercial.

1. Adam West Batman

As I've said in this blog before, if I could make any movie I wanted, it would be a remake of the Adam West Batman TV show, with as much irony, parody, humor, as the old show. And like the old show, it would play it completely straight.



It would be smart. It would be funny. It would be a riot. It would be awesome.

And who would I get to play Adam West? The one guy in Hollywood who has his voice register, delivery, and the ability to be just as melodramatic:


Will Arnett.

Imagine him doing the Batusi:



By the way, I'm not AT ALL kidding. I would really like to see this.

Anyone got a particular movie they want to see made?

Jul 24, 2008

The Top Five Best Joker Moments, Ever

In my dream, the world had suffered a terrible disaster. A black haze shut out the sun, and the darkness was alive with the moans and screams of wounded people.

Suddenly, a small light glowed. A candle flickered into life, symbol of hope for millions.

A single tiny candle, shining in the ugly dark.


I laughed and blew it out.

~The Joker, from a story I can't find, which is annoying, because it's awesome.



Of all time, the Joker is my favorite villain, and I'm very happy with the late Heath Ledger's portrayal of him in the Batman movie. So I thought about it, and thought, "Shit, the Joker's been in a lot of great stories in the comics." I thought I'd pick the five that I feel best define him. Maybe I'll make the top five a regular from now on.

Anyway, before we go, here's a few honorable mentions.

First honorable mention goes to the time that Joker shot Dick Grayson (Robin I) in the shoulder, making Batman increasingly scared for Dick's safety, leading Dick to leave the mantle of Robin behind. Not in the top five because the Joker would do something far more effective to another Robin later, plus it led to Dick becoming Nightwing, which is a million times cooler than Batman himself, so he's like a billion times more awesome than Robin in short shorts.

Second honorable mention goes to Batman: Dark Detective. Here's the cover. I think that says it all. Not in the list because the story itself wasn't notable.




Third honorable mention goes to the Alan Moore-penned Swamp Thing story where Anton Arcane has unleashed a mystical emotional plague on the world. In a scene showing reactions to Arcane's emotional storm, we cut to Arkham, where the nurses and doctors are starting to get scared. Finally, one doctor said, "Oh yeah, you wanna see something really scary? There.... the Joker's stopped laughing." Not in the list, obviously, because it's not a Joker story.



Final honorable mention goes to the Joker's monologue in the first Spider-Man/Batman crossover, which has him showing Carnage who's boss. Not on the list because, as a rule, crossovers shouldn't count. 'Cause it opens a can of worms. "Any idiot... can go out and slaughter a few thousand people. But where's the laughter and tears? The handstands and histrionics? In short... where's the theater?" Plus, Mark Bagley rules as an artist, and everyone should see how well he draws the Joker.



So here's the list.

5. Joker beats the living crap out of Jason Todd

Jason Todd, the second Robin, did not get over with fans very well. For one thing, he was an annoying little snot, undermining Batman every chance he got. He was the early attempt at a teenage rebel in the comics, and it wasn't executed very well. So, finally, DC left his fate up to the readers, by way of telephone votes. Of over 3,000 votes, the death option won by about 76 votes, so it was decreed: Jason Todd must die.

In the story in which they did it, Todd is on a search for his mother, and when he finally finds her, he finds out she's an international criminal, conspiring with the Joker. Appealing to her maternal instincts and good nature, he reveals to her his dual identity. Only, it turns out, Jason's mother is really an impure soul, and leads him right to the Joker, who takes the annoying snot by surprise, and beats the living crap out of him with a crowbar... in front of his mother. Then he straps her to a pillar and leaves them with a bomb.


While this particular scene does not have the pizazz of some other Joker moments and the story as a whole is, for me, below par, it really is a moment that cements (as if it weren't already) Joker's place as Batman's top villain, as the one person who is capable of taking so much away from him. Plus, he does it with a smile on his face.

Joker's murder of Jason Todd is the oft-cited in-story reason for Batman's grim, serious turn for the worse in the 90s and first half of the 2000s. As far as an in-story reason goes, there are few better.

4. Underworld Unleashed

James Jesse, the Trickster, is brought to Hell for a meeting of villains. The meeting is called by Neron, at the time DC's most serious version of the devil. Neron has promised the villains more power than they currently have (basically, the story is a retooling of the villains in general). One by one, Neron shows them the villains that he's already got on his side. It starts off with Kadabra, and the Trickster, with his internal narration, professes a certain level of fear and hesitation towards the Flash's magician antagonist. It then goes to Lex Luthor, who, of course, the Trickster respects, followed by Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis Circe, increasing the Trickster's level of fear. It then goes to Dr. Polaris, the master of magnetism, and the Trickster is realizing just how serious the power is getting around the table. But then, he sees one more figure at the table, and then he realizes who it is.




"Oh," he says. "Oh GOD."

The Joker is the least powerful person on the table, but he's the only one who's capable of injecting such abject fear into The Trickster. And the kicker of it all is that one line that follows it.


"When villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories."

3. Joker kills Sarah Essen-Gordon

About some time after Joker shot Barbara Gordon in the spine (see number two), he took someone else away from Commissioner Gordon: his wife.

Now, it must be noted that Joker is doing all of these things to break Jim Gordon. Any maniac could go out and slaughter a few thousand people, as noted before, but when the Joker kills someone close to Gordon, it's for the express purpose of breaking Jim Gordon. He is not out to kill Jim Gordon. He wants Jim Gordon to go mad.

So, at the end of No Man's Land, the year-long Batman story that had the US turn its back on an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City, the Joker resurfaces and kidnaps a bunch of babies, and gives the good guys a set amount of time to find them. Along the way, Commissioner Gordon's wife, Sarah Essen, has a malfunction involving her police communicator, and must return to police headquarters to get a new one. Unfortunately, that just so happens to be where the Joker is hiding the babies, even holding one in his arms, tenderly.

Sarah pulls out her gun, and tells Joker to drop the baby... so Joker does, at which point Sarah has no choice but to drop her gun and catch the baby. The Joker then, calmly and very seriously, without any hint of histrionics, pulls out his own gun and shoots Sarah in the head.



But that's not where it gets good. Jim Gordon, along with the entire GCPD, corners the Joker as he exits police headquarters and surrenders. Once Gordon learns what the Clown Prince of Crime did to his wife, he pulls out a gun at him, and tries to justify killing him, using his murdered wife and crippled daughter as the two main reasons. Batman, whose code against killing is as strong as it ever was, decides he can no longer blame Gordon if he does shoot the Joker, as he's lost so much.

Gordon comes to a decision, and decides to shoot the Joker in the knee. The Joker then screams, saying he might never walk again, like Gordon's daughter...



...and then laughs, because he gets the joke.

That is a deranged mind, folks.

2. The Joker Shoots Barbara Gordon

In Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, oft-recognized as the definitive Joker story, Barbara Gordon is enjoying a night at the house with her father, Commissioner Gordon. Suddenly, the doorbell rings. Barbara, smiling, goes on to open it, finds the Joker, standing there with a gun. And without a single narrative caption, thought balloon, sound effect, or word of dialogue, the Joker shoots her, right through the midsection.



As Commissioner Gordon goes on to check on his fallen daughter, the Joker's men subdue him, as he's the one they came for anyway. While they're doing that, Joker smiles, and compares Barbara to a used library book, referring back to her old days as a librarian. It's one of the most callous, heartless things I've ever seen, and you can tell he's enjoying every single witticism that comes out of his mouth.


One of the things making this moment so effective is its permanence. Since then, Barbara Gordon has remained paralyzed, waist-down for life, with the Joker never knowing that he had ended Batgirl's career.

Because another thing making it effective is the fact that he just didn't care. It was all random happenstance. Joker was there for Jim Gordon, without any intent to kill him. It just so happened Babs opened the door, and you simply don't get in the Joker's way.

1. The Laughing Fish

In the classic story, "The Laughing Fish", which was also adapted into the animated series (with improvements, such as Harley Quinn), the Joker poisons a large number of the fish in Gotham City so they all have his distinctive smile on them.


Because a bunch of fish now look like him, he goes to the copyright offices and demands a cut from all sales of the fish, and that they all be deemed his intellectual property. The guy behind the counter tells him you can't copyright fish, as they're a natural resource.

The Joker's response? "But Colonel Sanders has those chickens, and they don't even have a mustache! You see now why I resort to crime."



Within the next 12 hours, the man who told the Joker he couldn't copyright his fish was dead, and two more people died before the Batman finally caught him.


Why is this number one, you ask? It just illustrates what the Joker really is. Why does he put his face on fish, knowing full well he could never copyright a natural resource? He thinks it's funny. And if you don't agree with him, then sorry. You're dead.

And he does it all with a smile on his face.





Well, those are, in my opinion, the most definitive Joker moments ever! Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Jul 21, 2008

Batman movie franchise: Who's next?

So, uncharacteristically, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight more than I thought I would. I thought Christian Bale and Gary Oldman did great jobs as Bruce Wayne (not as Batman. We'll get to that later.) and Commissioner Gordon, Aaron Eckhart was a spot-on Harvey Dent, and Heath Ledger was a phenomenal Joker. And by phenomenal, I mean amazing. I mean great. The only thing Ledger had going against him is that his physical features don't really match the Joker's (he's too big and built), but that's not his fault at all.

So I was thinking of the next Batman movie, and possible villains for the Bat to square off against. Batman has one of the three best rogues' galleries in comics (along with Spider-Man and The Flash), and certainly the most psychologically fascinating. The problem is that I think they've used up the three villains capable of carrying a movie on their own (Ra's Al Ghul, Two-Face, and the Joker). Who's left? Let's check it out.

Uh, spoilers may follow.

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TWO-FACE


Pros: The logical villain for the next movie is, once again, Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Because of the way the last movie ended, the obvious next plot is to get Batman to clear his name, and exposing Harvey is the easiest way to do that. Plus, Aaron Eckhart played him well, and it'd be a hoot to see him again. (I actually thought in the beginning that they were putting him in the next movie instead of this one.)

Cons:
Been done. People might not get into it as much due to the repeat factor.

The Verdict: I think Harvey'll be in the next movie. But I don't think he'll be alone, and I'm even unsure as to how much he'll be in it. I'd say 100%, but I'm not sure what he'll do or how much.
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CATWOMAN
Pros: With Rachel Dawe "dead" in the last movie, the Batman franchise needs a new woman to take center stage, and to put in another love interest for Bruce is just reprisal. So the femme fatale's the way to go. Also, next to the Joker, it's hard to argue that the most recognizable antagonist for Batman is Catwoman. She'd also be the one antagonist left in his gallery to fit in really well with the "realistic" Batman world Nolan is creating - she's the only one left in a black costume, with no superpowers to speak of.

Cons: There's that Halle Berry movie that might still be giving Catwoman a stigma to carry around with her, wherever she goes, and DC can't really make up their minds as to what to do with her, whether she's a hero or a villain. Granted, her moral ambiguity may make for a fascinating story, but is it enough to carry a movie on its own? I doubt it.

The Verdict: I think she's a lock, but, again, I don't see her being alone. I'd say 75%, because I don't think she can carry the movie alone. Maybe she's the one who ends up clearing Batman's name.

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THE PENGUIN

Pros: Name recognition. Next to the Joker and Catwoman, it's hard to argue that any Batman villain is more known than the Penguin. And it would be the perfect time to reclaim the character from Danny DeVito's creepy portrayal back in 92.

Cons: He's a fat dirty businessman with an umbrella. Oh, the gods do tremble. What would end up happening is that he'd just be another mobster; there's nothing he can really offer in this particular version of the Batman universe that Moroni and Falcone haven't already.

The Verdict: The only way I see it happening is if Penguin is the leading mob boss in the city. In which case, he can't be the leading villain, because that'd be boring. And I don't see DC, Warner Brothers, or Nolan just using him as a tertiary character, similar to Moroni in the last movie. 10%.

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MR. FREEZE
Pros: The original Mr. Freeze episode of the Batman Animated Series won an Emmy. AN EMMY. Freeze is just that good of a tragic villain.

Cons: He has a science-fiction edge to him that would likely not fit in with Nolan's Batworld. Plus, all of his emotional baggage is a movie in itself and would not fit in very well with the loose ends from Dark Knight.

Verdict:
Don't see it. Victor doesn't fit in tonally, nor does he fit in narratively. 20%.

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POISON IVY
Pros: The same as with Catwoman, Poison Ivy gives the film a female antagonist that this Bat-universe could use.

Cons: Ivy doesn't fit. Not just with this Bat-universe, but with the Batman universe in GENERAL. This is why she's never the stuff classic Batman stories are made of. She has powers that are FAR too powerful, she's too freaky to be a love interest (some writers depict her as bleeding chlorophyll), and the whole eco-terrorist angle has been covered by Ra's Al Ghul, kinda making her redundant. She simply does not fit. I say transplant her into the Wonder Woman universe.

The Verdict: 10%, and that's only because I can see them putting her in just because they need a woman.
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THE RIDDLERPros: Flat out, name recognition. It goes, arguably: Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler in terms of name recognition. In fact, little bit of trivia. The Joker was not Batman's arch-nemesis until the 70s. There was a time, in the 60s, thanks to the Adam West show and my man Frank Gorshin's spectacular portrayal of Edward Nygma, that the Riddler was the number one villain. And there are two ways to play him: he can be manic, like Gorshin and Jim Carrey played him, with joyful, Joker-like glee, or he can be cerebral, as he was played on the cartoon, just calm and calculating. He works either way.

Cons:
Because most people know the Riddler as his manic self, it's quite possible that he'd be seen as too close to the Joker tonally, and the Joker's a hard act to follow. There's also the question of his entire gimmick, fitting in with the Nolan Batverse.

The Verdict:
I think they could pull it off, and I think he could even carry the movie on his own, but I also think it's a stretch. If he does show, it'll likely, still be with Harvey. It could go either way, I think. 75%.

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MAXIE ZEUS
Pros: Maxie Zeus is fascinating, insane, and would make a great leading mobster because of his whole angle.

Cons: As discussed in the Penguin section, for a mobster to be the number one villain in the movie would be kind of boring.

The Verdict: I can see Maxie Zeus being the mobster, playing Moroni's role in the last movie, much more than I can see the Penguin doing it. But it might be too much extra baggage, and they would rather go with a regular mobster instead. 15%.
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MR. ZSASZ
Pros: Zsasz is a fascinating villain, who has no powers at all, and kills people with brute abandon. He carves a scar onto his body for every life he takes. I think he'd be GREAT in Nolan's Batverse.

Cons: Who the hell is Zsasz?

The Verdict: I can see him being one of Harvey's henchmen, but there's no way he's carrying a movie. 40%.
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BANE
Pros: The Man Who Broke Batman's Back in the comics would certainly be a good antagonist for Batman, and would give the next movie one thing EVERY Batman movie ever has lacked: a good fight. Plus, Bane's not just a big guy who's strong; he's actually really smart.

Cons: Good luck finding someone to play him. Also, with Bane's strength coming from drugs, it might run the risk of being preachy.

The Verdict: For the same reason that I fear for the Thor movie, I don't see Bane being the Bat-villain, in the next movie or ever. 25%.

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CLAYFACE
Pros: Clayface is, like Mr. Freeze, a good tragic villain and would provide an interesting foil for the Dark Knight Detective. And because of his shapechanging ability, he would have to make Batman really be a detective.

Cons: Again, the superpowered aspect doesn't really fit in with Nolan's Batverse, and it's only been a year since Spider-Man 3 and their version of Sandman. Clayface might be too close to it.

The Verdict: Don't see it at all. 10%.
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KILLER CROC
Pros: Croc is a good, serviceable villain for an action sequence.

Cons: To just call his reptiley hide a skin condition is kind of a stretch, but it might work since they just did it with Harvey. At first glance, he doesn't look like he fits, but I think he could with some tweaking.

The Verdict: I can see him being a henchman or just opening the movie to be taken down right away, much like Zsasz. 60%.
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TALIA AL GHUL

Pros: Talia Al Ghul would provide the femme fatale. (See Catwoman, Poison Ivy) And she would be an easy storyline to write in, given her ties to Ra's Al Ghul.

Cons: Talia doesn't really work without Ra's, and I don't see them pulling Ra's out again.

The Verdict: Not at all. 10%.

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THE MAD HATTER


Pros: A good, insane villain who could serve pretty decently in the opening of the next movie.

Cons: Nowhere near strong enough to carry the movie on his own, or even be a big character.

The Verdict: I could see him playing a bit, kind of comic-relief part. 60%.
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SCARFACE and the VENTRILOQUIST

Pros: To be honest, this is the only way I'd see the whole mobster angle taking center stage. Scarface and the Ventriloquist are certainly psychologically fascinating enough for Nolan's Batverse.

Cons: Scarface is a dummy. That's not a lot of marketability for people who most likely want to see a good-looking man play the lead villain. Plus, as noted above, the whole mobster thing is really a tertiary storyline, and has been done. This would just add a twist, but I doubt the novelty could sustain the movie.

The Verdict: Again, don't see it at all. 10%.
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WRATH

Pros: Wrath is the anti-Batman. His parents, hardened criminals who were killed by a Gotham cop, thus forcing him to dedicate his life to crime. The cop also just so happens to be Commissioner Gordon. Another perfect example of duality, if they were to play that card again with Harvey. Plus, since he's every bit as good as Batman, it would give action-marks the greatest fight scene ever, in any comic book movie. Yes, better than Hulk vs. Abomination.

Cons: Nolan will probably want to use the established Batman villains before using a character that's shown up all of twice in the last 70 years and has never been adapted into other media. Also, as shown by our next potential villain, the fight scene is probably not the priority.

The Verdict: 1%. But it would be INCREDIBLY cool.
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BATMAN'S ANNOYING BATSUIT (extra: Batman's annoying voice)

Pros: It's "realistic." Which is not, you know, the actual meaning of the word realistic, which is "believable". It's Hollywood "realistic", which is "pretends to be believable in a world where believability should really be taken with a grain of salt." You know, kinda like the Watchmen movie. Where Watchmen the comic was "realistic" in that it had believable characters and situations, and short fight scenes (like real fights are) where the guy who is clearly physically better wins, the movie is looking like it is just "realistic" in that it is dark and gritty, and the world's most perfect man has a rubber suit with nipples which will in no way, not at all, hinder him from catching a bullet.

Cons: In The Dark Knight, Batman got injured by a dog, fell off his motorcycle and got knocked out, and fell on his back in the last scene and took a while to stand up, without even trying to save himself. I blame the suit. This Batman, unfortunately, is not about finesse or smarts. And, unfortunately, it's not about the fights either. Batman is Batman and should be able to protect himself. The suit shouldn't be about protection. It should be about maneuverability. A flexible suit of light armor with bulletproof Kevlar underneath is fine. Any boxer or martial artist will tell you that maneuverability comes first. Protection should come with your natural ability.

The Verdict: Unfortunately, I think Nolan loves the "realism" the Bat-armor gives. "Realism". Yeah. 100%.

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DR. HORRIBLE AND THE EVIL LEAGUE OF EVIL
Pros: It would be awesome. Now that Dr. Horrible has taken care of Captain Hammer, he needs to move up in the world. Plus, I want to hear Batman sing.

Cons: No cons at all.

The Verdict: As Dr. Horrible would attest to, genius is never appreciated in its own time. Zero.

May 7, 2008

Relatability is Overrated

I was watching, earlier today, a special feature on the New Frontier DVD about the Justice League, and they talked about the core members one by one.

Upon getting to Batman, one of the people said, "I could always relate to Batman more than Superman because he was just a real guy with no powers."

Ex-CUSE me?

How does one "relate" to Batman?

When tragedy befalls you, does it consume your life to the point of training for every single martial art and known tactics of criminology and hard science?

No powers? How the hell do you think he's able to master EVERY form of martial arts by the time he's 30? You're lucky if you know ONE.

By that logic, you find Green Arrow more relatable than Spider-Man.

I know that I relate more to the nerdy kid who can't get a date in high school much more than I relate to some rich guy who got stranded on a desert island and hung out with a teenage boy.

Are powers all that matter?

Does RELATABILITY matter as much as it's made out to?

SHOULD we be proud that we relate more to the guy who's driven by tragedy, rather than the guy who does good just because it's the right thing to do?

Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, is completely fearless and completely honest. He's incapable of so much as a white lie. Why would you want him any other way?

Especially in a genre such as superheroes, where they're supposed to be role models, isn't it just as important, if not moreso, to be able to look up to them more than to relate to them?

Are we all actually admitting that we're not really going to do good unless something pushes us into it, and unless guilt KEEPS pushing us into it?

Well, that just makes me sad.

Especially when you say you relate to Batman.

Here's a guy who can't function past his 8-year-old self, who is so obsessed with that one night, that he can't move on with his life.

Compare it with someone like Jack Knight (Starman), who was driven by the death of his brother, but is still able, in his exploits as Starman, to work with a smile on his face. While his brother's death was what drove him into the life, it's not what keeps him there.

Just my $.02.

Mar 23, 2008

On Spin-offs

I was scouring the internet, and I found this roundtable discussion from 1988 with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about Watchmen, my favorite work of fiction, ever. That having been said, this part jumped right out at me:

Steve Whitaker: The Comedian’s is probably the one story begging to be told.


Alan Moore: The only possible spin-off we’re thinking of is—maybe in four or five years time, ownership position permitting—we might do a Minutemen book. There would be no sequel.


Dave Gibbons: It should be very clear in your mind who’s in charge of any artistic endeavour. Obviously, Alan and I could make ourselves a fortune on Watchmen 2 next year. I just can’t think of any reason to do it other than the obvious monetary ones. Minutemen appeals because it’s a different era and a different story.

SW: Lesbian and Homosexual relationships and costumed kinks in a 40s environment…


I've always been incredibly resistant to the idea of a Watchmen sequel even if it were done by Moore and Gibbons. With the exception of Tales of the Black Freighter, which is so far removed from the very core of the original story, there seemed to be no aspect of Watchmen that I could read without thinking that it was ruining the original story. I think I'd love The Minutemen by Moore, Gibbons, and Higgins now, though, and that comes with an appreciation of various spin-offs of great stories.

I think the key to spinoffs is twofold: first of all, it should be of a different tone to the original work. Second of all, unless it is a logical continuation of the original work, it should not try to BE a continuation of the original work. In most cases, the second rule can be defied only if the creators of the spinoff are the same creators of the original work. Third of all, and this is probably the most unpopular tenet I'll set forth, the spinoff should NOT have an adverse effect on the original story. For example, no Pirates of the Caribbean spinoff should say something like "EVERYTHING THAT WAS IN CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL WAS A LIE!!" but they can, for example, bring a flavor to it that was already there, but perhaps not noticeable.

Let's look at Top Ten as an example. The original story, by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon was a serious story with funny accents, but mostly retained the grim and gritty nature of cop life. The two spin-offs also penned by Alan Moore changed the tone of the story. Smax, focusing on the grimmest member, surprisingly turned into a funny comedic series with serious undertones, while 49ers took a more serious tone, losing the humor of the original story. Any humor came out of the irony of the situations instead of intentional. Both stories preserve the fun and spirit of the original story, but change the tone enough that they are distinctly their own stories, and can be read without having read the original story. The non-Moore-penned spinoff, Beyond the Farthest Precinct itself did not work because it was intended purely as a sequel, but with the same tone and the same jokes, and the same intent, but the writer did not have Moore's knowledge of the characters, nor the ability to organically build a world, hitting us with sledgehammers where Moore hit us with subtlety. It tried too much to be the original rather than stay true to the spirit of the original that it ends up as a massive failure.

Mar 7, 2008

Western vs. Japanese Comics

People sometimes ask me why I'm not a fan of manga. Let me say why.

Compare this scene from Sandman:

To this manga adaptation of the same scene:



Note the subtlety in both Death and Dream's reactions to each other in the first version, and the pathos in Dream's face when he realizes he's done wrong. Also note Death's face when she says, "Desire was right." It is the perfect expression, given that Death is trying to console Dream and at the same time show him that he is, indeed, in the wrong. It's the expression you make when you try to tell your brother that you love him, but he was wrong. Also observe Dream's reaction: he's taken aback, then conveys it with a very confused "What?" Death then follows it up with a very cool, collected telling-to, followed by Dream's very pensive and repentant reaction.

In the second version, I can forgive Dream's angry expression when he says "None of you stood up for me." Where it fails is when Death says "Desire was right." The expression is not one of the very subtle "I love you, but you're wrong," variety, it's just one of basic anger. Dream's reaction to that, instead of confusion, comes off as fear, and then Death just yells at him. And he flinches.

That's the primary reason I can't get into manga. It's not that it's a completely different set of symbols, which it practically is, akin to learning another language, but it's that there's practically no subtlety in the medium whatsoever. Everything has to be BOMBASTIC, and it, to me, misses the nuances of human expression. I have never complained about manga's ability to draw good backgrounds, or its ability to statically demonstrate movement. These are two things that I think western comics could really benefit from. But the lack of subtlety and nuance in the way they draw faces is what REALLY turns me off.

I don't think manga is innately incapable of subtle expressions - I have, for example, no problem with the Street Fighter 2 animated movie, which doesn't go into too much bombast - it's just that the products seem so set on not showing subtlety. And until such time that the medium embraces diversity in that aspect, I'll be staying away from it for the most part.

I didn't like the mid-90s movement in Western Comics where every hot artist was practically aping manga style, because of this particular reason, and I wouldn't like it now if it happened again.
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