Jun 25, 2017

A Pretty Convincing Batman

The last issue of The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller, et al) has been released. I finally put the money down for the Absolute edition of Batman Incorporated (Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, et al). Adam West died. But, really, any week, any day, it’s a day about Batman. It’s the Twenty-First Century and you’re reading this in English; you’ve thought about Batman recently.

A Pretty Convincing Batman
Three Looks At Batmans You Can Believe In
Travis Hedge Coke

 DK3, as with its Frank Miller-authored predecessors, is almost a machine for making an honest Batman. While DK3 has two Batmen (one of whom also goes by Batgirl, then Batwoman), Batman Inc explores the fragmenting and reiteration of bat-identity over multiple Batmen and women, by name, by totem, and by deed. Adam West was an honest Batman. One that just got more true the longer you sat with it.


“How Small Our Role Really Is.”

I did not say that Adam West played “a better Batman,” though he did. Nor, that he portrayed a more honest, though that is true. He was an honest Batman.

This is a difficult truth, which both comics took on with bravado and care: People are more people than people are legends or gods (or superheroes). Heroes are more human than they are hero. Even cartoons. It’s counterintuitive. It’s even contrary to superhero logic. To received wisdom inside and outside of superhero fiction.



People are naive and growing, their limitations and reach are in constant flux and only honestly definable in retrospect.

In DK3, Superman tells his daughter that they must remain tethered, and when she asks why, he says, because otherwise, you’re alone. And, that is the human condition, no matter how big the theater and pageantry we blow up around it, the storm and drive that shakes the scenery and puts an electric shock in our bones.


A System

The traditional tactic for (re)processing a character is to put them against someone else. Foils and villains.

Batman Inc plays Batman off a nesting dolls of supervillains, from El Papagayo and Dr Dedalus to Catwoman, the Fatherless, and Talia Head and her international cult, Leviathan. Batman is faced with human opponents (from supervillains to friendlier frictions), politics (legality, burgeoning world war, international terrorism and slavery), weather (including that which is probably mechanically-engineered). Even his allies are, ultimately, in opposition to him, including conflicts rooted in ethics, in competitiveness, and even in class dismissal.

DK3, similarly, shapes its Batman via other characters, including a demagogue with an army of terrorists and slavers. This is, in many ways, the face of punchable evil for 21st Century America. But, Miller’s Batman also rubs many good people wrong, too, or judges them and finds them wanting. This the most agreeable, sociable version of Batman that Miller has written, but he’s still at odds, at times, with Superman, with the Gotham Police Commissioner. Even, at times, with his closest ally, former Robin and constant superhero, Carrie Kelley.

Inc opens, and DK3 closes with Batman fighting corruption, and specifically, crooked police. Adam West’s Batman would certainly be against criminal police, but his Gotham almost certainly would not have them. The police of the 60s TV show were rarely crooked, they were only incompetent, but even there, Commissioner Gordon felt it necessary to clarify that he was, “violently opposed to police brutality.” A large part of DK3’s strength, for me, comes from its opening gambit of Batman taking down cops who are trying to murder an unarmed black kid and then being, upon capture, beat to hell. Meanwhile, Inc opens its anti-corruption gambit more subtly, with Catwoman barely mentioning that the opposing force in the hunt for a dangerous metamaterial kept by a criminal scientist is, in fact, the US government. It takes until the end of the story, over a dozen issues down the road, for the police to be pressed by their corrupt mayor and the invading Leviathan into outlawing and hunting down the Batman.

Two thirds of the way through Inc, we and Batman discover that the entirety of what he’s fighting against is orchestrated to keep his attention and appeal to his preferences. Talia Head, his sometime lover and lifetime world criminal who dabbles in slavery, chemical weapons, terrorist and assassination, is playing a big, petty game with the man who spurned her, while simultaneously more or less successfully taking over the world.


Naivete

What starts to set Inc and DK3 apart from run of the mill Batman stories, is that they highlight Batman's internal biases, the oppositions that are not punchable or to be placed in prisons or asylum, but inside his own head and heart. It is easier, for many of us, to see the internal prejudices and assumptions at work in Adam West’s version of Batman, than in other takes.

There is motive and genius in the frequently-asserted “truth” that Frank Miller’s DKR Batman is Adam West’s Batman plus twenty years and the Reagan administration. It speaks to the honesty of both versions, the believability and that, even when they each may feel absurd or unlikely, that they ultimately to jibe with our essential, communal view of the Batman.

DKR and its sequels including DK3, the Batman television program, and Batman Inc all feature prominent women running aggressive intellectual figure-eights around our hero and his tight circle of men. This is Carrie Kelley’s role. It is the climactic and biggest conflict in Inc, which we don’t always realize until Batman is entirely defeated and Kathy Kane comes out of the larger world to dispatch Talia and then, again, depart. It’s easy to forget now, especially with memes a’plenty, but Batgirl’s initial role, on TV, and in comics, was to be as good or better than Batman without any of his money, training, or sidekick support.



Like any good character (any character at all), Batman must have flaws, including the biases and blinders that make up an individual’s perspective. But, these two comics, in particular, hinge their significance on the depths to which Batman’s biases run, without condemning him or turning him into a satiric mockery.

Batman has to have a bat-costume. He has to be supremely intelligent and capable as a crimefighter in the short term, but in the long term, he reasonable has to fail. Batman should fail upwards, like any good heir to a name and fortune. The genius criminals who run circles around Gotham City’s legal system must be controlled and stabilized by Batman, but his actions cannot permanently remove any of them, and the broad system of permissible transgression they represent must be sustained. The Batman TV show demonstrated this through virtually cardboard jails and potent absurdity. Truth in kitsch. DK3 and Inc, through essentially childish Batmans and worlds/world-scenarios that reward and caretake his necessities.

The Batman of DK3 selects a costume for Batgirl that is awkwardly colorful, with a bat across her bum, like the most odd and thereby significantly true dad ever, infantilizing her with “Batgirl,” even as he lauds and cherishes her as being more than his equal. Likewise, the Batman of Inc uncovers another superhero’s secret identity, a superhero who is his elder and senior to him in superheroing, and his plan then, is to sneak into his secret headquarters, announce he knows who he is, and ask him to alter his fundamental identity and lifestyle to be part of the Batman brand. And, he is so supremely confident that this is good and right, he tells Catwoman that he had hoped the superhero (who was murdered because of this plan) would have been pleased by Batman’s actions.

Batman cannot be dumb, but maybe he has to be naive.

Keep Reading Below...


Fresh Perspectives

The Batman’s genius and his naivete are not expected of us, whether we are children or jaded teens or adults playing naive or world-weary as we reengage the Dark Knight. And, certainly, these three versions are present old faces with new gloss and new highlights. Not only do they recontextualize what has come before, but they, each and all, contain seeds and apparent contradictions and connections that grow in our minds, when we reread or rewatch, becoming more things, newer and refreshed.

In DK3, we see not only new angles on Batman, but new facets of far side characters, like the Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. These are not character growth, they’re not merely “where the character has ended up,” but characterization that has always been there, only hidden by the biases or limitations of perspectives we previously had to trust. In early DK-universe (inasmuch as there is one), Miller has given us Hal Jordan through fans (“Hal Jordan is the shit! And, I mean that in a good way.”), through the eyes of a young, jealous Batman, a young, cocky Robin, and a tired, grieving Wonder Woman (who spent the same scene calling some guy on the street, “sperm bank”; yeah, she pissed).

Here, in DK3, Jordan is described as introspectively quiet, too inside himself, too slow to react to the outside world. What had previously been seen as idiocy and slack-jawed sloppiness via a jealous perspective or an angry one, or as cartoonishly cosmic amazing by a fan, is now repositioned as having always been, perhaps some of those, but also, and prominently a quiet intellectual. Who knew? But, it fits. And, not only does it show us a new Hal Jordan, it gives us a new Batman, because we can see what Batman would not.

Similarly, all three examples of bat-worlds give us an Alfred Pennyworth who is playing an entirely elevated game that Batman seems to only basely suspect. Batman, in Inc or as portrayed by West, is bewildered by Alfred’s canniness and how he orchestrates Batman’s daily and nightly life.



The Sixties TV show reinvented the Riddler as probably more “classic Joker” than their Joker. He’s a brilliant, mood-swingy, dangerous freak. Batman Inc sees Stephanie Brown shorn entirely of her insecure, attacked-by-the-bat-fam troublemaker personification, and presented as one of the most straightforwardly super-heroic superheroes in the comic. She is the student become a teacher. Batman was a beautiful world of characters before and without any of these sub-worlds, but it is enriched by those and in turn enlivens and expands the bat-world that exists outside all stories, all versions, in our acceptance and in our heads.

“Holy Semantics, Batman. You Never Cease to Amaze Me!”

The most believable Batman is not a man, or a bat, or a bat-man, neither superhero nor tragic figure, he is not the trauma of a small boy or the grown man called Bruce Wayne. The real Batman is the idea. The idea isn’t a declaration, either, not a tangible thing. It’s a want. It’s a drive. A thing asked for. Anticipated.

When Adam West, as Batman, says, “Perhaps, if there had been anti-crime centers of the type you now propose, when my parents were murdered by dastardly criminals,” the idea of an “anti-crime center,” and the urgency with which Bruce Wayne must feel that sentiment, perhaps comes as close to defining what genuine Batman is as anything. Batman is a kind of hurt hope. A bruised optimism.

In Inc, from global players to local police, friends to adoptive parents support and care for Batman. They allow Batman to be, simultaneously indulging and utilizing Bruce Wayne. In DK3, Carrie dresses as and becomes Batman, when Bruce cannot, and Superman, when he needs Batman, drops a dying Bruce in a pit of resurrecting chemicals, because that’s how you get Batman: You really need him, and then you ask. You shine a bat-signal.

It isn’t the bat-emblem that is Batman, any more than it’s a person in a costume. It’s the signal. It’s the reassurance.

And, who was a more reassuring Batman than Adam West?

Jun 24, 2017

Wonder Woman to Read When You Want the Best

Wonder Woman to Read When You Want the Best…
Pop Medicine
Travis Hedge Coke

There is no single best Wonder Woman comic, no Wonder Woman comics you must read before or after you watch the movie or don't watch the movie. There is, however, over seventy-five years’ worth of good and excellent Wonder Woman in comics.

I want to share with you my favorite examples of seventeen elements of Wonder Woman, for when you feel like reading the best portrayal of Etta Candy or the coolest costume-change spins. Maybe, in 2018, I'll do eighteen elements, and include Wonder Woman vol 2 #170 by Phil Jimenez and Joe Kelly as the “best summation.” Or, I’ll wait three years, and do twenty-one.

Most of my examples will by runs or single-volume stories, relatively easily purchased, mostly still in print. I don’t want you think think, “Oh, I’ve read these two dozen issues and I’m done now.” The worst thing I could leave you with, is the impression that having five trade paperbacks on your shelf is a requirement or cut-off limit for quality. I don’t want to limit Wonder Woman to a half season of tv, a feature film, or even a Little Golden Book, no matter how awesome Flower Power! is (and it is; you should read it).


Bullets and Bracelets

The game/technique of deflecting bullets using only a pair of bracelets has been there since the beginning, but it’s often been justified as a defense against the outside world’s weapons or a cargo cult sport. Originally, though, it seems the Amazons simply invented guns for no other purpose than to play a game. And, that is awesome.

Inventing gunpowder and firearms solely for nonlethal recreation is an amazing cultural point that defines the Amazons as different from, at the very least, American and anglophone societies the world round. - Sensation Comics #1 (Charles Moulton - aka William Marston, Olive Byrne, Elizabeth Marston, Harry G Peter)

Born from Clay

The drive and love that Jill Thompson works into her pages of a queen wishing soil into becoming a baby, creating a child from desire and hope is far beyond other portrayals I have seen. The idea that Diana was once clay that has been made alive seems to upset some people quite a bit, but honestly, anyone who thinks that a woman making a baby is weird or inhuman isn’t actually thinking it all the way through. - The True Amazon (Jill Thompson)

Best Etta Candy

Etta has been a lot of things, though she’s almost always one of Wonder Woman’s closest friends. A number of her portrayals, though, have not necessarily aged well for me, so my favorite ends up being a relatively recent take by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette. Their Etta is excitable, smart, and warm. She’s embracing life and still a bit silly, without dipping over into offensive stereotypes or veering so off-model she might as well be some other woman entirely. - Wonder Woman: Earth One (Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette)

Best Hippolyta

Parents are hard to write well in adventure stories where they’re not the focus. So many superheroes and adventure protagonists are orphans for just this reason. When Hippolyta has a life of her own, a history, a present, agendas, fears and desires, she blooms big. She can ring true. - the Jimenez run and The True Amazon (Jill Thompson)

Best Donna Troy

Donna is Wonder Woman’s almost-identical twin and real come to life imaginary friend, who everybody loves but gets less than a tenth of the press of her famous and more iconic sister. And, Phil Jimenez makes her shine like nobody else. - (Wonder Woman: Donna Troy, The Return of Donna Troy, and many other things)



Best Spirituality

I’m fonder of the casual-and-continual portrayal of spirituality and religious philosophy, than by a Wonder Woman who just knows some guys, and they’re magical, and they talk to each other, there’s some boons. Gods should reflect larger than anthropomorphisms, and religion should be philosophy and sociology as well as a financial system. - Convergence: Woman Woman (Larry Hama, et al) and Greg Rucka’s second run (Wonder Woman vol 5 #1-25)



Best Profession

Wonder Woman has had many jobs, but being outreach to the outside world has been the most frequent and probably the truest to her core. She was an ambassador long before that word seems to have been directly applied.

I think, Greg Rucka’s two runs have done the most towards showing her as a professional, but credit to the Moulton agglomerative authors for presenting this as a serious and significant goal from Sensation Comics forward. - Sensation Comics #1 and beyond

Read More Below...



Best Politics

The best politics in Wonder Woman have been those that hit head on, rather than being gentle and conciliatory. I don’t as much care if they’re one hundred percent agreeable or workable, but that they spark something relevant and motivating to reality. - the Moulton run, The Once and Future Story (Trina Robbins; Colleen Doran), the first Greg Rucka run (Wonder Woman vol 2 #195-226 and others)

Best Nostalgia

Trina Robbins and Kurt Busiek closed out classic/pre-Crisis Wonder Woman with a gorgeous four issue reflection of all good and amazing with Wonder Woman comics, that also constantly kept its eye on tomorrow. - The Legend of Wonder Woman




Best “Man’s World”

Wonder Woman not knowing how to pump gas or how much a tank is going to cost is the best shorthand, to me, to the difference between here and there. There are more politicized and more didactically loud examples, but that one is clear and direct. The sugar and gas emissions in the air, from Year One, come a close second. - Love and Murder (Jodi Picoult and Terry Dodson) and Year One (Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott)

Best Costume With Leggings

Meredith and David Finch had a beautiful run that gets critically bashed for reasons I don’t understand coupled with reasons that make me a little upset. But, hopefully, we can all agree that the alternate Wonder Woman costumes, including the excellent God of War costume pictured are pure win. - Wonder Woman vol 4 #36-52 (Meredith and David Finch)

Best Spins

The spin is one of those things adapted from television coping with awkward special fx and it is glorious. - Wonder Woman vol 2 #164-188 (Phil Jimenez, et al)

Best Mother and Daughter

- The True Amazon (Jill Thompson)

Best High Science

The Moulton run, aside from a brief highlighting in Earth One, made the best presentation of Amazon culture as spiritually and politically and scientifically far beyond and way different than other Earth cultures. - Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman vol 1 #1-22

Best Deep Mythology

The Post-Crisis Wonder Woman took advantage, more than many titles/sub-worlds of the DC Universe, to put together something solid and considered. And, that comes down to one man and his mission. - Wonder Woman vol 2, #1-62 (George Perez, et al)

Awesome Feats We Don’t Actually Get to See

When Wonder Woman attacked a city-sized chariot of violent angels, we got a little flicker of light in the distance and Aquaman making a pithy statement. In Final Crisis, when Diana lassos the world’s population to free them from Darkseid’s shame and domination infection, we see her kinda swinging her rope around above possessed victims for one whole panel. Grant, when are you going to really help us out‽ - Grant Morrison in JLA, Final Crisis, and elsewhere

Best Encouragement


Mutual action figure admiration. - Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special (Gail Simone and Colleen Doran)

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. 


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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.

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