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Words not deeds.

§ March 25th, 2024 § Filed under dc comics, movie reviews, pal plugging, sir-links-a-lot § 19 Comments

So last time I was talking about Carmine Infantino’s alleged list of “things what you put onna cover to make a funnybook sell.” It’s just one of those things that’s generally common shared knowledge in the comics world.

But like many things that are common shared knowledge, there’s more to the story, and to the rescue is Comics Worth Reading‘s Johanna, who drops a link to a Bluesky interaction between Mark Waid (editor of that Secret Origins comic I presented last time) and Kurt Busiek, a couple of comics fellas who obviously know more about what’s going on here than I do.

In short, publisher Irwin Donenfeld came up with the list in the 1950s, which Infantino related to Waid in the ’80s. But I think we can all agree comics would be improved if we returned to list.

• • •

Hey, Old Timey Comics Blog Readers? You remember Dave Campbell, don’t you? The man who brought us “Dave’s Long Box,” which ended in 2008 and that seems like so long ago. Good gravy.

Anyway, Dave’s been busy lately, working on a documentary about Hal Needham’s 1982 film Megaforce, starring Barry Bostwick, and remembered by all of you for the “DEEDS NOT WORDS” ads that were all over the back covers of comics at the time. The doc, Making Megaforce, is currently funding on Indiegogo.

Plenty of contributor levels, which can get you Blu-rays and/or digital downloads of the doc, autographs, patches, screen credits, and at the top of the heap…an actual film-used (non-operable) dune buggy from the original movie! Only one of those buggies are being offered, so don’t worry, I didn’t take that option so it’s still available for you to get!

I like Dave, and hope this project reaches its goal. Looks like a lot of fun.

• • •

The latest comics drama to break out is a noted cartoonist allegedly being a creep to a young lady. I’m using the word “allegedly” for my own protection here, but…said alleged creep has shut down his social media, and I’d seen reports of the associated popular YouTube show being closed down as well. A quick look at YouTube shows ’em all still up and running, so who knows.

Now this just happened over the weekend, so we’ll probably get some actual reporting on these events in the next day or two (or likely a reposting of the chat screenshots and some additional commentary, like what everyone’s doing on Xwitter and Bluesky). It’s an ugly situation, and the person who was the object of the reported harassment (she is also a cartoonist) has been driven off social media by people attacking her because of course they are. Waiting to see how all this shakes out…it sure doesn’t seem good.

• • •

And on a much lighter topic…I watched Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom the other night, and I think I may have liked it more than the first one. Not that the initial installment was bad, it was enjoyable, but it just felt very “by the numbers” superhero filmmaking. It could be I’d just seen enough “superhero origin” movies by that point that getting yet another one was trying my patience.

The second one just felt more fun, with an enjoyable dynamic between Aquaman and his half-brother Orm AKA “Ocean Master.” I think the fact that the main antagonist of the film was Black Manta, who appeared briefly in the previous movie. He’s here full-time however, and there’s no logical reason in the world as to why that costume should work in live action, but boy it looks cool.

It’s goofy and outlandish and Randall Park’s character “Dr. Shin” should have died no less than like a half-dozen times during the course of this story, and if I never see a diaper-changing scene ever again where the dad gets a stream of pee directly to the face it’ll be too soon…but it’s a breezy ride and I enjoyed it. Two movies is probably enough, though, so it’s probably just as well it’s ending here 1) because I think the sequel only barely broke even at the box office, and 2) they’re clearing the way for the new DC Media Adaptation regime by James Gunn and that other guy whose name I never remember.

I think there’s been some talk about Aquaman star Jason Momoa turning up as Lobo, maybe possibly, and I can see that.

If you want to talk more about it, do it in the comments because I’m not doing a fourth installment.

§ February 19th, 2021 § Filed under movie reviews § 14 Comments

Unlike the new edit of the Justice League movie, I wanted to try to keep this, the third installment of “Zack Snyder: Friend or Foe?” (parts the first and second) reasonably short, instead of throwing my usual Wall o’Text at you. But, um, doesn’t look like that’s happening, so let’s get into it, shall we?

First, I already responded to valued commenter Turan in the comments there, but I wanted to take issue with the idea that “Superman as Christ figure” should be left alone as it would be offensive to his Jewish creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Honestly, I don’t know if that would be offensive to them, but the simple matter of fact is that once art is out in the world, it’s open to interpretation beyond (and possibly even against) the creator’s intent. It’s just a thing, you know? Stan Lee and Jack Kirby may have been Jewish themselves, but that didn’t stop their creation the Silver Surfer from being hailed as Christ-like (though some may argue the point). I mean, Lee made the dude’s arch-nemesis the Devil, c’mon. And I’m sure Lee had no problem playing that up in Surfer’s solo series for the college kids he thought were taking this all seriously.

Anyway, in conclusion I think they should drop the “Superman as Christ” angle at least for a while, because they’ve been hitting it kind of heavily and not making any new points with it. Give me “Superman as Job” for a while. I mean, his life starts with his planet blowing up, he’s gotta feel kind of put upon just from that.

Anyhoo, that all in a way ties back in to an argument in support of Snyder’s interpretation of DC’s characters, but I don’t imagine I need to explicate that further. Besides, I think my initial point, more or less, was less “should ol’ Zack have done what he did” and more “why Marvel’s movies had more popular cultural traction.”

Daniel then wants to know “if someone could provide a quote from Snyder that expresses his support for [Ayn] Rand.” And I did look, mostly coming up with repeated reporting on how much Snyder’s admires The Fountainhead and what it says to him about the creative process. Depending on what one thinks about The Fountainhead, that likely should answer the question.

Getting back to my initial “Marvel movies vs. DC movies” thesis, Cassandra notes, in short, how the general tone of the Snyder films is antiethical to Superman’s nature…maybe not a bad movie, but not a good Superman film, in short, whereas the Marvel movies hew a tad more closely to the source material (with allowances, as always) and strike more of a chord with the public. That is essential the same point I’ve been attempting to make, though I think I appreciate Snyder’s interpretation (there’s the word again!) of Superman and his story more than she does. I get where she’s coming from, same as I see Daniel’s point (of viewing this as a more mature and “realistic” paean on the nature of heroism). Yes, I’m planting my wishy-washy feet on both sides of the line…I lean towards Daniel’s thoughts on the matter, while nodding toward Cassandra’s thoughts on the film’s appeal.

Told you this wouldn’t be short.

Thom H. brings up that the grim ‘n’ gritty serious tone gets in the way of connecting with the characters, and in a way I believe that’s true. My initial comments on this topic on Twitter were about how I feel no real emotional connection to any of the characters in Snyder’s films…it’s all watching plot points progress, which for me was fine, but if he expected me to feel anything about Superman’s death at the end of Batman V Superman, well, sorry, dude. (Daniel, on the other hand, did find much to emotionally connect to, so clearly this isn’t the case for everyone.)

I think what connects audiences more to the Marvel characters is, of course, the humor. It draws us in, makes us relate to characters that are otherwise unrealistic, and strengthens that willing suspension of disbelief superhero movies need to keep audiences focused and in the story. Granted, anyone going to a movie called Iron Man is probably on board wtih a guy in a flying suit of armor to begin with, but having the man inside the suit be charming and witty goes a long way to caring about what happens to the guy once he’s face to face with a giant purple fella who can kill off half the universe by snapping the fingers inside his magical glove.

I honestly can’t think of a single funny, warmly humanizing moment in Man of Steel. Look, before anyone yells at me, I know there must have been…okay, I’m kind of remembering the shot of a Young Clark standing hands-on-hips, cape billowing behind him. There’s that. But I don’t feel like you’re ever really drawn into the character. He does heroic stuff, you see him struggle, you see him sacrifice, but that is, as I said, more intellectual exercise and following the story’s arc. Marvel did a better job making us feel for a CGI space raccoon’s loneliness hidden beneath his bluster.

Again, that’s just me. And possibly a lot of you. But not everyone. The emotional progression in the Snyder films I’m willing to be argued (and Daniel did strongly argue) into realizing it’s all a lot less on-the-sleeve…it’s all there, just not in the more cartoony Marvel manner.

It bears repeating that I like the Snyder films just fine. They’re just different animals from the Marvel movies. I know, “duh.”

Okay, just a couple more short points here and I’ll unlock the doors so you can all escape. If I’m skipping your specific comments, it’s just because I’ve either already discussed similar material or because I’m going to call you at 3 AM and talk your ear off about it. So, Robcat notes that he liked Ben Affleck as Batman. Hey, so did I! I thought he made a great, older, kinda done with it Batman. It’s a shame he won’t be back (beyond a possible cameo?) in future flicks, but I thought he did a good job. And I’m still okay with the “Martha” bit, don’t @ me.

Finally, JohnJ reminds me of a “groaning reaction” superhero story that I’ve related on this site before, but it was probably well over a decade ago, so here it is again.

So in 2004 or thereabouts, I was in a movie theater, maybe waiting to watch my 9th consecutive viewing of Napoleon Dynamite, when the trailers came on. And this one trailer started, it had a lot of dramatic goings-on and action and suspense and whatever, and the audience was paying close, quiet attention…

…until, like, a drawer was opened or a bag unzipped or something in the trailer, and the Batman cowl was exposed, and I swear to you, that one was hell of a loud shared groan from the audience that followed.

Now the Batman and Robin movie was about seven yeras prior to this, but apparently cast a long shadow and surely this is what prompted the response. “Not more Batman,” they essential announced, not realizing the Batman will continue until Bat-morale improves.

Okay, let’s leave it at that…as I said in this post’s title, you want to talk about this further, let’s do it in the comments here. I did want to thank you all for your thoughtful and polite participation, and that I value your opinions whether I happen to agree with them or not. Even yours, Daniel, you nutty Snyder-lover, you!

Looks like it’s gonna be “Snyder Movies Week” here on the ol’ blog.

§ February 17th, 2021 § Filed under movie reviews § 10 Comments

So folks had a lot (a lot) to say in response to my post about the forthcoming New And Maybe? Improved Zack Snyder’s Justice League, coming soon to a some device or ‘nother near you, which to be fair I suspected there was a chance that I’d be opening a can of worms here. A little can of worms, not more than a couple of ounces, but, y’know, enough. And frankly I’m not sure where to even start here.

But first, I’m grateful I had thoughtful, reasoned responses from regulars, and not drive-by one-shot comments from the ZS Superfans who would skim my post long enough to decide (wrongly) that I hate Snyder’s movies and drop some misspelled leavings protesting my very existence. So, you know, thank goodness for that.

Now the comments that were left seemed to be mostly negative regarding Snyder, with one person firmly in the positive column, and if I were to include myself, one person in the “okay with Snyder, with caveats” not-quite-middle-ground I often find myself in. That…probably reflects the overall online response to his films.

And I already said this to Daniel on the Twitters, but let me repeat it here…I know from feeling like The One Guy fighting that uphill battle supporting that project that everyone else seems to be determined to tear down, i.e. All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder and Frank Miller’s The Spirit. And I absolutely support and condone Daniel’s thought-out defense and championing of the Snyder-verse.

I also wanted to make sure Daniel knew that my opinions on his work, and its comparison to Marvel’s film success, weren’t intended to be the be-all, end-all Final Word on the topic, and that other opinions of course existed. But just the style (or “style”) I was writing in, the tack I was taking, was presenting a specific view of the situation that I believed generally represented the public consensus. If folks didn’t like it, or disagreed with it…well, my comments are open for a reason, and Daniel did the right thing leaving his rebuttals there, which I appreciate.

To that point that I like the Marvel movies more than the DC movies…well, I think there’s no disputing that Marvel was more successful in marketing, in making each movie an event that you had to see, in building a shared cinematic universe that reflects in its way the evolution of the print Marvel Universe. Also, doing it in such a way that the audience is (mostly) entirely on board with it. They spent years doing it, using the second-and-third string characters they had left over after selling off the rights to their heavy hitters to other studios. Making Iron Man the heart of a multi-billion dollar film franchise would have seemed unthinkable a couple of decades ago, but here we are. Making a movie based on a version of Guardians of the Galaxy (and that there would be two of them, and they would be huge, would have had anyone espousing that idea locked up for their own good.)

Yes, I think the Marvel movies, overall, are more of a good time, more of the upbeat fun I want from watching a superhero film. As commenters noted…yes, there is bit of a sameness in the look ‘n’ feel to that franchise. Having the same guy in charge of all of them, having them all fit “the house style,” isn’t necessarily surprising, really. Not to mention a lot of the movies are origin stories, so just in terms of structure those are all going to feel the same. But I feel like there’s just enough variety to them so that they don’t seem exactly the same. I mean, no one’s going to confuse Guardians with Thor: The Dark World (especially since one is good and the other…well). But enough of the Marvel movies have “Hero Vs. More Powerful But Evil Version of Hero,” but that’s just a long-standing action trope anyway.

In comparison, the DC movies, and in particular the Snyder films, are…certainly heaped with the gravitas that most of the Marvel movies lack. I’ve said in the past that the first Avengers movie is fun but absolutely as deep as a sidewalk puddle after a brief summer drizzle. Not to say Marvel’s films didn’t occasionally touch on weighty topics (like Iron Man’s PTSD). I don’t have a problem with the darker tone of the films, which I think is an entirely valid interpretation. I don’t agree with every creative choice made, and I think some of the choices made are unfairly derided (the whole “Martha” thing I thought was a good shorthand for Superman finally being “humanized” in Batman’s eyes).

I think my primary objection is that this is the film version of Superman we’re getting right now, a darker and more dour rendition of the character that mostly belies his primary nature. Now Daniel laid out the case why the Superman etc. films are optimistic, and I’m fine with that…not trying to argue that. But I feel like I would like to see a more balanced/more overtly traditionally heroic version. Not denying the right of the Snyder films to exist, just that maybe I’d like to see a different movie.

As I’ve said, I thought the Justice League movie was drifting in the right direction, with a somewhat lighter tone. A Man of Steel 2 or a Justice League 2 would have been interesting to see where exactly they would have gone, but that’s sort of a moot point now. And the other DC films are moving toward more more Marvel-like model (less so Wonder Wooman, absolutely Shazam, and I think we can guess how the new Suicide Squad will go). When I noted that the expanded Justice League may be the most Zack Snyder-est of Zack Snyder films, I’m not joking…one last hurrah for Snyder in this movie universe, throwing in everything in his bag of tricks for this four hour brouhaha. (I like the comment left that it was specifically made four hours long to avoid getting Rifftraxed.) Still looking forward to it…perhaps I give the nod to the success of the Marvel films, but at heart I’m a DC kid and those are the movies I really want to see.

Okay, I’ll try to respond to more comments Friday. I thank everyone for their thoughtful and polite contributions, and I hope they remain that way! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in a couple of days.

I may have paraphrased a quote from Tom Lehrer somewhere in here.

§ February 15th, 2021 § Filed under movie reviews § 21 Comments

So I was talking with a customer the other day about the repeated success of the Marvel movies versus the seeming uphill battle for DC’s films, and I noted that one of the major differences is “likability.” In that the characters in Marvel movies are all likeable and understandable, whereas, as least in the Superman films, where it’s perhaps the most unforgivable, we get a Superman that isn’t, really.

Nor Batman, for that matter, but we’re kind of used to a Batman who’s all grumbly and dour and that’s just Batman’s thing. But putting a grumpy Superman in an already downbeat movie with a grumpy Batman doesn’t really help matters really. Meanwhile, here’s Marvel with a bunch of quippy, funny, upbeat-even-when-they’re downbeat heroes who just seem like generally normal, relatable guys ‘n’ gals, even the space raccoon and the fella what turns into a big green behemoth.

And thus there goes Marvel, spending years introducing us to all these folks and getting us to like them, building with each successive film a shared universe in a way that the general non-comic reading audience would get, until finally we get The Avengers, a film with essentially, what, a half-dozen prologues that got everyone hyped to see Iron Man fight Thor or whathaveyou.

Then Warner Brothers sees how many literal billions of dollars these Marvel movies are making and decides they need to get their own billions-of-dollars shared superhero universe franchise going. Only, you know, without the long lead-up Marvel had. You got a court-ordered Superman movie, a sequel that also squeezed in Batman and Wonder Woman, and then BOOM, Justice League, which introduced a few new-to-cinema superheroes and set up plot lines for future films. Plot lines that have since been ignored because the Justice League film underperformed, the Batman and Superman actors departed their roles, and follow-up DC films seem to have eschewed the overt “shared universe” concept. (More on that in a moment, save those angry emails.)

Now just as a reminder, I generally like Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman, and Justice League. Unlike the general response from most folks I respect, I think these films do have some positive qualities, which, admittedly, “a cheerful demeanor” is not among them. And while I do mostly appreciate these movies, I can also appreciate that many did not, that the tone was too dark, too “off” from what we were looking for in a superhero movie. Particularly a superhero movie starring Superman.

I have said that Justice League seemed closer to what people wanted from a DC movie. I mean, it was still a Zack Snyder film, like MoS and BvS before it, but…things were a little peppier somehow, lighter and funnier, at least in part…more crazy action and adventure, some snappier dialogue. How much of this was courtesy fill-in director Joss Whedon (I know, I know, back to him in a minute) who stepped in when Snyder had to leave the project, I’m not sure. But I did think at the time it was an enjoyable, if certainly not perfect, film that maybe suffered from the reputation of its predecessors. And sure, suffered from its own flaws, I ain’t arguing.

And while it still feels like DC playing catch up with Marvel, perhaps introducing those new characters in one film and spinning them off into their own projects wasn’t a bad idea. Plus, the new characters were fun to see, and brought some energy to the film…particularly Jason Momoa’s boisterous Aquaman, owing more than a little to the animated version from the Batman: Brave and the Bold TV show. Ezra Miller’s Flash, despite his major showpiece in the film being preceded, and outshone, by Quicksilver in the X-Men movies, was a good addition, and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was…well, it’s hard to really talk about his role in the film given what we know now.

In fact, the major problems I now have with Justice League stem from issues outside the film’s story itself. When I see Cyborg, I think about the reported mistreatment that actor underwent. When I see the Flash, I remember this unpleasant story. And then there’s Joss Whedon himself, the focus of Fisher’s complaints and undergoing some of his own reckoning at the moment. I realize everyone’s innocent ’til proven guilty, but it seems like there’s quite a bit of fire beneath that smoke.

Ultimately, this makes the original release version of Justice League difficult to revisit, which maybe this new, expanded version by Snyder, debuting soon on HBO Max, can rectify. Look, there’s more important stuff at stake here beyond “being able to watch a movie with a clear conscience” but it would be nice to have a cut of the film that hopefully expunges most of Whedon’s influence. I realize this maybe removes whatever lightness may have existed in the story, and that from all appearances this may be the most Zack Snyder-est of Zack Snyder superhero movies…but at least it’ll be all, or at least mostly, his.

That doesn’t solve Miller’s issues, or repair Fisher’s mistreatment, I understand.

With any luck this Justice League 2.0 will get all that moodiness ‘n’ such out of the DC Movies’ system. Going back to the main stream of tonight’s symposium, I’m hoping for more movies with “likeable” characters from DC. Not that there can’t be any drama or tragedy, but at least let there be some balance, some reminder of why these heroes are heroes. Other DC movies outside Snyder’s vision seem to approach that. The first Wonder Woman is a joy, retaining a light heart even amongst the setting of one of the worst military conflicts. Shazam is relentlessly happy, despite getting his name wrong*, and Aquaman, despite being one of the most by-the-numbers films I’ve ever seen, is entirely carried by Momoa’s exuberant charm. Even the oddly divisive Wonder Woman 1984 is inarguably an upbeat film, when all is said and done. Birds of Prey turned out to be a good showcase for Harley Quinn, one of the two characters (other than Deadshot) to really shine in the otherwise half-baked Suicide Squad.

Harder to say what’s going on with the new movies coming, like the seemingly forever-in-production Flash film. Supposedly it’ll be exploring DC’s Multiverse, so again it’ll be following in Marvel’s footsteps of Into the Spider-Verse, or at least tied with Marvel, depending on when the equally multiversal Dr. Strange sequel comes out. But it’s going to have Michael Keaton returning at Batman, and look, that’s gotta be worth some points there.

Well, I guess it’s not so hard to see where Robert Pattison’s The Batman, which looks like it’ll be as much of a laugh riot as the Caped Crusader’s recent cinematic appearances. Looks like it might be good, but…yeah. Hey, remember back in the ’80s when everyone was panicked that the next Batman movie would be funny and then the comic book industry would be ruined forever and all fans would have to wear hairshirts and flagellate themselves with their leather floggers? Wasn’t that something?

Oh, and the next Suicide Squad, under the guidance of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s James Gunn…well, that has to be a delight, don’t you think?

And maybe someday we’ll get a new Superman movie. With a happy Superman that acknowledges the tragic beginnings of his existence but in a story that finds a balance between these two sides. I wonder how audiences would respond to that. Oh wait, we do kind of know.

Again, I like the Snyder superhero films. Honestly. And I am curious as to what this revised Justice League will be like. But…I can use a change of pace.

* I’m going to die on this stupid “Captain Marvel” hill. I can’t help it. We’re all fanboys about something.

In your CGI tights/fighting for your rights.

§ December 28th, 2020 § Filed under movie reviews, wonder woman § 30 Comments

As I’m sure you’re probably aware, the new Wonder Woman film, AKA WW1984, has been released for home streaming for HBO Max subscribers (along with a limited theatrical release). While I did end up watching the movie, I hadn’t really planned on doing any kind of extended discussion/review here, but in response to some of my tweetery on the topic, someone noted they’d wait for my Spoiler Discussion Zone…so, what the hey, here you go. Opinions seem to be pretty varied (from the more rational commentators, not counting the “g-g-g-irls!?” or “I hate all DC movies!” reactions from usual suspects who, from all appearances, may not have even seen the film in the first place), so I’d be curious what my readers here have to say.

My spoiler-free review…perfectly acceptable superhero film, though one wishes the Wonder Woman action was spread a little more evenly throughout the film, rather than primarily at the beginning and end. Generally light and optimistic in tone, with a resolution to the main conflict that manages to escape the slugfest/”giant thing exploding” solutions upon which most special effects epics (including the previous Wonder Woman film) tend to rely.

Okay, SPOILERS AHOY between these two screenshots I pulled from the trailer, and in the comments section to follow, so avert your eyes if you don’t want to know that Ares’ mustache survived the first film and has returned to exact vengeance upon the Amazons:

Okay, like I said, I didn’t watch the film with plans to write about it here, so here are just a few comments on what I saw.

The most impressive thing about the movie, as I alluded to above, is that it wasn’t Wonder Woman beating the tar out of Maxwell Lord. If you wanted your superhero vs. supervillain punchout, you got it the CGI-riffic Cheetah fight just prior (and you can tell how much confidence filmmakers have in a particular CGI effect based on how dark the lighting is), but Diana speaking to Lord (and through him, the world) trying to talk everyone down and renouncing their wishes…that was far more satisfying than having, I don’t know, Lord’s building exploding or whatever.

Also, that Lord’s apparent punishment at the end of the film is not being exploded along with a building, or dying in regret, or whatever the usual fate is for a bad guy. Instead, he begs forgiveness from his young son, openly admitting to him his failures. It’s an emotional punishment, and a hopeful one for a better future for the both of them.

Another nice nod to the comics was Lord occasionally dabbing at a bleeding nose after using his wish-granting powers (as comics Lord would do after psychically “pushing” someone). Yes, I know the ghost of Dr. Polite Scott would have some words about this (mostly along the lines of “brain trauma much”) but it was still a “hey, I remember that!” moment.

Speaking of character resolutions, I don’t recall seeing a post-Cheetah transformation Barbara at the end of the story. Did I miss her? I feel like she’d be the one with the most to resolve emotionally post-battle, trying to reconcile who she was with what she’d become once she had some power in her hands.

And so long as we’re at the end of the movie…literally the very second the “missing Amazon” was mentioned earlier in the story, I knew 1) who was going to play her, and 2) who the post or mid-credits scene would feature. I won’t note it here, just in case you haven’t seen the flick and are trying to spoil it for yourself by reading these comments…but c’mon, it doesn’t take a genius to guess just who I’m talkin’ about. Don’t know if this is just a nod to fans or if she’ll actually take part in the next film…frankly, I think just making it a one-off thing is fine. It was cutre, and I was glad to see it.

Some folks wondered about the 1980s setting, and I’m guessing a big part is the whole business involving the actual President of the United States may have been a big part of it. Having this as a period piece with an only sorta half-convincing Ronald Reagan, and playing on his Cold War involvement) probably goes over easier than a modern day film featuring a Trump impersonator (which would have been distracting and divisive no matter how he was portrayed) or the usual gambit of Old White Guy As A Fictional President (which may have taken folks out of a story about magical wishes and a strong lady in a star-spangled outfit). Also, can you imagine the opening mall fight in modern times? She wouldn’t have bothered having to take out the security cameras, because who was going to see her?

Plus, if we’re still pretending there’s a DC Comics Cinematic Universe, putting it in 1984 gets around the whole “where are Superman and Batman?” question. Okay, maybe it doesn’t avoid the “where’s the Challengers of the Unknown/Crimson Avenger/Doctor Occult/Scribbly” question, but…all right, you got me, I don’t really have a point here, I just wanted to namedrop Scribbly.

One thing I kept waiting for…look, it’s nice to have Chris Pine back as Steve Trevor. I liked him as Steve Trevor, a character in the comics that’s had a…mixed history, shall we say. And a character in the comics where, for years, was kind of a running gag in that he’d kept being killed off/written out and then brought back again. I presume that kinda went away when George Perez revamped the title in the ’80s, but I haven’t kept up lately and kind of hope they’ve reestablished that trope. Just aint’ Steve Trevor unless he keeps getting removed ‘n’ revived every few years.

Anyhoo, having Diana wish him back into existence is…well, it’s certainly a way to get him back. And it brings a bit of personal sacrifice into having to renounce her wish in order to save the day. (There’s a whole bit of business about a cost to getting one’s wishes granted…in this case, Diana’s wish for the return of Steve seemed to reduce her superpowered abilities, but Barbara’s wish to be like Diana also was implied to have taken her powers? I wasn’t clear on that, maybe I missed something.) But Steve is brought back, Deadman-style, possessing another dude’s body…which is barely addressed by anybody in the film. I mean, there are jokes about his apartment, but not a whole lot about “we’re totally hijacking this poor dude’s life here.” So that was all a bit uncomfortable. I do like that Steve departing that fella’s body was left offscreen once Diana renounced her wish.

I hope they find a way to bring Steve back for the third film. And in every film thereafter, as long as they’re making these. Just a different wild way every single time.

And while we’re on the topic of characters from the first movie…yes, that was definitely an old Etta Candy in that photo in Diana’s apartment, confirmed by Lucy “Etta” Davis her own self. I think few people would deny Etta was a real highlight of that movie, a delightful character that, in the comics, did not have the most dignified of origins. (“Ate A Candy,” indeed…geez louise.)

And one more thing about the conclusion of the film…while everyone’s wishes were renounced and undone, it’s made pretty clear a giant reset button wasn’t necessarily pushed, putting everyone and everything back to how it was. The wishes were granted, things happened, then suddenly things…didn’t exactly unhappen, but mostly just stopped happening. Yes, the woman who was wished dead came back to life, that was just straight up undone, but it’s not like the U.S. and Russia didn’t launch missiles at each other, whether or not those missiles disappeared. Seems like there are still consequences of those wishes existing in the world as left at the end of the story. That’s the main sticking point in the redemption of Maxwell Lord…he still screwed things up for everyone good ‘n’ proper.

Oh, and Simon Stagg is a character in the movie. Unlike his CW TV counterpart (killed off in Green Arrow or something) he survived, so there’s still hope for a big-budget Metamorpho movie. Don’t say you wouldn’t want to see this. DON’T YOU LIE TO ME.

And I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I’ll let you folks in the comments remind me, as I’m sure you will!

…And can you believe how the Robot Kanga army took out Angle Man? Brutal.

Those were just a few thoughts I had…I may follow up in a future post if you folks remind me of anything (or if I see the movie again, which I may soon, since it’s leaving HBO Max in a month). And speaking of the future, please sign my petition to have the next Wonder Woman movie take place in the year 2050, just to mess with people. Also, the villain should be Doctor Psycho. Specifically, the version in the Harley Quinn cartoon. Ol’ WW giving a foul-mouthed misogynist what-for…it’s what he world needs.

I didn’t forget about The Losers, just didn’t have anything to say about it.

§ December 2nd, 2020 § Filed under movie reviews § 26 Comments

Okay, on to the DC Comics films. But first, Thom reminds me that I forgot Into the Spider-Verse, which really is a fantastic film and quite possibly the best of the bunch.

Also, if folks want to leave long ol’ comments on my posts, that’s fine with me! So long as they’re reasonably on-topic, y’know? And everyone has been lately…haven’t had epic-length disturbed rants show up in quite a while. I mean, c’mon, leave those to me.

So, DC Comics movies. Hm. I’d been thinking about how I was going to approach this topic, since there’s definitely a shift in filmmaking between the Christopher Reeve Superman films and, like, Birds of Prey, and my initial instinct is to split them up into different “ages” but, sheesh, that would be too confusing, what industry would do something like that?

The elephant in the room is the Snyder-verse films Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, Justice League, which are pretty divisive among fans. Personally, I generally like them, though I can completely understand why people wouldn’t. The dark tone, the odd choices (jar of urine in my superhero movie? sure, load it up) adding up to productions that seem like the exact opposite of what the characters are about. Well, okay, maybe not Batman, but surely Superman should be bright and cheerful and Henry Cavill has such a winning smile it’s a shame it was barely used.

But I did enjoy this more somber rendition of the characters, while realizing, yeah, maybe a lighter touch might have been more appropriate. So, mixed feelings on these, but generally positive. And I’ve noted that Justice League, while having some of the tone problems of the other pictures, I thought was successful in being a bit more of a cheery adventure. With grave-robbing, sure, and the buckets of “we gotta get that Avengers money” flopsweat, but it was all in good fun. And I have to say, my favorite scene in any modern DC superhero movie is still that fight sequence between a newly revived Superman and the rest of the heroes (particularly as he “slowly” becomes aware of the Flash).

The Snyder-verse-adjacent flicks, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, were more to everyone’s tastes, I’d imagine. Certainly lighter in tone, well, aside from the whole “World War I” thing in WW, but seemed to be more crowd-pleasing than their dour brethren. Of all the films, Aquaman was the one that felt the most Marvel-like, extremely jokey and high in the “we’re having a good time here!” energy. But that was the film, I’ve said before, where I felt like I was seeing the seams in superhero movie-making, where every point felt predictable, every reveal unsurprising. I don’t know, not saying it wasn’t likeable, and that the actors weren’t all watchable and entertaining. Maybe it was just my mood that day, but for whatever reason this film felt more like “product” than the others, like something specifically constructed to get after some of that Marvel money. Maybe I’ll need to rewatch it at some point and see if my opinion improves.

Okay, this is going to go on forever if I keep up all this typing. So:

Shazam – good, still don’t like the Billy/Captain Marvel relationship has been altered to “Tom Hanks in Big” status, but that’s how it is now and I have to live with it. Also hate he’s called “Shazam” now, because I’m a nerd. Anyway, Shazam’s characterization put me off, but I get it’s the “has to learn to be a hero” trope and that’s just how it’s done.

All the Batman movies – the 1966 one is a favorite because Adam West is Best Batman, of course. The Keaton-etc. films were an exercise in diminishing returns, with Keaton’s performances elevating the first two, along with the Tim Burton weirdness. The fourth is goofy fun, brightly colored and very silly and enjoyable on those terms.

The Nolan films may have been better as a duology, but then we wouldn’t have had a million impressions of Bane from the third film, which is just straight-up comedy gold. I remember when the first one had trailers in theaters, folks groaned when they realized it was a Batman film, as the previous movie Batman and Robin was still fresh in everyone’s minds. But that film turned out good (actually convincing you “well, of course he had to dress up as a bat”), but I think the second one is the best. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is one for the ages, and it’s a film about moral ambiguity and moral choices and it’s all amazingly effective.

Of the Reeve Super-films, the first is of course the best…I know people like the second one quite a bit, and it is fun, but I don’t think it’s as…well, well-made as the first. Third is fun and goofy, and the fourth is an abomination. Reeve is great in them all, of course, but I wish he was surrounded by better material. Definitely classic scenes in those first two films, combined with some inexplicable ones (levitate-people-with-your-finger-beam power, Superman’s magic chest-emblem cellophane net).

And there are a few others: Superman Returns, in which Brandon Routh is great, but everything’s too mired in trying to be the Reeve film. Birds of Prey, a fine, and funny, adventure romp which gives Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn a proper venue. Constantine, which turned out a lot better than it had any reason to be, despite not quite getting the title character right (I mean, beyond the hair and accent). Watchmen, which I adore but recognize it falls apart the farther away it gets from the original plot…great cast, though. Catwoman, which almost seems like it might be okay, at first, but it’s all lies.

And there are others, but let’s get this down to “worst” and “best” so we can all move on with our lives.

WORST is definitely Superman IV, and I say this even though I couldn’t even finish Supergirl. Supergirl at least had the charm of Helen Slater. Superman IV looks like, if I can borrow a phrase from Mystery Science Theater 3000, everyone’s last known photo. It’s cheap looking, it’s unpleasant, it’s made by people who seemingly had contempt for the material. I know Reeve cowrote it or plotted it or something, but it’s dire.

I want to plug Jonah Hex in here too, but folks are rewatching it and finding new entertainment in it, and I’d like to see it again before it vanishes. Suicide Squad wasn’t great, but it had good performances (Will Smith, the aforementioned Robbie) so it may live.

BEST is…well, I think Joker is actually the best-made of the bunch. It holds together as a story, the deterioration of the main character is tragically fascinating, and it just plain looks great. I understand the qualms one could have with it, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so fascinating.

But I think I’d watch The Dark Knight before I’d see Joker again. It’s more fun and a little easier to take. And it’s a little thought-provoking as well, which I appreciate from my funnybook movies.

Now, like I did with the Spider-Verse movie, I left out the animated feature films (and I’ve seen them all!). And I still want to say Return of Swamp Thing is my favorite. Do any of these other movies have Swamp Thing driving a jeep with Heather Locklear? I submit to you, dear reader, that no they do not.

Yes, I know Howard was in the second one, too.

§ November 30th, 2020 § Filed under movie reviews § 12 Comments

So there’s been a little back-and-forth about superhero movies in Friday’s comments section (along with some now deleted reactions from folks upset about…socialism, I guess?), and while I think we can all agree what the best superhero film is, I just wanted to put in my two cents. And conveniently, this is my blog, so I can do so.

I’ve seen in the past some comments about how there’s a “sameness” to the Marvel Universe movies, and as has been noted, surely that’s by design. It’s brand-building…you go to a Marvel movie, you know what you’re going to get. Not really any different from Marvel the Publisher having a “house style,” really. Does this prevent the studio from reaching any “highs” by a purposeful maintenance of a consistent level of expression? Not necessarily, no more than Marvel’s “house style” kept Gerber’s Howard the Duck from happening.

I don’t know what would be the “Howard the Duck” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, aside from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which was 1) a really out-there move for the studio, and 2) literally had Howard the Duck in it. Other than that, I’d say the films that stretched the formula the most would be the Deadpool films (which weren’t under the main Marvel Studios room at the time), and possibly Logan (see previous parenthetical note).

“Yes, yes, but were any of these any good?” I think Marvel’s done a good job, he said about the company that’s raked in billions at the box office, building that brand and making each of their films a must-attend event for the fans, just so you can keep up with what’s going on and be properly informed for the next installment. And yeah, I realize that’s probably a thing that makes film purists wince, and I probably can’t blame them, but I honestly don’t see anything wrong with what’s basically big budget movie serials, looking at the nine movies of Star Wars and saying “oh yeah, here’s twenty and counting!”

Okay, okay, the first Guardians of the Galaxy is probably my favorite, with Thor: Ragnarok a close second. Avengers: Age of Ultron was my least favorite, at least upon initial viewing, but I find that occasionally catching a few minutes of it here and there as it’s rerun on TV or as the nieces and nephews watch it on Disney+ has made me a little more forgiving of it. Perhaps that’s the best way to watch it…snippets at a time, and not necessarily in order.

Of course, special mention must be made of Iron Man, which took a second-or-third stringer character published by Marvel, and, despite a lot of fans thinking “Iron Man? Really?” gave us a solid film. Solid enough to kick off one of, if not the biggest, moneymaking things ever.

Outside of the mainline “Avengers-verse” Marvel films, I think my favorites may be…well, surprisingly, the Deadpool films. I say “surprisingly” because I’ve been mostly indifferent to the character’s comics. But the movies are a refreshing mockery of your standard superhero movie nonsense, and frankly I’m shocked they even still use the “superhero landing pose” after one of the Deadpool movies pretty well demolished it.

Also, I think I’ve mentioned here that I saw the first one in a “4-D” theater, where the seats moved around in relation to the film’s action, and lights flashed at you and you occasionally got air blown in your face or whatever, and that’s pretty much the only way one should see a Deadpool movie.

Outside of that…I think of the X-Men films, the first one is still my favorite, Storm’s “frog hit by lightning” dialogue and all, if maybe only because I can still feel the amazement that they actually managed to make a halfway decent X-Men movie. And the Wolverine movies are all fun, and Logan was a real achievement. Dark Phoenix, the last film, was…not great, and given their attempts at trying to glue together the initial X-Men films with the First Class continuity, you essentially have Jean become Dark Phoenix twice and hoo boy that seems weird to me.

The many and varied Spider-Man films, prior to Disney getting involved, are…mostly good, I think. I like the Raimi movies a lot more than the two “reboots” that followed (though Amazing had Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, which ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at). Spider-Man 3 had “Evil Peter Parker,” which may be the greatest cinematic Spider-moment of all time, and if you don’t agree, I’ll have to ask you to leave this lecture hall.

All in all, I still have a soft spot for Howard the Duck, which isn’t part of the modern wave of Marvel movies, but I saw that on opening night in a theater with a small handful of other people and by God I’m going to treasure that memory forever.

Okay, that’s too much typing, so I’ll hit DC next time. I may decide Return of Swamp Thing is the best DC movie, just so you’re warned.

So what I did on my Thanksgiving…

§ November 27th, 2020 § Filed under how the sausage is made, movie reviews § 16 Comments

…was not expose myself to unnecessary health risks, but stayed home, did some laundry, ate some homecooked food with my girlfriend, watched a movie, and switched over to a new desktop computer.

The “switching over to a new desktop computer” thing is what’s standing in the way of a proper update to this site here…I mean, I’m writing this post on the new computer right now, but I still have a few things to do to it to beat it into a shape I’m familiar with.

And “new” is perhaps not quite the right term…it’s a Mac Mini from 2010 which I know is half-past-dead in terms of computer lifespans, but my previous Mac Mini from 2009 was a pretty robust machine up until the CD/DVD drive decided to die out on me this week. In fact, the 2009 machine probably would have been fine to continue using as, aside from that particular mechanical failure, it was still chugging along swimmingly.

But since I had this 2010 Mac Mini here (given to me by my parents, as they upgraded to a newer machine a few years back), I just went ahead and made the switch.

It’s a stopgap measure, I realize…the last three or four Mac system software updates don’t seem to be installable on this particular Mac’s hardware configuration. And eventually, the programs I depend on will require more recent system updates. But for now, it’s fine…everything from the startup and the actual operation seems to be significantly faster, so I’m probably good for a while. Hopefully after my eyeball situation, and now my teeth situation, ha ha, come to some sort of resolution I can save up for a new home computron.

Anyway, that’s more than you probably wanted to know. Thankfully everyone’s too busy doing Black Friday stuff to read this.

Oh, and the movie I watched was Joker. Turned out the girlfriend got a year’s worth of free HBO as a promo thing from the cable company, and that comes with an HBO Max login, so I took a break from watching 50-year-old episodes of Sesame Street to watch the only DC Comics film to be nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. (And the second Joker portrayal to win an Oscar.)

It’s…certainly depressing. And a little horrifying. The cinematography was certainly excellent. Gotham definitely looked like a city that would need a guy who dressed like a bat to protect it someday. Watching Joaquin Phoenix play a guy who ultimately seemed doomed from the start was…affecting, worrying, and definitely appropriately cringe-y in parts. Removed from the real world concerns that surrounded its release, I’d recommend it as an interesting take on the character, but given the more social and political ramifications it feeds from, I can understand why folks would give it a pass.

I did see in an interview somewhere where (I think) the director of the film was intrigued by the idea of what kind of Batman would arise from the world created in this film, and I have to say…you know, I realize there’s no shortage of Batmanning in Hollywood, but I’d kinda like to see that too. Especially if it, like the Joker film, was told entirely from the point of view of the Joker. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see an adaptation of this series? I call dibs on playing Willie the Weeper.

(EDITED to correct my poor Oscars memories.)

“Keeping it short,” he says.

§ November 11th, 2019 § Filed under movie reviews Comments Off on “Keeping it short,” he says.

So I found myself fighting a cold most of the weekend, which is still affecting me even now, as I type this. It’s not too bad, and this is really the first time I’ve been fully under the weather with an illness since I got scared straight into living a healthier life, so I suppose I can’t complain too much.

Anyway, as such, I’m keeping this post fairly short so that I may hit the sack a little early and kinda goose the recovery along.

I did want to note that I watched the recent Hellboy reboot film, and…well, I actually kind of liked it. Not a great film, but a good and watchable one. It crams a lot of material from the comics into its two hour runtime, which makes for bit of a crowded and cluttered experience but certainly an energetic one, and it manages to keep your attention as it rushes from set piece to set piece. David Harbour makes a fine Hellboy, though there’s something about the makeup that strikes me as…off, somehow. Some element about the design that strikes me as offputting. It’s not the hair, it’s more like…the shape of the head and body feels odd to me…weirdly distended, maybe. I’m not sure. Could be I’m just used to the old makeup job.

Despite that, it’s generally fun…mostly more f-bombs and a lot more bloody than the previous films, but there’s still some humor. Like I said, a lot of stuff from the comics makes it in here,, though once you get to the whole “Hellboy is descended from King Arthur” thing, that’s almost like one revelation too many…fans of the comic might dig it, but your average moviegoer might be all “wait, that too?” Plus, comparisons to the previous films are minimized just a hair by pairing up Hellboy with two other characters from the comics aside from Liz and Abe Sapien (though the latter gets a tease for a sequel that will never come).

The special features on the disc don’t avoid the comparisons, however, and the interviewees, including Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, go on about how this film hews much closer to the source material than those other films, and how much darker than this film is than the other films, and how Hellboy’s makeup is more realistic than that in the other films, and so on. I don’t think they’re trying to put down the other films, but it occasionally comes off that way.

While overall I liked the film, I think I would have preferred a third film in the del Toro version of the series. I understand the financial reasons why they decided to opt with a new film rather than continuing the “old,” but as it turns out, given the success or lack thereof of this flick, they might as well have continued the original films. Ah well.

But this movie did have Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson, so by that standard the reboot has a leg up on the original film franchise.

I miss Bibbo.

§ August 27th, 2018 § Filed under death of superman, movie reviews § 6 Comments

Bibbo is, of course, the rough-hewn but good-hearted sailor who turns up in the Superman family of books shortly after the Byrne reboot in the mid-1980s. He was a semi-regular member of the supporting cast for quite a while, though his funnybook appearances have declined to a far more sporadic occurrence of late. However, he’s made it into DC’s newest attempt at adapting the “Death of Superman” to animation, in the aptly-named DVD/Blu-ray/digital release The Death of Superman.

Now, as compared to the original animated movie (discussed on this very website a mind-staggering eleven years ago), it hews much closer to the original comics, though seen through the lens of DC’s semi-New 52-ish continuity they’ve been painting onto these direct-to-home-video releases over the last few years. And this is probably the closest we’re going to get to whatever the New 52/Rebirth version of “Death of Superman” is, as it apparently existed in the new continuity (and was referenced in this interminable storyline that I don’t remember anything about aside from the terrible cover designs). Of course, now with the merging of the post-Byrne/pre-Flashpoint Superman with the New 52/Rebirth continuity, the original “Death of Superman” story is probably back in play, more or less, and…ugh, look, don’t get me started.

Anyway, this new cartoon corrects the main error of the original cartoon adaptation, in that Superman dies (um, SPOILER?) and is just straight up gone until the next movie eventually rolls around sometime in 2019, as opposed to his being gone for a few minutes in that first cartoon and then popping back up again. So yes, there will be at least the real world illusion of Superman being “gone” as we all patiently await the sequel. Not quite as effect as with the actual comic book event, where the Superman books continuied without any Superman in them, and even that brief hiatus in publishing his titles for that summer…quite the shocking turn of events after being used to weekly installments for the character.

We’ll also be getting, in that aforementioned sequel, the replacement Supermen (Steel, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, The Guy with the Weird Glasses), so it’s following the comics’ lead there as well. Also, this new movie had regular Lex Luthor, not Lex’s-brain-in-a-younger-clone-body-pretending-to-be-his-Australian-son Luthor which is a real strange artifact of weird subplotting at the time of the original event. (But still amusingly referenced in the film as a disguise worn by Luthoer.)

Speaking of strange artifacts, this costume just gets more and more dated:

…and with any luck maybe the payoff of the sequel will be Superman’s return to his classic costume. It’s so much of Its Time, and will only be remembered when people look back at this era of comics entertainment and say “man, remember that lame costume Superman was in? Who approved that idea?” It’s the Superman mullet of the modern day. Though it would be hilarious if the mullet shows up in the sequel. Would be comics-accurate, after all!

Despite all that, the costume isn’t that much of a distraction. Superman’s innate heroism shines through the story, and that’s the important bit. The movie is very action-packed, though with sufficient character moments to keep it from being entirely a brutal slugfest. And speaking of that, the cartoon certainly conveys just how brutal the battle is, and how outmatched all the rest of the Justice League is in their own attempts at slowing down Doomsday.

Overall, a nicely done film, I thought, and I look forward to the follow-up. But…in that one impact, where Superman slams into Doomsday with Lois Lane standing right there…I mean, that should’ve killed Lois, right? All those shockwaves they showeed and such? Lois was pretty much right there at the point of impact. …Anyway, nitpicking.

The special features are…okay, I guess. I think I was hoping for more background on the actual original event in the documentary, which you get a little of, but mostly it’s talk about the film and adaptation of the story elements from the original comics. Lots of Jon Bogdanove in there. And I suppose the doc on the first Doomsday DVD kinda covered the comics end of things sufficiently.

You also get a preview of the next movie, the one with all the faux Supermen in it, and you get a couple of Legion of Super-Heroes episodes from the TV series, featuring those weird redesigns I didn’t care for.

But enough about “Death of Superman,” let’s talk about…”Death of Superman,” as, due to a bit of fortuitous timing, my former boss Ralph brought me another box or three of old comics promo stuff from Long-Ago Times for me to poke through. And whaddya know, there’s some Death of Superman stuff located within. Such as, for example, these ads for t-shirts from Graphitti Designs (which you’ll have to click to enlarge in order to read ’em clearly):

Where was I? Behind the counter selling the darn comics, or managing the giant line of customers snaking through the store, that’s where I was.

“Wait, we still have regular ol’ Superman shirts to sell! Uh oh, how do we sell ’em?”


[slaps forehead] “Of course!”

Also click to embiggen this, so you can see the tastefully-muted Bloody S:

“The only card line to capture this incredible event…those bastards at Topps tried to get Superman’s death into their hockey cards, but NO GO, AMIGOS.”

While on the topic of tastefulness, here’s a slick provided by the publisher for our advertising convenience:

I wonder if the people I saw with that Bloody S tattooed on their arms still have ’em? (If I remember correctly, at least one celebrity Bloody-S-tattoo-haver had it covered up or removed.)

And here we go, the actual solicitation information from DC Comics for Superman #75, the actual Death issue…first, the blurb from the Coming Comics catalog cover for items releasing in January 1993:

One of the few instances where the publisher wasn’t kidding when they said “oh, yeah, actual real world media may be interested in this, so order lots.”

And here’s the issue’s solicitation itself:

I seem to remember ordering ten times our normal Superman numbers on this…”that should be more than enough,” we thought.

Oh, and here’s DC’s own t-shirt solicitation:

“QUANTITIES ARE LIMITED to however many millions our factories are phyiscally able to crank out.”

The event of course was so big, other publishers referenced it in their catalogs:

So there you go, more Death of Superman stuff than you can possibly stand, the latest installment in a long line of me talking about the same damn thing over and over again. But of course I’ll talk about it again when that second “Death of Superman” cartoon finally comes out, so get ready for that!

Besides, what else am I going to talk about?

I mean, honestly.

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