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Archive for the ‘comics’ Category

Fans of the erstwhile ABC show LOST certainly shared this irritation. So do sports fans. The irritation I speak of is that of a non-fan dispensing “expertise” and criticism toward a subject about which they have little or no knowledge.

“The Milwaukee Brewers suck, dude.”

“Oh yeah? Name 3 players.”

miss you guys

or

“LOST is the worst show; just find a way off the island, how hard can it be?”

“Not even remotely what the show is about. Ever seen an episode?”

Recently I was listening to the ESPN Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast (which I do daily). The show is expertly hosted by Nate Ravitz, Matthew Berry (ESPN’s “Talented Mr. Roto”), and their producer is lovingly referred to as Pod Vader. I obviously enjoy the show, since I listen daily, and they are the pinnacle of talent with regard to fantasy baseball expertise and advice. Berry’s column on ESPN always entertains, as he finds a way to mix pop culture references in with fantasy baseball and bring it all together. His recent Ten Lists of 10 column is a great read as always, and toward the end he lists the top 10 superheroes “in order of awesomeness”. I take no issue with the list. Berry is a self-admitted non-comic book guy, and for a fan whose knowledge comes primarily from movies and TV, this is a solid list. On the podcast, the guys were discussing Berry’s list, and Aquaman’s name came up. Predictably, they spent a few minutes crushing him and then moved on. It was then that I decided Aquaman deserves better. He deserves respect. If you aren’t a comic book fan, you shouldn’t bash Aquaman. Stick with me here.

The hierarchy of comic book superheroes is always a crowd-pleasing conversation. Even my wife, who has a fleeting interest and the most basic comic character knowledge base (although growing impressively, I can proudly say) will jump into a conversation ranking the best and worst among costumed heroes. Who’s the best? Batman! Wolverine! Superman! Spider-Man! While the same handful of do-gooders always seem to get the top votes, Aquaman is only brought up for a laugh. Well not today. I got you, Aquaman.

It is likely that 9 out of every 10 Aquaman haters know nothing about him. They know just what you can take from his name, that he is aqua-based, so the rush to judgement is that “he has to be in water to be effective”. Not so.

this is what the "Smallville" version of Aquaman gets to do- not a bad gig.

Let’s dispel some myths:

1. Aquaman is only a hero when he’s in water.

The truth: He has superhuman durability and strength anywhere. Aquaman has adapted to live in the crushing depths of the ocean, so his body density is such that he can withstand close range machine gun fire. He has played vital roles in heroic missions on land and even in space. He has a healing factor (see: Wolverine). Due to a special suit Batman made for him, he suffers no ill-effects when he is on land.

2. OK, but what good do his powers do him on land?

He can see in total darkness and has advanced hearing similar to sonar (see: Superman).

3.  But he can’t fly!

He CAN SWIM UP NIAGARA FALLS.

Capable of reaching speeds of 10,000 feet per second, he’s a strong swimmer. There’s more water than land on earth, so if you need to get somewhere fast, Aqua’s your guy.

"Where's all the hotties? I'm goin' back to Smallville."

4. No crimes are committed underwater.

That’s because he has psionic domination of all marine life. He telepathically tells them what to do. If one – JUST one – of the land based superheroes had the equivalent of that power on land, there would be no crime here either.

Ok, so maybe compiling a list of abilities and accomplishments is a silly way to defend Aquaman’s merit. Here’s the real reason we need Aquaman to be one of our top superheroes: diversity.

Ever notice that not very many brand new superheroes have been born recently? All the big ones were born in the 1960s or earlier. That’s because there are only so many  people and places that need defending! Earth needed a protector of its seas, after all, they do take up 2/3 of its surface, and Aquaman was glad to oblige. At their core, superheroes are for kids to idolize and look up to. What the comic publishers have realized recently is that diversifying the heroes draws in a more diverse fan base and increases readership. John Stewart is an african-american Green Lantern. Jaime Reyes is a latino teen and is DC’s current Blue Beetle. Kate Kane, the current Batgirl, (now called Batwoman) is a lesbian of Jewish descent. Kids naturally gravitate to a hero they can relate to. Peter Parker was the nerd, Bruce Wayne lost his parents, Clark Kent the outsider. Wolverine battles his past, Tony Stark (Iron Man) battles addictions, The Hulk battles himself. These vulnerabilities are what ultimately endear us to the character. We need our heroes to be flawed and imperfect, because we are. Aquaman is far from perfect, and that’s why we need him even more.

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I’ve gone on record as saying I loved the Green Lantern movie released this June. The film’s reception has been lukewarm, and the box office opening was lower than Warner Bros. had projected and hoped for. Despite this, reports surfaced last week that WB is planning to move forward with a sequel. With the Harry Potter franchise coming to an end, WB is searching for their next flagship.

I was fortunate to attend a Green Lantern screening two days before its release. The theater was packed, and it was obvious that most people in attendance were excited to see the movie. There were moments of laughter, applause, and even some “oohs and ahhs”. As a longtime fan of Green Lantern’s comic series, various cartoon appearances, and merchandise, it was a fantastic environment in which to see the long-awaited feature film debut of the character. It was a theater full of people who wanted to see a Green Lantern movie, not just movie-goers hoping to see a good movie (if that makes sense).  The movie concluded to a round of applause, and I drove home proud of DC and WB, sure they would have a widely-accepted, critically-acclaimed hit on their hands. I was wrong. One thing I can say is that it seems the majority of comic and Green Lantern fans enjoyed the movie and held it in a much higher regard than non-GL fans. They made the movie the fans wanted to see, and as much as I’d like to see GL gain the mainstream acceptance that the Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman characters have, I am thankful for that.

All that said, here are a few reasons a Green Lantern sequel would be a better movie than the first:

  • More Sinestro. Mark Strong was spectacular as Sinestro, perfectly bringing to life a character that WB wanted to almost completely redesign. In pre-production, Strong lobbied to keep the character true to his comic roots, as opposed to the sweeping changes that were proposed (see: pony tails and tribal gear). In Green Lantern, Sinestro is a member of the Green Lantern Corps, and is an ally of Hal Jordan. In a sequel, Sinestro would be a full-on yellow-clad baddie, and rightfully take his place as Hal Jordan’s arch enemy. Viewers who stuck around through the first chunk of Green Lantern’s closing credits got a taste of this. A 90 minute showdown between Green Lantern and Sinestro with little screen time dedicated to background story will be an action-packed delight.
  • Less Carol Ferris.Blake Lively had a hard time keeping up with screenmates Peter Saarsgard and Ryan Reynolds. Due to their differences in age and acting chops, it was difficult to believe that the trio had grown up together and was playing on the same field. In the comics, Hal Jordan’s new role in the Green Lantern Corps expectedly takes him away from earth for the majority of his time, and his relationship with Carol disintegrates. Screenwriters of a sequel would be wise to stay close to canon in this regard, as it would be a natural diversion from the Ferris character.

    maybe they're in the same spin class?

  • A high-powered cameo. Unexpected hero or villain cameos create buzz. WB is said to be hot on the idea of a Justice League movie. The Justice League is the DC Comics version of Marvel’s Avengers. The Avengers movie is set to release in 2012, and many of the members have already been introduced in their own films.  DC would be wise to follow this formula, and now that the Green Lantern character has been established, he’s bound to have a brief run-in with Batman or Superman. It would have seemed forced in the first movie, but not in a sequel.
  • No training sequence. A sequel would see Hal as a fully up-to-speed Green Lantern Corps member, which means no more training. I will admit, the lightning-fast training sequence in Green Lantern was painfully succinct, especially when compared to Bruce Wayne’s training in Batman Begins. The good news is that would all be behind us, and Hal would have full ring functionality and be able to dazzle viewers with his creative contructs and amazing abilities. After all, he does turn out to be the greatest Green Lantern of all time, and it would be a treat to see that.

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This.

The United Nations of Awesome

You can purchase as a print from Society6 here.  How many of the superhero flags can you identify?

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Last month, DC Comics unveiled plans for a line-wide relaunch of all of its comic book characters. All current running titles will end this summer and 52 new books will debut later this year starting with Justice League in late August. DC feared that some of their flagship characters were outdated, and wanted to take the opportunity to re-boot some origins, storylines, and most of all…costumes. This image, courtesy of Comic Book Resources, shows the new and improved Justice League:

No more underwear outside our pants! Take that, supervillains!

Yes, it seems DC has jumped on the opportunity to erase something that had been plaguing it’s main characters for decades, the underwear outside the pants look. For Batman the change is subtle, the mainstream popularity of the movies had given him a new image outside of the comic world, that of an all-black clad Gotham protector. For the comics they kept him in a gray and black combo, but ditched the black briefs. DC has been tinkering with Wonder Woman’s look for a while. Exit bikini bottom, enter pants. Much more believable for crime fighting, though the star-spangled bottom with red knee boots will be missed by many of us. Superman’s look is the most altered, as almost all incarnations of the hero have sported the bright red boy briefs since the 1940s. The yellow belt that so diligently held up said briefs for so long has morphed to red, now tasked with holding up solid blue pants for the foreseeable future. I dig it. It’s also good to see Aquaman and Cyborg flanking “the big five” in this preview of the new Justice League comic. The group will expand to include the extra members you see in the sidebars, all great additions. The most notable absence is Martian Manhunter.

No word yet on if the new No Underwear Policy applies to the DC Corporate offices as well. That could get dicey.

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Nerd alert! (This post won’t be for everyone)

The Marvel comic character Deadpool can’t die. He is a genetically altered mercenary for hire and has an amplified version of Wolverine’s healing factor. He’s kinda like Kenny from South Park. Recently, Wade Wilson (Deadpool) decided he has had enough of this world (his “best friends” hate him, the X-Men won’t take him, The Avengers think he’s a joke) so he is going to push his healing factor to the limits. Pissing off The Hulk is probably a good start.

his "Last Will and Testament" pinned to his chest

The quality of Marvel Comics is at an all-time high, and Deadpool is one of their most unique and interesting titles. Anyone thinking of jumping on a relatively new book (issue #39 is currently in stores) featuring a character that will likely have a major motion picture soon should look no further than the ‘Pool.

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The man who brought Justin Bieber’s journey to stardom to the movie screen is now tasked with rescuing a Real American Hero. John Chu, director of Step Up 3D and the aforementioned Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, is at the helm of the G.I. Joe sequel which is currently scheduled for a summer 2012 release. Chu’s main characters will have to trade in their dance shoes for combat boots, as he makes the directorial leap from light-hearted fun into the action-adventure arena. On the surface, it seems that Chu might not be an obvious choice to pilot the project, but closer inspection of his secret file card might reveal that G.I. Joe has found a perfect new leader.

this wasn't on the grocery list

Chu was born in 1979, right in the wheelhouse for G.I. Joe’s glory days. The G.I. Joe cartoon reached it’s popularity zenith in 1986, which would put a 7-year old Chu firmly entrenched in their target demographic. Chu has gone on record saying that he grew up playing with the G.I. Joe toys and enjoyed the comic series, then published by Marvel Comics, which dove much deeper into character development and interaction than the cartoon series could. When my loving mother dragged me on her weekly grocery shopping trips to Wegmans, my only saving grace was finding that magical new issue of G.I. Joe comics on the round metal spindle in the magazine section. Marvel writer Larry Hama, responsible for naming all of the Joe and Cobra characters and vehicles, has military experience that he drew upon to bring an impressive amount of detailed imagery to his G.I. Joe storytelling. He examined relationships between Snake-Eyes and Scarlett, Destro and The Baroness, even Cobra Commander and his son Billy. Issue #21, titled Silent Interlude, is widely regarded as one of the best written comics of all time, with many current writers saying they took inspiration from the issue. Of all the weekly and monthly periodicals I collected as a child, all were eventually lost or thrown away, but not my Joe comics. When the last of my childhood items had to be cleaned out of the house I grew up in, I snagged that box of comics like it was an envelope stuffed with cash. The fact that Chu referenced these comics in a recent interview is a bright ray of hope.

Chu has been active on Twitter recently, asking fans what casting, design, and character changes they would make in the new Joe flick. He has said his goal is to bring the Joes to the screen as we remember them.  My contribution to the Twitter conversation was a wish to return to each character’s unique uniform design.  In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, every Joe wore all black, which robbed Snake-Eyes of his unique and trademark look.  Chu has already shown casting prowess in signing Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to play Roadblock.  Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode I) will return as Snake-Eyes in the sequel, as well as Channing Tatum reprising his role as Duke. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will not return as “The Commander”, which lends itself perfectly to a costume change, with Cobra Commander returning to the classic and iconic look. Chu recently tweeted this picture, accompanied by the caption “Ninjas never die”, which hints that Storm Shadow will return from the “dead” as well. See the poll below to vote for characters you’d like to see in the new film.

The casting and hints from Chu have me eagerly anticipating this film, because it seems to be as much reboot as it is sequel. The fact that this franchise is getting a second chance is amazing, and it seems Chu knows what the fans want… and knowing is half the battle.

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