The Reconstruction of the Superhero, part four: Doomsday Clock #5

by Drew Kiess

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The following contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #5

There Is No God

With every issue released of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock, we find ourselves in a much darker world. Finding stories in our real world to be inspired by is becoming increasingly difficult, and we all seem to be living in a world without heroes.

I’m not even sure Alan Moore himself would have written a script this twisted.

“There Is No God” is the fifth chapter of the follow-up to Moore’s Watchmen. The Supermen Theory is becoming reality daily, and Lex Luthor’s would-be assassin Adrian Veidt is recovering from a fall in the hospital. Hawk and Dove have been arrested in St Petersburg for political rioting, and the world is falling apart.

What we have seen over the past several years is the decay of real-life heroes. In the age of the internet, it’s only a matter of time before every good guy has his dirty skeleton drug out of the closet and put on display. In many ways, this is what 1986 did to comic book superheroes.

While the intention of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns was never to turn the world of superheroes into the world of dark and brooding, it certainly had that effect on the industry. It’s well documented how serious superhero stories became in light of the success of those books.

Superheroes have always reflected the culture in some way, but originally, that reflection was always reversed—a mirror in which to see that we could do and be better.

Action Comics #1 is about a man standing up for the poor and the weak. It was written by two poor Jewish boys from Cleveland, Ohio. It reflected their world, but wasn’t about presenting the world as it was, but as they hoped it could be. A savior, finally come. An Übermensch come to set things right.

And for some time, we cheered with glee as the hero prevailed. Evil loses, good wins and everyone cheers. But at some point we came to believe that the hero had to be flawed, had to lose from time to time, and might even be part of the problem.

Superman Is The Only Thing You Can Believe In

Johnny Thunder in this series, at least for me, represents an era of comics-gone-by. Him and the Legion have always been something of a relic from the golden (and even somewhat silver) age of comic books. As we know, the Legion is gone and Thunder is aimless. This has been the most captivating element of this book so far, inasmuch as it’s the story with the least amount of revelations. What exactly is Johnny hoping to accomplish, and what in the world does the Lantern have to do with it?

Rorschach saves Thunder from being mugged. In this moment, a character with a legacy of death and cynicism saves a character from a simpler, more optimistic time. Maybe heroes do still exists.

Meanwhile, Superman himself makes his first appearance since the closing panel of the first chapter. While the story has yet to give him much to do, he overhears that is a metahuman that is responsible for Supermen Theory, adding to the mystery. Can we trust our heroes, especially the good ones?

Everything Evens Out

While this issue is light on narrative, its subtext is rich. The things we hope in determines our path in life. Are we resigned to the failures of our heroes? Must we fall prey to the negativity around us? If Superman over the years has taught us anything, it’s that hope in a better world than our own is never misplaced.

While the thesis is that there is no God, the trajectory is faith. This isn’t Moore’s world anymore. Superman isn’t Manhattan, and so there is hope to be had that good will, in fact, win. While this may not have been the most memorable or ground breaking issue, but it has given me much to think about over the last few weeks. The Reconstruction continues.

 

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” -Tolkien

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Another Joker Movie On The Way?

by Drew Kiess

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Can I rant for a minute? Because I feel like ranting. Every other blog writer for geek stuff gets to do it, so why not me?

 

Overall, it has been a bad year for fandom. Not just DC fandom, mind you– all of fandom. Star Wars fans turning on each other and bullying individuals involved in a movie they didn’t like, Marvel fans using success as a weapon instead of an invitation for improvement, and Snyder fans turning every possible scenario into an opportunity to harass and belittle individuals who were only doing their job. The rest of us are left in the cold trying to fend for ourselves.

 

The reality is that we have created this mess. Our feverish desire for more of our geek-flavored product has caused a cheapening of what we once held precious. This is why we get a Han Solo movie that no one asked for (regardless of whether you liked the film or not, can we at least admit it’s still a little bizarre?) and its why we have Warner Bros. now scrambling to find Jared Leto’s Joker something to do.

 

Suicide Squad 2 is in apparent limbo, and Matt Reeves doesn’t want anything to do with Joker, and with Margot Robbie now attached to the moving train that is Birds of Prey, there isn’t really an obvious landing place for the character that for some reason, Warner Bros. has deemed a priority. Thus, we get the announcement today that Jared Leto will be starring in his own film as the Joker.
We may not have asked for this, but we absolutely asked for this.

 

The only thing that is currently known about this film is that Leto will star and produce. No writer, no director, and no production date have been given. So, in essence, its a concept without any skeleton.

 

I have done my best to remain positive regarding DC Films. As a matter of fact, I have liked to even loved every single entry to this point (yes, I liked Suicide Squad, Leto included). But it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand behind a studio that doesn’t seem to understand why these characters matter in the first place. Joker exists to challenge Batman. Without that dynamic, it is difficult to comprehend what the draw will be. Add that to the fact that Leto’s Joker was not particularly well received. It makes me wonder who exactly this film will be aimed at.

 

Time will tell if this will even be made (I have my doubts), but it seems like this is what happens when we push these studios for content. Long gone are the days when we were happy we had just one great comic book franchise. Now we need ten, plus.

 

And all this… and still no Superman movie. Explain that.

 

 

Leto to Get Standalone Joker Film

 

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Jared Leto is set to star and Exec. Produce and upcoming “Joker” standalone film at Warner Bros.

Now that the “Birds of Prey” film is off the ground and in the earliest stages of pre-production, the studio has shifted focus on getting Leto on board to reprise his role as the clown prince of crime.

Variety’s Justin Kroll revealed that Leto and other characters from 2016’s “Suicide Squad” will begin to branch off into their own respective films. Margot Robbie is set to reprise her role as Harley Quinn in a future “Birds of Prey” film. Plot details for both upcoming films are unknown.

Warners still has plans on developing a “Joker” solo film with Todd Phillips in the director’s chair and Martin Scorsese producing. The plan going forward will still allow multiple actors portray the same character going forward in the DC Cinematic Universe.

 

 

 

 

Source Variety

https://bit.ly/2M48qUf

 

Desperately Seeking Batman

by Drew Kiess

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As I write this, it is the 28th of May, 2018. We’ve been living under the threat of a new actor playing Batman for somewhere around a year now, since Ben Affleck dropped out as the director of his own film. Rumors of who it could be, and whether or not Ben Affleck would change his mind (or what his mind actually is regarding playing the role) have been swirling in the wind like the garbage from an unsatisfying fast food meal in a shopping mall parking lot.

Once upon a time, not that long ago, we all seemed fairly sure that Jake Gyllenhaal would be taking on the cowl, but with Marvel’s Spider-Man Homecoming bringing him in as Mysterio, that rumor proved to be all smoke and no fire. Now, the rumors seem to be swinging back around to Affleck wishing to stay. And perhaps that may be true. But, in the end, I am not so sure it really matters how things look today.

When Batman v Superman was first announced, there were so many names floating around as to who would be playing the role of Batman. I remember Orlando Bloom, Karl Urban, and even a begrudgingly returning Christian Bale all being thrown around by serious to semi-serious outlets as possible solutions to the empty Batcave. But it was a name that was not in the rumor mill, that of Ben Affleck, that ended up being what Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. landed on. And no one saw it coming.

What this tells me is that the honest truth is that we have no idea. We can speculate, we can write articles based on outdated information taken from third hand sources in a game of entertainment espionage, or we can just sit back and wait.

Here’s what we know about the upcoming Batman film: Matt Reeves is developing one. That’s it. That’s all we know, and all we need to know.

From where I sit, if we never received a new Batman movie, I could still die a satisfied man. We have gotten arguably four different versions of the character that are all true to who he is at his core (and one version that isn’t). Why are we owed another one at all? Why can’t we just be satisfied with Warners putting other characters like Shazam and Wonder Woman on the front burner? The Wonder Woman franchise is the new cash cow, and it might just be time to come to terms with that.

And what if Shazam! is a huge hit? That could be a brand new direction for the studio as a whole. Would Batman be as relevant to them at that point? And what if Birds of Prey (should it be properly made as a PG-13 girl power superhero team-up) breaks out and Batgirl becomes the star she deserves to be? There are so many factors that lie between where we are now and what kind of Batman film we will get down the road, that speculation simply does not make sense. That is why, I think, this movie is in for a very long development.

So I could write an article listing all the actors that I think could play Batman, but I’m just not going to do that. I really don’t see a point in wasting your time like that, much less my own. Until I am told otherwise, I will assume that Affleck is still Batman, and if I am told otherwise, I will choose not to jump to conclusions until I’m given the appropriate information about how his replacement has performed in the role.

I am just really…really… over the speculation game. There’s just nothing interesting to say about it.

Episode 113: WSG Mario Francisco Robles

 

Kyle and Justin sit-down with Revenge of The Fans Editor in Chief Mario Francisco Robles, and discuss the ongoing situation with Ben Affleck as Batman. Additionally, the guys chat about the recent passing of Margot Kidder, the upcoming ‘Pennyworth’ television series that will debut on EPIX and the upcoming DC Films slate! Hit the link for that and so much more!

 

 

 

Batman Ninja: A Beautiful Frustration

By Drew Kiess

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Oh, boy… where to start with this one?

I suppose I will start by admitting that this is a review of the dubbed version of Batman Ninja. I am not an anime fan, so watching the movie with subtitles would have been a chore for me. For some, that may disqualify me altogether from reviewing this. That would be fair. I can only approach this from the standpoint of being a Batman fan, so that is the angle from which this review is written.

There. The qualifier is done.

Batman Ninja is the newest addition in the long line of DC Animated movies, this time from Warner Bros. proper and not from any of its subdivisions, such as Warner Premier. This movie will see a theatrical release in Japan, and I sincerely wish it all the success in the world there. The film was directed by Junpei Mizusaki, with Roger Craig Smith providing the dubbing for Batman, Tara Strong for Harley Quinn, Grey Griffin for Selina Kyle, and Tony Hale for the Joker.

When Gorilla Grodd’s time travelling experiment sends Batman, his allies—Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin, Alfred, Red Hood, and Catwoman—and his greatest foes—Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Penguin, and Deathstroke—back in time to feudal Japan, Batman must learn the ways of the ninja in order to return everyone back to Gotham. As the movie opens, the CG animation is striking. The movements look fluid and the action is more captivating than anything DC animation has put out in some time.

This quality in the visuals is almost constant throughout and the eyes never get bored watching the movie. The one strike against this is a baffling change in style about midway through the film that seemingly serves no storytelling purpose, but this alone does not sink this movie.

What keeps this movie from being great in my eyes is its over reliance on its own medium. The film sets itself up in ”our Gotham”, and then transports the familiar back in time to feudal Japan, but the rules of feudal Japan are not the rules of “our Gotham”—it exists very much by the rules of anime.

And this would be fine, if the movie set itself up as an anime first, set in an anime world. By trying to its cake and eat it, too, the film loses its punch. If fighting mechanical castles were necessary to the overall arc of the film, perhaps it would have been better to simply establish that the world that this Batman lives in is that kind of world, and not bother with the whole time travel ruse (It’s hard not to feel like Randall from Clerks, here. “I don’t appreciate your ruse, ma’am. Your cunning attempt to trick me).

What saves this movie for me is the characterization of Batman, which never feels false to the character, and the aesthetic. It is also incredibly refreshing to see a DC animated movie that doesn’t feel reliant on sophomoric sexual overtones that have become tiresome in recent entries. The characterization of the other characters, however—save, perhaps, Selina Kyle—is all over the map and not really as true as I would prefer.

Overall, I am lukewarm on Batman Ninja. This very well may be a great movie that simply wasn’t made for me. What I can say is that the film is absolutely gorgeous, and the marketing on just how good this film looks was not overstated. If you are a Batman fan or an anime fan, I would say that Batman Ninja is worth checking out. But if you are not as into anime as you are into Batman, then this may not be for you, either.

 

Final Grade: B-

 

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Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay

By Drew Kiess

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Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is the latest addition to the DC Animated Universe that began with Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox and is the first to feature the Suicide Squad. The film stars Christian Slater as Deadshot, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Billy Brown as the Bronze Tiger, Kristen Bauer van Straten as Killer Frost, Gideon Emery as Copperhead, Liam McIntyre as Captain Boomerang, and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. It was written by Alan Burnett (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and was directed by Sam Liu (Batman: The Killing Joke).

Can we be honest about these animated films for a moment? There has been a narrative about DC’s animated projects that has been all the rage that these are the DC movies that are knocking it out of the park. And at one time, that was honestly true. From Wonder Woman, New Frontier, The Dark Knight Returns, and Flashpoint Paradox, there was a strong string of good to great animated features in a short amount of time.

Since then, there has been less consistency. Killing Joke and Batman and Harley Quinn are far removed from the glory days of DC animated films. And for every Gotham by Gaslight, there is the unavoidable realization that the production quality is not what it once was. And I don’t think it’s a problem with the creative team, but there might just be too many projects for not enough people.

Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay may be one of the better productions from this universe in a while, but the story as a whole feels somewhat lacking. The Squad is sent to retrieve a get out of hell card for Waller, but they have some competition from various baddies across the DC Universe, including Blockbuster, Vandal and Scandal Savage, and Professor Zoom. A grindhouse road trip ensues to find the card.

Where this movie thrives is with the villains—that is, the bad bad-guys. The connections to the greater universe that is weaved into this film may be the best use of this connected universe to date. If this were the focal point of the movie (you know, telling an interesting story within a larger comic book universe) it would have been one of my favorites. That’s not what we got.

What we got was a movie that promised a sexy, violent action movie that could not separate itself from past attempts by these animated movies to be more “adult”, succeeding only in fulfilling the most juvenile of expectations on both fronts. Fetishizing strippers and lesbians is not something I associate with “edgy” and it, unsurprisingly, falls incredibly short here.

I have said it before with these movies and apparently it needs repeating: not everything needs to push the boundaries. Cool stories that exploit what makes these characters interesting will forever be preferable than using these characters to prove some point that comic book stories can be “grown up”. It’s a trend that is in desperate need of ending and I seriously hope it finds its demise before Death of Superman.

Here’s hoping.

 

 

The Reconstruction of the Superhero, Part Three: Doomsday Clock #4

By Drew Kiess

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The following contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #4: “Walk On Water”

I See What I Want To See

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “The Abyss Gazes Also”, the sixth issue in Watchmen is, in this writer’s opinion, among the most important issues in comic book history. Showing the effects of witnessing tragedy on a once idealistic vigilante in such a brutal  way changed Watchmen from being an angry rebuttal of comic book culture into a true deconstruction of the building blocks of the mythos.

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“The Abyss Gazes Also” features Walter Kovacs, the first man to don the moniker Rorschach in prison, being interviewed by Dr. Malcolm Long.

Dr. Long is a mixture of good intentions and star struck, as he sees Kovacs as his chance to make an impression in psychological literature. His relationship with Kovacs is rocky, as Kovacs refuses to reveal much of what is going on in his mind. But as the issue continues, Kovacs’ story comes out.

Dark As It Gets

Kovacs retells a story of an investigation into the kidnapping of a young girl. Upon finding her kidnapper, he discovers that she was murdered, and possibly molested, her bones in the mouth of the monster’s dogs. Kovacs, in anger, brutally murders the man responsible.

“It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to  the dogs,” Kovacs tells Dr. Long. “It’s us. Only us.” Dr. Long sits on his bed that night, his marriage in ruins and his career in question after a lengthy and emotional effort to discover something of meaning in Rorschach, looks at an inkblot. Nothing but “meaningless blackness,” he thinks. The horror broke him.

There was nothing to solve.

What Do You See, Mr. Long?

Dr. Matthew Mason walks into the room where the mysterious Rorschach II sits, strapped to a chair, unmasked. Although Mason does not know his new patient’s identity, the inner monologue reveals Rorschach II to be Reggie Long, the son of Dr. Malcolm Long, driven to obsession when Veidt’s plan caused the death of his parents.

Reggie’s views of Dr. Mason, often comparable to Kovacs’ views of Dr. Long, are filtered through Reggie’s views of his father. Dr. Mason is nothing like his father, to him, although his view of Dr. Mason is how Kovacs saw Dr. Long.

Our heroes are how we choose to see them. In this way, the broken mirror image of Bruce Wayne deconstructs how the trauma of a young man views his parents’ relationship and death despite what we know is reality, and how tragedy informed his obsession and mission.

You Need To See Them At Their Best

Reggie had to be institutionalized after the death of his parents. While in asylum, he met Byron Lewis—Moth Man—former member of the Minute Men. Byron trains Reggie to be a one-man Minute Man, teaching him all the tricks the Minute Men had up their sleeves. In this time, Reggie’s view of reality is changed through the encouragement of Byron—instead of seeing them for how they died, he began viewing them at their happiest. He regained an idealized view of his parents, and his hatred for Adrian Veidt grew.

When Reggie’s opportunity to end Veidt’s life and avenge the death of his parents came, Reggie saw the remorse in Veidt’s eyes and couldn’t kill him. This conflicted with his simple view of good and evil. It broke him again.

I Have Someone To Blame

A fascinating element to the character of Bruce Wayne is that his crusade as Batman was never really about Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents. No, Wayne’s mission was to ensure that no child in his city should ever suffer the way he did. In contrast, Reggie Long wishes to avenge his suffering, and finds he has no place to send it. So it is interesting that, when it is revealed that Dr. Mason is, in fact, Bruce Wayne in disguise, that Bruce cannot penetrate through the inkblot.

Of course, Bruce is wearing his own kind of meaningless blackness. Two men attempting to understand each other through misperceptions and disguises are never going to achieve the understanding that they are after.

But which one is the hero? And which one is truly putting the future in jeopardy? Well, the only real answer to that is “we see what we want to see.”

Turned Them Toward Light

Issues like this separate great comic book stories and good ones. This was a game changer, even if the story feels like the story does not advance (it very much does, whether we see it or not). Not only is this the best issue of Doomsday Clock so far, this may go down as one of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s greatest accomplishment: Examining trauma and not losing heroism. Now, the reconstruction of the superhero can begin.

 

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Shanlian On Batman: Episode 111 wsg Sean Gerber

 

Justin and Kyle discuss the recently revealed logo for Shazam! and speculate about Matt Reeve’s “The Batman” as production for it has been set for a start date in 2019! Special guest Sean Gerber joins us part way through to also give his two cents on the Fallout from “Justice League” the ongoing situation with the DCEU and chats some Matt Reeves “The Batman.”