Posts tagged DC Comics

Falling Out with Batman

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I’ve always loved comics.  I was into them as a kid and bought up a ton of them, although I didn’t read all of them.  Somewhere in my early teens, I fell out of the medium.  I got back into comics during my sophomore year in college thanks to my roommate, Anthony.  One weekend, I binged every book he had picked up during that semester and then set up my own pull list.  This grew to a $50-$60 a week habit before I quit cold turkey about five years later.  I got back in once I started writing for HorrorTalk.  During these three phases, I had different levels of appreciation for comics.  Now I wonder where it will go next because I don’t see the fun in the output of the Big Two publishers that I once did.

This isn’t meant to be a doom and gloom post about the downfall of the comic book industry.  It’s also not meant to be a Simpsons Comic Book Guy type rant about how super hero books are for kids.  With my decades of exposure to comics, I’ve developed a few observations.  Most recently, I’ve noticed that there really isn’t much in the way of character development when it comes to any of the major characters of Marvel or DC.  There are some exceptions to this rule and I’ll get to them in a moment, but stay with me for a second.

Let’s start with Batman.  Aside from his revolving door of sidekicks (who have progressed far more than he ever has), is Batman really all that different today than he was 5 years ago?  What about 10 years ago?  25? 50? 75? The core principles remain, of course.  He’s fighting a never-ending war on crime to avenge the death of his parents.  But, has he changed or developed as a character?  No, he hasn’t.  He’s still the same, gruff loner that he’s always been.  Although talented creators have told incredible stories featuring the Dark Knight, he hasn’t learned anything in his 75+ years of existence.  He still makes the same mistakes.  He still doesn’t let anyone in (which also leads to the same mistakes).  His war on crime might as well be America’s war on drugs or war on terror.  It’s never going to end and there’s no way to win it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read every single Batman comic.  There may be stories out there that show real character development for the world’s greatest detective.  I would argue that those are exceptions to the rule and/or momentary tangents from the main storyline.  To put it in NASCAR terms for a moment, those are pit stops along a racetrack.  He’s going around and around, occasionally stopping to refuel.


I have a glimmer of hope with some of the titles spinning out of DC Rebirth, the linewide relaunch, primarily Detective Comics, written by James Tynion IV with artwork from various artists.  It focuses on a Batman who is building a team around him including Batwoman, Red Robin, Clayface, Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler, and later Bat Wing and Azrael.  He recognizes that he can’t fight this war alone and begins training the next generation of heroes to protect Gotham City.  Despite this awesome premise and a terrific cast, Batman still succumbs to the same pitfalls he always does, especially with how he handles loss.  Spoiler alert: NOT WELL.  When a member of his team “dies,” he retreats inward, thinking that he has to fight and train harder to prevent anyone from ever getting hurt ever again.  He shoulders the entire responsibility, turning his grief into a burden he must bear to protect not only this city, but anyone he cares about.  This pushes everyone away, even though they’re also in mourning.  The one person they can turn to who has been through this on several occasions (with his parents and Jason Todd to name a few), is emotionally absent and actively shuns them.  There is no shoulder to cry on here.  There is no grief counselor to help you get through it.  Instead, there’s just Batman who won’t even look at you.

The main Batman title, written by Tom King, while incredible, is more of the same with a smaller supporting cast.  Again, I want to clarify that I love both of these titles.  If I still had a pull list, they would both be on there.  I’ve been fortunate that DC Comics has started sending review copies out of their books so I’ve been able to catch up a bit between those and recent ComiXology sales.  It’s just that after reading hundreds and hundreds of comics from publishers big and small, I want to see these characters grow and change.  Most importantly, I want to see them learn from their mistakes, not make the same ones time and time again.

I think this is one of the many reasons why I loved Logan so much.  It showed an ending for a super hero character that is incredibly rare.  It was fitting and showed real growth.  If you look at Wolverine in the first X-Men movie and look at him in Logan, that is a changed man in more ways than one.  You can see how he went from X-Men to Logan.  Granted, this is a different medium and Hollywood has some luxuries that comics do not, but I believe the same principles can apply.

Warner Brothers owns Batman.  They can do whatever they want with the character.  Why not show an ending?  Why not show where Bruce Wayne’s life will end up?  Then you can reboot it anyway.  It’s not like there isn’t precedent for something like this.  Archie Comics did it a few years ago with Life with Archie, showing a future versions of the character where he married Betty or Veronica.  This depicted the adult lives of the signature characters as they went through common struggles.  It ultimately led to Archie’s death and people LOVED it.  Then Archie got rebooted and it’s one of my favorite books on the stands right now.  It can be done.  Take the chance and see what happens.

This ended up longer than I thought it would.  I’m going to break this up into another post with the next one showing a recent example of a DC character that has changed and in a really awesome way: Superman.

James Knows…DVDs: Justice League – Season Two (2004)

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I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t entirely impressed by the first season of Justice League. Each episode felt like it was cut short or I was watching the abridged version. I wish I could say that this changed in the second season, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

We’re treated to more adventures of the Justice League as they encounter even more villains and come across a few more heroes for an occasional team up. This season features newcomers like Dr. Fate and Amazo along with returns of some of the previous villains such as Shade, Gorilla Grodd, and Lex Luthor. The episodes get bigger in scope though. The danger is greater when evil-doers like Darkseid and the Joker are thrown into the mix. Those episodes felt more like the level that the Justice League should be on. (more…)

Superman: Up, Up, and Away…Again?

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First off, I’m really surprised that this news hasn’t spread much farther than Newsarama. After the success of The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers is hitting the ‘ol reset button on the Superman franchise. So that will mean that Superman Returns never happened and neither did the original Christoper Reeve films. While I’m a little disappointed to see Superman and it’s sequel bite the big one, I’m sort of OK with III and IV: A Quest for Peace being forgotten. I keep trying, but I can’t forget those two. I didn’t hate Superman Returns, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that the film was pretty ridiculous for a Superman movie.

But let’s think about this for a minute. Yes, Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise has been wildly successful, but can the same be done for the Last Son of Krypton? I think with some very careful planning, it can be. Here’s a quick list of things that I feel need to be done in order to successfully reboot the Superman films.

  1. Get a Good Writer. – I can’t stress this enough. Sure, Brian Singer’s take on Superman was interesting and all, but it totally messed up the franchise. They need something fresh and original, but not totally out there. That would probably rule out someone like Grant Morrison, who’s currently writing All Star Superman. However, there’s that crazy Scotsman, Mark Millar that’s been dying to write a Superman film for years. From what I’ve read, the guy’s already got a trilogy planned out and he’s ready to go. If Millar was let loose on a Superman film, you’d definitely have someone with a labor of love on their hands. Let him at it and I’m sure we won’t be disappointed.
  2. Try Another Villain! – While Superman’s rogues gallery is nowhere near the size or variety of that of Batman, he’s still got more villains than Lex Luthor. Yes, Luthor is Superman’s arch-rival, but there’s only so much you can do there. Luthor is human and as such he’s no match for Superman in a fair fight. Why not pit the Man of Steel against someone that can actually stand toe-to-toe with him? Let’s get Doomsday in there to really beat the crap out of him. You have to give the guy a villain that he actually stands a chance of losing to. There’s no doubt that he can triumph over Luthor every which way, but if he went up against Brainiac? Or Metallo? What about Bizarro? See what I mean? These odds change drastically and there’s so much room to move around with. You can even keep Luthor somewhat involved if you go the Bizarro or Metallo route by having him responsible for their creation.
  3. Skip the Origin – He’s friggin’ Superman. We know his deal already. There’s NO need to go over (for the millionth time) where he came from and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Skip all that and jump right to it. Look at the Joker in The Dark Knight. No time was wasted showing him falling into a pit of acid or anything. The guy’s just there and he’s ready to go. Same deal with Superman. He’s a force for Truth, Justice and the American Way. Done. Let’s move on.
  4. Stay True to the Character – This is Superman we’re talking about here. There’s no need to re-invent him for newer audiences. He’s been around for over 60 years. People like him. That being said, a little tweaking can be tolerated though. Superman has been the idol for immigrants since his creation. To appeal to a wider audience he could now be seen as an outsider looking in; someone that just doesn’t fit in with his surroundings. The emo kids will eat that shit up and you’ll still be true to who Superman is.

I’m sure there’s much more to it, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. It’s been too long since we’ve had a really great Superman movie and that’s a shame. That “S” up there used to mean something! I mean, the character has to be in the top 3 most popular and well known comic book characters of all time (I’m willing to bet that the other two are Batman and Spider-Man) so let’s get him up in the big leagues of comic book movies where he belongs.

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