Monday, 28 July 2014

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice - Some Plot Speculation (POSSIBLE SPOILERS)


Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman

This weekend at the San Diego Comic Con, Warner Bros. showed some footage from Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, their upcoming sequel to Man of Steel, and also gave us our first look at Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman costume. Exciting stuff to say the least! Gadot looks absolutely perfect and what I've managed to see of the footage blew me away.

Frank Miller's Dark Knight and Ben Affleck's Batman

If the images of an angry Superman and an armour clad Batman that have leaked are anything to go by then it seems that director Zack Snyder is going to be recreating the climactic battle between Batman and Superman from Frank Miller's classic Dark Knight Returns. I won't be surprised if the similarities between DKR and the Comic Con footage have set off alarm bells for many Superman fans. DKR is a fantastic story but it's Batman's story, and Superman isn't exactly portrayed in the best light. If Snyder has stuck rigidly to DKR then Superman will be portrayed as a government stooge sent to stop the Batman. He'll be a supporting character and an antagonist in his own sequel.

I can't help but think however that there'll be a lot more going on in this film than that. For a start it's got Wonder Woman and Lois Lane in it, two characters who are absent from DKR. It's also got to launch a Justice League franchise, something that's not going to happen if Superman and Batman are mortal enemies. But these are not the factors that lead me to believe that we're in for something far more more interesting than a DKR rehash. There's one character who hasn't been mentioned this weekend, and he's a character who I think will end up being the most important character in the whole film.

Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor.

In Man of Steel Superman's father, Jor-El, says
You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders. 
This film is subtitled Dawn of Justice, implying that the film will depict the beginning of the Age of Superheroes. I think we'll see humanity take it's first faltering steps into this new age alongside Superman and Wonder Woman. Humanity will be represented by two men who both consider themselves the peak of human achievement, Batman and Lex Luthor.

Both Batman and Luthor will begin the film viewing Superman as a threat. They will have regarded the events of Man of Steel as a sign that humanity is at risk of becoming the helpless playthings of god-like beings and alien invaders and they'll both, seperately or together, resolve to deal with this threat. In fact they'll both regard themselves as the only people who can deal with this threat. As the film progresses I believe that Superman (and possibly Wonder Woman) will begin to inspire and speak to the best in Batman. Batman will come to understand that rather than being a threat or an invader Superman represents the best in all of humanity, the ideal that we must all strive towards and the ideal that Batman's been striving towards his whole life. I won't be surprised if Batman will begin the film beaten and battle-weary, but will end the film filled with hope (which is of course, what Superman's 'S' stands for). Batman will join Superman and Wonder Woman in the sun.

While Batman represents the side of humanity that sees in Superman what they could one day be, Luthor represents the side of us that would rather wallow in out worst qualities than strive for something greater. He's motivated by spite and jealousy and feels that his achievements are completely invalidated as long as super-beings walk the Earth. As far as Luthor is concerned, he's the one who represents all that humanity can strive for, not Superman. Batman will join Superman in the sun, but Luthor will try to drag Superman down into the darkness with him.

I predict then, that Luthor will be the most important character in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I may be completely wrong but I think that despite what we saw in the Comic Con footage, the real centrepiece of this film will be the battle between Batman and Luthor rather than Batman and Superman. Luthor and Batman will be two sides of mankind's soul battling for dominance.

The winner will either walk alongside Superman or drag him down to his level.

Or it might just be a two hour punch-up. I don't know. Either way, I'm in!

Click here for my review of Man of Steel!

Click here to see why Man of Steel was more than "disaster porn"!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Top Ten Best Superman Costumes

Ask an average person on the street to describe Superman's costume & they'll describe the red & blue colour scheme, the cape, and the little red undies worn on the outside. And yet, over the past 75 years the Man of Steel has been through some costume changes that would give Marvel's super hero/fashion designer The Wasp a run for her money. Here's a list of some of my favourites. I've deliberately stuck to costumes worn by whichever version of Superman was the "main" one at the time and omitted any costume worn by Elseworld or alternate/parallel universe versions of the character.

10. Doomsday Hunter
Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey #3(1994)

Dan Jurgens (source: Siskoid's Blog of Geekery)
When Superman went up against the monstrous Doomsday in their first rematch since they killed each other, he got given a new costume by the superior technology of New Genesis, in order to give him an edge. I love this costume because it's so endearingly 90s. The sword that you have to plug into your leg, the straps (especially the ones around his boots, what are they for?), the pouches, the shoulder pad (but just the one), the adorable little balaclava; there's not one aspect of this costume that doesn't look dated and absurd. But if you think about it, is it any dafter than a grown man wearing red boots, a red cape, and blue tights? Yes. Yes it is. 

9. Soldier of New Krypton
World of New Krypton #1-12 (2009-2010)

Gary Frank
The New Krypton saga told the tale of the formerly shrunken Kryptonian city of Kandor getting re-grown and its inhabitants literally building a new planet for themselves on the other side of the Sun to Earth. How did Superman react to this? He immediately buggered off to New Krypton to serve in the New Kryptonian Army! His reason? To keep an eye on the Army's boss, the villainous General Zod. Seeing Superman train Kryptonian soldiers in non-lethal ways of using their powers was fun, and it was great to see Zod written as a multi-layered character for a while. Ultimately however the intriguing plot threads of the World of New Krypton series fizzled out as the (admittedly awesome) finale to the whole saga, Last Stand on Krypton & War of the Supermen swept everything away and returned the Superman comics to the status quo. While he was on New Krypton Superman wore a great looking militaristic uniform. It looked particularly great on the fantastic covers, drawn by Gary Frank.

8. Recovery Suit
Superman Man of Steel #25 - Superman #82 (1993)

Tom Grummett
After Superman died at the hands of Doomsday it only took a few weeks sitting in a giant egg in the Fortress of solitude to get him back on his feet. It's easy to laugh at the way the newly resurrected Superman was depicted, with his mullet and giant gun, but the fact is, EVERYBODY looks cool in black and chrome, and no amount of silly hairstyles that were dated even in the 90s can change that.

Dan Jurgens
7. Saviour of Apokolips
Adventures of Superman #426 - Action Comics #586 (1987)

John Byrne
Fans on the internet like to moan about how there seem to be a lot of evil alternate versions of Superman running around theses days. They claim that the evil, corrupted Supermen appearing in titles such as Injustice: Gods Among Us (driven barmy by the death of Lois) and Earth 2 (corrupted by Darkseid and driven barmy by the death of Lois) are indicative of the cynical view DC have of their greatest hero. What these fans forget is that Superman has been corrupted by Darkseid before, and he wasn't even an alternate version of the character, he was the real deal! In Adventures of Superman #426 Darkseid's lackey, Amazing Grace hypnotises Superman into believing he's Darkseid's evil son. While under her influence he tricks a group of revolutionaries into following him to their doom, and has hot, jacuzzi loving with Grace! He's eventually de-programmed by Lightray and Orion, who opt not to tell him about the evil shit he got up to for fear of traumatising him. So, unlike in Earth 2 and Injustice, Superman never faced any of the consequences of his evil deeds! Still, it was quite a good story, and the Kirby-esque costume looked cool.

6. New 52
Superman #1 (2011) - Present

John Romita Jr.
Superman is currently wearing a suit of Kryptonian armour that's attuned to his DNA and as a result will automatically display his family's crest (the 'S'). It's got a lot of detractors but I quite like it. I like the darker shade of blue and I think the red belt and sleeve seams really work. However I must admit, I don't really like the collar, it looks too militaristic. There's also the fact that this costume only looks good when drawn by certain artists. Jim Lee (it's designer), Aaron Kuder, John Romita Jr and Ivan Reis all make this costume look great, but there are many other artists who can't seem to wrap their heads around the costume's many seams, and as a result they make it look chunky, blocky and clumsy. I don't think this costume has the timelessness of the classic one and I won't be surprised if it's eventually ditched. I'm quite happy to see Superman wearing it in the mean time though, especially as long as Lee, Kuder, Romita, and Reis are working for DC.

Aaron Kuder

5. Electric Blue
Adventures of Superman #545 - Superman #135 (1997-1998)

Howard Porter
For reasons that the Super-writers at the time never bothered to adequately explain, Superman got a new look and funky new electric powers for a year in the 90s. He even split into two different electrical beings, a red one and a blue one! Everybody hates this look, but I really like it. I think the main reason for my love of ol' Bluey is that my main experience at the time of the look was through Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's superb JLA. Porter never failed to make Superman Blue look cool, and Morrison always had him doing awesome things, like wrestling angels or holding up the moon. As for the solo Superman comics that featured the Electric look, I didn't read them at the time but checked a lot of them out years later. They weren't bad stories, but the soap opera had definitely started to outweigh the action, and I can see why DC were using Electric Blue gimmicks to inject a bit of life into their comics. Still, having said that, there was one particular Superman Annual that featured a cool cowboy variant of the electric Blue costume.

Dale Eaglesham - source:
4. Krypton Man
Superman #41 - Action Comics #652 (1990)

During the late '80s/early '90s Superman was forever getting mind controlled or brain-washed. In one particularly memorable arc he was turned into a cold, logical, and surprisingly violent version of himself by a Kryptonian artifact called the Eradicator. The Eradicator's mission was to preserve Kryptonian culture at all costs, and since everybody on Krypton was a massive arsehole when it blew up, the Eradicator saw turning Superman into a Super-Prat as the only way of fulfilling his task. Super-Prat had an awesome costume based on John Byrne's designs for Kryptonian clothing. It was such a cool design that a variation of it was used eleven years later in the pages of Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch's JLA run.

Bryan Hitch (2001)
3. Exiled Space Gladiator
Action Comics Annual #2 (1989)

Jerry Ordway
Superman exiled himself into space for a while during the 80s and eventually ended up forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena on the evil Mongul's Warworld. The sight of a hairy, semi-naked Superman standing over his fallen foe and defying Mongul's orders to finish the job with a cry of "I'm Superman and I don't kill!" remains one of the coolest things ever seen in super-hero comics. I recently saw someone on Twitter describe the aforementioned scene as depicting an aspect of Superman that's been forgotten by the makers of the recent Man of Steel movie. The Tweeter was referring to his or her displeasure at the fact that (SPOILERS) the film ended with Superman killing General Zod. Of course, what the disgruntled Tweeter had apparently forgotten was that the very reason Superman exiled himself into space and ended up in Mongul's arena in the first place was because he was going barmy with guilt from his descison to kill General Zod!

Kerry Gammil

2. Classic
Action Comics #1 (1938) - Superman #706 (2011)

Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
Okay, so the emblem and boots were slightly different when he first appeared but this costume (or slight variations of it) was Superman's uniform for 73 years. It's one of the most iconic superhero costumes ever and like it's wearer, it's the template for everything that came afterwards. I've never really understood why DC's current regime seem almost embarassed by the red underwear. The knickers have been the butt of some jokes over the years, but in the context of the costume they really work. As far as I'm concerned it's a truly timeless costume and will never look dated. It always looks great, even in the hands of the weakest artists. I'm not really bothered about the fact that Superman no longer wears it as I remain confident that it will eventually return. In the meantime I'm happy to enjoy his new look. Despite my love of this costume however, it's not my favourite. That honour resides with our final costume....

Dan Jurgens

1. Champion of the Oppressed
Action Comics #1 (2011) - Present (mostly in flashbacks)

Ben Oliver
For me, the best thing to come out of DC Comics' 2011 relaunch, The New 52, was this costume. According to current continuity when Superman first debuted he wore a t-shirt, jeans, boots and the indestructible cape he was wrapped in as a baby. This costume represents everything that's amazing about Superman. While wearing this costume he looks every inch the working class champion of the opressed and basher of bullies that his creators, Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster intended him to be. He looks like a real Kansas farm boy, and yet the cape is there as a reminder of his alien heritage. It almost seems as if Superman has tried to create a facsimile of Kryptonian garb with whatever he had to hand. The t-shirts come in different colours too, so we can get an occasional break from the blue, and the whole thing looks very dramatic whenever it's battle damaged and torn. In my opinion, this is the coolest thing Superman's ever worn and if I had my way he'd wear it all the time.

Rags Morales

There's my Top Ten Best Superman Costumes, at least of those worn by a non-Elseworld Superman in the comics. What have I missed? What are your favourites?

Also, for a further glimpse of the many and varied looks Superman has adopted over the years, check out Siskoid's ongoing 'Reign of the Supermen' articles.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

One Harsh Truth You Don’t Want To Admit About Comic Books‏: You Don't Have To Buy Them All!

I recently read a silly article entitled 10 Harsh Truths You Don’t Want To Admit About Comic Books‏. Most of it consisted of the usual stuff you find while reading comics commentary on the internet; moaning, snarkiness, and an inability to distinguish between "Marvel & DC's superhero comics" and "all comics of every genre currently being produced". But one paragraph particularly irked me, so I thought I'd have a little rant about it. Here's the irksome paragraph:
Think about your latest batch of comics picked up from your local store, or downloaded onto Comixology. How many of those single issues really stood out to you? How many will you remember in a few months’ time, without re-reading them? Maybe one or two, if you’re lucky. And then look around the shop/app and see how many other single issues came out that month. How come you’re not reading them? Because most monthly superhero comics aren’t masterpieces. Most of them are thoroughly average, and a lot of them don’t even manage that. Yet we keep reading them out of a sort of brand loyalty, or because they’ve always had our support; like a football team, you stay with a title through the rough patches and the smooth. And you hope that, amidst all the rubbish, you’ll come across some real gems. It’s just tough to admit that, most of the time, we’re reading what are decidedly not gems.
Yeah, speak for yourself dude. I'm sick of being made out to be some kool-aid swigging drone, just because I enjoy mainstream superhero comics. If you're stupid enough to waste money on a hobby you don't actually enjoy, fine, but don't make out that we're all in the same boat. It makes us all sound like arseholes. I know this sounds crazy but many fans are actually able to distinguish between what they like and don't like when spending their cash. I also imagine most fans simply can't afford to fritter away their hard earned money on stuff they don't actually like. "Look around the shop/app and see how many other single issues came out that month. How come you’re not reading them?" Er... because I'm not a bloody billionaire!

I honestly believe that there's a lot of talent working for the Big Two and it's pretty insulting to blame them for your consistent disappointment. If you get ill every time you eat ice-cream, sure, maybe there's some dodgy ice-cream out there, but maybe it's not all Ben & Jerry's fault. Maybe we don't all constantly eat ice cream even though it makes us sick, in the vain hope of finding that elusive flavour that made us happy when we were a kid. Maybe it's just you. Maybe you just don't like ice cream and you're an idiot to keep eating it.

I'm not saying that we should just shut up and be grateful for what we get, of course we should criticise comics when we feel they're lacking in quality. And I know "don't like it, don't buy it" is a bit of a cliche. But I think there's a difference between thinking critically about the pop culture you consume, and indiscriminately buying everything and then bitching because most of it wasn't to your taste. It seems to me that a huge portion of comic book fandom behave like a man gorging himself on the entire contents of a fridge and then complaining 'cos some of the food tastes like plastic ice cube trays.

Frankly, when there's literally hundreds of superhero comics being produced by Marvel & DC every month, buying them all and then bitching because most of them aren't to your liking and then acting like the rest of the comics reading community shares your views makes us all look like greedy, spoiled wankers. It's just a bit embarassing.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Doctor Who: The Academy Years - Bare Knuckle Shobogan Boxing

In the world of Doctor Who, the early years of The Doctor are usually shrouded in mystery, and quite right too. It's never wise to peel back too many layers of mystery from a character like The Doctor. The fan in me however, can't help but be intrigued by the idea of a young Doctor, from before he left Gallifrey. When we meet the First Doctor (played by William Hartnell) for the first time he's already an old man. We would later see him regenerate into younger bodies, but what was this particular Doctor like as a young man?

Over the years we've been given little hints and glimpses as to what he was like. In Terrance Dicks' novel The Eight Doctors, we learn that he used to play truant from the Time Lord Academy and leave the city to walk amongst the Shobogans of Low Town. These were apparently Time Lord drop outs living in a shanty town on the outskirts of the Time Lord capital. The idea of a young First Doctor engaging in youthful rebellion and escaping the stuffy and repressed Time Lords to walk amongst low lifes and drop outs is fascinating to me, and so I decided to create an image of what it might have been like.

UPDATE (18/06/14): And here's an image of a Young First Doctor mitching off lessons at the Time Lord Academy with a young Master (portrayed by Roger Delgado) to chill out in a field.

A prize* to anyone who can identify who's actually supposed to be in the two images I've used here!

 *there's no prize.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Fantastic Four: Cancelled!?

Recently Bleeding Cool has been predicting that Fantastic Four will be cancelled due to Marvel CEO and largest Disney shareholder Ike Perlmutter's reluctance to promote the Fantastic Four film currently being developed by Fox. Marvel Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort has responded with vague semi-denials to requests for confirmation of this (including a request from yours truly.) Normally I don't pay too much attention to comic book rumours but I'm rather a big fan of the Fantastic Four and I'd hate to think of my enjoyment of their comic being affected by the petty whims of a billionaire. I was however, happy to wait and see what happened, until I read an interview with Marvel's Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso that was published today on Comic Book Resources.

According to Alonso;
"...we are continually devising plans to use (the Fantastic Four) in new and surprising ways in the vast landscape of the Marvel Universe, like we do with any Marvel character; in fact, we already know that one of [the FF] will be a huge player in a universe-spanning event down the road. 
Part of Marvel's success hinges on the fact that we aren't afraid to exercise massive flexibility with our catalog of characters. Sometimes, the way we move the pieces around on the board -- the death and/or replacement of a character, the dissolution and/or reconstitution of a team -- or our choice of characters to spotlight -- Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Inhumans -- causes controversy, but that doesn't inhibit us from taking chances and doing what we think is right for our universe and the characters within it."
Reading between the lines here it seems to me that, while Fantastic Four may not be getting cancelled it does seem to be headed towards some kind of status quo change, maybe even a name change. Currently in the title the Fantastic Four are on trial, their kids have been taken from them by the state, and the Human Torch has lost his powers. It's the kind of storyline that could easily lead to the team as we know it splitting up and reforming with new members and a new name. Indeed, the storyline's called “THE FALL OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR”.

All this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The current writer is James Robinson, a favourite of mine, and while the first few issues of his run seemed a little slow his story has now begun to move along nicely. Issue #5, the most recent issue as of this writing, had a particularly brilliant final page reveal. Also, the Fantastic Four have had new members and a new name before. Quite recently in fact, during Jonathan Hickman's run, the Torch temporarily died, Spider-Man replaced him, the team became the Future Foundation, and it all made for absolutely amazing comics.

Having said that though I can't help but feel irritated at the idea of a storyline of this nature being made necessary by someone like Perlmutter, a man who has absolutely nothing to do with the creative side of comics. Naturally Marvel are going to make out that it's all part of a story that they've been wanting to tell, but it seems a pretty big coincidence that Alonso is hinting at a status quo shake up for the Fantastic Four at exactly the same time as the big boss is rumoured to have decided that he doesn't want Marvel producing comics that bear any resemblance to Fox's upcoming Fantastic Four movie.

Of course, all these rumours could be complete bollocks. Or, as I said earlier, the rumours could be true but the resulting changes could make for some brilliant comics. But Alonso's statement seemed to say so much between the lines I thought it was worth commenting on. Regardless, I'll be sticking with Fantastic Four for now, and I'll be giving any changes that may or may not be happening a fair chance. And if the worst happens, if everything changes and it's rubbish, I'm sure Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben will be back eventually. I can't imagine Marvel being without the Fantastic Four for too long.

And at the very least I have a Fantastic Four movie to look forward to.


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