Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us and the problems with depicting Superman as a tyrant (UPDATE: I WAS WRONG!)

UPDATE: 31/12/13

I was wrong!

Eleven months after writing the article below I still stand by my assertion that I find the death of Lois in this series to be unnecessarily unpleasant and the notion of Superman going crazy and becoming a dictator to be tired and hard to swallow. BUT! In the interest of fair play I feel I have to point out that I ended up sticking with Injustice and have read every issue so far, and it's really, really good! Tom Taylor seems to know the DC Universe and it's characters backwards. More importantly, he's a great writer with a knack for witty dialogue and getting into a character's head. Character's like Batman, Flash, Alfred, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Harley Quinn are written so well that I can forgive the out of character behaviour of Superman and Wonder Woman. After all, it's necessary for them to be out of character. The very nature of this series (a fighting game tie in) dictates that at least somebody has to be behaving like an arsehole for all the fighting to kick off and Taylor does a good job of helping us to understand why these particular versions of Superman and Wonder Woman have gone off their nut. By keeping everybody else in the DCU true to their character Taylor has emphasised how important Superman and Wonder Woman are. Even if every other hero in the world is just as heroic as they are in the "regular" DC Universe, if Superman and Wonder Woman aren't "right" then it throws everything into chaos.

You can find the original article after the image in this post. Don't let anything I wrote in it put you off, Injustice is good stuff. It just goes to show, sometimes you can't write off a series after one issue.

Contains spoilers for Injustice: Gods Among Us!

DC Comics have recently published a comic book prequel to their upcoming game Injustice: Gods Among Us. It's a fighting game and so the prequel comic has the task of explaining why all your familiar DC Super-Friends would suddenly want to knock seven shades of shit out of each other. It seems that in the continuity of the game, Superman, Wonder Woman and a bunch of other heroes have taken over the world because, in Wonder Woman's words, "Man's world isn't capable of self rule, we will preserve order!" As a result, Batman and a bunch of different heroes want to take down Superman and his fascist regime. What could possibly drive Superman to take over the world? According to the comic, the Joker tricks Superman into seeing Lois Lane, who is pregnant with Superman's child, as the monstrous powerhouse, Doomsday! As a result, Superman punches his pregnant wife into orbit, killing her and the child. This act triggers a nuclear explosion that destroys Metropolis.

Nice, right?

I don't necessarily have a problem with superhero comics tackling grim, unpleasant and violent storylines, especially in a non-canon, one-off, "what-if" series like this one. But I think a story has to be of sufficient quality to justify such adult content. If a story needs something really unpleasant to happen in order to give us something unique that can move us emotionally and make us think about these characters in a different way , then I think it's justifiable, even if it does use characters that are traditionally marketed towards young people. Problem is, Injustice: Gods Among Us isn't that story. It's actually a story that we've seen countless times before executed in a clumsy, tacky manner in a comic designed mainly to flog a video game.

'Superman goes Fascist' is a story that's been trotted out over and over again over the years. When told using a Superman analogue, such as in Alan Moore's Marvelman, or Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme it's usually made for entertaining reading. Whenever DC Comics have tried it using the Man of Steel himself however, it's rarely worked. For example, in 1991, during DC's Armageddon 2001 event, Superman Annual #3 had a plot almost identical to the one seen in Injustice, with underwhelming results. In 1987, Alan Moore pitched a crossover event known as Twilight of the Superheroesin which Superman and several other heroes have become tyrannical rulers of America. The story never happened, and if the grim and depressing plot synopsis is anything to go by, it's probably just as well.

In my view the problem with such stories is that Superman, as he is traditionally depicted by DC Comics in most of his various incarnations, values freedom so much that it's impossible to imagine any circumstances in which he would want to take over the world. "Truth, Justice and the American Way" is one of the key ingredients of almost every version of Superman and freedom is one of the key ingredients of "the American Way". As a result, a writer is usually forced to go to absurd, and often unpleasant lengths, to justify why a character like Superman would become a tyrant. Absurd and unpleasant, like say, being tricked into punching his pregnant wife into orbit. What you're then left with is a version of Superman who has witnessed or perpetrated something so awful that it borders on offensive, but still doesn't ring true to the reader! All that horribleness for something that still seems like bollocks.

If there's one story that illustrates what I'm saying, it's Mark Millar's brilliant Red Son, in which Superman is raised by Joseph Stalin and grows up to be a tyrant. This tale of a world-conquering Man of Steel works, because Millar cleverly removes "the American Way" completely out of the equation. But as long as whatever version of Superman I'm reading is still supposed to be the one who stands for truth, justice AND the American Way, it's going to be very hard, if not impossible for a writer to convince me that Superman would take over the world. Maybe there is a successful way of doing it, but I don't think slaughtering Lois Lane in a grotesquely violent way is it.

The Best Stuff of 2013 (according to me)

Best comic of 2013: Snyder & Capullo's Batman. Story & art in perfect synergy. Imaginative new twists but still feels classic.

Most underrated comic of 2013: Flash. Consistently fun. Barry & the Rogues feel unique in the New52. Why isn't there more fuss about this book?

Best event of 2013: Throne of Atlantis. Johns on a Justice League event centred around Aquaman? Dream come true for me.

Most disappointing comic of 2013: Fraction's Fantastic Four/FF. FF was way too twee, & F4 felt like we'd seen it all before.

Best film of 2013: Man of Steel, 'natch.

Best non-comics related film of 2013: Behind the Candelabra.

Best 'thing I discovered that everybody else already knew about' in 2013: Venture Brothers.

Most pleasant surprise of 2013: Arrow. Thought it'd be rubbish but I can't get enough of it.

Not gonna bother rating any more TV, 'cos I'm not a big follower of TV drama, and you know I'm just gonna say Doctor Who.

Also wanted to mention that Dan Slott's Superior Spidey & Greg Pak & Aaron Kuder's Action Comics have also been highlights for me in 2013.

Biggest cry-baby of 2013: Mark Waid, for his cinema tantrum during Man of Steel. I feel sorry for the poor sods sitting behind him

Monday, 30 December 2013

Spot the Doc!

I've been fiddling about with Photoshop. Can you find new Doctor, Peter Capaldi in this TARDIS jamboree?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Time of the Doctor and the Death of the Sixth Doctor (that's right, Sixth!)

I'm still reeling from Time of the Doctor. I loved it but need to watch it again to fully form my thoughts on it. So instead of a review I'm going to use information gleaned from the episode to further my pro-Sixth Doctor agenda. Suffice to say there will be SPOILERS FOR TIME OF THE DOCTOR!!!

Here are a few facts:
  • Due to Colin Baker's shoddy treatment at the hands of the BBC, the Sixth Doctor never had a regeneration story. The BBC made do with Sylvester McCoy, with an obscured face and wearing a curly, blond wig, regenerating after an undignified bump on the head.
  • Until recently Colin and Paul McGann were the the only Doctors without a regeneration story. This year's minisode prequel to Day of the Doctor, entitled Night of the Doctor, finally showed us the Eighth Doctor's transformation into his next incarnation. This leaves Colin as the only Doctor without a death scene.
  • Several audio & novelised adventures have been set between the end of Colin's last TV adventure and the Sixth Doctor's bump on the head. 
  • At one point during his TV adventures the Sixth Doctor claims he is 900. Shortly after his regeneration the Seventh Doctor claims to be 953. However the Ninth later claims to be 900, and in the Day of the Doctor the Eleventh indicates that he may lie about his age from time to time. So, it's safe to say that we really don't have a definite idea of how much time passes in between the Sixth Doctor's last televised adventure and his abrupt transformation into his Seventh incarnation. 
  • Mel is with the Sixth Doctor when he dies, but as the Fifth and Eleventh Doctors have demonstrated, The Doctor has been known to drop off his companions and then pick them up again further down his timeline.
  • Time of the Doctor further establishes something already indicated to us by the First Doctor and the War Doctor. The Doctor's bodies age!
  • Time of the Doctor also shows us that an aged Doctor can appear youthful again during his regeneration.

What I'm trying to say with all this is that there is no reason why an older Colin Baker cannot film a proper regeneration scene for the Sixth Doctor! Current showrunner Steven Moffat has (rather foolishly and unfairly in my opinion) been reluctant to feature the Sixth Doctor in new episodes due to the significant differences between how Colin looks now and how he looked while he played The Doctor. But, as we've established, centuries may have passed during the time the Sixth Doctor was off our screens, and a pre regeneration rejuvenation of the sort the Eleventh experienced can explain McCoy's blond curly wig.

Imagine a ten minute minisode featuring an aging Sixth Doctor, alone in the console room (Mel is in another room), realising that he's about to die and delivering a haunting soliloquy on mortality of the sort that only Colin's Doctor could deliver. I can't be the only one who thinks that would be fantastic, right? This needs to happen!

The campaign begins here! Moffat, give Colin the long overdue send off he deserves!


....Happy Christmas to all of you at home!

It's been Doctor Who's 50th year & Superman 's 75th, and on the whole it's been a good year for me. Hope all of you can say the same. Lots of love to you all.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Scott Lobdell & MariNaomi

I was disappointed to hear about Scott Lobdell’s behaviour towards cartoonist MariNaomi at the the Prism Comics panel at the Long Beach Comic-Con. While it's good that he apologised, it's a pity that it's only an apology for his "attempt at humour" and his "presence" and not an apology for any of the crappy things he actually did. You get the impression that he doesn't quite know why he's actually apologising.

I recently dropped his Superman to make way on my pull list for Superman/Wonder Woman, but it was with some regret. He’s a messy writer. He tries to write natural sounding dialogue, a flawed Superman, and wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey plots, and I'm all for all of those things in theory, but he’s just not a mature or subtle enough writer to pull off any of them successfully. But, he did make Superman a fun, unpredictable, action packed book, and he’s really good at coming up with entertaining threats for Superman to face and super feats for him to perform. So I admired his work on Superman and defended it a number of times. It’s such a shame to hear that he indulges in such awful behaviour towards women. I don’t need or expect creators I admire to be saints but it’s still saddening to hear about something like this happening in an industry that produces work that means so much to me. 

I've got a lot of respect for MariNaomi for discussing this incident publicly, because obviously this isn't just about Lobdell. This clearly goes on all the time behind the scenes in the world of comics. Lobdell wouldn't have just decided to be a sexist/racist dick one day out of the blue. He works in an industry where behaviour like this is the norm and has been for years. I shudder to think what kind of things other male creators I admire get up to, and what kind of crap the female creators I admire have to put up with.