An open letter on the state of the DC Nation

Dear DC,
When I was younger, I and many others watched your shows religiously. From the old-timers who watched Adam West’s Batman, or the Superfriends, to my generation’s Batman The Animated Series, down to the new Generation’s Young Justice. We were big fans, the biggest. So, collectively, we have to ask, “What are you doing?” DC Nation could be the largest, and best cartoon block on television. We know you can do better, but maybe you just need a push. So here are a few suggestions for you to build on.
I want to start by pointing out that not all your viewers are little kids. There are many, like myself, who have been enjoying your product for years. Yes, the kids will buy the breakfast cereals, and the Super Street Louge Batman figurines, and I understand that’s where the money is, but the older generation still buys dvd’s, hats, shirts, comics, figurines. We propagate the species, bringing in friends, relatives, and children. In the past, your most successful series did not need to be watered down for the kids, Batman the animated series was dark, gritty, and ran for over eighty episodes. It was so successful that you added Harley Quinn to the comic book canon. Justice League ran for 5 seasons. Static Shock, and Batman Beyond are still loved by many. Just look at the outrage over canceling Young Justice and Green Lantern. Something to think about while you read on.
Why only stick to an hour? This is the mighty DC Nation! Backed by Warner Brothers, you could dominate Saturday mornings. There’s certainly no end to the list of shows in your arsenal. Look at the list of shows you could put into reruns, or work on new episodes for:
Teen Titans
Batman: The Animated Series
Superman: The Animated Series
Justice League
Young Justice
Green Lantern: The Animated Series
Static Shock
Batman Beyond
Batman The Brave and the Bold

And all the new shows you can bring to life:
Green Arrow: The Animated Series
The Flash: The Animated Series
The Outsiders
Teen Titans Go
Beware the Batman
Justice League International
Earth 2
Deadman
Secret Six
Checkmate

Many of these can be used to generate interest in the comic versions of the characters involved. (Something that might help in the war with Marvel). Some can be more kid friendly, some can be geared more for the older generation. Be creative. You may be thinking to yourself, “This is just some guy, it doesn’t matter what he thinks.” Well, it does, because I’m not alone. We are the DC Nation, and we are dwindling in number.

Sincerely,
The DC Nation

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Age of Ultron Review: The road thus far

Age of Ultron is a hard one for me to nail down. I can’t even decide if I like it or not. There’s just too much going on at once, and not enough of it is explained. You have Cap, seemingly defeated, at least emotionally. And then you have every other hero frightened to even leave their hidey-holes. How much time has passed? Judging by the Spider-Man panels, it seems like a day or two at the most. I expected to see some back story be issue two, but all I really got were a few panels of Spidey flashback. Not helpful. I’m generally a big Bendis fan so I’m going to keep reading in hopes that things will become clearer. Don’t let me down, BMB. What does everyone else think?

In Defense of Batman Forever

Ignore the Bat-nipples. Put the codpieces back in your pants, and stow your rage until you’ve read the whole article. Watch the movie again a little less critically, and a little more for enjoyment. The Schumacher/Burton Batman films represented something much bigger when they came out, than they do now. They represented first time we had seen Batman in film since Adam West’s portrayal in 1966. for twenty years comic book movie fans had to put up with things like this:

 Truly Terrible

 Unless you were a Superman fan, that is. (Superman fans get a movie for every decade they’ve lived, and an origin story for every three. I think its some kind of contractual obligation) We know that, looking back, Batman and superman films are historically very profitable for DC, so no matter how campy and silly we find Batman Forever, there are a ton of reasons to love it now.

Tommy Lee Jones was great casting for Harvey at the time. Jones traditionally plays the tough, no-nonsense authority figure in his films. His best roles, and most typical characters are men of law and order, with his most iconic role as US Marshall Samuel Gerard in “The Fugitive.” In this way, Jones’s own filmography gives a sort of back-story for Two-Face. When Tommy Lee Jones is on the screen, as an iconic actor, he is immediately associated with his history of law enforcement characters. On the unfortunate side of things, Tommy Lee Jones seems to almost feed off of Jim Carey at times. Jones picks up that insane energy and transforms Two-Face into a spastic, Jim Carey-esque version of himself, which changes the tone of the character quite a bit. We lose the seriousness that Jones could bring to the character, and instead we have a Two-Face whose personality blends into the Riddler’s. So, Tommy Lee Jones could have been the perfect Two-Face. He just…wasn’t.

On the other hand, the Riddler is quite possibly the best thing about this movie. A lot of fans prefer the serious, methodical Riddler that shows up in “Batman: The Animated Series” but the character can also be portrayed as the high energy, crazy character that Jim Carey is perfect for. Frank Gorshin’s Riddler had the same high energy personality, and even a similar laugh. Carey’s manic portrayal is not just valid, but is the classic characterization of the Riddler. The costumes are a bit over-the-top, but that is right in line with the character’s absurd behavior, and many different Riddler costumes have shown up throughout the years.

 Do you want to know how to get free money from the government?

 However, Schumacher spent such little build up on the riddles that they seemed simplistic and obvious. In reality, each clue was developed by Will Shortz, puzzle master for the New York Times Crossword. The clues, which could have caused anyone a little grief, are instead solved in only a few seconds. This makes the riddles look simple, and completely deflates the drama from the situation.

On the side of good, we have Robin as a new addition to the films. Robin was bound to show up eventually, and Chris O’Donnel did not do terribly. But, O’Donnel was simply too old for the character. There is no sense in making Dick Grayson a ward of Bruce Wayne if Dick is in his early thirties. However, If Grayson had been introduced to the batman universe even one film earlier, he could have been much younger. Viewers could have watched the evolution of Robin, and in the next film, O’Donnel could portray a much older “Nightwing.” The age, the attitude, even the costume fit Nightwing’s comic book persona. In truth, O’Donnel could have been a great Nightwing, bringing the character more into the mainstream.

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Despite its flaws, there are some positives to Batman Forever. The film marks the first appearance of Arkham Asylum, and of Harvey Dent in a live action film. The characters and the acting still show great potential. Schumacher still held on to the dark adult atmosphere of the Tim Burton Era, and best of all, no “ice” puns. I’m not saying Batman Forever is by any means a great film, but all the potential in this one movie more than makes up for a costume with nipples on it.

Superheroes Need Super Footwear

By Ashley Danger Mann
Edited by Checkmate

 

In light of recent events, I decided that I would finally submit a guest blog at Cory’s request (actually requested three months ago). Unfortunately, after my half marathon and due to my lack of money (and intelligence) I have been sidelined from running for two months. Bad shoes here, running on an injury there, and before you know it—you have runner’s knee and hip flexor issues. What does all of this have to do with comics you ask? Well, I’ll tell you! It’s all about the shoes, baby.

wonderwoman

She must really be special to do so much in boots with a heel. Usually only hookers can run that well in shoes like that.

superman2

Faster than a speeding bullet, but without arch support? No wonder he chooses to fly everywhere

Flash

Maybe he’s friends with Lance Armstrong? A few CC’s of speed force in your system, and you can run in even the worst shoes.

The detail that seems to be often overlooked is the footwear of comic book characters. Maybe there are implied foot rules with superheroes. Perhaps they need not be concerned with their feet because their powers “foot the bill” to avoid injuries related to bad shoes. (Get it, FOOT the bill? …Anyway.) Just being born can have serious implications to what type of shoe you will need the rest of your life. For example, the shape of your arch or whether your feet roll out- or inward when you walk. If ignored, they could pose serious problems even in your late 20’s. Case. In. Point.

So why do you think that footwear would be seriously overlooked for every single character? Maybe half way through a drawing the artist thinks “ain’t nobody got time for that!” But if you truly think about it, how far can super powers take a person? Past genetics? Are superheroes really immune to repeated damage to their body over the span of their lifetime? (Not everyone is Wolverine) Think about it this way, if a comic book character began to slouch and did so the rest of their life, would their spine not be altered? Even training day in and day out isn’t enough to counteract the damage that can be done over time.

Now, I know some of you may be thinking that this type of logic totally defeats the idea of a super hero—they can do anything; however, some people would say that professional athletes push the boundaries of physical limits every day and even they wouldn’t be caught dead wearing shoes like this:

Alex Ross- Justice League

Why I Love Wrestling AND Comics

Wrestling and comic books are very similar. Its not the case that one could easily be confused for the other, but there are similarities. Colorful characters, running around in spandex, fighting outlandish villains? That’s a pretty big similarity. Wrestling and superheroes have a certain synergy, making it more enjoyable to be a fan of both.

The astute wrestling observer will, over time, begin to recognize the different techniques, strikes, and holds used in matches. These moves, while executed in the realm of a fake sport, are based on real world fighting techniques. Each wrestler has to train and practice in their particular fighting style in order to be able to perform their maneuvers without harming the other wrestler. The armbar is a common example of such a maneuver. The armbar is performed by using the leverage of your body to hyperextend your opponent’s shoulder joint.

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It looks something like that. This is the same attack that Huntress uses in this season’s Arrow to disable some goons. Similarly, Black Canary in the Justice League Unlimited series performs another common wrestling move, the hurricanrana on one of a group of thugs robbing a warehouse. The hurricanrana involves wrapping your legs around your opponent’s head in a headscissor and then using momentum to drag him or her to the ground.

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Recognizing these movies in the superhero world adds a little authenticity to the hero’s abilities. For example, it feels more realistic to see Wonder Woman use Greco-Roman moves as opposed to simply kicks and strikes. Beyond all that, though, its just that much more entertaining to be able to recognize crossovers between the two different forms of entertainment.

Why pandering to fans is pandering to everyone

Marvel’s The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time, on a global scale, so I’m going to ask an obvious question; “Why.” Don’t get me wrong, the Avengers was a brilliant movie, but there are more factors that went in to making The Avengers a success. Without a doubt this is because Marvel marketed the movies to fans, and not just to the general public. In the not too distant past, when comic book movies were made, they were marketed to those unfamiliar with the characters, but over the years, companies seem to have learned that they should be marketing these movies to people who are already fans. If you treat the fans well, they are more likely to spread positive word of mouth, drawing in future fans. A portion of these new fans will check out the comic and the whole cycle will start over.

Comedian Lewis Black said “We always feel better in anticipation. You don’t think about something and think “Aw, it’s gonna be shitty.” NO! You say “This is gonna be the greatest weekend ever! Sonuvabitch!” The anticipation of an event builds and adds to the event itself. Now, let’s look at the lead up to the Avengers movie. Thor, Captain America, two Hulk movies, and two Iron Man movies. This is a lot of build up for such a major picture, and each has spawned its own series upon that (With the exception of the Hulk movies). But the anticipation machine goes even deeper than that. Hidden in each movie are a number of Easter eggs, the holy grails of geekdom. These hidden gems reference bits of the past that fans can pick up on and discuss with like minded friends, or people on the internet. However, these Easter eggs are also a reward. Subconsciously, aficionados will feel that their fanaticism is being acknowledged and rewarded. It strikes a cord with the viewer, reminding him that he is part of a community. That’s why it works so well. That brief little flash is a common thread that releases a flicker of good feeling.

In addition to respecting the fans as a community, the movies have to respect the source material. Without this, the people who love the comics will most likely pick apart the movie, spreading negative word of mouth, and turning people away from the film instead of drawing new viewers in. On the other side of things, if a film is respectful to a beloved source, community will praise it. New viewers will be drawn in, fans will be happy, and more leeway will be given to future films. Now this is not baring companies for making new and interesting adaptations of a character. Batman for instance is a character of many different portrayls, and the campy Adam West Batman is just as valid of a character as Christian Bale’s Batman. That being said, an unusual version of a loved character will face a great deal of resistance, and any character changes need to be important to the story. The mythos of a character or characters is built around a history that took decades to solidify.

Michael Bay’s changes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hit a wall of resistance because a group of aliens is needlessly contradictory to the classic origin story. The 1980’s TMNT story, however was beloved even though it was different from the dark and gritty Laird and Eastman group. The lighthearted turtles were still the beloved characters from the comic book, even though they were modified into their kid friendly forms. Good writing is about both psychology and history, and few people know these aspects of a character like a true fan. When characters are retooled and reworked in movies, some of this is lost and, perhaps only subconsciously, the fans will pick up on it. So, while writers and directors may complain about having to appease the fan-boys, its that same group of devoted followers that keep the characters true to themselves, making every new iteration better. After all, the fans are just as responsible for the creation and life of the characters as the writer.

Superman does not belong in the Justice League

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Forgive me for mixing companies here, but as Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As we’ve seen, time and time again, Superman’s power is unrivaled. Even Doomsday, once powerful enough to “kill” Superman, has been reduced to another of Superman’s personal punching bags. So what should Supes do with all this power? Should he use it to defend the Metropolis, Kansas, The earth, and the Universe? Or should he ally himself with half a dozen other heroes whose powers are now being wasted? The choice seems obvious to me.

That being said, let’s take a look at the other members of the Justice League. We have the Martian Manhunter, who is basically Superman, with a much more common weakness. I suspect Martian Manhunter hasnt Aquaman, super strong, talks to fish, you know this guy. We’ve seen that the Flash is faster than Superman, but he is constantly wasted on crowd control and disarming military forces. Green Lantern, the power of the human mind in the force of a small green ring. Green Lantern has other duties, but seems to spend all his time on earth helping the League, however, there are 4…no wait, 5 Green Lanterns from Earth, so they can share their responsibilities. Wonder Woman is also on the team, if you stripped Superman down to his core powers and gave him breasts you would have Wonder Woman. (But at least she’s better than the Wasp). Finally Batman, who is barely on the team to begin with. I’m going to go ahead and leave Batman out of this, because I don’t plan on getting beaten about the head and neck by fan-boys.

So, the problem we run into is that Superman, a veritable Swiss-army knife of super powers, is just in the way. Most Justice League encounters devolve into Superman handing out busywork and then going to punch somebody into submission. This is not the best recipe for compelling stories.

Ideally, the Justice League should be composed of heroes who need to work together and can feed off each others’ strengths while covering their weaknesses. I’m not suggesting we use Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, because we’ve seen that fail in the past, but I am suggesting a more power-diverse team. Its not necessary to have Superman team up with anyone, but if DC decides that they want or need it to happen to sell comics, then I suggest the Trinity style team that they ran in 2008.

I encourage you to leave your JLA dream team in the comments section

Justice League and Superman and all that are trademarks of DC Comics, while Uncle Ben belongs to Marvel