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Affleck. (Nerd-Terror Alert Level Orange)

If you are not in tune with the nerd-o-sphere, then you probably don’t know that Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel 2.

I spoke recently about my cautious optimism regarding the direction DC was taking with their movie division. This announcement has taken my nerd-terror scale rating on this subject from yellow to orange.

This is one of those announcements which causes the entertainment community of the internet to bubble and boil over in the kind of stubborn arguments which almost always lead to people questioning and thereby insulting the integrity of mothers and people’s sexual preferences as it quickly degrades per the terms of the Laws of the Internet. Controversy will likely be as abundant as it was when Heath Ledger was first cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

I’ve upped the alert level from yellow to orange because, on the surface, this seems like a Val Kilmer/George Clooney level move for Batman whereas Affleck does not have the same grit we’ve become accustomed to with Christian Bale’s Batman, at least not on the surface. Not to keep mentioning it, but this was my first thought about Heath Ledger as well and we all know how good (if not tragic) that choice was in the end.

While Affleck’s most recent works have garnished critical praise and while he’s currently riding high on Argo, his acting prowess seems to be dictated strictly through direction. He is a director’s actor and his best efforts have come while he was his own boss. Zack Snyder is a fair to solid bet to get a decent performance out of him, but there are still a few factors which lend heavily toward my doubts about this decision.

First, the obvious: Daredevil. I mean, really. Did you see Daredevil? I did. I paid money to see it. I paid money to see it knowing that Ben’s future wife-to-be Jennifer Garner was playing Elektra with her overly-squared jaw and typically emotionless, robotic, Stepford-esque quality. I went knowing that Michael Clarke Duncan was playing the Kingpin even though his best performance to that point was John Coffe in the Green Mile. Most of the time I can let these factors slide due to typical Hollywood re-imagining and truncation of the plot. I am in the minority of understanding nerds who get that some fan service has to be discarded for the sake of mass digestion when making the transition from comics or books to the big screen. Daredevil, as you know if you have seen it, was more than this. It was an inexcusable train wreck comparable to Ang Lee’s Hulk.

Second: Zack Snyder. Not that I didn’t love 300 and I was even on his side when the debates about Watchmen erupted but by doing such a good job with Man of Steel Zack proved one thing: He is a Superman Person.
Much like cat people and dog people, there are Superman people and Batman people. Typically, never the twain shall meet, moreso in the case of the superheroes than the pets. If you have a friend who is a dog person and you’re a cat person, you’re not going to get into drunken geek screaming matches about who would win in a fight. This happens quite a bit with Superman/Batman people.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you probably know I fall squarely on the Gotham side of that fence. I feel a twinge of disgust every time I see that big red S emblazoned on someone in whatever manner. I get proud when I see someone rocking the Bat-logo. This is the natural nerd order of things.
Zack Snyder, being a Superman person by trade if not by choice, may not give Batman the respect or care that the character deserves. This may lead into bad direction for Affleck which, as previously mentioned, could make the Batman in Man of Steel 2 back into the horrifying Matt Murdock of Mark Steven Johnson’s cinematic atrocity. I believe it’s against the Geneva Convention to subject someone to watching that movie. I would hate for the same fate to come upon Batman, even if it is truly a Superman movie.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Affleck is really a Superman person. Bad news, if that’s the case.

Third: It is a Superman movie, after all. Though Bats will likely make up a big part of this movie, especially considering it’s partially based on The Dark Knight Returns, the branding used to the press has been fairly explicit: This is not the Batman/Superman Movie. No matter what the conjoined logo belies, this is Man of Steel 2. That is and has been the logline for this movie since SDCC. To me, that says that the “hate each other but team-up for the greater good in the end” angle may come in underplayed and allow Supes to take up more of the spotlight, it being his movie and all. Be it Affleck, Bale, or even Fillon (as the fans wanted), Bats is likely looking at reduced screen time even in the event of a potential (yet unlikely) note-worthy performance by Ben. The only benefit to this is, if his performance is ass, the limited screen time may do some (SOME) damage control.

I will continue to leave the terror alert at orange until I see a screen test or a trailer. I remain doubtful that this signals anything good for Man of Steel 2 or the Justice League movie afterward (in which, for consistency’s sake, they’d better get Affleck back for better or worse).

DC’s cinematic universe has always been a calamity. They’re good at destroying franchises before their time. For their sake, I hope they can keep it together to the end or else the Justice League movie is going to look as bad as the mid-90s JLA pilot, no matter how many big names they pull in.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Decoding the Age of Ultron (SDCC Recap Part Two)

On the opposite side of the coin from my previous post, Marvel added some revelations of their own to the SDCC mix, not the least of which was a bald Amy Pond (Karen Gillian) surprising everyone in the middle of her panel by revealing her always gorgeous ginger locks had been cleanly removed for her role as Nebula in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. What is it with departed Doctor Who actors suddenly shaving their heads? Anyway…

In what will likely be the most speculative announcement coming out of Con from the movie side of the Big M was the title of the 2015 Avengers sequel.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Those of us familiar with the current comics may clearly recognize this title as identical to the latest in a long running line of books dedicated to post-apocalyptic alternate universe scenarios in which one specific villain has accomplished their goals of world domination. Somehow, I doubt that this title would hook-up with anything remotely related to the current Age of Ultron now reaching its zenith on a comic store shelf near you.

While Ultron is probably the most classic villain of the Avengers as a team and while I have no doubt that the Avengers vs. Ultron would play incredibly well on screen, I have some reservations about this overly obvious mission statement which I will now list for you here.

1. WTF happened to Thanos and my Infinity Gauntlet Movie???

Putting Ultron’s name in the title gives most Marvel fanboys (like myself) a general plot outline, none of which involves anything that was teased at the end of the first Avengers. Ultron, for those of you who spent your youth outside and not buried up to your nose in comic books, is a sentient, ultra-intelligent, and practically indestructible robot. Nothing in that sentence is at all related to Thanos or any other greater cosmic threat. As I just said, this battle will play well for the screen and will likely make for an awesome movie, but at a highly reduced scale to the Infinity Gauntlet movie that has been dangled in front of us ever since the Gauntlet itself went on display at SDCC in 2011 in the official Marvel area (next to Cap’s shield, Thor’s Hammer, and a set of Iron Man armor). They’re holding filet mignon under our noses then feeding us hamburger on this one.

2. WTF happened to Hank Pym?

Dr. Henry Pym – AKA Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, and Goliath among others – is the creator (more like Father) of Ultron in the comics, not to mention a founding member of the Avengers. One would assume that as goes Ultron, so goes Hank Pym. The problem is that, in the Avengers Panel, it was revealed that Ultron would be created without Pym’s influence due to the fact that he has not yet been established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know that as far back as 2010, when the Avengers movie was still a fanboy’s sick fantasy on the verge of becoming tangible, it was announced that Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim fame) would be helming the Ant-Man movie as a precursor to the Avengers (along side Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America).
This film has been largely up in the air. Rumor had it that the comedic vibe with which Wright approached the initial screenplay wasn’t jiving with the studio’s long-term vision for the universe and would make Dr. Pym seem out of place if suddenly pressed in with the more “serious” cast of characters. Two complete re-writes later and Wright’s Ant-Man is now slated for a post-Avengers 2 release. In my opinion, this kinda puts the cart before the horse as far as comic book canon is concerned and takes away the creator/creation relationship which made Ultron a more interesting machine of mass distruction. I’m sure Joss H. Whedon knows what he’s doing by taking this step and he’ll likely come up with a good end around, but it runs the risk of decreasing Hank Pym’s character. Ultron was simultaneously his greatest achievement and his biggest failure. On that note…

3. Ultron is supposed to be Hank Pym’s biggest failure. Who does that fall to now?

The reason Hank Pym is essential Ultron’s creator is that Ultron’s artificial intelligence is based on Pym’s own thought patterns. Ultron shows the dark side of Pym’s genius, making both of them more sympathetic characters. It also adds that faint glimmer of humanity to Ultron even if it was in the form of jealousy and cruelty. It foreshadowed the eventual reveal that Pym was a wife-beating scumbag, but that’s a story for another time and could be another reason they wanted to leave Pym out. I mean, Stark’s an alcoholic, but at least he’s not a domestic abuser. Kinda hard to justify that sort of behind-the-scenes action in a superhero movie and still have you rooting for him.
The most likely choice of main characters the creation of Ultron (and its subsequent brain patterns) would fall to would be one Mr. Tony Stark. We’ve already seen the capabilities of his AI-tech thanks to Iron Man 3 (house party protocol!) and we know he’s capable of creating robots with personality (the dunce-cap lab-bot). If he’s serious about quitting as Iron Man, Ultron might be his next step.

Oh crap, guys, I think I just figured out the whole plot of Avengers 2 right there.

4. Screw the rest of this list, I just figured out the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Tony quits being Iron Man, but the Avengers still want him. Since Pepper doesn’t want him putting his life on the line anymore and Tony seems to want to concentrate more on their relationship, he has to figure out another solution.
Operating the armor remotely (as seen many times in IM3) won’t cut it because Pepper will be up his ass to stop playing superhero. He’ll feel obligated to do something about it and will create Ultron, implanting that robot with his personality as a guide for its AI. At first, it will seem the perfect replacement for Tony and Iron Man on the team, but it will quickly fall to the dark side, likely by realizing that its father has it better than it does (a la Hank Pym) and not enjoying being referred to as “it” just as I’ve done for the last paragraph.
Ultron then goes rogue and will need a helper. He creates The Vision (as he did in the comics, and as is rumored to be played by Vin Diesel) but this backfires on him as he creates another being similar to himself, with the capacity for all human emotions, and the Vision grows compassionate toward humanity eventually siding with the Avengers in the final battle and surviving the ultimate destruction of his creator.
Tony will also feel obligated to get back into the armor after his creation goes crazy and either him or the Vision will land the final blow on Ultron.

Maybe in Avengers 3 we’ll finally get that Infinity Gauntlet movie.

Remember you heard this here in 2015, kids. I would love to be right this far in advance.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Holes in the Cape (SDCC Recap Part One)

In case you missed it, this weekend was San Diego Comic Con. Chances are, if you’re reading my blog, you’re overly aware of this.

I’m going to take this week (hopefully more than one entry) to discuss items arising from SDCC, albeit a bit late. I would go on about how I usually enjoy letting things simmer for a while before injecting my opinion but I’d be lying. I was actually on vacation (not at SDCC) this weekend and I am also exceedingly lazy. That being said, there are more than a few interesting things which have sprung from SDCC and are worthy of words from me. Let’s begin.

DC/Warner Bros. have announced that the sequel to this summer’s fair success, Man of Steel, will be the long sought-after Batman/Superman movie. Whether this means that Will Smith’s I Am Legend is actually going to happen prior to release in 2015 remains to be seen.

This particular announcement brings the DC/Warner Bros. machine to an interesting intersection. With Christian Bale’s divorce from the Batman franchise and Christopher Nolan’s tenuous (at best) involvement in the ongoing construction of the DC Movie Universe, will the flavor of Henry Cavill’s opposite number be retained or will we see another wholesale change for the Caped Crusader before the (thankfully pushed back) Justice League movie in 2017?

During the panel, it was revealed that my favorite line in the history of comics will be included in Batman/Superman:

“I want you to remember, Clark… in all the years to come… in your most private moments… I want you to remember my hand at your throat… I want you to remember… the one man who beat you.”

This, of course, uttered by Bruce himself as he has a crushing spiky boot wedged firmly on the throat of the Man of Steel in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

The panel would later go on to admit that the movie will be based partly on the World’s Finest comics (hopefully modern era and not Golden Age) and the aforementioned Frank Miller source material. They made it clear that this will not be a straight up adaptation of DKR, but will certainly borrow heavily from the plot elements including that famous line. Certainly, it won’t be about the grim future of the DCU and an octogenarian Batman beating the living piss out of a Supes who is past his prime. They are planning to use this movie to start setting the table for Justice League, after all.

This brings me to my second point: It’s wonderful to see DC finally jumping on the continuity train even if it is a few stations behind Marvel. If you’re going to plan an epic like Justice League, you have to take your cues from Joss Whedon and the Avengers. You must first build a solitary universe which houses all of these heroes before simply jamming them into the same story. I’ve been over and over this regarding the film aspirations of both major comic houses, but it’s true. This will be the first movie which unites two DC properties and establishes a proper and stable universe. That is, if they do it right.

While Man of Steel was a good mildly-gritty reboot of the Superman franchise (barring Lois showing exactly how easy it could be to connect Kal-El to John and Martha Kent), we have to examine what this means for the Nolan Bat-verse and what, if any, implications this movie has on the state of that particular Gotham City and its denizens. Do Man of Steel’s Smallville and Metropolis exist in the same universe or will we so soon be force-fed a new image of Gotham?
It would have to be Gotham that changes, not Metropolis, as they’ve confirmed Henry Cavill under the big red S for the duration. This means that the Man of Steel universe is THE DC movie universe.

This is where we run into some serious problems.

As far as the Nolan-verse is concerned, Bruce Wayne’s time under the cowl is over. As of The Dark Knight Rises we see him go so far as to pass the torch to one Detective Robin “John” Blake. Without going into the screaming inconsistencies there, the best parts of any Batman/Superman story come from the diametrically opposed identities of Bruce and Clark – Bruce was given all the money and had to work for his power; Clark was given insane amounts of power and had to work for his money. This goes along with the fact that Bruce’s inner darkness and Clark’s outer light lead to two very different rhythms with the same melody. Their methodical differences and their backgrounds give them that tete-a-tete which makes friendship, let alone outright partnership, difficult. The draw here is two heroes who can’t completely work together. If you leave John Blake as a n00b with a cape, you run the risk of losing that awesome dynamic.

This means that they’re going to have to either bring back Nolan-verse Bruce Wayne (with a different actor unless they can somehow convince Bale), meaning that the Nolan-verse takes place in the same continuity, or establish a whole new Batman movie continuity which can connect properly with the Man of Steel/Justice League universe.

Negating the Nolan-verse would be a foolish and too-soon move, so it would seem that DC’s back is against the wall on this one. Don’t think for a second they won’t wipe the continuity and start a-fresh for the sake of the Justice League. They know a Superman/Batman movie will empty wallets (mine included) regardless of which Batman you throw into the mix. They also know that Justice League will likely explode at the box office considering that two out of DC’s main trinity (Bats, Supes, Wonder Woman) have enjoyed very recent success.

Bats/Supes aside, moving the Justice League movie back to 2017 (as opposed to their knee-jerk reaction of 2015 to compete with Avengers 2) as well as the announcement of a Flash solo movie in 2016 shows that they’re attempting to move in the right direction. This is just me being optimistic as they announced the Flash during the Batman/Superman panel which indicates that it’ll tie in directly to the Justice League. This is no guarantee that we won’t get another Green Lantern.

Also, seriously, Wonder Woman needs her own flick before this whole thing goes down. I know it’s apparently Hollywood poison, but it should get done. You can’t back off when it comes to one of the members of DC’s Holy Trinity just because it’s a girl and you don’t think girl heroes sell tickets.

Really, everything I’m talking about here won’t prevent myself or any other fan from seeing any of these movies on opening weekend. It’s just a matter of principle. If they’re going to go the full-nine with this, it should be done right and with respect to the most recent successes. DC needs to do what it should have done since its main competition came into existence: figure out what Marvel has done right and DO THAT THING.

The dots should have been lined up from the beginning. It should not be a struggle to connect them all.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Bidula’s Last Word – Iron Man 3

I liked Iron Man 2. There, I said it. Actually, I did say it before right here.

While it was not superior to its predecessor, it was still a fun romp through comic book land rife with reference and foreshadowing. I consider it a prequel to the rest of the Marvel Movie Universe at large; drawing in SHIELD, teasing Captain America and Thor, and giving birth to everyone’s favorite card-collecting agent, Phil Coulson. I believe it often goes unnoticed that this was the important transition movie that really set the stage for the Avengers.

That said, I realize that Iron Man 2 was and continues to be widely panned. This doesn’t bother me, I stand by my word. This did, however, greatly lower expectations for Iron Man 3 when it hit this weekend. The seemingly global disapproval of Iron Man 2 which arose in the media as the release of Iron Man 3 grew closer was palpable. Before it was even previewed for the media, people were calling it out as iffy. This was partly because the advertised villain – The Mandarin (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) – is something of a campy stereotype in Marvel Comics lore; a Red China throwback who used magical rings to varying effect in his quest for world domination. Standard supervillain junk and not much more.

In fact, the story (without giving too much away) makes the Mandarin mysterious, powerful, and menacing without the ridiculous camp you would think followed the character from even a cursory glance at his Wikipedia page.

Yes, I’m a comic book geek, and yes, I did like Iron Man 2 but Iron Man 3, from a strictly objective viewpoint, was an absolutely incredible film.

The phrase “this movie has everything” is often bandied about carelessly. I am not participating in such bandying by saying that this movie really does have everything. This movie brings the funny as much as it brings the action and suspense. There are some serious laughs to be had which is largely due to Robert Downey Jr.’s always spectacular performance as Tony Stark which, since the first movie, really brought the character to life. Tony Stark had been around long before these movies but I don’t think he truly had a voice in the original Marvel U until RDJ put him out there as a fast-talking, razor-witted, ego-tripping playboy. It was Warren Ellis and the Extremis storyline in 2005 that made the character movie –ready, but it was RDJ putting his stamp on the character that makes Iron Man one of the better books out there at the moment.

This is also because of the sharp writing and direction of this franchise. Though this has changed hands over the course of the trilogy, it has achieved a strange consistency. People seem to know how to write Tony and those around him and make it seamless.

Even though, as you may have seen in the trailers, a veritable army of Iron Man variant suits participate in the movie, this one is more about Tony outside the armor than Tony inside the armor. This is strange when you’re waiting for the post-credits scene and suddenly a wall of names marking the 3D effects crew takes no less than 30 seconds to scroll by, then you realize that, oh yeah, there were 42 armor variants shown in this movie and each one was different.

The story draws from the previously mentioned Warren Ellis Extremis story arc and doesn’t skimp on the details. They took a story from the comics which really brought Iron Man back to being a mainstream player in the Marvel Universe rather than just one of the Avengers, gave it a bit of polish, and pushed it out under the absolute best possible circumstances.

One thing I appreciated was that the fight scenes were actual fight scenes and not the slow-mo-fast-mo junk or shaky-cam cut-fests or special-effects debacles of recent years. They were well played out, well cut, and, unlike most movies involving armor or giant robots (I’m looking at you Michael Bay), you could tell who the combatants were the entire time. Really, some of the most solid classically-shot action sequences I’ve seen in a long, long time.

There were some good callbacks for fans regarding SHIELD and the Avengers movie. Really nice to see that sort of thing in a solo picture and really nice to see the continuity of the universe moving right along. Paramount continues to hit this part of the Avengers franchise spot-on. There are plenty of little easter eggs hidden and I’ll probably need to watch the movie at least one more time before I get them all.

Another easter egg in plain sight was the introduction of the Iron Patriot armor. If you’ve read Marvel Comics within the last few years, you know the significance of that armor and especially the twisted bastard who was wearing it. They don’t go that far (licensing and plot-line surely would not have been kind), but it was still cool to see Norman’s red, white, and blue streaking around and getting into some interesting situations.

The ending corresponds with the rumors around Hollywood that RDJ may want to step out of the suit for good after his contract expires with Avengers 2. I wish that wasn’t the case. Something about him wanting to move on to different roles and not be shoe-horned into the action-movie role forever. The only problem with that is that he IS Tony Stark. Unless he buys it in Avengers 2, it’s not going to be as easy a replacement as Bruce Banner was.

BTW, stick around after the credits for a nice shout out to the Science Bros meme. VERY funny.

Bidula’s Last Word – 9/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Bidula’s Last Word – The Avengers

Paramount did everything right.

They plotted The Avengers out to be the greatest comic book movie of all-time, and they made every single step carefully yet confidently. In an era where it seems that the studios are simply throwing crap at the screen and hoping it will stick for a few weeks, it is truly refreshing to know that, at the very least, Paramount is willing to make a long-term investment in good blockbuster cinema long enough to see it pay off.
From the word go, I knew this was going to work. When Iron Man came out and Robert Downey Jr. just dominated the screen, I felt a change in the wind. I felt that, down the road, awesome was coming – awesome which, at the time, was a whispered rumor of an Avengers movie.
The first statement I made was that they would have to do all the major players in their own movies first because there would be no way to squeeze all those origin stories into one movie. At least not for the big three (Thor, Cap, and Tony). Slowly, dots were connected. A mention of Stark Industries here, a cameo by Tony there, an Agent Coulson here, a Nick Fury there… everything leading up to this point.

Of course, it had massive potential to bomb. The performance of the Avengers movie to collective geekdom would either sound a triumphant call that Hollywood could make a comeback or could condemn it for generations to come.

The scope of it was unprecedented. It would be the first of its kind. A cast of characters drawn from separate films into the same story, uniting as they always should.

And, it was flawlessly executed.

Joss Whedon is a complete genius. His writing and directing only serves to the goal of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has his own vision in this movie, but he smartly remains within the parameters of the established films before it. Every character has their own unique voice that we have seen before.

No one acts out of character. They are all written perfectly as defined by their original movie. Tony Stark is still a wise-ass genius, Steve Rogers is still an idealist somewhat trapped in the past, Thor is still… well… Thor. You immediately feel that this is the ideal intersection of all the films which came before and time is not wasted in things like introductions or origin stories. This movie is the penultimate sequel. It is the one that all the others have been slowly working towards and the story takes full advantage of that by thrusting you right into the middle of the action.

You see the in-fighting – the conflict from so many extreme personalities in the same room – but you also see the unity within the group and, for once, Hollywood doesn’t smash it all together and hope it makes sense. Things feel natural in a way that they never have in that sort of group-of-misfits-bands-together situation. This is a huge credit to Whedon as a writer/director. He put all the puzzle pieces together and did everything right.

There are so many amazing points to this movie, but I don’t feel I can talk about them. I don’t want to spoil one second of anything for you and it’s far too in-depth to give a synopsis. A few talking points:

– Agent Maria Hill shows up, big shout-out to the geeks who’ve been following since Civil War.
– Mark Ruffalo’s Banner/Hulk stands up almost better than if Ed Norton had been left with the role.
– You get to see the best of every hero in the fight scenes. Not one signature move or gadget is left out.
– Mentions of or cameos by most of the more main characters in the previous films. It’s the little details that get me.
– Hulk vs. Loki

And, for the love of God, if you have any geek cred or comic book knowledge, stay for the scene at the end… It’s a HUGE setup for Avengers 2 and if that movie is HALF as awesome as this one was, we are going to be some very happy nerds. Let’s just say that A2 will probably involve a very fancy glove and I ain’t talking the reanimated corpse of Michael Jackson.

Bidula’s Last Word – 11/10. It broke my rating system. This movie exceeded every possible expectation I ever had. You must see this movie. But, if you haven’t, do the homework and watch the others, too. It’ll be worth your time.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

52 Pickup: Crisis of Infinite Negation

The Great DC Reboot is currently underway.

Don’t tell them it’s a reboot, though. They like to call it a “soft restart” because, according to the original press, “only some things are changing to give the characters a fresher start, but most of the DC Canon will remain unchanged.”

I know this whole “New 52” thing started at the beginning of September, but I had to really read into it before I reacted. I didn’t want to be one of those knee-jerkers who said that this was going to ruin everything before it even hit the newsstands. I wanted to have at least a semi-educated opinion based as little on speculation as possible.

In retrospect, my knee-jerk would have been the correct reaction. Maybe not reaction enough.

DC, for all its iconic majesty, has been largely on the wrong track for far too long.

For decades, their writers have employed what I believe to be the absolute worst technique in storytelling – the unreasonable retcon.
If you’re not up-to-date on your fictional terminology, retcon is short for retroactive continuity. This is basically a deus ex machina used by lazy writers to change the history of a given character and even sometimes an entire fictional universe. We’re not talking about a simple flashback here, we’re talking erasures of anything from one paragraph to books and books worth of material in order to fit an existing character into a different mold.

Retcons are nothing new to the comic book or sci-fi community. They happen nearly all the time in some of our favorite media, however, comic books have always shown the strongest example of the technique.

In the past, DC has retconned some of the most integral things from their universe in order to simplify the current continuity and bring in new readers. Their theory is that, through this simplification, they will attract new readers who have been fans of the movies and cartoons based on their characters. A new reader could pick up an issue of something as convoluted as Superman and the book would now seem much more approachable because the entire history of the book has simply been discounted and erased.

This, my friends, is the Mother of All Retcons. In the war against continuity, this is a pure scorched earth tactic.

Dan DiDio, one of the main architects of the New 52, has dropped official word that all Crisis events in the DC Universe have been abolished from the canon. This throws sand in the face of the last thirty years of the continuity and, given the shady and nebulous nature of the universe’s past as it stands, takes away the only static points left in the timeline.

Some of you may not speak Comic Book Geek. Allow me to translate by using another self-cannibalistic visionary who seems to enjoy rewriting his work and “fixing” stuff like it ain’t no thang: George Lucas.

Say Lucas really went off the deep end. Say Lucas suddenly said that all the events of The Empire Strike Back were null and void.
Let that marinate for a minute and think about how confusing things would be if you just jumped from A New Hope right on over to Return of the Jedi with nothing in between. No Vader reveal. No clue as to why Han is in Carbonite. No way of knowing who the hell Lando Calrissian or Boba Fett are. No Jedi training by Yoda on Dagobah. None of it. None of it was canon, none of it actually happened, but somehow we still arrived at Return of the Jedi. How mindboggling would that be?

That’s where we are without Crises in the DC Universe.

Without the Crises to explain things, there are people who are alive that should be dead. There are people who are dead that should be alive. There are people who were paralyzed that can suddenly walk again completely removing the main tragic and interesting element from their backstory and thereby negating the point of one of the greatest Batman/Joker stories of all time (I’m looking at you, Barbara Gordon). Suddenly, the DCU is an infinitely more confusing place than it had been to begin with.

A good 50% of all the DCU’s game-changing events have Crisis somewhere in the title. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Identity Crisis, Final Crisis, Infinite Crisis… the list goes on. There were also “countdown” build-ups to these crises as well as aftermath books detailing what happened in the wake of the crisis, most notably 52 after Infinite Crisis. 52 was one of the most defining moments for the large second-tier of heroes as the “Big Three” of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman took (essentially) a year-long sabbatical leaving a huge vacuum which was filled in some of the most interesting ways (such as Harvey Dent and the Riddler going straight and helping to take over for Batman and Lex Luthor granting superpowers to the entirety of Metropolis, himself included, to “cover” for Superman).

Also, as a Bat-Fan, I have to express this: The Batman comics have been the best they’ve been in a long time. Dick Grayson assumed the Mantle of the Bat with Damian Wayne, the psychotic 12-year-old son of Talia al’Ghul and Bruce Wayne as trained by the League of Assassins, serving as Robin. These books were absolutely stunning and it was great to see a different take on the Dark Knight without having to mess with the continuity of things.

Of course, both of these instances would not be possible if not for two separate crises.

Damian spins from a comic that wasn’t originally part of canon (Batman: Son of the Demon, originally thought to be an Elseworlds {alternate reality} story). This was rectified by Infinite Crisis in the most ridiculous way imaginable. Superboy-Prime (look him up, I don’t have space to explain) punching the walls of reality. The shockwaves caused things to suddenly become canon, albeit with a slightly tweaked origin.

Dick’s assuming of the mantle truly comes from the ending of Final Crisis, in which Darkseid removes Batman from the timestream via the Omega Sanction. Of course, Bruce eventually came back, but until the reboot, he was going to allow Dick to continue to operate as Batman in Gotham while Bruce put together an international initiative called Batman, Inc. which would put “Batmen” in all the major metro regions of the world.

This incredible storyline was, of course, rearranged by the New 52 as it was revealed that Bruce would return to the Bat-Mantle and Dick would go back to being Nightwing with Damian staying on as Robin under his father. Now, if none of the crises happened, that means Dick was never Batman and Damian shouldn’t even exist. Way to retcon yourself into a corner, DC.

If you negate the crises, you negate the precedent for many other events, characters, and character developments. Without some of the backstory laid down in both the crises and their supplemental titles, it pulls the entire spine out of the DCU and expects it to still walk on its own.

I wouldn’t have as much a problem with all of this if they would have called it what it should be: a straight reboot. The problem is that they’re trying to pick and choose the story elements they want to save and which they want to abolish.

If a reboot were to be done, it should have been done with a clean slate. The issue from what I can see was in the timing. DC just completed a few huge storyarcs which took the better part of a decade to complete and now they want to just wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.

I say again, it is the worst type of writing and the worst type of gamesmanship that necessitates an overhaul of this magnitude. DC takes too much advantage of geekdom. They know that most of their true devotees will not stop buying even though they’ve shredded thirty years of character history into a now unreadable mess. Geeks will keep buying and the “soft” reboot may help new readers get on board. DC saw the dollar signs and went for it. In a world where print is slowly dying, you can imagine the desire to cash in.

But, at what cost?

I’ll say this: Unless they retract this statement and put things back the way they were, I am through. I have lost what little respect I had left for the DC writing staff and editors.

Marvel may kill characters and bring them back to life, but at least they had the decency to reboot their universe in an entirely separate continuity. They didn’t piss on what they knew was working in order to get new readers. They just drummed up the Ultimate Marvel Universe as an aside and let both continuities survive. They did it the smart way by not driving a stake through the heart of their readers.

Until next time. Make Mine Marvel.

Excelsior!

—end transmission—

True Believers Don’t Fear the Reaper

The first time it drew any attention in the media was with a black polybag.

Emblazoned on said bag was the familiar red S logo, dripping with blood.

Inside, the grand conclusion to a comic book event which shattered records: The Death of Superman.

It was the first title-character death to be covered by the national media. It became as much an event as the death of any other celebrity. There were obits on the national news describing the life, career, and cause of death, profiles of his family and friends, and a rudimentary analysis of his killer.

I purchased a copy, but not the black polybagged version (I refused to line up all day for anything Superman related). I wanted to see the Man of Steel beaten to a pulp at the hands of Doomsday. I have the iconic final splash page of Lois Lane cradling the Supercorpse as she wept openly, his tattered cape, torn from his costume and attached to some random debris, flying like a flag in the background.

I was overjoyed. Superman; as much my own arch-nemesis as he is to Lex Luthor or Braniac, was dead. My problem with Superman was, at least temporarily, cured.
My hatred wasn’t just quelled because he had shuffled off this mortal coil to much fanfare. It wasn’t only healed by attempting to lick the tasty tears of anguish from the page as Lois cried a true love’s mourning. Those things both helped. But the root of the anger and issue I had with Superman was almost immediately repaired upon his demise.

Some may ask, why would anyone have a problem with Superman? I mean, he saves the day. He’s the ultimate white knight of comics. How could anyone argue with something as wholesome and all-American as Superman?

My response can be summed up in three words: Superman. Is. Boring. My reasoning for this is lengthy and logical and certainly for another rant at another time. I’m already going to keep you a while as it is, you don’t need me prattling on about why Superman’s books have sucked since before time began.

His death served to stem my bleeding rage, healing me as he crept closer to that inevitable scene alluded to by the black polybag.
Finally, something beat the absolute living shit out of Superman. The bony protrusions and relentless attacks of Doomsday cut him, forcing him to see his own blood in who knows how long. He gave Supes a puffy black eye, broken bones, and gashes through his invulnerable skin. By the time Lois cradled his head in her distress, he was like a Snickers bar left out in the sun; a bunch of lumpy mush loosely contained within a wrapper.
The race was quickly on to replace him, bringing Superboy back into the fray on a more hardcore level, and introducing Steel, Hank Henshaw (the Cyborg Superman), and the Eradicator. Great plot lines unraveled as the ripple of Superman’s death stretched to the farthest reaches of the DCU. It made the book relevant. What would the DCU be like without Superman around to save the day? We were on the verge of truly finding out.
Then, of course, within a year, they turn around and bring him back, putting an end to anything interesting that might have happened had the Corpse of Steel remained six-feet under. Welcome back to the doldrums.

The reason I’m waxing nostalgic about the Death of Superman storyline is that Marvel recently announced a similar event which reached the national media (if you count USA Today as a viable source, that is).

The Fantastic Four will soon become the Fantastic Three.

Shaking up the status quo of a comic which has been running since what seems like the beginning of time by killing off the cast isn’t really something groundbreaking. Even eliminating a main character is becoming passé. Without revealing any spoilers from the article, the fated character dies, essentially splitting up the team to make them free to do other things and pretty much ending the 500+ issue publication. The cover alone caught my attention, as it vaguely resembles the infamous black polybag; it is a simple black cover with the team’s logo front and center, using a 3 instead 4. Simple, ominous, and effective.
I was a fringe fan of the Fantastic Four, usually only coming back to the story when Doom was involved, but I still find it enthralling that one of them will bite it as well as the fact that Marvel has its plans in motion for the survivors. If things go well, this one may stay dead, which would be a truly ballsy coup and would have a lasting effect on Marvel’s First Family.
They were already blown apart once when their opinions were split on the Superhero Registration Act during Civil War, now the giant wedge of death may permanently cleave them apart. It will be interesting to see how things develop, especially since the remaining three have other things to keep them busy. Will they ever be a family again? Will there be resentment or buried rage over the death? To me, the emotional nuance of superhero comics has always been fascinating. Marvel usually does this better than DC.

Death in comics is usually taken about as seriously as death in soap operas. Characters will always find a way back into the plot. No character, no matter how brutally or poignantly they may have perished, is ever truly marked for permanent death.

One of the most notorious examples comes from Batman.
Jason Todd, the second Robin, replacing the outgoing and outgrowing Dick Grayson, who decided on a better career under the name Nightwing and running with the Teen Titans, was savagely beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker. The incident provided the Dark Knight with anger, regret, fear, temptation… an entire gambit of emotions not normally reflected by the stalwart hero. It also helped the book transition into the modern age, the death of Jason Todd symbolizing the death of innocence within the Batman comics as a whole. It forever affected the partner relationship and heavily influenced Batman’s treatment of Tim Drake, the third Robin, and the development of their relationship. Granted, Todd really died as the result of a reader’s poll, but the writers thought it would be a horrible slight to the readers (who voted Todd dead) if they brought the character back shortly after.
It was believed since the 1989 death of Todd that he would never be reintroduced, as the death was far too significant for the comic.
Of course, Todd was resurrected (courtesy of “reality punching”, DC’s Infinite Crisis-based panacea for all ret-conning). Clayface, posing as Todd during the Hush storyline, offered fans the jaw-dropping moment in 2003, but it wouldn’t be until 2005 that the actual Todd rose from the grave to cause trouble. He also had a pretty big role during the Battle for the Cowl mini-series while Bruce Wayne was (ironically) “dead”.

Can anyone in comics stay dead? Is it simple popularity that brings them back to life?

Bruce Wayne, as mentioned, was killed via Darkseid’s Omega Sanction. Turns out he was just unstuck from time and sent back to the stone age. He had to crawl his whole way back to the present through the strangest means possible, all the while regaining his memories.
This had me, as a fan, worried because the new Batman and Robin, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne (Bruce’s son via Talia al Ghul), were performing incredibly within the scope of the comic. It was a truly fresh look at the Dynamic Duo. Thankfully, when Bruce returned he immediately spun off into Batman, Inc. – a story about Bruce taking Batman global – leaving Dick and Damian in charge of Gotham while he’s fighting for the greater good. We can continue to watch Dick as he carves his path as the new Batman and Bruce can still be King High Bad Ass. Disaster averted.

Captain America was shot dead after being arrested for violation of the Superhuman Registration Act at the end of the Civil War storyline. James “Bucky” Buchanan, aka the Winter Soldier and Cap’s old sidekick, picked up the mantle and took things to the next level.
Of course, Cap was also simply unstuck from time, forced to battle his way back to the present through… wait, didn’t I write this sentence already? Well, Marvel did it first this time.
Anyway, Steve Rogers, the original Cap, makes it back and steps aside, much like Bruce, to become the new head of SHIELD, America’s “top cop” as it were, and is simply known as Captain Steve Rogers, leaving his patriotic moniker to Bucky.

Both instances marked permanent changes for the namesake heroes, changing the men behind the masks but without the actual carnage of leaving the original heroes buried and rotting. We achieve change without death, but what does this really mean for the characters involved?
Are we not allowed to see a mournful superhero? Would it jeopardize our concept of the traditional super hero comic to see an exhibition of emotion that wasn’t related to being a total crime-fighting, world-saving badass? Will the popularity of the originals versus the infusion of new blood only serve to briefly shake and reestablish the status quo? Can a hero ever stay dead, be mourned, be memorialized, and have the world move on?

If Marvel had any balls, they would test the waters with the F4 member who is about to bite it and mandate that he remain dead. I mean, Ares died in the Siege storyline when he was torn in half (literally) by the Sentry, who was then put down by Thor (lightning bolt to the head). Those two have been dead for a good six months or so now and I’m pretty sure they’re going to stay that way. I have hope that Marvel is learning it’s ok to kill. It’s ok to let some heroes reach their final rest (excluding Magneto and Jean Grey, of course). How long until other publishers follow suit?

In my story (that being Unlucky 7), when you’re dead, you stay dead. (just ask Wearing Hudsucker)

Any thoughts on this? Any answers to my queries? What’s your opinion? Just something to think about while you’re slowly being snowed in this winter.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Bat, The Cat, and the Breaker: Dissecting “The Dark Knight Rises”

In case you’ve missed the blurbs, it landed smack in the middle of the internet this past Wednesday that Christopher Nolan plans on using Bane and Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises – the 2012 “conclusion” to the revitalized Batman movie franchise.
Along with the character reveal landed the actors selected for those roles – Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, respectively.

Both of these pairs of choices are being received as a relatively mixed bag.

Bane, for those of you unfamiliar with the character, was born and raised in a South American prison. He was subject to a law within a corrupt government which required him to serve a life sentence in place of his father, a revolutionary who ran away from the country when he was convicted of treason.
Through his years of imprisonment, he became a world-class, ass-kicking tough-guy from constantly lifting weights and getting into prison fights as well as a super genius due to his constant study of the prison’s library.
Years later, he becomes “king” of his prison. His rule over the prisoners makes the power-sapped wardens volunteer him for testing of a new drug, Venom. This drug killed all other subjects but, due to his ability to take punishment, Bane gains the benefits without death; drastically increased superhuman strength. This leaves Venom as his only weakness, as his body depends on a dose every twelve hours to keep it from collapsing under the strain of catastrophically fatal withdrawal.
Bane first stepped in to the DC universe as “The Man who Broke the Bat” during the early-90s Knightfall storyline which left Bruce Wayne with a broken back (after Bane cracked him over his knee like a twig) and a psychotic Jean-Paul Valley in a souped-up Batsuit taking over for the injured Dark Knight. Of course, Bruce battles back, rehabs, and takes his city back from Valley who had defeated Bane in Bruce’s absence by separating Bane from his Venom supply (slashing a hose that gave him a constant supply from a pack on his back). Valley beat the living piss out of Bane, but left him alive (because, as Bruce had taught him, Batman should never kill).
Bane went from top-of-the-charts to B-list Villain to, of course, his notable stint as Poison Ivy’s borderline retarded bodyguard in the one big smirch on the Barman franchise’s record: 1997’s Joel Schumacker Debacle Batman and Robin.

This could make for some interesting plot. I wouldn’t doubt if there are shades of the Knightfall story within the script.
Will they change the background to fit Tom Hardy’s overtly British character, or will they make Tom Hardy speak with a British/Spanish/Portuguese accent to fit Bane? Either way, we know that CG will probably be used to create Bane’s ridiculously huge physique. I don’t care how much you people love Tom Hardy, he’s not that big, and no one in the world could ever get that big, I don’t care how much time they’ve been spending with MLB Physicians.

Then comes Anne Hathaway as Catwoman who, in the official WB press release, is referred to as Selena Kyle, in an effort to portray Catwoman as a company cuss word ever since Hally Barry went and shit all over it. Regardless of how the Brothers Warner wish to disguise it, it’s still Catwoman and it may still be a bit too soon to put the multiple Razzie-Award Winning candidate for worst movie of all time behind us. Hell, I read the comics and when someone mentions Catwoman, the first thing I think of is the poster for that movie. Sad, isn’t it?
Most of you will remember Ms. Kyle as she was portrayed in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns; a mousey secretary who is nearly murdered by her corrupt boss for snooping around in his private files, but is mysteriously resurrected by a bunch of alley cats (really?). She then cuts up a vinyl trenchcoat and rough-stiches together the Michelle Pfeiffer costume which dominated the minds of the Male 18-25 bracket (and beyond) for the next few years.
The comic book story is much more confusing yet infinitely more proper for a character often portrayed as the one constant love interest in Bruce Wayne’s life. We’ll cut to the chase and say that it’s not nearly as “supernatural” as Burton made it and Selena was a rather strong woman who fought back against adversity to become one of the best thieves in the world.

The prospect of seeing the lovely Ms. Hathaway don the leather of the Cat (I envision a costume reminiscent, if not dead on, with the latter-day comic book Selena) is something that causes many fanboys to shiver in antici… pation. Strictly on a visual basis, I’d call this a winning proposition.
Still other detractors of Anne’s acting skills thing she’s the wrong one for this job. I’m inclined to disagree. I think she’s got the chops and, more than that, she’s good at being believable, which is what Nolan’s Bat-stories have been about since this all began.

These two characters are looked upon by some as a poor decision for what Nolan swears will be the last entry in the Bat-Franchise which he will direct.

The whispers of the Johnny Depp Riddler and the Phillip-Seymour Hoffman Penguin had people on pins and needles for official word. While I am among the masses disappointed that neither of these fanboy fantasy castings took place, I can understand how neither character fits with Nolan’s overall vision of a (relatively) more realistic superhero scenario.

The Riddler, Johnny Depp or not, would have made for a more boring “conclusion” to the Nolan Years. A dark, evil, twisted, Johnny Depp Riddler would make the Nolan-verse into Batman vs. Saw. Riddler was all about the thinking-man’s death traps. I’m sure this would have been key and, as I just mentioned, Saw has been doing that for a grating six (SIX!) movies now. There won’t be any surprise twists and the plot will not snake. Batman fights death traps, wins. Batman finds Riddler, fights Riddler, wins. Credits. Sorry, Johnny.

The Penguin, while an extremely interesting character in the DC Universe, didn’t even play out well with a truncated origin story and Danny Devito behind him in Batman Returns. Yeah, the character was grotesque and had some awesome one-liners, but in the end, there were penguin rocket troops. Really, Tim? Really?
Phillip-Seymour Hoffman would do the darker nature of the character justice, but there is hardly enough time to establish him as the organized-crime kingpin that DC made him into via No Man’s Land (which was, truly, the first time the character became interesting since Burgess Meredeth quacked). Though, this is more plausible than the Riddler due to the Nolan-verse’s recent power vacuum in Gotham’s underworld (spoilers: Joker killed ALL THE BOSSES in The Dark Knight. Remember that shit? Yeah, you didn’t, did you?). The Penguin’s modern Mafioso persona would have been able to play right into that spot and fit right in with the “more real” Nolan-verse. Might not have been a bad movie, either. The only issue: Batman has taken on the mafia in the last two movies. Let’s see something different.

Other people have suggested different villains, such as Talia Al-Ghul, Ra’s’ daughter, which would bring a delightful symmetry to the movies, but again, Nolan is not one to repeat. The motives would be the same (burn down humanity), the random thugs would be similar (ninjas), and everything would drive toward an even more romantic story than the one Catwoman will probably bring. Also, Talia was not mentioned in the previous flicks and would almost be a stretch to believability if she suddenly showed up claiming to be the Daughter of the Demon’s Head.

At least one person suggested Black Mask, recent star of Batman RIP, building off of that story line, and exposing Thomas and Martha Wayne as careless sex fiends and social deviants to attempt to draw Bruce out and ruin the legacy of both him and Batman. My response: A wonderful idea for a year-long story arc, a terrible idea for a two-and-a-half hour long movie. Too much premise needs to be established and that leaves too little action.

Another one was Harley Quinn, which would be strictly off-limits due to the Joker association.
If you don’t think the studio is trying to avoid anything to do with the Joker, look at the fact that they killed Harvey Dent in the end of The Dark Knight. Why do that when a)Two-Face is awesome, b) the beginning of The Dark Knight proved that villains can continue to exist in the Nolan-verse (as opposed to being ruthlessly killed off in the Burton/Schumaker-verse) by having Cillian Murphy reprise Scarecrow for three or four minutes of screentime, and c) Aaron Eckhart was willing to do whatever they asked him to get even a bit part as Harvey in the third picture.
The news broke that Eckhart had been told by Nolan that Harvey was dead, even though he fell from a height that may not have killed him. Harvey’s origin was tied directly to the Joker and his presence in the sequel would remind people that the Joker was also left alive, hanging from the penthouse window of a half-constructed building, at the end of the last movie. Kill Harvey, no appearance. Joker’s legacy remains ambiguous, we move on to the next detective story. Bring Harley into the mix and you’re rubbing salted lemon juice into the Chelsea Grin wound Heath Ledger left behind.

Personally, I think Hush would have made an awesome villain, but he’s nothing without the grand conspiracy which surrounded his identity and nothing without the Riddler essentially behind it all. Not to mention the cavalcade of associated villains working, knowingly or not, in sync to make that arc quite possibly one of the best Bat-Stories of all time. It would be an Avengers Movie like feat to get that one up and running (considering that it included Superman as well) and would be a fanboy wet dream. At least for this particular nerd.

Other villains not mentioned would neither be strong enough to carry an entire movie nor would they fit the “no sci-fi” creedo of Nolan’s vision. Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Ventriloquist and Scarface, Clayface… none of them would work.

My conclusion is that Nolan has the right idea. A master thief and (essentially) a super genius on performance enhancers come in at slightly more realistic, not to mention action-based, than any of the others. He wants his franchise to go out with the same bang which heralded its arrival. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, but you watch the movies to see Batman whupping whole-sale ass. You read the comics for the mystery and the thrill of the page-turn. It’s this very principal which makes Hush and RIP two of the best story arcs, but not very fit for the silver screen. It’s also the reason that Nolan wants to leave the detective stories to the funny papers.

I’ve kept you long enough while nerding out. If you have any varying opinions, by all means, feel free to debate me. Just know that I have a PhD in Batman and a MFA in Joker Studies.

You’re damn right Joker Studies is a Fine Arts major.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Some Assembly Required

Thank you, Paramount Pictures.

Thank you for helping childhood dreams to come true in such incredibly awesome ways.

It’s not very often an entire studio gets that kind of praise from me. It’s not very often that said praise is pre-emptive to the completed project. But, if things keep going the way they are, that praise will be fully deserved. For the task of taking such a mammoth project and getting to the half-way point, they deserve a lot of credit. Most studios would have given up by now. Most studios would have had a true bomb by now. But, something in the cards is right with Paramount. They’re allowing their directors the freedom to do what they want while discussing with the intellectual property managers as to how exactly things need to go down to accomplish the end goal.

I know some of you may be skeptical. This is natural. Open yourself up to the clues around you and tell me it’s not going to be incredible.

Seeing Iron Man 2 made clear that Marvel Studios, with the help of Paramount, is really in this thing for the long haul.

The Avengers movie is going to happen and it’s going to be done well.

If you haven’t seen any of the Paramount/Marvel movies (Iron Man 1 & 2 or the Ed Norton Incredible Hulk) and you’re a comic book fan of any magnitude, shame on you. The Iron Man movies are both absolutely fantastic (Bidula’s Last Word on IM2 – 9/10) and The Incredible Hulk was a much better attempt than Ang Lee’s Y2K disaster.
Once, a friend and I were discussing what it would take to make a proper Avengers movie. I said they could never do it because it would take far too much effort and pliability on behalf of too many people. I told him, if they were to do it, the whole project would have to be under the same banner and be many movies long. I said that it would probably take five to seven years to actually accomplish. I also established three conditions which would make the perfect Avengers movie possible. They seemed unattainable at first.

1. Solid actors and directors would have to be signed to multiple movies and committed to the end project.
Done. Every single character who will make an appearance in the Avengers movie will be the same actor who portrayed them in their individual movies (except for whats-his-name that used to play War Machine but got Don Cheadle’d). Sam Jackson signed a ridiculous contract to appear in nine (count ‘em, nine) movies up to and through The Avengers (5/4/2012, mark your calendars) reprising his role as Nick Fury.
Other than Sammy J, Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr. are in. Ed Norton is in (as Banner/Hulk). Scarlett Johannson (Black Widow) is in. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are in (as Captain America and Thor, respectively).
And, for the behind the scenes staff of the Big Show? Producer: Jon Favreau. And, this one’s for the fanboys… Director: Joss Whedon. Paramount knows what they’re doing.

2. Schedule the movies for release in an order that makes sense to the nerds on the street while making sure it makes sense to the general audiences at the same time.
Done. Iron Man lead up to the Hulk lead up to Iron Man 2 which leads into Thor which will, more than likely, lead in to Captain America: The First Avenger. They’re also exposing more of S.H.I.E.L.D. and what they are as things move along.
The tempo at which they’re introducing new characters and sub-plots are perfectly suited for movie viewers and will (hopefully) allow them to follow the new continuity with the knowledge of a passable comics fan if not the outright fervor of a full-scale nerd.
That’s right, folks. Hollywood is turning you all into comic book geeks. Mwa ha ha.

3. Do right by the fans.
Done. At least, in this reader’s opinion. Sure, it’s not the same stuff verbatim, but you have to respect the fact that they’re crafting a whole new universe on film and that they’re dedicated to the idea that the Avengers films are, indeed, their own universe. They’re trying to keep them as close to 616 as possible without needing to make a 3+ hour movie. Some details you just have to lose.
Look at this: A StarkTech logo on a cryo-tube full of the super-soldier serum that made Captain America in the Hulk movie. That’s two different shout outs in one plot-relevant easter egg. Expertly done. Also, the other Cap shout out in Iron Man 2 was pretty damn funny. I won’t spoil it for you.
Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. being used as sort of a binding agent through everything is also great. It keeps the movies flowing toward that ultimate goal without stifling the individual movies with cross-contamination. Yes, Tony Stark did appear in the after-credits of the Incredible Hulk and yes, M****** (or T**** H*****) did appear in the after-credits of Iron Man 2, but it’s not overbearing. It’s just oil to keep that big machine moving toward the finish line.

I am not here to guarantee the success of the Avengers movie, but things are certainly looking up. They’re taking their time and they’re doing it right the whole way around.

For once, I am optimistic about what Hollywood’s got cooking.

Here’s hoping they don’t fuck it all up in a few months.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Mouse and the Wolverine

As many of you know, I am a comic book geek.
Though I haven’t been able to buy actual comic books in quite some time, I read all of the comic book trade magazines, keep up-to-date with collected editions and trade paperbacks, and check Wiki almost every day for storyline updates.

Today, I’m here to do the obvious. I’m here to sound off on the Disney-Marvel Buyout.

At first thought, I believed that this was a sign of the apocalypse. I thought that, soon after it was announced, the sky would go black and fire and brimstone would start raining from the sky. Quickly, I came to terms with my life and any regrets and braced myself for death. Surprisingly, the world did not end.

…at least, our world didn’t end.

Immediately upon learning the news, friends (most of them just as loyal as readers) were inundating my cell phone with texts, sending me messages on Facebook, wondering what my reaction – the reaction of the average adult comic book geek – exactly was to the earth-shattering news that Marvel had sold out to Disney.
When first I heard, sitting in my cube at work, I muttered a quick line of curses which was certainly NSFW, and immediately began to think about how horrible this might all be.
Could this purchase indeed mark the end of all that decades worth of True Believers, raised on stories told while sitting on Uncle Stan’s knee, hold dear? Will this new ownership turn the darker, grittier Marvel universe into something more akin to the All-American nature of their amusement parks? Will they limit the blood, the violence, the death, the incredibly strange and amazingly tragic twists which lend themselves so well to the creation of new Marvel characters? Will the intrusion of the Big D shake the Marvel Universe to its core?

Like the cover of the Good Book says, Don’t Panic.

Sure, the fanboy in me panicked, immediately picturing the “cleaning up” of the Marvel image and all of the changes that it would represent.
Daredevil not sleeping around, Spider-Man not talking smack on people, Wolverine having some kind of strange twist where suddenly his adamantium claws are replaced by safe, soft foam rubber… What of the body count? What of the honest brutality of being a superhero that seems to come more readily to Marvel books than it ever did to DC (except with Batman)? I thought, instantly, that this would pussify Marvel and turn what was once an incredible string of stories unafraid of killing characters or drastically altering the landscape with things like Civil War and Dark Reign into nothing better than Archie comics.

Then, I realized that this would be impossible. Why? For the same reason the Big Nasty D is bringing them into their stock portfolio in the first place. Money. Money, money, money.

So many projects are in the works. Pens have been put to paper, films have been green-lighted, things are in production or being edited or even in-the-can. Why would you pass up all of that licensing money to which Marvel was already entitled? I mean, you have one of the Big Two comic book companies with known and beloved properties that has a fully-owned subsidiary producing films on its own and distributing through a major picture house. You might as well be printing your own money at that point.
“Oh,” some of you might say, “But, you know that’s not to stop them from messing up any future projects. They’re going to commit travesties on the screen by cleaning up the movies and making them more family friendly.”
Nay, I say to you, NAY!
One thing that is almost universal fact is the rabid angriness of the fanboy (and fangirl) mob. Fanboys can make or break a comic book movie box office. If one fanboy finds out that something is amiss, they’re going to cry foul. Disney has got to know, just from the knee-jerk reaction of fandom at large (as mentioned above through my personal experience), that if they allow the over-arching “morals” or bullshit “vision” of the corporation to tear down that which people find sacred, they’re going to have boycotts and fan riots on their hands. One ill-timed review from aintitcoolnews and their whole purchase just made itself worthless.

Thankfully, the Avengers movie is safe (at latest report). Marvel Studios is still going about making Iron Man 2, Thor, and The First Avenger: Captain America as planned. The forthcoming Avengers movie is still on track to be done in the Mighty Marvel Manner. Whatever comes after that may very well be done as a Douchy Disney Debacle.

Seriously, though, I don’t think this is going to affect much of the Marvel Universe. As stated, Disney is not stupid. They’re not going to change the way the House of Ideas does things for the sake of a better image. There would be too many negatives in the fan community and they don’t want to make waves. Screwing with the comics will screw with Disney’s bottom line. Like I said, boycotts and fan riots. Disney does not want.
Probably the only tangible effect of this is going to be a presence of Marvel characters at Disney theme parks. Couldn’t be that bad of a thing, really, and that would probably be the only place that things would be “toned down”.

If you listen to the reports, Disney really did what they did to try to monopolize the youth entertainment market. They’ve already got the girls on lock with such horrible detritus as the Jonas Brothers and High School Musical, not to mention the Princesses. Now, they want to get the boys interested in what they’re doing. If they can throw a bunch of Marvel cartoons on the Disney Channel, maybe get a couple of new ones under their thrall, then they’ll have that shit on lock for sure.

I’m not trying to justify, trust me. I’m as mad as the next guy that Marvel sold. But, it’s not the End of Days. It’s just a change of hands. Even if nothing good comes of this, I don’t think anything incredibly horrible will, either. Take a wait-and-see approach to this, my fellow nerds. Wait until they start fucking things up to hit the panic button. Until then, realize that things will probably be ok and that the little Franklin Richards of the world will sleep comfortably in their beds dreaming of Clobberin’ Time and cutting someone up, bub.

Excelsior!

—end transmission—