Tag Archives: Batman
It’s the next instalment of my continuing series on comic book moustaches in honor of Movember! This week, it happens to be all DC again.
The greatest crime fighter in Gotham City who doesn’t wear a cape and/or mask. He’s been in comics as long as Batman has, and he has a trusty sidekick too – His luscious moustache. It commands respect from all who see it, and he used it’s thick bristles to help him sweep the corrupt police force clean. It’s also one of many Mos that have helped the caped crusader. Alfred is also best known with a pencil thin stache, and Bruce Wayne’s own father is often seen with a thick soup strainer.
Old Bruce Wayne
Speaking of Master Bruce, in the classic mini-series The Dark Knight Returns he grew his own food catcher. Obviously inspired by all the great moustaches around him, he wore one with pride at the beginning of the series. Unfortunately, it served as a bushy symbol of his cozy retirement. It was just too comfortable. So, when he decided to get back into the cape and cowl, he tragically shaved off his Just-For-Men-ed facial hair. And, sure, he went on some more adventures. Yeah, he beat up Superman. But, he never looked as smooth again.
Finally, this gentleman does not help the mustachioed cause. His death is the opening scene of the classic comic book series Watchmen. As his surprised, mouth browed face plummets to the pavement below, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. However, the more you learn about him, the more you realize he might just deserve the fate he gets. Pre-Stache, he tries to rape one of his teammates. Post-Stache, he revels in burning people alive in Vietnam, he kills a woman who is pregnant with his child, and is just generally a big dick. But, this is arguably the greatest comic series ever written, by arguably the greatest writer the medium has ever known, felt the need to include a moustache as the only example of facial hair we see. Thus, the stache is arguably the greatest piece of facial hair the world has ever known. I rest my case.
Graham Becksted is a big fan of moustaches. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 94th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
As mentioned in a previous column of mine, this weekend saw the release of one of the bigger blockbusters of the year – Man of Steel. Ultimately, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. But, there were definitely some serious flaws in it. Before I get into those, here’s your obligatory SPOILER warning. I’m going to be covering some big plot points from here on out, so stop now if you want to stay pure.
A lot has been made of Superman’s lack of interest in preventing the destruction of Smallville and Metropolis. He warns people to stay inside, and then proceeds to punch bad guys through buildings. He flies off to stop a machine in the middle of an ocean, while its sister machine is destroying a big city filled with people. And then, he does the thing that Superman is never supposed to do, he kills the bad guy. I think we can all agree that these are not the actions of the 75 year old comic book character Superman. But, these things have already been dissected by tons of other bloggers most of whom are way smarter than me.
I’m going to focus on two things that bugged me through the entire movie, but I haven’t seen discussed as much. First off, the early scenes on Krypton seem like something out of a live action Heavy Metal movie. (Heavy Metal being the adult comic book anthology magazine.) Everyone’s dialogue is stilted and self-serious. Superman’s dad, Jor-El, has a pet dragon that he flies home on even though everyone else is zooming around in hover cars and spaceships. And, when Zod and his buddies are caught, they are sent to the phantom zone in weird penis pods.
Okay, so that bugged me, but it was a different take that doesn’t mess with what makes Superman who he is. All you really need from Krypton is that it blows up and baby Superman is sent to Earth. Anything beyond that is generally up to the teller as far as I’m concerned. But, one of the things you don’t mess with is the Lois/Superman dynamic. It’s part of what makes the character appealing.
Up until 1994, one of the defining characteristics of Superman was the odd love triangle he was in. Clark Kent loves Lois Lane, Lois doesn’t give him the time of day because she’s pining over Superman, and Superman is Clark Kent but can’t reveal his identity to her. Man of Steel throws all of that out without a second glance. It’s done so offhandedly that I didn’t believe it was actually happening.
The second time Lois and Clark actually interact, he saves her life and she sees his face. I kept thinking ‘how are they going to wipe her memory?’ But it never happened. For the rest of the movie she is fully aware of who he is. I don’t get it. Why get rid of that perfect bit of romantic tension without even touching it?
I think in trying to make Superman as gritty as Batman they forgot that gritty doesn’t work with Superman. When you get right down to it, not many people would actually want to be Batman. Sure he’s a billionaire, but he’s an orphan who runs around at night beating up escaped mental patients. (They’re not in Arkham Asylum for nothing.) Grit works with Batman because he’s all about suffering. Superman, on the other hand, who wouldn’t want to be him? He’s a pretty regular guy, who also happens to be able to do anything. He’s all about hope. He represents the best in everyone. Grit doesn’t work with him, because it just doesn’t stick. The main difference between the two characters comes down to this: Batman feels like he has to be a superhero to stop what happened to him from happening to anyone else; Superman chooses to be a superhero because he wants to help people and bring them hope and joy.
Man of Steel was distinctly lacking in both hope and joy.
Graham Becksted is more of a Man of Stool. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 81st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Supervillains are almost as important to superhero books as the superheroes. Writers and artists have to spend nearly as much time making the bad guys interesting as they do the heroes. The best villains elevate the heroes to new highs and lows. Think of Green Goblin, The Joker, Magneto, and Lex Luthor. In many ways, they’re more interesting than the do-gooders who fight them. The best villains cause enough havoc on their own, so why do filmmakers feel the need to continually pair them up?
This all stems from the recent rumors that Paul Giamatti is going to play Rhino in Amazing Spider-Man 2. This comes after it was announced that Jaime Foxx will be playing Electro. Now, in the comics there have been entire story-arcs built around each of these characters individually. When done well, they can provide Spider-Man with more than enough to do in a 2 hour movie. At least as much as the Lizard did, anyway.
Also, these are two fantastic actors. Why waste their talents by giving them each half a movie to work with? How about one movie where Jaime Foxx is the villain and one movie where Paul Giamatti is the villain? Is that really so much to ask?
Let’s look at the precedent set by the previous Spider-Man films. In the first one, we have a somewhat subpar Green Goblin. An interesting performance by Willem Dafoe is marred by an awful costume. They learn from this and present a stripped down take on Doctor Octopus for the second one. That’s right, one villain is still enough to keep Peter Parker busy. Deciding to go out with a bang, Sam Raimi gives us three villains for his last and, without a doubt worst, Spider-Man movie. Venom, Sandman and another Green Goblin give the movie a distinct flavour of ADD and none of them are given the attention that they deserve. An entire trilogy could be devoted to the Venom story on its own, but instead we get Topher Grace moping his way through a third of a movie.
The Nolan Batman run provides an interesting case counterpoint to this theory. With their first outing, Batman Begins, Scarecrow is introduced as the main villain, but is quickly revealed to be just a warmup for Ra’s Al Ghul. They’re both just interested in money, so I don’t see why one would be a greater threat than the other. Anyway, The Dark Knight features The Joker and Two-Face, another double bill of villainy, but Two-Face really only shows up in the last half-hour and he’s just a pawn of The Joker. The Dark Knight Rises has Bane, Catwoman, and (spoiler alert!) Talia Al Ghul. Bane is great until he’s revealed to be little more than a henchman for Talia, and Catwoman becomes Batman’s ally before you can blink. So, all have multiple villains, but none are equal threat levels to divide The Caped Crusader’s attention.
This is an interesting take that Amazing Spider-Man 2 might take, but I have a hard time imagining Electro or Rhino being a warm up for the other. They’re both mainly interested in money, and have never shown much interest in being a big threat to the city or beyond. Neither are random murderers, or psychos. In fact, they’re both kind of dumb. Which makes me worried that there will be a third villain who’s masterminding the whole thing. And, we all know what happened the last time we had a Spider-Man movie with three bad guys.
Graham Becksted is open to any other examples where multiple villains in a superhero movie worked. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 72nd follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
The third Batman film by Christopher Nolan is simply… more awesomeness. There’s so much awesomeness that it’s almost 3 hours long and your bladder may not be able to handle it.
Catwoman in this film is badass. Anne Hathaway plays a femme fatale who can handle her own business but at the same time is sometimes conflicted about her choices. She kicks a lot of people in the face and blows stuff up (there is a lot of both in this film). Bane is the central villain and is more of a terrorist/revolutionary/mastermind than a beefy muscle dude. And then the cast of Inception shows up. Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, a rich chick. Bruce Wayne’s butler suggests that he move on from his dead ex-lover and get himself a piece of that billionaire philanthropist booty. (Ok so I’m describing the plot very loosely here.) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Blake, one of the good guy cops. Here’s a picture of him with a gun making a pouty face.
- Lots of action sequences
- Lots of stuff blowing up
- Crazy plot twists
- Batman gets new toys
- Lots of thematic elements. Is it right to create heroes out of false idols (Harvey Dent)? Does Bruce Wayne need to get out of the house more?
- Lots of eye shadow whenever Batman has his mask on
So go watch it! But go to the bathroom first.
This was back when cartoons were badass. No teens/tweens being “cool”. No moralizing lessons. I like my cartoons dark and violent ok? So check out the opening to Batman TAS… it’s one of the best intros of all time.
Gotta start somewhere (inspired by THIS article).
I know I just did a piece on comic book TV shows but today I got a great idea for a show. It’s so perfect that I think I can fill a whole column with it. It’s such a great idea that I feel like I should probably charge for it. In fact, I just thought of another! I need to get a job with a TV network. Seriously.
There seems to be a few types of shows that always survive no matter how many copycats are on the air. Doctors, lawyers, and police officers always seem to have a place on TV unless they’re singing. Daytime talk shows too, but those are harder to combine with comic books. Powers is already being turned into a TV show, so that takes that off the board. But, there’s another Police/Superheroes comic book that I think could make for a great TV show.
Gotham Central (GC). This was a series by two of the best writers working in comics today – Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker. It was about cops working the beat in Gotham City. While Powers is about cops, who may or may not have powers themselves, working in a city where superpowers are illegal, GC is about regular joe cops solving crimes in the wake of the Batman. The comic lasted for 40 issues, but introduced and developed quite a few non-powered police officers. It could have done in one crime stories and arcs that follow the detectives as they track down supervillains. Batman and Robin could make cameos and Commissioner Gordon could star.
No brainer, right? I think if they made it gritty like NYPD Blue, and not campy like Birds Of Prey, it could seriously last for a long time. I think that’s the real secret. Treat it seriously, and the audience will treat it seriously. If the creators don’t respect it, how can it last?
Secondly – Daredevil. A superhero who’s secret identity is a blind lawyer. Oh my God, it’s like the perfect superhero TV show. Every week there would be a new case. Matt Murdock would defend the sceptical defendant in court while Daredevil would prowl the streets looking for proof that his client was innocent. Throughout the seasons he could find more and more links between organized crime and respected citizen Wilson Fisk. Eventually he would discover that Fisk was also the Kingpin of crime and he would keep trying to find ways to bring him down.
For comic relief add Foggy Nelson, Matt’s bumbling attorney sidekick. For moral support there’s Ben Urich, a reporter at the local newspaper. And for a love interest, the somewhat unstable firm secretary – Karen Page. It seems like the perfect combination of typical law drama and superhero action. Argh! I would pay to see this.
How could those shows not last!? I think you should really start a petition to make me the show runner of one or more of these fine programs. I would certainly not stand in your way.
Graham Becksted is an idea machine for comic book to TV show ideas. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 52nd follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
It was recently announced that there’s going to be a pilot for a Green Arrow live-action TV series. In all likelihood, it’ll probably end up like that much maligned Wonder Woman pilot – relegated to the bootleg stalls of comic conventions. But why?
Superhero comics would seem to be just about the perfect source material for TV shows. They’re already serialized and they all end on a cliff hanger. There’s a built-in audience, and a whole bunch of marketing tie-ins. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some very successful examples – three immediately spring to mind the Adam West Batman, the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman, and Smallville. But the first two were unabashedly campy and probably would not fly on network TV today. I haven’t seen much Smallville, but I know they steered away from the tried and true parts of the comic book continuity for years and years. And, when superheroes did start showing up on the show they’re costumes were pretty ridiculous.
Also, there were many many years between these successes. Batman ended in 1969 and Wonder Woman started in 1975. Smallville started in 2001, almost thirty years later. (I can’t think of any other successful live action superhero shows, but if you can let me know.) There have been other attempts, but none that I would call a success.
Green Hornet – 1 season, 26 episodes. The Flash – 1 season, 22 episodes. Birds of Prey – 1 season, 14 episodes. Justice League – 1 pilot.
Ok, so I thought of a couple more successes. The Incredible Hulk and Lois and Clark. So, that puts us at about one success a decade. I mean, considering the source material, it shouldn’t be this hard. Allow me to present some easy, totally, like, nothing-but-net ideas.
Batman, but in a smallville-ish way. Have a young (early twenties) Bruce Wayne learning to be Batman in Gotham. Very Batman: Year One. Not too many supervillains, at least not at first. Concentrate on drug dealers, and gangsters. The supporting cast could be Alfred, Lieutenant Jim Gordon, and D.A. Harvey Dent. Follow in the realistic style of the Christopher Nolan movies, and your set! I would watch that every week! I mean, A-Plots would be Batman kicking ass, and the B-Plots could be Bruce navigating the Wayne corporation.
Punisher. I really don’t think I even need to say more. Again, it would be kind of gritty, but have more War Journal style narration. Again, more gangsters than supervillains, but I think it would be cool. Every episode, he should get his ass kicked and then come back and win in the last ten minutes. I’m cheating a little with this one since Marvel actually is producing a Punisher TV series. I just hope they have learned their lesson from the three Punisher movies.
Finally, how about something a little lighter. Captain Marvel (although, I guess they’d have to call it Shazam or something ‘cause of the copyright issues.) A little boy turns into a Superman-eque superhero, but retains his boyish mind and personality. It would be like Super Big! He also has a fantastic assortment of bizarre supervillains – like a super intelligent caterpillar and a weird bald doctor
Maybe I’m crazy, but I think those are some pretty solid ideas for TV shows. And, I don’t think they’d be too expensive or difficult to make either. (Okay, maybe Captain Marvel could be a little expensive but I think it would be worth it.) What do you think? Do I have something here?
Graham Becksted’s a future TV executive so you should be nice to him. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 51st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Marvel recently announced that the next in a long line of Spider-Man cartoons. In the last ten years there have been three different series, and Ultimate Spider-Man will be the next. Based on the Brian Michael Bendis modern retelling of the character’s history, it will begin airing on Disney XD in the summer. I’m really looking forward to watching this if only for the crew attached. First of all, Bendis is heavily involved. Second, most of the other main writers/producers are best known for comic book work (Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Steven Seagle and Duncan Rouleau). And finally, the other big brain on the show was one of the creators of the Batman Animated Series – Paul Dini.
That Batman show was part of a great superhero cartoon renaissance of the 90s. Animation standards went up, and so did writing quality. Batman, Spider-Man, and The X-Men cartoons all started within a few years of each other were all cartoons that could be enjoyed by kids and grown-ups alike. The Marvel ones in particular introduced storylines that would run through multiple episodes and even season long arcs. The X-Men cartoon was can’t miss TV for me as I had to know what was going to happen next.
Following in Batman’s footsteps, DC launched a whole line of cartoons in the same style. First there was Superman, then Superman and Batman, and finally the Justice League. The Justice League cartoon is the only Saturday morning cartoon I watched with any regularity since defeating the horrors of puberty. It has multi-episode arcs, complicated character relationships, and consequences that last beyond the closing credits. The third and fourth seasons took the show to a new level with a rotating cast of more obscure characters. When kids start hunting for action figures of Vixen (a member of the crappy as they sound Detroit Justice League) and The Question (Steve Ditko’s Ayn Rand inspired faceless detective) you know a show’s doing something right.
Marvel recently followed in a similar path with Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I haven’t followed that show quite as closely, but I really enjoyed what I saw. It had the same vibe of “absolutely anyone can turn up in any episode”, and it definitely had running plot lines keeping a sense of consistency. A second season has been announced but has yet to air. Hopefully it can keep the good times rolling for Marvel’s cartoons.
The potential for great cartoons is one of the best things to come from the Disney purchase of Marvel. DC has had Warner Bros backing for their cartoons for years and their cartoons have really thrived with that connection. I think that’s a pretty good sign, as Marvel has had trouble making consistently good cartoons in the last decade or so.
Graham Becksted knows more about cartoons than most 26 year olds should. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 51st follower, he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Superhero origins are funny things. They define how a character will be portrayed for the rest of their run. When done well, they can set up a character for hundreds of great stories, but if they’re done poorly they can be an anchor that drags the whole series down. The best origin story is probably that of Batman. A boy watches his parents get gunned down and vows to never let that happen to anyone else again. He uses his vast wealth to train his body and mind to become the perfect crime fighting machine. Everything you need to know about the character is right there in the origin. He’s got a dark past, he’s a perfectionist, and he’ll do whatever it takes to stop criminals. Over the years some details have changed, like who killed his parents and how he trained, but the basic details stay the same. Even when he got all campy in the 60s, they stayed true to the basics.
Wonder Woman is a different story. Her origins have always been a bit more vague. Initially, she was just the best of the amazons and she won the right to take Steve Trevor back to America and help fight the Nazis. So, from that we know that she’s tough and likes adventure. It doesn’t give us much to go on. Eventually, they changed it so that she was imbued with the powers of some of the Greek gods. Then, she was the daughter of the original Wonder Woman who fought with America in World War 2. Then she was an ambassador from the Amazons to bring peace to the outside world. The problem is that when you get right down to it, she’s a hard character to pin down. Every writer who takes over the book seems to have a different idea of who the character is and what her motivations are. With the launch of DC’s “New 52” they’ve altered her origin yet again. Now she is the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta (the leader of the Amazons).
After the origin, there comes a period of setting the basic framework for what the character’s life is like. Batman runs Wayne Enterprises, but mainly spends his time fighting crime. He’s rich, has a butler, and a propensity for picking up young boys. Superman was raised on a farm, is modest, works as a reporter, and feels it’s his duty to help out. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, has had a million different jobs, and lifestyles. She’s worked for the army, she’s been an ambassador, she lost her powers and learned kung-fu, and she’s been a secret agent. Currently, her stories are taking on more of a horror twist, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
What the character needs is for a writer and artist team to take over the character and define her. Set her origin in stone. Take the most iconic aspects of her (lasso, tiara, invisible jet) and make them integral to who she is. Properly set out exactly what her powers are and what their limits are. I mean, if she can fly on her own why does she need a jet? Once details like that get hammered out she can finally have a chance at becoming as famous as the other big two at DC.