Tag Archives: DC

Lesser Known Canadian Superheroes

Happy Canada Day! This is the first time that I can recall this most prestigious of days falling on a Tuesday and thus allowing me to write about it. Not that I’m actually going to write about Canada Day. I don’t actually know that much about it, except that it gives us an opportunity to be unabashedly patriotic and shoot fireworks. Oh, we also get the day off work which I’m sure plays into the whole patriotism thing. What I will write about are some of my favourite Canadian superheroes. (more…)

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The Collected Comics Conundrum

I’m a total Marvel zombie so you might want to take that into consideration while reading this week’s Grumble. This isn’t to say that I don’t like DC comics, or any of the other companies. In fact, there are some DC titles in particular that I’ve been very interested in at various times. For instance, I was very interested in the Green Lantern Blackest Night storyline. In fact, I was so interested that I went back and got a bunch of stories leading up to it, including Green Lantern Rebirth and the Sinestro Corps War. While they weren’t my favorite comics, they were certainly entertaining and full of good ideas. (more…)

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Enough With The Wonder Woman Grumbling

When the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was announced, most people there seemed to be an equal mix of excitement and indifference. Those who had heard of the somewhat characters before were stoked that this eclectic group would get the big-screen Avengers treatment. Those who hadn’t heard of them uttered a dismissive “who?” But, somewhere between those two extremes, was another group that could muster only disdain. They were disappointed, not unjustly, that a movie starring a space faring, gun-toting, easily agitated racoon would be made before one starring Wonder Woman.

Like I said, I don’t disagree. But, it’s not like DC hasn’t tried. Joel Silver (producer of the Matrix trilogy, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon) spent years trying to get a movie off the ground. He hired Joss Whedon to work on a script, and even purchased a World War 2 set story from another writer. None of it took off.

Conspiracy theories on this topic abound. One of the most commonly cited “facts” is that Hollywood producers don’t believe female action heroes lead to blockbusters. And while I’m sure there are some people out there who might think that, I don’t think it’s prevalent enough that it would stop them from making the movie. While Silver had the rights (the fact that tried to get this movie made alone should dispel this theory) there were two Tomb Raider movies, a slew of Resident Evil and Underworld flicks, Kill Bill(s), Catwoman, Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet, Elektra, etc., etc. Clearly, Hollywood has an appetite for making action movies with female leads.

The real problem, I think, is that DC hasn’t been in control of its filmmaking destiny until recently. They’ve been owned by Time-Warner for many years, but that company tended to keep it’s comic division and movie division pretty separate. Marvel, on the other hand, has been able to be intimately involved in their most successful franchise. DC has consistently brought in outsiders to write and direct their movies, Marvel has kept their creative people in the loop on all of their productions. I mean, who better than the people who have guided the characters in their native format for years to help bring them to the big screen? If DC asked Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Brian Azzarello and Phil Jimenez to brainstorm Wonder Woman movie ideas I don’t think you’d get just one great movie idea – you’d get an entire franchise.

Last week, Warner Bros. made a surprise announcement. Not only did they reveal that Wonder Woman will be in the Superman Vs. Batman movie, they also revealed who would be playing her – Gal Gadot from the Fast and the Furious movies. While there was the typical Internet backlash as there always seems to be when someone is cast as a famous character (see Daniel Craig as James Bond, Heath Ledger as The Joker, and most recently Ben Affleck as Batfleck) there was another group that was ticked off for a much stupider reason. The very first tweet that I read about this casting announcement was from someone who was complaining that Wonder Woman’s first big screen appearance won’t be in her own movie. There’s just no pleasing some people!

First, they’re unhappy that Wonder Woman hasn’t appeared in a movie, now they’re unhappy that she isn’t the star of the movie, next I’m sure they’ll be complaining that she doesn’t immediately kill Batman and Superman and take over the world. Wonder Woman, as I’ve discussed before, is a really hard character to nail down. Everyone knows what makes a great Batman movie – he’s a dark knight. Superman is a big, blue boyscout. Wonder Woman is… well… Wonder Woman. She’s gone through more character changes than any other superhero that I can think of. Within a few years, she went from an ambassador, to the Goddess of Truth, to a secret agent. With that in mind, I think it makes a lot of sense that DC film people want to test the waters with their version of the character before they throw a ton of money at a feature-length Wonder Woman story.

Graham Becksted is eagerly waiting for Gadot. 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.

 

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The ReReader

Sorry about missing last week. It’s been a busy time for me, not least because of a big move. One of the unintended perks of packing up is that I got to go through a lot of my trade paperbacks. It also has put a bit of a dent in my disposable income. Add those two together and you get me rereading some of my old books.

That is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve had a hard enough time keeping up with my monthly new comics, never mind trying to re-read old favorites. With a lighter new reading load, here are a few of the things I’m going to reread in the near future:

Preacher: This series lasted from the mid-nineties to the early 2000s, and introduced Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon as a superstar creative team. It lasted for 66 issues and told the story of a preacher who is questioning his faith and gains the power of the word of God. Meaning, if he chooses, he can make anyone do anything he says. It’s ultra-violent, ultra-hilarious, and ultra-thought provoking. Unfortunately, I can barely remember what happens. In the last few years, though, I have bought the entire series in hardcover and now I can rediscover what I loved about it.

Captain Marvel: As I have discussed here before, I love the DC comics character Captain Marvel. Actually, that’s not quite right. Captain Marvel was purchased by DC in the seventies, but prior to that he was published by Fawcett comics. Those early days of the character are what I am truly enamoured with. The later DC stuff is a lot more kiddie. Back in his early days, he was a lot more weird. I was able to read some of an archive collection of those stories at the library a couple of years ago. It was revelatory! In the past few years, I’ve been able to find a few different Captain Marvel archive collections. Again, though, I’ve never had time to properly enjoy them. They are pretty close to the top of my list as far as my reading list.

X-Factor: This X-Men spinoff has always been about a team that works for one group or another. In its first incarnation, the original five X-Men worked together seemingly to hunt down other mutants. Actually, they were trying to save and train them as Professor X would have wanted. Then, after about 70 issues, the series became about a new team that actively worked for the government. More recently, the series restarted and became about a group of mutant private investigators. Peter David has written the series through a lot of its most memorable stretches including the entirety of this private investigator arc. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of this series, and I’ve got the almost twenty trade paperbacks that it lasted. Even with it coming to an end, they are starting the series anew as a team of corporate sponsored superheroes. David will be writing again, and Gambit will be on the team! All very exciting stuff.

As I go through these old stories, I’m sure I’ll have more to say. For now, though, I’m just looking forward to rereading some of my favorite comics.

Graham Becksted is enjoying being cheap. 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 91st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.

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Wonder Woman > Super Man

Evening all

Something a bit different this week. Haven’t had time to come up with a topic worth writing about lately, what with all the preparation for jumping continents and what-not but apparently I’ve had time to piss about in Photoshop. Enjoy!

Has there ever been a story about Wonder Woman losing her powers? If not, this is probably why.

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Convoluted Continuity

The Marvel and DC comic book universes provide something that most other pop culture properties don’t.  They have been in production continuously since the 1930s.  Arguably, this is one storyline that stretches back as far as 75 years.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have contributed to these stories.  And, those contributions have impacted the characters.  This is a pretty unique state of affairs that offers some interesting possibilities and challenges.

Two of the challenges that are forever linked are these: How do you avoid getting bogged down in decades of continuity, and how do you ensure that new readers aren’t scared off by all the story that has gone before.  Marvel’s solution has been to maintain one solid line, with occasional, individual, in continuity retcons and reboots.  For instance, when Peter Parker made a deal with the devil to erase his marriage from history.  Or, when The Scarlet Witch used her power to erase most mutants from existence. These tend to be quick bumps in the road that are easily explained.  Other changes that don’t go over as well, say Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn hooking up and having babies, are ignored or retconned away.

DC, on the other hand, has a tendency to change EVERYTHING.  Let me try to explain this using The Flash, since he’s an important piece in a lot of these changes.  In the Golden Age (30s and 40s), The Flash was a guy named Jay Garrick.  He wore a little metal helmet and solved crimes and stuff.  They stopped publishing his book in the early 50s.  In the mid-50s, they started fresh with a brand new Flash – Barry Allen.  This one read comic books about Jay Garrick that partly inspired him.  It turns out, though, that Jay and the rest of the 40s superheroes actually exist on a parallel Earth!  Jay and Barry can cross over from one Earth to the other and hang out.  This eventually led to a whole multiverse of Earths.  There was an Earth devoted entirely to Captain Marvel and his family.  There’s another one where the heroes are evil, and Lex Luthor is the only good guy.

Through the 60s and 70s, Barry and his sidekick Kid Flash (AKA Wally West) had many adventures.  Barry married Wally’s aunt, who later died, and then was sent back in time as an infant, and, well, yeah.  Complicated.  In an effort to simplify all the bizarre continuity weirdness that had gone on, DC had a Crisis On Infinite Earths.  This lead to Barry sacrificing himself and all the Earths collapsing into one.  Barry stayed dead, for the most part, and Wally became The Flash.  This lasted for a good twenty years or so, until Wally left this reality and was replaced by Barry’s grandson from the future, Bart.  But, the audience didn’t like Bart much, so he was killed off and Wally returned.  Except now he had two super-powered kids to raise.  Then Bart and Barry came back to life, and once again I’m cross-eyed.

The New 52 reboot happened last year in another effort to clear some of this stuff up.  So, now Barry’s the Flash again and there’s another Earth where Jay is the Flash.  So far so good.  Bart also exists, and may or may not still be Barry’s grandson from the future, but there’s no sign of poor old Wally.

Okay, so did you follow that?  Pretty messy stuff.  And, it’s all in an effort to keep things easy to follow.  And, so long as you get one issue at a time, or follow a book from one month to the next, you should be fine.  The thing is, so much in comics these days is about the collected editions.  Trade paperbacks and hardcovers.  If you buy a Flash collection from ten years ago, it’s going to be a completely different character in a completely different world than the one that appears in the monthlies.  If you get one from ten years before that, you’ll have a whole new set of rules.

The long and short of what I’m trying to get at here is that in their efforts to make their universe less bogged down in continuity, they have managed to make it confusing.  From decade to decade, it’s hard to tell what stories from the past actually count and what don’t.

Graham Becksted didn’t mention the San Diego Comic Con once.  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 68th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.

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Canadian Artist Day!

Welcome back faithful readers.  This week, I’d like to make a return to my topic of choice: Comic Books.  I’m actually writing this on the Monday of one of the rarest of treats, a long weekend.  Not just any long weekend, though.  It is the day after the birth of my home country – Canada.  In honour of Canada day I will be presenting to you a list of 4 of my favorite Canadian comic book artists.  The Great White North is the home to quite a few of the greatest mainstream artists in the comic book field.

1.)    Chris Bachalo

To start with, I’m going to go with Mr. Chris Bachalo.  I’m not sure if he counts, since according to his Wikipedia page he was raised in the U.S.  But, he was born here, so he counts in my book.  Also, he’s one of the most interesting artists to work consistently in the Marvel and DC universes.  It’s sort of a graffiti style mixed with a Bruce Timm animation style.  It’s very unique and is instantly recognizable.  He made his name on a mini-series featuring the character of Death from the Sandman series.  His profile was further raised when he co-created the X-Men spinoff Generation X.  Recently he’s done some great work on Spider-Man and New Avengers.  He’s actually one of the few artists that I would consider reading regardless of the writer.

2.)    Kaare Andrews

I just realized that the rest of the list features artists who are also known for their writing.  I don’t know if that means anything, but it probably does.  All Canadians are multi-talented geniuses or something.  Anyhoo, Kaare Andrews is unique in a lot of ways mostly in that his style is constantly changing.  And all of his styles are cool.  This is best exemplified by his series of Hulk covers.  The one above is obviously inspired by Norman Rockwell, but he did others that look like cereal boxes and Where The Wild Things Are.  I first noticed him on Ultimate X-Men, and he did a cool arc on Astonishing X-Men with Warren Ellis.  His signature series, though, is Spider-Man Reign.  He wrote and drew it, and it’s like a Marvel response to The Dark Knight Returns.  Admittedly, it’s not my favorite thing in the world.  But, the art is interesting and it’s a unique take on Spidey.

3.)    Darwyn Cooke

The next gentleman on this list is Mr. Darwyn Cooke.  Not only is he from my home country, he’s also from my home town – Toronto.  He still lives here, and he’s one of the most sought after writers/artists in comics.  When DC was looking for the best people in the business to work on Before Watchmen, he was asked to write and draw one series and write another.  His style is very much an animated style.  In fact, he was a storyboard artist on the Batman Animated Series.  He’s best known for his mini-series, DC: New Frontier, which was turned into a direct to DVD animated movie.  It’s very cool, and puts the changes of the DC universe into a real world perspective.  For example, it explains why Batman went from a gun-toting, fear the night, badass into a kid-friendly, sidekick toting, hero.  He’s also done extensive runs on Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and he has adapted some of Richard Stark’s Parker novels.

4.)    John Byrne

Finally, we come to the only true legend on this list.  He hasn’t had a great run of it lately, especially since his online persona is not the friendliest.  He has had feuds with some of the greats in the business, but he is also one half of one of the greatest creative teams in mainstream comic book history.  He and Chris Claremont redefined the X-Men, and Byrne was at the very least one half of that equation.  Probably more since he is credited as a co-plotter on most of the storylines that they are best known for.  His clean, crisp style is iconic and very influential.  He also wrote and drew some of the most important issues of Fantastic Four and rebooted Superman after Crisis on Infinite Earths.  His impact in comics is undeniable, and it’s too bad that he hasn’t had much work at Marvel or DC in recent years.  I hope he gets another chance to work on the characters he helped define before he has to retire.

Graham Becksted is Canadian.  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 67th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.

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All The Gay News That’s Fit To Print!

So, in case you hadn’t noticed, homosexuality has been the latest big news item in mainstream comics.  Both Marvel and DC had some big announcements in the last couple of weeks regarding two B-list (at best) characters.  The companies touted their announcements as big events, and game changers, and earth quaking, and senses shattering.  By and large though, these have made a fairly minor impact on me and, I suspect, most of the comic buying public.

Marvel got out of the gate first, both in these announcements and in the whole gay superhero race.  Northstar, who was confirmed gay in 1992 but whose sexuality had been hinted at for years, is getting married to his boyfriend in an upcoming issue of Astonishing X-Men.  This is all well and good, but it doesn’t really change anything.  Maybe it’s just me, but gay people getting married shouldn’t be a big deal.  I don’t understand why anyone would be against it, and as such I find it hard to drum up any more interest in a gay marriage than I would for a straight one.  I mean, maybe if he were marrying Spider-Man, or something.  Then, I’d have to get the issue just to see how they pull it off.  But, he’s just marrying his regular, average joe boyfriend.

The other thing about the story is that it’s happening in a sort of second-tier X-Men title.  All of the main X-Men stories are happening in Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine And The X-Men.  Astonishing hasn’t been an important book since Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis were on it.  The creative team is Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins neither of whom is exactly a big draw.  Despite all of that, it will probably sell well with people wanting to get a copy in the hopes that the value sky rockets and they can resell it for big bucks.  I doubt, though, that in a year or two anyone will care that a second-rate, Canadian X-Man is married to another guy.

On to the DC side of this story.  In the whole New 52 relaunch some characters were wiped out of existence due to continuity issues.  One of them was the out and proud Obsidian.  He was deleted because his father, Alan Scott, is now too young to have had him.  And too gay.  That’s right, the original Green Lantern is now playing for the other team.  A character so important that he hasn’t had a solo ongoing series since the 1940s.  He’s barely even connected to the rest of the Green Lantern mythos.  And, he’s going to be appearing in a comic book that takes place on a different Earth than the rest of the New 52.  He seems like he’ll have about as much impact on the rest of the DCU as Northstar does on the Marvel U.

All I’m asking is that if there’s going to be a push to address hot button issues, have it happen in titles and to characters that people are going to notice.  Make Wonder Woman a lesbian or Wolverine a muslim, and then there will be something worth talking about.  When the character you’re showcasing these ideas with can just be swept under the rug after the hoopla’s died down, you’re doing a disservice to the character and to the issue.

Graham Becksted’s too tired to think of a quippy intro line to this paragraph. 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 66th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.

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Watch Men. You know you want to.

All right!  All right!  I guess I’ll just have to give in.  This week, there’s one thing all comic book blogs have to talk about.  I’m not going to bury the lead any further.  Watchmen.  Prequels.  There.  I said it.  Now, I don’t really know what else to say since every other blog seems to have said it all before.  But seriously, was anyone really surprised about this?

I mean, sure there might have been some initial shock, but wasn’t it only a matter of time?  For the past twenty-five years people have been saying, “They better not make a Watchmen sequel!”  “How could they even consider doing a follow up?” “Watchmen is untouchable.”  Turns out they were half right.  Prequels are untouchable (at least for now), but prequels are totally fair game.  At least, that’s what DC says.  Alan Moore is not pleased.

But, Alan Moore is never pleased.  The only time I’ve ever seen him even close to pleased was when he was talking to some Occupy London protestors.  And I’m not just being flippant.  It was on the news!  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FumNSfY7SfI)  Seriously, though, Moore fights with anyone over anything.  He fought with DC over creator rights, and a rating system.  He ended up not trusting the Image guys and Rob Liefeld in particular.  He fought with Jim Lee when Wildstorm was sold to DC and they started messing with his work.  He hates Marvel for some reason that I cannot quite figure out.  (It has something to do with his time writing for Marvel UK.) So, Alan Moore not liking something is not reason enough for it not to be done.

The entire comic book industry is about taking other people’s work and exploiting it.  I knew this isn’t exactly a news bulletin, but even Watchman is based on other comic book people’s work.  Rorschach is a thinly veiled version of the Question.  Nite Owl is Blue Beetle.  Doctor Manhattan is based on Captain Atom.  Has he ever thanked Steve Ditko for letting him corrupt all of his characters?

Besides, it seems like whenever comic book pundits say you can’t do something the industry takes it like a dare.  After Chris Claremont killed Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix Saga, there was an ongoing contest in the Marvel offices to find a way to bring her back.  So, just when fans are getting used to the idea of Jean Grey being dead, she gets resurrected.

There used to be a saying, “Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, and Bucky are the only characters who stay dead.”  Add to that Batman’s first dead Robin (Jason Todd), and you have a pretty important group of characters.  All but Uncle Ben have returned to life in one form or another, most notably Bucky and Jason Todd.  All three are characters whose deaths had a serious impact on other characters.  They represented the greatest failures of Captain America, Batman, and Spider-Man.  They influenced their thought processes and their priorities.  But, that didn’t stop the industry from bringing them back.

Why should Watchmen be any different?  Bucky’s resurrection has lead to a “new” character and some fantastic stories by Ed Brubaker.  He even lead a group of Avengers for a short time.  Maybe Watchmen could follow a similar trajectory?  A lot of concern and dissention, but ultimately a big success?  They certainly got a strong group of creators to give it the best chance possible.

Graham Becksted watches the Watchmen.  And, apparently, so does the rest of the internet.  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.

P.S. Honestly, I’m not even all that interested in these prequels.  But, I’m sure I’ll try ‘em out in trade just to see what’s what.  At the very least it’ll give me something else to write about.

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Cartoon-A-Palooza

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.

ABRUPT ENDING.

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.

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