Showing posts with label superheroes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label superheroes. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Black Lightning is Coming to the CW!

I was always a little lukewarm on Black Lightning as a superhero character until, I guess around 2002 or so, someone came up with the idea that Jefferson Pierce was a little older and had daughters who were manifesting powers (and, of course, wanted to be heroes, too).

Not only did it mean Black Lightning was suddenly anchored a lot more as a character - no longer just "that black guy with lightning powers" which he'd become after the early appearances, it gave him a robust supporting cast.

Unfortunately, The New 52 wiped away the take on the Pierce family I'd come to like quite a bit, following the characters across a few DC books.  Needless to say, I'm thrilled this is the angle they're taking on for a new DC show on the CW.  Those writers do family well, and - when given the chance - also do people of multiple generations pretty well.

Looking forward to tuning in and seeing how they pull this off.

Friday, March 17, 2017

X-Watch: Logan (2017)

I'm late to the game on Logan (2017), the third stand-alone movie for Hugh Jackman's portrayal of the X-Men's conflicted brawler, Wolverine.  Most of you who wanted to see it have seen it, so you won't need me pushing you toward the theater.

While the series began strong and is one of the films responsible for the past twenty years' worth of exploding growth in superhero films, more recent entries have been less than required viewing and - to this viewer - disappointing.  Enough so that I never bothered to watch the second Logan/ Wolverine/ James Howlett movie, The Wolverine, and only caught the most recent X-Men movie via a borrowed BluRay.

It's an interesting movie to see on the heels of Kong: Skull Island, both fantasy actioners intended for an audience with pre-awareness of existing tropes.  Both borrowed and nodded to existing media outside their genre.

But Logan remembered that a story is about character first, plot second, and - arguably - you can care about everything going on in this movie whether or not you've seen any X-Men movies before.  And, really, that's not something just superhero movies struggle with, it's something comics struggle with year in and year out.*  And while I'll argue that the Marvel movies, both stand-alone and Avengers group efforts are heavier on character than plot, in exiting the safe confines of a PG-13 rating, Logan is free to explore much about the character that's hinted at but always seems frustratingly, perhaps hypocritically, absent in most portrayals of a man who has lost track of his kill count and whose own body is the weapon which has taken so many lives.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

X-Watch: X-Men - Apocalypse (2016)

In many ways, the entire point of this movie is to show how Charles Xavier lost his hair.  I mean, they had to do it sometime, so why not at the two-hour, ten minute mark of a very, very long movie where nothing really works very well?

I got into superhero comics when I was about 11 or 12, right about the time of the Mutant Massacre storyline in X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants.  Of the literally 10's of 1000's of comics I've read, the comics I read in that first year or two are pretty well burned into my brain.  Just before I got into comics, the villain Apocalypse made his first appearance in X-Factor, and would show up again to exploit the injured Warren Worthington III, aka: Angel, and make him into the 1980's requisite "Wolverine of the group" when he returned to X-Factor.  I actually really liked those comics.

The movie is set in it's own version of events, but that isn't so much a bug as a feature.  While it's not the worst movie I've ever seen, it's just so weighed down with characters and not-terribly-interesting plot developments and a runtime it doesn't earn, it's hard to get excited about the movie.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Checking in on DCTV: Supergirl and The Flash

Season 2 of Supergirl moved to The CW network, which was already home to DC's Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and iZombie, and the move has been nothing but good for the series, so far as I can tell.  Whatever dictates Season 1 had upon it as a show on a major network, moving to the less-major CW Network has meant the show feels less like it's bucking TV formulas and now it's matching The Flash for melding DC lore with crafting it's own mythology and character arcs.

This season I've enjoyed the shake-up and escape from CatCo, especially if Cat Grant isn't even going to be around and the far more fulfilling role for Win.  And, hey, Kara isn't being defined by which boy she'll pick, which is kind of remarkable on TV.  While Alex's "coming out" storyline felt a bit rushed, crammed in there in-between cyborgs and fiery aliens, alien fight clubs and whatnot, it's interesting to see the show stake it's claim on big-tent "Supergirl is for everyone" and just move forward without turning the show into a melodrama we all have to slog through.

In fact, the CW shows are pretty remarkably good at not doing the things that TV has traditionally done that drove me crazy - namely: have have characters keep secrets from people they otherwise trust when keeping a secret makes literally no sense and drag it out over whole seasons of a show or until they just forget to resolve the storyline.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Marvel Watch: Doctor Strange (2016)

It's safe to say that Doctor Strange as a Marvel character has never been much in my wheelhouse.  As a kid, the comics always held a certain visual appeal, but I felt like the character was all mustache and cape, dealing with, yeah, world-threatening dilemmas, but always in that vague way of magical characters that didn't hold the immediate familiarity of "oh, Joker's going to kill all those people" or "Magneto is up to his old tricks."  I was pretty well into college before I embraced the abstraction of world-ending calamities on a metaphysical scale, mostly by way of Jack Kirby's 70's-era work and Grant Morrison's JLA.  But I still never drifted back to Doctor Strange over at Marvel.  I'd enjoy his guest appearances everywhere from Spider-Man to The Illuminati-type stuff, but didn't think it was something that needed to be in my monthly "buy" pile.

Really, the only Doctor Strange comics I ever purchased were back when the character was double-billing in Strange Tales with Cloak & Dagger, which I was picking up because I dug Cloak and Dagger.  Figuring out what the hell was going on with Stephen Strange, MD, wasn't particularly something I was losing sleep over.

But, the Marvel movies are, for me, an ideal way to engage with the Marvel U in a non-invested sort of way with stuff I was vaguely interested in, but didn't care to get too immersed in.  Starting with Iron Man and including everything from Thor and The Avengers to the current incarnation of Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics, I prefer how these packages are presented in movie-form.*

Doctor Strange (2016) is - yes - another Marvel origin story.  This is both a reality and problem for Marvel as it rolls out it's ever-broadening line of characters in television and film, as the origins of these characters are, in fact, of great importance to establishing the characters and their motivations for films to come.  If not for Iron Man and Captain America as origin stories, how interesting would Civil War have been, really?  Or, hell, Winter Soldier?  DC Entertainment is finding out the hard way via Suicide Squad's terrible story problems that even an ensemble piece needs a bit more fleshing out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Marvel Watch: Luke Cage (Season 1, 2016)

I want to say that I loved Luke Cage.  Because for a full 6 episodes, I was ready to stand up and say "this is the best Marvel TV series to date, even better than Jessica Jones or Season 1 of Agent Carter".  But, man, the back half of this series feels rough.  It's still watchable, but as early as the beginning of the seventh episode, the wheels start coming off, and it's only in fits and spurts that the show reclaims the excellence of those first six episodes, seems to remember its mission statement, and doesn't feel like it's a throwback to 1990's-era superhero movies.  I have a few hypotheses as to what may have occurred, but that doesn't save the overall project anymore than headcannons or fan theories (neither of which this blogger recommends you indulge in).  What matters is what winds up on the screen.

What does retain it's consistency, as surely as the cells in Luke Cage's body bounce back from a bad day, is the strong character put forth in Luke Cage, the grounded, human force of a man trying every day to do right.  In Luke Cage we get that rarest of characters which are slowly climbing their way back from two decades of think-pieces to the contrary, the good guy who doesn't need to be called an anti-hero to work in a modern context.  For Marvel, and maybe for the mass audiences, up to this point we've relied on our sepia-toned notions and the uncomplicated moral battle of the Allied fight against the Axis to gain access to the point of view of our upright hero in Steve Rogers - AKA: Captain America.  But in Luke Cage we get a modern man who has known the compromise all his life and despite what's past, he's moving forward in a world that broils and churns with moral compromise as the "smart" move, the only way to get things done.  And we have a hero who isn't living in a hypothetical world of cops and robbers, but in a world that reflects a lot of our own, with Trayvon Martins and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Today is, I guess, #nationalsuperheroday

Here are some folks who have been pretty good friends to me over the years. Here's to Superheroes!

All art by the great Alex Ross.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Raimi Watch: Darkman (1990)

I don't believe anyone in the movie actually calls the main character "Darkman", btw

What to say about Darkman (1990)?

It's hard to categorize as "good", and I think my affection for it is rooted in nostalgia and the electric current I got seeing this very, very strange movie when I was 15.  It came out just shortly after I'd moved to Spring, TX, where I'd live from grades 10-12.  I was vaguely aware of a movie called Evil Dead 2 that you were supposed to see, but I hadn't seen it yet, and I'd never heard of Sam Raimi.  I just took Darkman for what I thought it was and what I'm sure the studio brass also thought they had: a royalty-free superhero movie they could make cheaply and quickly to ride on the coattails of Batman (1989) and America's awakening interest in superhero movies about "dark" heroes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Oscar Winner Watch: Birdman - Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 2014

Man.  I really struggled with this one.

Let's make no mistake, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) is a technical marvel, and the sort of thing you have to give a tip of the hat just for its audacious approach to style and technical function.  It wants to be a melding of cinema and theater (or: theatre), and I'm not one to say that doesn't occur.  It's also a movie that's going to demand repeated viewings, something Pauline Kael refused any movie, and I think she has a point (asking someone to watch your movie over and over to "get it" shouldn't be a point of pride.  But rewarding viewers who catch something new on the second viewing should be a life goal.).  Our actors are all good, all on point, and the performances are not lacking - even when one character is supposed to be a bad actor, he nails his line delivery of line delivery, demonstrating to everyone that this is going to be a disastrous performance.

Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2015, and, of course, it's a movie about Hollywood's self-loathing and a desire to produce something better, something that matters as much as a well-written novel or beautifully produced play, and which isn't about superheroes and celebrity, even when that's exactly what Hollywood is exactly about on a good day.   Hollywood loves nothing so much as movies about itself (see: The Artist and it's Oscar win - and immediate dissolution in cultural memory after the fact - and how Argo made filmmakers into courageous action heroes), and even more so when Hollywood feels like a movie is doing their job for them and baring the artists to the public, as if to say "this is how Hollywood really feels, and what we really want to make if only there weren't so much money in making dumb shit for the flyover states.*"

The movie both criticizes and indulges in pretension in such a rapid fire, alternating current that it's hard to know what's satire and what writer/ director/ producer Alejandro G. Iñárritu actually thinks.  All of which makes a movie nigh-critic proof, because something is going on here, clearly, and if you get it wrong... well.  And, my god, the references and name-dropping.  Didn't you read Borges in undergrad?  No.  Shame on you.  You'd understand this scene and it'd be hilarious.  Otherwise you might mistake this as just a scene from yet another backstage dramedy about yet another at-his-wit's-end actor in crisis going through the motions you've seen before.  But, hey.  Good camera work.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

TL;DR - why, no, I'm not going to see "Fantastic Four". Or "Deadpool".

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we got a comic book-related movie maybe once every year or three.  Marvel had, basically, no feature films at the theater, and even their attempts with The Punisher (1989) and Captain America (1990) went to home video or less.  Superman IV came out in '87, and Batman came out in '89, and as we entered the 90's, it seemed like there was a gradual increase as stuff like The RocketeerThe Phantom and The Shadow got movies as well while the Batman franchise metastasized.  But it wasn't a full genre of tent-pole movies quite yet.

Circa 2000, I remember being shocked not just that someone made an X-Men movie, but that it wasn't absolutely horrible (it's not actually that good, really, but it's very watchable).  Really, that was the expectation.  If you went to see a comic book movie, you were going almost as an investment, not believing it would be good, but that if the movie made enough money, it would pave the way for better superhero movies.  And, in a way, it was a novelty.

People forget, movies like the Affleck Daredevil were way more common even then than a watchable Ant-Man is today.

And then Sam Raimi's Spider-Man demonstrated how you could do this if you really wanted to for the first time since Donner's Superman: The Movie.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Electra Wut? There's a new Electra Woman and Dyna Girl show coming. Because of course there is.

Oh, Deidre Hall.  You and your magnificent coifs.  And Judy Strangis of the gigantic eyes.

They may not have had Lynda Carter's budget (nor been Lynda Carter), but they had their own thing going on, including an amazing vehicle and the finest special effects you could produce using video overlays in 1976.

Electra Wow!

Seriously, only Lynda Carter may have rivaled Deidre Hall for amazing hair in 1976-1977, and both knew how to make a superhero outfit work.

I have only the haziest memories of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl from my own youth.  The Sid and Marty Kroft shows were still on in rotation around 3:00 in the afternoon in the 1970's and early 80's, but it's hard to say what I remember as snippets and flashes of memory and what was what I caught later in college (and afterward) on basic cable.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To?: Movies in 2013 and 2014

I guess the last time I checked in was just after seeing Man of Steel (2013), and, frankly, if I wasn't already about to bail on blogging for a while prior to seeing the movie, the third reel of Zack Snyder's Super-Opus might have gotten me to throw in the towel.

My movie-going is probably slowed a bit.  That's been partly a monetary decision and a work/life/occasionally-being-home balance issue.  And, I don't feel the need to see everything new that comes to the theater the way I might have once felt.

If you want to get me talking, ask me about this fellow

The curious thing about getting older is the mix of feelings that (1) you aren't really going to miss anything if you miss a movie, even a super popular one, and (2) you've kind of already seen this before in some form or another.  In fact, one of the most baffling things I keep reading is how crazy Guardians of the Galaxy felt, how staggeringly original.  Look, I loved GotG, but "a rag tag group of lovable scoundrels get together and stop a menace/ save the day" hasn't been a fresh idea since before The Magnificent Seven.  And if you need a space version - I point you to a dozen low-budget sci-fi movies from the 80's.  But... I guess they really haven't had one in a while, so it felt new to the current audience.

We'll talk a bit about the changes in audience expectations at some other point, but I saw a newish article today that outright stated that trying something that wasn't a complete cookie cutter picture was "trolling" the audience, that it was the studio's "hubris" to try something that didn't already have widespread pre-awareness, vis-a-vis Guardians of the Galaxy.

Y'all, that's just a @#$%ed up thing to say as a pop culture or movie writer.

As per my movie watching habits: I'm still watching movies off Turner Classic, cable, Alamo Drafthouse screenings of older movies, the Paramount Classic Film Series, BluRay, NetFlix streaming and now Hulu.  The Alamo Drafthouse even hosted Noir City Austin, a multi-day Film Noir Fest with Eddie Mueller.  Lots of channels for taking in movies.  And I've seen some great stuff that way.

And, honestly, I've missed writing about it.  And I miss being able to look at this site and review what I said about a movie I've seen (or even to check if I've already seen something I'm about to watch off cable).

To make the post overly long, I'll go ahead and talk about what new movies I saw in the theater with a sort of quick, judgey statement for each.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Signal Watch Review: Masks & Mobsters (from MonkeyBrain Comics)

One of the great things thus far about MonkeyBrain Comics has been the wide variety of genre content coming from the publisher.  Last week saw tweaky hipster/ swords & sorcery strip Wander hit the internets.  This week MonkeyBrain rolls out Masks & Mobsters, a book that's pretty well set on the Signal Watch Venn Diagram as it's crime/ gangster comics set in a 1930's-era urban center with wiseguys starting to feel the heat from mystery men with strange powers.

The book's title page promises that this will be less of a straight narrative, issue after issue, as it announces it's an anthology title (ie: a fresh story with each issue, I'm guessing), so we'll see where the creative team is taking it from here (or if the same creative team will even stay around).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Does a superhero have to have tragedy in their past to be interesting?

Well, it certainly doesn't hurt.

I have long admired the work of Heidi MacDonald at The Beat  Heidi had a neat column a while back on her blind spot in geek culture when it comes to The Green Lantern.  This may not seem surprising to you, but to those of us in the online comics-fan world, that's surprising to the point of being funny.  Being around that much and not knowing much about GL in that context just seems sort of impossible.  It seems her knowledge of GL was, apparently, about equal with my knowledge about... oh...  Hunger Games or Breaking Bad.

In regards to Hal Jordan's origin, Heidi says, and I quote:
Let it be noted, this origin story is notably lacking in drama or conflict. And it was only recently that Johns even retconned in the dying dad thing, which is still not a great motivator (I just learned that yesterday!) Not like dying Uncle Ben or Thomas Wayne or Krypton. No Hulking out, no Iron Man with a bad heart ready to blow at any moment. It’s pretty straightforward…  probably just too straightforward for my tastes. Over the years, I didn’t get why so many guys identified with Green Lantern, but I think now it is just this simple storyline: cocky guy gets great powers. Who wouldn’t identify with that?
Firstly, I think it odd to insinuate that being a jerk and still wanting a flashy ring that will give them whatever they want is strictly a guy thing.  I have seen Sex and the City: The Movie.  (thanks, I'm here all week!  Try the veal!).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Old, Cranky Comics Fan

I started this post before reading about Mark Waid's Twitter post from the other day.

Annnnd today was the day I stopped reading super-hero comics. One that I won't name finally broke me. Collection stops as of now. No joke.

Mark Waid, the forefront in fans-turned-pro, the guy who became known for not just writing great superhero comics, but his encyclopedic knowledge of superhero comics, has decided to quit reading superhero comics.

Well, maybe. I kind of think maybe Mr. Waid was having a particularly bad day and used a smidge of hyperbole, but...

It wasn't actually one comic, by the way. He later explained it was his basic dislike of so much he'd read of late in the superhero mega-genre. Unlike the trolls on Newsarama, it seems unlikely Waid made any impotent proclamations regarding stopping reading comics if, say, DC didn't acknowledge Jimmy Olsen was the one, true, original Flamebird or that they didn't like some turn of events in a Captain Marvel mini series and so were done with DC... forever*. Instead, you get the feeling Waid is just weary of the state of things. Of course, one could make the same claim when he wrote Kingdom Come in the mid-90's.

...then there was that time in the dystopian future where Superman got the JLA back together and quit taking any BS from the 1990's...

Waid has since further elaborated, stating specific writers he feels are doing a good job, and that he's a bit worn out on what he sees as cynicism in the creation of superhero comics, or messages of cynicism in the comics. In general: cynicism. He doesn't like it.

At first blush, its a bit of a bitter pill to swallow from the guy who is writing the power Irredeemable series about a Superman proxy gone amuck, but Irredeemable is about what happens when hope turns to horror and our heroes turn on us. A bit different, I think, than what Waid is describing.

But he also describes that he's tired of seeing the same thing done over the 100th time (perhaps cynical recycling of stories?), and that's an idea I can get behind.

I started the post around the fourth of July. I was in a mood.

On the Fourth of July, a favorite comic shoppe posted an image to Facebook from The Dark Knight Returns as a sort of wink and nod to the holiday, patriotic fervor, all hat good stuff. Those who've read The Dark Knight Returns will recall the image immediately.

If you were a kid in the mid-80's (and I was), it wasn't so much just that Dark Knight would turn out to be the most influential comic book of the next 25 years. At the time, if you read comics and hadn't read it, you would. It was just done. Like owning jeans or trying to moonwalk when nobody was looking.

But the first comment read:

Never read the Dark Knight Returns (art isn't my style, therefore it's hard to get past it and stay interested) but there is something INCREDIBLY errie about that....

Nevermind the type-o's, but this was enough of a comics fan that the person followed this favored comic shoppe on Facebook, and didn't think it odd that (a) he hadn't read Dark Knight Returns, and (b) that the art not being his cup of tea was a reasonable excuse for shrugging off one of the essentials of the past three decades for enthusiasts of the genre and medium.

Kids today. I swear.

But it is a reminder that the breakthroughs of Dark Knight and Watchmen will be forgotten by subsequent generations, just as breakthroughs in cinema television, the visual arts, etc... are absorbed, reprocessed, and ignored as archaic or strange when the subsequent enthusiasts of the medium become the audience.

I also can acknowledge that a lot of what seems popular with the kids these days just doesn't... do a lot for me as a reader.

The X-Men (the supposed stand in for minorities, but, really, the superheroic embodiment of teen-geek alienation since at least the late 1980's) plus vampires? Yeah, I know vampires are the new zombies/ monkeys/ whatever...

But I can't do it. And I guess at least Neil Gaiman appears to agree with me. But the kids like their memes in comics, too, these days. But jumping on these memes is certainly popular with the kids, or at least it appears to be. And it certainly stinks of a certain bit of that cynicism from the publishers (seriously, Marvel, hoping to get Twilight spill over is just embarrassing, I don't care what mopey teenagers are picking up X-Men.).

After 70-odd years of superheroes in comics, with thousands of characters, with some characters popping up multiple times in a month... I'm not at all surprised that Mr. Waid has detected a certain repetition in superhero comics. I'm stunned that Law & Order ran for as long as it did and spawned a half-dozen spin-offs and countless imitators, as that seemed to more or less be the same show every time I watched it, but there's certainly a comfort factor in repetition, and some of it I can get behind. I was interested in, for example, what DC wanted to do with Brainiac in a post Infinite Crisis DCU. But I could barely muster the energy to turn the pages of the recent Tony Daniel written Batman series when, once again, the inmates of Arkham were loose in Gotham, and, once again, Gotham was experiencing gang war. That may be the third time that's been used since 2005.

But too often it does seem a bit mind boggling, when I'm reading a superhero comic from the big two and realize that was what they decided to put out there. Either the story was pointless, or the plot seemed generic and recycled... and when reading some of the recent excuses DC has had for Justice League and Justice Society comics... it all feels like filler until they can get someone with a vision on the books once again. And in a worse case scenario, you wind up with ridiculousness like the recent "Rise" and "Fall" storylines spinning out of the abysmal "Cry for Justice".

I'm certainly not sure I am ready to quit reading superhero comics, but the number of them I do read seems to be on the decline. My plans to move to largely trades and collections seems to be a smarter move every week that I get away from the comic shop habit. We'll see.

There really is quite a bit out there that I do find worth my time with superhero concepts and ideas. Grant Morrison's Batman has been nothing short of terrific for about four years. Geoff Johns' Green Lantern is a sleek jet fighter of a comic that may not be the most complex reading you're likely to do, but always stays interesting. His Flash is also promising. Rucka's Batwoman and Question stories were a highlight of 2009. Amanda Connor worked wonders with Power Girl for 12 issues. Sterling Gates fully rehabilitated the modern Supergirl title, and saved the character. I've liked REBELS that I've read in trade. Levitz's new Legion books seem like the real deal. And its going to raise some eyebrows, but I'm actually a bit enthusiastic about JMS coming on Wonder Woman and Superman.

I'm nowhere close to Mr. Waid's assessment, but I also want for superhero comics to try to do more with themselves and start working toward fulfilling the promise of the 1980's, and quit tracing back to the lazy and bad habits of the 1990's.

*comic nerds: when you pick some arbitrary thing that's going to mean you will no longer ever, ever, ever read a company's comics, like, ever... it makes you look kind of crazy. Go ahead and stop reading, but, you know, keep it to yourself or bounce it off a friend or two before making bold proclamations. Honestly, your opinions in the comment sections? Nobody cares. It makes you look a little nutty.