Category: COMICS

WHY I THINK SUICIDE SQUAD WILL BE A BETTER MOVIE THAN BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN

Suicide-Squad-Movie-Cast-CostumesPeople way smarter than me have made great points as to the problems with BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN. To be fair, all we’ve seen so far are a couple of trailers and some leaked footage and that’s hardly enough information to use in judging an entire film. But the points seem solid. Here are some of the most popular theories, paraphrased by me.

  • BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN is too dark. As in, physically too dark. The massive color correction and dulled tone of the movie essentially cast the two heroes in exactly the same light. When both sides of battle look exactly the same, it’s hard to know what each side is bringing to the battle.
  • BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN is too dark. Patton Oswalt perfectly summed up the emotional darkness that seems to be all over the movie by saying, “In the Justice League, you have one brooding character – Batman. Everybody is supposed to be colorful and obvious.” So far, all the promotional material seems to show Wonder Woman and Aquaman both just brooding and sullen as the two main characters.
  • BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN is too soon. I’m expecting Affleck to do a good job on Batman. I was a doubter at first, but he’s a solid actor and now has a few films under his belt as a director, which I think can only help matters. But I don’t think you can recast a superhero this quickly. It doesn’t matter if we liked Christian Bale or not…what matters is that his Batman is still relatively solidified in our memories. You need time if you’re gonna’ reboot a character.

I’m hoping the BATMAN/SUPERMAN movie is phenomenal, but I’m expecting SUICIDE SQUAD to actually be the better movie.

  • The reboots are in smaller chunks. Yes, there’s a new Joker, but there’s no way Leto’s gonna’ get near the screen time that Heath Ledger did. The number of characters in SUICIDE SQUAD will prevent that. Same with any Batman cameos.
  • Lesser known brand means fewer expectations. We saw this in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – most of us walked in having no clue what to expect. And we were surprised. Same with the squad.
  • Harley Quinn. She’s the sleeper star of the DC Universe and far more nuanced that lots of other heroes and villains. If Margot Robbie nails this portrayal, we’ll have witnessed the first substantial female DC villain since Michele Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. (And that one wasn’t even that good.) Would love to see the filmmaker build the whole movie around Harley, but I think it’s going to be Joker chewing all the scenery. (Jack Nicholson, anyone?)
  • At this point, it looks more colorful. A purple Lamborghini, Batman’s in a lighter gray suit and there’s rumor of the original jester costume for Harley.

_________

Okay, time for the shameless ploy to get comments:
Which one are you looking forward to most?
In a perfect world (box office receipts aside) which movie will be the better viewing experience?

ON COMICS: THE KILLING JOKE

51cMN2iaShL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Killing Joke (Alan Moore, Brian Bolland)
DC Comics, 1988

I’m a trade paperback guy. I mentioned in an earlier post that I don’t have the time or resources to be a weekly comic reader. Buying them in volumes suits me just fine.

But occasionally, I come across comics that make me wish I had read them week-to-week. Considering I was 11-years old at the time of its publication, I don’t think I would been have been prepared for The Killing Joke, but it would have been fun to follow that story week-to-week.

I’ll admit: I had this book for months before I learned of its controversial ending from an interview with Grant Morrison. I don’t buy the prevailing theory about the last panel, but I do love a good conspiracy.

First off, I love that the origin story makes us feel sorry for The Joker. Up until reading this book, I had never really given a lot of thought to the villain’s motivations. I know some people hate the idea of creating new origins, but I thought it was brilliant writing.

Secondly, the fun-house/roller coaster sequence is probably one of the best monologues on madness I’ve ever read. Joker’s soliloquy is all that more believable and sad if read from a place of sympathy. We’re not supposed to read Joker and think, “That’s right!” But it’s hard not to affirm everything he’s saying since he’s so damaged inside.

Third, it’s just fun to read a book that so powerfully shaped the Batman mythos. The attack on Barbara as a definitive moment in her storyline, the co-dependent relationship between Batman and Joker…things created in The Killing Joke that are still a huge part of the Batman identity. It’s fun to read a book so critically cherished and realized that, yeah, everybody’s right…it’s one of the best Joker stories ever told.

*And come on…that last panel.

ON COMICS: ARCHER & ARMSTRONG

51pF3DPKb5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Archer & Armstrong, Vol. 1: The Michelango Code (Lente/Henry/Milla)
Valiant Comics, 2013

I don’t know where I heard about Archer & Armstrong. I’m guessing it was mentioned in passing on a podcast or I saw a twitter reference, but I can’t be sure. I read a quick synopsis before picking up the volume 1 trade paperback and it seemed just silly enough to grab my attention – an funny, schlubby immortal teams up with a kid assassin to battle eternal forces? I was in.

I’m also unsure of where this book feel in my comics-reading-progression, but I’m fairly certain it was later rather than sooner. The majority of my reading has been DC up to this point, so I wonder if The Michelangelo Code was just enough outside-the-box to capture my attention. For whatever reason, this book really took me by surprise and is still one of my favorite comics to re-read…for lots of reason.

THE INDIE THING
When I bought this book, I knew there were comics publishers (other than DC) out there making a mark. The most commonly heard titles tended to be Vertigo releases, but I had never read any of those. Like a lot of newcomers, I didn’t care much (still don’t actually) about publisher loyalty. The “cred” of certain publishers didn’t factor. Since I buy so infrequently, I’m usually more concerned with story quality over just about every other consideration.

But before the first issue was over, I knew I had picked up something unique. Archer & Armstrong isn’t any more or less graphic, violent or funny than other books, but there was something about the story. It dared to be ludicrous, weaving in Bible-thumping fundamentalism with Illuminati conspiracy theories. Art history was right next to future tech. A barroom brawl interlaced with Shakespearean dialogue. The book took my by surprise because it did what it wanted to.

THE STORY
As a minister, I am always attracted to works focused on faith. While the book does a real number on religion, faith comes out pretty unscathed. I was intrigued that a story could be so ridiculously slanted without actually defaming God. It’s not a pro-God book, but I appreciate a story that so clearly knew what it was about. There don’t seem to be any wasted lines or story-arcs. The writers aren’t writing about faith…they’re writing about what happens when faith gets co-opted by the greedy.

SEEING STUFF FOR THE FIRST TIME
The upside of being a writer is that your mind gets trained to analyze every little turn of phrase. The art element took longer to grasp. I had definitely noticed the artwork in previous books, but Archer & Armstrong was one of the first times I noticed lines and shading and color. Every time I re-read this book, I keep thinking, “This looks like a cartoon.” There’s a vibrance and a brightness to the look of this book that only helps the fun, globe-trotting focus of the story-line.

If you’ve never read Archer & Armstrong, pick it up. I think it performs on a level equal to – if not better – than the bigger and more famous books.

ON COMICS: BATMAN CACOPHONY

250px-Batman_Cacophony_1Batman: Cacophony (Kevin Smith/Walt Flanagan/Sandra Hope)
DC Comics, November 2008 – March 2009

Kevin Smith was the one who got this whole thing started for me. Eventually, he referenced his own comic writing on Daredevil and Batman and somewhere in the recesses of my mind, something clicked. I had heard of The Widening Gyre, the second book in the Smith/Flanagan series in some previous incarnation and thought it was the coolest title I’d ever heard. I knew Cacophony was a short book, but I heard enough from Kevin to realize I needed to check it out.

When I re-read this book, a lot of it seems pretty standard. Smith himself has admitted he and Walt Flanagan had no idea what they were doing and that Widening Gyre was a leap forward. (It was, but that’s a post for another day!)

But three things always standout, two of which are specific to the book. The third thing I always takeaway from this book is a much larger concept – one that intrigues me to this day.

1. THE JOKES – Cacophony was the first comic I had ever read that was funny. There were solid jokes in this storyline. (Mostly from Joker, naturally.) Even as dark as the book is, Smith and Flanagan don’t take themselves too seriously. This book reminded me that for all the exquisite artwork and narrative heavy-lifting…it’s still a comic book. And those should be fun to read. I don’t think anybody’s written a more fun and silly Joker to date.

2. THE TEXT – I may sound crazy, but I could hear the dialogue in this book. The font, the boldface and the bubbles combined to do something pretty amazing on the page. I’m not a comic book writer, but I do write songs and blog pretty often, so I’m always intrigued by just how much can be accomplished by a few letters on a page. Even something as simple as Joker saying ‘lo, Floyd’ instead of “Hello, Floyd” was conversational and realistic. Up until this book, I had never encountered that.

3. THE JOKER(S) – I saw this in Cacophony for the first time, but it became clearer with every Batman story I read. There were (and are) thousands of takes on the Joker. And it’s not that I had every held just one “character” in my head – I didn’t even think about it. The notion that writers would so deeply and creatively mine the Clown Prince of Crime was completely foreign to me. Until Smith did it. I love this book because, yes, I love the Joker. All his personalities.

I understand comic books aren’t for everybody, but I can’t ignore all the joy and confusion and surprise I’ve gotten from comic books over the past few years. And the most amazing news about that is this – these books keep giving.

If you ever thought for one second, “Maybe I’d like comic books,” I can guarantee you’re right. Sure, it might take awhile to find your particular flavor, but take a few books and go buy some books. You’ll be glad you did!