After Zelda, Superheroes Were My Gateway To Fantasy.

After the news of celebrated writer and artist Darwyn Cooke’s passing, I picked my copy of Absolute DC: New Frontier and absorbed Cooke’s love letter to the Silver Age of the DC Universe.

It’s massive scale and the enormous cast of diverse characters combined with the lingering thoughts about Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World reminded me that after The Legend of Zelda it was superhero comics that opened the gateway for my love for fantasy.

The similarities between the two are surprisingly plentiful. Just to name a few:

  • Garish costumes.
  • Systems of magic.
  • Unusual names and codenames.
  • The use of symbology.
  • Enhanced or enchanted armor, weapons, and items.
  • Prophecy and legends influencing the protagonists.
  • History, mythology, and continuity that dates back before a current story but has a lingering effect.
  • Multi-faceted heroes and villains that walk the moral line.
  • Archetypal heroes and villains that serve as both characters and symbols for their cause.
  • Conflicts on the micro scale within close knits groups,
  • Macro scale conflicts that put universes in jeopardy,
  • and those in-group conflicts affecting the chance of success of resolving those universal threats.
  • War: The consequences of war, the threat of war, and the aftermath of war.
  • Death: Heroes, villains, love interests, and side characters all dying and in some cases, coming back.

Superhero comics do have the advantage of being broad enough in storytelling that it can encompass many genres including fantasy. A majority of DC’s magic users, including Etrigan, John Constantine, Dr. Fate, Swamp Thing, Alan Scott, and oh, I don’t know, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman all either dip their toes or fully submerge themselves into fantasy.

What it comes down to is world building. If you can understand the chaos that is the worlds of Marvel and DC then remembering the houses on Game of Thrones isn’t that difficult. What’s different is that for Marvel and DC the rules are always changing. What most fantasy tends to do is either established the rules early on or establish the rules and break them early on to create conflict. This is because eventually those fantasy stories are going to end. Comic book companies are in the business of keeping their stories running for as long as they sell. Thus their characters have to change overtime but not necessarily evolve.

Plus, most series of fantasy novels are written by one creator while superhero comics is a ever-spinning turnstile of different writers and artists. Their environment, purpose, supporting cast, powers, appearance, and even their history could change from one writer to another. Elements that stem from roots in fantasy could not longer be in fashion. Now, their powers, equipment, cast, or origin may not be science fiction in nature.

This can be frustrating to the reader which could not be more apparent with the recent developments in [spoilers] DC Universe Rebirth and the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers. Change is acceptable in a fantasy novel, especially a series with no previous history (real world history that is) but not so with most superhero comics considering their long history dating back to World War II. Even new superheroes have this struggle because by the time you establish a new character in an ongoing over a certain amount of issues any change you make is going to met with resistance from your readers.

That and the price is why I made the jump. I was frustrated by bad writing of characters I loved and the ever increasing price of comics versus the price of books made the switch easy. Fantasy novels have stayed relatively the same price, they have a more complete story, no other bad writer is coming in and fucking up what the good writer has done, there are no editorial mandates to fit within a big event happening in another series, and  the story is self-contained.

Still, I may never hace found fantasy without superhero comics.

Why does Warner Bros. and DC Comics Think Their Audience Are Idiots?

It’s been happening for years ever since Christopher Nolan began working on Batman Begins, but Warner Bros. thinks its audience are not nuanced enough to get multiple iterations of their characters.

It started with the Bat-Embargo that was placed on the cartoon Justice League Unlimted. The creators of that show were no longer allowed to use any ancillary characters from Batman including Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn, two characters that were created in their animated universe. Their reasoning was that children would become confused by too many different versions of Batman characters in Justice League Unlimited, Batman Begins, and their developing cartoon The Batman.

First of all, this is highly underestimating the intelligence of children. Speaking from my own experience, I had no problem differentiating Mark Hamill’s Joker with Jack Nicholson’s Joker. It was very clear there was a difference between the animated Batman that appeared on Fox and the version that appeared on the WB network. Let’s take it outside of superheroes. It was clear there was something different about Dan Castellaneta’s Genie in Aladdin: The Series and Robin William’s version in Aladdin: The Movie. This was at an age where there was no internet and I only learned why the Genie’s voice was different by reading the back of Return of Jafar’s case. Kids now have information at their fingers. There would be no confusion.

Oh no, my head. There are way too many Batman's!

Oh no, my head. There are way too many Batman’s!

Warner Bros. still doesn’t see it that way and now they’ve spread this idea to not only children but adults as well. Deadshot, a character slated to appear in the Suicide Squad film and played by Will Smith has already appeared in on Arrow as a member of their version of Suicide Squad. Once the movie was firmly into production suddenly the character had to be removed so there was no “brand confusion.” In other words, sorry audience but you’re too dumb to tell the difference between these:

Clearly they are the same, therefore I am confused on how to take in the media. Sorry Warner Bros.

Clearly they are the same, therefore I am confused on how to take in the media. Sorry Warner Bros.

This spreads out to other obvious characters such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder down to characters like Harley Quinn. It even goes as far as to spread to characters that haven’t even be slated for a film yet. In season three of Arrow, we are introduced to Ray Palmer a.k.a. The Atom. This was originally intended to be Ted Kord a.k.a Blue Beetle but because Warner Bros. might have plans to use him in a film he was not permitted to appear on the show.

Now, with the premiere of Supergirl, Warner Bros. is sticking to their plan of avoiding all “brand confusion” by only mentioning Kara Zor-El’s cousin and vaguely showing Superman blocked by sunlight. Obviously, whoever plays  Superman on the new CBS show would be confusing to those watching Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The audience might say “Hey, wait this guy look different from this other guy,” because no one else has played Superman before. Oh wait:

I'm so confused.

I’m so confused.

The worst part is that they’re not even consistent. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold both appeared in Smallville with the latter also having a prominent role on Justice League Unlimited. Development for a Suicide Squad film began as far back as 2009 yet they allowed Deadshot not only to appear in Arrow, which wouldn’t premiere for three more years after, but also in Batman: Assault on Arkham along with Harley. Harley appears in all three of Arkham games developed by Rocksteady along with the Joker. The first game in that series came out the year after Heath Ledger appeared as the Joker in The Dark Knight. No brand confusion there.

The most prominent example of this is CW’s The Flash premiering while they’re simultaneously announcing Ezra Miller being cast as The Flash for the movies. How is this not an example of “brand confusion?” Warner Bros. makes the announcement just as their Flash TV series is beginning.  You might be asking, “what if this is DC learning their lesson?” but you have to remember that this announcement was made before Arrow was forced to kill off their version of Deadshot because of the Suicide Squad film.

Marvel, on the other hand, has no problem having multiple version of their characters in film and television. They seem to be doing just fine. For writers of fiction, one of the basic rules of storytelling that is taught is never to treat your audience like their idiots. Warner Bros. needs to learn this lesson before their audience gets tired of being talked down to.

When the Audience is Bored of A-Listers, The B-Listers Will Inherit the Superhero Movies.

For an indeterminate amount of time, comic book fans have been ranking their heroes (and villains) like celebrities with  “A” through “D” rating.

In DC Comics Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have always been A-List heroes. However, characters like Green Lantern, The Flash, and Aquaman have fluctuated, falling to B-Listers in the 90’s, then rising again to A-listers in the mid-oughts.

Marvel is a bit stranger. In the early oughts, Brian Michael Bendis disassembled the Avengers for a good reason. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America struggled as B-Listers in the late 90’s. Thor had been killed off, Iron Man was turned into an alcoholic and then a teengager  and Captain American in general seemed directionless. The rest of the Avengers just didn’t have the popularity of their other franches.  Marvel spent years building the Avengers back up to A-List characters, and thanks the  X-Men and Spider-Man being licensed to other film companies they had no choice but to build a movie universe on the back of the Avengers.

If they had owned the licenses for those two powerhouse franchises, Iron Man would not have been the first cinematic universe film under their own film company. They took a character, Iron Man, which the mainstream audience did not know and turned him into one of the biggest characters they currently have. They did it again with Guardians of the Galaxy, which people knew even less than Iron Man. Likewise, 2003’s Daredevil was an embarassment as far as movies go but Marvel took the franchise and turned it into the most watched and highest rated show on Netflix.

By regaining, rebooting, and revitalizing the Spider-Man franchise they’re also pushing back the inevitable. Marvel knows this, that’s why movies like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel were merely pushed back rather than replaced by Spider-Man movies. Then, with the rest of the Defenders series on Netflix they’ll turn Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist into characters people know essentially raising their ranks from B and C-Listers into A-Listers. They took a character like The Vision and made him the most standout character of Avengers: Age of Ultron. They took a character like Ant-Man and made a entertaining and successful movie about him, which some people found laughable when announced.

On DC’s side it is a bit more worrisome, as far as movies go. Thanks to the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Warner Bros. believes the grim and gritty approach is the way to go as far as their own cinematic universe goes as evidenced by their dark approach to Superman in Man of Steel, the trailer for Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad. This may work at first, but the novelty of it will end quickly. What makes The Flash television series so refreshing is how far away from the Batman tone it is. It’s optimistic, funny, light hearted, and colorful. No dreary colors, no over serious faces, and 90% less angst.

The novelty of Suicide Squad, and Batman v. Superman has a problem. If it wasn’t for Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman the appeal of these movies is what they’re doing differently with Ben Affleck’s version of Batman, and Jared Leto’s version of the Joker. This’ll only last so long. They need movies with different tones with different characters. If they try to Batmanify characters like Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman (which is what it looks like they’re doing anyway) people will become fatigued. Marvel realizes an Iron Man movie should not have the same tone as a Captain America movie, but does Warner Bros. realize that?

The B-Listers will eventually inherit the Marvel movies but if Warner Bros. relies too much on the success of Batman to see what is unique about their other characters they’ll be doomed to fail before they even begin.

You Should Read: The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes & Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe (A double.)

This is a double You Should Read, a feature that is mostly in my drafts folder more than actually published in my blog. A lot of the time it’s because I’m not sure what I want to say about a book besides “This story blew my mind / was awesome / was cool / so good that I wish I could write like this!” and that doesn’t make much for a blog post.

Continue reading

G. Willow Wilson’s Fantastic Observation on Genre Fiction and Tropes.

“Genre–whether it’s action/adventure, romance, scifi, fantasy, or superheroes–largely differentiates itself from “mainstream literature” by its heavy reliance on tropes. The lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The reluctant paladin called to defend his or her homeland. The white knight. The savior-sacrifice, who must pay the ultimate price to keep the darkness at bay. Good genre books and films succeed because the authors or artists have manipulated these tropes in a particularly skillful way, either by subverting them or unpacking them or, occasionally, pointing right at them. Some of the most stunning works of SF/F produced in the past couple of decades–those that have shifted the cultural conversation–have been those that rely the most heavily on tropes, on what we think we know about a certain genre, and which then proceed to show us, almost by slight-of-hand, what we have overlooked. The Walking Dead. Gravity. District 9. The superb Children of Men. What is masterful about each of these is that the creators exhibited no embarrassment whatsoever about their pulpy source material–instead, they dug deep into the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ and used tropes we might have considered all played out (the astronaut in trouble, the zombie apocalypse) to illustrate profoundly heartbreaking things about the human condition. That is, perhaps, genre in a nutshell: it is cliche turned on its head.”

Dr. Lepore’s Lament

May 14, 2015 at 03:03PM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1K5pc0v

Marvel: Don’t let Spider-Man Go to Your Head.

We’re all excited Spider-Man is going to be in Marvel Cinematic Universe starting with Civil War but the link to the io9 article brings up some good questions.

“How much creative control does Sony have? Does Marvel have any input into the Sony-produced movies? Can Sony use parts of the MCU in return? Will the studios skip the origin story this time around?”

Let’s not forget an important fact, Sony still has the rights to Spider-Man, this is just an agreement and until we get more details who knows if they can pull out on this deal at any time. I mean, what did we learn from Sam Raimi about making a Spider-Man movie, and we’ll probably here this about Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the coming years, Sony executives can’t keep nose out of the creative process when it comes to these movies. The fact that their still going with that Sinister Six movie they have planned, although will probably now have Spider-Man in it, doesn’t make me feel any less cynical about this.

The other part people should remember, if Marvel Studios had the rights to Spider-Man when we started this business of a shared universe, and hey let’s throw the X-Men in there too, we probably wouldn’t have Iron Man, Captain America, Thor or the Avengers. At least, not yet.

Before Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. brought Iron Man to the big screen he was not a popular character or a big draw. In fact, the Avengers only a resurgence in the comics, thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, three years before the first Iron Man movie came out.

Also, I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten but nobody thought the first Iron Man movie was going to be any good. Statements likes Downey Jr. being washed up, Jon Favreau being inexperienced with directing, Iron Man not being a viable character were thrown out there. Marvel Studios success and all their plans were relying on this movie and all because they couldn’t rely on their biggest characters.

IMG_1311

So when they announced Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, three films I am far more excited for,  were pushed back my first reaction was definitely pessimism.  Sure, Kevin Feige has the whole three movies a year rule but until I hear or read from him that this was the reason for the push back I can’t get the idea out of my mind they did this to please Sony.

Think about this, if Marvel had Spider-Man from the beginning we probably never would have had Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean, which movie would you make? Another Spider-Man film or who the hell are the Guardians of the Galaxy? Yet that movie, in my mind, was far superior to any of the Spider-Man films so far.

Here’s my hope for the deal. It goes a little something like this: Sony now handles part of the marketing, makes a big part of the profit, but is otherwise hands off. They get no say on what happens to Spider-Man in his guest appearances and no creative control over the movie because if it was up to them they’d put Venom in every movie and each movie would have 23,095,480,324,587,102,935 characters.

So Marvel Studios, don’t forget Spider-Man didn’t bring you success. It was your less popular characters that did so because you didn’t have a choice. You had to make great movies because you couldn’t rely on the name alone. DON’T FORGET.

How Green Lantern Rebirth Changed My Twenties

Back in 2004, freshman year of Suffolk County Community College, I was in a hip-hop group with my three closest friends. Then in November of that year, they kicked me out and would not hang out with me anymore.

It was deeply upsetting at the time, and pretty traumatizing. In hindsight, if it had continued I probably would have quit eventually. I didn’t enjoy the recording process nor did I have any focus for editing or making beats. The part I enjoyed the most was the writing. I had notebooks full of songs that I never recorded or performed but still continued to write new ones. The other part I loved was performing, it was thrilling. The amount of adrenaline you get from performing on a stage even though they were in high school talent show and a music showcase of all the school’s bands the adrenaline you get from it was crazy.

So my bridges burned with my former friends making music, writing music (and writing in general), and listening to the same music I had before left a bad taste in my mouth. I asked myself who was I before music? Well, before I discovered music at fourteen I was deep into video games. I started playing my GameCube heavily. Then I retreated further back remember this little comic book shop my mom used to take me to where I bought Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and The Simpsons comics.

The comics I read as a kid, as far as superheroes were concerned, were weird. Superman had a weird mullet, Spider-Man was a clone and Green Lantern had gone insane and replaced by another Green Lantern. When I walked into that same comic book store I had as a kid not knowing what I’d find what I found was the second issue of a comic called Green Lantern Rebirth by Geoff Johns. I held up and asked the guy behind the counter what this it was.

“Oh, they’re bringing back Hal Jordan from the dead and making him Green Lantern again,” he said. He offered me a deal for the first and second issue together and told me comic books came out on Wednesdays. I would buy comics there regularly for the next six years.

Hal Jordan (43)

I became entrenched in comic books and video games to fill the void listening to hip-hop and writing it had left. Comic books though reignited my love for reading that would spread to novels when my girlfriend at the time brought me to a Barnes & Noble. Before this I had only been to Border’s Book, and not in years. Last time I had been there it was not in good condition. This was two stories of book paradise, one with a graphic novel section that was lacking. Instead I picked up this beautiful leather bound copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams  I had seen at one of her friends house and The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King.

The more I read novels, the more I could see the weaknesses in comic book stories. Reading more novels led to more interest in literature. This led to me majoring in English which forced writing upon me. When I briefly dropped out in 2011 and into a deep depression it was writing that got me out of it and brought the love back I had for it back to the forefront of my brain.

All because I picked up Green Lantern Rebirth. 

GL-rebirth-cv

A Reboot Green Lantern film arrives in 2020: This is what I’d like to see.

In case you missed it, Warner Bros. announced a whole slew of films for their DC Cinematic Universe yesterday including a reboot of Green Lantern in 2020. Now, in my blind fandom, I really wanted to like the 2011 film but sadly it is fact really poorly executed. It wasn’t the CGI that bothered me, I quite liked the costume and the look of the members of the Green Lantern Corps. but the plot and dialogue was so shoddy.

First of all, skip the origin. Hal Jordan has the ring, has already been trained and make the mentor/student relationship between Sinestro and himself already established. Hal and Carol should be either dating or broken up because of his responsibilities as a Green Lantern.

Second, keep the bits on Earth to a minimum. Let the movie begin on Earth with Hal living his civilian life only for him to get called into action just as he’s on a date or about to kiss Carol Ferris. Then, the rest of the movie completely in space until the very end, leave Hal’s happy ending with Carol rest until the very end or have him need to explain that being Green Lantern is just something he has to do. Either use that to break them off or they decide to try to make it work. Whatever the screenwriter decides, keep the romance to a minimum and downplay the playboy type with Hal.

Next, Sinestro is the main villain, no other villains. He has become the dictator type Green Lantern of his own sector and Hal Jordan is sent in by the Guardians to arrest his former mentor. Here Hal takes down his former mentor, captures him and the Guardians banish him. Sinestro vows revenge, gets banished to Qward then gains the yellow ring through mysterious means. Since they already screwed up Parallax maybe downplay his role with the yellow ring. Also, don’t combine Krona and Parallax into the same character. Perhaps keep Marc Guggenheim as far away from the script as you can.

Most importantly, choose your cast and tone wisely. The problem with the 2011 film was the parts that were funny were cringe worthy and the dramatic parts were so bad they were funny. You need to balance Hal’s sense of humor and quips with the serious tone Sinestro takes while building up the tension that comes when you have to fight someone you used to look up to.

Lastly, build towards the larger Green Lantern Corps., don’t just try to throw different members like Tomar Re and Kilowog for the sake of being in the movie. If you can’t include them naturally, don’t bother. You want to build a cinematic universe but you need to take it slow. Marvel is already ahead of you, may as well get it right before you have to do it all over again.

 

The Flash TV Series is a Breath of Fresh Air.

Two episodes in and I am all aboard the band wagon for The Flash. It is unadulterated superhero fun balanced with drama, something that has been lacking in DC Comics media for a long time. Something that Marvel has been getting the balance right in their movies since Iron Man came out.

I love DC Comics but since The Dark Knight came out they’ve been on the grim and gritty train in every aspect with no end in sight for their movies. If Man of Steel and the concept art for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a sign of things to come for their movie universe then I’m glad The Flash TV series exists.

A lot of the reviews and comments about the show complained about the corny lines but to me, the investment I have in the characters in only two episodes in strong enough to actually enjoy them. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen is hopeful, optimistic and the nerdy underdog with the incredible powers I want to cheer for.

Carlos Valdes as Cisco is easily becoming The Flash’s version of Felicity, the techy side character that keeps the show feeling light with his quips while Jesse L. Martin as Joe West steals every scene as the father figure pushing Barry in the right direction.  The emotion in his face in episode two both at the midpoint and at the end just pulls at my hearts strings, but I am the sentimental type. Plus Tom Cavanagh, formerly J.D.’s slacker older brother on Scrubs has me on the edge of my seat at the end of each episode now, wondering what he’s up to while pushing Barry to become a better hero. I never would have thought that Tom Cavanagh would be the type to have such intense scenes.

I don’t mind the corny lines, because it keeps the show light and fun. What’s the alternative? Superman kills General Zod and lets a large population of his city die? Is anyone at Warner Bros. tired of The Dark Knight Returns motif? Does Wonder Woman really need to wear mud colored armor? Isn’t Superman supposed to be a symbol of hope? According to Warner Bros., no, not anymore. So instead I’ll take the Flash and hope its high ratings will show Warner Bros. that grim and gritty doesn’t always necessary mean good. The world is grim and gritty enough.