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.

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You Should Read: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.

I have a confession to make, I never finished Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man or Ex Machina. These were two series whose initial runs I had missed but was collecting the hardcover deluxe editions of. When I started cutting back my hours at work to focus on college the money I would spend on comics was either going towards college or my ever growing book collection.

Sage was a series I have heard nothing but praise for since its inception but had put off reading it for one reason or another. It was constantly on my wishlists for Christmas and birthday gifts but never received. It wasn’t until another book loving friend who’s opinion I highly respect pushed me to read it that I purchase the deluxe hardcover edition.

Let’s throw  out those catch all comparisons people usually do with stuff like this: It’s reminiscent of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Firefly. It’s like Warren Ellis meets Iain M. Banks meets Neil Gaiman. Forget all that. It’s fucking great and you should read it.

First off, the plot: Two people from warring species fall in love and have a baby then are on the run from the people they betrayed. Simple right? Well, Vaughan takes this and turns it into this expansive world without having to spend too much time on exposition. All the new places, creatures, cultures, and objects are given to us without sidetracking the story but Vaughan sells it with his crisp writing and Fiona Staples destroys it with her art.

Seriously, I can’t praise Fiona Staples’s art enough. The people in this book come in all shapes and sizes. I’m talking about people with horns, spiderlegs, one eye, wings, green skin, and televisions for heads but they never stop feeling like real people. For me at least there is no suspension of disbelief. Everything in it so far that I’ve read feels real despite being different from my own and when Staples isn’t selling it with his art Vaughan is doing it with his dialogue.

The characters talk like people talk now, or at least a heightened version of how we talk now that comes in storytelling. It isn’t just how they talk but what they talk about. Sex, love, different cultures, intimacy, money, youth, age, wisdom, and parenting are all mixed in with this crazy space opera / fantasy adventure.

Besides Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals I haven’t been this excited or engaged reading a comic book in a long time. I highly recommend you read it.

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Images by Fiona Staples

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. 

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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.

Here’s hoping “Civil War” is better in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Reported yesterday, Robert Downey Jr. About To Join Captain America 3 And It May Be Civil War. If you don’t know, the basic premise of the Civil War storyline was a rift between Captain America and Iron Man over how superheroes should be handled. After a very public tragedy Tony Stark joins the government in establishing a superhuman registration act where every superhero must register their secret identity with the government and work as a kind of police force rather than vigilantes. Steve Rogers believe this is a violation of every superheroes civil liberties. Be warned after this there will be spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Forget the movies for right now. Let’s just talk about the comic for a minute. When it came out Civil War was a big deal for Marvel and selling very well. In the early 2000’s the Avengers had disassembled, gotten back together and reformed with new members so after all these years of building them back up Civil War had a high potential for exciting drama by breaking them apart again. Here’s the problem, it was so poorly executed.

In the main series Mark Millar claims he was trying to show both side of the argument, you know with Iron Man and Maria Hill acting like fascists, cloning their dead friends whose clone kills another one of their friends, imprisoning their friends in another dimension and generally attacking anyone who is anti-registration. We’re not talking about arresting his friends after a trial, Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man planned on imprisoning them indefinitely essentially taking away their civil liberties. Then, at the end, we’re supposed to believe Iron Man is in the right because a bunch of emergency personnel stopping  Captain America from taking Tony out to prevent more bloodshed? It’s such a sloppy ending, trying to put all the blame on Cap like Iron Man isn’t responsible at all for the collateral damage going on. I mean, by the end Iron Man needs to control villain with nanites in order to have people to fight against Captain America and we’re supposed to believe he is in the right?

All the other writers working on their respective titles didn’t help either. While Millar was trying to avoid any one side becoming the underdog in the main title, which I believe he failed miserably,  it was more black and white within the other books. Thinking of it now, if in his mind both sides had a fair point it paints a clear picture of Millar’s politics. Iron Man was clearly the villain and Cap and his team were the underdogs. In the aftermath, Cap ends up being assassinated making him a martyr and Tony is left being the most hated character in the Marvel Universe. It Takes Matt Fraction to make Tony Stark completely braindead and forget all about the Civil War when his brain is rebooted in order to return Iron Man to a more favorable light.

Okay, now onto the movies. Presumably Tony will create Ultron in Avengers 2 as a force for a good to protect the world which will fail. Feeling guilt ridden over this he’ll appear in Captain America 3 to begin the rift between Steve and himself. I’m not sure how they will execute it but this is supposed to lead into a Civil War storyline in Avengers 4.

The problem so far is that out of all the superheroes that exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now, only Daredevil, which has not even been released by Netflix yet, has a secret identity. Tony Stark outed himself in the first Iron Man, Steve Rogers is a legendary WWII veteran, Thor has no secret identity, Black Widow outed herself, Sam Wilson and probably Clint Barton in bringing down S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury is in Europe, Coulson is underground rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Hulk has caused enough destruction at this point that Bruce Banner is probably known.

There’s definitely potential for their to be enough superheroes for a Civil War by the time Avengers 4 comes out. So far we know we’ll have Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Quiksilver, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. So if there are three years between Avengers sequels and Avengers 4 comes out around 2021…

Oh god, 2021? Could they really have long term plans for that long? Will I even care about these Marvel movies?

Anyway, it might be a better idea to have Tony and Steve’s fallout center not around a government legislation as Tony has already proven to not trust the government with his tech but maybe centered around something else, like say, the creation of a killer robot? Maybe that creation of the killer robot is what causes Tony to not trust himself while Steve, due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. fallout from Winter Soldier doesn’t trust the government thanks to Hydra infiltration. Then again, if Tony already doesn’t trust the government I can’t see him trusting it anymore after he learns everything about the Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. scandal.

So there’s potential to have a whole slew of super heroes running around by the time Avengers 4 comes out. For me though, the heroes versus heroes storyline is kind of boring. It may be a trope but I’d much prefer if by the end of Civil War a much larger threat reunites Cap. and Iron Man to take on said threat. That’s just me though.

Killing Off Wolverine is the Right Decision by Marvel.

The Death of Wolverine is an event comic currently running at Marvel by Charles Soule and Steven McNiven and I could not be happier the 5’3 Canadian is being killed off. He has become the most oversaturated and uninteresting comic character without any clear or consistent motivation for years now.

He is an Avenger. He is an X-Men. He is part of a black-ops team. He founded and teaches at a new school for mutants. He was possesed by a demon. He discovered his past. He lost his healing factor. He does what has to be done e.g. murder, cut, and dismember people including his own son but doesn’t want young mutants to be on the frontlines when the X-Men are needed. This is just the last ten years of stories for Wolverine so obviously death might be one of the few storylines left to explore with this character. The problem is, with a timeline that basically perpetually frozen so their characters don’t age all of this jumbling of progress and motivation has made Logan impossible for me to care about.

The other problem is that he’s in every book. In one book he’s lecturing Scott Summers about how teenagers aren’t soldiers, in another he’s telling Captain America that sometimes killing is the only solution, in another he’s drinking beers with Spider-Man playing the gruff stoic friend to Peter Park and then in another he’s killing people with his teenage clone X-23 with the rest of his black ops team. The character needs consistency and if they need to kill him off to do that then I am all for it.

There is no change in comics, just the illusion of change. Wolverine coming back from the dead isn’t an eventuality but an inevitability. Hopefully he is in a limited capacity, like say, in one solo ongoing and one team book. If he’s going to be in the Avengers, don’t put him in X-Force or the X-Men. If he’s in one ongoing where he’s trying to fight moon mutant don’t have another one where he’s underneath the Earth’s soil marrying a mole woman. When you put him in all these different books so close together acting differently than he does in all the other books he appears in you’re telling me that Wolverine doesn’t matter, the storyline doesn’t matter, and making me well aware of the illusion of change.

For people who don’t read comics it is much easier to like Wolverine. He is like the definition of power fantasy. He has sharp blades coming out of his hand, he heals from almost anything, has a clear purpose in life (finding out his past) while doing and saying whatever he wants because he’s not to be messed with. Imagine what it’s like to be around that guy all the time but everytime you hang out he contradicts himself. That is what it’s like to read Wolverine in comics.

So go ahead Marvel, kill him. Make X-23 the new Wolverine for a couple of years, explore what motivates her and then when you bring Wolverine back give him a motivation I can get behind instead of plopping him into a story to raise sales of an issue. It makes sense to me. One of the most interesting storylines to happen to Batman in the last couple of years was for Bruce to get lost in time while Dick Grayson took on the mantle. While you’re at it, kill off Deadpool too.

Resisting Reading.

I haven’t always been an avid reader. I have always had great reading skills but reading books for leisure was something I resisted up until I went to college.

I was often bullied, made fun of and nicknamed from elementary school until the end of junior high school. Nerd & Geek culture wasn’t like it is now. If you were different, you were bullied and you couldn’t be more different if you did anything that fell into that kind of nerdy category like reading for fun. That was something losers did, losers who tried to be smart and being smart meant you were an outsider. It wasn’t cool and it wasn’t what being a man meant. This is, of course, the opinion of the 6 to 12-year-olds who bullied me and even amongst some of my peers. I honestly don’t remember people who were good at math getting the same chagin and those who read books for fun. It was either sports, video games, professional wrestling or cool action movies. Never books.

It’s not as if my parents didn’t try. They read to me as a smaller child and every time they went to the library they would ask me if I wanted anything. “No,” I would say and play through Super Mario World for the 50th time. When a Border opened up for the first time near our house, I believe around when I was 12ish, is when my parents got me to read some books. It wasn’t many though. In fact, it was a series by Bruce Coville that started with Aliens Ate My Homework. 

I can think of so many times I was bored in the library, walking up and down the aisles. I wonder how many times I passed J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, or Douglas Adams walking those aisles. Instead of reading it I would wait for the library to get the latest copy of Nintendo Power. That’s how I discovered the Nintendo 64, through the library’s copies of that magazine.

The dilemma I faced though was that I wanted to be a writer. It’s hard to be a writer if you’re so resistant to liking books. If you look at my 6th grade yearbook, when they ask what you wanted to do when you grow up I wrote movie script writer instead of writer or novelist because writing wasn’t cool but movies were.

Then when I met who would become my best friend from 8th grade to 12th and he introduced me to hip-hop I suddenly had a new world to explore that I never had before. In my mind, writing other genres of music was about playing instruments first and lyrics second. With hip-hop, it was mostly about the words and the rhythm of words. When he would ask me to join his rap group, I suddenly had an outlet for my writing. I wasn’t very good at the performing part but I love writing lyrics. So many marble notebooks just filled with lyrics and song ideas.

I was always good at reading though. When Shakespeare was taught in class I had no struggle with the language. Spelling and vocabulary tests were what I lived for. When my 10th grade English teacher showed us Finding Forrester I immediately connected with it.

Then we had a major falling out and I was left without my main group of friends. Suddenly I hated writing, very resistant of it. I associated writing with that friendship and I had no desire to do it anymore. Without music or writing I had to think of what I was like before I met my highschool group of friends. Besides video games I would read comic books. My dad would bring home bundles of Spider-Man, Green Lantern and The Simpsons comic books for me to read. I remember this shop my mom used to hate bringing me to because the parking lot was so bad and immediately looked it up. There, I saw Green Lantern Rebirth #3 and asked the clerk about it. He found me copies of the first and second issue and that’s where my comic book habit started and my love for reading began to grow strong again.

It was when I went to a Barnes & Noble for the first time that I started transitioning from comic books to books. It all began with this beautiful leather bound copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy then at Christmas I got an equally beautiful copy of The Lord of the Rings. It’s been all about books since then.