As I said in the Superman Unbound review, DC Comics uber-writer Geoff Johns got his job thanks to his love of those first two live-action Superman films (and The Goonies). Because of this, he talked himself into a job playing step-n-fetch-it for director Richard Donner. Because of this, young Geoff found time to make some friends at DC Comics while he and Donner were in New York, working on that Mel Gibson-led X-Files rip-off no one remembers anymore, Conspiracy Theory.
Within a few months, former Superman writer (now DC Group Editor) Eddie Berganza secured Johns a job penning Justice Society of America. “Written” at the time (though some of us suspected it was “written in name only”) by Notable Hollywood Screenwriter David S. Goyer, JSA evolved, under Johns tenure, into an occasionally-quite-nice microcosm of its home universe. While the modern Justice League is usually composed of characters with true cultural clout, instantly recognizable to even the least-literate among us, JSA thrived by combining characters from comic’s Golden Age with impetuous youngsters either inspired by their example or straight-up continuing some poor dead person’s legacy.
That’s the thing I’ve always liked about the DC Universe: a meta-textual awareness of its own history. Unlike Marvel Comics, where all roads lead back to Captain America and everything else gets shunted a decade or so down the time stream by Editorial Fiat whenever continuity headaches become epidemic, DC’s heroes come in distinct, generational blocks. The Old Guard started putting on masks and punching bad guys at some point in the mid-1920s. They did it for their own reasons, came together for World War II, and then drifted apart again for other reasons no writer seems interested in addressing, save obliquely, through peeks at Wacky Alternate Dimensions (like the Watchmen universe, which outlawed masked heroics in the 70s with its Keene Act). The New Guard of the “perma-modern” world, usually beginning with Superman, chose to go the “thong-and-blanket” route partially because of that preexisting heroic tradition. This adds historical depth to DC’s fictional world while eliminating the need for any one character to bare the full weight of being “the world’s first super-hero” (though Superman’s usually handed that title by sympathetic friends in the media). Continue reading Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
Part 4: More Comic Book History You Don’t Care About But Need to Know in Order to Understand What the Hell’s Going On in This Review:
Since Warner Brothers insisted on adapting this story into two, one hour and twelve minute movies, I made a point of not revisiting The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 in preparation for this review of Part Deux. If it’d been up to me, I would’ve adapting Frank Miller’s four-issue story arc into one movie, and I might just edit these two together at some point, when I get some spare time. Even with everything here, it’d still be at least an hour shorter than the last two live action Bat-films. And make no mistake – the WB’s straight-to-video animation department threw in a lot.
They had no choice. These are adaptions of one of the best-loved Batman stories in history. Find me a Bat-writer and, with a little help from my friend Google, I’ll probably be able to find you a choice quote about how 1986’s Dark Knight Returns either got them into Batman in the first place, or brought them back after a period of apostasy. Current Batman/Superman writer Greg Pak just provided me a perfect example in this interview, dated February 27th, 2013:
I dropped out for a little bit, and I was still picking up indie comics like Cerebus and Usagi Yojimbo, but it was Batman that got me back into superhero comics when I was in college. Specifically it was Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, which then led me to other stuff. It was basically Frank Miller who dragged me back in, and I was hooked. I was obsessed with Batman. Continue reading Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (2013)
Introduction: Comic Book History You Don’t Care About But Need to Know in Order to Understand What the Hell’s Going On (with apologies to Linkara).
Yes, friends, it’s time once again to examine the hilariously over-praised work of comic book writer Frank Miller, whose slow slide into insanity, inanity and irrelevance has provided amusement to comic book fans for the last fifteen years. Before that, though – and still to this day in some corners of Bat-fandom – Miller is/was considered a godhead, the wellspring from which all modern conceptions of Batman flow.
This is patent bullshit, ignoring at least fifteen years of hard work by other creatives. My favorite Batman editor, Dennis O’Neil, started out as a front-line writer in 1969, and made the conscious choice to move Bats away from the campiness of his by-then-canceled TV show. Together with writer/artist Neil Adams, inker Dick Giordano and editor Julius Schwartz, O’Neil returned The Bat to his roots in the pulpy Crime Dramas of the 30s and early 40s. The SF elements common in American comic’s Silver Age either shuffled off to the background…or were not-so-subtly twisted to reflect the changing (or “evolving”…and I’d dare say “improving”) tastes of the 70s. This culminated in Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers 1977 run on Detective Comics, now sold under the title Batman: Strange Apparitions.
For my cash, that marks the first appearance of a truly “modern” Batman, complete with all the baggage and angst that define him still today. O’Neil sent the First Robin, Dick Grayson, off the college, leaving Bats and Alfred alone in their mansion, just the way filmmakers (apparently) like it. Englehart and Rogers introduced the first of many Bruce Wayne love interests, inevitably moving him to question his crusade and its end game…before just as inevitably departing his life, leaving him with even more to brood about. Put those elements together, shake ’em up, add villains to taste, and you’ve got every (good) live action Bat-film to date…and through Batman’s influence, most of the Superhero sub-genre.
Because there’s no such thing as too much Batman, my superhero expertise and I joined the incomparable Jon X of The After Movie Diner to discuss the whole of Chris Nolan’s trilogy, from the Bat’s humble Beginnings to his still-recent Rise.
…is the thirteenth straight-to-video DC animated superhero movie and the last one credited to Eisner Award-winning writer/producer Dwayne McDuffie, who passed beyond the Source Wall to join the fundamental forces of the multiverse on February 21, 2011. He will be sorely missed.
Especially since Doom is far from his best work, that being all those episodes of Cartoon Network’s Justice League show that weren’t written by Stan Berkowitz, Rich Fogel, or Bruce Timm. Together, that team did more to introduce superheroes to “normal” people than the last thirty years of comic book company presidents, all while working withing the constrictions of network television censorship regime. Their movies…I don’t know. They’ve been okay…but I’d only recommend four out of the thirteen to you fine people with any degree of seriousness. Doom could’ve been number five, and it almost was…until I made the mistake of thinking about it for more than two seconds at a stretch. Continue reading Justice League: Doom (2012)
I hate to sound like an ungrateful fanboy but I find myself with no other option. Why does this film even exist? It’s too late for Year One. What idiot would want to adapt it now, after all its major elements have been translated to the silver screen at least twice?
Non-comic book readers should know Year One first appeared as a four-part story arc in Batman #404-407 (February – May 1987). Like most of the Bat-stories published around that time, it quickly became a cornerstone of the character’s modern continuity. Creative teams have referenced it and referred to it ever since, and it’s inspired some of the finest stories of Bat’s modern age.
For example: Bruce Timm (who executive produced this film), Paul Dini and Alan Burnet used it as the inspiration for whole sequences of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (otherwise known as The Greatest Batman Movie Ever Made), including the flashbacks to Bruce’s early crime-fighting years and his extended flight from the GCPD in the second act. Christopher Nolan turned wide swaths of Year One into my favorite parts of Batman Begins, including the slow build-up to our first sight of Bruce in the Bat-suit…and his extended flight from the GCPD in the second act. Both used Year One as inspiration: a ball they ran with into their separate In-Zones. How can any screen adaption of Year One hold up against that, or the quarter century of expectation Bat-fans have built up? Continue reading Batman: Year One (2011)
Robin, the Boy Wonder, is one of the most controversial characters in superhero comics. First debuting in 1940 as a transparent attempt to (what else?) attract new readers, he immediately became a popular and enduring staple of the Batman mythos despite inspiring decade’s worth of Gay Panic, humorous or otherwise. The general populous conceives Robin as an eternal twelve year-old, jumping around rooftops when he should be doing his homework. But who can concentrate on algebra when Killer Croc’s out killing mobsters in a bid to take over Gotham City’s underworld? What kid wouldn’t want to live over the Batcave?
Thankfully, comic book Robin’s been allowed to grow up. By the late 70s, his civilian identity, Dick Grayson, had graduated high school and moved off to college. As Robin, he’d assumed command of the Justice League’s youth brigade, the Teen Titans, and helped save the world on numerous occasions. By 1983, he’d all but disappeared from Gotham, necessitating a new youngster fill his little green boots.
Enter Jason “Oh my God” Todd. As in “Oh my God, Bruce, I can not believe you took this kid under your wing.” First conceived as a transparent replacement for Dick Grayson (how transparent? Well, Jason was also a second generation circus acrobat whose parents also happened to catch their death from Crime), Jason suffered a lot in the great continuity rewrite of 1986, Crisis on Infinite Earths. When the multiverse finally stabilized, Jason was reborn as a street urchin, orphaned by Crime and taken in by Batman after Bruce caught him trying to steal tires…off the Batmobile…yeah… Continue reading Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)