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Batman V Superman: World’s Finest

Someone asked me last week: Why are they having Superman and Batman fight each other in the new movie?

Why not?

It makes sense. The self-made man v the alien powerhouse. One thrives in the dark, the other literally is powered by the light.

Would you expect these two characters to get along off the bat? You put two alphas in the room they will scrap.

And it is a legendary matchup.

It is Yankees v Red Sox.

It is Ali-Frazier.

It is the big one.

The allure of putting these two at each others throat is simple: While both are heroes their methods could not be more different.

Fear. Intimidation. Brute force. Those are Batman’s tools. He is after all only human. He is not an invulnerable alien. There are shortcuts that he simply must take. Even while never taking the ultimate shortcut-he does not kill.

Superman can sit back and be the boy scout. Common criminals simply cannot hurt him. Some of his lofty morals come from knowing he is in no real danger.

At heart both men want the same thing. They want to protect the innocent. To help their fellow-man. Bruce does not want anyone to go through what he went through as a child. His obsessive pursuit of justice drives him right to the edge. Clark. Well with Clark it is more simple. Raised by Ma and Pa Kent he is a good man. A good man with incredible powers. Not using them to help others would not make any sense to him. There is a reason he was given those powers and for him that reason is to protect those that cannot protect themselves.

Clark is optimistic, glass half full. Bruce is so cynical that the glass is not there at all.

It is easy to see how they could be rivals or even enemies. It is easier still to see how they would be friends.

Who else could understand what each man must go through in his own personal crusade?

They are the worlds greatest heroes. These adversaries. And one day they could be the best of friends.

For now they are simple the World’s Finest.

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Batman V. Superman: Doomsday

In a few short days Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will premier. So very many things to look forward to. Today I choose to look at one of the villains: Doomsday.

Introduced in 1992s ‘Death of Superman’ storyline, Doomsday was a force of nature. Plowing through hero after hero until he faced Superman alone. Genetically created(thousands of years ago on Krypton) to be the ultimate survivor-Doomsday can never be beaten the same way twice.  Finally, after realizing there was no other way to beat him, Superman beat Doomsday to death with his dying breath. Of course both characters would eventually return.

When the first trailers of the upcoming movie appeared some fans complained. You see this Doomsday’s origin is different from the comics. From what we think we know the movie Doomsday will be created by Lex Luthor using the corpse of Zod from ‘Man of Steel’. This will be Lex Luthor’s Frankenstein monster. And for some this is unacceptable.

Me? I think it is awesome. Using the original version could be problematic in the movies. Taking a page from ‘the Modern Prometheus’ is brilliant. Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to mankind. What better way to fight Superman than stealing from the gods again by reanimating Zod?

With one simple change you give new life to the Luthor/Superman dynamic while also creating someone who could rival the Kryptonian’s power levels. You also create a battle which would necessitate Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman teaming up.

And isn’t that what we all really want?

 

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#WhoSpeaksForTheGingers

Comic Books are a unique form of art. They are the best of sequential storytelling. In novels a writer paints a picture, in comics artists fill in the blanks. They show you what this character or that looks like. Those depictions matter. In novels you have more wiggle room.

In recent years there has been an effort to create more character diversity in the world of comics. In years past that was not always the case. Diversity got a token response from the industry. Now there is a concentrated effort to do better. With varying success.

The upcoming Iron Fist TV series has opened another can of worms in this conversation. There are those who have complained about the actor who was chosen to portray Danny Rand/the Iron Fist. Let us ignore the fact that he seems to fit nicely in the way that Iron Fist has been portrayed since his arrival in May of 1974. For over forty years Danny Rand has been the Iron Fist, in those years he has always been portrayed as a blond-haired, Caucasian man. Apparently that is not good enough for some. These individuals feel he should be portrayed by an actor of Asian decent(ignoring the simple fact that this would go against the entire premise of the character). I am sure those that feel this way have rational reasoning for this and frankly…I do not care.

This column is not about Iron Fist. This is about the thought that you create diversity by changing the race or gender or sexual preference of characters that have been around forty, fifty years.

It does not work that way. Anyone who thinks it does has the horse around backwards.

‘Who Speaks For The Gingers?’

Gingers? I know…what the hell is he talking about now? I mention Gingers because several characters that have had their race changed have been Gingers-Wally West and Jimmy Olsen(at least the TV version of Olsen) also it seems sad that one of the greatest minorities(Gingers may not be around a century from now-red hair is a recessive gene) may soon be eliminated from our comic books. Soon we may be down to only Guy Gardner. So whenever the issue of race-bending comes up I ask: Who speaks for the Gingers?

In my mind’s eye changing long-standing characters races does not create diversity. It steals the memory from fans of these characters. It changes history. And frankly in my opinion some of these characters you are changing do more for diversity than their pale shadows ever will. Wally West certainly did. Under the pen of Mark Waid, Wally as the Flash had one of the most ethnically and progressive casts in comics. Wally was middle America and his friends and family were anything but.

Diversity is important but diversity for the sake of diversity is not the way to go. There is a better way. Create new characters. Simple. New. Characters.

Write what you know and who you know. Expand the horizons of our comics by expanding the cast, not by changing those we have. It can be done. Look at Ms Marvel, look at Miles Morales.

I have heard the arguments before. It is difficult to create lasting new characters. Some creators do not want to give their best to Marvel and DC if they cannot keep some ownership.

Both are valid. Wanting to keep your own characters is understandable. Someday perhaps DC and Marvel will do a better job compensating creators for their work…we are not there yet.

As far as it being hard. That is weak sauce. Anything worthwhile is hard. Do the work. Put your heart and soul into it. Do not cower and hide because it is difficult.

And if it is important to you it will be good and people will respond.

 

 

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Han Solo and the Prequels

S0…I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Yes I know…about damn time.

Sorry…I have been sick. And I did not want to ruin anyone else’s experience. That is just me. Not like the movie was not already spoiled five hours before I could have seen it here in Florida.

I loved the movie it was great. Fun, exciting, everything you want in a blockbuster movie. They did a great job introducing the new characters as well…this is not about all that.

Today I write about what we lost and what that loss revealed to me about why I feel the way I do about the prequels.

We lost Han Solo. Han! Of all the original cast we could have lost why did it have to be Han.

For me Han Solo is what brought me to the series to begin with. It was always the rebel without a cause space cowboy with a healthy dose of snark that made me care. It was never the Jedi. It was never Luke Skywalker. Not for one moment.

It was always Han.

Star Wars has always been more Science Fantasy than Science Fiction and one common element of fantasy is the use of the skeptic. From the Alice in Wonderland to Scully in X-Files you always need that person that has not drank the kool aid quite yet to be the viewers eyes. That is exactly what the companions are in Doctor Who. They are us. It is only through these characters eyes that we can truly experience the wonder. That is Han’s role. He is our skeptic, our hero. He does not believe in the force.

“There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. Its all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense”-Han Solo

He brings us in and his sense of humour and blind heroics make us want to stay. And now he is gone. I already feel the loss. They have positioned Finn and Poe Dameron to fill his role: the fallen stormtrooper and the hotshot pilot. While they may stand in his place…they may never fill his shoes.

Now you may be thinking what this all has to do with the prequels…I am getting there.

Anyone who knows me knows that I was never a fan of the prequels. I have often said “They are telling a story that we all know the ending but they are not getting us there in an interesting way.”

Part of it was always an over-reliance on CGI. Too much Jar Jar. A horrible waste of a great concept in the Clone Wars. Or even a fairly weak turning to the dark side by Anakin. All of these are valid reasons not to like the prequels. But I realize that there is another for me.

The prequels are all Jedi, all the time. So much Force Sensitivity, so many Jedi and Sith and far too few actual people. Everyone seems to have powers…where is the person for us to identify with. Where is our Han? I have always been drawn to the normal in over his head in a world he cannot possibly understand.

In the prequels that was missing…at least for me.

 

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The Voice

“The Earth has music for those who listen.” -William Shakespeare

The world sings. The melodies are all around. Coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Do you hear the voice?

We all have a voice. Something that we identify with. Something that is uniquely ours.

We share that with the world even if you do not realize it.

Some find so many different ways to share that voice. For me it has been art, music, writing…all in their own way give me joy.

And I try to share that joy with the world.

But there are times when that voice goes silent. Life gets in the way. Static, distractions they take away the connection to that voice.

There are times I have put down the pencil, the guitar. Times I have locked this keyboard away. In those moments you wonder if you will pick them up again.

Have you changed?

Has that voice stopped talking to you?

The voice is always there. You simply have to let it find you again. It is not always the way it was.

I rarely play the guitar anymore. Time is scarce and my guitar gathers dust in the corner.

The art comes and goes. Pencils, pens, paper…scattered around my home. Sketches and concepts adorn the pages. Pieces waiting for me to finish them. Some have waited far too long.

So I write. And when I am not writing…I write. Stories, columns, thoughts…they multiply in my mind even when I am away from the keyboard. Filling up space until I dust them off to share with the world.

I hear the Voice.

It is screeching and howling.

It is beautiful.

 

 

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Heroes Do Not Kill

Should Heroes Kill?

As long as there have been stories there has been this question. Villains kill. We know this. But can a hero kill and still call themselves a hero.

Some feel a hero owes it to us to find another way, a better way.

Others think that for the greater good the good guy should simply exterminate the bad guy.

Both methods do have their merits. If no matter what Batman does the Joker is simply going to break out of Arkham and kill again would it not be prudent to end him now to lessen the body count. The thing is though…Batman does not kill…Should he?

Heroes stand for something far greater than themselves. Batman has always symbolized justice, not vengeance. He does not kill. He should not. As a character Batman is an obsessive teetering on a razors edge. Taking a life might push him over. He could become worse than the villains he seeks to bring to justice.

Some fans refer to characters like the Punisher who kill criminals indiscriminately. The villains do not return because he puts them down quickly. That is a ‘death wish’ style fantasy. That is not a hero. That is an executioner. Where is the line between a true villain and a man who made a mistake, a man who can be redeemed. The Punisher does not ask, he does not care, he simply kills.

This is not to say that there are no circumstances where it would be acceptable for a hero to kill. There are always exceptions. Great stories can be told with those exceptions, the effect these actions may have on both the hero and the public that adores him or her can create great drama.

When walking down the path to a hero taking another’s life we should tread carefully.

Heroes can kill, but they simply do not.

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Christopher Reeve is Superman

We now live in a renaissance of super-hero movies, two or more movies a year is common place. This was not always the case. In 1978 the first of the big screen super-hero movies would arrive. Superman: The Movie.

I happened to catch it on TV the other night, it still holds up. Yes, it is a little cheesy but that is ok. It has heart and a sense of hopefulness.

And it has Gene Hackman being a bucket full of awesome as usual. (Love Hackman, just love him.)

Most importantly though it had Christopher Reeve. For many, myself included, Christopher Reeve was Superman. He was the Superman we grew up on and he was the Superman we think of when someone mentions the movies. Yes other actors have played the part. George Reeves, Dean Cain, Brandon Routh, to the current actor Henry Cavill. They each brought something to the role but we keep returning to Reeve.

Christopher Reeve is Superman, emphasis on the ‘man’.

That is where some writers and filmmakers lose me. They get distracted by the incredible power of Superman that they forget about the man-part. Reeve is corny as you can get but it works. You absolutely believe that he was raised in Kansas and you believe that he could fly. If you were an all-American kid from Kansas who could fly you would be a little corny too. There is the gravitas that comes from such powers, but there is also the joy.

It often comes down to nature-versus-nuture. Yes Superman is a Kryptonian with fantastic powers, but he was raised on a farm in Kansas. This is no stranger in a strange land. Kansas is his home not Krypton. He is so human and you see that in Reeve’s portrayal. There is humour, but more important there is humanity.

Watching that first movie I remember what made so many love the character of Superman but more importantly his better half Clark Kent. Kal El is not the super one, it is always Clark.

The powers do not make him a hero but his humanity.

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