Archive for the ‘Comic Books’ Category

titans_robin-first-look-finalRemember the 90s? When comics were all dark, and the gimmick was “grim and gritty?”

Apparently this is still with us.

They managed to take everything fun and unique about the Teen Titans and turn it into a generic super hero story.

Even the use of the F word is generic, since it’s been in almost every modern X-Men movie.

Movies and shows are supposed to be different from each other. Batman is dark. Spider-Man is funny. X-Men have multiple continuities that are confusing.

Teen Titans had its serious moments, particularly with Terra. While some could argue the animated Teen Titans were too silly, I don’t mind. It makes me smile. It’s fun, and that’s what comic book movies should be.

Meanwhile, I watched the trailer for Teen Titans Go To The Movies three times in a row. And one of those was with my 11-year-old.

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Storm Halle Berry
Besides just hoping beyond hope that the movie will be as good as it looks, there are some things I really want to see in Avengers: Infinity War.

Cameos: Presumably, the movie is going to end with a cliffhanger where Thanos blinks half the heroes out of existence. Therefore, they need to recruit some more for the next movie. I hope that the final scene, or the after-the-credits scene, is of Nick Fury trying to recruit someone. You don’t see who they are in the beginning, then the camera pans out to show Patrick Stewart and Halle Berry. Also would be good to see Ian McClellan or Hugh Jackman there. This would make everyone go nuts. Colossus would be a good choice, too, because it would hint that maybe Deadpool would be in the next one. Or, you could have Deadpool leaning on the window of the X-Mansion looking in, with a sign that says “I want to be in the crossover, too!”

Room To Breathe: With this many characters, it’s going to be hard to give them enough room where the whole movie doesn’t feel rushed. At this point, they are all established, so we don’t need to waste time on reminding people who they are. Captain America: Civil War did a good job of having a lot of characters and still feel true to them all. This would be the next step.

A Simple Plot: Screenwriters try to dazzle us with labyrinthine plots (later Pirates of the Caribbean movies), to show how smart the villain is (Batman Vs. Superman). These usually fall flat. Thankfully, Thanos is not known for his subtlety. Following the MacGuffin that has been weaving through the entire MCU since the first Captain America movie should be enough.

The Wonder Woman movie was great, and it brought scores of new fans to the character. However, DC failed to capitalize on this movement by promoting a pretty generic DC Super Hero Girls comic instead of a real Wonder Woman story.

The Wonder Woman movie had Diana dealing with her high principals in a murky world, kicking the asses of Nazis and gods and tanks (if tanks have asses). There were kids – boys and girls – posing with the 3D posters at the theater.

Unfortunately, there’s none of that kick-ass strong woman in the kids marketing for DC. For a long time, it seemed that any comic book marketed to kids had to have almost no violence, and of course no sexuality, and no complex storyline.

The DC Super Hero Girls described Wonder Woman this way: “the Amazon warrior and princess who has never left her home on Paradise Island until now! In order to be the best Super Hero she can be, Wonder Woman has to juggle classes, new friendships, and seeing a boy for the first time – at the most elite school in the galaxy.”

I’m not kidding. Here’s the picture:

Ares isn’t the villain. He shows up and they hug or something.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to devalue the hard work of the people who put this comic together. It’s not a terrible book. It’s a breezy read, and the art is fun. But if you leave the theater expecting more of the same, you will be highly disappointed.

Wonder Woman was the first super hero movie my 10-year-old daughter had ever seen. She only wanted to see it because there was a girl kicking butt. So, she read this comic and was OK with it and moved on. She read it once and it really didn’t jive with her.

Instead, I loaned her this:

 Buy it here:
JLA Vol. 5 (Jla (Justice League of America))
This is a great story, and told perfectly. Wonder Woman has to share some screen time with her teammates, but she’s definitely more like the character that is in the movie.

In this one, a hapless mortal accidentally unleashes the Queen of Fables into the real world. Being a creature of fiction, her power is fed by imagination. She is fueled by fairy tales and horror movies and anything else writers can think of (and writers can think of some pretty messed up stuff). She mistakes Diana for her nemesis, Snow White, and casts a curse on her. The League has to travel into the world of myth, where Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth has great power.

Add to this, the fact that the team is hobbled by a lack of trust after Batman betrayed them with ways to defeat to them all. This lack of trust got worse as they faced off against Destiny and eventually, their alter egos and super hero personas got split and took on lives of their own.

During Mark Waid’s run on JLA, it felt like there was something cool happening on every page. And Bryan Hitch was able to make it happen.

My daughter eagerly read this graphic novel and loved it. It was more of the kick-butt girl she wanted.

This mistake isn’t new. When the very first X-Men movie came out, all the heroes from the movie were on different teams and Magneto was dead. I was working at a comic book store at the time. People came in looking for something like the movie for their kid, and I had trouble recommending something. Mostly because every issue of every comic back then was part 7 of a 14-issue story arc.

Comic companies have to remember the time decades ago when comics were all ages and reached a variety of fans. There’s a way to write so that kids can have that “gosh wow” feeling of cool action, and older readers can dig into the more sophisticated backstories.

Here there be spoilers…

Halfway through the fun cosmic adventure that is Dr. Strange, I realized that the movie followed the same structure as the failed Green Lantern movie:

In the first 15 minutes, we are introduced to the charming but deeply flawed hero. Whereas Green Lantern gave us a likable actor in Ryan Reynolds, Dr. Strange gave us a likable Benedict Cumberbatch. But Dr. Strange gave us something that Green Lantern never did: A reason why the protagonist decided to “protag.” Like the comic book creators say in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, “The question is why.” For Stephen Strange, his why is the same as Tony Stark and Thor Odinson: hubris. We never really get the “why” in Green Lantern. He just found a lantern and figured he’d become a super hero.

 

benedict_cumberbatch_as_doctor_strange

After the intro, both heroes are indoctrinated into a universe that is greater than the Earth they know. The GL Guardians can easily be substituted with the Ancient One and the rest of the sorcerers. They are a police force that protects Earth from otherworldly threats that the average person is completely unaware of.

They teach the hero how to bend reality to his imagination. They even give him a ring at one point. The hero goes through the stages of adventure, from denial to acceptance, and is soon kicking butt better than those who have trained for years. He faces off against the bad guy, who is just an appetizer for the cosmic, shapeless true evil. And his mentor turns bad.

Despite the parallels, Dr. Strange was a stronger movie. It wasn’t stuffed with characters, just enough to get through. There was only one computer-rendered character, and it was the end villain. Everything was grounded in an internal logic that explained why magic was OK. (And thank you, Marvel, for just saying it was magic, and not science or midi-chlorians or whatever.)

And finally, the fight scenes were unique to the movie. What I mean to say is that the action sequences could have only happened in this movie. In particular, the scene with mystic monks fighting while time is going backward was something I had never seen before and could only be done in this kind of movie.

What I learned: When people say that you can’t do something if it happened in another movie, you still can, if you do it better.

Other Worlds cover

The Year of Batman Doing Things Batman Wouldn’t Do

(mild spoilers)

People complain that the theaters are filled with super hero movies. Well, 2016 had three theatrical releases with the same super hero: Batman.

Batman Vs. Superman

The Killing Joke

Suicide Squad

Most people didn’t care. The Killing Joke had such a limited theatrical release that it didn’t blip on too many people’s radar screens, and the people it did were happy to have more Bat for their bucks. Suicide Squad wasn’t technically a Batman film. And, finally, he had to share the first one with the big blue boy scout.

However, in each of these three movies, Batman did things that were very un-Batmanlike.

Much has been written about Batman’s murderish thuggery in BvS. In Killing Joke, he crossed the line with Barbara Gordon. In Suicide Squad, he kissed Harley the way someone using roofies would. He also endangered a child when bringing in Deadshot. (Although, it could be argued that he was scaring his daughter to make sure she grows up right.)

Other Worlds cover

It’s true that comic book characters get trapped into never changing for decades. Sometimes, radical changes are forced upon them. But some things are just a part of them. Sure, there are articles showing a bunch of times that Batman used guns. And sure, he killed people even in his first appearance. But after 80 years, with multiple appearances every month during the last few decades, if you can only count on a handful of times that he did those things, then those are the anomalies, not the true character. They were probably lapses in writing, or times when the character hadn’t been fully developed yet.

Heroes should make mistakes. However, these were mistakes Batman wouldn’t make. It makes you wonder who at DC approved these parts of the scripts.

It’s been said that there’s nothing new under the sun. Everything’s already been done.

Maybe.

But that’s why you’ve got to combine stuff, make it new, and make it your own.

Take Deadpool, for example:

Deadpool_thumbs_up

Deadpool = Spider-Man + Wolverine + Deathstroke + Ash from Army of Darkness

 

 

image description

A hilarious Choose-Your-Own-Adventure!

I’m happy for Joss Whedon, after hearing the announcement he’ll write and direct Avengers 2. I like to see a geek inherit the Earth.

But I worry about the franchise in general. Whedon has a tendency to make his villains too comfortable around the heroes. Considering he worked with vampires so long, I’m surprised how quickly he removes his villains’ teeth and makes them just ordinary guys and gals. Perhaps he just likes villains better, like Dr. Horrible. But I’m afraid that, in Avengers 2, Loki will be joining the heroes for a shawarma dinner.

Which one is better?

In the beginning… Later on…
Spike from Buffy Dangerous. You never knew what side he was on. Just kind of hung around because he had nothing else to do.
Danger from X-Men Living embodiment of the Danger Room. Coolest and most deadly new villain in the mutant titles. Just kind of hung around and poked fun of the heroes because she had nothing else to do.

Also:

“The Avengers” fixed the problems of the Marvel prequels

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/the-avengers-fixed-the-problems-of-the-marvel-prequels/

Editing mistake in Dark Knight Rises:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/a-mistake-in-dark-knight-rises/

 

The refrain I keep hearing from viewers is that they were surprised The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t super great.

This is different from the disappointment fans had when Spider-Man 3 just didn’t work for them. This was more about having unrealistic expectations.

The Dark Knight was arguably the best comic book movie ever made. If any movie was expected to best this, it would have been Dark Knight Rises. It’s not that part 3 was bad. No one seems to be saying that. They’re just saying it’s not terrific.

Maybe there needed to be more Batman in a Batman movie.

Maybe it was more of what a friend said that it was big on a comic book scale rather than a real life scale. In the last movie, it was about people and the decisions they make. There wasn’t a Macguffin threatening to blow up the city.

But really, I think it comes down to audience expectation and the inability of the creators to ever live up to that.

 

An editing mistake in Dark Knight Rises:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/a-mistake-in-dark-knight-rises/

 

Why it doesn’t matter if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are mutants:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/why-it-doesnt-matter-if-the-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-are-mutants/

 

Being an editor, I wind up noticing the silliest mistakes.

It wasn’t continuity. Or a plot hole. Or “Batman wouldn’t do that…”

It was spelling.

When Bruce Wayne is researching Selina Kyle on the Batcave computer, he has a bunch of newspapers up on the screen. One of them has “heist” spelled “hiest.”

Mr. Nolan, you’re a great writer, but not a great speller.

 

 

You Can’t Compare Batman 3 to Batman 2:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/you-cant-compare-batman-3-to-batman-2/

How to make a Wonder Woman movie:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/wonder-woman-movie-ideas/

And now for something completely different: A video game spoof of Twilight:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncjwZ2CJoTQ

Back when Sam Raimi was helming the Spider-man franchise, events were building up for the next villain: The Lizard.

Spider-Man

Spider-Man 4 needed a visual villain. He’d already had villains who could soar through the air and turn to sand. So the next villain needed to be good for action movies: awesome looking, fast, and like nothing we’d seen before. Instead of flipping through the air, the Lizard keeps the fight somewhat terrestrial – scaling skyscrapers and leaping car to car on a crowded road.

What if the serum Curt Connors uses is successful – at first. So successful, in fact, that he shares his creation with the world. Amputees from all over the world come, and he “cures” them all. Until, later, when the curse seeps in and Connors – and all of his patients – turn into lizards.

I thought that the Lizard by himself would not be a good enough villain after Spidey’s already fought goblins and Venom. But a legion of lizards, some of which with special powers, that gets interesting.

And, of course, Peter and MJ move closer in their relationship, Aunt May needs her medicine, and Spidey has to use his brains for a change.

You can read the script treatment here:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/spider-man-4/

Comic book version

Is there a doctor in the house?

 

The full treatment here:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/spider-man-4-dream-script-2/

Some notes on it:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/spider-man-4-notes-and-spider-man-5/

Some ideas on Spider-Man 5:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=719&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

A review of AmazingSpider-Man 600:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/amazing-spider-man-600/