The Superman Movies! (part one)

Superman 1978

The first, and greatest, super hero, Superman has had a rather mixed bag when it comes to adaptations of his comic book adventures. There have been numerous television shows, radio serials, animated series, animated movies, video games, and live action movies, more of which were either just ok or straight up bad than good.

Superman actorsWhat is it about the big, blue boy scout that leads to so much crap?

You would think the elements that have been in place for 75 years now would be easy to adapt to the big screen, or the small screen. It’s not like there aren’t literally hundreds of pre-made stories in his publication history that are begging to be filmed and thrown on the screen, yet time and time again people think they can ‘improve’ upon the man of steel and his epically large library of awesomeness, and time and time again they fail miserably.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some success stories… “Superman: The Movie” was a high point, as were the Bruce Timm animated series and his representation in that same universe’s “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited”, as well as a handful of direct to DVD animated movies that did well. Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” may have divided some fans on its quality, but both Erik and I will go to our graves defending it.

Man of Steel

But for each of those, there are Superman 3, Superman Returns, Lois and Clark, most seasons of Smallville and the dreaded Superman 64! It’s curious. And as bad as those are, you wouldn’t believe some of the utter shit that almost got made. (6 Terrible Superman movies, you won’t believe almost happened!)

For now, just to keep things relatively simple Erik and I are skipping 1951’s “Superman vs the Mole Men” and are only going to discuss the live action feature films, starting with…

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WTF Moments 18

I promise, I’m not trying to establish a trend here with these, but… I couldn’t not post this… it’s just… so…

WHAT THE FUCK??!!!

Action Comics #457...

WHAT THE-?!

Are those banjos playing in the background I hear? Dear GOD! Look away Jimmy Olsen! Oh gawd look away!!! Nooooooooooo….

Seriously peoples, who thought this was a good idea for a cover?

Apparently cover artist Bob Oksner didn’t realize the power of implied narrative when he designed Action Comics #457 … or maybe it’s just society has ruined our perceptions of an innocent comic book cover… Nope, Wertham was right all along, we’re all doomed fucked. (no-pun-intended)

WTF Moments 16

Batman: "Quiet or Papa Spank!"

Believe it or not, that is a real panel from Batman Issue #1 – where he first ‘faces off’ with Catwoman. He’s actually wiping off her makeup disguise Scooby Doo style, after uncovering her heist attempt, but from this angle it certainly looks like he’s drugging her, prior to dragging her back to the Bat Cave. Luckily for the ladies of Gotham, (and our already shattered psyches) The Batman has since toned down his borderline rapey qualities…

The Not-So Great Debate vol 3- Lex Luthor v Dr. Doom

Here we go again…

Dr. Doom vs Lex Luthor

Both Marvel and DC Comics are chock-full of twisted, evil, monstrous villains. Some are unbeatable killing machines, some are twisted serial killers, some are mad scientists, some freaks of nature, and some are cosmic level baddasses. But each company has one dude that is kind of all of those things, and then some. For DC Comics it is undoubtedly Lex Luthor; Superman’s greatest foe, one of the richest and smartest men in the world, completely ruthless, and utterly brilliant, he routinely goes up against Superman AND the Justice League and still lives to tell about it. For Marvel, it has to be Victor Von Doom; one of the smartest men on the planet, has his own kingdom, and has the 2nd most badass suit of armor in the world (behind Iron Man) and is the 2nd most powerful sorcerer in the world (behind Dr. Strange), he routinely goes up against the likes of the Avengers, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and of course the Fantastic Four, and the dude is still standing strong.

Both are total, unquestionable badasses, but which one is better? Is it Luthor, with his chrome dome head, xenophobia, and suit of armor with the Simon (from Milton Bradley!) chest plate? Or is it Dr. Doom, with his gross face and his penchant for being beaten up by a walking, talking pile of rocks? Let’s begin!

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The Not-So Great Debate – part 2: Alternate Batmen?

Click here for the First Great Debate: Battle of the Rogues!

Alex Ross - Batman

One of the go-to moves for editors in comics that want to bring a lot of attention to an established property is to replace your main character with a new version of that character. For instance, Hal Jordan was replaced as Green Lantern by John Stewart, then Guy Gardner, then Kyle Rayner, and most recently Simon Baz. Barry Allen was replaced as the Flash by Wally West. Steve Rogers was replaced as Captain America by John Walker (aka USAgent) and Bucky Barnes, Tony Stark as Iron Man by James Rhodes, Peter Parker as Spider-Man by Ben Reilly… hell, for when Superman ‘died’ it took 4 (!!) people to replace him.

This really hit a head in the 1990’s, when Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Flash, Superman, Batman, and a host of others were replaced by newer versions. Even Wonder Woman!

For the sake of this column, we’re going to be focusing on Gotham City’s dark knight: Batman.

Battle for the Cowl

It goes without saying that Bruce Wayne IS Batman. That said, there have been a surprising amount of times when someone else was wearing the cape and cowl. Hell, Dick Grayson has been Batman twice!

So, who is the best replacement Batman? Is it Dick Grayson, Jean Paul Valley, Tim Drake, Terry McGinnis, Damien Wayne, Thomas Wayne, or someone else?

 

COMICZOMBIE: For my money, the best replacement Batman is Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael, an assassin for a holy order descended from the Knights Templar.

Azrael as BatmanHe replaced Bruce Wayne when he was taken out of commission by Bane during the “Knightfall” trilogy. Jean Paul has a complicated past, to say the least, and his grasp of sanity was tenuous, at best. A man that was just beginning to understand his inner demons, let alone conquer them, he was given this humongous responsibility and tossed into the deep end: a Gotham overrun by half of the inmates of Arkham Asylum, plus Bane and his goons. Yes, the weight of the mantle of the bat caught up to him quicker than he would have liked, and he went crazier than hell,  but while he was Batman it was incredibly interesting to see him slowly, and yet all too quickly, crumble under the weight of the conflicting missions of Batman and Azrael. Both dark avenging creature of the night types, but Azrael’s role was as a destroyer, and Batman’s role has always been a protector. The dichotomy made him very intriguing, even if he never felt like the ‘real’ Batman. That said, he existed in Bruce Wayne’s Gotham. He argued and fought with Tim Drake as Robin, he strained the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon, and he fought guys like Bane and the Joker.

Jean Paul Valley: best replacement Batman.

ERIK SMASH! : Bruce Wayne is and always will be Batman. Even in 95% of the Elseworlds tales Bruce is still Batman. He’s one of those character-archetypes that simply transcends the decades. That said, there are plenty of kick-ass, Batarang-throwing, Bat-replacements.

When looking at a line-up of potential Batmen, Terry McGuiness is the natural choice for Bruce Wayne’s replacement. Why? Well, part of it might be because when Bruce retired and put up the cowl for good, it was Terry who he finally deemed worthy of the mantle, the other reason might be because it was later revealed that Terry McGuinness was in fact Bruce’s illegitimate son/clone via Amanda Waller (long story…)

Batman Beyond intro clipsFor those of you that don’t know (hand over your nerd cards, you know who you are), Terry McGuinness was the main character in “Batman Beyond”, the sequel series to Bruce Timm’s 1990’s “Batman: The Animated Series”. “Batman Beyond” picked up decades after Bruce Wayne gave up crime fighting when he was nearly killed by a couple of low-life crooks, and was forced to use a gun to defend himself, something he swore he would never do. “Never again,” he states coldly as he shuts down the Batcave forever (it’s really an amazing and emotional scene).

Then in the somewhat far-off (unspecified) future, where Bruce is an old fogey, Gotham looks more like Neo Tokyo from Akira, and the legend of the Dark Knight has been reduced to urban myth, rebellious teenager Terry McGuinness picks a fight with a pack of ‘Jokerz’ (gangster punks ripping off The Clown Prince himself), and gets cornered at the front gates of Wayne Manor where Bat-hermit Bruce ironically happens to be taking a stroll outside for the first time in apparently ever. Bruce then manages to fight off the wannabee thugs with his cane. After helping Bruce back home, Terry accidentally stumbles upon Wayne’s secret, which leads him to stealing the Bat-suit, and then eventually realizing the error of his ways and convincing Bruce to train him to become Gothams’ new protector. (‘Mask of Zorro’ style)

Now I do realize that Terry is very different from Bruce in several aspects. He’s a much more flawed individual, and his personality more closely resembles a cross between Nightwing and Spider-Man in a bat-suit. However, part of that is because he is still young, and never experienced the kind of psyche-shattering tragedy that Bruce was unfortunately subjected to. Instead, Terry’s inner demons compel him to make up for past mistakes.

You get to see Terry struggling with the duel lifestyle in a way that Bruce never had to face, because let’s face it, for Bruce, Batman was his life, and for Terry, he still has a chance to have a life of his own, and carry on the never-ending war on crime. Regardless of the mistakes he makes, you can tell from the get-go that Terry has it in him, he has the potential to one day live up to Bruce Wayne’s standard, and eventually impart the way of the Bat to his apprentice and so on.

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Unlike Jean Paul Valley, Terry possesses the perfect mix of badassery, and a good heart.

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Top 10 Comic Book Movie Villains

Part of making a good comic book movie is getting the hero correct. You have to make sure they look close enough to the source material, and you really have to make sure the character feels right. You can’t have Daredevil fighting on a seesaw, or Batman and Robin going to a social event with the media present and talking to reporters (I hate you, Schumacher).

But, just as importantly as all of that is getting the villain right. How many lame ass versions of cool characters have ruined (or at least contributing to the ruining of) movies? I’m looking at you, Jim Carrey’s Riddler, Danny Devito’s Penguin, Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face, Arnold’s Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy, Collin Farrell’s Bullseye, Jigsaw in Punisher War Zone, and every villain in every Superman movie (yes, even Terrance Stamp’s Zod).

Here are my top 10 examples of villains they got right.

10. The Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)

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This really shouldn’t have worked. They completely changed everything about the character except for his name, Emil Blonsky. He looks different, acts different, has a completely different origin, and somewhat different motivations. The only real similarities besides his name are the fact that he’s as strong as, or stronger than, the Hulk, he’s huge, and he’s a maniac who has no qualms whatsoever about massacring anyone and everyone that gets anywhere near him.

I like the fact that we saw Blonsky evolve from a regular man to a psuedo super soldier to a gamma monster. I like the design, despite the fact that he’s completely different from the version that’s been around for nearly 50 years. I like that he’s made with a combination of super soldier serum and Hulk blood, which is the worst nightmare of the Hulk, and something that would/will piss off Captain America to no end.

I think the fight(s) between Blonsky/Abomination and the Hulk are the highlights of this movie, and probably keep it from being a really average movie.

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