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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Comiczombie’s Top 5 (Bottom?) Worst Comic Book Movies

There’s no getting around it: there have been a ton of truly awful superhero/comic book adaptations. I’m looking at you, Punisher. There are a lot that were made for next to no money, and were made only so that a company could hold onto film rights, like the 1994 version of Fantastic Four, or the Captain America movies that starred J.D. Salinger’s son as Cap, had an Italian Red Skull, and Cap’s ears on the side of his mask were rubber. Rubber! There are also some that are really bad adaptations, but not terrible movies, like Constantine. But for the purposes of this list I am looking at the comic book movies that were made by big studios for at least reasonably large budgets. So you won’t see Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four on my list. Also, I haven’t seen the Halle Berry Catwoman, so that won’t be making the list. However, you will see….

5. Superman Returns

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What We Wanted to See: A movie that reinvigorated the franchise and moved Superman into the 21st century

What We Got: A sequel/prequel that satisfied nobody

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Comiczombie’s Top 15 Comic Book Movies

15.  Watchmen

“Just a matter of time, I suppose.” – The Comedian

As faithful an adaptation as we were ever going to get, despite the fact that this movie probably never should have been made. The whole purpose of the story was to use comics to deconstruct comic book archetypes. It was never intended to be a movie. For years Terry Gilliam was attached to a possible adaptation, but eventually quit the project, supposedly saying it was an ‘unfilmable movie’. Surprisingly, Zack Snyder did a great job while remaining faithful to the source material (possibly even too faithful at times).

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Erik Smash!’s Top 15 Comic Book Movies

Here it is! My top-FIFTEEN Favorite Comic Book Movies of ALL TIME! (so far…)

I know it’s a long list, but there’s a lot of damn good comic book movies out there, and I kinda had to expand it in order to compensate for this years entries alone!

ENJOY!!

15. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978)

“Your name is Kal-El. You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton. Even though you’ve been raised as a human, you are not one of them. You have great powers, only some of which you have as yet discovered.” – Jor-El

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Erik Smash!’s Top 5 (Bottom?) Worst Comic Book Movies

5. HULK (not to be confused with ‘The INCREDIBLE Hulk’)

What we wanted to see: HULK SMASH!

What we got: HULK Sad…?

This movie could’ve been awesome. The teaser trailer blew me away! However, the director (Ang Lee) and the studio (Universal) both wanted something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from this film, and what we got was mismatched disaster 😦

Top 5 “Cyclops is a badass!” Moments

Growing up, all of my friends liked the X-Men. We loved pretty much all of them, even Longshot and the Dazzler (I know. Shut up). Everyone loved Nightcrawler, and Iceman, and Colossus, but it seemed like everyone’s favorite was always Wolverine. While I think Wolverine is cool, I always thought Cyclops was way cooler. I dunno, maybe it’s because I can’t help but think that a really short, hairy Canadian shouldn’t be the star of the show, but I digress. There were always a few writers who portrayed Cyclops with the respect he is due, like Louise Simonson, Joss Whedon, Chris Claremont, and maybe Scott Lobdell. Too often he was written as this stiff, do-gooder with a stick up his ass; always the buzzkill.

Anyway, I wanted to take a quick moment to show people what pretty much every telepath in the Marvel universe knows: Cyclops is a badass.

(Seriously, think about it. The most powerful telepath in the world (Professor X) decides he’s the one worth building his life’s dream around, the most powerful telepath in the UNIVERSE (Phoenix) just can’t stay away from him and even married him, Psylocke wanted him for years, and he’s currently sleeping with Emma Frost, another of the most powerful telepaths in the world. Also, Sinister, an incredibly powerful telepath himself, spent years manipulating and testing him).

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