Holy Bat-movies! – Part 3

We did it! We made it! I was worried for a second…

In Part One – we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Tim Burton’s Batman Returns

Then in Part Two – we tore apart Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and the god awful Batman and Robin

Now it’s time to review Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy!

Batman Begins

Batman Begins (2005)

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale (Batman), Liam Neeson (Ra’s Al Ghul), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Ken Watanabe (fake Ra’s), Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Rutger Hauer (Mr. Earle)

Batmobile:

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Plot: A true origin story following Bruce’s life periodically from the murder of his parents to his travels around the world making himself into Batman, one step at a time. He becomes a member of, and eventually turns against, the League of Shadows, who come to Gotham to get their revenge and destroy the city. As Batman, he must face the Falcone mafia, the Scarecrow, and Ra’s Al Ghul, while trying to rekindle his relationship with childhood friend turned assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, establishing a relationship with Jim Gordon (one of the only honest cops in Gotham), and working to get his company back from Mr. Earle.

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Holy Bat-movies! – Part 2

Last time, in Part One: we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Batman Returns, now for our descent into Hell…

BATMAN FOREVER poster

Batman Forever (1995)

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Val Kilmer (Batman), Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Jim Carrey (Riddler), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian), Michael Gough (Alfred)

Batmobile:

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Plot: Batman and his new sidekick Robin must face the combined forces of Two-Face (former district attorney Harvey Dent, who blames Batman for the courtroom incident that scarred his face) and the Riddler (Edward Nygma, a former employee of Bruce Wayne seeking revenge for being justifiably fired), and their device that is going to steal all of the information from all of the brains in Gotham. Or some stupid crap.

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Holy Bat-movies!

All the Batmen

Batman has had a number of incarnations over the 75 years he’s been around, and many of them have been captured on film in the last 50 years. Depending on which movie you watch, he can be either part of the campy, ridiculous dynamic duo to the dark, brooding, badass dark knight. Depending on which version you prefer you can find at least one film that is to your tastes and is a totally valid interpretation of the character. Unless you like Batman and Robin, in which case go fuck yourself.

Erik and I will break down each of the Batman’s feature films, beginning with the 1966 adaptation of the television show and ending with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, and will attempt to convey what is good and bad about each, and which ones we liked (Batman), loved (Dark Knight) and straight up went into murderous hatred over (Batman & Robin).

Animated features were left out this time, as there are so many we feel like they deserve their own article.

Batman '66

Batman: The Movie (1966)

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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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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – BRONZE AGE (3 of 4)

Continued from Part 2: The Silver Age

THE BRONZE AGE (1970 to 1985)

— “I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever — I am PHOENIX!!!” – Jean Grey (Dark Phoenix)

This is considered to be the start of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics, and with good reason, which continued into the late 90’s (the Copper Age). Some very dark twists to many popular characters backstories were first established during this time such as: (Retro Spoiler Alert!) the Green Goblin killing Spider-man’s girlfriend (Gwen Stacy, not MJ), the demise of Jason Todd (the second Robin) at the hands of the Joker, Elektra’s murder by Bullseye, etc… (BULLSEYE was introduced in Daredevil #131 – 1976, and ELEKTRA in #168 – 1981)

Often disputed between comic fans / historians, this Bronze Era is typically said to have occurred sometime between 1970 and 1985 give or take a couple years. This was a time when comic books became more socially conscious and began featuring real-world issues. Comic books were no longer just an escape from reality, but a mirror of it. This is when the legends behind the most acclaimed adult-themed comics started to creep onto the scene. Writers and artists like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, George Perez, Joe Quesada, and countless others who are still relevant today, most of whom are still actively in the comic industry today!

The Bronze Age was when there was a resurgence in interest for super heroes in general. Following the cheesy campy spoof that was the Batman 60’s TV series was the first serious, live action, depiction of a comic book, on the silver screen with Superman: The Movie in the late 70’s, and in the 80’s there was the Wonder Woman show and the Incredible Hulk became a Smash Hit! (pun-intended)

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – GOLDEN AGE (1 of 4)

“First Appearances can be deceiving…” (Spoiler Alert – #2)

Click here for Spoiler Alert – Issue One: 7 Awesome Changes to the DC Universe!

“In the beginning there was the word, and the word was <SHAZAM!>” – John 1:1, New Testament, Biblical quote (altered, obviously)

One of the things I absolutely love about comic books is the intricate history, not just the current ‘in-cannon’ history of the stories themselves, but the history behind the stories, the history of the characters, and their creators. What started in newsstands and drug stores eventually evolved into bestselling graphic novels, and smart phone downloads.

In this (retro) installment of ‘Spoiler Alert’, I (ERIK-SMASH!) will be discussing the initial appearances of many of the world’s most famous super heroes between both MARVEL and DC comics! Furthermore, I will be delving into the differences between their initial appearances and today.  One big difference between DC and Marvel over the years is that DC characters almost always started out in their own separate worlds and eventually crossed over into the same continuity, whereas Marvel characters have always been a part of the same world from day one. However almost all these characters started out in a series that was not titled after them.

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for single comic issues to have Multiple (complete) stories rolled into one, whereas today you’re lucky to get One story in a single issue, since most stories are stretched between several issues and later collected into a trade paperback, so most of today’s comics are the equivalent of a chapter. Anyone who already knows a bit about comics knows that Superman first originated from Action Comics 1 (1938) and Batman made his debut in Detective Comics 27 (1939), while Marvel’s Spider-man (created by New York comic gods STAN <the man> LEE and Steve Ditko) first swung into the pages of ‘Amazing Fantasy’, Issue #15, in 1962. But did you know that Wolverine first appeared in the Incredible HULK?! (Issue 180, 1974)

Real quick note about DC and Marvel. The two competitive companies are akin to Microsoft and Apple in that both are very similar in a lot of ways, both have been known to copy one another, there are a few differences in the way they get things done, but it all comes down to the fact that both of them pretty much do the same basic shit. A key difference right now would be that Marvel’s live action films are kicking ass left and right (Iron Man, Spider-man 2, X-Men: First Class, Daredevil, THOR, ‘The INCREDIBLE’ HULK, etc), in comparison to DC’s few and far between with a few notable exceptions (The DARK KNIGHT Trilogy), even though they have just as much potential, but take their animated films and DC is far superior in quality thus far with their new line of PG-13 movies directed to an older audience (Superman Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Batman: Under the Red-Hood, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Doom, etc), also, obviously, with a few notable exceptions (Hulk vs Wolverine).

Also, one cool thing about all these first appearances is that if you can get your hands on one of these issues, (I’m talking first printing) especially the older stuff, it’s going to be worth a lot more than your average comic. For instance, Action Comics #1 recently sold for a whopping $2.6 MILLION!!! It originally only sold for a measly 10 Cents (talk about inflation). But that’s a rare case seeing as it’s not only one of the rarest comics of all time, but it is the original super hero comic of all time! So yeah, if you’re ever perusing a vintage collection of comics in a random flea market keep your radar out for these diamonds in the trash.

Now that we’ve got those honorable mentions out of the way let’s buckle our seat-belts and set our Flux Capacitor for the 1930’s because when it comes to history I like to go chronologically. We’ll be skipping the Victorian and Platinum Ages that led into…

THE GOLDEN AGE (1938-1956)

—“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”  – Superman narrator / radio announcer (from the 50’s TV series)

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