Batman

Martha (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

batman_v_superman_posterI was listening to some recent episodes of Trentus Magnus Jabs Reality where he, Jon Wilson, and Rebecca Johnson took an incredibly thorough look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  What is important about this three-part episode (available here, but I will say that it’s a total of six hours, so make sure you have the time) is that all three of the hosts genuinely enjoy this movie and spend their time breaking it down to not only praise it, but also give it the nerdy hyper-analysis that I have come to expect and appreciate from pop culture podcasts.

What’s also important to note is that about an hour into the first episode, I turned it off, went to Target, bought the Ultimate Edition blu-ray (as well as my son’s school supplies), and came back home and watched it.  Furthermore, I watched it and I enjoyed it.

Prior to this, I had only seen BvS once, when it was originally released in the theater in March 2016, and my experience had been less than positive.  I had gone to a matinee showing on a Monday and was only one of a handful of people in the theater.  I walked out feeling very frustrated, a much different feeling than the happy, soaring feeling I had after watching Man of Steel in 2013.  While there were moments int he film I thought were genuinely awesome–every single moment involving Wonder Woman, for instance–something felt wrong.  And that’s because the movie had been ruined for me before I even bought my ticket that day.  I’m not talking about spoilers, mind you–I’m talking about how I had gone into the theater convinced that I was supposed to hate the movie.

When Man of Steel came out in 2013, I loved it but was then dismayed to find out that my opinion was relatively unpopular, especially among critics and a number of hardcore Superman fans.  A couple of months later, at San Diego Comic-Con, the sequel was announced at a DC panel and that sequel was revealed to be a Batman/Superman movie.  This was a full two-and-a-half years before the film would actually be released, and I’m pretty sure that DC, Warner Brothers, and Zack Snyder wanted to build on momentum they had from Man of Steel–and possibly take a shot at Marvel, who seemed to be announcing an entire universe’s worth of pictures every hour on the hour.  What the announcement did, however, was create a wind tunnel of complaining on the Internet.  Every bit of news about the movie–from Ben Affleck’s being cast as Batman to the first look at Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman costume to the reveal of the full title of the movie–was met with ridicule and derision.  Every picture became an obnoxious meme.  Every trailer was picked apart as an opportunity for “everyone” to declare it a terrible movie.  As a result, by the time it came out, a million fanboys had made up their minds and went to the theater just to feel smug that they were right about spending the prior two-and-a-half-years declaring it a failure.

Okay, I’m speculating and generalizing for the sake of making my point, so I may not be 100% accurate here, but what I can say accurately is that I went into the theater with all of that pissing and moaning running through my head.  I was, in a word, prejudiced against the film, so I was never going to actually be able to enjoy it.

Now, that makes me sound easily influenced or perhaps even weak, and I’ll cop to that.  But please also consider how powerful (and powerfully toxic) Internet Groupthink can be.  I should have been pumped to see two of my all-time favorite superheroes on a movie screen for the first time.  I should have been pumped to see the DC Universe, which I had more or less been reading about for 25 years, become more fleshed out than it had been in Man of Steel.  I should have been pumped to see Wonder Woman–a character that was long overdue for a movie–on screen.  And with the exception of that last one (I got very excited when Diana joined the Doomsday fight), I wasn’t.  Instead, I started picking the movie apart from the first frame:  why are the titles simple text instead of logo-tastic?  Why do we have to see the murder of the Waynes again didn’t we already see this in 10 other movies? Why is this movie so dark doesn’t Snyder know where the contrast button is?  Why is Lex Luthor acting like a loon instead of someone a little more collected?  Why is Ben Affleck mumbling every line?

After doing that for two-and-a-half hours and only getting excited for the appearance of Wonder Woman (and to a lesser extent everything that teased the Justice League movie), it’s no wonder I left the theater both frustrated and exhausted.

I had avoided buying the movie since it came out on home video.  It was a combination of factors, really–I had other things to spend my money on, I was buying all of the Marvel movies I still didn’t own, and I only buy movies I liked and I am not supposed to like the movie.  Then, to bring this back around to the beginning, I listened to Magnus and his panel, and in the middle of part one said to myself, “I  really should rewatch this.”  $14.99 at Target wasn’t too bad of a price and I put it in while I hung out on a day off.  Then, I finished listening to Magnus.

Listening to them, even if it was only for an hour before I watched the movie again, was a palate cleanser of sorts.  I was able to put it in and take a moment to consider what I hadn’t seen as well as re-evaluate what I had.  Plus, the Ultimate Edition’s additional 30 minutes flesh out the story in ways that serve the film way more than many “uncut” or “extended” versions of movies that are released on home video.  And while I suppose this comes off as my letting someone’s opinion influence me … again …, I feel like what happened was more like I was finally able to watch the movie on my own terms without 30 months of Internet screaming ringing in my head.

I don’t completely agree with every bit of praise they heap upon the movie and I still think that as a film, it is flawed.  For instance, I don’t see all of the subtlety and nuance that they point out in the episode; I think that Affleck’s “public Bruce Wayne” portrayal could have been a little more O’Bannion; I think that there are times where it’s too slavish to Frank Miller; I still think Snyder could use a lesson in how to use the brightness and contrast tools on his screen; and there were a number of musical cues that were TOO! ON! THE! MONEY! FOR! ME!  But I saw, in clearer view, the themes that Snyder was building both overtly and subtly (despite my previous sentence, there is subtlety in the film).  I thought Lex’s character arc was much better than I remember (even if Eisenberg did still annoy me at times).  I saw how Affleck portrayed Bruce/Batman as someone who was becoming so obsessed with holding onto what control he can that he actually was completely losing it.  I saw how on-the-nose Snyder was in criticizing our culture’s way of building up and tearing down its heroes.  I saw Wonder Woman as still being so freaking awesome.

And much more.  But really, in the very least, I can say that I spent three hours generally enjoying Batman v Superman and am now even more curious and perhaps even a little excited about what’s going to happen in Justice League.

 

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Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 59: Batman and Superman: The Rise and Fall of the World’s Finest

Episode 59 Website coverThis Friday, Batman and Superman will meet on the big screen for the first time in our lifetimes in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So, in order to “cash in” on this, I’m taking a look at the beginning and end of the World’s Finest team by looking at two pre-Crisis Batman and Superman team-ups.

First up is World’s Finest #271 by Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler, which is a very long recap (including a long text piece) of the origin(s) of the Superman-Batman team. Then, it’s time to recap World’s Finest #323, which was the final issue of the long-running series and the “end” of the classic Batman-Superman team. I summarize and review both comics and also give my opinion and feelings as far as anticipation for the big, blockbuster film are concerned. Plus, listener emails!

Here’s where to listen:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Comics Prehistory: The Brave and the Bold #182

Scan0001I suppose it’s kind of funny to say that comic #1 in your collection (read: the first comic you purchased and still have) is only #1 on a technicality.  I own a copy of The Brave and the Bold #182 and have owned this comic since 1981; however, I honestly do not remember buying it.

My hometown’s local comic shop, Amazing Comics, opened in 1984 and the first comic book I ever bought there was an issue of Superman: The Secret Years.  But a few years later, probably around 1988 or 1989, my parents were cleaning out the attic and my friend Tom and I were helping them clean off some old stuff that they were going to give to a local church.  Most of these items were pretty typical–clothes and old toys, for instance.  In fact, several of the old toys were Fisher-Price Little People sets that nowadays would fetch about $40-$50 on eBay if my parents had the foresight to put those back in the attic.

Anyway, among those old toys was an American Tourister luggage set that my parents probably had owned since they were married in 1971, a pea-green hard-cased set that was actually pretty cumbersome to store and had been replaced with the type of suitcases that can be placed inside one another.  Tom and I were asked to open each of them up, dust them, vacuum them, and leave them on the back deck to air out before we put them in the car.  We did so, taking a break from actually playing with the Little People (because even though we were 11 or 12, it was toys we hadn’t seen and that’s what you do whenever you see toys), and when I opened up what used to be the toiletries and cosmetics suitcase, which is what I used to pack when I was very little and would spend nights at my grandmother’s, I found The Brave and the Bold #182.

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In the splash page, Batman gets a frightening surprise and Jim Aparo gives us some great cape.

It was obviously my comic book and I had obviously brought it with me when staying at my grandmother’s one night, but I cannot say when I actually bought it.  The cover date was January 1982 and the publication date, according to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, was October 22, 1981, so the comic predated the opening of the comic book store and that meant that my father probably bought it for me when he took me to Greaves Stationary on Main Street because he was buying cigarettes and while he chatted up the people behind the counter, I perused the comics and picked this one out.  The fact that I hadn’t lost it–I remember owning at least one issue of The New Adventures of Superboy as well as one or two issues of The Amazing Spider-Man but what issues they were and when I got them is lost to time–is only by the grace of my forgetting it in a suitcase.

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Robin reminds Batman that he’s all grown up.

The Brave and the Bold, most comics fans will remember, started as an adventure anthology book and then became a superhero team-up book, eventually evolving into a Batman team-up book that ended with issue #200 and was “replaced” by Batman and the Outsiders.  The team-up in this issue is with “Robin, The Ex-Boy Wonder” and is called “Interlude on Earth-Two.”  Written by Alan Brennert with art by Jim Aparo, the story begins on Earth-2 with the adult Dick Grayson, aka Robin, teaming up with Starman Ted Kord to figure out how Hugo Strange, a man long thought to be dead, is creating crazy storms around Gotham City.  Meanwhile, back on Earth-1, Batman finds himself in a graveyard in a similar storm and after dodging a lighting strike sees is own grave.  Only it’s not his own grave; it’s the grave of the Batman of Earth-2, who had died a few years earlier in an issue of Adventure Comics.

Batman, after scaring a random couple who think they’re seeing a ghost, heads to the headquarters of  the JSA where he’s accosted by Robin, who thinks he’s breaking in before he realizes who he’s looking at.  The two recap who Hugo Strange is and then find themselves being attacked by relics from the Batcave:  Catwoman’s Pantherjet, and an old Batmobile, for instance.  Someone else joins their team as the old Batmobile attacks them and that is Kathy Kane, aka Batwoman, who Bruce remembers died years ago on his earth but is semi-retired on Earth-2.

Realizing that the artifacts that are attacking them are real, the Bat-team deduces that the only possible place that Hugo Strange could be attacking them from is the Batcave and they head there, which is where they have to fight the T-Rex that’s so famous as well as a Batman android.  Eventually an old and decrepit Hugo Strange shows himself, holding Starman’s cosmic rod (it had disappeared at the beginning of the issue), which he’d been using to control everything he’d been throwing at the heroes.   He tells Batman, Robin, and Batwoman how he had survived the fall that everyone thought had killed him back in Detective Comics #46 (and thanks to The Original Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Vol 1 for that info) and then Batman attacks him, telling Strange that it’s not that he wants to destroy Gotham, it’s that he wants to die.  Batman tells him that he doesn’t have the guts to kill himself and eventually Strange admits it and uses the cosmic rod to turn himself to ash.  The story ends with Starman, who is nursing a broken arm, using the cosmic rod to send Batman back to his earth.

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Hugo Strange sends a Batman robot after our heroes and Robin has to “kill” his mentor.

By the way, there’s a Nemesis story in this comic but: a) I never read that as a kid, and b) I covered it back on episode 3 of 80 Years of DC Comics: Action-Adventure, so you can learn all about it there.

Alan Brennert is one of Rob Kelly’s favorite comic book writers and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that he wrote three of my all-time favorite Batman stories, including this one.  I’ve heard this covered on a couple of podcasts before and the two things that always come up are that the version of the Earth-2 Robin costume with the yellow pants and the green mask that covers most of his face are not everyone’s favorite and that through most of the story, Robin is resentful that the Earth-1 Batman is there and acts like kind of a prick.

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At the end of the story, Hugo Strange meets his end. Batman is kind of responsible, but we’re going to gloss over that.

When I was a kid reading this story, Robin’s resentment didn’t necessarily register with me and re-reading it now, I actually like the resentment.  Batman of Earth-2 died in Adventure Comics #462, which only came out three years prior to this, so in comic book time it’s very possible that not much time had passed between the death of the Earth-2 Batman and this particular adventure, although there were two JLA/JSA crossovers between now and then, so this is not the first time that the Dick Grayson of Earth-2 is encountering the Bruce Wayne of Earth-1.  However, while I don’t know if I’m being entirely accurate, this is probably the first time in a long time that the Robin of Earth-2 has been part of a Batman and Robin team.  Furthermore, Batman does boss him around quite a bit like a junior partner, and it actually is a nice bit of foretelling of how the Dynamic Duo of Earth-1 will have their tension boil over in the pages of The New Teen Titans and Batman of the Outsiders just prior to Dick becoming Nightwing.  Plus, I’ve always liked this version of the Earth-2 Robin’s costume.  I can’t explain why, because it would never really work if it were used in a movie or anything.  Maybe it’s the way it’s drawn by Jim Aparo because his artwork is amazing throughout the story and a reminder of why for years his Batman was “my” Batman.

As for the story, I love it because Brennert’s writing is really tight and he makes several callbacks to storylines way in the past (as evidenced by my having to use a comic book encyclopedia for reference) but doesn’t overwhelm things with contrivance or continuity.  In fact, he gives what could be a very heavy story about dealing with one’s grief, or having to unexpectedly confront feelings that you thought you’d worked through.  Plus, he plays the angle of the old, decrepit villain trying for one last victory very well, even if Batman kind of goads Hugo Strange into offing himself (it’s kind of “suicide by cop” if you break it down.

I would spend much of the early part of my comic collecting career loving alternate earths stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths. and I think this comic book is responsible.  I’m also happy at how well it holds up, especially when I’m pretty sure that a number of comics I’ll be reviewing for this series won’t.

Coming Next Month:  The Marvel Comics adaptation of Return of the Jedi

 

80 Years of DC Comics, Part One: A Comics Life in Moments

80 Years Episode 1 Website LogoPresenting the first episode in an all-new podcast miniseries from Pop Culture Affidavit, 80 Years of DC Comics. Throughout these twelve episodes, I am going to be taking a look at the various genres of comic books that DC Comics has produced in its 80-year history. For my first episode, I start off easy by talking about superheroes. More specifically, I go through 10 moments in DC Comics published during my lifetime that have I’ve enjoyed or that have had some sort of impact on me. So while it doesn’t necessarily cover all 80 years of the company, it’s a personal look at DC, company I’ve been very loyal to since I started seriously collecting comics more than two decades ago.

Of course, you can download the episode from the same iTunes feed used for every episode of Pop Culture Affidavit, or you can listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Presents 80 Years of DC Comics, Part One:  A Comics Life in Moments.

Below are scans of the ten moments I talk about, in brief, in the episode (btw, some of these are spoilers for the stories they are from).

1. Batman Confronts Silver St. Cloud (Detective Comics #475):

Silver St Cloud2. Donna Troy Reunites With Her Adopted Mother (The New Teen Titans [First Series] #38):

Donna Troy Reunion3. Ordinary Citizens Reacting to Merging Earths (Crisis on Infinite Earths #5):

Crisis 5 Old Couple4. Bruce Wayne Has Some Bad News (Detective Comics #620):

Detective 620 Last page5. The Atom and Green Arrow Kill Darkseid (JLA #14):

JLA Death of Darkseid6. Batman meets … Batwoman? (The Kingdom:  Planet Krypton):

The Kingdom Batwoman7. Rose Wilson Chooses Her Family (Teen Titans #1/2):

Rose Wilson Ravager8. Darkseid and The Infinity Gauntlet (JLA/Avengers #2):

Darkseid JLA Avengers9. “Superheroes.  Kill.”  (Final Crisis #3):

Final Crisis 3 final page10.  Danny Chase’s Sacrifice (The New Teen Titans: Games)

Teen Titans Games Danny Chase

Taking Flight, Episode 25

Prodigal starts to grind to its conclusion with Batman #514 and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #34 in “Taking Flight” Episode 25.  Here we see Dick “Batman” Grayson tangle with some thugs left over from the big prison breakout as well as The Tally Man, a villain left over from Knightquest: The Crusade

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes or over at The Batman Universe:  Taking Flight, Episode 25

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Taking Flight, Episode 22

A look at “Prodigal” the Dick Grayson-as-Batman story from 1994 continues with parts three and four of the storyline from Detective Comics #679 and Robin #11.  Batman faces off against Ratcatcher while Two-Face lurks in the background hatching a plan to take down Gotham’s judicial system.  Plus, Tim’s dad continues to bond with his son and Dick and Tim do more chores!

You can listen via iTunes (search for The Batman Universe Taking Flight) or listen here:  Taking Flight, Episode 22

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Taking Flight, Episode 21

Yunno, Grant Morrison wasn’t the first person to think that putting Dick Grayson in the cape and cowl was a good idea.  Back in 1994 after the Gotham-shattering “Knights” trilogy, Bruce Wayne stepped aside and asked his former sidekick to take over for a storyline called “Prodigal.”  This episode, I take a look at the first two parts of Prodigal, in Batman #512 and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #32 where Dick and Tim take on Killer Croc and Scarface, and Two-Face escapes from prison.

You can listen via iTunes (search for The Batman Universe Taking Flight) or listen here:  Taking Flight Episode 21

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