Superman

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.

 

Origin Story Episode Fourteen

Origin Story Episode 14 Website CoverDifferent distributors in the 1980s means different release dates for comics means that I’m putting this episode out two days before the last one.  This time around, I take a look at The Adventures of Superman #429 by Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway, which puts the spotlight on Cat Grant in a sense, or at least gives us more insight into her relationship with her son Adam and his father.  Plus, I walk down WWF memory lane by talking about Wrestlemania III and the legendary match between Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And as promised in the show, here is a link to ESPN’s “Oral History” of the Macho Man-Steamboat match:  “Oral History: Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, 30 Years Later”

Adventures_of_Superman_429

Origin Story Episode Three

origin-story-episode-3-website-coverThirty years ago, I begn collecting comics for the first time. Now, I’m taking you back to those days with “Origin Story,” a comics podcasting miniseries where I will look at all of the comics I bought in 1986-1987 in “real time.”

This time, I step away from Marvel and head over to DC for The Adventures of Superman #424, which marks the beginning of that title in the post-Crisis era.  Does it still hold up after 30 years?  Will I be able to say anything that Michael Bailey and Jeffrey Taylor haven’t already said?  Will I fill out the postcard in the middle of the comic and attempt to win a copy of the Man of Steel special edition hardcover 30 years after the contest expired?  Well, you’ll just have to listen!

Please don’t forget to leave feedback at the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook page and check out Pop Culture Affidavit for the show notes.

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Here are a couple of extras:

The iconic cover of the comic:

adventures_of_superman_424

And the trailer for the Stallone movie Cobra:

Comics Prehistory: Superman #410

Superman 410As I make my way through these very early days of buying comics, I see more and more how my purchases were influenced by other media.  The two issues of Transformers that I just looked at are prime examples.  Superheroes are another, as much of my early knowledge of the spandex set came from seeing them on television shows such as Super-Friends or Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  Another source was, occasionally, my dad, who liked Superman and was a fan of the Christopher Reeve films (at least Superman and Superman II).  That, of course, led to my purchasing all four issues of Superman: The Secret Years, and it led to my buying Superman #410.

This was another trip to Amazing Comics, sometime around my birthday in 1985 because while this issue came out that May, I remember seeing this and Superman #411 on the shelves at the same time, so it must have been right before Bob took the comic off of the main shelves and put it on the spinner rack near the door, which is what he did for all of “last month’s comics.”  It was a practice that he held onto for years and while I do have fond memories of comic book spinner racks and would love to own one someday, they do have an odd associate in my mind with comic book leftovers.

Okay, tangent over–or at least point of tangent, which is that my dad took me to the local comic store and said that he thought the cover to Superman #410 looked cool, so I decided to buy it.  Drawn by Klaus Janson, who at that point was known for his work with Frank Miller, the cover is certainly a dramatic one–Clark Kent is walking away from a screen where Superman is saying “I categorically deny the story Clark Kent wrote about in the Daily Planet–it is nothing but a pack of lies!”  If I may criticize it briefly, I will say that Superman does have a bit of a fat face and Clark’s suit looks two sizes too big, but the drama of Superman’s pronouncement and then the cover of the paper saying “CLARK KENT FIRED” was enough to pull me in and still makes me want to read the issue.

Superman Satellite

Superman saves a satellite.  Or does he?

What’s inside is the first of a really great three-part story arc that is one of those excellent late Bronze Age/pre-Crisis Superman stories.  We open with Superman saving a nuclear-powered satellite from falling to earth and blowing up, and then cut to Clark writing about it for the paper.  But the thing is, that satellite resuce never actually happened and once that is discovered, Superman finds himself being forced to deny the story, which gets Clark fired.  Superman, of course, is confused because he knows what he saw and knows what he did, yet when he flies to the place where the satellite fell from orbit, it’s still there.

Is he going nuts?  No.  This is all the machinations of Lex Luthor, who is messing with Superman’s mind from the confines of his lair, and he will just copntinue to do so until the end of issue #413, where he gets away because Brainiac recruits him to join a team of villains in Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 (Superman #413, by the way, is an issue I bought years later because it was an unofficial Crisis crossover).

It is, essentially, everything I wanted a Superman story to be when I was a kid, and exactly what i expect out of this time in the Man of Steel’s career.  Lex has an underground lair with henchmen and is planning supervillainy?  Check.  There’s romantic subplots with Lana and Lois?  Check.  Clark is secondary to Superman?  Check.  Granted, I would come to really love the FCTC-era Superman and I do consider that version to be my favorite iteration of the characters, but the “Oh, this would only happen on pre-Crisis Earth-1” feel of this particular issue is part of its charm.  Plus, it’s just a great setup and doesn’t feel like Cary Bates or Julius Schwartz were burning off stories prior to Alan Moore and then John Byrne.

Even the Curt Swan artwork, which I will admit I am hot and cold on at times, works well here.  Swan is inked by Al Williamson, whom I am most familiar with from Star Wars comics of the era, and his links, though pretty loose at times(although this may be due to the reproduction on the digital comic, which makes some of these old newsprint comics look like they are on baxter paper and it doesn’t always work), give Swan’s artwork more grace and fluidity than I’m used to seeing.  Then again, I’m not the most accurate judge of Swan’s art, considering I don’t have a lot of issues he actually drew.

But honestly, this is one of thosecomics that makes me with I had started collecting earlier than 1987, and that i had been experiencing the ed of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Modern Age as it happened.  This was still a time when a little kid could pick up books and follow them even if he had little to no sense of continuity.  Although even a sense of continuity could not have helped my next book.

Next up:  Secret Wars II #6

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

Up, Up, and Away!

Superman: The Secet Years #1

I honestly don’t remember when I bought my first comic book or what that comic was.  I have vague memories of perusing the magazine rack at Greaves stationary in my hometown and coming home with an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man or Superman.  At some point, I know that I got an issue of the Batman team-up title The Brave and the Bold sometime in the very early 1980s, so that might have been it.  But Superman: The Secret Years #2 was the very first comic book that I remember buying at an actual comic book store.

Amazing Comics, which is on Gillette Avenue in Sayville, NY, opened in the fall of 1984 next to an iron-on T-shirt store named The Special-T, which is where my friends and I procured most of our wardrobe.  I am sure that I was at the Special-T buying a birthday present for someone when my dad noticed that there was a brand-new comic book store in the next building (it had previously been a junk/antique store, I believe).  It was and still is an extremely small store with barely any room to move; in fact, I think if you fit more than six people in there, you’re exceeding maximum occupancy.  But at seven years old, an entire room filled with comic books blew my mind.  Who knew that you could sell them on your own and not off a rack located between the cigarettes and the pens and pencils? (more…)