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Tag: Superman

The Pull List for June 8, 2016

I’m just about to board a flight for Baltimore to meet CGG’s beloved editor for some rare face to face time. I know it’s been a while since I posted a Pull List, so I wanted to get a little something out there, even if I’m pressed for time. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks.

GAREB_1_hires-4 DC Rebirth

I believe Geoff Johns “gets” the DC Universe as well as anyone alive and his efforts here as a writer demonstrate his love and appreciation of the characters. Rebirth marks a return to the time before the “New 52,” a time of unquestionable heroics and hope. The comic reveals some intriguing twists and turns, but I enjoyed it more for the breath of new life it gives to old characters.

I’ve had a chance to read the one shot “Rebirths” of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow. I enjoyed Green Arrow, in particular. That comic returns the character to an unabashed, if clueless, Social Justice Warrior. The Van Dyke beard is back, as well as the sparks between Green Arrow and Black Canary. I easily recommend reading these three books (although I found Batman disjointed) and plan on picking all the individual “Rebirths” as they hit the stands.

portrait_incredibleVision

Written by Tom King with pencils from Michael Wash, Marvel Comics

I can’t say I’ve ever quite read a comic like Vision. Without hesitation, I will say it’s the best comic Marvel publishes right now. Issue #7 provided a touching and heart wrenching behind the scenes look at the relationship between Vision and ex-wife Scarlet Witch that left me a little breathless. The book pulled back the edge of the comic boarder to reveal more personal interactions between characters that a reader rarely gets to view. King and Wash take readers into the characters’ bedrooms, nurseries, kitchens; all the mundane places that occupy a superhero’s regular life.

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Written by Mark Millar with art from Stuart Immonen, Icon imprint for Marvel Comics

It doesn’t take long to realize a marriage with galactic dictator might not be the best environment in which to raise kids. Millar and Immonen take a very human story of a family on the run and set it against a gorgeous sci-fi tableau. Comic Book Resources quoted Millar as saying, ““I think all the best science fiction has a very human element at the heart of it and a mother wanting to leave a dangerous relationship is very easy for readers to relate to.”

Empress will run for three six issue story arcs. They’re already up to issue three of the first tale. It’s time to jump in!

7 Stories to Help You Feel Better about Superman (and 1 That Won’t)

I’ve made no secret about my enjoyment of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Many hated it. The chief complaint I’ve heard centers around the portrayal of Superman. Let me suggest these seven stories that will wash the aftertaste of that movie right from your mouth and one that offers a bitter pill to swallow.

“Superman v Luthor” from Superman #4, 1940. Story and art by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Luthor_Action_Comics_23A red headed Luthor and Superman face off for the first time. Through a series of tests, Superman proves his power. He can travel faster, fly higher, and lift more than any technology, while surviving practically anything. Siegel and Shuster make a point to show Superman saving a number of people from harm establishing the character’s concern for others early on in his history.

“What if Superman Ended the War” from Look Magazine, 1943. Story and art by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

An early, interesting, and very short look at how Superman could affect world politics. In this issue, the Man of Steel flies to Berlin and Moscow, picking up Hitler and Stalin and delivers them to Geneva to appear before the league of nations.

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Superman doesn’t waste time fighting soldiers or destroying the machines of war. Instead, he intervenes at the highest level to stop the conflict.

“The Girl from Superman’s Past” from Superman #129, 1959. Story by Bill Finger with Art by Wayne Boring

Forbidden love, Superman style.

Forbidden love, Superman style.

Bob Finger, one of the creators of Batman, penned this story of romance. After rescuing a disabled fellow student at Smallville University, a young Superman falls in love with this mysterious co-ed. The story reveals Lori Lemaris as an Atlantean spy, a mermaid sent to the surface world to evaluate the air breathers’ technological progress.

This story paints an image of a lonely and nearly friendless Clark Kent falling hard for a woman who matches Superman’s courage and may surpass his intelligence. By the end of the issue, Lori needs to return to her people and the relationship ends.

The comic doesn’t directly explain why these two can’t stay together. Superman is more than capable of surviving the ocean depths and no prohibitions against cross species marriage are mentioned. The reader is left to draw a singular conclusion. Unwilling, or feeling unable, to give up his role as Superman in the surface world, Clark resigns himself to a bachelor’s fate.

“The Death of Superman” from Superman #149, 1961. Story by Jerry Siegel with art by Curt Swan & George Klein.

AWALKIMAG008This imaginary tale starts with Lex Luthor curing cancer. Impressed by Luthor’s change of heart, Superman argues for the villain’s release from prison. Lex Luthor becomes Superman’s BFF and reveals the Man of Steels deep levels of trust and naivete.

Luthor eventually betrays Superman and kills him with a kryptonite ray. While the world mourns the loss, Supergirl captures the villain. A Kryptonian court sentences Luthor to the Phantom Zone.

“For the Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11, 1985. Story by Allan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons.

Before they created the Watchmen, the creative team of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons authored what many consider the most well written Superman story. Attacked by a telepathic, alien plant, Superman lives through an idealistic existence as an average Kryptonian citizen on a planet that never exploded.

The comic offers the reader a rare glimpse into Superman’s true desires. He wants to live a normal life, marry a good and talented woman, succeed at an intellectually stimulating career, and have children. It is only his incredible power and deeply rooted sense of responsibility that prevent him from fading into the mass of humanity.

Superman fights the influence of the Black Mercy.

Superman fights the influence of the Black Mercy.

Shaking off the influence of the Black Mercy is described like ripping off an arm. Superman does it to save the Earth.

All Star Superman, 2005 ~ 2008. Story by Grant Morrison with art by Frank Quietly.

Author Grant Morrison pitched his idea for a revamped Superman all the way back in 1998. At the time he wanted to attempt “an honest attempt to synthesize the best of all previous eras. Our intention is to honor each of Superman’s various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel.”

The fulfillment of that dream reached the stands in October of 2005. Poisoned by Lex Luthor, Superman faces the last year of his life. His actions speak to both the human and superhuman aspects of the character. He reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane and undertakes a bucket list to help both the Earth and Krypton.

All Star Superman presents a modern image of the character, without sacrificing the huge heart of the character and left a deep impression on Superman fans.  IGN.com ranks this tale as the #1 ranked Superman story of all time. This meme, critical of Zach Snyder’s handling of the character, draws from All Star Superman.

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Superman: American Alien, 2015. Story by Max Landis with art by Nick Dragotta, Joelle Jones, Jae Lee, Frances Manapul, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jonathan Case and Jock.

This eight issue miniseries explores Superman’s origins from new and more longitudinal angle. Illustrated by a different artist, each issue focuses on a specific moment in Clark Kent’s life. This slice of life approach allows Landis to really examine the factors that combine to build the character of Superman. It’s “less about becoming a superhero,” the writer tells us, “and more about becoming not-an-asshole.”

Each step of this journey reveals some small component of Clark Kent’s compassion for others and a growing sense of responsibilities such emotions compel. Unfinished as of this writing, I am looking forward to seeing Landis’ vision of a fully formed Man of Steel.

Superman: Red Son, 2003. Story be Mark Millar with art by Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett

Superman_in_Red_SonThe master of nihilism, Mark Millar, delivers this tale of Superman landing in the Ukraine to become,”the champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.”

Believing in the Communist cause and acting for the good of the people, Superman grows up to nearly take over the world as an authoritarian dictator. Superman creates the ultimate “Nanny State.” It’s mentioned that people don’t even wear seatbelts anymore, firm in the belief their leader will save them if they get into an accident. Only through the efforts of Lex Luthor, depicted as quite the sociopath, does the US remain unconquered.

A true commitment to the underlying character of Superman, his compassion and humanity, generates a very different outcome.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Batman v Superman

I mumble about my enjoyment of Superman: Man of Steel. For all the visual spectacle, I felt the film lacked emotion. My excitement watching it felt as muted as the color palate used to depict the doomed dystopia of Krypton.

I will loudly proclaim my love for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. My worry and the sick feeling I had in my stomach have been replaced by a wide smile and a handful of chocolate covered almonds from the concession stand.

These frames from B:TDK will look awfully familiar after seeing BvS.

These frames from B:TDK will look awfully familiar after seeing BvS.

Director Zach Snyder and cinematographer Larry Fong craft each shot with care to produce a sense of wonder. The pictures on the screen tug at the emotions and provide a series of stunning visuals. The images draw strongly from Frank Miller’s seminal work Batman: The Dark Night Returns, plucking art directly from the page up to screen.

BvS does not offer a very smart or mature Superman. Instead, it serves up a very flawed and human one.

Henry Cavill plays a subdued Superman. He is that quiet kid on the block, trying so hard to do the right thing and so evidently not understanding the gap between his actions and the perceptions of them. Confusion plays out across his face as the public tries to wrap their heads around the significance of the appearance of a powerful alien among them. A fire breaks out, he goes to save a child. During a flood, he rescues families. When called by his government to present himself, he goes. He plays the victim to the bully of Batman, pleading with the Dark Knight as a naïve boy scout in a desperate attempt to forestall a fight.

These two characters clearly adore each other in BvS.

Clark and Lois clearly adore each other in BvS.

An established love affair between Clark Kent and Lois Lane has not been presented on the screen before. Scenes between Cavill and Amy Adam as Lane, finally develop some chemistry between the two. Seeing these characters together, with their mix of playfulness and seriousness, feels real and honest. I believe it’s part of the reason behind the success of the current Superman: Lois and Clark comic and it works beautifully here.

If you're not reading this book. You should be.

If you’re not reading this book, you should be.

For all the previews of the armor and incredible toys, Ben Affleck reestablishes Batman as a detective and Bruce Wayne as a martini guzzling womanizer. The movie offers a vision of a slightly older Batman, a grognard deeply affected by his years of conflict. Again, Snyder pulls the best parts from the Batman: The Dark Night Returns, leaving Affleck’s surprisingly compassionate Batman war weary and tired, at the brink of true, authoritarian madness.

This is a Batman from the Golden Age. He is well armed and, using the words from 1940’s Batman #1, willing to “spit death.”

Frames from Batman #1, 1940.

Frames from Batman #1, 1940.

Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth deserves more than a mention. His version of Alfred offers a more compassionate foil to an increasingly pressed Batman in an effort to pull his boss back from the edge. The movie Alfred serves to remind Bruce that his efforts and time spent outside of the costume matter as least as much as those within.

A few choice lines reused from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns spice up the portrayal with sardonic humor.

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I admit. I squeed at Wonder Woman’s entrance.

Without a doubt, Gal Gadot steals every scene where she appears. Diana Price never came off as so cool and collected, so poised and classic. Wonder Woman has never felt more right, a warrior princess from an island of Amazons. Gadot projects incredible insight into her character with a single, fleeting smirk during the climactic fight scene. Just thinking about that moment gets me counting the days until June 23, 2017 and the release of Wonder Woman.

 

It works better than you might think. Really.

They work better than you might think. Really.

It took a while for me to warm to Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. The comic book Luthor always feels unflappable; not one step ahead of the heroes, but five or six. Eisenberg’s character struck me as too flighty and disheveled to ever rise to the Presidency as did his comic book counterpart. Only in remembering Gene Hackman’s portrayal in 1978’s Superman, did I make peace with this interpretation. This is not the first time I’ve seen a more manic version of the villain. To Snyder’s and writers’ Chris  Terrio and David S. Goyer’s credit, this version of Lex Luthor works very well on film.

The story spills out like a comic book and can’t bear much scrutiny or careful consideration. The audience figuring out Lex Luthor’s convoluted scheme well before either Batman or Superman suits the movie, however.

This is an epic film, filled with epic characters. Like the gods of mythology, these are characters laid low by fatal flaws. A beacon of hope, Superman cannot conceive of the machinations of evil that surround and entrap him. A creature of darkness, Batman lies trapped by his inability to see anything but dark intrigues and collusions. This brings them into natural conflict with each other. I am thankful for the screenwriters who decided to use some pretty obscure bit of comic trivia to unite the two together. The conflict allows the friendship and respect of the two to begin.

I believe Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice marks director Zack Synder’s conquest of style with substance. I enjoyed both Superman: Man of Steel and Watchmen. For all their carefully crafted composition, they did little for me emotionally. BvS left me breathless and stunned, unsure where the movie was taking me, and not wanting the experience to end.

Fortunately, with the hints of the struggles to come sprinkled throughout the film, I know Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is just the beginning.

The Pull List: Please Don’t Suck

I have an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, a coil of disappointment waiting to loosen. Tomorrow night, I’m doing something I haven’t done since Time Burton’s Batman in 1989. I’m going to watch a superhero movie on opening day.

It’s not that I will object to the crowds or any cosplay I might see. I’m really more worried that the movie will just suck.

Yes. I’m going to see Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I’ve got to be one of the few people that actually enjoyed Superman: Man of Steel. I didn’t care for the depiction of Jonathan Kent, or the general even emotional tone all of Zach Synder’s films. I found the movie’s dystopian view of Krypton fascinating.  The frenetic, kinetic fight scenes felt filled with super heroic power.

The movie effectively conveyed the scope of Superman’s power. To push a hero of Superman’s strength means inviting cataclysm, courting potentially worldwide destruction, and insuring high casualty count. Superman alone cannot handle these threats while protecting people.  When mere humans get involved at this level, they tend to do themselves a lot of damage. Superman: Man of Steel proves Superman needs an ensemble universe and I’m glad to see DC and Warner Brothers moving in that direction.

If it’s not MoS what’s driving my concern? Back in Summer of 2011 I had to choose between Green Lantern and X-men: First Class. I chose poorly. If there was a film I ever really watched to like, it was Green Lantern. It just didn’t happen.

I know my fears are unreasonable. My lack of enjoyment for Ben  Affleck’s Daredevil doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the Netflix series. A good chunk of the pre-release buzz has been positive so far. It’s just that…

I’m a DC guy. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman are some of the first characters I read growing up. I was a Teenaged Marvel Zombie, but DC comics outnumber Marvel in my collection 2 to 1. A 6” Mego  Aquaman action figure was the first I collected. These are “my” characters. I want to see them we ll cared for.

I’ll be back on Friday to let you know how DC  and Warner Brothers did.

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