Tag Archives: Justice League

New Comic Book Day September 9, 2020: My Pull List And Pick Of The Week

It’s official. We made it through the summer of 2020. In most years, that’s hardly cause for celebration. In fact, around this time last year, I was lamenting over the end of warm bikini-enabling weather. This year is different because this year just objectively sucks for reasons we’re all painfully aware of.

We all have our own way of getting through awful years like this. For me, a weekly dose of new comics has been critical to keeping my broken sprits relatively intact. It’s not just about escapism and distractions, either. Comics are a good reminder that these ideals we still cherish are relevant, even when a pandemic comes so close to breaking us.

In years past, they’ve provided a sense of comfort and reprieve for when school started up. It was still much harder back then because I didn’t have Comixology or day-and-date digital releases. I like to think if I did have it, I would’ve coped better with my circumstances.

However, I don’t want to focus too much on the past or how awful this year has been. Summer may be over, but with another season behind us, we’re that much closer to leaving this awful year behind us. In the meantime, I want to focus on the present and how new comics make it objectively more awesome.

To that end, here is my pull list and picks of the week. Enjoy!


My Pull List

Amazing Spider-Man #48

Captain Marvel #21

Cyberpunk 2077: Trauma Team #1

DCeased: Hope At World’s End #9

Empyre: Aftermath Avengers #1

Empyre: Fallout Fantastic Four #1

The Flash #761

Marauders #12

Superman #25

Wonder Woman #762

X-Force #12

X-Factor #3


My Pick Of The Week
Superman #25

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Upheavals At DC Comic: My Concerns And Hopes

Let’s face it. Pretty much every industry not associated with health care, masks, streaming media, and Zoom calls has been hit hard this year. That’s especially true for certain segments of the entertainment industry. Basically, if you’re a movie studio, a movie theater, a comic shop, or a mall, this year has been like 100 punches to the gut, jaw, and genitals by a crack-fueled Ivan Drago.

That’s how bad global pandemics are. They pull no punches and will hit anything that attempts to prosper, both directly and indirectly.

Those blows extended to the comics industry, as well. As a lifelong comic book fan, I certainly felt it. I haven’t forgotten the weeks on end of having no new comics to enjoy for the first time in over a decade. It was not a pleasant experience. As elated as I was to see New Comic Book Day return, I didn’t doubt for a second that there would be some lasting scars.

Well, now it seems some of those scars are starting to fester and the first one to feel the pain is DC Comics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the entire DC Comics operation has been hit with major layoffs and restructuring. It’s still intact, but make no mistake. This is the single biggest purging of personnel from a major comics publisher since the mid-1990s.

THR: DC Comics, DC Universe Hit By Major Layoffs

Monday’s WarnerMedia layoffs have affected a significant number of high-level figures at comic book powerhouse DC, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Among those said to be losing their positions are editor-in-chief Bob Harris, senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland, VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase, senior story editor Brian Cunningham, and executive editor Mark Doyle, who oversaw the rollout of the Black Label graphic novels. Jim Lee remains the CCO.

Roughly one third of DC’s editorial ranks are being laid off, according to sources.

Insiders also say the majority of the staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, a move that had been widely expected as WarnerMedia shifts its focus to new streaming service HBO Max.

I can’t understate how big a deal this is to the larger world of comics, but I don’t want to overstate it, either. This situation is objectively bad. There’s no way around it. It’s also not the definitive end of DC Comics. That’s a narrative I don’t want to fuel.

That hasn’t stopped some of the whiniest, dumbest segments of the comics crowd from claiming otherwise. I won’t name names, but they are affiliated with a certain movement in comics that has only become less credible and more insufferable with time. The box office return of the “Captain Marvel” movie is proof enough of that.

Don’t be fooled by what some asshole voices on social media claim. This restructuring is not because DC Comics had too much diversity. It’s more a byproduct of DC Comics having lost its sense of vision, scale, and identity. This is something that happens from time to time in comics. After a while, the whole line loses its sense of self and needs some revitalization.

I can say, as a longtime comic fan, that DC has become somewhat stale in recent years. Even before the pandemic, I felt as though it had lost momentum outside its mainstays. It has primarily been relying on the strength of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash. As iconic as those characters are, they just can’t sustain the entire line.

There are many reasons for that. I think DC Comics, as a whole, hasn’t had a consistent vision since the days of DC Rebirth. It just got bogged down too much with competing visions, like DCeased and Injustice: Gods Among Us. It also endured way too many delays with its last big crossover event, Doomsday Clock.

The onset of the pandemic just exacerbated a problem that was starting to grow. As bad as things are now, there’s also an opportunity to set things on a better path. That’s my greatest hope for whatever restructuring DC pursues next. It still has plenty to build on. The success of the Harley Quinn show is proof enough of that. It’s just a matter of what form that will take.

That said, I do have major concerns. Comic lines have gone through upheavals before, but never during a global pandemic. This is uncharted territory for the comics industry, as a whole. This is not the era of newsstands and comic shops where top books could easily sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Paperbacks alone are not going to make this industry succeed.

Comics, in the current system, work best as a garden from which new characters, stories, and ideas can blossom. The fruits of that system can later become the basis for TV shows, movies, merchandise, and so much more. DC Comics already has a major media partner in its owner, AT&T. The structure is there. They just have to carve their niche into it.

I understand that’s easier said than done. Right now, a lot of factors are working against DC and the comics industry, as a whole. When all is said and done, comic shops may become much more diminished and trade paperback sales may dwindle to just a handful of titles. I’m not looking forward to that kind of status quo.

The ultimate setup may one day involve DC Comics just abandoning its publishing system, as a whole, and shift to licensing its characters to other companies, such as IDW. That’s very much a last resort, but one that may be more likely if DC can’t get its comics in order.

I want to be hopeful, but I’m also going to brace for the worst. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse and the things we love are always capable of succumbing to forces beyond our control. It’s a sad, nihilistic mindset, but one that a global pandemic tends to affirm. Only time will tell and I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” Teaser Is Here And Why I’m So Hopeful

This past weekend was a damn good weekend if you’re a fan of all things DC Comics. The festivities surrounding DC FanDome, a showcase of the revamped future of DC Comics, was truly a sight to behold. As someone who is genuinely concerned about the future of DC Comics, and the comics industry in general, this was an incredible experience that gives me some tangible hope.

In a year like 2020, hope is almost as precious as a vaccine. Let’s not lose sight of that.

There were many highlights. I already cited the new “Wonder Woman 1984” trailer as a wonder to behold. However, the one teaser that got me most excited was the first full teaser of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which is set for release on HBO Max in 2021.

Now, the story and politics surrounding this movie are way too complicated, not to mention distressing, for me to go over. I’ve already touched on it before, so I’ll simply present the teaser for those who haven’t seen it. Hopefully, it evokes in others the same excitement I felt.

Now, I want to make one thing clear. I was not among those loudly protesting for the release of this movie. I saw the first “Justice League” movie in theaters. I didn’t hate it, but I could tell that it was not a well-organized movie. While I may not have joined the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, I did hope that we’d get some sort of extended cut at some point, if only because there’s a solid precedent for it.

Solid doesn’t mean good, but in Zack Snyder’s case, I think there’s a context worth considering here. Snyder’s record as a filmmaker is mixed, but the man clearly knows how to think big. For a franchise like DC Comics and Justice League, you need that kind of vision and scale to do justice to these characters. That’s why I thought he was such a good choice to turn DC Comics into a major film franchise.

Snyder approaches movies as a huge, over-arching vision. He’s great at making spectacles. His work on “300” is proof of that. However, Snyder also has a nasty habit of clashing with studios who want to chop his vision up into something people can see in a movie theater without taking one too many bathroom breaks. Oftentimes, that grand vision is difficult to condense into a commercially viable product.

It happened with both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Watchmen.” Each movie came out in theaters to mixed reviews by both fans and critics, to put it mildly. However, each movie also has an extended version that came out later. In both cases, the extended product was far superior. They include additional plots and details that make the overall vision more complete and satisfying.

This is especially true of “Watchmen.” Seriously, if you haven’t seen the Ultimate Cut of that movie, I highly recommend it. Even if you hated the theatrical cut, this one is a lot more satisfying, even if it’s over three-and-a-half hours long.

The same goes for “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Its extended cut is far more complete and concise than what we saw in theaters. No, it doesn’t make Jessie Eisenberg any less annoying as Lex Luthor, but it is a more competent and complete movie. It’s just longer and more fleshed out.

There’s also an extended version of Zack Snyder’s other film, “Sucker Punch.” Now, I’m not a big fan of that movie and that extended version doesn’t add much, especially compared to “Watchmen.” However, those extra minutes of footage add critical context to the movie that make it work better, as a story. Even if you don’t like how the movie plays out, you can at least appreciate the context.

In every case, it shows that Snyder had a solid vision for these stories. Too much of that vision got left on the cutting room floor. With “Justice League,” we’re not just talking about an extra half-hour of footage. Basically, this version of the movie contains footage that was almost entirely scrapped for the theatrical cut. It’s the same cast and concept, but a very different vision.

It’s also a vision that will have the time and space to be complete. According to Deadline, this cut of the movie will be nearly four hours long, divided into hour-long segments. That’s a hell of a vision and if history is any indication, it’ll be a spectacle worth seeing.

I, for one, will be eager to see the finished product. Snyder has shown in the past that he can tell a damn good story when he has enough time, space, and energy. HBO Max may be a more fitting platform than a standard movie theater. It may also open the door to a bolder vision for DC Comics in the future.

Only time will tell. All I’ll say from here on out is that the Snyder Cut is almost here. Hallelujah!

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Wonder Woman 1984 Final Trailer!

This year has been objectively terrible, but there’s still time to for it to end feeling slightly less awful. Among the many casualties of this year has been the release of “Wonder Woman 1984.” This movie was supposed to come out back in May. Then, a global pandemic hit and everything wonderful was either cancelled or pushed back.

However, there’s only so much you can do to push back Wonder Woman. Pandemic or not, her wonder is worth fighting for. That includes pushing through with a theatrical release. I don’t care how many masks I have to wear. I don’t care how many times I need to dip my hands in soap and/or hand sanitizer. I’m going to see this movie in a goddamn theater. This final trailer only proves why.

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The (Understandable) Reason Why We Won’t Be Getting A Kinberg Cut Of “Dark Phoenix”

We’re living in an interesting age of cinema right now. Between massive cinematic universes, reboots, and all-female remakes, we’re in the midst of some major upheavals to the movie industry. It didn’t start with Netflix, but it’s definitely not ending with it. I’m honestly not sure where it’s going.

However, I am fairly certain that when people look back on this era of cinema, they’ll see the release of the Snyder Cut for “Justice League” as a turning point. It’s not just about a company giving into massive fan demand or big tech companies using major franchises to push a streaming service. It’s a sign that the overall vision for movies as a whole is evolving.

The issues surrounding Justice League are well-known. There are plenty of other issues surrounding movies like it, from “I Am Legend” to “Solo: A Star Wars Movie” to “Spider-Man 3.” Those issues usually revolve around a studio, a director, and corporate executives not being on the same page.

The primary reason why the Snyder Cut is a thing is because executives at Warner Brothers opted to revamp, reshoot, and reconfigure the whole movie, completely changing the tone and plot along the way. That effort just didn’t work and it shows in the box office. If the Snyder Cut turns out to be a hit with fans and drives up subscriptions for HBO Max, the impact could go far beyond the future of DC movies.

This could open the door to other movies whose original vision was undermined. Companies are starting to realize that listening to fans can be profitable, as “Sonic the Hedgehog” showed. They’re also realizing that directors and producers need the whole of their vision realized. You can’t chop it up to the point where crucial parts of the story are left on the cutting room floor, as we saw with “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

I hope this will create opportunities for filmmakers and producers alike to realize their visions without having to chop it up for theaters. In an era of streaming services and binge-watching, a movie like the Snyder Cut can totally work. I’m genuinely curious about it and I plan on seeing it the first chance I get.

At the same time, I hope other movies get a similar chance, such as “Suicide Squad,” which was also subject to heavy editing. Sadly, there’s one vision that we’ll never see fully realized in an extended cut and that happens to be a movie that would’ve benefited most from more content. That movie is “Dark Phoenix.”

While I loved the movie we got in theaters, I could tell that it was a movie that had been significantly altered from its original vision. With the pending release of the Snyder Cut, a part of me hoped that we might get an extended version of “Dark Phoenix,” similar to what we got with the Rogue Cut of “Days of Future Past.”

Unfortunately, those hopes have been dashed. In an interview with IGN, Simon Kinberg himself stated outright that there was no “Kinberg Cut” to release. However, he gave a very valid reason for why that is.

IGN: X-Men Movies: Is There a ‘Kinberg Cut’ of Dark Phoenix?

“The movie they released was ultimately my vision for the film,” said Kinberg. “That vision did change over the span of making the movie. There are other scenes that we shot, just as there are a lot of other scenes in [Days of Future Past] that we shot and didn’t end up using. There were scenes we shot for that film and an ending that was quite different than the ending that was in the theatrical release. To release [a Kinberg Cut], it wouldn’t be just be like we splice those scenes back in, because those scenes were never completed because of visual effects and sound – all of the technical aspects that go into completing films of this scale. It would take a whole lot of work, but I appreciate the support.”

Kinberg also told us that many of the changes to Dark Phoenix stemmed from Fox’s decision to condense the project from a duology into a single film. There’s no easy way to create a director’s cut more in line with his original story plans without going back and actually filming that canceled sequel.

Kinberg said, “With every movie, there are things you wish you did differently. On every movie there are things you thought were great and perfect, and then you watch them and didn’t think they were as strong as you imagined and you go a different way. Dark Phoenix was a hard movie because, in its initial concept when I wrote it, it was meant to be a two-part film. And then it suddenly became a one-part movie for reasons that weren’t of my doing. Having to create around that massive change was a challenge in itself. All these movies are uniquely challenging.”

Those bold parts are my doing. They confirm what many already knew. There’s no extended cut to “Dark Phoenix” because it was originally meant to be two movies and that second movie never got made. There’s no extra movie of a “Dark Phoenix” sequel gathering dust in Fox’s vault. The cut we got in theaters was much of what got shot. Some things got edited out, but not enough to significantly change the movie.

These tidbits aren’t entirely new. Long before “Dark Phoenix” came out, it was heavily implied that it was going to be a two-part movie. That makes sense, given how it played out in the source material. The first movie would have Jean become Phoenix. The next would have her go Dark Phoenix. It could’ve been to X-Men what “Infinity War” and “Endgame” were to Avengers.

Sadly, Kinberg never got to make those movies. He was forced to condense the story he wanted to tell into a single movie. That means we probably lost some incredible moments that never made it beyond the storyboard stage. We never got to see a bigger, more dramatic journey for Jean Grey, the X-Men, and plenty of other characters who never showed up. It’s a shame, but it’s understandable.

If “Dark Phoenix” had one insurmountable obstacle, it was the pending merge between Fox and Disney. Once that deal became final, Kinberg’s window to realize his vision was greatly shortened. Granted, I think he did a great job condensing the essence of the Phoenix Saga into a single movie, but it could’ve been so much more.

It’s unfortunate, but understandable. There were forces beyond Kinberg’s control working against him and “Dark Phoenix.” Those same forces ensure that we’ll never get an extended cut because doing so would require that they shoot a second movie, as originally intended. That’s just not going to happen.

While that’s disappointing, it’s understandable. I’m perfectly happy with the cut of “Dark Phoenix” that we got, much more so than I was with the theatrical cut of “Justice League.” I genuinely hope that Marvel Studios will create a bold new vision for X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I just hope they avoid the same mistakes that Warner Brothers made with “Justice League.”

I trust that Kevin Feige has a vision for X-Men.

I hope that vision is as awesome as it deserves to be.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing what the Snyder Cut has in store.

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“Justice League: The Snyder Cut” Is (Actually) Being Released: My Thoughts, My Hopes, And The Implications

It’s happening.

It’s really happening.

After years of hashtags, billboards, and incessant curiosity, it’s really happening. The fabled “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s “Justice League” is going to be released. Near as I can tell, this is not a joke. It’s not some wild rumor that some renegade trolls concocted. This is real. According to major entertainment news outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, this is going to happen.

Zack Snyder’s original vision for “Justice League” is coming out in 2021 exclusively on HBO Max, the latest entry to the streaming wars, courtesy of Warner Brothers. I doubt those outside devoted fans of comic books and superhero movies understand why this is such a big deal, but as someone within that circle, I can assure you that this is big.

Rather than explain the whole story, I’ll just cite The Hollywood Reporter, which does a commendable job of summing up the issues. If you need more information on the story of this mythical cut of an otherwise forgettable movie, Forbes also did a decent rundown of the timeline.

THR: Zack Snyder’s $20M-Plus ‘Justice League’ Cut Plans Revealed

In the time since its release, something unusual happened: A growing movement of fans, rallied by the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut, had called, agitated, petitioned — even bought a Times Square billboard and chartered a plane to fly a banner over Comic-Con — for Snyder’s version to be released. And on the film’s second anniversary, the hashtag had its biggest day ever — with even the movie’s stars Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck adding their voices on Twitter.

So here, the morning after, was their agent saying that Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures, was acknowledging the movement, and more importantly, was willing to accede. “This is real. People out there want it. Would you guys ever consider doing something?” was what Emmerich was asking, Zack Snyder recalls.

The answer to Emmerich’s question, a whispered-about secret for months, was revealed Wednesday when Zack Snyder confirmed, at the end of an online screening of his 2013 movie, Man of Steel, that his version of Justice League was indeed real. And that it will be coming to HBO Max, the WarnerMedia digital streaming service launching May 27, and is expected to debut in 2021.

Now, I have my share of opinions about “Justice League” and Zack Snyder. I actually saw the theatrical version of “Justice League” when it came out. While I gave it a respectable review, I don’t deny that the movie has its flaws. I’m not an overall movie buff, but even I could tell that the movie was heavily edited. There was definitely a vision and plenty of potential, but a lot of it got lost on the cutting room floor.

In its current form, Justice League” is one of those movies that gets less compelling with age. You can see it once, have an enjoyable experience, and completely forget that experience within weeks. It’s not a movie that you can re-watch and feel engaged. It’s just too bland and sanitized.

Snyder’s cut of the movie promised to be different. He had a much different vision, but couldn’t realize that vision due to a family tragedy that tore him away from the project. Now, we’ll get to see the essence of that vision.

Personally, I’m curious. I’m not curious enough to shell out money for yet another streaming service, but I’m certainly interested in what Snyder had planned for this movie. A big part of that curiosity stems from Snyder’s history as a filmmaker whose vision tends to get lost on the cutting room floor.

This has happened to him multiple times before and for other superhero movies. There were a lot of heavy criticisms levied against “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and some of those criticisms were valid. However, the longer and more complete Ultimate Edition of the movie directly addressed some of those flaws. I honestly think the movie would’ve done better if that edition had come out.

A far more notable example, in my opinion, involves Snyder’s take on “Watchmen.” That movie is somewhat polarizing among fans, although I personally liked it. However, this movie has multiple extended cuts, including a director’s cut that Snyder himself says is most consistent with his vision for the film.

That’s actually the version I own on blu-ray. I think it’s an underrated gem among superhero movies. It’s more complete, concise, and compelling. It better encapsulates the essence of “Watchmen” and the story it tries to tell.

It’s because of these instances that I believe will help Snyder’s cut of Justice League.” History shows that he can tell a great story, so long as the critical details aren’t cut out in the final edit. Granted, editing is a core aspect of finalizing a movie. It’s necessary to get a movie to within a reasonable time-frame for a movie-watching experience. Not everyone wants to sit in a theater for four hours unless it’s something J. R. R. Tolkein wrote.

Snyder’s desire to tell a larger story seems to get away from him. In that sense, it might be a good thing that this isn’t coming out in theaters. Instead, it’s coming out on a streaming platform that people can consume at their own pace. People already consume hours on end of old shows. Consuming a four-hour movie isn’t quite as daunting. Just look at “The Irishman.”

This is where I feel the larger implications of this announcement may come into play. A non-insignificant reason why Snyder’s movies keep getting chopped up into something that doesn’t do well with critics or fans is because they’re so long. His efforts to tell a bold story just don’t fit within that reasonable two to three hour time-frame for a movie. Movies like “Watchmen” reveal that those stories can be compelling.

Beyond the story, the impact of the Snyder Cut could extend beyond Justice League,” superhero movies, and the movie-making process as a whole. This is where I believe there could be larger implications that will likely impact future movies, including those that don’t involve superheroes.

For decades, there has been this idea that movies have to operate within certain restrictions. For the most part, there’s merit to those restrictions. Movies beyond three-and-a-half hours just aren’t feasible for a general audience or their bladder. A trilogy like “Lord of the Rings” was a rare exception, but could never become the norm.

Thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max, this may no longer be the case. Now, there’s a new method for releasing these movies. The current global pandemic, as well as the recent success with direct-to-streaming releases, will further raise the importance of those platforms.

With these new tools and emerging trends, why should movies be confined to the limits imposed by movie theaters? Why can’t there be a four-hour Justice League” movie? Why can’t there be a five-hour Avengers movie? Why does any movie have to be chopped up and edited to such an extent that it loses important aspects of its plot?

The Snyder Cut could make the case that those restrictions need not hinder a bolder vision. There’s still a place for the kinds of popcorn movies we see in theaters, but why not also invest in a place where a movie like Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” can also exist?

The world of movies, media, and story-telling is changing. Regardless of how the Snyder Cut ends up being in the eyes of fans, its impact could be far greater. Hopefully, it leads to bigger, bolder, and better stories. It may not always warrant the cost of another streaming service, but it opens the door to so many possibilities.

Time will tell. Hopefully, we’ll see if the wait was worth it in 2021.

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New (But Limited) Comic Book Day: May 13, 2020

Comic book fans are in the same boat as everyone with respect to navigating this awful pandemic. We’re just waiting out the worst of the storm. Eventually, it’ll pass. Then, slowly and steadily, life will get back to a new form of normal. Let’s face it. There’s no going back to the way things were before. The best we can do is forge a new normal out of this crisis.

The world of comics is already making an effort. As I noted last week, major comic companies are preparing a gradual relaunch of the industry. That means comic shops will finally get new books in stock. Digital comic outlets like Comixology will get to release mainline titles aside from the usual digital-only series. It’s still nowhere near the size of the traditional stock for New Comic Book Day, but it counts as progress.

As it stands, Marvel is still a couple weeks away from releasing a slate of new books. DC, however, is getting back in the swing of things earlier. This week marks the first week in which they’re releasing some mainline titles to market. Again, it’s not much, but it’s much better than nothing. Rather than showing my pull list, I’ll just offer a list of the releases for today, as well as links to previews.

Harley Quinn #72

Justice League #44

Justice League Odyssey #20

Lois Lane #10

Metal Men #6

After weeks on end with no new comics to speak of, this is the first true taste of a new normal for comics. Unlike major sports or movies, comics have an opportunity to get going and thrive once more. There’s still going to be some major upheavals and restructuring, but that process can finally begin. At a time when good news is hard to come by, I’ll take it.

In what I hope isn’t too minor a celebration, here’s a pick of the week that I hope boosts everyone’s spirits. We all need it.


My Pick Of The Week
Justice League #44

Some comics try to be deep, introspective, and profound. Writers and artists attempt to craft a complex story that they hope will leave a profound impact on reader on the best possible way. I fully support these kinds of comics. It’s part of why “Watchmen” is such a groundbreaking achievement for the genre.

At the same time, however, I support books that take the opposite approach. In lieu of being deep, it sticks to the basics of what makes comics fun, but still leaves room for novelty. That’s exactly where books like “Justice League #44” come in. It doesn’t try to reinvent any genre. It just tries to have fun with DC’s most iconic characters.

After weeks on end with no new comics for mainline books, “Justice League #44” is just what we need to remind us why New Comic Book Day is the best day of the week. Writer Robert Venditti and artist Xermanico stick to a basic formula. Take the Justice League, have them answer a distress call, and then unleash giant mythical monsters for them to fight. It’s every bit as entertaining as it sounds.

That’s not to say its shallow or crude. There is a deeper plot at work here. It’s hinted at through some mysterious monologues throughout the issue. We don’t find out who it is until the end, but they provide that extra bit of novelty that makes “Justice League #44” more than just a generic heroes vs. monster brawl.

Those versed in Greek mythology will recognize some of those monsters. Others versed in Wonder Woman’s lore will also sensed something amiss before the fighting stops. What starts off as a distress call from Aquaman in Antarctica turns into a much larger threat that even the Justice League is ill-equipped to handle. The how and the why are teased, but the extent and breadth of that threat are abundantly clear.

In a sense, Justice League comics are the comic book equivalent of comfort food. They’re what you go to when you want something as warm and familiar as an old pair of sweat pants. Between global pandemics and massive upheavals in the comic book industry, we all need a little bit of that comfort food. Even with a limited selection, that’s exactly what “Justice League #44” provides and it’s delicious.

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Wonder Woman, Relationships, And Misguided Standards For Female Heroes

I love superhero comics. I love romance. Naturally, I love it when they’re combined into a perfect package of super-romantic sentiment. I’ve singled out a few favorites of mine in the past, as well as a few not-so-favorites that act as cautionary tales. Chances are I’ll find plenty more excuses to write about superhero romance in the future.

That said, I’d like to take a step back from the specifics of superhero romance and assess the forest from the trees, so to speak. Instead, I thought I’d highlight something that I’ve been noticing within the pages of some of my favorite comics. It’s not necessarily an egregious flaw, but it is a distressing trend for lovers of romance like myself.

It has to do with how superheroes are portrayed when they’re in romantic relationships. Almost every popular superhero is caught up in a romantic sub-plot. Superman has his ever-iconic love story with Lois Lane. Cyclops and Jean Grey have decades of romance and drama. Spider-Man gets around so much that he has multiple iconic romances.

Not every superhero is defined by their romantic sub-plot, although some are more effected by it than others. It’s hard to tell the story of Sue “Invisible Woman” Richards without involving her husband and children. However, certain characters are held to different standards when it comes to romance.

That’s to be expected, given the diverse circumstances of each hero. Not every hero is going to be affected by their romantic sub-plot in the same way. That effect also changes through different eras. Even the iconic relationship between Superman and Lois Lane has changed a great deal over the years, although not necessarily for the better.

However, this particular era has really twisted the standards for female superheroes in romantic relationships and not in a good way. I won’t go so far as to call it a double standard like the others I’ve cited, but the differences are stark. It goes like this.

A male superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses, he enters a relationship with his romantic interest, and continues being the same hero he’s always been. The relationship supplements his story.

A female superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses and she enters a relationship with her romantic interest, but the relationship conflicts with her ability to be a superhero. It gets to a point where the act of her being a hero is detrimental to the relationship. She can have one or the other, but not both.

These scenarios are somewhat generic, but they convey a similar message. Male superheroes can be in romantic relationships without it undermining their heroic persona, but female superheroes can’t have those relationships without it becoming an obstacle.

This strange, unbalanced dynamic played out recently in the pages of “Wonder Woman #754.” I’d even go so far as to argue that Wonder Woman suffers the most from this dynamic, despite being one of the most iconic female superheroes of all time. Given that she’s the ideal that other female superheroes are compared to, I think that’s telling.

The main plot of the issue isn’t important. The side-plot is where this dynamic showed up. There were frequent flashbacks that highlighted Diana’s recent “drama” with her long-time romantic interest, Steve Trevor. I put drama in quotes because it feels less like drama and more like forced excuses.

It’s been an issue for Wonder Woman for decades. Despite being her most iconic love interest, going back to the 1940s, Steve Trevor has never been that official with Diana. Even though they’ve professed their love for one another in many forms and in many timelines, they’re rarely ever shown as being in a functional, mature relationship.

It’s not just with Steve Trevor, either. Even in the classic “Justice League” cartoon in which she was romantically linked to Batman, nothing ever became official. There’s was never a point where Wonder Woman went from being single to being in a real, functioning relationship.

In fact, the only time Wonder Woman was ever in a functional romantic relationship was when she dated Superman during DC’s short-lived New 52 era in the comics. During that time, Wonder Woman and Superman had their own comics and their own stories. Sometimes, those stories became entwined. Sometimes, they didn’t. It never undermined their relationship or vice versa.

I know comic fans have strong opinions about the New 52 as a whole, but I find it telling that this was really the only time Wonder Woman was allowed to be in a relationship while still being Wonder Woman. For her to be someone’s girlfriend and still be the hero she’s always been, her significant other had to be Superman.

Take a moment to think about the scope of that standard. Wonder Woman, the standard-bearer for female superheroes for decades, can be in a functional relationship, but only with someone as capable as Superman. She and Steve Trevor can be in love, but they can’t have a relationship. He’s just an ordinary man. He’d just undermine Wonder Woman’s ability to be the ideal female hero we know and love.

Meanwhile, male heroes like Batman and Spider-Man can become romantically involved with far less capable individuals, many of which don’t have superpowers and can’t fly across the planet to be on time for date night. They’re still allowed to be in those relationships, but Wonder Woman can’t even make the effort with one of her most iconic romances with Steve Trevor.

As a fan of superhero comic, romance, and Wonder Woman, I find this both flawed and frustrating. While the “Wonder Woman” movie did an solid job establishing genuine romance between her and Steve Trevor, they still never got a chance to actually be in a relationship. It’s as though a female hero can’t be in a relationship without losing something. At the same time, a male hero can’t have a complete story without one.

It’s a strange disconnect and I think it’s getting worse. In recent years, superhero comics have made a concerted effort to develop female characters and I applaud that effort. It has led to some major successes. The problem is that, like Wonder Woman, these female characters aren’t really allowed to become anyone’s girlfriend. Being in a relationship is seen as an obstacle to being strong, independent, compelling characters.

Respectfully, I call bullshit.

Being in a relationship isn’t detrimental to any character, male or female, if the relationship is well-written. In addition, female characters don’t have to be completely, 100-percent independent to be great. In fact, making them that emotional single-minded is a good way to make them unlikable and unrelatable because, in the real world, people have relationships. They form bonds, rely on others, and are effected by those close ties.

Now, I don’t deny that writing great female characters is challenging, especially in recent years. It feels like you can’t write female characters without having an agenda anymore, even when it’s not printed on a shirt. Again, I call bullshit. Female characters, like all characters, are deeply affected by the loving bonds they form. They deserve the same development and exploration as their male counterparts.

Why can’t Wonder Woman be in an official relationship with Steve Trevor?

Does being Steve Trevor’s girlfriend make Wonder Woman any less a superhero?

Does any female superhero lose something when they become someone’s girlfriend?

These are relevant questions that are worth asking. If someone as iconic as Wonder Woman can’t be in a relationship with someone without undermining what makes her Wonder Woman, then that’s not a problem with her as a character. That’s a problem with the standards and assumptions we have about superhero romance.

I’m sorry if this rant feels dragged out, but this has been bothering me for a while. I’d be happy to discuss it more. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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A Simple Comment On The Criticism/Whining On “Birds Of Prey”

Sometimes, a movie just fails to find an audience.

It’s not because of some larger social agenda that backfired horribly.

It’s not because of some huge backlash caused by misguided marketing strategies, either.

Most of the time, the world isn’t that fanciful. It’s just chaotic, unpredictable, and messy. No matter how much a movie, TV show, or product attempts to appeal to a broad audience, it can just fail. That’s all there is to it.

Trying to fit an agenda into that failure is like trying to build a conspiracy around why you’re stuck in traffic. The world isn’t out to get you or people like you. Most of the time, shit just happens and you’re just caught up in it. That’s not to say that agendas never squeeze themselves into the media. It happens, but it’s effect is often exaggerated. Most of the time, the final product just doesn’t work.

That brings me to “Birds of Prey.” Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I completely forgot about this movie. I had no excitement for it and not just because I was underwhelmed by “Suicide Squad.” I like Margot Robbie. I like Harley Quinn. She’s a great actress who plays a great character. The movie just did not grab my attention.

I saw the trailer. It was fine, but forgettable. I didn’t feel compelled to watch it 10 times in a row, as I did with “Wonder Woman 1984.” I didn’t feel compelled to see the movie, either. Even though it got good reviews, it just didn’t appeal to me. I planned to watch it when it came out on cable. Based on the early box office haul, I’m not alone in that sentiment.

I’d be perfectly fine to leave it at that. In previous years, I wouldn’t even bring it up. However, due to the growing inclination to make everything political, the under-performance of “Birds of Prey” is already getting the wrong people talking about it for all the wrong reasons.

Some are already lumping this movie in the same category as 2016’s “Ghostbusters” or the horrendously bad “Charlie Angels” reboot. Now, I don’t want to get into the politics behind it, mostly because I value the integrity of my brain cells. I’ll just say this. Whether you’re liberal, conservative, feminist, traditionalist, anarchist, or Marxist, there’s one thing to remember.

It’s a goddamn movie. Sometimes, movies just fail to find an audience. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

Maybe it eventually becomes a cult classic, like “Blade.” Maybe it rebounds with good word of mouth. Either way, it has nothing to do with an agenda. The public, as a whole, just didn’t respond to it. Any criticism/whining beyond that is just asinine.

That’s all I have to say about “Birds of Prey.” Harley Quinn is still a great character and Margot Robbie is still a great actress. Your agenda, whatever it may be, has no bearing on that. It never has. It never will. Get over yourself and just watch the movies you enjoy.

 

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Superman #18

Anyone who has read superhero comics for a sizable chunk of their lives knows the difference between a gimmick and a genuine plot upheaval. Gimmicks are shallow. They’re sales tactics disguised as shocking twists that promise to change a character, world, or team forever. Most of the time, they get retconned within a few years.

Plot upheavals that are real, genuine, and permanent are rarer, but that’s what makes them more precious. They often become defining moments in their own right for a character or a franchise. For comic fans, they’re like major life-changing events.

In the same way you vividly recall your first kiss or your first car, you remember where you were when Superman married Lois Lane.

You remember where you were when the Joker brutally beat up Jason Todd.

You remember where you were when Barry Allen died during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In that same tradition, you’ll probably remember where you were when you read “Superman #18.” This is a comic that promises to change Superman’s life and his story in major ways. It’s the comic in which he finally reveals his secret identity to the world. It’s not a gimmick this time. This is real and it has an impact that will likely resonate for years to come.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis has built a career on powerful, dramatic moments. He did it for years at Marvel with Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men. Since he began his run on Superman, he’s taken the Man of Steel through his share of upheavals. Superman’s semi-stable family life with his wife and son became a lot less stable, but he still hung onto the same identity that had kept him grounded for decades.

That finally changes in “Superman #18.” It’s not a snap decision, either. This isn’t Tony Stark going off the cuff at the end of “Iron Man.” That’s not how Superman does things. He’s thoughtful, thorough, and very much aware of the implications. He doesn’t agonize or brood over it, as many other heroes are prone to do, especially if they have egos like Tony Stark. He simply tries to determine the right thing to do.

It’s not easy. Before the big reveal, Bendis takes Superman through a round of self-reflection in which he goes over all the reasons why he maintained his secret identity as Clark Kent. Some of those reasons were entirely valid. They weren’t excuses that kept demanding more excuses. They genuinely felt like the right thing at the time.

Superman lived as Clark Kent so he could be human. That has always been important to him, going back to the Golden Age. He’s an alien from another world, trying to live and be part of this new home that he has come to love. Being Clark helped him be human, even though he is objectively not human.

While that might have been important before, a lot has changed for Superman. He no longer has anything to prove. He’s built a life as Clark Kent. He has established himself as Superman, a hero among heroes who sets the highest standards for humans and aliens alike. He couldn’t have done this without maintaining his secret identity. The only question is what more can he do to justify keeping that identity?

The tipping point in “Superman #18” comes when Superman recounts what happens when others in his life have kept secrets. Even if they were kept for good reasons, it never ended with just that secret. One secret demands another. As they compound over time, they become dangerous.

That’s still only part of the issue. Beyond the secrets, having that identity sends a message to the same people he’s trying to protect. It says that he doesn’t trust them to handle him being both Superman and Clark Kent. Maybe that made sense when he was still winning their trust, but it doesn’t make sense anymore. It also helps make the right thing to do very clear.

That effectively ends the debate. Whenever Superman is faced with a decision, his first and only instinct is to do the right thing. That’s exactly what he does in “Superman #18.”

It’s what helps make the big moment in “Superman #18” feel like something other than a gimmick. Bendis makes sure that Superman revealing his identity to the world is the right thing to do. It never comes off as the end of something, either. Whenever Superman’s identity has been revealed in the past, it has always been a complication or a last resort. That’s not how it’s framed here.

Superman #18” feels like another step in Superman’s journey to be the hero by which all other heroes are measured. He’s lived as a human. He’s become an iconic hero. Those lives no longer need to be separate. In Superman’s eyes, they shouldn’t be. He’s still the same man, whether he’s wearing glasses or his iconic cape.

In principle, it’s a minor distinction. However, at no point in “Superman #18” does it feel trivial. Superman acknowledges that this is going to change things. His life is going to change, both as Superman and as Clark Kent. He knows there will be difficulties, but he’s willing to face them. He’s also willing to trust in the same people he protects to face them with him.

It’s a beautiful, powerful moment made all the more memorable by the art of Ivan Reis. It doesn’t require Superman to save the world, defeat Lex Luthor, or punch a planet into dust. It just requires him to do the right thing. That doesn’t just make him a hero. That’s what makes him Superman.

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