Tag Archives: Superman

My Justice League Review (And Why The Criticisms Are Unwarranted)

When I did my review for the “Wonder Woman” movie earlier this year, I did so under fairly favorable circumstances. The movie was already getting a lot of positive buzz from critics and general word-of-mouth. I was excited to see it in any case, but that buzz certainly set a positive tone when assessing the merits of that movie.

With “Justice League,” I face the polar opposite of those circumstances. While I generally try not to give much weight to critics or Rotten Tomatoes scores, it was hard to avoid this time. Unlike “Wonder Woman,” the buzz for this movie was entirely negative and it showed in the box office returns, also known as the only real measure that studios care about.

For a movie that was set to be a major milestone, finally putting DC’s most iconic heroes into one movie, it has since become an outright scandal. How can a movie with so much superhero star power do this poorly? That’s a question I am not equipped to answer, especially since people much smarter and more well-connected than me already have.

Instead, I’m going to walk right into this ongoing firestorm of whining and anger to give my spoiler-free review of this movie. I wanted to do it sooner, but I decided to let that firestorm die down just a bit before I offered my take. That might have been a mistake on my part. There’s a lot of noise surrounding “Justice League,” but not much insight.

With that in mind, I’m going to keep my review simple. I’m not going to try and extrapolate a bigger picture, like I did with “Wonder Woman.” I’m just going to focus my review on one simple question.

Is “Justice League” a good movie?

Before I go into detail and try to talk over all the noise, I want to answer this question with my honest and sincere sentiment. Given how much I’ve talked about comic books, superheroes, and superhero movies, including the sexy parts, I like to think my answer has at least some weight. However much stock you put into my opinion, here’s my ultimate conclusion on “Justice League.”

It is a good movie.

Yes, I realize that sentiment doesn’t reflect its Tomatometer score. Keep in mind, though, that score reflects the opinions of critics who are paid to see and/or overthink movies. It doesn’t reflect how actual fans feel about it, which actually shows in the response for this movie.

Even critics can’t deny that this movie went out of its way to please fans, especially those who were dissatisfied with “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.” It directly dealt with the aftermath of that movie, as well as the characters’ reaction to it. It even dealt with the aftermath of “Wonder Woman,” building upon a foundation and creating connections, exactly like a real movie universe should.

Those connections weren’t too critical to appreciate the movie as a whole. It also works very well on its own, creating a simple, concise plot that really ramps up the scale. Again, it’s entirely consistent with the effort to make a large, inter-connected movie universe, just as Marvel has done with so much acclaim.

However, that’s not my primary reason for me saying that “Justice League” is a good movie. In simplest terms, this movie is good because it sticks to the basics and does them very well. It doesn’t try to be overly elaborate. It doesn’t attempt to reinvent the characters to an excessive degree. Yes, those characters have some variations, compared to their comic counterparts, but it’s nothing that warrants confusion or outrage.

Superman is still Superman. Wonder Woman is still Wonder Woman. Batman is still Batman, even if it is through the brooding demeanor of Ben Affleck. Getting those three right is critical to the success of any “Justice League” movie and this one makes it a point to do that early on.

It doesn’t stop there, though. It puts time and energy into developing the rest of the league, namely Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. These three characters had only brief cameos in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” but they achieved much greater depth here.

These supporting members weren’t just there to fill out the ranks. They each had their own personal story to follow. Through that story, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg gain a personal stake in “Justice League.” It’s not just about saving the world for them. They’re struggling for something greater and, through the story, they achieve it.

At times, there are a lot of plots unfolding simultaneously. The personal stories of all those involved tend to mix. While it does get somewhat messy, it never gets chaotic. The story never goes off-track and it never becomes too confusing, which was a common criticism levied against “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.”

A major reason why the story remained so concise was because of the main villain, Steppenwolf. While he’s not as iconic a villain as Lex Luthor, Loki, or Darkseid, who is mentioned multiple times, he does plenty to establish himself as a powerful threat and a highly motivated villain.

Like the other members of the league, his role in the plot has a personal component. He doesn’t just show up, wanting to destroy the world for shits and giggles. There’s an actual reason behind his actions and those reasons never become excuses, something that should carry weight for any character.

On top of those reasons, Steppenwolf’s story helps build the bigger picture of the DC Extended Universe. Through it, we learn that there are much larger conflicts in this universe that go beyond the Justice League. It helps establish a larger role for the Amazons, who showed their strength in “Wonder Woman.” It also establishes the Atlanteans and Green Lantern Corp, who are set to show theirs in future movies.

If the secondary goal of “Justice League” was to build a world and expand the possibilities, it certainly succeeded. If its primary goal was to bring each hero together in a way that was entertaining, flashy, and dramatic, then it succeeded as well.

There were plenty of powerful moments. There were plenty of dramatic moments. There were even some funny moments, most of which involved Ezra Miller’s Flash. Few of the moments felt forced or contrived. None felt empty either. There was purpose in every moment, decision, and action. By those most basic of standards, “Justice League” works.

I would even argue that this movie works better than a lot of Marvel movies. I would certainly put it above titles like “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” and “Iron Man 3,” movies that I think get more praise than they deserve. “Justice League” even makes the effort to improve on the mistakes of its predecessor, something few franchises even try, as “Amazing Spider-Man” can attest.

None of this is to say that “Justice League” is without flaws. It certainly has a few. The effects aren’t as flashy or colorful as other movies. Even “Man Of Steel” had better effects, by comparison. It’s also worth belaboring that Ben Affleck is no Christian Bale and Steppenwolf is no Darkseid. It really did feel as though the movie held back, at times.

If that’s the biggest shortcoming of “Justice League,” though, then I still say it qualifies as a good movie. It tells a story. It fleshes out characters. It tells a big, flashy story, full of big battles and satisfying conclusions. There’s a sense of emotional catharsis at the end that is much more uplifting than what we got in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.” When put in the context of the greater DCEU, it acts like frosting on the cake.

Why, then, does it receive such hate and scorn from critics? If this movie does have a major crime, it’s that it isn’t crafted in the same mold as Marvel with their cinematic universe. I don’t deny that Marvel sets a very high bar. However, this movie cannot and should not operate by those same standards. If it did, then those same critics would just whine that it’s ripping off Marvel too much.

There are other criticisms of “Justice League,” but when so many of them revolve around Henry Cavill’s digitally-removed mustache, those criticisms are downright petty. It is possible to hate and criticize this movie by focusing on those petty issues, but that’s hardly a fair way to judge the actual substance of the movie.

In terms of actual substance, “Justice League” has it and plenty more. It Superman being Superman, Batman being Batman, and Wonder Woman being Wonder Woman, just in case her movie didn’t give you enough of that. For that reason, “Justice League” deserves far more praise than it has gotten and far less petty criticism.

In the end, it still gives us a satisfying, live-action Justice League movie. That, in and of itself, makes it inherently awesome

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Movie Reviews, Wonder Woman

Big Superhero/Romance News: Batman And Catwoman Are Getting Married!

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I had a whole other topic I wanted to discuss today, but sometimes certain events occur that require you to throw out your plans, spit on your schedule, and love every second of it. Despite some of the tragic news to come about in the last few days, something big just happened in the world of comics, a world with which I’ve made my passions known.

It’s news that appeals to both the comic book fan in me and the erotica/romance fan in me. It’s rare that a combination that potent converges in my world. When it does, my heart and loins are sent into overdrive for all the right reasons. I don’t care if that sounds overly dramatic. I’m in good a mood right now to dampen my spirits.

This time, I’m not going to provide a larger context. I’m not going to give some elaborate backstory on the circumstances to explain an ongoing controversy. Whether you don’t know squat about superhero comics or haven’t felt a romantic sentiment since the series finale of “90210,” you can’t deny this is big.

You don’t need context. You don’t need much insight either. All you need to know is this.

Batman and Catwoman are getting MARRIED! 

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That’s right. USA Today broke the story. In Batman #24, Bruce proposed to Selena on a rooftop. Now, after months of agonizing build-up, Batman #32 gives the answer. The Dark Knight and the sexy jewel thief who dresses in a skin-tight costume are getting married.

In an era where 95 percent of all Batman stories involve him brooding all the time, including those involving Lego-themed characters, Batman is getting married. If you put your ear to a computer screen, you can hear thousands of comic fans squeeing and cheering uncontrollably.

In the context of superhero comics, this is big news and not just because it means seeing Catwoman in her underwear more often. As I write this, superhero comics are going through a rough patch in which iconic romances, especially those involving Marvel’s heroes, are being undone, undermined, or reserved for non-canon alternate universes. It’s a tough time to be a romance fan and a comic fan.

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Lately, DC Comics has been trying to change that. They’ve been expanding the long-time marriage between Superman and Lois Lane in recent years, building on a family element and even giving them a son to raise. Someone actually had the audacity to think that a loving relationship can have appeal outside of a toxic love triangle. What a concept, right?

While they may not be as iconic as Superman and Lois Lane, Batman and Catwoman have had their share of romantic and sexy moments. Theirs is not the sweet, cuddly relationship that Superman has with Lois Lane. Theirs is more complicated, but many times hotter and not just because Catwoman looks sexy as hell in her underwear.

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These are two people who don’t always find themselves on the same side of the law, but they both have lines they won’t cross. They both have principles they won’t compromise. They’re both tough, capable, and know how to handle themselves in overwhelming situations.

He’s the goddamn Batman. She’s the sexy-as-hell Catwoman. Superman and Lois may make sweet, passionate love. That’s fine for them. For Batman and Catwoman, they’ll settle for the hot, exciting, dangerous love that gets the heart and genitals going in all the right ways. It’s even sexier than it sounds.

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For Batman, a character best known for brooding, growling, and making Christian Bale one of the biggest names in Hollywood, it’s a huge shift in his life. The past several years of Batman comics have expanded his mythos in many ways, even giving him a son, but he’s never really gone beyond brooding and beating up criminals. For a man defined by how tortured he is, this sort of thing adds some badly-needed balance.

Ever since the mid-80s when Frank Miller got his hands on Batman, he’s been such a dark character who is so overly serious in everything he does. At times, he seems to go out of his way to deny himself any measure of happiness. It makes Batman feel less like a hero and more like someone who’s just obsessive and/or mentally ill.

By having him find love with someone, that adds an important dynamic to his character. It means that he doesn’t just want to brood all the time over Gotham City’s crime problem. He wants to find some measure of happiness. Despite the loss his suffered as a kid, he still wants and feels love. Something about that shows just how resistant he is as Batman.

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Granted, Batman has had his share of love interests over the years, as is the case with most heroes. He’s still nowhere near as bad as Wolverine. However, of all those love interests, Catwoman is probably the most iconic. They’ve been married in other realities with varying degrees of success, but this is the first time DC Comics is giving them the same shot they gave Superman and Lois Lane.

Not much has been revealed beyond Catwoman’s acceptance of Batman’s proposal. I doubt anyone has thought about wedding plans or honeymoons just yet, which for them probably involves beating the snot out of the Joker. There may or may not be a wedding special like there has been with other iconic romances.

All we know is that the desire and the will is there. For Batman and Catwoman, or passionate lovers of any kind in any reality, real or fictional, sometimes that’s all you need.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Marriage and Relationships

Wonder Woman And Sex Positivity

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I know I’ve been talking about Wonder Woman a lot lately. No, I’m not going to apologize for that. I’ve had a perfectly valid reason and no need for excuses. It’s not unreasonable to say that Wonder Woman is having the best year she’s had in her 75-year history and that includes the era in which she made Lynda Carter a sex symbol.

The “Wonder Woman” movie is an unabashed success. Just this past week, it surpassed both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” to become the highest-grossing DC Comics movie to date on the domestic front. It managed to do all this with a female director in Patty Jenkins, a strong female lead in Gal Gadot, and a naked Chris Pine. I think ladies everywhere deserve to flex their ovaries this year.

As great a year as she’s had, there’s been another major development with Wonder Woman that will likely slip under the radar. That’s a shame too because it’s an important development, which is another way of saying it has very sexy implications. Given the nature of this blog, it would be a professional failure on my part if I didn’t talk about it.

In this case, it has to do with what’s been going on with Wonder Woman in the comics. Now, I don’t deny that a very small percentage of the people who saw the “Wonder Woman” movie actually follow the current comics. Most have probably read Wonder Woman comics in the past, seen her in various cartoons, or watched the old Lynda Carter TV show.

The current comics, however, are kind of an afterthought. That’s understandable in some cases. If you only saw the “Captain America” movie, you might be a little confused to find out he’s a Hydra agent in the comics. If you only ever saw the “Iron Man” movie, you might even more confused to find out that Tony Stark is in a coma and Iron Man is a 15-year-old black girl from Chicago.

The comics are confusing, convoluted, and frustrating to say the least. I say that as someone who has been closely following comics for nearly two decades. There are so many different interpretations, alternate universes, and re-launches that most reasonable people would decide it’s not worth the aggravation. I like to think I’m reasonable in most instances, but I guess my love of comics is just that strong.

For those Wonder Woman fans who do follow DC’s iconic comics, they got an overdue, but extra-satisfying treat. As part of DC’s ongoing Rebirth initiative, Wonder Woman’s comic was re-launched and revamped in a way that helped streamline a mess of conflicting continuities and scrambled timelines. Trust me, it’s much more complicated than it sounds. Just look up something called “Flashpoint” to see what I mean.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, though, you don’t need to know the cow shit to appreciate the flowers. Under the pen of Greg Rucka, an accomplished comic book writer who has written Wonder Woman in the past, and Liam Sharp, an equally-accomplished comic book artist, Wonder Woman’s entire story underwent an overhaul.

That story is one that I cannot recommend enough to Wonder Woman fans. If you loved the movie, then you’ll love these comics. They cover everything that makes Wonder Woman great. Her heart, her compassion, her warrior spirit, and her sex appeal is all on highlighted in all the right ways for all the right reasons. It may very well be the most balanced she’s ever been as a character.

However, it’s the conclusion of that story, which culminated just last week with the release of Wonder Woman #25, that introduces an important element to Wonder Woman’s story. It goes beyond simply capping off a successful run on an iconic comic book series in a satisfying way. That alone is pretty remarkable, especially at a time when comic companies can’t resist killing major characters for a sales boost.

Specifically, it has to do with Wonder Woman’s sexuality. I know that’s a favorite topic of mine and for good reason. Her sexuality is actually pretty broad compared to other male heroes who simply want to bang supermodels all day. Her origins have strong ties to the world of BDSM and in recent years, she has been revealed to be bisexual.

Despite these details, Wonder Woman has been one of those characters who has been sexually nullified, so to speak. For a good chunk of her history, she’s never been allowed to be overtly sexy. Sure, her attire is sexy and she’s not exactly shy about showing off her body. When it comes to having an actual sex life, though, it might as well be on par with the Hulk’s penis. We know it’s there. It’s just not something we talk about.

Sure, she’s allowed to have love interests. Steve Trevor, who was played by Chris Pine in the movie, is her most famous. She’s had others, including Batman in the Justice League cartoon and Superman in the comics at one point. However, the sexuality in all those relationships is severely muted, if not outright ignored.

That changed somewhat in Wonder Woman #25. Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp actually acknowledged that Wonder Woman can be sexual and it doesn’t have to be some big, shocking ordeal. She’s a powerful woman and she has sex. That should not be shocking on any level.

On top of that, Rucka and Sharp make it a point to mix Wonder Woman’s sexual inclinations with her romantic inclinations. Remember, Steve Trevor? Well, now he’s not just the man who managed to get Chris Pine naked in  the “Wonder Woman” movie. He’s the one who makes love with Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman #25. I’m sure both Chris Pine and Gal Gadot would approve.

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It was a sweet, beautiful scene that mixed both romance and sexuality. After a long journey that had many heart-wrenching moments, Wonder Woman returns to Steve, who prepared a romantic night for them. She opted to skip most of it, head into the bedroom, and make love. I’m not going to lie or apologize. That moment made me shed tears of joy and gave me a boner.

It may not seem like a big deal, Wonder Woman getting frisky with her oldest and most well-known love interest. Trust me, both as an erotica/romance writer and a comic book fan. It’s a huge deal and it adds a critical dimension to Wonder Woman’s character that tends to get censored way too often, which is sex positivity.

I’ve talked about sex positivity before, namely how it stands in contrast to sex negative feminism. I’ve even talked about distinctly sex positive superheroes like Starfire. Given Wonder Woman’s status as a feminine ideal, you’d think she would be naturally sex positive. That thinking wouldn’t be dead wrong, but it wouldn’t be right either.

It may be a result of her having not-so-subtle BDSM origins. It may also be a byproduct of the heavy censorship comics endured for most of its history, thanks largely to a bullshit moral panic from the 1950s that nearly killed the industry. Whatever the reasons, Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins were purged and her sexuality was effectively ignored.

She was still a woman, but her sexuality was about as prominent as her appendix. Her entire persona, even into the modern era, emphasized her warrior woman status. She only fought and looked good while doing it. That was pretty much the core of her character.

Now that’s not to say she had no other appeals. She most certainly did. However, her sexuality, and even her attitudes towards sex, were either ignored or circumvented. That’s why this new development in Wonder Woman #25 is so critical.

In this case, Wonder Woman actually did something even Starfire struggles to accomplish. She created a perfect balance of sexuality and love. Starfire may have a very healthy attitude towards sex and nudity, but she tends to be too casual when it comes to romance. She’s perfectly comfortable having sex, but expressing love through sex is a bit trickier.

For Wonder Woman, it’s a natural manifestation of her loving, compassionate personality. She has love for her friends, her fellow heroes, and Steve Trevor. Rucka and Sharp just let her express it through her sexuality in a way that was sincere, meaningful, and perfectly appropriate for the context of the story.

That kind of sex positivity is exceedingly rare these days. I’ve said before that the world needs more of it. There are ominous signs that society is becoming more sexually uptight. Sexuality, especially of the female variety, is still very much a taboo. Men and women alike seem to have conflicting attitudes that can manifest in unhealthy ways.

How fitting is it that Wonder Woman, the most iconic female hero of the last century, finds a way to achieve a beautiful balance between sexuality and romance? It’s a powerful element that I hope DC Comics doesn’t censor once more. A female hero knows how to fight, love, and make love in a meaningful, compelling way is a beautiful story in its own right. You could even say it’s a true wonder.

Yes, I know that sounds cheesy as hell. No, I’m not going to apologize for that either.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Superman Vs. Boredom: Why It Matters (For Your Love Life)

In talking so much about boredom, it can get kind of boring just dwelling on it so much. I don’t know if that counts as irony or a paradox, but I think it’s kind of poetic. The more we contemplate the impact boredom has on our lives and our society, the more we realize just how powerful it is and how quick we are to avoid talking about it.

We still don’t know the true impacts of crippling boredom on society because, for the moment, there are plenty of distractions, jobs, and obligations to keep people busy. Horrific stories like the murder of Christopher Lane, which was allegedly inspired by boredom, will continue to be rare and newsworthy, at least for the near future.

However, there may very well be future generations, including those that will emerge within our lifetime, that will have to deal with a growing glut of boredom. Between advances in biotechnology that will cure disease and the rise of automation, which may necessitate a universal basic income, this may be an issue that impacts us sooner than we think.

That brings me to Superman. Bear with me. I promise that’s not a non-sequiter. I’ve used comic book superheroes before to make my points, be they inspiration for one of my novels or examples of a sex-positive female character. I even cited comics when I singled out Vandal Savage as a villain forged by boredom. For the purposes of this post I need to cite him again, but Superman will be the primary focus.

Being the personification of our ideals and morals, the things that affect Superman also affect and I’m not just referring to kryptonite. If the epitome of our heroes and the icon of our most cherished values cannot handle a certain burden, then what hope do we have? That’s why when there’s a flaw with Superman, one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, we need to take notice.

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In a sense, Superman and the immoral villain, Vandal Savage, are indirectly linked. They’re facing the same overwhelming burden and neither of them has found a way to effectively deal with it. The only difference is that Savage had a huge head start. Superman will catch up eventually and that’s where the true struggle resides.

Based on his current power set, which has been prone to change over the years, Superman is functionally immoral. So long as he replenishes his powers with the energy of a yellow sun, he’ll never age and he’ll never die. That puts him in the same boat as Vandal Savage, who never ages and can’t die. That also means that, at some point, he’ll have to deal with the burden of crippling boredom.

That’s a burden that DC Comics has never had him deal with. Like so many other oversights, such as how glasses can be an effective disguise, it’s one of those flaws that’s easier to just ignore. However, it has been confronted to some extent and the implications for Superman, the real world, and our love lives is pretty distressing.

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Again, that’s not a non-sequiter. I brought up our love lives for a reason and it’s not just because I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer, although that is part of it. While we might not be immortal, our lifespan is increasing. There are emerging technologies that may very well make us functionally immortal. That’s going to, by default, affect our love lives just as it will affect Superman.

Nearly everyone, including non-comic book fans, know the extent of Superman’s love life. They may not know about that time he made a porno tape with Big Barda, but they know that Superman’s primary love interest is Lois Lane. His romance with Lois is, by nearly every measure, the most iconic romance in the history of superhero comics.

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While the romance has evolved a number of ways over time, the core themes remain the same. Lois Lane, being as human as they come, complements Superman in every meaningful way. She often acts as an emotional anchor of shorts, highlighting and strengthening the humanity within Superman. While she isn’t the primary source of Superman’s values, she is definitely a catalyst for strengthening them.

It’s a big part of what makes Superman so strong and so upstanding, with respect to his values. Lois Lane provides that sense of love and connection that reminds Superman that, despite being an alien, he has a strong sense of humanity. That is a humanity that Vandal Savage lost long ago.

While Superman’s romance with Lois Lane may be iconic, it still relies on one major flaw. Lois Lane, as beautiful, sexy, and charismatic as she might be, is still human. That means that at some point, she’s going to grow old and die. Superman may still love her all the same because he’s just that kind of person. However, she’s not immortal and he is. There’s just no way around that.

That’s not a primarily concern for him, though, because in the comics, Superman’s age is usually between 29 and 33 years old. There are some comics that explore an older version of him, but the bulk of his mythos is structured around him being the age of a typical man. That means, by default, the story can only cover a tiny sliver of Superman’s love life with Lois.

That has major implications because if Superman is functionally immortal, then he will outlive Lois Lane and that emotional anchor that helps him be the hero he is disappears. What will that do to him? Can he still be Superman without it?

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Vandal Savage’s descent into madness sets a dangerous precedent. It’s entirely possible that Savage had someone like Lois Lane in his life at some point. The man has been alive for 50,000 years old. The sheer breadth of his lifespan makes that entirely possible.

Unfortunately, or tragically in some respect, that love died because everyone around Savage dies. It’s not because he kills them. He just outlives them. Being immortal, getting attached to anybody means enduring heartbreak and loss.

Even if someone he loves dies peacefully in their sleep, he still feels that loss. People in general, when they lose loved ones, feel emotional pain no matter what the circumstances. I had a relative live into her late 90s and die peacefully. When I went to her funeral, there were still people with tears in their eyes.

Imagine how many times Vandal Savage has endured that over his 50,000 year lifetime. Is it any wonder that he lost his humanity and has such a lower regard for human life? For him, forming human attachments of any kind just guarantees more pain. Whether you’re a human or a worm, you do whatever it takes to avoid that kind of pain.

That brings me back to Superman. He’s only lived a fraction of the life of Vandal Savage. However, he’s in a far worse position because while Savage may be a genius, he doesn’t have anything close to the power set that Superman possesses.

Superman is not just immortal and smart. He possesses the kind of speed, strength, and agility that allows him to do anything, go anywhere, and master every skill. Whereas someone like Savage may take centuries to master something, Superman can do it in seconds. That means he’ll run out of things to do even faster than Savage. It will not take 50,000 years for Superman to be overcome by crippling boredom.

Someone like Lois Lane might be able to keep Superman human, at least in his young age. However, there are many occasions in the comics where Lois Lane’s death leads to Superman becoming distant, detached, and despondent. While their love may be strong, the influence is at the mercy of time.

That’s not to say Superman will inevitably become like Vandal Savage. Granted, there are stories where Superman goes completely insane and becomes the kind of super-powered tyrant that North Korean dictators aspire to be. There are others where he ages gracefully and helps make the world a better place. In a sense, Superman’s potential reflects the uncertainty that such boredom will incur on immortals.

That’s an important concept to grasp because, as we humans live longer, healthier lives, we’ll have to contend with some of Superman’s burdens. Some people may be able to live centuries and maintain a strong sense of humanity. Others may end up like Vandal Savage and see humanity as a bunch of perishable meat bags.

This has huge implications for both our love lives, as well as the attachments we make. If we start living long, near-immortal lives, why even form romantic attachments? Why bother when time is just going to destroy it in the long run? Will we abandon those passions because it only leads to more pain? Will a world of functional immortals be completely devoid of love?

It’s impossible to say for sure and that’s what’s so disturbing about it. If someone as good and pure as Superman struggles to deal with the impact of crippling boredom, then what hope do we have?

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Jack Fisher's Insights, Uncategorized

One-Punch Man: A Hero Forged By Boredom

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When it comes to the crippling power of boredom, it’s easy to see how it can create deranged super-villains like Vandal Savage and hardened anti-heroes like Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty.” In the real world, boredom tends to inspire people in all the wrong ways. It can even inspire horrific crimes.

As such, it’s hard to imagine boredom being the driving force behind a superhero. That seems utterly antithetical to what a superhero is. As a noted comic book fan, which I’ve belabored many times on this blog, I know more than most people should about what makes a superhero. Boredom should not be on that list.

Heroes are supposed to be champions of all that is good and virtuous. They’re supposed to embody our highest ideals as a people. They raise the bar and set an example for others to follow. Their hearts, souls, and eyes are supposed to radiate hope, love, and everything else we associate with puppies and kittens.

However, it’s because I’m a die-hard comic book fan that I would know about a hero inspired by boredom if he or she even existed. Well, thanks to my love of comics and the extra free time that I enjoy between football season, I have discovered such a hero.

He’s not Superman. He’s not Captain America. He’s not even Wolverine, Deadpool, or Squirrel Girl. He’s not a product of Marvel, DC Comics, or any major comic book company from the past century. He’s in a category of his own, although not for reasons you might not expect. His real name is Saitama, but most know him as “One-Punch Man.”

Unlike most heroes, One-Punch Man is exactly what he sounds like. His story isn’t as convoluted as Wolverine’s or as generic as Superman’s. His powers are nothing fancy. As his name indicates, he has the power to defeat any foe with a single punch. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a giant, mountain-sized titan or some monster from outer space. No matter how big or powerful they are, Saitama beats them with just one punch.

If that sounds bland to you, then congratulations. You’re seeing exactly what the writer, who goes by the pseudonym, One, intended for you to see. Unlike other attempts to create iconic superheroes, most of which fail spectacularly, “One-Punch Man” didn’t set out to create an interesting, compelling hero. It was crafted as a parody, of sorts, to modern superheroes.

In the same tradition of Weird Al Yankovic, “One-Punch Man” took an established narrative and turned it into a joke, of sorts. It went out of its way to do all the things that traditional superhero comics avoid. It actually tried to create a hero who was bland, overpowered, and un-iconic. Whether by design or by accident, it worked.

It was created in 2009, but by 2012 the Japanese comic sold over 7.9 million issues in Japan and was later exported to the United States, where it was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2015. For those of you who don’t know, Eisner Awards are the comic book equivalent of the Oscars. For any comic, let alone one that started off as a joke, to be nominated is a pretty big deal.

Parody or not, “One-Punch Man” struck a chord. It might be due to the saturation of superhero movies or the ongoing frustration of comic book fans about how their favorite characters are treated, but a hero who basically spits all over the standard superhero narrative has a unique appeal. Given the success of Weird Al, maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised.

In utterly lampooning modern superhero stories, “One-Punch Man” makes boredom the primary catalyst. In a sense, it channels the power of boredom to create a character who breaks every possible rule for making a compelling superhero and it does it with the blankest of stares.

His backstory is not that compelling. He’s not some alien from a dead planet. He’s not an exiled god or a genetic freak. He’s not even gifted in any way. In fact, the first episode of the anime cartoon shows him as just some generic unemployed office worker who randomly encounters a monster. He defeats the monster, albeit not with one punch, and on the spot he decides to be a superhero.

If you’re hoping for a more compelling story than that, then save yourself the trouble and throw that hope away along with the leftovers and dog shit. That’s as compelling as Saitama’s origin story gets. The way he becomes so powerful is even less compelling than that, if you can believe that.

Saitama didn’t get strong through a genetic mutation, a crazy lab experiment, advanced technology, or even a radioactive bug. Saitama gained his immense power over the course of three short years and he did it through a very simple, very bland workout routine. In his own words, this is how he became the most powerful hero in the world.

100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and a 10-kilometer run! And I do it every single day!

Again, it’s every bit as bland as it sounds. The mere fact that everything in Saitama’s workout is nothing more than a set of basic exercises that almost anyone can do is so inane and generic. It’s so generic that people in the real world are even trying this regiment. Given the extent and utter unfeasibility of Batman’s training, it’s basically a joke.

That’s entirely the point, though. Saitama isn’t supposed to be the kind of underdog hero who defies all odds, pushes his limits, and overcome immense obstacles. He is the embodiment of a classic “Deus Ex Machina,” the proverbial god machine that so many stories utilize to resolve a conflict.

In nearly every writing class you take, and I’ve taken more than a few, you’re taught to avoid using the deus ex machina trope as much as possible. It’s not easy, even for erotica romance writers. I like to think I’ve avoided it for the most part in my novels, but I don’t deny the challenge is there. Even comic books struggle with this. Just look up something called the Cosmic Cube for proof of that.

However, whereas most writers avoid a deus ex machine, “One-Punch Man” doubles down on it. It even embraces it to some extent. It doesn’t craft classic superhero stories about how Saitama faces overwhelming odds, powerful enemies, and insane obstacles. He’s so strong that nothing really threatens him anymore. Every threat or enemy he faces is easily defeated with a single punch.

Instead, the narrative of “One-Punch Man” explores Saitama’s struggle with the sheer boredom of being such a powerful hero. He rarely raises his voice. He rarely gets excited. He’s never afraid, threatened, or agitated in any way. He often yawns in the middle of epic battles, much to the annoyance of his enemies and even his fellow heroes.

There’s no getting around it. Saitama is bored out of his mind. Beyond just being powerful, his reasons for being a hero aren’t that deep. He doesn’t have a deep sense of duty like Superman. He didn’t suffer a terrible tragedy like Spider-Man or Batman either. He’s just a hero for the fun of it. That’s the only reason he ever gives. Again, that annoys the hell out of his enemies, but that’s the point.

If you were to put Saitama on the traditional hero’s journey, it would be the shortest journey ever. Everything about Saitama’s backstory, powers, and motivations are bland. They’re intended to be bland because he’s supposed to be a parody of modern hero tropes, a walking joke of how every epic superhero struggle can be reduced to one proverbial punch.

While “One-Punch Man” does an admirable job mocking superhero traditions, sometimes too well, it also reflects the sheer impact of boredom. When someone becomes so powerful and so competent at resolving any conflict, it tends to get boring. Saitama is the perfect embodiment of this.

He might also be a warning sign, of sorts. I’ve talked a lot about the potential for human enhancement in the future, from smart blood to brain implants. While these advancements will do a lot to improve our lives and our bodies, it might also put us in the same position as Saitama.

What happens when it becomes overly easy to master a skill, overcome an obstacle, or achieve a goal? When you’ve got a body that can download knowledge, shape-shift, and make love to an army of sex robots, what else is there? How can you not get bored by all that?

Saitama lives in a world where nothing is a threat to him and nothing challenges him in any way. As such, he’s bored out of his mind. He’s only a hero because he still gets some fun out of it. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. For someone as powerful as him, he’ll take it in any way he can. It might not be the most noble reason for being a hero, but it is understandable.

Parody or not, “One-Punch Man” is a unique exploration of a superhero narrative. It purposefully breaks and mocks all the rules of a heroic narrative, but does so in a way that’s entertaining and quirky. You could argue that Saitama is the only hero forged and driven by boredom.

However, if superheroes are supposed to represent our ideals and hopes, then what kind of message does “One-Punch Man” tell us? If becoming so powerful and so competent leads to boredom, then what does that mean for our own efforts? In a sense, our limits keep us from doing so much, but they also keep us from getting bored. In the end, it’s hard to say whether that’s much of an ideal.

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Why Wonder Woman Matters Now More Than Ever

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Today’s the big day. For comic book fans, superhero movies, and those who appreciate seeing beautiful women kick ass, it has been a long time coming. It shouldn’t have taken so long, but there were a few setbacks along the way. Well, we can forget about those now because the wait is over. The “Wonder Woman” movie has arrived.

I can safely say as a self-proclaimed comic book fan and a fan of sexy female superheros, I’ve been looking forward to this movie more than any other in a decade. I’ve said it before as I’ve tracked this movie’s approach, but I believe that “Wonder Woman” is the most important superhero movie since the original “X-men” movie made us forget about Joel Shumacher.

It’s not just that Wonder Woman is the most iconic female superhero of the past century. It’s not just that Wonder Woman can give female superhero movies some badly-needed credibility, especially after debacles like “Catwoman” and “Elektra.” The ideals and themes of Wonder Woman, as a character and an icon, are more important now than they’ve ever been. For once, though, it has nothing to do with her BDSM origins.

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At the moment, we live in some very volatile times. I won’t get into the breadth and scope of that volatility. Pretty much anyone who has watched the news for more than five minutes understands what I mean. While I have argued that the world is getting better by most objective measures, there’s no denying that there’s still plenty of conflict.

Whether it’s wars in the middle east or uproars over comic book covers, there are so many things dividing us, as a species. We get into fights, both online and the real world, over both serious and trivial issues. We can never be too content as a society. We always have to be fighting a battle somewhere. We always have to be playing the hero to someone.

This manifests in everything from clashes over identity politics to gender-based double standards to real-world wars that take a horrific human toll. Improvements and context aside, the world is still a scary place and we’re still a bunch of scared children looking for anything or anyone to comfort us.

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That’s where Wonder Woman comes in. Like Superman or Captain America, she represents an ideal. Hers, however, is a unique ideal, one that embodies the greatest aspects of female strength. She stands for all that is good about women. Regardless of culture or creed, she represents the love and strength that brings out the best in women.

Regardless of whether you’re a man, woman, or something in between, Wonder Woman stands for a unique set of values that make her both a hero and an icon. She is someone every gender can look up to, but one that uniquely resonates with women. It’s not just that she can fight, fly, and wield power on the same level as Superman. She embodies a different kind of strength, one that sets her apart from other male heroes.

It’s this strength that her creator, William Marston, focused on when he created Wonder Woman. Beyond the BDSM themes, Marston was very ahead of his time in crafting Wonder Woman’s ideals. It wasn’t just about putting women in power. It was about rethinking the very concept that power should rule in the first place.

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Wonder Woman, at her core, does not seek domination or destruction. She is, at her core, a voice for peace and love between innocents. She is also a warrior, but one who reserves her skills for those who would dare destroy such innocents. She will fight those who would harm innocent lives, but she won’t just use her fists.

In a very timely move by DC Comics, a recent issue of Wonder Woman’s ongoing comic series demonstrated that. In Wonder Woman #23, by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp, Wonder Woman goes up against Phobos and Deimos, the devious sons of Ares, the God of War. They try to provoke Wonder Woman into freeing their imprisoned father. It’s a situation where Superman or Batman would’ve tried to fight their way out of.

Wonder Woman (2016-) #23

However, that’s not what Wonder Woman does. She doesn’t defeat Phobos and Deimos through violence. She understands that such power with more power is bound to cause destruction, pain, and loss. Instead, she fights them in a different, wholly unique way. She fights them with love.

It’s not nearly as corny as it sounds. It’s a culmination of many conflicts that had been building over the course of a dozen issues, which included more than a few major clashes along the way. In the end, though, fighting power with more power wasn’t the answer. Wonder Woman understood this and chose a different path. It worked too. Phobos and Deimos were defeated and no innocents had to suffer.

Wonder Woman #23 is a perfect demonstration of what sets Wonder Woman apart from other heroes and why she’s such a strong female icon. Sure, the uptight asshats at the United Nations may think she’s too sexy to be an icon, but they’re dead wrong. Wonder Woman’s beauty is a reflection of her heart. That heart, and her ability to use it as well as her fists, is what makes her message more important than ever.

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We currently live in an era where everything from feminism to beauty standards is becoming more and more tribal. It’s not enough to just fight for equality and understanding. Everyone has to form their tribe and help it dominate in some way, either by having it play the victim or resort to excessive virtue signaling.

That’s exactly the kind of endless power struggle that Marston criticized when he created Wonder Woman. It’s also the kind of struggle that Wonder Woman rises above. She may be a feminist icon, but she does not carry herself as one who favors one gender dominating the other.

She champions love and understanding for all. She seeks not domination of one idea over the other, but loving submission to the idea that none need dominate. It is possible for everyone, male and female, to humble themselves and open their hearts. We don’t need power over others to achieve peace.

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Her message is one that should resonate now more than ever. With her movie finally released, that message has a chance to spread. Sure, there will be controversy. People make up controversies all the time. There was a controversy over Wonder Woman’s armpit hair, for crying out loud. That’s all the more reason to heed her ideals of fighting conflict with love.

It’s been a long, arduous journey for Wonder Woman to get to this point. I’m not equipped to document the sheer breadth of that journey, but the fine folks at Midnight’s Edge have already done the work for me. They recently released a chronicle, of sorts, on how Wonder Woman got to this point and why her movie is so vital to the future of DC and superhero movies in general.

However you feel about Wonder Woman or superhero movies, today is still an important day in our culture. There are still so many issues that plague men and women alike. Now, more than ever, we need heroes like Wonder Woman to show that there’s a better way for us to forge our future.

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Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, And A Positive Feminist Message

It’s hard to believe it’s almost here. In less than one month, the “Wonder Woman” movie starring Chris Pine and Gal Gadot will finally be released. It’s been a long time coming. For comic book and superhero fans of every age, race, and gender, this is a movie we’ve been waiting for with baited breath and wet panties.

I’ve already made my love of Wonder Woman quite clear on this blog. She is, beyond dispute, the most iconic female hero of the last 100 years. She isn’t just a symbol for female power that spans generations. She represents a unique heart, spirit, and passion that appeals just as much to 1950s housewives as it does to latte-loving millennials in 2017.

Of all the many superhero movies I’m excited for, “Wonder Woman” is at the top of a very long list. She already made her presence felt in last year’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While that movie was critically panned to no end for all the wrong reasons, there was one sentiment than most agreed on. Wonder Woman was one of the best parts of that movie.

Gal Gadot, who also happens to be a former Israeli soldier in addition to being drop-dead gorgeous, proved that she is worthy of this iconic role. She can be Wonder Woman and kick an insane amount of ass while doing it. She can do all of this while having a level of sex appeal that Lynda Carter herself would be proud of.

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This is all wonderful news for fans of comics, superheroes, and beautiful kick-ass women. This is also usually where I turn the tables in a post and bring up an issue that tends to bring down your spirits faster than a dead kitten in a graveyard for orphans.

Well, if you’re looking for me to put another dent in your soul, I’m going to have to disappoint you this time. Instead, I wanted to bring up Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, and all the wonders that come with her for a genuinely good reason that should put a smile on your face and fill your heart with a cradle of baby puppies.

That’s because, as the marketing machine ramps up for Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot and the director, Patty Jenkins, are hitting the media circuit. Naturally, that’s going to lead to a few fake controversies and out-of-context quotes. Just look at any interview ever done with Ben Affleck. It’s as inevitable as a child star needing therapy.

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It’s a dangerous game, throwing yourself out there in a world where the internet will crucify you for using the wrong pronouns. If anyone can do it and be sexy as hell, though, it’s Gal Gadot. She ended up proving herself in a way that any Amazon warrior would be proud of.

She did so by addressing an issue that tends to infuriate the internet, people, and the very forces of nature if it’s ever mentioned above a whisper. That’s right, Gal Gadot talked about feminism. I’ll give everyone a moment to stop gasping, but don’t head for your safe space just yet. This one actually has a happy ending.

I’ve made multiple posts on how hard it is to talk about this issue, especially when there are so many frustrating double standards. Gal Gadot didn’t attempt to address everything. Even Wonder Woman has her limits. However, she did address one issue that seems to divide feminists, conservative Christians, and men who have a hard time hiding their boners. Specifically, she talked about her attire.

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Usually, when people talk about women’s attire, it turns into a pay-per-view caliber whining fight where one side argues it’s too sexy and the other side argues it’s too repressive. Wear too little and you’re being too slutty. Wear too much and you’re propagating the grand patriarchal conspiracy to relegate all women to making sandwiches. You just can’t win.

Gal Gadot, being the wonderful woman she is, proved that wrong. In an interview with the New York Times, she addressed the issue of Wonder Woman’s attire and did so in a way that every self-proclaimed feminist should learn from. Here’s what she said.

“I think as a feminist, you should be able to wear whatever you like!” Ms. Gadot said. “In any case, there is such a misunderstanding of the concept. Feminism is about equality and choice and freedom. And the writers, Patty and myself all figured that the best way to show that is to show Diana as having no awareness of social roles. She has no gender boundaries. To her, everyone is equal.”

It almost makes too much sense. It’s almost too logical. If you’re for feminism, you should be for wearing whatever the fuck you want. If you want to wear a G-string and a tube top made out of duct tape, then wear it. If you want to wear a burka or a bear costume, then wear it. That is the perfect feminist message, one that men, women, and those of unspecified gender can get behind.

It’s wonderfully refreshing because feminism, be it radical or otherwise, has been somewhat schizophrenic when it comes to women’s attire. On one hand, you’ll have feminists protesting their right to sunbathe topless. On the other, you’ll have feminists whining about video game characters dressing too sexy.

It’s a painfully asinine conflict, one that reduces feminism to glorified virtue signaling coupled with excessive excuse banking. It’s the main reason why feminism has become such a toxic buzzword that’s less associated with equality and more associated with mean-spirited bitchiness.

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What Gal Gadot says helps put things in perspective. It’s also the perfect response to the bullshit decision the United Nations made earlier this year to rescind her status as an ambassador to girls because she was too sexy. She’s able to frame feminism in a context where only genuinely uptight, misogynistic, patriarchal asshats can disagree. By every measure, that’s a win for Wonder Woman and feminism.

I’m sure Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman will still have her detractors from feminists, men, and even other comic book fans. That’s just the nature of a world full of diverse, erratic, and often misguided opinions. That’s why it’s so refreshing for someone like Gal Gadot to use your position to make a positive contribution.

There will still be those who complain that Wonder Woman’s attire is too sexy. There will also be those who complain that she’s not sexy enough and that she’s not a good role model. However, those same people would complain about the sky being too blue if they had nothing else so their opinions deserve less credibility than their farts.

Gal Gadot didn’t need to say what she said. She didn’t need to prove to anyone that she deserves the role of Wonder Woman. She still did it and for that, on behalf of Wonder Woman fans and fans of those who say things that actually make sense, I thank her.

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