Sunday, July 26, 2015

Batman 42: Is Bruce Wayne back already?

Jason Book and I review Batman 42 (DC Comics), by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

We have a lot of faith in this creative team, so we're sure that this is not actually Bruce Wayne casually returning to the scene and these villains of the week are probably going to lead to something interesting.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top 5 DC Announcements at Comic-Con

In the video below, Jason Book and I discuss 5 exciting announcements made by DC Comics (and Warner Bros.) at Comic-Con 2015 in San Diego.

The announcements we focus on were the following:
  1. The Batman movie, co-written by Affleck and Johns
  2. Justice League: Gods and Men tie-in comics for "Darkseid War"
  3. Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover, Fall 2015
  4. New Superman mini-series and series, Fall 2015
  5. Green Lantern Corps movie coming to the DCEU

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Analysis of purported Batman v Superman Plot - SPOILERS

Because the Entertainment Weekly coverage and the Comic-Con trailer have recently given us a lot more insight into the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the purported full-plot synopsis that was posted on an IMDB comment board a couple months ago. It appears below in block quotes, section by section. If you prefer to see it all in one piece, go here. [NOTE: IMDB administrators have since removed the posted synopsis. If this was requested by WB, it adds further evidence of the probably validity of the synopsis.] [NOTE: the full-plot synopsis appeared even earlier than IMDB at 4plebs last winter.]

Even though the BvS trailer gave us lots of good snippets (and seriously, it is an amazing trailer!), we still don't ifficially know anything about Luthor's plot, how Wonder Woman factors in, and what the big threat to Earth is going to be. If the purported synopsis is accurate, then what follows has lots of SPOILERS. I am going to take the purported synopsis section by section, assessing how likely I think it is that each section will actually play out in the movie and giving my analysis of the plot, character development, and themes.

Three years after the Battle of Metropolis, Clark Kent is protecting the world as Superman and working as a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper. Superman has become a controversial figure, with some blaming him for the destruction caused by General Zod and others believing him to be a hero.
Likelihood of Legitimacy: 100%.
These tensions were confirmed in the teaser trailer and even further in the Comic-Con trailer. I think this is a great way to move forward from Man of Steel -- a movie I loved but that I know not everyone was on board with. One thing that is undeniable about MoS, though, is that it got lots of people talking and the debates continue even two years later. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that MoS did not skirt difficult moral questions by making it seem like there was one easy answer. I appreciate the creators for taking that approach, but it is more controversial. Now the controversies are showing up in the DCEU itself.
We are going to see more Daily Planet scenes in BvS, which I think will be a good addition to Clark's development in this universe.

Lois Lane is covering the civil war on Khandaq in the Middle East, while Clark is forced to cover minor stories. He befriends Jim Olsen, a photographer who lost his legs in Zod's invasion, but doesn't blame Superman, and applied for the Daily Planet because they defend Superman, and they cover a football game between Metropolis and Gotham City in which Clark meets Victor Stone, a quarterback for the Metropolis team whose father, Dr. Silas Stone, is an robotic engineer at S.T.A.R. Labs who spearheaded a new high-tech prosthesis program which includes Jim's legs.

Likelihood of Legitimacy: 80%.
The presence of Khandaq as a fictional nation and this take on Victor and Silas Stone aligns well with elements from the New 52 in the comic book universe. But we don't have any hard evidence of the Khandaq elements, though I think it makes sense in terms of bring other worldly controversies into this mix of the controversy around Superman. Is Superman a U.S. hero? Based on the end of MoS, it seems that he does not want to be restricted in that way. But other countries might be nervous about whether they really want Superman operating within their borders. Having Lois be our first link into international affairs makes a lot of sense.
We do know that they shot footage of the Metropolis v Gotham football game, but there have been rumors that that scene has since been excised from the movie. I tend to think that the football game will still appear, because it makes sense for Victor Stone and it makes sense for the Metropolis-Gotham rivalry, especially now that we've learned from Comic-Con that they are sister cities across the bay.
We have also seen on-set photos of Scoot McNairy with green-socked legs. This makes sense in terms of CGI prosthetics and he also seemed to be dressed in a way consistent with a Daily Planet photographer. I have also said from the beginning that he has a Jimmy (or "Jim") Olsen look. So I tend to buy the synopsis in this regard. It also makes sense from a story perspective of putting someone else in place who can defend Superman against Bruce, Lex, and the Senator who seem to be stirring up animosity against Superman.

DC Super Friends YouTube Series - Great for Kids

DC Super Friends is a recent YouTube series of short videos from WB Entertainment and Imaginext. Each video is about 3 minutes of content, with 15 videos in total telling a continuous story about the Justice League facing off against the Legion of Doom, headed up by Lex Luthor and Joker (always an entertaining pair!).

Cyborg, Hawkman, Batman, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and (waving in the back) Robin

These videos are great for introducing the Justice League to kids as it gives each of the main JL members their moment in the spotlight and I think Robin and Cyborg are handled especially well in terms of being relatable for youngsters. (Aquaman or Hawkman fans might not be totally thrilled, but what can you do?) There is also a great set of villains that can serve as an introduction to the rogues in the DC Universe. Even though this is a strong, kid-friendly DC series, I think there is also some appeal to older fans as it is pretty fast paced and actually has some well-executed humor.

One critique is that this YouTube series could have featured more female characters so that Wonder Woman doesn't have to carry most of the load. For instance, they could have used Hawkgirl instead of Hawkman, like they did in the Justice League animated series. I think the story could have remained intact with that change and it would have doubled the number of women on the team.

I absolutely love the direction that the DC Extended Universe is taking in film, exploring deep themes and taking a realistic approach. But my one worry about that direction is that it might not bring in as many kids and families as, say, attend Marvel Cinematic Universe films. If, however, WB and DC continue with things like these DC Super Friends and the partnership with LEGO, then I think things will workout across generations. And we also still have the great animated series (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, etc.) from the recent past that can work for kids, as well.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

"Call Batman" Continuity from Man of Steel to Batman v Superman

A lot of people have been impressed by the synchronization between Zod's eye beams in Man of Steel and Bruce's point of view shown in the new Batman v Superman Comic-Con trailer. But it gets even better!

In Man of Steel, they snuck in a "Keep Calm and Call Batman" easter egg in that same scene. Now we find out that Bruce Wayne was literally on the phone at that exact moment. Kudos, Snyder and company. Kudos.

"You don't look very calm, Bruce."

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gauging Initial Reactions to Batman v Superman Trailer 2

The Comic-Con trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released online right after the Hall H panel. How has it been received? Well, it was a top Twitter trend in the U.S. for several hours. To gauge reactions, I looked to three places.
  • On YouTube itself, after 5.8 million views (in less than 12 hours!) there are nearly 120,000 likes and only 2,600 dislikes. That's 98% on the positive side. (I know this is biased because fans are more likely to be early viewers of the trailer, but that is still strikingly high!)
  • To check with the Batman fans, I went to Batman-News, which has very active (and often critical) comment boards. I scrolled through more than 100 of the initial posts about the trailer and literally every single one was positive or neutral... 0 negative comments.
  • To check with the Superman fans, I went to Superman Homepage, which has less active comment boards (and fans who are usually very hard to please, especially in the movie realm). Even here, looking at the first 75 posts on their comment board, there were 50+, more than two-thirds, that were positive. (Some of the negativity came from not everyone being sold on Lex, although I think he's sarcastic and disarmingly manipulative, or concern that Superman might be overshadowed by Batman.)

EDIT: I've now included above our analysis of the trailer. One thing to note is that some additional elements from the purported plot synopsis seem to be confirmed, but other things (e.g., the soldiers with the S-insignia) seem to be out of step with that synopsis.

Top 5 Superman Costumes

The "Truth" redesign for Superman has gotten Jason Book and I thinking about our five favorite Superman costumes. We focused on comic books rather than television and movies and we also didn't include the classic Superman suit because that is so iconic it is on another level.

Here is our list (in no particular order):
  • Red Son
  • New 52 Action Comics
  • New 52 Main Suit
  • Black Suit Post-Death of Superman
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Initial Sales for the DCYou

I recently wrote about how the DCYou has gotten off to a strong start from a review/quality perspective. Now, Diamond Comics has released their comic sales figures for June 2015, giving us an initial glimpse at whether DC's big DCYou launch is off to a strong start from a sales perspective. The picture here is mixed and probably not the surge that DC was hoping for with a new ad campaign and a new batch of #1's (although the ad campaign might be part of a longer plan).
First, the good news. DC did bring in the top comic in terms of revenue generated -- the new Justice League of America by Bryan Hitch (a book that I am loving so far, by the way). This book is separate from the main-line Justice League and the success of this book alone might be enough to justify the loosening of continuity that DC is going for post-Convergence, especially if it can hold the majority of its readers through the first arc. (Hitch has said he'd like to do at least 7 story arcs... one focusing on each of the main characters in the league, but we'll see how long his run goes.)

The other big piece of good news is that DC held its recent market share compared to Marvel, even though Marvel is in the midst of some potent Star Wars releases and the Secret Wars event. So when it might have reasonably been expected that Marvel would increase its lead from the Spring into June, instead, DC held steady at a 28% unit market share and 25% retail market share... comparable to what it was doing in February 2015 and May 2015, and slightly higher than March 2015. (The June market shares are lower than April 2015, but this is not a fair comparison because of the 5 Convergence issues in April which were returnable.)

I'm sure DC might have had higher hopes, though. The June 2015 market share numbers are not as strong as they were a year ago in June 2014 (30% units and 33% retail), nor was this soft reboot as strong as the full reboot of the New 52 in September 2011 (43% units and 36% retail).

A minor piece of good news for DC is that they have more books showing up in the Diamond Top 100 -- 44 -- than in Spring 2015 or a year ago in June 2014. They were typically posting 36-40 in the Top 100, so 44 is a strong showing and means that they might be broadening their fanbase slightly with the varied tones of the DCYou books. We'll have to see how many of those books can carry over into the Top 100 next month, given that they might have had some boosts just from being #1's.

The bad news is, however, that those top books may not be selling as many units as in the past. Using Diamond's index system, DC's top 36 books have dropped from an average of around 38 last June to around 35 this June. This is also lower than the 39 average from September 2011 during the New 52 launch.

In my opinion, the DCYou move has probably been better than if DC had done nothing because I think the strength of the competition would have made it very easy to have slipped further behind last month. DC should be somewhat happy that they kept pace, especially given a lackluster showing for Convergence. Now they just have to hope that the strongly positive reviews for DCYou books build some momentum into the next few months and that people have the time to realize that the books are taking on different tones and have a chance to find the ones that fit their interests.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Detailed Plot of Batman v Superman MAJOR SPOILERS

More than a week ago, someone posted a full, detailed plot synopsis of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I think the synopsis is legitimate for a few reasons, listed below. EDIT (following the release of the second trailer) I think much of the synopsis is legitimate, but not all...perhaps it is the synopsis of Goyer's draft but does not reflect Terrio's rewrite.

In the next few days, I'll post a section-by-section analysis of why I think this plot is excellent and why it would work on many levels for the movie (e.g., character motivations, strong handling of multiple characters, amazing connections to some comic book heritage, good set-up for Justice League).

To be fair, there's still a chance that it's not entirely accurate because it might be a description of a pre-final draft of the script or it might have some key differences from the actual movie meant to throw fans off the scent. But I tend to think it's mostly or entirely accurate. Just in case Warner Brothers has IMBD remove it, I've pasted the full text below (posted by Beatnation):

EDIT (following the release of the second trailer): Although some more predictions from the synopsis below have been confirmed by the second trailer, such as Zod's body and the hearings with Senator Cale, I also have some new doubts because the synopsis does not account for the multiple scenes involving the soldiers/militia with Superman insignia and the Bat-inspired characters.





"Three years after the Battle of Metropolis, Clark Kent is protecting the world as Superman and working as a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper. Superman has become a controversial figure, with some blaming him for the destruction caused by General Zod and others believing him to be a hero. Lois Lane is covering the civil war on Khandaq in the Middle East, while Clark is forced to cover minor stories. He befriends Jim Olsen, a photographer who lost his legs in Zod's invasion, but doesn't blame Superman, and applied for the Daily Planet because they defend Superman, and they cover a football game between Metropolis and Gotham City in which Clark meets Victor Stone, a quarterback for the Metropolis team whose father, Dr. Silas Stone, is an robotic engineer at S.T.A.R. Labs who spearheaded a new high-tech prosthesis program which includes Jim's legs.

Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis during Zod's invasion and believes Superman to be a threat, elaborating counter-measures to disable him if necessary. He's also funding an effort to rebuild a vacant area of Gotham with new housing projects for low-income families. As Batman, he's been active for 15 years, but remains a fugitive of justice that many believe to be an urban legend. Clark has been studying the Batman's sightings despite his editor, Perry White, not seeing any potential in that story.

Lex Luthor funded Metropolis' rebuilding after Zod's invasion and has been contracted by the United States government to reverse-engineer leftover Kryptonian technology for them. Luthor believes Superman to be a threat and runs a smear campaign against him through the media vehicles he owns, and is funding the development of anti-Superman weapons, including Kryptonite, which is created through exposure to energy from the World Engine. Luthor also has collected Zod's body and harvested his DNA, using technology based on the Genesis Chamber to craft a biotechnological weapon that could fight Superman.

Senator Veronica Cale is supervising Luthor's experiments, but believes the biotechnological weapon shouldn't be deployed due to potential backlash given many still regard Superman as a hero, something Luthor seeks to rectify.

Luthor has also been monitoring other individuals with super-humans powers umbeknowst to the government, and has captured and experimented on several of them through Cadmus, a LexCorp subsidiary dedicated on genetic research. A paramilitary team under LexCorp's employ, led by his head of security Anatoly Kniazev ambushes Aquaman after luring him into a trap in a LexCorp oil rig and captures him, bringing him to Cadmus for experimentation. Luthor's activities have attracted the attention of Diana, princess of Themyscira, who is on Men's World masquerading as a wealthy humanitarian. She connects Luthor to the string of disappearances she's been been investigating and decides to pursue that lead to Metropolis.

Clark calls Lois in Khandaq, which doesn't allow Superman in their airspace. The camp is attacked by rebels and Superman springs to action to help Lois and the soldiers, in the process causing an international incident. Lois returns to Metropolis, while Cale uses the incident to convince the American Congress that Superman represents a potential political liability if they continue to harbor him. Superman is later informed by General Swanwick, one of his fiercest supporters within the government, that the Congress has ordered him to attend a summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss his place in the world. The aftermath of Superman's actions in the Middle East are observed by Bruce, Diana and Luthor.

Bruce finds out about Luthor's research on anti-Superman weapons and travels to Metropolis with Alfred Pennyworth under the pretext of meeting Luthor to discuss a partnership to rebrand Gotham's impoverished neighborhoods in order to learn more. Bruce doesn't trust Luthor with alien technology as much as he doesn't trust Superman.

Luthor promotes a fundraiser for the Metropolis Museum, the building where Zod was murdered, something which he makes sure to point out. Clark, Lois and Jim are covering the event, with Bruce, Alfred, Diana, Kniazev and Luthor's private assistant Mercy Graves in attendance. Clark interviews Bruce and questions him about the Batman, Bruce dances and flirts with Diana, who also scans Kniazev. Bruce and Luthor have a brief argument in which Bruce plants a device in Luthor's phone, so he can steal the access passwords to LexCorp Tower and infiltrate it, using a signal jammer to evade security.

Batman steals data about Luthor's projects, but an algorithm projected by Luthor adapts to the jammer and alerts security. Batman evades Kniazev and his men, but is then confronted by Superman, who believes him to a criminal. Batman refuses to surrender and, after a brief confrontation, escapes from Superman in the Batmobile. Batman sightings in Metropolis are enough for Lois and Clark to convince Perry to let them go to Gotham for a more extensive investigation. Luthor later reviews footage of Superman and Batman's encounter acquired by the government's satellites and retrieves the signal jammer Batman left behind, which gives Luthor an idea.

Superman arrives at the summit, with the entire world watching. Senator Cale accuses him of being dangerous, and Superman defends himself and explains his ideals. The Congress pushes for Superman to swear allegiance to them, including disclosing secrets of his identity and upbringing, but Superman refuses, claiming he will not become a tool of the government.

Superman hears Batman's signal jammer and feels weak. He loses control of his powers and the building is evacuated just as it explodes, injuring several people and killing General Swanwick. Senator Cale accuses Superman of being the culprint, and he is forced to escape when the military intervene. Superman is declared a public enemy, while Luthor is informed that the Kryptonite has been a success.

Clark returns to the damaged building and locates Batman's signal jammer, and becomes convinced that Batman framed him and is indirectly responsible for General Swanwick's death. Superman returns to Metropolis in search of Batman, but Bruce manages to evade him. He learns about Kryptonite from Luthor's files and steals samples from it from a LexCorp outpost stationed in the Indian Ocean where the World Engine has first activated.

Meanwhile, Diana lures Kniazev and his men into a trap and confronts them. Kniazev escapes, but Diana manages to interrogate one of his soldiers, using the Lasse of Truth to force him into revealing where the super-humans are being taken.

Batman attracts Superman to the abandoned neighborhood being rebuilt by Wayne Enterprises and fights him with an armored suit, Kryptonite-based weapons and several buildings and vehicles that have been booby-trapped with Batman's arsenal of anti-Superman weapons. The fight is vicious and ends with Superman victorious. Batman urges Superman to kill him, but Superman refuses. Batman then reveals that the fight was designed to test Superman.

When pressed for the signal jammer, Batman declares innocence, and they join forces to locate the true mastermind behind the conspiracy. Simultaneously, Diana locates the Cadmus facility in the outskirts of Metropolis and observers the experiments being conducted therein, particularly on Aquaman, and the ongoing development of the biotechnological weapon, Doomsday.

Wonder Woman infiltrates the facility and rescues Aquaman, but he leaves her behind and returns to the ocean. Luthor's men, armed with advanced weaponry, spring to action, forcing Wonder Woman to flee. Luthor later informs Cale that the Cadmus facility has been compromised, and that they only have no resort to protect their careers.

Batman leads Superman to the Batcave, where they deduce Luthor is behind everything. Diana arrives and reveals that she knows their secret and exposes Luthor's experiments at Cadmus. Superman is infuriated that Luthor has been weaponizing the technology stolen from Zod, as he still blames himself for all the damage it caused.

Superman introduces Lois to Batman and Wonder Woman and they join forces to expose Luthor. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman attack the Cadmus facility to rescue the remaining prisoners, but are then attacked by Doomsday, who has been deployed by Luthor and Cale. Superman fights Doomsday while Wonder Woman helps the remaining prisoners to flee and Batman retrieves data from the Cadmus' servers and fights Kniazev. Meanwhile, Lois infiltrates LexCorp Tower using the signal jammer while Jimmy creates a distraction to find a way to disable Doomsday.

Doomsday marches to Metropolis, and Cale learns that Luthor has sub-programming in Doomsday to maximime collateral damage to further damage Superman's reputation. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman battle Doomsday in Metropolis, and are joined by Aquaman, who wants to repay his debt to Wonder Woman and get revenge against Luthor. Together, the heroes manage to minimize collateral damage and avoid innocent casualties, but Doomsday is still able to adapt to their abilities and overpower them in combat.

Mercy catches Lois and they have a fight, but Lois manages to locate Doomsday's systems and insert a sub-routine that allows Alfred to disable the servers. Cale attempts to terminate Doomsday, but Luthor reveals that she can't. When she attempts to expose Luthor, he kills them and makes it appear to be suicide.

Without LexCorp satellites uploading battle tactics directly into his mind, Doomsday becomes more vulnerable to attacks, but continues wreaking havoc and causing wanton destruction. Victor is caught in the crossfire while helping innocents and severely injured. With Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman all struggling to protect the innocent, Superman realizes what he must do and soars into Space with Doomsday. He flies into the Sun, with Doomsday still trying to kill him, and they disappear in an explosion.

Superman is believed to have sacrificed himself, but emerges from the Sun and returns to Earth as the planet celebrates his victory.

A few days later, Superman speaks to the Congress once again and speaks in favor of his new allies, as Batman is embraced by the public as reality and the police charges against him called into question, Wonder Woman continues helping people in impoverished countries, Aquaman continues fighting for the environment, Victor is transferred to S.T.A.R. Labs' C.Y.B.O.R.G. Program, Senator Cale is framed of having authorized Doomsday's deployment, and, although Luthor covers up his involvement, his role in creating Doomsday and other Kryptonite-based weapons is exposed and his company loses its military contracts as a result. Superman concludes his statement by revealing that "a new age is dawning."

Luthor is drinking in his office when Superman arrives and they discuss recent events separated by a glass window. Luthor accuses Superman of being the end of human achievements, Superman claims that Luthor takes himself as superior to other humans, and is terrified that for all its wealth and power he is still beneath all the heroes that fought in Metropolis and fight everyday for an ideal grander than themselves. The ideal of justice. Luthor vows to destroy Superman. Superman claims he'll be waiting.

The script concludes with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman meeting at Kent Farm to discuss Luthor's actions. Superman points out Luthor won't stop, and there'll be others like him. Aquaman claims to have affairs in his "home", but is willing to assist if necessary, as the heroes have earned his respect. After he departs, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman decide to find others like them of this new emerging race of meta-humans to form a line of defense against Earth and those who seek to bring it harm. Batman points out to reports of a red blur in Central City stopping bank robbers.

Superman asks what happens next. Wonder Woman says "recruitment"."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Strong Start for DCYou

The new DCYou launched in the comic books in June 2015, with a batch of free sneak peeks released earlier in May. It's a soft relaunch of the New 52, with several books carrying directly over into DCYou following Convergence, but lots of other books are starting up and there's a new freedom of continuity across the whole DC Comics line.

I have been very pleasantly surprised with the quality of the books in the DC You. I've especially enjoyed all the books in the Superman family, both Justice League and Justice League of America,  and some of the more unique additions to the line including The Omega Men, Prez, and Martian Manhunter. (You can get recaps of all the books at the DCR podcast.)

But it's not just me reacting positively toward these books. I decided to analyze the comic book reviews thus far, comparing the DCYou reviews to those of non-DC comics in the month of June.

Compiling all the June comic book reviews from IGN, I found 16 reviews of DCYou books and 14 reviews of other books. On a 10-point scale, the DCYou books averaged 8.5! The non-DC books only brought in an average of 7.6. The standard deviation of all the scores was 1.0, so DC brought in ratings roughly one standard deviation higher than the competition. That's impressive! And in fact, only one DCYou book (Batman Beyond) scored lower than the overall IGN average of 8.1.
  • IGN DC average: 8.5
  • IGN Non-DC average: 7.6
 I wanted to corroborate these very positive findings so I went to ComicVine. They reviewed 10 DCYou books and 26 non-DC books in June. And although the DCYou books got high marks (4.2 out of 5 stars, with no book receiving lower than a 4), they were basically the same as the non-DC books (also 4.2 average). So basically ComicVine wasn't especially helpful because they give almost everything a 4 out of 5, and they never gave any 1's or 2's at all in June. But we can at least say that the DCYou books reviewed just as well as the competition.

So overall, DC should be fairly happy with the start of DCYou because the fans and critics seem happy with the new direction. I know I'm definitely looking forward to a batch of July books from DC, and I'll also be curious to see if the DC June sales are as strong as the reviews.