Friday, September 25, 2015

Homages in Man of Steel

As I've watched and rewatched Man of Steel, not only does it get better with each viewing but I've also noticed more and more nods that Zack Snyder and company gave to various movies and comic books that came before. In the video below, I show 29 homages that can be seen in Man of Steel. Of course these can't be something as generic as "Kal-El is sent to Earth by his parents" or "Krypton was doomed to be destroyed" or "Jax-Ur is a Kryptonian scientist" because things like that are just facts about the mythos of Superman. What I considered to be homages are things that are more specific and could have easily been otherwise -- implying that the fact the filmmakers made these specific choices is either to pay homage to some source material or because they drew inspiration from it and thought it was a wise story or character decision.

Admittedly, I could have easily missed other homages because I haven't read or seen the entirety of the Superman canon. So if you have caught other homages, please leave them in the YouTube comments. Mine draw on the movies and the comic books that I've appreciated over the years, but I also think these are ones that were close to the filmmakers' minds (e.g., David Goyer wrote the forward to Superman: Secret Origin and talked about how certain scenes by Geoff Johns really made him connect with Superman in new ways).

If you're curious about what prior material had the biggest influence on Man of Steel, here's my tally (though they aren't necessarily all of equal importance):
  • Superman: The Movie (Donner) - 8
  • Superman II (Lester) - 5
  • Superman: Earth One (Straczynski) - 5
  • Superman: Birthright (Waid) - 4
  • Superman: Secret Origin (Johns) - 2
  • Superman: Last Son of Krypton (Johns) - 1
  • All-Star Superman (Morrison) - 1
  • Action Comics #1 (Siegel) - 1
  • Superman #1 (Siegel) - 1
  • Superman: The Animated Series (Timm) - 1
  • Superman Lives (Peters) - 1

Credit goes to Man of Steel Answers (MOSAIC) for catching the Action Comics #1 tribute.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Screentime Breakdown in Batman v Superman

Jason Book and I discuss the ratio of screentime for Batman and Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

We also can't help but speculate about Wonder Woman's role in it all.

Here is a previous post where I analyze in detail the purported plot description, which, if true, would answer the question about Batman and Superman's relative screentime.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Batman 44: A One-Shot with a Classic Batman Style

Jason Book, creator of the Me + Him web comic, joins me in discussing Batman #44, written by Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello with art by Jock.

We both enjoyed this issue. It's a nice one-shot that gives the reader a strong detective story with a great art style, and just a touch of connection to the Mr. Bloom storyline that is going on up to issue 43 and will continue in issue 45. This issue also takes on the topic of police killings and does so in a way that we felt was quite appropriate.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Reactions to Action Comics 44 and Batman Superman 24

Greg Pak has been writing both Action Comics and Batman Superman and issue 44 of the former and 24 of the latter brought the simultaneous conclusion of the respective "Truth" story arcs. In Action, that's the Hard Truth story of Superman being rejected by the fortress of solitude, traveling back to Metropolis, dealing with animosity but finding his home block sticking up for him, led by Lee Lambert. Superman stands together with street protesters and is goaded into lashing out at a violent police officer, only to find out (SPOILER ALERT) that the officer is one of the shadow creatures that have been causing trouble for Superman recently. In issue 43, we learned that the shadow problem ran all the way to the mayor's office in Metropolis.

In Batman Superman, the story arc is Truth Hurts which has involved Superman and the Jim Gordon mech-suit Batman figuring out how they are going to operate together and whether they can get on the same page as they try to figure out who is behind Dawn Command and their energy-stealing attacks. Ukur and the subterraneans become involved and in issue 23, Superman went down into Subterranea to see if he could work out a win-win.

Overall, I've been enjoying Pak's Truth stories much more than I expected. Issues 41 and 42 of Action had some especially heartfelt moments. The third issues of each of these 4-issue story arcs built things up to a nice peak of suspense. In Action, it was the question about the mayor's involvement and what the endgame was for the shadow creatures. In Batman Superman, it was the question of whether the mini-sun energy source was going to explode or be captured by the Subterraneans (and how was Dawn Command involved) and how was Superman going to deal with not only Ukur but Aquaman. Those questions had me looking forward to the concluding issues, both out on September 9th, but I did not expect Greg Pak to go beyond simply concluding the stories... he tied both of his books together!

On the Action side of things, we learn that Wrath is behind the shadow creatures and the overall events have been aimed at bringing out the anger in Superman. This nicely explains what some people viewed as a plothole in issue 42 -- at the time, we thought Officer Binghamton was goading Superman to lash out so that there was an excuse to take out the block. But that seemed irrational because when Superman did lash out at Binghamton, it only revealed Binghamton's secret -- that he was a shadow creature. Now, in issue 44, we learn that the real reason he was goading Superman was because it's all this larger effort to bring out Superman's wrath and anger. And because Superman is depowered, it has allowed him to let loose a lot more and lose his calm, which ties in well with Truth overall. Action 44 also brought a nice conclusion to the story of the bond between Superman and his home-block supporters. And there was a very dramatic moment of Lee seemingly getting overtaken by shadow, only to later see that she is a serious, positive force to be reckoned with. I'm excited about her as a character going forward. Another LL in Superman's life.

For Batman Superman, we learn that Aquaman has some rationality for his partnership with Ukur, and Ukur and the Subterraneans also have rational motivations (connecting back to Pak's earlier story where the great character of Baku was introduced). Superman saved the day for a couple different characters, but ultimately Dawn Command left with the mini-sun. And we find out that Vandal Savage was behind the Dawn Command efforts and is in league with Wrath, thus linking up Action and Batman Superman going forward. (It also seems as though one of Wrath's compatriots is, sort of, none other than Hordr_root from the Superman book.) Pak, you clever devil.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Correcting Time's Praise of Marvel Comics

In the September 7th/14th double issue of Time magazine (with Stephen Colbert on the cover), Eliana Dockterman had a feature article praising the moves toward diversity that Marvel Comics is making. While I share in the positive sentiments toward inclusiveness in the comic book industry, especially with regard to gender and sexuality (these are great moves all around and are long overdue), there were several inaccuracies in the article with regard to Marvel being the leader in this regard. Below are a few quick clarifications:

  • On page 77, Dockterman states that "Marvel is winning new fans by bringing diversity to comic books." This is probably true in a technical sense, but it leads the reader to think that Marvel is bringing in more diverse readers with its new approach. In fact, according to social media analysis, Marvel's readership is regressing slightly toward the white male majority. It is DC Comics that is currently making substantial gains in female readership, African American readership, and Hispanic readership. And relatedly...
  • On page 78, Dockterman cites Marvel's recent uptick in sales, "up 8% from the previous year," as a big indicator of the success and benefits of their increase in diversity in the pages of their comic books. But this is a correlation, though it invites the reader to think that the diversity is causing the increase. The problem here is that most, if not all, of the 8% increase at Marvel Comics is entirely due to their launch of Star Wars comics (Marvel is owned by Disney who also now own the Star Wars universe) and those SW books have been strong sellers all around.
  • On page 80, Dockterman gives a slight nod toward DC Comics by saying that "DC is, in fact, increasingly mirroring the strategy of its big rival Marvel." This clearly positions DC as the follower and Marvel as the leader in this positive social justice trajectory. Actually, there is more evidence that it's the other way around. In Dockterman's own article, she writes about how a few years ago Marvel had zero (0!) ongoing series that starred a female hero. At that same time, DC already had six (6!) series starring female heroes. Gender and ethnic diversity was an explicit part of the New 52 initiative, which preceded Axel Alonso's initiative at Marvel that is described in the Time article.
So overall, it is good that Time is recognizing the positive steps the big comic book companies are making to be more inclusive, but it is very misleading for them to act like Marvel is leading in this regard rather than DC Comics... and the article misses the fact that independent publishers have been pushing this envelope even earlier, putting pressure on the "big two" to be more diverse. And another big step is to not only have diversity on the pages of the comics but to also get more diversity, especially with females, in the creative offices and the executive suites.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Superman 43: Why does Lois reveal Clark's secret?

Jason Book and I discuss Superman #43 by Gene Yang and John Romita Jr. This is the landmark issue where (SPOILER ALERT) Lois outs Superman to the world.

There were some strengths to the issue, but we also discussed some miscues. And we talk about the report from BleedingCool that John Romita Jr will be leaving the title.

Check out our previous reviews of Superman issues (42, 41).