And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Chronicle (2012)

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012)

Introduction: Comic Book History You Don’t Care About But Need to Know in Order to Understand What the Hell’s Going On (with apologies to Linkara).

Shazam...! Oh, no...wait...Batson doesn't show up until The Dark Knight Strikes Again. My bad.

Shazam…! Oh, no…wait…Batson doesn’t show up until The Dark Knight Strikes Again. My bad.

Yes, friends, it’s time once again to examine the hilariously over-praised work of comic book writer Frank Miller, whose slow slide into insanity, inanity and irrelevance has provided amusement to comic book fans for the last fifteen years. Before that, though – and still to this day in some corners of Bat-fandom – Miller is/was considered a godhead, the wellspring from which all modern conceptions of Batman flow.

This is patent bullshit, ignoring at least fifteen years of hard work by other creatives. My favorite Batman editor, Dennis O’Neil, started out as a front-line writer in 1969, and made the conscious choice to move Bats away from the campiness of his by-then-canceled TV show. Together with writer/artist Neil Adams, inker Dick Giordano and editor Julius Schwartz, O’Neil returned The Bat to his roots in the pulpy Crime Dramas of the 30s and early 40s. The SF elements common in American comic’s Silver Age either shuffled off to the background…or were not-so-subtly twisted to reflect the changing (or “evolving”…and I’d dare say “improving”) tastes of the 70s. This culminated in Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers 1977 run on Detective Comics, now sold under the title Batman: Strange Apparitions.

For my cash, that marks the first appearance of a truly “modern” Batman, complete with all the baggage and angst that define him still today. O’Neil sent the First Robin, Dick Grayson, off the college, leaving Bats and Alfred alone in their mansion, just the way filmmakers (apparently) like it. Englehart and Rogers introduced the first of many Bruce Wayne love interests, all of whom inevitably moved him to question his crusade, and its end game…before just as inevitably departing his life, leaving him with even more to brood about. Put those elements together, shake ’em up, add villains to taste, and you’ve got every (good) live action Bat-film to date…and through Batman’s influence, most of the Superhero sub-genre.

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Superman II (1980)

Superman (1978)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Incredible Hulk (1977)

Superman vs. The Elite (2012)
Posers.

Posers.

Whenever I get sick of dealing with live action superhero films and the all-but-inevitable disappointment that entails, I look to animation and shout, “Save me.” Specifically Warner Brothers, who’ve looked down and whispered “No,” more times than not. That’s what happens when the marking department dictates what we’ll get, when. So given there’s a new (live action) Superman movie in production at the time of this writing, here comes the latest animated one, Superman vs. The Elite. Will it rescue us from the crushing mediocrity of things like Justice League: Doom or Batman: Year One? Or will it become what it hates in the name of The Greater Good?

Oh hell, you guys know me, I can’t keep a secret. Not only is it better than Doom and Year One, it’s the second best piece of Superman animation we’ve seen since the cancellation of his last cartoon series…the first being All-Star Superman, of course.

Not that you could tell from the fan reactions. The happy few who stoop to view animated features might be shocked to learn this, but some of my fellow Superfans found All-Star wanting. Few outright hate it, but it’s still a too-short adaption of an twelve issue miniseries, large chunks of which were excised to fit the marketing-mandated 76-minute run time. If you want to “premiere” your film on the Cartoon Network, seventy-six minutes is the perfect length. But as I’ve been saying for five damn years (at this point) arbitrary length restrictions won’t make your film any better. If the WB wanted to do that they’d tell Cartoon Network’s ad-buyers to fuck themselves and make something feature length. It’s not the 40s anymore, guys. You can have a Third Act that isn’t rushed. Continue reading



Dr. Strange (1978)