Archive for June, 2011

 I’ve been on a bit of a Superman walkabout. Mostly, I’ve been trying to find the essential components – precisely what makes a Superman story feel “right.”

The brilliance of Lex as Superman’s opposite number isn’t that he’s as EVIL as Superman is GOOD (the dichotomy that makes, say, Captain America vs. Red Skull great): it’s that Superman is all the things we want to be (noble, self-sacrificing, dependable, trustworthy, inspiring), while Lex is all the everyday, human behavior we tend to gravitate towards in our crappier moments (vain, self-centered, arrogant, petty, short-sighted, self-sabotaging…).

(I didn’t come up with this – nor did I come up with the idea that Lex should be the Daffy Duck to Superman’s Bugs Bunny – but sadly, I can’t remember who did, so if that rings a bell for anyone,  please chime in.)

Except somehow Lex never picked up that these aren’t admirable traits. He thought being smart and clever and cunning was enough to negate his shortcomings and make everyone see how Great he is.

And if all those things didn’t do the job, hey – being ruthless would surely drive that point home, right?

There’s something so…well, not “sweetly,” exactly, but maybe charmingly?… misguided about that. Like a dog in a pound, Lex isn’t bad…he was just never properly socialized (personal admission: once you own a dog, human psychology seems a lot simpler).

Lex isn’t evil, per se. But he has a blind spot that infects everything else about him, and that blind spot is the (wrong) notion that Superman’s existence makes his own life less meaningful. He panics and takes the exact wrong stance.

“If only you’d use your intellect for good instead of evil.” That’s the standard Superman-line (the one even Jerry Seinfeld quotes when referring to George) – that if Lex would only use his intellect for good instead of personal glory (which is not, in itself, evil), his life, and his mark on the world, would’ve been completely different.

But that’s not quite right.

If Lex had just seen Superman in his first appearance and thought, “My god, we could be that!” instead of “My god – why am I NOT THAT YET?”, would the world be very different? Maaaybe. But…

I think Lex himself knows that, somewhere deep inside. But every act he takes to prove he’s better just makes him hate that part of himself more. And so every act he takes defines himself as “Superman’s arch-enemy” even though he sees himself as so much more.

But through the fortunate fact that he lives in the DC Universe, this attitude actually becomes a boon. Whenever Lex isn’t in conflict with Superman, he’s actually much closer to the hero of the story (see: Paul Cornell’s really fun Lex-centric Action Comics arc). He’s smarter, more disciplined and more goal-focused than anyone around him. And he’s usually surrounded by maniacs and assassins. So he’s always been great at imposing his own, superior will over madness and chaos.

And who doesn’t want to do that in their own lives?

That’s what’s great about Lex, and the reason there should always be a note of sympathy when writing him – even though nobody’s really going to root for Lex, readers might still manage to relate to him (especially comics readers).

Even though they might not always feel good about that.

PS: The major misstep of John Byrne’s “Man of Steel”-era Lex was positioning him as basically a serial rapist. There are too many (meaning: more than none) stories where Lex uses his social status to essentially date-rape employees (one of whom becomes his clone-body “son’s” surrogate mom, EWW), and not only is it not really in keeping with the ideal (and comparatively inoffensive) “Daffy vs. Bugs” power struggle between Lex and Superman, it’s also just a little too “adult” to be ANY aspect of the arch-enemy of Superman, the idol of children everywhere. So…not cool Byrne. Not cool.

This has been noted elsewhere, but the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is both an absolutely brilliant 2-minute movie, and an utter failure as an advertisement for a movie.

It’s one thing to see the X-Men: First Class trailer and think, “Oh, well I know all the major story beats there, what’s left?” because it’s advertised as being about two characters with increasingly opposing viewpoints. There is a story to be told there, regardless of already knowing the outcome.

RotPotA (or “Rotapota” because it’s fun to say) is straight-up about one super-intelligent monkey making an army of super-intelligent monkeys, and then sticking it to The Man.  (more…)

Spoilers are in effect here, but I’ll let you know when the serious shit goes down in case you’re planning on going in totally blind.

First off, let me say that I really did like it. It’s stylish as all hell – it takes its 60’s aesthetic seriously, from the use of the Hellfire Club as the main villains, straight into the closing credits design, and man, I would like my wardrobe filled with every outfit Charles and Erik wear now, please.

And while pretty much every X-Men movie has too many cannon-fodder mutants hanging around, most of the bit players here all got a couple good moments to shine (more Banshee, please!).

But this is the Charles and Erik Show, and the film does a wonderful job of showing where these characters’ ideologies really emerged and why. And it’s been said elsewhere, but while James Macavoy is a treat as the caddish young Xavier, Michael Fassbender walks away with the whole movie in his back pocket. So on these levels, it is a complete success.

But it wouldn’t be a comic book movie if I didn’t have some concerns, so here we go.  (more…)

What is DC Comics up to these days?  Perhaps this helpful screencap from the DC Comics TV show will clear things up.

I am starting to wonder if DC’s announcements aren’t following some play on the timeline of DC Comics itself:

Day 1: Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Flash…lot of old-timers.

Day 2: Batman. (Technically he came first, but you get the drift.)

Day 3: All the characters who went dark and Vertigo in the 80s.

And now, Day 4:

Pouches! Jackets! Milestone! Brett Booth! “SUPERSTAR ARTIST” ROB LIEFELD.

Day 4 appears to be 90’s day.

So by that logic…OH MY GOD.

Tomorrow is Grant Morrison, using up the rest of his Superman 2000 pitch ideas!

After the first lump of underwhelming announcements – “More Green Lantern books by the same Green Lantern writers” – followed by a second lump of Bat-family announcements – “Here’s a metric ton of Batman comics, we hear the kids like that guy” – I was beginning to wonder when the “exciting” part of DC’s “exciting new relaunch” was going to kick in.

And I’m a fairly cynical comics reader, but when you tell me there’s going to be a Justice League comic headlined by John Constantine, Zatanna* and Deadman…okay. Okay. I’m listening.  (more…)

While it’s been tough trying to figure out what will work and what won’t about the DC restart, one thing that’s made it easier has been the cover previews, most of which have prominently displayed the series artists rendering Jim Lee’s not-always-friendly costume revamps.

Finally, something we can unequivocally judge! And occasionally laugh at!

But in all fairness, some of these have actually been pretty good. Take for instance:

Wonder Woman  (more…)

The more information that comes out, the more even my general ideas about what matters and what doesn’t have to be revised. Let’s take the one that current fans seemed most worried about:

All their favorite stories and characters going away and being replaced by Ultimate-style, continuity-free books and younger versions that readers might not recognize. It was an idea floated by the not-always-on-the-money Rich Johnston, and general (and understandable, really) panic whenever the word “reboot” is thrown around.

So far, it looks like nobody really needs to worry.  (more…)

I wanted to wait a little while to comment on the Big News From DC Comics, because information has been coming out at a trickle and it seems silly to make an informed judgment until all the cards have been laid down.

But DC’s plans could have a huge impact on the state of the comics industry, and the moves we DO know are enough to consider on their own, even as we wait for the September solicitations to fill in some more of the blanks (and hopefully ease the hardcore DC fans’ collective freakout).

So, here’s what we do know:

1. DC COMICS WILL BE GOING SAME DAY DIGITAL

Meaning: DC will now be releasing every one of its new releases both to retail comic stores AND on its digital download platform for download onto your tablet or nook or whatever it is you have (unless it’s a Kindle HAHAHAHAH awww).

Who This Matters To: The readers who have made a habit of going to the store every Wednesday to pick up new books – and especially those who make a special trip 25+ miles away just to pick up a 22-page monthly magazine, for whom that tablet option just got a lot more attractive.  (more…)

DC Comics

Posted: June 3, 2011 in Braak, comic books
Tags: , , , , ,

You may have heard by now (and if you’re Carl, heard and complained by now) that DC comics is doing something daring.  Starting in September, they’re going to restart all of their titles at #1.  This is generally referred to as the DC reboot, but I’m not sure if that’s a completely accurate descriptor.

(more…)