Tag Archives: dc comics

Man of Steel: the Grumpy Fanboy review

15 Jun

Man of Steel is thrilling, audacious and sometimes even touching. But it’s too damn loud for its own good. 

Henry Cavill as Superman

Man of Steel is the re-telling of the origin of Superman by director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen). It reboots the Superman franchise with a new hero played by the impeccably-cast Henry Cavill (The Tudors) and a grittier tone, possibly one that sets up a series leading to a Justice League movie. Man of Steel is filled with the impressive cinematography and special effects one would expect from a superhero-genre film.

That’s not to say Man of Steel isn’t without its tender moments. The flashback scenes between Clark and his foster parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (played by Kevin Costner and the eternally-beautiful Diane Lane) are genuinely touching. Cavill also convincingly portrays the tragically lonely but gentle alien trying to find his place in the world. But ultimately, this film suffers from being too imbalanced, toggling awkwardly between otherwise well performed character-development scenes and the obligatory action sequences of a ginormous summer blockbuster.

Despite its intense buildup, action and moving origin story (the scenes with the Kents were by far my favorite moments), I found myself looking at my watch midway through the film. Characters talked about their motivations rather than acting them out. Supporting cast members ate up large amounts of screen time without moving the story forward. And after seeing it for the third time, even watching an invulnerable Kryptonian being punched through entire office blocks gets old really fast.

Superman’s ability to fly, the feat that captivated audiences’ imaginations when the character debuted on the big screen in Richard Donner’s 1978 film, is relegated to motion blur and sonic booms. It’s hard to feel a sense of awe and majesty when Superman simply bends his knees and disappears from view in a split second.

This is a very loud movie. Its action sequences are bombastic to the point of distraction and feel unnecessarily extended. It’s as if either the studio or Snyder himself was under constant pressure to outdo last year’s superhero summer blockbuster Marvel’s the Avengers. (That film’s climactic action scene was also an alien invasion in the heart of a major city. Coincidence?) Man of Steel‘s response is simply bigger explosions, more buildings destroyed and people being killed on a disaster movie scale.

In the end, Man of Steel may be a credible addition to Superman lore but it is sadly unrewarding. The arrival of the world’s greatest superhero is no triumph when it happens amidst the deaths of tens of thousands. As the credits roll, you find yourself wanting more. Not more super-powered battle scenes but more character.

I really wanted to see more Clark. And much more heart.

The Best Batman Ever

11 Jun

As the third and final installment of the Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises, is released the week of 19 July, already fans are speculating about the future of Batman in film and what direction the franchise may take.

The Batman character is among a handful of “super-heroes” that have transcended from popular culture into myth, joining the ranks of characters now forever linked to human culture. These mythic figures include the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Robin Hood, King Arthur and Hercules. It’s no surprise that since the Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, he has been interpreted by hundreds of writers, artists and filmmakers.

For my favorite versions the Batman in any medium, click here for the story published in Yahoo!

Top 5 Most Improved Superhero Franchises

5 May

Can you imagine David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury? Yes, it really happened. Be happy Samuel L. Jackson replaced him for the Marvel movie francises.

Super hero franchises don’t always get it right the first time. A number of comic book franchises today flopped miserably in their first forays into television and film. Through some trial and error (Captain America with a plastic shield? A Batman suit with nipples?) , various comic-book movies and television shows have gotten their acts together and delivered incarnations that audiences have finally come to embrace.

See the full list published in Yahoo!

 

Here are clips from the Captain America TV movies:

 

Here’s a clip from that awful Justice League live action pilot:

 

And finally, here’s “The Hoff” as Nick Fury:

DC Comics’ Paul Levitz

21 Aug

I met Paul Levitz, former President & Publisher, editor and writer of DC Comics, at the Singapore Toys Games & Comics Convention 2011 yesterday.

For more than 35 years with DC Comics, Levitz was responsible for hiring talents such as John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Keith Giffen and Alan Moore. My favorites among his works as a writer include All Star Comics in the late 1970s, featuring the resurrected heroes of the Justice Society of America. He is credited with creating the Huntress of Earth-2, Helena Wayne.

My favorite of all Levitz’s contributions would have to be his run on Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1980s. He wrote Legion from 1981 to 1989, including the classic “Great Darkness Saga” where the LSH faced off against Darkseid.

Legion, with its ensemble cast  of more 30 super-powered teens from the 30th Century, was easily my favorite book at the time. I have the emblem of one of its members, Timber Wolf, tattooed on my arm. Even the electronic hardware I have at home (PCs, network drives, etc) are named “Ayla”, “Kara” and “Imra” after female Legion members.

Paul Levitz returns as writer for Legion of Super-Heroes on 21 September 2011 as part of DC Comics’ “New 52” line-up of new #1 comic books.

New Batman: Arkham City trailer!

16 Mar

The trailer for the sequel to my favorite super-hero game of all time, Batman: Arkham Asylum, is out! This time the action leaves the confines of Arkham Island and now plays out in a city-sized map. At least, that’s what the folks behind Batman: Arkham City promise!

Not only was Arkham Asylum one of the best stealth / action games of all time, it was one of the best Batman incarnations of any medium. This Batman may be considered an extension of the one we saw in Batman The Animated Series and Justice League cartoons, complete with voice talents of Kevin Conroy as the Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

Can’t wait to get my hands on this sequel!

Batman: Arkham City will be released on 18 October 2011.

10 Future Scenarios Worse than a Sarah Palin Presidency

5 Nov

Does the prospect of Sarah Palin in the White House scare you? Comic books show us it could be much, much worse.

Following gains by the Republicans in the US House of Representatives during the recent mid-term elections, there is renewed speculation that Sarah Palin will emerge as the GOP’s presidential candidate in 2012. While there are many who are elated by this prospect, the possibility of a Palin presidency is causing concern both from within the Democratic Party and the GOP itself.

Relax, people! Let’s put this possible future into perspective. Those of us who have read comic books all our lives are no strangers to disastrous futures. Here’s a list of my favorite future scenarios … all of which are far worse than having a self-described “Mama Grizzly” as leader of the world’s most powerful nation:

10. The Kamandi future

Sometime in the future, most of the human race is wiped out in a calamity known only as the “Great Disaster”. Intelligent animals (who now walk upright like humans) become the dominant life forms, including gorilla, tiger, lion, rat and dog men. Humans regress into a more primitive state and are used mainly as slave labor by their animal masters.

This is the world of Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, first published in 1972 (DC Comics).

9. The Judge Dredd future


Following nuclear holocaust, mankind is forced to live in over-crowded “Mega-Cities” because what’s left of the US is an irradiated wasteland called the “Cursed Earth”. Crime is rampant and the cities are policed only by “Street Judges” (like the hero) who have the power to arrest, sentence and even execute those they deem criminals on the spot.

Judge Dredd first appeared in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD in 1977.

8. Days of Future Past

A group of mutants assassinate a US Senator, prompting the government to activate the Sentinels, deadly giant robots, who then decide that the only way to eradicate the mutant threat is to take over the government. Thousands of mutants, super-powered humans and ordinary humans alike are slaughtered in the process. The survivors are herded into concentration camps.

We saw a glimpse of this future in “Days of Future Past”, X-Men #141-142, published in 1981 (Marvel Comics).

7. The Hellboy Apocalypse 

The elder gods known as the Ogdru Jahad invade the earth from their hellish dimension and sweep over the planet, killing everyone. Hellboy fulfills his role as the Anung Un Rama (the Beast of the Apocalypse), ushering in the End of the World.

Hellboy’s role in the Apocalypse was first foretold (though not actually played out) in the first miniseries Hellboy: Seed of Destruction in 1994 (Dark Horse Comics). We also got a glimpse of these scenes in the first Hellboy movie.

6. The Dark Knight Returns future

The Cold War never ends, criminal gangs run wild in the cities and the US government is a fascist state with Ronald Reagan as President. All super-hero activity has been declared illegal, except for a certain blue and red-clad Kryptonian who operates in secret on the orders of the government.

This future was seen through the eyes of an elderly Bruce Wayne, forced out of retirement in The Dark Knight Returns, published in 1986 (DC Comics).

5. The Kingdom Come future

Super-human activity reaches its apex. Battles between meta-humans spill out daily onto the streets of America’s cities, without heed to property damage or civilian casualties. The conflict erupts into full civil war, prompting the United Nations to order a nuclear bomb dropped on American soil.

These events were chronicled in the miniseries Kingdom Come, published in 1996 (DC Comics).

4. The Y: The Last Man future

A mysterious plague wipes out every living mammal possessing a Y chromosome — including embryos, fertilized eggs, and even sperm. The only survivors are a male New York resident and his pet monkey. The survivors (all women) must deal with what remains of the world, including humanity’s impending extinction.

This future was depicted in Y: The Last Man, published in 2002 (Vertigo / DC Comics).

3. The OMAC future


Sometime in the future, a catastrophe puts an end to civilization as we know it. Cities lie in ruin and zombie-like monsters roam the subways. The world is policed by the Global Peace Agency and its single super-human operative, code name: One Man Army Corps (OMAC).

OMAC: One Man Army Corps was first published in 1974 (DC Comics).

2. A Better World

Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States and then assassinated by none other than Superman. The Justice League then decides to take over the United States government, running the country as a police state. They then change their name to the Justice Lords.

This alternate future was shown in the two-part “A Better World” from the Justice League cartoon TV series in 2003.

1. The Old Man Logan future

In the not-too-distant future, the United States is taken over and divided between a number of super-villains, namely Doctor Doom, Magneto, the Red Skull and the Abomination. (The latter’s territory is then seized by the Hulk.) Most of the population, including the super-heroes, is dead and most of the US is now a barren wasteland.

We saw this future through the eyes of an elderly Logan (aka Wolverine) in the miniseries Wolverine: Old Man Logan, published in 2008 (Marvel Comics).


Grumpy Fanboy’s Top Super-Heroines in Miniskirts

30 Oct

Recently I read about a town in Italy where the local government is trying to ban women from wearing miniskirts. That got me thinking about how miniskirts – once very fashionable – seem to be in decline in comic books. OK let’s face it, miniskirts may not be the most practical outfit when in a fist fight with a crazed costumed homicidal maniac. But they sure make a great fashion statement and symbolize a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants.

Here’s my list of top five super-heroines who fight for truth, justice and the right to show off their legs:

Arisia

Arisia of Graxos IV is the Green Lantern of Sector 2815. She breaks the rules by not only being the single non-adult Green Lantern I know of (she joined the Corps at the age of 13), she also deviates from the norm in her choice of uniform. Arisia’s suit is strikingly different from the usual green & black other Green Lanterns wear. Sassy and proud. Arisia is an original. You go, girl!

Elasti-Girl

Film actress Rita Farr gave up a glamorous acting career to become the Doom Patrol’s powerhouse. Able to grow to giant size (sometimes to over 100 feet tall), Elasti-Girl must have been an intimidating – and distracting – sight to her enemies as they looked up at her.

Mary Marvel

Mary Batson (adopted name Mary Bromfield), twin sister of Captain Marvel’s alter-ego Billy Batson, is the female member of the Shazam Family. As Mary Marvel, she shared the powers of the wizard Shazam, making her nearly as powerful as “Earth’s Mightiest Mortal”, Captain Marvel. Over the years, she has switched from a red to a white outfit but, thankfully, always kept the miniskirt.

Marvel Girl

When the members of the original X-Men switched from their original black & yellow uniforms to something that better fit their individual personalities, Jean chose this green & yellow number. The costume was dropped when Jean became Phoenix. Years later, she chose to wear it again during the X-Men’s desperate attempt to save her from execution at the hands of the Shi’Ar Empire in my favorite – and now classic – Dark Phoenix Saga story arc.

Supergirl

Kara Zor-El (aka Supergirl), in tribute to her more famous cousin, opted to wear his costume but with a decidedly female twist. During the 1970s, Supergirl dropped the miniskirt in favor of the more fashionable (at the time) hotpants. But somehow, she keeps coming back to the miniskirt, from the white & blue outfit of the 1990s to the miniskirt she wears today.

Grumpy Fanboy’s Top Legion of Super-Heroes On-screen Appearances

5 Sep

Toyfare #158 announced that DC Direct will soon be launching 12 new action figures from Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes. I’ve always had a soft spot for teenagers with super-powers – Captain Marvel, the Teen Titans, the X-Men – but I love the Legion most of all.

Since they first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), the Legion of Super-Heroes has rarely had more than cult-status success, never quite achieving the popularity levels of other comic book teams like the Justice League, the Avengers or the Fantastic Four.

So if you’re a long-time Legion fan like myself, you’ve waited breathlessly for any appearance of the Legion outside the pages of the comic books. Here’s a quick look at all their on-screen appearances so far:

“New Kids in Town”, Superman the Animated Series

Aired in 1998, Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy and Saturn Girl travel back in time and team with young Clark Kent. Although these three get the most air time, other Legionnaires make cameo appearances, too.

You get no more than a glimpse of the Legion but seeing these familiar characters for the first time in animation was a real treat. To my knowledge, this is the first time the Legion appeared in a story outside of the printed page.

“Far From Home”, Justice League Unlimited

Aired in 2006, Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy travel back in time and bring Supergirl, Green Arrow and Green Lantern to the 31st century to rescue the rest of the Legion from the Fatal Five. You also get to see Blok, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy and Wildfire in action. At the end of the episode, Supergirl decides to stay behind and fulfill her destiny as a full time Legionnaire.

Overall, a satisfying story though I wish it had focused on more of my favorite Legionnaires. (I mean, why Bouncing Boy???) I also particularly enjoyed the emphasis on  Kara, who appears in her more familiar blue & red outfit for the first time in the series.

Legion of Super-Heroes animated series

Aired in September 2006, the Legion with a core team of Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Superman and Timber Wolf were introduced with its own full series. Other Legionnaires such as Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, Ferro Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, and Triplicate Girl would also appear in later episodes. The series lasted two seasons, the longest ever on-screen run of the LSH.

The extended exposure was terrific and the series even revisited familiar events in Legion lore, such as the death of Ferro Lad at the hands of the Sun-Eater. I did not like that Brainiac 5 was turned into a machine and that (again) Bouncing Boy was selected to be a central character. The introduction in the second season of Superman X, a clone of the original, to fight side-by-side with the original Superman was a strange choice. What were they thinking???

“Legion”, Smallville

Aired in January 2009, the Legion of Super-Heroes appeared in live action for the first time ever.  Reprising their first appearance in the comics, the original Legionnaires Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl travel back in time to rescue Clark from a time-displaced menace.

As much as I hate Smallville for its low production value, lousy acting and – most of all – its penchant for shitting all over DC Universe continuity, I couldn’t help but download this episode. Seeing the original three Legionnaires raise their flight rings and say “Long Live the Legion!” still makes this appearance worth seeing.

Check out my Youtube channel for more appearances of the Legion of Super-Heroes in my Virtual Action Figure Collection. LLL!

Grumpy Fanboy’s DC Comics Secret Identities Quiz

3 Sep

DC Comics recently revealed that, following Bruce Wayne’s return from the dead, Dick Grayson will hang on to the cape & cowl. That means that two characters will get to call themselves the Batman. (The last time this happened was during the aftermath of the Knightfall story arc, when Wayne forcibly reclaimed the Batman mantle from Jean-Paul Valley by beating him to a pulp. This time, it seems the sharing of the Batman name will be on decidedly friendlier terms.)

DC Comics has had a long career of characters sharing hero names. Over the years, names like Green Lantern, the Flash, Green Arrow, Doctor Mid-Nite, Doctor Fate, Wildcat and Starman have been passed down to a younger generation of heroes (usually family members or former sidekicks).

Think you know a lot about the secret identities of DC Comics characters? Take this quiz and find out.

Grumpy Fanboy’s Top 10 Comic Book Doctors

30 Aug

Comic book heroes and villains alike have earned – or presumptuously adopted – the title “Doctor”, hinting at a capacity for greater for good or for greater evil. Here are the most prominent Doctors in comic books:

10. Doctor Faustus

First appearance: Captain America #107 (Marvel Comics), November 1968

Born Johann Fenhoff in Vienna, Austria, Faustus was a criminal mastermind specializing in psychological methods of combat. In the Marvel universe, he fought the likes of Captain America, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, and allied himself with other criminals such as the Red Skull.

Why he’s on the list: He was behind the plot to assassinate Cap … and he succeeded!

9. The Doctor

First appearance: The Authority #1 (Wildstorm), May 1999

The Doctors are shamans gifted with elemental powers and assigned to protect the Earth. There is always only one Doctor at any given time and each retains the wisdom and abilities of previous Doctors. The most famous is Jeroen Thornedike, a Dutch heroin addict and a member of The Authority.

Why he’s on the list: The Doctor is among the most powerful beings in comic books, displaying abilities that include telekinesis, gravity control and time manipulation. Linked to the planet itself, his powers are virtually without limit.

8. Doctor Light

First appearance: Justice League of America #12 (DC Comics) June 1962

The most well known Doctor Light, Dr Arthur Light, was a criminal physicist whose hi-tech costume enabled him to manipulate light waves. He was portrayed for years as a relatively minor villain, fighting the Justice League, the Teen Titans and Green Lantern. His criminal associations included the Fearsome Five (a group he founded), the Suicide Squad and the Injustice Gang.

Why he’s on the list: Although often dismissed as a joke by the super-hero fraternity, Doctor Light did play a major role in one of the DC universe’s most pivotal story arcs, Identity Crisis, when it was revealed he once raped Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. Identity Crisis would lead to breakdowns in relationships between key Justice League members.

7. Doctor Mid-Nite

First appearance: All-American Comics #25 (DC Comics) April 1941

Three heroes have used the name Doctor Mid-Nite. The first and best known, Dr Charles McNider, was a member of the “Golden Age” Justice Society of America, who fought against the Axis powers during World War II and operated as an elderly super-hero throughout several modern-day JSA adventures. His only superhuman power was being able to see in total darkness, which he exploited with the use of “blackout bombs”. McNider died heroically during the Zero Hour crossover story arc.

Why he’s on the list: Doctor Mid-Nite had the distinction of being one of the earliest costumed adventurers to use the title “Doctor”. He was also one of the world’s first blind super-heroes.  (McNider suffered from a condition known as “Day Blindness”.)

6. Doctor Fate

First appearance: More Fun Comics #55 (DC Comics), May 1940

The original Doctor Fate, Kent Nelson, was a member of the Justice Society of America whose mystical abilities stemmed from the helmet once worn by the ancient wizard Nabu. Like many of his “Golden Age” contemporaries, Fate fought magical enemies and petty criminals alike, battled the Axis powers during World War II, then fell into relative obscurity before being revived together with the “Earth 2”and later the modern-day Justice Society.

Why he’s on the list: Doctor Fate is one of the most powerful mystical beings of the DC universe, playing critical roles in a number of major story arcs. Apart from the many publications, he has also appeared in the Justice League animated series and the live action series Smallville.

5. Doctor Manhattan

First appearance: Watchmen #1 (DC Comics), September, 1986

Doctor Manhattan was a main character in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic graphic novel The Watchmen. As Dr Jon Osterman, he was killed in a lab accident only to be reborn with god-like abilities that allowed him to manipulate matter at the sub-atomic level or alter time itself. In The Watchmen’s alternative timeline, Doctor Manhattan single-handedly changed the course of human history by helping America win the Vietnam War and introduce alternative sources of energy.

Why he’s on the list: He is among the most powerful beings ever portrayed in comic books or in film, boasting even the ability to create life itself.

4. Doctor Strange

First appearance: Strange Tales #110 (Marvel Comics), July 1963

Strange was a former neurosurgeon who, following a career-ending car accident, studied under the powerful sorcerer known only as the Ancient One. While much of his career focuses on protecting humanity from magical threats such as the demon Nightmare, the Dread Dormammu and Baron Mordo, his skills are often tapped by other heroes against world-threatening opponents.

Why he’s on the list: In the Marvel universe, Dr Stephen Strange is “Sorceror Supreme”, the world’s most powerful mystic. The exact limits of his power are unknown, though one of his spells could cause Galactus himself to scream in terror.

3. Doctor Octopus

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #3 (Marvel Comics), July 1963

Dr Otto Octavius was a criminal genius accidentally fused to four titanium-steel robotic tentacles in a lab accident. Dubbed Doctor Octopus (or “Doc Ock” to Marvel fans), he is among the best known and persistent Spider-Man villains.

Why he’s on the list: Doctor Octopus ranks #28 among IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Villains Of All Time and is named as a favorite of Stan Lee himself. Doc Ock has battled Spidey in every media he’s appeared in, from the comics, to video games, cartoons and film.

2. Dr Bruce Banner

First appearance: Incredible Hulk #1 (Marvel Comics), May 1962

Banner is best known as his alter-ego, the Hulk, following accidental exposure to a gamma bomb. Banner has been treated for the most part as a tragic character due to the loss of his very identity when he transforms into the rage-driven Hulk. He has had a wide-ranging career under a number of writers, who have portrayed him as from Avenger, to conqueror of the planet Sakaar, to the dictatorial ruler of a post-apocalyptic North America.

Why he’s on the list: As the Hulk, Banner is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, whose physical strength grows in direct proportion to his anger. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

1. Doctor Doom

First appearance: Fantastic Four #5 (Marvel Comics), July 1962

Dr Victor Von Doom is a criminal genius, accomplished sorceror and sovereign ruler of the Eastern European state of Latveria. His armored suit hides his scarred face, protects him from injury, enables him to fly, grants him superhuman strength and allows him to manipulate energy. In his many attempts at world domination, he has clashed with the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and even the X-Men.

Why he’s on the list: Doom is the textbook comic book super-villain: egotistical, obsessively intent on conquering the world and having the resources to do it. His very name “Doctor Doom” is so deeply ingrained in popular culture that it is often used when referring to real-life personalities, from climatologists to economists.

See the greatest Doctors battle it out in my Youtube channel!