Monday, May 21, 2012

Out of the Closet and into the Phonebooth: DC gay-ifies a "major icon" in June

Entertainment

As reported all over the comics and mainstream media the last few days, DC Comics is planning in June to reveal one of their "major iconic" characters as gay.  You can read the ABC News report here.


It's nothing new for comics to feature gay characters, but DC wants everyone to believe this is something groundbreaking.  We are still within the first year of their linewide relaunch, known as the "New 52", which asserted as one of the reasons for relaunching an express intention to "diversify" their stable of characters.  However, other than shoehorning the African-American character, Cyborg, into the Justice League rather than the Teen Titans (where he had been introduced and was a longtime member), the major iconic characters have all stayed pretty much like they always have:  white and straight.  However, DC did make efforts to prop up some of the second and third tier characters and give them a different racial or sexual spin more reflective of the modern world.  The top tier are all still mired in their 1940s roots regardless of their updated costumes or attitudes.

Last summer, I pointed out on this blog that DC had quite an opportunity here of giving themselves a clean slate so that they could reintroduce a more diverse group of primary players.  My suggestion was to take the Billy Batson/Captain Marvel character and just make him black. I also thought Barry Allen/Flash was a great opportunity to reimagine with an ethnic bent of some sort.  We all kind of knew Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern were going to stay the way they were because of the various film and tv licenses wrapped up with them.  But as far as I'm concerned, everyone else was fair game for a major makeover.


In my opinion, DC wussed out.  But that's their call.  At least they seem to be more fully realizing the potential of a clean slate with the new EARTH 2 comic (which I love).

I am curious who they are going to "out" next month in their comics.  If not for those pesky new "Non Disclosure Agreements" that DC gets everyone to sign now, we would probably already have the news fully leaked out.  Instead, we all get to speculate.  So, what do we know?  Assuming veracity from those who've spoken on record, we know this much:

(1) It's a male.
(2) It's a "major iconic" character (which means no more second banana types like The Question, Voodoo, or Batwoman)
(3) It's either someone who has not had a lot of focus as a character yet or not been reintroduced yet for the New 52.


When I think "major iconic" DC male characters, that puts a specific image in my head that is limited to these guys:
SUPERMAN, BATMAN, GREEN LANTERN, FLASH, GREEN ARROW, HAWKMAN, ATOM, CAPTAIN MARVEL/SHAZAM, PLASTIC MAN, AQUAMAN, MARTIAN MANHUNTER

However, it is possible that DC might have a different definition of "major iconic".  I could see them also include these guys:

BOOSTER GOLD, BLUE BEETLE, MR. TERRIFIC, CAPT. ATOM, FIRESTORM, ANY OF THE VARIOUS ROBINS, ANY OF THE VARIOUS OTHER GREEN LANTERNS, ANY OF THE LEGION OF THE SUPER-HEROES OR TITANS.


We can rule out Superman, Batman, Flash, and Aquaman.  Each of them have a love, temptation, or wife that is female. Green Arrow has been shown in the New 52 in a major hetero sex scene with multiple women, so we can probably remove him from consideration. Shazam too.  I don't think they want to deal with underage teens turning into adult gay super-heroes. That might make the mainstream a bit uncomfortable, so we'll take him out of consideration. Hal Jordan has been shown to be pretty straight too, so Green Lantern is out of consideration.

This leaves us with Hawkman, Atom, Plastic Man or Martian Manhunter if we are talking actual "major icons".  Since Hawkman has already been headlining his own title in the New 52, I don't think he qualifies under the limited info we have been given.  Martian Manhunter has been featured in the STORMWATCH title, but that series features the gay Superman and Batman analogues, Apollo and Midnighter, already so I just don't see DC opening the door for a gay trifecta so J'onn gets a sexual reprieve I think (plus the fact that he's a shape-changing alien technically means he is probably asexual but we won't get into that right now).

This leaves us with a toss-up between Plastic Man and Atom.  Plastic Man is just too silly. I don't think DC wants to take this marketing opportunity to make their new gay character the quite insane and slapsticky Plas.

So...my money right now is on THE ATOM.  I don't even know who they have under the mask in the New 52, but regardless of who it is, it makes the most sense (and thus, the least likely to be overly controversial) to make the Atom gay.  He's a positive role model. He's smart, clever, and iconic with tons of potential for a TV series or film with modern f/x.  The worst the gay community and DC might have to deal with would be lame jokes about him only being "six inches."

COME JUNE, I PREDICT
THE "GAY" CHARACTER WILL BE THE ATOM.  
I'll be curious to see if I'm correct or if they surprise me.

Now, to hedge my bets and lower my opinion of DC's commitment to truly being bold, what if they wuss out once again and go to the secondary characters instead?  I don't think it will be Blue Beetle or Mr. Terrific.  Both of them are already representative of different ethnicities. Why would DC waste their diversification by doubling up again? They've already done it with The Question, Voodoo, and Batwoman. I don't think they will.  It could be Firestorm, but since the character combines 2 characters into one, I just don't think it counts and Firestorm is far from a major icon.  It could be one of the Robins.  However, I don't think they would do it simply because of the bad press over the years about Batman and Robin as a gay fantasy.  I think DC doesn't want to step in that pile of manure. So, none of them are likely.

What about John Stewart, Guy Gardner, or Kyle Rayner (3 other male Earth-based Green Lanterns)?  I've read some online speculation that Gardner is the one.  If DC does that, I think it will be insulting to the gay community rather than a positive move.  Gardner is an asshole.  That's his character.  While it is true that oftentimes a repressed homosexual is aggressively homophobic as a reaction to his desires.  However, that's really not been who Gardner was in the past (and I would expect him to be the same in the New 52) where he may act like a jerk, but when it comes to doing the right thing he would step up to the plate.  I could see DC do this, but I think it could backfire on them because I don't think the gay community would want Gardner on their team.

Honestly.

John Stewart? Highly unlikely and has a history of deep love for women. Kyle Rayner? A definite possibility as far as I'm concerned.  He's young and artistic. Prior to the New 52, he did have a love of his life, but in the New 52? I could see DC going this route to distinguish him even more from the other GLs.

If it's any of the Legion of Super-Heroes or Teen Titans, then it's a total fake-out on DC's part.  None of those characters rise to the level of "major iconic" status unless you are a completely disingenuous corporate mouthpiece.

Which leaves me with CAPT. ATOM as my number one pick
from the secondary characters that DC might try to convince me are "major icons."


Just a few days to weeks to find out.  But it is definitely another interesting bit of widespread Internet speculation.














Thursday, May 10, 2012

Q&A with Archie Comics about the Red Circle Comic Book App

Entertainment

Reblogging my Interview (as Prof. Challenger) with the Team behind ARCHIE's new RED CIRCLE Line of Super-Heroes.






Q’s by Prof Challenger!

@’s by the Team Behind ARCHIE’S
New Red Circle Line!!!

Professor Challenger here and I had the opportunity recently to talk to the guys behind the new redesign and relaunch of the classic MIGHTY CRUSADERS characters from Archie Comics Publications. Ian Flynn is the writer on this project, Alex Segura is the Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing, and Paul Kaminski is the Executive Director of Editorial.

I'm glad to see someone tackling the Red Circle characters again...and without licensing them out to another publisher. In my younger days, I was a fan Rich Buckler's attempt at getting the CRUSADERS back into the marketplace. I enjoyed the IMPACT line (especially the late Mike Parobeck's work on THE FLY). I found the recent DC attempt to be a well-intentioned effort that inexplicably just disappeared.

However, from what I can gather here, Archie Comics smartly picked the characters back up immediately and started this project to not only modernize the characters but do something new and progressive in the process. Do I have that right?


IAN FLYNN (IF): That's a good way to sum it up.

PROF CHALLENGER (PROF): Ian, how did you get involved with this project?

IF: It was somewhere between San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con last year when Executive Director of Editorial Paul Kaminski sent me the series proposal he'd been working on with Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing Alex Segura said "I want you to write this." I grew up on super hero books, so I jumped at the chance. At NYCC, we had a big brain-storming session with President Mike Pellerito, hashed out the first season of the book, and that was that.

PROF: Can you explain how this "weekly app" is different than simply a weekly digital comic?

IF: The weekly app gives you six pages of the current comic every Wednesday should you be currently subscribed to the App. So instead of waiting a month between releases, as you'll have to for the printed edition, you'll be getting a steady stream of content week after week along with updates of the older Mighty Crusaders material from the 30’s all the way through to now!

PROF: Does the app have aspects to it that allow users to follow other users and interact with comments or crosspost onto social media like Facebook and Twitter?

>PAUL KAMINSKI (PK): The iVerse team I pretty incredible at what they do – and what they do is innovate and connect! Social media will play a role in the App as it continues to grow and expand, and if you want to start posting and tweeting New Crusaders news, check out RedCircleComics.com!

PROF: Does the app focus on the team only or is it something that combines multiple titles or storylines within a shared universe?

PK: The App has 2 components, which each serve to enhance the other. The first component is the new material, which is the New Crusaders on-going series. New Crusaders is a direct sequel to the second component of the App, which is the classic Red Circle books, dating all the way back to 1939. Readers will be able to read an ever-growing range of the old material, which often will have a direct connection to what’s going on in New Crusaders. Comic collectors like myself tend to save, catalogue, and contextualize every event in a comic series. Most comic collectors don’t really know all that much about Red Circle as it stands right now. We’re implanting that type of collection into an App and doing the contextualizing for you!

PROF: Is this Red Circle universe going to co-exist with the mainstream Archie universe or are you going to keep them functionally separate?

PK: Red Circle is completely separate from the Archie Universe in style, tone, and presentation. Though technically speaking, Riverdale and the town of Red Circle are on the same map.

PROF: In terms of characters, who are the primary characters?

IF: The main cast are the New Crusaders - Joe Higgins, a.k.a. The Shield, is the veteran hero who's been in service since the 1940s. When disaster strikes, he has to take in the teens/heirs to the original Mighty Crusaders and introduce the new blood to the world of super heroics. Six young adults under one roof, traumatize and given super powers. Yeah, it'll go about as well as you'd expect.

PROF: So, you will be incorporating at least some past continuity with these characters?

IF: Everything under the old Archie labels - MLJ to present P is canon. We'll be tweaking things here and there where it's needed to make it all flow and make sense, but we're treating all the books as fair game. We won't be mired in that backstory, though. It'll serve as the foundation for our new characters and new adventures to take off from.

PROF: Along the same lines, will there be any recognition of the work that was published under the Red Circle line, Impact line, or the DC proper books?

IF: The Red Circle line, which eventually adopted the “Archie Adventure Series” banner again in the later issues, is the series that direct precedes ours. We won't be using the out-sourced material, but we're not ignoring it completely either. We'll get into that later in the season.

PROF: Is there a longterm goal in mind or just a plan to keep telling stories?

IF: We have the first season - or twenty-four episodes (issues) - already mapped out. We've got a log of ideas on how we want to branch out and expand. The Red Circle imprint is primed to be huge.

PROF: How do you foresee expanding this app and the world of the CRUSADERS?

ALEX SEGURA (AS): The app is going to be an immersive experience – it’s not just a standard comic app that shows you a bunch of books and lets you decide what to buy. This is like a ticket into the world of NEW CRUSADERS – past, present and future. Not only do you get to enjoy the new, never-before-seen adventures of this team, but you get to see the books that shape that narrative, as chosen by the people directly involved in the creation. Paul and his team have done a great job partnering with iVerse to really curate this app. So, each week, there’s not only new story content, but never-before-digitized books that thematically tie into the new stories. It’s amazing.

As far as expanding – once we get the main app off the ground, we’ll be slowly peeling things back and showing new corners of Red Circle and the Red Circle Comics universe. Stay tuned for news on that.

PROF: Other than Ian, who are the talent involved in delivering the stories and driving the characters and their worlds?

IF: I'm on writing duties with Ben Bates (penciler), Gary Martin (inker), Matt Herms (colorist) and John Workman (letterer) on the art team. I've worked with all of them in the past, and they're all amazingly talented people.

PROF: What level of marketing and licensing can we expect?

AS: We’ve got a pretty focused marketing and PR campaign geared at not only the comic fan sites, but pop culture venues like AICN and more tech-centric outlets. Because the story isn’t just that these characters are back – it’s HOW they’re back. This is the first superhero universe launched digitally. Red Circle Comics is looking to become a leader in digital, and the reality is, no one in comics is doing something even close to this. It’s an exciting time to be here.

PROF: As with the other ARCHIE titles, is THE CRUSADERS app intended to be something that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages?

IF: Yes, although I'm calling it "all-ages with an edge." We're going to be a little more adult with the language and the violence than your typical Archie book, but at the same time it's nothing you wouldn't see on TV (probably less-so).

PROF: How in the heck do readers of this interview get in on the ground floor of this project?

AS: Go to www.RedCircleComics.com, download the app, and get ready to rock on May 16th. In the meantime, people can go to the website for more info and character bios!

PROF: Is the App for Apple iPhone/iPad exclusively or is it available freestanding for the Android market or PC without having to go through iTunes?

AS: As of now, the Red Circle app will be available via iTunes and on other platforms via Archie's digital comics storefront: digital.archiecomics.com.

PROF: Do you see this type of project as groundbreaking and setting the stage for others to follow?

IF: A lot of other super hero books will use some major event to revamp their properties to be something "new" and "fresh." That's nothing new - we've seen it constantly throughout the 90s til now. What New Crusaders is doing is taking the classic material, utilizing it, but moving forward. We have new heroes that grow from and contribute to the original material, not just give it a new coat of paint.

PROF: What's your "Hollywood Pitch" for this project; that is, what's the one- or two-line description that will sell this to our readers?

IF: New Crusaders is a fun, exciting super hero book without the baggage and angst of a lot of other super hero books. Y'know how you can go to these recent super hero movies, sit down, and have a good time? That's New Crusaders in a nutshell.

PROF: Thanks for the conversation, guys, and good luck!



Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Dark Shadows Early Screening Review.

Entertainment
Dark Shadows screening review. | gofobo

DARK SHADOWS (2012)

Director:  Tim Burton
Studio:  Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: May 11, 2012
Rating:  PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
Rating Warnings:  comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking
Official Website: http://darkshadowsmovie.warnerbros.com/index.html

Synopsis: In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet—or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.

Also residing in the manor is Elizabeth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Roger Collins, (Jonny Lee Miller); her rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Moretz); and Roger’s precocious 10-year-old son, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). The mystery extends beyond the family, to caretaker Willie Loomis, played by Jackie Earle Haley, and David’s new nanny, Victoria Winters, played by Bella Heathcote.

Review:  I love Tim Burton movies and, so, it is no surprise that I also liked this one.



I love DARK SHADOWS and, so, it is no surprise that I also liked this one.

It definitely surprised me in a lot of ways. One of the most important surprises were the more subtle ways that it referenced the old show. Specifically, the pacing of a number of scenes in which it was just Barnabas and another character alone in a room. They copied the incidental music and the rhythm and pacing of the stilted dialogue perfectly. The slow way Barnabas walks around and Johnny Depp is totally aping Johnathan Frid's way of dragging out his words slowly as he tries to find his cue cards or remember a line.

Most definitely go into it knowing that it is NOT a spoof. They find opportunities for hilarious moments of comedy, but it is NOT a spoof. The ghost and witchy stuff is legitimately creepy and there's some other creepy imagery throughout. They don't shy away from vampire brutality either. Some light insinuated raunch and sex. The period music choices add a lot of flavor to it and it felt authentically 1972 to me as I watched it, especially the way they had it lit in the exterior scenes.

As with nearly every Tim Burton fantasy movie, the final act goes a bit over the top (anyone remember the final act of Joe Johnston's THE WOLFMAN a couple of years ago? Big fantasy fight scene inside a burning mansion -- that sort of thing). They resolve the story in such a way that it does not have to be a franchise but leave enough options available if they choose to do it.

There's a lot of interesting symbolism that Burton has fun with -- especially with Angelique. All of the actors seemed like they were having a lot of fun but Eva Green was reveling in her role as Angelique. I found Bella Heathcote to be ethereal and very engaging in her wide-eyed role as the beauty, Josette/Vicki. Helena Bonham Carter steals all of her scenes with her cigarette-scarred voice and bright red hair as she lusts after Barnabas. Johnny Depp carries it all and is so likeable as Barnabas that you even forgive his foible of brutal blood-sucking murder.

It was not really what I expected. But I enjoyed what I got.

I will be paying to see it again soon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

EARTH 2 Reviewed

Entertainment

EARTH 2 #1
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Nicola Scott (pencils) & Trevor Scott (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics


“Looking back on that day five years ago, I wonder if they knew, maybe deep down in their hearts...if they sensed it.  After all their amazing exploits...after all they'd done so far...if Superman...Wonder Woman...Batman, of course...if they knew that here in ravaged Metropolis would be their last adventure.” -- Alan Scott

Longtime readers of my words both on my blog and on AICN know that I've been very outspoken in my disappointment at the way the DCU reboot was handled.  The characters of DC's “Earth 2” (the golden age heroes) almost always get the shaft when DC does a continuity wipe or rewrite.  And it appeared like they had once again gotten screwed by the slapdash manner in which the linewide reboot happened.

However, I have to say, I take back every single negative thing I ever said about this new EARTH 2 book in the lead-up to its release last week.  Encapsulated in this single comic book are steps that nearly take full advantage of the freedom that a reboot really provides.    This approach is bold, takes chances, makes real and substantive changes, and does it all with a sense of a real cohesive vision.  I am sure that it helps to have it basically limited to a single title (with a side connection to WORLDS' FINEST)  rather than 51 other continuity titles.

James Robinson's writing has no groaner moments or wasted scenes.  He packed this single issue with everything we need to know to set up the world, the differences, and the future. Nicola Scott knocked this out of the park with her art.  She has leapt immediately up to the top tier of my favorite artists working today.  Watch out Amanda Conner, George Perez, and Ivan Reis.  You've got competition.


Here's the background we get from EARTH 2 #1:  This Earth has not experienced a glut of super-heroes like the regular DCU over the years since Superman appeared.  In the flashback sequence of 5 years ago, we have an older Superman (with adult cousin Supergirl) along with an older Batman (with adult daughter, Robin) and a Wonder Woman who has also obviously been around for awhile.  They are the trinity of heroes of this Earth.  Without the rest of what would become the Justice League on our Earth, they are overcome by the attack by the hordes of Parademons (presumably sent by this world's version of Darkseid).  The heroes are killed, but Batman's sacrifice also saves the Earth from total destruction and defeats the Parademons.  Supergirl and Robin chase a figure through a boomtube and wind up stranded on Earth 1 and their story continues in WORLDS' FINEST.

Cut to present-day. A world without super-heroes but with a collective memory of that tragic day.  It is a world-wide tragic moment for the entire world.

Set up for the future:  Robinson introduced Al Pratt and Jim Harper as soldiers during the 5-years-ago flashback.  The stage is set for new versions of Earth 2's Atom and Guardian.  In the present-day, Robinson introduces us to young, rich, broadcaster Alan Scott and even younger Jay Garrick – struggling to find purpose and direction until he comes face to face with the Roman god, Mercury.

On to the next issue.

What I love about the approach here is that Robinson is approaching EARTH 2 as if the types of events that happen(ed) on Earth 1 simply don't happen quite as often or as easily.  So, without random science experiments and accidents, how do you get a group of heroes who can equal Earth 1's Justice League and beyond?  Robinson appears to be making the new EARTH 2 heroes essentially avatars (or power-receivers) of the Roman Gods.  The Flash of Earth 2 is gaining his powers from Mercury.  I don't know this for sure, but I suspect the Green Lantern will be receiving his powers from Jupiter, Vulcan, or one of the other gods and so on.

When Grant Morrison took on the JUSTICE LEAGUE comic years ago, he specifically set up the characters as Earthly counterparts of the Greek pantheon.  Here, it appears from dialogue between Mercury and Wonder Woman, that Robinson is going so far as to making our new heroes, inspired by the self-sacrifice of the original Trinity of heroes, literally the Roman pantheon on Earth.  Heroes powered by the gods rather than scientific mumbo-jumbo.

I honestly can't find anything to criticize here.  It all was simply brilliant, flowed perfectly, intrigued me and hooked me instantly.

EARTH 2 is everything “The New 52” should be.