DC Rebirth: The Liveblog

DC RebirthDC Comics is going to be giving the dirt on Rebirth this morning at Wondercon, and they’re livestreaming the event on their YouTube channel. Dutiful nerd that I am, I decided to watch. Then I thought, what the heck? I’ve got a nerd blog. Why not post my reactions in real time as well?

So keep it on this page during the panel, folks, and hit refresh every few minutes. I’ll update as they do.

Kicking things off, they showed a video of DC heroes over the years, then they brought Dan DiDio and Jim Lee to the stage. Lee’s kind of adorkable, not entirely comfortable on camera but doing his best.

DiDio is calling rebirth a “reconnection to the fans” and says he wants to show the fans “we care about these characters as much as you do.” Without transcribing every word, he’s basically saying, “We hear you, and we feel it too, and here’s Geoff Johns to tell you more.”

(Brief tangent: How awesome is it that we live in an age where they can make this announcement in California, they put it on the internet, and I can watch it on my TV at home?)

Johns: “Rebirth is NOT a reboot.” As we have heard. He’s calling it “the next chapter.”

Johns on Green Lantern: Rebirth, and how it relates to the new initiative: “Rebirth is about taking everything, past and present, taking everything wonderful about these characters and bringing them to the fore.”

“What’s missing to me is Legacy.” YES.

The Rebirth one-shot in May will feature “the biggest secret in the DC Universe.” It will return some characters. It “may” feature the death of a character. Because of course it will.

Showing off some of the new designs for the characters. Oh my GOD, I love Supergirl so much. As soon as the pictures make it online, I’ll try to add them to this post.

Didio reiterates that the books will all be $2.99 an issue, with 17 twice-monthly titles and 14 monthly books. So fewer titles overall, but about the same number of issues a month.

Now we’re getting a video of fans and creators saying what their favorite DC stories are. I’m not disagreeing with any of the choices, but the audio sucks. We keep getting echo from the hall, and the sound is really low. Hopefully this isn’t going to be anything vital.

Bringing out the “Bat-Family,” Tom King (whose Vision is awesome) writing Batman, James Tynion IV on Detective Comics, Tim Seely on Nightwing, Hope Larsen on Batgirl and I missed the names of the women writing Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. This Batman image is crazy — a man and woman behind him wearing costumes with Batman colors but Superman-shield-shaped symbols with old lettering.

Augh, the video froze! Somebody tell them in LA!

It’s back.

TIM DRAKE AS ROBIN IN DETECTIVE COMICS! It’s a team book with Batman, Tim, Batwoman, Spoiler, CLAYFACE, and Cassandra Cain, whose new identity will come out of Batman and Robin Eternal.

Seeley’s first Nightwing arc is called “Better than Batman.” Tom King is verklempt.

Hope Larsen’s Batgirl looks like she’s running with the ball from the Burnside era, but taking her to Asia to “find herself as a person.” Rafael Albuquerque on art.

Julie Benson and Shawna Benson on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Somebody is pretending to be Oracle, and Barbara is ticked off. Black Canary and Huntress on the team… what version of the Huntress, then?

Scott Snyder, whose Batman has been awesome, will be teaming with John Romita Jr., on a twice-monthly All Star Batman. Romita’s co-artists will be Jock and Sean Murphy. Snyder says he wants to do stuff with the villains he hasn’t gotten to do before. At this point, you could give Snyder a Care Bears comic and I would read it. Also, Snyder is now DC-exclusive.

I’m sorry, I gotta say it again — Tim Drake as Robin.. And wearing a version of his classic costume. This makes me SO HAPPY.

Superman family!

Dan Jurgens writing Action Comics! The image is Superman slugging it with Lex Luthor in a kind of Superman armor. Dan says that this is the Superman and Lois from the current Lois and Clark series.

Gene Yang on New Superman. This one looks odd. It stars a Chinese teenager who somehow gets Superman’s powers. If anyone can do it, it Yang.

Steve Orlando on Supergirl! Again, I love this costume. It’s much more like the TV suit, and very classic-looking. Cat Grant is in the image too. Cyborg Superman (who in this universe is Kara’s father, Zor-El) will be in the book too.

Trinity, written and drawn by Francis Manapul, starring you-know who.

Phil Jimenez writing and drawing Superwoman! (Who the hell is Superwoman?)

Peter Tomasi writing Superman, which is awesome.

Then there’s Liam Sharpe on Wonder Woman. Is she a Superman-family book now? Jim Lee is calling Sharp his “big get” for Rebirth, like Greg Capullo was for the New 52. The costume, especially the colors, is very reminiscent of Gal Gadot. The book will be written by Greg Rucka!

The book will be written by Greg Rucka! And Sharp will be sharing art chores with Nicola Scott. Rucka says Sharp will be doing odd-numbered issues that take place in the present, while Scott will do even-numbered “Wonder Woman Year One” stories. Scott is AMAZING. This is a perfect fit for her.

Up next will be the Justice League family.

Tony Daniel doing art for Justice League. Bryan Hitch writing. TWO Green Lanterns on the team — Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

Joshua Williamson writing Flash. New Flash villain, “Godspeed.” Nice and creepy visual on this guy – skinny, all white, almost like Slenderman meets the Flash.

Robert Venditi writing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. This book will have Ethan Van Sciver and Rafael Sandoval on art. Venditi says the book begins with Sinestro planting his Warworld in the center of the universe, where Oa once was, and it’s the story of what Hal and the Corps (including John Stewart and Guy Gardner) do next.

Sam Humphries writing Green Lanterns. Johns is going to co-write the Rebirth one-shot with Humphries. The book will star Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz as “the new Green Lanterns of Earth.” They’re rookies, partners, and “don’t know what they think of each other yet.” Humphries calls it “Lethal Weapon with alien technology.” Nice. The Red Lanterns are the bad guys in this book.

John Semper on Cyborg. Art by Will Conrad and, one of my favorites, Paul Pelletier. Semper says the book will be about Cyborg as someone “already living with the Singularity… where does the soul of the man begin and the soul of the machine start?”

Dan Abnett on Aquaman. Johns talks about Abnett’s past awesome work on Legion Lost and Guardians of the Galaxy. He’ll be co-writing with Brad Walker, who also will be sharing art chores with two others. (They’re flashing the credits on screen, guys, I’m writing as fast as I can, but I miss some.) Abnett says in this book Aquaman wants to make Atlantis “part of the world.” I can totally see Arthur sitting in a United Nations panel.

Abnett will also be writing Titans with Nightwing, Arsenal, Donna Troy, Tempest. Who is the woman in green?

Jason Fabok is here to talk about issue 50 of the current Justice League run, which he’s drawing. He says it will “blow your minds.” Okaaaay… so why are we talking about it on the Rebirth panel? I assume it’ll lead into the one-shot?

Holy crap. Johns just said this is going to follow-up on the part in issue 42 where Batman asks the Mobius Chair what the Joker’s real name is. They teased this with an image of many Jokers throughout the years. What the HELL are they up to?

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner on Harley Quinn. Jim Lee says these two have made Harley “the fourth pillar that supports House DC.” Hard to argue with that. Conner says the book will have “more of the same madness PLUS.” The costume looks like they’ve merged the New 52 version with the movie version. She definitely has Margot Robbie hair.

Philip Tan on Suicide Squad. Lee will also be working with Rob Williams writing. He clarifies that each twice-monthly book has “a team of artists.” They tried to find artists with similar styles and sensibilities that work well together. Tan calls the book about “redemption.” The team will be Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Rick Flagg, Katana, Boomerang… basically the movie team. Lee further says that Harley and Croc will be an interesting team-up, and Conner jumps in with “Harley’s power is that she doesn’t really know that she can’t do anything.” DiDio adds that she’s now DC-exclusive.

Conner says a lot more guest-stars in Harley’s book, including Poison Ivy, Power Girl, and a lot more “bat-characters and non-bat characters.”

Remaining titles:
Ben Percy on Green Arrow.
Red Hood and the Outlaws co-starring Bizarro and Artemis.
The Hellblazer by Simon Oliver, with Swamp Thing.
Deathstroke with Christopher Priest.
Batman Beyond with Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang. “The return of Terry McGuinness.”
Blue Beetle with Keith Giffen, starring Jaime Reyes AND HIS MENTOR TED KORD!
Damian Wayne leads the new Teen Titans, by Ben Percy. The Titans apparently aren’t thrilled about this.
Super Sons — no creative team, but “Son of Superman meets son of Batman.”
Justice League of America — “which we can’t talk about yet,” Johns says.

Finally, the full cover of the Rebirth special, by Gary Frank, shows the heres of the DC universe reaching out towards a hand reaching out from the light. It’s intriguing, to say the least.Rebirth special, by Gary Frank, shows the heres of the DC universe reaching out towards a hand reaching out from the light. It’s intriguing, to say the least.

Overall impressions… I’m really liking what I’m seeing. There are some killer creative teams, and some books I can’t believe I’m seeing. Some stuff is outright insane, but in a good way.

You have my attention, DC Comics.

 

 

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Three Wishes: DC Rebirth

DC Rebirth In case you somehow missed it, DC Comics recently announced a new upcoming line-wide initiative they’re calling DC Rebirth. Details – except for the titles of the books – have been sparse thus far, but that’s never going to be an obstacle to fan speculation or random guessing. What we know for sure, according to Geoff Johns, is that this initiative will use the same core concept as his Green Lantern: Rebirth and Flash: Rebirth stories, that of attempting to respect the present while, at the same time, recapturing the glory of the past. This has me feeling cautiously optimistic. Both of those aforementioned stories were very good, and I’ve thought ever since the New 52 relaunch that the biggest thing missing from DC was their wonderful sense of legacy.

That optimism in mind – and in a deliberate effort to counteract the Internet Hate Machine that knows for certain that everything will be terrible several months before it has, technically, been created, today’s Three Wishes is dedicated to those elements I hope the DC Universe – whatever shape it takes – will reflect from now on.

  1. Family

OConvergence-Speed Force 1ne of the things the New 52 did was roll back the ages of most of DC’s main characters. In so doing, many of the family units that previously existed were eradicated. The children of Wally West, Roy Harper, Alan Scott and others never existed at all. There was later a hullabaloo when the writers of Batwoman walked off the book, angry that DC wouldn’t allow them to marry off Kate Kane to Maggie Sawyer. Some took this as DC being opposed to gay marriage, which was ludicrous. If they had an anti-gay mindset they never would have published the book in the first place. No, it was any marriage DC was opposed to. The marriages of Lois and Clark, Barry and Iris, Arthur and Mera – all had been annulled in the most literal way possible. Only Animal Man seemed to survive with his family intact, and that is no doubt because virtually every good Animal Man story ever written has included his wife and children at the very core of it.

Even Jonathan and Martha Kent, who had been (mostly) alive since the 1986 Man of Steel reboot, were now both dead in the main DCU. With the sudden dearth of children, spouses, and parents, ironically, Batman now had the most successful family unit in the DC Universe.

There’s some weird notion – not just at DC, not just at Marvel, but in adventure fiction in general – that giving a protagonist a family limits storytelling potential. Think about it, what do you know about Han Solo’s parents? Does Flash Gordon have any brothers or sisters? When they married James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, didn’t they kill off his wife before the movie even ended? How many classic heroes’ adventures end with the hero settling down with a family, or at least implying that this transition is imminent?

Superman-Lois and Clark 2Family is only an obstacle if the writer is narrow-minded enough to make it so. Bill Willingham’s Fables not only went on another 100 issues after the marriage of Snow White and Bigby Wolf, but their cubs became a vital part of the engine of that series. The Fantastic Four has always been about family, but the introduction of Reed and Sue’s children have made it unique among mainstream comics. Perhaps my favorite comic being published right now is Superman: Lois and Clark, precisely because it gives us a Superman in a family dynamic we’ve never seen before. Clark and Lois – those from the Pre-Flashpoint DCU – now live in the current DCU. Nobody knows who they really are, and they have only each other to rely on, while at the same time trying to raise and protect a son who is unaware of his parents’ great secret. It’s wildly fun. We know there will be a post-Rebirth title called The Super-Man. If that acts as the lifeboat for these characters, I’ll be overjoyed.

This is not to say I think every DC character needs to line up to walk down the aisle any time soon. That would be as short-sighted as refusing to let any of them marry. But shouldn’t at least the possibility be allowed to exist? Writers are hired to tell stories, and while some level of editorial control is beneficial, why would you automatically cut off access to any road without at least peering ahead to see where it could lead?

  1. Legacy

Green Lantern Secret Files 1It may seem like a bit of a cheat to use this as my second “wish,” since Geoff Johns has already specifically stated restoring a sense of legacy is one of the goals of Rebirth, but I think it’s worthwhile to explore what exactly that means and what I hope it will mean to DC.

In the New 52 Universe (or Prime Earth, or whatever it’s called these days), Grant Morrison reinstated the notion of the Golden Age that Superman was, in fact, the first superhero. Back in the 30s and 40s it was easy to recognize Superman as being first, as all of the characters were brand new. But as time passed, some of Superman’s allies were retired, then later replaced. When DC brought in a new Flash, a new Green Lantern, a new Atom, but still had the original Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, problems understandably started to crop up. The solution, at the time, was simple: the current versions lived on Earth-1, the originals were on Earth-2. But Crisis on Infinite Earths did away with that in favor of a merged timeline in which Superman ushered in the modern age of heroes, inspired by the Justice Society (sans Superman) of old.

This is the trouble with comic book “elastic time.” Having characters like the JSA so inexorably linked to a real-world event like World War II makes their use increasingly complicated as time goes on. Marvel had this same problem, but to a much lesser extent, because they retired all of their World War II-era heroes, and those that later returned had easy outs to explain their longevity (Captain America was frozen in ice, the Sub-Mariner was a mutant, Stan Lee had the power cosmic, etc.).

Justice Society of America ufV3 1Look, I get the desire to give Superman the significance of being first. He’s earned it. But with a restored multiverse it’s easy to give him that honor while still having a “prime” Superman who lives in a world of earlier heroes. Even if they aren’t currently being featured anywhere, characters like the JSA, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and the All-Star Squadron are part of the fabric of DC Comics. Removing them from DC’s history robs us just as much as we would be robbed by removing Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin from American history.

And legacy doesn’t work just one way. As rich as DC’s past has been, so too has their future. Yes, I’m talking about the Legion of Super-Heroes. There is no greater testament to Superman and the Justice League than the idea that they will still be inspiring new heroes 1000 years in the future. The Legion needs to return. How? I’m not sure. You won’t find a more devoted group of comic book fans than those who love the Legion, but “devoted” is not, unfortunately, a synonym for “large and with an incredible amount of spending power.” But something needs to be done to Rebirth the Legion into a going concern once again.

  1. Joy

Bizarro 1One of the main complaints levied against DC in recent years – and one that is difficult to argue with – is that the books largely have taken on a grim tone. That’s fine in some cases, but it should never be the case across the board. Sure, Batman lives in darkness, and the members of the Suicide Squad are inherently dirty characters, but that can’t apply to everybody. Superman is, and should be, a symbol of hope. Green Lantern literally makes things out of light. The Flash… hell one of his main foes is a talking gorilla. Be it Jay, Barry, Wally, or other, nobody should enjoy his life more than the fastest man alive.

Dan Didio has gone on record as saying that being a superhero should come at a cost. (This is also largely the rationale for doing away with the families of so many characters.) To a degree, I can agree with that – y’know, the whole “with great power” jazz. But it doesn’t always have to be the same cost, does it? And debts can eventually be paid, except of course for student loans, so why must these characters be burdened with the cost of being a hero for their entire lives?

This was one of the reasons I quit reading Daredevil years ago. While it was unquestionably one of Brian Michael Bendis’s better runs, it eventually became so relentlessly bleak that I just couldn’t take it anymore. “Can’t Matt Murdock ever have a good day?” I would ask of random passerby, who would then look at me funny because Netflix wasn’t a thing yet and they had no idea who I was talking about.

Real life is not in monotone. Nor should be our fiction. In fact, the best fiction of any kind – the most compelling stories and most engaging characters – recognize this. Ask a Futurama fan what the best episode of that series was and, if they can stop crying long enough, they’ll tell you it was “Jurassic Bark.” Scrubs viewers will likewise say one of the show’s most memorable moments came when it was revealed that Dr. Cox’s best friend had died of cancer, and all the wacky hijinks in that episode were the bitter daydreams of a grieving man. But just as comedy is better when there are moments of solemnity, so too are more serious stories served by having rays of light. Few people will deny that Breaking Bad is one of the greatest dramas of the 21st century, but that doesn’t account for how unexpectedly funny it could be. (Just watch it. You’ll never again try to dispose of a body in a bathtub full of acid without giving in to a knowing chuckle.)

Harley Quinn v2 19DC has begun to make strides in this direction. Harley Quinn is a mostly-lighthearted book, as is the new Burnside era of Batgirl. Last year’s Bizarro and Bat-Mite miniseries were both wonderful. But that’s just a start. DC’s most popular media incarnations at the moment are the Flash and Supergirl TV shows – both of which are unabashedly fun – and Arrow, which embraces darkness more fully. And they all work. And they all fit together. And it’s a beautiful thing. The creators of these shows have mined the rich history of the characters for the wonderful things that made them last, while at the same time recognizing that they don’t have to be exactly the same to coexist.

DC TV takes its cues from DC of old. It’s time for DC of today to do the same thing.

Learning the Wrong Lessons From Deadpool

Deadpool Movie PosterIn case you somehow missed it, the Deadpool movie was released last weekend and immediately began shattering box office records: best February opening of all time, best opening ever for an R-rated movie, best opening ever for a first-time director (that’d be Tim Miller), and it came in third in the swimsuit competition. And of course, as always, the movie industry began to thoughtfully and meticulously scrutinize the film’s success to determine what qualities helped it reap the bounty, then implement carefully-considered strategies to create new content that may also be prosperous for the studios.

Ha! I’m kidding, of course. No, the movie studios immediately concluded that the American public wants superhero movies to be full of F-words and Ryan Reynolds’s ass. So today, in what could easily be the first in an infinite series of columns, I would like to discuss how 20th Century Fox – and probably every other major studio – has completely missed the point of what made Deadpool kick butt.

Let’s start with what is probably the least significant part of its success: the timing. Like I said, Deadpool’s $135 million broke the record for the highest February opening of all time. But look at the competition: Zoolander 2, the sequel nobody asked for, and How to Be Single, a movie built around Rebel Wilson playing the only character she ever plays, and who wasn’t even entertaining the first time she did it. That’s not to say Deadpool wasn’t a good movie – in fact, that’s my whole point. January and February, traditionally, have been cinematic graveyards where studios try to bury movies they don’t think anybody will want to see in a season where they don’t think people want to go to the movies. I’ve long believed this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not that people don’t want to go to the movies in February, it’s that the studios don’t give them movies worth watching. Deadpool demonstrates that if you make a movie people want to see, they’ll come out to see it no matter when it is released.

WolverineAnd that brings us to the second question: why was Deadpool a movie people wanted to see? The blood? We have the news for that. The nudity? We have the Internet. The profanity? We have public high schools. All of these are easy answers, and all of these are wrong. And yet, when Fox immediately followed the box office number announcement by saying the third Wolverine movie will be rated R, they’re essentially saying that’s the reason that Deadpool worked. This is incredibly small-minded.

(To be fair, making an R-rated Wolverine was at least under discussion as far back as the first solo movie starring the character. It’s not a new idea. But man, they made sure to let everybody know that after the weekend box office closed, didn’t they?)

The reason those elements worked in Deadpool is because all of the hyper-violence and irreverent dialogue helped to create a tone that is faithful to the character. We didn’t want to see violence, necessarily, we just wanted to see the Deadpool we love. In fact, I’m going to be a little controversial here: I don’t even think Deadpool needed to be an R-rated movie. I don’t mind that it was, I very much enjoyed it, but despite what a lot of people seem to think the majority of his comic book appearances have not been full of F-bombs and boobs. (Sure, the violence is there, but the MPAA is way less concerned with violence than sex or language. Chop off all the limbs you want, but God forbid you show a nipple.)

What are they going to do in an R-rated Wolverine movie that will make it better than the first two? Curse more? The word he’s most associated with in the comics is “bub.” Bury him in naked women? Wolverine’s romantic relationships are classically tortured. Sure the fighting may be more explicit, but does anybody really think X-Men Origins: Wolverine would have been a good movie if only they showed more blood when Hugh Jackman cut off Ryan Reynolds’s head?

Superman the MovieThe best superhero movies (and in fact, most of the best adaptations of any kind) are those that maintain the spirit and feel of the source material: Richard Donner’s Superman, the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe work for precisely this reason. People who have read about a character for years – decades even – don’t want to see a version of a character whipped up by committee, they want to see the version they love. (This, of course, will cause debate when a character has been around long enough that there are multiple valid interpretations, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Compare that to the most epic failure of recent years, the 2015 Fantastic Four. The movie takes a comic whose best stories are about a family of explorers and turns them into a militarized unit who barely share any screen time. Director Josh Trank maintains that studio meddling sank his movie. I tend to think that when the director reportedly tells his actors not to read the comics the movie is based on, there isn’t much more a studio can do to screw it up.

Batman-The Killing 1Let’s not forget that tone is dependent on the individual story as well. There was a lot of buzz last year when the producers of the upcoming Batman: The Killing Joke animated movie announced they were given permission by the studio to go for an R-rated film. It doesn’t have to be, but this is the story that forever entrenched the Joker as a true icon of evil. Gone was the bank robbing clown of the Silver Age – now he was a horrific, unhinged psychopath acting out on a twisted fixation with Batman by torturing his friends. It would be hard to tell that story faithfully and still maintain a PG-13. But that doesn’t mean a Ben Affleck Batman movie or an animated version of the first appearance of Bat-Mite should suddenly be rated R.

All of this is to say that, yes, you probably could make a good R-rated Wolverine movie, but it won’t be good because it’s rated R. The other elements need to be there too.

But what about all of the people who enjoyed Deadpool but don’t read comics? They don’t know if the depiction on screen is faithful to the comic book, and most of them wouldn’t care if they did. So why did they come out in force to see this movie? For one thing, of course, the marketing campaign was as brilliant as the marketing for John Carter was abysmal, but good marketing will only get you so far. People also liked the movie. Why? Obviously, the answer for each individual person will differ, but if I were to venture a guess for the majority, I would say it’s because it’s something different. Look, I would be perfectly happy all day long if they just took the scripts of my favorite comics and put them on screen in front of me, but I also know I’m a 10th-level nerd and what I want probably doesn’t apply to the public at large.

Spider-Man BittenWhat does apply, however, is that people get tired of seeing the same thing. Origin stories, for example. Not just comic fans, but viewers in general are done with origin stories. Nobody needs to see Krypton blow up, Thomas and Martha Wayne gunned down, or Peter Parker bitten by a spider ever again. We get it.

Even with less iconic characters, origin stories are largely unnecessary at this point. If a character in a movie is a cop, a firefighter, or a baseball player, people don’t demand we spend half the movie explaining how we get to that point before the real plot begins. Granted, superheroes follow a less conventional path than those other occupations, but at this point the public is familiar enough with the tropes that all but the most convoluted of origins can usually be dealt with in a quick flashback or a few lines of expository dialogue.

“But Blake,” you say, “Deadpool was an origin movie. Doesn’t that contradict your point?” Man, you can be kind of a jerk sometimes. But no, it doesn’t contradict my point. I said that origins are unnecessary, not that they can’t be done well. Audiences – myself included – will accept even the most tired premise if the execution is entertaining and original enough.

M Payoff 1shtAnd that brings me to the most important part of Deadpool’s success. It didn’t matter that it was an origin, because it still felt different from any other superhero movie of the last 17 years. (I consider the modern era of superhero movie to have begun with 1999’s Blade. You know, that other R-rated Marvel movie everybody seems to have forgotten about.) Look at the major successes since then. After the first few years, when superheroes were still a novelty, the biggest movies all brought something new to the table. Iron Man was cocky, witty, and did away with that secret identity jazz right away. It was unique at the time. What’s more, the after-credits stinger (another novelty in 2008) opened the doors for the then-revolutionary Marvel Cinematic Universe. That eventually led to Avengers, another mega-hit, because we had never before seen six superheroes from four different movies come together as a team. The best movies of the eight years since Iron Man all bring something different to the superhero. Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political thriller. The Dark Knight was an epic crime drama. And none of them – even the ones that were sequels to other movies – felt like anything else we had ever seen.

SuicideSquadPoster-181c2In an odd way, this actually makes Suicide Squad the most interesting superhero movie for the rest of 2016. I’m the most die-hard Superman fan you’ll find, and I’ve been waiting to see him on screen with Batman and Wonder Woman since I learned how to read. I couldn’t be more excited for that movie. But Suicide Squad is the first time, as far as I can remember, that a superhero movie has actually starred the villains. (You could make an argument for Magneto and Mystique in the most recent X-Men movies, but the moral ambiguity in those films is so thick that nobody could hear you anyway.) We’ve seen villain-starring comics plenty of times, but it’s never really happened on screen. That means the success or failure of this movie will be one for the books. The trailer was very well-received and people seem to be excited about it.

Which means the weekend after it comes out, expect Fox to announce a new X-Factor movie, starring the classic line-up of Sabertooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Toad, and Galactus. Because they just don’t seem to get it.

Three Wishes: LEGO Dream Sets

Welcome to Three Wishes, one of several new semi-regular features I intend to start putting in rotation here at AllNewShowcase.com. In Three Wishes, I’m going to choose a theme and then give a list of three things I’d like to see happen – products made, TV shows or movies produced, comic book dream teams, whatever. And I’m going to start with both one of my oldest and one of my newest obsessions: LEGO.

LEGOs

Like most of you reading this, I loved LEGO as a child. And, like most of you reading this, as I got older I wound up putting it aside in favor of other pursuits. In recent years, though, I’ve drifted back. There’s something about building a LEGO model that’s very cathartic. I think it scratches the same itch as those “adult coloring books” that are so popular now – it allows you to do something creative while at the same time (if you’re following instructions) not requiring you to put any really heavy mental effort into it. Plus, it’s just fun to watch a miniature version of something awesome come together through the effort of your own two hands.

I’m old enough that, when my halcyon days of LEGO ended, they had not yet started branching out beyond their own themes to licensed properties. In fact, many credit the licenses for taking LEGO from the brink of death to being the largest company in the world that specializes in only one kind of toy. They first began by licensing Star Wars and Harry Potter, and have spread out to licenses as diverse as Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Scooby-Doo, The Simpsons, and Doctor Who. What’s more, with the LEGO Ideas program, anybody can design a LEGO model and submit it for consideration to be possibly manufactured as a LEGO set. So that in mind, any one of the sets I’m about to propose could theoretically be made real, if a talented designer submitted it. Sadly, I’m not that person. I’ve got no skill for design. I’m just a builder and a fan. Here, in no particular order, are the three sets I would most like to see created, if money and licensing issues were no factor.

DC Special Series 26Wish #1: Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

LEGO has set a precedent for huge builds with their 3800-piece Death Star and 4600-piece Ghostbuster Firehouse. With the recent announcement of a gargantuan Batman ’66 Batcave, Superman’s Fortress seems the next logical step.

But which version, then, should it be? The Fortress has gone through many, many incarnations, from the original Earth-2 mountaintop retreat to the Silver Age arctic classic with the giant yellow key. Neither of those would be particularly challenging to build, however, so I propose the exterior be based on the crystalline look that originated in the 1978 Superman: The Movie, and which has informed many of the redesigns since then. It would look amazing, but with the crystals all at strange angles, it would take some clever engineering to make real. Ah heck. Throw in the giant key anyway.

Fortress Mortal KombatInside, we need all the best parts of the Fortress from the assorted varieties: the crystal control panel, the statues of Jor-El and Lara, and the cosmic zoo (complete with a few alien animals, like the metal-eater). But a LEGO set isn’t just about construction, it’s also about playability. We need some characters. Superman, of course, should be included, as well as the Fortress’s other part-time resident, Supergirl. We could also include Lois Lane in arctic gear, a Superman robot or two, and Kal-El’s robotic valet, Kelex. And you can’t have a superhero playset without villains, can you? Coincidentally, the two best battles ever to take place in the Fortress both come from stories by Alan Moore. I would throw in Brainiac and Lex Luthor from “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” (bonus points if they can make the figures combine), and a maxifigure of Mongul with the Black Mercy flower from “For the Man Who Has Everything.” Alan Moore would probably despite seeing a toy set inspired by his stories, which of course is the best argument to release it.

Money BinWish #2: Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin

Although LEGO has had many Disney Licenses (including the Marvel Super-Heroes, Star Wars, the Lone Ranger, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Disney Princesses), as far as I know the classic Disney characters have never appeared in LEGO form, although I think a few of them have adorned LEGO’s line for younger builders, DUPLO. With a new DuckTales cartoon scheduled to premiere next year, it’s time for that to change. Although the mass-market version of Scrooge’s iconic money bin couldn’t be as detailed as the fan-made version that turned up online some time ago, there’s still plenty of room for play. Scrooge’s office should be a segment, along with a display for his number-one dime, as well as his famous worry room. The exterior should have a variety of hidden traps (which would be particularly fun to build) to ward off thieves. And of course, there’s the money vault itself: a large open section with a diving board and a bag of loose gold-colored one-peg flat pieces to pour in the center so that Scrooge can dive in and swim around.

Money Bin InteriorSpeaking of Scrooge, he wouldn’t be alone in minifig land. He’d be accompanied by his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, as well as his ward Webigail. (Look, I know she’s not everyone’s favorite character, but there just weren’t enough females on that show, and we need her.) For villains, we’d have Ma Beagle and her Beagle Boys attempting to break in.

I’ll cheat a little on this wish and say that I’d love to see this expand to an entire line of DuckTales LEGO sets: Gyro Gearloose’s shop with Gyro, his helper, and whatever apocalyptic invention he’s whipping up that week; ace pilot Launchpad McQuack and his plane; and a Battle For Duckburg set with villains Flintheart Glomgold and Magica DeSpell vs. Scrooge’s accountant Fenton Crackshell and his buildable Gizmoduck armor.

Water TowerWish #3: The Warner Brothers’ (and the Warner Sister) Water Tower

If you don’t know that I loved the 90s cartoon show Animaniacs, you don’t really know me all that well. Perhaps the best animated series of the last two decades, I want to see a Water Tower set complete with Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. Although he’s not really an enemy, we also need Ralph the Guard trying to catch them, along with Dr. Scratchansniff and Hello Nurse. It would be easy to throw cameo Animaniacs characters in too – perch some Goodfeathers on the side of the tower, have Rita and Runt roaming on the ground, and so on.

But a Water Tower seems like a kind of simple, almost boring build. That ends when you open it up, to find one of the most ridiculously complicated LEGO builds ever to branch out from the Technic line. Inside the tower we’d find one of Wakko’s insane Rube Goldberg-style devices, with one feature activating the next over and over until it finally triggers a comically underblown finale, as in the episode where he did exactly that simply to make a fart noise with a whoopee cushion. Ah Wakko, you genius.

Some may notice that I neglected to mention two of the most popular characters from Animaniacs in this wish. I didn’t forget, guys. But come on – Pinky and the Brain and ACME Labs deserve their own separate build.

That’s it for Three Wishes. Please feel free to chime in with your own ideas for dream LEGO sets, or to suggest topics for future Three Wishes installments!

Merry Christmas From the Showcase!

Merry Christmas from your friends here at the All-New Showcase! I’m sure you all have a ton of things going on today, but if you’re looking for something to pass the time, I’ve got two little tidbits for you. First up, my all-new short story collection, An All-American Christmas, is now available on Amazon.com, and it’s totally free until Dec. 27! Download it to your Kindle or Kindle App and help boost my numbers a tad.

Second, here’s a gallery of geeky Christmas comic covers and other images, just something to flip through while you’re waiting for the commercials on your 17th viewing of A Christmas Story to end. Merry Christmas, everybody, and we’ll see you soon!

Gut Reaction: Supergirl Episode One

SupergirlLast year, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg brought us The Flash, and immediately won me over with a show that fully captured of the joy of being a superhero, with fun characters and littered with enough DC Comics Easter Eggs to satisfy the nerd in me without being so overwhelming as to turn off a non-viewer. With the first episode of Supergirl, they appear to have done so again.

WARNING: Spoilers for the pilot episode ahead.

In a quick 60 minutes, we are introduced to Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) and given enough backstory for newcomers to know who she is in relation to her more famous cousin, while at the same time leaving plenty enough space from him for the character to be her own person. We are introduced to a good-sized supporting cast, including some familiar faces from Superman lore (both the characters and the actors playing them) and a few new characters. We meet the villains of the piece and are given a solid introduction to what will apparently be the show’s major arc, at least for the first season (a station of Phantom Zone criminals — more than just Kryptonian — came to Earth along with Kara and it’s up to her and the DEO to stop them).

It checks all of the boxes it needed to in order to have an adequate pilot episode.

So why was it so much MORE than simply adequate?

I give the credit for that to Benoist, Berlanti, and Kreisberg.

The latter have already created a televised universe of superhero shows that are wonderfully engaging both for hardcore comic book fans and casual viewers alike. Although “Supergirl” is not technically part of that universe, they’ve brought that same sensibility over to this new series. And that’s a major part of why this first episode worked for me.

karaBut more importantly, I think, is Benoist’s performance. She plays Kara Danvers with utter sincerity. She’s a young woman who feels somewhat intimidated and overshadowed by her world-famous (male) relative, but she’s determined to make something of herself and choose her own path. The fact that she’s this world’s first female hero is of no minor consequence, either. We live in a time where both DC Comics and Disney’s Marvel and Star Wars franchises have come under constant fire for under-representing or poorly representing their female characters in merchandise and popular media. And more than once, the show comes a little too close to looking out at the viewer and saying, “See? We CAN give you a female superhero worth watching.”

But treading the line is not crossing it, and they manage to pull back each time and return to the point of having fun with the premise, including a nice montage of Kara looking for a costume that pokes a little fun at some of the stupider conventions of female costumes, plus what I can only assume is a minor dig at The Incredibles that was totally worth it.

heat-vision-53b1bIt wasn’t a perfect pilot episode. The final act in particular felt like it went WAY too fast — Allura’s message to Kara is too brief, Kara finds her resolve too easily, and Henshaw relents to let Kara fight Vartox without enough of an argument. If you told me there’s a 90-minute cut of this pilot that expands the ending, I would have to nod and say, “Yeah, that makes sense.” And while the Phantom Zone criminal thing is a good way to bring in a lot of different villains without having to come up with an origin story every time, they need to be very careful not to let it turn into the Freak of the Week formula that hurt the first few seasons of Smallville.

But all that said, it was a wonderful start.

And perhaps more importantly, my sister Heather watched it with her 5-year-old daughter, Maggie, who already loves superhero cartoons. If this show gives Maggie her first live-action hero to look up to, then literally none of the faults I mentioned above will matter in the slightest. This show will have more than done its job.

Superman and Spider-Man: How to Have it All

Superman Lois and Clark 1 TeaserOne of the books I’m most looking forward to in the coming months – and this will come as no surprise to anybody – is Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks’ Superman: Lois and Clark. At the end of Convergence (and consider this your spoiler warning) the pre-Flashpoint Superman went back in time to help stabilize the multiverse, taking with him his wife, Lois Lane, and their newborn son, Jonathan. When a comic about their continuing adventures was announced, I assumed it would be set on one of the other worlds of the multiverse. Last week week, though, Jurgens did an interview with Newsarama that showed me I was wrong. Lois, Clark and Jon have been in the Prime DC Universe, the one that we called the “New 52” until a few months ago, all this time. Hiding. Watching the exploits of this new Superman, trying to live their lives… but now they’re going to be forced out of complacency.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, I was happy about the book before, even when I thought it would take place “elsewhere,” but this brings me to a whole new level of excitement. You see, the problem with any comic set on an “alternate” world is that it can be easily dismissed by readers as insignificant. True, DC managed to avoid that stigma with their Earth 2 series, but they did so by linking it to the New 52 Earth almost immediately.

Setting Lois and Clark in the Prime DCU gives it more weight. This Clark is a part of things, or can be. He can guest star in other titles. He can cross over during the next worldwide crisis. Hell, he could join the Justice League again, if the winds blew in that direction. And what’s more, this is my Superman. The one I grew up reading. The one who fought Doomsday and died, the one who turned electric blue for a while, the one who married Lois Lane and stayed with her. He’s back. They’re back.

Justice League V2 12The dissolution of the Lois/Clark relationship four years ago always stung. Ever since then I — and a lot of fans – have been waiting for the old status quo to resurface, but it hasn’t. Lois and Clark aren’t an item, and their story has taken such a turn that such a thing seems impossible. But that’s still what a lot of us wanted. So in a way, this new title even helps the current Superman. Those of us who never quite saw his romance with Wonder Woman as “real” may feel more charitable now that “our “Lois and Clark are back. For Superman fans, DC has found a way to have their cake and eat it too.

Which brings me to the point of all this. Although they would be loathe to admit it, Marvel Comics would be well-advised to take a page from DC when it comes to their own cosmic marriage annulment: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. With their own universe-restructuring story, Secret Wars, Marvel has shown us a lot of different worlds lately. One of the most commercially successful (and in my opinion, most entertaining) of the assorted spin-offs has been Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, which shows us a world where Pete and MJ are still married and have an elementary school-aged daughter, Annie. This isn’t the only difference in that world, mind you, but it’s certainly the crux against which that whole story turns. We’ve seen them as parents before, of course, in the former Spider-Girl series, but that was Mayday’s story. Pete and MJ were supporting characters. This is something totally different, something that we once thought we may even have a chance to taste.

Amazing Spider-Man 545As much as Lois and Clark’s separation hurt fans, at least it didn’t feel like a personal attack. Not so, Peter and MJ. Whereas Lois and Clark were victims of a line-wide restructuring, one where many characters underwent similar changes, Peter and MJ were targeted. They were placed in a ridiculously convoluted situation and behaved out-of-character to get them to a point where eradicating the marriage was possible. It always felt — to me and to a hell of a lot of others — that MJ and her marriage to Peter were being picked on by a certain vocal former Marvel Editor-In-Chief, one who made no bones about the fact that he wanted to gleefully wipe it out. (The same story that wiped out their marriage also cruelly teased the notion of their daughter that Dan Slott is playing with in Renew Your Vows.)

The official line, though, was that the marriage made Peter seem too old, and Marvel wanted a young Spider-Man. The problem with that argument, of course, was that they already had a younger Spider-Man over in the Ultimate Universe. That Peter Parker was having his own teen adventures, so the notion that fans had nowhere to turn for such a thing seemed pretty disingenuous. Of course, that could be chalked up to the whole “alternate universe” thing again. No matter how good the Ultimate comics were, they still weren’t the “real” Marvel Universe, the one that had existed since 1961, were they?

Well, here comes Secret Wars, changing all that. And here’s a chance for Marvel to give fans the best of both worlds.

Amazing Spider-Man-Renew Your Vows (Secret Wars) 1We already know Ultimate Peter’s successor, Miles Morales, will be part of the new Marvel Universe, whatever shape it eventually takes. And we know that both Peter and Miles will go by the name “Spider-Man.” So Marvel has their young Spider-Man in the mainstream Marvel Universe in Miles’s book. How awesome would it be, then, if we opened Dan Slott’s new(est) Amazing Spider-Man #1 this fall and discovered that the marriage and Annie Parker had survived the transition into the New Marvel Universe? Miles would still fill the role of classic teen Spider-Man, and there are dozens of single male superheroes out there. But with the Fantastic Four still AWOL, does Marvel have any title left that features parents and their children? (Well, okay, Spider-Woman, but that’s a whole different dynamic of its own.)

This is a chance to give everyone what they want. Marvel has Teen Spider-Man with Miles. They even have Teen Peter Parker in the recently-announced all-ages Spidey series. Elsewhere we have Spider-Girls and Spider-Women and Spider-Gwens and Spider-Pigs, all represented in one way or another. The only people who are still left out are fans of the Spider-Couple and Spider-Kid.

This is your Mulligan, Marvel. Your Get Out of Jail Free Card. Your chance to make it right. Secret Wars is already delaying pretty much the entire line, so take advantage of the time to make this happen. For all the talk of “diversity” in the new Marvel Universe, here’s your chance to give us the one thing that seems to be missing from every other title: family.