Top 10 DC Animated Movies

With the animated movie on Netflix growing every single day, I thought I should drop what I believe to be the top 10 DC animated movies of all time. I will confess that I haven’t seen all of them (a travesty in and itself I know), but I have seen the vast majority of them. You’re not going to find any Superman titles on this list frankly because I think he is a horrible hero, but his character is essential for the League if that makes any sense.

So let’s start this list off at #10!

#10 – Justice League Gods and Monsters

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Coming in at #10 is none other than Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Taking place in  an alternate universe this movie is a great change of pace from the classic heroes we’ve grown to love. The League is only composed of the three core members: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne but Kirk Langstrom (Man-bat in normal continuity), a college student who took an experimental serum and became a vampire. Superman is now not opposed to lethal force and is no longer the son of Jor-El but that of general Zod. Wonder Woman is not the princess of Themyscira and Greek Olympian but wife of Orion son of Darkseid. The three of them operate as a kill squad and have a reputation for maximum casualties. When scientists around the US start dying and the Justice League is framed, it’s up to the trinity to clear their names and find the culprits. The movie was created by Bruce Timm who is famous for Batman the Animated Series which is probably why I enjoyed this movie as much as I did.

 

#9 – Batman: Bad Blood

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Taking the #9 spot is none other than the most recent addition to the Batman arc of the DCAU Batman: Bad Blood. The reason that this story didn’t come in higher on the list is because it falls into the same problem many big blockbuster superhero films have, too many plot lines and villains. The main villains of the film is a squad of fairly (in my opinion) B and C list Rogues along with Talia Al’Ghul and the Heretic. The movie also introduces us to Batwoman, Batwing and a VERY brief time of Dick as Batman. When Batman is missing and presumed dead after an explosion at a warehouse where he saved Batwoman, Dick must take up the mantle of the Bat and find out what is going on in Gotham city. With Batwoman, and Batwing getting 10 minute introductions, and the Heretic being the main villain of the film none of their origins are fully explored and if you miss a couple lines of dialogue then the story falls apart.  That being said the final act of the film is great and the choreography is astounding as with all the entries on this list; the only issue is the convoluted and excessive number of plot lines.

 

#8 – The Dark Knight Returns Part I & II

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There is no secret why these movies are on the list, Batman V. Superman. The reason they are lower on the list than some might put them is the one off nature that they have. Yes, they were made of a comic book from the late 80’s and it was a direct to film adaptation, but they came out around the same time the first Avengers movie came out and DC Comics had launched headlong into the New 52. The story is great, an aging Bruce Wayne retired after the death of Jason Todd. A ruthless gang called the Mutants has taken over Gotham City, and begins to terrorize the people. Batman comes out of retirement which causes problems for some villains Two-Face and Joker. The drawing style is very iconic of Frank Miller and the animation team kept as close to the source material as possible. The first part concentrates on Batman’s battle to take out the Mutant gang and the introduction of Carrie Kelly to the title of Robin. The second part is centered around the use of Superman by the US government to end conflicts and to remove stubborn superheroes who refuse to retire. The final confrontation between Batman and Superman is iconic and was a major influence for the Batman V. Superman film by Zack Snyder.

 

#7 – The Batman Vs. Dracula

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This movie is not that well known, at least among comic fans that I know. I was a huge fan of The Batman series that aired on teletoon for 5 seasons. The villains were excellently drawn and it brought a newer younger inexperienced Batman to the front. Rino Romano did excellent as the voice of Bruce Wayne and Kevin Michael Richardson added a new darker voice to an already more animalistic Joker, the series also featured Adam West as Mayor Grange. The movie takes place after the fifth season of the show but without any of Batman’s supporting cast i.e. Batgirl or Robin. The movie focuses on a young woman being pursued by Penguin through a Cemetary who accidentally awakens Dracula. Dracula then hypnotizes Penguin and turns Joker before making an army of vampires to try and take over Gotham. One of the scenes that stands out is when Batman and Joker fight in a blood bank after Joker has been turned. In order to get away with the EXCESSIVE amounts of blood, they had the lights knocked out in the film. This allowed for a pale blue light to illuminate the fight having the blood appear as a black liquid; although it was very obvious what the substance was. The movie used the exact same animation style and choreography from the show and kept all the subtle nods that made the show great.

#6 – Justice League Vs. Teen Titans

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One of the newer additions to the DCAU is Justice League Vs. Teen Titans. The movie itself is pretty generic but what sets it apart from the rest is that chemistry that is shown between the Titans. This movie introduces us to a new version of the team consisting of: Starfire, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Raven, and Robin (Damian). Initially Damian is placed on the team to learn to work as part of team and during his first sparring match with Blue Beetle he is horribly burned. Raven uses her magic to heal him and the team begin to bond and trust each other. The Demon Lord Trigon uses his power to take over the League and forces the Titans to combat those that they idolize while trying to find a way to stop Trigon and save the League. As with all the newer additions to the DCAU the choreography  and animation is top notch and even the limited GCI is used well. The true heart of the film comes from the carnival scene where the Titans learn to bond and become friends. The Sequel Teen Titans: The Judas Contract was good, but it wasn’t as good as this one or the rest on the list.

#5 – Justice League Crisis on Two Earth

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Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is the DC animated movie that I ever watched, the first being Batman Beyond the Return of the Joker. This movie solidified the DC multiverse and brought some of the greatest voice actors in to voice characters. Gina Torres delivers a stellar performance as Superwoman (evil Wonder Woman), but the standout role for me was James Woods as Owlman (evil Batman). The story is that on Earth-3 the roles are reversed, the heroes are the villains and the villains are the heroes. Earth-3 Lex Luthor steals a Quantum Trigger from the Crime Syndicate (Earth-3 evil Justice League) and  teleports to Earth-1 and requests to meet the Justice League. When the League discovers he is telling the truth they agree to help him and are teleported to Earth-3. the final confrontation comes between Batman and Owlman who have both travelled to Earth Prime (the center of all reality). In the ensuing fight Batman delivers one of the most chilling lines from any DC animated movie “You’re right, we both stared into the abyss… but when it stared back at us… you blinked”. Like I said before the voice acting on this film is spectacular and the story does a great job of introducing new viewers to the extended DC multiverse.

#4 – Justice League Doom

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Justice League Doom is based on the Tower of Babel story. In this story Ras Al’Ghul breaks into the Batcave and steals plans that Batman has prepared for taking down individual members of the Justice League should they become rogue. The plans are referred to as Agamemno contingencies (in case you are curious). In the film version it is Vandal Savage and a group of villains that become the Legion of Doom who steal the plans. Savage plans to direct a massive Solar Flare to the earth cooking “2/3 at most” of the planet and becoming tyrannical leader of the remaining 1/3. In order to do this he needs the Justice League incapacitated and recruits villains from a multitude of Rogues galleries to aid him in his fight. Some of the dialogue in this film is quite exemplary and several voice actors were perfectly cast (looking at Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan). The overall story and each individual members’ personal growth and acceptance of the plans makes for a very compelling movie that ends in what can only be termed as obvious. This movie definitely has replay value just like every movie on the list and the recording of some of the Agamemno Contingencies that are on Youtube is just amazing.

#3 – Batman V Robin

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I will be the first to admit that I really don’t like Damian as Robin. He is a pompous arrogant child who thinks that he is entitled the world because of who his parents are, and he needs to be taken down a peg (like they did in Batman Inc. #3). This story brings in one of the greatest Batman arcs since Knightfall and that would be the Court of Owls. This is the starting point of Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder’s run on Batman that also included Death of the Family and Endgame.  In this film Batman is pitted against the mysterious and legendary Court of Owls while he struggles to bond with his son. Damian believes that Bruce will never trust him and lashes out by frequently running off into the night on his own where he encounters Talon, the hitman for the Court of Owls. Batman must not only save his son from Talon, and his city from the clutches of the court; but he must also save his own mind from the assault of the Owls. This movie continues into the modern DCAU which is heavily influenced by the New 52 and features Jason O’Mara again in the titular role as Batman.

#2 – Flashpoint Paradox

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The Flashpoint Paradox is probably the best Justice League movie ever to have been made. The movie follows the comic of the same name which helped to restart the DC comic universe into the New 52. In this film Barry is taunted by Zoom that no matter how fast he is, he can never save the one person who mattered. Barry then uses his powers to travel back in time and save his mom from being murdered, and in doing so creates an alternate timeline. One where everything is almost the same but slightly different, for example… Bruce Wayne was shot in the alley that night and his father became Batman while his mother went insane and became the Joker. Barry must find a way to get his powers back, unite what heroes he can and stop the global extinction. While I am not a huge fan of the animation style of this film (the males look like HUGE V’s with all their muscles and thick necks) it does have an original quality to it. The dialogue amongst characters is top notch and it’s interesting to see just how if things had played out slightly different how much everything changes.  I have personally watched this movie over 10 times and I’m still entertained by it to this day.

#1 – Batman Under the Red Hood

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This movie right here, this is the best DCAU movie to ever have been made. I could spend an entire post talking just about this movie alone (and i might in a future post). It’s no secret how much I like this movie just based on the number of times I have referenced it in the past on other posts. The movie follows the Death in the Family story line and continues with it. It opens with the murder of Jason Todd and ends with a confrontation that went down in history. A mysterious figure known as the Red Hood shows up in Gotham and starts taking over the drug trade, no matter what Batman does his adversary always seems to be one step ahead of him and know his every move.  This movie features Jensen Ackles as the voice of Red Hood and Bruce Greenwood as the voice of Batman. Greenwood would later go on to continue voicing the Bat in the animated series Young Justice of which I am also a huge fan (and super excited for season 3). The choreography in this movie is astounding and it highlights one of the darkest times in Batman’s past making him appear even more human.

 

There you have it my top 10 animated DCAU movies of all time, agree or not it’s all relative ,but if you have any good comments post them below!

Anti-Heroes: More Realistic Than Classic Superheroes

Superheroes provide hope, and idea to strive towards. They’re someone you can always look up to and can trust that no matter what is facing them, they will do the right thing. While this is an admirable stance to take, even if it’s not very realistic. Finding someone who is good for the sake of being good is a one in a million chance. Most people like to think that they are good at heart but when the chips are down and their back is against the wall they will do whatever it takes to win, even if it is sometimes a very morally grey area. I’m not trying to say that I think people are evil, they’re not. People are just people and each person has a breaking point. A point where self preservation takes the driver’s seat and everything else takes a side seat. Some people can reach this point very quickly, while others take quite some time to get there.

If any of you have seen the movie American Sniper, you’re probably familiar with the little speech Chris’ father gives him after saving his brother from a bully. “There are 3 kinds of people in this world, there’s wolves, sheep, and sheep dogs. Wolves try to hurt the sheep and it’s the sheep dogs job to protect them, so are you a wolf or a sheep dog?” I’m paraphrasing the speech, but that’s what it boils down to. This little tid bit is actually taken from a book by LTC retired Dave Grossman titled “On Killing”, the books is quite extensive and dives deeper into the comparison of sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. There is also a quote from Heraclitus that goes like this…

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back”

To bring this back to my main point if Superheroes are the sheep dogs then anti-heroes are like wild dogs. They may attack the sheep on occasion but for the most part they only go after the wolves. There are quite a few heroes that fall into both categories (Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Arsenal), there are also quite a few that stay far past the line (Punisher, Grifter, Deadpool, Red Hood). While superheroes tend to have tragic backstories, anti-heroes tend to have a backstory so caked in violence and blood that it’s amazing they didn’t turn into a villain themselves. Three of my favourite anti-heroes are Deadpool, Red Hood, and Punisher, because of everything that happened to them they still somehow come through in the end (even if just barely).

One of the defining traits that all anti-heroes seem to possess is the innate knowledge that no matter how hard you try, you can’t save everyone every time. This also goes hand in hand with the belief that sometimes in order to save someone you need to use lethal force. One of my favourite lines comes from MarvelNow! Punisher: War Zone, wherein Frank Castle (Punisher) has pissed off the Avengers for the last time. Before the final showdown with the Avengers, Wolverine is approached by Captain America. Cap basically tells Wolverine that because of his close relationship with Frank that he will have to sit this one out. They banter back and forth and the final line comes from Wolverine when he says ” The difference between guys like us and guys like you Cap… is that we understand sometimes… people have to die”. This one line perfectly illustrates what makes anti-heroes so much more relatable than clean cut superheroes, they understand that some people are just bad and they will continue to be bad until they are stopped.

Batman once said “If you kill a killer , the number of killers in this world remains the same”.  While this philosophy might work for Batman and potentially other heroes like him (Superman, Flash, Captain America, Spider-Man, etc) one has to ask how many people died because they refused to do what was necessary. There is a quote from Wonder Woman on her New 52 run that goes like this ” There’s a reason why I don’t have a list of enemies as long as yours, or Bruce’s or even Barry’s, because when i deal with them.. I DEAL with them”. Wonder Woman is one of the few clean cut superheroes who takes lives, but she also doesn’t do it willy nilly. She heavily weighs the cost of her actions against whether or not it’s for the greater good. If the greater good wins she acts, there have been a few exceptions (Maxwell Lord pre Infinite Crisis) for example, where her emotions got the better of her, but they are few and far between.

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One of the questions I get asked quite a bit when explaining comics to people is “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?”. Without going into a HUGE debate on the psychology of the two of them there really is no right answer. Batman doesn’t kill the Joker because then Joker wins, but Joker won’t stop until Batman kills him, it’s a catch 22. The animated film Under the Red Hood actually introduced a lot of people to the Red Hood for the first time. Jason Todd (Robin #2) was beat with a crowbar to near death and then blown up by the Joker. Feeling guilty for having brought Joker into it Ra’as Al Ghul revived Jason using a Lazarus Pit. Jason came back but was pretty insane and fled for several years. He begins taking over the Gotham underworld until the final confrontation with Batman and the Joker. The final confrontation has a particular line that hits the issue to the core ” Why is he still alive? Ignoring the friends he’s crippled the graveyards he’s filled…”; Jason delivers that line while pointing at the Joker. Batman tells him that if he kills the Joker he will never stop killing. This is what draws me to Batman as much as other characters like Punisher and Ghost Rider, he is a Superhero, but he is barely past the line between anti-hero and superhero and on several occasions he has crossed that line.

The 2008 film Punisher: War Zone showed us just how gritty and brutal a Punisher film could be if done right. I stand by Thomas Jane and the 2004 film with John Travolta, but Ray Stevenson just looked the part. It also brought a great line from a police detective who tried to “stop” the Punisher. When talking with Detective Soap, he basically says that the reason the Punisher hasn’t been caught is because the police don’t want him to be caught. He gets to do to those guys (mob families and criminals) what cops only dream of getting to do. While this train of thought might extend to superheroes as well normally the police forces of the comic worlds are stuck behind red tape and can’t act on someone they know is guilty. anti-heroes don’t care. They will find out if you’re guilty and they will make you pay.

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I realize it seems like I’m saying anti-heroes don’t have a conscience, but that is very wrong. while some like Punisher and Red Hood have become so jaded they no longer care, some like Deadpool use humour to cover up their true feelings, and sometimes they don’t cover them at all. In Deadpool’s brief stint on the X-Force he quickly came to butt heads with Wolverine. They were tasked with killing the reincarnated Apocalypse, the only problem was that he was reincarnated into a kid named Evan who was still in primary school. Wade immediately objected and voiced his objections, Wolverine and the rest of X-Force knew what a full grown Apocalypse could do and were resigned to killing Evan. Wolverine and Deadpool had some words and Wolverine called Deadpool “…a soulless, spineless, money grubbing mercenary”; as Wade turned to walk away he responded with ” Ya. But I never killed a kid”. This altercation caused Fantomex to regret his decision and clone Evan (it’s get weird just go with it) and teach Evan right from wrong enough to get Evan enlisted in Xavier’s school for Gifted Youngsters.

Superheroes come in all shapes, sizes and abilities; they can be star spangled awesome like Captain America, the big blue boy scout like Superman, or a tortured human like Batman. No matter who they are, superheroes give us something to strive toward. They provide us with a direction to orient ourselves towards, a light to find our way in the darkness. But sometimes the darkness is fought with darkness, while superheroes are the light, anti-heroes are the shade. The grey area between the darkness and the light, not fully dark themselves but not fully light either. They’re willing to plunge their hands in the filth so that others can keep their clean. While most of us strive to be an incorruptible and perfect hero we know that sometimes we’re not perfect. We can’t all be sheep dogs after all, but we’ll be damned if we’re going to become wolves.

Why An On Screen Joker Will Never Be Perfect

Unless you are completely devoid of any sort of film and pop culture media attention, pretty much everyone is familiar with Batman and his nemesis, The Joker. To date there have been 3 live action film portrayals (if you count the Batman movie from the Adam West TV series then add another for Caesar Romero) of the Joker to date. While mainly only the older generation are familiar with Jack Nicholson’s gangster approach from the 80’s Tim Burton classic, pretty much everyone the world over is familiar with Heath Ledger and Jared Leto’s performances.  While many criticize Jared Leto’s take on the character for looking more like a joker thug than the clown prince of crime himself; I think we didn’t get enough screen time for him in Suicide Squad to accurately form an opinion. Heath Ledger stands as the defining live action portrayal of the character for mostly every Batman movie fan, and while his time as Mr. J was iconic and can never be replaced; his anarchist approach to the character lacked the luster that makes the Joker who he is.

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Mark Hamill will forever be the Joker in my view. I grew up with Batman the animated series and the 90’s X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons as staples in my daily and weekend routine. Every time I see Mark Hamill credited on a title card of a Batman movie i get a little giddy, same can be said with Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, nobody can beat him.

Despite his many incarnations, there is just one problem with the Joker as a villain in a live action movie, you can’t capture who he is and plenty have tried. I applaud every actor who has taken a stab at bringing the Joker to the big screen, but they all seem to fall short in some regard.

Caesar Romero who brought him to life in the Adam West 60’s TV show took the practical Joker aspect and ran with it. Jack Nicholson from the 80’s classic took the gangster approach and nailed it. Heath Ledger took the Anarchist/mind game aspect and got the closest of anyone. Jared Leto tried to amalgamate all these characteristics into this performance and wound up with the unbalanced psychopath we received very briefly in Suicide Squad. Despite seeing Suicide Squad several times in the theatre, I will be first to admit it was a terrible movie… The story was garbage, the villain was ridiculous, and for being one the top billed actors in the movie, Jared Leto clocked in roughly 15 minutes for the 2.5 hour movie. I digress… that’s a topic for another time.

Comic Examples

To fully grasp who the Joker is as a character I’m going to run through a list of some of the worst things he’s done.

*Warning… some spoilers ahead for the New 52 comic run of Batman

Killing Joke

To start with a classic, let’s look at the Killing Joke by Alan Moore. This is the only story to have given us a possible origin for the Joker. It was originally meant to be a one off story, but due to it’s popular success it was included in the Batman canon. Most recently it received inclusion into the DCAU ( DC Animated Universe) with Hamill and Conroy reprising their respective roles. While it was a very faithful adaptation they included an unnecessary Batgirl plot at the beginning that culminated with her and Batman having sex on a rooftop and then Batman ghosting her (like he does with everyone). The story goes like this… Joker decides to prove that all it takes is one bad day, just one, to reduce the sanest man on the planet to someone like him. He targets Commissioner Gordon as his victim and during the commissioner’s weekly visit to his daughters house, shows up and shoots her through the spine paralyzing her. his thugs beat and abduct the commissioner while Joker strips and photographs Barbara as she bleeds out on the ground. It is implied that some sort of assault takes place but recently when asked about it Alan Moore said that ” No. That was never our intention to imply that type of thing”.  Joker then uses these photos to torture the commissioner after stripping him naked and parading him around a demented circus. Batman shows up to save the day and the story ends with one of the most ambiguous panels ever.

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Moving on to 1999 in the No Man’s Land story arc joker once again targeted Jim Gordon for his madness. Following a massive earthquake in which a lot of Gotham city is destroyed, several of Batman’s Rogues make a play for control over the crumbling city, one of which is Joker. He starts by executing a police lieutenant on Christmas Day and then he proceeded to kidnap all of the babies in Gotham (no idea how he achieved this… just roll with it).  At the time Jim Gordon’s second wife Sarah Essen was trying to track down where the babies had been taken and stumbled onto the broken down police station that Joker was using as a hideout. Detective Essen confronted Joker who was holding a newborn in his arms. joker demanded that Essen lower her gun on he would drop the baby, Essen did as was asked and the Joker dropped the baby anyways. Essen lunged and caught the baby before it hit the ground and Joker drew his gun. He placed it against her head and said “Merry Christmas” then shot her in the head leaving all of the babies alone with her blood pooling around them.

Death In the Family

A Death in the Family is one of the defining stories in the Batman mythos. Not only does it highlight the cruelty of the Joker but it also brings Batman’s biggest failure to the forefront. During the story Joker learns who the birth mother of the second Robin (Jason Todd) was and bribes her into assisting him, to get the Boy Wonder alone. Jason’s mother helps the Joker and eventually Robin ends up in the clutches of the Joker. With Batman too far away to do anything about it (Robin had run off by himself to find his mother) Joker began to severely beat Jason with a crowbar. He leaves a bloodied and beaten Jason in a warehouse with his mother tied up and blows the warehouse up as Batman arrives to save him. In a final act of heroism Jason had attempted to shield his mother from the blast with his body, his mother remained alive long enough to tell Batman Joker’s plan for a nuke he had acquired.  Both Jason Todd and his mother died because of the Joker and his insatiable appetite for violence.  Jason has since been revived as The Red Hood an anti-hero with a precondition for violence and killing.

Moving into the New 52 run of Detective Comics we are shown just how far Joker is willing to go to mess with people. At the end of vol. 1 Faces of Death we are shown Joker undergoing a procedure where he has the Dollmaker remove the skin from his face, which he leaves hanging on a hook for the GCPD and Batman to find then disappears for a year.

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He returns in the second crossover event for all the Batman related titles called Death of the Family. In this arc, Joker tries to prove that Batman’s allies (the “Bat Family”) are what make him weak and that without them they could get back to the “Good old days with just the two of them”. Joker then kidnaps all of the members of the Bat family and stages a mock dinner party in the caves under Gotham City where he convinces them all he is going to feed them their faces which he had cut off.  It is also worth noting that at this point Joker had broken into GCPD lockup and stolen his face back and was wearing it.

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Up And Coming Joker

These are just a few of some of the most despicable acts Joker has done through his main comic continuity. This doesn’t include some of the things he has pulled in the various Batman video games and some TV shows. Cameron Monaghan gave a great performance as a young Joker in Gotham, and he has vocalized his desire to play Carnage in the upcoming Venom movie from Sony. Carnage was based heavily on Joker and the two roles tend to be synonymous with each other.

© Benjo Arwas Photography 2014 // @BENJOARWAS // http://www.benjoarwas.com
© Benjo Arwas Photography 2014 // @BENJOARWAS // http://www.benjoarwas.com

Stigma Around The Role

There was a belief for many years that the fact of Heath Ledger’s suicide was due to how intensely he got into the Joker as a role. Many claimed that you can’t play someone as insane as the Joker without ending up insane yourself. Heath Ledger lived in a hotel room by himself for one month in preparation for the role and kept a Joker journal with some truly disturbing things. He also came up with the joker make up himself from make up he bought at the drug store. Christopher Nolan also allowed Heath Ledger to direct the joker hostage videos that were used in the final cut of The Dark Knight. Jared Leto who is famous for his method acting tried to embrace the insanity as the Joker and from what we saw in Suicide Squad he was a little lacking.

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The Real Reason

The real reason that we will never see a “true” Joker on the screen is that because of what they can get away with. In comics you can get away with a lot more than you can on screen. In a comic you could show Joker slaughtering dozens of people and it wouldn’t garner a mature rating. But in a film and to do it justice, it would require a minimum of a 14A rating, preferably an R rating to do it right. This would limit the exposure and potential earnings by reducing the viewing demographic. While Deadpool and Logan proved an R rated superhero movie can absolutely make money, smaller budget movies are able to make the big bucks easier due to the revenue/expense ratio. Batman would be a tent pole blockbuster for the DCEU and as such would need a massive budget. To rake in the kind of money they would want they wouldn’t be able to give it an R rating. With Matt Reeves set to helm a new Batman trilogy for the DCEU things are looking up. He has already stated it will be a noire influenced detective film, which I think is the perfect setting for Batman. With Deathstroke set up as the main villain, my only concern is when we will see a true Joker adaptation on the screen.

Wonder Woman: The Real Reason She Got Her Own Movie

Following my review of the DCEU installment of Wonder Woman, I have seen many memes and forum discussions around the impact of the Wonder Woman movie and it’s true purpose. I will state this outright, it was not meant to be a figurehead for feminism or a statement about female led superhero movies; I’m not saying it didn’t become those things, but that was not its true purpose. You may agree with me and you may not, but hear me out first.

Alright, now let’s start off by saying that I loved Wonder Woman. I think it was a great addition to the DCEU and it should have been the movie that they used to kick off their universe. Obviously as a comic fan there were some nit picky things that I wasn’t a fan of, and Dr. Poison was a sore spot for me personally. Putting those things aside, Wonder Woman showed everyone how great a superhero movie could be done, not just a female led superhero movie, but all superhero movies. Also, I do need to clarify something, in my review of Wonder Woman I said it was the first female led superhero movie and I have come to learn that was a false statement to make. While Elektra and Catwoman are technically anti-heroes/villains their ventures onto the big screen came well before Wonder Woman, and the Supergirl movie from the 80’s trumped all of them by a couple decades. Most will look past these movies because of how poorly they were received by both critics and fans alike, but their contributions to female led comic book movies cannot go unnoticed. Now that I have cleared that up, time to move on to the reason behind the modern adaptation of Merciful Minerva.

Money. It all comes down to money. Looking at the top 20 titles from August 2016, you will see what I mean.

Comic book sales

There is no doubt that DC’s Rebirth has won them the market in comic sales, but looking at the listed DC titles you can see of their announced 20 movies, you will see 9 of them on the top sales chart (some can be argued for tie ins making the number jump to 14). Now of those top 9 sellers by DC you will notice 3 exclusive female titles: Wonder Woman, Bat Girl and the Birds of Prey and a Batgirl solo series. Coincidentally DC comics just announced (within the last 6 months) a Birds of Prey movie (ft. Harley Quinn) and a Batgirl movie (to be helmed by Joss Whedon). The reason these movies got the green light was (partly) due to the success of Wonder Woman, but it was mostly to capitalize on their comic sales. DC realized that they could capitalize on popularity of sales by adapting movies of their top sellers. Marvel did the same thing with a few notable exceptions (GotG being the prime example), but Marvel’s problem is that apart from being core members of the Avengers (or assorted other teams) they don’t have many singular female heroes. Their most notable female hero is Captain Marvel who is getting her own solo movie starring Brie Larson. Fans have been lobbying for a Black Widow solo film since her first introduction in Iron Man 2, which recently had been confirmed to be in the works. The sad thing is that most studios don’t care about equality, they care about what will make them a butt load of money and right now… that would be comic book movies. Even if you put the revenue aspect of her film aside the main reason Wonder Woman got her own solo outing was due to her impact, not her impact as the first successful female led superhero movie, but her impact on their overall narrative.

DC comics has been building their expanded universe ever since the release of Man of Steel back in 2013. Since then, there have been 3 additions to their universe: Batman V. Superman, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. Of the 4 movies released in their extended universe, 3 of them contained the Trinity. Superman got his solo movie, (I call Batman V. Superman a Batman film with a glorified Superman cameo), and finally a Wonder Woman film. These three represent the founding pillars of DC comics. They are the core of the Justice League and main DC continuity as a whole. For all their idiotic ideas (again… Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor?!) the execs at DC knew they could not release a Justice League movie without giving the Trinity their own solo films first. That right there, is the main reason Wonder Woman was finally given her own movie, because of the impact she has on the Justice League and the overall narrative that DC is trying to tell with their expanded universe.

Now again I will say, I loved the movie, but most people need to understand why it was made instead of parroting back what they see on the internet. Is she a strong female character? The strongest. Is she a symbol for the empowerment of women? She is brighter than the damn sun in that regard. Did she show that female led comic book movies should be given a chance? You’re damn right she did. But before jumping on the social justice bandwagon and defending a movie that you might not have seen yet solely because it is the first successful female led comic book movie is fairly off-putting.

Finally I will end on this, I think that more female led comic book movies should be made; however, using the success of one movie (with arguably THE most popular female comic book character in the world) to justify making more female led movies just because you want female led movies is irritating. Instead of grilling studios and their choices for movies speak the language that they do, money. Buy more solo female led comic books, buy more female comic paraphernalia,  buy more clothing featuring female superheroes. When you buy merchandise you show the studios that people care for the characters and they will be more likely to give a big budget movie a chance. If we all contribute to increasing female comic book profits, then maybe, just maybe we’ll start to see more equality in comic book movies.

Greatest Strength of Superheroes

I know what you’re thinking, the title of this post is going to incite disagreement and discord among many, and you might be right. The thing is though, that for all of their powers: flight, super strength, super speed, enhanced senses, impossibly large amounts of money, perfect accuracy, etc; a superheroes greatest strength is their compassion and their ability to inspire. Whether they’re Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Thor, Hulk, Green Arrow, Green Lantern or even Deadpool, at the end of the day it is their humanity and compassion that will win them the fight. There have been many times throughout comics and other media where the compassion and ability to inspire prevailed through all odds: Avengers Assemble Season 2, Infinity, Batman the Animated Series, and Infinity War are just a few of the examples of this type of victory.

Avengers Assemble from DisneyXD is the unofficial sequel series to Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and their second season includes one of the finest examples of victory through inspiration I have ever seen. The second season starts off with the introduction of the Infinity Stones. Red Skull is fleeing Thanos and crashes to Earth with the Power Stone, causing the Avengers to confront him and the drones pursuing him. Tony had constructed an AI named Arsenal that was the last creation of his father before his passing. This AI allowed them to defeat Thanos in their initial encounter and contain the Power Stone. Throughout the season they are vexed by the Squadron Supreme and eventually Thanos and the Black Order. The culmination of the season ends with the Avengers on Earth fighting Thanos and the Black Order. Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet, and he is swatting the Avengers left right and center. With the Avengers laid around him beaten Thanos declares himself as victor over Earth.  As he shouts that he is the victor, a brick is thrown by a resident of New York and strikes Thanos on his face. The man shouts ” You’ll never win because we will never stop fighting! We will never submit to you!”, soon a veritable mob begins throwing debris and trash at Thanos and the Black Order in protest while others are assisting the Avengers to their feet. This allowed Black Widow the time she needed to enact their plan and blast Thanos with a death ray from space ( seriously watch the episode, it explains it way better… Season 2 Episode 26 Avengers World). It was during this moment when the people of New York rallied behind them, that they realized they were more than just a team of superheroes, they were an ideal, a banner to rally behind… they could inspire people and that made them unstoppable. This is the starting point behind the Hickman run with Avengers in the Marvel Now! printing, Iron Man and Captain America agreeing that the world should become an Avengers World. They take this concept and run with it in the Infinity event. This is the event in which the Avengers go cosmic and become a fighting force for countless worlds across the universe inspiring the natives of each planet to become Avengers in their own right. This is just one example of the ability heroes have to inspire people. When the chosen heroes of their world had been beaten, the people united and rallied behind them in face of overwhelming odds.  This is the best characteristic a team of heroes could have, you can take the best fighter or team of fighters and they will win the fight, but you take one person who can inspire and they can do more damage than one fighter ever could. This is what sets the Avengers apart from other teams of superheroes, they can fight and they can throw down, but at the end of the day, when the chips are all down if they can inspire others to fight for themselves then their job is done. Avengers World

 

The Avengers may be able to inspire but there’s one hero who’s compassion and humanity are what make him the force he is, and that is Batman.  Now some people may think that as the Dark Knight there is no way that Batman has compassion or the ability to inspire, but you would be dead wrong. Batman’s inspiration is felt in every comic when he encounters some young vigilante that he take sunder his wing and trains into a badass fighter. But the one thing that Batman can trump anyone is his compassion, especially for children.  One of the best examples of Batman’s compassion comes from Batman the Animated Series (technically it’s Batman Beyond, but it is drawn in the style of the animated series). In this flashback, told by Amanda Waller, Batman and several members of the Justice League are called to stop Ace and her Royal Flush Gang. In this instance Ace was a young girl with powerful psychic abilities ( think Omega level mutant) and she was able to warp reality. Argus had abducted Ace many years before and had performed experiments on her to turn her into a weapon. This accelerated the degeneration of her brain to the point where she would suffer from a lethal stroke. After the Royal Flush Gang was beaten Waller provided Batman with a device that she said would end the problem once and for all. Batman took the device and ran off to find Ace. Through the twisted and terrifying world she had created, Ace was found in a quiet little garden on a swing set. Batman sat beside her and she could tell he was there to stop her. She remarked that Batman wouldn’t use Waller’s device on her and he agreed, sitting down on the swing beside her. She recounted experiments conducted on her and then said “… they got their weapon, I got cheated out of my childhood”.

the rest of the exchange goes like this:

B- I know what that’s like..

A – You do, don’t you? I’m going to die aren’t I?

B- Yes.

A- Soon.

B- Yes.

A- I’m scared… I don’t want to die. Will you hold my hand?

Batman + Ace

Batman extended his hand and held Ace’s while she waited for the aneurysm that would kill her. The world reverted back to normal and the Justice League members along with Waller and the Argus agents looked over to find Batman walking towards them, cradling Ace’s lifeless body in his arms. This one moment shows that through all the turmoil and Anger that Batman has covered himself with since that fateful night in Crime Alley, he is still a child who understands what it’s like to have your entire world taken away. This compassion is what sets him apart from the other members of the league. Batman, for all his bluster and his gadgets and training, is still just a man, he is not super. He has no powers. But he still continues to fight every night so that no other child will have to endure the things he did at such a young age. This compassion and humanity make him one of the best heroes there ever was.

Infinity War is the comic event that inspired the upcoming Avengers movies. In this run Thanos gets a hold of the Infinity Gauntlet with all the Infinity Stones. When he first gets the stones, Thanos uses them coupled with the gauntlet to promptly wipe out half of the life in the universe. The remaining Heroes and aliens band together in an attempt to stop Thanos. It’s an epic clash between the heroes of Earth and Thanos which ends with the heroes getting clobbered. Literally. In like 30 seconds flat, Thanos mops the floor with all the heroes of Earth and claims himself as victor. Captain America takes a look at his team mates and allies laid about him and he marches over to stand in front of Thanos, he looks him in the eye and says “As long as one man stands against you, you can never claim victory”. This line personifies everything that the Avengers stand for. Cap’s stand against Thanos in the face of overwhelming defeat rallied the rest of the heroes and eventually Adam Warlock swooped in to save the day. This instance goes hand in hand with Tony Stark’s speech from the first Avengers movie when he addresses Loki before the Chitauri invade.

Captain America is the figurehead of the team and he stands for truth, justice and fighting the good fight (let’s just pretend Secret Empire never happened).  This panel stands as one of the crowning moments that make Captain America one of the greatest heroes ever made. He will always find a way to win and he has a magnetism that will draw others to him. He can inspire people who thought they were nothing, who have no idea of the person they could become as long as they believe in themselves and never compromise who they are.

cap-vs-thanos

Heroes can show us compassion, strength and humility but above all, heroes can inspire. Whether they’re fictional like Batman, Captain America or Superman or flesh and blood people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi heroes have a way of inspiring others to be better people. Compassion and inspiration, qualities many admire and qualities few people possess, it’s hard to find someone who personifies what it means to be a hero, but when they are found, they make their impact on history whether its fictional or not.

A Death in the Family – The Impact

Sadness, loss & failure. My partner. My Soldier. My Fault. Any Batman fan is familiar with the story of A Death in the Family, it represents one of the Dark Knight’s greatest failures, when the Joker won. This story marks one of the most important parts in Batman’s history, the moment he realized he was wrong. For those unfamiliar with the story here’s a brief summary:

A Death in the Family starts with Batman and Robin (Jason Todd) staking out some bad guys. When Robin jumps our from behind cover prematurely and begins attacking the criminals. Jason says “Life is a game” when Bruce asks him if he thinks this (Batman & Robin) is a game. Bruce then removes Jason of all Robin duties before Jason storms off. While walking through his old neighbourhood Jason receives a box from an old neighbour containing, among other things, his birth certificate. The name for his mother is not the woman he grew up calling mom, and resolves to find his birth mother. Also in the box is his father’s old address book containing 3 women with the first name beginning in “S”. He uses the Batcomputer to trace their current whereabouts and runs away to find them. Joker had broken out of Arkham and stolen a nuclear weapon which he intended to sell to terrorists. Batman tracks him to Lebanon where he and Jason are reunited. They stop the terrorists and Jason tracks down a Mossad agent and Lady Shiva who both deny being his mother. The third woman is tracked to Ethiopia and turns out to be Jason’s mother. Joker was blackmailing her for her involvement in illegal experimentation and the death of a young girl in Gotham. As part of the deal she hands Jason over to the Joker. Joker proceeds to beat Jason bloody with a crowbar and then ties up him and his mother in a warehouse with a bomb. Jason throws himself on the bomb to shield his mother from the blast but they both end up dying from their injuries with Batman arriving too late to save them.  Joker ends up as a member of the Iranian government before Batman (with some help from Superman) stops him.

This story arc stands as the most defining moment from the Batman mythos pre Hush. Up until that point Batman was used to winning everything. One could argue that his origin was his most important story but that would be false. His origin is a crucial element to his persona and character but he couldn’t have stopped it. He was an 8 year old boy and was powerless against Joe Chill.

My partner

A Death in the Family is the moment where writer’s took Batman and began to make him more human and more prone to screw ups. The whole incident stems from the belief that Batman had concerning Jason, that he could take this young boy so full of rage and potential and turn him into a force for good. He trained him and tested him every chance he could, Jason continued to pass every single test with flying colours. As he grew older and into the teenage years, his violence and cruelty began to take shape. He became increasingly brutal with the criminals he was taking down and injuring them more severely than was necessary, this is also when he developed his affinity with firearms. The interesting fact behind this whole story was that  it was the fans who voted to kill Jason off. DC comics opened a voting poll by telephone where fans could call in and cast their vote on whether or not the Joker would kill Jason. The readers spoke and Jason was killed. Obviously because of comics Jason wouldn’t stay dead, but he did for many years until the Under the Red Hood story arc. In this story Ra’s Al Ghul had stolen Jason’s body and used a Lazarus pit to resurrect him. The pit drove Jason mad and he fled from the League’s clutches before disappearing for many years. He resurfaced in Gotham as the Red Hood and began a war that would set the stage for his final confrontation with the Batman. The DC animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood explores this story arc extensively (and is one of the best DC animated films ever made in my opinion).

Jason’s death shook Bruce to his core. It caused Bruce to call into question his insistence on allowing the Joker to live. This event also caused Bruce to swear off taking on more sidekicks. I know he has had several Robins since, but it was a long time before he reluctantly allowed Tim Drake to be his partner. This story also further fueled Batman’s obsession with the Joker and stopping him. In the Hush story arc when it is believed that Joker killed Tommy Elliot, Batman flies into a deep rage and begins to beat the Joker mercilessly citing all the horrible acts the Joker committed: Killing Jason, crippling Barbara, the thousands of innocents he has killed, almost killing Jim Gordon, and finally killing Tommy Elliot as his reason for doing it. In the end, it was Jim Gordon himself who stopped Batman from killing the Joker stating that he knew Batman was better than this and if he did kill him, there would be no turning back.

Jason’s uniform is forever immortalized in the Batcave, it’s suspended in a glass display case with an epitaph that reads “A Good Soldier”. In the Young Justice cartoon there is a monument to Jason in the cave under their headquarters for all of their fallen friends/teammates.

Perhaps one of the most heart wrenching aspects of this whole story comes again from the Under the Red Hood movie. In the final confrontation with Batman, Jason had abducted the Joker and stored him in an apartment. During the exchange between Jason and Bruce (where Jason reveals he had the Joker stored in  a closet), Jason says the one line that could give Bruce peace ” Bruce… I forgive you for not saving me”. This line hits Bruce hard as it was the one thing he could never do, forgive himself for what he had inadvertently put Jason through by making him Robin. Jason then goes on to tell Bruce that while he forgives him he doesn’t understand how Bruce could let the Joker live. knowing the things he has done. It’s a very heart wrenching scene and is one of the best parts of the movie (again, I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already).

Post Final Crisis and Batman’s “death” there is a scene in which Batman’s will is read out to his proteges. Each one is sent into a soundproof room in the Batcave where their portion of the will is read to them by Bruce via a hologram recording. When Jason goes into the reading he expects Bruce to tell him he was not given anything or given a motorcycle. Instead, Bruce tells Jason that he was his one and greatest failure and that nothing he could ever do would make up for it. He leaves Jason a large sum of money and instructs him to get the help he desperately needs, the help that Bruce could never provide.

Bruce and Jason’s relationship has always been a strained one, from the start the signs were there that this new Robin was going to meet a bad end. As far as failures go this is one of the biggest ones that Batman has ever experienced. Regardless of how it plays out in the comics, losing a family member whether adopted or not, will always affect you, even if you’re Batman.

Is the Punisher Right?

By now, everyone has had a chance to watch Season 2 of Daredevil on Netflix. If not, I strongly urge that you do, because it is awesome! Also, this article will contain spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet, so, you have been warned!

The season kicks off with a bang (literally), when an Irish mob gathering is ambushed by an unknown assailant, who proceeds to massacre the entire squad with the exception of one lowly member named Grotto. Now it isn’t revealed until the second episode, but the unknown assailant is none other than Frank Castle aka the Punisher. The Punisher is a famous anti-hero from Marvel comics who uses his extensive military training to wage a one man war on organized crime. To date he has received several live action adaptations, being portrayed by the likes of: Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane, Ray Stevenson and now John Bernthal. He is a very complex character with a staunch moral code that some might consider fairly askew. Moral code and ethics aside, one has to wonder if he actually has a good point.

In episode 3, the Punisher has captured Daredevil and chained him to a chimney on a rooftop overlooking the Dogs of Hell club house. While he prepares to draw the club members into an ambush and slaughter them all, he has a moral debate with the staunchly catholic Daredevil. The debate begins with Daredevil asking Frank why he is doing what he’s doing (killing gangs) and Frank calmly replies  with ” Because someone has to” while preparing for his ambush. Back and forth they continue to debate on how frank is able to sleep at night knowing what he has done.  Frank asks Daredevil what he thinks the difference is between them, Daredevil staunchly replies with “I don’t kill people”. The debate continues back and forth for a few minutes as tempers become elevated. The hard hitting line comes from Frank when he tells Daredevil that he (Daredevil) will never win. ” You wanna know what I think? I think you’re a half measure… You hit them and they get back up, I hit them and they stay down! … You know you’re one bad day away from being me.”

This final line actually draws a very interesting parallel with the Joker mythos in Batman: The Killing Joke. In that story, Joker tries to prove that anyone can become as crazy as he is with just one bad day. He targets Commissioner Gordon in an attempt to bring (arguably) Batman’s strongest ally down into Insanity. He kidnaps him after shooting his daughter through the spine paralyzing her, strips her naked and photographs her while she bleeds on the ground, then uses these images to torture the commissioner over and over again in an effort to make him crack.  One could argue that every superhero story begins with one bad day, and that the worth of the person dictates how they go about the rest of their life after that day. Bruce Wayne became Batman, Peter Parker became Spider-Man and Tony Stark became Iron Man; these heroes took what happened to them and used it as a driving force to make a change.

The question you have to ask yourself is, Do you think the Punisher is right?

Does his stance represent the only true way to deal with crime?

The character of Frank Castle experienced a trauma so horrific it changed him from inside out. He was picnicking with his family in central park when they stumbled onto a mob hit (in Season 2 of Daredevil they change it to a STING operation gone bad), which resulted in his 2 kids and wife being brutally murdered in front of his eyes. He survived the ordeal, and used his extensive career in the military to wage a one man war on crime.  His brutal methods have often put him at odds with the Avengers and other classic heroes because they view his methods as extreme and criminal. There are certain heroes who understand that Punisher does what needs to be done. An example of this would be in the Marvel Now! story line of Punisher: Warzone.

Image result for MArvel Now! Punisher War Zone

In this run, Spider-Man convinces the Avengers that they need to deal with Punisher after Frank accosted and incapacitated Spider-Man to steal one of his web shooters, in order to use it in a hit he had planned . Knowing the relationship with Frank and tendencies fellow Avenger Wolverine has, Captain America visits him personally to tell him to sit this one out. When he confronts Logan about it Logan tells him “… the difference between you and me Captain… is that I understand sometimes… people have to die”. The run is amazing, and is frankly one of the better Punisher stories that I’ve ever read, I would highly recommend you read it.

Another Example of this would be from the DCAU movie Batman: Under the Red Hood. This is the story of how Joker murdered the second Robin, Jason Todd; and Jason’s subsequent resurrection and donning of his new persona the Red Hood. This movie concludes with a heart wrenching confrontation between Bruce and Jason (who had abducted the Joker) during which Jason says “Bruce, I forgive you for not saving me. But why on God’s good earth.. is he still alive?! Blatantly ignoring the graveyards he’s filled, the friends he’s crippled, if he had taken you I would’ve hunted him down and sent him off to hell! I would’ve thought… I would’ve thought I would be the last person you would let him hurt…”. Bruce admits to wanting to kill Joker, but he says ” If I do that, if I go down into that dark place… I’ll never come out”. This line is what firmly defines what the difference between superhero and anti-hero is.

Anti-heroes like: Red Hood, Punisher, Grifter, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Deadpool and even Green Arrow (on some occasions*), toe the line between hero and villain every chance they get. While their methods often revolve around maiming/killing, they only do it to criminals and those few people who deserve it.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of what they look like they are heroes because they work for the greater good. Because you don’t agree with how someone carries about their heroing, doesn’t make them wrong. It could be argued that anti-heroes see a larger impact on criminality than clean cut superheroes do. With that in mind..which side do you fall on, is the Punisher right?

*See Arrow Season 1 and Justice League: Cry for Justice