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!

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Best Spider-Man film to date

*This article will contain some Easter Egg spoilers. You have been warned!!! *

If you’re like me, an avid Spider-Man fan, then you’ve probably been to see the latest installment to the MCU which is Spider-Man: Homecoming. I will flat out say that while the original 2000’s Sam Raimi films hold a very special place in my heart, this film is the best Spider-Man movie ever made.  They took Spider-Man back to his roots without forcing another origin story down our throats. Gone are the days of Peter Parker being a struggling photographer for the Daily Bugle. Back are the days of awkward teenage flirtation and social awkwardness we all experienced in high school. Tom Holland was amazing in his role as Peter Parker, he brought all the charisma and hilarity of his Civil War role into his full length role.

In addition to Tom Holland killing it at Peter Parker we were also given Michael Keaton in the role of Adrian Toomes aka. The Vulture. The story does a great job of maintaining the seriousness of a superhero flick without getting too over dramatic. In addition to the vulture there are several great nods and cameos of some other members of Spidey’s rogues gallery: The Tinkerer, Shocker and Prowler. One of my personal favourites was the inclusion of Mac Gargan into the MCU. Mac Gargan is the real name of the villain Scorpion who is one of Spider-Man’s most prominent foes. He hasn’t gotten his exo-suit yet and right now he just has a small role, but it’s obvious that this movie is meant to set up a larger Spider-Man universe.

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One of the best Easter Eggs from the movie comes from Donald Glover’s character, Aaron Davis. Fans of the Ultimate universe of Marvel comics will note who this character is and his significance to the story. Aaron Davis is the Prowler, a thief who likes to steal tech from major companies. In the ultimate universe he has a nephew, Miles Morales. Miles is bitten by the same spider that bit Peter all those years ago (Oscorp kept the spider for unclear reasons). While Miles gets roughly the same Power set as Peter he is also given the ability to camouflage himself and his clothing into his environment, his spider sense is weaker and only warns him of immediate danger as well as a “Venom Sting” in which he can paralyze anyone with just a touch. In the film Aaron actually goes as far as to say that he has a nephew in this neighbourhood which is why he will help.  This one scene gave so many people what they wanted which was the inclusion of Miles in the MCU, though now we will not be able to see fan favourite Donald Glover portray the character as he is far too old and he was cast as his uncle.

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One of my favourite Easter Eggs in the film comes when Peter is trying to track down some bad guys and disables the “training wheels protocol” Tony installed in his suit. When preparing to apprehend some bad guys the suit asks Peter if he would like to ” Instant lethal”. When the suit asks this the eyes turn red and narrow, and the placement of the shadows make the blue of his suit look red. This Easter Egg will be familiar for fans of the 90’s Clone Saga comic run. Kaine Parker, one of the clones made by the Jackal took on the moniker of Scarlet Spider, after the original Ben Reilly Scarlet Spider died. Kaine suffered from murderous tendencies and due to him being an imperfect clone he was supposed to die, but he didn’t. He healed and left New York moving down to Texas where he became the vigilante of Scarlet Spider with a precondition to lethal force.  Of all the Parker Clones that came out of that convoluted mess of a story arc, Kaine undergoes the biggest character development and is in my opinion the best one.

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Without giving any of the plot away I will say this, Michael Keaton played Adrian Toomes so well! there is a scene where he and Peter are i n a car and Toomes is laying down how things are going to play out and it is one of the best scenes of the entire MCU to date. Keaton has such a demanding presence in the film without being over dramatic. This might just be my personal opinion, but his time as Batman (however brief) provided him with a stoic ability to express his point without using many words. The Vulture suit is also just awesome. The studio moved away from a pair of bird winds on a green leotard and made him a rig which is basically a personal jet engine that straps to his back. They also gave him gripping claws for picking up large amounts of weight which is important to the plot of the movie.

The supporting cast of the film was stellar as well. Peter’s best friend Ned played by Jacob Batalon is one of the funniest characters in the MCU. This is coming from a guy who thinks both Deadpool and Rocket Raccoon are comedic gold and memorized most of their lines the first time I saw their respective movies. Batalon and Holland have a great chemistry that most actors try to emulate but few ever can. He is situationally funny as well as delivering some killer one liners throughout the film. I am very excited to see some more of him in the future installments of the Spider-Man stories as well as possibly a cameo or two in some upcoming Avengers movies. A shown in the trailer for the film Ned learns pretty early on that Peter is Spider-Man which leads to some great shenanigans on his part and some of the most hilarious grilling Peter could ever receive about his night time endeavours.

All in all the film ranks (for me) as one of the top 5 films in the MCU so far. It’s a great family film with some very serious undertone. I would rate this movie as a 9 out of 10 and recommend everyone goes to see it. It’s not just your typical good guy wins and everyone is happy story. It’s about Peter becoming the hero he wants to be and the hero others believe he can be. He has to find the balance to his life as Peter and his responsibility as Spider-Man. After all, we all know… with great power, comes great responsibility.

 

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.

Marvel Knights – The Failed Productions

With the success of the MCU as a whole, it’s hard to forget that Marvel made some pretty left field choices when they were still a struggling company. From the selling of some of their most major characters ( X-Men to Fox, Spider-Man to Sony, Namor to Universal) they also tried some hit and miss productions, mostly miss.  Daredevil from 2003 was the beginning of the slump for Marvel which lasted until the release of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in 2011. Strangely enough this slump was also during some of their greatest success, which begs to ask… what caused the slump?

The slump was caused by an off shoot subsidiary production company of Marvel titled Marvel Knights. This production card appeared in only 2 marvel films to date Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Punisher: War Zone.  For obvious reasons (critical reception and failure) the Marvel Knights banner was scrapped and the darker heroes that they had focused on were moved to other forms of media. Punisher found success in the Netflix universe being a secondary character in season 2 of Daredevil and receiving his own show later this year, and Ghost Rider moved to Agents of SHIELD and was widely regarded as the best part of the series thus far.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel Knights, it was actually the name given to the superhero team formed by Daredevil in order to take down and capture the Punisher. At the time of it’s printing the team consisted of: Daredevil, Black Widow, Dagger, Moon Knight (who acted as the Bank Roller for the team), Shang-Chi and Luke Cage. The run didn’t have it’s exclusive title (like Avengers or X-Force), rather each hero on the team had it’s own title with the sub imprint of Marvel Knights. That alone makes it very hard for collectors to get every issue as they never made it to graphic novel form with the exception of the Marvel Knights 2099.

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Let’s look at the two films produced under this banner to get a better idea of why it failed.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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The first Ghost Rider was produced under the main Marvel studios banner and it wasn’t until they decided to give GR another shot that it was dropped under the Knights production banner. Where to start with why this movie failed… Let’s start with the obvious answer, Nic Cage. Nicholas Cage tends to be hit and miss with his movies (mostly always a miss) and this was no exception. His overacting and butchery of the character are second to only Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (in case you haven’t noticed I really don’t like that casting). The story also falls pretty flat on itself by trying to incorporate too much into the film all at once. Rather than focusing on the redemption of GR they brought in Danny Ketch (who takes over the mantle of GR when Johnny Blaze dies) as the son of “Satan” really Mephisto, but they call him Rourke in the movie? Not only that, but they brought in the whole fallen angel aspect to the Zarathos mythos as well as Blackout being a poor two bit villain that lasted all of 20 minutes. I will say this, apart from the weird idea to have him piss as a flamethrower? the CGI for Ghost Rider was pretty spot on. They did away with the horrible CGI skull and flames from the first movie and gave him a much more burned and charred look which I think works better for the character. He is supposed to be a fiery demon from hell after all. If he can melt metal with his hands it would make sense that his clothing gets a little charred when he changes. The scene where he takes control of the massive digger in the mine and turns it into a hell machine is also just badass no matter who you are. They also really brought in the fact that Ghost Rider is pretty much indestructible. He takes a javelin rocket right on and keeps coming, he swallows an entire magazine of bullets and then spits them back out and demolishes an entire crew, and those are just a couple of the badass things he can do. Regardless of how much I love the character, I can recognize that both Ghost Rider 1 & 2 are horrible movies, but I will continue to love them none the less.

Punicher: War Zone

War Zone

For anyone who saw the 2004 Punisher film starring John Travolta and Thomas Jane this movie felt like a knife to the back. In the 4 years it took between this one and the previous movie the production was plagued with problems. From script re-writes to the star (Thomas Jane) walking off the set and tearing his contract up 3 weeks into shooting, to directorial issue the movie was doomed to fail from the start. Once Jane had walked off the set the casting team scrambled to find someone who could replace him as Frank Castle, enter Ray Stevenson. Now for the record Stevenson did a great job with what he was given to work with. When the studio got a new actor to play Castle, they treated the entire production as a soft reboot and went back to the original comic roots for his origin. While I did like the updated massacre they used in the 2004 movie, the comic roots are still the best when trying to adapt any movie. The story alone was ridiculous at best and sometimes brought in outrageous elements just for shock value (Looney Bin Jim ripping out the orderly’s kidneys and eating them while he was still alive?). Dominic West was another actor who did well with what he was given. He played the main villain mob boss Billy Russo who later after a run in with Castle gets disfigured and takes on the moniker of Jigsaw. The supporting cast was great and offered some comic relief when sought. The main problem with this film was the stagnant plot until the last 20 minutes of the movie for the final assault. I will say that the final assault conducted by Castle is still one o the best action sequences I’ve seen in any comic book movie.  In addition to the stagnant plot and the gratuitous violence comes the gore. You can still make a badass movie without throwing in ridiculous amounts of gore, the 2004 movie is a prime example. The main problem for this movie’s success was all these factors combined gave it a solid R/18A rating making it impossible for most of the population to view it.

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So following the release of the Spirit of Vengeance, Marvel Studios scrapped the Knights banner and absorbed all that property to be used at a later date (see Netflix Marvel Universe). The one character from the Knights that I’m holding out on getting his own solo series is Moon Knight. As one of my all time favourite characters, his brutality and narrative would be at home in the Netflix universe and would compliment the other characters in that medium very well. I won’t hold my breathe though, Marvel doesn’t like to take risks when it comes to not so well known characters.

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Black Panther: Africa’s Hero

With the release of the first teaser for the upcoming MCU addition of Black Panther, we were gifted with some amazing shots of the film and the story it entails. This is the first MCU film to employ a vast number of native Africans in native African roles, as well as being shot almost entirely in Africa. While there have been many incarnations of superhero movies featuring black actors (see Steel and the Blade trilogy) this will mark the first superhero film to have a 90% African cast. The DCEU fired the first salvo with Wonder Woman and the MCU is firing back with Black Panther. For those who don’t know Panther’s origins, I will give you a quick rundown.

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ORIGINS

Black Panther is not a singular person, it is a ceremonial position much like the Arbiter from the Halo series, bestowed upon their king/greatest warrior. The main continuity Black Panther is T’Challa who would take over the mantle after his father T’Chaka is killed. In the MCU his father was killed in Civil War when Zemo disguised as Winter Soldier set a bomb off at the UN gathering to bring the Sokovia Accords into effect. In the comic continuity he has a few different origins because comics are always retconned for continuity issues. The widely accepted “true” origin of T’Challa is that his father is killed by Klaw (Andy Serkis from Age of Ultron) with some sort of sonic weapon. T’Challa arrives too late to save his father but turns Klaw’s weapon against him and drives Klaw off while maiming him. T’Challa then went on to study in both Europe and North America before returning to his homeland. T’Challa bests his uncle S’yan, the existing Black Panther, in single combat to win the heart shaped herb. The herb enhances his abilities to superhuman levels and connects him to the Panther God Bast, gifting him the senses of the Panther. As the Black Panther and king of Wakanda, T’Challa proceeded to turn his country into the most technologically advanced nation on the planet.

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As a child his father taught him to always be 2 steps ahead of your enemies as well as 3 steps ahead of your friends, which caused him to see the super beings of the world as potential threats to Wakanda. As such he invited the Fantastic Four to Wakanda only to put them through a series of challenges only to ally with them against the returning Klaw. He infiltrated the Avengers originally to spy on them and learn of their weaknesses should he ever need to stop them. After a brief period of being a member of the team he became to regard them as his friends and allies in his crusade to make Wakanda the greatest nation on the planet.

It is also worth noting that Black Panther is probably the richest character in comics and potentially fiction the world over. Vibranium sells on the Stock Market at $10,000/gram, with the only supply of Vibranium on the planet found in Wakanda his networth is estimated to be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars.

Most Recent Run

During the MarvelNow! run of the Avengers by Hickman, Black Panther was an active member of the Illuminati (Secret team of the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe). After having gone to war with Atlantis and Atlantis retaliating by sinking the capital city, T’Challa swore that he would kill Namor (king of Atlantis) for the murder of innocent women and children. He stepped away as ruler of the country and had his sister Shuri take over as Queen. He maintained the title of Black Panther as nobody was able to best him in combat, but for his failure to stop the attack and subsequent sinking of the capital city he exiled himself to the city ruins now dubbed the Necropolis. During the final incursion in the Hickman run on Avengers, T’Challa and Black Bolt devised a plan to get revenge on Namor. The anchoring platform between the two incursions was where they made their move with Panther stabbing Namor in the heart with a Vibranium blade and Black Bolt whispering “Farewell”* to Namor blowing him off the platform and onto the Ultimate universe side of the incursion.

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*Black Bolt’s voice has extremely destructive capabilities and as such he never speaks. His voice is said to be able to crack the earth with just a whisper.

I could write a whole post just on the Hickman run of the Avengers and I may in the future, just understand that the incursions are bad news bears and were the cause of the reset to the Marvel Comics Universe.

The Trailer

This past weekend we were gifted with the first teaser trailer of the upcoming Black Panther big screen outing, and it was amazing! The scenes showing the “real Wakanda” (I say real because of the dialogue between Ross and Klaw) were breathtaking and looked to be taken straight out of a comic book. As I said before this movie was shot almost entirely in Africa and uses a cast of over 90% of native African actors.

Chadwick Boseman knocked it out the park with his introduction as T’Challa in Captain America:Civil War and looks to be continuing on his high streak with this film. Civil War was as much a character development story for several MCU characters as it was about the disagreement for the Sokovia Accords. This movie looks to be capitalizing on the development of T’Challa’s character from Civil War and expanding it into the struggle of a young man living up to his father’s legacy. The first introduction to T’Challa we get is a young man who is in awe of the king his father is and his legacy to be the next king of Wakanda. After the death of his father he is so filled with hate at the Winter Soldier that he goes on a revenge rampage to kill him for his father’s death. This upcoming film looks to bridge the gap between revenge seeking son and wise ruler of Wakanda. It is very much going to show him coming to terms with his actions in Civil War and how he can move forward as both the leader his people need and the hero he knows he can be.

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.

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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.