Top 10 DC Animated Movies

With the animated movies 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 second 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 Reverse Flash 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 the future). 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 knows 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!

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Most Underrated Heroes: Vol. 1 – Ghost Rider

I’ve decided to add a segment to my blog wherein once a month I will outline a hero that I believe to be woefully underrated by most people. These are my own personal opinions and don’t reflect on any of the companies in one way or another. I had to restrain myself from talking about Moon Knight first because it would more than likely become an angry rant at the Marvel Netflix universe for not including him (yet… I have hopes!).

The first hero that I have chosen to talk about is none other than the spirit of Vengeance himself, Ghost Rider.

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The first Ghost Rider in publication, not in Marvel history, is stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze. Blaze is arguably the best known Ghost Rider right behind Danny Ketch and now Robbie Reyes.  Blaze was portrayed by Nicholas Cage in the 2007 film titled Ghost Rider and in the 2012 sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I will be the first one to say those movies are terrible, absolutely horrible. But because of my love for ‘ol Flamehead, I watch them over and over again. Recently in Agents of SHIELD Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider appeared as an antagonist and then ally of the team. Let’s start off with a little bit of background on the character.

BACKGROUND

Blaze was a stunt motorcyclist with his father in the Quentin Carnival alongside Craig “Crash” Simpson. His mother walked out on his father when Johnny was young taking his two other siblings Danny and Barbara with her. Johnny’s father was killed in a stunt and he was adopted by Crash Simpson and his wife Mona. The Simpson’s fabricated a story as to help shield him the pain of coming from a broken family. Johnny and the Simpson’s daughter Roxanne grew close as kids and as they grew older their friendship turned to romance. The Simpson’s began their own stunt show of which Johnny was a part, when Johnny found out Crash had life threatening cancer he was devastated. Johnny turned to the occult in an effort to save Crash. One night Johnny recited a spell and summoned who he thought was the devil, really it was the arch demon Mephistocles (Mephisto). Johnny sold his soul to Mephisto in an effort to stop Crash dying of cancer. Crash awoke the next day cured of cancer, but he died performing in the stunt show a few days later. Johnny confronted Mephisto and declared that he had cheated him. Mephisto said he had stopped him dying of cancer, not dying any other way and thus the deal stood. Roxanne arrived in time to save Johnny’s soul by declaring her love for him which drove Mephisto away. Mephisto, out of rage of not being able to collect Blaze’s soul because of Roxanne’s love, bonded Johnny’s soul with the demon Zarathos making him the Ghost Rider. A leather clad being that controlled Hellfire to punish at Mephisto’s bidding, but due to the fact that he still retained his soul, Blaze would also help the innocent whenever he could.

POWERS & ABILITIES

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In addition to controlling Hellfire and being impervious to damage as Ghost Rider, Blaze also has the ability to control hell chains with his mind. He utilizes a shotgun imbued with Hell energy to fire mystic blasts at his foes that can incinerate instantly. He is strong enough to be able to fight toe to toe with Green Scar Hulk (World War Hulk), and uses the penance stare. The penance Stare is a Ghost Rider’s most powerful weapon. When using the penance stare the Ghost Rider can force you to feel the pain of all the hurt you caused to other and burn your soul inside your body. If you have dealt enough pain to others than the penance stare will fry your whole body from the inside out. There are very few people in the Marvel Universe that the penance stare doesn’t work on, those being Punisher, Deadpool, Venom and Mr. Hyde. Punisher doesn’t regret any of his kills, Deadpool’s biggest victim is himself, Venom is immune from the symbiote and Mr. Hyde is immune because of his transformation.  In addition to controlling hell chains with his mind Ghost Rider also keeps a length of chain which he can use as a whip or he ignites it on fire and can spin it fast enough to create a flame vortex.

FEATS

Ghost Rider has performed many great feats over his long career in publication. Due to the nature of the character they haven’t always been Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, but for the most part they have been. One of the best feats he accomplished was during the World War hulk story arc.

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During World War Hulk the Green Goliath returned to Earth rather pissed after having been banished to a distant planet by the Illuminati. The Illuminati are a secret group of the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe (Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Charles Xavier, etc). The save the Earth from having to deal with another Hulk catastrophe the Illuminati tricked Bruce Banner onto a satellite and then launched him into deep space.  Hulk crash landed on the planet Sakaar and fought in the gladiatorial ring until he eventually was crowned king. He ventured back to Earth pissed off and ready to make the Illuminati pay for what they had done to him. Hulk had claimed a battleground in downtown New York where he waited for the group to show. Ghost Rider was hunting down pieces of Lucifer that he had inadvertently let loose from hell. He encountered the Hulk and they began to fight, a very destructive fight through the NY battleground. Hulk punched Ghost Rider through several buildings and dropped another one on top of him. Ghost Rider then grappled on hulks back and nearly choked him out with his hell chain. The fight ended in a stalemate when Ghost Rider attempted to use his penance stare and was shown that the Hulk was the victim and the Illuminati were the guilty ones.

In the early 90’s Fantastic Four cartoon there was an episode where Galactus attacked the earth. The Fantastic Four had tried everything they could to stop him but nothing was working. The Fantastic Four had run out of options and were trying to think of a plan to get rid of Galactus. In rides Ghost Rider, and tells the Fantastic Four that he will help. He rides up Galactus’ body and delivers the penance stare right to him. Galactus being a world eater, had consumed a lot of people and had a lot of guilt and pain stored up. This act was enough to banish Galactus at least for the time being while he healed from his wounds.

Circling back to why Ghost Rider ran into the Hulk in World War Hulk, he was in the process of hunting down and killing Lucifer.  Long story short is that Satan had trapped Ghost Rider in Hell (go figure!). Lucifer disguised himself as a worm helping Johnny to break the barrier between Hell and the normal world. When Johnny broke through Lucifer split into 666 pieces and fell to the Earth. Each piece took on a persona/possessed someone and began wreaking havoc.  Angels were dispatched to help Johnny but slowly one by one, Johnny killed all the pieces of Lucifer until only 1 remained. The trick was that with each piece Johnny killed the remaining pieces would get stronger. The two Angels that were sent to help Johnny ended up sacrificing themselves to provide Ghost Rider with the power he needed to destroy Lucifer and banish him back to hell.

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

There really is no definitive answer here besides the fact that he is a dark character. When people think of Marvel comics they think of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, etc; all very colourful and for the most part family friendly characters. Ghost Rider isn’t a hero, he’s an anti-hero; one of those guys like Deadpool, and Punisher and Wolverine who are willing to kill to make sure their mission is accomplished. Not only that but once a Rider uses the penance stare there is no going back. it will inflict the maximum amount of damage to you that you deserve. There is no settings knob on the penance stare just like there is no setting knob on Ghost Rider’s morality. Ghost Rider like Punisher is very black and white, they both punish evil doers. Will they kill you for stealing a candy bar from a convenience store? absolutely not. Will they put the fear of God in you? absolutely.  The rider knows when it’s true evil like a serial killer or just minor evil like a vandal spray painting a building, and can adjust accordingly.

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Ghost Rider has a high kill count, not as high as say Deadpool or Wolverine, but he definitely is not a nice guy. Ghost Rider is very much a character aimed at an older audience. The humour and content of the Ghost rider comics tends to lean towards a mature audience and some of the content can be rather gruesome. In the family friendly MCU there really isn’t a place for someone like Ghost Rider. The Netflix universe however… that’s a whole different story, but in all fairness he wouldn’t be my first choice for that… my first choice would wear more white.

 

 

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.

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.

Wonder Woman – What the DCEU Should Have Started With

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that this past week the third installment for the DCEU, Wonder Woman, was released in theatres. Wonder Woman stands as the first female led superhero movie to ever have been made, and boy did it knock it out of the park! The following will be a spoiler free review of the movie.

 

Background

The movie opens up to show Diana working at the Louvre and receiving the original copy of the photo from Batman V. Superman, along with a note from Bruce requesting the story behind the photo, cue a trip back in time.

Wonder Woman is an Amazon from the mythical Island of Themyscira which has been hidden away from the world for thousands of years. The Amazons were direct descendants from the Olympain Gods and made to guard the world of men. After they were enslaved by man their queen, Hippolyta, led them to freedom and they vanished onto their island. Depending on which continuity you follow, Wonder Woman was either sculpted from clay and struck by lightning from Zeus in the classic continuity, or in the New 52 she was birthed the old fashioned way with no knowledge of who her father is (she was still told the story about the clay and lightning). When an American pilot crashes on the island, Diana saves him and he urges the Amazons to rejoin the world. Diana leaves the island and goes with the pilot, Steve Trevor, to join the world of man. Shenanigans occur and she meets the other major DC heroes and becomes a founding member of the Justice League.

JL_Wonder_Woman

Thoughts on the Movie

It was amazing. Honestly the film DC should have used to kick off their expanded universe instead of the abysmal assault of Batman V. Superman ( Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Really?). That being said there are obviously going to be knit picky things that some die hard fans are going to find fault with, but this movie has very few of those. Patty Jenkins did an amazing job as director and the story keeps you on your toes for the whole film. One of the better aspects of the movie is that the colour really pops at you. I love Zack Snyder’s movies, but he has a very specific style with his colour selection that doesn’t work for lighter toned superheroes like Wonder Woman and Superman. If he had directed a Batman movie the way he had directed Watchmen, I think it would compare to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, but that’s just me personal opinion.

Patty Jenkins used her keen eye to blend humour, loss, action, and love seamlessly to illustrate just how awesome a superhero movie can be when done right. What makes this movie stand out from the rest is that it doesn’t follow the cookie cutter formula that most movies have fallen into. Marvel has become notorious for their cookie cutter origin movies and when asked about it, Kevin Feige had this to say “… we make these movies for the heroes not the villains, we’re all about hero growth rather than villain growth…”; I’m obviously paraphrasing, but the point is made regardless. When you go see a Marvel movie you get a great story but every other character that isn’t the main hero feels very under developed.  The supporting cast of Wonder Woman from Queen Hippolyta, General Antiope, Steve Trevor and General Ludendorff, are all developed even in the short screen time they get next to Diana.

The time frame that the movie is set in works really well for the character progression of Diana as well. Being set during WWI allowed for the characterization of Diana to expand more than it maybe could have had it been set in modern times. Keep in mind that Amazons were taught from a young age that they were created to safe guard the world of man and by placing this movie during the Great War aka The War to End All Wars, provided Diana with a concrete reason to leave the island. It also provides for some great interaction with Diana as she is continuously learning about man’s world as she leaves the island; from fashion, to social customs, and even ice cream, Jenkins takes you into the time frame and makes you feel like you are with Diana learning all of these things for the first time.

The supporting cast also really shine in their own right. Chris Pine does an excellent job as Steve Trevor and Robin Wright as General Antiope is just amazing. I don’t want to talk about the other characters because who they are and what they do is a big part of the plot of the movie and I said this would be spoiler free.

The villains. The villains were awesome. With the movie being set in WWI it obviously shows that the villains would be the Germans, because Germans are always the villains in any historical war movie right? That being said it also shows you a new take on why the war happened and what the driving forces are behind it. I will say this that the character of Dr. Poison I was not a big fan of and once you see the movie, you may agree with me or you may not as one of my best friends did (there was a heated debate and tempers flared but it’s all good now). Ludendorff is great as the typical villain but you can’t help but sympathize with him because of what he wants, which is what a lot of people wanted back then. The Third act of the film brings to heel all the themes of the movie and really hammers home the core aspect of the movie.

The overall theme of the movie is that mankind is easily corrupted, whether by each other or by other forces, mankind cannot exist without being in conflict. This is explored through the corruption and the dialogue from some of the side characters on the topic of the War. But the them Diana brings to the movie is that, while man might not deserve to be saved, they need to be saved. This theme is hammered into Diana’s core from the moment you first see her on screen. Diana truly believes that mankind can be good if given the chance and she will fight to ensure that they will get that chance, which helps to speak to her character as a person as well as a superhero. She never gives up, even when everyone is telling her she can’t do anything she finds a way to stand her ground and do what she thinks is right. During her scenes as Wonder Woman she has a magnetism about her that you haven’t really seen since Captain America first came to our screens. The magnetism that urges you to fight for them, that you want to fight for them because you know they’re doing right, it’s a compelling aspect of her persona and it is felt by numerous characters throughout the movie.

Gal-Gadot-Wonder-Woman-Poster

The combat scenes in the movie were on point and had a fluidity that is rarely seen in such a grand scale. One of the coolest scenes comes almost directly in the middle of the movie when Diana decides she has had enough of being told to wait. The scene where she goes “over the top” as shown in the featured image of the article illustrates the point i mad earlier about her magnetism on the battlefield.  The scene immediately following that is the first time you hear her theme song from Batman V. Superman and it followed with the shots and choreography will make the hair on your neck stand on end.

Overall this movie was amazing, I would wager probably one of the best ever made, not just for DC but ever. My top (with interchangeability) are The Dark Knight, Avengers 1, and now Wonder Woman. If you haven’t seen it already or at least gotten your tickets to see it soon I would highly recommend you do it; Gal Gadot delivers a stunning performance as Diana and truly shows how she has embraced the character of Wonder Woman. This is the movie that DC should have released first. It would’ve set the tone for the DCEU on a much lighter note and shown just how awesome superheroes can really be.

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.