Schizopolitan: The Podcast – Episode 4 – The DC/Marvel Superhero Movie Smackdown

It’s back! The Schizopolitan podcast returns, and this time Jehan and Saxon tackle the thorny subject of the newly released DC movie slate! A slew of release dates have been revealed for movies in the DC shared universe (which will be properly kicking off in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice) stretching through till 2020. But what does this mean? What properties have been chosen, and why? Will DC stand any chance of matching Marvel’s success? And will any of what Jehan and Saxon say result in Aquaman actor Jason Momoa wanting to punch them? Listen to the podcast to find out the answer to these questions, and many more!

Also, Lego movies! Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them! Rumblings in the world of Marvel! And does Sony really not have the faintest idea what they’re doing with Spider-man?

Enjoy the podcast (please let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for more episodes soon! And remember – you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Follow this link to subscribe – the first three episodes are already available, and this latest one should be up there in the next 48 hours…

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Podcast: Schizopolitan – Episode 1 – The Saga Begins…

It’s been a long time, but Schizopolitan has risen from the grave… and this time we’re trying something a little different – presenting the SCHIZOPOLITAN PODCAST! I’ve teamed up with my friend and occasional collaborator Jehan Ranasinghe (on Twitter as @Maustallica) for what we’re hoping is going to be a regular series of podcasts looking at the world of Movies, TV, Animation, Games, Comics, and whatever else grabs our attention. It’s our first attempt at anything like this, so bear with us as we figure out various problems, wrestle with technical difficulties and generally ramble like there’s no tomorrow.

In this debut episode (running for 95 minutes), we use the recent aftermath of San Diego Comic Con to discuss some of the con’s announcements and reveals, but that soon spirals into a general discussion of blockbuster cinema in general – there’s talk about Star Wars and the new TV animated show Star Wars: Rebels, the first photo of the Wonder Woman costume and how much we know about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the potential upcoming DC Universe movies, and then a more wide-ranging talk about the ‘problem’ of a Female-fronted superhero blockbuster and why Hollywood seems so nervous about the idea…

Hope you enjoy our first episode, and stay tuned for more editions of Schizopolitan: The Podcast soon!

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Comics Review: The DC New 52, Week 2 – Action Comics, Animal Man, Batgirl, Batwing, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, Justice League International, Men of War, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, Stormwatch, Swamp Thing

Reviewer: Saxon Bullock (aka @saxonb)

Action Comics 1 New 52 Rags Morales Grant MorrisonACTION COMICS issue 1
 Grant Morrison ~ Artists: Rags Morales ~ Price: $3.99 ~

[xrr rating=4.5/5]

A manic, hyper-energised rush of a comic, this is Grant Morrison in full-on superhero blockbuster mode, and certainly one of the most outright entertaining comics of the New 52 so far. Action Comics is also a take on Superman that hasn’t really be seen since the early 1940s – the Man of Steel as a young bruiser and social crusader, standing up to the corrupt in Metropolis while also trying to figure out his gradually growing powers (this is a Superman who hasn’t mastered flight as yet). Simultaneously modern and retro, this is lively comic-book storytelling that throws in plenty of wit and some glorious in-jokes (like the Smallville-referencing “Somebody, SAVE ME!” dialogue on the first major splash page), while also being the best Superman comic in a very long time. Superman was the one piece of the DCU that needed an update more than anyone else, and so far it looks like this relatively radical take is absolutely going to pay off.

Animal Man 1 Jeff Lemire Travel Forman DC New 52ANIMAL MAN issue 1
 Jeff Lemire ~ Artist: Travel Foreman ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Starting off with a pretty daring opening page (an interview with the character, presented as a wall of text), Animal Man is one of the more adventurous new DC titles, which perfectly fits with the title’s more adventurous and experimental history. This is much more in the realm of the Vertigo era of Animal Man than the self-referential Grant Morrison era, and while Buddy Baker may be a very grounded example of a superhero (especially since he’s one of the few allowed a proper family), this story’s obviously going to be pushing him in some seriously bizarre directions. Jeff Lemire’s script is atmospheric and well-executed – the art, on the other hand, will take some getting used to, feeling more at ease with the weirder elements than it does with the traditional dialogue (especially with the occasional distorted faces). Nevertheless, it does start off the weirder edges of the new DC Universe, as well as hinting at some deeply disturbing stuff to come…

Batgirl 1 cover Adam Hughes Gail Simone DC New 52BATGIRL 
issue 1
 Gail Simone ~ Artist: Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4/5]

This was the one real problem I had with the new DC setup – the fact that they were bringing the previously paralysed Barbara Gordon, who’d spent years as computer info-expert Oracle, back as Batgirl – but trust Gail Simone, one of the best and most consistent mainstream superhero writers, to dispel all my fears. Batgirl #1 is a really sharp, well-executed comic, and Simone gives Barbara a very distinctive voice that’s a mixture of cocky adventurousness and genuinely understandable fear. The previous history of Batgirl (and especially the attack from the Joker which caused her paralysis) is an integral part of  the story, and Simone packs this full of value, with good character moments and strong storytelling. It’s occasionally let down by a couple of moments of awkward visuals, but otherwise this is damn good fun and one of the highlights of the new DC Universe so far.

Batwing 1 DC New 52 cover art Judd Winick BatmanBATWING 
issue 1
 Judd Winick ~ Artist: Ben Oliver ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=2/5]

A pretty new character briefly introduced in recent issues of Batman Incorporated, the idea of an African spin on Batman is certainly interesting, but Batwing doesn’t quite manage to make it all work. Judd Winick’s script does pull off a couple of well-played moments, and there’s fragments of a good story here (along with a promising central character), but the cliffhanger comes at a very odd moment, and there’s a slight overreliance on gory shock tactics. Plus, the art may have plenty of texture and atmosphere, but it also manages to completely leave out any backgrounds, meaning this is an African-set comic where we never actually get to see Africa. Combine that with massive panels populated by tiny word baloons, and Batwing ends up as a very threadbare, empty-feeling comic that’s over before it’s properly begun.

Detective Comics 1 DC New 52 Tony S. DanielDETECTIVE COMICS 
issue 1
 Tony S. Daniel ~ Artist: Tony S. Daniel and Ryan Winn ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4/5]

I’d heard mixed things about Tony Daniel (or, as he now likes to call himself, Tony Salvador Daniel) and his previous run writing and drawing Batman, but this first issue of the relaunched Detective Comics (which, like Action Comics, renumbers a title that had previously been going uninterrupted for over 70 years) is surprisingly good stuff. There’s a lot here that’s traditional and expected – anyone wanting a gritty tale of Batman on the streets of Gotham battling a grotesquely violent Joker will find plenty to enjoy, while also setting up the new Gotham-based status quo in a brisk fashion. Daniel’s take on the Joker is good without being classic, but it’s all well-executed, muscular superhero comics – until we get to the ending, which is an absolute, out-of-nowhere “Did they seriously just do that?” moment. One of the most enjoyable things about monthly comics are when they get the cliffhangers right, with endings that simply demand that you read the next instalment, and Detective Comics – a title I wasn’t even expecting to be that good – has made me seriously keen to discover what happens next…

Green Arrow 1 DC New 52 cover artGREEN ARROW 
issue 1
 J.T. Krul ~ Artist: Dan Jurgens and George Perez ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=1.5/5]

Oh dear. Remixing Green Arrow as a freewheeling corporate tycoon who moonlights as a Robin Hood-style vigilante is a fun idea, but did it have to feel quite so much like the pilot episode to a rather poor superhero TV series circa 1987? A combination of weak dialogue and the ultra-traditional art of Dan Jurgens and George Perez leaves this whole issue feeling rather lifeless, and propped up with the tired device of superheroes fighting supervillains simply for the sake of it. A couple of good moments and some funky trick arrows doesn’t make a decent comic, and Green Arrow feels locked in the past rather than something that should have been looking to the future.

Hawk and Dove 1 DC New 52 Cover art Rob LiefeldHAWK AND DOVE issue 1
 Sterling Gates ~ Artist: Rob Liefeld ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=2.5/5]

Speaking of the past… we have the return of Rob Liefeld, the comic artist superstar with the ‘questionable’ attitude to anatomy, who bestrode the Nineties comics world like a colossus (or, at least, a colossus who really didn’t like to draw character’s feet). Hawk & Dove, following the adventures of (believe it or not) the Avatars of War and Peace, is a comic that’s so ridiculously Nineties it should come with a health warning. There’s plenty of energy here, alongside some absurdly overblown melodrama (and the expected moments of weird, impossible anatomy), but this is certainly one bit of the relaunch that isn’t aiming at anyone but longtime comics fanboys. I certainly can’t think of anyone else who’ll get anything out of such a ridiculous, over-the-top and dated concept – despite a couple of mildly exciting sequences, this one doesn’t really get out of first gear.

Justice League International 1 DC New 52 Cover Art Dan JurgensJUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL 
issue 1
 Dan Jurgens ~ Artist: Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4/5]

Another fanboy-aimed title, this DC adventure aims to recapture the spirit of the more comedy-oriented JLI, and goes about its business with an enjoyable sense of fun. Justice League International is the first of the mainstream ‘middle-of-the-road’ DC titles to actually feel like it’s working, bringing together a team of mismatched characters to tackle international threats to the globe (and doing it a lot more briskly and more enjoyably than Geoff Johns’ Justice League). Dan Jurgens is a very old-fashioned writer, but this gets the mix just about right, and the end result is a comic that’s in no way exceptional, but which delivers enough old school fun and entertainment that the reader doesn’t really mind.

Men of War 1 DC New 52 cover artMEN OF WAR issue 1
 Ivan Brandon ~ Artist: Tom Derenick ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=2.5/5]

An interesting idea – the life of traditional soldiers in the DC Universe – gets an execution that doesn’t always live up to its potential. Essentially an update of the classic, long-running 1940s -set Sgt. Rock comics (here starring Rock’s grandson), Men of War pulls off some very strong moments, especially the way it captures superheroes as a dangerously lethal force-of-nature. Trouble is, the visual storytelling is sometimes a little stiff and the art doesn’t always have the life it needs. It also doesn’t help that the back-up strip (a completely non-genre war story, so far) is, despite being shorter, a lot stronger and more effective. It’s good to see DC trying a variety of styles and executions, but unless this improves drastically, I can’t see it living very long.

O.M.A.C. 1 DC New 52 cover art Keith GiffenO.M.A.C. 
issue 1
 Dan Didio and Keith Giffen ~ Artist: Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=5/5]

Oh yes. Deliriously nutty, colourful and intensely visual, O.M.A.C. is the most deliberate pastiche to Jack Kirby that I’ve seen for a while, and is also a tremendous amount of fun. Perfectly capturing the Kirby mix of energy, fizz and out-of-nowhere strangeness, this updated, retooled version of the O.M.A.C. concept packs in a tremendous amount of action, while the art (by both Giffen and DiDio) pulls off ludicrous visuals with tremendous style. It’s hard to know what non Kirby-fans will think of this, but the mix of sheer comic book pizzazz is so giddy that hopefully others will be swept along by O.M.A.C.’s infectiously lurid insanity. One of the most deliberately loopy of the new DC titles, and also one of the most enjoyable, O.M.A.C. is a must-read for any lovers of comic-book strangeness.

Static Shock 1 DC New 52 cover artSTATIC SHOCK issue 1
 Scott McDaniel and John Rozum ~ Artist: Scott McDaniel, Jonathan Glapion, LaBeau Underwood ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=2.5/5]

Originally part of the ‘Milestone’ universe created by the late Dwayne McDuffie, in Static Shock we basically have a fun, lively if not-exactly-revolutionary Spider-Man-style teen comic, with art that’s tremendously energetic but doesn’t always keep things coherent. The story throws in some fun setups, and once we get into the second half of the issue things start to pull together. However, the whole thing once again feels very Nineties in approach and execution, and while the central character does pull off some fun and charming moments, overall Static Shock doesn’t escape the feeling that we’ve seen all this before.

Stormwatch 1 DC New 52 Cover Art Paul Cornell Miguel Sepulveda Apollo MidnighterSTORMWATCH issue 1
 Paul Cornell ~ Artist: Miguel Sepulveda ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

This was always going to be tricky – a relaunch of a long-running, well-known title that essentially launched Warren Ellis’ career, and which takes the controversial core team from Wildstorm comics (better known as the Authority) and drops them down in the DC Universe. Considering that two members of this team are, essentially, a gay version of both Superman and Batman (here known as Apollo and the Midnighter), this was certainly a risky and intriguing move by DC, and what we get is Stormwatch, a comic that’s big, bold and energetic, even if it (understandably) can’t live up to the title’s long, complicated and controversy-heavy history. For newcomers, Stormwatch are the people in the shadows, who’ve been looking after the DC Universe for much longer than these newly arrived cape-wearing wannabes, and Cornell pulls off some great cinematic moments here, while introducing a bizarre and intriguing threat. The character interplay is well-executed and often fun, but it’s also sometimes dragged down by Sepulveda’s art, which feels a little too stiff and doesn’t give the story the right level of visual impact (especially in the final splash page). There’s room for growth and improvement, but this is a promising beginning…

Swamp Thing 1 DC New 52 Cover Art Scott Snyder Yanick PaquetteSWAMP THING issue 1
 Scott Snyder ~ Artist: Yanick Paquette ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=5/5]

One of the most visually impressive of all the DC Universe titles, Swamp Thing also sees writer Scott Snyder taking on a difficult character who’s seen multiple versions and relaunches (most famously, in a classic run by Alan Moore that essentially redefined what mainstream comics can do), and finding a unique take that has its own sense of identity and purpose. Snyder’s execution here is pretty much faultless, giving us strong characterisation and some graphically nasty horror, while also placing this new version of Swamp Thing firmly down in the DC Universe, with the sequences featuring Superman being among the issue’s best. Matched brilliantly by Yanick Paquette’s gorgeous, textured artwork, this is atmospheric dark fantasy that’s stylishly mounted and brilliantly done, pointing in some very intriguing directions. It’s hard to say if Snyder’s run is going to live up to this character’s very weighty history, but he’s certainly off to an excellent start.


Previous Reviews:

The DC New 52, Week 1: Justice League

Comic News: Bats and Oracles – More News and Thoughts on the DC Relaunch

Batman Detective Comics Issue 1 Cover Art Tony Daniel DC Reboot The Joker

The major news of the DC Comics September relaunch from last week has been bouncing around the comic-obsessed areas of the internet like wildfire, and we’ve now got a much clearer idea of what we’re dealing with. A dizzying amount of information has been released – creative teams have been announced for plenty of titles, we now know what a fair number of the 52 issue 1s that are hitting in September will be (from various Green Lantern, Batman and Superman titles to Wonder Woman (who’s staying in her most recent costume change), Animal Man, The Demon, The Fury of Firestorm, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark, and many, many more – a full list of the currently confirmed titles is up at BleedingCool.). Certainly, DC are going out of their way to make this an accessible jumping-on point for new readers, but contrary to early reports, they’re not going for quite the complete ground-up reboot we thought…

Wonder Woman Issue 1 Cover DC RebootThe fact that this is all happening after the alternate timeline shenanigans of Flashpoint meant it would have been possible to basically press a big button and reboot the whole DC superhero mythology, but what DC are aiming for does seem to be a mix of major changes and careful tweaking. After all, while they’re keen to get new people reading comics, they don’t want to completely annoy the long-time readers by telling them all those comics they’ve been following don’t count any more. Well… strictly speaking, superhero comics do this kind of thing all the time (It’s the nature of continuity reboots in long-running titles), but this would have been doing that kind of thing to the entire line of DC comics, an extreme move in anyone’s book.

Thankfully, it seems like DC are being sensible and saying in certain cases that if it ain’t broke, there’s no point in fixing it. Some characters do seem to be getting ground-up reboots in the DC Relaunch (like minor Justice League player and Brightest Day cast-member Firestorm, whose upcoming new comic definitely doesn’t sound like it follows current Firestorm continuity), and it looks like Superman is getting some major changes – one of which is strongly rumoured to be that his long-running marriage to Lois Lane may be history (meaning he’s ended up in the same boat as Spiderman and Mary Jane Parker in recent Spiderman comics, although at least we’re talking parallel universes and not incredibly unconvincing deals with the devil…), along with a worryingly revamped costume that brings back vague and scary memories of the fashion disaster that was the Nineties ‘Electric’ Superman

Batman Greg Capullo Art Cover DC Reboot Issue 1However, not every single bit of the DC Universe is being fiddled with – the Green Lantern franchise (which I’m not a huge fan of – I can understand the appeal of colourful space opera action, I just find multi-coloured spandex-clad space police with their own personal rhyming oaths a bit difficult to take seriously) isn’t being touched, simply rebooting its number and starting up a new story (with the aftermath of current event War of the Green Lanterns presumably being finally wrapped up in August). The only one I was really concerned about was Batman – or, more particularly, Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, which was absent from a number of the recent press releases (one of which announced the fact that ex-Robin Dick Grayson, who stepped into the role of Batman a couple of years back while Bruce Wayne was lost in time, would be returning to the role of Nightwing, while Bruce Wayne would be back as the only person in the Batman cowl).

Batman 683 Alex Ross Cover Grant MorrisonI’ve been enjoying the hell out of Morrison’s run on Batman – it’s had its fair share of ups and downs, but he’s done some seriously adventurous things with the character, and it’s the kind of wild storytelling that you can get away with in comics and which simply wouldn’t work elsewhere. (There have been moments where I liked to imagine Christopher Nolan going completely insane and saying “Oh, the third Batman film? We’ll be referencing Batman R.I.P., Final Crisis and The Return of Bruce Wayne, complete with the Batman of Zurr En Arrh, Bat-Mite and time travel.”) Of course, it’s had its fair share of detractors and critics, especially from trad-Batman fans who don’t hold with the comic being anything other than dark gritty action on the streets of Gotham (when there are multiple Batman titles, and most of them deliver exactly that) – and the one thing that Morrison’s run isn’t, especially now that it’s in its final phase in Batman Incorporated, is new reader friendly. Instead, it uses massive amounts of continuity in a really interesting way, finding a way of treating the entirety of Batman’s seventy-year history as the life of one man (most memorably in the brilliantly surreal post-R.I.P. two parter ‘The Butler Did It/What The Butler Saw’), while also utilising a large cast of characters and exploring different areas of the DC Universe (especially thanks to Bruce Wayne’s current globe-trotting adventures).

Not the kind of thing that’s easy to boil down into an accessible issue 1, of course, and while simply saying “Well, let’s cancel it and bring the Batman stories in line with the relaunch” would have been a dumb corporate idea, it would hardly be the first time storytelling in comics has been dictated by dumb corporate ideas. However, they’ve ultimately been sensible – Batman Incorporated is being split into two ‘seasons’, with the first concluding in August with issue 10. Then it goes on hiatus for a while (with Morrison working on a ‘yet to be announced’ project), and returns in early 2012 with season 2 of Batman Inc, which’ll be a 12 issue epic and will wrap up the whole Morrison run. And presumably mean I can start saving for the absurdly expensive omnibuses that DC will undoubtedly be doing of the run at some point in the future…

DC Reboot - Nightwing Issue 1 Cover Batman Dick GraysonThat’s got me relieved, and it’s nice to see it’s been handled well. Certain aspects are a bit disappointing – unlike some, I actually enjoyed the whole ‘two Batmen’ concept, and having Dick Grayson in the role opened up plenty of storytelling possibilities that hadn’t been there before (especially with his relationship with the fabulously grumpy Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s 10-year-old son and the new Robin), but of course superhero comics are all about the illusion of change, and it also makes sense for an accessible relaunch to get the comic back to a general perception of Batman that doesn’t have to start with the sentence “Well, you see, it was all because Batman got hit by Darkseid with the Omega Sanction back in Final Crisis and everyone thought he was dead…” I’d have been happy for those stories to continue for longer, but I’m impressed we got as many as we did. Not sure if ‘demoting’ Dick back to his role as Nightwing will create many interesting stories, but I guess we’ll have to see.

DC Reboot - Batgirl Barbara Gordon Issue 1 CoverThen, though, there’s the one decision I’m less than comfortable with – the fact that they’re bringing Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl. To non-comic readers, that’s probably not going to sound like a problem, after all Batgirl (the BG version) is pretty iconic after all these years thanks to her countless animated appearences, the Sixties show, and she even survived the terrible, terrible ignominy of being played by Alicia Silverstone in Batman and Robin. Trouble is, back in the mid-Eighties, in Alan Moore’s legendary Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke, Barbara was shot in the spine by the Joker, paralysing her from the waist down (an event which was, like the rest of The Killing Joke, supposed to be outside of continuity, but has since been adopted as part of the DCU history). Since then, for over twenty years, she’s been in a wheelchair, but has still played a significant role in the DC Universe as Oracle, the all-round JLA information source and master computer expert, as well as acting as the head of the Birds of Prey, a female group of superheroes.

Oracle Barbara Gordon DC Reboot - Ryan Sook ArtShe’s essentially ended up as a much stronger and a far more interesting character as a result of this – especially since she’s held her own in a very major way in a universe full of incredible dangers without having any superpowers. There aren’t exactly many disabled characters in superhero comics, and it’s hard to think of one that’s been as long-lasting or been presented as well as Oracle – a tough, intelligent woman who doesn’t let a crippling injury stop her from helping people in any way she can. Of course, there is the fact that in an anything-can-happen universe like the one presented by DC, where people rise from the dead and do the impossible every other week, it shouldn’t be beyond likelihood for Barbara’s injuries to be eventually healed, but DC have kept to presenting that reality for a long time, with the result that Barbara Gordon has now having spent longer as Oracle than she ever did as Batgirl (and has actually acted as ‘advisor’ to the two subsequent versions of Batgirl who’ve turned up in Batman continuity over the last decade-or-so – Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown).

Come September, however, and that’s all over. In the post-Flashpoint DCU, Barbara Gordon will officially be back as Batgirl – I’m guessing that she may be one of the characters who’s being aged down slightly, as Barbara has been allowed to get a little older over the years (comic book ageing in superhero comics is always odd and rather elastic, but it does happen – in the same way that Dick Grayson has distinctly aged since his first appearence as Robin). I’m hoping that possibly they may keep aspects of the Oracle storyline as part of her background – that maybe in this rewritten version of history, the injury from the Joker’s bullet wasn’t quite as bad. It’d give a nice ‘overcoming adversity’ edge to the character, as well as allowing at least certain aspects of her life as Oracle to still be around, but I fear it’s more likely that it’ll get wiped from history – which is a shame, and I don’t think DC realise exactly what they’re throwing away with this. I understand exactly why it’s happening; the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl is well-known, and if you’re trying to make the DC Universe as accessible to new readers as possible, and you want a Batgirl title, you need the most recognisable version of the character there. I understand the reasoning completely, but the fact is that they’re throwing away the Oracle part of Batgirl’s history for the sake of brand recognition, and simultaneously upsetting the hell out of any wheelchair-bound comics readers who considered Barbara-as-Oracle as a hero and a character that they care about (And it’s ironic, considering that DC are attempting to make lots of noise about having a more diverse and representative superhero universe, that they’re hanging this reboot on casually writing out a character’s disability). There’s an opinion piece at Newsarama that talks about this much more powerfully and eloquently than I ever could – all I can say is that while I know reboots are a natural factor of comic book storytelling, I really think this one is happening for the wrong reasons, and the DC Universe will be less interesting without Oracle in it.

So, September is the month. I’m impressed DC are going ahead with this, although I’ll be honest – not many of the announced titles have really made me think “Wow! That sounds INCREDIBLE!!” Plus, no matter how big a marketing push and how much they try and stretch out onto the new digital frontier, it’s all going to come down to the stories. These are going to have to be really good comics – all eyes are going to be on DC come September, so they’d better not mess this up…

Comic News: Reboot In Your Face (Major restarts coming in the DC Universe…)

Justice League Issue 1 Cover Jim Lee Geoff Johns Relaunch Batman Wonder Woman Cyborg Green Lantern The Flash Aquaman Superman

There’s been a lot of rumours about what’s coming up in the DC Comics superhero universe, the home of heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. The current big DC event comic Flashpoint, where the whole DC universe is transformed into a dark alternative, is supposed to be leading to yet another one of those moments where ‘things will never be the same!’ On top of this, it was initially announced that in the last week of August, DC would be publishing exactly one comic – the fifth and final issue of Flashpoint. Considering DC normally has around a dozen titles coming out every week, this is a pretty major route to go for – and while it’s now been modified slightly (there are two comics coming out, rather than one), it’s clear that DC isn’t messing around.

Now, DC has started releasing official news of what they’re doing… and it’s pretty big. In a press release that’s turning up in lots of places, they’ve announced that they’re basically rebooting their whole line of superhero comics, and renumbering everything. In September, there’s going to be 52 issue ones, all of which are apparently designed to be accessible jumping-on points for new readers (and considering some of these titles are things like Action Comics, which recently crossed the 900-issue mark, this is quite a big move). Added to which, it does seem like there’s a certain amount of tweaking going on – artist and DC bigwig Jim Lee has apparently done redesigns on over 50 superhero costumes, the word ‘contemporary’ is being bandied around a lot, and it does seem like this is definitely going to be a different take on the DC Universe (with, for example, plenty of characters being aged-down into younger models). Considering that this is following Flashpoint, an event where the DC Universe is altered beyond recognition (meaning it might still be a bit different when it gets put back), it does seem like they’re going for permanent alterations to continuity, and the status quo. And, on top of all of this, every single one of these comics is going to be available day-and-date as a digital comic, through the Comixology platform that DC’s been using up until now.

The easiest bit of this to take on is the digital decision – it was obvious that at some point, one of the ‘big two’ was going to jump into the digital world with both feet (and considering DC are still running second to Marvel at the moment, it’s not a loopy idea). It’s big, and despite that they’re apparently going to run some incentives for comic shop retailers, there are going to be some unhappy people out there. Trouble is, digital isn’t going away, and this could be a very healthy move as well. The day-and-date comics will probably be exactly the same price as print (which is a tad steep for a digital comic), but it’s still a major step forward. For the first time, people who torrent comics because “Oh well, I want them on the day, and only a few titles are done day-and-date” aren’t going to have the excuse. Don’t know if it really will make piracy go down, but it’s a major step along the way to having a good legal digital alternative to piracy.

It’s the rest of it that is… interesting, if not completely convincing. Comic book continuity is a massive double-edged sword – it creates fascinating, intensely complex sagas, worlds that you can get lost in, interlocking stories that can be unlike anything else out there… but then, it can also make it impossible to keep up, especially if you’re not aware of all the tiny pieces of comic-book continuity that the story is tying into. Last week, I read the first two issues of Marvel’s The Mighty Thor, which is a relaunch of the Thor title done to tie in with the release of the Thor movie, and yet if I was a random cinemagoer who’d seen and enjoyed Thor, those two comics would have perplexed the hell out of me. (There’s a lot of reasons why comics have drifted away from being self-contained, and many of them actually only work now collected as trade paperbacks – it’s a complicated problem, and is slightly compounded by the fact that modern comic storytelling doesn’t let you easily put in narrative captions that bring everyone up to date.) And part of this problem is that the majority of the people who buy comics are the die-hard fans, who know the continuity and don’t want to read stuff that ‘doesn’t matter’ (which is one of the reasons why the brilliant out-of-continuity comic Thor: The Mighty Avenger got cancelled after eight issues, despite being a fun, all-ages and thoroughly charming adventure comic).

So, there’s a certain logic in DC’s move… but the fact that they’re going for such a drastic reboot leaves me slightly perplexed. What I’ve seen of the new costumes (shown above in the cover for Justice League issue 1, by Jim Lee) doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence (especially that ‘styled up’ version of the Superman logo, which brings back worrying memories of the Nineties ‘Electric’ Superman redesign), and the statement that they’re doing “younger, cosmetically changed versions” of these characters immediately opens up questions as to what’s in and what’s out continuity-wise. The various dark events in the Justice League’s history in Identity Crisis? Batman being presumed dead in Final Crisis (leading to the current activity in Batman Incorporated)? There’s all sorts of knots they could tie themselves in, especially with ongoing series like Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc, which certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going to end in about three months. (And what about the notoriously delayed David Finch-drawn Batman series The Dark Knight? We’re barely onto issue 3 (after it being launched in November) and now they’re bringing in filler artists – is that going to get a relaunch, or will it just stagger to issue 6 and then get quietly cancelled?)

Another question – violence. DC Comics have been getting ridiculous in terms of violence and pretty damn unpleasant adult content recently (the biggest and most ridiculous of the lot being issue 3 of Rise of Arsenal, which plays like somebody read Alan Moore’s Watchmen and took every wrong lesson from that book that it’s possible to take). Is this going to continue? If DC are looking to bring new readers in, are we still going to get showers of gore, brutal violence, and incidents like the infamous rape of character Sue Dibney?

Also, there’s the Justice League. At the same time as Flashpoint issue 5, we get issue 1 of Justice League – a relaunched version of the comic that’s often been one of DC’s biggest titles, with DC bigwigs Geoff Johns and Jim Lee at the helm (although considering how notoriously late Jim Lee can sometimes get with his art, it remains to be seen how long he’ll be staying on it – this is one comic that can’t afford to ship late). And a new line-up, taking us mostly back to the Grant Morrison era JLA, where he took the then-pretty-ballsy move of actually putting DC’s biggest guns together – we get Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Wonder Woman. Oh, and Aquaman. And… er… Cyborg. (I mean, really? Cyborg? They seem to be making a lot of finally trying to make the DC Universe look a little more multi-cultural, after some very unfortunate examples of ethnic ‘legacy’ superhero characters meeting horrible ends and being replaced by their previous white alter-egos, but that’s the guy you promote to DC’s A-list? That’s the guy at the forefront of DC’s new ‘contemporary’ style – a character who fit in with the Teen Titans back in the Eighties and Nineties, but doesn’t exactly look tremendously sensible now?)

It’s possible, of course, that Flashpoint might act a little like the Time War in current Doctor Who continuity – a way of buffering the new continuity from the old. Old Who continuity is still there, and while there have been tweaks and rewrites (hello, new Cybermen) it hasn’t been completely up-ended in the way a new version of Who could have relaunched everything. There’s any number of ways they could be doing things – the fact that DC are potentially transforming their core universe into a version of the Marvel Ultimate universe (which was originally created as a jumping-on point for new readers, and a more ‘contemporary’ take on the characters) is certainly brave. The potential for messing this up is pretty big, of course, but modern-day mainstream comics certainly need new approaches, and anything which might free them up from the constraints of selling to the direct market (to fans who regularly bitch about event comics and getting more of the same, and yet only ever seem to buy big event comics and ignore the new, riskier titles) has got to be a good thing…

Movie News: Dear Zack… (An Open Letter to Zack Snyder, on the occasion of casting Michael Shannon as Superman villain General Zod)

Superman Logo Alex Ross Art Comic

Dear Zack Snyder,


I mean it. I was okay with Henry Cavill – after all, he’s the kind of mostly unknown actor who’s still notched up plenty of experience, and could work out very well. Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Kal-El’s adoptive father? A brilliant, almost blindingly obvious choice. Diane Lane as Martha Kent? Hell, yes – even if the attractiveness of Superman’s mother just shot through the roof. But so far, I wasn’t too invested. After Superman Returns not working out at all, I wasn’t going to let myself get excited about another Superman film. All was well.

Then Amy Adams got cast as Lois Lane. I’d been expecting a twentysomething, and probably someone who’d be slightly miscast (as in Superman Returns, with poor old Kate ‘I look about twelve in this film’ Bosworth). Lois is one of those deceptive roles that looks easy but isn’t, and even Teri Hatcher in the Lois and Clark show never got close to besting Margot Kidder in the original Superman movies. However, Adams could conceivably do it – and suddenly, I was in a bit of a bind. After all, this was Zack Snyder’s Superman we were talking about – a film I was in no rush to see before I saw Sucker Punch, and after which all I wanted to do was grab a Warner Bros exec by the scruff of the neck and scream “Why? Why would you do this? WHYYY???”

And then, you had to do it. You had to cast Michael Shannon as General Zod.

Michael Shannon Casting News General Zod Zack Snyder Superman Man of SteelThat’s an incredibly good choice. If you’re going to do Zod (especially after the simply magnificent job Terrence Stamp did in Superman II), you’ve got to get it right. There were rumours that it might be Viggo Mortensen, but Michael Shannon is just as good, if not better considering he doesn’t have the visibility and foreknowledge that comes with Viggo. Shannon has, up until now, been one of those quietly impressive character actors who occasionally turn up in big films, but do most of their work in quiet, intense indie dramas (the most notable films I can think of featuring Michael Shannon are Grand Theft Parsons, Shotgun Stories, and The Woodsman – all of which feature him in very different roles). He’s an intense, dedicated actor, capable of bringing real fierceness to the role, and this will certainly catapult him into a much-deserved bigger league. It’s a great bit of casting.

I just wish it wasn’t for a Zack Snyder film.

I didn’t see your Dawn of the Dead remake. 300 was attention-grabbing, but shallow as a puddle. And I was burned with Watchmen – which was a decent, admirable effort, but did feel like a two-and-a-half hour thesis on why adapting Watchmen into a movie was a very bad idea. I recently made the mistake of seeing Sucker Punch, and am still reeling from the experience (it’s taken me a long time to write a review, just to fully express my slightly rambling feelings on exactly how unempowering this supposedly empowering fantasy was).

You may be a really nice guy – but your directorial style is, to be honest, borderline insane. You don’t seem to have any idea how to create a consistent emotional reality in your films (you managed it occasionally in Watchmen, but then, you had an excellent blueprint to work from). You throw eye-candy at the audience whether it’s necessary or not, bludgeoning them into submission. Your ability to select a completely inappropriate or thunklingly obvious pop song for your film soundtracks is unparalleled. (From the awfulness of the Leonard Cohen-scored sex scene in Watchmen, to the non-stop “Oh dear god…” experience that was the Sucker Punch soundtrack, your musical taste is truly the gift that keeps on giving). There doesn’t seem to be a single shot that you don’t think couldn’t be at least slightly improved by slow-motion, or funky CG speed-ramping. You were convinced the world was ready for an 3-D CGI animation starring armoured owls (A hint: it wasn’t). You actually managed to somehow make a film where sexy girls in kinky underwear fight Nazi steampunk zombies into one of the dullest, most repetitive things I’ve seen in a cinema for years.

You are quite plainly completely out of your mind.

Even with the new title – just ‘Man of Steel’, no Superman – your new movie fills me with a sense of foreboding. I’d like to think that maybe you’ll ratchet your style back and approach the film in a calmer perspective. But I really doubt it. A Zack Snyder Superman film isn’t something I wanted. But I’m getting it anyway. So…


You’ve made your point. Go nuts from hereon in. Perry White and Jimmy Olsen? Go nuts. Cast the most ludicrous actors you can think of. I don’t mind. Just please- don’t let me look at another casting notice and think “Damn that’s a really good choice,” followed by a Wrath of Khan-style cry of “SNYYYDERRRR!!” Okay?

I’m glad we had this little chat. And I’ll be watching you, you slo-mo lovin’ motherfunster…

Yours grumpily,


Comics Review: Jimmy Olsen (One-Shot Special)

Jimmy Olsen Cover Art Amanda Conner Nick Spencer SupermanWriter: Nick Spencer ~ Artists: RB Silva, Dym, Amilcar Pinna ~ Colours: Dave McCaig ~ Publisher: DC Comics ~ Year: 2011

[xrr rating=5/5]

The Low-Down: Simply one of the best mainstream superhero comics for a long time, Jimmy Olsen is an energetic romantic comedy and a hugely enjoyable ride from start to finish, while also giving a long-neglected comics character the treatment he deserves.

What’s it About?: He’s Superman’s best friend. He’s a Daily Planet reporter. He’s the guy who wears a bow-tie. Jimmy Olsen is all of these things, but he’s also been dumped by his girlfriend – fellow reporter Chloe Sullivan, now paying a worrying level of attention to handsome LexCorp junior executive Sebastien Mallory. With Superman absent from Metropolis, Jimmy has to try and get Chloe back, throw a spanner in Sebastien Mallory’s plans, and maybe also foil an alien invasion…

Jimmy Olsen Art DB Silva One-Shot Special Nick Spencer SupermanThe Story: If there’s one character that was definitely harmed by the “Hey kids! Comics can be gritty and violent and for adults!” bandwagon, it was Jimmy Olsen. Superman’s youthful reporter sidekick is one of those characters who’s been part of the world of Metropolis almost since the beginning of the story in the early 1940s – but when DC Comics decided to reboot their continuity and straighten out some of the kookier edges in their fictional universe with the mid-1980s epic Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jimmy was one of the characters hit hardest, mainly because at his best – in the craziness of comics’ Silver Age during the 1960s – Jimmy Olsen was the absolute definition of kooky.

Whether he was time-travelling to the Holy Land circa 1000BC (and accidentally starting a Beatles craze), acquiring Elastic-Lad powers, encountering punky motorcycle gangs in a secret underground hippie commune under Metropolis, or accidentally ending up as a Nazi War hero, Jimmy Olsen’s Silver Age adventures are infamous for their sheer imaginative craziness. As a result, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s incredible (and continuity-free) All-Star Superman served up a Jimmy Olsen that was a brilliant distillation of everything fun about this particular geek-hero in the Silver Age – but now, Morning Glories writer Nick Spencer has done the same for the Jimmy of the official DC Universe, with an end result that’s so much fun, it’ll have you clamouring for an Olsen ongoing series by the final page.

Jimmy Olsen Art Chloe Sullivan portrait Smallville DB Silva One-Shot Special Nick Spencer SupermanMore than anything, Spencer gets that Jimmy Olsen works best when he’s knee deep in the most ludicrous trouble imaginable, and so this seven-part story (collected here from back-up strips that originally appeared in Action Comics, and finished especially for this collection) serves up trouble in spades. Following a week in the life of Olsen and packing in a ferocious amount of invention (as well as some nicely played digs at recent events in the main Superman comic), this is a fast-paced comedy romp that delivers a multitude of gags but also has plenty of heart. Spencer understands that this wouldn’t work unless we actually care about the characters, and makes Jimmy a charming and daring disaster-area, while giving his relationship with Chloe Sullivan (a character making her DC Comics debut, having appeared on the absurdly long-running Smallville for the past ten years) the right level of whip-smart, 1930s Screwball comedy-style wit.

Modern-day DC Comics do plenty of harking back to the Silver Age, but often that just means straight-faced superheroics with added gore – it isn’t often that we get a comic as bright, funny and downright charming as Jimmy Olsen. It’s the most accessible and downright fun superhero comic I’ve read since Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s run on Power Girl, but it also gets pretty damn close to All-Star Superman levels of invention, fun and well-played emotional warmth. A self-contained comic that tells a brilliant story and doesn’t claim that NOTHING will EVER BE THE SAME by its climax, this is a dazzling piece of work that will leave you with a goofy grin slapped across your face, and desperate for more comics of this kind of barmy invention and quality.

The Art: Imagine driving along a straight open road, not a care in the world – and suddenly, out of nowhere, you hit a speed bump that sends you almost bouncing into the roof of your own car. That’s roughly the experience that happens artistically when you hit the final chapter of this collection – it’s not so much that Amilcar Pinna’s pencils on the fill-in pages she handles are bad, they’re just not as strong and a very noticable change (especially when the credits are at the end of the chapter, so there isn’t even any warning), and they’re particularly noticable because penciller RB Silva does such an incredible job on the rest of the story. Showcasing an equal mix of expressive cartoonishness and stylish layouts, Silva’s work is brilliantly pitched throughout, handling all the comedy with ease, and adding some cool visual flourishes. Backed up with excellent inks and some gorgeous colours by Dave McCaig, this is a bright, breezy and gorgeous-looking comic – just be prepared for that sudden change in the final chapter, and everything will be fine.

The Verdict: A comic that seriously outshines the high-profile but deeply flawed current Superman story ‘Grounded’, this Jimmy Olsen special is an outstanding piece of work, while Nick Spencer is continuing to prove that he’s a name to watch. Get yourself to your nearest comic shop as soon as possible, and pick a copy. You won’t regret it…

The Friday Linkfest (1/4/2011): Links on my Mind

Justice League of America adaptation film for 2013 news Batman Superman Wonder Woman

Warner Bros are aiming for a Justice League of America movie by 2013. The question has to be asked – what the hell is going on with the Warners and DC-related superhero films? They’ve previously said that ‘we’re not doing crossovers’ – that the Nolan Batman films wouldn’t cross over with any other motion pictures, and that neither would Snyder’s Superman – each series would tackle them as the only superhero in their world. Now, this is a step away from the Marvel ‘grand plan’ to culminate in The Avengers (which hasn’t always worked – Iron Man 2 being a case in point), but did seem to make sense at the time (especially with how aggressively realistic the Nolan films have been). Now, however, they’re saying they’re aiming for a JLA film in 2013 (which is absurdly quick), and that the JLA will feature Batman and Superman, but not Henry Cavill as Superman, and not whoever inherits the Bat-cowl when the franchise is rebooted following The Dark Knight Rises (which I’m willing to bet will embrace a slightly more comic-booky direction once Nolan departs).

Now, if they weren’t going to use Batman and Superman, I could understand it – while they’re the two big heavy-hitters, it would be possible to cope without them (in a similar way to how Marvel Studios films have to cope without crossovers with Spider-Man, the X-Men or The Fantastic Four, because they sold the rights). It’s also not impossible to have two different live-action versions of the same character around – Superman Returns was made while Smallville was on the air, and if the Wonder Woman TV series is a success, there could be both a TV and a film version of Wonder Woman, as one concept is for the JLA film to launch characters that could then go on into standalone movies. But this has never happened in movies before – two different versions of the same character, possibly appearing within months of each other? Warners experimented with this in 2008, when a JLA film came very close to being made (and which would have mostly starred unknowns, including The Social Network’s Armie Hammer as Batman) – it was a weird idea then, and it’s a weird idea now. Presumably, any spin-offs from JLA would be taking place in the same universe – so some DC films will cross over, but others won’t? Are they seriously trying to create an onscreen version of the DC multiverse? Are they out of their minds? Well, 2013 is a very optimistic date for a film that big (It’ll be interesting to see how well Green Lantern does on release – that could have a major effect on how the DC Universe films progress, especially if it doesn’t end up doing well…), and I suspect minds could be seriously changed if The Avengers turns out to be a giant-sized monster hit…

Green Lantern’s publicity is being delayed by the extensive effects work. Some recent superhero films have been quieter in the pre-publicity stakes than others – Captain America only just unveiled its first full trailer, while Thor has been giving us all kinds of images and trailers since late last year. Green Lantern hasn’t exactly been doing brilliantly – the first trailer has its moments but didn’t exactly blow me away, and given that this is a long, long way from the relatively earthbound action of Iron Man or The Dark Knight, you’d think they’d be doing more to sell the film. Well, they would be, only the combined problems of major sequences taking place on fully CG alien planets, plus the added problem of doing all this in 3-D, means that the whole process has been delayed, and the next trailer for Green Lantern won’t be ready until the release of Thor on May 6th – and that’s only about six weeks before the movie itself is out on June 17th. They’re even still casting voice roles (with Michael Clarke Duncan strongly tipped for the slightly-awkwardly-named Killowog), and given that the summer is already stuffed to bursting with blockbusters, it does at least put a big question mark over whether Green Lantern is going to sink or swim.

The Wonder Woman costume for the TV pilot has been modified – the version spotted in a location shoot doesn’t have funky PVC trousers, and the boots are red now, instead of blue. Now, this may be as a result of the ludicrous level of fan complaints when the costume was unveiled, but it of course hasn’t done anything to quell the somewhat hilarious tide of people bitching online that “it still looks like a Halloween costume” (because of course, the Lynda Carter 70s TV costume in no way looked ridiculous) and generally moaning about how of course the show’s guaranteed to be completely terrible anyway. There are times when I love fandom, and there are times when I don’t.

Amy Adams has been cast as Lois Lane in the upcoming Zack Snyder version of Superman. Now, this is both really good news – Adams is a great actress, and a surprisingly good choice for Lois Lane – and really annoying, as I’d much rather she was appearing in a Superman film not directed by Zack Snyder. At the least, it’s a surprise to have a Lois who’s actually eight years older than the guy playing Superman (Adams is 36, Henry Cavill is 28), plus it’s really nice that Adams will actually look old enough to be an experienced reporter (as opposed to poor old miscast Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns, whose version of Lois looked about twelve years old).

And, to coincide with this in a rather sadder way, Deadline posted a letter from Joanne Siegel – widow of Superman creator Jerry Siegel, and original model for Lois Lane – written two months before her death, asking the head of Time Warner to actually pay the money the company legally owes the Siegel family (and to stop the crappy legal delaying tactics they’ve been using). Yes, we all know that most corporations are going to act in crappy underhand ways – but the Superman legal saga is an epically complicated one, and it’s just a pity it couldn’t have been resolved before Siegel passed away.

Neil Gaiman’s Doctor Who episode is called – shock, horror – ‘The Doctor’s Wife‘!  Now, I’m pretty sure, if I’m remembering correctly, that this is a bit of a meta-in-joke as well, as the production team did at one point (in the classic era) try to identify a leak to the fan press by falsely putting out the completely bogus title ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ just to see what happened. It’s certainly not what I expected – the initial thought is that obviously, it’s going to be another ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ where it turns out that the Doctor hasn’t actually had a secret daughter stashed away all these years, and it’s unlikely to be a River Song-centric story considering Moffat’s bound to be handling that side of things. Actress Suranne Jones is playing the character ‘Idris’, so I’m mildly perplexed – especially considering that Gaiman has actually said that his story brings back someone (or something) we haven’t seen since the Sixties (or, to be more precise, the 1969 story The War Games). Of course, the Doctor has actually already been married onscreen – he accidentally acquired an Aztec wife in the sixties historical story ‘The Aztecs’, but I can’t imagine Gaiman is constructing a whole story around that. I guess we’ll wait and see…

Also Gaiman related – his novel American Gods has been optioned, apparently by a director with ‘many, many Oscars’. Who knows what this means, but it’s a challenging idea – American Gods is a fascinating, occasionally tricky book (one I struggled with on my first reading, but eventually came to really love), but it doesn’t strike me as especially filmable. But then, neither did Stardust, and look what happened there…

Continuing the recent theme of Hollywood adaptations that completely miss the fecking point of what they’re supposed to be adapting, Hollywood are plotting a modernised version of Miss Marple – and have cast Jennifer Garner. Yes, the star of spy action series Alias. My mind is reeling at exactly how much of the original material just got thrown out of the window. Alright, Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost may be involved, but will someone please find the other people who are involved in this and then punch them? (And then sit them down in front of the BBC Joan Hickson Marple adaptations and go “LOOK!”?)

And as if that wasn’t depressing enough, the Terry Gilliam film Time Bandits may be remade as an ‘action franchise for kids’. No. No. NO. I’m sorry, but that’s entering territory where I may have to hunt down and kill anyone who’s responsible for bastardising the wonderful, quirky and barmy world of one of my favourite films. And again: NO.

HBO drama series The Wire, re-imagined (rather well) as a Victorian-era novel.

The BBC4 pilot episode adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books has been comissioned for a series of 3 1-hour episodes. As you’ll see from my review of the pilot, I’m not exactly delighted by this. I guess it’s possible that writer Howard Overman might iron out the issues with the first episode given more time, but I doubt it. Whether I have the patience for another three hours of vaguely tiresome comic shenanigans that bear a vague passing resemblance to books I really, really like remains to be seen…

And finally, news of a slightly more promising movie remake – director David Gordon Green is helming a US version of utterly barmy Italian Horror movie Suspiria. Now, this would normally strike me as a bad idea, especially since Suspiria is a genuinely demented, eye-searingly colourful and hyper-violent movie, one of the few horror movies I’ve seen that genuinely qualify as nightmarish, but David Gordon Green strikes me as a director capable of bringing something interesting to the table (especially in the way he’s bounced from lyrical arthouse dramas to stoner action comedies like Pineapple Express). He’ll have to go some to match the sheer lunacy of Suspiria, but at least he is planning to use significant amounts of the original progrock-tastick Suspiria score by Goblin, a major element of the original’s unique atmosphere, as you can hear from the attention-grabbing, barmy and deeply unsettling main theme:

Movie News: Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No… it’s that bloke from ‘The Tudors’ (A Superman Casting Update)

Superman Logo Alex Ross

Zack Snyder’s new cinematic reboot of the Man of Steel just took a big step closer to actually happening, as he’s cast the title role. And who’s the actor stepping into the legendary blue-and-red spandex?

Henry Cavill portrait Superman News

It’s Henry Cavill. And if your first thought is “Who’s that?” then you’re not exactly alone. Yet again, and fairly sensibly, they’ve gone for another fairly unknown actor (although nowhere near as unknown as Brandon Routh was when he was cast in Superman Returns) – British actor Cavill certainly can’t be described as a star, although he’s actually worked pretty consistently for the past ten years, and is currently best known for regularly getting his kit off in the luridly OTT historical drama The Tudors as nobleman Charles Brandon.

And my first thoughts? Well, only having seen one episode of The Tudors (I have what could be described as a ‘problem’ with anything that involves giving Jonathan Rhys Meyers the chance to either yell or pout), I can’t say that Cavill made a massive impression, and certainly isn’t as interesting as casting Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. From the photos, Cavill’s certainly got the chin for the role, and he’s got that handsome if slightly anonymous thing down pat. Despite my dislike of Superman Returns, I thought Brandon Routh was the best thing in it and it’s a shame he’ll never get the chance to play the part again, but it does rather feel as if they’ve gone here for a safe relative unknown, rather than a risky out-of-nowhere blind-sider, which isn’t that surprising as Warner Bros really, really, really need this to work. There’s always the chance that Cavill may turn out to be really good , but to be honest, getting excited about this casting would involve getting excited about this movie in general, and I’m finding it rather difficult. The moment Snyder was signed, my interest in a new Superman film (even one being ‘shepherded’ by Christopher Nolan) plummeted – he’s a director who’ll certainly make something flashy and eye-catching, and I’m sure that his Superman film will, whatever the flaws, be better than the deeply misconceived Superman Returns (I admire Bryan Singer for attempting it, but good golly, that film didn’t work in a whole variety of ways), but ever since 300, he’s shown no sign of doing anything other than eye candy and visual bluster (even in Watchmen, which managed some good sequences, but fell flat as a piece of cinema). The new Superman will be slick and good-looking, but if it manages to capture a tenth of the spirit that the original two Richard Donner (and part-Richard Lester) films managed, I will be seriously surprised…

(Of course, it doesn’t help that one of the main reasons Snyder got Superman in the first place is that he’s good at doing projects quickly – Warner Bros not only need this film to be succesful, they need it to go into production pretty damn soon, otherwise their legal battle with the family of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gets even more complicated than before, and they risk losing the rights to one of the best-known superheroes in the world. It’d be nice to be optimistic, but I can think of very few examples of films pushed into production to meet a precise release date that have actually turned out well. But – I guess we’ll have to wait and see…)

UPDATE: It’s just been pointed out (by someone else) on Twitter that we now have a situation where three of the biggest superheroes are all played by British actors (the others being Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man, and Christian Bale in Batman). Not sure exactly what that signifies, but felt it was worth sharing…

UPDATE: Via, it’s been revealed that the other contenders on the shortlist were Matthew Goode (best known as Ozymandias in Watchmen), Matthew Bomer (from TV shows Chuck and Tru Calling), Arnie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network), Joe Manganiello (Alcide in S3 of True Blood) and Colin O’Donaghue (now in daft-looking religious horror The Rite). While Arnie Hammer might have been interesting after his work in The Social Network, I think Cavill is actually the most potentially interesting of the bunch, and it certainly says what they were looking for – a late twentysomething absurdly handsome actor with the right kind of chin. And while Matthew Goode can be a good actor, after his oddball turn as Ozymandias in Watchmen, I’d rather not see him near any superhero characters for a while…