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 (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/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 (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Comics Review: The DC New 52, Week 4 – Batman, Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Green Lantern Corps, Legion of Superheroes, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Supergirl, Wonder Woman

Reviewer: Saxon Bullock (aka @saxonb)

Batman 1 cover art Greg Capullo DC New 52BATMAN issue 1
Writer:
  Scott Snyder ~ Artists: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=5/5]

Scott Snyder is turning into one of the major stars of the relaunch – he’s been assigned to two of the highest profile titles, and after the success of Swamp Thing, he’s scored another slam dunk here. Considered as the more ‘superhero’ aimed Batman title (in contrast to the grittier-slanted Detective Comics), Batman issue 1 is a cracking piece of comics storytelling that does everything you’d want from a first issue, bringing the reader up to date with the current status quo while also throwing in some fantastic narrative curveballs. With plenty of ideas on show and a likeable, engaging storytelling style, Snyder has this under control from page 1, utilising exactly the right level of atmosphere, delivering some great dialogue and building everything up to an effective cliffhanger. On top of this, there’s Greg Capullo’s art (with Jonathan Glapion on inks) which pulls of a nice mix of cartoonishness and atmosphere that avoids too many current superhero visual cliches, giving us some great moments (including the gorgeous Batcave double-splash page). Packing in plenty of value, this sets the flagship Batman title off at a brisk run, and looks to be one of the strongest comics in the New DC 52 line up.

Birds of Prey 1 cover art DC New 52BIRDS OF PREY issue 1
Writer:
  Duane Swierczynski ~ Artist: Jesus Saiz ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=2.5/5]

Really? Birds of Prey without Oracle, or their long-time writer Gail Simone? The long-running title where Barbara Gordon spent most of her time as info-tech jockey Oracle is relaunched here (only just over a year after the last relaunch), and while Swierczynski packs in some characterful moments and good setpieces, this is a long way from being either distinctive or interesting. Admittedly, it is a women-centric DC comic that isn’t jaw-droppingly exploitative (which, in the week of Catwoman issue 1, is a definite good thing), but while there’s some enjoyable banter it isn’t like we get to know either of our two main characters that well, while Jesus Saiz’s artwork is a little stiff and lifeless at times (especially in a couple of the action sequences). Leading up to a cliffhanger that acts as the working definition of ‘out of nowhere’, Birds of Prey feels like a title that’s in need of a distinctive identity if it isn’t going to end up feeling a little on the mediocre side.

Blue Beetle 1 cover art DC New 52BLUE BEETLE issue 1
Writer:
  Tony Bedard ~ Artists: Ig Guara and Ruy Jose ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

One of the few ‘legacy’ superhero characters who hasn’t ended up killed off so that they can be replaced by their older (supposedly ‘better known’ predecessor), Mexican kid Jaime Reyes has made it into the DC New 52, athough the story of the Blue Beetle gets a fairly big revamp here. Now, the powerful alien scarab that Jaime inherits is a dangerously lethal war machine, and there are some clues that this take on the series is going to be a little harder edged than DC’s previous Blue Beetle offerings. There aren’t many surprises here, but Bedard does a good job of getting everything in place and making Jaime an engaging protagonist, while we also get a couple of intriguing continuity nods (especially the fact that eccentric supervillains The Brain and Monsieur Mallah (a brain in a jar, and a communist talking gorilla with a french accent) are alive and well in the New DC universe. It’s good to see such a likeable and enjoyable teen comic getting another lease of life, and so far Blue Beetle is looking to be one of the better of DC’s sub-family of ‘Young Justice’ comics.

Captain Atom 1 DC New 52 cover artCAPTAIN ATOM issue 1
Writer:
  J T Krul ~ Artist: Freddie Williams II ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=3/5]

One of the many DC comics that had me thinking “Why would I want to read a comic featuring that character?”, Captain Atom doesn’t really succeed in coming up with any particularly convincing answers to that question. Of course, the thing that’s interesting about Captain Atom is that he’s a character originally published by Charlton Comics, and who was used as the loose basis/inspiration for the god-like Dr Manhattan in Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and it looks like the story is certainly heading in a direction that’ll be exploring pushing Captain Atom’s powers in a more deliberately cosmic direction. The art from Freddie Williams II is wild and energetic, especially when it comes to depicting the title character, and there’s several intriguing moments, but the issue doesn’t come together, and there’s several pages that seem to wander into complete bizarreness without any warning whatsoever. There’s a certain amount of ambition on show here, but this needs a bit more focus – and heaven only knows what any brand new readers would make of all this…

Catwoman 1 Guillem March cover art DC New 52CATWOMAN issue 1
Writer:  Judd Winick ~ Artist: Guillem March ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=1.5/5]

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The issue that essentially set the internet on fire (resulting in articles like this very astute analysis from Comics Alliance’s Laura Hudson) is a working example of how cranking the lever marked ‘Sexy’ up to eleven sometimes isn’t the wisest move. There’s been lots of chatter online recently about superhero comics and their general approach to female characters as well as female writer/artists, and I was never really expecting this first issue of Catwoman to be a particularly progressive example (the cover pretty much tells you exactly what kind of audience they’re going for). Plus, with a writer like Judd Winick and especially an artist like Guillem March, subtlety was definitely off the menu, but even so I wasn’t expecting something quite so leery and exploitative, even for the remarkably broad standards of a Catwoman comic. Somewhere behind the insane number of cleavage and bra shots, there’s the vague potential for a decent attempt at setting up Selina Kyle’s character in the course of one issue, but it’s pretty thin stuff, and the emphasis is so strongly on softcore titilation that the effect is pretty ridiculous. And that’s even before we get to the end of the issue, where (SPOILER WARNING) Catwoman and Batman spend multiple pages engaging in some incredibly ludicrous sex, while still keeping their costumes ‘mostly’ on. Laughable and horribly adolescent, this is the kind of comic that clearly states that yes, female superheroes can be confidant and wildly sexy as long as they flash their bra at least three times an issue – and it’s not even the worst of DC’s female character excesses this week…

DC Universe Presents 1 cover art DC New 52DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS issue 1
Writer:
  Paul Jenkins ~ Artist: Bernard Chang ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4/5]

What’s planned as a series of stories spotlighting the smaller characters in the world of the DC Universe gets off to a promising start with this look at Boston Brand, aka Deadman, a circus daredevil turned unwilling spirit who now has to help others in the hope of rebalancing his karma. One of the more significant resets in the new DC U (wiping out all the recent shenanigans which involved Brand being resurrected in the pages of Brightest Day), this is an engaging old-school take on Deadman which manages to be characterful and engaging, as well as packing in plenty of material. Giving a nicely supernatural edge to the DC Universe, it’ll be interesting to see how this title evolves, but so far writer Paul Jenkins is aiming in some promising directions.

Green Lantern Corps 1 cover art Doug Mankhe Christian Almy DC New 52GREEN LANTERN CORPS issue 1
Writer:
  Peter J. Tomasi ~ Artists: Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=3/5]

The Green Lantern franchise juggernaut continues, as the title which up until now has been ‘everyone except Hal Jordan’ gets a relaunch, setting up the new status quo with Lanterns Guy Gardner and Jon Stewart. While there’s a certain level of bewilderment in the level of detail, making this not the most friendly of the issue 1s, this does at least feel like a genuine attempt to bring the audience up to speed, and certainly feels much more like an actual fresh start than last week’s Green Lantern did. Of course, there’s still the usual mix of melodrama, heroics, weird space opera and over-the-top violence, while the end-of-issue cliffhanger is a little clunky, but this is at the least a fine new start for one of DC’s most popular titles.

Legion of Super-heroes issue 1 Cover Art DC New 52LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES issue 1
Writer:
  Paul Levitz ~ Artist: Francis Portela ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=1/5]

Last week’s Legion Lost was fun, if a little on the flawed side, and at least managed to be relatively intriguing for someone who knew nothing about the Legion of Super-Heroes. This week’s Legion-related outing is, on the other hand, a borderline incomprehensible mess that makes virtually no concessions to any new readers. Yes, there are captions that introduce the characters, but I lost count by the time we reached what felt like character introduction no. 15, and at no point do we get any idea of what the setup is, what everybody’s relationships are, or even what the Legion of Superheroes actually does. There is action. Things blow up. Lots of things are shouted. There’s a completely bewildering cliffhanger. For regular Legion readers, this probably all makes sense – but the whole point of this relaunch was to welcome in new readers, and this issue 1 is likelier to make them want to hurl the comic across the room.

Nightwing 1 cover art DC New 52NIGHTWING issue 1
Writer:
  Kyle Higgins ~ Artists: Eddie Barrows and J P Mayer ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4/5]

After his stint as Batman, Dick Grayson is back in the costume as Nightwing – with a new, slightly more Red ensemble – and what we have here is one of DC’s best traditional superhero books so far. Giving us a characterful reintroduction to Nightwing’s world, writer Kyle Higgins does a much better job here than on Deathstroke in giving us a protagonist we actually care about, while giving the dialogue plenty of spark and energy. On the story alone, this would be a fun and engaging start – what lifts it further is the art from Eddie Barrows and J P Mayer, which gives the book a cinematic style and impact, but also uses some imaginative panel layouts to give the story its own distinctive visual identity. This is old-school superhero action, but pulled off with a considerable amount of class and style.

Red Hood and the Outlaws 1 cover art DC New 52RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS issue 1
Writer:
  Scott Lobdell ~ Artist: Kenneth Rocafort ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=1.5/5]

And then, of course, we get to the other point of contention this week. For about 50% of the time, Red Hood and the Outlaws (featuring ex-Robin turned criminal/mercenary Jason Todd, aka the Red Hood) is a dumb but energetic action comic that’s firmly aimed at the audience that laps up similarly dumb action comics like Marvel’s Deadpool, and which also benefits from some attention-grabbing artwork from Kenneth Rocafort. Unfortunately, for the other 50% of the comic we’re dealing with the relaunched version of longtime Teen Titans character Starfire, and while the softcore take on Catwoman is merely misguided and trying way too hard, what they’ve done with Starfire is downright creepy. An alien princess who’s always had a habit of not wearing very much, Starfire’s never exactly been a flagwaver for progressive superheroines, but at the least she was an engaging, warm-hearted character with a broad-minded attitude to sex and a long and complicated love-life. Post relaunch, she’s been transformed into a joyless blank-slate sex doll who (apparently thanks to her previous life as a sex slave) barely even remembers any of her past lovers, spends the whole issue striking porn star poses, and sleeps with new Red Hood sidekick Roy Harper simply because he’s there. The level of exploitative frat-boy ogling in the art (which, amazingly, has actually been slightly toned down – originally, Starfire’s skimpy bikini in the beach sequences was supposed to be slightly see-through) is just downright wrong, and while Lobdell fairly obviously has some plans to explore and expand Starfire’s character, resetting a well-known character (especially thanks to the fun TV cartoon Teen Titans) into nothing but a sex object is a blatant way of pandering to the predominantly male audience, as well as being lazy and retrograde storytelling of the highest order. DC stated upfront before the relaunch that they were mainly chasing an audience of 18-34 males – I just wasn’t expecting them to give the female comic-reading audience quite so many reasons to stop reading…

Supergirl 1 cover art DC New 52SUPERGIRL issue 1
Writer:
 Michael Green and Mike Johnson ~ Artist: Mahmud Asrar ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=2.5/5]

In a sensible world, we’d have gotten the Power Girl team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, along with Amanda Conner on art duties, and considering how incredibly charming their take on Supergirl was in Wednesday Comics, it’s hard to imagine who would have complained. Of course, we don’t live in a sensible world, so here we get the first appearence of the all-new Supergirl, a character who’s had her fair share of reincarnations and reboots. In this case, she’s a confused Kryptonian who’s just crash-landed in Siberia, and while this title may be going for the teen alienation theme, what it boils down to is an entire issue that’s not much more than Supergirl being bewildered and punching various heavily armoured men. The art from Mahmud Asrar packs in plenty of energy and vigour, but the heavy emphasis on the visuals means this is another DC title that feels dangerously thin. Especially for a comic that’s going to appeal to a female readership, it might have been nice to have a little more characterisation and content – as it is, I’ve gotten to the end of issue 1 and I still have no idea where exactly this is heading, which isn’t the best way of getting new readers to stick around for more…

Wonder Woman 1 cover art DC New 52WONDER WOMAN issue 1
Writer:
 Brian Azzarello ~ Artists: Cliff Chiang ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=3/5]

If there’s one character that was desperately in need of a focussed and straightforward relaunch, it’s Wonder Woman. The last couple of years have seen the ill-advised J. Michael Straczynski-helmed story ‘Odyssey’, which also saw the controversial costume change, as well as the much-discussed and eventually shelved Wonder Woman TV pilot episode, leading to a general feeling that nobody really knows how to handle this character. Getting a writer with the reputation of Brian Azzarello in is a good idea, and artist Cliff Chiang is an interesting collaborator, and the advance reviews led me to believe that this would be exactly the kind of sharp, action-packed adventure WW needs. And yet… what we actually get is nothing short of bewildering. Azzarello goes for the ‘throw us in at the deep end’ method of storytelling, giving us violence, death and horse-murder, and the end result is a comic that basically reads like somebody decided to do an ultra-violent update of Xena: Warrior Princess. The handling of Wonder Woman herself is mostly excellent (although it’s hard to imagine that any other DC superhero would have had their first scene being discovered naked in bed), giving the character lots of impact and showing off her physical skills in a well-executed fight sequence. However, from the bloody horse decapitation on page 5 to the limb-slicing in the combat sequences, this is a graphic book that’s taking a more deliberately horrific angle on the mythology of Wonder Woman, but doesn’t always feel like it’s concerned about taking the audience along with the ride. Too much of this issue 1 is bizarre or inscrutable, and while the setup it delivers is promising, there’s also the sense that the one ingredient that’s lacking is a sense of fun. While this may be exactly what some fans want from Wonder Woman (the lead character kicking arse and killing lots of mythological creatures), as a first issue this is more befuddling than intriguing, and the new version of Wonder Woman is going to need a lot more shape and direction if it’s going to be a true success.

Previous DC New 52 Reviews:

The DC New 52, Week 3 – Batman and Robin, Batwoman, Deathstroke, Demon Knights, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Green Lantern, Grifter, Legion Lost, Mister Terrific, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad, Superboy

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

The DC New 52, Week 1: Justice League

 

 

TV News: Comics No More (Wonder Woman and Locke and Key bite the dust…)

Wonder Woman 2011 TV Pilot Production Adrianne Palicki

So, the much-kicked, much-derided Wonder Woman pilot has, in the end, not been picked up by NBC. In certain ways, this isn’t surprising – the network initially passed on the script, and it’s fairly clear that it only really got through to production because of the fact that it’s a well-known and recognised property, meaning NBC were dipping their toe in the water but with no commitment to diving all the way in. Naturally, there’s lots of victorious braying from certain areas of comics fandom, convinced that this project was a guaranteed disaster from the start, but I can’t quite work up the same enthusiasm and relief I did when Robert Zemeckis’ ill-advised motion-capture remake of Yellow Submarine got tanked. That’s mainly because Wonder Woman is a character where there’s so much manuevering room that you can do different takes on her (especially in a network TV show, which was highly unlikely to go the ‘Amazonian Goddess fights mythological beasts every week’ route). Now, I was never entirely convinced by what I heard about Kelly’s WW concept – it sounded like the kind of thing which could either work fairly well, or end up embarrassing – and some of the casting had me raising question marks (Liz Hurley as the main bad guy? Really?), but there was enough there to at least have me intrigued, and I was willing to give the project the benefit of the doubt until I’d actually seen it. And, from reports of people who’ve seen the pilot, the episode isn’t a disaster and has some strong elements (quotes used have been ‘ambitious’ and ‘well-crafted’), but the focus-groups and execs weren’t convinced.

Now, however good or bad lead actress Adrianne Palicki was as Wonder Woman, the series isn’t going to happen, and yet another version of Wonder Woman has failed to make it into becoming a genuine commercial spin-off. Fans may be breathing a sigh of relief, but this is likely to make another Wonder Woman project a lot less likely to happen for while, if only because producers may be slightly uneasy about a fandom that’s going to lash out with a borderline insane amount of venom unless they get a version of Wonder Woman that’s exactly like the comics in every conceivable way. And as we’ve seen plenty of times in recent years – sticking exactly with the comics isn’t always a good thing. Like I’ve said before, Wonder Woman is a tricky character to get right in a manner that will appeal outside comic-book fans – there’s a reason why so many WW film projects have failed to get off the drawing board – and it’ll be interesting to see if anyone can ever solve the Wonder Woman problem…

Locke and Key Cover Art Gabriel Rodriguez Joe Hill Issue 6 Head GamesThe WW pilot misfire is, of course, the big TV news – but the one that’s made me a lot sadder is that Fox have passed on the pilot episode of Locke and Key, an adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s brilliant dark fantasy comic (which is slowly approaching the end of its run). With a brilliant cast and an absolutely corking director for the pilot (Never Let Me Go helmer and music video supremo Mark Romanek), it was top of the list of shows I wanted to see happen – although I was a little concerned that Locke and Key is pretty damn dark, a pitch-black twist on a traditional ‘kids adventure’ tale, and it felt like the kind of work that would fit much better somewhere like HBO or AMC than on a mainstream network (added to which, Fox have not exactly always been kind to genre shows). Added to which, word is that the pilot episode is really, really good – but it’s fallen victim to being viewed as ‘too complex’, and in a showdown between Locke and Key and new JJ Abrams-produced mystery Alcatraz, Abrams was the winner. There’s always the vague chance it might get shopped to another network, but I’d be surprised – five years ago, Locke and Key would have stood a much stronger chance as a TV show, but mainstream US TV seems to be largely moving away from long-form mysteries and complex arcs (leaving it more for the pay-on-demand HBO crowd). Seems very likely that Locke and Key is going to be left as yet another fascinatingly incomplete footnote in SF/Fantasy TV History, worse luck…

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:

The Friday Linkfest (25/03/11): In Links We Trust

Wonder Woman TV Costume Adrianne Palicki

Wonder Woman costume revealled, half of internet goes into apopleptic shock. Apparently the boots are the wrong colour. And the whole thing just looks a bit too halloween costume for some people. I looked at it and thought “Well, it’s not ideal, but it does look a hell of a lot more like Wonder Woman than I expected”. The amount of negative bitching online about this project is kind of amazing in certain places – I’m not even a WW fan, I’m not expecting it to be superb, but at the current rate, I’m hoping this ends up a smash hit simply for the looks on the fans’ faces. Does that make me a bad person?

Genre for Japan – a brilliant auction set up by a group of fantastic people (including book blogger Amanda Rutter) to raise money for the Japanese Tsunami Relief appeal being run by the Red Cross. There’s a genuinely spectacular selection of items up for auction, donated by a wide variety of people from across the SF, Fantasy and Horror scene – go look, and go bid!

A gorgeous selection of graphic novel covers, reinterpreted as Seventies pulp paperbacks (with the kind of minimal designs that I would kill to own in real life). .

Least shocking news of the week: Joseph-Gordon Levitt is definitely in The Dark Knight Rises. Plus, he’s playing Alberto Falcone (son of Tom Wilkinson’s character from Batman Begins), a character from the Batman series The Long Halloween, already loosely plundered for The Dark Knight. Only maybe he isn’t – another source has since said the Falcone rumour is incorrect, and Gordon Levitt’s part is another character. Once again, it’s wait and see time…

Doctor Who fan claims he created Davros, sues the BBC. Okay, this is just weird – a fan called Steven Clark says that he entered a drawing competition for the comic TV Action in 1972, and that the BBC then went and hi-jacked his idea, turning it into Dalek creator Davros, who’s since appeared multiple times in the show. The reason he’s suing now? Apparently he lost his original entry, but they turned up “in the pages of a set of family encyclopaedias”, which sounds deeply suspect. This sounds like the kind of nutty copyright case that comes up every so often, usually generated by chancers out for a quick buck via a settlement – because apparently not only did Clark come up with the name, his loose pencil sketch is actually a pretty exact blueprint for Davros, and he wrote an essay with the drawing entitled “The Genesis of the Daleks: The Creation of Davros”. So, either 1975 classic Genesis of the Daleks was the creation of a sinister conspiracy to steal an idea from a young fan, or someone is talking utter bollocks. We’ll see how this nonsense progresses…

Ultimate Spider-Man team Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley reunite on a creator-owned comic for Marvel’s Icon imprint, entitled ‘Brilliant’. Ultimate Spider-Man is pretty much the most brilliant and consistent version of Spider-Man I’ve ever seen – the idea of them taking on a tale that’s sounding like a superhero version of The Social Network is definitely something I’m onboard for.

Why the new Star Trek movie doesn’t need a villain, via Tor. The author (Ryan Britt) is right – that it should be about an interesting SF premise, not about who Kirk and co get to punch this time (Klingons! Khan! Harry Mudd!) but it doesn’t change the fact that it will not happen. The 2009 Star Trek film briefly dazzled me with its action and nostalgia (there’s a slightly embarrassing gush of a blog post about it that I should get around to deleting), but I rewatched it earlier this year and it’s one of the most disappointingly empty SF blockbusters in years – a great cast doing fantastic work in service of a script that says nothing, and even bollocks up Spock’s character in the end (when he’s all for blowing up Nero’s ship). I’d love for the next film to be slightly more thoughtful or at least have more substance – in today’s film climate, that’s ridiculously unlikely.

An open letter to Twilight fans.

The reviews for Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch are starting to appear – and they’re not looking good. In fact, some of them are hilariously bad. The first review I’ve linked to (from IGN) basically hints that the film is exactly what the trailers have made it look like – an overproduced, overstylised mess – and my favourite quote has to be: “For a movie that’s superficially about female empowerment, it’s ironically one of the most ridiculously misogynistic movies in recent memory.” And Warner Bros have just handed Snyder the directorial chair for Superman. It’ll be interesting to see whether it sinks or swims at the Box Office….

AKIRA casting rumours are once again circling – and it’s still not looking good. Robert Pattinson? James McCavoy? Michael Fassbender? Look, I think it’s about time all anime fans make peace with the fact that if this remake does happen, it’s going to be a cynical mess that’ll desperately try to sand down most of those awkward, harsh or confrontational edges that made Akira interesting in the first place. There are accusations of Last Airbender-style ‘white-washing’ of the cast, given the original source material – but M. Night Shyamalan was (however incompetently) trying to make a film that was true to the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series, which made the casting even more of a problem – whereas by dumping the Japanese setting, the extreme violence (given it’s a PG-13) and that troublesome ‘punky teenage rebellion’ subtext (given that virtually all the actors offered the renamed versions of Kaneda and Tetsuo are in their late twenties or early thirties), the producers of the Akira remake have made it clear they couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the original source material. They’re out to make a big sci-fi blockbuster and trade on the relatively well-known name of a cult movie (as all movies have to be ‘properties’ now) – the chances of this bearing any more than a passing resemblance to the manga or anime (aside from the design) is small. And accusing this of ‘whitewashing’ is a little like accusing Sergio Leone of whitewashing Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo to turn it into A Fistful of Dollars – ultimately, a bit silly and pointless, especially with a film that’s being helmed by Albert Hughes, and is likely to end up like From Hell – a pretty-looking, visually strong film that’s empty beyond belief and simply misses the point.

And finally – a teaser for the new season of Doctor Who. To be honest, it’s so short as to be borderline subliminal (15 seconds long, for heaven’s sake) – more interesting is the teaser for the online prequel, which will be appearing on Friday the 25th of March. Colour me intrigued…

TV News: How Do You Solve a Problem like Wonder Woman? (Pilot Episode Details…)

Wonder Woman Terry Dodson

Wonder Woman Lynda CarterAh, Wonder Woman – the Amazon princess of Themyscira who’s sent to Man’s world as an emissary of Peace, a job that seems to involve a remarkable amount of beating people up, battling evil and repelling bullets with her magical arm gauntlets. She’s massively recognisable. She’s one of the most long-running superheroes around. She’s a female icon, a wish-fulfilment figure and a role model… and yet she hasn’t managed a non-animated onscreen appearance since the fabulously campy Seventies TV series starring Lynda Carter. It’s not for want of trying – there’s been a whole series of attempts to bring Wonder Woman back to the screen (most notably in 2005, when Buffy creator Joss Whedon was hired to do a reboot) but all of them have either failed or stalled.

Now, however, Wonder Woman may be on her way back to TV screens, thanks to a rather unlikely benefactor. If you were going to make a list of potential producers for a TV version of Wonder Woman, it’s very unlikely that David E. Kelly – the king of kooky courtroom drama and creator of shows like Ally McBeal and Boston Legal – would have made the cut. However, proving that you can never predict exactly how weird Hollywood can get, a Wonder Woman TV project is looking very likely, a pilot episode is being put together at US network NBC, and David E. Kelly is the man in charge. Details of the pilot script have filtered out via film/tv/comics site Bleeding Cool, and it’s certainly sounding a very David E. Kelly show – by the sounds of it, it’ll be a frothy relationship-driven superhero comedy drama with a fair selection of continuity from the original comics, but aiming more at the mainstream network audience, and certainly in no way trying to do the straight, mythic and serious take that plenty of fans seem to want.

(A quick summary of most of the details we’ve got – essentially, the setup is that Wonder Woman is Diana Themyscira, head of the Themyscira Corporation, and publicly moonlights as a superhero (think Tony Stark and Iron Man), but also uses the mild-mannered alter ego of Diana Prince from time to time. The general mood seems to be goofy female-oriented superhero drama, with a slightly worrying number of pop songs listed in the script (there’s apparently going to be a fight scene scored by ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce, which doesn’t exactly fill me with hope), and from most of what I’ve read in the Bleeding Cool article, it does feel like the closest reference point is going to be that fabulously Nineties TV take on Superman, Lois and Clark (also known over here as The New Adventures of Superman) – or, at least, the earlier episodes of Lois and Clark where the relationship-driven comedy worked, and the whole concept hadn’t been run into the ground yet).

Wonder Woman Brian BollandAt this stage, I’m neither loving nor hating what I’m hearing. A lot will depend on execution, and Wonder Woman isn’t a character I’m especially invested in – it does read like the kind of thing that’s more likely to fail than succeed, but pilot episodes can be notoriously clunky anyway, and I’m willing to at least give it a little benefit of the doubt (until I’ve actually seen the episode in question) as this could go either way. Kelly’s take might be a smash success or a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it failure (like the TV adaptation of female-centric Batman universe comic Birds of Prey, which was cancelled so quickly, hardly anyone even noticed that it existed), but it’s interesting in that it shows exactly how much uncertainty there is over how to do Wonder Woman onscreen, a lot more than there ever was with a character like Batman and Superman.

A little of it is simply to do with the fact that superhero tales tend to be pretty big budget (especially if we’re talking movies), and female-driven superhero movies don’t exactly have a fantastic strike rate of success (evidence for the prosecution: Supergirl, Elektra, and the stunningly awful Catwoman). Much of this is down to bad luck and rotten creative decisions, but there’s also the problem that big budget superhero films need to be pitched as wide as possible, and I don’t think anyone has yet to crack how to sell the kind of major-league, female-oriented superhero blockbuster that they’d need if they were going to give Wonder Woman the cinematic outing her following and history deserves.

Wonder WomanOn top of that, Wonder Woman is a tricky character whose origin story has been tweaked, rebooted and remixed a surprising number of times over the years. For example, while there have been wildly different interpretations of Batman, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever suggesting “Hey, you know what? What if Bruce Wayne gave up all the dressing up as a bat, and instead we had him travelling the world as a daring spy who poses as an international playboy? Maybe his codename could still be ‘The Bat’!” And yet, that’s exactly what happened to Wonder Woman for several years, from the late sixties to the mid seventies, when she was de-powered and transformed into a fab and groovy secret agent. There have been other massive changes over the years, and Wonder Woman’s origin isn’t the kind of clear-cut tale that you can sum up as easily and succinctly as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely managed in the first page of their magnum opus, All-Star Superman:

all-star_superman_origin

Even now, DC are struggling with the character – she’s in the middle of an ‘alternate history’ revamp, a ‘bold new direction’ that was thought up by writer J. Michael Straczynski before he jumped ship from writing monthly comics, and which seems to have turned her into a cross between Xena: Warrior Princess and the DC Comics beserker warrior equivalent of Wolverine. It’s not as much of a car-crash as Straczynski’s god-awful “Superman walks across America” tale Grounded, but after about six issues, it really doesn’t feel like it’s working (even with a mild upswing in quality thanks to Chris Roberson taking over scripting duties). They’ve also, as part of the remix, given her a much-heralded new costume:

wonder woman new costume jim lee

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t actually have a problem with this, and as superhero costumes go, it’s pretty good. The jacket is still ridiculously Nineties, but the ensemble works, and it doesn’t say “armoured swimming costume” in the same way that the classic WW costume does. Yes, it does take away a certain degree of Wonder Woman’s mythic nature but it also, frankly, is a more practical costume that would very probably be much easier to realise onscreen without drifting into the kind of campness that Xena or, to be honest, the Seventies TV show survived on.

wonder woman alex rossAnother problem with Wonder Woman is her mythic nature. She was created in the Nineteen Forties as a female adventurer to battle the Nazis, a long time before the Sixties Marvel revolution made street-level, ordinary-joe superheroes the done thing. As a result, she’s a character of pure myth (plenty of versions of the origin have her actually sculpted from clay by the Gods), and there’s a sense of distance from all the DC ‘Big Three’ – the feeling that they’re Olympian ideals to aspire to. That’s a tricky thing to pull off, especially in the post-Eighties/Nineties era when superhero comics are at least attempting a bit more psychological depth (even if they don’t always manage it), and I really don’t feel like anyone’s ever entirely cracked how to handle this.

There’s also the lack of a single definitive Wonder Woman story. As I’ve said, I haven’t read a heap of Wonder Woman comics, so I’m coming at this as an outsider, but especially in the last twenty five years, in the post Dark Knight and Watchmen comics landscape, there hasn’t been a comic that has truly defined Wonder Woman as a character in the same way that, say, The Dark Knight Returns or The Killing Joke have for Batman. I’m sure there have been some great runs of stories and some impressive creators have worked on the title (including writers like Greg Rucka and Gail Simone), but it feels like what’s needed is someone to take Wonder Woman and do something attention-grabbing and truly different with her (which I suspect was what Straczynski was trying to do with his rather ill-fated concept, unfortunately).

Wonder Woman Lasso of TruthOn top of all that, there’s the question of how close a screen version should stick to the comic, especially when there are aspects of the comic which (to put it mildly) might be tricky to transfer? The 2009 animated Wonder Woman direct-to-DVD film is a good example of this – it’s fine when it’s sticking to pure myth (featuring a 300-style flashback opening sequence), but comes unstuck when it has to do tackle some of the trickier aspects – and yes, we’re talking about the Lasso of Truth. Back in the Forties, there was a deliberate layer of kink to many Wonder Woman stories (with the mighty Amazon coming up against a wide variety of villains who seemed very fond of tying her up time after time), and the Lasso of Truth – the magical rope which, when tied around someone’s neck, compels them to tell the truth – is a direct descendant of this kind of storytelling.

It’s the kind of thing that’s much easier to play in a comic book than in reality, and that’s the main problem with Wonder Woman – you’ve got a character who’s a mass of challenging aspects, many of which could be breathtakingly silly if done wrong, and which doesn’t even have a clear, definitive set of stories which you can look to as an obvious blueprint for a screen adaptation. If anyone wants to set me straight and say “Well, of course there’s issues XXX to XXX”, then I’ll be extremely grateful, but considering these inherent problems, I’m really not surprised that nobody’s been able to get a full-on live action version of Wonder Woman out of development. In pop culture terms, she’s kind of where Batman was before the Tim Burton-directed 1989 blockbuster – the Seventies Lynda Carter show is still, despite its nuclear levels of camp, the main touchstone for what people (at least of a certain age) think when they think ‘Wonder Woman’. What she really needs is someone like Burton to come along and do something incredibly distinctive with her – knock the origin into a coherent shape, choose what they want and leave the rest on the comic page, and craft something which will be distinctive and attention-grabbing.

Now, for the record – I don’t think from what I’ve heard that Kelly’s TV adaptation is going to be that. It’s definitely going to earn a lot of fan hatred even before a second of it has been broadcast, and I don’t know that if my favourite comic book character was going to be changed that radically, I’d be particularly happy. But, I suspect that if Wonder Woman is ever going to succeed onscreen, she’s going to have to be changed – she’s going to have to be a specific interpretation. Until then, she’s going to remain an icon that everybody knows, but which remains frustratingly difficult to adapt…