Monthly Archives: October 2010

Questions of Continuity

Time Masters: Vanishing Point Vol. 3.

After a discussion on class based on the mythos or rather the continuity of a comic book, I wanted to look at the last installment of the search for Batman that has hit the shelf. One, the comic is considered a side story, or alternative timeline. It is also connected to the series written by Grant Morrison entitled, “The Return of Bruce Wayne.” I only want to ask one question before turning in for the night and perhaps having a chance to read the 4th volume of this series: Does playing with aspects of time allow for one to create discrepancies within the continuity of a stories overall story arc? Until next time-


Taking another rotten look at Apocalypse

I know already posted on Superman/Batman: Apocalypse,” so I want to avoid too much summary. So for that purpose I have posted a youtube clip and quoted Felix Vasquez Jr. who wrote a review on “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse,”

I really truly wanted to love “Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse” in the end, mainly because I really enjoyed the first film when it was released and thought it to be a great superhero thriller. This sequel is mainly aimed for the girls in the audience and that is made apparent by the fact that Supergirl is the primary character, she is deemed to be more powerful than Superman (that idea truly angers me), and Superman and Batman mainly just play bickering parents who either fawn over Supergirl and try to figure out what to do with her. Batman thinks she can be a horrible weapon and that she must be kept under control, Superman thinks she deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt and can be used for good, Batman doesn’t want her to have a cell phone since she didn’t do her homework, Superman wants her to have one since she did her chores. Okay, those last two sentences were false, but that’s mainly what it feels like whenever Superman and Batman are bickering over Supergirl, the gorgeous and often innocent young stalwart from Krypton who is mainly deemed as the new era of deity for Earth’s safety. Superman and Batman are just supporting characters this time around, tasked with imparting wisdom on young Kara who takes to Earth life instantly. Superman teaches her about junk food, Superman teaches her about fashion, Superman shops with her!

Vasquez summarizes underlying aspects of the film, while also pointing out what he thinks are the bad qualities of this film. I feel the need to argue with him and would claim that these are actually some of the more admirable traits of the film. Many of the film reviewers on suggest that the film is too short with too many characters left bickering on the screen. I have to say that I am not interested in anything that the reviews actually had to say. I enjoy the action, especially the familial aspects. This is a side of the stoic Superman that readers are not normally exposed. Even in the films he is stiff and unemotional. In this feature Superman exhibits emotions and concern. The question becomes, is it because his family is present? I like the analogy that Vasquez utilizes in his discussion of the film and that is somewhat how the film plays out, but I think these are aspects of Superman that are often ignored. It is nice to have this relaxed and emotional setting present in the Superman mythos… even if it is not part of the continuity.

Great Power, Who wants the responsibility?

“Each of us fights with the hope of a better tomorrow.” -Superman (Superman / Batman: Apocalypse.)

The basic premise of the latest animated film from the DC Universe is based after the events of “Superman / Batman: Public Enemies.” Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly have reprised their voices as the Dark Knight and Superman. A ship or meteorite object crashes into Gotham harbor, at which time Batman goes to investigate the scene of the crash. During this time he chases a woman of unknown origins through Gotham. Although, the video does not go into so much detail I think it gives a good idea that there is another Kryptonian in the mix, Kara, Kal-El or Superman’s cousin. The next clip gives away more of the plot line. However, I was more interested in how this animated feature draws the viewer into the action. I also appreciate the use of the the same voices as Conroy and Daly have become well known for being cast into these roles. I don’t know if it was a dead giveaway for most, but the glowing red eyes screams Super-girl. This story is one that plays with the origins of the character. It explains how there was one Kryptonian that also survived during the explosion. Some might argue that Superman needs to be the last survivor of Krypton and as shown in the cover image, DC killed her off. Up until now, Superman has been alone. The origins are re-imagined, for the adults, and the children taking up the stories. It is interesting because much like classic Greek texts, these stories have been reinvented several times over the last seventy years. Superman has had a long history of changes within the DC Universe. In terms of the Superman continuity, Kara was killed off in the comic books during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

This discussion is the result of another, which happened earlier this evening. I was sitting in class professor Hatfield was discussing what the superhero genre represents and how those stories can mean more than just a passive agressive fanciful way of avoiding reality. We also read Spiderman for class this week and this triggers other thoughts to my mind. (If only at this point in my writing, were you a fly on the wall, it would make it all that much easier to explain.) I don’t want to go into too much detail but I am afraid that in order to give a lucid discourse I must. I will come back to Hatfield’s remark later.
Spiderman, primarily the movie has the famous saying, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” In the retelling of the Spiderman origin story. (Not to get too off topic, but since we discussed the trailer for Spiderman I have also added it among the clips.)

Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, tells him this line from the first film and it becomes the “code,” much like Batman’s code, and even Dexter’s “code of Harry.” It is in these lines, that I am reminded of what one of my classmates said, “Peter is a whiney geek.” I say, good! He is in high school, he is a teenager. He is meant to be a whining teenager. I actually think by the time they made the third film, it was the closest that they came to capturing the whining pubescent teenager known as Peter Parker. Only I think they were a bit late with this telling of the story, and should have included it earlier on as it was a regression for the character. However, that is taking us away from the heart of this discussion, Super-girl. She, like the earlier whining version of Peter Parker likes having the power, but does not want the responsibility. At times she does not want to be a superhero. Without going back and doing an origin story (Which DC releases tomorrow as an alternate Year One story for Superman.) It is particularly interesting that she has more powers than Spiderman / Peter Parker, and yet she does not want to deal with the responsibility or the pressures. I will argue that it is because neither has a full grasp of their own powers yet. In the film Batman suggests that she is trained by Wonder Woman (Tutelage under the Princess of the Amazons, that is another discussion entirely, if anyone feels up to the challenge, by all means.) Batman convinces Superman that his cousin needs to be trained so that his enemies will not try and hurt him through his family. (Spoiler Alert: A few scenes later, enter Darkseid attempting to encourage young Kara to join him in Apocalypse.) Supergirl or Kara, is a reinterpretation on the question, “what if?” I propose the question, “what if” superman didn’t want to be the protector of Earth? What if he didn’t want the powers at all, and just wanted to be normal, what if the bad guys got to him first and manipulated him? Kara, falls into the category similar to Kal-El, having the help of good people. However, she is in a confused state of mind, a teenage mind. She is impressionable. It is the whining depiction of the superhero, something that deviates from the normal machismo. Here the viewers and readers encounter a superhero that struggles with the ideas and questions of normalcy. The question becomes, why do they choose to fight for the side of good? What compels them to be the protectors? Ernest Hemingway wrote that, “the world is a mighty fine place and worth fighting for.” The actions of the superhero resonate with this statement. The superhero has chosen to protect, to fight, because they believe that the world is worth fighting for. I struggled with the idea of this hiding behind a false identity, one that was not their own, but with the power, the responsibility, there is a time when the hero wants a break. I was lucky enough to find the first eight minutes of Pixar’s The Incredibles on youtube. The statements made by these characters demonstrate a lot of relevance to this discourse. They point out that it is indeed a great burden to not have a secret identity, to always be under the microscope, every action recorded, judged. Characters such as Iron Man that have put themselves in a position that has exposed their secret identities forces them to be placed under more scrutiny. I have to agree with the sentiments in the film when Superman / Clark says, “Secret identity is one of the most important things of being a super hero.” I don’t think he said it quite like that but I think it was something along those lines. I could continue this discussion, but I think I must end it there and with a clip from the Incredibles, because I think that it really summarizes the importance of a dual identity and perhaps shines some light on why they help people… because they want to.

Time Masters Volume 2: Passageway

Last I wrote I was reading Time Masters as my serial comic. As part of the catching up process of getting up to speed with the series again, I must say that the basic premise has been lost in time and space. Who exactly is RIP Hunter? What the hell does Booster Gold have to do with him (ie. why is he so important to him later on?) Will they ever find Bruce Wayne. The answers to these questions are being slowly teased out. I am enjoying the anticipation. I am already caught up but I just wanted to discuss the 2nd installment of the series. The second part of the story does not deliver a strong follow up to the first issue. I must admit that the storyline appears to be falling apart. I am impressed with the art, but there are times when the attention to the details in the art is a bit rushed. But then again, it gives guys like me hope that we could only hope to do something almost as good and if not better than the work being produced. This is irrelevant to the story and the discussion at hand. Time Masters presents questions that are more ideological, if questions. If you could change what you did in the past, would you? If you did, what would happen? I would normally think that time is set in stone, or for the most part I would think that the majority of people thought that way. In terms of the story, time can be tampered with. Hunter’s job is to protect events within time, and one such example as given was when Kal-El comes to Earth. We learn that RIP is being trained by his father (Unknown name and origin, however, the blue star and gold pants suggest that he is Booster Gold.) that it is his job to protect moments such as Superman’s vulnerable moments. It is also interesting to note that in this part of the story titled “Passageway,” there is a black and white cut away in the middle of a splash page when Booster and Hunter are discussing his involvement with the J.L.A. and how he can never tell anyone that he is protecting the multiverse because he would then make himself a target. Hunter (Not the characters real name, possibly could be something Booster, not sure quite yet.) understands that his origins must be kept a secret because it makes him a target… This thought is what made me want to look at the idea of secret identities once more in terms of Time Masters. In terms of taking on a persona, RIP Hunter assumes the role of Hunter, removing his alter ego, or original self entirely. In terms of Superman, Batman, or even Wonder Woman (Who assumes the mild mannered alter ego, much like Superman does.) one could argue that this would be less problematic for the hero, to just embrace the hero, and not have any other life to worry about. However, I was watching “Superman & Batman Apocalypse” and Superman suggests that having the two identities is the most important thing in his life, that without being Clark, he would not feel normal. Superman is Kal-El first, then he is Clark Kent as he grows up with the Kent family. Once he assumes the role of Superman he has progressively evolved into the third stage of his transformation. Although, these stages are removed from the story of RIP Hunter, there is still a faint element that exists, instead RIP hides the identity of his family. The question I am struggling with and will leave with for the evening is: Could it be more dangerous to have a secret identity to protect simply the self, or to have an identity that aims to protect the entire family? Batman and Superman essentially do not have these problems of family so that is why I raise this question. Until next time… (Coming up next time, I still have to talk about the Apocalypse and some Iron Man 2, as well as the Volume 3 and 4 of Time Masters.)

Time Masters: Vanishing Point (Spoiler Alert)

I have not read a serial comic in a while. I cannot really say that I have ever stuck with one on a consistent basis for that matter. Most of the time I could not get past the fact that the art. Other times I was not sure what was going on in the comic book or I simply could not get into the story. Time Masters was a great springboard for me to get back into, or start reading comics on the week-to-week basis. I must admit that I am not fond of the suspense. I have already switched from watching television shows to avoid the unnecessary suspense and waiting for the next episodes. So Time Masters is an excellent comic for me since it is a mini series. I am currently on the first of six, the collection as a whole is currently on number 3 of the series, and number four comes out on the 26th! I don’t want to give too much away about the details and storyline of the book, but I do want to give a brief summary of the first book in the series since it may entice you to read the series.
Maybe I should start with why I considered the comic book versus other books that were available at Earth 2 Comics when my class went to visit. I had been browsing many isles in the local Barnes and Noble when I saw a graphic novel entitled, “R.I.P. Batman,” a comic that basically is about the death of Batman, or so I thought it was about his death. I haven’t read it yet; but then I saw Time Masters and made considered the connection between the books. The art, although not as amazing as what I had seen when I flipped through books like Hush or R.I.P. Batman, or even the book that Kevin Smith did with Walt Flannigan. I was drawn in by the supernatural idea that Batman, Bruce Wayne was lost in time. Even though I was unfamiliar with the character RIP hunter, I was still familiar with Superman and the Green Lantern. The layout was already considerably different from the original Batman that I was introduced to.
Yes, that’s right, before I took this class. I had never laid hands on a Batman comic book. The pages had split cells, some were small or cut different ways. Some images were laid out over a splash page or a larger image. The freedom of the layout was impressive and I enjoyed the story as hokey as it was at certain times. It was as though the comic was playing with time in terms of the text. Since the story skips around in time it is only natural to see old terminology, and the use of phrases such as, “Looks like I got here just in time.” It reminded me of the things Superman would say in the early Superman Chronicles. But I am getting off topic. I wanted to talk about the story a little bit before I stop for a moment.
So Batman died? Wait, what he’s not dead? Lost? Lost how? Let me get this straight, Batman is lost in time, now this guy I have never seen before, RIP, Time Master. RIP employs the help of Superman, Green Lantern (Protector of Galaxies), and Booster Gold (Who at this juncture has some importance to RIP, although I am not certain as to what that is quite yet.). It turns out that RIP Hunter has pin pointed that Batman has been ripped from his own time. The thing that has been drawing the majority of my curiosity is how Batman is moving in and out of time and who put him there to begin with. Right now, our heroes are jumping through time as well, trying not to cause a ripple effect that would undo history, as we know it. Next up is the Claw Unconquered…

Super Sexual Tension Batman!

Several things come to mind when I think of sexuality within the comic book genre after reading Catherine Williamson’s “Draped Crusaders”: Disrobing Gender in The Mark of Zorro. Williamson presents the question, “which identity is the real one?” She argues that “they both are, or rather each is the others secret. Clark masks Superman and Superman masks Clark.” (6) Williamson’s argument evades making a declaration. Her argument does not claim that either side is the true identity. In turn, by not choosing a definitive side in the discussion of “which identity is the real,” It is the very act of not choosing, or rather saying that both identities are the true persona that enables Williamson’s homosexual reading of narratives such as The Mark of Zorro, Batman, and Superman. Her argument is based on tension. By presenting her argument in this way, she also enables one to see the struggles beneath the first layer of the superficial tension.
I must note that I am not criticizing her for taking a stance that does not declare to be on one side or the other. I like that she has chosen to present her argument in such a way that demonstrates thereby enables her discussion of sexual repression, that they can be hiding one or the other. I must argue with her for not having taken a strong stance on this discussion. In fact I will go as far to argue with her and say that Clark, if in fact is merely Superman’s way of taking a break and being average, playing dumb for a moment. I would also go as far to challenge Williamson’s discussion on superheroes, asking the question, why were the mutants left out? Why were the spandex, brightly painted X-Men ignored, if anything in the comic world screams, hey sailor, it is the homosexual undertones prevailant in the marvel comic. The crew is practically out in the open. Their identies is a collective community representative of the homosexual community (If one were to read it that way). I begin to wonder if they undermine Williamson’s argument, or perhaps they represent the present struggle for “gay rights.” While Superman and Batman precursor representations, hiding and repressing, shame, and a struggle with identity.
Although, I was approaching this in a formal manner, I want to change gears and take a look at Batman, specifically, his depiction in Hush. Batman says in Hush, “Dick, Dick Grayson, Nightwing, He explained to me once that The Joker and I are forever linked in constant battle. That in some sick way, The Joker exists because of me. How I represent the order that is necessary to live in Gotham City and The Joker is the chaos that disrupts that order.” In Hush, Batman struggles with his “alternate” persona, The Joker. Batman in this situation is also representative of chastity, while The Joker is sexual freedom to the extreme. Both represent the extremes in this situation, one colorful and bright, the other shrouded in the shadows. ::Spoiler Alert:: For those that have not read Hush, Batman has a relationship with Catwoman, which is more like sexual tension sealed in a kiss.

For the majority of the book, Batman swings through either Metropolis, he can’t stop thinking about his sexual connection, his “distraction.” These urges that Batman does not engage in, present another question, is he able to maintain his chaste views because he is also Bruce Wayne, the playboy poster child? Could it be that like many people with sexual urges and fantasies, he opens up to those closest to him when he is willing to take them to his “cave.” Ultimately, he reveals his identity as Batman/Bruce Wayne to Catwoman/Selena Kyle.
It is in the relationships that I struggle with questions to determine what the relationships imposed on these comics with discussions presented by writers like Williamson. For now, I only want to raise questions as this will hopefully engage us in some great discussion… If any at all. I am certainly interested in the ideas presented, one that suggests that the superhero is a metaphor of repressed sexual identity. However, this tension, and relationship presents so much more, and I cannot even begin to give it the appropriate discussion that it deserves, and for that reason, I will save much of this discussion for a later time. Again, I only hope that perhaps we can engage in a discourse that would help uncover some of the mystery…

The City Scape

The city scape, a crusaders turf, a boy wonder’s persona, the edifice of being for the man in blue. Heroes, the very term presents a standard for an individual , a vigilante of sorts that has some sort of tragedy bestowed upon his or her life. In terms of Batman, Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in front of him. Superman, Kal El, or Clark Kent survived destruction of his home planet, the sole survivor of his race. The boy Wonder, Robin, Dick Grayson suffered the loss of his parents. In part the formula for a super hero appears to be one that requires a tragic event plus a super power or exuberant wealth. Although this discussion will revolve around characters from Ex-Machina and Astro City, I will also be mentioning Gotham city

(It’s times like this that I need a good excuse to get to talk about the Batman). This discussion is to establish if the city is the environmental factor that shapes the hero and to discern if it is the hero that ultimately shapes the city, while also attempting to determine if the hero does change the city, do the two entities continue to change one another?

Scott Bukatman’s “Boys in the Hoods: A Song for the Urban Superhero,” establishes the notion that the Superhero is the city, that the edifice reflects the image of the hero. He argues that the “The superhero city is experienced in a rush but opened to contemplation: it is distinguished by this dialectic of exuberent motion and a legible stasis. By exposing and labeling the multiple layers of the city, superhero comics enact something equivalent to the superhero’s panoramic and panoptic gaze just as the dynamic organization of figures and panels enact something of the city’s constant hustle.” (194) Bukatman’s declares that Superman is representative of the city scape, democratic, modern, and open. His metropolis is drawn like the character and represents the rigidity and moral code of Superman. Batman, is hidden under a mask, not open to the panoramic gaze that is Metropolis. Instead, Bukatman says “Gotham City…has no master. It is a city askew defined by angular perspectives, impenetrable shadows, and grotesque inhabitants of its night.” (203)

But I begin to wonder what Bukatman would say about the hero of ExMachina, a hero that hides in the view of the public as the Mayor of New York City. A man illustrated within the tragedy of our own world, our Manhattan, the one that stands as it is today in a static image of terrorism. The Great Machine is a reflection of the Modern New York, aging. When Great Machine goes to rescue a young man who nearly falls to his death, he says, “Kid…you just got rescued by an out-of shape guy…in a jet pack.” This is moments after they both land on the subway rails and the kid complains of a broken arm. But the question is did the glowing light come from the city? If so, did the city make Hundred into a hero?

Superman is in his own league when it comes to the city as far as I am concerned. He represents the Totalitarian Utopia of the perfect world that we struggle to achieve, but never do. Batman on the other hand resembles Hundred, aging with his city, making comments such as the one in Hush, when he says, “first my body betrays me, now my city.” Batman says this just as he is falling to the ground, his body eventually lying broken in an ally, and not just any ally, but “Crime Ally.” As if to say there is one ally above all to stay away from. But the hero as a human, rather than a superhuman is one that is more believable gives one a better ability to relate.

In Astro City, the hero is superman-like. The city villains try to rob a bank, yet there is one among them that says, don’t try and fight them. So this raises the question, if the villain knows they can’t defeat superman, why commit the crime in the first place? Does the villain have a death wish? Do they crave the attention? Is there just some hunger that they cannot quench? At the same time Batman has keen detective skills, able to overcome even his most diabolical of adversaries and yet, they too wish to still commit the crime, knowing that some how Batman may outsmart them. But then, you sit there and ask, what does this have to do with the city? I am glad you are still keeping up and asking the right questions. The City is the hero and vise versa. Look at one’s self. The way we act, the way we talk, our beliefs, the things that we hold value to are shaped by our environment and for some of us that is our city. I feel that my city has shaped the way I view the world, diversified as it is, I welcome the different people I encounter, while others maybe not so much. People disagree and people do tragic things to one another. The comic version of the city scape maintains a meditative state, almost to the point of nostalgic hopefulness, the dream that the city will have symbol of hope, to avert the crime, something greater than a man, “because the man is corruptible,” much like Christopher Nolan suggests in his Batman Begins movie. The city and the hero experience a symbiosis, one constantly affecting the other. It is even synonymous with the world of the real, we too have an impact on our own surroundings.

But then again, it brings up the old question, does life imitate art or is art imitating life? Perhaps art is merely the means to which we can voice our own opinions without baring the burden of criticism, in hopes that perhaps our message will hide in the underscored images of the fantastic.
Later on in the week I will be examining the sexuality and the tension between Batman’s Catwoman and the Caped Crusader. I will argue that Batman enjoys a little S&M from his dominatrix counterpart aka Selina Kyle. Until then, I will be reading about the Homosexuality within Batman… Robin the boy wonder, guess a lot people wonder…

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