Posts Tagged ‘Batgirl’

It’s no secret that Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne is, along with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, one of the brighter aspects of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is saying something considering the somber and dreary coloring ofbenaffleck the film perpetually existing in the twilight hours of the DC Cinematic Universe. So of course no one was surprised when it was announced that Affleck would be starring in a Batman solo movie. Better yet, Affleck is also co-writing the script with President of DC Entertainment, and DC Comics writer, Geoff Johns as well as directing the film, which again makes sense given Affleck’s rise in Hollywood as a director for critically acclaimed films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and the Oscar award-winning Argo.

With Affleck’s deep and unabashed affection for all things Batman, this seems like the perfect fit. The only thing standing in the way of success for the film is what story Affleck and Johns want to tell and how they plan to move the character forward after the still lingering fallout from BvS and whatever happens in Justice League. Recently, Affleck leaked test footage for the Batman solo film featuring Deathstoke, a villain who’s had several run-ins with the Justice League and the Teen Titans in the comics and cartoon. Additionally, there was the series-changing appearance of Manu Bennett’s version of Deathstroke/Slade Wilson during Arrow‘s second season that likely put him in the sites of WB executives. Earlier this month it was announced that Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike) would be playing Deathstroke, likely making him at least one of the main villains going up against the Dark Knight, if not a challenging opponent for the burgeoning Justice League.

Bringing Deathstroke into the DC Cinematic Universe is an interesting move considering he was mainly a Teen Titans villain, but his inclusion does open up some possibilities for Batman and the greater DC universe of films. So, using the information provided by rumors, speculation, and actual confirmations, I’m going to walk you lovely readers through how I would approach the Batman solo film. And if someone working on the film happens to read it **cough**Ben Affleck**cough** all I ask is a story credit because that’s how that works, right?

Also, remember that this is the roughest of ideas. Just thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain. So…

Being true to itself, the internet is full of speculation as to which storyline(s) Affleck and Johns could pull from the comics. One theory is an adaptation of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which would give the film room to include a ton of cameos from Batman’s rogues gallery as the Caped Crusader fights his way through a riot at the questionably effective psychiatric facility. More recently, it’s been rumored that Deathstroke could take the place of Bane as the main antagonist of a Knightfall adaptation. The story by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo is most well-known for the moment Bane breaks an exhausted Batman’s back, leaving the vigilante paralyzed from the waist down and Gotham City without its guardian. You’ll recall The Dark Knight Rises used aspects of the story as well, which could deter the solo film from using it. The third big contender is the Hush storyline by Jeff Loeb and Jim Lee that features a lot of cameos by prominent characters in the DCU. Like, a lot of characters. The story, however, generally follows a noir narrative as Batman tries to uncover a plot by a villain only known as Hush who seems intent on taking the Dark Knight down.

None of these books would be a bad choice for an adaptation. They all require Batman to have been operating for a joe-manganiello-as-deathstrokesignificant amount of time, which the previous films already established with Bruce’s 20-year long crusade, and they feature a large supporting cast of well-known and not-so-well-known allies and villains. What makes the possibility of one or all three stories providing some structure to the movie so exciting is how they could easily tie into the previous films and service the character going forward. Batman may be a loner, but he’s the most sociable recluse in the DCU.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to proceed with the idea that the Knightfall storyline would be the backbone of the movie’s narrative. Deathstroke is either hired to take out the Bat or he takes it upon himself to go up against the Dark Knight based on pure ego. Bane’s original plan was rooted in besting Batman on all fronts, mind and body, so it wouldn’t be too out of left field to say that Deathstroke’s reasons have a similar basis. His tactical prowess, intelligence, and enhanced skills make him a formidable opponent, so pitting him against another man at peak physical condition and extreme intelligence would make for some killer fight scenes.

Okay, moving on!

With Batman’s lengthy timeline of operation in tact the solo film would get a lot of leeway when it comes to bringing new characters into the fold. This works in Batman’s favor because, according to BvS, Bats has been on a bit of cruelty streak in the wake of the destruction in Metropolis and the loss of a building and some people he may have cared about. Possibly. We could also lump in the death of a Robin acting as lingering trauma on top of the ever-present Mommy and Daddy issues Bruce has bouncing around in his head. This all goes to say that by the end of BvS, and most likely after the Justice League two-parter has concluded, Batman’s attitude towards teamwork will have shifted in a more favorable direction. Eager to mend fences and reestablish old connections, a significant chunk of the story could be devoted to building the Bat-Family, or rebuilding it where the characters are concerned.

One of the more frustrating things about being a Batman fan is the lack of Bat-Family within the film adaptations. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy only made the slightest of nods to Robin in the final moments of the third film and the less that can be said about the Joel Schumcher version of Dick Grayson the better. There’s an aversion to including the extended Bat-Family in the film adaptations, which I can mostly understand but still find aggravating. Yes, a teen sidekick brings up a whole slew of issues – mostly the lack of child protective services in Gotham – but the purpose of Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, etc. is how they contrast and compliment Batman in his endless war on crime. Just having Alfred around to chastise or wax poetic keeps Bruce in a strangely infantilized state where he’s constantly answering to his surrogate father. By giving him a sidekick, or a partner, Bruce is now the father-figure doling out advice, training his “children,” and making tons of mistakes along the way.bat-fam

And it’s those mistakes, plus his renewed appreciation for teamwork, that lead him towards reconciliation in the solo film. If we make the assumption that the Robin suit featured in BvS belonged to Jason Todd, it would go a long way towards establishing the additional trauma Bruce has experienced in losing a surrogate child. That loss would feed his rage and guilt, which would then cause him to push away anyone else he feels could be harmed because of their association with him.

Enter Nightwing! There have been quite a few retellings of the hows and whys of Dick Grayson’s transition from teen sidekick to standalone hero. Sometimes the split is amicable, a natural progression as Dick matures into a young man, and other times their fighting causes a rift that takes years to repair. In the case of the solo film, why not combine both? Prior to the events of BvS, perhaps Dick decided to become his own man and help Bruce as Nightwing, leaving the position of Robin open to a new recruit, Jason Todd. Jason’s death at the hands of the Joker (sneaking in a Death in the Family reference) would then cause Bruce to take his rage out on Gotham’s criminal underground. Dick being the out-going and sympathetic guy that he is tries to help, but Bruce pushes him away. Instead of sticking around to receive more of the same, Dick leaves Gotham City for the equally corrupt Blüdhaven, barely talking to or seeing Bruce for several years. When Bruce arrives to make amends, it adds a layer of tension to the characters that could be worked out over the course of the film or carryover into the inevitable sequels.

The presence of Deathstroke could even build off the tension between Batman and his fractured family. In the comics, Slade was also the father of three children – Grant, Joseph, and Rose – all of whom could join him in his fight against Batman. It would actually go a long way to show how off his game Batman is if Deathstroke and family (at the very least Rose and Grant who shared the name Ravager) overwhelmed him. A first encounter might send him towards Blüdhaven to recruit Dick and upon returning without any allies in tow, because Dick isn’t going to forgive him or help out immediately, a second encounter would result in Deathstroke delivering a nearly fatal blow. Barely escaping with his life, and probably with the help of some gadgets, Batman is defeated and exhausted in body, mind, and spirit. What can he do now? Who can he trust to help?8e5tqlw

Enter Tim Drake! There was a video going around of actor Ryan Potter (Big Hero 6) “auditioning” for Ben Affleck with a choreographed fight scene. At the end he entreats Affleck to consider him with the closing line of, “Batman needs a Robin.” Potter isn’t wrong and using one of Tim’s lines from the comics works in favor of at least considering the importance of Robin’s place as Batman’s partner-in-crimefighting. Again, using the angle of the fractured family of heroes versus the united family of villains, Tim’s role is elevated by his drive to see Batman and Robin back together. Timeline wise, Tim’s a young man – probably mid to late teens – so he’s grown up with the Dynamic Duo as a constant presence in Gotham. And because Tim is a studious person with plenty of ambition, it would make sense that he’d try to seek his heroes out. An early encounter with Batman could start the film, showing off Tim’s martial arts skills, as well as his talent for technology, but Bats discourages Tim from being like him. Tim counters that he doesn’t want to be Batman, he just wants to work with him. Typical Batman, “I work alone.” Tim fires back, “You didn’t always. And you shouldn’t now.”

Is it subtle? Nope, but it works to establish where Batman is and why Tim becomes a much more important character as the film progresses. By the time Batman has reached his lowest point, Tim returns to help the Bat-Family reunite. Comic book Tim already figured out the secret identities, so movie Tim could as well, seeking out Dick Grayson or communicating with him via the Bat-Computer and filling him in on what’s happening in Gotham. As Bruce prepares to go back out into the fray of Gotham City, now overrun with criminals from Arkham Asylum that Deathstroke released (moving parts of Knightfall around here for my own purposes), Dick shows up to join the fight, standing by Bruce as his ally once again.

Fight, fight, fight. Heroes win, Bruce is as happy as he can get, and Tim is eventually recruited as the new Robin with Dick’s approval and Alfred’s endorsement. Not everything between Bruce and Dick is resolved, nor is it the last they’ll have seen of Deathstroke and family (because superheroes!), but it’s a step in the right direction with plenty of story fodder for the sequel.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Barbara Gordon/Batgirl yet. This is a trickier subject because Babs could be utilized in a couple of ways. In one scenario, she’s still Batgirl. With Batman still playing the loneliest loner type, we could see Batgirl operating solo or introduce the Birds of Prey as a splinter group trying to pick up the slack around Gotham despite Batman constantly telling them stop. Things could come to blows when Batman threatens to tell Barbara’s father, Commissioner Gordon, about her nighttime activities and she in turn threatens to reveal his secret identity to the world. She’s also good with technology, she helped build the latest version of the Bat-Computer, the one that broke into Luthor’s super secret thumb drive in BvS, so it wouldn’t be hard for her to plaster his face all over the internet and the nightly news. She’s not proud of the threat, but again, Bruce is pushing her into a corner. It eventually culminates with the Birds of Prey or, at the very least, Batgirl showing up to help.i-will-end-you

In the second scenario, she’s Oracle. For this to happen, there would have to be some acknowledgement of The Killing Joke, or a new backstory created to explain her forced retirement as Batgirl. Being Oracle has its advantages within the story. It would add another example of the Joker’s mark on the Bat-Family in the wake of Jason’s death and serve as a constant reminder to Bruce that he failed another person he loves. The connection between Babs and Tim in the realm of technology, however, would be useful in giving the supporting cast more interactions with each other. Babs could even be living with Dick in Blüdhaven (Babs and Dick shipper for life!), helping him fight crime as a nascent Oracle, which pits her against Tim as she blocks his attempts to hack the Bat-Computer from afar. What’s important, and necessary, is that Babs is a character in her own right. She fights regardless or her circumstances and she lets everyone know it. Even as Oracle she can get some licks in, so the wheelchair shouldn’t feel like a limitation. Would it be simpler to start her off as Batgirl? Yes, but there would be just as much meat to her character as Oracle if handled correctly.

So those are my lengthy thoughts and ideas about where the Batman solo film could potentially go. Like I said, WB and Ben Affleck, a story credit will suffice. And maybe a set visit…

Advertisements

 

Sam and Tiff talk about everything and nothing as friends are want to do.

 

Bill-and-Ted-s-Excellent

James Rowe of Roman on the Rocks joins Sam for a session mostly dedicated to all things DC Comics and their properties including Batman: Arkham Knight, Batman v Superman, Arrow, The Flash, and Batgirl.

 

Batgirl

Dear Bruce Timm,

You probably don’t remember me, but we met briefly at this year’s Emerald City Comicon. Susan Eisenberg actually introduced me to you but since you’re not much of a talker and I was nervous/shy it was a very short “Hi” “Hello” kinda thing.

Anyway Bruce – can I call you Bruce? – I’m writing this because you and your teams on Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League: Unlimited, and Batman Beyond are the reason I’ve been a long time DC Comics viewer and reader. I live and breathe the DC Universe more than anything (I have Big Barda tattooed on my arm for crying out loud!), so when I saw that you were returning to WB Animation for more DC Animated Movies, I was stoked. And then it was announced that the next movie you’re working on after Justice League: Gods and Monsters will be an animated version of The batgirlKilling Joke.

 

Bruce, if I could make one request of you before this movie has its script locked down, it’s this: Please leave Barbara Gordon out of the movie.

 

I don’t say this lightly. I’ve thought about this a lot and I even had a lot of reservations writing it down, but my brain won’t shut up about the subject so I feel compelled to let you know why. Mostly it’s that I’m so tired of having this conversation because it really seems to confound some people as to why myself and a great deal of female comic book readers have a problem with The Killing Joke. To be fair, there are some aspects to Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s work that I enjoy, especially the philosophical dilemma of what turns men like Batman and the Joker into Batman and the Joker. But there are parts of the book that are problematic and you know exactly what I’m talking about because, should you decide to go all the way with this movie, you’re going to have to address it within the story. Namely the shooting, torture, and sexual assault of Barbara Gordon by the Joker. If you could please just do me the solid of taking this out of the movie, along with Barbara, I’d appreciate it. And if you’re worried about the integrity of the story without Babs in it, let me assure you…

Nothing would change.

Joker_0113Just hear me out for a second and bear with me because I’ll most likely be covering story elements that you’re well aware of but are important to point out nonetheless. Within The Killing Joke, Joker, as a means of torturing Jim Gordon and getting at Batman, shoots Barbara, paralyzing her, strips her naked, photographs her, and it is HEAVILY implied that she’s raped. And this is just to torture her father and Batman. The only times we see Barbara are when she’s shot, when Jim is shown the photographs, and when Batman goes to her in the hospital. At no point in this story does Barbara make any decisions or take any actions that effect the course of the story. She is a PAWN, a piece of the story that is actually about Batman, Joker, and her father. This is the definition of both “fridging” and the “sexy lamp” tropes. Barbara serves no narrative function except as an example of the Joker’s sadism in order to provide motivation for other characters.

Quite frankly, I could do without it. Preserving the integrity of the story doesn’t have to include the maiming and humiliation of a character who currently has one of the top-selling books at DC Comics, one that has attracted more young women and new readers than DC could have hoped for. I can only imagine what will happen when those girls and their parents decide to pick up the new animated feature that includes Barbara and the horror that would result from watching such intense scenes of violence committed against a woman. Yes, Jim Gordon is tortured as well, but he gets resolution at the end as well as a moment to assert how his moral compass hasn’t changed despite the machinations of the Joker. Barbara gets no such moment.

And please, if we could avoid the “but she becomes Oracle” part of the justification for including Babs in the story should you choose to do so. She doesn’t become Oracle in the book and it’s a logical fallacy to assert that The Killing Joke is directly responsible for her new identity. There was no plan in place for Babs to move on as a superhero post-Killing Joke and she was all but written out of i will end youthe comics until Kim Yale and John Ostrander laid the foundations for her second life in Suicide Squad and Manhunter. The Killing Joke is only responsible for showing just how much regard for Barbara DC Comics had when Len Wein gave Alan Moore permission to “cripple the bitch.” The Oracle argument is further invalidated when one considers that amidst the New 52 reboot DC editorial could have easily erased The Killing Joke from Babs’ backstory, putting her in the position of starting from scratch as Batgirl without the story hanging over her like the Sword of Damocles. Instead, editorial kept The Killing Joke as canon but eliminated her time as Oracle due to the truncated timeline. It was more important to keep her paralysis and assault then it was to show her character growth as a hero operating out of a wheelchair. I mean, are you planning on doing another animated movie where we get to see the rise of Oracle? Anything including Batgirl? I see the next movies after Killing Joke are Batman: Bad Blood (featuring Batwoman) and Justice League vs Titans slated for release next year but wouldn’t an animated movie celebrating Batgirl or Oracle make more sense as a followup?

I ask only because the current Batgirl book from the creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr is ridiculously popular and directly responsible for bringing in new readers to DC Comics, many of them young women and little girls. The tone and the style of the book is lighter and brighter with an explicitly feminist mindset. The team has gone above and beyond to ensure the integrity of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl while keeping her accessible to all readers regardless of gender or age. The kicker being we’ve already gone through a Batgirl/Killing Joke controversy, one where the team asked that the Joker variant cover be removed from their book because it was the antithesis of the women-positive message the team had cultivated in actively distancing the book from the Killing Joke as much as possible.

black canaryBottom line: The Killing Joke is toxic when it comes to attracting female readers and I doubt the animated movie would fare much better considering the most recent batch of animated movies have been all but gleeful celebrations of the PG-13 rating with plenty of violence and coarse language that makes it impossible for me to show them to my five-year-old nephew who loves Batman. It just doesn’t make sense, from a business perspective, to develop an entire line of superheroine products and merchandise for girls aged 6-12, one of those heroes being Batgirl, and then put out an animated product that features said character being horrifically injured and abused. I doubt whoever ends up writing the copy for the DVD/Blu-Ray is going to mention what happens to Babs in the description, so won’t that be a fun family moment when mom and dad buy their young daughter the newest animated movie that features her favorite hero only to watch the awful events that occur.

As a female reader, as a person who loves the animated movies and DC Comics, please write Barbara Gordon out of The Killing Joke. I would prefer she not be featured rather than sit through a movie that’s just going to be uncomfortable on all counts. And this isn’t a case where “then don’t watch it” matters. What matters is the continual validation of The Killing Joke and the insistence from DC Comics and some fans that it’s an essential story regardless of how it treats Barbara. There are others ways to torture Jim Gordon and I’m sure you have plenty of talented writers who could think of a million ways to push him without using his daughter.

Thank you for your time,

Sam

P.S. That Batman short was awesome!

Recently, The Cut put out a list of 25 quotes from famous women all about female friendships. The topic is an inspired one, in my opinion, because, as the article points out, friendships between women are complex – far more complex than movies, television, or most forms of media will cover. Via the lens of Hollywood, women, as we relate to each other, are rarely depicted in a positive manner. Much of this is due to the skewed gender dynamics of any grouping of oldacquaintance-toastcharacters. Whether it’s an action movie, a television procedural, or a popular cartoon series, women are typically outnumbered two to one.  And that’s assuming there’s more than one woman in the cast. There’s a reason why “The Chick” and its corresponding trope the “Smurfette Principle” exist; the lone female character in the main cast serves as the only representative of half the viewing audience, of which the other half gets at least four characters to latch on to, and her entire reason for existing is to be the love interest/girl equivalent of the male lead or just simply “The Girl” meant to embody all things under the broad category of feminine.

So you can imagine how difficult it is to portray friendship among women with any depth when this tendency to keep to one girl per team means the lone female’s personality and drive are always dwarfed by her relationship to the male cast, specifically the leading man. Men get to “bro out” because there are just more of them while female characters are either one-of-guys or sporting the coldest shoulder in need of the leading man to thaw. The message sent to girls and women is clear; this character has earned a special place amongst this group of men, something you too should strive for but if another woman shows up you should be wary of her immediately. Think about cartoons of the 80s and 90s. One girl in this special group with mostly guys, she has doe eyes for the leading man, and then another voltron-teamwoman shows up. This femme fatale immediately zeroes in on the lead guy and openly flirts with him just for the sheer pleasure of making the girl jealous. Typically she ends up being the villain of the week defeated by the end of the episode, but that storyline shows up in just about every cartoon. Trust me. It’s a very rare thing for an extra female character to just randomly show up and become best friends with the sole leading lady…unless that’s also a ruse for the episode. Cartoons were really formulaic back in the day. The point is, girls are taught from a young age to be distrustful of other women, which dovetails into adolescence and adulthood as the media constantly pits women against each other in a way that emphasizes spite and jealousy over friendship and loyalty. And the general lack of a female plurality means women have fewer characters to identify with and emulate.

And that’s where the ultimate problem lies. Because of the gender imbalance, female characters are either written with no personality so as to be a blank enough slate for female viewers to project themselves upon or they’re written with ALL THE PERSONALITIES so as to cover every base that the writer believes to be salient to women – assuming all women go through the same milestones and experience full character arcs within a predetermined time frame. The luxury of multiple male characters is you can have varying personalities, ya know like in real life, that viewers can relate to. It’s why Black Widow’s storyline in Avengers: Age of Ultron has received so much criticism, lots-of-new-avengers-age-of-ultron-character-detailsmostly but not exclusively, from women bemoaning the romantic drama between her and Bruce Banner as well as the disclosure of her sterilization while being trained as an assassin. As the only female lead in the Avengers ensemble, some felt the romantic/can’t-be-a-mommy angle was unnecessary for Natasha and further proof of Hollywood’s systemic misogyny. In truth the absence of women creates an absence of stories, which creates a need to see those stories done correctly for fear that it’s a one-time offer.

Mark Ruffalo reiterated this point during his most recent AMA:

If anything, Black Widow is much stronger than Banner. She protects him. She does her job, and basically they begin to have a relationship as friends, and I think it’s a misplaced anger. I think that what people might really be upset about is the fact that we need more superhuman women. The guys can do anything, they can have love affairs, they can be weak or strong and nobody raises an eyebrow. But when we do that with a woman, because there are so few storylines for women, we become hyper-critical of every single move that we make because there’s not much else to compare it to. [Source: Nerdist]

WWTo put it another way, think of all the scrutiny the Wonder Woman solo movie has come under before a script has even been written. Casting decisions, Gal Gadot’s body, the costume, the director, the studio, her cameo appearance – all of it has been and will continue to be debated and picked apart until the finished product is released in 2017. And even then it will be the subject of multiple conversations, essays, and op-eds about women in the film industry, female led movies, female led action/superhero movies, and the depiction of women in comics. The scrutiny and the nitpicking will be exhaustive and unrelenting. Why? Because we’re concerned that this is it. If Wonder Woman doesn’t succeed, for whatever reason, it’s just more fodder for studio executives to proclaim that female led movies don’t sell. Thus, Hollywood continues to trudge along like men are the universal demographic, which makes it even harder for women to carve out even a smidge of safe space in the Hollywood machine.

I know I’m being hyperbolic, but don’t tell me any bit of that doesn’t at least have a grain of truth. It’s frustrating because as a woman I’ve been taught to find more sympathy and empathy with male characters purely because my choices were limited in the amount of women present in the cartoons, tv shows, and movies I watched. As a kid, and a tomboy, I didn’t think much of it, but as an adult it just doesn’t make sense to put limitations on the amount of women in an ensemble when you’re effectively closing your story off to other narrative avenues and character interaction. Pro tip: If there’s only one woman on the bridge crew of a spaceship, or a group of mercenaries, or a ragtag team of miscreants looking to raise hell maybe make one of the four or five interchangeable meatheads a woman. Hell, make half of them women. Or better yet, make the WHOLE CAST WOMEN!guardians-galaxy-walking

It’s not such a crazy idea since women generally interact in groups, so the National Geographic specials have told me. And it’s not just a case where one woman is hanging out with a group of men. Nope. Get this. Women occasionally hang out with other women. Weird, right? Sometimes a group of women can get together, all of them from differing backgrounds and life experiences, somehow stay in a room together, have a laugh or a serious conversation, and part ways on friendly terms with the desire to hang out again. But you wouldn’t know that from Hollywood where all-female casts = romantic comedy/drama/coming-of-age/Lifetime cancer movie of the week tear-jerker. We’re given the “Chick Flick” label because all other movies are for guys? Again, that’s a limitation based on the old school assumption that women have to be coerced to see westerns, sci-fi, horror, or action movies where we typically see the a significant shortage of female characters. In actuality, we love those films just as much as men and willingly go see them. But you know what we rarely see? More than one woman in those genre ensembles. And if there are maybe two women they’re either rivals, they never have a scene together, or one of them dies to further the male character’s plot.

bridesmaids_poster021-e1304923490553-700x361That’s why all-female casts like the Ghostbusters reboot, the much maligned Expendabelles, the up-coming Jem and the Holograms, and even the rumored 21 Jump Street spinoff matter. The same goes for Bridesmaids, The Heat, Rizzoli and Isles, Cagney and Lacey, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Parks & Recreation, Broad City, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, and Sailor Moon. They feature more than one female character in the lead, if not a female-dominated cast, which allows for personalities to flourish and create differing character interactions based on those personalities. No one character has to shoulder all of femininity. Instead, all of them get the chance to showcase how nuanced women are in relation to each other.

A blog post from Amanda C. Miller about Sailor Jupiter sums this up nicely:

You see, when you have an entire team of girls instead of just one or two, it makes the writer’s job easier because they don’t have to be as worried about playing it safe with their sole precious female character, and can therefore be more nuanced and complicated in their approach. You can give them each distinct personalities, flaws, strengths, desires, POVs, etc, because you have more than just one person representing an entire gender. With proper representation, you have the freedom to just show people as human. The good, the bad, the ugly, the quirky, so on and so forth. This goes for any underrepresented group of people.

Women are funny, competitive, vulgar, emotional, intelligent, romantic, standoffish, brazen, intimidating, generous, etc. but we need more properties that emphasize these aspects through interactions with other women. We need and want an all female Ghostbusters because we had to sit through two movies where four guys with varying Broad citybackgrounds in science and psychology ran around busting ghosts but the only two women in the cast were the secretary and the damsel. You know what would be awesome? Four women from varying backgrounds of science, psychology, and paranormal studies running around busting ghosts and talking to each other like friends or colleagues would. Will one of them have a love interest? Will one of them be married with kids? Maybe. It’s always a possibility. But it’s just as possible that all of them are single, two of them are in the Illuminati, and three-fourths of them eat ice cream while watching late night B-movies on basic cable. The point is you have the option to choose without worrying about who representing “The Girl”. They’re all “The Girl” but now it’s time to figure out what that entails.

Don’t get me wrong, some headway is being made. Comic books like Batgirl, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Gotham Academy, Rat Queens, Lumberjanes, and the new Jem and the Holograms are going strong with their emphasis on girl power and the strength of friendship but it’s still a small pool in an ocean of books featuring male leads. Television and film? Yeah, needs some work, but it’s work worth doing to have an even greater selection of quality stories.

You were doing so well, DC Comics. So well. And then y’all had to go and screw it up again.

For the June mini-relaunch of DC Comics’ titles post-Convergence each book will feature Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker on a variant cover. As is the case with most themed variants, the cover art is released ahead of time to get readers excited and get them thinking about which titles they want to spend their money on for the cover alone.

So when DC released the variant art for Batgirl #41

BG-Cv41-Joker-variant-solicitation-68d7f-600x910

There were some understandable feelings of “WTF, DC!” coming from fans. This author included. Drawn by Rafael Albuquerque, the variant uncomfortably invokes Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke (1988) where Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, was shot and tortured by the Joker leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Oddly enough, The Killing Joke isn’t about Barbara at all, it’s about her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Batman with Barbara’s pain and suffering used to taunt and torture the two men. No wonder it’s one of the primary examples of the Women in Refrigerators trope, or fridging, where the death, injury, or torture of a woman is used to further a male character’s story. The book may have its fans, but it has plenty of naysayers, among them the book’s author. Alan Moore has since shown his regrets over the story, chief among them being the crippling of Barbara Gordon, which Moore states he was surprised went through at DC. By his own account, Moore was told by editor Len Wein that it was okay to “cripple the bitch.”

The silver lining to The Killing Joke is we eventually got Barbara as the computer hacking badass that is Oracle. Leader of the Birds of Prey and one of the most trusted heroes within the DC Universe, Babs became the poster child for the disabled community. In overcoming her disability by continuing to fight crime, Barbara proved her resilience to adversity, becoming a stronger character in the long run. After twenty years in the chair, however, DC decided to put Barbara back in uniform with the launch of the New 52. Unfortunately, the rebooted universe didn’t include erasing The Killing Joke from the current canon. Instead, Barbara had been disabled for about three years prior to the events of the relaunch with her #1 issue serving as her first outing in uniform since the surgery that gave her back the use of her legs.

What became obvious was The Killing Joke’s legacy as a defining moment in Barbara’s history, at least according to DC Comics. Luckily writer Gail Simone tried to make good on the aftermath of such a traumatic event, exploring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and moving Babs’ story beyond being a victim. The current creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr have taken a similar approach. By changing her uniform and moving her out of Gotham City proper and into the Greenwich Village-esque Burnside, Batgirl has become the bright spot amongst the grimdark Bat-books. Colorful, fun, and unabashedly pro-feminist, Babs’ time in the wheelchair is a sore spot, but doesn’t define her. It’s certainly a plot point worth exploring, as the creative team continues to do in the current arc, but The Killing Joke does not a Batgirl make. Babs is presented as a confident, smart, and resourceful young woman trying to be both superhero and college student. Her problems come in the form of anime-inspired motorcyclists and social media, not dwelling on the Joker.

So why then did whoever is in charge of commissioning the variant covers decide that Batgirl as Victim was appropriate? Every book has its own tone and style and Albuquerque’s work couldn’t be more tone deaf in regards to Batgirl as a book. Look at the picture again. Babs is frightened and crying while the Joker draws a bloody smile across her face. It’s grotesque, but also another display of how DC Comics sees one of their most popular female characters. None of the other variants have shown the heroes as victims in such an uncomfortable manner and it’s disheartening that whoever is in charge of approving this cover thought it was okay. What’s more surprising is the cover Albuquerque did for Batgirl: Endgame #1, which feeds into the Endgame storyline in Batman.

batgirl_endgame1 - rafael albuquerque

It’s a much more appropriate cover and conveys the same information without diminishing Batgirl as a hero. Why this for Endgame but not for the book proper?

It’s just mind-boggling when one looks at other variants for Batgirl that have come out over the course of the New 52 that all have one thing in common: Batgirl is a goddam hero. In fact, here’s a gallery of those covers. Check out for yourself how previous variants have emphasized the fun and heroism of Batgirl.

28d5eb6e462adb9b4892cff3054e5c34

Batgirl ’66 Variant by Michael and Laura Allred

Scribblenauts Variant

Scribblenauts Variant

Bombshell Variant by Ant Lucia

Bombshell Variant by Ant Lucia

Monster Month variant by Kevin Nowlan

Monster Month variant by Kevin Nowlan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robin Requiem variant by Mikel Janin

Robin Requiem variant by Mikel Janin

Batman 75th Anniversary variant by Cliff Chiang

Batman 75th Anniversary variant by Cliff Chiang

Steampunk Variant by JG Jones

Steampunk Variant by JG Jones

The Flash Variant by Aaron Lopresti

The Flash Variant by Aaron Lopresti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harley Quinn Variant by Cliff Chiang

Harley Quinn Variant by Cliff Chiang

Selfie Variant by Dave Johnson

Selfie Variant by Dave Johnson

Movie Poster Variant by Cliff Chiang

Movie Poster Variant by Cliff Chiang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With shooting due to start sometime this year, we’re finally getting some news regarding who will fill the roster for TNT’s foray into the superhero genre with Titans. Based on the Teen Titans from DC Comics as well as New Teen Titans, and just simply Titans if you’ve followed the team up until the New 52 reboot, Titans, according to the leaked script, will feature Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Barbara Gordon/Oracle?, Hank Hall/Hawk, Dawn Granger/Dove, with Titansappearances towards the end of the pilot by Rachel Roth/Raven and Koriand’r/Starfire. The late appearance of the final two is most likely due to not wanting viewers overwhelmed by so many characters, or the pilot is a two-parter so as to give the characters room to breathe. Fingers crossed.

It’s definitely an interesting mishmash and not a lineup I was expecting at all. It’s essentially a combination of Teen Titans and Birds of Prey since Barbara will be in a wheelchair and acting as Oracle, though her hacker identity isn’t featured in the script. The exclusion of Cyborg and Beast Boy, based on the popular lineup for the Teen Titans cartoon, is probably because Beast Boy’s ability to change into any animal would be too costly for the show’s budget and Cyborg has been deemed hands off because of the up-coming Justice League movies and his solo film. If that’s the case with Cyborg, it’s still odd considering he’s so well-known for being in the Titans and Warner Bros. doesn’t seem to have a problem with two guys playing the Flash in the movie and television universes. Of course, that doesn’t mean the characters won’t birdsofprey12658appear in the show, but it may be in the form of supporting cast or guest appearances. However, with the exclusion of Starfire, the cast could use a person of color because it’s not looking all that diverse; the exception being the 4:2 ratio of female to male cast members.

Believe me, it’s very rare for a superhero cast to have more women on the team than men unless the book or show is specifically an all-female team. If you were to take a look at the casts currently on television, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the most balanced cast of about 4 female regular leads and 5 male regular leads; Arrow comes in next with 3:4, The Flash with 2:5, Agent Carter with 2:5, and Constantine with 1:3. Gotham would be the equivalent of Agents of SHIELD with the addition of Morena Baccarin putting the cast at 6:8, but the ensemble usually favors the male regulars since the cases revolve around Jim Gordon, meaning characters like Selina Kyle, Ivy Pepper (sigh), or Renee Montoya end up taking a backseat for several episodes. So it’s worth noting that Gotham has more female characters than any of the other shows but doesn’t use them as often. tumblr_nezyn6sS9v1t7nmyno1_500

My biggest worry about the inclusion of Barbara Gordon is the love triangle that seems inevitable between her, Nightwing, and Starfire. In the comics, Babs was never part of the Teen Titans. After getting shot by the Joker and ending up paralyzed from the waist down, she created the Oracle persona in order to continue fighting crime by being the eyes and ears of practically the entire DC Universe. Eventually this led to becoming leader of the Birds of Prey, an all-female team that occasionally had some men on the roster. In lieu of Cyborg’s usual role as tech expert on the team, Barbara makes sense to replace him, but if the intention is to have her there so the show can tease will-they-or-won’t-they between her and Dick or Dick and Starfire, then that’s gonna get old real quick. Babs, Dick, and Kori are all great characters in their own right and they deserve good writing and character development. I’m not saying there can’t be tension – the comics have been teasing both couples for so long it’s not out Nightwing-and-Starfire-dc-comics-14486473-300-455of the question – but it has to be more than Babs and Kori fighting for Dick’s affections or Dick waffling between the two. There’s history between all of them, which can make for great stories that don’t have to have a romantic bent. But this is only speculation based on cast lineup, so the show could very well prove me wrong.

Also worth noting is Titans will be the first live action debuts for Nightwing and Oracle. Granted, this will be true for all of the Titans, but Nightwing and Oracle are fairly special cases because of the fanbase and the characters’ history in media. Because of the longevity of the character, more people associate Dick Grayson with being Robin because they read the Golden and Silver Age comics or watched the Batman TV show from the 60s. The cartoons often default to Dick as Robin too, utilizing the contrasting personalities of Dick and Bruce to form the Dynamic Duo. It wasn’t until Batman: The Animated Series was revamped as The New Batman Adventures in the late 90s that we saw the first appearance of an animated Nightwing. Since then, almost every cartoon with Dick Grayson features either a glimpse of Nightwing or a progression from sidekick to solo hero. The movies, thus far…oh there’s not much to talk about.

Oracle has been featured even less. As far as iconography goes, Babs has always been Batgirl outside of the comics and any chance of her going through the violent circumstances that make her Oracle are either sidestepped or Nightwing-Titans-Togethermissing entirely. Aside from the Birds of Prey TV show from 2002, only The Batman in the episode “Artifacts” has featured Barbara as Oracle. It’s a step in the right direction to feature a handicapped superhero because, right now, representation and visibility are paramount. DC Comics got a lot of flack for making Barbara Batgirl again, so perhaps Titans can offer us a kickass Babs who just happens to be in a wheelchair.

Despite some of the misgivings I have, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Titans when it premieres. There are a lot of heroes and heroines in the DCU that need some time and attention and hopefully this show will do right by a few more. And with this particular roster, there’s room for a lot of characters to show up.

Also, was this the role Steven R. McQueen was hinting at?

I’m not the biggest fan of variant covers, at least not ones that are purposefully used so the publishers can up the price on a comic by delving into the portion of our lizard brains that has a desire for collecting and hoarding EVERYTHING that ever existed of the thing we love most. In this case, it’s not unusual for readers to spend an awful lot of money getting variant covers for books they wouldn’t normally read because the artwork or the subject matter speaks to them.

I’ve been pretty lucky to not fall into that sinkhole…until now.DC-Trinity-Darwyn-Cooke

In December, DC Comics will release their books with variant covers by none other than Darwyn Cooke. The master writer and artist behind books like the Harvey, Eisner, and Shuster award-winning DC: The New Frontier, Batman: Ego and Other Tales, Catwoman, The Spirit, the graphic novel adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker series, and a storyboard artist for Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and the opening animation for Batman Beyond, Cooke is most well-known for his signature retro style of art that harkens back to the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. He puts the “mod” is modern is what I’m saying. Cooke also has a way with composition and color. He frequently uses black but he’s not shy about using bright, bold colors to set the tone of a scene. Cooke creates worlds where dark subject matters can exist in the light and vice versa. There’s also a hopeful, inspirational quality to the way he draws his subjects, especially the characters of DC Comics.

Full confession, I didn’t start reading comics until I was in college. The first book I read was DC: The New Frontier and it remains my favorite book to reread or revisit over and over again. As a history major, it’s a beautiful time capsule of the changing society and politics from the 40s to the 60s, and as a comic book fan it’s an obvious love letter from a man to the heroes of his childhood who also went through huge transitions from the Golden to the Silver ages. Cooke makes the heroes of DC relevant by sticking them right in the middle of political and social uprisings, imagining and bringing to life how a world full of superheroes would deal with matters like racism, the Red Scare, and the Space Race. Plus, dinosaurs, and ancient alien monoliths. Though the animated adaptation, Justice League: The New Frontier, captures some of the same magic, it barely scratches the surface of what’s on the page, which shows how vital Cooke is as both an artist and a writer. He makes the heroes of DC look and act heroic without sacrificing their integrity or stooping to the lowest common denominator of storytelling.

So, to make a long story short (too late!), DC finally done good in featuring Cooke’s art on 23 of their titles in December. Luckily, if you’re not all that keen on spending a lot of money on variant covers so you can buy your family the holiday gifts they always wanted, all of the variants have been released online on various websites like Comic Vine, Comics Alliance, Comic Book Resources, Hit Fix, and Newsarama. And what kind of Cooke fanatic would I be if I didn’t show you pretty much all of them?

For my money’s worth, any time Cooke draws the trinity of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman is fine by me. Hell, I wish they’d just give Cooke an ongoing title at DC to do whatever he wanted: one-shots, ongoings, minis, I don’t care. But I must confess to having a soft spot for Catwoman whenever Cooke draws her. It was his redesign that took Selina out of the overly dramatic costumes and put her in a more practical, yet stylish catsuit (pun more than likely intended). One thing you’ll notice about most of the variants is that the characters appear to be happy, an emotion that’s been sorely missed in the DC Universe right now. God forbid the heroes crack a smile but, in Cooke’s version of the DCU, heroes are stoked to be saving lives, flying through space, and even being chased by cops with bullets flying at them.

Which one is your favorite?

 

Action Comics

Action Comics

Aquaman

Aquaman

Batgirl

Batgirl

Batman #37

Batman

Batman and Robin

Batman and Robin

Batman/Superman

Batman/Superman

Catwoman

Catwoman

The Flash

The Flash

Grayson

Grayson

Green Lantern Corp

Green Lantern Corp

Green Lantern

Green Lantern

Justice League

Justice League

Justice League United

Justice League United

Sinestro

Sinestro

Supergirl

Supergirl

Superman

Superman

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

We’ve all been waiting patiently and the day is finally here when we can see our Kickstarter dollars made real in the form of the Nightwing: The Series trailer from IsmaHAWK:

Passionate people making passionate art! For those unaware, IsmaHAWK is the production team of Danny Shepherd and Jeremy Le who are as much fanboys of filmmaking as they are about a certain DC Comics character. In case it wasn’t clear, they’re big fans of Dick Grayson/Nightwing, former sidekick to the Dark Knight. And being the fans that they are, it didn’t take them long to realize that Nightwing has never really been given his due. Sure, Dick Grayson as the first Robin has been given plenty of attention, but outside of the comics and a few cartoon appearances, the guardian of Blüdhaven hasn’t exactly made a name for himself. IsmaHAWK, set out to rectify that.

Prior to the creation of Nightwing: The Series, the team created a five-minute short, Batman: Nightwing in which Nightwing faces off against Red Hood, a.k.a. Jason Todd. The video garnered enough attention and positive feedback that IsmaHAWK decided to take their love of Nightwing to the next level with a Kickstarter campaign for Nightwing: The Series, which was fully funded in February of last year. Over at Word of the Nerd I was fortunate enough to interview Danny, Jeremy, and fellow writer Mortimer Black on DC Confidential before the Kickstarter was fully funded and I’d encourage you to go back and listen to the episode since the trio were a blast to talk to and every bit as enthusiastic and excited about not just Nightwing but comics, movies, and geek culture in general.nightwing

Nightwing: The Series, as described by IsmaHAWK :

follows the adventures of Batman’s ex-sidekick, Robin. After a falling out with his former mentor, Dick Grayson aka Robin leaves Gotham City in order to create his own identity in the city of Blüdhaven . The series will delve a bit into Nightwing’s origins and flesh out the character. We hope to pull in new fans as well as appease and excite existing fans.

I can safely say that, based on the description of the series, the trailer doesn’t disappoint as we get glimpses of Dick Grayson/Nightwing (Danny Shepherd) possibly visiting his parents’ graves, the corrupt culture of Blüdhaven , a little weapons fabrication a la Batman Begins, Barbara Gordon, and from the look of it we’re going to get Nightwing vs. Red Hood Round 2!

Responses to the teaser trailer have been nothing but positive and the guys from IsmaHAWK couldn’t be happier. When I reached out to them for comment, they had this to say:

[We] just want to thank the supporters who believed in the project even when we really didn’t have anything to show for it at the time. We just hope that everyone enjoys watching it when it’s released as much as we enjoyed making it. We won’t let you down!

I don’t doubt it! Now that we’ve gotten a taste of what Nightwing: The Series will look like, all I can ask is where’s the first episode?!

If you want to keep up-to-date on the goings on for Nightwing: The Series, you can subscribe to IsmaHAWK’s YouTube Channel, follow Danny Shepherd and Jeremy Le, and like them on Facebook.

robin_batgirl_batman

In honor of the 5th anniversary of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a friend of mine at the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab, Heide Holstrom, did a write-up about the significance of the Fair Pay Act:

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was the first piece of legislation signed by President Barack Obama. It updated the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which had made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sex when determining pay for employees doing the same work.

The 2009 Act resets the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal pay lawsuit each time a paycheck reflecting a discriminatory pay decision is issued. It was named for Lilly Ledbetter, whose equal-pay suit against her employer was dismissed by the Supreme Court because she had not filed it within 180 days of the discriminatory pay decision. Ledbetter says she was not aware of the pay discrepancy during that window of time.

To emphasize the importance and significance of this piece of legislation, the post included the 1973 Public Service Announcement (PSA) from the US Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division featuring Yvonne Craig reprising her role as Batgirl from the 1966 Batman television series to inform Batman and Robin that her job as a sidekick to Batman, the same job as Robin (Burt Ward reprising his role as well), meant she deserved equal pay. As Heidi later points out, even in 1973, ten years after Congress had passed the Equal Pay Act, women were still being paid less than their male counterparts. I mean, how else is a girl gonna pay for a rotating wall in a well-furnished apartment and keep up maintainance on a purple motorcycle on a librarian’s salary alone? Also, for shame millionaire Bruce Wayne! You’re a millionaire and your other sidekick lives with you! I think you could afford to pay Babs just as much, if not more than Dick. Now I know why Catwoman turned to a life of crime. It actually pays better.

So when you go out to buy your DVD/Blu-ray of the complete 1960’s Batman TV Series, or read DC Comics’ ongoing Batman ’66 digital-first book, remember that Batgirl ain’t getting paid as much as Robin. Kinda makes you wonder where Barbara was actually getting the money to support her crimefighting career.

Oh, and as a bonus because the ’73 PSA was clearly sans Mr. West, Heidi also included a 1966 PSA from the real Batman, Adam West, encouraging kids to buy war bonds for the Vietnam War.

Obviously it’s not the first time superheroes have been utilized to encourage patriotism in kids through purchasing war bonds, but I’ll be damned if West doesn’t sell the hell out it with his sincerity. Also gotta love the poster taped to the Bat-cave wall!

If you want to see more of what’s at the National Archives Special Media Archives Services Division, and I know you do, check out their blog. You never know when something special can turn up in the Archives.

Yes, I know, shameless plug, but I make no apologies. Until then, kids, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!