Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

I needed to do a fun article. It’s been a weird couple of weeks in the House of Sam, so I’m gonna talk about one of the stranger and yet awesome categories of comic book characters – Gorillas. No, not the beloved alternative/hip hop/electronica group, but rather our gloriously rendered, hyper-intelligent simian cousins who populate the world of DC Comics. While television viewing fans have come to know of frequent Flash villain Gorilla Grodd, it’s worth noting that the comic book universe home to the Scarlet Speedster has at least six sentient apes running around with the goal of either helping or hindering our favorite heroes. And with the possibility of more apes appearing on The Flash via the proto-Gorilla City of Earth-2, I thought I’d give all you lovely people a rundown of villainous and heroic primates with the potential to grace our small screens, or maybe the big one.StrangeAdventures75

 

 

But First: Why Are There So Many Gorillas?

It’s a question worth asking due to the sheer number of intelligent gorillas roaming the DCU. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has its own sentient apes, but not as many as its main competitor. The answer comes down to age, and not the silver one that most people associate with the proliferation of monkeys in media. While the Silver Age is definitely known for its heavy use of science fiction tropes, gorillas were hardly absent from fiction or comics prior to the era of sci-fi shenanigans. Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced several ape characters in the Tarzan novels from 1912-1964 and the early Tarzan films featured his chimp pal Cheeta. During the Golden Age various jungle related comics had their title characters regularly confront enemies of the gorilla kind even if it was only on the cover. No, as a company, DC has been around longer and thus they’ve gone through at least two phases of popular culture where “gorilla movies” drove sales. From King Kong to the first Planet of the Apes franchise, giant and/or intelligent primates have never quite left the media landscape. DC Comics just happened to have more characters who survived the ebb and flow of popularity.

 

Gorilla Grodd

Yes, I know The Flash has put Grodd much higher on the radar than anyone could’ve imagined, but he’s still an interesting character worth looking at a little more. Introduced in 1959, in the comics the residents of Gorilla City (originally located on regular old Earth-1) gained their intelligence from an alien who crashed landed in Africa, but it was later retconned as a radioactive meteor because comics! Grodd, upon gaining a massive boost to the old noggin, basically decides to start taking over the world, like immediately. The only variations of his plan usually involve taking over Gorilla City from intellectual rival King Solovar or deciding just to destroy humanity inGrodd general. Gotta change it up every once and a while. Like his television counterpart, Grodd is telepathic and telekinetic, which makes him a pretty formidable opponent for the Flash since Grodd’s disdain for humans in general makes it easy for him to use people as canon fodder in order to get the upper hand. There were, however, a number of plots where Grodd could change into a human and others where he took over a human’s mind almost permanently, so we’ll see how far the live action show wants to push it. He’s also pretty game to team up with other villains – joining Lex Luthor’s Legion of Doom and Vandal Savage on numerous occasions – so keeping my fingers crossed for Captain Cold to show up on his doorstep in Earth-2!

I do believe he also has the most television and video game appearances of any DC gorilla, showing up in everything from the Super Friends to Justice League: Unlimited to Lego Batman.

 

King Solovar

Part of the original group of gorillas gifted with hyper-intelligence, Solovar has been instrumental in keeping the peace between Gorilla City and the human world. Where Grodd seeks power, Solovar keeps his brilliant mind tempered with wisdom and humility. Which is probably why the two are always at odds, though it seems to depend largely on how into taking over the world Grodd is that day before settling on messing with Solovar. He’s definitely made a play for the throne plenty of times, but where his rival is concerned Grodd will go the extra mile to make the king’s life a living hell. For instance, Solovar fancied a female gorilla named Boka and intended to marry her. Grodd, learning of this thing called happiness and falling for Boka as well, built a machine that emitted a type of radiation that made solovarothers instantly like him, causing Boka to turn her affections towards him. Then he used it to become King of Gorilla City. Then he tried to take over Central City. That’s the world of gorillas in the DCU. In the DC Animated Universe, however, Solovar appeared as the Chief of Security for Gorilla City sent to stop Grodd from, of course, taking over the world. Luckily, Flash and Green Lantern were there to lend a hand.

Given the rivalry between Grodd and Solovar is a pretty major part of their backstory, it would be interesting if the live-action show tried to play this up. Since Grodd is a newcomer to the nascent haven for intelligent gorillas, it wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to take over the place with his opposition led by Solovar. It would be a great juxtaposition for the show as well, giving the STAR Labs team a group of allies against Grodd and his brood should the occasion arise.

 

Tolifhar

He may not be one of the more well known gorillas of the DCU, but this genetically modified white-furred gorilla is a favorite of mine purely because of his appearance in Gail Simone’s excellent Wonder Woman story, The Circle. A former follower of Grodd’s, Tolifhar was and remains the leader of the Gorilla Knights, a group of gorilla warriors created purely to fight superpowered beings. Thankfully, tolifhar-gorilla_knight-1Diana convinced them to switch sides and allowed them to stay in her home for a while. Hilarity definitely ensued. To be fair, it’s hard not to instantly like a gorilla in plated armor who also happens to sport one hell of a scar over his left eye. Plus he’s written by Gail Simone, so automatic awesome.

Like Solovar, it wouldn’t be hard to work Tolifhar into Earth-2’s Gorilla City as either a supporter of Grodd’s or one of Solovar’s elite guard. Either way, it would be pretty cool to see Grodd fight one of his own kind and Tolifhar, without question, could give him a run for his money. Extra fun would be Barry and the rest of the STAR Labs gang working alongside another gorilla who is just as capable and intelligent as Grodd, only nicer. Or at least less gung-ho about killing all humans.

 

Ultra-Humanite

A character who’s had an up and down career in the books, the Ultra-Humanite was one of Superman’s first recurring villains during the Golden Age until Lex Luthor rose in the ranks of Supes’s punch card. He was also a regular human being at the time with delusions of grandeur intent on taking over the world. Like ya do. When he was brought back during the Silver Age, he looked less man-like and more ape-like on account of transferring his consciousness into a large white-furred gorilla. Again, like ya do. Please note, though, that the Ultra-Humanite isn’t one of the Gorilla Knights turned bad. He’s just a dude crossing lines in science that man, or ape, was never meant Ultra-humaniteto cross. His backstory changed here and there, but the running theme was that of a man constantly doing body swaps to keep his superior mind alive. Back in the 40s he even had his brain placed in the body of movie star Dolores Winters. It may have been a means to an end, but he wasn’t complaining about his time as a woman.

Ultra-Humanite has made a few appearances in the DC Animated Universe where he’s taken on the very sci-fi form of a big-brained gorilla complete with throbbing veins to let us know just how smart he really is – just in case you didn’t know. I did appreciate the animators and the writers making him distinct from Grodd by giving him more refined tastes in music, art, and culture on top of his superior scientific skills. Again, it would be pretty fun to see the STAR Labs posse either going up against Ultra-Humanite or reluctantly working with him. The effects team has gotten pretty good at animating gorillas after two episode with Grodd, so I think this is right in their wheelhouse.

 

Monsieur Mallah

After Grodd, Monsieur Mallah is my favorite of the DC Comics gorilla faction. Seriously, it’s a gorilla with a beret and bandoleers toting a machine gun. How can you not squeal with delight whenever he shows up to make life inconvenient for the Teen Titans? First appearing in Doom Patrol in 1964, Mallah was the result of experiments on animals by a French scientist trying to boost intelligence. Mallah was one of the success stories, reaching an IQ surpassing Einstein. When a colleague became jealous he rigged an explosion and made sure the object of his jealousy got caught in the blast. Only the brain survived, transferred to a computer network by Mallah and eventually stored monsieur-mallahin a cylindrical case that showed off the still functioning organ while sporting a sweet skull face. Now known as the Brain, Mallah served as his personal assistant and bodyguard, helping him create the Brotherhood of Evil and causing general mayhem.

It wasn’t until Grant Morrison took over Doom Patrol in 1990 that any hints of romance sparked between Mallah and the Brain (yes, the joke has been made), but oh my did sparks fly! And like all of the crazy and insane ideas Morrison comes up with this one worked like gangbusters. Points to you if you find any of the fanfiction that’s sure to exist. The pair made frequent appearances on Teen Titans and Young Justice and proto-Superman even managed to take them down on Smallville. I can only imagine how awesome it would be to have Mallah and the Brain open one of the breaches between Earths 1 and 2 and wreak some havoc on Central City. Cisco would have a field day with these two.

 

Sam Simeon

First appearing in 1964, Sam was the latter half of Angel and the Ape, acting as partner to the very human Angel O’Day while also working as a comic book artist. Simeon didn’t so much hide that he was an ape as the people around him just assumed the big, burly, hairy ape-like guy at the desk was just an ape-like dude. When the book was revived in the 1990s, Sam was revealed to be Gorilla Grodd’s grandson angelandtheape2(though this conflicts with another book that claimed Sam was Grodd’s brother) and used his psychic powers to project the image of a human for people to see when they came to the detectives. Only when his concentration broke could others see him for what he was.

This one might be a long shot for The Flash considering the familial relation to Grodd, but it would be pretty sweet if Joe West ran into a normal looking dude named Sam only to find out the guy is actually another psychic gorilla. Like nana Cross always said: You can never meet enough psychic gorillas. Don’t believe me? Go read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael.

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It’s the start of a new year, so I thought I’d move forward by going backward. Yeah, I know what I said.

When I get self-reflective, especially about my decision to pursue writing, my mind wanders back to what really solidified my love for writing in the first place. And as much as I purport to be passionate about History and my profession as an Archivist, my passion for writing was a result of being a fan of the sci-fi television program Andromeda.A_77544

For those of you who somehow missed this gem of a show, Andromeda is about the adventures of High Guard Captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo), a man displaced in time, as he tries to rebuild the fallen Commonwealth that once united the galaxies. Along for the adventure are the ragtag crew of the junk ship Eureka Maru – Capt. Beka Valentine (Lisa Ryder), mechanical genius Seamus Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett), enigmatic alien Trance Gemini (Laura Bertram), and Magog spiritualist Rev Bem (Brent Stait) – as well as Nietzschean warrior Tyr Anasazi (Keith Hamilton Cobb) and the Andromeda’s sentient android, Rommie (Lexa Doig).

The series was created by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, based on unused material by Gene Roddenberry, and ran from 2000-2005, though admittedly only the first two seasons are consistently good. Might have something to do with Wolfe’s unfortunate departure from the show during the middle of the second season over creative differences with the studio; the bone of contention being Wolfe’s desire to steer away from primarily standalone episodes in favor of long-form storytelling. Why do I know his approach would have been better? Because when Robert Engels was brought in as Wolfe’s replacement, and the episodes became more standalone, it started going downhill fast. Not that there weren’t good episodes during Engels’s run, but the overall quality of the show took a huge dive in the third season primarily where the main characters were concerned. It’s like when Aaron Sorkin left The West Wing at the end of the fourth season and as season five rolled out under new management it was obvious they didn’t understand the characters or how they interacted with each other. The same goes for Andromeda – I’d invested a lot of time in the friendship of Beka Valentine and Seamus Harper only to watch the two characters, who essentially acted like brother and sister, drift further and further apart. Then there was that whole “Hercules in Space” debacle that was the fifth season, but that’s really not worth your time.

HarperOkay, backstory out of the way, it was around Wolfe’s departure and Engels’s arrival that I started mulling around a lot of ideas in my head; ideas that focused on how I imagined the characters interacting and how they’d react to events within the episodes. Again, I kept focusing on Beka and Harper because they had the most history within the timeline of the show and yet it went largely unexplored. So, this being the early days of internet fan forums and interactions, I found one that seemed to have the most activity and started writing what were essentially tags to each episode focusing on Beka and Harper. Entitled “Coda”, though not to be confused with Wolfe’s own “Coda” script posted after the series ended, it was my way of getting ideas out of my head and exploring what I thought was a fairly rich science fiction universe. Eventually, the forum shut down (I still can’t remember the name of it), but a new one sprung up, the still-operating ExIsle. If you dare, I’m pretty sure a few of my stories are still posted and awaiting someone’s critique of pieces written when I was in high school. I cringe at the thought of all those grammatical errors and oddly worded sentences.

The point is, when I started writing these stories another avenue of creativity opened up to me. I’d written poetry before and a couple of pieces where I experimented with prose, but it was just something I dabbled in, not something I took all that seriously. As I continued to post to ExIsle, I began to focus more on the stories I produced and it was through the process of writing fanfiction that I developed the skills I utilize in my writing even now.

The inner perfectionist in me really started to emerge where dialogue is concerned. For those of you who haven’t seen the show, Harper is a hyperactive, fast-talking, socially-inept genius responsible for a lot of exposition and technical jargon. So, naturally, I became attached to the character but it made for a difficult learning curve when it came to writing him. As a fan of the show, I had the benefit of seeing the finished product, the hard work of the show’s writers and the actor bringing the character to life. I felt then that it was only right to try and at least capture Harper’s voice whenever possible. Harper also had a darker past as a slave on Earth that produced a few prejudices and nightmare fuel when dealing with Nietzschean overlords or fearsome Magog, but it was important, at least to me, to keep his sense of humor intact. It was a tension reliever as much as a defense mechanism and it seemed only Beka, Trance, and to some degree, Rev Bem, who could see through him. I think there was also an unspoken challenge in getting Harper’s voice as close to the television show as possible. His voice stood out, which made him both the easiest to differentiate and yet the hardest to pin down. Being on the forum meant I read as much as I wrote and whenever an author managed to capture what made Harper Harper it made the story that much better. In sins-bekaharp-smmy mind, it meant the author figured something out. They listened to the cadence, the rhythm, and the sound of Seamus Harper and managed to channel it into their writing. It’s a skill I continue to hone as I move towards more prose writing, but it’s just as helpful for writing academic papers as it is reviews. Voice is important; it’s distinctive and if you can figure out a character’s voice, then you can figure out your own.

The science fiction environment of Andromeda was a huge factor in the type of fiction I read and tried to write early on. The worlds and people created for the show were fairly simplistic, but also grounded in particular traits that gave me a good baseline: Nietzscheans were genetically minded brutes, Nightsiders were greedy opportunists, Perseids were peaceful scientists, and the Magog were straight up nightmare fuel. Easy enough. Then you factor in the collapse of civilization (on some planets) after the fall of the Commonwealth and the efforts of some, not just Dylan Hunt, to rebuild albeit in less than ideal circumstances. The show definitely covered all of the typical tropes used in every science fiction show at some point, but there’s nothing wrong with tropes so long as you at least try to bring something new to the table. The most fun, however, was creating the technology. I’m not a super-techy person but writing fanfiction for Andromeda let me stretch my imagination to make up tools, vehicles, weapons, and ephemera that could “logically” fit into the universe. The worst, though, was explaining how tech worked, especially the inner workings of the Andromeda herself. Again, it went back to keeping in sync with the show. How did they describe slipstream (their method of faster-than-light travel)? How was Rommie the android separate from the main A.I. of the Andromeda? What the hell was that string of words Harper just put together that sounded vaguely important to keeping everyone alive? I felt it necessary to have a base understanding and maintain some authenticity to the show as a means of laying the foundation for my own creations. I applied the same tactics when I wrote fanfiction about Stargate: Atlantis and Lord of the Rings. But that’s just me. Not everyone feels that way. Besides, when push comes to shove, who’s going to argue about the improbable things in a fictional setting? Oh, wait…

andromeda-1d1Thankfully, I was never on the receiving end of angry diatribes about how true I remained to the world of Andromeda or whether or not I depicted a character poorly. I was lucky at that moment in time because no one was policing me and my creativity and fan forums were mostly civil. Above all, the people on ExIsle were encouraging and supportive. At one point I had two ongoing stories that I wrote while in college and I tended to publish both on the same day to the point where the frequent readers dubbed that day “Sam Update Day.” It was sweet and it came along at a point in my life where I didn’t have a lot of friends so getting that kind of support and encouragement from people who had the same love for the show as I did meant a lot. Having that connection and the ability to critique without attacking meant I could experiment with the stories and not feel like someone was going to immediately dismiss the premise or a new character. I returned that kindness as well; commenting on stories, giving my opinion, but also being encouraging of new writers and new ideas. We were bound by our shared love of Andromeda and that was all of the credibility required. I really wish it was the same now, but I know that’s not entirely true.

So, yeah, that’s pretty much where it started. Every person finds their spark of creativity somewhere, mine just happened to be with wonderfully flawed sci-fi show. I’m certain all of you have one as well!

The way I figure it, Kurtis J. Wiebe could write a whole issue of Rat Queens where the eponymous team reads from the phone book and it’d hilarious and heart-breaking. Tess Fowler, in turn, would find a way to make those actions dynamic and entertaining while Tamra Bonvillain would make it a colorful treat for the eyes. That’s my way of saying hannahthat even the most seemingly boring tasks become poignant and epic when performed by these fantastically foul-mouthed women.

With Rat Queens #13, the slow march towards some kind of confrontation becomes clear. Picking up where we left off: the Queens appeared to be done for in the snowy mountains outside Hannah’s old stomping grounds of Mage University, but it turns out they’re alive and well. Saved by the University, the Queens are given permission to explore the grounds and facilities while Hannah meets with one of her old professors to talk magic and academic upheaval. I’m an especially big fan of this aspect of Mage U because it continues to show just how versatile and inclusive the world of Rat Queens can be when its creative team seamlessly incorporates sci-fi elements like inter-dimensional travel into a mostly high fantasy setting. Plus the professor reminds me of Dr. Manhattan only with more snark. Anyway, Dee spends her time in the massive library looking for a way to bring down N’Rygoth while Violet looks after Betty. Of course, any time with Betty ultimately results in questionable decision-making, but one can’t deny the buddy comedy stylings that emerge when the free-spirited Smidgen goes up against any other personality.

The bulk of the issue, however, is devoted to the building tension surrounding Hannah’s father, Gerard’s, revolt against the University’s Council of Nine and his imprisonment in an unreachable dimension. Once again, the foundations for familial tension in the Vizari household were laid down from the beginning of Rat Queens but now it seems that Hannah, her parents, and the University may be part of something far more nefarious. The demon-baby chide takes on a very different meaning when Mage U’s faculty repeatedly refer to Hannah as Gerard’s Mage U“stepdaughter”, though the two are quick to correct them that he is her father and nothing else. Hannah’s mother, Mina, reaffirms this as well during a tearful reunion with her daughter.

Like Dee, Violet, and Braga, Kurtis Wiebe is taking us on another journey with Hannah to explore how her home life and background led her to the Rat Queens. Her questionable parentage and subsequent ostracization from other magic users is very much inline with the misfits and misunderstood finding their place, their community, outside of the traditional model. Hannah, it seems, left either to escape the stigma of her birth or because of some as-of-yet unknown actions that left an unforgettable impression. Either way, she left because the culture of Mage U has little sympathy or empathy for someone they deem an abomination. Given Hannah’s vision under the influence of N’Rygoth it’s safe to assume she’s been experiencing this her entire life. It’s why she hides her horns beneath a mountain of hair and keeps her feelings heavily fortified behind a prickly personality. Her ability to trust is about nil so, aside from her parents and Sawyer, the Rat Queens may be the only people she’s felt remotely comfortable around, but even then she still keeps her guard up.

I’d also like to give some massive kudos to Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain for bringing it hardcore on the art and colors. The entire Betty and Violet sledding sequence alone had me out of breath from laughter, but this issue featured a lot of wide shots and crowd scenes, which means details are key. And my God do Fowler and Bonvillainbettyvioletsled infuse these panels with personality. The library and Artisan Quarter are definitely worth looking over a few times just to hunt for easter eggs and cameos – my favorite little piece of nonsense being the students riding in a walking, or flying, bathtub. And I honestly can’t stress enough how much I want Violet and Betty to have a sitcom of their own. They are comedy gold! I’m pretty sure (but don’t quote me) that Bonvillain has used just about every color in the visible spectrum. I wonder when she can start using super-colors?

Oh, you don’t know what super-colors are?

Huh – awkward…

Anyway, Rat Queens #13 is amazing and you should all go read it because something’s about to happen. Something huge. I just know it.

In honor of this year’s Batman Day, I thought I’d repurpose an article from my NoiseSharkMedia days, which you can read the original version here. Suffice it to say, my opinions on some things have changes, but my love for Batman remains true.

With that mini-intro out of the way, we begin our journey with Batman’s original medium, comic books. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939 (but let’s be honest, it was mostly Bill Finger) and making his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, Batman is arguably DC Comics most popular character (Batman vs. Superman argument commence!) As such, he has a very long history and a cast of supporting characters that have become as ingrained in pop culture as The Dark Knight himself. And with every new generation of comic book readers, there’s always an attempt to reinvent Batman for the new age despite the fact that there are some things you just can’t change.

It’s said that every comic book writer has a Batman story to tell and with that in mind, let’s take a look at the versatile nature of the Caped Crusader.

 

The Golden Age (1930s-1940s)

 

The Golden Age version of Batman is, at times, radically different from the one we recognize today yet completely similar. Inspired by pulp heroes such as Zorro and Doc Savage, Batman was a powerless hero who donned cape and cowl to scare the ever loving minds out of the criminal element of Gotham City. Without the super-human abilities of his colleague in Metropolis, Batman was shown to be a brilliant mind, Sherlock Holmes being yet another inspiration for the character, with a utility belt of gadgets and a Bat-cave of wonders that allowed him to solve crimes and cruise around Gotham. The pulp influence is especially present in Batman’s attitude towards crime-fighting since he started as a remorseless vigilante whose brand of justice included killing and maiming criminals. Creators since have made various attempts to distinguish the line Batman precariously walks between hero and villain, usually relying on his strict “no killing” policy as his own personal Rubicon. The 30s and 40s, however, were a different time when our heroes had no qualms about letting a guy fall to his death if he didn’t play ball.

Batman’s darker approach to crime-fighting may have had something to do with his even darker origin story, which wasn’t even introduced until Detective Comics #33 wherein we learn of young Bruce Wayne, the victim of a terrible crime as he watches his mother and father gunned down by a petty thief. In comparison to Superman’s story (also technically an orphan), Bruce’s origin is especially brutal, but given the rise of organized crime in the 1930s, making the Waynes victims of such a terrible crime gives us a reason to sympathize and encourage his decision to become Batman. It further articulated the point that not even the rich could escape the reach of criminals. In order to lighten things up a bit and give the kids a character they could vicariously live through and provide Batman with a Watson to his Holmes, Bill Finger created Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, the Boy Wonder, as Batman’s kid sidekick.

 

 

The Silver Age (1950s-1960s)

 

Post World War II was an interesting era that saw the changing dynamics of the household set against the tumultuous political divisions building around the Vietnam War and the burgeoning counter culture movement. This was also the age that gave us the atom bomb, creating a new world of possibilities that were both awe-inspiring and devastatingly horrific. To capitalize on the science-fiction genre, Batman interacted with more aliens and used technology never before seen. This is the age in comics that gave us the more whack-a-doodle storylines, which geeks still have a soft spot for since campiness never really goes away. Sci-fi ultimately proved that even a character like Batman could be adapted to fit the prevailing culture…sort of.

That’s not to say Batman was without his share of controversy at the time. Thanks to that feel-good piece Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham, Batman and Robin were basically called out as homosexuals since they didn’t interact with girls enough for Mr. Wertham’s liking. Like Wonder Woman’s lesbian fetishisms and the schadenfreude caused by violence within comics, Batman and Robin were warping the fragile little minds of the youths. In response, DC Comics introduced Batwoman (Kathy Kane) and Bat-girl (Bette Kane) to counteract the accusations. Later on, Batwoman would go on to become one of the most prominent lesbian characters in comics, so go figure!

 

 

The Bronze Age (1970’s to 1980’s)

 

This is where the eras start to get a little murky, but I’ll stick with it as it kinda helps with the organization. Dennis “Denny” O’Neil did for Batman in the 70s what Frank Miller did for Batman in the late 80s, which is make him relevant and badass. O’Neil especially wanted to put some distance between the comic book character and the campy tv show. He envisioned bringing Batman back to the dark roots that had made him so popular to begin with and he did so along with artist Neal Adams. They sought to make Batman the brooding detective, a man tortured by the death of his parents whose only solace was in dedicating his life to fighting crime so that no one else should suffer the same fate. During his run, O’Neil made the call to give Batman an aversion to guns that’s been a part of Batman’s psyche ever since. O’Neil also returned the Joker to his more primal and psychotic state, making him a less predictable foil and greater challenge for the Dark Knight to combat. If you want more proof of O’Neil’s contributions to the Batman mythos, then look no further than Ra’s al-Ghul and his daughter, Talia, both created by O’Neil with assists from Neal Adams on Ra’s and Bob Brown on Talia. The introductory storyline involves international puzzles, forbidden romance, the Lazarus Pit, and Batman and Ra’s sword fighting in the desert! Of course, O’Neil is also the guy who introduced and subsequently killed Robin II, Jason Todd, so it’s not all rainbows and gumdrops.

Despite attempts to revitalize the character, it wasn’t until Frank Miller’s two groundbreaking works, Batman: Year One (1987) and The Dark Knight Returns (1986), that interest in the character skyrocketed. DKR told the story of an older Bruce Wayne, a man forced into retirement by old age yet drawn back into fighting crime as the moral fabric of Gotham declines further and further. This is where the truly obsessed Batman emerges, a man forever driven by his mission no matter what the cost. In contrast, what’s amazing about Year One is that, though it did redefine the Batman origin story (think Martha Wayne’s pearls), it’s not really as much about Batman as it is about the rise of Jim Gordon. Written in the noir style that Miller loves so much, Year One juxtaposes Batman’s attempt to fight crime and corruption outside the law with Gordon as he tries to make change from the inside by refusing to give in to the rampant corruption infecting the GCPD. But Gordon isn’t without his own foibles as the obsession to change Gotham ultimately leads him down a rocky path that makes him question his own moral compass.

The unfortunate aftermath of Miller’s relationship with comic books and the industry as a whole lead him to create two very cynical and almost hateful depictions of not only Batman, but superheroes in general with The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2002) and All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (2005). Though All-Star is beautifully drawn by Jim Lee and Scott Williams, that’s about all you can say for the book, except that it originates the very popular line, “I’m the Goddam Batman!”

Then we have Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke (1989). Though the story is ostensibly about Joker’s attempt to drive Jim Gordon insane, the overall narrative is about the fall of decent men. Though it’s Gordon that The Joker torments, his idea that even the most pure of heart and purpose can be corrupted because of “one bad day” equally applies to Batman. The very crime that created Batman could be argued as proof of Joker’s point, which Joker makes reference to at the story’s climax. It’s a fascinating psychological piece as it poses the question, “Is Batman as crazy as his foes?”

 

The Modern Era (1990’s to 2000’s)

 

 

Aren’t labels fun? Anyway, the 90s, though defined by outrageous artwork and a sudden freedom to do whatever the fuck-all you wanted story-wise, saw some notable turns for Batman in the form of Knightfall and The Long Halloween. A brilliant idea that ended on a kind of eh? note, Knightfall (1993) was the book that introduced us to Bane, the South American venom addict who’s most famous for breaking the Bat’s back. With an entire team of writers including Denny O’Neil and Chuck Dixon, Knightfall was as much a character piece for Bruce Wayne as a story asking questions such as, “What makes Batman Batman?” and “Does being Batman mean to be forever alone?” Paralyzed by Bane, Bruce must rebuild his broken body, submitting himself to rigorous physical therapy in order to overcome the psychological damage of being broken and exhausted in his mission as Batman. Whilst recovering, he asks Jean-Paul Valley, a.k.a. Azrael, to take over as Batman, but the overly zealous and increasingly paranoid young man takes his duties to the extreme, tarnishing Batman’s relationship with Gotham and the GCPD. Once recovered through a supernatural deus ex machina, Bruce returns to his duties as Batman and begins to rebuild the relationships sorely neglected by his drive and obsession: his family.

The Long Halloween (1996-97) was written by Jeff Loeb as a follow-up to Miller’s Year One. Utilizing that same noir style, Loeb crafted a thrilling mystery surrounding a villain nicknamed “The Holiday Killer” who, you guessed it, only kills on holidays. The deaths, however, all appear to be specific attacks on the Falcone crime family, with all signs pointing to Bruce Wayne as the killer. The book brilliantly built upon Miller’s foundation, bringing Batman’s rogues gallery in for quick introductions while setting up the fall of Harvey Dent and the rise of Two-Face. The resolution is a disturbing look at the lengths people will go to for what they believe, so it’s no surprise that Christopher Nolan drew heavily from this story when crafting The Dark Knight.

The New Millenia at DC Comics brought about some of the most engaging and somewhat controversial works published prior to the 2011 reboot. One of my all-time favorites was Hush (2003), written by Jeff Loeb with the gorgeous art of Jim Lee. Like all great Batman stories, there’s a mystery to be solved, and this one revolves around Gotham’s latest villain, Hush. The book also explores the themes of family and trust as Bruce willfully reveals his secret identity to Selina Kyle (Catwoman) and comes to terms with the possible return of Jason Todd from the dead. The resolution is brilliant and I dare not spoil it for you. A follow-up that deserves some mention is Under The Hood by Judd Winnick that takes the supposed return of Jason Todd and makes it a reality – because reality got punched in the FACE!!! (For reals, go check out Infinite Crisis) The death of Jason has always been one of Batman’s greatest failures and a huge source of guilt, which Jason exploits through most of the book as he takes revenge upon the Joker for killing him and Batman for not saving him. One could argue that it’s just Jason continuing to be a whiny shit even after his resurrection, but it’s still an interesting concept.

Closing out the pre-52 era is the magnum opus that is the work of Grant Morrison. Starting with the introduction of everybody’s favorite homicidal ten-year-old, Damian Wayne, Morrison embarked on an epic exploration of the Batman mythos culminating in his “death” in Final Crisis (2005-06). A self-proclaimed scholar of myth, legend, and probably made of magic, Morrison took Batman to new levels of ridiculous awesomeness that invited you to journey down the rabbit hole. Whether or not you agree with his treatment of the character, Morrison strongly tied the origins of Bruce Wayne, Gotham, and Batman into a Gordion Knot of mythological and symbolic history. The foundations of Gotham and the foundations of Batman are one and the same, permeating the very buildings that pierce the skyline. Morrison also established through his run on Batman and Robin that Batman and Gotham share yet another connection, that of legacy. Though Gotham is a city that appears to stand alone, it is built upon the legacies of the families who gave birth to her in concept and design. And though we often depict Batman as a solitary hero, he is the progenitor of a powerful legacy of heroes, which results in his desire to “share the wealth” as it were in Batman, Inc.

 

The New 52 – Present

 

Though this was prior to the 2011 “reboot,” when Scott Snyder took over writing duties on the main Batman title post-Morrison, he carried over the concept of Gotham as its own living, breathing entity, a reflective surface prepared to bring out the ugly darkness from within, no matter the hero who calls him or herself a protector of the city. As a lover of comics I recommend that you pick up The Black Mirror as fast as you can. It is, by far, one of the best Batman stories written prior to The Court of Owls storyline. Through the eyes of Dick Grayson as the new Batman in Bruce’s absence, Snyder turned the tables on Gotham’s most reluctantly heroic son, showing Dick that, though he’s always tried to run away from the legacy of his adopted family, his roots are as much a part of the city as Bruce’s. For Dick, Gotham may bring out the worst aspects of the human soul, but that only makes him strive to fight the good fight more.

Carried over, post-reboot, The Court of Owls arc takes Batman and Gotham’s intertwining legacies and turns it into an all out brawl for the soul of the city. Batman once again, Bruce is pushed to his absolute breaking point by the Court of Owls, a secret society ensconced in Gotham society’s upper echelons. Working behind the scenes, the Court manipulates and murders in order to retain power, using the immortal assassins, the Talons, to do their bidding. As he investigates them further, Bruce finds that one of his most trusted companions may be connected to the Court and their deadly machinations. The crux of the story continues to be that of family and legacy. Pulling in the entire Bat Family, Snyder cracks the foundations in order to make them stronger than ever before. Of course, this was before we knew what he and artist Greg Capullo had in store for the Batman and the Bat-Family in Death of the Family, Zero Year, Endgame, and the current arc. The final issue of Court of Owls, however, features a beautiful scene between Bruce and Dick that gives the original dynamic duo a quiet moment of repose and reflection before Gotham inevitably needs them again. As the arc ends, we the readers understand that Snyder is himself a part of a long legacy of Batman creators, molding his own vision of the Dark Knight and the world he inhabits. And if you need a reminder of just how much Batman and Gotham are tied together go read Batman #44 by Snyder, co-writer Brian Azzarello, and artist Jock and prepare to be amazed.

 

 

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Sam talks with Kelly Sue DeConnick about ALL THE THINGS! Specifically Bitch Planet, Pretty Deadly, and Captain Marvel but there’s always plenty of awesome when Kelly Sue is around!

Intro: “The Captain” by Adam WarRock 

Oh, Jupiter Ascending, you had such high aspirations and yet you failed so badly at achieving anything short of “so bad it’s good” status as a movie. It’s unfortunate too when you consider the latest high-concept space-opera wannabe movie from the Jupiter AscendingWachowski siblings is the only main stream release film to come out this year that isn’t an adaptation, sequel, or reboot of an existing property. Unfortunately, originality is the only thing going for it as the movie slogs around from beautiful set piece to beautiful set piece with no rhyme or reason given to the actual plot or developing any of the characters beyond their archetypal role. But I can tell you right now it’s the most fun you’ll have at the movies until Age of Ultron comes out in May!

For the curious: Jupiter Ascending is about the titular Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Russian-born immigrant working as a cleaning lady in Chicago, who finds out she’s the genetic reincarnation of the deceased matriarch of the Abraxas family – an intergalactic dynasty and corporation of millennia old humans who’re responsible for “seeding” the Earth. The discovery of her new-found regality, which comes with ownership of the Earth, puts Jupiter in the middle of an economic power play between the three children of the late mommy Abraxas with Earth serving as the brass ring for all parties involved. The oldest of the siblings, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), however, is more than ready to “harvest” the Earth – cull the population to make a goo-like regenerative serum from human genetic material – if it means keeping the planet, and it’s profits, out of everyone else’s hands. Oh, and Channing Tatum plays a human/wolf hybrid named Caine who’s basically there to continually save Jupiter and fly around on his fancy gravity-defying boots.

jupiter-ascending-_23-jpgSo where did the movie go wrong? Well, just about every aspect of the film is problematic. Some of these problems are clearly the result of the film’s delayed release by Warner Bros. from July 2014 to February 2015 for reshoots and an extended post-production schedule. It’s understandable that the studio might be concerned with another high-concept science fiction movie from the Wachowskis considering their last foray, Cloud Atlas, was only saved from being a financial bomb by the international box office. Add to that the popularity of recent sci-fi action hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and, to a lesser extent, Edge of Tomorrow, and it’s not surprising that the studio would set aside pseudo-philosophical exposition and world-building in favor of what’s proven popular to audiences. That’s what Hollywood does.

The result of such late demands and changes, however. is a movie that’s edited within an inch of its life. The first act suffers the most from these edits. The choppy exposition and lack of transitional scenes only serve to introduce characters quickly and push the plot forward so they can get to the next action piece. For example, Jupiter, in need of money to buy an expensive telescope, decides to sell her eggs to a medical facility. While she’s in the waiting room fidgeting nervously, the nurse calls her name and the immediate scene following is Jupiter being put under anesthesia and fighting against the nurses while groggily 1401886372_jupiter-ascending-467saying she’s changed her mind. There’s no scene of Jupiter getting prepped for the procedure or watching as the nurses set out their instruments, nothing that would make her uneasy and lead to doubts. It’s a lazy cut from nervous to full on fighting against the overly insistent nursing staff all for the explicit purpose of getting Caine into the operating room to save Jupiter from assassins faster. I’m not kidding that the movie hinges on Jupiter being kidnapped or handed off from one crazy Abraxas sibling to the next so she can be put in a position where Caine has to rescue her, which means pew! pew! pew! BOOM! and scene. Rinse and repeat. When all is said and done, Jupiter is nothing more than the film’s maguffin, or more accurately, the sexy lamp.

Not that anyone in the cast comes off that much better. Perhaps there were deleted scenes that fleshed out the characters more, but studio meddling can only be blamed for so much when there are significant structural and character problems that had to have been in the script from the get go. The Wachowskis have previously been criticized for favoring style over substance and it definitely shows in this case. Jupiter is the damsel in distress with no significant wants, needs, or motivation after learning she’s essentially Queen of the Universe. Not even the bare minimum of effort is put into making her remotely interesting and it doesn’t help that Kunis’ go-to reaction to everything is just “meh”. Presented with a new dump of exposition or yet another inconvenient kidnapping, Jupiter takes it all in with about the same amount of emotional heft you’d find from Twilight’s Bella Swan.

Jupiter marriageUnlike Edward and Bella, Caine and Jupiter at least have some chemistry, which is mostly due to Tatum’s natural charm since he’s given very little to work with as a the brooding, tortured, and misunderstood hybrid soldier with a chip on his shoulder where royalty is concerned. SO TORTURED! All of this so there can be some sort of class conflict to serve as romantic tension between the literal dog soldier and the low-born turned royal special snowflake. The three Abraxas siblings don’t have much to offer beyond what you’d expect from warring elites with mommy issues. Redmayne’s Balem rasps and whispers his dialogue in an attempt to be more interesting than his cartoonish, Oedipal tyrant role will allow; Douglas Booth’s Titus is the hedonist looking to steal some of the profits from his brother; and Tuppence Middleton’s Kalique, though the least threatening, is perfectly happy to play Glinda the Good Witch to the whole proceedings by using Jupiter as a proxy saboteur. The only believable relationship in the entire movie is between Caine and Stinger (Sean Bean), and that mostly consists of punching, betrayal, and motivational speeches – though not necessarily in that order.

The awesomely awful final product, however, is still one of the most entertaining movies to come out amid the Oscar-baiting drudgery in theaters right now. Even when it’s trying to be super serious, Jupiter Ascending comes off as goofy craziness and I love it for that! The smallest detail, like character names, produces a loving groan of “Really?” from me. Bean’s Stinger is a human/bee hybrid, get it? Caine is part dog, Get It? There’s a human/elephant hybrid named Nesh, GET IT?! Obvious names are obvious! The dialogue is either overly heavy-handed or so amazingly cheesy you’re not sure how the actors managed to say their lines with a straight face. It’s a movie that wants to be grandiose in its execution but for every huge effects shot of a space ship riddled with decadent golden statues there’s an obvious green screen moment of Channing Tatum trying to make faketerry gilliam skating with Kunis riding piggyback look cool. It’s not cool, it’s hilarious especially if you think about Tatum miming skating while making faces for the slo-mo shot. Even as I typed that sentence I started laughing to myself. And the Brazil-inspired bureaucracy sequence (complete with Terry Gilliam cameo) was priceless in its complete disregard for what the film had previously established in tone and style. Oh, Jupiter Ascending, never change!

Actually, I’d like to see the shooting script for Jupiter Ascending or, at the very least, I hope the Wachowskis put out a Director’s Cut of the film. I’m curious about what was so obviously cut from the movie and whether or not it would make the story better or add to the insanity. I know the Wachowskis don’t like to put out alternate cuts, or do commentary, but I think Jupiter Ascending would only benefit because to say that that the film is a hot mess is a bit disingenuous. For all of the special effects and fast-paced action sequences, there are some interesting ideas and valiant attempts at world-building going on throughout the film. Maybe the Wachowskis were too ambitious or overreaching, but I’d rather filmmakers were too ambitious and failed than played it safe and succeeded. Hollywood, unfortunately, doesn’t see it that way. I’m confident though that despite its poor performance in theaters, Jupiter Ascending will reach cult status when the DVDs and Blu-Rays come out. And I look forward to the movie nights that follow.

So, have you seen Jupiter Ascending? What did you think?

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Sam talks with Aaron Diaz, creator/writer/artist of Dresden Codak. The two talk art, Lord of the Rings, webcomics, and dinosaurs! So a little something for everyone!

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As a global consumer culture one of the first things we’re introduced to is media. Television, books, movies, and music all contribute to how we perceive and relate to the world around us. The Modern Age of comics has seen the saga-bannerdeconstruction of superheroes, the rise, fall, and rise again of comic book movies and television, and the elevation of geek culture. This has all been in conjunction with the proliferation of the internet where vocality is king and the biggest hot button topics sure to come up when any new movie, television show, or comic book comes out are representation and visibility.

We want to see aspects of ourselves in the media we consume but it’s painfully clear that Hollywood and media in general skew towards the straight, white male demographic. Denying anyone who isn’t part of the preconceived audience doesn’t just eliminate them on a visual level, it eliminates their voices and stories that could be told from the perspective of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. This paints an inaccurate picture of our society, which many demand changed. Hollywood has taken some sluggish steps forward, but a Renaissance of representation has occurred in comic books, at least in the smaller publishers. Marvel and DC Comics have made some strides forward, but it’s really in publishers like Dark Horse, Image, IDW, and Boom! Studios that stories not predicated on decades worth of continuity are allowed to flourish under the writings and artistry of creators actively concerned with making their comics relevant to modern readers. One of those books is Saga.

SkishIn Saga, Alana and Marko, lovers from warring worlds, flee the war, marry, and have a child, Hazel, whose future self narrates the story of her family as they’re pursued by her parents’ peoples as well as robotic royalty, bounty hunters, ex-fiancés, and journalists across the galaxy. That’s as simplistic as the explanation gets without going into the complexities of the story, but suffice it to say that writer Brian K. Vaughan (Runaways, Y: The Last Man, Pride of Baghdad) and artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, DV8: Gods and Monsters, Archie) purposely set out to make Saga a book without limitations and, by their own admission, difficult to adapt.

First released in March of 2012 by Image Comics, Saga has since received as much critical acclaim as it has controversy. It should surprise no one that the bulk of the controversy concerns the art, which is understandable since comic books are, first and foremost, a visual medium. For all of the critical analysis of Saga’s narrative through Vaughan’s writing, it’s Staples’ art that grabs our attention. The fully realized sci-fi/fantasy landscape of war, sex, magic, technology, and family is as much a product of Staples’ imagination as it is Vaughan’s scripting.

Vaughan’s writing on Saga has received high praise, especially from this author, for his criticisms of art, war, and media, much of which stems from what John Parker of ComicsAlliance refers to as Vaughan’s examination of the anxieties of post-9/11 America where the genre serves as “the delivery system to explore significant real-world issues.” Interestingly enough, Saga is one of the most diverse books regarding gender, race, and sexual oriFiona and Brianentation but never brings attention to it because, in the world of Saga, these aren’t issues.

Vaughan is certainly no stranger to casts of characters with a high female count. Saga continues this predilection, sporting an ensemble cast of at least seven female characters in play, as of the current run, compared to the roughly four or five male characters that appear. It’s the diversity of race and sexual orientation, however, where Saga earns major points with readers. While both Vaughan and Staples have pointed out that race and skin color have no correlation in Saga, Staples was instrumental in the multicultural design of the characters, creating a book where only one of the main characters, out of roughly twelve, who could even be considered white (hint: it’s The Will). According to Vaughan at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con:

“When I was pitching to Fiona, I said, ‘I don’t care how Alana looks, but no redheads. There’s a glut of redheads in comics.’ And Fiona was like, ‘Well, she doesn’t have to be white either.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, right.’” [Source: Hero Complex]

GwenThis revelation from Vaughan shows the importance of diversity amongst creative teams alongside their books. Would the story have changed if Alana was white? Probably not, but by not defaulting to white, Staples gave Saga its own default and a galaxy enriched by diversity. Said Staples:

“Representation and diversity in comics is something that’s important to me, and I also think it just makes a more realistic universe when you’re constructing a brand-new world and you want it to feel authentic. Most of the people on Earth are not white. Why would this galaxy be?” [Source: Hero Complex]

The same is true for the visibility of LGBTQ characters. Though Alana and Marko are the straight couple at the center of the story, the Saga universe is far more fluid when it comes to sexuality. Gwendolyn, Marko’s ex, is most likely bi-sexual since she lost her virginity to a woman named Velour. Upsher and Doff are journalists and a committed gay couple trying to put the truth out about Alana’s defection. And Hazel’s babysitter Izabel recently talked about her girlfriend Windy with whom she loved and lost after stepping on a landmine. Sexual orientation is incidental to upsher and doffthe characters of Saga. The more pressing concern is the struggle for love amidst the tragedy of war.

When asked why he wrote so many strong female characters, Joss Whedon infamously answered, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” The same is true for Saga. We still have to keep pointing out just how diverse it is because there’s a dearth of comic books like Saga for readers interested in anything other than what mainstream publishers think is “diverse”. Thankfully, more comic books are beginning to emerge in the same vein as Saga, giving readers a playground of characters where they can see themselves without having to rely on surrogates due to lack of options. I’d like to be able to say things will change as time goes by, and I’m confident it will, but for now we’ll have to rely on Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples to continue delivering in their gorgeous, poignant, and heart-wrenching space opera.

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This article was originally written for Comics and Human Rights week on Talking Comics and the London School of Economics.

 

When we look at feminist texts in the category of fiction, brutality and the subjugation of women are common themes in which authors explore how women strive for or gain agency within a world that has no qualms about denying or silencing them. The realm of science-fiction allows for a more heightened realization of these themes through the fears women have about their BITCH PLANET LOGO 1place in society and how institutions of power reinforce those notions. Science fiction also allows authors to take the combination of fear and reality to their most logical, or illogical, extremes; exposing the raw nerve of women as pawns, and sometimes perpetuators, of corrupt, fundamentalist societies intent on keeping them compliant. In this vein, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet strikes the right balance between over-the-top prison movie exploitation and biting social commentary.

In the future, not sure how far off but that’s really not important, Earth has taken great leaps to ensure that society is well-ordered, free of “sin”, and most importantly compliant by shipping criminals and radicals off the planet to a prison known as Bitch Planet. Unsurprisingly, all of the prisoners are women who didn’t exactly meet the compliance standards via the rule of law or the perceptions of society. Among the new batch of prisoners are Penelope Rolle, a large woman unafraid to speak her mind and throw her weight around, Kamau Kogo, the fight-saavy presumed volunteer on the station, and Marian Collins, the innocent caught up in the planetary victimization of women.

The CatholicTo be fair, all of the women in Bitch Planet are victims of society in one form or another. While we know some of the prisoners are murderers, we’re not certain of the circumstances that led them to kill. The rest are referred to as radicals, implying that they are political prisoners, demonstrators exposing the reality of a society enforcing compliance whether through speaking out or practicing good old civil disobedience. There is, however, a third category of prisoner, the women who don’t adhere to what men want. While that could come down to just about anything, this particular type of prisoner is mostly embodied in Marian. We learn through dual conversations, one between Marian and the prison’s “Catholic” construct, the other between Marian’s husband and Mr. Solanza, that the two experienced some marital difficulties, which Mr. Collins resolved by having an affair because Marian didn’t excite him anymore. Marian feels guilty that she drove her husband to have an affair, but we’re led to believe that Mr. Collins is trying to get Marian back because of his own guilt in having the affair. The bait and switch occur when we learn that the Mrs. Collins mistakenly being held in detention isn’t Marian, but the youthful and exciting Dawn with whom Mr. Collins had the affair. It strikes a chord immediately because this is how women are already treated in the real world, viewed as nothing more than a means for men to feel good about themselves until they wear out their welcome and are replaced by a newer, younger model.

bitchplanet1-2-05769What hurts the most is that Marian believes it’s her fault for not being compliant to her husband’s desires. It has nothing to do with what she wants or desires. We get a sense of how Marian would fall into this mire of self-esteem in the opening pages as the voice over artist rushes through an unknown city to her job. In the background are advertisements encouraging women to “Eat Less, Poop More” so there’s “Less of You to Love”, “Buy This. It Will Fix You”, and most blatantly “You’re Fat”. All of these ads are aimed at women, drowning them in expectations to be thin and beautiful, devaluing them through body shaming and not-so-subliminal messages. When the voice over gal gets to work, her job is to pose as the voice of a history teacher with the intention of using the recording to play while the Non-Compliants (NCs) are asleep in transit. It’s revisionist history used to indoctrinate these women into the compliant way of thinking.

The religious connotations in Bitch Planet #1 bring to mind Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in which Judeo-Christian fundamentalism is used to justify and enforce class systems and sexual practices, placing women in the lower classes by virtue of being women. As the “history teacher” speaks, we’re given the “In the beginning…” opening that immediately frames this society within a religious context. Mother Earth is no more. Instead, Space is now the Mother and Earth the Father. The women en route to Bitch Planet are being expelled by their “Father” because of their trespasses of gluttony, pride, weakness, and wickedness, sins revised to specifically speak to gender. They’re beyond correction and so are cast out into the “loving embrace of the Mother”, which further reinforces the idea of women as outsiders. Father Planet is where society thrives, but Mother Space is where the cancers on society go. Their nakedness during transport and upon arrival further shames them as they’re watched over by male security techs and “guarded” by men in masks without discernible features. It’s voyeuristic and uncomfortable, which is indicative of how women feel under the scrutiny of men.

Furthermore, the issue of race isn’t specifically stated, but can be viewed through most of the issue. Marian is the only character referred to as the “white girl” while the rest of the prison is predominantly occupied by black women, which is on point according to Danielle Henderson who states in the back matter that “African American women are three times more likely to be incarcerated than white women, and most often for offenses related to men”. The diversity of the cast, as well as the final BP02twist are done explicitly to show the disproportionate population of women of color who visually represent non-compliance.

Bitch Planet‘s timing couldn’t be more perfect in regards to race and gender issues that are still at the forefront of women’s rights and representation in the media. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (whose art is amazing, by the way) have hit the ground running with their unapologetic look at society and women through the lens of science-fiction. This is not a subtle book by any means. Its message is loud and clear from cover to cover, ready to hit you over the head in a way that would make Penny Rolle grin with delight.

Okay, so Krypton isn’t going to actually blow up on SyFy (that’s usually saved for the first 20 minutes of a Superman movie), but in an effort to get back to their roots, ya know back when we knew it as the SciFi Channel, it seems the cable network is ready to dive into the worlds of science fiction and superhero prequels with KryptonKryptonLogo-12801-720x405

Developed for television by David S. Goyer (Constantine, Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Ian Goldberg (Once Upon a Time), Krypton, unlike Fox’s Gotham, won’t be following a prepubescent Clark Kent who’s already training to be Superman – they already did that on a show called Smallville…sorta – but will instead go back two generations to Kal-El’s paternal grandfather, Seyg-El.

Here’s the official description:

 

Years before the Superman legend we know, the House of El was shamed and ostracized. This series follows The Man of Steel’s grandfather as he brings hope and equality to Krypton, turning a planet in disarray into one worthy of giving birth to the greatest Super Hero ever known.

 

Okay, I’m gonna try to find some positives. On the one hand, exploring the planet of Krypton has a lot of potential for actually diving into the culture of Supes’ birth planet. We only ever get brief glimpses into Krypton’s past in the comics whether through one-shot stories or expository flashbacks, so actually taking the time to look at the people and the environment that led to Superman is interesting. There’s also the possibility of bringing in other worlds and peoples from the science fiction corner of the DC Universe. The Green Lantern Corp would most certainly be out there as well as the Thanagar, Rann, and gasp! Apokolips, so the potential for expanding the DCU without having to shoehorn Kal-El/Clark into the story could work.

son-of-krypton-3On the other hand, we’re still working with a prequel series in which limitations are already set in place. And I’m not just talking about the whole blowing up thing that Krypton does so well. The pilot is being written by Goldberg from an outline provided by Goyer and if you all remember what happened in the beginning of Man of Steel, which Goyer wrote, then we’re still looking at a culture in which genetic purity and a clear caste system are in place and have been for generations prior to Superman’s grandpappy. I’m not saying those parameters aren’t the stuff of great storytelling, but we’re still dealing with a foregone conclusion. Whatever Seyg-El does to try to make Krypton the happiest planet in the galaxy will ultimately be undone by the time his grandson is born. So unless futility is what SyFy is going for, how far can you go with a message of “hope and equality” for Krypton when we’re dealing with a planet full of people doomed by their own hubris?

But, of course, I’m still going to watch it. I’m still watching Gotham, though I wouldn’t say it’s out of enjoyment all of the time. With Krypton, however, there’s at least the chance of a reprieve from unsubtle hints about who so-and-so will end up being once the Wayne boy dons the cape and cowl. Although the trade-off will probably be grandiose speeches about HOPE delivered by Seyg-El to really hammer the point home. Le sigh.

In other news, the Teen Titans based show Titans will be filming their pilot for TNT next year. As reported by Screen Rant:04-teen-titans

 

Titans will revolve around onetime Batman sidekick-turned superhero Dick Grayson, alias Nightwing, as he puts together a band of new superheroes whose ranks will also include classic Titans like Starfire and Raven

 

They go on to say that the inclusion of Cyborg is possible, but may not happen since he’ll be portrayed by Ray Fisher in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League 1 & 2, and the character’s solo movie. Of course, we’ll already have two different Flashes on the big and small screens, so what does it matter if there’s more than one guy playing Cyborg?

I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of a Titans show, but TNT only has one effects heavy program under their belt, Falling Skies, and The Librarians didn’t have the most stellar effects in the pilot. That just means we’ll have to wait and see what they bring to Titans since they’ll at the very least have an alien princess who can fly and shoot energy as well as a magically inclined young woman whose father is the ruler of a hell dimension on the roster. No mention has been made of whether Beast Boy, Kid Flash, Aqualad, or Wonder Girl will be featured either and all of them require a fair amount of special effects to pull off their abilities.

So that’s two more shows added to the ever-growing empire of DC Comics live action tv shows. And just so you don’t get lost regarding which show is playing on which network:DC TV

Gotham – Mondays on Fox

The Flash – Tuesdays on the CW

Arrow – Wednesdays on the CW

Constantine – Fridays on NBC

In Development – iZombie for the CW, Supergirl for CBS, Krypton for SyFy, and Titans for TNT

 

But what do you think? Are we getting oversaturated with tv shows from WB and DC? Do you want to watch a prequel series about Krypton? And if this trend continues, will we get Themyscira soon?