Posts Tagged ‘Teen Titans’

 

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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.

That’s right, you. You’re the one who’s still obsessed with the greatest musical that ever musicaled. Not me. You. You’re the one who goes to bed singing “The Schuyler Sisters”. You’re the one who wakes up with Washington’s rap from “Right Hand Man” bouncing around your skull. You’re the one who uses the Aaron Burr, Sir rhyming scheme nonstop. You’re the one who referenced another Hamilton song within a sentence about your obsessive need to incorporate the previous song into your daily life.AR-AK469_Theate_P_20150806131612

Okay, that escalated quickly.

But fear not, readers, for I have come here to curate a sampling of Founding Fathers/American Revolution themed media that’s sure to continue enabling my obsession. I mean your obsession.

#Ham4Ham

Let’s start with an easy one. Perhaps this obsession has also become entwined with your love of Broadway and musicals in general. Well, never fear, you can fall down the rabbit hole of Ham4Ham videos on YouTube where the cast and crew, under the direction of Lin-Manuel Miranda, perform for an audience of hundreds participating in a lottery for tickets to the show. A mere ten dollars gets you a five minute performance from the stars of Hamilton or from some of the many familiar faces from Broadway’s past and present.

Drunk History

The one that started it all. Need I say more?

Histeria

As I mentioned in the latest podcast, Histeria was a show created by the same teams responsible for Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. It was a show designed to – get this – make history entertaining for kids and pre-teens. Weird, right? It only aired for two years and it has yet to be released on DVD, but you can watch the episodes on YouTube for free! Best of all, they have several episodes devoted to the American Revolution featuring a very Bob Hope-esque George Washington.

Schoolhouse Rock!

It was a simpler time…

Founding Fathers Rapping

Need more Revolution Era rap? Looks like JibJab might have beat Lin-Manuel Miranda by a few years…

1776

In need of more Founding Fathers singing that isn’t rap? Okay, I guess that’s cool. Well look no further than 1776, a musical about the creation, ratification, and signing of the Declaration of Independence. You won’t find any signs of Hamilton here, but John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin sure now how to…sing about eggs.

HBO’s John Adams Mini-Series

Wondering why Alexander Hamilton had such a problem with John Adams? Well maybe watching a bunch of clips from the miniseries will make clear what’s only glossed over in the musical. Adapted from David McCullough’s biography of John Adams, we see the Revolution and the Early Republic through the eyes of one of the less popular presidents. Paul Giamatti carries the miniseries deftly upon his shoulders, but he’s also surrounded by an impressive cast of amazing actors, including Rufu Sewell as Hamilton.

 

That Time George Washington Totally Fought Robin, the Boy Wonder

You heard me.

Well, hopefully that keeps me you satisfied for the time being. Lord knows it’s hard to say no to this craving for more Hamilton oriented media, but I’ll you’ll just have to hunker down and wait for it to calm down. Then, maybe, we can get some work done around here, people!

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

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?

vixen-alrge

During the Television Critic’s Association (TCA) event that took place on Sunday it was announced that Mari Jiwe McCabe, aka Vixen, would be the next DC hero to join the CW alongside Arrow and The Flash. Expected to debut in the fall, Vixen will be the first animated series produced through the CW’s digital platform, CW Seed, which is probably most well-known for featuring Jane Espenson’s web series Husbands. Marc Guggenheim, one of Arrow‘s executive producers and co-showrunner, will oversee the project as well as the Supergirl television show for CBS. At the TCA, the CW provided promotional material for the animated series featuring Vixen staring down from the rooftops with Flash and Green Arrow flanking her as well as some character background:

Originally from Africa, Mari McCabe’s parents were killed by local greed, corruption, and wanton violence. But the orphaned Mari refuses to succumb to the terrors surrounding her. Inheriting her family’s Tantu Totem, Mari can access the powers of animals — anything from the super-strength of a gorilla to the speed of a cheetah. As Vixen, she fights valiantly to protect the world from the threats like those that claimed her family.

The dossier neglected to mention Mari’s day job as a model or that she can only use the power of one animal at a time, but it’s not exactly the job of a flyer to delve into all the little details, though Guggenheim did provide some additional information about the direction of the series:

It’s a six-part origin story, but characters from “Flash” and “Arrow” are prominently involved. It’s in the continuity and the world…The other thing is, it’s a strong African-American hero who’s, like I said, a former Justice Leaguer. It’s set in Detroit, as a nod towards those Justice League [Detroit] stories. It’s done with the same love of the source material that we bring to everything.

Vixen_JLoA4There are, however, a couple of things worth noting. One, the art style of the promotional material is the same as the animation used for Warner Bros. most recent DC Animated features, Justice League: War and Batman and Son, as well as Justice League’s forthcoming sequel, Throne of Atlantis. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of what appears to be WB’s new signature style for the DC Animated movies mostly adapted from the New 52. It’s just not my cup of tea, especially since I wasn’t all that into Justice League: War or the book from which it was adapted. I’d ask if that means Vixen, Arrow, and The Flash all take place in the same universe as the current DCAU, but then we’re getting into Cool World/Who Framed Roger Rabbit? levels of continuity. Probably best to just keep it all separate for now.

Secondly, if Vixen is supposedly in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash, as evidenced by the characters on the promotional materials, then why is Vixen – arguably DC’s most well-known black female superhero – being introduced in animation instead of live action? Assuming Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell will lend their voices when their characters eventually show up, can we also expect Mari to make her live action debut on either Arrow or The Flash? Guggenheim has apparently been fielding this question as well, saying:Vixen_dc-comics

We always say “never say never,” and if the character resonates with people, that would be wonderful. I would love to be in a position where CW said to us, “Hey, we want a ‘Vixen’ live-action show.” That’d be wonderful. We’ll have to sort of see how things play out.

It’s not exactly the most definitive answer and it still raises the question of why Mari can’t go the way of Barry Allen or even Supergirl? It’s not like we’re lacking for superhero content in media, so I’m pretty sure the viewing audience will accept anything at this point. I mean, people are still watching Gotham, right? Animation, however. has been woefully underutilized by Warner Bros. considering it used to be their bread and butter. I’ve seen other websites speculating that Vixen could be the CW’s version of The Legend of Korra, which dealt with far more mature storytelling than anyone expected for what was deemed children’s programming. Vixen wouldn’t necessarily have the same hang-ups since the viewing audience siphoned off from Arrow and The Flash would already have an expectation for more mature content. How far do they intend to push those boundaries? Hard to say. There’s still a brand to maintain with the DC properties, but, then again, this is the CW so we shouldn’t rule out anything that could potentially draw in the 18-35 demographic.

Vixen character bioVixen will serve the secondary purpose of introducing magic into the CW/DC television universe, but again, why not bring that into the fold on a live action show? Meta humans seemed like a stretch during the first season of Arrow, but by season two we were itching for The Flash spinoff. Why not do the same for Vixen? Normally, I wouldn’t push this since the news is so fresh, but with rumors also circulating that Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer, soon-to-be the Atom, may get a spinoff show as well, bringing Vixen in as an animated series feels like a very sluggish step forward.

Hopefully Guggenheim and the team working on Vixen prove me wrong. Really, I want them to succeed. Mari’s been sorely missed in the DCU. It’s been a couple years since she was last seen in the Justice League book and, aside from some guest spots and cameos on Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans, it’s been over a decade since her last major appearance on television in Justice League: Unlimited (voiced by Gina friggin’ Torres!)

So, for now, let’s say I’m cautiously optimistic.

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?

Ya know, for all the good that can come out of the comic book community, sometimes it really sucks. So I’m just gonna dive into this one because I don’t feel like any fancy setup intro. Even after a couple of weeks to mull things over I’m still pissed and the only way I can convey that, in the least destructive way possible, is to write about it.teen-titans_1-600x911

Two weeks ago Janelle Asselin, a former editor for DC Comics and Disney, did a guest article for Comic Book Resources in which she critiqued the cover art for the upcoming relaunch of Teen Titans that will debut in July with a new #1. In the article, Asselin was highly critical of artist Kenneth Rocafort’s depiction of the new Titans cover: the odd relation of characters to the background, the position of the single person of color, and the highly sexualized rendition of Cassie Sandsmark, a.k.a. Wonder Girl, standing front and center with her very large and unnatural looking breasts prominently featured. In dissecting Rocafort’s version of Wonder Girl, Asselin was also able to branch out and discuss not just the purpose of a comic book cover, but also talk about the demographic for which the comic is being made and marketed. Suffice it to say, women weren’t the target audience.

This critique, based on Asselin’s experience within the industry, however, came under fire from artist Brett Booth, artist for The Flash and former artist for Teen Titans. In some strange form of artistic solidarity, Booth began attacking Asselin’s credibility on Twitter, which then turned into a series of tweets from Booth and his supporters calling Asselin’s critique a biased nitpick with some sort of hidden agenda towards bashing DC Comics. The Outhousers has a great breakdown, including the tweets, of how this all escalated. The final tweet from Booth, however, is something I want to address. Because a woman dare question the costume choice and sexualization of a teenage girl on a book being marketed to a largely male demographic, Booth concluded:

 

 

Now, in all fairness, I’m not trying to demonize Booth. I would hope he’s a good person and he has said that his statements towards Asselin were in reaction to her criticism of the artwork, not the sexualization of Wonder Girl. While those two issues aren’t mutually exclusive in the context of the article, I suppose I can see where he’s coming from, but as with most things on the internet, intention gets lost in the translation. But even if he was just coming to Rocafort’s defense, his remark about putting female characters in burkas as a non-solution is in and of itself presenting a false dichotomy of how superheroines should be depicted in comic books.

Harley QuinnWhen women criticize how female superheroes are depicted in comic books is isn’t necessarily a THIS OR THAT situation. We’re not prudes and we can appreciate the male and female forms in a variety of ways. Sexuality is not the issue, but the context of that sexuality and who that sexualized rendition of a female superhero is meant for are of greater concern. When Brett Booth uses the burka as the extreme opposite, he creates a duality that ultimately undermines the real issue. It’s the comic book equivalent of the Virgin/Whore dichotomy. Women are either pure as fallen snow OR wonton Jezebels. There’s no middle ground, no gray area, no actual understanding of human nuance. Just a nice, neat package complete with an easily identifiable label. I’m sorry, but no. Thanks for playing, now please exit the planet.

Sex sells. We all know it, we get it, and female readers of superhero comics specifically understand this because it’s pretty much shoved in our faces. Though we make up almost half of the reading audience, with our numbers continuing to grow, women and girls are still marginalized when it comes to marketing comic books. The same can be said for movies and tv shows involving superheroes or anything believed to be “for boys”. Don’t believe me, take a look at Giancarlo Volpe’s short comic about the focus groups for Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Three groups for boys of varying ages, one group for girls of all ages. Guess who gave the most thoughtful feedback. Or go back and listen to Paul Dini on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman where he lays it all out that girls are considered unwanted afterthoughts when it comes to marketing products. The point is, women and girls, are still looked at as outsiders. Despite our growing presence, when we look to the superheroines of Marvel and DC, most of them are being written and drawn by men who’re catering to an audience that the companies at large perceive as, or want to believe is, predominantly male.I am Wonder Woman

I want to be clear on this, I’m not saying men can’t write or draw nuanced and dynamic superheroines. One of my favorite books is Wonder Woman, written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Cliff Chiang. This actually presents us with an interesting surface comparison of Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl. Chiang’s Diana is proportionally sound with her body type a reflection of her life and training as an Amazon. She’s athletic and muscular, but still possesses her femininity. And save for a brief glimpse of side boob, Wonder Woman, as depicted by Azzarello and Chiang has never been shown as a sexual object. Even her costume, by all accounts a one piece bathing suit with knee-high boots, looks more like plated armor with the silver eagle atop the corset covering her breasts in order to prevent spillage. Diana’s sex appeal is ostensibly left to the reader to interpret through the actions of the character. Cassie, as drawn by Rocafort, is, as pointed out by Asselin, proportionally wrong. She says:

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Wonder Girl’s rack. Perhaps I’m alone in having an issue with an underaged teen girl being drawn with breasts the size of her head (seriously, line that stuff up, each breast is the same size as her face) popping out of her top. Anatomy-wise, there are other issues — her thigh is bigger around than her waist, for one — but let’s be real. The worst part of this image, by far, are her breasts. The problem is not that she’s a teen girl with large breasts, because those certainly exist. The main problem is that this is not the natural chest of a large-breasted woman. Those are implants. On a teenaged superheroine. Natural breasts don’t have that round shape (sorry, boys).

So, yeah, Cassie’s one-piece costume stops exactly mid-breast. This is a girl who can fly and has to regularly throw a magical lasso and punch people. Unless she has some Acme-strength superglue on hand, the second she swings her arm or breaks the sound barrier she’ll be experiencing a wardrobe malfunction. This depiction of her is overtly sexual for the sake of being sexual with no consideration given to the character.

Ms. Marvel to Captain MarvelFor another comparison, let’s look at the costume change for Carol Danvers, formerly Ms. Marvel now Capt. Marvel. As Ms. Marvel, Carol definitely had a few costume changes, but the most iconic one was the one piece black bathing suit with a lightning bolt, sash, arm-length gloves, and boots. Carol Danvers, a former United States Air Force pilot, though superpowered but not invulnerable, was flying around in a uniform her former superiors would probably classify as unbecoming of an officer. So when Kelly Sue DeConnick took over the newly minted Capt. Marvel with Carol as the titular character, she made sure the costume reflected the character, making Carol’s new costume more in tune with something a soldier would wear even if they happen to associate with mutants, aliens, and a giant green Hulk. Does it cover her up? Yes, but so what? It has everything to do with how the uniform is an extension of the character. When we see a superhero in their outfit it’s supposed to evoke specific feelings: hope, fear, inspiration, etc. When we look at Wonder Girl, what’re we supposed to think of her? Who is she being drawn for?

The depiction of superheroines and how artists draw them extends, to no one’s surprise, into the world of cosplay. Cosplay is itself a fascinating sect of fandom and the time and effort people put into their costumes is something to be commended. Women who cosplay, however, have to deal with more unwanted attention than men who cosplay simply because the costumes available to them are derived from characters who are regularly drawn with more skin showing than their male counterparts. The amount of anti-harrassment and zero tolerance signs that go up during conventions, if they bother to put them up at all, is a direct correlation to the actions of men who think that because a woman dresses sexily it gives them the right to ogle, harass, or solicit them. She dressed like Power Girl, so that means she wants the attention, right? If she didn’t want the attention she wouldn’t have chosen to dress like that character. Never mind that the woman in question is dressing as a character she identifies with who happens to have a costume with a boob window and no pants. Nope, clearly anyone dressed as Power Girl, Black Canary, Huntress, Starfire, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, or Harley Quinn wants people to stare at them to validate their sexuality, not because the character means something to them.best-of-cosplay-power-girl

This leads to the final point I want to make regarding the Scantily Clad OR Burka dichotomy: the double standard of sexuality, superheroines, and female readers. The standard male response to women criticizing the sexualization of most superheroines is that male superheroes are equally as sexualized or presented as an unrealistic ideal because COMICS! Again, it’s people making assumptions who don’t understand the issue. Are comic books essentially power fantasies? Yes, but with the dearth of female creators, especially at DC and Marvel, this means that most of these power fantasies are coming from the male perspective. Heroes like Superman and Batman get to be muscular, tall, and handsome while exhibiting strength of body and mind. They’re also entirely covered up. Female heroes like Power Girl, Black Canary, Huntress, and Wonder Woman are shown in one-piece bathing suit outfits, thing-high boots, fishnet stockings, boob windows, and bare midriffs. They’re idealized, but they’re also highly sexualized. Let’s face it, we’ll always get the fan service bare-chested man, but you know what will never happen in a DC or a Marvel book? Dick slip – and I’m not talking Dick Grayson slipping on a banana peel. There will never be even the slightest notion of a male character’s fly being down or his pants being ripped off while going commando based on the design of his costume. They will always be covered up, no matter what.

Wonder Girl -Cassandra-Sandsmark (2)In the case of female readers, our power fantasies are being dictated to us, but our means of ownership or reaction to those fantasies put us in a no-win situation. A lot of women identify with superheroines who dress in the aforementioned style of dress. In fact, those women own that sexuality and find it and the costume empowering. And what do they get for taking ownership of those characters? The words “slut”, “whore”, “attention-seeker”, and “fake” get thrown around a lot. Hell, even in Justice League: War Wonder Woman is called a whore by the leader of a mob who’s hanging her in effigy based on her costume. In an animated movie supposedly for kids! And should women go the opposite route and critique the costumes of superheroines, we’re called “prudes”, “femi-nazis”, and told we’re “over-reacting” and “nitpicking” because we have an agenda against men in general.

God forbid female readers just want to enjoy reading a comic book without having to think about how Starfire’s spine bends like a snake or how low the zipper goes down on Catwoman’s outfit. That’s our agenda, folks. We just want to be able to read our comics and enjoy ourselves without having to explain to our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, friends and family why we feel uncomfortable talking about or showing them our passions.

And if you’d like to see a more distilled version of this argument, I’d highly recommend the Nostalgia Chick’s look at the Charlie’s Angels movies.

Fatman on Batman

If you’re a fan of DC Comics and all things Batman (which I am), then you’re probably aware of Kevin Smith’s podcast Fatman on Batman where Silent Bob himself talks to pretty much anyone who’s been involved with the Dark Knight in some capacity. It’s a celebration of the Bat and it gives Smith a reason to fanboy out much to all of our delight.

Recently, Smith brought back Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Mad Love, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) to the Fat-cave for a two-part discussion of what were supposed to be minor bits and ephemera concerning Batman and the various properties with which Dini has been involved. In the second part, however, during a discussion of the probable cancellation of Beware the Batman on Cartoon Network (CN), Dini spilled the beans on how executives at Cartoon Network regard their female viewers. The short answer is: They don’t want them.

Apologies for how long this transcript is, made possible by Vi at A Bird’s Word on tumblr, but it’s worth reading the entire conversation as well as Smith’s response. Or, you can download the podcast and just listen to it because it gets very real when the two start talking about the harsh reality of why girls are marginalized.

First he talks about the cancellation of Young Justice and Dini’s own show Tower Prep for CN:

“But then, there’s been this weird—there’s been a, a sudden trend in animation, with super-heroes. Like, ‘it’s too old. It’s too old for our audience, and it has to be younger. It has to be funnier.‘ And that’s when I watch the first couple of episodes of Teen Titans Go!, it’s like those are the wacky moments in the Teen Titans cartoon, without any of the more serious moments. ‘Let’s just do them all fighting over pizza, or running around crazy and everything, ’cause our audience—the audience we wanna go after, is not the Young Justice audience any more. We wanna go after little kids, who are into—boys who are into goofy humor, goofy random humor, like on Adventure Time or Regular Show. We wanna do that goofy, that sense of humor, that’s where we’re going for.’

Then Dini hits us where we hurt:

DINI: “They’re all for boys ’we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”

DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show—”

SMITH: “So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t—A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as f***ing boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them f***ing umbrella with the f***ing character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi—that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?’

DINI: “That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, ‘we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’—this is the network talking—’one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.’ And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]’s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t—’ and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down—’Yeah, but the—so many—we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.’”

SMITH: “That’s heart-breaking.”

DINI: “And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, ‘We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.’ We had a whole… we had a whole, a merchandise line for Tower Prep that they s***canned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, ‘Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.’

paul-dini-kevin-smith-cartoon-network-gi

Not this one

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

I just wanna get this out of the way first: “goofy” humor is not a sign of quality in a show. It is an aspect of a show like drama, action, or any number of genres, but it isn’t the only reason people watch Adventure Time or why they watched the original Teen Titans. I personally don’t watch Adventure Time, but I know there’s far more to the show than surrealist imagery and random humor. Teen Titans was also a cartoon that, while it had a lot of humor and anime influences, told mature and sometimes darker stories. Young Justice and Green Lantern had the same mix of action, humor, and quality storytelling. Apparently the people at Cartoon Network really don’t understand why their shows are popular.

Secondly, toy sales should not be the determining factor in the lifespan of a children’s show. They’re not reflective of the actual viewership of the show and with families needing to cut down on spending due to the slow rise of the economy there could be people out there who would normally buy those toys for their kids but can’t afford to. And like Smith says, if merchandise is your ultimate signpost of popularity, then find a way to sell to boys and girls! Superhero_superman_supergirl_batgirl_batman_child_photoshoot_Albuquerque_Photographer_02(pp_w907_h604)

Which leads into the third issue: GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS ABOUT SUPERHEROES! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS WITH “GOOFY HUMOR”! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS, PERIOD! GIRLS BUY TOYS AND OTHER MERCHANDISE BASED ON SAID CARTOONS! Is it really that hard to wrap your head around this fact? Girls aren’t different and they aren’t hard to figure out when it comes to the things they pester their parents to buy. But to cordon girls off from your product based on a preconceived and ridiculously ignorant notion of gender stereotypes, you’re inevitably sealing the fate of your show. Like Smith said, girls and women are 51% of the population and they make up the same demographic percentage when it comes to the media they consume. Nothing, not cartoons, comic books, movies, television shows, games, or princesses for that matter, belongs to one gender. You can sell the same products to girls that you do to boys. The executives at Cartoon Network, and for that matter, the executives of any company that maintain this mindset, obviously do not understand how to do their job.

You know what, I’m just gonna head over to my hittin’ wall and bash my head against it a few times. Maybe then I’ll be able to better understand how these people think. Also, let us now have a moment of silence as the quality of my writing goes right down the tube.

Nick CardyIt’s my sad duty to report that yesterday, November 3rd, Nick Cardy, a renowned and respected artist in the comic book industry passed away at the age of 93. Cardy was best known for his work at DC Comics during the Silver Age, bringing well-known characters like Aquaman and the first incarnation of the Teen Titans to life in their solo books.

Born Nicholas Viscardi, shortening it to Nick Viscardi in his early career, Cardy got his start in the industry working for Will Eisner and Jerry Iger’s comic packaging company, Eisner & Iger, at the age of 18, drawing for various titles like Fight Comics, Jungle Comics, and Kaanga Comics. Eisner even had him take over as writer and artist for the popular comic strip “Lady Luck” in Eisner’s own Sunday supplement comic, “The Spirit Section”, from May of 1941 to February of 1942. On “Lady Luck”, Cardy worked under the house pseudonym of Ford Davis, the one used by Eisner, the character’s original creator, but always found a way to get his initials, NV, into the story. It wasn’t until he worked on “Quicksilver” for the National Comics series that he’d shorten his name completely to Nick Cardy.

A veteran of World War II, Cardy served from 1943 to 1945, earning two Purple Hearts. Serving in the 66th Infantry Division, he entered a contest to design his company’s patch, winning with a black panther logo. It was because of his talent as an artist that he was moved to division headquarter after a general recognized Cardy’s work from a magazine. Eventually he was assigned to the Third Armored Division as an assistant tank driver in the European theater, ending his time in the war in the Army’s Information and Education Office in France.

Artist At WarUpon returning to civilian life, Cardy drew for several magazines and comic strips, eventually landing his first gig for DC Comics in 1950 on the title Gang Busters, based on the popular radio show. He later developed his first title, Tomahawk, about an American colonial soldier dressing as an Iroquois warrior to fight the British during The American Revolution. As far as DC Comic’s more recognizable characters go, Cardy was the primary artist for the first 39 issues of Aquaman’s solo book from 1962-1968, though he would continue drawing covers for the title until 1971. He was also brought on board as the artist on the Teen Titan’s solo book in 1966, though he’d previously drawn the Titans, consisting of Robin (Dick Grayson), Aqualad, Kid Flash (Wally West), and Wonder Girl, in their first appearance as a team in Brave and the Bold #60. He would go on to draw interiors for Justice League of America, Superman, Detective Comics, House of Mystery, Action Comics, and All-Star Western, featuring one of my personal favorite characters, Bat Lash. Cardy remained DC’s go-to cover artist until he left the industry in the late 1970s.

After leaving the industry, he became a successful commercial artist, doing magazine and ad illustrations, including some movie posters for The Street Fighter (1974), California Suite (1978), and Apocalypse Now (1979).

So, in honor of Nick Cardy, who is now floating amidst a spiral galaxy, directing the swirls to his liking, I’d like to offer this selection of his vast body of work for you to enjoy.

Aquaman-CardyBat Lash - Cardy

Lady LuckQuicksilver - National Comics

Teen Titans - CardyTeen Titans Wonder Girl - Cardy

The SpectreThe Witching Hour

Mess Line

Cologne Germany Cardy