Suicide Squad

Finally! After months of anticipation, Suicide Squad hits theaters this weekend. I am about to say something I never thought I’d say about a DC Entertainment movie, after the debacle that was Batman Vs Superman; I really liked it! All that things they got wrong in B vs S, they got right in this one. They didn’t shy away from the inherent ‘comic book’ nature of the material but they allowed it to find its own voice as well. It had a very ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’ vibe and that’s a good thing. It had a quick pace, a great script that showcased all the characters which, considering the size of this ensemble, was not an easy thing to do. The story was a bit scattered, but I can forgive that because of all the backstory and character info they had to pack into the first act. A lot is going on and it’s hard to see how things line up, but they eventually do before the ‘run into danger, kill things’ formula begins to grow old. A particular shout out to Margot Robbie who stole the show as Harley Quinn. I have always wondered how this demented damsel would look in a movie and how she would be portrayed and I’m glad to say that she nailed it. She balances the sexy nature of the character with the strength she possesses. The costume is something you’d see in a strip club, but that’s kind of the thing with Harley. She makes you think she’s a ditz, but there’s a brain behind those sparkly eyes. The rest of the cast does a great job of bringing these heroes(?) to life. Will Smith brings a human side to Deadshot and you see he’s more than just a hitman in a costume.

A few low points, I’m afraid. Killer Croc was one of my least favorite characters. Physically he looked odd. His head was too large for his surprisingly small body. He didn’t look right. You know what I mean, but the one thing I did not like about this movie, and I am loathe to say it, was the Joker. I am a big fan of Mr. J, but Jared Leto’s incarnation of him left me baffled. There was so much wrong. He looked like just some guy who painted his face, dyed his hair and wore too much red lipstick. He was portrayed as some kind of mob boss, and while that has been an angle used for the character, the Joker I love does not play that. He’s a psychotic creature of chaos who doesn’t know what he’s going to do next anymore than his victims. He doesn’t have tattoos and he doesn’t dress like a ’70’s pimp. It felt like they just tossed Joker into the mix because they needed something to fortify Harley’s story, but it came off like such an after thought, it barely had any effect on the movie. If Jared Leto is going to return as the Joker in future films, let’s hope he takes a cue from the comic books. The Joker there carries a lethal tension and madness that this one was missing. If you don’t believe me, check out ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’. He may not be cool and hip with tattoos and all, but he’s a stone cold killer nonetheless.

In the final analysis, this movie was worth a night out to see. It found the energy that all the previous DC movies had lost and I hope they keep it up with upcoming films. It was good to see that the DC Movie Universe still had a few sparks of life left in it. Here’s hoping for Doom Patrol in 2018!

The audience: It was opening night and I had low expectations. The auditorium was packed and I was ready for the worst. Pleasantly , the audience was quiet for the most part. Only sparking noise when something moved them to laugh, which was okay. They just laughed and didn’t bother to analyze why it was they laughed. The man in front of me however tried my patience. He kept leaning forward in his seat and getting his head in my line of sight for the whole movie.  The funny thing was that there had been some drama over his seat and  he was a  big, black man. The guy to retake his seat was an even bigger man, but that wasn’t as annoying as the girl next to me. She spent the whole time curled up in her man’s arms and I could tell she didn’t really want to see the movie because  she was constantly checking her phone! Dude! Take her to a chick flick if that’s why you came to the movies! She clearly didn’t want to be there, so when she got bored she would check her phone. So rude.

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Black Human Torch

Okay, I’m dipping into sensitive waters here, I realize that, so let’s just agree that this post may contain some hard truths and in some parts might offend.

I’m sure many of you out there have seen the trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie. I know I have. Just to be clear, I think it looks awful and I have no intention of putting myself through it. It’s dark and gritty and that’s not how I have seen the Fantastic Four. It’s always been a fun, colorful kind of thing. That being said, one of the more hot topic issues with this iteration is casting. Johnny Storm is African American in this movie. Now, I fall on the side of the negative with this casting choice. I just feel the writers should have, as with all adaptations, stuck with the source material more closely. Johnny Storm is white. He was created white and has been white in every version of the character. I get the whole ‘the role should go to the best actor despite race’ argument, but are you telling me out of the millions of starving young actors out there today, this guy was the best of all of them? You could probably stuff a warehouse full of actors who could do the role and probably be able to pick out a Caucasian one.

I want to say race isn’t the issue here, but it is. I’m not racist, I just think a character that was conceived as being white should be represented as such in an adaptation. Now, if there was a legitimate, story-based reason for the change in race, fine. If you’re just doing it to satisfy some demographic or appeal to a certain segment of the population, not fine. That’s called whoring and I know Hollywood is no stranger at trying to satisfy everyone all at the same time, but there have to be some moments when integrity wins out. Call it optimistic, but I’m one of the few people in the world who still believe in integrity.

I’d even be okay with it if they had cast a big name African American actor to play Sue and Johnny’s father, but they didn’t. The guy they got is some character actor I remember from some educational show in the 90’s. I’ve seen him in some things, but he’s no Morgan Freeman or Sam L Jackson. He’s not the caliber of actor that you would make concessions for. He’s lucky he got this role. Biggest I’ve ever seen him in. So, they got him and he’s black, so we have to make one of the Storms black.

Now I realize some of you who are still reading this are just putting me in the ‘hater’ category right now. Fine. So be it. I just feel these characters were created by artists who had a vision. When they were hunched over their typewriters and drawing tables, they saw Johnny in their minds and they made him as they saw him. When that version was published the world accepted their vision and we all agreed that what they had given us was Johnny Storm. Fifty some years later, some slick studio execs slide in and decide something different and in casting an actor of a different race, they are saying that the creators were wrong. They’re saying that they can do better. As a writer, I am familiar with the process of creating a character and it’s not just coming up with a name and a visual concept. It’s much deeper and complex than that. You create their world. You create their childhood and their life up until the point where your story actually begins. You conceive them. You give birth to them. They are your children. I am offended when someone else’s children are treated so thoughtlessly. It’s not even like Marvel needs that much more diversity. They already have an impressive line up of heroes of other races. They have African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos. They’ve got the frickin’ United Nations of superheroes over there at the House Of Ideas. I am offended by a black Johnny Storm only because its clearly altering a character for the sake of a buck and a little promotion, which is working because here we are talking about it. I’ve fallen into the trap, but before I allow myself to go any deeper, let me get one last shot in by posing this question: What if it were reversed? What if an African American character were cast with a white actor? What if Falcon had been white in Captain America 2? War Machine? Hell, what if they switched Nick Fury back to white? Would people still be saying it’s cool and that it’s all about diversity? What if there was a JSA movie and Mr. Terrific got cast with a white guy? I think I would be less likely to make a stink about this issue if I saw the door swing both ways.

Batman: Endgame Review

The latest story arc in DC Comics’ Batman has ended and it seemed to serve as almost a sequel to the previous Joker story arc ‘Death of the Family’, also written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo. The premise is that the Joker has returned to Gotham after he was defeated in the ‘DOTF’ story. It seems he’s been masquerading as an employee of Arkham Asylum for months and has been watching and waiting to strike. He begins his attack by creating some kind of Joker infection and infects members of the JLA and set them against Batman. Things go from bad to worse as the Joker reveals himself, much to Batman’s shock, and proceeds to unleash his virus upon Gotham as a whole, plunging the city into complete chaos. It’s a race against time for Batman and his allies to find a cure and save the city.

Okay. On the whole, it was an all right story. A Joker story is always worth a read. There was quite a bit of technical jargon that really didn’t add anything to the story, but I guess the writer had to make sure we all knew how smart he was. Mission accomplished. The story was well paced and it did manage to have me hanging on for the next chapter. The art, as usual, was incredible. Mr. Capullo was a revelation during his years on Spawn and time has only sharpened his skills. No one can do jagged teeth like Greg.

There were issues however, and at this point I warn of spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read the complete story, along with the back up stories in the first five books, be warned. That said; let us continue.

I can only say that I HATE what Snyder did to the Joker. To attempt to re-create him as some supernatural, immortal being is without a doubt the worst idea ever. The Joker is a homicidal maniac. Simple as that. That is the beauty of the character. No powers. No supernatural elements. Just a twisted mind with way too much creativity. That has always been the Joker’s strength, much like Batman’s strength has been that he also has no powers. Just a man who has pushed himself to extraordinary levels of excellence. I grew to miss the Joker of the pre-52 era. It interested me to see what he would do knowing he was just a man, which made his crimes all the more heinous.

I am also mixed on the ending of the story. I understand that Snyder is setting up the next story arc, but I feel the whole Batman’s missing thing has been done to death. Did he really kill Batman? Is this going to be the most risky gamble in the history of DC Comics? I don’t know. It seems almost every writer has had his ‘faux-Batman’ story and the list of characters who have worn the cowl in Bruce’s stead has been growing rather long over the years. I fear that this is just an attempt to make a bold, controversial change simply for the sake of change and making some claim on the character.

On the whole, I liked the story, but truly pray that there is something up the road that can repair the original status of the Joker, because if what they’ve set forth sticks, I don’t think he’s going to be as interesting anymore. But all that is a discussion for another time. Until then, go ahead and pick up the issues, or wait for the paperback collection. The hardcovers are way too expensive.

Happy reading!

Comics Review For April 1, 2015

Well, the day has finally come. DC is ending its weekly titles Futures End and Batman Eternal and begins Convergence. I don’t normally review comics, only mostly because I don’t get enough to offer what some would consider to be a suitable review, but in this instance I have to offer my two cents. No change expected.

First. Futures End. I have been following this title since issue #0. I was intrigued by the time travel angle and I enjoyed how there were so many branches to the story. It reminded me of 52 and Countdown from just a few years ago. It was like a soap opera that spanned the DC universe. However, in the cases of 52 and Countdown, the endings came with some kind of sense. I hate to say this, but the final issue of Futures End was a bit of a let down. After a year of following all these seemingly unconnected storylines, we find they really are unconnected and the core story that set the whole thing into motion fell apart almost as fast as we were made to think we were heading to a real ending. That’s the worst part. The story ended pretty much where it began with no real conclusion. It seemed like it was just setting up a new title to being after Convergence ends. What bugged me was the lack of closure with so many of the other storylines that had been seeded over the year. They left a lot of loose ends and I don’t like that.

Alternatively, the final issue of Batman Eternal was the exact opposite. I didn’t follow this one, but I picked up the first issue and now I have the last one too, and it connected perfectly. The story lines all came together in the end and it ended, as much as a Batman story can end. It set the stage for the next year in Gotham and as much as I’ve had a problem with the New 52, I am interested in seeing where this goes.

Two endings, and now a beginning. Convergence #0. There has been a lot of rumors, hints and ads about this event. I was interested from the start because it’ll be nice to see ‘my’ characters return, if only for this last story (they have already stated the New 52 continuity will stick after this event). The first issue looked like it picked up a little after Superman:Doomed #2 and really just sets the stage for the coming conflict and we get our first look at the new villain Telos. The art was good and the concept is interesting. Plus it’s good to see talent from when I was more invested in these things at the helm. All I can say is I will follow this path and see where it leads.

Comic Book Rant (Again!!!)

As those who have been reading this blog know, DC Comics’ New 52 is a source of persistent frustration for me. As a fan of comic books I have come to really appreciate continuity and history. It always seemed to me that when DC made their big moves, they carefully planned each move so as to keep everything in line with what came before. The New 52 was the end of all that. The guys who came up with the whole concept can’t even keep the sequence straight. What I am referring to is something I saw in a promo sample of the upcoming Superman #32. Perry White is walking through the halls of the Daily Planet with Clark Kent, (So far so good), but then we see some framed headlines on the wall. The one in the middle vexes me most. “Superman dead” it reads. What!? Let’s start at the top. In this New 52 universe, superheroes have only been around for 5 years. That is set by Mr. Geoff Johns in the first issue of Justice League. The superheroes were hidden from sight up until 5 years ago, and after that they came into the spotlight and that’s where the whole thing started. So, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, everyone, may have been around longer, but had not met or made public appearances until 5 years ago. Remember that. It is SOOOOO important to remember that.

Now back to that ‘Superman Dead’ headline. That says that the Death of Superman story did take place. Doomsday came along, trashed half the Eastern seaboard and then killed Superman, which launched us into the Reign of The Supermen story which affected more than just the Superman universe. It led to the destruction of Coast City and an emotional break down for Hal Jordan. It created Superboy, Steel, and the Eradicator as well as Cyborg Superman, who would go on to prove to be one of Supes’ most enduring enemies.

Now, here’s the problem. When Superman died, the whole world mourned him. All the heroes came out to honor him. Now we’re supposed to believe that Superman gained all that love and respect in less than five years? Hard to believe especially since the New 52 issues of Superman showed him in a world where the majority of the human population feared and hated him. When did all of this happen? How does this story fit into continuity, seeing as Superboy and Steel had different origins in the New 52. The whole thing just doesn’t add up. I know it’s stupid to raise hell over this seemingly meaningless issue, but it means something to me. I read those original issues. I walked through those stories and they built Superman in my head with every word. The New 52 tore all that away, and now it seems like the ‘masterminds’ behind it are starting to see the problem themselves and are trying to paint over it, and are doing a rather sloppy job of it. All this catastrophe and chaos just so they could rebrand their characters to appeal to a new demographic, and in the process they have destroyed over 30 years of continuity and stories. Flushed them right down the tube and now they see their error and are trying to reefed us those stories in chopped up, flavorless bites. I personally think this whole thing is temporary, and I pray to god things go back to normal next year, because it seems every time I pick up a New 52 book, I see a new atrocity that flies in the face of logic and story sense. Really surprising considering Geoff Johns struck me as a kind of DC comics history guru. He was putting out successful stories that drew from events and characters from the past. He seemed to care, but now that he’s calling the shots, all that care and concern has flown out the window.

Geek Out

Okay. It’s nerd rant time. First, to those who aren’t in the loop, DC comics rebooted their entire universe and refer to it as the New 52. This new continuity supposedly cancels out the old one, so basically 70+ years of history have been flushed down the toilet so they could repackage their characters in order to appeal to a younger demographic at the cost of quality of story and characters. Most obviously the history of the characters have become horribly muddled and distorted.

I’m not even sure where to begin, but I’ll try to make this as brief and as organized as I can manage. Let’s go. I’d like to use Batman and Superman as prime examples of the horror of the New 52 because its their continuities that are the most fractured. First thing to know is that in the New 52, it’s only been 5 years since the superheroes have showed up. Remember that. 5 years.

In this timeline, Superman is not the celebrated hero we know and love. He is hated and distrusted by the world at large, as are all other superheroes. Superman, who is invulnerable, now wears a suit of armor. My question here is if you’re invulnerable, why do you need armor? The suit has no other quality. It doesn’t have a computer on board to feed information or anything like that. Also, in this timeline, Doomsday never happened. My issue with that is Doomsday was the story that began a chain of events that brought us Steel and Superboy. If Doomsday never happened, how did those two come into being? I’m not sure about Steel, but I understand that Superboy is now some weird underground science project. Kind of like the previous origin, but not exactly and frankly, I think they got it right with the ’93 Superboy because he grew from a spoiled brat clone of Superman into a mature and capable hero in his own right. I also am pissed that the Clark/Lois relationship has been taken away. Now Superman is dating Wonder Woman. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Clark needs to be with Lois. By falling in love with a human, Clark was better able to truly understand the human condition and that made him a better hero. Superman with Wonder Woman makes sense on paper, but it’s like two gods mating and they really have nothing to offer the other because their view of the world is very similar. Lois gave Clark a real perspective of life.

Now Batman. This one is even more confounding to me. First, it’s only been 5 years, yet he has all his allies and villains in place. You mean to tell me he went through 3 Robins in just 5 years and Dick Grayson grew from teen boy wonder to Nightwing in just 5 years? And the way Batman interacts with the characters makes it seem like he’s known them and has been dealing with them for a lot longer than just 5 years. Most notably was the Joker. From their interactions, I can only assume all the crimes Joker has committed are still in place, yet somehow he squeezed all that horror into a mere 5 years. And then there’s Bane. Some mentions have made it clear that the Knightfall storyline still happened, yet that seems hard to  believe that Batman could  have amassed such an army of villains in such a short amount to time and have his back broken and recovered so quickly. Also in a current issue of Arkham War, Jim Gordon makes remarks that lead one to believe that the stories Contagion and Cataclysm also happened. That’s a lot to squeeze into just 5 years. And let’s not forget how other characters in the DC Universe were pulled into those stories. Where was Jean Paul Valley aka Azrael? Catwoman? Huntress? All part of the bat family and all integral parts of those stories yet missing or incompatible with New 52 history.

Now DC is doing something called Zero Year which is basically Batman before Year 1, I guess. I haven’t really been very interested in reading this one. It, like everything else in the New 52, makes no sense. They gave Bruce a buzz cut which I find baffling because if this is pre-year 1 batman, what happened to the buzz cut, because clearly he eventually grows it out, according to the first 23 issues of the new Batman title. From what I have gleaned from paging through the issues, it seems like Zero Year is supposed to fill in the blanks of Batman’s history, but are we to believe that he met and engaged with all of his enemies in just one year? When the comic first started back in the 1940’s, it took Batman years to build his rogues gallery, yet they’re trying to cram them all in at once now. I’m just sick of all this backtracking and revising of history. The editors at DC should have figured all these details out before they launched this campaign because while they may not care, the readers do.

They don’t know if Clark Kent’s parents are alive or dead, as they have not yet been seen in any story. The time doesn’t make sense. In a recent issue of Batman/Superman they were talking as though they had been working together for decades, yet they’ve only known each other for 5 years. Also, Superman is now a bratty, whiny fool instead of the proud, strong and stalwart hero he was intended to be. He’s immature and throws little temper tantrums. In that same issue of Batman/Superman, Batman informs Superman he doesn’t need any help when he clearly does. The Superman I know would just go ahead and help, but this one scrunches up his nose and flies off being mad and thinking, ‘If he doesn’t want my help, fine.’ What? That’s not a Superman response. The point of a hero is to do what must be done despite nay sayers or anything else. The point of a hero is to do what is right. Plain and simple. Superman would never leave a friend in need, whether he was told to do so or not.

I also think the omission of the Justice Society of America is a real sucker punch. Those characters came from the golden age and were around during WWII. They had a real cultural importance. They also showed that even though they were older, they were still formidable heroes. DC’s answer to this was to create an Earth 2 and they brought back the JSA, but as younger and edgier. I always thought the reason comic book characters were older was because back then, the kids would regard an older authority figure with respect and would take the lessons of selflessness and doing right to heart. By making the heroes their peers, the kids are less likely to pick up on these traits.

I know the fan boys are eating this New 52 up like pigs at the trough, and the talent over there is bright and a lot of it looks really good, but I miss my old DC universe. I miss Superman sans armor. I liked the characters as they were because they showed their evolution and development over the years of adventures. Let’s hope DC will see the light sooner than later and bring back our heroes.

Spotlight: ‘Spectrum’

This week I would like to throw the spotlight on a book of mine that actually isn’t available yet. “Spectrum” (which is due out on Nov. 5th. Available for preorder now on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Spectrum-A-Novel-Jason-Melby/dp/1938191072/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375209815&sr=8-1&keywords=jason+melby+spectrum

Back when I created the character waaaay back in 1993, I had a dream about my legacy. I noticed that all the comic books that featured Batman had the ‘created by’ credit for Bob Kane and I realized that he would forever be remembered for that. He would be held responsible for the grand dynasty of stories that his characters had inspired. I wanted that. I wanted that kind of recognition and so I set upon creating my own comic book character. I had intended him to be presented in a comic book in the beginning. I had put together a package of sketches and character profiles and sent them to some small press companies. I managed to get one company to get on board with it too, but the contract I had been promised never materialized.

I set Spectrum aside for a couple years until I was living up in McKinleyville and that’s where I wrote my first novel. I handwrote each page in an old notebook in my little cracker box of a room in that small Northern California town. As the years went on, I created more characters and came up with more concepts. Over 300 by last tally and I’m rather excited that I managed to stuff a few of them into the upcoming book.

I’ve always been a comic book geek at heart and Spectrum allows me to delve into that world with wild abandon. I’ve got stories about cosmic adventures and psychotic robots. I’ve even planned out a storyline involving Spectrum’s ‘death’ with, of course, his amazing return. I guess since the very beginning this is what I’ve always wanted. That’s why I’m so jealous of comic book writers. They have the perfect job in my eyes. I’d love to spend my day dreaming up those crazy stories and creating an entire mythology all my own. What I’ve done now is a good start, but there’s more in me and I really hope I’ll get the chance to show the world.