Monday, 24 August 2020

Welcome to the FanDome



DC FanDome is over and I missed it! Mostly because of DC Comics' debatable decision to use its own online portal and not livestream the event on YouTube.

So, I opted to watch DC's Stargirl, streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime in the UK. Geoff Johns' live-action series is a superhero gem comparable to the early seasons of The CW's The Flash and Supergirl with a Wizarding World twist.

However, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, don's a virtual cowl to save the day (night if you were watching from the UK).

Guest post by Nick Smith

Unlike San Diego’s Comic-Con@Home event, a lot of which is still viewable on YouTube, the DC FanDome was live and direct, only existing for a giddy 24 hours. While some of the teases, trailers and concept art are now out and about on the internet, if you want to see Gal Gadot and Chris Pine playing Werewolf 1984, you’re out of luck.

With its FanDome, (presumably located somewhere beyond the Thunderdome round the corner from the Pleasuredome), DC Comics made a brave and bold attempt to embrace the interactivity of the internet, with rolling comments on the right-hand side of their Hall of Heroes (“Tweet with #DCFanDome for a chance to be featured”) and, in the main portion of the Hall, cast and crew talking to each other and answering questions from fans.

While the day had its tentpole movies to pitch, such as Wonder Woman 1984, The Flash and a Shazam! sequel, some of these flicks aren’t due for a couple of years and the ones in production – like The Batman, about 25% complete – whetted the appetite but weren’t worth holding your breath for (you would run out of air waiting for the release date). The trailer for The Batman looks great, suggesting that the Bat will be treated right. But more on that later…

Ironically, comic books didn’t really get a look-in; the closest we got was a laid-back, diversity-honouring interview with DC Comics Chief Creative Officer/Publisher Jim Lee (his favourite character as a kid was Matter Eater Lad!), a ‘Legacy of the Bat’ panel and a ‘Surprise DC Comics’ panel. The latter was about the return of Milestone Comics, with God Amongst Artists Denys Cowan amongst the panellists along with Lee, Reggie Hudlin, and actor Phil Lamarr (Static Shock). Yes, a Static film is on the cards – so even on a comic book panel, movies reared their powerful head.

Lee also reviewed portfolios of fan art focused on supervillains, a rare chance to hear opinions from the mentor and motivator. Other fan art was featured during the day, adding to the ‘for the fans’ aspect of the event.

A clip from the Joker documentary, “Put On a Happy Face,” included appearances by Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Frank Miller, Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, Christian Bale, and a whole pack more. Any film that draws attention to Mark Hamill’s incredible talents is well worth a watch.

“I’m Batman: The Voices Behind the Cowl” was a panel that brought overdue attention to actors who voice the superhero. Not just the English-speaking ones, like LEGO Batman’s Will Arnett, but Jaron Löwenburg (who dubs a German version), Sergio Gutiérrez (Spanish), Claudio Santamaria (Italian), Iván Marín (Colombian) and others.

The Sandman is receiving an audio adaptation and there was a panel to prove it, featuring Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs and Michael Sheen. The panel also covered the new spin-off comic (The Dreaming: Waking Hours) and the forthcoming Netflix show. The big news: the Netflix version of The Sandman will be set in the present day rather than the 1980s/’90s setting of the original comics.

The Twitter brigade jumped on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s comment that his Black Adam was willing to kill, while Superman was not. Henry Cavill’s Supes knobbles General Zod, they tattled. The Rock’s Q&A session was a highlight of the FanDome, as he enthused about his 2022 movie Black Adam, revealed that the Justice Society of America (specifically Atom Smasher, Hawkman, Doctor Fate and Cyclone) would be involved. The project has been in development for over 10 years. The star described it as a passion project and a dream of his.

Mr. Rock likes Adam’s grey-area position on heroism (‘superhero, anti-hero… villain?’). He wants Adam to fight with Superman. I’d spend money in a comic shop where you can have a conversation with The Rock about superhero morals. This was as close as you could get.

In the new Suicide Squad game “Kill the Justice League,” they have good reason to - Superman kills somebody (he’s being controlled by Brainiac). The graphics (you can see Boomerang’s twitching whiskers!), character interplay and sense of fun made this look like a must-play from Rocksteady, developer of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Will Arnett teleported into the ‘Fanzone,’ as he called it, cracking silly jokes and interviewing Rocksteady’s steadfastly British Creative Director and Co-Founder Sefton Hill. Will proved he knew his stuff by dropping a Taskforce X reference and asking about the through-lines from the Arkham games. According to Hill, they will come to fruition in the new project.

Gotham Knights was the other game featured; Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin and Red Hood take up Batman’s mantle after his death. I guess Batman doesn’t know about this whole death thing since he has a movie coming out too, in which he’s played by Robert Pattinson. The pointy-chinned actor gave a watchable performance in Water for Elephants but I’m not on Team Edward. However, after watching director Matt Reeves talk about the gritty film – a kind of Batman: Year Two – and seeing the trailer, with Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred and Zoe Kravitz with a tea cosy on her head, I’m sold.

‘Just like the OG animated series!’ enthused Tweeter Andre Saint-Albin. ‘The detective and the myth that is “The Batman”! Matt Reeves saying all the right things.’ Such as name-checking classic films Chinatown, The French Connection and Taxi Driver. What we really got from Reeves was an extended pitch for the movie and he’s excited, informed and intent on treating Batman as seriously as a playboy millionaire’s heart attack.

In other movie news, Aquaman 2 got a mention in a fun mini-panel with director James Wan and Ocean Master Patrick Wilson, discussing production of the first movie and the sight of, ‘Dolph Lundgren on a tater-totter.’ Wan admitted that nothing was easy underwater. Wilson reminisced about sitting on a blue oil drum, grateful he was made aware of the digital world that would be built around him. He compared the non-sets with, ‘black box theatre where there is nothing… that’s why we get into this business in the first place… we concentrate on relationships.’ Wan was friendly and confident, having done a great job with his team of creating creatures and making people look floaty in the first film.

Shazam 2’s title was announced (Fury of the Gods) in a splendidly goofy Shazoom meeting, and we were teased about the Zack Snyder Cut of Justice League; Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot formed part of the panel. The four-hour version of the Justice League epic will premiere on HBO Max in 2021.

With their Hall of Heroes day, DC Comics really attempted to provide variety and appeal to different ages; the Rock Q&A, for example, was accessible but he didn’t talk down to viewers/users/visitors. A different Q&A with an animated Harley Quinn was a lot sillier and filled with bleeped-out expletives. Like the Marvel Comics contributions to SDCC, their Distinguished Competition never forgot to be slick or fun.

This was the place to see actors from Wonder Woman 1984 play a whodunnit game – a little hard to follow but still fun. As one Tweeter said, ‘the cast… playing Werewolf on video is actually a fun and great idea for an event. Very creative #DCFanDome.’ For a Titans TV show segment, clips were shown then the panellists responded. The new season will visit a Gotham inhabited by the Scarecrow and Commissioner Barbara Gordon. CNN acknowledged real-life heroes around the globe, including the USA, India and our precious old Blighty.

A nod to Wonder Woman’s 80th anniversary next year was too short and we didn’t really get the ‘celebration’ we were promised, but it was worth popping in to see Gal Gadot and Linda Carter together. We didn’t get too much information about The Flash movie but we did get confirmation that Ben Affleck would return as Old Man Bats.

Shazaam! star Zachary Levi hit the nail on the head when he jokingly described this day as trotting out known names to sell something. There was definitely a reliance on currently popular characters like the Joker (thanks to the excellent Joaquin Phoenix movie), Aquaman (thanks to hunky Jason Momoa), the much-anticipated Wonder Woman 1984, a follow-up to the hit Arkham Asylum game, and the ever-popular Batman. Thankfully, amidst all the Hollywood hoop-la, it was made clear that comics won’t go away – if nothing else they are a great testing ground for new ideas.

With hosts from around the world, including the US, Australia and New Zealand, and fan questions from as far afield as Brazil, DC Comics showed how global its reach truly is and how its fans help to spread the comic book gospel far and wide. By acknowledging the fans, there’s an inherent intent to do right by them, placing them all in a virtual Hall of Heroes.

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