Showing posts with label dc comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dc comics. Show all posts

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Batman returns in The Flash

Warner Bros. Pictures has released a new trailer for The Flash following an overwhelmingly positive early press screening for the upcoming movie.

Read the official synopsis:

"Worlds collide in “The Flash” when Barry uses his superpowers to travel back in time in order to change the events of the past. But when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, Barry becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation, and there are no Super Heroes to turn to. That is, unless Barry can coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian… albeit not the one he’s looking for. Ultimately, to save the world that he is in and return to the future that he knows, Barry’s only hope is to race for his life. But will making the ultimate sacrifice be enough to reset the universe?"

The Flash is exclusively in cinemas on 16th June.

Are you excited to see Michael Keaton (Batman Returns) reprise the role of the dark detective? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

85 years of Superman

Superman, the fan-favourite superhero character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, appeared in the first issue of Action Comics on 18th April 1938. It is widely regarded as the dawn of the superhero age that continues to dominate popular culture.

45 years ago, I saw Superman: The Movie, directed by Richard Donner (The Goonies), with my parents at the Odeon Exeter. It was the third film in a formative theatrical trifecta comprising Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind! All of which feature inspiring soundtracks composed by John Williams.

It's impossible to overstate how important these movies were/are to me. I was still in the first year of recovery from a life-changing head injury at primary school, which had left me partially paralysed and wheelchair-bound in 1977. Cinema was my fortress of solitude, and silver screen tales of heroism would aid in my resolve to walk again with the help and support of family, friends and amazing healthcare professionals working in the NHS.

My 80-year-old dad and I still discuss seeing Superman: The Movie and Superman II all those years ago. Christopher Reeve will always be the definitive Clark Kent/Superman and Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) was my second silver screen crush after Carrie Fisher (Star Wars).

Whilst at university in the early-to-mid nineties, I discovered Dirk Maggs' Superman: Doomsday and Beyond for BBC Radio 1. I called the BBC in hopes of interviewing the man himself, and an enduring friendship was forged. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was popular Saturday evening viewing - merging heroic adventures with Moonlighting. I had a poster of Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) on my student bedroom wall.

Years later, my mum and I would watch Smallville together until a uniquely medical matter left her with life-changing injuries, requiring 24/7 care in 2003. However, I continued to watch the series as it encapsulated the spirit of hope and selflessness epitomised by Superman.

Happy 85th birthday, big fella!

Monday, 13 February 2023

Worlds collide in The Flash

During one of the most thrilling Super Bowl finals of my lifetime (Rihanna's Apple Music halftime show was spectacular), a new trailer for The Flash dropped and it's all about DC's Flashpoint.

Read the official synopsis:

"Worlds collide in “The Flash” when Barry uses his superpowers to travel back in time in order to change the events of the past. But when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, Barry becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation, and there are no Super Heroes to turn to. That is, unless Barry can coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian… albeit not the one he’s looking for. Ultimately, to save the world that he is in and return to the future that he knows, Barry’s only hope is to race for his life. But will making the ultimate sacrifice be enough to reset the universe?"

The DC multiverse explodes with multiple movie incarnations of Batman from Tim Burton (Batman), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Zack Snyder (Justice League) timelines. There's a glimpse of Supergirl, too.

The Flash is exclusively in cinemas on 16th June.

Are you excited to see Michael Keaton (Batman Returns) reprise the role of the dark detective? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 11 November 2022

Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, has died

Kevin Conroy, synonymous with being the voice of the dark detective since fan-favourite Batman: The Animated Series began in 1992, has passed away aged 66.

Growing up, I watched reruns of Adam West's Batman television series and saw Michael Keaton's Batman at the cinema with college friends. However, it's Conroy's distinctive voice I can hear inside my head as I type these words.

In the wake of director Tim Burton's blockbusters Batman and Batman Returns, Batman: The Animated Series was born. This is considered by many fans (myself included) as the definitive dark night, with Conroy's performance regarded as one of the very best, and spawned a thrilling theatrical tie-in: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I took my Kenner action figure collection with me to university.

Mark Hamill on the passing of Conroy: "Kevin was perfection," recalled Hamill, who redefined the Joker playing opposite Conroy's Batman. "He was one of my favourite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him - his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated."

"Kevin was a brilliant actor," Hamill said. "For several generations, he has been the definitive Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it. His rhythms and subtleties, tones and delivery - that all also helped inform my performance. He was the ideal partner - it was such a complementary, creative experience. I couldn't have done it without him. He will always be my Batman."

Thank you for voicing the dark detective in the definitive Batman series and beyond for over 30 years.

My deepest condolences to his husband and his whole family and everyone else who loved him. RIP Kevin Conroy!

What are your memories of Conroy's Batman? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Alan Grant: 2000 AD and Batman mastermind

I was a fan long before I knew the name of the acclaimed writer who wrote many of my favourite childhood comics from 2000 AD to Batman! That writer was Alan Grant.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, remembers a comic book legend.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The world was on the brink of destruction. Only one tough-nut future cop stood between the survival of the civilized world and its bitter end. I witnessed The Apocalypse War at the tender age of 10, shelling out 16p a week to pick up an ingenious comic called 2000 AD and reading a handful of pages, flip-ticking towards doomsday.

Although Judge Dredd was a stoic, dependable protagonist, there were no guarantees of success in this epic series, which tapped into the fears of kids like me. In June 1982, the same month Dredd was depicted on the cover of 2000 AD riding a nuclear missile like a grim Slim Pickens warhead warrior, one million anti-nuke protesters marched in New York. Nuclear war was the prevalent stuff of nightmares.

Two years earlier, the British Government had distributed Protect and Survive, a pamphlet that landed through my letterbox telling me what to do in the event of a nuclear attack (‘if you are not at home… lie in a ditch,’ an accompanying public information film said reassuringly).

While disturbing at the time, the Protect and Survive materials look quaint now. Mega-City One’s trusty Judge, conversely, is as timely as ever, with better dialogue: ‘Gaze into the fist of Dredd!’

Comics fed my brain more effectively than Home Office literature. Predating the feature film WarGames and cautionary TV movies The Day After and Threads, The Apocalypse War was the most immediate representation of the threat of worldwide nuclear catastrophe, put in the hands of kids, encouraging them to think and hopefully make a better future.

Grant took the comic book form and used it to explore vast topics – politics, philosophy, personal freedom and vigilantism. In RoboHunter, he created downtrodden mechanical people more deserving of our sympathy than some humans. In the finale of the Judge Child saga, he helped John Wagner combine space opera with a family of hillbilly killers (the Angel Gang) and a young, bald boy who could do strange telepathic things on the planet Xanadu. Grant and Wagner made all these elements work in a tour de force of cohesive world-building.

As I thrilled to Grant’s Future Shocks, Blackhawk, Ace Trucking Co. (written with Wagner), Judge Dredd, and Doomworld (in a relaunched Eagle comic), little did I know that he was born in my hometown of Bristol, England. Sensibly, he moved to Newtongrange, Scotland while still in nappies.

Bristol was lonely for me – I was the only writer, dreamer and 2000 AD fan I knew. But Grant’s comic book adventures helped me to escape from my loneliness and trust that there was an avenue for storytellers like me. Like him.

Later, in my teens, I was excited to find Grant’s name pop up with Wagner’s, writing Detective Comics and Batman. Cue long-lasting, vivid villains like Ventriloquist, Ratcatcher, Victor Zsasz, and Anarky, the latter proving that a personal philosophy could be the fuel for a story or character (at the time, Grant was an anarchist).

As always, these characters were ingenious and sympathetic and Grant obviously enjoyed playing in this world, coming up with memorable new villains. So what if Batman sounded like Judge Dredd? If you didn’t like it you didn’t have to read it, creep!

While Grant kept writing and editing comics as well as publishing through his company Bad Press Ltd, he also encouraged creativity in his own community. In 2020, he led a project with his fellow residents of Moniaive, Dumfriesshire, to make a comic about COVID and the resilient spirit of the locals. He passed away on July 20th, 2022 but his ideas and great tales and iconic heroes (and villains!) live on.

It doesn’t matter whether a story is set in the past or the future, the real world or some fantasy land. If the writing is exquisite and the characters vivid, that story will inspire as well as entertain.

Alan Grant was a master of his craft and he will be missed.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Warner Bros. Discovery to protect DC

Following news that the upcoming Batgirl movie starring Leslie Grace as the titular superheroine and Michael Keaton reprising the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman has been shelved following early test screenings, the newly-merged Warner Bros. Discovery has announced a 10-year plan in hopes of emulating Marvel Studios' success.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said:

"You look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman - these are brands that are known everywhere in the world," he said of some of the company's biggest characters.

Haven't DC fans (myself included) been here before with Zack Snyder?

"We have done a reset. We've restructured the business where we are going to focus, where there is going to be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC."

He added: "We believe we can build a much more sustainable business."

An estimated $70 million (£57.6 million) had already been spent making Batgirl for HBO Max. HBO Max will be merged with Discovery+ in 2023.

I suspect the streaming wars will witness rapid consolidation as consumers face a protracted recession and cost of living crisis. Apple TV+, Disney+ and Paramount+ will continue to gain ground on Netflix.

Do you think Warner Bros. Discovery will revitalise the DC brand? Do you care? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 20 May 2022

George Pérez: Infinite Titan

Poignantly, George Pérez's passing was announced on Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). An artist whose work I admired long before I knew of the man.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, remembers a beloved creative titan who has left an enduring legacy at both DC and Marvel Comics.

Guest post by Nick Smith

There has been a justified outpouring of tributes to artist George Pérez since he passed away on May 6th. The wealth of well-meaning is justified. Pérez was lauded as a man who cemented the modern look of comic book icons like Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans. He was also a joyful bloke with an infectious enthusiasm for his craft.

His death seems sudden, even though he announced last year that he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. By that stage, cancer had spread beyond his pancreas. A late-stage diagnosis gives a patient less than a year to live.

Pérez faced the news with great courage and decided to ‘let nature take its course.’ Now he’s gone, leaving a mountain of treasure in the form of stories he wrote and/or drew. He’s being remembered as the man who could do anything - draw any and all characters in epics like War of the Gods; write character-driven drama, kung fu thrillers, monster comics or cosmic epics.

My first brush with the artist’s work was in a strip that showed his versatility – a short story called War Toy, originally published in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2. I found it when it was reprinted during the Star Wars craze of the late ‘70s. Written by Tony Isabella with art by Pérez and Rico Rival, it tells the tale of robot soldier FM-1 (“Fighting Man-1”) blessed with independent thought, left to rust in a gutter in peacetime.

There’s action, as FM-1 aces a test run; an alien invasion of Australia; a tribute to “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima;” and a touching relationship between a father and son, even though the son is a robot.

The story is a heavy-pistoned analogy for our treatment of veterans. Yet the way the characters are drawn shows great finesse and humanity, from FM-1’s military dad to a sympathetic reporter to the tin soldier himself, who bares his teeth-grille and flashes his eye as he considers his fate.

I could pick any one of a hundred Pérez tableaux and have positive words to share about them. But War Toy has stuck with me for over four decades and still gives me goosebumps when I read it today. Pérez had a way of heightening and humanising ideas and making them resonate with readers.

His legacy goes beyond comics, to TV (epitomised by The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths), movies (including 2017’s Wonder Woman and Marvel’s Infinity War, which pulled many details from the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries he co-pencilled) and cartoons (with at least one generation of children happily raised on Teen Titans). He has left a great gap in the creative world of comics, one that will never be filled.

What are your memories of comic book legend George Pérez? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 8 April 2022

Chaos and confusion in Moon Knight

Marvel Studios' Moon Knight is the House of M's answer to DC's Batman and an unknown quantity to this true believer.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe and comic book doyen, embarks on a mystery tour in the pale moonlight.

Guest post by Nick Smith

When I think of Moon Knight, I think of a dark avenger lurking in the shadows of New York’s rooftop water towers, occasionally switching identities to no-nonsense merc Marc Spector. I don’t think of goofy comedy and double-decker London buses.

But that’s what we get with Marvel Studios' new series and, thanks mainly to Oscar Isaac’s (Star Wars, Ex Machina) charisma, the results are intriguing and enjoyable to watch.

Originated by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, the character of Moon Knight’s been kicking nocturnal butt for decades. Show creator Jeremy Slater faced a challenge – how to make him stand out in a crowd of DC and Marvel superhero shows? So although the amount of humour is surprising, it’s understandable. It also makes the darker elements of the show – tireless jackals, a life-draining bad guy – more palatable to a family audience.

By daring to focus on powers instead of glowers and comedy over brutality, Moon Knight stands a better chance of sticking in the consciousness of viewers unfamiliar with his comics.

The first two episodes are packed with information. We meet Steven Grant, a sleepwalking shop assistant in a museum. We’re left to wonder whether the voice he hears is a sign of mental illness, or if he’s a ‘sleeper identity’ for Spector the mercenary. We also meet Arthur Harrow, a mysterious cult leader played with long-haired earnest by Ethan Hawke. Then there’s the skull-beaked god Khonshu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham. Khonshu offers Steven venomous advice to fend off any threats.

The show focuses on these three characters, although May Calamawy pops up as Marc’s abandoned wife Layla El-Faouly. For most of the time, Isaac plays Steven as scared, confused and beaten down. This turns the key to unlock Moon Knight’s potential. We get a glimpse of what it’s like to have a mental disorder.

Those without such a challenge don’t have the education or experience to empathise fully. And why would they want to think like a lunatic? It’s much safer and more entertaining to watch one go through the unpredictable motions on TV.

Steven Grant questions his sanity, struggling to survive in an unsettling and sometimes frightening environment. He is belittled and fired by his boss, patronized by colleagues, given a pamphlet and sent on his way.

Moon Knight isn’t the first hero to have his mental faculties questioned.

Much has been made of Bruce Wayne dressing up as a bat and coping with childhood trauma. Bruce Banner has serious anger management issues. However, Isaac gives Grant such vulnerability that the audience is left desperate for the hero within him to take over.

It’s a great way to depict the internal struggle for control that real sufferers of dissociative identity disorder go through.

Underlying this crisis of personality, there are references to Egyptian mythology that highlight obscure gods and give Moon Knight’s story an epic scope. Cue oodles of CGI, from pyramids to Khonshu’s skeletal form to the Knight himself, depicted in an almost-seamless blend of digital and live-action filmmaking as he tumbles over distinctly British roofs.

London itself is given an old-world charm, especially when we encounter a gaggle of Harrow’s cult members. A parade of chirping chimney sweeps would not seem out of place. But there are enough contemporary touches, like a human statue and a bus ride, to anchor us in reality.

All these elements lead to convoluted results. Luckily this is Isaac’s show so we’re in good hands, whatever accent he’s using. He is an exceptional actor leading us through a meticulously paced adventure that keeps us wondering what will happen next.

Even in a landscape with a multitude of comic book-inspired viewing options, a carefully crafted show like this only comes along once in a blue moon.

New episodes of Marvel Studios' Moon Knight premiere every Wednesday exclusively on Disney+.

Are you watching Marvel Studios' Moon Knight on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

The Darkest Knight

As I've written previously, one of my fondest undergraduate memories was attending a special 70mm screening of Tim Burton's Batman, with Nick Smith, at the Odeon Bournemouth.

So, it's only justice that my scholarly partner-in-crime dons the dark detective's cowl for The Batman. The Dark Knight Trilogy casts a long shadow... How does this latest incarnation compare?

Guest post by Nick Smith

The Batman has been a long time coming. It was worth the wait.

The DC Comics adaptation was heralded when Ben Affleck assembled the Justice League and the title was confirmed in 2016. The movie was teased over the past couple of years, with cast/crew interviews and trailers. Ultimately, Robert Pattinson (Tenet) would replace Affleck in the titular role. Meanwhile, Zack Snyder's Justice League is a touching tribute to familial love and loss.

It wasn’t anybody’s fault – COVID-19 slowed down production, with multiple breaks in filming. Sadly, one crew member died after becoming infected. This grim event shrouded an already gloomy movie, which blends Denny O’Neil’s dark knight detective, David Fincher’s serial killer thriller Se7eN, and the relative realism of Batman: Year One.

In this lengthy tale, Bruce Wayne is two years into his vigilantism. He’s a haunted emo kid who sulks and sneers at his father figure, Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), while coming to terms with the brutal death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Thankfully, we’re not subjected to yet another rerun of their murders, which has been depicted innumerable times in comics, animation and live-action films.

Yet the tragic event permeates this movie down to the final turning point, where another orphan compares his fate to Bruce’s.

Pattinson gives an enthrallingly broody performance as the driven rich kid Bruce, keeping the pouty facial expressions that made him infamous in The Twilight Saga to a minimum. Zoe Kravitz, who previously voiced Catwoman in The LEGO Batman Movie, reprises her role with enthusiasm and makes her character’s soap opera-worthy lineage plausible. The Batsuit, vehicles and Batcave help to make their environment as authentic as possible.

The real standout characters are James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Alfred Pennyworth. The actors flesh out these two-dimensional DC characters and make them seem as if they’ve been breathing in the shadows of this grimy fictional city all their lives, weary yet still hopeful thanks to the Batman.

Beyond keeping it real, though, director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, War for the Planet of the Apes) has a palpable love for the Batman’s grittily woven world. His joyful response to getting the opportunity to play in Gotham’s gutters shows through in the action scenes, the tone of the film and even in the music from Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Spider-Man: No Way Home), which occasionally echoes the ‘60s TV show theme.

Allowing Pattinson to react like a human being to dangerous circumstances, rather than an invulnerable hero, Reeves entertains the audience while keeping up a sense of danger and doom. He pulls off this tough balancing act so well he'd put the Flying Graysons to shame.

Affleck portrayed an older, more cynical Bruce Wayne and it would be great to get beyond the hero’s early years. But in the meantime, it’s a treat to mire ourselves in the devilish, demented Gotham of The Batman.

Have you seen The Batman? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Tom Veitch: Legacy of a Dark Empire

Tom Veitch has died at the age of 80 due to complications from coronavirus (COVID-19).

The comic book writer is best known to Star Wars fans (myself included) for his seminal Dark Empire trilogy, originally published by Dark Horse Comics in the nineties. Poignantly, Luke Skywalker's return in The Book of Boba Fett left me misty-eyed and yearning for a live-action adaptation on Disney+.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, looks back at Tom Veitch's pioneering career.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Where do we go when we die? Or, perhaps more importantly, where do we want to go? If hell is of our own making then perhaps that applies to any afterlife.

In The Light and Darkness War, Vietnam vets fight in a sci-fi Valhalla while dealing with the psychological effects of the Nam conflict. The gritty script by Tom Veitch and exaggerated, bristle-chinned characters drawn by Cam Kennedy captured my attention when the comic was first published by Epic Comics in 1988.

Lazarus Jones, the main character, has survivor’s guilt, mourning the death of his helicopter crew. As his mood and his world gets darker, he finds himself in another world where his fallen comrades fight a different war. The heroes find a solace of sorts but knowing that the battle is eternal, they don’t exactly get a happy ending.

Veitch used comic book action as a gateway to examine themes of brotherhood, loss, and how we treat veterans once a war is done. He went on to explore the sanctity and connectivity of living things in his Animal Man run for DC Comics in the early ‘90s, where down-to-earth superhero Buddy Baker learned there were other Animal Masters linked to Earth’s fauna. The natural world had to be defended, Veitch surmised, and humans had to consider the paradise they were paving.

Around the same time, Veitch and Kennedy reunited to depict another legendary conflict, this time set in the Star Wars universe. Readers were finally able to see Luke, Han and Leia again in a limited series from Dark Horse Comics that took place after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and captured the essence of the original trilogy, with high adventure, a fast pace and a spiritual subtext along with some breathtaking space battle art.

Along with Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire (also set after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi), Veitch’s world rebuilding kickstarted the deluge of Star Wars fiction and merchandise through the ‘90s, in turn, a proof of popularity that would help make the prequel trilogy a reality.

The Old Republic era was first introduced in Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, also written by Veitch and published by Dark Horse Comics. Lucasfilm Games published BioWare's award-winning Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series in the early part of this century. A movie set in that period is rumoured to start filming this year.

Although Veitch is best known as a comic book writer with a background in underground titles like Skull Comix, he was also an author and poet. He passed away on February 18th 2022 at the age of 80. Whether his own afterlife is an Eden or a Valhalla, he has left a grand legacy of storytelling, full of empathy and excitement, leaving his mark in print and in the stars.

What are your memories of reading Tom Veitch's comic books? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Is Peacemaker good?

Peacemaker is a spin-off from The Suicide Squad, which I've yet to see on Sky Cinema. Director James Gunn's follow-up series is a hit on HBO Max.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru busy filming on location in the Imperial Sand Dunes (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi), takes a break from Marvel Comics to check out DC's latest live-action series.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The world needs a lot of things right now – ambassadors, conciliators, Nobel prize-fighters. What it doesn’t need is an obnoxious assassin who thinks he’s a superhero, with a Neo-Nazi dad and a four-year prison record. But that’s what James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) gives us in his HBO series, Peacemaker.

Gunn’s 2021 movie The Suicide Squad threw a group of awkward, abnormal villains together and made them sympathetic. The square amongst these oddballs was Peacemaker (John Cena), who was incapable of fitting in with his teammates and turned out to be the most dangerous squaddie of all.

Christopher Smith AKA Peacemaker (John Cena), a Charlton comics character inherited by DC, has always been low on the hero tier. With his shiny ‘beacon of freedom’ helmet and bright uniform, he’s always been ridiculous and unsettling – with his brutal take on making peace, he was the basis for The Comedian in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Gunn uses the character’s flaws as the foundation for an eight-episode series that is by turns satirical, goofy and hilarious. Sometimes all three.

The satire is mostly aimed at toxic masculinity; Peacemaker’s years in prison mean he has to be schooled in the art of living in our polite, easily-offended modern society. When the joke’s not on the title character, it’s on his nerdy Government colleagues or on daft DC characters like Matter-Eater Lad and Judomaster. There’s even a blink-missed reference to that scourge of the skies, Kite Man, who really likes kites.

The series is well written, although no exposition goes by without the characters engaging in smack talk or comedic dialogue. Gunn, who wrote all eight episodes, obviously has great affection for comic books and the American way of life he lampoons. Cena shows great aptitude for comic timing, never afraid to make fun of his muscle-bound self. Robert Patrick gives a gung-ho performance as Peacemaker’s despicable dad, Auggie Smith. Peacemaker’s helpers are all likeable and there are some cute movie references (The Hidden, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers) to add an extra layer to the lavish visuals.

However, most of the adventures are grounded in a depressingly real United States of suburbs, duct-taped trailer homes, strip malls, sexist bars and car parks. No wonder the humour has such impact, spicing up the depressing land the heroes fight for.

With its cheeky gags and characters who show no mercy teasing each other, Peacemaker lays out a manifesto for Gunn’s controversial sense of humour. Poking fun at everything he can think of, Gunn manages to have his cake and eat it too. And nothing makes Peace like a piece of cake.

Are you watching Peacemaker on HBO Max? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 5 February 2022

Make Mine Spider-Man

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a box office behemoth and I can't wait to see the beloved web-slinger's latest adventure when it debuts on Netflix.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, enters a multiverse of Marvel's making.

Guest post by Nick Smith

2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse took a charming swing at celebrating Spidey’s history, with turns from Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir and even Peter Porker. The animated feature was a joy to watch and a deserved hit. But was a live-action multiverse adventure feasible, or would it be a futile exercise in fan pandering? Fortunately, the former is true.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the most accomplished and heart-warming Marvel movies so far.

In Spider-Man: No Way Home, J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) has outed 17-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as – gasp! – the vigilante super-hero Spider-Man. This rotten revelation adversely affects the lives of Peter, his besties Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya) and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). The only person who seems to come out smelling of roses is Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), who proclaims himself Peter’s real BFF and has a book out to prove it.

Peter goes to fellow Avenger Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help. Strange casts a spell to help the world forget Spider-Man’s alias. Unfortunately, the spell goes wrong and worlds collide as other super-powered characters, who know his true identity, are pulled from alternate Earths.

DC does multiple worlds well, at least on TV; The CW’s shows have already schooled modern audiences on multiverses and different variations of characters. Many made charming cameos in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, from 1960s Robin (Burt Ward) to the current movie Flash (Ezra Miller) meeting his TV equal (Grant Gustin).

It’s a hard act to follow, but Marvel does it in its hyper-real, epic style that tugs at the heartstrings and leaves you wanting more. Amidst the action and character-based comedy, there are strong themes of loyalty and redemption. To say who gets redeemed would spoil this movie’s surprises – let’s just say some of the pay-offs are decades in the making.

All the Tom Holland Spider-Man films have been satisfying but this one respects its legacy by referring to previous entries in the saga, complete with music cues, familiar phrases (‘with great power…’) and several sinister villains.

Although the story presupposes knowledge of Avengers and Spider-Man lore, that’s balanced with characters popping into our world and being surprised – magic exists here? There’s a guy who turns green? – giving newbies a chance to relate to the far-fetched drama.

The actors help to sell the fairytale aspects of the plot as well as the more everyday drama (getting into college, actions having consequences). Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) gets more charismatic with each of his films. Zendaya (MJ) and Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds) are perfect supporting players. Alfred Molina picks up his sympathetic portrayal of Doc Ock, last seen in 2004’s Spiderman 2, as if he never left it. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange provides a perfect wry remedy for Peter Parker’s teenage turmoil.

We’ve seen Doctor Strange’s eye-bending, twisted planes of existence before but a crack between dimensions opens new realms of possibility. It would be fantastic to see the Negative Zone or Jack Kirby starfields in full effect.

There’s no dispute that DC lay the multidimensional groundwork for contemporary viewers to accept different takes on favourite characters and stories. Nevertheless, since Spider-Man: No Way Home captures the humanity and down-to-earth concerns of its characters – the heroes and villains – there’s no contest. Marvel does it better.

Have you seen Spider-Man: No Way Home? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Listen to The Batman theme

This weekend I celebrate my birthday and am reminded of being gifted an iconic Corgi Batmobile in the mid-seventies. A friend shared an official link to Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino's (Spider-Man: No Way Home) theme for Matt Reeves' The Batman, and I had to share it.

Michael Giacchino successfully builds on the legacy of Danny Elfman (Batman), Shirley Walker (Batman: The Animated Series) and Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy). You can listen to the theme in lossless audio on Apple Music.

The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the titular dark detective, is exclusively in cinemas on 4th March 2022.

Are you looking forward to The Batman? What are your thoughts on the theme? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Peacemaker is a douchey Captain America

It's Blue Monday, allegedly the most depressing day of the year. But here's some subversive cheer!

Peacemaker, a Suicide Squad spin-off series from director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and starring John Cena (Bumblebee) as the titular antihero, is streaming exclusively on HBO Max.

James Gunn and John Cena break down what makes Peacemaker so special and how the HBO Max spin-off series expands his story in a new featurette.

New episodes of Peacemaker premiere every Thursday exclusively on HBO Max.

Are you watching Peacemaker on HBO Max? Is it fun? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Batgirl first look on HBO Max

The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) as the titular dark detective, is exclusively in cinemas this March.

Batgirl gets her own spin-off origin movie exclusively on HBO Max later this year, and actress Leslie Grace (In the Heights) took to social media to share an official first look at the iconic costume.

Michael Keaton (Batman) is expected to reprise the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Are you looking forward to the upcoming Batgirl movie on HBO Max? What are your thoughts on the costume? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

The Bat and The Cat

Director Matt Reeves' The Batman is in cinemas next March. Warner Bros. has dropped a new trailer focussing on the complex relationship between Batman (Robert Pattinson) and Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz).

The Batman is in cinemas on 4th March 2022.

Are you looking forward to The Batman? What are your thoughts on the trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Patty Jenkins' Star Wars movie delayed

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) exclusively reports the much-hyped Star Wars: Rogue Squadron has been delayed indefinitely.

The upcoming standalone Star Wars movie, from director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman 1984), was announced with considerable fanfare in 2020. But Wonder Woman 1984 was met with a mostly muted response from fans, and any initial enthusiasm soon simmered down.

However, there's purportedly a scheduling conflict, which would mean the first film since Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker won't be completed in time for release in 2023.

Jenkins recently teased Wonder Woman 3 for Warner Bros. during DC FanDome 2021 and has been seen in New York with Lynda Carter who is starring alongside Gal Gadot.

Beginning with The Mandalorian, Lucasfilm has pivoted towards Disney+ and is enjoying deserved success with its animated and live-action Star Wars spin-offs. The Book of Boba Fett premieres over the holiday season and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi and the third season of The Mandalorian are on Disney+ in 2022.

Are you disappointed Star Wars: Rogue Squadron has been delayed? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 22 October 2021

Hot Wheels R/C The Batman Batmobile

Mattel has produced Hot Wheels Batmobiles before, but this is one of the toy company's most detailed (and expensive) to date.

Therefore I couldn't miss mentioning this must-have for premium collectors.

Announced during DC FanDome 2021. This 1:10 scale movie-accurate Hot Wheels R/C replica of The Batman's Batmobile, featuring an animatronic 6-inch Batman and Batcave display, will cost you $500 direct from Mattel Creations or more on eBay once it's sold out.

I'll save myself $500 (before international shipping and import duties) and continue to admire my 1:18 scale Hot Wheels Batmobile from Tim Burton's Batman.

Will you be ordering a Hot Wheels R/C The Batman Batmobile? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

The Batman behind-the-scenes at DC FanDome

To conclude our DC FanDome 2021 coverage. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as the titular dark detective.

"For some reason, Batman just always stood out as one of the major characters of the 20th century that so many people connected with on such a deep level - and for so many different reasons," Pattinson says in the IGN clip. "The first conversation with Matt [Reeves] I had about it, I just knew there was something radically different from anything we'd seen in Batman movies before... Right from the beginning, there's a desperation to him. He's really working out this rage. All the fights seem very personal... He wants to inflict his kind of justice. He's just compelled to do it. There is no other option."

"I felt we'd seen a lot of origin stories," director Matt Reeves adds. "We'd seen things go further and further into fantasy, and I thought 'Well one place we haven't been is grounding it the way that 'Year One' does. To come right into a young Batman. Not be an origin tale but refer to his origins and shake him to his core."

"That great thing about this world is the grey area," Zoe Kravitz (Catwoman) explains. "Catwoman really wants to fight for those who don't have someone else to fight for them. And that's where Batman and her really connect."

Whilst filming of The Batman was delayed due to the pandemic, fan reaction (myself included) has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Batman is in cinemas (hopefully as Nick Smith suggests) on 4th March 2022.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Holy DC FanDome, Batman!

DC FanDome was in response to the ongoing global pandemic and lockdowns, which saw conventions cancelled en masse last year.

Wisely, Warner Bros. has brought it back for a second year and, like many DC Comics fans, I'd be pleased to see DC FanDome become an annual online event to watch on my Apple TV.

Nick Smith, my US-based partner in comic book crime-fighting, has thoughts...

Guest post by Nick Smith

Batman is big business. After eight decades in the public consciousness, the franchise character is estimated to have earned almost $28 billion in retail, box office returns and other media. But it’s not just the Dark Knight who brings in the bucks – Bruce’s just a bonus. DC FanDome’s 2021 line-up shows how much the Bat-family has grown in popularity over recent years.

DC FanDome is a virtual event designed to showcase new or returning projects and celebrate the publishing company’s beloved characters. This year’s ‘ultimate DC fan experience’ included clips and interviews available to watch on YouTube. Many of those clips were based around the Bat.

The FanDome’s sneak peeks, presented by actors, directors and producers, included Batwoman, Batgirl, Titans, Harley Quinn, a Gotham Knights game, Catwoman: Hunted, Batman Unburied, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures, Batman: Caped Crusader and Pennyworth, all birthed in the streets of Gotham.

Even Todd McFarlane got in on the act, discussing the merger with DC Direct and McFarlane Toys, focusing on Batman-related figurines in what felt more like a sales expo pitch than a guest appearance from a well-known comics creator.

DC’s emphasis on its best-known characters – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman (celebrating her 80th anniversary) – is understandable. They’re a known quantity that casual fans want to see and are more likely to spend money on. But the company has dozens of heroes and villains to promote in the hope that one of them will take off in movie theatres or on TV, so it would be good to see more balance and diversity on a day like this.

There were breaks from the big guns. Members of the general public don’t know Black Adam from… Adam. But they know Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who hyped up a Black Adam flick last year. With a summer 2022 release date, Johnson was back with a preview showing Adam’s intro.

Other segments had stars to help raise the stature of their projects: Jason Momoa (Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom), John Cena (Peacemaker), Zachary Levi (Shazam! Fury of the Gods). News Flashes were reported by Candice Patton (Iris West-Allen on TV). All these teases and news bites led up to a new trailer for The Batman, the COVID-slowed feature film arriving (we hope) in March 2022.

The major project delays were cheekily acknowledged, especially in a tiny tease for the live-action feature The Flash (adapting Flashpoint) and an animated pastiche plugging an unfinished new season of Harley Quinn. It might have been the music or Ezra Miller’s candid intro but the Flash tease proved less is more… right down to the final non-image of a batmobile. Which model will it be? We’ll have to wait until they film more of the movie to find out.

This brings us back to The Batman, keeping his presence felt throughout the FanDome. The latest take on the caped crusader is appropriately dark and gritty, with a Blade Runner-bricked landscape, an Edward Hopper-style opening image and other trailer tropes we’ve come to expect. Slowed-down rock song? Check. Rapid flashes to black? Check. Vengeful hero? Double-check. The focus this time is on violence (lots of punching, hitting and crashing) leavened by Zoe Kravitz’s caring Catwoman.

Director Matt Reeves has given this film a lot of TLC and attempts to give hoary chestnut images a new spin. Case in point: The Batman walks away from a wall of fire a la RoboCop and countless other movie heroes; this shot is upside down. We also get a good hard look at Batman’s bullet-proof chin; shots bounce of Robert Pattinson’s chiselled jaw.

The more I watch the trailer, the more I like it but the Flash tease gives me more goosebumps per second, even though we’ve seen Flashpoint regurgitated multiple timelines’ worth in comics, animated movies and on TV. Both new films look solid, as well as less famed features like Blue Beetle, starring Xolo Maridueña.

DC FanDome is a convention with no queues and no expensive entry fees. Everyone gets a front-row seat. There are downsides though: no Q&A this year, no one-on-one meetings with the stars and, most importantly, no in-person camaraderie among fans.

Presented as a digital storefront, this year’s DC FanDome seems more like lip service to comic book aficionados. We are told, ‘you’re the best fans ever.’ Yes, we are. But the best way to remind and reward us is to provide more collaborative content. It’s time to spend Bruce Wayne’s billions to utilize the internet’s full interactive capabilities.

Did you watch DC FanDome? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.