When Comics Changed My Life

Summer 2000. I had just come from seeing X-Men. I grew up in the 90’s when superhero movies were scarce and weren’t very good at that. I guess like any young boy I always liked superheroes particularly watching Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. But something clicked in my head that day. I guess the best way to put it is that a door was opened. 

My Dad always had this comic book collection that he kept locked away. So when I got back home, I immediately pestered him about pulling them out. Eventually he conceited on the condition that I bag and board all of them. The problem came when he had over 300 and since I was 10, funds were limited to say the least. So it took me almost the whole summer to complete the process.

As I was completing this task, I started reading them as I was bagging and boarding them. I was familiar with the more mainstream heroes such as Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman. Then I discovered heroes such as The West Coast Avengers, The Outsiders and Thor. I had no idea that this task just to see my Dad’s old comics would lead me down a rabbit hole. 

I was surprised by the sophisticated storytelling going on. One would not suspect that initially considering the ridiculous circumstances going on. But you can see the nuances and issues of the 80’s (the late 80’s is when my Dad got his issues) peppering the issues. After reading a ton, I decided that I wanted to start getting my own and start my own collection. 

Of course my first comic book would have to be an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Now I do not know how many comics I have collected over the years. I would certainly say that it is probably close to 1000 if not a little over. I do not really collect comics anymore but every now and then I will walk into my local comic book store and delve in. I still get a good feeling that I got when I was 10. 

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Thoughts About Ben Affleck Not Directing ‘The Batman’

So earlier this week it was announced that Ben Affleck would not be directing the solo Batman for the DC Extended Universe. It really was not that much of a surprise considering his recent flip flopping statements about the film. How the film might not be made if the script wasn’t good enough and then how he was definitely making the film. So it was all very cluttered and just flat out confusing. But when announcing that he would not be directing the film, it was said that he would be involved as a producer and presumably his script will be used. But there are various reasons why he probably did not direct.

  • Directing and starring in a film is a daunting task. Many filmmakers can and have done it before to various results. But I haven’t seen a director star in a $150 million plus action film. That has to be rough.
  • Clashing with the studio. All you have to look at is Affleck’s comments about the status of the film and there is something off there.
  • Live by Night was a failure. Commercially unsuccessful and critically just meh. Another big budget movie starring Affleck. This may have shook his confidence.
  • Personal issues. All you have to do is read a tabloid.

So is it a shame that Ben Affleck is not directing the solo Batman movie? Who’s to say? Presumably but these things are a crap shoot. All there is to do now is focus on getting a director that can bring a unique vision to the film and also gel well with Affleck. Fingers crossed.

Ranking The 12 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

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12. Thor: The Dark World

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My biggest issue with this movie is a lack of clear direction. The tones of this movie are all over the place as there will be a very serious moment and then a sudden burst of comedy that mostly falls flat. Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman are certainly phoning in their performances. The villain is forgettable. The only saving grace is the relationship between Thor and Loki.

11. Iron Man 2

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The sequel to the unexpected hit that was Iron Man but instead of hitting the ground running with this one, it hits the ground stumbling. The movie was rushed into production as returning director Jon Favreau wanted more time and one can tell. The film has to serve too many masters and it is the films undoing. On one hand it has to be a sequel to Iron Man which it fails with but also has to set up the concept of the Avengers which it also fails at. Tony Stark is also very unlikable in the film as he has gotten worse from his first appearance and there is little character development.

10. Iron Man 3

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There is definitely nothing wrong with this film. It is certainly an improvement over Iron Man 2. However that is faint praise. It is the first film to happen post Avengers and supposedly throughout the film Tony Stark is suffering from some sort of PTSD. However, besides a few panic attacks, it is treated mostly as an afterthought and it is seemingly cured from a few words from a child. Once again the villain is lackluster as there are twists to the villain that think it’s more clever than it actually is. What is probably a bigger problem is that the film could have been wrapped up within the first 40 minutes.

9. Ant-Man

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This film is good but not great. It is a solid film. The film is basically a retread of the first Iron Man film which is a detriment. The main thing that elevates it though is its main character played by Paul Rudd. Rudd’s excitement of being in the movie carries over which helps cover its basic plot and once again another lackluster villain. There are interesting action scenes which come with the fact that the main character has the ability to shrink. The best thing about the movie is the potential for more as you can see where they can go with a sequel.

8. Thor

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The first Thor film had the biggest challenge of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film at that point. It had to introduce the Asgardians who are some sort of alien gods and link them to the rest of the MCU. It is backed by a likable lead of Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor as a somewhat spoiled and ego driven prince who has to learn humility. He is backed by the Tom Hiddleston as his conniving brother Loki who has very understandable but twisted reasons for his actions. The rest of the supporting cast is all likable and there is a sense of wonder that comes with Asgard and exploring other worlds.

7. The Incredible Hulk

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THE INCREDIBLE HULK, 2008, (c) Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

The redheaded stepchild of the MCU. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in this film which was the second MCU film. It has a unique tone as it is very much a ‘Fugitive’ type of film. Banner is on the run as he thinks of himself as a monster and with good reason but he is being pursued by people who are bigger monsters than he will ever be. This film would certainly rank higher as it does leave something to be desired. There are many deleted scenes which if weren’t cut would have fleshed out the movie more. It is unfortunate Norton did not continue to play the character but the show must go on.

6. Iron Man

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The first film in the MCU that set the tone for the films to come. Robert Downey Jr. shines as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The director Jon Favreau does an impressive job with a character that was obscure and launched the character and the universes into the stratosphere. The supporting cast is also excellent. The biggest issue with the film is the sudden shift in the third act where the villain goes from subtle to complete insane with no clear plan and an underwhelming final action scene. However, the strong first two acts more than make up for the faults.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

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Arguably the biggest risk of the MCU. This film took a property that was even unfamiliar to most comic book fans. That is probably where the film prospers the most as it works from a blank slate, more or less. A common reoccurring issue is the villain are lackluster and Ronan the Accuser is no exception. However the stellar cast and chemistry help smooth over some of the rougher edges in the movie. It is also very subtly a very important factor in setting up the MCU mythology.

4. Captain America: The First Avenger

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The film that introduces Captain America to the MCU takes a step back into the past of World War 2. The main thing with this film is introducing the future leader of the Avengers and explaining as to why he will be. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers shines as he goes from a sickly underdeveloped man to the peak of human perfection but that is not what makes him special. How small beginnings helped shape a hero and though he may come from a “simpler”time, there is nothing simple about him. Special mention goes to Hugh Weaving as The Red Skull who is probably one of the only standout villains that is not named Loki.

3. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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The sequel to the first Avengers film is a solid film. The biggest thing that keeps it from being up to par with the first film is that it is more of the same. The action is better than the first but there are certain things that hamper the film. The humor in the film is very off as so many characters are filled with quips as no character really has a distinct voice. The main villain Ultron is filled with potential but comes off as all over the place and never really scary or intimidating. One of the highlights is The Vision played by Paul Bettany. There is an interesting conversation between the character and Ultron towards the end of the film that is very poignant and unexpected in a summer blockbuster.

2. The Avengers

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The conclusion to the unprecedented buildup in the MCU. After five solo films; Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow come together under Nick Fury to form The Avengers. It also features the return of Loki who is the main villain but there is a bigger bad in the background with huge implications for the films following this one. What makes this film work is putting all of the characters who have never met one another and seeing how they mix and don’t mix together. The plot is thin but one thing that keeps the film going is how fun it is. Nothing will ever top the feeling of seeing all of these heroes together for the first time.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Solider

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Arguably the best movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film firmly solidifies Captain America as the focal point within the universe. Showing that a character who many consider to be a “goody two shoes” and “out of time” still has plenty to say and do within the modern era. This film has had the biggest repercussions within the MCU but even though it is an action film, it is still all about the characters. Chris Evans shines and carries the film and finds his footing as Steve Rogers. It is worthy to note that the legendary Robert Redford plays the a major role in the film which only helps to solidify that this is not just some superhero film. This is one of the true triumphs within the superhero genre.

 

Ranking The Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

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As of today, there is only a few more weeks to go until “Captain America: Civil War” is released into theaters. It is also the official kick off to “Phase 3”. So before the movie drops, I figured it would be best to rank my favorite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Overall the MCU is a solid one. I only feel that there is only one film that is so-so and two that are bad. So here is the ranking:

  1. Captain America: The Winter Solider
  2. The Avengers
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Iron Man
  7. The Incredible Hulk
  8. Thor
  9. Ant-Man
  10. Iron Man 2
  11. Iron Man 3
  12. Thor: The Dark World

Not Worried About The DC Extended Universe

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“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” has been released to bad press. The film was demolished by critics. While the film will be a financial success, it will not cross the $1 billion mark and be considered a disappointment. I personally did not love the film but I also did not hate it. I came into the film knowing that Warner Bros. was trying to play catch up. They tried to get their cinematic universe off with the 2011 “Green Lantern” movie but that was pretty much DOA. They finally managed to start it with 2013 and the Superman movie “Man of Steel” but even that movie had some controversy to it. Even with all the problems that plagued the film, I left the theater wanting to see more of what this universe would bring. The film contained numerous hints of other heroes, other villains and things that may or may not come to pass.

First it is a known secret that The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman appear in the movie. Other than The Flash, they were only glimpses. There is a strong hint about the power that is behind Aquaman’s abilities that teases things to come. The Earth is covered in ocean and much of it has been unexplored. So the people behind the Aquaman movie are free to come up with whatever they want, which is refreshing as it will be unique among the superhero movie genre. Next up is Cyborg and all the audience gets is a glimpse of his origin. There is something important in his sequence and that is what plays a part in his origin. A certain object that hints at something bigger is on the way. Finally there is The Flash. The Flash is unique as his character currently has a very popular television series and the two are unconnected. One thing the television show does not have is a deep budget and the brief glimpse we get of The Flash, his powers are portrayed as very powerful and probably chaotic. Though their presence in the movie is shoehorned in, they are good characters that hint at the larger world.

There are the also the heroes who are present in the movie itself. Superman already had the first movie in the DC Extended Universe and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him getting another solo movie. The movie introduces the universe’s Batman as well as the first movie version of Wonder Woman. This Batman is unique as he has a 20 year history as a vigilante. There are hints of The Joker and also of Robin and Wayne Manor is currently a husk of its former self. The movie does not go any further than these hints but the movie certainly leaves the audience wanting more of this Batman. He is confirmed to appear in the next movie in the DC Extended Universe movie, Suicide Squad, where The Joker is a presence. It is almost a guarantee that Batman will get a solo movie. Whether it is a sequel or prequel or some sort of mix, who’s to say but the craving for more Batman is there. Wonder Woman herself stole the show and she’s even a bigger enigma than Batman. Her screen time in the movie is no more than seven minutes but she talks of killing creatures from other worlds and flat out admits that she’s over 100 years old. There is a key plot point in the movie that link to her solo movie, which might not be noticeable at first but sure to play a part in that movie as well. Ultimately the “Trinity” of the DC Universe is looking strong on the big screen.

Finally there are the villains. The whole debate of “Marvel or DC” is a never ending debate. One could not argue that the DC Comics universe has the better villains. The audience has already seen General Zod and Lex Luthor and know The Joker is coming next. The antagonist of “Suicide Squad” is currently unknown but the team is made up of villains forced into government servitude. It is also unknown about the who the antagonists of the Wonder Woman or Justice League movies are but surely they will be threats big enough for the protagonist(s) of those movies. Within “Batman v. Superman” there are also hints of the big bad of the DC Universe itself, Darkseid. Darkseid is more or less the devil of a group of space gods known as the New Gods. His presence is felt and it is effectively a guarantee that he will plague the DC Extended Universe.

So while there may have been a hiccup with “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”, all is not lost. Nothing is ever perfect and it is only the second movie within the universe. “Suicide Squad” and “Wonder Woman” are both helmed by different directors and look to bring their own uniqueness to the burgeoning universe. “Justice League” is set to start filming on April 11, 2016 and certainly the creative forces who are behind that movie, who were also behind “Batman v. Superman” have taken note of the criticism. Hopefully that makes a great movie for the premiere team of the DC Universe. There is a whole universe that is left to be explored and some issues with one movie does not cause panic.

Why There Should Have Been A “Man of Steel” Sequel Before “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”

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“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” has been released and to say the reaction the movie has been mixed is an understatement. My thoughts on the film are documented so no need to go over that. However, there is one lingering thought about the film that I can’t help but shake. Every time that I think about the movie, I cannot think that audiences should have gotten a proper sequel to “Man of Steel” before this movie. The evidence is clear in the movie itself.

The most common complaint about “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is that there is too much going on. It’s a mix of a sequel to Man of Steel, a introduction of Batman, a teaser of the forthcoming Justice League movie. The bulk of the story hinges on the fact that it is a sequel to Man of Steel. There is numerous talks of the events of that movie, the main villain is a Superman villain and the bulk of the supporting cast is made up of Superman supporting characters. The director of the feature, Zack Snyder, mentioned that the decision to make “Batman v. Superman” was decided only a few days before it was announced. The plans were to make a straight up sequel to the 2013 feature “Man of Steel”.

When watching “Batman v. Superman” Superman is probably the character that suffers the most in terms of character development. His screen time is there but he doesn’t get a lot to do. There is a full scene where he visits his mother, Martha Kent, and not a word is said by him. There is also another scene where Superman is brought forth by Congress to explain his actions and intentions. Once again, he does not utter a word before the scene is over. There is a moment at the end of the movie that involves Superman and does not feel entirely earned, mostly because it is the audiences second interaction with the character.

Since the movie is crammed with stuff, Superman gets the shaft in a lot of ways. With a proper “Man of Steel” sequel there could have been development with the character of Clark Kent/Superman, Lois Lane, Perry White, Martha Kent and Lex Luthor. We could have learned much about these people and actually developed feelings for Superman. However that was not in the cards and there is only moving forward from here. Hopefully, Superman receives another solo film in the DC Extended Universe because he is certainly a character that deserves more stories to be told about him.