Three Joker’s Thoughts

The Criminal. The Comedian. The Clown.

Bruce. Barbara. Jason.

Three Joker’s meet three heroes.

Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok present us with The Three Jokers nearly 5 years after the concept was first introduced during the Darkseid War storyline in the Justice League book. Teases of it showed up here and there in the Batman books for DC Comics. By moving it to the Black Label line it is not shackled by that continuity of the regular comic books.

If you ask anyone I am not the biggest fan of the Joker. This is a character that is often overexposed to levels usually limited to Batman and Wolverine in today’s comics. Because of that sometimes alternate takes on him do not seem to fit together and want nice neat puzzle. By creating the concept of the Three Jokers, Johns nicely wrote a way out of this particular conundrum.

The art is wonderful. Jason Fabok’s work has been missing for far too long. He had really come into his own during the Darkseid War storyline. Which unfortunately seems like the last time we saw Fabok’s work. Besides depicting the current day story He also depicts scenes from the past most notably some of the more chilling scenes from The Killing Joke and Death in the Family.

This is one of Johns strengths-pulling from DC Comics history as a foundation for new stories. This is not simply a story of Batman versus the Joker. I would say in this first installment it is much more about Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon. Red Hood and Batgirl.

Of all the members of the Bat family they have suffered far worse than anyone else. And the Joker’s desire to make them suffer has little to do with either Jason or Barbara, it is all about hurting the Bat.

The best and probably most disturbing moment of this issue came when the Joker was reliving his beating to death of Jason Todd. Not only did Jason, just a kid then, beg for his life He also said he would do anything if the Joker would spare him.

He said he would be HIS Robin…

And in a way he has. Taking the moniker Red Hood(one of the Joker’s earliest aliases), at times becoming a criminal and then a merciless vigilante breaking Batman’s one rule. You could say that Jason’s change it since coming back from the dead may hurt Bruce even worse than his death.

This is just a first issue. There will be much more to unpack and I’m sure many more twists and turns before we come close to the finish. But it was a very good start.

And one that may even soften my personal stance on the Joker.

That in itself is a huge accomplishment.

Not Your Father’s Legion

6 years. It’s been over six years since we had a Legion series.

It’s been five years since they guest starred in Justice League United.

A long time for a book that has been more or less a constant since the 70s. There had been a couple of pieces of it coming back with appearances Justice League United and Saturn Girl showing up in Doomsday Clock. Truthfully I thought we were going to have to wait until the often delayed Doomsday Clock finished. Things change.

Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook changed all that. On November sixth we saw the first of a new series of the Legion of Superheroes written by Bendis with art by Sook and colors by the fantastic Jordie Bellaire. As far as a creative team you could not ask for much more.

It is early but promising. The Legion is a tough nut to crack. So many characters, so much history. It is hard to know where to start. A chase through the remains of old Gotham is nice. Leading off with Ultra Boy is even better. Some things change, some stay the same.

We got to see some nice throwbacks to Legion history: A reimagined Mordru, a changed Earth(calling back to the destruction of Earth in the five years later era), a new Superboy and a new connection to modern day DC Comics with Aquaman’s trident.

There are several new threads to pull here. Possibilities abound.

Are there concerns as a long time Legion fan?

Of course. We have been burned so many times that we have grown cynical. But there is light in the darkness. Hope.

And at least for me that is what the Legion has always been about.

Justice League Dark: Act II

Once upon a time(or 2011) writer Peter Milligan and artist Mikel Janin teamed up to give us comic fans a wonderful gift. Justice League Dark. The team(don’t call them that) that was certainly not a team. Bringing together some of the more occultish characters in the DC Universe(with a healthy nod to the Vertigo imprint) it was one of the best surprises of the New52 era. Unfortunately it has been conspicuously absent from the otherwise wonderful ReBirth run.

That is no longer the case.

James Tynion IV(on words) and Alvaro Martinez(on art) debuted their version of Justice League Dark last week.

Spinning out of Dark Knights Metal and No Justice, we find Wonder Woman attempting to put together a team of magic/occult based heroes to combat new threats from that world. Magic is malfunctioning and Diana believes it will only get worse.

The set up works. As much as many look up to her the magic world sees her as an outsider. She may have been born of gods and magic but that does not mean she is one of them. Initially her only recruits are Detective Chimp and a decidedly more docile Man-Bat. Of course by the end of the first issue Swamp Thing and Zatanna have joined the fray.

The art by Martinez is clean and imaginative. Tynion seems to have a good handle on each characters voice. This book has so much potential.

I have a fondness for titles that play around the fringes of the comic universes. Added to the main cast you have potential appearances by John Constantine, Dr Fate, Etrigan/Jason Blood and many, many others.

It was a great start.

Things are about to get weird in here. Can’t wait.

DC Universe Presents: The Titans

The first day of San Diego Comic-Con and DC Comics has hit the ground running with the first trailer for the new live-action Titans series. This is just the first of a slate of brand new programming for the DC Universe streaming service which it was announced will cost approximately $75 a year.

I thought they did I good job. Raven seeking out Dick Grayson is a nice callback to Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s run on the New Teen Titans in the 80s. That run is still considered one of the all time greats (not just for Titans but for comics period).

Brenton Thwaites makes a believable Dick Grayson-his anger at Batman may have been a little over the top. Raven as portrayed by Teagan Croft seems to have combined several of her previous versions into one. It works for me.

You only see glimpses of the other main characters but at the least they look the part.

It was just enough of a tease to leave me wanting more.

Broken Bat

The Bat and the Cat.

Batman number 50 has come and gone. By now most everyone has probably seen the issue but regardless…

Spoilers, spoilers and more spoilers

Yes the wedding did not go off as planned but then again that was spoiled ahead of time(thanks to the New York Times) and some fans lost their bloody minds.

The issue itself was wonderful. From King’s writing to Mikel Janin’s wonderful art to the pin ups from nearly every artist to ever draw the bat that fit so nicely into this issue. This was everything that you want from a 50th issue, ok except that no one said I do but we all knew that. The fact that it  was spoiled ahead of time did not  take away one moment of enjoyment. The story played out just as it should have been. The huge storybook wedding with a thousand guests was never going to happen. The Bat and the Cat would have had a spur of the moment private intimate  affair, just the two of them with the witnesses. And can I say Alfred was absolutely the right choice. Alfred has been there every step of the way in Bruce’s life to witness all the ups and all the horrific downs. He should absolutely have been there for the happiest day of his life.

Showing the dance that Bruce and Selina have always done was wonderful way to frame the story. This is not just the dance they’ve been doing for the last 50 issues but the dance they have done since Catwoman was first introduced(in Batman #1 in 1940) and I don’t believe for a second the dance is over. King has said this is a hundred issue story and I for one believe at some point we will get that wedding.

But by and large I am a journalist for all the spoiling that they did, they buried the lede.

Yes they spoiled that Selena leave Bruce at the altar so to speak but they did not spoil the best part of the issue

The best part of the issue the last two pages. The best part was seeing that not only has Bruce had his chance at happiness taken away but that it was done to him. The best part was that it did not just happen but that someone did this.

I love love love that they had Bane be the one to bring him down. They had Bane once again break Batman.

Too often they focus on Bane’s physicality. Far too often we forget that Bane is brilliant. He has a great strategic mind that is how he broke Batman in the first place it wasn’t just Venom coursing through his veins, it was setting loose Arkham Asylum to wear Bruce down.

This time it’s not breaking him with his fists but breaking the man emotionally and the imagery in the last panel of all the different pieces of the last 50 issues culminating and being seeming victory that was perfect.

The last panel that’s the turn, the penny dropping. It was that moment that changes everything that came before.

And after.

I know everyone is diving back into their comics and just looking for the little hints spread throughout this run.

Here’s too another fifty.

 

It’s Booster(Gold) Time

It is time. Time for DC comics to give us a Booster Gold ongoing once again.

Actually it is well past time. Michael Jon Carter, that’s Booster, has been on the sidelines for far too long.

I firmly believe a title is on it’s way. Whether a solo book for Booster or every fans dream of a Blue and Gold team-up book(Ted Kord and Booster…is it really that hard). Moves by DC Comics seem to suggest it will happen.

First there was the recent team up with Superman in Action Comics written by Dan Jurgens. Jurgens is the man who created Booster in 1986. Then we have this week’s Batman #45. More a Booster Gold comic than a Batman comic it was weirdly fun. Which is a prerequisite for Mr Gold. Tom King who does excellent work everywhere seems to have Booster’s voice down perfectly.

Booster always tries to do what is right but tends to trip over his own feet getting there. This is the man responsible for making sure history happens the way it should (in between fart jokes and bantering with his robotic pal Skeets). Think of the WB show Legends of Tomorrow if it was one guy and much funnier.

He is the greatest hero the world never knew. It is time that we reminded them of that fact.

Creators Create

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(Originally published on ComicBook-Underground.com)

Creators create. At least that is how it used to be.
August 28, 2017…Jack Kirby would be 100 on that day. An entire Century old. Yes, I do realize that Kirby did in fact pass away twenty-three years ago. I do not care. He was our King.
In an industry known for creativity and creators. Known for worlds, no universes created out of nothing. He was the King. He was the Alpha and the Omega. He was Jack.
Before this starts sounding like and overdue eulogy for Kirby (I am clearly not qualified for that), let us get to the meat of the matter.
In comics we celebrate creators like no other creative enterprise celebrates them. Jack and Stan, Bob Kane, Bill Finger. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. We celebrate these visionaries who gave us our new world pantheons of gods. They gave us our mythology.
So why are we so more willing to change characters that someone else sculpted out of the ether, than actually create something new for us all?
The new Wally West, Lady Thor, Two Nova’s, Two Blue Beetle’s, Two Hulk’s. Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson have all carried the mantle of Captain America, please don’t get me started with John Walker (US Agent). We even have AzBats coming back. A beloved character will be replaced by an unfamiliar face. Oh there are usually storyline reasons: Thor is unworthy, Captain America got old, Batman had his back broken or let’s kill the hero just for a little while. Other times it is for the sake of diversity, yes I am looking at you Wally West. The fact is the character has changed. Sometimes for a few months, other times for years.
There have been some cases when I have enjoyed these changes. The current Mighty Thor title is excellent. Whether that is because of the novelty of a female Thor or the excellent creative team of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman is up for debate. Other times I find myself biding my time until they ultimately bring the original back. A good friend does not mind these changes. He looks at it as a way to simply refresh the brand. Maybe I am just yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.
Is it that hard to create something new instead. New heroes, new villains. We are in the business of creating are we not. There are roadblocks to be sure. Building an audience is not easy. Lack of ownership of our creations is a reality that needs to change. But the joy of discovering Gambit. Harley Quinn. Or seeing Deadpool for the very first time. That is not something that can be replaced by putting someone else in another characters suit in their mythology.
Let the creators create. Let the next generation dream of building their own worlds.

Grayson discovered

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This column had roots in my previous column regarding the announcement of the ongoing series Grayson. It is nice to see how a series matches up against your own expectations.

Dick Grayson has always been one of my favorite characters in all of comics. I think part of it had to do with the fact that while he was coming of age and moving on from being the first Robin to becoming his own hero as Nightwing, I was going through my own teenage years and discovering who I was. Grayson always seemed to be the bridge between Superman and Batman, more human than one and much more compassionate than the other.

I looked forward to this series, feeling that it was a brilliant and much needed change for the character. I do have friends who simply long for the days when Dick will once again don the (blue and black)Nightwing suit once again.

The new series is written by Tim Seeley and Tom King. I had no familiarity with either writer going in, I was flying blind. In five issues they have rewarded my blind faith with an excellent series. Just enough spy action, paired nicely with great character beats. In short order they seem to know Dick Grayson, the man behind the hero. That is important. Yes these are comics but it is not all about the shiny suits. The men(and women) in those suits are what we come back for every month.

It does not stop with Grayson. They have created a fantastic supporting cast for him in short order. There is the far away shadow of Bruce sprinkled in as a lifeline to his former life but the key are his new partners so to speak.

The ‘Helena Bertinelli’ they have crafted along with artist Mikel Janin’s depiction of her, she is the definition of the seductive spy, has been outstanding. After seeing this version I would be happy to never see another version of the Huntress ever again. The experienced spy mentor for Dick, but you can see an almost envy for the way Dick still looks at the world without her cynical-worldview.

On the other hand we also have Midnighter as a rival, regular guest star. I love Midnighter and I am glad he is being used well since Stormwatch is over. It is easy to write his use off as taking the Batman role, but I do no believe it is that simple. As much as many of us see Nightwing as almost an equal to Bruce in some ways it will always be a teacher/student relationship. In Midnighter, Dick has a rival, contemporary who is his equal. He questions Grayson’s motives for doing what he does, much as Grayson does himself. Midnighter has faith in his abilities, in his powers but Dick has his resolve. I look forward to when they fight together rather than each other.

As I mentioned before Mikel Janin takes care of the art. I first discovered Janin on Justice League Dark, he quickly became on of my favorite artists. Here he is asked to do less, no mystical monsters or group scenes, but he does so much more. The characters come alive within these pages. When I see his Grayson I cannot imagine anyone else drawing him.

It has been a great ride so far and I look forward to the journey every month. For those looking for Nightwing, he is still here leaping into the unknown.

Grayson simply left the mask behind.

Christopher Reeve is Superman

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We now live in a renaissance of super-hero movies, two or more movies a year is common place. This was not always the case. In 1978 the first of the big screen super-hero movies would arrive. Superman: The Movie.

I happened to catch it on TV the other night, it still holds up. Yes, it is a little cheesy but that is ok. It has heart and a sense of hopefulness.

And it has Gene Hackman being a bucket full of awesome as usual. (Love Hackman, just love him.)

Most importantly though it had Christopher Reeve. For many, myself included, Christopher Reeve was Superman. He was the Superman we grew up on and he was the Superman we think of when someone mentions the movies. Yes other actors have played the part. George Reeves, Dean Cain, Brandon Routh, to the current actor Henry Cavill. They each brought something to the role but we keep returning to Reeve.

Christopher Reeve is Superman, emphasis on the ‘man’.

That is where some writers and filmmakers lose me. They get distracted by the incredible power of Superman that they forget about the man-part. Reeve is corny as you can get but it works. You absolutely believe that he was raised in Kansas and you believe that he could fly. If you were an all-American kid from Kansas who could fly you would be a little corny too. There is the gravitas that comes from such powers, but there is also the joy.

It often comes down to nature-versus-nuture. Yes Superman is a Kryptonian with fantastic powers, but he was raised on a farm in Kansas. This is no stranger in a strange land. Kansas is his home not Krypton. He is so human and you see that in Reeve’s portrayal. There is humour, but more important there is humanity.

Watching that first movie I remember what made so many love the character of Superman but more importantly his better half Clark Kent. Kal El is not the super one, it is always Clark.

The powers do not make him a hero but his humanity.

 

 

 

Lex Luthor leads to Doom.

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Some ideas seem like no-brainers to me. After the events of Forever Evil, it only made sense that Lex Luthor would see himself as a hero. After all with the Justice League out of commission it was Lex, along with other villains, who saved the world from the invasion of the Crime Syndicate. The very basic question is what is next for one Lex Luthor?

Why the Justice League of course. Seeing himself as the worlds greatest hero of course he would feel he deserved a place among the greatest hero team around. The ideas is ripe with possibilities.

How long can Lex play the hero?

How will Batman, Superman and the other heroes react to his prescence?

Is this all part of some long game, some new nefarious plot to unleash his villainy on the world?

The key to however this story plays out is Lex himself. He is one of the most brilliant men in the entire DC universe, even smarter than Batman or Mr. Terrific. The problem is he knows it. His overwhelming ego is often his own downfall. Lex finds it hard to believe that anyone could possibly be his peer, his equal.

In my eyes that is the source of his disdain for Superman. Lex believes that he should have been the hero, everyone should have been looking up to him. Instead they applaud this alien with fantastic powers. How much of his desire to be a member of the Justice League comes from a desire to show that he is better than Superman? How better to prove that than to take his place?

Lex is his own worst enemy, always has been. In time his true nature always reveals itself. It will not be good enough to be a hero among the Justice League, in time he will need them to do things his way. After all his way is surely the best way. That is when things begin to unravel.

That is when things should get good.

In Forever Evil he created his own team to fight the Crime Syndicate. I would expect him to do the same as things with the Justice League deteriorate. Lex would of course want to surround himself with those he feels most comfortable. He understand villains motivations, I believe the heroes motivations are slightly foreign to him.

In the past we have seen Luthor lead the Secret Society of Super-Villains, the Injustice League and other villain teams with the names often used interchangeably. In my world I would see this teams as there own unique entities. The Secret Society and the Injustice League should have there own defined rosters. With the Secret Society composed of villains more on the edges of the world, while the Injustice League would be decidedly more mainstream.

For my purposes Lex would create the most important villain organization. The Legion of Doom. Pulling from the old Super Friends show. Give them that Darth Vader-like skull base and a small roster of powerful villains. I easily see Lex surrounding himself with Grodd, Black Manta, Felix Faust, Cheetah, the Riddler (the Joker would be to hard to control)and his own creation Bizarro to round out the group. More brains than power but plenty of power.

Hero groups do need great villain groups and the Legion of Doom does fit the bill nicely. It also returns Lex Luthor to where he belongs: at the top of the villain hierarchy.