DC Comics films cheer up, Kong: Skull Island made me wet my pants and The Walking Dead cast laugh at us because of Brexit

San Diego Comic Con hit its Big Day yesterday with the infamous Hall H throwing out big presentations one after another. This is a day where people queue for up to a day beforehand to get in sleeping in each others sweat and filth in order to be within 200 metres of their heroes. If they’re lucky of course.

First up was Warner Brothers who came out like an alcoholic who’s just went clean and who wants to tell you about it. One of the rightful criticisms of Warner’s DC Comics films is they’re too dark and miserable to the point where Batman Versus Superman ended up being a masochistic exercise in misery rather than anything fun. So first up, Wonder Woman.

It looks alright, the WW1 setting is odd because that was a much more complex war to portray on screen than WW2 because you can’t just depict a complex war based upon imperialism as easily as Goodies killing Nazis. Still is does give it a different look though at some point even the most rabid fan has to deal with the fact Gal Gadot can’t act.

Next up; Justice League.

There’s more fun in the nearly three minute trailer than the entire of the aforementioned Batman Versus Superman, plus Man of Steel combined. That doesn’t make a great film though but this has got such a low starting point in terms of expectations a light, fun superhero film would be a masterpiece.

As for Suicide Squad..

I dunno, it looks fun but it also looks as if a committee of accountants have poured over every Marvel film of the last decade and come up with a film.

The main event for a Giant Monster fan like myself is Kong: Skull Island.

Godzilla was alright but far too dull in places. The Peter Jackson King Kong remake was overlong and tedious, but this promises less of a boring time at the cinema which a giant monster film shouldn’t be.

There were other film Warner Brothers presented but J.K Rowling can fuck off.

Marvel also produced loads of stuff but unlike Warners they didn’t release them directly online and that might keep the thousands of smelly, sweaty fans in Hall H happy, but it doesn’t stop piracy. Ah well, here’s the Doctor Strange trailer with Benedict Cumberbatch’s iffy American accent.

One of the things that’s clear is that the big media companies have honed how they use San Diego to their benefit which benefits those us sat on our arses thousands of miles away, but perhaps make the experience of those actually there a bit less special. However sticking most of the big panels online more or less within 24 hours of them happening means we can get to see things like the cast of The Walking Dead (well, a couple of them) taking the piss out of the UK because of Brexit.

Even people whose job is playing someone in a post apocalyptic world where mindless zombies eat people thinks Brexit is a bad idea…

So with that in mind I’m off to watch the Aliens 30th anniversary panel without smelling like a tramps old socks.

What I thought of Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice

batmanvsupermanquadSPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Think back to the time when you first had an amazing girlfriend or boyfriend when you were younger. It was fantastic for a while, but as is often the case for youthful romances the object of your dreams leaves you.

You then spend months getting over it until one day you’re in a record shop (or wherever the kids hang out these days) and you see her/him draped round the local arsehole who has all the style and class of a Happy Shopper in Stockport on a bank holiday weekend.

This is what’s happened to Superman and Batman, In this case the arsehole is Zack Snyder, who has draped himself all over DC Comics’ prime two superheroes like a 16 year old that’s discovered how to use his cock for the very first time. Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice is an overlong confused mess of a film that overuses the same tricks over and over again til you finally get to the end and get to emerge into the fresh air.

The plot picks up a few years after Man of Steel.Superman is sort of loved but the American government doesn’t trust him because of the whole destroying a major American city and helping kill tens of thousands of innocent people thing. We are also introduced to Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman who has a massive amount of dream sequences because the plot for this and future DC Universe films need him to have them because the writers can’t think of anything better.  Batman’s a psychopath who brutalises criminals and Bruce Wayne’s a rich, white racist who hates the idea of an asylum seeker or immigrant (which is what Superman is after all) being more powerful than him. Alright, that’s possibly a tad harsh but the politics of this film are all over the place. Is Superman seen as good by people? Depends on the scene and whether it serves the plot. Is Batman a psychotic murdering thug or a brave vigilante? Depends on whether the plot needs to move in one direction or not? Why is Wonder Woman there for 95% of the running time if all she’s there for is for Affleck’s Bruce Wayne to go chasing her like some horny teenager.

The entire plot revolves around Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor manipulating Batman and Superman to fight each other. Much of it makes no sense like why is Batman/Bruce Wayne (one of the finest investigators and detectives on the planet) unable to spot the bloody obvious signs that Luthor is insane and is manipulating him? Is he that stupid?

Yes.

And Superman; why can’t he hear the bomb in a scene that in better hands would be a pivotal scene but is just confused. Why doesn’t the most powerful creature that’s on planet Earth work all this out in a second using his powers? Is he that stupid?

Yes.

As for Lois Lane, she’s relegated to the role of being saved by Superman and/or pining for him in scenes they don’t share together, including one semi-nude scene that simply comes over as awkward mainly because Henry Cavil and Amy Adams have all the charisma together of fish and diarrhoea. Also, this film isn’t going to pass the Bechdel Test because out of the four main female roles in this film, one pines for Superman, one is in and out to set up future films, one gets killed halfway through and the other exists to be held hostage near the end. Everything in the film though is secondary to Batman and Superman, even poor Jeremy Irons wasted in the role of Alfred seems like an afterthought in the script.

There’s the problem. Rather than building a good script the film has to service several things from having Superman and Batman fight (obviously), setting up future DC films (so there’s teasers for Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Justice League) and director Zack Snyder’s obsession with having people hit each other over and over and over again in some of the most unexciting, stale scenes of action I’ve seen in a while. Then there’s the problem of having the script reference The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman at any available opportunity.

The problem is that DC and Warners have spent ages fannying around trying to work out what to do with their characters, and in that time Marvel have proven a cinematic universe works if you spend some time building it up. In trying to jump start it and throw all the big guns out first, DC have real issues here, mainly with quality control but having dark, humourless, joyless (it’s amazing how starkly joyless this film is for what is essentially two children’s characters fighting) and emotionally empty films like this isn’t a great start.

There are good points though. Cavil is a good actor and does what he can. Affleck is fine, but everyone else is totally wasted by David Goyer’s clunking fist of a script. Yeah, the idea of spinning off criticism of Man of Steel’s end slaughter is the film’s one smart idea, but when we get to the end and you have Batman luring back into the city towards where people are, not to mention a scene where Doomsday smashes up the memorial to the dead of the first film, then it feels like they simply didn’t care by the end to stick to, or develop that idea that heroes try to save people rather than be stupid careless arseholes.

Batman versus Superman isn’t a dreadful film. It’s a bad one that suffers from poor direction at times and a dreadful script, but it’s entertaining in places, however it’s a bloated, overlong confusing mess as said. It raises the point about whether Snyder or even DC get these characters they have. If after all this film is being marketed to kids (as it is here in the UK with things like cuddly meerkat dolls)  but their ‘heroes’ are a pair of moody stupid dickheads, then that risks the film pandering only to a hardcore of DC Comics superhero fans which means they’re looking to sell this really to 20-50 year old men. If you’re going to make money back from a $250 million film you need to go outside that audience, and although it’s making money in the UK on a damp Easter weekend in March, the test is going to be whether it carries on making money next week, or the week after.

The main feeling I have though is of a wasted opportunity. This could have been a fun bit of superhero action/adventure. It could have given me more than maybe one smile. It could have been less tedious in it’s violence and action. Instead it’s another Zack Snyder film and that’s the most damning thing I can say about this.

Superman Kills!

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That’s a panel from Justice League #22 written by Geoff Johns, the man who seems to be single handedly making DC’s superhero comics grim, dark, depressing things that you wouldn’t wipe your arse on.

Yes, I know that Superman is possessed and it’s not really him, but if there’s an image that defines superhero comics now it’s probably going to be this which is designed to make as many people pissed off as possible and create chatter online for DC’s range of titles.

It’s only designed to to this. That’s it. It’s a fuck you to people who might be more than a bit fed up by this constant  pandering to those who think ‘adult’ is just more and more empty violence or thought Man of Steel was kewl and hey, people are going to die right?

It’s clearly an attempt to reconcile Man of Steel with the comic version of Superman and I’ve made my thoughts clear on that film, but this is yet another example of bad writing from bad writers in order to pander to people with a video game’s sense of morality.

It’s dull, it’s boring and it’s frankly offensive to see DC do this. Will they change anything? No, of course not as it’s a cynical attempt to cash in while removing another little piece of joy from the world as if you make everything dark, grim and depressing then what’s the point? Where’s the optimism? You can’t sustain drama when the tone is that of someone standing over a sink with a razor over their wrists thinking whether or not to slash them open? You can’t make things grimmer and grimmer because you don’t have anything in this world that anyone wants to fight for?

And that’s the problem. Why should we the readers bother anymore?

Hide and Seek

The first comic I remember reading is Asterix in Switzerland and I was probably three. In fact it’s one of the earliest memories I have and it’s a golden one as I still chuckle at it because it’s such a bloody great piece of comics but at three I just liked Obelix, and didn’t get the puns regarding the English translations of the original French names til much later but I digress..

It was the first thing I remember reading though I know I was reading earlier than that but it was this book that stood out and opened up a world to me so I went from Asterix, to Tintin, to DC (especially The Flash and the JLA) and eventually Marvel Comics through their Marvel UK reprints such as Mighty World of Marvel with that funky Hulk transfer which I nagged to get ironed on a t-shirt so I could be a cool five year old.

It was at this point I started collecting. I’d moved onto the hard stuff as my older brothers were buying American Marvel of DC comics, plus the odd Gold Key or Charlton comic. I started getting into the Hulk thanks to the simply glorious art of Herb Trimpe, the first American superhero artist whose name I remembered because it sounded so weird to a boy living in Glasgow who was five or six. So I tagged along with my brothers as they searched for comics.

This is where I need to make a point to any younger reader here who is wondering what I mean by ‘search’. Surely there were comic shops? Well no,this was the early 70’s in the UK and in Glasgow when distribution of American imported comics were at best patchy, though DC had slightly better distribution than Marvel, it was still a search to get an issue you might have missed and with the first few comic shops in the UK several years away and the first shop in Glasgow years away beyond that (1980 if I remember right) you had to know where to go.

This meant being shown the ancient sources of four-colour fun. So at the time I lived in Possilpark,  and in the mid-70’s the family moved to Milton which was a case of moving from the fire into the frying pan but this is a topic for another time, let’s stick to comics and how to get them.

There were shops which sold comics, and McGhee’s, the newsagent near where we lived in Milton was one, as was on in the middle of Possil but the trick was to find where you could get the hard to find stuff. So by eight or nine (75/76) I knew the chemist in Possil who had a load of American comics under the counter in boxes they’d had sitting there for years which even had Warren Comics as well as Marvel and DC; I knew the newsagent on Maryhill Road  who had spinners full of comics going back to the late 60’s; I knew the old bookshop by Partick station that was full of strange men in long coats that looked a wee bit crusty and stained but it was here I found my first American comic I bought with my own pennies and it was a Herb Trimpe Hulk!

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From here on I expanded my territory. I already knew of the three stalls at the Barras that sold comics, and it was here I picked up JLA #30 for 50p!

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I still have that comic. I genuinely love looking at it, and taking it out it’s bag to smell it because the smell of an old comic is like nothing on Earth One or Earth Two.

But back to the trail..

I’d also by 77 or 78, discovered newsagents by Queen Street station and Central Station that sold comics, another few shops/porno bookshops in the West End and pretty much every single place which sold comics over half of Glasgow.

See, part of the problem was that Marvel would distribute some of their American comics via newsagents in the UK as long as they weren’t titles published by Marvel UK, so there was a Spider Man Marvel UK title which meant the American Spidey dropped out of distribution, and so on. Also they were restricted to 12 titles if I remember right, so you were lucky to get anything at all! This is why if you look at some comic dealers boxes at marts or conventions now you’ll see some titles marked ”ND” which stands for ”non distributed’ which means it didn’t get a newsagent distribution in the UK. This was torture for collectors like me. It did help that my oldest brother used to go to Liverpool when they started their comics marts (they still run today) with an empty suitcase and return with a full one.

I also found by accident while having a Subbuteo set bought for me as a birthday treat a toyshop that had boxes, and I mean boxes, of Marvel comics which were slightly water damaged but readable, and more than a few were in mint condition.

At one point I had ten copies of this:

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What happened to these is another, more painful story but needless to say if I still had two or three of those today I could happily clear my debts and possibly take a month off work.

There was also a magazine stall by St. Enoch’s Square in Glasgow who sold more ballast comics, as that’s what all these were-ballast copies of comics that were doomed to be dumped somewhere between the ports on the Clyde and the US but some smart people saved them. In fact I know there was a warehouse full of these comics in Glasgow in 1978 because several people filled their boots, including a local collector called Pete Root, but more of Pete another time as he’s an important figure not just in the comics scene in Glasgow but quite a few people’s lives, mine included. Consider this a tease…

Anyhow. The amount of ND Marvel’s were ridiculous. Loved the X Men? Forget about reading from #102-108 because they were ND. Spider Man was out of bound and the Hulk, the comic which dragged me in, was nowhere.

By this point Marvel UK titles were running adverts for UK dealers and the first mail order services from the likes of Dark They Were and Golden Eyed in London and Forever People in Bristol, which ended up being my first contact with Bristol and what would end up becoming a large part to my adult life up to the present day but again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

These mail order services were frankly shite. Orders would turn up with titles missing, or comics damaged, or months late. Then one day one of my brothers came home and told me about the fact there was something called ‘The Science Fiction Bookshop’ in that other place, or Edinburgh as it was known to non-Glaswegians. This was around 79 and the SF Bookshop had been open for a good few years but who were we to know that?

My first trip there was sometime in late 1979 and I remember picking up a few issues of the Hulk, and picking this up…

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One of those ND issues of the X Men I needed! Little did I know it;d take another ten years to get all of them but it was a start! I knew a shop where I could get comics I couldn’t get in Glasgow, especially as all the sources I mentioned earlier were going or gone.

So when I hear or read about comic fans today moaning because the latest issue of Batman is an hour late, I have to point out how much easier things are for them now thanks to the network of shops that grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s, not to mention Titan Distributors, an associate company of Forbidden Planet who distributed comics to a growing network of shops across the UK. However it’s the comic distribution wars between Titan and Neptune, and in particular the personality war between Mike Lake (the MD of Titan) and Geoff Fry (the MD of Neptune) which got worse thanks to a comment made by myself to Geoff (for those who don’t know, I worked for Neptune) while travelling to London that made the war escalate to ridiculous (I will tell you dear reader of the races round London, the intimidation, the late night train journeys to Glasgow, and all the other battles in this war another time) degrees. All these things helped get where we are today.

By autumn 1980, Glasgow saw it’s first specialist shop, Futureshock, which is amazingly still open. However it was run by Bob Shaw (who has been mentioned before) and Neil Craig. These people were oil and water, but that’s a story for another time…

1981 saw Glasgow’s first comic mart organised by the local comics fangroup and the whole business with comic shops in Glasgow embarked upon a bizarre and messy few years before things settled down and AKA Books and Comics hit it’s Golden Age.

But for the 1970’s comics fan you had to be committed, patient and most of all obsessed to a degree beyond belief.

It’s now 2013. I sold all those ND X Men years ago even though it took me a decade to get them. Fuck.