Category Archives: Marvel

#Occupy Christopher Nolan

Yeah, I woulda gone with #Occupy Gotham but I’d be super late for the party on that one.

So, my lovely Gurlfrenn just booked us tickets to the pant-shittingly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises and at the BFI IMAX no less. But why is it then, as a life-long Batman fan, that after the four year wait and year-long, ever intensifying marketing campaign I am overcome with what can only be described as blockbuster ennui? I am rarely a victim of hype but I do fall for the occasional, clever hysteria machine (which recently left me twice shy after getting a nasty bite from Ridley Scott) but not so this time. Frankly, the marketing for Christopher Nolan’s latest Bat-sequel has been inconsistent at best – each trailer giving off a different tone and each poster drive featuring wildly divergent styles, one’s left a bit confused and, after Joss Whedon’s delightful four-colour fun-fest Avengers it all looks very…grey.

Batman getting a new high-score in Angry Birds. The closest the gritty Nolanverse will get to depicting Robin.

But, what worries me the most about the whole affair are the Occupy overtones and the series’ ultimately conservative leanings. This isn’t news and neither is it very subtle. Here at the Slate they pretty much outline all the relevant Occupy-esque scenes from the film’s first trailer. Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) dialogue is the most damning evidence, as she denounces Bruce’s world of excessive wealth:

There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. Because when it hits you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

The rest of us, presumably the 99%. Now, I’m not disparaging that a blockbuster is using contemporary issues as a backdrop or even as an arena of discourse but what’s troubling is associating Occupiers with terrorists, revolutionaries with evil and the police state with order, heroism and honour. Also necessity.

2005’s Batman Begins is by far the superior of the two Nolanverse pictures to date. It combined (and invented) the Gritty reboot, with an air of the gothic – Eerie old institutions, secret Ninja Tibetan hide-outs and weaponized Bats! The more bizarre aspects would be entirely eschewed in a sequel that is over-plotted, clunkily edited and devoid of humour. The closest Begins gets to politics is Wayne’s problematic choice to Leave R’as al Ghoul in the run-away train. As the car speeds towards imminent doom Wayne leaves his old master saying “I’m won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you”  which serves to solidify the vague Libertarian notions that had been bandied around the film thus far. It stuck out as odd, because the Batman I knew (from the Animated Series!) would have undoubtedly tried to save his nemesis with his trusty grappling hook. Batman has an almost Hippocratic oath – he would have had to save him. Even my mum tutted audibly at this scene lamenting the  murky morals at work.

So Batman may be a libertarian who believes the state  is complicit in the corruption and chaos that ravages his city and must work outside the law to enact change. I can buy this, I guess. If Batman were real he would be terrifying and anti-state.

Uncanny

But then there’s The Dark Knight. For the most part, The Dark Knight draws from the U.S’s demented War on Terror, casting the Batman as  George Bush – who goes to perilously dangerous lengths to capture the madman and terrorist, the Joker. Not only does Christian Bale look eerily like him but his Bruce Wayne mimics Dubya in his policy of violence, kidnapping and phone-tapping up to and including extraordinary rendition. Again, I actually embrace using contemporary issues as source material and I love that the Batman doesn’t have to be our hero in every sense – that he can make morally disturbing choices and doesn’t have to be the audience surrogate that heroes usually are. But the film squanders this in its final moments; instead of merely reflecting recent history it decides to come down on one side. Even though Batman has lost his love and has conducted an immoral campaign of spying and surveillance against the people he has sworn to protect he has beaten the Joker and virtually shut down organised crime. To maintain order and peace in Gotham and keep the baddies behind bars (objectively good things) he must lie and say he was responsible for Dent’s murderous rampage. He utters the most tripe, Iraq invasion apologist bullshit line I have ever heard.

Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more.”

WTF IS THIS SHIT?!

You don’t even need an arts degree to decode this here, boys and girls. There were no WMDs in Iraq. BUT the ends justified the means. Things are better because of a lie and thus, it was worth it. The above line is probably repeated ad nauseum by the entire Bush administration and Blair every night before they hop into their plush King-size beds. And then from the mouth of babes, Jim Gordon’s blonde, innocent son – “But he didn’t do anything wrong!” in context it’s beyond parody. He had to make the difficult choices and he will be hated for it – nay hunt him for it. Because he can take it. Because he’s not the hero-….bla bla bla bla bla bla.

So Batman’s a neo-liberal, willing to lie, cheat and steal and fuelled (like Dubya) with a zealot like fervour. He compromises his own moral codes in order to “bring peace” because he is “outside” the law – No UN resolutions for him! He’s also responsible for the crime of having a really silly voice.

Interestingly, Rorschach is offered the same choice at the end of Watchmen. But Rorschach is a proper, nut-job libertarian – he’s honest:  “Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.”

And…uh…that ended well

 I don’t think the Batman of the comic would allow Superman to craft a new Utopia if it meant Supes would have to fry a few skulls with his heat vision to do it. But Nolan’s Bush-man obviously has a different set of ethics.

And now we come to The Dark Knight Rises. The trailer has the “war-hero” cop Gordon being set-up for retirement as it’s now “peace-time”. If we thought the allegory in the previous film was circumstantial then BAM it’s just been confirmed. The follows a slew of images of scruffy-looking peeps ransacking Wayne Manor and mass scruffy uprisings around Gotham. The latest trailer even shows a gang or rising, scruffy Untermensch descending upon an up-market hotel. The lines are clearly drawn – the only question is which side is Batman on.

One is a screencap from Dorkly’s hilarious Batman is the 1% sketch and one is a poster for the upcoming blockbuster. But which is which? Eagle eyed viewers win a free picture of my balls.

And to make matters more interesting the film even wanted to shoot at Wall St. while the Occupy movement was there, the trailers feature “terrorists” shooting up the Gotham stock exchange and now we get these, rather intriguing comments by Chris Nolan on the film’s scale and vision:

“It’s all about historical epics in conception. It’s a war film. It’s a revolutionary epic. It’s looking back to the grand-scale epics of the past, really, and for me that goes as far back as silent films. I’ve been watching a lot of silent films with my kids on Blu-Ray. We’ve shot over a third of the movie on the IMAX format, and that naturally puts you more in the mode of staging very large events for the camera. It’s my attempt to get as close to making a Fritz Lang film as I could. It’s also more in the mould of ‘Doctor Zhivago,’ or ‘A Tale Of Two Cities,’ which is a historical epic with all kinds of great storytelling taking place during the French Revolution.

There’s an attempt to visualise certain things in this film on this large scale that are troubling and genuinely to the idea of an American city. Or, to put it another way: revolutions and the destabilising of society have happened everywhere in the world, so why not here?”

This seems to be a direct allusion to things like the Arab Spring, most recently and his talk of a “revolutionary epic” brings to mind films like The Battle of Algiers, Strike! or I am Cuba. Giving my pinky, lefty, faggy, Communist background I would probably welcome a film depicting a people’s uprising in America to battle their subordination by the wealthy elites and their corporate sponsored congressmen. But given where the story’s come from and the apologist tone of the previous film will Batman be defending a corrupt, totalitarian state from a popular uprising? Is the Batman going to be defending “order” and “stability”…thus defending the likes of Mubarak or Gaddafi ?

The trailers depict armed, violent militias and freed prisoners attempting to “destabilise” society, orchestrated by a shady, esoteric Eastern terrorist group we can assume is  The League Shadows from the first picture. If this is meant to reflect either Occupy or the Arab Spring it is insulting to both as both championed the use of non-violent demonstration and strikes. Any descent into violence occurred at the hands of the violent reaction by the police and armed forces. Also, having an Occupy uprising secretly organised by a shady, Eastern terrorist cell reads something like a Tea-party wet dream. The reason the police and the Tea-party never clash is that the tea-party are so well-armed at their rallies. Surely they would be more likely to attempt an armed coup on their black Socialist president.

Hmmm….from Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”. Sounds like that Occupy nonsense.

Batman and Fascist propaganda are no strange bedfellows. Frank Miller, creator of the famed and yes overrated Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, gave the character new-life as a quasi-fascist, anti-state loon and also wrote and drew an anti-muslim propaganda rag entitled Holy Terrorthough DC Comics were wise enough to allow him to actually feature Batman in the book. The writer recently sunk to new lows in an online rant about the Occupy movement which is so uninformed an demented it reads like a Rorschach journal entry. Given that TDK Returns revolves around the Batman coming out of a stretch of retirement, just as the latest film will, it merits mentioning.

Will The Dark Knight Rises really go the whole hog and confuse Occupiers with armed terrorists, terrorists with ninjas, revolutionaries with terrorists, order with peace? Or will Wayne turn around and realise he could have enacted more significant change had he paid more taxes and instead of buying mini-tanks just gave some of his loose change to upgrading the city’s infrastructure like his good ol’ Da did.

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Great Scotts! DC’s Closet Come-out Cop-out

So after weeks of theorising, posturing and conjecture among the comic-book community over which DC stalwart was going to come out of the fictional closet the answer has finally been revealed. James Robinson, author of DC’s new Earth 2 book, has momentously announced that the “major” and “iconic” previously straight character is……Alan Scott!

You know…Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern!

THE Alan Scott!

Of course you fucking don’t.

I only know who he is because of late-night wikipedia binges in my early teens, living in rural Ireland with nary a comic-book shop in sight and the joys of downloading them still a mystery to me so I had to rely on simply reading about them. Reading anything to sate my appetite. Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, was created during the super-hero Golden Age of the 1940s and whose powers came from a magic Chinese Lantern full of mysterious Oriental energy that he found down a subway, or something.  As the super-heroes’ popularity began to fade during the 50s the character started his first trip into obscurity and was eventually replaced by the Silver-Age reboot; the slick, daring fighter pilot/intergalactic beat-cop Hal Jordan – the Green Lantern that we know and love. That is if audiences even know of Green Lantern. After being replaced Scott’s stories were relegated to the parallel continuity universe of Earth-2, a retirement home of sorts for the super-people of the Golden Age where the characters were actually allowed to age, reproduce and die (sometimes indefinitely) with the Justice Society of America. Though I think this is a neat concept any and all of these events have been wiped from the multiverse canon by numerous Crises, each more permanent and infinite than the next, culminating in Superboy punching the Universe so hard it stopped making sense. I’m not kidding.

Find dead horse. Flog. Rinse. Repeat.

Ok, so DC’s chosen bastion of equal rights is a sort of awkward first-try at a Green Lantern that they’ve kept around for shits and giggles and hasn’t fronted his own comic-book for at least sixty years BUT this is the New 52 right? DC comics latest reboot (after the Flash ran so fast the universe…yeah…I don’t even…!) which sees the characters’ slates cleaned and clocks reset. We see Batman and Superman meet for the first time, again! No one’s wearing silly underpants! Aquaman’s got his own comic! So in this universe anything can happen. Could the newly outed Scott be this universes Green Lantern proper, an upstanding citizen, guardian of the Galaxy and serving member of the Justice League?

LOL NO!

Yep, that’s right. He’s not only an ancient, obscure super-hero but he’s been relegated to a parallel universe once again, Earth-2, nicely tucked away under the radar of anyone who isn’t an avid collector of overpriced comic-books. Let’s revisit DC’s Editor-in-chief Dan DiDido’s comments that the hero would be “major” and “iconic”. The Green Lantern is iconic, I guess – but he isn’t Green Lantern. And I’m really not interested in hearing about whatever amazing adventures he’s had in some parallel universe stories from the 80s and how he became a character in his own right because that’s not important. What’s important is DC’s cynical decision to sneakily use the confusion of their continuities to garner tonnes of media interest whilst not actually having to make a truly controversial change. Making Hal Jordan gay might have been something as he’s the most famous Lantern, or Kyle Raynor because who cares? At least he exists in the mainstream continuity – at least he “exists”. Or they had an opportunity to craft a new character (God forbid) as the Lantern role can be passed on the different people. And by people I mean men. DC has no problem doing it when they need to fill their racial diversity quota, as evidenced by Jon Stuart or the ginger Guy Gardener.

This guy’s allowed in the mainstream…Carrot-top, popped-collar, shit-eating grin and all.

So DC can bathe in the publicity as every news outlet, refreshingly out-of-touch with the brain-pulpingly over-complex history of the Green Lanterns and the DC Mulitverse, reports that Green Lantern is now gay, thinking that Ryan Reynolds may have to readjust his relationship with Blake Lively when Hollywood inevitably farts out a Green Lantern 2 that nobody asked for. And from the outside it looks like DC wins the Equality war with rival Marvel Comics who just recently featured their first gay wedding between Northstar, the first openly gay superhero in American comics, and his boyfriend. Both could be said to be cynical sales moves, designed to cash in on a hot-button issue, garner attention and to move product but Marvel’s is arguably a more natural evolution for their characters and is more consistent given that Northstar is a mutant and X-Man, a group constantly fighting to be equally represented in their universe.

Marvel’s track-record is a wee bit better on the equality front with Northstar (though he was, at one point, a literal fairy) but they also featured major and iconic characters changing sexual orientation in a parallel universe ten years ago with Colossus in Ultimate X-Men. But it wasn’t a publicity stunt, it was just this Peter Rasputin’s sexual orientation sans bells, whistles and press releases. His being gay was secondary to the fact that his skin could turn into steel and he could punch buildings.

They did, however, give him a wee earring but this was like 2002 so it was all very Justin Timberlake back then.

What would have been preferable? Well, at the very least someone who exists in the mainstream continuity and who is a member of the flagship Justice League. To be honest, most of DC’s heroes are pretty gay. Clark Kent’s bumbling, awkward attempts to fit in as “normal” hide is rather fabulous alter-ego; Wonder Woman, raised in a Matriarchal, women-only island, surely must have a few teenage crushes and relationships before her lesbianism was “cured” by meeting her first man, Captain Steve Cheesepants or whatever. Or Batman? Billionaire playboy with a secret nightlife, a dungeon full of bizarre toys, gadgets and rubber suits, with a penchant for collecting young men. Ok, so those were rather easy targets but what of the simmering bromance between the Flash and Hal Jordan? Yes, yes all too obvious. It seems DC’s heroes are too straight and proper to be given any sexual identity whatsoever, hetero or homosexual – it’s like acknowledging your grandparents have (or had) sex. Ew.

Back in my day I ate guys like you for breakfast!

DC already has a gay lead character in the form of the current Batwoman, which is great, but it’s always been easier to introduce lesbian characters with oversized breasts to a community largely made up of men. What they need is not to ham-fist a change but pick a character whose homosexual identity would gel or bolster with their character already. With Alan Scott, they picked him because his son was gay in the other unimportant universe and they must’ve felt guilty deleting one of their few gay heroes and changed Scott to make up for it. After the announcement many fans theorised that the gay character might turn out to be Tim Drake, the third Robin, due to his string of failed relationships. However, I believe this is only due to the fact that Drake’s a pretty boring straight edged character and writers lose interest in his story with regularity. No, the next gay character should be Batman’s son and current Robin, Damian Wayne.

I love this guy.

Damian was introduced in 2006’s Son of the Bat storyline by Grant Morrison, initially to quite a bit of fan-hate. Son of the world’s greatest detective and a leader of a group of eco-warrior terrorist-ninjas Damian was raised as a child prodigy ninja assassin genius and stirred quite a bit of shit in first few appearances. Basically he’s a nasty condescending little shit who’s hiding a wee bruised heart and a desire to be good much like Artemis Fowl, who gets a name check in Damian’s début issue. He’s a joy to read due to his vitriolic distaste for everyone around him and he’s quite camp – think an older, more violent Stewie Griffin, but he’s also completely bad-ass. He’s only 10 years old but he has such a strong identity and character if he were gay there would be no bones about it, no excuses or awkward realisations. If you had a problem with it he’d detach your jaw with a crow bar. He’s great. As he grows into the role of being a hero, a good guy, he can also grow into his sexual identity, because he’s a very rare thing: a new, popular character who has shown the capacity to change.

All-in-all I’d put DC’s latest bid for attention from the mainstream media along with the “Dumbledore is Gay” event in terms of hollow offerings to the LGBT community. Both were last-minute cop-outs designed to appear as progress but are really just there to satisfy the guilty consciences of authors too afraid to take a chance within their main stories and so make concessions after the fact. I’m a breeder and I find this crap offensive in its banality.

Discuss!

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