Green Lantern: Is that all there is?

As one Green Lantern fan said, “It’s the best we’re gonna get, which is not necessarily a good thing.”

Well, better late to the party than never showing up, I finally saw Green Lantern. It was all right. Granted, I didn’t go in there expecting much so I’m not too upset.It’s a solidly mediocre offering from DC (who, let’s face it, save for the last two Batman films hasn’t had the best luck with comic book movie adaptations), which is incredibly tragic given all that the film had going for it.

Warning: Spoilers (and mildly naughty language) ahead, matey!

*** Please proceed with caution. ***

My biggest critique of the film is that they really should have just stopped abusing the CGI. Near the end of the movie with the Big Bad and Hal Jordan in space, it got to the point where I really lost my patience. To a certain extent, you do need those effects as it’s a cosmic tale with a lot of space travel and aliens. However, there comes a point where there’s nothing but flash and you cannot sustain a film on that (despite what the success of Avatar would have you believe). Especially for a comic book adaptation; drawing off of such a rich and established continuity, there HAS to be more than a bunch of kick ass CGI renderings.

I have to give some props to Ryan Reynolds, you could tell that he (and his abs) were really pulling out his A-Game. He was enough of a cocky douchebag to buy that he’s Hal Jordan but there was enough Ryan Reynolds that you actually liked the character.

The costume was just absurd, even if it was true to the comic. It just looked wrong. Maybe it would have been better had they hadn’t used CGI to bring it to life. (Again, I get what they were trying to do. But, again, they failed.)

Mark Strong was awesome as always (you couldn’t have asked for a better Sinestro). The Kurgan (well, his voice) was perfectly cast; as was Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard).

With so many things going for it, Green Lantern should have been awesome but, in the end, it was just meh. And that’s what most disappointed me.

However, if you look at this film in the context of, say, a trilogy of Green Lantern films, it’s a good starting point. It’s no Thor or Iron Man but it’s better than the first attempt at Hulk (the Eric Bana one) or Thomas Jane’s disastrous Punisher. It’s mediocre and probably a film that, once it’s on DVD, will be included in that cache of movies that I have on in the background as I do anything but watch the movie.

I hope they make Green Lantern 2: Electric Boogaloo. As I mentioned in my previous article, the first film in a comic book franchise sets the stage for subsequent films and there’s a lot of exposition and acclimatizing viewers to the narrative world (especially when you’re talking about comic book movies). As a result, they’re generally solid films but later ones tend to (rightly) outshine them. Green Lantern accomplished this feat, not as spectacularly as others have done before it, but it’s a solid origin story. I’d like to see a sequel where Sinestro and Hal team-up and Sinestro starts to turn away from the Green Lanterns. (Ideally, the third film would then be the Sinestro Corps Wars.)

And, yes, I do think that, should this third film come to fruition, that Stephen Colbert be made Sinestro’s number two (art credit goes to ~drawerofdrawings over at DeviantArt). Yes, it might be slightly cartoonish, but you cannot deny the sheer epic awesomeness of the mere thought.

As always, Gail Simone has a most awesome suggestion as to how you could make Green Lantern exponentially better: relaunch it!

Shelley Smarz is a comic book scholar and business woman. She’s a bit of a sad panda as there was no real Sinestro/Hal Ho!Yay! when there should have been. However, during the scene where Parallax chasing after Hal in space, her tentacle porn senses started tingling…in her pants! Please excuse her wackiness this afternoon, she had too much caffeine this morning so she’s a little more unhinged than normal. (Okay, maybe more than just a little.) Also, in that aforementioned scene in space, the image of the giant, disembodied cloud flying through space reminds her of something…she just can’t remember what.


Gene Colan: 1926-2011

On Thursday June 23, 2011 at around 11pm, Gene Colan died from complications related to liver disease and a broken hip. He was 84.

We’ve lost another one of the Silver Age greats, folks.

He made an indelible mark on the comics industry and, in an era where many were trying to copy the same style (like that of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby), Colan forged his own style of work, one that would help define what Marvel would look like into the 1970s. His influence on the medium is indescribable and has been long-lasting; it can still be seen in today’s comic art.

Colan’s long career was distinguished:

  • From issue #20 (September 1966) to issue #100 (June 1973), he provided art for all but three issues of Daredevil (including the 1967 Daredevil Annual).
  • Co-created Falcon with Stan Lee who was the first African-American superhero in mainstream comic books. Falcon first appeared in Captain America #117 (September 1969).
  • Illustrated all 70 issues of The Tomb of Dracula in the 1970s.
  • Provided the art for most issues of Howard the Duck.
  • Worked as primary artist for Batman in the early to mid-1980s and Wonder Woman from 1982-1983.
  • With Ed Brubaker, won the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue for his contributions to Captain America #601 (September 2009).

Colan was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2005.

As Brent mentioned, Clifford Meth is setting up a scholarship in Gene’s name at the Joe Kubert School. If you want to contribute to this scholarship, send a cheque or money order (payable to the “Joe Kubert Schol”) to:

Gene Colan Scholarship

c/o Clifford Meth

179-9 Rt. 46 West

Rockaway, NJ 07866

Shelley Smarz is a comic book scholar and business woman. She had, for a number of different reasons – some personal and others not so personal – a really difficult time writing this article. She thinks that Gene’s advice as to how to live our lives is something that we should all take to heart and strive for every second of our lives. This Howard the Duck cover is one of her favourites. She was also terribly sad to hear that Peter Falk, the indomitable Lieutenant Columbo, also shuffled off this mortal coil on Friday June  24th.


Murdoch Mysteries: The Curse of the Lost Pharaohs, Episodes 1-3

Murdoch Mysteries: The Curse of the Lost Pharaohs is an exclusive 13-part original online series. A creative hybrid of live action (featuring all the stars of the series) and animated illustrations by Francis Manapul (The Flash), this web series is a deliciously over-the-top take on Murdoch Mysteries. This unique transmedia metanarrative has also been woven into the narrative of the fourth season of the series (airing on CityTV, Wednesdays at 9pm) and was launched on June 7th, right after the episode aired.

Now three episodes in  (each instalment so far has only been 2-5 minutes long), the series brings to life Constable George Crabtree’s (Jonny Harris) first novel, The Curse of the Lost Pharaohs.  Starting with the discovery of seven dead members of Toronto’s Egyptology Club, mysteriously killed after opening a sarcophagus that had been smuggled into Canada from Egypt. The webseries detail the efforts of Crabtree (who envisions himself as a Detective) and Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) as they try to solve the mystery (aided by the pugilist, Inspector Thomas Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), and the lovely Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy)), defeat the mysterious villain Sekhmet (Egyptian Goddess of retribution), and figure out how this all fits into Queen Victoria’s secret visit to Toronto.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, The Curse of the Lost Pharaohs is a self-aware penny-dreadful that avoids the pitfalls of taking itself too seriously. There’s this awesome campy feel that, rather than being like the 1960s TV-version of Batman, makes the adventure quite epic (not to mention entertaining).

Altogether, the first three episodes have succeeded in introducing us to the reimagined narrative universe and its characters (to both established fans and new viewers). Action-packed and kind of whimsical, it has excelled in building up an awesome (and fun) mystery story that grabbed me by the end of the very first scene. My only critique? It’s so engaging that I am now waiting, on the edge of my seat, for the next webisode.

Also, I should probably mention…MUMMIES!

Shelley Smarz is a comic book scholar and business woman. She’s pleased to have her MacBook Pro in working order once again, after only being out of commission for the better part of a week. Extremely grateful for the awesome dude at the Genius Bar at the Eaton Centre for all the help, even if they were running a little behind. Though it’s still got a lot of life in it (Apple products FTW!), she has started a “replacement fund” as that s?%t’s expensive.

Why the First Films in a Franchise Tend to Suck

So, before work this morning, I popped onto Rotten Tomatoes to see how Green Lantern fared in terms of film critics’ response. As of this writing, the “Tomatometer” is at 22% (with an average score of 4.4/10) with 93 critics panning the film and only 26 saying that it’s kind of awesome. Ouch.

However, audience ratings are quite a bit higher, with 82% (with an average score of 9.2/10), so it can’t be that bad.

I haven’t seen the film yet and, due to an insanely busy weekend, probably won’t until early next week, but I do have a couple of thoughts going into the movie that I’d thought I’d share.

Two predictions going in: (1.) Ryan Reynolds’ magnificant abs will make at least one appearance (probably more) and (2.) Mark Strong will play an awesome Sinestro.

Overall, my expectations for this film are extremely low. I mean, even if the film hits a home run, it’s still the first movie in what will probably be a series of movies. As such, there’s probably going to be a lot of (necessary but boring) exposition to establish the Green Lantern Universe. And, it has to satisfy not only comic book nerd but also the general audience who has never read a Green Lantern comic.

I mean, as much as I loved Batman Begins and X-Men, they will never be the best films of their respective series simply because of their function as the first chapter of a series of films and the introduction to a unique narrative universe. The sequels (The Dark Knight and X2: X-Men United) to these movies, however, are awesome simply because the previous films were successful in their function as the first chapter.

While Iron Man 2 seems to break from this pattern as it was still establishing its narrative universe (e.g., resolving Tony’s daddy issues). However, if you look at it as a part of The Avengers franchise, both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 take on the fuction of the first chapter. Collectively, they introduce us to the Avengers universe. Ostensibly, this makes  both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger function more like sequels.

But I digress. It’s also entirely possible that Green Lantern will have the same issues as the Batman franchise had in the late 80s/early 90s and why Superman Returns sucked: DC Comics’ properties have difficult to adapt cinematically.

Shelley Smarz is a comic book scholar and business woman. Her morning was brightened by the simple act of Google Image Searching Ryan Reynolds’ abs. Her least favourite/most-hated comic book movie series is Spider-Man, but even she admits that the second film was the best of the series (thanks exclusively to Alfred Molina).  However, she is concerned about The Dark Knight Rises (as third chapters, such as X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 3, can only be described as cinematic abortions).

DCU Reboot: A Reaction

It’s been a little over two weeks since DC announced that it was rebooting its Universe and releasing a whole slew of #1s. During that time, I’ve struggled to organize my thoughts on the subject, how this will affect the fans and the industry itself.

I should probably preface this by admitting that I am and always will be a Marvel fangirl. Despite the 90s and the foil covers craze, Marvel always struck me as being the hip, slightly older cousin who always had a great time. DC Comics, on the other hand, is like the elderly relation you’ve stuck in a home – grumpy, curmudgeonly, and about as relevant as nipples on the Bat-suit.

DC, for the most part, lacked the type of characters that I could relate to or even care about. Currently, I read two DC-titles: Birds of Prey and Zatanna. Occasionally, I’ll go back to read a trade paperback of Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman or I’ll pick up a Batman trade. I want to get into Geoff John’s run on Green Lantern, but it’s failed (so far) to hook me.

My first thoughts on the reboot announcement was that I was sure that something was going to happen, but not necessarily exactly what DC announced was going to happen. In September, I fully expected that the company would make the announcement that this reboot was the launch of the DCU equivalent of the Ultimate Universe. Though this would have been profoundly manipulative in terms of publicity, I could understand DC jumping on the bandwagon – it was a smashing success for Marvel as both seasoned readers and it brought new fans (to both Ultimate Universe and the main Marvel universe). Plus, DC could look at the disaster that precipitated Ultimatum and NOT DO THAT.

However, given the subsequent announcements, I now doubt that this is the case. So, I’m going to examine the reasons for this reboot and what I think this means for DC Comics and the DCU.

1. Rebooting the DCU will put an end to the long, often convoluted, and completely inaccessible continuity. This will give writers an opportunity to become more creative.

I hate the continuity of the DCU. It collapses in on itself and, with so many crises happening and being undone, it’s cumbersome and unwieldy. I find it difficult to handle DC’s continuity as a reader, I can’t imagine what’d it’d be like as a writer. So, on paper, this reboot makes sense in that writers can pick and choose which stories remain as canon and which ones do not. (Though, I would argue that a good writer can make even the most convoluted continuity accessible and interesting.)

That being said, the DCU is known for its Universe-shattering crises…which are usually undone a couple of years later. Truthfully, I’d be surprised if this reboot was any different. In two or three years, they’ll be crying “Mulligan”, and everything will go back to the way things were before. Whether or not enough fans stick around to see this happen, is another consideration entirely.

2. It will also make the characters more modern/relevant for today’s readers.

I don’t think that transferring characters back to an earlier point makes them more relevant or relatable; obliterating an entire narrative Universe for that purpose is stupid and shortsighted. It’s the same reason why I disliked Brand New Day and the rebooting of the Spider-Man universe (even if it did bring the magnificent Dan Slott to the title): revisionism is nothing more than lazy storytelling. It’s the easy way out and I’m disappointed that DC has such little faith in its creative teams to come up with new narratives for characters steeped in such a rich history.

Am I excited to see what Gail Simone is going to do with Barbara Gordon as Batgirl? FYS (Warning! Link is definitely NSFW and actually contains naughty language within it). But I also think that if they get rid of Oracle while they undo the horribly sexist history of the character (who was disabled out of some misogynist whim but who has also remained in a wheelchair despite other characters having grievous injuries just undone), but they also lose one of the greatest female characters that the DCU has ever seen – largely due to the efforts of a couple of creators who refused to let Babs be used, abused, and discarded.

Also, what happens to Stephanie Brown, who’s pretty kick ass in her own right.

I guess we just have to wait and see. Truthfully, I’d be a lot more concerned if it wasn’t Gail Simone on the title, so I’ll put my trust in her and hope for the best.

3. The Universe will become more accessible to new readers (and seasoned readers). As with the characters, this will be “A fully ‘revamped’ DC Universe for a ‘more modern and diverse 21st century’”.

Comics are a niche market. And, frankly, had I invested all this time in the DCU only to have it rebooted (again), I’d be pissed. A general rule concerning reformulating a product to attract new consumers, you don’t want to change the product so much that you completely alienate your current consumers. Because they’re the ones who have supported your product throughout its life and who will continue to do so (brand loyalty, for the win!). When it comes to changing the formulation of a product – whether it’s changing the scent of laundry soap or disregarding a good chunk of seventy-five years’ worth of continuity – you need to temper the potential loss of current consumers with the potential gain of new ones.

I think that this is going to be like every other Universe-altering event that DC puts out. Current fans will probably give the reboot a chance but will likely abandon the title in the long-run; new readers will pick up the #1s and then nothing else. Best case scenario? The #1 issues will sell well; like 52 and Countdown. And then, just like Trinity and Weekly Comics (remember those?), they’ll be a steady drop in readers until only the hardest of the hardcore will be picking it up.

What makes DC think that this reboot will be any different from any other crisis that happens every couple of years that also fails to “hook” new readers? I mean, there’s more to enticing new readers to pick up your books than by making new-reader friendly/accessible but also INTERESTING and compelling so new readers will want to pick it up. You can’t have one without the other; well, you can, you’ll just fail on two levels: you’ll be unable to attract new readers and you’ll end up alienating old readers.

The new Doctor Who is a magnificent example of the ability to be successful at making a universe with a decades-long continuity and rich mythology accessible and interesting to new viewers starting out of the gate while remaining meta-textual and interesting to those who watched Doctor Who when they were little kids and hid behind the couch whenever the Daleks made an appearance.

4. The announcement is promotional gold.

The more PR that you can garner, the better the product will sell, and there’s a windfall, in the short-term. But the problem is DC’s taking a profoundly short-sighted view on this. Again, I refer back to the weekly series (Countdown, 52, Trinity) that were successful and that eventually failed because DC lacked the foresight to stop milking a good thing when they had it (and a creative team to keep it going).

Frankly, if you want to really reap the promotional benefits of this news and attract new readers, I’d recommend a monthly title that’s just a good, self-contained story (think more like individual episodes of Law and Order rather than the long drawn-out convoluted mythology of Lost, guys). If there’s a great creative team behind it, people will buy it. It’s an awesome starting point for new readers (who will then become interested in the characters and go on to read the monthly series) and, for established fans, will be a fun little detour. You wouldn’t even need a dedicated creative team but have artists and writers pop by to tell a story. If DC can consistently produce quality books, I think they’d be able to overcome the potential problem of inconsistent readership (for example, individuals only picking up issues that have a certain character showcased or that have a certain creative team).

5. Same day digital distribution

I’m torn about this part of DC’s plan. On the one hand, this is pretty awesome since digital distribution is where the publishing industry is heading (though whether or not print will ever completely die is another discussion). However, it’s still in its infancy. On the other hand, this is also bad news for direct market retailers as they are now competing with DC directly for consumers. And I don’t want to be prematurely announcing obsolescence of direct market retailers. They’re not just going to suddenly disappear (for the lucky ones, I don’t think that they’re ever going to completely disappear, either). Not enough people have bought into digital distribution and a lot of people (myself included) have a number of issues with paying the same amount of money for a digital copy (with no bonus features) when, theoretically, a digital copy should be easier (and cheaper) to produce and deliver.

DC hasn’t sold me on the business case. Frankly, this seems more like the death rattles of a company rather than a rebirth.

Shelley Smarz is a fangirl, comic book scholar, and business woman. A big fan of both X-Men: First Class (if you thought she was a fan of the Xavier/Magneto Ho Yay! before, she’s a full-on shipper now!) Thor (especially, though not exclusively, due to Colm Feore’s appearance as King of the Frost Giants), she’s excited for the release of Green Lantern tomorrow and for Captain America: The First Avenger later this summer.