Joker and Harley Quinn- Wish Fulfillment for The Twilight Crowd

As I scrolled through instagram this morning, I came across a post by another user who was upset that people kept arguing that the Harley Quinn and Joker relationship is meant to be a manipulative and abusive one. The user is aware that the relationship is depicted like that in the comics, but argues that the movies don’t portray that. In her mind, the relationship is a case of two people with psychological issues being there for one another. I have previously discussed how people who actually know about the comics are still treated as basement dwelling virgins, since people believe the source material for their beloved films shouldn’t matter. Today’s first post on @moviegrapevine was inspired by my reaction to this delusional user, and I figured I would expand my thoughts here.

In the comics, Harley is often depicted as heavily dependent on the Joker, and arguably experiencing true love. Meanwhile, The Joker sees her as a prized possession or a tool to be used as he pleases. Deleted scenes from Suicide Squad reveal a more abusive relationship. This article describes a scene that was cut (SPOILER ALERT)

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…. from Joker’s helicopter rescue of Harley. In the movie, they share a kiss and it is a sweet moment. In the deleted scene Joker verbally scolds her. There is also  leaked set footage of another scene where The Joker slaps Harley.

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These scenes were cut partly due to WB’s concerns about the film being too dark, especially following the backlash BatmanvSuperman received for its tone. This serves as yet another example of how the “make it fun” mentality can damage a film. We do not have the proper Harley and Joker relationship without the abuse. They are not meant to be an ideal couple. The Joker is unpredictable, selfish and violent. His treatment of Harley should reflect that. Yes, he comes back to recapture her at the end of the film, but that is like a real-life abusive husband buying his wife something shiny after he beats her; It only serves to continue the cycle of abuse. Of course, Harley Quinn puts up with his abuse to her issues with dependency, but I am sick of people arguing their relationship is supposed to be sweet and romantic in Suicide Squad.

The marketing for Suicide Squad focused heavily on Harley Quinn, which was perfectly fine with me since it is her big screen debut. However, the focus on Harley and the related girl power also served to attract the type of audience that would not normally see a comic book film. Instead of female comic book fans or general action film fans, we also attract the woman who would normally pass on this movie to read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight again. Wish fulfillment is a huge part of what makes these kinds of love stories so popular. Erika Leonard, better known as E.L James, admits that her writing was influenced by her own fantasies.

People flock to love stories to imagine themselves as the woman being chased after by the most popular guy in high school, or the woman hooking up with a millionaire. I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I refuse to. I understand the relationship portrayed there is not an ideal one, but from what I understand the BDSM is a consensual part of the relationship. Women can still fantasize about being taken in such a way by a millionaire. It is harder to fantasize about being used and abused by a psychotic clown. So when they are confronted with the truth that their “bae” is actually abusive, they deny it by any means necessary. It ruins the illusion of this sweet relationship with the hot prince of crime (yes, a lot of girls think this Joker is hot). Their real boyfriends are either non-existent or don’t fit their laundry list of ideal traits. e.g. bad boy persona, tattoos. Grow up and take your wish fulfillment elsewhere.

 

100 Bullets

Hello everyone,

My latest blog post for comicommand is up on their site and it is copied below.

100 Bullets

100 Bullets

Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading the much hyped Joker by Brian Azzarello’s much hyped Joker, I found myself somewhat disappointed by it. The concept was great and since The Joker is my favourite villain, I was happy to explore his madness more, but the ending felt incomplete and the overall story wasn’t as engaging as I hoped. 100 Bullets was highly recommended and I figured that I would give it a shot. The entire series runs for 100 issues and I purchased the first volume, which includes issues 1-19.

Now I have a better idea of why Azzarello is a revered author. The concept was what motivated me to buy the comic, revolving around separate stories where people are given an opportunity to take revenge on someone who has wronged them, armed with irrefutable evidence and a gun with 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. This revenge is facilitated by a man known only as Agent Graves.

While the concept is interesting, the comic could easily falter with poor execution. The toughest thing to initially accept was the artwork, which I felt paled in comparison to works like The Walking Dead or Transmetropolitan. Like Joker, some panels are amazingly detailed and well-rendered. Meanwhile, several others looked poorly done. I remember that I felt the same way about the art for the first few issues of The Walking Dead, and I wondered if I might get more used to the art as the story progressed. For the most part I did, but I still feel like the artwork is one of the weaker aspects of the comic.

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Another issue that seemed to carry over from Joker is the way that minority characters are generally depicted. Most of the characters we meet in 100 Bullets are poor ones, so I initially tried to dismiss the ebonics and the stereotypes as being indicative of class, since it also crosses racial lines. However, Killer Croc (who is black) also has similar lines in Joker. Maybe we can argue Croc also grew up poor but the dialogue ends up sounding stale and forced when the writer shoehorns slang into every other sentence. One of Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing is to use regional dialects and slang sparingly, but that isn’t the case here. Series like The Walking Dead handled such dialogue better with characters like Tyrese and Axel, making it flow more smoothly.

With the negatives out of the way, I can say that Azzarello still manages to craft a great story. As the issues continue, the different storylines and characters become more connected. We learn more about Graves, his allies, his enemies and it starts to become clear that the people getting their shot at revenge are likely pawns. Since each issue generally revolves around a different character, with appearances or references by others, one of the biggest challenges is to keep each story as engaging as the previous one. Azzarello accomplishes this well, introducing our new character and their predicament quickly. The stories then snowball from there, from a case study of one person, into a larger exploration of this world. The dialogue is well written when it’s not weighed down by slang. Azzarello also allows the plot’s full details to be revealed slowly. We know who our character is and why they want revenge. Everything else, such as Grave’s goal, is only hinted at piece by piece. We get the feeling we will know all at some point, but we also know that we won’t be learning until near the end of the tale.

The series isn’t perfect and since it won an Eisner award, my expectations are high. However, I am excited to see how the story wraps up.

Travis Clevenger

Suicide Squad- Drowning in Bad Reviews

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Since the first official trailer was released back in January, Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated films of 2016. At this point, Rogue One and SQ hold the top spots.

Another highly anticipated film, BatmanvSuperman, was a disappointment, mainly due to the third act and the presence of Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor Jr. who was in desperate need of some Ritalin.

I gave the film a 6.5/10, and was surprised to learn that Rotten Tomatoes gave it less than 30%. I knew the reviews weren’t good going into the film, but I didn’t realize the reviews were that bad. I can agree with some of the criticisms levied at the film. I understand that the dream sequences were jarring and nonsensical for some, although they did have some comic references that delighted me. I understand that the conflict between batman and superman could have been better developed. I understand the Martha scene could have been executed better, even if the intention was laudable, Doomsday was terribly developed etc.

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Obviously, I can’t say the film was amazing. Ben Affleck was great, Gal Gadot gave a memorable silver screen debut for Wonder Woman etc., the film built off the much aligned destruction in Man of Steel…but the positives are weighed down. I am not a fanboy who rejects reason when defending a film. I understand that the film has its faults, but the hate levied against it seems vastly disproportionate to them. Mainly because a lot of criticism revolves around the film’s tone. This is of course not the only criticism, but it is one that pops up in numerous reviews.

I have previously discussed the ongoing belief that comic book films should be light-hearted and “fun”. I find this funny since the source material doesn’t always fit this criteria. The comic book version of Civil War was not full of witty banter and “fun”, but we get that in the film. I did love the movie and I do like many of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films, but the insistence on a “fun” tone is making the movies become stale to me. It is good to have tonal variety. DC will have more humour with films like Shazam and Aquaman, which will help to balance out the darker films. The Justice League Comic Con footage also shows us a lighter tone, but I hope that more jokes aren’t shoehorned in only to appeal to the horde that thought BvS was too “dark” “brooding” “depressing” etc.

No other genre of films will get panned solely for its tone. No one will say a biopic is bad because it’s depressing, but comic book films seem to be bound by a duty to make their audience laugh. People are used to this and expect this now due to the MCU. Some might be quick to say that the MCU’s films are light because they fit the characters. However, that is not always the case. Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor series, will revolve around Asgardian Doomsday. It would make sense for this film to be dark, at least relative to the previous films. However, a comedy writer was brought in to change the film specifically because they thought the original script was too dark. Again, he was brought in ONLY due to concerns about darkness, not character development, plot etc.

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The humour started with Robert Downey Jr. ad-libbing dialogue in Iron Man (2008), which became a template for the rest of the MCU, and it is now a recognized staple of the Marvel films. Now that Disney owns Marvel, you can bet that there is even more corporate pressure to keep everything light and family friendly. Of course, the Netflix shows are much darker and ones like Jessica Jones aren’t meant for children at all. However, these shows are much cheaper than a $150 million film, so there is less pressure to appeal to a wider audience. It seems like the execs are more willing to experiment with darker themes and tones when crafting a Netflix series. For the moment, any darker Marvel characters will either be watered down on film or available on Netflix. The funny thing is that these shows rarely get criticized for the tone the same way the films do. People don’t say they would be improved if they were more “fun”.

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Point being, Marvel has created a brand that is lighter and I believe people have a much harder time accepting anything else. Even Stephen Colbert has criticized DC for being too dark, referring to Suicide Squad as the “mopey avengers“. This is despite a marketing campaign that has continuously portrayed SQ as a lighter, more “fun” film than BvS. Colbert is not a film buff, or a huge comic fan. When it comes to his interest in these topics, he can be considered a member of the general public. He is a perfect example of how the mindset that DC is too dark has filtered through society. Kevin Fiege has explicitly stated that the MCU will never be dark, arguing that humour is in the “DNA of the movies”. There you have it, a commitment to sticking to the same tone for every single MCU film, despite the character or story arc being explored. It’s a restrictive policy but one that many people commend. They have adapted to expect this tone from their comic book films and they retroactively ascribe the “fun” to the source material.

Aside from the issue of expecting light-heartedness, it seems like people are much more forgiving of a film’s faults if it is light-hearted. I saw a tweet from someone today that was criticizing SQ directory, David Ayer, for his “snarky” response to the negative reviews. @4starfilms didn’t appreciate the response since he has plenty of things to criticize the film for. The funny part, @4starfilms hasn’t seen the film yet. I am not assuming that because it’s not out yet for general audiences yet. I asked him, and he told me he hasn’t seen it. All the criticisms he has for SQ? Solely based on reviews he has read. BvS taught me not to judge a film just by reviews, which was something I did for Fantastic Four (2015).  While @4Starfilsm bashes SQ based only off reviews, a recent review of the new Jason Bourne film also says that the film deserves a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously he doesn’t truly believe that critics are always right. Seems like he was just eager to hate the film. It can be easy to jump on the bandwagon. @4Starfilms is also another person who thinks the tone was one of the main issues for BvS. Seeing a pattern here?

I’m seeing SQ this Saturday and I will reserve judgment until then. Who knows, it might suck, but I won’t bash it prematurely and I won’t say it sucks because of the tone.

 

 

 

Injustice: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Good morning everyone, have another blog post up on comicommand. Feel free to check it out there, but I’ve also copied it below. As I’ve mentioned before, comicommand is always looking for new writers so feel free to reach out for a chance to share any original comic-book related articles.

 

Posted on by

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

In 2013, NetherRealm Studios (best known for Mortal Kombat) released Injustice: Gods Among Us. In an alternate universe, The Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and his unborn child. The Joker uses scarecrow’s fear toxin to make Superman think he sees Doomsday. Superman responds by pushing Doomsday into space, and it is too late by the time he killed a pregnant Lois Lane.  Superman kills The Joker and then establishes a new world order. Five years later, Batman summons the Justice League from the mainstream continuity in order to defeat his Superman.

The game also had a related comic book tie-in that details the five years leading up to the game. When I first heard about the series I thought it would be a cheap cash-in, but a friend recommended the comics and I was soon hooked. The comics are currently in year five, but the writing has been weaker since writer Tom Taylor left the project mid-way through year three. Taylor’s work is sorely missed and I want to take a look back at what made his work on the series so great, namely the characterization of Superman and Batman.

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Firstly, the writing itself was amazing.  Like The Walking Dead, I found that the artwork took a little getting used to, but it was this line that convinced me I should give the comic a chance: “Our world is now ruled by the iron fist of a Man of Steel.” Maybe it’s simple, but it’s also an eloquent way to introduce a version of Superman that is so far removed from the one we are used to.

The strength of the prequel hinged on the believability of Superman’s transformation into a murdering dictator, and Taylor’s work captures it well. I remember watching Batman: Under The Red Hood and hearing Batman say why he chooses not to kill The Joker. Batman knows that if he allows himself to kill just one person, even someone as despicable as The Joker, it becomes too easy to justify making the same decision for every other criminal: “If I go down that road, I’m never coming back.”

I never really understood Batman’s point at the time. I thought it would be easy to make an exception but I see the moral of the story play out with Superman. The Joker had been playing games with Batman for much longer, trying to get Batman to snap. Superman was “easy mode”.  While Superman has faced loss, it is implied that Batman may be mentally tougher. In the comics, Superman has lost his biological parents, his adoptive father, his cousin and an entire planet, but he does not have memories of those people to mourn. Meanwhile, Batman was a witness to his parent’s murder from a younger and highly impressionable age.

Taylor’s work also demonstrates how Superman doesn’t initially become a dictator due to the desire for power. Ultimately, he feels betrayed by Batman. He blames Batman for not killing The Joker earlier and even accuses Batman of loving The Joker. Superman feels as if his best friend cares about a psychopath more than him. Even when the two come to blows over Batman’s attempts to bring the regime down, Superman can’t bring himself to kill Batman, opting to paralyze him instead.

In this fight, we also see Superman resort to torture to get information out of Batman. This was always one of the biggest differences between the characters, and Batman is quick to point out how far Superman has fallen.

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Superman and Batman have always differed in their methods of crime fighting, with Batman being the morally grey figure who was open to torturing criminals. This conflict between the two characters also seems to imply that while Batman may embrace his anger and vengeful side more often, that is what prevented him from truly becoming like the criminals they fight against. Batman had his outlet for his issues, while Superman held himself to a higher standard that only made it easier for him to fall.

As the series progresses, we see that Wonder Woman is eager to step in to replace Lois Lane. She is a key figure that whispers in his ear and guides him to embrace his violent tendencies. Her ancient military background makes her more open to the idea of a dictatorship and her admiration for Superman, as a warrior and friend, makes her more likely to support him. Overtime, we see Superman’s unresolved grief for Lois, and his anger towards Batman transform him into a fearsome dictator.

Since leaving Injustice, Taylor has worked on Superior: Iron Man and several independent titles. The current state of the comics makes it clear that DC suffered a big loss, especially since Taylor could have also transitioned into working on other titles. Fortunately, the first two years of Injustice will always be there as a testament to his work.

 

More Marvel Brainwashing

Due to my schedule for tomorrow, it’s likely that there won’t be a blog post up for Friday night. However, there should still be one up for Saturday and Sunday. I’m also planning on doing a YouTube video over the weekend as well.

Some early reviews of X: Men Apocalypse are in and the film currently has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. After seeing the unwarranted trashing that BatmanvSuperman got, I am not going to let the reviews impact my attendance. BvS was a 6.5 in my opinion, but the 32% it has on Rotten Tomatoes is unwarranted. BvS does have legitimate faults such as Eisenberg’s Luthor and the third act, and I have heard many complaints I can understand, even if I don’t agree. The one complaint I can’t stand is that the tone is an issue. The film is “too dark” “too gloomy”, too “depressing”. The problem is that people now think “dark” and “good” are mutually exclusive. Apparently you can’t have one without the other in a comic book movie, unless it’s for a certain character. People are so used to the MCU’s light-hearted tone that anything that is darker is instantly disparaged. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out this review I found with a quick Google search of “X-Men apocalypse”.

Most of the criticism is levied at the film’s tone. Too “gloomy”, “dour”, not enough fun. Most of the review just compares the X-Men film to MCU films, saying it is different than them and therefore inferior. That is not how a review of a different franchise should work. Judge the film as a single unit. The last paragraph wraps the review up with comparisons to the MCU. Although the author says that every film doesn’t need the MCU’s level of banter, she obviously does not mean that if the tone bothered her so much. This mindset that dark now equals bad, is a perfect example of corporate brainwashing.