Vicious Cycle

Hello everyone. Below is my latest post for comicommand.

A Vicious Cycle

grayson

After reading The Boys, I decided to check out Invincible due to a friend’s recommendation. Invincible follows the exploits of Mark Grayson, the teenaged son of one of Earth’s greatest heroes, as he discovers his powers and begins fighting crime.

I have previously discussed how the most popular superheroes, such as Superman, can serve as archetypes for future creations.  With their 1930s and 1940 origins, Superman and the members of the Justice League were not only some of the first superheroes, but they have become a benchmark for future creations. These heroes helped to create the superhero comic. Their powers became part of the prototypical image of a superhero, super strength, flight, super speed etc.

The Boys and Invincible both feature versions of The Justice League. The Boys has “The Seven”, while Invincible has “The Guardians of The Globe”. The Guardians of The Globe are so similar in that they are undoubtedly a homage to the Justice League. Their appearance, as well as their powers mirror heroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. One such hero, Darkwing, has no powers but uses gadgets and fighting skills to combat crime.

invincible-ultimate-collection

The Seven is lead by Homelander, whose costume has a similar colour scheme as Superman’s. The Homelander also has similar powers, including heat vision. The Seven were all created through genetic modification, but all have cover stories that are given to the public. The public believes the Homelander is an alien who crash-landed on earth as an infant.

Queen Maeve’s cover story is that she is Empress of the Netherworld, similar to Wonder Woman being a princess of the otherworldly Amazons.

While these examples are glaringly obvious ones, which were intended by the creators. Invincible and The Boys are both satire and deconstruction of superheroes. The Boys shows a world where superheroes are morally corrupt celebrities, and Invincible features a twist on the Superman origin story that has tragic consequences for the its protagonist. Since the members of The Justice League came first, it can be hard to create heroes who lack any similar powers or tactics. The most interesting part of the archetypes is seeing how these archetypes created an ideal of morality that led to many subsequent creations.

gaurdians-of-the-globe

Antiheroes such as The Punisher and Deadpool were created to be a marked contrast from the shining pillars of heroism seen in the early comics. As time progressed, every character underwent arcs where their image was altered, in order to keep them relevant to a changing world. Superman: Birthright featured a version of Pa Kent that was reluctant to see his son use his powers for good, knowing the fear they could generate. Batman comics may have been campy at times but the character has now evolved into the quintessential dark superhero. Meanwhile, Superman still has the image of a light-hearted hero, even though decades of comics offer much more variety.

Characters created in the 1930s and 1940s still shape superhero comics, whether they are being admired, criticized or deconstructed. Arguably, comics that don’t revolve around superheroes might not be as popular if it wasn’t for the large slate of comic films. When people feel like a market is congested, they often seek something new. Comics are a world of their own, where praise and criticism can still feed the same cycle.

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.

100 Bullets #92

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

Quick Update

Hello everyone,

I’m currently writing another piece for comicommand, which will hopefully be posted tonight or tomorrow on the site. I’ll then have it posted here after.

I have been posting more fiction to the wmoviegrapevine instagram. I started off posting short excerpts from some of my older poems, but then drifted towards non-fiction more since I started using daily life as more of an inspiration for my blog pieces and my instagram posts. I started returning to posting fiction pieces more often on wmoviegrapevine over the past week and have found that there has been greater engagement with this pieces: more likes and followers. I am nearly at 100 now, and was able to amass 20 new ones in a relatively short time.

Posting fiction pieces more also means that I have nearly exhausted the material from my poetry pieces. For that reason I want to start writing fiction pieces for the site more. I can then use these fiction pieces for the instagram posts and continue to build an audience. I think that this will also help me as I continue writing The Visitor again.

As I mentioned in my last update, I was caught up in vanity metrics for a while. I was paying attention to followers and likes, losing track of the main purpose of the account: getting more followers to the site. I have now installed Google Analytics but wish I had done it earlier. Now I can’t see if anything I’ve done with my social media since the beginning has helped to increase site traffic. All I can do now is monitor the traffic from this point on.

 

 

Old Man Logan

Hello everyone,

Here is the latest piece I wrote for comicommand. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Old Man Logan - Boy Is He Angry

Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading the first volume of The Ultimates years ago, I wondered if Mark Millar’s writing skills were a little over-hyped. The series had great moments for sure, but overall I wasn’t that big a fan of it. I’d heard about Old Man Logan for years and it has popped up in discussion much more with with the development of the final Wolverine film. Hugh Jackman was pictured on set with a thicker, grey beard and many people began to speculate that the film would use the story-line. Hugh Jackman also referenced the story-line during comic-con. It is likely that the film will use some elements from the story but it has been made clear the film will likely introduce X-23 and branch off with a new version of the character.

After reading Desi’s article on Old Man Logan, and numerous glowing amazon reviews, I made the commitment and ordered my own copy. The story follows an older Wolverine in a USA that is now divided into four villain territories, with most of the heroes now dead or in hiding after one night where the villains banded together to eliminate their foes. This story did not disappoint. I read about the story online before buying it and the thing that intrigued me most was how the super villains would manage to eliminate the heroes.

He's Making A List And Checking It Twice

This aspect of the story also proved to be the most well written and the one that my mind keeps going back to. One thing we probably never think about when reading comics is the villain to hero ratio. Every hero has their own rogues gallery. With a shared comic universe, many of the villains overlap but most can be tied to a particular arch-nemesis. In Old Man Logan, the estimate ranges from anywhere from twenty to fifty villains per hero. Once all of this power is organized into one attack, it is easy to see how the heroes could fall. Villains might normally be somewhat selfish in their pursuits, but by banding together and by creating their territories, they still accomplish more together than they could have individually or in smaller groups.

The epic battle that created this new world is only alluded to, but that ends up being enough. We see the skeletons of Loki and a giant skeleton of Hank Pym, and our minds fill in the blanks from there. One of the most powerful scenes is the reveal of Captain America’s death at the hands of the Red Skull.

We don’t see this fight either. We only see an injured cap lying on rubble, with his body partially crushed by debris. He can only watch as Red Skull gloats of the new world that he and the other villains will create. After so many years as a man out of time, Cap still sees his worst nightmare come to life. There are no words from him, only a tear.

A Panel From Old Man Logan #7

The most powerful moment in the comic comes when we delve into Wolverine’s past. In this apocalyptic future, Logan is no longer Wolverine. He has taken a vow of nonviolence and has rejected his old persona. he hasn’t bared his claws in fifty years. As the story begins it is implied Logan was traumatized on the day of the attack but it is hard to imagine what could break him. When we are told the full story, it becomes clear why Logan was broken. One illusion by Mysterio led Wolverine to kill all of the X-Men, making each member look and smell different. When we see the event from Logan’s point of view, we see him end the battle by brutally stabbing Bullseye. That moment is tainted when we realize it was Jubilee who was butchered.

As Logan’s journey continues we see The Red Skull again, who is in the habit of wearing Captain America’s costume. He wears the skin of his foes, likes the ancients. However, it appears that he almost misses his foe, monologuing about how he could still defeat Captain America if they were to fight again. It is implied with this scene that villains might lose their purpose without heroes. This is also implied when Wolverine fights this universe’s villainous Hulk. The Hulk implies that he got bored and killed Logan’s family because he wanted Logan to come to him: he missed their fights. We often say a hero is only as good as their villains. Without any heroes, Hulk admits he went from being a villain to being a landlord.

Old Man Logan Vs Captain America

Old Man Logan is a grim story, but it demonstrates that grim and good are not antonyms when discussing comic books. This mindset is far too prevalent now, especially among moviegoers. Some of Millar’s previous attempts to add a more adult spin to comics were failures in my opinion, such as his perverted version of the Hulk in The Ultimates. Some aspects of The Hulk do bring the story down a bit here, such as the hillbilly Hulk descendants. The fact that these hillbillies are products of incest between Hulk and She-Hulk could also throw people off as well, but I actually found this to be one of the better-justified changes for this alternate story-line. Banner explains that she was the only person he could mate with to breed mutant offspring, although he says this in much cruder terms. Overall, Old Man Logan is another reason that I look forward to discovering more that comics have to offer.

Is Batman An Anti-Hero?

Hello everyone,

Below is a piece I did for comicommand last week. Writing a new piece for them today that I’ll repost here as well. Feel free to check out the article on comicommand as well.

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I was recently reading a blog post detailing the author’s favourite anti-heroes. As expected, characters like Rorschach and Wolverine were near the top of the list but the author stated that he doesn’t consider Batman to be an anti-hero. The term “anti-hero” is a broad one, but generally it refers to a character who functions as a force of good but displays traits and moral ambiguity that is more typical of villains. For example, Wolverine is considered an anti-hero due to his violent methods of eliminating his enemies and character traits such as his aggressiveness and anti-social personality.

Of course it is easy to see Batman as a hero when compared to characters such as The Punisher, or more drastic examples like Alex from A Clockwork Orange. However, many anti-heroes are best presented, or fleshed out, when presented in contrast to the other characters in their universe. Wolverine’s loner tendencies are in contrast to Cyclops’s or Jean Grey’s role as leaders of the X-Men, Rorschach’s moral absolutism and anti-social persona are in contrast to Nite Owl’s morals and personality. In a sense, the term anti-hero can often be relative.

In the case of Batman, his qualities are best viewed in contrast to Superman’s. Although there are popular variations in the comics, Superman’s typical characterization makes him a symbol of light and hope. Superman’s world can be grim but it is his optimism that makes him a symbol of hope. Superman is also a figure who is less afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, being able to quickly form relationships with other heroes and present an air of compassion to civilians.

addd

One of the best examples of this contrast is a clip from the old Batman Animated Series. We first see Superman save a child who was stuck on a transmission tower, after climbing it for a dare. After saving the child, Superman gives him a pep talk about responsibility, encouraging him to be more careful. After Batman pulls two teens from the roof of a train, he only warns them that they’ll fry if they keep playing chicken.

Both characters are heroes, and have compassion for human life, but Batman’s much colder personality generates fear instead of the admiration that Superman receives. Here we can see Superman as an archetypal “good guy”: noble, courageous, and compassionate.

Batman is also a stark contrast to Superman due to his Machiavellian tactics.BatmanvSuperman was heavily criticized for the justification it gave for Batman to want to fight Superman, but the film did touch on the paranoia that defines the character. While Superman openly tries to build relationships with other members of the Justice League, Batman uses his time to analyze their strengths and weaknesses and form contingency plans. It is a noble cause, but the betrayal of his teammate’s trust takes him out of the territory of a conventional hero. The Injustice comics demonstrate this further when Batman disables Cyborg by planting a virus on him. Cyborg later discovers the virus was created the day that he and Batman met.

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Speaking of methods, Batman’s use of torture to gather information from criminals is also a sharp contrast to Superman’s. Batman may not kill, but he is willing to break teeth and bones in his pursuit of justice. Superman may end up doing the same thing when fighting an enemy, but he disproves of using these methods to interrogate criminals.

Although Batman can be seen as an anti-hero by these standards, it is also true that conceptions of what a hero are can change. I have spoken to people who see “boy scout” characters like Superman as boring characters, who lack as much complexity and depth as characters like Batman. This can then lead people to see Batman as simply a darker hero, but still a conventional hero. It was easier to label Batman as an anti-hero when he initially debuted, the shadow to Superman’s light. As time goes on and audiences become more inundated with anti-heroes in several mediums, maybe Batman can pale in comparison to his alternatives.  We now have Lobo, Deadpool, Constantine, The Comedian and so on.

Batman may be an anti-hero when we compare him to more conventional heroes like Superman and The Flash, but if we go to the other end of the spectrum, does he still belong in that category?