A brand new video after a long hiatus… please like and subscribe:
Who Is Wonder Woman
In recent years, Wonder Woman has finally gotten the respect she deserves. That’s in no doubt due to the absolutely amazing reaction from the cinema going public to the Wonder Woman movie starring the spectacular Gal Gadot.
WW has always been one of DC Comics ‘Big Three’, the other two being Superman and Batman, both of whom have been extraordinarily successful in other medium: video games, cartoons, TV shows, movies… but realistically WW has only ever worked before on TV in the seventies, and even then, it took three goes to get that right.
I’m getting ahead of myself through and I should answer the question that is asked by this very trade paperback: who IS Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman is a character owned by DC comics and was created by William Moulton Marston, and polyamorous psychologist who also invented the polygraph machine, and first appeared in All-Star Comics issue 8 in 1941, with art from Harry G. Peter.
She is a being from the island of Themyscira, a place inhabited by a race of warrior women, and after proving herself through a series of trials, Wonder Woman… or Diana as she is better known, travels to ‘man’s world’ as an emissary of peace.
Now this origin is where Wonder Woman has her problems: over the years, Superman and Batman’s origins have more or less stayed the same, but Wonder Woman’s have occasionally been reinvented, and in that reinvention become a character whose solid foundations are shaky.
Funny enough, though all that change has rocked those very foundations, this trade paperback, collecting Wonder Woman numbers 1 through 4, and annual 1, embraces all that variety and even celebrates it.
This collection has a really interesting introduction by Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of Vertigo’s Y: The Last Man and Image Comic’s Saga which is a real interesting take on the Spirit of Truth.
Story: This story takes place after a massive upset in the DC universe, as Wonder Woman has killed a man known as Max Lord: the founder of Justice League International, and unbeknownst to everyone, a psychic villain with the power to coerce others into doing as he pleases… by breaking his neck.
This story takes up Wonder Woman’s life a full year after that event, and even though she has been exonerated of his murder, she still feels she may no longer be the symbol of hope she professed to be, and so, hands the title of ‘Wonder Woman’ to her younger ‘sister’, Donna Troy.
N.B.: I put the word ‘sister’ in inverted commas as Donna Troy is another character with an origin that has been screwed up over and over and I honestly can’t remember which this one is.
Anyway, Diana has reinvented herself, with the help of Batman and Superman, as Agent Diana Prince and is teamed up with Nemesis, an older DC character at the Department of Metahuman Affairs and gets to face a cavalcade of her enemies, from Cheetah, to Dr Psycho, and even Circe, who even takes on the mantle of Wonder Woman.
Will Diana Prince reveal herself as being the real Wonder Woman, or is the secret identity more important to who she has grown into?
This entire tale of Wonder Woman is a great read, and even though it does have a bunch of guest stars, it never gets bogged down in re-introducing them. Allan Heinberg, a TV and comic writer who is also responsible for the script for the Wonder Woman movie has created a cool spy story, with a bunch of superheroes thrown in for good measure, and it is a heap of fun and runs at a great clip.
Also, it re-invents Wonder Woman without disrespecting what has come before, and even the 60s martial arts master I-Ching gets a mention, as does Diana’s white jumpsuit from the same era.
As a side note: I must admit to having a sly smirk on my mouth when Hercules is re-introduced, and Nemesis refers to him as ‘the REAL one’, as DC’s Hercules appeared in comics over 20 years earlier than Marvel’s more famous one.
Art: Boy, oh, Boy, do I love the art in this book!
There’s is no doubt that I adore the art of Terry Dodson, and when inked by his partner Rachel Dodson, is a perfect storm of super powered heroes that never… Ok, rarely… descends into the anti-storytelling of the nineties books that were cheesecake and beefcake shots. All of the poses of the characters are powerful looking and the story is told really well with some amazing choices of layout.
The redesign of most of the characters fit this story really well. Diana as secret agent looks tough, Hercules looks godlike, Donna Troy, who with a lesser artist would just look like The Diet Coke version of Diana, has her own look and Circe villainy is apparent by the spectacular lighting choices made.
As a side note, there is also a back-up tale by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal with Dave McCaig which is like a revisiting if all the main Wonder Woman characters origins. Frank’s art is as good as it generally is, his superhero bodies are always super-heroic, but occasionally there are some facial expression that look out of place. There’s not really much substance to the story as it is like a sports recap.
WIRIA: It’s a gem that is worth re-reading if only for the Dodson’s spectacular art.
One from the re watch pile…
Comic Book Confidential (1988)
Film: I am and always will be a comic fan. Sure there have been periods of time where I haven’t collection, the post-Image world of the 90s for example (I’m sorry guys, I like the old artwork, and the anime/ graffiti styled artwork of those guys never rubbed me the right way… I want my superheroes to be done by the old masters like Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, John Buscema and their ilk) and recently I’ve become disappointed with the storylines which seem to be repetitive and basically made to sell the movies. I understand it’s a business but there seems to be a creative lull, which has happened before as the history of comics is circular and fad based. Something hot today will not even be published tomorrow.
Hell, as of this review we don’t even have the cornerstone of the Marvel universe, the Fantastic Four being published, and that was once taglined as ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’.
I do still however get collections of old stuff, and I’m fascinated by the history of the art form too, and my book collection has many ‘history of comics’ books amongst it.
This, however, is Ron Mann’s documentary of the history of comic books and it’s a pretty concise and interesting look at how they came about, but the best thing about this doco is the absolutely essential stories from some of the old men, and young guns, of the industry.
It’s pretty special to know the history of Bill Gaines, and then hear him tell stories himself, and to actually hear my hero, Jack Kirby’s voice, is amazing.
This doesn’t just look at the history of the art of comics, it also takes a walk down the history of comics legacy, and how it was effected by, and how it effected society. There is some great archival footage of the Senatorial Commitee on Juvenile Delinquency and some disturbing stories about court cases where artists and writers were sued for things they wrote or drew.
There is some cool presentations of classic comic covers rarely seen, but occasionally that footage is spoilt by some poorly executed, amateurish animation of the covers which was unnecessary and detracts from the amazing original art.
If you want a brief history of the industry, and one that is American centric as none of the great European or Asian artists really get a look in, this is your place to go, but there is so much more to many of the stories discussed in this doco. Honestly. This doco could do with a 1988 to now sequel!
Ron, are you listening?
Format: This documentary was reviewed with the Australian DVD release which runs for approximately 85 minutes. The film is presented in 4:3 and has a 2.0 audio track, both of which are of various degrees of quality due to the historical nature of some of the footage and audio. It doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment of the film though.
Extras: There is several extra on this disc though the first couple are a bit Kevin Smith indulgent. I guess if you pay someone to turn up you take advantage of the time.
The first note is that this doco from the 80s has a new introduction by Kevin Smith, where he basically points out that even ten years later when his introduction was done, it was still relevant.
A Conversation with Kevin Smith is more ‘ a justification for reading comics by Kevin Smith’ and whilst I get the heart of where it’s coming from I don’t get why I have to justify, or convince someone that adults can read comic, the same as a cricket fan does have to justify to me why he likes it. It doesn’t matter what you dig, just respect each other, and if you think you have to justify your passion to a friend, you need new friends.
Silent Bobs Speaks is a not very funny series of questions aimed at Smith’s ‘Silent Bob’ character. Lame.
There is also a trailer for the film.
The is an interview with director Ron Mann who talks about the making of this film and his career in general.
Last there are text biographies of some of the artists featured in the doco, including Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Jaime Hernandez, Shary Flenniken, Lynda Barry, Victor Moscow, Bill Griffith, Jack Kirby (of course), William M. Gaines, Francoise Molly, Al Feldstein, Art Spiegelman, Sue Coe, Gilbert Shelton, Dan O’Neill, Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, Harvey Pekar, Spain, Charles Burns and Paul Mavrides. They are single paragraph bios so don’t expect an entire indepth history of each person.
WISIA: I have watched this many times and will probably continue to watch it many more times.
One from the re watch pile…
Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013)
Film: I’ve been collecting comics for well over 40 years, and I still love them to death. I do admit that I did have a period in the 90s where I did not buy any, but that was due to Image comics; not the comics or artists themselves as what they did for artists and writers in the industry was long overdue, but the style of their art.
I’m an old school, Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corbin, Robert Crumb guy, so these new flashy artists had no interest to me, and when Marvel and DC started emulating their style, I was out!
Thankfully this didn’t last too long and soon I was back in the fold, enjoying the adventures of masked heroes fighting the good fight against evil, and being a bi-fan: that is, I buy both Marvel and DC comics… but why both? Why in a world where most people buy one or the other, would I get comics from both universes?
The answer is this: I love the realism of most of Marvel’s heroes having a basis in science rather than magic, and without a doubt, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four is still the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, even though as of the date of this review it hasn’t been published for several years.
On the flip side of that, I think that DC’s bad guys are greater than Marvel’s. Lex Luther is a great example: in Marvel comics, his equivalent is a good guy, Tony Stark, a weapons manufacturer who became Iron Man. In reality, those sorts of people are seen by the general public as villains, like Luthor. Luther doesn’t hate mankind or want world destruction, he’s xenophobic against Superman.
In reality, what would mankind do if an alien came to earth? Luthor’s actions are probably more accurate. Acceptable? No, but when are mankind’s actions acceptable?
Another DC villain that I think is possibly the greatest villain of all time is Jack Kirby’s Darkseid. Darkseid is the dictator of a world called Apokalips, and is at odds with the ENTIRE DC universe. You Marvel fans think Thanos is something to be concerned about? Darkseid would eat Thanos for breakfast!
Anyway, this documentary, Necessary Evil, sits as a great companion piece to the previous documentary Secret Origins: The History of DC Comics, which was released three years earlier. Necessary Evil is hosted by Christopher Lee (the ultimate super villain?) and has interviews with creative types from all walks of life. From psychologists to actors, including but not limited to director Zach Snyder, screenplay writer Geoff Boucher, co-creator of Harley Quinn Paul Dini, DC editor Bobbie Chase, DC editor in chief Bob Harras and many many more.
The film features clips from comics, cartoons, video games, animated films and major motion pictures, and displays many incarnations of the various villains, and is not just a great history of the villains of the DC universe, but is also an interesting psychological look at why we love heroes, but love villains even more.
Recommended, but it’s really only for the most devout of DC comics fans.
Format: Necessary Evil was reviewed on a region 1 DVD which runs for 99 minutes. The image is presented in a 1.78:1 image and a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, both of which are pretty good.
Extras: The disc starts with a trailer for DC’s We Can Be Heroes incentive (which is a pretty cool cause http://www.wecambeheroes.org), Man of Steel, the video game Batman: Arkham Origins, the DC animated feature Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and the DC animated TV series, Green Lantern, Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and that’s the entirety of the extras.
WISIA: Being a comic nut, I have to admit to watching this many many times.
One from the to watch pile…
Justice League Dark (2017)
Film: As a teen I read any comic I could get my hands on, and that evolved into me pretty much exclusively reading only Marvel comics. I stopped reading comics in the beginning of the nineties as basically, well, they sucked.
I started reading comics again in the early 2000s. I started with Marvel but drifted to DC, and now read a bit of both. Even though Marvel have nailed down the movies with their cinematic Universe, DC seem to be struggling. The interesting thing though in their animated movies, which are released direct to bluray, are amazing.
The reason is quite simple: there is an assumption that the viewer knows who the heroes are and they don’t feel the need to retell and retell their origin story every time a new one comes out.
I’ve pretty much enjoyed most of them, though their have been a couple that have meandered a little; this is one of them.
Justice League Dark tells of the darker side of the DC universe: when a villain of magical proportions threatens the DC Universe, Batman employs the assistance of those from the darker side of the DCU, including John Constantine and Zatanna, who bring along other magical beings such as Etrigan the Demon, Swamp Thing, Deadman and all the magical powers of the House of Mystery and Black Orchid.
The problem with this story is it’s just not entertaining. The whole thing felt quite flat and dull, and at times I was struggling to maintain any sense of interest. Batman’s inclusion is strictly as lip service to the DCU and even he comes off like he feels like he shouldn’t be there.
That’s not to say the character design and the animation is great, because the film looks fantastic, and I’m really enjoying the character design in these animated features.
Several of the voices will sound familiar as Matt Ryan, who plays the live action TV show Constantine, plays him here too! Zatanna is portrayed by Lara Croft (the video game) actress Camille Luddington and Jason O’ Mara returns as Batman. Most of the voice acting is pretty cool except for one glaringly awful choice which is Nicolas Tutturro as Deadman. I always expected Boston Brand to have an other-worldly voice, not that of an annoying stand-up New Yorker.
Unfortunately this was a big miss for me, but I do hope the JLD return for another adventure, maybe just with a better thought out story, and without the yoke of Batman following them around like a lost dog.
Format: This Australian region B bluray release of Justice League Dark runs for 75 minutes and is presented in an excellent 1.78:1 image with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track of similar quality.
Extras: This disc opens with a trailer for Wonder Woman (the live action one with Gal Gadot) before taking us to the menu screen.
As always with these DC animated films, we are treated to a look at the next film to be released, in this case it being Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. I love the Teen Titans so I for one can’t wait!
The Story of the Swamp Thing looks at the genesis of Len Wein’s creation of Swamp Thing, a DC muck creature created in the 70s who became a staple of DC’s Vertigo line in the 80s and beyond. This has interviews with Wein, artist Kelly Jones, writer Mike Carlin and others and is one of my favourite docos of this type on these discs. Still a shame Alan Moore wouldn’t make any sort of commentary on the character.
Did You Know? is broken into 4 mini docos ‘Constantine Origin’, ‘The Color of Magic’, ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘Deadman Casting’. These are just 30 to 60 second vignettes talking about various aspects of the movie and it’s characters. Interestingly, the casting of Deadman is talkied up when in fact I think his vocal casting was the worst.
Justice League Dark at the New York Comic Con 2016 sees the creators and cast of the film talking about the film. It’s a pretty interesting look at the challenges of making the continuity of these new ‘animated universe’ features. It ends with a pretty good Q and A session too.
There are two other ‘sneak peeks’ for previous releases of Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters, as well as episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold guest starring Deadman and The Demon.
There is also trailers for the DC All Access App and Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
WISIA: Whilst it’s not my favourite one of these DC animated features, I’ll probably watch it again just because of Jack Kirby’s Demon making an appearance.
The cat is out of the bag, and Aquaman is out of the box. Check it out!
Sadly, the TWP has to report today the death of multi Eisner Award comics writer/artist Darwyn Cooke, who has passed after a fight with an aggressive cancer, aged only 53.
Darwyn Cooke gave us the magical DC: The New Frontier which took the DC universe back to the 50s/ 60s, which his art style, a combination of Archie comics and Fleischer Superman animations, suited perfectly. The story was wonderful and was a who’s who of the DC Universe. The comic won multiple Eisner, Shuster and Harvey awards, and when re-released in the ‘Absolute Edition’ collected format, won another award for Best Graphic Album.
The series was also adapted in DC’s original animation series as Justice League: The New Frontier, which was magnificent: certainly one of the best of the series.
He was also given the task of creating essentially unwanted stories of the Watchmen which were to be prequels to the Alan Moore/ Dave Gibbons tale. I originally had no interest in this idea, but his work on theses series was spectacular.
I am not a convention guy, and don’t live in the US so I never got the chance to meet Mr. Cooke, so my appreciation can only come from his words and pictures. His stories were always an fantastic read, and when mixed with his artwork, they became almost disconcerting as the art always showed an element of fun: I always felt like his characters were having the time of their lives in every single panel, even when looking grim, I still had a feeling they were thinking, like some kind of deranged puppy ‘I’m a superhero, I’m a superhero’.
Of course, these were only two of Mr. Cooke’s works, and I can’t suggest everything he has done, but please, research his name and track done any of his work: you won’t be disappointed.
Sadly, we comics fans will never get to experience that joy again, and the TWP would like to pass on it’s condolences to Mr. Cooke’s family and work colleagues.
Please do two things today: hugs your families and make sure they know they are loved as life is far too short, and please, if you have some spare cash, make a donation to one of the many cancer research charities. Cancer is a scourge, worse than any Lex Luthor or Joker, and the TWP would like to suggest a charity dear to our hearts, Bear Cottage:
and remember, it’s not how much you give, just that you have given.