Birds of Prey Eats the Seed Corn

What does it mean when a movie doesn’t do well?

It means it didn’t “find an audience” it didn’t appeal to enough people. Not that it doesn’t appeal to anyone. How much is “enough”?

To make money.

Now, I suppose that Christian Toto is right enough in his overall explanation for why Birds of Prey didn’t find its audience. Get Woke, Go Broke and all that. You can’t build an audience by deconstructing it.

But I’ve got a more direct explanation for why no one went to see Birds of Prey:

Nobody Cares.

Real quick, what’s the difference between Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn?

Wonder Woman is a hero. Harley Quinn is nuts.

Harley Quinn is not a character to build a movie around. She will not stay put in a protagonist’s role. Like the Joker she serves, she is at her best when protean and chaotic, performing cunning tricks for dastardly purposes. She’s not the Good Guy.

Now, you can make a story for how people become Not Good Guys. Joker had a big success with that. It can be done. People like Harley Quinn because she’s murderous and silly, an entertaining package in a Rogue.

But she’s not a hero.

So you end up putting a bunch of secondary characters around her, to give it that Avengers vibe that everyone loves. But The Avengers works because everyone knows Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, etc. They are top-tier Marvel characters. Who the hell is Cassandra Cain? How niche is Black Canary? These are not box-office draws.

If Suicide Squad had left people with good feelings, there would have been a bigger audience for Birds of Prey. But even though Suicide Squad made money, it was a disappointment. So as much fun as Margot Robbie is in the Harley Quinn suit, the audience for her movie among fans is not as big as it could have been. Throw some sMaSH tHe pATriARchY on there, and you’ve got a recipe for “nah…”.

You Ever Dance With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight? In Praise of the First Batman Movie

Yes, I know. The first Batman movie came out in 1966, and was filled with moments of epic hilarity such as “Some Days You Just Can’t Get Rid of a Bomb!” I watched it a little while ago with my oldest. It’s grand, campy fun. We all know what I’m talking about, nerds.

Red Letter Media, casting about for horrible movies to mock, as they do, settled upon supplying a commentary track for Batman & Robin, the ne plus ultra of ridiculous cartoony nipples-on-body-armor dreck that sank the franchise like a filagreed Batmobile at the bottom of the harbor until Nolan made art out of it.

And I suppose that said moldy pile of creative leavings deserves the mockery. I say “suppose” because I was wise enough not to see it, having been warned by my brother how bad it was. I wasn’t really that interested anyway. The franchise had been declining since the first sequel. Yeah, I said it. Batman Returns, the one that still had Keaton as Batman and Burton directing, is a confused, sloppy pile of whatever that people got excited about at the time because it had Michelle Pfeiffer in a tight leather suit with a whip (once, in the before time, in the long long ago, that was a thing). It has Penguin as some kind of drooling special-needs freakazoid rather than the most intellectually astute of Gotham’s rogues, and the actual bad-guy is Christopher Walken, as some kind of non-canon business dude. It’s boring, and it’s to Batman what Corpse Bride is to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

And Batman Forever is overwrought and underwritten, with way too many threads in the air and none of them given proper time. The silly Schumakerness of it replacis the Goth-ish Burtonic dread with a weird nod to the 1966-style camp, while trying to make us take it seriously. Only Jim Carrey’s over-the-top rubberface Riddler stands out (which is saying something). So overall, anyone would be better off watching the Nolan series, grim as it may be.

But there was that first movie. A movie that stormed the box office in the summer of ’89, proving that they could be successful. A movie that seems to smell like the 1980’s. A movie that was purple and black and bloody and may still be better than anything that followed it.

Read more

Comic Book Post 5.1: The Death and Return of Superman

Pursuant to Comic Book Post #5.

Max Landis, of ChronicleAmerican Ultra, and Red Letter Media fame, parodies the killing and unkilling of Superman in the famous 1993 DC cash-grab. It’s funny, and he makes a salient point at the end about ruining death in comic books (NSFW due to language).

 

Philosophically speaking, death and life are inextricably intertwined, as mutually exclusive states of being must be. Thus, if death is a state into which one can pass in and out of with a wave of the narrative hand, then the stakes of life are shrunk accordingly. The meaninglessness of Superman’s Death just made him the more boring.

Comic Book Post #5

Being the continuance of a series abandoned…

I never read any of D.C.’s New 52, because I objected to it on principle. The whole point of comic books is that they provide the balance of new tales as part of a coninuity. I get that managing said continuity can be a challenge. But re-booting is pointless. Every issue is a reboot.

Plus, stop “killing” characters. It’s lame.

But D.C. Has abandoned all of that, and given us Rebirth, which is supposed to restore everything as it was without erasing the New 52 stuff. So …


This doesn’t mean I haven’t read anything. I checked out the first few issues of Marvel’s Star Wars reboot, and that was fine. Decent Luke storylines, anyway. I stopped because they started spreading the storylines over five or six separate titles, so I have to buy Princess Leia #8 to continue Darth Vader #11 to continue Star Wars #9. And that’s too damn nerdy for me.


I also kept up on Dark Horse’s Conan titles. Conan the Avenger had a wry humor to it, occasionally at the expense of the title character, while Conan the Slayer is tonally more in line with the original Robert Howard stories.  Both are enjoyable, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I also got this:


Because Deadpool is funny, and he makes Spider-Man funnier, and I have the Erik B. And Rakim album this cover references. You got me, Marvel. You got me.

But what finally broke me from my D.C. boycott was a little documentary I caught on Hulu, Batman & Bill, which chronicles the campaign to get D.C. to officially credit the man who created much of the Batman universe, Bill Finger. Bob Kane, who claimed all the credit as the creator of Batman, apparently came up with the name, and not much else. Everything around the name, from the costume, the villains, the secondary characters, even the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, was Bill Fingers work. But Kane made the deal with D.C., so every Batman comic and movie and TV show has “Batman created by Bob Kane” in the credits. Kane died a millionaire and Finger died in poverty and obscurity.

But the truth will out. As early as the 1960’s, people whispered the truth that Batman was not a solo act, but Kane vigorously stuck to the legend. And after he died, so too did D.C. Finally in 2015, after generations of Finger’s heirs and the nerd community shouted loud enough, D.C. agreed to change the credit, starting with the Batman vs. Superman movie.

So I picked up Batman #23, a Swamp Thing crossover with an interesting nihilist villain. It’s well-drawn and appropriately gloomy. And on the first page:

That’ll do, Bats. That’ll do.

March Comic Book Post: Please Don’t Humanize the Comedian

I finally got the last two issues of Three today, and I am absorbing the boulder-to-the-face that is their finale. At the fifth issue, finality. That’s several pleasant layers of verisimilitude mixed with  economy of storytelling. I’m saving it for next month’s post.

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Plus any thoughts she might have about Darth Bader (sic).

Besides, I thought I might chime in on something that DC’s been doing that’s annoying me. No, not killing Batman. That was merely lame. No, not the whole New 52 reboot. That’s merely desperation. No, I’m talking about the whole “Before Watchmen” franchise, and specifically what it did to the Comedian.

On paper, the characters from Watchmen should be ripe for some prequel exploitation. They’re masked heroes who had a decades-long history in an alternate universe. Plenty of story to tell, and plenty of freedom to tell it in – provided you don’t abuse the chronologically-later storyline of the original graphic novel.

But this right here, this is garbage: Read more

November Comic Book Post: The Geek Returneth

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Yesterday I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for years, organize and file my comic books. It took me the better part of a morning, but I’m terribly pleased with the general sense of imposing order on chaos.

I am no more than a dabbler in comic books. I read them sporadically as a kid – Mostly Batman, in the wake of the 1989 film (although I do have a vintage, wrinkled Transformers comic, from that long plotline when Optimus Prime had had a core dump or something and Ratchet was leading the Autobots).

In recent years, I’ve put my money in large-scale graphic novels, to the idea of getting more for my buck. I’ve got the Alan Moore masterpieces (Watchmen, From Hell), a few of the “classic” Batman Graphic novels (The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke), a few lesser-tiered (Dark Victory, Hush), and some of the USE-ALL-THE-DC-CHARACTERS tomes, Infinite Crisis and such.

I also have the Batman that was on the shelves in November of 1976, when I was born. Birthday present from my wife, who – bless her – encourages my nerderies.

Yeah, I’m a DC kid. Deal. Read more