NoO

It’s sort of the end of the first week of Visual Reflux. I soft-launched with the Captain Marvel post last weekend (a few days before Stop Button got it) and I’ve been pretty good about getting up a post a day. Until today. Well, until yesterday. I was a little burned out yesterday, which—as I write this post—is still today for me. I started to write this kind of a post—the nothing post—yesterday (meaning Thursday), but wanted to write that Robocop: Last Stand #1 post instead. Mostly because I wasn’t sure how I was going to write that post. I know how to write these posts; you just type until you hit the word count and then you wrap it up real quick. I thought about doing some link posts but I don’t have much to say at length about the new Avengers: Endgame trailer or poster. I hope they don’t screw up. I have no reason to think they will. Kevin Feige’s turned into a fine producer, regardless of the PGA thing or the whole cappie situation.

I also have nothing to say at length about James Gunn being back for Guardians 3, other than a tweet about hoping Marvel somehow screws WB over—Gunn is making “TheSuicide Squad for WB before he makes Guardians. Given the first Suicide Squad is one of the few recent films I detest more than Guardians 2, it’ll be interesting to see—on home video—what Gunn does with that crap pile.

I don’t think there was any other significant entertainment news. There might have been some comic stuff, but nothing worth discussing at length. Even at the link length, which I haven’t really figured out yet. I’ll probably come up with word count guidelines for every post type (spoiler: it’s mostly 350; 350 for these “Summing Up” posts, 350 for the “Focused” comic—and eventually TV—posts). I don’t actually know how long the Robocop 2 or Alien 3 comic posts went. I should probably figure that data into the mix.

And look at that red indicator… I’m done with this post.

It’s early days with Visual Reflux. Really, really early days considering it’s self-hosted and not even getting the spam hits off WordPress.com. So I’m trying to establish writing behaviors without doing anything too themed. Like, it’s not worth the time to link to all the Robocop movie posts on Stop Button or all the Robocop comic posts on Comics Fondle—which I considered—because the eyes aren’t there. Here. The eyes aren’t here.

I once wrote a story with no Os in it. I tried to write it without any Is first, but it was too hard.

That story was weird.

Robocop: Last Stand #1 of 8

Robocop: Last Stand #1

Robocop: Last Stand; Boom! Studios; August 2013; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.

Robocop: Last Stand is, conceptually, a tough sell. It’s a comic book adaptation of a movie no one liked (Robocop 3) when it came out twenty years before the first issue of Last Stand dropped. It’s ostensibly based on Frank Miller’s original screenplay, but when a different publisher did a “based on Frank Miller’s original screenplay” adaptation of Robocop 2 (just called Frank Miller’s Robocop), it turned out Miller’s Robocop 2 script included a lot of his Robocop 3 too. That much-hyped adaptation, Frank Miller’s Robocop, wasn’t just a bad comic, it was a notoriously late one. It’s also not like there had been any particularly good Robocop comics over the years. But the license kept bopping around as one publisher after another tried to hit Robo-gold.

So it’s interesting Last Stand is so… well… good.

The comic is a perfect storm of creative impulse—Steven Grant’s adaptation of the film (which he’d already adapted for Dark Horse back in 1993) is one event after another, with Korkut Öztekin’s punky cartooning tying them together. This first issue has plenty of action violence, but never gets particularly gory. Or, more accurately, Öztekin doesn’t focus on the gore. He emphasizes the action, focuses on the characters.

The issue opens with the issue’s only direct tie-in to the Frank Miller’s Robocop series, which Boom! (Last Stand publisher) reprinted when they picked up the Robo-license. It’s a TV ad showing the future dystopia, which the movies did a lot better. The TV segment also reveals some of the ground situation—Robocop has gone rogue. The newscasters, again played by Leeza Gibbons (who hadn’t returned for the actual Robocop 3) and Mario Machado don’t buy it. The evil company, OCP, has fired all the cops. They’ve also renamed their urban housing project for some nonsensical reason. Maybe something with the license?

Seriously, if it weren’t for Öztekin, the most interesting thing about Last Stand would definitely be the behind-the-scenes editorial mandates.

There’s an action intro to Robocop, saving a streetwalker from the OCP cops, then the action cuts to a new character, Marie. She’s trying to find Robocop. Only Grant doesn’t establish her name so her identity is unclear; she could even be Nancy Allen. Only she’s not because there’s a flashback to Nancy Allen dying and making Robocop promise to avenge her, which he’s apparently doing now as he takes on the OCP cops.

Meanwhile, OCP is trying to kick people out of their homes in Old Detroit and they’ve only got five days to do it, then OCP and their Japanese financing partners will default. There’s a big expository altercation involving a company suit, Bertha (who everyone always assumed was a Frank Miller nod to Martha Washington, but who knows), and then Robocop. Öztekin gets to do a big action scene involving an ED-209 robot, then the issue ends awkwardly with Marie—introducing herself finally—tracking down Robocop.

The awkward finish, which leaves the scene hanging mid-conversation, is just the sort of awkward Last Stand needs. Grant and Öztekin can only do so much, with a Robocop 3 adaptation, with a Robocop comic, and the truncated finish seems to acknowledge it. Grant’s not willing to make Robocop a more traditional protagonist, but he’s also shifting the spotlight. Not in this first issue, anyway.

The comic functions as a peculiar hook, distinguishing itself—in no small part thanks to Öztekin—from all those conceptual limitations and obligations.

Maybe it’s all thanks to editors Alex Galer and Eric Harburn. But whoever’s responsible… it’s a Robocop comic where you want to read the next one, which is quite a feat.

Where’s the emoji for the finger in the throat to gag?

So Charles Roven, who produced such gems as Justice League and Suicide Squad, says don’t call Wonder Woman 2 a sequel because it’s “the next iteration of Wonder Woman.” What kind of marketing nonsense is he speaking? A very familiar kind. I can’t remember who started the “don’t call it a sequel” movement, but I feel like it might have either been Kevin Feige talking about Phase 2 or it might have been someone at WB talking about Dark Knight or, hell, the X-Men producers because if you go by Roven’s definition of what makes a sequel… almost nothing at all is a sequel. Including all the Die Hard sequels.

I get why WB is going to be grabbing their pearls right now. They shit-talked Captain Marvel only for it to be a huge hit. Shazam! is supposedly good but it’s New Line, not Roven and company. But this is, frankly, an utterly pointless flex.

And completely predictable and unoriginal. Through in some terrible CG and it’s just Warner being Warner

Wonder Woman 1984 is coming to theaters in 2020 and will be the second movie featuring the iconic female DC hero. However, in some puzzling news, DC revealed the movie is not a sequel to the 2017 movie.

The covers alone

I could say a lot about DC doing a Black Hammer crossover, but I won’t bother. Instead, just look at the cool covers for it.

The five-issue miniseries is written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Michael Walsh.

 

Catch your shut eyes

Room

Room; A24; 2015; 118m; on home video.

Room is the story of a woman (Brie Larson) and her son (Jacob Tremblay) who, after seven years in captivity by rapist Sean Bridgers (Tremblay being born as a result of one of those rapes), escape and have to adjust to the outside world. The film is from Tremblay’s perspective, with some occasional narration. Though never when the film actually needs narration. Screenwriter Emma Donoghue adapted her own novel, which kind of explains why the perspective is so unchanging, even when it’s not working on film. There are these scenes with Tremblay without narration where his behavior begs explanation. Instead, Donoghue and director Abrahamson just let the audience ponder. Abrahamson actually ignores the presence of the narration because he’s concentrating on Larson. Room wants to be both through Tremblay’s perspective but really be Larson’s movie.

It doesn’t work out in either department. Larson gets this amazing character and character arc, but then when the movie needs her to go away, she’s gone. Only the movie then sticks with Tremblay, which makes sense if it’s a first person novel, but not the movie because just because child Tremblay doesn’t understand what’s going on, the audience does. It’s a dodge. But then the film doesn’t really go deep on Tremblay, instead it just shifts that perspective to Joan Allen and William H. Macy as the grandparents. Of the two, Allen gets the better part but Macy gets the better scenes. There’s never enough with Larson and either of them, since it’s all got to be tethered to Tremblay.

However, outside its problems with perspective—both in the direction and on a fundamental level with the screenwriting–Room is outstanding. Abrahamson and editor Nathan Nugent work up this harrowing pace for the captivity sequence. Again, there are the nitpicky perspective things, but the film effectively and immediately drops the audience into this extraordinarily confined existence with Larson and Tremblay. The opening present action isn’t too long. The film starts on or just before Tremblay’s fifth birthday. The rest of the action plays out in the next week. For that section. The second half’s present action appears to take months but doesn’t really matter once Larson’s no longer narratively relevant.

So while Abrahamson never wows for thriller sequences or sublime ones, he also never tries for a wow only to miss. His direction is confident and deliberate, which the film does need. Room has so many ways it could go wrong and can’t really afford any missteps because they’d mess up the momentum of Larson’s performance. Because even though Tremblay has the bigger adjustment—she been telling him the real world was just something on the TV until the middle of the first act—Larson’s got a lot more repercussions. Though, again, both Larson and Tremblay get cheated out of dealing with those repercussions on screen.

Basically there needs to be a dramatic stylistic shift somewhere in the second half and there isn’t. Abrahamson never gives the impression of guiding the film. He’s always sticking to the script and doing well directing it, getting some amazing moments from his entire cast, but Room never quite feels organic. It feels raw—though the occasionally too smooth digital video hurts that impression rather than helping it. Oh. And the wide Panavision aspect ratio, which… just… no.

Larson’s performance is spectacular. She’s got a lot of big, dramatic moments and she nails them all. Even when the script doesn’t stick with her. In fact, Larson sort of sums of the problem with Room. Abrahamson knows the movie needs to be all about Larson’s performance and how her character arc affects Tremblay. Meanwhile, Room is actually from the perspective of Tremblay. The script doesn’t care what Abrahamson or Larson come up with.

But the script’s also excellent. It’s just… got a perspective problem.

Tremblay’s quite good. It’s impossible to imagine Room without Tremblay, but it’s also impossible to imagine a Room where Tremblay’s the protagonist and not the erstwhile subject of the picture. Because it’s not his movie, his part has nowhere near the possibility of Larson’s.

Allen’s good, Macy’s good. Tom McCamus is good. Bridgers is terrifying. Amanda Brugel has a great scene as a cop (with Joe Pingue as her “holy shit, men are useless” partner).

Stephen Rennicks’s music is effective.

Room’s story is bold. Not ostentatious, just bold. It’s a bold story, with a bold performance from Larson. It’s just not a bold film. It’s not a boldly produced film. It’s safe. It’s quite good, often spectacular, but it’s way too safe.

Jaime. DC. Yay.

Who doesn’t want to see Jaime Hernandez draw DC superheroes? Besides DC Comics.

There’s some great stuff at the link; I think I’ve seen the “Maggie as Robin” thing before in a Love and Rockets sketchbook section. The era of being excited about an indie creator–or indie-minded creator–doing mainstream work is, quite unfortunately, over. I used to be thrilled whenever someone conned Michael Lark into doing superheroes (Gotham Central, be still my beating heart) and such, but seeing eighties Jaime DC art? Still awesome.

I need to email that Namor and Aquaman one to the post author. You can never have too much Jaime.

In the very early 1980s, before Jaime Hernandez first published Love and Rockets as an independent comic book, he did some spot illustrations for Fantagraphics….

DC Comics and Jesusphobia

Back in 1989, DC Comics scrapped an issue of Swamp Thing where Swampy met Jesus. Writer Rick Veitch quit DC Comics for a time, Doug Wheeler took over the series and led it into a shallow period. DC has never published the comic, even though pretty much everyone agrees the Wheeler run is one of the series low points.

Everyone who’s read it, anyway. It doesn’t seem like many did.

Fast forward thirty years and once again DC is scared of Jesus. Mark Russell–who wrote Flintstones and Snagglepuss for DC–has a new book, Second Coming, all about Jesus returning and bunking with a Superman stand-in.

DC greenlit the concept, greenlit the book, then totally wussed out once again when it comes to getting Jesus into the funny pages. It’s not a surprise. DC’s a mostly feckless sewer, but come on… stand by your greenlighting decisions. There have been plenty of good Jesus comics over the years–particularly Garth Ennis’s Wormwood but also Mark Millar’s Chosen. Chosen would’ve given DC/Vertigo a real shot in the arm when it desperately needed one. But no. I’ll bet Millar and Ennis never even bothered pitching their books to DC because, well, DC is a wuss.

And, once again, they wussed out. Zero surprise.

Now, the comic has ended up at Ahoy Comics, which has been around about six months, and has books from creators like Tom Peyer and Stuart Moore… who used to be DC guys, until DC stopped paying people in money and switched over to WB Shop gift certificates.

Following its cancelation by DC Comics, the controversial Jesus Christ satire comic Second Coming has landed a new home at Ahoy Comics, and will finally be released July 10.

Marvel Meets #metoo

I recently checked out the latest entry in the Marvel universe series of films, Captain Marvel, an ironic and iconic title for a character that promises much, but delivers little, either in substance, or originality as these things go. Being a lifelong comic geek, I am probably just as swept up in the comics to big budget film mythology as much as any other fan of the art form. Somehow, though, I just couldn’t get into it as much as I thought I would be. Lets review the fundamentals:

  • “Classic” superhero from the Marvel universe? Check.
  • Big, bodacious sets, lots of well designed costumes? Check.
  • Pretty, attractive, female lead character, loaded with superpowers? Check.
  • Solid cgi with a nifty, nostalgic musical soundtrack guaranteed that we don’t miss a beat of the action? Check.

So why wasn’t I enthralled? Well, it certainly wasn’t the directors or those responsible for creating the film. They did their job, rounding the bases towards an action and adventure laden two hours of entertainment, with lots of feel good moments interspaced with battle scenes of galactic importance. But somehow, it just didn’t resonate here.

Captain Marvel (the current version), created in the seventies as a way for Marvel (the comic company), to protect their male copyrighted characters and prevent anyone from developing female counterpart versions, and perhaps to make an attempt to lure in female readers, was really never much beyond a cipher. I haven’t read any of the current stories, but the first twenty years worth certainly didn’t produce any memorable, groundbreaking, or even interesting series of comics. In fact, there are no great, classic comic book stories of her, and she never developed into much more than a prototypical, sexually clad female version of dozens of other, better written and drawn versions of the male studs that were already in the Marvel universe.

So in the first twenty(?) or so films of the Marvel film franchise, there seems to be little but lip service given to women heroes, other than to support their male counterparts. However, in this recent era of female empowerment, Disney seems to think its about time now to place a female as the lead, subtlety first suggested in the Ant-Man and Wasp movie, where the female co star seems to be a bit ahead of her male partner, both in abilities and brain savvy. Not that we aren’t WAY past this point already, but now the calculations of the Marvel machine seem to think that the #metoo movement may just run to the box office and financially support such an idea. Captain Marvel is the fruit of their labors, providing both a pretty face and cosmic powers than can easily demonstrate a ladies ability to whup ass with the big boys.

While this is a venture that’s time is certainly overdue, Captain Marvel comes across as an all too vanilla beat the drum and hit the notes version of stuff that’s already well known and not particularly interesting. Carol Danvers is the archetypal brat girl, her history a collection of failed attempts to compete with the guys (and generally failing), but it misses an attempt to create a character that could of been new, different, textured, and ultimately something that could of led towards bigger things.

Not that I deny her place among the mightiest of Marvel gods parapet, certainly women deserve to be there, but this effort is squandered on a pretty dull story with a calculated set of hit points, and the finale pushing her towards god like status seems too quick and dishonest for a heroine than really didn’t seem to endure much sacrifice in the first place. Her trials and tribulations seem trivial and calculated, its payoff the stock answer to a question that remains, is she a captivating enough story that deserves better, at least as far as the weight of this woman empowerment epic stuff goes.

Perhaps I’m being too picky. Unlike the more weighty art forms of prose, music, and films, comic books were never concerned for social issues that much except to inject a modern sensibility into the story to capitulate a interest and sell comic books. Perhaps Captain Marvel, with her humble origins and dreadfully pedestrian history has too much of a burden to fully succeed in this goal. But she is the one Marvel Studios (and Disney) chase to emphasize in this “sudden” interest in women empowerment

Perhaps its the laissez-faire attitude they have towards the histories of comic book characters, using the framework of the character as a springboard to fine tune into the goal they want a film to carry. While Captain Marvel utilizes pieces of comic history to cinematically tell her story, they are woven into a new tapestry for the needs of the filmmaker.

Rough childhood in trying to compete with the boys and their toys? The betrayal of her creators merely using her as a device to achieve their own ends? Her ascendance to god like status? Don’t remember any of that in the comic books. The Skrulls being a persecuted race of peaceful beings only trying to survive? Well, that’s in contrast to the fifty odd years they’ve been portrayed as merciless killers in Marvel comics. Ronan the Accuser running from a traitorous perceived inferior? And don’t get me started on how goofy Nick Fury comes off despite his disciplined persona in all the other Marvel films. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Perhaps the only thing that matters here is the establishment of a powerful female being in the hierarchy of the Marvel universe that can be exploited as an equal to get women and girls into a movie theater to watch Marvel stuff.

The sad part of this is, the movie is filled with plot devices that have already been done many times before, and better. Marvel’s male counterparts have stories and origins much more interesting than Carol’s, and sadly the movie doesn’t try to be their equal. Or better. Everything’s easy peasy, follow the numbers formula with lots of wink wink easter eggs that addicts of the other films can decipher on their way through them.

There are many other better examples of female empowerment in cinema that didn’t need a hot looking lead, loads of expensive cgi created special effects, and hit songs in the soundtrack to get the point across. These all come across as crutches aiding the final product.

While I certainly don’t expect a Marvel movie to be an experience in grand movie making, at the least we could of gotten a great roller coaster ride with all the money and effort that went into producing this. That it was a ride in a kiddie park level carnival that we’ve seen and experienced before in simpler times only leads to its disappointment, and a missed opportunity to create something truly different and lasting is just tough and sad. I don’t dislike Carol Danvers that much, I just don’t care about her all that much, either.

And that’s a darn shame, because I really wanted to.

Even in the future of the future of law enforcement there is room for improvement

Frank Miller's Robocop #1

Frank Miller's Robocop; Avatar Press; issues 1-9 (of 9); 2003-06; $3.50 to $3.99, 36 pgs ea.; collection (2007), $29.99.

Like most media with a Frank Miller credit on it, Frank Miller’s Robocop does not aged well. More accurately, as far as Robocop goes anyway, it doesn’t improve with age or maturity. It was always as bad as it is now, every reading another bloody stab at nostalgia. Frank Miller’s Robocop is an adaptation of Miller’s original Robocop 2 script. It’s a pseudo-infamous script—Miller, hot off Dark Knight loves Robocop and writes the sequel. There’s a writer’s strike in there somewhere. When the sequel finally does get made, Miller’s script has been rewritten by Walon Green (who wrote some of The Wild Bunch script). The sequel doesn’t get a good reaction, everyone starts thinking it’s because Miller’s script got rewritten. But then Miller’s back for Robocop 3, which should seem weird but actually makes perfect sense because they’re really just using his Robocop 2 script ideas.

So Frank Miller’s Robocop initially comes off more like a Robocop 3 adaptation than a Robocop 2. The first three issues are just Robocop 3, then with 2 elements, but still with a bunch of 3 going on. If only adapter Steven Grant could unravel all these threads….

And he doesn’t. He leaves Robocop entirely jumbled, with Juan Jose Ryp’s highly detailed, precisely messy, very busy art not doing anything to save the comic. Ryp’s art never really hurts it—whoever gives him too many pages for action scenes, for example, is the one who hurts it. Ryp does well with fast paced action. He doesn’t do well slowing down to go through a throw-by-throw. Especially not with the comic’s version of “Robocop 2,” the big villain (sort of) in the finale. It usually feels like Grant’s never seen Ryp’s art, otherwise no one would plot out the scene the way Grant does.

Editing matters. Though with Frank Miller’s Robocop you probably don’t get to tell Frank Miller how his ideas are so bad, even a franchise-desperate movie studio could improve on them.

I’ve read this series something like three times now. Maybe four. Definitely three. I’ve read it as published (often delayed), I’ve read it slowly, I’ve binged it. It never gets any better. There’s never enough story for the issues or even the series. The first three have something like an arc, which suggests Grant might do something similar with the back six, but he doesn’t. Once the big action set pieces start, the comic rushes to get out of there way so Ryp can have too many pages to do boring action.

In the end, all Frank Miller’s Robocop does is raise questions not particularly worth having answered—did Miller write any of these characters any better, did he really have such bad plotting or was Grant trying to make it fit the nine issues (it feels like there’s one missing, though who’d want to read another one).

Robocop 2, the movie, is far from great shakes, but seeing notes on Miller’s script from the studio execs? Seeing those might be interesting, if only because there’s so much to “fix.”

(It’s also strange how few of the “regular” cast show up in the script. Makes you wonder what Miller liked about the first movie).

Ruining movies: In which I make a link share all about me

Funny story (I mean, relatively). As a big fan of the film The Year of the Comet, I got the Twilight Time Blu-ray (which I still haven’t watched). On opening the box, I read the back of the Blu-ray, curious about the critics’ quotes for such an undeservedly ignored light, competent comedy. There was one quote about Tim Daly, which I appreciated and agreed with, then realized it was from my post on Stop Button.

Glad I agreed with myself.

But when I saw Lara Witt had written about Captain Marvel, I was a little torn about reading the post. I love Witt’s work, but… I really liked Captain Marvel, was her post going to make me think differently about the film. Especially since I’ve had friends say hearing/reading me talk about movies ruins the movie for them.

Which I always take to mean I’m right.

But what was Witt going to say about Captain Marvel, especially since I’m a forty year-old cishet white male and she’s… not.

So… basically we have the same take. Stuff I didn’t talk about in my post at length because I wouldn’t do it justice. Witt does it justice.

Captain Marvel serves as reminder that emotional, compassionate, angry, resilient, brave, loud girls and women are dangerous to oppressive structures.