Thursday, November 7, 2013

Arrow and Beyond

(Imma spoil the crap out of this.)
by Adam Gottfried
        So, per my friend Nick’s advice, I am actually watching a television show: It’s called Arrow. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
        I am picky about my superhero based visual media, particularly when it comes to DC Comics, not because I have discerning tastes (I actually found some enjoyment in Episodes I, II, and II of Star Wars) but because DC has burned me so many times. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of reasons I could cite, but that really isn’t the point of this article. Let’s talk about Arrow.
        When I heard that they were doing a Green Arrow television series on the CW of all places, I was skeptical at best. I mean, Green Arrow has always been sort of a joke to me, and many fans of DC don’t really take him all that seriously (hearsay, I have nothing to substantiate). I knew very little about old Oliver Queen other than he did not have great respect for Superman (who was and is my favorite superhero of all time) and that was enough for me to dismiss him as one of the many, many, many second rate DC superheroes that somehow survived the Silver Age into the now.
        I was wrong, on a couple of levels. Green Arrow first appeared in More Fun Comics#73 in November 1941* earmarking him as one of the Golden Age heroes, just shy of 3 years younger than Superman (first appearance Action Comics #1, dated June 1938*) and 2 years or so before Batman (first appearance Detective Comics #27, dated May 1939*).
        Now, I get it, this is a new interpretation of the Green Arrow character, a reimagining if you will. He is a lot darker, a lot grittier, but in the age of gritty reimaging, this is well done. Basic synopsis?
        Spoiled trust-fund brat Oliver Queen is on his father’s boat, the Queen’s Gambit, when it goes down in a storm in the North China Sea. The only survivor, he makes it to an island whose Chinese name means “purgatory.” He spends five years on this island and somehow between being shipwrecked and being rescued by a Dutch fishing boat, he becomes a killing machine and redonkulously proficient with a longbow,
Bear in mind, I haven’t given anything away that you wouldn’t see in the first episode. What the first episodes also gives you just a hint of is the myriad host of intrigues, subplots, and twists that lay in store for you. The leads are relatively unknown actors, but the supporting cast and guest stars are a long list of Geek-Elite. Paul Blackthorne (who played Harry Dresden in the short-lived Dresden Files television adaptation) is a strong recurring character, Alex Kingston (who played River Song in the Doctor Who reboot), and of course John Barrowman (the legendary Captain Jack Harkness, also from Whovian fame) just to name a few.
        “But Adam,” I hear you say, “every major geek-centric show has a rotating cast of nerdly famous actors. Why should this be any different?”
        Because the show is well written, and will easily appeal to thsoe who are hardcore DC fans with some very subtle (and not so subtle) nods to the core content that will make you squee, and will appeal to those who have never touched a comic book in their lives. The show takes an almost believable bent to vigilantism, but more than that focusses very closely on the heart of what it is to be a costumed vigilante: The toll it takes on the relationships of those around you.
        Now I will say this: Stephen Amell, who portrays Oliver Queen, is not a great actor. But he is surrounded by such a wealth of wonderful actors that you don’t really pay attention to him and pay closer attention to the others, and he does try ever so hard.
        Overall, if the CW can keep this show going at the pace it HAS been going, and they take the time to build momentum, I think that DC has a prayer of standing up to the titanic now-owned-by-Disney Marvel Studios. Warner Brothers has already stated that they are going to introduce the character of Barry Allen (the Flash) in season 2 in preparation for their spin-off show for the same character. They got this guy, Grant Gustin, who can sing and dance, but who am I to hold that against him?
        Remember when I was talking about building momentum? This is what I was talking about. If Warner Brothers can popularize a back-burner Golden Age hero like Green Arrow and, if they take their time, they can take on the Flash. And ultimately other, more iconic heroes. But therein lies the trap…. The more popular, more iconic heroes, have significantly more lore and a larger fanbase than Green Arrow ever had, and because of dispersion of fans, a multitude of different fandoms that go along with them. The Flash, for example, has several different iterations: The first being Jay Garrick, followed by Barry Allen, followed by Wally West, and most recently Bart Allen, the grandson of Barry Allen (it’s complicated, but since when are comic plots easy to follow?). Even just in the comments on the Flashes IMDB page some jackwagon rails against the choice of Wally West (being the “slowest out of all the flashes”*. Now that he was mistaken and the fact that the Flash that he indicates in his comment that he prefers is the one they chose to go with notwithstanding, this is just an example of what I’m talking about. With that level of fandom, you can’t make everyone happy.
        But Warner Brothers is taking risks, and I commend them for that. What I want to see is a cosmic cop show with comic book Green Arrows good friend Hal Jordan…

Batman vs. Superman? Really?

        All right my fellow geeks, I have a battleaxe to grind and since spewing vitriol on the Internet is “in” right now, I’m going to share it with all of you. I want to address the debate once and for all of the following question: Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?
        First of all, I am going to go on record to say that I am sick and tired of this debate. I’ve been having it since 1992 when Superman went toe-to-toe with Doomsday and they both lost. So what I am going to say is going to be the end of it, at least for me. Part of my issue with this debate is that when people are asked that question, they answer another one. When asked “Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?” most people answer based on the emphasis of their particular fandom. Batman fans will almost always answer in favor of the Dark Knight, and Superman fans will answer for the Man of Steel. This is not to say they are right or wrong, but they are not answering the right question: They are answering “Who is your favorite, Batman or Superman?”
        The ensuing debate has caused hurt feelings, physical aggression, and lifelong friends to break ties, move to opposite sides of the country and stew in their impotent rage for the rest of their lives… granted, the latter was just the last straw, but as a catalyst, this debate is incendiary.
        This question has been recently validated by Hollywood (with the recent announcement of the next Superman movie, unofficially named Batman vs. Superman and while I am trying to cite a “credible” entertainment news conglomerate, I am struggling to find one. This is the best I can do:, but there is plenty of precedence in the comic-book world for this query as well. However, as comic-book movies have recently become mainstream (and by recently, I mean in the last dozen or so years: Yes, in the scheme of a genre that has existed in excess of 75 years, 12 years is just a drop in the bucket), I am going to try to avoid pushing my broken horn-rim glasses up over the bridge of my nose, snorting condescendingly and citing specific he-said-she-said issues of various comics, but some of that will be necessary, so please bear with me.
        But let us look at this objectively. (Fair warning, there are spoilers ahead, and most of them deliberate and completely shameless.) Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?
        Neither. Because it wouldn’t happen. Sure, they would exchange a few barbs and un-pleasantries, but ultimately they would realize that they are on the same side and that fighting amongst themselves only lets evil win and is ultimately a fruitless exercise. That was the short answer. Now, I can hear you unzipping to unleash your proverbial nerd phallus so that we might swordfight until one of us grabs his balls and goes home (yes, apparently it is THAT kind of article), but I want you to tuck it back a minute and keep reading.
        Okay, so remember when I said I wouldn’t cite specific issues? Neither do I; because I didn’t. However, I have no interest in rehashing arguments that have been hashed and rehashed, then minced, pureed and baked into pie. So I’ll let someone else do it for me: This is a blog that does a great job of citing their sources and arguing their points: I am generally forced to agree with all of their points, if not their objectivity.
        Now that is behind us, we can get back to the question at hand. The question is “Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?” In order for there to BE a fight, one has to strip away the moral compass of both characters, fundamentally changing them into Mortal Kombat style automatons who fight because people want to see them fight. Assuming that is the case (and not taking into account the video game Injustice with scales the power levels of individuals like Joker and Robin to be able to stand up to the likes of Green Lantern and Superman, which I do not think anyone would disagree would be laughable) there is no contest. Superman wins.
        Let’s break this down into three major points. I am assuming that both Batman and Superman are aware of the fight and have a little time to prepare.
        Point #1: Batman would use gadgets, including but not limited to Kryptonite.
        Yup, he sure would. However, Superman has heat vision, telescopic vision, and infallible aim. The moment Superman sensed the mere PRESENCE of Kryptonite, he would fly up into the atmosphere, take a glorious yellow-sun bath, and then rain down fire from the sky until Bruce was dead, dead, dead. Don’t believe me? Check out Batman/Superman Public Enemies (the trade graphic novel, not the movie). Superman flies Silver Banshee up to the atmosphere to keep her from shrieking in his ears and rains down heat vision to assist Bruce with Gorilla Grodd, a baddy infinitely more hardy than Batman.
        Point #2: Batman has time to prepare, so Superman would never see it coming.
        In Adventures of Superman Volume 1 #631: Casualty of War, Lois Lane gets shot on the other side of the globe from Superman. Superman hears the shot and is at her side in seconds. So yeah, Superman may not see it coming, but he would sure as poop hear it.
        Point #3: Batman is smarter than Superman, so he would outwit the Man of Steel.
        Smarter? I don’t know about that. Batman is very intelligent, but his focus has always been highly specialized in investigation, logic, deductive reasoning, forensics and some elements of gadgetry. He is, in effect, a modern day Sherlock Holmes (who contrary to popular opinion is a fictional character, just like Batman, just to clear up any confusion there. You may think I am insulting your intelligence, but you would be surprised how many people I have met who think that Sherlock Holmes was a real person). However, much like Mr. Holmes, he is more of a savant than a genius. He is brilliant and clever in a few, very specialized fields, but let us not forget that Clark Kent is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who has traveled to the distant reaches of the world and who has spent most of his life studying and modeling human behavior. I’m not trying to argue that Clark is smarter than Bruce, but I am certainly going to state that he is at least as intelligent as Mr. Bruce Wayne.
        In terms of gadgetry, many of Batman’s wonderful toys are researched and developed by Wayne Enterprises (see Lucius Fox), and maintained by ex-British intelligence agent, Alfred Pennyworth. (Yes, I am citing Wikipedia, but do your research: Nowadays Wikipedia is just as reliable as any paper and print encyclopedia out there, and you can see that from this article in a credible scientific publication.)
        There are many more points I could address, but I think I have made my secondary point: In a physical conflict wherein morality is not a factor, Superman will beat Batman hands down, and without even breaking a super-sweat.
        My primary point, however, was made before I even got into the debate: This fight would not and should not happen. Here, I am pleading with Mr. Zack Snyder. I do not know him personally, but I do have a rather low opinion of his creative works due to their divergence from the source material and sensationalism, but I digress. One my favorite (this is an opinion now, brace yourselves) representations of Batman and Superman are as friends and teammates. Singly as individuals, they can be beaten, but when paired as a team? They are unstoppable. The real question is: Who would win in a fight, Batman and Superman or any and all bad guys in the history of comic-book villains ever?
        My money is on Batman and Superman.