Marvel does it better

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Against all my better judgement I went and saw Suicide Squad over the weekend. It’s not that I hated it, I didn’t really. I didn’t love it though, and I knew that this was most likely going to be the case despite the high hopes I had for it. I really wanted to love it, but when one of my friends asked me (knowing my extensive knowledge and love for comic books) to predict how I was going to come out of the theater feeling, I responded: I want to like it so much and have high hopes, but pretty sure it’s going to be like every other DC film. I’m going to come out of it not hating it necessarily, but will more than likely be disappointed at the narrative and missed opportunities for rich character development.

So, here’s your obligatory warning. I’m about to go into details from the movie, so if you are looking to avoid any spoilers for Suicide Squad, you should stop reading now.

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Overall Impression: It wasn’t completely awful and for the most part, the movie was enjoyable for what it is. A friend of mine sitting next to me told me there were several moments I let out an audible disappointed sigh, and he’s not wrong. While it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen, there were definitely moments that didn’t live up to what I was expecting.

Deadshot and Harley Quinn definitely stole the show for this one and their characters were definitely the most intriguing and did the most justice as far as representing their comic book counterparts.

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Deadshot, one of the most notable anti-heroes of the DC Universe. An assassin with a troubling family past, but also motivated to take action whether for the heroes or villains to do good by his children. This was portrayed well in the movie by showcasing the relationship with him and his daughter. Will Smith did not disappoint in his portrayal of the surefire yet often conflicted assassin. Deadshot surfaced as one of the leaders of the group and motivated other team members to contribute to get the job done, while still remaining morally grey throughout the movie. One of the highlights is when he goads a reluctant El Diable who fears losing control to help fight the fight and light things up with the squad.

Deadshot: Whatcha gonna do?
El Diablo: You wanna see something? YOU WANNA SEE SOMETHING!?
Deadshot: YEAH!
(After El Diablo goes berserk and gets lit fam)
Deadshot: Yo…I was trying to get you there. No hard feelings, right? We good?

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The breakaway performance definitely has to go to Margot Robbie though as Harley Quinn. She definitely stole the show in my opinion. The focus of the movie was on her and showcased her relationship with the Joker. Her backstory and presence seemed to be the focus out of all the squad members. The movie seemed to take a lot of inspiration from The New 52 version of Harley as she was shown to be exposed to the same checmicals Joker was exposed to in the film as part of her backstory. Her leaving the squad for Joker and later rejoining when the plan fell through was also remiscent of a New 52 plot. I thoroughly enjoyed Margot Robbie’s performance of Harley and she had a lot of great moments. Her motives and loyalty walked a fine line with zany madness throughout the film, but one thing was certain: underestimating her was most certainly a mistake. The only moment I might have groaned (here comes some whine) was when she played a critical role in saving the day as she blurts out, Stop hurting my fwiends! (and there’s the cheese).

It will be interesting to see what happens with the character as it was revealed in her bio that she was an accomplice and either helped or was the one to kill Jason Todd. This revelation might help to explain why she reacted so strongly when she sternly states, “Own that shit” to El Diablo’s reveal about killing his kids. It may be her reaction to her own killing of an adolescent Jason Todd. Another possibility for this reaction could be that she was responsible for the death of her own kids. Whaaaaat!? BOOM! BLAM! KAZAM!

For those of you that missed it, the movie hinted that Harley might have been pregnant with Joker’s kids at some point and this could be a gamechanger that could be incredibly intriguing or a plot twist that ends up being a miserable disaster.

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So, when it comes to Deadshot and Harley Quinn, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Unfortunately for me, it just goes downhill from there with the rest of the characters.

Amanda Waller: Overall, the movie did a good job illustrating how cut throat and ruthless this character really is, but I wanted the movie to reveal and explore her deeper connection with metahumans and the major players of the DC universe. I get that this isn’t possible in the cinematic universe as metas are only beginning to surface and be known in this world. But still.

Diablo: I am on the fence with Diablo. On one hand, I really enjoyed his brooding character and his internal conflict of using his powers fearful of losing complete control of them. He was most certainly a force to be reckoned with. He has a really tragic backstory, but one that is a deviation from the comics. In the comicverse, he unleashed his fury on a rival ganghouse only to discover there were innocents; women and children that also fell victim to his flames. As a result, he let the authorities take him to Belle Reve due to his overwheliming feeling of guilt for taking the lives of innocents. The movie decided to up the ante and change his backstory to losing control and taking the life of his wife and children instead. Why they decided to make his backstory that much more tragic, but completely ignore the tragedy of Katana’s backstory (see below)  was what perplexed me. The only thing I can think of is to allow the reaction of Harley Quinn, which will more than likely play out in future movies. If this isn’t the case, then to make that choice with Diablo while completely ignoring Katana’s tragedy makes absolutely no sense.

Joker: It was cool to see a completely different interpretation of the Joker, but it got old real fast, especially his laugh. When I first heard the laugh in a trailer, I thought it was interesting and definitely had a chill factor to it. I also assumed this was a specific laugh in a specific scene to invoke that specific feeling. Nope, that laugh was pretty much the same every time something happen to tickle his fancy. It never changed. And come on, no one believed the Joker was actually dead when Harley watched in horror as his helicopter crashed in a burst of flames, so she could rejoin the squad with tear filled-eyes and those oh so pouty lips.

Slipknot: Who the hell was he again? Unless you’re an avid reader of comics you still have no clue who he is other than to serve the sole purpose of being the obligatory red shirt in the movie. If you’re going to kill someone off, at least provide some semblance of a back-story to make us feel something for his death other than, whelp guess his only purpose was to die.

Boomerang: He didn’t contribute much other than to be the skeezy cat-calling sterotype to womanize the bad ass that is Katana, which again, was barely touched upon. He bailed the first chance he got only to return to the squad moments later with absolutely no motivation to do so.

Katana: Like I said, Katana is a badass, but you don’t really understand this in the movie other than to know she knows how to use her weapon. A missed opportunity to explore a pretty epic backstory of her husband being killed by his own brother who held an unrequetted love for Katana. This was referenced, but watered down by revealing “someone” killed her husband with the souleater sword that ended up in her posessession. The scene explaining that she talks to her husband would have been so much more tragic had they offered more details of this backstory of not only her husband’s death, but the tragic death of their twin children in the same incident. The movie also doesn’t take any time to explain how Katana came to be involved with Rick Flag or the suicicide squad, but she merely just shows up as his body guard with absolutely no explanation of their connection.

Killer Croc: Well, this was probably one of the most disappointing portrayals. Killer Croc is a beast in the comics, A BEAST!  The movie, sadly, turned him into a deformed thug that kind of looked like a crocodile.  The movie took the fact that Killer Croc’s alter ego is Waylon Jennings who happens to be black. They basically ran with this and made this the focus of his character, completely ignoring the raw primal power of the croc and watered him down with cheap humor. His only request is to get a flat screen TV, so he can do nothing but watch big booty dancing on BET. Come on…They completely bastardized the beast that is Killer Croc.

Enchantress: I’ll admit that I don’t know a whole lot about the Enchantress in the comic book world and that made me continue to wonder throughout the whole movie, why she was so hell-bent on taking over the world. I get that she was pissed, because she was essentially just a tool to be used, but why not just go straight for Amanda Waller? I also found it troubling that the squad’s first mission was against this seemingly all powerful herky jerky magic-wielding belly dancer. The stakes were suddenly so monumentally high in a matter of seconds with no room to explore how the squad evolves from completely conflicted individuals to a cohesive unit.

Rick Flagg: I expected more, so much more of this character. What I got was a whiny emo lovesick puppy dog who was apparently maneuvered into a relationship that makes absolutely no sense just so he can be forced to babysit the villanis that Waller recruits. Flagg actually lead a World War II team called the suicide squadron, which serves as an inspiration for putting together the meta human suicide squad, but again, this was a completely missed opportunity to better explain his connection and motivation for leading the suicide squad.

Na na na na na na na na (That’s supposed to make you think of the Batman theme music to serve as a transition into the conclusion).

Time for the cool down. Thanks to those who bared with me on my rants and ramblings on the latest installment of the DC Cinematic Universe. Alright look, I realize that the comic book buff in me tends to make me a little if not obnoxiously overcritical of the movies. These are merely my own personal qualms with the DCCU, and I completely understand that. I get why a lot of people really love these movies, but I for one will always look to Marvel as an example of how to bring the expansive comic book universe to film and do the characters and plotlines justice. I didn’t hate Suicide Squad, but I didn’t love it either.

 

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Obligation to Entertain

“True comics are a popular art, and yes, I believe their primary obligation is to entertain, but comics can go beyond that, and when they do, they move from silliness to significance.”

~Bill Watterson

Click on image for source

Truth be told, I was teased and bullied through most of my childhood due to the fact that I was a geek. I was and still am into comic books, science-fiction, video games, and the world of fantasy. Whether I was singled out for these interests or I escaped into this world of geekdom as a result of my peers targeting me in such a negative way is uncertain. What came first; the awkward comic-book nerd or the social outcast of the public school systems I attended? Regardless, comic-books helped me cope with my less-than desirable social status in the hierarchy created by the powers that be in grade school and middle school—kids are cruel.

Comic books are meant to entertain, but Bill Watterson said it best in the above quotation. Sure, those that have not taken the time to read the “silly picture books” may not realize, in fact, that they are so much more. Since their inception, comic books have been seen as a lesser form of literature. However, comic books have tackled serious societal issues long before mainstream media depicted such issues because they were deemed taboo. Comic books mimic social reality;   readers can often relate with the characters and are encouraged to find the superhero within themselves.

Danny Fingeroth (2004) expands upon this analysis suggesting Superman uses his secret identity to assimilate into Earth’s culture; more specifically, he assimilates into the American culture in order to blend in and avoid standing out. Fingeroth states:

“Superman’s story is not unlike that of the kid who at home speaks the language of his parents’ immigrant roots, but outside adopts the identity of the mainstream, attempting to blend in and become one with the adopted homeland…The immigrant wants to excel but  stay anonymous. He wants to make his parents proud―but not make them ashamed of who they themselves are, though he may, himself, be ashamed of them in certain profound ways.”

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Many readers can easily relate with Superman’s struggle to maintain his secret identity in order to fit in, with the understanding that this alter ego is merely a sham to conceal the true persona within. Although authors wrote the Superman mythology with the American immigration experience in mind, the theme that emerges from the use of visual images depicting Clark’s transformation from the meek salary man into the confident powerful Superman with a quick visit to the nearest phone booth and the deeper meaning beneath the surface of the narrative is applicable to a significant scope of the audience regardless of the demographic that each audience member may or may not belong to. Interpretation of metaphor within the visual imagery and text can encourage readers to become more critical about the subject matter and present themes that, in turn, helps readers make sense of one’s own identity by situating oneself in the themes and metaphors that emerge in the narrative.

While the predominant obligation of many comic book writers may be to entertain, my hats go off to those writers who consider their obligation to offer critical commentary on the societal issues most tend to shy away from. The writers who write for the readers who could stand to realize they are not alone in their experiences and tribulations. The writers who encourage readers to believe that they share more in common with heroes than they had ever thought.

Heroism is found in the heart

Hi…

My name is Underground Dude…and I’m a…geek. 
Those of you that have been regular readers of the ole underground bloggy blog are fully aware that comic books and superheroes tend to have an affect on me. They bring out a full-on geek-out and/or nerd-gasmtruth-fact.
When one thinks of heroism and heroes in our lives; they typically embody those that have shaped us into who we are and those whose stories inspired us to take up a cause and make a difference in the world. In early childhood my response to the “Who’s your hero” question would have been: The Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, and The Human Torch. At one point in my life I truly did aspire to develop superpowers of my very own and battle the forces of evil! Growing up is hard to do…
Today, while I still find my heroes of childhood to be completely B.A., the quizzical looks I started to get once I reached early adulthood from my hero response prompted me to update my answer. So, now, I respond with Harvey Milk and my advisor from my undergraduate studies who really got me into radical and activism rhetoric. I not only love to get my protest and defiance to “the man” on, but I really dig social activism. Furthermore, I truly hope to become as great of a social activist as these two groovy dudes some day. 
So, I seek to make change with speech and dialoguing with communities and lawmakers in regards to social inequality. I fight the good fight to balance things out and blur the lines between the privileged and the marginalized. I have no costume or secret identity, but I recently discovered there are others taking a more active role in making a difference in their communities. While I found the movie Kick Ass to be enjoyable and an interesting take on the whole super hero meets the real world motif, I had no idea this was an actual movement taking place. There’s even a database and everything!
I suddenly have the urge to start working on costume design ideas. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. 

Where did all the hipsters come from?

I‘m sipping a scummy pint of cloudy beer in the back of a trendy dive bar turned nightclub in the heart of the city’s heroin district. In front of me stand a gang of hippiesh grunge-punk types, who crowd around each other and collectively scoff at the smoking laws by sneaking puffs of “fuck-you,” reveling in their perceived rebellion as the haggard, staggering staff look on without the slightest concern.
                                                                   —Douglas Haddow


I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this whole hipster movement. I live in a location where fashion and trends tend to be a little out-dated and behind; non-mainstream. Also, a lot of the locals here are pretty damn annoying at times and it seems that hipsters are annoying a lot of people these days. So, does this mean I live in a community full of hipsters? Considering 90% of the town give in to the commodification of the “Old Wild West” donning western gear for only a week and a half out of the year. I’m gonna say NOT.

Now, I’m a big fan of Independent artists when it comes to my music taste. As far as fashion goes, I’d like to claim I have my own style, and I was giving it to the man by deviating from all that is trendy. Even at a young age, my mother was buying me Hilfiger, and I refused to wear it. Does this mean that I’m a hipster? GASP!

The truth is though, I buy and wear what I think I’ll look “cute” in. Let’s face it, Hilfiger did nothing for my hips. The fact that a piece of wardrobe looks unique does appeal to me, but I ask myself, “Can I really pull this off.” Sometimes, I probably don’t. In these instances, I would hope my friends gave me a good sit-down “FACE IT” session. So, I would say while I am a pretty groovy dude, a hipster I am not. I love argyle way too much and happily give in to this trend.

According to Douglas Haddow of Adbusters,after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of ‘counter-culture’ have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the ‘Hipster.’ “

I am a huge fan of mutants, so that’s a point for the hipster side.

Unfortunately, I like my mutants to be bad-ass and not pretentious little frackers, so point taken back.
Sidenote: The comic book geek in me feels the need to point out that Juggernaut clearly has his helmet on and the whole purpose of his helmet is to prevent his bro, Xavier, from projecting or reading his thoughts. While this video is both hilarious and brilliant, there is that little discrepancy that no one probably cares about…
I could appreciate the notion that hipsters refuse to follow trends and go outside the “stylish” garb that all the tweens and metrosexuals are currently drooling over. However, that appreciation quickly dwindled when one of my good friends came up with a fun and exciting new game to play while roaming the streets of any urban city of your choice.
While this game is super fun, it appears to me that the hipsters seem to be the butt of a lot of jokes and the object for a lot of disdain. Perhaps it’s the idea that they want to go against everything that is mainstream, yet have created a trend that has become both mainstream and homogeneous. Hmmmm, this seems to go against everything the hipsters claim they are…maybe I just don’t understand.
Again, I think Haddow says it best: “We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.”

Mutant relations…

Let me begin by saying, I am not afraid to admit that I enjoy a good info-graphic, especially when the graphic is clever or snarky. What happens when you combine info-graphics with comic books? Pure bliss and awesomeness, that’s what.

YUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
My good friend boo sent this to me a while back, and it pretty much made my day. However, it also brought up some bitter resentment toward a certain Hollywood trilogy adaptation of my beloved X-Men comic book series. 
Now, if the only X-men mythology you’re aware of is from the movies…shame on you. Check out some comic books or at the very least, the cartoon series that used to be on Fox kids years ago. This animation series stayed pretty true to the 1990s comic book The X-Men, (the original) and the narrative set forth by Marvel. O.K. yeah, Jubilee was a total spaz who was bothersome (that’s a nice way of putting it), but otherwise this show was the highlight of my Saturday mornings back in the day. The third season showcased one of the best comic book story-arcs in my opinion:    
The Phoenix Saga—->NERD-GASM!
Back to the big screen adaptation. When it comes to the third installment in the X-Men series of movies, I only have two words: HOT MESS! Oh noes…this is a touchy subject, and I feel a rant coming on.
I didn’t mind the first two movies and in ways I could appreciate their “take” on the X-Men mythos. Yes, there were a few liberties. For example, in the original comic book series Iceman (Bobby Drake) was a part of the original X-Men crew while the movie decided to make him a promising student in Xavier’s school for the gifted. The scene in the second movie where Bobby “comes out” to his parents as a mutant made this worth it and echoed the metaphor of the mutants representing the marginalized, so many gay youth could relate too, which is what made the original comic book series so amazing. That and the epic story-arcs. While there were a few inconsistencies, this is to be expected with Hollywood adaptations. For the most part, the characters were interesting and they stayed true to the core elements that existed in the comic books. The movies also did a nice job highlighting the tensions that existed between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants. 
The third movie was a travesty! Why, gentle readers, you ask?
At the end of the first movie, Jean Grey is exposed to the radiation in Magneto’s machine made to enhance the mutant gene in humans. 
The second movie, we notice a change in Jean Grey. Scott Summers (Cyclops) even goes as far as telling Jean, “You haven’t been the same, since the incident at Liberty Island.” The incident he speaks of is the exposure to Magneto’s machine. Jean’s powers have grown noticeably and she exhibits a red fiery flare in her eyes when she utilizes her “evolved” powers. 
At the end of the movie, Jean sacrifices herself by holding back the floods, so her fellow X-men may escape without being submerged in the rushing waters. A fiery aura surrounds Jean as the waters surround her and she is presumably drowned (very sad).

But wait, one of the final scenes shows the Alkaline lake after the flood. A slight fiery glimmer can be seen under the waters, in the shape of a bird…the phoenix! This also happens to echo a storyline where Jean Grey as the Phoenix was trapped under the ocean. The Phoenix entity encases Jean in a protective barrier and projects another Jean Grey, a clone of sorts, in order to escape. 
Alright, so the phoenix portrayed in the comics is an extremely powerful entity that bonds itself to those with high levels of psi and mental ability. This bond allows the phoenix force to possess the host. 
The Phoenix bonded with Jean Grey when she was a child after detecting her extraordinary mental capacity when Jean used her powers to try and save one of her playmates. The Phoenix entity laid dormant in Jean until she was in the X-Men. On a space mission, Jean is almost killed and the Phoenix entity surfaces in order to save her, but also taking control of her. 
Jean begins referring to herself as the Phoenix and has newfound and super-sized powers. Unfortunately, some baddies with the power of illusion come in and manipulate the hell out of poor Phoenix. This makes Phoenix angry and brings about Dark Phoenix. Dark Phoenix not only go smash, but she destroys entire worlds (truth-fact)
So, yes the movie deviated a bit from the comic book’s mythos, and I can understand why. The Phoenix entity in the comic books took several issues to explain the awesomeness of the Phoenix’s power and origin. It would take a whole movie just to explore the phoenix entity. The first two movies did a nice job setting up where the movie version of the phoenix came from. A powerful mutant evolving into an even more powerful being. This seemed logical…
The third movie…Jean Grey resurfaces and calls herself the Phoenix. Yes!
I anticipated the third movie and was stoked, because I knew the Phoenix, one of my all-time favorite comic book villains, was going to me a main part of the storyline.
BALLS! There were way too many new mutants and characters introduced that made it difficult to follow along or care about the characters that had already been established in the first two movies. Not that would matter considering all the set-up they took the time to do in the first movies were completely discarded in the third.
Kitty Pryde joins the mutants and splinters the romance the first two movies took the time to develop between Rogue and Iceman. Jean Grey…is Phoenix, but the phoenix… is the result of…
A SPLIT PERSONALITY!??? WTF!!!!!!
None of the set-up to explain the growth of Jean’s powers as the result of evolution bringing about a super mutant with awesome power, movie version of phoenix, exists in the third movie. SHENANIGANS! All the scenes leading up to the evolution scenario might as well not have existed in the first two movies.  Not to mention that we never even see the trademark fiery phoenix in its pure form!!!!
Needless to say, the third movie was absolute crap! 
Let’s hope the next X-Men installment, a prequel or origin storyline, is more consistent…
Anyway, gentle readers, I digress. The particular info-graphic this post started out with just happens to bring about some sensitive issues; thus, the X-Men movie rant. But, I will say again that I heart info-graphics. If you too enjoy them, check this out —->http://www.coolinfographics.com/

Don’t call them sidekicks…

I stumbled upon this new series set in the DC comic universe. If you’re a fan of Justice League or Teen Titans, you might want to check this out. There are definitely moments that may spur on a geek-out, ya know if comics is your kind of thang. I’m still on the fence on this animated series, but there is potential there. Speedy was kind of obnoxious, so here’s hoping his appearance was just a cameo.

Click the above image to see the first episode