Doctor Superman

With recent reports that Justice League is an unwatchable mess, on par with DC’s last unwatchable mess: Batman v Superman: This is a Long Title, we here at The NYRD thought it might be high time to address one of the biggest blue and red elephants in the room. DC’s new Superman is garbage, but that’s not entirely the new DCEU’s fault. Hollywood has never known how to deal with Superman on the big screen. Yet, the answer to fixing the man who stands for Truth, Justice, and the American Way may lie with a Doctor in a blue box living right across the pond from us.

What do You do with a Problem like Clark Kent

The core trouble with Superman is that Hollywood producers want to see him punch things, and in movies like Man of Steel he punched nearly $2 trillion worth of things, and cost the lives of more than 129,000 fictional people. Hollywood essentially tries to shoehorn Superman into an action movie, but at his core, the story of the Last Son of Krypton is not one of violence and explosions. There is a reason that finding a villain who is a physical threat to Superman is hard. He can punch a hole in the fabric of space-time. Writers have long been perplexed how to write a Superman movie, he is too powerful, too perfect, too good, too “everything,” for a compelling story. So instead we have gotten Lex Luthor buffoonery, Earth-rotational reversions, dark gritty uber-violence, and a Martha-plot-device.

So what can Superman learn from the Doctor? Well, they are both god-like beings that came to Earth to save humanity. They are both orphans of now extinct-ish races, they are both effectively immortal, and they have both been essentially adopted by two powerful countries, America and Britain respectively. Granted there are differences, (the Doctor tends to pick up with whoever happens to be wandering the streets that day, and Superman is a one woman guy,) but at the core of their mythologies their similarities are undeniable.

The Lonely Gods
The Doctor hides it well, but there are flashes of moments when we see the true demons of the great Time Lord. His/Her race is dead, his/her planet is banished in time, and he/she is the only one of his kind left to wander the galaxy. Normally the Doctor hides the pain among a whimsical exterior, but in those briefest moments you see a person in deep personal pain and anguish. Those cracks in the armor not only make the alien more relatable, but they also deliver the appropriate amount of emotional impact. It makes the Doctor more endearing and yet more complex at the same time.

We are not saying that Superman should emulate this kind of behavior -exactly. Superman at his core could never be that dark, but whenever writers do give us a peak beneath the boyscout exterior we tend to get a person who comes off as whiny and who wanders the Earth with a homeless man beard for thirty minutes of a movie. Clark Kent will always be somewhat defined by his status as an orphan and an outsider, but unlike the Doctor he never knew his planet or his people.

Instead, Clark Kent had a loving family who raised him and cared for him as their own. Despite his secrets and his pain he still has very real and very powerful love in his life. Playing up the “lonely orphan,” angle  only serves to make him more two-dimensional. Talk to any adopted child, and there are certainly moments of pain, transition, and what ifs, but the greater moments for Clark and those like him are spent with the people who raised him, loved him, and protected him. This is not to say that there is still not an element of pain and longing, but it is a longing for a world he never knew and a life that never was. Superman is a great man whose heart’s desire is to be average, and to make his pain the focus of his story is a disservice to the character and to the fans. So let’s take a note from Doctor Who and leave that pain buried, except for those small special moments of vulnerability when we get to see the man behind the steel. For a really good example of how this should be done, I highly recommend Alan Moore’s: For the Man Who Has Everything.

A Need for Humanity
One of the things that makes the Doctor so appealing is an obvious need for humans, not just in the form of companions, but on the much grander scale as well. With Gallifrey destroyed you get the sense that Earth is now the closest thing the Doctor has to a homeworld. He/She cares about its inhabitants and the trajectory of its history and future. On the more personal scale, its the human companions that keep the Time Lord stable and grounded.

For example take the end run of the tenth doctor, without a companion at his side he lost it. The 10th Doctor tried to play god and paid for it. The writers on Doctor Who seem acutely aware how important these human relationships are for our alien friend. Its a mutual dependency that balances the show and the Doctor. Superman, like his Time Lord counterpart has human companions too, a fact his writers sometimes try to ignore.

Granted it is going to be unrealistic if Jimmy Olsen -no one likes you Jimmy- were to pull Superman’s blue behind out of the fire in the same way that we so often watched Rose Tyler save the day. Yet, we sometimes forget that Superman is Superman because of the people around him. His parents raised him to be a good and caring person. His love of Lois adds a further driving factor to the story, and even more so than the Doctor, Earth is his homeworld while Krypton is just a memory. He fights to defend the rights and freedoms of the people on this planet because he not only has a deep caring for humans, but because they have a deep caring for him. Writers try to isolate Superman, but that is wrong. He’s not Batman, he doesn’t need tragedy and brooding loneliness to do what he does. He fights for humanity out of love, like the love he experiences from his family and friends, -Batman included. You can’t have a Superman story without his supporting cast. They made him and they keep him grounded, same as the Doctor. For some really good examples of the power of Superman’s supporting cast check out John Bryne’s limited series: Man of Steel.

Nobody is Perfect
Whatever you want to say about everyone’s favorite two-hearted Time Lord, he/she is still just human. Though it doesn’t happen often, he makes mistakes, but his mistakes aren’t like yours and mine. When the Doctor screws up timelines get changed, worlds get altered, and people die. Whether it is something as simple as leaving the TARDIS door open or shutting down a satellite that halts the progress of Earth, the Doctor has been known to make a mess of things, in big ways. Partly this is due to the fact that he is last of the Time Lords, and all the responsibility is left on his shoulders. He is often forced into situations where he must make snap decisions to save lives. Most of the time he makes the right call, but every once in a while he does something that comes back to haunt him in bad and horrible ways. From a writer’s perspective there is a power to the fallibility of the Doctor. He is the last of a race of beings who used to pride themselves on managing timelines and keeping order in the universe. Now there is only one man left to do that and he’s not perfect.

This, above all else, is desperately needed by the Superman franchise. Superman is always perfect. He always does the right thing. He always makes the right call, but why? He acutely feels the responsibility on his shoulders, even more than the Doctor. He often gets forced into situations where he must make quick decisions, but he never screws up. Now, TV watchers, and movie goers have an expectation of Superman saving the day, but how impacting would it be to see Superman make a decision that saves a hundred lives in the short term, but has unforeseen consequences in the long term? How driven would he be to correct that mistake? How far would he go to absolve his guilt? Would he have to win back the trust of the people of Earth?

Having the morals, powers, and responsibilities of Superman are easy when everything is going great, but its in times of tragedy and self-doubt that those things are really tested and conflict is created. If Superman is a god and his mistakes will be bigger and much more far-reaching than our own. The innate justice that guides Clark in all things needs to be tested by conflicts that are more important than punching Darkseid in the face. Maybe this is what Snyder was attempting to do with Man of Steel, but it came off as flat and Superman simply appeared uncaring. For the closest example I would suggest turning to the DCAU episode of Superman: The Animated Series, Legacy Part I & II.

Noble Sacrifice
When we talk about a noble sacrifice, we are not talking about the Doctor and Superman giving their literal lives for others -though they both have on a few occasions. For aliens who can regenerate or are near-immortal comic book heroes, sacrificing their lives is the least they do. The greater sacrifice is giving up something personal, which cannot be found again. We see this a lot with the Doctor, when he stands on a beach proclaiming his love for Rose Tyler and knowing that he sacrificed it for the greater good of two worlds; or we see him tearfully wipe the memory of his friend Donna Noble so that she will forget him and be safe. Time and time again we watch the Doctor rip out his/her own heart just to safeguard his friends and the people of Earth.

Superman, on the other hand, feels very little consequences for his role as savior. We hardly ever see Supes give up something or someone that is part of his long standing history. The closest thing we get, is the sacrifice he makes by hiding the “real” Clark Kent beneath a bumbling exterior. We need to see Superman make the kinds of decision that require deep personal loss.

For instance, what if he was faced with the decision to save an alien world or Jimmy Olsen? What does he decide? Each will have consequences, both personal and far reaching. What if he had to watch helplessly as Batman went willingly to his death to protect the world? What if Superman had to give up Lois’ love to keep her safe? These are the type of emotional scars that would not only make Superman more compelling, but bring a new layer of storytelling to the same old mythos of the Man of Steel. It might be a little harder for these kind of sacrifices to happen among a cast of characters that has been so fixed in time, but for a good example look at what Nolan did with the Batman/Rachel Dawes relationship. That was new and interesting.

Everything is Going to be Alright
There is an essential feeling that comes from the arrival of both the Doctor and Superman. Its that feeling you get inside -way down in your chest- when the world is turning to hell, everything is out of control, and you realize that there is nothing you can do about it. Then you turn your head and out of some blue box steps the Doctor, or down from the sky comes Superman, his cape flowing out behind him. It’s that moment you want to cheer and leap up, because suddenly you know everything is going to be alright. Its almost a religious experience, as if God himself were to step down from the heavens to battle space monsters and Cybermen. It’s the feeling that we’re not alone, that the universe makes sense, and that for all the bad and horrible crap that’s out there, there is at least one shining beacon of hope.

Maybe more than anything else that is what is lacking in the DCEU’s portrayal of Superman. He does not inspire hope in us. In Batman v Superman: Seriously Who Thought of This Title? He seems to save people with an almost grim and gritted determination, like a factory working just trying to get through another day. The movies try to tell us that his arrival inspires hope in people, but the audience never feels it. Its not believable in the context of what we know about him. Yet, that is exactly how we should feel when he walks onto the screen.

Both the Doctor and Superman are near-omniscient alien characters, but Doctor Who does a better job at humanizing their lead. The DCEU needs to take a note from their playbook. Superman, after all, is also a man. He can make well meaning mistakes, be haunted by a dark past, have moments of weakness and sacrifice, but in the end he must always be Superman. That is why the Doctor is so powerful, he goes on. Superman should be more like that, flawed but still determined to do the right thing. In Doctor Who, good always wins but it’s not always a clean victory. It’s okay for Superman to not always win, so long as he keeps going on, and keeps inspiring us. A Superman movie should not be about how strong he is or how far he can punch the bad guys. No, it should be about how he refuses to bend, even in the face of his own weaknesses.


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Young Justice

We’re going to level with you, on this one. DC Comics hasn’t exactly been hitting home runs the past few years. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Too Long of a Movie Title sucked worse than that time the Batmobile lost its wheel and the Joker escaped because of it. The New 52 comic reboot went so poorly that DC rebooted it again this past year, and quietly whispered a “we screwed up,” so low only Kryptonians could hear it. Even Suicide Squad, their best and halfway decent movie only gave the world a pointless plot and proof that Jared Leto has a blurred sense of reality and propriety. That is why this past week when it was rumored that Netflix was in talks to create a third season of Young Justice, the beleaguered DC fans of the world rejoiced. Unfortunately, that promptly turned out to be a falsehood taken out of context, and that may be the cruelest trick DC has played on us yet.

Gone in a Kid Flash
For those of you unaware of the existence of this amazing gift that is Young Justice, let us be the first to tell you about. If there is one thing DC has always done better than Marvel it is animated cartoons. From the Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series to the Justice League DCAU to their cartoon movies, DC has always shined when it came to animation projects. It is probably the one battleground they have yet to yield to Marvel and their lackluster Disney-esque cartoon shows. DC animation has never been shy about bringing in comic story lines, making epic story arcs, delving into characters’ darker motivations, and doing it all with visual flair. However, all of that pales in comparison to Young Justice. If you like superheroes, this is a cartoon that is so good we don’t even recommend that you finish reading this article. You should just call out sick from work, run to your Netflix, and binge the first two seasons right now… Go…

For everyone else still here, Young Justice, took established characters and made them fresh. It even did the impossible and made sidekicks fun again in a mature and well-written manner. The premise of the show is that Robin, Aqualad, Speedy, and Kid Flash start a young Justice League -hence the name- and as they go forward their roster expands and contracts as they confront hardship and triumph. This includes the expectations of their mentors, and all the complicated emotions that come with them. Young Justice has the wherewithal and the impressive ability to create a universe that feels true to DC comics, but is also compelling enough to be believable. These traits are what made it so beloved by fans. Unfortunately, studio executives thought they were the wrong kind of fans… Prepare to get mad.

Young Justice was cancelled at the height of its popularity for several reasons, but mostly because, “girls liked the show.” According to the executives at Warner Bros., serious superhero cartoons were not what they wanted. They wanted wacky and weird superhero shows like Teen Titans Go, shows that better resembled Adventure Time or Regular Show. Their belief was that boys only wanted action and fart jokes, but what put the real nail in the coffin was the explosion of avid girl fans that fell in love with the show. Young women and entire families were suddenly sitting down to watch. It makes sense, considering that Young Justice gave examples of a lot of powerful, confident, and complex female heroines dealing with issues that many girls can relate to: family, relationships, body issues, etc. Unfortunately, for Warner Bros. they were an undesirable demographic, believing that girls would not buy actions figures or other merchandise. So after two seasons, Young Justice was cancelled, even though it was succeeding in the ratings.

Robin from the Rich
As much as we enjoy the humor of shows like Adventure Time, we would also argue that it is not the irrelevancy of that cartoon’s jokes which make make it a success. We also believe that there is room on a child’s cartoon pallet for ridiculous fun and serious action. Kids cannot live on fart jokes alone. Unfortunately, this whole thing only goes to show the true purpose of cartoons in the entertainment industry, to sell toys. Apparently, it does not matter if a show has a great plot, a bevy of amazing characters, or enough heart to make a linebacker cry. It all comes down to merchandising, and that is pretty damn depressing… Also, it explains Michael Bay.

Young Justice was full of bold ideas and incredibly creative characters. It may have been too serious for Cartoon Network and the WB, but its first two seasons have now found a home on Netflix. The online streaming service has been doing a lot to create interesting and worthwhile kids programming. Over the summer they released Voltron: Legendary Defender -and we recommend that you check that out too. A show like Young Justice would fit right in on Netflix and it would be a huge boon to the streaming service, and -quite frankly- to the struggling DC Entertainment company that has not been having a good year.

All we’re saying is that you should definitely watch this cartoon. Maybe if enough people were to stream it that might convince Netflix that it was worth the investment of a third season. Either way, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Box Office

What does Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and the Avengers have in common… besides Samuel L. Jackson? Each franchise has had one movie score over $200,000 in box office sales during their opening weekends. In Hollywood circles that is a big deal and a big indicator of a movie’s success, but is it? Is it really? You see box office numbers can be deceiving and it should go without saying that some of Hollywood’s biggest “successes” are also some of audiences’ worst movie-going experiences.

Spider-Man that’s a Lot of Money
Captain America: Civil War, debuted this past weekend with 181.8 million in opening weekend sales. That’s a pretty big deal, but those figures are not exactly a surprise to anyone. Superhero moves are hot these days, sequels usually tend to do better than their predecessors, and of course Marvel and Disney have perfected the art of the “hype.” Spider-Man, the original Sam Rami franchise -pre-emo Peter Parker- was the first movie to break the $100 million ceiling in opening box office weekend sales. This was back in 2002. Ten years later, another Marvel product, The Avengers, broke the vaunted $200 million ceiling setting the bar even higher, and studios have no intention to slow down. Everything from trailers to posters to viral internet videos are meant solely to put butts in seats. In fact, you non-nerds out there -we call you normies- may not even know it but this past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day. Guess, what comics Marvel gave out as part of their promotions? If you guessed Captain America and Civil War comics, you would be correct, and they’re not alone. DC was not far behind with a Suicide Squad comic featuring Harley Quinn, because that’s how you get big box office sales, but why do we care so much about box office sales?

The answer is actually two-fold. First, as Americans we always tend to have a winner mentality. Hollywood knows this better than most -they exploit it with every sports’ movie they have ever made. So, by declaring a movie as having the “biggest” opening weekend, or being the “first” in sales for the weekend, they are driving more people to the theaters for the second and third weekends. We all want to be part of “winning” and we don’t want to be left out of something other people are enjoying. Hollywood is very proactive in promoting their numbers, because they understand that we subconsciously take box office sales as an indicator of quality, or at least acceptability.

Secondly, the world is changing, and it has been changing since Toby McGuire swung after Willem Dafoe through the streets of New York. Think about how the entertainment industry has mutated in the past decade and a half -like a teenage boy bitten by a radioactive executive producer- and how this has affected the movie industry. In the bygone days of DVD and VHS, homes sales used to make up half of a movie’s revenue stream. Between 2012 and 2014 DVD sales saw an almost 10% drop and that number has been steadily declining ever since, while streaming service revenues increased by 32% during the same time frame. Now studios are left to rely solely on box office sales as their home release profits rapidly decline. Unfortunately, what that also means is that movies no longer has to withstand the test of time. All the major money is increasingly being made on the front end. Movies are becoming more and more about spectacle and hype than about quality and sustainability, and that means Hollywood is starting to care less and less about plot and more about using every trick in the book to get your butt in that seat on a Friday or Saturday night, especially if you happen to live in China.

Transformers: Age of External Market Growth
What does Battleship, Transformers, and Johnny Depp have in common… besides Samuel L. Jackson? In the United States each of those things has become box office poison, but scored big overseas. The shift in the entertainment industry has lead to a greater emphasis on foreign markets, especially in Asia and China where more and more Chinese people are finding themselves with disposable income and a taste for Michael Bay explosions. Johnny “Screw you Australia” Depp is the perfect example of this phenomenon. Have you wondered why in the name of the Carousal of Progress Disney is making another Pirates of the Caribbean movie? It’s because A-List celebrities still mean a lot with foreign markets. 2014’s Transcendence, the Depp helmed sci-fi flop only made $24 million in the States, but garnered over $80 million at global box offices. That still didn’t make it a hit, but it proved that Jack Sparrow could turn a profit. Disney is well aware of the power of the foreign markets, considering 54% of Star Wars: The Force Awakens$2 billion total box office came from foreign markets.

Take a look at Transformers: Age of Extinction, the movie no one was asking for. If you watched the latest Transformers abomination you would have noticed that the last half of the movie takes place in China… for no real reason whatsoever. This was done to appeal to Chinese audience. You may also have noticed a trend where movies seem to go out of their way to not offend and even pay tribute to the efficiency and honor of the Chinese government, because any movie that does criticize the Chinese Communist party stands no chance of making it past their censors. In fact, if you saw Iron Man 3 in a theater in Hong Kong, you would have been treated to an additional subplot starring two loyal Chinese scientists that never made it to American screens. The terrible remake of the movie Red Dawn, originally had Chinese villains, but when word reached the studio that the movie would not be shown in China the studio digitally altered the film in post production to make the enemies North Korean.

Why does Hollywood do this? Simply put, money. According to a recent study by the Motion Picture Association of America, almost 70% of a movie’s revenue now comes form overseas ticket sales. America may be still setting the trend for movies, be we are no longer the target audience. What’s even worse is that things like storytelling and nuanced humor go out the window with foreign targeted films. American humor doesn’t translate well into other languages, because concepts of humor are different across cultures, the same with many elements of emotional and subtle storytelling. However, what does translate well is explosions, and if you wonder why we are seeing more movies with CGI and big things blowing-up its because a fiery ball of death is truly our world’s universal language. This new emphasis is also one of the reasons why Marvel has begun releasing their movies one week earlier in overseas theaters. America is slowly becoming the second market to a lot of these big budget movies, because thanks to box office sales, Hollywood is now more eager to get into theaters in Beijing than New York.

Avatar Exemplar
This is all leading to a lopsided system. You see, the problem is that box office earnings -and especially opening weekend earnings- is that they are a bad indicator of a movie’s quality. Batman v Superman made $166.1 million in its opening weekend, despite sitting at a lousy 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s true that the movie had a significant drop-off in sales after the first weekend, but not before the studio raked in the cash both domestically and globally, enough to keep the DC train of pain going for a few more movies. Look at Avatar. When it opened it made over $77 million in its first weekend and ultimately grossed more than $2.8 billion. Unfortunately, that means we are now getting three more Avatar squeals coming up in the next few years, despite that fact that no one seems willing to tell James Cameron that people saw the movie for the 3D effects, and not the hackneyed soft-core blue alien Pocahontas story. In Hollywood, box office determines everything from what movies get made to the skin color of the actors that are cast, but is it even a reliable indicator of success?

Actually, there may not be a worse indicator of success, because the numbers can be deceptive. In fact, most opening weekend box office sales tend to be estimates, as the numbers are usually calculated on Saturday night with Sunday ticket sales extrapolated from past data. Also, these raw figures do not take into account things like budget or marketing expenses. So Avatar may have broken records with a $2.8 billion gross income in ticket sales, but if you take into account a $300 million budget, the movie only made a 933% return on investment. That’s really good, but if you look at a move like 1980’s Mad Max, which made $99.7 million on a $200,000 budget, it got a return of 24,837%. Yet, how many “Top Ten Box Office” lists is Mad Max on? In fact, you can break it down further and determine how much money was spent by studios per ticket sold. In 2011, the top three biggest movies were Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, ($381 million), Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($352.4 million), and the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 ($280.5 million)… Geez, that was a banner year for movies… Yet, if you break down sales by how much each studio spent per ticket sold you find out that Hangover 2 -yes, it truly was a banner year for movies- only cost the studios $2.50 per ticket sold to produce, whereas Transformers cost the studio $4.40 per ticket. Harry Potter and Twilight were able to keep the costs down at $2.61 and $3.12, respectively, because they shot two movies back to back and spread the cost out, but they were still not as profitable as a story about four drunk idiots making the same jokes they did two years earlier in a better movie.

Ultimately, this kind of ranking system says more about us than it does about the movies themselves. We put too much emphasis on which movie made more money, or who had a better opening weekend. Hollywood knows we are influenced by this sort of thing. They know that we all want to jump on the “bandwagon” and see what all the “hype” is about, and maybe the saddest part is that we no longer matter. Sp, even when America “votes with its wallets” against movies like Battleship and Transformers: Age of Extinction, all we do is prove how irrelevant we really are when compared with Asia and other places. These trends show no signs of slowing, so you had best get ready for more Avatars, more Pirates of the Caribbean, more Transformers, and more and more contests between studios to see who has the biggest box office in the boys’ locker room…

But if we can make one suggestion: Someone should really pull James Cameron aside and just tell him the truth already.

Today marks the opening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Just Another Attempt at Cashing in on a Comic Franchise. In preparation for the upcoming movie we have been bracing for the worst, while also trying to stay quietly and irrationally optimistic. Unfortunately, this movie has a tall building to leap in a single bound, and much like Man of Steel and its jaded and sepia toned hero, everything we have been seeing so far does not actually give us any hope.

The New Shifty Too
We here at The NYRD want to have high expectations for this movie. For many of us DC Comics was our first Springtime love. It was our first nerdy kiss, and like a first kiss it probably seems better in retrospect. Yet, it has gotten harder for DC defenders over the years, and that is saying something. Advents like the New 52 and the DC Cinematic Universe are not quite matching up to their Marvel counterparts. Criticism against the parent company of the Justice League is nothing new, but these days it is getting harder and harder to disagree. People have always liked to say that Superman is too powerful, too perfect, and too boring, and we can take that. Yet, the current problem is that one of those people is apparently named Zack Synder.

DC Comics has done everything they could to “improve” the character of Clark Kent, both under the direction of Snyder and in the New 52 comic universe. They have made him angrier, more tragic, and with a super scowl that could melt steel. The bright colors are gone, and is it just us or does Superman look naked without those red briefs? By altering the classic and iconic appearance of the Last Son of Krypton in order to fit into darker sensibilities, DC and Snyder have altered the character, more than they realize. Yet, that is simply a symptom of the larger problem, because what we get in Man of Steel is a bastardized version of Superman who is striving to be nothing more than a Bizarro reflection that wants to hang its foreign frame on the skeleton of Nolan’s Batman. For Hollywood the philosophy of “rinse and repeat,” is often their only strategy. Opening weekend box office sales may have gone “up up and away,” but DC needs to decide if the product they are giving us is truly representative of their past standards or just a momentary knee-jerk reaction to grab some quick cash.

After all, now that you have built a darker world where Superman -a man who literally is supposed to wear hope on his chest- is monotone and brooding, than what is the role of Batman? The great thing about Bruce and Clark is not their similarities but how they balance one another. Similarly their best moments rarely come when they are fighting, but instead when they are working together. Naming a movie Batman v Superman is such a juvenile transparent corporate profit stunt that it is barely made less ludicrous by the fact that they couldn’t even take the time to spell out “versus” or even at least abbreviate it to “vs.” It feels like the movie equivalent of a 5 year old ramming two action figures together and calling it a day, but then again, what else can you do when you have created a universe where your two main characters have the same depressed and violent personality.

The Last Straw of Krypton
Let’s get the obvious complaint out of the way first: Superman kills Zod, and as egregious as that is, it is only the beginning of the problem. In fact, we are a little surprised that Snyder didn’t slow down the reel so we could revel in the violence just a little longer, like Leonidas hacking a Persian to bits. Mr. Synder, we understand  you want to make a grittier and darker version of Superman, but sometimes tarnishing something that is supposed to be shiny and spotless makes that thing into something else entirely. This isn’t Sparta, and Superman is not Batman.

The Man of Steel is meant to be a boy scout. Bruce calls him that all the time, and it is meant as a term of endearment. It’s part of what makes him who he is. You lost a lot of people with that particular head-snapping-stunt, including Mark Waid, who explains, “Some crazy guy in front of us was muttering ‘Don’t do it…don’t do it…DON’T DO IT…’ and then Superman snapped Zod’s neck and that guy stood up and said in a very loud voice, ‘THAT’S IT, YOU LOST ME, I’M OUT,’ and his girlfriend had to literally pull him back into his seat and keep him from walking out, and that crazy guy was me. That crazy guy was me, and I barely even remember doing that, I had to be told afterward that I’d done that, that’s how caught up in betrayal I felt. And after the neck-snapping, even though I stuck it out, I didn’t give a damn about the rest of the movie.”

Snyder defends his position saying that this act will be the origin for why Superman doesn’t kill, but that’s not really the point.  That one final act just neatly crystallizes a larger problem. This Superman shows very little regard for human life throughout the entirety of the first movie. Yes, he saves people, but those are all scripted moments. They felt like peace-token offerings meant to placate audiences so that Snyder had an excuse to blow up buildings in the third act, because when the shazbot really does hits the fan we find a Superman who not only ignores the plight of innocent bystanders, but actively disregards the consequences of his destructive battle on the people caught in its path. We can understand the impracticality of stopping mid-fight with the major villain of the movie to try and save bystanders, but it would have been good to see Superman attempt it, despite the impracticality, maybe even because of the impracticality. If we had more examples of Superman trying to hold up a falling structure as people fled, only to be thwarted by a Zod counter-attack, then we might even have felt a little more urgency and even understanding when it came time for Superman’s fateful and final decision.

Superman: Birth Defect
In a non-Synder universe Clark becomes Superman to protect people. He wears a big goofy and bright outfit so people won’t be afraid of him. He does it because he feels this need to make the world a better place and because he is tired of hiding who he is. He does it to bring hope to people and to make his parents proud. In Man of Steel, Clark Kent becomes Superman because Zod forces him into the decision. He doesn’t begin his career as a savior, he begins it as a flying alien who would rather punch things, than stop a few fighter jets from crashing into the downtown area of Smallville.

Ultimately, that is people’s biggest problem with Snyder-man. The Man of Steel that we know and love from comics, cartoons, video games, and Richard Donner movies is a protector, not a warrior. That’s Wonder Woman’s job. Superman should be a beacon of hope who catches falling planes, not a dark avenger who hunts criminals. That’s Batman’s job. That is why the three of them work so well together, they are different shades of the same idea, but if Man of Steel taught us anything it is that DC believes their cinematic universe can only have one bleak and washed out shade of color. Superman shouldn’t need a reason for not killing. He knows how strong he is and how easy he can break things and break the people around him. The real Superman always understood that his powers gave him the responsibility to not do harm, but maybe in Snyder’s universe we can blame this particular flaw on the parents.

In Man of Steel Jonathon Ken expressed a real concern about his son exposing himself to the world, and any parent can understand that. However, you tend to lose audiences when he starts telling Clark that maybe he should let people die. More than the ending, that moment is the biggest let down of the movie. It was a metaphorical neck-snap of the entire Superman mythos. Pa Kent, a man who Clark always admired and revered and wanted to make proud, is reduced to a damned coward. As an aside, it is also worth mentioning that Clark Kent could have easily saved that dog from the tornado while walking at normal human speed. There was absolutely no reason Jonathon Kent had to sacrifice himself, especially because… again… Superman is not Batman. The Man of Steel never needed dead parents to motivate him, if anything it has always been his living parents that kept him grounded and happy.

We cannot be sure what Batman v Superman will add to the mistakes of Man of Steel. It is possible that this movie will hit the mark in ways we cannot even fathom and retroactively justify every decision made in the first movie. Unfortunately, with what we have been reading lately, that hope may be as long gone as Krypton itself. Despite the fact that DC still has award winning cartoons and enjoyable -if not a little campy- TV shows, heroes like Superman have always been easy targets for critics, but this time around we DC apologists may find ourselves facing another indefensible pile of CGI, jumbled plot lines, and frustratingly missed opportunities. For now, we’ll just have to console ourselves over a pint of ice cream and settle for rereading Superman: Birthright and watching old episodes of Justice League Unlimited.

“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.” The comic books would have us believe that this quote was spoken by the Joker, but what if that was not truly the case. In fact, what if the Joker never existed, or the Penguin, or the Riddler, or any of them? Each of Batman’s most prominent villains has a strong correlation to part of Batman’s psyche, maybe too strong of a connection. What if that was all they were, the fractured parts of a broken mind created by a young boy in the wake of a horrible tragedy? What if Bruce Wayne never became Batman, and instead his mind broke apart and each piece became a villain we now know.

The Id of Gotham
In this theory, we need to look at the fractured mind of Bruce Wayne in terms of Freudian personality factors: The Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego. The villains of Batman represent the Id, each can be described as a type of desire or subconscious urge that a young boy might feel as he grows up in a large lonely mansion after the tragic death of his parents. Each villain contains an aspect of Bruce’s own personality that he is fighting against and may even be based upon people in his own life.

Poison Ivy is a creature of pure desire. Her powers include pheromones that drive men wild, an ability to communicate with plants, and being a red head. Ivy represents Bruce’s budding sexual urges, but with the advent of a hidden danger. Ivy is beautiful -and sometimes barely clothed- but she only uses her abilities to gain control of men. She uses them for her own ends, and despite the fact that lust is a natural urge -natural like plants- Batman fights against her, afraid of the power she could gain over him. In reality, Ivy could be any girl Bruce interacts with, but if it is a specific one she might be older and more experienced.

Mr. Freeze is cold, incredibly cold. The loss of his wife and the experiment that turned him into a creature of sub-zero temperatures gave him powers, but it also left him encased in a giant metal barrier, forever cut off from the world. Before the accident, Victor Fries was a kind and gentle man, as warm-hearted and loving as they come. Freeze represents Bruce’s heart, it is cold and sealed away from the world after the tragedy he endured. Batman fights against him, but he can never cure Freeze. The Dark Knight is never able to warm the frozen heart. In the real world, Dr. Fries may be a medical doctor, cold an methodical in his methods and lacking a bedside manner. Thomas Wayne would have been Bruce’s initial doctor, but now he is gone forever.

The Penguin is Oswald Cobblepot, a wealthy yet deformed “business” man. The Penguin differs from the other villains in that he is not physically imposing. Instead he runs a criminal empire while posing as a legitimate entrepreneur and club owner. His refined sensibilities place him above other Gotham criminals, and to the young Bruce Wayne -heir to family fortune and business- the Penguin represents his familial responsibilities. He is everything Bruce fears about the world he must eventually step into now that his father is gone. Batman fights the Penguin because he fears what he is being forced into becoming. It is very likely that Cobblepot may even be an unflattering representation of Alfred. Both -usually tend to- have British accents, and Cobblepot has the same syllables as Pennyworth. More to the point, Alfred would be the person most pushing Bruce into fulfilling his family obligations.

Catwoman is the one villain that Batman comes closest to accepting. There are even several “What If” scenarios where they do eventually fall in love and get married. A resourceful and thrill-seeking cat-burglar. Selina Kyle has very little responsibilities, preferring to live like one of her cats, free to come and go as she pleases. She represents Bruce’s fear of forgetting his pain and guilt. To accept Selina is to move on with his life and leave his parents behind. Whereas Bruce fears becoming like Penguin, he also refuses Catwoman, no matter how bad he sometimes wants her. Batman still fights Selina because that would mean growing up, getting married, starting a family, and letting go of the past. In real life, she is probably his only friend, a kindred spirit that Bruce enjoy but refuses to open up to.

The Riddler is a criminal mastermind. He is probably the most brilliant of any of Batman’s adversaries and yet he is also one of the craziest. Riddler’s compulsion to leave clues and puzzles at the scene of his crime are often his undoing. Riddler represents Bruce’s intelligence and his logic. Yet, it is a flawed intelligence, one that gets in its own way more often than not. Bruce knows he is a smart kid, and being smart and logical one often wants to feel in control of their own life. He blames himself for the death of his parents. Bruce was the one who asked to go to the theater. He was the one who put his parents in that situation. Much like the Riddler, he was the master of his own undoing and all the intelligence in the world couldn’t stop it. In real life, Edward Nygma might be a teacher who is always giving the class problems to solve.

Bane is an intelligent and tactical thinker who becomes a raging punch monster when hooked on Venom. If the Riddler represents Bruce’s logic, than Bane is his rage. Going through the kind of tragedy that Bruce suffered leaves a lot of people with issues of anger, and Bruce Wayne is no different. The drug, Venom, affects the usually articulate and smart Bane in much the same way Bruce’s rage can turn the well-spoken and intelligent boy into a monster. Moreover, rage can be addicting and dangerous, just like the Venom drug. Batman faces many savage enemies -Man-Bat, Killer Croc, and more- and though they all represent part of his savagery or anger, there is no better representative of the potential for his ongoing rage than Bane. He is the only villain who ever succeeds in breaking the Batman. Bane, may not be a real person, but someone Bruce watches on TV, maybe even a Mexican wrestler.

Scarecrow is fear, plain and simple. Having your parents killed in front of you is traumatizing, and we would be amazed if it didn’t leave young Bruce Wayne living in a state of unadulterated and irrational fear. It is also telling that Dr. Crane is a psychologist. In the real world Scarecrow may represent Bruce’s therapist. In talking about the trauma of his tradgedy Bruce is probably often forced to relive the terror and fear of that fateful night in his discussions with the real Dr. Crane. Thus, to the young boy’s mind going to the psychologist is linked instinctively with fear. So when Batman fights the Scarecrow he is really fighting against that fear, and maybe even against the advice of his therapist.

Two-Face was once the celebrated district attorney, Harvey Dent, now he is a killer and a crime-boss. To Bruce he represents a sort of dual identity, and we’re not talking about as Batman. “Stiff upper lip,” is something you can hear Alfred saying to young “Master Bruce.” As a Wayne, the small boy is the last heir to the family business and fortune. Bruce must often be forced to put on an appropriate media friendly mask whenever in public, even when he probably just wants to cry and collapse in his bed. Such a strain can tax even the brightest of children and Bruce must feel as if he is being pulled apart, forced to choke down emotions and smile in public. It is probably no coincidence that Batman also despises his public persona. Dent represents the attorney who prosecuted his parents’ killer. He must have put Bruce on the stand, but not before prepping the boy on how to act -over and over again- as he was the key witness in the case. Because unlike in Bruce’s fictional world, in real life the police caught the killer.

The Joker is by far the most iconic and most dangerous Batman villain of all time. The Clown Prince of Crime is a force of utter chaos and inhumanity, completely irredeemable by any standards. Both comedian and killer, you never know what will come out the barrel of his gun, a punching bag or a bullet. For Bruce Wayne, who lost his parents and sits on the brink of his own sanity, the Joker does not represent any one aspect of himself, instead he represents the enemy, the biggest threat of them all. The Joker is chaos incarnate, a faceless and nameless man without a backstory whose only job is to make Batman’s life a living hell. The Joker is the fictional representation of the man who killed Bruce’s parents, the man who shattered Bruce’s mind.

Many of Batman’s minor villains could also be taken as other and lesser impulses. The Mad Hatter represents living in a delusional world. The Calendar Man represents a fear of growing older. Soloman Grundy represents unstoppable grief, and the list could go on. Ultimately, this theory helps makes more than a fictional comic book world. Gotham City is nothing more than the mind of a scared and mentally damaged child. Even the character’s names sound like things a child would create, Oswald Cobblepot, Edward E. Nygma, Pamela Isely, but what about Batman. What does he represent in this shattered world?

The Ego of Batman
Taking this idea one step further, we find Bruce Wayne, a boy of ten or eleven who just lost his parents. His mind fractures at the trauma, inventing monsters and criminals that threaten to tear apart Gotham, the city that represents his mind. So being a prepubescent boy, Bruce invents a caped crusader to fight them. He invents Batman as his ego, the part of his mind that tries to suppress the Id and find a balance with the Super Ego. The Super-Ego is best represented by Alfred, Bruce’s surrogate father figure. In any Batman story the loyal butler is often the rock of reason, but Bruce rarely listens to his pleas for normalcy. Thus, Batman may help keep these nastier forces and impulses in check for Bruce, but he also does not allow the young boy to get past them either.

Batman is constantly fighting villains, none of which he is able to kill or keep locked up for long. The impulses are always escaping and always wreaking havoc on Gotham. Batman eventually beats them, represses them behind the bars of Arkham. Yet, Gotham never improves. No matter how hard Batman fights to clean up the crime, the corruption, or the villainy, Gotham remains as dirty and broken as ever. Bruce fights against these aspects of his mind, but never allows them to heal. He never gets past them. There is often evidence that when Thomas and Martha Wayne were alive Gotham was friendly and cleaner, but that all that falls apart after they die. Bruce’s mind crumbles into the Gotham City we know today and Batman is part of the problem. He is not really an agent of change so much as he is an agent of the status quo, a never ending cycle that keeps everything exactly as it is.

So, regardless of whether you buy into this theory or not, you have to admit that it fits well within the world of Batman. There has always been a psychological darkness that pervades the adventures of the Dark Knight, and it speaks to us all in a whispered voice that says, “All it takes is one bad day…”

We here at The NYRD are geeks through and through, but we have often resented the fact that geeks are not supposed to like sports. On the contrary, we could not be more excited for the coming football extravaganza taking place this weekend. In fact, we are so excited about our Sunday of nacho dip, over-the-top commercials, and friendly -though technically illegal- betting, that we decided to show our love through comics. Hey, we’re still geeks.

The world of DC Comics is full of fantastic and “super” heroes, but with an equally “super” football game coming up, we here at The NYRD though it would be fun to take some of those fictional DC cities and envision what their football teams might look like. Our artists designed eight helmets, drawing from the DC Comics New Earth timeline -because of course- and they even made a few original teams inspired by some of those fictional hometowns of your favorite superheroes. Click on the gallery below to check out our newest creations as you get ready for this Sunday’s big game. See if you can spot the inspiration for each team’s football logo, and if you like what you see don’t forget to check out The NYRD Shop to find some more inspired football and DC mash ups.

Game on!

The world of DC Comics is full of fantastic heroes and heroines, but even they had heroes of their own, both on and off the gridiron. Every city in the DC Universe has its own flair and feeling, and their own sport’s franchises that captured the imagination of prepubescent superheroes. Now you can be like young Clark, Bruce, Barry, and Hal, and purchase one of four vintage shirts from the Detective Comics Football League. Choose whether you want to support the Metropolis Metros, the Gotham City Wildcats, the Central City Cougars, or the Coast City Sharks. All four teams are from the New Earth timeline of DC comics. So now you can show your colors and support the hometown of your choice. These are the shirts that your favorite heroes wore as they played catch with their fathers in the backyard… except for Bruce… and Hal… Actually, come to think of it, father’s don’t tend to last long in comics.

Being a superhero is a tough and sometimes thankless job: fighting crime, battling super-villains, and constantly updating the look of your costume for every new movie. It’s even worse for LGBTQ heroes and heroines who we have yet to be featured in any of the blockbuster movies that have graced the screen in the recent decade. The small screen of television has been only a little better about featuring bisexual heroes, mostly women, but certainly not as progressive as many might like. There is a definite job discrimination going on in Hollywood against superheroes of the LGBTQ community, but maybe that just means that they are following the trends set by the rest of the country.

It is important to portray a diverse range of superheroes in blockbuster movies, not just minority or positive women heroes, but LGBTQ as well. Why is that important- which we hear you ask with our super-hearing? Because according to the Harvard Political Review, superhero movies promote and enforce social norms and roles. Due to their prominence in our cultural these modern myths consciously and subconsciously dictate the way we see ourselves and the world. Diversity among our heroes is important, and Marvel, DC, and all the rest have begun to get better about positively portraying racial and gender diversity, and Aquaman. -He has long been a target for ridicule and discrimination, but that is for another article.- However, even as LGBTQ characters are on the rise in other media and films, they are still curiously absent from the superhero movie genre. In fact, more often than not, the entire idea of homosexuality is glanced over or ignored, much like LGBTQ issues in the non-pulp fiction world.

The Unambiguously Gay Discrimination
Now we, here at The NYRD, have talked about gender identity and sexuality before, but we did not get to cover some of the legal issues and challenges that face members of the LGBTQ community. You see, even as marriage discrimination in the United States is finally at an end for gay and lesbian couples, their struggle for equality is far from over. Much like a super-villain that refuses to stay dead -even after we clearly saw him fall into that vat of acid,- discrimination always seems to return in new and different ways. The sad part is that even though same-sex couples can now legally get married, they can also still be legally fired from their place of employment due to their sexuality. Only 19 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based upon gender identity and sexuality. Other states have executive orders or bans on sexual discrimination, but they are not always enough. Additionally, according to the ACLU 31 states have no explicit employment protections for transgender people. If an LGBTQ person is fired in one of those state they have no recourse fight back, save for vigilantism, but we don’t endorse that.

Last year, President Obama signed an executive order that gave employment protection to LGBTQ employees of Federal contractors, and the EEOC helps protect the rights of Federal employees, but those rights do not always extend to private sector or public state-level workers. Even worse the order could be easily overturned by President Lex Luthor or whoever will be sitting in the chair next. A federal law to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes would be the most effective in preserving LGBTQ civil rights, but any attempts to do so or create laws that protect LGBTQ workplace employment, housing, credit, education, federal financial assistance, jury service, and/or public accommodations usually ends up deader than Uncle Ben on a bad night.

This is a surprising statistic considering 69% of Americans favor laws to protect LGBTQ civil rights, and 75% of Americans currently -and incorrectly- believe that it is illegal nationwide to fire someone based upon their sexuality or gender identity. Yet, in Congress laws like the 2007 Employment Nondiscrimination Act, or the more recent 2013 Employment Non-Discrimination Act, have either been killed in the Senate or refused to be heard in the House, respectively. This means that Senators and Representatives have actively ignored or struck down modern laws which would keep actual human beings from being fired or discriminated against due to biological urges and factors they have no control over. We are going to hum the old Batman theme song while we let that idea sink in for you… Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da… Batman…

A lot of the resistance by Republican Senators and Congressmen comes from the fact that they are beholden to a small religious subset of people who mistakenly believe that granting LGBTQ members their civil rights will somehow impinge on religious rights and freedoms. This sort of backwards argument can be seen most recently when Ellen Page interviewed Presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz, all while he his holding someone’s meat.

The interview -as frustrating as it seems- actually illuminates the thought process of a lot of the ultra-religious right. There is a victim mentality, as if people who are religious believe they will lose their freedom to fire an employee or refuse to sell services or goods to customers based upon their religion. Ted Cruz tried turning the infamous case of the Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple on it’s head. However, the main argument of that case is less valid than Clark Kent’s birth certificate. It tends to focus on the wrong elements, as if it exists in a vacuum. Even more importantly, a Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that “the act of designing and selling a wedding cake to all customers, free of discrimination, does not convey a celebratory message about same-sex weddings likely to be understood by [a reasonable observer.]”

That is really the crux of the argument against this supposed religious persecution of Christians by the LGBTQ community. After all, what if that Christian baker refused to make a bar mitzvah cake or a cake for Ramadan? -Also, yes we know that Ramadan is a month of fasting, but they can still have cake after sunset. Ms. Marvel would.- The Colorado court’s ruling basically says that offering your goods, services and/or employment opportunities to another human being, is not the same as participating or even endorsing that person’s lifestyle or religion. A reasonable observer would conclude that a business that bakes cakes for all occasions, would reasonably bake a cake for a wedding, gay or otherwise.

Now, some will always try to argue the extremes, but there are extremes for every circumstance. Maybe a Jewish baker should not be forced to make a swastika cake for a the Red Skull’s birthday party. Maybe you can fire someone for dangerous sexual behavior, but the problem with applying those arguments in this situation is that you are equating an LGBTQ person with extreme or deviant behavior. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer is not any of those things, and most people, even many religious ones, agree with that stance. According to the Public Religion Research Institute 60% of all American believes that businesses cannot deny service to gay or lesbian people. In fact, even 42% of white Evangelical Protestants believe that gay and lesbian people have a right to be provided professional services, by Christian businesses regardless of religious idolatry, but in the end it still comes down to perception.

Midnighter at the Apollo
In some ways we have come far from the old stigma of gay and lesbian stereotypes. However, there is always more work to do. Being lesbian or gay still holds a connotation of being something other than normal. For a man it is equated with being effeminate, or for a woman it means being butch or manly. Our cultural norms, on the other hand, still lend themselves toward the ideals of the knight and the princess. Popular culture, in particular, still likes its “men to be men” and “women to be princesses-in-need-of-recusing-by-men-who-are-men,” and a lot of LGBTQ issues and heroes suffer because of that.

For example, when notable bisexual hero John Constantine, appeared in his own short-lived -though well regarded- network series, the decision was made to make the character straight, because it was believed a bisexual titular hero on TV might be too hard to handle for viewing audiences. As opposed to all the black occult magic and demon killing, which they thought we could handle just fine. The sad part is that Constantine’s sexuality was never a big part of the hero’s identity in the comics. It is barely touched upon, and it would have been too easy for NBC to not even confirm or deny it on the show. Instead, they “straight-washed” him much to the dismay of many LGBTQ nerds and geeks, and the problem is even worse on the big screen.

In the world of superhero films, gay heroes simply do not exist, but a one would go a long way to further normalizing LGBTQ issues in the public arena. Additionally, this obvious omission in superhero diversity is puzzling, because comics have already stepped up to the plate and tackled -sometimes very poorly- issues of gay, lesbian, and transgender characters. Northstar, was Marvel’s first superhero to come out of the closet, and despite his flaws -he’s Canadian- he is still considered to be one of the most respectable representations of a gay hero in comic history. He was even recently married in a ceremony in Central Park, and has faced a number of real and believable issues due to his homosexuality. His status as a member of the LGBTQ community does not define him as a hero, but it is a part of who he is. Also, Northstar is not alone. There are more and more LGBTQ superheroes in comics. So, how long will it be until we see one in theaters?

Bad News for Batwoman
Unfortunately, there is no hope on the horizon. Kevin Feige, in a very roundabout way, basically confirmed that there could be a gay superhero one day in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but probably not anytime soon. Iceman of the X-Men has been confirmed as being gay in several alternate alliterations in the comics, but it seems like his movie counterpart is straight and crushing on Sookie Stackhouse. Thus, barring some kind of extreme bromance situation at the end of Batman V. Superman, it seems unlikely they we will be seeing an LGBTQ superhero soon, which is a missed opportunity. Tackling these sorts of issues will be what helps move the superhero genre from frivolous popcorn movie to a forum for lasting impact.

Life and art always imitate one another, and if we are not willing to see gay as heroic than it is no wonder that they are still being discriminated against in the workplace and in our communities. Imagine how empowering it would be for a thirteen year old boy or girl, dealing with issues of sexuality, to be able to look up to a superhero and realize that being gay or lesbian does not mean you can’t be the hero, or a real man, a real woman, or anything you want to be in this world. After all, if we can’t get an LGBTQ person a job saving the world, than how can we ever expect them to get fair employment anywhere else?

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