Archives for August 2013

Ben Affleck to Don the Batman Cowl

benaffleck

Tell me that this couldn’t be Bruce Wayne. Go ahead, tell me.

by Aaron Einhorn
And it’s time to queue up the geek rage once again.

This happens fairly commonly in our community, and to some extents, it makes sense. If there’s one thing that defines a geek, as opposed to just a fan, it’s passion. Geeks are passionate about their interests, which means that when news comes out about the latest development in those interests, we’re not at all shy about sharing our praise. Or, conversely, hitting the internet to spew our bile and hatred.

This has hit the web repeatedly over the last six months – from the reactions to Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and The Wolverine, through the casting of Peter Capaldi as the latest Doctor on Doctor Who, and now to the announcement that Ben Affleck is set to take up the role of Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel (as-yet-untitled, because I can’t imagine they’re going to call it Superman/Batman after all their efforts to not title the recent films starring those characters by the character name).

So, what is my reaction to this casting news? I am thoroughly in the “undecided” category.

First off, let’s look at Affleck himself. Ben Affleck is a solid B-List actor in my opinion. He’s rarely given a performance that I would describe as “brilliant,” but he also rarely stinks up a film that he’s in. He’s been in some films that were fantastic (Shakespeare in Love, Dogma, Good Will Hunting, Argo), some that were terrible (Armageddon, Gigli) and quite a few that are simply good. And again, his performance usually hits me as “solid.” Not brilliant, but not bad.

Ben_affleck_daredevilThe exception, of course, is his previous foray into superhero films, Daredevil. Though opinions vary, I have never been able to enjoy anything about that film. To be fair, I saw it under less than ideal circumstances – I saw it at a Drive-In, and the projection was off enough that this was the movie that made me feel like I was the blind one, but I really hated it. As a fight geek, the playground battle between Murdock (Affleck) and Elektra (Jennifer Garner) is in my Top Five awful on-screen fights, and the solution to how he manages to defeat the Kingpin has never made sense to me. (Rain should make the radar image more confusing, not less so. Sorry.)

I’ve been told that the Director’s Cut makes a difference, and I own said cut, although I have yet to force myself to watch it. Maybe it’s time I give it a try.

That said, Affleck himself has never been my problem with that film. In fact, most of the performances in the film are ok, with some verging on great. (The late Michael Clarke Duncan was a superb Kingpin, and remains one of the best examples of why color-blind casting is a Good Thing.) My problems are mostly script and directing issues, so it’s hardly fair to blame that film on Affleck, any more than I blame Batman and Robin on George Clooney.
Ben Affleck’s Batman will not be Christian Bale’s Batman, but that’s ok. He shouldn’t be the same. Bale’s Batman exists in a very dark world, where there are no superheroes, and only one vigilante. Affleck’s Batman needs to share a world with the Man of Steel, which is going to require a different touch.

The one place I have an issue with Affleck has been his very public criticism of the film.

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Heath_Ledger_as_the_JokerStill, that’s hardly his fault, and we’ve certainly seen Chris “Captain America” Evans express regrets about Fantastic Four. So, I’m prepared to cut Affleck a little slack. Would Affleck have been my first choice? No. But he’s far from the worst possible choice in my opinion. And we’ve certainly been surprised by casting choices in superhero films before. Or has everyone forgotten when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman way back in 1989? Or even Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker? (I wrote an article critical of that very bit of casting back on my old blog at Underneath The Mask, and wow, was I wrong.)

Now, that said, am I optimistic about the success of the film? Well, define “success.” Warner Brothers has shown that they have some idea about how to make movies that are about superheroes, and how to make them profitable. Man of Steel did a very respectable box office ($649 million world-wide is nothing to sneeze at) and The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are numbers Two and Three, respectively, in domestic box office.

So, will Superman/Batman be a financial success? Oh, probably.

But we all know that DC’s intention in bringing these two characters together is, at least in part, to replicate the success Marvel has had with their Cinematic Universe. And I don’t think they can manage that.

If you look at DC/Warner Brother’s recent successful superhero films (and television series), they’re each fundamentally apologetic for their comic roots. Smallville, Batman Begins, Man of Steel and Arrow all did (or do) everything they can to run from the comics, trying to ground the characters in “reality” and putting them in outfits that almost suggest their comic outfits, but try to move past that. The one film they produced that didn’t follow this model was Green Lantern, which was just terrible.

And meanwhile, Marvel is giving us a film about gods fighting Dark Elves; soldiers fighting their best friends revived as cyborg assassins; a film with a walking tree, a talking squirrel and a green-skinned warrior woman who fight evil across the galaxy; and a movie about a superhero who will kick your ass an inch at a time.
guardians-of-the-galaxy-concept-art-comic-con

Marvel is enjoying the hell out of making superhero movies that honor and respect their comic book roots, while DC is busy apologizing for those same roots. And for that reason, no, I’m not real hopeful for Superman/Batman (or whatever they end up calling it) – especially since I think they need one more solo Superman film so that Cavil’s version of the character can properly explore the consequences of Man of Steel.

Of course, that said, I’ll be there opening night to check it out, because nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong. You see, as much as I’m willing to be critical (and in fact, I think being critical is important. We can’t accept anything just because we’re desperate to see our favorite characters on the screen. We need to push Hollywood to give us those characters and to do it well.), I love superheroes, and I love seeing them on the screen. I want a long-running Justice League franchise out of DC. I think healthy competition is good, and the Marvel films, as great as they are, can only benefit from having to compete with an amazing set of films from Warner Brothers.

In the meantime? Let’s lay off of Affleck until we’ve seen what he can do, ok?

Weekly Comic Round-Up, August 14, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

astrocity_3Astro City #3: “Mistakes”
Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson have been doing something remarkable with Astro City ever since the very first issue. To this day, the first story in Astro City tugs my heartstrings and has made the Samaritan one of my favorite Superman pastiches. So, was I worried to see the book moving to the Vertigo imprint? No, not really, but I did wonder where it was going to go. This issue is the second issue focusing on Marella Cowper, a customer service representative for the Honor Guard. The first issue showed how she inadvertently caused a massive war and battle in a small South American village, and this issue shows us how she tries to fix it.

As always, Astro City is about the human element to the superhuman tales, and as is not uncommon, our POV character is not one of the heroes, but an ordinary person caught up in the extraordinary. It should go without saying that this is an issue you would be well served by picking up.

avengersarena_13Avengers Arena #13
I was a huge fan of Avengers Academy, and so despite being unthrilled with the premise behind Avengers Arena, as the “spiritual successor” to that comic, I was committed to giving Arena a chance. I’m glad I did.

In this issue, Hank Pym and Tigra, the headmaster and headmistress of Avengers Academy, start trying to track down the missing students, based on a hunch provided by Molly of the runaways. We don’t actually get to see anything involving the Arena, but we do get a really strong investigative story as Pym consults with Captain Britain, Wolverine, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the parents of several of the “missing” kids, and we get to see just how well Arcade has covered his tracks.

It’s still a question what Arcade’s master plan is, but from this issue it’s clear that he does have one. Very solid read from Christos Gage and Karl Moline.

infinity_1Infinity #1
Marvel kicks off their latest “big event” with the return of Thanos, mysterious forces threatening the galaxy, and a cast that dwarfs most of the “event” crossovers.

I have to say that, as event comics go, this one is both grander and smaller in scope than many. Anytime Thanos appears it is something to take note of, but this book seems to be mostly contained to the Avengers titles. Considering that Jonathan Hickman is writing this title as well as Avengers, that makes sense – but it also makes me feel like this could have been restricted to an inter-title crossover.

Nonetheless, we actually get something kind of interesting here, and it helps justify some of the weirder character choices (Starbrand, Smasher, Hyperion) that we’ve been seeing in Avengers start to get used in the pages of Infinity.

Word has it that Infinity will also cover some of the ways that the timeline and continuity have been “broken” by some of the previous cross-title events, so I’ll stick around for that if nothing else.

In other words, the first issue of Infinity didn’t leave me overwhelmed, but it also didn’t leave me annoyed about spending $4.99 for the title.

thunderagents1T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
I was just a young lad the first time I came across Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. At the time, the license was owned by First Comics, and in the intervening years, it’s moved around quite a bit, including a recent stint at DC Comics where Nick Spencer brought a new version of the agents to the modern era.

Somehow (I’ve missed the drama surrounding how), the license has moved to IDW, and Phil Hester and Andrea Di Vito have brought us a new version of the team. The comic seems to be taking place in contemporary times, but starting with a relatively young team of agents. Thunder and NoMan are a part of the team, facing off against Iron Maiden, and the issue begins with the Maiden having defeated Lightning, destroying NoMan’s body, and taking the Invisibility Cloak (again) and THUNDER (they aren’t bothering with the acronym’s periods within the pages of the book, so while should I?) forced to come to a new solution. That solution is the Thunderbelt, which will end up being worn by Len Brown. In this story, Brown is an ex-hockey player who has been serving as an oddly scrupulous leg-breaker for the local mob. Brown isn’t very smart, but he seems to be loyal and brave, and all but immune to pain, so he’s the perfect candidate for the belt.

We don’t get a chance to see the new Dynamo in action, much less see his initial encounter with Iron Maiden (which will, no doubt, turn romantic), so this very much feels like a “Part One” instead of a stand alone comic. I kind of miss the era when most issues of a comic told a complete story, but hey, I’m so happy to see T.H.U.N.D.E.R. back that I can’t possibly be an unbiased critic here. This isn’t the best version of the Agents I’ve seen, but hopefully it’ll be a more long-lived one than DC’s recent offerings. I know I’ll be buying the next issue.

uncannyxmen10Uncanny X-Men #10
Scott Summers and his team of X-Men (currently consisting of himself, Emma Frost, Magneto, Magik, the Stepford Cuckoos, a very young Warren Worthington III and several brand new mutants) are having an interesting time of it. While Summers himself is still wanted for the murder of Charles Xavier, he and his team are doing their best to find new mutants, save them from persecution, teach them how to use their abilities, and occasionally save the world.

Against this backdrop, Magneto may or may not be collaborating with Maria Hill and the new Mutant Liaison for S.H.I.E.L.D., Alison Blair, and the other heroes of the world, especially the Avengers, may still be trying to stop them.

I don’t know if I know who this version of Cyclops is. He isn’t the idealist I grew up with, he isn’t the militant I found myself puzzled by, but he’s an interesting guy.

Not a lot of action occurs in this issue, it’s more of a set-up issue for the return of the Sentinels next issue, prompted by Scott and team appearing at a pro-mutant rally in Ann Arbor, but it’s still a good character read. For people looking to jump in on Uncanny X-Men, this issue might not be a bad starting point.

Meanwhile, Green Lantern Corps #23 reveals the mysterious reason that the rings have been failing as we discover a threat to all of the major entities, Secret Avengers #7 has the attempt to assassinate the Supreme Scientist fail, Daisy get fired from S.H.I.E.L.D., and Mockingbird get abandoned, Ultimate Comics: X-Men #30 has an all-out war begin between Kitty Pryde’s Utopia and Jean Grey’s Tian, and in World’s Finest #15, Power Girl and Huntress face off against the New 52’s version of Desaad.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Scott Comics Character Roster Book – My first published book

scottcomics_coverby Aaron Einhorn
I define myself as many things. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a brother. I’m a son. I’m the Branch Leader of Heroes Alliance Ohio. I’m a costumer. I’m a superhero fan.

But one of the ways I’ve always chosen to define myself has been as a writer. I’ve written three novels, abandoned a half-dozen others and countless short stories, although to date, none of those have been published. (That said, I’m hoping that Nobody’s Hero will eventually break that trend.) I’m also a technical writer in my day job, and I’ve written quite a few memos, training manuals, instruction guides, snippets of online help, and e-learning courses.

However, I’ve never been able to walk by a book, comic or gaming store and seen a book with my name on the cover.

Until now.

As of yesterday, the ScottComics Character Roster Book, a sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition, has officially come out. At the moment, the book is available on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com, through the ScottComics website, or if you happen to find ScottComics at a comic or gaming convention.

(Incidentally, if you’ll be at GenCon this weekend, the book will be at G33k & Co’s booth #1349 on Saturday or Sunday of the con, along with Scott’s novels and the trade paperbacks for both Our Supermom and Raymond Hardcase.)

I owe a lot to Scott Bachmann. He’s been one of my good friends for closing in on twenty years now, and we’ve shared a lot of stories, a lot of laughs, and supported each other through some tough times. He’s responsible, indirectly, for the job I currently have, and he’s one of the reasons I started writing a new novel last year, after almost deciding to chuck it all based on a lack of response to Children of the Sleeper.

Scott is a heck of a storyteller and it shows in the writing of his comics and novels. I’ve reviewed both Our Supermom Vol.1 and Paragon of Animals on this site, and really enjoyed them both. He gave me a heck of an opportunity to play in his sandbox in the creation of the ScottComics Character Roster Book and I am very grateful.

The ScottComics Character Roster Book is a character book to be used with Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition, powered by their “Superpowered by M&M” open license. If you’re a player of Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition, the characters contained within give you a fresh set of over twenty heroes and villains to use in your games. If you’re a fan of the shared universe Scott has been creating, the book will give you some insights into the characters you’ve seen (or in some cases, only heard about) in the pages of his books. There may be a few spoilers contained within, and some new secrets may be teased.

It’s something I’m pretty proud of, both for its for existence and with the final delivery as well.

Check it out!

The Query Letter

by Aaron Einhorn
My third novel, Nobody’s Hero is currently in a state where I have decided to try to publish it. Initially I was considering following the footsteps of my friend Scott Bachmann (ScottComics.com) and self-publishing, but I’ve been persuaded by my friends to attempt to find an agent and go the traditionally published route.

So, that’s what I’m doing. With that in mind, I’ve decided to chronicle that attempt here. Below you will find the template of the query letter I’m sending out to agents. The final paragraphs are personalized based on who I’m sending the query to.

Most teenagers have responsibilities they’d prefer to avoid. For Delia Blake, those responsibilities include saving the world.

In NOBODY’S HERO, a completed 102,000-word YA Superhero Fantasy novel, Delia is trying to have the typical high school experience, rather than embracing her role as the hero she was born to be. Delia is the child of two of the world’s greatest heroes, members of the Liberty Squadron, and has lived her entire life seeing the price that being a hero takes on the families of those heroes. Because of this, she has hidden her powers from her family and their teammates, all in an effort to live as normal a life as possible.

Of course, living a normal life is relative when your best friend is super strong, your ex-boyfriend is your father’s teen sidekick, and you have to balance track practice with hand-to-hand training from an extra-dimensional martial arts expert.

When the heroes of her parent’s generation begin being killed off, Delia must choose between continuing to hide her abilities, or stepping up and using those powers to save her family and stop the unknown villain who is killing the world’s super powered protectors.

All while she tries to figure out who to go to her Junior Prom with.

I am a technical writer and have been an online superhero journalist for the past ten years, for the websites Movieweb.com, ComicHeroNews.com, and DadInACape.com. My first superhero role-playing game supplement, the ScottComics Character Roster Book, for use with Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition, will be available this fall. NOBODY’S HERO is my first novel that I have submitted for publication.

PERSONALIZED PARAGRAPH GOES HERE

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,
Aaron Einhorn

New Trailer for Thor: The Dark World

by Aaron Einhorn
I’m just going to leave this here…

Wow. I mean, wow. I was a fan of Thor, despite some criticisms. But this one looks even more fantastic. I love seeing how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is weaving a complete tapestry. Each film stands on its own, but as a whole, the world they’re making is just amazing.

And hey, what’s not to love about Chris Eccelston as Malkeith the Accursed, right?

I generally try to avoid trailers once I’ve decided to see a movie, and I almost skipped this one. But I’m glad I didn’t. I cannot wait for Thor: The Dark World to arrive in theatres on November 8.

Our Supermom Vol. 1: Family Matters: Review

OSM_c01Our Supermom Vol. 1: Family Matters – Available Soon

by Aaron Einhorn
It should be no secret that I am a fan of Scott Bachmann’s writing. Yes, he happens to be a friend of mine, but that doesn’t mean I automatically have to like everything he produces. I’ve got several good friends who are published authors whose books don’t appeal to me.

I’ve already reviewed his first novel, The Paragon of Animals here. Today, I’m turning my eye to his comics. Liza Lang, the protagonist of The Paragon of Animals finishes that book as a newly transformed superhero. But the events of that knowledge are some fifteen years in the past. Liza’s story continues, and she ends up getting married and having two children. But how does one balance being the world’s most powerful superhero with being a mother? That’s the story that Bachmann explores in Our Supermom.

Our Supermom has been running on-line at OurSupermom.com since Fall of 2011, with print copies of the individual issues available from Print-On Demand, thru DriveThru Comics and by finding Bachmann at a convention. Now, the first arc of Our Supermom is coming to a close, and the first four issues of the comic are being collected in Our Supermom Vol. 1: Family Matters.

I was given a copy of the book to pre-read and review, and it was a pleasure to go back and refamiliarize myself with the story of Liza, Leon, Mark and Gail that I’ve been reading one page at a time for the past two years. But how does the collected story work as a trade paperback? Read on to find out.

OSM_01Our Supermom is the story of Liza and how she balances the responsibilities of being a (mostly retired) superhero with being a mother. Liza has to juggle all of the normal challenges of parenting with occasionally stopping a disaster – a daunting enough task. But that wouldn’t be enough for this story, and Bachmann gives us much more. In addition to these issues, Liza must also deal with a new vigilante who has set up shop in her town, watching her children develop superpowers of their own, and watching as her powers begin to fade away.

What we end up with is a comic that mixes humor and action, and creates a story that is enjoyable by older fans of superhero comics, while still being accessible to kids. I love Our Supermom as a superhero comic, but my wife enjoys it for the realistic portrayal of motherhood (well, realistic except for the whole superpowers thing), and both of my daughters can have fun reading it as well – with the characters of Markie and Gail there to be identifiable to them.

From other works, I knew I would enjoy Bachmann’s writing, but one of the things that was a variable for the book was going to be the artwork. Having a good penciler can make or break a comic series after all, and I’m pleased to say that the pencils of Scott D. M. Simmons are more than equal to the challenge. Simmons has a cartoony style that isn’t overexaggerated and off-putting. It manages to convey both the light-hearted tone of most of the book, but still has enough depth and realism that the more serious moments are discordant with the art.

OSM_02Does that mean that Our Supermom Vol. 1: Family Matters is a perfect graphic novel? No. As enjoyable as the story is, it’s obvious – especially in the first “issue” – that Bachmann is still learning to balance the needs of a page-a-week comic against the need to have a smooth transition when the title is collected in to a trade paperback. There are several beats that remind the reader that these stories were originally broken in to much smaller chunks for audience consumption. These issues fade away as the book continues, both from the reader getting used to it and as Bachmann gained skill as a writer.

In addition to all four issues of Our Supermom, Our Supermom Vol. 1: Family Matters also includes the bonus comic created originally for the Lexington Comic Con, and several pages of fan art featuring Liza and company.

Our Supermom Vol. 1: Family Matters completes this chapter for Liza Lang, the Paragon. But considering that Bachmann has written and published one novel for Liza, with a second one on the way, we can hope that this isn’t the end of her story.

Our Supermom Vol. 1: Family Matters will be available soon through DriveThru Comics and at ScottComics.com.