Editorials

Here are a collection of editorials I had written at my old site that I thought were worth preserving here.

A Study in Contrasts: Elsa and Regina on Once Upon a Time

10301601_710917885630375_897088975289582442_nby Aaron Einhorn
I’m a Disney fanboy. I make no excuses for it. I love Disney, always have. And I jumped on the Frozen bandwagon early (thanks to a sneak peek screening). So, last night, Christina and I sat down to watch as Frozen invaded Storybrooke in Once Upon a Time. Overall, we quite liked the episode, and the casting (even if we found Kristoff a bit too scrawny.) But what I found really interesting to think about were the similarities and differences between Regina and Elsa.

Similarity wise, they’re both queens – not Princesses, but Queens. And that’s a distinction that matters. They aren’t just “of noble birth” (which Regina isn’t, really) or just used to having wealth and power, but they’re both accustomed to ruling – something that Princesses aren’t.

They’re two of the only outright magically powered characters on the show. The only others are mostly inhuman (Rumple, Red, the Fairies) – even if they were human once – and the third is Emma, who is her own unique thing.

But where their similarities end, their differences are all the more interesting, because they’re such opposites. Visually, Elsa is taller, fairer of skin, light-haired, and wears light blues and whites. Regina is shorter, dark-haired (and wears it short), and favors dark colored clothing.

10685582_710780718977425_5943111331391290055_nIn terms of their magic, there is the obvious contrast. Regina’s favored magic is fire, while Elsa is all snow and ice (although they both have a curious penchant for affecting hearts).

But their personalities are where they are most strikingly different. Regina’s single biggest flaw has always been her inability to accept personal responsibility. Everything – everything – is someone else’s fault. And she’s not wholly wrong – Regina has certainly been the victim of master manipulators and tricksters, along with the most wretched set of circumstances. Regina isn’t a monster in her mind – she’s the victim looking for justice, and whenever someone else calls her a monster, she lashes out, looking for revenge.

Elsa on the other hand internalizes her fears and doubts, and sees herself as a monster when others don’t. While Anna tells her that she loves her, and that the things she’s done aren’t her fault, Elsa is the one to say “I’m a monster, I should be left alone.” Elsa can’t give herself the slightest allowance that, maybe, someone else is to blame for the circumstances.

They’re both wrong, of course, being at opposite ends of the spectrum instead of finding a healthy middle.

And of course, they come from the entire range of Disney’s animated films, with Snow White being the first animated feature film from Disney, and the first Princess movie, and Frozen being the latest (at least until Big Hero 6 arrives in a few months.)

Still, it has me really looking forward to seeing what this season will bring. And that doesn’t even touch on the other elements that I hope to see developed this year. I want more of Emma and Hook. I want more of Gold and Belle (and yeah, I am exactly fanboy enough to have appreciated his outfit, her gown, and the song). I want to see where Regina’s scheme goes (and I’m happy to see Sidney Glass back). And the hat… oh, the hat. Yeah, I’m sold.

I don't expect to see a certain mouse wearing this hat... but I'm sure it's the same one.

I don’t expect to see a certain mouse wearing this hat… but I’m sure it’s the same one.

Bring on more episodes!

A Few Thoughts About Disliking “Change” In Comics. Or Ice Cream.

10492273_10203159472400705_5082000371930497149_nby Aaron Einhorn
This past weekend was the San Diego Comic Con. Also known as SDCC, or Comic-Con International, or “Where Hollywood reveals all the nerd news fit to print for a year and we also occasionally talk a little bit about comics.” Unsurprisingly, a lot of news came out, and this was right on the heel of the announcements about Thor Odinson losing Mjolnir and the hammer being taken up by a new female character who will, initially at least, go by the moniker of Thor – and the news that Steve Rogers will age rapidly and his former partner Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon) will take up the shield and title of Captain America for the near-future.

(I say near future because we all know that by the time Avengers: Age of Ultron is in theatres, Steve Rogers will be Captain America again, and Thor Odinson will once more be the God of Thunder.)

Coming out of Comic-Con, we’ve gotten footage from Arrow, Gotham, Age of Ultron, Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice. We’ve seen new costume designs, heard casting announcements, and sequels have been given dates.

10478135_10203171072570702_4554904111003099747_nSome people have been happy about bits of this news. Others have had criticisms. And some people have reacted to the criticisms by saying words to the effect of “God, you fanboys suck. All you’ve ever wanted was to see X (where X can be a combination of characters on the same screen, or a well-loved character finally getting a live action representation, or more diversity in comic line-ups, whatever). Now you’re getting it, and all you can do is complain? What’s wrong with you? Besides, you’ll go see it anyhow.”

So, allow me to present a metaphor.

 

If the “chocolate” ice cream you’re trying to serve me has nuts and fruit mixed in, and tastes more like raspberry than chocolate, than the argument that I can now have chocolate ice cream in a shake, or a sundae, or a float, and for the first time ever, can have it with strawberry ice cream and vanilla ice cream, instead of just having it on the cone, forgive me if I’m not grateful for the fact that there is chocolate ice cream being served at all.

Especially when I can go down the street and get mint chocolate chip from your competitor.

And before someone says “But you haven’t even tasted it yet,” that’s true. But I can still develop an expectation based on previous experiences and what I can see. If I don’t like strawberries, and I can see chunks of strawberry in the ice cream, it’s reasonable for to believe I won’t like the ice cream after I’ve tasted it.

I may still taste it eventually, but I might wait awhile to do so, and might go buy a new type of ice cream from your competitor first, and only try your strawberry concoction when I get around to it.

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Now, I’m not excusing nerd rage. Because that crap has gotten ridiculous – and there are fans who really need to relax. But so is saying that having criticisms is ridiculous and we should just be happy to get a movie featuring these characters at all.

No. I am allowed to not like what I’m seeing, politely say so, and spend my money elsewhere.

Someone asked me, when I first presented this metaphor, if I had a specific film in mind when writing this. And while I did, I had to ask if it really mattered? Because arguably one persons reasons for not liking the new female Thor could fit this analogy, while another persons feelings about Superman vs. Batman could fit, while another persons being upset with Marvel reprinting Miracleman could fit. While it’s certainly true that some of the negative responses to these things have been overblown, there are also many legitimate reasons to have criticisms. If you don’t like the news about the new Thor because you’re a misogynist, you should be called on it. If you don’t like Sam taking over for Steve because you’re a racist and Captain America is the Aryan Superman, you should be called on it. But if you don’t like it because you’re not a fan of mantle-passing in the comics at all? That’s legitimate.

wonder27f-2-webIn my case, I did write this about Superman/Batman. While I never minded any of the casting, I felt like Man of Steel was too dark – in tone and in visual style. The reveal of the footage from SDCC, and Gadot’s costume have only confirmed for me that this DC Cinematic Universe, much like their New 52, is not to my taste and liking.

I may still go see Dawn of Justice (although not until after I see Cap 3 if they stay on the same weekend), but I do not like what I’m seeing so far.

I do think that nerd-raging over the costume, or Gadot, or Affleck is silly. And that’s not what I’m doing. I’m not filled with rage, I’m just not seeing anything so far that is filling me with confidence for the film, meaning I thinking I’ll give it a pass, or at least a long delay. But when I say something like that, there are some who respond “Hey, be happy you’re getting Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in a live-action film at all. Don’t criticize.”

And I reject that. Not criticizing is why the studios were able to give us Superman IV and Batman and Robin. And at a time that there are really good superhero films being released, why should I settle for something that I don’t think looks good, just because it has some of my favorite characters in it?

Re-Focusing the Disney Villains

by Aaron Einhorn
It turns out that not twelve hours after writing this I was back in the theatre with Christina and the girls, watching Maleficent a second time. I am happy to say that, on a second viewing, I enjoyed the film a good deal more. Knowing that what I was going to see was a “She’s the misunderstood hero,” film, instead of watching Maleficent’s Start of Darkness made it a far easier film to enjoy the second time around, and everything I found charming the first time around was that much better without the baggage of expecting to see Maleficent actually be a villain.

That said, I still felt like, ultimately, Disney made a misstep with the film – because while Maleficent is a fun movie – and quite possibly a very good one – it is also one that more or less destroys Maleficent ‘s reputation as a villain. And while I applaud the trend seen in both Frozen and Maleficent to show female characters who actually have agency in their films, instead of being objects to be rescued or at best aides to the Hero (and bonus points for putting actual magical power into the hands of the protagonist, instead of keeping magic as something to be doled out by the wise and often inhuman mentor) – I still feel that ultimately, Maleficent has more worth as a brand as Villain than Hero.

Consider, if you will, the role of Maleficent in the Villain line. Look at the sample merchandise from the line, and see how prominent the Mistress of All Evil is – she is normally front and center, overshadowed only by Chernobog (who is given odd prominence considering how small his role in Disney mythology is. The only movie he’s a villain in is Fantasia, and there only for one segment. He doesn’t even have any lines.)

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Disney Vinylmation Figures – the Villains line has Maleficent front and center

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Maleficent is right there in the on-page logo of the Villains section of Disney’s online store.

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Maleficent in the “Dream Along With Mickey” show.

That doesn’t even begin to touch upon her role as a villain within the parks. Maleficent is the chief villain during the Dream Along With Mickey show in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, her dragon form is one of the main attractions in the Festival of Fantasy parade, and she is the climactic moment in Fantasmic! in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.

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The Dragon form in the Festival of Fantasy parade.

Fantasmic_Dragon

The climax of “Fantasmic!”

Additionally, for the readers in Disney fandom, Maleficent was chief among the Overtakers (Disney villains trying to take over the parks) in Ridley Pearson’s first four Kingdom Keepers novels.

KKI

Maleficent’s malicious gaze threatens the heroic kids.

Heck, when Disney’s House of Mouse did their House of Villains movie, Maleficent even gets to sing the line that should have been the Evil Queen’s. (Check the video below at the 1:00 mark)

Is it worth diluting all of this just to add a female character (who will never be a part of the Princess line) with magical powers for fans? Even if Maleficent is a huge hit, little girls are not going to be casting aside their Anna and Elsa dresses to don the dark fairy’s black dress and horns (and, in fact, Disney doesn’t offer a child-sized version of the dress at this time, although adults can purchase Maleficent’s gown – when it’s back in stock.)

And that’s when it hit me. Maybe it is intentional.

Maleficent is, when it comes down to it, a relatively late addition to the Villains line. Snow White (1937) gave us the Evil Queen, who was relatively ignored until she leapt back to prominence thanks to Lana Parilla’s delightfully wicked performance on Once Upon a Time. Chernobog originates in 1940’s Fantasia. Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella (yes, they have names) come from 1950’s Cinderella – and Maleficent doesn’t appear for another nine years after that.

That’s right, of the “Classic” members of the Villains line, Maleficent is the second-to-last addition, only followed by Cruella di Ville.

Consider that earlier villains have fared much better on Once Upon a Time than their more recent additions. Ursula only actually appears once – her other appearance was actually the Evil Queen masquerading as the Sea Witch. Maleficent appears a few times, played by Kristin Bauer van Straten ( True Blood), but she consistently plays second fiddle to the power of Regina or the main characters. But Regina, the Evil Queen? She’s practically the star of the show. And Captain Hook (whose on-screen relationship with Disney began in 1953) has become a show mainstay, and the romantic interest for our lead.

Regina

Who’s the fairest of them all? Well, there is certainly an argument for it to be this version of Regina…

Meanwhile, despite Maleficent’s prominence in the early Kingdom Keepers novels, by Books Five and Six, she’s barely present and she doesn’t appear at all in the final volume – while the Evil Queen, Chernobog and Tia Dalma all gets lots of attention.

Notice that it is the Queen's eyes we see now, not Maleficent's.

Notice that it is the Queen’s eyes we see now, not Maleficent’s.

Could it be possible that someone in the Disney hierarchy has decided to move the focus away from Maleficent, for whatever reason?

Could the Flanderization of Maleficent be, in IT-Geek speak, be not a bug, but a feature?

In any case, we can be certain that long before the Green Light was given on Maleficent, someone at Disney made a long and hard calculation on the decision to transform one of the most pre-eminent members of the Villains line into a hero. Perhaps it’s a desire to cash in on the popularity that Wicked gave to the Wicked Witch. Maybe it’s the decision to shift the focus of the Villains line to other characters. Or maybe they have something else entirely in mind. But I can’t believe that they made Maleficent into a hero accidentally. And being the Disney fan that I am, I’ll confess to being very curious to see how this plays out.

Calm Down, Internet!

by Aaron Einhorn
Megan Fox as April O’Neil
Ben Affleck as Batman
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
Channing Tatum as Gambit
Kate Mara as Sue Storm
Miles Teller as Reed Richards
Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm
Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang

You know what all of these actors and their roles have in common? The fact that we don’t know anything about what their performance will be like. We can make some guesses as to how well they’ll fit physically, and we can even infer something based on past performances, but we do not know.

You know who does know? The casting directors for the films they’re on. And these people are paid a great deal of money to cast the right actor on the film to make it a success. They don’t have anything invested in crushing your dreams – they want to cast actors who have a mix of marketability and an ability to play the character. Yes, it’s about money, but making a good movie is how they make money.

You know who they have something in common with?

Michael Keaton as Batman
Chris Reeve as Superman
Henry Cavill as Superman
Chris Evans as Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

There were people ready to criticize and condemn each of these actors as being totally wrong for their characters before we saw the final result. And they all worked out (with varying degrees of success) pretty well.

So, hey, Internet? Can we all relax and not judge an actor until we see the final product? Besides, so much of the actual portrayal will have to do with the script and the direction that it’s only partially on the head of the actor in any case. I think that Brandon Routh and James Marsden both had amazing potential as Superman and Cyclops, but we never got to see that because of the script and direction.

Which doesn’t mean you can’t decide you’re not interested in seeing the film. I have less than zero interest in anything directed/produced by Michael Bay, and based on past performances, I wouldn’t expect to be impressed by Megan Fox’s acting so I won’t be seeing the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But I’m not going to judge Megan Fox’s April O’Neil unless/until I see the film.

Rebuilding a Superhero: Week Two

by Aaron Einhorn
Here we are, one week into consistently focusing on fitness, diet, health and costuming. And while we’re off to a slow start, it’s an encouraging one. I managed to stick to my calorie budget (for the most part), exercised all six days this past week as planned, and had some significant progress on both Cyclops and Captain America coming together.

Fitness

When I weighed myself this morning, Monday, February 24, 2014, I weighed 203 pounds after showering. I didn’t run this morning, but will tonight – so I could have weighed in a little lower than that if I had. My goal weight is initially to get to 185 lbs. again, and from there, I may shoot as low as 165 – but a well-muscled 185 is perfectly acceptable. Last week, I weighed in at 204.2 pounds, so we’ve got a little over a pound lost.

With the exception of Saturday, I tracked my food intake this past week using the LoseIt app on my iPhone. I am using the app to set myself a goal of losing two pounds a week, which gives me a rough calorie budget of this past week of 1,714 calories per day. I am also specifically using the app to track my recommended levels of Fats and Protein. Results:

  • Sunday, February 16: 1,681 (-33)
  • Monday, February 17: 1,485 (-229)
  • Tuesday, February 18: 1,562 (-152)
  • Wednesday, February 19: 1,547 (-167)
  • Thursday, February 20: 1,893 (+179)
  • Friday, February 21: 1,847 (+133)
  • Saturday: No tracking

My total for the week put me at 38 calories under budget for the week. I didn’t log any of my exercise in the app, which according to the specifics of the app, would have given me extra calories to eat.

I successfully hit my goal of working out six days this past week. Alternating Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday will be weight-training/circuit training using Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred, which was the backbone of most of my success last time around, and on Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays, I am returning to running. I’m using the Ease Into 5K app from BlueFin to motivate and log my running.

Sunday: 30 Day Shred, using 10 lbs. hand weights for the whole routine. I overdid this, and managed to strain some muscles in my right arm, which affected the rest of my workout schedule. Note to self: You can’t jump right back in with the same weight you had been using when you worked out regularly two years ago.
Monday: C25K, Week 1, Day 1. Most runs were performed at a 6 mph pace, and most walks were done at a 3.5 mph pace. Covered a total of 2.06 miles on the dreadmill, with most runs at a .5 incline.
Tuesday: 30 Day Shred, using 5 lbs. hand weights for everything except the Chest Flys in the third interval, which I used 10 lbs. for. This was a bit rough, because Cordy came downstairs and wanted to help, so I spend a lot of my time correcting her form.
Wednesday: C25K, Week 1, Day 2. Most runs were performed at a 6 mph pace, with every third performed at 6.5 mph and most walks were done at a 4 mph pace. Covered a total of 2.46 miles on the dreadmill, with most runs at a .5 incline.
Thursday: 30 Day Shred, using 5 lbs. hand weights for everything except the Chest Flys in the third interval, which I used 10 lbs. for.
Friday: C25K, Week 1, Day 3. Runs alternated between a 6 mph pace and a 6.5 mph pace and most walks were done at a 4 mph pace. Covered a total of 2.50 miles on the dreadmill, with most runs at a .5 incline.
Saturday: Rest Day

Costuming

There was a lot of progress on costumes completed this week, partially bumped forward because of needing to have Captain America ready this weekend for a Heroes Alliance event.

Cyclops (Claremont-Era Inspired)
This week, Cyclops saw his gloves and trunks arrive, his gloves get painted, and I got a replacement top that is a turtleneck instead of a crew neck. I also assembled the belt. All that remains on the costume now is to dye the trunks, and to re-touch the paint on the boots.

The gloves, from Leather Mystics, in their unpainted form.

The gloves, from Leather Mystics, in their unpainted form.

The gloves, now painted with Angelus leather paint, as recommended to me by my friend Allen Hansard. I will never again Nu-Life gloves.

The gloves, now painted with Angelus leather paint, as recommended to me by my friend Allen Hansard. I will never again Nu-Life gloves.

Belt assembled together. The buckle originally came from Peachykitty, whose shop can be found on Etsy, although I purchased it unpainted and painted it myself.

Belt assembled together. The buckle originally came from Peachykitty, whose shop can be found on Etsy, although I purchased it unpainted and painted it myself.

Costume assembled. The boots in this image still need to be touched up (they were the Captain 105s from Funtasma, and originally I used them for Jack of Hearts).

Costume assembled with the new turtleneck top. The boots in this image still need to be touched up (they were the Captain 105s from Funtasma, and originally I used them for Jack of Hearts).

Since the previous image looks a little "Captain Underpants," I pulled it into Photoshop and color-corrected the trunks and fixed the spots on the boots.

Since the previous image looks a little “Captain Underpants,” I pulled it into Photoshop and color-corrected the trunks and fixed the spots on the boots.

Captain America (The First Avenger Inspired)
It will be some time before I’ve got the money saved up to purchase a new shield (and I’m not really ready to undo all the work I did on my U.S. Agent shield), so in a stroke of amazing generosity, a good friend has loaned me his Factory X “Official” Shield of Captain America. At 27” diameter, this is considerably larger than the movie shield, as you can see thanks to my amazing model, Captain A-Mira-ca.

It is absolutely unfair that she is so much cuter in the helmet and holding the shield than I ever will be.

It is absolutely unfair that she is so much cuter in the helmet and holding the shield than I ever will be.

At the last minute, the Heroes Alliance Ohio team was invited to come out for an event this Saturday, and I desperately tried to get Cap assembled. Between the borrowed shield, my existing helmet, gloves, boots, belt and pouches, and the same suit I borrowed for the previous test picture shots, I managed to make it happen.

Captain America: The First Avenger, as he appeared for the kids at the Childhood League Center on Saturday.

Captain America: The First Avenger, as he appeared for the kids at the Childhood League Center on Saturday.

This is not a complete costume. For one thing, the suit seen here isn’t mine. For another, the gloves and boots both need the addition of straps and extra panels to resemble the versions used in the film. And once the suit does arrive, there are a lot of pieces to the suit that I intend to replace and upgrade. But it worked well enough for the kids to be overjoyed at meeting Captain America, which is the ultimate goal.

That’s where I’m at. Not a bad first week, I think. Thanks for sticking with me.

Rebuilding a Superhero: Week One

by Aaron Einhorn
Long, long ago, I created a column on Comic Hero News titled Superhero Transformation. This column existed to chronicle my efforts to get in shape and to build my first superhero costume in over a decade – Superman.

That effort was originally based around wearing the costume to San Diego Comic Con, but that costume ended up leading me into helping to create the Ohio Branch of the Heroes Alliance, and has led to a lot more costumes.

Of course, life being what it is, there have been changes since I originally dropped from 216 to 185 lbs. Changing work schedules and increased activity from my children has given me less time to work out, and bad food habits have crept back into my life.

A few months back, I noticed that the scale was creeping north of 200 pounds again. And I have been halfheartedly keeping track of my food intake and trying to work out somewhat regularly. But there have been times the lure of a Snickers bar has been too hard to resist, and many mornings that I would rather lay on the couch playing Marvel Avengers Alliance on Facebook instead of throwing in Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred or jumping on the treadmill.

Today, I weighed myself and realized that despite those half-hearted efforts, the scale has not budged in two weeks. And while it’s possible that there has been some muscle build to offset some fat loss, I’m neither feeling it nor seeing it.

To paraphrase Wanda Maximoff, “No more cheating.”

Nothing keeps me accountable as much as a public log of my efforts, and so that’s what I’m doing again. This won’t just be a log of my fitness though, because that would be utterly boring and of no interest to anyone who is coming here for the superhero stuff. I will also be showing off my WIP for the costumes I’m currently working on.

Fitness

When I weighed myself this morning, Monday, February 17, 2014, I weighed 204.2 pounds. This was after running this morning, and showering. My goal weight is initially to get to 185 lbs. again, and from there, I may shoot as low as 165 – but a well-muscled 185 is perfectly acceptable.

My intention is to track my food using the LoseIt app on my iPhone. I am using the app to set myself a goal of losing two pounds a week, which gives me a rough calorie budget of 1,714 calories per day. I am also specifically using the app to track my recommended levels of Fats and Protein. For future weeks, I will be including my daily results on sticking to that goal.

I also intend to work out six days a week. Alternating Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday will be weight-training/circuit training. I’m starting off with using Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred, which was the backbone of most of my success last time around. I intend to add some more intense upperbody and ab exercises in the evenings of those days as well, but those will not be for a few weeks, because my arms are plenty sore right now just from doing that video yesterday.

On Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays, I am returning to running. I’m using the Ease Into 5K app from BlueFin to motivate and log my running. I used their app last time, and got myself to the point where I did successfully run a few 5Ks without stopping to walk during the runs. I’d like to get back to that.

Daily run results and whether or not I actually did Jillian Michaels’ routine will be recorded here as well, starting next week.

Costuming

I’m currently mostly focusing on two costumes right now, with a third project slowly percolating on the back burner.

Cyclops (Claremont-Era Inspired)
Cyclops has always been my favorite of the X-Men, and Chris Claremont’s run on the comics through the eighties and into the nineties has always been my favorite timeframe for the book (up until just now). So, I’m aiming to do a costume mostly focused on that suit.

Here’s what I have so far.

The raw, unpainted kit for the visor. I lucked into a steal for the visor, and that's why this is a Claremont-era inspired costume, instead of strictly faithful.

The raw, unpainted kit for the visor. I lucked into a steal for the visor, and that’s why this is a Claremont-era inspired costume, instead of strictly faithful.

The visor, cleaned, sanded, painted, and assembled.

The visor, cleaned, sanded, painted, and assembled.

Wearing the visor with the hood and spandex top. This isn't the actual top I'll be wearing, which will be a mock turtleneck. The navy of the hood and the shirt aren't a perfect match, but they're close enough.

Wearing the visor with the hood and spandex top. This isn’t the actual top I’ll be wearing, which will be a mock turtleneck. The navy of the hood and the shirt aren’t a perfect match, but they’re close enough.

My belt buckle, sanded and painted. I have a red leather belt to attach this to - I just need to figure out how I want to do so.

My belt buckle, sanded and painted. I have a red leather belt to attach this to – I just need to figure out how I want to do so.

I also have a pair of white leather gauntlets from Leather Mystics, which will be painted yellow with Angelus paint, and a pair of Captain-105 boots from Funtasma by Pleaser, which are already painted yellow, but need a bit of touch-up. This makes this costume almost completed, once I do some painting, complete the belt, and acquire a new set of yellow briefs. Expect to see updates for this costume next week.

Captain America (The First Avenger Inspired)
Captain America is hugely popular with kids right now, thanks to the success of the Marvel movies. I actually already have a U.S. Agent costume, but the truth is that when I wear him for events, kids treat me like I’m Cap, and it’s easier to tell them that this is just a different costume than my “normal” uniform and be Cap for them.

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So, I’m working on creating a new Cap suit, and hope to have it ready in time for a Heroes Alliance Ohio event we’re doing for the premiere of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

This is the helmet of the costume, made by the awesome folks at Malmey Studios.

This is the helmet of the costume, made by the awesome folks at Malmey Studios.

The gloves, as a base version. I'm going to weather them, add the wrist strap, cuffs, and then split the seam and add the buckle at the wrist.

The gloves, as a base version. I’m going to weather them, add the wrist strap, cuffs, and then split the seam and add the buckle at the wrist.

The base for the boots. These need weathered, and to have the cuffs/buckles added. They're not the Cocoran's that are screen-accurate, but they're a good enough match and were a quarter of the cost.

The base for the boots. These need weathered, and to have the cuffs/buckles added. They’re not the Cocoran’s that are screen-accurate, but they’re a good enough match and were a quarter of the cost.

These are vintage WWII ammo pouches, and will be worn on the belt of the costume. They're not exactly the ones seen in the film, but they're a good enough match.

These are vintage WWII ammo pouches, and will be worn on the belt of the costume. They’re not exactly the ones seen in the film, but they’re a good enough match.

This is the base cosplay suit. This version was ordered by a friend of mine, but mine has been ordered and is on it's way. It needs modification, including replacing hardware, changing out the star on the chest, and adding a red stripe that will go over the zipper in the front, but it's not a bad base, I don't think.

This is the base cosplay suit. This version was ordered by a friend of mine, but mine has been ordered and is on it’s way.
It needs modification, including replacing hardware, changing out the star on the chest, and adding a red stripe that will go over the zipper in the front, but it’s not a bad base, I don’t think.

That’s where I’m at. Hopefully some of you have read this far and will keep me motivated. And maybe I’ll be able to motivate some of you.

Gal Gadot is Our New Wonder Woman

by Aaron Einhorn

Well, DC and Warner Brothers certainly aren’t being gunshy about casting unpopular choices for their upcoming Man of Steel sequel. First there was the announcement that Ben Affleck would be Batman in the film that is already being called Superman vs. Batman in most fan circles. And, of course, the internet went into a rage over that bit of casting.

Yesterday, DC announced that Fast and Furious star Gal Gadot would be appearing as Wonder Woman in the film. Ladies and gents, I give you our next on-screen Wonder Woman.

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And, of course, the internet has once again gone nuts.

“She’s too short!” “She’s too skinny!” “She doesn’t act like Wonder Woman!”

And so on, and so on.

I have to say that I am, once again, in the “wait and see” camp. Would Gadot have been my first pick for Wonder Woman? Absolutely not – but that is in no small part because I’ve never seen her act. She has quite an impressive list of Israeli films that she’s been in, but in the U.S., I’ve never watched any of the Fast and Furious franchise (and am unlikely to), nor have I seen her on Homeland or Entourage.

Which brings up an important point.

I also was not in the room when she auditioned.

Casting directors, as a general rule, don’t want to make bad casting choices. They know that their jobs are on the line if a multi-million dollar film fails and it can be blamed on a bad casting choice. They’re looking for something in the audition room, and presumably, Gadot delivered. Have we ever seen Gadot “act” like Wonder Woman? Well, no. But she also hasn’t been playing Wonder Woman, so we shouldn’t have.

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“She’s too short! She’s too thin!”

Yes, Gadot is definitely on the slender side. This makes a certain degree of sense – she has a background as a model and former Ms. Israel. And it’s certainly true that Wonder Woman should have a sense of physical power and musculature to her. But here’s a pre-Superman Henry Cavill, a pre-Wolverine Hugh Jackman, and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth.

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Not exactly muscular powerhouses. After a few months of diet and exercise with a personal trainer…

EXCLUSIVE: Henry Cavill On The Set Of 'Man Of Steel' hugh jackman shirtless wolverine

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And that’s only three examples. You can find similar before and after images for Chris Evans, Toby Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Ben Affleck and others.

Now, women’s bodies are different than men’s, but do you think that Warner Brothers won’t be throwing a ton of money and trainers and dieticians at Gadot to prepare her for this role? Of course they will. I do like that Gadot is Mediterranean (Israeli instead of Greek, but at least the right region), because while Wonder Woman is rarely drawn that way, she should have a bit of that swarthiness about her. I also like that Gadot has experience in the military and from other action films, so I’m sure she can handle herself in the action sequences.

As for her height? Well, Hollywood has been working around the height issue for years. And she’s hardly short. Gadot stands 5’9”, compared to Cavill’s 6’1” and Affleck’s 6’4”. Put her in heels and do a little forced perspective, as I am absolutely certain they will (because they probably don’t want Batman to be taller than Superman), and I’m sure that the relative heights will even out.

Like I said above, Gadot would probably not have been my first choice. But I’ve also seen no reason to think that she will be a terrible one. Would I have liked to see Jaime Alexander or Gina Carano? Sure thing (incidentally, both of these actresses are the same height or shorter than Gadot). But I think the only fair thing to do is to wait and see. It is far too early to say that she’s going to be the death of this film.

Especially since there are plenty of other areas where DC/Warner Brothers could drop the ball. I remain plenty skeptical of this film for reasons totally unrelated to the casting of Gadot or Affleck, but entirely related to my belief that the company no longer understands the emotional heart of their characters and what makes them resonate with audiences (as I described in my previous post regarding the casting of Ben Affleck).

So, I’m ready to give her a chance. And rest assured, if I’m dissatisfied, I will be quick to say. But it doesn’t seem like the time to criticize her casting is now – before we’ve seen anything of her performance.

justice_leagueBut it’s also possible that her casting could help turn the Man of Steel sequel into the beginnings of a Justice League film. And if that’s the case, we should all be excited as fans – not criticizing an actress who we shouldn’t be ready to judge yet.

I’m not advocating blind fandom. I’ve ripped superhero films apart in my critiques, even ones that I really wanted to like. I think we have an obligation to ask that our favorite characters be adapted to film well. But we shouldn’t start that criticizing before we see what we’re going to get from the studio. Fans hated the casting of Keaton as Batman, of Evans as Captain America, and of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Fans were excited about the idea of Halle Berry playing Storm and Kevin Spacey playing Lex Luthor.

Judging at the time of the announcement is just too soon, that’s all I’m saying.

 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham – A Tale of Two Television Series

by Aaron Einhorn
Last night, Christina and I had some friends (and fellow members of the Heroes Alliance Ohio team) over to watch the premiere/pilot episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and while we were waiting for the episode to air, we saw the news about Warner Brother’s new show for 2014 – Gotham.

“Wait,” you might say, “Warner Brothers is going to make a show to directly compete with Marvel, focusing on the ordinary policemen who make up the police force of Gotham City? Isn’t that a case of copying their rival?”

Well, no. For one thing, AoS will already be in to its second season by the time Gotham airs. For another, AoS is a show that is much larger in scope than Gotham. Coulson and company are clearly globe-trotters, taking on threats and concerns all around the world – Gotham will be focused on Jim Gordon in a pre-Batman Gotham City. We may see some action in the outer burroughs , but we can expect the show to be much more local than global.

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Furthermore, AoS takes place within the timeline and constraints of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The action of the show picks up several months after The Avengers, and the conflict of the first episode ties directly in to the events of Iron Man 3 – which coincidentally came out on Blu-Ray/DVD the same day that the first episode aired. Conversely, Gotham will probably not be tied to any existing version of the DC films. In theory it could take place in the same setting as Nolan’s films, but Gary Oldman is unlikely (and indeed, unable) to come back and reprise his role as Gordon. Similarly, the reboot that the Batman universe is in store for will be placing an older, experienced Batman into Man of Steel – which doesn’t fit into the scope of the show either.

The bigger difference is right there in the names of the shows. Marvel’s offering proclaims itself Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a throughline in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and the first episode showed us Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill, Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson, clips from The Avengers, action figures of each of the heroes, and most of the heroes mentioned either indirectly or by name.

”Technically, I don’t think Thor’s a god.”
“Well, you haven’t been near his arms.”

AoS is unapologetically, unabashedly a part of the greater Marvel superheroic film universe. We’re going to see bright, flashy elements. We will probably see costumes of some sort as the show develops – not that the S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms are far off on their own, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo is prominent across the sets. Heck, in the episode, when someone asks what they just saw, Coulson responds with “That’s a superhero.”

Meanwhile, in both DC’s films and in recent, successful television shows (Smallville, Arrow, Man of Steel), costumes are all-but forbidden and the phrase superhero is never heard. (Despite DC having half of the trademark on that phrase.) You’ll here heroes called “vigilantes,” or “costumed crime-fighters,” but “superhero”? Never.

James_Gordon-1The title of this show is Gotham. It’s not G.C.P.D (an actual comic title) or Gordon, it’s Gotham. It follows the mold of Smallville, hiding the show’s comic roots, and it promises that we will never see Batman. We may see Gotham’s famous villains, but I’m sure that it will be Selina Kyle and Edward Nigma and Oswald Cobblepot that we see, not Catwoman or the Riddler or Penguin. (And my suspicion is we won’t actually see most of the well-known villains, and that the show will instead focus on the crime bosses of the Batman mythos.)

We’re seeing two competing philosophies about using comics as the base for film and television in action. And it isn’t my place to say which is right and which is wrong, but I think my preference is clear. Marvel has embraced the comic book roots of their characters and their world, and that is visible everywhere from the overall tone, to the dialogue, to the pace, to the costumes and codenames.

DC on the other hand, continues to do everything they can to mask that the show or film is based on comics. “Please, excuse the fact that these characters came from ‘funnybooks’,” they seem to say. “Really, they can be compelling despite that. We promise not to do anything too flashy with superpowers or costumes. We won’t even call them Superman or Green Arrow.”

All I know for sure is that I am eagerly awaiting the second issue episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while I have little incentive or desire to find out anything more about Gotham.

Underneath the Mask: Why Marriage In Comics Matters

by Aaron Einhorn
A few days ago, the word came out that due to an editorial edict by DC Comics that Batwoman (Kate Kane) and her fiancé, Maggie Sawyer would not be permitted to ever actually get married, the creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman would be walking away from the title.

At first, this seemed like a feckless move that was insulting to the LGBT community. I certainly looked at it as such. But in the light of a recent statement made by Dan DiDio during the Baltimore Comic Con, I have realized that it isn’t just a short-sighted move designed to avoid dealing with the possible backlash from showing a gay marriage in their comics (despite the fact that Marvel certainly didn’t seem to suffer after Northstar’s marriage in the pages of X-Men a few years back.) No, if DiDio is to be believed, this instead shows a serious flaw in the attitude towards marriage from DC Comics as a whole.

No happy marriages can be here, so we'll just pretend these two never existed.

No happy marriages can be here, so we’ll just pretend these two never existed.

The statement is as follows (from The Beat):

Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.

That’s very important and something we reinforced. People in the Bat family their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace—oops shouldn’t have said that,—Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.

Wow, this strikes me as an incredibly sad and pathetic statement, although I will confess that it makes a lot of the decisions from The New 52 make a whole new sense. The dissolution of Clark Kent and Lois Lane as a couple, the erasure of the marriage of Iris West and Barry Allen, and the absolute lack of existence of either Wally West and Linda, or Ralph and Sue Dibny suddenly makes sense. (Along with the invisible erasure of the marriage between Arthur and Mera. And we won’t even touch on the just pre-New 52 murder of Lian Harper.)

Yes, fans had waited nearly fifty years for this, and we had ten years of compelling stories, but it's better to keep Clark and Lois apart.

Yes, fans had waited nearly fifty years for this, and we had ten years of compelling stories, but it’s better to keep Clark and Lois apart.

Each of these couples illustrated that marriage can co-exist with superheroic activity. It’s hard, and none of these marriages were perfect, but they showed that it can work. Meanwhile, despite erasing one of the highest profile weddings in their history in the form of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, Marvel is happy to have Reed and Sue Richards running around the Marvel Universe along with their family, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and their child, along with many heroes with non-super-powered wives.

On the first hand, I find this troubling for the reason that it paints a terrible image from our “role models.” What DiDio is saying there is essentially that being a superhero means sacrificing everything that makes life worth living. We look at superhuman characters as heroes and role-models, but I’m not certain I can agree that setting aside everything that a hero wants in their family life in service to their duties as a hero is actually admirable.

I’m a father. I have two little girls who I absolutely adore and love and would do almost anything for. I’m also an employee of a company, and the head of a local branch of superhero costumers for charity. I have responsibilities that override my desires – and while the world I live in doesn’t mean my choices have the same stakes as “Go home to be with your wife or the Joker will destroy Gotham,” it doesn’t change the fact that I have situations come up where what I want for myself, or for my family, conflicts with my other responsibilities. And sometimes work wins out, and sometimes family wins out, and every day is a different struggle.

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All of which is my way of saying that having the line be clearly drawn, that a married superhero is compromising their duty to “the mission,” seems terribly black and white. And it means that being a superhero ultimately means cutting yourself off from the very humanity you are vowed to protect.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the other area that DiDio is missing. Outside of Disney movies (ironically, the owners of Marvel Comics where marriage between characters is not verboten), marriage does not mean “Happily ever after.” DiDio is married himself, so I’m sure he knows this, but being married doesn’t mean “a happy personal life.” Marriage is a commitment, and a two-way street, and it is often hard. Is it fulfilling and worthwhile? I certainly think so, but I also don’t think that it’s always easy. Christina and I fight. We disagree about many things and our life together is a series of compromises and balancing our own desires and needs with the desires of each other and our children.

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We also love each other, and we take a great deal of joy in each other’s company and we are stronger together than we are apart. Which just means that the daily struggles are worthwhile. Kind of in the same way that superheroes struggle against their obstacles, using the powers that make them stronger than an ordinary human, huh?

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones struggled with what being members of the Avengers meant for two people (even two superpowered ones) who were trying to raise a child. Reed Richards must often decide between spending another hour in his lab or taking time to have dinner with Sue and Franklin. For both of these cases, the struggle to balance family and their roles as heroes wasn’t a boring story or an easy out – it made for some of the best stories in their character’s histories.

And of course, through their parent company, Marvel also owns these guys, who are all about finding that balance between family and heroism, and showing that the struggle is never easy, but is always worth it.

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Love is hard, but endures. That's a terrible message to see from our heroes.

Love is hard, but endures. That’s a terrible message to see from our heroes.

Back in the pre-New 52 days, DC was able to do this same thing. Lois Lane gave Superman the perspective and humanity he needed to stay among man and not fly above it. Linda West gave the Flash the emotional anchor he needed to return from the Speed Force. And in the poorly conceived Identity Crisis, the murder of Sue Dibny broke the Elongated Man, and ultimately led to the path that had him losing his life, only to finally be reunited with Sue as a ghost.

I don’t know whether or not the “no marriage” edict is better or worse than the idea that DC simply wanted to bury the idea of a marriage between Batwoman and Kate Kane. But I do know that, either way, it reinforces my belief that DC Comics no longer wants my money, and that the stories being created by Marvel are much more in line with what I want and need to be reading.

I want to see stories where my heroes are human underneath their powers. I want to see those family connections. And yeah, I’m ok if that means that some of these marriages fail, either because the stress of being a superhero is too much and one member cracks under pressure (like Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne), or because of infidelity (Scott Summers and Jean Grey), or because of a literal deal with the Devil. Because marriage is hard, and just like we want to see heroes fail from time to time when fighting Doctor Doom or Thanos, it’s ok to see them fail in their personal lives.

But the counterpoint is seeing the strength that Reed Richards can derive from Franklin, Sue, Valeria, Johnny and Ben. Because if heroes are meant to show us where our own strength is, then they shouldn’t be cut off from the same relationships that make each day better for so many of us.

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Ben Affleck to Don the Batman Cowl

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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.
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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?