Catching up: San Diego Comic-Con 2012 reflections

Superheroes and villains have been in the news a lot lately. My heart goes out to the families of the victims of this past weekend’s shooting tragedy in Colorado. Let’s look back for a moment to happier times.

San Diego Comic-Con 2012 included the usual movie and television previews, toys and games, large numbers of brave fans in costume (also known as cosplay), and even some comic book announcements. Although I missed Spike TV’s coverage a few weeks ago, I caught much of G4’s programming, including its three-hour block on Saturday, 14 July 2012.

The CW's upcoming "Arrow" TV series
The CW’s upcoming “Arrow” TV series

Movies

Of the movies previewed, I’ve become more interested in the science fiction remakes Total Recall and Dredd, as well as animated comedies ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, and Rise of the Guardians. A few other flicks caught my eye, including Django Unchained, Looper, Elysium, and Pacific Rim.

Of course, there are the obligatory prequels and sequels, including James Bond in Skyfall, comic book superheroes Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, Star Trek 2, and last but not least The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

Live-action TV

With the recent genre TV season ended, it was bittersweet to look back at departed or soon-to-end series such as Awake, Fringe, and Spartacus. Fortunately, there are lots of new shows to look forward to this fall, including supernatural melodrama 666 Park Ave. and postapocalyptic Revolution.

I’m a longtime fan of DC Comics’ Green Arrow, so I’ll definitely try the CW’s Arrow, which gives Oliver Queen the Batman Begins/Smallville treatment. I hope that it can focus more on Ollie’s awakening as a champion of social justice and archery prowess and less on the soap opera aspects, but the trailers are a mixed bag.

Of course, there’s lots to watch in the meantime, like midsummer cable shows such as Leverage, Warehouse 13, Alphas, and White Collar. As a longtime “Whovian,” it’s nice to see the cast of Doctor Who (and Torchwood) treated as returning heroes. We’ll see whether CBS’s Elementary will be a worthy companion to the BBC and PBS’s Sherlock and Masterpiece: Mystery.

Beyond the speculative fiction of Fringe, other procedurals with twists that I recommend include Castle (fanboy shippers), Person of Interest (domestic espionage), and Grimm (modernized fairy tales).

Cartoons

I’m disappointed that Batman and the Brave and the Bold and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are being replaced so soon, but at least Young Justice and Green Lantern: the Animated Series will be joined by new lighthearted Teen Titans Go! episodes. As I’ve mentioned before, Star Wars: the Clone Wars is carrying the torch for space opera on TV and continuing to expand George Lucas’ universe.

I’ve enjoyed the worldbuilding of Avatar: the Legend of Korra and the underrated Tron: Legacy. I suspect that the next animated Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles will be better than the live-action revision would have been.

Comic books

In comic books discussed around Comic-Con, I’m amused that Marvel is also doing a “soft reboot” with its “Marvel Now” after the much-criticizedDCnU” of the past year. I’ll be sorry to see Ed Brubaker leave Captain America, which he presented as a technothriller, and I hope that Marvel can rein in its proliferating Avengers and X-Men titles.

I’m still sifting through various “Batfamily” issues, but I’ve enjoyed some of DC Comics’ series after its continuity revision. Superman and Wonder Woman have benefited most from de-aging and new creative teams, and (some) Green Lantern and the Flash have changed the least. DC’s treatment of its female characters and younger teams still leaves something to be desired, however.

Of the comics from publishers other than the “big two,” I’ve enjoyed the Star Trek: the Next Generation/Doctor Who — Assimilation crossover, the similarly retro Steed and Mrs. Peel, and Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s atmospheric adaptation of Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast.

I’ve been busy with work, games, and summer activities, but I hope to post my belated reviews of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises soon!

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My Justice League, Part 2

Green Arrow wallpaper
Incarnations of Green Arrow

Sorry for this delayed post — I’ve been busy with work. This past weekend, Janice and I visited New England Comics, Newbury Comics, and Million Year Picnic in Norwood and Cambridge, Massachusetts. We also ate at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and Boston Market for the first times in several months.

Among other things, I picked up a few role-playing supplements (including the aforementioned DC Adventures: Heroes and Villains, Vol. 1) at Pandemonium Books & Games and the Compleat Strategist. We had to deal with “gamer funk” from hordes of collectible card players and wargamers at the former, but we had no trouble looking at the bookshelves in the latter.

I was pleased to see that costume shops are getting ready for Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. This past weekend would have been a good one for the King Richard’s Faire, but we had enough other errands to run, and I’m still trying to get my Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy group going again.

Returning to the DC Comics universe, as I catch up on the revised official continuity, or “DCnU,” below are some picks for my ideal Justice League. I’ll try not to obsess over costumes and continuity, and I’ll try to review DC’s actual titles in the near future.

I’d pick the Ryan Choi version of the Atom because he’s the most recent incarnation of the character, he adds some ethnic diversity, and he can represent a younger hero who has “graduated” to the major leagues. (Sure, he was killed, but we all know that’s not a permanent condition in ever-changing yet cyclical comics.) With predecessor Ray Palmer and Justice Society member Mr. Terrific as mentors, Choi would likely view the Titans‘ Cyborg as his closest peer. I could also see the Atom mentoring Jaime Reyes/the Blue Beetle in Young Justice.

Like Marvel’s Ant Man, Choi’s Atom is the resident expert in physics and weird science. When he’s not infiltrating enemy lairs or solving life-and-death puzzles, I picture Choi exploring the microverse, chatting with fellow scientist the Flash, or tinkering with Red Tornado. He might be a bit intimidated by the “Big Three” and would probably annoy less patient comrades such as Hawkgirl.

Every team needs a magician, and Zatanna is the Justice League’s. The fishnet-wearing, backward-speaking stage performer is similar to the Avengers’ Scarlet Witch and could ask the Justice Society’s Doctor Fate (or even her late father) for advice. Raven would be her likely contact in the Titans, and Zatanna‘s cousin Zachary Zatara has been in Young Justice.

While Zatanna is among the few people who can call Bruce Wayne or John Constantine friends, I figure that Superman, who is vulnerable to magic, would be wary of her. By contrast, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are comfortable with magic and would often rely on her when dealing with the supernatural foes of Themyscira and Atlantis.

Yes, I chose Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl partly because she was in Justice League Unlimited. I’d respectfully call her “Hawkwoman,” but the longer name doesn’t roll off the tongue. Her role as winged warrior mirrors that of lover Hawkman in the Justice Society, Hawk and Dove in the Titans, or Wasp in the Avengers. Whether she’s a reincarnated Egyptian noble, an archaeologist with mystical weapons, an extraterrestrial police officer, or all of the above, Hawkgirl should kick butt and take names.

As in the Dini/Timm cartoon, Hawkgirl should get along with Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, if less so with romantic rival Vixen or liberal firebrand Green Arrow. Hawkgirl‘s knowledge of procedure, tactics, and obscure history could be balanced by claustrophobia and distrust of her motives (depending on her origin).

Like peanut butter and jelly — or, more properly, Oreos and milk — the Martian Manhunter goes with most recent incarnations of the Justice League. In the DCnU, he’s now with Stormwatch, another “major league” team. The shapeshifting telepath is almost as powerful as Superman, but the Martian Manhunter is more alien than human and provides an outsider’s perspective on humanity and superhumanity.

Like the Titans’ Starfire and Beast Boy, J’onn J’onzz can be refreshingly naïve or stubbornly idealistic. I think the Martian Manhunter would get along well with Superman, Elastic Man, Plastic Man, and the Outsiders’ Metamorpho. His protégé on Young Justice is Miss Martian. If Batman is the brains behind the Justice League, Superman the brawn, and Wonder Woman the heart, Martian Manhunter is the informal mascot and morale officer.

A second-generation costumed vigilante, Black Canary is another tough woman in the Justice League, but she has a different perspective from the aristocratic Wonder Woman or soldier/cop Hawkwoman. Dinah Drake Lance grew up knowing the entire Justice Society, including her mother (Black Canary I) and trainer Wildcat. Black Canary II is a street-level heroine who supplements her sonic scream with martial arts skill, not unlike Marvel’s Mockingbird.

While other Justice League members have sidekicks, Dinah can call on her other teams, including the Justice Society, the Birds of Prey (Oracle, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, and Spoiler, among others), and the “families” of Batman and Green Arrow. A cross between a den mother and a drill sergeant, Black Canary helps keep the Justice League in line. She tends to let her hair down with Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and the Birds of Prey.

Speaking of Green Arrow, the Justice League’s social conscience has been one of my favorite superheroes since Mike Grell’s Longbow Hunters and subsequent run in the late 1980s. The Robin Hood-inspired archer, onetime wealthy playboy, and chili-loving rogue adds unpredictability and emotion to the team.

As much as I like the works of Judd Winick, Kevin Smith, and others, I think that Oliver Queen has been put through the wringer a bit too much lately. The fun-loving (and nonpowered) daredevil who shamelessly uses trick arrows, copies Batman’s toys, and flirts with every woman in sight has been dragged down by mystical forces and deaths (and rebirths) of himself and close friends.

The sometime financial backer of the Justice League is closer lately to Russell Crowe’s dour Robin Hood and Marvel’s Ultimate Hawkeye than to Errol Flynn. I’m also not sure about Ollie’s Smallville-influenced costume and lack of a goatee in the DCnU, but I hope the costumed vigilante and his universe can return to a sense of heroic fun.

Green Arrow‘s protégés include the troubled former sidekick Roy Harper/Arsenal in the Titans, his philosophical son Connor Hawke, and Arrowette and Mia Darden/Speedy II in Young Justice. Even though he can be annoying to nearly everybody he meets, Ollie is of course close to wife Dinah Lance, best friend Hal Jordan/Green Lantern II, and even Batman. The emerald archer’s progressive politics may put him afoul of Hawkman, but the Justice League has no more dedicated champion.

Coming soon: More Justice Leaguers, “Vortex” game updates, and the new SFTV season!

Animation nation, early summer edition

Animated-style Justice League
DC's Justice League

In the past few weeks, I’ve caught up on DC’s animated movies, including Green Lantern: Emerald Knights and Superman/Shazam: the Return of Black Adam (as well as Marvel’s Thor: Tales of Asgard).

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is part of an ongoing series of direct-to-video animated adaptations of DC Comics superheroes. Like Green Lantern: First Flight, it features Firefly/Serenity and Castle‘s Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan, the first human to join the interstellar Green Lantern Corps. Unlike First Flight or the recent live-action movie starring Ryan Reynolds, Emerald Knights isn’t an origin story and takes an anthology approach to tales of the corps.

The Korean animators behind DC’s recent cartoons do an excellent job of depicting Green Lantern‘s aliens, exotic worlds, ring constructs, and fight scenes. I was pleased to see stories taken from the print comics, and Andrea Romano has again assembled a strong voice cast, including Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs as the aptly named Sinestro, Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss as rookie Arisia, musician Henry Rollins as big “poozer” and drill sergeant Kilowog, and The Mummy‘s Arnold Vosloo as Jordan’s predecessor Abin Sur.

Other notable actors include Kelly Hu as martial artist Laira and wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as brawler Bolphunga. I’d compare Emerald Knights, which is rated PG for violence, favorably to Marvel’s recent Thor: Tales of Asgard and give it a B+/A-, 8.5 out of 10, or four out of five stars. There’s also a short preview of Batman: Year One, the next in DC’s video adaptations.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Green Lantern TV series, which looks like it takes Bruce Timm’s designs from the great Justice League and combines them with the blocky computer animation of Star Wars: Clone Wars. There’s also another Batman TV show in the works, but it’s too soon to say whether it will continue the character’s legacy. In the meantime, I’m waiting for Young Justice‘s return and the final episodes of Batman and the Brave and the Bold.

I also belatedly watched Superman/Shazam: the Return of Black Adam, which compiles the shorts attached to previous cartoons and adds a brawl among the title characters. If you already own the other videos, it’s not worth paying full price for a slightly longer short, but it was decent nonetheless. It’s too bad that The Return of Black Adam didn’t sell well, because I enjoyed these glimpses at other superheroes relatively free of continuity. (As a Green Arrow fan, I was hoping for more of the emerald archer.)