Superhero Fashion Emergency!

In the world of superhero costume couture, red/black is the new…EVERYTHING.

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One of the greatest things about comic books is the variety of costumes that the various heroes and villains deck themselves out in. From Batman’s iconic dark cowl and cape to Captain America’s star-spangled super soldier suit to Aquaman’s unconventional vibrant splash of orange and green goodness, costumes are great eye-candy and help to really individualize a character. And aside from teams like the Green Lantern Corps or the X-Men, who are pretty much required by law to wear matching or similar costumes, the majority of Marvel and DC’s collective universes were always awash with character costumes sporting colour combinations as distinct as their powers or skill sets.

And then something happened.

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Once upon a simpler time these were the only Bat-characters who went for the red/black look

Just a few short years ago Batwoman, Batman Beyond, Deadpool and a small handful of other characters were the only comic book headliners who were rocking costumes that solely consisted of red and black material. It was something that didn’t really stick out and wasn’t even worth noting, really. Fast forward to today and suddenly EVERYONE is wearing red and black – to the point where it is so obviously distracting that you can’t HELP but notice it. Comic books – one of the most creative mediums out there – are now sliding into a creativity-free fashion slump due to the over-employment of this restrictive palette. And for this particular comic book fan, there’s only so much red and black, page after page, comic after comic that I can take. It’s a fashion emergency that is dangerously close to putting some of my regularly purchased monthly titles on the critical list.

So, What ACTUALLY Happened?

This rise of the red/black scourge  is easily traceable – and it’s all DC’s fault. Back in 2011, DC Comics launched their highly publicized (albeit ill-conceived and poorly executed) line-wide reboot, “The New 52”. The point behind it was to boost sales and attract new readership with  new #1 issues of all their regular monthly title providing easy “jumping on” points.

So, the masterminds in the DC think tanks were chugging along, thinking of every type of marketing voodoo magic they could employ to pull new readers in. And then someone, somewhere must have read something that indicated that red and black were the colours most likely to catch people eyes or draw their interest or hypnotize them into opening their wallets, because suddenly a number of heroes had inexplicable “New 52” makeovers that  suggested that Batwoman would be facing a lot more competition at the next red and black sample sale.

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It’s also quite obvious that the red/black look has made everyone much more grim n’ growly (except for Hawk – he’s always been that way)

Nightwing, Hawk, Superboy and Wonder Girl were the first out of the gate with their revamped looks (shown to the right, alongside their pre-New 52 looks) which ranged from pointless colour swaps to needless outfit updates that somehow managed to seem both bland and busy at the same time. Nightwing’s blue-on-black ensemble was distinctive but his new red/black look is just derivative of both Batwoman and Batman Beyond, Hawk’s red-on-white garb was meant to complement partner Dove’s similar-looking blue-on-white outfit, but now it just…doesn’t.

And poor Superboy and Wonder Girl – gone are their refreshing “Causal Friday” jeans-and-t-shirt looks. Now, in their place we get  a Tron Cosplayer and Grumpy Red Riding Hood. (Even Wonder Girl’s lasso has been given an unholy red re-do. Is nothing sacred?)

At this time, DC also launched a new Red Lanterns title (think Green Lanterns with anger issues) and like all Lanterns, their costume colours default to a black base and the colour of their ring, so now we had a whole new team of red and black characters added to the mix. And just recently, Supergirl became the latest Red Lantern recruit (as indicated on the far right of the image at the top of this post) so she has now traded in her traditional blue, red and gold garb to become the latest red/black fashion victim.

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JL 3000’s Bats and Supes on the left and Earth 2’s on the right

And it didn’t stop there. Not content with their makeover madness, DC also introduced a handful of  “new” characters – who are also all decked out in the devil’s colours. And here’s where the creativity crutch is really puzzling to me. With the launch of the titles Earth 2 and Justice League 3000, there came the opportunity to present alternate world and future timeline versions of the World’s Greatest Heroes. So what does DC do? They give us not one, but two different versions of Superman and Batman – and ALL four of them are sporting that cutting edge red/black combo. I mean, come on.

BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE!

Of course, this red /black onslaught is not all on DC’s shoulders. Because in the world of comic book publishing, whatever trend one of the big two publishers jumps on, the other has to try and top them. And that’s where Marvel came into the ring. It was like someone over at Marvel HQ said, “Well, we can give red and black makeovers too – and we’ll do it to ALL the members of team! No..scratch that – TWO TEAMS!”

So, first they launched the latest iteration of Thunderbolts, now led by Red Hulk. And apparently he had a “red” prerequisite for eligible team members, so while Elektra and Deadpool  aced it, Punisher and Agent Venom had swap out their black and whites for black and reds (see top image, second from left). So cute that they’re all matchy-matchy now, right?

Not content with that, Marvel unleashed what I consider to be the atomic bomb of this whole red/black catastrophe. Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four, is an iconic team that has always had an iconic look – matching blue uniforms (except when they’re feeling pretentious, in which case they switch to their “Future Foundation” whites). Well, earlier this year they debuted in the latest of their never-ending string of relaunches. Bold new story! Bold new direction! Bold new…costumes?

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Even Sue Storm thinks the new red/black look for the FF just can’t be taken seriously

Yes, the Fantastic Four has now hopped on the red/black express (see top image, second from the right) This is truly the sign of the Apocalypse – for if a great mind like Reed Richards can succumb to the mind-numbing, eye-searing pull of a red and black makeover, is there really ANY hope for the rest of the comic universes?

We can only stay strong and pray that a brighter, colourful and more aesthically pleasing day will soon come to pull our heroes out of their collective red and black nightmare (and save me from some severe red and black induced headaches).

 

 

 

Remakes, Reboots & Reimaginings: Part 2

Continuing our look into the Three R’s of non-original film-making, let’s dive into reboots – what they are and how they have been used – and misused lately.

REBOOTS

First, a quick breakdown. At its most basic, “reboot” means to restart – and is usually used in conjunction with computers and other technical devices. In the entertainment industry, a reboot is when a faded yet familiar property, be it film franchise, tv show, comic or book series is also restarted, but with significant changes.

What makes the difference between remakes and reboots can be boiled down to a couple of key points:

1) remakes use a single work as their source material while reboots are based on a series of work (i.e. film franchises, tv shows, video games or comic/book series)

2) remakes are essentially retellings of the story found in the original work, whereas reboots are literally restarts – usually taking characters audiences are familiar with, disregarding their previous iterations and telling completely new stories with them.

And in a world where remakes are sometimes met with indifference simply because of what they represent – something that is not original and usually unnecessary – reboots tend to have a certain cachet to them, as they hold the promise of bringing something new and different to an established character or series. Because of this, it is not uncommon to find that a project that has been touted as a reboot is nothing more than a glorified remake upon its release (…but more on that later).

I find that reboots tend to fall into one of two categories – the hard reboot and the soft reboot:

Hard Reboots

Hard reboots are the “traditional” reboots – the ones that wipe clean the continuity of the original source material and take their Batscharacters back to their starting point in order to take them in a different direction than what was previously established.

One of the most well-known hard reboots would be Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy,  which did away with the very comic-book-esque Batman and Gotham City found in the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series of films, rebooted  them as a gritty hero and a grittier city and offered completely different takes on villains like Joker, Catwoman and Bane than were seen in the previous films.

Other current examples of hard reboots would include the Superman blockbuster Man of Steel, the  J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films, the latest Tomb Raider video game and (almost) the entire DC Comics universe (now referred to as the DCnU) which saw all DC titles relaunched two years ago as “The New 52”.

Soft Reboots

Mainly found in television, soft reboots keep the continuity of the original source material intact and use it as a launching point for new stories featuring new characters (along with usually least one or two from the original source material).

BHsSome examples of soft reboots include the CW’s 90210 and Melrose Place which took place in the same locations as the ’90s Fox shows Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place. Both reboots featured a few crossover characters from the originals but largely focused on their new, younger casts.

Another example of a soft reboot is one that has already has already been touched upon here in a previous post and that would be the Charlie’s Angles films. Even though they focused on brand new set of crime-solving Angels, they were clearly established as taking place in the same continuity as the original series, just 20 years later (and as for the updated Charlie’s Angels tv series that followed…well, now’s not the time to revisit that).

Blurring The Line

When thinking of other rebooted franchises, one might naturally think of Spider-Man, seeing as how Sam Raimi ended his trilogy 6 years ago and The Amazing Spider-Man, the first of a proposed new series of films, swung into theatres last summer. There’s just one problem though, because The Amazing Spider Man, is NOT a reboot. It is a straight up remake of Spider-Man. Except for a brief prologue featuring Peter Parker’s parents, this film is a beat-by-beat remake. It takes us through the exact same origin story and sometimes the exact same scenes that we saw in the original (btw, did you know that with great power comes great responsibilty?).

Not so fast, Amazing Spidey...you don't belong in the Reboots post.

Not so fast, Amazing Spidey…you don’t belong in the Reboots post.

The changes that have been made are purely superfluous and/or still serve the same function: Peter’s webbing is manufactured instead of organic, Spidey’s costumed is redesigned, knockout love interest Gwen Stacy is swapped in for knockout love interest Mary Jane and the intelligent but cautiously admired Norman Osborn, who transforms into the crazed, murderous Green Goblin is replaced by the intelligent but cautiously admired Dr. Curt Conners who transforms into the crazed and murderous green Lizard.  Yeah, no matter how much Sony insists that this is a new creative direction – one of the tag-lines for the film was “The Untold Story” (ha!)  – it is a remake. And when one knows that Sony has to keep churning out Spider-Man films in order to keep their license on the character and that they were fully prepared to go ahead with Spider-Man 4 before those plans fell through, then the “reboot” label seems like more intended as a means to deflect any criticism that The Amazing Spider-Man was nothing less than a cash grab and license protector.

But what happens when there are projects that aren’t quite reboots, but don’t qualify as remakes as well? That’s when we enter the ambiguous valley of reimaginings, which we’ll be journeying to in Part 3 of this post.