Green Fury, Olympian and a Possible Post-Mortem for “Powerless”

While I try to avoid doing back-to-back posts on the same topic, I’m making an exception for Powerless. The fate of NBC’s “civilians of the DC Universe” workplace comedy is hanging by a very tenuous thread, as it has recently been pulled from NBC’s schedule, even though they still have 3 unaired episodes. Though assumed by many outlets to have been cancelled, NBC still hasn’t officially made it so – and has stated it is still planning on airing the three remaining eps. So, looks like we will just have to cross our fingers and see. It would be a shame for this clever and fresh take on the superhero genre to die an early death. But honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me, as it really is more of a “niche” comedy that would probably be better suited for a Netflix-type platform (or even the CW), and doesn’t seem to have that “broad-appeal” factor needed for a major primetime network show.

Whereas straight-up superhero shows like The Flash and Arrow are able to build out their worlds and mythologies as they go, Powerless takes place in an already very-established world – one that the writers have mined for all its worth. This is truly one superhero production that could actually stand by the claim that it was “made for the fans”, because there are so many Easter eggs, random references and winks to trivial bits of the DC Universe that makes the fanboy in me squeal and clap with delight, but probably goes right over the heads of the average viewer.

Which gives a nice segue into the main topic of the post – a profile of the power couple of Powerless, Green Fury and Olympian.  Much like Crimson Fox, Charm City’s other high-profile hero, Green Fury and Olympian are both long-established DC heroes who have never quite made it to “A” list status, and although they both got started the same way, their courses through the DC Universe became drastically different.

Both heroes made their DC comics debut, along with a number of other international heroes, in the pages of DC’s kid-friendly title, Super Friends. Brazilian-born Green Fury (who had the power to exhale mystical green fire) and Greece’s Olympian, (endowed with super human abilities from the legendary Golden Fleece)  soon made the jump to the DCU proper as members of  international fighting force, The Global Guardians, teaming up with Superman in an issue of DC Comics Presents. The Guardians didn’t pop up much at all after that though, save for a guest stint by a modified version of the team in the pages of  Infinity, Inc. In this iteration of the GG, Olympian wasn’t even around and Green Fury was now going as Green Flame.

There’s our power couple in the bottom right corner, giving that giant’s shin a good working-over

And that’s where their fates diverged. Olympian would only pop up a few of more times over the next two decades (with one time being in the out-of-continuity title Batman: The Brave and the Bold). But Green Fury/Flame did much better. When the Justice League got U.N. backing and became an international entity (as detailed previously), the Global Guardians were dissolved. Now without a job, the resourceful Green Flame grabbed best pal and fellow ex-Guardian, Norway’s  Icemaiden and marched right up to the Justice League Embassy and simply announced that they were there to join. When their timely assistance proved helpful against and alien invasion, they were indeed signed up. Soon after, the heroines shortened their monikers to the much catchier Fire and Ice and much like Crimson Fox, went on the establish themselves as two of that eras most enduring Justice League members. The flirtatious and fame-friendly Fire even got a power upgrade when the metagene bomb activated a latent gene in her DNA, turning her from a ground-bound fire breather to a being who could switch into a flame form that enabled her to fly and project fire through her hands.

After her Justice League era came to a close, Fire briefly appeared with a new version of the Global Guardians (alongside Crimson Fox III, in fact) but after DC’s most recent reboot, has since been established as a charter member of the short-lived  Justice League International.

Meanwhile, Olympian struggled with garnering the spotlight, resulting in minimal exposure over the years, and he has yet to be established in the rebooted DCU.

Which makes his appearance with Green Fury in Powerless so enjoyable. In their episode, Green Fury confides to Wayne Security’s Emily Locke that she can never be taken seriously by the public or considered for the Justice League when things like her break-up with Olympian is front page news for the gossip rags (which Fury figures Olympian  leaked himself, just to get attention). She then agrees to film an endorsement for Wayne Security, think the PR will do her good (which aligns well with the motivations of the Justice League-era Fire). Then the commercial morphs into an explotative T & A shoot, but instead of calling it quits, she calls in Olympian. Ever happy for a gig where he can get maximum exposure for himself and his Greek-god bod, the shoot is reworked for beefcake instead of cheesecake, and comes off without a hitch.

Eventually, things do kinda work out for our power couple…in the end

The commercial is such a success that Fury tells Emily she even got a call from the Justice League…well, actually Justice League Europe. Emily tries to make her feel better by pointing out that the JLE is like, “one of the top five Justice Leagues”. And this exchange is a good example of that which is one of the strengths of  Powerless as well as its kryptonite: it’s humourous and enjoyable – IF you know that there actually was a Justice League Europe and that there have been a plethora of Justice League iterations and offshoots over the years, from which a top five could easily be ranked. Otherwise, it’s just another semi-amusing, non-contextual throwaway line for the majority of mainstream viewers.

So, even though the writing is pretty much on the wall for Powerless at NBC, maybe there’s still chance that someone like Netflix will swoop in and save the day for the citizens of Charm City (because Crimson Fox sure ain’t gonna do it – she already skipped town for a new gig in Metropolis…adjacent)

The Powerhouse of “Powerless”: Who Is Crimson Fox?

With DC and Marvel Comics laying claim to over a dozen television shows currently on the air, the new NBC comedy Powerless does something unique to stand out from the pack. It does this by focusing not on superheroes, but rather on the everyday joes who just happen to live and work in a world where a plethora of super-powered beings don flashy costumes to either wreak havoc or save the day – or sometimes both.

As it takes place in the DC Universe (albeit, a much more brighter one than the film DCU of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad and more lighthearted than the tv DCU found in the CW’s quartet of Arrow-verse shows) there have been multiple references to many of DC’s superhero royalty. We’re talking the big guns like Batman, Aquaman, Flash and the one character than has been significantly featured more than any other — Crimson Fox. Wait — Crimson Fox?

Always the hero, Crimson Fox bravely places herself between civilians and the deadly powers of Frostbite

Yes, on Powerless, this little-known heroine of the DCU has already crossed paths numerous times with one Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) – saving her on first day of work at Wayne Security, battling Frostbite on her office building’s balcony and becoming her game-changing Fantasy Superhero League pick when she surprisingly manages to leapfrog over heroes like the Flash by saving a whole cruise ship full of people. It appears that Charm City has its very own protector (Powerless continues the fine DC tradition of creating fictional cities for their superhero stomping grounds).

It’s somehow fitting and hilarious that a show about the normal people living in an unknown city of the DCU only gets to have face time with one of its more obscure heroines. But for DC fanboys like myself, it’s also great to see a largely disregarded but still fan-favourite character finally get some mainstream exposure.

But who exactly IS Crimson Fox?

In a nutshell, she was a France-based heroine created by DC scribes in the late 80s specifically so that the newly-launched Justice League Europe would actually have a European member. She would end up becoming one of the more constant members of that era, eventually moving to Justice League America after it reformed following the folding of its International division.

But lets’s deleve a little deeper, shall we?

The Origin

Chantal D’Aramis was a research scientist who worked for a corporation called Big Time. Her main project was development of an irresistible perfume derived partially from fox musk. What she didn’t know was that the formula was also toxic, and shortly after she left Big Time to give birth to twin daughters (Vivian and Constance), she died of cancer.

Years later, Vivian and Constance learned that Moriarty, their mother’s former employer, had known all along of the toxic properties their mother’s perfume development was creating, but didn’t inform her until she had refined and perfected the product. Vowing to take him down, the girls started their own beauty brand, Revson which eventually eclipsed Big Time and ruined Moriarty. This drove him crazy with revenge and he ended up killing the twins father, Andre, and then vanished.

This motivated Vivian and Constance to seek out justice not only for themselves, but “for all honest people”, so they became Crimson Fox.

Yes, they became the Crimson Fox. Since they couldn’t very well run a business empire and fight crime as a costumed vigilante (although it seems to work for Bruce Wayne), they decided to fake Constance’s death and share Vivian’s identity. So, when one twin was running Revson as Vivian, the other was free to fight crime as Crimson Fox, and vice-versa. Vive le difference!

Crimson Fox’s time as an active Justice Leaguer coincided with the trading card boom of the 90s, leading to her appearance in a number of DC’s collectable sets

Powers

Both D’Aramis girls shared enhanced abilities that are believed to be a side effect of their mother being pregnant while working on her experiemental fox musk-based perfume. Crimson Fox had enhanced strength, agility, speed, endurance and healing ability. She could leap up to 20 feet in the air and complemented this with steel-taloned gloves that enabled her to attach to and climb most surfaces (and made a pretty good weapon on their own – as did her cowl, which she could manipulate like a whip). Crimson Fox also had a pheromone-control power that she could use to influence the actions of those near her.

Career

As previously mentioned, Crimson Fox became a member of the Justice League but kept secret the fact that they were twins. This was ultimately revealed after Vivian (as Crimson Fox) began a romance with fellow Leaguer, Metamorpho. Shortly afterward, Vivian was kidnapped by the villain Puanter and killed. Constance carried on as Crimson Fox, but there was still more tragedy to follow.

After Justice League America folded and reformed as the “big guns only” JLA, Constance attempted to reform the European branch with four other Justice League cast-offs. Unfortunately, they were infiltrated by the daughter of the supervillain The Mist who managed to decimate most of Crimson Fox’s new team, killing not only Blue Devil and  Amazing Man but Crimson Fox, herself.

But that was not the end of Crimson Fox! Years later a third Crimson Fox showed up as a member of the Global Guardians, one who insinuated that she had inherited the Revson business and apparently the abilities of Crimson Fox, too. Shortly after her first appearance, DC Comics rebooted their universe (again) and in the reshuffling since, Crimson Fox has yet to be reintroduced.

Until Powerless, that is. Now she’s back, more powerful and getting more coverage than she ever has before – which I find kinda nice after having already been killed twice.

And don’t worry, they eventually thawed her out

Batman v Superman: Pros v Cons (Part II)

 

batmanvsuperman-headerContinuing my breakdown of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – my last post covered some of the films Pros, so this time around I’m digging into its Cons. Word of warning – my Cons contain deeper dives into the film and its specifics, so if you haven’t seen it yet…Spoilers Ahoy!

Cons

Desaturation – Director Zach Snyder has never met something bright he couldn’t suck the life out of or something pristine he couldn’t muck up with a few handfuls of dirt, and Batman v Superman is no different. It’s a film whose primary colours appear to be brown/grey/blue.

One of Man of Steel’s problem points for comic fans was how dirty and dark Superman’s costume looked. And once the first official images from BvS appeared, featuring a suited-up Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, it was apparent that this was going to be standard practice going forward. Granted, Superman’s “S” shield in BvS is indeed brighter than the Man of Steel version, but everything else – and I mean EVERYTHING else is sucked dry of colour.

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Robin’s costume…or just a pair of greasy coveralls that Batman wears when tuning up the batmobile?

This is done to such a degree that a big Easter Egg in one scene flew right by me unnoticed, even though I was looking straight at it. The scene in question shows Bruce Wayne in the batcave as he walks by a dark costume encased in glass and defaced with a spray-painted taunt from the Joker. I just naturally assumed it was one of Batman’s old costumes (the dude has a thing for saving memorabilia, after all). It wasn’t until I saw a still of that scene a few days later when I realized, “Holy crap – that’s ROBIN’s costume!” (and that makes it a big moment for fans who know that in the comics, Batman’s second Robin, Jason Todd, was brutally killed by the Joker). But, with all of its signature red and yellow leeched out, the Robin costume was barely recognizable, unless you managed to notice the barely discernable “R” emblem (and if you weren’t too distracted with trying to read the Joker’s message).

And then as if things weren’t dark enough, we’re given a final climatic fight with three of the most dour-looking superheroes taking on a CGI monstrosity in the middle of what appears to be a maelstrom of mud, dirt and rock. Ugh.

And this look parallels the feel of the film itself. In fact, the last five major DC films (The Dark Knight TrilogyMan of Steel, BvS) have all been colourless, joyless affairs – and if this is the type of cinematic universe DC wants to create, I’m not sure if I want to be a part of it.

No

No

Lex Luthor – While some problem areas of the film are tolerable, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Superman’s arch enemy, is not. Who would ever think it would be a good idea to take the confident, arrogant and formidable evil entrepreneur that is Lex Luthor and turn him into a jittery, twitchy, incessantly rambling scientific genius with unresolved daddy issues who constantly appears to be one facial tic away from being fitted for a strait-jacket? The makers of this film, that’s who.

Bodycount Batman – If you’re making a Batman movie, the one thing you for sure do NOT want to do is make your Batman into someone who states that we should just straight-up kill someone even if we are only 1% sure that he could become an unstoppable threat – and then have that Batman soullessly and needlessly gun down, stab and kill a number of hired bad guys who are more or less just in his way. Not cool, Bat-bro, not cool.

The Title Conflict – I have a few big issues stemming from this, so let me break ‘em down for you:

1  First off, the “hero vs hero” is not only a long-standing trope in comics, but as of late, it has become one of the most overused tropes (there’s so much I can say about this, I may actually do another whole post about it). Case in point – Spring 2016 not only brings us Batman v Superman, but also Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, featuring Team Captain America v Team Iron Man, as well as DC Entertainment’s animated release, Justice League vs Teen Titans. *Sigh* can’t everyone just get along? (Answer: Of course not, because comics).

2  Next up, this statement: For generations, comic book fans have always asked – ‘who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman?’  – which has appeared in one form or another in so many pieces about the movie. This seems to infer that the film is finally giving  the fans something they have wanted to see for decades. Well, not so much. Because you know who asks that kind of question? Kids. Little kids ask that question. Older fans don’t ask that question because they know they can find a dozen different instances where that scenario has already been played out in various comics and graphic novels over the years. And the fans also know that while they do tend to make for some good reading, ultimately, they don’t end up mattering in the big scheme of things. That’s what makes the first cinematic pairing of DC’s two most popular heroes so frustrating – because without even seeing the movie we all know that no matter the outcome of this conflict, the end result will be Bats and Supes buddying up going forward (thanks in no small part to DC’s well-publicized announcements of two upcoming Justice League films and a slate of solo spinoffs).

3  Which brings me to this point – the film’s reason behind the “hero vs hero” conflict. Generally these conflicts can make for a good comic book story because they are usually the result of one of the following scenarios:

  • two heroes/teams meeting for the first time and mistakenly think each other is the enemy
  • a hero/team is forced to turn against their comrades (eg., via mind control, or in order to ensure the safety of innocents)
  • a controversial choice is made or stand is taken that divides heroes and ultimately makes them fight for what they think is right.

But none of these hold true for Batman v Superman.

The heroes whole conflict is because Bat-Douche thinks the Son of Krypton is an irresponsible threat to civilians and Super-Smug thinks the Dark Knight is ruthless vigilante meting out his own sadistic brand of justice. They are both aware of one another, but don’t know each other – so of course, neither try to approach the other and say, “Hey dude, we both want to stop evil, but I think you should maybe check yourself a bit, y’know?” Instead, they just start right in with the fisty-punchy ka-pows and the bang-bang-zappy. (Superman does try for one brief second to reason with Batman, but then gets sucker bat-punched and goes off the rails…again).

So, the title conflict is ultimately between two heroes who have both been in the wrong with their actions – but are blind to it. They only think that it is the other who needs to be held accountable for what they’ve wrought, when in fact they both do. There’s no side to root for and no real resolution to their fight. They finally switch from bitter enemies to battle buddies after realizing that they’ve been played by Luthor and trudge off to join what really should have been the title bout of Dawn of Justice:

Wonder Woman v Doomsday!

Final Verdict – Pros v Cons: Cons

 

Batman v Superman: Pros v Cons (Part I)

BvSposterIt has been just under a week since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice punched it’s way to a record-breaking box office debut (as of this writing, the film’s worldwide grosses have just passed the half a billion mark) and a lot of talk has been made about the reception of the film. It certainly hasn’t won over the critics, as the overall consensus has been resoundingly poor (it currently sits at 29% “fresh” on the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and has an average score of 44/100 over on Metacritic). There has been a lot of buzz-speak against this fact, and about how the film was “not made for the critics” but is a “film for the fans”.

But is it really? I’m a comic book fan, and while I didn’t think it was a “bad” film, I did think it was really “meh” – because even though it is mostly well-made and has its share of good moments, I found that there were a lot of problems story-wise as well as stylistically – and overall it’s definitely not the type of film I was ever hoping a Batman/Superman team-up would be. And even though the audience may have turned out in droves to support its debut, it seemed they left  mostly feeling “meh” as well (Cinemascore had viewers giving the film an overall “B” rating –  but also noting that this came partly from a  balanced amount of “A” and “C” grades given, and not simply a majority of “B” grades). It would appear then, that just as many movie-goers are enjoying the film as those who are not, while the remaining group doesn’t see much difference either way.

So, in the spirit of pitting two forces against one another, I’m going to dive a little deeper into my own views on the film and do a two-part Pros v Cons of Batman v Superman. Up first, the Pros!

Pros

Addressing the destruction in Man of Steel – By opening the film with a civilians-eye view of the destruction in Metropolis caused during Man of Steel‘s climatic fight between Superman and Zod, the film addresses head-on the biggest problem point of that film – that hundreds, if not thousands of innocent bystanders would have been killed during their battle, and no one seemed to bat an eyelash about it, most especially Superman himself. This time around we see the affect it had on those caught in the catastrophe, including one Bruce Wayne.

Wonder Woman – The long overdue big screen debut of the Amazing Amazon didn’t disappoint – the only problem being that there wasn’t enough of her, with her barely-there subplot only serving to set up future films. But still, when Gal Gadot finally suited up to join the fight against Doomsday, my face cracked the smile that had been absent from minute one of watching the film. And that smile was also due in part to…

Wonder Woman’s theme – Junkie XL collaborating on the score with Hans Zimmer seemed like an odd choice, but when Wonder Woman finally appeared, all armoured-up and backed by this jacked-up, synthesized, pulsating orchestration, it was just all kinds of right.

Batman_v_Superman_Dawn_of_Justice_WW

And just like that, the movie suddenly gets a whole lot better

Alfred – Comic book fans have known for years that Alfred is more than just a butler and surrogate father, he’s a bad-ass dude in his own right. It was refreshing to see Jeremy Irons’ portrayal of him was more as Bruce Wayne’s tech-savvy right-hand man, fully capable of tasks like drone-piloting the Batwing, than just as someone who simply buttles and tut-tuts.

The Batcave – Having the entrance to the Batcave be hidden in the middle of lake that magically parts like the Red Sea when the batmobile launches over it was the kind of stuff we needed more of – it’s a little nod to the past (in this case the 60’s Batman series with the cave entrance hidden behind a false cliffside) that’s also modern enough to give you one of those fun “oh, cool!” superhero moments that are largely lacking otherwise in the film.

The introduction of the other future Justice Leaguers – With every new hero that was announced for this film – Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg – it seemed like DC Entertainment and Warner Bros were so desperate to play catch-up to Marvel’s cinematic universe that they were going to overstuff this movie with too many points of focus. Luckily, these three heroes were all only seen briefly (apart from Flash’s cryptic cameo in the Batcave) on a few minutes of surveillance footage – with only  minimal dialogue and explanation – just a teaser of what we can expect to see of them sometime down the road.

Up next: The Cons!

DC’s Legends of Yesterday

DC Comics is enjoying its most prolific period on television ever, with no less than six prime-time television shows based on DC characters currently airing on major broadcast networks (those would be Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Supergirl, Lucifer and of course, the company-branded, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow). But while Marvel has only just recently dominated the cinematic super hero landscape, DC has always had a strong presence on television, leaving pop culture footprints that lead all the back to the 1970s with Wonder Woman, the 1960s with Batman and even to the 1950s with The Adventures of Superman.

However, for all the iconic DC Comics-based series, there are a number lesser-known, but still worthy, series that flew under the radar. And right now I’m going to shine the spotlight on of a few them – think of them as DC’s TV Legends of Yesterday.

 

(The Adventures of) Superboy  1988-1992 (Syndication)

DCsuperboy2Well before Smallville, the live-action adventures of a young Clark Kent were brought to the small screen in Superboy (later retitled The Adventures of Superboy in its third season). Faced with the diminishing returns of their cinematic Superman/Supergirl franchise, executive producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind turned their attention to the small screen and set about launching a series based on the teen hero. However, instead of being high schoolers in Smallville, Kansas, Clark Kent and childhood sweetheart Lana Lang (played by John Haymes Newton and Stacy Haiduk) were university students in Florida (which was helped location-wise by the fact that Superboy was the first weekly series to be produced at Florida’s Disney/MGM Studios and later Universal Studios Florida)

Newton’s portrayal offered up a more confident, less-nerdy version of Clark Kent and after initial 13 episode order, the show was given the green light to produce 13 more. It was after this second batch of episodes that the producers of the show and Newton began having issues with each other (Newton’s demand for more money along with a publicized arrest for DUI didn’t help matters) and as a result, Newton was asked to leave the show.

Now, usually you would think that recasting someone who was not only the lead actor, but the title character of a show, would signal the beginning of the end – especially for a relatively new series that was trying to build an audience. But that turned out to be not the case here. The show went on to run for another three seasons, with Gerard Christopher swooping into the title role of the young Kryptonian at the start of season two, eventually appearing in a total of  74 of the 100 produced episodes.

 

 

Birds of Prey 2002-2003 (The WB)

DCbopThe now-defunct WB network had already tasted success with a female-driven action/genre series with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so Birds of Prey seemed like a perfect fit. At the time one of DC Comics’ standout titles, the comic book Birds of Prey centered around Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, now crippled by the Joker and fighting crime from behind her computer screen as Oracle. To do her legwork on covert missions, she enlists the help of some of her super-powered friends, which mainly consisted of Black Canary and then later, the Huntress. This was the first thing the TV version switched up a bit – choosing to make Huntress (Ashley Scott) the main partner of Oracle (Dina Meyer) with a not-quite Black Canary, Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) joining them later.

Now, usually a big stumbling block for comics that make the transition to the small screen is conveying their premise and backstory easily to the audience so they can get onboard as quickly and painlessly as possible. And as a comic, Birds of Prey was already carrying some big baggage, especially for those people who only knew of Batgirl as the bouncy redhead from the Batman series and animated shows. So, it’s a real head-scratcher that the WB opted to take that premise and make it even MORE confusing – tweaking characters, locations, histories and well… sometimes it’s better to show than to tell, so just soak up this one very expositional voice over that introduced the show each week.

 

That said, the show was still well done and it brought in the biggest ratings for a premiere episode on the WB at the time. However, it wasn’t able to sustain those numbers, and as the show was quite expensive to produce, it wasn’t deemed profitable enough to continue beyond its initial 13 episode order. But, even though it was a bit misguided, the series is still well-remembered by many BoP fans (especially since it included Mia Sara’s role as the big bad of the series – the first live-action version of Dr. Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn)

 

Legion of Super Heroes 2006-2008 (The CW)

DClsh2One of the oldest super hero teams in comic book history (they first appeared in 1958) the Legion of Super Heroes have been a fan-favourite team for decades. In 2006, following the smash successes of the animated Justice League and Teen Titans series, the futuristic team of super-teens finally got their due with their own series.

Legion of Super Heroes ran for two seasons as part of the Kids WB lineup on the newly-formed CW network. It introduced viewers to the young and vibrant team of heroes from the 31st century who take the young Superman from the 21st century under their wing to give him the training and experience he’ll need to become the legend they know him as in their era.

Legion of Super Heroes was a fun and exciting show that proved there was a way to take decades of continuity, characters and backstory and just filter it down to necessary elements that would appease fans of the comic while not alienating new audiences. And with the cues DC Entertainment has been taking from Marvel’s cinematic universe, I’m surprised that they haven’t realized that they already have their own answer to the Guardians of the Galaxy in Legion of Super Heroes…and it’s just been left sitting there, waiting for the live-action treatment. Oh well, until then we can always enjoy the rather awesome LSH opening credits and theme:

Heroes For The Holidays

As we count down the final hours to Christmas, I thought I would just pop up a little post showcasing some Season’s Greetings of the super hero kind. From comic book covers to in-house greeting cards to one-off works of art, the heroes of DC and Marvel can always be counted on to turn it out for holidays!

Holiday Comics

xmas-superheroesDC’s semi-regular tradition of collecting holiday themed stories spanned over many years – and many formats. Christmas With The Super Heroes started out as an oversize tabloid, then went to  paperback digest before finally settling in to the regular comic book format.

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Marvel also knocked out a few of their own Holiday Specials over the years, and these two pin-ups from one of its earliest ones are favourites of mine.

Christmas Cards and Holiday Art

DC and Marvel’s Christmas card game is always on point – whimsical and usually with a welcome touch of humor (I especially love Batman getting beaned with a snowball).

dcuxmasbats

Marvel-Christmas-green-Hulk-redDC_Comics_2011_Holiday_Card

And artist Chris Giarrusso’s spot-on homage to A Charlie Brown Christmas for one of Marvel’s holiday cards is a pure delight.

MarvelHolidayCard

And to conclude this brief little heroic holiday excursion, I thought I would cap it off with this amusing mock-up of a 1950s-era Action Comics, courtesy of Comics Alliance (“No-El” – heh, heh – gets me every time).

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Happy Holidays Everyone!

Superhero Fashion Emergency!

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

RB1

 

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.

RB4

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).