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God of Comics – Wonder Woman / Conan #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 22, 2017

Wonder Woman / Conan #1 (DC Comics)

We stumbled across the announcement for this title about a month back and could scarcely believe it – it’s not a crossover that has happened before but you’d think it would have. These are two characters that compliment one another quite a bit, though their origins and creators are vastly different.

William Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, was a psychologist involved in a polyamorous relationship back in the twenties and invented the lie detector. He was a fascinating man who gave us one of the most enduring characters of the medium and one of the cornerstones of DC Comics as a whole, even though a lot of the people that have written her since haven’t gotten what she’s about.

And what she is about is Truth and Mercy. We go on about this quite a lot, I think, but we go on about it because so many writers don’t seem to get it, but occasionally someone does and the character just clicks. Gail Simone is one of those writers. She gave us a seminal run with the character that has informed pretty much everything that came afterward, the equivalent of the Walt Simonson run on Thor.

Both of those runs – Simonson’s Thor and Simone’s Wonder Woman – have been collected in trade and they are well worth hunting down and reading. They’re pretty much the best way to get a feel for either character.

Robert E. Howard, on the other hand, is the guy who pretty much invented the sword and sorcery genre. He published anthology stories and invented Conan the Barbarian as his central character, a wandering warrior who was as much about clever trickery as swordplay. He also had some… well, his views on race and gender were pretty standard for their time, but they haven’t aged well.

Interestingly, his stories have. Like the best writers, his characters took on a life of their own and Conan often seemed to oppose the views the author held – he was as much liberator as conquerer. It’s interesting that while Robert espoused views that denigrated civilization as a whole, Conan himself took for granted the social cues of civilized society and Robert was a massive patron of the arts in general and writing in particular.

For example, Robert was a huge fan of Lovecraft and helped develop the Cthulhu mythos. Conan existed within that world, too… and so did Red Sonja. To the best of my knowledge, Gail Simone hasn’t written Conan in the past, but she did write one of the best runs on a Red Sonja comic you’ll ever read and that gives us some pretty high expectations going into this title.

So, it’s with all this in mind that we see these two character crossover – the Amazon princess who works with philosophy as much as strength of arm and the barbarian savage who whose philosophies serve his own aims in all things. There’s a lot to work through here and Gail immediately seizes the throat of her narrative by asking what makes these characters legendary? Why do they endure when other characters fall by the wayside and are forgotten? Is it the will of their in-world gods that they succeed or is it in spite of them, and does that spite make them who they are?

We don’t know yet. We haven’t read the comic, but we’re going to.

And we know it’s going to be gorgeous – Aaron Lopresti and Matthew Ryan are on art duties. The former has done some incredible work with Wonder Woman in the past, and this project sees him reunited with Gail Simone to further that aforementioned legendary run. Matthew Ryan is another Wonder Woman alum with both Simone and Lopresti, and he’s done some incredible color work that should serve this story well.

This has been a really good week for comics, and this title is the one we’re most looking forward to.

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398

God of Comics – Wonder Woman #30

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 15, 2017

Wonder Woman #30 (DC Comics)

Yesterday, we talked the Shadow. Today, we’re talking Wonder Woman.

It’s interesting to draw the parallel between these two wildly different characters: they are both champions, they both kill, but the single most important thing about them both is where their power comes from.

Both of them draw their power from the Truth.

The Shadow knows only the evil that gnaws at the soul of all humankind. Diana has things a little better, but her iconic lasso allows her to know the truth of any person or situation, full and unbridled. Given this, she has seen more than her fair share of evil, of misunderstanding, of projection and hate. Her power comes from looking down into the core of the individual and the group, but she bears a second power that makes all the difference.

For all his fury, the Shadow can only answer evil with evil. Diana’s second greatest power, however, is mercy.

She is as strong and fast as Superman, a warrior born of clay and literal divinity. She was trained from childhood for war and philosophy, away from the world of men and their bickering, away from the dystopia we have made of our world. Upon meeting a man for the first time, however – the demon of her childhood stories – she rescues him and nurses him back to health. She knows his subjective truth and the objective truth of the world around him, and she shows him mercy.

Diana makes the world a better place in much the same way that Superman does, but from a different angle. Superman is above most worldly concerns and has to think and remember to care about them. Diana, on the other hand, is intimately tied to the world and is very much a part of it. She has the capacity to know the absolute truth of everything going on around her and has the capacity to show mercy to everyone, even the worst of us. She can find what makes monsters of humanity and, thus, how to make it better.

And all of that is what makes this latest storyline so interesting. Like the Shadow, Wonder Woman is dealing with some real world issues. Someone has been after her for some time now, trying to have her brought in for reasons unknown. We now know that the person behind these attempts is a doctor and religious man who believes that he can use her blood and DNA to heal several diseases, including cancer. He thinks he can use her to save kids.

Superhero mathematics often speak of sacrificing the needs of one for the needs of the many. Wonder Woman herself has used that metric, saving groups when needed and letting the lonely ones go when necessary. How can she do anything else when applying that same metric to herself? Remember, she knows the truth of the situation and how best to apply mercy, so she surrenders herself to the process.

Diana is not, of course, an idiot. Truth and mercy being her powers doesn’t make her stupid and she lets her allies know where she’s going and why. She’s a diplomat for a semi-divine people and so has government ties, but it probably surprises her to learn that the government is well aware of who this doctor is and what he’s been up to. He’s rich, religious, and makes a lot of noise about being a good guy, but we haven’t seen much evidence of it – but Diana is face to face with him now and only the truth stands between them… and after that, mercy.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

Shea Fontana pens a worthy follow-up to the work Rucka started and plays with concepts that would do the likes of Gail Simone proud. This is very much the Diana we saw in the movie, which is the best decision that anyone could have made given that the movie has been the best thing out of DC is a very long time. She’s backed up the deft lines and shade of Inaki Miranda and the bright colors of Romulo Fajardo, Jr, and if you dug the movie you should do yourself a favor and check this out.

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554

Wonder Woman Critical Analysis Part 2 of 2

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews

June 12, 2017

So… Wonder Woman. It came out. It hit theaters. People discovered it was there and went to see it and it’s going to dominate the month of June and there’s little chance of anything toppling it.

And with good reason. It’s awesome stuff – easily the strongest of the DC movies, as good or better than most of what Marvel has on tap. Better than any of the Hulk movies, for example. Better than the second Avengers movie. Definitely better than anything Fox or Sony has put out using Marvel’s properties.

But why? Why is it working so well?

The reason is subtlety in both what happens in the movie and around it, and in an understanding of what the character is about and her evolution. We are told and shown a creation epic that is sort of at odds with what we know about the Greek Pantheon (spoiler: all of them are dicks except Hades, who is just really good at his job) in that they created humans (no), were happy about it (definitely not happy so much as amused), and were all eventually killed by Ares (what? No. Kratos did that).

But, whatever. We’re playing with building on a mythology and they can do whatever they want provided it’s internally consistent with itself – and it is. According to the movie, the Amazons are created by the gods to shepherd men away from being terrible people.

They’re thinkers and philosophers who get good at fighting because they have to go into where the fighting is worst and calm things down so that everyone can talk, and they fight like it: the Amazons are graceful and do impossible things in order to stop the fighting quickly, but they’re also cut off from the rest of the world. They have an academic understanding of war and of men and have drawn their own conclusions on both for thousands of years without seeing the reality of either.

When war comes to their island because Diana exposed her godhood they show that the techniques they’ve developed are good but also flawed; they adapt quickly and win the day, but they are horrified by the loss of Robin Wright – and who wouldn’t be? She’s Princess Buttercup and the President of the United States and a General. She’s awesome. None are more devastated by her death than Diana – she’s never dealt with loss or violence before and she knows Ares is responsible because, unlike the other Amazons, she’s never met a human before and she’s made some pretty naive decisions about both humanity and war.

See, Child Diana is excited by the possibility of war, like some children are. She wants to be a warrior and she wants to fight and she wants to save the world from Ares: there is a singular bad person that she can punch and if she wins then humanity will be saved. Good and simple, clean and easy.

Diana imagines herself to be the champion of humanity but she’s never seen violence and that shows in her eagerness in learning how to fight and even to get to the fight – remember, she thinks if she beats Ares that the fighting ends. We can juxtapose this with her world-weariness in modern times, in the bookends to this film and to Gal Gadot’s performance in Batman v Superman. There’s a clear line of growth through the movies that retroactively makes Batman v Superman better (but still not good). She gets a sword and a shield and everything.

The thing is, the villain of the film isn’t the Germans or even Ares but war itself. There were no good people in World War 1 and the movie goes out of its way to show the serious flaws of both sides, and even of Diana’s belief structure. The sword is a lie and is dismissed out of hand by Ares when we meet him, laughed off and melted as if it never was. The power to defeating war comes not from violence but from understanding, from talking, from within – it comes from a divinity that may or may not exist but one we all believe in, that place where angel meets ape.

It doesn’t stop there, though: the western powers are not shown to be any better than the Germans they’re fighting. Both sides use gas (there’s a reason that the Germans are wearing masks), both sides target civilians and dismiss those casualties, both are just as bad as the other. The leadership on both sides are also trying to negotiate peace but are meeting resistance by the war-obsessed members of their own people and peers, making this a four-way conflict between the people fighting and themselves, the ones who are fighting and ones who want peace.

We see how war and society has broken people – a sniper who can’t fire a gun, an actor who couldn’t get work before the war because of his skin color, a man who left his home because his home was destroyed. Those are people who were harmed by the so-called good guys and are still part of those good guys, losers who are also lost but are still struggling to find a way to help.

On the bad side we have a man so obsessed with winning that he’ll kill his own men out of hand, a broken woman who understands the science of death but has forgotten the humanity that was scoured from her, and a god who encourages the worst parts of humanity but doesn’t actually make anyone do anything. The evil is us and our need for control and dominance, the toxic aspects of our culture that is so set on competition and zero-sum games, and that’s a harder story to tell than a giant beam in the sky that makes clouds look weird and does… something.

I’m looking at you, pretty much every other movie that has superheroes in it.

Diana calls all of them out on all of their shit: she storms into an all-male war room and demands attention because she’s knowledgeable about war and has actionable intelligence and she has no time for the seedy posturing bullshit of that era. The fact that she’s dismissed out of hand for reasons of gender mystifies her, and the chicanery needed to get her to the front lines makes her just as angry as not being allowed to go in the first place. She despises the men who are willing to let others die for no reason other than to assuage their own egos. She blames a man for being Ares, not understanding that he is only a man and needing to learn otherwise. No one is honest and that dishonesty is infuriating and damages everyone and she will force the truth from us all if that’s what it takes to make us our best selves.

Wonder Woman calling that room of men out on their shit is just as important as stepping into No Man’s Land. It’s a thing I think 51% of the audience understands implicitly, but something that the other 49% might need attention drawn to. So, here it is guys: attention on a thing you might have missed.

But let’s go back to something that’s sticking in a lot of craws: comic Wonder Woman fought in World War II, not World War I – so why the change? The answer is complex: the Nazis were dyed-in-the-wool evil in a way that people seem to have forgotten. The Holocaust wasn’t evil because Nazis did it – Nazis were evil because they did the Holocaust. Despite what Marvel comics might want you to believe there’s no gray area: the systematic destruction of an entire group of people is evil and needs to be fought sat every turn. The idea of genocide and virtue of extreme selfishness doesn’t get a seat at the table and doesn’t get listened to, it gets punched in the face and sent running.

The point of this movie is that war itself is wrong, yes, but by making this story about the first World War we know the second follows, and we know that happens without Ares and despite Wonder Woman.

World War II is therefore not the fault of some external thing; it is the fault of humanity, itself, and the responsibility for the Holocaust lies at the feet of all humanity.

And so does World War I. Ares was right and telling the truth – he made things worse, certainly, but he only played on the ambitions and selfishness of his victims, allowing them their ability to kill as they saw fit. He’s an afterthought and his death doesn’t end the war so much as allow Diana to see the depth of her true enemy.

That’s why this movie is great. That’s why it’s going to speak to 51% of the audience specifically and everyone in general, why the character of Wonder Woman earns her spot as one of DC Comics’ holy trinity alongside Batman and Superman. This is how and why a DC Comics movie is going to rule over the month of June, and if this is a sign of things to come from Geoff Johns taking the helm, well, we have much more hope for everything to come.

Now, here’s the thing: I’m a male presenting asexual agender person, so there’s definitely going to be things I missed and I’m eager to learn and listen. So… what’d I miss?

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513

Wonder Woman Critical Analysis Part 1 of 2

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews

June 9, 2017

 

So… Wonder Woman happened. The first movie of the Geoff Johns era of DC filmmaking and you can tell, but let’s back up a bit because nothing happens in a vacuum and we need to talk about where this film came from.

A little more than a decade ago, Time Warner approached DC Comics and said they wanted to do a new superhero movie. I like to imagine – and this is important guys, this is my imagination and probably has nothing to do with reality, so do not sue us because this is a fictitious retelling – that the conversation went like this:

Cool, guys,” DC Comics said, then sane and not yet driven bad by nineties nostalgia. “Who do you have in mind?”

Green Lantern,” Time Warner grinned.

Cool, cool,” DC Comics said, excited by the possibilities. “Storied character, a lot of lore to draw on… are you thinking classic Hal Jordan, new Kyle Rayner, or drawing from our award-winning animated series and doing Jon Stewart? Do you have a leading man in mind?”

Jack Black.”

This is a real thing. A real thing that really almost happened, except DC Comics said…

No.”

Excuse me?” said Time Warner.

No.”

C’mon, Big Fat Guy with a power ring,” Time Warner said, wiping the cocaine from their upper lip. “It’s comedy gold.”

An argument ensued. Hair was pulled and punch was thrown and at the end, clothes were straightened and everyone tried to have a little bit of dignity. Time Warner was convinced that their camp-fest comedy would make a lot of money, but DC Comics wouldn’t sign over the character.

You don’t understand how to make movies,” Time Warner argued. “You make comics, and who reads those anymore?”

Fuck you,” DC Comics replied. “Bet you we can make a superhero movie better than anything you’ve ever seen.”

Really? You think so?” Time Warner asked, an evil glint in their eye. “Fine. Here’s forty million dollars. I know, that’s like your annual budget, but you make your little shit show and when that fails you’re going to sign the contract and we’re going to make our Green Lantern movie, okay?”

DC Comics agreed to terms.

The movie they made was a little thing called Batman Begins and it won awards and made all the money. It launched a trilogy and is generally considered the best superhero movie made up to that point (Christian Bale’s bat-voice aside) because it was a good movie that just happened to have a superhero in it.

Marvel learned all the right lessons from this, and a few years later we got Iron Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Time Warner learned all the wrong lessons from this success and decided that what people wanted was grim and gritty, and by this point management at DC Comics was riding high on the nineties and decided to launch the nu52, so there was no dissenting voice.

The first result of this was Man of Steel, which was okay. This was followed with Batman v Superman, which was not, and Suicide Squad, which was a very stupid movie, and both of those lost a lot of money. All of them had series flaws, and their inability to succeed on a Marvel-like level woke Time Warner from their cocaine-stupor, fearing a lack of cocaine in their immediate future.

Meanwhile, on the comics end of things, DC Comics managed to lose forty percent of their readership over five years of the nu52, and only started gaining it back because of titles like Harley Quinn, Gotham Academy, and a revamped Batgirl. All of those comics had an underlying theme of hope that had been missing from DC Comics as a whole for the entirety of the nu52, and DC Comics officially relaunched with Rebirth and has been pretty great ever since.

A big part of that is a man named Geoff Johns, who is basically the biggest fan of DC Comics and its characters to ever live. The man is also an acclaimed comic book writer, so Time Warner took note and said “You! You seem to know what you’re doing! Make our movies good so we can compete with Marvel (and get more cocaine)!”

Geoff came on board to handle the movies a couple months before Suicide Squad launched, so the first movie he’s had any real input on is this one: Wonder Woman. And this is where things get interesting.

Warner Brothers wanted this movie to fail.

They did little in the way of advertising for it, nothing along the lines of Man of Steel or Batman v Superman or even Suicide Squad. I know many people that were dying to see this movie that had no idea when it was coming out, or if it was out, and even the person I went to see the movie with had no idea it was out before I suggested it.

Really?” she said. “Wonder Woman is out?”

Yep,” said me. “Wanna go see it?”

Hell fuck yes.”

She didn’t really say that. It’s profanity being used to underline a point.

Wonder Woman is a female led action movie being directed by a woman, and the first woman they hired to direct it walked because of studio interference – a thing that also happened with Ben Affleck and Batman and has happened with a number of other DC Movie projects prior to Geoff coming on board. This movie is Geoff’s proof of concept, one that says that, yes, women read comics, women like superheroes, and women can tell good stories and be part of good stories and isn’t this goddamn great?

And it is.

Without studio advice and/or interference, with Geoff hiring someone to tell the story and trusting her to get it right, we ended up with the best of the DC Comics movies and one of the best superhero movies, but there’s some subtlety here that I’m thinking 49% of moviegoers might be missing, so let’s talk about that in part two.

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538

God of Comics – Wonder Woman Annual #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 30, 2017

Wonder Woman Annual #1 (DC Comics)

You wanna know what’s weird? The reason the Wonder Woman movie is going to succeed.

In the gestation of DC’s cinematic universe, this is the one movie the studio didn’t care about. Yes, they poured a bunch of money into it, but that was based around (a) we need to beat Marvel at something and they don’t have a female-lead movie yet, and (b) someone decided that Wonder Woman was going to be a big deal and so we should probably do a movie, guys.

We know this because people have been pitching Wonder Woman movies for years without success, and even a series a few years back that the studio got heavily invested in before canceling – and with good reason; you can watch the pilot on YouTube and it’s awful, pretty much missing the point of the character entirely. The studio is convinced that Wonder Woman is not going to succeed and so they did not care.

And this freed the people involved to create something amazing: a good movie where the enemy isn’t a supervillain, not really, but the stupidity of war and the patriarchy as a whole. Wonder Woman has always been a character tied to equality, feminism, social justice, and philosophy and has two core principles that define her character: truth and compassion.

Her primary weapon is a lasso that makes people tell the truth. Steve Trevor, at his best, is a counter-intelligence agent fight against the propaganda of both sides of the war machine. She’s a goddess whose introduction to men is one of violence and who has learned all her life that men are violent, but she nurses the first man she meets to help. She makes the world around her better by being a past of it.

It bothers me when people associate Wonder Woman with a sword, or miss the point of the Amazons – violence is a ritualized sport for them, and they’re better at it than anyone because it’s physical philosophy, a means of exploring the old healthy mind in a healthy body tenant of the ancient Greeks.

The result of the studio not caring is a film that is bright, colorful, and impactful. Where Superman moves as something beyond the world, Wonder Woman is very much a part of it – she moves with grace and hits like a truck, her presence feeling like a natural example of divinity rather than the alien power with which Superman moves. She’s brilliant, thoughtful, curious, and has no time for the hypocrisy or lies of, well, anyone.

Wonder Woman is not only the best of the DC movies, but one of the best movies that have superheroes in them.

Greg Rucka understands all of this and brings it to life in his comics. He’s got Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott handling art with that same sense of brightness and fluidity and it makes these comics hypnotizing, a rallying cry for a better world in one that sometimes forgets that it can be.

Their counterpoint to BvS in this comic is Wonder Woman meeting Batman and Superman for the first time, and watching as the three of them evolve as friends and colleagues. It’s good times. And this? This is how you capitalize on an excellent movie with an excellent comic.

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501

Dawn of Justice Trailer

God Of Comics, Videos

December 3, 2015

Ye Gods, DC. We were worried that maybe you wouldn’t be able to follow in the footsteps of what Marvel has done, that maybe this was going to be a giant mess that would still be pretty to look at, but this? This looks fantastic:

Even Batffleck looks great.

No, better than that – most actors have pulled off either Bruce Wayne or Batman, but not both. The best of the lot was Bale, but the infamous voice was kind of a detraction; this, however, even sounds good. It looks like Ben was serious about making up for Daredevil, so good on him. I was worried about a lot of things going into this, but the trailer has sold me on his Batman, and I’m intrigued to see how this plays out.

Superman, of course, looks great and appears to have been doing good works around the world since the original Man of Steel. The good works in question even look like they might be worldwide, which is a great thing; the entire point of Superman is that he is a god living to the best of humanity, regardless of nation. That’s awesome.

Lex looks great, Zod becoming Doomsday was a nice surprise, and Wonder Woman looks god-like – that shot of the three of them getting ready to wreck Doomsday? That would’ve sold me the ticket right there. That’s the most impressive the DC Comics Trinity has looked in a very long time.

There’s less to say about Dawn of Justice than there is about Civil War because there’s less to draw on, but this looks like a hell of a good gateway into a larger DC Cinematic Universe.

If there was any doubt before, consider is squashed. This looks awesome and we’ll be going to check it out, too.

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1188

God of Comics [2014-08-20]

God Of Comics, Reviews

August 21, 2014

This Week: All-New Ghost Rider #6, All-New X-Factor #12, Batman Beyond 2.0, Batwoman #34, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: Bestiary #1, Dark Horse Presents #1, Elektra #5, Justice Inc. #1, Little Nemo: Return To Slumberland #1, Magneto #8, Mighty Avengers #13, Ms. Marvel #7, Sensation Comics #2, Storm #2, Supreme Blue Rose #2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2014, The Fade Out #1, The Wicked + The Divine #3 (more…)

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1168

Odin’s Eye on San Diego Comic Con

God Of Comics, Showcase

July 30, 2014

 

Things happen in comics that are not necessarily the comics themselves. Movies, previews, television shows, all that sort of thing. We thought it was time we weighed in on some Very Important Issues surrounding the comics industries, and gave our one cent on it.

One cent… get it? Woden only has one eye and this is a God of Comics thing? (the joke you have to explain isn’t funny. – ed.)

(more…)

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2211

Stunts and Spells: Leo Kei Angelos

Interviews, Showcase, Webseries

August 27, 2013

With his action and stunt-filled short films, director Leo Kei Angelos has started making a name for himself online. His forays into fan films have especially made people take notice. The Vietnamese-born Angelos immigrated to the United States to pursue his dream of making movies in 2006 and with his recent move from New York to Los Angeles and the imminent release of his long awaited Harry Potter-inspired webseries, Auror’s Tale, that dream looks like its just around the corner. (more…)

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1119

God of Comics [2013-07-17]

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 19, 2013

Welcome to a brand spanking new thing we’re doing here on Living Myth Media. See, we’re old school comics geeks. And every week, we go and get comics (single issues mostly online, trades mostly from conventions or Big Pete’s). And every Wednesday we respect Woden, the God of Comics, and we speak of the stories that he, in his greatness, has brought us on twitter.

That’s a preview, though, and there’s time we don’t pick up the things we were looking for or end up picking up things we didn’t talk about on twitter. So, here’s what comics we got this week and what we think about ’em after we the reading.

We rate these things on a five star scale. The first two stars are for art, the second two for story, and the last is based on whether we think this is a gateway comic – is this something we would lend to friends to get them into this series? This is a tricky thing, but if we think it is, then the comic gets this star.

Stars can be broken down into quarters. Two or three stars is an average comic. Anything at four or more stars is of the highest possible quality.

Everyone with us so far? Cool. Onwards goes us.

(more…)

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