The superhero movie market is saturated with the MCU and DCEU but before all that, we had real superhero movies. Sorry, I meant real weird superhero movies. Taste of Cinema compiled a list of the 10 strangest superhero films including The Toxic Avenger, Neutron The Atomic Superman Vs The Death Robots, and RoboGeisha, a movie about two cyborg geisha assassins from the makers of Horny House Of Horror and Tokyo Gore Police. Those titles alone will tell you how messed up that movie is.
A cool paper (note: this is a link to a PDF) on how Superman got his powers, rejecting the Seigel theory that his strength came from Krypton’s higher gravitational force. This paper suggests that his powers came from a unified ability rather than a host.
In this paper we propose a new unified theory for the source of Superman’s powers; that is to say, all of Superman’s extraordinary powers are manifestation of one supernatural ability, rather than a host. It is our opinion that all of Superman’s recognized powers can be unified if His power is the ability to manipulate, from atomic to kilometer length scales, the inertia of His own and any matter with which He is in contact.
On my neverending internet travels, I found out about an alternative Batman story called “The Berlin Batman”, set in Berlin, Germany during the Second World War. It tells the story of Baruch Wane, a wealthy Jewish painter who conceals his faith and identity in the light and the dark for he is the mysterious Batman, a masked vigilante fighting the Nazis.
More on alternative Batmen: What if Batman was Black?
I love these Marvel 3D-letter designs by Reagan Ray which he explained in a recent post:
I just started getting into comic books for the first time a few years ago. My son was interested as well, so we started making regular trips to the comic book store (pre-covid, of course). We loved looking at the artwork and lettering of the older comics. And like most lettering, right around the late 90s, it all went to shit. The hand-lettering masterpieces were abandoned for fonts and photoshop effects. With that said, I limited this post to the pre-’00s. I wanted to do something more vintage, but there are just too many from the 80s and 90s that I love. My absolute favorite was seeing all the interpretations of 3D type.
They’re all amazing and I’d wear each and every one of them on a t-shirt.
Justin Van Voorhis made a list of the 10 best Black superhero movies based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings. Of course, that means it might now be your top 10 list or anyone’s for that matter. But it’s interesting to see how the general public voted for them.
Alas, I have only seen 4 of them and heard of 6 which means I have a lot of catching up to do. I like that the list has films from all but one decade since the 70s (nothing from the 80s). I’m sure you can guess what the #1 was and I’m in full agreement.
Comic writer and journalist Evan Narcisse wrote a piece on the Icon/Superman crossover from “Worlds Collide”, an intercompany crossover event from 1994 where characters from Milestone Comics met with Superman. Part 4 of the series featured Icon (#16, August 1994)
An alien ship lands on Earth. Its occupant gets raised as human, hiding special abilities for fear of reprisal. But when the superpowered extraterrestrial becomes an adult, Truth, Justice and the American Way mean something very different. Because this strange visitor from another planet is black.
This scene is one of my favourite scenes in movie history. It shows Christopher Reeve as Superman in Superman II playing Superman, Clark Kent, Superman again, and then Clark Kent again. All it took was a change in body language and vocal tone and he was both characters.
Here’s what Ben Kuchera from Polygon had to say about it:
There are many remarkable things about the first Superman film, up to and including the obvious influence on every comic book movie that came later. There wasn’t much of a blueprint in pop culture for what a serious look at a comic book character should look like. There were not yet giants who had shoulders on which Superman could stand.
But what really made the film so special was the performance of the late Christopher Reeve, the only actor who could make the idea that no one recognized Clark Kent as Superman due to his glasses even remotely plausible. His performance as both Clark Kent and Superman kept the characters distinct, and it was done through his body. Christopher Reeve was his own best special effect.
One scene shows this transformation perfectly.
It happens after Superman takes Lois flying, right before her date with Clark Kent. He nearly tells her the truth, and shifts into the part of Superman to prove he is who he’s about to say he is.
The amazing part of this performance is how clearly you can see Christopher Reeve shift his body from Clark Kent to Superman. His voice changes a bit, sure, but it’s all there in the body language. It’s a powerful, physical performance that doesn’t require a change into the costume or any of the special effects that went into the flying scene. The burden is on Reeve to sell the transition, and holy hell does he do it convincingly.
Shout out to the Alexander Technique, which Reeve and a host of other actors and authors used (although there is no scientific proof of its alleged health benefits—I have to make that clear).
As I got older, I started wondering “what period was Batman Returns set in?”. Its predecessor, Batman, seemed modern for the time (1989) but Returns felt a lot older. People wore clothes from the early 20th century, maybe 20s-30s and the architecture was very Art Deco.
The problem is, when you Google “What year was Batman Returns set in?”, you get the year the film was released: 1992. Not helpful. Then I found this on Quora about the first film:
It’s hard to tell. The architecture suggests that, but the technology suggests what was then the present day.
That was 1989, meaning that Thomas and Martha Wayne were probably killed around 1969 or so. So why, in the flashback to that scene, were they and little Bruce dressed like it’s the 1940s? Did somebody mess with the timestream? Does the Keaton Batmobile have a flux capacitor?
Batman Returns has a similar issue. It almost feels like the main characters are stuck in a period they aren’t from, as they appear modern and the rest of Gotham is still in a weird 20th century time warp. But let’s look at this logically. In the film, we start with Oswald Cobblepot’s birth and early days as a baby 33 years before what we believe is 1992, taking us to 1959. Are you telling me 33 years pass and people haven’t updated their clothes? And there are other suggestions about the time, as a commenter on this blog post mentions:
Some more timewarp craziness, this time form (sic) Batman Returns:
Ted Bundy exists and is a known serial killer. (Bruce Wayne dialogue to Selina)
And yet, only about 30-40 years earlier (whatever Penguin’s age is), Gotham was something out of circa early 1900s (judging by Penguin’s parents’ dress and house furnishings, Pee Wee and Simone)Comment link
Bundy was alive between 1946–1989 and he admitted to murders committed between 1974 and 1978 so it definitely wasn’t set in the 20s or 30s. So maybe, like Batman, it was set in an alternate universe’s 1992 where Art Deco and German expressionism never died. Did I mention Tim Burton was the director and the film was criticised for being too dark?
So, to answer the question “what year was Batman Returns set in?”, my answer is: probably 1992 but not our 1992.
As is always the case with legacy comics characters, if you look far back enough it isn’t long before you come across stories “of their time” that reflect the distinct lack of voices that didn’t belong to straight, white men with two-dimensional ideas about people who were unlike them. Superman’s always been a symbol for an idealized form of the American dream and a mythic idea of morally sound justice. But in comics like Giant Superman #239 from 1971, an issue including multiple stories from writers Otto Binder and artists Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, you can see how DC Comics has always had a difficult time addressing Blackness in the context of Superman stories as its own identity rather than something that exists in contrast to whiteness.
Did you know California was named after a Black warrior queen named Calafia? I didn’t!
Rebecca Johnson of Atlas Obscura wrote about Calafia’s story last November and touched “the surprising complexity of medieval attitudes about race”:
Meanwhile, the novel of chivalry that spawned it [California’s name], Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s Las Sergas de Esplandían, has been all but forgotten (despite being memorably cited by Cervantes as one of the books that turned poor Don Quixote’s brains to mush). Yet its portrait of California’s queen, the dark-skinned warrior Calafia, is worth revisiting—not just for its marvelous details, but for the light it sheds on medieval European attitudes about race.
I like the part where Calafia is described as “beautiful, strong, and courageous” and portrayed in an “unfailingly positive light”.
Other entities named after Calafia include:
- Calafia Airlines, a Mexican airline
- Calafia, a hard bop album by Gerald Wilson’s Orchestra of the 80’s
- The Cooperative Latin American Collection Development Group, better known as Calafia, a consortium of libraries in California, Oregon, and Washington
- Calafia, a hypertext novel by Marjorie Luesebrink
- Calafia Valley, a wine-growing region in Baja California, Mexico
- Califia, a genera of Orbiniidae worms
To all those fools who refuse to accept the existence of Black people in their fantasy universes, eat it.
2020 sucks hard. I feel like I’ve said or written that a hundred times but it bears repeating. So finding any glimmer of light or hope means more than usual and I found one on Sunday night.
Chan Chau (they/them) is a cartoonist from in Minnesota and they tweeted one of their comics about Soft Lead Clark Kent, in a world where he’s a cartoonist for the Daily Planet rather than the reporter we know on this earth. He visited his Bruce Wayne at his home for breakfast and expressed his fear that his work was “pointless”.
[…] You know drawing cartoons. Well, making comic strips about my cat for the Daily Planet, to be precise. It seems so… ugh, silly.
Bruce offers his opinion and it reminded me that sometimes you need something for you rather than what you think other people want or need and I felt that. Hopefully it can offer some respite and clarity for anyone who reads it.
Fancy a taste of hell? Then you should try Hellboy Right Hand of Doom hot sauce from Armadillo Pepper.
According to the site, the hot sauce was officially licenced for the 2019 remake of Hellboy and sizzles at 6.66 million Scoville Heat Units. This is thanks to a demonic blend of Trinidad Scorpion Butch T peppers and red Habanero peppers.
However, Right Hand of Doom is not cheap, coming in at $18.99. But if you’ve got the money burning a wallet, use it to buy some sauce that can burn a hole in your stomach lining.
For more hot sauce extravagance, check out Gabrielle Union on Hot Ones, the world’s hottest gummy bear, and the funniest chili pepper challenge I’ve ever seen.
Phil LaMarr sat down with Vanity Fair and discussed some of his most iconic character voices, including Hermes Conrad from Futurama, Ollie Williams from Family Guy, Green Lantern from Justice League, Jack from Samurai Jack and Virgil aka Static from Static Shock.
Amongst the characters he discussed, Phil went into how Hermes could have disappeared if it wasn’t for one vital change.
Then about three episodes in, the writers sort of realized that the Hermes character was fine, but they didn’t really have anything that was working, working. And I remember Matt Groening coming up to me in the hallway, and said, “Well, we just wanna try something with Hermes. Can you do a Jamaican accent?” I said sure, I can do that. I auditioned for Cool Runnings just like every other Black man in 1980 whatever. Adding the accent gave the character another dimension, added depth. ‘Cause all of a sudden instead of just writing accountant jokes, they were writing Jamaican jokes. And then laying accountant stuff on top of ’em. Like okay, so what if he’s sort of laid back but not laid back at all. I think actually, had Matt not suggested that, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here. I probably wouldn’t have made it past episode four.
Phil also talked about what inspired each voice and how they brought his characters to life, like the Green Lantern.
It was wild to be The Green Lantern. I’d seen Bruce Timm’s work on Batman Beyond and knew the character designs and all that. And in terms of finding the voice, that was sort of easy to do. Because the way he draws men, they’ve got these little tiny legs and these great big chests. So you feel like everybody’s gotta have a deep voice. They talked about the character. It was like, well, he was a Marine. He was from Detroit. And I’m like oh well my dad’s from Detroit. So I added a little bit of a level, sort of an homage to my dad, because my dad was like a, you know, sort of this smoky voice, so I wanted to put a little of that in there. So it wasn’t just, you know, I’m big hero. It was also a little bit of this, you know. The guy has, he’s been somewhere. He’s done some things, you know.
Slow news day? Perhaps it was in February when Gizmodo published its Cinematic Batman Lips list but this kind of absurd piece fits right in with the omnishambles that is 2020.
Writer James Whitbrook felt inspired to write the piece after the reveal of Robert Pattinson’s Batman. There were 2 rules for the list:
- No TV-only Batmen.
- Lips were only rated as part of the whole Batman outfit (so no Bruce Wayne lips, if that makes sense)
This left 8 in total. I won’t spoil the list but I will reveal one part: Robert Pattinson’s Batman—the one who inspired the list—came in last. Ouch. The rest follows what I’d expect, although I would have swapped 2nd and 3rd.
Val Kilmer’s lips were my personal favourites.
Anyway, stream the most famous Batman lips scenes in Batman lipstory (from Batman Returns) below.
Thanks to my friend Soph for putting me onto this.
Did you know that the first Marvel comic book was published in 1939 by Martin Goodman? Today, the number of Marvel comic books published is over 30,000. Check out this #IronQuest visualization by Pradeep Kumar G to learn about all of the “good” and “bad” characters that have appeared in Marvel comics over the years.
As Soph pointed out, only ~25% identified as female and ~6% agender, genderfluid (only 1 character) or unknown. There wasn’t any racial demographic data but I’m sure the disparity would have deepened further. For info on Black superheroes, check out my ongoing list.