television

Luke Cage: A brief look at Marvel’s newest series

I shouldn’t have to become a bulletproof-Luke Cage just to feel safe as a black man in America.
Jay Whittaker
30 September 2016

This comment sparked an interesting – and introspective – thread on the Facebook account of my friend, Jay Whittaker.

Like me, Jay is a long-time comics fan. Also like me, he was eagerly anticipating the release of Luke Cage on Netflix this past weekend.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage

I’ve been a comics fan since the mid- to late-70s. Most of the heroes wore capes and tights (and their underwear on the outside). It was pretty easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. “Representation” wasn’t really a watchword when I started reading comics, but there were some signs of change and inclusion around the time the 80s rolled around. Today, you can find heroes of all colors, genders, belief systems, and/or sexuality. And they aren’t just in comics. They are also on TV, in books, and in major motion picture releases.

I’ve come to appreciate Black heroes more in the past fifteen years. For me, it really started with John Stewart, the Green Lantern on the Cartoon Network Justice League series. (My affinity for the character isn’t something that I’ve ever been shy talking about.) But, I have taken the time to become more familiar with Static, Black Panther, Cyborg, Nick Fury (MCU/Marvel Ultimate Universe version), Black Lightning, and many others.

Friday, Marvel’s Luke Cage joined the list of Black characters who have reached out from comics into other media. Who is Luke Cage? He’s:

  • A man framed for a crime he didn’t commit.
  • A man who wants to help his community.
  • A man who never wanted to be a hero… but became one.

I’m only about halfway through the series, but I am enjoying it. In bringing the character to the small screen, a few changes have been made, but nothing that makes the character unrecognizable. Something that I found interesting was what I can only assume was a rather conscious choice on the part of the show’s staff: Dressing Luke in an outfit that has become associated with many Black shooting victims in America today – a hoodie and jeans. Part of this is because Luke is trying to maintain a low profile and a hoodie affords a bit of anonymity. But, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t a couple of underlying messages in that choice:

  1. A hoodie doesn’t automatically make someone a criminal, in the same way that a suit doesn’t mean that someone is respectable.
  2. Anyone can be a hero.

The series has also depicted something that doesn’t often get seen on the small screen: Glimpses at and inside the Black community. No, parts of it aren’t always pretty nor clean, but I don’t know of any community that truly is. But, you see the community – what brings them together, what tears them apart – and not just a caricature of it.

For a more personal connection to what made this series so special for so many people, I’ll defer to Jay once again:

Cage has always been the character I’ve truly identified with. Yes, I know you’re thinking, “But, what about Falcon?” [For those who don’t know him, Jay’s been a vocal fan of Marvel’s Falcon over the past few years, even cosplaying as him at Salt Lake Comic Con.]

Put it this way: Falcon, War Machine, Black Panther have always been the brothas I’ve wanted to BECOME. Falcon & WM are both respectable service members AND CAN FLY! Black Panther is a damn king. The same can be said about John Stewart as Green Lantern. But Luke Cage has and always will represent who I’ve BEEN and probably always WILL BE. He’s an experienced man of the streets, who’s seen and done things he’s not proud of. His dark past is shrouded in mystery and difficult for him to talk about, but in the end he’s an everyday guy who just wants to do the right thing. He’s more realistic than a high-tech brotha that can fly. That’s why this show is so important right now.

You don’t have to soar through the skies to be a successful black man. You can stay on the ground, make a difference in your community and push forward…ALWAYS FORWARD.
Jay Whittaker
September 30 at 3:31pm

After reading that, I messaged Jay, asking if he’d be alright with me quoting him. I also noted that his summary of what Cage meant to him was “perfect.” Why? As I told him:

…your POV is a great one – not only for people who know the characters, but also for people who just know the movies/Netflix series.

It humanizes – and personalizes – the character in a succint but very poignant way. Pointing out that the others are (ex-)military, given your background, and that Cage is still the most similar to you and the core of your being…? That adds a level that anyone can relate to.

The Washington Post called Luke Cage “…the blackest thing that Marvel has ever done.” Whether or not that’s true can be called into question, but it’s definitely about time that people – everyone – has a chance to see something like this.

Check it out.

 

The Return of the Justice League

Wednesday – 27 July 2016
For nearly a year, the folks at Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers have been dropping breadcrumbs about a new Justice League-related series that seemed like it would be called “JLA.”

Check out the far right end of the posters...

Check out the far right end of the posters…

Then this much less oblique picture popped up a few months ago:

Justice League Action

The Justice League is back…

The poster below came with the news that Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman for over 20 years, would be returning to the role for this series.  We would later find out that Mark Hamill would also be reprising the voice of The Joker.

Justice League Action... and this time, they brought friends!

…and they’re bringing some friends…

 

Some of the faces - friendly and otherwise - that you'll see on Justice League Action.

…probably even more friends than this!

At Comic Con, last week, they even trotted out one more picture…

I like Wonder Woman's slightly edgier look in this one.

Just in case you forgot who the big guns are…

…and a synopsis…

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman lead the DC Comics Super Heroes against their most infamous foes in adventures packed with relentless thrills, fun and action. No need to wait for the good stuff to start, each eleven-minute episode jumps in with lightning-paced action and heroics. Whether defending the Earth, facing invaders from space, or battling the bizarre forces of magic, the always-rotating team of Justice League heroes, are up to any challenge.

…before presenting an actual teaser trailer:

No premiere date has been announced, as yet.

Worlds’ Finest: Supergirl and The Flash

Monday – 28 March 2016
Fans Supergirl and The Flash have been hoping for some kind of team-up between the heroes since Variety ran an article with Greg Berlanti – along with this picture, featuring Supergirl‘s Melissa Benoist and The Flash‘s Grant Gustin – last October.

Picture (c) Variety

Picture (c) Variety

But, there were a number of obstacles:

  • Supergirl had not been given a full season order,
  • The Flash had already scheduled their Season 2 episodes,
  • The shows, were on different networks1.

Then, something happened: Supergirl got picked up for a full season. Fans’ hopes got a little higher. But, The Powers That Be said that there was no time and that it couldn’t happen this season. Maybe something could be worked out next season.

On February 3rd, an announcement came out of CBS:

Supergirl’s world just keeps getting bigger—and more exciting.

CBS and The CW Network announced Tuesday that two of their respective shows will collide this spring. The Flash will appear in an upcoming episode of Supergirl, combining the two superheroes into one action-packed hour.

Fan reaction, not unexpectedly, was ecstatic. And then, the fan speculation started. Slowly, CBS released a few details: The episode title. Villains. The circumstances of Barry meeting Kara. And there were social media pushes, not just from the shows’ official sites, but also from the stars of the shows.

Just a couple of superheroes in the park... no big deal.

Just a couple of superheroes in the park… no big deal.

The episode aired tonight and it was fun. It was also reflective of the tone of both shows: Heroes doing the best they can, in both their heroic and civilian lives. It was also refreshing to see a hero team-up that didn’t involve the stereotypical trope of: heroes meet – heroes fight – heroes make up and resolve to fight bad guys trope.  It was just heroes helping heroes.

Oh, the episode had villains helping villains, too; I shouldn’t forget that part.

Livewire and Silver Banshee Picture (c) CBS

Livewire and Silver Banshee — Picture (c) CBS

Something that added to the fun of the episode was being able to watch it with – and explain it to – my daughters. To say that they are “big fans of superheroes” would be something of an understatement. (One daughter may or may not have been named for Wonder Woman…) They know a fair number of the DC heroes, with Supergirl being pretty high on their list. I’ve wanted to let them watch Supergirl, but it’s a bit mature for them – they’re four-and-a-half. They came down to the family and started watching with me… so I decided to see how they dealt with it. They had a lot of questions:

  • When is The Flash going to run fast? (They started watching after Barry had changed into civilian clothes.)
  • Why is Supergirl not wearing her costume? (Civvies, again)
  • Who’s that and why is she being mean to Supergirl? (Cat Grant)
  • Is [person] a good friend or a bad friend?
  • Did that bad friend break out of jail? (When Livewire escaped DEO confinement)
  • Why does Supergirl have blood on her fingers? (After being shrieked at by Silver Banshee)
  • Are they going to race?
  • Why can James not hear Supergirl? (Near the end of the episode)
  • Can all those people not hear either?

…but they took the episode in stride – it was easy enough for them to follow (mostly) and came down to a heroes putting the villains in jail, a concept they understand. As an added bonus for me, I got to watch them as they watched a show featuring heroes they know.

Thank you, CBS and The CW for giving viewers a fun show that didn’t feel too weighted down by the story arcs of either character’s respective show. It was enough of a one-and-done that someone who didn’t watch “the other show” regularly could enjoy for the sake of what was presented.

Now, how about renewing Supergirl for Season Two and getting Kara onto either The Flash, Arrow, or Legends of Tomorrow2?

1 – Okay, yes, CBS does have 50% interest in The CW, but they are still different networks.

2 – Legends of Tomorrow would provide an easy (re-)introduction of Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Just putting that out there.

“Alone and bored, on a 30th Century night…”

Tuesday – 01 March 2016
For a team/comic that hasn’t had their own title in nearly two-and-a-half years, the 30th Century’s  Legion of Super-Heroes has been popping up in a bit of comics-related press in the past few weeks. (As far as I’m concerned, this is far from a “bad thing.”)

There was a cover shot of LSH #300 in DC Comics’ press video for the upcoming “Rebirth” event/non-event

30th Century super-team

LSH #300

…apparently, there was a nod to the Legion in last night’s episode of Supergirl

Some of the 30th Century's finest technology...

Legion Flight Ring

…and the team – or, at least, the founders – are featured in the upcoming LEGO Justice League: Comsic Clash… which means it’s pretty much a shoo-in that I will watch this video.

After watching the above clip, I went to heat up my lunch. Waiting for the microwave to do its thing, I noticed I was humming Madonna’s Material Girl. In and of itself, that’s not so bad… but not really Legion-related. The thing is: I caught myself reparsing the lyrics from:

‘Cause we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

to

‘Cause we are living in a material world
And I’m an immaterial girl

…referencing Phantom Girl and her abilities.  Thankfully, I stopped before I started changing the verses to fit a 30th Century theme. For now.

Send help.
Please.

Faster than a speeding… waitaminute!

Wednesday – 03 February 2016
First there was Arrow.

arrow_poster

With this, they gave viewers (and DC Comics fans) a plethora of heroes and villains on the small screen.

Then, they expanded the “Arrowverse” to include The Flash. With this we got even more heroes and villains. (Let’s be honest: I never expected to see Firestorm on TV in anything than an animated form.)

The_Flash_promo_poster

This year, DC’s trenchcoat-wearing occult detective – and con man – John Constantine was officially brought into the Arrowverse.

CONSTANTINE -- Pictured: "Constantine" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

(Photo by: NBCUniversal)

The powers-that-be even put together a supergroup: Legends of Tomorrow.

legends

As if all of that wasn’t enough, today it was announced that there will be a Flash/Supergirl crossover.

Flash-Supergirl-1-600x795

Yep, that’s right: Supergirl – and I’d take it, by association, Superman (as he’s appeared a couple of times on the show) – is officially part of the Arrowverse.

Supergirl_poster

Congratulations and well done CW and CBS for creating a cohesive, cross-network television universe!

Thoughts on the latest ‘BvS’ trailers

Sunday – 24 January 2016
I just finished watching the latest trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

BvS_Who_will_Win

Yes, I was watching the football games in which they aired. However, I didn’t sit through many/most of the commercials, so yes, I just saw the newest one online. But, that’s not the point. The point is, with this trailer…

…something in the way that Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne spoke to Alfred about the threat that Superman posed struck me as sounding very similar to the origin of the protocols that Batman developed in the pre-New52 DC Universe, as seen in Mark Waid’s “Tower of Babel” (spoilers) storyline in JLA (and whose story was the basis of the Justice League: Doom animated feature):

Tower of Babel deals with Batman‘s perceived betrayal to the superhuman community by keeping and concealing hidden records concerning the strengths and weaknesses of his allies in the JLA, which include plans to neutralize his allies in a fight. His files are stolen by the criminal mastermind Ra’s al Ghul, who uses them to defeat the League through a coordinated attack in order to prevent them from interfering with his latest scheme, the reduction of the global population.

There appears to be a lot of pent-up rage in Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, but it sounds like all that he wants to do is find the key to defeating the heir-apparent to the “most powerful being on the planet” title… and then retire to the Batcave for a Bat-beer. Corollary to this thought, I can’t help but wonder if we will see Batman taking notes on other members of the League (as we meet them) and compiling methods to best neutralize them, as well. As much as I think I’d enjoy a live-action take on “Tower of Babel,”” I think that we will see the League taking on Thanos Darkseid as the main villain of the Justice League movie.

Something else just dawned on me about the Clark Kent/Superman side of the equation… and I’m a little bothered by the fact that it didn’t occur to me sooner. I’ve seen this trailer before:

…but I didn’t think of it in the same comic book terms as I did the Bruce Wayne one. Until now. Listening to Clark and Perry’s discussion after watching the Bruce Wayne clip, I was almost immediately reminded of Man of Steel #3 (1986) in which Superman goes to Gotham City to take on – and take down – a certain “bat vigilante”:

mos3_bvs

Let’s just say that their first meeting was “strained,” at best. It was also very well written and included a couple of twists that made the not-quite-a-team-up work under the tense conditions. Clark’s comments in the trailer seem to resonate with one of Superman’s internal monologues from MoS 3, in which Superman goes over what he knows about Batman.

As I said, just a couple of quick thoughts. What do you think?

Four-Color Coverage: Movie and TV Costume Updates

Comic Book Resources’ Spinoff Online column has scored some new information about the costumes that will be seen in the upcoming Green Lantern movie and Wonder Woman television show:

New Green Lantern Images Show Ryan Reynolds In Full CG Suit

…and…

NBC’s Wonder Woman Will Wear Three Different Costumes

Click the above items for more details.

Four-Color Coverage: Wonder Woman costume shot

Last week, DC Comics’ “The Source” blog posted an entry with the first picture of Adrianne Palicki in her costume for the upcoming Wonder Woman television series:

It appears to be a melding of the traditional costume with the new comics version, as designed by Jim Lee.

In the week since this hit the Internet, there have been MANY comments – pro and con – about it. On the whole, I’m okay with it. I will agree with some commenters that the color palette for the pants may be a little “bright.”  But, it’s also a studio shot; it could look entirely different by the time the show hits the air and/or when it’s being shot against scenery and not just a blank white wall.

Four-Color Coverage: 10 Mandates for a Kick-Ass Wonder Woman TV Show

Scott Thill wrote an article for Wired‘s Underwire column, outlining not only what he thinks is needed to bring a new Wonder Woman television show to the air, but also things that might make a modern interpretation of the character more interesting and appealing.

Read the full article here.

Four-Color Coverage: “And back again…!”

Sunday – 31 October 2010
It’s literally been more than a month of Sundays (07 Sept 2010) since I’ve posted here.  I have a draft of a post from a few weeks back that may still see the light of day, but we’ll see how that goes…

In the past month-and-a-half, 4CC (and my other sites) have changed hosting companies. The overall transition has been rather painless, but making sure that all of the behind-the-scenes details have been taken care of has been a slow process. (It’s been slow mostly due to the fact that I have had other things that were a bit higher priority on my docket.)

In the past nearly-eight weeks, there have been a lot of good books that have hit the shelves. There have also been some good features on the big and small screens. I hope to touch on some of them in the next week or two.  In the mean time, here are a few tide-me-overs:

And that’s it for now!