Top 5 on The Strip: Batman versions

1. Batman (Earth Two version): This version of Bruce Wayne settles down with Selina Kyle and has a daughter, Helena Wayne, who becomes Huntress. Eventually, Bruce becomes police commissioner. After a one last adventure as Batman, he is killed in battle trying to stop the destruction of the city. As he was still using his secret identity, Doctor Fate of Earth Two changes reality to keep his identity secret and lets everyone believe that Bruce died of cancer at Wayne Manor.

2. Batman film — Michael Keaton: Michael Keaton, the first of the film cowl wearers, was derided when he was announced in the mid-1980s. No one could believe that “Mr. Mom” would do the trick. And then 1989’s Batman hit the silver screen and the noise stopped. Not only was Keaton excellent, but also he brought a much-needed severity to the character and was wholly believable inside and outside of the tights.

3. Flashpoint Batman: In the Flashpoint version of Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne — the murdered parents of Bruce Wayne in all Batman origin stories — don’t die. Instead, Bruce is killed in Crime Alley in their place. In their grief and attempts to cope with Bruce’s death, Thomas becomes Batman and Martha becomes the Joker. Eventually, both learn that in the true timeline, they die in the place of Bruce and he becomes Batman to avenge their deaths.

4. Batman film — Christian Bale version: Christian Bale took a franchise that was mired in the depths of mediocrity and downright unintentional hilarity and gave it life again. Bale made it cool to like Batman and the Caped Crusader’s credibility was restored. It only took two movies, arguably, to achieve this feat: Batman Begins in 2005 and The Dark Knight in 2008, all lead by Bale. The Dark Knight Rises was just an added bonus to seal the deal.

5. Batman kills the Joker/Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 3 Batman: In a version of the Injustice storyline, Batman actually kills the Joker. After the Joker plants a bomb killing Lois Lane, Batman captures him and attempts to turn him in. As they’re riding to Arkham Asylum, the Joker intimates that he will likely try again to torment Superman and hints at trying to kill Superman’s baby. Batman snaps and well, breaks the Joker’s neck.

Top 5 on The Strip: Animated superhero cartoons

Batman animated series

1. Batman: The Animated Series

The standard bearer for modern superhero cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series was gritty, dark and fresh off the success of Batman Returns. It’s well-drawn with a neat art deco style and the voice acting set the standard for future series. If you weren’t watching this every day after school, you missed out. Immediately go back and watch this from beginning to end.

Teen Titans

2. Teen Titans

Teen Titans took a different tack when talking about Robin’s squad of heroes. It’s a great look at the younger superheroes of the DC universe in a group that still stands today. Featuring Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy, the show focuses on the group being young superheroes while also being teenagers with typical teenager problems. The voice work is fantastic and the animation is top-notch as well.

tmnt 1987 series

3. TMNT (1987 series)

We’re well-known TMNT fans here at GI and that love stems from the old black-and-white comics as well as the original animated series. That series, with its ’80s attitude and charm, managed to get us into the Turtles to start and paved the way for the juggernaut that was and still is the Turtles franchise. Outstanding voicework — featuring the likes of Jim Cummings and the late James Avery — make it one of the best ’80s animated series and a good introduction to the TMNT universe at large.

X-men fox animated

4. X-Men: The Animated Series

Aside from the classic theme, X-Men: The Animated Series featured a stellar voice cast and stories that mostly stayed faithful to the comics. At the time of its 1992 inception, this was unheard of in comic properties translated to TV. X-Men established several characters as favorites: Storm, Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Cable, Bishop, Gambit and Jubilee. It was so great that incarnations of the characters featured in the show have been used in multiple video game properties since.

spiderman-1994

5.  Spider-Man (Fox)

Another great Fox animated series, Spider-Man was a fantastic showcase of the web-crawler’s style and storylines. It featured quite a few of Peter Parker’s rogues gallery and touched on a lot of his story arcs with accuracy and maturity not usually seen in comic book shows. As with X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man had great voice acting that carried over into video games produced thereafter, such as the Marvel Versus series.

Strip Talk #24: Get ready for the deluge of comic book movies

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineThe deluge of comic book movies these days is like heaven-sent mana for a geek like myself. The sheer volume alone is overwhelming, and the majority of them happen to be good. I will properly confess that I wasn’t anticipating the quality of the majority, but it’s a welcome problem to have because it could always be worse.

If your name is Marvel, you have done extraordinarily well. Basically, everything they touch is gold. Captain America: Civil War was HUGE; we’re talking billions in box office receipts. Even the B-Team movies (i.e. the spinoffs) such as Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy have exceeded expectations and made buckets of money for the Marvel brand. So, we’re good here because just about everything about Phase III is going to translate into critical acclaim and financial windfall.

If your name is DC, you have some issues and we have concerns about you going forward. DC’s cinematic universe just can’t seem to get it right, whether it’s the poor characterization of Superman’s solo film, the tepid Batman vs. Superman or the silliness of Suicide Squad. It seems that DC is struggling to tell even the most basic stories about its legendary stable of heroes. Superman’s movies have been mostly miss since the ill-advised reboot attempt in 2006 with Superman Returns. Batman has been mostly good since the Christopher Nolan trilogy wrapped up with Dark Knight Rises, but there is yet another new face under the cowl — Ben Affleck — that’s going to have to carry major burdens. Suicide Squad has been hit or miss, with either enthusiastically great or horrible reviews. DC has got to get its act together if it’s serious about competing with the Marvel juggernaut in any way, shape or form.

If you’re not named either DC or Marvel and you’re producing a comic property, chances are you’re the X-Men or Wolverine. Fox handles the X-Men and it shows immediately that they’re not Marvel (despite being a Marvel property in ink). While First Class and Days of Future Past were wonderful and a great restoration of the X-Men name from the horrific days of Last Stand, the more recent Apocalypse nearly destroyed the goodwill that the franchise has managed to earn back. Poor pacing and character development of prominent X-Men such as Storm and Psylocke does not endear the series to anyone looking to see the merry band of mutants make a comeback. While Deadpool did extremely well for Fox, it’s hard to see where they’re going after this except for more X-Men/Wolverine and more Deadpool.

I’m all for the gaggle of movies expected to release in the next months to few years. By the time you read this, Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok will have been released and we still have on the horizon Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Justice League, Avengers Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Shazam, The Flash, Aquaman, Justice League 2, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps, Spider-Man: Homecoming, an Old Man Logan/Wolverine final movie, Ant Man and the Wasp, and several TV properties such as Luke Cage, and future seasons of Jessica Jones, Arrow, the Flash, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Cloak and Dagger and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If that doesn’t keep you busy and informed on comic adaptations, you’re missing quite a bit.

You can’t escape the prevalence of comic books in cinema, especially now that the mainstream public at large is invested in either Marvel or DC and second-tier characters like Groot are household names. You know you’ve jumped into mainstream consciousness when the bandwagon fans are sympathizing with the Winter Soldier without knowing his background and up-to-date biography. But it’s not really for the bandwagoneers, is it? It’s more for us, the comic book faithful who won’t turn down a movie about a superhero because, well, superheroes. I don’t know about you, but I’m about to be a little kid on Christmas morning once again.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Top 5 on The Strip: Comic book roles with multiple actors

Batman

1. Batman
The Dark Knight has long been a friend of the big and small screen. Five actors have stepped into the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman: Adam West in the 1966 television show, Michael Keaton in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns, Val Kilmer in 1995’s Batman Forever, George Clooney in 1997’s Batman and Robin, and Christian Bale in the Dark Knight trilogy of films from 2005 to 2012.

Superman animated

2. Superman
At least six men have played the iconic superhero in television and film roles. Starting with George Reeves in 1951, the role was then taken the big screen by Christopher Reeve in four films from 1978 to 1987, then television by Dean Cain in 1993 and Tom Wellington in 2001, and back to film by Brandon Routh in 2006 and Henry Cavill in 2013.

Spider-Man animated series

3. Spider-Man
There have only been two actors to suit up as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler: Tobey Macguire for three outings in 2002, 2004 and 2007; and Andrew Garfield in two films in 2012 and 2014.

Joker-Animated Series

4. The Joker
Batman’s arch nemesis has only appeared three times but each time has been memorable, film or television. Caesar Romero originated the role of the maniacal clown prince of crime with the television version of Batman also starring Adam West. Jack Nicholson took over the role opposite Michael Keaton in 1989’s Batman, Mark Hamill has voiced the Joker for Batman: The Animated Series and Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his portrayal in The Dark Knight.

Hulk animated

5. The Hulk
Four actors have portrayed the unstable Dr. Bruce Banner and his counterpart, the Incredible Hulk. Bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk while Bill Bixby played the good doctor in the live action television version first. Hulk moved to the silver screen and was first portrayed by Eric Bana, then Ed Norton and finally, Mark Ruffalo.

Top 5 on The Strip: Villainesses

Selene - Marvel

1. Selene (Black Queen – Hellfire Club) – Marvel

Selene – better known as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club – is at least 17,000 years old and continuously wreaks havoc on the Marvel Universe, mostly by terrorizing the X-Men. She’s featured as the boss of one of Gambit’s stages in Spider-Man & the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge, so you know she’s obnoxious.

Mutant power: Life-draining psychic vampire, flame manipulation

 Star Sapphire-Carol Ferris

2. Star Sapphire – DC

The original Star Sapphire had several remarkable powers that included the use of a violet Power Ring (like the Green Lantern Corps). The main thing to know about Star Sapphire is that she is a group, a corps just like the Green Lantern. The group is possessed by the Star Sapphire gem, which is attracted to worthy females who are in love with Hal Jordan. Remember folks, stalking and harrassment are crimes, no matter if you are a gem or not.

Super power: Violet Power Ring possession, force blasts, protective shield, flight

 Lady Deathstrike

3. Lady Deathstrike – Marvel

Yeah, so Yuriko Oyama has an adamantium-bonded skeleton similar to Wolverine’s. The reason for this? Because she wanted to have it. It wasn’t that she had it forced on her; no, she asked Spiral to do the process because she wanted to be able to kill Wolverine, who she thought stole the theories and ideas on the adamantium process. Receiving cybernetic implants as well, Yuriko has hunted Wolverine for decades.

Mutant power: Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability and agility; unbreakable skeleton laced with adamantium and 10 claws made of adamantium; and a cybernetic healing factor.

 Talia al Ghul

4. Talia ah Gul – DC

The daughter of Ra’s ah Gul, Talia has carried on her father’s life of crime and destruction. She’s covertly worked to take over Gotham City, injured or killed numerous people and lead the notorious League of Assassins. Her saving grace is the fact that she married Bruce Wayne and produced an heir, Damien Wayne. Eventually, she disowns Damien after realizing that he would always oppose her after taking up his father’s cause. Motherly love this is not.

Super power: Enhanced longevity, genius-level intelligence, superior marksmanship and swordsmanship

 Mystique

5. Mystique – Marvel

There isn’t much that Mystique hasn’t done. In several realities, she has been the cause of assassinations of key figures that leads to the downfall of that reality (see: Days of Future Past) and has betrayed quite a few people in her path. Given that she’s able to shapeshift at will into whomever she wants, Mystique has used that power to further her own agenda and goals. Usually, those goals are in line with the Brotherhood of Evil.

Mutant power: Shapeshifting

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman films

Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (2008): Visually, this wasn’t much to look at, but the acting is what takes center stage. Heath Ledger stole the show right from under Christian Bale, and Aaron Eckhart is no joke as Harvey Dent/Two Face. Everything about it screams serious and dark, which is fitting.

 

Batman 1989

Batman (1989): As the first in the movie franchise, Batman set the course for the first two films and showed why the Dark Knight is a force to be reckoned with. Yeah, so people complained about Michael Keaton. He more than shows that he was a more-than-competent Batman. Also, Jack Nicholson’s malevolent Joker was a scene-stealer, which shouldn’t be hard to do as the Clown Prince of Crime.

 

Dark Knight Rises

Dark Knight Rises (2012): The finale in the second Batman trilogy of films is well-worth the price of going to the movies these days. Anne Hathaway was a serviceable Catwoman and Tom Hardy was perfect as Bane. Christian Bale was still good, and we even could get with the plot despite never having read the Bane-particular parts of the comic. Engaging is the right word for the final Batman with Christopher Nolan at the helm.

 

Batman Forever

Batman Forever (1995): Sure, it’s cartoony and could use some cheesiness grated out of it, but the one turn of Val Kilmer in the tights actually isn’t that bad. It’s obvious that he didn’t really want to be Batman, but the atmosphere is interesting and the visual style is a welcome change from Tim Burton’s previous efforts. Jim Carrey was perfect for the role of the Riddler, too.

 

Batman Returns

Batman Returns (1992): We’ve thrown around the term “Too Many Villains Syndrome” a lot in The Strip, and Returns is the progenitor of that affliction. However, Burton’s dark gritty style is all over this, and it makes a great deal of difference between a marginal effort and something that shines despite its problems. And, Michelle Pfeiffer is hot as Catwoman.

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman movie villains

Joker comboThe Joker

You knew he was going to make the list. How could he not with at least two movie outings devoted to the clown prince of crime, both played by different actors that received rave reviews for their performances? The Joker is Batman’s arch-nemesis and thus deserves his own movies, which he gets to the delight of Batman fans. If you can posthumously win an Oscar for your performance as the Joker (Heath Ledger) or have your performance talked about for decades afterward as the standard bearer for psychotic criminal masterminds (Jack Nicholson), you’ve done something right as a character.

 Tom Hardy-Bane

Bane

Bane has so many quotable lines in “The Dark Knight Rises” that it almost makes up for the weak way he gets bumped off (spoiler alert: Bane dies). Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane was intense and satisfying, making the film a must-see just from the trailer alone. If you didn’t care about Batman after Heath Ledger stole the show from Christian Bale, you cared when Hardy uttered the infamous “Gotham’s reckoning” line. Oh, and we only count Dark Knight Rises’ version of Bane. The mockery that was in Batman and Robin is best forgotten, much like the rest of the movie.

 Two Face combo

Harvey Dent/Two Face

Another villain that gets two outings in the franchise, the first time around for Mr. D.A. was campy yet fun. You learned the crazy that was Dent in a slightly lighthearted-yet-dark way that only Tommy Lee Jones could provide in Batman Forever. Contrast that with Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal in The Dark Knight, where he’s a tragic figure caught in the crossfire of Batman and the Joker’s battle. Dent made you understand where he was coming from and sympathize greatly. You could sort of understand why he lost his mind. Oh, and that makeup job as Two Face was so well done, we can’t picture Eckhart without it now.

 Catwoman combo

Catwoman

The sly kitty lady shows up twice in the franchise as well, and boy is she awesome both times. Michelle Pfieffer and Anne Hathaway give new meaning to the term minx. And, any time a woman can look fierce in 4-inch heels while attacking people and holding her own in a fight alongside Batman, she has our vote as a credible character. She’s credible as a villain as well because, let’s face it, Catwoman is not exactly helpful to Batman any time you see her. In fact, every time you do so, it means trouble. That’s a troublesome minx for you.

 Jim Carrey-Riddler

The Riddler

OK, so the surrounding movie wasn’t all that great. But, truth be told, Jim Carrey actually kind of stole the show with his over-the-top portrayal of the man in green. Carrey is the kind of comedian that you know what you’re going to get when you go see a film he’s in: He’s going to be ridiculous and he’s going to ham it up. And the Riddler was the perfect vehicle for that. He made a complete mockery of Batman’s detective skills and somehow managed to elevate the crazy past Tommy Lee Jones’ weird Two Face (see above). Hell, he even managed to make Val Kilmer’s disappointing turn in the tights slightly watchable. You’re a good villain when you can manage that feat.

Property review: Batman Returns

Batman Returns 01
Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Batman Returns

Warner Bros., 1992

Batman returns with a little fanfare, but too many enemies

Batman Returns is solid, no doubt about it. Sure, it has some stumbles and could use a little polishing in the finer points, but like most Tim Burton-directed pieces, the Batman’s second outing on the big screen is an enjoyable cinematic set piece designed to bring the malevolence, sexual tension and tortured soul platitudes that can be mustered from Batman’s arsenal.

What we love the most about Batman Returns is the comfort zone it presents. It’s directed as if it knows its Batman in the second round of the fight, and it’s OK with being Batman. There’s no fussiness with establishing who Batman is and why he does what he does; the viewer already knows that — it’s already banking on the fact that you’ve seen the first film.

Batman succeeds here with the brashness expected of a box office experienced sequel. Burton pulls no punches letting you know that Bruce Wayne is a man used to getting his way and he will work as either the Caped Crusader or Wayne to achieve his goals. And this is where Michael Keaton succeeds once again. His Wayne is more self-assured, more confident in his approach to playing the dual role required. Michelle Pfeiffer is deliciously decadent as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, though we never once bought the “Kyle is a meek woman” act at all. Whatever Pfeiffer managed to build, she wonderfully and masterfully destroys with a simple meow to a stunned Batman and Penguin. Her Catwoman is a master class in movie sexiness. And all that needs to be said about Danny DeVito as the Penguin? He was born to play the role. And along with Christopher Walken, he manages to steal the film.

And that belies the problem with the film. For all of its panache and star casting, Batman doesn’t get enough screen time to justify calling it a return. Keaton isn’t on screen nearly enough because there’s basically three villains all chewing scenery at once. Returns falls prey to — and is the progenitor of — the concept of “Too Many Villains Syndrome.” When Batman’s attention is split that many ways, the story’s focus suffers. It’s hard to wrap up Returns and it’s pretty obvious in a specific scene: Batman chases the Penguin and Catwoman after Shreck’s Department Store blows up and each fly off in a different direction. Batman winds up not catching either one because he really can’t figure out how to catch one over the other first. That is not the dilemma your hero should have.

Batman Returns still remains one of our favorite Batman tales and favorite movies, in general. It’s got the dark, gritty atmosphere that we’ve come to love from Burton, and it remains the last real, viable and serious Batman film until the Christopher Nolan trilogy of films were launched. Returns still provides a good return investment if you’re into the origin of Batman’s silver screen outings.

Like the comics?: 3

Casting: 10

Plot: 8

Overall score: 21 out of 30 or 7

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Strip Talk #16: Too many villains plague some comic films

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineNearly every year that I’ve been alive and conscious enough to know what’s going on in the world, there’s been a comic book movie released. And I take great pride in having seen the majority of the offerings out there. Sure, there’s some modern stuff that I haven’t watched, but that’s mostly because I’m on a journalist’s salary and one can’t just blow into a movie theater on that kind of cash. Made of money, I ain’t. But when I do manage to watch a comic book-based property, I look for a few things. The first and foremost is the ratio of villains to heroes. Some of my least favorite films have fallen prey to the darker and over-numerical side of things.

The first film that I can recall where I fell in love with the concept of hero/villain balance is Batman Returns. I was a lad, no more than 11, dying to go with the grown folks (read: an older cousin and my older brother) to see the sequel to Batman’s big screen outing. I was a child in love with Michael Keaton, and I was especially excited because 1. Tim Burton was at the helm of everything; and 2. I was allowed to stay out extra late with older folks related to me who understood my love of movies.

Mr. Burton, whose style I still love to this day, didn’t disappoint in the aesthetics department. But where I found fault a little later after some discussion with my fellow movie-goers and genius parent was the fact that Batman played second fiddle to just about everyone and everything. Make no mistake, I loved the Penguin and Catwoman. Michelle Pfeiffer was and still is iconic in the role of one Ms. Selina Kyle. But, seriously? Did we really need that many villains? And let me point something out here: Keaton is badass and will always be Batman for me. But the man was severely shortchanged in his screen time as the Bat. Despite the immersion in the world of Gotham, I felt the pangs of longing for every moment that Batman wasn’t on screen yet dealt with three villains. Burton could have killed off Christopher Walken’s Max Schreck and we would have all been OK.

Let’s skip a few years and come upon my time as an adult moviegoer. My dollars are more precious — now on that aforementioned journalist’s salary — and my time a little more wisely spent paying attention to story and plot connectivity to the comic book the movie’s going to be based on. Spider-Man had become a major player in the comic movie world, and Tobey MacGuire’s adorable take on the friendly neighborhood wallcrawler was particularly decent at drawing in the must-see crowd. But you see, even the most adorable Peter Parker couldn’t save the particularly mundane and not-quite-up-to-par third outing for Spider-Man. Why? Because he had too many foes just waiting to make that spider sense tingle. Spider-Man 3 suffered from the same problem that Batman Returns encountered: too many villains. There was absolutely no need to have Harry Osbourne (Hobgoblin), Sandman AND Venom. And to make matters far worse than Batman Returns, Venom was poorly done. That was a blow to my heart as a Venom fan. His origin is handled correctly, but his overall look is terrible. Also, as a matter of record, Venom deserves his own movie as a major Spider-Man foe. It was obvious that Venom’s resolution was crammed in at the last moment, and the film suffered mightily for it.

I’m a purist at heart, so when I sit through your overlong film and I walk away thinking there wasn’t enough of the hero, there’s a problem. Two villains are enough for the protagonist — and the viewing audience — to handle. Movie directors should take a cue from doctors on too many villains syndrome: Physicians heal thy self.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

 

PlayPlay

Top 5 on The Strip: The Super family

 Superman

Superman — The Man of Steel himself is probably the best incarnation of the super family. He was the originator of the series and thus carries the name on when other incarnations drop in and out of the DC continuity, like Supergirl. The others in the lineup are literally just watching the throne.

Superboy Superboy — There have been several versions of Superboy but the most prominent is the little boy who would become Superman. DC has since stated that Superman didn’t have adventures until he became an adult but that hasn’t stopped the multitude of other versions, such as the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths being.

Supergirl - Kara Zor-El Supergirl — Supposedly, the story goes that the daughter of Zor-El — Superman’s uncle — survived the explosion of Krypton since she was living in Argo City, which was cast off into space when the planet exploded. Kara Zor-El was the last survivor, giving Superman one of his only living clansmen known to have survived the catastrophic event that created the lore. Her existence is removed during and restored after the 1985 arc Crisis on Infinite Earths.

KryptoKrypto the Superdog — Superman might have godlike powers on Earth, but on Krypton he had decidedly human emotions and that extended to having a pet. Krypto was used as a test subject to experiment with rocket flight. Jor-El — Superman’s father — realized Krypton was going to explode and wanted to test a way to get himself and his family off the doomed planet. Krypto was sent out into space, but the rocket was knocked off course. Drifting through space for years, the dog was found and rejoined Superman during his Superboy years.

BizarroBizarro  — The ultimate in “the evil clone/twin did it” storyline, Bizarro exists only because Lex Luthor, as usual, was messing around with things he didn’t understand. Luthor recreated the duplicating ray that was used previously on Krypton by Gen. Dru-Zod and on Earth to accidentally create a duplicate version of Superboy. Luthor also creates a version of Bizarro after the Crisis on Infinite Earths arc while trying to create a clone of Superman.