Batman at 75...tribute to an icon

Okay, so July 23rd is Batman day. Not exactly 75 years since his first appearance, but the day on which DC is officially marking the anniversary of its most popular character. There will be mutters of "oh no, not more Batman" from fans of other characters, or those who feel that we have had just a bit too much Batman from DC lately, but really, who can blame DC. Batman is an icon. One of the most iconic characters of modern culture, someone who like Dr Who and James Bond transcends the genre from which he originated. He can't claim to be the first super-hero, Superman arguable holds that title, but he has over time become the most popular. So why is Batman so popular? Well firstly he has been around us a long time. My first memory of any super-hero is watching Adam West as Batman in one of the many re-runs of the TV series that were shown when I was a wee boy in the mid 1970s. Sure, the TV series was corny and campy, but it imprinted on my consciousness Batman, Robin, Alfred, the Bat Cave, the Bat Mobile, Baterangs and so on. One of my favourite toys was the corgi Batmobile I received for Christmas as a 7 year old, complete with firing torpedoes. The years passed and Superman films with Chris Reeve meant that I transferred my "favourite hero" badge to the big boy scout for a time. Then in 1989 Tim Burton released his film, at last a serious Batman replete in bullet proof costume, sans corny dialogue and fully able to despatch a hoodlum with a roundhouse kick or karate chop. That film was amazingly successful for the time, grossing over 400 million dollars. Following the iconic Frank Miller books Year one and the Dark Knight Returns, the Batman mythos was now fully established.

The woeful Joel Schumacher films couldn't dampen the publics enthusiasm for the Batman character. Whilst Superman was increasingly seen as a symbol for a bygone era of innocence, Batman seemed to touch a chord with a more serious and cynical age. Batman WAS superheroes. In 1996, the hugely successful British TV sitcom "Only Fools and Horses" even featured Batman and Robin in one of its Christmas specials...

The father's for justice movement in the UK, which campaigned for fathers against the child support Agencies often dubious practices featured various Batman clad dads climbing bridges and towers. Batman, notice, not Superman or Spiderman.

Then come the millennium and after 8 years away, Batman was back on the screen thanks to Christopher Nolan and his masterpiece Batman Begins, followed by the even more celebrated Dark Knight, which amazingly featured an acting performance worthy of a posthumous academy award. The first and only time an actor in a super-hero movie has been so recognised.

Marvel studios may rule the big screen right now, but Batman rules the comic book world and its hard to see him being topped any time soon. Just last month, the Batman comic shifted 130,000 copies and Batman eternal is shifting 60,000 comics a week, meaning that if you include Detective Comics, Batman and Ra's Ah Ghul as well as those two titles, sales of Batman comics are half a million a month.

So why is Batman so loved. Several reasons. Firstly, he is the most human of heroes. He has no super-powers, just his gadgets, his fighting skills and his brain. Hit him and he bleeds, he tires, he gets hurt, he has to use guts and cunning to beat more powerful foes. Secondly, his story is tinged with tragedy. Thirdly, the whole Dark Knight ethos sits well with the modern love of dark and gritty stories. Fourthly, some of the best writers in the business have written some awesome Batman stories and fifthly, well, he drives a cool car. What other super-hero has anything like the Batmobile?

As a child of the 70s, I grew up with Spiderman, Hulk, Wonder Woman and Superman as well as Batman and I am fond of all of these, but Batman is the one who makes me the most nostalgic. As they say, you never forget your first love.

So here is to another 75 years of Bat stories and I certainly hope in 2089, the dark knight is still in business.

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Has Marvel won the big screen war before DC has got started?

I've just come back from DOFP and think its one of the best Marvel films yet. The way they bring the old and new cast together spanning 14 years of X Men films is clever and poignant. Is a superb blockbuster which borrows from the likes of Terminator and the Matrix, but with the usual Marvel humour and range of characters. Add this to the excellent Captain America Film this year, the Amazing Spiderman 2 and future Avengers pictures and its clear that Marvel dominates the big screen with both the number of films and number of characters shown.

Meanwhile DC trot out the same Batman and Superman based stuff and a JL film will be along in 2018...

I really do feel its too little too late, its game over as far as I am concerned. By 2018 a person born at the time of the first X Men film (i.e. my oldest daughter) will be 18, that's a whole generation who will have grown up with largely Marvel films....

As someone who longs for a Flash Movie, a Wonder Woman Movie and a decent Green Lantern film, this is mega frustrating! Here we have a D list Marvel character, Quicksilver being showcased in two different franchises (his scenes in DOFP are the funniest), yet DC are only just getting the Flash to the screen in a TV show this autumn. Fox have trotted out 5 X Men movies and the 2 Wolverine spin offs and you know watching DOFP, it feels like you've known the characters most of your life.

The added problem for DC IMO is that most of their famous characters were invented during WW2, whereas Marvel's are a product of the swinging sixties, the nuclear age. Against DC's more god like super beings, Marvel's were written to be flawed. This makes a difference, because Marvel's characters somehow seem more relatable to modern audiences than some of the DC ones which are usually straight down the line in terms of moral compass. David Goyer's recent ill-advised and disrespectful thoughts on the Martian Manhunter, a fan favourite, but largely unknown outside the comic book world, also don't give much optimism that WB/DC is going to venture far into the DC character catalogue for future films.

I know there's a school of though which says Marvel will be all burned out by 2018 just as DC gets going with their films, but I don't see it. I think if the films are burned out by 2018 it means audiences in general have had it with super-hero films and it will be bad news for DC AND Marvel.

Anyway, enjoy these great movies whilst you can. We've never had it so good. Its just a shame that only Batman and Superman have made a success of it from the DC side, whereas Marvel has three separate franchises doing the goods, involving dozens of characters.

Lets hope in four years time the landscape will have changed and there will plenty of DC films in the offing, but right now, I can't ever see them over-turning Marvel's enormous lead in the big screen championship.

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Daredevil a retrospective....

..well, well. Daredevil, the most lambasted generally scorned film in Marvel history (although Elektra may take that honour). I watched it again yesterday and you know what, in parts I think it ain't bad. Now I am not a big Daredevil fan, in that I haven't read many comics but I've got a fair idea what he is about and the start of the film is quite promising. Its dark, its brooding, Daredevil is injured, being helped by his priest after a clash with Elektra and Bullseye. We then have the fight in a dark crowded bar, where DD demonstrates some truly epic fighting skills, dodging bullets, taking down machine gun toting bad guys and single handedly wiping out all comers. Batman fans may not like this, but in that one scene Daredevil exhibits far greater fighting skills than Batman has done in ANY of his films. So far, so good then. The next best thing I find is to fast forward the next half hour or so, as this is where it gets cringeing! The introduction with Elektra, the mutual martial arts display in the park, all crouching tiger wirework imitation rubbish that looks awful. We then have other other things I take issue with. Elektra easily beats Matt in their encounter and I mean easily and then just as easily, Bullseye takes her down. How does that happen? Just to confuse things, DD then finishes off Bullseye whilst wounded. But finally the film redeems itself with DDs meeting with Kingpin, played by the late great and wonderful Michael Clarke Duncan. Now Michael may have been black (when King pin was white in the comics), but boy was he an impressive beast of a bloke, an intimidating brute to have to scrap with! I remember him from the Green Mile and he Is certainly big enough to be ther "king-pin". Its a good scrap and I love the way DD breaks his kneecaps to finish it. A better scrap actually in some ways than Batman v Bane, where Batman inexplicably resorted to brawling with the big brawler. Here, DD uses his guile and skills to tactically defeat the huge crime lord. So what I am saying is this. If you watch the first part of the film and then fast forward to the last 20 minutes or so, Daredevil does deliver. People often complain that "all super-heroes are nerfed in the films", but I reckon Daredevil had some great fights with some superb durability and combat showings. Yes some of the fight choreography was ropey, but for bullet dodging ass kicking martial arts prowess, DD walked the walk. So my retrospective is that I actually quite parts of the DD film, always did, even though as a complete film, it was a bit ropey, to say the least!! I think it tried to stay true to the character (DD fans please correct me if I am wrong), which is a lot more than some of the X Men films have done.

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Iron Man 1, my tribute blog to Marvel's gamechanger!

Oh, boy do I love the first Iron man movie. Watched again today with my 8 year old as we do every 6 weeks or so! I felt it was time to write my own tribute to what I think in time will be viewed as THE stand out Marvel film of the naughties for a number of reasons. Firstly, its hard to remember now, but in 2008 Marvel needed a bit of a boost. The first Marvel film was the original X Men movie which was great, but the third one had been a bit of a disaster. The Hulk film had divided opinion, Daredevil had been pretty cringeing, ditto Elektra. The Spiderman films had been hugely successful commercially, but the third one in particular was a largely joy-less experience, more a greek tragedy than a comic book film. In 2008, Marvel took a huge gamble and released one of its B list characters in a stand alone film , with the previously troubled but enigmatic Robert Downey Junior as its star. What followed was a hugely successful movie taking 612 million dollars at the Box office and being the first of the link in to Avengers movies.

Why is the film great? first off its funny. Yep, RDJ is just brilliant as Tony Stark. He really is Tony Stark, with all the wisecracks, arrogant postering etc. It started a new trend for Marvel films to be fun with gags and references that only the adults would snigger at! Secondly, Iron Man was sooo 21st century. A character relying on up to the minute technology and gadgets, all microchips, guns, rockets, lasers and fizz bang wallop. Thirdly the film was socially relevant. Marvel cleverly updated the origin story to include a US v Afghanistan fanatic twist, which was so relevant at the time, coming after some high profile executions of western people live on middle eastern film. We had the somewhat touchy subject of a US arms firm selling weapons to the middle east and the repercussions for Stark. In parts it was touching, Stark the arrogant billionaire turned peace missionary with a conscience.

Fourthly, we had the first film scenes where a man really looked like he was flying! Yes I know Superman returns had a few scenes a couple of years earlier, but Iron Man is just superb in this film. The scene where he flies in tandem with the F-15 Jet fighters (I think that's what they were) was brilliant. Things had really moved on from the Donner Superman movies!

Next, Iron Man took out the baddies and put 'em down for good! Here for the first time we had a character who could target gun holding assassins and shoot them all at once, whilst the innocent captives walked away safe!

Then we saw how Iron Man took out tanks and the like with missiles and rockets, how cool was that! No need for any Hulk like temper tantrums here. All done in a second....he also tanked a direct hit from a tank gun and walked away...

penultimately, the film wasn't overly sad, it wasn't a soap opera, yes stane died, but we didn't spend half the fan weeping over the demise of a character, unlike the Spiderman movies and X2/X3!

Finally, it re-introduced some classic rock into comic book films!. The Iron Man sound track at the end of the movie, c/o Black Sabbath and Back in Black by AC/DC at the beginning of the movie. As a fan of 70s rock I loved that touch.

This movie was a stand out because it was the first really successful single character comic book movie that didn't involve one of the big 3, Spiderman, Superman or Batman. In fact it allowed a second tier character to become Marvel's flagship character and how... The Iron Man films are still the highest grossing individual character films not involving Superman, Batman and Spiderman (even Thor 2 probably won't change that). It proved that a film featuring someone who wasn't one of the big 3 could sell movie tickets. Iron man 3 has taken 1.2 billion dollars, obviously helped by the Avengers, but it outsold Batman Dark Knight Rises for goodness sakes, which was the final episode of a glorious trilogy featuring the most popular character in super hero Christendom. In fact I wonder when a film involving a single character will ever beat it, to be honest. MOS didn't get anywhere near it, which is amazing when you think about.

If Iron Man had flopped its arguable whether the Avengers would have really got off the ground or been so popular. Iron Man is a cornerstone of the Avengers' success and will be leaned on heavily in Avengers 2.

So I believe in many ways this film will stand as the most important in marvel's history. It was a game-changer and I for one love it to bits!!

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Superman - 75 years on and still the complete package!

As well as being a massive comic book/superhero fan I love cars and in Europe the most successful super sports car of all time is the Porsche 911. Its been running since 1963 and is arguably the complete package. Its a car that be driven every day, taken on the track, it always wins the sports car of the year contest. There have been many rivals/imitators but nothing has taken the 911 down. Similarly Superman was arguably the original Superhero. I know there are other so-called superheroes who pre-date him, but in 1938 his first comic was published and here was the first comic book hero with super-powers, ready for the masses. Over 75 years he has cast a shadow over the comic book world, standing for decency, hope, compassion and ultimately, power! Watching Thor the Dark World, a really enjoyable film, only highlights what a complete package Superman is. Thor has power, yes, but he doesn't move as fast as Superman. Other characters have come and gone but none combines the "swiss army versatility" of the big blue. People will argue all day long whether Hulk is as strong or stronger, but the big green monster cannot fly, or dodge bullets, or guide down a stricken jumbo jet. Thor has his hammer, but without it he is grounded. Spiderman throws out webs and moves like a ninja, but if he is tagged by a bullet, he is in trouble. Iron Man is cool, but the guy inside the tin can is just a guy. Superman divides comic book fans like no other. To some he is the ultimate fan boy dream, to others an outdated relic from a nobler age, to others still he is boring and over-powered. But in reality he offers no end of story possibilities. You see, the original writers were fairly clever. He does have a weakness, yes its over-done (Kryptonite) but it means he can be taken down. In fact, he has more than one weakness, so the bad guys always have a chance, in fact a mere human, Lex Luthor has arguably given Superman more grief than any super-powered villain. His love for Lois Lane and humans in general is something his opponents can seize upon. His origin story is interesting. He is not from around here. People talk about Hulk getting stronger the angrier he gets, but similarly Superman is a giant solar battery! More sunlight=more power, cool! One of the reasons I really think Superman Is hated by many is simply the fact that he is such an all round package that he is hard for any opponent to take down. In the battles forum he will always have a chance, because no other popular character has his mix of speed, strength and durability. Add in that heat vision and he is one bad assed dude to mix it with. Perversely this means that the characters relying on brains and strategy have a better chance against him than the brawlers. In this year's MOS movie we also had probably the most spectacular demonstration of power and speed in his battle with Zod. It was epic and a great way to celebrate 75 years of Superman.

So Superman, still the complete package, I salute you. In 75 years from now, will anyone have come along to take that title from the Man of Steel, I wonder?

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Why Spiderman is the best loved super-hero

He isn't the strongest, the fastest, the wisest, best looking, most heavily muscled or all powerful character, but I think Stan Lee's genius was in any many ways best shown when he created Spiderman. You see I haven't yet found anyone who dislikes Spidey. He may not be in every one's top ten but I sense an enormous amount of good-will for the web-slinger. Why is that? Here are some reasons why..

1. As Pete Parker, he is the young hard up struggling man so many of us identify with.

2. He has cool powers but he isn't invincible. Punch him and he bleeds, shoot him and he goes down, his victories are hard fought through guile and effort. However, he is stronger than any normal person, faster and has those amazing webs! Every skinny teenager would love to be Spidey, kicking ten bells out of big guys!

3. He is New York's own and he isn't afraid of accepting a little help.. I love Spiderman 1 & 2, where the normal people group together to try and protect and help Spidey. Similar thing happened in the last film with the crane drivers. Other heroes, such as Superman don't have that connection because they are too powerful to need the assistance of normal everyday folk.

4. Unlike Batman he isn't permanently miserable, doesn't have a chip on his shoulder and more often than not has an upbeat outlook.

5. He is weak enough to be put in a good story with a non super powered character, but has sufficient powers and skills to give a super-powered character a run for their money.

6. Some will argue, but none of his films have yet been duffers. They were all massively successful. Sure, Spiderman 3 went a bit heavy and serious at times, but it was the first Super hero film to really delve deep into the psyche and insecurity of what it means to be a powerful hero and how this impacts those you care about.

7. His parents weren't gunned down and he did have the benefit of a loving aunt and uncle bringing him up. He is generally a well balanced individual, but he has seen tragedy with the death of his Uncle Ben.

8. You could put him with any other super hero group such as X Men, Avengers etc and he would fit in nicely and wouldn't over shadow them. The same cant always be said of the all powerful characters such as Hulk or Superman.

9. He was Marvel's first big hero, created to be a more human and down to earth equivalent of the all powerful DC heroes. Its worked!

10. Unlike some super-heroes, the actor isn't massively important in a spiderman film. Sure you need a good actor, but I don't remember many protests when Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were cast as Spidey!

I'm not saying Spiderman is the most popular hero, just that in many ways he is the most loved. Both Batman and Superman have those who really don't like them, but I have yet to find anyone who says "I really don't like Spiderman".

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Nature shows us why Batman can beat meta humans!

Why do so many people have a problem with Batman being able to defeat super-powered characters? Batman is an insect compared to the likes of Superman, but then man is a god to insects and yet one of the biggest killers in the world is the humble mosquito. People say that its ridiculous that Batman struggles to beat the likes of Joker but has a plan to defeat the JLA. The mosquito can kill a human being, yet it can be eaten by other creatures similar in size to it.

History tells us that the black death wiped out about a third of the population in medieval times and was caused by the rat flea!

So the moral of the story is that an insect can take down a god, if suitably armed. Batman's gadgets and strategy, are essentially the equivalent of a mosquito bite!

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Stop these Superman v Batman fights!

In a week when I read about another Superman v Batman encounter in the "best battles of the week" section of ComicVine, I do wonder why these two often have to come to blows. Batman v Superman and who would win is also almost an obsession between the two camps of Batman and Superman followers. Now I tend to sway between preferring Superman to Batman and vice versa, with a slight preference for Superman, because I was a youngster when the Chris Reeve films came out, but I do have a problem with Batman fighting Superman. I don't have an issue with Batman being able to beat Superman, because Lex Luthor has done it before, but really they should never swap blows. I think of situations in real life where humans have been attacked by animals such as Bears and Tigers. In the former case, a Bear will simply take off your head with one swipe, such is its power and a bear is probably only 10-20 times stronger than a man. This is my point. Batman is just a guy, a strong guy for a human, but a non super powered guy in a bat suit, not an Iron Man armoured suit. Even a Superman weakened by Kryptonite is just so much stronger than Batman, that one blow, even a slap, would probably take off Batman's head. So basically Batman just could never mix it with Superman in a fist fight. Anyway, these two characters are both on the same side so why would they ever fight? Now a scenario where Batman fires a kryptonite ray gun or some such weapon and defeats the man of steel using some high powered bat gadget, fair enough, I don't have a problem with that, because part of Batman's appeal is that he mixes it with powerful people without having super powers himself. Comics are fantasy, but I do think some semblance of reality should remain and therefore Superman and Batman in fisticuffs? I don't think so!

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Hulk is like marmite (appreciation blog)

If there's one character that seems to split people on here its the old green monster. A bit like marmite, it seems you either love him or loathe him. Well I personally can't stand marmite, but I've always had a soft spot for Hulk. Here are some reasons why.

1) He appeals to the inner ferral beast in us. We all get angry and lose it from time to time and Hulk is the ultimate exploration of what a really angry power person could do.

2) The "greek tragedy" element of the earlier stories where Banner was wandering around trying to cope with being hulk whilst staying true to his love Betty. The TV series was really sad!

3) He's a straightforward character. No fancy powers, just brute strength and rage.

4) Because he gets stronger and stronger the angrier he gets he always has a chance against anyone.

5) He isn't afraid of anyone and will take on anyone and anything. Had a pop at Zeus even though he got a hiding for it and you know he'd have another pop if the chance presented itself.

6) He always provides some comic moments, i.e the funniest part of the Avengers film, in fact possibly the funniest part of any comic book movie yet, was his smack down of Loki. The whole cinema roared with laughter when I was there. That's never happened before in a DC or Marvel film!

7) Most blokes would secretly love to be the Hulk, the biggest set of biceps out there and a six pack to die for!

8) He appears in two of the most bombastic graphic novels I've ever read, Planet Hulk and WW Hulk.

9) He is faster and smarter in battle than people give him credit for. I loved the scene in the Ang Lee film where Hulk outran the helicopter gunships and it was Hulk who reacted quickest and caught Iron Man in the Avengers when he was falling to his doom!

10) There are plenty of superman rip offs now, but aside from Red Hulk, only one Hulk. He's kind of a one off.

On the downside, firstly, he appears a bit "mindless" and the old 70s comics got a bit wearing with the "Hulk will now smash", type limited dialogue. He's a bit one dimensional and its generally brawn rather than brain in his stories.

As I say, a lot of people can't stand Hulk, but I'm glad he's around and hope he will be for a while yet. So Hulk fans (or haters) what do you Love (or hate) about 'ol greenskin?

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Why even as a Superman fan I'm not sure he could beat Hulk!

without wishing to fan the flames of an already contentious subject, I've been mulling over this topic since watching MOS. Here are my thoughts. Like many older comic book readers who perhaps has lost touch with the comic book world in recent years, I based my opinion of Hulk v Superman on the 70s versions of the characters, where it seemed that the planet moving Superman was way out of league for the strong, but approximately 100 ton lifting hulk. However during the 90s and 00s, when I was away from the comic book world, I hadn't realised that Superman had been re-booted following his "crisis!" and Hulk had been power boosted to unimaginable levels. It was after reading the death of superman books and Planet Hulk and then world War hulk graphic novels recently that I finally revised my view. MOS then changed my mind again somewhat. However, ultimately I just don't see how Superman could put Hulk down unless he was able to carry him out into space, something he tried without success on Doomsday, who is basically a Hulk rip off, in DOS. Hulk was shown on WWH to have massive powers of recovery, taking enormous shots without being knocked out. He shook the entire planet towards the end of his battle, he took out the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, battled Sentry to a stalemate and then seemed to ask to be taken out when it all got too much. Superman has fantastic speed but I don't think the post crisis version is any stronger than a very enraged hulk, particularly a WWH or WB Hulk. In fact, in a pure brawl, I suspect he may lose. Most superman fans say "Superman stomps", when the subject of a battle with Hulk comes up, but what is this view based on? Yes the silver age superman would probably take out any Hulk, but looking at his strength showings in the more recent comic books I have, I really don't see how the Superman we have now could KO the Hulk. Hulk just has this ability to get madder and madder and stronger and stronger and heals so damn fast, I'm not sure what superman has in his arsenal to do the job. Basically he would need to fly Hulk into space, where, as the argument goes, the non flying Hulk would be stuck in a vacuum and probably die. Now how does he do this to a 7 foot something 1000 lb mountain of anger? Is Hulk just going to sit still and enjoy the ride?

The other factor for me, is that Superman's fighting style generally relies on him coming into close quarters range of his adversary, because unlike someone like Iron Man, he doesn't really have any long range weaponary! Heat vision aside, his main weapons, are his strength and speed. So, he is likely to end up slugging it out, toe to toe, as he did with Doomsday, which naturally is an advantage to a bruiser like the Hulk.

So as a long standing fan of Superman and also a fan of Hulk I'm gonna take the easy option and say that this battle would end up in some sort of stalemate, with both parties exhausted and no one landing a Knockout. I guess that's how it would end anyway, if DC and Marvel ever did another cross over!

Of course I expect many of you will disagree, but if you do please do me a favour and articulate your views in some sort of reasoned logical argument, rather than come up with the usual "Hulk, or superman stomp" type retort!

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