Monday, September 26, 2011

DC and Marvel: Batman vs Spider-Man

Welcome again to the Guild to Geekdom. It’s been a long time since I’ve done an article and I’m sure most of you have forgotten that this was one of the main reasons why I started doing this in the first place. I’ve been ranting about these things for years and I finally decided to actually write them down. Today I want to talk about one of my personal favorite rants: Marvel vs. DC, but to be more specific, how these two comic book titans have competed over the years with Spiderman and Batman. Hopefully this play by play will enlighten you as to how much these companies have influenced their decision making.
The Live Action TV Series
This was one of the first times for some people to see these characters {comic books weren’t as popular back in the day}.  These early live action series were incredibly full of campy humor, cheap effects, bad writing and poor acting. 
What DC did:
Everyone remembers the classic Adam West series. Its kooky comic book antics kept it running for 120 episodes. If this series had such poor quality why is it so fondly remembered? This series helped define Batman for a whole generation and started his status as a pop culture icon.
What Marvel did:
Here is what you may not know. The Amazing Spider-Man was a live action TV series the aired in the late 70s. It only lasted 14 episodes and is generally considered of poor quality.
The Japanese Craze
During the rise of their superheroes’ popularity, both companies decided to expand their audiences by going overseas to Japan.
What DC did:
They released the Adam West series in Japan alongside a manga series that is still referenced today in comics. Recently (in comics) when Batman traveled to Japan he fought a revised version of one of the regular enemies from the manga.
What Marvel did:
They released an entire live action series. In this series Spider-Man morphs into his costume from a device on his wrist, fights evil monsters, and has a megazord named the Marvaller. Basically he was a Power Ranger.
The 90s
The 90s were surprising good to both companies as they both released multiple animated series based on the superheroes, usually interconnecting them in big storylines.
What DC did:
Batman the animated series is considered by many to be one of if not the best animated series ever to be released. This series is well remembered for its amazing writing and sometimes dark subject matter.
What Marvel did:
Spider-Man the animated series while not as highly praised as the Batman series, it was still well received for its lengthy story arcs that attempted to adapt current arcs going on in the comics. It was the longest running series in the Marvel Animated line-up, lasting longer than the immensely popular X-Men animated series.
The Cyberpunk Fad
During the late 90s there was a large growing fad known as cyberpunk {if you don’t know what it means, look it up}. This resulted in a number of cartoon series being depicted as being in a bleak futuristic metropolis.
What DC did:
Following up Batman the animated series, they wrote Batman Beyond. Beyond takes in the future where Bruce Wayne is now a frail old man and can no longer defend the streets of Gotham. Bruce takes in a young protégé and trains him to become the new dark knight. This series was very popular and is currently being continued in comic book form.
What Marvel did:
Following up Spider-Man the animated series, they wrote Spider-Man Unlimited. Unlimited takes place on an alternate futuristic Earth that is filled with an anthropomorphic animal populace. Spider-Man traveled to this alternate world in order to save John Jameson as well as stop Venom and Carnage who had already travelled there, but soon discovers that the people there need his help to take down their evil dictator. This only lasted about 13 episodes, but it is still a personal favorite of mine.
The Comic Films
Finally reaching the big screen, Superhero films have slowly started to take over the market and have become more accepted to the general public. Unfortunately, while these early series were popular, they were incredibly comic bookish in nature. Neither of these series has ended well.
What DC did:

The Batman film series was incredibly popular when under the direction of Tim Burton. Unfortunately, the series was taken over by……..other people.  What was once a fairly dark series became oddly vibrant in color, with outlandish villains and poor writing. No one has gotten over the tragic car accident that was Batman and Robin, which effectively killed the Batman film franchise for 8 years.
What Marvel did:
The Spider-Man film series, under the direction of Sam Raimi, was a very loyal adaption of the source material. The series was very popular except for the third film. The third film suffered from poor writing, over packed with outlandish villains, and…………….Emo Peter. On the other hand Spider-Man 2 is my absolute favorite superhero movie ever created {in other words, if I ever make a top 10 superhero films, expect this to be number 1 or really close to the top}.
The Streamlined Animation
During the 2000’s both companies made streamlined versions of their heroes in new animated series that were made not to adapt the current storylines, but to adapt the characters’ overall story in an easy to access formula to new viewers.
What DC did:
The Batman depicted the early years of his career when he was first running into super criminals and setting the mythos of the dark knight. The series was known for it’s very fast pace action and animation. The series didn’t have the deep psychological writing that the 90’s series was well known for, but still ended up being fairly popular {I will admit though that the writing for the later seasons of The Batman became progressively worse with actually good episodes being a rarity, and it really turned me away from the series}.
What Marvel did:
The Spectacular Spider-Man depicted the early years of his career when he was still in high school. The series was heavily influenced by the film series and the popular ultimate comics series at the time. Once again the action and animation were incredibly fast paced with streamlined versions of Spider-Man’s universe which allowed for easy access to new viewers. Unfortunately, Marvel cancelled it well before its time. I personally feel that this series was amazingly well accomplished in both writing and animation style. This series had a lot more seasons to come and for it to be suddenly cancelled really confuses me because I think that this series was by far the greatest Spider-Man series released to date.
In Conclusion
I hope this close comparison of what DC and Marvel have done for years have shown you how often the two companies actually influence the direction they take their superhero franchises. We can only hope that eventually they can take their heroes in opposite new directions that look at their characters in different ways. I don’t know if this will ever happen, but at the very least Marvel hasn’t come out with a more child friendly Spider-Man series that has him team up with other superheroes like Batman: The Brave and the Bold
….oh. Well at least DC hasn’t come out with a Broadway musical version of Batman like Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark
…oh. Well at least Marvel hasn’t come out with a gritty reboot of the film series that focuses on a younger version of the hero like the current Christian Bale Batman series
………….OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! WHY?!? Why can’t these two companies separate themselves? I’m your Guide to Geekdom and thank you for reading. Stay tuned for my upcoming Halloween special article.  {As a side note, yes I have been told that my previous persona as Headshot Bunny was incredibly lame. I’m probably going to drop it and just take up the persona of The Guide, you decide}.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Let's Review: Conan the Barbarian

Well I finally got around to writing this. I’m not even sure it’s still in the theaters. Probably not. In any case I hadn’t actually seen the original film until after I saw this remake. In that sense I’m not sure I can justly compare the two. But how did I feel about my first outing into the Conan Universe? Let’s Review Conan the Barbarian.
The Negative
Not so much a complaint, but something that I noted throughout the film, Conan sounds like he is doing a voice. I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as Christian Bale’s Batman voice, but it is a fake voice all the same. I have a hard time taking him seriously when I keep thinking he is only using that voice to sound more buff and menacing. It simply never felt real and took me out of the movie several times. At least with Batman it’s used to explain him covering up his real voice, but in this film it just comes off as silly.
Another problem that stuck with me while watching the film was how often people’s blood exploded from them when they were killed. Once again the problem was how unrealistic it looked. I get that it’s a gore factor, but when you want to have that gore factor at least make it look real. I remember one scene in particular where the main villain bashes a monk's head on a stone staircase and it looked like a giant packet of fake Halloween blood exploded off of his face. Most characters killed in a gruesome manner similar to this also had exploding blood packets. Once again the problem was realism. I know that’s asking a lot from a fantasy film, but these are very simple requests. Make sure his voice doesn’t sound forced and the gore isn’t cartoonish in nature.
As a minor complaint, the final couple of fight scenes jumped around too much. This is more of a problem with editing. It started around the fight scene with the sea beast in the dungeon and it doesn’t stop for the rest of the film. The camera jumps around so often that it becomes disorientating. I lost track of what was going on in the fight and the movie for that matter. I finally caught back up with the film when I saw Conan walking away victorious. I feel like I missed out on a really cool fight scene because I saw it through the eyes of a flailing idiot who was running around trying not to get killed.
The Positive
This was by far the best fantasy film I have seen in a long time. I truly thought the genre was dead after I watched the car wreak that was Clash of the Titans, but this film has renewed my belief that good fantasy films can still be made. This was everything that a fantasy film should be, and I loved every second of it. It could just be the drought of good fantasy films lately, it could be that I didn’t see the original until after the fact, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film and hope for more from it in the future.
Something I want to note is that I really enjoyed the opening off this story. I loved the origin of his birth on the battlefield, his life as a child in a village of barbarians, and the tragic fate of his loved ones by a ruthless conqueror. This is kind of why I was disappointed by Conan’s voice when we first meet him as an adult. It just felt like he was trying to compensate for something, while the story went out of its way to build up how awesome he was as a child that I didn’t need a deep burly voice to try and convince me he was awesome. My favorite moment in the film is literally his entire childhood before they jump into the future. It was the best part of the movie.
Another thing I want to praise is the scenery. Every single one of the sets were beautifully put together and brought me to a foreign exotic world that was far distant from my own. This is one of the reasons I praise it as an outstanding fantasy film as it actually had the look to pull it off. So many films have very bland and generic backgrounds that it was nice to see some fascinating architecture and beautiful geography appear regularly through the film.
In Conclusion
I’m not entirely sure why this film received so many bad reviews when I think that it was one of the better films in its genre as of late. I only have some minor complaints but I wouldn’t really say they ruined my enjoyment of the film. I just think that it could have used better blood effects, less Batman voices, and cleaner editing, other than that I’d recommend this film to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre in films. 3.8 out of 5.