Hated & Feared: An X-Men Fan-Cast (pt. 2)

Be sure to read the first part to get acquainted with our team of heroes!

THE BROTHERHOOD

Same as the Silver Age comics, Magneto’s Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants will provide the primary mutant antagonists of the first season. Though our fledgling superhero team will definitely square off against their less-virtuous counterparts before the season is through, I see the Brotherhood less as a direct presence and more as an ever-present threat – headlines and news stories. This iteration of Magneto is as much a boogeyman as Osama Bin Laden used to be, or how ISIL is today, fueling a paranoia and fear toward mutants that Xavier hopes to counter with his own team. This dynamic would allow this take on the X-Men to be much more overtly superheroic than previous cinematic versions (who aren’t really acting as heroes so much as they are acting out of their own self-interest).

Til Schweiger as Magneto.

Schweiger is best known to North American audiences as Hugo Stiglitz in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, as well as a few non-descript roles as stock German villains in action movies. In his home country of Germany, however, Schweiger is as famous as Brad Pitt, recognized as an actor-director-producer with an incredible range. The first season would cast Magneto as very much the terrorist, and Schweiger has the hard edges and intensity to sell it, but as the series progresses, of course, Magneto is revealed to be a much more complicated, morally ambiguous character with plenty of pathos, giving Schweiger the opportunity to show North American audiences why he’s such a big deal in Germany.

Frederik Johansen as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver.

I think it’s really telling that the Brotherhood is mostly comprised of immigrants while the X-Men are All-American. I would like to play with that notion, showing mutants as refugees, perhaps persecuted in their own countries, but left marginalized all the same in the US. Quicksilver, I think, is a classic radical – young and undoubtedly wronged, he is angry and leaps too quickly to the worst conclusions about mankind. Danish actor Frederik Johansen (A Royal Affair) could convey this marvelously, and has the lean build to make a convincing speedster. Continue reading

After the Apocalypse: An X-Men Fan-Cast (pt. 1)

X-Men: Apocalypse releases in North American theaters in mere days. One might think since I profess the X-Men to be some of my favorite characters in comics, that I would be pretty excited about this. While I will almost definitely go see it, this latest X-movie is failing to inspire the same eager anticipation as Captain America: Civil War, but neither does it provoke the same horrified curiosity as Batman v. Superman. All the X-films are satisfying enough, delivering big superhero action, the requisite angst, and plenty philosophical posturing. When the first film arrived in 2000, it had novelty on its side – superheroes were not yet crowding movie screens, and as a comics fan, it was exciting to see these characters realized in live-action, even if the film was decidedly workmanlike. Subsequent installments variously improved upon the first and bafflingly mishandled the source material, and now, sixteen years since the franchise launched, a new X-Men movie is pretty much routine.

As someone who loves the X-Men comics, no matter how effective a blockbuster the new movie might be, I always feel a twinge of sadness with the release of each film, as every new entry takes the story and the characters further away from their comic book counterparts. The problem, really, is that this franchise is built upon a sorely dated sixteen-year-old movie that wanted to be taken seriously as an action film, and took pains to shed most of its comic book-ish trappings to achieve that. There is something decidedly old-fashioned about Bryan Singer’s filmmaking and storytelling, prompting Jay Edidin (of the Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcast) to observe in their review of the new movie, “in 2016, [Bryan Singer]’s still making the best superhero movies of 2002.”

At this point, the franchise really deserves a complete overhaul, starting again from scratch. The mere thought of a brand new cinematic interpretation of the X-Men ignites greater enthusiasm than any trailer for Apocalypse could muster. What, though, would I like this all new, all different X-Men franchise to look like? Thus, not content to let Elle Collins at Comics Alliance have all the fun, I thought I would throw a Cast Party of my own. Continue reading

Beer & Batman #27: You Must Be Joking. . .

B&B

This is Beer & Batman, a weekly feature here at Gutterball Special, in which I pair craft beer with a Batman story, working my way through the Batman canon in a loosely chronological manner (albeit disregarding most retcons and reboots, and indulging the occasional out-of-continuity detour). If you’re just joining now, be sure to check out my previous Beer & Batman pairings here.

Sometimes, a thing can grow much bigger than itself.

The Killing Joke, a Batman comic by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland published in 1988, is a perfect case in point. Never absent from any list of essential Batman reading, it is shocking and controversial, inspiring countless tracts and endless debate far outpacing the comic’s own 46-page length. The mere suggestion of the book inspires intense reactions, and the discussion over some of the book’s more problematic plot points dogs it wherever it goes. At this point, the simple question, is it good? is pretty much irrelevant. Like The Dark Knight Returns, at this point The Killing Joke is such a significant entry in (and influence upon) the Batman canon, it scarcely matters if it’s good.

Moosehead Breweries, Ltd., would seem an odd pairing with such a controversial classic, then. For most of the brewery’s nearly 150-year history, Moosehead occupied a comfortable, if unusual, position as an independent brewery, but just a little too big to be considered a craft brewery. Though inoffensive and catering to popular tastes, it is a Canadian institution, as is the family that founded it and continues to operate it today: the Olands. While the history of the brewery boasts plenty of dramatic moments, Moosehead finds itself discussed most these days in relation to the longest and most expensive murder trial in the history of Saint John, New Brunswick. Though presently in appeal, Dennis Oland, cousin to the current Moosehead president, was convicted in December of last year for the violent murder of Richard Oland, his own father. Though both Dennis and Richard Oland were just peripheral to Moosehead’s operations, it has nevertheless cast a pall over the Oland (and thus, the Moosehead) name – one can’t openly drink a Moosehead lager right now without getting embroiled in a did-he-or-didn’t-he discussion. Continue reading

Beer & Batman #26: Holy Smoke, Batman!

B&B

This is Beer & Batman, a weekly feature here at Gutterball Special, in which I pair craft beer with a Batman story, working my way through the Batman canon in a loosely chronological manner (albeit disregarding most retcons and reboots, and indulging the occasional out-of-continuity detour). If you’re just joining now, be sure to check out my previous Beer & Batman pairings here.

It feels like a long while since the last Beer & Batman. Between April’s Joker-ized and gin-soaked detour, the unfortunate but unavoidable delays caused by moving, and some initial internet connectivity issues here at the new Gutterball Special headquarters, the last time I paired a beer with the Dark Knight’s ongoing exploits was March 28. Entitled “That Meddling Kid,” that post discussed the introduction of a new Boy Wonder to the Batcave: Jason Todd, a parentless boy whom Batman caught stealing the wheels off the Batmobile. Prior to that, I discussed a sequence of stories which resolved in the dissolution of the original Dynamic Duo. Due to plot contrivance and some heavy-handed attempts to emulate Frank Miller, Batman was written as increasingly moody and withdrawn over the course of these stories (though, if you’re looking for an in-story explanation as to Bruce’s newly dour outlook, Son of the Demon does provide a convincing explanation). I mention these points not just because a recap seems necessary, but because Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson’s The Cult actually does something interesting with the darker corners of Batman’s mind that, up until now, have only served as a single-note reminder that he is a Serious Character™ who should be taken seriously.

I am delighted to have reached The Cult, and not just because it’s a book that offers a lot to talk about. No – I am excited because I have the perfect beer to pair with it. I’ve had this pairing queued up since this blog was a mere twinkle in my eye. Holy Smoke, from the fine folks at Church-Key Brewing Company in Campbellford, is a peat smoked scotch ale, and like it’s comic-book counterpart, it is dark, strong, and a little spooky. The bottle explains that it is a Celtic style ale – “An homage to our brewmaster’s Graham Clan ancestry.” Though the knots and symbols adorning the label hail from an entirely different culture than the totems employed by The Cult’s Deacon Blackfire, both evoke something ancient, mythic and mysterious. Simply put: though the name might call it “holy,” this is one hell of a beer. Continue reading

Gin & Joker #4: No Laughing Matter

B&B

This is usually Beer & Batman, a weekly feature here at Gutterball Special, in which I pair craft beer with a Batman story. Throughout the month of April, however, the Clown Prince of Crime is co-opting this space for Gin & Joker. April Fools! If you’re just joining now, be sure to check out my previous Beer & Batman pairings here.

No two creators influenced the tone of comics from the ‘80s onward as much as Frank Miller and Alan Moore, and many comics fans continue to regard their works as the high watermark of superhero storytelling. See, fans are usually quite serious about their fandom, and as such, both Miller and Moore’s comics were enormously validating for many dyed-in-the-wool fans, because they, too, took superheroes very, very seriously, telling very adult stories which considered more realistic ramifications of all those super-heroics. In their hands, costumed villains weren’t larger-than-life mischief-makers, but were instead dangerous, violent, and sadistic criminals. I really don’t have a problem with that, per se, and while both auteurs have some severely problematic tendencies in their storytelling, I do actually think that The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are really quite good and would never refute their status as classics of the genre (and the medium as a whole.) But boy, do I ever hate a great portion of what their work inspired.

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Art by Lee Bermejo, from Joker.

Which takes us to Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker. This graphic novel was published in 2008, concurrent with the release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which featured Heath Ledger’s jaw-dropping turn as the iconic Clown Prince of Crime. Surprisingly, the graphic novel was evidently not influenced by Ledger’s performance, as it was written and drawn prior to either of its creators ever seeing the film, though it is remarkable how closely Bermejo’s rendering of the Joker resembles the film’s. Both the graphic novel and the film, I think, reached similar conclusions in terms of how to visualize the character in a realistic context, a treatment which Bermejo also extends to other characters such as Killer Croc and the Riddler. I have little nice to say about Joker, but before I go much further, I should make it clear: Bermejo’s work on Joker is, as always, fantastic. Inked by Mick Gray, the art is not as painterly and beautiful as Bermejo’s later graphic novel Noël, but Gray’s harder edges and heavier shadows lend Joker an appropriate grit and ugliness. Finished by Patricia Mulvihill’s bleak and washed-out color palette, the art as a whole is stunning and perfectly suited to the book’s overall tone. Continue reading