For Rob's stop at my blog as part of his 'Doorways' tour, we decided to go for something a little different. The result was an interesting, diverse and fun hour or so.
Check it out...
Hi Rob. Thank you for taking the time to join the blog as part of your 'Doorways' Launch. It's already generating rave reviews and seems destined for huge success but as so many others have been covering the novel, your writing and associated challenges, it seemed an ideal time, certainly in these politically and economically uncertain times, to focus on the really important stuff. So, without further ado...
DC or Marvel?
ROB - DC (just)!
DAVID - Me too, DC though not as close cut as you! My brother was always the Marvel fan as is my youngest son…traitor.
Explain your choice?
ROB - Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Marvel. However, I think I find, overall, the lore and the overall stories to just be a little bit better in DC.
DAVID - I agree. I have always found that DC had had a little more edge in their storytelling with characters that have more depth to them. I mean Marvel has no one close to The Joker! DC are actually having a little renaissance at the moment, trouncing Marvel in comic sales. The whole Rebirth line has really propelled DC forward as it recaptures what made them unique in the first place. They have recaptured the heroism and hope of the characters, something that I think got lost in The New 52 line.
ROB - When I saw HOW they rebooted it with Rebirth, I was VERY interested. However, as you will see later on, I loved some of the New 52!
Talking about DC, Batman is my favourite comic book character, simply because he is relatable (albeit a lot of money, lifetime of training his body and mind, unlimited resources etc!). Who is yours and why?
ROB - The Punisher. I don't think he is very relatable, however he has no super powers. He is just a guy who lost his family and took the law into his own hands. (You can see how I was inspired for One by One). I also like that in the Garth Ennis written Punisher Max, they show him as more than just a murderer, as he does the right thing again and again.
I also have a massive love for both Green Lantern and Spiderman, as well as Batman.
DAVID - I like The Punisher, though as I said Batman will always be my favourite. He was a boy who suffered a tragedy and, using his granted considerable money and family renown, travelled the world, gleaning experience from the most powerful and influential teachers, alchemists and fighters in the world to becoming THE world’s great detective. His drive and strength of will to not only avenge his parents murder but to also condition his body and mind to such perfection that he could ultimately be someone who could stop the same tragedy befalling another family make him the ultimate example of willpower and how far an individual can push himself for a belief.
I believe there would be no Shadow, no Daredevil if not for Batman. He set the stage and drove the aesthetic forward so that he would forever be emulated and copied, but never equaled.
And I think we can identify with him. We all have two sides to us, that dark half and a light side. The one we turn towards might depend on the circumstances. Maybe we turn to the darker side when we need to be stronger or fight for something worth fighting for and we turn to the light one for comfort.
His life needed that tragedy to bring Batman to life and maybe that’s how it is for us all. Maybe we can only identify with our darker sides because we have suffered. I think that is one of the reasons he is so easy to associate with. We can see his pain and believe it drove him to becoming a better, albeit more violent version of himself. I do believe we can become stronger and reinvent ourselves as we need to. That’s what Bruce Wayne did. He is us and visa versa.
So, short answer, Batman!
ROB - I do think Batman is so popular because he doesn't have super powers. That is one of the major reasons I like The Punisher. He is just a guy who was wronged (holding his daughter as she died is such a powerful Punisher image) and he sets out to wrong those who do wrong. My reason for preferring Punisher over Batman is because although he has gone way beyond revenge, he still has the same moral compass – he does the right thing when it is needed. Some of Ennis's stories, especially The Slavers and Mother Russia are incredibly powerful pieces of writing.
That brings us nicely to what is your favourite comic book storyline/graphic novel?
ROB - Watchmen. Quite rightly considered the greatest graphic novel of all time. I also loved Geoff Johns's Green Lantern run, Scott Snyder's New 52 Batman, Garth Ennis's Punisher Max and the comic adaption of The Dark Tower.
DAVID - My is Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, Brian Azzarello’s The Joker and probably Batman RIP. Loved that storyline and the lengths it pushed Batman to! Mind you, I think a seminal story arc will always be Knightfall where Batman was broken by Bane.
Crisis on Infinite Earths and Final Crisis are up there too, just because they were game changes in the sense they rewrote/addressed many of the continuity issues in the DC universe.
ROB - I will have to check out Batman RIP. However I concur on Killing Joke and The Joker. Exceptional stuff! Can I throw in the Marvel adaptation of The Dark Tower? Tis beautiful!
Dark Tower? Definitely worth a mention! In that case, what is your favourite live action interpretation?
ROB - ARGH! Tough. I think Marvel have done some great stuff, especially Captain America: Winter Soldier. However, the best cinematic representation of a comic book has been Deadpool.
DAVID - Hmmm, definitely a tough one! If I had to go to the one I enjoyed the most it would be The Dark Knight. Captain America: Civil War was fantastic and yes, Deadpool was excellent. Better than I thought it would be, though Ryan Reynolds nails it perfectly. He made Green Lantern enjoyable! However and this is controversial, I am going to throw in there Batman v Superman for reasons I shall explain later. Waited my whole life for that film and wasn’t disappointed at all!
ROB - Yes. You will have to explain later. I fear we will differ!
ROB - Because they got people who loved and cared about the character involved, from the cast to the writers. The fact that they let him swear, let him cut people up and let him break the fourth wall again and again was spot on. Also, for casting, Reynolds was basically born to play him!
DAVID - Same as you, they stayed faithful to the source material that often is the difference between a good adaptation and a poor one.
As for B v S as my choice it is purely a matter of perspective for me. It did have its flaws, many of which were addressed in the Ultimate Cut, but it also got a lot right. Ben Affleck was excellent as Batman I felt. The fight scenes were almost Arkham Asylum-esque that we hadn’t seen before. We really saw what a good fighter he is. And we also saw he detecting which hadn’t really been done except slightly in The Dark Knight. This is how clever the movie was.
In the scene where he is training and the scenes are intercut with him designing the weapons he will use against Superman later on, we see the smoke canisters he is developing and on the side of them are the letters PB which is the chemical symbol for lead. This little detail explains why Superman just catches the smoke grenade during the fight and looks at it in disbelief that Batman would use such a rudimentary weapon against him. He can’t see through it, therefore Batman, being an amazing strategist, has used Superman’s weaknesses against him.
Granted, many people will have missed that and perhaps the movie was too clever for its own good, but those little touches I think elevated it above your usual comic book fair.
Yes, Superman was too dark and morose, they spoilt the Doomsday reveal in the trailers, but Gal Gadot was awesome as Wonder Woman!
ROB - Right. I am going to have to interject. I have had a VERY similar conversation with my good friend, Rob Thorpe. You two should talk....you both have the exact same opinion.
I enjoyed Batman vs Superman and am very excited for Justice League. I just feel a film shouldn't have to release an Ultimate Edition to make up for what was, in reality a sloppy theatrical release. The small bits that they left out, especially as to why Superman is after Batman, made the film feel better. But the little details such as the PB on the canisters would have more effect if they showed Bruce Wayne figuring out that Superman can't see through lead. As cool as creating the spear was, why did he leave it SO far away from the fight, expecting that Superman would smash him through buildings into that exact location?
Also, if it took MARTHA to make him realise that Superman had a mother, what research did he do? He found out who she was and where they were keeping her within 10 minutes so surely he could have found that out in the 18 months before he tried to KILL Superman?
I fear we need a beer to discuss this. Haha. I enjoyed the film, I will forever feel it is a style over substance and until Geoff Johns kicks Snyder out of the creative chair, the DC Universe will stay that way.
It appears we could get a lot of mileage out of that one, but keeping in tone with the conversation what do you think is the worst interpretation of a comic book?
ROB - Sadly, Green Lantern was appalling. I still watch it because its Green Lantern and Ryan Reynolds (and the awesome Mark Strong as Sinestro), but what the hell were they thinking? It still upsets me today how bad that film turned out!
DAVID - I have to go Superman VI: The Quest for Peace. Could have been so good and such a shame it was Christopher Reeves’ last outing as Superman as he a Superman in every sense of the word.
Bringing it a little introspective for a moment, comics have often dealt with real life storylines to convey important messages to a wider (and possibly younger audience). Batman had the Venom storyline dealing with drug addiction, the graphic novel The Cult dealing with exactly that, Shadow of the Gun dealing with human trafficking. Spiderman dealt with 911 most respectfully. Do you think they are a good medium to be dealing with real-world problems?
ROB - I think so. I think we are in an age now where people accept that comics are not just for kids. Some of the storylines and elements within them are really close to the mark, and they are able to provide the happy ending that real life may not. Also, as much as we use comics as a mean to escape, we also look for the characters to be relatable and have to make decisions or suffer the same things we, as the reader, have to. The most famous of course, is Spider-Man having to deal with the death of his guardian.
DAVID - I agree. I think they make those issues more relatable too. The news is always full of so much death and horror out children don’t need to be exposed too in such quantities. I think comics are an accessible medium whereby children are able to learn about loss, sacrifice and great courage without losing their innocence about how the world works.
My eldest son understands casualties of war through The Avengers! Not to trivialize it, but it allows him to understand that decisions have consequences without exposing him to the true horrors such circumstances can propel forward.
ROB - And that is a wonderful thing. To be exposed to some of the harder parts of life through these characters. Spider-Man becomes a hero, because he thinks he should be good. It's a wonderful message and I think a well-written comic can convey a good message.
They can, but as you know they also generate a lot of criticism regarding their portrayal of characters. Batman being a cruel sadist and Harley Quinn’s sexualisation being two notable ones. Another classic DC complaints was the overt sexuality of Power Girl owning to her extremely large breasts. Do you think they sometimes go too far?
ROB - Let's face it, the entire comic book design is gratuitous. Look at how muscular the heroes are? Or how well rounded the female characters are? The idea of physical perfection is in the eye of the beholder, but in the comic world, muscles will be massive and boobs will be big. If it goes to far (like that needless scene of Barbara Gordon running in her shorts in The Killing Joke movie), then it can be a bit unsettling. But it's not a regular thing.
DAVID - I won’t let Jake watch or read The Killing Joke because of the, implied, rape of Barbara Gordon. But that esthetic, as repellent as it was to read, was in keeping with the narrative and the idea of the lengths someone can go to if exposed to ‘one bad day’ as The Joker puts it.
I don’t think they go to far and people can see whatever they want if they look hard enough. Go back to the 60’s and the censorship because it was felt that DC comics implied Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson had a sexual relationship and that it came across that he was grooming a young boy. PC viewpoints seem to come around in fits and starts. Now it is fine that he has young children being trained up to fight and living with him.
And I love the fact that we have such diverse characters. Kate Kane, Batwoman, is a lesbian as is Midnight Rider, Wonder Woman is pansexual. Children can now see that heroes aren’t defined by a particular stereotype and I think it’s great that comic books embrace this. However, it was disappointing when DC wouldn’t allow Kate Kane to get married as it was deemed going to far. I think that was a real shame to not be able to show a same sex marriage, so despite everything I believe, it shows we do have a way to go!
ROB - I think that now the world is becoming more PC, things will change even more. I attended a great chat from C.B. Sebolski, the SVP of Creator and Creative Development for Marvel and he spoke about the future of diversity in the Marvel comics and it is brilliant to see how these characters can change with the world around them.
Which comic book universe do you think is generally darker? DC or Marvel?
ROB - DC for sure. I find their stories are usually a little darker and the settings and origins are steeped a little more in the adult territory.
DAVID - Yeah, DC. They really touch on some dark stuff!
Comics still get a lot of stick for being a poor man literature substitute. How do you feel about that?
ROB - I think it's naive. Punisher Max are some of the best crime stories I have ever read and Scott Snyder's entire New 52 Batman was phenomenal. The Court of Owls saga was one of the most gripping stories I have read.
DAVID - The Court of Owls was excellent! I just think comics are an unsung literary form, ridiculed and vilified in equal measure throughout the years and now only just being given the credibility they deserve. Watchmen, The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family…all powerful tales that have powerful messages intrinsically woven into their storylines.
Working for Disney you have enter the whole Marvel universe for real! Describe how that felt?
ROB - Pretty cool. It was nice to pose alongside the big statues and also to be encouraged to fill your desk with Marvel Bobbleheads!!
DAVID - Yeah, I’m jealous! Surrounded by Star Wars, Disney and Marvel all day…bad times!
Going back to you previous comments, why do you think Batman v Superman was so openly criticised?
ROB - I think it was the wrong movie to make. I think it was heavily criticised for fair reasons, especially due to the lack of intelligence of pretty much every character throughout the film. Lex Luthor (what the f*** was Eisenberg doing?) hated god like creatures, so created one? How did he know Batman was ready to fight that night? Why would the world think Superman needed to use bullets in Africa? Why did Batman say 'I thought she was with you?' when he had sent her a god damn email saying I know you are a super hero! Who at Lex Corp created the Justice League logos? WHY IS BATMAN MURDERING PEOPLE?
I know some of this is corrected in the extended cut, which makes it a more cohesive film. However, it doesn't correct Eisenberg or the ridiculous set up for the Justice League. It also doesn't change the stupid reason for them STOPPING their fight.
DAVID - See, I have to disagree. I take on board some of your points, but things like the Justice League logos I think were just a knowing nod to the fans. I thought Jessie Eisenberg was a really disturbed Lex, quite different to what had gone before which, to me was a good thing. The dead bodies in Africa were related to the burnt bodies i.e. having died using his heat vision but this is only apparent in the Ultimate Cut.
I do agree the reason for their fight ending was contrived (who calls their Mum by their first name! He could have just said my mother and had the same effect) but one thing in all my years reading comics that I had never noticed was that their mothers had the same name!
I thought the fight was pitched perfectly and just long enough to be believable (in the context of a god fighting a man dressed as a bat!) and as I mentioned before, Gal Gadot was spot on as Wonder Woman.
ROB - As said earlier. Let's have a beer and discuss. In the meantime, I direct you to the Batman vs Superman versions of Honest Trailer, Everything Wrong With and How It Should Have Ended – all on YouTube.
On a similar note Suicide Squad was received with almost as much hostility but faired better than anyone expected financially. Why do you think that was?
ROB - Honestly, it was messy again. It didn't know what it wanted to be and you can tell it had been chopped to bits. It also had a weird, Marilyn Manson/PIMP/Good Charlotte hybrid Joker that I didn't really like. However, I did like Will Smith as Deadshot. It made money because it hyped up The Joker as a big part of the film and The Joker is box office.
DAVID - It was choppy. You can see how it was two different visions mashed together. Hopefully the directors cut will once again correct those issues, though it’s a shame they have to do that instead of releasing their original vision in the cinema in the first place. As for Jared’s Joker, I once again thought he took it in a completely different direction that was needed. He could emulate Heath and that was just perfect, but he nailed the Azzarelo Joke really well I thought. I could do with more of his Joker!
ROB - See, I just can't see him as a threat. He looked like something a teenage girl would put on their wall. And with the bad ass Batfleck they have established, I just couldn't see this Joker being in anyway a threat. We will have to see I guess.
Captain America: Civil War was almost the opposite, with it being pretty much universally loved. What have Marvel got right that DC need to pay attention to?
(I have my own theory and thoughts on Marvel but we will get to that in my bit!!)
ROB - They actually care about their product. You can see that everyone involved is completely invested. RDJ and Evans have been revelations as Iron Man and Cap, and I find them so much more likeable than Cavill and Affleck (who was a decent Batman). But also there films aren't dark and dreary like the DC ones and whilst their films follow the same formula, they are undoubtedly entertaining. They have had some terrible ones like Iron Man 2 and Thor 2, but Winter Soldier and Civil War were exceptional.
Also, they have grown their universe for 8 years. We have had these characters around for a long time now so we care when they started fighting in Civil War. No one cared if 'New' Batman and grumpy Superman had a fight, because it was obviously going to end with them joining forces.
DAVID - Yeah, I think you’re right. Marvel have taken time to hone their characters and really nail the dynamics between them all and the effect their actions have on the world around them. Granted Civil War and B v S had similar storylines i.e. the effects of unchecked power, Civil War painted a much more coherent and emotionally powerful piece. I loved it…in fact I loved all the Captain America pictures, especially Winter Solider and Civil War. Really enjoyed Iron Man 3 as well.
However for all the flack DC are getting (and they can do better), people forget, like you mention, that in the beginning they weren’t al that great. No one liked Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk (though I really enjoyed it and thought Edward Norton was excellent) didn’t pull in the customers. I think DC are getting a lot of criticism but the only difference is Marvel had their share of mis-steps but did it first and so long ago people have forgotten, especially as what they produce now is uniformly excellent.
I do think and hope that Wonder Woman will swing the pendulum of popular support. Suicide Squad did exceptional financial business and was popular with fans but the critics hated it. DC need that critics favourite like Civil War to really get them on board.
ROB - YES!! Some love for The Incredible Hulk!! That is my favourite film of Phase One. I think it is a great story and Norton is a much better Banner in my opinion. But they actually made him heroic which was great. I think the reason DC are getting so much flak is it is incredibly obvious they are trying to copy Marvel and not do something of their own. And they are sort of throwing twenty characters in straight away and expecting us to care. Avengers worked, because everyone was already established before hand.
I do think, however, Wonder Woman will be VERY good. And it will do well with critics. Justice League...not so sure. But I cannot wait (although where the hell is Green Lantern?!)
So, to round up our diverse blog, book launch chat, the future of cinema? Have comic books still got a lot left to offer?
ROB - I think once Avengers: Infinity Wars is done, we will see it drop drastically. I can't see the movie goers falling inline behind Dr Strange, Black Panther (who I loved in Civil War), Ant Man and Captain Marvel. I think we have pretty much hit super hero burn out, and the DC films are only highlighting how bad they can be at times.
As for comics on the whole, they are trying exciting new things like rebooting the DC franchise again, turning Cap to Hydra and making Iron Man a female as they have with Thor. We shall see...
DAVID - I don’t know, I think Dr Strange will do really well ala Guardians of the Galaxy. I think there is a natural saturation point as you say were things will slow down, but I think we have a good ten or so years left yet. Bring on Justice League, The Batman, Infinity War and Captain Marvel!!!!
ROB - I'm rooting for a Howard the Duck reboot! (Runs from interview!)
A huge thank you to Rob for what was a fascinating and really, really fun chat!
Don't forget to check out aloverofbooks.wordpress.com tomorrow for the final stop on Rob's 'Doorways' blog tour.
And get yourself a copy of his excellent science fiction thriller 'Doorways' here in the U.K and here in the US.