When it comes to Superheroes in TV, The CW has it figured out. Well, for the most part (*cough* Supergirl). While Agents of SHIELD are chasing poorly animated ghost, The CW pulled off the most badass superhero crossover we’ve seen in a long time. The crossover was so impressive that the mid-season finales paled in comparison. Yes, the TV Justice League is well on their way. However, one thing is holding them back, an old superhero trope that needs to stop now.
The Mirror Villain
Is it a villain that turns people into mirrors? No that’s dumb. The Mirror Villain is a villain that reflects the hero, is eerily similar to the hero and sometimes represents the antithesis of the superhero’s beliefs. Sometimes they’re deeply complex and help the hero explore his morals and determine his values. 100% of the time they have the exact same powers as our hero, the only thing that making them different is that they are evil.
My criticism with the CW showrunners is that they rely almost exclusively on Mirror Villains, to the point of gluttony. I’m sure you’re already thinking of the numerous examples. Flash and Reverse-Flash is the most “on-the-nose” example of this. In fact Barry has had an evil speedster in every one of his season and all of them are featured in the season story arc (not one-shots): Reverse-Flash, Zoom, and Savitar. In the first season of Supergirl the villain is a Kryptonian that looks like her mom. And just think of all the bow-masters in Arrow. The sheer number of expert archers is absurd.
Reviewing the shows, especially Flash, I have to say I’m extremely disappointed. Yes, the shows are fun to watch and pose good stories. But aren’t you just a little sick of it? I would love to go one season and see just one archer and one speedster. When I saw Prometheus and Savitar introduced, I rolled my eyes. Arrow is five seasons in and still peddling the Mirror Villain. To be fair, they mixed it up with Slade Wilson and Damian Dahrk, but the fact that they had to revert back to another archer is just sad. Flash is even worse! Back-to-back-to-back evil speedsters is absolutely pathetic. There, I said it…pathetic.
By constantly resorting to the Mirror Villain, the show runners are ignoring creative opportunities. There are thousands of different villains, each with different motivations. The writers could explore different themes with these villains. All three evil speedsters that I mentioned earlier all want to challenge Barry because they want to be the fastest. “There can only be one speedster.” How many times have we heard that? If another speedster appears in Season 4 of The Flash, I’m going to flip a table…and still begrudgingly watch it.
It’s time for the writers to step up and challenge themselves. They need to crack open a few comics for inspiration. I’m sure there are plenty of Mirror Villains in the comics, but that doesn’t give the writers permission to shovel that crap. The shows and characters have us hooked. Now it’s time for risk taking. I highly doubt that anything they do will result in a mass exodus of viewers. Anything new will be greatly welcomed. I think the introduction of aliens is a decent start, but we’ll have to wait and see…
Till next time!
UPDATE: The Flash showrunners are teasing the possibility of bringing back Zoom in the form of Black Flash. This announcement just further proves my point. Needless to say I'm extremely disappointed that the writers can't think of anything better than another speedster.
...is all the proof you need for why Marvel remains in front of DC.
Now this might be confusing for some of you. After all I had just written that DC is about to beat Marvel in cinema. Why the sudden Pro-Marvel post? Because upon seeing the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 I was instantly reminded as to why we love Marvel. I still stand by my last post, that Wonder Woman will be a game changer. However, when it comes to understanding what viewers want, Marvel has it down. After all, they’ve spent years refining the Superhero Movie Formula.
Joss Whedon sums up Marvel’s formula best.
“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”
This quote, along with the GotGv2 trailer’s record numbers highlights that formula. Drama, action, suspense and most importantly humor. A light hearted reminder that all of this is make believe and that you should enjoy it. The trailer featured all of this and that’s probably why it had 81 million views in the first 24 hours of its release.
DC learned this formula, but a little too late. Man of Steel was absolutely depressing and it continued in Batman v. Superman. Tell me you didn’t cringe at the balcony scene in BvS where Supes flew off all mopey. I don’t think he smiled once during that whole movie. It’s one thing to write an interesting dynamic character with flaws, it’s another thing to write about a Kryptonian Emo. I blame Zach Snyder for trying to copy The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. followed suit and then everything spun out of control.
Suicide Squad is when it hit home that DC might be doing things wrong. A trailer company posted a wildly popular trailer for the movie. It showed crazy antics, funny quips and a fun Squad. Too bad the director didn’t get that memo. Upon seeing the depressing, gritty feature film, the studio went back to the same trailer company and asked them to edit the movie and make it fun. Both movies were screen tested and the “funner” movie won out. There’s only so much editing that can be done in order to save a movie. In this case I felt the movie was…ok. Critics slammed it for being choppy and a glorified trailer.
Back to Marvel, while DC continues its identity crisis Marvel is churning out quality enjoyable films on a consistent basis. GotGv2 is the perfect example. James Gunn understands the Marvel Formula, wrote a movie tailored to it, filmed it (with little resistance from Marvel Studios) and the freakin’ trailer is already breaking records. There is a trust between Gunn and Marvel Studios, and rightfully so.
Just looking at the trailer, you can tell GotGv2 is going to be great. There’s giant aliens, a swarm of space ships in a dogfight, and every character shines in their 5-10 seconds of screen time. If you didn’t laugh at the Rocket Raccoon/Baby Groot scene then you have no soul. The trailer is fun, the movie will be fun. This is Marvel at its best, a fantastic world of make believe where you sit and enjoy the ride.
The Marvel Formula stems from the comics. Comics are the ultimate form of escapism. Some people read about super powered people because they feel powerless. I feel that most people want to escape these troubling times. So who wouldn’t want to see Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot banter? Or Drax burst out laughing at Starlord’s revealed secrets. Marvel understands our desire to immerse ourselves in a dynamic fun world so they roll out the red carpet. They create ups and downs, depressing and uplifting scenes so that the movie is never dull but rather a rollercoaster of emotion.
Perhaps “formula” is the wrong word. Formula implies that it’s the same thing every time. A repetition of material in the same order. No two Marvel movies are the same so I can’t call it a formula. Maybe the word I’m looking for is “understanding.” Marvel has an understanding about what people get from their stories. They know that they invest in the stories. They know that a dark or scary scene adds drama to any movie. And they also know that the “joke” that Joss talks about is so important. Because in the end we don’t go to the movies to watch someone else’s depressing struggles, we go to escape our own. That’s why we need that perfectly timed joke, it’s so we know everything is going to be ok.
I’m glad Marvel understands this and I eagerly await Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Till next time!
I must admit, my faith was wavering when it came to Indie Comics. Up to this point the comics I reviewed have ranged from disappointing to absolute waste of time. I’ve been harsh, but rightfully so. So, when Michael Nelsen dropped a press release into my inbox for his series Supernaut, I couldn’t help but feel pessimistic. I feared another bust.
Boy was I wrong.
Supernaut has to be the most refreshing comic series that I’ve read in a long time. Michael Nelsen began creating Supernaut in 2012, writing the story, creating all the artwork and lettering everything. It took him two years to chip away at this project and the end product is a beautiful work of art. The story calls upon ideas of metaphysics, theology, mythology and a lil’ bit of Joseph Campbell. One could compare it to the movie Interstellar but Supernaut still stands on its own.
A quick synopsis: Our story, begins like any trans-dimensional, space and time altering story would: in the sorta-middle. We see now enlightened astronaut, Stephen Haddon, confront the manifestation of God to ask him not to unravel reality. God tells him to buzz off. Haddon aka Supernaut, bands together with other trans-dimensional heroes and thieves to collect magical artifacts that supposedly combined would take down God.
The best thing about this series is without a doubt the art. If anyone ever says comics is not an art form, share with them Supernaut. I can’t express how thoroughly impressed I am with Michael Nelsen. Nelsen is a graphic designer so it’s no surprise that each and every page is carefully crafted to fit this mind-bending story. Nelsen’s experience as a graphic designer especially comes to light when it comes to color. Each and every page is an explosion of beautiful colors in an “order-within-chaos” kind of way. No space is left a blank white and nothing appears unnecessary. The story itself challenges perceptions of reality and dimensions and the art suits this mind bending story perfectly.
When I read this story I felt like I dropped acid.* Comics has always been about challenging the conventional with new and exciting ideas. I guarantee that this is some of the most unique artwork in the indie comics scene. The only thing I could possibly compare it to is Neil Gaiman’s reality bending Sandman, but even that comparison is a stretch. I feel that Supernaut’s art stands apart as a truly unique entity. Brilliant use of colors paired with unique graphics and sci-fi lettering of various varieties.
As for the story, it perfectly pairs with Nelsen’s art style. The story originally was meant to be a Green Lantern-style story, because lord knows we need another one of those. Thankfully, Nelsen evolved the story into something so much more, a deep exploration into life, metaphysics and higher existence(s). You can tell he took the time to research the physics and theology behind what makes ups life. What is a soul? Are there parallel universes? Nelsen called upon literary quotes ranging from Albert Einstein to the Bhagavad Gita. At one point he references the Wow! Signal which is an actual thing. It’s no wonder it took him 2 years to make this series, the amount of work it must have taken to compile complicated ideas and translate them into equally complicated graphic works of art must be extremely time consuming.
Despite the acid trip artwork and the complicated ideas, at its essence the story was fairly simple and accessible. The good guy needs to stop the bad guy and he needs to find certain things to stop said bad guy. The great thing about Nelsen however was that he told this in an entirely different way. Yes, the premise is a simple one, but the journey is one wild ride. Nelsen employs ideas about time and space and applied it to his story telling method. The entire first issue is literally told backwards. Literally. I applaud him for telling this story in such a unique way.
The supporting cast might be my only negative I have to offer. Because there’s so much to cram into the story, you’re handed a brief profile of our supporting characters. This choice to introduce the characters by profile inhibited the story a bit. (I spent 5 minutes reading up about a “pheromone spy” only to learn that she gets a panel worth of action). However, with so much going on, it seemed like Nelsen’s best solution introducing the team of thieves. Perhaps he should’ve expanded his series to more than 5 issues?
You will bombarded with a lot of science. A lot. I’m sure a lot of it is inspired by actual science, but at times it struck me as heavily padded dialogue and narration. Most of the time it would be fascinating, other times simply draining.
“It stores coded information in its plasma substrate…and transmits by trans-space and quantum interference.”
-Supernaut #3, about a room in a tower.
Science fiction readers will love this text. Some comic book fans will appreciate Nelsen’s diligence to flavor text and the science, others won’t. Regular readers with gloss over it and enjoy the overall story. Despite how you feel about it (tell me below) I think it fits with the story but it’s a little too heavy.
Comics has always been about challenging the conventional with new and exciting ideas. I guarantee that this is some of the most unique artwork in the indie comics scene. "
Overall, Nelsen has restored my faith in Independent Comics. His two year project resulted in some of the most beautiful works of art ever to grace the indie scene. That paired with carefully researched science and savvy storytelling resulted in a successful miniseries. If you are a sci-fi lover or have an appreciation for graphic design and art I highly recommend this book. If you are a casual comic book reader, I still recommend this book.
I eagerly await the conclusion!
Ragnarok n’ Roll
*The author of this blog has never taken acid and does not condone it. However, if you feel inclined to take acid, we recommend you read Supernaut instead.
All images are used with permission from the author, Michael Nelsen. (c) 2016. Michael Nelsen, 215 Ink, 50 Foot Robot Studios.