Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

Robin Williams, Mental Illness, Hidden Pain, and the Future

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve spent a good portion of this week thinking about Robin Williams. I suspect I’m with the majority on that one. Robin Williams hangs himself because of depression? It’s just so out of the blue, and seemingly so out of character…

Williams’ death shook me up quite a bit because of its connection to depression and mental illness. Without getting too personal here, my life, like the lives of so many, has been touched by things like clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. For some of us, it’s a daily battle. The simple act of getting up to greet the day can be excruciating if your mind isn’t in a good place. And the notion that Robin Williams, seemingly the epitome of happiness and zest for life, dealt with such issues just doesn’t seem to fit. Mind you, in the last day or so we’ve learned he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which can often lead to depression. But it still seems so out of left field.

Naturally, the internet and social media have been flooded with tributes to Williams. I happened to be on Twitter Monday night, and I stumbled on to a tweet sent by none other than Kevin Conroy (widely known as the voice of Batman). I understand his inclusion in here may induce a few eyerolls, given I’m obviously a comic book/superhero geek. But what he wrote has been in the back of  my mind since I saw it: “Robin Williams inspired while fighting demons of his own. His humor floated on a sea of pain. …”

Heavy stuff. I don’t know what relationship Conroy had with Williams, if any. But what really hit me was: “His humor floated on a sea of pain.” Obviously, Robin Williams has millions of fans mourning him. And I’ll never discount him, his legacy, or what he’s brought to the world.

But how many people live their lives on that same sea of pain, and don’t have legions of admirers? How many people battle those same demons, and aren’t rich, famous, or loved like Robin Williams? And how many people are able to hide it as well as he did, and walk through their lives quietly suffering?

I don’t know if people necessarily want to hide things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. But of course, they do. In America alone, one in four people deal with such issues in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So if so many of us are dealing with this kind of thing, then why hide it?

From an American standpoint, I think a lot of it has to do with the culture. The average American only gets two weeks of paid vacation a year. For those other 50 weeks, we’re trained to be nose to the grindstone, working our collective asses off to provide our families with a high quality of life, and keep this country chugging along. A recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher pointed to a Cadillac America commercial as a prime example of what the mindset of the United States workforce is supposed to be…

I’m not at all opposed to the concept of paving your own way in this world, working hard, or putting in long hours. But with that mindset comes a certain “push through the pain” attitude. We keep forging forward, despite whatever pain (be it physical or mental) might be ailing us. That’s a cool mindset to a point. But after awhile, it obviously has its drawbacks. And I think that’s what a lot of Americans do with mental illness. They forge through it because that’s what they think they’re supposed to, rather than taking care of themselves. Which ironically, would lead to longer and more productive careers.

Plus, I think a little bit of that “crazy person” stigma still exists, and as such, people are afraid to get that stamp. That’s probably not anybody’s fault, per se. It’s just the way our culture has been for so many generations, and you can’t necessarily eradicate that all at once.

In terms of the public’s awareness of mental illness, we live in an interesting time. Both the advancement of medical science and the emergence of the information age have paved the way for what exactly mental illness is, how it can be treated, and where one can get support. Still, I don’t think we as a culture are where we want to be.

Work is important. Ambition and drive are important. Putting a roof over your head is important. But so is enjoying your life. So is spending time with the people you love, and experiencing that love to its fullest. In my little head, that’s worth more than whatever professional accomplishments your professional life has to offer. It’s certainly worth more than material possessions, and it’s definitely worth more than corporate profits, or however you want to judge the success of a company.

Robin Williams was a man who could evoke great emotion from people. He made us laugh, obviously. But he could also make us cry. He could make us think. He could inspire us. And in his tragic death, he may have stumbled on to a way to inspire us one last time. NBCNews.com published a story about how William’s death has inspired a “coming out,” i.e. a dialogue about depression and suicide. Despite the horrific way it came about, that’s a great thing. The more we talk about something, the more aware we are. And with that awareness can come knowledge. And knowledge can pave the way for change. Specifically, change the way this country, and the world, see mental illness.

But at the very least, I hope Williams’ death inspires people to be a little nicer to one another over the next couple of weeks. Whether it’s an acquaintance, a coworker, or just a random joe on the street. Because you never know what someone’s going through. You never know who’s floating along on that same “sea of pain”

Front page image from cabletv.com. Image 1 from anthonygeorge.wordpress.com. Image 2 from shechive.wordpress.com. Image 3 from latest.today.

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Blatant Insubordination: Podcasts, Snooki, and Noise

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I like podcasts a lot, and find myself listening to them as often as I can. I think they appeal to my secret desire to be a radio personality of some sort, and “perform” on the air. For awhile, I actually considered doing one here at PI. And hey, never say never.

But it’s a hell of a lot less likely now.

My favorite resource for podcasts is PodcastOne.com. Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, and Jim Ross all host shows there, and there are a lot of other cool broadcasts like Man School, the Ask Women Podcast, among others. But this week, they added a new podcaster to their roster: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of Jersey Shore fame. Polizzi will host The Snooki Podcast – Naturally Nicole with “off-the-cuff commentary that most people would only dare to say in their heads.” Ah, yes. Cultural commentary from a girl who’s claim to fame is being a dimwit on an MTV reality show. Why don’t we just give Steve-o a podcast? Or has he had one already? Wouldn’t surprise me…

Perhaps I’m being too hard on good ol’ Snooki. In truth, my complaints aren’t really directed at her. It’s at the entire landscape of podcasting. Having a microphone or a camera to talk into doesn’t make your opinion relevant. It doesn’t make you a “cultural commentator.” It makes you someone with an outlet from which you can provide compelling commentary, or say something relevant, intriguing, and thought-provoking. In a way, it’s the same principle you find in stand-up comedy. You’re not funny just because you’re talking into a microphone.

This is the problem that arises when everybody has a podcast. The market becomes oversaturated, and suddenly a podcast is no longer special or cool. It’s just more noise. Noise that makes it harder for listeners to discover the voices of the broadcasters who are actually saying interesting things.

As someone who writes things on the internet, this is a disconcerting notion for me, as it obviously translates to what I do. How many people out there write about comics, movies, TV shows, pro wrestling, etc? So how does one know they’re not just adding to the noise? It’s hard to say.

What keeps my conscious fairly clear is that most of what I write here comes from a place of passion, heart, and in the end, humility. Primary Ignition is made up mostly of my opinions, which I aim to make as informed and entertaining as possible. It all comes from what I feel to be a good place, as opposed to one of self-glorification, or saying things just for the sake of saying something. I’m writing about things I love. There’s an undeniably purity in that, no matter what your subject matter is.

So is it passion and truth of heart that separates quality and genuity from the noise? Maybe it depends on what people are looking for. I just know I’m not willing to talk into a microphone quite yet. I’ll stick to my proverbial pen for now. But one thing’s for sure: If Snooki has a podcast, then every damn broadcaster in America had better step up their game…

Front page image from celebuzz.com. Image 1 from kiss925.com. Image 2 from telegraph.co.uk. 

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Thoughts From C2E2: Nightwing and His “Bulge”

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As Chicago area comic book fans know, C2E2 was this weekend. As Felicia Day wasn’t there to ruin my life again, I had a great time. I was fortunate enough to meet and get autographs from the likes of Adam Hughes, Gail Simone, and Kevin Maguire, among others. I also had the pleasure of meeting Paul Schrier, Jason Narvy, and Steve Cardenas of Power Rangers fame. All in all, it was a wonderful experience.

That being said, I’d like to talk a little bit about cosplay.

As I recall, I haven’t said much about cosplay over the years. I think the closest I’ve come to talking about it was last year on Twitter, when I expressed my distaste for the SyFy show Heroes of Cosplay. I think the show actually cast cosplayers, both male and female, in a bad light. But I’ll say now what I said then: I have nothing bad to say about cosplay as recreation, or art, or whatever people want to refer to it as. Obviously there are people who do it just for fun, and then you’ve got folks like Yaya Han, who not only take it very seriously, but try to make an enterprise out of it.

But whether your cosplay is a lifestyle choice, or you’re simply trying to have some fun dressing up like Superman on a Saturday afternoon, certain laws of human decency are still in effect. Lord knows I’m not the PC police, but a certain something needs to be said to certain male members of the cosplay community. Namely, those who wear spandex or stretch fiber…

Wear. A. Cup.

Or a jockstrap. Or duct tape. Or whatever you have to do to keep from look like you’re smuggling a sparrow’s egg in your lycra. Because somehow, despite being on a convention floor filled with scantily clad Wonder Women, Ms. Marvels, Starfires, and Power Girls, it was the men who seemed to be having the “wardrobe malfunctions.” *shudders* And what you ladies may not know, is that material like spandex doesn’t always allow certain places to be portrayed in the most flattering manner. Like I said, folks…sparrow’s egg.

For some reason, this seemed to be a Nightwing problem. I had the sad misfortune of spotting three guys in the same black and blue lycra Nightwing costume, all sporting the same, *ehem*, problem. Granted, it could have been worse. It could have been black and red Nightwing. And then there was that guy dressed as Doctor Rockso from Metalocalypse. Boy, was that a spectacle. (For the record, the image at left is not that individual. He’s simply wearing more or less the same costume.)

C’mon, guys. Is this really a thing? Are some of us just that oblivious? Can we not remember to look in the damn mirror before we walk out in public dressed like a friggin’ superhero? When I tell people I’m going to comic book conventions, this is the kind of thing that prompts them to ask: “You don’t, like, dress up in costumes do you?” Even if it’s an honest mistake, it’s an embarrassment for the entire geek/fanboy community.

And by the way, it’s not a double standard. Every female cosplayer I saw today, even the ones who dared to bare, had all their pertinent parts covered. It’s not about how attractive you are, either. If you’re a man, and you want to come to a convention dressed as Tarzan, that’s your right as long as you’re decent. But c’mon, dude. When I’m standing in a 10-mile-long line to get Scott Snyder to sign that book where the Joker straps his sliced off face back on to his head, the last thing I want to see is Nightwing’s junk. And the second-to-last thing I want is for Scott Snyder to see it, because then he might write a book where Nightwing gets his junk sliced off, and then strapped back on to his body.

NOBODY wants to see “Strapped On” Nightwing. Nobody…

Front page image from comicvine.com. Images 1 and 3 from author’s collection. Image 2 from geekworldradio.com.

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Blatant Insubordination: Sexiness and the Female Body

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I think Lena Dunham is sexier than Naya Rivera.

I didn’t know that until just now. I’d never thought to compare the two, and you can’t blame me for that. Dunham produces and stars in Girls on HBO, while Rivera acts on Fox’s Glee. Their work appeals to pretty different demos.

Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not saying Naya Rivera is unattractive. She’s pretty, a talented performer, etc. Additionally, I’m not saying that skinny women are, by nature, unattractive. I’m just saying, put Lena Dunham and Naya Rivera next to one another, and I’ll go for Lena every time. And I think a lot of women would be surprised at how many men share my opinion.

I’ve been lucky enough to amass a decent amount of female friends and co-workers in recent years. It’s funny how much women will actually tell you when you’re engaged and off the market. It’s like they become double agents, and start telling you all the little team secrets you never knew about when you were on the playing field. One of the things I hear about is body image issues. “I look fat.” “I’ve got to be [however many] pounds by [insert given date].” “He’s only attracted to skinny girls.”

These and numerous other little venting sessions popped into my mind the other night when Glee aired its 100th episode, and I noticed how friggin’ skinny Naya Rivera has gotten. Her character, Santana, is usually portrayed as the show’s sexiest girl. Case in  point, this particular episode saw she and two other girls cover Britney Spears’ “Toxic” while dressed as naughty school girls. And then I got to thinking about my female friends, and about how many young girls watch shows like Glee. Mind you, Glee is just an example I’m using. The majority of the younger actresses and performers in Hollywood are friggin’ twigs.

Is this a new development? Of course not. People were talking about this kind of thing when I was a kid, and probably long before that. It’s just the way the world works at the moment. The only difference is my personal perspective has changed. At the risk of sounding too hokey or clichéd, it kind of breaks my heart.

I certainly don’t speak for all men. God knows I wouldn’t wish my perspective on the gender at large. But I do think I speak for some men. And I think that some men would like to let some women know that society, the media, the machine, or whatever you want to call it has created a gross misunderstanding about what we think sexy is. Let me tell you about it…

At the end of the day, sexiness really isn’t about how fat or skinny you are, how tan or pale you are, how blonde or brunette you are, or anything along those lines. Certain details might add to the overall presentation depending on the man. But at the end of the day, sexiness is all about one thing: Confidence. And where does confidence come from? It’s from you being happy with yourself, and proud of who and what you are. With that confidence comes a certain honesty and genuity. You learn not to be afraid to be yourself, warts and all.

I can’t even tell you how many times I day I see women wearing too much make up, hair that’s needlessly overdone, or clothes they’re obviously not comfortable in, all for the sake of looking like the machine says women should look. In effect, these women are wearing costumes, complete with clown make up. There are times when I see these women and I just want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them out it. “It’s not real, Daisy Mae! It’s all a big lie! They’re trying to sell you lipstick!!!”

What I admire about Lena Dunham is that there’s a certain honesty to her image. She looks like a human being, as opposed to what the world seems to want human beings to look like. And hey, I like that she gets naked on the show. God forbid we see a woman in popular media who doesn’t appear to have been airbrushed halfway out of existence. Lena Dunham is a person. And when you get past all the dress up games and flirty foreplay, that’s what men (or at least some men) really want to connect with: Another person.

Maybe it’s just a matter of getting older and being able to see past the world’s smoke and mirrors. God forbid I ever have to raise a daughter and explain all this to her. Little Katniss Skywalker Siebert is going to be mighty confused…

I think what I’m really trying to say is: Ladies, eat some cake. Skip a work out. Forget the damn eye shadow for a day. Because when it’s all said and done, none of that matters. So leave the costume behind, and just be yourself.

Front page image from zimbio.com. Image 1 from skinnyvscurvy.com. Image 2 from fox.com. Image 3 from hollywood.com.

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Blatant Insubordination: Thoughts From the Batman: Arkham Knight Trailer

**WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY LAY AHEAD. BUT LET’S FACE IT, IF YOU’RE READING THIS, CHANCES ARE YOU’VE FINISHED THAT GAME ALREADY. AND IF YOU HAVEN’T, RUN, DO NOT WALK, TO ACQUIRE AND PLAY THAT GAME.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Batman: Arkham City was one of those rare things in life that actually lived up to the hype. It turned out to be as good, if not better, than what most of us envisioned. And the ending, by God the ending…

The death of the Joker, inside the very theater young Bruce Wayne attended with his parents on the night of their murder. The Joker stabs Batman, causing him to drop the very antidote The Joker needs to survive his Titan poisoning. It was masterfully written in a way that almost invokes The Killing Joke

Batman: “Do you want to know something funny? Even after everything you’ve done, I would have saved you.”
Joker: “(laughs, then begins to cough) “Actually, that is…(coughs, and begins to choke)…pretty funny.”

The scene, which is masterfully performed by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamillends with The Joker passing away with a smile on his face. Batman then carries his body out of the theater in front of various onlookers, and refuses to answer Commissioner Gordon’s simple question of: “What happened?”

As if that weren’t enough of an ending, various Easter eggs indicated Harley Quinn was, in fact, pregnant with a child that is presumably The Joker’s. Throw in some cryptic comments from Azrael (“From the ashes of Arkham, fires will rage and Gotham will burn.”), and you’ve got a gaming experience that left fans wanting a hell of a lot more.

And now, more is finally here…

So…am I a total troll if I say I’m kind of disappointed?

From a visual standpoint, the trailer certainly looks fantastic, though we’re obviously not seeing gameplay footage. It’s definitely cool to see the Arkham incarnations of the Penguin, Two-Face, and a most certainly not pregnant Harley Quinn. Though the game supposedly takes place a year after City, so I suppose she could have had the baby and gotten on one of those celebrity weight-loss programs. That’s obviously the Scarecrow’s voice at the beginning, what with all the “darkest fears” talk. Also, Thomas Wayne’s line about how “I will not see you grow into the good man you will become,” suggests he knew his life was about to come to an end when he wrote his will.

This is all interesting stuff. And if this were, say, the first chapter in the Arkham saga, this would be an awesome trailer. But here’s the thing…they ignored the most important stuff that happened at the end of Arkham City! Fans have been speculating for over two years about whether the Joker is actually dead, and the trailer doesn’t even reference it! No cuts to a Joker card stained with blood, no hints at the uncertainty about where the body ended up (see Harley Quinn’s Revenge), no word about any Joker demon spawn, nothing!

By the time the trailer wrapped, my response, in essence, was that I’d just seen a bunch of cool Batman stuff. But unlike the trailers for Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, it didn’t leave me salivating for the adventure to come. I think that’s what fans have come to expect from the Arkham series. So at the end of the day, what I’ve seen so far has left me feeling pretty flat, and not nearly as interested as I could/should be.

Now, needless to say, all is not lost. We don’t even know when the game is hitting shelves yet (Though presumably it’ll be in the fall, right?). Reportedly, Kevin Conroy is indeed back as Batman. And this united group of supervillains waging war on city could indeed result in the “fires will rise and Gotham will burn” scenario that Azrael mentioned in Arkham City.

I’m certainly not naive enough to think The Joker won’t be around in Arkham Knight. For cryin’ out loud, the entire Arkham series is based on the rivalry between the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince. He’s got to be there. I’m just disappointed they didn’t give us that great hook to pull us into what is supposedly the final chapter in the Arkham series…

The final chapter, huh? So what does that really mean? At the very least, I expect that this’ll be Rocksteady’s last trip to Gotham City. As great as their Batman games have been, I’ve got no problem with that. That company has nothing left to prove in this arena. They’ve created the definitive model upon which most future Batman games will likely be based. So let’s let somebody else take the wheel and see what happens.

I just hope this isn’t the last we see of the Arkham continuity. Between the various continuity questions and confusions raised by the New 52, and Christopher Nolan putting a definitive end to his Batman film series, the Arkham universe is probably my favorite canon at this point. It’s got enough pieces of the “Diniverse” (i.e. Paul Dini stuff) to make it feel like an extension of Batman: The Animated Series. But at the same time, it’s not afraid to do it’s own thing, and set itself apart. Perhaps I’m asking too much, but I say let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes time for the next Batman game. At the very least, it’ll ensure Kevin Conroy continues to provide the voice for Batman every couple of years.

Ah yes…voice actors. Let’s discuss The Joker for a moment, shall we?

Troy Baker did a fine job in Arkham Origins. The guy was in an extremely tough position having to follow Mark Hamill. He essentially had to impersonate Hamill’s Joker, as opposed to putting his own spin on the character. But to his credit, he did about as well as anyone could have hoped. And if it’s him that voices The Joker in Arkham Knight, I’ll be fine with that.

But what if…what if

Mark Hamill said he was done playing The Joker after Arkham City, and The Joker died in Arkham City, so it all worked out. But if The Joker ends up getting resurrected  in Arkham Knight

PLEASE, Mark? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE????? Just one more time, and I’ll never bug you about it again! I promise! No, really! It’s for real this time! I’ll stop tweeting you! I’ll stop emailing you! I’ll stop calling your house! I’ll stop ringing your doorbell at four in the morning…

Pretty please?

Front page image/image 2 from newsarama.com. Image 1 from batman.wikia.com. Image 3 from playstationer.com. 

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Blatant Insubordination: Star Wars Blu-Rays

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It took more than two years, but I finally caved and got the Star Wars movies on Blu-ray his week. That’s right, folks. Rob Siebert has arrived in 2011. It’s just the original trilogy, mind you. I wasn’t about to spend more money on the prequels. But then again, it wasn’t my money that was spent anyway…

I copped out and got it as a birthday gift from my future mother-in-law, who I apparently freaked out when I noted I wanted the version with the various special features on it. In doing so, I was mainly looking to see the deleted content from the original trilogy, i.e. the famous Luke and Biggs scene from A New  Hope, the scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke assembles his lightsaber, etc. Of course, had I paid attention, I’d have noticed that content was only on the set with all six movies on it. Thus, to get the scrapped content from the original trilogy, you had to buy the prequels. Oh, George… (I can say that, because the Blu-rays were released before the Disney buy out.) Thankfully for both my poor mother-in-law and myself, you can find a lot of that content on YouTube, and various other cultural dumpsters on the internet.

So why did I wait so long? Anger and stubbornness, I suppose. Having seen movies like Jedi Junkies and The People vs. George Lucas, I told myself I would never be one of those fans who breaks into a sprint for the latest George Lucas table scraps. Until this week, the most recent versions of the original movies I owned were the original DVD releases from 2004. Oddly enough, those were a gift too.

When I finally got over my “prequel denial,” and it hit me just what George Lucas had done to his creation with those movies, I resolved to pour as little money as possible into the Star Wars machine, despite my love for the originals. They could have everyone else’s hard-earned cash, but no more of mine. No more action figures, no more DVDs, no more novels, I even swore off the comic books for a while. And of course, I freaked when I found out George had sold Star Wars to Disney.

It was all foolish, of course. To an extent, in my quest to move away from the Jedi Junkies crowd, I had actually jumped toward the other end of the spectrum: The “George Lucas raped my childhood” crowd. Star Wars and rape really don’t belong in the same conversation topic, no matter how funny that one episode of South Park was…

So here I am, on a Friday afternoon, watching A New Hope on Blu-ray. So what’s the experience like? It’s the same as always, really. It’s still the same movie I’ve seen hundreds of times, and can recite pretty much verbatim. Everything looks very crisp and clear, of course. The desert stuff in particular looks great. But as my buddies can tell you, I’ve never been a high-definition freak. To me, a good presentation is a good presentation, regardless of whether you have all the digital whosis and the sound whatsis. The Three Stooges are funny in Disorder in the Court whether you’re watching it on Blu-ray, or a worn out old VHS.

But if that’s the case, why bother buying the Blu-rays at all? Why not just stick with the DVDs? My answer for that is…I don’t know. I guess part of me feels like I owe it to Star Wars for all the joy it’s given me over the years. As bitter as I still am over certain aspects of Star Wars, the original movies still makes me happy. There are still times where I rave about them to my fiance. We have yet to watch a Star Wars film together. But when we finally do, I’m sure I’ll talk over half of it, because I’ll be like a giddy 10-year-old again.

And in the end, 40 or 50 bucks every 10 years is a worthwhile price to keep your giddy 10-year-old self alive and well. Especially if it’s not even your money…

Front page image from zekefilm.org. Image 2 from foxnews.com. Image 3 from starwars.wikia.com.

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Ghostbusters II: My Favorite Crappy Sequel

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ghostbusters II gets a pretty bad rap, and for good reason. It fits the textbook definition of a crappy sequel, by essentially doing the original film over again. You can basically describe Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II with the same broad plot points…

- A powerful ghostly entity threatens New York City.
- Three down-on-their-luck scientists make cynics into believers by capturing a ghost.
- Peter Venkman initially grates on Dana Barrett, but eventually charms his way into her heart.
- A snide executive figure in a suit is in the mayor’s ear, and nearly shuts the Ghostbusters down altogether.
- Ultimately, the Ghostbusters come together to defeat the ghostly entity.
- Peter gets the girl in the end.
- Both films also have a “Ghostbusters in action” montage, a “ghosts wreaking havoc” montage, and an end credits montage.

In a lot of ways, Ghostbusters II killed the GB movie franchise. While a third film has been in development hell for over two decades now, had Ghostbusters II been better received both by fans and critics, the boys in gray likely would have been back at least once by now.

But you know what? Screw all that. Despite all its flaws, I adore Ghostbusters II. Yes, I said adore. Admittedly, there’s a childhood bias that plays a role there. I can’t even tell you how many times I popped both films into the VCR growing up. But as an adult, I still find myself in love with Ghostbusters II. Not as much as the first film, mind you. The original Ghostbusters is a pop cultural milestone. It’s sequel is…well, a crappy sequel. But it’s my favorite crappy sequel. And here’s why…

1. Most of the Original Cast Returns
So much of what made Ghostbusters amazing was the chemistry between the cast. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, all had Second City backgrounds (Rick Moranis was also an SCTV alum), and obviously what came out on screen between them turned out to be comedic and improvisational gold. Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett was obviously the perfect straight, grounded romantic interest to the off-the-wall Murray. Ernie Hudson also played a great everyman in Winston, who also gave Aykroyd and Ramis’ characters someone to say expository dialogue to when necessary. Everyone essentially had their designated ground to cover from a character standpoint, and it’s really fulfilling to watch this cast at work. So having everyone back for the sequel was even more important than it would be for your average film series. The only conspicuous absence in the film is that of William Atherton, who played Walter Peck. Jack Hardemeyer, played by Kurt Fuller, is an obvious stand-in for Peck.

2. Vigo the Carpathian
Gozer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man were a tough act to follow. But for my money, Vigo the Carpathian was a respectable second opponent for the boys in gray. He had that booming, commanding voice, and certainly his own share of quotable, demonic dialogue. (“On a mountain of skulls, in the castle of pain, I sat on a throne of blood.”) The factoring in of an innocent infant certainly earned him some extra villain points. The fact that he inhabits a painting also lends an ominous “Somebody’s watching me” vibe to him. He also cuts a pretty imposing figure, we learn when he finally steps out of the painting. I will say, however, that for such an imposing villain, Vigo went out like a chump. A crowd of people singing saps his energy to the point that he can’t hold his form outside the painting? Weeeeak. I guess that’s what he gets for investing in mood slime.

3. More Slime
With the line, “He slimed me,” Ghostbusters forever turned the word slime into a verb. And to be certain, Ghostbusters II had no shortage of “ectoplasmic residue.” But the film not only upped the slime quotient by about a thousand, it actually turns it into a plot device. The villainous Vigo draws his strength from a river of slime flowing (and growing) underneath New York City, generated by the massive amount of negative energy coming from the populace. The sight of all that slime flowing in one place is insane as it is. But then Ray, Egon, and Winston actually end up in the river, drifting through the sewers in a mess of liquefied hate. It was interesting to see not only the emotional effect the slime subsequently had on them, but some of the comedy that ensued in the subsequent restaurant scene. Interestingly enough, they actually expand on the origins of the “mood slime” in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Yet another reason to pick that sucker up.

4. Things Haven’t Gone Well
This one is a bit of a double-edged sword, as it reverts the Ghostbusters back to the down on their luck schmucks they were the first time around, which contributes to the film feeling like a rehash of the original. It also seems a bit far-fetched that the boys would be regarded as “two-bit frauds and publicity hounds” after a giant marshmallow man was walking down the street just five years earlier. Still, I like the idea that the boys in gray were taken down not by a ghostly enemy, but by law suits brought on by the property damage that occurred during the fight with Gozer. It’s also interesting to see what they do once they’re legally prohibited from being Ghostbusters. Egon gets a university job, Ray opens an occult-themed bookstore (while taking on the occasional entertainment gig at kids’ birthday parties), and Venkman actually becomes a television host, which harkens back to a line Dana had in the original movie. The whole comeback element added to the notion that the Ghostbusters weren’t superheroes, but more or less ordinary guys taking on an extraordinary task.

5. It’s Scarier Than the Original…
Obviously Ghostbusters II wasn’t the ground-breaking, cultural milestone its predecessor was. But it is significantly scarier than the original. As an adult you can appreciate that, especially nowadays when everybody wants a “dark” tone. But as a young kid, parts of Ghostbusters II scared the crap out of me. Vigo was scary, of course. But the freak-out factor doesn’t really kick into high gear until we get to the second half of the movie. There’s a particularly frightening moment where Ray, Egon, and Winston are walking through that underground tunnel, and suddenly they find themselves surrounded by corpse heads mounted on spikes! The “ghosts wreaking havoc” montage is also scarier this time around. It takes place at night, which changes the entire feel of it. But the various ghostly elements we see (a mink coat screeching and coming to life, the slime oozing up from the sewers, the Titanic arriving in New York) all range from legitimately alarming to simply creepy. The score, composed by Randy Edelman, also gave the film a much more ominous, spooky feel. But of course, this added scariness made the Ghostbusters look all the more heroic when they triumphed at the end.

6. …But Still Funny
Again, while it’s not its predecessor, Ghostbusters II is a funny freakin’ flick. It’s got that quotable quality to it that so many great comedies do. Naturally, much of this comes from Bill Murray. But Rick Moranis is also in top form here, nervously rattling off legal jargon with that great wide-eyed enthusiasm he bought to Louis Tully. That character benefitted tremendously from being pulled further into the actual Ghostbusters business, because he now has a whole litany of things to be awkward and weird about. He’s like the C-3PO of the Ghostbusters world. All in all, while the finished product didn’t turn out as well, the comedic spirit (no pun intended) of the original remained intact. And we owe that not just to the original cast members, but to a new addition…

7. Peter MacNicol as Janosz Poha
Peter MacNicol ran with this Janosz Poha character, who acts as Vigo the Carpathian’s henchman, and essentially liaison to the human world while he remains in the painting. MacNicol is a more than worthy addition to the Ghostbusters cast. He’s hilariously high-strung, yet delightfully weaselish when he’s either communicating with or doing the bidding of his ghostly master. But at the same time, oddly enough, he seems to have good intentions in terms of Dana Barrett. While he most certainly comes off as creepy when they interact, he doesn’t seem to want to hurt her. Even after he friggin’ kidnaps baby Oscar off the ledge of her apartment building, he seems to want to let Dana in on his scheme with Vigo, as opposed to victimizing her: ”There are many perks to being the mother of a living god. I’m sure we could get a magnificent apartment, car, free parking…” And of course, in the end, he turns out not to be such a bad guy after all.

8. Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver
When I was in college, I wanted more than anything to be Peter Venkman. He was a goof, and completely the opposite of what Dana Barrett would traditionally go for. But being his coy, and somehow charming self, he found his way into her heart. Granted, that works out much better in the movies than real life. But Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver just had that perfect chemistry, which made it believable. It’s great to see them back together in Ghostbusters II, with the addition of baby Oscar to add a new dimension to the relationship. Seeing Murray interact with the baby is actually pretty amusing. I’d like to think being reunited by yet another crazy paranormal ordeal finally got these two to stay together. But alas, in both Ghostbusters: The Video Game and the current IDW comic book series (which are both canon as far as I’m concerned), Dana is absent. She’s mentioned in both, but apparently she and Venkman still couldn’t make it work. Ugh. Happiness is right in front of you, kids. It’s right in front of you…

9. The Soundtrack
Am I a big enough Ghostbusters geek to have both soundtracks on my iPod? Why yes, I am. While the original soundtrack produced the iconic and forever catchy “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr., the soundtrack for Ghostbusters II is by and large the more fun album to listen to. We get a double dose of Bobby Brown with “On Our Own” (my personal favorite song on the album) and “We’re Back,” and Brown was even given a cameo in the movie as a doorman who asks Ray and Egon about getting a proton pack. We also hear from Run-DMC with “Ghostbusters,” and even Elton John with “Love is a Cannibal.” It’s a lot of fun, to be sure.

10. Minimal Slimer
Originally, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman were allegedly against the idea of a sequel to Ghostbusters. But Columbia Pictures pushed for one based on the success of the first film, combined with that of the cartoon show, The Real Ghostbusters. And of course, a big part of the success of the cartoon was Slimer, who acted as a sort of ghostly mascot for the team. Slimer became so popular with kids that in the show’s third season, it was actually reformatted under the name Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters. Now with a one-hour timeslot, half the broadcast would be fully devoted to Slimer and his offbeat shenanigans, and the other half to the Ghostbusters.

Full disclosure: I hate the cartoon version of Slimer. I get that he’s an iconic part of the Ghostbusters franchise, but his shrill, high-pitched nonsensical dialogue always annoyed the hell out of me, and I came to resent him for drawing the focus away from the boys in gray. Long story short, Slimer ruined The Real Ghostbusters for me the way Jar Jar Binks ruined The Phantom Menace for so many Star Wars fans.

And in truth, since The Real Ghostbusters played such a big part in the push for a sequel to Ghostbusters, it would have been pretty easy for Aykroyd, Ramis, and everybody else involved in the creative process to succumb to what I imagine was a decent amount of pressure from Columbia to feature Slimer in a more prominent role, and make the movie more like the cartoon. For instance, Slimer could have gotten inside the museum at the end somehow, and slimed Ray, knocking him out of Vigo’s weird trance, and allowing the Ghostbusters to finish him off. Thankfully, we got none of that.

In Ghostbusters II, Slimer acts as a foil for Louis, apparently having decided to haunt the firehouse. In the movie, we see a brief clip of Slimer scarfing down Louis’ lunch, and then later Slimer is a bus driver for some reason, and ends up driving Louis (who by this point is in Ghostbuster gear) to the museum. I’d say those two bits sufficiently met my Slimer quotient. But apparently, the Slimer/Louis saga was supposed to have been much longer. The above photo of Louis catching the onionhead isn’t from a scene in the film, which suggests it’s from a deleted scene. There’s also footage and images that exist of Louis wearing a proton pack, trying to blast Slimer in the firehouse, almost hitting Janine in the process. During this scene, Louis apparently uses a bicycle mirror to spot Slimer, and while the scene itself didn’t make the final cut, that shot with the mirror was used during the end credits montage. All in all, while the ghosthead in me would love to see this stuff in the deleted scenes portion of a Blu-ray, I’m grateful it got left out of the finished movie.

Front page image from sharethefiles.us. Image 1 from drafthouse.com. Image 2 from jeffpearlman.com. Image 3 from pressthebuttons.typepad.com. Image 4 from ghostbusters.wikia.com. Image 5 from findery.com. Image 6 from gbfans.com. Image 7 from denofgeek.com. Image 8 from movies.yahoo.com. Image 9 from screeninsults.com. Image 10 from backgroundartists.tumblr.com. Image 11 from cinemablend.com. Image 12 from basementrejects.com. 

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WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As many of us know, each year Barbara Walters publishes a list of her “most fascinating people” from the previous 12 months. This year, her list included Miley Cyrus, the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame, Pope Francis, and Hilary Clinton.

But you know what? None of those folks interest me at all. What can I say? Babs and I must have opposing tastes. I’m a man who loves his comic books, his movies, and of course, his pro wrestling. And for my money, the most fascinating pro wrestling fan be found on WWE television. And now, as I did last year, it’s time for me to put my own spin on Walters’ list.

Ladies, gentlemen, and “smarks,” Primary Ignition now presents: WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013!

1. Dolph Ziggler
At this time last year, Dolph Ziggler seemed to be on the verge of true superstardom, and justifiably so. He’s ultra-athletic, has tremendous charisma, and at least half the time will give you the best match on the card. In many ways he’s comparable to Shawn Michaels, which I think is one of the highest compliments one can give to a wrestler. The night after Wrestlemania XXIX, Ziggler had the night of his career when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and won the World Heavyweight Championship as the fans chanted his name. But unfortunately, things went steeply downhill from there. An injury threw a big wrench into Ziggler’s title run, and the belt quickly went back to Alberto Del Rio. From there, Ziggler spent the majority of 2013 jobbing to guys like Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, and Fandango. His rapid descent down the card has been downright depressing and simply begs the question: Why? Why bury such an A+ talent? Rumors have surfaced Ziggler’s backstage attitude, and his perceived drawing power. Either way, Ziggler is in a much different place this year than he was last year. I’m hopeful, but also wary about where he’ll be at this time next year.

2. AJ Lee
In 2013, AJ Lee finally rose to her rightful place at the head of WWE’s otherwise lackluster divas division, and while her caliber of opponents have left much to be desired, Lee herself continues to be interesting to watch. In addition to breaking WWE’s traditional Barbie doll/model mold for female wrestlers, she seems to have gotten much more confident on the mic this year. Case in point? Her “pipe bombshell” promo from August, in which she referred to the cast of Total Divas as “a bunch of ungrateful, stiff, plastic mannequins,” and alluded to how the Bella Twins sucked up to the right people.” Moments like that, combined with her unique look, and apparently her sense of style, give AJ a special connection with both male and female fans. Plus, occasionally she’ll do something that will occasionally make me go: “Maybe she really does a little crazy in her.” Prior to this month, I had no idea who Michelle Beadle was. But apparently she and AJ had a heated moment when Beadle supposedly dissed CM Punk, Lee’s real-life boyfriend. Either way, AJ continues to be the most compelling female performer WWE, and perhaps mainstream wrestling itself, has seen in years.

3. Darren Young
This past August, Darren Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, became the first active WWE wrestler to publicly come out of the closet. This seemingly happened on a whim when TMZ interviewed him at an airport. WWE handled this in what I deem to be a fairly tasteful manner. WWE.com reported on it, and the company made a point to circulate supportive quotes from other wrestlers. Young also took to the talk show circuit, appearing with the likes of Matt Lauer and Ellen DeGeneres. Thus, the company’s certainly milked Rosser’s revelation for positive publicity. But in terms of his role on-screen as Darren Young, very little has changed. He and Titus O’Neil have turned babyface as the Prime Time Players. But that’s essentially it, and one could argue that was in the cards anyway. To my knowledge, WWE never actually spoke about Rosser’s revelation on Raw, Smackdown, or any other in-character platform. What’s more, as far as I can see, Darren Young hasn’t gotten any kind of hateful backlash from fans who aren’t necessarily on board with homosexuals, the gay agenda, etc. As a fan, I was proud of WWE for not using this aspect of Rosser’s personal life as part of a tasteless storyline, proud of the fans for being mostly respectful of who this man is, and proud of Rosser for not being brave enough to put himself out there despite the risks that may have been present. Now if only the Prime Time Players could get a decent push…

4. Zeb Colter
The initial appearance of Wayne Keown (or as he’s more commonly known, Dutch Mantell) the February 11 edition of Raw as Jack Swagger’s new manager Zeb Colter came as a pleasant surprise to me. If there’s ever been a wrestler who needs a mouthpiece, it’s Jack Swagger. And Colter proved to be the perfect addition to his presentation, with his tirades about true patriotism, protecting America’s borders from illegal immigrants, and what this country has been “reduced to.” He turned Swagger’s program with Alberto Del Rio into one worthy of Wrestlemania XXIX. The passion and believability he delivered his promos with is something we don’t see nearly enough of from today’s crop of wrestlers. To the WWE publicity machine’s delight, the character even caught the attention of conservative pundit Glenn Beck. When Swagger was subsequently arrested for marijuana possession, his role was downgraded we didn’t see quite as much of Zeb. But when Swagger was teamed with Antonio Cesaro to form the Real Americans, Zeb’s promos became a more regular fixture on WWE TV, and we’ve reached the point where the “smarks” are even chanting “We the People!” along with him. His work (as well Paul Heyman’s) serves as proof that a manager/mouthpiece can still be a vital part of a wrestling program in the 21st century.

5. The Bella Twins
The Bellas are indeed fascinating, though not necessarily for good reasons. Nikki and Brie returned to WWE this past March, just in time to film Total Divas, a reality show on the E! network which follows a handful of female wrestlers. Nikki and Brie were front and center, as for the first time, it was acknowledged on WWE programming that Nikki was dating John Cena, and Brie was dating Daniel Bryan. As such, much of the show revolved around those two relationships. Nikki dealt with Cena’s reluctance to get married and start a family, while on the flip side, Brie and Bryan ended up engaged by the season finale. Surprisingly, the things that played out on Total Divas didn’t necessarily impact WWE’s ongoing storylines very much. However, during Bryan’s WWE Title program with Randy Orton in the fall, Brie was brought in to play the worried girlfriend, and we all cringed at the twins’ continued lack of acting talent. While Brie’s in-ring skills have indeed improved this year, the Bellas remain an instant cue for me to hit the fast-forward button on the DVR. And yet, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be gone any time soon, given their involvement with Cena and Bryan, not to mention the fact that WWE seems convinced we all want to see sexy twins wrestle every week. Sadly, the bloom was off that rose a long time ago. Clearly, the Bellas have a long way to go in terms of earning the respect of a lot of the “smart” wrestling fans. With luck, they’ll make more headway in 2014. But if they don’t, there’s always that fast-forward button.

6. CM Punk
When we kicked off 2013, CM Punk was still the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era, and the hottest heel the company had seen in years. After feuding with the Rock in January and February, he moved into a controversial program with the Undertaker, which culminated in a Wrestlemania match. From there, Punk had arguably gone as far as he could go as a heel, and really had no choice but to turn babyface. It’s been really interesting to see Punk turn his self-entitled narcissistic villain persona into a rebellious loose cannon character. Thankfully, Punk spent half the year working with Paul Heyman, one of the all-time great heel managers in wrestling, and the man who helped him generate much of his heat during his WWE Title run. While their rivalry might have run out of steam toward the end, they had a fantastic hero/villain dynamic. He’s been able to maintain that hero persona through brief programs with the Wyatt Family and the Shield. At this point, the only wrestler as universally cheered as Punk is Daniel Bryan. Given that he appears to be moving into some sort of program with Triple H and the Authority, the smart bet may be him winning the Royal Rumble and going on to main event Wrestlemania XXX. Given the way he’s shattered WWE’s glass ceiling and essentially made himself a marquee star these past few years, I’d say nobody (with Daniel Bryan being the only possible argument) deserves a Wrestlemania main event spot in 2014 more than CM Punk.

7. Paul Heyman
Heyman had a hell of a 2012, but somehow his 2013 was even better. To an extent, he’s actually taken on the role of a modern-day Bobby Heenan. During Wrestlemania season, he played a part in both the Undertaker/CM Punk and Triple H/Brock Lesnar programs, and got to walk both Lesnar and Punk to the ring at the big event. He also got to verbally joust with the likes of Vince McMahon, the Rock, Triple H, and of course, he got plenty of mic time with CM Punk once the two started their lengthy feud. Heyman was also given the task of helping elevate Curtis Axel, and later Ryback. Sadly, as was often the case with Heenan, Heyman ultimately wound up overshadowing both those men, particularly Axel. But regardless, no matter who he was working with, Paul Heyman almost always made for compelling television in 2013. Whether he was singing the praises of “Barrrrrrrrrrrrrock Lesnar,” planting a painfully awkward kiss on the cheek of Ryback, or taking a beating from Punk atop Hell in a Cell, Heyman was one of WWE’s most entertaining and captivating performers this year. And we can undoubtedly look forward to more of the same upon his return.

8. Curtis Axel
Fans who’d been following the career of Joe Henning (or as WWE fans came to know him, Michael McGillicuty) always knew him to be a solid in-ring performer. As the grandson of Larry “the Axe” Henning, and the son of Curt Henning, a.k.a. Mr. Perfect, he certainly has the business in his blood. Heck, he’d even been voted the 2008 Rookie of the Year by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. But despite his talents, he’d yet to really be given an opportunity at singles stardom. His hokey ring name certainly didn’t help matters, nor did what many might consider to be a lack of charisma and mic skills. But regardless, in 2013 Henning was repackaged as Curtis Axel, with the incomparable Paul Heyman as his new manager and mouthpiece. Less than a month later, WWE put the Intercontinental Championship on him, and seemed confident they had a new star on their hands. But as was the case with Dolph Ziggler, Axel’s 2013 sadly ended on a downer. Even with the Intercontinental Title, he wound up being more of a henchman for Heyman than anything else. At Night of Champions, Axel was teamed with Heyman in a 2-on-1 handicap match against CM Punk. The angle was booked so that Punk getting his hands on Heyman was a virtual certainty, as Axel had no chance of defeating Punk. Eventually, he dropped the IC Title to Big E. Langston, and was thrown into a tag team with Ryback. Joe Henning may have tremendous in-ring talent, but whatever potential star power he had may have ultimately been eclipsed by his manager’s rivalry with Punk.

9. Big E. Langston
Clearly, the WWE brass has faith in Big E. Langston, but I’m not sure I share that faith at this point. Langston started his year as a bodyguard for Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. It looked like an HBK/Diesel-type babyface turn was in the cards for him. But then Ziggler broke off from the trio, and the AJ/Langston pairing eventually fizzled out. From there, Langston abruptly turned babyface, and before long he found himself Intercontinental Champion. It all seems too much, too fast for my taste. I’d have liked to have seen Langston get more time to cook as a babyface before they put him in the spotlight the way he is now. His mic skills clearly need work, as is evidenced by his bland, white-meat performance on commentary in recent weeks. Still, Langston definitely has a great look, and he’s solid in the ring. He also seems to have a certain charisma bubbling underneath the surface that I’m very interested to see more of. As Triple H has said in the past, the wrestler makes the championship important, and not vice versa. I’ve got the impression that WWE put the title on Langston to give him a boost. But now it’s up to him to make the most of this opportunity, and elevate himself to that next level. I’m very curious to see whether he can do that in the early part of 2014.

10. Daniel Bryan
Following Wrestlemania XXVIII, fans were unrelenting with their “Yes!” chants, letting WWE know, in no uncertain terms, who they’d chosen as WWE’s next marquee star. In 2013, Daniel Bryan became that marquee star. Case in point? Earlier this month, WWE held a “championship ascension ceremony,” which centered around John Cena and Randy Orton’s match to unify the Heavyweight Championships at TLC. They were joined in the ring by the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, CM Punk, among numerous other Hall of Fame caliber stars. But who were the fans chanting for? Daniel Bryan. It got to the point where Triple H and John Cena actually had to shift their performances to acknowledge the chants, as they were drowning out the mic work. Granted, they were in Bryan’s home state of Washington. But I think it’s safe to say the Washington fans spoke for the WWE audience at large that night. Daniel Bryan, the 5’10 vegan indie darling with the scraggly beard, has surpassed our wildest expectations. Most “smart” fans knew he had the talent, but whether WWE would run with him was another story. But between the deafening chants from the fans, and the awesome performances he gave this year alongside the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and even midcard guys like Antonio Cesaro, Bryan cannot be denied. I maintain what I said earlier about CM Punk being the smart  bet to main event Wrestlemania XXX. But it’s practically a guarantee that Bryan will be in a marquee match. The only question is, who will stand across the ring from Bryan on the grandest stage of ‘em all? Triple H, I’m looking at you…

 Front page image and images 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10 from WWE.com. Image 3 from thegrio.com. Image 4 from sportskeeda.com. Image 5 from eonline.com. Image prowrestling.wikia.com. 

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Blatant Insubordination: Wonder Woman and the World’s Finest

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Yeesh, the stakes are just getting higher and higher for this Superman/Batman movie, aren’t they?

As you’ve likely heard by now, Gal Gadot has been added to 2015′s Superman/Batman movie as none other than Wonder Woman. Thus, this film will not only mark the character’s debut on the big screen, but it will be the first time DC’s “big three,” Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, appear together on the big screen.

No pressure, right?

Did we mention this movie has to follow The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And of course, the whole point of this film is to give Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment their own equivalent to the Avengers film franchise.

Oh, and let’s not forget the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman pissed off legions of fickle fanboys, who are going to need a hefty amount of quality thrown their way to curb their Batfleck cynicism.

Jeez, We’re a year and a half out, and I’m already having anxiety attacks for the poor suckers involved with this flick.

While I certainly won’t complain about Wonder Woman making her long overdue film debut, I’m skeptical as to what her role will be in a movie that’s supposedly going to be centered around Superman and Batman. When the film was originally announced, I assumed we’d get the Nolan/Snyder take on the traditional Superman-meets-Batman story of the last 25 years. You know, the one where our heroes meet, and initially they don’t take to one another (which in this movie’s case I suspect will result in a big fight), but eventually the threat posed by the villain forces them to put aside their differences and work together. In the end, both realize there’s room for the other’s brand of justice in the world. Thus, a team for the ages is born.

Granted, I’m acting like I know what this film is about before we even have an official title. But where does Wonder Woman fit into that equation? I’m not saying she can’t. I’m just wondering how we fit her into a scenario like that?

In 2008′s Justice League: The New Frontier Special one-shot, Darwyn Cooke gave us a short story in which Superman and Batman collide during an era in which all other superheroes have been forced into retirement. Wonder Woman ultimately stops the battle, convincing the two heroes that in such a tumultuous era, they should be putting their differences aside and working together against injustice. Cooke gave us a great pair of lines toward the end of the story: “For an Amazon, there is no greater deed than overcoming anger and conflict with love. To bring these two great men together has buoyed my spirit.” Would that sort of sentiment ever fly in a modern superhero movie, where everyone wants stuff to be “dark” and such? Probably not. But it would be a great way to bring DC’s big three together on the big screen.

But of course, that in itself brings up all sorts of questions. How much time do we spend establishing who Wonder Woman is? How much of her backstory do we dive into? Remember, this movie also needs to establish who Batman is in the world, as well as who our villain is. And who is our villain anyway? Lex Luthor? Brainiac? Darkseid? What about Zod with his head turned backward? Is that a possibility?

What concerns me about Wonder Woman being added to the mix here is that we’re moving too quickly to get the elements in place for a Justice League movie, in an attempt to catch up with the Avengers franchise. Considering the quality of build-up we got for The Avengers, not to mention some of the bad mojo DC has garnered itself on the film side of things (the relative failure of Green Lantern and Superman Returns, the largely divided reaction to Man of Steel, the inability to get Christian Bale back, the Affleck factor), not to mention some of the bad karma the company has build up on the print side of things, and I’ve just got a really uneasy feeling about all of this.

Could this all still work? Hell yes it could. But as much as I hate to say it, I just don’t have the faith in DC that I do in Marvel these days. That’s true for both the print and cinematic ends of the spectrum…

Good luck, Wondie. We’re rootin’ for ya.

Front page image from dccomics.com. Image 1 from collider.com. Image 2 from incognitomoustache.tumblr.com. Image 3 mashable.com. 

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Blatant Insubordination: Batfleck? Is That What We’re Calling Him Now?

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So, seen any good memes lately?

Like a lot of fans, I was floored when I saw the news that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman in 2015′s Superman/Batman film. We’d heard rumors about a half dozen other actors, including Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin, but Affleck’s name wasn’t a mainstay in any of the conversations. If anything, Affleck’s name was likely brought up as a joke. He was, after all, the star of Fox’s underwhelming Daredevil film. And there was a time when Affleck was something of a Hollywood punch line, appearing in flop after flop after flop. Cinematic disasterpieces like Pearl HarborGigli, and Surviving Christmas. So it’s an incredible shock to see that Ben Affleck’s comeback has seen him not only win another Academy Award, but get one of the most iconic parts in American cinema. Even if you don’t like him, you’ve got to at least tip your hat to him. He’s risen from the ashes like a damn phoenix.

And yes, let’s all make the Matt Damon as Robin joke. Are people making Jennifer Garner/Catwoman jokes, too? Let’s throw one in just to be safe.

All jests aside, this announcement was met with more than it’s share of jeers from fans, which isn’t even remotely surprising. There’s even an online petition demanding the actor’s removal, with more than 36,000 signatures. Affleck’s history aside, whoever got the role was destined to be met with a mountain of skepticism, criticism, and even outrage. And who do we blame for that? Christian Bale, of course. His often over-the-top hoarse delivery aside, he’s established himself as the quintessential cinematic Batman of the 21st century. Between his look and his acting chops, he was everything you could want in a Batman actor. And he lived up to the hype. Heck, rumor has it he was being lined up for a $50 million payday to play the role one more time. How does any actor follow that kind of reception?

I know some are crying foul because Joseph Gordon-Levitt won’t ever get to suit up as the Dark Knight. The whole Nolanverse, as great as it was, is now essentially null and void from a continuity perspective. As a fan, that’s frustrating. We’ve heard all this talk about Warner Bros. using Man of Steel to launch a DC Comics cinematic universe, just as Marvel has done with its movies. But I think the majority of fans would tell you the Nolanverse was the ideal DC cinematic universe, and there’s not necessarily a need to create another one, because we had a perfectly good one already. Let’s also not forget that the Superman/Batman film is being co-written by David Goyer, who had a hand in writing all of Nolan’s Batman movies, as well as Man of Steel.

There is a caveat there, of course. Nolan and Goyer wrote themselves into a corner with The Dark Knight Rises. They inexplicably set the film eight years after The Dark Knight, and of course, they had Bruce Wayne retire. So if a Superman/Batman movie were to be set in the Nolanverse, we’d likely have to go to the trouble of pulling Bruce out of retirement, which might needlessly hold up the proceedings. Yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have made a fine Batman. But from a marketing and publicity standpoint, it’s ideal to have Bruce Wayne in the cowl. Especially since this is the first time Superman and Batman will be together on the big screen.

So if we can’t have Christian Bale, then we need a new Batman. Ergo, Ben Affleck.

Let’s not kid ourselves, here. Ben Affleck is entirely capable of playing a superhero role. Daredevil had it’s share of issues, but I didn’t have any problems with Affleck’s suitability for the Matt Murdock role. He certainly didn’t look out of place in a dark superhero movie. But I think what has people up in arms about the Batman announcement is the question of whether Affleck has the acting chops to portray a character as haunted as Bruce Wayne. His Matt Murdock certainly had some of those qualities, but Batman takes brooding to a another level entirely. Even casual fans are expecting that kind of character. So Affleck may have his work cut out for him. And you’ve got to believe he knows that. I’m sure he’s well aware of what his reputation is among fanboys, and that he’s going to have to move mountains to win their approval.

And as if that weren’t enough, there’s a lot, a lot, a LOT of money riding on this thing. Man of Steel laid the foundation for a DC cinematic universe, and now it’s this movie’s job to actually get the damn thing going. Even moreso than Man of Steel, the success or failure of the Superman/Batman movie is going to make or break Warner Bros. and DC’s ability to get more movies off the ground. What’s more, it’ll have a tremendous impact on the global perception of their brand, and their ability to compete with Marvel. And that’s to say nothing of the sky-high fan expectations for the film overall. Ergo, Affleck is arguably in a more difficult position than any other new Batman actor has ever been. A disappointing performance here would result in the disappointment (and even the downright rage) of millions of fans, and the loss of BILLIONS of dollars in future superhero movie revenue. Yeesh. Talk about pressure…

But all hope is not lost. One thing that’s definitely worth noting is that these Batman movies tend to bring out certain sides of actors that we never knew existed. Michael Keaton seems to be the apropos example to make at this point. When he was chosen for the title role in Tim Burton’s Batman, a lot of fans either scratched their heads or cried foul. Remember, at that point he was best known for his role in comedic films like Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. But of course, he turned out to be perfect for the role. Some fans still consider him to be the best cinematic Dark Knight of them all.

And then there’s Heath Ledger, who won a friggin’ Academy Award for his performance as the Joker. But when fans learned he’d been cast, there was no shortage of outrage. Newsarama actually just posted an article, title Public Service Reminder: How the Internet Reacted to Heath Ledger as Joker Casting. It’s a great read if you’re looking for some perspective on all of this.

Interestingly enough, it was reported awhile back that director Zack Snyder was meeting with Frank Miller to talk about this movie. And when the film was announced last month, a passage was read from The Dark Knight Returns. This has lead to the speculation that an older Batman will be gracing the screen in 2015. As of this writing, Henry Cavill is 30, and Ben Affleck is 41. I wouldn’t read too much into that at this point, as Affleck is certainly capable of playing younger. But it is worth noting.

So what else is there to say at this point? Eh, not much really. To our knowledge, they haven’t shot a single frame of footage yet. But we do know this team produced a pretty good Superman movie, and that Cavill has a solid footing in the role. We know David Goyer’s track record with comic book movies is good, Blade: Trinity notwithstanding. And we know that Affleck, regardess of what people say about him, is a good actor. So while the stakes are high, there are definitely circumstances leaning in his favor.

Sadly, the only thing we can do now is wait for 2015. Or at the very least, a trailer.

Front page image from hollywoodreporter.com. Images 1 and 4 from mashable.com. Image 2 from facebook.com/comics.xaminer. Image 3 from ushumor.com. 

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