Four superheroes and villains we’d love to see in live-action movies
With an arsenal of Batman and Superman films, and a flick about Green Lantern that might see some sequels, it’s only a matter of time before we get a movie about the warrior princess of the Amazons. Let’s just hope the character gets drawn up with a little more taste than the failed 2011 pilot for NBC.
One of the few (and only?) elderly female characters in the Marvel universe to maintain some kind of power, Madame Web is a telepathic, clairvoyant, and precognitive mutant. The grandmother of the fourth Spider-Woman, Charlotte Witter, Web is one of the most enigmatic and interesting characters in the Spider-Man comic book series. Considering that she’s paralyzed and blind, she might not make for the best character to cast in a title role, but it might be cool to see her play a supporting role confusing Spider-Man with some cryptic messages about the future.
Maybe when Fox is done pumping money out of the success of X-Men: First Class (First Class has been envisioned as the first film in a new trilogy, with Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer confirmed to return to direct and produce the first sequel), it can focus its energies on the alternate future timeline that comes to collide with that of the X-Men we’ve already seen on the big screen. With that alternate future, Bishop is a harbinger of some substantial struggle, which the X-Men living in the regular timeline arguably could have foregone, so an appearance from the character could make for some great inner conflict amongst Xavier’s team.
A former businessman that loathed Bruce Wayne and his father, after he was forced to give up his company to Wayne Enterprises, Roman Sionis adopted his new identity as the crime lord Black Mask and assembled dozens of criminals into what he referred to as the False Face Society. Even forced by his parents to become friends with Bruce as a child, Sionis’s history with Wayne would make for undeniable plot fodder in a future Batman film.
Queering comic books
It may be alarming to find out that, until 1988, the depiction of homosexuals in North American comic books was strictly forbidden. Fortunately, since that time, many comic books, mainstream and alternative, have– to varying degrees and to various responses– begun to work queer characters into their comics.
Perhaps one of the most well known incidence of this was in 2001, when the Green Lantern introduced an out central character. Green Lantern further treaded new ground by having a two-part series depicting antigay violence on an out character, and the effects of that. In support of the character, the Green Lantern says that homosexuality is not a sin.
While this was a big step, it was met by an outpouring of readers expressing their distaste of issues of the LGBT community being expressed in the comic.
The instance is notable also because it is such a rare occurrence.
“At least as far as mainstream superhero stuff goes, it’s very controlled and very rare to see something there,” said Chris Butcher, the manager of the Beguiling, a comic book store in Toronto with a prominent collection of queer comics, something which Butcher says the store has long supported. “Superheroes participate in their way, but there are a ton of queer readers and they want to see their lives reflected in the material they read.”
But while there are pushes to include more queer topics and characters, and progress has been made since the late ‘80s, it is still something which could use some more work.
“There’s a lot of pressure on superhero publishers to represent them,” Butcher continued. “That’s great and they should keep that pressure up for sure, but ultimately I think superhero publishers see their audience as straight white men and anything outside of that is going to be very special […] Until the heads of those publishers change, I don’t think it’s going to change.”
Brian Andersen is a queer comic book writer who works out of California. Many of his books focus on queer characters and deal with themes of interest or importance to the queer community. Part of Andersen’s work does include creating superhero comics which address queer themes which many major publishers ignore.
“My goal has always been to create superhero-ish themed comic books that anyone could pick up and enjoy, whether you’re LGBT, straight, adult, young, fat, skinny, old, questioning, or a creature from a neighboring solar system,” he said. “It’s extremely important for me to have queer themes in my work. And not just queer themes but positive queer themes,” he said. “And on top of positive queer themes I strive to have out, proud, happy, queer characters who are the main stars in my books.”
If queer comics are your bag, or something you want to find out more about, this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival is going to have a strong focus on queer comics and queer comic book creators. Check out torontocomics.com for more info.
Females in comics: super sexy or just super sexist?
Female portrayal in comics has always been a hotly debated topic. With the Avengers movie coming out there seems to be one question in particular floating around: what is the purpose of Scarlett Johansson’s character Black Widow, if not just eye candy?
The bigger issue here though seems to be the explicit objectification and violence against female comic characters. Whether it’s Batwoman being shot in the spine, or the “boob windows” on female superhero and villain costumes, it seems that women just can’t escape the male gaze.
Kelsi Morris a fourth year University of Guelph student suggests that the problem may stems from a lack of female writers and artists in the comic community.
“I’ve heard it said that the worst enemy of women in comics is bad writing,” said Allanah Vokes, a second year U of G comic fan. “Wonder Woman is a good example of that.”
Vokes explained that Wonder Women is one of the many female characters who exist on Women in Refrigerators, a website created by Gail Simone, one of Wonder Woman’s writers.
“[Women in Refrigerators] is pretty much a list of all the women in comics who have been treated poorly and it’s really mindboggling how many female characters have had some thing terrible happen to them,” said Vokes. “Not to say that male characters don’t have that, but they tend to spring back a lot faster. “
While few improvements have been made to Wonder Woman, Vokes’ favourite character, Batwoman has been making progress.
“Batwoman is the only character that is both intense and really well written. She was originally just a love interest of Batman back in the 60s and 70s, and then when [DC] rebooted they completely changed her character. So now she’s a lesbian and she has an awesome back story.”
Vokes attributes this to the current writer of Batwoman, J.H Williams III, whose illustrations are actually properly proportioned– there’s no exaggeration of T&A.
Though this seems to be an improvement, there is also the argument that making Batwoman a lesbian could be seen as another one of DC’s ploys to eroticize female characters in order to appeal to the young male demographic.
Not only have females been poorly represented in comics and graphic novels but there also exists a stigmatism surrounding women who read comics.
“Whenever I tell someone I like Batman they assume I’m talking about the movies, or if I tell them I like comics they either don’t believe me or they think I’m saying it just to be more appealing,” said Morris.
Though Vokes commented that her experiences at The Dragon (a comic store in Guelph) have always been positive ones, Morris was subjected to a less-than-friendly experience.
“I was looking for a specific volume of The Flash, and I couldn’t find it so I asked [one of the female managers at The Dragon] to order it in for me. When they called me to pick it up it was a different guy and he didn’t believe it was for me,” said Morris. “He thought I was buying it for someone else, and asked if I was buying it for my boyfriend and then proceeded to quiz me about my knowledge of The Flash.”
Morris attributes this attitude to the content of the very comics she enjoys.
“I think this stems from what [male readers] are seeing in the material and how women are treated in comics,” said Morris. “I don’t even think it’s really recognized as a problem.”
One thing is for certain, if the comic book community wants to attract a larger female readership they’re going to have to make some changes to the way they treat women in their comics.
The comic book’s endurance
Old as they are– we’re only a couple decades away from most of our comic book favourites turning 100– superhero comics are enduringly popular. At its core, the concept behind them has changed startlingly little in the past 70-odd years. While themes, characters and styles all change and evolve, they are still the same size and about the same thing: action, mystery, super powers, heroes and villains. Despite that they are so reliably similar, there are a few ways in which comic books– specifically mainstream superhero comic books– are getting back on people’s radars.
For starters, there is the ongoing popularity of film adaptations of comic books. Despite the fact that almost every major comic book franchise has been produced (with the notable exception of Wonder Woman) we still have so much more to look forward to. In addition to the upcoming Avengers film (which features the third actor portraying the Hulk in a decade), we have a reboot of both Superman and Spider-Man to look forward to– the second iteration of both in a decade– as well as more in the second X-Men franchise. Superhero movies are so popular and so profitable that, when you exhaust your ideas with one franchise, you just hire new people and start again.
DC Comics is also a big fan of starting again. In 2011, they made headlines by announcing that all of their then-current serials would end, with 52 titles (“The New 52”) taking their place. They included all of their most popular characters– Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, to name a few– and even restarted original titles like Action Comics and Detective Comics which had restarted their numbering since their inceptions in the 1930s. It’s a fresh start for DC, and was a great move in getting new people to start reading their comics. You can just jump right in at the new #1s and be up to date.
Last is the new AMC show Comic Book Men, produced by Kevin Smith. The show, which is currently in its first season, is a reality show that follows the daily workings of a comic book store in New Jersey. Comic store employees don’t have the best reputation, but Comic Book Men makes them a bit more likeable and relatable.
The science of superpowers
Scientific assessments of Spider-Man and the Flash
While patently indicative of faculties that are beyond our grasp, superpowers are often presented to us as exhibited by characters that we are intended to imagine could exist in the same world as our own. As a consequence, superpowers have to make sense. We need to be able to relate superpowers back to the scientific conditions of our own world in order to entertain the characters that exhibit them.
The Flash’s legwork
According to some work by Jim Kakalios, a University of Minnesota physics professor that served as a scientific consultant for the upcoming film The Amazing Spider-Man, the Flash would have to consume 150 million cheeseburgers in order to run at the speed of light, or 300,000 km per second. Concerned by the fact that the faster we run, the more oxygen we need to breathe in order to convert sugars and carbs into energy, a student of Kakaalios analyzed whether or not Flash would use all the Earth’s oxygen attempting to do so, ultimately finding that the Flash could run for at the speed of light for two million years before using it all up. But it is important to note that Kakalios and his student’s work were based on the realities experienced by standard human beings. Perhaps Flash has a lesser-known superpower that allows him to maximize his body’s intake of calories and oxygen that allows him to sustain a regular human diet and intake of oxygen. Who knows.
Inspired by Spider-Man’s ability to traverse Manhattan blocks at a time, in a heavily math-laden academic journal titled “How Does Spider-Man Move So Fast,” Ben Tippett analyzed the elasticity of Spider-Man’s webbing fiber in 2010.
Tippett’s findings showed that if Spider-Man’s webbing maintained a constant length throughout the duration of a swing, his average horizontal velocity would not be enough to justify his decision to forego taking a cab or the subway.
He ascertains that Spider-Man clearly uses the elastic properties of his webbing to achieve a higher average velocity. From this information, he is able to project that Spider-Man’s web filaments must immediately constrict upon tethering to a surface, and that in order to do so, the webbing must start out as some variation of a stretched spring. Furthermore, this must require some rapid chemical reaction to occur upon emerging from Spiderman’s web shooters (or wrists, depending on what school you follow).
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