Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon

My relationship with Wonder Woman since beginning “the shelf” has always had its ups and downs (downs more than anything).  With Greg Rucka’s run on the title, I’ve faced plenty of peaks and valleys, with me tearing apart the story at first, then coming to appreciate it much more.  With this latest trade, I still view the series more favorably than at other times in the past, but my positive view of the character and the world she inhabits has been dimmed somewhat.

Picking up where Bitter Rivals left off, this story sees Wonder Woman contending with the reappearance of Medusa, who has decided to take out her anger at the Gods on Athena’s champion.  Medusa appears at a state function, turns a young boy to stone, and disappears before Diana can stop her.

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Later, Medusa invokes Ares to challenge Diana to a battle to the death, with the world watching on live television.  It’s a hard-fought battle, especially considering Wonder Woman can’t look directly at Medusa.  Diana’s losing badly, but she eventually makes a sacrifice to allow her to more affectively battle the Gorgon.

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Diana grabs one of Medusa’s severed snakes and squirts the venom into her eyes, blinding herself so that she no longer needs to fear a direct gaze.  Somehow this gives Diana an edge (I would think being blind would be a hindrance, but whatever) and she manages to behead Medusa, killing her once again.

Although exciting, this is only the first act.  The latter half of the story sees Diana pitted against Zeus’s hundred-armed guard, as Athena attempts to usurp the throne from her father.  Seemingly grudgingly, Diana battles the creature.  Even though she’s blind, she holds her own, and makes use of the Gorgon’s head in a well-planned attack.

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Zeus’s champion is turned to stone, and Athena ascends the throne as Olympus’s new ruler.  She offers Diana a reward, but the only thing Diana wants is to bring back the young boy who lost his life.  Athena cannot grant this wish, and so Diana leaves with nothing (though why she wouldn’t just ask for her sight to be restored is again, beyond me).

I enjoyed the first half of the comic, but the latter part felt a little hollow.  Wonder Woman is nothing more than a pawn in the battle of the Gods, and this is a common trope that I’m tired of reading about.  Diana’s one of the Trinity, and one of the longest-running superheros of all time, and yet she leads a much more subservient life than any of her compatriots.  Superman and Batman don’t repeatedly answer to a higher power; they are trusted to make their own decisions, and take responsibility for the world around them.  Diana merely followed Athena’s instructions, and I finished the comic feeling quite unsatisfied.

Whenever I read a Wonder Woman comic, I end up going off on a diatribe about the depiction of female superheroes in comics and how they tend to fall short of hteir male counterparts.  The idea of a champion serving the Greek Gods isn’t bad; on the contrary, there’s plenty there for interesting storylines.  It also doesn’t bother me that this main character is a female.  In my mind, the more female superheroes, the better.  What bothers me is that Wonder Woman is the most recognized female superhero, and one of the most enduring of all time.  Despite this, she still remains subservient to others.  Gods or not, why does the biggest female superhero role model have to answer to a higher power?  Her male counterparts don’t face such restrictions, and it manages to covertly suggest that Diana is weaker than those around her.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really want to love Wonder Woman. I do.  I’m just finding it difficult based on some of her comics.  She’s too passive, too far removed from the world around her.  There are certain aspects of her personality that I find really appealing, but overall there’s just a solid sense of self missing, and it’s keeping me from truly becoming invested in her story.

-Jess

Deadshot: Bulletproof

Deadshot comics always surprise me.  Here’s a character who pops up sporadically on “the shelf”.  Every time he does, I have to pause and remember exactly who he is and what his whole backstory entails.  Once I’ve found stable footing, I find myself being drawn into his comics more than I would ever have guessed.  Gun-for-hire doesn’t really scream out to be as a must-read story, and yet DeadshotBulletproof manages to be compelling while still staying true to the “take no prisoners” mentality of Floyd Lawton.

This trade collects a mini-series written in 2005, and while it doesn’t seem to directly tie in to other titles, it seems to be at the perfect place within continuity.  Lately the superhero comics have been more vague when addressing the concept of superheroes (think Identity Crisis), so it only makes sense that a Deadshot comic would touch on that subject from the other side.  Deadshot is often portrayed as a straight-up villain, taking contracts to murder people and not stopping until the job is done, never pausing to find out whether his target actually deserves to die.  For Floyd they’re marks, paychecks, and nothing more.

In Bulletproof, we get to see a softer side to the character…or rather, at least a sentimental side.  One would never really label Deadshot as being soft.

As the story opens, Floyd learns that his parents are dead, and receives a few documents that were left to him.  One contains a letter from a woman who believes Floyd is the father to her daughter, Zoe.

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Given the devasting way in which he lost his son years prior, it made perfect sense that Floyd would seek out this child and want to offer help.  In his mind, that help comes in the form of cash, but his ex is too prideful to take the money.

As he goes to leave, Floyd looks around The Triangle, the neighborhood in which she lives, and realizes it is a slum in every sense.  There are numerous gang factions fighting for territory, drugs, guns – all around, it’s not a safe place for a child.  Floyd decides to stick around for a while and makes it his personal mission to clean up The Triangle and make it safe once more.

Of course, this is Deadshot…so his method of stopping crime is to pull out his guns and shoot anyone who’s up to no good.  It’s not exactly the most P.C. method of dispelling crime, but at least in this instance, it winds up being pretty effective.

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The gangs he’s forced out of the territory don’t take too kindly to the imposition though, and although they try repeatedly to put an end to Deadshot’s control, they all fail miserably.  Deadshot takes out anyone who tries to stop him.

As all of the fighting is taking place, Floyd and his ex (who, by the way, is inexplicably never given a name within the whole mini-series even though she’s a major character.  Guess they were more focused on making sure you could see every line and curve on her body than bothering with a little detail like a name) grow closer, and begin a romance that forms a sort of family for them.  Problems arise with a familiar issue: she wants him to stop being Deadshot, he doesn’t know how to do anything else.  The arguments, at least, feel realistic enough, and add a further depth to the story.

We don’t get to see Deadshot interact much with his daughter (after all, he’s hardly a playful daddy) but I did love one image of him within the story.  Deadshot, master marksman and hired killer, is rendered absolutely terrified by one fact when he’s left to babysit his daughter: she’s awake.

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This made me smile, only because of course a cold-hearted killer would be terrified of the sweetest, most innocent little thing imaginable.

Their idylllic family life doesn’t last long, as the local thugs band together to hire a squadron of supervillains to deal with Deadshot.  In a rather epic final confrontation, a series of villains who have all worked with or faced Deadshot before unite to take him out.  Deadshot ends up with the upper hand and takes out his opponents, but seemingly at a high price.

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Of course, this is Floyd Lawton we’re talking about.  He’s not going to let a little old thing like a building exploding around him end his life.  He leaves his ex and daughter to believe he’s dead, but ensures that they’re financially taken care of.  He helped clean up their neighborhood, and helped provide a better life for Zoe in a big way.  The comic closes with Deadshot taking on another target, back to business as usual.

Overall this was a rather fun, self-contained story.  I liked learning that Floyd had another child, and enjoyed seeing him try to do right by her.  He may not win father of the year anytime soon, but at least he tried to give his daughter a safe, happy life, whether he’s a part of it or not.

It still irks me that Zoe’s mother is never given a name, especially since they had no problem depicting numerous scenes in strip clubs or referencing Floyd’s penchant for employing prostitutes. Clearly labeling her as a prostitute was more important than giving her a unique identifier. It felt like a rather large detail to omit, and could have easily been included somewhere within the story.

This detail aside, I liked the mini-series.  Stories such as this, where a single character is given a little more focus and detail, are always enjoyable, since we get to learn what really makes them tic, as well as what their weaknesses may be. Floyd is a much more likeable character when we realize how important family is to him.  This isn’t news, since Floyd has been concerned with his family’s well-being for a long time now, but seeing yet another example of his sentimental side endears the character to me so much more.  Maybe the details of this story play a larger part in the comics down the road, maybe not.  Either way,  I’ll be interested to read more about Floyd’s exploits, knowing the details of his life that I know now.

-Jess

Green Lantern: No Fear

 

 

 

 

It’s a pretty big deal when you bring a superhero back from the dead.

Sure, Hal Jordan wasn’t really gone as long as some characters, since he took the form of Parallax as well as The Spectre, but he hasn’t been a Green Lantern for a decade.

That’s an awful long time for people to forget who he really is, and what he’s capable of.  Kyle Rayner stepped up as a Green Lanter in his absense, and while Hal was a part of the comics mythos for so long, for many young readers, Kyle was the only Green Lantern they really knew. He was the hero they grew up with, and it’s entirely possible for them to identify more with Kyle than with Hal, a mythical figure whom they may only know as The Spectre.

This was no small feat then for Geoff Johns to undertake.  I already wrote about his deft handling of Hal’s return in Green Lantern: Rebirth.  This comic, though, would determine whether he could truly bring the character back from the dead.

To that, I’d say he’s done a more than fair job.

This comic is chock full of history and information, providing a great primer for readers who are unfamiliar with Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern, as well as giving older fans a refresher course on one of their beloved heroes.

Hal Jordan attempts to find his place in this world: trying to get a job as a pilot again, reconnecting with his brother, all while questioning what type of world he has returned to.

It’s a rather valid philosophical question, and speaks to the tone of the post-9/11 world we were living in at the time (and maybe still are).  Not only is this reference indicative of fear we felt in our daily lives, it also impresses upon the reader the fact that Hal Jordan (and all of the Green Lanterns) have noted a marked shift in how they must face fear.

For millennia, Green Lanterns were taught to have no fear. After battling Parallax, they have learned that they must acknowledge it, confront it, and overcome it.  Only then can they defeat fear (both metaphorically and in the very physical formof Parallax).  Johns managed to convey these messages without allowing the comic to devolve into a philosophical dissertation on the subject; the story is still there, it’s just peppered with deeper, more meaningful asides.

As the reader gets to know Hal Jordan again, they also get to know some of his foes.  Just as some readers may be unfamiliar with Hal, so too much they be unfamiliar with the Green Lantern Corps and what they represent.

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The comic provides a brief and succinct summary of the Manhunters, the race of robots created by the Oans prior to the establishment of the GL Corps.  As Hal faces off against a pair of these androids, one of them notes that he feels fear, right before his artificial life is terminated. Again, it’s a small inclusion, but it speaks to Johns’s skill as a writer, forcing us to consider the story below the surface while still providing a fun and entertaining romp.

Case in point: the inclusion of the genetically modified shark who attacks a pair of unsuspecting swimmers, giving us an image that feels reminiscent of any number of 1970’s B-movie horror films.

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This particular scene had no deeper meaning. Instead, we’re allowed to revel in the excitement of the action, while being granted a reprieve from the thoughtful introspection of our main character.

Johns clearly has a lot in store for Hal, as this trade only begins to set up a larger story.Hal converses with Hector Hammond, (mostly) safely locked away in Belle Reve.  Hammond informs him that there is an incredibly  well-developed race of aliens on earth, who have taken it upon themselves to use humans as guinea pigs for developing their own technology.

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These aliens are shown within the comic, albeit briefly, but clearly there’s a bigger story to be seen here.  Hal has only cracked the surface there, and there’s no doubt in my mind that future issues will delve deeper into who these beings are and what all they have planned for humans.

This comic serves as a great continuation of the Hal Jordan saga, introducing the character to new readers while reminding older fans why Hal is still considered the greatest Green Lantern to ever live.  Johns’s emphasis on the character’s history, while also creating a compelling and interesting new story for fans, creates the perfect balance for the comic. It’s still the same Hal Jordan, just placed in a modern context.  He’s cocky and fearless, yet incredibly well-respected.  The unification of old and new creates a thoroughly enjoyable comic experience, and quite frankly we couldn’t ask for much more out of his latest comic.

With humor, panache, and just a touch of newfound fear, Hal makes a triumphant return as Green Lantern, proving once again why he’s the best.

-Jess

Green Lantern: Rebirth

I’ll never understand comic book marketing.  I know they want to draw in readers, but they basically give away a comic’s entire plot, with overly detailed titles, cover images, or descriptions. I know this is a trade, and they’re perhaps assuming people read the individual issues already, but they do this when the issues are coming out as well.  A little teaser of what the comic is about is great, but I’d really like to be surprised every once in a while.

With Green Lantern: Rebirth, it seemed pretty clear what this comic had in store, even without reading the synopsis on the back cover.  Basically, Hal Jordan is feeling conflicted, at odds with his role as The Spectre, still looking for a way to redeem himself.  We get to see him catching up with fellow Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart, while Kyle Rayner has just returned from space bearing some rather ominous news, along with a rather morbid accessory.

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While Kyle floats in and out of consciousness his ring keeps repeating the same message: Parallax is coming.

Oh goody. Another light and fluffy read.

There’s a lot going on to start, with each Green Lantern beginning to face unexplainable changes.  The JLA notices Hal’s odd behavior and appears torn on how to handle the situation, with some people remaining loyal to Hal, while others (ie. Batman. Why is it always Batman?) believe Parallax was his true self all the time, and that he’s not to be trusted.

Something big is happening with the Lanterns, as is evident when Guy Gardner, who hasn’t technically been a Lantern for a while, finds himself inexplicably in his old uniform again, with a ring on his finger.

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While this is happening, the story is interspersed with numerous flashbacks which essentially outline Hal Jordan’s entire history, from the death of his father during a flight exercise up through his turn for the worse as Parallax.  Alongside this summary, we’re given a lot of new information, which pretty much completely alters how everyone will view past storylines.

We’re told that Parallax was not simply Hal, but an ancient being that fed on fear.

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Parallax lay dormant within the power battery for millennia, until he was awoken and was able to tap into the Green Lanterns’ rings to seek out a strong host.  When he found Hal Jordan, he fed on his weaknesses and fear after Coast City was destroyed and basically possessed him.

Long story short: Hal Jordan was never a bad guy, it was always this separate entity.

Of course, then we’re left wondering who woke up Parallax inside the battery.  Who else but his fellow prisoner Sinestro?

All of this is explained while Hal, Spectre, and Parallax are at odds with one another. Parallax tries to convince Hal that they are one in the same, but Hal refuses to accept that he is inherently evil.  Struggling with these multiple identities, Hal finally breaks free, and his soul is able to reunite with his body (which Kyle had previously retrieved from inside the sun).

With that, Hal Jordan is back and ready to fight.

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Hal battles Sinestro while the JLA attempts to stop Parallax.  In a pretty epic battle, both are defeated, although Parallax disappears into the anti-matter universe and so remains at large.  Hal’s return upsets some (again, Batman) while others welcome him back with open arms.  Mercifully the trade ends on a happy note, with Hal seemingly wanting to begin life again.

Overall the trade was a fun read.  There’s a nit-picky part of me that thinks the story was wrapped up a little too neatly, with every possibly contingency and loophole addressed to create this nicely packaged story that completely rewrites Hal’s time as Parallax.  That being said, it’s still a very creative way to bring Hal back, and I thoroughly enjoyed the explanations to long-held questions, ie: now we know why the rings are susceptible to the color yellow!  I also really loved that Johns addresses how each Green Lantern’s ring operates in a different manner, unique to its wearer.  Hal’s ring creates very concrete, set images, while Kyle, ever the designer and perfectionist, creates images that are constantly morphing and changing.  Small details such as these can make or break a comic, and this story had more than enough to keep me entertained.

It’s nice to see Hal Jordan back in action, and it’s especially cool to think that the Green Lantern Corps could be returning in full force.  The comic is open-ended enough that the story could go many different ways; no doubt whatever happens, Hal’s return will be felt far and wide.

-Jess

Batgirl’s a Hot Mess: Barbara Gordon’s Story Arc in “The Killing Joke” Animated Film

Since production began, discussion has swirled around the animated film adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s “The Killing Joke”, one of the most famous (and infamous) Batman comics ever written. Controversial since its publication, “The Killing Joke” presents a dark and rather grim story: The Joker seeks to prove that all it takes is one bad day to drive someone insane, and does so by shooting Barbara Gordon (and ultimately paralyzing her), Kidnapping her father Jim, and subjecting him to pain and humiliation. The comic has faced harsh criticism from fans over the years for its brutal treatment of Batgirl, and writer Alan Moore himself has even expressed regret over the decision to paralyze her.  With the film release, it’s clear the writers and producers were trying to balance Barbara Gordon’s harsh treatment by giving her more screen time and even a mini story arc at the beginning of the film.  They went too far with it though, and rather than create a better grounding for the character of Batgirl, “The Killing Joke” instead reduces her to little more than a teenage cliche.  Barbara’s childish behavior, her odd relationship with Batman, and the overall poor pacing of this introduction, made the first thirty minutes of “The Killing Joke” utterly forgettable, and certainly not worthy of repeat viewings.

Bowing to Public Pressure

In the original “The Killing Joke” storyline, Barbara plays a very small role.  She shows up for a single scene, is shot by the Joker, and that’s that.  It’s revealed that the wound paralyzes her, but there are no other references to her backstory or possible future.  Simply put, “The Killing Joke” was never about Barbara. She was just collateral damage in the Joker’s effort to manipulate Jim Gordon into going crazy.  This wasn’t an acceptable end to Batgirl’s career for many fans, and there was plenty of backlash sparked by the events of the comic.  These  concerns were heard by the film’s creators, who responded in kind.  Bruce Timm addressed Barbara’s expanded role in “The Killing Joke” at San Diego Comic Con:

“We took that screen time to basically give Barbara Gordon her own mini-movie, because she’s always been one of our favorite characters, and I’ve always felt bad about her in the original story,” Timm continued. “We just thought it’d be real fun to let the audience… get introduced to the character.”

In theory, it’s a great idea: provide a bit of detail and history of the character before shattering her spine with a bullet.  Unfortunately, the execution left much to be desired, and leaves this viewer wondering if the producers had ever actually read a “Batgirl” comic.

Childish, Girly Drama

When the writers decided to expand more on Barbara’s story, it seems they were looking to appeal to the female viewers.  What better way to appeal to the women in the audience than to make one of the only female characters in the entire film a laughable cliche?  Barbara spends the first thirty minutes of the film mooning over Bruce, complaining about their complicated relationship to her co-worker, and ultimately hooking up with him on a Gotham rooftop.  While she’s allowed a few moments of unequivocal badass fighting, she spends the bulk of the story focused less on crime-fighting and more on boys.  Even the primary bad guy in Barbara’s story (laughably nicknamed Paris Franz) has an odd fixation with her, and seemingly distracts her and clouds her judgment by sending her flirtatious messages, for which Bruce openly admonishes her.  For a woman who is supposed to be strong and independent, Batgirl is entirely too focused on boys, and winds up coming across as completely immature. At one point Paris even taunts her and asks where her boyfriend is, to which she loudly exclaims, “He’s not my boyfriend!”.  I have numerous problems with this.  A) She was in hiding, so she effectively just gave away her position to her attacker.  If I realize this, surely one of Batman’s protege’s would.  B) Why does Barbara feel the need to defend herself to this guy?  He’s a random one-off character that no one cares about.  These additional scenes may have been meant to build Barbara up and make the viewer understand her backstory and actually care when she’s paralyzed, but ultimately this addition just reduced a strong female superhero to nothing more than a love-struck teenage girl.

Sex Sells – But Not When it’s Awkward and Completely Out of Character

Given that this is DC’s first R-rated animated film, it’s expected that they would take some liberties with the film to fully earn that rating.  What wasn’t expected was the completely random and uncharacteristic sex scene between Batman and Batgirl.  Let’s set the tone: Bruce is criticizing Barbara’s skills in the field, they two begin fighting, Barbara pins Bruce, then abruptly kisses him and strips off her shirt before the scene cuts away.  Now, even casual fans of the comics will know that this is not a romantic entanglement ever even briefly addressed in the original material.  Barbara Gordon would go on to have an on-again, off-again relationship with Dick Grayson  (a.k.a. Robin, a.k.a. Nightwing) after her paralysis, but there are certainly no “Batman” or “Batgirl” comics in which the two characters hook up.  Not only is it completely incongruous with the original comics, it’s also outright awkward.  It’s a common fact within the “Batman” lore that Bruce is significantly older than Barbara.  Had the writers been attempting to lessen the age gap between the pair, this scene may have been more acceptable to viewers.  As it stands though, Barbara comments later in the film that when Batman made his first appearance, she was just a kid, and that stories of him gave her nightmares.  “The Killing Joke” makes a point of addressing this age difference, and yet the writers still went ahead the scene.  When asked about brainstorming its inclusion, they simply responded that they all thought, “Yeah, that’s kind of where we need to go”.  Given that this scene has absolutely no bearing on the events in “The Killing Joke”, and at best it only serves as a catalyst for Barbara renouncing her title of Batgirl (an event that doesn’t happen in “The Killing Joke” or any other “Batman” comic, for that matter) one can’t help but wonder why it was included in the first place.  Perhaps the writers felt they should take advantage of the r-rating to throw in a little sex, even though virtually nothing is shown on-screen, or perhaps they merely thought it would generate controversy and discussion, increasing sales and overall discussion.  Whatever the reason, this scene felt unnecessary and exploitative, and wound up serving as a distraction to the larger on-screen story.

When Does the Actual Movie Start?

Including additional scenes in the film to help further expand on Barbara’s character isn’t an inherently bad idea.  What was a bad idea was including all of those scenes at the very beginning of the movie.  I sat through the first thirty minutes of “The Killing Joke” feeling as though I was watching a poorly made short.  I repeatedly found myself being distracted, wondering when “The Killing Joke” would actually start. Therein lies the problem with adapting a comic into a film.  Most of your viewers are already familiar with the source material, and know how it actually begins. Everything prior to that feels like unnecessary exposition.  Had these scenes been interspersed with the actual adaptation, they still would have been noticeable, but they would have been more tolerable as brief filler used to cushion the main story.  The writers would have been far better off had they used an existing “Batgirl” story to provide exposition for the character, and made a self-contained short to air before “The Killing Joke”, rather than including this whole portion as part of the main film.  The layout felt sloppy, as though the writers thought they could slip in thirty additional minutes of animation without expecting anyone to be anxious for the real story to start.  We all paid good money to see “The Killing Joke”, and this first portion just felt like a cheap attempt at extending the film, adding nothing to the main story’s narrative.

Knocking “The Killing Joke” Down a Notch

The entire Batgirl-centered beginning of the film was disjointed, messy, and overall unsatisfying.  There is little additional sympathy to be felt for Barbara through these scenes, and if anything her character comes across as a petulant, boy-obsessed teen who has no place being a crimefighter in the first place.  With this image being so far removed from her character in the comics, and with such a problematic opening act, it’s no surprise that “The Killing Joke” has faced mixed reviews from fans.  The original comic was controversial enough in its treatment of Barbara; was it really necessary to add these additional scenes which only exacerbated the problem? “The Killing Joke” was far from perfect, but this entire opening portion was an utter mess.  From start to finish, the entire first third of the movie was a mashup of tropes that painted Barbara in the worst possible light.  “The Killing Joke” may strive to create a more fully realized Batgirl, but ultimately it wound up creating a two-dimensional, cliched character that bears no resemblance to the Barbara Gordon fans have come to love.

-Jess

(Post originally published on Creators.co)

The Fox and the Hound (1981)

It seems Walt Disney Animation Studios went through a period of making decidedly non-kid friendly movies.  The Fox and the Hound, much like The Rescuers, tells a story that I can easily find faults with as an adult.  Now before I delve into that let me say this: I’m not condemning these films or implying that kids shouldn’t watch them. I watched both as a child and truth be told, some of the darker implications simply went over my head. That tends to be the case with movies like this.  However, going back and re-watching these as an adult makes certain themes stand out for all the wrong reasons.

The Fox and the Hound is a story of two unlikely friends, an orphaned fox and a hunting dog.  As children, Copper the hound and Todd the fox frolic and play in the woods between their homes, while their respective owners go about their lives.  Of course, Copper’s owner is a hunter, and can’t stand a fox on his property.  At one point he chases Todd, shooting haphazardly at him in a very irresponsible way (he doesn’t even look where he’s shooting. He could have killed someone).  Feeling that there’s no other option, Todd’s owner drives him to a game preserve and leaves him, in what is perhaps one of the most upsetting and heartbreaking scenes ever.

Nevermind the fact that this scene is completely unrealistic; Todd has been raised in a house nearly his whole life. He doesn’t know how to fend for himself or hunt to survive.  The widow is basically sentencing him to death by abandoning him here.  Of course, being Disney this is conveniently overlooked, as Todd quickly adapts to his surroundings and becomes enamored of the first girl fox he meets.

Copper’s owner is not so easily swayed. In his infinite wisdom, he decides to break into the game preserve and hunt down Todd anyway.  Copper, now a full-blown hunting dog, is hot on Todd’s trail. He almost catches him until a giant bear suddenly appears, threatening everyone.

Seriously, this has to be the largest bear in existence.

Copper tries to fend off the attack, but he’s unsuccessful.  Just as the bear is about to strike, Todd jumps in, defending both Copper and his owner. He lures the bear away and the two fall over a waterfall.

After all of this, you would think Copper’s owner would give up. Nope, he raises his rifle and poises to shoot Todd. It’s only when Copper stands between his master and his former friend that his owner gives in and says they should go home.  The movie ends with Copper back at his master’s home, while Todd continues living in the woods, supposedly free of pursuit by Copper’s master.

Alright, let’s file this under “Films Disney Would Never Make Today”.  There’s blatant and completely unsafe gun use. There’s misogynistic commentary made by Copper’s owner, directed at the widow.  And while there might be a good message buried somewhere in there about how hatred is a learned trait and not inherently born into anyone, it’s so muddled by everything else that goes on that it’s easy to overlook.  The film might be trying to teach viewers that this prejudice is taught, but it also implies that nothing can be done about it.  There’s still a distinct separation between Copper and Todd, and the film at least implies that the two are no longer in contact.  At best they’ve made peace, but only as long as they remain in completely separate spheres.

It’s as though Disney was attempting to make a progressive movie about acceptance and unity, but was held back from fully developing their message.  There were simply too many depressing scenes peppered throughout for any sort of positive message to shine through.  There are a handful of small, cute scenes that at least allow me to look back on the film and smile, but for the most part it’s an incredibly sad tale of how two young friends are torn apart by prejudice and are unable to overcome the obstacles they face because of their differences.

Now, to dispel the sadness, let’s end on a happy image: Little baby Todd being fed a bottle and drifting off to sleep.

Why couldn’t the movie have more of this? I like my Disney movies cute, not depressing.

-Jess

Teen Titans: The Future is Now

My very first thought when I saw the cover of this trade: Why the hell is Batman with the Teen Titans??  Well, as I read the comic I was given a surprising and rather unexpected answer: that’s Batman alright, but it’s not Bruce Wayne.  It’s Tim Drake.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: friggin’ comics.

The first story arc in this trade finds the Titans thrust into the future, a mere ten years from the present day (which, given that this comic came out in 2004, means that all of this, even the “future” events, already happened).  The Titans meet the older, more hardened versions of themselves, and find that they haven’t quite lived up to their own expectations.  The world is a grim place, and the Titans have adopted a rougher objective: keep people safe by any means necessary.

As the Titans battle themselves in an effort to get home, they try to avoid details about their own futures.  They can’t help but ask questions, and some believe the Titans must split up in order to prevent this future from ever happening.

Future Cyborg informs present-day Superboy that the Titans must stay together, and that their breaking up is what lead to this twisted future.  Although they find it difficult to reconcile these future selves with the morals they currently uphold, they all seem to agree that Cyborg’s advice is sound, and that they’re better off together.  As the Titans find their way back to their own time, they seem more determined than ever to make their team work.

The second half of the trade tied into the continuity a bit more, with one storyline in particular being continued.  The events of Identity Crisis were shocking, and I wondered how other comics would keep those events as part of continuity without forcing their own titles to delve into exceedingly mature subject matter.  Teen Titans provided the answer.  In a rather fitting continuation, Dr. Light’s next appearance after Identity Crisis is in this trade (since , after all, he’s always been a regular foe of the Titans).  Of course, this Doctor Light isn’t the same villain the Titans remember.  He’s no longer the bumbling fool of old, but a cold, calculated opponent who has his sights on destroying the Titans.

This was a natural progression for the storyline begun in Identity Crisis, and while I’m still digesting the events of that trade, I was interested to see how this would play out.  There would undoubtedly be fallout from all that occurred in that story, and here we see the first inkling of just how far-reaching it is.

While certain factions are being split up by the news, the Titans seem to become stronger.  They know their fellow heroes have made mistakes, but they also know that they must trust one another if they hope to overpower their enemies.  Cyborg seems to be the voice of reason throughout the trade, providing guidance and stability to the team when they need it most.

Titans old and new gather to defeat Doctor Light, in a battle that is anything but easy.  They capture him and turn him over to Batman, who turns out to be Deadshot in disguise (how Robin, an incredibly astute detective, didn’t realize this guy wasn’t Batman is beyond me, but whatever.)  Clearly Doctor Light’s story isn’t over, and I can only imagine what Deadshot is planning.  The significance of this fight, however, isn’t overlooked.

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Cyborg confronts Green Lantern directly about the issue in question.  With the Titans now aware of what their mentors did, they will surely have doubts.  When your heroes fall from the pedestal you’ve placed them on, you must create an entirely new image of them in your mind, and this will definitely be difficult for the Titans. They have held these JLA members in such high regard for so long that to realize they are less than perfect must be incredibly tough.  I’m curious to see how the dynamic between the groups changes as this information becomes more public.  Surely there will be a division amongst the heroes, with those understanding and in support of wiping enemies’ minds, and those who believe it is entirely wrong.  For some, like Superman or Captain Marvel, it’s easy to guess which side they’ll choose.  Others are a bit murkier, and could side with either faction.

I’m unsure at this point if the fallout of Identity Crisis will lead to a major split between teams.  If this Teen Titans trade is any indication, it’s at least clear that those events will not be soon forgotten.  It’s clear their significance has yet to be fully felt.

-Jess