10 FTW: Super-Suits


With over eighty years of continuous publication behind him, it’s no surprise that, over the many years and through numerous alternate realities and reality-shattering Crises, Superman has gone through more than a few wardrobe changes. Initially debuting in what amounted to a traditional strongman costume, Superman soon adopted the iconic “S” shield to uphold his values of “truth, justice, and the American way” but has, over time, mixed up his colour scheme about as often as he’s developed strange new powers. Today, I’m going to go through ten of my favourite looks for Superman; a lot of these featured solely in out-of-continuity tales or were worn by Supermen from parallel Earths but some were, however briefly, an actual part of Superman’s canon.

10 The Black Recovery Suit

Superman’s black suit first appeared right at the conclusion of the “Reign of the Superman” (Jurgens, et al, 1993) storyline, the conclusion to the infamous “Death of Superman” (ibid, 1992 to 1993) storyline. After the Man of Steel was beaten to death by Doomsday, his body was placed into a Kryptonian regeneration chamber, which restored his cells to life and, when he emerged, he was forced to wear this suit while his powers recovered. Honestly, this was just an excuse to get Superman’s mullet on the list but I also dig the simplicity of this suit (and I always love a black variant); it’s just plain black with a silver symbol. It also lacks a cape, giving Superman a far more streamlined and serious look that, considering all of Superman’s replacements bore dramatically different suits of their own, cast more doubt on the identity of this new Superman. The suit made a brief return in Countdown to Final Crisis (Dini, et al, 2007 to 2008), when it was worn by Superman-Prime, and was donned by the pre-Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) when he showed up (rocking a beard!) to replace the crappy New 52-Superman (whose suit will, spoilers, not be making this list), and was also set to appear in Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017) before Warner Bros. re-edited the film.

9 Speeding Bullets

Bit of a cheat here as this suit was worn a violent and brutal version of Kal-El who was raised by Thomas and Martha Kent and, thus, is actually a composite of Superman and Batman who leans far more into Batman’s characterisation than Superman’s. Still, this is a great combination of the Bat- and Super-Suits, featuring a cowl that covers Kal’s entire head and a amalgamated version of both character’s iconic emblems. If you’re a bit annoyed by me basically using a Batman suit on a Superman list, there was a more traditional Super-Suit featured in this story right at the end, when Kal is convinced to turn away from the darkness and be a symbol of hope. But, as this is a dreadful looking costume that looks way too much like the awful Injustice suit (NetherRealm Studios, 2013; 2017).

8 Lantern Superman

Let’s face it: any time Superman gets a power ring, we are treated to an awesome variation of his suit. Whether it’s in an alternate reality where Superman operates as Green Lantern (and sports a lovely white cape and an amalgamated “G”/Green Lantern symbol), or the original, super-powerful, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985 to 1986) Superman, Kal-L being reanimated as a zombified Black Lantern in Blackest Night (Johns, et al, 2009 to 2010), or Superman-Prime joining the Sinestro Corps, there’s something about mixing Superman’s suit with the Lantern’s attire that always results in gold. Superman’s also been decked out as a dazzling beacon of triumph as a White Lantern and we’ve even seen a glimpse of what his suit could look like spewing blood from his mouth during Supergirl’s brief stint as a Red Lantern. Hands down, my favourite is the Black Lantern Superman though; there’s just something about a zombified Superman in a black suit with a tattered cape that is really striking to me, like all of his values and morals have been cast aside in favour of ripping hearts from chests.

7 Overman / Red Son

I’m lumping these two together as I honestly cannot pick between the two; both suits were worn by alternative versions of Superman who were raised and indoctrinated with anti-American principles, making for a complete reversal of Superman’s traditionally patriotic views. Overman, a Nazi version of Superman, appeared during the God-awful Final Crisis (Morrison, et al, 2008 to 2009) event, while the communist version most famously appeared in Superman: Red Son (Millar, et al, 2003). Both wear a fascist symbol in place of the traditional “S” and favoured big buckles on their belts and a darker, subdued colour scheme, with Overman’s costume fittingly being reminiscent of the Schutzstaffel  uniform.

6 The Dark Side

Continuing the theme of alternative versions of Superman raised by tyrannical dictators, Superman: The Dark Side (Moore, et al, 1998) presented a version of Superman raised by Darkseid to be a ruthless soldier in the New Gods’ war against the peaceful New Genesis. Once again sporting a corrupted version of the “S” symbol (which was almost exactly the same as the Schutzstaffel symbol, something that, ironically, even Overman was missing…), Dark Side’s Superman had a haircut you could set your watch to, and a fittingly grim and stoic personality that was more akin to Darkseid’s actual son, Orion. He was also decked out in sweet jet-black armour forged from the fire pits of Apokolips, carried a sword and had no compunction about slaughtering his enemies without mercy in the name of his dark overlord.

5 Superman Prime (DC One Million)

The Superman Prime (not to be confused with his genocidal counterpart of the same name) that appears in DC One Million (Morrison, et al, 1998) has lived for so long thanks to his Kryptonian physiology that he’s seen all his friends and family die. Despondent, he left Earth in the care of his heir, travelled the universe for a few centauries, and eventually went into self-imposed exile in the centre of the sun. Unlike the previous Super-Suits, this Superman is a glowing, golden beacon of hope and serenity; his powers amplified to almost God-like levels, this Superman is decked out entirely in gold to match his new divine stature.

4 Brutaal (Earth-2)

This version of Superman is a Bizarro-like clone engineered by Darkseid to mirror his Earth-2 counterpart, Val-Zod (another contender for this list) in very way…except for being absolutely ruthless and lacking in mercy. Very much like by his Dark Side incarnation, Brutaal stands out by wearing a suit that closely resembles versions of the Eradicator or Cyborg-Superman, favouring a largely black-and-red colour scheme (that just works for alternative, evil takes on Superman) and some wicked chains to hold his cape in place.

3 Electric Superman

Probably the most controversial choice for this list, in the late-nineties, DC Comics apparently decided that Superman needed a complete shake-up (despite the fact that he’d already returned from the dead!) and had him transform into a purely energy-based lifeform. He could now travel at the speed of light, emit energy blasts, and become incorporeal but also (for some inexplicable reason) would become completely human when he transformed back into Clark Kent! As if this wasn’t mental enough, he was then split into two beings, a red variant and a blue one, each with different personalities! None of this changes the fact, though, that the suit he wore during this time was awesome! Lacking a cape and featuring a streamlined design comprised of blue (…or red) and white and a new, more radical logo. Honestly, I feel like the suit’s design and Superman’s new powers were pretty great…just maybe not suitable for Superman. This suit actually cropped up again in the early-2000s when it was worn by Strange Visitor (Sharon Vance) but I would love to see it recycled for the likes of the Eradicator, who’s always been more energy-based in his powers anyway.

2 Rebirth / Man of Steel

After subjecting us to a God-awful characterisation of Superman throughout the five years or so of the “New 52” reboot, DC Comics finally saw sense and killed off that jerk and ditched his dreadful quasi-armoured costume in favour of not only the definitive version of Superman (pre-Flashpoint, of course) but also a far more traditional version of the Super-Suit. This suit, largely reminiscent of the equally-fantastic costume worn by Henry Cavill in the DC Extended Universe movies (Various, 2013 to present) took all the dramatic changes made by the New 52 suit and merged them with Superman’s more traditional styling. This meant that Kal again ditched the red trunks and yellow belt but also dropped the overly busy and unnecessarily detailed nature of the New 52 suit. Eventually, the trunks and the red boots would make a return but, either way, for a modern take on the classic Super-Suit, they don’t get much better than this.

1 Kingdom Come

For me, the definitive alternative version of the Super-Suit is the one designed by Alex Ross in the gorgeous and seminal Kingdom Come (Waid, et al, 1996). Taking place on Earth-22, where Superman has largely separated himself from humanity, which has begun to favour more aggressive superheroes, this Superman sports not only a streak of white hair but also a sleek, traditional Super-Suit with one noticeable different: a diagonal line against a black background in place of the traditional red-and-yellow “S” shield. It’s a small change but one that speaks volumes of this Superman’s current mindset; he’s lost faith in humanity and is in mourning. This costume has endured over the years, inspiring numerous revisions of Superman’s costume (generally whenever depicting an elderly or despondent version of Kal) but, most notably, the Earth-22 Superman later paid a visit to the mainstream DC universe to team with the Justice Society, Superman adopted a very similar version of this shield after the “Our Worlds at War” (Loeb, et al, 2001) storyline, and even prominently featured in the Crisis on Infinite Earths (Various, 2019 to 2020) crossover event that saw Brandon Routh reprise his role from Superman Returns (Singer, 2006) wearing an incredibly faithful rendition of this iconic outfit for his portrayal of a similarly-beleaguered version of Superman.


Which Super-Suit is your favourite? Did it make the list or was there one I missed? What do you look for in a Super-Suit? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts on what makes the quintessential Super-Suit.

Game Corner: Lego DC Super-Villains (Xbox One)


Released: October 2018
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Also Available For: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC

The Background:
You’ve heard of Lego, right? Those little Danish plastic blocks that you can slot together to build all kinds of shit and make you wish you were dead when you step on them? Well, some time ago (around 2014), they started producing playsets based on DC Comics characters. After the release of Lego Star Wars: The Video Game (Traveller’s Tales, 2005) laid the groundwork for what would become numerous licensed Lego videogames, Traveller’s Tales released Lego Batman: The Videogame (ibid, 2008), the first in a series of Lego-themed videogames based on DC Comics characters. Lego DC Super-Villains came hot on the heels of The Lego Batman Movie (McKay, 2017) and was a spin-off of its immediate predecessor, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Traveller’s Tales, 2014). While the gameplay and narrative may have expanded beyond simple pantomiming in enclosed environments to fully-voiced open worlds, the core blueprint of building increasingly ridiculous Lego constructs in a DC-themed world remained unchanged.

The Plot:
When the evil Justice Syndicate arrive from Earth-3, pose as superheroes, and promptly dispose of the Justice League, the super-villains of the DC Universe must join forces with a mysterious new villain in order to expose the Syndicate as frauds and reclaim their place as the world’s number one villains.

If you’ve ever played a Lego videogame before, you’ve played them all; gameplay is ridiculously simple and yet fun, with the games designed to be accessible to younger players and emphasising pick-up-and-play, co-operative gameplay, and simple, easy to master mechanics. The first thing you’ll do is design your own Lego supervillain from a range of available heads, costumes, and powers, which you’ll unlock more of as you play through the game’s story mode and find hidden Gold and Red Bricks. Once you have your Rookie, you’ll adventure with some of DC’s most notorious super-villains (including Harley Quinn, Lex Luthor, and Black Adam) across some of DC’s most recognisable locations (from Slaughter Swamp, to Metropolis, to the fire-pits of Apokolips).

Learn new abilities as you play through the story mode.

Gameplay couldn’t be simpler; you can attack enemies with combos, ranged weapons, energy blasts, and crowd-clearing ground pounds, or fly and flip across the skies of the game’s various open worlds, amongst many other attributes. The Rookie’s abilities can be customised as you play and his ability to absorb and learn new powers is a crucial part of the game’s amusing story mode.

There are many secrets to find in the game’s many locations.

Considering the Lego videogame formula hasn’t changed since their first Lego Star Wars videogame, there’s a lot to see and do here; every time you complete a chapter of the story mode, you unlock it for use in Free Play mode. As each environment has many hidden secrets that can only be uncovered by using characters and abilities not initially available in the story mode, this encourages a great deal of exploration and replayability if you want to find everything and earn all of the Achievements. Combat and gameplay are simple enough, and the game’s puzzles aren’t generally much to worry about; Lego DC Super-Villains’ challenge comes in the multitude of secrets hidden in the game’s multiple overworlds and individual chapters and in the vast amount of side missions on offer. You’ll be tasked with photographing goons, destroying certain objects, or collecting certain items, all to either obtain another hidden brick or unlock an extra playable character in the game’s already stacked roster.

You’ll need to build all manner of Lego toys to progress.

A crucial aspect of any Lego videogame is smashing everything in your path, collecting Lego studs, and building, building, building. Holding down B near a cluster of Lego pieces will see your character piece together all manner of Lego constructs, from weapons, to computer terminals, vehicles, and even the Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill, all of which will spew out yet more Lego studs, open up new areas, or allow you to progress further.

Everyone is represented, from the iconic to the obscure.

Collecting studs is vital to your progression; although you have a heart-based life system, you can return to the game as many times as you like after dying as long as you have enough studs. However, as they’re scattered across every inch of the Lego DC world, you’ll never be running short of these, and enemies will often drop hearts upon their defeat. Studs can also be used to purchase new characters and vehicles, both of which are essential to earning some of the game’s Achievements.

Graphics and Sound:
A key aspect of all of Lego’s multimedia ventures is just how well they recreate the feeling of playing with actual Lego toys; everything in their movies, animated shorts, and videogames has some basis in reality and is either based on, or available as, an existing Lego playset.

You’ll visit some of DC’s most iconic locations.

To that end, all of the characters look and act exactly as a Lego toy would; they’re made of shiny, stiff plastic and it always feels as though you’ve just dropped a bucket of your Lego out on the floor and started playing with them. Iconic DC locales are lovingly crafted out of the iconic bricks to the point where you’re smashing your way through a dark and stormy Gotham City that evokes exactly the same sense of gloomy dread as anything produced by Rocksteady.

You’ll recognise a lot of the voices in Lego DC Super-Villains.

While early Lego videogames based on movie properties utilised the soundtrack and vocal performances of their source materials, Lego DC Super-Villains favours a largely original score and goes all-in with the quality of its voice actors. You’ve got the likes of Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, and Michael Ironside reprising their roles from various DC cartoons and animated movies alongside John Barrowman, Zachary Levi, and Brandon Routh voicing their respective characters from DC’s live-action television shows and movies.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you journey to expose the Justice Syndicate, you’ll naturally face opposition from local law enforcement and rival goons before squaring off with members of the Justice Syndicate and the Justice League.

You’ll eventually take on Darkseid in an epic encounter!

As a result, you’ll inevitably end up in battle against the likes of Ultraman, Mazahs, Owlman, Johnny Quick, and Superwoman but you’ll also fight against Solivar, Doomsday, and the titanic New God Darkseid. Each boss battle has a unique twist, forcing you to use different abilities to break through their defences and chip away at their health.

Bosses are grandiose, but simple, affairs.

In many instances, bosses will use the environment to their advantage (such as Sea-King, who attacks with a giant octopus) or send waves of goons against you. Luckily, however, you can utilise different abilities to uncover building bricks around these environments to construct weapons and other Lego that will turn the tide in your favour.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you play Lego DC Super-Villains, you’ll find Gold and Red Bricks, hidden Batman-branded Minikits, and various graffiti points. Each of these, and the collecting of studs, will unlock and allow you to purchase a treasure trove of in-game modifiers which will double your stud bonus, detect secrets, enable one-hit kills, and even flash up the Batman (1966 to 1968) “Pow!” sound effects.

Some characters drastically change form to reach new areas.

Additionally, every Lego character has their own unique weapon and playstyle; some, like Clayface, can increase or decrease in size to smash through obstacles or fit through vents; others, like Livewire, can charge electrical conduits with their electricity powers. The likes of the Joker and Scarecrow can collect special items to brew up fear gas or laughing gas, respectively, while also commanding goons found in each level to form bridges or activate switches. Similarly, there are some characters, like Tigress, who can dig up hidden treasures or use their acrobatic abilities to jump across rooftops. While it would be wrong to say that no two characters play the same, as there are many who share recognisable traits, playing as Superman is a markedly different experience to playing as Chang Tzu. Add on to that the Rookie’s ability to learn and combine these different abilities and you have a lot of different options available to you to progress through the game’s story and side quests.

Additional Features:
Once you clear the game’s substantial story mode, which will see you take command of various different DC villains across multiple locations, you unlock five bonus levels that are narrated by Lobo and located around Apokolips. These extra missions allow you to play as the various members of the Justice League as they battle their way to freedom out of Darkseid’s hellish homeworld. There’s also a fair amount of downloadable content on offer that adds characters and levels based on DC films like Shazam! (Sandberg, 2019) and Aquaman (Wan, 2018) and DC’s live-action shows, like Arrow (2012 to 2020) and The Flash (2014 to present), among others.


The Summary:
I’ve always enjoyed the simple pleasure of the Lego videogames; they’re not exactly taxing to play through and are easy to slip right back into after years away as the fundamental basics have remained unchanged since 2005. Not only are they harmless fun to play, they’re also pretty funny; Traveller’s Tales have put a lot of work into the game’s story and dialogue and much of the game’s humour comes from genuinely funny jokes, gags, one-liners, Easter eggs, and sight-gags. Saying that, though, Lego DC Super-Villains is best played with a friend so you can easily smash your way through the story mode and side quests and uncover every hidden trinket on offer. As a solo experience, it’s serviceable enough but these are games built to be enjoyed with a friend or, more ideally, a younger sibling or a child (preferably yours…) as the challenge on offer is tailor made for a younger audience. There’s a lot to like, here, though, especially if you’re a fan of DC Comics or their animated endeavours.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think about Lego DC Super-Villains? Are you a fan of the Lego videogames or do you find the formula to be wearing a bit thin by now? Feel free to leave a comment and give me your thoughts and feedback.

10 FTW: Batsuits


So, disappointingly, Ben Affleck is officially, 100% out as Batman. Despite my reservations about him being cast in the role, he delivered a really impressive performance as a tortured, grizzled Bruce Wayne who was driven to extremes after two decades of fighting an unwinnable war against crime in Gotham City. However, due to a multitude of reasons, Affleck is gone and, instead, The Batman (Reeves, 2021) will star Robert Pattinson in the title role as a younger Batman in his first years of activity. As with pretty much all Batman casting, this has caused some interesting ripples throughout the fandom but these discussions were only exacerbated when Reeves teased the first look at Pattinson’s Batsuit.

While this is obviously far from the clearest view, and leaked set images are showing either a much less refined stunt suit or lacking the filter of editing and post-production, there are some interesting choices at work here, such as Wayne apparently melting down the gun that killed his parents to form the symbol of his Batsuit. In any event, this seems like an appropriate time to take a look at some Batsuits from days gone by and talk about what makes them so iconic.

10 Knightfall (Batman #500)

I am pretty certain I am in the minority here but I really dig the armoured suit that Jean-Paul valley put together during the Knightfall (Dixon, et al, 1993 to 1994) storyline. Initially, Valley just augmented the existing Batsuit with some wicked mechanical claws that could shoot out Bat-Shurikens, a grappling hook and, apparently, a laser but, for his big rematch against Bane, Valley decided to go the whole hog and produce an entirely armoured ensemble that enabled him to best Bane easily. As the Knightfall arc progressed, the suit took on a darker, far more menacing look as it changed from blue to red; Valley also became increasingly dependent upon the suit as his madness progressed, refusing to take it off and using it in increasingly violent (and fatal) ways. Eventually, however, the suit proved Valley’s undoing as he was unable to squeeze through the narrow tunnel Bruce Wayne lured him into, which finally forced him to remove the suit and begin a difficult road to redemption. What I like about this suit, though, is how futuristic and dangerous it looks; it’s got an aerodynamic flair, has all these neat gadgets and upgrades, and makes Batman look like a cold-blooded figure who takes no prisoners, which is exactly what Valley embodied. The suit rarely makes much of an appearance these days, though it did appear as a skin in Batman: Arkham Origins (WB Games Montréal, 2013) and informed Valley’s subsequent appearances as Azrael over the years.

9 Zur-En-Arrh (Batman #113; Batman #678)

Sometimes, you just need a completely bat-shit-crazy (pun intended) Batsuit and they don’t get much weirder than this one (well, maybe the Rainbow Batman…). First appearing wayyy back in 1958, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was an alien who, inspired by Batman, fought giant robots. Then, in the midst of the dreadful Batman R.I.P. (Morrison, et al, 2008) storyline, “writer” (I hesitate to call him that as his writing is atrocious and obnoxiously dense) Grant Morrison resurrected the Zur-En-Arrh concept as a “backup personality” Bruce implanted within himself that would kick in should he ever be psychologically compromised. What I love about this costume is the gaudy, outlandish, outrageousness of it; it’s all a mish-mash of reds, purples, and yellows the likes of which we haven’t seen clash since Alan Scott! Add to this the ruthlessness and unhinged nature of Morrison’s interpretation and you have one mental Batsuit that makes pummelling thugs into submission in Batman: Arkham Knight (Rocksteady Studios, 2015) all the more satisfying.

8 Batman Beyond

After wrapping up their excellent Batman: The Animated Series (Various, 1992 to 1999), Bruce Timm and Paul Dini decided to try something a little new with their animated ventures with Batman Beyond (ibid, 1999 to 2001). Batman Beyond took place quite far into the future and focused on a teenaged Batman, Terry McGinnis, who donned this futuristic Batsuit. There’s a lot to like about this Batsuit; first, there’s the trademark Dini/Timm simplicity. Second, there’s the fact that the cowl covers the entirety of Terry’s head; I’ve never really understood why Batman (and other, similarly-masked superheroes) feel the need to expose their jaw and mouth to the world so it’s great to see it obscured here. Then there’s all the futuristic modifications in the suit; it has jet boots, can glide, can turn invisible, and has all kinds of nifty gadgets to give Terry the edge in battling crime in Neo-Gotham. Since its debut, the Batman Beyond suit has cropped up more than once in comics, videogames, and other cartoons; Kate Kane, the modern Batwoman, also wears a costume that’s almost exactly identical.

7 Gotham by Gaslight

Retroactively labelled as one of the first ‘Elseworlds’ stories created by DC Comics, Gotham by Gaslight (Augustyn, et al, 1989) presents Bruce Wayne/Batman as existing in the 19th century and engrossed in the hunt for Jack the Ripper. As such, this Batsuit has a heavy steampunk-vibe to it (and I do love me some steampunk). Like other Batsuits on this list, the Gaslight suit works because of how simple and effective it is; this is a Batman that cannot rely on futuristic tech or fancy gadgets and is, instead, simply a very focused and highly trained man in a heavy, fit-for-purpose suit. The high collar, large pouches, and heavy-duty, militaristic feel given off this suit are fantastic and it’s probably one of the closest examples of what a realistic Batsuit would look like. In addition to being featured in a pretty decent animated film, this suit seems to have inspired Pattinson’s Batsuit, as well as the suit seen in the “Knightmare” scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Snyder, 2016).

6 1970’s Batsuit

As great as the fantastically camp Batman (Various, 1966 to 1968) television series was, and how scarily accurate it was as an adaptation of the happy-go-lucky Batman of the 1960s, it was to the benefit of everyone when editor Julius Schwartz, writer Dennis O’Neil, and artist Neal Adams decided to take Batman back to his roots as a serious, crimefighting detective in the seventies. During this run, Batman stories shed all the extraneous baggage of Bruce’s past; Dick Grayson went off the college, Bruce moved into a penthouse apartment for a time, the Joker became a serious threat once again, and Bruce matched wits with iconic villains like Ra’s al Ghul. Ostensibly similar in many ways to his previous attire, this Batsuit featured the iconic pill-like compartments on the belt and ditched the small ears and stocky aesthetic for longer ears and a far more muscular, refined physique. While the blue and grey colour scheme had long been a staple of Batman, it was under this run that it gained prominence as the definitive look for the more solemn crimefighting detective.

5 Bat-Armour

Over the years, Batman has donned many armoured suits to take down his more powerful foes but none are as iconic or as memorable as the armoured suit from The Dark Knight Returns (Miller, et al, 1986). Built specifically with the purpose of battling Superman, this suit is a hulking machine that is powered directly by Gotham’s electricity supply. Despite lacking an iconic bat symbol, this armoured suit means nothing except business; with spiked boots, massive gauntlets, and a plethora of gadgets and weapons, this armour is more than capable of subduing the Man of Steel. This suit was famously recreated in stunning detail for a similar fight scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as obviously featuring prominently in the Dark Knight Returns’ animated films (Oliva, 2012; 2013) but pretty much every armoured Batsuit can trace its origins and aesthetic inspiration back to this iconic garb.

4 Thomas Wayne (Flashpoint #1)

After a momentary bout of uncharacteristic selfishness, Barry Allen/The Flash decided to run back in time and save his mother’s life; this one act, somehow, created an alternative timeline that was the focus of Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011). In this timeline, it was Bruce who died in Crime Alley rather than his parents, leaving his mother, Martha, a psychotic wreck as the Joker and his father, Thomas, as a far darker, more ruthless version of Batman. What I like about this suit is how it dramatically changes the Batsuit with only a few tweaks: the cowl has smaller ears, the eye lenses are blood red, the shoulder pads end in sharp spikes, a blood-red circle replaces the iconic yellow oval, and Thomas sports a matching blood-red utility belt and two gun holsters. That’s right, this is a Batman who revisits the character’s pulp roots and wields not one…but two pistols! Just upon first sight you can tell that this is not quite the Batman you know and love; similar to the Batsuit Jason Todd wore in the Battle for the Cowl (Daniel, et al, 2009) arc, this suit delivers a twisted, darker version of Batman and was, thankfully, also included as a DLC skin in Batman: Arkham Knight.

3 Troika (Batman #515) / Burton

After finally reclaiming the mantle of the bat at the conclusion of the entire Knightfall saga, Bruce debuted a new Batsuit that drew heavy inspiration from Batman (Burton, 1989) in that, rather than being blue and grey, it was black and grey and comprised of heavy, sturdier Kevlar. This, for me, was a fantastic addition as, as much as I enjoyed the ‘60s show and liked the traditional blue and grey Batsuit, I much prefer an all-black or black and grey aesthetic, largely because I grew up with Burton’s Batman movies. As great as the Batman suit is, however, and as faithful as the Troika (Moench, et al, 1995) suit is to that movie, I much prefer the more armoured look Michael Keaton sported in Batman Returns (Burton, 1992). Either way, the change from blue to black was largely permanent as most Batsuits kept this colour scheme going forward and, for me, the only thing that stops this suit from being higher on the list is that it retains the yellow oval…which I’m not really a fan of.

2 Year One (Batman #404)

As lauded as The Dark Knight Returns is, I honestly feel that it is a chore to read; the art style is dodgy, the writing is dense and almost impenetrable, and, for all the work it does to present a grizzled, serious Batman, over the years I’ve come to find it doesn’t really live up to all its hype. Give me Batman: Year One (Miller, et al, 1987) any day. Presented as the first year of Bruce’s time as Batman, this Batsuit is, again, effective in its simplicity; sporting a black cowl, grey suit, and big, practical, militaristic pouches, this suit is the definitive “first time” Batsuit. Best of all, this suit ditches the yellow oval for a simple black bat chest logo, which was always and forever be my preference; I get that the embalm is double-shielded to draw enemy fire to his chest and away from his other, more vulnerable parts (…except his crotch, it seems) but I’ve never really liked the use of yellow or bright colors in Batman’s everyday attire.

1 Jim Lee’s Batsuit

I think that a lot of the appeal of Batman’s outfit, as featured in stories like Hush (Joeb, et al, 2002 to 2003), is simply that it is drawn by Jim Lee, who even made the gaudy, over-complicated ‘New 52’ suits look appealing. Lee’s Batsuit incorporates some of the best parts of its predecessors on this list: it’s got the shorter ears, a massive black bat on the chest, it’s got a blue/grey/black-on-grey colour scheme, and sometimes it’s got the big, practical pouches and other times it has the pellets. Lee’s suit has a little bit of everything in it and is, far and away, one of the most definitive renditions of Batman’s attire ever put to page. It doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel like the ‘Rebirth’ outfit or over-complicated the suit with unnecessary lines and augmentations; instead it’s simply a purpose-built, form-fitting Batsuit that’s the jack-of-all-trades for Bruce’s nightly jaunts.


What Batsuits do you like? Do you have any guilty pleasures? What do you think of Robert Pattinson’s Batsuit so far? Sound off below and come back again for more lists and articles.

Talking Movies: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Talking Movies

Released: February 2020
Director: Cathy Yan
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget: $82 to 100 million
Stars: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, and Ewan McGregor

The Plot:
After separating from the Joker (Jared Leto), Harley Quinn (Robbie) struggles to carve her own legacy in Gotham City. When she incurs the wrath of the sadistic Roman Sionis/Black Mask (McGregor), she is forced to team up with a rag-tag group of women who have also become targets of Sionis.

The Background:
Let’s not mince words: Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016) was a bad film; it had so much potential and squandered it through sloppy editing and a questionable plot. However, two of the stand outs from that God-awful movie were Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Will Smith) and Margot Robbie’s scene-stealing performance as Harley Quinn. Given the character’s cult-like following and increase in popularity, her return seemed all-but-inevitable but, in the odd, shifting, uncertain climate that surrounds the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) it was never a guarantee. However, Robbie, apparently, took it upon herself to put together a film that is not just a solo outing for Quinn but also provides a look at some of DC’s most iconic and bad-ass female characters. The result is a film as much about female empowerment and establishing your own legacy independent of others (especially abusive partners or male patriarchs) that takes everything that was good about Suicide Squad, sprinkles in more than a liberal borrowing from other violent, curse-filled superhero outings (like the Deadpool (Various, 2016 to present) films), and results in a pretty decent inclusion in an extended universe that seems to be increasingly losing sight of its direction.

The Review:
After being rescued by the Joker at the end of Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn has been unceremoniously dumped by the Clown Prince of Crime. Her first reaction to this is to, smartly, tell no one so she can continue to enjoy the fruits of being Joker’s main squeeze, which allows her to live a life of debauchery, drinking, and buying hyenas. However, once word gets out about the break-up, it becomes open season on Harley not in the least because Roman Sionis wastes no time in wanting to lay claim to her unique abilities. In the midst of fighting for her life, Harley runs into Cassandra Cain (Basco), a pick-pocket who picks the wrong pocket when she lifts a diamond out of the pocket of Roman’s top henchman, Victor Zsasz (Messina).

To say these women mean business is an understatement…

Desperate to lay claim to the diamond in order to consolidate his stranglehold on Gotham’s criminal underworld, Sionis puts a hit out on Cassandra and, in trying to recover the diamond and buy her freedom, Harley crosses paths with disgraced and undervalued Gotham City Police Detective Renee Montoya (Perez), the vengeance-seeking, crossbow-wielding assassin Helena Bertinelli/Huntress (Winstead), and Dinah Lance/Black Canary (Smollet-Bell), a singer from Roman’s club with more than a few hidden abilities.

Birds of Prey is Harley’s show first and foremost.

First off, this is largely Margot’s show; she narrates the film, controls the narrative and timeline through some amusing fourth wall breaks, and is the central, strongest character in the film. Perfectly encapsulating Harley’s many and varied (and chaotic) character and personality quirks, Margot cements that she was the perfect choice to play this character and more than capable of standing on her own.

The titular Birds help flesh out Harley’s character.

However, as we saw in Suicide Squad, Harley works best when bouncing and playing off of other characters, especially ones who are snarkier, more serious, or more sadistic than she is. Birds of Prey gives Harley a lot of these characters to work with and each one helps flesh her out in different ways: Cassandra helps her explore her protective, maternal side; Canary gives her a peer on equal footing as a fighter and a smart-talker; Huntress sets a standard off no-nonsense bad-assary that Harley wants to live up to; and Montoya gives her a foil, of sorts, to clash ideals with.

McGregor is clearly revelling in his role as Black Mask…

And yet, amongst all these strong-willed women, is perhaps the most atrocious antagonist in the DCEU yet played with delightful glee by old Obi-Wan himself, Ewan McGregor. Black Mask seems like a simple, one-note sadist but, actually, he has a few layers to him that may not be immediately noticeable as, unlike most characters, he doesn’t really get a flashback or onscreen text to go through his backstory. Roman flip-flops alarmingly between a charismatic smooth-talker and an unhinged psychopath and Ewan is clearly having the time of his life in the role. Apparently, there’s been a lot of negativity surrounding Birds of Prey and it’s even had a slight title change (to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey) to try and better capitalise on Harley’s popularity but I don’t really get why anyone wouldn’t like this movie. It’s fun, with some really brilliant (and vicious) action sequences, and is basically Deadpool but with some kick-ass women taking centre stage.

Not really sure how anyone could miss that Harley was in this movie…

Maybe people are having issue with the film’s portrayal of strong, independent women but…it’s Birds of Prey, a superhero group founded by, and exclusively comprised of, women! People have also been criticising the title; apparently, some didn’t realise Harley Quinn was in this movie? Which is just…mind-blowing to me as she’s been central to all of the marketing I’ve seen (and there’s been a lot of marketing for this movie). Saying that, though, the title is a little misleading; it’s only really Birds of Prey by the conclusion and it may have been better to just title it The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn but none of that should stop you, or anyone else, checking this one out because it’s one hell of a good time.


The Summary:
Normally, I talk about some spoilers in my review (which I unhide when the film comes out on DVD) but there really isn’t much to spoil in Birds of Prey; it’s just a fun, entertaining, kick-ass little film that’s got a lot of action and humour in it and it really doesn’t deserve all the vitriol it’s been getting. Everyone looks like they’re having a blast throughout this movie and like they’re really happy to be there and the film does a pretty good job of giving everyone a chance to shine. I guess I can understand Cassandra Cain fans being a bit disappointed, though, as she is a far cry from her comic book counterpart but, overall, Birds of Prey has way more hits than misses (Cassandra is, in my view, the only real miss of the film) and I would say it is definitely worth your time and money.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

10 FTW: Things I Hate About Movies


So, when it comes to movies, I am surprisingly optimistic. This may be because I would never pay to see a movie if I wasn’t reasonably sure that I was going to enjoy it and because I stick to genres and franchises that I know I like, but I usually go into a film with certain expectations and, as long as those are met, I am generally satisfied. With that said, there are some things about movies that drive me mad…or, at least, annoy me. Tropes that I would like to see less or, if not phased out entirely, and I’m come up with ten of them to rant about right now.

10 Lack of Opening Credits

I’m fairly certain I’m the only person who cares about these days, where everyone is all about cutting right to the action, and I do understand that but there’s something I find innately lazy and annoying about not even seeing the movie’s title appear onscreen at the start of a film. We have to sit through grandiose logo sequences for movie studios, some that last about three minutes and sometimes watching up to five in quick succession, but we can’t just plaster the movie’s title on the screen? I believe the earliest I was exposed to this was in RoboCop 2 (Kershner, 1990) but it’s become especially noticeably in the works of Marvel Studios. I’m not expecting entire cast credits, as these can be admittedly annoying to sit through (though you can just place them over the opening scene, as in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Snyder, 2016) or the Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014 to 2023) films), but just throw the movie’s title up there and help me out a bit!

9 Pointless Post-Credit Scenes

I am a sucker for post-credit scenes; Marvel Studios have popularised this to the point where it’s now expected that every movie has some kind of pre-, mid-, or post-credits scene. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t really worth sitting through ten minutes of credits for. Marvel have become especially lazy with this in recent years; no longer to their post-credit scenes set up further events or hints of things to come and, instead, they’re usually just throwaway gags or scenes purposely made to troll us (I’m looking at you, Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017)!) These days, it seems like the pivotal, must-see scenes for Marvel movies now come before the credits rather than after them and the worst thing about a lot of these is that they are often used to hint at sequels that either never come or are fundamentally altered between movies; this is especially true of the DC Extended Universe but it also applies to the Dark Universe, which is seemingly dead in the water.

8 Mismatching Title Fonts

Another thing that really bugs me is when movies use a specific title font for the posters, merchandise, and DVD covers but never actually use this font or logo in the film. Take Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), which has that awesome orange font for its logo but instead uses a simpler, less grandiose font in the film. What’s worse is that Spielberg used the Indiana Jones logo for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (ibid, 1984) but reverted back to the much less exciting font for the subsequent Indy films. While Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight (2005 to 2012) trilogy may not have had the most exciting title font ever, at least this was uniform across the film and merchandise. It seemed like Warner Brothers were employing this as the standard font for their DC movies…until Green Lantern (Campbell, 2011) ruined it by using the basic font on the posters and a far more exciting, comic-inspired font in the movie!

7 Prequel Sequels

You know what really gets my arse up? Numbers in movies are sequential; you have the first movie, then the second, then the third and so forth so, when movies use a number in their title, a 2 should mean it’s the second movie and, therefore, a continuation of the first. But, instead, movies like to slap a 2, 3, or even a 4 on there when, in actual fact, it’s a prequel! Tarzan 2 (Smith, 2005) and Insidious: Chapter 3 (Whannell, 2015) are perfect examples of this but, for a better example, take a look at the Scorpion King (2002 to 2018) franchises! The Scorpion King (Russell, 2002) is a spin-off of the Mummy (1999 to 2008) franchise, taking place before The Mummy (Sommers, 1999). Its sequel, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, despite having a 2 in its title, is actually a prequel with the subsequent three sequels all being sequels to The Scorpion King, resulting in the following viewing order:

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior
The Scorpion King
The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (Reine, 2012)
The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (Elliot, 2015)
The Scorpion King: Book of Souls (Paul, 2018)
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns (Sommers, 2001)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Cohen, 2008)

6 Senseless CGI

I grew up in an age where special effects were constantly evolving, where complex camera techniques and detailed prosthetics were the order of the day. Consider the laborious effort that went into composting all of the matte paintings, models, and sets in Aliens (Cameron, 1986), a film that also employed fantastic suits, miniatures, and puppets that really made it seem as though there were hundreds of Xenomorphs out for Sigourney Weaver’s blood. Nowadays, filmmakers just CGI the hell out of it and be done with it and, while this can result in some breathtaking movies and action scenes, often it’s an egregious use of a tool that should be used to enhance films rather than overwhelm them. Let’s talk, again, about George Lucas, one of the pioneers of practical effects, who used puppets, models, and complex filming techniques to craft his original Star Wars (1977 to 1983) trilogy. However, when it came time for him to produce the prequel trilogy (1999 to 2005), he used nothing but green screens, digitally adding almost every element of the films in after this actors stumbled through scenes with no frame of reference. Honestly, just because you can use CGI to create all the Clone Troopers doesn’t mean you should and, to me, it just seems unnecessarily lazy and an arrogant use of your time, budget, and resources.

5 Panic Stations

I’m probably the only person who will admit to liking the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man films (2012; 2014); I loved the suit in The Amazing Spider-Man, the slightly different take on Peter Parker’s origin, and that it looked like Sony were finally going to be setting up the Sinister Six…and then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 happened. Despite making $700 million worldwide against a nearly $300 million budget, reception of the film was mixed and, rather than finish the series off with a finale, Sony finally decided to cooperate with Marvel Studios and opted to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. However, rather than integrate the MCU with the Amazing films (as had been previously suggested), Marvel Studios opted to complete recast the character, bringing in Tom Holland. Now, I like Holland as Peter/Spidey, but his introduction in Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers, 2016) came just two years after Garfield’s last appearance. Considering The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted the franchise only five years after Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2007), that is a lot of reboots and changes to Spider-Man in a very short amount of time. Halloween (Green, 2018), Hellboy (Marshall, 2019), and Terminator: Dark Fate (Miller, 2019) are also guilty of this, falling back on rebooting, retconning, or straight-up ignoring previous movies and returning “to their roots”. The DCEU has also suffered from Warner Brothers panicking to the reactions to their darker, gritty comic book movies, which caused Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017) to suffer from rewrites and drastic changes.

4 The Wilhelm Scream

The Wilhelm Scream used to be cute, a fun little recurring gag in movies. Like the creator cameos (popularised in recent years by Stan Lee showing up in Marvel movies), this used to be a fun Easter Egg for knowing audiences. Now, though, I have come to really despise this over used sound effect. It has been done to death in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films alone but seems to crop in every movie you see these days and I am just so sick of hearing it; it really takes me out of the experience and just makes me grimace every time it gets snuck in there.

3 Daft Movie Titles

Movie titles should be simple and striking; they should relate what’s going to happen and give the general gist of the movie. They should not be a chore to read or be indistinguishable from other film titles and, yet, we live in a world with films like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Story, 2005), and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Wyatt, 2011). Here’s some alternative titles just for those movies: Tomb of the Mummy, Fantastic 4: Doomsday, Rise of the Apes. As for Batman v Superman, I don’t think it ever should have had a title at all; it literally should have just been the Batman and Superman logos on top of each other, with the film referred to as Batman/Superman. Let’s not forget such lazy titles as Solo: A Star Wars Story (Howard, 2018), The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013), and The Dark Knight Rises, all of which could have easily been called Smuggler’s Run, Wolverine: Ronin, and Knightfall. Don’t even get me started on all the movies we got with Rise of, Age of, and Dawn of in their titles not that long ago!

2 Repeating Past Mistakes

I’m looking at Spider-Man 3 for this one; by the time that movie came out, it was pretty well known that a lot of comic book fans weren’t too happy with the revelation that Jack Napier/the Joker (Jack Nicholson) was the man who gunned down Bruce Wayne’s (Michael Keaton) parents in Batman (Burton, 1989). Yet, Sam Raimi seemingly didn’t hesitate at all to do exactly the same thing when he fingered Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) as the gun man in his movie. And why? Just so there would be a “connection” between Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and Sandman…despite the fact we already had a personal connection between Spidey and Harry Osborn/”New Goblin” (James Franco). It wasn’t the only mistake he made in that movie but it was one of the most baffling, especially considering all the controversy surrounding the Joker revelation. We saw a similar situation when Green Lantern decided that Parallax (Clancy Brown) would be much more effective as a big ol’, CGI mess of a space cloud, something that worked out just as well for Galactus in Rise of the Silver Surfer. Similarly, Justice League didn’t earn itself any favours by repeated the same “big fight against a CGI monstrosity” from both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016), which were its direct predecessors and the subject of a lot of online backlash.

1 Ignoring Continuity

I touched on this earlier but there’s nothing I hate more than a film series or sequels completely ignoring their established continuity. The X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) series is the worst offender of this, throwing continuity out of the window with every entry and thinking it’s cute to poke fun at it in their Deadpool (Various, 2016; 2018) spin-offs. The Terminator series (Various, 1984 to present) is also just as bad with this, mainly because the film rights keep being passed between different studios and bodies, but it seems like every new Terminator movie disregards chunks of, if not the entirety of, their previous entries, making for a disjointed franchise that’s difficult to care about, with the upcoming Dark Fate looking like a mish-mash of its predecessors rather than something fresh and new. I get that, sometimes, aspects of films or entire movies/sequels aren’t received too well but I would much rather the screenwriters tried to address and move on from any problems rather than simply ignoring them or waving them away. If you’re just going to ignore what’s come before, make a remake or reboot and start completely fresh; otherwise, try something a little lazy than just ignoring entire movies.

How about you? What tropes of movies and cinema do you dislike? Let me know in the comments, or if you think I’m full of shit.

Talking Movies [Christmas Countdown]: Shazam!

Talking Movies

Released: 5 April 2019
Director: David F. Sandberg
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget: $80 to 100 million
Stars: Asher Angel, Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Grace Fulton, and Djimon Hounsou

Billy Batson (Angel), an abandoned boy searching for his missing mother, is suddenly bestowed with magical superpowers, transforming him into an adult superhero (Levi) with the mindset of a teenager. When Doctor Thaddeus Sivana (Strong) attains equal power through possession of the seven Deadly Sins, Billy is suddenly faced with putting aside his personal issues and becoming a fully-fledged superhero.

The Background:
Following the success of Clark Kent/Superman and Bruce Wayne/Batman, Fawcett Publications sought to establish their own colourful superheroes, each sporting the powers of Greco-Roman Gods, before Ralph Daigh combined them into one superpowered entity to directly oppose Superman initially dubbed “Captain Thunder” and transformed by writer Bill Parker and artists C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza into Captain Marvel. Although legal issues dogged the character even after Fawcett was absorbed into DC Comics, Captain Marvel was joined by a colourful extended family and even enjoyed some success in adaptation with a live-action television show back in the seventies. Development of a big-screen adaptation can be traced back to the early-2000s, when Peter Segal was attached to direct and the first rumblings of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsons interest in playing Teth-Adam/Black Adam came about. When production stalled, Segal left the project and Shazam! fell into Development Hell for a while as Warner Bros. tried to establish their own cinematic universe. The project came back to life in 2014, with Johnson still involved, though he was soon given a spin-off project while director David F. Sandberg casting Zachary Levi in the title role and tackling the concept asBig (Marshall, 1988) but with superpowers”. Levi underwent a physical transformation and worked closely with his child co-star, Asher Angel, to portray the World’s Mightiest Mortal. Following a favourable response to the film’s first teaser trailer, Shazam! went on to make $366 million at the box office, making it a reasonable success. Critical response was overwhelmingly positive; reviews praised the comedic aspects and performances, and colourful visuals and heartfelt messages, though some noted issues with the tone and finale. Regardless, Shazam! was a big hit amidst the mess that is the DC Extended Universe; not only was a sequel announced not long after the film’s release but the Rock finally got his long-awaited Black Adam movie, though any hopes of a showdown between the two would be quashed with Shazam!’s sequel.

The Review:
Shazam! was released at a time when the DCEU was in a very chaotic flux; it’s not much better these days, to be fair, but back in 2019 we were still in the murky depths of the whole “Release the Snydercut” movement that saw a very vocal and very toxic splinter cell of “fans” decry anything and everything that wasn’t spearheaded by Zack Snyder. Consequently, I’ve seen discussions online trying to claim Shazam! isn’t canon to the DCEU films that came before it simply because Superman (Ryan Hadley) is wearing a blue suit instead of a black one…like he couldn’t just change his bloody costume! Well, I’m sorry to tell you but, at this point, Shazam! is more canon than the bloated and over-rated Zack Snyder’s Justice League (ibid, 2021) and different superheroes in the same shared universe can have different tones to their movies; if you don’t want to look at Marvel’s movies for proof of this, maybe try comparing Man of Steel (ibid, 2013) to Wonder Woman (Jenkins, 2017) and then each of those to Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016) and Aquaman (Wan, 2018), four films that most definitely are a part of Snyder’s flawed vision of DC’s most famous characters. For me, Shazam! represented a shift towards telling more light-hearted, comic-accurate, and action-packed stories that focused on getting to the heart of these beloved characters rather than muting and saturating them or making them unnecessarily grim; Snyder extremists may lose their nut when Batman (Ben Affleck) mercilessly slaughters people and swears like he’s Frank Castle/The Punisher, but that’s not true to Batman’s character at all so I saw Shazam! as a bit of a course correction for the DCEU towards a less ridiculously serious take on these characters.

Streetwise Billy pushes everyone away in pursuit of his missing mother.

I feel it’s important for me to point out that I haven’t read any of the New 52 comics featuring Billy/Shazam’s altered background and extended family; I’m vaguely aware that his origin and situation were changed and updated somewhat, but I’m much more familiar with his classic comics and his appearance throughout the mid-nineties as a budding kid reporter and the “Big Red Cheese” who goofed about on the Justice League International team. I was therefore amused and intrigued to find Billy portrayed not a newspaper boy living on the streets with aspirations of working in radio, but instead as a streetwise orphan with a reputation for causing trouble with both his foster families and the cops and businesses of Philadelphia. Billy is a lot more in common with young John Connor (Edward Furlong) in that he resents being placed in the care of others, prefers to rely on his own wiles to get by, and frequently scams his way into police databases to track down his birth mother, Marilyn (Caroline Palmer), who he became separated from at a carnival ten years previously. Although he’s a rebellious kid who actively rejects assistance and affection for others, there’s a real tragedy to Billy; he believes he has a “real” family and mother out there waiting for him, refuses to entertain the notion that Marylin isn’t interested in finding him, and is desperate to be reunited with her and feel that sense of belonging once more. Unfortunately for him, he’s only fourteen and therefore legal mandated to be placed into foster care; having run away from good families before and been rejected because of it, he’s placed into the care of the lovable Víctor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vásquez (Marta Milans), who shelter a whole troupe of foster kids of all ages. Since he’s a self-sufficient kid who doesn’t see the point in connecting with others because he’s trying to get back to his real mother, Billy is unimpressed by the Vásquez’s friendliness and the mixture of personalities in their household.

Billy revels in the power and freedom offered by his superpowered alter ego.

As in the source material, Billy is approached by the aging wizard Shazam (Hounsou), here depicted as a desperate demigod seeking to pass his great powers on to a suitable heir before his time ends. Djimon Hounsou is a great choice for this role; his gravely voice oozes a perfect mixture of menace, authority, and despair. Burdened by the guilt of having misplaced his trust in a previous Champion and witnessing the deaths of his fellow Council of Wizards, the Wizard is determined that his next Champion be pure of heart in order to fend off the influence of the Seven Deadly Sins (Steve Blum, Darin De Paul, and Fred Tatasciore) but is forced to rely on the reluctant Billy after the Seven Deadly Sins are freed from their prison. By speaking the Wizard’s name, Billy is transformed into an adult form sporting one of the best and most comic-accurate costumes ever put to cinema; the effort sees the Wizard crumble to ash but empowers Billy with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Whenever he utters his name, Billy becomes a boy trapped in a man’s body, leading to many humorous moments such as him struggling to navigate the world now he’s a six-foot, musclebound man, him learning the alcohol usually tastes terrible, and his awkward attempts to exude authority as a superhero. Zachary Levi shines in the role, though it can’t be overlooked that Billy seems to act more immature as Shazam than he does as a kid, somewhat negating whatever influence the Wisdom of Solomon is supposed to have on him; however, I would chalk this up to the freedom and power offered by his adult form and superpowers and it results in some of the film’s best moments as he and Freddy Freeman (Grazer) test Shazam’s limits, try to think up a suitable superhero moniker, and attempt to become social media celebrities by recording his feats of power and heroism.

Freddy encourages Billy’s growth from a super celebrity into a capable superhero.

The Vasquez house shelters five kids of various ages, including avid gamer Eugene Choi (Ian Chen), the enthusiastic, the overly affectionate and chatty Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman), introverted workout aficionado Pedro Peña (Jovan Armand). While Darla steals every scene she’s in with her endless excitement and Billy can’t help but be taken by her childish positivity, it’s cripple Freddy Freeman and academic prodigy Mary Bromfield (Fulton) whom Billy spends the most time with. A superhero fanboy who’s constantly wearing Justice League t-shirts, showing off his Superman memorabilia, and rattling off Justice League statistics and abilities as Billy explores his powers. While Freddy’s nonstop chatter quickly exasperates Billy, the self-styled loner can’t help but step in when the snarky Freddy is set upon by a couple of douchebag jocks; Freddy’s a bit of an odd duck, one who sports a dark sense of humour, chatters incessantly, and struggles to maintain his boundaries. It’s lucky for Freddy that Shazam’s powers are so formidable as he doesn’t hold back in putting him through his paces; he actively encourages armed thugs to shoot him in the face, secretly sets him on fire, and delights in watching him barrel into buildings and fall from great heights in his attempts to fly. Eventually, however, a rift forms between them that only grows wider when Billy chooses to goof off as Shazam rather than show appreciation for Freddy’s assistance; even Eugene and Pedro question Shazam’s heroism as he’s more concerned with grifting and showing off. Although Shazam’s able to pull off and impressive physical feat and save a busload of civilians from certain death, Freddy chastises him for causing the accident in the first place and chews him out for not appreciating how lucky he is to have such incredible powers.

Though empowered by the Seven Deadly Sins, Dr. Sivana covets the Wizards gifts most of all.

Billy is put to the test, however, by Dr. Sivana, who we first meet as a little boy (Ethan Pugiotto) suffering emotional abuse at the hands of his strict father, business tycoon Mr. Sivana (John Glover), and his obnoxious older brother, Sid (Landon Doak). Although seemingly a more playful and less repugnant individual compared to his domineering elders, young Thaddeus is a perfect cause of nurture over nature; when he’s magically transported to the Rock of Eternity and offered the chance to become the Wizard’s Champion, he’s easily swayed by the influence of the Seven Deadly Sins, who offer him the power he needs to prove his strength to his father by claiming the Eye of Sin rather than the Wizard’s staff. Deemed unworthy because of his impure heart, young Thaddeus is rejected by the Wizard and his subsequent outburst causes a car crash that sees his father paralysed from the waist down and sets the boy on a lifelong quest to research the Wizard and his other rejected attempts to find a Champion in order to force his way back into the Rock of Eternity, confront the Wizard’s rebuff, and become the vessel for the destructive power of the Seven Deadly Sins. Largely represented as grotesque gargoyle-like creatures comprised of rock and smoke, the Seven Deadly Sins imbue Dr. Sivana with power to rival that of Shazam, which is a far cry from the mad scientist he was in the original comics but, as I understand it, is more in-line with his New 52 counterpart and allows Dr. Sivana to pose a physical challenge to the titular demigod. Composed, spiteful, and revelling in his dark powers, Dr. Sivana is the polar opposite of Shazam, who takes far longer to reconcile his immaturity with his magical adulthood and to realise the potential of his superpowers; it’s telling that Dr. Sivana can both fly and throw more effective punches in their first encounter, such is the benefit of his lifelong quest for the Wizard’s power, and he doesn’t hesitate to use every advantage at his disposal, even threatening Billy’s foster family, to add Shazam’s power to his own.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Some of you reading this may question why I’ve included Shazam! in my Christmas Countdown series considering it’s not a “typical” Christmas movie. Well, for me, the reason is very simple: the film is largely set around the festive season, Christmas songs, trees, and lights are all over the place, as is snow and a general sense of festive anticipation in the air and, while Christmas might not be at the heart of the narrative, this is enough for me to justify it being a Christmas movie. Plus, why not take the opportunity to slap on a fun or enjoyable film around Christmas even if it isn’t a focal point of the movie? A common criticism I have of early Shazam! comics is the depiction of the Rock of Eternity; it would take some decades for artists to render it in a way that felt both grandiose, fantastical, and foreboding and to not simply have cartoonish writing all over the walls to explain to kids what was happening. Thankfully, Shazam! addresses this issue, depicting the Rock of Eternity as a cavernous labyrinthine temple home to the aging Wizard and seven thrones where his peers once sat. The Seven Deadly Sins are also entombed there and, while they do have their name sand natures etched into their rocky surfaces, they’re far more monstrous and impressive than in those early comics; the Rock of Eternity is also home to various other magical doorways and artefacts that effectively lay the groundwork for future films, villains, and characters.

When his perfect memory of his mother is shattered, Billy turns to his foster family for support.

Family plays a central role in the film; as indicated, the influence of Mr. Sivana and Sid has a lasting effect on Dr. Sivana’s nature and life, with every action he takes in his quest for power, both magical and otherwise, motivated by a need to prove himself worthy and superior to his father and older brother. Billy holds his last memories of her close in his heart, remembering her as a kind-hearted and loving mother who did her best and gifted him with a compass so that he could always find his way, and he both dreams and actively rehearses what he’ll say when they’re reunited after they got lost in a bustling crowd. It’s therefore all the more heart-breaking when Billy does eventually track her down and learns not only that his memories of this event were skewed by his childish perception, but that Marylin chose to abandon him as she couldn’t cope with the pressure of being a mother. Asher Angel absolutely sells Billy’s dejection at this revelation as he realises that his whole life has been a lie, that this perfect memory and vision of a loving mother was far from the actual truth, and that his mother dropped him at the first chance she got rather than try to live up to her responsibilities. Despite his earlier reservations, this means that Billy comes to recognise the importance of his true family; while he’s spent much of the film pushing others away and only reluctantly accepting Freddy’s help in discovering the limits of his superpowers, the Vásquez’s and their foster kids have been nothing but warm, welcoming, and understanding to Billy. When he first meets them, the family is coming to terms with Mary’s impending departure for the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), a move which is encouraged but also a subject of sadness, especially for the emotional Darcy. After saving her as Shazam, Billy relates his belief that family is for those who can’t take care of themselves and encourages her to make it on her own and, similarly, early on, refuses to say grace over dinner or join hands with his foster family. However, when Dr. Sivana threatens his adopted family, Shazam agrees to hand himself over in exchange for their lives, finally seeing himself as their brother, and later turns to his adopted siblings for help by sharing his magical powers in much the same way as Victor and Rosa share their love.

Alongside his superpowered family, Shazam defeats Dr. Sivana and finds his place at last.

Although their power is primarily embodied through Dr. Sivana, the Seven Deadly Sins make a hell of an impression, delivering some disturbing PG violence that’s more than on par with the explicit brutality of previous DCEU films. Dr. Sivana barely flinches when his assistant (Lotta Losten) turns to ash before his eyes, launches Sid (Wayne Ward) out of a window, and unleashes the monstrous Seven Deadly Sins upon his father and his board members, whom they slaughter with an unexpected malice for an otherwise kid-friendly film. Although he can easily manhandle Shazam thanks to his composed nature, Dr. Sivana covets the Wizard’s magic above all and takes advantage of Freddy’s very public relationship with Shazam to hold his foster family hostage in exchange for Shazam’s powers. Their loyalty to Billy sees the kids come to his aid and reveals a glaring weakness in Dr. Sivana’s otherwise formidable powers; he becomes more vulnerable as the Seven Deadly Sins expel from his body, so Billy shares his powers, transforming his foster siblings into their own adult, superhero forms to divide the Seven Deadly Sins and weaken Dr. Sivana. While it’s convenient that Lady Shazam (Michelle Borth), Shazam Jr. (Adam Brody), and the others are all able to master their abilities faster than Billy, it leads to a fun and explosive finale as Freddy revels in finally having the superpowers he’s long idolised, Pedro Shazam (D. J. Cotrona) marvels at his physical stature and finally finds his confidence, Eugene Shazam (Ross Butler) delights in spouting videogame catchphrases to match his powers, and Darla Shazam (Meagan Good) retaining her childish exuberance. Although the Seven Deadly Sins and the Shazam Family are technically evenly matched in their strength and durability, Shazam’s able to render Dr. Sivana powerless by goading Envy into leaving his body. He then saves Dr. Sivana from certain death and forcibly extracts the Eye of Sin from his head, imprisoning the Seven Deadly Sins once more, though Dr. Sivana is approached by another potential villainous ally, the hyper-intelligent caterpillar Mister mind (David F. Sandberg) while languishing in prison. Having now found a safe, loving home and family to share his life and powers with, Billy chooses to stay with the Vasquez’s, joins them in their family traditions, and establishes himself and the other Shazams as the new keepers of the Rock of Eternity. He’s even able to bolster Freddy’s credibility at school by joining him for lunch as Shazam and alongside an awkwardly-framed Superman (seriously, it would’ve been just as good, if not better, to show Superman from behind and floating outside the window).

The Summary:
It can be difficult to craft a truly original superhero origin movie; even I’ll admit it’s usually better to fast-track or skip the origin entirely, especially for more well-known superheroes, but Shazam does a great job of establishing its world and Shazam’s powers through well-paced exposition and different means. Rather than opening with a voiceover explaining everything to us and then having that information repeated later, we see the conflict between the Wizard and the Seven Deadly Sins and how that influences Dr. Sivana and, when Billy first gets his powers, he’s completely clueless how to use them and is forced to turn to superhero nut Freddy for help. Seeing the kids become their own magical superheroes was a blast as all the adult actors equally conveyed their thrill at their newfound abilities and I really enjoyed the film’s humour, especially in the man-child personification of Shazam and his not being able to hear Dr. Sivana’s villain monologue. Seeing Billy grow from a damaged loner to truly accepting his foster family and his newfound powers was a charming development after the utter gut-punch delivered by his mother; Mark Strong was, ever, a deliciously scene-stealing villain and I absolutely loved the costume design and presentation of the film. Infused with exactly the right balance of action, comedy, and heart that’s often sorely lacking in the DCEU, Shazam! is a hugely enjoyable romp that’s got just enough Christmas spirit laced throughout it to justify an annual watch every festive season regardless of how much of a hard-on you have for Snyder’s grim and gritty perversion of DC’s characters.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you enjoy Shazam!? Are you a fan of the comic books and, if so, were you happy with the way it adapted the source material? What did you think to Billy’s characterisation, his mother’s true nature, and his acceptance of his foster family? Which of his siblings was your favourite and did you enjoy seeing them get a share Shazam’s power? What did you think to Dr. Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins? Are there any Shazam characters, villains, or story arcs you’d like to see adapted one day? Do you prefer the grim and gritty DCEU or its more light-hearted side? Whatever your thoughts on Shazam!, feel free to drop them below or leave a comment on my social media.


Talking Movies: Aquaman

Talking Movies

Released: December 2018
Director: James Wan
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Budget: Approximately $160 to $200 million
Stars: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Fresh off his efforts in saving the world from Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) in Justice League (Snyder, 2017), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) finds himself called back to Atlantis when his half-brother, Orm (Wilson), sets in motion a plan to bring war to the surface world. Assisted by Mera (Heard), Curry is tasked with finding and retrieving a legendary trident and claiming his birthright as the rightful King of Atlantis.

Arthur Curry, the Aquaman, was created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris way back in 1941. Over time, the Prince (and often King) of Atlantis has been the butt of many jokes; memes are abound poking fun at the character’s relative ineffectiveness compared to other superheroes and his ability to talk to fish. In recent years, DC Comics have worked hard to alter or wipe away many of the misconceptions and negative perception of the character but perhaps the best decision ever made towards making Aquaman a cool, bad-ass character was casting Jason-f’n-Momoa in the role. Momoa, who made his first appearance as Aquaman in a brief cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (ibid, 2016), made an impressive debut in Justice League as an alcoholic, surfer-like loner. His character arc was about rejoining the world and sharing his gifts with the larger surface world but, at the same time, the seeds were laid to explore his half-breed background and the clear unfinished business he had regarding his heritage and in Atlantis. After Justice League failed to be the box office smash that Warner Brothers were expecting, Aquaman is the DCEU’s first attempt to course-correct and get back on track. With stunning visuals, a rocking soundtrack, and some choice alterations to the existing DCEU continuity, Aquaman represents the DCEU’s attempt to slow things down and bring some life, energy, and excitement back to their shared universe.

The Review:
Aquaman is, in a word, bad-ass. It takes all the best elements of superhero, science-fiction, and fantasy films and smashes them together in a glorious, over-the-top thrill ride that never slows down and never has a dull moment. Well, maybe there’s a little too much time spent exploring Arthur’s heritage and the relationship between his parents but this ties directly into the plot as Arthur harbours a grudge against all of Atlantis for ostracising him and his belief that they killed his mother, Atlana (Nicole Kidman). Plus, much of Orm’s motivation stems from his disgust at having a half-breed older brother and his quest to become the “Ocean Master” is layered in a desire to destroy Aquaman, dominate the surface world, bring Atlantis back to glory, and his personal lust for power. Momoa is perfect as Aquaman; as we’ve already seen, this is not your typical fish-scale-wearing goody-two-shoes. This Aquaman is a snarky, binge-drinking, cocky guy who has little to no interest in helping Atlantis or even the world in general, despite the events of Justice League. Momoa is far from a macho meat-head, though; he carries a true sense of conflict and sadness over his unresolved issues regarding his heritage and you can tell that he is torn between wanting to be left alone and reclaiming his birthright.

Matching him blow for blow along the way is the incredibly gorgeous Mera; Mera, like Arthur’s childhood mentor, Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), has been feigning loyalty to Orm’s throne but secretly desire to displace Orm with Arthur, whom she sees as the true King of Atlantis. While Mera has no love for the surface world, she prefers Atlantis to remain hidden away and in peace rather than at war; however, she struggles to adjust to Arthur’s…unique…personality but is more than capable of holding her own due to her unique hydrokinetic powers. Aquaman also has the distinction of casting Patrick Wilson in a far more action-heavy role; underwater, Orm is an accomplished fighter who is more than capable of besting Arthur’s sloppier, less elegant fighting style. However, he is also capable of balancing many complex motivations; he is not simply a power-hungry dictator and, instead, you get the sense that he truly believes that his actions are right for the future and continued survival of Atlantis. Orm forges something of an alliance with David Kane (Abdul-Mateen II), a pirate with a grudge against Aquaman, whom he outfits with advanced Atlantean technology that allows him to assume the identity of Black Manta.

While Black Manta could have been featured a little more in the film, which juggles many different stories and ideas all at once, his appearance is a welcome one as he fully embraces the all-encompassing outfit and manages to project his rage and lust for vengeance despite being completely obscured. In fact, this is one of Aquaman’s greatest strengths; unlike a lot of comic book movies, it really embraces some of the characters most ludicrous aspects. Aquaman eventfully dons a very close approximation of his original, cheesy outfit; Orm fully garbs himself in a strikingly true-to-the-source Ocean Master armour; and Black Manta truly is an energy blasting bad-ass. At the same time, Atlantis looks absolutely gorgeous; there is a true sense of history that really expands the lore of the DCEU. The pacing is really fun, as well, as right as characters are in the middle of, or finishing, their exposition, a massive action scene will break out and things will really ramp up. it also mixes some contrasting cinematic genres; when Arthur and Mera journey to the Kingdom of the Trench, the film suddenly becomes a monster/horror movie but, by the time they return to Atlantis, it shifts easily into a massive full-scale war movie.

The Nitty-Gritty:
There isn’t really too much to spoil here, thanks to the trailers and posters showing us that Aquaman acquires his armour and wields the legendary trident, the only real twist was that Atlana turned out to actually be alive. So, instead, I’ll briefly talk about some of the massive continuity changes this film makes to the DCEU. In Justice League, it was heavily implied that Aquaman was familiar with Mera, had spent significant time in Atlantis and had removed himself from his birthright because he was abandoned by his mother, and that he was essentially a self-ostracised king. Instead, Arthur indicates that Aquaman is the first time he has ever met Mera (and, trust me, I would definitely remember meeting a gorgeous redhead like her!) and his relationship with his mother is one based on loss and regret as he never actually met her; his grudge has shifted against Atlantis, as he believes they executed her.

Furthermore, Justice League seemed to indicate that Arthur could not communicate underwater, as he and Mera randomly had a chat within a special bubble she created, but he has absolutely no issue with that here. None of these are major issues but it does make watching the DCEU films a bit jarring and it’s interesting to me that Aquaman spends so much time on these changes and showing Arthur’s training with Vulko but does nothing to address some pretty big plot holes. For example, none of the flashbacks establish when Vulko first met Arthur and it is explicitly said that Arthur has never been to Atlantis before so it feels like a few scenes were missing to help flesh all this out. Like, I would have had Atlana send Vulko to train Arthur, shown Vulko making numerous trips to the surface with various weapons, armour, and writing to help teach Arthur, and a scene where he gifts Arthur Atlana’s spear. These are minor things but it just seemed a bit weird that Vulko randomly appears with no explanation as to how he first met Arthur.

In Summary:
I cannot stress enough how much fun Aquaman is; the film is bright, constantly moving, full of action, and has a real dramatic weight to the story. It’s not just a big CGI-fest, it’s also full of humour and hard-hitting action and I am so glad that Jason Momoa has the chance to bring this character into the mainstream in such a great way. After this, no one will be making jokes at Aquaman’s expense ever again; instead, they’ll see just how awesome Aquaman can really be!

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.