February 20, 2015

Robin: Batman's Unforgettable Sidekick

I'm pretty sure when you think of Batman, you immediately picture him alongside his sidekick Robin. But, do you know how many people were entrusted the Robin position? Did you know girls were allowed to be a Robin? Is it true one of them died tragically? 

Here I have a list with the official Robins and a few curiosity about them:

___ Dick Grayson ___
Robin I / Nightwing / Batman
First appearance: Detective Comics 38 (April, 1940)

Dick Grayson, an orphan and acrobat, became Batman's first partner. Robin was created as a way to attract young readers to comic books. The strategy was so successful it led to the creation of other superheroes sidekicks, such as Aqualad, Speedy and Wonder Girl (Later, those characters would become the Teen Titans, a younger version of the Justice League). 

Dick is considered the best Robin according to the fans and the one Batman cares the most. In the very beginning, the relationship between Dick and Bruce was considered controversial and even homossexual. The controversy gained followers after the novel 'Seduction of the innocent' by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham was published and comic books became targets for censorship. To silence the rumors, DC created Batwoman and Bat-girl (Betty Kane, not Barbara Gordon) as love interests for Batman and Robin.

As he grows up, Dick decides to retire as Robin to dedicate himself to the leadership of the Teen Titans and takes his own superhero identity: Nightwing.

___ Jason Todd ___
Robin II / Red Hood
First appearance: Batman 357 (March, 1983)

Jason Todd suffered the hate of readers because he came straight after Dick in the role of Robin. The public was still coming to accept Dick was never going to be Batman's sidekick again. Jason was revamped and became a little popular, although his behavior and attitude problems proved he wasn't worth the Robin position. 

In a last attempt to test Jason's popularity, DC Comics editors created 'A Death in the Family' storyline where Batman's fans could call a 1-900 number to vote if Robin would die tragically of if he would survive after all. By a slim margin of votes it was decided Jason's fate as he is beaten up by the Joker and left to die on a warehouse explosion. Batman gets there too late to save Jason and his death haunts the Dark Knight for years to come.

Years later, due to an absurd editorial decision, Jason is brought back to life and becomes the new Red Hood. He was revived thanks to an event involving Superboy-Prime that changed many facts in the DC Universe. However, I think this decision was as stupid as Spider-man's 'One more day' saga that erases Peter and Mary Jane's wedding from continuity. 

___ Tim Drake ___
Robin III / Red Robin
First appearance: Batman 436 (August, 1989)

When I started reading comics, Tim was the Robin in action. For me, he was the best sidekick ever! Clever, good at fighting and with a family to care for, unlike the other two Robins. Tim Drake was also the most explored Robin and the only one to get a monthly title of his own.

Not to make the same mistake and bring a new Robin too soon, it took a while before DC decided it was time for Batman to have a new sidekick. Tim was introduced little by little as a boy who deducts Batman secret identity and decides to prove himself worthy of the Robin suit. Although Batman doesn't like the idea in the beginning, Tim becomes indispensable as a partner.

Before the relaunch of the DC titles, the New 52, Tim leaves Gotham for a while and becomes Red Robin, acting by himself while trying to find Bruce Wayne's whereabouts. After a while, however, Tim returns as the boy wonder.

___ Stephanie Brown ___
Spoiler / Robin IV / Batgirl
First appearance: Detective Comics 647 (August, 1992)

This lucky character, Stephanie Brown, is the daughter of the villain Cluemaster. She becomes the vigilant Spoiler to frustrate his father's plans and ends up helping Batman and Robin. Batman is not sure if she's ready to fight crime, but Stephanie doesn't really care and starts working by herself. For several times she teams up with Robin, who became a love interest for her.

When Tim leaves the Robin position, Stephanie convinces Batman that she is his best option as  a sidekick and becomes the new Robin. However, she dies in action a few issues later.

Spoiler is seen back in Gotham City and Tim thinks he's crazy. But, for his surprise, Stephanie was never dead. She was actually living in Africa with Dr. Leslie Tompkins, who faked her death for the girl to have a better life. For a short period of time, before DC's relaunch, Stephanie acted as Batgirl helped by original Batgirl Barbara Gordon. I call her a lucky b***h for she's the only one to be a vigilant, then a Robin, then a Batgirl. Cool, right?

___ Damian Wayne ___
Robin V
First appearance: Batman 655 (September, 2006)

Damian is the son of Bruce Wayne and Thalia Al Ghul. He just came to know his father when he was already a pre-adolescent and was raised to be a violent assassin in his grandfather's league. Fearing for his son's future, Thalia leaves Damian in Bruce's care. Father and son, however, don't enjoy each other's methods in the beginning. Simply because Batman doesn't kill and Damian was raised to do so.

After Bruce supposedly dies and Dick Grayson takes over the Batman cowl, Damian is chosen as the new Robin. When Bruce returns to his role as the protector of Gotham City he's happy to see Damian's changes and accepts his son as his sidekick.

___ Carrie Kelley ___
Robin in The Dark Knight Returns
First appearance: The Dark Knight returns 1 (February, 1986)

Although not a canonic storyline, 'The Dark Knight Returns' introduces the first girl to ever be a Robin. An ingenious decision by Frank Miller. In this alternate reality, Carrie is a 13-year-old girl who saves a tired and old Batman from a gang and manages to become his "last" sidekick.

Carrie is essencial in Batman's confrontation with the Joker and later on, as the series develops, she becomes a new vigilant known as Catgirl.

February 17, 2015

NYC Scenes: You just don't know

You just don't know, but...

... the subway car you're in is full of souls.

... is full of stories.

.... is full of fears.

The cool Asian girl, looking at her I-phone 4, is actually trying to find a way to pay her college tuition.

The bearded man in a black coat, listening to music, is worried about a job interview he's going to. Look at the way he scratches his nails to hide the anxiety. 

The young lady looking outside the window is thinking about the girl she met the day before in a bar. She may be in love. And that's confusing for her. Pay attention to her engagement ring.

The Mexican man, who's been clearly working all day, wants to get laid. And by the way he looks at women it doesn't really need to be his wife the chosen one.

A young man reads an article about HIV on a magazine. Tearful eyes, trembling hands... A band-aid on his right arm... One can say he'd gotten a positive diagnose just a few minutes ago.

A couple, not so young, is in love. They play with each other's hands and smile for no reason, not even talking. They kiss. And they really mean it.

A man, carrying a cart with his personal belongings, just wants to get to the shelter before it runs out of beds. He doesn't want to be outside in a cold night again.

The black boy is almost dancing by himself. He has his report card on his hand. Good news? I hope so.

You, yourself, is reading a book but your mind is far away, in another country, where your family is. And you wonder if you are really happy.

In fact, the subway car is empty. At least for you.

Everyday you look at people. But you don't really see them. 

They are invisible for you.

There are things you just don't see. There are things you never will...

February 11, 2015

Spider-Man Reboot: 10 things I would like to see

By now it's not news Sony and Marvel agreed to share the rights for Spider-Man in the movies. Marvel Studios will produce the movie that will be distributed by Sony and both companies will share the profits generated by the new franchise. It was a good agreement between the studios, since Sony had lost track of the character in the new reboot and the final result of the second part of 'The Amazing Spider-man' franchise was very disappointing. We can take Superman III and IV as examples on how bad sequels can destroy a franchise. By giving in to Marvel Studios, Sony continues to have the rights to the character, part of the profits and still make fans overwhelmed with the decision. Marvel Studios may, finally, correct some mistakes and put Spidey in the same level as his other movie characters.

Spider-Man, along with other characters, had the movie rights sold by Marvel to save the company from bankruptcy. At that time, Marvel didn't have any intention to produce its own movies and having its characters on the big screen would help to increase the comic books sales. At that time, though, comic book movies were being low-budget produced and had no respect from critics. Well, the money saved Marvel, that ended up sold to Disney years later, but at a high cost: As long as the studios keep producing movies with the related characters they could never lose the rights to them. For this reason, Marvel Studios can't use any X-Men, Fantastic Four or Spider-Man related characters. Marvel Studios can only have the rights back if, by any chance, the other studios stop producing the movies for five years.

Well, but now that Marvel Studios is going to produce the new Spider-Man movies, there are some things I would like to see.

1 - Peter Parker, the outcast

I like the idea of Parker being a nerd, an outcast. He was never popular and only became friends with Harry Osborn because the guy had problems with his father. He can be intelligent, but not a genius as the movies show. Peter, so far, is going to be the only character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to preserve his secret identity, so it's good to have this duality: the shy introverted man opposite to the defiant bold hero!

2 - Not another origin story

I mean, you can introduce Spider-Man and sneak some origin scenes along the movie, but not something that would take 40 minutes to show what people already know. Yes, they can even show Uncle Ben's death. But, please, not a big drama about it. I love the introduction of 'The Incredible Hulk', which tells all the origin of the character in less than two minutes. It's not an official sequel, but people already know who the hero is.

3 - A new girlfriend

Before Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane there was Betty Brant. Not Peter's biggest, but first love. In the comics, she loves Peter because he's the ordinary guy she's looking for, but they broke up after her brother's death, for which she blames Spider-Man. And, she never gets to know Peter's secret identity. I imagine Rachel McAdams playing the character. Oh, we can't forget that once upon a time Peter was romantically involved with Carol Danvers, who is going to be the main hero in the upcoming movie 'Captain Marvel'.

4 - J.K. Simmons back as J.J. Jameson

For me it was an amazing choice to have Simmons as the Daily Bugle editor. The actor is so charismatic he made Jameson a very enjoyable character. And, after his Oscar, Marvel should welcome Simmons back to the cast.

5 - Aunt May

A Spider-Man movie without having Peter care about his beloved aunt is impossible to imagine. In the last two movies the Aunt May played by Sally Field was a woman who worked several jobs to take care of Peter, a stubborn grown-up. How horrible is that? Helen Mirren would kill in this role.

6 - Introduce a new villain

We're not dying to see villains like the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus again, so, why not introducing a new bad guy? I would go for the Vulture, Scorpio or even the Chameleon. It's too soon for Venom and Carnage, so hold your horses!!! Remember that we have 'Infinity War' coming up, so, that would be perfect to introduce the Symbiote. 

7 - Introduce a new hero

It's  the Marvel Cinematic Universe! A character making a cameo in some other hero's movie is no news! Since Spider-Man himself may first appear in 'Captain America: Civil war', why not introduce a new hero in Spider's solo movie? Maybe Carol Danvers...

8 - A good plot. A REAL good plot

Nobody wants to see those improbable coincidences all over again. So, this time hire writers who can tell a good story without forgetting about the action. Ashley Miller, Zach Stentz and Jane Goldman (X-Men first class) or Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man) could easily do that.

9 - Great supporting characters

I would focus on the Daily Bugle characters like J.J. Jameson, Betty Brant, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson and Glory Grant. I would also include Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, Anna Watson (but not Mary Jane now) and Captain Stacy (but not Gwen Stacy now). They are important supporting characters in the Spider-Man mythos and I'm sure that, with the right casting, they would make the movie more enjoyable.

10 - A very charismatic actor to play Peter / Spider-Man

If I could cast Peter, Dave Franco would be my choice. First, he can be the nerdy outcast type of guy and also look good in the Spider suit. He's also smart and kind of funny. Not a A-list Hollywood Star but that's actually an advantage: no need for a multi-millionaire salary.

February 05, 2015

They will never be royals

Disney's Forgotten Princesses

The Disney Princess Franchise is one of the most profitable line of products created by Walt Disney Company. Once a character is selected to be part of this group of female heroines, a series of merchandise is created to ensure people would never forget these special girls.

Current line-up of Princesses: Rapunzel, Mulan, Pocahontas, Elsa and Anna (who will be incorporated to the line in 2015), Aurora, Cinderella, Merida, Tiana, Belle, Ariel, Jasmine and Snow White.
To be incorporated to the franchise, the character doesn't really need to be royal. Mulan and Pocahontas, for example, are not real princesses. If there's a rule is that the princess can never be an animal, so, characters such Minnie Mouse or Lion King's Nala would never be part of it. 

The main reason for characters to be coronated "princess" seems to be commercial success of the movie they star. For this reason, for the lack of commercial success, a few female heroins were not included in the final list. Lets see them:

1 - Alice (Alice in Wonderland, 1951)

She's a heroin, lets face it, but the final result of the movie in the box-office was never impressive. Maybe for this reason Alice is not part of the Franchise.

2 - Princess Eilonwy (The Black Cauldron, 1985)

This one was born royal, but, who remembers her?

3 - Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996)

This movie was successful. Esmeralda can even be considered a princess among her people, the gypsies. However, the character was too dense and deep for the target audience. Not to talk about her sexy dancing and the obsession she caused upon the main villain.

4 - Megara (Hercules, 1997)

Well, if Zeus is the king of the Mount Olympus, Hercules is a prince. When he choses to be with Megara, that makes her a princess... Or kind of... So, why not taking this beautiful Greek character to the franchise? We'll never know...

5 - Princess Kida (Atlantis, 2001)

She is a real princess and blah, blah, blah... But the movie flopped in the box-office. And so did her career as a Disney Princess.

6 - Tinker Bell (Peter Pan, 1953)

She's was originally in the Princess Franchise but was removed to be replaced by Tiana. The excuse: Tinker Bell was already the star in her own franchise, Disney fairies.