Archive for the ‘Arrow’ Category

The 2014/15 television season has become well known as the season of the comic book television series. While we used to be content with the occasional Smallville or Birds of Prey (ok, no one was content with Birds of Prey), it’s now possible to watch comic book programming 5 nights a week (or more thanks to DVR). While most of these shows have been ratings successes, I’ve been looking at them on my own scale of general artistry and adaptation. To me, not all of them have been stellar, but it’s certainly been interesting to watch them grow, regardless.

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Superheroes are defined by their villains, be it directly or indirectly. This is a fundamental fact of the conflict that lies at the core of stories featuring masked men and the people who oppose them. For example, many point to the duality of Batman and Joker. It’s been said that one cannot exist without the other. When it comes to villains, the Dark Knight’s collection of foes is widely regarded as one of the best in the medium. However, there’s one other DC hero, The Flash, whose enemies are almost as well regarded.

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It’s been a damn good year for comic book media. Perhaps the biggest advances have been in the realm of television. Once the black sheep of the entertainment industry, TV is now the go-to for intricately plotted, nuanced and serialized drama. Add to that the continuing dominance of comic book movies and it’s no surprise that countless properties continue to be optioned and adapted.
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This television season is nearing its mid point (when did mid-season finales become a thing? Seems recent to me) and as such a lot of shows are going on winter hiatus. Thus, it feels like a good time to check in and see how everything’s progressing.

The Flash
I think this is the probably been the most consistent show in its first season. It quickly and easily established its tone in the pilot as well as the season-long storyline. There haven’t been any major revelations or changes to the status quo as of yet, and that’s fine. Arrow built up a pretty impressive world within its first couple of seasons. The Flash has taken that world and (literally) run with it. The introduction of Barry back in Arrow‘s second season kind of feels like the Nick Fury stinger scene in Iron Man, in retrospect. Now, we get to see how cool this newly expanded universe can be. The show skews a bit on the formulaic side for now, but its episodic nature only enhances the “comic-bookishness” of it for me. It’s amazing how much more natural a “villain of the week” story can feel when said villains are culled from DC’s long history of characters. Speaking of characters, the actors on this show do a hell of a job. Grant Gustin’s Barry is just idealistic enough to be loveable but doesn’t come off as naïve. Jesse L. Martin’s Det. West has become the soul of the show as his mentorly relationship with Barry has progressed. And then there’s Dr. Wells. Speculation has been rampant as to just what is motivating Tom Cavanagh’s character. I guess we’ll see.

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For better or worse, it is impossible to discuss The Flash without first addressing the series that laid the groundwork for it. In its first couple of seasons, Arrow has established a definitively serious tone for its cast of characters. I think, overall, it works for the series. It’s dealing with a younger, angrier Oliver Queen who has far more self-doubt than is typically seen in the comics (at least prior to that whole “New 52” thing). As such, the tone fits his character. In season two, when the future-Flash Barry Allen was introduced and it was announced that he would be getting his own spin-off series, I was a little hesitant due to said tone. Barry has always been a character known for being (for lack of a better term) a “good” guy. So how would his character work in a world that’s as somber and dour as Arrow’s? Well, the two-parter that introduced him answered that question partially, and it turns out it’s “pretty well, actually”. The character is still the same old Barry from the comics. He’s sincere and good-hearted, just updated to better reflect the world that we live in currently, which makes perfect sense.
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This is a new column where I’ll look at how a single comic book character or team has been adapted throughout the years. Think of this as the opposite of The Unadapted (The Un-Unadapted, if you will) in that this will be chronicling characters who have made multiple appearances in expanded media. My first subject will be everyone’s favorite gun-for-hire: Deadshot!

Daniel LuVisi’s beautiful cover to
Secret Six, issue 15

Deadshot (AKA Floyd Lawton) first appeared in Batman’s comic way back in 1950. He was a gimmick villain who posed as a hero trying to abdicate the Dark Knight’s throne as the top crime fighter in Gotham. He was eventually found out and sent to prison. At the time, he wore a costume consisting of a top hat and domino mask. Upon being released from prison, he was rebranded as a marksman for the highest bidder. Along with the change came a new costume consisting of a targeting reticle over his right eye which has become an iconic part of the character’s attire.

Since his early days, the character has evolved into more than a run-of-the-mill villain. He is a father who is devoted to making a better life for his daughter, a nihilist who isn’t afraid to die when the time comes and a good friend to those he deems worthy. He’s also become a fixture in DC’s Suicide Squad, surviving more missions than just about anyone else. He even made the transition to the New 52 version of the team. With his devil-may-care attitude, it’s no wonder he’s been so popular outside of the printed page.

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Promotional ad for Starman #0

Starman is a character that dates back to the Golden Age of Comics. For those who didn’t bother with the link, the Golden Age was a time from about 1938 to 1950 when superhero comic books were churned out like crazy and comic publishing became a big business. Many of DC’s sizeable stable of characters were created in this period. Among them was Ted Knight AKA Starman, a science-hero from the 1940’s who had a baton that enabled him to fly and shoot energy beams. It was powered by star-light, hence the name. The character was a member of JSA and All Star Squadron where he was often overshadowed by his teammates and rarely got a chance to shine (Ha! Puns). The character languished until he was revived in a post-Zero Hour series in the mid-90’s created by James Robinson and Tony Harris.

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Comic-Con International in San Diego has recently wrapped up its 2014 programming. This year, there was a huge focus on comic-based television. The fall TV schedule brings us The Flash, Gotham, Agent Carter and Constantine (plus iZombie as a mid-season replacement). Combine that with returning shows Arrow, The Walking Dead and Agents of SHIELD and it seems that the box office dominance of comics is making it’s way to the small screen. They’ve always had a presence in television (dating all the way back to George Reeves as Superman) but it’s only recently that it’s become so accepted in the mainstream. I realize shows like Batman: The Animated Series and JLU were popular and critically acclaimed, but they failed to capture the general public in the same manner that we’re currently seeing. In fact, almost every live-action comic-based show in the last 15 years failed spectacularly.
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