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Warner Bros.’ DC films are no longer trying to be Marvel, and that’s a good thing

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Justice League

It’s no secret that Warner Bros.’ DC movies have struggled to mimic the success of rival Marvel.

While films about Superman and Batman have done well at the box office, the franchise has been no match for Marvel. As Marvel prepares to release the 22nd film in its cinematic universe, its movies have already earned $18.5 billion at the global box office. “Avengers: Endgame,” a major climactic event, is setting records for advance ticket sales, and fans are already asking for more.

Warner Bros. has released only six films in the DC Extended Universe since 2013, and they have garnered just under $5 billion. “Shazam,” a lighthearted popcorn flick that opens Friday, will be the seventh.

Estimates for the film have been set low, about $50 million for the weekend’s haul, but expectations are high. The film currently has a 92 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a good sign ahead of its opening.

More importantly, “Shazam” is a chance for DC to continue to build on its recent successes with “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman.” It spins the tale of a young teenager who transforms into an adult superhero when he shouts the name “Shazam” — think “Superman” meets “Big.”

Trailers for “Shazam” have been bright and packed with humor, something DC’s universe has been sorely lacking. In the last six years, DC’s wave of superhero films have been dark, droll and disappointing to fans.

If it succeeds, it will cement the idea that audiences are more willing to open up their wallets when Warner Bros. strays from the Marvel strategy of continuity between films and embraces its more unique — and even obscure — characters.

“They have a formula that’s working,” said Brock Bagby, executive vice president at BB Theatres. “If they continue that, they’ll gain even more loyalty. Just like Marvel, [DC] has to be consistent if it wants to be highly successful.”

The not-so-golden age

Warner Bros. has a long history with superhero films, particularly from DC. It distributed the original Superman flicks starring Christopher Reeve in the late ’70s and ’80s. It also distributed a number of Batman films — from Adam West’s take in 1966 to the days of Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney donning the cowl in the ’80s and ’90s.

Although considered by some today to be campy classics, these films paved the way for the modern superhero film. As audiences became more sophisticated, so too did Warner Bros.’ comic book content. In the mid-2000s, the production company greenlighted Christopher Nolan’s gritty standalone Batman trilogy, which was well-received by critics and audiences alike and took in more than $2.46 billion at the global box office between 2005 and 2012.

It did not quite see the same success with its reboot of Superman in 2006. “Superman Returns” earned only $391 million worldwide and was so widely panned that Warner Bros. scrapped any possibility of a sequel.

The success of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy inspired a darker retelling of Superman’s origin in the form of 2013’s “Man of Steel” from director Zach Snyder. While the film was ripped apart by critics for turning the optimistic superhuman boy scout into a brooding antihero, it made nearly $700 million globally, guaranteeing a second installment.

By the time “Man of Steel” hit theaters, however, Marvel Studios had already cranked out six films. This included the blockbuster “Avengers” flick, which grossed a whopping $1.5 billion at the global box office, according to Comscore data.

“This was years in the making,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Comscore, said. “Marvel was not an overnight success. Marvel had these building blocks where they literally created something that audiences were intrigued by and then got hooked on and had to follow.”

Marvel had spent the years between 2008 and 2012 laying the groundwork for a massive team-up film. It took a chance on the then-uninsurable Robert Downey Jr. to take on the role of Iron Man, aka billionaire Tony Stark, a B-side Marvel hero so low in status that most non-comic book fans associated “Iron Man” with a Black Sabbath song of the same name.

Robert Downey Jr attends a photocall for 'Iron Man 3' at The Dorchester Hotel on April 17, 2013 in London, England.

Over the course of four years, Marvel introduced audiences to the Hulk, Thor and Captain America in standalone features that incorporated several secondary characters such as Black Widow and Nick Fury. The films were praised for how they weaved together humor and drama.

Marvel, which was acquired by Disney in 2009, proved that audiences were not only hungry for superhero films, but would show up in droves to see their favorite characters work together to defeat a common enemy.

“Kevin Feige has been the mastermind. Even though they’ve had a bunch of writers and directors, they still had one guy overseeing the whole thing,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice, said of Marvel.

In a rush to keep up with the rampant success of Marvel, Warner Bros. used Superman’s sequel film to introduce Ben Affleck as an older Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, two key members of the Justice League. The goal was to quickly establish these characters so that the production company could release a “Justice League” film.

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” was the team-up movie that comic book lovers had longed to see for decades. The caped crusader from Gotham and the Man of Steel had never appeared in a live-action adaptation together before this film’s release in 2016. Fans raced to theaters opening weekend, shelling out $420 million worldwide during its debut to see the spectacle. However, reviews were sour, and ticket sales during the film’s second weekend shrunk 70 percent.

“If you chase what another entity is doing, that doesn’t really work,” Dergarabedian said.

He noted that it was the brand-name characters — Superman and Batman — that drove a lot of the ticket demand. The film itself was not quite as beloved as its comic book stars. The film ultimately grossed $873 million worldwide, according to Comscore data.

“Marvel has always understood that it is first and foremost about characters,” said Alisha Grauso, editorial lead at ticketing site Atom Tickets. “We are in an age now where we are very character-driven, and the fact that DC veered away from the fundamental core of its characters, I don’t think that worked.”

Warner Bros.’ “Suicide Squad” brought together a team of famous and infamous DC comic book super villains who were more endearing than their hero counterparts. However, a shoddy story arc and thin character development earned it a 27 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. Still, the film earned $746 million globally.

“Wonder Woman” was a breath of fresh air for the franchise in 2017. The film, lighter in aesthetic and tone, resonated well with moviegoers. Idealistic Diana, an Amazon from the mythical Themyscira, was charming, and fans were eager to root for her. The first female-centric superhero film on the big screen was directed by Patty Jenkins and hauled in $821 million.

“[Wonder Woman] is a really beloved character,” Grauso said. “Warner Bros. got the character right with Diana’s compassion and her strength … it was the first movie that they really took the time to craft the character.”

However, the praise for Warner Bros. would fade before the end of the year. “Justice League” hit theaters less than six months after “Wonder Woman,” and the reception was lackluster, to say the least. Murky visuals, weak storytelling and poor chemistry between the major characters earned the film a 40 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

The film earned $657 million at the global box office, less than half of 2012’s “Avengers” haul.

The dark tones and palate that worked for Batman don’t work for a bigger universe, said Jonathan Gray, professor of English and popular culture at John Jay College and CUNY Graduate Center. Warner Bros.’ biggest misstep came from trying to shoehorn lighter, more optimistic characters such as Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman into that gritty setting.

“That’s where they went wrong,” he said. “You look at Superman, who is tonally the opposite of Batman. He’s hopeful where Batman is pessimistic. He’s light where Batman is dark. But when you look at the Zach Snyder Superman movies, they are Batman movies. They are dark and pessimistic, and that for me was the problem.”

Turning the tide

From 2013 to 2017, the DC Extended Universe films made $3.7 billion, a huge feat for Warner Bros. However, none of its films had grossed more than $1 billion until “Aquaman.” While some called the film and its CGI “cheesy,” for the most part, it was well-received for Jason Momoa’s charisma and its action-packed but playful script.

Aquaman

Currently, there is no official word on whether a “Justice League” sequel will be coming to theaters, but if one is on the docket it probably won’t show up anytime soon. Henry Cavill will no longer don the cape as Superman, and Affleck has hung up his cowl.

Ezra Miller, who played the Flash in “Justice League,” made a bid in March to pen the script for a Flash film to ensure that he could stay on as the speedy Barry Allen in his own feature film.

And it is unclear if Cyborg, another hero from “Justice League,” will find his way to the big screen.

“There is some fatigue on Batman and Superman, but there’s such a deep vault of superheroes and villains that have been untapped with DC,” Bagby said. “There’s tons of potential.”

Looking at Warner Bros.’ slate, one thing is clear: It’s course correcting.

Quirky heroes, dark villains

“DC has had a different style, a different tone, following the Dark Knight Trilogy,” Dergarabedian said. “Now it’s about learning from what fans liked or didn’t like from previous films. I think they really have a handle on what they need to do.”

After “Shazam,” there will be the much-anticipated standalone “Joker” film, starring Joaquin Phoenix, in October. The film deviates from the comics by focusing on Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who is driven insane and, thus, turns to a life of crime in 1981 Gotham City. The film is expected to be dark and psychological, just like the Clown Prince of Crime himself.

“Warner Bros. is realizing they don’t necessarily need the Justice League right now because individual characters and stories not tied to a massive interwoven cinematic universe can still do well at the box office and with moviegoers,” said Erik Davis, managing editor at Fandango.

“By focusing more on character than building out a universe, Warner Bros. isn’t beholden to a larger story — instead, the studio can focus on telling one great story one film at a time, and then develop additional stories depending on what fans want to see more of,” he said.

Margot Robbie’s take on Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad” was so well-received by fans that she’s slated to reprise the role in three more feature films due out over the next few years. She’ll be seen alongside a rogues’ gallery of characters from the DC universe in “Birds of Prey,” “Suicide Squad 2” and “Gotham City Sirens.”

In 2020, fans will get a new Wonder Woman film. Although Jenkins returns to direct, it won’t be a sequel. “Wonder Woman 1984” will link back to 2017’s “Wonder Woman” in some fashion, showing what Diana has been up to in the 40 years since we last saw her, but it’s a standalone film.

In the works is also a standalone Batman film directed by Matt Reeves, an “Aquaman” sequel and an “Aquaman” spinoff film called “The Trench.”

“The biggest indicator that Warner Bros. is turning the ship around is the critical reviews and fan reaction,” Grauso said. “For Warner Bros. money is always important, but more than anything, it’s about rebuilding trust in the brand.”

Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC, owns Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes.

News Tips

From: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/05/warner-bros-dc-films-are-no-longer-trying-to-be-marvel.html

How a $4 million lawsuit created ‘Shazam!’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ as we know them today

The following is a transcript of the video.

Despite its recent resurgence in the pop-culture landscape, superheroes and comic books have been with us for over 80 years, and just like its host of larger-than-life characters, the history of comic books is chock-full of wild stories. They’re sometimes more entertaining than the heroes themselves. It also lets you see what others don’t, like the irony of these two movie adaptations opening only a month apart.

Though they might seem unrelated, these two heroes share a much longer history, and if it wasn’t for a single lawsuit, we might not have seen either of them at all. To tell this story, we need to go back to where it began, and it starts with one man that you will recognize in an instant.

The arrival of Superman on the comics scene was revolutionary. His 1938 debut in “Action Comics #1” essentially gave birth to the superhero genre and what is now referred to as the “Golden Age of Comics.” He was everywhere, in his own national radio program, newspaper comic strips, and animated short, as well as a TV series. It was shared in virtually every possible format imaginable except one: movies. That’s because someone else took his place.

Captain Marvel was another hero that made his debut in “Whiz Comics #2” in the late 1939 published by Fawcett Comics. It featured a 12-year-old orphaned newsboy named Billy Batson who can transform into an adult superhero by shouting one word. Captain Marvel became an instant success, launching his own new independent series “Captain Marvel Adventures,” which would later go on to sell more copies than “Superman.” In fact, for a while Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the time, so popular that it became the first superhero ever to be adapted into a motion picture.

Now, there’s more story behind this. The studio behind the film Republic Pictures was originally working with DC, or National Comics Publications at the time, to make a “Superman” picture, but they already had an existing cartoon deal with Paramount Pictures, which prohibited them from signing another. So Republic Pictures chose “Captain Marvel” instead. DC was obviously not pleased. Fawcett had already published “Master Man,” an obvious copy of “Superman” that they stopped publishing after DC had threatened with lawsuit. They believed “Captain Marvel” was just another imitation as well.

In June 1941, National Comics finally sued Fawcett for copyright infringement. This began National Comics Publications versus Fawcett Publications, one of the longest-running legal battles in the history of comic books, lasting over 12 years. Here’s what happened.

DC’s argument was simple, that Captain Marvel’s main powers and characteristics were too similar to Superman and therefore infringed on its copyright. Fawcett argued that although these two characters were similar, it wasn’t to the point of infringement and that similar feats have already been performed by other fictional characters like Popeye or Tarzan.

To prove their point, National Comics prepared a binder over 150 pages in length with panels from their comics of “Superman” juxtaposed with similar panels of “Captain Marvel.” Everything was in close scrutiny, from their costumes, boots, capes, the ability to leap great distances, the ability to fly, extraordinary strength and speed, invincibility to bullets, shells, explosives, and their secret identity. They went as far as to include that they both had clean-cut faces.

The verdict was clear, the judge eventually ruled that “Captain Marvel” was indeed a copy of “Superman,” but it was Fawcett who won the trial. It was all because of one tiny mistake, a mistake that looked like this. This was the copyright symbol used back in the 1950s. The lawyers from Fawcett discovered that McClure Syndicate, the newspaper company that published the “Superman” comics, had forgotten to place these symbols on several of their strips and argued that DC had no copyright to “Superman,” and the court agreed.

This was devastating news for DC. It meant that it did not own Superman and that anyone could publish Superman’s stories without legal repercussions. This lasted over two years. Out of 160 strips of “Superman,” published from January 1939 to April 1950, less than half of them were from Detective Comics.

DC immediately appealed, and despite the damage, the decision was reversed. The judge of the case, Learned Hand, declared “Captain Marvel” a deliberate and unabashed duplicate of “Superman” and told Fawcett to cease all of its publications and pay DC for the damage it owes. Fawcett settled.

By 1950, the Golden Age of Comic Books had come to an end. Sales were slumping to all-time lows, and Fawcett simply decided that it wasn’t worth fighting. They paid $400,000 in damages, almost $4 million by today’s standards, and with its last issue, it seemed like the end for “Captain Marvel.” As you well know, it was not.

A brand-new publication that no one knew at the time trademarked the name after it was abandoned by Fawcett. That publication was called Marvel. It took repeating slumps in sales and six different iterations until Carol Danvers, whom most of us are now familiar with, took on the mantle of Captain Marvel in 2012.

Meanwhile, DC Comics, looking for a new hero to add to their lineup, bought the rights to all of Fawcett’s superheroes in 1972, including the original Captain Marvel. The irony was that DC couldn’t call him Captain Marvel because Marvel had the name and decided to name him after the magic catchphrase that turns him into a superhero. And in 2019, these two movies are being released just a month apart from one another.

The National Comics Publications versus Fawcett Publications is a prime example of the thin line between plagiarism and inspiration, and the tricky balance that all artists had to find in the early years, a growing pain of sorts.

If it hadn’t been for Superman, a revolution in pop culture history, we wouldn’t have had Shazam, and if it hadn’t been for Shazam, we would not have had Captain Marvel. Ironically enough, Superman, as we know, might not have existed without Shazam, as well. During the first few years, “Superman” also drew lots of inspiration from the original “Captain Marvel,” like how his bald, mad scientist arch nemesis Doctor Sivana led to Lex Luthor, and as for Superman having the gift of flight, it was Captain Marvel who performed that feat first. A Superman who can’t fly, can you imagine that? Neither can I, and that alone might be a good enough reason why we need Shazam.

From: https://www.businessinsider.com/lawsuit-captain-marvel-shazam-superman-comics-dc-superheroes-2019-4

The stars of ‘Shazam!’ on bringing the ‘Big’-meets-Superman comic book film to life

At the moment, I felt a little salty. I was like, “Crap, I played my chip, I got a spin on the wheel, I made it on the board and it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, and then Cate Blanchett killed me” — which is an honor, by the way. But had I not been killed in the Marvel universe, I would not have now been reborn in the DC universe. So for all of it, I go, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

From: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-shazam-zachary-levi-asher-angel-jack-dylan-grazer-20190404-story.html

DeLand is home to Superman’s artist | News | beacononlinenews.com

From: https://www.beacononlinenews.com/news/deland-is-home-to-superman-s-artist/article_78d7b43c-565a-11e9-bec2-2f2a8d6b3495.html

6 Shazam! comic books you should read ahead of the movie

Once more popular than even Superman or Batman, Captain Marvel — aka Shazam — is one of the oldest and arguably most powerful superheroes in modern existence. Born in the pages of Fawcett Comics’ Whiz Comics #2 in 1940, Billy Batson has gone under several retcons through the years but his story has, essentially, stayed the same.

The orphaned Batson, selling newspapers to make some pocket change, is approached by the wizard Shazam, who grants him the powers of the “immortal elders” because he is pure of heart. Upon uttering the word “Shazam,” Billy Batson is turned into the adult superhero Captain Marvel, who has 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.

Created by artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, Captain Marvel was so popular when he first arrived in the pages of Whiz Comics that they soon launched Captain Marvel Adventures, selling millions of comics in the process. But the character soon went through some tough times. In the early 1940s, DC Comics filed a lawsuit that claimed Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. Eventually, the case was settled in 1953, with Fawcett settling with DC Comics.

The character lay dormant for almost 20 years before DC Comics editor-in-chief Carmine Infantino licensed the character in 1972 and ushered in a new age for Captain Marvel, who was rebranded as Shazam!.

So, where do you start if you’re interested in learning more about Captain Marvel, aka Shazam? Ahead of the Shazam! movie opening this week, SYFY WIRE picked a handful of Shazam comic book issues and arcs you should read to get a sense of who Billy Batson really is.

From: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/6-shazam-comic-books-you-should-read-ahead-of-the-movie

9 things you should know about the origins of DC’s new movie ‘Shazam’

Are you worried that when DC’s “Shazam!” comes out April 5 that you won’t be conversational about him? Take heart! Here are nine fun facts to know and tell about Shazam:

1. As the internet keeps reminding us, Shazam was called Captain Marvel when he debuted in late 1939. The star of Marvel’s “Captain Marvel” movie is the ninth comic book character to use that handle.

2. The reason there have been so many Captain Marvels is that the original was sued out of business by Superman. Seriously, when Fawcett Comics debuted their dark-haired, flying strongman with a reporter as his alter ego, the company that owned the Man of Steel (now known as DC Comics) filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit. Fawcett later folded.

3. Billy Batson was and is the character’s alter ego, a tweenage orphan who was judged by the 3,000-year-old wizard Shazam to be worthy of being his champion. Billy could call down magic lightning (“BOOM!”) to transform him into the adult, superpowered Captain Marvel by saying the wizard’s name. In his first story, he also became a roving radio reporter for station WHIZ.

4. After Fawcett called it quits, the name “Captain Marvel” slipped into public domain, and ended up being trademarked by Marvel Comics in 1967. Ironically, DC Comics bought the copyright to the original Captain Marvel, but were too late for the trademark. Marvel had it. The result was that they were allowed to publish the original Captain Marvel, but couldn’t use his name on a cover or title a comic book with it. So DC opted to publish a book titled “Shazam!” with the original character still called Captain Marvel on the inside. In 2011, they gave up and just renamed the character “Shazam.”

5. Another of the original Captain Marvel’s greatest achievements is that he beat Superman to the silver screen, with the “Adventures of Captain Marvel” movie serial in 1941. It was followed by “Batman” (1943), “Captain America” (1944) and “Superman” (1948). “Adventures of Captain Marvel” is still considered one of the best movie serials ever made.

6. Elvis Presley was such a fan that he modeled some of his stage jumpsuits on Captain Marvel Jr.’s costume. Elvis’ “Taking Care of Business” logo is a modified version of Captain Marvel Jr.’s magic lightning.

7. The U.K. had its own version of the original Captain Marvel in the 1950s. L. Miller Sons had been reprinting Fawcett’s Captain Marvel material overseas when it got a cease-and-desist order from DC after it won the court battle. Instead of quitting, it made its own version, where a young reporter named Michael Moran could transform into the atomic-powered Marvelman by saying the magic word “Kimota” (“atomic” backwards, sort of).

8. Marvelman was revived in the 1980s with writer Alan Moore (“Watchmen”), in a disturbing, subversive take on the concept. When it was reprinted by Eclipse Comics in the U.S., the name was changed to Miracleman to avoid problems with Marvel. Ironically, Marvel later bought the rights, and is reprinting the book as Miracleman, although obviously it could call him Marvelman if it wanted to.

9. Many Shazam comics are well worth reading. The 1940s reprints are clean, lighthearted fun. Various reboots over the decades, such as the ’90s “Power of Shazam” series by writer/artist Jerry Ordway, still maintain much of the strip’s core appeal. The current “Shazam!” title is written by Geoff Johns, former chief creative officer at DC Comics, and a writer/producer on DC’s TV and film content.

From: http://www.startribune.com/9-things-you-should-know-about-the-origins-of-dc-s-new-movie-shazam/507950452/

WATCH: Zachary Levi promises that Shazam would take down Superman in a fight

Zachary Levi spent most of his life dreaming of playing a superhero, and now that he’s finally promoting his own blockbuster comic book movie, it’s clear that the 38-year-old actor has not been at all disappointed by the experience.

After playing a supporting role in two Thor movies, Levi steps into the spotlight as the title hero in Shazam!, by far the most colorful and lighthearted film in Warner Bros’ DC cinematic universe. A teenager given the immense superpowers by an ancient wizard, Shazam — aka young Billy Batson — was for years one of the more obscure characters in the DC canon, in large part because it took years for rights issues to be worked out (once upon a time, he was known as Captain Marvel). But in the 1940s, he was the star of the top-selling comic title, with powers that rivaled the most fantastic of the Golden Age’s greatest superheroes.

Shazam! returns the character to that prominence, and Levi — preternaturally enthusiastic — fully believes that Shazam can take on any superhero in a fight. As he told SYFY WIRE earlier this month, that includes his the most iconic and all-powerful DC Comics hero, Superman himself.

But not everything is so easy for Shazam — including bathroom breaks. Levi gave a candid answer about the challenges of life in a super-suit, a topic that director David Sanberg and producer Peter Safran were less excited to discuss. Meanwhile, co-stars Asher Angel, Mark Strong, and Jack Dylan Grazer told SYFY WIRE about their own on-set shenanigans and what they’d do with their own superpowers.

From: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/zachary-levi-promises-shazam-would-beat-superman-in-a-fight

Chapman: 80 years of Batman | Opinion | corsicanadailysun.com

In May of 1939, a comic book company known as Detective Comics Inc. introduced a new character to their 27th issue of their Detective Comics series. This new superhero, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, evoked the crime noir atmosphere of the era with its featured character Bruce Wayne, a boring young socialite… that harbored a secret life dedicated to fighting crime.

Enter “The Bat-Man.”

After his initial appearance, Batman quickly became the focal point of the title, as well as establishing the standalone Batman series in 1940 due to his immediate popularity.

Regardless of who you are, everyone has a “Batman” story. Whether you read the comics with your friends, watched Adam West and Burt Ward camp it up in the 1960s television series, or took part in the mania that surrounded the 1989 feature film, Batman has transcended pop culture to become an American icon.

And here we are, 80 years later, celebrating the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics.

It was just last year that Superman celebrated his own similar milestones with Action Comics. The two characters have become synonymous with fantasy and imagination, and yet their motivations could not be more dissimilar. Whereas Superman is governed by hope, Batman’s war on crime is fueled by justice.

Detective Comics No. 1,000 takes an anthology approach to the Dark Knight, telling a series of eleven short stories of the character’s motivations, his life, and even perspectives from his rogue’s gallery of villains. The Batman legacy has endured from its “bad guys” just as much from its titular hero, and the psychologically complex cast has provided eight decades worth of perilous challenges and moral boundaries.

The stories from Detective Comics No. 1,000 are both a rewarding experience for long-time fans, and a perfect reintroduction for the casual enthusiast. Stories range from Batman working to conclude his longest unsolved case, the motivations and repercussions of being the man behind the mask, and what it means to re-establish a new family for himself after losing his own parents at a young age.

Some of these tales have humorous moments, others are a reminder of his solitary road in being the self-appointed protector of Gotham City. One story, titled “Manufacture For Use” (written by Kevin Smith with art by Jim Lee), is a particularly moving tribute to the character and his mission.

Like Action Comics, the writers and artists are a veritable “who’s who” of the Batman legacy. while the non-comics savvy crowd may not be as familiar with such names as Denny O’ Neil, Neal Adams, Kelly Jones, or Paul Dini, chances are that if you’ve ever picked up one of the comics over the last four decades or seen the Emmy award winning animated series from the 1990s, you’ve experienced their work.

Like any good anniversary celebration, Detective Comics covers all aspects of Batman’s storied career with its cover art. While there is a “regular” version of the 96-page book, there is also a cover for each decade from the 1930s to the 2010s. Looking back at Batman’s comics and media career, the character has enjoyed (or in some cases, endured) one of the most versatile and unique fictional lives, continually reinventing himself for each new decade and a new audience.

It’s interesting to see a pop culture legend endure as well as Batman has. While comic books had once been considered “niche” meant purely for the youth or not for the mainstream consciousness, we live in an age where comic book based movies dominate movie theaters, with no signs of slowing down. It’s also important not to dismiss the historical value of comic books. They are, after all, one of the very few forms of art that is exclusively of an American origin.

Overall, Detective Comics No. 1,000 does justice to the legacy and character of Batman. If you are a fan of the character or even a casual reader, this is a wonderful tribute book. And even if you’ve “outgrown” comic books, but still have some memory somewhere inside you of actors like Lewis Wilson or Adam West donning those familiar tights, or a late night of reading about Batman and Robin leading a daring escape against one of the Riddler’s fiendish traps…. Do your inner child a favor and revisit an old friend.

After 80 years, Batman is still waiting to share an adventure with you.

From: https://www.corsicanadailysun.com/opinion/chapman-years-of-batman/article_47c51c5a-5271-11e9-b968-ff682986602b.html

Batman at 80: How the Dark Knight Became the World’s Most Iconic Superhero

In early 1939, Superman soared over the comic book world. Editors at a nascent DC Comics (then known as National Comics Publication) charged young gag cartoonist Bob Kane with creating a follow-up to the hugely successful character. The illustrator wracked his brain, drawing upon diverse images from across the pop cultural spectrum: Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine, pulp detective novels, a mystery film called The Bat Whisperer and Douglas Fairbanks’ portrayal of Zorro. He called on another young collaborator, Bill Finger, to fine-tune some of the details and zero in on their hero’s backstory.

Over the course of a weekend, the men had created one of the most recognizable figures in modern history.

Bell Icon

Eighty years since Batman debuted in the 27th issue of Detective Comics— “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” — the character (a.k.a. Bruce Wayne, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight — your choice) has conquered practically every medium in existence. Print, television, blockbuster films, toys, video games — you name it, Batman’s done it

In celebration of the 80th anniversary, this week DC released the 1000th issue of Detective Comics, which brings Batman’s past, present and future to life.

RELATED: Ben Affleck Explains Why Left Upcoming Batman Movie: I Couldn’t ‘Crack’ the Script

It’s a look back at a legacy that could have scarcely been imagined in 1939, back when comics were designed as — quite literally — disposable entertainment, and Batman was conceived as just another sleuth solving crimes.

“With the birth of Batman, you have to go back to the birth of comics itself,” DC archivist Benjamin LeClear tells PEOPLE. “The starting point being newspaper comic strips and pulp magazines, things that show up deeply in his DNA. You have Detective Comics back in 1937, and the conceit is that everyone is a detective.”

With the success of Superman, however, it became clear that intriguing personalities were just as important to the success of a comic as the plot and format. The windfall from Superman’s recent syndicated newspaper strips made the character an important model to follow. Years later, Finger recalls Kane’s first draft closely resembled the Man of Steel.

“He had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of … reddish tights, I believe, with boots … no gloves, no gauntlets … with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign … ‘BATMAN.’”

Finger made important suggestions to Kane’s design, many of which can be seen in Batman’s 21st century incarnation.

“Bill Finger contributed things like adding a cowl and replacing the wings with a cape,” explains LeClear. “It’s this design that’s first used in Detective Comics No. 27.”

Benjamin LeClear in the DC Vault, holding a copy of Detective Comics No. 27.

More than just the look, LeClear credits Finger with giving Batman his moniker, Bruce Wayne.

“He wanted something that had a sound of American gentry,” says LeClear. “So he rejected a bunch of earlier ideas, like Hancock and Adams. Then he got to [Revolutionary War Officer] ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne. They’ve even made it that Bruce Wayne is a direct descendant of Mad Anthony Wayne. And then ‘Bruce’ is from one of your all-time great rebel figures in history, [Scottish freedom fighter] Robert the Bruce.”

But perhaps his greatest influence is Zorro, the masked vigilante avenger of Spanish California.

“Here is this masked vigilante avenger, this swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks-like character,” says LeClear. “It’s been in his DNA forever.”

It’s no accident that the most transformative event in Batman’s life — the murder of his parents — occurs as they’re leaving a cinema after watching a Zorro film.

More than a compelling backstory, the loss of his mother and father introduced vulnerability to his superhero persona, and helped endear him to millions of readers.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, the idea of losing your parents to violence hits a nerve with everybody,” says LeClear. “That someone would take this vow of never letting this happen to anybody else means we feel included — he’s actually fighting for us. And I think that’s part of the lasting appeal. He’s also proven that his will is something that is second to none. He won’t give up on us. He will fight.”

Another factor in Batman’s early success was the introduction of his partner in crime fighting: Robin. Fed up with having to write soliloquies for the solitary superhero, Finger sought to compliment the Sherlock Holmes-like Batman character with a Dr. Watson figure. Art assistant Jerry Robinson suggested they name him “Robin,” after the beloved Robin Hood books he’d read as a boy.

“The impetus came from Bill’s wanting to extend the parameters of the story potential and of the drama,” Robinson recalled in a 2005 interview. “He saw that adding a sidekick would enhance the drama. Also, it enlarged the readership identification. The younger kids could then identify with Robin, which they couldn’t with Batman, and the older ones with Batman. It extended the appeal on a lot of levels.”

The original proposal to include Robin was met with strong resistance from DC Comics chief Jack Leibowitz.

“He said, ‘I don’t know…we’re gonna put a kid in this kind of crazy world!?’” LeClear says.

Initially he agreed to only a one issue trial run, but when Detective Comics No. 38 doubled the usual sales figure, they decided to integrate the Boy Wonder into the series on a full time basis.

“I think the most under reported thing about Batman is that Robin is there almost immediately. He’s there in Detective 38, so it’s only 11 issues later that Batman has Robin as a sidekick. And Robin as a character has survived all this time when so many other major, major characters at our company just disappeared because of lack of popularity.”

Batman dominated the Detective Comics series from the get go, and in the spring of 1940 he was awarded his own self-titled comic book series. From there his popularity flourished as his character continued to evolve.

By the dawn of the ’50s, Bruce Wayne was no longer a gun-touting gumshoe fighting members of the criminal underworld.

“There had been attacks on comic books as being dangerous for children,” explains LeClear. “So when you have such a successful character, things like the guns had to away early on. In the ’50s, the attacks on Batman and other comics really get up to a fever pitch, and it’s not surprising that during the censorship movement of the Comics Code Authority, suddenly he’s no longer chasing mobsters and villains; he’s going after space aliens or giant mechanical monsters and things like that.”

More than just his formidable fighting skills and impressive collection of gadgets — predating James Bond’s Q Branch by decades — LeClear insists that Batman’s most valuable attribute is his mind, not his might.

“He fights crime, he’s a vigilante, and that’s always soothing and appealing to us to be able to take matters into our own hands, but it’s his brain that separates him. That’s why he becomes the leader. He’s in the Justice League, and he is surrounded by the most powerful beings that anyone has ever imagined, and they all defer to Batman because of the power of his brain.”

Now entering his ninth decade, Batman has proven that he can withstand any foe, including the passage of time.

“I think the comics are a mirror on our society,” LeClear says. “There’s some really direct links, but sometimes you just see how people have reacted in time periods…He’s in so many different titles, graphic novels, but he’s also been on cartoon shows, and lunch-boxes, and toys. No matter what your medium is, whether it’s video games, whether it’s television, or movies — he’s there.”

From: https://people.com/movies/batman-80-anniversary-history-worlds-most-iconic-superhero/

Using your privilege for good: When Superman met Vixen

There are always two sides to a story, and things aren’t always as they appear. This requires a strong level of discernment in those who have the power to affect what happens in response, and a responsibility for those in positions of power to take a deeper look as they can impact how others see the situation. Drawing conclusions with surface-level interpretations can be dangerous.

For someone like Superman — a being of incredible strength, yes, but more importantly, a being with a tremendous amount of authoritative power — it is paramount for him to make sure he thinks before he acts. The story of Superman’s first time encountering Mari “Vixen” McCabe is a great example of his judgment in situations that reside in a gray area.

Vixen is all about protecting wildlife by all means necessary, legally or illegally. In Action Comics #521, she steals some fur coats, driving them — and the van they’re in — into a river. She leaves the scene of the crime looking rather suspect, so when Superman happens upon it before tracking her down, it appears to be a robbery.

Superman-Vixen_Action_Comic_521

Action Comic #521/DC Comics

Despite damning evidence, Superman doesn’t rush to conclusions. When he finally catches up to Vixen, she attacks him to ensure the van and its contents make it to their final destination. Superman is unable to save the coats and subsequently is unable to pursue Vixen. He could have easily tracked her down after retrieving the van out of the water, but he doesn’t — and that’s good. Because he soon finds out that there is more to this very odd crime.

Superman is told that the furs’ original owner takes part in the poaching of endangered species, and he refrains from telling the officer who was responsible.

Superman_Action_Comic_521

Action Comic #521/DC Comics

Vixen wasn’t stealing furs and destroying them just for the hell of it. She had a bigger plan, and thankfully it works in her favor because her assumptions about Superman were right.

The next day, Clark Kent and Lana Lang are called in for a briefing on an assignment to India to cover the fur-poaching in the country, after a friend of Vixen’s convinced the editor how important of a story this was to cover. Vixen felt it was extremely important for American reporters to cover this story, knowing it would shine a light on such a heinous crime. Lana Lang at one point comments on how un-newsworthy this kind of story is, which gives insight as to why Vixen may have gone about things the way she did.

Clark_Kent_Lana_Lang_Action_Comics_521

Action Comics #521/DC Comics

If a professional journalist can’t even see the importance of what fur-poaching does to the local ecology, then how concerned would an everyday person be about it? Vixen understood this and put her trust in Superman to put all the pieces together.

Vixen_Action_Comics_521

Action Comics #521/DC Comics

When Clark and Lana arrive in India, they aren’t the only people from Metropolis there. The owner of those stolen furs is there too, something Vixen was banking on. Vixen destroyed the furs to get him desperate enough to oversee the collection of furs from the endangered animals he was targeting. Superman puts all of this together once he encounters Vixen for the second time.

When he confronts Vixen before she can make her move, he takes the time to get an explanation instead of hauling her off for stealing the furs in the first place. He understands why she went about things the way she did and holds no judgment because at the end of the day the true villain in all of this is the store owner. He leaves Vixen to deal with him accordingly.

Superman had every reason to view Vixen as a criminal but doesn’t. Instead, he acknowledges the good Samaritan qualities in her, a hero in her own right.

Vixen_Superman_Action_Comics_521_2

Action Comics #521/DC Comics

This story is just the beginning of a great friendship between Superman and Vixen, an allyship built on a strong foundation of trust between the two characters. Vixen’s plan couldn’t be successful if Superman had assumed the worst when the worst could have been easily assumed. 

From: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/using-your-privilege-for-good-when-superman-met-vixen

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