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Spoilers ahead for Superman: Earth One, Batman: Earth One, and Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I was a major fan of Superman: Earth One when I first read it sometime in 2011. I was such a fan, that when Man of Steel came out in 2013, I immediately recognized the similarities between the two stories (Man of Steel was Based on Superman: Earth One). Much to my delight, DC announced they would be doing Earth One renditions of other DC Superheroes. They released Batman: Earth One, which is currently unfinished with two volumes, and Teen Titans: Earth One, also presently with two volumes. The most recent release was wonder Woman: Earth One (with Aquaman and Flash in production!). I was pretty excited to read Batman: Earth One, and after reading, just had to get my hands on Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I had heard that Wonder Woman was not as good as the other Earth One stories, but I wanted to make that judgement for myself. I ordered it from Amazon (which in itself is ironic) and it arrived this past Sunday with Volume 3 of Superman: Earth One. As I’d been dying to see Earth One Superman face off with Zod, I read that one Sunday night. Last night, when my internet decided to fight with me, I decided to read Wonder Woman.

I was not disappointed. Well, sort of. I was disappointed because, unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman doesn’t really do much in her story. However, what I wasn’t disappointed about was the feminist, queer story that I read. Let me start with the bad of the story. Which really isn’t much, and really is only bad when related to other Earth One stories.

The BAD

Superman: Earth One focuses on Clark Kent, with his amazing abilities, trying to find his place in the world. He’s smarter than the smartest scientists, stronger than the toughest body builders, more deadly than the best trained military – yet he cannot find a place in this world. When an alien menace, Tyrell, arrives, searching for the last Son of Krypton, Clark Kent emerges as Superman to take down the menace (and, in turn, discover his true calling).

Batman: Earth One focuses on a fledgling Dark Knight who is trying to uncover the sleazy underworld of Gotham City and discover who put a hit out on his parents. He’s got his epically savage butler, Alfred, as his partner in crime, who continually urges him to bring guns to gun fights where Bruce Wayne insists on bringing flying razors, even when the guys with guns tend to wallop him. Bruce eventually uncovers who the criminal mastermind is and wins the day!

Wonder Woman: Earth One focuses on Princess Diana, who lives on the feminist island paradise of Paradise Island (was that exposition necessary?). The Amazonian society left “Man’s World” and created their paradise in the Bermuda Triangle after escaping from the slavery of the “man-god” Hercules. The story starts with Diana facing a trial before her mother and other Amazonian sisters. She tells her account of what she did, and the story takes place as each witness tells a part of the story in the trial. Each year, they have a three-day festival to commemorate their liberation from Man’s world. However, Diana is not like her Amazonian sisters and has a whole mess of special powers they do not, because her mother claimed she was a clay statue turned to life by the gods. Anyway, Diana always plays a special role in this ceremony, but this year she stumbled upon Steve Trevor and decided to take him home to help him, since the Amazonian healing technology only works on women. Diana defeats the strongest of her sisters in combat, being named the “Wonder Woman” and claims the invisible jet as her prize. When her mother smells the scent of man on her, she realizes what Diana is going to do and sends a hunting part after her. Diana escapes and manages to bring Steve Trevor to a hospital in the USA. She goes home after seeing how bad the men treat the women in Man’s World. But not before her mother sends Medusa the Gorgon, to turn Steve to Stone so he can never tell of what he knows of the Amazons. In her time in America, Diana saves a bus full of sorority women on their way to spring break and befriends them, eventually being named an “honorary sister.” They pretty much teach Diana all bout feminism in Man’s world. Then Steve gets turned into stone, before Diana even knows the gorgon is there. Then she surrenders to the Amazonian hunting party to stand trial.

 

Do you notice a difference between those three stories, other than the fact that I went into a lot more detail about Wonder Woman than the other stories? Well, the main difference is that while Superman and Batman start their stories taking on supervillains and crime bosses, Diana starts her story convincing her mother to let her go outside and play. Now, the way it is done is good, in my opinion, but it’s still important that Diana’s first step is nowhere near the first steps of her male counterparts. It’s ironic that a story with so much feminism in it fails to so much as show that Diana is a contender. Diana is part of the “Holy Trinity” of DC Comics and should be regarded as one of the ablest and most fearsome women in the world. It’s unfortunate that her first outing into the grittier world of Earth One is barely heroic and barely shows her skills. It’s ironic that it contains its titular character bound and chained for a good portion of the story.

 

The Good

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This is a feminist masterpiece (other than what was mentioned above). It has everything you can think of. Hell, it even has man-hating radical feminists. It talks about body shaming, sexuality, and women’s roles. It puts sorority women in a loving and supportive light.

The most important conflict in this story is between Diana and her mother, Hippolyta. Hippolyta is the woman who killed Hercules and freed the Amazons from slavery. She was enslaved by men. She was used by men like an object. This created her hatred of Man’s World. We even learn that Hippolyta literally created Diana to be her weapon used to destroy Man’s World. Hippolyta is that rad fem most feminists despise being compared to. A lot of other subtle things lead me to identify Hippolyta as the radical feminist here.

Hippolyta has a magic mirror she uses to look at the world. At one point early on in the story, she shows Diana an image of a woman in underwear, wearing a collar and leash held by a clothed man, and sitting over a food dish. She tells Diana that that is how men treat women in Man’s World. Clearly, she is taking a snapshot of a situation and using it to fit her means. Is it possible that woman was actually enslaved into bondage? Yes. But most sex positive people know that sometimes women actively participate in role playing, S&M and bondage activities like that with their lovers. Was the woman Diana was shown a slave or a submissive? We won’t know, and I don’t think Hippolyta cares. Which is ironic, because Hippolyta and the Amazonian culture regularly say that willful submission is a sign of love.

When Diana uses the purple rays to restore Steve Trevor from his stony fate, Hippolyta is shocked that the purple rays worked on him. Diana tells her that she simply re-calibrated it, something Hippolyta never even cared to try doing. And it clearly only took Diana a few moments to do so, as she hadn’t had access to purple rays until just a moment before.

The main conflict between Diana and her mother is that of choice. Diana wishes to choose her role, rather than have it be assigned to her from her mother. Hippolyta believes that women have only one role, and that is to be better than men and to rule.

Diana meets Betty (Earth One’s Etta Candy), one of the sorority sisters she rescues, and Betty is a slightly overweight – but healthy – bisexual woman. Betty is a symbol of modern feminism. When brought before Hippolyta at the trial, Hippolyta and other amazons scorn her for her body. Even Diana makes a comment about it when first meeting her. Betty is always mature yet firm in her response that she loves her body, is healthy, and is happy. Diana accepts that, but Hippolyta does not.

Betty is more than just body positivity;  she is also sex positivity. She talks about her crushes on both men and women, and about how Paradise Island is a kinky lesbian sex island. I can foresee Betty’s character being the most sex positive of all the characters in future volumes.

But that’s not all Betty does. When Hippolyta is using Betty and other women as examples of why Man’s World is cruel to women, Betty fires back. Betty tells Hippolyta that the patriarchy may be bad, but they (women) are fighting against it and trying to make change. Betty uses actual feminist language to counter Hippolyta’s insults. Betty is probably the hero of this story, in terms of theme. (And well, Diana doesn’t really do anything except save Betty’s sorority sisters, so maybe Betty is the bigger hero after all).

Aside from all of that, this is a primarily female story. Steve Trevor and Hercules are the only men who actually have names in the story (there may be a named soldier somewhere but they play no real role in this volume). This story is about women of all different backgrounds. There is Diana, the social outcast who wants to leave home and see the world. There’s Hippolyta, the vengeful, bitter women with a chip on her shoulder. There’s Betty, the young, optimistic, positive and happy one. There is Nubia, Diana’s black Amazonian sister who struggled to understand her then defends her in the end. There are Betty’s sorority sisters who support Betty and Diana equally, even though they are pretty opposite people.

 

But that is not all. This story is also incredibly queer. First, we have both visual and verbal confirmation that Paradise Island is pretty much a lesbian paradise. In one scene, we see the Amazonian women asleep, at different levels of undress, after an insinuated orgy. Diana tells Steve that she left her lover on the island to save him. Betty tells us that she has crushes on men and women. This is such a queer book and I love it.

We have Diana, who at this point has shown no interest in men, and is therefore only confirmed Lesbian. We have the rest of the Amazons, who have had no contact with men for three thousand years and most likely do not lust after them. We have Betty, who is surely bisexual, and will hopefully use that language in the future volumes.

And again we get back to Betty. Betty is the one most interested in the sexual themes of the story. She is the one commenting about the Paradise Island kinky lesbian sex. She is the one talking about her crushes. She is the every-woman, and she is teaching Diana what it is like to be a woman in Man’s World.

 

And if that isn’t enough, Steve Trevor takes the cake. After being saved from stone by Diana, Steve is wrapped in the lasso of truth and asked questions by Hippolyta. When he tells them he lied to his superiors to protect them, Hippolyta assumes it is because he lusts after Diana. He tells her, under the truth of the lasso, that he did it because his ancestors were slaves (Btw, Steve is a pretty badass Black Man) to men who thought they were better than others; men with too much power. And all of a sudden you realize that this story is about so much more than just feminism. Steve says he hid their secret because he understands why they don’t trust man’s world, since he doesn’t, either.

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So the story may not be too epic, but it is still powerful. It makes powerful social commentary – commentary you don’t need to make with a superpowered fight or badass moves. Commentary that I hope we get to see metaphorically in the future of this series, hopefully introducing Cheetah with her own idea of feminism.

This story brings you back to the golden Age Wonder Woman, but takes the terrible tropes and flips them on their head. I strongly recommend it! (even after all these spoilers!)

 

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of criticism from people on the Batman vs Superman movie. I hadn’t seen it until last night, so I had stayed out of the conversation until then. Now that I have seen it, I’m reading reviews and think pieces about it. I have realized that there is one completely fundamental thing most people do not realize about this movie, and it’s actually about Man of Steel.

You see, Man of Steel is based on Superman: Earth One. And it’s not just a coincidence. They told the author of Earth One they were using his story. I’m going to give you a quick description of Superman: Earth One. Krypton is destroyed, and Kal-El, son of Jor-El, is sent to earth. He is raised by the Kents to be a fairly good person, but unlike other iterations, he is not inundated with the “great power = great responsibility” shtick.  The Kents in this version tell him that he needs to figure out what he wants to do. He goes off, exploring the world, trying to find out what he wants to do. He tried academia, and doesn’t like it. He tries hard labor, and doesn’t like it. He tried business and doesn’t like it. He tried a whole series of careers and lifestyles that he ends up disliking. He doesn’t want to work at the Daily Planet, because news media is in decline.

But then something happens. An alien armada comes and its captain, Tyrell, hates Kryptonians, and wants to see the last one die. Superman tried to fight them without revealing himself, but realizes he cannot. Superman must decide if he is going to stand up for earth, or run away. In the end, he stands up for and protects Earth from the alien invasion. This makes him a hero to some, and a threat to others. Also, he interviews himself and gets onto the Daily Planet staff, since the Daily Planet was the only news station to get coverage of the invasion, and is therefore  super successful.

Hmm. This story sounds super familiar. Perhaps that is because it is literally the plot of Man of Steel except they replaced Tyrell with Zod. The issue here is that the whole DC cinematic universe is based on this story, and nobody seems to get that. The whole universe is based on this idea that the heroes do not know what they are supposed to do until after they do it.

This is a strong theme in Batman vs Superman, one that is continually being confused for bad writing. This isn’t bad writing. This is brilliant writing, and brilliant use of visual cues to suggest characterization. The tone and imagery in the movie strongly reinforces the central theme that these heroes struggle.

There is a lot of criticism of Batman and his behavior in the movie. But if you think of his characterization at this point, it makes total sense. Batman has been through hell, as suggested by Alfred’s dialogue and the desecrated Robin suit. He’s desperate for answers, and he thinks his previous methods have not worked. That’s why he’s so fast and loose with people, tossing their cars around like basketballs and throwing grenades like free candy at a parade. He’s also terrified of Superman, and thinks that he is the world’s best hope for survival. In many ways, he and the Lex Luthor character are similar.

By the end of the movie, however, we have literal proof that Batman has changed into the batman we know. When he visits Luthor’s cell, he does not brand him. He does not beat him. He just threatens him. He’s the batman we know. And we are informed of that because he did not brand him, like he did the previous criminals. If people cannot understand that, it’s because they do not understand the main theme of the movie – and the main theme of the current DC cinematic universe. That heroes need to make choices.

Let’s explore this more. One of the greatest criticisms of Man of Steel is that people don’t understand why Superman didn’t take the fight with Zod away from metropolis. The simplest answer is that Superman was new at fighting super-powered aliens and didn’t really think about that. He was mostly concerned with staying alive and stopping Zod. However, this time around, what is the first thing superman does when fighting Doomsday? Throws him into space (which, might I add, is a reference to Injustice). And It isn’t like his fight with Zod in space, because rather than grapple with him, he just kept pushing him further out into space. It’s almost like Superman learned from the last time. He made a choice.

Superman also struggles with what happens at the capitol. He knows that every decision he makes could be the difference between life and death. He is strongly aware. People often mistake lack of dialogue for lack of characterization, but there is a lot of it here.

Last I want to discuss Lex Luthor, who is quite the interesting character to me. Lex Luthor, in general, represents the power and influence of corporate greed. He has previously been depicted as a tall, large bald man with a deep voice and refined tastes. This is the archetypal rich business man of the 80’s and 90s. The Lex Luthor in this movie is NOT that Lex Luthor. In fact, there is an offhand reference to his father, another Lex Luthor, who probably fits that exact description. However, let’s take a moment and look at the Lex we are given. He’s young and drives a motorcycle. He doesn’t follow normal formal rules, doesn’t wear suits, and kind of thinks he’s the best thing around. This is a CLEAR and OBVIOUS reference to young, modern CEO’s. The LexCorp campus reads like Google’s campus on steroids. Recreation facilities, food, social gathering areas. LexCorp is a Silicon Valley company in the middle of Metropolis, and Lex is the typically rich millennial. Greedy, selfish corporate assholes no longer look like the Lex Luthor we demand. They now look like Eisenberg’s Luthor. Just look at this list of CEO’s  under 35, and see how many look anything like the Luthor of old. Not many of them. But they all look like the Luthor we see. That’s the more realistic Luthor.

 

 

Now, I’m the type of comic book fan that will watch a comic book movie multiple times for no real reason. With DC movies, i like to pick up on the references to other characters or alternate storylines that i recognize. In Marvel movies, i don’t really notice those things because i don’t know them. However, i really enjoy “The Amazing Spiderman” for a different reason. As I write this, i realize that the same can be said about “Man of Steel” (though I was hardcore fangirling at all the DC universe easter eggs and references during that movie).

The amazing Spiderman has been on the movie channels a lot lately so I’ve been watching it. I first saw it a few months ago. I honestly didn’t expect too much from it and i was very pleasantly surprised.  There are three main reasons i enjoyed this movie. If you have not seen the movie, don’t read ahead!

1. Casting – The cast of this movie is great. Andrew Garfield makes the perfect Spiderman, and a believable awkward and quirky Peter Parker. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy gives her that girl-next-door type vibe without making her a hyper sexualized, impossible to get girl. Denis Leary as Captain Stacy is probably the best casting call of the whole movie. He perfectly portrays the emotions and heroism of a New York city cop and father. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben was inspiring. The reason these characters are so great is because they are relatable. These actors portray their characters so that we think “oh hey, that could be me” while watching it. I mean, that’s what the message is anyway, right?

2. The message – The message of this story is great. Unlike a lot of other Superheroes, Peter Parker doesn’t have some destiny or higher calling. He wasn’t created or sent to do something. He is just a kid trying to learn how to be a responsible adult. And that’s where the movie shines, i think. Throughout the course of the movie, Peter starts to learn about what being responsible really means. He feels guilty for his Uncle’s murder, so he goes around trying to get revenge. He thinks hes being responsible and helping people, but in reality he’s just trying to help himself. After Captain Stacy talks about how Spiderman has a vendetta and isn’t helping people, Peter realizes that its true. This is shown when he goes to the bridge when the lizard is attacking. This is the first time he is depicted going out there just to help and not to hunt down his uncle’s killer. However, Peter doesn’t just stop there. Once he learns that it is Dr. Connors that is the lizard, he doesn’t try to go take him out on his own. He doesn’t pull a Batman where he thinks only he can stop it. He goes to Captain Stacy and tries to work with him on it. Then, at the end of the movie, Spiderman and Captain Stacy defeat the Lizard together. The message isn’t like so many other superhero movies that say “screw the rules, do what you think is best!” The message here is, “Work with the rules and you will be more successful.”

3. Gwen Stacy’s role – So often in the Superhero genre the female love interest gets treated terribly. They get killed off, kidnapped (I’m looking at you, Mary-Jane), threatened, or are used as some pawn in the villain’s game. They didn’t do that with Gwen. Gwen served a purpose the entire time she was there. In fact, without Gwen, peter would not have been able to stop the Lizard from infecting everyone. Gwen went to Oscorp and made the antidote. She didn’t need help, she didn’t need someone to watch her. She did it. Then, when the Lizard comes for the machine, she hides it from him, stalling him. When he finds it, he leaves her there. How often do you see a Superhero movie where the bad guy just ignored the female love interest? To be fair, I would say that he more so decides that she sin’t worth the time, and leaves, since shes throwing fire at him at the moment, but it doesn’t make a difference. And you know what? The way it was done was way better than if they kidnapped Gwen.

So, the Amazing Spiderman is pretty good, and if you have’t seen it yet then go check it out. I have yet to see the second one, but I will soon enough. How do you feel about the movie? Are there any other Superhero movies that you feel similarly about? Let me know!