Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Definitive takes on my favorite comic book characters: Jim Gordon, Justice League, Lois Lane

Two characters — neither of which are superheroes! — and one superhero group dominate this fourth installment of the definitive takes of my all-time favorite comic book characters: Jim Gordon, the Justice League and Lois Lane.

Jim Gordon by actor Gary Oldman: In the “Nolanverse,” Gordon is a patrol officer when he meets 8-year-old Bruce Wayne just after the boys’ parents are murdered in “Batman Begins,” so there’s a big pay-off in “The Dark Knight Rises” when Batman reveals to Gordon the police commissioner that it meant so much to him to offer comfort in such a distressing time.

“The Dark Knight Trilogy” traces Gordon’s working relationship with Gotham City’s guardian, but it’s Oldman’s performance that makes Gordon so human and relatable. He’s a family man and a moral, good cop who understands the value of Batman being what Gotham needs.

Jim Gordon in BATMAN: YEAR ONE: Writer Frank Miller gives us the ultimate understanding of Gordon in the quintessential Jim Gordon story — even though YEAR ONE appears to be a Batman origin story.

Fresh off leaving the Chicago Police Department in disgrace (apparently for uncovering corruption), Lt. Gordon makes it clear he doesn’t take crap off anybody — whether it’s the Gotham police commissioner, a co-worker, the new district attorney or Gotham mobsters. This dedication to justice — and to heck with the consequences — is the basis of Ben McKenzie's take on the detective in the current "Gotham" TV series. In YEAR ONE, the married Gordon struggles with and succumbs to his chemistry with Detective Sarah Essen. More importantly, Gordon tackles injustice and corruption head-on just as he deals with realizing the need for Batman’s presence in Gotham City,

(For a relatively brief comparison of the YEAR ONE limited series/trade paperback to the “Batman: Year One” animated movie, click this link. And for CCC’s four-part analysis and comparison, go here to read part 1.)

Justice League in animated movies, series: The Warner Bros. Entertainment/DC animated flicks feature adaptations of famous comic book storylines and killer casts of big-name voice actors. Just about every Justice Leaguer gets his or her time in the spotlight in the "Justice League Unlimited" animated series. The movies might be a bit weak on character development at times — and tend to focus on DC's moneymaker, Batman — but the projects are enjoyable on multiple viewings and aren’t short on slugfests or drama.

(Go here for a full line-up of the most current CCC op-eds about various animated, live-action and published Justice League projects.)

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA by writer Gerry Conway: Having re-read and purchased some of Conway’s tales in his eight-year run (1978-’86) in recent years, it’s equally tough and difficult to say why his stories are timelessly enjoyable. What strikes me most is that the Justice League consists of the same seven to 10 members — not the entire DC Comics Universe, as it seems now. Seven to 10 JLAers might be too large of a group in less capable hands, but Conway, in mostly one-shot stories, gives readers a sense of familiarity and personalizes every member.

In his more than capable hands, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA is what would be called "an ensemble piece" in Hollywood. The JLA works as a team, with no one member getting more of the spotlight than any other superhero. Conway's run is what made me enjoy the Justice League and helped me appreciate some of the characters who aren't big names in DC, such as Zatanna and Red Tornado.

Justice League of America in IDENTITY CRISIS: There’s nothing quite like an in-house death — and even bigger previously unrevealed controversy — to show off what makes the JLA tick. Writer Brad Meltzer gives as much loving attention and dedication to the major players’ characterizations as he does B- and C-list superheroes and supervillains. Unknowingly, Meltzer harkens a revival in the Justice League’s relevance in the DC Universe and unfortunately, more so-called Crises.
The Justice League by artist Rags Morales in the IDENTITY CRISIS
limited series.

(Follow this link for my review of the IDENTITY CRISIS trade. Here's a flashback to a 2008 email interview I did with Meltzer.)

Lois Lane by actress Amy Adams: With only the “Man of Steel” film under belt, Adams' take on comicdom’s most famous reporter is still a work in progress (as is her chemistry with Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman), but there’s no doubting this Lois Lane knows how to pursue a story. The FBI might not be able to track down who Superman is, but you bet Lane can — by using a simple journalism rule-of-thumb: Interviewing sources who have interacted with Kent over the years. It's a daring take on the Lois Lane-Superman dynamic and it should be interesting to see how Lane's character and her relationship with Kent develops in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

Lois Lane, as seen in "Superman: The Animated Series"
Lois Lane by voice actress Dana Delany: Best known for her dramatic performance in the TV drama “China Beach,” Delany gives Lane just enough snark to be sassy, yet her throaty voice makes the reporter immensely appealing — not to mention sexy. With all that going on, why wouldn’t Lane and Bruce Wayne fall for each other in the Superman/Batman animated film, “World’s Finest”? For my fanboy money, anybody else who calls Kent “Smallville” is a pretender to the original or at the very least is paying homage to Delany's animated Lane.

Lois Lane by Margot Kidder: Anne Bancroft may have had more sex appeal and Stockard Channing more natural acting talent in their respective screen tests, but it’s Kidder who gives Lane “that certain something” that has been unequaled since 1978. She may be a terrible speller, but Kidder’s spunky Lane is so dedicated to a story she’d risk her very life.

The classic scream queen has so much charm and va-va-voom she melts the heart of Christopher Reeve’s Superman — and has made fanboys week in the knees for 35 years and counting. Not unlike her costar, Kidder's Lane is so memorable it's difficult — if not impossible — to not compare any subsequent casting to the bang-up job Kidder did in four films.

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