Monday, April 17, 2017

Going solo: ‘Cyborg,’ ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Aquaman’ movies — oh my! (CCC flashback)

Since my local comic book shop will be closing in August, I've been scouring the POP! Shop website to save all my posts from my former "Cape and Cowl Crowd" blog -- just in case that site likely will go bye-bye. Kinda like the original Cary's Comics Craze did, resulting in several years of dead links


Anyway, here's a post I wrote for POP! just after DC Entertainment and Marvel Studios separately announced their plans to release solo films starring black superheroes. Here it is for the first time on CCC ...

Cape And Crowl Crowd (Dec. 1, 2014) -- Just when DC Entertainment likely considered itself a trailblazer by announcing plans for a film featuring a black superhero, Marvel Studios undercut its “Distinguished Competition” by saying theirs was being released three years earlier.

In mid-October (2014), DCE announced it was releasing the movie “Cyborg” in 2020. About 10 days later, Marvel announced its set of Phase 3 films and stole DCE’s thunder by saying “Black Panther” would be released three years earlier, on Nov. 3, 2017.

(April 2017 update: The "Black Panther" release date has been changed to Feb. 16, 2018 and filming is underway. For now, "Cyborg" will be released April 3, 2020.)

In an interesting tidbit, each character will make his first on-screen appearance in other 2016 films — Cyborg in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and Black Panther in “Captain America: Civil War.” The third Cap movie likely will be released that May, about three months after “Dawn of Justice.”

DC Comics and Marvel Comics have been using/stealing/borrowing each other’s ideas for major storyline crossovers for decades. So it’s no surprise to this lifelong fan of both publishers that their time frame for announcing solo films for Cyborg and Black Panther would be so tight.
Actor Ray Fisher will play Victor Stone aka Cyborg in this year's "Justice League" movie
and star in the solo "Cyborg" flick. This a screen capture from one of the "Justice League" trailers.
Here’s my biggest issue: I just can’t get excited about a flick featuring the cybernetically-enhanced Victor Stone. Am I the only DC reader who thinks Cyborg is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill powerhouse with a vanilla personality?

For the last several years, DC writers and editors obviously believe it’s necessary to include the former Teen Titan in the Justice League roster. That’s been the case with the comics and animated movies. For me, it’s pigeon-holing a character into an ensemble for two purposes: 1) including a teenager and/or young adult and 2) having a more racially diverse Justice League.

Just so I’m clear, I feel the same way about the John Stewart version of Green Lantern. There’s only one Green Lantern for yours truly — the brash but likable Hal Jordan.

Stone simply doesn’t gel with the other Justice Leaguers. To be blunt, Cyborg — and even Stewart — being in the Justice League always has come off like nothing more than misguided affirmative action or a way for DC to check off the "racial diversity" box.

Why does DCE believe making “Cyborg” is a good idea?

Are there enough fans — much less members of the general public — who know this character that would make this film successful? Does being in “Dawn of Justice,” the first “Justice League” and its sequel merit a solo movie? (I broke down the first footage from "Justice League" seen at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con; click here for that speculation-filled review and analysis. About eight months later, director Zack Snyder released the first trailer (which I've called "Playing well with others," which I broke down nearly by each second.)

Did DCE’s Powers That Be hear rumors about “Black Panther” and decided they had no choice but to also release a film featuring a black character? Is the “Cyborg” film project nothing more than DCE being pressured to keep up with the Joneses (i.e. Marvel Studios) and establish some racial diversity within the cinematic DC Universe?

Regardless, IMHO T’Challa (aka Black Panther) is a much cooler character than Cyborg.

Whereas I roll my eyes including Cyborg in any incarnation of the Justice League -- in comic books or animated movies, I always appreciate seeing Black Panther with the Avengers. T’Challa is nothing short of cool bada**. Being an African king, he knows the merits of leadership and has a vision for the consequences of the Avengers’ decisions.

Actor Chadwick Boseman first played Black Panther in "Captain America: Civil War."
And not only does T'Challa know his way around a fist-fight, he exudes grace under pressure. Ultimately, Black Panther fittingly is going solo on the big screen before Cyborg.

Black Panther is the first black superhero in mainstream American comics. He made his debut in FANTASTIC FOUR No. 52, which came out in July 1966. That’s 14 years before Cyborg made his first appearance in DC COMICS PRESENTS No. 26 (October 1980 cover date).

As far as the rest of Marvel’s Phase 3 films are concerned, the studio is focusing on lesser-known heroes (Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther).

The studio also is broadening the subgenre of superhero flicks with more science fiction (the “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel and possibly the two-part “Avengers: Infinity War”) and fantasy with “Doctor Strange” and the third “Thor” film.

Honestly, DCE is taking a big risk by not releasing any solo films with its biggest moneymakers (Batman and Superman). However, keep mind we’ll get our fix of Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight and Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel in “Dawn of Justice” and two “Justice League” films.

Aside from the “Cyborg” movie, DCE is taking the biggest risks with two other flicks: “Suicide Squad” (directed by David Ayers) and “Aquaman.”

Fans and Joe and Jane Public have seen Deadshot and Harley Quinn, the most recognizable members of the Suicide Squad, in the CW TV series “Arrow” and some animated Batman movies, but creating a movie based around such lower-tier characters is daring, if not ridiculously risky.

On the other hand, “Suicide Squad” is a chance for DCE to showcase the seedy underbelly of its cinematic universe in a “Mission: Impossible”-style film.

Actor Jason Momoa first appeared as Aquman in this short cameo in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
He will reprise his Arthur Curry/Aquaman role in November's "Justice League."
As far as “Aquaman” goes, casting “A Game of Thrones” stud Jason Momoa as the King of Atlantis is brilliant. He’ll attract the female fans who get weak in the knees over the 6-foot, 4-inch tall mountain man.

Since Momoa played a take-no-crap warlord on “A Game of Thrones” and also kicked butt as Conan the Barbarian, it’s clear DCE wants the public to take Aquaman seriously. So needless to say, don’t expect Momoa to be donning an orange tunic and green tights. And if he did, who would dare say anything about his questionable fashion choices anyway?

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