Professor Geek Previews

I have some exciting content planned for my Professor Geek YouTube channel in the coming weeks. If you haven’t subscribed to my channel with your google account yet, what are you waiting for? Just sign in and click subscribe here. 

First up is a new series of three videos that will examine the character of Wonder Woman. I can’t think of another character so popular and yet so misunderstood and argued about. Part one of the series (in the video below) reveals the significance of her status as an Amazon. Part two, coming in just a couple of days, will examine the Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytic principles Marsten imbued the character with, and part three, coming next week, will trace her history to see that the tensions we see surrounding her character today have cropped up cyclically since her creation.

 

The next series is 6 shorts I recorded for the now defunct Saturday Morning Network of podcasters. The series examined key animated incarnations of Superman. I explored works from the Fleischer series down to the Bruce Timm-verse and beyond. Along the way I featured interviews with greats from the business, such as animator and director Rob Pratt and voice director and actor Ginny McSwain. Not all of these shorts aired before the Saturday Morning Network ended, so I’m going to revise them each and start posting them to my YouTube channel for six consecutive weekends. It’s great stuff, so subscribe to the channel, and even enable notifications, so you don’t miss it!

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Been A While!

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I’ve meant to write another blog post on a number of occasions. I always wait until I can devote the time necessary to write a quality post, but once that time comes along, it’s swiped up by one of the many more pressing demands on my schedule. So I figured I’d at least write about what those demands are.

I have quite a few projects to announce. First of all, I’m still co-hosting the fine podcast Superman Lives with the great late night geek himself, Chris Meaux. We try to put out an episode twice a month. Check us out here for traditionalist-oriented commentary on all things Superman in comics, TV, or film.

Iconicast is taking some time off, but Chris and I have another new podcast, joined by Big Al. Holy Roman Fanboys: The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth is a podcast about geek culture from a Catholic perspective. Join us, even if you’re not Catholic, for deep, spiritual conversations about superheros, science fiction, animation and more!

And as if that wouldn’t keep me busy enough, I plan to resurrect my YouTube channel Professor Geek. I was forced to abandon it just as it was gaining traction last year when the fall semester’s papers began to pile up. If you have a moment, subscribe to the channel and check out some of my older video analyses while the new ones are on their way!

My biggest news, however, is that my book Heroic Inspirations will be available from Hero House on May 1st. This book came from the class I teach on superhero archetypes and from the iconic pages I run on Facebook. It features life lessons from your favorite superheroes and their stories. I’ll be painting the internet with the cover as soon as they give me the go-ahead. So keep an eye out!

And lastly, do look to this blog for more regular posts. I have a lot of ideas I’d like to hammer out. In the mean time, follow me on Twitter @MichaelCritzer. See you soon!

Still Zack Snyder’s Wonder Woman

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Strung along for so long by Warner Bros, fans are desperate for a Wonder Woman movie. They are inclined to hope against hope that this upcoming movie will be a good one. I understand that. But we must maintain standards for such an important character to our cultural mythos. She is, after all, the quintessential female superhero, and it should take more than a couple lines of feminist speak and scenes of prowess on a man’s battlefield to convince us she’s being faithfully portrayed. True, the movie has not been released yet. I’ve not seen it and neither have you. By exerting just a little critical thinking, though, it’s clear that this movie has already failed the Wonder Woman mythos. I say this because of two reasons that play into each other.

The first reason is the DC cinematic universe has already introduced Wonder Woman as the wrong category of hero. All superheroes fit into one of two categories, the aspirational or the more ubiquitous cathartic/motivational. The cathartic/motivational, like Spider-Man or Green Arrow, fail—a lot. They make mistakes, act out in emotion, and reap the consequences of their rash actions. But they have good hearts, and they show us how to pick ourselves up after failures to try again. The cathartic/motivational characters are important to culture, but they only work if we have the aspirational heroes setting the standard for which the cathartic/motivational ones strive.

The aspirational heroes are simply good. They don’t need to fail first or overcome some emotional trauma. Heroism is simply in their nature. As psychologist Robin Rosenberg puts it, it’s the destiny in their origin. Precious few aspirational heroes remain. And their numbers dwindle with every continuity reboot. Shortsighted storytellers and fans believe that the aspirational heroes are too difficult to relate to, so they systematically try to rewrite them as cathartic/motivational ones (see the New 52 in comics or the DC films made so far). The problem with this rewriting is that once you’ve changed all the aspirational heroes in your universe into cathartic/motivational ones, you have no believable standards for your so-called heroes to strive for. They lose the audience’s investment, and the stories ultimately fail.

In the DC Universe, Superman and Wonder Woman have been the first and most important aspirational heroes. But Zack Snyder doesn’t believe in the aspirational hero. This isn’t an attack. It’s simply a fact. Look at the things he’s said about heroes in interviews, and look at the themes common to his films. He has torn Superman, and now Wonder Woman as explored below, ruthlessly from the aspirational pedestal and rebuilt them slap-shod as cathartic/motivational heroes. Though the characters are apparently just taking their time until the Justice League film, in which we’re told they’ll finally embrace a standard of heroism, how will they know what this standard of heroism is? They have no point of reference. You can’t develop into an aspirational hero. As already stated, the defining aspirational trait is in a heroes origin. Superman has allowed people to die and has, himself, killed. Batman has resorted to torture and killing, and as this second Wonder Woman trailer shows us, she decided after World War One (a pointless change from WWII, better suited to her origin story), that the darkness in the world is too great to bother making a difference in. “I used to want to save the world,” she says, presumably before she changes her mind around the events of BvS. Aspirational heroes might have moments of weakness or doubt, but those moments do not last a century.

This leads us to the second reason the Wonder Woman film, and ultimately the entire DC Cinematic universe, will not be remembered as a success: It’s lazy writing. Let’s look at Snyder’s “fresh” take on Superman. Clark wants to do good but grows discouraged by the public’s reception. He fails to save some people, kills a villain, and considers quitting. Then a grave new threat to the world causes him to reconsider his purpose and methods.

Now let’s look at Batman. He’s an established hero wanting to do good but grows discouraged by the existence of super-powered aliens in the world. He fails to protect people and instead begins torturing and killing on a crazed mission to execute Superman. Then a grave new threat enters the world and makes him decide to change his ways and put together the Justice League.

And finally, let’s examine Wonder Woman. She reveals herself to the world of man to fight for hope and try to do good. Then something happens to discourage her during WWI, causing her to give up. Then a grave new threat convinces her to reconsider her place in the world and her willingness to save it again.

Each member of the DC trinity, the characters who are supposed to represent the wide spectrum of the Justice League’s heroism, have the exact same backstories! And from the looks of it, Cyborg and Aqua Man are set to follow the same path There’s nothing more realistic or believable about this approach. You can’t write multiple characters in the same story to share the same beat-for-beat psychological growth. It impedes character and theme development. It’s bad writing! Storytelling is not Zack Snyder’s strong suit. As his fans often point out, he’s a visual director. It takes more than visuals, though, to make a good film.

It’s true that after BvS didn’t achieve the numbers they wanted, Warner Bros took back the God-like control of their cinematic universe they’d given Snyder. But they’ve elected to continue building on his foundation. I’ve heard people claim that we need not worry, since he’s not directing this one or is only nominally involved. But be realistic! It’s a film shot in his cinematic universe, no matter who it’s shot by. Though they’ve apparently struck his name from the credits, it has to follow the template he laid out for the universe since he’s still in control of the Justice League. I know Warner Bros is trying it’s best to bend away from his influence, but how far away can they bend while standing on it? Not far at all, it turns out. Wonder Woman is finally receiving her own film. I wish it was a cause for celebration, but unfortunately it’s a film that feels the need to change her character to appeal to a culture she’s been captivating since 1941.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D-Shut up and watch!

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Just caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and wow! I still maintain it’s the best show on television. My friend was saying he had trouble keeping up with everything, having just started the show with this season, and I get that. There’s a lot of history, and unfortunately those who ridiculously stopped watching it mid-season-one because they actually thought it was too slow (It’s Joss Whedon and co, people! Haven’t you learned anything by now?) need to do a lot of catching up first. But stop bellyaching and get to Netflixing! It’s worth it!

Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider is altered from the comics to be a “deal with the devil” rider like his predecessors, which is blowing open the science-based MCU (much as I hope Dr. Strange does). And the character developments have been amazing! Fitz and Simmons have grown up but retained every bit of their charm, and even Daisy, who went a little emo this season, did so for a reason and is working it out in an epic way.

Coulson is a personal hero of mine, and when last season ended, I didn’t know how I’d feel about him giving up his status as director. In this last episode, though, when he wears a suit, flashes his badge, and says he’s from the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division, I was sold! He’s full circle, all the way back to Iron Man but with an amazing development from his experiences. Despite the horrors he’s seen (back from the dead, seeing his whole world crash around him then having to rebuild it, then losing his hand and succumbing to vengeance, learning from it, and fixing the consequences), he’s still a 100% hope-filled fanboy with wry humor in tact. That’s why I love him. And that’s why I love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D! It understands the purpose of the two genres from which it springs, spy thriller and superhero adventure. It thrills, makes us question authority, then delivers high on hope, no matter what. The show does more than entertain, it inspires.

Bring on the challenges, bring on the tragedies. We’ve got this. And we’ll rise again!

Episode 2.6: Our TV Shows Return!

The latest episode of one of my podcasts is up!

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Episode 2.6 is here! Join the Iconicast crew as they anticipate the return of their superhero TV shows this season and talk about and analyze the big reveals.

Download at the following link (click right here!) or on iTunes (sometimes it can take a day or two for new episodes to show up in the iTunes store, but if you subscribe to our podcast then check your subscriptions, episode two should be there), or simply use the player below.

00:00:00  Introduction

00:05:18    Zendaya Mary Jane casting

00:23:25    CW Shows

01:10:13     Gotham

01:14:12     Agents of SHIELD

01:21:51     Happy Birthday Jack Kirby and Wrap Up!

Iconicast theme music written and performed by Jared Featherstone http://www.jaredfeatherstone.com

See the New Iconicast YouTube channel!

Our very own Duchess of DC and More has a great blog you can check out here

Check out Superman Lives! The new podcast…

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Update: I’m still here!

It’s been a while since I last posted, so I figured it was time for an update. I originally created this blog to provide the short cultural study essays on comics and film that you can still find by scrolling down. But then I ended up developing some of that material for my YouTube channel, Professor Geek, and some of it for books I’m currently writing. I’m working on a number of projects that I’m excited about right now. So I’ll just list them in one big update.

 

oie_vYgcJ5vEQSzlThe Iconicast Podcast is still going strong. In fact, I merged my Professor Geek YouTube channel with the Iconicast channel. I still need to update a few episodes on it, but you can listen to the latest Iconicast episodes (including the September episode, due out this weekend) at our website IconicastPodcast.com

 

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Next up is the Superman Lives podcast, which I’m honored to co-host with the great Chris Meaux from The Big Sheaux with Chris Meaux. This one is a mostly bi-weekly podcast about all things Superman (Supergirl included). Early episodes are available on YouTube, but I believe Chris is posting new ones, beginning with the most recent episode, on Podomatic. You can catch our discussion of Superman Returns here.

 

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In fiction news, a new anthology featuring two of my short stories was released this summer. One is a haunted, psychological thriller and the other is a classic superhero story. You can check it out on Amazon here.

 

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I’m also completing the manuscript for my first creative nonfiction book. It’s due to the publisher in October. I’ll be sure to post updates as soon as I’m allowed and have more info!

 

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This last bit of info might surprise people, but I’m beginning RCIA classes this September to join the Catholic Church. Why am I talking about this on my professional blog? Because even though it is a sincere matter of faith, it’s also tied to my cultural study of superhero archetypes. Don’t worry, that’s not supposed to make sense quite yet. I had planned on creating a separate blog to explore the process and themes, but that proved too cumbersome. So you can expect some upcoming posts here, chronicling my thoughts and philosophies during the process.

 

That’s all for now. Thanks for following my blog! I’ll post more regularly this fall, even returning to my original short essay format at times. Until then, please check out and support the various projects I’ve listed, if they strike your fancy. And stay tuned for more to come!

X-Appeal: We’re All Mutants

The X-Men seem to only be gaining in popularity, despite fan divisions over various incarnations. I try to delve into why they strike such a chord in so many individuals. What do you think?