Friday, August 24, 2018

Christopher Robin (2018)

Has there ever been a storybook bear with as storied a history as Winnie the Pooh?

The earliest origin of Winnie the Pooh is in 1914 as Canadian Lt. Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub who had been raised with people and was thus quite gentle. He named the female bear Winnipeg or "Winnie." Traveling with the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, she became their mascot and was eventually left in the care of the London Zoo.

It was at the London Zoo that she attracted the attention of a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne, who liked her so much that his teddy bear (formerly Edward Bear) was renamed Winnie-the-Pooh. Young Christopher's imagination and games he played with his stuffed animals became the inspiration for verse and stories by his father, Alan Alexander Milne, who would write two books of poems featuring fictionalized versions of young Christopher and his bear and two books of stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin and all of their friends in the Forest.

The fiction of A.A. Milne became a worldwide hit, having captured the imagination of readers with a frank and honest portrayal of how a child sees the world.

However, young Christopher was not pleased about the fame he had been exposed to. When he went off to boarding school, he was bullied for his connection to the stories. He and his parents would eventually become estranged, although in the end, he made peace with his father. The existing toys that inspired the stories are currently on display in the New York Public Library, and a lot of tourism and preservation of Ashdown Forest is owed to what the Milnes did.

The fictional world of Winnie-the-Pooh was adapted for radio and stage, and eventually television and film, most famously by Walt Disney's animated featurettes that were eventually compiled into the feature film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Disney wasn't the only one to bring Pooh to film, as Shirley Temple's television show had previously adapted several of the Pooh stories using large marionettes. Soyuzmultfilm, the famous Russian animation studio, also released a trilogy of Pooh animated shorts. But Disney has certainly had the most media presence with four television shows, additional shorts, a variety of small release and direct to video films, and a 2011 proper animated sequel to Many Adventures simply titled Winnie the Pooh.

Fans of the characters have long debated as to how different Disney's version is from the original Milne version. There are many thoughtful comparisons, but I won't go into them now.

I had often thought that I would like to see a different film version of the stories. Since Pooh and many of his friends are toys, it would be interesting to see living toys onscreen interacting with the boy who owned them, in addition to Rabbit and Owl, who were supposed to be actual forest animals. Shirley Temple's television version had come pretty close with the marionettes. My personal favorite version of the Milne stories are readings by the late Peter Dennis, which of course offered no visuals, but let you imagine a Pooh different from Disney's.


And so, I was very interested to hear about Christopher Robin, a new offering by Disney which would be their first attempt at a live action Pooh with CGI. (The television series Welcome to Pooh Corner featured the characters as people in full-body costumes and the later The Book of Pooh depicted them with puppets with some CGI enhancements.) The thing is, it would also be a sequel to the main Pooh stories by depicting an adult Christopher Robin. This past Tuesday, I went to my local cinema, took care of a "rumbly in my tumbly" with some nachos, and watched the film.

There was no doubt that the fictional adult Christopher Robin would differ greatly from the real Christopher Robin Milne. Perhaps at the most simplified theme, they are similar in that they leave Pooh and his friends behind and happily return to them later. Both do get married and have a daughter.

The film opens with a celebration in the Hundred Acre Wood (Disney's name for the Forest, which wasn't named in Milne's stories, though there is a Hundred Acre Wood in the Forest), and you see the main Pooh characters Disney focused on: Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger. They are depicted throughout the film with CGI that remembers most of them are living toys and Owl and Rabbit are real animals. (Disney has seemingly dropped their original character Gopher and they never used Rabbit's Friends and Relations.) They're joined by a young Christopher Robin, yet it's a boy who's getting older and taller, about to go through puberty.

The loving care that Disney took to these opening scenes actually made this fan of the Milne stories tear up.

A curious thing about this film is that it depicts the Hundred Acre Wood as another world that Christopher can access via the green door in a tree. In the original stories, Christopher is said to live "behind a green door in another part of the Forest," so I suppose this interpretation is completely valid. I had always assumed Christopher Robin arriving in the Forest was when the little boy would go to play.

Years pass for Christopher and major events take place in his life. His father dies, he goes to boarding school, he begins work, he meets a lovely woman named Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) that he marries and has a daughter with, and he serves in the second World War.

When the story finally slows down to a regular pace, Christopher (Ewan McGregor) is now probably at the youngest in his late 30s (McGregor himself is a few years from fifty) and has no time to think of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. In fact, he lets his job at Winslow Luggage keep him so busy that he barely has time for Evelyn or his daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). At this particular time, his employer Giles (Mark Gatiss) has made him work the same weekend that he and his family were going to go to Sussex. This means Evelyn and Madeline leave without him.

Over in the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings, who also voices Tigger) looks around for his friends, but can't find them. With no other choice, he heads to the green door and steps out into a park a frustrated Christopher happens to go to. Irritated at being interrupted and knowing his wife is right about how much he has to work, Christopher reluctantly has to go to Sussex so he can return Pooh to the Hundred Acre Wood.

The story of course goes on further with a reclamation of Christopher's childhood joys and a merry chase as Pooh, Piglet (voiced by Nick Mohammed), Tigger and Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garrett) meet Madeline who tries to return her father's papers to him after they were left behind in the Hundred Acre Wood.

The film is very sweet and of course has the message that you can keep your imagination alive as an adult and to make sure you make time for really matters most. Perhaps it's a little too on the nose for some, as several critics have detracted it. But for Pooh fans like me, while it might not be the most perfect adaptation of Milne's characters, bringing the simple nature of Pooh to an adult character just felt more in keeping with the spirit with the original stories than any of the animated films or shorts.

To me, it was a great joy to see the Pooh characters lovingly realized in three dimensions on the big screen set in a real forest (scenes were actually filmed in the real Ashdown Forest in Sussex, which was the basis of the Forest in the original stories). I would love it if Disney could return to the original Milne stories and depict them again (throughout the many Pooh animated features, most of the stories have been adapted for animation somehow) in this manner. Perhaps something for that new streaming service they're working on?

In any case, if you love tributes to classic literature (the film does pay many a homage to the original books), Winnie-the-Pooh, or just fun little movies that entertain, check out Christopher Robin before it leaves cinemas!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Picnic at Hanging Rock - The Mini Series


The most viewed entry on this blog is my 2009 piece about Picnic at Hanging Rock, the novel by Joan Lindsay and the film adaptation by Peter Weir. It's gotten a few comments since, particularly pointing out that the supposed excised ending may not actually be Lindsay's work. I'll accept that as a possibility.

But that's not the point at hand right now. The story has been revisited for a six episode miniseries by Australian company Foxtel, and in the US, it's available through Amazon Prime video.

In case you don't want to read my older blog, let me sum up the story: during an outing to a rock formation near Mount Macedon, three girls from Appleyard College (a finishing school for girls) and a teacher go missing without a trace. The mystery has a huge effect on the locals, particularly Michael Fitzhubert, and the remaining staff and students at the College, and the fates of some characters aren't so mysterious.

As Weir's film is so iconic, comparing this to that film is inevitable. As they share source material and the real Hanging Rock is featured in both, there's scenes that mirror each other, sometimes feeling like an intentional duplication.

It's surprising that the film is noted for its slow pace, but the miniseries doesn't really do that. Instead, it creates a new subplot and fleshes out the backstories of the characters, or rather, the writers' interpretations of these characters.

If you're looking for fidelity to the source material, then Weir's film is the more faithful version. As I said nine years ago, the book and film complement each other (though there are differences). The dreamlike quality of both isn't exactly replicated here.

Taking a 21st Century stance, there's more care given to instances of women having agency in society. The most altered character due to this is none other than Mrs. Appleyard, the headmistress of the college. Rachel Roberts played her in Weir's film, starting as a warm but strict gray-haired matron figure and over the course of the film turning into a terrifying villain. In the miniseries, she is played by Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) as a much younger incarnation of the character. Her new backstory reveals some surprising things about her, but makes her more sympathetic rather than scary, even though the character retains her nasty side.

One of the missing girls is now a girl of color, and a teacher has been rewritten to be a lesbian. There's a major suggestion that the missing girls successfully ran away, but whether the missing teacher was part of it or tried to stop them isn't made clear. The main mystery of the story is left unresolved, as it should be.

In the novel, one of the teachers at the school gets a nasty fate. In Weir's film, they wisely just have her leave the College. Her fate is restored and even expanded upon here. During the climax of the story, a gruesome sight is described by Lindsay. Weir filmed a toned down version of it, but it did not make the final cut. It is not even included in the miniseries, despite the moment in which it happens being expanded on.

I'm not of the opinion that remakes should never happen. Sometimes a new interpretation of a story finds new depth to the story and can make us think about it differently and appreciate it more. However, now having watched the entire series, I find little defense for making a six-hour adaptation of a story that had been previously adapted faithfully in two hours. Adding so much additional material lets you see a version of the story and characters as interpreted by certain people. However, the dreamlike ambiguity of the novel and Weir's film work in their favor. You were allowed to make your own interpretations and conclusions.

That said, I can't say the miniseries was bad. It was interesting to see another filmed version after Weir. Talent and technical aspects were handled well. It was intriguing enough to go ahead and keep going. And re-examining the characters under a 21st century eye was quite welcome.

Check it out if you're interested in seeing one specific version of this story, but the original novel and Weir's film are going to be the continuing classic versions.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Comic Book TV midseason review

Inhumans - A fairly unexciting season opener didn't give us any unrealistic ideas about what to expect with the rest of the season. Or rather series as the high cost of the show (which never looks like it was high budget) and comments from IMAX seem to guarantee that there will not be a second season.

It was basically eight hours explaining how the Inhumans moved from the moon to the Earth. I feel like a movie from Marvel Studios could've done that in three minutes and then given us a more interesting plot. Frankly, I'm with the fans who won't mind if this show is ignored from future MCU continuity and Marvel Studios eventually brings new versions into the movies.

The Punisher - A far more compelling series from Marvel Television and Netflix, 13 episodes of how Frank Castle wound up with his name being dragged through the mud publicly as he violently takes revenge on the men who ruined his family. Very violent (not as graphic as Punisher: War Zone, though), but very character-driven.

Runaways - Marvel Television's weekly series on Hulu was also a concept that had originally been intended to be a movie. Unlike Inhumans, however, this one benefited from expanding to a series because of the large number of characters to look deeper into.

Six kids in Los Angeles discover that their parents are part of a strange cult and witness a ritual that involves the death of a young woman. The kids begin to discover that they have super powers of their own and begin to investigate what their parents actually do.

As for the CW...

Supergirl - During the course of the series, a cult sprung up around Supergirl. While she discouraged it, it became clear that at least one person has a lot of information about Kryptonian religions. Discovering an ancient craft, the team at the DEO discover that it's actually from the future, containing members of the Legion of Superheroes in stasis, including Mon-El, Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5. J'Onn J'Onzz recovers his father from white Martians on Mars while Alex breaks up with Maggie after realizing they want different things from their relationship. A single mother in National City discovers that she is Reign, a Kryptonian punisher.

The Flash - As Wally leaves for Blue Valley, feeling overshadowed by Barry in Central City, Barry adds former police chief and current hard on his luck private eye Ralph Dibny to the team. Ralph is one of a dozen people who became metahumans thanks to dark matter exposure when Barry broke out of the speed force, Ralph having elastic powers. Caitlin finds unexpected fame as Killer Frost, leading her to consider how much of her is the frost villain. Barry and Iris finally marry as it becomes clear that the Thinker—aka Clifford DeVoe—is targeting Barry, particularly when he puts himself in the body of a telepathic metahuman and uses his old body to frame Barry for murder. Barry is put on trial, the outcome sure to shake up the show for the rest of the season.

Legends of Tomorrow - Something is tracking the crew on the Waverider as they continue to fix aberrations throughout Time, and Damian Darhk is back as a villain. During the events of the Crisis on Earth-X crossover event, Professor Stein is killed and Jax makes his exit.

Arrow - Oliver temporarily has Diggle take over as Green Arrow as the FBI investigation continues. Oliver marries Felicity as Team Arrow begins to fall apart.

Crisis on Earth-X - Barry and Iris' wedding is interrupted by Nazis from an alternate earth who won World War II. The two-night crossover event saw characters from Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow team up with resistance fighters from Earth-X to drive the Nazis from Earth-1. An exciting crossover made poignant with the self-sacrifice of Professor Stein, somewhat flawed in the ending by Barry and Iris choosing to finally simply marry with a justice, and Felicity deciding to marry Oliver and turning Barry and Iris' wedding into a double wedding.

Riverdale - The second season started strong with the near death of Archie's father and the introduction of Hiram Lodge, but the Black Hood plot began to dwarf everything else and not in a compelling way, so I quit watching the show.

Black Lightining - The CW's new show follows an African-American father with his two daughters who works at a principal at his school. After some issues he spots going on, he decides to resume his superhero identity as Black Lightning.

The show seems aimed at a more mature audience than the other superhero shows on the network. Interesting addition and we'll see how it develops going forward.

And on Fox...

The Gifted suffered through some scheduling headaches, but overall became a story about the Strucker family joining with a resistance group tasked by the X-Men to protect mutants. Some good character moments and some interesting developments, but probably better appreciated when you're not keeping up with so many shows.

Lucifer revealed that a force behind Lucifer's problems was a man who called himself "the Sinnerman" that Lucifer tracks down. Marcus Pierce turns out to be none other than Cain, the man cursed to walk the earth after killing his brother.

Gotham has had Bruce kill R'as Al Ghul and then nearly abandon his crimefighting life, becoming the playboy. After reviving from being frozen, Riddler puts a revived Butch known as Solomon Grundy in a fighting ring. Tensions between crime factions rise in Gotham.

And here's some movie reviews:

Thor: Ragnarok - The funniest Thor movie yet sees Thor realize that Loki is still alive and disguised as Odin on Asgard. Finding Odin on Earth just before his death, Thor and Loki are told of Hela, the Goddess of Death, their sister. When she appears, she makes her way to Asgard, stranding Thor and Loki on the planet of Sakaar, where Thor is put to fight against the Incredible Hulk in an arena.

I enjoyed the film a lot. Fast paced and colorful, it took the Thor series in a bold new direction it desperately needed. However, as Marvel Studios tends to only do trilogies, it may have only opened up new characters for them to use in the future. Still, perhaps the humor is a little off as many characters and elements from the Thor locale are disposed of with little or no ceremony.

Justice League - Parademons begin popping up on Earth as the villainous Steppenwolf seeks the Mother Boxes. Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince begin finding other super-powered individuals—Victor Stone, Barry Allen and Arthur Curry—to help them stop Steppenwolf.

This film didn't fare particularly well at the box office or with critics. To be fair, the film has issues, tonally different scenes and some particularly bad CGI for a high-profile superhero movie, coming off as a second-rate Avengers. But that's not to say the movie is bad. There's a clear story that is fairly easy to follow, unlike Batman v Superman. They manage to create a fairly good movie regardless of the aforementioned issues.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Comic Book TV season opening reviews

Had a good summer? I didn't. I mean, I still had to work and all. Summers mean less post-30. Except for OzCon. That was awesome.

I'm not going to be doing these blogs weekly like last year. Instead, I'll write reviews when I wish. Most likely if there's anything I want to say in the midseason finale. I'll certainly be reviewing more than one episode of The Flash this year over at my new blog, Dibny Diaries.

The Defenders - The culmination of the Netflix and Marvel shows sees Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Matt Murdock and Danny Rand unite to defend New York City from the machinations of The Hand.

The eight-episode format nearly makes this one of the better Netflix and Marvel shows, except for the sheer number of characters included. Not only do we have the four main characters, but their supporting casts also showing up and getting involved, and while this is done well, it can be a bit much on first time viewing.

The plot is not the same high-stakes adventure that we saw in The Avengers, the first live action Marvel team up property. A good reason for this is right in the titles: The Defenders. Defense is preventative, while avenging means something bad has already happened. When viewed that way, the series is more satisfying.

DuckTales - Disney XD revives the classic 80s show for the 21st century with a new voice cast (except for Donald Duck, who is still voiced by Tony Anselmo), a new look, and a brand new continuity. The original DuckTales was inspired by the comic book stories of Carl Barks, and while the new version is still proud of the original series, it takes a lot of inspiration from the Barks comics.

The double-length season/series opener features Donald Duck leaving his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie with his Uncle Scrooge McDuck while he has a job interview. Meeting Webby Vanderquack—granddaughter of Mrs. Beakley, Scrooge's housekeeper—the boys get into trouble with Scrooge's treasures, which Scrooge helps them set right, reawakening his sense of adventure. After an adventure in Atlantis, Scrooge invites Donald and the boys to move in with him.

The new series so far has introduced many elements of DuckTales lore around fun and exciting plots that are written so well that adults without kids should enjoy it as well. As of the fifth episode aired, we have Flintheart Glomgold, the Number One Dime, the Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose and his helper robot, and Magica DeSpell. New to the series is a running plot addressing what happened to the mother of Huey, Dewey and Louie, Della Duck.

Fans of fun adventure of all ages should find quite a bit to like about this new DuckTales, so I recommend it.

Inhumans - Marvel's third show for ABC was a collaboration between them and IMAX theaters, who ran an edited down version of the first two episodes in theaters for a couple weeks in early September. Now the first five episodes have finished airing.

Running into a coup on the moon by his brother Maximus, Black Bolt and the other members of the royal family are forced to flee the city of Atillan to Hawaii, where they must reunite before returning to take back the throne from Maximus.

The royal Inhumans can be compelling characters, but their in-character snobbery can make them off-putting. In the comics, the royal family was introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four, allowing a familiar and likeable team to be the conduit to meeting these characters. Inhumans doesn't have this luxury, with the Agents of SHIELD no longer on Earth and no other teams at the TV department's disposal. The series attempts to find ways to make them appealing, but considering this show is only going to have eight episodes and we've finished three and have only five left, this might be asking a lot from the audience to stick with it.

Inhumans was originally announced to be a film before it was quietly pushed back indefinitely. This series was announced, and the television budget, despite being high thanks to funding from IMAX, begins to show, particularly on Atillan. Nowhere does it feel majestic or imposing. Lockjaw, the giant telepathic teleporting bulldog looks great, but the budget means we only get a few scenes with him.

Inhumans seems doomed to get only one season at the moment. Aside from Lockjaw, there's not a lot that I'm excited about for it. The "give it a few episodes" advice doesn't help when we're looking at a small number of episodes. If you wanted the royal Inhumans in live action, check it out. Otherwise, take it as you will.

The Gifted - The Strucker family discovers that their children are mutants. In a world where the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants have vanished, the only chance they have is to join with a desperate band of on the run mutants.

The pilot sets up a lot and while fine, doesn't quite have enough time to make us totally get into the multiple protagonists. Thankfully, the second and third episodes gives us more of an idea where the showis going and gives us a much better idea of this world. Perhaps this isn't going to be quite as well crafted as Legion, but this seems to be a worthy X-Men TV series so far.

Gotham - This season finds young Bruce Wayne beginning to master the double life of playboy socialite and vigilante he will become famous for in his years as Batman as the villains continue to rise. Gotham finally feels on track as "the Batman show without Batman" finally has Batman.

Lucifer - Discovering that his wings have come back, Lucifer tries to remove them permanently while continuing to assist (loosely) with detective Chloe Decker's investigations. Tom Welling joins the cast as Lieutenant Marcus Pierce, who seems to be hiding a few things.

Supergirl - While Kara misses Mon-El, life continues in National City, for her, Lena Luthor who has bought Cat Co., and Alex and Maggie who are getting married. Reports are that this season will introduce this generation of superhero TV's Legion of Super-Heroes.

The Flash - Cisco manages to break Barry out of the Speed Force, revealing him to now be faster than ever before. Caitlin—hiding her Killer Frost identity—rejoins Team Flash as Cisco and Gypsy work on their relationship, as do Barry and Iris as they prepare to get married. Meanwhile, a new villain—the Thinker—watches the pieces of his plot come into place.

Legends of Tomorrow - Finding various anomalies through time, the Legends have the Waverider taken from them by Rip Hunter's new time correction force. After getting it back from him, they convince him that they can help him correct anomalies through time. Meanwhile, a mysterious threat rises.

Arrow - With Thea in a coma and Oliver now having to care for his son, things take a turn as a photo revealing Oliver as the Green Arrow is exposed to public, putting him under the eye of the FBI.

Riverdale - As Archie's dad recovers from being shot at Pop's, the killer begins to target other people in Archie's life.

That's what we've been able to tell from the shows so far. Frankly, I'm enjoying this season. Even Inhumans, though I'd say it's quite the weakest show.

Here's some quick reviews of comic book movies that came out since the last blog.

Wonder Woman - The first truly impressive DCEU movie features the story of Wonder Woman as depicted by Gal Gadot as Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) arrives on the island of Themyscira and tells the Amazons about World War I. Diana returns with him to find and defeat Ares, the God of War.

Wonder Woman finally gives the DCEU an inspirational hero. Henry Cavill's Superman and Ben Affleck's Batman are promising, but their outings so far have rendered them as flawed without really having a victory without a major downside. In Man of Steel, while saving the world, about half of Metropolis is destroyed. In Batman v Superman, Batman makes the wrong judgement call and Superman is killed. Diana sets out to destroy Ares and even though she makes mistakes, she learns and emerges victorious. And it's done with a very good pace and amazing visuals. And furthermore, the message the movie makes is pretty welcome.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - The first MCU Spider-Man solo film embraces the high school setting of Peter Parker's (Tom Holland) early years in his career as Spider-Man, being secretly assisted/monitored by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Peter comes across the weapons-running gang of the Vulture (Michael Keaton). Tony and Happy tell him to let someone else handle it, but Peter wants to prove himself. Just he needs to do that and balance his school life, especially if he wants to impress Liz (Laura Harrier).

Homecoming is a lot of fun, but also uses some good intrigue to the proceedings with a worthy plot twist. The film clearly links to the larger MCU, but manages to create a world specifically for Spider-Man to exist in on the streets and neighborhoods of Queens. Giving Spider-Man a benefactor and a confidant (who is not a romantic interest) gives us something new that we haven't seen in any of the five previous Spider-Man films from the past twenty years. For once, Spider-Man feels like a young kid. He screws up, but he gets up and tries again. That's really what the character is about and Homecoming nails it.

Batman and Harley Quinn - One of this year's DC animated movies finds Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) teaming up with a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to foil the plots of Poison Ivy (Padget Brewster) and the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson).

It goes for a bit more of a comedic take on Batman mythos while not betraying the characterizations. Some of the humor is a bit more raunchy, including a scene where Nightwing and Harley have sex. Overall, I had fun, but some fans have expressed displeasure.

Batman vs. Two-Face - The follow up to The Return of the Caped Crusaders finds Harvey Dent (William Shatner) entering the world of the Batman 1966 TV show. After an attempt to drain Gotham's worst of their evil goes awry, Harvey is transformed into the villainous Two-Face, with Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) going after him. Both Julie Newmar and Lee Meriweather do voice work for the movie as well.

Although still campy, the film feels a bit more serious than the old TV show, but it's all right as the audience for the show has changed and is more open to it. It has a good story, fairly good animation (it's still direct to video), and a spectacular voice cast.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Elongated Man

I was very excited to hear that the character Ralph Dibny, aka Elongated Man, would be joining Season 4 of the CW's The Flash.

My first exposure to the character was in Detective Comics #359, which was the debut issue of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. My father had a copy of it and I read it, surprised to find a backup feature I'd never heard of about a man who could stretch his body. Soon after, I looked through his other copies of Detective Comics and found more stories about Ralph Dibny.

Ralph debuted in The Flash #112 in 1960, which told his origin. Obsessed with contortionists, young Ralph Dibny did everything he could to figure out how exactly they were able to contort their body in seemingly impossible ways. Finally discovering that they drink a soft drink called Gingold, Ralph was able to make an extract of the Gingo fruit and tried it, only to discover it gave him temporary elastic powers. Getting an elastic costume, Ralph set out to make a name for himself. He didn't even bother with a secret identity.

In his third appearance in The Flash #119, Ralph married Sue Dearbon. They would eventually become a backup feature in Detective Comics, starting with #327. Having become rich from media appearances, Ralph and Sue traveled the country, solving mysteries. Eventually, Ralph would join the Justice League.

Having a married couple very much in love, one of them being a superhero with no secret identity set the Dibnys apart from most other comic book characters at the time. Marvel's The Fantastic Four would bizarrely also have a leading man with elastic powers whose first name begins with R who marries a woman named Sue with no secret identities, but the Dibnys were first.

I always found the inclusion of Sue to be problematic. In many of her Detective Comics appearances, she would only appear in the beginning and close of the story, sometimes even not appearing at all. Some of her later appearances had her assist Ralph with his cases.

The comics eventually claimed most people were allergic to gingold, then later identified that Ralph was actually a metahuman whose power was triggered by gingold.

This would basically be the status quo for the Dibnys until 2004's Identity Crisis miniseries. In the opening of this series, Sue is murdered and the rest of the series dealt with the shakeup it caused in the superhero community before the murderer is found.

2006's 52 event featured Ralph becoming suicidal over the absence of Sue in his life before attempting to have her resurrected. Ralph's story in the series culminated in his death, the final issue revealing that he and Sue were reunited as ghosts.

2009's Blackest Night event had the Dibnys resurrected as Black Lanterns before being destroyed. When other characters who were made into Black Lanterns are restored to life in the finale, Ralph and Sue are revealed to not be among them.

2014's new incarnation of Secret Six saw both Ralph and Sue return as undercover members of the Secret Six, Ralph disguised as a character named Big Shot, rescuing Sue from the Riddler. The main continuity of the DC universe had shifted to a new universe, and in this one, the Dibnys were not dead.

The name "Elongated Man" has always bugged me because "Elongated" is past tense. Ralph elongates. But it's weird to switch the name up after nearly 60 years, I suppose.

The treatment of Ralph and Sue after 2000 has been disappointing for fans of their classic incarnations. Luckily, Secret Six ended with them living happily ever after, something they haven't yet changed. Hopefully they can get back to Ralph and Sue seeking out mysteries.

The character hasn't officially appeared in any live action media prior to his appearance on The Flash coming next month. He's made small appearances in Justice League cartoon series and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Hopefully his appearance on The Flash will prompt DC to do more with the character.

I haven't done a recommended reading list before, but discovering that the only other lists start with Identity Crisis, I felt like the previous adventures of Ralph and Sue needed to be highlighted before you see tragedy strike. (Not to mention, as a fan of the character, I have an aversion to Identity Crisis.) So, here's a recommended reading list of Elongated Man stories sans Identity Crisis, 52 and Blackest Night. If you want to read those, well, I just listed them.

The Flash #112 - "The Mystery of the Elongated Man!" When the Elongated Man arrives in Central City, the Flash is wary of his tendency to help people get attention. When he notices some unsolved crimes, he begins to suspect the Elongated Man of committing them.

The Flash #119 - "The Elongated Man's Undersea Trap!" While skin diving on his honeymoon, Ralph disappears. Sue calls in the Flash, who discovers alien fishermen who kidnap humans for slaves.

The Flash #124 - "The Space-Boomerang Trap!" One of the more iconic Flash and Elongated Man team ups. When Captain Boomerang uses time-traveling boomerangs to commit crimes and appear innocent at the same time, it brings the attention of beings from another dimension, forcing Flash and Elongated Man to join forces with the villain.

Detective Comics #327 - "Ten Miles To Nowhere!" The start of Ralph's Detective Comics stories, which continued to #383 before going to irregular appearances. While traveling, Ralph notices that his odometer mysteriously gained ten miles overnight. Investigating, he cracks a crime ring.

Detective Comics #331 - "Museum of Mixed-Up Men!" Ralph's first team up with Batman. Arriving in Gotham City, Ralph joins Batman's investigation of a gang that uses a device that causes people's faces to change.

Detective Comics #355 - "The Tantalizing Trouble of the Tripod Thieves!" Ralph spots jewelry thieves floating away against their will and follows them to discover Zatanna, who winds up enlisting his help in finding her father. This was part of a running story throughout several DC titles that culminated in Justice League of America #51, which Ralph appeared in.

Justice League of America #105 - "Specter in the Shadows!" Ralph is inducted into the Justice League and calls them in when he and Sue witness a gang of putty men raid a museum.

The Flash #252-253 - "Double Dose of Danger!" and "Don't Mess With The Molder!" A two-part story in which Ralph drinks a dose of gingold at super speed when he's recruited by the Flash to investigate a mysterious phantom gang. The "speed-charged" substance causes Ralph to take on the villainous persona of "The Molder," who can change the shape of whatever—or whoever—he touches, part one ending with him reducing the Flash to a puddle on live television.

Detective Comics #572 - "The Adventure of the Lost Adventure!" Part of a book-long crossover with Batman, Robin and Slam Bradley (and a surprise mystery guest), Ralph foils a plot to steal a long-lost Sherlock Holmes manuscript from 221B Baker Street.

Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #30 - "The Home Stretch." A new version of Ralph's origin based on how the character had developed since his debut, including how he met Sue. It's told in a framing sequence of Ralph returning to his hometown.

Ralph and Sue frequently appeared in Justice League Europe and Justice League International.

Elongated Man #1-4 - 1994 saw Ralph get his very own miniseries. A bit goofy, Ralph and Sue head to Modora where an old Justice League villain attempts to break them apart.

Formerly Known As The Justice League #1-6 - A miniseries featuring a comical take on several former League members, including Ralph and Sue.

JLA Classified #4-9 - "I Can't Believe it's Not The Justice League!" A sequel to Formerly Known As The Justice League.

Booster Gold (Vol. 2) #15 - "Reality Lost, Part One" While time traveling, Booster Gold runs into Ralph.

Convergence: Justice League of America #1-2 - Part of the Convergence crossover, this one takes a peek at a world where Ralph and Sue still live, and Ralph is still an active hero.

Secret Six #1-14 (2014-2016) - Ralph and Sue's new incarnations in Earth Prime make their debut as they work to take down the Riddler.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Comic Book TV recap (5/15/2017 - 5/17/2017)

Agents of SHIELD sees its season finale this week. It has officially been renewed for a fifth season with, although it will not begin as usual with Inhumans taking its slot, which has been moved to Friday night. Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow will be wrapping up for the season next week.

Supergirl: "Resist" - Reya's invasion of Earth begins and Cat Grant and the President return to Central City to face off against her along with the DEO.

Gotham: "Light the Wick" - The Court of Owls grows suspicious of their new recruit, Jim Gordon, as he investigates what they're doing with the Alice Tetch virus, being assisted by Oswald. Ivy tries to revive Selina using plants.

Lucifer: "God Johnson" - Investigating another murder, Lucifer meets a man who claims to be God, and he becomes convinced this is actually his father.

The Flash: "Infantino Street" - The day that Savitar will kill Iris has arrived and Barry has to recruit the help of a past version of Leonard Snart to steal the power source for a cannon that will trap Savitar in the Speed Force.

iZombie: "Dirt Nap Time" - Infuriated at the theft of the remaining doses of the zombie cure, Liv eats the brains of a friendly teacher who also slept around. Major attempts to find the thief.

Agents of SHIELD: "World's End" - The agents reunite with Robbie Reyes in a last ditch effort to shut down the Framework, defeat Aida and stop anyone from using the Darkhold again. The finale wraps up the storylines of Season 4 nicely while setting up new possibilities for Season 5.

Arrow: "Missing" - With Adrian Chase in jail, Team Arrow believes they can breathe easy until they realize Chase's true plans are yet to be realized.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Comic Book Shows Recap (5/8/2017 - 5/11/2017)

Supergirl: "City of Lost Children" - Jimmy befriends an alien boy after his mother is put in custody after causing chaos in public. But what made her act up? The DEO and Kara investigate, linking it to the machine Lena Luthor has been duped into helping Mon-El's mother build.

Gotham: "The Primal Riddle" - Eddie decides to figure out who controls Gotham with a series of deathly riddles aimed at Gotham's elite. Gordon decides to use his connection to the Court of Owls to sort things out. Bruce's impostor confronts Selina. Oswald and Ivy recruit Bridgit Pike and Victor Fries for their army of freaks.

Lucifer: "Deceptive Little Parasite" - Chloe and Lucifer investigate the murder of an admissions officer for a high-class elementary school. Lucifer retrieves the blade of Azrael, which only he can light to allow a return to heaven for himself, his mother and brother.

The Flash: "Cause and Effect" - With Savitar's identity out there, Cisco wipes Barry's memory to prevent Savitar from knowing anything. However, this proves more problematic than helpful.

iZombie: "Some Like It Hot Mess" - Major recovers from taking the zombie cure, but Ravi is anxious to try to test his memory serum to prevent Major from losing his memories. Peyton gets an important secret from Blaine. Liv eats the brain of an irresponsible DJ to solve her murder.

Agents of SHIELD: "The Return" - The SHIELD team has to work on two fronts to take down Ivanov and his LMDs. Ophelia—AIDA's name for her new human self—helps rescue everyone before being captured by SHIELD in a facility that limits her powers. However, when she discovers that Fitz doesn't love her, she returns to Ivanov.

Arrow: "Honor Thy Fathers" - Oliver discovers something disturbing about his father's legacy as he finally tracks down Chase. Rene decides where he should side in a court case.

Riverdale: "The Sweet Hereafter" - As Betty breaks the word that Jughead's father is innocent, tensions rise between Cheryl and her mother. Jughead re-evaluates his place in Riverdale. Season finale.