Heroes United: Meet the Justice League

Heroes United: Meet the Justice League

Get to know the members of DC’s flagship cinematic superhero team

By Jedd Jong

In 1940, editor Sheldon Mayer and writer Gardner Fox created the first comic book superhero team: the Justice Society of America. Two decades later, after editor Julius Schwartz asked Fox to revisit the idea, Fox created the Justice League. The cover of The Brave and the Bold #28, depicting Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Martian Manhunter locked in battle with Starro the Conqueror, has become a defining image in the history of DC Comics.

47 years after that first appearance, the Justice League is finally coming to the big screen. In the intervening years, the team’s roster has expanded and changed, and various incarnations have appeared in comics, video games, animated and live-action TV shows and other media.

After a decade in development hell, during which Mad Max director George Miller was attached to direct a film called Justice League: Mortal, a Justice League film has come to fruition. This is the fifth instalment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), following Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. Zack Snyder directed the film, with Joss Whedon taking over during post-production and reshoots after Snyder left the project due to a family tragedy.

At the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman sacrifices himself to defeat Doomsday. To ensure that Superman’s heroism is not in vain, Batman and Wonder Woman seek out superpowered ‘metahumans’ to join them in a fight to save the earth from alien invaders. Leading the enemy charge is Steppenwolf, Darkseid’s right hand man from the planet Apokolips. With an army of Parademons at his command, Steppenwolf will stop at nothing to recover three powerful artefacts from Apokolips known as Mother Boxes, which are hidden on earth.

Here’s what you need to know about our heroes, and the supervillain they must defeat, before watching Justice League.

#1: BRUCE WAYNE/BATMAN (Ben Affleck)

In Batman v Superman, we saw a bitter, vengeful Batman blinded by rage. It seems that he’s become a little friendlier after realising the error of his ways, endeavouring to work better with others and taking on the role of bankrolling the Justice League. “In Batman v Superman, he was at the end of his rope. But in Justice League he’s finding hope again,” Affleck revealed. For fans who took issue with the dour tone of Batman v Superman, take heart: Affleck says Justice League is “very different from the tenor of the last movie.” Describing this depiction of Batman being “much more traditional,” Affleck promised fans that Batman is “heroic”.

As is expected of the billionaire crime-fighter, Batman’s bringing more hardware to bear: we’ll get to see specialized vehicles such as the Nightcrawler mecha and the massive Flying Fox transport plane in action. Naturally, the Batmobile will make an appearance too, and can be deployed from the Flying Fox.

#2: DIANA PRINCE/WONDER WOMAN (Gal Gadot)

The Wonder Woman solo film was a big success for DC, with the consensus being that the Patty Jenkins-directed movie is the best entry in the DCEU so far. The Amazonian warrior is back, and things get personal when Steppenwolf threatens Wonder Woman’s mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and all her compatriots on the island of Themyscira. “She understands the enemy better than anyone else,” Gadot said, hinting that this might not be the Amazons’ first encounter with the marauding Parademons. In her civilian guise, Diana is an antiquities dealer and restorer of ancient artefacts. It is speculated that since the Wonder Woman film was such a hit, the character’s role would be significantly increased during reshoots, but Gadot clarified this, saying “Diana serves as the glue of the team. She finds moments to support every one of the team and makes them feel stronger or believe in themselves, but this is not a Wonder Woman movie.”

On how the character has evolved over the 100 years between the events depicted in her solo movie and the Justice League film, Gadot said the character is “wiser and more educated about the complexities of life and the world and mankind,” but the is still the same at heart, and that “she’s always full of compassion and warmth and love for everyone.” Everyone, we assume, except Steppenwolf and the Parademons. After all the ass-kicking Wonder Woman did in her solo film, fans can expect Diana to be in the thick of the action again – after all, Gadot was a combat instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces in real life.

#3: CLARK KENT/SUPERMAN (Henry Cavill)

As mentioned earlier, the events of Batman v Superman have left the world without its powerful alien protector. The very last frame of Batman v Superman showed the dirt Lois Lane (Amy Adams) sprinkled on Superman’s grave levitating for a moment, hinting at the character’s resurrection. The death and return of Superman was a long, involved ordeal that played over several months in the comics in the 90s. While Superman will presumably rise from the grave in Justice League since Cavill is appearing in the film, the exact circumstances and details surrounding Superman’s return are being kept secret. Cavill was contractually obligated to keep the moustache he had grown for Mission: Impossible 6 when he had to do reshoots on Justice League, so Superman’s facial hair had to be digitally removed.

While Cavill has kept mum about what role Superman plays in the Justice League film, he has acknowledged that the DCEU might have made a few missteps along the way. Cavill conceded that the DCEU “hasn’t necessarily worked,” adding “yes, it has made money but it has not been a critical success; it hasn’t given everyone that sensation which superheroes should give the viewer.” Saying the “right mistake has been made” and calling the Wonder Woman film “the first step in the right direction,” Cavill assured fans that with Justice League, the DCEU is on the right track.

#4: BARRY ALLEN/FLASH (Ezra Miller)

Like in several previous other media versions of the Justice League, the Flash looks set to be the film’s comic relief. While Barry Allen is typically depicted as a Central City crime scene investigator, Ezra Miller’s incarnation of Barry is a little younger, and is a student at Central City University. Some elements of Barry’s back-story will be familiar to fans of the ongoing Flash television series on the CW. A scene in the trailer shows Barry visiting his father Henry (Billy Crudup) in prison – in the TV show and in the comics, Henry was wrongly convicted for killing his wife Nora.

Miller found it easy to relate to the character. “I definitely was feeling like Barry, stepping into the big leagues with this incredible group of collaborators,” he said, adding that just like Barry, he was focused on “trying to do the best job [he] could do.” Discussing the process of putting on the elaborate, multi-segmented Flash armour, Miller joked “I would feel like a Victorian lady with my chambermaids. Sometimes I would ask them if they could brush my hair and ask me about the boys whom I fancied.” One of the iconic, but arguably somewhat silly, elements of the character from the Silver Age comics is that the Flash’s costume can fit into a ring he wears. This will not be carried over into the Justice League film. “We want to apologize to the fans who are mad about the ring thing,” Miller quipped, adding that “there’s gonna be other cool things” for fans to look forward to in the film.

#5: ARTHUR CURRY/AQUAMAN (Jason Momoa)

The half-human, half-Atlantean warrior king Aquaman is a character who’s been the butt of jokes for a long time, owing to his silly portrayal in the Super Friends cartoon. The character was given a makeover in the comics in the 90s, complete with a scraggly beard and a hook for a hand. Jason Momoa’s take on the character seems to be tough, but not without a fun side – the character’s mannerisms in the trailer have led some to call this version ‘Aqua-bro’.

Momoa said that when director Snyder brought him in to audition, he was asked to read Batman’s lines, but Affleck had already been cast as Batman. Momoa was taken aback to find out the role he was up for was Aquaman. “All I could think of was the traditional Aquaman from the comics – who is white and blond and wears the orange and green costume. I thought he had to be joking,” Momoa recalled. However, Snyder sold him on his vision of Aquaman as an outsider, someone who belongs to two worlds but doesn’t feel he fits in either one. Momoa related to this because he was born in Hawaii but grew up in Iowa, where he felt like an outsider. He considers it “such an honour” to play Aquaman because Hawaiian culture, like that of many islands, has water gods.

Amber Heard is playing Aquaman’s wife Mera, with Willem Dafoe as Atlantean scientific advisor Nuidis Vulko. Both actors will reprise their roles alongside Momoa in the Aquaman movie that swims into theatres in December 2018.

#6: VIC STONE/CYBORG (Ray Fisher)

The former college football star-turned cybernetically-enhanced superhero Cyborg was a character created as part of the Teen Titans team. In 2011’s New 52 reboot in the comics, the character was promoted to a founding member of the Justice League. In Batman v Superman, we see Vic’s father Silas Stone (Joe Morton) attempt to create a robot body for his son, who is near-death. The key component that successfully animates Cyborg seems to be a Mother Box from Apokolips.

Fisher made his feature film debut in Batman v Superman, clinching a highly sought-after role. We’ll only see part of Fisher’s face in the film, with the rest of the character being computer-generated. According to Fisher, the character “attempts to deal with everything he’s lost: his body, his mother, and the life he once knew.” Morton says that some tonal changes were made to the Cyborg character during reshoots, so maybe he will end up closer to the goofy character we know and love from the Teen Titans cartoon. Fisher hinted at Cyborg’s constantly-evolving abilities, saying “He has powers within him that even he isn’t yet aware of…whenever he encounters an issue that he’s not initially equipped to handle, his technology can transmogrify and immediately adapt to that situation.

#7: STEPPENWOLF (Ciarán Hinds)

The fledgling Justice League will face a formidable opponent: Steppenwolf, who hails from the planet Apokolips. In a deleted scene from Batman v Superman which was restored for the Ultimate Edition, Lex Luthor can be seen communicating with Steppenwolf, who appears in hologram form. In the comics, Steppenwolf is the uncle of Darkseid, the tyrannical ruler of Apokolips, and serves as Darkseid’s right-hand man. Steppenwolf commands an army of Parademons – these insectoid soldiers were also glimpsed in Batman v Superman, as the troops fighting alongside an evil Superman in the dystopian future of Batman’s ‘Knightmare’ vision. While many might point out that Darkseid is similar to Marvel’s Thanos, Darkseid’s first appearance in the comics precedes Thanos’ by two years.

Irish actor Hinds is portraying the role via motion capture, and sought advice from his fellow countryman Liam Neeson, who played the titular monster in A Monster Calls. Hinds said that he’s “never read any of those comic books as a kid”, and that the offer to play Steppenwolf came “out of the blue”. Hinds called the motion capture suit “very tight and embarrassing”. Hinds described Steppenwolf as “old, tired, still trying to get out of his own enslavement to Darkseid,” hinting that while Steppenwolf is vicious and destructive, there might be some reluctance to his villainy.

Batman and Superman: Drawn to Justice

As published in Issue 74 of F*** Magazine

Text: 

BATMAN AND SUPERMAN: DRAWN TO JUSTICE

F*** looks at the animated escapades of the World’s Finest
By Jedd Jong

The Dark Knight will come face to face with the Man of Steel on the big screen at long last in this month’s superhero blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The two big guns in DC’s stable of characters have not always seen eye to eye, but have been associated with each other since they first shared the cover of New York World’s Fair Comics #2 in 1940, having their first proper crossover story in 1952. Interestingly, the first shared storyline wasn’t in the comics but in the Adventures of Superman radio play, in 1945.
We’ll be taking a look at some of this duo’s memorable encounters in the realm between comics and live-action movies: that of animation.  For a long time, DC fans thought a live-action World’s Finest movie would be forever outside the realm of possibility, with an attempt in the early 2000s falling through. However, the various animated alternatives were more than an adequate substitute and after the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it will be fun to compare the common threads that movie shares with previous depictions of the earth-shattering first encounter between two very different heroes.
Super Friends (1973-1986)
Allow us to issue the disclaimer any writer has to when discussing comics-related media: this might be confusing. In 1968, CBS aired The Batman/Superman Hour, a Filmation animated series that consisted of episodes from The Adventures of Batman packaged together with shorts from The New Adventures of Superman and The Adventures of Superboy. Now, the name “The Batman/Superman Hour” naturally makes it sound like our heroes team up, but they do not and the Batman and Superman segments of the show are separate. The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour, aired from 1977-1978, shares a similar principle.
The first time Batman and Superman actually interacted with each other in a cartoon was in the animated series Super Friends, produced by Hanna-Barbera, the animation studio known for Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Yogi Bear. Based on the Justice League comics, the first season of Super Friends featured Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Robin as the core members, with new characters being added over the course of the show’s run. Additionally, the sidekick characters of Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog were created for the show, for kids to identify with.
Super Friends popularised the catch phrase “Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…”, delivered by the Narrator. Super Friends was, as expected of Saturday morning cartoons at the period, generally pretty goofy and it’s been poked fun at a fair few times in recent memory. Also, even though this is the first time Batman and Superman are seen on the same team in a cartoon, their first meeting is not depicted. Episodes that focus specifically on the duo include Invasion of the Brain Creatures, in which Batman and Superman get possessed by – you guessed it – brain creatures, and Warpland, in which they’re pulled into a space warp and Superman is transformed into an eagle and Batman gets turned into an actual bat. It’s safe to assume these wacky fates won’t befall Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck.
World’s Finest (The Batman/Superman Movie) (1997)

The DC Animated Universe (DCAU), which began with 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series (B:TAS), is widely regarded by fans as the pinnacle of DC media outside the comics. Key figures in the development of B:TAS  and its follow-up Superman: The Animated Series (S:TAS) include animators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski and writers Paul Dini and Alan Burnett. B:TAS was praised for its maturity, thematic complexity and the quality of its animation and voice acting. The success of B:TAS led to the creators of the show making a series starring Superman, which first aired in 1996 and was similarly well-received, with the general consensus being that it had updated the character for the 90s while retaining his spirit. The DCAU continuity would eventually encompass Batman Beyond, Static Shock, The Zeta Project, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, as well as four Batman-centric animated feature films.
In the S:TASepisode Superman: The Last Son of Krypton: Part III, Clark Kent’s beloved Ma tells him “I don’t want anyone thinking you’re like that nut in Gotham City.” Clark and said nut would finally meet in the three-episode World’s Finestarc, which was later re-packaged as an animated film and released on video as The Batman/Superman Movie. A joint venture between Wayne Enterprises and Lexcorp brings billionaire Bruce Wayne to Metropolis. As the Batman, Wayne has an ulterior motive: he is hot on the trail of the Joker, who has stolen a priceless statue known as “the Laughing Dragon”. The Laughing Dragon is carved from Kryptonite, and the Joker makes Lex Luthor this offer: for $1 billion, he will kill Superman. Wayne intends that the Wayne/Lex T-7, an insect-like robotic probe being developed by the two companies, be used for space exploration, while Luthor pushes for it to be fitted with guns for military applications. Superman disapproves of Batman’s brand of vigilantism and the two get into an argument as Batman is interrogating a thug. Further causing the tensions between the pair is Lois Lane, the reporter developing a crush on Wayne.

If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ends up as much like the S:TAS World’s Finest arc as possible, we’ll be happy. There’s a great central conflict that brings the heroes together, they initially get off on the wrong foot but soon discover their differing approaches to justice are complementary, and we also get a villainous team-up, with the intelligent, conniving Luthor and the unrestrained, insane Joker as the antagonists.
Building off this fateful first meeting, Batman and Superman would form the anchors of the Justice League. This incarnation of the team had Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern and the Flash as additional founding members.
The Batman/Superman Story (2007)
In 2004, an animated series called The Batman began airing. This show was unrelated to the DCAU, with a different voice cast, creative team and featuring character designs by Jeff Matsuda of The Jackie Chan Adventures. The Batman was not warmly received by fans of B:TAS and its affiliated shows, but things started to turn around with the fourth season, which introduced Robin (in this continuity, Batgirl became Batman’s sidekick first) and was closer to B:TAS in tone. In the last episode of Season Four, Batman meets Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman and the Flash aboard the Watchtower satellite, base of operations for the Justice League.

Season Five kicked off the with The Batman/Superman Story, a two-parter in which this version of the Caped Crusader and the Big Blue Boy Scout first meet. Superman has arrived in Gotham to deliver a check from the city of Metropolis to aid rebuilding efforts following an alien invasion of Gotham in the last season. This is interrupted by Metallo, who has been sent by Lex Luthor to kill Superman.  When Metallo fails, Luthor unleashes members of Batman’s rogues gallery, including Black Mask, Bane, Clayface and Poison Ivy, to finish Superman off after kidnapping Lois Lane. Luthor drugs Superman with Poison Ivy’s mind control gas, which Luthor has laced with Kryptonite. Donning mechanized suits of armour, Batman and Robin have to engage in combat with Superman, now under Luthor’s thrall.
Several voice actors from the DCAU were roped in to reprise their roles, including George Newbern as Superman, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, Dana Delaney as Lois Lane and Lex Lang as Metallo. Newbern replaced Daly as the voice of Superman in the Justice League animated series. Luthor co-opting Poison Ivy’s mind control plant spores to use against Superman is reminiscent of when Poison Ivy directly controlled Superman’s mind in the comic book arc Batman: Hush. Also, this incarnation of Mercy Graves, Luthor’s icy personal assistant, appears to be of Asian descent and is voiced by Singaporean actress Gwendoline Yeo. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Mercy Graves is also Asian, played by The Wolverine’s Tao Okamoto.
When Batman brings up that Superman declined an invitation by Martian Manhunter to join the Justice League, Superman replies “I prefer to work alone.”
“So did I, once,” Batman answers. “But I found out you never know when you might need a friend.” Aww!
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Premiere have been steadily releasing direct-to-video DC animated films since 2007, putting out three such movies on average per year. These films do not tie in to the DCAU and while some of the DC Animated Movies are related, some are stand-alone stories directly adapted from existing graphic novels or comic book story arcs.

2009’s Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is based on Public Enemies, the opening story arc of the Superman/Batman DC Comics title. The comic was written by Jeph Loeb and pencilled by Ed McGuinness, with the animation style in this movie taking inspiration from McGuinness’ designs.
It’s Batman and Superman against the world as Lex Luthor is elected president, forming a government-assembled task force of superheroes including Captain Atom, Katana, Black Lightning, Power Girl, Starfire, and Major Force. The World’s Finest remain untrusting of Luthor, and their suspicions are confirmed when the President frames Superman for killing Metallo and puts a one-billion-dollar bounty on the Man of Steel’s head. Batman and Superman fend off a horde of supervillains, including Cheetah, Bane, Captain Cold, Black Manta, Deadshot, King Shark and Lady Shiva, in an attempt to prove Superman’s innocence. They also have to stop a meteorite from hitting the earth. In the meantime, Power Girl’s loyalties are torn, and government official Amanda Waller discovers the extent of Luthor’s schemes.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies showcases just what a great team the Dark Knight and Man of Steel make and that it’s generally better off if they figure a way to work together instead of trying to take each other down. Voice director Andrea Romano fought hard to get many of the voice actors from the DCAU to reprise their roles. Conroy is back as Batman, Daly as Superman, Brown as Luthor and CCH Pounder as Amanda Waller. Allison Mack, who played Chloe Sullivan on Smallville, voices Power Girl.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
Public Enemies was followed up with a direct sequel, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, based on the comics arc entitled The Supergirl from Krypton, also written by Loeb. This time, the animation style was based on the art of late penciller Michael Turner.
In this story, Batman and Superman first meet Kara Zor-el a.k.a. Supergirl, Superman’s cousin, when her spaceship crash-lands in Gotham Harbour. While Superman welcomes his long-lost relative and helps her adjust to life on earth, Batman has his suspicions of the newcomer. Agreeing with Batman, Wonder Woman and Harbinger take Kara to Themyscira where she can be trained, and Superman reluctantly agrees, preferring to watch over Kara himself. Darkseid, the ruthless ruler of the planet Apokolips, learns of Kara’s arrival on earth and plots to capture her and make her serve him as one of the Female Furies. When Kara is abducted, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman contact Big Barda, a former Female Fury who has defected to the side of good, to help them journey to Apokolips to rescue Kara. The Trinity has to battle a brainwashed Kara and break Darkseid’s control over her.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse heavily features elements of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, a storyline in the comics focusing on the alien planets of Apokolips and New Genesis that was a combination of epic space opera and superhero fiction. The tyrannical supervillain Darkseid, considered one of the Justice League’s arch-nemeses and who succeeded in killing Batman in the comics story arc Final Crisis, was created by Kirby in 1970. Thanos, the Marvel supervillain inspired by Darkseid, debuted in 1973. Concept art for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justicereveals Darkseid’s Omega symbol, which the villain uses to mark those he deems susceptible to his corruption. It’s very plausible that Darkseid could be the central villain of the two-part Justice League movie, due out in 2017 and 2018.
Battle of the Superheroes!(2011)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an animated series that ran from 2008 to 2011. The bright colours and cartoony animation style, as well as the storytelling, were nods to the “Silver Age” of comic books circa the 1960s. It’s sometimes dismissed as kiddie fare, the episodes are packed with Easter Eggs and loving obscure references for DC aficionados to pick out.
 Battle of the Superheroes! is a Season 3 episode which goes all-out with its Silver Age homages, complete with inter-dimensional imps and wacky talking animals. After battling a series of villains including Lex Luthor, Metallo, El Gar-Kur, Mister Mxyzptlk, and Toyman, Superman is infected with a Red Kryptonite necklace. Luthor secretly snuck the necklace to Lois Lane and the radiation from the Red Kryptonite makes Superman irrational and rage-filled. Batman must team up with Krypto the Super-Dog to hold off Superman until the effects of the Red Kryptonite wear off.

The suit of armour that Batman dons to fend off the Red Kryptonite-addled Superman is taken from The Dark Knight Returns (more on that in a bit). The concept of Red Kryptonite is taken from the TV series Smallville, in which this substance causes Superman to become erratic, emotional and makes him act on selfish impulses.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns(Part 2) (2013)
The Dark Knight Returns, the seminal 1986 graphic novel by Frank Miller which was one of the key forces in changing the direction of comic books in the mid-late 1980s, has remained a cornerstone of the Batman mythos even though Miller’s later works are of very questionable quality. The graphic novel was adapted into a two-part animated film, starring Peter Weller (RoboCop) as the voice of an elderly Batman.

The centrepiece of Part 2 is an epic throw-down between Batman and Superman, with the Man of Steel being dispatched by President Ronald Reagan to put an end of Batman’s unchecked vigilante activity. Batman teams up with Oliver Queen a.k.a. Green Arrow, now missing an arm and sporting a full beard. Green Arrow fires Kryptonite arrows at Superman to weaken him while Batman dons a powerful armoured exo-suit to go mano a mano with Superman.
The Dark Knight Returns is one of the main points of reference for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The grizzled, veteran Batman with a stockier frame draws from his depiction in The Dark Knight Returns, as does his use of a full suit of robotic armour to fight Superman. It will be interesting to see how Batman v Superman re-fashions this into a story of the duo’s first encounter, seeing as they’ve already known each other for years at this point in the graphic novel. Star City 2046, the episode of the TV show Legends of Tomorrow, also draws on The Dark Knight Returns, with Oliver Queen sporting a scraggly beard and a robotic arm.
Justice League: War (2014)
This animated movie is based on the Justice League: Originstoryline from the comics, that was the foundation for DC’s comprehensive “New 52” reboot in 2011. The event storyline known as Flashpoint (adapted into the animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) wiped the slate clean, and in this story the heroes of the Justice League, including Batman and Superman, meet for the first time.

The story takes place against an invasion of Parademons, Darkseid’s troops. When Batman and Green Lantern first meet Superman, Superman believes the two are working with the Parademons and engages in fierce battle with them. As far as first meetings between Batman and Superman go, this one’s definitely of the “hit first, ask questions later” variety. Eventually, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg and Shazam form the Justice League.
While some viewers enjoyed the film for its depiction of the heroes not getting along, the drastic changes in the characters’ personalities as part of the reboot did not sit well with others. Several elements of the New 52 will be carried over into the DC Extended Universe, including Wonder Woman’s reworked origins where she is a demigoddess and daughter of Zeus, instead of being carved out of clay by her mother Hippolyta. 

Post-Battle Bites: Batman v Superman stamps collection and DC Cafe menu press preview

For F*** Magazine

POST-BATTLE BITES

F*** previews the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice MyStamp Collection and chows down on film-themed dishes at the DC Super Heroes Café
By Jedd Jong

In anticipation of the blockbuster film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, F*** was at the DC Super Heroes Café in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands for a media preview event. At the preview, both the exclusive SingPost MyStamp Collection and the café’s new movie-specific menu were unveiled.

“How can we miss this epic battle?” SingPost’s assistant vice-president of philatelic and stamps, Peggy Teo, asked as she introduced the collection. The Singapore Post has partnered with Warner Bros. Consumer Products in the past to commemorate events such as the 75th anniversary of the Batman character in 2014. This time, SingPost is releasing a limited edition 12-page hard-cover collection that includes three souvenir stamp sheets and a retractable lanyard. In addition to Batman and Superman, the stamps will also showcase Wonder Woman, who is making her big-screen debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

From 24 March 2016, The MyStamp Collection will be available for sale at all post offices, the DC Comics Super Heroes Café, the Singapore Philatelic Museum and online. The set retails at $69.90, but those who pre-order the MyStamp Collection from 11 to 23 March 2016 at www.stampdelight.com will be able to purchase it at $55.90, a 20% discount.
SingPost customers who purchase the MyStamp Collection will stand a chance to see the movie for free. The first 50 SingPost customers who post their purchases online and share the contest details or the product launch link with the hashtag #SPBATSUP via SingPost’s Facebook page will win a pair of movie passes.
The DC Super Heroes Café is a popular dining destination for families and is decorated with artwork, autographed posters, life-sized statues and collectible figurines. Consulting chef Martin Woo presented the menu items, which are available for a limited period from 17 March until sometime in April. Chef Woo explained his rationale for the dishes – since “Bruce Wayne can afford everything”, more luxurious ingredients such as foie gras butter, Alba truffle sauce, white prawns from the Sea of Japan and Wagyu beef are incorporated into the Batman-themed dishes. Clark Kent was raised on a farm, so the Superman-themed meals are comprised of “humble ingredients” like free-range chicken, organic eggs, tomatoes and avocado to convey a “sense of familiarity and homeliness”.
We were served tasting portions of the new menu items to sate our appetite for justice. Superman’s Free Range Chicken Burger ($27.90 ++) is made up of free range chicken patty, a sunny-side-up egg with Dukkah spice, guacamole, melted cheddar, smoked jalapeno and scallion pesto, tomato, lettuce and peanut butter on a buttermilk brioche bun, served with arugula salad and balsamic dressing. The chicken patty tasted very ordinary, and there was a piece of gristle in ours. The Dukkah spice and pesto, ingredients that were meant to be flavourful, barely registered and the bun was rather dry. The peanut butter did add an unexpected flavour profile and was effective in evoking a sense of nostalgia.
Superman’s Pasta Crevettes Carbonara ($28.90++) fared better. The dish of fettuccine pasta, a poached organic egg, mentaiko (cod roe) cream, red prawns, ikura (flying fish roe) and shaved Parmigiano cheese was rich and flavourful. The sauce was perhaps a little too thick but the dish had a pleasant smoked flavour to it. The mentaiko cream and ikura added a touch of fusion flair, even though they have nothing to do with the corn-fed Clark Kent’s farmboy background.
Batman’s Wagyu beef Jaw burger ($31.90++) stars Wagyu cheek patty, foie gras butter, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, shaved cabbage, melted Monterey Jack cheese, turkey bacon, apple wood smoked barbeque sauce and sesame dressing on charcoal brioche buns. The Wagyu patty was moist but a little bland; the foie gras butter definitely helped lend the dish a dash of decadence. Unfortunately, the turkey bacon and what tasted like store-bought barbeque sauce cheapened the dish.
Batman’s truffle pasta ($26.90++) was, like the Superman Cabonara dish, sufficiently tasty. In it you’ll find squid ink linguine, Alba truffle sauce, sautéed garlic white shrimp tail, arugula salad and shaved Parmigiano cheese. The nutty truffle sauce did make the dish taste quite classy indeed, with the squid ink linguine befitting of the Dark Knight’s preferred colour scheme. The sautéed shrimp could have done with more garlic though.
A common criticism of the character of Superman is that he’s boring, and alas, the same is true of the Superman burger. In this culinary face-off, Batman certainly emerges triumphant. Suffice it to say that we wouldn’t be the first to point out that the food at the DC Super Heroes Café is not the main reason most people visit it.
In conjunction with the new menu items, the DC Comics Super Heroes Café also have several movie tie-in promotions going on. The first 500 diners who purchase items from the themed menu will each receive a set of two SingPost movie postcards and MyStamp pieces. The café is also giving out a special movie-themed drink with every purchase of the afore-mentioned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice MyStamp Collection.
In addition, 20 diners at the café will win a pair of preview tickets to catch the film at a preview screening on 23 March 2016, a day ahead of its 24 March release date. Terms and conditions apply.  
Action figures depicted are the writer’s own.

Capitaland Malls Be the Hero launch: Batman v Superman statues and Batmobile replica

BE THE HERO (OR DON’T BE, YOU DON’T OWE THIS WORLD A THING) 

I covered the launch of the Capitaland Malls Be the Hero exhibit, comprising three life-sized statues and interactive game corners at Bugis+ and a life-sized replica of the Batmobile as seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice over at Clarke Quay, on the night of 4th March.

The launch was hosted by actor/deejay Bobby Tonelli, and kicked off with two teams of stuntmen, one wearing Batman shirts and the other wearing Superman shirts, brawling as if it were a football hooligan riot. Capitaland’s head of marketing Steve Ng, Warner Bros. Singapore’s Marketing Director Diane Chan and Pacific Licensing Studio Partner, Director Wallace Tay helped remove the tarps on the statues of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Later, cosplayers who had dressed as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were invited to pose in front of the statues.

We later adjourned to Clarke Quay, where street performers were warming up the crowd for the big event. The new Batmobile, which marries the sleekness of the Batman ’89 car with the militarised robustness of the Tumbler from the Dark Knight trilogy, sat under a white sheet in a pavilion. A light show comprising patterns projected onto the sheet preceded the tarp being reeled back with the Batmobile unveiled.

The Be The Hero exhibits run from 4 March to 3rd April 2016.

Find out more here.

Superman Lives, Superman Dies, Superman Lives Again – The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? Jon Schnepp and Holly Payne interview

As published in Issue #67 of F*** Magazine

Text:

SUPERMAN LIVES, SUPERMAN DIES, SUPERMAN LIVES AGAIN

F*** speaks to the filmmakers behind The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, the documentary that lifts the veil on the bizarre Superman movie that almost was. 

By Jedd Jong [San Diego Exclusive]

The DC cinematic universe is now taking shape, having been established with 2013’s Man of Steel. This will be followed up with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squadin 2016, with an upcoming full slate set to include movie outings for characters such as the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg as well.

Somewhere in time and space, there is an alternate universe where the landscape of DC movies and indeed superhero movies in general would have been vastly different. Superman Lives, a Superman movie which would have been directed by Tim Burton and which would have starred – wait for it – Nicolas Cage in the title role, was set for a 1998 opening and just barely missed coming to fruition.

For years, the extent of most fans’ knowledge of this intriguing project was the anecdotes related by writer and raconteur Kevin Smith, who was hired to pen the first draft of the screenplay. He would recount how infamously eccentric producer Jon Peters laid down certain specific stipulations, including that Superman not actually fly, not wear the iconic red and blue outfit with the cape and that he had to battle a giant spider in the third act.

F*** sat down with director Jon Schnepp and producer Holly Payne in San Diego during Comic-Con, where the team were promoting their documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? The partially crowd-funded documentary peels back the layers and deciphers the fascinating enigma of this lost Superman movie, including not only interviews with Burton, Smith, Peters, and other writers and producers, but stylised, animated re-creations of scenes that would have been in the film. The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?also contains unearthed concept art and rare footage of Cage’s costume tests. Schnepp and Payne reveal what the process of piecing together this lost cinematic history was like, reflecting on just how Superman Lives fell apart and the bizarre, wondrous Superman movie that could have been.

If you could narrow it down to one thing about Superman Lives that was so fascinating it made you decide to make this documentary, what would it be?

Jon Schnepp: For myself, it was the artwork, there’s a few things, but for me, it was a different take on the characterization of Superman and the artwork that I saw looked so different from anything else that I’d seen cinematically or on television or from the Superman mythos, the mythology of the comic book character, that really interested me, especially knowing that it was Tim Burton’s take on Superman.

Holly Payne: For me, it would be both the artwork and the casting. I would have love to have seen Nicolas Cage as Superman…I can’t pick one! Christopher Walken as Brainiac would’ve been amazing, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, which we ended up seeing in Superman Returns, but which I would probably prefer to see him in Superman Lives.



Were you able to find out who, other than Nicolas Cage, was considered to play Superman?

Holly: Yes. There was a list from Peters Entertainment, some of the names were Skeet Ulrich, Matthew McConaughey…help me out here…oh gosh, all of these 90s actors, some of them you can’t even remember who they are now, they’ve kind of fallen off the face of the planet…

Jon: Cage was always at the very top of the list.

Was there an interview subject in the film you initially thought you wouldn’t be able to secure and were pleasantly surprised when he or she agreed to appear in the film?

Jon: Most definitely, and that is Jon Peters. We were working on the documentary for over two years at that point. Everyone we had talked to didn’t have the greatest things to say about Jon Peters, I myself had developed a slightly negative thing like “I don’t know if I want him to be in the film…”

Holly: I forced him to do it.

Jon: Holly persisted in me staying at trying to find a connection, someone who knew how to talk to Jon Peters. Eventually I found a connection through his lawyer, his attorney. I just cold-called his attorney and told him who I was and what I was trying to do, he responded greatly, had him laughing in about 10-15 minutes, he felt at ease, talked to Jon Peters. Originally, Jon said no. A week later, he said yes. A week after that, we went and interviewed him, and it was fantastic.

Holly: It was a really fun time.

Jon: Great interviews, he’s a great person, really fun to talk to and he shed a lot of light, not only on all the opinions about himself and his take on things, but just on producing in general.

What was it like getting Tim Burton to open up, because he’s been cagey about this project and it’s hurt him quite a bit?

Holly: We caught him at a good time. Basically, we flew out to London not knowing whether or not we were going to get an interview. We flew out to meet Tim Burton. The pre-interview was about 10 minutes long and then he agreed to do it because he liked our vibe and we’re all artists, so we got along. Honestly, I think that if we had even come to him [just] two years prior, I don’t think he would have said yes. I think that enough time had passed that that wound had healed just enough for us to explore it with him. Even in the film he says “is there any cyanide I can take, why am I still talking about this?” but he had a great sense of humour about it and I think it was cathartic for him too, ultimately.

Dan Gilroy spoke out against comic book films at the Independent Spirit Awards. Do you think the experience working on Superman Lives had something to do with his attitude towards comic book movies?

Jon: No, not at all. You know, Dan Gilroy is just talking as an independent filmmaker and a lot of independent filmmakers feel the squeeze and it’s not about superhero films, to point the finger at superhero films, it’s about blockbuster filmmaking in general. The studio system and the need to be able to spend over $100 million in promotion, globally…cinema is different than it was in 1996 which is way different that it was in 1985 which is different than what it was in ’75. The idea of what independent film is, is someone spending a hundred grand, making a film, putting it on YouTube, that’s an independent movie. Anything else is not an independent movie. The idea or the words “independent film” just don’t exist anymore. There is no “independent film”.

Was there something you learned about the film that was so bizarre you didn’t believe it at first?

Holly: Yeah, the first thing that I would say was looking at the casting list, seeing the possible casting choices before Tim Burton even came on. One of the names on the list for Brainiac was Howard Stern. My jaw dropped on the floor. Then again, Private Parts came out around the same time so he was a real hot ticket at that time.

He was being looked at for Scarecrow in the fifth Batman film…

Holly: That’s right, you are absolutely right, you know your s***. [Laughs]

Jon: His name was on every list. After Private Parts came out, he was the hot guy. Sure, he’s an incredible funny guy, but right then his star was popping. For myself, finding out that Christopher Walken was going to play Brainiac blew my skull off. I was like “what?! That’s amazing!” And it really made me so much more want to see the combination of “Luthoriac” or “Lexiac”, whatever it was going to be, it was going to be Christopher Walken as Brainiac, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, and then [their] heads combined arguing about stuff. That’s classic and I wish that would’ve happened.

Holly: If I ever run into either one of them, I gotta ask them that question.

What do you think the current landscape of comic book movies would be like had Superman Lives been made?

Jon: The Superman Lives movie, my personal feeling about it, is that it would’ve been a big hit. I think it would have changed the perception not only of Nicolas Cage whom everybody was boo-hooing about, it would have been the same thing as Michael Keaton as Batman, it would have changed the perception of Superman, it would have been a light-hearted cosmic fairytale, it would have had humour but it would also have had that Burton touch to it. It would have been like that Mars Attacks! movie that has that flavour to it. I think it would have spawned several sequels, it would have made a Justice League movie that much more possible, I think Michael Keaton would have eventually returned as Batman, we would have had a Batman/Supermancrossover, maybe with World’s Finesthappening in 2002. I think the landscape that we live in, if we peek into the alternate dimension where Superman Liveswas made, it’s a whole other dimension of superhero movies.

Holly: A parallel universe
.
A Bizarro World, if you will.

Jon: Yeah, for sure.

Do you think the performance of Batman and Robin had anything to do with what happened to Superman Lives?

Jon: Most definitely it did. Even though he had nothing to do with Batman and Robin, he was linked as a producer. So even though he did nothing on the film, his named was linked…

Holly: Smeared.

Jon: Smeared, basically, by that film. It was like association destruction.

Holly: Collateral damage.

Jon: They were already worried about Nicolas Cage, they were already worried about “is Tim Burton’s take on Superman going to be too dark,” “here’s this movie that crapped out that lost all this money” and not only is it a box office bomb, it’s a critical bomb and every fan who saw it hated it. It’s different though, for people who grew up watching it, who saw it when they were 3 on TV, some people have a soft spot for it – “I like the colours!” Yeah, I get it, garbage looks cool when you’re a child.


What were the major differences in the drafts of the screenplays that existed?

Jon: The biggest difference was the tone. Kevin Smith’s two different drafts had a little more of a comical tone and definitely a more nuanced knowledge of the characters of the comic book series. He was able to put a lot of cameos in there, he was able to squeeze to squeeze in a lot of references that true comic book fans would have appreciated…

The geek cred.

Jon: The geek cred was all over Kevin Smith, both of his drafts, the story stayed the same. When Wesley Strick came on, he’s admitted he’s not a comic book fan, he hasn’t read comics, he’s not into it, and that shows in his draft, it’s a lot more tongue-in-cheek, the jokes are a lot cornier. The most different of all the drafts was Wesley’s. He didn’t have a lot of time to work on the script as well, I think he worked on it with Tim for about four or five months before he was taken off and they replaced him with Dan Gilroy. Dan Gilroy came in with a little more of a focus on Clark Kent and focusing on like the whole idea of Superman being an alien also transfers over to Clark Kent. He’s also an alien, he’s also a guy hiding the fact that he’s an alien. Superman’s hiding the fact that he’s Clark Kent. Clark Kent’s hiding the fact that he’s an alien.

Masks behind masks.

Jon: Yeah, multiple masks, that is something Tim Burton is great at exploring, with Edward Scissorhands, with Batman, all of his characters in all of his films, the façade is there, and that is something Nicolas Cage wanted to bring to the character as well, his portrayal of Clark Kent and his abilities. How weird would it be to have these powers and hear a comedy club comedian like a mile away, laughing at a joke while you’re talking to someone else? Just those kinds of things, being a comic book fan, is something that Nicolas Cage brought to the character, he was able to add these nuances while they were developing the character.

Some of the footage that we got, being a fly on the wall, of Tim and Nic doing the costume tests, their talking about their interpretation: what does the cape mean? What does the costume mean? Clark Kent, how are we going to portray this character, what are we going to bring to it? When you see this, you hear where they’re coming from, from footage from 1997-98, it’s very inspiring to see what they would have done.

Any time there’s an adaptation, particularly a film adaptation of a comic book, there’s always the war of “iconic imagery vs. original thought” and that war seems to have been raging very fiercely in Superman Lives.

Jon: Yeah, I like that war because to me, all movies are “Elseworlds” of comic books. Every movie or TV show is not the comic. Guess what? You’ve got the comic. That’s all you really need. To validate a movie as being like the comic, I don’t need anyone to validate a comic book to me at all. I don’t care if the movie was terrible, I have the original comic. If the original comic was great, that’s all that matters. The movie is a different take, you don’t just pull the storyboards and then make a movie, it’s a completely different beast entirely. Television, spread out over time, is a soap opera. A movie is act 1, act 2, act 3, it’s a finite thing. That’s why you have superhero characters’ and their villains’ origins tied in, because it makes it a lot simpler and cleaner to be able to tell that story within a 90 minute context. So for myself, it doesn’t matter that the X-Men didn’t wear yellow outfits, it doesn’t matter that Wolverine didn’t have the bright colours, it’s like a different take on the perspective of the material and that’s what all these movies and TV shows bring us as comic book fans, people who love the superhero films and the genre who don’t read the comics will never get that take.

Finally, we’ve seen Lex Luthor on screen many times, Zod onscreen a couple of times and Superman Lives would have had Luthor but would also have had Brainiac. So, is there a Superman villain we haven’t seen before in a Superman movie that you’d like to see?

Jon: Definitely not Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Holly: I was going to say Mr. Mxyzptlk!

Jon: I always hear people say that and I’m like, “that’s boring”. Number one, he’s too powerful, he’s from a different dimension, and you’ve got to trick him into saying his name backwards, how lame is that? I would go with Metallo. He’s a fun character. I would throw in the Parasite, I would chuck him in. They’ve played out the Kryptonian Phantom Zone characters quite a bit so I don’t really need to see them return. Bizarro would be a lot of fun. But once you bring in Bizarro, that brings in that bizarre comic [element], like “I live on the square planet!” “Me am Bizarro” I don’t know about that, so I would take Bizarro back.

Holly: For me, I would go with Mr. Mxyzptlk, I have to go against Jon. Maybe just as an ancillary villain, not like the main villain.

To give it a trippiness.

Holly: Exactly! Exactly.

Jon: If they could do Mr. Mxyzptlk the way Alan Moore did Mr. Myxyzptlk in The Last Superman Story Ever Told, where he was like literally a freakish demon from another dimension, twisted, then that’s the way to play it.



The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? Is available for purchase exclusively at www.tdoslwh.com