Wonder Woman 1984 review

For F*** Magazine

Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast : Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Lily Aspell, Amr Waked
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Run Time : 151 min
Opens : 17 December 2020
Rating : PG

In 2017, the first Wonder Woman movie finally brought the iconic superheroine to the big screen. The film broke ground and was a critical and financial success, meaning everyone would watch director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot closely to see where the sequel would go.

66 years after the events of the first film, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) lives in Washington, DC and works as an archaeologist and anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute. Her new colleague Dr Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a gemologist, is meek, nerdy, and often ignored, and wishes to be like Diana. A mysterious artifact with unfathomable power that Diana has recovered begins to change the life of Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a grifter who projects an image of wealth but whose multi-level marketing oil business is floundering. Things start to change for Diana too, as Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who sacrificed his life in the First World War, magically returns. As things begin spinning out of control, Diana must discover the source of these seemingly mystical transformations and set things right.

Wonder Woman 1984 is a corny movie, but corny in a good way. This is an earnest, sincere and ultimately hopeful film that is completely unconcerned with looking or seeming cool. As such, it will probably have its detractors, but there’s something about it that is very appealing. It almost has an Amblin movie’s soul, befitting the 80s setting. There is something Spielbergian to its earnestness, and one gets the sense that Jenkins and the other filmmakers wholeheartedly believe in what the movie is saying.

Gal Gadot continues to own the Wonder Woman role with poise, sensitivity and strength, the proportions of each component finely calibrated. She essays the quiet sadness of someone who has never gotten over losing the love of her life, while having many more facets to her than just that. There are moments when one can see the years in her eyes, and this wiser, more mature but still compassionate and good-hearted Diana is a fully fleshed-out character.

The movie also finds clever ways to reference iconic attributes of the character from the comics, some of which would be considered too cheesy to translate to live-action.

The movie feels shorter than its 151 minutes but is still too long. It certainly doesn’t feel as fresh as the first go-round, but that is par for the course with sequels. The message at the heart of the movie is straightforward to the point of being simplistic. The “be careful what you wish for” strain allows Wonder Woman 1984 to explore certain themes but can sometimes come off as shallow. The movie wants to say that everyone should be content with what they have and not fixate on wanting too much more, which is not a bad message, but that might hit differently in a year in which so much has been taken away from so many. The action set-pieces are largely unmemorable, with the best sequence being the prologue, which depicts the Themysciran Contest. A major climactic duel takes place in darkness, is shot mostly in close-ups and is choppily edited, such that it is challenging to follow.

Wonder Woman 1984 revels in its 80s setting, with production designer Aline Bonetto and costume designer Lindy Hemming creating a thoroughly convincing milieu. Diana rocks some very stylish 80s fashion (just look at those lapels!) and Barbara’s makeover from dowdy to glam is fun to watch. The movie also references geopolitical tensions at the time and comments on rampant consumerism. The 80s in America were very much about being defined by what one bought and owned – Wonder Woman is a character who is so innately good, she seems naturally at odds with greed and superficiality.

Gadot and Pine continue to share crackling chemistry, even if the reason behind Steve’s resurrection might be contrived for some. The fish-out-of-water stuff with Steve discovering life in the 80s is endearing. Diana and Steve share a beautiful moment that seems deliberately evocative of the “Can You Read My Mind” flight in the 1978 Superman movie.

Pedro Pascal is wonderfully cast as Maxwell Lord. Imagine if the fake wealth gurus who show up in unskippable YouTube ads suddenly had all the power in the world. It’s a frightening thought, and one that the film fully exploits. Pascal has said his performance was inspired by Nicolas Cage, which is evident at certain points.

Kristen Wiig is not an obvious choice to play a supervillain, which is precisely why she works in the role. Barbara’s arc is one we’ve seen in many comic book movies, with characters like the Riddler in Batman Forever and Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 bearing similar traits. However, Wiig brings a humanity and tenderness to the character, keeping her sympathetic even as she becomes increasingly vicious.

It may not have everything everyone is looking for in a comic book movie but Wonder Woman 1984 is confident about what it is.

Summary: Earnest and heartfelt, Wonder Woman 1984’s innate sweetness and optimism is hard to resist, even if its action sequences are disappointing. Stay for a crowd-pleasing stinger scene during the end credits.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

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.

Wonder Woman

For F*** Magazine

WONDER WOMAN 

Director : Patty Jenkins
Cast : Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock
Genre : Action/Comics
Run Time : 2h 21min
Opens : 31 May 2017
Rating : PG (Some Violence)

All the world’s been waiting for her, and at long last, here she is in a movie of her own. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gadot) is a demigoddess raised by the mythical Amazons on the island of Themyscira. Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Nielsen) wants to shield her from the outside world, while Diana’s aunt General Antiope (Wright) wants to train Diana into a warrior. When American pilot Captain Steve Trevor (Pine) crash-lands on Themyscira, Diana volunteers to escort him back to the outside world, against her mother’s wishes. It is the final days of World War I, and German General Erich Ludendorff (Huston) is working alongside treacherous chemist Dr. Maru/Dr. Poison (Anaya), devising deadly weapons to use in the war. Diana befriends Steve’s secretary Etta Candy (Davis), and goes to the front to end the war. Diana is accompanied by Steve’s ragtag band of operatives, including Sameer (Taghmaoui), Charlie (Bremner) and Chief (Brave Rock). However, the forces they face are beyond mere armies of men.

Wonder Woman made her first appearance in Sensation Comics in 1941, and a big screen solo outing for the superheroine is long overdue. After varied failed attempts to bring the character to the screen, DC has finally found success – and what a success this is. The DC Extended Universe has generally been greeted with scorn. Moviegoers heading into this movie can be roughly grouped into two categories: those who are eager to see this fail because it’s a DC film, and those who are cautiously optimistic. With Wonder Woman, director Patty Jenkins has crafted a movie that might stun detractors into silence. Working from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg (known in the comics sphere for Young Avengers and his Wonder Woman run), who rewrote earlier drafts by Jason Fuchs and Zack Snyder, Jenkins has delivered a worthy epic that does the iconic character great justice. The filmmakers demonstrate an innate understanding of what makes Wonder Woman tick, and eloquently articulate her motivations, laying out the events that shape her into the heroine she becomes.

Jenkins must have faced the dilemma of depicting an action heroine who’s all about peace, love and understanding: as the lyrics of the theme song go, “make a hawk a dove, stop a war with love”. On one hand, Diana stands for all that is good and pure, and on the other, she’s a bona fide badass who is formidable in battle. Wonder Woman navigates the quandary admirably, and gets surprisingly moving in the process. While the film doesn’t try to give a simple answer to why it’s in mankind’s nature to fight, it attempts to make sense of why conflict comes so naturally to us, and how someone from outside man’s world would process this. It’s also tonally assured: the scenes of war get the appropriate gravitas, but there is a healthy amount of fish-out-of-water comedy, though not so much as to take one out of it. Some took issue with Batman v Superman’s handling of philosophical issues, and Wonder Woman doesn’t get too bogged down with big questions as it serves up plenty of spectacle.

There’s a grandeur to the film, which takes us from the idyllic fantasy paradise of Themyscira to the gritty corpse-strewn battlefield of the Western Front. Aline Bonetto’s production design and Lindy Hemming’s costume design makes Themyscira a thoroughly-realised world, supplemented by location filming on the Italian coast. The statuesque Amazons are fantastical figures, yes, but their domain is immersive and believable. There is enough authenticity to the settings of London, Belgium and the Ottoman Empire, such that this works as a war movie. The action sequences are exciting and staged with finesse, the fight choreography incorporating Diana’s sword, shield, lasso and bracelets. They are just the right degree of showy, a dazzling blend of elegance and strength. When Wonder Woman climbs out of the trenches and charges brazenly through No Man’s Land, it’s wont to give viewers quite the buzz.

Gadot’s casting was met with considerable backlash, and if her turn in Batman v Superman made doubters eat their words, she’s back with a heaping second serving here. Gadot more than proves herself as the ideal embodiment of the superheroine. Diana starts out as an idealist, and Gadot parses the character’s status as an invincible naïf. Audiences at large are not as familiar with Wonder Woman’s back-story as they are the origin tales of Superman, Batman or Spider-Man, and it is told coherently and engagingly. Not only does Gadot truly come into her own as a leading lady in this film, but she looks absolutely fantastic doing it – in both the action sequences and the quiet dramatic moments.

In many comic book films, the romance tends to feel tacked on. This isn’t the case here. The strapping, roguish Steve Trevor is Diana’s primary link to man’s world, and the relationship between the two is crucial to the plot. Through Steve’s eyes, Diana sees both the good and the evil that man is capable of. Pine is charming as always, with a twinkle in his eye and never a hair out of place. It seems like a bit of a waste to cast him as Steve Trevor instead of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, since Hal is pretty much Captain Kirk. Still, it’s great that Steve is drawn with some depth, instead of being the standard dashing but boring hero. Owing to the respect he shows Diana, he’s as good a role model as she is.

Davis’ bubbly Etta Candy is true to how the character is portrayed in the comics, and as the designated comic relief, she stays a safe distance from being annoying. While Steve’s band of merry men all exhibit stereotypical traits, they get enough development. Taghmaoui is suave and amusing, Bremner has fun playing the wild-eyed Scotsman but also brings out the trauma that mars the character, and Brave Rock is steadfast and a comforting presence as Chief. While Huston and Anaya play largely generic villains, they serve the plot well and chew just enough scenery.

There was a lot riding on this film, with the fear that if it failed, it would spell doom for any female-led comic book movies going forward, just as Catwoman and Elektra sounded the death knell all those years ago. Those fears should be allayed, as this is a grand, heartfelt and rousing film. Despite its 141-minute running time, Wonder Woman doesn’t feel bloated and is light on its feet. At once refreshing and reminiscent of classic wartime romance films, Wonder Woman is a giant leap forward for the DC Extended Universe.

Summary: A soaring, inspiring adventure centred by Gal Gadot’s assured star turn, Wonder Woman is the movie long-time fans of the iconic superheroine have been waiting for.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Taste Paradise: Wonder Woman media launch

For F*** Magazine

TASTE PARADISE
F*** samples Wonder Woman-themed dishes at the DC Super Heroes Café
By Jedd Jong

After making her big screen debut in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, superheroine Wonder Woman will finally get a movie of her own. Tying in to the highly-anticipated film, a homegrown marketing effort is rolling out Wonder Woman-centric accessories, apparel and food. F*** was at the DC Super Heroes Café in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, for the product launch on 4th May.

Irwan Sukarman, creative director of JT Network, presented the Wonder Woman product line that will be hitting the shelves of DC Comics Super Heroes fashion and lifestyle stores in late May. JT Network owns the retail stores and the café, under license from Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Sukarman stated that the design principle boiled down to the three elements of “mythology, metal and strength,” to convey the “fierce grace” which is central to the Wonder Woman character. The items include tops for men, women and children, coasters, headphones, iPhone cases and bangles.

The product design competition WeDesign has partnered with DC Comics Super Heroes stores and Vendermac Distribution, theming this year’s contest to Wonder Woman. On 20th May 2017, the atrium at Bugis+ mall will host a design marathon where 120 designers will work on a given Wonder Woman-themed design challenge over a 4-hour period. The top five entries will win cash prizes, movie premiere tickets and limited edition collectibles. The winners will undergo the process of turning their designs into an actual product collection to be launched in the market. Head project manager Lee Kwan Ter unveiled Vendermac’s range of clutches, sling bags, keychains, pouches and laptop sleeves, which feature washed faux-leather and brushed metal details.

Chef Martin Woo explained his inspirations behind the special menu. Last year, the café also had tie-in dishes in the run-up to promote Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. The Wonder Woman menu card itself is shaped like the titular character’s shield. Chef Woo stated that the governing theme in devising the menu was that of empowerment and vitality, and he wanted to emphasise the organic nature of Wonder Woman’s home, the paradise island of Themyscira.

First up was Themyscira: My Salad Origin ($16.90), which comprises cabbage, purple cabbage, green papaya, beetroot, cherry tomato, baby red radish, sliced carrot, sesame seeds and sweet corn in a creamy sesame dressing. This was largely unremarkable, and not unlike a salad one could whip up at home. The beetroot, cut into star shapes, was the most unique element of the dish. Chef Woo explained that to remove the earthy, astringent taste of the vegetable, the beetroot was wrapped in wet dough and baked before being sliced into shapes.

Our second course was Paradise Island Mac and Cheese ($18.90), inspired by the scene in the trailer in which Wonder Woman dives off a cliff into the ocean. The baked pasta dish comprises Conchiglie Rigate (shell-shaped pasta), a five-cheese and mentaiko (smoked cod roe cream) sauce, with prawns, white button mushrooms, turkey bacon and garlic. While we counted only two prawns in the whole dish, it tasted pleasant enough. Macaroni and Cheese is a go-to comfort food for this reviewer, and he was satisfied.

Then came the Truth and Beauty mini burgers ($22). It’s not sure whether Truth was chicken and Beauty was beef, or the other way around. The beef burger had a filling of ribeye steak, shitake mushroom, purple Spanish onion and cabbage, while the chicken burger had a chicken patty stuffed with cheddar and smoked mozzarella cheese, an onion ring, pineapple salsa, peanut butter, cabbage and a sunny-side up quail egg. The yellow bun was coloured with turmeric, and the pink with beetroot juice. The chicken slider was similar to the Superman-themed burger from the Batman v Superman menu last year, which also used peanut butter. The chicken patty was standard, ho-hum stuff. The beef slider fared significantly better, with the ribeye steak slices being remarkably tender and tasty.

For dessert, we had the Shields of Truth pancakes ($15.90). Each pancake was emblazoned with the Wonder Woman ‘W’ insignia, and they were served with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, strawberry ice cream and a whipped cream topping. The pancakes themselves were sufficiently moist and dense, but the ice cream seemed awfully cheap, as if it was from a supermarket home brand.

To complement the meal, we had the optimistically-named Wonder Woman’s Box Office Power drink ($10.90), which came in a glass styled to resemble the character’s armoured bustier. An ice-blended salted caramel popcorn-flavoured drink, this was a dessert in a cup – i.e., really sweet.

As a DC fan, this writer always enjoys visiting the café, but just as we’ve said in our previous reviews of their themed menus, the food is akin to what would find in a theme park – in terms of both quality and price. It was a surprise that no Greek-themed dishes were showcased, seeing as Wonder Woman draws heavy inspiration from Greek mythology, and that seemed like an obvious direction to go in.

Wonder Woman opens in cinemas on 1st June 2017.

Wonder Woman custom action figure is the writer’s own

STGCC 2015: Adam Hughes interview

As published in Issue #69 of F*** Magazine

Text:
THE AH! FACTOR
F*** talks to pinup artist extraordinaire Adam Hughes at STGCC

By Jedd Jong



Comic book fans everywhere know those familiar initials all too well – “AH!” Adam Hughes is in town for the annual Singapore Toy, Games and Comics Convention (STGCC), appearing as a special guest in Singapore for the very first time. Hughes is accompanied by his wife and manager Allison Sohn, also an illustrator.

Hailing from New Jersey, Hughes is a prolific comic book artist who has built a reputation for drawing some of the most drop-dead gorgeous women in all of comics. His work harks back to the golden age of pin-up art with its playful sexiness, while also coming across as lifelike, cinematic and vibrant.

Over the course of his storied career, Hughes has drawn for the likes of DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Wildstorm, in addition to adult publications such as Playboy and Penthouse. His career highlights include prominent cover artist runs on Catwoman, Wonder Woman and Tomb Raider. Sideshow Collectibles has produced a series of statues based on Hughes’ designs and his original art is highly sought after in the comic art collecting community, running for a pretty penny.

While he initially seemed a little intense and wasn’t prone to smiling a lot, Hughes is engaging, enthusiastic and humorous during the interview, giving witty, well thought-out answers to our questions. Sitting down with F*** at STGCC, Hughes shares his thoughts on the evolution of the pinup, reveals his favourite female and male comic book characters, speaks about the successful partnership he has with his wife and provides insight into the unexpected challenges of being a career artist. He also recounts his fascinating brush with Hollywood in the form of working on the teaser poster for Joss Whedon’s ill-fated Wonder Woman movie.

How has the art of the pinup evolved from the days of Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas to today?

As far as a first question goes, pretty tough [laughs]. It’s changed because of the perception of women in society. With very few exceptions, all the great pinup artists were men, there were only a few women doing it, and they were depicting idealised versions of women. As time has gone on, women aren’t meant to just be attractive or just be the mother to your children, they’re their own people; they have their own place in society and can do anything they want. The pinup has changed to reflect women’s power, as far it’s not just them in cute situations. It’s not just them going “oh, a puppy is pulling down my bikini bottoms, ooh!”
That’s one of the things that interests me and challenges me as a pinup artist: I’m hired to draw strong, powerful women and I want to make them look attractive. Nobody ever talks about the fact that when I draw Superman or Captain America, I want to make them look attractive too. My main job is to portray a character and I don’t do as much pure “cheesecake pinup” as I used to, but I still try to inject an element of humour and good-natured sexuality of the pinup into the stuff that I do. I do think the way that it has changed is that it’s trying to be a little more…I don’t know if ‘respectful’ is the right word, but aware.
You’re not just drawing a thing that’s to be looked at, you’re drawing a person, definitely more nuanced, but also more aware that you’re drawing a character, you’re not just drawing something that’s meant to be looked at and appreciated for its beauty. When I draw Catwoman or Wonder Woman or any character, I go “what’s this character thinking? What’s this character feeling at the moment?” not just “how small is this character’s costume today?” It sounds like a strange dichotomy, but it’s the way I work.
You were once named “the greatest cheesecake artist” and in response, you said that instead of “embracing” the title, you were giving it a “warm handshake”. You do more cover art than interior work; would you call yourself a frustrated storyteller?

I’m not an especially frustrated storyteller, I’m only frustrated with the fact that I don’t get to tell stories as much as I want. That’s not because people don’t offer me comics to draw, it’s because I’m so slow. I would love to be one of those people that’s just so prolific and works on everything, I would love to tell a million stories, maybe I’ve only got 20 stories, I’ve only got enough time to tell 20. That’s the part that frustrates me. As far as telling stories in single images, I don’t have a problem with that because I’m allowed to, I’m allowed to use a cover to tell a story instead of just portraying a character in a pretty way.
What’s your opinion on diversity in comics today?

There’s not enough of it. However, I don’t feel that the correct solution is a hammer. When there’s a problem in the world, whether it’s in something as silly as comics or in the real world, the workplace, in education or something like that, a lot of times people tend to go way overboard in their response to it, as opposed to a measured response and an incisive response [that] will actually get the most results. There are two responses to any great social issue: ‘I’m going to sleep through it’ or ‘let’s have a revolution!’ Maybe there’s a response somewhere in between apathy and anarchy, where you can go ‘let’s try to make this better’.
I would love more diversity across the board in all media, but I’m not a fan of ‘artificial diversity’, where you go “let’s just make this more diverse for diversity’s sake.” I believe in everything, whether it’s diversity or characters, locations, storytelling, any aspect of a creative endeavour, I think that it should always be organic, it should always come from “what am I trying to say with this story?” If you’re trying to tell a story and for some strange reason, a character has to be a white guy, then he needs to be a white guy. You should only change it to some other thing if making the character, say, a female Asian, actually makes the story better. You shouldn’t be doing it because “we don’t have enough female Asians in comics,” but because you’re saying “this story would be good if it were a white guy, but it would be amazing if it were a female Asian” or something like that. That’s what I think about diversity.
Unfortunately, today is such a reactionary era that I just realised, while I’m talking to you, that I could get into a lot of trouble and I’m just going to have to take that if it comes my way. I just want it to be for the betterment of story, not to fulfil an agenda. Hopefully we get to a point where people stop looking at, say, the cast photo of a new Star Wars film and counting the white people and black people, counting the men and counting the women, [and instead] see how it plays out.
What issues have you encountered in finding a balance in depictions of comic book women such that they are alluring and sensual while also empowering and dignified?

I haven’t encountered any issues until lately. It’s just a subjective thing – what offends one person is somebody else’s idea of pure art. That spectrum used to be much broader. Nowadays it’s a little rigid – there are people out there, especially in the west, who are getting upset at the way I’ve done business for 20-30 years. It’s like “I haven’t changed, was what I’m doing wrong 20 years ago or is your perception of what’s right and wrong, has it changed?” Sometimes the sheer aspect of depicting someone in a glamorous manner is offensive and everyone should look like regular folk to them. Gosh, I wouldn’t have a job if that were true! For the time being, I’m still safe, but I still lock my doors at night.
Your most popular pieces feature the characters in a more light-hearted context, since many pinups tend to be more playful. What are your views on the “battle” of lighter and happier vs. darker and grittier portrayals of characters?

I think it’s a silly battle. I think it’s not an important battle. I think everything that’s meant to be fun should be fun; I don’t like it when light-hearted characters are made dark just for the sake of shock value. I think there’s an important aspect to the darker side of things as well. I think it’s a non-issue, not a real battle.
How do you overcome artist’s block?

I spend most of my time scratching my chin and looking at the blank sheet of paper than I do actually drawing. It’s either video games, I will sit there and go “I’m gonna go kill somebody digitally and I’m gonna pretend they’re artist’s block”. Either that or I vacuum. I know a lot of artists who go “I’m not getting anything productive done at the drawing table, I’m going to get something productive done elsewhere” – that way, at the end of the day when you didn’t get a darn thing drawn, you still feel like you were a useful part of society because my floors are spotless.
What is the nature of your creative and business partnership with your wife?

Extremely productive. We’re lucky, we both have a lot of the same interests [and] we both like a lot of different things and bring new stuff to each other. My work enables to her to have the freedom to pursue her art; her work enables me to have the freedom to just focus on my artwork. We just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and we’ve been together for just over 13 years – longest relationship for either one of us. We would walk if it wasn’t working, we’re tired of abuse [laughs]. It’s a great relationship, we get a lot more done, it’s much more enriched. If we were on our own, we’d be surviving, we’d be doing okay, but because we’re together, we thrive.
You’ve drawn some of comic’s most beautiful ladies and did a pinup for Fairest from Fables. Who do you think is the fairest of them all?

I would say Catwoman. If I were drawing all the characters at the same time, I would make sure Selina is the prettiest.
What makes Catwoman one of the characters you’re fondest of?

I love damaged goods. I think the reason why people like the Batman universe so much is everybody in the Batman universe is damaged goods. I’ve always said that everybody in Gotham City is awful and the only reason why Batman is the hero is because he’s the least awful person in Gotham. Selina Kyle should have it easy. She’s beautiful, she’s smart and she’s talented, and yet, there’s something inside her that drives her towards a life of crime and she wouldn’t turn away from it. It’s not just thrills, there’s something bent and broken in her, just as it is with Batman and the Joker and probably even Alfred. If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey, 100 people have to take care of that house and Alfred is the one guy who has to dust, clean, make the food, clean the sheets and patch up the owner every night he comes home shot. I’d be miserable too. I think that’s why.
Which is your favourite live-action portrayal of Catwoman be it in movies or TV shows?

Oh, in Dark Knight Rises. About 20 minutes into Dark Knight Rises I went “Okay, I don’t care if Batman doesn’t show up, can we just have two hours of Anne Hathaway doing cool stuff?” because it was way better than any of the Batman stuff.
Who is your favourite male superhero?

My favourite male superhero is Captain America. I love Captain America. Last year I drew my first Captain America cover ever and I was nine years old while I was drawing it.
He’s very different from “damaged goods”.

Yeah. Nobody likes a perfect character, it’s finding the character flaws and finding how the character overcomes those flaws. Those character flaws are the same as the obstacles in their careers. It’s like for Captain America, one of his obstacles is the Red Skull and the Legion of Hydra. One of his other obstacles is he doesn’t really fit in – I love him and I would kill to do a World War II Captain America story but I love the idea of a guy who isn’t where he belongs anymore and there’s no going home.
As you get older, all of us are separated from where we were born, not just by distance, but also by time. If you go back to the school you went to, the town or village you’re from, it’s changed and you go “wow, that’s not the way I remember it.” When Cap first came back in 1964, World War II had only been over for 19 years – the only thing different was “well, the Beatles have long hair”. Everybody he knew was probably still alive and I love the fact that as more time goes by, he’s 70 years out of time and soon he’ll be 100 years out of time. He’s becoming Buck Rogers. I find the tragedy of that very appealing.
What is the hardest part of being in the comic book industry?

The hardest part – this is going to sound vague and slightly Zen – it’s all the stuff nobody prepared you for. When you turn your hobby into your job, there’s that initial “oh crap, I have to draw even when I don’t want to draw?” When we’re kids and we’re all doing our favourite creative things, whenever we want, we all wish there was no school so we could do our favourite creative thing every day. The minute someone tells you to do it and says “you have to have all this done by Friday”, it can really become a chore. “Wow, my hobby’s no longer as fun as it used to be.” When you’re a kid and you want to grow up and draw comics, it’s just like “I’m going to sit around all day in my underwear and watch cartoons and draw comics and it’s gonna be great” – [but] there’s a whole brochure of stuff that nobody tells you.
I always think back to nine or ten-year-old me, if I time-travelled and went back, what I would tell him – one, it would be lay off the pizza. Two, I would say “in the future, the same guy who plays Judge Dredd plays Dr. McCoy, and it’s awesome, everybody’s happy” and three, I would sit him down and go “here’s all the stuff you’re not going to be ready for when you break into the business.” The expectations put on you, weird things – this is going to sound like I’m complaining that my diamond shoes are too tight, but career management – nobody teaches you how to manage a career.
I look at genuinely famous people, like politicians or athletes or actors and actresses and I go “your life is no longer your own” and you hope that there’s somebody somewhere that says “here’s what happens the first time somebody takes your autograph and sells it on eBay, here’s what to do the first time somebody stalks you.”
Comics fame is really dubious, but there are issues. We will get stuff mailed to our house, with a letter from somebody saying “oh my god, I love your work, could you please sign this comic that I sent you” to send it back using some self-addressed stamped envelope. The first thing my wife and I do is go “how did they get our address?! Close the blinds and lock all the windows!” It’s weird stuff like that. We worry sometimes, what if some crazy fan who didn’t get a sketch gets upset and decides to do something about it? Gosh, it could happen anywhere!
Nobody tells you when you’re a kid “by the way, you’re going to have to pay your own taxes.” In America, you’re responsible for paying your own taxes, it’s what self-employed artists do. It took me the better part of 18 years to get my tax problems sorted out because I made so many mistakes early on. So much stuff; that’s the hardest part.  
What are your thoughts on old school (pen and paper or watercolours) and new school (programs like Illustrator and Photoshop)

I’ve got my feet in both worlds, because I draw on paper and then I scan it and colour it in the computer. I don’t care, to me, all that matters is the final product. If your best tool is digital, then do it. These purists say “it’s not really painting unless you’re using oil paints” and it’s like “well, for you, but for this other person over here, they sing with a stylus and Cintiq tablet.”
If you make art and you only use ketchup and mustard and you only make these glorious Iron Man paintings by just squirting condiments onto a board because that’s how you’re most comfortable, then do it. I used to try and paint for real all the time, and it never works. Very frustrating. The minute I started colouring digitally, everything gelled into place, because I think that art medium, they should be like your shoes and your car and the chair you sit in. They should be so comfortable, you’re not thinking about it. Imagine walking somewhere and thinking about your shoes every step of the way – you wouldn’t get where you’re going because you’d be going “oh, the left one’s a little tight, the right one’s squeaking” – you wouldn’t think about where you’re going.
As an artist, if you’re thinking about your tools while you’re working, you’re not spending time being creative. You’re thinking about the mechanics of drawing, which you should have worked out already. That’s why every artist should just draw all the time; to get to the point where your pencil or your stylus or your paintbrush is an extension of your hand and you’re not thinking “oh, this paper’s fighting me today” or “I don’t like this pencil” – you’re just sitting there and going “Batman is sad! He needs rain, rain will make him seem sadder.”
That’s why I don’t care about the medium at all. When I see a beautiful piece of artwork, I never seem to ask what the medium is anymore. I used to be concerned about that; now I just go “that is a beautiful, wonderful piece of art that tells a story.” Don’t care where it came from. Unless it’s like “oh my god, I need to steal that, let me find out how that person drew those clouds.”
What was it like working on the Wonder Woman poster for the Joss Whedon film that didn’t pan out back in 2005?



When Joss Whedon was making the Wonder Woman movie, I got a call from DC saying “you’re going to get a call from Joel Silver”, who was the producer of the Matrix films, the Lethal Weapon films. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, he was the crazy director at the beginning and I was like “him, he’s calling my house?” So he called, and the character he played at the beginning of Roger Rabbit was way more normal than how he is in real life. I said to my wife, we were just dating at the time, “this guy’s a cartoon!” He then said “hold on, hold on, I’ve got Joss Whedon on the other line.” So, all of a sudden, I’m in a conference call with the producer of The Matrix and Joss Whedon, and I’m going “this is the weirdest day ever.”
I only had a weekend to work on it, I only had two days. They had no costume design, and I knew this film was not going to get made because they were both telling me what to draw and it was all different. Joel Silver’s going “make sure she’s buff, make sure she’s really strong!” and Joss Whedon’s saying “but not too buff!” I felt like a divorce attorney. When they announced that it didn’t go through [it made sense]. It was fun, I wish I could’ve drawn more of Wonder Woman, but there was no costume, there was no actress, and if I had an extra day or so, I could have made it something real special, but now it’s just “hey, I worked in Hollywood for eight seconds! Yay me!”

STGCC 2014 Day 2: Mega Picture Post

DC Day! I was in something of a euphoric state through much of this day. Also got some halfway-decent photos of the big cosplay runway event! Thanks to everyone for letting me hang around to take photos, crack jokes and just be a generally annoying fanboy.

Kai Le as Jason Todd, Red Hood

The gang’s all here, thanks to Hot Toys.

“I utinni! you.” “I know.”

Jaye Tempest as Elizabeth from Bioshock 

Reno in a Bram Stoker’s Dracula-inspired outfit

Sara as street Cass Cain

Matt as “Rico Vrataski”, a gender-flipped version of Rita Vrataski from Edge of Tomorrow

Frasier as Huntress and Jenny as Black Canary

Cry for Justice

This one’s for the Helena/Dinah shippers

It’s no use, he’ll just wake up and re-live the day again!

Mini-Steve and Natasha

Batgirl finds herself stuck in this fiendish trap called the “Skyhook”

That smile is made of pure evil. Which is to say Sheril did a good job as the character because she is very nice in real life. 

“Sometimes, a bad headache can feel like a knife through your head.” 

Shaun shows off his T-800 makeup

Sandy! 

Crane!

Orbakat Cos as Scarlet Witch

Rachel Rynx as Hawkgirl

I hope he finds it soon.

The game is afoot.

Gun show courtesy of Jes as Wonder Woman and Ka as Power Girl! 

Rul as Nathan Drake! 

Statue re-enactment attempt #1

Lil Steve and Lil Natasha are welcome even if they aren’t DC.

First the Joker cripples Batgirl, then he takes the chattering teeth to her crotch. 

I call this one “a guy can dream” *goes to cry in my corner*

Joel Schumacher wasn’t the only one with Bat-nipples on the brain

A single tear. “MY PARENTS!!”

Rorschach realises my journal isn’t quite as interesting as his own.

Run little Barry! 

It’s Kie as Tim! 

Theodora as Black Widow

THERE WAS A SHAUN! Come and get it, it’s a running buffet!

Don’t nobody tell Frasier, but I think Sarah was the better Huntress.

Alright, they’re both great.

Zann as the smiley Squire! 

Statue re-enactment attempt #2

Don’t shoot the fanboy!

Cards against Bat-family

“You broke the fourth wall INTO THE WRONG UNIVERSE!!” 

Rex as Green Lantern – toting an actual green lantern! 

Fun fact: the Evil Queen never says “mirror mirror”, it’s always “magic mirror”. This is like “Beam me up, Scotty”.

Double the Loki

Don’t tell my pastor I bowed my knee to an outlaw spirit

Popular Australian cosplayer Evey Dantes as Supergirl. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see her in her Batgirl get-up.

Zack as Star-Lord is holding my tiny Baby Groot sculpture.

Magic-users unite! 

Isobel, Wanping and Charissa

Snowman already built.

Ollie & Helena

With a sketch by Cameron Stewart

That’s Rocky as DoFP Wolverine

The story of Bucky is about how one guy realised “Bucky” wasn’t all that cool a name and spent his next life trying to make up for that.

Scythe Scythe Baby

Don’t cross the streams!

So. Much. Abs. Envy.

Nathan Drake can’t grasp the concept of a superselfie

Tim & Conner 4eva!

The Predator macho hand clasp

Gwen as classic Star Lord

Batgirl has every right to be scared – there’s Raymond as the Joker, combining the New 52 Death of the Family look with the Bronze Age one.

Sakura Llama as Legolas!

Archers showdown!

Bat-family for life.

Jason’s revenge

The feels

Batman facepalm.

“Alas, poor Jason”. Isn’t “infinite jest” more the Joker’s thing though?

When the helmet goes on, the gloves come off.
Accidental whirly shot is probably one of my favourite photos of the day.

Get lost, Joker!

Not so cool when I wear it. No fair.

My Little Tony (yes, I’m way prouder of coming up with that than I should be.)

Cosplay runway time!

The Mass Effect trio

Goin’ Rogue

The Iron Giant is puppeteered by Orvis Evans. It is an amazing piece of craftsmanship.

Father-daughter day!

Cameron Stewart nailed the scowly face.

The “trophy case” in the hotel room some of my friends were staying at. I guess the glasses are Commissioner Gordon’s trophy.