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Thia’s Top Ten “Superhero” Movies

Heroes. I love stories of heroes. Stories of those who overcome all the obstacles and odds to save those who cannot save themselves. Like most fans of comics/graphic novels I have been thrilled with the influx of movies that have come out in my lifetime. How lucky we are to see our favorite heroes and villains on the big screen. Here is a list of some of my favorites. Some are movies that do not, strictly speaking, feature “heroes” as the leads but they still fit and I love them so in no real order here we go. 

  1. The Incredibles: Written and directed by Brad Bird this animated movie hit hard with a lot of heart in 2004. After Supers are outlawed what are the former masked fighters supposed to do? Get a job in a cubicle? What if your children have powers and now have to hide them? This family friendly movie features a family dealing with these issues. This movie is full of humor and love.
  2. Thor: Ragnarok: The great Taika Waititi gave the Thor franchise the lift it desperately needed when he directed this 2017 film. With a tight story line, great cast and a lot of humor this movie is a must see. Thor returns to his home and falls into a wild series of events that will push the god of war. Thor has to navigate new family drama as well as trying to save his home world. This film has the quirky brand of humor that fans love from Taika. 
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rodgers finally got his own movie in 2011. Steve’s story is of a little guy who always tries to fight for what he believes is right. Joe Johnston directed this fantastic film about a hero who is so beloved by many comic fans. All Steve wants to do is join the army and fight in World War Two, however he is repeatedly denied due to his poor health. He finds a way and allies to help him. 
  4. Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman has been an American hero for years. She is part of the triad that also consists of Batman and Superman. Patty Jenkins directed this 2017 movie. Diana is a restless warrior who finds a purpose when an American pilot lands on her island and tells her about the war outside. The film finds the balance of humor and Diana’s warrior ways. I was so happy as a lifelong fan of Wonder Woman to see this movie. 
  5. Shazam!: Superheroes are complicated. Shazam is a great example of this as he is both an ancient wizard and also young Billy Batson. David F. Sandberg was a great director for this 2019 film. Billy is a foster kid who is just looking for his mother. Instead he stumbles into a cosmic war. Tough situations and feelings are dealt with such humor in this movie. 
  6. Batman Returns: So there had to be a Batman movie. Like Wonder Woman Batman is one of America’s oldest heroes. In 1992 Tim Burton directed this campy movie that takes place in Gotham at Christmas. I know a lot of people have written off these earlier films, they aren’t as dark as many of DC’s newer movies. I like that they aren’t as dark though, Bruce’s life is dark enough. He needs a few laughs thrown about. I also love this Catwoman and how they played with her story. 
  7. Deadpool: Oh what can you really even say about Wade Willson? In 2016 a wonderful movie came out in time for Valentine’s Day directed by Tim Miller. It was funny, violent and yes there even was a love story in it. I think it was interesting to have so much of Wade’s story be about his love. For a movie about a mercenary there is a lot of humanity in it. Wade is a beloved character and this movie has all the reasons why; from his dark humor, to the fourth wall breaks to all the wonderful things in between. 
  8. Captain Marvel: Carol is such an interesting character. She is funny, she is dealing with trauma and she loves to fight. She fights for what is right. She fights to break down barriers. Anna Boden directed this great take that was released in 2019. I was really happy with how they treated this story, Carol has a lot of source material to play with. Carol encourages us all to go higher, further and faster. 
  9. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse: One of the reasons why some people won’t get into comics is because of the multiverse. Comics go through a story line and then there is a reset that happens when new creators take control. Instead of choosing one version of Spiderman to make this movie a story was woven together by taking multiple versions of people who have the powers and use them in their own ways to protect others. Bob Persichetti’s 2018 film gives us an amazing story of a hero’s struggle, complete with multiple styles of animation. The music and the characters of this animated film are just wonderful. 
  10. Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey: This movie has everything. A strong ensemble cast, good dialogue and a tight storyline.Cathy Yan, thankfully, took over this 2020 movie and gave fans the origin story that the Birds of Prey deserved. The story is told from the perspective of the one and only Harley Quinn, who is newly dumped and trying to find herself. What she finds is a lot of trouble and perhaps even a purpose outside of her old life. I walked out of this movie so happy. I didn’t know how badly I needed this story, for it to be told this way and with this cast. I can even forgive them changing the title of the movie to make it easier to process tickets. 
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Wow this was a lot more difficult then I thought it would be. I thought that my very strong opinions about this genre would make it a little easier. 

What are your favorites? Did they make the list? If not then comment below so I have suggestions on what to watch next. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

A New Generation of Women in Gaming and Film

Wonder Woman’s success at the box office is a sign that the portrayal of women in the media is improving. This film showed the world that female superhero films can be on par with any other blockbuster within the genre. And it’s not just in terms of revenue, but also on audience impact. Like Soliyra shared in a previous RWOG post, she was floored when she realized Diana is the same as her gamer persona – a long-time “tank” player who would rush into battle and absorb all the damage. It’s a far cry from a decade ago when women were stereotyped as either damsel in distress or nurturing lovers.

18673115_1499705770082033_9026401747109957452_o(image credit: Injustice Facebook Page)

Usually, superhero movie releases are accompanied by big-budget video games featuring the same hero. Unfortunately, the gaming community is still waiting for a Wonder Woman-centered video game but fans can at least enjoy playing Diana Prince in other big titles like Injustice 2. There are also projects from non-AAA game developers who have been inspired by the character. For instance, the global player base of Slingo has access to a mobile-friendly Wonder Woman slot game that has borrowed elements from Lynda Carter’s version the character. All of this goes to show how the Amazon princess remains relevant even decades after her first appearance in comic books and TV.

But Patty Jenkins and the new Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, are just two of the women who are making waves on the big screen today. Charlize Theron, for instance, showed that she still has what it takes to be an action star in the spy thriller Atomic Blonde. She played a top-level MI6 operative on the hunt for double-agents in this flick, so there were heavily stylized and well-choreographed fight scenes.

Theron has long been an advocate of women’s rights, and she’s vocal in her support for women in the industry. She’s actually friends with Jenkins due to their collaboration in Monster and the latter expressed on ComicBook how much she looks forward to working with Theron again.

On the other hand, Warner Bros.’ trailer for the upcoming Tomb Raider film shows Alicia Vikander portraying a different Lara Croft, in the sense that the character is not yet the badass explorer like Angelina Jolie’s version. It’s necessary so as to stay true to the ‘origin story’ angle. But still, Vikander’s Lara is fierce and willing to go beyond her limits.


(video credit: Warner Bros.)

The video game industry meanwhile, has already gone far in portraying strong female characters. We have Samus Aran (Metroid), and Max Caulfield (Life is Strange), to name a few. But like Wonder Woman, new female leads are generating a lot of buzz this year.

13247836_1195894880443571_5935357477196211488_o(image credit: Guerrilla Games Facebook Page)

Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn piqued many players’ interests back in 2015 when its first trailer featured the female protagonist, Aloy, battling a gigantic machine with a bow. CBR noted how the character played a big role in becoming a system seller. Since Horizon: Zero Dawn is a PlayStation 4 exclusive, it became a selling point for Sony. The decision to promote a female-led original game clearly worked because the game already sold 2.6 million units just two weeks following its release earlier this year. Some gamers even went as far as to buy the console just to play the action RPG title.

Blizzard’s popular online multiplayer game Overwatch also surprised fans when it announced that one of its characters, namely Tracer, is a lesbian. Tracer is a fan favorite, so it was a huge statement for Blizzard to present her as having an unorthodox sexuality. The move drew ire from some players, but the majority praised the studio’s initiative to diversify the world of gaming.

All things considered, onscreen female characters are now becoming more layered and varied. While there are still a lot of improvements to be made regarding our portrayal, it’s safe to say that the world openly welcomes this new generation of women in gaming and film.

About the Author: Alexa Henderson is a freelance writer and avid fan of RPGs. Her favorite game of all time is Squaresoft’s Chrono Cross.

Why did I cry During the Action Scenes in Wonder Woman?

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caption: Me rn all the time

Two months ago, I had the great pleasure of watching DC’s new feature film, Wonder Woman. It was a hell of a good time, combining the best aspects of Captain America, Thor, and Xena: Warrior Princess.  There has been a lot of buzz about this movie lately: feminists love it, comic book fans love it, even some Marvel fans love it.

My family is on Team Marvel.  We are deeply loyal and have even begun indoctrinating our two-year-old daughter (ask me about her Princess Spiderman birthday party).  But we still shelled out over $30 to see Wonder Woman and boy was it worth it.  The film made me proud, unstoppable, and powerful, but the reaction that will stick with me was a sense of seeing myself on screen for the first time.

You see, I’m a Gamer Girl, and I play a tank.  ‘Tank’ in this context refers to a party-role in cooperative gaming.  In order to form a successful team, a gaming group must consist of a balance of characters with differing abilities.  At minimum, a party will typically contain a healer or support character, a damage-dealer (DPS, short for damage per second), and a tank.  The ‘tank’ is a heavily armored character capable of absorbing a lot of damage.  The tank is often the first one into the fight, aggressively drawing fire from enemies to keep his (it’s almost always a ‘his’) allies safe.

If you play a lot of games, you start to see these roles appear in fiction as well.  It can be a lot of fun to categorize characters from movies or books into roles, especially if a diverse group of characters are on an adventure together.  The thing is, when you do this, you start to notice that women fall into particular roles.  The lone female member of a team is usually the healer.  I call this the ‘why’s the girl always got to play the cleric?’ trope.

This trope plays into the stereotype of women as caring and nurturing, existing only to support the men around them.  It shows up a lot in games.  Very often, female players like me, who actually want to beat up enemy pixels, are forced to chose between a character that suits their personalities and one that matches their gender (I never got into Black Desert Online for this reason).

The girl doesn’t always have to play the cleric, though.  Sometimes she gets to play DPS.  She can be a sexy sorceress like Lulu in Final Fantasy X, or a sexy rogue like Black Widow in The Avengers.  They stay on the outskirts of battle, dealing out heavy damage to opponents, avoiding being hit and looking good doing it.  This type of character can be fun to play, but when I try I always get killed because I rush in to melee a group of enemies without the hit points or armor to stay alive.  Sometimes I manage to take the mobs down with me.  Sometimes.  But deep down, I was always meant to play a tank.

There is a scene in Wonder Woman where Diana and her sidekick, Chris Pine, are in a tavern forming an adventuring party.  Pine’s character is a rogue, and they recruit a bard, and then we learn that their next group member is engaged in a bar fight.  “At least he’s good with his fists,” says Diana as she watches a large man pummel a much smaller man.  “Oh,” say her companions.  “That’s not Charlie.  That’s Charlie,” and indicate the smaller man who at this point has fallen to the ground, unconscious.

In the next scene, we learn that Charlie is an expert marksman.  Oh, I think to myself, he’s DPS. So they have DPS and support, but where’s the tank?  

And that was the moment I realized that I’d never seen myself represented on screen before.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that the party already had a tank from the start: the only woman in the group.  It hadn’t occurred to me because I had never seen it in a movie before.

So, when the warrior princess ignores the warnings of everyone around her and strides in all her glory across the no-man’s-land between WWI trenches, deflecting bullets off of her bracers and shield, I just kept thinking, ‘It’s me.’  Or, at least the me I am when I play video games.  The me I want to be all the time.

Stories tell us who we are and who we can become.  We absorb them and they help us grow.  Generations of moviegoers have been starved for a story of a woman who is brave and strong, who protects the men around her.  That starvation is finally ending.

 

Wonder Woman Honored then Snubbed by the U.N.

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The United Nations, famous (infamous?) for having Saudi Arabia on the human rights council, recently appointing Wonder Woman as the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.  Then, even more recently enough, people threw a fit that it was reversed.  Strangely enough of the people who complained aren’t who you think.  UN staffers, feminists, and non-fans of the character were vocal about their opposition.  Even written in the petition:

Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent warrior woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a pin-up girl.

What this says about women who do look like Wonder Woman is a bit of a double standard in my opinion.  While every woman is different, there are probably a great many women who look like her and girls who will look like her.  Saying they are abnormal is just as bad as saying any other body type is abnormal.  Saying she’s a ‘white woman’ shows the ignorance of people who cannot tell the difference between the wide range of  European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people, as much as the ignorance of people who think all Asians are the same.  And what’s wrong with pin-up girls?  It’s a job just like any other, and there are highly talented, and successful burlesque dancers, pin-up models, and dancers and if we are empowering women that means accepting whatever job it is they decide is best for them, right?  Who are we to shame any of these aspects of real women?

If a woman of Greek descent, who saves people all around the world and immigrates to America is too American, then which fictional character would work?  What other fictional female character is as well known, especially with the upcoming DC movie?  How many little girls, and even adults, cosplay as Diana every year?  What message does the UN send to these woman and girls, and even boys, when they say Wonder Woman isn’t womaning well enough to be an example for girls to look up to?

And current iteration?  Did they even google Wonder Woman before writing that?  Take a look.  Wonder Woman art is as varied as the artists who’ve drawn her.  Just in the top few results, we have her in the traditional red, white and blue, decked out in armor, wearing pants, and covered from neck to toe in an armored body suit.  She’s drawn as athletic and slender, or muscular and curvy, large chested or smaller, and everything in between.  The current iteration of this immigrant super heroine is quite diverse really, and it seems to me she shows that women can be whatever they want, and look however they want when they do it.

Thankfully fans are speaking out, with one 14 year old girl starting a petition to reinstate her.  Even Phil Jimenez shared this great tweet with art from Catherine and Sarah Satrun:

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Quite honestly, at the end of the day, if the point is to pick a woman who will fit everyone’s definition of a role-model, you’ll fail.  You’re not going to find a single fictional female, or male character, that everyone will think is a perfect example.  It’s simply not possible.  What I do know is when I see the faces of little girls dressed as Wonder Woman, they look like they’re having the time of their lives.  Do little girls really care what she’s wearing, or do they care that they feel like goddesses when they put on a costume and pretend to be Diana for a few hours?  Should we be focusing on what a woman wears (I’m told that’s really bad), or what she does?  Should our message be that a woman can do whatever she wants, and dress however she likes when she does it, or she can do it as long as she dresses in an acceptable manner?  I may just be one of those silly guys, but it seems like a damn confusing message to me.

JD Reviews: The Legend of Wonder Woman

Writer, Pencils: Renae De Liz
Inker, Colorist, Letterer: Ray Dillon
Published by: DC Comics

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Review by: Johnny Destructo

The mythical island of Themyscira, home to the Amazons, is beset with a growing darkness, and the young Princess Diana is the only one who can feel it. That is, until she meets Alcippe.

I’ve been following Renae De Liz on the social medium, just because I came across her artwork and loved it. It’s been a fun ride, watching as her talent grew and as she announced that she would be working on a Wonder Woman title. I didn’t, however, know that she would be doing the writing as well as the art, and she nails both with ease.

This is a different approach to the Wonder Woman origin story (and I’m sure you will correct me if I’m mistaken, dear Internet), in that this is the first time I’ve seen a long-form version of Diana’s youth. The first 1/3 of the book is spent delivering the back-story of the Amazons, the Gods, Themyscira and setting up the mystery of Diana’s birth, then we jump to the young princess’ preadolescent years. Here we find a wistful, melancholic girl, set apart from her peers through the immemorial walls of birth and class. Other girls run and play while she ponders the growing sickness coursing through The Island, and mourns her inability to do anything about it. Diana feels the call of the sword and shield, but is set upon by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, to become a regal and peaceful princess.

Enter: Immortal Bad-ass Warrior Alcippe.

This is a very serious, almost Game Of Thrones-level take on the Warrior Princess we all know and love. This isn’t the Geoff Johns’ Justice League version of the character that seemed almost on the ditzy side. That WW felt more like a Michael Bay female character than I’m used to. By comparison, the Diana in this book is already wiser and more interesting. When this 9-issue series is all said and done, I look forward to handing customers a fully fleshed-out Wonder Woman story worthy of her royal origins.

JD can be found running his own comic shop in Manayunk, PA, called Johnny Destructo’s HERO COMPLEX, hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating/inking and Booking his Face off at facebook.com/jaydotdeedot.

Follow his twitter: @poptardsgo.

Injustice – Gods Among Us

Harley1200So, I finished the storyline for Injustice. I don’t think I will actually ever finish the whole game. I’ll give it a shot, but I’m not that awesome at fighting games.

Actually, I don’t like fighting games usually. I find the women scantily clad, the best moves to be impossible for me to get off and after a couple of fights I’m just plain bored with it. It’s the same thing over and over and over again.

Now, with all that being said, I haven’t been able to put Injustice down. Harley Quinn is my favorite character in the DC universe by far, hands down. If you met me, you’d get it. I really don’t agree with her outfit, however. Yes, she is sexy as hell, but really? It would simply make much more sense if it were closed in the front; then I’d actually be on board. It feels like a cheap attempt to see her panties. Every other character’s outfit seems pretty on point to how they normally look. Harley seemed to be the only one getting a major makeover. Now, her second outfit I find much more fitting for her personality.

Ok, so end that rant. Now, let’s talk about game play. Everything is beautiful. I love the scenery, the characters, the interactive background. It all made the game just as awesome as the characters themselves. I did keep pointing at the screen asking what the hell was going on in the background. I’ve never seen a more magical fighting game. It was hard to pay attention to actually fighting sometimes because I was too enthralled with trying to catch all of the details in the background. Not to mention constantly trying to interact with things, like hitting my opponent with a rocket. THEN! I would get knocked out of the scene, into someplace new. I loved it when this happened, however I didn’t love the fact that no matter how hard I tried, I was never the one doing this, so it was always my character falling down some cliff and being badly injured for it. Totally worth it.

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