SDCC 2016 ‘Batman The Killing Joke’: One. Bad. Day.

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

So DC and Warner Bros. have finally brought what is arguably the most infamous Batman and Joker story of all time to the screen, in cartoon movie format, no less. And San Diego Comic-Con, being the smart cookies they are, brought a showing of the film to this year’s Con and what is likely the most difficult audience to please, the fan-atics, so let’s get into this!

The Madness of Spoilers lies ahead!

Now, I know back-story has to be established from the outset and that’s more or less fine, but they sure portrayed Batgirl as whiny, at least for the entire first act. Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong) is Batgirl and has been trailing Batman for approximately three years or so when our story begins. Sure, she kicks plenty of butt on her own, but she’s still in need of approval from the Caped Crusader, especially when she finds herself involved with mobster Paris Franz (Maury Sterling). Somehow, this mesmerizing moron manages to completely bump Batgirl off her game, sending her off on scavenger hunts alone and causing rifts between her and Batman (Kevin Conroy) when she realizes, duh, she can’t take on a simple one-man mouthpiece because he’s managed to get inside her head. Forgive me, but, that just didn’t sound like any Batgirl I knew.

And it just gets odder, because it turns out the tension between Batgirl and Batman had very little to do with an idiotic gangster, or their working-behind-masks relationship issues. No, it’s sexual tension, and after a good old-fashioned scream-fight on a rooftop, Batgirl and Batman get naked and bump bat-uglies. (No, the movie doesn’t show it, but you can clearly tell when Batgirl is perched atop Batman and takes her top off, what they’re doing.)

Inevitably, soon after that, Paris Franz gets dealt with and Barbara decides to go back to being boring librarian Barbara and hang up her cowl for good. That is the entirety of the first act and mildly more than half the movie itself, and a rather unfair go at Batgirl in general, in my opinion. True, the extended Bat family always has growing pains (just look at pretty much all the Robins), but somehow, I thought better of Batgirl than that. Barbara Gordon is supposed to be stronger and, let’s face it, more mature than this representation being offered to us. I suppose the idea is to give background to the relationship between her and Bruce, and while the girlfriend troubles being discussed with the cutie-pie gay librarian friend are fun and all, this whole thing is barely touched on when we get to the better half of the movie.

And here we are! It’s later and, once again, Joker (Mark Hamil) has gleefully skipped Arkham and Bats is on the hunt for him. Joker importantly goes to take over this old amusement park, to prepare it for the upcoming massive performance, but hey, first he needs performers! This means a surprise visit to the Gordon household and next thing you know, Babs has taken a bullet to the gut and the Commissioner has been dad-napped for some good old-fashioned torture!

Meanwhile, while all this is going on, we get treated to, let’s all just admit it, what we’re really here for, the Joker background story. In sepia tones, a young, struggling, never-named comedian tries valiantly to make money to get his very-pregnant wife out of a very bad neighborhood. He worked at a boring chemical plant before trying to make it as a comedian and that isn’t working out too well, either, so our unnamed man decides to try for one big score with some mobsters. They want his help breaking into the old chemical plant so they can get into the card business next door, but hey, there’s a catch: They also want him to wear the notorious Red Hood while he does it.

The movie kind of fails to let the audience know that Bats has been chasing the Red Hood and his crime gang for awhile now, so our unnamed man never really stood a damned chance anyway. But even before he can think about donning a scarlet helmet, news comes back that his poor pregnant wife has met a very tragic end, and with nothing to lose, Nameless decides to do the mob job any-damn-way! Rather like the very first Tim Burton Batman film, you can guess what happened next.

Meanwhile, in the present, Joker as we know him has stripped Gordon naked, dog-collared the poor man, and forced him on a nightmare carnival ride of madness involving naked photographs of his beloved daughter, bleeding and dying from a gut-shot wound. Trying very hard to prove his point, Joker far-too-cheerfully spouts his peculiar brand of madness and explains that anyone could become him, anyone at all, with the now-infamous line, “All it takes to become me is one. Bad. Day.”

This is meant to tie in with the whole Batman and Joker being the light and dark sides of each other, and really, who is to say which is which on that one bad day? Batman gave a heartfelt plea to not do this thing, whatever it is Joker’s planning next, that will likely lead to the death of one or both of them, when he went to see false Joker in Arkham Asylum. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now when we have the final showdown between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. Or is it? Batman gives a final, entirely heartfelt plea to let him help Joker, once and for all; it truly doesn’t have to end this way. And, for once in his insane little world, Joker answers him deadpan serious: It’s too late for that. It all comes down to this, the final Killing Joke, where Joker cracks a bad funny and after a heartbeat Batman actually lets out a guffaw right along with him.

And that, dear fans and friends and odds and ends, is the end. Except, of course, the inevitable easter egg after some credits, that is.

The style of animation is Spartan and very similar to the old ’90s Batman cartoon show, where Hamil first began voicing the Joker, and that is in no way a bad thing. Joker being the obvious exception, the show took extra care with his facial expression and drawings because, hey, he needs it for this story especially. Famed DC contributor Bruce Timm, who produced The Killing Joke, stated there would be a 15-minute prologue that would further set up the story, as the one-shot original graphic novel from 1988 simply wasn’t long enough for an entire animated movie; so perhaps therein lies the explanation for the whole Batgirl scenario. It’s actually a fairly good sendoff for a very well-known Batman story, and love it or hate it, every single Batman fan out there will want to see it at least once.

Batman The Killing Joke was released digitally on July 26, 2016, and will enjoy a DVD and Blu-ray release on August 2, 2016!

The ‘Flash’ Winter Finale: Have a Very Merry Trickster-mas

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Who doesn’t want to spend the winter holidays with their families? *crickets* Right, that was rhetorical. Here in the Flash-verse, the Weather Wizard wants nothing more than to gather a few buddies around him and gift wrap our beloved scarlet speedster in a casket for Krampus!

It’s always interesting to see Liam McIntyre, the man who bravely took up the mantle of Spartacus after the sad passing of Andy Whitfield, as a nasty villain on Flash. Weather Wizard Mark has that ol’ holiday bloodlust going for the Flash, and he breaks the abominable Captain Cold and the wacky Trickster out of jail to help him! Leonard Snart, a.k.a. Captain Cold, seems to have snowflakes of good-guy floating in him somewhere, which nudges him to warn Barry of the coming snowstorm in the worst secret Santa move ever. And then Jesse James, a.k.a. Trickster, you know, he’s down for whatever, so long as it involves lots of cocoa and killing a bunch of people, perhaps those annoying carolers, for openers.

On the completely normal (ish?) side of things, Iris West is just boiling over with the knowledge of her brother, kept hidden from her father. She just can’t keep the news to herself anymore, and enlists Barry’s help to tell Joe. Why does this matter, apart from the completely normal, if not devastating, news that Joe had a blood son he never knew about? Because Joe’s long-lost, unaware son is named Wallace, and called Wally. Wally West (check this out, if you have to ask what that means).

Of course, Flash can’t let the Weather Wizard, the Trickster, and even a reluctant Captain Cold wreak havoc during the winter holidays. But fighting all three of them means asking Cisco to make a weather wand that, for those of you paying attention to the now-multiple timelines of the Flash-verse, wreaks a whole bunch of havoc all on its own. With the threat of perhaps a hundred or so gaily wrapped Christmas bombs handed out to children by a very merry Trickster Claus, Barry has no choice but to gird his loins in speedforce and take them head on!

Mark Hamil as the Trickster really is the best present this episode has to offer. Nearly all of us fans who watch the show Flash, remember watching Batman the Animated Series back in the 1990s, in which Hamil gave great voice talent to one of our favorite versions of the Joker. Hamil has been the Trickster once on Flash already, but the winter finale episode gave us a glorious gift of a Joker-voiced Christmas episode one more time. To hear him sing, “Deck the halls with body parts from a girl named Holly,” in that well-known and forever-beloved cackling voice is epic. And you know, exploding dreidels.

The interplay between Wells 2.0 and Zoom is kind of completely expected, so there’s that. But that moment when, after the hero has saved the day and the heroes, plain ol’ humans, and all their loved ones have gathered together at the West house for Christmas eve, Wally West comes to the door and meets Joe face to face for the first time – that was a winter holiday miracle right there. And with all Wells 2.0 and the bad guys are up to, Flash and all his pals deserve a miracle now and then. The Flash speeds back to us January 19, 2016!


Wondercon 2015: ‘The Flash’ Brings the Frost

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome back to Central City, where the past, present, and future all intertwine to bring out the best in our heroes and the worst in our villains! After a purported accident with the particle accelerator of S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry Allen dons the mantle of the Flash and uses his super speed to make his newly-faster world a better place!

Andrew Kreisberg of Arrow and Flash production and writing was part of this dynamic panel at WonderCon 2015, along with Flash stars Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), Candice Patton (Iris West), Carlos Valdez (Cisco Ramon), and moderator Damien Hollbrook of TV Guide.

We’re all familiar with the beloved superhero show of the CW, so beyond showing a trailer with some teasers for the last few episodes of season one, there was no waffling; we dove ecstatically right in! The Arena was packed and, as it turned out, a great many of the fan questions were directed, rather knowledgeably, to Kreisberg, who seemed to delight in the fact that Flash (and Arrow, too, for that matter), has such a loving fan-base.

Coming right off the huge success of their last cross-over episodes, Kreisberg said that in Episode 18, the geniuses of Starling City, Ray and Felicity, will make another visit to S.T.A.R. Labs, to ask Cisco for the help with the ATOM suit. Much was made over Cisco’s reaction to Laurel Lance, especially when she asks him for help with the Canary Cry, which he makes over into a device much more like what’s in the comics. Kreisberg went on to tease the self-explanatory title of Episode 21 “Grodd Lives,” and to say that Episode 22 includes flashbacks from the time when Barry was stuck in a coma after being blasted by the particle accelerator, showing some backstory of the other interesting characters around him.

Kreisberg announced to cheering fans that Flash villains Mirror Master and Dr. Alchemy will be in Season two, which is already in production. And when a fan fanatically asked Kreisberg if Wally West (Flash’s sidekick in the much earlier original comic books) could ever be on the show, he certainly gave credit to the possibility.

Kreisberg, who wore a Green Arrow shirt to show off his multiple superheroic dealings, teased plenty of other behind-the-scenes bits for drooling Flash fans. Apparently show star Grant Gustin, who plays speedster Barry Allen, is well-known for pulling tap-dance routines just off camera while other actors are trying very hard to do big dramatic scenes! Kreisberg also teased the fact that, for those who watch the show but aren’t familiar with the Flash comics-verse, Iris’ boyfriend cop Eddie Thawne has a big, dark familial secret that will likely be explored on the show.

And Kreisberg was patient and beautifully kind when a zealous fan asked a question that technically belonged in an Arrow panel: why do some characters call him “Rahs al Gul” and others “Rayshe-al Gul”? Kreisberg kindly explained that if the character in question stating Ra’s al Gul’s name happens to belong to the League of Assassins, they will pronounce his name as “Rayshe-al Gul,” otherwise it will be the other way. This is an exclusive on a topic that’s been raging among fans since before even the Nolan Batman movies!

Candice Patton was asked repeatedly her own opinion on the whole Iris West knowing/not-knowing that Barry Allen is the Flash thing, and finally weighed in that it’s generally acknowledged amongst the cast that Iris needs to “read Barry the filth” and just get it all out in the open already! Since, as Patton said, “The Flash is Barry’s more confident self,” the panel and the audience all agreed West and Allen should totally just hook it up!

Danielle Panabaker was charmingly embarrassed over the acclaim and love she got from the entire audience, for her wonderful portrayal of Caitlin Snow, girl genius at S.T.A.R. Labs. It turns out, Caitlin has even more to offer than her brains and good looks and sparkling personality, oh yes, for apparently in the Flash-verse, Snow grows up to be the villain known as Killer Frost! Fans were already lining up to ask Panabaker that very question. She luminously teased, “You’ll be seeing her sooner than you think!” Panabaker made the declarative statement that if her partner-in-genius, Cisco, ever does become a hero, she gets to name him. And, of course, Panabaker laughed and related how she loves her fans, being a huge fangirl herself, citing one of the most recent episodes of Flash where guest star Mark Hamil came and played the villain Trickster, and she totally had to get a fan picture with him!

The cast was especially supportive of Carlos Valdes and his character Cisco, rumored to be named after the civilian identity of the DC hero known as Vibe. The entire audience seemed to identify with Valdes in particular, being both a total fanboy in real life and a great genius, and a squeeing fan character on the show, too! Valdes blushed, but couldn’t deny that he was lucky enough to have been the only actor brought in for the character of Cisco, and how blessed he felt by it, saying, “I bring my own passion and excitement and zeal to Cisco.” And like any good fanboy, Valdes crowed, “I go through the [Flash] scripts like candy, which is good, ‘cause I love candy!”

They just had to close the panel with one-word teasers from the cast about their characters’ states of being in the final episodes of season one of Flash. Patton waffled and exclaimed, “I’m so afraid of being fired!” before finally succumbing to a simple, “Pissed,” and calling it good.

Valdes gave his charming I-know-many-secrets smile and simply said, “Dreams.”

And Panabaker, on the suggestion of a grinning Kreisberg, laughed and made the entire audience cheer with, “Frosty!”

Catch Flash on the CW channel, Tuesdays at 8/7c!