lime

Here is a fast and dirty take on a top 10 movies of the 1940s from my recent watch-through of over 40 movies from this era.  This project has been evolving as I progress and thus I have missed a number of quality movies, and still live in total ignorance of many others.  I also feel very uncertain about the ordering of all of my picks excepting perhaps the number 1 choice.  This list is considered entirely subjective to my tastes and interests.  Let us proceed.

10. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock


I do not generally see this work held up in the conversation of best Hitchcock movies.  Many would argue that Notorious would beat Shadow in a battle of merely Hitch's 40s movies.  However, somehow this was the movie of his that held a strange power over me as it began to unfold.  It portrays the corruption of small town America being invaded by the world at large.  An innocence twisted until the very home you grew up in is no longer safe.  Hitch was the master of suspense and Shadow had a tangible tension as you saw the happy dreams of the American Child disintegrate.  There is unfortunately a tacked on love story that waters down the substance of an otherwise gut-wrenching thrill.

"There's so much you don't know, so much. What do you know, really? You're just an ordinary little girl, living in an ordinary little town. You wake up every morning of your life and you know perfectly well that there's nothing in the world to trouble you. You go through your ordinary little day, and at night you sleep your untroubled ordinary little sleep, filled with peaceful stupid dreams. And I brought you nightmares. Or did I? Or was it a silly, inexpert little lie? You live in a dream. You're a sleepwalker, blind. How do you know what the world is like? Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you rip off the fronts of houses, you'd find swine? The world's a hell. What does it matter what happens in it? Wake up, Charlie. Use your wits. Learn something."

9. Double Indemnity (1944)
Directed by Billy Wilder


Since the first time I saw this movie, Raymond Chandler had become one of my favorite popcorn wordsmiths, so I greatly looked forward to revisiting this Chandler-scripted noir of nasty people doing nasty things.  Unfortunately Wilder in his daily battles would drive Chandler back to the drink, and then rib him with his next movie being about a drunk novelist... however their joint union, rocky though it be, created perhaps the noir breaking point that may have begun the erosion of the Hollywood code that was handcuffing the content of American cinema (for both good and bad).  A movie of imprisoning light and shadow, betrayals of trust expected and un-. Double Indemnity skated every line, and ultimately told of the downfall of a world of greed and lust.  One broken rule begets the next until the perpetrator is buried by his own attempts to bury sin.  And Chandler's dialogue just sings as only his can.  Oh, and there's that evil wig.

"Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?"

8. Banshun (1949) or Late Spring
Directed by Yasujirō Ozu


Early in the decade, foreign movies seemed to come to a halt, at least in terms of getting historical recognition today.  One can easily guess why a global conflict in all the major hubs of cinema might make it hard for movies to be made outside of the United States.  But thankfully as the decade moved away from the tides of World War II you began to see international cinema resurface and be a very necessary voice in contrast to the studio system of America.  Not surprisingly, a number of these movies were still attempting to deal with the aftermath of the War.  In Late Spring we see a shifting culture in Japan in the eyes of a young woman literally healing from the effects of the war alongside her nation.  All of the cultural normative was now subject for revision, and in Noriko's desires to live as she wants under the weight of social expectations.  It was my first Ozu movie.  It will not be my last.  I also expect many listens to his movie scores.

7. Ladri di biciclette (1948) or Bicycle Thief or Bicycle Thieves
Directed by Vittorio De Sica



Did I mention a number of foreign films focus on the aftermath of the war?  De Sica has a few works that pick up in Italy in the aftermath of the War.  I think the US felt a new freedom and sense of importance after the War; places like Italy stood in a very different condition.  In Bicycle Thief or Thieves you see the condition of a country all wrapped up in a man.  You see the slow deterioration of a man; the dismantling, the dehumanizing.  This is a man's worst day under the observation of a quiet camera and his son.  And this is war.

"There's a cure for everything except death."

6. Fantasia (1940)
Directed by umm, technically a lot of people



Disney, today, is considered the hallmark of the big studio.  Yet there was a time when they were the innovator's.  It is hard to believe that only after two feature length animations Disney attempted to create a new form yet again with Fantasia.  And it utterly failed.  Failed in the box office.  As a work of art, it still stands.  Perhaps a significant amount of its greatness is wrapped up in less of what it does and more in for what it hopes.

5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Directed by John Ford


This movie is hard for me to quantify.  It is a fairly faithful adaptation of Steinbeck while separating itself from the more political left leanings of its writer, given that Ford was a fairly conservative fellow.  It focused on the more humanist side of Steinbeck while still really capturing a great deal of Grapes, which should make for a fairly mundane watch given that I would probably just rather reread the book if it is going to follow so closely, however, Ford does something else here.  Somehow in giving the book image, he does something captivating in its own right.  Never hurts to have opening shots like the above...

"Rich fellas come up an' they die, an' their kids ain't no good an' they die out. But we keep a'comin'. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people."

4. Casablanca (1942)
Directed by Michael Curtiz


This is the kind of movie that has made me realize a number of things about my tastes.  First, I love a good setting.  Casablanca is just a setting that writes itself.  It is the most important character of the movie.  Second, I would want to argue that I am more of a substance over style guy, but really, I am a sucker for good style.  Casablanca is not a deep work.  It does not retain audiences all these years because of a majestic unveiling of the human condition.  It is just dang fun with style to spare.  Bogart gives all his line with the overbearing confidence that made him a star, and you cannot help yourself but run along with his swaying mood.  When you are speaking of cinema as entertainment, this is perhaps its most essential model of that form.

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! 
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir. 
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.

3. The Third Man (1949)
Directed by Carol Reed



I saw this many years ago and remembered little else than Orson Welles and a ferris wheel.  Since that day, Graham Greene (the screenwriter) has become one of my favorite novelists and my taste for noir has grown immensely, so I greatly looked forward to the day I would get to rewatch this work.  It did not disappoint.  It perhaps falls once more in the camp of style over substance, but a great deal of the style in this is the camera and cinematography.  Setting again dominates as another foreign film would find itself exploring the chaos of post-war Italy.  The whimsy and style of this movie has a surprisingly contemporary feel.  Watch it.

• Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs - it's the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I. 
• You used to believe in God. 
• Oh, I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and Mercy and all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don't miss much here, poor devils.

2. Les enfants du paradis (1945) or Children of Paradise
Directed by Marcel Carné



I am a sucker for movies about story.  Movies about movies.  (Movies about writer's block) In Les enfants du paradis we have a movie about the stage.  And a significant amount of other subjects, but that is again the setting we find ourself in.  And this feels like the beginning of a trend to the bizarre and varied cast of nearly otherworldly characters.  It was fitting that my viewing of this ended with an accidental post-introduction by none other than Terry Gilliam whose style felt like it very much had its germination in this work of Carné.  This movie feels like the opposite reaction to the war and is a cast of characters doing what they can to forget and ignore the war's aftermath (it takes place post-napoleon).  Lost in their silly romances and affairs and craft.  Yet what will one give up in pursuit of dreams?

"Jealousy belongs to all if a woman belongs to none."

1. Citizen Kane (1941)
Directed by Orson Welles


The only placement I feel certain of on this list, Citizen Kane, will necessarily have its detractors given its Best-Movie-Ever label.  However, I do believe that the conversation at the very least has to begin at this movie, regardless of where it ends.  Citizen Kane is a case of rookies not knowing any better.  The Mercury Theater company had conquered the stage, they had conquered the radio, now they were attempting the cinema.  And they did not waste a millimeter of film.  Every piece of every shot meant something.  One could argue that the camera is too vocal a member of the cast, or perhaps Welles is too busy shaping your every perception, yet in a world where Nazism had destroyed a thriving German Expressionist movement the camera had for many years been dead in the hands of the Hollywood studios, and Welles came to reclaim it with no regard for what a director should or should not do, only what he wanted to do.  Again the movie failed, the innovation failed... initially.  But ultimately it recaptured the original magic that had grown stale.  It was a little boy playing with his toy.  And the reward the audience gets is marvelous: shot after breath-taking shot; line after breath-dripping line.

Other movies nearly making the list:
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Notorious (1946)
Out of the Past (1947)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
The Red Shoes (1948)
Rope (1948)

Movies I disliked:
The Lady Eve (1941)
Spellbound (1945)

Movies I am looking forward to (re)watching from the 1950s:
In a Lonely Place (1950)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Rashomon (1950)
All about Eve (1950)
Ikiru (1952)
Tokyo Story (1953)
On the Waterfront (1954)
The Searchers (1956)
Forbidden Planet (1956) (I am going to add in a read of The Tempest)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Throne of Blood (1957)
Vertigo (1958)
Touch of Evil (1958)
The 400 Blows (1959)
Pickpocket (1959)

bout

What is in a first issue?  A first appearance?  In the world of super hero comics, a character's first appearance does not necessarily typify their lasting significance, nor their quality.  Many a grand character had a small, unnoticed arrival, only to be picked up later for far better and more lasting use. Yet in the case of the two comic books facing off in this test of ink, we have the more common road to glory: an immediate recognition of the character's draw and staying power.

In this corner we have Action Comics #1, appearing on the newsstand in June 1938, featuring the first appearance of the mystery man known as Superman.  And in this corner we have Detective Comics #27, hitting customer's hands a year later in May 1939, we see The Bat-Man swinging onto the scene.

Ding ding

Let the oldest throw the first punch.

Action Comics #1



We say that hindsight is 20-20, but at times it is more invisibly tainted by the mysterious forces of nostalgia and forgetfulness.  When Action Comics #1 was first published in 1938, it became the fourth ongoing title by the company now known as Detective Comics, Inc.  While many can claim to have influenced Superman in this way or that, the moment marked a distinct shift in the general pulp sensibilities of the new-fangled comic book publishing world.  You can site a few others as perhaps the first (John Carter of Mars, Ōgon the Bat, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, etc) but Superman grabbed it all like a car and smashed it into the reader, like he might against a rock.

The cover alone forced a passerby to ask a question or two: Who the...?  How does he do that?  Is he good? Bad?  Why the emblem on the chest?  This cover told you that something different had arrived.  What that something was... well we must read to find out.

Something to note, is Superman was not the only adventure in Action Comics #1.  All of the comics Detective Comics, Inc put out were in fact anthology comics that would show the reader several adventures.  If Comicbookdb.com is telling me true, there were nine total stories in Action Comics, The Big Red Cheese however received cover treatment as well as the first story in the collection.  (He would not always get the cover treatment, that is until Detective realized how big a thing they had)

Now what does this first story contain?  It is actually a frenzy of content.  We have a page of origin for Superman, some of which you might recognize, yet some might surprise you in absentia.  Distant unnamed planet, okay, no Krypton yet but we've got the scientist sending his son to survive in a far away world, earth: check.  Found by a passing motorist, hmm that seems singular and wait, what's this? He was give to an orphanage?  Now that doesn't sound right.  Advanced physical structure equates his super-strength, hmm, nothing about the yellow sun, but okay.  Alright, precise power descriptions, leap 1/8th a mile, or a 20-story building; raise tremendous weight; run faster than a train; and nothing short of a explosive shell could penetrate his skin... hey wait a minute, are you saying Superman could be hurt by some decent artillery?  Where's the flying? Where's the various vision powers?  Yup, those are all to come (a number of which are actually not introduced in the comics, more on that in later posts), presently what we have is a more refined, simple super man.  For now, as the origin concludes, we have a man-sized ant crossed with a grasshopper.  Superman, the original Ant-man.

And then the comic cuts straight to its name-sake: action.  We have Superman leaping through the air with a trussed-up damsel under arm.  He drops the gagged woman off upon landing and storms into the governor's house in the middle of the night, abusing the butler, ripping apart a steel door.  Hmm, the origin called him the Champion of the Oppressed.  He seems more of an oppressor, oh, he is seeking to save a woman from the death penalty.  Apparently the bound woman was in fact the guilty murderer and the government was to execute a guilty woman while the governor got his beauty sleep.  Adventure #1 complete.

Next we meet Superman with his hair down, or perhaps up... This is the Clark Kent you know, reporter for the Daily Star... hey wait, oh well close enough.  Apparently the Star tracks the police scanner because they hear of a husband beating his wife, they tell Kent to report on it, he appears as Superman, knocks the wife-beater around, changes back to Kent all before the police actually report to the crime.  Adventure #2 complete.

We don't even wait a page to get 'shy' Clark Kent asking a rather mean Lois Lane out from the work desk and they go a-dancing only to be roughly handled by some thugs.  Clark poses cowardly, Lois slaps a man, Lois storms off because Mr Kent is yellow, gets herself kidnapped in a car, and Superman pursues and proceeds to crush the car as seen on the cover.  Adventure #3 complete.  Love life takes a hit.

And next we get Clark tasked with being a war reporter in a made-up South American country.  He smells corruption and goes to DC first, finding a Senator (speaking in Congress...) in cahoots with a dirty lobbyist.  The issue closes with the man in blue tights running along the tops of buildings and power lines with lobbyist in tow, torturing him with fear until he will confess as to who he works for. Adventure #4 to be continued.

In 13 pages, we are witness to a man who has the power to actually battle the social evils of the day.  False accusation, domestic abuse, thuggery and kidnapping, evil political apparatus.  One sees quickly what it is that captures the imagination of a still depression-weary America in the pages of this story.  Superman has always been a wish-fulfillment fantasy, and herein we see the wish fulfilled of being able to do something with the ills of this world, specifically here, this nation.  What would it be like to be able to stand up to the wife-beater with no fear.  To take the battle straight to the face of the dirty politician.  This is a man that can take a bullet to the chest (we see it here in the first issue) and not even blink.  He can fulfill the things we often desire.  He can fight for justice, immune to the darts of evil.

In the mad rush of adventures, we see a showcase of Superman's superiority.  And yet he does not use it as mastery (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's original take on the Superman was one who used his powers for evil) but instead as the Champion of the Oppressed as we see.  As his legend would grow, the Last Son of Krypton would take on many messianic symbols and traits, but from the get-go we see a man who will save a people from the evils of the world.  Evils that America seemed very conscious of at this time.  I believe that this is what the character of Superman spoke to.  A boy reading it could feel that Superman would deal with the bully, and as one grew up, and the bully too, this was the promise of the bully of any kind to be dealt with.  It is the promise of justice that is inherent in us (yet can so dangerously be tainted).  And I believe it is a justice to come.  But for the time being we see a glimmer of that justice, however imperfectly, in a man who wears his underwear on the outside.

Detective Comics #27


Next we have the new kid.  Being released nearly a year later, The Bat-Man is an obvious attempt to jump on the burgeoning popularity of Superman.  However outside of the obvious costume and mystery man approach, his particulars show more foundation in the mystery pulp tradition than the one Superman was pioneering.

Tasked with creating another character to capitalize on the Super-trend, Bob Kane drew up The Bat-Man.  Then he was told, great, what's he do?  I don't know, said Bob Kane.  Well figure it out.  And so his friend Bill Finger got brought in to actually do the writing side of things, and a, dare I say, dynamic duo was formed.  The Bat-Man would draw a lot from the likes of The Shadow and The Green Hornet of radio fame.  He would not himself be super-powered and yet would battle crime with what abilities and gadgets he did have.

The cover image is again striking for a people now drawn to the costumed characters of comics.  Who was he? How was he going to get out of this one?  What in the world is he swinging from?  It promised adventure and danger, and if the title was correct, mystery.  Well let us see.

Detective Comics #27 opens with no origin.  You are only told that no one knows who this lone figure fighting for righteousness and apprehending the wrong doer is.  Even the police commissioner's most pressing case is, who is The Bat-Man.  The police commissioner? Oh he is Commissioner Gordon entertaining his socialite friend, a certain Bruce Wayne.  This Wayne fellow seems dashing, but a little lazy...  Wayne has nothing better to do so he accompanies his friend to a murder scene.  And the mystery begins!

A son claims he is falsely accused of murdering his father.  He points the blame at his father's business associates, thus giving the reader a 1 out of 3 option for the murderer.  Whodunit?!  However Mr. Ho Hum Wayne is bored and takes off.  Even murder doesn't excite the fellow.  The second page closes with suspect #1 getting shot (we are down to 2 if you are counting at home) yet on the following page we finally get to see the mysterious The Bat-Man (it gets awkward when you have a "the" in your name).  Bats gets to punching and throwing people off tall buildings... wait, is that guy okay?

Suspect 2 goes to see suspect 3 and gets promptly knocked out by the butler.  Death trap!  We have a glass container in which poison is going to be dispersed, but The Bat-Man rushes in.  And I do mean in, like into the glass container.  No concern for his well-being.  What a man?!  That socialite Wayne could learn a few things... (I'm sorry, I figure you've stopped reading by this point anyways)  The Bat breaks free and handles the Butler.  Suspect 3 appears and surprises everyone by trying to complete what his butler started.  The Bat-Man has other plans.  Like punching the guy over a railing into acid. (Because that will never come back to haunt you, Bats).  And scene.

Oh we have an epilogue.  Gordon is wrapping things up when that bum Wayne shows up.  Gordon asides his own concerns for his disinterested friend.  But the reader gets to witness a door hiding Ho Hum Wayne slowly open and it is... The Bat-Man.  Fin.

Now I doubt the mystery of who wore the tights was really a page-turner even back then, but this is still a pretty fun telling for a first appearance.  We have a mystery in a mystery and are still left with mystery at the close.  We have no idea why this man punches do badders in the face.  Only that he is good at it.  This is a little taste of something that seems promising, full of secrets to unravel.  You want, or I want... more.  We again have a fellow that is going to stand up for justice.  Even without the magnificent powers of a man-sized ant.  He will put his life on the line for others.  He does seem to be missing his predilection for not killing people though.  You could argue that they were incidental to his actions, but... We will go on to see that his no-killing mantra will take some developing.  Yet we are not here to judge him for what he will be, but what he is in May of 1939.  (Superman will not be so opposed to letting a fellow die in his early adventures as well, though that did not show up in Action1)

Ding Ding

Round 1:

We begin with Superman just decking The Bat-Man to the teeth with all of his ant-strength.  There is just an originality factor that the Dark Knight cannot overcome.  Even ignoring the Superman influences, Bob Kane's creation is a lot of pulp.  The story is a pulp mystery.  Superman is a lot of adventure that you might hear on the radio, but there is just also something different here.  The Bat-Man's one good jab this round is the reveal of his identity.  I cannot say it had never been done, I have no idea, but it added a fun freshness to the story.

Originality: Superman by a fair margin

Round 2:

The thing I love about reading the beginnings of long spanning comic book universes is seeing their legacy grow.  So in issue one, what do we have?  Superman is an ET, found as a child, limitedly strong, a mighty leaper but cannot fly, we see Clark Kent, Lois Lane, they are reporters.  There is of course a lot that is not here, but we see the groundwork laid.  How about his rival, what is he bringing to this round?  We see Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Gordon, Bat-gadgets, umm, a man falling into acid...  Alright, it seems like Superman is a little bit more established upon printing (which makes sense as Siegel and Shuster had been working on him for some time).  I would call this a moderate exchange of blows but red pants barely one-ups black.

Legacy: Superman

Round 3:

I cannot promise to be the best judge of Golden Age Comic art.  My experience skews more towards Silver Age and later.  However, this whole V scheme is merely a matter of opinion anyways.  I would say pitting Action Comics #1's Superman story against Detective Comics #27's Bat, Shuster v Kane, Shuster wins with a meaningful barrage of assaults.  I think at this stage, Shuster was just more polished (a few years prior, Siegel had broken with Shuster because he didn't think he was an established and good enough artist.  Thankfully they mended their ways)  Kane will quickly grow into his craft with Batman (his name changes in just the next few issues, so I can call him that as we look at progression), but for now Shuster wins the crown.

Art: Superman, convincingly

Round 4:

Well, this bout doesn't seem to be going too well for those who are powerless.  Can the Bat get a win in?  Howsabout story?  I think this is a test between the flurry of Action comics and the individual of Detective.  In more pages, Action Comics chose to showcase Superman across a broad spectrum.  Superman was something new and needed to be shown in many lights.  A curious choice in Action is the serial ending, pointing the reader on to the next issue for completion.  It is curiously placed alongside several adventures that wrap up internally.  It creates for a degree of awkward rhythm.  Still, this is a new form, and a newer character, Siegel is trying to see what will work.  In Detective we have a murder mystery with some action sets thrown in.  Original?  Perhaps not.  And yet there is something that draws you into the pulp world.  And of course the greater mystery of the identity of The Bat-Man.  I actually really love the final panel progression between opening door to The Bat-Man.  For that alone (and perhaps a sympathy vote), I am going to say

Story: Batman

Round 5:

We have a final round.  The most heavily weighted.  The most essentially important.  The most blatantly subjective.  Who is the best character upon first presentation?  Perhaps the deciding factor here is mystery v known.  At this stage the reader still knows very little about The Bat-Man while Superman has been fairly well laid out.  Okay, I am going to decide this based on perhaps a very controversial point.  The Bat-Man's penchant for killing people, even if incidentally, in this first issue is going to give Superman the edge for today.

Character: Superman, slimly

And thus our first bout ends with Superman winning 4 of 5 decisions.  Do not worry your pointy-little ears Bat-fans.  Gotham's knight will have his day.  Assuming I get around to writing more of these.  For now...


double

The love is not in the lust, it is in the betrayed.  Closer than that, Walter.

Or perhaps the lust sees love in her murderer at the very end.  An end is what she loves.

And who are we?  The entertainer?  Should we cast out our eye?  Will the shimmer of ankle take us the road to the cemetery? Straight down the line.

Yet we pace our apartment considering the fruit, behind bars of lighted lattice.  And murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle.

But one step is the next and the next until three honks and it is done.  And we can hear our steps no more.

What do you want?  In a shadow world what do we want?  Is this our soul?  The journey we have trod?  What do I want?

A love that is Love.  A light that is Light.  A fruit that is Life.

Rating (-5/+5 scale): +2
(that's a 4 star review on Netflix to give you reference)

v

What is in a V?  Victory, the fifth, invading aliens?  Or in the case of Warner Bros's title-making team, it is presumably short for versus (though it should include a handful of aliens as well).  Late March is supposed to bring Spring as well as the next stage of Warner Bros and DC Entertainment attempting to bite into the money sandwich on which Marvel/Disney has been feasting at the global theater box office with their superhero cinematic universe.  It has been abundantly clear that DC has been looking on with an envious eye as their younger brother in both the comic and movie worlds reaps the harvest on the tights and cape market in the cinematic sphere.  And thus Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is supposed to begin the short road to a Justice League movie endeavor.  As a psuedo-sequel to 2013's Man of Steel, Zack Snyder returns to his world of brooding and codpieces.

To be short with it, I did not like Man of Steel and I do not expect to enjoy this next installment.  So let me quickly get off that train.  However in contemplating the coming movie, I had the thought of pitting the two hallmarks of justice-as-enforced-by-spandex in my own form.  Thus a project came to mind.

What is this project?  It is to face off some standard of the Man of Tomorrow's legacy against that of the Caped Crusader's.  Now this is not a playground argument over who would win in a fight: I find little to no interest in these kinds of discussions.  Who is the mightiest in a fight has little bearing on the quality of a character and his or her journey.  It will be such match-ups as Superman's Golden Age comics v Batman's (sorry about all the v's I am going to be throwing; it is just such a silly thing that I can't help but annoy everyone by emphasizing) or a face-off between the heroes' Rogue galleries.  Which hero has the best dog alternate, Krypto v Ace.  Christopher Reeve v Michael Keaton.  The possibilities are endless.

Now it doesn't take much exploring on this blog to realize that sometimes I promise posts I never deliver on, especially as it comes to comics.  I promise no further posts, only attempts and subsequent guilt on my part for missed posts.  That's your only guarantee.  Good thing this all doesn't matter an ounce.

More qualifiers, I am restricted by resources, obviously.  Time and access will be limiting factors to what I am able to accomplish.  Another impairment is that I am far from an expert on these two characters.  I have been a Marvel zombie and presumably will always have more Marvel in my blood than DC.  Most of my foundation for these two characters even comes from the 90s cartoons that Bruce Timm spearheaded.  I have serious gaps in my knowledge of these characters in their near-80 years of existence.  This will hopefully help me to learn more, but I am not an exhaustive fount of knowledge on these two.  I will do my best to relay the relevant data to the given contest at hand, yet I am sure I will fail.

I suppose another matter of significance is my view of these characters coming into the quest.  As a child, there was no contest: I liked Batman and Superman hardly interested me.  I will always incline towards those who have no powers, so the proposition of a man with none against one with a mishmash of whatever the writers felt like adding at the time was a no-contest.  I loved the Batman '66 TV show of the Pow!s and Bam!s, while totally aware of all the silliness.  And then the animated series released in 1992 and that was that.  Bats was tops of the Big 2, hands down.  A fellow that could do anything just was not interesting to me.  Then Supes got his own animated show, and despite it all, it was pretty dang good, too (if this goes long, both these shows will get many mentions).  And there were certain notes that struck, but I left them mostly ignored.  Batman was better.  End of story.  Yet, some of those notes have continued to ring and in fact resound with growing amplitude and I find myself more and more interested in the Big Blue Cheese.  And then there is my twisted sense of underdoggery which means as popularity swings more and more the way of the Bat, I want to find more and more reasons to protest...  I would love to say I am not motivated by popular opinion, but this is just not true.  As people find Superman less and less relevant, my desire to protest finds more and more reasons he is what we need.  In summary, I grew up with a distinct fondness for the Dark Knight and a belief that the Man of Steel was perhaps a little dry and boring, but am presently at a place of appreciating both, with a special attention to making up lost time on understanding the Last Son of Krypton.  And these are the bedrock for the longstanding DC comics and more so the superhero comic genre.

First stop on this merry adventure, First Appearances! Action Comics #1 v Detective Comics #27

doubt

The dreamer despairs under the blanket of the repeated note: a melody of the simple and the quiet, a note.  She whispers her wish to the winds, and as a twisted act of the djinn, she receives curséd answer. A fulfillment.  The monotony is broken.  Her forever sun falls under a shadow.

The mystery twin returns.  They entwine in vector, resurrect: rise from crypt.  They are the hope of rebirth to the other.  The unadulterated and the adult.  The one to shake the sun from its ever gaze; the other to paint the virgin scent upon his troubled trail.

The clean cast water of the sainted rose meets the blood of the east. And the lies begin at where is the end to the mask? Charm and anger, a sharpened smile to the free mourner.  A crimson streak through the clear stream.  And your heart trembles as the dreamer's dream crumbles.

You twist and sway with the moving eye.  Descent and dance until the rise of a gasp, and knowledge is born.  Knowledge is born and innocence dies. The twisted twin twists the words of life, twisting sight and sound.  And your eye accompanies the dreamer's eye, you gaze in horror.  You chorusate her protest.  Are they not human? The snake turns. Are they?  He pierces you.

As the corruption spreads, the waters taint, the words walk, and smoke trails.  And the dreamer nightmares.  She of pure speak, of pure love, of pure sun, speaks murder.  And you know despite eventual demise, the demon has won.

The home, quiet worn and white is weapon. The unquenchable sun day is eclipsed. The dreamer's dream is corpse.

Rating (-5/+5 scale): +3

hope

The indelible image from the original Star Wars movie was a young man staring off into both a familiar and alien horizon.  A sunset as we have all seen, but as we have never seen before. For in this sky there were two suns. And yet the boy is not staring at the marvel of the suns but what lay beyond.  No image better abbreviated the desire of the Hero's Journey, the longing in every heart for that Thing.  That unattainable unexplainable Thing of Things.  And the marvel of that original movie was it captured a glimpse of that Thing of which myth is made and woke it up in many minds, large and small.  The movie awakened us to something simultaneously fully familiar and yet so very alien at once.

So to what horizons does the newest movie in this series point? It points us back to that original sky of two suns falling into a red desert with a swell of music that tells us everything our heart seeks.  Ultimately it is a movie of looking backward and a glimmer of hope in looking forward.  It is a movie that even tells us through the voice of a new character that looking and hoping in the past carries false promise and it is to the future we must seek.

We see a new hero look upon a very similar desert landscape, but through the lens of a helmet of the past, dreaming the dream of audiences for the past near-40 years. Longing to be in the adventures we grew up in.  We see a villain caught up and praying to another ghostly helm: caught up and being destroyed by his worship of the things of yore.  So what is this nostalgia: savior or destroyer?  

The Force Awakens is in so many ways a creature of nostalgia.  Its very design is to be a reminder of its origin.  But is it looking forward?  Are we moving towards the new or are we backtracking towards the comfortable, camping safely in the nostalgia of a generation raised on droids and lightsabers?  Are we still striving towards the binary sunset, longing for what is next or have we fallen into a complacency: perhaps victimized by the brilliance of the originality of the first Star Wars we can never see beyond the model it has set for stories to come?

babel

I surmise the shape of glass yet forth sand flows. And the bird laughs. The little blue one. Whose name a sand itself for all my grasp to grasp. Dances the wind and sings it soar, the little blue one. My hand, the sand, the flow. And the bird laughs.

I whistle the wind with mimicry most. A stroke and a song, I sweep through the air. But a breath of breeze denies the name, the word, the tongue. And I hear the laugh. The little blue one. Whose beak is blood. My blood, your blood, no blood. 

I crawl a crack of rock to climb the sky. And daylight breaks my grip. A wing melts. And a plummet. Yet a little blue fly flitters my fall and caterwauls the corpse of me. The little blue one. Whose wing is white with dust. And cane.

I run a rage of noncontent. With this furious feast of fear. I seek the truth and echo a lie. And my legs sever saving. And the feather silences sad at my crooked cracked leg. The little blue one. Whose heart is whole with ambrose.

And she asks me my name. And I cry rigor
And she asks me my name. And I cry fool
And she asks me my name. And I cry darkness
And she asks me my name. And I cry sand

And the little blue one. Takes flight.