The New Adventures of “Robin Hood”

Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) joins the ranks of DC characters with their own titles, such as Plastic Man, Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter), Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick), The Flash (John W. Shipp), Steel (Shaquille O’Neal), and Static

As I’m preparing to watch the second episode of the brand new CW series, Arrow, I find myself bristling with excitement about it. Is it because it’s another highly anticipated presentation of the superhero world? Eh, not really. I have SyFy’s Alphas for that. I’d have to say it’s because this is a bit of new ground for DC. After all, it is VERY rare that they depart from anything involving Batman or Superman – especially when it comes to live action. When compared to Marvel, who has premiered series and movies which star various characters from within their lineup including the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Blade, Captain America, the Punisher, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Men in Black, and of course, Marvel’s flagships – Spider-Man, & the X-Men. And with the exception of Black Panther,  they’ve all been revived or redone in some manner. However, when you look at DC, only 7 heroes have had their own titles and (at least, initially) have had no ties to DC’s Superman/Batman breadwinners – Plastic Man, Captain Marvel (in Shazam), Wonder Woman, the Flash, Static (in Static Shock), Green Lantern, and now Green Arrow (in Arrow). And out of them, only Wonder Woman & Green Lantern have had a second chance beyond cameos (although the Green Lantern animated series premiered around the same time as the movie).

For the record, DC has had other series & movies that don’t involve Superman and/or Batman, but they’ve all been spin-offs in some matter – Supergirl is Superman’s cousin. Steel was a character who donned his uniform in homage to Superman (during the “Death of Superman” comic arc). Birds of Prey is a comic series based on a Gotham without Batman and stars the original Batgirl & Batman’s daughter. Krypto the Superdog, despite not having Superman, is about Superman’s dog. Teen Titans & Young Justice are both groups led by Batman’s protege, Robin. Not only was the Legion of Superheroes a [comic] spin-off of Superboy, but the animated series starred a young Superman as well. Even the recent Aquaman pilot was a spin-off of the recent Superman-based series, Smallville. So all in all, this is a pretty big step for DC since Green Arrow so far has only had  brief cameos in animated series like Justice League Unlimited and was a supporting character on Smallville for two seasons.

(FYI: The next paragraph is merely presumption. I am not a DC\WB\CW insider.)

I personally believe that this series was an answer to the highly requested Smallville-like take on Batman by Smallville fans, whether it was a Batman cameo or his own series. However, considering the fact that Christopher Nolan had just finished a Batman movie series, it made little sense to create a brand new series around the same concept. BUT, producers must have liked the idea of a new Smallville-ish Batman-like series, so why not use the other powerless hero from a similar background (except with a Robin Hood-esque twist)…you know…despite the fact that he was already a regular character on Smallville. The main benefit of using this character is that it would allow the producers & writers to get dark with the series as the last few seasons of Smallville attempted to do.

Clockwise from top-left: Comic Green Arrow, Green Arrow in Justice League Unlimited, Stephen Amell in Arrow, and Justin Hartley in Smallville

For those who aren’t familiar with Green Arrow/Oliver Queen and haven’t seen Arrow or Smallville, Oliver Queen is more or less a modern day Robin Hood. While Robin Hood was purported to be a Crusade PoW of English nobility, Oliver Queen is the heir of an affluent family who gets marooned on a small island in the Pacific for 5 years. During that time, he hones his body to its optimum peak, mainly specializing in archery. Initially, he was a Batman clone, but was later developed into a champion of the poor & downtrodden in the 60’s.

As I stated before, I am fairly excited to see this new series. For one thing, unlike the early seasons of Smallville (and as Birds of Prey attempted to do), this series seems to be fairly dark. The first episode was somewhat vague as to where it was going, but the same could be said for many series. And as I said, it’s rare to see DC stray away from a Batman or Superman-based series. The television character so far seems somewhat thin with him being a spoiled rich playboy as he lands on the island, yet becoming a solid fighter of corruption upon his return. In the first episode, it almost seemed as though he does it for the adrenaline rush, but time will tell as the series goes on.

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Maj’s Top 5 Favorite Live Action Adaptations

It’s a good time to be a nerd and/or geek. That is something which absolutely cannot be argued. I never thought I’d live to see the day when many of the biggest blockbuster movies would be based on comic books and video games. Not only that, but video games are now a massive industry and rather than one incredibly great game being released annually, great games are now being released monthly. In addition to this, a new wave of people now call themselves nerds and/or geeks. And I am NOT going to get into whether or not only fringe interests (comics, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, etc) count as being geeky. One of my favorite things to daydream about is being able to go into the past and bring a geek into present day so I can show them trailers for movies & video games. In fact, I usually like to imagine it’s Eric Forman (from That 70’s Show) if only to put a face to the geek. We’d watch trailers like the original Spider-Man trailer with the World Trade CenterBatman Begins, the Smallville openings, the Avengers trailers, and many others. Kind of like a geeky version of the “It Gets Better” campaign, if you will. Anyway, now with fantastic geeky movies on the horizon, such as James Cameron’s Battle Angel (a film adaptation of Battle Angel Alita) and Legendary Films’s Mass Effect as well as the releases of live action movies Rurouni KenshinAce AttorneyThe AvengersThe Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises just around the corner, things are looking especially bright. However, as fun as all of them look and sound, I cannot guarantee that any of them will be great. For every Men in Black, A History of Violence, or Ghost World, there’s at least 5 stinkers like The King of Fighters, Super Mario Bros., and  Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.  This is why I am going to look back at my 5 favorite live action adaptations.

Note: I am limiting these adaptations to visual media, like anime, cartoons, comics, manga, and video games. I am also limiting my favorites to those titles in which I’m familiar with both the original source AND the adaptation.

Captain America: The First Avenger

For a long time, I didn’t get the appeal of Captain America. He was a goody two-shoes who (compared to the most of the Avengers) didn’t really really seem to be all that special. Then I started playing as him in Marvel vs Capcom (teamed up with Captain Commando), and my appreciation for him increased exponentially. Soon after, I picked up Marvel’s Earth X series (which stars him) and liked him even more. Admittedly, I haven’t read every comic about him, but I do understand a enough about him to know if he’s getting treated fairly, and this movie definitely did him justice without being overly cheesy. I like to think one of the main reasons is because unlike past films, both his origin and return to present day weren’t squeezed into the same storyline. His campaign in the Army encompassed multiple years and ignoring them doesn’t do his story justice. Not only does this film take that into context, but it also accounts for the Army’s being overprotective of him because 1) he originally wasn’t extensively skilled in combat and 2) he was the only super soldier created. Not to mention that some of the comic’s favorites were included, even if they weren’t really explained, such as Bucky (who was given a different origin for the movie) and Dum Dum Dugan.

Initial D

This is yet another title that I didn’t initially take to (pun not intended). I remember hearing about it when I was in college, but despite being a big racing fan, I had no interest in seeing  or reading it. I can only assume that it’s because I thought it was about professional racing, rather than street racing. Anyway, I didn’t actually get into this until a few years ago, when I decided to pick up the manga at the library. Unfortunately, I’m only at volume 10, but that’s only because it’s VERY difficult to find the complete series of this in one place. If you’re not familiar with Initial D (which is legendary in Japan), imagine The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, except the main character is a master at drifting, and it takes place in the mountains instead of Tokyo. As for the movie, like most live action adaptations, there are some differences between the it and the original manga & anime series. However, everything that matters plotwise was kept intact, and that’s what’s important.

The Dark Knight series

There have been many interpretations of the Batman series, but it’s Christopher Nolan’s versions which seem to come the closest to what Batman is actually like in the comics. I know many people are probably saying, but what about the old Adam West series or Tim Burton’s takes? Well, while accurate for its time (thanks, Comics Code!), the Adam West series is nowhere near how dark Batman was supposed to be. Despite portraying Batman as the skilled detective he is, it is done in a laughable manner – almost to the point of spoofing him. As for the Tim Burton movies, while Batman is definitely feared, he also racks up a massive body count, which it has been generally established that Batman does not do. He [mentally] tortures and breaks bones like twigs, but he simply does not kill. Christopher Nolan’s interpretations, on the other hand, combine both of these essential elements without the excessive cheese factor.

Smallville/Superman

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of Smallville, and part of that is because it introduced me to comic books. If you missed that post, Smallville was a show on the WB and CW which was essentially an updated version of the Superboy of old (the original Superboy was Superman as a teen, while the current Superboy is a clone of Superman & Lex Luthor). While it is definitely its own story, there are a lot of hints towards Clark’s future as Superman. As the series goes on, more an more references from the comics are woven into the plot. I consider it tied with the old Superman movie in that there are many elements which suggest that Smallville is heavily inspired by the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Also add in the fact that some of the main cast from those era films have guest spots (many recurring) including Terrence Stamp (Zod in Superman II, Jor-El in Smallville), Annette O’Toole (Lana Lang in Superman III, Martha Kent in Smallville), Margo Kidder (Lois Lane in Superman, Ms. Crosby in Smallville), Helen Slater (Supergirl in Supergirl, and Lara-El in Smallville), and last, but certainly not least, Christopher Reeve (Superman in Superman, and Dr. Swann in Smallville).

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

I have been fascinated by the concept of Tomb Raider since it first arrived on PSX in the mid-90s. Unfortunately, the only reason I wasn’t a big fan right away was because I didn’t own a Playstation. However, that changed a few years later when I received Tomb Raider II and Tomb Raider III for PC. I quickly fell in love with the games despite the fact that I never finished either of them. Even though they come off as action-adventure games, the original Tomb Raider trilogy are much closer to puzzle games. In fact, most levels rarely feature any sort of combat. This is one of the main reasons I consider Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as one of the most accurate video game to film adaptations out there. The film follows the fairly simplistic formula from the first three games: Lara travels to various [seemly] unrelated destinations to find an artifact, Lara dodges traps in the process, Lara trains in her mansion, and most importantly, Lara has huge boobs. While I have heard people complain about the movie, I’ve never actually heard any reasons why they considered it bad. Until I hear a decent reason why, I will continue to think of it as one of the most faithful video game adaptations ever created.

<Note: Because of the sheer number of adaptations available, I honestly can’t just keep it to 5 – on the other hand, for certain reasons which I will explain, I cannot justify having them on my top 5.>

American Splendor

American Splendor is actually one of my favorite comics ever. It’s about a guy named Harvey Pekar and his life as a middle-of-the-road hardworking American in Cleveland, Ohio. In fact, the movie to me perfectly captured the tone of the comics. So if I’ve read all of it, and I saw the movie as well as enjoyed it, why don’t I have it in my top 5? Because American Splendor is an autobiographical comic series. That’s right – Harvey Pekar is a 100% real person…er…was. He actually died in 2010. But I would imagine having it on the list would be a cheap shot since the comic that the live action movie is based on comes from the most ultimate live action there is: real life.

Blade

Blade is most likely my favorite live action adaptation of a comic. At the time of its release (this was BEFORE Marvel began adding their name to the credits), I remember being one of the few who recognized the character as being a Marvel character. As this was well before I was regularly reading comics, I had remembered him from his guest arc on FOX’s Spider-Man cartoon series. Unfortunately, despite the success of the trilogy, the Blade comics are still fairly difficult to come by and because of this, I’ve only read one trade paperback of his.

Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass was an AWESOME comic & film. I actually got a chance to read the comic just before the movie was released and was thoroughly pleased with it. It was a gritty, VERY realistic take on what being a real-life superhero (like Batman, the Green Arrow, or Spoiler) would be like if they devoted themselves to taking down criminals & kingpins. And then I saw the movie. While the first half was more or less parallel to the comic (except we didn’t know who Red Mist was until his betrayal), the second half was absolute movie insanity. I simply couldn’t understand why the endings were so wildly different…until I found out that the comic series didn’t end until AFTER filming had ended.

Space Battleship Yamato

About four years before the original Battlestar Galactica aired in the US, there was single-season animated series that ran in Japan about a lone warship dispatched to a planet light-years away from Earth in search of a machine which could remove radiation from the planet. The single-season series was called Space Battleship Yamato. It even managed to make its way to the US under the title, Star Blazers. The movie was absolutely great (even though the middle was a bit slow). Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any of the original anime series or movies.

Speed Racer

Speed Racer is another movie that ranks as one of my favorite adaptations ever. It was also one of the few movies that I could watch over & over again without being tired of it. It has action, racing, a decent plotline, and it seems to be relatively accurate. On the other hand, what would I know about the accuracy since I haven’t seen the original anime series. I do happen to notice that it generally falls within one of three categories: 1) You saw it and LOVED it.  2) You saw it and didn’t really care for it. 3) You didn’t really care enough to see it. Unfortunately, most of the populace seems to fall under column 3.