Filmish. A Graphic Journey Thorugh Film (2015)- Review

Filmish_coverTaking a trip through the history and impact of films, in an appealing and creative fashion. Edward Ross’s “Filmish. A Graphic Journey Through Films.” brings to life a fascinating text book of film theory through the wonderful world of comics.

Filmish provides an intriguing and stunning escape for any interested in the study of film, as well as the casual reader. Well written and deeply insightful, Ross delivers a fascinating journey through a medium that has become a deeply important part of society as a whole. Unlike the typical film textbook, Filmish does exactly what it states in its title, It takes you on a journey through the films as well as each piece of history and subject matter. With subjects ranging from how the camera is a stand in for our own eyes, Architecture and even how films play on our own fear of technology. Its use of examples range drastically from ‘Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory’ (1895), ‘Metropolis’ (1927), ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) and ‘Birdman’ (2014), provide a look at just how varied the world of film can be and how multiple subject maters can be addressed through the medium.

Using images that are both unique and referencing several key films, allows the reader to create a greater connection to not only the words on the page but attach the meaning to important films and enhance the point being made. The art style, while delightfully simplistic, provides an excellent representation of multiple genres and settings as it is incredibly versatile in its use. Ross uses all of these techniques to his advantage to bring us something that is incredible unique in its execution, bringing a subject that can and occasionally has been displayed in a dry and dull fashion and giving it one of its most visually and academically stimulating spins in recent memory.

A must read for anyone interested in the field and especially for first year film students.


Superman: Evolution of Power – Relating to a God

SM-AMALIEN_final_600Created at the hands of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Superman is the quintessential superhero. The one that started the entire genre, inspired by circus strongmen and the fantasies of outsiders. Heroes that came afterward would leave a mark in their own way, but only one was Superman. Many would not only carry the idea of Superman, but would take on a name of and attributes from a second source, in the case of Batman, he would take the form of a Bat and strike fear in the hearts of his enemies, “for Superman, the name and costume both contribute to the impression of him as “super” – a mighty Other.” [Brownie, Graydon. 2015:12] But the Superman introduced in Action Comics #1 1938, differs greatly from the Superman we have come to know and love now.

When Superman was created, he was envisioned to be the fantasy of many. While Clark Kent is viewed as mild mannered and weak, Superman is a hero to the world, a source of hope and strength. They are one and the same, providing hope for even those that are looked down upon, that they can be strong. Clark Kent, is shown as an outsider, a being from another world living among us and using his gifts to help the people of the world he has called his home. Superman’s powers when created, are an extension of those displayed by circus strongmen. At the time of his first appearance, Superman’s only abilities were to “Leap 1/8th of a mile; hurdle a twenty story building, raise tremendous weights, run faster than an express train, and that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin!” [Siegel. Shuster.1938:2]. Compared to Superman’s modern skill set, ” It’s surprisingly grounded.” [Whitbrook.2015]

Action_Comics_1Over time, more powers and abilities were added depending on the writer or situation. Including traits that we now naturally associate with Superman, including Flight, Heat Vision, Super Breath and X-Ray Vision. By the 80’s, so many one off powers, such as Super-ventriloquism, Super-Mathematics and the ability to shoot tiny versions of himself out of his hands, were introduced. The problem this created was that Superman had ” Too many powers, and not enough flaws” leaving Superman a shell of his former self and ” one that was difficult to write challenging, engaging stories for ” [Whitbrook.2015]. With the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ event, many of Superman’s more outrageous abilities were dismissed to form a more definitive power set. Even after his death and return in 1993, no major abilities were introduced until 2015’s Superman #38, with the addition of the ‘Super-Flare’ ability. What we now consider Superman’s definitive power set, all have a basis on his Kryptonian physiology and its reaction to Earths yellow Sun. Once his abilities were grounded in this foundation, the ability to humanise the character became a lot more forthright.

Despite his origin story being retold multiple times, a larger focus in the last few years has been on a young Clark having to learn to not only control his abilities, but to deal with the alienation that this would cause with the general public. The exploration of a young Clark and the alienation that he feels, somewhat mirrors how the public felt about the multitude of outrageous and ridiculous powers forced upon the character in the 50’s through 80’s. One of the most interesting explorations of this, is in 2016’s ‘Superman: American Alien’.

Untitled-1-b53a5During the first issue, Clark is frequently woken due to his inability to control his power of flight. While this drives the story, the crux takes place while watching a Sci-Fi movie with his friends and becoming uncomfortable by the depiction of government soldiers capturing an alien. For a brief moment, Clark loses control and momentarily flies and crashes to the ground. Angry with himself, he hides in the bathroom and sees in the mirror, the alien from the film in his reflection, leading to the destruction of both the mirror and the wall. Clark displays his fear and disgust at what he is, “Dad.. I’m so unhappy. I wanted to be myself, I don’t want to worry that I’m some-thing else. I’m scared – I just want to be normal. I’m not normal.” [Landis, 2016:15]. By the end of the issue, Clark begins to grasp his abilities and is reminded by his father that “Who needs normal? Maybe weird is better.” [Landis, 2016:15]. In later issues, a teenage Clark would even begins to use his powers to help those around him in ways the police can’t hope to achieve. Post action, Clark is confronted by his mother about the dangers of his actions to only break down in a genuinely tender moment. ” I had a whole speech planned out. I was really gonna get into it with you. But I already put my foot in my mouth, Didn’t I? Because Now.. Now … I Can’t … I Can’t stop thinking about what would have happened to that family if you hadn’t been there..” [Landis, 2016:29]

When Superman was created, he was imagined as the ultimate strongman, An other in the eyes of man and a hero beyond human limits. The explorations of this concept for the young Clark, provide more humanity to a character that, by all rights should be hard to emphasis with. Showing both Superman and Clark in these more human moments, prove just how relatable he can be. Despite having powers comparable to a god, Superman embodies the best of humanity.


  • Brownie, B. Graydon, D. (2015) The Superhero Costume. Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction. Bloomsbury Academic. London.
  • Johns, G. Romita Jr., J. (2015) Superman #38: The Men of Tomorrow, Chapter Seven: Friends and Enemies. DC Comics. New York.
  • Johns, G. Frank, G. (2010) Superman: Secret Origin. DC Comics. New York.
  • Jurgens, D. Breeding, B. (1993) Superman #75: The Death of Superman. DC Comics. New York.
  • Kakalios, J. (2009) The Physics of Super Heroes. Duckworth Overlook. London.
  • Landis, M. Dragotta, N. (2016) Superman: American Alien #1: Dove. DC Comics: New York.
  • Landis, M. Edwards, T. (2016) Superman: American Alien #2: Hawk. DC Comics. New York.
  • Romita Jr., J. (2015) Superman #40: Powerless. DC Comics. Burbank.
  • Siegel, J. Shuster, J. (1938) Action Comics #1. National Comics. New York.
  • Straczynski, J. Davis, S. (2010) Superman: Earth One, Book One. DC Comics. New York.
  • Taschen. (2015) The Little Book of Superman. Koln. Taschen.
  • Waid, M. Yu, L. (2004) Superman: Birthright. DC Comics. New York.
  • Whitbrook, J. (2015) The History Behind Superman’s Ever-Changing Superpowers. [Online] i09. 2nd September. Available from: [Last Accessed: 16/01/2016]

Batman ’66 – A Quick look back at 50 years of the cultural phenomenon

1406650404099Holy Golden Anniversary Batman!

The 1966 Batman television series has become a touch stone in pop culture history. Running from 1966 to 1968, the show became a phenomenon, boosting comic book sales and ” resonated with the ironically detached ‘camp’ movement of the era” [Rossen.2014]. 50 years later you can see its impact everywhere. It’s been referenced in countless other series, become a quintessential idea to the general public as to what a comic book is, and has provided hours of enjoyment for the young and the old, the comic fanatic and the novice.

Despite the popular consensus of laughing at it compared to the ‘dark’, ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic’ Nolan films of recent years (actually, you should be laughing at it, it’s a damn funny series), the 66 series not only helped to save the Batman comic books, “but it turned him into a global superstar” [Diaz. 2012].  When you consider just how comics were viewed in the post war 50’s and 60’s, the fact that a show like Batman could be made, let alone last for 3 seasons and 120 episodes, is astonishing. Unlike our modern interpretations, “it walked the line between sincerity and parody” [Rossen. 2014], creating a culture all its own and infecting the general consciousness. For many, it was their introduction to the world of Batman or even comic books in general. Bringing not only Batman and Robin into countless homes, but 32 villains! From the hugely iconic Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwomen, to the laughable Clock King, Minstrel and False Face. As well as bringing phrases such as Biff, Bam and Pow into the public lexicon. The series was so successful at launch that despite the series having only begun in January, by the Summer a feature film was pushed into theatres, using many of the same sets and props. Though it’s worth noting that the Film was in fact originally intended to be produced before the series to introduce the Batman series to the general public. This allowed some of the props and vehicles to be reused in the series due to the films slightly higher budget.

batman-tv-dvd-coverDespite the series long lasting impact, it’s hard to believe just how long it took for the series to come to DVD and Blu-ray, much to the joy of many long time fans and collectors. The first ‘official’ collection wasn’t even released to the public. In fact the first and only tapes of all 120 episodes, were created by Fox for a post-Star Wars Mark Hamill. Coincidentally enough, Hamill would go on to become what is considered the quintessential Joker voice actor, almost 30 years later. ” Home-video distribution didn’t exist when the series was produced” [Rossen.2014] and even when attempts were made in the 90’s, Fox and Warner Bros. were “at odds” [Rossen.2014] when it came to home distribution rights and the legal problems that would come from handing it over to a third party. In the case of the 90’s, Columbia were the ones most interested in distributing the series. Thankfully by 2014, the series is now widely available and easy to access.

In recent years, the series has most noticeably been revisited by the ‘Batman 66’ Comic Book, revisiting the plot, style and characters of the original series with their own 60’s art inspired flare.  The just announced Lego 66 Batman Batcave, and the soon to be released Batman 66 Animated movie are adding more and more to the pop culture phenomenon. The legacy of the series is destined to continue in the hearts, minds and media of all those that have been touched by it, weather directly or in directly.

Here’s to another 50 years!


Zarathustra – Learning through Comics

Miracleman-1-Opena-VariantOne of the joys of a curious mind, is when you can find a small spark of information in a piece of media you love, and it leads to you discovering a whole new aspect of the world around you.

While finally completing the fantastic Alan Moore run of Miracleman, I came out of it with just as many questions as I had at the start. One at the forefront of my mind was the monstrous Zarathustra experiments that created the Miracleman family. Where did the name come from? What did it have to do with the story? and the ongoing wonder, had it influenced the story in other ways?

Upon research, I discovered the 19th century philosophical novel, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None.” by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. While Nietzsche is most known for coining the term ‘Ubermensch’, a phrase many comic book fans have most likely come across at some point given one of its translation, Superman. In “Zarathustra”, the idea of the ‘Ubermensch’ being a goal for humanity is explored, pushing humans to their highest potential and creating super humans. In essence, this is the goal of not only the comic creators, creating superheroes to show the best of humanity, but the motives of the comics character Dr. Gargunza when carrying out the Zarathustra experiments. When Dr. Gargunza explains his work to Liz, he states “You see, it was my belief that this process might be made to work upon humans. What if you were to take a human being … let’s say a young orphan whom no-one would miss .. What if, from his living cells, you could create a perfect evolved superhuman?” [Moore.2014:44]. Naming the experiment after Zarathustra was a logical step, given the focus of both the novel and the


In regards to weather the novel had any greater impact on Miracleman, there are multiple quotes and notion that mirror this saga of Miracleman. “One must still have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star.” [Nietzsche.1883], perfectly describes not only Michael Moran’s discovery of his powers but the destructive nature that Johnny Bates unleashes in his superhero form. The chaos within the two of them burning as they fly through the stars in battle. The line “I teach you the superman. Man is something to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?” [Nietzche.1973], perfectly mirrors advice given to Miracleman by his ‘creator’, Dr. Gargunza.

The most famous phrase attributed to the novel is “God is Dead” [Nietzche.1973], while the phrase is often misused to describe a complete lack of god, it was actually used to describe the rise of Atheism and Agnosticism. While Miralceman does contain aspects of man playing god as well as creating god. The final chapter of book three, even displays Miracleman as a god like figure in the utopia he creates, giving himself a rebirth by travelling to the north of Scotland in his human form and leaving a note as a tomb stone for his human life.

There are several parallels between Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and Moore’s “Miracleman”. While a lot of it could be considered coincidence, Moore is well known for his attention to detail and the fact that he would use this name for the experiment, proves that he must have had some knowledge of the book. Fascinating to wonder just what else could have influenced his saga of Miracleman.


  • Moore, A. (2014). Miracleman Book One: A Dream of Flying. Marvel: UK.
  • Moore, A. (2014). Miracleman Book Two: The Red King Syndrome. Marvel: UK.
  • Moore, A. (2014). Miracleman Book Three: Olympus. Marvel: UK.
  • Nietzsche, F. (1974). Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. Penguin Classics: UK.

Bakuman (2008 – 2012) – Review

BAKUMAN_GN01_coverWhat does it take to achieve your dream? How far are you willing to go for what you love? And how long are you willing to wait for the one you love? Spanning 20 volumes, Bakuman chronicles the journey of two 14 year old boy in their quest to become successful Manga artists and writers.

While a talented artist with a number of possibilities ahead of him, at the age of 14 Moritaka Mashiro is reaching the end of compulsory education with no idea what to do with his life. Content to sit in the back of class and sketch his classmate, Azuki, in the back of his notebook, Mashiro decides to follow the path that’s expected of him and to lead a ‘normal’ life. When coming back to retrieve said notebook one day, he finds fellow classmate and noted school genius Akito Takagi waiting for him, holding the notebook. While Mashiro suspects that Takagi will tell him to leave Azuki alone, Takagi has something different in mind. “Don’t Worry, I’m giving the notebook back to you. And I won’t tell anybody about what’s in it. However. I do have one condition. I want you to team up with me to create manga!”. Despite Mashiro’s admiration of his late manga artist uncle, he turns Takagi down, stating that the only people who can truly be successful at it are “geniuses, born with that kind of talent. The others are nothing more than gamblers.” With this, Takagi finds a way to convince him by dragging Mashiro to the house of his crush, and proclaiming to her that they will both become Manga artist and be as successful as they can be. Azuki reveals that her goal in life is to bakuman-02-25-26become a voice actress and that if they all succeed in their dreams she could voice a character of theirs when it gets a television series. seemingly out of nowhere, Mashiro proclaims:

“So if that dream ever comes true … will you marry me!?”

In a moment of silence Azuki runs back into the house, only to say through the intercom, “yes.”

This one day changes the life of the boys, and those around them, in ways neither could imagine.

bakuman-350250Bakuman takes the reader through a 10 year journey, traversing the lives of two young manga creators on the road to achieve their dreams. Their numerous attempts to break into the industry. The friends and rivals they make along the way. Dealing with editors and fans and the ever changing industry. Bakuman chooses to show just how hard the life of a comics creator can be, as well as displaying the pressures young minds can receive from those around them to lead a normal life. Following your dream is never easy. Showing the boys at various stages of their life, dealing with illness, ever increasing deadlines, depression, as well as the prospect that sometimes you might never get what you want.

Created in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, Bakuman is written and drawn by the creators of Death Note, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Drawing heavily on both of their lives in the industry, the piece as a whole creates a fairly accurate firsthand account of life in the comic book or manga world. The art by Takeshi Obata is notably less realistic then the style he brought in Death Note, though uses just as much detail in unusual ways. Rendering every book in the studios shelves with as much bakuman-1331700detail as he possibly can, as well as showing his full range of abilities with the drawing style of the multiple artists throughout the story. Noticeable different yes, but equally strong. Tsugumi Ohba also departs from his previous style of serious writing to portray the characters in as accurate a manner as he can. While some lines of dialogue, particularly the odd line between Azuki and Mashiro, can be seen as corny, he uses this to his advantage by having other characters express what the audience may think of it. Creating a believable world and events.

Bakuman is a strong story, full of memorable characters and empathetic situations. Weather part of the comic book industry or just a casual fan, Bakuman is worth your attention.

The Graduate (1967) – Review

mandomsprovet-(1967)-large-pictureSome experiences are universal. At some moment in time every person has had some variation of this one thought. “What the f*** am I doing with my life?” While the thought may occur at any time, ranging from trying to find your place in the world, or figuring out just how you got to this point, it’s a scary thought that can have life changing repercussions when action is taken upon it. The 1967 film ‘The Graduate’ explores this notion from multiple angles in both a humorous and realistic way. The realism of the film is not only shown through the story and characters, but reflected through its choice of music, creating an honest portrayal of life in multiple senses.

Despite the films initial comedic plot and set up, the characters motivations and dialogue seem genuine. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) begins the film as a recently graduated twenty year old, at a complete loss with what to do with his life, getting mixed signals from multiple directions, some telling him to dive head first in to work while others encouraging him to enjoy his youth and relax. While wrestling with his social obligations and need to isolate himself to just think, he ends up making a number of rash decisions just to feel somewhat in control. As the story unfolds, we discover, even if some are only hinted at rather than blatantly stated, just how universal this feeling really is. The iconic Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft)  even uses this thought as her driving motive behind the film, displaying a desire not only for control but for her daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross), to never have to settle for the same choices forced upon her. The film displays a view of an overwhelming lack of control throughout life and that the choices we can make, we are ultimately stuck with. And yet shows this in its own strange sense of humour.

fishThe over arcing theme can even be felt through its use of camera shots and music. With its use of cinematography, the camera will frequently display a first person perspective, placing the viewer in the shoes of the subject. Forcing us to look through the characters eyes at defining moments, pushing the weight of these decisions on us and dismissing them as a passing thought with the change of perspective. This can also be felt in the music throughout. The film forgoes a traditional score, instead choosing mostly popular pieces from Simon and Garfunkel, the most notable of which being “The Sound of Silence”. Played at three key moments of the film, reflecting the character at all times. The rest of the film falls mostly silent music wise, mimicking our everyday world, creating situations that can be identified with more deeply.

The Graduate provides an interesting portrait for the importance of choice in our lives that can be identified with by almost anyone. An important film at any time of life.

Humanising Gods, Deconstructing Superheroes – Fixing the Clock.

14348_comics_watchmenThe common trope of Superheroes, particularly those brought to film, now a days, is to make them grim, gritty and above all else ‘realistic’. In 2013 Superman was famously remade in the form of Man of Steel, leaving behind the vision Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve brought to the screen for a dark and brooding hero, compared numerous times to Christ through visual cues. Previously, realism was supposedly brought to the screen with the likes of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (2005 – 2012), and even before that, we had Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). While the non comic book reader would point to these as the true visions of realistic superheroes, and the comics as purely kids stuff, these dark tones and realistic notions all came directly from the comics. The deconstruction of superheroes, to show how they would fair as real people, has existed in comic form long before the first shot was taken on the set of Batman (1989). While many have tried their hand at deconstructing heroes, including Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, none have been more successful and more celebrated then Alan Moore.

Moore has described the act of deconstructing something as being and extension of the alchemist principle referred to as ‘Solve et Coagula’. “‘Solve’ is to take something apart and examine it – it’s analysis. ‘Coagula’ is to put it back together again – synthesis. 250px-ForthemanAnalysis and synthesis.” [Graydon. 2009] To deconstruct the superhero genre is to take it apart, look at what you have, then find a way for it to come back together logically. While this sounds like a task that would be simple to comprehend, there were very few attempts to display it in a cohesive, and tangible state that would actually sell. Moore’s famous run on Miracleman/Marvelman, acts as a precursor to the “absolute deconstructionist last word on the superhero” [Graydon. 2009], with the original story structure and notion coming from a childhood curiosity of Moore’s in regards to Mickey Moran (Miracleman/Marvelman) growing up and became a real world adult. “I thought it would be funny to have Mickey Moran grown up and become an adult, who’d forgotten his magic word.” [Mealoid.2013] The idea of a comic book character growing up, even giving the hint of growth, was something that was rarely shown. Comics would usually develop a status quo, allowing a new reader access to the title at any issue and be able to enjoy it as a standalone work. As Moore has stated, “this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seem to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence.” [Flood. 2014]

By not allowing these characters to grow and act as real people would, you are essentiality creating a reality that does not exist. The general status quo attitude of life depicted, shows a world where superheroes need not even exist, everyone is depicted as some form of stereotype, with no true human nature to them. Making it easy to pick out from any line up just what made everyone tick, you could tell a bad guy from a good guy at a simple glance. “They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hand of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine to thirteen year old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently.” [Kelly. 2013] To bring humanity and to ground and deconstruct these gods, you need to display their flaws. Everyone, regardless of their capabilities, has some flaws. “There is no way that they work in terms of the conventional idea of the hero.” [Graydon. 2009]. In the prospect of bringing something new to the superhero genre, you introduce the most human of concept, flaws. “Obviously, if you are going to be doing something new, then to a degree you’re destroying whatever preceded it”. [Kavanagh. 2000]

tumblr_my4eo60gpl1srbmxlo1_1280In the earlier piece, Miracleman/Marvelman, Moore gave the previous treatment of superheroes, the light hearted child like fantasies, a realistic view as the delusions they truely are. Giving the 50’s comics a purpose in story as Miracleman/Marvelman’s brainwashed reality. In Watchmen, the notion of children’s comics is not addressed as their background, and impact such beings would have, are treated as true and realistic to this world. Beings such as Miracleman and Dr. Manhattan would inspire a deep routed sense of fear in the general public, just as a real life Superman would send panic through our very society.

The Act of deconstruction, as described by Moore, is similar to the childish whim to take apart a wrist watch to see how it would work. “, you could perhaps get an old screwdriver and start to take them apart, take all the little cogs out, which is why that perhaps turns up as a motif in the Dr Manhattan.” “. It’s very easy to take things apart, even if you do it in an elaborate way”. ” Taking apart the conceptual apparatus of the superhero… it’s not rocket science… but putting it all back together in a more benign and more transcendent form that works – a more flexible form, a better, improved form – that is something which is a bit more tricky.” [Graydon.2009]