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Posted in Comics, Marvel, Spider-Man, Superheroes

Spider-Man! – The Horrors of Puberty

You’ve awoken one morning to find that things don’t feel quite right. You’re experiencing unusual feelings inside, something you can’t find the words to describe quiet yet. This sticky, white substance seems to be coming out of you. You just can’t explain it. You feel isolated and trapped, and yet you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it. You feel like if you were to admit that something just isn’t right with you, then you’re putting yourself at risk. Exposing yourself somehow. Well, let me ask you this. Were you bitten by a radioactive spider recently? Because you might just be Spider-Man!

What? You though I was describing something else?

Spider-Man is a monumental figure in comic book history, and a pop culture icon the world over. First appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. The figure of Spider-Man was first introduced to us in the guise of Peter Parker. An outcast, described as “midtown high’s only professional wallflower” [Lee & Ditko.1962:01] by his classmates and peers. Living with his elderly Aunt and Uncle Ben. Peter’s life is forever altered when he is bitten by a radioactive spider. He suddenly develops unearthly abilities, his body is changing, and when his uncle is gunned down by a criminal Pete let get away. He adopts a red and blue costume, and the moniker of Spider-Man!

Amazing Fantasy 015 (1962) asfafasfd

His creation in the 1960s is unique for the fact that the story starred a teenager in the role of hero, rather than just that of a side-kick. The resistance to such an idea can be seen, even in the fact that he was introduced in the final issue of a dying title. “The grand melodrama was offset by Lee’s snappy patter, Ditko’s stunning costume design, and, once again, the primary-colour palette choices of Stan Goldberg, who selected for Spider-Man’s costume a combination of cherry red and dark cobalt. None of these details mattered to Goodman, who cancelled Amazing Fantasy immediately” [Howe.2012:042]. Spider-Man’s status as a teenage superhero allowed him to connect incredibly easily with comic’s primary audience. Children and Teenagers. While other heroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Mr. Fantastic were heroes they could grow into, or look up to. Spider-Man was one of them. Perhaps for this reason, the origin of Spider-Man doubles as a very vivid, and descriptive metaphor for puberty. If an ordinary kid like Parker can get through it, so can they.

As described by Darren Hudson Hick in his essay, Horror in Long Underwear, “Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did the ‘50s horror movies one better, combining the horrors of radioactivity with the horrors of adolescence. In the event that you’ve sugar coated your memory of puberty, or simply forgotten what it’s like, for most teenagers every morning promises new horrors” [Hick.2006:09]. Prior to the inciting incident of the spider bite, Peter is considered the lowest of the low to his classmates. An ordinary, unremarkable, dorky kid, with a slight flair for science, but no real appeal to those around him. Particularly that of the opposite sex. He is essentially babied by his doting Aunt and Uncle at home, even dressed as though his clothes are picked out for him. A plain vest, shirt and tie, which is especially distinct compared to the more casual and colourful clothing of his classmates. Isolated from his peers even in appearance. The fateful event that lead to the spider bite, is even proceeded by a failed attempt to ask out, and being turned down by, his classmate Sally. Losing out to the clearly more mature and confident Flash Thompson. Basically, his transformation is triggered by an interest in the opposite sex.

The bite causes within him strange unearthly feelings. In the comics case, his Spider Sense. To others, he begins to appear in a somewhat more mature light. His clothing begins to slowly evolve. Showing more personality than parental constriction. Eventually, he develops a method of producing fluid through his own means. In the comics, this is mostly due to his own intellect, while in real life, this would be seen as the discovery of masturbation and self-pleasure. Both actions primarily involving the use of hand gestures. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy [Raimi.2002 – 2007] makes the metaphor far more explicit when the webbing becomes organically produced. The organic webbing was also briefly adopted by the comic books in the mid-2000s. It’s undeniably clear however that this was no accident on the part of Lee and Ditko.

SPIDER-MAN 3

The first in Raimi’s trilogy perhaps compounds this the most, by distilling the origin down to its most basic ingredients. With the addition of the organic webbing of course. Peter’s sense of self-gratification and satisfaction is undeniable. Gaye Birch of the Den of Geek draws particular attention to the first films primary romance. Particularly drawing attention to the first kiss shared by a semi-masked Peter, and a now safe from harm Mary Jane. “Whose first mid-puberty romances (if we can even call them that) were much more than flimsy, faltering attempts at something most of us had little skill at, and even less courage? That a first kiss was experienced upside down may not be the exciting atypical take some would take it for, but have a plainer explanation: that even that kiss was half-assed and backward. Intentional or not, the way Spider-Man the movie tackled romance captured that aspect of the half-assed crap of puberty pretty remarkably, when viewed through that particular peephole. At the very least, all this gives added meaning to tingly sensations and great responsibility being a necessary companion of great power, (or risk creating little companions of one’s own)” [Birch.2010].

Hick compares Parker’s origin with that of Franz Kafka’s novella, The Metamorphosis [Kafka.1915]. In short, the story follows Gregor Samsa, as he finds himself transformed into a giant insect. His body changing, an inability to communicate, and falling into a deeper and deeper depression, until he eventually dies. His family feeling an overwhelming sense of relief at his passing. With Peter, his body does indeed change, though not as drastically or dramatically as Gregor. His inability to communicate stems from a lack of understanding as to what is happening to him, and a fear for what would happen if people were to find out. His resulting depression is that despite gaining these abilities and sensations, his overall life is going from bad to worse. A feeling that many teenagers going through puberty can heavily relate to.

When gaining these abilities, Peter takes on a whole new identity. That of Spider-Man. During this tumultuous change in his life, he reinvents himself as a quick witted, fast moving, colourful figure, who is above all, a MAN. He presents to the world an ideal version of himself, and his naming is a heavily conscious choice. As Danny Fingeroth states in Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society, “DC’s Legion of Super Heroes chose an adult name for themselves but most of its members has a ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’, ‘Lad’ or ‘Lass’ suffix to their hero names. They were independently functioning, but always gave the sense of being an after-school club, officially sanctioned by some off-panel principal or the PTA. They were an adult’s fantasy of what well-behaved super teenagers would be like” [Fingeroth.2004:145]. This new, carefree face Peter puts on for the world, is undeniably that of a man. While he goes through his puberty, he puts on the face of someone who has already completed it. To those around him, or those he’s saving, he’s not just getting used to his abilities, he’s not untrained. He’s confident in them. Fully grown. Though if they could hear his inner monologue, they’d realise he was just as scared and confused as any other teenager. “A teenager who nonetheless still feels he has to disguise his youth completely with a full-face mask and to add the suffix ‘Man’ to his chosen public persona – his advent was truly a status quo shattering event” [Fingeroth.2004:140].

Semiotics, the practice of studying signs [Chandler.2017], tells us that by simply hearing the name ‘Spider-MAN’ we expect a fully-grown man to be in the position. Had Peter named himself ‘Spider-BOY’ or ‘Spider-LAD’, he would be forever tied with the idea of a child. One that still needs to grow, and still needs guidance. The very image of his classic red and blue costume would forever embody the idea of a child, even if his name changed in time. For example, the first Robin, Dick Grayson, decided to leave his old moniker behind, feeling that he had grown out of it. In Tales of the Teen Titans #44 [Wolfman & Perez.1984] during the Judas Contract storyline, Grayson reappears as Nightwing, a name inspired by a story told to him by Superman, of a Kryptonian legend known as Nightwing and Flamebird. With this new name, Dick also needed a new costume. To simply change one’s name was not enough. The red and green costume still carried the association of the name and child that is Robin. A role that has now been taken up by several other people, all sporting a similar costume. These new Robins have no need to hold a press conference, or send out a pamphlet declaring themselves the new Robin, the costume gives it away. If Spider-Man had established himself under a younger sounding name, he would find himself haunted by childhood. A reminder to himself at every turn that he’s still not an adult. The last thing you want to hear when your going through puberty. Or even as a full-grown adult, reminded of struggles you’ve already overcome.

Amazing Fantasy 015 (1962)

Speaking of costumes, the fact that he does indeed wear a mask helps to compound his own feelings towards his age and status. As mentioned in The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction by Barbara Brownie and Danny Graydon. “As Peter, his concerns are emotional and intellectual (family, friends, relationships), but as Spider-Man he is devoted to his physicality” [Brownie & Graydon.2016:034]. The literal and figurative face he presents to the world, hides his fears and insecurities, while bold and heroic. Battling through this time in his life as though it was just another day, when in reality, he could very well be losing his mind, without anyone seeing it. Further explored by Hick, “an adolescent’s body is an out-of-control thing – changing shapes, sprouting hair, and forever breaking out in pimples. The mirror is rarely the teenager’s friend: just when he’s most concerned about looking his best, the teenager is cursed to look his absolute worst” [Hick.2006:09]. The mask not only allows him to hide his pain and struggle, but even the natural imperfections of simply going through puberty. A secondary benefit it seems. To Peter, his mask is also a way for him to channel his anger and frustration during this confusing time, as a hero in the eyes of others. A much-needed ego boost at a fragile point in time. “Through time and across civilizations, the mask has had much power and magic associated with it. African and South American shamans and priests wore ceremonial garb to perform their rituals, often with a mask as part of their costume. Clearly, the mask in such cases is not intended to fool anyone as to the identity of the wearer. It is simultaneously intended to make the wearer special and nondescript, the Everyman raised to the level of interlocutor with the holy. The mask is recognized as bestower of power as well as disguiser of identity” [Fingeroth.2004:051]. This is perhaps most evident in the film The Amazing Spider-Man by Marc Webb [Webb.2012]. In which during a scene where Spider-Man is attempting to rescue people on a bridge, he uses the majority of his strength to pull a falling car back up to safety. The only person left inside, is a young, frightened child. However, Spider-Man can’t reach him without letting the car fall. He tells the kid to climb up, but he’s too afraid to move. In the moment, Peter removes his mask, revealing to the boy that he himself is just a scared kid underneath. A little older, but still very much afraid. He throws down his mask to the boy, and tells him to put it on. Telling him, “it will make you strong” [Webb.2012].

Peter’s struggle to cope with the hardships of growing up, and his tales of navigating everyday life, resonates deeply with his audience. Through reading Spider-Man and following his struggles across multiple titles, the reader essentially experiences a form of catharsis. “Catharsis is a form of emotional cleansing, brought about by an indirect exposure to one’s fears and anxieties. Catharsis is not a matter of soothing fears, but of engaging them so that we can look them in the eye and walk away unscathed. Readers experienced through Spider-Man what they feared experiencing themselves” [Hick.2006:14]. This catharsis is particularly strong with teenagers going through these struggles, or children preparing themselves for it. As well as bringing back memories for the adults retroactively reliving their own experiences through the stories. In Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man series [Bendis.2000-2011], he takes full advantage of this by focusing primarily on Peter in his high school days through almost the entirety of the series run. Making clear allusions to the parallels of puberty, particularly when it comes to Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane, Gwen, and the other women in his life. Including his female clone. During the second issue of the book, aptly named ‘Growing Pains’. In the middle of class, Peter finds himself overcome by strange urges and feelings. Not helped by the fact that the art clearly shows his fixation on the lovely red head, Mary Jane. In a moment, his strength freaks out as his body unconsciously reacts, breaking his desk. Despite the knowledge that he has super strength, and could inevitably take down all of his class bullies, the moment still leads him to be the butt of their jokes, and an overall sense of embarrassment. In Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our ‘Optimus Prime’ [Carter.2007], J. Carter explains conversations with his own students about the book in question. “Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 1: Power and Responsibility (Bendis) is a variable metaphor for puberty and teenage angst as Peter Parker undergoes rapid changes in attitude, appearance, and social status. […] The older students often experience a time warp back to their middle school and high school days, which they say the book accurately portrays, and my sixth graders have been more than willing to enter into long discussions about how they empathize with Peter now that they have left the comfort of elementary school and have entered the “big time” middle school universe” [Carter.2007:50].

Miles Gwen

Spider-Man as a character has endured due to his ability to connect with his readers. His origin resonates with us on a compelling level, and while he’s moved on from his high school day. Now the head of Parker Industries. We still read through Peter’s everyday struggles with life. For a teenage perspective, we now have Miles Morales, the half Black, half Latino, Ultimate Spider-Man [Bendis & Marquez.2014 – Present]. As well as the alternate reality Spider-Gwen [Latour & Rodriguez.2015 – Present]. Even through 50 plus years of adventures, at the end of it all, Spider-Man is still an ordinary kid, trying to navigate the confusing feelings, and unusual biology of life.


  • Bendis, B. & Bagley, M. (2000) Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 Power and Responsibility. Marvel Entertainment: New York.
  • Bendis, B. & Marquez, D. (2014 – Present) Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man. Marvel Comics: New York.
  • Birch, G. (2010) The sexuality of Spider-Man and how opinions grate. [Online] Den of Geek. March 3rd. Available from: http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/spider-man/15464/the-sexuality-of-spider-man-and-how-opinions-grate [Last Accessed: 07/12/2017]
  • Brownie, B. & Graydon, D. (2016) The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • Carter, J. (2007) Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our ‘Optimus Prime’. English Journal, pp. 49 – 53.
  • Chandler, D. (2017) Semiotics for Beginning: Introduction. [Online] Visual Memory. April 7th. Available from: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/sem01.html [Last Accessed: 10/12/2017]
  • Conway, G. (ed.) (2006) Webslinger: Unauthorized Essays on your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Bendella Books, Inc.: Dallas.
  • Fingeroth, D. (2004) Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society. Bloomsbury Academic: London
  • Howe, S. (2012) Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Harper Collins: New York
  • IGN (2016) Spider-Man – The Lessons of Heroism (A Kaptainkristian Video Essay) [Video] YouTube. June 1st. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fO1sY_Dg-M [Last Accessed: 03/12/2017]
  • Kafka, F. (1999) The Complete Short Stories. CPI Cox & Wyman: Reading.
  • Latour, J. & Rodriguez, R. (2015 – Present) Spider-Gwen. Marvel Comics: New York
  • Lee, S. & Ditko, S. (2006) Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man 1962 – 63. Panini UK: Kent.
  • Peaslee, R. (2005) With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Central psychoanalytic motifs in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. PSYART: An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts.
  • Spider-Man (2002) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Suciu, A., Pedersen, M., Falk, N., Blomsterberg, S., Lucas, V. & Pecic, Z. (2013) Understanding Spider-Man: Your Everyday Superhero. Roskilde University. Fall 2013.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Film. Directed by Marc Webb. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Wolfman, M. & Perez, G. (1984) New Teen Titans #39. DC Comics: New York.
  • Wolfman, M. & Perez, G. (1984) Tales of the Teen Titans #44. DC Comics: New York.
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Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes

Forever Evil (2013 – 2014)

(This article discusses the main event found in the Forever Evil trade, and not the tie-in issues. Below is the opinion of the writer solely.)

Writer: Geoff Johns, Penciller: David Finch, Inker: Richard Friend, Colourist: Sonia Oback.

Seven issues that nicely sum up everything wrong with the New 52.

While the writing and art are all around solid works. Not to mention the interesting premise of centring on villains trying to figure out what to do when the Justice League disappears, and something worse tries to take over. It’s execution throughout, and even it’s resolution, are undeniably bleak. Leading to a story that leaves the audience feeling disheartened, and with a sense that the future will only get darker.

The Justice League has disappeared, and in their place, appears The Crime Syndicate. Evil double-gangers from another dimension. Consisting of Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Atomica, and Deathstorm. They declare to the villains of the world that the Justice League is dead, and that if they value their lives, they will join them. Nightwing is unmasked, and the only ones left to save the world are Lex Luthor, Black Adam, Black Manta, Catwoman, an injured Batman, Captain Cold, and a clone of Superman Lex has been constructing, known as Subject B-Zero.

With the New 52 acting as a reboot to the DC universe, this event does provide us with a useful outlet for fleshing out the villains of the world, as well as how this Earth has grown to view superheroes. However, in execution, the book screams for attention. Proclaiming, “look at how grim and gritty we can get! Our evil Superman snorts Kryptonite like a well-paid hooker snorting cocaine! Look at us damn it!” Actions and scenes are extremely depressing and horrific. Including the death of Atomica by way of a boot. The disturbing image of Cyborg’s cybernetic components ripping itself from his body, and the utterly unconvincing job of attempting to reform Lex Luther, despite spending the majority of the book giving us his inner monologue. In which he describes the depths of his cruelty.

For those looking for superhero fun, this book is not one for you. Very much a product of the company’s erroneous direction at the time, rather than a passion project of the creators. While dark superhero stories certainly have their place. This stands as more of a cry for attention, than an exploration.

The trade collection is available here: Forever Evil TP

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes, Superman

Superman: Secret Identity

81jYK1le2XLA wonderful, and uplifting tale, with a unique and imaginative look at the reality of superhero sized secrets.

Written by Kurt Busiek with art by Stuart Immonen, Superman: Secret Identity is set in the real world, an Elseworld story in all but name. Dealing with four main stages of a character’s life. While this fact alone could suggest a book similar to Superman: For All Seasons, Secret Identity expands itself over a much larger period of time. Creating a more personal, and intimate story. The book largely deals with growing up, and feelings of isolation, and loneliness even in a crowd. Having secrets that feel too big to keep to yourself, but no way to find the answers you so desperately want, without considering going public. Through chapter two, it shifts to learning what to do with your life, now your out on your own, as well as finally letting someone in. Chapter three discussing responsibility and parenthood, and finally chapter four, morality.

So, why do we celebrate a book that seems to be nothing more than your standard morality tale, or slice of life work? Because of our lead. A young boy, born in real world Kansas, named Clark Kent.

Growing up, Clark has a particular hatred for Superman. Putting up with the constant jokes and teasing from classmates and neighbourhood kids. Clark comments about how he’s heard every joke a million times before.

“Still, it’s a lot fresher to them than to me.”

Complaining about his parents warped sense of humour with having named him this in the first place, and how, even if he did sometimes wish he had Superman’s powers, it’s his ability to just have a normal life as Clark Kent, that he envies the most. Unlike Superman, Clark can’t just put on a pair of glasses and change his posture to escape talk of Superman. In the real world, we know Clark Kent is Superman.

Clark goes out as often as he can, and just camps out under the stars. One night, during an anxiety dream, Clark wakes up suddenly flying. Convinced he’s dreaming, Clark experiments a little, before realising that he has all of Superman’s powers. Unable to figure out how, it adds a whole new level of complication to his life. When people start noticing the occasional presence of what looks like a flying boy around town, the jokes don’t let up.

Secret Identity takes nothing for granted when it comes to Superman’s abilities, and the effect it would have on a person’s life. How much it complicates his life, and adds an extra layer of confusion. The book follows Clark heavily through his life, meeting the woman he loves, trying to find answers for his powers, worries of the government and FBI, everything that could happen to his future children, let alone weather or not they will even be ok. His own mortality, and finally legacy. Small note, during his first date with Lois, his monologue describes all the things she likes, her hopes for the future, the way her nose wrinkles when she laughs, and her smile. The line that makes me smile every time is simple:

“If I sound smitten, don’t read too much into it – it’s because I am”.

Busiek’s dialogue leaps of the page with a mind of it’s own. Seeming at once very personal to the character, but highly relatable to the reader. This is highlighted beautifully by Immonen’s breathtaking, and unique art style throughout.

Superman: Secret Identity is just a wonderful out of tale, sure to leave a smile on your face. With Kurt Busiek releasing his latest stand-alone series, The Creature of the Night, basically his take on Superman: Secret Identity for Batman. It’s the perfect time to get around to this wonderful story.

The Deluxe edition is available here: Superman: Secret Identity – Deluxe Edition

Posted in Anime, Discussion, Film

What I learnt about film from Pokémon: The First Movie (Yes, Seriously)

As a child of the 90s, there are several things I can’t deny. I watched SM:TV Live on Saturday mornings. Frequently forgot to feed a Tamagachi. Begged to stay up a little longer just to watch shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and the latest episode of Stargate: SG1. And the subject of today, I loved Pokémon. Granted, I was a bigger fan of Digimon, but I still loved Pokémon, alongside many of my classmates, and almost every other 90s kid. I remember being more than a little jealous of my Game Boy wielding classmates, rushing home to catch the new episodes, and occasionally being gifted a pack of the cards. The often celebrated and sought after, Basic Set 1 card deck.

Cue early 2000. The announcement of Pokémon hitting theatres. My 6-year-old mind went insane. Cinema trips were rare due to the expense, but this was something I so desperately wanted to see. No internet to hunt for plot points and images, no money to buy, or knowledge of, film magazines to get the latest scoop. All I had were the trailers on tv, and the rumours and mutters on the playground. I remember begging my mother to take me. Promising to be good. And then, May 2nd, 2000, my mother told me to get my coat. We were going to the movies. 6:30 in the evening, screen 2, of my local, now none existent, Warner Village Cinema.

That joy and excitement of seeing a much-anticipated film, is one that’s stuck with me. And my childish excitement for, what even I’ll admit is, a cheesy film, is something I still foolishly look back on and smile. I was getting to see one of my favourite series on the big screen. And given how long it did take for films to come to VHS, and the price of them. This was the only time I would be able to see it, for maybe over a year.

When it did finally hit VHS, I was graciously brought a copy of my very own. Along with just a few other tapes, such as The Fox and the Hound, Independence Day, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and The Matrix. This yellow brick, that mesmerised me so, was watched, and loved. Repeatedly.

(Yes, the first run of Pokemon: The First Movie VHS tapes were yellow.)

Looking back at that film now, almost 17 years after that first viewing. I can see the beginning of my film education. I can see the little strands of curiosity that the film sparked. The childhood questions I had, and the journey it took me on.

Stereo, Mono and Audio Mixing:

Something about the film constantly bothered me as a kid. The sound. The films main villain, Mewtwo, was a genetically created Pokémon, able to use psychic abilities, and was able to speak English directly to the main characters. In the cinema, it’s amazing. His voice reverberates around you. To a 6-year-old, it’s intimidating. Yet, re-watching this, on a child’s mono TV, at a low volume, I had to try and remember what Mewtwo was saying. The only line I could ever clearly hear from him was, “Fool. Trying to stop our battle”. For years, I thought this was a fault with my copy of the film, or maybe even my TV.

With the passage of time, and how technology advances, I learnt my tape and TV was fine, and that it had everything to do with film production, audio mixing, and mono vs stereo sound. With the audio mixed as stereo, this allowed for tracks to be played as if coming from multiple directions. Mewtwo’s audio is set to play through the back speakers of a full set up, as if surrounding the viewing. Impressive in surround sound, but hard to hear on a mono set. The DVD commentary by the producers, spoke briefly about the effect they wanted to create, and how they used the audio mixing to impose Mewtwo’s immense power to the viewer.

Cell Painted Animation:

There’s a moment when multiple trainers are attempting to get through a storm, using their various skills and Pokémon to get to New Island as quickly as they can. One trainer, one that does make it through the storm, is seen riding a Gyarados, a large blue water dragon, through the storm easily. The problem being is that the lower lip of Gyarados is miss-coloured the entire time, but the next time we see it, it’s completely normal. This is something that really bothered me, as it was incredibly obvious, and I didn’t get why it wasn’t fixed. I know this bothered others, as it was one of the few things I did talk about with others when the film came up.

Answer. Cell painted animation. Classic animation is painted on cells, one frame at a time, and done in layers. While this mistake is obvious, the number of frames it took up, and the fact that it would probably be on one of the first colour layer. Meaning the entire frame, for all those effected would need to be repainted. Something that is not cheap. It was easier and cheaper to leave a few seconds of miss-coloured Pokémon, than to redo the entire section of the film.

CGI and Traditional Animation:

There was something very strange about the castle, doors and stadium lights. As a kid, I could never figure out why they seemed so different to the rest of the film. Even when the characters were stood right in front of them, they looked off. Turns out, it’s because they ARE different. While the rest of the film is traditional cell painted animation, little touches like the castle (in certain shots), the doors when moving, and the stadium lights, are all CGI models imposed over the film. Interestingly, during the film’s original run in Japan, these were all done with cell animation like the rest of the film. But when the film got the go ahead to be released in America, and the rest of the world, they were able to go back and improve parts of the animation, for a little more polish.

And yet that Gyarados still has a miss-coloured jaw….

Framing:

During the three on three battle in the middle of the film. Ash’s Charzard goes up against a clone Charzard (trying to explain scenes sometimes gets surreal when you realise how crazy some of this sounds to people unfamiliar with the film). As the two dragons are crashing back to the ground, the camera holds on a shot of Ash, Misty, Brock, and the other ‘good’ characters. On the VHS tape, there is an odd editing jump, where the camera cuts from one side of Ash while Brock speaks, only to jump to the other side of him when Misty speaks. As a kid, this was a little jarring. I used to wonder why they weren’t both on screen at the same time. Why did they have to jump from either side, when they could have just had all three characters on screen? Why do I remember seeing this cut a different way?

Well, I had. The original cinema cut of the film had all three characters on screen, taking full advantage of the widescreen format. Emphasis on widescreen format. While not talking about this film, Bordwell and Thompson’s book, Film Art: An Introduction talks at length about framing, and screen resolution. To put it simply. VHS and televisions at the time, had a different frame size, closer to a square than the rectangle we are more familiar with now. Had the VHS release kept the scene the same, then both Brock and Misty would have been out of frame, and the voices would have seemed like they were coming out of nowhere. Thankfully, newer releases, such as the current Blu-Ray, return it to the original aspect ratio.

VHS Tapes can wear:

Film can wear. The more film is used, the more the image can fade, and become crackled and fuzzy. As a kid, it’s hard to understand why is it that your film looks different the hundred and fiftieth time, then on first viewing. Sadly, despite my love of my childhood VHS tapes, watching them so often taught me why the then upcoming DVD format was a good move. DVDs can scratch. They can break. But they are also fairly easy to copy. Later Blu-Ray’s are even harder to scratch. But the footage on those discs will never fade.

 

There are plenty of moral lessons the film taught me, and ones I can still recite from memory. Take Meowth’s realisation that “we do have a lot in common, huh? The same Earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if we focus on the same, instead of always on what’s different, well, who knows”. But it’s those curiosities it sparked in me then, that still bring me back to it every few years.

The first three Pokemon films are available on Blu-ray here: Pokemon Movie 1-3 Collection [Blu-ray]

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes, Superman

Jack Kirby, Superman and the changing faces…!

Kirby is one of the most celebrated, and legendary figures in the comics industry. Co-creator of Captain America with Joe Simon, and countless others alongside Stan Lee. Including the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, the original X-Men, and Black Panther. Kirby’s reach and influence spans far and wide. Getting his start in animation, before diving into the comics industry in 1936. Working in various genres, before exploding, alongside the popularity of superheroes.

Comic artists of the time, especially at Marvel, were encouraged and instructed to mimic Kirby’s style as much as possible. Given copied pages of his pencil work to ink-in, just to get a feel for how Kirby drew characters. Placed scenery. Structured a page. Kirby is easily one of the most important figures in comics, who’s style defined the look of many stories his pen didn’t even touch.

Primarily associated with Marvel, thanks to all the amazing creations his name and talents are linked to. In late 1970, however, Kirby signed a contract with DC. Moving to the competing company, and created a whole new mythology. The Fourth World, and the New Gods. Mythology DC is still drawing from nearly five decades later. With characters such as Mister Miracle, and Darkseid.  According to Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Pages of Kirby’s work on these new books, would be smuggled into the Marvel offices, where the artists and writers would marvel at Kirby’s work, and see just how he was improving. How they could compete with the legend.

Despite Kirby’s legendary status, his influence on the industry, and his immense talent. DC took every drawing Kirby did of Superman, and switched out the artwork of his face, with the work of Al Plastino!

According to Brian Cronin, author of Was Superman a Spy? And other Comic Book Legends Revealed!:

“Kirby had Superman guest star in his Jimmy Olsen stories, to establish these New Gods in the DC Universe, but when he did, strangely enough, DC had a different artist redraw Superman’s face! Al Plastino, who was a popular Superman artist during the 1950s (and drew the first appearances of Brainiac and Supergirl), was brought in by DC to redraw Kirby’s Superman faces to make them appear consistent with the way the hero looked in his own comic book (which was drawn mostly by artist Curt Swan)”

What’s strange about this, is the fanfare DC made, over having the talent of Jack Kirby working in the DC Universe. The simple idea of having Jack Kirby, the legendary artist, drawing one of DC’s flagship characters, and the originator of superheroes as a whole, should have been enough of a draw. But even with his talent on bored, it seems that even in the 70s, DC is more concerned with keeping their continuity intact, than letting a legendary artist express their own views and style for a legendary character.

All Books used for this article, are available here:
Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed
Fourth World by Jack Kirby’s Omnibus
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (P.S.)