From a comic universe ice-packed with cold foes, and a franchise often shovelling snow and ice, Batman Returns sits at the top of the tree as the most festive of the Batman films. One of Tim Burton’s finest hours, and the one that pissed off McDonalds.
BATMAN RETURNS PUTS ANOTHER TYPE OF BIRD INTO THE CHRISTMAS STUFFING MIX. THE “YULETIDE CONTEXT” AS CHRISTOPHER WALKEN’S MAX SHRECK CALLS IT, IS UNAVOIDABLE IN A FILM WITH MANY A CHRISTMAS TREE POPPING UP, BUT IT’S HARDLY AN OVERRIDING MESSAGE. The Penguin may have been born on Christmas Day (unconfirmed, but he’s certainly a Capricorn), he may be ascending at the meaningful age of 33, but most of the Biblical strands woven through Returns are stridently Old Testament. The Book of Exodus is the most prominent. The Penguins origin echoes Moses’ – exchanging cyperaceae for sphenisciformes – And it’s the feathery fiend who later enacts his own variation of the Plague of the Firstborn in vengeance.
Packed alongside are more Christmas elements than you could shake a cute umbrella at. There are the pantomime villains, Dickensian grotesques (much to Alfred’s constant disdain) and even a morally flawed business man with the shock of white hair who obviously has little time for festivities beyond his annual Maxquerade ball. “Hard and sharp as flint” especially when protesting that he’s no monster. There’s also time for the type of remote controlled car that the Penguin might place under your tree (“I don’t like surprises”) and the anthropomorphic animals that still grace many a Disney film. And then there’s the omnipresent snow. Amid a high murder rate and constant explosions, there’s perpetual snow.
As the finale of The Leftovers comes to UK screens, a Jokerslice in praise of a series that broke expectation to be something quite more than the sum of its parts… And its forebears. Includes ‘Leftover’Spoilers throughout and up to the end of the first season.
WHILE WE’RE DELUGED WITH SUPERHERO TELEVISION SERIES, NONE PERFECT, MANY PROMISING, IT’S EASY TO FORGET WHEN THE PEAK OF GENRE TELEVISION ARCS HIT LAST DECADE. Lost was possibly the prime example, FlashForward the wasted high-level duplicate late in the game, drawing on a literary source to capture the zeitgeist while failing to avoid repetition. Currently, The Dome and its ilk are the distilled versions, leaning far more on literary roots, for instance Stephen King, while never becoming truly mystifying. And frankly, there are too many others to mention. With the 2010s came fully formed fantasy television, long removed from space and star ships, which remained resolutely terrestrial – whether that’s comics, fairytales or Alcatraz. Even the Whedonverse slowly retreated more and more to Earth, at the cost of the supernatural. Over the last 14 years, Lost may signify a high-budget transition, but its legacy remains.
When it comes to comic books, arcs are innate. Despite the continuity issues that come with multiple creators, Marvel Comics have ostensibly told a continuous storyline for at five decades (at least). Very much attempting to form their own mythology there’s little in comparison to these New Gods, certainly in the modern age. This ‘Fall’ season, shows like Constantine and The Flash are pulling and reinterpreting plot strands from their comic roots while Gotham draws on the strength and weakness of expectation; exploring broadly unknown territory pre-Batman, with the choice to either fulfil or destroy the inevitable. The trick with that show, a rather curious mix of pantomime and deadpan procedural, is not to speculate about characters too much.
Vanquisher of demons, careless of friends, it’s the irresistible pull of film and television that’s posed John Constantine’s biggest challenge. Three episodes into his televisions series, a look at the celluloid past, present and future.
CONSTANTINE. JOHN CONSTANTINE. IT’S BEEN WELL DOCUMENTED ON JOKERSIDE THAT HE’S ONE OF THE GREATEST FICTIONAL CREATIONS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. FACT. Inspired by Sting, hailing from Liverpool. So compelling, so real, that he appeared to his creator twice, seized the crown as Vertigo comic’s greatest son before making a fully formed attack on the House of Batman and Superman…
As he nears his 30th birthday, Constantine’s profile is stronger than ever. Now a cornerstone of the main DC Comic universe, he’s a major reason that Justice League Dark is one of the publisher’s New 52 revelations, let alone his own title Constantine. Hellblazer was the cost, an incredible 300 issue run over 25 years, from an incredible roster of writers. But while the age-rating may have dropped as he literally hit the mainstream, that’s surely an indication that it’s time he made a successful leap to new media. Like uttering a spell with a demon’s fingers around your neck: Easier said than done. He’s already been there before of course. And now, following the moderately successful 2005 film, could the mage’s brightest future lie with the NBC’s new Constantine series or Guillermo del Toro’s long gestating Justice League Dark adaptation?
Hellblazer stakes a claim
Director Francis Lawrence is currently enjoying the glow of ending the Hunger Games saga on the big screen. But in 2005, following a string of high-profile music videos, his film debut was the much anticipated adaptation of Constantine’s comic adventures. And who was that Constantine? Well to quote Jokerside, “John Constantine, the Liverpudlian wizard, working class chain smoker and all round sarcastic bastard”.