23 December 2009

INCEPTION: In Which We Defend Our Earlier Supposition

It's been one of those weeks where our previous comicsblog ambitions didn't quite get realized as we'd intended them to Sunday. But instead of focusing on our excuses for not hitting the blog, let's jump right in and get back to Christopher Nolan's Inception. The esteemed director of The Dark Knight may just be shopping for a few excuses of his own this Holiday season....
Take it back a few days and you'll remember that we made it rather clear that the first teaser to be released for Nolan's next film, Inception, isn't even a stone's throw from resembling the now iconic Dark Knight teasers featuring the late Heath Ledger as The Joker. From camera perspective to storm-clouded skies, or flooded street to the steel and concrete jungles both promos use as background, the similarities between Nolan's two teasers can't be missed. And if fans aren't oblivious to the posters' parallels, there's no way Nolan and producing studio Warner Bros would have somehow missed the obvious.
Abbracadabbling's brave and bold answer to the nagging Why both posters so closely resemble each other took us out on a limb: the intentional similarity of the Inception and Dark Knight teasers could very likely mean, we concluded, that Nolan will indeed be focusing on the next Batman sequel once Inception's put to bed.
Considering the design of both teaser posters would have been under Nolan's control, for him to sign off on if nothing else, then he certainly knew of the parallels Inception's poster drew to The Dark Knight. More than likely, this had always been the plan. We did consider that perhaps Nolan's posters paralleled each other as a sort of Nolan-esque 'trademark' of sorts, or perhaps that similarities to Dark Knight might boost Inception's box office. The second possibility suggests a lack of confidence on Nolan's part for in his second film, and this doesn't seem very probable. Moreover, drawing even vague comparisons between DiCaprio and Ledger, who posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime, doesn't hit as us something Leonardo would appreciate. Also, as the Inception teaser already states the movie's by the creator of the Dark Knight, anything more seems superfluous, even if subliminally so.
While any of the above might be true, we decided to frame an optimistic argument, one ever faithful to Nolan's prowess as a superhero cinema director. A little over two weeks ago (we know, it seems like two months ago!), we profiled fellow comics blogger Robert Goodin's site, Covered. His comicsblog offers artists of any background to use their own artistic styles and redo an existing and usually iconic comic book cover from the past, not as parody but as an exercise in juxtaposed styles and artistic commentary. Or, phrased another way, as an homage.
Dave Cockrum's X-Men #100, covered by Andy Ristaino
Homage isn't Covered's intent. But more often than not, the site's numerous submissions, usually submitted by artists taking their best shot at portraying one of their own personal comic cover favorites, are true homages nonetheless. (To read up on what Covered's looking for in submissions, click here).
As any dedicated comics reader and certainly any collector will know, cover homages are a mainstay of the comic book industry. Conveniently, over on his comics blog Comics Oughta Be Good, comics blogger Bully has featured several of these cover homages in his recurring blog feature, 'Separated at Birth'. We've re-blogged two of Bully's 'Separated at Birth' sets to save you the click...
Left: Detective Comics #345 (Nov 1965)
Art by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella
Right: Impulse #62 (July 2000)
Art by Ethan VanSciver & Wayne Faucher
Left: Superman #243 (Oct 1971)
Art by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano
Right: Jonah Hex #91 (June 1985)
Art by Neal Adams & Mark Texeira
Both pairs of DC Comics covers above are just two examples of many, many covers created by industry artists and their editors to pay tribute, poke fun, draw parallels, mark special events or anniversaries, offer a special treat to longtime fans, or even to serve as special incentives for collectors or comic shop retailers. In the examples above, Detective Comics as "covered" by Ethan VanSciver for Impulse #62 is done with tongue well in cheek. While the legendary artist Neal Adams, responsible for both the cover of Superman #243 in 1971 and Jonah Hex #91 fourteen years later, may also have recreated his own cover for the sheer fun of it, chances are there was more to his decision to recreate his own work than just Neal's sense of humor. Collectors probably enjoyed Adam's own nod to one of his earlier covers, both from two of DC's lesser series (at the time they were published) and from which Adams isn't well-associated. There's probably a few good stories there, but then again, there doesn't have to be. The point being, cover homage in comics happens.
The New Teen Titans #30 (1983)
Introducing Terra - by George Perez
A great example of this intertextual comics cover homage was published very recently by another of comicdom's most notable and longtime pencillers, George Perez. Along with writer Marv Wolfman, Perez is arguably best known as co-creator of The New Teen Titans, both the team and the title of the comic series in which they starred. Launched in 1980, Perez and Wolfman's new Titans featured slightly aged versions of the superhero sidekicks from the original 1960's-era Teen Titans, Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Speedy, and introduced new members Changeling, Cyborg, and Raven, among others. Titans excelled through characterization and by pushing thematic envelopes into a mature realm otherwise unbreached by DC's superhero fare. Until Perez departed the series in 1985 to tackle the monumental Crisis on Infinite Earths, The New Teen Titans exemplified dramatic storytelling and became DC Comics answer to Marvel's Uncanny X-Men, also in the midst of perhaps its most historic run to date.
The Titans history course we just gave you doesn't do much to forward our Inception argument, but having an understanding of the series' import and Perez' role in the Titans phenomenon of the early 80's should help to clarify why, like Adams, Perez' recent homage to his own cover art received press attention last October. 'The Judas Contract', a four-part storyline that ran through The New Teen Titans #42-44 and its first Annual, culminated with a reveal that left both characters and readers' heads spinning, and brought to a head plot points that had appeared as early as the series' second issue. Considered the pinnacle of the Wolfman/Perez series, 'Contract' also introduced Terra, who became a member of the team only to betray them before 'Contract was over.
Terra died at the climax of 'The Judas Contract,' but her affect on the team has been felt ever since. Now, thanks to the logic of DC Comics' currently ongoing mega-series Blackest Night, in which dead heroes and villains are re-animated by a malevolent universal power so that they may wage war against their still-living former allies, Terra has returned to The Titans after a 25-year absence. And George Perez, to commemorate this event, recreated his cover of New Teen Titans #30 to appear on the third issue of Blackest Night: Titans.
Blackest Night: Titans #3 (2009) - Variant Cover ed.
Terra, as a zombie, is back - Art by George Perez
We have yet to see similar homages appear in superhero cinema, and perhaps Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros via the newly-formed DC Entertainment, are taking the first stab in that direction. As we've shown, homages in comics may be inter-related, as with Perez' Titans, or merely the self-referential work of the same artist, as in Neal Adams' case. The latter more closely parallels the similarities between Nolan's two teaser posters, while serving the additional purpose of possibly suggesting his next course of action as the director of the Batman franchise.
Were Nolan to embark on Batman 3 following Inception, the next Silver Screen adventure of the Caped Crusader would arrive in theaters in 2013, around the same time as Marvel's 'shared-universe' Avengers motion picture. Warner Bros has yet to announce any projects that could be considered worthy opponents for the Marvel blockbuster, and Nolan's Batman fits the necessary parameters to be just that. We'll be watching closely, and we'll let time prove how close we've come (or not!) to predicting what in all likelihood may be the biggest superhero showdown of the coming decade.
Our thanks to Bully and his wonderful blog, Comics Oughta Be Good, for the assist with the comics book covers 'Separated at Birth'. For an even deeper look into comic book cover art and homage, you'll find all of Bully's entries on the subject just by clicking on the link! [link]

No comments: