Donald Glover for Spider-Man!

No joke. We can see it.

The hilarious NBC sitcom “Community” is on a short list of things we love as much as reading comic books. So cast member Donald Glover — aka junior college jock, Troy — had G3 at biblioteca when he began campaigning for the Peter Parker role in the forthcoming “Spider-Man” film reboot. Glover is a gem on a show filled with them, and the studio would be smart to take his interest seriously. The fact that he’s African American isn’t an obstacle — it’s an opportunity to breathe new life into a movie franchise that’s grown a little tired. Here’s why putting Glover in red and blue tights makes perfect sense:

Filmgoers need a reason to care.
The last movie in the Tobey Maguire-led trilogy was released just three years ago, so when news of a reboot began circling a few months ago, even hardcore geeks were asking, “Why?” Spider-Man hasn’t been gone long enough for us to miss him, and there’s a big cloud of been-there-done-that hanging over this idea. Casting someone unexpected — like a nonwhite actor — would certainly heighten filmgoers’ interest, and you could do worse than a guy on a critically acclaimed TV show.

Glover’s a good actor.
When you can hold your own in a scene with Chevy Chase, you’re obviously doing something right. Comedic acting is harder than it looks, and Glover’s take on Troy, a less-than-brilliant former high school football star, is endearing and frequently LOL funny. He’s handsome but accessible in that boy-next-door way, and Glover could easily amp up the intelligence to play reluctant superhero Peter Parker. He’d be awfully cute in glasses, not to mention the suit.

Spidey is familiar enough to re-imagine.
With three very recent live-action movies on DVD shelves, Spider-Man is well known to the general public — so familiar that taking him in a direction shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Besides …

Kids don’t care that much.
On an Around Comics podcast several months ago, one of the panelists mentioned that his nephew, who is white, had this reaction to Ryan Reynolds’ casting as Green Lantern: “Green Lantern’s white now? Aw, man.” This kid had grown up on the Justice League Cartoon Network series, in which the resident Green Lantern is a black man, John Stewart. I could be wrong, but the racial freak-outs — at least as far as entertainment goes — seem to be more of an adult specialty.

Peter is an outsider.
Peter Parker’s origin story is full of teen-outsider angst, and take it from me: Few things are more ‘outside’ than a black, adolescent geek. Glover could take that aspect of Parker’s life in a whole ’nother direction.

While we’re on this topic, can the filmmakers please cast a better Mary Jane this time around? It would be cool for the studio to cast a talented, non-white performer in that role, too, but that (unfortunately) might be asking too much. If so, I hereby nominate cute-as-a-button Alison Brie, another fabulous “Community” cast member. She and Glover have such good chemistry, and in her recurring role on “Mad Men,” she’s proven that she can do drama as well as comedy. Bring on the Clairol #44 red hair coloring, and it’s a wrap. Hollywood, you’re welcome!

Beyonce As Wondy?

Well, damn.

On the Entertainment Weekly website, writer Darrin Franich sparked a lively debate by suggesting that Beyonce play the lead in a yet-to-be-greenlit Wonder Woman movie. It’s not an entirely new discussion: In 2008, the megastar herself said that she’d love to rock Diana’s tiara, and that a black Wonder Woman would make a powerful, 21st-Century statement.

We at G3 are not Beyonce haters. She’s a gorgeous, talented entertainer, and no one would be happier than me to see a black woman in a superhero film. Not that one of the world’s biggest stars needs my stamp of approval, but even with all of B.’s assets, I can’t get behind this idea.

She’d certainly look great in the costume, and I know our society is supposed to be all post-racial now. (And let me know how that’s going, because there seems to be plenty of hostile, openly racist commentary on this topic.) However, Wonder Woman is an iconic figure who has been white for 70 years. In order for Jane and Joe Moviewatcher to get past that, any nonwhite actress who played the lead would have to be amazing. Kenneth Branagh was criticized for casting Idris Elba as a Norse deity in the upcoming “Thor” movie, but guess what? Idris Elba is an established actor, and a really good one. He isn’t a singer who’s still learning the acting craft.

Beyonce’s acting has gotten better, but it’s still not good enough to take on one of the best-known superheroes of all time — especially one who is so woefully overdue for a major, live-action movie. Besides, every time B. gets a juicy film role, I can’t help but think that someone with better chops was cheated. It’s not like Hollywood has that many brown actresses on speed-dial to begin with, and Beyonce doesn’t exactly need the work or the exposure.

Alas, life and movies aren’t fair, I wouldn’t boycott a Wonder Woman movie just because I disagreed with the casting. Plenty of filmgoers — including my husband — would happily buy a ticket to see Beyonce in that tiara, and her acting ability probably wouldn’t have much to do with it.

What’s your take on the casting debate?

Secret Six Casting Call

With all due respect to Green Lantern and Batman, the live-action superhero movie DC/Warner Brothers ought to be making isn’t really about heroes at all. Two words: Secret. Six.

Aside from being one of the most consistently good mainstream comics around, the current incarnation of Secret Six is a carnival ride of moral ambiguity; wildly amusing yet sickening. While darkness seems to plague this colorful cast wherever they go (Junior, Devil’s Island, *shudder*), there’s also plenty of humor and the perfect Hollywood cliché of stuff just … blowing up. That’s a filmmaker and casting director’s dream (or at least the dream of the alternate universe versions of V and I that make movies).

Let’s face it; a smaller, off-kilter movie about a group of rogues stands a better chance of being good — or at least interesting — than any live-action Justice League movie a studio would whip up. (I’m not saying I don’t want to see a live-action JL movie, but I just don’t see how it could possibly be done well.)

We’ve got our own ideas about casting Secret Six: The Movie, but first we want to hear yours.  Who’s your big-screen dream team to portray Bane, Jeanette, Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll and Scandal Savage — or Knockout or Black Alice?



G3 Review: Justice League-Crisis On Two Earths

Rating: PG-13
Directors: Lauren Montgomery, Sam Liu
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Starring: William Baldwin, Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, Gina Torres and James Woods

There’s an interesting premise at the core of the new DC animated movie “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths:” Every choice we make results in an alternate reality, creating endless variations of ourselves that range from virtually identical to unrecognizable. “Crisis” isn’t nearly as complex a film as that idea suggests, but fortunately, seeing Justice League members take on their evil doubles never gets old.

Thanks to a (mostly) strong vocal cast and some wicked action scenes, “Crisis on Two Earths” is a perfectly respectable addition to DC’s recent lineup of direct-to-DVD films. (Spoilers ahead!) Seeking to defeat the mafia-like Crime Syndicate, Earth-2’s benevolent Lex Luthor — voiced by Chris Noth, who will always be Mr. Big to us — travels across dimensions to get the Justice League’s help. As usual, everyone’s in except Batman, who is inexplicably voiced by Billy Baldwin. Was Alec not available?

Aided by their stable of “made men,” the Crime Syndicate rules with an iron fist that has cowed even the U.S. President of Earth-2: Deathstroke! OK, he’s “President Slade Wilson” here, but it’s a hoot to see him re-imagined as the ultimate public servant. Superman’s Earth-2 counterpart, Ultraman, is a meathead who appears to be fond of guyliner, and Power Ring (evil Green Lantern) comes across as a young Paulie Walnuts in Spandex. In a nice twist on our BatWondy fantasy, Superwoman is coupled with none other than Owlman, whose dick-ish lines are delivered with expert menace by James Woods. When Superwoman slinks into his lair, Owlman greets her by saying, “I thought I told you to call first.”

It turns out that Owlman is less interested in conquering Earth than destroying it and all its alternate versions. As the Justice League and Good Lex race to stop him, we’re treated to some nifty cameos (Firestorm, Black Canary and Aquaman) and several choice moments. Batslut that I am, I got a kick out of watching the Dark Knight respond to Superwoman’s advances by biting her — and probably not the way she hoped he would. Wonder Woman has some of the movie’s best fight scenes, and the explanation of how she wound up with that invisible airplane is pretty clever.

“Crisis” also makes a convincing case for Martian Manhunter as a heartthrob. V. now has a crush on Mr. J’onzz, whose mind-reading skills and bodyguard services lead to a brief romance with Earth-2’s Rose Wilson. Let’s just say that the Martian way of showing affection makes kissing look about as erotic as a high-five.

“Crisis on Two Earths” doesn’t have the epic feel of “Justice League: The New Frontier,” but it’s a solidly entertaining DVD that’s worth seeing, especially with the inclusion of the chillingly retro “Spectre” special feature. Grade: B

Amanda Waller Will Cut a Bitch

I used to be a huge “Smallville” fan, but over the years, my appreciation of the show has ebbed and flowed. I enjoyed season 8 quite a bit, as the writers finally decided to weave in more DC continuity. Besides, Tom Welling is always easy on the eyes.

Not that I could have ignored all the publicity if I wanted to, but I was quite looking forward to the “Absolute Justice” episode that aired Feb. 5.  The story was solid and plausible, and the costumes were so not corny, as I had feared. The acting was “meh” at times, but that was all forgiven when legendary brick house Pam Grier showed up as the diabolical operative Amanda Waller. My insides leapt with joy as Grier nailed the character. (Spoilers ahead!)

Cut to a scene of the villain, who has freezing powers, all tied up in a large heated room. Waller finishes interrogating him, says he’s served his purpose and puts a bullet in his head. “Welcome to the Suicide Squad,” she says as she exits the room, swagger fully intact. The doors that close behind her bear the Checkmate symbol. Like, whoa. Greg Rucka’s Checkmate series is one of my favorites, so that scene was like “butta.” I’m looking forward to more Grier as Waller on “Smallville,” which will give the show some much-needed edge.

Cover art by Dan LuVisi

This has been a good month for Waller, who has also been center stage in one of G3’s favorite titles, Secret Six. It’s hard to upstage the Sixers, but that’s exactly what she does in issue #18, the final installment of the “Danse Macabre” storyline. In her attempt to extract Deadshot from the Six for her own purposes, Waller wreaks serious havoc. Meanwhile, as Belle Reve prison burns down around them, the Six have to contend with some nasty Black Lanterns during a tense standoff with the Suicide Squad. In the middle of it all is Waller, who is as fearless as she is unethical. (Spoilers ahead!)

Just how gangsta is The Wall? She threatens to detonate Bane’s cranium by clicking a pen that would trigger the chip in his head she previously installed. When Black Alice refuses to give Nightshade back her powers so that she can teleport Waller back to headquarters, she punches Alice, knocking her out cold. Again: She punches Black Alice. In the face! We haven’t even gotten around to how Waller disposes of the Black Lanterns with an ingenious combo of grenades and a very handy Manhunter robot, or how she takes a bullet from Deadshot in stride. In addition to serving up some sharp, funny dialogue, the writing team of John Ostrander and Gail Simone really captured Waller’s essence. The Wall is shady and ruthless, but she always gets the job done.

Comic Shop Unicorn-Spotting

My LCS isn’t exactly conveniently located, so I have to plan my Wednesday pick-ups strategically. If I don’t get them on my lunch break, I have to be sufficiently motivated to drive in the opposite direction of my house on a cold winter evening. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to brave some crappy after-hours weather to get my books. It turned out to be worth it in ways I didn’t anticipate.

While I’ve gotten used to being one of the few female regulars at comic shops, it’s really not all that unusual to spot another woman browsing the aisles. However, in all my years of fandom, I had never encountered another black woman in a comic book shop — at least not since college, when my friend C. and I visited the one near campus. Um, that was 20 years ago. So when I looked up to see a twentysomething black woman — one also wearing geek/hipster specs! — walking into my LCS, it was like seeing a unicorn. A fellow unicorn. I started to whip out my cell to send my husband photo evidence, but I didn’t want to frighten her away.

Fortunately, she was as tickled as I was to see someone in our shared demographic leafing through Marvels and Blackest Night tie-ins. After we traded wow-this-is-cool comments, she (I’ll call her M.) told me that she was a college student and an aspiring writer who had been frequenting my LCS for a few months. She also said her friends gave her a hard time for spending so much money on comic books. (Yeah, I’m sure they’re all squirreling away cash in Roth IRAs.) Then, she asked the question every experienced geek longs to hear: “What do you recommend?”

Best. Wednesday. Ever.

M. and I traded phone numbers, and I went home feeling like I had actually helped someone. I realize this is hardly the equivalent of mentoring at-risk youth or building a Habitat for Humanity home, but when you’re a minority in your chosen subculture, it’s nice to see a face that looks like yours once in awhile.

This is probably less of an issue for M.’s generation, but when I was growing up, other black girls my age found my love of sci-fi and costumed heroes a little … eccentric. Dabbling in the geek arts was socially risky for me — at least as risky as it could be for someone who wore Bass Weejuns and played second-chair flute and  piccolo. I wasn’t exactly sitting at the Unfriendly Black Hottie* table to begin with.

By the time I went off to a historically black college in the late ‘80s, I decided those interests were best shared on a very limited basis, with people like my pal, C. (There’s a street in our college town named Jim Lee Road, and I’m fairly certain she and I once talked about taking a picture of the street sign and mailing it to Jim Lee. Does that make us geeks or dorks?) I stopped caring about being alternative a long time ago, but it sure would have been nice to occasionally bump into a woman of color — any color — back in the day. So if talking to me made M. feel even a tiny bit more confident about loving comics, well, that makes me happy.

Which reminds me: I need to check in with my padawan to see if she wants to borrow some Fables trades. Geeking ain’t easy, or cheap — but it’s worth it.

*This is a term from the movie “Mean Girls,” which you should have seen by now.

Is Hit-Girl Badass, Or Just Bad?

The “Kick-Ass” trailer showcasing the foul-mouthed, cap-busting 11-year-old character Hit-Girl is bananas.


As a parent, I feel compelled to say that I do not condone murderous, vigilante shenanigans and extreme, “Deadwood”-style swearing by children. OK?

That being said, the “Kick-Ass” trailer showcasing the foul-mouthed, cap-busting 11-year-old character Hit-Girl is bananas. My friend T., who studied film in college, described it perfectly as “One of the most appalling movie clips I’ve ever seen, and one of the most awesome.” I haven’t read Mark Millar’s “Kick-Ass” comic, but based on this clip alone, I kinda wish the movie was just about Hit-Girl. Continue reading “Is Hit-Girl Badass, Or Just Bad?”

Naughty Boots

It’s just another day for a girl in a comic shop.

Yesterday was unusually warm for this time of year, but also rainy.  So I decided to wear a dress — one of my more flattering dresses, if I do say so.  But since it was wet outside and late in the year (id est fall fashion time), I threw on my favorite sparkly hat and my knee-high black boots.  The males in our geek posse informed me that they are indeed “naughty” boots, and that I happened to look pretty hot. Moving on.

I headed out to my local comic shop to pick up a couple of trades for my daughter. She is a fan of The Runaways series, and she has been bugging me to get her more.  I grabbed the two I thought she didn’t have, but when I got home – it turned out I got the wrong ones. So back I went to the comic shop to swap them out. Continue reading “Naughty Boots”

Geek Girl We Love: Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana landed on geeks’ radar screens in a major way via J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” movie last year, but she started showing the community some love as early as 2002. That’s the year she starred as Laila, the marching band dance team captain Nick Cannon wooed in “Drumline.” Yeah, the movie was set at a historically black college and suggested that band types could reach “Top Gun” levels of badassery, but there is nothing geekier than being in a marching band (I was) and taking it seriously (I did).

Saldana went on to rock the role of Uhura —and her minidress — with aplomb. Like the rest of that great cast, she paid homage to a beloved character while bringing something fresh and unexpected to the table. She’ll be getting her geek on again soon as the extraterrestrial lead, Neytiri, in James Cameron’s “Avatar.” I’ll be honest; I can’t tell whether that movie is going to be amazing or “Battlefield Earth” terrible. But whatever happens, I’m so happy that a minority actress (Saldana is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent) is getting high-profile film work that doesn’t require her to act alongside a man in drag or simply act as a sounding board/best friend. I mean, when my daughter told me she wanted to dress up as Uhura next Halloween, I almost turned a cartwheel. Continue reading “Geek Girl We Love: Zoe Saldana”

Wonder Woman: Second-Class Citizen?

If you asked the average non-geek to name three superheroes, chances are they’d say Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — arguably the most iconic comic book heroes in existence. It’s just as likely that few (if any) of these people would know anything about Lobo, a DC character who was introduced as a villain in the early ’80s.

So it would stand to reason that Wonder Woman, who has been a major part of the DC Universe since 1941, would get the big-screen treatment long before a second-tier player who had a run of popularity in the ’90s. But while Hollywood has yet to show Diana any love, Guy Ritchie — a legitimate filmmaker! — is set to direct a live-action movie about Lobo.

Lobo.

Look; it’s bad enough that Wonder Woman has gotten second-class citizen treatment compared to her alleged equals, Superman and Batman. They’ve both had several major motion pictures across several generations. The last time Wonder Woman enjoyed a big pop culture moment outside of comic books was when Lynda Carter donned the costume in the ’70s. You could chalk that up to garden variety sexism or just a serious failure of imagination on the part of DC-Warner Brothers. But when frickin’ Lobo gets to the big dance before she does, that’s just ridiculous. Continue reading “Wonder Woman: Second-Class Citizen?”