The Challenge of Adaptation: The Spirit or the Letter?

(Hello there, dear readers. I would like to apologize for having not written anything for the past few days. When I wrote my last few entries, I had thought I was past the worst of my cold. To tell the truth, my last few entries felt like weaker ones, like I was held back by something. Most likely the cold threw off my writing. So, I decided to spend this time focusing more fully on conquering my cold, to ensure that I was in the best form to offer you all better work. My apologies for the delays. I will be back to a standard Monday through Friday schedule.)

This past weekend had the bombing of another film based on an established work, this time in the form of Pan. Though its failure is understandable given the quality of the writing and ideas slapped into it, it is sure to spin the wheels once more of the argument against adaptations. There are plenty who bemoan the nature of adaptations in film, who believe that Hollywood these days saturates the theaters with unoriginal works that water down their source material. Now, to me, that is simply not true. For one, there has always been adaptations done on film. Even the earliest days of movies have adapted stories like A Christmas Carol or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, the issue here isn’t how many adaptations there are, it’s how they are done. If no care is taken to the craftmanship of adapting one work to another medium, then the result is an audience that is soured due to a poor representation of a story they like. Flood the market with such terrible representations, and people will naturally grow weary of it. So, the challenge becomes this: how do you ensure that people do not automatically see an adaptation or reimagining as something terrible? To me, the answer lies in determining which is more important to preserve. Namely, the spirit or the letter.

First, let me lay out what I mean. For me, the spirit and the letter are two separate but key parts of any story. The spirit is its heart, the themes and feelings that it conveys through its narrative. The letter is the specific way that it is told, the passages and events that unfold over its course. Both are elements that influence and affect a story and how its audience responds to it. Perhaps it is the feeling that a story evokes, or the ideas that it explores, that causes an audience to latch onto a story. Sometimes, it might be how the story is told, whether the events presented or the method of how the story is offered, that ensures that the story is one remembered. Both elements are key to a story and should be considered when it comes to adapting it, whether as a pure adaptation or as a reimagining of some kind. If I were to pick an element to focus on for an adaptation, however, I believe that it would be worth focusing on the spirit of a work and trying to capture that spirit when translating it to another form. After all, not everything can work as a “one to one” adaptation. Sequences that might be engaging to read in a book or play in a game could be a slog in a film format, or perhaps the way of how a character reacts or feels about a moment is best conveyed from a more interior space than what a movie might offer. True, there are some that can achieve such an approach. Sin City, for example, pretty much just lifts Frank Miller’s graphic novels straight from the page to screen, bringing its pulp thrills in a pure form. Not many adaptations have such a luxury, however, which is why the spirit of a work is more important to pursue.

The spirit of a story is something that can transcend its original medium. Its something that can be captured, whether in its themes or its feelings, and given new life with a different approach. Plenty of movies help to show the power of the spirit, even if they might not always preserve the letter. Frozen, for instance, is based upon Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen yet is so different that it feels like a very loose adaptation of the story. It chooses to have pretty much an entirely new story, with a different set of characters that the narrative follows. The most present thing that does carry over is a female character who has command over snow and ice. However, Frozen still preserves the original fairy tale’s message of the power of love overcoming hate and fear. Another example of a movie preserving the spirit of its source material is Cloud Atlas. Now, the format of the book was like that of a Russian nesting doll. Each story, from its chronologically earliest, would deal out its first half. It was not until the reader reaches the chronologically latest story that they received the whole story at once. From there, the stories go back in time and offer their second halves. Instead of relying on the book’s structure, which would seem to be nearly impossible to capture in a satisfying way on film, the movie instead runs through all of the stories together. In this case, it jumps between them, cutting between moments that are united by action, emotion, or character. That way, it showcases the multiple stories while maintaining the overall work’s theme of extending ourselves beyond a tribe mentality and treating other human beings with dignity and respect. Even Marvel Studios, among the wave of superhero films that has arisen, has demonstrated their skill at capturing the spirit of their characters to film. They have offered movies that feel properly tailored to their characters, capturing the spirit in a close-knit fashion rather than trying to force a certain style upon all of them.

So, why did I specifically mention Pan at the start of this post? Among its flaws, Pan displays a disregard for the spirit of J. M. Barrie’s original play, Peter Pan. It takes the themes of growing up, of the conflict between youth and age, and chucks it all out. It tries to substitute it with a generic Chosen One storyline, the narrative of someone destined to take down some evil. Even if it tries to throw in all sorts of attempts at magic, none of it can hide the fact that it is missing that core spirit. Now, compare that to Hook. For those who have not seen it, Hook is a movie about Peter Banning, a man whose children are kidnapped by Captain Hook and who turns out to be a grown up Peter Pan. Though it is a sequel story made to continue Peter Pan, it still preserves the spirit of the original story. It maintains the conflict of time passing, the youthful magic of Neverland, and the theme of how growing up is not such a bad thing. As such, its heart shines through and offers a fun take on what might happen after the events of the original story. It’s an example of what happens when a storyteller understands the spirit of a story, and offers the right craftsmanship to capture that spirit in a new form or medium.

After all, what is a story, a work, without its spirit? Just a name. Just a face. Just something to be coated on a generic narrative to make a quick buck. Hopefully, Hollywood keeps this in mind and offers more adaptations that have the spirit of a work and not just its name.


iZombie: A New Life for the Undead

When it comes to television, sometimes it is the most surprising material that can spark a brilliant series. Sometimes, it is the right creative team that comes together and channels their prowess into creating an ongoing series worth following week after week. Sometimes, it’s just the right mixture of both that starts the fire. In the case of the first situation, Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics that is largely separate from their superhero universe and focusing on more adult stories) had launched a comic book series called iZOMBIE by writers Chris Roberson and Mike Allred. In the case of the second situation, there is the creative team of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright. Both are producers who gained a noted following for a television series they created known as Veronica Mars. Showcasing strong characters and story in a tale that feels like a sharp descendant of Nancy Drew, the pair proved their strength in developing and guiding a television series. Why are these two situations noted? Because they have come together, with Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright returning to television with a loose adaptation of the titular comic book for the CW, with the show known as iZombie.

The series follows Olivia Moore (most commonly known as Liv), a medical student who has her eye focused on her work and an engagement with the charming Major Lilywhite. However, her whole life changes when she decides to cut loose for once at a boat party, only for this party to erupt in a zombie outbreak and for Liv to become a zombie herself. Mind you, she hasn’t lost any of her intelligence or personality as a zombie. She only reverts to a truly monstrous state if she goes without eating brains for a while. Still, the result is that she gives up her residency to get a job at a morgue (so as to supply herself with brains) and loses her engagement to Major. Now, it turns out that one of the side effects for a zombie eating brains is that they not only temporarily get parts of the brain’s personality, they also receive some of the memories resting within it. This comes into play when a police detective named Clive Babineux stops by to check in on an autopsy and Liv ends up giving a useful piece of info that could only come from the deceased. To cover for her, Ravi (Liv’s boss and the only one who knows of her secret) claims that she is psychic. Though skeptical, the fact that her information works convinces Babineux to humor the claim and he starts bringing Liv along to use her “psychic” skills to help solve cases. Thus begins their partnership, solving cases while Liv launches her own investigation into what caused the zombie outbreak and what a mysterious man named Blaine has to do with it.

Just like with their previous show Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright have crafted an excellent series right out of the gate. The writing is sharp, with characters already feeling like they exist in this world. Along with that is how they develop over the course of the series. Liv, for example, grapples with and realizes the challenges of living live as a zombie. Her path becomes a tug back and forth between the ways of her old life and old commitments with the new issues such as finding love. Major is also a good example of the show’s strength in writing. At the start of the first season, he seemed like a nice if somewhat generic character, still offering some support for Liv while working at a halfway home for runaways. However, when he starts investigating the disappearance of some teenage runaways, his path grows darker and he grows into a more fleshed-out figure as he tries to make sense of a world that has lost sense to him. The mystery is also well-paced and handled with ease, with each new revelation offering both a help towards realizing the source of the zombies as new hurdles form to be overcome. Of course, the writing isn’t the only strength to this show.

The performances in this show are very well-done, lending themselves well to the material. Of particular note is the series’ star, Rose McIver. She does a good job with her performance as Olivia Moore, showcasing her as she navigates her new life as a zombie. She also works well in showing the “temporarily absorbing personality traits” element of being a zombie, with these borrowed aspects filtering into her and guiding some of her actions and words. Most of all, she helps captures her strength as she stands in the face of adversity, challenging all those linked to the zombie outbreak who dare to threaten her and those closest to her. She is another great, strong female heroine gracing the television screen. Of course, this is fitting from the same creators who introduced the world to Veronica Mars, a teenage private detective who sought the truth when her best friend was murdered. It makes sense that they could follow up one strong series with another.

iZombie is shown on the CW on Tuesdays at 9 PM. The show is also featured on Netflix and Hulu. It’s currently on its second season as of this post, so Hulu is where you can follow new episodes as they air. For those who want to catch up on the first season, Netflix will have you covered.

Hawkeye: A Comic That’s On Target

(Apologies for missing yesterday’s post. I ended up catching a bit more rest than expected to battle the final legs of a slight cold. Don’t worry, I am over the worst. Consider this a reminder to stay safe and stay healthy, dear readers.)

The Marvel Universe is one that has been home to plenty of iconic characters. Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. Captain America. These names are ones that light up an image quick in the public eye, especially now with Marvel’s grand success in crafting a Cinematic Universe with their characters (well, at least those they own the film rights for). Indeed, these are the sort of superheroes that the average moviegoer or comics reader would know by heart. However, there are plenty of other Marvel heroes who offer great stories to read and enjoy. Perhaps they are heroes who are new additions to the Marvel Universe. Perhaps they have always been more niche characters, with odd elements to their personality or backstory. Maybe they’re just heroes who have always been around, but overshadowed to some degree by other heroes. Such is the case with Clint Barton, better known by his superhero alias of Hawkeye. Now, Marvel has had a new series devoted to the character that has made for a fun read.

For those unfamiliar with the character’s comic book origins, Clint Barton started life as an orphan who ran away from an orphanage to start a new life in a traveling carnival. Training under a skilled swordsman named Jacques Duquesne and a marksman named Buck Chisholm, Clint developed an uncanny skill in archery. Eventually, he became a star performer under the name of Hawkeye. However, his life as a circus performer wasn’t enough. Witnessing the heroics of Iron Man, Clint decides to take a crack at becoming a hero. Circumstances put him on the side of crime for a while, however, before Clint is finally able to clear his name and prove to the Avengers that he is serious about being a hero. Now, this series is not about Hawkeye’s time as a frequent member of the Avengers. In fact, this series is specifically centered around what he does when he is not busy being an Avenger. In this case, it means taking on special assignments for S.H.I.E.L.D., clearing out his neighborhood of criminals, or even taking on the odd supervillain. Helping him out is Kate Bishop, a skiller archer and rich girl who had once taken on the Hawkeye name when Clint Barton was active under the alias of Ronin. With her help, Clint takes on these assignments armed with his bow and arrows and a slight sense of snark.

Written by Matt Fraction, the current Hawkeye series is a title that is definitely worth picking up. The series is a fun read, exploring Clint’s work when he is not busy spending his time as an Avenger. The action is quick-paced, delivering striking visuals that help to high-light the risk and danger that Clint faces. The writing is also sharp, showcasing Clint as a streetwise hero who also grapples with having grown up and been trained to be a living weapon. It explores the rough world he works in, battling not the sort of high-level world conquerors who challenge the Avengers. His is a world where he fights street gangs and crime bosses, such as Madame Masque and the Ringmaster. Along with that, the series features a lot of clever touches that seem to nudge and acknowledge the comic book medium. Text that is in the background or generally not key the story can sometimes offer a joke or surprise, such as a newspaper headline that read Everything Awful Oh God Somebody Do Something. Whenever a foreign language is spoken, rather than the standard approach of a translation of their speech in parentheses, it simply notes the language being spoken in such forms as (French) or (Maybe some Spanish stuff). Touches like these offer a fun, reflexive element to the proceedings, while most humor that does crop up in this series comes from the characters themselves and the breezy tone that Fraction captures with ease.

On the whole, the series is worth checking out. It serves well as a story of a non-super superhero, one who isn’t battling grand supervillains with incredible superpowers but instead fighting gangs and mobs with a bow and arrows. It’s a great look as well at a hero who has always been known as part of the Avengers but frequently overlooked due to a roster that includes such major figures like Captain America and Iron Man. This series high-lights the skills, the charm, and the appeal of Clint Barton, the greatest marksman known to man. After all, there’s a reason a guy like him serves on a team that includes such impressive heroes. If you want to catch up on this series, there are four paperback volumes of Hawkeye available in stores.

The Walk: Two Sides of the Same Tightrope

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, adaptation is something that is prevalent in film and television. Something else that serves as material for media, however, is history. Whether it is recent events or ancient history, real life has offered all sorts of stories that help remind us that reality can be stranger than fiction. It becomes particularly interesting then when two different methods of telling a real-life story emerge on film: one is the path of a dramatized retelling, while the other is a documentary that examines a life or event. Such is the case with the tale of Philippe Petit, a French street performer and wire-walker who made his mark in 1974 by rigging an illegal high-wire between the towers of the World Trade Center and then successfully walking it. in 2008, his story was brought back to the public consciousness with the documentary Man on Wire, which chronicled the story by featuring interviews with Petit and his associates while showcasing reenactments that structure this tale in a similar fashion to a heist movie. Now, in 2015, director Robert Zemeckis has brought to the screen a dramatic telling of this daring feat, with his movie known simply as The Walk.

For those unfamiliar with the real-life story, Philippe Petit was a French street performer who had developed a skill for wire-walking and juggling. One day, when he went to a dentist to deal with a toothache, he saw an image in a magazine of the planned look of the World Trade Center in New York City. Struck by the picture, he found himself with a crazy plan: to rig a high-wire between the Twin Towers and then walk it. It was to be his coup, his greatest achievement. As such, he brought his girlfriend Annie Allix and photographer Jean-Louis in on the plan. From there, they gained allies in France and in New York, bringing them together as they gained valuable intel on the construction of the World Trade Center. Once they learned all they could, they set about preparing the high-wire during the dead of night. Though many obstacles and surprises arose that would challenge them, they managed to get everything set up. Then, a little after 7 AM, Petit began his daring walk between the towers, a feat which lasted 45 minutes and grabbed everyone’s attention.

The film itself is good, with a lot of delightful visual flourishes which help to add to the detail. Before getting into the visuals, however, it is worth noting the film’s star. Playing the part of Philippe Petit is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and this is absolutely his film. He captures a great feel for Petit, capturing the duality of the wire-walker. He captures his clownish charm, a twinkle in his eye as he convinces others of the impact that can come from such an acrobatic feat. He captures his megalomaniacal obsession, with his stubborn commitment to his dream that can frustrate those closest to him. He even captures the right physicality, his move and grace flowing naturally for one who has trained his body for precise movement. To go along with the great performance, the visuals of this film are stunning. Not only does Zemeckis use a number of neat tricks to add to the story and offer stunning sights made for 3D and for IMAX, he pulls off an incredible reconstruction of the World Trade Center. Whether in long shots with the buildings in the skyline or up close outside or in, the look of the buildings is nicely captured. Especially of note is the titular walk. Using his technological wizardry and directing skill, Robert Zemeckis captures the feel of the wonder and danger of his walk. Long shots that look down drive home the incredible height and danger that Petit courted, while Gordon-Levitt’s performance captured the skill and beauty which came with his walk. However, while there is plenty that is good with this movie, there are a few flaws.

Though Philippe Petit is well represented and Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a wonderful performance, the rest of the characters feel short-changed. Even Annie Allix, who was Petit’s girlfriend and thus close to him, feels a bit pushed to the margins for this film. Most of the other actors do their best with the material, but the result is that it feels like they’re set on the sidelines somewhat to give more room to Petit. Also, there is an aspect of this film that serves as a double-edged sword: namely, the film is a valentine to the World Trade Center. With its well-done recreation of the building and the exceptional presentation of the titual walk, the film captures not only its place in the public eye but also frames Petit’s high-wire walk in how it changed the perception of the Twin Towers. Prior to his walk, the World Trade Center was criticized and seen as a utilitarian-designed eyesore. After his walk, people began to like the towers and develop a certain fondness for the buildings. While it does show how people were struck by his walk, there’s a certain degree of the movie’s valentine presentation that works if you know of the towers prior to their destruction on 9/11. Without that context, it feels like there might be something missing to some of the audience. The film doesn’t specifically mention their destruction so as to keep the focus on the wonder and delight of Petit’s walk, but by making the movie as something of a valentine to these buildings without noting why they are to be remembered with that fondness or interest, it is as if there is a key component gone. Thus, while the movie is fun and a delight, one may be left noticing that something feels missing.

So, should this be avoided and Man on Wire seen instead? Personally, I feel that both this film and that documentary work with their respective choices. Man on Wire examines Petit’s daring walk on a personal level, looking at the mechanics of achieving this stunt while examining the experiences and toll on Philippe Petit and his accomplices. The Walk, meanwhile, looks at the same moment from a grander perspective about how Petit’s walk had left an impact and a new appreciation for a pair of buildings once derided as looking like giant filing cabinets. As for whichever you may like, I believe that you are a better judge of your personal tastes. Man on Wire is available on DVD and Blu Ray. The Walk is currently showing in IMAX theaters, with a general theatrical release starting on October 9th. If you do see The Walk, I highly recommend seeing it in IMAX.

The Adventures of Robin Hood: Old-Fashioned Thrills From an Old-Fashioned Star

When it comes to the media of film and television, there are plenty of original ideas that arrive to the big screen with their own stories to tell. However, something that is very prevalent as well is adaptation. Now, while some may complain about there being lots of movies that adapt other works, it is not something unique to film alone nor does it automatically mean that a movie will be bad. In fact, there are plenty of classic films that are based on already-established works. One particular story that is adapted time and time again is the story of Robin Hood. Telling the tale of a rogue fighting to protect the weak from the cruel ways of Prince John, its story has clearly touched upon the cultural consciousness and has endured through the ages in numerous forms. In fact, movies alone offer plenty of versions of the rogue’s adventures, some traditional and some more revisionist. For me, my favorite movie adaptation of the classic tale hails from 1938, in the form of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Set in England in the year 1191, the familiar story starts with Sir Robin of Locksley opposing Prince John’s oppressive treatment of the Saxons. Forced to give up his lordship and take refuge in Sherwood Forest, Robin gains allies who support him in fighting for an England free of tyrannical rule. As their numbers grow, they become known as the Merry Men, with Robin now taking on the name of Robin Hood. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, their efforts even manage to win over Lady Marian, who is initially skeptical but shaken when she sees firsthand how the Saxons are oppressed. From there, it becomes a battle against time as they try to overcome Prince John’s tricks and schemes, as his potential coronation looms in the horizon. The story is still a classic, one which this film chooses to stick to in a traditional style, and the movie delivers on it. It serves it upon a plate of thrills and swashbuckling, the sort that is remembered from action films of the 1930s and early ’40s. More than that, however, it stands out for me thanks to the delightful performance Errol Flynn delivers as Robin Hood.

Remembered for his swashbuckling roles, Errol Flynn starred in numerous action films during the 1930s. Delivering on athletic action along with a charming charisma, Flynn was a major star in his day whose performances in films such as Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk have ensured that he is among the stars most associated with what some call “The Golden Age of Hollywood”. His skillful acting can be seen on full display in The Adventures of Robin Hood. He is by turn devoted to justice with an earnest desire and playful with a good joke or witty remark. He captures the spirit of the character, especially the version most popularized by Howard Pyle’s book, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Though the character and his legends originate in British folklore from long ago, it is Pyle’s book which really presented the heroic version of Robin Hood that people know the character as today. It is that version, the rogue hero who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, which Errol Flynn portrays with ease. He captures the warmth, the humor, and the devotion to justice that have forever become entwined with the figure. Though there have been other movies and adaptations of this familiar story, Flynn’s performance feels like it captures the core spirit of the character strongest. Of course, his performance isn’t the only reason that this is worth watching.

The film itself is a fun slice of swashbuckling and adventure. The action is well-done, delivering on a more old-school approach to action with top-notch direction and presentation. The score is bouncy and delightful, conducted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold with a rhythmic beat to help drive and reinforce the film’s sense of adventure. The performances work well with each other, not only from Flynn’s turn as Robin Hood but also with the work of such actors as Olivia DeHavilland as Lady Marian and Claude Rains as the treacherous Prince John. The visuals are good, having a strong punch thanks to the Technicolor process used to breathe stunning colors into the movie during an age where most films were in black and white. The result is a film that serves as a prime example of a fun action adventure, particularly of the sort from when the silver screen was populated by swashbuckling heroes who would cross swords with dastardly villains. If you’re curious to give this particular iteration of the classic story a try, The Adventures of Robin Hood is available on DVD and Blu Ray.

Patlabor: Fighting Giant Robot Crime with a Personal Touch

When most people think of anime, they probably think of the high-energy battles from a series like Dragonball Z or perhaps of the mystical forces that can come into play with shows like Death Note or Naruto. The truth of the matter is that anime, like all media, serves as a home to all sorts of genres. Sure, the medium may most be known for action, sci-fi, or fantasy series, but the entire medium is not like that. One genre has that gained traction in the genre is the slice of life genre. Shows like Azumanga Daioh and Clannad use the medium to explore a normal day-to-day life, most frequently in looking at the lives on high school students. Sometimes, however, a series may inject a slight odd element to it that is still treated ultimately as part of the normal routine. In this case, I’m talking about a slice of life-style anime where its setting may be the very stuff of science fiction, but its heart is rooted in looking at the day-to-day. I am talking about the anime series known as Patlabor.

Set in the future, construction robots known as Labors are used to help advance construction projects like never before and bring Tokyo into this new age. However, as the presence of Labors have grown, so too have the amount of criminals who seek to use Labors in crimes or terrorist activities. To combat this, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police has Special Vehicle Divisions, each armed with their own Patrol Labors to help battle crime. However, the focus of this show is not on the top members of Division 1. Instead, the series focuses on Division 2, a Special Vehicles Division that has gained a reputation for their rather destructive methods when it comes to fighting crime. The series starts with a new addition to the team: Noa Izumi, a petite redhead with a fandom for robots who becomes a pilot for the Division and lovingly names her Patrol Labor Alphonse. Along with her, the division includes such characters as the honest and sometime hot-headed Asuma Shinohara, the gung-ho and order-demanding Isao Ohto, and the seemingly laid-back but cunning Captain Kiichi Goto. Such an odd assortment of characters helps to bring heart to this series, but they bring more to it than just colorful personalities.

Though the series is one about futuristic police using giant robots to fight crime, the focus is not on them fighting crime. Though it is their work, the series is truly focused on the day-to-day activities of the members of Division 2. Plots, though they may feature the investigations of crime, are most often about the team dynamic or of individual team members. In fact, action tends to be limited for brief spots of time. For example, one episode did feature the team having to deal with a Labor-piloting criminal who held a woman hostage within the tight grip of his robot. However, that was not the focus of the episode. Instead, the focus was on how Noa Izuma and Clancy Kanuka, an American officer on assignment from the NYPD, were clashing in methods and throwing off the cooperation of the team. To deal with this issue. Captain Goto decides on a rather unique team-building exercise: take the whole team out drinking. The result is that Noa and Clancy manage to air their issues and come to terms with each other, while the rest of the team vents with humorous arguments about each other’s methods and attitudes. It all comes together in a story that explores team dynamics and the impacts that team members have on each other, putting its characters first before the action. In fact, this even extends to how the show carries itself over the course of its run.

Though the cases may largely be stand-alone and the episodes work on individual levels, the series itself maintains an overarching plot. Starting from Noa Izumi joining the team, you watch as the team grows and changes in its dynamics. They adjust and welcome Noa as one of their own. They undergo staff changes as certain members leave with new characters joining the team. Noa Izumi and Asuma Shinohara even grow closer as friends over the course of the show. The members of Division 2, their lives, and all the personal joys and woes are the central focus and it is handled with a caring touch and a sense of humor. Action is well-handled, even if it is not a core part of the show. In fact, the story doesn’t even really get action-based until near the end, with a plot line concerning corporate espionage and a plan to claim Noa Izumi’s Patrol Labor. Even then, a lot of the story does concern the effect on Noa from battling a Labor pilot whose tech and skills seem to outshine her own. The show never loses sight of its characters, and the result is that the team feels like a natural roster of people, trying to do their best in fighting crime while enduring the curveballs and surprises of life. Thus, it’s a slice of life that may concern a different time and incredible field of work, but its people feel relatable and familiar.

The anime series Patlabor can be seen on Hulu. There is also an original OVA and a sequel OVA known as Patlabor: the New Files, along with full-length anime films. The OVAs and anime series lean more towards a lighter touch, while the movies are darker and more serious. Personally, I suggest giving the series a try first and seeing if you enjoy the lighter touch.

In Defense of Superman: What’s So Wrong with the Big Blue Boy Scout?

When it comes to superheroes, most people have a favorite hero. They have that one character who, for them, captures their imagination. It may be how they choose to take on the forces of evil. It could be that there is an element of their personality that strikes a chord for the reader. Whatever it may be, there are a whole range of heroes that can claim the spot of favorites for many people. Now, if you were to ask them, I would hazard a guess and say that most would pick Batman (as a DC Comics example) or Spider-Man (for a Marvel Comics example) as their favorite superhero. For me, I have a pick that would probably not be a favorite for a lot of people. For me, I would pick Superman as my favorite superhero. Now, I have heard many complaints of the character, such as that he is too powerful or that he’s so dull as a generic good guy. Personally, I would like to offer my opinion on why he is a favorite for me.

To me, Superman is an embodiment of hope. He possesses incredible levels of strength, speed, and senses, along with flight and invulnerability, and chooses to use these gifts to help others. He is regarded as one of the most powerful heroes of the DC universe, yet does not consider himself above others. Though most put him on a pedestal, he tries his best to help inspire others to reach their own potential and not give in to the cynicism and sorrow in their lives. For me, I really appreciate and like the idea of a hero whose biggest power is not his strength, but his capacity for good and inspiring others. The fact that he is so powerful, yet chooses not to abuse his powers speaks to the core dynamic of superheroes themselves. It’s even greater when you consider that Superman doesn’t have any past trauma that pushes him to this idea. Most superheroes, as part of their origin story, tend to have some sort of trauma or event that happens to them that affects them and starts them down the path of using their gifts to fight crime. Superman doesn’t really have that same trauma. True, Krypton may have been destroyed, but he did not personally experience that. For him, he was a boy who grew up in Smallville, raised by a kindly couple who helped to instill good virtues into him and assist as his powers began to develop. The idea that he makes the choice to become a superhero, not because of any past trauma or event, but simply because he wants to help others is to me a powerful one. As for the complaints about his character, I think that those are more a result of a weakness in writing rather than character. Honestly, I sort of blame the Silver Age for that.

From the late ’50s to early ’70s, superhero comic books were going through a resurgence now known as the Silver Age. Though this resurgence was the time that gave the world Marvel Comics and gave DC Comics a new breath of life, it was both a blessing and a curse for Superman. On one hand, this was a period that would add plenty to the Superman mythos, such as introducing iconic villains like Brainiac and Bizarro. However, this period was also one where Superman himself was written as extremely powerful. This was a version of the character who could push gigantic planets with ease, who could reveal that he has a superpower that just so happens to perfectly fit the problem at hand. The result was that he felt like a walking deus ex machina. For me, I believe that interpretation has tainted the character for a lot of people, who now see him as a dull character who’s too powerful and always wins. His situation is not helped by writers who try to pull away from that version, but do so by making him dark and gritty or emphasizing the fact that he is an alien. For me, these attempts just result in them missing the core of who Superman is. Still, it doesn’t have to be like this. After all, Superman can be an interesting character. What matters is how he is handled.

For me, there are certain things that I believe would help. For one, keep his powers to a minimum. I would stick to the super strength, flight, invulnerability, x-ray vision, heat vision, and enhanced senses. Along with that, I would have him be at a power level where he isn’t impossibly strong like his Silver Age variant, but still enough that his raw power is awe-inspiring. When it comes to his origin story, I think it would help to keep the emphasis on Smallville, not Krypton. Though his powers stem from his Kryptonian biology, his moral core comes from being raised by a kindly couple like Jonathan and Martha Kent. It’s his goodness and moral core that really makes Superman who he is, not his powers. Finally, I wouldn’t be afraid to let Superman lose sometimes. Though he is powerful, Superman is still just one man. Though he will help as many as he can with his gifts, it is only natural that sometimes a hero can’t always be there. Exploring the impact of that, of how he keeps fighting the good fight even when he can’t always win, is something that I think could help more readers connect to him. After all, the thing that makes a hero isn’t that they always win the battle. It’s that they’re in a battle worth fighting for and refuse to give up. The same even applies to Superman.

If you’re looking for a good Superman story, to perhaps find something that showcases the character’s potential, I recommend Superman for All Seasons. Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Tim Sale, it’s a stand-alone graphic novel that showcases Clark growing up in Smallville and then becoming Superman for the first time. It explores who the character is over the course of four chapters, each one devoted to a different season and each one narrated by a different character with their own thoughts on Superman.