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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Superhero Recommendations for Non-Geeks

I was always a comic book geek; I just didn't admit to it until I got older, discovered the Internet and watched animated series that came out in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These days, nobody should have any problem admitting to being a comic book geek now that superhero shows and movies are all over the place.

There are those people who still haven't paid much attention to such shows and movies, though, whether it's because they have no interest or they find that there is just too much to learn or understand in order to appreciate them. For those who have no interest, there probably isn't much I can do to spark your interest.

But for those who think it's too complicated or that you have to watch everything to understand what's going on, that's not really the case. The majority of the shows and films out there are ones that you can watch on their own without having to go out and buy all the graphic novels from the past or invest in those encyclopedias for the DC or Marvel universes.

There are a few shows and movies that I recommend to those people who don't know much about superheroes, but will give you a good exposure to their worlds while giving you good material you can relate to -- material that doesn't require you understand everybody's origin or all the trivia that gets tossed around.

My recommended list of shows and films:

* Justice League animated series: The series does a good job establishing its characters without having to spend too much time getting into everyone's backstory. And while some of the episodes date back to earlier animated series, you get enough explanation within the episodes to understand the basics and allow you to follow the rest of the story. The series does have an issue with some deus ex machina endings early on, but that diminishes over time and you can watch relationships unfold between the characters. And they keep the characters grounded in reality.

* Young Justice animated series: This series focuses on characters who aren't as well known outside of comic book geekery but spends more time exploring how teenagers act and putting over the storyline that sometimes the traditional method we believe works best, doesn't always work that way. The writers do a good job making characters relatable, to the point you aren't going to worry about the trivia that surrounds the characters in the comic book world. They also do a good job keeping the main storyline for the season moving forward while tying things up within each episode.

* The Flash live-action TV series (2014): A quick bit of trivia: There was a live-action series based on the superhero that ran in the early 1990s, but the one to track down if you are exploring superheroes for the first time is the current series. You get into the origins of Barry Allen, aka The Flash, and how he learns to uses his powers, but the meat of the series focuses on Barry's relationships with other people and how deeply he cares for his fellow human beings. The series does a good job exploring complex issues without making Barry a brooding character. It has a light-hearted tone but it takes itself seriously only when the story calls for it.

* The Dark Knight live-action movie: The best of the movies based on DC Properties. It does a very good job keeping The Joker a mysterious character. It doesn't get into his origins because it doesn't have to. And while it's the second movie in a trilogy, one doesn't have to get into Bruce Wayne's backstory to understand what is going on and what he is faced with. The acting is very good and the writing and directing are strong, and it gets across the idea that humanity will win in the end despite how hard somebody may push for a different outcome.

* Captain America, The Winter Soldier live-action movie: The Marvel Universe movies work well because, while they may be part of a series, they can each stand alone, too. The second Captain America film focuses on a relevant storyline about how far one should go to keep everyone safe, particularly when we find out the enemy we thought we were protecting ourselves against was working from within. Again, one doesn't have to understand anybody's origin in order to understand the premise or why the characters act the way they do.

* Guardians of the Galaxy live-action movie: What makes this movie so great is it took some Marvel superheroes who wouldn't be known by people who don't follow comic books and made them characters those people could relate to. The storyline falls into a more complex one that rides through most of the Marvel movies, but it works fine on its own. More importantly, it's a fun film overall, in which nobody is taking themselves seriously, yet the characters are still allowed to shine and even come across as sympathetic. It's the perfect example of how somebody can take material that may not be well known to anyone outside the comic book world and put it into a context that allows people who aren't comic book fans to enjoy it.

* Justice League: The New Frontier animated film: One of the first animated films DC rolled out that went straight to DVD, New Frontier is based on the graphic novel of the same title. It takes the characters and puts them into the late 1950s, a time in which Americans were worried about Communist threats, and the superheroes are forced to deal with how Americans behave, how they view others and the world around them, and how the superheroes have to deal with them. One doesn't need to read the graphic novel first to understand the material; all they need to know is about the various issues that impacted the United States throughout the 1950s and how they influenced people.

* Wonder Woman animated film: A hidden gem among the animated films DC released on DVD, this does get into the character's origin story but spends more time examining how Diana first comes to explore the world outside Themiscayra, particularly how she figures out how to relate to men. That subplot is what makes the film work so well, along with some great voice acting. I think it's one of the more underrated films DC put out and it's worth tracking down.

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