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Zatanna Zatarra is one of DC Comics most well known female characters. If you think that she’s not that well known… well that says more about the state of female characters in comics then it does about you, so don’t worry!
Zatanna is a magician, and daughter of “Zatarra” the greatest magician in the world. She has been a frequent member of the Justice League and has appeared in a few solo books as well. She has the ability to make the impossible possible by simply saying it backwards.
If she wanted to make an ice cream cone magically appear, she’d simply have to say “maerc eci” and Alakazam! Boom! Delicious!
Let’s not waste time justifying why Zatanna is a cool character - she doesn’t really need much improvement. She’s currently a member of the Justice League with a nifty “superhero-esque” take on her costume, and before that she was a member of Justice League Dark, and before THAT she has years of celebrated history, including being a member of the team on the Young Justice Animated Series (where she also graduated to the Justice League) and a popular ongoing series before DC’s New 52 relaunch.
It is unfortunate that she’s often drawn overtly sexualized, and she can often be played as pin-up eye candy, but primarily she remains strong and well-written despite her artistic representation.
This is a pervasive problem in the comics industry, no doubt, but in this case let’s view it as an opportunity and build a NEW Zatanna ongoing series that takes the character to the next level:
Zatanna is incredibly dry and witty, as a stage performer she knows how to entertain and think on her feet. However, the other side of the performance life is that people and places can become mundane and routine. She’s a bit jaded and a bit bored - not in a depressing way, but in a way that not much surprises her anymore.
She’s not a professional magician per se. She’s still learning. She makes on stage mistakes and flubs, and doesn’t deal well with hecklers - often ridiculing them right back. This is not because women can’t become top of their field (she has incredible talent) but because it’s fun to join a character at the beginning of their career.
She’s one of those people who is incredibly smart but allows that to become her undoing. She can think or talk her way out of most any situation, so she often leaps before she looks. Very frequently she ends up in danger simply because she didn’t feel the need to be cautious.
Zatanna’s father raised her to be a MAGICIAN, not a WITCH, and the distinction is very important. The rules of the show and the rules of being a magician govern her life. She is NOT to use her magical powers when performing (though she sometimes ignores this rule) and she is to trust NO ONE with secrets. The difference between a magician and a witch is a very important idea that she wrestles with.
Grounding Zatanna to her own part of the world and building it up around her is key to creating a last ongoing comic series. However, as a performer, it’s unlikely she’d stay in one city a la Metropolis or Gotham. No, she’s a traveler, so her world has to move with her.
The Shining Circus is a perfect place for Zatanna, it provides an assortment of oddball characters for her to interact with, flexible work schedule, and the opportunity to bring her to a variety of interesting locations.
The Circus is also fascinating because it’s something society perceives from the outside in. We don’t often get to see the lives of these people, just the show. This is the real strength of a characters world: it provides a supporting cast.
Ralph “The Elongated Man” Dibny - is a drunkard. A washed up performer going through the paces every night. He chews a special gum resin that allows him to stretch his body in extraordinary ways. He uses the freak-factor to coast through his act.
But he’s also incredibly smart. In fact, he’s something of an unofficial private eye. Occasionally, when the circus rolls through town, someone will come out of the woodwork to seek him out for help. Often, he can figure out the solution before finishing his next sip of booze, but every so often something stirs him and he takes the case.
Mari “Vixen” McCabe - The Lion Tamer. She’s quiet and has a way with animals, as well as a hidden power of her own. She’s searching for something, and the circus provides easy money and free transport, but she’s not ready to share her mission with anyone.
Mr. Toad - A freak if there ever was one. A small and mysterious man with a toadlike appearance, who never shares his real name with anyone. Not trustworthy.
Sally “Scissors” Schoolman - A young woman who throws scissors instead of knives with incredible accuracy. She may not have a flashy gimmick like the others, but she’s so young and sweet that she can play this angle up for an exciting and suspenseful show. A fast friend of Zatanna’s
There are many more interesting members of the circus to be met, and exciting guest stars to be introduced as the Circus would roll through the DC Universe (we all know how well the circus plays in Gotham after all) and eventually Zatanna would form an oddball family of crime fighters. A sort of bizarre ass-kicking Scooby Doo gang.
The Zatanna book would be very adventure/mystery driven. Small contained episodic stories featuring new locations and experiences. Character driven drama based on the secret lives behind the curtain and conflicting motivations of the team.
Zatanna is the clear main character, and it is her internal monologue we follow. She can have adventures on her own, or with select members of the circus, and it only ever so often becomes a sort of “team-book.”
Zatanna is a magician, not a witch, and her fellow performers are not supernatural in any way. This book is a clear departure from the concept of Justice League Dark. Zatanna will not be frequently encountering unexplained phenomena of a magical sort, and instead uncovering the truth behind scary and mysterious events.
This Zatanna is an old-school Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys adventure serial featuring a character with magical powers, with appearances from the Elongated Man, Vixen, Mr. Toad, and Scissor.
*None of the characters featured are overtly sexualized, and if anything their unconventional nature would be played up. Zatanna is beautiful, but it’s not a trait that she is fully aware of or flaunts.
What do you think? Would you read a Zatanna ongoing series in the New 52?
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Wonder Woman is considered part of DC Comics “Big Three” characters. The Trinity of Batman, Superman, and herself are top tier, flagship characters when it comes to the company branding. Of course this doesn’t always seem to be the case - Wonder Woman is often ignored, sometimes simply included as a token female.
It is my opinion that Wonder Woman is not only a top tier character, but that she actually has the potential to be DC Comics MOST valuable and marketable property.
There are several posts I could write about the Wonder Woman character (and I intend to do so) - about her core traits, about how the world perceives her, about her costume, her place in media, how to market her…
But before all that I want to talk about the Wonder Woman MOVIE.
I’m a screenwriter. I’m lucky enough to know some high level people at Warner Bros. I’ve seen signs of the faint pulse of a Wonder Woman movie, but I’m not writing about anything I’ve seen or heard, so don’t mistake this for a scoop or infer that I have some greater insight than I’m letting on.
The Wonder Woman film is IN DEVELOPMENT. What this means is that there are people at Warner Bros. right now who, among several other things, are in charge of “thinking about” a Wonder Woman movie. ”In Development” does not mean there is a script, director, actor etc. It means Warner Bros. would consider making a Wonder Woman movie at some point if the project happened to progress in a positive direction. This happens by running the idea past various directors, meeting with actors to discuss potential roles, brainstorming story (in the loosest sense), and maybe eventually having an outline or a script to work off of, but even at that point there would still be no guarantee the project would move forward and into production.
Before you get excited, let’s be clear that there are DOZENS of films in development, and many of the DC Comics franchises are on that list. We’ll be lucky to see one or two of them. Warner Bros. is a giant behemoth that makes movies of all types, often with various smaller production companies. It’s not always easy for them to grow and develop these franchises into films with a singular clear voice and direction, even more difficult to tie them all together into a shared universe.
So, to say a Wonder Woman film is in development is not a scoop or an industry secret any more than to say a Justice League movie is in development. It’s the film industry equivalent of a “maybe, maybe not” category. How far the film is in development is unknown to me, but for the purpose of this piece, let’s assume we have a complete blank slate.
A quick recap of supposed problems with making a Wonder Woman film: she’s tricky, she doesn’t sell well, her power set is confusing, there’s too many interpretations, it’s hard to market a female led film, her origin story is unclear, she seems old fashioned, she isn’t likable, she’s too violent, she’s too pacifistic, too fantasy…
That’s all bullshit. Let’s brainstorm a Wonder Woman movie
*one quick note before we start - no ONE interpretation of the character can satisfy everyone. Many people did not like the Superman they saw in Man of Steel or the Batman in the Nolan franchise. Not everyone will be pleased, but if the idea is consistent and creative it will stand on it’s own merits.
Wonder Woman(working title)
Let’s say working title because Warner tends to prefer keeping the “comic book” style name out of the marquee. Leaning more towards titles like “Man of Steel” or “The Dark Knight” over simply “Superman” or Batman”
After crash landing on a mysterious island, an aircraft pilot discovers a race of powerful and immortal Amazonian women. This discovery escalates a global conflict, and Diana, daughter of the Amazonian Queen, steps forward to save mankind from itself.
The logline must be short (probably shorter than this) and must describe the events of the film in the broadest terms. Paradise Island is discovered and the enormity of this discovery leads to potential war. This is a tried and true plot showcased in classic stories such as Pocahantas, and more recently was told in the film “Avatar.”
Long Form Pitch:
Wonder Woman is a classic DC Comics character created by William Moulton Marston, inventor of the polygraph “lie detector” test. She stands for TRUTH above all things. She belongs to a race of powerful and immortal women known as the Amazons of myth, hidden from the world centuries ago. Her culture is very Greco-Roman influenced. She has the incredible and deadly fighting skills of Sparta, but the wisdom and grace of Athens to seek better methods of diplomacy. Her home is a mysterious island called Themyscira, hidden from the race of man. She is known there as Diana, Daughter of Queen Hippolyta and Princess of Paradise Island.
Wonder Woman is not every woman. Wonder Woman is A woman. A smart, headstrong, confident woman who is suddenly cast into a world she does not understand. The secret to Wonder Woman as a feminist icon is not making her a mouthpiece for every female voice in the world, but to make her a full and realized woman that audiences can recognize and understand. The entire Amazon race affords an incredible opportunity to showcase powerful women of all different types (size, shape, personality etc.) of which Wonder Woman is one of many. There are tomboy Amazons, bookworm Amazons, fashionable Amazons, gothic Amazons etc. (this is said not to categorize various women, but to illustrate that there are infinite types and all can find representation among this cast of characters)
The film will tell the story of Air Force Pilot Steve Trevor’s crash landing on Themyscira and subsequent discovery of the Amazon race. Following the plot of the classic Wonder Woman origin, the Amazons compete to send a representative to return Steve Trevor to the World of Man and rejoin the global society. Diana competes and wins this right, and while at first filled with wonder and excitement at discovering the world outside Paradise Island she finds it to be a darker and more violent place than she imagined. Soon the military forces of the world have decided to invade and wipe out the dangerous Amazons to protect world peace, and Diana must unite with Steve Trevor to save both sides of the war from each other.
This long form pitch is extremely vague and truncated. Perhaps that makes it seem unintelligible or underthought. It’s silly, but as it’s a personal dream of mine to write and pitch a Wonder Woman film to Warner Bros and DC Entertainment, I refrained from including all of my ideas and details. Hopefully this general three paragraph “long form pitch” is enough to get the basic idea across.
1. Steve Trevor is not every man. Steve Trevor is A man. He’s incredibly brave and smart, but self deprecating and sensitive as many young modern men are. He is absolutely the love interest of the story, but Wonder Woman is not a prize for him to win, and her interest in him is not a weakness. These are two people who bring out the best in one another but refuse to overlook each others flaws. They hold one another up to impossibly high standards, and both manage to succeed in their own way by simply being the best they can be.
2. The Amazons are the key to the Wonder Woman character. Trying to burden her with being everything to everyone is a fools errand, but sharing the millions of incredible attributes and characteristics of amazing women within a society of Amazons creates a TRUE Paradise Island, and allows Wonder Woman to be a fully realized character in her own right.
3. Wonder Woman can have ANY color skin tone. There is a lack of gender diversity in films, but also diversity of color. Wonder Woman (and the Amazons at that) are mythical beings. They do not need to be white supermodels. Especially because Hollywood’s version of ethnicity doesn’t stray to far from a traditional caucasian look, there should be no fear about pursuing the right actor for the role, instead of the right appearance. I personally always envisioned Zoe Saldana as an incredible Wonder Woman.
4. You cannot tell the story of Wonder Woman without including the love story between her and Steve Trevor. This does not mean the film genre must be “Romance” but the idea that a character like Wonder Woman would and could fall in love cannot be ignored.
5. There is no longer a “risk” to putting out a female driven superhero film. It is actually a strength. The market is oversaturated with male superheroes, and any opportunity to stand out from the herd should be embraced. At the time of this writing we live in a society where the first “Hunger Games” film (a movie that shares quite a bit with this concept) grossed nearly 700 million worldwide. Female led comedies are doing as much if not more money than male led comedies at the box office. Much of the success of “Man of Steel” was attributed to a largely female opening weekend audience (44% female) and this seems to be part of a growing trend. Marvel Studios has cornered the market on straight, white, male Superhero films. The only way to step forward and not be compared to the Marvel films is to push into foreign territory. (Not just a female driven film, but also comic franchises like New Gods, Kamandi, Sandman etc. Those genres play to Warner Bros. strengths as a studio as well as put MARVEL in a position to play catch up.)
6. There is no “risk” in losing the male audience. There are several reasons for this. The first is Steve Trevor, and incredible and dynamic action hero who not only holds his own against a super powered being, but is an inherently cool character that young men can root for. The second is the idea that men would not want to see beautiful women kicking all sorts of crazy ass is ludicrous. You would not even have to go out of your way to over-sexualize the film, even if the concept was executed in the most tasteful way, it would still feature beautiful women kicking an insane amount of ass. The amount of dudes that sat through 300 would surely double if you replaced all those sexy men with sexy women.
7. Wonder Woman was created as a vessel of truth. Her lasso has the ability to compel those it ensnares to answer her. In our modern era, the importance and value of truth cannot be understated, and using a blockbuster superhero film to explore this has tremendous societal value.
8. As a franchise Wonder Woman has a ton of potential. Her universe effortlessly crosses over to Aquaman and the Atlanteans, as well as making her a logical compatriot to the soon to be launched Batman/Superman film team.
9. There is tons of money to be made in marketing. Wonder Woman products sell tremendously well. Clothing, toys, beach towels, home appliances, Halloween costumes. There has always been a demand for the “Wonder Woman brand” outside of mainstream comics, and a film could be the perfect way to capitalize on profits in both worlds.
10. Perhaps Wonder Woman is tricky because no one seems to have a true desire to tell her story. I believe that Wonder Woman would be an incredibly easy character and story to write, because I’ve been dreaming of the opportunity for years. Courting talented people who want to work on this character and tell her story is the only missing ingredient for success.
I have too many thoughts to list them all, but since I was stingy with plot specifics and other details I wanted to share some of my core beliefs on this character and her potential.
So there we have it. A basic template for a Wonder Woman movie, and a bunch of thoughts on how it should and should not be handled. I feel like I have so much more to say about this film, and also about the Wonder Woman topic in general, that it’s likely I will revisit this again soon.
In the meantime, feel free to talk endlessly with me about this and any other nerdy topics.
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Today is the official 3rd Birthday of this tumblr page! Got a great post coming up later in the week.
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The Teen Titans are perhaps my favorite comic book concept. Young superheroes, some known, some unknown banding together to form a crime fighting group. A prototype Justice League, but with an emphasis on the real life situations these kids were dealing with. Falling in love, stress, school, responsibility etc.
It’s things like this that made the Geoff Johns run on Teen Titans connect with me like nothing else, and the reason many generations have fallen in love with various incarnations of the team. They speak to readers and relate to the audience in a way most cape comics never could. But this post is not about the Teen Titans. It’s about THE Titans.
It was once said that “Young Justice” was middle school, and “Teen Titans” was High School. “Titans” is college. “Titans” is your 20s. “Titans” is about the search for SOMETHING in the term “Twenty-Something.”
The Titans monthly book, when it existed, consisted more or less of the same team that populated the “New Teen Titans” book of the 80s. Those characters, now older, no longer TEEN Titans, were still friends, and still a team. So they were known as the Titans. Simple.
I’m not going to talk much about that book, or much about those characters, but more about the CONCEPT behind the comic.
"New Adult" superheroes.
We love to imagine the Teen Titans one day becoming the next Justice League, but they wouldn’t necessarily be the next link in the chain. When I graduated High School I wanted to be top of my profession as well, but that’s not reality.
DC’s since the dawn of the New 52, DC’s major Teen titles have consisted of Teen Titans, Ravagers, The Movement, and the Green Team. Whether or not you like those books, I think we can agree they have a bit more to do with heroics and capes than the realities of being a modern kid and trying to figure out who you want to be in the world. And that’s fine.
I do miss the simple concept of Middle School -> High School -> College and beyond though. So why not bring back the Titans?
The concept of the Titans speaks to me personally, yet I imagine it’s bigger than that. An entire “New Adult” genre has begun to form in the publishing industry. Changing times have created a breed of 20 somethings that have incredibly rich life experiences that aren’t being told. People are getting married later in life, finding their careers later in life, starting families later in life. The times of college and the years that followed have become a very interesting time for people.
I want to see this reflected in the New Titans.
Let’s build the idea up from a basic comic book perspective:
The world has gone crazy, there are THREE Justice Leagues, Teen heroes run amok, there are more and more deadly villains making mad power grabs every day. We’ve seen the DCU focus on defense and control. Police agencies. Government run Justice Leagues. A.R.G.U.S. etc.
But someone out there must be thinking of the future. Of the big picture. Who takes over when the Justice League is gone? Who inherits that power and responsibility? And when the time comes, will they be ready?
A plan must be put in place. Perhaps a school? Or a training program? An agency? a Team?
What if someone recruited the next Justice League now, and set to work at making sure when the time comes, they could rise to the occasion?
Pros: Incredibly intelligent. As powerful as Superman, if not more.
Cons: Lacks connection to Earth and it’s people. Lacks conviction in her mission, and confidence in herself.
Pros: Fast, Dedicated, Smart, Strong - Could be the next Batman
Cons: Only human. Unproven. Doesn’t work well with others.
Pros: Bialyan Princess. Fearless. Powerful. Inventive.
Cons: Ties to a dangerous regime. Unknown allegiances.
Pros: Trusted warrior and servant of Aquaman.
Cons: Missing in Action.
Pros: Superspeed. Electric Abilities. Incredibly Smart.
Cons: Known criminal.
William “Bill” Williams
Pros: Incredibly fearless.
Pros: Possession of incredible tech and power
Cons: Highly dangerous.
I re-imagined Bumblebee and drew some influences from DC media outside of comics, but I think if introduced into the New 52 universe, this could be a pretty fun group. They’re all crime-fighters, but picture these kids hanging out at a bar on a Friday night - can you? You should be able to, because these kids are all young, fun, single people. They are lost, directionless, they know they have potential, they just aren’t sure how to realize it.
Each of these heroes are chosen for a specific reason. They each have the potential to fill the void left by the individual members of the Justice League. But who are they, really? Who recruited them, and for what REAL purpose? Can they possibly work together, or will they refuse? Who will lead the team? Who the hell is Bill Williams? These would be very fun questions to explore and answer.
If you were planning to one day replace the Justice League, what would your team look like?
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