Graphic Opinions – Pandemic Edition

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Looking for something to do during your time self-isolating? Want to try a new show? One based on comics? DC Comics in particular? Well, this is the list for you! 

Lucifer
Available on Netflix.

Based on the Vertigo comics of the same name, Lucifer follows the adventures of the devil after giving up the throne of hell and moving to Los Angeles. 

In the comics, the story starts in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman when Lucifer quits, hands over the key to Hell to Dream and has Mazikeen cut his wings off. While Sandman continues following the stories of Dream, Lucifer’s adventures on earth continue and are chronicled in his own series. 

The show keeps Lucifer’s origin, though removing Dream and handing over the key, and much like the comics when you first meet Lucifer, he’s the piano-playing owner of the LA nightclub LUX with the demon Mazikeen as his bartender. It deviates significantly from there, becoming more like a police procedural as Lucifer teams up with LAPD Detective Chloe Decker and uses his role as a “punisher” to mete out judgment on the mortal plane while attempting to ward off the family drama of biblical proportions with the help of the extremely patient therapist, Dr. Linda Martin. 

At its core, the show prompts the questions of “what is good and evil” and “is there such a thing as free will?” Which is some pretty heavy stuff for a show that also has you cracking up at all of the ridiculous shenanigans Lucifer pulls. Overly sarcastic and yet surprisingly empathetic, Lucifer is really the character that kept me watching through the bumps of the first season when other characters like Chloe and Dan felt one dimensional. In all though, a fun show and one I can’t wait for the next season of.

Watch if you like Castle or Supernatural.

Gotham
Available on Netflix or Hulu.

Based on Batman and Detective Comics, Gotham presents a look at the dark origins of some of DC’s most famous characters. 

The show starts off like every Batman origin story ever, with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. And then it diverges wildly from the comics. 

The show attempts to look at how Gotham City became a place that accepts and relies on a vigilante who dresses up like a bat, relies on a searchlight to be contacted and goes toe-to-toe with supervillains. Mostly, by showing how those supervillains came to be. It begins by trying to be a police procedural, focusing on a young Detective Jim Gordon as he tries to solve the Wayne murders and fight against the city’s inherent corruption juxtaposed against a young Oswald Cobblepot as he tries to work his way up through the ranks of one of Gotham’s many mobs. All the while throwing liberal references to various Batman characters. 

Personally, I don’t like Gotham. It tries a little too hard with the nods right from the beginning and then goes completely off the rails. While the first season offers a very solid and promising start the writers became either overzealous or impatient and started tossing in every character they could think of and speeding up arcs and development like no tomorrow. Most people forget that a majority of Batman’s villains have Ph.D.’s, including the writers of Gotham. Poison Ivy didn’t go through years of schooling to become a botanist only for that to get erased because the writers decided to throw kiddie Pam Isley into a river that, for some reason, aged her up and gave her plant powers? For a show focusing on origin stories they really ignored a lot of canon origin stories. I do have two nice things to say about Gotham, the acting is fantastic and incredible to watch. The plot might be bad but the cast really makes it worth suffering through. Shoutouts to literally all of them. Secondly, the aesthetic is amazing. Gotham City has been characterized as a little out of step with time and the trends of the decade in the comics and the show translates that beautifully. Different characters embody different decades and the sets and costumes do an amazing job of translating the time periods without feeling like a period drama or disjointed. Honestly, this show could have been great, the potential was all there, and it just disappointed.

Watch if you like Sleepy Hollow or Smallville.

Harley Quinn
Available on the DC Universe streaming service.

Based on Batman, Harley Quinn and Detective Comics focuses on Harley Quinn as she tries to establish herself as a villain removed from the Joker.

Much like Gotham, Harley Quinn focuses on Batman’s Rogues Gallery and the lives the villains lead. Pulling from across the various comics that they’re in but Harley’s design and the inclusion of Damian Wayne as Robin hint that it’s most heavily based on comics from the New 52 reboot onward. 

The show follows Harley Quinn, the Joker’s girlfriend, and right hand, as she breaks up with him and strikes out on her own. Ending up living with her best friend Poison Ivy and attempting to commit dastardly deeds in order to gain recognition. Oftentimes failing in that respect due to the misogyny of the other villains in Gotham City and being too self-absorbed. 

Being animated allows for the show to truly embrace the more absurd side of comics, and it really pays off. It’s self-aware both from a genre standpoint but also a societal standpoint and at times leans closer to being satire than just a comics show. I’m not really a fan of Harley Quinn and tend to think that the character is overhyped but when I saw the cast I decided to give it a try and wound up genuinely enjoying it. Harley is simultaneously absurd and relatable and you truly do find yourself rooting for her even as she tries to destroy the city. Although, you normally find yourself relating more to Poison Ivy who is trying so hard to help her friend who won’t always help herself and is just tired as a result. The over the top characterizations work surprisingly well and actually make the show more enjoyable. It’s ridiculous and absurd while still remaining smart and funny.

Watch if you like Archer or South Park. 

Titans
Available on the DC Universe streaming service.

Based primarily on The New Teen Titans comics from the 1980s in addition to other Titans and Teen Titans comics over the years, Titans follows a group of young heroes as they learn to work together and save themselves and others.

The comics from the ’80s show the Teen Titans being called together to save the world from the demon Trigon. Though only teenagers, some have been heroes for years while others are new to the whole hero gig. Or even new to the planet. While the series, and subsequent with name variations, does have the required saving the world it also makes a point to focus on the relationship between the characters. So much so that the Titans are known as a family even in the comics. 

The show keeps the skeleton of the comics, the Titans coming together due to Raven to stop her father Trigon. However, it ages up some characters and ages down others and finds all the characters at different points in their individual story arcs. Like the comics, it finds Starfire having just come to earth, Beast Boy still with the Doom Patrol and the previous incarnation of Titans disbanded. However, it also finds Dick Grayson, the first Robin, having left Batman to strike out on his own and Jason Todd taking over the Robin role. Something that doesn’t happen until years after the Titans is formed and is actually a result of the Titans that Dick ceases to be Robin, not before. While some of these changes are major, especially to fans, the show itself does an incredible job of representing the characters and managing to give the fantastical story of magic and aliens and superheroes a really grounded feel. The core of the Titans is always the characters and their relationships and the show truly does capture that, showing the closeness the Raven and Dick have in the comics despite the age difference the show gives them. 

So, if you’ve been reading my Graphic Opinions for a while now (or you just know me) you know that the Teen Titans are my absolute favorites and that they’re the reason I read comics. That being said, I love this show. Which really should say a lot. While I do have my issues with the show’s changes, some I understand but don’t like while others I just don’t see the point, I truly do love the show and the way they represent characters that I have been so attached to for so long. Complex characters like Dick, Starfire and Beast Boy are so perfectly portrayed and the inclusion of characters that are fan favorites but often forgotten outside the comics themselves like Rose and Joey Wilson, Hawk, and Dove and Donna Troy truly make the story more interesting and lend more depth. As much as I love the treatment of the characters and how they’re portrayed I think another key part of the show is how they try to show the ramifications of being a superhero. That their actions have consequences on a small and large scale and that people exist in the world outside of heroes and villains. It’s a theme that can be forgotten in comics and the media based on them so it’s nice to see Titans touching on it. 

Watch if you like The Boys, Teen Titans or The Umbrella Academy.

Some other honorable mentions for binging if you decide to be a total nerd and sign up for the DC Universe subscription (or my love of Titans has somehow convinced you to get it). 

Teen Titans – You’ve probably watched it as a kid, it’s the animated show that got me into comics. Starfire, Robin, Beast Boy, Raven, and Cyborg save the city, make friends and crack lame jokes all in 20 minutes. Don’t lie, you were devastated when Terra betrayed them when you were eight, we all were.

Young Justice – The (slightly) more grown-up Teen Titans. I’ve talked about it before but for a refresher: the sidekicks are revolting and starting their own team! Welcome to covert ops! The themes are more complex and after a third season revival on the streaming service has become a little more mature and darker. Answers the questions: what’s it like to be a teen superhero? And what happens when teen superheroes grow up? 

Doom Patrol – the wackier side of DC comics is explored as a group of misfits face off against Nobody, played by Alan Tudyk. Titans gives a bit of a backdoor pilot to the show with an all-star cast and some fever dream type plots. If you like Legends of Tomorrow or The Umbrella Academy you’ll love this. Honestly, it’s so much fun with a truly stunning amount of heart and self-reflection that it’s a crime more people don’t know about it. 

If you’re sticking to Netflix you can always watch Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Black Lightning.

Happy streaming all! Stay safe! And let me know if you need someone to talk about Lucifer or Titans with.

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