The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Is Batman the Good Lex Luthor?

lex luthor fighting batman

I was thinking about Lex Luthor and his quality as a villain. Cause you know, a superhero is only as good as their bad guy. We remember Joker, Thanos, Killmonger, Magneto, Venom, Vulture, and so on. No one thinks about Whiplash, Malekith, Yellowjacket, or Aldrich Killian.

Lex Luthor is somewhere in the middle. He’s Superman’s primary villain, but he’s never had a real firm MO or personality. Whereas that works for the Joker, because he’s the embodiment of chaos, it doesn’t work for someone who’s essentially Donald Trump if he was the smartest man alive.

Image result for donald trump lex luthor

On one side you’ve got the Lex Luthor who was a silly megalomaniacal real estate developer played by Gene Hackman (or Kevin Spacey) whose sole henchman is a moronic cousin. The guy whose hatred for Superman comes from the fact that Supes made him bald when he flew by his lab and caused an accident in an experiment. He’s closer to a Bond villain in terms of showmanship and panache.

On the other side, there’s the Lex who became President of the United States. The Lex who manipulated Supergirl into becoming his slave. Who’s purported to be the smartest man alive in the DC universe (kind of like Reed Richards in Marvel). His primary motivation seems to be fear and ego. Fear of what someone with absolute unstoppable power could do. Ego because Lex is no longer the most loved or most powerful man in the room. Lex knows he can’t win in a fight, so he has to outsmart Superman. To be one step ahead, either by making a trap that Superman can’t break out of or manipulating the chess pieces so that he can never be tied to the crime. Kind of like Batman.

And that got me thinking — Batman and Lex Luthor are both sides of the same coin. They’re both insanely rich (and by extension, insanely powerful–everything in Gotham essentially has the Wayne logo stamped on it). They’re both insanely smart. Like there’s no way a playboy who grew up in a mansion could have become smart enough to build a supercomputer, a gadget-ridden vehicle, a chemist’s lab, a business acumen, and so on. Kind of like Iron Man.

Image result for death battle iron man lex luthor

In Death Battle, they pitted Lex Luthor against Iron Man, but I think Tony Stark has more in common with Bruce Wayne. They’re both so wealthy money has no meaning to them anymore. Both have tragic backstories. Both are inventive geniuses. Both had parents who were tragically killed–but Bruce Wayne’s were nurturing whereas Tony’s were emotionally absent. (Tony Stark’s real “mentor” was Ho Yinsen, who showed him the sins of his past). One learned how to fight, the other creates machines to do the fighting for him. One is motivated by justice, the other redemption.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Lex Luthor feels like the rival to Batman, not Superman. The difference is that Batman earned his power. He had to work for it. Lex Luthor was born with it. This is a key difference in superhero stories, and how you tell the hero from the villain.

And when it comes to the Justice League, who is Superman’s biggest rival? Batman. Despite him being a mere human, he always seems to be one step ahead when Superman goes crazy and needs to be countered. Wonder Woman can’t do it. Green Lantern can’t do it. But Bruce Wayne can, because he outsmarts him. He plans for all contingencies. In Injustice, the comic/video game that poses “what if Superman did finally start using his powers and actually getting rid of criminals”, it’s Superman the benevolent dictator vs. Batman and the rebellion. And Batman holds his own. Shouldn’t Superman be able to use x-ray vision to sniff him out, then laser him to death?

And you know all those memes and gifs of Batman outdoing Supes.

Maybe this is the only way Superman can be defeated–outmaneuvering him. Which is not a great message–strength and toughness (and projectile weapons) are the antithesis to strategy and intelligence. Superman and Batman play off each other like Captain America and Iron Man, but not as much direct conflict. They don’t have any nose-to-nose arguments debating the right thing to do vs. the smart thing to do. Just subtle quips and verbal sniping.

The difference between Superman and Batman is more “I embrace everyone” vs. “repel everyone bad”. Superman saves the butterfly, Batman kills the spider (or beats the crap out of the spider, then puts it away in an easily escapable asylum).

Image result for superman fights batman

There are plenty of “alternate universe” Superman stories — Red Son, Injustice, Gods and Monsters, Kingdom Come, New Frontier. There’s even plenty of alternate Supermans within the canon (i.e. Bizarro, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, Steel). But I never hear about alternate Lex Luthor.

It makes me wonder if Lex Luthor’s parents had been killed by a thug while walking out of a theater, would he have turned more into Bruce Wayne? Using his super-intelligence to bring justice to those who need it?

Sexy Batman Villains

poison ivy harley quinn catwoman

I’ve been looking for porn about thinking about Poison Ivy, the Batman villain. She’s a good character, but for being a plant-woman, she sure exudes sexuality. In fact, that got me thinking about all the Batman villains, especially the difference between the guys and the girls.

I love Batman’s villains because they all represent fractured psyches of the hero. Unlike just about any other comic book villain who are just about power, revenge, or greed. Enemies like the Joker represent chaos opposed to Batman’s order. Bane is what happens when you have too much power. Two-Face is the double identity getting away from you. Scarecrow is fear (which Batman uses for good, but it’s a double-edged sword). Riddler represents obsession. The Penguin represents… uh, deformity? Indulgence? Umbrellas? I’ll get back to you on that one. Anyway, my point is the men are pretty diverse, all shapes and sizes.

The girls all represent some fractured psyche as well. Poison Ivy is the repressed schoolgirl becoming liberated. Catwoman is Batman’s intellectual equal in the criminal world (bat rhymes with cat, you know). Harley Quinn is the female side of Joker’s dementia, forever victim to his whims. Problem is, they’re also all sex objects.

batman arkham city catwoman
This is Catwoman’s slide in Batman: Arkham City, where Batman has a practical feet-first soccer sweep.

They didn’t start that way, but they’ve gotten way worse, and I don’t like it. I can’t find one picture Poison Ivy without her titties bouncing out as big as pumpkins. I don’t know, maybe it’s part of her character, something about flowers and vaginas. But all the others are the same way too. Harley Quinn is a Lolita — pigtails and a gymnast’s body with a skin-tight suit. Plus it’s implied that she has a sexual relationship with Joker. Catwoman is the Lois Lane — regular-sized, regular hair, regular boobs. The problem is she always wears skin-tight leather, carries a whip, and is constantly making innuendos.

batman arkham city catwoman
You know it’s always snowing in Arkham City, right?

The sad part (not the saddest part, I’ll get to that) is that they didn’t always used to be that way. Poison Ivy used to be just a seductress. Then she became an eco-terrorist, then a mad scientist. Then her storyline changed to her having the ability to create and resist poisons, then she could control plants a la Swamp Thing. The only thing she wears is a few conveniently placed leaves. Harley Quinn started on a children’s cartoon show. And Catwoman didn’t even wear a costume.

catwoman first appearance comic
Catwoman’s first appearance

But somehow, over the years, each of these characters went from being respectable to downright whorish. Catwoman went from Jean Harlow wearing a long purple dress to Michelle Pfeiffer’s S & M fantasy. Harley Quinn went from comic relief to pedophile fodder. And Poison Ivy’s just a porn actress now.

batman harley quinn arkham city
Harley’s outfit in Arkham City.  Somewhat different from her original incarnation.

The saddest part is that these three are about it. There are no other female villains in the Batman universe. And actually there aren’t that many females period in the Batman universe. Oracle/Batgirl and Vicki Vale and that’s it.

batman poison ivy comic
Poison Ivy’s first look

Make no mistake. Batman is a male power fantasy so this is not unexpected. Ridiculous, but not unexpected. You don’t need to make women into strippers to retain interest. In fact, it becomes implausible to have a cat burglar with her jacket halfway unzipped, or someone whose breasts are too big for her prison shirt to be closed.

poison ivy arkham city
Seriously, they let her get away with this outfit in Arkham Asylum?  Or maybe she needs skin exposed for photosynthesis.

In fact, I think of all the superheroes, he might be the most “Republican-like”. And I don’t enjoy saying that. But he’s a multi-billionaire philanthropist who inherited his money. For all intents and purposes, there’s no way he could maintain his lifestyle and business and should have had his identity uncovered a long time ago (but again, fantasy). He has power and women, but a chip on his shoulder from mom and dad, and he’s always trying to redeem himself for them.

batman dark knight rises costume
The Dark Knight Returns had a significant poor vs. rich arc.

Most of his adventures don’t focus so much on saving the victim as catching the criminal. His enemies are extremist in character and represent chaos, power, and liberation. Not often greed or revenge. Batman is always trying to put things back the way they were. Victims tend to be faceless (and there’s a few storylines where this is one of the messages) and the criminal is never ambiguous. It’s always quite clear that they’re doing bad.

Personally, I’d want to see a superhero who deals with those less ambiguous guys (people who interfere with legal abortion clinics, people on Ashley-Madison, obviously corrupt politicians who game the system, sexual predators who slip through the cracks). That’s what I wanted the Supergirl movie to have. That’s what superheroes are meant for — saving people when the system fails.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my torrent is done.

UPDATE: I totally forgot about Talia al Ghul for some reason. Idiot. She’s kind of a clone of Catwoman anyway: antiheroine/villain, off-again, on-again romance with Batman, and always wearing skin-tight leather.

Talia Al Ghul Batman comics
Ninja boobies!

Late to the Game: Batman: Arkham City — First Impressions by a Fallen Gamer

fry shut up and take my money

The summer Steam sale (where a whole ton of games are super-duper-discounted) is big times in the video game world. I somehow managed to control myself, maybe because I’ve got two daughters and I know time to myself is more precious than gold. So I got two games–Quantum Conundrum, from the creator of Portal, and Batman: Arkham City.

I decided to start Batman: Arkham City first. Not sure why. Maybe because I’d played Portal 2 for the second time a while ago and wasn’t feeling especially puzzle-y. Maybe because of “Dark Knight Rises” fever.

I should note that I really haven’t played a real mainstream game for a long, long time. Mostly because I’ve never had an XBox, XBox360, or PS3. I’ve never played “Halo” or “GTA: San Andreas” or “Elder Scrolls” or “Call of Duty” or “Red Dead Redemption” or “Battlefield” or “Little Big Planet” or “Assassin’s Creed” or “Mass Effect” or any of the games that have big memes these days. I have a Wii, and I’ve been plugging at Skyward Sword with my wife since Christmas. Plus I’m reluctant to get console games on a PC because the controls don’t always translate well.

Also, I NEVER get a sequel or prequel in a series first. I ALWAYS get the first one, be that the first movie, or first episode of a TV show that doesn’t get good until the third season. In other words, this an unusual purchase for me. But adapt or die. The buzz around Batman has been too great and the deal was too good.

Starting it up was a bit of a heartbreak, as I saw that you needed to sign into Windows Live. And we all know how that went for me last time. I was hoping that either that DRM goose had been killed since “Bioshock 2” and I wouldn’t have to put it on my new computer. There is nothing that’s more bullshit-bullshit than needing an Internet connection to play a game that doesn’t need one. What if your cable is down and you want to play something? Oh, whoops. You know this thing that’s on your local machine, is single-player, and you’ve already verified as owned? DENIED.

But I digress.

batmnan arkham city catwoman
What the hell is with that outfit? Zip up, girl, it’s cold. It’s not like you’re on a date.

The first that happens is that you’re Catwoman and trying to break into someone’s safe. Okay, not what I expected — looks like you’ll be at least two Playable Characters in this game. Then a fight scene happens, and this is when the player first gets control. There’s no tutorial or introduction, and I’m using an XBox360 emulator for my USB gamepad, which is a converted PS2 controller. So there’s a moment of panic. Fortunately, there’s only one hit button in the game, so I quickly and neatly dispatch the guards. But I’m still not Batman yet, so I keep playing, and this tiny prologue seems mostly irrelevant.

Next, the story starts proper with Vicki Vale reporting about Arkham City. But there’s no real explanation of what Arkham City is. It appears that Gotham City has wrapped up with one huge wall and all the prisoners are free to roam, like “Escape from New York” (or “to New York”, I can never remember).

This is a new concept to me, as I don’t follow the comics or cartoons. Was this at the end of the last game? Who is Hugo Strange? Is he related to Doctor Strange? (no, that’s Marvel, that can’t be right). How did this happen? What is TYGER? Why did they arrest Bruce Wayne? How did the citizens let this happen? Did they all move out?

I don’t have much time to answer questions though, because Bruce Wayne gets taken prisoner because… reasons? Seriously, this seems a little anarchist, even for Gotham. This gives me my first chance to move around and BOY, IS THAT CAMERA CLOSE. Back off, buddy. Are you trying to read over my shoulder or something? You can have the crossword when I’m done with it.

batman face
He’s not quite this close, but he does seem to take a third of the screen.

Actually, it’s not that bad. Just takes some getting used to. It feels like back in the day when you could switch an FPS into 3rd-person (3D Realms engine games had this). But the camera is smart, which is about the highest praise you can give any video game. It zooms out when you need it to, zooms in when you need it to, and is never hampered by invisible walls.

Once you escape your handcuffs and get into the Batsuit, your first task is to get to the courthouse where Two-Face has Catwoman.

Around this point, I start to notice that all the characters have their respective voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series. That’s pretty nice, I respect that they got them all back, and it’s nostalgic. Except that this isn’t Batman: The Animated Series. This is the Christopher Nolan/Frank Miller-style Batman. Uber-dark, uber-gritty, uber-noir. Harley Quinn is in a slutty stripper outfit, not a one-piece costume. Two-Face is the “Dark Knight” style where his skin is burnt sinew and eyeball, not greenish scarring. It doesn’t gel.

Still no tutorial, though. So I’m walking very slowly and bouncing off the walls instead of going through the front door like you’re supposed to. Plus any hints are in Xbox controller speak, and I have a PS2 controller. It’s telling me to hit RB. What is that? Red button? Right button? I’m used to R1 and R2. It says press X, but my X is their A, unless you grew up on a SNES controller where A is circle, which is really B and oh no I’ve gone cross-eyed.

But still, I’ve got a slew of abilities and gadgets, there are so many upgrades and extra content and galleries and challenges. So far I haven’t done much besides beat up people. I’m not doing any of that cool stalking and dropping or detective mode until I get to the courthouse. It expects that you remember all the skills from the previous game. I’m overwhelmed, but I’m still having fun.

Once the Two-Face scenario ends, I use the detective mode to analyze the crime scene. Then I escape into the city, and realize how expansive it is. I can grapple from building-to-building seamlessly like Spider-Man. I can pick up local surveillance in real-time, find radio signals on my bat-computer. I’ve got a Batarang, remote-control Batarang, smoke pellets, and that’s when it hits me.

I’m Batman.

I’m really fucking Batman. I’m doing things like Batman’s doing. Using technology to solve crimes, stealthily spying on conversations, taking on multiple thugs, not using guns, gliding with the cape. I’ve been missing the boat on video games, but this is the first time I’ve really felt like I was an individual superhero. I grew up in a time when a Batman game looked like this.

All you did was move right and punch. You could substitute the sprites for anyone — Superman, Wolverine, Robocop, Leonardo — and it’d be the same damn game. Move right and punch the bad guys. Batarangs or shurikens, flight or jetpacks, there was no difference. It’s like Taco Bell, just different mixtures of the same four ingredients.

But now I really feel like I’m Batman in Batman’s world, interacting with Batman’s characters and doing Batman things of my own volition (not in a damn cutscene).

Some of the writing is really bad. Especially for Catwoman. I mean, seriously, a “broke-a-nail” joke? Do you know how many fucking times I’ve heard that one? And she keeps talking sexy and saying things like “ooh, to explode this door, I’ll need a more feminine touch” and being all flirty and shit. It made me want to reach through the screen and punch her.  That’s the kind of shit she said in the 1969 series.  The lines feel cheesy and forced like they’re from rejected drafts of Batman: TAS episodes. But the art is super-fantastic. So detailed. So intricate. So many nooks and crannies to explore.

So, I like the game. In fact, I’m kinda obsessed with it. Hope I get over that before my kids go to college.

two face batman arkham city

One more thing: Around when I got to the Joker’s hide-out, I finally decided I had to get the first game, Batman: Arkham Asylum. There was just too much stuff from the previous game that I needed to know. The story was part of that (despite that I know how it ended), but the gameplay too. I was trying to do the AR missions and failing miserably because there was too many buttons to think about, Riddler trophies that had no explanation, characters in the cathedral that seemed to continue something from the first game. Now I wonder if this is the marketing strategy…