TV

Will the 'Supergirl', 'Lucifer' and 'Legends of Tomorrow' Shows Be Transmedia or Tranq-Media?

Melissa Benoist as Supergirl

Our expectations around for these upcoming TV shows get to the very heart of transmedia as a phenomenon.


Comics: Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton
Publisher: DC
Price: $14.99
Writer: Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Mahmud Asrar
Length: 160 pages
Publication Date: 2012-10
Website
Amazon

There's a new guy in town and he is as charming as the very devil. He's a bad boy, no doubt, but is he a bad guy? Probably not. And there's this one girl. She's immune to his charms. God-given, charms, he reminds us.

A rugged survivalist and individualist returns to the big city and rather than claim the fortune his family built, instead builds a shadow conspiracy for enacting (rather than pursuing) justice. Other people join in this conspiracy, and later, people with super powers.

Or...

There's this girl who's new to the city and she's got to navigate the usual minefield of what girls new to the city have to navigate. And it's not going well, except sometimes when it is. And maybe if she can get through to her boss on some level, maybe things will turn out OK, and plot twist, she's got super powers and the exact same tensions in her everyday ordinary life, the ones where she's got to prove herself, well she's face those same tensions in her superhero life where Top Secret military programs don't trust her to get the job done just like her boss doesn't trust her to get her coffee.

So we've got all of these tropes. Through Lucifer, not just any Lucifer, but the Lucifer written by the phenom Neil Gaiman, that eventually spun off into his own self-titled book. We've been through, for want of a better word, Justice Society, now being rebranded as Legends of Tomorrow, and we've certainly been through Supergirl. And especially after shows like The Arrow and the ridiculously first-class The Flash, and even before that, with shows like the hyper-successful Smallville (Ten seasons! That's twice as many as Boardwalk Empire), we collectively, as an audience have been prepared for television being a kind of "science fiction" version of their "originals" in comic books.

But what exactly are we looking forward to when we're looking forward to these forthcoming shows, Supergirl, this Fall, Lucifer next year, and much later in 2016, Legends of Tomorrow? At some level the answer's the same for each: we're just looking for entertaining television. But at another level entirely, our expectations around these individual shows get to the very heart of transmedia as a phenomenon.

In many ways Supergirl is the most hopeful of the three. But to fully appreciate why means going back to the roots of comics. Just because it's buzzing in my brain right now, because of the Darkseid War that's just kicked off in earnest in the pages of Justice League, why not throw in a Jack Kirby/New Gods reference? It goes something like: When Kirby introduced the New Gods near the close of the Silver Age, it could easily have been a meta commentary on the state of the comics art at that moment. Could easily have been, but back then, who was really interested in that kind of thing? Too few. But let's not get distracted by talking about Phil Seuling and Denis Kitchen.

Kirby suggested that the factional, and ever-warring New Gods (Gods of Light and Hope who make their home on New Genesis, and Gods of Dark and Despair who inhabit Apokolips) both sprung from a single race of Old Gods who inhabited a single world, embroiled with a single, hyper-complex culture. That's a really great metaphor, for the comics industry after Spider-Man, The Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Because roughly coterminous with these bold, new icons for an Age of sterling Silver, is the work of underground comix impresarios like R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar. Work that predicates upon sexual anxiety, emotional angst, repressed libidinal flows.

New 52 Supergirl written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson and drawn by Mahmud Asrar

You get the picture: two hyper-simplified, abstract, Manichean cultures locked in eternal struggle. Silver Age comics with the bright promise, Believe Me Folks, Superheroes!, and the darker, more mature matter than exploits cultural expectations of the comics medium to deal with increasing mechanization not only of society, but of human psychology.

No doubt Kirby, along with other giants of the comics industry, introduced a revolution with their design of the Silver Age. But what was that revolution a response to? In Kirby's creation of the New Gods, there's a clue—a single culture, wherein both of these Manichean tropes were unified. So, the so-called Golden Age comics of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Those books, those characters were really something. At its darkest, how is Batman not a crippling revenge fantasy? Criminals took the lives of my parents, so now I'll beat criminals to a pulp? A single one-percenter's war of the rich on the criminal poor. And at its darkest, how is Wonder Woman not a mainstream desensitizing of BDSM and sexual roleplaying? A woman who enters battle in stiletto heels and braces, who ties up her enemies and sits on them and then gets them to speak the truth.

(Just to be absolutely clear, I'm not going to say a single bad thing about Superman, because, he dismantled the Klan. And I don't mean in the comicbooks, I mean for real with his radio show, but go Google that if you don't know the story. On the other hand, the right hand in this case, one look at the trailer for Dawn of Justice, and the whole "Superman False God" that director Zack Snyder seems to pushing seems to hark back to Wertham's original fears about the Over-Man. So I'm hopeful there, too.)

New 52 Supergirl written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson and drawn by Mahmud Asrar

So Supergirl wades directly into the middle of this. And our expectations are high. The show's produced by the team of Andrew Kreisberg, Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, the same team behind the hyper-successful Arrow and The Flash and of course the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow which will enter the fray with a built-in audience and then, possibly, like The Flash do spectacular and unexpected things. But, unlike the other three shows, Supergirl is not on the CW, in fact it's far more mainstream, and will be debuting on CBS. So even if Kreisberg, Berlanti and Guggenheim make claims that all of their shows take place in the same universe, and by extension, that the dark and grim and badly lit world of Arrow is really the same as the bright and hopeful world of Supergirl, there's some tension that will need to be overcome. At least at some level with the two shows being on different networks.

As an aside, I'm curious to get to know what are some of CBS's expectations around for property? Do they think they're buying a successful property and hope to transcend it? Supergirl's never been a big hit. Even her time in DC's New 52 (post their 2011 reboot) ended with Supergirl giving herself over to the galactic manifestation of anger by becoming a member of the Red Lanterns. Supergirl's creators, and arguably even her publisher have never been able to develop a coherent long-term strategy for the character in the way they have for Superman or Batman or even Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel (Shazam, I mean) or the Flash or Green Lantern or Green Arrow.

And in addition, CBS is pitting Supergirl up against shows like Limitless (also on CBS, a sequel of sorts to the 2011 movie of the same name, exec produced by Limitless lead Bradley Cooper), and over on Fox, Minority Report (also an of sorts sequel to the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg 2002? 2003? vehicle also of the same name). So what does CBS think its buying in buying Supergirl and the transmedia dream team of Kreisberg, Berlanti and Guggenheim? And why does CBS think there's a market for small screen expansion of middling (albeit likable) big screen ventures from the past decade and a half or so?

It would be interesting to know. But ultimately, that's not what's most important about the show. Look at that trailer carefully, and you'll see something that the transmedia dream team's been missing thus far in their shows, even in their phenomenal spin-off The Flash. You'll see heroism. Supergirl's not doing this for herself. No one's going to be inspired by the hyper-secretive deeds of the Arrow, a dark sentinel of justice, and no one can be inspired to do what the Flash does (you'd need super powers for that). But Supergirl, super powers or not, there's a hope and an optimism there that seems to carry through, and more than that, that seems downright infectious.

Then there's her ordinary everyday life. Which seems a little Sex in the City but not in a good way. But think back to the Kirby New Gods metaphor. Think back to libidinal flows and optimistic, hopeful superheroes as a single entity. Supergirl's fetching coffee for Cat Grant is every bit as libidinal as Batman's Bruce Wayne donning a tux and heading out with a trio of supermodels. That, really, is the only response you'd need for this familiar cynicism that's crept in since SNL's hilarious and thought-provoking skit on a potential Black Widow movie—that somehow female superhero characters are flawed by an inherent misogynistic design, that they can't stand the test of time.

As for Lucifer, I'll say this. I've read every panel of the original comicbook lovingly composed by Mike Carey and the various artists he's collaborated with, and I've seen every episode of Californication, the show that was the brainchild screenwriter of the pilot episode for Lucifer, Tom Kapinos, created. And neither of those were a punchline.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image