Saving The World One Fan At A Time

Ah, the reboot. How we love to hate thee.

You know, when I was at the apex of reading comics, there was one reboot that made me stop reading them to the extent that I was.  It was  Amazing Spider-Man.  The editorial staff at Marvel, in all their glorious wisdom, decided that the Peter Parker that we the readers knew and loved for over 200 issues wasn’t Peter at all, but a clone named Ben Reilly.  And even though they said “Whoops, we take it back,” the damage was done.  I was no longer a faithful reader of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  It was a big ol’ fail of a semi-reboot.  And they had another one recently after the whole Civil War thing where Spidey revealed himself publically, but Mephisto said “Backsies!” and everything was back to a semi-status quo.

Now, the big kerfluffle and the latest character to get a reboot, is everybody’s favorite superhero born with the concept of female bondage: Wonder Woman.  Well, I don’t know much about her tangled timeline, but it sounds like she is due for a reboot.  Will the masses flock to the title knowing that they don’t need to know what happened before?  Will they alienate all the loyal readers who have been rewarded with sticking with the title through thick and thin?  Do those readers even exist anymore? (Note to self…future Superhero Cinema News blog entry comparing the music industry’s CD sales to comic book industry’s subscription sales).

I wish DC the best of luck.  They’re not my comic publisher of choice (heck, I buy more Dark Horse titles now than Marvel), but I don’t wish them ill.  I don’t necessarily hate thee, but I scoff at their attempt to reboot.  You never know.

And here is the new costume to go with the reboot.  Less skin, more black leather.  May all fanboys drool:

Posted by Jonathan - June 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm

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Thoughts on Syfy’s The Phantom

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the new Phantom miniseries on Syfy (hate typing that).  Of course I thought it was going to be total garbage based on the trailer, so it didn’t have to do a whole lot to impress me.

What I liked:

I actually like the lead actor, this came as a complete surprise to me
I really liked the love interest, and you know how I feel about love interests in Superhero Movies, but for the Phantom, it’s always been a part of the character
The decision to make Guran female totally works
The interior of the Skull Cave set was very cool
They pretty much kept almost all of the Phantom mythology intact
The animated Historical sequence
The Training sequence
The suit was a pleasant surprise, I hated it less than I expected to
Keeping the trench coat and hat,  part of the mythology

What wasn’t as good:

The group that helps the Phantom being an organization and especially having a really stupid name that no one can say or even remember (including me)
Not having the bald guy be Guran, but it makes sense with the ending (I won’t spoil)
Chris’ parents murder being way to close to what I can only call Luke-esque
Not as good as the animated series Phantom 2040, find it on DVD if you can
It was way too long, it probably only needed to be one TV movie, not two.
Both Isabella Rosselini (who has really never been a very good actress) and the Main Bad Guy (whatever his name was) were horribly way over the top, but the ending cures that
The exterior of the Skull cave was totally lame, in huge contrast to the very cool interior
The whole mind control plot was extremely lame, and Flickr gonna sue somebody
(SPOILER) How the hell did the kid get in that tire?
What is up with the whole “fire that won’t burn” scene, it’s a completely realism based film why add that element?

And one mistake that the costume designer made, they would absolutely have to change it for a series, NEVER COVER YOUR LEAD ACTOR’S EYES WITH THE COSTUME!!  The full visor was big mistake, let us see his eyes.

Posted by Michael - June 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

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Marvel establishes TV division

This story comes to us via The Onion AV Club, one of the best pop culture sites out there.

Marvel establishes TV division, hires Jeph Loeb to run it

>>

Marvel has been putting out good and mediocre animated stuff for many years.  Is this an attempt to consolidate all of that into one division?  Is this just bureaucratic news?  Is there a nugget of actual information in here?  I believe so as they mention “live action” shows, which is new to me.  I’ve heard of the all the live action Marvel movies that they’ve done and that are on their schedule, but this is a first for TV.

I think that perhaps some of their properties would be better done as live action shows instead of movies.  Perhaps Captain America and Wolverine would be better done as TV shows instead of mediocre movies (I’m looking at you Wolverine).

I’m sure the fallout/results of this news won’t be seen for a while as the gears of Hollywood grind slowly.  At least the Marvel ones grind faster than DC!

Posted by Jonathan - June 28, 2010 at 1:55 pm

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Jonah Hex film shooting with blanks

It seems to me that so far, movies based on DC Comics properties fall into three broad categories. On one end of the spectrum we have well made films by directors who understand the material, such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight or Richard Donner’s Superman the Movie. In the middle, well-intentioned near misses like Superman Returns, V for Vendetta or Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. And on the other end, studio-manufactured disasters like Constantine or the Joel Schumacher Batman films, formula summer “event” movies made by people who are only interested in replicating the success of previous films.

So where does the Jonah Hex film fall on this scale?

The film’s credits read “based on the comic books written by John Albano, illustrated by Tony DeZuniga and published by DC Comics,” and while it’s nice that the filmmakers chose to credit Hex’s original creators, the film bears only a superficial resemblance to the Jonah Hex comics of the 1970s and ‘80s. It is much closer in tone to Joe R. Lansdale’s Vertigo Comics treatment of the character in the mid-1990s. Where in the original Jonah Hex stories published in Weird Western Tales there was a subtle atmosphere of dread and wry irony, Lansdale chose a much more overt sense of weirdness, populating his Hex tales with zombies, crazed albinos and other outlandish monsters.

The film doesn’t go quite this far, but it does contain a few supernatural elements, the only purpose of which seems to be to provide exposition for the by-the-numbers plot and a suitably big “save the world” threat for the final act.

The whole movie has a slapped-together feeling to it, as if the filmmakers wanted to make a Jonah Hex film but had no idea what it should actually be about. You can almost hear the producers checking off all the summer action movie elements like a laundry list: tragic hero, check; beautiful woman in peril, check; insane villain, check; explosions and ridiculous weaponry, check; and so on. John Malkovich’s turn as Quentin Turnbull was straight out of the comic book villains’ play book, but at least his presence in the film is necessary to move the plot forward. Megan Fox’s character Lilah seems to be there solely to provide a reason for Megan Fox to be in the movie.  A badly animated origin story and bizarre dream sequence ending seem to be late attempts to address the film’s abrupt scene changes and general lack of any real substance, and even with these rushed additions the film clocks in at a very short 80 minutes.

I imagine he had a hard time acting through the grotesque makeup required to give him Hex’s signature facial scar, but nonetheless Josh Brolin turns in a very one-dimensional performance, trying much too hard to be tormented and sarcastic at the same time, and failing at both. He comes off as a swaggering bully with none of the ironic charm he has in the comics.

Maybe that’s the whole problem. Jonah Hex is an unusual character, not exactly likeable and certainly not a handsome heroic type. Often he is the hero only because the villains he’s fighting are worse bastards than he is. He works great as a comic book character in stories that only need to be entertaining, not carry a film franchise, and maybe his story just doesn’t fit into the cookie-cutter mold of the Hollywood summer blockbuster.

Maybe the world doesn’t need a Jonah Hex movie. It certainly didn’t need this one.

— Jefferson Powers

Posted by Jefferson - June 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm

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No Heroics – Thoughts

No HeroicsI watched the 6 episode British TV sitcom No Heroics today. It aired in 2008, I only know about it because there was a pilot for an American remake in 2009, thankfully it was not picked up for a series because an American remake would totally mess it up.

I’m still interested in seeing the American pilot sometime, as Freddie Prinze Jr. was playing the jerk superhero character, and Paul Campbell (Billy from BSG) was the lead character.

I was also interested in watching the original show as the creator, Drew Pearce, was just hired by Marvel to write a script of The Runaways.

But back to the original British show, I want more!! I wish it lasted beyond it’s original 6 episode run. The premise is simple, “The world is the same, with one difference, there are superheroes.”

Most of the action takes place in a bar, The Fortress, with some rules, no powers, no costumes, no sidekicks. This keeps the main characters out of costume most of the time. But occasionally, as we see them out of the bar, or in flashback describing their day, they are in costume.

What I liked:

The four main characters are hilarious.
There’s a lot of foul language, even for a British TV series
The “main” character, The Hotness, is very sympathetic and funny
Electroclash is totally hot
The Sayid rip-off character, Timebomb, is one of the most interesting and scary characters ever on TV
Electroclash is totally hot
It’s great to see a “full figured” woman (She-Force) as one of the superheroes, and the most powerful
Did I mention that Electroclash is totally hot?

The supporting characters, are all equally funny, even the goofy villains
The special effects are surprisingly good, especially by 1970s Dr. Who standards

I hope it comes out on DVD in the US soon.

Posted by Michael - June 11, 2010 at 10:01 am

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New Jonah Hex graphic novel defies expectations

It’s always amusing watching DC Comics scramble to get something into the bookstores to tie in with the release of a film or TV series based on one of their properties, especially if it’s a lesser known one. Last year’s Watchmen was easy – there’s only the one book, and the film was, at least visually, a close adaptation of it. It’s when the film or TV series strays wildly from its source material (as they invariably do) that DC feels the need to help the potential new readers out by making it clear that yes, this is the book they should buy.

In the case of the recent Human Target series a simple “the inspiration for the television series” blurb on the cover of the trade paperback should suffice, but DC chose to confuse the issue by also releasing a new Human Target miniseries based on the show, no doubt their way of compensating for the fact that the TV series, while quite good, bears virtually no resemblance to the comic book series it is based on.

To tie in with the hopelessly ill-conceived Constantine film, we got Hellblazer: All His Engines, an original hardcover graphic novel. Not a bad book, but the central purpose of the plot seemed to be to move the series from its usual British setting to Los Angeles, where the film takes place. Had the movie been successful and spawned the inevitable sequels, the monthly Hellblazer series would likely have been permanently relocated to bring it in line with the film series. Luckily for everyone (except the filmmakers), the movie was a flop, All His Engines was largely forgotten, and John Constantine is back in England where he belongs.

All of which brings us to Jonah Hex. To tie in with the upcoming film DC has just released No Way Back, an original hardcover graphic novel by the current Jonah Hex writing team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with artwork by comics legend and original Jonah Hex artist Tony DeZuniga.

Thankfully, No Way Back does not appear to be an attempt to bring Hex’s comics continuity in line with the film. Instead it has the more basic task of explaining just why Jonah Hex is such a complete bastard, while also giving some background on El Papagayo, a long time Jonah Hex villain who to my knowledge does not appear in the film.

It is a relentless and unforgiving story that uses many of the standard clichés of the western genre, but still manages to deliver some surprises along the way. Jonah Hex’s night of drinking and whoring is interrupted when he is presented with a wanted poster depicting his long-lost mother, which sends him on a journey to find her and confront her about why she left him with his alcoholic, abusive father to run off with a traveling salesman. From here the story takes some interesting twists and turns, all the while rooted in classic western themes of revenge and redemption.

The writers take great pains to ensure that the cast of characters are as well-rounded as possible, presenting us with a hero it’s very difficult to love, and a cast of villains it’s all too easy to sympathize with. Hex finds himself coming to the aid of a religious community who are willing to do some surprising things to protect their town, and even their leader is steeped in moral ambiguity, with his too-young wife and stranglehold on the town he runs as both preacher and sheriff.

The artwork in No Way Back is less successful. Tony DeZuniga co-created the character and did some phenomenal work on the series back in the 1970s and ‘80s, but here his work is overly sketchy, relying on thick patches of black to fill in the panels. Colorist Rob Schwager does a good job salvaging the art by adding a lot of texture to areas DeZuniga lets trail off. Ultimately, the story is compelling enough that the art doesn’t detract from it, but it is a bit of a shock after the consistently excellent work by a variety of artists that has appeared in the monthly Jonah Hex series.

Jonah Hex #53.

A few months ago in Jonah Hex #53, we were introduced to Lana, a saloon showgirl who bore a striking resemblance to Megan Fox’s character in the film. I remember rolling my eyes when I saw the cover and thinking “here we go…” Throughout the story she behaved as expected, and they seemed to be setting her up as a regular supporting character, thus bringing the comic in line with the film. It was that expectation that made the twist at the end of the story all the more effective.

That’s the strength of what Palmiotti and Grey do, both in the monthly Jonah Hex series and in No Way Back. They’re working in a cliché-ridden genre, so they use those foregone conclusions to set up twists and turns that the readers never see coming.

The filmmakers would do well to do the same.

— Jefferson Powers

Posted by Jefferson - June 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm

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Starfest 2008 Superhero Movie News Panel

I know, clearly i’m catching up on a lot of old editing I needed to do.

Flashback to the biggest year in Superhero Movies ever! 2008 was packed, this is our panel from that year’s Starfest, it was the last time Jefferson came back to Denver for the con.

It’s a good hour, it’s fun to see what we got right and what we got wrong, and it had a lot of good Q&A with the audience.

Posted by Michael - June 9, 2010 at 10:14 am

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A near miss for Solomon Kane

The frustrating thing about Michael Bassett’s Solomon Kane film is that it comes so close to getting it right. The cinematography and gloomy atmosphere capture the somber tone of Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane tales very well, and there is a scene in the film where Kane encounters a mad priest who keeps a “congregation” of gibbering cannibals locked in the basement of his ruined church that feels like it could have been directly adapted from one of the original stories.

James Purefoy (HBO’s Rome) is well cast as Solomon Kane. Even the film’s basic plot, in which Kane must battle a band of grotesque raiders led by an evil sorcerer to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a travelling Puritan family, rings true, and is similar to the plot of Howard’s “The Moon of Skulls.”

The problem is in the characterization of Solomon Kane himself. Howard’s character is a mysterious wanderer, a Puritan who fights evil for no other reason than his own righteous fury. The strength of the stories is in the visceral action as Kane fights his near-hopeless battles against exotic backdrops such as the Black Forest in Germany or the jungles of Africa. It’s not particularly highbrow material, but it is exciting entertainment.

The film introduces us to a Solomon Kane who is a brutal, vicious and greedy mercenary. While looting a castle of its gold in Spain, Kane meets “the Devil’s Reaper,” a creature who informs him that the Devil has laid claim to his soul. Kane manages to escape, and we next meet him several years later, living a life of quiet contemplation in a monastery, where he has renounced violence in an effort to redeem himself. The monks send him packing for reasons that remain unclear, and while travelling he falls in with a Puritan family. They are beset by raiders who kill the father and his young son, and kidnap the teenage daughter, Meredith. With his dying breath, Meredith’s father tells Kane that his soul will be redeemed if he rescues her.

This is all a fairly by-the-book Hollywood way to give the character a background and motivation that will be easy for the audience to understand, but it backfires. Kane’s reason for wanting to rescue Meredith now appears entirely selfish – it’s his own escape from damnation in the fires of Hell that he is fighting for. These waters are further muddied with a back story involving Kane’s father and brother, another attempt to give him a personal connection to the events going on around him.

There is a character-defining scene at the beginning of “Red Shadows,” the very first Solomon Kane story, published in Weird Tales in 1928. Kane comes across a young girl, dying in the road after having been attacked by brigands. “Men shall die for this,” he vows, and spends the better part of a year tracking down her killers. The thing that makes the character interesting is that he is so driven to avenge the girl’s death, in spite of the fact that he has no personal or self-serving reason for doing so.

The film really misses this fundamental character point, that Solomon Kane is simply a good man who stands against evil because he must. Like any hero should be.

— Jefferson Powers

Posted by Jefferson - June 4, 2010 at 11:56 am

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Batman is dead…long live Batman!

I like Batman as much as the next guy. He’s a character with a simple, relatively believable back story and far and away the most impressive roster of villains of any superhero out there. The character’s continuous appearance for over 70 years in just about every media there is, from comics to movies to video games, is a clear testament to the versatility and longevity of the character.

But, perhaps as a result of that continuous, never ending flow of Batman material, I have never followed any of the monthly Batman titles for more than a handful of issues, usually when they get a writer or artist I particularly like or do a single story I find interesting. My favorite version of the character is the one presented in Batman: the Animated Series and its assorted spin-offs in the 1990s. I liked its more simple approach to Batman and his supporting cast, free of the complicated continuity of the DC comics universe.

It was this connection to continuity that kept me from reading much of Grant Morrison’s run on the regular Batman title, but when DC launched Morrison’s new series Batman and Robin, I decided to jump in, hoping that it would stand alone like his excellent All-Star Superman. It turned out that Batman and Robin would in fact be firmly entrenched in the DC universe, picking up soon after the largely unintelligible Final Crisis, but its premise was relatively simple. All the reader needed to know was that Bruce Wayne had died and former Robin Dick Grayson had taken over as Batman, with Damian, Bruce’s son and grandson of classic Batman villain Ras al Ghul, stepping in as the new Robin.

The thing I love most about the series is the juxtaposition of these two characters and the sharp contrast with their predecessors. Where Bruce Wayne was driven and overly intense, Dick Grayson is a bit more relaxed, yet unsure of himself. Damian’s Robin is no wisecracking sidekick, but an imperious little snot with an overblown sense of entitlement who nevertheless backs up Grayson as Batman. The interplay between the two characters is a refreshing change from the usual hero-sidekick stuff.

So I greeted the ads for the release of Batman: the Return of Bruce Wayne with more than a little disappointment. Dick Grayson’s Batman was just getting interesting, and now that wet blanket Bruce Wayne is going to come back and ruin everything. On the other hand, Grant Morrison is writing it, with an impressive lineup of artists including Chris Sprouse (Tom Strong) for the first issue and Frazer Irving (Seven Soldiers: Klarion) for the second.

The first two issues tell the story of a mysteriously resurrected Bruce Wayne who is lost in time with no memory of who he is. But amnesia can’t repress his need to see justice done, first for a tribe of cave men wiped out by their aggressive neighbors, and later in 16th century Gotham as he tries to put a stop to a trumped up witch trial. All the while, Superman and some of the Justice League chase him through time making cryptic comments about how something bad will happen if he makes it back to the 21st century.

It’s an intriguing story, covering a lot of the cosmic weirdness that fans of Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Invisibles should be familiar with. Even though the time travel story seems at odds with the usual Batman fare, the idea that Bruce Wayne is first and foremost a survivor is a strong one, especially when that very survival is the story’s underlying threat.

I’m sure the story will end with some kind of return to the basic Batman status quo, which is unfortunate but ultimately necessary. Staying simple and basically the same is what has ensured the character’s survival for this long, after all.

— Jefferson Powers

Posted by Jefferson - May 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm

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Marvel’s Avengers gets a new #1

I haven’t really been a Marvel fan since the early 1980s. I used to thrill to John Byrne’s Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight, Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Chris Claremont’s X-Men, Bill Mantlo and Rick Leonardi’s Cloak and Dagger… I even read Secret Wars II and ALL the crossovers.

But in 1986 when DC managed to poach a large amount of Marvel’s talent, I went with them, and found Byrne’s Superman and Miller’s Batman just as thrilling. For the most part I never looked back, a situation helped by the declining quality of most of Marvel’s output throughout the dark ages of the 1990s.

Since then there really hasn’t been much to lure me back to Marvel, with a few exceptions (Ed Brubaker’s incredible work on Daredevil and Captain America being chief among them). My taste for big crossovers has faded sharply since those heady Secret Wars II days, so even though I started reading Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers when it started back in 2004, it quickly sank into the fog of whatever summer “event” was going on at the time and lost me.

So it took a little work to convince myself to pick up the newly renumbered Avengers #1, by Bendis and John Romita Jr. I do have to admit that the collector’s nightmare of starting a series over with a new number one issue usually works on me – I’ll at least pick it up and look at it most of the time. And I’ve always found Romita Jr’s artwork to be very appealing, ever since he drew X-Men and Star Brand back in the glory days.

The classic Avengers team of Iron Man, Captain America (albeit the new one), Thor and Hawkeye are joined by Spider-Man, Wolverine and Spider-Woman, all favorites of writer Brian Michael Bendis and mainstays of the team since his New Avengers in 2004. It’s a treat to see Romita Jr draw them: his Thor is larger than life (even for a superhero), towering over the other characters, his Spider-Man is lithe and acrobatic, and he remembers that Wolverine is supposed to be short.

While I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to Wolverine being an Avenger, Spider-Man’s presence rings true and seems particularly important, as I imagine his jokey, carefree voice is closest to Bendis’ own. Bendis is a master of snappy dialogue, and he doesn’t disappoint here, although the sheer amount of witty repartee strains credibility a bit – nearly all the characters, not just Spider-Man, are a little too quick with the jokes. The “menace from the future” plot is extremely tired, but the surprise reveal at the end of the issue made it look like things may not necessarily be what they seem.

It was certainly intriguing enough to make me want to read the next issue, which is the ultimate goal of any monthly comic book.

— Jefferson Powers

Posted by Jefferson - May 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm

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