Category Archives: edgar rice burroughs

RIP Joe Kubert

Legendary comics creator Joe Kubert passed away this weekend at the age of 85. He was there back at the beginning of the Golden Age of comics, and was still producing work today. His legacy is carried on by perhaps the first and best school for comics creators which he founded and named after himself, and his two sons Adam and Andy, two of today’s hottest comics artists themselves. We have truly lost one of the geniuses, one of the legends, one of the greatest contributors to the comics industry. Joe Kubert will be missed by anyone whose experienced his work, and that probably includes the entire comics field.

I first was introduced to Mr. Kubert at the Berlin Farmer’s Market. There was a store there that sold comic books with the covers torn off, three for a quarter. The store is still there but it’s much more expensive. I was a superhero guy, but at that price I could explore titles I wouldn’t normally have picked up. In that way, I picked up comics featuring Tarzan and Sgt. Rock, illustrated by Joe Kubert. It was also through one of those Tarzan comics that I was turned onto John Carter of Mars and the rest of the Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy universes.

Joe Kubert was my introduction into so many other worlds. His artistic vision and technique was unique in comics. Much like Jack Kirby, he was an original. There was no one who drew like him, but everyone wanted to and tried to draw like him. Still to this day, if Tarzan, Sgt. Rock, Viking Prince, Enemy Ace, Tor, Ragman, even Hawkman and Hawkgirl, are not by Kubert – my mind will automatically say that’s not the real thing. Those characters, and many many more, are the trademark, the realm, and the legacy of Joe Kubert.

We have lost perhaps one of the greatest in comics. We are all in mourning.

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John Carter Is Awesome

John Carter ~ In the year of The Avengers , there are only a few movies that I have been anticipating with the same tension and excitement as that of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. There is Battleship, which is more a curiosity than anything else, as in how can a flick based on a kids game have such an awesome trailer? There’s also The Dark Knight Rises, which falls more into the morbid curiosity category. Regular readers know how much I absolutely hated The Dark Knight, so I am curious to see how much of a train wreck this one will be. And then there’s John Carter. In some ways, I have been more excited about this one than The Avengers.

First things first, all you critics and naysayers and underage idiots who think it rips off Star Wars can all just go to hell. John Carter is awesome. The books, by Edgar Rice Burroughs about John Carter of Mars are now over a hundred years old. A century, idiots, so if anything, George Lucas was mining Burroughs, not the other way around. And that goes for everything else under a hundred years old the uneducated are saying John Carter rips off. This is the original, literally the great granddaddy of pulp adventure science fiction. Everything from Flash Gordon to Superman to Adam Strange to Avatar owes a huge debt to this property.

And the other thing, yeah, that thing, I don’t want to hear any crap about box office. Yes, it was an expensive movie, and yes, it did not do well at the box office. The box office folks are talking about is domestic, John Carter did quite well overseas, where also apparently folks knew who the character was, despite the “of Mars” being removed from the title, but I’ll get to that in a minute. The fact is not that the movie did do well financially, it just did not do the numbers it was expected to do, that’s all. Let’s look at the facts – John Carter has made more money than The Artist and Hugo combined. Does that sound like a bomb to you?

There were other problems. The project got orphaned at Disney/Pixar, as nearly everyone involved in marketing was no longer with the company when it came out. So Disney only gave it the minimum promotion a motion picture of its size, budget and content should have gotten. Disney had written the film off before it even came out, and in recent weeks has even admitted it. Feeling saturated by the PR blitz of The Avengers and Brave? Well, enjoy, that’s John Carter‘s marketing money at work.

And then there’s the title. Disney had a real bomb last year called Mars Needs Moms, and decided that the word “Mars” was bad publicity, and so removed it. These are also the geniuses who wouldn’t call it A Princess of Mars (the book on which this movie is mostly based) because it would confuse the little girls (and probably the parents as well) in the audience. Not only is that just plain stupid reasoning, it’s also ripping the heart out of the character. John Carter is John Carter of Mars, period. It’s like calling a movie about Superman just “Man.” And also if they had kept the “Mars” in the title, at least some of the folks who weren’t aware of the character wouldn’t have at least known it was scifi of some sort.

Despite all that that, despite all of this crap that has been piled on top of the movie – I loved it. I’ve seen it three times. John Carter is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great movie, and there’s nothing original you haven’t already seen somewhere else (it has had a hundred years to be ripped off, mind you), but it is a fun movie, and I really enjoyed the two hours plus I spent in the theater each time. There hasn’t been an adventure like this is some time.

Based on the first novel A Princess of Mars, yet borrowing from later novels as well, John Carter stars newcomer Taylor Kitsch (“Friday Night Lights”) in the title role, genre actress Lynn Collins as the Princess, and Willem Dafoe brilliantly voice acting Carter’s Thark friend Tars Tarkas. Rounding out the cast are two veteran actors from one of my favorite HBO series “Rome,” Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, as well as Dominic West and Bryan Cranston who rule the screen while they’re on it.

I loved this pulp adventure of a Civil War vet transported to the otherworldly Mars to fight for and against its various peoples. I read these books as a ten year old at the Camden County Library when it was part of the long gone Echelon Mall, thanks to my reading enabling big sister. They were great then, and great now, as I read the first book again before seeing the movie. A friend of mine called it adventure porn for ten year old boys. I don’t find that all that offensive, I think it’s right on target actually.

John Carter is a fun adventure flick – don’t believe anything the naysayers tell you, go see it, go see it now.

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Quickies 4-3-2009

Prozac Nation ~ I’ve decided that Christina Ricci is best when she’s snarky and sarcastic. From The Addams Family to The Opposite of Sex to even Pumpkin, her best feature (although there are so many others) is her snarkiness. This film, sort of a Mommie Dearest meets Almost Famous based on the true story bestseller by Elizabeth Wurtzel (who incidentally thought this movie was horrible), is a bit depressing and you want to slap the heroine (more than once), but hang in there. The performances of Ricci, Jessica Lange and even Jason Biggs are worth it.

Tokyo Gore Police ~ This one is for fans of the gore genre only, and only in small doses. I give the trailer more stars than I would the movie – if any for the movie. Dazzlingly gory and imaginative special effects. Don’t eat before viewing. If you like Troma or J-horror, you’ll love this one.

Lakeview Terrace ~ Take Neighbors, mix well with Pacific Heights and add in Samuel L. Jackson and you’ll get this flick that never tries much harder than to be a 1970s ABC telemovie. Kim Darby would have been proud to have been in this back in the day. Entertaining if you’re not expecting to think much for a couple hours.

Zotz! ~ Bullet time decades before bullet time, and Disney-esque without being Disney, this black and white comedy from 1962 stars Tom Poston as a professor who finds an ancient magic coin that grants him super powers. Able to slow down time and point people into pain, he tries to sell his powers to the government and hilarity ensues. While it would greatly benefit from some idiotic canned 1970s sitcom laughter, it’s still great fun for the kids.

At the Earth’s Core ~ Sadly the only film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series is just an embarrassment. Doug McClure tries very hard despite more than half of his dialogue being the word “doc,” and of course Peter Cushing hands in his worst and most annoying performance ever. On the good side, Caroline Munro is as hot as ever, but she doesn’t have much to do here. Much of the magic of Pellucidar is missing, the ‘monsters’ look like rejects from the worst of the Gamera films and surely Burroughs is spinning in his grave. A travesty.