Category Archives: stan lee
Thor The Dark World ~ Any Marvel movie at this point is an event, not just a promised blockbuster, but a legitimate mainstream event. Everyone wants to see the next big Marvel movie, and with the news this past week of Netflix’s picking up five different Marvel Comics projects as live action additions to their streaming own line-up that includes “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “Arrested Development,” the next Marvel movie is big, and that movie is Thor The Dark World, a movie so big, it opened alone this weekend.
One thing I was happy to see, that even though the Marvel superheroes are now part of everyday pop culture and even your grandmom is aware of Thor, the powers that be aren’t afraid to mine the source material for ideas rather than going off on a weird Hollywood tangent. One of the best Thor runs in the comics, other than the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby originals, would be the Walt Simonson run in the 1980s. Simonson did so much in his short run. He brought the character back to his roots, removed Don Blake from the equation, turned our hero into a frog, froze the planet, brought on both Surtur and the Midgard Serpent – and he also created Malekith and Kurse.
These two new characters were among the most powerful and dangerous the god of thunder had ever fought in the comics, making them more than adequate fodder for movie villains. I was more than pleased with former Doctor Christopher Eccleston as Malekith and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from HBO’s “Oz” as Kurse, but I just wish they had had more to do and less make-up, as they’re both terrific actors. In both cases, Kurse more so, the make up hindered their performances.
Sadly, what I said about source material goes by the wayside quite quickly. In the comics, Malekith releases Surtur and opens the Cask of Ancient Winters amongst other evils, but here, it is a mysterious aether that is the MacGuffin and magical weapon of choice. I really got the sense, especially when seeing that a different group of folks wrote the screenplay than wrote the story, that this was a plot from something else that had been transplanted into this Thor movie – sort of like how 1987’s Masters of the Universe flick was a rewritten abandoned New Gods script.
Nevertheless, I like Thor The Dark World quite a bit. The cast was back in full force, and Chris Hemsworth seemed more comfortable in the title role this time, Natalie Portman was not as annoying, and as always Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki. I did think Anthony Hopkins looked a bit tired, and I was glad to see Idris Elba getting more screen time as Heimdall. I like Kat Dennings more every time I see her, sigh, I guess I’ll have to break down and watch that “2 Broke Girls” show. I was also delighted to see Chris O’Dowd, as well as (spoilers) Chris Evans.
I really enjoyed the movie, despite it sorta taking a lighter, more Avengers tone than the first Kenneth Branaugh directed film. I liked the new language of the Dark Elves, I liked their spaceships, and their weapons, especially the space warp bombs. It was a bit of a distraction to have guns going ‘pew-pew’ and I freely admit to saying out loud at one point, “Coruscant is under attack, where’re the Jedis?” Now, that said, the first movie made a concerted effort to explain that Asgard was not magic, but technology so advanced it appeared to be magic, so this does fit the Marvel Cinematic continuity.
Thor The Dark World was really cool, I’d see it again, and I’ll definitely get it for home viewing when it comes out. I didn’t think it needed much improvement, but female friends we ran into after the flick, as well as The Bride, all commented on the same thing regarding Chris Hemsworth. More bare chest. And butt, more butt. On that note, don’t forget to stay for the after credits stingers, this time there are two.
I have only recently caught up with the world technology-wise. I have only had my iPad Mini a few months, and I’m still learning. And it’s also only been a short time since I have been reading digital comics the, um, shall we say, the legal way.
ComiXology is my friend, my reding device, and the bane of my wallet, but it has been a new way for me to experience not only comics, but comics in a new way as well. It has also been a way for me to explore comics I might not have read otherwise or catch up on stuff I haven’t read in a while. In other words, I do a lot of exploring on ComiXology.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered an old friend and his work there, and I purchased it right away. I’m talking about Doris Danger by the talented Chris Wisnia. Chris has been doing comics for a while now and I have been following him and cheering him on for most of that time, whether it’s Tabloia, or Dr. DeBunko, or even Doris Danger, it is always a fun time reading comics. And really, aren’t comics supposed to be fun?
Currently only Chris Wisnia’s Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures is available digitally, and some of the stories included are even specially formatted for optimal e-reading. I had read all the stories in the collection before, but still I was happy to not only have them all in one place, but also in electronic form.
This terrific e-comic is ninety-six pages of tales of giant monsters in the Atlas Comics tradition of the legendary Jack Kirby. Yes, Kirby homage is kinda old hat these days, but Chris was not only doing it before it was cool, he was (and is) doing it better than all the other guys. He’s found that elusive groove between respect and humor with falling into insult or mockery. Each page is lovingly rendered and showing what was so cool about 1950s giant monster comics, both good and bad.
The book is described thusly: “As a teen, Doris Danger was abducted by a giant monster. Ever since, she’s had a burning desire to prove the existence of giant monsters, but has been unable to prove her beliefs by snapping an indisputable photograph. While she has convinced many, she has also met many who doubt, who try to disprove, or even lie, manipulate, and cover up evidence. Doris Danger crosses the X-Files with the classic Lee/Kirby giant monster comics, with a little bit of Godzilla thrown in for good measure.”
Chris Wisnia rocks these comics, that also feature fabulous pin-ups by artists you have definitely heard of like Russ Heath, Steve Rude, and Mike Mignola among others; and great letters columns and text pieces detailing the history of these amazing comics, both real and fictional.
I love these books, and whether you have or haven’t experienced them before, you should definitely check out Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures in electronic or hard copy form, and also stop by Chris’ website to see all the other creative stuff he has going on, and Follow him on Twitter as well.
Thor ~ This Marvel Comics film is one of conflicts and contrasts, most of them terrific. If you loved the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics, and even the Lee and John Buscema comics, you will be swept up in a world conjured by those stories. Some of the themes and explanations have changed, but unlike a lot of things the DC Comics have done, these changes are for story logic.
There’s a rough beginning where astrophysicist Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (an odd job change for her character but it works in the context) is looking for an anomaly and ends up hitting Thor with her car. When we’re hooked, we’re hit with the real beginning. The wonderfully cast Anthony Hopkins as Odin clues us in to the origins of the Norse gods as beings of superior science and technology, which we perceive as gods and magic. We meet the family, his sons Thor, about to ascend the throne, and his darker brother Loki.
More great casting comes with their friends the Warriors Three. I love Josh Dallas who is the de facto substitute for Cary Elwes in parts the original is too old and chunky for. The main roles of Loki and Thor are also perfect cast. Tom Hiddleston has the correct slinkiness and sneakiness in his voice and physical stature. And nobody else could ever have played Thor better than Chris Hemsworth in my opinion.
There is one bit of casting that seems to have caused a controversy in some dark corners of our world, and that is Idris Elba as Heimdall. Some racists have made a big fuss about the character being African-American. Now if these were truly Norse gods, one could make the argument that the Norse would perceive their gods as like themselves, as in white skin. But it should be noted in the context of the movie, the Asgardians are not Norse, they may not even be human, and can be of whatever race. Just because the Norse thought Heimdall was white doesn’t mean he is. Add to this Elba’s amazing performance, and I have no problems at all.
It’s just like Lawrence Fishbourne being cast as Perry White in The Man of Steel. There’s nothing that says he isn’t, or can’t be. I think there are a small handful of characters who are definitely of one race or another. Established African-American characters can’t really be white. For instance you just couldn’t do it with the Black Panther or Black Lightning (and not just because of the names), but Blade could very well be portrayed as white. Of course you will get an argument from me on Wonder Woman. Sorry, Beyonce, but Wonder Woman is Greek. But enough on this sidetrack, suffice it to say, Idris Elba’s Heimdall is one of the highpoints of the flick.
Once Odin’s explanation of the universe is over we move to a very special occasion – Thor becoming his replacement as king of Asgard. The ceremony is ruined by a break-in by some Frost Giants trying to steal back the Casket of Ancient Winters. Thor wants to attack the Frost Giants and start a war, and his father disagrees, seeing this as a bad kingly decision. Like a good spoiled brat prince, Thor gets his brother and his friends together, and off they go to Jotunheim to rumble with the Frost Giants.
This is Lee/Kirby/Buscema made live on the big screen. This sequence is among the best of the flick. I love it and can watch it over and over again. I know the story of Thor is him on Earth, but man oh man, what I wouldn’t give for a Thor in Asgard chilling and killing with his friends movie. Note should be made of the movie Asgard. The realm Eternal is a glorious place, not necessarily that of the comics, but a beautiful vision of futuristic and mythic society. Comparisons could be made to the cityscapes of the first Star Wars trilogy (one of the few things I liked about those movies). And take note, DC Comics, the awe inspired by Asgard is what viewers should have felt when they saw Oa in the Green Lantern film.
After attacking the Frost Giants, Odin has had it with his spoiled brat of a son, and banishes him to Earth to learn humility, just like in the comics, and we come full circle in our movie story. Following a weird light anomaly in the sky, Jane Foster – along with her scientist friend Erik played by Stellan Skarsgard and her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) – whacks our exiled thunder god with her car. Some great fish out of water scenes follow, and we soon learn that the first anomaly Jane detected was Thor’s hammer falling from the sky as shown in the post-credits scene in Iron Man 2. Nice continuity there, Marvel.
Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is a bit of an anomaly herself, going from nurse in the comics to astrophysicist here. The job change needed for both story logic and because Thor’s human alter-ego of Dr. Donald Blake doesn’t really exist in this tale, although the name does pop up as an Easter egg for comics fans. Jane really only exists here as a romantic foil for Thor. Her mentor has all the keys and her intern does all the work. I would have rather had Jane have all the answers and the intern be her sounding board. Skarsgard wasn’t really needed here. Please give me strong women in the movies made from the comics, if not the comics, ya know? Jane Foster could have been that character.
There are great scenes at the hammer drop site of folks trying to lift it, including one with creator Stan Lee. While Thor plays fish out of water on Earth, and SHIELD takes over the hammer site, Loki takes over the throne of Asgard. Loki also sets his sights on bringing all the realms to their knees, and sends the Destroyer to, what else, destroy Thor. Also, Avengers fans, don’t miss the fifteen second cameo by Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye the Marksman. When the Warriors Three come to Earth, it’s total coolness, though I wish more had been made of it. The same goes with the battle with the Destroyer. When the only real complaint one can have is that I wish there was more of it, that’s a good thing. When is Thor 2 again? And, geekgasm, how about a Lady Sif and the Warriors Three movie?
Things are beginning to resemble a Thor comic at this point, and that’s a good thing – because it works. Director Kenneth Branagh has succeeded in repeating the magic with which Jon Favreau brought Iron Man to the big screen. He brings what made the comics special to the screen. Thor is near perfect. Along with the original Iron Man and Captain America which followed Thor in July, it’s a perfect trinity of Marvel’s greatest characters.
This bodes well for 2012’s Avengers movie. And speaking of which, don’t forget, as with all Marvel movies, don’t forget to watch the post-credits sequence with more foreshadowing of the Avengers film. Thor is easily one of the top ten, perhaps top five, superhero movies of all time, do not miss.
NBC has a lot invested in this mid-season replacement. A lot of the comic book community, the core target audience for NBC’s failed “Heroes,” laid the blame for its failure on the one missing element that makes superheroes superheroes – costumes. Almost in retaliation, along with the continuing successes of comics properties like “The Walking Dead,” “Human Target” and Marvel’s Avengers cartoon and movie franchise (so far at least), NBC wheeled out “The Cape,” a series whose very concept revolves around a superhero costume. The pilot first aired last night, along with the second episode, and both will re-air tonight. Here are my thoughts on the pilot.
We start in the hyper-reality of the fictional city of Palm City, part Miami Beach, part Los Angeles, but all comic book gimmick with a real world spin. Yep, it’s “Heroes” with costumes. Or rather at its start, super-villains with costumes – as a masked baddie, known as Chess, blows up the chief of police in a blast of special effects that our yet-to-be hero survives.
The title sequence is hardcore comics, paneled pages similar to the original “Wonder Woman” series with a darker edge. The music by Bear McCreary is very heroic, a close cousin to both Danny Elfman’s Batman and John Williams’ Star Wars, leaving no doubt as to what kind of television event we are watching – this is a superhero show.
Our hero, Vince Faraday, played by Australian actor David Lyons, seems to be the only honest cop in Palm City. With the death of the chief of police, the police force is taken over by the ARK Corporation – running into cliché number one. Evil corporations are so 1980s, especially in the comics. Cliché number two is not so bad, The Cape is actually the comic book hero idol of Faraday’s son. An inspired concept sprinkled into a set-up we can see coming a mile away. He’s going to take on this identity to impress his son, right?
As the secret origin story of our hero progresses, I found myself getting more involved despite my objections. There’s the mysterious and invasive blogger called Orwell. And a rogues gallery is being constructed, other than Chess, there is also the near-mutant Scales with reptilian skin. I don’t want to, but my fanboy groove is getting on.
My fanboy groove was so on that when the Carnival of Crime showed up, an old comic book gimmick that was old when Stan Lee drenched it up in the early days of Marvel Comics, and was ancient when it killed the last story arc of “Heroes,” I didn’t mind at all. Faraday is now believed dead, worse than that, the public believes him to be Chess, and he’s saved by this Carnival of Crime – led by Max Malini, played by Keith “I’m cooler than Samuel L. Jackson” David.
They are a little bit Circus of Crime in their prime, a little bit “Carnivale” and a whole lot of fun. I love these guys, and would watch the show just for them. It’s twenty minutes in, and I am hooked. When Faraday takes a cape and contrives to become The Cape, it’s a bit much, but I follow where I’m led. Then Malini gives him a ‘magic’ cape and trains him in the use of it, and I see Batman Begins flashbacks. Have I mentioned I’m hooked?
Faraday takes on Scales, sort of a Killer Croc light, played by Vinnie Jones, on his first mission, and runs into Orwell, played by genre favorite Summer Glau. With her addition to the cast, the team is complete, we have our players and Faraday becomes The Cape. The end of the show gives us a taste of how things will work to whet our appetite for the rest of the series.
I gotta say I was hesitant when I started watching, but now hope “The Cape” stays around for a while. Let’s hope the ratings are up and the quality only gets better. Check it out.
Hulk Vs. ~ This is the newest of Marvel Comics and Lionsgate’s direct-to-DVD features, this one a double feature with the Hulk fighting Thor and then Wolverine, two different stories, one great DVD. I watched the Thor half of this animated flick first so the thought didn’t occur to me right away, but after the Wolverine half it became clear what this reminded me of. Decades ago, after CBS’ live-action “Incredible Hulk” series was canceled, they produced a couple made-for-TV movies with the same cast but using the Hulk character as a spin-off point for other Marvel heroes. We were ‘treated’ to albeit greatly-altered versions of Daredevil and Thor, hopefully for pilot purposes that thankfully never manifested.
That’s what this disc is, spin-off pilots for Thor and Wolverine, because like those telemovies, these featurettes really have little to do with the Hulk. The stories are firmly Thor and Wolverine stories, set firmly in their worlds and among their supporting characters and opposing villains. There’s really not that much Hulk honestly in this Hulk DVD. Really, any rampaging beast could have subbed easily in these Thor and Wolverine adventures.
On the plus side, the Thor adventure is a wonderful journey into the mythology of that character as it was designed and established by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in the day. Watching this I was filled with nostalgia and an urge to go back and read those comics. This was magic. While Odin sleeps, Loki and the Enchantress possess the Hulk to destroy, who else, Thor. See the wonder of Asgard and the fanboy fantasy of an old-fashioned Thor/Hulk slugfest, complete with character development, originality and suspense. A solid story backed up with the crisp animation Lionsgate has become known for with these productions.
Whereas the Thor part seemed to be all about what was right about comics of the 1960s, the Wolverine segment equally reflected, in my opinion at least, everything that was wrong with comics of the 1990s. While I was happy it was not a simple rehash of the Hulk’s first encounter with Wolverine (that character’s first appearance by the way), I was disappointed that it turned into just an excuse for the Hulk to smash foes who could not die and characters who can cut and slash to cut and slash without killing. Honestly with all the regenerating I can’t help making a comparison to Frank Miller’s ridiculous take on The Spirit and the Octopus in his recent but horrible film.
While hardcore X-Men fans may delight at seeing Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red and especially Deadpool, someone who I have never been able to divine the popularity of, this was all just a horse and pony show to me. I would have rather seen the Wendigo. At least that story had a plot.
This DVD is well worth the rental, but not the purchase, and unless you’re a serious X-fan, just watch the Thor half.
On the eve of the 2009 New York Comic Con, please check out these articles from last year’s show:
Please check back here this weekend for updates from this year‘s New York Comic Con!
Countdown to Wednesday ~ The title of this documentary references the day that comic books are released every week, and invariably the day consumers pick them up. As with any documentary on this subject, I fear that my fellows in the field and hobby will be humiliated. It’s just like when a new Star Wars or “Star Trek” movie comes out and people get in line early to see it – the media always finds the most absurd, bizarre and obsessed fan to interview, and then we’re all embarrassed.
But it’s not that kind of documentary thankfully, it’s something else entirely. At its start it appears to be a primer for folks who want to get into the industry. Using interviews with writers and editors in the field it teaches what to do to get in, what books and resources should be utilized for writers. Heck, this is as useful for any writer as it is for an aspiring comic book writer. Excellent advice here.
Now there’re also segments about artists, self-publishing and the business of comics – and they’re good too, but it was the writing parts that really got my attention. Excellent documentary for anyone interested in the comics field and even for those new to the genre. Must have for those wanting to break in to the business. Recommended.
Next up was the Cup o’ Joe panel featuring Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. Also in attendance were CB Cebulski, Tom Brevoort, Jim Rosemann and Jim McCann. As with all such panels, it began with a slide show. Images accompanied the announcement of the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man, House of M: Avengers and the next big crossover, “X-Men: Messiah Complex.” There was also mention that Peter David would be writing She-Hulk which generated much applause. Other highlights were that Joe Q said Bendis had a man-crush on Luke Cage and Brevoort said the ‘lost’ Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four would -finally- be published in November.
The highlight of the panel was spurred by Comic Widows columnist Ray Cornwall when he asked a serious question about Marvel’s position on women in comics, with regards to the recent Mary Jane statue and “Heroes for Hentai” debacles. Somehow this prompted Joe Q to do an insulting yet entertaining imitation of Stan Lee saying, “I love hentai! They don’t call me ‘the Man’ for nothing!”
That Ray, buddy o’ mine, turned the discussion with that question. The next question came from a delightful woman concerned with the exaggerated anatomy (lips and breasts and hips) of late. Another woman questioned Marvel’s intent for making comics for female readers and why they don’t have more women on staff. Ray will be remembered, and loved by women comics fans everywhere.
Next I followed Quesada over to the Bendis interview. This was a live version of Brian Michael Bendis’ column at wizarduniverse.com, his questions for Joe Q culled reader questions online. The questioning began with talk of Joe’s weight loss. Emphatically, he’s okay, healthier than he’s been in some time.
Regarding change Quesada stated that the incest in the industry is stagnating it. Comics fans who read comics and grow up to make comics make the same comics they read as a kid. He said the industry has to evolve and find a new way of doing things because, “look around, we’re going out of business,” it’s a matter of survival. It made sense at the time he said it, but in hindsight it felt like a slam at comics traditionalists and old schoolers.
When asked about the worst pitch he had ever seen, Quesada related a story of a proposal with many characters, featuring the Silver Surfer versus Jesus Christ and had a last page revelation of the villain – who was Freddie Mercury. Seriously. Hmmm, I don’t know, I’d buy that book, how about you?
Joe Q talked about his return to comics after he had discovered girls and baseball. After over a decade he was shown copies of Dark Knight and Watchmen, giving him something to aspire to. From there he told of his first job at DC doing the Dungeons & Dragons spin-off Spelljammer, and how editor James Owsley (now Christopher Priest) hired him on a million-to-one shot, making him the luckiest s.o.b. in the industry.
When asked if there was anything he wouldn’t do, in light of Spider-Man going public and Bucky returning from the dead – Bendis chimed in with “Spider-Man will never kill anyone just to get an erection.”
On that note I should get out of here, but after the panel I got a chance to meet Bendis. He knew exactly who I was and offered props for my honesty, and he said he’d thought I was warming up to him lately. Well, that depends on the issue, doesn’t it? All in all, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
Flashback time, this was written in January of 2002… was I right?
“TOP TEN PREMONITIONS FOR THE FILM SEASON OF 2002”
Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker
Legal Disclaimer: For the uninitiated, this is satire, please don’t sue me.
* Stan Lee will give several incoherent interviews regarding Spider-Man, a character he has very little to do with for over thirty years.
* They’re making up the story to T3: Rise of the Machines as they film.
* More crummy remakes of bad 1970s sci-fi flicks.
* A third Austin Powers movie come hell, high water or legal action.
* Chris Columbus saying he could film the neighbor kids playing hide and seek, call it Harry Potter 2 and still make a zillion dollars.
* X-Men 2 will feature top billing from Halle Berry who appears in a smaller role with fewer lines and more money.
* More Ben Stiller movies than you can shake an Owen Wilson at.
* More sequels to classic Disney masterpieces – so many so that the originals become stale and diluted.
* George Lucas will claim he wrote all the Star Wars movies years ago even though we all know he wrote Episode II over a drunken weekend this past December.
* The Powerpuff Girls Movie!!!
Previosly published at Project: Popcorn