Archive for January, 2012


What makes a great character?  The USA Network has used “character” as its marketing focus for the past few years, even using it to make advertising dollars by making their character of the week the Priceline Negotiator when William Shatner was guest starring as the father of Maggie Lawson’s character Juliet O’Hara on the TV series Psych.  In genre fiction, especially in popular sci-fi vs serious science fiction, whether it is in TV or film or books, sometimes character gets swallowed up by setting.   More than anywhere else, in science fiction or fantasy or mysteries you need a good balance between character and place, but if you don’t have characters that grow and change you probably have a weak story altogether.

So what makes a great character a favorite?  Is it their job?  Their passion?  Something they did?  Their reaction to their environment?  Beyond what makes him or her, or it, great, what makes a character something you form a personal attachment to?   How do you determine who your favorite characters are?

Maybe you’re drawn to favorite archetypes.  A lot of what I watch on TV and in movies are detectives to some extent or another.  Is there a more long-lived and admired character than Sherlock Holmes, for example?  My favorite incarnation of all the film versions is the current Sherlock series on BBC starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  This is followed second closely by Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law’s Sherlock Holmes movie series.  But Holmes has been injected in other incarnations, too.  Batman is Holmes in a cape with crime-fighting gadgets.  Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House on House M.D. is Holmes as a modern genius of medicine.  Psych‘s Shaun Spencer is Holmes as master sleuth posing as a psychic.

We like Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, and Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman.  Why?  Are they really just modern versions of Frankenstein’s monster?  Same for Robocop?  These characters challenge what it is to be human.  More than any other character in sci-fi, Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation sought out his humanity, but even he was a modern version of Pinocchio, a puppet trying to be a real boy, and Mr. Spock, who was part Vulcan, part human, had the same struggle discovering who he was.  Maybe we just like them because, like the Fonz, they are just plain cool to us?

Characters all fall into the classic struggles, of one or more conflicts, of a struggle between man and himself, between man and other men, or between man and society.  Is it that struggle that grabs our attention?

Popular characters get made into books, TV shows, movies, franchises.  Like Batman, Superman, James Bond, Doctor Who, Jack Ryan, John McClane, Buffy Summers, Indiana Jones, Alice in Resident Evil, Lara Croft, Harry Potter, Hobbits.  Other characters you might just get a glimpse of, but then you’re hooked and they become your favorites for life.  Like Boba Fett, Tron, Yoda, Gimli, Johnny Fever, Chewbacca, Theoden King.  And your favorite characters may not be humans or even human-like.  Maybe they are animals, like Benji or Lassie.  Or something not exactly human or animal, like Grover from Sesame Street, or Cookie Monster, Eeyore the long-eared donkey from Winnie the Pooh, Calvin (or Hobbes!) from Calvin and Hobbes, Ferdinand the Bull, E.T., Snoopy from Peanuts, Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Foghorn Leghorn, Scooby Doo.  Some characters have the classic hero role, like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Dorothy Gale, Captain James T. Kirk, Scarlett O’Hara, Hiro Nakamura, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Ivanhoe, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, Snow White, Eowyn, Mace Windu.  Some favorite characters serve as villains, often villains we love to hate, like Darth Vader, Maleficent, Sark, the Wicked Witch of the West, Colonel Nathan Jessup, Sauron, Commander Kruge, Willie Stark, the Joker, Lex Luthor, Khan, the Terminator, The Borg.  Maybe they are hard to fit into any category, like Billy Pilgrim or John Casey.

What makes a character your favorite?  As opposed to the question “Who is the greatest character in any genre work?” what is your “favorite” is purely subjective.  Maybe there is little great to be said about your personal favorite.  Maybe your favorite is a well-meaning screw-up like Al Bundy or Homer Simpson.  Maybe it’s someone clueless, like Cher, Alicia Silverstone’s character in the movie Clueless.  Maybe it’s someone who can’t get a break, like George Bailey or Joan Wilder or  Clear in Final Destination 1 and 2.  Maybe it’s someone as innocent as can be, like Buddy the Elf in the movie Elf, or purely good, like Santa Claus, or Fred Gailey, the lawyer who represented Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street.   Or maybe it’s people like Fred who protect and defend others, like Ben Stone or Archie Goodwin or Inigo Montoya or Jack McCoy or Thomas Magnum or Frozone or Robin Hood or Atticus Finch.

Who are our favorites?  Starting tomorrow and for the next four days we’ll ask the borg.com writers to reveal their top five favorites from genre fiction, from any media, books, film, TV, or anything else with characters they can come up with.

Check out the Editor’s picks here.

Check out Art Schmidt’s picks here.

Check out Jason McClain’s picks here.

Check out Elizabeth C. Bunce’s picks here.

Review by C.J. Bunce

(Spoilers!)

Dark shows have tended to monopolize new genre TV series in the past few years.  We’ve been overwhelmed with underwhelming vampire shows, and not since Buffy and Angel have we seen anything in that category worth watching.  The NBC series Grimm has been an exception, and that series keeps moving along without any bad episodes so far.  Sometimes you can’t even get past the pilot of new series, and shows like Being Human, Terra Nova, Invasion and The 4400 move along a slow trajectory toward cancellation.

Overall the Syfy Channel has had a good showing over the past few years, with shows like Battlestar Galactica, Sliders, Warehouse 13, Haven, and the short-lived Dresden Files at the top eschelon of what the network has to offer.  The series Alphas started off slow but showed some promise, but other shows were bombs from the start, like Caprica and Bionic Woman.

So when you do find a solid, entertaining pilot episode, it really stands out.  Lost Girl is one of those pilots.

From the first scene, you hope this tall, dark haired woman is the protagonist, even though she appears to have just murdered someone, albeit in a very supernatural way, seemingly sucking away the soul or spirit of a villainous scumbag, like the alien visitor in the 1980s British movie, Lifeforce.  She does it in part because she has a “hunger” and in part to protect a younger woman who has just been drugged by the man.  We learn our protagonist’s name is Bo (played by Canadian actress Anna Silk), and her new, younger hanger-on is Kenzie, and although they could have probably used some better character names, Kenzie is plucky and funny, and even for a genre show they immediately come off as real people.

Kenzie is a pickpocket who immediately sees Bo for what she is, some kind of superhero, even if she is a murderous self-described freak.  Kenzie’s dialogue is expertly written, and the writers amazingly know their characters from minute one.  Both beautiful in their own way, Kenzie more Goth and Bo in a more Xena meets Wonder Woman Amazon princess looking way, Bo actually shows some vulnerability despite her powers as she engages in a question-answer session with Kenzie.  But the full scope of Bo’s powers are only partially revealed in the pilot, as we learn she is also some kind of pusher.

A pair of cops show up on the scene of the scumbag’s death, and instead of being the typical oafish humans not-in-the-know, these two guys know exactly about the supernatural nature of the crime.  Clearly these cops will be recurring characters and their odd looks and style quickly grow on the viewer as they seem to walk the line between a dark world and being outright good guys.  We learn there is a world of supernatural beings called the Fae, and within the Fae two rival gangs that appear to be keeping the peace so long as their turf lines are respected.  We learn from a mystical bartender that Bo may be some type of prophesied visitor.  The heads of the two houses squabble little instead of engaging in a time-wasting battle as you might expect, and instead follow the “old rule,” where Bo must make a choice of houses after first proving herself in a battle to the death with two creatures.

Bo acknowledges she is entering into her very own Thunderdome sequence.  Her confidence throughout the episode makes it credible that she can win these battles, the first a typical thug to outsmart, and the second a brilliantly concocted act of trickery.  By herself, she cannot beat the second challenge.  Luckily Bo brings with her the desire for others to like her, and immediately can garner loyalty or outright love from whomever she touches.  The reason for this is because she is a succubus (for South Park fans, note that she is not as vile as the succubus that married Chef and tried to kill him).  This succubus is pretty kick-ass, as female protagonists in genre TV is concerned.  The episode never gets silly or campy like Buffy the Vampire Slayer did (a good thing for that series), but Lost Girl takes itself a bit seriously, giving you the idea the stakes will prove to be greater as the series progresses.

The production quality doesn’t lack anything, the sets and overall design and look are dark and slick, but not grimy or ugly.  The women dress cool, and the guys dress stylish as well.   The story elements are fresh and original, and if you’re looking for something different in genre TV this may be the next new show to watch.

The cast is new to American TV screens, with Ksenia Solo as Kenzie.  Actually you kind of wish Ksenia Solo and Anna Silk could haved used their own names as the characters, as their real names are pretty cool as slick heroine names go.  The female head of the house of the dark Fae (Emanuelle Vaugier) has the same feel as the Wicked Queen of the ABC series Once Upon A Time, only this leader is less vile and over the top, and her reserved nature makes her far more compelling to watch.  And a scientist played by Zoie Palmer appears to be a series regular.

It’s refreshing to see two strong female leads helm a new series like this, and you hope they can keep the world building and strong characterization moving forward into something that can last.  The crazy thing is that the series is in its third season in Canada, and only just this week premiering in the U.S.  So the hope from episode one that this series won’t just fizzle out has already been determined by the Canadian viewers.  So even if Syfy doesn’t continue with the series there is always the boxed set or streaming video version to catch up on!

Following up on the recent scuttlebutt on a possible Bionic Man movie down the road from the Weinsteins and Bryan Singer, Dynamite Comics has announced it is creating a Bionic Man spin-off series featuring Jaime Sommers, Bionic Woman.  Writer Paul Tobin has an entirely new take on the Bionic Woman, first appearing in the original Six Million Dollar Man series in the early 1970s.   Interviewed by WestfieldComics.com, Tobin characterizes the story as follows:

“At heart it’s a mystery tale, where Jaime needs to uncover a group of DECIDEDLY illegal organ transplant doctors, ones who have begun to look at Jaime, and other “bionics” as THE best organ donors, whether these “donors” like it or not.  Along the way, there are quite a few explosions, some new friends, some betrayals, a man with amazing hunting skills and no morals at all, a pretty French girl, a boat that sinks, some afternoon tea, a romantic hopeful, exactly 12,456 bullets (barring script revisions) and a partridge in a pear tree.  Said partridge may or may not explode. Have I mentioned the explosions?”

Sounds like it will have some good humor.  Dynamite Comics is marketing the series with the following blurb:

“Paris is the city of love?  Not anymore… not since Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman, came to town hot on the trail of the Mission, a collection of insanely high-priced surgeons who’ve been murdering OSI’s bionic prototypes in order to provide new life for billionaire patients.  But while the Bionic Woman is hunting the Mission, their #1 hunter is after her!  Can Jaime pick up the pieces of her past while protecting her life in the present, or will the city of love turn its back, and its bullets, on the Bionic Woman?  Acclaimed writer Paul Tobin brings you a tale of baguettes, bullets, and bionic badass!”

So it sure doesn’t feel like an origin story. But maybe Tobin and Dynamite are only summarizing the series itself as opposed to the first issue.  Still, Tobin has said there will be only a slight appearance by Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, despite the header on the book “From the pages of Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man.”  I still can’t help but scrunch my eyebrows a bit over the emphasis on the Bionic Man being a Smith story vs. the original Martin Caidin story.  Strangely enough one cover released has the reference to Kevin Smith, the other nearly identical cover doesn’t.  But no matter, one more bionic book just gives us more to look forward to on the comics rack and if Smith’s name has some marketing power then great.

We can also look forward to the new series’ Brazilian artist Leno Carvalho, who will be penciling the Bionic Woman.  Carvalho is a more recent entrant into the comic book art world.  Covers will be created by Paul Renaud.

And here is what finally makes sense about Jaime Sommers.  Her name.  Yes, “jaime” means “I love” in French, pronounced “zhem”, but as names go, Jaime is a centuries old Spanish boy’s name pronounced “hi-may.”  But like the street name Madison was turned into thousands of girls’ names in the 1980s because of Daryl Hannah in the movie Splash, there are as many 30 and 40-something girls out there from the 1970s named Jaime, not Jamie, and they pronounce it the same way: “jay-me”.  So by making Jaime a character in Paris, it finally all makes sense, right?  But how do we pronounce it?  I bet I know how readers in France will pronounce it.  Too bad they didn’t spell Sommers as Summers and we could have had a crossover family tale with our old pal Buffy Summers.

Anyway… Europe as a venue for modern superheroines is a good idea.  The Huntress limited series from DC Comics used Italy to good effect, and hopefully Hobin will do the same for the Bionic Woman in the streets of Paris.

Bionic Woman, published by Dynamite Comics, is expected to be published in March 2012.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Alex Ross has said repeatedly that his favorite movie of all time is the 1980 movie Flash Gordon, featuring Sam Jones as Flash, Melody Anderson as Dale Arden, Max Von Sydow as Ming, Topol as Dr. Zarkov, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin, and Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan.  It’s no wonder that he has brought Flash Gordon to Dynamite Comics with the new series, Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist.

Ross has gone so far as to say that the Flash Gordon movie inspired him in his life and work.  As movies go, it’s a cult classic in every way.  Both from the over-the-top action, the soundtrack by Queen, the camp.  Yet if you saw it in the theater you had to think it was a fun movie.  The costumes were great, the set decoration was bright and unworldly.  And the actors, except maybe Jones as Flash, were great at their campy roles.  As Ming, von Sydow redefined and highlighted the classic villain from the 1930s movie serials.

In Zeitgeist, Alex Ross has painted some fabulous covers, and he has developed both the plot and art direction for the series.  For most of Issue #1 you would think you were reading an adaptation of the 1980 film.  The use of reds and yellows to identify Ming’s world, in contrast with the black and white imagery of Earth of 1934 could not be done much better by colorist Slamet Mujiono.  Daniel Indro’s page after page of non-stop action is well done, and I almost think Ross could not do much better with the panel work.  The story by Eric Trautmann is tight and compelling and has all the components of a story serial trying to get you to come back for the next installment, including the requisite cliffhanger ending.

I was a little surprised Ross’s love of the subject matter didn’t prompt him to take this all on himself, but it’s probably not surprising since he seems to have been juggling several projects in the past year.  Luckily it doesn’t matter, as you can pretty much hear the Flash Gordon theme while reading the pages of Trautmann and Indro’s work on Issue #1.

One of the changes from past versions is an apparent intersection coming between the fantasy story of Flash and the real-life era of 1934 Earth.  As genre bending goes, this is part fantasy and part sci-fi.  But there is also something else.  Something of an updated steampunk for the 1930s—with techno gadgets heavily featured in the story.  Trautmann has said he and Ross have exchanged several images of technology from the time period to help create the overall look of the series.  The result is a style almost of its own.

Look out for several different cover variants, in fact nine for this Issue #1, which seems to be a standard marketing shtick of Dynamite Comics.  There is a retro cover by Francesco Francavilla that is particularly cool.  What is for certain with Dynamite Comics is that its creators are producing books that are every bit as good in quality as the big two comics publishers.  Adding on to titles like Green Hornet, Kato, and Bionic Man, Dynamite is making its own mark in the industry.  And to top it off, the best part may be the price.  Issue #1 is available with a cover price of $1.  How can you beat that?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

At Screenused.com right now there is a Star Trek: Voyager costume for sale worn by Roxann Dawson as B’Elanna Torres when she posed as a member of “The Borg.”

It originally was sold at Christie’s a few years ago.  It is a cool looking outfit, and similar in style to ones worn by Seven of Nine and Captain Kathryn Janeway on the series.

B’Elanna Torres as a member of The Borg on Star Trek Voyager

It is for sale for the hefty price of $4,699.  If it sells at that price it will be the most expensive price for a costume of this version of The Borg.  This costume sold only six months ago on eBay for $1,875.  If you’re interested, check out the photos and details carefully, as these rubber costumes were not made to last beyond the production.  Buyer beware, as they say.

Bonita Friedericy as a member of “The Borg” on Star Trek’s Enterprise series

That said, it is an interesting, if not fleeting, artifact from Star Trek history.  Its tag shows use by Bonita Friedericy, who plays General Beckman on the TV series Chuck, which sadly has only two episodes left.  She wore this outfit on an episode of the last Star Trek series, Enterprise.   Trek fans may find it interesting that Friedericy is married to John Billingsley, who played Phlox on Enterprise.

John Billingsley as Phlox

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

What better way to celebrate borg.com’s 100,000th site visit than share some news about one of our favorite superheroes?  Hollywood writer Jason McClain alerted me to this news item, as it’s no secret I’m one of the biggest Green Arrow fans around.  The news?

The CW Network has ordered a TV series pilot featuring Green Arrow that will, happily, not be related to the Smallville series’ spin on the character.  The producer/writers tapped to create the pilot are Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, the two writers responsible for last year’s Green Lantern movie, and ex-writer for the Green Arrow/Black Canary comic book series, Andrew Kreisberg.

Kreisberg took over the comic book series after Judd Winick moved off the GA/BC title.  He teamed with artist Mike Norton after Cliff Chiang left the series.  I have read Kreisberg’s take on Green Arrow and Black Canary, and I liked it.  Kreisberg wrote some good modern stories featuring the trio in both a lighthearted and action-packed way.  He clearly knows the roots of these characters and their strong relationships with each other, and hopefully he can convey that into the script for the pilot and get it onto the small screen.  He also once acknowledged that there is no other superhero team out there that is a married couple, that that IS Green Arrow’s story.  Right on!

Here are some unsolicited recommendations for Kreisberg, Berlanti and Guggenheim to make the series get off the ground right:

(1)  You might view your TV show as an ensemble show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  An ensemble genre work usually is better than a solo character-focused show (think about the failed series The Cape and why it didn’t work, for example) because although we all loved the title character of Buffy Summers, we loved supporting characters Willow and Xander even more.  And like the best Batman stories, letting the lead hero take the back seat once in a while is a good thing.  At the same time, I didn’t watch Smallville because Clark never donned the supersuit.  Show Green Arrow in action with the bow once in a while, but just not in every scene.

(2)  Take the best of the Green Arrow canon and it will easily translate to today.  The “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline that put both Green Arrow and Green Lantern on the map and made us want to know more about these characters was a road trip across America.  Something like the Winchester boys moving across country with every new episode in Supernatural.  You might laugh, but On the Road with Charles Kuralt, the CBS segment where he took an off-the-beaten path tour of America, lasted decades for a reason.  Viewers liked to see where he would go next.  You’ll have an unlimited number of settings for your story, too, if you keep the team moving, assuming they let you work with all three characters.

The Kid, Etta, and Butch--archetype for Ollie, Dinah, and Hal

(3)  Everyone likes a good “buddy picture.”  I have mentioned before how the “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline reflected the 1969 world view, and 1969 entertainment.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came out in 1969 and was still in theaters when Denny O’Neil wrote the classic Green Arrow and Green Lantern crossover.  Did some of the hit movie rub off on O’Neil?  Who knows.  If you pay attention, you’ll see that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a buddy picture with three buddies, almost a “love triangle,” including some brotherly love between Butch and Ross’s character Etta Place.  That’s right, Katherine Ross’s role as the Kid’s girlfriend, and Butch’s pal, was as important to the film as each of the title characters.  Black Canary/Dinah Lance could have that same crucial role in a TV series about Ollie and Hal.

(4)  Even if Warner Brothers wants to keep Hal Jordan/Green Lantern out of the series, you must include Black Canary/Dinah Lance.  Don’t botch this by pulling ideas from the Dinah Lance of the short-lived Birds of Prey series.  It was good for what it was.  But you want dark-haired Dinah that sports the blonde wig used to go incognito, not the stilted friend of Oracle.  Green Arrow/Oliver Queen can go solo from time to time, but only when he can return to Dinah is he at his best.

(5)  Stay away from the DC 52 Green Arrow storyline and the obvious idea of having Oliver participate in some form of anti-big business Occupy Wall Street movement.  Sure, in real life, Ollie would be leading up the OWS marches, but I think most viewers don’t want a show about superheroes in current politics and as much as everyone hates greedy corporate America, more personal storylines will appeal to modern viewers.   The current series Leverage does this very well.  Think local.  Don’t have Ollie take on all of the world’s problems, have him take on each human problem bit by bit, maybe town by town.  It worked brilliantly for Adams and O’Neil.

Original Mike Norton art from a story under Kreisberg's turn as writer for Green Arrow/Black Canary

(6)  Oliver Queen is not Bruce Wayne.  He’s much more layered.  Queen is not a billionaire.  He lost all his money, and that allowed him to get interesting.  Don’t even waste time on his backstory as billionaire as it will only emphasize his role as a one-time obvious Batman knockoff.

(7)  Read up on your Mike Grell era of Green Arrow stories.  Grell was an ex-government intelligence guy who ended up writing spy novels and comic books.  He took the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil Green Arrow and Black Canary and brought them into downtown Seattle and injected the backwoods survival skills and mixed it with street smarts.  He made Ollie the Urban Warrior.  This itself harkened back to the iconic Green Lantern Issue #76’s story whereby Green Arrow first takes on a greedy slumlord that Hal Jordan was unintentionally actually helping.

Personal sketch of Ollie and Dinah by Mike Grell

(8)  We know from past interviews that Andrew Kreisberg likes the role of Green Arrow and Black Canary as Oliver and Dinah–husband and wife.  Consider building on Mike Grell’s series, where they run the Sherwood Florist in Seattle by day.  And what the heck, work in Mia and Connor if you can.  And if you must update costumes, you gotta bring back Ollie’s goatee.  As Mikel Janin proved with his excellent recent update to similarly costumed Zatanna, Dinah’s fishnets can be optional.

(9)  The Flash TV series had a lot going for it.  One was the age of the actor in the lead roll, John Wesley Shipp, former soap actor.  He wasn’t 20-something.  He was 35 and looked like he could be a superhero in real life.  If you’re staying away from Smallville (a great move) then give us heroes who have had time to gain some wisdom, not some newbies who have no way of practically knowing all they would need to know in real life to get through their trials on the show (the TV series Bones is a big example of this glaring absurdity with its only-young cast that has knowledge you could only gain by being twice the age of the cast members).  Look for actors in their 30s or or even early 40s.

(10)  Suggested title?  If you take any of the ideas above, how about Hard Traveling, Hard Traveling Hero, or Hard Traveling Heroes?  Of course there are always other former storyline titles like Quiver.

I have no idea what limitations will be placed on Kreisberg & Co. as they work out the script for the TV series pilot.  Maybe they have no intention of including Hal and Dinah, but if they can, it could be something new and different and very fun.

If you want to see Andrew Kreisberg’s stories while writing for Ollie and Dinah, you can buy compilations, including: Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List, Green Arrow/Black Canary: Big Game, and Green Arrow/Black Canary: Five Stages.

And Andrew, if you need help with story ideas, drop me a line.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Entertainment press across the British Empire to Latin America and from the Daily India to Latino Review to the Uk Daily News have reported on supposed discussions over the past few weeks on a new movie in the works based on Martin Caidin’s original 1972 Bionic Man novel Cyborg, the source for the Six Million Dollar Man TV series.

Running Man DiCaprio

The alleged discussions are over a script, that, depending on the source, may or may not be called The Six Billion Dollar Man, stress on the Billion.   Supposedly it’s the Weinsteins and Universal who are having those discussions and working on the project, with Bryan Singer pegged as the director being courted to helm the project.  And the man to play Steve Austin?  Leonardo diCaprio.  Leonardo DiCaprio?  At 37, I guess he could make it work in some effort to try to update the character for the 21st century.

DiCaprio flying over desert in stunt plane in The Aviator

Kevin Smith has previously said he had a script for a Bionic Man movie circulating for years, ultimately to end up as the currently running Bionic Man comic book series co-written by Phil Hester for Dynamite Comics, which as a series is pretty good both as an update to the 1970s TV series and respectful to Caidin’s original story.  But this is not the same project as the Weinstein/Singer film.

A comedy spoof has also been rumored, called the Forty Thousand Dollar Man, and supposedly discussions have occurred with Jim Carrey for a similar project.  Let’s hope this one is false.

Leonardo DiCaprio as jet pilot in Catch Me if You Can

Of, course, none of this is real until we hear something from Singer or DiCaprio.  So far, nothing, just the international media speculating.

If this is all true, Singer has a good feel for genre film.  He wrote X-Men, X2, X-Men: First Class and Superman Returns, and directed great suspenseful flicks like The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie.  As director of a few episodes and executive producer of the series that is the best medical series ever on TV, House M.D., he may have a nice edge for the science and medicine of the Bionic Man mythos.  So he gets our thumbs up to lead up a big screen Bionic Man.

Genre director and Trek fan Bryan Singer had a cameo in Star Trek Nemesis

I’ll admit I’d like to see a twist on the story with an older actor like Scott Bakula as Steve Austin, or someone like Sam Shepard playing test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, since we’re talking about a seasoned astronaut and test pilot.  Of course Shepard was 40 when he made The Right Stuff, and DiCaprio is 37.  I’d rather see someone whose general appearance is like Scott Glenn or Dennis Quaid vs DiCaprio, who, even with make-up, like playing Howard Hughes in The Aviator, looks perpetually young, and nicely cast as pretty boy Jay Gatsby in the soon to be released The Great Gatsby, he’s not as grisly looking as you’d  think of for the typical test pilot.  Still, DiCaprio has had enough diverse roles that he could probably easily give some kind of new twist on Steve Austin.  And we’ve already seen him crash a plane in The Aviator and pose as a pilot, and do a lot of running, in Catch Me if You Can.

A movie would ahve to have the slow motion running and old theme

What’s not a rumor is that Universal Pictures confirmed last year that Bryan Singer will direct another sci-fi reboot, a new Battlestar Galactica film that will not be based on the recent Sci Fi Channel TV series.  Very little detail has been released on that project, too.

With every new year that passes and with emerging new technologies, a real human cyborg might become more and more possible, so it is fun to think about updating Steve Austin.  We’ll obviously keep our ears perked for more news on this front.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

When you think about the words, “morning glories,” what do you think of?  Off the top of my head, there’s the obvious flower, there’s the Oasis album, the movie starring Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford, and then finally there is the Morning Glory Academy, the school at the heart of the Morning Glories comic book.  Besides it being the name of the school, my first glimpse of any other hint of the name of the series came in Volume Two of the trade paperback when during one of Jade’s dream segments* a creeping vine of luminescent morning glories line the hallway lockers.  That hint and the “in popular culture” section of the Wikipedia page devoted to the flower that mentions “love in vain” as a meaning of the phrase, makes me think that the title has a deeper meaning.  It could also just mean young people getting ready to bloom into adulthood because of its focus on six kids at a prestigious high school.  I’m not sure, but the title gives me pause to think about it.

Morning Glories Academy

On the other hand, there’s We Bought a Zoo following in the long and unwieldy title footsteps of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!  Besides the book of the same name only even longer, there’s nothing else that comes to mind when I hear the phrase, We Bought a Zoo.  It isn’t enigmatic or symbolic, it is straightforward – this is a story about people that bought a zoo.  When I go to see it, I know I’m going to see people and animals interacting together in a zoo that someone just bought.

The question I ask myself is: which one is better?

Rachel McAdams, Woman in Black?

Looking at previous entries on the borg.com website, I see titles like Sherlock, Cyborg, The Woman in Black, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and from the titles, I know what I’m going to get.  I’m going to get a Sherlock Holmes story, a story about a half-man/half-robot, a horror movie with a woman in black and a story about a girl that has a dragon tattoo.  Easy, though the plots behind those titles are not as obvious as We Bought a Zoo.  Maybe if they made Sherlock Goes On Heroin Bender and Gets Married to a Gutter Waif or Cyborg Cooks a Five Course Meal To Win Reality Chef Event it might be a little closer in comparison.

Robot Cyborg Chefs from the album Virtual Kitchen

Then, there’s Brave and Total Recall which offer just subtle hints on the story in the movie, especially if you’re not familiar with the original piece that serves as the basis for the latter example.

To answer my earlier rhetorical question: I’m not sure, but I have an idea.  I do know for sure that if I have a predisposition to seeing a movie with James Bond, G.I. Joe, Transformers or Jason Bourne, then the title better let me know it and nothing will change my mind about it.  (Well, except if it is G.I. Joe Bought a Zoo I’d probably skip it, but I would totally see Optimus Prime Bought A Zoo.)  On the other hand, if I hate those four things, nothing you can tell me about the movie will make me go see it and a clever title won’t change my opinion.  (Jason Bourne and James Bond Get Married and Buy a Zoo in Pennsylvania to Lure Rick Santorum in Close excepted.)

A title with a little more mystery like Lost or Once Upon a Time will give me a hint (people that are lost, people that are in a fairy tale) and might get me to try it, as lost people and fairy tales can go in many different directions.  Then there are Morning Glories or The Tree of Life where you don’t really know what you’ll get until you dive in and check it out.

Maybe it just boils down to what kind of person you are.  I know I tend to like a little bit of a surprise.  Unless the awesomely titled, Once I Was Lost, But Now I’m Found by Space Aliens and They Funded My Dream of Buying a Zoo Filled with Investment Bankers comes to a theater near you, I’ll stick to a little more mystery in my titles.

Morning Glories Volume 2 Graphic Novel

*About Morning Glories, I have to say that the first TPB set it up so you could see the characters as a group while the second devotes a comic/chapter to each as an individual and you get to see their powers . Since I am a fan of time travel (and why I mention the magic Lost above) I think Jade could end up being my favorite character.  Then again, each one has such an intriguing story it could change by the time I finish the next TPB.

Editor’s Note:  Check out Jason’s take on the first Morning Glories TPB here.

   

The big news for the week in comicdom is DC Comics’ confirmation yesterday that it will cancel 6 of its 52 regular series after Issue #8, after a lot of speculation over the past several weeks that DC would trim off some of its low selling titles.  DC has offered very little by way of explanation other than low sales, and it released the names of the six titles unceremoniously at the end of its press release touting the addition of 6 replacement titles.  Unfortunately three of the exiting titles were part of DC’s effort to diversify characters and its audience.  As to the new titles, there is some good news, some indifference, and some… seriously?

The best news, of course, is that the very best of the New 52 titles are continuing, including All Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Captain Atom, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, and Wonder Woman.  And a character who I thought deserved her own regular title is now getting one.

The departing titles are:

Blackhawks – Blackhawks are an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles.  Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.

Hawk and Dove – The living avatars of war and peace root out the hidden forces who look to plunge the country into a deadly civil war.  Dove made an appearance in Justice League Dark as a pretty good character.

Men of War – The attempt to bring Sergeant Rock to the 21st century just didn’t get the expected readership.

Mister Terrific – One of the departing titles featuring a black character.  Though he has no super powers, Mister Terrific has a brilliant mind and an aptitude for science which he used to create the T-Mask, which renders him invisible to technology, the T-Spheres, which have several functions including holographic projection, generating electric charges and granting limited flight.

O.M.A.C. – Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known as O.M.A.C.

Static Shock – A young justice title, focusing on a black teenager who was meant to be a modern, updated Spider-man for the DC universe.

DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras stated that the characters in these titles will continue to be appear in the New 52 universe titles.

So the biggest disappointment of the new “second wave” on New 52 titles?  A TWELFTH Bat-title: BATMAN: INCORPORATED.  Really? If you’re not keeping track, we already had Batman, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Knightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  No criticism intended of some of these titles (like the exceptional Batgirl and Batwoman), but there is only so many Bat-stories one can keep track of each month.   Ok, it was pretty clear Grant Morrison was going to come back with this title this year, so it isn’t a great surprise.  Still…

The cool news is a revamped classic title, WORLDS’ FINEST, known for its Batman and Superman team-ups, now with the apostrophe moved from where it was in World’s Finest, as it appears to have intentionally moved to account for the multiple Earths in the DCU.  The part we like is Huntress, just wrapping up her limited series, she will be a lead character sharing the storyline with Power Girl.  Written by Paul Levitz with shared art duties for George Perez and Kevin Maguire. DC is marketing this one as Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2.  Which brings us to the third new title:

EARTH 2.  Written by James Robinson with art by Nicola Scott.   This one could be fun, as there’s an unlimited number of change-ups that can be done with the parallel universe concept in the DCU.  The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

A big surprise for me is the reboot of DIAL H.  Originally a classic series called Dial “H” for Hero, and rebooted only a few years back (2003) in a great series called just H.E.R.O., I think I have read all the back issues on this one and always liked the concept.  If it is like the original, you have a dial like the alethiometer in The Golden Compass, which is used by Joe Citizen, often changing hands, to allow you to be the hero you want to be as circumstances require.  It’s a little like Quantum Leap or Dollhouse, where you get to change everything with each new installment.  This will be written by comics newbie China Miéville with art by Mateus Santoluoco.

And the war concept must not be dead, despite killing the Men of War title, as it will be replaced with the classic title, G.I. COMBAT.   This will be a war series with three ongoing separate stories, written and drawn by three separate creative teams.

Finally the sixth new title to be added is THE RAVAGERS – Written by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill. This is a Teen Titans and Superboy spinoff where four superpowered teens on the run fight against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

NBC’s new John Grisham-inspired series The Firm premiered this week with a two-hour special (it moves to its regular night and time this Thursday at 8 pm).  To some, the original film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Holly Hunter (et al) might still feel startlingly recent, certainly not a candidate for a remake already–but surprisingly, it’s been 20 years, so the timing actually seems right for a TV version.  Evidently the show’s producers had that same sense, however, for they make it clear this is a “New Chapter” of the story, occurring ten years after the events of the novel/film.

Starring Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Poseidon, Hulk), Molly Parker (Dexter, Deadwood), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice), Juliet Lewis (Natural Born Killers, Cape Fear), and Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica, 24), the first episode starts with a bang, dropping hero Mitch McDeere–and us–into a frantic foot chase across the Washington, D.C. Mall.  The chase is intriguing, if a pale shadow of Tom Cruise’s flight through a Memphis cotton-processing district, and it’s unclear whether McDeere is being pursued by criminals or cops, which adds a nice element of suspense.  He eludes his captors–so he believes–to confront a paranoid witness in a hotel room, who insists he can’t help McDeere, and to stress that point, flings himself off his hotel balcony.

Flash back six weeks, to learn McDeere and wife Abby have recently left the aegis of the Witness Protection Program they entered after the brilliantly-executed Get Out of Jail Free plan at the end of the original apparently failed spectacularly (i.e. the mob is after them).  It’s a little bit of a misstep, I think, as there was such cleverness and confidence in the climax to The Firm, that to immediately be told, “Oh, well, it didn’t work,” is fairly disappointing.  We’d like to see more of that slyness and charm, which Cruise pulled off so well, replicated here.

Which brings me to my thoughts on the pilot as a whole.  Instead of the intrigue-driven legal thriller of the novel and original film, the TV series appears to be shaping up as a fairly ho-hum courtroom drama.  The bulk of the two hours are spent on McDeere’s pro bono legal defense of a young boy charged with murdering a classmate.  It’s all very heartrending (so they hope), but ultimately not what this viewer, at least, tuned in for.  Balancing that is the subplot of McDeere being wooed by a local law firm, headed up by Tricia Helfer, looking to add a criminal defense division to their company.  It’s immediately obvious that McDeere will accept (witness the show’s title and entire premise), although the terms he demands are sort of interesting.

Performances are… OK.  I enjoyed watching Lucas, but although I’ve never been a particular fan of Tom Cruise, there is something missing from the performance here (or the script; it remains to be seen).  Abby McDeere, played here by Molly Parker, is cast in the role of smart, involved partner–she’s still a schoolteacher, but she is completely abreast of her husband’s work issues… all of which makes total sense, given the backstory presented us, and which is a refreshing addition to the story.  It’s nice to see the female lead with a head on her shoulders and a firm grasp of the full picture. (Their daughter, on the other hand, was an annoying distraction.)

Adding to the cast are Juliette Lewis, in the role Holly Hunter played in the original film, and Callum Keith Rennie, playing McDeere’s ex-con brother-slash-private-investigator.  This was a clever move on the part of the TV series, I think–they’ve combined two characters from the original (the ex-con brother and the hard-drinking P.I.) into one here, which works out very well, and was probably the part of the show I personally found most interesting.

Still, despite decent scriptwriting and casting, the verdict is still out on this new series.  I’m not sure I really care about a straightforward courtroom drama, and they’ll need to up the stakes and genre intrigue to keep me tuning in.  Likewise, it is really difficult to foresee how they’ll manage to build an entire season–let alone a whole series–from the events of six weeks.  What is the future here?  I’ll give it a few more episodes, but I’m not promising to stick it out.