Category: Comics & Books


Warner Brothers continues to struggle with how next to turn the DC universe of films into a cash cow like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  First a report that Ben Affleck′s replacement will be Robert Pattinson, an actor known for both the lucrative Harry Potter franchise and Twilight franchise, was then followed by a report that Nicholas Hoult was being considered.  Hoult, co-star of the X-Men movies as Beast, among other roles, makes more sense, as first–he has the charisma and look to be both Batman and alter ego Bruce Wayne, and second,–because he’d follow that common casting preference that already has seen two dozen actors playing superheroes flip from DC characters to Warner characters or vice versa.  These reports were followed by word that two other actors were on the Batman shortlist: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who already portrayed both Quicksilver in the MCU and Kick-Ass in his own series) and Armie Hammer.  Why wouldn’t they just stop with Armie Hammer?  If the studio has already ruled out Denzel Washington (just watch him in the Equalizer franchise, he’d be perfect!), then the closest to how Batman and Bruce have been drawn in the comics for 80 years is Armie Hammer.  He has that John Hamm suave manner and he’s already shown he can play a great hero opposite Superman Henry Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  With the next new comics adaptation it does seem like Warner Brothers may be doing something right.  It’s on television instead of at the movies, where the Arrowverse group of series has seen greater success than the studio’s movie efforts.  It’s the new Batwoman series, and the CW released the first trailer for the series late this week (check it out below).

For whatever reason, Warner Brothers, the CW, etc. are hesitant to put their prime DC character–Batman–on the small screen.  Just like they were hesitant showing Superman on Smallville back in “the WB” days, or giving Batman his due within the Gotham series continuity.  But this new Batwoman series looks like it could be the closest viewers are going to get to a TV bat-hero.  Series star Ruby Rose proved she has the charisma and physicality for a major superheroine/action role in The Meg, Resident Evil, Vin Diesel’s XXX series, and the John Wick series.  Her character of Kate Kane aka Batwoman in last August’s CW Arrowverse crossover “Elseworlds,” the highlight of the event (along with John Wesley Shipp donning his 1990 Flash costume), was received well by viewers.  The new trailer seems as “Batman” in look and feel as anything Warner has produced for TV–or film.

Even better, the great Rachel Skarsten (former Black Canary of Birds of Prey and star of Lost Girl and Reign) plays a villain named Alice–Batwoman’s twin sister who took on the persona of an evil Wonderlander in the comics–who looks like she can run circles around Harley Quinn.

Batwoman has been one of DC Comics′ most fascinating characters since she was re-designed by Alex Ross for DC’s 52 series in 2006, but she really came into her own in 2009 in the Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series written and drawn by Eisner Award nominees James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli, and she was fleshed out further in 2010-2013 in the award-winning Batwoman solo series written and drawn by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.

Take a look at the first trailer for CW’s Batwoman:

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Heroes Dynamite new series

As part of its opening day reveal of San Diego Comic-Con International 2013 news, Dynamite Comics issued an unprecedented barrage of announcements.  These include a new monthly continuing the NBC television series Heroes and a return of The Twilight Zone in the form of a monthly comic book series.

Comic book writer Cullen Bunn (Marvel’s Fearless Defenders and Deadpool) will be writing the Heroes comic book series, which he describes as a Heroes Season Five, following on the coattails of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files continuations of cancelled series in comic book monthlies.  Airing from 2006 through 2010, the Heroes TV series was watched by fanboys and fangirls everywhere.  The series chronicled the lives of ordinary people whose mysterious superhuman powers brought them together as part of a giant government conspiracy via a certain guy with horn-rimmed glasses played by Jack Coleman.  The series featured a great cast of now well-known actors, including Hayden Panettiere, Ali Larter, Adrian Pasdar, Milo Ventimiglia, and Zachary Quinto.  Claire, Hiro and Sylar will play a big role in the comic book series, according to Bunn.

The Twilight Zone will feature all-new tales of superstition and science written by SDCC 2013 featured guest, comic book legend, and former Babylon 5 writer J. Michael Straczynski.  Straczynski said, “The immediate creative question to be resolved was: how do you transplant or adapt the TV anthology format into comic form?  Individual stand-alone issues don’t give the issue-to-issue continuity you need to consistently bring in modern readers, and if it’s a year-long arc, it’s not an anthology.  The solution: three four-issue arcs that are connected by theme, character, and location… so that in reading one arc you get one side of the story, with its own supernatural or science-fiction elements, then you turn the character around to another character in that sequence who has his or her own story for the next four issues… and then at the end, you connect all of these individual stories into one overlapping tapestry, so you could literally view the book as individual stories as initially published, or layer the pages to create one big story.”

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Cavill in new Superman Batman

We now have had a first look at director Zack Snyder’s Batman, and as of this weekend, his Superman, above, from the 2016 release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Beginning with its wordy, clunky title, SvBDoJ has the cards stacked against it, if Snyder’s Man of Steel is any indication.  Man of Steel proved a cast of distinguished character actors can’t save a movie from a bad idea and bad direction.  We know Ben Affleck, the new Batman, can be very good, and we all hope Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred can save this film, or at least give us some fun scenes to pass the time.  But fans should demand more from DC Entertainment.

It starts with Snyder.  It’s difficult to list all the reasons Man of Steel was such a horrible superhero movie.  But we can sure try.  Maybe Snyder will review what he did with Man of Steel and realize that superhero movies can do so much better.  We can hope.  The elements of a good superhero flick?  Heart and gravity.  Heroism and compassion.  Passion and perseverance.  Man of Steel had none of this.  Even the poorly miscast Ryan Reynolds’ vehicle Green Lantern ran circles around Man of Steel.  It can’t be that hard to make a good movie for the DC Comics universe.  If Snyder is going to do better with the first big budget Justice League movie, he must learn from his mistakes with Man of Steel.

Affleck as Batman and new Batmobile

So let’s get it all out in the open, why Man of Steel is on my worst movies list, and should be on yours, too.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Spoilers!

James Robinson was able to do with his first issue in Wave 2 of DC Comics’s New 52 what the other DC Justice League creators didn’t do in the initial launch–he created an exciting and interesting play on the DC universe.  And with Paul Levitz they have re-ignited the superhero books when it seemed like the titles across the board were wavering a bit.

Robinson’s Earth 2 takes DC back to its origins up through the 1980s when characters traversed parallel universes before there were all the myriad multiverses in the DCU with series in the 2000s, such as that found in the weekly series titled 52.  Levitz switched up the classic DC title known for Batman and Superman team-ups–World’s Finest, flipping the apostrophe to account for the parallel worlds into the new Worlds’ Finest.

You can’t read one title without the other.  Issue #1 of Worlds’ Finest nudges Earth 2 only a bit because of its focus on a new Huntress and Power Girl, so far missing their own titles in the New 52.  But are they really who they appear to be?  Back to that in a bit.

I love parallel universe stories, ever since reading the battle between the Earth 1 and Earth 2 superheroes in the pages of Justice League of America as a kid.  These two issues brought back all the fun of those earlier stories.

The first book of the parallel DCU is Issue #1 of Earth 2, and you’ve just got to envy Robinson and artist Nicola Scott with what they were allowed to do here–show the death scenes of not one but all of DC’s big three, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  Scott even folded in her own versions of the supersuits, which are cooler than the earlier New 52 outfits.  But these characters only die on Earth 2 (not our Earth 1) in a battle called the Apokolips War (really, why do they always have to spell it so strangely?) by the leader of some “parademons” under a leader called Steppenwolf (usually with such a unique name you’d have an explanation for it, but neither the band, the novel or the wolf appear to apply here).  Regardless, Steppenwolf kills Wonder Woman first, but not before she has an encounter with the God Mercury, followed by the explosive death of Superman.  Batman sacrifices himself to blow everything to kingdom come, but not before a sign-off with daughter Helena, presumably his daughter with Catwoman, who is fighting the parademons as Robin, Batman’s sidekick.  Supergirl, here Karen Starr from DC’s 1970s, and Helena are part of the explosion and their ongoing story continues in Worlds’ Finest Issue #1.

But Earth 2 continues as we meet the Earth 2‘s Green Lantern (although he doesn’t have that title yet) Alan Scott.  And the issue ends as the God Mercury shows up to meet 21-year-old self-described screw-up Jay Garrick.  The name for a classic Flash in the DCU, no doubt we can see where Issue #2 will go with this character.  The how of showing Justice Society leaders Green Lantern and Flash getting together is well worth looking forward to.

Kudos to DC Comics for putting James Robinson on this title–his Justice League-Cry for Justice, although criticized by some, is one of the best reads from DC in years of limited “Crisis” series featuring the JLA.  Robinson can handle the intertwining story elements of something as complex as merging two Earths.

In Worlds’ Finest Issue #1, writer Paul Levitz and artist George Perez pick up the Earth 2 story by following the adventures of Robin and Supergirl as they decide to change their personas on Earth 1 into Huntress and Powergirl.  The big question is:  What happened to Kara Zor-L, Supergirl of Earth 1 and Helena Bertinelli, Huntress of Earth 1?  We know Supergirl is in her own Earth 1 series and Huntress recently finished up a trip to Italy in her own limited series.  Will we get to see a Supergirl vs Power Girl battle as we’ve seen in the past?  And Worlds’ Finest starts with the mention of Earth 1 Helena Bertinelli’s death.  But how?

Worlds’ Finest has great banter and chemistry between Karen and Helena, like we saw in the Gail Simone/Nicola Scott era of Birds of Prey.  Here this Worlds’ Finest issue is what I’d hoped for with the New 52 reboot of Birds of Prey.  You could easily see Batgirl of the New 52 joining up with these two superheroines at some point.  Helena fills the shoes as the Batman clone Huntress very well here–Huntress is at her best when she is written as Batman with a different hairdo and all the detective skill.  Karen’s Power Girl is outgoing and fun. not the typical spacey, serious and ethereal Supergirl.  But fans of her revealing Power Girl suit note that that outfit is long gone, replaced with a more updated supersuit.

I was pleasantly surprised with these first two issues of the New 52 second wave.  The re-hashed origin story that caused me to stop buying Justice League after the first few issues was disappointing, so it is nice to have a similar topic approached in such a refreshing and fun way.  Anxiously awaiting the second issues next month!

By Art Schmidt

For my top five list of stories I’d like to see turned into motion pictures, I have tried to be somewhat realistic.  Some of my favorite stories, whether novels or games or comic books, I have left off as just being beyond realization.  The wish of their being turned into a movie is, in itself, a fantasy, due to various factors.

For instance, since I was a teenager, I’ve been dying for someone to make a movie from Grand Poobah Dungeon Master Gary Gygax’s original storyline thread from the first D&D modules: “The Village of Hommlet” modules (T1-T4), the Slaver series (modules A1-A4), the “Against the Giants” series (modules G1-G3), and the “Drow of the Underdark” series (modules D1-D3 & module Q1 “Queen of the Demonweb Pits”).  Of course, this would be for the die-hard gaming geeks almost exclusively, and at twelve modules (adventures) it would be difficult to pack into a motion picture trilogy or quintology (!), even if anyone would be so crazy as to provide the funding for it.

I’m stoked for a movie adaptation of Ernest Cline’s recent novel, Ready Player One, but I’m not including it because it’s already in pre-production at Warner Bros.  No need to wish for that which is likely to already happen.  Then there’s the Wheel of Time series, which isn’t quite over.  The final book, currently titled A Memory of Light, is scheduled to be published in January of 2013.  And as the fifteen-volume series will clock in at an estimated 11,000 pages, it could never conceivably be condensed down to make any real sense in a few motion pictures.

Trivia:  A series of three books is called a trilogy.  A series of five books is called a quintology.  A series of seven books is called a heptalogy.  What is a series of fourteen books called?

Answer:  Too damned long!

Note:  No offense to Robert Jordan, may he rest in peace, the series is great, but it could have probably ended after eight or ten novels.  I really enjoyed the first ten Wheel of Time books!  And all of your Conan novels were great, too!

So, too, would I love to hear of a big screen adaptation of some of R.A. Salvatore’s  Drizzt Do’urden novels, especially the Icewind Dale Trilogy, but alas, it is not to be.  I could name some Star Wars and Conan novels that I’d like to see adapted, but those subjects have already been masterfully done on the big screen, so there is no use wasting our time.

Same goes for the less well-known but equally awesome Deathgate Cycle heptalogy from the great fantasy team of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  Too many books in the series (few of which really stand entirely on their own), and likely too hardcore (i.e. small) of a fan base.  Anyhow, the powers that be (being in power, as they are), would most likely take a run at Dragonlance (ho-hum) before considering Deathgate.  Too bad.

In the “slightly unrealistic” column, however, I have included the Elric of Melnibone saga in my list, despite the main character being an anti-hero and thus a difficult win for a motion picture, even with the hard-core fantasy crowd.  Strangely enough, this may be the one wish that I am granted (read more in my Elric entry, below).

A lot of fantasy, I know.  I’m a fantasy kind of guy.  There are a lot of good horror, sci-fi, and other fiction out there crying to be made into films, but really, we get a lot of good stuff from those genres already.  But there is a dearth of good fantasy films out there, and they come along so rarely; The Fellowship of the Ring came out over ten years ago, after all.

Man, I’m getting old.  Somebody please make a couple of these before I croak.

Other honorable mentions.  I’d love to see something done with Gaiman’s Sandman series, but probably too difficult and definitely niche.  Same goes for Marvel 1601, one of my favorite graphic novels (also Gaiman).  But niche.  The books of Michael Crichton have been done (and done, and done) as they are so interesting and have such strong plotlines, but my favorite novel of his is one of his non-fiction works, Travels.  He chronicles some of his real-life travels had some great insights into his own life from them.  But again, probably too tight of an audience for something like that.

Neuromancer would totally rock, but the conventional wisdom is that cyberpunk is way over.  I’m no good at conventional wisdom, though.  Maybe it’s so over that it’s ready to be hip again?  Disco and bell bottoms keep coming back, after all.  On second thought, maybe not.

Anyway, on with the real list.

#5 – The Gaean Trilogy (Titan, Wizard and Demon) from John Varley

A mix of fantasy and sci-fi, this is the first thing I thought of when I saw Avatar.  And I wasn’t alone.  Space farers explore a foreign planet where magic seems to happen in nature, strange creatures abound, and some of them are intelligent/sentient.  Then humans come along and really muck it all up.  That’s the Gaean Trilogy’s premise (not the plot) in a nutshell.

Of course, there is much more to it than that.  There are far more significant differences between these novels and the movie Avatar than there are broad similarities.  The combination of sci-fi and fantasy is what would make this appealing, and the titanides and eventual revelation of the Gaea intelligence (and what follows) would make for a great movie.

#4 – Fallout: New Vegas (video game)

My favorite game in recent years (besides Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I’m itching to play even now while writing this), FNV was a great game because of the amazing, engrossing storyline.

In a nutshell:

In the late twenty-first century, America and China fight a prolonged war over resources that ends with a nuclear exchange.  The nuclear warheads and subsequent fallout kills most everyone except a chosen few who retreat to underground ‘vaults’ to ride out the Earth’s recovery from global fallout (hence the title of the series).  Life as we know it ends.

Some two hundred years later, people begin to emerge from the vaults, and find some still living humans, along with irradiated creatures, mutants, and all sorts of crazy stuff living in the burnt-out shells of our former civilization.  Las Vegas was spared from direct nuclear attack by the defenses of wealthy industrialist and casino owner, as was the nearby Hoover Dam.  People died, but the core of the Strip survived (what irony).

A lone traveler enters the area, gets shot in the head and buried, but survives and is nursed back to health, although with amnesia from the wound.  He sets about trying to learn about himself and his assailants, and in the process discovers that Las Vegas (dubbed “New Vegas” by the current residents) is being contested over by a growing civilization from California (the New California Republic, or NCR), an army of brutal slave-owning tribals calling themselves Caesar’s Legion, and the wealthy citizen who kept Vegas from annihilation (or is it him?) who runs New Vegas with an army of killer robots and calls himself Mr. House.

The story is compelling, and locations are fantastic, the inhabitants are diverse and interesting, and there are stories aplenty for the traveler to encounter and deal with on his way to the game’s climactic battle between these competing forces over who will control Hoover Dam, the one source of electricity and life-giving water amidst a world of death and dust.

A great movie that would make.  We’ve seen shades of this with The Book of Eli (a great movie, but more of a morality tale than a straight-forward action/adventure flick) and The Road (a great example of how really good books can be terrible movies), but nothing like the tale spun in New Vegas.

#3 – The Elric of Melnibone novels by Michael Moorcock

An island of anemic sorcerer kings who rule the world.  A savage world of monsters and heroes who strive daily to survive.  Magic that allows people to cross into other dimensions and sail through space to other planets.  Stormbringer.  What an absolutely epic fantasy movie that would make!

Of course, the main problem is that Elric is an anti-hero.  In fact, Elric is the very embodiment of the modern-day anti-hero.  He’s not a nice guy.  He’s not even rough-around-the-edges-but-basically-moral-in-an-immoral-world (like Conan) kind of guy.  He’s a self-important, selfish, power-hungry elitist.  At times, he’s a murder, though he does begin to show some humanity and regret after a while.  But he has a goal, and purpose, and oh, the adventures he has, the places he goes, and the things he sees!  All fantastic, and all while wielding what can easily be called the most powerful magical sword in all of fantasy (save perhaps for Shieldbreaker from Fred Saberhagen’s Swords novels, but I digress…)

I would absolutely love to sit in a theatre and watch the albino sorcerer-king travel the planes swinging the Black Sword of legend.  Ever since I saw Conan the Barbarian, I have longed for someone to make movies out of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Elric saga.  One down, one to go.

Apparently, I am a little late to the party on this one.  Director/Producer brothers Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass) and Paul Weitz (American Pie, Little Fokkers) were reportedly in “pre-production” on a movie trilogy based on Moorcock’s dark, brooding novels about my second-favorite anti-hero (see #1, below, for my fave), but that project has been side-tracked and is lately talked about by the brothers in wistful terms of ‘someday’.

Here’s hoping that “someday” actually comes.

Side Note: I’m not 100% certain, but I believe “Pre-Production” is a fancy Hollywood term for people emailing and texting back and forth about great ideas for a movie, then meeting in coffee shops and chatting about how great it would be to make said movie, before moving on to work on real movies that are actually being made.

#2 – Justice League / The Dark Knight Returns

DC Comics is sitting on a goldmine, but they have had some trouble translating the shiny stuff in their mine into coin of the realm.  The Batman movies of late being the obvious exception, DC Comics has not enjoyed the great success of Marvel in translating their characters to the big screen.  Superman was ground-breaking back in the seventies, and the first couple of Batman movies of the late eighties / early nineties paved the way for what was to come.  And then there is Batman Begins, The Dark Knight (of course), and this summer’s Dark Knight Rises.

But taking the long view, that’s maybe six or seven hit movies over a thirty year span.  Not horrible, but not that great.  But compare that with Marvel’s run in just the last twelve years, and you can pick twice that number of successful movies based on their characters.  The X-Men movies (at least two of them), the Spiderman trilogy (again, at least two), The Fantastic Four, X-Men: First Class, and the movies leading up to and including this summer’s The Avengers (Ang Lee’s Hulk and Iron Man 2 notwithstanding).

I’m not bashing DC here, don’t get me wrong.  Their characters are iconic, to say the least.  And maybe they don’t value movies as much as Marvel does, which is fine.  There is certainly more money to be made in movies, but money isn’t everything; no movie is better than a bad movie, when the protection of a brand is essential to the company’s success.

But DC has such a wealth of great story that it’s hard to fathom that there hasn’t been more translation from the inked page to the lighted screen.  Just imagine this movie trilogy, my friends…

The Justice League – A movie centering on the core of the League, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Flash (possibly also Hawkman and/or the Martian Manhunter, depending on the ability to introduce the movie-going public at large to these characters), coming together to form the group to thwart Prometheus along the lines of Justice League: A Cry for Justice, except using the central characters rather than a competing alliance / ideology, with internal group conflict as to how to deal with the situation as would be natural.  Prometheus is murdering foreign superheroes, then planning to destroy cities of the League’s superheroes (maybe limit it to three key cities, rather than the sprawling destruction in the mag).  After being defeated he negotiates his escape, proving he’s not bluffing by detonating one bomb as in the book.  In this adaptation, Superman is the negotiator and Batman (along with Green Arrow) wanting to make him pay no matter what.  End with the Green Arrow scene (no spoiler here), with the barest hint that Batman helped him (but didn’t necessarily know what he was going to do).

The Justice League: Legion of Doom – The League battles the formation of the Legion of Doom.  The Legion is forming along the lines of the backstory from the Justice series in 2005-2006, with Brainiac (and Lex Luthor) fooling even his fellow baddies and planning to get the League to wipe out his ‘competitors’ of evil.  But unlike in Justice, their motivations are to take over the American government (as depicted in Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again).  The League wins the apparent victory against the facade, but Brainiac and Lex succeed behind the scenes with their real master plan.  At the very end, the League is disgraced and talks of disbanding.  Superman is called away on an emergency he won’t discuss… (Lex has Kandor and is going to blackmail him, but don’t reveal that until the last movie in the trilogy).

The Justice League Returns – The movie everyone wants, Superman vs. Batman, pull out all of the stops.  This movie would basically blend The Dark Knight Returns with a little bit of The Dark Knight Strikes Again, blending the emancipation of Batman’s fellow Leaguers a-la DKSA into the main storyline of DKR (yes, it might be sacrilegious, but this is Hollywood we’re talking about)The Justice League disbanded after their failure in The Legion of Doom, and Brainiac and Lex have taken over America and put a computer President in place.  With Kandor held hostage, they have forced Superman to help capture or banish the other League members (similar to the backstory of DKSA and DKR both: “Diana returned to her people; Hal left for the stars…”  Leave Shazam out, he makes things too complicated).  This bit could be the prologue to the movie itself (before credits).  Batman is the bitter retiree in DKR and follows that storyline back from retirement to defeat the Mutants gang and/or the return of Two-Face, then sets about freeing his fellow Leaguers (DKSA), which leads to the confrontation with Superman as the puppet of the Braniac/Lex regime (weak not from the DKR nuclear missile but from the faux ‘catastrophes’ that Brainiac/Lex cook up for him in DKSA; the asteroid, the volcano in Hawaii, etc.) along with Batman’s fellow Leaguers (similar to Green Arrow in DKR, but with Hal Jordan and Barry Allen also assisting as in DKSA).  No Kara, though, and no Dick Grayson craziness, and take out all of the future media “super babes” hype and whatnots.

Ok, I’m done geeking out.  And I realize that the fanboys would cry FOUL (and worse) and this kind of hacked together plot from what may be their favorite series(es).  Me?  I’m not a purist, I just like good story.  Perhaps that’s why I seem to be one of the small minority who absolutely loved both the Watchmen comics and the spectacular movie equally.

Hollywood can ‘just’ make DKR and I’d be ecstatic.

I know there was (is?) a JL movie in the works, announced as being in “pre-production” (oh, boy) last year by Warner Bros., but couldn’t find anything recent on the subject.  Anyone have any fairly recent scoop on where that one is at?  Still in pre-production?  Man, those guys drink a lot of coffee.

#1 – The Chronicles of Amber novels from Roger Zelazny

This would make a great movie trilogy, no question.  The great thing about this story and why it would translate to the big screen is the beginning: the hero is a seemingly normal human being on planet Earth in the current day.  He awakes in a mental institution, not knowing how he got there, but it’s apparent he’s being kept sedated and held against his will.  He escapes but has amnesia (I know, it’s a tired plot device, but here it absolutely works).  He finds out he has a sister, goes to her home to investigate, and finds some things that are… weird.  He confronts her, and then meets more family.  And things get a bit weirder.

As his journey progresses, the audience learns things as the protagonist does; bit at a time, little by little, slowly building up this incredible picture of the hero as a long-lost prince of a magical kingdom in another dimension.  Sound like a book for young adults?  Hang on to your britches, cause it’s anything but.  Don’t let the terms “long-lost prince” and “magical kingdom” fool you.  This is hardcore fantasy at its absolute finest.

Once the hero, Corwin, loses his amnesia, he finds that he is a talented swordsman, a gifted military leader, and a cunning strategist.  He’s also an able sorcerer and in line for his absent father’s throne.  However, his family is currently vying against each other in cabals and alliances for the crown, and there are as many of them as there are books in the Wheel of Time series.

It has the fantasy swordplay of Conan (the original), the magical flair of The Matrix (if you haven’t read the books, it’s hard to explain that reference, but believe me, it’s apropos), the political in-fighting of A Game of Thrones, the gritty war drama of Braveheart and Platoon (again, the reference works, trust me) and the narrative genius of the multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winning author, Zelazny.

Yeah, it’s that good.  At least to me.  That’s why it makes the top of my list of stories I’d love to see made into movies.

Come back tomorrow, and Jason McClain will give us his take on adaptations and being true to the source material.

Review by C.J. Bunce

The CW Network’s new TV series Arrow will not be aired until the Fall, but the CW previewed the entire pilot for the series last Wednesday and Friday to thousands of attendees at Comic-Con.  The auditorium erupted in cheers to several scenes in the series opener, starting some worthy buzz for this newest DC Comics Justice League superhero to hit the small screen.  Was it good?  Absolutely.  And even for a fan of the traditional character’s story, updates made for TV were well thought out and did little to detract from the core of what makes Green Arrow the unique character that has survived as a key comic book character for 70 years.  The pilot deftly managed to alter far less of the source material than, for example, the Green Lantern movie released in 2011, and in doing so created a truer, more refreshing story with appropriate nods to the past, and one that promises to survive, should it find its fan base.

Oliver Queen, played by Stephen Amell, is son of one of Starling City’s preeminent business magnates and head of Queen Industries, Robert Queen (played by Jamey Sheridan).  Oliver was on a yacht with his father and cheating below deck on his girlfriend Dinah “Laurel” Lance (a legal aid lawyer played by Katie Cassidy) with Laurel’s impressionable younger sister.  A surprise storm sinks the craft, the sister is sucked into the sea and drowns and Oliver, his dad, and a crewmember are left floating in a lifeboat.  Before running out of food Oliver’s dad kills the crewmember and himself to give Oliver a chance at survival.  All of this backstory is interspersed throughout the episode, building up to the revelation that the father and crewmember were dead by his father’s hand.  Oliver stays on the island five years until rescued by natives of another island sailing by.  By then he has become a sort of Grizzly Adams, hairy, physically strong and singularly adept at survival, including impressively wielding a bow and arrow.

When he returns home to Starling City, his mother, played by Susanna Thompson, is now romantically linked with his father’s former business partner and this does not sit well with Oliver.  Despite his numerous apologies, Laurel Lance has no place in her life for Oliver and blames Oliver for her sister’s death.  Oliver has his own sister, Thea (Willa Holland) a misguided youth tempted by parties and the like, and Oliver immediately returns to his role as big brother, irking the girl.  In one of the best updates to the traditional Green Arrow story, Oliver’s nickname for the sister is Speedy.  Green Arrow fans will know Speedy as the long-time sidekick of Green Arrow.  In the Phil Hester, Ande Parks, and Kevin Smith run of the Green Arrow comic book, a wayward girl with HIV named Mia was taken under Oliver’s wing, and she became Speedy, so there is some history with a female Speedy (in my view the best incarnation of his sidekick).  Hopefully the series will survive long enough for this to take on the Speedy story as its own fleshed-out subplot.  The first Speedy had drug issues, and you could see that history seeping into his sister’s character arc.

Laurel has been friends with Oliver’s best friend Tommy, played by Colin Donnell, since Oliver was presumed dead.  Tommy immediately steps back into a supportive role for his friend.  Another wealthy late-twenty-something guy like Oliver, Tommy surprisingly fit in well in the pilot.  A tad smarmy, he is the only one to really celebrate Oliver’s return and give him the “welcome home” party he deserves.  In his party scenes we see Oliver’s only similarity to Batman’s Bruce Wayne, a little window into the excesses shown by Christian Bale in his stints as the the caped crusader that were echoed in the traditional Oliver Queen.  Despite that slight similarity, series writers/creators Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim have shown Oliver to be a completely different superhero.  And this is best highlighted when Oliver begins cleaning up the streets of his former home, donning a green suede hooded outfit like Robin Hood.  The city is riddled with crime and nasty masked characters who try to kidnap Oliver, only for Oliver to kill them off one by one.  A superhero that kills is definitely against mainstream norms but it also has history with this character, most recently in the superb Justice League Cry for Justice mini-series, which left Oliver murdering the villain Prometheus in part for maiming the original Speedy, now called Red Arrow.

How often have you watched Batman let the Joker live after committing horrible crimes and wondered why he didn’t just end the Joker once and for all?  After Joker killed the second Robin (Jason Todd) in A Death in the Family?  After the Joker assaulted Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and left her disabled in The Killing Joke?  It’s long overdue that the vigilantism that is the undercurrent of both Batman and Green Arrow comes through in a story.  It didn’t occur in the original Flash TV series, in any Superman movie or in the Green Lantern movie.  So the audience that previewed the new Arrow was introduced to an element never before seen in a major DC Comics character and they loved it.  And Amell, later in the panel, proved that he understands his character, saying, “You couldn’t expect that Oliver was going to undertake something so monumental without there being collateral damage.  You don’t have to agree with his tactics, but you should respect what he’s trying to do.”

The pilot set up a web of subplots that can be handled throughout the first season.  Oliver’s mother seems to be behind his kidnapping upon his return.  Why?  Who is she working with?  How does it relate to some secret Oliver’s father may have disclosed to him on the yacht?  Will Diggle be a friend to Oliver or spy for his mother?

British actor and genre favorite Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files) plays his American accent here as Detective Quentin Lance, Laurel’s father and an angry cop investigating the crime element in the city as well as trying to track the new hooded vigilante killing off local crimelords and their lackeys.  He also can’t move beyond his younger daughter’s death these five years later.  Adding further difficulty to Oliver’s covert superhero doings, after the botched kidnapping, Oliver’s mother hires a full-time bodyguard named John Diggle (played by David Ramsey) to accompany Oliver everywhere.  Initially easily ditched by Oliver, Diggle learns quickly, giving Oliver an extra obstacle to fulfilling his goal of secretly cleaning up the city.  Like Green Arrow in his history of DC Comics stories, his alias is not so expertly hidden and Tommy suspects that it is Oliver who is the new hooded vigilante–yet another future story element to investigate.  The pilot also included a few throwaway characters that probably shouldn’t survive the pilot–typical stereotypes that you’d stuff into a pilot as filler, including Roger R. Cross as Detective Hilton and Brian Markinson as villain Adam Hunt.  Does Detective Lance need a partner?  If there was a downside to the pilot it was too many second tier characters.

Diehard fans of any character or story will always wrestle with any change or update to a character when translated from its original source material.  Changes like updating Star City to Starling City actually help to pull the character from the comic book world into the real world, although my initial reaction was “why change that?” or “why not just place him in Seattle where he lived for decades as written by Mike Grell?”  I asked Neal Adams at Comic-Con to give me his take on the new series, and he’s just not interested.  Adams, along with Denny O’Neil, created the modern, cocky and cool Oliver Queen at the tail end of the 1960s.  The biggest changes to Green Arrow later came from Mike Grell, who really amplified the role of Dinah Lance into Oliver’s story, and made Green Arrow the ultimate urban hunter.  I think Grell would at least like the direction this new Oliver Queen appears to be heading.  Do I wish this was a scene for scene adaptation of Grell’s Longbow Hunters series or his other stories?  You bet.  But since nothing ever matches what you’d envision, this at least gets Green Arrow a long overdue screen adaptation (the rest of the key seven Justice League members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Green Lantern have had at least their own animated series over the years), keeps Black Canary as his love interest, and features Ollie showing his stuff as urban archer.  If the writers can keep the series interesting and fresh, people will watch and we can see some expanded stories if the series will last.  When I look at series like Supernatural and Smallville, whose early episodes seemed to me to be very thin, it should be a no-brainer for CW to make this series into something just as successful.  Amell later in the panel admitted that he hopes it makes it ten years.  Wishful thinking?

After the preview of the pilot, series stars Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy and writers Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim responded to some well thought out questions from the panel moderator.  During the pilot Amell’s voice seemed very familiar and I had to look away to figure out who I was hearing.  He sounds a lot like a young, cocky Tom Cruise, from around the time of Top Gun.  Amell’s command of the character comes through in his voiceovers and Cruise’s early “immature jerk” roles seem to be reflected albeit not intentionally in Amell’s performance as the cocky side of Oliver.  I know many don’t like voiceovers, but I am one who prefers the Harrison Ford voiceover Blade Runner to the edited version, so I thought the voiceover here was also a good touch.  Amell responded very passionately to questions about playing Oliver Queen.  Amell sounds like he is inside Oliver’s head, both in voice delivery and in the word choice drafted by the writers.

The series features an older cast than Smallville, less teen soap opera, less typical CW, and more adult drama, if maybe at the younger end of the adult set.  Writer Andrew Kreisberg calls the show a crime drama, a family drama and a romance.  But even with that age block the actors appeared youthfully ambitious and eager about their new gig.

When asked whether we’ll see Cassidy’s Laurel Lance turn into action heroine Black Canary, in particular donning the character’s signature fishnet stockings, it seemed clear that both she planned on it saying she is “definitely ready” and Kreisberg and Guggenheim couldn’t say no to the roar from the crowd.  Kreisberg said that fans would see this transpire “not as soon as you want, but a lot sooner than you think.”  The creators didn’t shy away from the fact that they wanted and selected attractive stars for the series, reflecting the attractive characters from the source material.  Amell was the first who auditioned for Oliver and according to the writers, he was immediately selected for the role.

A key scene in one of the trailers, reported here several weeks ago, shows Amell doing a nearly impossible feat climbing a series of workout bars.  Amell said no CGI was used, and he, indeed, did these scenes on his own.  One of the writers added that that was “something you won’t see in Batman.”

CW revealed Kelly Hu will be guest starring in a future episode as the DC villain, China White, first appearing in the 2007 mini-series Green Arrow: Year One.  As I had speculated this past February here, the writers acknowledged relying heavily on the modern origin story in Green Arrow: Year One, illustrated by the artist known as Jock.  Not a classic Green Arrow story by any means, it did seem to serve as backdrop for at least the pilot episode.  A very recent villain like China White seems to me to be DC Comics taking an easy route.  Why not some bigger villains?  At least Deathstroke was disclosed as another villain we can look for in the series.  The writers advised watching each episode for “Easter Eggs,” like this Deathstroke mask found in one of the show’s trailers:

All said, I had trepidations about taking my favorite character into his own series, but I am quite pleased so far and am looking forward to watching the full series in the Fall CW lineup.  The pilot for Arrow premieres to the rest of the world Wednesday, October 10, 2012.

I will feature the actual Arrow costume in a later post, as it was on display at the SDCC DC Comics booth.

One additional benefit to attended the previews of the pilot was a convention exclusive comic book for the series that I was happy to get my hands on, pictured here with a cover by none other than the great Green Arrow artist, Mike Grell:

Full trailers can be found in my earlier post here.

Review by C.J. Bunce

(with spoilers!)

A slick hardcover version of the 2011 restarted series, Green Arrow, has been published, collecting Issues #1-7.  This is not to be confused with the New 52 reboot starting in the Fall of 2011.  Called Green Arrow: Into the Woods, it is a “Brightest Day” sequence storyline that conjures some good bits of Oliver Queen’s past, and includes some of the best cover art and interior art of any recent Green Arrow series.  The story was written by J.T. Krul, with art by illustrators Diogenes Neves and Mike Mayhew.  Some of the best covers ever done featuring Green Arrow are found in this collection, all painted by the great cover artist Mauro Cascioli.

In part 1 (originally Issue #1), Ollie has truly reverted to his roots, inspired by his hero Robin Hood.  After the destruction of Star City and Ollie killing Prometheus in Justice League: Cry for Justice, Ollie is living in the mysterious forest that has sprouted in the aftermath of Star City’s destruction. This is the classic Green Arrow of Mike Grell’s influence.  His former company, Queen Enterprises is taken over by a mysterious woman referred to only as the Queen.  And Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern shows up to find Ollie.

In part 2 (originally Issue #2) we learn more about the secret identity of the Queen.  Hal loses his power in the woods, and he and Ollie must defeat some goons sent by the Queen to destroy Ollie.  The entire issue consists of battle scenes, but we do learn that the creation of the forest is somehow related to the powerful White Lantern.  Krul also introduces a new character, a medieval looking fellow, who has no dialogue, but appears from nowhere.  This part ends in a bizarre cliffhanger, with seemingly the death of Ollie for the umpteenth time, via an arrow shot through his forehead.

But there are five more parts to get through, right?  So no dead Ollie.  Part 3 (originally Issue #3) is a strange, ethereal story, and we cannot be sure what is happening.  A medieval dressed fellow claims to be the one and only Galahad, knight of the Round Table.  Only viewing this meeting as a dream sequence makes sense, yet it appears the story is moving forward with this odd new partner to Oliver.  This is never fully explained in this entire volume.  The forest comes alive with the White Lantern’s light, but not before several flashbacks for Ollie, where we meet his father and mother, and Ollie revisits the mistakes of his past.  Is this something real or imagined, for Oliver Queen?  Impossible to tell.

In part 4 (originally Issue #4) Ollie encounters the Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onnz, originally thought dead, but re-created out of the White Lantern’s power.  Like Green Lantern, the Manhunter’s power is also zapped by the power of the woods.  And Mary, a woman he saved from modern day bandits in the woods, manages to keep Ollie busy, as she, too, sees herself as a leader destined to protect the citizens that remain in the aftermath of Star City.

As Ollie begins to believe a murderer of several high ranking citizens could be Mary, he goes to confront her but instead discovers a strange villainess in part 5 (Issue #5).  Named Nix, she murders an innocent to escape from Ollie.  For those that can keep up with the events of Into the Woods, it is at this point that the story falters.  The woods come alive, and (too) quick decision-making by Ollie and Galahad is required to fend off a band of demon-like creatures, summoned by the Black Lantern.  Again, we cannot be sure whether this is a reality for Ollie, or whether he is still part of some dream.  The low-point of the book is here, where Ollie must face off against an image of his father, which ends up not as his father at all.  But you get the odd feeling he is Luke visiting the forbidden tree to confront Vader in Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back.

All of the attacks on Ollie, and on Hal and J’onn in the woods, were caused by the Queen, and so, in part 6 (Issue #6) Oliver attacks Queen Industries to take on the Queen, where he also confronts her minion, the assassin he met earlier in the story.  The Queen reveals herself as a character from the family’s distant past.  Confused, Oliver (not us) manages to return to the forest.  Before that, this part becomes a story of a bitter past for Ollie’s parents, ultimately lacking some necessary emotion and the point of it all… never really comes together.

Although this isn‘t the worst of Green Arrow stories, it is missing something.  Oliver is alone, and yet you wonder if we needed a seven issue story arc to illustrate that aloneness.  The character Galahad comes with no explanation.  Why Galahad?  We see pieces of a story and as readers we try to make them fit together, but I’m not sure it is all meant to be coherent.

Out of the chaos comes the high point of Into the Woods.  And that is Mike Mayhew’s art in part 7 (Issue #7).  It may be that this is one of the best renderings of Green Arrow in years.  I have shared emails with Mike in the past, and he explained that he was influenced by Mike Grell in this issue.  The look of Oliver was based on a friend of Mayhew, who looks a bit like actor Cary Elwes.  I have seen the original pencil work of Issue #7, and the issue is an example of ink work that mutes the power of the underlying spectacular art.  Even so, the visuals in this issue surpass the rest of the book, and for this reason Green Arrow fans who missed the original Issue #7 will be wise to check out Into the Woods.  As for the story in part 7, it amounts to a vision of Oliver meeting his mother in the woods, and a too-sappy effort at Oliver being forced to revisit his past and forgive himself.  If you’re expecting an ending, there is none offered here, as the story is continued and concluded in a to-be released second volume called Green Arrow: Salvation.  Look for some good images of alternate covers at the end of the book.

Despite the meandering story, there are bits of good to be found here.  But the less-than stellar story is pretty much made up for by the impressive look of the book.  Diogenes’s work is well done, if not the best Green Arrow in the history of the character it at least shows a familiar Green Arrow readers can enjoy.  However, Mike Mayhew’s work in the last chapter, plus some great covers by Mauro Cascioli, are a pretty stunning collection of images.  If the cover is not the best of the Mike Grell inspired Green Arrow covers on record, it comes pretty close.  Strangely enough, neither Mayhew nor Cascioli get any cover credit for their work on this book.

Green Arrow: Into the Woods lists for $22.99, but can be found cheaper online.

By C.J. Bunce

When pondering what I want to see in the movie theater that hasn’t arrived yet I think a lot about several Philip K. Dick short stories, or TV series that I’d love to see continued on the big screen, like a big screen Magnum, P.I., or Simon & Simon or Chuck—although if it is as underwhelming as the last X-Files movie then maybe not.  I’d love to see some early twentieth century biopics of Bix Beiderbecke or Karl King (who, among other things, composed the circus themes for Ringling Brothers and played in Sousa’s band).  And it would be fun to take a bunch of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass songs from South Of The Border and The Lonely Bull and make them the soundtrack to a modern spaghetti Western, sort of like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with She’s The One A good Green Arrow or Bionic Man movie, or a good sequel to Return of the Jedi would all be fun.  And some things have been done already, but not quite right.  Space Ghost had his own cartton then interview show, but how about an adaptation of the serious origin series by Joe Kelly?  A big budget movie based on Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air could be awesome (the TV version suffered a bit despite a good cast).  The Russian story of Lieutenant Kije was filmed more than half a century ago with music by Prokofiev, but it needs a good updating.  We’ve seen four Tom Clancy novels about Jack Ryan, but the creepiest of the series, Debt of Honor, has yet to be made.

A lot of films have been made, and in coming up with this list one of my ideas–a film featuring Super Grover and the cast of Sesame Street–seemed long overdue.  I figured Sesame Street got bypassed for the Muppets, as shown in a funny scene from The Muppet Movie where Fozzie the Bear offers Big Bird a ride to the west coast to break into movies, and Big Bird says no thanks, he’s trying to break into public television back in New York.  Well, apparently they made that movie back in 1985 and I missed it, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That BirdYou can’t know everything.

For me this list was tough until I moved away from books as source material.  I think the movies I see in my head are better than how some of my ideas would likely turn out produced by the studios.  But let’s get on with it–with a nod to Art Schmidt for his idea with DC Comics and Jason McClain for mentioning Connie Willis.

    

From the comic books:  DC Comics’ Dark Knight Returns and Hard-Traveling Heroes

At lunch in high school my friends and I fantasy-cast Batman: The Dark Knight Returns over and over.  Ultimately we arrived at (the now late) Paul Newman as the ideal retired Batman, in the graphic novel another wealthy race car driver type.  In real life Newman was very much the Bruce Wayne interpreted in Frank Miller’s four-issue series-turned required-reading—as suave guy, well-liked, a wealthy philanthropist.  In a different universe Clint Eastwood would be great fun as a superhero coming out of retirement to have that last hoorah with the Batman cowl.  Probably too late now.  Of all the Batman stories, The Dark Knight Returns is #1–it is so well-established as more than a cult favorite, even beyond Watchmen, you just have to ask DC Comics and the Hollywood machine:  Why can’t someone just put it on the big screen?

I’ve said over and over here at borg.com that the best Green Lantern story ever is his team up with Green Arrow and Black Canary in Neal Adams’ and Dennis O’Neil’s classic Green Lantern Issues #76-87 and 89, the so-called “Hard Traveling Heroes.”  Imagine Black Canary pulling up on her motorcycle.  Imagine Green Arrow defending the kid robbing the slumlord.  Imagine Green Arrow catching Speedy.  Imagine Hal, Ollie and Dinah driving across America in their pick-up truck.  And harpies.  And encountering a religious cult.  And more harpies.

I’ll echo Art Schmidt: DC Comics needs to catch up with Marvel Comics movies, with Iron Man (the first one), Captain America: The First Avenger, and with Fantastic Four’s brilliant realization of Human Torch and The Thing, maybe my favorite heroes to screen so far.  OK, they nailed it with Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Batman.  Hopefully with The Avengers, Marvel Comics sets a new bar that DC Comics will have to work toward with a multi-hero story, maybe even with the Justice League or Superfriends.  Art’s recommended Cry for Justice, which we have discussed here before, is a great choice for this.

From the sci-fi novel: Remake, by Connie Willis

If you haven’t read Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Connie Willis’s books then you are in for a great ride through one of several fun and varied works.  For me, the concepts and Hollywood prophesies in her novel Remake are too cool to pass up and I have no doubt represent a foreshadowing of the future of film only slightly touched on in the Ralph Fiennes film Strange DaysRemake is science fiction at its best, and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1996.

In our near future, Hollywood no longer needs to make new productions.  A film technician rearranges classic films via computer manipulation, so that the viewer can select who he wants to watch the next time he watches Raiders of the Lost Ark.  How about John Wayne?  How about Humphrey Bogart?  Why not edit out all the cigarettes so we no longer encourage smoking for future viewers?  What other movies would be fun to manipulate?  This is the world of our future where Viacom and Paramount are now Viamount, where actors are reduced to stand-ins.  OK, so it probably won’t really be our future as totally envisioned by Willis.

The technician falls for a strange woman who wants to dance in a musical and he is continually sidetracked as he pursues her through the novel.  The love story is well done—but it’s the world of our future that would be fun to see, finally, on the big screen.  And you would not need to film an entire movie, simply clips, like the old soda pop ads that blended dead celebrities with living ones, and that allowed Nat King Cole to star in a modern music video with his grown daughter, the singer Natalie Cole.  Hollywood has the technology today—so why not see how far CGI can go?

I’d frankly love to see any Willis book adapted to film, and in addition those mentioned by others in this series, Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog would be great picks.

From the sci-fi novel: Fantastic Voyage 2: Destination Brain, by Isaac Asimov

When the original Fantastic Voyage was in theaters in 1966, Isaac Asimov created the novelization.  He was not happy with it because he was adapting someone else’s work (it was based on a Jerome Bixby story).  The original film reflected Hollywood basically at its infancy with special effects related to the future of medicine.  In its day it was a good effort.  With the 1987 novel Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain, which was not a sequel but an entirely new story, Asimov created the world inside a microscope that only he could envision.  The book is like Dennis Quaid in Innerspace, but with a serious mission and tone.  A group of scientists, such as you would find in the typical multi-disciplined problem solving team from a Michael Crichton novel, shrink themselves down to microscopic size to enter into the brain and try to diagnose the condition of a colleague, Dr. Pyotor Shapirov, the creator of the very technology that finally allows man to transport to such a miniscule size.

In 2001 Imax theaters featured a documentary on its giant-sized screens called The Human Body.  Audiences were able to see (and sometimes be grossed out by) the inner workings of the body.  Filmmakers would hardly need much by way of CGI to show a voyage through the cells.  Maybe this would be fun to attempt for some creative producer, and a project showing yet another frontier of science to science fiction fans.

From the art gallery: the cinematic paintings of Edward Hopper

How about a story for stage or screen where each scene begins or ends as an Edward Hopper painting?  And the focal character is the girl from his Automat, maybe also the same girl from his Chop Suey painting?  New York Movie, First Row Orchestra, Summertime, Cape Cod Evening—they all tell some secret story.  Or at least they all could, in the right filmmaker’s hands.

Hopper’s cinematic compositions and use of light and shadow has caused filmmakers to mimic his style before.  House by the Railroad supposedly influenced the house in the Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the home in the Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven.  Director Wim Wenders’ film The End of Violence incorporates a tableau vivant of Nighthawks. Surrealist horror film director Dario Argento recreated the diner and the patrons in Nighthawks as part of a set for his 1976 film Deep Red.  Hopper has inspired both Blade Runner and Road to Perdition.

Turner Classic Movies uses animated recreations of Hopper paintings as introductions to classic films and in That ’70s Show the producers recreated the diner from Nighthawks.  But how about a full-scale movie showing us something about these characters we don’t know?  That’s something I’d love to see on the big screen.

From the ancient history books: the world briefly changed by Akhenaten

I could find a non-fiction work for the adaptation, but it’s the story itself I really want to see here.  The pharaoh Akhenaten was the leader of Egypt for about 17 years from circa 1353 B.C. to 1335 B.C.  He was married to Nefertiti and had six or seven daughters and at least one son–Tutankhamen.  In his reign he revamped the religion of his country like never before, moving from a polytheistic pantheon of gods to the worship of a single god, the Aten, or sun-disk.  Following his reign the empire was returned to its prior state and for Akhenaten’s blasphemy his name was chiseled out of a significant part of the written record.  Art during his reign became more expressive and naturalistic.  Images of the pharaoh show a realistic image that hid no flaws, a long face, not the typical glorification and heroic imagery of Egyptian leaders before and after.  Akhenaten is so interesting from a number of levels that it would be a great challenge to reflect his reign in film.  Certainly a rebel and not a traditionalist.  A stunning wife.  How do you show all the Egyptian relationships—including accepted inbreeding as a norm–without coming off as judgmental?  As pharaoh he was “one with the god Aten.”  How do you portray daily life in an interesting way where the ruler is God and what could you show about his family on film?  A great pandemic swept across the Middle East during this period, taking out the Hittite ruler Suppiluliuma, and how did they manage through that?  But even more interesting, with all the stories of the history of conflict in Egypt, what did life look like during the years of Egypt’s own version of Camelot?  This all would be incredible to depict.

From fantasy opera:  Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung

I have only seen one version of The Ring that comes close to clarifying this odd and complex story composed of four epic operas for a general audience: P. Craig Russell’s two volume graphic novel of The Ring of the Nibelung.  A few years ago I discussed The Ring with Russell and he said it was a great effort to produce it and it became a sort of magnum opus for him.  But even an adaptation of Russell’s adaptation would need streamlined for mainstream audiences—yet, it would be a great starting point.  Predating that other famous fantasy ring series (the one by J.R.R. Tolkien) by decades, Wagner’s opera is epic in scope and length, taking four nights or 15 hours to perform the full opera.  We already have a superb soundtrack from Wagner, but can someone make a feature-length, meaningful adaptation in the English language that conveys the energy and power of the original without all the nonlinear bits and pieces?  The reward would be a giant vision of gods, heroes, mythical creatures and magic.

Other operas due for a good movie?  The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro.

More than any of the above I would love to see our own Elizabeth C. Bunce’s retelling of Rumplestiltskin, A Curse Dark As Gold (maybe a classic PBS/BBC series or Hayao Miyazaki anime film would be fun) or her fantasy noir Thief Errant series on-screen.  A Curse Dark As Gold has already been performed superbly in a full-length audio CD version by a Broadway actress so I’ve had a little taste of what it would be like to witness it fully played out.  And speaking of ECB, tomorrow she’ll give us her take on stories that should be adapted for the big screen.

Some quick background:  In April 2005 I got a chance to meet Michael Turner at a comics convention.   I had known of his work from seeing his Aspen designs (Fathom in particular is a visual treat).  But what was really big then was his Superman/Batman covers.  I told him and colorist Peter Steigerwald that his cover to Superman/Batman #13 fifty years from now would be a defining cover for the first decade of the millenium.  Some Turner covers:

       

Turner had brought to the convention albums of all his comic book pencil art to-date.  I expected to see some incredible work.  What I saw was epic.  Leonardo da Vinci epic.  As I was “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over the pages his co-creators mentioned the enormous time he puts into each page.  His pencils for the Superman/Batman covers were stunning, but his interior art of Batman was intricately detailed to a level you would have to see to believe.  Luckily for us, DC caught on to his pencil sketches and put out some alternate covers without the color, but even they didn’t match seeing the pages in your hands.  An original Turner piece used for three covers that Aspen owns:

Nothing against Steigerwald–comics need color and his coloring style was and is great–but sometimes colorists hide some of the best of the pencilist’s craft.  Sadly, Turner passed away just before the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008 at only 37 and we missed out on half a lifetime’s worth of stunning covers and interior art for sure.

Comic readers are always on the lookout for the next big thing.  Like Alex Ross, who has been around in the limelight even before Turner.  Alex Ross has a different style, focusing his best work on painting incredible covers of almost every subject you can think of, from DC to Marvel to political commentary.  Ross has become the #1 cover artist of choice among fans, almost without debate.

But last year the Green Arrow title started picking up steam with its cover art.  Check these out:

       

A new artist, Mauro Cascioli, had quietly entered the comic book scene and was putting out some stunning painted covers.  Who was this guy?  Cascioli was born in Buenos Aires in 1978.  Between 1992 and 2004 his work could be seen in the Brazil version of Rolling Stone magazine.  Then in 2005 he started working for DC Comics.  In 2007 he drew interior art and cover work for The Trials of Shazam limited series.  And his work in the book looks good, great even.  But then look at a page of his original pencil work for the Shazam series:

Cascioli has his own style, but his incredible detail work reminds me of another artist.  Yes, Michael Turner.  I think his Batman renderings are right up there with Frank Miller’s in The Dark Knight Returns, and Jim Lee’s landmark boot-in-your-face Batman as seen in his “Hush” storyline of the Batman title.  And I like how his Superman looks like Christopher Reeve.  Cascioli then moved on to the standout series Justice League of America: Cry for Justice.  Here is a page of his original interior art to Cry for Justice:

Again, stunning pencils.  In my view, Mauro Cascioli is THE artist to watch.  What is he up to right now?  It’s hard to tell.  The DC press releases about its reboot this past month listed more than 100 creators, but Cascioli wasn’t on the list.  Now it could be because they intended to only list writers and interior artists.  But I hope that DC’s powers-that-be take a second look at Cascioli’s interior pages.  Because as much as I love his Green Arrow painted covers, it would be great to be able to open a book and get that same level inside, and from someone whose work is as exciting to see as anyone we’ve seen…well, since Michael Turner. 

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

By Art Schmidt

Marvel Studios’ newest and boldest superhero movie yet, The Avengers premiered on Friday in North America.  To celebrate the superhero team-up movie five years in the making, AMC Theaters nationwide offered an all-day Ultimate Marvel Marathon in select venues, previewed here last week, showing all five previous Marvel Studios super heroes movies, in order, leading up to the midnight premier of The Avengers:  Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.  I reviewed the movie Saturday here at borg.com, but now I want to share the most excellent movie-going experience I had at the Ultimate Marvel Marathon.

I had been to AMC special events before; they carry the Fathom Events series, including the excellent Lost panel I attended prior to the series finale.  I had also previously attended their all-day screening of the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was discussed here at borg.com.  So I knew AMC would do this event right, but even I had no idea how Mighty it would be.

Early Thursday afternoon, the theatre was packed and there were tons of fans sporting their hero gear, many throwing props to their favorite heroes from both within the Marvel and DC universes and without (one guy sitting near me had on an Archer T-shirt, which I thought was hilarious.  Several fans were wearing Justice League gear, like silent cries for DC to follow in Marvel’s footsteps and begin work on a similar movie featuring their favorite DC characters.  There were several good costumes floating around, including a convincing Tony Stark in party tux and a great home-made Thor outfit which drew lots of cameras.  The folks at the AMC 30 Theater I attended the event at had things well planned out.  Marathoners had lanyards and special 3D glasses provided, and a limited supply of a free special issue of The Avengers comic book.  There were activities planned including trivia in between each movie and select prizes for the correct answers (posters, additional 3D glasses, and masks).

Before the showing of the first movie, Iron Man, the AMC hostess took a favorite character survey among the “Big Four” Avengers (the ones who have had their own movies thus far) and though it was close between Captain America and Iron Man, Tony Stark pulled it out during the second round of voting.

When the lights dimmed, the surprises were far from over.  Before each of the five movies leading up to The Avengers premier, there were short “debriefings” shown featuring none other than our favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Phil Coulson.  He provided brief reviews of the movies’ main characters, personalities, and the circumstances leading up to them becoming involved in The Avengers Initiative.  Before Iron Man, Coulson did a very funny bit throwing out a copy of Tony Stark’s own description of himself (in a very thick binder), and then showing Coulson’s own single-page description which was entirely inked over, being heavily redacted by the government.

There were very big cheers when each movie started, and huge laughs during all of the funny scenes in every movie.  The crowd was loud and raucous, and the carnival atmosphere was everything I had anticipated and more.  It was like being in the middle of a gigantic, six-hundred person nerd love-in, and everyone was loving it.  When Stark announced “I am Iron Man” at the end of the initial movie, you couldn’t hear yourself think over the huge cheers.

When Nick Fury came in for his first cameo at the end, the theater filled with an unexpected electricity his final words: “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.”  That scene took on a whole new meaning for the assembled crowd of fans, and the cheers were deafening.

Throughout the showings of the movies, there were big cheers at the first appearance of each of our beloved heroes, and Marvel-ous applause every time a Stan Lee cameo occurred.  When the Hulk kicked a heavily souped-up Captain Emil Blonksy into the tree in response to the “Is that all you’ve got?” the crowd roared the loudest it had thus far.  And things only got better.

The folks at AMC posted pictures on their Facebook page throughout the day and evening which fans happily scanned through on their smart phones in between shows.  The great crowd even made Iron Man 2 enjoyable, with lots of applause and laughs especially at the expense of Justin Hammer, played with gleeful scumbaggery by Sam Rockwell.

The last three films, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers were all shown in 3D.  Agent Coulson’s debrief prior to Thor ended with the instruction: “The time has come to put on your S.H.I.E.L.D.-supplied enhanced eyewear for three-dimensional presentation”.  Big laughs at that one, like good little Junior Agents, we all did exactly as we were told.

The movie Thor actually played a bit more corny against the others, or perhaps kitschy is the right term, when viewed along with the other films, especially the little New Mexico (?) town that never quite looks or feels quite real (as compared to Asgard, which was incredibly well-conceived and heavily detailed).

And thanks to free refills for large drinks and popcorns, the lines were never short at the concession stands all day long (nor for the bathrooms!)

The debrief prior to Captain America contained more humor, with Coulson beaming like a little kid as he shared with the audience that Captain America was his favorite hero.  “I have all of his trading cards,” he nearly gushed, before quickly regaining his composure and asserting, “But enough about me.”  Little did we know that this bit would play directly into the plot of The Avengers.

Just before the premiere of the main event, at midnight the AMC folks led the entire audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to an audience member who was turning 21 at midnight.  The song was accompanied by huge cheers and applause, and I know we made that guy’s day.

And then the main event started, and it was a great present for us all, birthdays or not.  AMC did this event right, a great movie event for movie lovers, and I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for future events such as this.

(Photos copyright AMC Theaters 2012, reprinted from their Facebook page)

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