Category: TV


Swamp Thing ad

When people with creativity and skill have their grasp on the reins of DC Comics properties, great things can happen.  Unfortunately it’s a rarity.  Although its Arrowverse on the CW Network were good efforts, DC at the movies hasn’t shown much promise until last year’s Shazam!, although Aquaman was another good effort.  But the big win of live-action DC Comics adaptations was last year’s Swamp Thing (above) featuring the titular creature and other Justice League Dark characters Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger.  The series was our own selection here at borg for top superhero series last year.  Shazam! and Swamp Thing prove that with good writing, production, and acting talent both movie and television adaptations truly worthy of the comic book source material are possible.

New streaming provider HBO Max announced this week its own team-up.  It will join J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions to produce a new live-action Justice League Dark series with Warner Brothers Television (in addition, a project related to Stephen King’s The Shining called Overlook was also announced).

Justice League Dark is, as the title suggests, a band of superpowered characters from the shadows of the DCU.  Spanish artist Mikel Janin was tasked with re-imagining the look of these more offbeat and occult characters from their earlier individual series and appearances for the New 52 launch in 2011, and for us Justice League Dark is synonymous with Janin’s designs, shown above and below (we interviewed Mikel about the new look here at borg back in March 2012).  The JLD then included Zatanna, Constantine, Deadman, Shade, Madame Xanadu, Swamp Thing, the Phantom Stranger, Frankenstein, and the Enchantress, and more as they would emerge throughout the series’ short 40-issue run.

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Although it wasn’t renewed for a second season, streaming service DC Universe’s Swamp Thing was the 2019 adaptation of a comic book series that stood apart in a year where every other series seemed to be based on a comic book.  On the small screen, from The Umbrella Academy, The Boys, and Watchmen, to the last seasons of Netflix’s The Punisher and Jessica Jones, plus new seasons of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham, and Legion, and new Batwoman and Doom Patrol series, 2019 meant a lot of comic book adaptations that either looked the same or they fought hard to try to be grittier and different.  And that’s great–that means there’s something for everyone.  But none compared to Swamp Thing.  For our money, if you’re looking for fun, creepy timed for Halloween and not cartoony, soap opera-ish, or comic booky, and a series that earned its way to be one of the top 10 comic book adaptations of all, give Swamp Thing a try.  Moving from DC Universe to the CW network where anyone can watch it, the first episode of Swamp Thing begins again tonight at 7 p.m. Central.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Although it wasn’t renewed for a second season, streaming service DC Universe’s Swamp Thing is the adaptation of a comic book series from 2019 that stood apart in a year where every other series seemed to be based on a comic book.  On the small screen, from The Umbrella Academy, The Boys, and Watchmen, to the last seasons of Netflix’s The Punisher and Jessica Jones, plus new seasons of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham, and Legion, and new Batwoman and Doom Patrol series, 2019 meant a lot of comic book adaptations that either looked the same or they fought hard to try to be grittier and different.  And that’s great–that means there’s something for everyone.  But if you’re looking for fun, and nicely creepy but not too dark, and not cartoony, soap opera-ish, or comic booky, and you were willing to give DC universe a try, then you’d be lucky enough to have discovered Swamp Thing If you missed it, you can still catch up with the full season now with a DC Universe subscription or via Amazon Prime here, and it’s coming your way (and available for pre-order) on Blu-ray, digital, and DVD next month.

Swamp Thing strikes the right balance, taking a second-tier property and recreating the level of creepy found in 1960s-1980s comics–a show that actually looks and feels like what the original visionary artists Bernie Wrightson and writer Len Wein put on the page.  Finally a great Justice League Dark show, something like we loved in print from Mikel Janin and Peter Milligan that so far also has provided the best character cameos of CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event.  Complete with Madame Xanadu, Blue Devil, and Phantom Stranger, we meet two very Marvel Comics types inside the DC realm.  More importantly it’s great fun, like a John Carpenter movie with its visual effects, a top cast of household name actors and great guest stars, and faithful storytelling to the comics, headed up by Crystal Reed as a smart CDC doctor named Abby.  If you’re of the camp (like us) that agrees Bill Bixby on The Incredible Hulk is still the best comics on TV has ever been, then you’ll love seeing the similar origin tale and subsequent episodes between Abby and Andy Bean′s Alec Holland, a researcher and investigator whose lives are turned upside down when a swamp is contaminated by a local mill, which causes devastating changes to Holland.  The chemistry and tragic tale played by Bixby and Mariette Hartley in the 1970s Hulk series is echoed by the chemistry of Reed and Bean as the leads in Swamp Thing.

Holland transforms into a beast who walks and speaks like a man, but the plants of the swamp have merged with him.  Is there still a man in there that can be removed and repaired, or is he forever transformed into something entirely new?

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Meeting Lee Majors

Hey, looks like we made it!

Five years ago today, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt, Jason McClain, and I had already spent a few months talking through the technical details for the launch of borg.com.  What should it look like?  What should we write about?  How do we get to there from here?  Then it all came together on June 10, 2011, and I sat down and just started writing.  Should this be a weekly thing?  Once I started I just couldn’t stop and we cemented borg.com as a daily webzine.  And readers started showing up every day.  Soon we had hundreds of followers, and hundreds of thousands of visits per year.

The best part?  Working with friends and meeting new ones each year.

We’ve had plenty of high points.  Cosplay took off in a big way in the past five years.   Elizabeth and I hit the ground running at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011 with our Alien Nation/Chuck mash-up and you can find us all over the Web in photos taken by others at the show.  Our years were dotted with the random brush with coolness.  A retweet by actress Alana de la Garza, coverage of Joss Whedon visiting the Hall H line at 3 a.m. outside SDCC in 2012, Zachary Levi calling out Elizabeth for her cosplay at Nerd HQ, interviewing the stars of History Channel’s Vikings series, our praise for the Miss Fury series appearing on the back of every Dynamite Comics issue one month, tweets from Hollywood make-up artist family the Westmores commenting on our discussion of Syfy’s Face Off series, our Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (negative!) review featured on the movie’s website, that crazy promotion for the Coma remake mini-series, planning the first Planet Comicon at Bartle Hall and the Star Trek cast reunion, attending the first Kansas City Comic Con and the first Wizard World Des Moines Con, hanging with comic book legend Howard Chaykin, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels, cast members from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Star Trek, bionic duo Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner.  And borg.com gained some well-known followers (you know who you are) along the way.

sdcc-whedon-c shot

We’re grateful for some great Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other feedback over the years from Felipe Melo, Mickey Lam, Michael Prestage, The Mithril Guardian, Francesco Francavilla, Adam Hughes, Judy Bunce, Mike Norton, Jack Herbert, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, David Petersen, Rob Williams, and Matt Miner, and for creators we interviewed including Mikel Janin, Penny Juday, Tim Lebbon, Kim Newman, James P. Blaylock, Freddie Williams II, Jai Nitz, and Sharon Shinn.

Bunce Alien Nation cosplay x

What did readers like the most?

We amassed an extensive archive of hundreds of book reviews, movie reviews, reviews of TV shows, and convention coverage, thanks in part to the good folks at Titan Books, Abrams Books, Lucasfilm Press, Weta New Zealand, Entertainment Earth, Dynamite Comics, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and several TV and movie studios and distributors.

McClain and EC Bunce

My own favorites?  Sitting down to come up with my own five all-time favorite characters with the borg.com writing staff.

Schmidt and Bunce at PC 2015

Thanks to my family, my friends, especially my partner in crime Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt and Jason McClain, my support team, and William Binderup and the Elite Flight Crew.

Onward and upward!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

To get to borg.com’s first anniversary it actually took us 366 days because of the leap year.  And what a year it has been!

So what do we have to show for 366 daily posts–our attempt to keep you up to date on what is going on in science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment news?

Jason McClain and Elizabeth C. Bunce

We interviewed some great people, like DC Comics artists Freddie Williams and Mikel Janin, writers Sharon Shinn and Jai Nitz, and Star Trek insider Penny Juday.  In our “Sneak preview” series we reviewed the pilots for new TV series ABC’s New Girl and NBC’s Awake before they were broadcast on TV.  We gave you our take on several opening weekend screenings of a big year in movies from Cowboys & Aliens to Green Lantern, from the last Harry Potter film to Daniel Radcliffe’s first big adult role in The Woman in Black,  to the day of Marvel Comics movies that led up to the U.S. premiere of The Avengers We shared the first images released of The Hobbit and Total Recall We reviewed new books and classic sci-fi books in our “Retro reviews,” from Philip K. Dick, Ian Fleming, Michael Crichton, Rex Stout, Ernest Cline, and Richard Stark, and several non-fiction books about the “behind the scenes” of movies.  We covered Comic-Con International, Wondercon, Planet Comicon, Free Comic Book Day and the early release party for Avengers vs. X-Men We reviewed dozens of new comic book series, from Morning Glories to Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising and a whole slew of DC’s New 52 reboot, as well as Marvel Comics’ limited series events.  Along with that we’ve kept tabs on our (and hopefully your) favorite things like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Walking Dead, Peter Jackson, baseball, Community, Benedict Cumberbatch, the Syfy Channel, USA Network, James Bond, Batman and Green Arrow.  We’ve posted lots of original comic art to get an eye on the creative process of the artist, and we loved discussing genre costumes, including the latest news about incredible screen-used prop and costume auctions.  We’ve also taken a closer look at science fiction movies with our “Anatomy of science fiction” series, featuring iconic images, and the evolution of space suits in film.  And to give you ideas for movie watching from the archives, we provided our “favorites” and “best of” series, revealing our recommendations for overlooked TV series, Halloween flicks, favorite fantasy films, best adaptations, favorite characters, and best art of Alex Ross and Frank Cho.  We’ve profiled favorite genre stars like David Warner, John Carpenter and Mark Sheppard.  We’ve reviewed new compact discs from some of our favorite celebrities, Hugh Laurie and Zoey Deschanel, as well as new fantasy video games.  And finally, we’ve talked about borgs from every sci-fi franchise out there, and even how borg technology as cutting edge science affects humans in real life.

Art Schmidt and CJ Bunce

We think we like what you’d like, so we’ve tried to help you get the most out of entertainment by recommending to you the best sci-fi, fantasy and entertainment out there.

A personal thanks to professional writers Elizabeth C. Bunce (fantasy author, intrepid TV reviewer and fangirl), Jason McClain (Hollywood columnist and master of myriad musings) and Art Schmidt (diehard genre fan and fantasy realm connoisseur) for their great contributions and getting us more than 250,000 site visits and hundreds of positive feedback comments in only our first year.

Thanks for reading!  Year 2 begins tomorrow…

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

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