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Category: Comics & Books


Review by C.J. Bunce

Ryan Coogler, the young writer-director of the excellent Rocky sequel Creed, has put his Creed star Michael B. Jordan against Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in 42 and Thurgood Marshall in last year’s film Marshall.  The result?  The next great Marvel superhero movie, Black Panther, opening this weekend in theaters everywhere.  Boseman is back as King T’Challa, the suave and poised Black Panther of the comic books that audiences first met in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.  The new film fills in the blanks of T’Challa’s origin story, populated with a dozen of the best characters from any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, matched to some of today’s best actors.  On the heels of last year’s wildly successful surprise hit Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther is just as good if not better, but completely different.  It’s a more serious tale, a one-off in the MCU similarly spliced into the ongoing Avengers narrative as was done with 2016’s supernatural Doctor Strange.  It also supplies a new, rich superhero mythology populated primarily with black characters–a film first featuring a black superhero title character in a major studio release.  Coogler’s layered, multifaceted film is even more successful at accomplishing what Zack Snyder tried to do last year with the DC Universe film Wonder Woman, which first put a woman in a title role in a major superhero movie.  Coogler makes great strides with Black Panther, not just a mere first step.

Beginning with a father teaching his son about a hidden country in Africa called Wakanda, we learn that a powerful resource called vibranium gives the people of this land incredible power, which they hide from the known world.  The story is straight out of Shakespeare or Roman and Greek histories: three princes compete for the throne of Wakanda when the King dies in a terrorist attack at the United Nations.  Boseman’s T’Challa is the heir-apparent who is challenged for the throne first by Prince M’Baku (Winston Duke), then by Jordan’s Erik Stevens, a special forces soldier from the States whose death toll in battle earned him the nickname Killmonger.  Not just a one-note villain found so often in superhero movies, Erik has his own complex backstory that converges with T’Challa’s efforts to capture the film’s villain, Ulysses Klaue (pronounced “claw”), one of Marvel’s best villains yet, played by Middle-earth native Gollum and The Planet of the Apes’s series’ star Andy Serkis.  Although his antics are unique, here Klaue is the crazed villain you’d expect from a superhero story.  Erik also assumes a villain role, but his story and particularly his life in parallel to the new King is more biblical in its roots.  Erik’s father is N’Jobu, a compelling supporting character at odds with Wakanda, played by Marshall co-star and Supernatural’s Sterling K. Brown, and his past sets up a compelling tragedy arc within the film for Erik.

For those who go to superhero movies for badass superheroics, it’s the women of the film that fill that niche.  Our own early borg.com nominee for the annual badass heroine of the year goes to the fan-favorite actor from The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira, as Wakanda General Okoye.  Her steely resolve and loyalty alone is enough to get us to race back to the theater to watch her all over again in the theater tomorrow.  A Wakanda spy and confidante of the King is Nakia, played by Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book star Lupita Nyong’o, a fierce and savvy ally.  But a favorite of the film for many will no doubt be T’Challa’s young sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright (Doctor Who, Ready Player One, Humans, The Commuter).  The film doesn’t completely find its voice and reach full throttle until Shuri lets out a howl in a conversation with her brother.  By that point the entire audience is onboard.  Shuri is very much derived from Q in the James Bond movies, supplying her brother with the latest tech.  After movie audiences got a peek at what a woman would look like as James Bond with South African actress Charlize Theron as a superspy in last year’s Atomic Blonde, those looking for the first black James Bond need go no further than Boseman’s smooth and stylish take on T’Challa Coogler even inserts a spectacular casino mission scene straight out of 2012’s Skyfall, and borrows another great character from the Bond playbook with The Hobbit and Sherlock actor Martin Freeman as a very, very Felix Leiter-esque American CIA agent named Everett Ross.  A scene pitting Freeman opposite Serkis again will be a fun reunion for fans of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies.

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Wil Wheaton standing room only crowd at Planet Comicon 2013

This weekend Planet Comicon Kansas City is featuring a pantheon of nationally recognized comic book writers and artists at its sixth year in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.  The show begins tomorrow at Bartle Hall, and continues through Sunday.  Bring your stacks of comics for autographs from your favorite creators, including Frank Cho, Jill Thompson, Dave Dorman, Mark Brooks, Brian Azzarello, Jae Lee, Dan Jurgens, Chris Stevens, Peter Stiegerwald, Amy Chu, Ashley Witter, Greg Capullo, Stephane Roux, Christopher Priest, and Scott Snyder.

Back again are PCKC regulars Freddie Williams, Tony Moore, Jason Aaron, Phil Hester, Jai Nitz, Ande Parks, Ant Lucia, Skottie Young, Megan Levens, Neal Adams, Greg Horn, Seth Peck, Rob Davis, Darryl Woods, Jason Arnett, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, C.W. Cooke, Damont Jordan, and Darren Neely.

Planet Comicon 2014

Make sure you visit the Elite Comics flight crew at the “Party on the Pillar” and pick up some great deals on what the Con is all about–comics–including Elite Comics and Planet Comicon exclusive cover variants of special issues available only at the show.

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DC Entertainment and Marvel Studios offered superhero genre fans live-action adaptations of some of the comic book world’s best-loved superheroes last year.  The concept artwork behind each of DC’s Justice League and Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok are the subject of two new books for fans wanting to dig deeper into the development of these films: Justice League: The Art of the Film, by Abbie Bernstein, and The Art of Thor: Ragnarok, by Eleni Roussos.  Both share the feature of being primarily photographic essays, visual guides illustrating the phases of characters and environments leading to the final art design used in the films.  So both will make good souvenir or coffee table books in addition to showcasing the artists’ visions for film aficionados and comic book fans.

Justice League: The Art of the Film is a 206-page, full-color, hardcover book similar to last year’s Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film.  This volume gives much attention to the variety of costumes created for the film, particularly the looks of the new characters to the film series, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg.  Cyborg’s cybernetics were added in post-production via CGI.  This is not so much a behind-the-scenes, detailed account with interviews about the production as we’ve seen in other volumes, but it does include statements from each of the key actors and production members peppered throughout the photographs  The layout of pages and overall design is stylized keeping with the themes of the story.

An excerpt from Justice League: The Art of the Film.

Well-designed with gorgeous concept art, The Art of Thor: Ragnarok is a hefty 320 pages in a slipcase holder, featuring classic Jack Kirby art on the book cover inside the dust jacket.  Kirby’s designs can be found as inspiration throughout the film, and are reflected in the concept art and design work, particularly that found in the fantastical world of Sakaar.  Each of the key characters you’d expect get plenty of coverage.  Readers will find hundreds of images of Mayes C. Rubeo’s costume designs for Thor, Hulk, Hela, Loki, Odin, Skurge, and the Grandmaster, as well as supporting characters.  The fiery Surtur has a surprisingly thorough section, showing the various stages that resulted in the finished look seen in the film.

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Never been to a comic book or pop culture convention?  Always wanted to go to San Diego Comic-Con but you don’t have the vacation time available or the funds?  Planet Comicon is next weekend in Kansas City and it’s the sixth year of the show at downtown Kansas City’s giant convention center at Bartle Hall.  Planet Comicon is a great way to get a complete three-day convention experience centrally located in the Midwest, ideal for a last-minute road trip for the family or a car full of friends.  Kansas City is less than 8 hours by car from Dallas, less than 7 hours from Minneapolis, a little more than 7 hours from Indianapolis, and a little more than 8 hours from Denver.  And you don’t need to buy advance tickets–you can purchase them at the door.

So why make the trip?  How about meeting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Firefly star Alan Tudyk?   Also from Firefly, as well as Doctor Who, Supernatural, Chuck, Leverage, Star Trek Voyager (and one of borg.com‘s actors we can’t get enough of), Mark Sheppard?  Want to get a photo with Michael Rooker (“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” Yondu) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis), stars of last year’s biggest superhero hit Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2?  Are modern classics your thing?  How about seeing the star of fan-favorite movies like Say Anything, High Fidelity, and Eight Men Out?  Yep, John Cusack is returning to the Midwest for this year’s show (you can even bring your prized Rooker and Cusack Eight Men Out baseball cards for autographs).

Do you want to compare notes on The Walking Dead with stars Khary Payton, Rooker, and  Sonequa Martin-Green (also star of Star Trek Discovery)?  Maybe you’re a Game of Thrones fan.  You can meet both Jerome Flynn and Jason Momoa (also Aquaman in the DC Universe movies).  And speaking of fantasy, Planet Comicon is featuring a rare appearance by Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis, who played the beloved hero Neville Longbottom.  Want to meet the actor who has played the toughest badass characters you’ve ever seen?  Sling TV barista and Machete himself, Danny Trejo will be in the house.

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The Marvel Comics character Venom is a creature of the 1980s, and not having the benefit of 50-70 years in the histories of comicdom like so many superheroes in movies these days, mainstream audiences know very little about the character.  Well-known genre actor Tom Hardy is taking on the role of the once villain/now anti-hero Eddie Brock, seen only once taking on the black tar-like goo suit before by those who made it to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3.  That film featured That ’70s Show’s Topher Grace in the role.  Kids in the 1980s first witnessed the genesis of the character in the wildly popular Marvel Comics mini-series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Issue #8, by writer Jim Shooter and artist Mike Zeck.  Most kids appreciated the new look.  Originally intended to give Spider-man a new black and white costume, the story became one about a symbiotic suit that attached to Spider-man, which went on to attach to Eddie Brock, who became Spidey’s Public Enemy #1 as the very Todd McFarlane-styled character known as Venom in later stories.  But don’t look for images of that guy just yet.

The first teaser for Sony Entertainment’s film is out, showcasing more of the noir look of the film and Tom Hardy’s established acting talent than anything typical of most superhero tales.  In other words, no look at Venom yet.  It’s long for a teaser, but reveals little about the plot or character.  Hardy has earned his sea legs in genredom.  He was only one of a handful of actors to play a Star Trek villain in the movies, starring as the Captain Picard clone Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis.  He reprised Mel Gibson’s Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road, and in that other giant comic book franchise he played the B-team villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  Along the way he proved himself in several dramatic roles, in the likes of Band of Brothers, Black Hawk Down, Layer Cake, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and as the World War II flying ace of the current Oscar-nominated film Dunkirk.  

  

With Venom Hardy takes on another comic book B-team character, but without a full face mask as in The Dark Knight Rises and instead with his face covered in only part of Venom as in Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe Hardy will have a greater opportunity to make an impact and make this character his own.  This is Sony’s first follow-up to their successful redux of Spidey in Spider-man: Homecoming, and word is out that new Spidey Tom Holland was on-set for Venom, possibly doing some filming.  Four-time Oscar nominee and star of the current Oscar-nominated film All the Money in World, Michelle Williams plays Eddie’s ex.  Solo: A Star Wars Story co-star Woody Harrelson also has a role in the film.

Check out this brief teaser for Venom:

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20th Century Fox’s second Deadpool film now has a real trailer, or as “real” as Deadpool would tolerate.  Deadpool 2, which doesn’t seem to have a catchier subtitle yet, brings back Ryan Reynolds’ merc with a mouth superhero (Green Lantern, RIPD) and his girlfriend Vanessa, played by Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Gotham), with the returning support team of Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Negasonic Teenage Warrior (Brianna Hildebrand), Weasel (T.J. Miller), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams)–and that taxi driver.  The sequel to the #2 highest Rated R box office moneymaker of all time introduces the fan-favorite borg from the comics, Cable, to the Marvel movie realm, and this trailer shows Josh Brolin looks to be the perfect casting choice.

The two new trailers were hijacked by Deadpool, as was the promotional summary for the film, which really says it all:

“After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry’s hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste.  Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor – finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World’s Best Lover.”

The movie also has a new teaser poster mocking 1983’s Flashdance.  The international trailer is an edited version from the U.S. release, with an added glimpse of Colossus.  Check out both trailers of the new trailers for Deadpool 2:

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It’s a story that has been played out millions of times in the 1970s, and now it’s finally coming to your local comic book store.  It’s G.I. Joe vs. The Six Million Dollar Man, the latest crossover story from IDW Publishing and Dynamite.  Initially teased as a team-up, it’s actually not–we now know the two franchises will play on opposite sides of the story.  Pitting the famous 1960s-70s 12-inch tall Hasbro “fighting man” team against the hero of the television series that produced one of the best selling 12-inch action figures of all time–this was a fantasy played out in living rooms and sandboxes all over.  Just add in an appearance by Hasbro’s Mike Power and Ideal’s J.J. Armes and you have a snapshot of a kids’ backyard from 1977.

Here’s the description from IDW and Dynamite about the forthcoming four-issue mini-series:

The greatest American heroes go face-to-face with the most dangerous living weapon… Steve Austin!  Hacked by COBRA, the Six Million Dollar Man has the G.I. JOEs in his bionic targets as the fate of world peace hangs by a thread and Cobra Commander holds the world’s infrastructure in his venomous clutches!

Steve Austin, Bigfoot, Storm Shadow, and Snake Eyes!

So technically this isn’t the G.I. Joe of the 1970s, but the reboot universe Joes from the 1980s–the animated series, the mini-figures, and beyond.  As recounted in the recent Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, G.I. Joe began as an action figure line in 1963 to fill an uptapped niche for boys alongside Barbie for girls.  The Six Millon Dollar Man began in 1972 as the hero of Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg (previously reviewed here at borg.com), and was adapted two years later into a four-season television series starring Lee Majors.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Guillermo del Toro’s At Home With Monsters was an eye-opening look at the depths to which the renowned fantasy film director has gone to immerse himself in the creative process, revealing images of his own personal collection of the strange, creepy, and unique from scree-used artifacts to oversized recreations of the Universal Monsters that inspired him early on.  The book (reviewed here at borg.com) was a great entryway to prepare readers and audiences for his latest film, The Shape of Water, nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and reviewed earlier here this week.  The latest look into the mind of del Toro explores this movie from its inception to the final filming decisions.  It all can be found in Insight Editions’ new volume The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times, by Gina McIntyre.

In a year that saw a failed re-launch of the Universal Studios famed monster movies with the first installment The Mummy (reviewed here), it would be del Toro who brought forth a worthy retelling of sorts of that studio’s Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The idea for a story of an Amphibian Man and Beauty and the Beast story where the creature is united with a mute janitorial worker began in 2011 in a simple conversation.  As time went on del Toro and screenplay co-writer Vanessa Taylor built a story, and del Toro singled out actors for key roles.  First and foremost was Sally Hawkins as lead character Elisa, who oddly enough was writing her own story about a mermaid that didn’t know she was a mermaid.  del Toro and Hawkins began working together at that point.  As with his other films, del Toro creates biography sheets for his characters.  Included in McIntyre’s book are tipped-in pages of some of these biographies, allowing readers and writers to examine how much the actors were given about their roles as backstory.

Along with the genesis of the story, The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times examines the creation of the four suits worn by Doug Jones as the creature.  Hawkins, Jones, and co-stars Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Michael Shannon, all describe their takes on their roles, their work with del Toro, and their interaction with other performers.  McIntyre includes interviews with del Toro, the key cast and production crew, including insight rarely seen in behind the scenes movie books, like rationale for costume designs, provided here by costume designer Luis Sequiera.  del Toro not only significantly backed the production for years financially, he was involved in every key decision in the film.  He kept costs down by in part utilizing the sets for the television series The Strain.  

The book examines the unique color palette that audiences will take away as a hallmark of this film.  A highlight is the discussion of the black and white scene from the film, unthinkably shot in a single day.  Much of the film relied on old-school practical effects, including actual underwater filming with Doug Jones in costume, but del Toro also incorporated digital effects for the more dangerous scenes and clean-up work.  The multi-year process for designing and revising the creature suit from clay to prosthetics, foam, and rubber is well documented in the book.

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Marvel’s unique approach in 2015’s Ant-Man rejuvenated the superhero franchise with something truly fresh.  Skipping all the anger and drama of superheroes in conflict, it went for laughs and expanded the potential of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, allowing for a new take on superhero films beginning with that humor-filled romp, November’s Thor: Ragnarok.  Add in the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies and you’d have the most fun superhero marathon you could put together this century.  If comic books and superheroes are about escapist fun, no better superhero illustrates that theme than the underdog played so believably by Paul Rudd.  Rudd also appeared as Ant-Man (and Giant Man) in Captain America: Civil War, and along with Tom Holland’s new Spider-man, Kevin Feige & Co. amped up what was becoming a ho-hum Avengers storyline.

Now we have the first preview for Ant-Man and The Wasp, and all signs point to another hit for Marvel, delivering exactly what fans want, our favorite characters looking cool and being cool: Michael Douglas back as Dr. Hank Pym, Rudd as the well-meaning but slightly befuddled Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, and–at last–Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne donning the The Wasp supersuit.  We met the characters in the first film and now, origin story behind us, audiences will get to watch them take off.  And, of course, we have a perfectly appropriate poster showcasing the new team-up:

We get a first glimpse of Ghost in this trailer, played by Hannah John-Kamen, who if audiences don’t know her already from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Killjoys, The Hour, Game of Thrones, and Black Mirror, you’ll know her from starring roles in Ready Player One, Tomb Raider, and Ant-Man and The Wasp. 

How will Marvel handle the character?  As the villain, or maybe not, with Walton Goggins also appearing as the comic book villain Sonny Burch?  Laurence Fishburne is also coming our way in the film as the 1960s-1970s character Dr. Bill Foster aka Goliath.

Wait no further, check out this great trailer for this summer’s Ant-Man and The Wasp:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Art of Ferdinand is the latest in a line of books chronicling the creative process behind genre movies, but this is the first we’ve seen that explores the director’s process for envisioning and executing an animated film from beginning to end.  Showcasing a fantastic film, December’s Ferdinand from Blue Sky Studios (reviewed here at borg.com), writer Tara Bennett uses interviews with the director and an army of production artists and incorporates digital artwork and final renderings from the film to explain how a film is made that merited an Academy Award nomination for the year’s best animated film.

Movie buffs and fans of the original story will likely encounter a new lexicon of moviemaking in The Art of Ferdinand.  Not only do readers see the typical concept art and production stills you’d find in a feature film, director Carlos Saldanha explains each step he took adapting one of the bestselling books of all time, Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s Ferdinand, and collaborating with a staff of artists to expand upon the original 30-page tale into a big-budget animated movie.  Saldanha tells how he started with the last third of the film, sequences he knew would need to look a certain way and more closely mimic the events of the storybook.  Each animated character was taken through an elaborate design process.  After development of both the young version and much larger version of Ferdinand the bull, they moved to the supporting characters with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and digital renderings of each in multiple poses with updated techniques but mirroring what you may have seen in “making of” features from animator Walt Disney from decades past.

A different language of animation is also explored in the book: light sources and bounce-light have greater meaning in an animated film such as Ferdinand, and the director and artists must sketch character turnarounds, color callouts, and texture art, as well as shape, movement, gesture, and expression studies of characters, and a color script similar to storyboards in live action movies, identifying the flow of color throughout the film.   Interaction and movement an actor would perform must be blocked out in the most intricate of ways.  Shape language must be considered, design themes and color themes, proportions of objects, and the use of negative space.

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