Category: Con Culture


Wil Wheaton standing room only crowd at Planet Comicon 2013

The biggest and best pop culture and comic book convention in Kansas City’s history was held this weekend as Planet Comicon 2013 filled the Bartle Hall at the Kansas City Convention Center with thousands and maybe even tens of thousands of fans of everything from Doctor Who to superheroes, Star Trek and Star Wars, to video games and anime.  It’s first day downtown was a big success with lots of happy fans talking with their favorite comic book and fantasy writers and artists and TV and movie actors.

Here’s a photo gallery of what we saw from Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Booth on Artist’s Row and walking around today.

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Meeting Firefly’s Hero of Canton and Chuck’s John Casey–Adam Baldwin.

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Our favorite comic book legend, Howard Chaykin, at his first Planet Comicon appearance and first Kansas City show in eight years.

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With borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce at Booth 545 in Artist’s Alley.

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With comics legend Neal Adams, artist on the best Silver Age comic book series ever–Green Lantern/Green Arrow 76-89.

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Once upon a time and a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, everyone lived happily ever after.  And while they were all so happy they didn’t realize they were being slowly assimilated by the evil Empire.

You might have missed it in light of coverage of Sandy today, but the big industry news is George Lucas finally is letting Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lucasfilm, Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound–the whole shebang–go, for the paltry sum of $4 billion–the same price Disney paid for Marvel Comics in 2009.  Yep, $4,000,000,000.  You can just hear that THX sound logo make a giant flushing sound.  Heck, I bet that was Lucas’s profit last year in action figure sales alone.  What’s he thinking?  The man whose kids I (OK, my parents) put through college through the purchase of ten thousand action figures, several hundred comic books, every book, soundtrack, poster, drinking glass, key ring, Halloween costume, spaceship, Hallmark ornament, giant inflatable landspeeder, talking Yoda, remote control R2-D2, and even more action figures, is calling it quits?  Say it ain’t so.   And he is selling it to who?  Disney???? Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

You can be anything you want to be.

It’s a phrase I heard over and over growing up, and is probably the best thing you can share with someone, especially someone who dreams big.

Kevin Clash is one of those kids that dreamed big.  Kevin is the man, and the hand and voice (and heart and soul), behind Elmo, the ticklish red furry kid from Sesame Street that hit TVs and toy stores in a really big way more than a decade ago now.  A Special Jury Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, is a thoughtful, inspiring and poignant look into the desire, preparation, planning, practice, and work, creating the magic of puppets, and specifically one of the most successful members of the most famous bands of puppets ever–the Muppets.

The healing power of make-believe is revealed in a way that viewers probably have never had access to before.  Entertainment is often viewed by society as trivial.  The enormity of the value of making people laugh and teaching basic principles of kindness is palpable, and the eyes of the young and old as they watch Elmo and his puppeteer is pretty incredible.  Even with a man standing and obviously holding this red floppy fellow who is all smile and giggles, people ignore the man as if he is not there.  It’s truly a magician in action, but more than that this documentary reveals a creator who is clearly kind himself, clearly thoughtful and cognizant of the importance of what he is doing.  The gravity of this comes through with a visit from a young girl who is part of a Kids with a Wish experience.

What Clash does is make his work look so simple.  As another puppeteer in the film says, Clash makes a piece of fabric with a human head, react like a human being would.  Elmo became so big, yet only now do we learn all that went behind that fame, and that it was primarily the vision of one very busy man.  And it resulted in the highest paid puppeteer ever.

With numerous puppeteers and entertainers commenting on Clash’s work and personal traits, and narration by Whoopi Goldberg, a real-life “wizard behind the curtain” emerges.  We get to walk along with someone’s journey of discovery of a field we might not all have thought about, yet maybe secretly wish we know more about, and learn how you can grow up on Sesame Street, and dream about becoming a part of it, and making that dream come true.

Several themes permeate this documentary–the importance of shows like Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo and public television to education and younger learning and personal growth for more than one generation, the value of mentoring and apprentice-type relationships, especially in ensuring the survival of more obscure forms of art, identifying the creative spark in someone and helping to encourage creative abilities, and the “blood, sweat, and tears” required to fulfill a dream.

Look also for Clash’s link to Jim Henson and The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth before he was 25 years old, and the iconic presence and impact of Jim Henson on him and others.  Not covered are the other things Clash has done, like serve as the voice of Splinter in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie series, as well as several public appearances and puppet work.

I’ve heard of several friends who are struggling with their Netflix subscriptions because they are running out of things–it’s the old story of having 300 channels on cable with nothing to watch.   Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey is an example of something you might otherwise miss while trolling for something to watch, and it’s well worth your time.  Note that it’s not a documentary for kids–little ones should probably wait a bit before seeing that their furry TV friends are made with rods and have hands up their backs.

Tonight dog lovers across the galaxy tune in to their screens for the annual Super Bowl of dogdom, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.  Here at borg.com, this is serious TV viewing, and this year our thoughts naturally turned to… dogs in space.  Like Laika, the first dog in space who beat mankind into the outer realms, these dogs have gone… where no man has gone before.  So we bring you our very own contenders for Best in Show–our picks for best dogs from genre fiction in TV, movies, and comics (in no particular order).

1.  Toto – Who better to start our list than the little terrier feisty enough to take a bite out of Miss Gulch and accompany Dorothy on her journey down the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz?

2.  Einstein – Doc Brown’s faithful sheepdog companion, like Laika, was the first to make a historic voyage there and back again in a Delorean in Back to the Future.

3.  Fluffy – Two heads are better than one, so three must be exponentially better.  How can you not like this lovable cerberus from Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone?  Just don’t let thieves know their secret, that music will lull them fast to sleep.

4.  Fang – Speaking of Harry Potter, we can’t pass up the loyal and large pal to Hagrid, Fang the boarhound (played by a Neapolitan Mastiff).  Although Hagrid calls him a bloody coward, in The Sorceror’s Stone he took Harry and company through the Forbidden Forest.

5.  Krypto – Strange how themes repeat themselves.  Originally, Krypto, like Laika and Einstein, was Jor-El’s first foray into creating a vehicle to get Kal-El (our Superman) off of the planet Krypton and on his path to Earth.  Although a mishap sends Krypto off-course, fortunately he makes his way back to his best friend.

6.  Porthos – We would later learn Porthos would have a pack of offspring of his own per Scotty in Star Trek 2009.  This fellow accompanied Captain Jonathan Archer on many a mission where no man had gone before in the earliest Star Trek stories on the series Enterprise.

7.  Astro – Maybe the first family dog we were introduced to in the future of our past, Astro loved Elroy, Judy, Jane and George Jetson and showed there are no bad dogs today and hundreds of years from now.

8.  Commander Kruge’s targ – We never learned her name, but this fiercely loyal friend helped make all of us cheer for Kruge when he went up against Admiral James T. Kirk in Star Trek: The Search for Spock.  Unfortunately, she represents the one four-legged companion on our list that doesn’t make it, thanks to that dastardly Kirk and friends.

9.  Fizzgig – Seemingly cute and innocent, Fizzgig is the Muppet companion to Kira in The Dark Crystal.  Like Kruge’s targ, although not technically Canis familiaris, he had all the qualities of a good buddy and did not hesitate to bear his fangs to protect Kira when he sensed danger.

10. Butler – James Kirk redeems himself in his last mission when he is sucked into the Nexus in Star Trek Generations.  His reaction to seeing his dog Butler at his old home shows there was a real guy in that Captain Kirk.

Honorable mention:  All greyhounds, since they look like AT-ATs from The Empire Strikes Back.

Do you have any others you think should make the list?  Let us know, and enjoy the Dog Show tonight! The 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show airs tonight and Tuesday on USA and MSNBC. Only dogs from Earth are eligible.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

It’s time again for our annual photos of the best cosplay costumes from the San Diego Comic-Con.  Lots of good costumes this year and we had no contender for worst costume of the show like we had last year.

How do you judge the best when anything goes?  You’ve got traditional Star Trek and Star Wars uniforms you will find at any pop culture convention.   You also have a huge following of video game and animated series characters.  I saw several people light up at many Korra costumes waiting in line for panels Friday.  Many others were from shows I never heard of.  What makes Comic-Con great is that there is something for everyone, no matter what your age and interests.  So another “best of” list from an attendee may be full of video game and animated series costumes.  The costumes below are just the ones that made me stop in my tracks.

First up is this brilliant idea–the crusader from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who guarded the Holy Grail.  The classic line from the entire series is echoed in his placard “Choose Wisely.”  This is an example of a great idea using a relatively obscure yet instantly identifiable character I’d never seen portrayed at a Con before.

If you’ve read borg.com for very long you will recognize these two aliens from one of my favorite movies by one of my favorite directors: John Carpenter’s They Live.  If you’ve seen this movie you’ll know this man and woman nailed it, both with perfect masks but also with messages reflecting the symbolism throughout the movie.  Of course, I was not wearing my sunglasses so I walked right past these guys.  This photo was taken by my friends William and Sean from Elite Comics.  Star of the movie Roddy Piper was at last year’s show in a They Live shirt and I bet he would have loved these guys.

I would wager this furry fellow is from one of those anime or animated shows.  I have special affection for cosplayers who torture themselves for their art.  This guy had to be hot to the point of passing out.  Having worn only a prosthetic head last year I can say for certainty this guy was not comfortable, yet he was quick to perform beautifully for a kid in the hall.

The best subgroup of cosplay is the mash-up.  Nail a good mash-up and you’ll please two sets of fans at the Con.  This “leasure suit Boba Fett” takes the mash-up in a new direction and caused instant laughs.  I loved the red 1970s Adidas Dragon shoes.  You just couldn’t walk past this Mandalorian giving you a toast as you approached him.  Yeah, baby!

I’m a sucker for Muppets and Sesame Street characters.  I still have yet to run into Super Grover but keep looking.  Meanwhile this great Big Bird could not move three feet without being asked to get in a photo.  He couldn’t look any better.

Like the crusader above this human-sized walking Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters was a creative idea–exactly what you hope to see at a Con.  This outfit was nicely made and you couldn’t tell how this guy was able to breathe in this inflated suit.  Give him a hug, it’s OK.  Just don’t squeeze too hard.

I’m not sure if these two were at the Con together or just stopping for a snapshot but they sure matched.  I love Predator and this costume was as good as you can get at a convention.

I was stopped in a line for about 40 minutes across from this group.  They were so quiet, yet they harbored this vile little superheroine.  Hit Girl, from Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass comic book series.  This little girl actually looked better than the girl who played the role in the movie.  Nothing is more terrifying than creepy little girls, yet this group seemed pretty calm about it.

One thing you might not know about San Diego is that the entire town gets involved in Comic-Con.  Every other restaurant will have servers wearing some kind of homage to a comic book character.  Most have unique convention week menus with things like Captain America burgers, or as my friend Sean discovered, the Mighty Thor burger, complete with beef and barbecued pulled pork, or even gooey Iron Fries.  But this Spider-man at Starbucks was the only employee I saw over the weekend in full supersuit.  And he made a pretty good peppermint mocha.  Way to go, Starbucks!

As I said earlier this week, at the 2012 Comic-Con so many great Star Wars cosplayers walked the exhibit floor halls that they really seemed to dominate the convention.  Most could hardly be distinguished from the screenused originals.  But this costume outdid them all, a full hairy Chewbacca like no costume I’d seen before, complete with a built-in sound system that allowed the person inside to play certain Chewbacca sounds from the movies.  Check out the changing color of the hair, like a real animal would look.  The bandolier looks great.  The face looks better than the original mask being sold in the next Profiles in History auction.  And the wearer has the height right.  Stunning suit.  So this one makes the top of my list for SDCC 2012.

Nice job, cosplayers, for entertaining those of us who wimped out this year and attended in normal clothes!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Since we just passed our 200,000th visit yesterday, I wanted to send a out a quick thank you to all of our readers, on behalf of the writing staff of borg.com.  Thanks for helping borg.com get to this benchmark so quickly!

Because of the positive response via comments and via your direct emails it makes it that much more fun for us to continue to provide daily updates of what we think is new and interesting in the world of science fiction, fantasy, pop culture, comics, movies, TV… but you already know what we’re all about.  If you haven’t given us feedback yet we’d love to hear from you–check out the comments linked at the top of each article and give your own public comment by completing the box at the the bottom of any article.  Recent comments are listed in the right column of our home page.  Or email us directly at borgeditor[at]gmail.com.

And by “you” we really mean YOU because you’re here checking up on the latest and greatest previews, artists and writers, commentaries and reviews, whether you’re from the USA or one of more than 75 countries around the globe that regularly visit borg.com, including (cracking knuckles): the UK, Canada, Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Spain, the Russian Federation, the Phillippines, India, the Netherlands, Argentina, Poland, Turkey, Indonesia, Sweden, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Malaysia, Japan, Ireland, New Zealand, Thailand, Portugal, Norway, the Czech Republic, Chile, Colombia, Romania, Switzerland, Denmark, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Austria, Ukraine, Singapore, Serbia, Hong Kong, Finland, Israel, South Africa, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Peru, Viet Nam, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Iceland, Ecuador, Lithuania, Slovenia, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Estonia, Malta, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Georgia, Guatemala, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Latvia, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Jamaica, Jordan, Iraq, Belarus, Bangladesh, Albania, Panama, Uruguay, Barbados, Syrian Arab Republic, Nigeria, Moldova, Paraguay, Armenia, Guam, Azerbaijan, Qatar, El Salvador, Maldives, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, Kenya, Mauritius, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Oman, China, Mongolia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Yemen, Cambodia, Dominica, Gibraltar, Jersey, Aruba, Honduras, Macao, Mozambique, Uganda, Belize, Grenada, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, and where the big-time climbers climb, Nepal… it’s like a Fandom Olympics here! 

If you’ve ever been to Comic-Con in San Diego, you know what can happen when more than 100,000 like-minded people get together to do something positive–have a great time!  It may sound a bit hokey, but it ties into part of our mission that we stated here last June… to pull together all science fiction, fantasy, entertainment–all pop culture–and certainly all fans of these things, in one place.  Here’s all of you on a map:

A special shout-out goes to our dozens of subscribers who read our updates each day (and if you don’t yet and want to join in and get daily updates check out the right column of the home page any time).  And a personal thanks to Elizabeth, Art and Jason for all the great ideas, input, and all-out work.

Thanks again!

And… because we know you didn’t come here to read about us, we’re sharing the trailer for the highly anticipated time travel cop flick Looper, starring the great Bruce Willis, Joe Gordon-Levitt (a fan favorite actor who not only ushered us all into New Years’ this year, but is likely to be the busiest working actor of 2012, with key roles this year in The Dark Knight Rises and the biopic Lincoln) and Emily Blunt (who we loved in The Adjustment Bureau and The Muppets).  And did I say it has time travel?

Looper opens in September.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

This may be the ultimate blast from the past.

Over the past three years there was talk about Stretch Armstrong, the movie.  Universal Studios signed a deal with Hasbro to create a film about Armstrong based on a screenplay written by Nicholas Stoller, the writer who co-wrote The Muppets film from last year, in addition to Get Him to the Greek, which starred current Oscar nominee Jonah Hill.  In February 2010, Universal Studios announced Taylor Lautner would star as Armstrong and that the film would be made in 3-D.   Blockbuster producer Brian Grazer even said he’d signed on to make the film.  Over time, this was believed to be part of a handful of films pitched for Kenner and ex-Milton Bradley toys and games, to include Clue, Ouija, Magic, the Gathering, Candy Land and Battleship, which actually is a sci-fi movie making it to the screens this May.

Yesterday, Relativity Media bought the rights to the Stretch Armstrong live-action film, after Universal Studios backed out on the project.  And they announced even better news: Taylor Lautner will now NOT be in the movie.

You don’t know Stretch Armstrong?  Stretch Armstrong was an action figure that kids played with alongside their Six Million Dollar Man, Atomic Man, and 12-inch scale G.I. Joes in the mid to late 1970s.  Only where G.I. Joe had life-like hair, Stretch had life-like skin.  And he had weight and mass, as he was filled with… corn syrup.  And he stretched–stretched from 15 inches long to 5 feet.  Of the 40,000 or so original Stretches made, it is expected that most didn’t make it very far beyond Christmas 1976.  Although I witnessed my cousins stretch theirs until he snapped and oozed goo all over their refrigerator, it is estimated by some Stretch experts that roughly 200 remain intact, preserved in their styrofoam “preservation chamber”–in their original boxes.

You couldn’t really play with Stretch outside if you wanted him to live to see another day.  You couldn’t parachute him from the tree like G.I. Joe.  And you couldn’t put him in covert combat gear, as the Joe clothes wouldn’t fit him.  Stretch only wore his wrestling shorts.  And compared to any other figure, he was badass–he was taller and bigger than his counterpart fighting men.  Oh… and he stretched.

In fact stretching was the point.  He came with a plastic sheet to guide you and a friend in how far you could stretch him without snapping.   Could you get a lot of play out of such a fragile toy?  You bet!  As long as he stomped around like the Hulk or the Thing, he did just fine.  But invite the crappy neighbor kid over who didn’t take care of his toys and it was goodbye, Stretch!

So now, 36 years later.  A movie is in its initial stages of production.  So what the heck could it be about?  Between 2008 and 2010 it was rumored that Jackie Chan had made a play for the film, with Chan as the star.  Then Lautner replaced that idea.

The fact is there are tons of places the story could go, and you need only look to a few cousins who also were made into Stretch versions similar to Stretch Armstrong: Elastic Plasticman and Stretch Mr. Fantastic.  Plasticman is of course the DC Comics humorous, sunglasses-wearing, stretchy superhero from the Justice League, and Mr. Fantastic, the serious scientist leader of Marvel Comics’  Fantastic Four.  DC Comics’ other stretching superhero, Elongated Man, never was made into the Stretch series.  But certainly these guys could inspire some ideas for Stretch Armstrong.

   

One of the rare concepts of Stretch Armstrong was that he was at his heyday in the years of these first action figure properties, yet Stretch had no backstory.  So there really are no limits to what you could do with a Stretch storyline.  Ideally the actor to play Stretch would be built like Lou Ferrigno (who played The Incredible Hulk, which was made into a Stretch Hulk).  Is Lou the guy to play the role?  Probably not now, but maybe, if you’re looking for similar looks, someone who looks more like Sam J. Jones, who played Flash in Flash Gordon.  Or better yet, how about someone who could fit the size of a Stretch Armstrong and who has played several light-hearted and mega action roles, and is currently still a big draw in theaters?  Who?  Dwayne Johnson, of course.  Formerly “The Rock.”  Johnson has had roles that have spanned all types of genres, stuff for kids like Race to Witch Mountain, to cool roles in the remake of Walking Tall, Get Smart, and Be Cool, to megahits like Scorpion King.  And better yet, he has a new film coming called Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and the can’t-wait-for-it-to-get-here G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

With yesterday’s announcement by Relativity Media, hopefully we’ll start to hear more about their plans for this character soon, and no doubt we’ll see some re-releases of the stretchy action man himself.

Stretch Armstrong is now scheduled to appear in theaters in April 2014.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

It sounds better than it is.  Star Wars is back in theaters.  “See it again for the first time.”  Before 1999 this would have been incredible huge news, and of course in 1999 it was huge news.  Back then we hadn’t seen any new Star Wars movie hit the big screen since 1985, when the last reels of Return of the Jedi played in dollar theaters across the country.  And we all lined up around the block at theaters to see this new Star Wars, this time a big “prequel,” and what would be the film to define that word forever after.

The first time the words Star Wars appeared at the top of the familiar scroll and John Williams trumpets blared from nowhere, no audience was silent.  Star Wars Episode I:  The Phantom Menace was finally here!  And then the movie began.  And there was talk of tariffs…and…what’s that?  Tariffs?  Trade routes?  And the wincing started.  And it didn’t really end until Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith showed Darth Vader walking like Frankenstein.  I’ve always said the reason why franchises succeed is because of checks and balances and the involvement in every enterprise of several creative minds.  When one guy makes all the decisions, and presumably everyone around him is afraid to question his vision, the result is Episode 1.

That said, 1999 was a long time ago.  By now you have probably watched Episode 1 on cable more times than you would admit, simply because nothing else good was on, and, isn’t a little Star Wars universe better than no Star Wars universe?  And maybe you know some kids who weren’t going to movies in 1999.  If so, then, whether or not you love or less-than-love Episode 1, you’d be nuts not to grab that kid and go see it again.

Wait a second, what’s that you said about wincing?

I know.  You can come up with so many reasons to avoid this movie:  (1) Everyone blames Jar Jar for everything, global warming, the economy…  Personally, if George Lucas was aiming at kids just a bit with this character, then fine.  He’s only annoying when you consider being an adult viewer.  If Jar Jar was the only oddity in Episode 1, everyone would have little bad to say about the film.

Jar Jar, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan

(2) But you have to add to Jar Jar things like the stupefying midichlorians, an unwanted scientific explanation for the existence of Jedi that instantly shifted all this great space fantasy to questionable science fiction.  It was an unnecessary concept that made the possibility that anyone could become a Jedi, even young hopeful Earthlings, vanish.  You gotta have the noble blood.  Lame.  (3) And I already mentioned the pure excitement of discussing trade routes.  As a concept later in the prequel trilogy this might have worked, but as the first thing we saw, it started us out wrong.  (4) Then you have Queen Amidala.  What could have been used to explain the strength, leadership, and determination of Princess Leia became one of the most pathetic attempts at strong women leaders put on screen.  In Episode 1, she is foreshadowed to be paired with this much younger and smaller boy.  It all seemed so wrong.  In all three prequels she never gets to do anything, with all her greatness happening apparently off-screen.  (5) And to top off the bad, the one character we cared about, that we wanted to see, was never Anakin.  It was Obi-Wan Kenobi.  The guy who first whispered about the clone wars to us.  His past was key to everything.  And in Episode 1 instead of someone awe-inspiring we got a young, pompous, arrogant jerk with a goofy haircut.  We didn’t want to idolize Jedi Knights as protectors who were better than the rest of us.  We wanted Jedi who would stand shoulder to shoulder with the little guy.  Samurai, not WWII military police.  (6)  Phantom Menace as a title, announced well before the release, was indicative of the weird we’d get.  Luckily all the other titles were far better.  (7) Haven’t we already given enough of our earnings to the House of Lucas?  (8) One final thing (because we could go on forever):  CGI Yoda can’t touch Muppet Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back.  ’nuff said.

Amidala in Padme disguise

So there is a lot to wince at.  But then again maybe we should all just lighten up and go with it.  Criticizing Episode 1 is too easy.  Don’t be Simon Pegg in the TV series SpacedUnlearn what you have learned.  Why should I go to see it, you ask?

First, Darth Maul.  More specifically, Ray Park’s performance as Darth Maul.  If they didn’t get anything else right with Episode 1, they finally gave us a lightsaber battle worthy of the Jedi and an acrobatic athlete up to the task of taking on knights in space.  And Maul’s red center-handled lightsaber could not have been a better designed weapon.  Although we questioned the red face and horns, at the time we didn’t know that he was but the first in a line of several prospective alien lieutenants of varying races that were being tested to be the Emperor’s one right-hand man.

Qui-Gon, Kenobi and Zod (oh my!)

Although he was only half as cool as he should have been, with his stilted dialogue and inexplicable removal of a little boy from his mother (leaving her to be a slave!), Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gonn Jinn had a very cool look, and for what Lucas was attempting to do, he gave us a leader we all would happily follow.  And where he was lacking, we got to meet an even cooler Jedi, Mace Windu, played by Samuel L. Jackson.  His calm coolness worked, even if he didn’t get to do much yet.

Mace Windu hanging out

And one contributor to the Star Wars universe who never failed was John Williams.  His new score for Episode 1 was on par with Return of the Jedi.  Sure it was darker and less magical, but it reflected the story Williams was handed.  The seemingly never-ending pod race would have been far more painful without his new theme.  The “duel of the fates” of the climax would have been far less foreboding without his incredible soundtrack.

Composer John Williams

Next, the costumes were just awesome.  Check out all of Natalie Portman’s 3,761 dresses.  And the set design and sound can’t be beat.

Finally, the nostalgia and pure fun may be all the reason you need to see this one.  Anthony Daniels as C-3Po.  Kenny Baker as R2-D2Tusken Raiders on Tatooine almost changing the future of the galaxy with a single rifle shot at a little boy in a pod race.  Cameos by Warwick Davis and former Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings fan club president Dan Madsen!  Emperor Zod as a good guy!

Kenny Baker, R2-D2 and Dan Madsen

And who doesn’t like 3D?  Just pop some Excedrin before you go.  It might help prevent the headache behind your eyes.

Besides, putting aside the way cool and creepy Daniel Radcliffe movie The Woman in Red, or the 3D version of Disney’s best animated work, Beauty and the Beast, what else are you going to see in theaters this weekend that is any better than the Star Wars universe in 3D?  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close?  The Vow?  The Grey?  There are three great reasons right there to buy tickets for Episode 1 in 3D before they’re sold out.  And it might whet your appetite while you wait for a better film to return, Attack of the Clones, and then later the real fun begins–the original Star Wars in 3D and then The Empire Strikes Back in 3D.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

From time to time you hear of references to an artist as THE cover artist, the most sought after, etc., but no artist can touch what Alex Ross has been able to do with his paintbrushes.  His work is instantly recognizable from its sweeping heroic themes, idealistic and optimistic characterization, and an elevation of the human form to not only superhero but from superhero to godlike magnificence.  His use of color, tricks of light, chromes, reflections and high contrast imagery include themes of hope, confidence, power, pride and sometimes even fear.  So with the above pantheon of DC Comics Gods-of-sorts from the cover to the Justice series as #15 and the below Marvel Comics “Avengers Assemble” print sold at San Diego Comic-Con International in 2010 as #14, we introduce a sequence from #15 to #1 of the most striking, stunning, and powerful creations to be featured on comic book covers, posters and marketing materials by Alex Ross–and our “just plain favorites”–created over his standout career so far.

13.  THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST.  Ross created this work for the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and it is currently on display at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.  Those monkeys are… still creepy and Margaret Hamilton’s witch is still one of the best villains of all time.

12.  PRINCE NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER, AND HIS CREATOR, BILL EVERETT.  Ross created this piece for the 60th anniversary of the classic Marvel character and his artist gets equal billing, in black and white and reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s self portrait work.

11.  FLASH GORDON DVD COVER.  Created by Ross for the 2007 special edition release of the DVD, Ross has said Flash Gordon was his favorite movie.  A photograph of Max Von Sydow as Ming, the nemesis of Flash, couldn’t look any better than this painting.

10.  SUPERMAN, STRENGTH #1 COVER.  This Ross homage to Action Comics #1 features Ross’s most painted superhero, Superman, the man of steel, doing what he does best.  If only filmmakers would get an actor to play Superman that actually looks like Ross’s vision of Superman!

9.  PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.  A 2008 print and Wizard magazine cover of the 44th president of the United States–an homage to Ross’ own similar Superman design.  An artist that can make even a president look cool.  Obama is known as a comic book fan, and was featured on a cover of Spider-man, among other books.

8.  KRYPTO, COVER FOR SUPERMAN, ISSUE #680.  Ross features heroes of all sorts in his designs, but often elevates the underdog to supreme being, and with Superman’s dog here he is shown atop a marble lion.

7.  CAPTAIN MARVEL FROM ROSS’S GRAPHIC NOVEL “KINGDOM COME.”  I once spoke to a friend of Alex Ross.  A close friend.  Who amazingly looked just like Captain Marvel.  Not a coincidence, as Ross regularly paints heroes using his friends as models.  This page showing Superman kneeling before him, best shows what Ross could do with even a standard catalog hero of the past.  He restored the legendary “Earth’s Mightiest Mortal” to exactly that status.

6.  THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.  This pantheon piece was used individually and as shown below on numerous posters and books.  I love it because, with all the incarnations of the JLA, Ross gets the team exactly right with every member that should be on the team.  From the mightily small Atom to Superman, this is who I also think of as DC’s main fighting force.  Could these guys be more cocky?

5.  THE JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN, FROM GRAPHIC NOVEL “BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN” COVER.  Here we get to see the dark side of Ross–his exquisitely frightening Joker, in a dance with his best gal, the homicidal Ms. Quinn.  What a couple they make, especially as illustrated by Ross.

4.  GATCHAMAN DVD COVER.  Like Ross’s ability to make Captain Marvel and other classic superheroes appear great once again, Ross can take nostalgic series, movies, characters, darned near anything and make us want to revisit these characters.  Whether you saw this Japanese earliest modern incarnation of anime as G-Force or as Battle of the Planets, these kids turned heroes are as familiar as old friends.

3.  SPACE GHOST ISSUE #1.  When I saw this issue hit the stands I had to have it.  The one problem with Ross only working cover art is that you expect the interior pages to be just as good as the cover art, which is why Justice and Marvels are such great treats to the eye.  With Space Ghost, Ross takes an obscure hero that we best know as a TV show host and makes him every bit the counterpart to Superman & Co.

2.  WIZARD COMICS COVER ART, BATMAN’s ENEMIES.  This is one of Ross’s most univerally acclaimed images and rightly so.  Everyone is too close for comfort and Batman goes toward the baddest baddie’s throat first, his #1 foe, The Joker.

1.  SESAME STREET’S SUPER GROVER, PACKAGING ART FOR PALISADES TOYS 2005 ACTION FIGURE.  How can you beat this painting?  If you don’t remember Grover from Sesame Street, dig around You Tube and watch some old episodes.  Before Elmo… there was Grover.  The muppet who loved everyone, meek and mild, he’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and more.  And when times are tough, and there’s no one to protect us all, who will rise to meet the challenge?  It is Super Grover.  When I saw this print at a con a few years ago I froze in my tracks and just couldn’t believe it.  It’s not just the art, sometimes it is the choice of subject matter that tells half the story.  Kudos to Ross for thinking of this one.

Well that’s my list.  Please drop us a comment if you think I have any glaring omission or if you just want to chime in with your list.

*All images above Copyright by Alex Ross or his publishers.  Many of these prints and original art are for sale on his website at www.alexrossart.com.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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