Tag Archive: DC Comics


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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Strange Adventures is a 12-issue limited series, resurrecting the title of a famous 1950s series, with that familiar DC superhero vibe you’ve seen in series like Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s successful All-Star Superman.  Tom King (Batman) is writing the story, and the first issue of the series is available this month at your favorite comic book store.  Much like the CW series Arrow, the series featuring DC Comics space fantasy hero Adam Strange tells its story in staggered flashbacks.  And it has the distinct vibe of the limited series Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer–good comic book fantasy fun with a serious edge.  Many comic book stores and other bookstores remain open, many with call-ahead and drive-up options, and Strange Adventures is one you may want to add to your own comic shop pull list.

Inspired by Flash Gordon and a progenitor of Rocketeer, Adam Strange is a classic, iconic character from the end of the Golden Age of comics, created by Julie Schwartz and Murphy Anderson, with the great Gardner Fox–master adapter of both Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard characters, writing early stories, among others.  It’s space fantasy, more than science fiction–think Guardians of the Galaxy–and in the premiere issue of the new series Strange is a national hero, living with his wife on Earth, recounting images from his war-torn past.

Strange Adventures 1 cover a  Strange Adventures 1 cover b

Strange Adventures even has a similar artistic style as All-Star Superman, courtesy of alternating artists Mitch Gerads and Evan Shaner–you may not notice the difference since they use the same color palette–but one style is a bit more painterly than the other.  That’s Gerads, whose present day world is visually stunning like Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow in the 1990s.  In images of the past, Shaner seems to aiming at more of a Tomorrowland or Darwyn Cooke look at the character.  Both shuffled together actually work.  Each artist will provide a cover option for every issue of the series.

Here is a look inside the first issue:

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IDW Publishing, Dynamite, DC Comics, and Marvel Comics are getting into the holiday spirit this week for Valentine’s Day this Friday.

IDW Publishing has three books featuring the subject of love: Star Trek: Year Five, Transformers, and Napoleon Dynamite each with a romance tale.  DC Comics has its annual giant-sized issue for February, too.  This time it’s DC’s Crimes of Passion #1.  The 80-pager features ten stories by some good teams of writers and artists, including a Bat-story by writer Steve Orlando with fantastic artwork by Greg Smallwood.  And there’s even a Green Arrow and Black Canary team-up.  The Star Trek cover arrives in two variants, one (above) matching last year’s wraparound kids Valentine format that featured Kirk.

You need to think a bit to see what’s happening with Dynamite’s special Valentine’s Day covers, except maybe for the cover to Death to Army of Darkness #1 by Sebastian Piriz with its big red heart front and center.  Dynamite is presenting an odd assemblage of homages to Marvel Comics’ The Amazing Spider-Man covers of the past featuring Mary Jane Watson, which by themselves don’t scream chocolates and roses.  But if you collect homage covers, check out Piriz’s homage to the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, Lynne Yoshii’s Vampirella/Red Sonja #6 (matching The Amazing Spider-Man #59), and Sanya Anwar’s covers to Dejah Thoris #3 (matching The Amazing Spider-Man #601) and Red Sonja #13 (an homage to The Amazing Spider-Man #42’s final panel).  So along with Dynamite, Marvel Comics gets its own piece of Valentine’s Day attention (whether they wanted to or not).  Note: These are just variant covers for the holiday, not Valentine’s Day stories inside.

 

Check out more of the covers for this week’s books below. and a preview of DC’s Crimes of Passion:

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Last night’s episode of CW′s Arrow brings eight seasons of one of DC Comics’ oldest superheroes to a close as the CW aired the show’s series finale.  Focused on Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow–one of the costumed characters off to the sidelines over the years in the shadow of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman–the series would be a resounding success for the network and executive Greg Berlanti, sprouting several other DC Comics adaptations under the banner of the Arrowverse.  And what a long, strange trip it has been.  It’s been seven and a half years since I first watched the premiere of CW’s Arrow in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 at the panel featuring the creators and stars Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy (I reviewed the pilot first here at borg).  My initial reaction found the show a “refreshing, intriguing update to the superhero game,” 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,” and that 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.”  Who knew that survival would mean greenlighting so many more superhero shows, including The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and the forthcoming Superman & Lois?

The series accomplished a lot even if it didn’t get everything right.  Arrow suffered when it veered too far from the DC Comics stories, or when it pursued too deeply the more arcane corners of the DC universe, the biggest side trip being the dominance of fan-favorite minor character Felicity Smoak in the series, ultimately knocking Dinah (or Laurel in this version) Lance aside to be Oliver’s romantic partner, which again took center stage in the finale episode.

This winter’s ambitious Crisis on Infinite Earth’s crossover event killed off Oliver Queen in the grand tradition of killing any superhero character (aka until his inevitable return, which we’ve seen in Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks’ comics story arc).  Although the finale itself, “Fadeout,” was much like an old 1980s “filler” episode (with many scenes spliced from past episodes) and like the final Crisis episodes it was about mourning Oliver and preparing for his funeral.  But the penultimate episode, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” (which aired last week), would make for a good spin-off.  That episode took Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance (the only actor we ever expected to be Black Canary in 2012), and teamed her up with Katherine McNamara’s Mia (Oliver and Felicity’s daughter trained by Oliver last year), along with Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake, all in a future world of Earth in 2040 (introduced earlier in the series).  How long will the CW Arrowverse continue without its flagship series?  Only time will tell, but viewership already switched over to make The Flash the CW’s #1 watched show.

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The first major variant comic book cover event of 2020 launches tomorrow as the landmark 750th issue of Wonder Woman arrives at comic stores everywhere.  As with last year’s Detective Comics Issue #1000, DC Comics will feature a set of decade-inspired cover art variants plus a sketch cover version, joining an incredibly rendered Joëlle Jones standard cover with Wonder Woman holding the Earth on her shoulders (which might be the best of all), all available in most comic book stores.  Nearly 40 other variants will also be available if you’re willing to track them down, from retailer incentives to artist and store-exclusive issues.

Look for homage covers by Joshua Middleton (1940s), Jenny Frison (1950s), J. Scott Campbell (1960s), Olivier Coipel (1970s), George Perez (1980s), Brian Bolland (1990s), Adam Hughes (2000s), and Jim Lee and Scott Williams (2010s).

 

The first story features writer Steve Orlando and artist Jesus Merino wrapping the Year of the Villain arc.  DC announced previously that a story by writer Scott Snyder and artist Bryan Hitch will basically reboot the DC universe timeline, establishing Wonder Woman as the first DC superhero.  Other stories were created by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, Gail Simone and Colleen Doran, Marguerite Bennett and Laura Braga, Mariko Tamaki and Elena Casagrande, Kami Garcia, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks, Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Riley Rossmo, and Vita Ayala and Amancay Nahuelpan.  Readers will also find pin-up art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Ramona Fradon, Bilquis Evely, Travis Moore, Liam Sharp, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

So which is your favorite cover?  Check out the final covers and original cover artwork below:

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Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the Best in Comics.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here, and the Best in Television 2019 here.

We reviewed comics from every major publisher this year, and were pleasantly surprised with all the new characters and content available.  You’ll find both some new creators on the list this year and some fan favorites who keep making better comic books each new year.

Here are the best comic books for 2019:

 

Best Limited Comic Series (tie) – Sara by Garth Ennis and Steve Epting (TKO Studios) and Goodnight Paradise by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli (TKO Studios).  The new publisher TKO Studios began with a bang with these two incredible stories.  Sara is what every fan of war comics hopes for, and Goodnight Paradise brings the realities of life in the 21st century to the comics page in a story that will stay with readers a long time.

Best Ongoing Comic Book SeriesGhost Tree by Bobby Curnow and Simon Gane (IDW Publishing). Haunting, mythic, and sweeping, this story of a man reflecting on his past and coming to terms with the present combines with Asian legend tropes to form an emotional and curiously funny tale. Sure to leave readers begging for more.

 

Best Sci-Fi Comic Series, Best Comic Book WritingAscender by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen (Image Comics).  Lemire owned this category with two fabulous science fiction tales, both with strong female lead characters. Runner-up: Sentient by Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Walta (TKO Studios).

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This year we found one series that could easily sweep most of the categories–a single television series that had everything: compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, all kinds of genre elements that were satisfying and left viewers feeling inspired.  Richly detailed sets and costumes.  An impossible feat to replicate.  No drama came close.  No other visual effects spectacle could touch it.  And its audience is everyone.  A truly epic addition to television viewing, that series is The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the greatest television series to come along in years.  If you love genre like we do, this was as good as it gets.  And like icing on the cake, along came The Mandalorian at year end.

But we’re not going to ignore the other good things that happened on the small screen this year.

Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesDoom Patrol (DC Universe).  With this year’s series Doom Patrol we got a look at two borgs, DC Comics’ Cyborg, an update to Martin Caidin’s original Bionic Man from the 1970s, and an older borg created before the word was even coined in the 1960s, Robotman.  Both characters revealed a glimpse at what life might be like with significant cybernetic enhancements (when brought together by a modern Dr. Frankenstein).  For 2019, it was the way to get your borg fix on the small screen.

Best TV Series, Best New Limited TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Writing for TV, Best TV Costumes/Makeup, Best TV SoundtrackThe Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix).  It was worth the wait.  Jim Henson’s seemingly impossible to replicate artistic vision was successfully achieved thanks to his daughters and the company he founded.  The kindest heroes, the darkest evil, a truly epic, legendary story for the ages.  Everybody is cranking out CGI extravaganzas, but how many are creating artistry so fundamentally real, with so many individual artists and artisans contributing and achieving so much?  Even that wouldn’t be enough if not for the layered mythology and epic adventure story.  Add great humor, high stakes, emotional impact, an all-star voice cast, Daniel Pemberton and Samuel Sim’s  imaginative musical score, and those puppets and all that go into them–it adds up to a rare thing–a Henson masterpiece.

Best TV Sci-fi Series, Best TV DramaThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  Amazon Studios could not have adapted a series more faithfully, making changes for the medium and the times, than its take on Philip K. Dick’s most celebrated novel.  The use of science fiction to tell a deep and twisty level of subplots and unique setting all came to a perfect conclusion in the series finale.  Exciting, intelligent, frightening, and the most thought-provoking series this year, it was also different from its sci-fi competition.  Honorable mention: The Mandalorian (Disney+)–but only if we allow space fantasy since the series is not true science fiction, The Orville (Fox)–for its two-part epic movie-worthy space story, “Identity.”

Best New Ongoing TV Series, Runner-up: Best TV Soundtrack, Runner-up: Best TV Costumes/Makeup The Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which in only its first two hours we rated it closer to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for the success of this surprisingly awesome arrival–the series is proof Star Wars is far from over.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For all the hype, CW Network’s latest series adapting DC Comics had an uneventful start this week.  After Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning, and several crossovers, Batwoman is the next crimefighter to throw her dagger-lined gloves into the ring.  The pilot is a straightforward introduction following the Greg Berlanti model of the other CW Network shows:  A voiceover by the caped hero/heroine, backstory training in a far off strange land, and a tidy origin tied up in a bow with a closely-connected villain, to be the focus of conflict over the course of the first season.  And like the other series, excepting the later introduction of Superman in Supergirl and crossovers, there’s no expectation that one of the biggest characters of the DC line-up will ever show.  In this case, that means Batman, but the set-up for the first episode of Batwoman pretty much requires an appearance at some point in the show’s future.

Batwoman is Kate Kane, played by Ruby Rose, who has had cameo appearances in the other CW series, starred opposite Jason Statham in last year’s summer action flick The Meg, and she got to show her skills as a badass character in John Wick: Chapter 2, the last Resident Evil, and appeared opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.  She brings an edgy quality that matches the comic book superheroine, complete with tattoos that would distract from any other character but works for Kate Kane.  Batwoman changes the course for the CW Arrowverse, with real-world issues of lesbians in the military, gender identity, and bias, so hopefully the series ultimately finds the right balance to match that edginess.  The first episode very much reflects that less-than-edgy quality of Arrow.  But it’s only the beginning, and the other series in this genre took some time to get going, too.  Sorry–Rose doesn’t don that cool red supersuit in the first episode.

The only question is whether Ruby Rose, who seems to fit perfectly into the superheroine role and this take on the comic book story, can match the charisma and acting of series antagonist Rachel Skarsten, who plays Alice, an Alice in Wonderland-inspired villain who isn’t really who you think she is.  It feels early to let loose an identity bombshell, but Batwoman’s writers jump right in, revealing what you’d think would be big secrets (we won’t disclose them here).  Skarsten has had her share of fantastic badass roles, too.  She was Dinah Lance in the original Birds of Prey, Tamsin the Valkyrie in Lost Girl, and she was the young Queen Elizabeth on Reign.  Skarsten’s Alice has some similarities of the Arkham Asylum variety as that millennial-favorite character Harley Quinn, but Skarsten’s level of acting is more subtle and polished than we’ve ever seen Harley portrayed.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers began to take a shift in their superhero movie franchise with last year’s more adventurous Aquaman.  With Shazam! the studios proved that a movie based on DC Comics characters could be every bit as good as the source material, and more satisfying than their past big budget efforts.  True to the spirit of the characters and the story going back to the original Captain Marvel that was so successful in the 1940s, director David F. Sandberg found the sweet spot with Shazam!  Just as seen on the big screen, now on home video Shazam! balances good fun with the requirements of demanding modern audiences.  With the heart of the 1978 Superman and the Tom Hanks hit movie Big, the movie is the best of what DC has to offer in live action entertainment (check out my review of the film earlier at borg here).  Worthy of the film itself, the new home release offers a trove of special features.

The film’s first strength is screenwriter Henry Gayden′s lighthearted story.  It’s all about heart and family bonds, but it also has its action, and even for its comparatively modest $100 million budget, the movie relied extensively on practical effects for its key action sequences.  All of the scenes with Shazam, his extended family, and the villain Dr. Sivana featured a mix of actors and stunt professionals, with far less reliance on the CGI in so many recent DC and Marvel films.  So many of these scenes are showcased in the features that it’s apparent the 1,000 effects filmed for the third act in the final 12 weeks of shooting required something like the strength of Shazam to accomplish.  As director Sandberg remarks in the bonus features, the production had very little slippage in their timetable.  And the success can be seen in the final edit.

Some of the best content on the home release examines how the lead actors filmed their aerial scenes.  Comic fans and fans of stars Zachary Levi and Mark Strong will appreciate their knowledge of the history of the characters they played.  Levi initially submitted screen tests to play a grown-up version of Billy Batson’s foster brother Freddie, and it was apparent immediately to Sandberg he needed to take the lead role.  Strong, who already played a great Sinestro in the less well-received Green Lantern movie, continued to add to the wealth of powerful live-action supervillains, bringing gravitas to the production, reflected in the final cut of the film.  His acting prowess while being transported as if soaring across the sky with cables in front of a green screen (instead of rendering him entirely in CGI) reflects a versatile, impressive thespian who can do his craft in whatever environment is thrown at him.  But fans of the film will find more than 37 minutes of deleted scenes really make the home version a must-watch.

So what all is in the home release?

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Initially used as a way to get people to sign up for his email distribution list over the Fourth of July weekend, David Lapham, the Eisner Award-winning writer of the comic book series Stray Bullets, has released the complete artwork for a heretofore mythical, unpublished comic book.  The artwork was created by none other than legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz, and it was created for Detective Comics’ Issue #801, to be published in December 2004.  According to Lapham, it’s the “first issue of what was supposed to be our collaboration of an arc of stories titled City of Crime.  The art for the first issue was completed but never published.  We came across a set of low-res photocopies of the pages while going through some boxes.”

Sienkiewicz started the run, completing the first issue, but was unable to continue due to other commitments or a similar reason, and DC Comics continued instead with other artists, Ramón F. Bachs (Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure) and Nathan Massengill (Detective Comics), who drew the entire 12-issue run of Lapham’s story.  The reason we haven’t seen a published version in the intervening years?  Lapham answered on Twitter, “The originals were sold and all digital copies are gone.”  Lapham said the images he posted, all that is left unless someone shows up with the originals (believed to have been sold off years ago), have too low of a resolution for printing.

Other comic book creators voiced their kudos for Sienkiewicz’s artwork via twitter.  Phil Hester added his title for the issue: Batman: Heartbreaker.  Mike Oeming added his, “holy wow!”  And Alex Segura said, “oh man this is beautiful… Now I’m just dreaming of what the entire run would’ve looked like!”

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