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Tag Archive: DC Comics


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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If you enjoy Batman and especially if you read Batman comics, there’s one series you should be reading right now.  And if you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, there’s one event you can’t miss this year.  It’s Crisis in a Half Shell, the third crossover/team-up series of writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie Williams II.  We previewed the series here at borg back in April.  It’s the most fun extension–after a lot of creators have tried–to the actual Crisis on Infinite Earths, with a Batman-centric tale including a host of Bat-villains.  Two issues into the series with a third issue arriving at comic book stores today, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III also has that classic space fantasy look from its multiverse plot, stirred by ultimate villain Krang.

Fans of original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman should take note–Tynion and Williams have cleverly tied original Eastman artwork created for this series into the story.  It works seamlessly and has a great Outer Limits/Twilight Zone impact.  As we expected from seeing the first images of the new character concept drawings of Batman, the Turtles, and the villains back in April, this series is both classic Batman and classic Turtles.  Fans of either–and fans of both–franchises will be impressed with every inch of each page, including Jeremy Colwell‘s coloring that makes for a perfect partnership with Williams’ vibrant, dynamic, wall-to-wall action layouts and painterly style.  And Tom Napolitano‘s lettering takes different turns to emphasize voices, with a great, evocating type especially for this new world’s Joker counterpart.

Today’s new cover art by Williams and Colwell just can’t be beat.  It’s flat out one of the year’s best covers.  Take a look at this big preview of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Issue #3/Part 3 of the Crisis in a Half Shell story, plus previews of the cover art to Issues #4 and #5, courtesy of DC Comics and IDW Publishing:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Is there a more likeable superhero in all of the DC Comics and Marvel Comics extended universe than Melissa Benoist’s Kara Danvers on CW’s Supergirl?   New this year from Abrams/Amulet Books is Jo Whittemore’s latest novel in her CW Arrowverse tie-in series, Supergirl: Master of Illusion.  Readers will catch up with Kara as she teams up with J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, sister Alex, James Olsen, CatCo tech genius Winn Schott, and her boyfriend Mon-El against her next foe, vintage DC Comics supervillain Felix Faust, an illusionist, manipulator, and hypnotist.  He’s out to gather some ancient artifacts to unleash a trio of demons on the world, and he has plenty to distract the protectors of National City.  As Kara assembles her team to help, she meets up with another oldie-but-a-goodie, the multi-talented Princess Tlaca and Justice League Dark favorite Madame Xanadu.

Kara’s self-effacing inner monologue said out loud (“did she really just say that?”) makes her the most accessible protagonist of any of the recent slate of superhero novel adaptations of comics, TV series, and movies.  Nice, kind, and never snarky (and always seeming to be hunting down her next snack), she accomplishes all she needs without acting like an all-powerful, infallible god like Superman and Wonder Woman, or her all-powerful counterpart named Danvers from that other comic book universe, Marvel Comics’s Captain Marvel.  Supergirl doesn’t forget the “girl” in Supergirl–she’s cute but not cutesy, and she’s smart and has her own skills, but a key component of her character is her lack of confidence.  She’s learning, but she makes mistakes along the way, like every young woman (or man) or girl (or boy), and that’s a great way to get readers on her side.

Felix Faust seems like a good guy at first, helping Kara get her way out of a fix as she’s schmoozing the local city elite at a gala event.  But his real agenda soon becomes clear.  How does the mysterious princess from the ancient Aztec civilization fit in?  It’s up to Kara to maintain her alter ego as a journalist, get a story and keep her job, and save National City before it’s too late.

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We’ve been speculating about a new animated Star Trek for years (like back here at borg), and it’s sort of like the folks at CBS and Paramount listened to us.  Ideas of an animated Star Trek have finally taken hold of late, first with Ira Steven Behr’s Deep Space Nine documentary, and even more recently with announcements of three shows in development for 2020 or 2021: two animated shorts, an animated comedy series by Rick and Morty writer Mike McMahan about the lower decks crew of a Starfleet ship, and a Nickelodeon series aimed at kids.  Is there an interest in animated Treks?  We loved that replica costume company Anovos was offering pre-orders for a cool, purple–and screen-accurate–cartoon-style Klingon uniform. Unfortunately Anovos reported production was canceled for insufficient interest.  But Behr’s documentary amped up the buzz for the potential of the medium, especially as a way to bring back actors who may not want to appear in front of the camera anymore, via voice work.  Audio genius company Big Finish has made a big business of resurrecting most of its 50 year history of Doctor Who actors (and their companions) via new audio stories, even without the animated visuals.  Want more William Shatner as Captain Kirk?  This is the way to do it.

Just two months ago we reviewed here at borg television historian and researcher Marc Cushman’s latest brilliant deep dive into vintage television in his book These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s, Volume 1 (1970-75) It is a highly recommended, monumental 764-page treatise on Roddenberry, his development of the animated series, and a guide to each episode with exhaustive behind the scenes crew information.  If the future of Star Trek is, indeed, animated, it makes sense another book is coming your way, this time a full color pictorial look at the classic animated series called Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series, and you can check out some preview pages below.

The animated voyages often represented the lighter side of Star Trek that was picked up on by Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyer in their story for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, incorporating more bits of humor that would become an integral part of what makes Star Trek… Star Trek from then on.  One of the biggest curiosities of post-Animated Trek is not including the unique alien bridge officers Arex and M’Ress as characters in the movies and series since.  Both have only had appearances in DC Comics’ Star Trek monthly and various novels.  Years ago Gene Roddenberry acknowledged the costs–of requirements like heavy prosthetic and makeup–required of bringing these characters to live-action versions were too burdensome for television production, yet similarly styled characters have cropped up in Star Trek IV and V and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  With the kind of makeup work done by Oscar-nominated creator Joel Harlow in Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Beyond and Emmy-winner James MacKinnon for Doug Jones in Star Trek Discovery, a live-action Arex and M’Ress could happen.

Take a look at this preview for Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series, available for pre-order now here at Amazon:

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

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

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

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

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

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Crisis in a Half Shell is coming.

Nobody draws a tougher, more badass Batman than Freddie Williams II, and nothing shows that more than a trove of character images released this week from DC Comics and IDW Publishing for the next chapter in the artist’s series with writer James Tynion IV, the epic crossover Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  If you haven’t yet picked up the first two volumes, go out and get Volume One here and Volume Two here (then really dig into Williams’ work in the Director’s Cut here).  Nobody draws a better Batman in these 80 years of cowls and capes than Williams, and nothing will take you back like this series to Kevin Eastman′s first images of those crime fighting turtles introduced 35 years ago.

Thirteen new images by Williams provide a tease into what’s to come next month as Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Crisis in a Half Shell–the title disclosed by Tynion on his Twitter feed Friday–arrives in comic book stores.

  

Yes, that’s Splinter as Alfred.  And the Turtles become a league of Robins: Raphael as Red Hood/Jason Todd, Leonardo as Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Donatello as Red Robin/Tim Drake, and Michelangelo as Damian Wayne.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Williams merged Shredder with the Joker (complete with smiling minion goons, not as the Foot Clan, but the Smile Clan), Rocksteady into Clayface, Bebop into Killer Croc, and DC Comics super villain Anti-Monitor has been fused with TMNT supervillain Krang.

Take a look at these great character designs by Freddie Williams II:

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In marked contrast to the fun, fantastic, and surprising Warner Brothers release Shazam!, finally arriving in theaters in general release today and reviewed previously here at borg, film fans now have their first look at Warner Brothers’ fall release, Joker For a franchise from the same superhero universe, you couldn’t find a most strikingly dissimilar pair of films, if the first trailer for Joker is any indication of the rest of the film.  Joaquin Phoenix is stepping in this time to fill the role previously played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, Cameron Monaghan, and even Mark Hamill in animated versions, and countless others.  This time the character is named Arthur Fleck, so we don’t know whether this is truly the same as the other Jokers or just some parallel world incarnation of the larger-than-life, psychotic, clown villain who became a household word for TV audiences as portrayed by Cesar Romero in the 1960s.

If audiences and fans of DC Comics and DC movies know one character inside and out, it’s the Joker.  So why another movie with the Joker, and more to the point, why another origin story?  Phoenix, the multiple Academy Award-nominated actor from Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master, digs in with great, nuanced skill in all of his roles, and Joker will no doubt be any different.  So if you’re still a fan of the dozen recent dark visions into the superhero universe of DC Comics, Phoenix probably is a solid casting choice.  But can you really have a major Joker tale without Batman?  What about all that “creating each other” business?  The market certainly seems saturated with dark comics adaptations and we’re hoping Shazam! will grab audiences so we see more superhero films like it and The Lego Batman Movie ahead, or DC could split the difference and mine the Marvel Cinematic Universe for some fresh ideas.  But first, it’s going to be a Joker tale later this year.

Check it out for yourself, the first trailer for Joker:

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As expected Saturday at Planet Comicon Kansas City 2019 meant a great turnout for the annual convention, with tens of thousands of fans from the Midwest converging on the Kansas City Convention Center after a day of rain and morning of surprise March snowfall to meet their favorite celebrity and creator guests from years past and today.  Each year the event gets bigger, and for the show’s 20th anniversary that also meant better, with a host of comic book creators whose names any comic book reader of the past 50 years should recognize.


Creator of dozens of characters including Rogue, Mystique, Phoenix, Emma Frost, Legion, Gambit, and Captain Britain, and whose books include a long run on Uncanny X-Men, including the popular story arcs The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past, adapted into X-Men: Days of Future Past, multiple X-Men movies, and this summer’s coming film Dark Phoenix, writer Chris Claremont was on-hand signing his books for fans.


Artist Denys Cowan studied under the late comics legend Rich Buckler (a previous Planet Comicon guest) and went on himself to become one of the biggest names in comics, drawing issues of several great series from both DC Comics and Marvel Comics including runs on three of my favorites from the 1980s, Green Arrow, Batman, and The Question.  He was signing books and selling prints of some of his best-known work.


Jim Starlin is a well-known writer/artist and creator of Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, the Master of Kung Fu, and his classic books include Batman: The Cult, Batman: A Death in the Family, and Cosmic Odyssey. This weekend he signed autographs for a long line of fans.


Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez began in comics illustrating books for Charlton Comics and then became one of the longest running names associated with DC Comics, where he drew major issues of Superman, Action Comics, The Brave and the Bold, Detective Comics, and later, the pop culture favorite Atari Force.  He signed comics and had prints of his work on hand for his fans.


Most of us knew him from the single word that graced many of his unique and futuristic comic book covers–Steranko.  Pretty much nobody has been making comics longer.  Here Jim Steranko chats with a fan at his booth in Artists’ Alley.  More recently he’s known for his nostalgic recollections he shares with fans in his many near book-length tweets on Twitter.

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