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Tag Archive: Heroes


Review by C.J. Bunce

Young Leland Melvin wasn’t the type of kid who dreamed about flying in outer space.  But he was guided by good parents and developed the right stuff to work for NASA for more than a quarter of a century that culminated in two space shuttle flights to the International Space Station.  Melvin has written his memoir and it has been published in a version for kids and a version for adults.  Harper Collins and Amistad Press’s Chasing Space is a book that every school library should carry, a book kids should read to understand that you can be anything you want to be.

Melvin credits a good mind-set for his ability to adapt to new situations and succeed in whatever he put his mind to.  But even with hard work, life manages to get in the way sometimes.  Unforeseen circumstances stopped him in his tracks at several points in his many pursuits, including college, where he was almost expelled for an alleged ethics violation.  In high school football he made a mistake that his coach allowed him to redo, resulting in him getting a scholarship to college.  His girlfriend and he were pulled over and a racist police officer tried to get him thrown in jail.  He played football for the Detroit Lions, but a recurring hamstring problem knocked him out of the sport.  He got another chance at football, this time for the Dallas Cowboys, but his leg stopped him again.  Only after returning to graduate school work did his career in science take hold, and once he graduated NASA was practically waiting for him.  But his pathway to space was tripped up by a problem with his ear while training.  And despite it all, and being one of the first African-Americans to forge a path where few had gone before, Leland Melvin worked hard, mentally and physically, and overcame everything thrown in his way to become one of only 550 humans to leave the planet and become an astronaut.  He is known by many as the astronaut that had his formal NASA photograph taken with his two dogs, Jake and Scout, who would later join him and Cesar Millan on an episode of Millan’s Dog Whisperer show.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis with Leland Melvin (left) and crew of STS-129.

Melvin flew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis during missions STS-122 and STS-129 and worked closely with astronauts that were lost on both the Challenger and Columbia disasters as well as current astronauts like Peggy Whitson and Suni Williams, who have continued to set new records in space aboard the International Space Station.  In Star City, Russia, Melvin worked closely with and trained alongside former Navy SEAL Bill Shepherd–the famed astronaut “who knew how to kill somebody with a knife”–as Shepherd prepared for the very first long-duration flight by an American and becoming the first commander of a crew based at the International Space Station.  Melvin even helped Russian scientists translate tech manuals into English in Moscow.  Surprisingly astronaut training for Melvin included extreme survival training and adventure hikes across America and giving talks around the world, learning to stretch the boundaries of his own abilities.  When one of his crews was without a medical officer, he volunteered and trained to add that role to his list of duties.  He spent months stitching up cadavers and working on emergency room patients to be ready for any kind of emergency in space, training under the eye of famous skilled surgeon Dr. Red Duke, the doctor that had admitted President Kennedy and Governor Connally at the Dallas hospital in November 1963.  All these seeming tasks and trials are not obvious things the average person thinks about when they hear the word “astronaut.”  Yet all prepared Melvin to be able to think on his feet should a problem occur, and that according to Melvin’s account, is the way of astronaut training.

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legion-logo

It’s interesting that 20th Century Fox is not calling the new FX channel series Legion, X-Men: Legion, although it at least is carrying the X-Men symbol as part of the title art.  Netflix’s Marvel series Daredevil was already a recognizable brand, and once onboard it was easy for fans to try on the next series, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.  But Legion may get lost in the shuffle of a half-dozen DC Universe series and Netflix’s cornering the market on Marvel serials.  To be successful Legion will need to be good, and good enough to succeed based on word-of-mouth, just as Luke Cage was able to take off with viewers earlier this year.

Legion, as a character, hails from writer Chris Claremont and legendary comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz from the New Mutants comic book in 1985.  Legion is David Haller (played by Downton Abbey actor and the new Beauty and the Beast star Dan Stevens), the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier.  Legion is one of those superheroes who can take on others’ abilities (something like the adaptive powers of Sylar and Peter Petrelli in Heroes, the Charmed Ones in Charmed, the X-Men universe Sentinels, The Borg from Star Trek, or Doomsday).  This is related to his schizophrenia or similar mental disorder–as a mutant it means each personality is tied to Haller manifesting different powers.  Which means we have the foundation for what could be a pretty open-ended playground for the series writers.

legion

Legion’s cast includes Scott Lawrence, Mackenzie Grey, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Jean Smart, Katie Aselton, Jeremie Harris, Bill Irwin, and Amber Midthunder.

Check out these trailers for Legion:

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Stallone and Jordan in Creed

Okay, it doesn’t really seem possible.  We know Sylvester Stallone more for his action movies than any acting prowess.  Yet he is Oscar material.  Rocky–the movie and role that made him a household name, earned him nominations for both acting and his screenplay.  The latest Rocky movie, titled Creed, is his seventh film as boxer–now retired boxer–Rocky Balboa.  And the latest trailer (see here at borg.com for the first Creed trailer) shows he still has the acting chops, and can give as emotional a performance as ever, and maybe one that could garner him another Oscar nod for the same role he played nearly 40 years ago in 1976.

Like the first Rocky film, Creed looks more like a drama than just another boxing movie.  This time Stallone handed the writing and directing honors to 28-year-old Ryan Coogler.  Will it take passing his most significant life’s work to someone else to get him a story that provides the recognition he deserves?

Creed Stallone Jordan

If you’re a Veronica Mars or Heroes fan, as you watch this new trailer for Creed keep an eye out for the girlfriend of Creed’s son (Michael B. Jordan playing the characters Adonis Johnson).  It’s Tessa Thompson who played Veronica Mars’ off and on friend Jackie Cook, and Becky Taylor on Heroes (Claire’s sorority sister and her power was invisibility).

Here’s trailer #2 for Creed:

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Rose McIver iZombie

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raise your hand if you wish you could watch more adventures of Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, Claire Bennet, or Tru Davies.  Fortunately you can get your fix here and there–you can find Buffy in comic books in Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Veronica continues in a series of novels by Rob Thomas, Heroes is coming back to NBC, and, well, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see Tru again.  But thanks to Veronica Mars’ creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, a new strong woman-led series might make you think they are all back.

iZombie premiered Tuesday night adding another winner to the pantheon of solid hit shows the CW Network has been churning out of late, alongside Arrow, The Flash, Reign, Supernatural, and the Vampire Diaries.  iZombie follows Olivia “Liv” Moore, a cardiac medical student resident who ends up at a party on a boat where all the guests break out into an infection and become zombies.  Liv thinks fast and jumps off the boat, but not fast enough.  She’s scratched and dies, only to return as the undead.  Her so-called life crumbles from there and she ends up working for the medical examiner’s office where she can get easy access to unwanted brains, which she needs to eat to avoid getting mean and stupid.

Zombie brains

And the execution of that off-the-wall premise is simply brilliant.  There’s no hiding the fact that the voice of Rob Thomas’s Veronica Mars is echoed in Liv–many scenes aren’t just banter between characters, but chock full of Liv’s inner-thought narration.  It was that storytelling device that was a big part of what made Veronica so accessible and endearing.  And it even works for a zombie.

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Heroes Dynamite new series

As part of its opening day reveal of San Diego Comic-Con International 2013 news, Dynamite Comics issued an unprecedented barrage of announcements.  These include a new monthly continuing the NBC television series Heroes and a return of The Twilight Zone in the form of a monthly comic book series.

Comic book writer Cullen Bunn (Marvel’s Fearless Defenders and Deadpool) will be writing the Heroes comic book series, which he describes as a Heroes Season Five, following on the coattails of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files continuations of cancelled series in comic book monthlies.  Airing from 2006 through 2010, the Heroes TV series was watched by fanboys and fangirls everywhere.  The series chronicled the lives of ordinary people whose mysterious superhuman powers brought them together as part of a giant government conspiracy via a certain guy with horn-rimmed glasses played by Jack Coleman.  The series featured a great cast of now well-known actors, including Hayden Panettiere, Ali Larter, Adrian Pasdar, Milo Ventimiglia, and Zachary Quinto.  Claire, Hiro and Sylar will play a big role in the comic book series, according to Bunn.

The Twilight Zone will feature all-new tales of superstition and science written by SDCC 2013 featured guest, comic book legend, and former Babylon 5 writer J. Michael Straczynski.  Straczynski said, “The immediate creative question to be resolved was: how do you transplant or adapt the TV anthology format into comic form?  Individual stand-alone issues don’t give the issue-to-issue continuity you need to consistently bring in modern readers, and if it’s a year-long arc, it’s not an anthology.  The solution: three four-issue arcs that are connected by theme, character, and location… so that in reading one arc you get one side of the story, with its own supernatural or science-fiction elements, then you turn the character around to another character in that sequence who has his or her own story for the next four issues… and then at the end, you connect all of these individual stories into one overlapping tapestry, so you could literally view the book as individual stories as initially published, or layer the pages to create one big story.”

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Ray Park as Darth Maul

Kansas City’s Planet Comicon announced today that actor and stuntman Ray Park will be one of the headliners of this year’s event April 6-7, 2013 at the Kansas City Convention Center downtown at Bartle Hall.  In his short career as actor he has amassed some key, iconic roles across major franchises.  And because some of his roles are behind a mask or make-up you might not recognize him at first.  But when he moves and performs has trademark wushu spin you just know this Glasgow, Scotland-born second degree black belt martial artist is behind the performance.  He’s been a lead contender to play Iron Fist in a future Marvel Comics project and on March 28, 2013 he will reprise his role as Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  Let’s check out his major acting and stunt roles so far.

Ray Park in Mortal Kombat Annihilation Continue reading

Jaime Ray Newman

You may have first seen Jaime Ray Newman in The Drew Carey Show episode “The Warsaw Closes.”  She had a small part opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the hit Steven Spielberg film Catch Me If You Can.  Soap fans may know her from her 68 episodes  as Kristina Cassadine on General Hospital. 

Versatile, endearing, and attractive, sometimes tough, sometimes sensitive, often devious and other times just plain fun, you just can’t help running across actress Jaime Ray Newman when getting caught up on TV series from the past several years.  Since her role on General Hospital, Newman has turned up everywhere you look, and we’ve seen her in so many genre roles since 2005 that we think she is someone everyone should keep an eye out for, and an actress we can’t get enough of.

Newman as Amanda Walker in Supernatural

Newman played Amanda Walker in the episode “Phantom Traveler” in Supernatural in 2005.  In the same year she played Lieutenant Laura Cadman in two episodes of Stargate: Atlantis.

Newman as Laura Cadman on Stargate Atlantis

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If you haven’t voted yet.  Go do it.  Longer than usual voting lines are expected today.  But who knows long lines better than Comic-Con fans?  Today is your day.  You can show the others how it’s done.  And why not drag your comic book-toting friends along?  Heck, bring along a stack to read.  It’s going to be a long day.

If you’re like me, you get a bit annoyed in the weeks prior to Comic-Con with people trying to hand out tips for your first Comic-Con.  Like we can’t figure it out.  So, in return, here’s a list you can send to your non-comic book-lovin’, non-genre-lovin’, the “who the heck is Buffy the Vampire Slayer voters” you’ll be stuck with all day.  Here’s a modified advice list snatched from lists of advice for first-timers at past San Diego Comic-Cons, a list which seems to apply well to your neighbors who think they know long lines but don’t:  Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

The world needs more Frank Cho.  Frank Cho got me interested in Ms. Marvel and The Mighty Avengers when I hadn’t bought a Marvel comic book in years.  And now Frank Cho has caused me to want to read more about the Scarlet Witch, Spider Woman, and a more recent X-Woman named Hope (actually they call her an X-Man, but that doesn’t quite work for me).

I was immediately surprised and pleased when I saw the display for the new prologue to Avengers vs. X-Men, Issue #0, because it is reminiscent of one of Frank Cho’s all-time best covers, that of the Scarlet Witch in the trade edition of Ultimates 3; Who Killed the Scarlet Witch, which I have not managed to pick up yet to read from the back issue stack.

So what I hope is that Avengers vs. X-Men will focus heavily on the focus of this prologue–equal parts redemption of the Scarlet Witch, who betrayed her husband Vision when we last saw her and devastated the mutant community, and the rest about a girl named Hope Summers, the so-called Mutant Messiah, whose story here follows a coming of age, breakaway from the status quo that feels very similar to Batgirl’s journey in DC Comics’ New 52 line-up.

What I thought this issue would cover is a lot of over-the-top brawling between Thor and Hulk and Iron Man and Wolverine, etc.  I was very happily surprised that wasn’t the case.  Since it does not appear that Frank Cho will be doing all the interiors for the actual AvX series, I just hope I am not disappointed in what comes next.

AvX #0 sold out practically instantly Wednesday across the country but no doubt the reprints will follow soon enough if you missed it.  It is a nice standalone issue, and can go firmly on the shelf next to the best of Cho’s Marvel pages.  You hear that writers write to the strength of the artists that they partner with, and it seems unlikely that Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron didn’t also follow suit here.   This book is chock full of what Cho draws best–not just voluptuous women, but superhero females in action, acting smart, acting tough, being cool in every way.  As I mentioned above, that means Scarlet Witch, Hope Summer, and Spider Woman, but it also means Ms. Marvel and Emma Frost make a solid appearance.  It also means that Bendis sent Cho a few lay-ups, with some dinosaur-tipped rockets fired at the Scarlet Witch courtesy of M.O.D.O.K. (that’s Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing).  I think only Cho could pull that off, and he did it here.  If this work is what partially delayed Cho’s Guns & Dinos series, there was a great reason for the diversion, and his fans will be pleased with this latest entry.

There is some alpha and omega, yin and yang going on here, as Hope was the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch turned all the mutants (except 198) into mere mortals.  Will these two get to deal with each other in the pages of AvX going forward?  I hope so.

In this issue, we had split writing duties, with Jason Aaron taking on the frustration of Hope against the always whiny and wimpy (and often annoying) Cyclops.  Brian Michael Bendis wrote the story of Scarlet Witch in her return to Marvel’s pages from a bit of a hiatus.  Both writers balance the story well and Cho’s art further keeps the issue cohesive.  It would be great if this trio took the reins for the entire series, but that is not the case.

What’s the coolest thing about Hope?  Along with having an interesting character voice, she has one of the best powers around–she can mimic the powers of others.  I remember thinking this was a great ability when I watched Peter use this power in the Heroes TV series.  Hope uses these powers to both use Cyclops’s rays against himself and to take out a motley group of baddies at the end of the book.  She also uses the classic head-butt maneuver to good effect in a classic scene found in this issue.  Aaron’s writing includes a number of funny and quirky moments for Hope–she is endearing.  And you instantly must side with Hope Summers against Scott Summers.  It’s the same style of writing that makes Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men successful.

Cho's original cover art is sadly partially obliterated by the AvX logo. Check out the angel in the background. Doesn't it look like the angel from the Fearless series?

Scarlet Witch–Wanda–never looked better (you just know she wears a Beltsville shirt in her down time).  She is back but wants to stay away from the Avengers.  But Carol Danvers aka Ms. Marvel insists she accompany her and Spider-Woman back to their friends.  The result is a long-and-coming encounter with her husband who turns her away, to the anger of Ms. Marvel, but the acceptance of Logan and Tony Stark.  Bendis is really good–you really feel bad for Wanda here in a short number of pages, both from the story and Cho’s visual portrayal.  And we are left with this prophecy that Hope will have to face the Phoenix… that she senses is coming toward her from far away.  Cho shows us that it is not just a prophecy but will be addressed in issues to come.

For AvX, this is a great start, using the powerhouse writing and art trio of Bendis/Aaron/Cho upfront.  Hopefully the rest of the creators at Marvel Comics will keep the momentum going as we will find out with the premiere of Issue #1 next week.  And more than anything this issue has made me want to catch up on past Cho trade books: Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, Fear Itself: The Fearless, and The New Avengers.

By C.J. Bunce

One of the Midwest’s best pop culture and comic book conventions was this past weekend, Planet Comicon, which has been Kansas City’s largest fan convention for more than a dozen years.  The show seemed to be bursting from its seams this year with thousands of guests, and appears to be outgrowing its venue at the Overland Park International Trade Center.

The film and TV headliners for this year’s show included Edward James Olmos, best known to sci-fi fans for his role in Blade Runner and as Adama in the Battlestar Galactica reboot series.  He signed autographs and took photos with fans both days of the show.  Here he is with Erin Gray, who appeared with other actors from the 1979-1981 TV series Buck Rogers and the 25th Century: 

Gray also appeared on an episode of the Syfy Channel’s Hollywood Treasure last year.

The other featured major guest from film and TV was Billy Dee Williams, best known as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but also as Harvey Dent alongside Michael Keaton in the 1989 Batman film.  His current work includes a stint on USA’s White Collar.

Billy Dee also appeared at the show both days.  (I offered a woman in line $5 to say “Billy Dee, Billy Dee, Billy Dee!” when she finally met him but didn’t take me up on it.  And it’s OK if you don’t get that reference).

Early Saturday morning legendary comic book artist Michael Golden is getting fueled up before embarking on a sketch of Green Arrow:

Green Arrow by Michael Golden. How cool is that?

Michael is known for his work on such titles like Marvel Comics series The ‘Nam, GI Joe Yearbook, Star Wars, and Micronauts.  He is also the co-creator of the X-Men character Rogue.

I’ve been a fan of the different styles Mike Norton uses in his art for quite a while.  Here he is signing one of his comic pages for the Green Arrow/Black Canary series, where he did the pencil work and comic book legend Bill Sienkiewicz provided the ink work:

Mike is working on a creator-owned project currently and has previously worked on Runaways, Gravity, the Young Justice animated series comic book.  He was actively sketching pages for fans at the show and produced probably a dozen at least over the weekend, including this great image for me:

Unfortunately Bernie Wrightson wasn’t sketching at this year’s convention, but he was signing plenty of shirts and books for his Frankenstein book.  Wrightson’s horror artwork goes back several decades, with his first published comic work with House of Mystery in 1969.  He co-created Swamp Thing in 1971.  His work has appeared in Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, and Batman: The Cult.  Here Wrightson is at a signing table with Freddie Williams II and his wife Kiki:

Freddie is well known for his work on his Robin series, and is currently one of the DC Comics top artists.  We reviewed his and JT Krul’s Captain Atom series here at borg.com a few weeks ago.  Freddie was busy creating sketches for fans and speaking on panels at the show.

Currently working on projects for Dynamite Comics, Bionic Man writer Phil Hester and Lone Ranger writer Ande Parks had pages of original artwork as well as copies of their books new and old that they were signing for fans, including a lot of low-priced original art from their run on the DC Comics Green Arrow series:

It’s great that these guys have tackled both the writing and illustration sides of comic book creation.

I got to catch up again with a couple well known Kansas City authors.  Here, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, two of the best known authors of Star Trek novels, talk with fans at the show.

The NBC TV series Heroes co-creator Tim Sale was signing books and art at his booth:

Sales’ past work includes art in Batman: Dark Victory, Batman: The Long Halloween, Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Grey, Spider-Man: Blue and Superman For All Seasons.  (What’s with these color titles, anyway?).  His unique stylized paintings on Heroes featured into the plot of the series.

I spent time chatting with Rob B. Davis, currently providing illustrations for a Sherlock Holmes series and past artist for Malibu’s Deep Space Nine comic book series, writer Jai Nitz, who was juggling signing copies of his Kato and Tron: Betrayal series while moderating different comic book panels at the show, borg.com writer Art Schmidt, local writer Justin Cline manning the front of the convention, and Todd Aaron Smith, who sketched this great Black Canary image for me:

Smith had provided storyboards for Family Guy and other animation art for shows like South Park and various DC Comics and Marvel Comics TV series.  Current Marvel Comics lead writer Jason Aaron could be found with some good lines of fans waiting to get copies of his various Hulk, Wolverine and X-men series signed:

The facility was packed wall to wall with plenty of booths selling everything from graphic novels to collectible action figures, original comic book art, and comic book back issues.  Here, Elite Comics comic book store owner William Binderup appears to be raking in some cash from sales of comics at his booth:

Show producer Chris Jackson seemed pleased with the success of this year’s convention.

And of course there were plenty of cosplayers.  Here a few Batman characters huddled for a photo:

But I think the best was this “Hello Kitty meets Stormtrooper” mash-up:

No doubt it would have been a far different Star Wars had Luke showed up to rescue the princess with this outfit.

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