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Tag Archive: Jack Kirby


  

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

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

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

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

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You probably haven’t had this much fun watching a rollicking fantasy movie this cool since you first saw the 1980 Flash Gordon movie starring Sam Jones, Max Von Sydow, Melody Anderson, Timothy Dalton, and Brian Blessed, accompanied by that memorable Queen soundtrack.  It shouldn’t be hard to believe–seven weeks from its premiere and Thor: Ragnarok continues to sell-out theater screenings across the country.  In a year full of so many comic book adaptations, and great ones at that, from Logan and Logan Noir to Spider-man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and even The LEGO Batman Movie, this was a great year for comic books on film.  But Thor: Ragnarok rivaled them all from an entertainment standpoint.  In many ways Thor: Ragnarok is a natural progression from both the past Thor films and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But something about director Taika Waititi’s vision for Avengers Thor and Hulk in this latest film changed how the MCU can entertain.  Instead of focusing on the events that the earlier Marvel entries–and comic books–are best known for, events like Civil War, Waititi returned to the reason we all turn to superheroes for entertainment:  it’s because we like the characters.  The end of the world is coming for Asgard, three great villains are wreaking havoc for our heroes, but Taikiki does something novel.  He puts the setting where it belongs: in the background.  And so we get closer to Thor, Hulk, Loki, Valkyrie, and even Thor and Loki’s sister Hela, by watching them interact.  The result is a film that should be vying for the top spot with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Logan, and Spider-man: Homecoming, on your comic book movie best-of shortlist.

Waititi really accomplished something difficult here.  It’s not often the third film in a series completely exceeds the prior films (although it’s certainly arguable Spider-man: Homecoming trounced four prior Spider-man movies).  The Incredible Hulk and Hulk were hardly comparable to Thor: Ragnarok as a Hulk movie (sans title only).  And Thor and Thor: The Dark World weren’t remotely as memorable as Thor: Ragnarok.  So what made it all come together?  Clever dialogue from a tight script for one.  And each actor needed no time to take their characters and march forward.  Chris Hemsworth’s cocky God of Thunder has always sported a humorous side, but partnered with Tom Hiddleston’s on-again, off-again baddie Loki, and a Bruce Banner after he’s stuck in “Hulk mode” for two years (played by Mark Ruffalo), Thor: Ragnarok is every bit the next Avengers team-up film–it may as well be called Avengers: Ragnarok.  It’s also a buddy comedy.  Why not?  In the comic books the serious and powerful characters of Hulk and Thor have always been less accessible than the rest so how better to reach audiences?  And why not take that most-comic book of tropes and let them have their hero battle in the ring?  Many comic book readers have been waiting for this film for a long time.

The entire art design and sound should be credited with the film’s success, too.  Classic Jack Kirby imagery and style can be found throughout the production design.  Funky psychedelic colors, lights, and imagery make this a fantasy film, as opposed to a superhero or sci-fi movie.  Action choreography appears like it’s torn from the panels of a comic book page.  Dazzling fantasy costumes by Mayes C. Rubeo (The Great Wall, John Carter, Avatar, The Librarian) include Cate Blanchett’s Hela destroyer outfit, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie/Scrapper 142 outfit, Idris Elba’s Heimdall in Robin Hood garb, and Karl Urban’s iridescent Scurge armor.  Music by Mark Mothersbaugh (The LEGO Movie, Lords of Dogtown, Fanboys, 21 Jump Street) includes audacious, sometimes triumphant, sometimes hilarious choices.  And Magic Sword’s “In the Face of Evil,” Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and Gene Wilder’s “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, were simply inspired inclusions that made the characters and film exactly how we want these characters to look and feel: Cool.

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We had a first look at Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’Challa, the ruler of the kingdom of Wakanda whose alter ego is the Black Panther, in last year’s great superhero mash-up Captain America: Civil War, and a teaser trailer back in June.  Next year Marvel Studios is giving Boseman his own solo movie in the big screen release of Black Panther, based on the comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four.  The latest preview of the film arrived today.

T’Challa must defend his kingdom from being torn apart by enemies outside and within.  Boseman, who portrayed both Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42 (reviewed here) and Thurgood Marshall in last week’s release of Marshall (reviewed here), brings along an impressive supporting cast.  Adonis himself, Creed star Michael B. Jordan will play Erik Killmonger, Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, and Andy Serkis is Klaw, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Forest Whitaker is Zuri, The Hobbit and Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is Everett K. Ross, and Green Lantern’s Doctor Waller, Angela Bassett is Ramonda.

Creed’s Ryan Coogler directs the film with Creed’s Hannah Beachler providing some impressive production design work and Ruth E. Carter (Marshall, Selma) created some incredible new costume designs for this new Marvel world.

Here is the latest trailer for Black Panther:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Amazing?  Definitely.  Spectacular?  Absolutely.  Tom Holland, who stole the show in the key battle of last year’s Captain America: Civil War, has provided the definitive, and yes, the ultimate Spider-man performance in this weekend’s latest Marvel masterwork, Spider-man: Homecoming.  And Holland is equally good, if not better, without the suit as angst-ridden, overburdened teenager and Spider-man alter ego, Peter Parker.  Kids of all ages who ever envisioned the ultimate battle between Spider-man and Batman get their satisfaction here, too: Michael Keaton, in one of his best performances in decades, creates out of an obscure character one of the best supervillain performances to hit the big screen, complete with high-tech bat wings and the classic Keaton we all love to watch.

Moviegoers have seen good efforts from Marvel creating the comic book empire’s flagship, web-slinging superhero before, with Tobey Maguire in three Spider-man solo films and Andrew Garfield in two follow-up Amazing Spider-man films, but this latest story supplies what was missing from the other five: an authentic, likeable, smart, voice-breaking do-gooder and a classic coming of age story with heart.  But it doesn’t skimp on the action, and thanks to some well-filmed 3D and magical IMAX cinematography, one key scene that takes place high atop the Washington Monument made this viewer practically step backward out of his seat into the back row.  Just breathtaking filmmaking.

If you keep a list of superhero movie requirements in the back of your mind, you’ll find that Spider-man: Homecoming fulfills or surpasses them all.  A story with a solid character arc for its lead and antagonist.  A big relief for filmgoers who go to every new superhero movie: writer/director Jon Watts and five other writers (a fact that alone would normally spell certain doom for a film, but not here) knew enough to steer clear of another superhero origin story and instead delved right in.  They flesh out Parker’s relationship with his like-minded, knowledge bowl peers at school and provide more than one jawdropper along the way.  In Keaton’s villain they provide an exceptional, compelling villain, something lacking in the past several years of superhero movies.  Holland sports an update to the Spidey supersuit, and Louise Frogley’s latest costume design is superb, complete with believable, readily available tech supplied in-story by mentor Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man in his latest perfect adaptation of the role from the comics.  And Michael Giacchino’s powerful and emotional score is among his best, complete with plenty of clever and unexpected themes that amplify the story at the right time.  If you think Peter Parker is a throwaway character, prepare for some emotional work by Holland, especially at his character’s lowest point in the story.

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For months Nathan Fillion was listed a cast member in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, via several sources across the Internet, along with Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone.  But if you saw the film, you learned that Fillion never had an appearance.  So what’s the story?  It turns out director James Gunn had planned for his friend Fillion to make an appearance in the movie, but the character ultimately was nixed.  So who was Fillion going to appear as in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  None other than B-level superhero Wonder Man aka Simon Williams.  Williams was not going to be an actual character appearing in the show, but a background scene was going to feature Fillion as Williams in a marquee screening of films starring Williams as B-movie actor.  So Gunn mocked up several movie posters for the scene, featuring Fillion’s familiar face.

According to Gunn,  “I decided to put a theater playing a “Simon Williams Film Festival,” with six Simon Williams movie posters outside.  Obviously, from the posters, he’s had a run of B movies.  Most of them in themselves are Easter eggs of some sort or another.  Unfortunately, the small section of the scene where they appeared slowed down the movie and I had to cut the Easter eggs from the film (along with storefronts named after comic book luminaries Starlin, Mantlos, Annett and others).  Equally a bummer was that a lot of people took photos of these posters on the day so suddenly every fan site was reporting that Nathan was playing Wonder Man in the movie.  He was even the third-billed actor on IMDB!  So that’s the full story.  Nathan’s only cameo in the movie ever were these posters.”

   

Don’t know Simon Williams?  He first appeared in 1964 in Marvel’s The Avengers, Issue #9.  And he died in the same issue.  But, as we know from comic books, dead isn’t always really dead, so he came back later.  Williams was created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby.  Williams is more familiar to many as a member of West Coast Avengers and Uncanny Avengers.  Despite his cut from Guardians 2, Gunn has said Williams may still be included in future films.

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Next week Quirk Books is releasing its follow-up look at the obscure side of comic books with The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains, a companion book to its 2015 release The League of Regrettable Superheroes (reviewed previously here at borg.com).  Cartoonist and graphic designer Jon Morris has again researched the archives of Digital Comic Museum and Comic Book Plus to locate oddities from the Golden Age of comics to more recent series.

Morris collected more than 100 of these antagonists of the comic page, many only serving their plot in a single issue of a long forgotten publication.  These are villains that today seem laughable as bad guys, like Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Bloor (The Dictator of Uranus), The Horrible Hand (a giant hand), and The Human Flying Fish.  The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains is a great excuse to look back to the roots of comicdom, its creators, and the publications that have come and gone.  Morris’s overview of the far recesses of the Golden Age of comics may remind readers of the changing times–the changing audiences–for comic books, and how the industry has grown.  Creators of the obscure are mentioned in the book when known, and sidebars list plenty of humorous weaknesses of these vile fellows.  The Balloon Maker is particularly nefarious, and a baddie before his time–he’s something out of House of Wax or Silence of the Lambs.  As much as some entries are obscure, others, like MODOK, are better known–but still strange.

   

You’ll see plenty of examples of full color covers and interior art from the characters represented, as well as characters created by legends in comics like Dick Sprang, Frank Frazetta, Gill Fox, Jack Cole, Otto Binder, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Simon, Neal Adams, and John Romita.

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Ten years after Return of the Jedi, Topps trading cards editor and writer Gary Gerani was tasked once again to meet fan demand for more Star Wars trading cards.  Many years before he would create photo cards for a new trilogy of prequels, he would team up with Lucasfilm’s Steve Sansweet to showcase Star Wars as interpreted by some of the best artists that contributed to the films or would re-imagine the “Star Wars Galaxy” in their own styles.

The three resulting trading card series have been released in the 2016 addition to Abrams ComicArts successful hardbound series featured here previously at borg.comStar Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series includes the works of more than 170 artists in more than 200 card reproductions, plus commentary by Gerani and an afterword by notable poster artist Drew Struzan.  Unlike the prior volumes in the series, only the obverse image from the cards, which featured the artwork, is included.

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You’ll find an incredible array of imagery by a surprising combination of artists, including rare images you will have seen only if you collected the original cards.  So you’ll find the work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Ralph McQuarrie, Moebius, Drew Struzan, Dave Dorman, Al Williamson, Howard Chaykin, Mike Grell, John Eaves, Mike Zeck, George Perez, Jim Starlin, Dave Stevens, Walter Simonson, Gene Colan, Rich Buckler, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mark Schultz, P. Craig Russell, Dave Gibbons, Sergio Aragones, Boris Vallejo, Charles Vess, and Gil Kane.

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The volume includes the entire run of portraits created for Star Wars Galaxy specifically for the Topps cards by Joseph Smith–the original art was later bought by George Lucas for his personal collection.

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One of the most fascinating tidbits about fantasy/horror director Guillermo del Toro in the new hardcover book Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters is that del Toro grew up in a collecting home.  His father had won the lottery.  The details aren’t discussed, but after reading this book, which focuses on one of del Toro’s homes where he displays a collection of fantasy and horror memorabilia, any read would ask where would someone get the money to buy all these things.  The closest comparison would be Michael Jackson’s purchase of oddities like Joseph Merrick’s bones.  Jackson had billions, but del Toro, whose career has only taken off since the 1990s, has amassed a collection that doesn’t reflect that extreme level of purchasing yet.  But he’s on his way.

Guillermo del Toro is known for his visions of fantasy horror as seen in his Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic, Crimson Peak, and even the beginnings of The Hobbit trilogy. Many are unaware of his creepy home full of fantasy and horror relics that he calls Bleak House.  Think of the beginning of an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater or Friday the 13th TV series or that shop where an old man found a Mogwai for his son in Gremlins and you’ll have an idea of the oddities to be found.

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No, that’s not the actual Ray Harryhausen with del Toro (we hope), but you have to wonder if Vincent Price had something to do with getting this frozen fellow into del Toro’s collection.

Some of the purchases on display are unique, some rare, but most appear to be mass market items, books, toys, statues, action figures.  They cram the rooms of his house much like many people you know who have an obsession with collecting.  Sure, del Toro’s house may be creepier than most–custom mannequins of horror greats like H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Harryhausen and Edgar Allen Poe appear to be living in this lair–but Bleak House does not look like anyone actually lives there.  A retreat for storing research materials seems more likely.  Could anyone, even a fan of all these monsters, wake up everyday to a gigantic head of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster?

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If you are looking for an introduction to critically acclaimed comics in one volume while also getting a dose of exposure to some newer talents, Atomeka Press has teamed up with Titan Comics to release a new hardcover volume, A1 Annual: The World’s Greatest Comics.  With such a loaded title, you’d expect the entries to be pretty powerful stuff.  You’ll certainly find a broad mix of story and art styles, but ultimately beauty is in the eye of the reader.  Does the volume live up to the title?

No doubt everyone, no matter how critical your eye, will find at least a few gems here.  When you realize you’re dealing with the likes of Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jim Steranko, Alan Moore, and James Robinson, it’s pretty easy to see why the editors had the chutzpah to come up with such a cocky title.

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PBS is airing a new documentary series tonight and re-broadcast October 22 focusing on the impact of comic book superheroes on America and American culture, in Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle.  It’s a good history lesson in the creation of the modern comic book and the development since the 1930s of the comic book art form.  Packed with interviews with key creators and industry professionals, and comic book page and TV and movie clips, it tells a history of America as much as the comic book medium.

Not surprisingly the documentary, funded by both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, focuses on U.S. comics and comic stories tied to patriotism across the past 100 years.  Written and directed by Michael Kantor, it covers how changing times is mirrored in comics, but also dictates the stories of comics, from the Great Depression, to World War II, McCarthyism in the 1950s and the Cold War in the 1960s to 1980s, the psychedelic 1960s, drugs in the 1970s, to Watergate and terrorism.

Liev Schreiber hosts Superheroes on PBS

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