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Tag Archive: Jeff Smith


Review by C.J. Bunce

Make no mistake, Billy Batson aka Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel (aka Shazam since 2012) has always been the most difficult to fold into the DC pantheon of superheroes.  With Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman–the trinity at the top of DC Comics for so long–audiences always know much of what those characters are going to bring to a story even before they walk into the theater.  To be fair, Billy wasn’t a DC original, shuffled much later into the DC universe because of some decades-long legal tedium.  Billy Batson is a kid who suddenly becomes a superhero, so the trailers have been compared to Penny Marshall’s Big, another story about a kid suddenly dealing with being grown-up.  And that is, indeed, part of Shazam!  The movie is also part origin story, because although Shazam! adheres to Billy’s origin story going back to the 1940s (just as Captain America: The First Avenger adhered to its source material), much of the audience that saw the character in his heyday–when he was even more popular and well-known than Superman–aren’t around to make up the target moviegoing audience.  But Big and an origin story is just the beginning.

You know it when you watch a movie unfold and realize something great is happening.  DC Entertainment–the movie guys–finally paid attention to DC Comics–the actual writers and artists who built the character from the ground up–and at last delivered what this comic book reader has always wanted.  Shazam!, the story, Zachary Levi‘s superhero, and a new young actor named Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s friend Freddy–are fantastic.  The magic, wonder, and heart of DC Comics is finally back in the theaters.  It’s a gamechanger for the DC universe, because it finally steps away from Zack Snyder’s dark and brooding Justice League and returns it to the roots of DC Comics and DC At the Movies that we first got a taste of with Christopher Reeve’s first Superman and Michael Keaton’s first Batman.  So if the executives at DC are paying attention, and audiences agree once the film hits general release April 5, this could be an opportunity for a switch-up–an excuse to build a new Marvel-level superhero film universe around the new, amazingly fun and appealing superhero characters in this film.

At its core, the story by new screenwriter Henry Gayden updating a script by Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer, Goosebumps) is about a foster family and the importance of family, so don’t think this is another frivolous superhero movie to be easily dismissed.  As with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it’s loaded with emotional beats, and it’s all heart.  What do kids care about, and what are they afraid of?  The film takes some time to look seriously at these things.  It’s not only laugh-out-loud funny in spots, expect some snorts, too.  But look for some emotional pangs along the way, on par with an oft-forgotten superhero movie that may have more heart than any other, the 1980 John Ritter sleeper (and one of my favorites) Hero At Large.  Which makes Shazam! also a movie for fans who count Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Incredibles among their most favorite superhero movies.

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abrams-star-wars-comics

Review by C.J. Bunce

With three new Star Wars comic book series beginning this year as the license returns to Marvel Comics, we’re taking a look at the second book in Abrams Books’ series of hardcover art house books on the franchise, Star Wars Art: Comics.  From the series that also brought us Star Wars Art: Posters, Star Wars Art: Concept, Star Wars Art: Illustration, and Star Wars Storyboards, Star Wars Art: Comics hones in on sequential art found in the comic book medium.

Star Wars and comic books have been in lock-step since Star Wars first hit theaters, thanks to George Lucas and an early meeting with writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin.  The transcript of that meeting is included as an appendix to the book.  Beginning with the first comic book adaptation from Marvel and running through the Dark Horse years, Abrams has compiled a solid overview of thirty years of interpretations of the myth and magic of the Force.

Star Wars original cover art to Star Wars Howard Chaykin

Plates from cover and interior artwork were hand-picked for the book by George Lucas.  Star Wars Art: Comics is worth its price alone simply for the clear photos of Howard Chaykin and Tom Palmer’s original cover art for Marvel’s Star Wars Issue #1 and Dave Cockrum and Rick Hoberg’s original artwork to the oversized edition, both also featured on the book’s binding under the jacket.  Al Williamson’s stunningly rendered imagery from his adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back pepper the volume as well.

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The first full day of the 42nd annual Comic-Con got off to a great start Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center with the first of tens of thousands of fanboys and fangirls and writers, artists, actors and everyone and anyone from the entertainment industry packing the venue.  Lots of oversized swagbags and swag to carry in them and big displays from major creative properties.  Several major events are celebrated this year, including the 35th anniversary of Star Wars throughout the convention.

But today Comic-Con really emphasized the COMIC in Comic-Con.  Artists and writers packed both Artists Alley and the main aisles.  Echo and Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore was signing at his booth (his 15th year at the Con):

Fan favorite David Petersen (Mouse Guard) revealed an exclusive to borg.com tonight:  Years in the making, Friday will be the debut at Comic-Con of his boxed set Mouse Guard role playing game with a limited quantity available at Comic-Con.  Here he is signing at his booth:

Legendary fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn, Tamsin) shared stories about his writing and inspired others at his booth in Artists Alley.  Freddie Williams II (Captain Atom, Robin) and his wife Kiki were jam-packed up until closing with fans at Freddie’s booth.

But not all the fun was to be had on the convention floor.  Another popular franchise celebrates a benchmark this year.  Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books hosted an invitation-only bash tonight at the Hilton Bayfront to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Jeff Smith’s comic book franchise Bone.  Guest of honor Smith was on hand, as well as a who’s who of the comic book and sci-fi/fantasy genres.  Terry Moore and his wife Joann, were in attendance, as was David Petersen and his wife.  Legendary artist Sergio Aragones celebrated as well, along with Judd Winick (Green Arrow writer, among other noted DC work) and Patrick Scullin (Super Siblings).  Attendees included Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine artists and authors Elizabeth C. Bunce (Liar’s Moon, StarCrossed, A Curse Dark as Gold), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), Ted Naifeh (The Good Neighbors), Jake Parker (Missile Mouse), Dan Santat (Sidekicks), Raina Telgemeier (Smile), and Doug TenNapel (BadIsland).

Here, the crowd toasts Jeff Smith (far left).  Next to Jeff is Joann and Terry Moore, far left is Judd Winick next to Jeff’s wife and business partner Vijaya.

Here Elizabeth C. Bunce, Lisa Yee (Millicent Min), and Sheila Marie Everett, Scholastic publicist, celebrate at the party for Jeff Smith.

No industry has a more welcoming group of people than the Comic-Con crowd.  Writers and artists shared stories into the night and everyone had a great time.

And Comic-Con wouldn’t be Comic-Con without some great costumes, including this group of Slave Leias at the Lucasfilm booth:

More to come tomorrow!

And we’ll post more updates throughout Comic-Con and over the coming weeks.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com