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Tag Archive: Jim Shooter


Review by C.J. Bunce

After a few packed years of superhero movies, Dark Phoenix is going to be a target for comparison.  No single Marvel movie this year–including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame–really merits entry on a “best of the best” list, yet all had good, even great, moments, and easily belong in a top 25 superhero movie list.  Dark Phoenix now joins that group.  Instead of a galaxy-changing upheaval, first-time director and award-winning writer-producer Simon Kinberg marked the end of the X-Men movie saga with a personal story.  It’s a story of struggle and tragedy more attuned to the X-Men characters and the cinematic stories 20th Century Fox has told since we first met Patrick Stewart’s professor and Ian McKellen’s metal-manipulating frenemy way back in the year 2000.  Although it’s not as compelling and cinematic as James Mangold’s gold standard Logan or the incredible team-up in X-Men: Days of Future Past, actress Sophie Turner leads an emotional journey for her all-powerful Jean Grey that first began in X-Men: Apocalypse, really backing up that tagline from the movie posters: Every hero has a dark side.  They really meant it.

Kinberg wrote the original script for the Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand, but he gets a lot closer to the spirit of the source material this time.  The key conflict mimics Marvel’s Jim Shooter and Chris Claremont’s reported struggle when they developed the character of Dark Phoenix, asking whether Jean Grey is irretrievably bad or bad only because she is possessed by a dark force.  At the same time most of the cosmic oddities are stripped from the comics story, but not all, pulling the necessary elements from the original tale in a more accessible way for audiences.  Jessica Chastain′s new villain and her compatriots from afar are very much the same as found in the comics, all but in name.  The opening act in particular is perfectly executed, beginning with a nicely cinematic launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and a return to the stealth fighter that Nicholas Hoult′s Beast had been building in X-Men: Apocalypse.  If you’ve seen the trailers or know the story then the subject of the scene is no surprise–a rescue of the astronauts aboard from a giant solar flare, directed by James McAvoy′s Professor X from Earth, but led in space by Jennifer Lawrence′s Mystique, who grew to be the front-line commander of the team in the last film.  The most entertaining superhero of all the X-Men movies is back, Evan Peters′ Quicksilver, this time using his speed and time-stopping powers to assemble the astronauts for rescue in the character’s third and final awesome show-stopper.  He’s accompanied by the teleport-wielding Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler, providing actor Kodi Smit-McPhee the first of several key scenes that showcase his unique superhero, and round out a building arc for the typically background superhero.

The big takeaway from Dark Phoenix may be that it’s clear the material is capable of being recycled and resurrected many times, by different writers, directors, and actors.  Famke Janssen’s performance of Jean Grey was excellent in the original X-Men trilogy.  Sophie Turner’s performance is equally good.  In a few years we’ll see it all over again, which is pretty much what the Phoenix is all about.  Dark Phoenix will likely be accused of copying the empowered women theme of Captain Marvel.  In actuality Dark Phoenix was completed earlier, in October 2017, and if Dark Phoenix hadn’t been delayed by the Fox-Disney merger, the positions would no doubt be flipped to some extent.  The timing and similarities reportedly prompted Fox to go back and make some revisions.  But who says audiences can’t embrace two movies released within 90 days about the two most powerful superheroines in the Marvel pantheon?  Captain Marvel was able to generate far more buzz, and it’s a more upbeat story, so Dark Phoenix is unlikely to make a dent by comparison to that billion dollar box office hit.  But the acting and script for Dark Phoenix is probably a few degrees better, and the wrap-up of so many beloved characters makes Dark Phoenix a more important chapter for its franchise.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As we wait for December’s release of the prequel Transformers story Bumblebee coming to life in theaters, the largest and most comprehensive reference guide to the classic toys, comic strips, and comic books of the Transformers franchise is on its way.  Transform and Roll Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Transformers Franchise (1984-1992) takes the deepest dive yet offered into the early days of the favorite toys and comics of a generation.  Meticulously compiled by Ryan Frost, the book will take you back like never before as he dissects each story with summaries and cross-references.  The result is a massive 820-page historical document that Transformers fans will return to again and again.

Divided into large sections on the toys, the comics, and the cartoon series, the book breaks down the toys by their release and characters, and the comics chronologically based on release.  The greatest effort is in the third section, where the author provides production information and describes plot points of the animated series, identifying characters, creators, writers, and voice actors, and he even pulls key quotes from the episodes.  Did you know the popular tie-in novelist and comic book writer Donald F. Glut wrote for the animated series?  The original actor for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes BackClive Revill–provided voices on the series.  Frost even attempts to locate the early story’s likely location for Mount St. Hillary, Oregon.

Frost recounts how Hasbro tapped then-Marvel Comics staff editor Denny O’Neil to be the next Larry Hama–the renowned writer he took the G.I. Joe toy line from toy to comic book form.  Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter didn’t like O’Neil’s story treatment so staff writer Bud Budiansky stepped in, ultimately naming most of the characters and assigning them their memorable personalities, powers, and abilities.  Budiansky would edit the series, with well-known writers taking on the stories, including Ben Mentlo, Ralph Macchio, and Jim Salicrup.  Other creators would add to the series, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden, Herb Trimpe, Mark Texeira, Charles Vess, Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan, and Mike Zeck.

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The Marvel Comics character Venom is a creature of the 1980s, and not having the benefit of 50-70 years in the histories of comicdom like so many superheroes in movies these days, mainstream audiences know very little about the character.  Well-known genre actor Tom Hardy is taking on the role of the once villain/now anti-hero Eddie Brock, seen only once taking on the black tar-like goo suit before by those who made it to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3.  That film featured That ’70s Show’s Topher Grace in the role.  Kids in the 1980s first witnessed the genesis of the character in the wildly popular Marvel Comics mini-series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Issue #8, by writer Jim Shooter and artist Mike Zeck.  Most kids appreciated the new look.  Originally intended to give Spider-man a new black and white costume, the story became one about a symbiotic suit that attached to Spider-man, which went on to attach to Eddie Brock, who became Spidey’s Public Enemy #1 as the very Todd McFarlane-styled character known as Venom in later stories.  But don’t look for images of that guy just yet.

The first teaser for Sony Entertainment’s film is out, showcasing more of the noir look of the film and Tom Hardy’s established acting talent than anything typical of most superhero tales.  In other words, no look at Venom yet.  It’s long for a teaser, but reveals little about the plot or character.  Hardy has earned his sea legs in genredom.  He was only one of a handful of actors to play a Star Trek villain in the movies, starring as the Captain Picard clone Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis.  He reprised Mel Gibson’s Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road, and in that other giant comic book franchise he played the B-team villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  Along the way he proved himself in several dramatic roles, in the likes of Band of Brothers, Black Hawk Down, Layer Cake, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and as the World War II flying ace of the current Oscar-nominated film Dunkirk.  

  

With Venom Hardy takes on another comic book B-team character, but without a full face mask as in The Dark Knight Rises and instead with his face covered in only part of Venom as in Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe Hardy will have a greater opportunity to make an impact and make this character his own.  This is Sony’s first follow-up to their successful redux of Spidey in Spider-man: Homecoming, and word is out that new Spidey Tom Holland was on-set for Venom, possibly doing some filming.  Four-time Oscar nominee and star of the current Oscar-nominated film All the Money in World, Michelle Williams plays Eddie’s ex.  Solo: A Star Wars Story co-star Woody Harrelson also has a role in the film.

Check out this brief teaser for Venom:

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3D Photobooth Gimli Jo Kamm KCCC 2015 Kansas City Comic Con

The first Kansas City Comic Con comic book and pop culture convention wrapped Sunday at the Kansas City Convention Center at Bartle Hall.  We bid farewell as Doctor Who’s Colin Baker headed to the airport to return home to England and other guests set out across the country after a long and exciting weekend in the Midwest, leaving behind some happy and (exhausted) fans.  But first, crowds again lined the aisles Sunday, grabbing last-minute selections of prints from artists, books from writers, and comic books and collectibles from the several dealers on site.

Sunday saw more panels, more autographs and photo ops, and more conversations with creators.

Royals Iron Man

Our vote for the best cosplay of the show?  This Kansas City Royals-inspired Iron Man.  What better cosplay ambassador to the first Kansas City Comic Con than this superhero?

But it was hard to beat this great costume of a Gnoll from Dungeons & Dragons:

Gnoll from D&D

Excellent work!

Our vote for the best new addition to conventions anywhere this year was Jo Kamm’s 3D Photobooth.  Unlike the 3D photobooth featured at last year’s World Series, the 3D Photobooth at KCCC printed highly detailed, large figurines.  And unlike other 3D printing booths we’ve seen before, Kamm’s software and technology recreated recognizable faces.   We’ll feature the process used at the booth in a later article, but our response and those of various passersby watching the imaging in process was simply “Wow!”

Here Kamm renders examples of a digital 3D, 360-degree image of both our Radagast ensemble from Saturday…

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Sean Astin CJ Bunce Elizabeth C Mimosa Bunce KCCC 2015 Kansas City Comic Con

We could stop after just the above photo with actor Sean Astin, but we won’t.  Kansas City Comic Con broke the mold this weekend, setting up a fun environment for thousands of attendees to get a major league dose of pop culture fun.  You could meet icons of classic movies, like Pam Grier (1970s action film star), classic TV, like Butch Patrick (Eddie, from The Munsters), from current hits like Game of Thrones (Kristian Nairn), and classic 1980s video games (Billy Mitchell of King of Kong fame), to kids’ favorites (Power Rangers’ August St. John), classic British TV (Doctor Who’s Colin Baker), and megahits like The Lord of the Rings (Sean Astin) and Star Wars (Nalini Krishan and Orli Shoshan).

Creators from the Star Wars universe could be found everywhere, from current Marvel Star Wars writer Jason Aaron, to artist icon Michael Golden, to Disney-era Star Wars artists Bryan Fyffe and Joe Corroney.  Creators from several major licensed characters could be found with Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Jai Nitz, Greg Smallwood, and Tony Moore.  And then there is Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck from the superhero sphere of classic comics.  Phew!  That’s a busy weekend.

Rick Howland KCCC 2015 Kansas City Comic Con

We had a great time with Rick Howland, star of Syfy Channel’s Lost Girl, which only recently wrapped its final episode.

Here’s writer CW Cooke talking with attendees at his booth…

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