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Tag Archive: Stan Lee


With winter settling in and another cold snap crossing the U.S. and the film’s nomination for a Best Animated Film Academy Award, audiences are continuing to discover Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in theaters (reviewed earlier here at borg).  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse–The Official Movie Special is a new hardcover book going behind the scenes of the movie, and it has a different twist.  The book interviews all three of the film’s directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, who provide different perspectives on working with Phil Lord on the script, and share insight into the pre-production, voice actor recording, and visual effects.

Senior animation supervisor Josh Beveridge recounts the steps of the animation process used for the film, including inkline methodology to make the film look like a comic book, using a large team of animators.  Several pages are devoted to each of Miles Morales and his family, Peter B. Parker, Spider-Man Noir, Gwen Stacy, Peter Porker, and Peni Parker and SP//dr–how each was designed, how each was presented to distinguish their different comic book origins using variations in light, color, and dimension, and how each voice actor approached the performance.  The villains get coverage, too, including the Prowler, Kingpin, Tombstone, and a new Green Goblin and Doc Ock.

The best look at stills from the film released so far can be found in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse–The Official Movie Special.  It also nicely references all the writers and artists that created the various Spider-Verse characters used in the film.  It features concept art and production art from production designer Justin K. Thompson, art director Dean Gordon, and creators Jesús Alonzo Iglesias, Seonna Hong, Patrick O’Keefe, Shiyoon Kim, Yashar Kassai, Naveen Selvanathan, Paul Lasaine, and Craig Kellman.  Voice actors Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, and Hailee Steinfeld also provide contributions.

Take a look inside at a few pages from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse–The Official Movie Special:

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Still aren’t in the Christmas spirit yet?  With no Christmas day episode of Doctor Who this year, Netflix is filling in the gap with an episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina called “A Midwinter’s Tale,” another solid episode of the series taking the story forward where the first season left off, and delving into some classic tropes of American and Victorian Christmas lore.  It’s all with the twist of the darker, horror-infused world of the show, but as Miranda Otto’s character Aunt Zelda says, “Christmas is the best time for ghost stories.”  See A Christmas Carol, as an example.

Plenty of Christmas episodes of past genre television series are available right now, most via services you may already subscribe to, others for a few dollars (and some you may find free to watch on YouTube).  How about starting with the unofficial sequel to Die Hard and Die Hard 2 starring Reginald VelJohnson (Ghostbusters, Tron: Uprising) in his third appearance as Sgt. Al Powell?  He’s one of several actors guest starring in a trilogy of Christmas episodes of Chuck, available on Amazon Prime.  First is “Chuck vs. the Crown Vic,” then VelJohnson and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) in “Chuck vs. Santa Claus,” rounded out with Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Arrow) and Stan Lee in an early cameo as himself in “Chuck vs. the Santa Suit.”  But be careful, you may end up getting sucked into the rest of the series, starring Zachary Levi (Shazam!, Psych the Movie, Thor: Ragnarok), Yvonne Strahovski (The Predator, The Handmaid’s Tale), and Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Leverage, Castle).

In the same vein as Sabrina, check out Grimm with Christmas episodes “Twelve Days of Krampus” and “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas,” both available on Amazon Prime.  “Twelve Days of Krampus” provides one of the best illustrations of Krampus, the folkloric character who has been a subject of this time of year for more than 2,000 years.  Ever get coal in your stocking?  Learn more here.  And you’ll find some familiarity with the critters in “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” as the new Sabrina episode.  Each of these Grimm episodes is among the best of Christmas episodes, and overall great episodes of the series.  And if paranormal shows are your thing, don’t forget the Supernatural episode, “A Very Supernatural Christmas.”  Catch it on Netflix.  The Winchester Brothers pursue some pagan gods at Christmastime, revisit their own Christmas past, and try to share a Christmas together as only they could.

That brings us to six classic Christmas episodes.  How about six more?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This month Marvel is celebrating the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a look back at the first three phases of the films in a new hardcover book, Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years With the March 2019 release of Captain Marvel the official fourth phase of the MCU will begin.  With that shift to a new era quickly approaching, as well as an uncertain future thanks to the imminent completion of the acquisition of the X-Men characters, and the 10-year benchmark, it’s a good time to assess all Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was able to pull together beginning way back when we first saw Robert Downey, Jr. don the Iron Man armor for the first time.  This nostalgic trip back over the past decade will be published by Titan in conjunction with Marvel.

Readers will find interviews with Feige, co-president Louis D’Esposito, Stan Lee, Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Anthony and Joe Russo, James Gunn, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, Chadwick Boseman, Evangeline Lilly, Karen Gillan, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Gwyneth Paltrow, William Hurt, and Josh Brolin.  Multi-page sections focus on each of the 22 films in the series.  High-quality color photographs accompany the discussion of each film in chronological order, most with behind-the-scenes images, like a great image of all the parts to Ant-Man’s helmet laid out on a table.

Fascinating discussion points include D’Esposito pointing out how the produces intentionally made each new film a different genre, not just a superhero movie.  He also indicates that casting Robert Downey, Jr. was the most important casting decision of the franchise.  Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn talks about using the soundtracks on set for everyone to get the feel of the two Guardians movies.  The book even provides some preview information for next year’s Captain Marvel movie.  And there are several Easter eggs that most fans will have never read about anywhere else, often 10 or more for each film (the Collector and the Grandmaster are brothers?).  Here are a few pages from Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a movie that had some pretty rough previews, including Tom Hardy as a journalist with some indecipherable dialogue and a scientist who mispronounced a key word in the story, the end result may come as a surprise: Venom is actually a pretty good movie.  Do we credit a great post-production and re-shoots, including a complete redo of the strange “symbiote” explanatory scene, or does Sony need to simply work on improving its movie trailers?  Frankly all that matters is what made it to the screen.  Fans of the comic book anti-hero and villain, of alien invasion movies, of that unique character design from co-creator artist Todd McFarlane, of Tom Hardy, and non-traditional superhero movies, you’ll have to work to find anything wrong with this movie.  It’s a good Halloween month monster movie and you don’t need to know anything about the character or Marvel Comics to jump right in.  But you just might want to check out the comics after you see it.  Like Frank Miller caused Daredevil to become popular, McFarlane made Venom big in the 1980s.  Unlike McFarlane’s movie Spawn, an R-rated film that was too dark for mainstream audiences, the PG-13 rating for Venom makes this movie accessible to everyone.

A mix of the classic alien invasion flick, the horrifying McFarlane character look, with the grimy city vibe like the Detroit of Robocop, Venom has elements that make it feel like it belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, regardless of its origin as a Sony film.  As for quality and delivery, it falls somewhere above Blade, Iron Man 2 and 3, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk movies, and Spawn, X-Men 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse, and somewhere below Hellboy and Deadpool.  For most fans of adaptations of comic books on the big screen, that will be enough.  Full of good humor moments, the film doesn’t take itself seriously.  We meet the archetype from 80 years of superhero comics with Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, an Everyman, a down-and-out guy who can never get a break who gets caught making a few mistakes.  Usually this archetype ends up captured by Batman (or insert other superhero here) and thrown into the slammer, but this time he encounters a body shifting alien presence that merges with him, blending the best and worst of both beings.  Beginning with a crash landing as a SpaceX-inspired ship returns with some specimens from outer space, we eventually meet four alien beings, the lowliest of rank who calls himself Venom.  Merged with Eddie, Venom needs to eat living lifeforms to continue on and he doesn’t grasp the subtleties of only killing bad guys just yet.  Audiences will get to watch these aliens, the symbiotes, body-shift through several random characters (like Denzel Washington’s character in the movie Fallen), including the key cast and an animal or two–and it’s mostly great fun.

Venom is probably a rare time audiences will see Michelle Williams in a stock role.  Usually every part she takes on results in an Oscar-worthy performance, but it’s nice seeing her do something less dramatic.  And she gets some great scenes directly with Venom (including an Easter Egg scene that points straight back to the origin of the character originally discussed between Marvel Comics editor Jim Salicrup and writer/co-creator David Michelinie).  This may be Tom Hardy’s best role since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (where he was the only good thing in the movie), as he at last gets to play a spectrum of emotions and demonstrate a broad acting range.  Despite what we heard in the movie trailers, his regional American accent is spot on in the final cut and his dialogue is delivered clearly–none of that crazy speech we saw him bring as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises Not hiding behind make-up or masks as in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, or Star Trek: Nemesis, Hardy again proves he’s one of the best actors around.  The sound department gets it just right–Hardy’s voice is also the voice transformed into the monstrous, demonic sounding Venom, and it’s unique and effective.  No doubt some elaborate work went on behind the scenes for Hardy-as-Eddie to be arguing with Hardy-as-Venom.  Some of the best lines, and laugh-out-loud moments come from Venom, reminiscent of Gollum and Sméagol.

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Last week we saw Superman turn 80 and reach his 1000th issue of Action Comics for DC Comics.  It’s hard to believe that Spider-man is the first character to be featured on a cover for an Issue #800 from rival publisher Marvel Comics.  But that issue finally arrives this month for the long-running monthly series The Amazing Spider-man, more than 55 years after Spidey’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  This month’s benchmark issue will be a giant 80 pages wrapping up the four-part story “Go Down Swinging.”  Written by Dan Slott, interior artwork was created by Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Nick Bradshaw.  Peter Parker takes on Norman Osborn and Carnage, combined to become the Red Goblin.  Then in July as part of Marvel’s “Fresh Start” it all begins again with The Amazing Spider-man, Issue #1, with creative duties handed over to Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley.

The Amazing Spider-man #800 is arriving with at least 38 variant covers, drawn by Steve Ditko (2 remastered covers), Alex Ross (2 versions), Frank Cho, Adam Hughes (4 versions of an image of Mary Jane), Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson, John Romita, Sr., John Cassaday, Gabriele Dell’Otto (2 versions of 2 covers and a third image with wraparound cover for Comicxposure), Mark Bagley, Moebius (2 versions), Inhyuk-Lee (2 versions for Frankie’s/7 Ate 9), Greg Land, Tyler Kirkham, Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding, Humberto Ramos, Nick Bradshaw, Paolo Rivera, Francesco Mattina (connecting cover to Venom, Issue #1), eight covers by Scott Campbell, two editions pre-autographed by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr., and a blank sketch cover.

  

We’ve searched high and low and came up with 38 covers being offered.  Are more coming?  Possibly.  The difference in some is the inclusion of a logo–or not (frequently referred to as a “virgin cover”).  Many will require work to track down as some are store exclusives, and at least one will be offered at an initial price in excess of $1,000, while ten standard release variants will be easier to acquire.  Take a look at large images of all these great covers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you only could choose one book to represent the potential–maybe even the highest form–of the comic book medium, a new book hitting the stands today may be on your short list.  IDW Publishing is releasing a stunning anthology of the history of the Holocaust as seen in comic books of the past, presented with an introduction and afterword by Stan Lee, the creator who broke more stereotypes in his stories than anyone in comic books’ first century.  In We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust, artist Neal Adams, who changed the way comic book stories were told in the early 1970s with his Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman series, Holocaust scholar Rafael Medoff, and comics historian Craig Yoe have compiled what is arguably the most noble use of comic books–educating kids in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s on a subject of history virtually ignored in mainstream circles.  Along with Congressman John Lewis’s March series about the civil rights movement, We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust should be in every library and taught in every history class.

My high school history teacher was astonished to learn none of us knew the details of Watergate–we were only infants at the time–and I recall the realization he saw of what he and his peers were not teaching. This weekend my eighteen-year-old nephew mentioned watching the footage of 9-11 in school this year for the first time.  In the 1980s only the last paragraph of the last chapter of our World History textbooks discussed the Holocaust, yet we at least spent a week talking about the subject.  But not until the 1990s was the Holocaust taught in most of American school systems.  Even today only 35 states require education in the subject in school curriculums.  Certainly the most important lessons in history can be taught with its study, and in that light We Spoke Out should serve as a wake-up call to everyone, citizens, educators, and leaders.  Oddly enough, for generations of American kids, the only place they learned about the murder of six million Jews, the stories of concentration camps, of the atrocities committed by Hitler and his Nazis, was in the comics pages.

   

The stories in the anthology present the atrocities of World War II without the overdone blood and gore of many 1950s “horror” comics.  In an April 1955 story from Impact Issue #1 we meet a Jewish man post-War still haunted by his memories in what would now be called PTSD.  In the pages of December 1951’s Frontline Combat, Issue #3 story the then-lauded Nazi general Rommel is dressed down, revealing the villainous truths of his leadership in the face of contemporary efforts to re-invent Rommel as a military hero.  Based on the real-life Nazi Ilse Koch, in a story from Beware! Terror Tales, Issue #4, we are reminded of the vilest of humans who made household goods from the tattooed skin of captured Jews–a real-life horror some may think is only the stuff of fiction from Silence of the Lambs.  Among these stories ripped from real life, Adams, Medoff, and Yoe fill in the blanks of time with historical context, including details of what the stories leave out.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The most rewarding and epic read of all the new Black Panther movie tie-ins is Marvel’s Black Panther: The Illustrated History of a King–The Complete Comics Chronology from Insight Editions, an enormous over-sized look at the history of the superhero in Marvel Comics.  Author Dennis Culver recounts the character from its origin up to the new film, including descriptions of the superhero’s classic story arcs, with full-sized reproductions of cover art, full-page copies of key pages, and even some larger-than-life panels and splash page art.

Culver’s history of the character doesn’t miss a beat or classic creator reference.  Created by Stan Lee himself as the first black superhero, drawn by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott and first appearing in the pages of Fantastic Four.  He became an adversary of the team and would return facing off against Captain America in Tales of Suspense and then the Captain America monthly.  What may surprise those only familiar with the film is that with only some minor tweaks to the character, the origin story is as reflected in the new film:  T’Challa is king of Wakanda, who must face an arch-enemy named Klaw who has stolen some of the rare substance called vibranium.  Roy Thomas, John Buscema, and Vince Colletta would take over creative duties as Black Panther joined the pages of The Avengers, with other creators working on the books including Herb Trimpe, Frank Giacoia, Bob Brown, and Ron Wilson.  Don McGregor would write Black Panther into the pages of Jungle Action with a huge roster of artists including Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Klaus Janson, P. Craig Russell, and Bob McLeod.  This would also be the introduction of the villain Erik Killmonger in the lauded “Panther’s Rage” story arc.  The movie got this right as well, with Killmonger taking over and throwing Black Panther to his near-death over Warrior Falls.  Some call this story arc the first of the mature, graphic novel stories that would later usher in books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.

Jack Kirby would write and illustrate Black Panther in his own solo title finally in January 1977.  A decade later Ed Hannigan would bring back the hero (after Kirby’s title wound down) in the pages of The Defenders, with Black Panther facing Namor the Sub-Mariner (who would clash with each other  over the next two decades).  T’Challa had appearances in Marvel Team-Up, two limited series, and Marvel Comics Presents–including a run with Gene Colan and Denys Cowan art–in the 1980s and early 1990s.  As the millenium closed, Christopher Priest would write a new update to the character, inserting more humor into the stories, followed by stories from creator Reginald Hudlin and art by John Romita, Jr.–with a return of Klaus Janson, all under the Marvel Knights banner.  This series would bring in characters Everett Ross and T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who would appear in the film, and love interest Storm from the X-Men.  From there the character was subsumed into myriad Marvel crossovers with the rest of the publisher’s pantheon of heroes, including Civil War, Secret Invasion, and more recent series.

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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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