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Tag Archive: Todd McFarlane


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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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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On February 1, 1992, comic book creators Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino came together to form a new comic book company.  The founders emphasized creator-owned comics throughout the years and today Image Comics is celebrating the 25th milestone anniversary with its “Image Day.”

At comic book stores across the country you’ll find Image Comics promotions, giveaways, creator signings, social media events, and more.  One of those is in the Kansas City metro at Elite Comics in Overland Park, KS, where everyone is invited to help celebrate with big sales, The Walking Dead Fundraiser for “KC Zombie Walk for Hunger,” Wednesday’s new comic books, and a special appearance by Image Comics creators Steven Sanders and Megan Levens who will in the store from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.  And there’s cake.

You won’t want to miss out on all the festivities, including a new 25¢ issue of The Walking Dead.  Here is a list of 25¢ comics coming your way from Image this month, all from Robert Kirkman, and the U.S. and international events scheduled for today:

25-cent-c    25-cent-b    25-cent-a

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We’ve seen plenty of recent efforts trying to get to the heart of what comic books and their fans are all about, including documentaries reviewed here at borg.com like Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle, and With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story.  The latest look at comic books, creators, the industry, and fans is being released tomorrow from filmmaker Michael Valentine.

Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages includes interviews with noted comic book industry veterans, including Stan Lee (Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four) (Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Frank Miller (Sin City, 300), Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Superman, Justice League of America), Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Productions (Hellboy, Sin City, Goon, Concrete), Marc Silvestri of Image Comics and Top Cow Productions (Tomb Raider, Hunter Killer, Witchblade), and Todd McFarlane (Spawn).

Filmed by Valentine over a decade, the documentary includes footage new and old from cosplayers at Comic-Con, WonderCon, Anime Expo and Wizard World.  The documentary provides an overview of the world of comic books, backed by superhero-themed music and montage images of comic book panels.

Here is a preview of the Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages:
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Guardians of the Galaxy new 2014 poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the past three hours Walt Disney Studios released a new “teaser for a trailer” that premieres Monday, May 19, 2014, and promotes a live Q&A with the cast (details below).  Guardians of the Galaxy won’t arrive in theaters until August 1, 2014, so we still have some waiting to do.  If you missed the first trailer, check it out here.  It’s one of the best previews for a superhero film we’ve seen in years.  But while you’re waiting for the movie, you’ll want to read two great trade editions of a Guardians of the Galaxy series that will give you some background for this motley band of space rogues.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers provides an update to these characters from the Marvel Comics stories of years past.  It collects the four issue “Cosmic Avengers” mini-series and the one-shot “Tomorrow’s Avengers” stories from 2013’s Marvel NOW! line.  Forget about mainstream, title-character superheroes.  The Guardians are exciting and down-right fun.  As a hook to bring these B-level heroes into the fore, Iron Man joins forces with the Guardians to protect the Earth from a nicely orchestrated attempt to eliminate Earth from the Galaxy’s stage prompted by a King from another world.

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That King of Spartax visited Earth 30 years ago while he was very young, had a brief encounter with a woman, and a boy was later born—Peter Quill aka Star-Lord.  Quill grows to dislike his dad, who he encounters years later.  Along the way he meets up with Gamora, the daughter of the well-known Marvel villain Thanos, known as “the most dangerous woman in the universe”.  Then there is the very large Drax the Destroyer, killer of Thanos, and a wrecking ball of an adversary. Which leaves the two best characters of the troupe, Rocket, a snarky, cocky, walking and talking raccoon with a vendetta against everything and everyone, and his trustee partner Groot, a brawny, walking and talking tree, whose only speech is the phrase “I am Groot” but who can be interpreted (via inflection, I’ll bet) to be saying any number of things by Rocket (think Han and Chewbacca).  (Can’t wait to see how Vin Diesel gets to play Groot).

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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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