Monthly Archives: May 2012

Movies for Memorial Day

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday 5/28, I would like to thank the all active members and veterans of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

One of my favorite movie genres has always been the combat film.  Not so much for the action sequences, but for the characters.  Growing up in the 70’s, there was always a WWII or Korean War film playing on Saturday afternoons.  Some of my favorites:

Sahara, Battlefront, Von Ryan’s Express, The Great Escape, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Steel Helmet, The Green Berets, and Sergeant York

Some notable films to watch on TV this Memorial Day weekend:

Turner Classic Movies:

The Steel Helmet (Sunday 5/27 at 4:45 PM)
Sergeant York  (Sunday 5/27 at 8:00 PM)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (Sunday 5/27 at 10:30 PM)

The Green Berets (Monday 5/28 at 9:15 PM)
The Great Escape (Monday 5/28 at 11:00 PM)

Spike TV will run a marathon of all ten episodes of Band of Brothers on Monday 5/28 from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Of all of the war films I’ve seen, Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One (1980) is my favorite of the bunch.

Written and directed by the legendary Sam Fuller, this film was a based on his personal experiences as a GI in World War II.  The main character Private Zab (played in the film by Robert Carradine) is based on Fuller.  The film follows The Sergeant (played by Lee Marvin) and four members of his squad called The Four Horsemen (played by Carradine, Kelly Ward, Bobby DiCicco, and Mark Hamill) through Africa and Europe from 1943-1945.  But this film only scratches the surface of Sam Fuller’s experiences during the war.  I highly recommend Fuller’s autobiography A Third Face for more about this part of his life.

I had the opportunity to interview Mark Hamill at the 2011 New York Comic Con.  He was there to promote a comic book project he was involved with, but I couldn’t help asking him about his experience working with both Sam Fuller and Lee Marvin on The Big Red One:

Hamill:  Oh my God, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I learned more about World War II from them than I ever learned in history books.  Because they were both veterans.  With all due respect to Steven Spielberg, it’s second hand from him.  With Sam you’d go “This is crazy, why would I do this?”  And he would say “Well I’ll tell ya it wasn’t you, it was a guy by the name of Colowitz, and he was handsome like you…”  And he would tell you what really happened!  It was just probably the most profound experience of my career.  I can’t think of a director I like better than Sam.  And Lee Marvin was not only a brilliant actor but an amazing storyteller and a hilarious person.  Boy was he funny.  And I could make him laugh, which he loved.  He loved to laugh.  He was not an attention hog, he loved to hear stories from you.  Yeah, he was fantastic.

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The Captain America Project #6: Alex Maleev

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

This week: Alex Maleev

I commissioned Alex Maleev (Daredevil, Spider-Woman) for this Captain America sketch at Wizard World NY in 2010.  As he drew this, he accidentally got a drop of black India ink on the panel below it.  Fortunately the panel was blank and the ink drop didn’t affect a sketch, but it was very noticeable.  The good news is, the next artist was able to incorporate it in his sketch.  More on that next week!

Drawing by Alex Maleev
Captain America copyright Marvel Comics

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Avengers Fans Assembled! Bring on the Comic Book Movies!

I’m blown away by the $207 million U.S. box office gross for The Avengers last weekend.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to be a part of the opening weekend but I’ll definitely check it out next week.

Some non-comic book fans may lament the number of comic themed films that will be coming out in the next few years (Avengers 2 without a doubt, Captain America 2, Thor 2, Wolverine 2, Man of Steel, etc.) but I can’t get enough of them.  My prime comic book reading years were the late 70’s to the mid 80’s, and with the exception of the Superman films it was slim pickin’s for comic book heroes on the big screen during that time.  I remember back around 1981 my brother mentioned an X-Men movie was in the works.  I have no proof of the accuracy of that statement, but it got my 9 year old mind racing to the possibilities of who would play Professor X, Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Angel and Sprite.  And for years I waited…and waited…until 2000 when X-Men was released in theaters.  My brother drove down from Boston and we watched it in our hometown theater just like we did Superman: The Movie over 20 years earlier.

With The Avengers performing way above expectations, my mind is racing again to the possibility of even more comic book films.

Upcoming comic related films I’m looking forward to:

The Dark Knight Rises – Very high hopes for this one.  And I’ll have a surprise post the week of its release.

The Amazing Spider-Man – I was puzzled when they originally announced this reboot.  I didn’t think I would want to see another origin story, but the new trailer reminded me of what I didn’t like in the first Spider-Man movie, particularly Mary Jane’s role as Peter’s love interest instead of Gwen Stacy.

Man of Steel –  I’m not sure what to expect with this.  Superman Returns was a disappointment, mostly because it needlessly re-hashed plot points from Richard Donner’s Superman.  One of the main criticisms I’ve heard from fellow fans is that it’s time for Superman to fight a super villain like Doomsday.  I agree.

Dredd – After the 1995 debacle, I didn’t think Judge Dredd would ever get another shot at a feature film.  Dredd will be released in the U.S. this September with Karl Urban (Star Trek, The Bourne Supremacy) in the title role.

Here’s my wish list of comic book films.

In development:

Fantastic Four #242
Copyright Marvel Comics

Fantastic Four – I wasn’t impressed by the first two Fantastic Four films.  The super team that ushered in the Marvel Age of comics didn’t get the respect it deserved.  There’s a reboot in development (Fantastic Four Reborn) at Fox.  Fingers crossed.

Daredevil #230
Copyright Marvel Comics

Daredevil – I’m looking forward to this reboot based on the Born Again arc by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli.  But the storyline I always hoped to see on film would be from the Frank Miller/Klaus Janson run.  Unfortunately the first movie took away the possibility of a Bullseye/Elektra story.

Holding out hope:

Doctor Strange #56
Copyright Marvel Comics

Doctor Strange – I remember watching the made for TV version of Doctor Strange in the late 70s.  I don’t remember too much of it, except the terrible plot, acting, costumes, and special effects.

Justice League of America #165
Copyright DC Comics

Justice League – George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet) was attached to direct this several years back.  Hopefully Warner Brothers will give their super team the big screen treatment.

Wonder Woman #253
Copyright DC Comics

Wonder Woman – One of the Golden Age characters that I would like to see set in the 1940’s.  Superheroes fighting in World War II is kind of a recurring theme on my wish list…

Black Panther
Copyright Marvel Comics

Black Panther – I’d love to see a Black Panther feature film set in both Africa and New York City.  He’s a very underrated character in the Marvel Universe.  At the very least he should make an appearance in an Avengers or Fantastic Four movie.

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1
Copyright Marvel Comics

Luke Cage – Nothing like Luke Cage, Hero For Hire, opening up a can of whoop ass.  If this film ever gets made, please set it in the 70s.

Giant Size Invaders #1
Copyright Marvel Comics

The Invaders – Captain America, The Sub-Mariner and The Human Torch fighting the Nazis in World War II.  Need I say more?

Awhile back I had asked a comic artist what he thought of the large number of comic book related movies that had been released over the last five years.  His response:  “We rule the world now!”

I couldn’t agree more!

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From My Collection: Finding a Don Heck Original

A few years back I attended one of Mike Carbonaro’s comic shows at the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan.  I bought a couple of pages of original art by Don Perlin and Frank Springer, but my favorite haul that day was a page of unpublished artwork.

As I flipped through the vendor’s portfolio I saw what looked like a jam page but I couldn’t figure out the theme or the characters.  None of them were superheros.  Most were drawn in blue pencil, and a few were inked.

The vendor explained to me that it wasn’t a jam page, but a warmup page by legendary Silver Age artist Don Heck.

Don worked through the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages of comic books.  When I think of Don Heck’s art, The Avengers is the first comic book that I associate him with.  Unfortunately his name is not mentioned enough among the great artists of the Silver Age, making him in my opinion one of the more under appreciated artists of that era.

Once the vendor said Don Heck’s name, I recognized his style in the inked head sketches.  But what surprised me the most were the non-inked sketches.

You’ll see from the scans below that a couple of these resemble Hollywood style portraits more  than comic book art.

I look at this one head sketch and I see Ava Gardner.

These are drawn on DC Comics paper with “Wonder Woman 307” written on the top left corner of the page.  That issue has a cover date of September 1983, which would have made Don 54 years old when he drew these.

Drawings like this remind me that he was an artist before he was a comic book artist.  And an amazing one at that.

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