Tag Archives: Superman

A Day at Special Edition: NYC

Special Edition NYC

On Saturday June 14th I had the opportunity to attend Reed Expo’s Special Edition: NYC at the Jacob Javitz Center.  Since its announcement earlier this year, I was looking forward to this event due to its smaller size than October’s New York Comic Con, and its greater focus on the comic book creators.

I arrived at the Javitz Center about a half hour after the doors opened Saturday morning, and at first I wondered if I was in the wrong venue.  There was no line to get into the convention center and it was almost completely empty.  The exhibit hall/Artist Alley was located in the North section of the convention center (Artist Alley at the last two NYCC’s) and while it was a smaller show in terms of space and overall attendance, there was still a good buzz and a good sized crowd for the room.  It was much more low key than NYCC and it gave attendees a better opportunity to meet and chat with the writers and artists in attendance.

Special Edition NYC show floor

Special Edition NYC - Ultron

First stop in Artist Alley was Jerry Ordway’s booth.  A sketch from Jerry was always high on my “must have” list, and I was fortunate enough to have Jerry add Superman to my sketch book.

Jerry Ordway - NY Special Edition

My priority at any comic convention is adding new sketches to my sketchbook, and one of the realities of this obsession is standing in line, sometimes for hours, just for the opportunity to meet or get an autograph/sketch from a favorite creator.  But  it’s always great to meet fellow comic fans on line and talk comics and comic art.  While on line for my Ordway sketch, a fellow attendee showed his latest ink:

Batfan Joe shows off his tattoo in progress of the Joker (front) and Batman (back).

Batfan Joe shows off his tattoo in progress of the Joker (front) and Batman (back).

Another highlight of the show for me was meeting writer/artist/editor and Alien Legion co-creator Carl Potts.  Alien Legion was a favorite comic of mine in the 80’s, and one of my favorite pieces of original comic art in my collection is a page from Alien Legion #4 written by Potts, and drawn by Frank Cirocco and Terry Austin).  I purchased a copy of his latest book The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics and was happy to hear that Titan Comics will relaunch Alien Legion with Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1 on June 25th.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the return of Jugger Grimrod, Torie Montroc and Sarigar!

NY Special Edition - Carl Potts

Some other pickups at the show included two hardcover copies of Marvel Masterworks, X-Men #122 and #123 by Claremont, Byrne and Austin, New Gods #4 by Kirby and Micronauts #2 by Mantlo and Golden.  The final highlight of the show for me was the opportunity to stop by the table of freelance artist and good friend Jose Molestina of Journey Studios.  In all Special Edition: NYC was a great time and I hope Reed Expo brings it back next year.

Jose Molestina of Journey Studios and his sketch of the Flash, the newest addition to my comic art collection.

Jose Molestina of Journey Studios and his sketch of the Flash, the newest addition to my comic art collection.

 

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Superman: The Movie at 35

Superman The Movie - Poster

Release Date: December 11, 1978

Starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Valerie Perrine, Phyllis Thaxter, Trevor Howard

Directed by Richard Donner; Screenplay by Mario Puzo, David & Leslie Newman, Robert Benton and Tom Mankiewicz based on the character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

The original 1978 TV trailer:

35 years ago this month, Superman: The Movie premiered and the world believed a man could fly.

What better way for me to wind down the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 (June 1938) than with a post on Richard Donner’s beloved cinematic version of the Man of Steel that ushered in the age of the modern comic book movie?

The weekend of December 12, 1978 was a milestone in my movie-going life because as a six year old sitting in the audience of the Mamaroneck Playhouse (for what would be the first of my three screenings of the film that month), Superman: The Movie was the was the pinnacle of movie magic, and since then no other film has been able to move it from the top spot of my own personal Top 10 list.  To this day I still remember the details of that first screening: the large bucket of popcorn that I finished halfway through the trailers, the usher shining a flashlight in the face of a teenager that was talking too loud, and crowd brought to silence as the black and white shot of the curtains parting to reveal an issue of Action Comics opened the film.  What surprised me the most as I looked back on that day was how my brother and I (ages 9 and 6) and a bunch of our friends were there without parents.  It was a different time, one where our folks dropped us off in front of the movie theater and picked us up two hours later.  It’s funny/crazy/unbelievable to think about how normal that was back then.

While the last ten plus years have produced an explosion of comic book films and their sequels, Superman: The Movie is still the comic book movie I measure all others up against.  It doesn’t matter how much the special effects have surpassed the old school, non-CGI effects of Superman: The Movie because I don’t measure this era’s comic book films by the technology and effects, but rather on respect for the source material, character development and the story.

Superman: The Movie, under the direction of Richard Donner, got it right on many levels: the gravitas of Jor-El and Lara (played by Marlon Brando and Susannah York) sending their child to earth as their home planet Krypton faces destruction, the values instilled in a young Clark Kent (played by Jeff East) by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter), the playful charm of Reeve’s performance as Clark Kent/Superman…I could go on and on.  On the technical side, cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth did a masterful job photographing the film (sadly he passed away shortly after the production of Superman: The Movie), and production designer John Barry made Krypton and  the Fortress of Solitude as close to real as possible on the screen.  To this day I still think of Lex Luthor’s underground hideout whenever I walk through Grand Central Station.  John Williams’ score brings out the emotion in this film, and the music of the opening credit sequence gets me every time.

Producer Alexander Salkind was able to attach significant names to the production: actors Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Glenn Ford just to name a few.  A film based on a comic book could have simply been dismissed as a kid’s film by this level of talent, but each of their performances truly stand out in their contemporary take on the story of the Man of Steel.  But one area in which Salkind, Donner and the casting department took a huge gamble was with the casting of an unknown soap opera actor named Christopher Reeve in the title role.  When you read the list of names that were considered for Clark Kent/Superman (Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Muhammad Ali – just to name a few), it’s amazing the role didn’t go to an actor other than Reeve in order to use their name to boost the box office.  Despite their talent and star power, a higher profile (and extremely talented) actor from that list would not have brought the same dynamic to the role as Reeve.  In the film, the world was introduced to Superman, just as the audience was introduced to Christopher Reeve.  A better known actor would have been a distraction.  The film didn’t succeed in spite of Christopher Reeve, he was Superman.  Even as the “mild mannered reporter Clark Kent,” Reeve never plays his alter ego as a separate role but rather as Superman playing Clark Kent, down to his wry smile when he stops a mugger’s bullet from striking Lois Lane (played perfectly by Margot Kidder) but hides it from her by pretending he’d fainted.

Christopher Reeve Superman The Movie

Christopher Reeve in Superman: The Movie
Copyright 1978 Warner Bros.

Here’s a great clip of Christopher Reeve’s appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to promote Superman: The Movie’s release.  What I love about this clip is how it shows how Reeve’s incorporated his knowledge and respect for the source material into his interpretation of the title role.

I remember news reports shortly after the film’s release of children falling out of their apartment windows when they attempted to fly like Superman.  In an effort to curb further tragedy, Christopher Reeve made an appearance on a day time TV program (it may have been Midday with Bill Boggs), where Reeve explained it was movie make-believe and provided details of how he and Margot Kidder were hooked up to harnesses on wires for the flying scenes.  A crawl ran continuously on the bottom of the screen that read “You can’t fly, please don’t try.”

There was a lot going on during the production of the film, but just as much outside of the film’s production.  Several years earlier, Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, out of the comic book industry and making a meager salary as a postal worker, read about Warner Bros. plans to bring Superman to the big screen and wrote an open letter which stated that he and artist Joe Shuster were the true creators of Superman and the injustices he felt they received from National Periodicals/DC Comics.  A movement grew to have Warner Bros./DC Comics provide Jerry and Joe with a pension thanks to the efforts of several figures in the comic book industry, particularly Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson.  They were each given a $35,000 per year pension for the duration of their lives, and “Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster” was added to subsequent Superman comic book, film and TV properties.  Although Shuster was legally blind by the time of the film’s release, but both he and Siegel attended the premiere of Superman: The Movie.

Over the last ten years I’ve bought a few Superman: The Movie related materials, including some promotional posters that were given away as premiums in 1978, trading cards, and a copy of American Cinematographer devoted to the film  (one of my prized possessions).  As much as I loved the film, I never looked into the story behind the film’s production until I purchased the 2005 DVD which contains three “making of” featurettes that go into so much detail (including the troubles they had making it look as if a man could fly) that they should be required viewing for film students and any fan of filmmaking.  Warner Bros. has made them available for viewing on YouTube:

While there have been more than a few comic book films that I’ve truly enjoyed (X-Men, X2, The Dark Knight Rises), none have had as profound an effect on me as a movie fan as Superman: The Movie.  I’m grateful for this film because after countless screenings over the years, the magic hasn’t worn off and the film is just as meaningful to me as it was 35 years ago.

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Thoughts On Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel

With $125 million domestic and $196 million worldwide box office earnings its opening weekend, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has set the bar for this summer’s box office.

In an effort to beat the crowds, my faithful sidekick and I bought our tickets for a 9:30 AM screening at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theater in midtown.  I went into the theater feeling equal parts anticipation and trepidation considering my appreciation for Superman: The Movie and my disappointment with Superman Returns seven years ago.

It would be too easy to base my opinion of Man of Steel on how it compared to Richard Donner’s 1978  Superman: The Movie, so I pledged to go into the screening with an open mind and judge Zack Snyder’s film on its own merits.  A year ago, my fear was that Man of Steel would be a slapdash production released by Warner Bros/DC prior to potentially losing their copyright case to the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  However the positive buzz leading up to June 14th got my hopes up that this wouldn’t be the case.  The trailer was amazing, Zack Snyder and David Goyer are a powerhouse director/writer combination, and the film’s cast was top notch.  At one point in the film, Superman tells Lois Lane the “S” on his chest is actually the Kryptonian symbol for “Hope,” and that is the word that best described what I was feeling as the lights dimmed and the film began.

So, wearing my Siegel and Shuster Society t-shirt and 3D glasses, I sat back and watched 2 hours and 23 minutes of the most anticipated movie of the summer.

Please note: Spoilers below.

The positives:

Man of Steel has the villains and fight scenes Superman fans have been asking for in a film, and the action sequences give the audience a pretty good ride from the opening scene on Krypton to Superman’s final battle with General Zod.

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were inspired casting as Jonathan and Martha Kent.  Costner’s performance made the film for me, and he truly delivered as the grounding force in Clark’s life.  On that note, I liked how Goyer & Snyder took the time to establish the roots of Clark’s moral compass and his rationale for keeping his powers secret.

Positive portrayal of the U.S. Military.  They mistrust Superman at first, but they are given an opportunity to explain their position, and a mutual respect is established.

But as I left the Ziegfeld after the closing credits, I couldn’t help feeling that there were several missed opportunities in the execution of the story and character development.

My main issues were:

Over use of the flashback sequences of Clark’s early years disrupted the flow of the first act.  I also wasn’t completely sold on Clark Kent as a drifter working odd-jobs in anonymity, which resembled Bruce Banner/The Hulk more than Clark Kent.

Goyer and Snyder’s reliance on Jor-El’s hologram throughout the film.  One of the things I looked forward to the most going into the film was Russell Crowe’s performance as Jor-El, and he owns every scene he’s in.  From the first moment Kal-El is born the audience feels his urgency to protect his child and use him as a savior for the Kryptonian race.  While the hologram was necessary for Clark to learn of his personal history (even with the underwhelming CGI during Jor-El’s monologue), it became overused by the end of the film and provides a too easy solution when Lois Lane is tasked with saving Clark from General Zod going into the third act.

Snyder and Goyer packed a lot into the film’s 2 hours and 23 minutes, and I appreciate the fact that so many characters from the Superman canon are featured in Man of Steel (Lois Lane, Perry White, Jonathan Kent, Martha Kent, Jor-El) and an amazing cast of actors has been assembled to play them (Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburn, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe).  But unfortunately David Goyer’s script gives Amy Adams little to work with in the film as Lois Lane and barely scrapes the surface of the character.  Unfortunately, Amy Adams’ Lois doesn’t have the toughness the Lois Lane of the comic books, TV shows and previous films.

Having seen Snyder’s slower paced action sequences in 300 and Watchmen, I went into the film expecting more of the same.  At first I was pleasantly surprised by the faster pace, but there were moments when the fight sequences resembled a video game and by the third act I was begging for Snyder’s slo-mo camera work.

Lois Lane knowing Superman’s alter ego completely takes away one major element of the Superman canon. Sure, there are many people feel that the use of a simple pair of glasses to transform Superman to Clark Kent was dated, simplistic and silly, but at the end of the day half of any good performance as Superman is pretending to be the meek Clark Kent knowing full well you’re the most powerful person on the planet.

Superman killing General Zod with his bare hands, which in my opinion was completely unnecessary and added nothing more than shock value.

The big question for me going into the film was if Henry Cavill could make the role of Clark Kent/Superman his own.  He certainly looks the part in Superman’s iconic blue costume and red cape, but brings little more than brooding and mystery to Clark Kent, save for the end of the film when he dons the “secret identity” glasses on his first day working for the Daily Planet.  Hopefully the sequel will allow him to add another dimension to Clark Kent.

In spite of the issues listed above, it was a good summer movie experience and I’m looking forward to the sequel.  The world definitely needs Superman.

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The Men Who Were Superman (Part II)

In celebration of Superman’s 75th anniversary and the June 14th premiere of Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel, Fante’s Inferno honors the iconic character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster with a spotlight on The Men Who Were Superman.

Part II: 1978-Present

Christopher Reeve
Superman: The Movie (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Christopher Reeve Superman

My first screening of Superman: The Movie is a movie moment that has stayed with me throughout my life.  The smallest details are just as vivid today as they were on that December day in 1978: where we sat, the friends we saw sitting in front of us, and the guy sitting in the back row that chuckled at the film’s opening shot of a copy of Action Comics.  John Williams’ powerful score playing over the opening credits set the tone for the film, and when it was over I wanted to stay in my seat and watch it again.  To this day Superman: The Movie is the only film I’ve seen in a theater three times.

Prior to that first screening I had watched George Reeves in reruns of The Adventures of Superman, watched the The SuperFriends on Saturday morning TV, and read the DC Comics drawn by Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Neal Adams.  I had also seen promotional pictures of Christopher Reeve in the costume but very little footage on TV, so I hadn’t yet formed an opinion of his representation of Superman going into Richard Donner’s film that day.  But the moment Christopher Reeve emerged from the Fortress of Solitude to take his first flight, he was Superman.

Reeve brought confidence, strength, and humanity to Superman.  But it’s how he uses that confidence as Superman to add a sense of playfulness to Clark Kent that makes his performance stand out.

Reeve played Superman in four films from 1978 to 1987, but it would be unfair to only associate him with this role.  Several other notable films in Reeve’s career were (the under-rated) Somewhere In Time (1980), the gritty Street Smart (1987) and (the near perfect) The Remains of the Day (1993).  He was a remarkable and respected actor, and I wish we could have seen him in several of the roles that he had turned down (The World According to Garp, Mutiny on the Bounty and Romancing the Stone just to name a few).

Brandon Routh
Superman Returns (2006)

Brandon Routh - Superman Returns

When I first saw Superman Returns, there was a moment or two when I thought they had CGI’d Christopher Reeve into a couple of shots.  Director Bryan Singer’s 2006 reboot had a strong reverence to Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: The Movie and that included Brandon Routh’s portrayal of Superman/Clark Kent..

Like Donner, Singer wanted to cast an unknown actor to play Superman, and Brandon Routh had big shoes to fill when he took over the role that was associated with the beloved Reeve.  Routh bore a strong resemblance to Reeve especially as Clark Kent, and there are moments in Superman Returns when he was spot on in matching Reeve’s timing and delivery in his portrayal of Clark.

He had built his early career on TV roles in the 90’s and 2000’s before he earned the role of Superman.  Since then he as appeared in the films Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and on the TV series Chuck.  Four years after his role in Superman Returns, Routh portrayed another comic book character in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010) based on the Italian comic book by Tiziano Sclavi.

Henry Cavill
Man of Steel (2013)

Henry Cavill Superman

It seems like Cavill’s face has been plastered on every billboard and train station over the last two weeks (thanks, Gillette).  His work prior to Man of Steel includes the Showtime series The Tudors, Woody Allen’s Whatever Works (2009), and Immortals (2011).  My first impression of Cavill as Superman is a positive one from what I’ve seen in the trailer and the behind the scenes featurette.

A more detailed look at Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman will be included in my review of Man of Steel this weekend.

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The Men Who Were Superman (Part I)

In honor of Superman’s 75th anniversary and the June 14th premiere of Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel, Fante’s Inferno honors the iconic character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster with a spotlight on The Men Who Were Superman.

Part I: 1940-1958

When I first sat down to write this post, I didn’t expect to find more than five or six actors over the last 75 years that have played Superman.  But upon further review the list ended up much longer when you include radio, animation, TV specials, etc.  IMDB lists 175 appearances of Superman (live action and voice over) on film, TV and radio, and that number increases to 219 when you include video games and archive footage.  So I’ve decided to concentrate primarily on the actors that have played Superman/Clark Kent in the feature films and serials, with a couple of notable exceptions.

Ray Middleton

Ray Middleton Superman (2)

This name may not stand out among the more famous actors we’ve known to play Superman, but Ray Middleton is technically the first actor to play Superman on film even if it was in a home movie.  Middleton had a long career as an actor in film, TV and theater, but it was his public appearance in the classic Golden Age Superman costume for “Superman Day” on July 3, 1940 at the World’s Fair in New York that places him on this list.  An attendee at the event took the 16mm footage below.

Bud Collyer
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial (1940-1951), Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons (1941-1942), The New Adventures of Superman (1966)

Bud Collyer Superman

When I began my research for this post, I instinctively began with Kirk Alyn, the first actor to portray Superman in the live action serials.  But I was quickly reminded that Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons from 1941 preceded the serials on the big screen by seven years.  Actor Bud Collyer was the voice of Clark Kent/Superman in those animated classics as well as The Adventures of Superman radio serial from 1940-1951 (Collyer’s first broadcast as Superman/Clark Kent in the radio serial preceded Middleton’s World’s Fair appearance by several months).  While his dialogue was sparse in the Fleischer cartoons, Collyer’s voice brought charm to Clark Kent and strength to Superman.  He would later voice the role again in the animated The New Adventures of Superman (1966-1970) and several other DC superhero cartoons.

Kirk Alyn
Superman (1948), Atom-Man vs. Superman (1950)

Kirk Alyn Superman

Kirk Alyn was the first actor to play Superman in a live action film production with 1948’s Superman serials and 1950’s Atom-Man vs. Superman.  He declined the role in The Adventures of Superman TV series, but in 1978 Alyn had a special cameo appearance in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie as Lois Lane’s father General Sam Lane opposite Noell Neil (Lois Lane from The Adventures of Superman) as young Lois’ mother.

George Reeves
Superman and the Mole Men (1951), The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958)

George Reeves Superman 2

For many, George Reeves will always be Superman, and Superman will always be George Reeves.  He wore the costume for six years during The Adventures of Superman’s run on TV in the 50’s until his untimely death in 1959.  Other notable roles in his career include Stuart Tartleton in Gone With The Wind (1939) and Sgt. Maylon Stark in From Here to Eternity (1953).  Even though I was born in the early 70’s, George Reeves was actually the first actor I had seen in the role of Superman.  I had been introduced to The Adventures of Superman in reruns prior to Christopher Reeves’ turn as Superman in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978).

Coming up in Part II of The Men Who Were Superman: Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill.

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A look at this summer’s comic book films

Based on the strength of Iron Man 3’s performance last weekend, grossing $170 million domestic and $680 million worldwide, moviegoers and critics that predicted (and in some cases hoped for) the decline of the comic book movie will be disappointed.

For a guy that grew up in an era that didn’t have that many comic book movies released, and with many of those that were released not measuring up to their respective source material, it feels like we’re finally living in a Golden Age of comic book movies and I’m hoping there’s no end in sight.

Sometimes my comic book fandom interfered with my ability to enjoy a comic book film on its own merits.  I used to be a staunch believer that a comic book movie had to be as close to the printed source material as possible, but I’ve had a change of perspective over the last couple of years.  When the first wave of comic book movies was released, my complaints usually began with the changes made to the superhero costumes.  (Wolverine’s yellow costume wasn’t cinematic enough?  Then use the brown costume!)  But over a time, a personal caveat like Captain America’s costume deviating from the classic Joe Simon/Jack Kirby design was overshadowed by my pure enjoyment of a film.  Now I accept the need to balance respect for the source material (particularly the characters and their origins) with the new ideas filmmakers can bring to the franchise.  Rather than seeing the film version as a verbatim representation of the comic book, I now go into each film wanting to see it as a new adventure for the characters.

With the latest influx of comic book related films summer has now become my favorite time of year for moviegoing, and this summer’s lineup of releases has me planning my trips to the multiplex.

Here’s a look at the upcoming comic book films for Summer 2013:

Man of Steel

Man of Steel Movie Poster

Release Date: June 14

Directed by Zac Snyder; Screenplay by David Goyer

Starring Henry Cavill (Superman/Clark Kent), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Russell Crowe (Jor-El), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Diane Lane (Martha Kent)

See the trailer here.

Man of Steel is the summer 2013 film I was looking forward to the most.  Back in ’06 the trailer for Superman Returns, complete with a voice over by Marlon Brando from 1978’s Superman: The Movie, made me think that Bryan Singer had taken the first step in reigniting the Superman franchise.  Unfortunately the trailer was better than the film, which was little more than a re-hashing of Lex Luthor’s scheme from Richard Donner’s Superman.  This time around, everything about the trailer for Man of Steel has me wanting to see this film.  While it is a reboot, it has elements from both Superman: The Movie (the origin story) and Superman II (General Zod).  The tone is a little darker than I expected but the cast, from Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Michael Shannon as General Zod, looks fantastic.  Christopher Reeve instinctively comes to mind when I think of the role of Clark Kent/Superman, but I’m looking forward to seeing Henry Cavill’s take on Superman/Clark Kent.

Red 2

Red 2 Movie Poster

Release Date: July 19

Directed by Dean Parisot; Written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber; Based on the comic book by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner

Starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones

See the trailer here.

I hadn’t read Warren Ellis’ and Cully Hamner’s comic book mini-series prior to seeing Red in 2010.  The film wasn’t on my radar at the time and I rented it because I thought it would be a fun movie.  It ended up as one of my favorite films that year, and Red 2 is one of the films I’m looking forward to the most this summer.  Willis, Malkovich and Helen Mirren played well against each other in the first action comedy, and from the looks of the trailer Red 2 is cranking up the firepower with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Byung-hun Lee.

The Wolverine

Wolverine Movie Poster

Release Date: July 26

Directed by James Mangold; Screenplay by Mark Bomback

Starring Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Will Yun Lee (Silver Samurai), Svetlana Khodchenkova (Viper), Hiroyuki Sanada (Shingen Yashida), Tao Okamoto (Mariko Yashida)

See the trailer here.

Wolverine.  Japan.  Silver Samurai.  ‘Nuff said.  Watching the trailer for The Wolverine brought me back to the early 80’s and Marvel Comics’ four-part Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein and Uncanny X-Men #172 and #173 by Claremont, Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek.  Silver Samurai is one of the more under-utilized villains of the Marvel Universe in my opinion and his appearance vs. Wolverine in Uncanny X-Men 173 (September 1983) is one of my favorite hero/villain match ups of the 80’s.

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2 Movie Poster

Release Date: August 16

Written and directed by Jeff Wadlow; Starring Aaron Tayl0r-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonathan Mintz-Plasse, and Jim Carrey

August’s Kick-Ass 2 brings back Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s teen heroes.  Like Red, the first Kick-Ass was another unexpected surprise for me when it was released in 2010.  Red Mist (Mintz-Plasse) is back for revenge as The MotherF***er, and Jim Carrey’s Col. Stars and Stripes joins Kick-Ass and Hit Girl in this adrenaline fueled sequel.

This looks like a good summer for comic book films with a good balance between superheroes and action comedy, but it’s only a primer for 2014 and the upcoming releases of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Luckily the release of Thor: The Dark World on November 8th will hold us over until then.

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75 Years of Superman

Action Comics 1

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1.  The comic book that introduced us to writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster’s Man of Steel and gave birth to the comic book industry as we know it today hit the stands on April 18, 1938.

In honor of his 75th birthday today, here’s a list of my all time favorite representations of Superman:

Favorite Superman Artist: Curt Swan

Superman 300

I was introduced to Curt Swan’s work on Superman back in the 70’s.  His artistic representation of Superman/Clark Kent is the first one that comes to my mind when I think of the character.  Every time I see another artist’s drawing of Superman my initial reaction is to compare it to Swan’s.  His style is classic, and the faces he drew on each of his characters were never generic.  Close behind Swan is Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, whose cover for Action Comics #484 (June 1978 – the 40th anniversary issue featuring the marriage of Superman and Lois Lane) is one of the first Superman comics I’ve ever owned.

Favorite Issue: Superman #400 (October 1984)

Superman_400

This issue stands out because it allowed the comic art junkie in me to see Superman drawn by just about every major artist at that time.  In between several short stories were some amazing pin-up drawings from Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Jerry Robinson, Walt Simonson and Bill Sienkiewicz just to name a few.

Favorite Run: Man of Steel #1-6 (October 1986 – December 1986)

Man of Steel_1

John Byrne is one of my favorite comic creators of all time, and it’s safe to say that most of the comics I bought in the 80’s were drawn by him.  Having been a fan of his Marvel work, particularly X-Men, Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight, I was eagerly anticipating his Man of Steel mini-series in the months leading up to the first issue in October 1986.

Favorite Superman Film: Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman The Movie - Poster

I’ve mentioned more than a few times that Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve is the comic book movie that I measure all others up against.  Each time I watch it on DVD, a scene will come up that reminds me of the experience I had watching it for the first time in the theater back in 1978.

Favorite Superman Cartoons: Max Fleischer’s Superman

Max Fleischer’s animated Superman short films of the 40’s are incredible to watch seventy years later.  They’re the reason I’m holding out hope for a 1940’s themed Superman movie one day.  The complete series can be seen here.

This blog is a testament to the influence that comic books have had in my life, and considering the course of the industry since Action Comics #1, that wouldn’t have been possible without that first appearance of Superman.

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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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Superman Check Sells for $160K At Auction

The auction for the check that ushered in the age of superheroes ended with a winning bid of $160,000 on ComicConnect’s website yesterday.

The $412 check, issued by National Periodicals in March 1938 and saved from the trash bin by a DC Comics staffer in the 1970s, was made out to Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for their original 13 page Superman story (used in Action Comics #1), and three other stories for Detective Comics ($210), New Adventure Comics ($36), and More Fun Comics ($36).  Comic book fans and historians are able to see the amount paid for the story and the rights to the Man of Steel: $130.

Photo: ComicConnect.com

A Metropolis Comics’ COO Vincent Zurzulo and CEO Stephen Fishler produced a video about the back story of this check.

More on the sale at BleedingCool.com.

I’ve been watching this auction since it first went live last month.   I can honestly say that if I’d won the lottery this would have been my first purchase.  The term “grail” has been used to describe this piece of history.  I couldn’t agree more.
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There Are No Nerds Or Geeks Here

From the time I was six years old I was quoting movies.  My teachers seriously thought something was wrong with me.

The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was Jaws.  It had been re-released in my hometown as part of a double feature with Jaws 2.  This was 1978 (back when our theater had only one screen).  I was six years old and I can truly say it didn’t make me afraid of going into the water…I couldn’t swim (still can’t).  My father took me and my older brother to see it one afternoon, and by the time we got home I was quoting Roy Scheider’s line just before he fired his M1 rifle into the oxygen tank that (SPOILER ALERT) blew up the great white.

“Smile, you son of a…”  BLAM!

That line was part of my description of Jaws to Mrs. Farrell, my grandparents’ upstairs tenant, when she asked me about the movie.  I may have substituted another B-word for “blam” to explain to her what Chief Brody was really trying to convey.  Needless to say she was surprised by my vocabulary and retention skills at that age.  Hers was the first of many baffled looks and shaken heads that would be a theme through most of my childhood.

When my father used to take us to the movies, more often than not we would arrive five to ten minutes after the movie started.  We’d sit through the film, the entire credits, wait another twenty minutes in our seats in the empty theater, then watch the movie from the beginning of the next screening.  Once the movie reached the part that was playing when we first arrived, Pop would get up and say, “Okay, we can go now.”

Some of my favorites back then were: Jaws, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Flash Gordon, Excalibur, The Big Red One, Time Bandits, and the only move I’ve seen three times in a theater: Superman The Movie.

Amazing Spider-Man #175 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

 

The first comic book I remember owning was The Amazing Spider-Man #175 (December, 1977).  The Punisher and Spider-Man were teamed up against a villain called The Hitman.  The cover by Ross Andru showed The Hitman pointing his rifle at The Punisher who was kneeling at the edge of the Statue of Liberty’s crown holding up an injured Spider-Man, who in turn was holding up J. Jonah Jameson.  My brother had picked it off of the spinner rack at the local convenience store and I remember just sitting on the floor of my grandparents’ house staring at that cover, trying to figure out the storyline from that one image.  How did they end up on top of the Statue of Liberty?  How would they get out of this situation (with Spider-Man’s arm injured, no less)?  Was The Punisher a good guy or a bad guy?  The story inside didn’t interest me.  At age five I probably wouldn’t have understood most of it anyway.  I just immersed myself in that cover, creating story upon story in my young mind.  It had tension.  The bad guy had the upper hand, but Spider-Man had to get them out of this.  God, I love the Bronze Age.

Some of my favorite comic books of the 70s and 80s:  The Uncanny X-Men (especially the Claremont/Byrne/Austin and Claremont/Smith/Wiacek runs), The Fantastic Four (the Byrne run), The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Team Up, Star Wars, G.I. Combat, Sgt. Rock, and Cerebus.

Please read the title of this post again:  There Are No Nerds or Geeks Here.

This blog won’t be a forum for rants about how George Lucas ruined the Holy Trilogy with unnecessary CGI, whether Han shot Greedo first, or for fighting the stereotypes about comic book readers.  It’s for the less rabid folks like me that appreciate movies and comic books and have an even greater appreciation for the creators that brought them to us.  I’ve had the pleasure and honor of interviewing a few of them.  Those interviews will be posted soon, along with reviews of lesser known movies, some classic comic book storylines revisited, and some posts on my latest passion: original comic book art.  I’ll try to go light on the nostalgia (but I can’t make any promises), and even lighter on the snark.

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