Columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.
I love going to the movies. Always have. I’m not a scholar of fine cinema or revolutionary filmmaking. I know a thing or two, sure, but at the end of the day, I just like catching a flick with friends and having a good time.
Iron Man 3’s opening in just a few weeks, so it seemed only right to talk a little about that love for moviegoing. After all, my journey, man, wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about comic films – specifically superhero films, for two reasons.
Comic films in general means a pretty broad list to cover. We’re talking everything from Ghost World to Dredd here. But superhero films? That’s a more specific subset. And, more importantly, there’s an emotional connection I have with superhero films that goes deeper than other comic films.
“Where does he get those wonderful toys?”
That connection started when I was a kid, naturally. Anyone from my generation will tell you that the ’80s were a golden age for genre films. If you were a fantasy fan, you had Princess Bride. If you loved sci-fi, you had Blade Runner. And if you loved superheroes, you had Tim Burton’s Batman.
Yeah, I’d seen Richard Donner’s Superman, but Batman? Hoo boy. That was a different ball game altogether. And for the next half of a decade, the Batman films were the standard by which superhero flicks were measured. Hell, I can still unapologetically dig Batman Forever. Of course, to be fair, there were all that many superhero films out there anyway. Which is why, when Batman & Robin came out, I was devastated.
It was disappointing, simply because it seemed like this marriage of two of my favourite things was coming to an end. You got to understand: This was a film so bad that George Clooney eventually apologised for it and Joel Schumacher (the man who helmed easily one of my favourite vampire flicks of all time) practically faded from the spotlight.
As far as I was concerned, that was it for superhero movies. And then Wesley Snipes came along.
“I was born ready, mother—”
I’ve pointed out before that I’ve always been a Marvel guy. So, when Blade hit the big screen, you’d think I was ecstatic. But I wasn’t. Well, not initially. At first, I just couldn’t believe that the character that Wesley Snipes so perfectly brought to the screen was the same dude with the goofy 70s shades from the comics.
But it was, and after I got over that disbelief, I was all in, baby. I mean, come on. It was a Marvel character, no matter how obscure, that was translated into a genuinely kick-ass film.
The best thing about Blade, however, wasn’t just that it was an awesome film; it was a precursor to even more superhero films. Which made me happy as can be… for a little while anyway. That marriage of my loves was back, sure, but it was a marriage that was riddled with problems.
Quantity and quality
A glut of superhero films was released in the decade or so after Blade. But for every X-Men 2, there was an Elektra. Sure, I was glad to have these larger-than-life characters back on screen, but was the excitement of seeing Spidey swing through New York worth the awkward scripts that came along with Raimi’s web-slinging trilogy?
Pretty soon, I’d kind of had it. It actually felt worse than the this-is-over sensation that came with Batman & Robin. If we’re going to use the matrimonial analogy again, it became a loveless marriage. It just wasn’t exciting anymore.
What it needed was a second honeymoon. (I’ve totally lost control of this analogy, haven’t I?)
The Dark Knight Returns
And lo and behold, just like in the ’80s, Batman heralded a new era of superhero films with the aptly named Batman Begins. But they were different this time. It seemed like the one good thing that came out of that glut was that studios were learning that they couldn’t get away with releasing substandard films for our favourite colourful characters.
Christopher Nolan, Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, and eventually Joss Whedon were names that were starting to get attached to these movies. Directors that carried weight, not just with your average moviegoer, but with us nerds and geeks too. Sure, we had Green Lantern, but crappy superhero films were comparatively fewer and farther between.
The new golden age
Last year, when I sat and watched Avengers for the first time, I swear to you, I was nearly moved to tears. Hell, I still get a little misty-eyed every time I hear Alan Silverstri’s theme from the show. Can you blame me though? For the first time since Burton’s Batman, I’m looking forward to watching superhero films regularly again.
Y’know… just catching a flick with friends and having a good time
Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, travels way too much, and is currently putting together his very first short story collection. He blogs about his upcoming book, storytelling and other things at
Guest columnist Scott Shaw! brings his perspective as an experienced professional cartoonist and active participant in the comic book industry for more than 40 years. Get an insider’s look at the art form from someone in the trenches every day.
By Scott Shaw!
Back in prehistoric times – you probably know ‘em as “The Silver Age Of Comics” – when there were no superhero movies, comic book letter columns often ran letters suggesting which then-current actors would be suitable for casting in the roles of various superheroes. Most of us had seen the Adventures of Superman television series (1952 – 1958) – and at one of San Diego’s many naval base theaters I saw a single chapter of one of those Commando Cody serials (the inspiration for Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer) – so the notion of a motion picture starring a superhero didn’t seem impossible…
Except that, for me, at least, the concept of a live action superhero movie wasn’t something I was particularly anxious to see. I’d seen a 1943 Superman theatrical short, “The Underground World” on Channel 6’s cartoon show hosted by “Uncle Russ” – and that immediately convinced me that when it came to funnybook superheroes, animation was the best way to approach this sort of material (even though I was unable to convince my chums at Rowan Elementary School that the cartoon I’d watched existed at all!)
You see, I always dug the fact that, in comic books, superheroes were intentionally exaggerated characters who could routinely accomplish outrageous, unbelievable super-deeds. I never wondered what it would look like if superheroes were “real”; they were un-real and that was the way I liked ‘em: imaginary characters doing impossible things. I already had my fill of “real” in everyday life. (Yeah, I explained this in greater detail in last month’s Confessions of a Cranky Comic Book Cartoonist column. If you haven’t read it, go read it now right here. Don’t fret, I’ll wait for you.)
That said, I find that most live-action superhero movies actually diminish the long-underwear-and-capes crowd. No human physiognomy can possibly duplicate the musculature, foreshortening and poses of characters drawn by such “extreme” cartoonists as Jack Kirby, Gil Kane and Steve Ditko, among many others. And when it comes to depicting an awe-inspiring character like Galactus, as in 2007’s Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the audience gets a vague computer-generated effect. (On the other hand, the only thing the makers of that unfortunate sequel did right was the CG depiction of Norrin Radd; the gimmick of the character’s skin becoming tarnished as he loses “the power cosmic” was not only clever, it was something that would have been nearly impossible to pull off in the pages of a four-color funnybook.) In other words, the human body and CG special effects can possibly duplicate – or even come close to – what I love about comic books.
Another thing I dislike about most superhero films is the apparent necessity of spending one-third to one-half of their lengths to establishing the starring character with a “secret origin”. Sure, the audience might not know the specifics of a character’s back story, but they certainly know who the lead super-character is if they’ve already bought their ticket, popcorn and soda. Such famous characters’ origins are anything but secret! Can’t the origins be told along the way or in a flashback well within the body of the film? Or better yet, do it like it was in 1996’s The Phantom. (More on that in a few paragraphs!) The linear method, with a hero’s (or villain’s) origin taking up the entire beginning of the film reminds me of many 1950s monster movies in which we know what monster is behind the mysterious destruction, disappearances and deaths long before any of the characters because we saw the ads and poster first! In other words, it’s padding, pure and simple. The fact that the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man movie will once again retell the origin of the web-spinner is so superfluous, it makes me want to skip seeing the film altogether.
And what is it about Hollywood’s fascination with the “dark” side of superheroes? Tim Burton started that trend with his Batman film (1989), but I assume that was Warner Bros.’ intention in hiring the wunderkind to separate the dramatic Dark Knight from the lingering public association with the campy treatment the Caped Crusader received in ABC’s Batman TV series (1966 – 1968). But ever since then, most superhero movies have displayed similar dark tones, if not even darker. Superhero films don’t have to be silly or dead serious, folks; there’s plenty of other approaches in between the two extremes. But it should surprise no one reading this column that I’d much rather watch Cartoon Networks’ late, lamented Batman: The Brave and the Bold teaming up with the likes of Kamandi and B’wana Beast than Christian Bale’s The Dark Knight Rises featuring Bane, a bulky supervillain who looks like one of those idiots who compete in the Guinness Book of World Records’ category of “most cigarettes smoked at one time”. Sheesh.
Oh, I almost forgot… There are waaaaay too many effin’ superhero movies. There, I said it, O’ True Believers. Deal with it.
But to demonstrate that I don’t hate all superhero flicks, here’s a list of my favorite superhero theatrical movies so far (a baker’s dozen plus a runner-up) and why I dig ‘em so much:
RUNNER-UP: The Green Hornet (2011)
I know that this film was very unpopular with fans, but I thought that it followed a unique logic: if a goofy, wealthy and pudgy young playboy decides to become a superhero, it stands to reason that he’ll become a goofy, wealthy and pudgy young superhero, which is exactly what Seth Rogan does in this movie. And although there are a few cringe-inducing sequences in The Green Hornet (the fast-action make-out in the garage and that fight between Britt Reid (Rogan) and Kato (the quite appropriate Jay Chou) that seems to go on longer than the fight in John Carpenter’s They Live) I think that director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Be Kind Rewind) did a great job handling an action movie, especially with a death-trap via heavy construction equipment that bury our heroes inside their extremely cool battle-car, the “Black Beauty”. But my real reason for including The Green Hornet here is a brilliantly directed scene that takes place toward the end of the movie. In it, as a befuddled Britt Reid struggles to connect a number of seemingly random crimes, director Gondry takes us inside the crime fighter’s mind, using animation to show how he manages to piece together the various elements into a now obvious crime wave. I’ve never seen this sort of visual shorthand used in any other movie, but as a cartoonist, I absolutely loved it.
NO. 13: Blankman (1994)
Although by most accounts an embarrassment, I like the fact that this comedy’s lead character, ultra-nerdy inventor-without-a-budget Darryl Walker (played by Damon Wayans in full-throttle geek mode) has what I consider to be by far the best-ever motivation to become a costumed superhero: Darryl’s read enough comic books to think it’s a cool and lofty goal. Additionally, I dig the casting of Jason Alexander as the publisher of a particularly lowbrow tabloid newspaper (remember them?) and Jon Polito as an obnoxious-but-deadly mobster. Also, don’t miss Blankman’s hilariously shoddy R2D2-esque robot assistant, J-5 (as in “Jackson Five”). And finally, the story builds to a fight scene that’s a clever parody of similar sequences in ABC’s Batman TV series. And speaking of which…
NO. 12: Batman: The Movie (1966)
Essentially a bigger-budget, all-star feature length version of ABC’s Batman TV series, Batman (as it was originally titled; “The Movie” was added for the DVD and Blu-Ray editions) was made to exploit the phenomenal national response to the first season of the TV show. Although the iconic presence of Julie Newmar’s Catwoman is missing (The Time Tunnel’s Lee Merriweather attempts to fill the role here), the art direction, the costumes, the set design and the animated sound effects are all here, making Batman: The Movie one of the two feature films to most successfully capture the look of a Silver Age comic book. (The other one’s the movie based on Topps’ infamous set of trading cards, Mars Attacks, directed by Tim Burton.) For decades after viewing Batman during its theatrical release, I was ambivalent about the campy approach of this Leslie H. Martinson-directed film, which is even more comedic than the TV series it’s based upon, but after my son Kirby wore out two VHS tapes of Batman while watching them back when he was a little, how can I help but love it? (My second-hand affection for this movie even accidentally led to my contributing an interview to the exclusive bonus material for Batman: The Movie’s Blu-Ray disc conducted in the wake of doing the same for a DVD set of the first season of Hanna-Barbera’s Richie Rich cartoon series, upon which I worked as a layout supervisor!) Yo ho!
NO. 11: Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)
According to the FF’s co-creator Smilin’ Stan Lee, this extremely low-budget movie was never intended to be released, a fact unknown to its crew and cast. Apparently, it was made (but as planned, never released) only because Germany’s Constantin Film Produktion – the studio that then owned the rights to make a Fantastic Four movie – would have lost that opportunity if it did not begin production by a certain date. Whatever the circumstances, this film’s cheesy production values actually work in its favor, tying it to the cheapie sci-fi and monster movies of the 1950s, an obvious source of inspiration to Smilin’ Stan and Fantastic Four co-creator Jack Kirby in the stirrings of the Marvel universe. Check out some of the covers for the early issues of Fantastic Four funnybooks; it’s no accident that they greatly resemble the posters for such then-recent drive-in movie fare like Invasion of the Saucer Men, It! The Terror From Beyond Space, War of the Colossal Beast and their ilk!
NO. 9: The Phantom (1996)
This high-quality production amply demonstrates that it’s not at all necessary to “camp it up” in a superhero film; if you successfully (and faithfully) translate a comic book property – or, in this case a comic strip property, although cartoonist Lee Falk’s Phantom has starred in hundreds of comic books here and especially abroad – the tone of happy adventure should come across as being just campy enough. (Although in this case, Treat Williams does portray The Phantom’s gleeful villain by chewing its gorgeous scenery non-stop.) But the very best thing about The Phantom is how it begins, with a five-minutes-or-less intro that begins with “For those who came in late…”, immediately recapping the purple-clad jungle hero’s back-story, his generational history and his mission statement… and that’s all the secret origin that the film’s Australian director Simon Wincer felt the audience needed! How frickin’ refreshing is that?!? And since the Phantom (although American in origin) has been Australia’s Number One favorite comic character for decades, it becomes immediately obvious that Mr. Wincer digs the character – nicely played by Billy Zane – as much or more than his fellow Aussies. And The Phantom gets extra points for including the great Patrick McGoohan (Secret Agent; The Prisoner) in its cast as the Phantom’s ghostly father!
NO. 8: The Specials (2000)
Rob Lowe (as “The Weasel”), Thomas Hayden Church (as “The Strobe”) and Jamie Kennedy (as “Amok”) star in this story of “the sixth or seventh best superhero team in the world” but features precious little special effects-assisted (CG or otherwise) superheroics whatsoever! Instead, The Specials focuses on the team’s internal politics, sexual liaisons and competition to see who can get the juiciest licensing deal for their action figure. The polar opposite of the typical summer superhero blockbuster, The Specials is utterly unique and highly recommended by this cranky comic book cartoonist.
NO. 7: Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Since this is a sequel, we thankfully don’t have to suffer through another superhero origin. Even better, the origin story that is included is that of Dr. Otto Octavius, AKA villainous Doctor Octopus (wonderfully portrayed by Alfred Molina) who is actually much more interesting and likable than his funnybook counterpart. For that matter, even his mechanical arms have personality to spare!
NO. 6: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Hey, it’s a full-length animated feature film by the same talented folks – writers Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Martin Pasko and Michael Reaves and directors Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm, Kevin Altieri, Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur and Dan Riba, among others – behind Warner Bros. Animation’s industry-altering cartoon show Batman: The Animated Series. Do I need to state any more than that? Well, perhaps I should add that the voice of the legendary Dick Miller (Little Shop of Horrors; Bucket of Blood; Not of This Earth) is on the soundtrack! Woo hoo!
NO. 5: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Set during World War II – which instantly makes the premise infinitely easier to accept – this is the exception that proves the rule about superhero origins in films. When puny patriot Steve Rogers (how could this possibly be the same Chris Evans who played the Human Torch in those tediously mediocre Fantastic Four films?) voluntarily chooses to climb into Dr. Erskine’s transmogrifying device – not to kill Nazis but because Steve doesn’t like bullies – we realize he’s already a hero. As much fun as the rest of the movie is, Cap’s origin story is the heart of the film. And as bonuses, we get a look at the original Golden Age Human Torch on display at the World’s Fair and a cameo appearance by Dum-Dum Dugan and the rest of the Howling Commandos (albeit minus Nick Fury!).
NO. 4: Superman (1941)
Remember “You will believe a man can fly!”, the line used to promote 1978’s Superman, the seminal superhero film that every person this side of Krypton – except me – loved? Well, I didn’t believe it, just as I never believed that the Man of Steel could somehow turn back time. (I’m not just being picky; Superman’s inability to change the past was one of the primary “rules” of all those Mort Weisinger-edited super-comics I read as a kid.) The only part of the entire film that I actually dig is when Superman prevents The Flying Newsroom helicopter from crashing, so sue me. But the original seventeen Superman cartoon shorts produced by Fleischer Studios and their successor Famous Studios from 1941 to 1943? Those I love, and I know I’m not alone. Hey, there would never have been a Batman: The Animated Series – nor umpteen other superhero cartoons – if not for those incredibly influential Superman shorts. They may not have much in the way of character development, but when it comes to showing how cool superheroes can be, they’re still the ones to beat (with the possible exception of my No.1 pick, below. No peeking!)
NO. 3: The Avengers (2012)
Okay, who doesn’t dig The Avengers? It took a while for me to get around to seeing the movie, and although I was skeptical despite everyone’s rave reviews, I’ve gotta admit I enjoyed it. The best things about The Avengers were, in my opinion: 1.) The film showed how much fun superheroes can and should be. Thank you, Joss Whedon. 2.) Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was finally the version of Ol’ Jade-Jaws that we’ve all been waiting for. 3.) Tony Stark asking Bruce Banner if his method of avoiding Hulking out was “a big bag of weed”. That may be the single greatest alibi of all time: “Yes, officer, I am in possession of this big bag of weed, but it’s to prevent me from Hulking out!” I can’t wait to test it. 4. Loki calling the Black Widow “a mewling quim” – an antiquated form of the despised-by-every-female “C-U-Next-Tuesday word”. 5. The lack of credits at the front end of the film. 6. The shawarma scene that followed the movie’s end credits!
NO. 2: Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936)
For decades, a debate has raged around the famous sailor man: is he or is he not a superhero? (Of course, Popeye’s opinion is “I yam what I yam!) Even though he doesn’t wear a colorful costume nor maintain a secret identity, I’d say that any super-strong, do-gooding human being who can’t be killed (a fact repeatedly established by his creator, cartoonist Elzie C. Segar) certainly qualifies as a superhero. Of course, he has been one of my favorite comic strip, comic book and animated cartoon characters for over half a century, so I may be a wee bit prejudiced, but since this is my list and not yours, I’m treating him as a superhero and that’s that. Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor is one of the Fleischer Studio’s masterpieces, a cartoon tour de force that not only stars Popeye, Olive Oyl and J. Wellington Wimpy, it also feature Bluto in the role of Sindbad, the top dog on an island populated by hundreds of monsters, wild animals and giant mythical creatures. Despite the odds, Popeye emerges triumphant, and even sings a few songs along the way. This animated “featurette” – longer than a short but much shorter than a feature film – also includes some jaw-dropping dimensional effects that pre-date CG wizardry by many decades. In general, Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor compresses all of the over-the-top action and excitement of most modern superhero movies into a mere 16 minutes. Well, blow me down, what could possibly be better than that? Well, how about…
NO. 1: The Incredibles (2004)
For my money, superhero movies just don’t get any better than this. It’s got all the action and fun of my favorite comic books. (Fantastic Four, anyone?) It’s got dozens of original characters, yet there isn’t a single origin story in sight. It introduces a world where superheroes not only exist, they all know each other and interact to a degree that none of the Marvel or DC universes have on film to date. It’s a family comedy about a super-powered family, yet it’s built on a solid and somewhat grim premise about what it’s like to be middle-aged, in a marriage gone stale and on the downhill side of your career. How many other superhero movies can boast those universal themes? The Incredibles features elements of design, style and pop culture that were at their peak in 1964 (the early Marvel Comics universe; Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Secret Agent 007 in Goldfinger (complete with a John Barry-esque score); Hanna-Barbera’s Jonny Quest, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s “Supermarionation”, etc.), yet it’s not considered to be a “retro” movie. It’s wildly exaggerated, but has moments that display a subtlety that animation rarely exhibits. Thank you, Brad Bird. Thank you, Pixar. Once again, you’ve shown us that even in a blockbuster of a superhero movie, it’s the story that matters most, even if we’ve never seen its stars before or since. I can’t imagine a better superhero movie in existence.
Y’know, I’m more than a little surprised that I have such good things to say about so many superhero movies after all, even if many of ‘em aren’t the ones that show up on other folks’ lists of favorites. I’ll bet that there are at least a few entries on my list that you weren’t even aware of, right?
But here’s something that’s really got me stymied: the onetime young and perky Gidget and The Flying Nun cast as Aunt May Parker in this month’s upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man?
Aw, c’mon, say it ain’t so, Sally Field!
(And in the unlikely chance that I actually survive the almost-upon-us San Diego Comic-Con International, I’ll see you back here next month with more cranky comments!)
– Scott Shaw!
Scott Shaw! — yes, that exclamation point has adorned his name since junior high school — currently writes and draws comic books starring the Simpsons for Bongo Comics, The Adventures of Captain Rochester for Rochester Electronics, and his autobiographical comic strip, Now It Can Be Told! for Act-I-Vate, as well as performing his live Oddball Comics show. He just finished storyboarding four episodes of Cartoon Network’s Annoying Orange photo-animated show, is finishing a new 8-page Now It Can Be Told! story for Dark Horse Presents (“I Covered Myself With Peanut Butter To Become… The Turd!”) and will be drawing an upcoming Mark Evanier-written Garfield comic book story for KaBOOM!
One of the biggest days in comics is happening tomorrow – Free Comic Book Day! This is an annual event where free comics are given away to anyone who walks into a comic book store, and many stores have special sales and events, as well as artists on hand for free sketches, and lots more. Check out FreeComicBookDay.com for more details and to find participating stores near you.
The LA comedy quartet Jawiin put together this video to explain how Free Comic Book Day works (while addressing some confusion about the day):
Golden Apple Comics is opening at 10 am with free Gamma Labs and Hubert’s Lemonade drinks and a Cinco de Mayo taco bar with purchase. Our own Scott Shaw! will be doing Simpsons sketches, plus there’s a sidewalk sale, $5 grab bags, a kids play area, a bounce house, and more. Plus signings by Felicia Day and the cast of The Guild, Andrew Chambliss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9), Scott Davis (Wrath of the Titans), Marc Andreyko (Manhunter), David B. Schwartz (Idolized), Peter Calloway (Anti), and Geoffrey Thorne (Prodigal: Egg of First Light).
Meltdown Comics will hold their Free Comic Book Day festivities from 11 am to 9 pm. As if giving away free comics wasn’t enough, they’ll also give you a 20% discount on any Marvel Comics products if you show your Avengers movie ticket stub. Plus a 50% off sale from 11 am to noon, 30% off all back issues, sidewalk comics by the pound ($3/lbs.), a Marvel Comics grab bag of 10 comics for $10, and more. Greg Weisman (Gargoyles), Victor Cook (Mecha-Nation), Caleb Monroe (The Remnant), Brandon Easton (Shadow Law), Scott Lobdell (Teen Titans) and creators from Archaia Entertainment (writers Tim Beedle [Fraggle Rock], Mike Kennedy [Bleedout] and Heather Nuhfer [Fraggle Rock]) will all be signing throughout the day.
Collector’s Paradise in Winnetka and Pasadena wasn’t content just having Free Comic Book Day. They’re expanding it to Free Comic Book Month with special events, signings and sales throughout May. But for tomorrow, there’s a 3-for-1 sale, and appearances by writers Ed Brubaker (Fatale), Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), Joshua Fialkov (I, Vampire), writer Corinna Bechko and writer/artist Gabriel Hardman (Planet of the Apes), writer Kyle Higgins (Nightwing), the Mind the Gap team of writer Jim McCann and artists Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback, Shane and Chris Houghton (Reed Gunther), and Matt Whitlock (Peanuts).
The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach has so many creators, like Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), Joshua Dysart (Harbinger), and Jeff Stokely (Fraggle Rock) and fun stuff to give away, they made a 20-minute preview video (special password at the end of the video gives you a 25% discount!):
Well the big summer blockbusters are all done. But that doesn’t mean comic books are done invading pop culture entertainment. I always think the source material is better, but checking out comic book adaptations, whether TV or film, can be a good way of sampling. Here’s what’s coming down the pike for the rest of 2011:
Piled Higher and Deeper: The PhD Movie – Live action comedy about graduate college.
- Schedule: Screenings at international colleges and universities including the official premiere at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena on Thursday, September 22 at 8 PM.
- Based on the popular webcomic PhD: Piled Higher and Deeper by Jorge Cham. Running since 1997, Cham’s comic strip is also published in several college newspapers and has been reprinted in four print collections. (Thanks to Comics Alliance)
The Walking Dead Season 2 – Live action horror TV series about a small group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse.
- Schedule: 13 episodes starting Sunday, October 16 at 9 PM Eastern on AMC.
- Based on The Walking Dead comic books and graphic novels by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, published by Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment. This season appears to roughly borrow from The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us.
Batman: Year One – Animated feature-length movie about the noir-ish retelling of the early days of Bruce Wayne’s superhero career.
- Schedule: Released on DVD, Blu-ray and for download on Tuesday, October 18.
- Based on one of the seminal DC Comics graphic novels, Batman: Year One by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli. The story was originally published in Batman comic books in 1987.
X-Men Anime Series – Animated TV series imported from Japan featuring the mutant superheroes Cyclops, Wolverine and others fighting for a world that fears and hates them.
- Schedule: 12 episodes starting Friday, October 21 at 11 PM Eastern on G4.
- Based on various X-Men comic books and graphic novels published by Marvel Comics over the years but specifically narrowing in on New X-Men by writer Grant Morrison and various artists, as well as Astonishing X-Men by writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday.
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 2 – Animated TV series about Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America and their superhero friends fighting evil.
- Schedule: 26 episodes starting on a Sunday in October at 10 AM Eastern and Pacific on Disney XD
- Based on a whole slew of Avengers and other comic books by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others, as well as The Kree-Skrull War by writer Roy Thomas, artist Neal Adams and others, and Secret Invasion by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Leinil Francis Yu, published by Marvel Comics. Plus there’s definitely inspiration taken from the Iron Man movies.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series Season 1 – CGI animated series about a sci-fi superhero with cosmically powered jewelry.
- Schedule: This was originally set to debut last week but now a preview is going to air this Fall, possibly in November, with the full 26-episode season to start in Spring 2012 on Cartoon Network.
- Based on countless Green Lantern comics but more specifically this summer’s Green Lantern movie and recent Green Lantern comic books and graphic novels by writer Geoff Johns and others published by DC Comics.
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn – CGI animated 3D feature film using performance capture technology. It’s about a plucky journalist and his dog going on a globe-trotting treasure hunt.
- Schedule: Opens in US movie theaters on Friday, December 23.
- Based on the international bestselling comic books Les Aventures de Tintin by the celebrated Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Tintin’s adventures have been translated into English as a series of graphic novels, most recently published by Little, Brown and Company. The movie specifically adapts The Secret of the Unicorn, as well as Red Rackham’s Treasure and The Crab with the Golden Claws.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments or email and I’ll add them in.
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of October 21 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
Woody Allen’s classic neurosis, humorous life philosophy, and complex relationships, are embodied in the classic comic strip “Inside Woody Allen,” syndicated daily by King Features from 1976 to 1984, illustrated by Stuart Hample. Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip is a compilation of 220 of the best of the comic’s comics, all reproduced from the original art, along with sketches, photographs, and development work.
An all-new preface by Hample provides a rare glimpse into the creation of this material, revealing a long-overlooked facet of Allen’s career that is smart and funny and as timeless as the man who has inspired a generation with his unique vision.
For all of those Woody Allen fans out there. I didn’t even know this comic strip existed until now. There are samples at both the publisher and Amazon links above, although the images aren’t really big enough to read, which is kind of lame.
Sugarshock – $3.50
By Joss Whedon & Fabio Moon
40 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally presented in the first online issues of MySpace Dark Horse Presents, for which it won the Eisner Award for Best Web Comic, Sugarshock tells the story of a rock band led by charismatic but crazy Dandelion Naizen, a hyperactive singer/songwriter possessed of a mean hatred of Vikings (don’t ask) and a mission for a secret government agency that may only exist in her head. But when her band, which includes a robot bass player, is enlisted in an intergalactic battle of the bands — emphasis on battle — Dandelion gets to prove herself as both singer and soldier.
This is Joss Whedon at his funniest and most hyperactive, with writing that bursts off the page in a way seldom seen in comics. Multiple Eisner Award winner Fábio Moon delivers the outrageous story with equal energy, as well as providing a fourteen-page look at his process, with never-before-seen character designs, page layouts, and promotional images.
For all of those Joss Whedon fans out there. If you thought Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was silly, this is downright zany. The comic may not have a soundtrack (as of this writing, you never know), but it’s still entertaining. Here’s a 3-page preview. Or you can check out the story here on MySpace Dark Horse Presents.
All three acclaimed Ennis Battlefields books in one massive hardcover collected edition!
BATTLEFIELDS: THE NIGHT WITCHES
By Garth Ennis, Russ Braun and Tony Avina!
Late summer, 1942. As the German army smashes deep into Soviet Russia and the defenders of the Motherland retreat in disarray, a new bomber squadron arrives at a Russian forward airbase. Its crews will fly flimsy wooden biplanes on lethal night missions over German lines, risking fiery death as they fling themselves against the invader- but for these pilots, the consequences of capture will be even worse. For the pilots of the 599th Night Bomber Regiment are women. In the deadly skies of the Eastern front, they will become a legend- known, to friend and foe alike, as the Night Witches.
BATTLEFIELDS: DEAR BILLY
By Garth Ennis, Peter Snejbjerg and Rob Steen!
1942: In the tropical splendour of the South China sea, as the Second World War spreads across the far east, a young woman finds herself in paradise… and then in hell. Nurse Carrie Sutton is caught up in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, suffering horrors beyond her wildest nightmares- and survives. Now she attempts to start her life anew, buoyed up by a growing friendship with a wounded pilot- only for fate to deliver up the last thing she ever expected. Carrie at last has a chance for revenge… but should she take it? In the midst of a world torn apart by war, you can fight and you can win- but you still might not get the things you truly want.
GARTH ENNIS’ BATTLEFIELDS: THE TANKIES #1
By Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra and Tony Avina!
After D-Day came the battle for Normandy, when largely untried Allied soldiers met the seasoned veterans of the German army. As Panzer units and SS troops turn the French countryside into a killing ground, a lone British tank crew struggle to rejoin their squadron. Cut off behind enemy lines, their only hope lies in their fearsome commander, Corporal Stiles- but no one in the crew can stand him, and Stiles isn’t too fond of them either. And there are Tigers lurking in the undergrowth…
This massive 200+ Page Hardcover Edition also features bonus materials such as sketches and commentary from Ennis along with a complete cover gallery by series cover artists John Cassaday and Garry Leach! Recommended for Mature Readers.
Here’s some war comics for you. Yay war! Not really, but some compelling stories can come of it. Garth Ennis is a well-read writer who seems genetically hardwired for this genre. There’s a great big 12-page preview at the publisher’s link above.
Detectives Inc. is the groundbreaking story of two New York private detectives, Ted Denning and Bob Rainier. It is as provocative and relevant today as when it was first released nearly 30 years ago. Detectives Inc. was one of the first graphic novels to deal realistically with homosexuality, bisexuality, abortion, race relations, and domestic violence. Featuring stunning art by comic greats Marshall Rogers and Gene Colan.
This reprints two graphic novels, one from 1980 and one from 1985. To be honest, this is the first I recall hearing about them but they were historically significant early steps of comics reaching out to the book market in graphic novel form and reaching beyond the superhero genre in a mass market outlet. And it helps that it was, by most accounts, very well-done.
Collected for the first time in a single volume, this highly-acclaimed teen drama of spinning wheels and racing hearts helped make Eisner Award-winning writer Sean McKeever (Spider-Man Love Mary Jane, Teen Titans) and fan-favorite artist Mike Norton (Green Arrow/Black Canary, Runaways) into mainstream comic-book mainstays. This edition also includes a brand-new story by McKeever and Norton, making it a must-have for long-time fans and new readers alike.
These comics first came out in 1997, and have since won a lot of praise. There’s a good article/interview with McKeever that gives a 3-page preview of the new story right here.
Cowboy Ninja Viking #1 – $3.50
By A.J. Lieberman & Riley Rossmo
32 pages; published by Image Comics
It started with Dr. Sebastian Ghislain: rogue psychotherapist/covert op/DJ. Tasked with creating a counter-intelligence unit, he turned to those long thought useless to society… patients with Multiple Personality Disorder. These agents became known simply as Triplets. Misguided? Yeah. Impractical? Sure. But did it work? Absolutely not. Now someone has located each Triplet and created a band of ridiculously disturbed, but highly effective assassins. Our only hope? A Triplet known as Cowboy Ninja Viking!
OK enough of all of that somber realistic stuff. Here’s some weird action/adventure for you. 9-page preview right here. I think this actually came out the week before but it’s on my list, so you get to hear about it now.
Take a trip into the dark, surreal world of a little dead girl with a knack for (often) unintentional mayhem in this gothic classic, now remastered and colored up by creator Roman Dirge for the very first time!
Lenore might only be small, but her talent for mischief — and occasional wanton destruction — is anything but. Featuring stories about limbless cannibals, clock monsters, cursed vampire dolls, taxidermied friends, an obsessed would-be lover and more fuzzy animal mutilations than should be legal, never has the term ‘something for everyone’ seemed more sinister and bizarre.
A massive cult hit on both sides of the Atlantic, Lenore is one of the funniest, darkest, cutest, creepiest characters on the marketplace today, and this collector’s edition hardcover is a must.
If were doing these lists in a more timely fashion, you would’ve heard about this in time for Halloween. But I ruined everything. Still, this is worth checking out any time of the year.
Comic Diorama – $5.00
By Grant Reynolds
48 pages; published by Top Shelf Productions
Nautical and astronomical themes abound in this collection of five short tales: the long lost journals of famed explorer/adventurer Chance Oxblood; the most significant year in the life of the personified former-planet Pluto; strange happenings in the Black Forest; mermaid dreams and sacrificial rites to a Grendel; and the tribulations of a recovering alcoholic gone model-building novice.
I flipped through a friend’s copy of this and it looks fantastic, at times bizarre and crazy. In fact, here, you can take a look too.