Showing posts with label Marvel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvel. Show all posts

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Marvel Television: Jessica Jones and the New Era for Marvel



I'm about two months behind everyone else finishing the Marvel Netflix series Jessica Jones, a spiritual sibling of the much celebrated Daredevil, and as far from the TV-logic and twee shenanigans of Agents of SHIELD as you're likely to get.

I'm going to throw this out there, and I'll ask you to stick with me:  Jessica Jones may be, to live-action superhero media, what Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were to comics in 1986.

Way back in the late-90's/ early-00's, I was reading a lot of this new kid, Brian Michael Bendis, who had some indie success with Goldfish, Torso and other gritty crime books (and Torso is still an amazing read, the based-on-real-events story of famed lawman Elliot Ness trying to find a serial killer in Cleveland after putting Capone behind bars).  He followed this by teaming with Oeming on Powers, a "cops in a world with capes"  comic with a decidedly Rated-R bent, and I followed that series for years.  Around 2001/2002, Bendis and Gaydos brought Alias to Marvel and minted their new MAX imprint - a line of comics with a hard "R" rating, but absolutely within the Marvel Universe.  Something even DC blanched at, separating Vertigo from DCU proper circa 1994.

This was about fifteen years after the atom-bomb of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns exploded in the comics world and, in the aftermath, the idea that comics could reach an adult audience was left behind in the radiation and sand burnt to glass.  Bendis was part of the generation who came into the field when a few things were happening.  (A) Reaching an audience older than 17 was now possible - which meant the very real-world problems facing actual humans could be discussed in comics, even with a superheroic bent, which (B) meant that the comics companies were setting up imprints to deal with this idea, keeping their mainline branding safe for the parents associations who would show up and breathe fire and throw comics retailers in jail from time-to-time for not carefully shelving their wares.  And, of course, (C) Marvel was dealing with bankruptcy.  I have very little positive to say about 2001-era Marvel honcho Bill Jemas, but he was certainly willing to try new things, and all of that risk-taking has indirectly led to the Marvel we think of today.

Alias showed up in this market as a sort of indie-within-the-Big-2 title.  It was something to see a character who smoked and drank and had sex with Luke Cage (which she does in the first few pages of the series - so I feel spoiler free), and met Carol Danvers for coffee.  It was a detective series.  There was something in her background we'd get to sooner or later, some dark reason she'd quit heroing, but at the outset, it seemed to just be a series about a failed superhero making ends meet and seeing real human foibles and crime in the underbelly of the Marvel U.

So... the TV show.

Friday, December 11, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 11


And, lo, there was yet another X-Men film. Hopefully not one too disappointing.



I believe I'm now legally obligated to see this movie.  I'm not even sure I'm happy it exists, but I suppose I'll be catching a matinee at some point.

I kind of feel the way about X-Men movies the way I do about X-Men comics.  It's how I got into comics, but I kind of lost interest at some point, but I'd be sad if they went away.  Also, too much Wolverine.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Marvel Floats in the Thanksgiving Day Parade from Back in the 1980's

From 1987



From 1989



The kids will never understand that this felt like gigantic exposure for these characters at the time.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First two episodes of "Marvel's Jessica Jones"



Here is where I don my comic hipster cap and harken back to the days when I was picking up Brian Michael Bendis' Alias during its initial run.  Yeah, yeah.  I was reading Alias before reading Alias was cool.*

You have to keep in mind, and the kids will never believe this, but Bendis did not arrive on this Earth fully formed as a successful writer of Avengers and X-Men.  He started in indie comics (if you're never read Torso and Goldfish, correct that situation), with a particularly noirish/ crime-ridden bent to his work, which was how I picked it up.  It's good stuff.

Marvel was in a really weird spot when he showed up.  The Spider-Clone debacle,  merging with an action figure company and, basically, the 90's had nearly done the entire company in.  At the time, they were a publicly traded company, and their stock totally, totally tanked.  It was ridiculous.  For all the warm fuzzies the kids have about that 1992-style X-Men of Many Pockets, that shit almost killed Marvel the first time around under the stewardship of Bob Harras, currently steward of DC Comics (hey, DC, how are sales over there, pals?).

So, by the turn of the Millennium, new leadership was installed and Marvel was trying all sorts of stuff, including not-quite-Vertigo type titles under the Knights (basically PG-13) and Max (basically R-rated) banners.

Friday, August 28, 2015

More Happy Birthday to Jack Kirby - Marvelous Marvel

A friendly reminder that in honor of Jack Kirby's birthday, you can donate today to the Heroes Initiative, an organization that helps freelance comics folk with financial support in times of need.

Click here to donate and see what else is going on today thanks to the Kirby4Heroes Campaign.

So, Jack Kirby more or less made up about 90% of the Marvel Universe that anyone cares about.  He didn't do Spider-Man and had limited contributions to Iron Man, but he drew up a whole lot else.

Way back before World War 2 and his own enlistment, Kirby went ahead and made-up a superhero to throw a punch at Hitler as a proxy for the slug Jack would have gladly thrown himself.




Sunday, July 19, 2015

Marvel Watch: Ant-Man (2015)


I was never skeptical of an Ant-Man movie.  For folks who have long followed my ramblings, you know I have a very simple rule for why I'll give anything a go when it comes to sci-fi and superheroes:  there is no such thing as a bad idea, only bad execution.  Frankly, when people were predicting doom for Guardians of the Galaxy because (oh my goodness!) it wasn't a known quantity!  and it had a raccoon and tree-man! I was left scratching my head and saying: well, those aren't actually problems for a movie.   Those are just new or odd things.

Re: Ant-Man comics:  I have a pretty huge gap in my comics' knowledge regarding Hank Pym as Ant-Man from the classic Marvel U, and I was just left confused by Mark Millar's take on Pym in The Ultimates, that I sort of believe has taken Pym off the playing board for Marvel forever.  I'm totally unfamiliar with anything about Scott Lang other than that - he exists in the comics, I guess?  It seems like I saw him in a Marvel role-playing game supplement.  At some point I read one issue of something called Irredeemable Ant-Man, which didn't really work for me.

So, there you go.  I basically can't tell you anything about Ant-Man as a comics figure beyond the period in the 1980's when Hank Pym was adventuring with no mask and just growing and shrinking things and using the heroic name "Hank Pym" as part of West Coast Avengers.  But check in with me if you have questions about Super Turtle.  I have wisdom.

As per the movie?

Monday, July 6, 2015

TL;DR: Finally Reading Marvel's "Infinity", event comics and the DC-ification of the Marvel Universe

It took me a really long time to make it through Marvel's Infinity collection of Avengers stories.  There was no "Trade 2" of New Avengers, so in order to keep up, I had to buy a huge, expensive trade with a mix of Avengers comics that I wasn't reading.

Back in Arizona, I remember seeing the recipe for a "Kool-Aid Pie" and, more or less based on the name, I went ahead and decided I must try it out.

I hadn't ever done much baking, or made a pie, but I bought the ingredients, all of which looked like ingredients I should probably have for a pie.  A crust. Sugar.  Dehydrated milk, I think.  Then I got out the mixer and whatnot, and maybe 1/3rd of the way through the process of making the pie, I re-read the recipe and realized - "oh, I'm just whipping up sugar and Kool-Aid and putting it in a pie-crust".  It was literally an inedible pie.  It would have looked neat and cool sitting there all purple, but there was nothing really there.  No pie in my pie, just- purpleish whipped sugar.  Not even the basics of an actual pie, just something you would throw in a movie, I guess.

That's kind of Marvel's Infinity.  It seems like it should be a story.  It seems like it's going somewhere, but it was sort of a hand-waving illusion to get you to next, more expensive event, and all of this was some laborious and unnecessary Kool-Aid pie.

oh, yeeeeaahhhhhhh....!!!!


To be blunt -

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cap Watch: Captain America (1990)

Some time in 1989, with the success of Tim Burton's Batman now making the idea of superhero movies an attractive financial reality, I remember walking out of a movie and into the lobby of a local theater here in sunny Austin, Texas (Great Hills 8 then, The Arbor 8 now), and seeing the poster below:


While I was aware this was Marvel running to catch up with their own non-flying, non-laser slinging superhero, I was also pretty jazzed.  Captain America seemed pretty attainable as far as superheroes went.  I had vague memories of the 1979 movies, I'd been reading a little Cap here and there, and I really wanted to see someone smack bad guys with that shield.

Then, Spring and summer 1990 came and went, and no Cap movie materialized.  I was a bit of a showbiz follower, and I knew what it meant when a movie was delayed or shelved (it rarely meant they were holding onto the movie because they just forgot to release it).

Flash-forward to on evening after June 2002.  I had moved to Phoenix and was already up a little late,when the TV told me they were going to air the 1990 Captain America movie.  Rather than just set the DVR and go to bed, I sat up with the movie until the bitter end.

The film was grainy and desaturated, and I remember that slow sinking feeling of despair setting in that was once so common when it came to portrayals of superheroes on TV or in movies.

Honestly, if you didn't try to watch everything with a superhero in it prior to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and Singer's X-Men, you will never really understand what it was like to be grateful for anything with a superhero in it somewhere outside of comics.  And if you came into superheroes with the Avengers movies, you are living in a very magical time, indeed.

Because for a long time, it seemed like a point of pride for movie makers to take the source material of a comic book superhero and obliterate it in favor of whatever the director felt like doing.  Sometimes this worked - and both the Burton and Nolan Batman movies work as movies even if they're not exactly Dark Knight Detective movies.  Prior to that, I'll admit that Superman had completely ignored much of the comics in favor of doing their own thing, but they did keep core elements in place enough that they managed to make the movie clearly a Superman flick.  Even Wonder Woman, which you guys know I think is the bees knees, rarely featured super-bad-guys and never any of her established villains.  It just hung tight to being a good show with a solid lead character.  And, it's safe to say, Lynda Carter and Christopher Reeve's takes on the characters wound up deeply impacting the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DCU.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cap Watch: Captain America II - Death Too Soon!

This evening we took in the second, not lesser, but - indeed - final installment of the TV movie exploration of Marvel's Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America in Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979).

The movie is perhaps even more of a curiosity than the prior attempt, but it's worth noting that Wonder Woman - which we sort of think of as fully formed, first aired as a TV movie with tennis-pro Cathy Lee Crosby as a jump-suited, blonde Wonder Woman prior to the decision to try another TV movie pilot with Lynda Carter, which led into the series (which had to switch networks and decades before the 1977 season, just to make life more complicated).

Things were a little different back when you had to actually be home to watch TV when it aired, and once it was gone, it was gone.

Cap DOES NOT let thugs take money from sweet old ladies.  No, really.

I genuinely feel this movie is better acted and directed than the origin story, and the plot plods along at a mosey instead of a painful death march.  I'm not saying this even good TV, but I am saying it didn't physically hurt to watch (even if I did end the movie with a migraine halo).

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cap Watch: Captain America (1979)

It's been a long time since I've seen this version of Captain America, but I am pretty sure that this was also my first real exposure to Ol' Wing Head.  What's weird is that I remember knowing who Cap was when I watched the movie, but I don't know why.  I didn't own any Captain America comics until 4th or fifth grade, so I guess I was watching those "throws his mighty shield" cartoons.



If I had to guess, this movie was intended as a bit of a pilot for a Captain America TV show, and the movie didn't get the eyeballs that they were hoping for.  This would have been after Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were on TV, so there was recent precedent for making super-heroes work on TV in a dramatic context, as well as sci-fi concepts like The Bionic Woman/ Six Million Dollar Man franchises.  But, if I am going to pick nits, the primary difference between those shows and Captain America (1979) is that the Captain America movie is very, very not good.

The sins are many.  It nonsensically overcomplicates Cap's origin, strips it of any WWII-era ties, and goes all in on post-Watergate cynicism regarding patriotism while paradoxically insisting we "cram Captain America down their throats".

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disney Watch: Big Hero 6

Well, wasn't this a very nice superhero story?



We missed this for whatever reason when it hit theaters.  Kind of wish I hadn't because it looks like they were really thinking in terms of 3D projection that my very 2D television did not replicate.

Well, c'est la vie.

Big Hero 6 is maybe the flipped opposite of what DC has been doing with their heroes, and while I am aware the movie did okay ($222 million domestic is impressive, and a total of $652 million internationally is great) I don't think it slipped into the zeitgeist in quite the way it might have.  But I also don't hang around little kids all that much.  So, parents, correct me.

But this is superheroing for the all-ages set in a very good way.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Marvel Watch: Avengers - Age of Ultron

So... I had the benefit and/or handicap of seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron in its third weekend of release.  As always, a little context:

I was never a big Avengers reader growing up.  I was far more into Uncanny X-Men for my Marvel team book of choice, but I was also not a reader of Thor, Iron Man and most of the rest of the Avengers line up of characters, and only dipped in and out of Captain America, a book I had certain opinions about when it came to tone and what I was interested in reading.  Most of what I know about the Avengers comes from reading Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game supplements and character guides, and via comic dork osmosis.

Thus, I don't have as many conceptual ideas regarding Avengers as I might about lots of other characters, especially from DC Comics.  But Marvel was always better about balancing character and plot, and so the Marvel characters have tended to be fixed points over the years in ways that DC characters so often seemed to struggle.  But if you ask me "what's Wanda Maximoff like?", I can give you a basic idea, and feel fairly confident, even if I only ever owned a dozen or so comics in which Wanda appeared.



The movie has taken it a bit on the chin from clickbait articles and folks looking to weigh in, and I was under the impression this installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was likely to be something endured to make sense of coming MCU movies.

But, you know, I actually liked it better than the first Avengers movie.

Marvel Watch: Captain America - The Winter Soldier (2014)



I'm way past the ability to discuss this movie from a critical standpoint.  Y'all know I'm a fan of the character and concept of Captain America, and with this movie, I felt like Marvel really finally got to the Steve Rogers I dig.  And, you know, people, all I want to see is the shockingly earnest Steve Rogers bounce his mighty shield off the cranium of a HYDRA agent.  And, here, I get that.

We're off to finally see Avengers: Age of Ultron, so Jamie threw this in the BluRay player this evening so we could review, I guess.  Whatever the reason, I am always up for this flick.  Goofy techno-thriller with 70's government paranoia that intentionally or otherwise has some curious parallels to the real world that, holy god, nobody ever seems to notice or talk about, Robert Redford out to remind everyone he gave up on handsomeness some time ago, Jenny Agutter showing up because, hey... who doesn't like Jenny Agutter?*