Born in 1948, David Michelinie loved comic books from early on and knew he wanted to write them. So he took a chance, and in the early 1970s he moved to New York to work for DC Comics.
He started out writing backup stories on House of Mystery and House of Secrets, then wrote seven issues of Swamp Thing. In 1978, he switched over to Marvel and immediately began writing The Avengers. From there he moved to Iron Man, Amazing Spider-Man, and Star Wars.
Michelinie was responsible for introducing both Jim Rhodes and Tony Stark’s alcoholism during his run on Iron Man, but he is perhaps best known for the supervillain he created and introduced in Amazing Spider-Man: Venom.
Since then, he has worked on Action Comics, Rai, H.A.R.D. Corps, Captain Fear, The Bozz Chronicles, and many others.
War is the topic du jour in comics this week, with battles breaking out or warming up in darn near every issue. But instead of mindless battling, most of this week’s comics gave a deeper look into the costs and reality of violence. A reflection of our times, perhaps?
Book of the Week: DC Universe #0 — A very good issue, though not on par with Countdown to Infinite Crisis, which was a more lucid preamble to a big event. But that’s to be expected with Grant Morrison, who sets up Final Crisis with a series of vignettes that introduce the personal hell in store for many heroes.
The narration — leading to a very well done reveal that I won’t spoil — is appropriately vague and ominous, letting us know that storm clouds are brewing (though without falling into such cliché). The issue appropriately establishes the seriousness of the war on the horizon, though the elements of that war remain opaque.
While DC still has a lot to make up for after the painful Countdown, this issue goes a long way toward that end, not so much picking up from Countdown #1 as hitting "reset" on it.
The best scene is that with Batman and Joker, a meeting that starts out almost exactly like all of their interactions at Arkham, then twists in a new, foreboding direction. The layouts, which are extremely creative if not consistent, offer another highlight.
In the long run, though, this issue is only as good as the event that follows it.
Elephantmen: War Toys #3 — In what could be just an excuse to draw some cool human-animal hybrids fighting with big guns, this series has offered a very solemn look at war. The Elephantmen are next-gen Hessians in a war between humans, and their animal instincts lead to atrocities.
It’s a gruesome reflection on how people wage war, that in battle humans become as ferocious and bloodthirsty as animals. A female guerilla soldier opposing the Elephantmen, Yvette, serves as the point of reason in this tragedy, her life in exchange for the animals gaining some humanity.
New Avengers #40— The latest Skrullapalooza prequel that actually came out after Secret Invasion #1is a very worthwhile read, and manages to overcome its tardiness. InMighty Avengers #12and now this, Brian Michael Bendis has illuminated some of the anciliary issues to the big war between Skrulls and Earth, with this issue focusing on the Skrulls.
Giving motivation to villains is key to making a great comics event, and the plight of the Skrulls becomes very relatable, as does their turn toward religious extremism and their hatred of earth’s heroes. He loves you indeed.
Even people who’ve never picked up a comic book are looking forward to seeing the new Iron Man movie debuting tomorrow, starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, "the cool exec with a heart of steel!"
When Stan Lee and Don Heck introduced Anthony Stark, he was a modern-day Howard Hughes, a weaponsmaker who was investigating his interests in a war zone when he was injured by shrapnel and captured by guerilla soldiers. Desperately needing a life-support system to keep his heart beating, as well as a weapon to fight off his captors, he used materials around him created a make-shift suit of high-tech armor that earned him the name "Iron Man."
Returning to the states, the world welcomed its new superhero, believing him to be the rich playboy’s bodyguard, and he soon became a founding member of the famous Avengers. Over the years that followed, "Ol’ Shellhead" has been through many armors, as well as many personal changes. He had his heart repaired and battled alcoholism. He had his heart injured again and replaced it with a mechanical one that needed constant recharging. Recently, his body was finally healed and his resources greatly enhanced after merging with an experimental form of nano-technology.
Much like The Dark Knight reading list we provided you as prep for Batman’s upcoming return to the big screen, ComicMix has assembled ten recommended reads that showcase how clever and resourceful our hero is while also displaying the forces and passions that drive him in his double-life. They have been assembled in chronological order, so you can follow Iron Man’s evolution.
This week in comics was all over the map, a schizophrenic jumble of thrills, idiocy, fun and pulp. The good books were great, and the bad ones were terrible. At the very least, it was entertaining from start to finish.
Book of the Week: The Mice Templar #4 — After the third issue of this series came out a couple months back, I wrote that while it was a good read, I was still waiting for the story to diverge from the rote fantasy plot. Writer Bryan J.L. Glass sent me a note saying just wait for issue #4, when things take a big turn.
Sure enough, the latest issue marks the point when The Mice Templar went from good to great. This isn’t just a fantasy tale featuring mice, it’s an intricately detailed epic and one of the best stories on comics shelves today.
In issue #4, Karic and Pilot continue their journey, with Karic showing both his potential as a great Templar and his youthful uncertainty. As they go along, Glass draws readers deeper into the massive mythos he has created, a back story that is mysterious but not confused. The issue ends with a too-good-to-spoil moment of "nothing will ever be the same." My only complaint is having to wait two months for the next issue.
Lastly, Mike Oeming’s art on this series improves with every issue, and it started out strong. He manages to make scenes of fighting mice into tense, dramatic moments, and his watercolor work in the concluding pages expands on the perceptions of what comic book art can be.
The Runners Up:
The Mighty Avengers #12 — Those of us who bailed out on the end of the horrifically delayed Secret War finally have an answer to the question of "Where the hell did Nick Fury go?" In this potboiler of an issue, Brian Michael Bendis diverges from the boring Mighty team to trace Fury’s movements while in exile, starting with the one-eyed wonder finding out about the Skrull infiltration.
From there, a paranoid Fury pushes forward as covertly as possible, investigating anyone and everyone to determine who the Skrulls are. The issue ends with an exhausted and uncertain Fury standing before a wall of photos of heroes, some marked as Skrulls. The issue follows in tone the great Gene Hackman thriller The Conversation, and is perhaps the best Secret Invasion lead-in yet.
Fall of Cthulhu #11 — This Lovecraftian tale from BOOM! Studios has been up and down over the first storylines, but the latest (The Gray Man) starts off like a perfect blend of Lovecraft’s stories and an old issue from EC Comics. A mysterious girl — you know trouble’s brewing when her nickname is Lucifer — is pulled into a sheriff’s office, and the authorities struggle to figure out how she’s connected to all the recent trouble in Arkham.
Michael Alan Nelson’s script work because he perfectly sets up the sheriff and his deputies in the role of the unknowing everymen who’ve stumbled into some ugliness far beyond their comprehension. This is a genuinely creepy book.
Born in 1947 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Steve Englehart graduated college from Wesleyan University and served briefly in the Army before moving to New York. He got his comic book start working as Neal Adams’ art assistant at Warren Publishing.
Art was not Englehart’s chief interest, however, and he soon switched to different areas, going to work for Marvel as a proofreader. Then he got the opportunity to write a story for Amazing Adventures, and from then on it was writing all the way.
Englehart wrote The Avengers from 1972 to 1976 and also wrote Doctor Strange, Captain America, and The Hulk before moving over to DC Comics to help revamp their core characters in Detective Comics, Superman, Flash, and other titles. Englehart left comics and the U.S. in the late ’70s and early ’80s to travel Europe and work on a novel, but later returned to design video games and created Coyote for Eclipse.
Englehart has since written Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, Night Man, and several others, and has written more videogames and several animated series as well.
[UPDATE: After posting this interview, a representative of Zak Penn contacted ComicMix to state that Penn is not attached to a Captain America film at this time, despite the timing of his response during this interview (and our accurate transcription of the interview as it occurred).-RM]
In Hollywood, where "overnight success" can often take many years, writer/director Zak Penn is one of those exceptions that proves the rule. Rocketing to A-list screenwriter status right out of college with his first script, Last Action Hero, Penn has had a varied and successful career during the intervening years.
Since his first sale, Penn has written or contributed to screenplays for films such as Inspector Gadget, X-Men 2, X-Men: Last Stand, The Mask of Zorro, Men In Black, Fantastic Four and the soon-to-be-released Incredible Hulk. In addition to writing, Penn has also taken turns behind the camera and directed two films. His latest directing effort, the improv comedy The Grand, opened last month in Los Angeles and New York — with a wider release to come later this month.
Recently, ComicMix caught up with the talented Mr. Penn to get all the latest news on The Grand, Incredible Hulk, X-Men, as well as his thoughts on dealing with fan reaction to his work and the comic book movie he really wants to make someday.
COMICMIX: Zak, thanks for taking the time to talk. How are you doing?
ZAK PENN: Good, man. Hectic as usual.
CMix: You’ve got a movie you directed that’s just come out in L.A. and New York and opening wider this month. Tell us a little about it.
ZP: The Grand is an improvisational ensemble comedy, set against the backdrop of a World Series Of Poker-type tournament. It’s basically Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Richard Kind, Chris Parnell, Cheryl Hines, Dennis Farina, Ray Romano, Werner Herzog, Gabe Kaplan . . .
CMix: So, a bunch of unknowns, then…
ZP: Yeah, a bunch of nobodies. [Laughs] And Gabe Kaplan and Werner together… So good. I did it like I did my last movie, using an outline and just [improvising] off of it. We shot it and it premiered at Tribeca last year and now its out and expanding to 20 cities this month.
CMix: That’s great. So as a screenwriter, obviously you’ve written a lot of movies, so why improv? Why not write a script?
ZP: I think it kind of forces me to get away from the stuff that I do, you know? I’ve kind of gotten used to writing in a certain style and falling back on certain types of scenes and this forces me out of it. I can’t do those things. So I think part of it is to kind of create a new discipline for myself to get something different done.
One of the things I liked about this movie is, I never would have written this script. If I sat down, I wouldn’t have thought of going in the same directions this movie does, so it’s new to me and fresh to me. It’s almost like having an entire cast of co-writers.
CMix: Because you’re creating it as you go along, basically, with all of your actors?
CMix: Did you get into screenwriting with a plan to direct someday?
[EDITOR’S NOTE: In last week’s edition of ComicMix Six, we told you why the Skrulls’ "Secret Invasion" probably isn’t worth losing sleep over, given our list of the worst moments in Skrull invasion history. This week, we’re playing in the sandbox of big events yet again, with a list of reasons why Marvel’s recent Civil War event doesn’t stack up against one of its popular predecessors, the 1984 series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. -RM]
Just over a year ago, Marvel shook up their universe with Civil War, a series-spanning event wherein the U.S. government decided, after a tragic accident involving super-powered heroes and villains, that anyone with superhuman powers would be required to register and become official federal operatives. Costumed crime-fighters picked sides, Marvel picked a slogan ("Whose Side Are You On?"), Spider-Man unmasked, and Iron Man’s pro-registration camp hunted down the anti-registration crowd led by Captain America. In the end, Cap tearfully surrendered, only to be "killed" for his troubles a few issues later.
Throughout the series’ seven issue (and countless tie-ins), the Merry Marvel Marketing team hailed Civil War as the most mind-blowing storyline since, well… ever.
Here at ComicMix, we’re not quite sure we agree. After re-reading Civil War and comparing it to one of the first epic Marvel crossover events, the ’80s action-fest Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, there’s a good argument to be made for the superiority of the earlier project.
Oh, and remember, what’s being discussed here is the 12-issue Secret Wars series, published by Marvel in 1984 (and featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man’s famous black costume), not to be confused with Secret War, the 2004-2005 five-issue series written by Brian Bendis.
Got it? Good. Now let’s begin…
6. REMEMBERING THE LESSONS ‘SESAME STREET’ TAUGHT THEM: In Civil War, heroes who fought alongside each other for years decide that the best way to debate the merits of a new law is to spy on one another and brawl at each and every opportunity. In Secret Wars, heroes who don’t necessarily trust each other decide that, despite their differences, teamwork and cooperation will improve their situation.
Sure, Spider-Man had a skirmish with the X-Men and the Hulk was shouting at everyone, but they still came together in the end. Wolverine and Captain America shared a heart-to-heart, and the heroes even accepted Magneto’s help, knowing that the greater good was more important than issues of mistrust.
Yes, we’ve all heard the big news: Skrulls have invaded the world. They’re everywhere, hidden from magic and telepathy, ready to do their worst. They’ve infiltrated the highest levels of government and they’ve replaced all of our planet’s best and brightest with sleeper agents, ready to bring down all that we hold dear.
But that doesn’t mean you should be worried.
Here at ComicMix, we know that the Skrull Empire doesn’t exactly have the best track record. Heck, they once replaced Alicia Masters, one of the best friends of the Fantastic Four, with a Skrull agent, then seemed to forget she was even there until years later when she was found out — which led to the FF blowing up the biggest space station in the aliens’ Empire.
And that’s not even the tip of the Skrull Empire’s iceberg of ineptitude. For the first in our new series of ComicMix Six features, we present some of the Secret Invasion villains’ least-impressive diabolical schemes through the years.
Well, cue a flashback to the ’90s, because arcade developer Signature Devices announced in a press release that they’ve finished work on a four-player arcade game that featuring "several well known comic book and television superheroes."
The game will feature a four-player arcade style co-operative play. Players can play solo or as a team against the plot, which takes place in three separate locations on earth and other planets. Signature Devices has developed the game to allow players to control the powers and abilities of earth’s mightiest heroes [Ed. Note: emphasis ours] in an action packed fight for justice against some of the greatest comic book villains. The Company has developed the game to truly come to life using the co-operative methods best utilized with two to four players at a time.
But they didn’t say which comic book heroes, probably because that’s the responsibility of the arcade game publisher. Meanwhile we’re left to speculate which superheroes it could be. It helps that they say they’ve been on television. Candidates include Justice League, X-Men, Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or maybe even NBC’s Heroes, among others. One interesting phrase we highlighted in the quote is "earth’s mightiest heroes," a term commonly used by The Avengers, who had a brief cartoon run.
We’ll admit we’d be excited to grab a few beers and play this with friends at Dave & Buster’s. ComicMix readers, any ideas what you think this might be… or, of course, which characters you want this to be?
This week has all the makings, as an underdog wins book of the week honors, Marvel tries its darndest to rev up Skrullfest ’08 and Atlanta traffic finally almost kills me. Without further ado, the reviews…
Book of the Week: Blue Beetle #25 — When this first series first started up, I loved the concept but found it too hit-or-miss to pick up on a regular basis. After reading this latest issue, I can firmly say that not only has writer John Rogers found his stride, he’s turned this book into one of DC’s best.
In the conclusion to an epic whole-world-at-stake storyline, Jaime finally comes into his own as a hero, using a whole lot of trickeration and stick-to-it-ive-ness to defeat the bad aliens. Rogers uses those evil aliens (who are in a way the scarab’s source) to effectively entrench Jaime as the definitive Blue Beetle – no small feat.
It’s a perfectly executed balancing act between superhero fun and tense action, with plenty of credit owed to Rafael Albuquerque’s art. The two hilarious intrusions by Guy Gardner and Booster Gold put this book over the top.
New Avengers #39 — Of the three books that crammed the upcoming Secret Invasion down my throat, only this one had any effect. Brian Michael Bendis combines the expected handful of brilliant personal exchanges with an intense fight between a mysteriously super-powered Skrull and Echo and Wolverine. Ultimately, it’s a tense and foreboding book, although I’m still on the fence about the big event.
All-Star Superman #10 — This book is so consistently entertaining and touching that it’s like clockwork. Now, if only it was like clockwork regarding the release schedule… That aside, the story of Superman’s impending demise continues and (maybe?) concludes in this issue, which essentially serves as an elegy to his glorious life. Beyond the affecting contemplations on mortality, what Grant Morrison does especially well here is capture the sense of round-the-clock heroism of Superman’s life.