To the surprise of few, Marvel announced on their website today that Robert Downey, Jr. would don the armor at least two more times. What’s interesting is that the two films he signed for are Avengers 2 and Avengers 3, the latter of which has yet to be given a formal green-light or spot on the Disney release schedule.
Downey has been handsomely rewarded for his early participation in the Marvel film universe, earning a reported $50 million for his work in the first Avengers film in addition to his salary from the first three Iron Man movies.
As the Marvel Film Universe continues, Phase 2 is well mapped out and with the claiming of two weekends in 2016 and 2017; Disney is clearly staking their territory for Phase 3. Speculation abounds as to what Phase 3 will be comprised of but with today’s announcement, it is increasingly clear the solo Iron Man series are done for now. Instead, other characters will fill the void with projected second sequels to Captain America, Thor, and one for Guardians of the Galaxy leading the way. Should Edgar Wright’s Ant Man succeed, that too would spawn a sequel. Meantime, an armload of other heroes and heroines are being eyed for the Big Screen.
At present, Marvel has not announced if Black Panther, Doctor Strange, The Inhumans, or Heroes for Hire are being seriously developed or merely teased. No one saw Guardians coming so the possibilities are really limitless.
Add into the mix the recently returned rights to films featuring Blade, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil and Marvel has an embarrassment of riches. All of which leads one to wonder when the saturation point will be felt. That could come as early as next summer when four Marvel films from three studios are released in four months, starting with April’s Captain America: The Winter Solider leading the way, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of FuturePast, and Guardians. Sony has also just announced third and fourth installments of the current Spider-Man series of films with several plot threads added in the second film.
It has been speculated that Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD television series may be used as a launching pad for new film properties or television series. While the CW’s Smallville trotted out numerous spin-off possibilities from Aquaman to Booster Gold, none of them succeeded and there’s no guarantee Marvel will be any more successful, even with Joss Whedon’s intimate involvement.
DC Entertainment has finally succeeded with getting their cinematic universe off the ground with the smash success of Man of Steel. While its sequel is being fast-tracked for, most likely, a 2015 release, they’ll be playing catch-up well into the 2020s. By then, though, audiences may have been super-heroed out reminding one that Denny O’Neil always described them as “DC Misses the Boat Comics”.
On June 4, Gazillion’s Marvel Heroes MMOARPG launched to the public. And I’m here to tell you that it’s a heck of a lot of fun to play, especially if you are a Marvel fan.
Marvel Heroes is a free-to-play PC game featuring a story written by Brian Michael Bendis (which begins with a set of prequel motion comics that you can watch here). I covered the basics of the game in my previous Marvel Heroes column, so I’m going to move right into my review here.
The Good Stuff:
One of the strongest pros in this game is, of course, the Marvel IP – and what Gazillion has done with it while designing the look and feel of the game. With five starting character choices and twenty-one Marvel heroes currently available, each with three to five costumes (although Spider-man has six and Iron Man eleven!), players can instantly play as a Marvel hero who looks and talks like he or she came straight out of the comics. If players are willing to spend money, they can play as non-starter heroes from the get-go, and equip the heroes with favorite costumes as well (heroes and costumes are also available as in-game drops, but they are rare). And people who get tired of one character have plenty of choices available if they want to switch things up.
The characters look like the heroes we know and love; the costumes are iconic; and each character has unique voice-over work, some of which is done by actors who have previously voiced the same character in other media or games (e.g. Steve Blum reprises his role as Wolverine). Through this voice work, the characters interact with the environment and other players in ways that fit with their comics personas. (One thing I like about the voice-over work is that sometimes, the lines actually make me laugh out loud.) Some of the heroes even have enhanced costumes, with special effects and separate voice-over work (for instance, Pirate Deadpool speaks in a pirate voice). There are also “artifacts” you can get that change the cosmetic look of your hero a bit, or that add to their powers. The game even has a few pets available – like Old Lace from Runaways! Favorite characters of mine so far include Deadpool, Jean Grey, Rocket Raccoon, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye; and Gazillion plans to continue releasing new heroes, with Human Torch , Squirrel Girl, and Emma Frost being three announced heroes that I’m looking forward to playing.
The powers available for each hero are also mapped directly from Marvel lore, and can be customized via power points to make your individual hero suited to different play styles (melee, ranged, tank, team support, etc.) while still feeling authentic. The powers can also look pretty darned cool, like for instance when Jean Grey goes into her Phoenix Transformation and flies around with a flaming phoenix around her. Her other powers even have a different (fiery) look to them when she’s using them while transformed. The characters also have lore-appropriate epic Ultimate Powers, which can eventually be unlocked at higher levels and are mostly awesome. (I love that Iron Man’s is called House Party and calls up other Iron Man suits, just like in the movie.) You can also customize hero performance through gear drops, which come with various affixes like defense, or +X to a power, or gain of spirit on use of a basic power, or a personal favorite of mine, freeze.
The environments and enemies are also Marvel-specific in some pretty cool ways. We get maps like Hell’s Kitchen (accompanied by a cool Daredevil motion comic) which feel kind of dingy and shady and like Daredevil’s Hell’s Kitchen might; and maps like the Savage Land, which have dinosaurs (yay!). Other areas include the Jersey Docks, Madripoor, and more. The maps are randomized, which makes re-playing levels not overly monotonous. There are also fun side-missions, like an abandoned subway tunnel, or a convenience store, or a small island, that usually house a few enemies and sometimes a treasure chest. And then there are locations like the Hand Tower or Kingpin Tower that feel very authentic in design and end with a boss like Elektra or the Kingpin. (And I can’t explain why, but the fact that I can destroy Kingpin’s couch cushions on the way to the boss fight is a never-ending joy to me. Take that, Kingpin!) Enemies vary by location, so players will find themselves fighting AIM, Hydra, the Hand, the Maggia, etc.; as well as additional bosses, like Doc Ock, Venom, Taskmaster, MODOK, and more.
Everything about the game shows that Gazillion cares about the details of the Marvel universe and put a lot of thought into the design – up to and including the load screen tips, which sometimes address gameplay, but other times share facts about heroes and locations (and occasionally inform you that Deadpool is not standing behind you right now, which is always a relief). The motion comics are also part of the immersion – and are peppered throughout the game to move the story along. While I don’t love every single one of them, most are very cool and the introduction comic, the Madame Hydra fight comic, and the Taskmaster Institute comic come to mind as very enjoyable (the Taskmaster Institute one is the best).
Another area in which I think Marvel Heroes has done well is in the game’s accessibility to new gamers or new MMO players. For instance, I love Marvel and I love gaming. I have a comics collection that spans several shelves and is at least 3/4 Marvel, and I own an XBox and have played numerous games on it, including playing through Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2 an embarrassing number of times. However, until this game, I had never played an MMO-style game before, and hadn’t played a game on a PC in years. Marvel Heroes makes it easy to pick up the mechanics of gameplay during the prologue level (The Raft), and through interactions in player hubs, such as the crafting tutorial or the mission that sends you around Avengers Tower to “talk” to several non-playable characters and gain Marvel background information.
The game also makes teaming pretty easy – if you are looking to team up and don’t know anyone, you can try the chat window to talk to other players; or you can use the function that automatically puts you in a party. While in a team, there is a team “bodyslide” teleport feature, which transports you to the location of whichever team member you’ve chosen; and, of course, there is a team channel in chat through which you can talk to only your teammates.
Although this is not part of the actual game, I also think that Gazillion’s customer service is worth a mention here. Despite Gazillion being a relatively small company, I’ve consistently had good experiences with their community interactions and customer service. For example, during the launch of the game, there were a few problems that caused early access (for which users such as myself had paid) not to be available at the promised time. While that was disappointing, Gazillion addressed the issues with compensation for the delay, which, in my view, more than makes up for it. (Yay, a pet! I wanted a pet anyway.)
Overall, I really like this game. However, there are a few issues that I think hamper enjoyability a bit.
One of these issues is the storage space (the S.T.A.S.H.) that you get for your heroes’ equipment and costumes; for XP, item find, and other boosts; and for crafting materials. The space allotted with the free game is pretty small and not organized into tabs or sections; and crafting materials, which you will need many of if you want to craft anything, don’t stack, and quickly fill up the available space. I realize that the small amount of storage space is deliberate, because Gazillion needs to make money, and people buying more S.T.A.S.H. space is one way they can do that – but I resent having to buy inventory space in a way that I don’t having to pay money if I want a new hero or costume, or a performance boost, or a cosmetic item (I have no problem with spending money for any of those things). They could have started us out with at least a little more space, or allowed us basic organizational tabs for crafting, gear, and other items. Also, while I received a S.T.A.S.H. storage tab specifically for the hero I purchased with my premium pack (Deadpool!) I did not get a tab for either of the Valentine’s Day special heroes that came along with that purchase and included costumes. So although I’m happy to have the heroes and costumes, unless I buy more tabs, four spaces in my general tab are always going to be taken up by costumes, which is a pain.
Another area that could use some improvement is in character balance – because although of course you don’t want playing Scarlet Witch to feel the same as playing The Hulk or Storm or Captain America, if one of these characters is noticeably overpowered at the same level as another hero who is very weak, the game can seem pretty skewed. I have seen some instances of this; however, I know that with MMOs, balance continues to be tweaked through and after game release, so I expect this will even out. In terms of balance, a few of the bosses could also use some work – particularly the Rhino, who just straight-up kills you if you’re standing in the path of his charge (hard to consistently avoid since he’s a world boss, so you’re always fighting him with a number of other players and their accompanying power effects, which can make it hard to tell you’re about to be run down). Again, though, I am guessing (hoping!) this may be adjusted as Gazillion works out some balance kinks, since I know this problem existed with Bullseye before and they adjusted that fight.
And To Sum Up:
I am really enjoying Marvel Heroes. I think it’s had a strong start, looks great, and has a lot of cool features. I do see some potential for improvement with the aforementioned issues, and perhaps by adding, e.g., achievements to the game and the like, but given that we know Gazillion intends to keep adding characters and other features to the game as time goes on, I have high hopes for this to continue to be a fun place to play for quite some time.
So if you like gaming (or you don’t know if you like gaming but would like to give it a try), or you like Marvel, or you like both, check out Marvel Heroes!
Founded in 2007, Radical Studios is a multimedia company that incubated comic books for exploitation in other forms. Among their earliest releases was Hercules, boasting a Steranko cover, and it came with high production values and a bit of a buzz., The character returned for a second miniseries in and this interpretation captured Hollywood’s fancy. After years in development, production on the movie adaptation began today. Thew film enters a crowded summer 2014, especially for super-hero films, coming after Captain America: The Winter Solider and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and just before X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy (raising the question whether or not four Marvel Universe films in five months will reach the saturation point).
Here’s the formal release:
HOLLYWOOD, CA (June 10, 2013) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, a division of MGM Holdings, Inc., and Paramount Pictures, a division of Viacom, Inc., announced principal photography began today on “HERCULES,” starring Dwayne Johnson (“G.I. JOE: RETALIATION,” “FAST AND FURIOUS” franchise) and directed and produced by Brett Ratner (“RUSH HOUR” franchise, “X-MEN: THE LAST STAND”). Filming takes place in Budapest, Hungary.
“HERCULES” will be distributed worldwide by Paramount Pictures on July 25, 2014 with select international territories as well as all television distribution being handled by MGM.
“HERCULES” also stars Golden Globe-winner Ian McShane (“Deadwood,” “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES”), Rufus Sewell (“LEGEND OF ZORRO”), Joseph Fiennes (“SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE,” “American Horror Story”), Peter Mullan (“War Horse,” “Top of the Lake”) and Academy Award®-nominee John Hurt (“HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS”). Rounding out the main cast is Rebecca Ferguson (The BBC’s “The White Queen”), Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (“HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS”), Aksel Hennie (“HEADHUNTERS”) and Reece Ritchie (“PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME”).
“HERCULES” is produced by Beau Flynn (“JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND,” “HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS”), Barry Levine (“OBLIVION”) and Ratner. Executive producers are Peter Berg (“BATTLESHIP”), Sarah Aubrey (“BATTLESHIP”), Ross Fanger (“IRON MAN”) and Jesse Berger (“OBLIVION”).
Based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars, the ensemble-action film is a revisionist take on the classic myth set in a grounded world where the supernatural does not exist. The screenplay is by Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos.
Everyone knows the legend of Hercules and his twelve labors. Our story begins after the labors, and after the legend…
Haunted by a sin from his past, Hercules has become a mercenary. Along with five faithful companions, he travels ancient Greece selling his services for gold and using his legendary reputation to intimidate enemies. But when the benevolent ruler of Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules’ help to defeat a savage and terrifying warlord, Hercules finds that in order for good to triumph and justice to prevail… he must again become the hero he once was… he must embrace his own myth… he must be Hercules.
The behind-the-scenes creative team led by Ratner includes: Academy Award®-nominee director of photography Dante Spinotti (“THE INSIDER,” “LA CONFIDENTIAL”), editor Mark Helfrich (“X-MEN: THE LAST STAND”), production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos (“10,000 B.C.”), costume designer Jany Temime (“SKYFALL”), 2nd Unit director Alexander Witt (“SKYFALL”), VFX supervisor John Bruno (“AVATAR”), SFX Supervisor Neil Corbould (“BLACK HAWK DOWN”) and stunt coordinator Greg Powell (“FAST & FURIOUS 6,” “HARRY POTTER” franchise).
MGM and Paramount most recently partnered on the release of the blockbuster “G.I. JOE: RETALIATION,” also starring Dwayne Johnson, as well as the global box office hit “HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS.”
What is it about some men? Did Mommy keep obsessive charts about their every urination and bowel movement during toilet training, marking down the time and size and color and form? Or did Mommy skip the toilet training altogether and they went to kindergarten still wearing diapers? Did Daddy take little Tommy into the shower and soap the penis just a little too much? Was Uncle Ernie just a little too friendly? Did Great-aunt Myrtle catch little Hank masturbating in the bathroom while drooling over the Playmate of the Month?
What is it about some men who feel the need to piss and shit on any woman who dares to display talent, smarts, ability, and imagination?
Why do they do this?
Last week, here at ComixMix, Sara Raasch wrote about the latest attack on a woman who works in comics. This woman dares to display talent, smarts, ability, and imagination. Her name is Kelly Sue DeConnick and she is the writer of Captain Marvel, Avengers Assemble, Ghost, Sif, Captain America and the Secret Avengers, just to mention a few. She was attacked on Tom Brevooort’s Tumblr site, New Brevoort Formspring in a statement by “Anonymous.” His thesis is that Kelly only got to write for Marvel and Dark Horse because she is married to the guy who writes Fantastic Four and Hawkeye. (Kelly’s response is on her own Tumblr site, Digital Baubles. Neil Gaiman also posted it on his Tumblr site, and several others did so, as well.)
The women in this industry respond to this crap in several ways – laughter, anger, ignoring the attack, blogging about it, writing columns about it, and sometimes taking the pusillanimous putz head-on (even notifying the police, in one case), depending on their mood and general disposition.
I got hit with this stuff, too, back in the day when I was writing in the industry. Someone accused me of getting assignments by “strutting the hallways in fish-net stockings and fuck-me pumps.” I was once told by someone at Marvel that, when I started working there as an assistant editor, it was assumed by most that I had been, uh, “especially nice” to Tom DeFalco, who was then Marvel’s editor-in chief.
I started working at DC in 1983 – thirty years ago!!!!
I was hired by Marvel in 1990 – 23 years ago!!!!!
You’d think by now, 50 years since Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published, that the guano would have stopped falling from the sky onto our heads.
You’d think, right?
Wednesday, May 29, 2013. The Fox Business channel. Lou Dobbs Tonight.
Erick Erickson of www.Redstate.com appears along with FOX newsman Juan Williams to discuss a just-released Pew Study that found that mothers are now the primary breadwinners in 40% of American households. Lou Dobbs finds this “troubling.” Juan Williams thinks “something is going terribly wrong in Americansociety.” And Erickson says:
“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology – when you look at the natural world – the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role. We as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complementary relationships in nuclear families, and it is tearing us apart. Having mom as primary bread winner is bad for kids and bad for marriage.”
Shout! Factory has released a Blu-ray edition of the 1990 Captain America movie, a year after a DVD of the much-maligned film was released as a part of MGM’s Limited Edition collection. They deserve kudos for a nice, clean transfer but clarity and high definition cannot help a really weak story hampered by a low budget production.
The film had actually been announced in the early 1980s from Cannon Films but in the intervening years, the studio folded and the right shifted a bit before Menahem Golan mounted it under his 21stCentury banner.
The movie languished in development until the rights were about to expire so director Albert Pyun urged Golan to let him take a crack at getting the film made for about $6 million. Marvel actually approved the script that was shot and Pyun loved its take on America’s fascination with heroism. If only some of that love found its way onto the screen.
The movie was shot in 1989 but wasn’t released theatrically and was finally dumped on video in 1992, where it was met with derisive laughter from comic book fans.
The horrific script from Stephen Tolkin (from a story by Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block) pays lip service to the source material and leaves you scratching your head at the shoddy story construction and utter lack of characterization. Significant changes were made, none of the better starting with giving Steve Rogers polio as an excuse to keep him from enlisting. Then there’s the Red Skull (Scott Paulin) now an Italian fascist, which never made sense. On the other hand, both this film and the current blockbuster made the unnecessary dramatic change in linking Cap and the Skull by having them both be products of the Super Solider formula.
There’s Matt Salinger as Cap/Rogers who is anything but the American ideal and fairly wooden in performance, perhaps because they give him nothing to work with. His first mission leads to the rocket that sent him to an icy sleep in Alaska. He’s found and inexplicably breaks free and rather than ask his rescuers anything, he runs all the way to Canada. There’s little time spent on his cultural isolation and his interactions with others is laughably minimal.
He makes his way back to Venice where he finds the love of life, Bernie Stewart (Kim Gillingham), an old woman, married and mother to Sharon (also Gillingham). He and Sharon then begin running around the world (without cash or passports or any hindrances) in search of the Skull, who apparently heads up an international cabal that directs the world’s affairs. Their current target is President Thomas Kimball (Ronny Cox), who as a boy actually saw Cap in action and has remained fixated on him ever since. He is targeted for his global environmental initiative which inexplicably would hurt the cabal’s interests.
The action is meager, the plotting a joke, the dialogue is flat, and at no time does the script allow the characters breath and expand, absorb the impact of what has been said and done. Fine character actors like Ned Beatty and Darren McGavin are utterly wasted here with nothing to do.
The film is supposedly about hero worship hence Kimball and Beatty’s boyhood fascination with Captain Midnight while the film also has references to the Human Torch and Superman which are oddities. Another missed opportunity is the relationship between the Skull (Scott Paulin) and his adult daughter, Valentina de Santis (Francesca Neri), who is dispatched as his assassin. She and her team of well-groomed killers are more joke than threat.
Much as the film looks better than it has since release, it also sounds pretty good, too. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix makes you long for a proper soundtrack. Shout! deserves brownie points for getting Pyun and Salinger to review this project for a 20 minute bonus feature, new to the disc. Both are fairly honest in their assessment that the film didn’t work although Pyun felt it would have been better with a bigger budget but trust me, it all starts from the story which was weak to behind with.
So Saturday, I’m sitting in the kitchen, my feet up on the table, sipping my morning tea, and flipping through the latest edition of Entertainment Weekly. It’s the one with Hugh Jackman on the cover as Wolverine, dated May 31/June 7 2013.
I’m on page 32, the “Monitor” section, and there’s nothing there really of interest for me, a headline splashing a “Bieber Backlash” – about time – and an announcement under “Splits” that Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame have broken up again – duh, I saw that one coming once the last fanfare of Breaking Dawn was done – and then I see a little inset on the bottom left that boldly reads “turn the page and open the flaps for EW’s pick of the 25 greatest superheroes ever” (with “plus the 5 worst” in a shaded grey, and a little arrow pointing to a big advertising spread for a TNT show called Hero.
Hmm. Didn’t see this listed on the “Contents” page. Must be like one of those Easter eggs that some videos have.
So nat’ch I open the flaps and there it is. Very cool, and a nice surprise.
The copy explains that when picking this list EW decided to “specifywhich version of the hero stands out above the rest,” so that “some icons appear here more than once.”
I like that, it’s a bit different, and with 75 years of superhero history muddying the waters (Superman first appeared in ActionComics #1, June 1938) along with who-can-count-the-number-of-reboots in that time, I think it shows respect for our beloved genre.
So here’s their list, in ascending order, of the greatest superheroes of all time, with a bit of EW’s reasons why:
1. Spider-Man: Lee and Ditko, Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962. “…reinvented the muscle-bound superhero as young, funny, geeky, flawed, and struggling. ”
2. Batman Year One: Frank Miller, Batman #404 – 407, 1987. “…has cast its dark, sinister shadow over every Batman iteration since. ”
3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Joss Wheedon, 1977 – 2003. “…super and human, as quick with a quip as she was with a stake…Buffy was a teen first, her secret identity her heroism. ”
4. Iron Man: Robert Downey, Jr., 2008. “…tack on the aching wisdom that Downey’s age (and eyes) – oh, and may I add here his pure, unadulterated sexiness – brings to the role and you have the fully charged heart of the Marvel movie universe. ”
5. Superman: Christopher Reeve, 1978. “…most memorable was his playful take on alter ego Clark Kent, depicting him as the meek, benign bumbler” – well, they almost got this one right. Reeve simply was Superman.
Okay, this is getting into dangerous, possible plagiarism territory here (plus it could very possible piss off editor Mike), so let me quickly go down the list without the, uh, word-for-word copying.
7. Batman: Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Trilogy, 2005 – 2012. Made everyone forget everything that came after Michael Keaton. Hey, I thought Keaton was great, so stick in it your ear! Although, imho, Pfeiffer still beats out Hathaway as Catwoman.
8. X-Men: Chris Claremont and John Byrne, 1977 – 1981. The team that got me hooked on mutants.
9. Black Panther: Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Klaus Janson and Bob McLeod, “Panther’s Rage,” Jungle Action #6 – #24, September 1973 – November 1976. Marvel’s first graphic novel, even if it did appear in serialized form. Dwayne McDuffie said of it on his website: “This overlooked and underrated classic is arguably the most tightly written multi-part superhero epic ever. If you can get your hands on it . . . sit down and read the whole thing. It’s damn near flawless, every issue, every scene, a functional, necessary part of the whole. Okay, now go back and read any individual issue. You’ll find seamlessly integrated words and pictures; clearly introduced characters and situations; a concise (sometimes even transparent) recap; beautifully developed character relationships; at least one cool new villain; a stunning action set piece to test our hero’s skills and resolve; and a story that is always moving forward towards a definite and satisfying conclusion…and [they] did it in only 17 pages per issue.” Okay, I’m copying again.
I’m going to tighten this up even further, because there’s a big surprise coming, and it’s something that mean a lot to me…and to someone else here at ComicMix.
10. Captain America: Ed Brubaker, 2004 – 2012.
11. Superman (Animated): Max and Dave Fleisher, 1941.
12. The Flash: Carmine Infantino, 1956 – seemingly forever
13. Phoenix: Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Uncanny X-Men, #101 – #108, 1976 – 1977
14. The Incredible Hulk: Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, 1977 – 1982
17. Swamp Thing: Alan Moore, The Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, February 1984 – Swamp Thing #64, September 1987
18. Hellboy: Mike Mignola, 1993 – onwards in comics and other media
And here is the one that made me sit up, rush to my computer and send off an e-mail to John Ostrander, my dear friend and fellow columnist here at ComicMix.
19. Oracle: John Ostrander and Kim Yale, Suicide Squad #23, 1989
In 1988, Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, was shot and paralyzed by the Joker in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke as he rampaged against everyone connected to the Dark Knight. Although the graphic novel was a brilliant take on the Joker (which, imho, vastly influenced the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the villain) and was critically acclaimed, the controversy of the victimization of Barbara Gordon really upset the fans – particularly the women.
Including Kim Yale, John’s late wife, a wonderful writer and editor, and the best friend this writer ever had.
Well, let me have John tell it, from an interview with Vaneta Rogers on Newsarama dated September 7, 2011:
“My late wife, Kimberly Yale, and I were not crazy about how Barbara was treated in The Killing Joke,” comic writer John Ostrander told Newsarama. “Since the Batman office had no further plans for her at the time, we got permission to use Barbara in Suicide Squa, [another DC title at the time]. We felt that the gunshot as seen in Killing Joke would leave her paralyzed. We felt such an act should have repercussions. So…we took some of her other talents, as with computers, and created what was essentially an Internet superhero – Oracle. “
It so perfectly made sense. Barbara had been established as a PhD. in library science, so Kim and John used that basis to make Barbara the ultimate computer hacker. As Oracle, she was the “go-to” person for any hero in the DC universe needing information; it was a natural progression for Denny O’Neil (yep, our Denny), who was the editor of Batman family editor at this time, to incorporate Oracle as the woman to whom the Dark Knight turned when he sought aid on the computer.
This is a nation that talks the talk about recognizing the value of everyone’s capabilities but rarely walks the walk. This is a country in which Senator Max Cleland, who lost both arms and a leg while serving in Vietnam, lost his seat to a man who got out of serving in Vietnam (“bad knee,” he said in one interview) by claiming Cleland did not support his country against Osama Bin Laden. This is a country in which the comic book industry is filled with muscle-bound men in spandex able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and sexualized women whose bubble boobs enable them to fly.
But this is also an industry that gave us Oracle, who was Batgirl, who was the target of madhouse clown, who was paralyzed, who forged on ahead and demanded our respect.
She got it.
Thanks to two writers named Kim Yale and John Ostrander.
*The rest of the list is: 20. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Wheedon; 21. TheIncredibles, by Brad Bird; 22. The Incredible Hulk, by Lee and Kirby; 23. Spider-Man, by Sam Raimi; 24. Daredevil, by Frank Miller; and 25. Fantastic Four, by Lee and Kirby.
**The 5 Worst Superheroes are: 1. Matter-Eater Lad; 2. The Punisher; 3. Halle Berry’s Catwoman; 4. Wonder Twins; and 5. David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman.
(Mindy will be back in this space Wednesday afternoon.)
The 20th Spectrum Fantastic Art Awards were announced this evening at the awards ceremony at Spectrum Live, a weekend long celebration of fantastic art, in Kansas City. Paolo Rivera won for his cover to Daredevil #10. The awards for comics are:
Gold: Paolo Rivera, Daredevil #10
Silver: David Petersen, Mouse Guard Black Axe #4, Page 19
Jennifer L. Meyer, Aesop’s Ark, Ch. 2, P2
Paolo Rivera, Captain America #1
João Ruas, Fables #121
I think I know what I liked about Tony Stark when I first encountered him back in Cape Girardeau. I was a cheap-seats journalist who was just rediscovering comic books after forgetting about them for more than a decade, spinning the rack at the drug store, scanning the displays in the bus terminal, killing time in a strange town by reading these relics of my childhood. And liking them.
I particularly enjoyed some of the mags that bore the Marvel Comics logo, and among these, staple-to-staple with Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Avengers – the beginnings of Marvel pantheon – was Tales of Suspense, a title that delivered two stories, two heroes. These were Captain America, a super-patriot I dimly remember enjoying when I was six or seven, and a new guy, Iron Man. His other name was Tony Stark.
There was a lot not to like about ol’ shellhead, as he was sometimes called. Let me count the ways… He was an arms dealer and, to a peacenik like I was, arms dealers belonged somewhere deep in hell. He was a capitalist. (Okay, nowhere near as bad as being an arms dealer, but I did not count the Rockefellers among my role models.) He was a technologist and, like a lot of hippie-types, I did not trust technology. (There is evidence that technology has been exacting revenge ever since. Note to technology: I was wrong, okay?) And finally: it was suggested, though maybe not much shown, that our Tony was both a conspicuous consumer and a womanizer. Two more nixes.
A lot not to like.
But he got his powers from a device he invented to deal with a heart damaged by shrapnel. For some reason, that appealed to me. I’m pretty sure that I’d never read the story of the centaur Chiron – Catholic schools in the 50s were not big on “pagan” mythology – and so I didn’t know the tale of the half-man/half-beast who was wounded by a venom-tipped arrow and could never be healed. Chiron was a great teacher but what qualifies him as a possible predecessor of Iron Man is that he later gave up his life to redeem Prometheus and that gives him hero cred. (The other side of the story is that Chiron, being immortal, was doomed to countless eons of agony because of that damned wound and he could have seen the Prometheus situation as a quickhop off the struggle bus. But he never really existed, so mind.) Anyway: even with twisting and tugging of the myth, it’s hard to make a case for a direct connection between Tony and Chiron, and yet Chiron was the closest analogy to Iron Man I could find. Why bother? Because maybe by rummaging around in antiquity, I’ll be able to figure out why I responded favorably to an tin-plated lounge lizard.
Later, Tony redeemed himself and became a good guy I could like without those nagging reservations. But those first meetings…Well, I liked womanizing assassin James Bond, too. Still do.
I don’t even remember the first time I met Bob Morales. We might have met when he was an intern at the Village Voice and I was a freelance writer, but I have no memory of that. When I was publicity manager at DC Comics, he was always around. As a writer and editor – for Reflex, for Publishers Weekly, for Vibe – he was an invaluable asset for me to exploit.
But he was so much more.
Bob was a world-class gossip. If you read Bleeding Cool over the last 20 years, you’ve read one of Bob’s stories. He would, occasionally, let me use him to snipe at someone who was annoying me, on the condition that Bob agreed the person in question deserved it (he always agreed).
Bob was a brilliant writer, of comics and of prose. Most comics fans know him from his work on Captain America, but he was a brilliant critic, and an hilarious comedian. He wanted to do an Elseworlds Batman story with Mark Twain as Batman, just so he could refer to “Twain Manor.”
Bob was connected. He was editor and literary executor for writer Samuel R. Delany, and he helped put together the graphic novel Delany wrote, illustrated by Mia Wolff. He helped me to get this interview with Harlan Ellison. He talked about working with Neil Gaiman on packaging a line of public-domain novels. He knew everyone in science fiction. He knew everyone in hip-hop.
Bob was vicious. If you ever crossed him (and didn’t try to correct your mistake), you were on the list. And if you were on the list, he would do everything he could to destroy you. Because he was so connected, that meant a lot. If he found out you were looking for a new job, he’d make sure the stories of your treachery reached human resources at your hoped-for employer.
And yet …
Bob was a pussycat. If you were his friend, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you, as Heidi describes in this memory. He always called you on your birthday. He called all his friends who were moms on Mothers Day, and all his friends who were dads on Fathers Day. He called me on every Jewish holiday. He was thoughtful in ways that were unpredictable and touching.
Bob was my family. He babysat for my son, and told me stories about my son’s other life, when he was his own person and not just my kid. He introduced me to the woman who became not only one of my best friends, but also my son’s West Coast mom. He stayed in my apartment when we went out of town so the cats wouldn’t have to be alone. Quite often – almost always – some horrible mechanical event would occur in my building, and he would deal with it.
This is from Alan Moore (slightly edited), sent to be read at Bob’s funeral.
“I’m going to miss the savvy New York creak his conversation had as much as I will surely miss his writing; the commitment, insight and rare passion that he brought to every story, ever feature, every line. One of the comic field’s conspicuously rare voices of colour, he was also one of its most gifted and original contemporary writers. As a genuine creator of integrity, inevitably he came into conflict with an industry that much prefers a bland subservience in its employees to the fierce, ungovernable talent of an actual artist who has something deeply felt to say and does not care to compromise a work which he or she believes in…Moving with no apparent effort between his extraordinarily diverse realms of endeavour, Bob was like a human cultural adhesive that connected up a vast cobweb of people who, in every probability, would never have been introduced to one another save through him. One of the last authentic hipsters, he was sharp, astute, and very, very funny. If I’m honest it might be his anecdotes that I’ll miss most of all, the unexpected courtesy and deference extended to him by a crowd of strangers at a party whom, it transpired, had been informed Bob was a Puerto Rican mafia prince… Robert Morales had a fine and blazing life, a side or two of classic vinyl that I’m convinced will replay unendingly, just as I entirely expect to pick the ’phone up for an interview with Vibe, one day back in the hectic1980s, and commence a long, sweet friendship full of warmth and great ideas and lots of memorable laughs. So long for now, Bob, from me and Melinda, and I’m looking forward to enjoying that mafia anecdote again.
The last time I saw Bob was on Saturday, April 13. He’d been taking care of my cat while I was in Japan, and while I was gone he came down with a stomach flu. He swore he was over it, but he insisted on doing the laundry before he left. While we waited on the machines, we watched Rock of Ages on HBO, agreeing that Mary J. Blige should have been the main story, and that Catherine Zeta-Jones looked like Marie Osmond.
When he left, he said he was glad he could help me get away for a real vacation. I think – I hope – I told him I loved him. On Thursday, I got the call that he had died.
Bob was a talker. He’d call and say, “Hey, got a minute?” and you’d be on the phone for an hour, minimum. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all this new free time, but it won’t be nearly as much fun, nor as valuable, as what I did with Bob.