The advent of CGI allowed anything to become a reality if you could afford it. The promise seen in Terminator 2 quickly led the big budget producers to play with the new technology and the 1990s saw a shift in storytelling as these extravaganzas grew larger. When Steven Spielberg announced he was adapting Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park for the screen, we knew this was going to be the pinnacle of an era. From the lush and note-perfect John Williams score to the familiar and welcome cast, we were in for a treat. That first establishing shot of the park and its legendary inhabitants was a jaw-dropping moment in cinema. Done right, the CGI didn’t overwhelm, but fit seamlessly to convincingly tell a story.
Unfortunately, as CGI technology became widespread and cheaper, it got used and misused with abandon. Similarly, the wild box office success of the first Jurassic film prompted Universal Studios to go ahead with a second and third installment when really all you needed was the first with a satisfying beginning, middle and conclusion. Still, kids love dinosaurs and the movies did well enough that even today talk of a fourth film surfaces now and then.
In time for the holidays Universal Home Entertainment has collected the trilogy, spiffed them up a bit and collected them as the [[[Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy]]], a three-disc Blu-ray box set in a handsome case. (more…)
Over the last two weeks, Marvel has laid off lots of people, from Bullpen staffers and editors to COO Jim Sokolowski. Heidi MacDonald may have tracked down the main culprit:
The budget slashing is the work of Marvel’s CEO, Isaac Perlmutter, an executive of legendary stinginess whose fanatical devotion to saving money —an increased interest in being hands on at Marvel — has led to the layoffs and other draconian measures inside the company.
Perlmutter and his then partner Avi Arad rode in to save Marvel from bankruptcy when they ran ToyBiz back in the late 90s. Keeping an eye on the bottom line was key to turning the company around. Bold moves like setting up their own $500 million movie studio took Marvel from penniless publishing company to a Wall Street darling with numerous stock splits. And of course, it led to Disney shelling out all that cash for a ready-made, boy-friendly franchise factory.
Although he no longer owns Marvel, Ike still runs it. And rather than sit back and enjoy his sunset years—he’s 68—with his $1.7 billion fortune, he’s chosen to keep a very active hand in running the company. In recent months he’s become even more active, showing up at the office daily. And it seems the only way he knows how to run a company is by increasing profits — not by investing in new businesses, but simply squeezing the bottom line for every last penny by any means.
If Ike thinks an expenditure is unnecessary, there’s no way around it, and anyone caught doing it is in danger of losing their job.
From Ike’s point of view, why not? The single biggest financial contributors to Marvel’s bottom line are movies based on stories that are up to fifty years old at this point– seventy, if you count Captain America. Why should you bother creating anything new, when there’s so much to be squeezed from the old stuff?
Heidi also speculates that this may be to impress Disney and get Ike a seat on the board, now that he’s Disney’s single largest shareholder. What Ike doesn’t realize is that Disney already tried this tactic, squeezing every last drop out of their previously created works and riding on coattails. It was called “the seventies”. But Disney realized that it couldn’t go on forever, and that new properties had to be created, new stories had to be told. That required Disney to buy Pixar, which gave them access to some of the greatest visionairies on the planet, both the animators and Steve Jobs.
Jobs was an innovator. Perlmutter is an accountant.
It was Perlmutter’s tight grip on facts, figures, and accounting that got him control of the company from Ron Perelman and Carl Icahn, drag it out of bankruptcy, and build it to something that could be sold for four billion dollars. But really, you gotta spend money and get new fans sometime. DC’s new initiative and spike in sales should get Marvel worried.
It’s almost like you’re begging to be hassled by the 99%… or as we like to think of it, almost everybody else who works for Marvel.
Disney is generally pretty good about supporting the brands that support them, such as Pixar and ESPN. But if Perlmutter is keeping tight control and tighter purse strings, you have to wonder if Disney is getting the full news from the front line.
So, I just watched the trailer for The Avengers. I had to change pants. Because I pooped them. Why the premature defecation, you inquire? One movie with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Worthless Chick and Bow and Arrow Man… that’s why! In all seriousness (that would be the seriousness of a comic nerd geeking out at maximum dorkatude), it’s because this is the culmination of years of planning on Marvel’s part. And simply put, it looks like they aren’t going to screw it up.
In their own rights, each of the Marvel heroes who have been given a solo movie have done spectacularly well. Iron Man grossed over $318,000,000; Thor nabbed over $181,000,000; and the glorious Captain America took in over $175,000,000. Bob Wayne at DC once said “You vote with your dollars…” and by the looks of it, America (nerd and non-nerd alike) has proven its love for the Marvel movies.
Speaking purely from a fan-boy perspective, I’ve had nothing but mad love and respect for their cinematic endeavors. Iron Man was grounded in reality (for 4/5s of the film), and elevated by a continuously energetic performance by Robert Downey Jr., Thor was able to mix the completely ridiculous with powerful mythology and gave us perhaps one of the hardest to believe Avengers such that we as an audience believed a God could be a superhero. Captain America was able to build a fantastic period piece that gave the world an iconic and fearless leader. And now, Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios is cramming all of them (and a handful of others) into a single picture.
The basic fear most fanboys have had since the idea of an Avengers movie was dropped on our collective consciousness revolved around over-complexity. Rumors of Loki, the Kree/Skrull war, Red Skull, and numerous other villains danced on message boards. And let’s face it. Putting 4 or 5 “A-Types” into a team picture will potentially numb any chance at character building and nuance. If Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk each required their own picture, how can they share the limelight? And on top of it… Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury looks to be far more than just a cameo to boot. In simpler terms, The Avengers could easily become 10 gallons of Superhero in a 5 gallon hat.
If the trailer is to be any indicator of what the final product will be, I feel like Marvel is headed in the right direction. With the origins of every character now “public knowledge,” things feel natural. Iron Man and Captain America are both formidable leaders in their own right. In the trailer, they knock heads almost instantly. Whedon, who wrote the script, has a real clarity of character. Tony’s response is pitch perfect. Thor, while not uttering a word, carries himself as we expect… Regally, with a dash of arrogance.
Other glimpses of the titular characters are equally impressive. Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner certainly holds himself with a quiet struggle. And the choice to make Loki the villain creates a real urgency for the assembling. A mad god? Yeah, that’s a job for the Avengers. I know this all seems a bit of a hyperbole of analysis, given that all we’ve really seen is 12,000 seconds of footage (with a solid third of that dedicated to ominous shots of New York, explosions, and Iron Man flying)… but I’ve watched the trailer a couple times now, and each time I retain the same silly grin.
Marvel’s missteps – Wolverine, Elektra, Daredevil (which I actually liked), and most likely one (if not more) of the Blade flicks – all shared a plethora of groan worthy moments. In each, the self-seriousness never felt earned by the fans. That, and Wolverine was given Clark Kent’s origin part-way through his movie. I wish I could pinpoint exactly why the Avengers, with its surplus of superheroes, seems to capture my glee, with no bitter aftertaste of “this could be a train wreck.” Could it be I just want it to succeed too much? With Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor all leading up to this, it may very be such that I can’t fathom this flopping. I’ve dropped far too much cash at the multiplex to see Marvel bellyflop.
At its core, the Avengers is true fanboy porn. An assembling of Marvel’s best and brightest (and Hawkeye, cause, you know…) to fight the biggest of fights, is the stuff dreams are made of. To see it in live-action glory, with a bevy of computer effects and explosions is everything comic fans have dreamed of. I postulate it’s akin to The Dark Knight, where the general masses will appreciate our medium in a new light. It raises our collective mojo up just a notch. And anytime a comic nerd looks better than a Trekkie or LARPer… well, that’s just gravy. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do go watch the trailer… and come back here to tell me if I should stave my excitement, or just invest in a few more pair of paints prior to its debut.
And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes were united against a common threat — to fight foes no single hero could withstand.
On that day… The Avengers trailer was released.
Marvel Studios presents in association with Paramount Pictures “Marvel’s The Avengers”–the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since. Prepare yourself for an exciting event movie, packed with action and spectacular special effects, when “Marvel’s The Avengers” assemble in summer 2012. In “Marvel’s The Avengers,” superheroes team up to pull the world back from the brink of disaster when an unexpected enemy threatens global security.
This past weekend I was graced with the presence of ComicMix EIC/Columnist/Cranky Elderly Statesman Mike Gold. He invited me out for a brisket sandwich and conversation. For those not in the know, Gold and I are Jews – and as such, after circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, and a wedding to a Jewish bride, “brisket and conversation” is the next milestone in the Hebrew circle of life. In a day I’ll not forget for a good long while, we waxed poetic on a bevy of topics. It was like “Tuesday’s With Morrie,” except no one was dying. One point that seemed to come up again and again revolved around the state of the comic book industry. And when the dust had settled, and my brisket was fully digested, it came to me. There’s plenty of good going on in comics today, but for all the bad the finger of shame is pointed heavily at the editors’ desks.
What is a comic book editor? Well, he or she is many things to many people. To artists and writers, they are the boss. They assemble the parts, and roll out the final product. They help dot i’s, cross t’s, and make constructive criticism to ensure that the book that hits the shelf is the best it could be. To the fans, they are mysterious figure-heads who get their names right under the talent on the title page. They are the kings at conventions, giving sage advice one minute, and spinning bad fan-reaction the next. In the days before the Internet they were the keepers of secrets – the walking Wikipedias of their brands.
And today? They are that and more. Constructors of continuity, ruiners of rumors, and dolers of dreams. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Has their hubris finally caught up with them? I offer some proof, by way of my all-powerful-never-wrong-because-I’m-a-columnist opinion.
How about the Epic Cross-Over of Infinite Magnitude! The first time it happened it sure must have been novel. Upend the whole universe and throw all the heroes together in a big fight. Sounds cool, right? Sure. And I bet it sold like hot cakes. A chance to see Spider-Man, Captain America, The Thing and Ben Gallagher all fight Dough Boy, Red Skull, and Avalanche no doubt equaled a nice spike in sales, and plenty of direction for the respective players, when the dust settled. But be it the editors, or the powers that be behind them. what was a once-in-a-decade deal has now become a yearly escapade. And it drags down the whole industry with it. And where it used to be a single book to encapsulate the ruckus, thanks to those editors, it now permeates the entire line of comics coming out.
I’ve been truly enjoying Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man now for two and half years. But lately, the books have been disjointed, discombobulated, and terribly boring. Fear Itself has consumed it, and because I’m not interested in Marvel’s excuse to dress everyone up in spikes and Tron lines. I’m buying a book that makes little sense. And when the crossover is over, I’ll invariably have to suffer for at least an issue or two more to deal with the eventual fallout. And the whole time, I can’t help but see the puppeteer’s grimy hand placed sorely up Matt Fraction’s asshole.
And yes, I know he is the lead architect/writer of Fear Itself. But I doubt he walked into the editor’s office with the pitch saying “This needs to bleed into seven different mini-series, and 13 other books.” The fact is with each passing summer “epic,” the publishers invariably encompass more and more books. And every time they do it, it stops any forward momentum on a series cold.
Invincible Iron Man was an amazing deconstruction of Tony Stark, full of intrigue, new and old villains, and a strong cast of supporting characters. Thanks to Fear Itself, I’ve had to suffer three or four books of Tony building weapons with dwarfs while he drinks. The intrigue? The drama? The 30+ books of character building? Gone with a swing of Odin’s Budweiser and a fight with a mud-monster.
But I digress. With the New 52, DC’s Dan DiDio stuck his neck on the line and said “this is what we need to do to shake things up.” And I whole-heartedly agree. But he chose to end the current continuity by way of one of those aforementioned epics, and then give all of us a do-over on his “One Year Later” trick. Remember that? And to boot, while countless writers sit on the sidelines waiting for a chance to shine, Dan hands himself a job on OMAC.
I’m curious. Did he pitch the book to himself? If the editors exist to challenge their artists and writers to make the best books possible, if the New 52 was supposed to exist to make it not only easy for new readers to jump in, but to hold the industry to a higher standard of quality. How do books like Voodoo, Hawk and Dove, Mister Terrific, and Grifter get published?
Furthermore, what about the books that were universally “meh’ed” like Red Lanterns, JLI, Catwoman, or Red Hood and the Outboobs? Did the editors really sit back at their desk with the assembled pages, and say “now here’s a book I am proud of” or did they just get the damned thing done and hope for the best?
Stay tuned next week, when all the ComicMix columnists will be editorially mandated to write on the same topic: Honey Badgers!
So after a few weeks of daydreaming and being all cutesy-wootsie, I figure it’s about time I stir the pot a little. Let me get behind this wire mesh wall, force field, and don some protective gear. There. Safe and secure. Ahem…
Marvel’s female superheroes suck.
Don’t believe me? OK. Name the first few Marvel superheroes that come to mind. I’ll give you a minute. Who did you say…Spider-Man? Thor? Captain America? How about Iron Man? Hmm. No double X chromosomes there. The last big event to revolve around a woman? Oh yeah! House of M. The one where Marvel showed that a chick who ain’t barefoot and preggers goes crazy and resets the universe at will. Now there’s a feather in a feminists’ cap.
When I say “important women of Marvel,” aren’t they are always the yin to the yang of a more powerful man? Pepper Potts. Sorry Matt Fraction, you can put a repulsor in her chest, you can give her a code name, but she’s still just Tony’s secretary. Mary Jane Watson-Parker-Watson-by-way-of-a-retcon? Face it tiger, she’s just there to fall off buildings. Maria Hill? Nick Fury’s assprint hadn’t even cooled off before she was ousted back down to who-cares-ville. And when we open the discussion to those ladies who carry the hero badge? It doesn’t get any better.
Sue Storm, the matriarch of the Future Foundation. The soul of the Fantastic Four. Completely boring and useless without her husband. The best writers of Sue have always pegged her as a strong and independent woman. But take her away from Reed, Ben, or the children and the only bullet point left on her resume is part-time booty call for Namor.
Black Widow: slut with guns. How about Ms. Marvel? I’ll be completely honest. I don’t know a thing about her. Best I could tell? She was brought in because Marvel has no Wonder Woman, so they threw her on the Avengers. Beyond that I assume they keep her around because cute girls can show off their butts by cosplaying as her. What of the X-Men? Well, Jean Grey has died only 17 times, and has changed names to various permutations of “Phoenix,” all to what effect? She’s Cyclop’s gal. She maybe did Wolvie in a closet while Slim was waxing his car. And in the Ultimate Universe, maybe she did Charles too.
Let’s not forget Storm. She was married off to Black Panther so they could make super-black-babies that will invariably land on some future iteration of the X-Avengers. Not because they’ll be well written mind you… but they will add that “affirmative action” flavor John Stewart was used for back in the JLA.
I say this obviously not just to be cranky. I openly yell to the heavens for someone to come in and make the women matter again. Joss Whedon put Kitty Pride and the White Queen front and center in his amazing run on Astonishing X-Men. More than that, he made them more than worthless eye-candy in butt floss. He gave them dimension, and class. They weren’t in peril for perils’ sake.
Given Whedon’s pedigree for good female characterization, it didn’t come as a surprise. Whedon aside, other Marvel writers certainly have the know-how. Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathon Hickman are all amazing writers who know the ins and out of nuance. They’ve each made the females in their books (yes that includes Pepper in the aforementioned Iron Man series) very potent. But my gripe remains the same.
It’s not enough to write a woman as powerful, smart, and put-together. It’s the act of writing them as such that they are more than decoration. Throughout Marvel’s recent history, it’s been a literal boys-club. Civil War? Captain America and Iron Man fighting in the sandbox. Secret War? An excuse to make Norman Osbourn king of the playground – until sales dipped, and people stopped caring. And now we have Fear Itself, which as far as I can tell is only an excuse to half-kill Thor, and dress everyone up in Tron-stripes.
I yearn just once to have a female character in any of these situations stand up and set the world straight. Not to say it’s happened in the DC ever… but I actually believe Marvel has the smarts to actually do it. In this day and age where the DCnU turns Starfire and Catwoman into sultry sluts with no character trait beyond their cup size… I look to the House of Ideas to set the industry right.
When DC was making up Kryptonite and the color yellow the ultimate weapons against its heroes, Marvel figured out that debt, responsibility, and a guilty conscience was far better. Let us hope that in the coming times, they take the next step and realize that women are more than tits and tiny costumes. They are the fairer sex, the stronger characters, and perhaps the last untouched resource for superior fiction.
Based on the Novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Adaptation by Roger Langridge Art by Filipe Andrade Cover by Skottie Young The comic-book adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tale continues! See John Carter meet the beautiful but deadly Princess Dejah Thoris! Watch him make a dangerous enemy! And discover the fate of those who dare to cross the Martians, when Carter takes the life of a Thark warrior! The world of Barsoom continues to unfold in this brand new interpretation of a great classic. 32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99
JOHN CARTER of Mars: world of mars #1 (of 5)Based on the Novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Written by PETER DAVID Art by LUKE ROSS Cover by ESAD RIBIC If you thought all the action on Mars began with the arrival of John Carter—are you in for a shock! John Carter: World of Mars is the official prequel to the upcoming Walt Disney Pictures blockbuster film releasing March 2012 and reveals the shocking events that transpire before the hotly anticipated motion picture! Plus it features some of the greatest characters ever conceived by Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Princess Dejah Thoris, the valiant, four-armed Tars Tarkas, John Carter and Burroughs himself! Dejah Thoris has yet to meet the love of her life, but she has her hands full with the malicious Sab Than, would-be ruler of Zodanga, who sees kidnapping the princess of Mars as a short-cut to winning the thousand year war between his people and her city of Helium. Meanwhile Tars Tarkas is not yet the leader of his people, but instead an unambitious warrior who is caught between the desires of the female he loves and his best friend who needs Tars’s help to become Jeddak of the Tharks…assuming that his ambitions don’t kill them all. It’s a compelling tale of romance, court intrigue and an unending war on a distant world. Take an unforgettable journey to Barsoom. It’s a trip you can’t afford to miss! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
DOROTHY & THE WIZARD IN OZ #2 (Of 8)Written by ERIC SHANOWER Art & Cover by SKOTTIE YOUNG The Wizard of Oz is back and the Mangaboos have him! These deadly vegetable people also have Dorothy, her cousin Zeb, their horse Jim and kitten Eureka. To save their lives, the humbug Wizard must win a contest of magic against a real Sorcerer—using only his wits and nine tiny piglets. The beloved Oz adaptation continues with the critically acclaimed and Eisner Award winning team-up of Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. 32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99
BLACK PANTHER: THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN ALIVE #524Written by DAVID LISS Pencils & Cover by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA SPIDER-ISLAND TIE-IN! First it was American Panther, now it’s…Six-Armed Panther? The arachnid infection griping Manhattan hits T’Challa, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying to protect Hell’s Kitchen! And when Overdrive breaks into the quarantine zone, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Panther swings into a deadly race across the streets of New York City. What has the Spidey villain stolen that’s worth smashing through a hero-protected border, and why is the lethal Lady Bullseye trying to keep him from getting back out? 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
AVENGERS 1959 #1 & #2 (Of 5)Written and Penciled by HOWARD CHAYKIN Cover by HOWARD CHAYKIN EXPLODING FROM THE PAGES OF NEW AVENGERS… It’s the tail end of the fabulous fifties. NICK FURY and his AVENGERS roar into their secret mission, hunting down NAZI SUPER VILLAINS…men and women relentlessly preparing to unleash hell on a troubled world barely holding onto peace…only to find the Avengers have what appears to be serious competition in their manhunt for these escaped ubermenschen…when their mission is suddenly compromised by interference from an unlikely source. 32 PGS. (each)/Rated T+ …$2.99 (each)
CAPTAIN AMERICA #4Written by Ed Brubaker Pencils & Cover by Steve McNiven Fantastic Four Anniversary Variant by MARKO DJURDJEVIC Brubaker and McNiven continue their heart-stopping run on Cap with a nightmarish trip down memory lane – and that’s bad news when your memory lane goes right through World War 2! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
RED SKULL #4 (of 5)Written by GREG PAK Art by MIRKO COLAK Cover by DAVID AJA The life of Johann Schmidt has been a tragic, tortuous road. As his destiny and doom drag the future Red Skull to his inevitable crossroads, Johann plots a shocking assassination…one that could change the course of history… By the acclaimed writer of MAGNETO: TESTAMENT, Greg Pak, and the breakout SECRET WARRIORS artist, Mirko Colak 32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$2.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY #623Written by ED BRUBAKER & MARC ANDREYKO Penciled by CHRIS SAMNEE Cover by ED McGUINNESS Behind enemy lines! Bucky and Cap have faced the horrors of war on many fronts, but this issue, they go further into the depths of evil than our young heroes realized possible. And what is the secret that connects the Cap and Bucky series to the modern day stories – the clues begin to add up this issue, as Brubaker, Andreyko, and Samnee keep the pedal to the medal. 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
THE PUNISHER #4Written by GREG RUCKA Penciled by MARCO CHECCHETTO Cover by BRYAN HITCH MORE PAIN. MORE GAIN. Last month, the Punisher fell. Hard. Now Frank Castle is a man brutally and violently broken and barely grasping onto life. And for Frank Castle… it means he’s more dangerous than ever. 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
KA-ZAR #5 (Of 5)Written by PAUL JENKINS Pencils & Cover by PASCAL ALIXE The Pangean people confront their utmost limits as the calamity in the Savage Lands hits its critical apex. Corporate oil has seeped throughout the jungle and children perish from foreign remedies. Now two battles erupt that will ultimately decide the fate of Pangea. One man stands alone in the austere chambers of the United Nations, while one nation must finally rise against the threat from within. Amidst the bloodshed, can Ka-Zar protect the integrity of the land and people he swore to? Or will exploitation and internal strife ensure the destruction of his beloved home? 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
LEGION OF MONSTERS #1 (Of 4)Written by DENNIS HOPELESS Art & Cover by JUAN DOE A monster adventure to scream over! Elsa Bloodstone hates monsters – and when the trail of a mysterious serial killer leads to their underground city, Elsa’s ready to kick some horrific butt. Morbius the Living Vampire, Werewolf by Night, the Living Mummy and the slithery Manphibian have news for her, though; the monsters are innocent, and the real killer is out there…a creature so terrifying and vicious that even monsters are scared to death! Elsa Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters are on the case! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
PUNISHERMAX #18Written by JASON AARON Penciled by STEVE DILLON Cover by DAVE JOHNSON The Punisher is at his lowest point. Homeless, penniless, gun-less. But none of this changes the fact that he’s got his sights aimed squarely on the most powerful man in the country: the Kingpin of Crime. Fearing for his life and paranoid, the Kingpin brings in a new bodyguard, the best money can buy: a hard-as-nails woman going by the name of Elektra. 32 PGS./Explicit Content …$3.99
PUNISHERMAX: FRANK PREMIERE HCWritten by JASON AARON Penciled by STEVE DILLON Cover by DAVE JOHNSON His final confrontation with Bullseye left Frank Castle wounded and reeling in more ways than one. Now confined to a prison hospital bed, Frank must begin the long painful process of healing — not just his broken body, but also his horribly scarred soul. To do that, he’ll have to face the darkest secret of his past — one he’d hoped would stay buried forever. Collecting PUNISHERMAX (2010) #12-16. 120 PGS./Explicit Content …$19.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-5208-8 Trim size: standard
Welcome back to the Fishtopia, gentle readers. Once again, I’m refraining from dumping all over DC. I know, bold move. But boldness is what I’m known for. Boldness, being Jewish, and uhh… having a beard. I thought I’d tickle my fantasy bone today and open a door to a magic land. Come with me, won’t you? We open on a cool, crisp Chicago late afternoon. A chilly breeze blows through my thick beardly-locks. The lake air wafts past my nose, bringing with it the scents of a city. A hotdog dragged through the garden. Buttery deep dish pizza choked with cheese and sausage. Hipster-douchebags in knit caps, skinny jeans, and too much Old Spice. Ahhhh. I gaze longingly at the Lake. A lonely boat drifts in the distance. My iPhone rings. Oh! It’s Marvel calling.
Them: Marc-E-Marc! It’s Axel!
Me: The Axe-Man! What’s the happy haps?
Them: So we just have to get you on the payroll here. It’s been too long!
Me: I know, I know. What do you have in mind? Another Slingers mini? Maybe Matt and I can knock out that Darkhawk book we keep pitching to you?
Them: Oh no, bubbala. I got something better. Something you’ve been dying for.
Them: Oh… oh yes.
Me: Say it. I want to hear you say it.
Them: OK Fish. Malibu. It’s yours.
At this point my legs go a bit limp. I find a bench. All is right with the world.
It’s no secret. I loved Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse. I owned nearly every book they published. If a genie were to grant me three wishes… bringing them back is the first thing I’d ask for (after world peace and a carb and calorieless Mac and Cheese). For those who aren’t familiar, let me dial up the pop-tart sized Wikipedia entry for you to wolf down before we proceed.
In 1993, a small publisher, Malibu Comics, decided to put out a line of superhero books. Hey why not, everyone else was doing it! The “Ultraverse” as it were, was a fun romp not beleaguered by decades of history (like Marvel or DC), knee-deep in boobs and guns (Ahem, Image…), nor entrenched in wads of super-science and hyper-continuity (like Valiant). Malibu’s line was just about the fun. Characters with barely believable backstories fighting baddies with a wide array of appropriated super-powers. As a 12-year old, I ate it up like a church group at a Sunday buffet. Yeah, I went there.
Fast forward to the mid-nineties… and sales dropped. Turned out all those issues of the Death of Superman weren’t worth thousands, and people were getting tired of counting the flaps of Spawn’s cape in a book of 17 splash pages. Marvel picked up the ashes of the now unpopular Ultraverse, and laid them to rest after a failed crossover. Ever since, I’ve wanted to grab those dirty ashes and reanimate them to their former glory. Here’s how…
Keeping things to their own li’l separate universe would be key. Call me crazy, but usurping an entire universe and rewriting continuity just to force a few has-beens into a modern setting seems like the dumb kid trying to wedge the square into the circle hole. Sound like anyone you know? Nah, me neither. Anyone here reading Voodoo and Grifter yet? But I digress!
I would make a batch of four or five books, akin to Marvel’s successful (turned boring, turned Jeph Loeb nightmare, turned interesting again) Ultimate line. A solid solo adventure book. A sturdy team book. Something to explore the fantasy/sci-fi angle. Maybe a nice villain-centered book. And then? A book with Wolverine in it. Hey, even in my wildest dreams, I need to sell some books. Allow me to pontificate.
My solo book? Prime. Here’s a character that begs to brought back. Taking the original Captain Marvel concept (a boy who can transform into a 20/30 something super-man), but adding a pinch of angst… makes this a title to appeal to teens and not-teens alike. Billy Batson is gee-golly-gosh cool. Seriously. I loved Mike Kunkel’s Johnny DC title. But we ain’t talkin’ about Billy.
Prime’s alter-ego is (was) Kevin Green… troubled youth. With a chip on his shoulder and an attitude problem, he’s the quintessential anti-Batson. Where a Peter Parker or Clark Kent have that “boy next door” charm, and a happy demeanor in and out of costume… Kevin is at that perfect age where he knows all the answers, and still can’t get girls to dig him. But when danger is afoot, he activates his liquid flesh power, and becomes the hyper-muscular Prime. Unlike a Marvel or Captain America though… Prime is instinctively still a teenager. He’s quick to anger. Quick to fight. And he’s powerful enough that no one is going to tell him otherwise, by force or not. Add in some crazy scientist arch nemesis and robots to trash? Maybe a love triangle where Kevin has the hots for a teen girl in high school, and a seductive Super Heroine as Prime? The book practically writes itself! Will Kevin lose his virginity to the super-slut, or save himself for prom? And how can he fight the evil mutant army, when he still needs to clean his room!?
How about a team adventure? Well, look no further than The Strangers. When a group of seven random passengers aboard a San Francisco trolley get hit by sentient alien lightning, they are imbued with super powers. They must unite to fight a mysterious eighth citizen who’s bent on taking over the city! OK, simple pitch aside, what I loved about The Strangers back in the day still holds true now. The pure oddity of powers given matched with completely dissimilar character types makes a book that never stops being fun for fun’s sake. The team is led by an art school student with Firestorm level matter-altering powers (and he doesn’t have the restriction of needing to know how to convert matter a la Ronnie or Jason). His best friend, a hot-head with a Guy Gardner level chip on his shoulder, is constantly trying to steal the spotlight. There’s a street urchin who’s more interested in using his super speed to score and sell drugs. A fashion designer who could care less about her new powers… she’s got a business to run. And did I mention the team has a hooker-android with electrical powers that may be remotely controlled by a mad scientist? What wouldn’t this book have people?!
OK, one more before I go. Mantra. For the sword and sorcery set who dig a little gender bending to boot. A warrior cursed to live eternally is reborn once more, after a thousand years… but this time, in the body of a woman! Having to acclimate himself to a modern world he’s not ready for, in a body he can’t get used to! It’s a fish out of water, with boobs. Marvel at Mantra as she fights against evil modern-day warlocks and demons… while trying to get the hang of sports bras and depilatories. Sex and the City meets Dungeons and Dragons, folks. Come get some.
Of course, you can’t actually get some. Malibu’s contracts were coated in leagues of red tape and legal roadblocks. Marvel tried to unearth the Ultraverse in 2005, but it go no further than a wish on the wind. And while no one of importance cared… I cried that lone American-Indian-on-the-side-of-the-road tear. Normally, I’d figure out a nifty way to end my column. A nice summation told via a pun or a wicked barb aimed at a worthy foe.
But I’m too sad right now. So I’m just ending with a bitter plea. Someone out there give me a million dollars, so I can go make this happen. No? You’re a bunch of jerks!
New Pulp Artist Francesco Francavilla (Zorro, The Black Coat) joins New Pulp Writer Ed Brubaker (Crimnal, Incognito) on Marvel Comics’ series, Captain America and Bucky starting with issue #625 in December!
Cover Art: Francesco Francavilla
CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY #625 Written by Ed Brubaker & James Asmus Pencils & Cover by Francesco Francavilla • The original Human Torch guest-stars as Captain America teams up with Bucky in the present day… for the first time?! • Rising stars James Asmus and Francesco Francavilla join Eisner award winner Ed Brubaker for a rollicking adventure into the future of the star-spangled Avenger’s past! • Brand new arc! Easy jumping on point! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
This Halloween, Moonstone heads back to their monstrous roots with the Return of the Monsters Event. Return of the Monsters features four stand-alone tales of pulp’s mightiest heroes facing off against some classic monsters. One of those titles is The Black Bat vs. Dracula by Mike Bullock and Eric Johns. All Pulp sat down with the artist to talk about this upcoming book.
All Pulp: Tell us a little about yourself and your pulp interests.
Eric Johns: I’m just a regular guy, who spent far too much time studying the way the world works and the best way to record it. After unlocking some esoteric doors, I found my path as a Comic book artist. There are no limits to this format, all stories are possible, no production restraints, no boundaries like other mediums have.
Art: Eric Johns
Having owned a comic book store, I’ve read all kinds of Pulp: John Carter, The Shadow, Tarzan, Conan, and Doc Savage to name a few off the top of my head. These guys trailblazed the way for the comic book heroes we know today. Pulps, directly or indirectly, influence nearly all creators in the comic field.
AP: You’re providing pencils and inks for the Return of the Monsters Halloween event book, The Black Bat vs. Dracula. What can we expect from this titanic throw down?
EJ: Expect a captivating thrill ride, with a harrowing glimpse into Death Angel’s soul, as penned by the masterful Mike Bullock.
AP: The Black Bat vs. Dracula has a pulp hero battling a classic monster, a combination that even though done in some regards hasn’t ever really been done the way Moonstone is doing it with the Return of the Monster event. What do these genres have in common and how do they differ in ways that complement each other?
Art: Eric Johns
EJ: Well both deal with the dark side. They both wield weird, often powerful abilities that make brawls and action sequences far above the realm of knuckles and the 40 inch vertical leap of mere humans. The Heroes of Pulp fit nicely in opposition to the evil Monsters, completing the chess pieces necessary for battle. A battle between beings that can actually go toe to toe, or claw in some cases.
AP: The Return of the Monsters Halloween event brings back several classic monster archetypes to Moonstone’s lineup. How does this version of Dracula compare and contrast to previous versions of the character?
Return of the Monsters Cover Art: Dan Brereton
EJ: Well he compares in power and weaknesses, and is shadowed comfortably in the darkness, like previous incarnations. Mike Bullock’s version deviates only slightly from the classic, he hides in plain sight at the beginning. Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. (laughs.) He has long hair, but otherwise it’s our beloved Drac.
Art: Eric Johns
AP: What appeals to you about pulp heroes battling classic monsters? What was it that excited you about visually pitting the Black Bat against the lord of the vampires?
EJ: Are you kidding me? Anytime you get to draw one of the classic monsters, it’s an opportunity not to be wasted.
AP: What, if any, existing pulp, monster, or comic book characters would you like to try your hand at drawing?
EJ: The Shadow, any of the Monsters, and Daredevil or Batman. My art style is probably better suited to Superman or Captain America, however, and I love both of those characters as well.
Art: Eric Johns
AP: What does Eric Johns do when he’s not drawing?
EJ: I’m a strange mixture of nerd and athlete. Athnerd or dorklete. I play basketball and Magic the Gathering, and love my comics.
AP: Where can readers find learn more about you and your work?
AP: Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
EJ: I’m illustrating “SGT. Janus: Spirit Breaker,” it’s prose style Pulp fiction. I could give accolades to this book and it’s writer, Gentleman Jim Beard, but it’s better to just relate what I told Jim. There is a fairy tale that he created, pure Jim Beard, but it resonated with me and my mind kept telling me, “I remember that story,” as I read it for the first time. That is profound writing!
AP: Thanks, Eric.
The Black Bat vs. Dracula is solicited in August Previews for an October in store release.