It’s been quite a year for us, in both the best ways and the worst ways, but we hope that you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and (here’s hoping) a more content-rich 2018! As always, it’s time for our annual gallery of holiday comic book covers, including new covers from this year and some blasts from the past. However you spend the holiday, we wish you all the best!
For most of 2017, it feels like we’ve been strapped into Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and forbidden from getting off (the Haunted Mansion just taunting us in the distance, people casually chomping on Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, enormous turkey legs, and Dole Whips while we starve to death in our carts… man, I’ve got to stop writing these things before lunch). And just when you thought it couldn’t get crazier, after weeks of rumors and negotiations, it seems all but certain that the Fox company is ready to sell off its entertainment branches to the Walt Disney Corporation and Shadow Government. This is a huge deal with massive implications for many aspects of media and popular culture, and frankly, I’m not in the mind to talk about all of them considering how many poop-filled diapers I’ve had to deal with lately.
Disney has been an acquisition machine for years now, gobbling up Pixar, then the Muppets, then Marvel and Lucasfilm. Let’s face it, they’re one Walmart merger away from total world domination. And certainly, with the Fox entertainment properties under the Disney roof, a lot of things would change. But there are a million thinkpieces out there about that. Instead, let’s take a minute to mention a couple of the things I hope don’t change too much with the new Disney-Fox Global Consortium firmly in place.
1. The autonomy of the 20th Century Fox movie studio: Fox is one of the grand old dames of the movie business, having been around since 1935 and giving us hundreds of classic, timeless, unforgettable films, and also James Cameron’s Avatar. Disney, of course, has its own cinematic pedigree. The big difference here is that Fox’s films have run the gamut of genre and audience types. The Disney brand, however, is far more associated with family fare. Even bringing in Marvel and Star Wars hasn’t changed that dramatically — while those properties may hit an older audience than The Little Mermaid, there’s still nothing there you may be uncomfortable watching with your mom in the room.
Fox, on the other hand, gave us the likes of Aliens, Predator, Planet of the Apes, Die Hard, and hundreds of other films (both wonderful and terrible) that would be an odd fit under the Disney banner. If Disney simply folds all of these into their current operations, it seems unlikely that these franchises or others of a similar temperament would have a home. On the other hand, Disney doesn’t really have an arm that makes entertainment for older audiences anymore. Miramax was sold off a few years ago, and their Touchstone banner is basically just a distribution arm these days, not having made any films of its own in nearly a decade. If 20th Century Fox is allowed to continue, it could fill that niche in the Disney portfolio of films for older audiences.
2. Animation “Domination.” Disney, for decades, was the undisputed juggernaut of animation in film. Its television competitors — even when the likes of Hanna-Barbera created memorable characters — often paled in comparison to Disney quality. That has changed drastically in the last two decades, with Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, Universal, and — yep — Fox stepping up their game to create franchises that legitimately compete with Disney. And on TV, Fox has a foot in something that Disney has never truly dabbled in: animation for grown-ups.
The Simpsons, obviously, is the perennial classic. Futurama was even better. King of the Hill is remembered fondly, Bob’s Burgers is the current Emmy-winning darling. Family Guy is… also a thing. Hopefully, Disney won’t curtail these things or try to reshape them into the mold of their own animated properties. Things like Ducktales, Gravity Falls, Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy’s Law are great, but it would be a shame if the rules that govern those shows were to be shifted over to the Belcher family.
3. Fox’s Marvel Universe. Yeah, the one thing that everybody wants is to see the X-Men interact with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hugh Jackman even suggested once that doing an Avengers movie would be the only way he’d play Wolverine again. And has any superhero franchise ever needed a new approach as desperately as the Fantastic Four?
But having said that, I honestly think it’s a good thing that, when the MCU started, Marvel didn’t have all of their big guns under one roof. If they’d had the FF, X-Men, and Spider-Man, do you think Marvel’s first film would have been Iron Man? Hell no. They played with the toys that were left in the box, and as a result, they did something excitingly different that has paid off in spades. If they could have made an X-Men movie, would they have gambled on something like the Guardians of the Galaxy? Would we have seen Ant-Man or Dr. Strange on the screen? It seems highly unlikely.
And on the other side, look at the X-Men films. Okay, Wolverine and Deadpool are popular enough that they could have probably landed their own movies eventually. But at present, Fox does two or three X-Men films a year. So does the MCU. If they’re all folded under one banner, that’s likely to halve the output. Those same three guys on the internet who keep complaining that there are too many superhero movies will probably be thrilled, of course, but what about the rest of us? With the MCU only having room for one X-movie a year, would we get weird things like the upcoming New Mutants movie (which, as per the trailer, seems more like a horror film than a superhero movie), or the Madrox film with James Franco that was just announced? No, not every Fox X-Men film has been gold, but I think it’s worth the risk of the occasional clunker to have the chance to do things like Logan, which would never fit into the MCU.
The best-case scenario, I think, would be for an arrangement similar to the Marvel/Sony deal for Spider-Man, where crossover is allowed, but each company (or in this case, each Disney subsidiary) is mostly allowed to do its own thing.
As always, though, this is just me spitballing. What actually happens with all of this is going to be up to 2018 to decide. May it be a little tamer than its predecessor, because I for one couldn’t take 2017 all over again.
On the one hand, the world is once again on the brink of nuclear annihilation. On the other hand, tomorrow is the premiere of the first episode of DuckTales in 27 years, so things can’t actually be that bad.
I need you guys to understand something. This new DuckTales series, which I haven’t watched yet as I write this, has me excited. Like… really excited. I’m talking The Force Awakens levels of excited. Wonder Woman levels of excited. The McRib is back levels of excited.
Because DuckTales isn’t just a cartoon for me, not really. It’s not even just a great cartoon, one of the best of the 80s, with the catchiest theme song ever written in the history of music. DuckTales is special to me in a way very few cartoons are.
The original DuckTales premiered in 1987, when I was about to turn ten years old, and I watched it, like every other child in America. I liked it. I enjoyed it. It was a fun show, with lots of adventure on top of the humor. Scrooge and his nephews went out and found lost cities of gold and plunged the depths of the oceans. They encountered a spacecraft full of miniscule alien ducks and a subterranean race of creatures that looked like nothing more than rubber balls with arms and a face. It was glorious. But I was at an odd age, one where I started to feel like I was a little too old for certain things (this was not a stage that lasted very long for me, but there it was nonetheless), among them, Disney comics. I was into comic books by then, big-time, but my reading time was devoted to things like Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and a mysterious superhero group that has been lost to time called the Fantastic Four. I was ten. Nearly a teenager. Who had time for comics with a bunch of ducks?
I was a moron, is what I’m getting at.
But even so, I watched DuckTales. And oddly enough, parts of it seemed… familiar.
I got older and I got over myself, which is something that a lot of people never figure out how to do. I realized the notion of “outgrowing” something that is legitimately good is ridiculous, and I found my way back to Disney comics. Specifically, I found myself reading more and more of the works of Carl Barks. Barks, a one-time animator at Disney, really made his mark when he switched to comic books. It was there that he created Scrooge McDuck and made him a globe-trotting adventurer, one who found lost cities and sunken continents, tiny aliens from outer space… and… underground dwellers who looked like rubber balls?
Holy crap. DuckTales had pillaged Barks shamelessly.
I wasn’t bitter, though. Far from it. Realizing that the show I watched as a child had drawn so heavily from the Disney comics somehow made me appreciate both of them even more. And if Barks wasn’t enough, I soon discovered his spiritual successor Don Rosa. Not only did Rosa continue telling Scrooge and Donald stories in the vein that Barks had for decades, but he was writing and drawing beautiful sequels to those stories. Then, in a work that I maintain is not just the masterwork of Disney comics, but one of the finest comic book stories of all time, Rosa wove together all of Barks’s classic Scrooge stories into an outstanding, comprehensive history: The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.
(Side note: If the people at Disney have a brain in their heads, they’ll lock in David Tennant to star in a big-screen adaptation of Life and Times RIGHT THE HELL NOW.)
Barks and Rosa, to me, are up there with the likes of Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, and Jim Henson. They are creators who prove that you can do something magnificent that truly belongs to all ages. Work intended for children doesn’t have to be tedious and boring for adults. Stories that thrill an adult don’t have to include elements that make them inappropriate for children. These creators are among the finest of those who make work that sincerely belongs to everyone.
And now DuckTales is coming back, and if everything I’ve seen is to be believed, the new series seems to draw even more from Barks’s Scrooge than the old one did.
There’s one other reason I’m ecstatic about this new DuckTales, and it may be the most important one.
He’s supposed to arrive some time next month.
I’m going to be a father, something that (if I’m going to be honest) I never thought was going to happen. And not only is it happening, but it’s happening right now, just as one of the greatest things of my childhood is returning to the world. I’m going to have a son, and I’m going to have a new DuckTales series to share with him.
And after the year Erin and I have had, that little bit of joy is almost enough to make me burst.
The premiere of the new series plays all day on August 12 on Disney XD, or on the Disney XD and ABC apps for free. So that’s where you’ll find me for a while: riding a hurricane into the quaint little town of Duckberg, racing giant robots, seeking treasure, chasing crooked Beagles. And a little down the line, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with an armored accountant and the terror that flaps in the night.
It feels like coming home.
Stephen King’s Dark Tower cycle is — not to put too fine a point on it — probably the most important book series Blake and Erin have ever read. Does Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey’s new film measure up, or has director Nikolaj Arcel forgotten the face of his father? After a spoiler-free zone, the Petits get spoiler-heavy on their thoughts about the film and the books.
And what’s cool this week? Erin’s on a Dark Tower-adjacent reread of both It and Insomnia, and a binge-watch of Bob’s Burgers, while Blake wants everyone out there to pick up DC’s Super Sons.
After stealing the show in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland returns for his first solo outing as Marvel Comics’s signature webslinger in Spider-Man: Homecoming. How does he stack up to the two previous cinematic Spiders? How does he fit into the MCU? And is it wrong to find Aunt May kinda hot?
And what’s cool this week? Kenny wants everyone to hunt down some cool stuff on Patreon, Jason is already missing the wrapped-for-the-season Silicon Valley, and Blake recommends the first issue of IDW’s Clue!
After 76 years, the Showcasers are ready to talk about Wonder Woman. It’s getting rave reviews, but how does Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s entry into the DC Extended Universe stack up? Blake, Erin and Kenny talk about what makes this movie work so well.
And what’s cool this week? Erin is reading Jack Ketchum’s Offspring, Kenny is deep diving into Flash Season 3, and Blake recommends Wonder Woman Annual #1 and the Hulu documentary Batman & Bill.
The original Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel Studios’s biggest gamble, and it paid off big-time. How does the sequel measure up? Blake, Jason, Kenny, and Erin give their thoughts in this At the Movies episode!
And what’s cool this week? Jason runs through several TV shows he hopes aren’t cancelled, while Blake points the Trekkers in the audience to the Star Trek: The Next Conversation podcast.