Episode 321: Summer Movie Preview 2016

It’s the merry, merry month of May, and that means the summer movie season is about to kick into gear. This week Blake and Erin take a look at all the big releases from Captain America: Civil War through Suicide Squad, with stops along the way for some X-Men action, a visit with Pixar’s favorite fish, and a heated discussion over this summer’s most divisive movie, the Ghostbusters remake!

And what’s cool this week? Erin is continuing her Stephen King kick with Pet Sematary and Blake has enjoyed Avengers: Standoff and The Final Days of Superman.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 321: Summer Movie Preview 2016

 

Your Turn to Pick Episode 5: Riki-Oh, The Story of Ricky

It’s Erin’s turn to pick! In this episode, she turns to the kung-fu oddity Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. What lies at the core of the Manga-inspired 1991 prison flick? And will Blake be able to survive it?

And what’s cool this week? Erin just keeps watching trailers over and over, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Suicide Squad occupying her time, while Blake enjoyed the first issue of Marvel’s Poe Dameron series.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Your Turn to Pick Episode 5: Riki-Oh, the Story of Ricky

 

DC Rebirth: The Liveblog

DC RebirthDC Comics is going to be giving the dirt on Rebirth this morning at Wondercon, and they’re livestreaming the event on their YouTube channel. Dutiful nerd that I am, I decided to watch. Then I thought, what the heck? I’ve got a nerd blog. Why not post my reactions in real time as well?

So keep it on this page during the panel, folks, and hit refresh every few minutes. I’ll update as they do.

Kicking things off, they showed a video of DC heroes over the years, then they brought Dan DiDio and Jim Lee to the stage. Lee’s kind of adorkable, not entirely comfortable on camera but doing his best.

DiDio is calling rebirth a “reconnection to the fans” and says he wants to show the fans “we care about these characters as much as you do.” Without transcribing every word, he’s basically saying, “We hear you, and we feel it too, and here’s Geoff Johns to tell you more.”

(Brief tangent: How awesome is it that we live in an age where they can make this announcement in California, they put it on the internet, and I can watch it on my TV at home?)

Johns: “Rebirth is NOT a reboot.” As we have heard. He’s calling it “the next chapter.”

Johns on Green Lantern: Rebirth, and how it relates to the new initiative: “Rebirth is about taking everything, past and present, taking everything wonderful about these characters and bringing them to the fore.”

“What’s missing to me is Legacy.” YES.

The Rebirth one-shot in May will feature “the biggest secret in the DC Universe.” It will return some characters. It “may” feature the death of a character. Because of course it will.

Showing off some of the new designs for the characters. Oh my GOD, I love Supergirl so much. As soon as the pictures make it online, I’ll try to add them to this post.

Didio reiterates that the books will all be $2.99 an issue, with 17 twice-monthly titles and 14 monthly books. So fewer titles overall, but about the same number of issues a month.

Now we’re getting a video of fans and creators saying what their favorite DC stories are. I’m not disagreeing with any of the choices, but the audio sucks. We keep getting echo from the hall, and the sound is really low. Hopefully this isn’t going to be anything vital.

Bringing out the “Bat-Family,” Tom King (whose Vision is awesome) writing Batman, James Tynion IV on Detective Comics, Tim Seely on Nightwing, Hope Larsen on Batgirl and I missed the names of the women writing Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. This Batman image is crazy — a man and woman behind him wearing costumes with Batman colors but Superman-shield-shaped symbols with old lettering.

Augh, the video froze! Somebody tell them in LA!

It’s back.

TIM DRAKE AS ROBIN IN DETECTIVE COMICS! It’s a team book with Batman, Tim, Batwoman, Spoiler, CLAYFACE, and Cassandra Cain, whose new identity will come out of Batman and Robin Eternal.

Seeley’s first Nightwing arc is called “Better than Batman.” Tom King is verklempt.

Hope Larsen’s Batgirl looks like she’s running with the ball from the Burnside era, but taking her to Asia to “find herself as a person.” Rafael Albuquerque on art.

Julie Benson and Shawna Benson on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Somebody is pretending to be Oracle, and Barbara is ticked off. Black Canary and Huntress on the team… what version of the Huntress, then?

Scott Snyder, whose Batman has been awesome, will be teaming with John Romita Jr., on a twice-monthly All Star Batman. Romita’s co-artists will be Jock and Sean Murphy. Snyder says he wants to do stuff with the villains he hasn’t gotten to do before. At this point, you could give Snyder a Care Bears comic and I would read it. Also, Snyder is now DC-exclusive.

I’m sorry, I gotta say it again — Tim Drake as Robin.. And wearing a version of his classic costume. This makes me SO HAPPY.

Superman family!

Dan Jurgens writing Action Comics! The image is Superman slugging it with Lex Luthor in a kind of Superman armor. Dan says that this is the Superman and Lois from the current Lois and Clark series.

Gene Yang on New Superman. This one looks odd. It stars a Chinese teenager who somehow gets Superman’s powers. If anyone can do it, it Yang.

Steve Orlando on Supergirl! Again, I love this costume. It’s much more like the TV suit, and very classic-looking. Cat Grant is in the image too. Cyborg Superman (who in this universe is Kara’s father, Zor-El) will be in the book too.

Trinity, written and drawn by Francis Manapul, starring you-know who.

Phil Jimenez writing and drawing Superwoman! (Who the hell is Superwoman?)

Peter Tomasi writing Superman, which is awesome.

Then there’s Liam Sharpe on Wonder Woman. Is she a Superman-family book now? Jim Lee is calling Sharp his “big get” for Rebirth, like Greg Capullo was for the New 52. The costume, especially the colors, is very reminiscent of Gal Gadot. The book will be written by Greg Rucka!

The book will be written by Greg Rucka! And Sharp will be sharing art chores with Nicola Scott. Rucka says Sharp will be doing odd-numbered issues that take place in the present, while Scott will do even-numbered “Wonder Woman Year One” stories. Scott is AMAZING. This is a perfect fit for her.

Up next will be the Justice League family.

Tony Daniel doing art for Justice League. Bryan Hitch writing. TWO Green Lanterns on the team — Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

Joshua Williamson writing Flash. New Flash villain, “Godspeed.” Nice and creepy visual on this guy – skinny, all white, almost like Slenderman meets the Flash.

Robert Venditi writing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. This book will have Ethan Van Sciver and Rafael Sandoval on art. Venditi says the book begins with Sinestro planting his Warworld in the center of the universe, where Oa once was, and it’s the story of what Hal and the Corps (including John Stewart and Guy Gardner) do next.

Sam Humphries writing Green Lanterns. Johns is going to co-write the Rebirth one-shot with Humphries. The book will star Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz as “the new Green Lanterns of Earth.” They’re rookies, partners, and “don’t know what they think of each other yet.” Humphries calls it “Lethal Weapon with alien technology.” Nice. The Red Lanterns are the bad guys in this book.

John Semper on Cyborg. Art by Will Conrad and, one of my favorites, Paul Pelletier. Semper says the book will be about Cyborg as someone “already living with the Singularity… where does the soul of the man begin and the soul of the machine start?”

Dan Abnett on Aquaman. Johns talks about Abnett’s past awesome work on Legion Lost and Guardians of the Galaxy. He’ll be co-writing with Brad Walker, who also will be sharing art chores with two others. (They’re flashing the credits on screen, guys, I’m writing as fast as I can, but I miss some.) Abnett says in this book Aquaman wants to make Atlantis “part of the world.” I can totally see Arthur sitting in a United Nations panel.

Abnett will also be writing Titans with Nightwing, Arsenal, Donna Troy, Tempest. Who is the woman in green?

Jason Fabok is here to talk about issue 50 of the current Justice League run, which he’s drawing. He says it will “blow your minds.” Okaaaay… so why are we talking about it on the Rebirth panel? I assume it’ll lead into the one-shot?

Holy crap. Johns just said this is going to follow-up on the part in issue 42 where Batman asks the Mobius Chair what the Joker’s real name is. They teased this with an image of many Jokers throughout the years. What the HELL are they up to?

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner on Harley Quinn. Jim Lee says these two have made Harley “the fourth pillar that supports House DC.” Hard to argue with that. Conner says the book will have “more of the same madness PLUS.” The costume looks like they’ve merged the New 52 version with the movie version. She definitely has Margot Robbie hair.

Philip Tan on Suicide Squad. Lee will also be working with Rob Williams writing. He clarifies that each twice-monthly book has “a team of artists.” They tried to find artists with similar styles and sensibilities that work well together. Tan calls the book about “redemption.” The team will be Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Rick Flagg, Katana, Boomerang… basically the movie team. Lee further says that Harley and Croc will be an interesting team-up, and Conner jumps in with “Harley’s power is that she doesn’t really know that she can’t do anything.” DiDio adds that she’s now DC-exclusive.

Conner says a lot more guest-stars in Harley’s book, including Poison Ivy, Power Girl, and a lot more “bat-characters and non-bat characters.”

Remaining titles:
Ben Percy on Green Arrow.
Red Hood and the Outlaws co-starring Bizarro and Artemis.
The Hellblazer by Simon Oliver, with Swamp Thing.
Deathstroke with Christopher Priest.
Batman Beyond with Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang. “The return of Terry McGuinness.”
Blue Beetle with Keith Giffen, starring Jaime Reyes AND HIS MENTOR TED KORD!
Damian Wayne leads the new Teen Titans, by Ben Percy. The Titans apparently aren’t thrilled about this.
Super Sons — no creative team, but “Son of Superman meets son of Batman.”
Justice League of America — “which we can’t talk about yet,” Johns says.

Finally, the full cover of the Rebirth special, by Gary Frank, shows the heres of the DC universe reaching out towards a hand reaching out from the light. It’s intriguing, to say the least.Rebirth special, by Gary Frank, shows the heres of the DC universe reaching out towards a hand reaching out from the light. It’s intriguing, to say the least.

Overall impressions… I’m really liking what I’m seeing. There are some killer creative teams, and some books I can’t believe I’m seeing. Some stuff is outright insane, but in a good way.

You have my attention, DC Comics.

 

 

Learning the Wrong Lessons From Deadpool

Deadpool Movie PosterIn case you somehow missed it, the Deadpool movie was released last weekend and immediately began shattering box office records: best February opening of all time, best opening ever for an R-rated movie, best opening ever for a first-time director (that’d be Tim Miller), and it came in third in the swimsuit competition. And of course, as always, the movie industry began to thoughtfully and meticulously scrutinize the film’s success to determine what qualities helped it reap the bounty, then implement carefully-considered strategies to create new content that may also be prosperous for the studios.

Ha! I’m kidding, of course. No, the movie studios immediately concluded that the American public wants superhero movies to be full of F-words and Ryan Reynolds’s ass. So today, in what could easily be the first in an infinite series of columns, I would like to discuss how 20th Century Fox – and probably every other major studio – has completely missed the point of what made Deadpool kick butt.

Let’s start with what is probably the least significant part of its success: the timing. Like I said, Deadpool’s $135 million broke the record for the highest February opening of all time. But look at the competition: Zoolander 2, the sequel nobody asked for, and How to Be Single, a movie built around Rebel Wilson playing the only character she ever plays, and who wasn’t even entertaining the first time she did it. That’s not to say Deadpool wasn’t a good movie – in fact, that’s my whole point. January and February, traditionally, have been cinematic graveyards where studios try to bury movies they don’t think anybody will want to see in a season where they don’t think people want to go to the movies. I’ve long believed this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not that people don’t want to go to the movies in February, it’s that the studios don’t give them movies worth watching. Deadpool demonstrates that if you make a movie people want to see, they’ll come out to see it no matter when it is released.

WolverineAnd that brings us to the second question: why was Deadpool a movie people wanted to see? The blood? We have the news for that. The nudity? We have the Internet. The profanity? We have public high schools. All of these are easy answers, and all of these are wrong. And yet, when Fox immediately followed the box office number announcement by saying the third Wolverine movie will be rated R, they’re essentially saying that’s the reason that Deadpool worked. This is incredibly small-minded.

(To be fair, making an R-rated Wolverine was at least under discussion as far back as the first solo movie starring the character. It’s not a new idea. But man, they made sure to let everybody know that after the weekend box office closed, didn’t they?)

The reason those elements worked in Deadpool is because all of the hyper-violence and irreverent dialogue helped to create a tone that is faithful to the character. We didn’t want to see violence, necessarily, we just wanted to see the Deadpool we love. In fact, I’m going to be a little controversial here: I don’t even think Deadpool needed to be an R-rated movie. I don’t mind that it was, I very much enjoyed it, but despite what a lot of people seem to think the majority of his comic book appearances have not been full of F-bombs and boobs. (Sure, the violence is there, but the MPAA is way less concerned with violence than sex or language. Chop off all the limbs you want, but God forbid you show a nipple.)

What are they going to do in an R-rated Wolverine movie that will make it better than the first two? Curse more? The word he’s most associated with in the comics is “bub.” Bury him in naked women? Wolverine’s romantic relationships are classically tortured. Sure the fighting may be more explicit, but does anybody really think X-Men Origins: Wolverine would have been a good movie if only they showed more blood when Hugh Jackman cut off Ryan Reynolds’s head?

Superman the MovieThe best superhero movies (and in fact, most of the best adaptations of any kind) are those that maintain the spirit and feel of the source material: Richard Donner’s Superman, the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe work for precisely this reason. People who have read about a character for years – decades even – don’t want to see a version of a character whipped up by committee, they want to see the version they love. (This, of course, will cause debate when a character has been around long enough that there are multiple valid interpretations, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Compare that to the most epic failure of recent years, the 2015 Fantastic Four. The movie takes a comic whose best stories are about a family of explorers and turns them into a militarized unit who barely share any screen time. Director Josh Trank maintains that studio meddling sank his movie. I tend to think that when the director reportedly tells his actors not to read the comics the movie is based on, there isn’t much more a studio can do to screw it up.

Batman-The Killing 1Let’s not forget that tone is dependent on the individual story as well. There was a lot of buzz last year when the producers of the upcoming Batman: The Killing Joke animated movie announced they were given permission by the studio to go for an R-rated film. It doesn’t have to be, but this is the story that forever entrenched the Joker as a true icon of evil. Gone was the bank robbing clown of the Silver Age – now he was a horrific, unhinged psychopath acting out on a twisted fixation with Batman by torturing his friends. It would be hard to tell that story faithfully and still maintain a PG-13. But that doesn’t mean a Ben Affleck Batman movie or an animated version of the first appearance of Bat-Mite should suddenly be rated R.

All of this is to say that, yes, you probably could make a good R-rated Wolverine movie, but it won’t be good because it’s rated R. The other elements need to be there too.

But what about all of the people who enjoyed Deadpool but don’t read comics? They don’t know if the depiction on screen is faithful to the comic book, and most of them wouldn’t care if they did. So why did they come out in force to see this movie? For one thing, of course, the marketing campaign was as brilliant as the marketing for John Carter was abysmal, but good marketing will only get you so far. People also liked the movie. Why? Obviously, the answer for each individual person will differ, but if I were to venture a guess for the majority, I would say it’s because it’s something different. Look, I would be perfectly happy all day long if they just took the scripts of my favorite comics and put them on screen in front of me, but I also know I’m a 10th-level nerd and what I want probably doesn’t apply to the public at large.

Spider-Man BittenWhat does apply, however, is that people get tired of seeing the same thing. Origin stories, for example. Not just comic fans, but viewers in general are done with origin stories. Nobody needs to see Krypton blow up, Thomas and Martha Wayne gunned down, or Peter Parker bitten by a spider ever again. We get it.

Even with less iconic characters, origin stories are largely unnecessary at this point. If a character in a movie is a cop, a firefighter, or a baseball player, people don’t demand we spend half the movie explaining how we get to that point before the real plot begins. Granted, superheroes follow a less conventional path than those other occupations, but at this point the public is familiar enough with the tropes that all but the most convoluted of origins can usually be dealt with in a quick flashback or a few lines of expository dialogue.

“But Blake,” you say, “Deadpool was an origin movie. Doesn’t that contradict your point?” Man, you can be kind of a jerk sometimes. But no, it doesn’t contradict my point. I said that origins are unnecessary, not that they can’t be done well. Audiences – myself included – will accept even the most tired premise if the execution is entertaining and original enough.

M Payoff 1shtAnd that brings me to the most important part of Deadpool’s success. It didn’t matter that it was an origin, because it still felt different from any other superhero movie of the last 17 years. (I consider the modern era of superhero movie to have begun with 1999’s Blade. You know, that other R-rated Marvel movie everybody seems to have forgotten about.) Look at the major successes since then. After the first few years, when superheroes were still a novelty, the biggest movies all brought something new to the table. Iron Man was cocky, witty, and did away with that secret identity jazz right away. It was unique at the time. What’s more, the after-credits stinger (another novelty in 2008) opened the doors for the then-revolutionary Marvel Cinematic Universe. That eventually led to Avengers, another mega-hit, because we had never before seen six superheroes from four different movies come together as a team. The best movies of the eight years since Iron Man all bring something different to the superhero. Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political thriller. The Dark Knight was an epic crime drama. And none of them – even the ones that were sequels to other movies – felt like anything else we had ever seen.

SuicideSquadPoster-181c2In an odd way, this actually makes Suicide Squad the most interesting superhero movie for the rest of 2016. I’m the most die-hard Superman fan you’ll find, and I’ve been waiting to see him on screen with Batman and Wonder Woman since I learned how to read. I couldn’t be more excited for that movie. But Suicide Squad is the first time, as far as I can remember, that a superhero movie has actually starred the villains. (You could make an argument for Magneto and Mystique in the most recent X-Men movies, but the moral ambiguity in those films is so thick that nobody could hear you anyway.) We’ve seen villain-starring comics plenty of times, but it’s never really happened on screen. That means the success or failure of this movie will be one for the books. The trailer was very well-received and people seem to be excited about it.

Which means the weekend after it comes out, expect Fox to announce a new X-Factor movie, starring the classic line-up of Sabertooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Toad, and Galactus. Because they just don’t seem to get it.

Episode 316: San Diego 2015-We Weren’t There Either

Last weekend was the annual bacchanalia of nerddom known as Comic-Con International: San Diego. And just like every year, Blake and Erin… weren’t there. Instead, with the help of Showcasers on the Facebook Page, they spent the week gathering the coolest and most interesting info from the con to discuss on this week’s show. Their thoughts on the Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer. New directors announced for Star Wars. The return of some classic comics and the launch of some new ones. This week, we go through it all…

And what’s cool this week? Erin enjoyed the first two issues of Starfire, and Blake gives his endorsement to Archie #1 and Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 316: San Diego 2015-We Weren’t There Either

Episode 314: Free Comic Book Day 2015

Free Comic Book Day rolls around once again, and once again Blake and Kenny — joined for the first time by Erin — man a table at BSI Comics in Metairie. This time around the gang chats about recent events in the Flash and Gotham TV shows, give their thoughts on Divergence, All New All Different Avengers, Fight Club, Dark Circle and the other Free Comic Book Day titles, and then come back with a review of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

And what’s cool this week? Kenny is having a blast with LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, Erin is totally biased and chooses her husband’s new book Everything You Need to Know to Survive English Class but slightly less biased with a viewing of the classic Akira, and Blake is still reeling from Batman #40.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 314: Free Comic Book Day 2015

Episode 310: Six Years of Super Cinema

A few weeks ago, Warner Bros announced their slate of planned DC Comics movies through 2020. Not to be outdone, Marvel hit us with Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe a few days later. With Sony and Fox joining the fray with their licenses, there are over three dozen superhero movies in the works that we know of. This week, the Showcasers talk about the movies that have been announced — which ones are we excited for? Which ones have us a bit concerned? And which ones will surprise us if the cameras ever actually roll?

And what’s cool this week? Kenny is into the Constantine TV show, Erin is making her way through Anne Rice‘s Vampire Chronicles, and Blake gives props to Rocket Raccoon #5 and Tooth & Claw #1.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.