Netflix and Marvel is there still a relationship?

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If you've been following the news over the last 10 months or so between Marvel and Netflix you've probably come across countless articles about Disney moving forward with their own on-line streaming service. The implication is that now that Disney owns, like 60% all IP in the marketplace that they would just take their ball and go home. Which would imply that Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Punisher, the Defenders and even the infamous Iron Fist would all revert back to Disney to be on their site. There are thankfully a few roadblocks to this particular plan. 

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For now it seems like Disney will not be able to actually bring the existing shows from Netflix to their streaming site because those were pre-existing deals. The other part of that is they may not really want to. First of all it's clear that Disney's streaming service is aimed solely at kids and it's doubtful they would put any films on their service that are Rated R which should provide relief for the Netflix Marvel shows as they are clearly Rated R. The next part of this conversation is whether or not they will be able to continue to create more Marvel content and that answer is also up in the air but there are some signs that it might be possible. I was encouraged a few days ago when Steven DeKnight (Daredevil, Pacific Rim & Spartacus) told an interviewer that he would love to take a crack at Moon Knight. This is a dark character that was, along with Daredevil, a part of the Marvel adult comic series Marvel Knights and would have a hard time staying PG-13 on the Disney site. This gives me some hope that not only will Netflix be able to retain the original Marvel programming they started with but may even be able to expand and add more like Moon Knight and possibly Ghost Rider, Blade and Shang-Chi. Marvel Ent. President Dan Buckley has expressed that any new projects they go for should fit the content for the networks and platforms and that includes the Disney branded service. 

I'm hoping that despite losing the other movies and TV shows on Netflix in 2019, Disney will still have a strong partnership with Netflix in the further development of more adult Marvel content. It's really a win-win for everybody. 

 

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming Gross Analysis

The Summer Box Office is finally starting to heat up after a somewhat lackluster late Winter-Spring. There were a lot of duds in there from Life to Alien: Covenant and Baywatch, as well as King Arthur, Ghost in the Shell, The Great Wall and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It’s clear that people want quality over quantity. Which is why Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, Get Out and Guardians 2 all scored big at the box office. Which brings us to this week’s release, Spider-Man: Homecoming. I had a chance to see the movie a bit earlier, and I’m not parsing my words here when I say - BEST SPIDER-MAN MOVIE - so far. And when I say BEST I mean, in my humble opinion, it rivals the best of Tobey McGuire’s Spidey. If you’re a Spidey fan through and through you probably agree that Tom Holland balances the best parts of Peter Parker and Spider-Man into the complete package. Now I promise to delve in on another post about the specifics about the movie, but today I want to take a crack at guessing the opening box office for Spider-Man and what I think it might make all in.

Let’s start with the tracking. In film distribution every film that gets released appears on tracking reports about two to three weeks before its release. Spider-Man, for instance, came on tracking at around a 15 or so and is hovering around a 24 currently, the week of the release. The tricky part about tracking is that it represents polling for first choice by the consumer. If you have a lot of movies in the field either already on screen or coming out in a week or two it can potentially take away points from any film. Because of high numbers for Wonder Woman and Despicable Me, and now War of the Planet of the Apes, it’s possible that the tracking doesn’t reflect for this week the true first choice. So it’s possible that Spider-Man very well could be under-inflated and actually be higher. It’s all kind of a gamble. Early predictions have Spider-Man opening to right around 100 million for the weekend. Not too bad, and if you were to solely base it on tracking it’s a fairly conservative number. But I don’t think that’s where this film is. I’m going to take it a bit higher. I think because the film is currently fresh at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and is garnering much early love from fans that I think it’s going to reach about 125-130 for the weekend. Which would be an improvement from Amazing Spider-Man 2 back in 2014 which opened to 91.6 million.

Now it is possible that some of the wind in Spidey’s sails has dwindled as this is the third incarnation of the superhero in as many years. But I would say Captain America: Civil War, which introduced this new Spidey last year is proof that Spider-Man is still a major draw. Spider-Man was considered one of the best parts of Civil War and I think, for fans, showed that Spidey would make a huge impression in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe.) This is also the perfect timing for a film of this type, a giant blockbuster, in the heart of summer after two very equally successful and well done Super Hero blockbusters in Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I think it helps Spidey that other closer big budgeted flicks like Transformers and The Mummy underperformed. With strong dramas like Apes and Dunkirk soon to follow it could also keep Spidey afloat as those two films seem fantastic, but also very bleak. Apes should be a big grosser but I think with the dark tone it will have a much more limited audience than Spidey. The same might be said about Dunkirk as well as it has already garnered mixed reviews. War movies are always tough especially in the summer but what makes this one even more difficult, at least in the states, is the very British narrative. These types of films usually do very minimal in the U.S., so it will be a testament to director Chris Nolan if Dunkirk makes Inception or Interstellar money. So to sum up, I feel confident that Spidey will have the proper legs to get it to a strong 325-340 million all in.

Logan - Gross Analysis

Team Weapon X - Drawn by Alex Yi 

This week’s comic book release is Logan, distributed by 20th Century Fox and it is the third, and last, film in the Wolverine series or at least to star Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Last time we took a crack at Lego Batman where I was over about 13 to 18 millon. Not too shabby, but I underestimated the kinky sex movie Fifty Shades 2. Sex still sells and clearly there was a ton of it in that movie. Go figure.

So going into this week, March 3rd, you have four movies entering the field: Logan, The Shack, Before I Fall and Table 19. None of these movies are expected to or will directly compete with Logan. It’s going to be number one without question. Internal tracking for the film, or first choice, is in the 20s. According to Fandango pre-sale ticket prices for Logan it has already surpassed early sales for all previous X-Men ensemble films, not including Deadpool. That’s an impressive start. Like Deadpool Logan is Rated R, which will be the first X-Men related franchise to put up that hard R. It worked for Deadpool because they brought the raunch the laughs and the bloody action. Logan however is much more serious. It will be interesting to see if it can put up similar numbers. On Valentine’s Day weekend last year Deadpool pulled in an insane $132 million on it’s opening weekend. For some comparison the last movie with Jackman as the lead in the Wolverine in July of 2013 grossed only $53 million and topping off at $132 million domestic. Wow for its lifetime Wolverine made almost the exact number of Deadpool’s opening weekend. The trailers for Logan have been fantastic, and this film will be incredible but I just don't see it beating Deadpool's opening number. The dark and broody tone could keep it from reaching that kind of goal. But records were made to be broken.

I’m going to put my estimate of Logan between 80-90 million opening weekend. X-Men: Age of Apocalypse grossed only $65.7 million opening weekend and topped off at $155 million. So if Logan is a solid film and the clamoring for Wolverine to go Berserker in bloody Rated R is a legit thing for audiences then I could be seriously underestimating this opening number. Whatever it is they are going to need it too cause it’s probably all downhill no matter the fantastic 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes. You got Kong: Skull Island next week and the Behemoth Beauty and the Beast the week after that. All in I’m thinking $200-225 million all in. Snikt-Snikt!

Comic Book Movies 2017

I thought I would start off the new year taking a look at some of the new comic book properties coming out in 2017. There are a lot of sequels and re-makes in the bunch I know but there is quite a lot to look forward to from animation to live action, comedy to drama. 2017 is beginning to look like a banner year in Hollywood's continual efforts to make cinema look a hell of a lot like the glossy colored books with letters that you can only get in a comic book store. I know the complaints about these movies continue to grow but I believe strongly that as long as they put the characters and stories first they will never get a complaint from me. No matter if it's Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Sony or Disney. 

The Lego Batman Movie (Feb 20) - As a man in his late 30s I proclaim loud and proud that I still watch and enjoy animated movies and TV. Sometimes the animated medium surpasses the live action versions. Like Batman the Animated Series from the 90's which is by the far the best and most consistent interpretation of Batman on the big or little screen. Now if you've seen the Lego Batman movie trailer I would say it's akin to the 60's Adam West Batman then any current iteration. But that's its intent. Warner Brothers is cashing in on the success of Lego Movie and Batman was one of the fun supporting characters in that movie so naturally it makes sense to make a Lego Batman movie. I'm certainly taking my three kids to see this cause it looks silly and fun and like the Lego movie, probably plays to both young and old audiences simultaneously. I'm always of the mind to get the kids into superheroes and comics early and Lego Batman will help that tremendously. 

Lego Batman trailer: https://youtu.be/rGQUKzSDhrg 

Logan (March 3) It's been a long road for the X-Men franchise and for me the franchise is kind of a mixed bag. My favorites so far, not including Deadpool,  have been in this order: X-Men: First Class, X-Men 2, X-Men, Days of Future Past, The Wolverine, Age of Apocalypse, Wolverine Origins and finally one of the worst comic book movies ever X-Men: Last Stand. When I first saw the trailer for Logan with the haunting voice of Johnny Cash singing a cover of Trent Reznor's Hurt it just changed everything for me. Logan is loosely based on the comic Old Man Logan an 8 part series by writer Miles Millar and artist Steve McNiven which puts Wolverine in an alternate timeline which surmises that Earth's super villains have conquered the Earth and carved it out into territories. The Super Heroes you know like Captain America and Spider-Man are all gone, but of course Wolverine remains. Obviously given the Hulk, Red Skull and Hawkeye are very prominent in the comic version they will have to be cut out of the film due to copyright issues between Disney/Marvel and Fox. Which is for the better, I think, it would be impossible to make a coherent adaptation of Old Man Logan on the big screen which it looks like Director James Mangold did not do. Doesn't mean you shouldn't read it, but some things just aren't filmable and this is one of them. From what I've seen so far it looks amazing and it is definitely one I'm looking forward to. It's finally a worthy redemption story for Logan that feels like it has real stakes. Logan ever the reluctant hero must protect what I assume is X-23. A young girl clone of the rampaging Canuck himself. Along for the ride is a very old and seemingly infirm Professor X. What's really amazing is that this doesn't look or feel like a conventional superhero tale. If I didn't know the character I would have thought it was a dark dystopian drama in the vein of the Road or I Am Legend. I loved everything about the Wolverine except for the end with Silver Samurai and it always felt like studio meddling to me. Hopefully Mangold is able to keep them out of his cut for Logan and if it is as good as the trailers suggest this could be the best of the entire series.

Logan trailer: https://youtu.be/Div0iP65aZo   

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5) Marvel is still clicking on all thrusters with each movie they come out with. The trailer for the second installment of Guardians feels like coming home. Expectations for this one is high and I hope it excels past the first one in quality and scope. The weak link in the first one was probably the villain Ronan the Accuser. He was ably played by Lee Pace but he wasn't given enough character to give him three dimensions I hope they learn from that in the new one. But let's be honest the ensemble cast here is the best part: Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and now baby Groot. The second best thing is the music and the song they picked for the 2nd trailer was perfect in "Fox on the Run" by Sweet. In fact it's so good it hit number 1 on ITunes almost immediately. Also with the added casting of Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone I gotta believe it'll be huge. Honestly I can't wait to see how they depict Ego the Living Planet in a movie. He's a character I would never have expected them to pick given that he is, you know, a living Planet. How the hell does that work? 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer: https://youtu.be/2cv2ueYnKjg

Wonder Woman (June 2) Warner Brothers has not been off to an impressive start with their DC Universe. Man of Steel was good enough but a pattern begin to form throughout that Snyder was not understanding the man in the red and blue tights. It deepened further when Snyder took on the reigns of Batman V Superman and in my opinion cocked it up. Wonder Woman's role, although short and without real purpose, still managed to make me feel excited to explore her character further. Literally Snyder just threw her in the movie with hopes that people would like her. Thankfully it was Gal Gadot and we did. Which is why I got even more excited to see the trailer for Wonder Woman, which was heavy on action and intrigue and most importantly didn't have Zach Snyder's name on it. Director Patty Jenkins is making her mark with the woman with the golden lasso and it looks pretty bad ass. Yes, the first trailer  seemed to strike a semblance to Captain America: The First Avenger given that it is a World War, just the first one this time. But the second trailer put most of that to rest. You got Chris Pine as dashing love interest Steve Trevor. It looks like it has a good sense of itself balancing the action, drama and the humor nicely, at least in the trailer. Wonder Woman looks truly fantastic and I can't wait to see what she can do. 

Wonder Woman trailer: https://youtu.be/T1j7qWUQjog

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7) I will admit I have multiple biases with this character. I thought it only fair to put my cards on the table. Firstly Spider-Man is my favorite hero. As far back as I can remember Spider-Man was a part of my life. When I was four I named my first dog, a black lab, Spider. I was obsessed with the nerdy kid with coke bottle glasses that would change into red and blue spandex and climb walls. We were nerds, social outcasts, sensitive. I identified with Peter Parker immediately. I loved him when he did his guest spot on Electric Company with a young Morgan Freeman. I loved the cartoons the comics over the years and my prized Amazing Spidey collection which I threatened my mother not to destroy. She did not. I enjoyed the Raimi/McGuire Spider-Man run with an asterisk on that third one.  The Webb/Garfield duo-logy was not too shabby but I had major issues with that second one. My biggest problem with all of these franchise however was consistency. Tobey McGuire was a great Peter Parker but his Spidey was lacking grit. He was almost too sensitive. I wanted the wisecracking Spidey. Andrew Garfield was fairly decent at both, especially the smart ass part which is essential but he too was lacking except on the Peter Parker side. Tom Holland changed that. Yes, his Spider-Man is younger and a teenager again but in the short time he was on screen in Civil War he nailed both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, wise ass with enough sensitivity and damnit he feels more like a New Yorker even though the actor is British. So that brings us to the Homecoming trailer. It looks so good, I'm almost worried that it might be too good to be true. It feels, as they promised, like John Hughes wrote a Spider-Man movie which in my mind is a wonderful thing. The icing on the cake is Michael Keaton's return to comic book movies as the Vulture and of course RDJ showing up as Tony Stark mentoring Peter and getting a little Iron Man action as well. Sign me up, I admit I'm ready to drink the kool-aid.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: https://youtu.be/oNE0zRNyXuc

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3) We don't have a trailer for this yet although some Comic-Con footage did leak out that show Bruce Banner in the woods under attack by creatures and what looked like two of the Warrior's Three, Fandral and Hogun kicking some ass. According to reports this movie takes place on various worlds with multiple heroes and villains joining Thor. Jeff Goldblum will be playing the Grandmaster who is similar to Mongul of DC fame. Grandmaster likes Gladiatorial style combat and the rumor is he makes Thor fight Hulk in such a battle. Kevin Feige and company at Marvel pretty much admitted it's World War Hulk. Doctor Strange will be making an appearance and if you've seen his movie you'll know his involvement. He is charged by Thor to locate Odin in New York. All of the key heroes from the previous installments will be here as well; Sif, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, Heimdall as well as a new Asgardian, Valkyrie. Plus Loki is returning and Cate Blanchett as the ruler of the Underworld, Hela.  This is hands down shaping up to be the best in the Thor franchise, so stay tuned for that trailer. 

Justice League (Nov 17) I want to believe this is going to be awesome and make up for the terribleness that was Batman V. Superman, but honestly I just don't know. With all the rumors about Ben Affleck now not directing Batman to all the other rumors that Justice League is turning into a massive shit show with director Zach Snyder flailing wildly while attempting to right the ship. I thought the teaser from Comic-Con was solid enough and they had more humor and gravitas in just the first few minutes then in the entirety of BvS. So that is something. I'm keeping expectations low but I'm curious to see how Snyder brings together Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and a resurrected Superman without completely shitting the bed. Could happen. I'm hoping for the best.

Justice League Comic-Con teaser: https://youtu.be/HsCkjNOzalo 

Doctor Strange

Art by Alex Yi

By the Eye of Agamotto I declare that Dr. Strange was...Fantastic. Big shocker I know but Marvel just continues to do everything right. Whether you love the Marvel Universe or not you cannot deny that they never just phone it in. They are meticulous and they allow the characters to breathe. They start with the fundamental aspect of film-making that makes or breaks a film despite the auteur filmmaker. It's the script stupid.  

I'm going to talk a bit about the movie and there will be some SPOILERS below so be forewarned. I wanted to talk first about the relationship between the comics and the film and how Dr. Strange has evolved. Dr. Strange was created by Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Hulk, Shade: The Changing Man) pretty much on his own. This is one of the major characters that although Stan Lee did write some issues he claims absolutely no ownership of it.  Ditko wrote and did the art for the character in 1963 that debuted in Strange Tales #110. Dr. Strange was never an A list hero but his creator made an art out of this very bizarre and odd form of storytelling . Despite his stories inability to capture mainstream comic fans his beautiful designs and colors stands as a testament to the art of comics and how Dr. Strange became a true reflection of the Warholian pop art community. Which is apropos to the man himself who in 1968 pulled a J.D. Salinger and retreated from Marvel and the mainstream for a small office in the concrete jungle of NYC. (You can read a geat article about his current whereabouts by Abraham Reisman) I really enjoyed the Strange Tales books from the 70's. They are trippy a bit goofy and very weird but in the best way possible.  After Ditko and then Bill Everett as writer/artist (Sub-Mariner, Daredevil, Marvel Classics)  in the late 60s it was artist Frank Brunner (Howard the Duck, Vampirella, Creepy) and writer Steve Engleheart's (Captain America, Avengers, Detective Comics) run that defined the series for most comic fans.

Dr. Strange was an arrogant neurosurgeon who, after a nasty car accident, loses the use of his hands and simultaneously ending his career. He seeks help in all directions but finds no cure until he comes to Kamar-Taj deep in the Himalayas and finds instruction from the Ancient One. He teaches Strange the mystical arts. He uses artifacts like the Eye of Agamotto and the Book of the Vishanti and says crazy things like "By the Hoary of Hosts of Hoggoth!" His main villains over the past 30 years include Baron Mordo, Mephisto, Nightmare, Satannish and the big bad himself Dormaummu. Doctor Strange is currently being written by Jason Aaron (Thor, Ghost Rider, Scalped) and artist Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men, Generation X, Shade: The Changing Man). My all time favorite Dr. Strange in the comics are his guest spots on Spider-Man. If you've been paying attention to the blog you'll notice my connection to many characters in the Marvel Universe is through the webbed wall crawler. That is not an accident as he was my primary reading as a kid. But I always loved how much of a fish out of water Spidey was every time he had dealings with Dr. Strange. Whenever Spider-Man would get sucked into another hellish dimension with Dormammu or accidentally get thrown into the astral plane. His freak outs are legendary and I always thought they were a fun pairing so keep that in mind in the future Kevin Feige. 

Cumberbatch nailed Dr. Strange in all aspects and you got to give the man his props for selling it so convincingly. This is by far one of the more difficult characters to bring to screen and he handled it with charm, deftness and sheer bad assery. The film looked incredible with the various worlds especially the mirror world was most spectacular. Now according to Rotten Tomatoes most of the reviews were positive. But  after looking a little closer I began to notice a theme. Apparently the movie was was too formulaic for their tastes and that Strange was too much of like Iron Man. And to this I say - huh? Yes Dr. Strange is arrogant and incredibly gifted and is charismatic like Tony Stark but that is the only thing that connects them.  He can be a smart ass which is probably why, on the surface, people liked to compare him to Tony Stark. The truth is he's a much more emotional and far less of a narcissist. Yet in some ways he excels at being an asshole, which the film proudly allows him to be. Dr. Strange is confident and understands his exemplary gifts which is why he is a snob to his fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) when asked to lend his talents to the ER. He has nobler aspirations yes,  dickish they may be, but after watching him perform such spectacular surgery it's hard to argue with his logic. There is however a particular trope in most blockbuster films, including this one, that I wish would be addressed and at least tweaked if not removed and that would be the training montage. I understand that no one wants to see Dr. Strange meditating and reading books but at the very least they can acknowledge that things are hard regardless of a photographic memory and that sometimes things take years to learn. For God's sakes you can throw up a 4 years later card or something. We aren't told exactly how long he's been there it may be months or years but it always bugs me so let's try to address that the next time Marvel. 

So what can we expect from Dr. Strange in the future of the Marvel Universe? Well it's clear that he will appear in Avengers: Infinity War given that it is revealed in the film that the Eye of Agamotto is the time stone, one of 5 of the Infinity stones. Up to this moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we have seen the Tesseract or Cosmic Cube from the Avengers and Captain America which is the Space Stone. The Mind Stone appeared in Loki's scepter in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron and now resides in the headpiece of the Vision. The Aether from Thor: The Dark World is discovered to be the Reality Stone. The final stone is the power gem from Guardians of the Galaxy.  All of these forces being brought together to combat Thanos who covets the 5 gems in the Infinity Gauntlet which he revealed at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, he proclaimed as he took the glove that he will have to now get them by himself. With that being said now that Strange has beat back Dormammu and is on his way to being the Sorcerer's Supreme has he created possibly two new allies for Thanos to get what he wants? The second being Baron Mordo played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who started as an ally and a mentor to Strange but by the end of the film felt betrayed by the order and is now a rogue sorcerer doing some really bad things. It sounds like he will certainly be back for the second Dr. Strange film but it would be a great twist to have him return as a heavy in Infinity War.  I appreciate that the film brought the visual style of Ditko and kept the weird while deftly bringing Strange perfectly into the Marvel Universe. Bring on Infinity War.

Politics over Feminism: Jessica Jones Season 2

I loved the first season of "Jessica Jones" and I didn't know if it was written by all women. While the fact that it was (or wasn't) is important, it is, in my view, more powerful and meaningful not to frame the season through that fact. By simply presenting the superb product of an all-women directorial team, that team can change the standards of what is considered normal business practice in an authentic way.

That's why, while on the surface a good thing, the newly announced women-centered production for the second season of "Jessica Jones" feels more like a gimmick than substantive change to me. It is imperative in comics, Hollywood, and gaming culture that women have more of a voice. Hiring more women in all fields of production is not only the right thing to do, but allows for a cultural shift to a POV richer and truer than the current, predominantly male perspective. The gimmick part for me in this is the adoption of a "tell" rather than "show" maneuver. The producers of "Jessica Jones" are putting more emphasis on this product being a political act rather than business as usual and letting the work speak for itself.

Are Super Hero Movies/TV DOA?

This is a question that has come up frequently over the last few years as the Super Hero genre has grown considerably from one or two a year, if you were lucky, to an amazing six this year. Complaints about the strength and fortitude of this genre has been scrutinized as a passing fad like the Western or too dumb and silly for the norms because they wear costumes and do magic. From big time respected Hollywood directors like Steven Spielberg to the show runner of Gotham, Bruno Heller on Fox. This criticism has not abated. My question is why all the hate? Like most things I think that the peak of Super Hero movies might have met it's zenith this year but it doesn't mean that studios are going to slow down or stop altogether any time soon. Why should they even at their worst the mainstream blockbusters have always found a way to make comfortably over 100 million dollars at the least and at most over a billion dollars or more world wide. Would you stop making these types of movies with that kind of money? 

I get it, there are some people who love superheroes and others who do not but what I want to focus on, the question people keep asking, are Comic Book movies ruining the industry? The answer to this question is simple, no. In fact it has streamlined the movie industry in a way that it will never be the same again whether you love these movies or not. Studios from Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, Universal and even some of the mid-majors like Lionsgate are all interested in franchises with their own universe so they can create more movies, video games, tv shows and the list goes on and on. They started this process with mostly just comic book properties, Marvel/Disney doing it the best and now every studio is trying to do this at some level or another and now it's not just comic book characters it's with everything. So in a sense the comic book industry has left a permanent mark on film whether you love them or not. You are always going to have bad movies whether it be an unnecessary sequel, a shitty remake, a terrible book/comic/game adaptation. Personally I would love it if all the studios got back to the art of making movies for profit rather than only looking at profit for movies. There is a distinction. 

Also just a note in closing to Bruno Heller, it's your right to call Super Heroes silly and stupid but you look like a horses ass when you say these things while working on a Super Hero show. Gotham, the show you created, is dumb and silly and doesn't feel remotely realistic and I stopped watching it mostly because you are teasing Batman on a Batman show without actually showing Batman and that just doesn't work for me. No matter how many of his villains origins you want to show. The reason comic book movies and TV work is they are faithful in spirit to their original design. It doesn't have to be paint by numbers but it has to make sense. It's that simple. 

The Legacy of Captain America

The above sketch is drawn by our illustrious artist extraordinaire Alex Yi, were about to put up a whole bunch more of his work as he has diligently been slamming out these new prints every week.

Captain America, the First Avenger, he's meant so many things to so many people over the past 75 years and this year seems the most precarious since he's finally made it to the  A-list at the movies due to Captain America: Civil War and apparently to a Hydra sleeper agent in the comic books.  I'll keep this short and sweet Steve Rogers is and will always be the moral leadership of the MCU it's not what makes him boring or predictable it's what makes him inspirational. It is why someone made a bronze statue of him which is going to remain until the end of time in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY. This current story line has made some people mad, I get it, I didn't really appreciate it either but if you've read Captain America since his inception in 1941 he's been through a lot worse and is still kicking around. This new plot line, by Nick Spencer, is I think meant to show the inverse of patriotism, for love of country. The dangers of Nationalism and blind loyalty to a symbol that was once the ultimate in trust. Thus in turn pushing the reader to understand truly what Captain America has been fighting for all of these years and why his trust actually matters. I strongly believe that Steve Rogers' morality will be restored eventually and when that happens perhaps he will have inspired another generation of Americans to always ask questions about your leaders and remind them their trust must be earned and never given. Happy Birthday, Cap! Hoping for 75 more!

 

 

Super Hero Death: Does it Support the Story or Betray the Character?

As the summer creeps up we're captivated by this year's TV show finales, keeping us wanting more in the fall. As an avid watcher of superhero shows, I've noticed there is a lot of death this year, maybe more than in previous seasons. Or maybe this year I'm beginning to notice how many super shows there are at any given time. Including the Netflix shows, I'm watching about eight at this point; by the end of the year I swear it'll be in double digits. This provides an opportunity to draw comparisons within the burgeoning genre. The question I'm wondering about, specifically, is: do these deaths further the story? Do these deaths build up the protagonist or others around them? Two shows that aired recently stick most in my mind: The Flash and Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. Be aware below there be spoilers here!!!

The Flash has been a bit of a lackluster season compared to last year. The writers have clearly run into some walls this season. The big bad this year is Jay Garrick as Zoom, another speedster, who turns out to be, once again, an ally in sheep's clothing. The beats are very similar to last season and Barry even lost his speed again this time around--slightly different circumstances, but the question has to be asked, is this going to happen every season? I'm hoping going forward that they evolve the villains and some of these plots a little bit better. Which brings me to the big shocker: this past week on The Flash when Zoom kills Barry's dad in the same house where Reverse Flash murdered Barry's mother. This didn't surprise me because ever since they freed Barry's dad from prison the writers on the show seemed to struggle mightily in figuring out what to do with Dr. Allen. When he first got out, rather than stick around after missing his kid's entire childhood, he effectively says "I gotta get out of town" and proceeds to disappear for the remainder of the season until the last few episodes. It's so obvious when Zoom kills Barry's dad, I could honestly feel the collected relief from the writers because they clearly had no idea what to do with him. They aren't completely wrong, I mean, how many dad-like figures can Barry have alive on this show? Between Earth 2 Wells and adoptive father Joe West, it's getting a bit crowded and as great as it was to have original Flash John Wesley Shipp as Henry Allen on the show, he really didn't make sense there so they decided to make him the sacrificial lamb to amp Barry up even more against Zoom. This is where I think they made their mistake. Zoom has already sufficiently teed Barry up to defeat him. They didn't need to fall into Gwen Stacy territory to further Barry's story. Also because they telegraphed the whole thing it felt even more forced and overly plotty. The show will certainly recover from this but I hope this doesn't become a trend on the show. Arrow does this kind of thing all of the time and it gets old. It took them four years to finally do away with Laurel Lance (Black Canary) who was constantly being used for shitty plot devices, plus the actress really didn't bring much to what I believe was a solid character. Death is always a part of superhero stories--some are more memorable than others--but when they are used to maximum effect it's usually an out-of-nowhere surprise in a way to raise the stakes for the story and to provide a stronger arc for the main protagonist. I fear that Henry Allen's does neither.

Moving over to Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. and their season finale, they too provide plenty of death and destruction. For the past two weeks they pushed the advertisement that one of these S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is going to buy the farm and it will apparently shock us all. They don't say that per se, but it is implied. So who is it going to be, original team members like Coulson, Daisy, Fitz, Simmons, May? Will alien-host Ward be the one to finally get dead? My wife called Lincoln, Daisy's electrified Inhuman boyfriend, to take the fall. How did she guess this? Well, Lincoln was an okay character but he was the weak link on the show and I'm sure the writers knew that. Like Henry Allen, a lot of his plot lines felt forced and he was constantly being torn away from the group to do his own thing cause he doesn't quite work with the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew. I will say though that even though this death was extremely predictable they gave him a pretty great death, as well as a quiet moment with Ward as they basically waited to die. It was a good scene, well written and thoughtful and allowed Lincoln to make his sacrifice matter and it clearly has influenced where we go into the next season. 

I think both of these were a wash. I still enjoy both shows and will continue to watch them in the future but I hope the writers of both shows build some awareness of this problem and work to make these shows as continually awesome as I know they should be. 

 

What's Next for the Punisher on Netflix?

I'm one episode away from finishing Season 2 of Daredevil and so far it's been outstanding. Yes, some of the same tropes about what makes a hero and should the hero kill are present here but they are told extraordinary well through the eyes of these characters. Most importantly this is by the far the most fleshed out and human Punisher we have ever seen on screen. He is not just a one-man, one dimensional killing machine. He feels a wide range of emotion throughout the series; anger, pain, fear and a whole lot of regret. If you look back at the previous 3 Punisher films, I think the Thomas Jane version comes close to capturing all the nuance of Frank Castle but together they are all merely cardboard cutouts compared to Jon Bernthal's take. He brings a very scary, intense and real counterpoint to Daredevil's no kill policy. It is so good when eventually Daredevil begins to question his own morality because of what he sees and what the Punisher inspires the Punisher won't allow him to be like him he respects his conviction and in a way despite the murderous qualities of Frank Castle clearly shows his nobility. I can't wait to see where they take this Frank Castle and I had some thoughts about what his show might look like. Spoilers Below for Daredevil Season 2 Be warned.....

Now since I haven't seen the last episode of Season 2 I'm not entirely sure where they leave Frank but after witnessing the excellent and brutal fight sequences in prison with Wilson Fisk and a whole slew of bad ass inmates I think it would be awesome for Frank to take on that plot that Warner Bros. was floating around for a while for Oliver Queen, a Super Max prison with the worst of the worst against Frank Castle with just his wits and whatever weapon he can find laying around. Perhaps Frank is there looking for a high value target that is operating from jail much like the Kingpin in this season of Daredevil. You can bring on some allies for him like Microchip and Detective Soap to round out the cast.  It would be brutal and intense and if they stay true to the Punisher they created here very interesting and entertaining. So let's get 'er done Marvel. Punisher season 1 2018!

I can definitely see this happening and it would be hilarious and perfect!

Deadpool's Seven Year Itch

Just wanted to showcase the extraordinary talents of Alex Yi with this fantastic panel of Deadpool feeling his inner Marilyn in a scene from The Seven Year Itch (1955). I added a few word balloons and viola.  You can check out the rest of Alex Yi's  artwork right here on his artist page just click on his name above. 

Has Diversity in Comics Improved?

Over the past two years the national conversation in the U.S. about diversity and social justice has been taking place at home, the workplace, politics and entertainment, and even influencing the Comic Book industry. We as a nation are confronting those social norms head on after recent events that have challenged the status quo and forced these raw feelings to the surface to ask the hard truths of everyone living in our society today.  

That conversation is also being held in public regarding our heroes in capes and cowls. My question, is mainstream comics, like Marvel and DC,  attempting to honestly address the issue of diversity? Or is the industry just reacting to this issue from fans while only paying lip service and therefore creating a new more complex problem? It's no secret that for a long time comic books have been very slow to bring these issues to the forefront.

You have had characters like Luke Cage,  Black Panther, The Falcon, Cyborg, Wonder Woman and Black Widow for quite a long time now and they are unique with their own titles. The problem is many of them have struggled to make it to what one would say A list characters.  Why? I think Luke Cage, Falcon and Black Panther have been getting the Renaissance they deserve lately due in part to Netflix and the Marvel films and because they are also great characters and I think people want to see more of them. Luke Cage, a black man from Harlem, who was falsely accused of a crime and sent to prison, was experimented on and developed unbreakable skin. If there is anyone in comic books at the moment that embodies the Black Lives Matter movement it is Luke Cage. This is exactly where comic books succeed in telling a narrative that reflects the time and allows readers to find empathy in the struggles of others who they may not initially identify with. Over at DC Wonder Woman is also attempting to shed her sexist past by trying to find a balance between her iconic yet ridiculous  bathing suit armor to a more 21st Century battle design. It's still a work in progress but Wonder Woman is finally getting her own movie and is standing strong next to Superman and Batman in the upcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice next month.   

Now I'm mostly focusing on Marvel comics because they have been a bit more controversial in their current slate after the past few Earth shaking events like Fear Itself, Avengers vs. X-Men and now the new Secret Wars that have rocked the Marvel U. Marvel is appearing to approach diversity as a rallying cry, as a way to address past sins. On a few occasions in the past I believe they have been successful, Iron Man and War Machine, Miles Morales and Peter Parker but I'm going to use a newer example,  Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel. Originally Captain Mar-vell an alien from the Kree empire became a champion for Earth and accidentally gave some of his powers to an Air Force pilot named Carol Danvers. Carol became Ms. Marvel in 1977, which sparked a bit of a revolution as one of Carol's primary storylines was equal pay for women, which I guess puts Ms. Marvel on the map for her Feminist history.  Recently Marvel made the wise decision to make Carol Captain Marvel and this has allowed her character to grow to a solid A list character. Where she is now pitted against Tony Stark in the upcoming Civil War 2 event. Marvel then made another important change by creating a new character, with new powers, a Pakistani American teen named Kamala Khan to be the new Ms. Marvel. This is an important point of growth for Marvel as Carol will never need to be Ms. Marvel again which allows Kamala to own the character and create a new path of her own. 

Which brings me to the mis-steps in Marvel's strategy. Let's start with Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, created in 1969 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan has been a vital member of the Avengers and a rock of loyalty for his best friend Steve Rogers, Captain America. Recently due to certain events Captain America is now aging normally which puts him in his 90s and he's forced to hang up the shield. Falcon is now given a new identity as Captain America with the addition of his flying wings. Normally this shouldn't be too much of a problem, in fact it could be similar to what happened with Carol the only problem is Captain America is a much bigger deal than Mar-vel. Which is why, earlier this year it was announced that the original Star Spangled man Steve Rogers will be returning to the mantle later this year and Falcon will remain as Captain America. Two Captain America's will now exist. So how exactly is Sam Wilson expected to hold up with the original Captain America now that they are both fighting crime with the same name at the same time? What was wrong with the Falcon and why couldn't he have remained the Falcon maybe just with Cap's Shield? Sam Wilson, like Luke Cage, has a very relevant history that takes him down various paths. After his parents are murdered at different stages of his life he becomes bitter and angry. His character has been on both sides of the law and through his hardship and adversity he learns to fight from Captain America and Black Panther and finds an expert skill in training birds. He was a member of the Defenders and later a member of the Avengers. It seems unfair to have boxed him in this corner just so Marvel could keep a brand name going until they could figure out what to do with the original character. 

Another character whom I feel has also taken an unnecessary path is Thor. Recently Thor has found himself unworthy of his hammer, Mjolnir, yet again. Meanwhile a mysterious woman picks it up and is now calling herself Thor. We discover later that this mystery woman is Jane Foster former lover of original Thor. Now original Thor has not as of yet made himself worthy of his hammer again but, like Captain America before him I'm sure it's coming soon. Does he just take the hammer back then? What happens to Jane? Thor is not a brand name, he's not the Green Lantern Corps. His name is Thor so why couldn't Jane Foster pick up the hammer and have a new super hero name?  Other heroes in the Marvel Universe have held the hammer at one time or another but they didn't think to call themselves Thor. This is not something I think that helps Jane Foster who like many others is co-opted to a signature character because the parent company doesn't want to have a break in circulation for the title but they want to show that they are diverse in making such a decision. So they do something like this rather than allow Jane Foster to make up her own super hero identity with her own name. 

In conclusion I think it wise for Marvel and DC to take a step back and examine the field. I think it's important to have characters to catch up with the times which means more African American characters, LGBT, Asian, Latino, Muslim, the list goes on. With that said it's time for a new group of Stan Lee's, Steve Ditko's and Jack Kirby's.   They should be tasked with creating a whole new batch of characters. I mean let's face it we haven't had very many since the 60s and 70s, so think outside the box. It would also help to continue to push diversity on the other side of the page. Some of these artists and writers have been in the industry already for over 20 years, people like Gail Simone, Dwayne McDuffie, Joe Quionnes, Reginald Hudlin, Frank Cho, Sara Pichelli,  Khoi Pham, Ryan Benjamin, Jim Lee and Amanda Connor and new comer Alex Yi. What I'm saying is Brian Bendis & Geoff Johns can't do it all and frankly they shouldn't. So as fans let's keep encouraging the guys at the top of the chain to create new mythologies, with new diverse creators and new adventures that project our future in order to preserve the art of comic storytelling for generations to come. 

Netflix's Marvel Universe: Road to the Defenders

Some really exciting news has been surfacing as of late about the budding world of Marvel's street level super heroes on Netflix. First it looks like they can't seem to move fast enough to get another season of Jessica Jones back for next year. Luke Cage is shaping up to be interesting with a solid return from Claire Temple/Night Nurse (Rosario Dawson) who is officially the Coulson of the Netflix Marvel U since she keeps showing up on every new show.  Also it looks like Luke Cage will be pulling some old school heroes and villains from the 70's with a retro makeover. Hero Misty Knight is showing up as hopefully part of Hero for Hire which was the agency Luke and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) set up to right wrongs..for a price in the comics. It would be awesome to see it in full force in his show. I don't see Danny Rand on the cast list on IMDB but we know for sure he's going to have his own tv show or at least a Netflix movie in the next year or so. Mike Colter who plays Luke Cage is telling the comic sites that Danny Rand has already been cast but they just haven't revealed it yet. They seem to be having a little trouble getting Iron Fist off the ground perhaps they are having difficulty balancing the mystical aspect of his powers and mission versus the street level heroes they have created already in Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Still,  can't wait to see who Marvel has picked to throw fire punches.  Daredevil is also coming back in March for it's 2nd season this time featuring Elektra and the Punisher. Apparently Marvel was so thrilled with Jon Bernthal's take on Frank Castle that they are ordering up a solo show for him down the road.

What's most intriguing about this upcoming season is that the Punisher is playing more of an antagonist to Charlie Cox's Daredevil. Which is really exciting. Not to mention we are going to get a good look at Daredevil's on and off girlfriend Elektra this season and possibly a glimpse of the baddest of Daredevil baddies, Bullseye. All roads are leading toward the Defenders, which is why I wrote this article in the first place. So the question is what is the Defenders and what shape will it take on Netflix. In the comics the Defenders were created in 1971 and they were kind of like the spiritual version of the Avengers. They consisted of Dr. Strange, the Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor. They primarily fought supernatural and magical foes but they did rotate the roster throughout it's run with heroes like Luke Cage, Valkyrie, Night Hawk, Iron Fist and Beast from the X-Men. I'm going to take a wild leap and say that these new Defenders probably won't be fighting too many people with magical powers which means the Mandarin, Fing Fang Foom and Dormmamu are certainly out. Doctor Strange is clearly out since he is hitting the big screen Nov. 4 this year. This looks to be really only taking the Defenders name and making them a street level Avengers team. This team is pretty clearly Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist and there are rumors that the Punisher and or Blade may be one too. Not sure what I think about this as Punisher is truly a loner and does not work well with others but it could be interesting as long as he isn't just shoe horned in. Blade however could be very cool especially if they somehow find a way to connect it to the Wesley Snipes films. The rumor is that Snipes is looking to reprise the role as an older worn out Blade and his daughter is taking up the mantle. It's an exciting time to be a comics fan with the Marvel Universe expanding further into more connected projects. The next big question, will anyone from these series transfer to what's going on in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018?  

Netflix - Road to the Defenders

Daredevil Season 2: 3/18/16

Luke Cage Season 1: 11/16 ???

Jessica Jones Season 2: 2017 ??

Iron Fist Season 1: 2017 ??

Punisher Season 1 2017 ???

Blade Season 1 2018 ???? (This one is still very much a rumor but it's an intriguing one.)

Defenders Season 1 No date set