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This wallpaper is a beautiful and stunning illustration of Thor’s father Odin of Asgard by John Aslarona.
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Nineteen years ago today, Jacob Kurtzberg, better known as Jack “King” Kirby passed away. Since he started in the comic book industry in the 1930s, Kirby has left an indelible mark on the medium, influencing generations of artists and writers and inspiring readers with his imaginative worlds both cosmic and Earth-bound.
Said Gil Kane of Kirby:
“Jack was a natural-and he was a natural early on before the wall hit him. I thought that in the early ’40s, he was just about the best guy around. He had a narrative style that was way beyond Lou Fine or any of these guys. On top of that, he really knew enough about drawing and everything so that there was simply no upgrading him. He was just excellent.” (Source: TwoMorrows Publishing)
Kirby was not only the progenitor of the Marvel look that would define the Silver Age, but he was a creative tour de force, developing some of Marvel and DC’s best characters. Such as…
Kirby was on the ground floor of Cap’s creation along with his frequent collaborator Joe Simon. When the two started working for Timely Comics (which would later become Marvel), they produced the Sentinel of Liberty in 1941. The character was so successful that Kirby was offered a position as Timely’s art director, though he and Simon would later leave for National Comics (which would eventually become DC Comics) after they felt their deal with publisher Martin Goodman wasn’t being honored.
The book that started Kirby’s influence over the Silver Age, the first family of Marvel defined Kirby’s signature style and showcased his ability to go beyond the usual boundaries of storytelling by reinventing the cosmos as he saw fit. Through the Fantastic Four, and Kirby, we would also get characters like The Silver Surfer, Galactus, Doctor Doom, and Uatu the Watcher. One of the more memorable stories involved the Fantastic Four actually meeting their creator, which firmly cemented Kirby’s status as the true creative force behind the Marvel Universe. His status at Marvel coupled with his frequent collaborations with Stan Lee put him at the creative ground floor of other Marvel characters like Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, the original X-Men, and Black Panther - all of whom were penciled by Kirby with a few co-plotted by the artist when Lee couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts and handed the projects off to other creators.
After another falling out with Marvel over breaches of contract and some dirty dealings concerning the lack of credit given to Kirby for character’s he’d created or co-created, the “King” of comics moved on to DC in the early 70′s where he produced a number of titles linked together under the moniker of “The Fourth World.” First introduced through Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Kirby’s cosmic soap opera began with the villain Darkseid and later expanded to include the planets of Apokalips and New Genesis. These warring planets were inhabited by heroes like Orion, Mister Miracle, Big Barda, and the Forever People as well as the many minions of Darkseid like Granny Goodness, Desaad, Sleeze, Glorious Godfrey, Kalibak, and the Female Furies.
His work at DC also included O.M.A.C., Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, and Etrigan the Demon!
Outside of the comic book industry, Kirby was involved in several animation projects like Thundarr the Barbarian and illustrated an adaptation of Disney’s The Black Hole. Most recently, his involvement in “The Canadian Caper” during the Iranian Hostage Crisis was referenced in the movie Argo (2012) where Kirby is portrayed in a quick cameo by Michael Parks, though his storyboards are featured throughout the movie.
Jack Kirby’s style and influence as a creator and artist has followed him from his beginnings as a freelance artist and well into the 21st Century. Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Cavalier and Clay is in part a tribute to Kirby and other creators of the Golden Age of Comics with Joseph Cavalier standing in as the Kirby surrogate. Jazz musician Greg Bendian did an entire album, Requiem for Jack Kirby, as a tribute to the man with each session based on one of his creations. Superman: The Animated Series modeled Detective Dan Turpin on Kirby, going so far as to dedicate the episode “Apokalips…Now! Part 2″ in his memory. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage comics even paid tribute to Kirby in Donatello’s solo book, which was later turned into a tribute episode of the 2003 animated series entitled “The King” where Donatello meets an artist named Kirby. There’s even a Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center website where you can learn more about Kirby and his continued influence in the world of comic books and art.
And if you’d like to see physical proof of Kirby’s influence in the here and now:
That’s my arm, by the way. Just in case it wasn’t obvious.
So, there you have it, Kirby is forever imprinted on multiple generations of comic book creators and readers. Artist, writer, decorated veteran, Jack Kirby may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. And as one of my favorite comedians Greg Proops says in tribute to those that have shuffled the mortal coil: Jack Kirby is a swirling vortex of cosmic splendor. He shines brightly in a sea of stars so that we might look upon him and wonder.
The saying goes, “A hero is only as good as his villain.” Superheroes are a varied lot that range from vigilantes to boy scouts, but they would be nothing without an opposing force to stand up against. At worst a villain is un-memorable, making no impact on the hero or the course of his/her life, simply there to be story fodder. The best villains, however, are the ones that make an impact. They challenge the hero, pushing them to their limits in mind, body, and spirit. A good villain – a great villain – leaves a mark not only on the hero, but on the reader or viewer. As Mr. Glass says in M. Night Shyamalan’s underrated Unbreakable:
In a comic, you know how you can tell who the arch-villain’s going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero…
It’s why Superman and Lex Luthor will forever go toe to toe in the ultimate battle of brains versus brawn and why Batman and The Joker are eternally locked in a game neither can simply end. It’s why Magneto and Professor X can never see eye to eye and why Doctor Doom continues to hound The Fantastic Four. The villain defines the hero and gives us the necessary motivation to root for their victory. We want the hero to triumph and the villain provides us with that necessary foil.
Translating that to the big screen, however, can be a bit tricky. We want our heroes to be challenged, but finding the right villain that will appease comic book fans and the general movie-going public is a strange form of alchemy. Sometimes we get lightning in a bottle (Heath Ledger’s Joker comes to mind) and other times…we get Bruce Banner’s father. Marvel movies, and we’re talking Marvel Studios for the purposes of this article, tend to favor the charisma of the hero over the machinations of the villains, which is why, I think, it’s harder to pin down a prominent villain. DC movies, oddly enough, have the opposite problem with the villains eclipsing the heroes (no offense, Christian Bale – I still love you!) Both universes have interesting dynamics, but neither has been able to strike the right balance entirely.
Last week, we were treated to the release of the Iron Man 3 trailer. Not due in theaters until May 2013, IM3 will be the first movie to kick off the next round of Marvel films leading up to The Avengers 2 in 2015. In the trailer we get brief glimpses of the two villains Tony Stark will be going up against: Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley). Killian isn’t a major villain in the comic books, mostly known for creating the Extremis virus, but The Mandarin has been one of Tony Stark’s most enduring villains. It’s an interesting mix of adversaries. One is inexorably tied to Tony’s world of science and technology, while the other’s chief source of power are ten magical rings adorning his fingers. Thor already explained that science and magic are practically one and the same in the Marvel Universe, but the villains Tony has dealt with individually have all been technologically based. The villainous combo could make or break the film considering the lackluster performance of Marvel sequels, but I’d prefer to remain optimistic for the time being.
Given that Tony’s trials and tribulations are just around the corner, Thor will be going up against the Dark Elves, Cap will be fighting The Winter Soldier, and Thanos looms over Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers 2, I thought it might be prudent to look back on past Marvel movies and see how effective their villains have been in defining our heroes. I will be keeping this strictly within the Marvel Studios movie universe since the properties owned by Fox and Sony would keep us here all day. But, for the record, Magneto, William Stryker in X-2, and Doc Ock, have been the only good villains to come out of those movies.
Iron Man (2008): By all accounts, the first Iron Man movie shouldn’t work. It’s essentially a movie about a guy who builds a suit three times and blows a lot of shit up in the process. What makes this movie is the utter charm and charisma of one Mr. Robert Downey, Jr. He is Tony Stark and the movie is really about the journey Tony takes from selfish, playboy, weapons manufacturer to less selfish, somewhat playboyish, superhero. Hey, ya gotta crawl before you can walk. But, of course, we need a villain and while the terrorists who kidnapped Tony were effective enough for the first and second acts, the true villain of the movie is the Stark’s long-time family friend and business partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). Like I said, the movie is about Tony’s arc and the fabrication of the Iron Man suit, so Stane is relegated to your average run-of-the-mill villain. His motives aren’t new (weapons = money = power) and he’s not really a foil for Tony as much as he’s an obstacle, which is probably the point. Had Stane been more charismatic or more sympathetic, the story would have shifted away from Tony, so it’s not a surprise that Stane’s purpose is to just make Tony look good to the audience. That doesn’t mean Obadiah isn’t entertaining to watch, especially the scenes between him and Tony before we learn his true nature.
The Incredible Hulk (2008): After the atrocity that was The Hulk, Sony Pictures actually gave the rights to the character back to Marvel. Already putting into motion the idea of an Avengers movie, Marvel Studios began the process of world-building with a brief cameo by Tony Stark in the movie to tie the two worlds together. Putting aside crazy scientist fathers, Bruce Banner/The Hulk’s (Edward Norton) main adversaries are General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) and Emil Blonsky, aka The Abomination (Tim Roth). Though Ross doggedly pursues Banner, he’s there primarily to put Bruce in a corner and let loose The Hulk’s counterpart. The Abomination is the result of a combination of Bruce’s gamma-exposed blood and the super soldier serum, creating an unstable and powerful creature. Though The Hulk is a manifestation of Bruce’s anger, The Abomination is all Blonksy’s delusions of grandeur and power made real. While that might’ve made for some interesting storytelling, The Abomination is only there to go berserk so Ross will have to turn to Bruce to stop what he created. There’s no real purpose to any of it as it just results in an overlong CGI fight sequence and Banner going on the run yet again.
Iron Man 2 (2010): Oy, this movie. Aside from the numerous reasons why this movie doesn’t work, the villains make up a significant portion of why Iron Man 2 isn’t exactly the greatest of sequels. Plot wise, there’s just too much going on and with the rushed production to meet the schedule for The Avengers, the flaws in the movie show. In Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) we’re supposed to see who Tony was, a man selling weapons with no compunction for the lives lost because of those tools of destruction. The juxtaposition works…sort of. Sam Rockwell commits to the role entirely (he’s one of the few bright spots in the movie) but there’s nothing overtly threatening about him that would make him a formidable opponent to Tony. Where we’re really supposed to see the danger is in Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash (Mickey Rourke). The Russian mechanical genius is out for revenge against the Stark family for stealing the patent his father shared with Howard Stark for the arc reactor technology keeping Tony alive. While Vanko and Tony get a nice fight in the beginning of the movie, they barely interact until the last twenty minutes of the film and, even then, the climactic battle between Whiplash, Iron Man, and War Machine was a let down. Whiplash is mostly seen upgrading Chambers’ robotic suits until the end when his inevitable betrayal occurs.
Thor (2011): The film that tested the audience’s ability to accept the “magical” portions of the Marvel Universe, Thor was a surprise hit due in part to directory Kenneth Branagh’s ability to emphasize the Shakespearean elements of the tale: loyalty, power, and family feuds. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is probably the best of the Marvel Universe villains because his descent into villainy coincides with Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) rise as a hero. The film goes to great lengths to set up Thor’s arrogance and Loki’s playful trickery, but also their brotherly affection that takes a turn for the worse when Thor endangers the peace between Asgard and Jotunheim and Loki learns of his true parentage. While Thor’s exile changes him for the better, Loki broods and plots in an attempt to prove himself the rightful king of Asgard. But never at any point do we hate Loki. We sympathize with him because we learn along with him that all he’s known, everything that he is, is a lie. His need for power and the pleasure he takes in torturing and almost killing Thor are the result of a man who’s entire identity has been destroyed. The final confrontation between Thor and Loki is built upon the shattering of a family and Loki’s literal fall is a heart-breaking moment.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): While I do love this movie quite a lot, I admit, there are some problems. Though the film rightly spends a great deal of time with scrawny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), once he’s transformed into Captain America, the plot becomes a bit jumbled as the movie scrambles to get Cap to a certain point to justify the lead-in to The Avengers. That being said, it’s still a great movie. One of the places where the movie falls flat, unfortunately, is in the main villain The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Cap and The Red Skull are the ultimate yin and yang. Both are the recipients of the super soldier serum and both are forever changed by the process. Unfortunately, and to the movie’s detriment, the hero and villain interact very little. Steve learns of The Red Skull from Dr. Erskine before he takes the serum and encounters him after rescuing Bucky. There’s a brief exchange of fists and words, but the two are separated by a walkway in a burning warehouse and don’t meet again until the end of the film. It’s a bit of a waste considering they are philosophically and politically polar opposites. Most of the second act is just Cap and the Howling Commandos making life difficult for Red Skull through a series of montages and Red Skull, in turn, yells a lot and is mostly responsible for the “death” of Bucky. A lot more could have been mined out of this dynamic, but again, it was all leading up to…
The Avengers (2012): The sum total of four years worth of Marvel movies, The Avengers was a two hour payoff for fans across the globe. After setting up all the heroes in the previous movies, all they needed was a reason to come together as a team. Enter Loki and the Chitauri. Loki, now in full blown villain mode is helped by a mysterious benefactor to travel to Earth and set in motion an invasion by the Chitauri. While Loki is still a charismatic villain, and Joss Whedon does draw a great deal on the emotional investment of Thor with his wayward brother, he and the Chitauri factor very little into the overall movie. We want to see The Avengers assemble, and by God they do! The villain could have literally been anyone with enough power to make the team’s formation necessary. Loki just happened to be a really great villain from a previous movie, which worked out for the better as we didn’t need a lot of backstory in setting him up as the chief antagonist. The Chitauri, however, are really just there to show up, present an obstacle for the heroes, and die. The only challenge they present is that there are a lot of them and only six heroes to fight back.
So, there ya have it, all the Marvel villains thus far. Will Killian and The Mandarin make their mark on the movie-going audience? Maybe. It’d be nice if there were more villains running around to invest our time in, but we all know it’s leading up to Thanos, so hopefully the next round of Marvel movies will at least provide us with some meat to sink our teeth into. We want the hero to win, but the villain’s gotta give him/her a run for their money first!
[Update: The character of Justin Chambers has been changed to Justin Hammer to correct a mistake on my part. Don't know why I put Chambers there. Chalk it up to your head being one place while your fingers are typing something else!]
Cyclops, possessed by the Phoenix Force, killed Professor Charles Xavier last month in Avengers vs. X-Men #11, possibly one of comics’ most significant deaths. The amazingly popular X-Men starred in 1991’s X-Men #1, the best-selling comic book of all time, and several movies and animated series since. Their founder’s demise will yield consequences, not just for the characters, but for countless fans as well.
Professor Xavier put the “X” in “X-Men,” and the tone and spirit of that team’s stories will be changed irrevocably without him.
His death signals the end of the X-Men’s halcyon days, which hooked many of us on the characters to begin with. Those were the days when, no matter what happened to our mutant heroes, they wound up back at the mansion (or somewhere), safe at home as one happy dysfunctional family. You felt good knowing that the X-Men, at their core, weren’t just about surviving oppression; they were about the union that comes from surviving together, and a strident undercurrent of community shined through. They fought for a world that hated and feared them, and we bonded with them the way they bonded with each other.
The Professor’s death represents a tonal shift in the X-Men’s purpose away from that period, and from stories that thrilled many of us when we were younger and more idealistic.
Murder rarely lasts in comics, so it’s possible he’ll return in spite of Marvel’s statements to the contrary. He’s died and returned before, and hell, he’s a telepath. Who’s to say his mind isn’t floating around in someone else’s body or as some kind of psychic ghost? (Besides, if there’s any power set that lends itself to survival after the physical body’s gone, it’s the mental one.)
But if Marvel makes this one last, the X-Men are in for an attitude adjustment that will change their identity, and it will be an interesting requiem for a man whose singular vision empowered one of the most creatively successful teams in superhero history.
Living in a Fatherless World
Sure, the Professor vanished before over the years, but never completely. His previous deaths weren’t permanent, and if he was away with Shi’ar or something, you knew he’d be back. But if this recent death is the real deal, the X-Men really are on their own, and reality is bittersweet. The Professor was like your parents: No matter how old or independent you grow, they’re always around, even if you don’t need them anymore or live in their house. It’s only when they die that you are truly alone, even if they supported you and taught you how to live without them. You’re strong enough to go on, but you’re not too strong for the sadness.
That made Professor Xavier different from other team leaders and mentors, and that’s why he resonated so uniquely with readers. The Avengers, Justice League, and Teen Titans have leaders, but those people aren’t members’ parents too. Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Black Widow respect Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, but those men didn’t raise them. Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Booster Gold weren’t maligned, insecure teenagers whom Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman took in. And Robin, who’s often in the same age group as his fellow Titans, is like a brother or team captain to them, not a father.
Consequently Charles Xavier, with his expansive estate full of young people who had nowhere else to go and few grown-ups fit to handle them, embodied something special. If it’s true that people live vicariously through stories they read or watch, then X-Men tales made the audience want to live, learn, and be loved in an environment where others struggled the way they did. Readers felt safe under the stewardship of a benevolent professor who wanted what was best for them.
The Saint Who’s Sinned… Quite Often
The Professor had his good points, but he wasn’t without fault.
In fact, his transgressions are serious, depending on your sensibilities:
But the big question is, do these transgressions tarnish his legacy as a force for good?
It’s hard to say. That whole I-love-Jean thing is kinda skeevy, but most writers pretend it never happened (thank goodness), so it’s debatable these days if it’s Marvel Universe canon. And memory wiping the X-Men to make them forget that Krakoa killed some of them? TOTAL retcon to create drama, even though it was arguably out-of-character and made poor Charles look bad in the process. You can give him a pass for that if you’re forgiving, because what really happened was, Marvel sacrificed his integrity to sell books (which no serialized character is immune to, no matter how revered). It’s mainly the Gabrielle Haller / Legion stuff that sticks like a thorn in the Professor’s semi-pristine side, and it’s a pretty big thorn.
You can probably think of other dastardly deeds to pin on him, but, like most parents who disappoint their children, that doesn’t mean he didn’t give others love and security. The Professor nurtured several superheroes in a way no other mainstream Marvel or DC character has in such a large number.
The Future of the X
The Professor’s death signals the end of the X-Men’s golden era, at least when it comes to their mission statement. He preached tolerance and advocated for unity between the oppressors and the oppressed, and that wish defined the X-Men for decades.
But it’s a legacy the X-Men may have abandoned years ago. The character hadn’t occupied the spiritual leader role since 2007, circa Messiah Complex, and his perspective on the X-Men’s place in the world had possibly grown obsolete. For the better part of 10 years, the team hasn’t been written as superheroes protecting a world that hates and fears them; it’s been written as a small country of victims fighting against a world trying to wipe them out.
It’s no coincidence that Marvel ushered the Professor out of the picture right around the time when the X-Men started camping out on an island nation thousands of miles, both literally and figuratively, from the stately mansion they occupied previously. Cyclops took the mutant leader role, and then he fought Wolverine for it, and Marvel conveniently wrote the Professor out of the action the whole time. He returned from storyline limbo to be killed off in Avengers vs. X-Men so the “kids” could captain the ship through turbulent waters without him.
Consequently, thousands — perhaps millions — of fans may regard his death with a collective “meh.” The Professor’s role in the Marvel Universe was to help young mutants develop into adults, so if many them are now grown, who needs him? In fictional storytelling, when a character’s not needed anymore, that usually means death, so who cares, right?
Several will, starting with the X-Men themselves. Marvel bigwig Axel Alonso himself told Newsarama that the Professor’s passing will have “a ripple effect across the Marvel Universe,” and the ripples will undoubtedly shake his students the strongest. His absence will evoke powerful emotions from the X-Men, driving story for years to come.
But for the readers, his death won’t just give us interesting X-Men tales to read; it’ll prompt us to remember a part of our own lives more fondly. When we were younger, and the world was simpler, it was wonderful to read lovely tales of outcasts who were metaphors for those of us who felt different from everyone around us. We wanted to be those boys and girls with special powers, great adventures, and who earned respect at a school we wish we had… and it all started with a telepath named Charles Xavier.
So here’s to Professor X, comics’ most prolific father. You’ll be missed if you’re truly gone, and may your unconditional love guide the X-Men for the rest of their lives, no matter what they face, just like it comforted us no matter what we faced in ours.
Marvel announced that The Avengers will be back in theaters for the next week starting today via the Avengers Facebook Page. If you somehow missed it the first time around, the poster spoils the villainous, smiling mid-credit scene star, Thanos. Their announcement also reminds the crowd to stick around all the way through the credits for the comedic shawarma scene that I myself missed by hastily thinking they wouldn’t have another scene after the mid credit sequence.
This announcement will have the movie in the theaters only three short weeks prior to the Blu-ray/DVD release on September 25th. It has me wanting to go revisit the greatness of the film on the big screen, but I was already amping myself up for a home screening upon the release to Blu-Ray. Oh well, guess I’ll be doing both!
The film, according to Box Office Mojo has grossed almost $1.5 billion to this point. With this re-release set so shortly after the initial release and so shortly before the Blu-ray/DVD release, how many of you will give up the cash to go view it again on the big screen? Do you think Marvel has already claimed enough of your cash, or are you dying to see it one more time with the assembled super heroes at a theater near you? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Write it down, folks! Walt Disney Studios officially confirmed the release date for Marvel’s The Avengers sequel and I’m already jonesing for my ticket.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the first movie is currently the third highest grossing film of all time. Much speculation has circled around the 2015 opening date, but now for the official news:
“SEQUEL TO MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS TO HIT THEATERS MAY 1, 2015
The Walt Disney Studios has announced a release date for Marvel Studios’ sequel to the biggest Super Hero blockbuster and third highest grossing film of all time, Marvel’s The Avengers. Joss Whedon returns to write and direct the UNTITLED MARVEL’S AVENGERS SEQUEL set for release May 1, 2015.”
Of course, this means fans will be ravenous to spot Easter eggs, teasers, hints, and winks in the solo movies (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy), eventually leading up to Avengers 2.
I am just a sucker for nearly any kind of concept art. I love being able to see different iterations of characters and the development of sets and other things. One of my favorite artists by far is Constantine Sekeris. Thankfully he has recently updated his blog with new images from Green Lantern, Thor, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man 3, Hellboy and more. A small sampling of his work can be seen below, but check out his blog for even more fantastic art.
It seems that in nearly every superhero book, it is always humans that get to be the heroes. There are a few exceptions of course, but on the whole, humans all the way.
Now that is down to people being able to relate to the characters. But what about Squirrels? Who do they have to relate to? There is Squirrel Girl but that is about it. Why not have actual squirrels as heroes? It can be done, just see below.
Marvel has been pushing its new Marvel: Now! initiative pretty hard since it was first announced at SDCC. However, what news they’ve let out has been in bits and pieces, presumably under the auspices of the “less is more” axiom. Well, we’ve decided to try to put the pieces together and provide an overview as coherently as we can for you here.
There have been two main pieces to this press release puzzle. The Promotions, a series of images with very little information, consisting of nothing more than the creative teams and a single word description, and the public relations stories on the books themselves, along with associated interviews, which reveal quite a bit more.
Some of the earliest bits we fans got were a series of images, explaining what NOW! was going to be using the creative teams with one word descriptions for the books that they were going to be doing. These were fairly easy to decipher.
Mark Waid & Leinil Yu
|Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, & Tony Moore
|Rick Remender & John Romita Jr.
|Matt Fraction &
|Simon Spurrier &
Tan Eng Huat
|Matt Fraction and Mike Allred
Missing from these promo images are four more titles that are flying the Marvel NOW! banner, Thor: God of Thunder (as opposed to Thor: Your Neighborhood Butcher, and Thor: That Weird Guy Up The Street Who Gives Apples and Toothbrushes to Kids on Halloween) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, Iron Man by Kieron Gillen and Greg Land, Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender and John Cassaday, and All-New X-Men, by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. I suppose those could have been CRASH, FERROUS , ERMAGEHRD, and WTF, AGAIN?!.
Marvel has been sending out press releases with a fervor matched only by a Twilight fan who is confronted with the fact that The Hunger Games is a better story overall, and that Katniss is a better protagonist than Bella. One after another, with a speed that is hard for to keep up with, information is being given to fans in a piecemeal manner, tidbits dropping here and there with seemingly no logic behind the way they are given. It is the same for the Marvel NOW! book press releases. Here is what we’ve gathered thus far, in the order of the above listed books.
The Marvel press release reveals that following the events of the AvX The Hulk and Bruce Banner will have merged, bringing the intelligence of Banner to the brute strength of The Hulk. According to Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, this innovative approach (ignoring, of course, the other times it has happened, most notably Peter David’s run of The Incredible Hulkin the early 90s), along with The Hulk being brought under the umbrella of S.H.I.E.L.D. will allow Waid and Yu to take the character in directions that will have fans asking ’Why didn’t I think of that!?’.
Waid says in an interview with CBR “ The reception to our approach on ”Daredevil“ had a lot to do with how I’m coming at Hulk — assuming that everything we know about Hulk is still true, everything he’s been through — but, as we did with Daredevil, having Banner turn a corner and deciding to take a whole new, less “woe is me” view of his condition.
In 1962, Hulk was one of the most unique characters ever in comics because he viewed his powers as a curse, not a blessing. But that point of view is no longer unique — heck, that’s practically the emotional keynote of half the superhero books currently running. So Marvel gave their blessing to morph that attitude into something a little more heroic.”
On which villains The Hulk may be facing, Waid had this to say:
As with “Daredevil,” I want to stay away from the usual suspects for a while and shop around outside the established franchise — Frost Giants, Psycho-Man, Kang the Conqueror, Attuma. All those and more are on tap.
Marvel says about Deadpool’s relaunch, “Washington, D.C. is in turmoil when dead former U.S. Presidents – from George Washington to Gerald Ford – are resurrected and the heroes of the Marvel Universe can’t be the ones to stop them! There’s only one other person that has the reputation, skills, and plausible deniability to handle these com-monsters in chief…NOW! is the time for Deadpool!”
Executive branch zombies? Duggan explains a little more about the pitch, “It starts with a man who has decided that America has a lot of problems that can only be fixed by bringing back our former leaders, our great American Presidents. But that’s not how it works out. Once they’re back, they have a completely different idea of what they need to do and what the country needs. It’s a distasteful job having to send our presidents back, but Deadpool is up for the job and is suited for it. They’re not equal in terms of their planning, but in their own way they have returned corrupted. ”
Posehn explains why Deadpool is the right man for the job, “Deadpool is definitely the right guy, because it’s big news if the Avengers kill a President, not as big news when someone who everybody hates kills a President.”
Of course, Deadpool isn’t just known for his over-the-top ultra-violence, fans can get that in about 1000 other books on the selves. What keeps the fans coming back is the humor. How do the writers think their humor stands up? Duggan answers:
There’s stuff that makes us laugh, and it makes Marvel laugh, and Jordan laugh. We’ve definitely pushed the boundary. We’ve heard [Editor Jordan D. White] say no, but he’s always laughed when he said no, so we know we’re in the right ballpark. The no’s have been firm, but we settle on a yes that’s in the shade of the no. It’s very close to the no. We’ve been very very happy with what we’ve been able to get through.
Captain America will be thrown into a situation he doesn’t quite understand, without the support of the groups he’s had his entire career, according to Marvel. Scribe Rick Remender adds “This won’t be Cap getting orders and going off to serve S.H.I.E.L.D., this is going to be Steve dealing with threats he sees and at first he’s a bit reactionary. He’ll be dealing with the day-to-day and doing his normal thing and when our story opens the inciting incident will change his life so dramatically that in ten issues he’ll be an entirely different person.”
Over the years, Cap has become a sort of cipher, being nothing but the symbol that he represents, but Remender plans to bring the character of Steve Rogers back to the forefront, “He’s really lost himself to Captain America at this point and Steve Rogers the man is an afterthought.” He continues, “At a certain point the distinction between who is Steve and who is Captain America becomes blurred. To speak to that, to deal with it, half of this first story, which is 10 issues, deals with Steve growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1920’s and 30’s. We get to see what made him into this 98 pound weakling who was so committed to service and standing up to bullies. We know that point in his life when he’s the 98 pound weakling with a big heart who won’t give up and he’s going to serve, but we don’t know how a human being earns that. ”
With Arnim Zola as the main villian for the first arc, Remender describes what he likes about the character as a foil for Cap:
Given that he’s this terrible monster with no morals—he’ll torture, mutate and twist up things on his quest for knowledge—we give him a family. We give him something he cares about and is trying to move forward as well. You’ve got on one side all of these things I said, a person who’s motivated to experiment on living things just for the knowledge because that’s his passion, but you also have someone who has a family and something that he’s trying to build as well that plays at odds with Steve and it involves Steve. This draws him into the story in a reactionary way instead of him going out looking for Zola.
Marvel’s First Family is back, and on vacation? Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben pack up the kids and take the Fantasticar out for the longest road trip ever. Does this mean we can look forward to panel after panel of Franklin and Valeria asking “Are we there yet?” Editor-in-Chief Alonso doesn’t think so, “Matt [Fraction] and Mark [Bagley] are taking the world’s greatest family of science-adventurers on a road trip through every conceivable corner of the Marvel Universe. It’s a long and winding road, filled with friends and foes, both old and new, and challenges unlike anything they’ve ever faced. What doesn’t break the Richards family will only make it stronger.”
While not much has been revealed about the story yet, Matt Fraction has revealed what the writing duties on this book mean to him, “ The family unit of it all; adventure dad, adventure mom, that whole thing, when you’re a kid, is great. And The Thing. Greatest comics character of all time, or super greatest? Now I’m struck that in 102 issues, Stan and Jack pretty much built a universe. That’s a tall order, creatively, an impossibly high bar.” He continues, ”I want to tackle that kind of challenge, to take on a book whose mandate, whose creative soul, means to invent wildly and with reckless abandon.”
The tone of Marvel’s flagship book is a big deal for readers, what insight can Fraction give about this?
“The Incredibles.” That “The Incredibles” was kind of the perfect modern Fantastic Four story and wasn’t a Fantastic Four story is, like, a provocation of creative war, y’know? Again, talk about impossibly high bars, but there you go. Can there be a Fantastic Four that’s wildly new, wildly inventive, and that appeals to everybody that might encounter it, regardless of their age or how many comics they’ve read? Let’s find out.
David Haller (also known as Legion) as long been the Black Sheep of the X-men family, both figuratively, and literally. The young man with a shattered personality and as many differing powers as personas is getting his own book, and learning what it is like to be integrated with society.
What will the story consist of? Alonso has this to say in the official press release, “From a windswept rehabilitation camp for damaged psychics to the horrific sci-fi prison of Legion’s own mind, readers will embark on a journey unlike anything they’ve ever experienced on an X-Men title, as Legion struggles with his tortured family legacy and bumps shoulders with characters that span the X-Men Universe. ’Yours ain’t a life where the guy with the biggest pecs wins the day,’ Legion is told in issue #1. And truer words were never spoken.”
Writer Spurrior on the challenges writing such a tortured character, “The real trick with this brand new start was to find a way to rationalize—and, yes, visualize—David’s mental condition, so it’s not just this Deus Ex Machina to be deployed whenever we need a problem or a solution. If we’ve done it right—and I think we have—it should provide just as much drama, conflict, action and explodo as the more classical “external” adventures our guy is off having at the same time.”
How will the creative team handle the different shifts in personality that are bound to come from such a character? Spurrior again:
“Split personalities” risks being a bit of a daft concept at the best of times, but when you start having to invent “rules” for how the control mechanism works it gets super-wordy and gobbles up real estate on the page. So we’ve spent a long time coming up with something very visual which we can show rather than explain; something very simple but beautifully weird and full of all the same narrative stakes—Life and Death! Empathetic characters! Goals! Sex, Drugs, Rock’n’Roll!—as we’ll be getting in the “outside” world.
With the Fantastic Four off on National Lampoon’s Galactic Vacation, what about Earth? Who will protect the planet from forces wanting to conquer or destroy it? Well, who besides The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, The Uncanny Avengers, The All-New X-Men, The Indestructible Hulk, and the Power Rangers (wait, one of those isn’t right)?
Alonso has this to say on the topic, ”Someone’s got to guard the fort, and Reed’s handpicked replacement team — courtesy of Matt and Mike’s unique creative synergy – is truly fantastic in its own right. Facing a relentless siege of villains with bones to pick, this team quickly realizes that the best defense against certain, uhm, Doom, is a good offense.”
Mike Allred is no stranger to working with oddball characters, here is what he had to say on working with Reed Richard’s hand picked B-Team, ” When I was approached with a project starring one of my all-time favorite, and vastly under-rated, characters, Ant-Man, I leapt out of my shoes. Literally. Those shoes are ruined now. Ant-Man has been there from the beginning. One of the very first Marvel heroes, folks; I think the first or second behind the Fantastic Four. Most people don’t know that.
Then add claiming the Baxter Building with my fave Marvel lady, Medusa, big and sexy She-Hulk, and one of the cleverest creations in recent memory, Miss Thing—now I’m almost out of my skin. Fortunately that’s just a figure of speech. I’m still tucked nicely away into my skin.”
Not many details are known about what the new book’s story will be, but one thing is evident, writer Matt Fraction’s excitement about the project:
“The FF is a chance to radically remix and reinvent the familiar aspects of the Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation into something all new and wild. Standing on its own but interlinked with Fantastic Four, the all-new FF will be doing things the Fantastic Four could only dream of before.”
Here is what we know about this title (other than it having the least needed subtitle of all time): the creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic will be crafting a story that takes place in three different eras, “ a sort of “Year One” story with a young Thor; focus on present-day Thor who is of course the great hero of the Avengers; and then also do kind of a far-future,Dark Knight Returns sort of story” says Aaron in an interview with Newsarama. The first story arc with be about 5 issues, and the overlying foe will be a new villain known as “The God Butcher”.
Arron tells a bit more about his experience writing the book, “I think this is a different kind of story than I’ve done before. It’s certainly different than the other stuff that I’m doing right now. It’s very different from Hulk, and Wolverine and the X-Men. I never walk into a project saying, “I want to strike exactly this kind of tone.” It all just kind of happens as I work on what the story is going to be. Thor has developed into a much darker book than what I’m doing on Wolverine and the X-Men, but it’s still balanced with all sorts of fantasy trappings, and the kind of things that come with Thor’s world — there are flying horses, and magic weapons, and references to trolls and dragons and all that sort of stuff. But in terms of tone, this is probably about as straight and serious a Marvel book as I’ve done.”
Wait? Magic weapons? Surely those are just for his allies and enemies, right? Not according to perhaps the most telling part of the official Marvel press release:
An all-new direction! All-new threats! All-new weapons! This is Thor NOW!
In many ways Iron Man has always been about a very smart, very flawed man in a very expensive suit. But mostly it’s been about the suit. Writer Kieron Gillen plans on taking this and developing both the man and the suit. Gone is the same suit for every mission, gone is the man who just rushes around trying to fix every problem in a reactionary method, and gone, thank the Lords of Kobol, are over reaching story arcs.
“The first five issues will be single stories that will share [both] a defining motif and a plot,” says Gillen in an interview with Marvel, ”But it will be Iron Man facing new instances of technology and each is basically a new villain. Each issue will illuminate something about Tony and they’re all very different. Issue two is a lot like the Bruce Lee Kung-Fu Island story; it’s like a joust, it’s all about the knight imagery, essentially going to a tournament. Issue three is like a ninja story, Tony Stark trying to be a full-on stealth master, issue four is a horror story and issue five is something a little more romantic and scientific but I’m going to keep that one under wraps.”
On the armor, Gillen had this to say, “As opposed to doing the [morphing] armor, he’s doing precision-based tech. He’ll have to switch out arms and legs. His argument being that you can get more kick out of a specific tool and the theme [of it will] be about making choices and living with it. It will be like choosing a specific suit for a specific mission, taking a certain arm configuration and taking a different piece off. There will be a lot of changes in the armor throughout the series; in the first five issues there will be a different armor every issue.”
Gillen seems to have the perfect attitude coming into a project like this:
The best thing about the character is the character. I just want to do a lot of new things and Iron Man is all about invention.
Since this book is born directly from events at the end of AvX, much of its story is being kept under wraps. The first book to be released for the relauch, Uncanny Avengers is what some fans would see as the logical progression after AvX, a team blended from both groups. Consisting of Captain America, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Rogue, Thor, and being led by Havok, this team will be the public face of integration of humans and mutants.
However, things won’t be so well-defined at the start. Remender on the forming of the team, ”The team itself really isn’t even created until halfway through the first year. It’s still chaos. I didn’t want it to just be like “And now everybody shakes hands and hugs!” There’s still a really good arc of these things kind of coalescing and cooking into a soufflé of A and X.”
This book, above all else will be a team book, and why these particular characters come together. The most obvious reason is, of course, a common foe, which in this case will be the Red Skull. Though it won’t be The Red Skull we are used to seeing, Remender again, “This Red Skull is a digital recording that Arnim Zola took during the middle of World War II and saved it with a machine that can create a clone that was basically in a bunker. Red Skull said “Create a duplicate of me that will wake up in 70 or 80 years when everybody has forgotten what I’ve done, and the world won’t be out hunting me anymore.” And so this Red Skull, he woke up however many months or years back from now, and he’s a Red Skull taken directly out of World War II. The Red Skull we’ve seen as he grew and progressed in the Marvel Universe, that guy died. This guy is almost a reset of The Red Skull, and that works really well for the analogy with civil rights stuff.”
But why The Red Skull? Again, very few actual details are to be had, but Remender did have this to say
There are things happening in the Marvel universe at the end of AvX that lead somebody like The Red Skull to seeing a reason for doing away with the mutants, and that’s a plot that we’ve obviously seen many, many times. Somebody wants to kill off the mutants, the mutants are chased and killed off. I can’t tell you the specifics of what makes this different because it’s all pinned on the end of AvX, but it’s a very clean motive that he has.
As sketchy as details are for Uncanny Avengers, at least there are details. We only really know two things about All-New X-men.
1) These are the X-Men from early in their careers. How early? Bendis isn’t telling, only letting us know, “Yes, you’ll see in the book when exactly we grabbed them. I wanted them at the start when they aren’t as powerful as they become, but also when they’re focused on being a team. I didn’t want Jean to have her telepathy yet because she only had telekinesis at first. If she could read everyone’s minds it would take away [something]. It’s a very specific moment. [They are wearing the] original costumes and the fun is that, as X-Men fans, we know that they weren’t long for those costumes.”
So Pre-individual costumes. That put’s these X-Men coming from some point before Uncanny X-Men #39, unless he counts the minor redesign that Jean Grey did in #27. Either way, very early in their careers.
2) Bendis is in this for the long haul. “I have an idea in front of me that has already given me a notebook full of ideas with which to write. That’s what a good run starts from and it feels really good. If the audience participates accordingly, then I will hunker down for longer. I’m also under contract for a while so I have to write something. I want to do an X-run. There’s something nice about knowing that I can’t beat Chris Claremont’s record [of 16 years writing the X-Men], so I can relax.”
This book will be a game changer for the mutant community, and, I for one am looking forward to this reintroduction of characters that I fell in love with so long ago.
What are your thoughts on the Marvel NOW! relaunch? Are their books that excite you more than the others? Is there a title that you are just dreading? Let us know in the comments below!
Warner Bros., as many of you probably already know, owns DC Comics, so their studio is in charge of bringing folks like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and all those other DC top dogs to the big screen, like, well… in a Justice League movie (duh, right?).
Now, before you start scoffing and saying things like, “Ben Affleck? From Good Will Hunting and Pearl Harbor and Daredevil and stuff? He’s like, DIRECTING sh!t now? Good lord, what are they thinking?” it’s worth noting that he also directed critically acclaimed films like The Town and Gone Baby Gone. He may surprise you with what he can do behind the scenes.
But before I have you running around thinking that the deal’s been settled already, I’ll just tell you that it actually hasn’t. He’s being considered and will be meeting with execs soon, according to Variety, so nothing’s been confirmed.
And Deadline is claiming that Affleck’s reps are saying he’s not doing it. (But that he is indeed meeting with execs, so their news is kinda the same as Variety’s).
Apparently, Affleck has said in the past that he’d only direct films he could act in, so it’s possible that he’d play a role in the film if he wound up directing it. None of his reps or Warners would talk to Variety to confirm or deny, though, so who knows?
Affleck’s got other potential deals with Warners on his plate, too. He could direct an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand and Replay, a sci-fi thriller about a man who re-lives his life repeatedly, with different partners and careers each time. It’s unclear at this point if he’d be able to do either of those if he accepted Justice League.
In DC’s comic universe, the Justice League is the alpha team equivalent to Marvel’s Avengers, so it appears that Warners is getting its ducks in a row to produce the blockbuster version of their A-Team, especially since The Avengers just made enough money in the theaters to bankroll ten small countries for at least a few years. Big screen superheroes, as you know, are in.
Just yesterday, Marvel and Disney announced that Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed The Avengers, is returning for the sequel, so today’s announcement by DC and Warners could be calculated to steal some of that media buzz away from their No. 1 competitor, though that Marvel buzz will return in full force once the Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America sequels start coming out.
But DC’s got The Man of Steel coming next year, and if that’s a hit, then the DC buzz will grow powerful enough to sustain itself for a while if the marketing department works it right, I suppose.
Marvel Now! has been kept quite quiet considering how big an impact it will have. All Marvel have released so far is little teasers that might not even be for the books we expect.
The story will follow a young Thor, Thor the Avenger and Thor the last king of Asgard, in a book that spans not only time zones, but also the entire universe. Aaron has planned a grand story which will see Thor meet other gods throughout his thousand years of life, only to see them all die off, leaving their mortal followers with only one hope – Thor.
To break it down even more, as Aaron did himself, there is a god killing serial killer on the loose, effecting every stage of Thor’s life, which he must stop, even when he is the last king and something has gone terribly wrong.
“Jason and Esad have created a Thor story for the ages, and a villain unlike anything our hero has ever faced,” said Marvel Editor In Chief Axel Alonso. “Combine Jason’s trademark storytelling with Esad’s majestic visuals and the result is a story of breathtaking scale that is sure to thrill a new generation of readers. This is going to be a book to watch.”
“Thor, by definition, demands stories of a grand scale,” explained Jason Aaron in an interview with Marvel.com. “This story spans millennia – from the Viking Age to the far flung future. And it takes us all across the Marvel Universe as well. From Earth to the far corners of space, and from all new otherworldly cities of gods to an Asgard like we’ve never seen before, we definitely cover a lot of ground in our initial arc.”
This will see the book go in a whole new direction, featuring all new heroes, weapons and villains.
Make sure you pick up Thor: God of Thunder #1 this November as Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic redefine Worthy!
The future looks bright for Marvel fans on the live-action front.
Joss Whedon, writer-director of the blockbuster juggernaut The Avengers has agreed to direct the sequel, according to The Washington Post.
Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the news Tuesday.
Marvel said in a statement that Whedon had signed an exclusive deal with Marvel Studios to develop film and television projects through the end of 2015. That includes the sequel and developing a Marvel-based TV series for ABC. Disney owns both the network and Marvel.
The Avengers is currently the highest grossing film of the year, earning about $1.5 billion globally chronicling the adventures of superheroes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk as they unite to defeat the villainous Loki.
The Post had no news on the film’s or TV show’s release date. But Iron Man 3 is due May 2013, Thor: The Dark World is due November that same year, and the next Captain America movie is set for April 2014.