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The biggest success for comics over the past five years hasn’t actually been comics at all: it’s been the movie industry. Superhero films are gigantically big business now, with The Avengers pulling in over a billion dollars worldwide, and the industry paying top-dollar for any new comic rights they can get their hands on. At the same time, superhero films are in a very good critical position as well - Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy won Oscars! Top directors are almost literally battling for the chance to get their hands on characters like Daredevil or Luke Cage.
While movies have taken the characters and distilled them into their most winning core – the comic book version of Iron Man was essentially revitalised by Robert Downey Jr’s energetic portrayal of Tony Stark – the comics themselves have struggled to keep up that mindset. Whilst the Iron Man of the movies was flying about, smashing racecars and saving the world, his comic book counterpart was busy being a fugitive, living a miserable life as he attempted to clear his name. The X-Men in X-Men First Class may have been enjoying themselves, but the X-Men in the comics were hounded, segregated on an island and blocked from society. In terms of tone? Mainstream superhero comics have been downbeat rather than optimistic.
Take any comic book version of a character and compare them to the film version. Hal Jordan is nominally dead right now in the DC Universe, but in the films he was Ryan Reynolds! Even Professor X, who is lovely Patrick Stewart and James MacAvoy in the films, has spent the last decade at Marvel being a terrible bastard. And, y’know, dead. For all that the movies may offer superheroes as a safety net for people wanting to be inspired, comics have been offering superheroes as corrupted, agonised people. Now, this isn’t bad storytelling – it’s always been the way. Drama requires a little tragedy from time to time, and comics have had a long time to dwell on their characters. Eventually you run out of ways to move a character, so things have to take a turn for the darker.
And that’s why it’s going to be so fascinating, two years from now, to sit in a cinema. Because two years from now, Gwen Stacy will die.
Whoa! Spoiler. True, though. The relaunched Amazing Spider-Man trilogy are setting us up for some major tragedy just around the corner. They’ve hired an actor to play Green Goblin, they’re bringing in a Mary Jane, and thematically the first film made it blatant that Gwen has to die for the narrative to be complete. The first film hammered the point that Peter Parker is dangerous for Gwen Stacy, and his decision not to end their relationship (which seemed sweet at the time) is going to look very ominous in two years time.
The other films coming up aren’t going to be much different. If Kick-Ass 2 remains true to the original comic, then fans are going to line up for a horrible rape sequence midway through their movie, followed by a lot of murder and horror. The Man of Steel has been marketed as a brooding, mournful take on the most iconic superhero of all time, while the Wolverine franchise is soon going to introduce doomed love interest Mariko Yashida. And if this wasn’t enough, the next X-Men movie will take us into the Days of Future Past dystopia.
In essence, the movies are going to hit unsuspecting audiences with a wall of ‘darker and edgier’ storytelling all at the same time. Comic book fans have been experiencing this for a while now, with formerly silly characters getting brought back, made miserable, killed off, tortured, or turned evil. The only notable upbeat characters of the last few years have been, perhaps, Stephanie Brown, Pixie, and Squirrel Girl. For the most part, comics have moved their attention towards an older audience, with more mature stories – well told stories, but stories which focus on human drama and horror rather than fantasy and idealism.
Film fans have no idea what they’re going to get into. While comic fans are aware that Gwen Stacy is doomed, the majority of film fans have no idea what’s coming up. It’s going to be MASSIVELY shocking for to see her die. People were prepared to see Uncle Ben die, because it’s what he always does – but adorable Emma Stone? Killed off halfway through a blockbuster trilogy? Film audiences expect superhero films – with a few exceptions – to be comforting, safe, and for all-ages. That’s a big twist for them.
What they’re going to get over the next few years are an unexpectedly brutal series of events, which could completely sour the idea of superheroes as comfort food. Comic fans accepted the move away from all-ages stories – how will film fans react? And Spider-Man is barely going to scratch the surface - are we eventually going to have to deal with Iron Man’s alcoholism? To what extent might that Ant Man film deal with Hank Pym’s history of domestic abuse? Is Channing Tatum still going to die in GI Joe 2?
The reaction of film fans to these next two years of superhero films will determine the future of comic book stories, I think. The reaction people have to this upcoming ‘darker and edgier’ period of films could have massive implications for comic companies. There’s a perception in general that comic books are fun entertainment for kids – but if movies now subject audiences to an onslaught of rape, murder, abuse and horror, what will that do for the next generation of comic fans? If the films are rejected by the public, will that mean the superhero genre of cinema will fall out of favour?
Films tentatively suggested for future release include a Lobo movie, Ant Man, and several Mark Millar projects such as Nemesis and Wanted 2. It’s interesting, isn’t it? There’s little hope for a Wonder Woman or Black Panther film, and yet film companies think audiences can support super-violent, misogynistic works. Films aimed not at all fans, but a smaller, older demographic. Just like happened in mainstream superhero comics! Rather than films suggesting a brighter future for comics, could their turn towards darker and edgier stories actually be the thing which helps to bury the medium entirely?
Last year, Marvel received a letter from the mother of a young fan, Anthony Smith, who had hearing difficulties, and had been told by doctors that he would require a hearing aid. The mother was wondering if there were any heroes who had ever had hearing difficulties, who might serve as the inspiring spark for Anthony to accept the hearing device.
On getting the letter, editor Bill Rosemann not only pointed her to Hawkeye, who has in the past suffered from hearing problems, but also spread the letter to the Marvel offices.
And that’s what led Marvel to create a new character called The Blue Ear, who doesn’t let his hearing problems stop him from saving the day. Created with Marvel staffers Manny Mederos and Nelson Ribeiro, the character is based on Anthony himself. You can read Blue Ear’s origin story in my original post announcing the character,
Now, though! That’s not the end of The Blue Ear’s work with Marvel. Last month Marvel held a special event honouring him, as they partnered with Phonak, a hearing aid supplier. Anthony and his family were invited along, as Marvel unveiled a new poster which will be distributed nationally, in which we see Iron Man meet a young boy who is being bullier for having a hearing aid. Written by Christos Gage and drawn by Paco Medina, the poster encourages people to never feel like they should be ashamed of their disability:
The event also saw Iron Man attend in person – awfully nice of him to teleport over from the 616 Universe – and meet Anthony. After receiving a copy of the poster from Iron Man, the Avenger also then gave him a second gift – an Iron Man costume of his own.
Which, he immediately put on.
As I said last time – isn’t it now time for The Blue Ear to join The Avengers?
A new Marvel Now teaser has announced that writer Kieron Gillen and artist Greg Land are going to be working together on a project called ‘Invincible’. Which, this will either be an Iron Man series or something for Robert Kirkman to merrily sue out of existence. Most likely the former.
Rumours have surrounded this project for a few months now, which makes it strange that Marvel are announcing it now, in a random week, and not at SDCC. This does seem almost certainly to be an Iron Man tease, given Matt Fraction’s previous ‘Invincible Iron Man’ series, which wraps up later this year. Also, there’s the metal font which gives things away. And the fact we all know Marvel aren’t going to cancel Iron Man. So those are the reasons why this is an Iron Man series, then.
There’s not really much to say about this, I guess. Shame Steven Sanders isn’t drawing it?
Via that very best of methods: the Dustin Weaver giganti-cover. The covers for issues 1-3 of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers relaunch have been revealed by Marvel today, establishing that more X-Men have moved over to Cap’s Crew. While there are no surprises about which members of the Avengers movie cast made it into the series (all of them), the cover does still hold a few surprises. So! Who’re The Avengers?
Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor are all members of the Avengers – unsurprisingly – and they’re joined be fellow non-surprises Spider-Man and Wolverine. But also in amongst the shiny heroes are Sunspot and Cannonball from the New Mutants, as well as Captain Marvel, Spider-Woman and Falcon. This represents perhaps the first time that two minority characters males have been on the main Avengers at the same time, I believe, although that still feels a bit of a low ratio for what’s meant to be a world-spanning team. No sign of Redwing yet either, which is a worry.
There’s also some whizzy technology in the background, suggesting that Hickman will be basing the team in Nick Fury’s helicarrier. The most intriguing part, however, looks to be the mystery character on the far left, silhouetted by the explosion Steve Rogers is manfully walking away from. For my money, this looks like it’s meant to be Shang Chi, but.. well, it could be anybody really. Anybody else got a better guess in mind?
Hickman, artist Jerome Opena and colourist Dean White will start the series off in December. There are still several more characters yet to be revealed as team-members, so don’t lose hope yet, Jarvis fans!
Marvel announced earlier this week that one of its primary characters, Iron Man, will be starring in an all-new direct-to-video anime feature titled Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. The film, done in partnership with Sony Entertainment Japan, re-teams Marvel with the anime production house MADHOUSE, who previously did a four-part anime project for the publisher titled Marvel Anime.
In addition to Iron Man, the feature will also feature anime renditions of longtime adversary Ezekiel Stane (the primary antagonist in the first Iron Man live action film), along with prominent Marvel heroes such as Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Punisher, Nick Fury and War Machine.
“Marvel is excited to present an all-new Iron Man adventure featuring the high-tech adrenaline he is known for, in the beautifully rendered anime style of our friends at MADHOUSE,” said producer Megan Thomas Bradner. Long-time Marvel TV animation writer Brandon Auman (The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Iron Man: Armored Adventures) wrote the script, with Japanese director Hiroshi Hamasaki helming the project.
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore is already in production at MADHOUSE’s Japan studios and is planned for a spring 2013 debut, timed to coincide with the release of the live-action Iron Man 3 on May 3, 2013. Further information about this direct-to-video animated feature is expected at New York Comic Con during the Marvel TV Presents Panel on Saturday, October 13 at 4:15pm in Room 1E13.
It has been suggested to me that running Big Two teasers as news is destroying the very fabric of comics; however, when they are a cute, clever Image, I reserve the right to run them.
This refers to some yet to be revealed storyline involving the character Iron Man, as far as I can make out.
I finally took some time to draw some more superheroes. Using primarily handheld tools such as pencils, pens and markers, I've made something I am genuinely fond of. I've been sketching away and I just couldn't stop inking and coloring. Although, this is a formidable team, I always thought it was sort of lame that they only had one female member for so long and she was only an inch high. Maybe we can get Kang the Conqueror to alter the past and enlist some ladysupes to the Earth's Mightiest Hero roster.
With The Avengers still alternately hammering and smashing box office records wherever they go, anticipation has already started building up for the next phase of Marvel’s multi-year plan to ultimately become so successful that Dan Slott can write a Squirrel Girl movie and have it hit #1. Sequels to Captain America, Iron Man and Thor have all been announced, and while Chris Hemsworth
has been talking up the possible villains for Thor Too, most of the recent debate has swirled around director Shane Black’s vision for Iron Man 3. You’ll remember Iron Man 2 with fond memories, of course, and how wonderful all the subplots and persistent minor characters were. That scene, with Iron Man talking endlessly to Nick Fury about things that were in no way important to the plot or progression of the film? Classic right? Well now it looks like Shane Black is going to keep sub-plot fans rolling in clover, and just throw anything he can at the screen to see what happens.
On top of reports that Ben Kingsley has been in talks to play the classic certainly-not-racist villain ‘The Mandarin’ in the movie, now come reports that James Badge Dale, a man no stranger to endless subplots after a season of nothing happening in Rubicon, may be playing ‘Iron Patriot’ in the film. You may be confused at this news, as Iron Patriot was in the comics a costume worn by Norman Osborn during Marvel’s sadly under-subplotted ‘Dark Reign’ branding, and Normie surely isn’t allowed outside of the Sony studio. Well, yes, it is rather strange, but it looks like Marvel have co-opted the design to fit in with Iron Man’s themes (militarisation, patriotism, big metal suits with blammblamm guns)
Hopefully with all this – oh and Extremis too, that’s showing up at some point too somewhere - appearing in the movie, Black will still be able to find a few minutes for Tony Stark to grow an emo fringe and start belting out swing numbers to Bethany McCabe, even while Pepper is sat right there you guys.
Primarily known for his tendency to get slimed, actor Bill Murray is also known to be a rather reclusive fellow. He keeps to himself, and doesn’t have an agent or manager to book work for him. Instead of having to look through job offers, he instead asks of anybody who wants to work with him (although preferably not Dan Akroyd) that they leave a voice message on his answerphone, which he checks whenever he gets tired of staring at himself, deadpan, in the mirror.
This made it rather difficult for when Robert Downey Jr wanted to bring in Murray for a role in the Iron Man movies, as the actor either didn’t pick up the message or was on Captain America’s side during Civil War. In an interview with Esquire magazine, questioneer Scott Raab mentions in passing to Murray that poor ol’ Downey Jr wanted him for a part in the movie, but had no way of getting hold of the actor. Raab mentions this as an example of Hollywood’s inability to grab hold of Murray when they are looking to Assemble, and doesn’t give us the details. Did Downey Jr leave a series of increasingly desperate/drunken messages? Did he sing at any point? We may never know.
What part Downey Jr had in mind for the star of Garfield is anybody’s guess, although the obvious choices would likely be either Tony Stark’s father Howard, Pepper Potts, or the voice of Jarvis. Or perhaps something even more left-field? Fans have long contested that Murray would be the perfect choice to play Groot, if the Guardians of the Galaxy were ever to show up in the Marvel film universe.
Marvel Now! was always going to claim some victims before relaunching, and now it’s made revealed (through that most sneaky of revealers, the solicitations listing) that nine of their current books will die in order for Marvel Now! to live.
Those nine titles are: Captain America, Fantastic Four, FF, Incredible Hulk, Invincible Iron Man, New Mutants, The Mighty Thor, Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Legacy.
This isn’t completely surprising in every case, because Brian Michael Bendis already said that Uncanny would end and several of the other books were winding up long-standing runs with big name creators. Matt Fraction was already set to leave Invincible Iron Man, while Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brubaker were both already known to be leaving the Fantastic Four titles and Captain America, respectively.
What does this mean for the characters? Well, Captain America, Thor and X-Men Legacy’s Rogue are all in a team together anyway, while Iron Man will surely find a place in one of the Avengers titles. But what of the Fantastic Four? They’ve completely dropped off the map, apparently, and the World’s Greatest Superhero Family look set to pack up their bags for a one-way trip to the one place they’ve never been before: comic-book limbo.
It’s interesting to note that most of these books were handled by the ‘Architects’ of Marvel, and that some low-selling titles like the beloved Journey Into Mystery have survived this new purge. Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man also escapes the destruction, so that much-teased ‘big change’ in issue #700 isn’t going to see the book cancelled, thankfully.
Three X-Men books are chopped, including flagship Uncanny X-Men. Which is a massive surprise, because most were predicting that the pointless titles – adjectiveless X-Men and Astonishing X-Men – would be the two to go. New Mutants was expected to go, and does. But it’s still surprising to see just how big a change Marvel seem to be making. What new books are going to replace these ones, which surely were the backbone of the Marvel Universe?
The author is: Sherman Alexie, a poet, filmmaker and established author of adult fiction. Real words he wrote: "All my white friends can count their deaths on one hand."
The illustrator is: Ellen Forney, who teaches at Seattle Cornish College of the Arts, and her art is better than words can describe: see for yourself
The age range is: anyone who reads the first page, because after that, you're a goner.
The promo copy (here) reads: This National Book Award Winner was read by Sara Lewis Holmes BEFORE it won the award, a first for her. She wishes to congratulate Sherman Alexie on winning that very cool statue and thank him for writing one of the few books she's kissed this year.
The National Book Awards were recently given and Sherman Alexie won in the Young People's Literature category for his first foray into YA, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. (Little, Brown). This is cool. I like Sherman Alexie and have read a number of his books for adults. I was keeping my fingers crossed for Kathleen Duey, though, and I'm bummed she didn't win for A Resurrection of Magic: Skin Hunger. But it's cool that her book gets a silver finalist sticker and I'm showing her cover in this post and not Alexie's. (I hope you found the right shoes for the ceremony, Kathleen. Zappos seldom does me wrong.)
I can't stop watching Gossip Girl. Oh I love that Chuck Bass. Anyone else think he's Logan Huntsberger with a healthy dose of 1980s James Spader?
I've been light on the blogging lately--busy, busy pre-holiday stuff. And I'm off work all next week, eating pumpkin pie and whatnot, so my blog will be pretty quiet. After the holiday, I'll be back with more updates to listings in the 2008 CWIM. Stay tuned!