Up, up and away! A place for comic-book fans to gather.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Some movie-comics synergy

Very clever.

The eight-part “Up, Up and Away” story that has been running through “Superman” and “Action Comics” wrapped up this week. Writers Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek must have had a copy of the “Superman Returns” script to work from, because there are many striking similarities between the comic-book story and the movie: Superman returning after a long absence, Lex Luthor using Kryptonian technology to get his revenge on the Man of Steel, a spent Superman falling through the sky ...

They’re not the same story, of course. Too much is different in Superman’s world in the comics; for example, he’s married to Lois Lane, not pining for her as he does in the movie. But I find it fascinating how Johns and Busiek were able to weave in so many tips of the hat to the movie.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fists about to fly in "Civil War"

Marvel’s “Civil War” still has me on the edge of the seat, but now that the war is truly erupting, I’m having a few problems with it.

Among the big stack of comics I picked up this week at Bargain Comics is “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 533 and “Civil War: Front Line” No. 2; both pick up threads from Spider-Man’s dramatic public unmasking at the end of “Civil War” No. 2 a couple of weeks ago. Now that the government has enacted the Super Hero Registration Act, Marvel’s heroes are about to go to war - with each other.

I can easily buy that the heroes are passionately split over the issue, which pits civil rights against our nation’s security. But I have some trouble believing that Iron Man and his followers would so easily start kicking superhero butt to enforce the law. At the end of “Amazing Spider-Man,” Iron Man makes a remark something to the effect of, “Now the dying begins.” I know he’s a man of iron, on the outside anyway, but that’s pretty cold.

In fact, while Marvel writers insist they’re not on one side of the war or the other, the sympathy seems to be growing for the non-registration side. Tony “Iron Man” Stark has become a creep, pressuring Spider-Man to reveal to the world that he’s Peter Parker and including him in the war against his fellow heroes without asking. Reed Richards, who’s on Iron Man’s side, has also been more unfeeling than usual. And poor Speedball, whose disastrous superhero fight with Nitro fueled the push for the superhero act, is being portrayed as a victim of a government that views him as having no rights at all apparently.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Blade" hits the small screen

Finally, the wait is over.

“Blade: The Series” arrives tonight on Spike TV.

And you thought I was going to talk about that little Superman movie again, didn’t you?

In “Blade,” airing at 8 p.m., Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones takes over the title role from Wesley Snipes, who starred as the vampire hunter in three movies. “Blade,” of course, is based on the character from Marvel Comics.

Marvel’s got a new comic-book series starring Blade, but you’ll have to wait until September for it. It’s written by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by Howard Chaykin and the first issue has some interesting guest-stars: Dracula and Spider-Man.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More verdicts on "Superman Returns"

Here’s why the critics will drive you crazy.

The New York Times says “Superman Returns” is “leaden.” Cox News Service calls it “a handsome, high-flying picture with epic ambitions.”

“The Man of Steel is back in a criminally mediocre, overlong wannabe epic filled with ridiculous leaps of faith and logic, looking somewhat dazed by his reawakening and straining to be relevant,” says Tom Long of the Detroit News. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says, “The film is magnificently mounted, it moves like a speeding bullet and it’s so respectful of Superman traditions that even the pickiest of die-hard fans should love it.”

You can make up your own mind starting tomorrow.

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Superman Returns" flies high

I got to see “Superman Returns” at an advance screening yesterday. My verdict? It’s not the best comic-book movie of all time; I’d point to “Spider-Man 2” or “X-Men 2” as a better blend of drama, humor and superhero action. But “Superman Returns” has more than enough super moments to recommend it.

“Superman Returns” is a sequel of sorts to the first two Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve and also serves as director Bryan Singer’s loving tribute to that era. The story opens with Superman returning after a five-year absence, and the fact that he would abandon Earth — and leave Lois Lane without saying goodbye — caused me to really work to suspend my disbelief.

Upon his return, Superman finds a lot of changes have taken place: Most notably, Lois has a child and is engaged, and is a Pulitzer Prize-winner thanks to an essay she wrote on “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.”

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is up to another nefarious scheme, another rather silly if deadly land grab, as in the first Superman movie. Kevin Spacey’s Luthor is a bit more malevolent - and certainly more vicious — than the Luthor played by Gene Hackman in the earlier Superman movies. But he and his henchmen are still pretty much cartoon figures. Warner Bros. could learn a lesson from Marvel, whose movie bad guys, such as Magneto and Dr. Octopus, are more complex and frightening.

Brandon Routh plays the Man of Steel and is a fine replacement for Reeve. I’ve read complaints he’s too wooden, but I think he handled all the notes — from the mild-mannered Clark Kent to the feeling of alienation as Superman — just right.

At 2 1/2 hours, the movie moves at a perhaps too-leisurely pace. But there are several haunting and beautiful moments that will stay with me for a long time: a young Clark experiencing joy from his powers; the Man of Steel basking in the rays of the yellow sun; a spent Superman falling through the sky. I’m looking forward to seeing “Superman Returns” at the IMAX; there are many scenes that should be perfect for the big, big screen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Superman's gay following

Stephen Colbert, on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” had a bit the other night on threats to his heterosexuality. He touched on Superman’s gay appeal - which was detailed in a recent issue of the Advocate, a prominent gay magazine - along with DC’s new Batwoman, who is s lesbian. DC and Warner Bros. have to be happy about all the media attention heaped on Batwoman. The Superman connection? Maybe not so much. “At issue now is whether that gay vibe will broaden the ‘Superman Returns' audience, or limit it,” a recent Los Angeles Times story states. For all those pundits who are now asking, “Is Superman gay?” Lois Lane can set them straight, no pun intended.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stan and Spidey, together again

A day after DC released its September solicitations, Marvel has followed suit. Among the highlights: the first issue of a new “Blade” series and a couple of stand-alone specials celebrating the 65th anniversrary of Stan Lee’s employment at Marvel, in which Stan “The Man” meets up with some of his famous creations. There’s also the landmark, double-sized 100th issue of “Ultimate Spider-Man” and, of course, the continuing saga of Marvel’s “Civil War.”

Monday, June 19, 2006

Coming in September

DC just released its solicitations for September. No high-profile new titles for a change, though there is the first issue of “Mystery in Space,” written by Jim Starlin, who is no stranger to cosmic adventure. And, for young readers and Cartoon Network fans, there’s the first issue of “Krypto the Superdog.”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Road road ahead for Spider-Man

If you read “Civil War” No. 2 or today’s People column in The Gazette, you know: Spider-Man has revealed to the world his true identity, Peter Parker.

Marvel today released the above cover to “Civil War” No. 5, indicating that Spidey has some tough times ahead. Upcoming “Spider-Man” titles, meanwhile, will carry a “Spider-Man unmasked” banner as they examine the repercussions of Spider-Man’s decision.

So, what do you think? I see it as a gutsy move by Marvel, but worry Peter’s beloved Aunt May or Mary Jane may pay a steep price for his decision. Of course, in a world where the Scarlet Witch can eliminate most of Earth’s mutants with the words “No more mutants,” anything could happen: Everyone could have their minds wiped and Spidey could go back to normal. But I don’t see that happening.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Civil War" changes Spider-Man's world

Marvel Comics promised seismic changes in the Marvel landscape as a result of its ongoing “Civil War” miniseries - and it didn’t lie. I just received via e-mail the last two pages of issue No. 2, which goes on sale today, and the last page is indeed a jaw-dropper. I won’t ruin the surprise (though the New York Post already did in today’s edition). But it builds upon a scene in the last issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” and promises to rock Spider-Man’s world forever.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A different type of read

Talk about a strange trip ...

DC sent me a copy of “Can’t Get No,” a graphic novel written and illustrated by Rick Veitch and published by Vertigo, DC’s mature-reader imprint. The cover blurb by writer Neil Gaiman says it best: “supremely, magnificently strange, and like nothing else I’ve read.”

“Can’t Ge No” tells the story of Chad Roe, a businessman whose permanent-marker business goes down the drain. And that’s just the start of his troubles: A drunken binge ends with him tattooed over every inch of his body in permanent marker. The increasingly odd story then takes a startling turn into the events of 9-11 and its aftermath.

The story is a silent one with no word balloons, no explanatory captions. There is text, though: a lyrical, seemingly stream-of-consciousness narrative that seems to tie into the story at times and other times is just downright weird. You can avoid the words and just “read” the silent story, but I kept finding myself pulled to the text as well, making for an unsettling yet somehow hypnotic read.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Will the real Wonder Woman please stand up?

Some meanderings upon my return from vacation:

First up on my stack of comics to read upon my return: “Wonder Woman” No. 1. The new series features Donna Troy, the former Wonder Girl, as the new Wonder Woman - which, of course, has some fans up in arms. It seems inevitable that Diana, the “real” Wonder Woman, will return, just as Oliver Queen returned as Green Arrow, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, etc. For one thing, a sneak preview in Wizard magazine of the upcoming new “Justice League of America” series shows Diana as Wonder Woman. And executive editor Dan DiDio has teased that the Wonder Woman you see at the start of the story may not be the Wonder Woman you’re left with.

Must-see TV tonight: “Look Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman” airs at 6 tonight and again at 10 on A&E. The two-hour special follows the Man of Steel’s path “from Depression-era comic book hero to George Reeves’ TV portrayal in the 50s, Christopher Reeve's movies in the 70s and 80s, and the TV shows ‘Lois and Clark’ and “Smallville.’” Plus there’s a sneak preview of “Superman Returns.”

Next time you’re stuck at Terminal D of the Dallas/Fort Airport, like I was for hours Friday, check out “Crystal City.” It’s a 3-D sculpture by artist Dennis Oppenheim and when I saw it I was sure it was a promo for “Superman Returns.” It’s not, but it definitely has a resemblance to the crystalline Fortress of Solitude seen in the earlier Superman movies.