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Friday, September 29, 2006

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

A bit of casting news. Marvel reported today that Robert Downey Jr. will take on the role of Tony “Iron Man” Stark in a movie being directed by Jon Favreau. “Iron Man” is the first feature film to be produced independently by Marvel Entertainment and is scheduled to hit theaters May 2, 2008.

I wonder if Downey will sport a mustache? I also wonder if the movie will feature Tony Stark’s struggle with alcohol, which should resonate with Downey, who knows a bit about addiction.

Meanwhile, is it just me or is Iron Man becoming the biggest villain in the Marvel Universe? As the Marvel icon heading up the pro-registration side in “Civil War,” he’s becoming increasingly unbearable. In this week’s “Amazing Spider-Man,” he does have a panel in which he talks about how tough and unpleasant it all is for him. But he’s also pretty much a jerk as Spidey wrestles with his growing doubts — leading to a not-surprising decision in the end.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A new history plays out in "Bullet Points"

Marvel had a gathering with the comics press today by phone, with J. Michael Straczynski on hand to talk about his upcoming miniseries, “Bullet Points.”

“Bullet Points” will examine the effects one bullet has on the Marvel Universe, starting at a key point: the day before Steve Rodgers was to receive the serum that would transform him into Captain America. An assassin kills the scientist responsible for the serum; a young M.P, Ben Parker, is also killed.
So there’s no Captain America, though Rodgers still has a chance to contribute as part of the Army's "Iron Man" program. There’s also no Ben Parker to influence Peter Parker. And, as the dominoes fall, the entire Marvel Universe is changed.

The story also shows the value of a single life, Straczynski says. “One person with a bullet in Dallas or Memphis or New Delhi or Sarajevo can change the world for the worse. How much can one person with an idea change the world for the better?”

Look for the first issue in November.

A DC departure

Wow, that’s a shocker.

Newsarama reports that editor Stephen Wacker has left DC Comics for Marvel. The reason that’s such big news is that Wacker is the chief editor on “52,” DC’s ambitious, year-long weekly series. (Issue No. 21 came out this week.) I’m sure DC will do everything it can to keep “52” on track, but those are going to be some mighty big shoes to fill. And it makes you wonder what Marvel offered or what happened at DC to make Wacker leave at this point.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Heroes" worth your time

So, what did you think of “Heroes” last night?

I enjoyed the show. Sure, the concept isn’t startingly new to us comic-book fans. (Ordinary people around the world are gaining extraordinary powers thanks to genetic changes.) But it was still fun to get our first glimpses of the key characters as they’re discovering their powers. Those powers are a curse to some, but a joy to others — most notably, comic-book geek and “Star Trek” devotee Hiro Makamura (Masi Oka), who finds he has the power to stop time in its tracks and teleport from Japan to New York. Definitely my favorite character.

A few characters cross paths in the first episode; presumably, they’ll all be coming together at some point — and making some kind of crack about spandex and superhero names.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Legion" off to a high-flying start

I doubt that I’ll get in the habit of interrupting my Saturday mornings with a half-hour of cartoons, but I did watch — and enjoy — the first episode of Warner Bros.’ animated “Legion of Superheroes” this past Saturday on The CW.

It had a lot of tributes to the Legion’s early days, including the time bubble and a headquarters reminiscent of the goofy upside-down rocket that served as the Legion’s first HQ. And while the show’s focusing on a core group of Legionnaires, a lot of other members, including Cosmic Boy, were at least mentioned or seen in cameos.

My one question for the brainy Braniac 5: If you’re going back in time to recruit Superman for your team, why go to a time when he’s so young he’s still learning about his powers? (Superman doesn’t even know how to fly when the Legion meets up with him.) I’d think a more-experienced Man of Steel would be of more help. Storywise, of course, it gives the Legion a chance to help Superman hone his abilities and adds to the character’s self-exploration.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Superheroes on the small screen

It’s the most anticipated show of the season!

Well, by me, anyway. “Heroes” premieres Monday night on NBC.

“ ‘Heroes’ is like nothing else on TV,” says Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore in an enthusiastic review. However, the premise will sound more than a little familiar to comic-book fans: A group of strangers, seemingly ordinary people, gains powers such as teleportation and flight, apparently the result of variations in their genetic code.

Yes, it smacks of “X-Men,” but that’s OK. It still looks promising. And Jeph Loeb, who worked on “Smallville” and “Lost” and has written more than a few fine comic-book stories, is on the creative team behind “Heroes.” Look for Gazette TV guy Andrew Wineke's take on "Heroes," by the way, in Monday's Life section.

In another programming note, the animated "Legion of Super Heroes" premieres tomorrow morning on The CW. 10 a.m. on Adelphia's Channel 7.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A hero falls in "Civil War"

Well, it was worth the wait.

Marvel's “Civil War” No. 4 finally came out today. I couldn’t resist: I turned immediately to the last page to see if there was a major twist as in the past two issues.

There is a pretty good one, but there are also major revelations throughout the story, including the death of a hero, some key information about the return of the mighty Thor, a major miscalculation by Reed Richards and a decisive action by his wife, Sue.

It’s a tough book, in a way: It’s not fun to read about our favorite Marvel heroes turning on each other. But it is compelling.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Long live the Legion

I talked today with James Tucker, a producer on the animated “Legion of Super Heroes,” which debuts Saturday morning as part of The Kids WB block on The CW.

DC's Legion is really what got me into comics; I can remember as a kid reading their early stories in “Adventure Comics.” The different characters, the futuristic setting, the multitude of powers ... there was so much to engage the imagination.

Since then, the Legion has been through several reboots and incarnations. Tucker says he’s picking and choosing elements from various eras, including the early, innocent days of comics’ Silver Age.

“I don’t mind some of the goofy elements from the Silver Age,” Tucker said. “If you can take that and make it feel fresh and cool, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Wrapping up the year in Marvel style

Marvel Comics today posted its solicitations for December. I’m looking forward to the “Marvel Holiday Special,” Warren Ellis’ take on the New Universe in “newuniversal” No. 1 and, as always, “Astonishing X-Men” by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. For fans of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower,” there’s also a sketchbook previewing Marvel’s “Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born.”

There are also some interesting-sounding “Civil War” tie-ins, including an Iron Man/Captain America one-shot. Speaking of which, “Civil War” No. 4 finally arrives in stores tomorrow!

Monday, September 18, 2006

DC's offerings for December

DC Comics just posted solicitations for December.

Among the must-reads, for me anyway, is the return of the JSA with “Justice Society of America” No. 1, a new monthly comic featuring the late Will Eisner’s Spirit; and “Catwoman” No. 62, which promises to fill in a lot of gaps from the one-year-jump the title took months ago.

What’s with the four-part fill-in by John Ostrander on “Batman,” though? Grant Morrison’s run is already taking a break?

Friday, September 15, 2006

From Aquaman to Green Arrow

This Sunday’s Comics Fan column is about the upcoming sixth season of “Smallville,” with comments from executive producer and co-creator Alfred Gough.

I also asked Gough about “Mercy Reef,” which would have featured a young Aquaman, just as “Smallville” features Tom Welling as the Superman-to-be. A pilot was made; it didn’t survive the merger of The WB and UPN into the new CW network, but it did become a much-downloaded show on iTunes.

“The great thing for us though is it’s now become a hit on iTunes and the show’s getting its day in court with the fans, and the fans seem to be really responding to it,” Gough said. “We think it would have been a terrific series, but larger forces than us were at play.”

Justin Hartley, the star, isn’t out of a job, though. He’s playing another DC hero, Green Arrow, on several episodes of “Smallville.”

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tangled web in "52"

Curiouser and curiouser.

DC’s weekly “52” series continues to weave a larger story, though I still have no idea where it’s headed. Issue No. 19, out this week, features a successor (or perhaps a precursor; time travel is so confusing) to the late Booster Gold. Something bad happens to him in the end, but it’s not clear to me what.

Meanwhile, check out the last page of “Green Lantern” No. 13, also out this week. It looks to be tied into the “52” puzzle. One thing is becoming clear: “52” is more than just the name of the series but refers to something else.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Brad Meltzer coming to Colorado

Got an invitation to a book-signing: Brad Meltzer will be reading from his new novel, “The Book of Fate,” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Tattered Cover in Denver.

Meltzer, of course, is also the writer of DC’s new “Justice League of America” series. So if you can make it to his appearance, it might give you a chance to quiz him about the JLA and offer your two cents on the team’s lineup. Maybe he’ll sign your copy of “Justice League” No. 1, along with “The Book of Fate,” which I have on a table at home but haven’t gotten around to reading. Too many comics to read first, I guess.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Spike TV to honor comics

Spike TV’s Scream Awards will celebrate the best in horror, sci-fi, fantasy and comics - or at least that’s the plan.

You can make your voice heard by voting online at www.spiketv.com. Comic-book categories include best comic book, best screen-to-comic adaptation, best writer, best artist and most shocking comic-book twist. That last should be a given: Peter Parker outing himself as Spider-Man. Other nominees include Batwoman as a lesbian, Jason “Robin” Todd returning from the dead as the Red Hood, Galactus is eaten by zombies in “Marvel Zombies” and Nitro blows up a schoolyard full of kids in “Civil War.”

The awards show airs Oct. 10.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The death of a Superman

Before “Superman Returns” flew into theaters, one idea floating around for a Superman movie was based on the “Death of Superman” story arc from the ‘90s. Now we’ve got a movie, “Hollywoodland,” that is based on the death of Superman: George Reeves, the TV Superman from the ‘50s, that is.

Most of the reviews I’ve seen of “Hollywoodland” have been pretty positive. Ben Affleck, who plays Reeves, has drawn particular praise from critics.

Richard Roeper, in today’s Go! section in The Gazette, gave “Hollywoodland” a B - while taking a big dig at the old “Adventures of Superman” show. The series turned Superman into a joke, he said, with dull stories and cheesy special effects.

Well, OK, the special effects were hardly groundbreaking. But come on, it was ‘50s TV! I’ve always been fond of the show, which I watched in reruns as a kid. Sure, it was done with a wink, but it was certainly less campy than the ‘60s Batman TV show. At least, that’s how my kid’s-eye perspective remembers it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Vaughan eases his work load a bit

When I interviewed Brian K. Vaughan for Sunday’s Comics Fan column on his graphic novel “Pride of Baghdad,” we talked about his pretty impressive work load, which includes two regular Vertigo titles, a miniseries for Dark Horse and a Dr. Strange miniseries and the ongoing “Runaways” for Marvel. Now Vaughan has announced that he’s leaving “Runaways” with issue No. 24, along with co-creator and penciler Adrian Alphona. Marvel says it will announce the new creative team for “Runaways” soon at the Baltimore Summit, a gathering of comic-shop retailers.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Revisiting Spider-Man's early days

So you HAVE been collecting the Spider-Man collectible comics that have been appearing in the Sunday Gazette, haven’t you?

Last Sunday’s featured “The Chameleon Strikes” story from “The Amazing Spider-Man” No. 1, published back in 1963. It features a fun encounter between Spidey and the Fantastic Four; Spider-Man goes knocking on the FF’s door in hopes of getting a job.

I’ve read the story many times before (and no, I don’t have an original copy of “Spider-Man” No. 1). But it never occurred to me until now: How does the Fantastic Four know that Spider-Man is a teenager under that mask?

Friday, September 01, 2006

And the winner is ... Feedback!

Way to go, Matt.

Palmer High graduate Matthew Atherton, aka Feedback, won the big prize in the finale of the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Who Wants To Be a Superhero?” last night. His character will be immortalized in a Dark Horse comic and a Sci-Fi movie.

He and Major Victory were my early favorites, so I’m pleased with his win. Judging from stories by Gazette TV writer Andrew Wineke, Atherton is a true comics buff with a real respect for Stan Lee, who oversaw the show. It’s also been fun to see Stan as a TV star.

Starting this month, look for a series of “Stan Lee Meets ...” books from Marvel, in which Stan meets some of his famous characters, such as Spider-Man. They mark the 65th anniversary of his employment with Marvel. Or maybe the 66th aniversary; according to a time line at Stan’s Web site, he began with Marvel (then called Timely) in 1940.