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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shazam!: Jeff Smith on Captain Marvel

I received an advance copy today of the first issue of DC’s “Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil.” The four-issue, Prestige Format miniseries is written and illustrated by Jeff Smith, the creator of “Bone.” "The Monster Society of Evil" is an origin story - telling how Billy Batson becomes Captain Marvel — and also a retelling of a classic Captain Marvel tale. It looks like a fun, all-ages tale for those who don’t mind trading grim and gritty in for a touch of whimsy. I’ll be talking to Smith next week, I hope, for a future Comics Fan column.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So who's the daddy?

Last night’s “Heroes” dropped in on all the major characters, I think, except artist and former addict Isaac. With all the moving around, it didn’t seem like the episode got much traction. But actually there were a lot of developments, including a revelation about Micah and his power, a suspension for officer Matt Parkman and further encounters between Peter Petrelli and the new invisible guy. Plus, Claire Bennett finds her biological mom - and she’s got powers!

So who’s her dad? My wife’s guess is that Horn-Rimmed Glasses guy, Claire’s adoptive dad, is her biological dad as well. Seems possible: Maybe HRG was tracking down people with powers even back then, came across Claire’s mom, had a relationship, then claimed Claire for himself after Claire and her mom allegedly died in a fire.

Sealed with a KISS

Platinum Studios, which I profiled recently, today announced a deal with KISS Catalog LTD. to create a new comic-book entertainment company, the KISS Comics Group. While there have been KISS comics before, this is the first time the group will be producing its own comic-book characters.

“KISS 4K,” a monthly series beginning in May, “tells the story of the transformation of the KISS band members into eternal, evil-fighting spirits.”

“We’ve had licensed KISS comic books before but never our own imprint and never with the wide reach across so many multi-media platforms,” Gene Simmons, a founding member of KISS, said in a press release. “Paul Stanley and I are personally involved in all day-to-day decisions and we are looking forward to extending the KISS legacy, images and sound to our fans around the world.”

Friday, January 26, 2007

Now this doesn't look good ....

DC Comics released the above teaser art by Phil Jimenez along with the words, “Let the battle cry be heard in the land, a shout of great destruction.”

I don’t know what it means. Does it refer to the upcoming World War III in “52” or does it mark the return of DC’s multiverse of parallel planets or what? Answers may not be too long in coming. Newsarama has a detailed high-res image available at its Web site and is also taking questions for DC executive editor Dan DiDio.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

All for the low, low price of nothing

Marvel today announced its plans for Free Comic Book Day, May 5. It’s producing two new books for stores to give away: “Amazing Spider-Man: Swing Shift,” by Dan Slott and Phil Jimenez, and “Marvel Adventures Three-In-One!” featuring Iron Man, Hulk and Franklin Richards.

I’m a fan of Phil Jimenez, so I’d pay to get my hands on that first title. Slott, in a press release, calls it “a fun, all-new, done-in-one adventure. I like to think of it as the perfect 'chaser' to your ‘Spider-Man 3’ weekend.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

Furth on "The Gunslinger Born"

I was part of a Marvel teleconference today on “Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born.”

The miniseries, based on Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” novels (specifically “Wizard & Glass), is plotted by Robin Furth, author of “Stephen King’s Dark Tower: A Concordance,” scripted by Peter David and illustrated by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove.

Furth talked about the process. She worked to boil down “Wizard & Glass” to its essence, bounced ideas off Stephen King, then took those ideas to a trio of editors at Marvel.

“Once we had something that we felt good about, it went over to Jae,” Furth said. Then off to Isanove and finally to David for dialogue. Now that they’ve been working together for a while — Lee is at work on issue No. 7 — ideas are flowing back and forth, Furth said. “I think that’s really neat. It’s become this really collaborative thing.”

Look for several miniseries to follow, leading up to the battle of Jericho Hill, Furth said.

Newspaper Spidey comics coming to an end

I’ve been enjoying the Spider-Man collectible comic books that have been running in the Sunday Gazette. But, alas, all good things come to an end.

The comics resulted from a partnership between News America Marketing and Marvel Comics and have been running in more than a hundred newspapers. The comics were supposed to run at least a year, with breaks on holiday weekends. But News America Marketing, which is a provider of newspaper-delivered and instore advertising and promotion, is pulling the plug. It wasn’t able to generate enough interest from national advertisers to cover the costs.

The last Spidey comic to run in The Gazette will be Feb. 25. (There won’t be an issue Feb. 18 because of the President’s Day holiday.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Justice League is born in "Smallville"

Angst-laden character development took a back seat to superheroics on last night’s “Smallville.” It was a fun episode, with Green Arrow leading a team of heroes that included Cyborg, Impulse and Aquaman. The increasingly annoying Lana Lang wasn’t around for Clark to moon over, and I didn’t miss her at all. There was a nice tender farewell scene, though, between Ollie “Green Arrow” Queen and Lois Lane.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A top-notch cast for "Iron Man"

When I talked recently with Kevin Feige, president of production for Marvel Studios, he said further casting announcements concerning Marvel’s “Iron Man” feature film would be coming soon.

Today, Marvel announced that Academy Award-winner Gywneth Paltrow has signed on to play Virginia “Pepper” Potts, secretary and confidant to Tony “Iron Man” Stark. She joins Robert Downey Jr. as Stark and Howard Terrence as Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes — an impressive cast for Marvel Studios’ first solo effort.

“We could not be more excited about the great chemistry this illustrious cast will bring to ‘Iron Man,’ ” Feige said in a press release.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Coming in April: Top secret

Wanna know what’s coming in April from Marvel Comics? Marvel has posted its solicitations for April, but you won’t find them of much help: With the post-“Civil War” landscape shrouded in secrecy, many of the titles are marked as “Classified Information.”
hat we do know is that a sniper’s bullet changes everything in Spider-Man’s life; Aunt May or Mary Jane may be a goner. That Wolverine is investigating the death of “one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel universe.” (I’m guessing a sham death from “Civil War.”) Joss Whedon, meanwhile, takes over “Runaways,” Nova gets his own series, and the epic-length “Planet Hulk” story concludes with “Incredible Hulk” No. 105.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Are you ready for World War III?

DC has released its solicitations for April. The big news, of course, is the end of DC’s epic weekly series, “52.” The final issue actually comes out May 2, but is advance-solicited. Looks like it all ends with a bang, as in World War III. There also appears to be a new Question; readers at Newsarama are already speculating that it’s Renee Montoya.

There’s also the “Nightwing Annual,” which appears to answer some long-held questions about Nightwing and his relationship with Barbara Gordon; the first issue of “Doctor Fate,” written by Steve Gerber; the final issues of “Firestorm” and “Manhunter”; and the first two chapters of a crossover between “Justice League of America” and “Justice Society of America.” Not to mention “Amazons Attack,” spinning out of “Wonder Woman.”

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lana, say it's not so!

So, she said yes.

Last night’s “Smallville” ended with Lana saying yes to Lex’s marriage proposal. That was after she revealed that she still loves Clark — but she loves Lex, too, and wants to look forward and not back, so what the hey.

There also was another of those painful scenes where Clark has the chance to tell Lana the truth but doesn’t. And now Lana knows that Chloe knows whatever Clark’s hiding. You’d think Clark would at least tell Lana that its not about trust, but about protecting her. And you would think Lana would realize that on her own. Oh, well, the soap opera continues. ... Look for more of a focus next week on action as Clark and his superhero buddies team up in a fledgling Justice League.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Another hero falls in DC's "52"

WARNING: Major spoiler ahead if you haven't read this week's issue of "52."

Well, this one hurts.

I didn’t mind when “52” killed off Booster Gold; he was always kind of obnoxious anyway. But I do care about the death of Buddy “Animal Man” Baker in this week’s issue.

Grant Morrison’s fantastic run on “Animal Man” long ago made that series something special. And while Buddy hasn’t been an integral part of the DC Universe for some time, I always liked him: He was a rarity in that he was a family man, with a wife and kids — an ordinary Joe with animal powers that started out goofy and ended up cool.

At least it’s comics, so we can hope that Buddy returns from the dead, just like Superman and Green Arrow and Green Lantern and ....

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Movies the Marvel way

I talked today to Kevin Feige, president of production for Marvel Studios, about this year’s slate of Marvel’s movies — and beyond.

Heading into theaters this year: “Ghost Rider” in February, “Spider-Man 3” in May and “Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer” in June. But as they say on the infomercials: Wait, there’s more! Marvel Studios, which is used to partnering with studios such as Sony and Twentieth Century Fox, is launching its own slate of movies. First up is “Iron Man,” starring Robert Downey Jr. Cameras start rolling in about six weeks, Feige said.

I asked him about Iron Man’s armor since, if done wrong, it could like like Downey as the “Wizard of Oz” Tin Man.

“It’s one aspect that has come together very well,” he said. “We’ve had artists working on it for nearly a year now, designing what I believe is the single most successful translation of a character from comics to the big screen, and the best version of the suit that has ever existed.”

More on Feige’s comments in, yep, a future Comics Fan column.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Another delay for "Civil War"


You know my Comics Fan column on Sunday, which mentioned that the seventh and final issue of Marvel’s “Civil War” is due in stores Jan. 31? Well, never mind. Marvel today announced a new in-store arrival date for “Civil War” No. 7: Feb. 21. The only good news is that it will be an oversized finale: seven extra pages at no extra cost.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Another "FF" teaser

Marvel teased us with an image a while back of the Thing and the Human Torch alongside Black Panther and Storm while asking, “Is this the new FF?” Today, Marvel sent along this image along with the identical question. This one shows the Thing, the Torch, Galactus, the Silver Surfer and .. I dunno, who are those other figures? At any rate, they add up to the Fantastic Six.

By the way, it occurs to me that the Invisible Woman could be a part of either group. It's just that she’s, well, invisible, you know?

Friday, January 05, 2007

"Civil War" heads for the big finish

“Civil War” No. 6, out this week, serves mostly to set the stage for a superhero slugfest in the seventh and final issue, due at the end of this month.

I dunno. I’m starting to have real problems with the idea of these heroes, once staunch allies, beating on each other. And with Captain America seeming to relish the fight. Enough has gone on that I can see him happy about pounding Iron Man into the ground, but overall he should be horrified about having to take on his former allies. And what’s the point anyway? If Captain America and his team beat up Iron Man’s team, what does that accomplish?

Meanwhile, I remain troubled by disparities between “Civil War” and “Civil War: Front Line.” For example, in “Civil War,” Iron Man declares he’s know all along that there’s been a traitor in their ranks and that he knows who it is. In “Civil War Front Line,” the traitor is revealed and Iron Man is shocked. Plus it is someone who has just infiltrated their ranks. So was Iron Man just spouting off in “Civil War” or is there another traitor or what? I’m sooo confused.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Platinum ramps up publishing division

I talked today to Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, chairman and CEO of Platinum Studios, and Jim McLauchlin, editor in chief of Platinum Studios Comics.

Rosenberg founded Platinum Studios 10 years ago, but the print and publishing division just got going. Its first graphic novel, “Cowboys & Aliens,” came out in December and it has a handful of miniseries launching in the next few months. Platinum’s core business is bringing comics to film and TV. (Before Platinum, Rosenberg founded Malibu Comics and helped bring “Men in Black” to the big screen.)

Rosenberg isn’t looking to muscle aside Marvel and DC on the comic-shop shelves. The publishing division will remain relatively small. Some of the upcoming titles McLauchlin briefed me on: “Hero by Night,” in which a young guy finds the lair of a long-vanished superhero and draws the ire of that hero’s arch-nemesis; “Blood Nation,” featuring a vampire threat in the former Soviet Union; and “Unique,” about a seemingly ordinary guy who finds he can travel between dimensions. “We’ll be a small publisher, but we’ll be a very interesting publisher,” McLauchlin says.

I’ll have more on Platinum in an upcoming Comics Fan column.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cross your fingers: New comics expected Thursday

Newsarama is reporting that West Coast comic-book shops won’t be getting their regular shipments of comics this week because of weather and transportation woes. Mike Coco at Bargain Comics, though, has been told those problems aren’t affecting shipments to Colorado. So presumably we rabid comic fans will be able to snatch up the eagerly awaited “Civil War” No. 6 and other titles tomorrow. I haven't picked up last week's comics, which didn't arrive until this week (confused yet?), so I could be shelling out a lot of bucks tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Calling all "Smallville" fans

Are you a big fan of “Smallville?” A really big fan?

If you’re ready to share your love of the show, check out The Search for the Ultimate Smallville Fan at www.ultimatesmallvillefan.com. Fans can register at the site, then upload brief videos that show why they deserve the title of ultimate fan. The deadline to submit videos is Jan. 17. The three top fans will be in a featurette on the “Smallville” Season 6 DVD.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Looking back: The year in comics

On this first day of 2007, I thought I would take a last look at the world of comics in 2006.

Best event: Marvel's "Civil War." I've got some gripes about how some of the characters have been handled, such as Reed Richards. He's been the absent-minded scientific type before, but not a cold creep. But the story overall has been compelling and gutsy, as in changing Spider-Man's status quo by revealing his true identity to the world.

Best rising to the challenge: DC's "52." This weekly series hasn't missed a beat yet and is weaving various threads into what I hope to be a grand tapestry.

Best in-joke: Making rumor-monger Rich Johnston the murder victim in IDW's "CSI: Dying in the Gutters."

Best new launch: Virgin Comics, with its intriguing line of India-themed comics.

Best comic-book movie: Sure, it had some flaws, but there were moments in "Superman Returns" that still haunt me.