Archive for Iron Man

My Tribute to Jack Kirby, King of Comics

Posted in Comics, Jack Kirby with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2nd September, 2009 by Adam Redsell

So this week I was assigned Kirby’s Dream Land 3 for review on EveryGame. Problem was, Scott had already written a stellar creepy gangster story about Kirby for Kirby Superstar, which was gonna be my angle (not so much the street-level storytelling, more the Kirby-as-creepy-Dream-Eater-type vibe). So what did I do? I decided to write about comics legend Jack Kirby instead. Not once do I reference the videogame, aside from a name drop and the obligatory screenshot, like this one:

Those of you unfamiliar with the name Jack Kirby will no doubt be familiar with his work. If you’re a fan of the Manhunter, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Fantastic Four, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, Galactus, Magneto, the Inhumans, Black Panther, the New Gods, Mister Miracle, Darkseid, Kamandi, The Demon, and the Eternals – you have Jack Kirby to thank, because he created all of them.

Despite the flippancy of the subject change, I hope you find it a fitting tribute to the King of Comics. Inspired by Mark Evanier’s touching eulogy, I wrote it from the perspective of an old friend:

Let me tell ya ’bout a kid called Kirby. Wasn’t the name his mother gave him, but that’s what he settled on, so that’s what we called him, got it? Weren’t too long before we’d have another name for him: The King. “The King of Comics” we called him. Let me tell you ’bout ol’ King Kirby.

Indeed, having been energised by so many of his characters and stories, he really does feel like an old friend to me. I must confess to shedding the occasional tear whenever I read a first-hand account of a chance meeting with the guy, or even reading a comic book dedicated to him that I know he would have smiled at.

So, Jack Kirby – King of Comics – this is for you. I hope you like it.

We’ve really gotta stop calling these things reviews.

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What do Mickey Mouse and Wolverine have in common? Ownership, apparently…

Posted in Comics, Marvel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31st August, 2009 by Adam Redsell

Yes, your heard that right.  Disney is now the proud owner of Marvel Comics.

The Walt Disney Company announced yesterday that Marvel shareholders would receive $30 per share in cash plus 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share owned in a transaction totaling approximately $4 billion.

What does this mean for you, dear Comics Reader?  Well, not a whole lot up front actually.  Disney seems intent on honouring all existing agreements, and allowing Marvel to retain its corporate identity; similar in fashion to the Time-Warner/DC Comics dynamic.  So we should see Marvel retain a large degree of editorial control.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have plans.  After all, why else would Disney buy Marvel if not for the characters?  Disney President Robert A. Iger, had this to say:

“This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories”

Marvel Chief Executive Ike Perlmutter read between the lines as well:

“Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses.”

Can anyone say “crossover”?  We may not see Donald Duck meet Deadpool anytime soon, but it sounds like both companies are eager for the chance to play with each other’s toys.

Entertainment media outlets have been spitballing the possibilities, from Lost and Pirates of the Carribean comics to animated superhero features.  More ridiculous propositions include a Kingdom Hearts comic and a Spider-Man/Mickey team-up.  Either way, we should see distribution channels open up for the comics giant, and hopefully for the industry at large.

Iron Man Lives Again!

Posted in Comics, film, Iron Man, Marvel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

First of all, let me qualify this review by saying that I am a huge DC Comics nut. One need only look as far as my blog header to determine that. So the fact that a Marvel comic-to-film adaptation caught my eye was an achievement in itself. After seeing the trailer for Iron Man a few months ago, it did more than merely ‘catch my eye’; it actually made me excited for the film. If you haven’t seen it already, take some time to have a look:

What you can take away from that trailer, and what I ultimately took away from the film is this: a grounded plot and believable acting can sell an iron man, comic book films are supposed to be fun, and Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect fit for Tony Stark.

Downey Jr. portrays an utterly human Tony Stark in the Marvel tradition – conflicted and flawed, but ultimately likable. The billionaire industrialist, like his father before him, has built his entire fortune and empire on weapons manufacture and military technology. In the film’s opening scenes, you really get the impression that Stark believes in his company’s role in global stability. This all comes into conflict, though, after an explosive sales-pitch in the Middle-East, when Stark is grievously injured and captured in a terrorist firefight. Iron Man is really born in his prison-cave, long before the suit is built. Indeed, he is born almost out of necessity – Stark wakes up connected to a car battery – an electromagnet the only thing keeping shrapnel from his heart. But more than that, Stark is forced to confront the reality of his world [he’s also forced at gunpoint to re-create his own missile, but that’s another story]; a world in which his own weapons are proliferated for evil designs. His fellow prisoner Yinsen becomes his closest friend, who not only inspires him to be Iron Man, but also helps him build Iron Man. It feels as though Downey’s brought a lot of himself to the table: the slick, aging ‘rock star’ who yearns for release from the shallow trappings of wealth and fame. It’s almost ironic that Stark manages to fill that void by constructing a shell for himself.


Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Tony Stark is Iron Man.

Iron Man is rich with themes and metaphors like these. The most obvious themes being those of financial, military, and creative power, and accountability for that power. In many ways Iron Man represents the America that it wants to be. On his first jaunt as the finished Iron Man, Stark ventures back to his place of capture to destroy his own weapons and take out the terrorists, without a single civilian casualty. It’s a pity that these excursions are few and far between, but that’s the price of the obligatory first-film-as-origin-story approach. Having said that, Iron Man features one of the better origin stories this side of Batman Begins, and it’s really necessary to sell us on the idea of one man having the mental, financial, and technological capacity to build such a complex suit of armour. Having witnessed the level of detail in the special effects, it really made me wonder how anyone could have believed in an Iron Man as early as the sixties. That’s more a testament to the film than a criticism of the source material.

As amazing as the special effects are, it’s the performance of the cast that really carries the plot. All of the major players (Downey Jr., Terence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, and Shaun Toub) serve as strong reference points with believable and well-rounded performances. Tony Stark is more than just a billionaire playboy, Pepper Potts is more than a love interest, James Rhodes is more than just a ‘token black guy’. You really get the impression that these characters are in it for the long haul, and there are a few gentle nods toward this notion. As I alluded to earlier, Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect choice to play Stark, winning us over with his wit and charm, and convincing us in those grim, life and death moments. Iron Man really has the right combination of comedy and mature content for a comic book film, and is reflective of the age and sensibilities of the comic readership. A majority of the laughs are dealt in the suit-testing phases. In these scenes, wealth and technology become his uncomfortable allies, and slowly we see him scorn the former for his Greater Purpose. Granted, this message can be a little hard to swallow with all the product placement (Iron Man would like to thank Burger King, Ford and Audi for their support), but it’s another day at the office for Showbiz.

In what I perceive as its central theme – Creativity vs. the Man – Iron Man takes more than a few stabs at big corporations. In Iron Man, we ultimately see Stark as the creative human being, and the Corporation as a perverter of creativity, and a thief of great ideas. When Iron Man faces off against his own technology in the final battle, he asserts his position as a responsible and accountable force in the world. Again, he is the America that America wants to be.

With spot-on characterisations and richness in theme, credit must go to the scriptwriting team for mining and distilling the wealth of the source material, and director Jon Favreau for handling the film with utmost respect for the character [it all comes back to using power responsibly, see?]. Iron Man brings home the gold, but it also keeps a few aces up its sleeve. If you’re a comics fan, you should have a fair idea of what to expect in the sequel, just don’t look too hard before you actually see the film.

When all is said and done, Iron Man stands tall as a great comic book film. It works both as an action film and a comic book story, denying the power of neither medium. Favreau, Downey and Company sell an iron man to a new audience, even to this DC Comics fan. Well done.

Review on the Run: Hancock.

Posted in Comics, film, Hancock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

I went in with fairly low expectations, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with Hancock. Once you get past the five-minute slapstick opening (CG seagulls – you’ll see what I mean), it’s all smooth sailing. Probably the best performance was given by Jason Bateman, who plays a struggling PR man. He finds new purpose in improving the super-lout’s public image, but he certainly gets more than he bargained for.

There’s a few nods to other superheroes here and there, including Iron Man and The Hulk, mostly because Hancock’s always getting drunk and breaking things. But even if you’re not a comic-book nerd like myself you’ll find plenty to enjoy. CG seagulls aside, my only real gripe with the film is the lack of a real imposing villain. Of course, my points of reference are Lex Luthor and the Joker, so that comparison may not be fair.

The Darkest Knight Ever: A Dark Knight Review.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film, The Dark Knight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

The Gotham underworld is in ruins as it struggles to rebuild itself. Criminals stray from the shadows, and hide in the daylight, for the shadow is the Batman’s domain. Clawing desperately like rodents from flame, the mafia turns to a man they do not understand. An agent of Chaos, they call him the Joker.

The shadow of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight looms large over every Bat-film, nay, every superhero film before it. By the film’s conclusion, it struck me just how apt the title was: its darkness surpasses even Burton’s Gothic interpretation of the franchise. Nolan’s real-world Gotham makes the presence of a Joker all the more frightening. I’ve never thought about the Joker as a terrorist or even an anarchist before, but Nolan and Ledger gave me a real sense of, this is what the world would be like with the Joker in it, and this is what he’d do. It all seems so obvious now, but the truth is, there’s never been a Joker quite like this before. As Nolan has stated in various interviews, Heath Ledger’s Joker truly is a force of nature. He’s a hurricane that sweeps through each scene, stealing it and then destroying it for no other reason than that’s what he is. There is a tangible tension in the air; a siren sound builds in the background (courtesy of Zimmer and Howard), and neither the audience nor the Batman knows how to deal with him, because we honestly don’t know what he’ll do next.

Ledger's iconic Joker. There's no telling what he might do.

Ledger's iconic Joker. There's no telling what he might do.

It’s this unpredictability that propels the entire film for two and a half hours – no mean feat if you’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings. There are plot twists a-plenty here, and each one of them is a bold move on the part of Goyer and the brothers Nolan.

Like all good comic books, The Dark Knight is first and foremost a character drama. Christian Bale plays a brooding Batman, and a conflicted Bruce Wayne once again. But it’s clear this time that Wayne has moved beyond revenge, and is far more concerned with the repercussions of Batman’s actions, not only for his loved ones, but for Gotham City as a whole. One of the film’s major themes is sacrifice, and you’ll see plenty of moments where all of Wayne’s friends and allies pay high prices for the love of their city. I could really feel Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent’s love for both Gotham and Rachel, and Jim Gordon’s love for his family as well. It is Harvey Dent’s inextricable importance to Gotham and all of its major players that makes his destiny all the more tragic. That Aaron Eckhart’s Dent won me (and Batman) over within the first few minutes only amplified the tragedy. Again, I knew what to expect, but I was continually surprised by the journey.

Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is a comic fan’s dream come true. His resemblance to the character in the classic Year One is uncanny, both in personality and visage. Maggie Gyllenhaal was the perfect choice to replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes – not only does she look similar; she plays a stronger character with more substance than a pretty face. Take this from someone whose pet hate is changing casts between sequels – that the first four Bat-films featured the same Alfred Pennyworth, yet three different Bruce Waynes irked me to no end! Speaking of Alfred, Michael Caine shines through as Bruce’s mentor and friend. I was initially wary of his casting in Begins, mostly due to his rustic speech, but he has captured the essence of a butler who oversteps his role, and cuts straight to the heart of the matter. Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Lucius Fox, Batman’s ‘Q’ and now-CEO of Wayne Enterprises.

The movie’s other major theme is Chaos. Chaos is the Joker’s modus operandi, and he sees himself as the necessary Yin to Batman’s Yang. Bale underscores this notion in playing the thinking-man’s Batman. While there is little emphasis on Batman as the World’s Greatest Detective, he is certainly portrayed as an inventive and rational force. Joker, on the other hand, is all kinds of insane. He simply doesn’t care what happens, as long as something happens; his life an amoral dance of cause and effect. It’s almost refreshing to see the Joker’s sheer abandonment and wanton destruction, as it represents a way of life so different from our own.

Nolan and company cottoned on to the character’s greatest strength: his mysterious origin. Nolan makes no attempt to explain the Joker’s origins definitively; a wise choice that not only saves valuable screen-time, but enriches the character as well. A wry smile crept across my face every time Ledger licked his lips to recount a different origin story to his victims. Indeed, there is a certain black comedy that permeates his dialogue and the film at large. Heath Ledger’s mannerisms are clever and understated, simultaneously manic and aloof. His performance chilled me to the bone, and yet I couldn’t wait to see him return for the next scene. It represents a fitting swan song to his career, and I would love nothing more than to see him win that posthumous Oscar.

The Dark Knight definitely comes off as a self-contained film, and no expense was spared to give it all the dramatic weight possible, with almost complete disregard for sequel potential. As lofty as they are, comparisons with the likes of The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather: Part II are apt. With such a take-no-prisoners approach, where do we go from here? Disheartening, though it may be, it’s a beautiful problem to have.

There are so many more things I could say about The Dark Knight, but nothing that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by someone else. To give you a detailed account of every happening would only diminish its profound impact. Needless to say, it distills some of the greatest elements in Batman’s rich history and combines them to create a thrilling, multi-layered narrative. With Iron Man and now The Dark Knight, its refreshing to see the medium of the comic book movie treated with such maturity and respect for the source material. More than that, The Dark Knight actually transcends the genre of the superhero movie. It’s not for the faint of heart (or for children), but anyone can and probably will enjoy this movie on its own merits. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest video store and catch The Dark Knight.