Why does it always take some ridiculous stunt or other for the mainstream press to sit up and notice a well-written comic book character? The Death of Captain America is the most recent of these stunts that spring to mind, and people remembered him for all but a week. DC have followed suit with “Wonder Woman’s New Look”, and I can tell you as a long-time Wonder Woman reader, that it came completely out of the blue.
Archive for marvel
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.
Author: Chris Claremont
Artist: Frank Miller
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Glynis Wein & Lynn Varley
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Artist: Frank Miller
Uncanny X-Men 172-173
Artist: Paul Smith
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Much like the recent Wolverine film, I recommend the first two-thirds of this trade paperback for the ideal Wolverine experience. That is to say that I recommend reading the Wolverine mini-series penned and penciled by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, and not so much the issues of The Uncanny X-Men that succeed it. While the additional issues may add to the perceived value of this collection, the drastic shift in tone, plot and pacing diminish the impact of the core 4-part story. This shift can be attributed to two factors: the absence of Frank Miller, and the presence of the X-Men.
I can only conclude Frank Miller’s heavy involvement in the scripting of Wolverine, as the disparity in Claremont’s writing is striking. Wolvie’s visceral tale of revenge and honour is not an easy act to follow, but the appearance of the X-Men is crude and garish by comparison. The super-team feel like a cameo in their own book; an unwanted intrusion into Logan’s story. I would recommend tracking down the mini-series alone if the price is right. If this trade paperback is all you can find, then I implore you to stay your curiosity and stop reading when Miller stops drawing. Not because Miller’s art is that much greater (though it is) – I honestly believe the issues that follow spoil the overall story. I don’t know if that speaks to Logan’s character as the quintessential lone wolf, but I’ve still seen him operate effectively in well-written X-teams, and unfortunately this is not one of them. Perhaps Claremont’s ongoing X-Men work was running on a tighter schedule and he was simply phoning it in. Perhaps sales were flagging in the main book, and Wolverine’s re-introduction really was forced into the story, rather than the other way around.
Rogue’s character is particularly grating, both in dialogue and concept. Case in point: Rogue casually mentions (in her irritating Southern accent) that she is half-alien, hence her immunity to poisons, and so of course she is the best candidate to help Logan on his mission! Logan accepts her explanation as a matter of course, and is all of a sudden willing to put all his misgivings about her aside and take her on board(!). Claremont infers that Wolvie employs good ol’ logical reasoning to arrive at this decision (“Hmmm…half-alien, immune to poisons…I guess you have a point”)! On the back of a classic Japanese revenge tale, you can probably appreciate that I found this *a little* hard to swallow. Also present is a pointless cameo of The Phoenix, Scott Summers’ new girlfriend who COINCIDENTALLY LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE JEAN GREY AND COINCIDENTALLY SURVIVED THE VERY SAME PLANE CRASH THAT JEAN GREY DIED IN – but it’s not Jean Grey; it couldn’t possibly be Jean Grey! X-fans curious as to the hallowed origins of Storm’s mohawk will also be pleased to know that its contrivance is explained herein! See what I mean? Well, I suppose you won’t until I elaborate on the mini-series itself.
Wolverine is the story of Logan’s battle for the heart of his ex-lover, Mariko. Three obstacles lie in his path:
- Mariko’s father is Shingen Yashida, crimelord extraordinnaire. His return to Japan necessitates:
- Her political marriage to an abusive Yakuza.
- Mariko is Japanese, Wolverine is a Gaijin (basically the n-word for white people, meaning ‘outsider’ or ‘foreigner’).
This means Wolvie has to try extra-hard to prove his worth. That Lord Shingen is trying to kill him with his elite ninja force doesn’t help any. To further complicate matters, maverick assassin Yukio also falls for Logan, despite being contracted to kill him. Yukio proves to be an interesting character, surprisingly free-spirited for someone in the business of taking lives. Unfortunately, this eccentricity is overplayed in Uncanny X-Men. (To spare you the torture, Yukio has the dubious honour of inspiring Storm’s mohawk.)
Our (anti-?)hero’s position as an Westerner coming to grips with the Japanese ideology is well-placed from a writing perspective. It would have been foolishness for Chris Claremont to claim mastery over a foreign culture. As Claremont’s understanding increases, so too does Logan begin to embrace Japanese concepts of honour and duty. Having read the very Japanese Ronin and Sin City, I can’t help but wonder whether this could have benefited from even more involvement from Frank Miller. His artwork is cleaner and more academic than the style he’s become renowned for, but remains distinct and dynamic, especially during action scenes.
Without a doubt, Wolverine’s solo debut is a defining moment for the character. Even his famous line “I’m the best at what I do” is coined here, but never overused; and the phrase feels fresher for knowing. This is recommended reading for any comic reader. Ignore the extras and you’ll be just fine.
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.
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.
I’ll be honest with you, when presented with a second choice of free comic for Free Comic Book Day, I was fairly indifferent. I was even thinking of picking up a second copy of Blackest Night #0 just to be a tool and sell it on eBay. But being the considerate guy that I am, I surveyed the stand to see if nothing else would catch my eye. My eyes stopped on a familiar image:
Is that the first issue of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’?
I checked the corner of the cover art, and sure enough it was signed ‘Eastman ’84’. Sounds about right. Looked at the back cover: ’25th Anniversary 1984 – 2009′. In my Sherlock-ian wisdom, I reasoned that okay then, this must be the 25th Anniversary reprint of TMNT #1. “I’ll take it!”
Now, before I read this comic, I’d have proudly declared my intimate knowledge of the Turtles mythos. I own 30+ Ninja Turtle action figures with weapons; the Turtle Van (or ‘Party Wagon’ as described on the box); four limited edition, fully-posable, hand-crafted Ninja Turtle figures based on the original comics still in their box; two copies of the Ninja Turtles Joke Book (which, you won’t be surprised to hear, is terrible); and a copy of their first (and best) live-action motion picture on VHS recorded from TV – NO ADS (it still hasn’t been released on DVD in Australia), among other things. I memorised the ‘T-U-R-T-L-E Power’ rap!
I worked hard for my Turtles fandom. When I was 6 years old and these mutant amphibian warriors set playgrounds alight the world over, my mother would not allow me to watch the cartoon because it was “too violent”. So what did I do? I watched it in secret. Four o’clock, Channel 7, every afternoon after school. I don’t even remember how I furnished such an elaborate lie, but I did, for an entire year before I was discovered. After which, my mother, in her Sherlock-ian wisdom (which she has since passed down to her son), allowed me to continue watching it, as she deduced that I had not become (noticeably) more violent over the past year. It took another year of wearing them down to get my first action figure. In the meantime I had to settle on a handheld Game & Watch-style Ninja Turtles game (which I got a lot of mileage out of) “and that’s it”.
Next thing I know, I’m 8 years old and I’m holding my very first Ninja Turtles action figure (Raphael) “and that’s it”. This went on until I collected the whole set. Eventually, I think my parents gave up. They must have resigned themselves to the fact that Ninja Turtles and I were destiny. They wouldn’t let me see the live-action film at the cinema because it was, well, live-action (you can watch the cartoon series, “and that’s it”). When it aired on TV, my father recorded it for me and cut out the ads for me. Bless his heart. Bless both their hearts. Hopefully now you have a fairly accurate picture of my TMNT pedigree. Now, allow me to drop the megaton on you: I HAVE NEVER READ A NINJA TURTLES COMIC BOOK IN ALL MY LIFE. Until now.
This comic grabbed me, shook me violently, slapped me in the face multiple times, and rebuked me in a terrible, Shredder-like voice, “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE TURTLES FOUR!!”
When I read in words and pictures, black and white, the true origin of the Ninja Turtles, and their greatest foe, Oroku Saki, I was surprised by the marked differences between the comics, the cartoons, and the live-action film. To their (and their characters’) credit, Eastman and Laird have been more than flexible, adapting their creative property with a clear sensibility for medium and audience, but by the same token, I empathise with the true Turtles fan’s impossible task: to reconcile these clearly contradictory continuities into a cohesive mythology. I suppose it’s really no different to the task of any comic book reader (Marvel’s 616 Universe vs. the Ultimate Universe, DC’s pre-crisis Multiverse vs. the post-crisis Universe vs. the post-post-crisis Multiverse, etc.), but these continuities contradict and parallel each other to this day. For me, it’s simply a case of picking and choosing the bits that I like, and willfully ignoring the parts that I don’t. More ardent fans likely have to settle with juggling three or more separate Turtles universes in their heads at the same time!
To begin with, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot clan in Japan, a guild of assassins by trade. Secondly, it was not Oroku Saki who competed with Yoshi for the love of the woman Tang Shen (a surprisingly Chinese name), rather his brother, Oroku Nagi (that’s right, ‘Oroku’ is the surname, and it is spoken first as is the custom in Japan). Oroku Nagi assaulted Tang Shen when she refused his love, and Yoshi in turn beat Nagi to death in his blinding rage. Yoshi, disgraced for having killed a fellow clansman, flees to America with his wife Tang Shen, while Saki swears vengeance for his brother’s blood at Nagi‘s funeral. Saki becomes the Foot’s most accomplished assassin by the age of eighteen, and is sent to New York to found their new base of operations in the U.S. As the Shredder, Saki tracks down and kills Shen and then Yoshi. And the rest, as they say it, is history – Splinter sends out his fully-trained Ninja Turtles on their first mission to avenge the death of his Master.
That’s right, the Ninja Turtles fight and kill their greatest foe – The Shredder – in their very first encounter; in the very first issue! That this one-and-done story spawned a series and a franchise is nothing short of amazing, and yet, at the same time, it isn’t. Laird defends the hasty disposal of one of comics’ most notable villains in his opening letter, and rightly so. It lends the story a raw power and urgency – as Laird confides, he wrote as if there was no second issue. He also mentions that Eastman and himself simply wanted an opportunity to play on the same field as their heroes Jack Kirby and Frank Miller (an odd couple if ever I heard one), and the two influences shine through in this issue. On the Kirby side of things, I could feel the energy and vitality of a story that may never be told again. In the Miller corner, I could see the grim and gritty visual style; the heavy line-work; the fascination with Ancient Japan; and even the *suggestion* of an intersection with Daredevil’s origin story (could the ooze that transformed the Turtles be the same chemical that blinded and empowered Matt Murdock?).
It’s indie; it’s lo-fi; it feels like rare vinyl and vintage jeans. The lettering and panel layouts are very rough, but all in all, I could really appreciate the inherent, visceral power of what is essentially a classic Japanese revenge tale.
Certainly the Ninja Turtles have since taken on a life of their own, larger than Eastman and Laird’s original vision, but damn if this comic wasn’t a great place to start. Otherwise 25 years would have been a bit of a stretch. Happy Birthday, boys!