Category: comics

The Red Skull vs. Mark Zuckerberg: Who’d win in a fight?

Every great superhero needs an arch-nemesis, and Captain America’s got a particularly nasty one in the Red Skull, a Nazi weapons expert and terrorist leader personally trained by Hitler. Hugo Weaving dons the maniac’s mask in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” debuting on Friday. The Red Skull is one of the most dangerous of all comic-book supervillains — but how would he get along with other bad guys from recent movies?

Originally published July 20, 2011 on msnbc.com. Read the complete article.

Why ‘Batman’ is way cooler than ‘Captain America’

One of comics’ most iconic superheroes gets his first major movie appearance on Friday in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” But though the super-soldier has been around since World War Two, he’s probably not as familiar to the average filmgoer as Batman, who’ll return to theaters next year in “The Dark Knight Rises.” How do the two of them stack up against each other? Let’s count the ways.

Originally published July 19, 2011 on msnbc.com. Read the complete article.

Michael Cera’s ‘Scott Pilgrim’ is a proud nerd hero

Suddenly, the unlikely loser has moved from the sidelines to the center of the story.

Scott Pilgrim, the slacker hero of the new action-comedy “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” has just discovered that in order to win the love of the beautiful Ramona Flowers, he must defeat her seven evil exes in single combat. Clearly, it’s time for him to step up and be a man.

But what does that mean, exactly? Scott’s no macho, martini-swilling muscleman in the mode of James Bond. He’s a lazy, unemployed and charmingly naive video-gamer and incompetent bass player in a semi-competent rock trio, whose ability to charm women is equalled by his ability to screw up his relationships with them. Before he meets Ramona, the 23-year-old Scott is dating a high-school student while nursing the wounds of a previous breakup. In short, Scott’s kind of a loser, and definitely a geek.

Luckily, in the world of Scott Pilgrim, having great video-game combat skills also means you’ve got Bruce Lee-level skill at kung fu, all the better to defend yourself when Ramona’s exes start throwing kicks and punches. But still, Pilgrim’s path toward victory is made more difficult by his own naivete; he’s got to find out for himself what it means for a guy like him to grow up.

Originally published on msnbc.com August 4, 2010. Read the complete article.

Comics panel: Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter

Richardf Stark's Parker: The HunterThe late crime novelist Donald E. Westlake was notably protective of his most prominent fictional creation, the hard-as-nails master thief Parker, who starred in more than two dozen books written under Westlake’s major pseudonym, Richard Stark. Though the Parker books were adapted into films seven times, including the acclaimed Point Blank, Westlake insisted that the filmmakers change Parker’s name if they weren’t going to bother with a faithful rendition of the series. It’s a signal of both Westlake’s approval and Darwyn Cooke’s intentions, therefore, that Cooke’s graphic-novel adaptation of the first book, Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter (IDW), gets to give its protagonist the right name. Developed in collaboration with Westlake before his 2008 death, The Hunter is pitch-perfect in capturing not just the story, but the lean, gritty noir spirit of the original novel, starting with the classic opening line, “When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell.” A long, largely wordless sequence introducing Parker highlights that Cooke both knows the original story inside-out, and knows how to retell it in a new way. Cooke’s noir bona fides include the 2003 Catwoman story Selina’s Big Score and the 1950s-set DC: The New Frontier, which also captured his aptitude for mid-century design aesthetics. Here, he creates a black-and-cool-blue early-’60s New York that’s both evocative and appropriately unglamorous. Cooke reportedly plans to continue adapting at least the next three Parker books; based on this one, it’d be a crime if he didn’t… A

Originally published on avclub.com July 24, 2009 as part of a group-written roundup. Read the complete article.

Who should be the next Batman villain?

Perhaps no other superhero has undergone such drastic reinventions over the decades as Batman. The Caped Crusader was invented in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger as a night-stalking noir detective who used his fearsome bat-inspired costume to terrify criminals.

When comic-book violence became a political hot potato in the 1950s and 1960s, the mandate was whimsy above all, and Batman was softened into a cheerful, colorful hero whose exploits were often downright silly.

He got even sillier in the 1960s TV show starring Adam West, a series that so successfully satirized Batman that for many years the character was synonymous with the goofiest side of superheroes. But since Frank Miller’s landmark 1986 miniseries “The Dark Knight Returns,” Batman has returned to his dark roots.

Director Christopher Nolan embraced that version of Bruce Wayne with 2004’s “Batman Begins” and the new “The Dark Knight,” with a gritty, realistic approach to superhero storytelling that stays as far away as possible from the comic approach of the TV show or the goth-campy movies kicked off by Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.”

As such, Nolan has to be careful about what characters to draw on for his version of Batman: It was no mistake that he chose the terrorist leader R’as al Ghul and the fear-spreading Scarecrow as the antagonists for “Batman Begins.”

“Dark Knight” brings in two of Batman’s most popular villains, The Joker and Two-Face, and reinvents them in a grimmer, more frightening mode. It’s a near-certainly that “Dark Knight” won’t be the final installment in Nolan’s series, and with that in mind, here’s a look at which villains in Batman’s roster would fit Nolan’s un-whimsical vision — and which wouldn’t.

Originally published on msnbc.com July 14, 2008. Read the complete article.

Quiz: Is your ‘Iron Man’ knowledge iron-clad?

Joining Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, the Hulk and other Marvel Comics superheroes, armored crime fighter Iron Man makes his movie debut May 2. Robert Downey Jr. stars as arrogant but charming mechanical genius Tony Stark, who builds a suit of high-technology armor and runs into conflict with his rival Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), a scheming billionaire who steals the Iron Man blueprints for his own nefarious purposes. How well do you know Iron Man and his story? Take our quiz and find out.

Originally published on msnbc.com May 4, 2008. Read the complete article.

Steve Gerber, creator of Howard The Duck, dead at 60

Comic-book writer Steve Gerber, best known for creating the character of Howard The Duck, died Sunday of pulmonary fibrosis in a Las Vegas hospital where he had been on a waiting list for a lung transplant.

Gerber contributed extensively to the Marvel Comics stable in the 1970s, working on such mainstream titles as Iron Man, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four as well as more offbeat series where his creativity was probably seen to better effect, including Shanna the She-Devil and Man-Thing, the latter of which featured the first appearance of Gerber’s cigar-chomping duck. His career was marked by disputes over creator’s rights, including legal action against Marvel over the ownership of Howard, and criticism of the revival by author Jonathan Lethem of the character Omega the Unknown, which Gerber had co-created. He also suffered the indignity of George Lucas’ box-office-bomb Howard The Duck movie, into which Gerber had little to no creative input.

His friend and colleague Mark Evanier, who broke the news on Gerber’s website, also posted an extensive biography and reminiscence of Gerber. Tom Spurgeon also posted a worthwhile obit at the Comics Reporter website.

Originally published Feb. 12, 2008 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Comics panel: Fletcher Hanks, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!

Fletcher Hanks, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized PlanetsThe nearly forgotten early comic-book artist Fletcher Hanks is rescued from obscurity with I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets (Fantagraphics), which collects 15 of the stories he wrote and illustrated during a brief career in the lower echelons of comics publishing from 1939 to 1941. Hanks’ work reads as if David Lynch, Daniel Johnston, and Ed Wood sat down to collaborate on a superhero comic—the exploits of Stardust the Super Wizard and jungle queen Fantomah are childlike in their endearingly naïve storytelling style and bizarrely imaginative, brutal revenge fantasies. For all his simplistic repetition, Hanks had a real gift for surreal imagery. Giant flaming maroon disembodied hands maul African lions; gangsters turn off gravity, causing billions to float helplessly into the stratosphere; 50,000 giant panthers are set loose on the streets of New York. These stories have the feel of great outsider art, which is only intensified by what little is known about Hanks’ rather sad life—in an afterword, editor Paul Karasik paints a picture of an abusive drunk who froze to death on a park bench, ironically living more like one of his villains than his creepily virtuous heroes… A-

Originally published on avclub.com Aug. 16, 2007 as part of a group-written roundup. Read the complete article.

Interview: Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly of Local

They say you can’t go home again, but Megan McKeenan will get a dozen tries at it in writer Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly’s compelling comic-book series Local, a 12-issue anthology following its fiercely independent heroine through an itinerant life across 12 years and 12 cities, mostly avoiding the megalopolises in favor of mid-size cities like Richmond, Virginia; Burlington, Vermont; and Austin, Texas. Wood is also writing two other comics, the post-apocalyptic New York tale DMZ and the forthcoming cyberpunk thriller Supermarket; Kelly draws Lucifer for DC/Vertigo and teaches illustration and comic art at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. The series’ first issue is set in Portland, Oregon, home of Local’s publisher, Oni Press. The second issue, which came out last month, is set in Minneapolis in 1995, and features such local landmarks as The Wedge, Hum’s Liquor, and now-defunct record store Oar Folkjokeopus. The A.V. Club talked with Wood and Kelly about Local.

Originally published Jan. 18, 2006 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

The many faces of Superman: Who will be cast as the next Man of Steel?

For a character who can jump tall buildings with a single bound, Hollywood has had very little luck in getting a new Superman movie off the ground. Casting the world’s most well-known superhero has proven especially difficult, and has already led one director, Brett Ratner, to withdraw from the project in favor of making a second “Rush Hour” sequel. (Who thought there needed to be a first sequel, anyway?)

It really will be tough to beat Christopher Reeve’s performance in the 1970s Superman films; he had a knack for both the larger-than-life heroism of the guy in the cape and the clumsy dorkiness of the Clark Kent alter ego. If we could choose any actor in history, we’d go with Gregory Peck — he had the physique, the hair, and he even looked like Clark Kent when he wore glasses. Most importantly, Peck’s persona — epitomized in the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” — carries the moral weight that a proper Superman needs. Who better to play the Kryptonian do-gooder than Atticus Finch? Cary Grant would also have been excellent, and considering his turn as the nebbishy professor in “Bringing Up Baby,” would have made a very funny Kent.

The rumors and gossip about who might play Superman — and who won’t — have been flying faster than speeding bullets. The most recent news suggests that producers are thinking of casting a relative unknown — a strategy that worked well for Hugh Jackman in “X-Men” and Elijah Wood in “Lord of the Rings” — but nothing is set in stone, or steel, for that matter. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the actors who’ve been suggested as possible Men of Steel.

Originally published June 25, 2004 on msnbc.com. Read the complete article.

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