Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

Why I won’t be seeing ‘Fantastic Four’

fantastic four thing no penis

Up until a few days ago, I was considering going to see “Fantastic Four.”

Of course, my interest in the movie was pretty modest compared to my borderline mania to see each movie released by Marvel Studios – the official Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course.

But I was considering going to see the new Josh Trank “FF” anyway because Fantastic Four – along with the Avengers – was my favorite comic book growing up.

I might have gone to see it despite my misgivings about Trank’s efforts to turn Marvel’s most swashbuckling, space-spanning, goofy, good-natured comic into a “grimdark” spectacle.

fantastic four 2015

But reading reviews of the movie turned me off, convincing me that the movie was not only a joyless experience but a throughly bungled one, too.

Trank himself trashed Fox and his own movie on Twitter the other day, saying that he had a good movie in the works before Fox took over and ruined it.

I don’t know who’s responsible for what is, by almost every account, a mess with awful characters, subpar story and effects and bizarre choices. I suspect maybe we’ll get a post-mortem sometime.

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(And it’s funny that everyone thought the troubled production of “Ant-Man” was going to turn that movie into a disaster, huh?)

I just know that everything I’ve heard – from the botched storyline, the short shrift for Susan Storm – who doesn’t even go on the adventure, apparently, but gets her powers from an accident afterward – the penis-less Thing and the thoroughly screwed-up version of Doctor Doom – this is not a movie for FF fans from way back.

We’ve seen four movie versions now, not counting the best of them all, the unofficial version of a superhero family, Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles,” and I imagine Fox will still be cranking them out to keep its rights to the story.

And that’s a damn shame. Just think what Marvel Studios could do with FF.

fantastic four daredevil

Final thought:

The days of standalone superhero movies that are not part of a bigger universe are over. Sure, I thrilled at the end of “Iron Man” when Nick Fury showed up, talking about “the Avengers initiative.” It meant that if the movie succeeded, critically and financially, Marvel would cautiously build out its universe. The new “FF” movie couldn’t connect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course, because it was made by Fox. But the claustrophobic nature of these narrow, self-contained worlds are done, done, done for me.

I want to see universe building, and, bizarrely enough, the most far-reaching, science-mad, adventuring characters of all, the Fantastic Four, won’t have a chance to build their universe until the rights are back in the hands of Marvel.

It’s sobberin’ time

fantastic four thing naked

And also, apparently, nakeder. And less penis-ier.

You know, Ben Grimm is a tragic character and all, but … damn, man.

In the “Fantastic Four” comics and movies, there’s usually been an attempt to give the characters a consistent look in their costumes. This was done even for Ben Grimm, who turned into the rocky Thing. Benjamin Grimm usually had trunks on – blue to match the costumes of the other members of the FF – and or sometimes had on a whole jumpsuit-type-thing.

In the new movie, which comes out in August, the Thing apparently doesn’t wear any kind of costume.

And he apparently doesn’t … have … a penis.

I was already pretty uncertain about what I thought about the movie.

Now this.

Other people have noted this online, but does the Thing in the movie not eat or drink? Does he have any means at all of eliminating waste?

Is Ben Grimm’s longtime girlfriend, Alicia Masters, in the movie?

Are they going to address all this in the storyline?

Okay, now I’m just depressed.

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ has its own Vision

avengers-age-of-ultron-collage

For a while now, I’ve been anticipating that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” would be “The Empire Strikes Back” of the “Avengers” movies and after seeing it tonight, I’m somewhat surprised to say that I was right.

Now keep in mind that “Empire” is my favorite “Star Wars” film and after just one viewing, I’m not sure I can say that “Age of Ultron” is my favorite Marvel movie, or even my favorite “Avengers” movie. It is pretty damn good and director Joss Whedon put everything up on the screen. I was nearly exhausted by the end.

Here are my first impressions of the movie. Spoilers to come after a spoiler warning, because there are so many surprises here that I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who is unspoiled.

Whedon had a tough act to follow not only counting his 2012 original “Avengers” but everything that has come since. That’s because the “Avengers” movies are the tentpoles, the mile markers, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Age of Ultron” caps Phase Two of this universe, a group of movies that included “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World” but also “Guardians of the Galaxy” and, best of all, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Appropriately enough since Cap is the heart of the Avengers team, but “Age of Ultron” – besides setting up a ton of plot lines – feels like a bridge between the very-nearly-peerless “Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War,” which comes out next summer and will then lead to the two-part finale of Phase Three, “Avengers: Infinity War Part 1” in 2018 and “Infinity War Part 2” in 2019.

Having said that, though, “Age of Ultron” doesn’t feel like just a stepping stone. And the ending is more satisfying, in its own way, than “Empire.”

What keeps “Age of Ultron” from feeling like just another link in the MCU chain is the plot – which wraps up plot lines like Hydra and Loki’s scepter and furthers the story of the Infinity Stones and Thanos, the Mad Titan seen in the end credits of the original – and the ingenuity of this movie’s characters.

As the movie opens, the Avengers – in a post-SHIELD world, since that spy organization was mostly dismantled in “Winter Soldier” – are the peacekeepers. They’re cleaning up messes around the globe – along with the help of some other very recognizable and very welcome Marvel movie characters – and rooting out the last of Hydra, which has been using Loki’s scepter and its Infinity Stone power source to experiment on human beings.

The only survivors of those Nazi-inspired experiments are Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who in the comics are Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, the children of Magneto and mutants, but here are Eastern European twins who have an understandable grudge against Tony Stark.

The two find an ally against the Avengers in Ultron, a sentient android inadvertently created by Stark and science bro Bruce Banner.

As voiced by James Spader, Ultron is the kind of perfectly mad artificial intelligence who decides the only way to save the world is to destroy it.

With an army of robotic surrogates, Ultron causes havoc just at the wrong time for the Avengers. Stark and Banner feel guilty for their role in Ultron’s birth, personal complications rock the core of the team and all the members – Iron Man, Cap and Thor included – are haunted by visions of things to come.

Speaking of which … the Vision.

Just like “The Avengers” was one of my favorite comics, the Vision was one of my favorite characters. The synthetic offspring of Ultron, he was created to destroy the Avengers but, in the comics, becomes their ally. The shifting allegiances might come a little too easily in the movie but they are effective.

And the Vision, as played by Paul Bettany – the voice of Jarvis in previous MCU movies – is the oddest but most perfect addition to the cast. He’s eerie and weird and endearing – in other words, just like in the comics.

“Age of Ultron” is a piece in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, for certain. But it stands on its own.

And that ending …

Okay, spoilers from here on out.

Ready?

vision age of ultron

Avengers Assemble ….

To get to the conflicts to come in “Captain America: Civil War” and to reunite the team – and, perhaps, every member of the MCU – for the two-part “Infinity War” movies three and four years from now, “Age of Ultron” had to shake things up. And it does.

Besides the seeds of doubt sewn in the characters here – doubt enough to make Thor split for Asgard and prompt Stark to leave the group – the movie plants so many other seeds for the future. Longtime fans will recognize the moment when Vision rescues Scarlet Witch as a tip to their relationship in the comics, which included marriage, children and madness.

The reintroduction of old friends felt so right. It was a pure pleasure to see characters like James Rhodes (War Machine) and Sam Wilson (Falcon) in action and as part of a new Avengers line-up at the end.

The relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner also felt just right .. and its bitter ending felt just like a Joss Whedon relationship moment.

Who’s the happiest Avenger? No doubt it is Clint Barton. In this movie, we find out what Barton does when he leaves his Hawkeye persona behind. It’s heartwarming.

And the big character death? I was expecting maybe someone with a little more history in the MCU than Pietro but I was okay with it. And her brother’s death ensures that Wanda has the proper “push” into joining the team.

I’ll probably have more thoughts after seeing the movie a second time. Suffice it to say, “Age of Ultron” has more than its share of plot complications and hints for the future to bear another pass.

By the way … reports that there is no extra scene after the last of the end credits are true. There is a mid-credits scene, however.

Not that I have to tell you to stick around.

‘Ant-Man’ trailer: Big things, small packages

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A while back in this space I talked about why Ant-Man – oddball character, oddball history, possibly oddball movie – matters to the Marvel Comics universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I think this summer’s “Ant-Man” movie, while lower on the expectations scale than “Age of Ultron,” could play a crucial role.

We know that Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, passes the mantle to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the new Ant-Man.

Based on rumors circulating, we’re going to guess that the movie will bridge some of the gaps in the history of the Marvel universe we haven’t seen on the big screen yet.

The first “Ant-Man” trailer underwhelmed some people.

The new one, released today, was really good, I thought. And yes, there’s a lot of “Iron Man” lurking in the plotline of the new movie.

But that’s okay, because “Iron Man” was good enough to kickstart the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Here’s the trailer. Enjoy.

‘The Secret History of Marvel Comics’

secret history of marvel comics

“The Secret History of Marvel Comics” missed a great opportunity with its title alone.

“The Secret Origin of Marvel Comics” would have been a more accurate title for Blake Bell and Michael J. Vassallo’s book because it looks at the pre-history, in a way, of the artists and writers who shaped Marvel and its earliest incarnations but specifically focuses on publisher Martin Goodman, who published pulp magazines beginning in 1933 before riding the tide of reader interest into comic books in 1939.

You can tell the authors’ premise with the quote that begins the book. “Fans are not interested in quality,” Goodman is quoted as saying, and as much as that can be disputed – even a World War II-era kid knew the difference between a good Captain America comic and a bad one – it was a mantra that served Goodman well as he moved through the New York publishing world.

The book follows Goodman’s publishing enterprises through western and detective pulps and gives us some beautiful illustrations from covers and inside the magazines.

The text emphasizes, again and again, that Goodman was fairly ruthless in his dealings with artists and writers. Some of them were among the men and women who would go on to become the best in the comics field once it kicked into high gear in the 1950s and 1960s.

They’re all here, from Stan Lee (related to Goodman by marriage) and Jack Kirby – who would team to co-create classic comic characters for Goodman’s Marvel Comics – to Kirby’s Captain America co-creator Joe Simon to the likes of Dennis the Menace creator Hank Ketcham.

Everybody worked for Goodman, it seems, even if many of them came away not particularly enjoying the experience.

Although the first half of the book, with its assessment of Goodman’s character, feels repetitive, the second half is eye-opening, with reproductions of art by artist after artist. Here you’ll see Kirby’s art – raw and edgy – for detective pulps like “Detective Short Stories” and fantasy pulps like “Marvel Stories.”

kirbyqueenofvenus

Here’s a two-page spread by Kirby and Simon for “Queen of Venus,” from Marvel Stories 2 in November 1940.

The artists reproduced here gave readers an unending parade of gangsters and molls and tough guys and bad girls and aliens and murderers. That’s the best thing that “The Secret History of Marvel Comics” shows us.

MMMS: I was a member

MMMS house ad

Remember the Merry Marvel Marching Society?

In the 1960s, it wasn’t enough that Marvel’s comics were the coolest to read. Marvel made sure you felt like you were part of the Marvel comics scene with the Merry Marvel Marching Society.

Created by editor Stan Lee and publisher Martin Goodman in 1964, the MMMS was a fan club for Marvel comics, basically.

For your dollar, you received a membership card, a scratch pad, sticker, a large pinback button and a 33-and-a-third record of the MMMS song sung by (allegedly) Marvel bullpen types.

I wonder how many of us joined? And how many still have their MMMS gear? (I still have my button. Somewhere.)

Fantastic Four trailer … Hmmm

fantastic four trailer

So the teaser trailer for Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” movie came out a few days ago and I’m not yet sure how I’m going to feel about the movie.

“Fantastic Four” was one of my favorite comics – along with “Avengers” – when I was a kid and I’ve so wanted a good movie version. And there’s been a few good points about each of the live-action “FFs” so far, believe it or not. The Doctor Doom character looked right in the low-budget, never-released Roger Cornman-produced movie from two decades ago. And the Human Torch (in the person of future Captain America Chris Evans) was perfect in the two 20th Century Fox movies from a few years ago.

But I long for a faithful (even if just in spirit) movie version of the comics, and I’m worried that Josh Trank’s version, due out Aug. 7 won’t be it.

The trailer looks like the movie put its money on the screen, but it’s so dark. I want the light-hearted but simultaneously urgent “FF,” with a real sense of adventure. The FF are scientists and adventurers, after all. They explore space and other dimensions and confront bizarre threats and do it with a wisecracking and sometimes caustic but heartfelt family dynamic.

Trank’s movie, based on the trailer, looks to follow the younger FF from the “Ultimates” line and, at least, has the look of the Thing right. Ben Grimm I’m not so sure.

We’ll see when the movie opens. In the meantime, here’s the teaser trailer.