Thursday, August 3, 2017

Spider-Man Homecoming

I finally got a chance to see Spider-Man Homecoming this week. Would you believe, 3-4 weeks after the release on July 7th, that the theaters are still packed? They are. The first showing I tried to go to was a matinee during the week and it was sold out. My second attempt at a theater with plush reclining seats, I bought the very last seat in the theater!

My favorite movie thus far is Spider-Man 2. There is something about that movie that really captures the silver age feeling of Spidey for me. I even love the corny part of the movie where Raindrops Keep Fallin on Your Head plays while Toby is acting all clumsy, because that song actually played on the radio at the time of those comics. Doctor Octopus worked well as a villain for Spidey and their battle among the skyscrapers and train was incredible.

However, I think as a crowd pleasing movie, Spider-Man Homecoming may work the best of all of them so far! The filmmakers really achieved their goal of making a John Hughes film. There is even a blatant rip-off of a scene from Ferris Buller, so blatant they actually show a clip of it - while Spidey is running through backyards trying to chase a truck in the suburbs. There is a lot of humor in the movie which is appropriate to the character of Spider-Man. I wasn't crazy about GOTG2; it seemed like a sitcom to me, setup, joke, setup, joke. Here there are setups but they don't seem as forced. The multicultural depiction of the high school is wonderful, the young woman who played Liz Allen seemed a perfect way to allure Peter Parker. There was a twist about her I did not see coming. I was also very doubtful about Zendaya playing MJ but she was also very good in a mysterious way. I think if people are upset about the casting and ethnic changes of the characters, to enjoy they film you have to throw out all your preconceptions about how the classic comics worked.

Fans of the classic Silver/Bronze age comics also may not be happy with Spidey's new high tech costume designed by Tony Stark. The suit has so many gizmos, the best one being that Spider-Man's eyes contract and expand just like he does in the comics. The suit also has an AI voiced by Jennifer Connelly (wife of Paul Bettany who is Jarvis / Vision), a drone (the spider emblem on his chest lifts off), trackers, taser webs, etc. He doesn't know what most of it really does, kind of like the 70s TV show The Greatest American Hero. If you stopped reading comics some time ago, you have no idea many of these ideas all came from the current writer of Spider-Man, Dan Slott. During the Superior Spider-Man saga, when Doctor Octopus took over Peter's body for a long time, he upgraded Spider-Man's suit to make it high tech and work with drones / bots, enhanced the webs, eye lenses, etc. It was a lot of fun because Otto looked at how Spider-Man was doing business and said, hmmm, this can all be improved! The current high tech shenanigans have carried on to the post-Superior series where Peter is running a multi-national high tech company. Many people hate these changes, but I think it's a sign of the times.

The movie borrows from both Ultimate Spider-Man (Aunt May being younger/hipper; Ned, Peter's best friend) and Superior Spider-Man (the high tech stuff). It grounds the reality in this John Hughes version of Queens. But it makes us all the more excited to see the story unfold because it is integrated into the MCU now. So integrated, that the first few minutes details Peter's involvement in Captain America Civil War from his point of view with the iPhone documentary that he narrates. We get caught up on all that we need to know that way and also learn that Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau) is his handler. Tony Stark / Iron Man makes a few appearances. Now here is what I love about this movie, which has a typical plot, the hero coming of age sort of thing. Usually you have a mentor advising and cheering on the young hero. Tony plays this role for part of it, then he becomes a real jerk. The climax of the film has Stark changing his opinion, but he does it in a such a selfish, douche bag way, it's more realistic.

The other part of the movie that really works is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, the Vulture! I have always loved Michael Keaton as an actor. He has a charisma on screen that cannot be matched. At this point he has done everything in films: comedies, dramas, Batman, the terrific Birdman movie which won tons of awards years ago. I think Toomes has the greatest reasoning to be a villain in the film: it's all because he got shafted by Damage Control in clearing out these alien artifacts left in the aftermath of the first Avengers film. Toomes lost a fortune there and he is determined to get it all back. You couldn't have this setup without having Spidey in the same universe as the Avengers. My favorite scene is with Tom Holland and Keaton in the car having a private talk before the Prom. He lays everything on the table to Peter and offers him a fair deal. If I were in Peter's shoes I might take it, but our hero is made of better stuff.

What didn't I like about the movie? Not much, I was glued to my seat and had no urge to leave or look at my phone. But there was one thing - the new Spidey suit that Stark offers to Peter at the very end. I was horrified! I thought that Peter had better not wear that freaking thing. Hopefully it stays in storage. Nuff Said!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thing Tuesday: Fantastic Four 133 where The Thing meets Thundra!

Fantastic Four 133 was a wonderfully silly time capsule of the the burgeoning women's lib movement in the early 1970s! It featured the first appearance of Thundra, the Femizon who came to our world in order to challenge Ben Grimm The Thing!

Fantastic Four 133 cover color Buscema Sinnott

Here is the original cover by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. The Battle of the Century--any century!

FF 133 original art

Here is the original art to the cover.

Fantastic Four 133 digital color Buscema Sinnott

Here is the new computer colored cover available on digital platforms - I've started noticing how vibrant and different these are from the originals.

Thundra stronger

This story is notable because it has one of the few Marvel art jobs done by Ramona Fradon, who was mainly a DC Comics artist. Supposedly she hated working in the Marvel method and only did a few stories. This tale is inked by Joe Sinnott who keeps all the characters looking consistent, only Thundra herself looks like a Fradon type of character.

Thundra male inferiority

The climax of the story is a fight between Thundra and the Thing while Alicia is held hostage by the Frightful Four. It takes place in a huge arena. The Thing doesn't want to fight a woman! He takes a pretty good licking and actually does get defeated because he just won't fight back too hard.

Thundra weaker male

Thundra is great because she mocks the strength / superiority of men. In her world, men are the weaker sex and she constantly taunts Ben Grimm. Jeff Parker did a great story a while ago about the real reason for Thundra's visits to our world - she was seeking a mate (or frozen sperm / dna) because of the infertility on her world.

There is some historical context around this issue of the Fantastic Four. Bobby Riggs was a retired tennis player who challenged Billie Jean King to a "Battle of the Sexes". At first she declined, Riggs challenged another tennis player, Margaret Court, and won against her in May 1973. Billie Jean King then took up the challenge, played against Riggs and beat him in September 1973. These were big televised sports events and almost everybody who had a TV watched it. However, this issue of the Fantastic Four predated that by several months: with an April 1973 cover date, most likely this comic was sold three months earlier in Feb 1973. Even though it's not directly related, funny how this issue of the FF captures the "battle of the sexes" thing going on at the time. There will be an HBO movie made about the Riggs/King match starring Steve Carrell and Emma Stone.

There you go, true believers! A look back at classic FF and a moment from real pop culture history! Nuff Said.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spider-Man 1960s era Gwen Stacy by Steve Rude

Steve Rude loves Gwen Stacy! I did a post in 2010 featuring a number of his Gwen Stacy commissions. And now thanks to the Steve Rude fans group on Facebook, I found even more were done during the past few years. If you are a fan of classic 1960s Bean Scene Spider-Man, these images are for you, true believer.

Gwen Stacy dancing

Dancing in a disco! While Mary Jane complains that Peter's attention is elsewhere. I love how the black and white patterns work so well here. Gwen's checkerboard dress (and that belt) working so well against the background and the mirror ball. Mary Jane's tiger patterned dress. Yeow.

peter parker, mary jane and gwen stacy by steve rude

Peter as the Bachelor deciding which girl gets a red colored rose? And those outfits the girls have on. I think Gwen did wear a cowboy inspired outfit one time.

gwen stacy 2014 by steve rude

Striking a pose in recline. Again the pattern of Gwen's top plays off the bars of the background.

Groovy baby! Nuff Said.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Create your own Giant-Size Marvel cover! And our blog logo changes!

Scott Dutton from Catspaw Dynamics, has produced a blank cover template where you can create your own Giant-Size Marvel comic!

You can do your own digital recreations using this template. Or perhaps commission your own Giant Size cover from an artist for titles that were never published. Giant-Size Inhumans, that never existed and the story was split across Inhumans 1-2!

In addition, Scott very nicely produced a new version of the masthead for Giant-Size Marvel!

For comparison, you can see my old header here. It was a rough hodge podge of elements that I put together when I was on Microsoft Windows, using Paint.Net to clip and assemble everything together. I was always disappointed that you couldn't see all the Defenders in the circle, and I hated the fonts on top. I also wanted the full comics code stamp of approval!

The new header by Scott is cleaned up with a full Captain Marvel figure on the right, much sharper colors. The Defenders are all in the circle! And the fonts on top are clear, sharp, easy to read. In addition to the much better Giant-Size Marvel logo!

You can see Scott's specific coloring work related to Marvel Comics here. He has some great stuff there, check it out! Nuff Said.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Silver Surfer and Galactus by Steve Rude

A great little sketch by Steve (Rude) the Dude featuring Norrin Radd...

...and Galactus! You can see my other Steve Rude related posts here. Nuff Said.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Marvel Team-Up 4 cover by Gil Kane, recolored by Scott Dutton

I've been appreciating the work of Scott Dutton, a fine artist / colorist, you can visit his website Catspaw Dynamics. He has done a lot of work recoloring classic comics covers and sometimes doing remixes on covers that never existed.

marvel_team-up_4 recreated colors

This one did exist: Marvel Team-Up 4 cover by Gil Kane, where Spider-Man met the X-Men. This was a big event for X-Men fans. The mutants didn't have a regular ongoing series at this point, just reprints. The above is Scott's recoloring using the original scheme from the 1972 comic.

marvel_team-up_4 blue logo

I love this alternate version where Scott put his own spin on the cover. Spider-Man pops more out of the foreground by making the background grey. Even the word balloon where Cyclops is talking is in red, outlining the danger. The logo on top is light blue, lots of subtle differences. You can see the full process that Scott Dutton went through to do all of this on his blog post. I was amazed to learn he didn't use the original art but a page from the Essentials black and white collection! Nuff Said.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: Captain America's Bicentennial Battles by Jack Kirby

It's become a tradition for bloggers to bring out Captain America for July 4th. I am sure the most common post showcases the 1976 Marvel Treasury Special, Captain America's Bicentennial Battles. Even though I was a rabid Marvel collector in the 70s, I never read this special until last week, the digital version Captain America by Jack Kirby: Bicentennial Battles (which also includes Captain America 201-205).

Mister Buda

Why didn't I read it? Basically because I was holding me nose up against a lot of Kirby's new work. I was being snooty and elitist. It looked corny. Being overly patriotic wasn't a thing in the 1970s, after the debacle of Richard Nixon. But I was wrong. This Treasury tale is a superb and subversive! The artwork is grand, among the best of Kirby's mid-seventies return to Marvel. It gets crazy from page one, where Cap visits a cool cat named Mister Buda, a mystical being who has undefined powers. He is also good at transcendental meditation, which was a big 70s fad in California, where Kirby lived. I am sure he was inspired by that.

Capt America Smith inks Kirby

The main thrust of this story is to send Captain America bouncing around in time, visiting different eras of the past that influenced the United States. Mister Buda gives Cap this gift without his permission, the gift of knowledge of the human condition throughout time. His first stop? World War 2, where he drops directly into Nazi headquarters.

Cap Bucky reunited Barry Smith inks

In a surprisingly moving scene, Cap is briefly reunited with Bucky in the past. It was so touching that now I regret Marvel reviving Bucky. The inkers for this oversized volume are Barry Smith, John Romita and Herb Trimpe. Smith inked the first part of the story in Nazi land, and you can definitely see his embellishment style here, with his signature touches on Cap's chainmail and the forest as they make their escape. Sadly, Cap is torn away from Bucky after a way too brief encounter.

Capt America hand symbol illuminati

There are lots of great splash pages in this special, as you would expect from Jack Kirby. I love this one where he shouts "We're all Americans!" before he is torn from a past encounter. The symbol on his palm is the magic imbued by Mister Buda to transport him through time. It looks a bit like an Illuminati symbol.

Capt America ripped off by Benjamin Franklin

There is also a lot of humor in this book as well as angst. He takes a trip back in time to 1776 where he meets Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross, who take one look at Cap and start making sketches. It turns out the first USA flag was inspired by Cap's costume, which freaks him out to no end.

Kirby appears in past as newsboy

Another humorous scene involves a trip to the 1930s where he encounters a boy selling newspapers in Brooklyn. Some mafia gangsters try to steal a paper and Cap - who, like Kirby, hates bullies - yanks them out of the car violently. The mobsters start shooting, and Cap protects the boy and fights back. You wonder what Kirby is going for here. Is this an homage to the Newsboy Legion, the terrific series he did for DC Comics and which he recently revived in Jimmy Olsen? No. It turns out the boy selling newspapers is Kirby himself! "When I get to be a big-shot artist, I'm gonna plaster Lefty's mug all over the comic pages!"

Capt America shallow

Among the craziness and humor there is a message. This isn't about all the best patriotic moments in America. At one point, Cap gets tired of bouncing around the past and asks for it to stop. I was kind of shocked to see Mister Buda accuse Cap of being too shallow to learn about the history of the USA. It's shocking because this is a character Kirby co-created to be a patriotic symbol. He is not reluctant to shake this character up and do wild crazy things with him. I thought only the young guys like Starlin or Englehart were the subversives at Marvel in the 1970s. I was wrong. Kirby was one of them, too, perhaps an even greater one.

Capt America trying to stop slaughter of Indians

Cap drops in on an American Indian band of fighters led by Geronimo, on the run from a American Calvary. He tries to help them out by talking sense into the Calvary men, to no avail. This wonderful massive double page spread is the result. He doesn't stop ever tragedy from happening. All he can do is bear witness to them. He also encounters a slave trying to escape his masters and a future war on the moon.

I came away from reading this volume utterly delighted. Jack Kirby did the crazy trippy 2001 A Space Odyssey adaption earlier in another Treasury edition format. The Bicentennial Battles Treasury is Captain America's Odyssey. Nuff Said!