Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part Five: Marvel Heroes

Sorry for the silence the last couple of days. Busy busy. I'll have to do a project update sooner or later. Kill All Monsters is coming along nicely and I've been working on a short, prose story about an old, pulp character named The Purple Scar, but I could give you some more details about both of those.

Anyway, the last twelve titles in my Marvel 52 are the big guns.

12. The Liberators by Gail Simone and Colleen Coover

The Lady Liberators were introduced way back in Avengers #83 as a team of villains (of course) to fight those poor boys of the Avengers. They made sort of a comeback in recent years though as a heroic group when She-Hulk formed an informal team of superwomen to fight the chauvinistic Red Hulk in Jeph Loeb's Hulk. Then they got together a couple of other times after that in She-Hulk and The Mighty Avengers.

I'm all about the female superheroes, so it would be awesome to have a book where they could team up regularly. Maybe have a core team of She-Hulk, Valkyrie, Black Widow, and Hellcat with other women coming on for particular missions. Since that's sort of Marvel's version of Birds of Prey, it's unoriginal, but entirely appropriate to have Gail Simone writing it. And Colleen Coover draws Marvel women (and men, for that matter) like nobody else.

11. Valkyrie by Paul Cornell and Jill Thompson

I know there's a bona fide female version of Thor, but Valkyrie's been around a lot longer and has the benefit of not being exactly a female version of Thor. She has the whole, cool Viking thing going on without just copying him. I know Paul Cornell could do awesome things with that and Jill Thompson's got a great, fantasy style that would suit very well.

10. Runaways by Brian K Vaughan and Ben Caldwell

Vaughan has said that he always wanted Runaways to be a series that other creative teams could pick up and run with; that he wanted it to be sort of his legacy at Marvel. But though other creators have done pretty well with the concept, unfortunately no one's doing anything with it now. I'd correct that and bring back the writer who started it all. Ben Caldwell has a great, manga-esque style that's perfect for books about (and targeted to) younger kids.

9. Agents of Atlas by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk

Quite simply the most definitively awesome team book anyone's ever made in the history of comics. It was Jeff Parker's baby, so no one else can touch the writing, and though there have been a few excellent artists working with Parker on it over the years, Leonard Kirk was the first. I'd want that dream team back on it again.

8. Spider-Man by Phil Hester and Pia Guerra

Spidey is a character that I haven't been excited about since the '70s. Phil Hester could change that by bringing the same mix of high adventure and everyman troubles that he put into Firebreather. As for Pia Guerra (Y: The Last Man)... Why, oh, why isn't she drawing a monthly comic book right now?

7. The Fantastic Four by Brian Clevinger and Darwyn Cooke

Brian Clevinger's proven that he's not about to run out of wacky science stories for Atomic Robo anytime soon, so why not share some of that with everyone's favorite family of super scientists? And you know you want to see Darwyn Cooke cut loose on a series like that.

6. Pet Avengers by Evan Dorkin and Katie Cook

Evan Dorkin can write a damn good animal story. Not just a cute, funny animal story (though they are that, too), but a real story about animals you care about. I sort of want his Beasts of Burden partner Jill Thompson on this one, but I'm trying not to be completely unoriginal and Katie Cook's not only awesome, she also has a thing for Marvel and pets.

5. Young Avengers by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung

Okay, maybe I am totally unoriginal. But in my dreamworld, Heinberg would have time to write a monthly series about these characters he and Cheung made up. I loved it when they were on the book, but in other hands the characters haven't been as exciting.

4. Iron Man by James Turner and Nicola Scott

If I can't have Robert Downey Jr play Tony Stark right there in my comic, something else that could get me to buy it would be to have James Turner (Rex Libris, Warlord of Io) write it. Like all my favorite writers, Turner has an insane imagination and unrestrained abandon about letting it spill out of his head and onto the page. And he's hilarious. I'm not saying that it hasn't been this way lately, because I haven't read Iron Man in years, but in general the character needs some craziness. It should be a scifi/superspy comic and I'd love to see Nicola Scott ground something like that in reality.

3. Thor by Neil Gaiman and George O'Connor

I went back and forth about whether I'd prefer to have George O'Connor (Olympians) write and draw this one by himself. He's certainly got the ability to tell fun stories about mythological characters.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how amazing it would be to see Gaiman make Asgard as huge and epic as the Dreaming.

2. Captain America by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

If there's something else Clevinger appears to like as much as superscience, it's WWII history. Not only could he tell some fantastic flashback stories to Cap's adventures in those days, he's also a guy who - like Brubaker - can let that time period continue informing the personality and choices of the modern Captain America. And why not let Clevinger's Atomic Robo cohort, Scott Wegener be in charge of bringing it to life?

1. The Avengers by Paul Tobin and Cliff Chiang

Paul Tobin's already been writing the best Avengers comic around for the Marvel Adventures line, so he should get his shot at the main book with one of the best superhero artists working today.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part Four: Marvel Knights

I've never been especially fond of the name "Marvel Knights," but I don't hate it either and since Marvel's used it a couple of times to identify its street-level, edgier characters, it's recognizable. So I'll use it too.

22. Dakota North by Ed Brubaker and Phil Noto

I don't know much about Dakota North. I don't think I've ever read one of her adventures, but she's a private eye working in the Marvel U and that could be a lot of fun. Maybe it's similar to Alias - I've never read it either - but with Brubaker writing it, it could be a fun, adventurous, Marvel version of something like Gotham Central. I picked Phil Noto for the art because he knows how to give female characters cool attitude without making them obnoxious.

21. Kraven the Hunter by Gail Simone and Marian Churchland

I admit that I picked Gail Simone for this because of the wonders she worked on Catman and because Kraven's a similar character. But visually, Kraven's much cooler and I'd love to see her do something comparable with him; give him some kind of moral center instead of just being whackadoo. Marian Churchland's soft, elegant work would give the series a pastoral look that would reinforce the idea that Kraven's seeking peace, even when he's involved in violence.

20. Hercules by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puvilland

There are a few reasons I'm not reading the current Herc series; none of them having anything directly to do with the creators involved. Indirectly though, I wouldn't be able to pass up a Hercules series drawn by the wife-and-husband team (I think they're married; doesn't matter) of LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland (Prince of Persia, Solomon's Thieves). They've got a strong, mythic quality to their work that's totally unique and exciting.

As for why Hercules is in this category: it's a tonal thing. He was the original street-level hero. In Greek mythology - a world filled with iconic, superpowered beings - Hercules was the grounded one whom people could relate to. That feeling is important to who he is and last time I checked in, Pak and Lente were already doing a great job of presenting him that way.

19. Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu by Phil Hester and Mark Smylie

I love Phil Hester's writing because there's always a layer of something deeper going on underneath the action. That's crucial to Master of Kung Fu, a series that in the '70s was filled with as much thought and philosophy as martial arts and espionage. Mark Smylie (Artesia) would complement that balance beautifully. He can paint the most brutally violent battle scene in the most exquisitely lush and contemplative way.

18. The Falcon by Greg Rucka and Steve Rude

The Falcon is one of those characters I wish I knew more about and would totally jump on if some exciting creators told a story about him. He's got a great look and I've loved him in Captain America and on Super Hero Squad, but I'd love even more to get him away from the other superheroes and see what makes him tick. I think Rucka and Rude are the guys to do that.

17. The Sub-Mariner by Ed Brubaker and David Petersen

Some of you have already pointed out that Namor would fit in well in other categories and you're right. He's a versatile character. I've put him in Marvel Knights in great part because of his attitude. I like Namor a lot, but he's a nasty dude with some serious problems he needs to get figured out. I'd certainly want this to have some great, undersea adventure to it, but I'd love for the tone to be similar to what Brubaker did with Captain America. It's exciting and fun, but it's grounded in real emotion as Cap continues to struggle - even after all these years - with being a man out of his own time. Namor's dealing with even more than that.

I picked David Petersen because he's got a realistic style and could draw the hell out of some undersea life.

16. The Panther by Mark Waid and Amy Reeder

One of the things I love most about Waid is that he knows how to dig into a character and find the approach that best suits that character's strengths without having to go off in a radical, new direction. Recently, Black Panther has changed gender, painted himself like the US flag, and borrowed Daredevil's tag line, so it's pretty clear that he's lost his way and needs someone to center him again. That's why Waid. Meanwhile, Amy Reeder (Madame Xanadu) has a sleek, romantic style that could be really cool for a series about a jungle king who dresses like a cat.

You've noticed that I dropped the "Black" from the title. I don't think it needs it, but I could be persuaded differently if it helps identify him as a black character. Unlike Falcon, when he's in costume you can't tell just by looking at him.

15. She-Hulk by Peter David and Cameron Stewart

Peter David's an underrated writer these days and his time on She-Hulk was done too soon. He inherited the character at a time when she was just coming off the tragic events of Civil War and World War Hulk and not only did he deal with that, he made her dealing with it an integral part of the story he was telling. He was also vocal though about wanting to eventually move past that to get back to the light-hearted She-Hulk he really wanted to write. The series was cancelled though and he never got the chance. I wanted to read those stories, so I'd bring him back. Artwise, I've been a big fan of Cameron Stewart since I discovered The Apocalipstix and would love to see him draw this.

14. Daredevil and Elektra by Mark Waid and Hub

Like Wolverine, Daredevil's another character I don't have a lot of affection for, but it wouldn't really be Marvel without a series that featured him. I haven't read Mark Waid and Marcos Martin's current run at Daredevil, but I'm not surprised to hear that it's very good. In order to make this interesting for me, I'd keep Waid on it, but turn it into another two-character team-up book by having Elektra co-star. Not that I'm a big Elektra fan either, but the two of them together may be more interesting than either of them separately.

The final push though would come from having Hub (Okko) on art. As great as Martin is, I can't not buy a book by Hub. He's also really excellent at depicting a fantastic version of Southeast Asia that could come, Hand-y (sorry) when doing a book about a couple of ninjas.

13. The Champions by Kurt Busiek and Becky Cloonan

The founding line-up for this short-lived team was Black Widow, Hercules, Ghost Rider, Angel, and Iceman. The Russian superhero Darkstar joined later. I didn't read this as a kid, but discovered it later thanks to my fondness for Black Widow. It's pretty cool that she was leading this team in the '70s. That's not as unique an idea now as it was then, but the line-up of characters is still unexpected and weird, especially having Ghost Rider on board.

Angel and Iceman aren't quite as interesting now as they were when the team debuted either. They were fresh out of the X-Men after the All-New All-Different team sort of pushed them out and they had something to prove. They were looking for a new home and since they were going through it together, they were able to talk about it and compare their new team to their old one. I don't know if I'd use the same two characters today, but maybe someone comparable. Characters who are immediately identifiable as X-Men, but could reasonably feel pushed out of that group for some reason. It sort of needs to be former X-Men because while that's not the most familial group of superheroes Marvel has (that would be the Fantastic Four), it's a big enough family that there are by necessity fringe members. Gambit and Psylocke might be good choices. Maybe Jubilee? Someone who's been central to the team in the past, but isn't anymore. It could be interesting watching them to try to adapt to life outside an X-group.

Anyway, Busiek is a writer who loves to try new things and would be perfect for this. Becky Cloonan has a gorgeous, gritty style that would work well for this street-level team as well.

On Monday, we'll wrap up with the last 12 titles: Marvel Heroes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Western Wednesday: The Hill

Western Wednesday is a weekly celebration of six-guns, steampunk, and sasquatch.

Photoshop image by Tim Babb.

This is stretching the Western Wednesday premise by even my loose standards, but I like Yetis almost as much as Bigfoot, so I'm going with it. Disney's making a Yeti movie called (at least for now) The Hill.

As they continue finding theme park rides to make films from (The Jungle Cruise, The Magic Kingdom, and a new Haunted Mansion are also in the works), the studio has hired a screenwriter named Jason Dean Hall to create a script based on Disneyland's Matterhorn. I'm a Disney World kid, so I've never ridden the Matterhorn, but I understand that Harold the Abominable Snowman has been a feature of it since the '70s. The ride was originally created in 1959.

According to /Film, the story is about "five young adventure-seekers who, for mysterious reasons, are called to the top of the mountain and encounter a Yetis [sic] on the journey down." Because of the grammatical error, I can't tell if that's one Yeti or a bunch of them, but I guess it doesn't really matter. Either way, I'm in.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part Three: The X-Men

One of the frustrating things about the X-Men titles has always been the over-abundance of them. This is a problem with superhero comics in general. If people really like one series, they'll certainly buy three more series with the same character. And while that's apparently true economically, it's something I'd stay away from in my who-cares-if-they-make-money Marvel 52. There will be no Spider-Man line, no multiple titles for Thor or Captain America just because they have movies coming out this year. That's one of the advantages of not having to worry about things like actual sales.

The X-Men are a little different though.There's certainly enough going on in their corner of the Marvel Universe to warrant ten titles, but even so I tried to be sparing about the number of team books, giving the bulk of my spots to solo titles and a couple of two-character team-ups.

32. X-Statix by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred

I'm ashamed to say that I missed this the first time around, but I can blame that completely on the number of other X-Men series I was buying at the time. This weird, highly critically acclaimed series got lost in the madness for me, but it's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for now and I'd like another shot at it.

31. Namora and Marrina by Jeff Parker and Aaron Renier

I always loved team-up books as a kid. Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-in-OneBrave and the Bold. What I don't think I've ever seen though was an ongoing series featuring the same two characters teamed up every month. I'm not counting two-person teams that were created to go together like Hawk and Dove or Cloak and Dagger. I'm talking about characters who were created independently of each other, but could share a title for thematic reasons. There've been plenty of mini-series like The Vision and the Scarlet Witch or Hawkeye and Mockingbird, but no ongoings and I'm not sure why. I'd love to give it a try.

Namora and Marrina seem like a really cool pairing. Both are underwater characters and outsiders to the Marvel Universe. Namora was missing for 50 or 60 years and is still reacquainting herself with current events. Marrina's been out of action for not quite that long, but her alien nature and tragic history makes her even more remote from other Marvel characters. I'd love to see a series in which these two women rely on each other, with Namora perhaps acting as a mentor for younger Marrina. And since they've both been romantically involved with Sub-Mariner at some point, there's some built-in drama already waiting to be exploited.

Jeff Parker knows Namora better than anyone else and I can think of no one else outside of Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak whom I'd rather see write the modern version of Marrina. If you've read The Unsinkable Walker Bean, you know that Aaron Renier's the perfect guy for an ocean adventure series.

I may need to defend why I'm calling this an X-Men book. Namora's related (genetically and thematically) to Namor, who's Marvel's "first mutant" and whose most recent series was nominally an X-title; Marrina is a member of Alpha Flight, an X-Men spin-off. Which brings me to...

30. Sasquatch and Puck by John Rozum and Jason Copland

These two characters have worked well together since Alpha Flight #1. They're bickering opposites (Sasquatch is the educated strongman; Puck is the rough-edged acrobat) so this would be a fantastic buddy-series. John Rozum (Midnight Mass, Xombi) knows a thing or eighteen about writing banter while keeping the action moving and I need to see Jason Copland (Kill All Monsters) draw some Alpha Flight characters on a regular basis.

29. Alpha Flight by Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, and John Byrne

Absolutely no offense intended to Dale Eaglesham, who's doing a fine job on the current Alpha Flight, but it was John Byrne and Alpha Flight that pushed me from casual comics reader to bona fide comics nerd. His representations of those characters are definitive and I'd love to see him draw them again.

28. Kitty Pryde by Jen Wang and Kate Beaton

This replaces all the New Mutants and Young X-Men Academy Whatnot books for me. It's a YA series about a young Kitty Pryde in her early days at Xavier's. Because it's for younger readers, damn the continuity and fill Xavier's with other classmates for her to interact with. But it doesn't have to be just high school drama. She could also go on adventures with various X-Men (preferably one-on-one) to keep things interesting.

Jen Wang (Koko Be Good) and Kate Beaton would keep this light and fun.

27. Jean Grey by G Willow Wilson and Ryan Kelly

I'm not a huge fan of Jean Grey, but I could be. She's got a rich history and interesting powers; she just gets killed off and sidelined so much that I've never had a chance to grow as fond of her as I think she probably deserves. So I'd love to bring her back from the dead again (she's still dead, right?), get her away from Scott, and see what makes her tick. Since it's a character study, I'd just turn Wilson (Air, Mystic) loose and see where she went. And Ryan Kelly's incredibly grounded, yet exciting art would be perfect for it.

26. Nightcrawler by Paul Tobin and Ted Naifeh

Total, genre-crossing swashbuckler. Let Paul Tobin go nuts. Why this hasn't happened already, I don't know. And Ted Naifeh's perfect for putting a demonic-looking hero into all sorts of thrilling settings.

25. Rogue by Vera Brosgol and Chris Bachalo

Though I'm not at all current on what she's been up to the last couple of years, Rogue's been my favorite X-Man for a long, long time. She's pretty angsty and melancholy, and Brosgol's (Anya's Ghost) good at balancing that with humor so that it doesn't become depressing. And no one draws Rogue like Chris Bachalo.

24. Wolverine by Peter Milligan and Kody Chamberlain

Honestly, there are a few series that made my 52 just because it wouldn't be Marvel Comics without them. I'm so over-exposed on Wolverine that it's hard to think of an approach that would make me excited about him. I bet Milligan could though, if he was turned loose. He's got a strange approach to comics and Wolverine can use something different. Kody's (Shang ChiSweets) got a great, loose style that'll keep the comic interesting and exciting to look at.

23. The X-Men by Rich Koslowski and Art Adams

I always like the X-Men best when there's a thick slather of serious melodrama over the trips into space and evil mutant fights. I'm not being sarcastic; that dark tone is right there in their charter: Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them. But it also needs to know when to have some fun and that's where Rich Koslowski (Three Fingers, The King, BB Wolf and Three LPs) comes in. All of his work takes fun, goofy concepts (Mickey Mouse's tell-all story about his early career at Disney, an Elvis impersonator who may not be impersonating, a jazz-age retelling of The Three Little Pigs) and throws a dark veil over them that makes you think without weighting the whole thing down. As for Art Adams...well, he's Art Freaking Adams.

If I were really doing this, I'd have some long discussions with Rich about which characters we wanted to include, but since this is fantasy, my dream line-up would be Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Beast, and Emma Frost. With frequent appearances by Kitty, because she's totally in love with Colossus.

I'm taking a break from this tomorrow and Thursday to focus on Westerns and cephalopods, but I'll be back to in on Friday with Marvel Knights.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part Two: Midnight Sons

One of my earliest memories of Marvel's trying an imprint formula was when they put all of their supernatural books into a line called Midnight Sons. Before then, there were sort of unofficial lines (the Spider-Man titles, the X-Men books, etc.), but this was the first time I remember seeing a purposeful attempt to start a new brand. It didn't last long, but I loved it while it did. So for my Marvel 52, I'm bringing it back.

Not exactly as it appeared in the '90s though. The original Midnight Sons line-up was Blade, Blaze (featuring Johnny Blaze, who at that time wasn't the Ghost Rider, but a bike-riding carnie with a hellfire-spouting shotgun), Darkhold (about a secret group trying to limit the effects of Marvel's version of the Necronomicon), Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Morbius, Nightstalkers (a team of monster-hunting vampires), and Spirits of Vengeance (a Blaze/Ghost Rider team-up book). It was awesome, but here's my version:

42. Fin Fang Four by Scott Gray, Roger Langridge and Richard Moore

In 2005, Marvel published a Halloween event called Marvel Monsters. My version of Midnight Sons owes as much to that as to the original Midnight Sons line. One of the several Marvel Monsters one-shots was Fin Fang Four, co-written by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge and drawn by Langridge. It featured Marvel's most famous giant monster as he teamed up with other Altas-era giant monsters (a robot, a gorilla, and an alien) to fight a microscopic warlord who'd been enlarged to giant-size. In my version, they'll continue to fight giant menaces (sort of an update on Marvel's old Godzilla comic) while drawn by Richard Moore (Boneyard), who's got a knack for drawing light-hearted, but empathetic versions of classic creatures.

41. Elsa Bloodstone by Vera Brosgol and Paul Taylor

Marvel's answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Elsa Bloodstone, daughter of monster-hunter Ulysses Bloodstone. She doesn't need a lot of introduction thanks to Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's including her in Nextwave, but my version would be more of an adventurous romp through Marvel's monsterverse for the Young Adult crowd. Balancing fun with scares is tough, so I picked two YA comics creators who already know how to do that. Vera Brosgol's Anya's Ghost is part high-school comedy/part horror story, while Paul Taylor's Wapsi Square mixes relationship comedy with some spooky Aztec mythology in a very cool way.

40. Legion of Monsters by Paul Cornell and Richard Sala

Just an excuse to team up Marvel's versions of Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster with other monster-inspired characters Werewolf by Night, The Living Mummy, Mr. Hyde, The Lizard, Quasimodo, and Zombie. Paul Cornell (Captain Britain and MI13Action Comics) could have a lot of fun with that and I'd love to see Richard Sala's takes on all those characters. There'd have to be a cute girl though, so maybe this could be a companion to Elsa Bloodstone's solo title. Especially since Marvel's already doing one kind of like that.

39. Inhumans by Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola

I wouldn't really want to offer any editorial input on this. Just: Gaiman. Mignola. Inhumans. Go!

38. Ghost Rider by Joshua Fialkov and Ben Templesmith

Though I'm perfectly okay giving Fialkov a jungle comic with The Savage Land, I'd be missing a huge opportunity if he wasn't also writing a horror comic. And I just love Templesmith's Ghost Rider.

37. Doom by Kurt Busiek and Fiona Staples

The first of a couple of villain books in my Marvel 52. Busiek's grounded enough in Marvel history to make a book work about one of its most classic villains, but he's also inventive and willing to shake things up. I'm not interested in seeing Doom fail at an endless succession of master schemes. I'd much rather read a series exploring his more personal ambitions and the clash between science and supernature. Staples would be perfect for that, especially the supernatural parts.

36. The Hulk by Steve Niles and Skottie Young

I've known Steve Niles for years and I know how much he loves this character. He'd be brilliant on a Hulk book. And just look at how Skottie Young draws him. I'm crying a little right now because this doesn't actually exist.

35. Doctor Strange by Alan Moore and Joann Sfar

Can you imagine Alan Moore on a Doctor Strange book? That might actually be dangerous to read. Doctor Strange should totally be a horror series. That folks keep trying to turn him into a superhero is a shame. Sfar would make it nice and creepy too.

34. Monsters on the Prowl by Steve Niles and Duncan Fegredo

Niles has already sort of worked on a Hulk comic. His and Fegredo's Monsters on the Prowl was another part of the Marvel Monsters event, but what was really interesting and cool about it was that it didn't feature characters inspired by classic monsters. Instead, it featured recognizable, big-name superheroes who also all have some monstrous qualities. '60s versions of Thing, Hulk, Beast,and Giant-Man fight a menagerie of Atlas-era giant monsters that have escaped from the Collector. I'd love an ongoing series with that team.

33. The Defenders by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Eric Powell

As you've seen in the art above, Eric Powell did the covers for the Marvel Monsters books and in my dream line he'd be drawing a book too. The Defenders isn't traditionally a supernatural book, but its founders are a sorcerer, a monster, and an unpredictable menace from beneath the waves, so I'm putting it here. I've always been much more interested in the fantasy aspects of horror than actual scares anyway, so my Midnight Sons line would reflect that. The Defenders ought to sit quite nicely in the catalog next to Monsters on the Prowl and The Hulk.

Pak and Van Lente are easy choices for a book like this. My dream lineup for characters would include Doctor Strange, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Clea, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and Hellcat

Tomorrow: The X-Titles!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part One: Marvel Pulp

I've kept pretty quiet about DC's whole New 52 deal up to now. For better or worse, I don't form opinions quickly, so I gave DC some time to get all their announcements out and respond to the first couple of waves of concerns. I will say that my initial reaction was positive though. I haven't followed DC comics for a couple of years now, so it doesn't affect me personally that they're cancelling everything and starting over. If anything, some of their new series sound really interesting. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman, for instance. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl again, as another example.

My main criticism is that DC seems to be hoping to eat its cake and have it too in regards to balancing current fans with potential, new readers. The New 52's been promoted as an "all-in" approach to reinvigorating the line, while at the same time refusing to call itself a reboot and insisting that fan-favorite stories (an extremely loosely defined category) still count. That's not very "all-in" at all and I suspect that their wishy-washiness will cost them some of those potential, new readers they're wanting.

I don't expect that they'll lose many readers though. As much complaining as fans have been doing, they're still fans. They've stuck with DC through Countdown to Final Crisis; I expect that they'll stick around through this. And it's not like Marvel's got anything especially exciting going on to compete. Yeah, yeah, Marvel still routinely beats DC in sales; all I'm saying is that I don't expect current DC readers to suddenly start switching to Marvel as a result of the "non"-reboot. Whatever you think of DCnU, it's certainly interesting. Marvel, on the other hand, continues to publish the same kind of crossover stuff they've been doing for the last five years. I'm not saying that none of it's good, 'cause some of it really is, but seriously...their section of Previews the last couple of months hasn't been nearly as exciting and expectant as DC's.

I wish I'd thought of this myself, but it was Comics Should Be Good (Robot 6's sister blog at CBR) that came up with the idea of developing your own Marvel 52. I like DC's idea of creating smaller imprints within the DCU (JLA, Batman, Superman, Dark, Edge, etc.). so I used that for my Marvel list too. Not that DC came up with it. Marvel's done the same thing before with Marvel Knights, Tsunami, Marvel MAX, and whatnot. I even used some of those in my list.

Because this could get long, I'm going to divide this up into a series of five posts going into September when DC launches their stuff. That'll give me some room to talk about why I picked the concepts I did as well as the creators I'd love to see work on them. We'll start with a category I call...

Marvel Pulp

The idea behind this "imprint" is to focus on some of the great, not-quite-superhero concepts that Marvel's had over the years: Westerns, jungle adventures, period heroes, spies, and space opera. We'll do this in countdown format, so:

52. Gamora by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Sam Hiti

Gamora's got a lot of history in Marvel's cosmic comics, but the focus on this would be her traveling the universe as an intergalactic bounty hunter. Gamora's extremely hard to kill and has a wicked sense of humor. Kelly Sue DeConnick (OsbornSupergirl) can deliver the goods on funny (and excitement) while Sam Hiti (Tiempos Finales, Death-Day) knows everything about drawing beautiful women and exotic, alien landscapes.

51. Guardians of the Galaxy by Roger Langridge and Shaun Tan

As fun as a Gamora solo-title would be, we also need a book that can capture the rest of Marvel's cosmic characters like Silver Surfer, Thanos, and Rocket Raccoon. Roger Langridge (Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Snarked!) has the imagination to make that incredible, while Shaun Tan (The Arrival, Tales from Outer Suburbia) has the ability to mix the real and the odd in a unique, believable way. He's not known for action sequences, so I'd be interested to see how he tackled that, but I can already imagine his depiction of the arrival of Galactus and it's mind-blowing.

50. Sabra by Carla Jablonsky and Laurenn McCubbin

Sabra isn't a well-known character, but I've been fascinated by her since I first saw her in The Incredible Hulk #256. Maybe because she took her Israeli heritage so seriously, yet didn't seem to have been created specifically to fill a slot as Israel's Superhero for Contest of Champions or something. She eventually became just another of the many, international mutants running around the X-Men's corner of the Marvel Universe, but I've always thought she was better than that. I'd love to see her in a series that focused on the issues of the Middle East in a thoughtful, objective way. Not that Sabra herself should be objective about them, but that the series could explore the region and its history in a way that educates as well as entertains. Carla Jablonsky's done something similar with Nazi-occupied France in her Resistance series, so I picked her to write.  Laurenn McCubbin has a great, realistic style that would complement that kind of story beautifully.

49. Black Widow by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Amanda Conner

I don't know if this was the right thing to do, but though I picked 52 visual artists for my list, I only picked 26 writers and gave them each two books. That was partly because most writers can handle multiple books in a month, but it was also partly to make list-making easier on myself. I'm sure I'll regret it later when I realize I've forgotten one of my favorite writers.

At any rate, this is the second book I'd give Kelly Sue. I promise that I didn't purposely match up women creators with women characters, but it worked out that way in Kelly Sue's case. I'd love to see her write Black Widow. As for Amanda Conner: I love seeing anything she draws, but one look at her variant cover from Secret Avengers #6 above and you'll get why I want her on a Black Widow comic so badly.

48. Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD by James Turner and Luc Jacamon

If you've read James Turner's Rex Libris or Warlord of IO, you know how insanely, awesomely inventive he is. Just the guy to put the "super" back into super spy. And Luc Jacamon (The Killer) knows all about drawing deadly people in diverse settings, both urban and exotic.

47. Mystery Men by Susan Kim and Guy Davis

I really hate not to have David Liss and Patrick Zircher continue the concept they started, but one of the criteria I wanted for my list was to have as many women as possible on it. So I'm giving this '30s-set heroic pulp series to Susan Kim, who did such a great job with her adventurous City of Spies set in a similar time period. And I'm aching to see Guy Davis do some more stuff like he did on Sandman Mystery Theatre.

46. Tigra by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Kerry Callen

The inspiration for this book is two-fold. First, I wanted a jungle comic and Tigra would work great in that setting. She wouldn't have to stay only in that setting, but it would be a great homebase for her.The second inspiration was this description by Kerry Callen of what he wanted in a Tigra series: "a fun-loving character whose cat-like curiosity gets her into interesting predicaments." Pak and Van Lente would be perfect for that and one look at Callen's blog and you know he's the only guy for the visual part of the job.

45. The Savage Land by Joshua Fialkov and Jeremy Bastian

It's another jungle comic, but this one's different from Tigra. Her comic would be much more versatile with lots of guest-stars from other Marvel characters. The Savage Land of course would be set exclusively in the prehistoric world beneath Antarctica. At first I thought I'd call it Ka-Zar and Shanna (the first of several two-character comics you'll see in my Marvel 52), but then I remembered the temptation to take those two out of the Savage Land to interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe. Renaming it The Savage Land (which is a much cooler title anyway) removes that temptation.There's a whole world to explore there and as long as I'm fantasizing about my dream comics (as opposed to worrying about sales), I want to keep these characters out of the rest of the Marvel Universe. I don't care if other Marvel characters stop by for a visit, but I want the setting to stay consistent.

Josh Fialkov (Elk's Run, Tumor) does really well with setting and small casts of characters, so I pick him to write. Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl) draws lavishly and I'd love to see the creatures and landscapes he could fill the Savage Land with.

44. The Rangers by Alan Moore and J Bone

Based on another group of characters I once read about in The Incredible Hulk (#265 this time). The Rangers were a goofy team created by Bill Mantlo, but I liked their modern-Western concept and the sheer zaniness of it would be a great playground for Alan Moore. The team included Firebird (probably the most famous character to come out of the team) as well as modern versions of Red Wolf and the original Ghost Rider (renamed Phantom Rider to avoid confusion) and a couple of very Mantlo characters: Shooting Star (her gun shoots stars!) and Texas Twister (tornado powers). In keeping with making the series fun and versatile, J Bone can draw absolutely anything and make it look wonderful.

43. Gunslingers by John Ostrander and Leonardo Manco

Counterpoint to The Rangers, this would be a real Western set in the late 1800s. Really it's just a continuation of Ostrander and Manco's two mini-series, Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies in which they updated Marvel's classic, Western heroes for modern fans of Westerns.

Coming Monday: Midnight Sons!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Western Wednesday: Bigfoot Exists

Western Wednesday is a weekly tribute to six-guns, steampunk, and sasquatch.

Eduardo Sánchez, director of The Blair Witch Project, is making a trilogy of Bigfoot films starting with one called Exists. According to Variety, Sanchez will start filming in October and the movie's about "a group of twentysomethings who take a trip to a cabin deep in the wooded wilderness and are methodically hunted by a Bigfoot-like beast."

Sánchez compares the movie to The Legend of Boggy Creek (which isn't as bad a thing as you might think, if only Exists can be half as weird and insane as that movie) and says that his goal is to "make Bigfoot scary" again. Weta Workshop is pitching in on the creature's design and Bigfoot will be played by Brian Steele, who's played lots of similar creatures before, from Kothoga in The Relic to the minotaur in Your Highness. He even has experience with this particular character, having played Harry in the Harry and the Hendersons TV show.

Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about any of this. I love Weta, but they're not designing the entire monster, just collaborating on it. And I'm glad they have someone who knows what he's doing to play Bigfoot, but that only gets them so far. The story's going to have to be good, but the logline for it sounds totally cliché.

The reason I started Western Wednesdays was because I'm excited about my Western Bigfoot murder mystery in the upcoming Mondo Sasquatch anthology. Ironically, when the editors of the anthology put out their call for stories, their one criterion for submission was that stories not be "typical Bigfoot-scares-teen-campers tale(s)." There's a reason for that: they've been done to death and no one wants to see another one. I'm withholding judgment until I learn more about Exists, but even though I'd love to see a good Bigfoot movie, I'm not convinced that this is going to be the one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes serves two purposes. It’s a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but – now that two potential sequels have been announced – it also reboots the entire series. It does both of these things excellently by taking advantage of its ability to learn from the mistakes of the original movies.

Whenever I start getting geeky about continuity while talking to my wife, she usually has the same response. Since I'm often trying to think through a continuity hole while I’m talking, the conversation goes something like this:

“If people knew that there’s a danger of the apes’ taking over one day, why did they bring apes into their homes after the Pet Plague? And why did the government let them?”

“Because the writers needed it to happen, of course. Otherwise they couldn't have had their sequel.”

“No, I mean in the story. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well, when they wrote Escape from the Planet of the Apes, they didn’t know what they were going to do for the next movie yet. They just made it up as they went along.”

That exact conversation never happened, because Diane has yet to appreciate the finer qualities of movies about talking gorillas and hasn't been watching these with me, but we’ve had lots of variations on it about lots of movies and TV shows from Star Wars to How I Met Your Mother. She just doesn’t care about fixing continuity mistakes like I do. And that’s cool. She doesn’t have to enjoy this stuff in exactly the same way as me.

What's more, I bring this all up because she’s right, of course. The real explanation for any continuity goof is that the writers screwed up. The Planet of the Apes series was obviously written from film to film with no long-range plan. I mean, look at Beneath. There was no thought for a sequel after that movie, so when they decided to make one, they pulled out the time-travel scenario. That was good, but it also created a lot of problems. Of course, those problems weren’t as noticeable when the movies were originally made and shown. The only way to see them was in the theater or when a network chose to air them on TV, so there was no creating your own marathon or going back to see if you caught a particular detail right. The original audience for Conquest of the Planet of the Apes saw a statue referring to a plague that wiped out all the cats and dogs and thought, “Oh, yeah. I remember something about that from the last movie.” And for most of them, that was all the consideration they gave it. The writers didn’t have to be that careful.

The advantage that Rise’s Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have is that they get to plan a trilogy from the get-go. And not only that, they get to use the original five movies as a template; borrowing what worked and changing what didn’t. Without having to extend the series beyond the destruction of the entire planet in the previous film, there’s no need for messy time-travel. They can tell Caesar’s story without that; tightening it up and focusing more on the relationship between Caesar and humanity. That relationship is what makes Rise so good. There are problems with the movie – as hilariously pointed out by cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt – but I was able to overlook them because I cared about Caesar and what happened to him. And not just him, but James Franco’s character too.

Watching the trailers, I knew it was going to come down to how well they did that, but I figured that even if they blew the first two acts, I’d at least get an awesome ape uprising at the end. I certainly did, but it was made powerful by all the groundwork the film had laid earlier. It wasn’t just apes in revolt; it was characters I cared about finally pushing back against their oppressors. It was cathartic as hell.

And on top of that, there was all this stuff that I loved about the original movies. There were several famous lines repeated and – unlike in Burton’s movie – they worked. I found it especially fascinating that Charlton Heston’s quotes were given to Dodge (Tom "Draco Malfoy" Felton), a sadistic kid who works at the ape shelter run by his father (Brian Cox). Heston’s prejudice against the apes has a different, darker tone when it’s embodied by a human in power over them. And it subtly increases the tension between the audience’s allegiance to its own species and its wish to see the more noble beings prevail. Again, unlike Burton’s version.

I also loved the blink-and-you-miss-them references to Taylor’s rocket launch and its disappearance. Very smooth way to hint at a future story, even if that story is just the one told in the 1968 movie. Fortunately, it's not.

I saw Rise without knowing that it was the first of a planned trilogy. I should have known better – knowing about the importance Hollywood places on tentpoles and franchises – but I went into it just hoping for one, good film. What I got was a great film that tells a complete story and I left the theater satisfied that if this was all there was, I would be happy just to have seen it. Of course, I’m even happier knowing that there are going to be more, so long as they’re as awesome as this one.


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