Spider-Man, and other films, non-MCU

ANOTHER iteration?

The_Amazing_Spider-Man_theatrical_posterI started watching the movies in what was eventually labeled the Marvel Cinematic Universe back when it started in in 2008. Now for those of you NOT seeped in these things, not every Marvel character that appeared in a movie this century is an MCU film.

For convoluted aesthetic and licensing reasons, the films with the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Blade, and Deadpool films, among others, are not part of the canon. The Spider-Man films in 2002/2004/2007 and 2012/2014 are not MCU. But the recent ones with Tom Holland, including Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films, ARE MCU. Got that? There will be a test.

Despite having had collected comic books for over a quarter-century, primarily Marvel products – and I still own some Marvel Masterworks books – I hadn’t watched all that many of the films. Before I tackle the MCU, I thought I’d check to see which ones of the other Marvel films I’ve seen.

Howard the Duck (1986) – the movie was previewed in Albany in a movie theater, sponsored by FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked. I related to the “trapped in a world that he never made” description in the comic book, which also transferred to the film. It was roundly panned, and perhaps deservedly so. Yet I had an odd fondness for it.

Fantastic Four (1994 – unreleased) – at some point in the 2010s I saw this, possibly on YouTube. It was not very good. In fact, it was so awful, it was mildly enjoyable.

Friendly, neighborhood…

Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) . These are the ones starring Tobey Maguire. I saw the first one in a cinema, the second at a resort in the Berkshires. Never saw the third one. I liked the first two enough to get them on DVD.

X2 (2003) – I watched in a hotel in Oneonta on New Year’s Eve many years back. Maybe because I didn’t see the first X-Men film, it didn’t make as much sense as I thought it should.

Fantastic Four (2005) – I thought Michael Chiklis was actually quite good in this. That is high praise since he was all but unrecognizable as The Thing. The rest of the story, as I recall, was pretty pedestrian. That’s necessary, I suppose for an introductory piece, but still… Never saw the follow-up.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – for reasons I’ll explain soon, I have been watching a LOT of MCU movies this summer. So in early July 2020, I needed a palate cleanser before starting on Avengers: Infinity War.

Why did we need ANOTHER iteration of the web-slinger? I say that as someone whose favorite Marvel character is Peter Parker, the awkward young man with a secret.

Maybe we didn’t. But I felt Andrew Garfield was a credible Peter. And since the earlier Sam Raimi stories focused on his relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), it seemed natural that the series deal with his first love, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Her internship with Osgood Corp may have been a bit too coincidental for my taste.

Still, I appreciated their relationship. Her father, the cop (Denis Leary) felt like a real dad, as did Peter’s uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). Aunt May (Sally Field) fretted a lot. If the villain was more tortured soul than actually evil (Rhys Ifans as Curt Connor/the Lizard), that would be in keeping with the comic book narrative.

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the films I had seen a decade and a half earlier. Still, it was time well-spent. I’m still warming up to the new Spider-Man. But that’s a story for another time.

Comic book creator John Byrne is 70

FantaCo Chronicles

John ByrneBack in my FantaCo days, John Byrne saved my bacon. Twice.

For those of you who are not comic book fans, Byrne is a British-born writer and artist of superhero comics. Notably, he had a stellar run with Chris Claremont that made the X-Men the most popular title in the Marvel Universe starting in the late 1970s. He’s worked on many Marvel titles and a few from DC, as you can see here. In 1981, Byrne took over the writing and drawing of Marvel’s first superhero group, the Fantastic Four.

When I worked at FantaCo, we created a series of magazines about Marvel characters. The first was the X-Men Chronicles in 1981, which I edited, with a cover by former X-Men artist Dave Cockrum, It turned out to be monumentally successful, with a print run of 50,000.

The next two were to cover the Fantastic Four, edited by me, and Daredevil, compiled by Mitch Cohn, in early 1982. I no longer know how we did it, but we were able to get several name artists and writers to participate in our project.

Wait, Tom Skulan, publisher and store owner, remembers that several came directly from other artists who had done work for us “who felt that their friends would appreciate the high rates we were paying.” Mitch, in particular, often pumped creators for other phone numbers.

We DID have an impressive Rolodex. (Hey, kids: a Rolodex is “a rotating file device used to store business contact information. Its name is a portmanteau of the words rolling and index.” I have my red one SOMEWHERE, I think.)

Problem solver

spider-man chroniclesJohn Byrne agreed not only to do the front cover of the Fantastic Four Chronicles but the centerspread. He also wrote A Personal Reflection re: the FF. We needed to print the front and back covers of the Fantastic Four and Daredevil Chronicles “two-up”, i.e., at the same time.

The problem is that I didn’t have the back cover from prominent artist George Perez. What to do, what to do?

Finally, I called Byrne, who suggested using his front cover as the back cover as well. No charge. Eventually, the Perez cover showed and we used it as the inside back cover. It bumped a piece by local artist Joe Fludd, who was/is a big Perez fan. George, BTW, did the cover for the Avengers Chronicle, edited by Mitch.

I’m working on the Spider-Man Chronicles. Spider-Man was my favorite character. Mitch got Frank Miller, who had done the Daredevil Chronicles cover, to agree to do the same for Spidey. Then, at the last moment, Miller called and pulled out! I have everything else finished.

In desperation, I call John Byrne. Can he whip up SOMETHING? And quickly? I swear that four days later, the cover arrives in the mail. And it’s great! The book schedule is saved.

I haven’t kept up with Byrne since I largely gave up reading comics in the mid-1990s. I know that he and his X-Men collaborator Chris Claremont were entered into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2015. But thanks, John Byrne. And happy natal day.

Jack Kirby would have been 100

just search Mark Evanier’s page for info about Jack Kirby, or at least go to his August 28 posts each year.

Jack-KirbyThe Wikipedia post reads: “Jack Kirby (/ˈkɜrbi/; August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994), born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer, and editor widely regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators and one of its most prolific and influential creators.” This is understatement; he was known as King Kirby for a reason.

Check out this page for just some of the characters he was responsible for creating or co-creating.

Lots of people can write more eloquently than I about Jack Continue reading “Jack Kirby would have been 100”

Antics of comic books and film

Marvel can (and probably will) bring back the Fantastic Four, because, as someone who read the four-color items for three decades, almost nothing is permanent in the comic books.

FourEverI was, as noted, very happy that Jack Kirby, co-creator of the Marvel Universe (at worst) won his legal action with Marvel Comics. But it points out how much money must be involved, a rumored $30 million to the Kirby heirs.

It appears that Marvel Comics is cancelling the Fantastic Four comic book, one of its flagship titles, and it’s likely it’s because of too little money, not from the comic book, but from the movies.
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July Rambling: Weird Al, and the moon walk

I REALLY want to see the movie Life Itself, about Roger Ebert.

clock.numbers
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell. To that end, Bible Stories for Newly Formed and Young Corporations and Congratulations: It’s a corporation.

An answer to the child immigrant problem at the US-Mexican border? I note that the Biblical Jesus was a refugee, his parents fleeing Herod’s wrath. Yet so many people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ “are so uncaring and hateful about hungry children trying to get to a better, safer place to live.”

In the non-surprise category: Stand Your Ground Laws Lead To More Homicides, Don’t Deter Crime.

Misleading on Marriage: how gay marriage opponents twist history to suit their agenda.

Yiddish Professor Miriam Isaacs has dug in a previously unknown treasure of over a thousand unknowns Yiddish songs recorded of Holocaust survivors; text is in Swedish, but can be translated. Miriam was my old racquetball buddy decades ago.

The Creation Myth of 20th Century Fundamentalism by Jeff Sharlet, who I also knew long ago.

Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe came out as gay. Arthur explains why it STILL matters. Also: I Can Be Christian, and Gay, and Live in Alabama.

Portraits of people in 7 days’ worth of their own garbage.
Continue reading “July Rambling: Weird Al, and the moon walk”