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Keith DeCandido

Fiction and Excerpts [3]
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Fiction and Excerpts [3]

Slogging Through the Muck — Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing

This edition of “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is dedicated to the memory of Len Wein, the co-creator of Swamp Thing (along with dozens of other comics characters, including Wolverine), who passed away earlier this month. We miss you, buddy.

The 1970s were a boom time for mainstream comics to try out other genres with their superheroes, bringing in other pop-culture tropes into their four-color world. In particular, there was a horror renaissance in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with DC having success with characters like the Spectre, Dr. Fate, and Deadman while Marvel would give us the Son of Satan, Ghost Rider, and the seminal Tomb of Dracula comic.

In this atmosphere, Swamp Thing was created.

[“Don’t be afraid, Jude.” “You’d better say that to someone whose desk you ain’t hiding behind.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Wonderful and Wonderless — Wonder Woman (1974), The New Original Wonder Woman, and Supergirl

It’s funny to say this now, but throughout the 20th century, DC was the leader in getting their properties translated to the screen. They gave us two iconic Superman actors in George Reeves and Christopher Reeve, two different major pop-culture phenomena in screen versions of Batman, both Adam West in the 1960s and the Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney trifecta in the 1980-90s. Their best animated work ranged from the Fleischer brothers’ great shorts in the 1940s all the way to Bruce Timm’s unparalleled set of animated series in 1990s and early 2000s. All Marvel had to show for themselves were a lot of mediocre movies, a lot of second-rate animated series (though one at least had an iconic theme song), and only really one TV show that worked (The Incredible Hulk).

However, it’s instructive to look at DC’s failures as well as successes, including both their versions of Wonder Woman and the first attempt at Supergirl.

[“Let me make love to you.” “Why?” “Because your eyes reach into my—” “You misunderstood me. I didn’t mean why should you want to, I meant why should I?”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Not the Hero of World War II — Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon

Like the two movies we covered last week, Captain America and Captain America: Death Too Soon were TV movies intended as pilots for a new series. Hoping for the success of Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Spider-Man, these two movies starring college football player turned actor Reb Brown as the star-spangled hero did not go to series, though unlike Dr. Strange and the first attempt at Wonder Woman (which we’ll get to next week), Cap at least got a second movie out of it—and it had Christopher Lee as the bad guy!

This is probably for the best, considering that the first thing they did was take the hero of World War II and remove him completely from that war, though that’s only the start of the problems with these two movies…

[The American ideal. It’s a little tough to find these days, isn’t it?]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

With Great Power Comes Great Boredom — Spider-Man (1977) and Dr. Strange (1978)

In many ways, the 1970s were the first golden age of superheroes on TV. You had Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk, not to mention stuff like The Six-Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.

In addition, two TV movies were produced as back-door pilots based on Marvel’s heroes Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. The former had been done in animation (complete with iconic theme song), and also in some amusing live-action shorts on the kids show The Electric Company (which was your humble rewatcher’s first exposure to the character), while the 1978 TV movie was the sorcerer supreme’s first time being adapted into another medium.

Both, unfortunately, share issues with pacing and with grokking the source material.

[I can’t bow my head to any man and call him master…]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Big Heroes, Big Characters, Big Villains, Small Plot: Marvel’s The Defenders Season 1

By the time we get to the end of Marvel’s The Defenders, that word (“defenders”) has never been used. It’s kind of fitting, really, since the original comic book version of the Defenders were a so-called “non-team” featuring a rotating and inconsistent cast, and the team was never really formalized or set.

In that same vein, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage never really become a formal team. Hell, the “team,” such as it is, isn’t really just those four, as Claire Temple, Misty Knight, and especially Colleen Wing are important components of the fight, too.

And that is what makes The Defenders particularly strong, as the characterizations of all its players, big and small, is superb.

If only the plot was stronger…

[SPOILERS for The Defenders season 1…]

“Who are you people?” Marvel’s The Defenders First Impressions of Episodes 1-3

From 2008-2011, Marvel Studios provided an excellent blueprint for setting up what we now refer to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe: two Iron Man films, a Hulk film, a Thor film, and Captain America: The First Avenger. All standalone movies, but with various common elements and through-lines (the Stark family tree, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Infinity Stones) to come together in Avengers, which remains the gold standard. It works as the first Avengers movie as well as the next movie for each of the above characters.

In 2015, Marvel went back to that blueprint for their more ground-level Netflix television series based in New York. Two seasons of Daredevil, and one each of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, culminating in The Defenders, now live on Netflix.

Here’s a quick look at the first three episodes and whether or not they bode well for history repeating itself. (There will be a full review on Monday.)

[SPOILERS for The Defenders season 1, as well as Daredevil seasons 1-2, and the first seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.]

“Live as One of Them, Kal-El” — The Christopher Reeve Superman Movies

In the early 1970s, the Salkinds—son Ilya and father Alexander—acquired the rights to do a Superman movie. While there were plenty of TV movies and pilots and series and such that had been done throughout this decade starring costumed heroes—Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Dr. Strange, all of which we’ll get to in due course—there hadn’t been a theatrically released comic-book superhero film since Batman in 1966, and even that was tied to a TV show. The Salkinds, though, wanted Superman on the big screen.

[Frankly, Mr. White, I don’t really enjoy television. Too much violence.]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Pre-Dawn of Justice: Superman and the Mole Men and Batman (1966)

In the late 1930s, National Periodical Publications had two magazines that would change history: Action Comics, the first issue of which featured “Superman,” a colorful, powerful character created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Detective Comics, the 27th issue of which featured “Bat Man,” a darker, nastier character created by Bill Finger & Bob Kane. They quickly became the two main templates for the modern superhero: the one a big, bold, brightly colored hero of the people with tremendous power, the other a darker, scarier defender of justice who used his brains, training, and wealth.

[Since you can’t be trusted with guns, I’m going to have to take them away…..]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Introducing 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Superhero movies are all the rage in the early 21st century, but it’s hardly a new phenomenon. In the earliest days of superhero comics, they were quickly adapted into serialized formats: live action movie serials, radio dramas, and animated shorts. Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel—they all appeared in one or more of those forms in the late 1930s and 1940s.

[Read more]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Movies Overview

Star Trek movies
Original release dates: December 1979 – July 2016
Producers: Gene Roddenberry, Harve Bennett, Leonard Nimoy, Rick Berman, J.J. Abrams

Captain’s log. With the five-year mission having been completed, the three main characters are initially cast out to the nine winds. Kirk is promoted to admiral, Spock and McCoy both resign, the former to study Kolinahr and become more emotionless and logical than he already was, the latter to go into civilian practice. Meanwhile, Enterprise has a new captain and a major facelift, and everyone else has been promoted.

[Don’t call me “tiny”……]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond
Written by Simon Pegg & Doug Jung
Directed by Justin Lin
Release date: July 22, 2016
Stardate: 2263.2

When Star Trek Beyond was released a year ago, I reviewed it for this site, and even did it in the rewatch format. My take on the movie hasn’t really changed, so I present that review once again to finish off the movie portion of the Original Series Rewatch. Next week, the TOS Rewatch will conclude with an overview of the ten films.

Captain’s log. Three years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, Kirk is suffering a bit of burnout. Things have gotten almost “episodic,” he laments in his log. (Ahem.)

[I joined on a dare……]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Release date: May 16, 2013
Stardate: 2259.55

Captain’s log. On Nibiru, a planet with white-skinned natives and red plants, Kirk is running very fast, having pissed off the locals. Kirk is attacked by a giant animal and stuns it—except that was the mount McCoy had secured to get them out of there, and now it’s stunned. They keep running, having angered the natives deliberately to get them to chase him so that they won’t be harmed by the volcano that’s about to erupt.

[“That was an epic beating.” “No, it wasn’t!” “You had napkins hanging out of your nose.”]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Release date: May 8, 2009
Stardate: 2258.42

Captain’s log. The U.S.S. Kelvin is sent to investigate a peculiar spatial phenomenon, and as they approach, a gigantic ship, the Narada, comes through it and immediately fires on the Kelvin and pounds the crap out of it. At the request of the Narada‘s captain, a Romulan named Nero, Captain Robau takes a shuttle to the Narada to discuss surrender terms. Robau leaves Lieutenant George Kirk in command with orders to evacuate the ship if he doesn’t report in fifteen minutes.

Nero asks if Robau recognizes a particular ship or the face of Ambassador Spock. Robau recognizes neither, but it’s not until Robau gives the date that Nero loses his temper and kills him.

[Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek Generations

Star Trek Generations
Written by Rick Berman and Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Carson
Release date: November 18, 1994
Stardate: 48632.4

Captain’s log. A bottle floats through space and breaks on the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B. Joining Captain John Harriman on her maiden voyage is a gaggle of press, as well as Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov. The trio look around and talk to the helm officer, Ensign Demora Sulu, Hikaru Sulu’s daughter.

After Kirk gives the order to leave Spacedock—which he only does reluctantly, and only after Harriman insists—they set course for a trip around the solar system. However, they pick up a distress call. Two ships are stuck in an energy ribbon and are about to be destroyed. Harriman tries to fob it off on another ship in range—but there is no other ship in range, so Harriman reluctantly sets course. Throughout all this, Kirk is practically jumping out of his skin.

[“Very good, sir!” “Brought a tear to my eye.” “Oh, be quiet….”]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Written by Leonard Nimoy and Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal and Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flynn
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Release date: December 6, 1991
Stardate: 9521.6

Captain’s log. We open with the explosion of Praxis, a Klingon moon, and the location of their primary energy production facility. The subspace shockwave from the explosion travels all the way to Federation space, where the U.S.S. Excelsior, under the command of Captain Sulu, is returning from a three-year survey of the Beta Quadrant, charting gaseous anomalies. The Excelsior is hit by the wave, which Science Officer Valtane traces to Praxis—but while he can confirm the location of Praxis, he can’t confirm the existence of Praxis. Most of the moon is gone. Sulu has Communications Officer Rand send a message asking if they require assistance. A distress call from the moon is overlaid by Brigadier Kerla, who responds to Sulu’s offer of help with a definitive “no,” calling it an “incident” that they have under control. Sulu is, to say the least, skeptical and has Rand report this to Starfleet Command.

[I’d give real money if he’d just shut up.]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch