Tor.com content by

Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

Weapon Blech — X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wolverine was introduced in 1974 at the end of Incredible Hulk #180 by the late, great Len Wein & Herb Trimpe, inserting himself into a battle between the Hulk and the Wendigo. A Canadian secret agent, codenamed Weapon X, Wolverine spent issue #181 fighting both Hulk and Wendigo, failing to stop either one. A year later, Wein used him as part of his new team of X-Men introduced in Giant-Size X-Men #1, and he quickly became the most popular of those new characters; his combination of snotty-brawler personality, tendency to explosive violence, and mysterious past proved to be incredibly compelling, particularly in the hands of Wein’s successor, Chris Claremont, and his longtime collaborator, Canadian artist/co-plotter John Byrne. He became Marvel’s most popular character, matching, if not supplanting, Spider-Man as the company’s flagship hero in the latter two decades of the 20th century.

When the X-Men hit the big screen in 2000, the character did likewise for the growing series of X-films.

[“Are you Remy LeBeau?” “Do I owe you money?” “No.” “Then Remy LeBeau I am!”]

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

Reductio Ad Absurdum — Watchmen

Charlton Comics was never one of the heavy hitters of the comics industry, but the company had a long and respectable run as a publisher from the end of World War II until the early 1980s. They had a reputation as a “minor league” comics company, as a lot of people who became well regarded artists for Marvel and DC started out doing work for Charlton: Steve Ditko, Sal Trapani, John Byrne, Roger Stern, Denny O’Neil, Jim Aparo, Sam Grainger, Bob Layton, and Mike Zeck, among many others.

In response to both DC and Marvel reviving the superhero comic book in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Charlton created their own superhero line, including Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question, the Peacemaker, Nightshade, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. That line eventually petered out, and Charlton did mostly licensed comics in the 1970s.

This all relates to Watchmen, trust me.

[I used to be a masked avenger too, you know. I’m used to getting up at three in the morning and doing something stupid.]

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

“A vestige of the vox populi” — V for Vendetta

Warrior was a British anthology comic book in the 1980s edited by Dez Skinn and which rivaled 2000 A.D. (the source of Judge Dredd, among other things) in terms of critical acclaim for its stories, but never had the same sales as the other magazine. The contributors to the title were a who’s who of British creators in the 1980s: John Bolton, Steve Dillon, Garry Leach, Steve Moore, Grant Morrison, Paul Neary, Steve Parkhouse, John Ridgway, and many others—notably Alan Moore, who ran The Bojeffries Saga, Marvelman, Warpsmith, and V for Vendetta in the magazine.

At least until it was cancelled.

[This valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.]

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

“You’re the devil’s baby mama” — Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

While Ghost Rider wasn’t exactly a huge critical hit, it did well at the box office, and a sequel was green-lit right away, with Nicolas Cage signed up to return as the title character. However, he was the only one to return. Nobody else from the 2007 film came back for the 2012 sequel, not even the actors whose characters are retained, as Ciarán Hinds replaced Peter Fonda as the devil, while Ionut Cristian Lefter played the younger Blaze instead of Matt Long.

[These guys are gonna lift my curse? They don’t even have shoes…]

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

“We’re not going to have a meaningful conversation, are we?” — Ghost Rider

Marvel’s first character called Ghost Rider, appearing in 1967, was a cowboy in the Old West named Carter Slade who rode a horse and wore a costume that made him appear to be a ghost. It was actually based on a 1940s comic on which the copyright had lapsed, and Marvel jumped on it.

A few years later, Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Mike Ploog all collaborated to create a new contemporary Ghost Rider. Originally conceived as a Daredevil villain, Thomas decided he needed his own storyline, and the character—this time riding a motorcycle, inspired by the popularity of Evel Knievel and his ilk—debuted in Marvel Spotlight in 1972, later getting his own title.

The character was hugely popular for a while before flaming out (sorry), and his title was cancelled. But a guy named Nicolas Cage was a big fan…

[I feel like my skull is on fire…..]

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

“Victory has defeated you” — The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan wasn’t a hundred percent sure that he wanted to return to the Batman well, as he was worried that he’d lose interest. He also was struggling to come up with third films in series that were well regarded. (Just on the superhero end of things, you’ve got Superman III, Batman Forever, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Spider-Man 3 as cautionary tales.) But once he and his Bat-collaborators David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan hit on the notion of using the “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land” storylines from the comics for inspiration for, in essence, the end of Batman’s career, he found the story he wanted to tell.

[“My mother warned me about getting into cars with strange men.” “This isn’t a car.”]

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

Long Live the Chief — Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 2, Episodes 9-13

One of the issues with pretty much all of Netflix’s Marvel offerings is an inability to come up with stories to fill thirteen episodes. The Punisher‘s inaugural season was the first one to really feel like it earned the whole baker’s dozen with its storyline, and Jessica Jones season two dealt with the problem by having several smaller plots instead of one big one.

Having finished the second season of Luke Cage, I look back and see a strong season with no draggy parts (which plagued season one) and no major missteps (like killing Cottonmouth and replacing him with Diamondback). It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it overall worked better than most.

(Check out my reviews of episodes 1-4 and of episodes 5-8.)

[SPOILERS for the various Marvel Netflix shows in general and all of Luke Cage season 2 in particular]

“Why so serious?” — The Dark Knight

David S. Goyer wrote a treatment for two followup films to Batman Begins, the first involving the Joker—as teased at the very end of the prior film—and the second involving Two-Face. Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan wound up condensing the two into one movie, which they called The Dark Knight. This was the first Batman movie not to have “Batman” in its title, though that particular phrase had eclipsed “the Caped Crusader” as the most common nickname associated with Bruce Wayne’s alter ego ever since Frank Miller & Klaus Janson’s landmark 1985 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns.

The movie was unfortunately marred by tragedy, as Heath Ledger died shortly after completing filming his role as the Joker.

[The only morality in a cruel world is chance.]

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

Family First! — Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 2, Episodes 5-8

There’s a lot going on in the middle episodes of this season of Luke Cage, with the title character moving closer to the hero-for-hire that he has historically been in the comics since his very first appearance (in a title called Hero for Hire), and also finally starting to have the conversation with his father he needs to have. They haven’t finished the conversation yet, and in fact they keep having the same one over and over again, which is a common refrain (literally and figuratively) as way too many dialogues are repeated in these four episodes.

Having said that, as much as Cage gets, it’s as nothing compared to what we get with Mariah Dillard, Misty Knight, and Shades & Comanche…

(Here’s where you can read my take on episodes 1-3.)

[SPOILERS for the various Marvel Netflix shows in general and episodes 1-8 of Luke Cage season 2 in particular]

Rebirth of the Bat — Batman Begins

After the soul-destroying horrendousness of Batman & Robin in 1997, Warner Bros. kept trying to figure out ways to restart the Batman film franchise, which went from the hottest thing since sliced bread in 1989 to the poster-child for awful superhero movies eight years later. The planned fifth film in the 1990s series, Batman Unchained, to be directed again by Joel Schumacher, was scrapped when B&R failed like a big giant failing thing, and Warner decided to start over.

They finally did it with Christopher Nolan, fresh off his success with Memento.

[“Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.” “That’s why it’s so important. It separates us from them.”]

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

Rage in the Cage — Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 2, Episodes 1-4

Based on the first four episodes of the second season of Luke Cage, there are two primary themes of this latest baker’s dozen episodes of Marvel on Netflix: family in general and parents and children in particular, and actions of the past having consequences in the present.

This season doesn’t really waste much time getting into that, either. An issue with far too many release-the-season-at-once shows is languid pacing of the early episodes in an attempt to get people to keep watching, so revelations and actions are stretched out. Not so much, here: they’re not rushing, but they’re not taking their time, either. So far, so good, I’d say.

[SPOILERS for the various Marvel Netflix shows in general and episodes 1-4 of Luke Cage season 2 in particular]

“All that you know is at an end” — Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

While it was far from a critical success, and while the fan community seemed pretty divided on it (a common refrain was that Brad Bird had already done a better Fantastic Four movie with Pixar’s The Incredibles), Fantastic Four made a pretty penny in 2005, riding the new wave of Marvel films suddenly seemed to be all over the filmic landscape.

Green-lighting a sequel seemed a no-brainer, and so they brought most everyone back two years later, and decided to adapt one of the most iconic Fantastic Four comics stories ever: the coming of Galactus.

[“You don’t even know me!” “Actually, I know you very well. I read your personality profile: confident, reckless, irresponsible, self-obsessed, borderline narcissism.” “Okay, so you do know me….”]

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

How the Cloak & Dagger TV Series Compares to the Original Comics

FreeForm’s new Cloak & Dagger miniseries is doing a very Netflix-style slow burn, as through the first three episodes, the title characters have barely had any screen time together. However, they’ve established quite a bit about Tyrone Johnson, Tandy Bowen, and their lives tinged with tragedy.

While showrunner Joe Pokaski and his team of writers have kept the basic structure of Cloak and Dagger, a significant number of details have been changed from their comic book origins. Herewith, an accounting of what we’ve seen so far.

[SPOILERS for the first three episodes of Cloak & Dagger]

“We’re all in this together” — Fantastic Four (2005)

Dubbed “the world’s greatest comic magazine,” Fantastic Four changed comics when it was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961. At the time, DC (or National Periodical Publications) was having huge success rebooting their superhero comics, with new versions of the Flash and Green Lantern and renewed interest in Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman—and they also had a huge team book in Justice League of America.

Over at Marvel (or Timely Publications), whose bread and butter was mostly monster comics at this point, they decided to cash in on the trend with their own superhero team, though this one was less like the Justice League and more of a family of adventurers, more akin to Challengers of the Unknown. They were the first of many new superheroes to debut from the company, quickly followed by the Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, and more, including another couple of team books, X-Men and Avengers.

Even though the Fantastic Four were eclipsed in straight-up popularity by Spider-Man in the 1960s and 1970s, the X-Men in the 1980s and the 1990s, and the Avengers in the 2000s and 2010s, the FF always remained the rock-solid foundation of the Marvel age of heroes.

In comics, anyhow. In movies, not so much.

[“Don’t even think about it!” “Never do.”]

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

Slogging Through Even More Muck — Man-Thing

First created as part of the horror boom of the 1970s, Man-Thing initially appeared in Savage Tales, a black-and-white horror magazine, which only lasted one issue in 1971. The character eventually became the primary feature of Adventure Into Fear. Created by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway based on a notion by Stan Lee, eventually Steve Gerber took over the writing chores on Fear, and he created Howard the Duck in one issue.

Dr. Theodore Sallis was transformed into Man-Thing, a silent, barely sentient ambulatory swamp creature. Anyone feeling fear burns when touched by Man-Thing, leading to his infamous tagline (created by Gerber), “Whoever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!”

Like Howard, Man-Thing was adapted into a movie. Like Howard the Duck, 2005’s Man-Thing was pretty awful.

[“Your friend, Ted Sallis, before he died, before I buried him here under this rig, you know what he said?” “Fuck you!”]

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

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