Tor.com content by

Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

“I’d rather be a good man than a great king” — Thor: The Dark World

Throughout the run of Avengers in comic-book form, there’s been a perception that the “big three” members of the team are founding members Iron Man and Thor and almost-founding member Captain America. In addition to being cornerstones of the team, the three of them have also consistently had long-running titles of their own. (The Hulk has, also, but he was gone after issue #2, and neither the Wasp nor any of Henry Pym’s various identities ever sustained a title long-term.)

So it’s not a surprise that the first three movies after Avengers starred those three. Last week we covered Iron Man 3, and next up were the two characters who were not only titans in the Avengers comics, but who also firmly established the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a thing in 2011 with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, two movies that also established the general release-two-movies-a-year pattern (which was upped to three in 2017). First up: Thor: The Dark World.

[“I’ve got this completely under control!” “Is that why everything’s on fire?”]

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

Here’s Mudd in Your Eye — Star Trek’s “The Escape Artist”

Having spent the previous Short Treks spotlighting newer characters—the established Tilly in “Runaway” and Saru in “The Brightest Star,” the brand-new Craft in “Calypso“—the fourth and final one has as its spotlight a character who’s been around almost as long as Star Trek itself. Harcourt Fenton Mudd first appeared in 1966 played by the late Roger C. Carmel, and the role has been taken over in two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery by Rainn Wilson, who also directed this short.

[Your enemies will be positively green with envy! Greener—er, so to speak…]

“I’m just a man in a can” — Iron Man 3

The big challenge for Marvel Studios in 2013 was to do the next thing. They’d done a series of films that all culminated in Avengers, which was a hugely successful movie, having made flipping great wodges of cash and being well-liked and adored by most who saw it. Everything came together in that 2012 film, fulfilling the promise of the five films that came before it, and the question on everyone’s lips after that was, “Will they be able to keep it up?”

They started the second phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the same way they started the first one: with Robert Downey Jr. headlining his third and what has so far been his final solo Iron Man film.

[“Is that all you got? A cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner?” “Sweetheart, that could be the name of my autobiography.”]

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

“I make this look good” — The Men in Black Trilogy

As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films. We started with 1985’s Red Sonja and 1990’s Dick Tracy, and we conclude with the three films starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the Men in Black.

The Men in Black was a three-issue comic book miniseries written by Lowell Cunningham and published by Aircel in 1990. In 1991, Cunningham did a second miniseries about this government conspiracy to cover up the existence of aliens, monsters, etc., but by then Aircel had been bought up by Malibu Comics, and they published the comic.

The comic was also optioned for a feature film by Amblin Entertainment, and by the time they got the film to theatres in 1997, Malibu had been purchased by Marvel Comics (mostly because Marvel wanted their state-of-the-art coloring process; the 1990s was a big revolution in coloring comics), so on a technicality, you can say that Men in Black was Marvel’s first successful movie (beating Blade by a year).

[“So this is how you see things? This is amazing!” “It’s a gigantic pain in the ass, but it has its moments.”]

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

“The enemy of my enemy is my enemy” — Dick Tracy (1990)

As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films. We started yesterday with 1985’s Red Sonja, and today we move on to the Warren Beatty-led Dick Tracy from 1990.

Chester Gould created the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1931, and continued to write and draw the strip until the 1970s when he retired. A hard-boiled police detective who used cutting-edge (fictional) technology to stop criminals, Tracy proved to be hugely popular throughout the 20th-century, his two-way wrist radio becoming an iconic feature (and a major inspiration for the later invention of smartphones and smart-watches).

Tracy inspired a whole series of films in the 1940s, which this rewatch will get to eventually (your humble rewatcher didn’t even know they existed until researching this entry), and then in 1990 Warren Beatty helmed a new adaptation.

[“It only works if we’re all in.” “Then it don’t work.”]

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

She-Devil with an Accent — Red Sonja

As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films, starting today with 1985’s Red Sonja starring Brigitte Nielsen.

Red Sonja, who has appeared as a supporting character in Conan the Barbarian comic books and on her own, both is and isn’t a creation of Conan creator Robert E. Howard. Howard had a character named Sonya of Rogatino who was not part of the Conan stories, but instead a historical fiction character, from a tale taking place in the 16th century.

Marvel had the rights to do comic-book versions of Conan from 1970 to 1993. In issue #23 of Conan the Barbarian, published in 1973, Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith introduced the character of Red Sonja as a woman who teamed up with Conan on a thieving job.

The character became hugely popular, and is still published as a comics character today—and also was the star of a 1985 movie.

[“I’m going to feed your eyes to the birds, red-hair!” “I don’t need eyes to find you, I can smell you at a hundred paces!”]

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

Apocalypse, Not Now — X-Men: Apocalypse

In the 1980s, the X-Men’s popularity led to a bunch of spinoff titles. The first batch included The New Mutants, which had a team of young trainees; Excalibur, a UK-based team; and X-Factor, a team that brought the original X-Men together (which required resurrecting Jean Grey). The latter had a mysterious foe dogging them, who was eventually revealed to be an ancient mutant known as Apocalypse. Created by Louise Simonson, Apocalypse was the bad guy in a bunch of the seemingly infinite number of crossover comics series that they did in the mutant titles, including the alternate-history crossover “Age of Apocalypse.”

He was a natural choice for a villain in an X-Men movie, and sure enough, they did one in 2016.

[The only thing American about this place is that it used to be British.]

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

Sometimes You Have to Stop and Eat the Flowers — A Spoiler-Filled Review of Aquaman

For people whose only exposure to Aquaman was the various SuperFriends cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s, seeing the character played by the guy who previously played Khal Drogo, Ronon Dex, and Conan the Barbarian probably seemed a trifle odd. Readers of the comics, however, have seen lots of different iterations of the King of the Seven Seas, including the long-haired, bearded, brooding, snarky version initially written by Peter David in the 1990s.

The new Jason Momoa Aquaman film owes quite a bit to that portrayal, as well as the Atlantis backstory that David established in the Atlantis Chronicles and Aquaman: Time and Tide miniseries and the followup ongoing series that was written by David, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Erik Larsen, and Dan Jurgens.

It’s a big dumb goof of a movie, and while no one’s likely to put it in their top ten of superhero movies, it’s actually fun, an adjective that has rarely applied to DC’s theatrical efforts in this century.

[SPOILERS For Aquaman Herein!]

Past is Prologue — X-Men: Days of Future Past

One of the best, and most influential, stories in the entire history of X-Men comics was the two-part “Days of Future Past” storyline in Uncanny X-Men #141-142 in 1981 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. It was the pair’s swan song as collaborators, as Byrne left the title one issue later, ending one of the most impressive runs on any superhero comic.

The story—which had the X-Men from a dystopian future sending one of their own into the past to try to change history—would prove hugely influential. The characters of Cable, Bishop, Rachel Summers, Nimrod, Fitzroy, and Stryfe, among others, came from that alternate future, and the comics did many sequels.

It was also the subject of the movie that served as a sequel to both First Class and The Last Stand.

[“You sacrificed your powers so you could walk?” “I sacrificed my powers so I could sleep!”]

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

Looking Up, Looking Down — Star Trek’s “The Brightest Star”

One of the hallmarks of Star Trek from the very beginning was to have at least one alien character who provides a non-human perspective on things. It started, naturally, with Spock on the original series, and also includes Worf on The Next Generation (and to a lesser extent, Troi and Data), Tuvok, Neelix, Kes, and Seven of Nine (and to a lesser extent, Torres) on Voyager, T’Pol on Enterprise, and more than half the cast of Deep Space Nine.

On Discovery, that role has gone to Saru, who has in one season vaulted himself into the upper echelons of great Trek characters. His compassion, his intellect, his unique perspective as a prey animal, all combine to make him a most compelling character.

So it’s just a pity that this focus on him doesn’t really work.

[Look down every now and then — there’s beauty there, as well…]

“Peace was never an option”—X-Men: First Class

In one year, the Uncanny X-Men creative team of Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum managed two retcons of the character of Magneto that changed everything we knew about the character—the year in question being 1982, two decades after the character was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The first was to establish in issue #150 that Magneto was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Eleven issues later, a flashback issue showed that Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier actually met for the first time before Xavier founded the X-Men, and were dear friends before becoming arch-enemies. When the X-Men were adapted to the screen in 2000, that backstory was the spine of the film, and the plan after X-Men Origins: Wolverine was to do a similar movie for Magneto.

That didn’t quite happen, and we got X-Men: First Class instead…

[“Are you sure we can’t shave your head?” “Don’t touch my hair.”]

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

In Blackest Day, in Brightest Night — Green Lantern

The first version of the Green Lantern was created in 1940 by Martin Nodell. Alan Scott, a railroad engineer, came into possession of a magic lantern. He crafted a ring from the lantern and fought crime using its power.

In 1959, Julius Schwartz created a new Green Lantern with similar powers but a different backstory: Hal Jordan was a test pilot, who was bequeathed a power ring and lantern by an alien named Abin Sur in order to protect the Earth. He was later revealed to be part of a large corps of Green Lanterns who protect the universe from various and sundry threats.

After several attempts to make a Green Lantern film, DC finally got one into theatres in 2011 starring Ryan Reynolds.

[“Well, maybe on their planet, ‘responsibility’ means ‘asshole’.” “Let’s hope so.”]

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

“What’s a Betty Boop?” — Star Trek’s “Calypso”

Apologies to all and sundry for the lateness of this review of the latest Short Treks, but I was in Italy when the episode went live, and it turns out you can’t watch these episodes in Europe—or if you can, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. CBS All Access wouldn’t work for me over there, and while Netflix had Star Trek Discovery, they didn’t have Short Treks. As we say on Earth, c’est la vie. I got home this past weekend and finally got a chance to watch “Calypso.”

It was worth the wait. This is Michael Chabon’s first Trek work—he’s one of the people involved in the upcoming return of Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard—and if this is an indication of what the author of The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay will bring to the table, we’re in for a treat.

[Liar!]

The Moldy West — Jonah Hex

While superheroes have always been the bread and butter of comic books, other subgenres have had their day in the sun. Two of the most popular have been Westerns and horror.

The 1970s saw a revival of the horror genre—Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing, Swamp Thing, Ghost Rider, The Spectre, etc.—and in 1972, John Albano and Tony DeZuniga created Jonah Hex for DC’s All-Star Western, which was soon renamed Weird Western Tales. Hex mixed the ever-popular Western with the equally popular horror to provide tales of a scarred bounty hunter who dealt with monsters both human and supernatural.

[You get uglier every time I see you.]

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

“Everything’s always complicated with Peter” — The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Despite the reboot of the franchise, Spider-Man continued to be a hugely popular character, and The Amazing Spider-Man did very well in 2012, continuing the web-slinger’s streak of being a hit almost no matter what. Long the face of Marvel, Spidey’s popularity continued unabated, and Marc Webb was brought back to direct a sequel, with genre veterans Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci brought in as co-writers and co-executive producers to help build a new Spider-verse intended to stretch out over many movies—and which instead we wouldn’t really see after this. Kurtzman & Orci had already been involved in the financially successful reboots of Transformers, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible, so one can understand the desire to add their Midas touch to Spidey.

[On behalf of the fine people of New York and real rhinos everywhere, I ask you to put your mechanized paws in the air!]

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

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