Tor.com content by

Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

Purr-fectly Mediocre — Catwoman

Catwoman made her initial appearance in the very first issue of Batman’s solo title in 1940 as “The Cat.” A cat-burglar named Selina Kyle, she quickly became a popular member of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, and the most prominent female member of same.

The main difference between Catwoman and Batman’s other foes, like the Joker, the Penguin, and so on, was that there was a certain amount of sexual tension. Mostly that was expressed in the middle of the 20th century as good old-fashioned sexism, as Batman treated Catwoman with more respect and a lot of drooling because she was a girl.

Then Catwoman appeared in the 1966 TV series starting Adam West, and her popularity as a character skyrocketed.

[It all started on the day I died.]

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

More Bland Girl Than Bad Girl—Witchblade

While strictly speaking, Image Comics is a comics publisher, in truth, it’s an artist’s collective loosely banded together to publish comics. Each of the founders has his own little corner of it—and some of them split off, with Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee both parting ways with Image at various points. (Lee’s WildStorm imprint became its own company, and then later it was bought by DC.) Others have been brought in, most notably Robert Kirkman, the writer of a comic you might have heard of, The Walking Dead. (I hear there’s a TV show based on it that some folks may have seen…..)

One of Image’s imprints is Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow Productions, which produced a number of superhero comics—but it was their “bad girl” comic, Witchblade, that was their biggest hit, not only as a comic, but also an anime series, a manga adaptation, a Japanese novel, and, most relevant to this rewatch, a 2000 pilot that got picked up for a TV series.

[“What is the witchblade?” “A mystery, wrapped in a riddle, and cloaked in a conundrum.” “That doesn’t help very much…”]

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

“You’re in love, have a beer” — Hellboy II: The Golden Army

With the first Hellboy movie being a success, it was pretty much a no-brainer for a sequel to be green-lit. The movie not only made money for the studio, it also brought a new audience to Mike Mignola’s comic book.

Unfortunately, there was a snag, in that Revolution Studios, which produced the movie, went out of business in 2006, the same year the sequel was originally scheduled for.

[Howdy Doody’s real!!!!!]

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

“Aw, crap!” — Hellboy

Mike Mignola first came to prominence as an inker with a very distinctive style, lending his unique brushwork to embellish the pencils of other artists in comics from Marvel and DC. In 1993, he created “Hellboy” for a sketch he did at a convention. The character appeared on a cover of Dime Press and then in a story Mignola did with John Byrne for San Diego Comic Con Comics. Eventually, Mignola decided to use that character as the focal point of stories he wanted to tell in his own comics, and a legend was born. Hellboy has appeared in various comics and comics series for the last 25 years.

He also was adapted into screen form, including two live-action movies and two direct-to-DVD animated films.

[“Remind me why I do this again?” “Rotten eggs and the safety of mankind.”]

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

“I thought you were cool!” — Elektra

The hilarious thing about Elektra is that she was originally only supposed to appear in one issue and never be seen again.

Elektra first appeared in Frank Miller’s first issue of Daredevil as its full-on writer, issue #168, having been the artist and co-plotter previously, working with Roger McKenzie. She was only meant to be a one-off, a woman from Matt Murdock’s past, done in what was in essence a filler issue enabling Miller to get his sea legs as writer, so to speak.

But the character proved to be hugely popular, and he brought her back six issues later, and Elektra has since then refused to die—or stay dead.

[“You really kill people for a living?” “Yeah.” “Why?” “It’s what I’m good at.” “That’s messed up.”]

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

“I’m not the bad guy” — Daredevil

Daredevil was created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, based on a character design by Jack Kirby. DD has one of the more ingenious superhero disguises, as his secret identity is a blind lawyer named Matt Murdock. Thanks to the early-Marvel catch-all of radiation = super-powers, young Matt was blinded by a radioactive canister, but his other senses were expanded a hundredfold.

The character was always something of a B-lister, never having the same level of prominence as Spider-Man and the Avengers and the Fantastic Four throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and in the 1980s, the title was on the verge of cancellation, when writer Roger McKenzie departed the title and his artist, Frank Miller, was given the chance to write the book. Under Miller’s guidance, the book was increased to monthly and became immensely popular, as Miller built on the darker tone McKenzie had started, and focused on DD as a city vigilante, fighting gangsters and such, in particular a minor Spider-Man villain, the Kingpin of Crime, as well as ninjas—lots of ninjas.

DD’s popularity meant that the spate of early 21st-century movies featuring Marvel characters almost had to include ol’ Hornhead.

[Muggers don’t usually wear rose oil or high heels—at least not this far from Chelsea……]

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

Too Much Plot, Too Little Movie — Spider-Man 3

As was discussed in the comments of last week’s rewatch of Spider-Man 2, it’s arguable who would truly be considered Spider-Man’s greatest foe. The top spot alternates between the Green Goblin (seen in the first movie) and Dr. Octopus (in the sequel).

However, throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the most popular villain in Spidey’s rogues’ gallery was definitely Venom. The character proved hugely popular when he first appeared in full on the last page of Amazing Spider-Man #299 in 1988 as this weird evil version of the black costume Spidey had worn for a while after the first Secret Wars miniseries. Venom appeared constantly throughout the Spider-titles, got his own miniseries and later an ongoing series, and was generally Spidey’s most popular foe for the final decade of the 20th century.

So it was inevitable that, having covered two of the biggies, Sam Raimi et al would go for the third in his third movie—which, by the way, was scheduled for May 2007 release before the second one even premiered…

[“Hang on!” “To what???”]

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

Arms and the Man — Spider-Man 2

One of the sources of Spider-Man’s lasting appeal has been his rogue’s gallery of villains. Over the 55 years of the character’s existence, he has had an impressive array of colorful bad guys to face. In fact, I’d argue that no other hero at Marvel has as wide a range of interesting villains as Spidey: the Green Goblin, the Vulture, the Hobgoblin, Venom, the Lizard, the Sandman, Electro, the Shocker, the Rhino, Carnage, Tombstone, the Scorpion, Kraven the Hunter, etc., etc., etc.

Having said that, the prime spot in Spidey’s rogues gallery has pretty much always belonged to Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Dr. Octopus. Many of the seemingly endless drafts of Spider-Man had Doc Ock as the bad guy before they settled on the Green Goblin instead. So it’s not real surprising that Octavius would be the villain in Spider-Man 2.

[If promises were crackers, my daughter would be fat.]

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

A Friendly Neighborhood Movie — Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man

Created in 1962 as part of the big wave of superheroes that began in 1961 with Fantastic Four, Spider-Man proved to be one of Marvel Comics’s most successful characters. A teenaged nerd who was made fun of by the jocks, an orphan raised by his elderly aunt, and a young man with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility thanks to his indirect involvement in the death of his uncle, and also one of the funniest heroes around thanks to his predilection for witty banter, Spider-Man quickly became Marvel’s flagship character.

In the late 1960s, several Marvel characters were adapted into animation, with Spidey’s being by far the most popular (and getting an iconic theme song), and the character continued to show up on TV in either live-action or animated form through the 1970s (the Nicholas Hammond live-action show), 1980s (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends), and 1990s (Spider-Man: The Animated Series).

But it wasn’t until 2002 that he got his own theatrical release, though it wasn’t for lack of trying for 25 years…

[“You don’t trust anyone, that’s your problem.” “I trust my barber…”]

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

“You’re an even more screwed-up mess than I thought” — Ang Lee’s Hulk

A movie featuring the Hulk—the only Marvel character whose 20th-century adaptation to the screen could be considered an unqualified success—was first hatched by Avi Arad at Marvel and Gale Anne Hurd as early as 1990, shortly after The Death of the Incredible Hulk aired. They sold the rights to Universal, and that started a lengthy development process that saw numerous scriptwriters and directors brought in. At various points, Joe Johnston and Jonathan Hensleigh were attached to direct before Ang Lee was hired.

A Taiwanese director, Lee came to prominence as the director of Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But it was more likely his genre film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that got him the gig directing a comic-book movie…

[“I’m also aware that he saved my life.” “Yeah, from a mutant French poodle…”]

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

Come for the Health, Stay for the Self-Improvement — One Writer’s Martial Arts Journey

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how they inform the author’s literary identity!

Writing is a very sedentary profession. You spend most of your time sitting at a computer. Thanks to the march of technology, you don’t even need to get up from that computer to do research anymore, as most of what you might need to look up is accessible from the same machine that you’re writing on.

In my twenties, this was hardly an issue. I was young, I was energetic, I was active. But by the time I hit the age of 35, the warranty had run out, as it were. My doctor stared at my growing belly, my hiatal hernia, the prescription pain meds for my constant knee and foot pain, and said, “Hey, maybe you should try exercising, y’know, once.”

That suggestion started me on a journey that took me to some amazing places I never imagined I’d visit.

[Fall down seven times, get up eight times…]

“How many F’s in ‘catastrophic’?” — Superman Returns

By 2006, Bryan Singer was a hot property. He put himself on the map with The Usual Suspects, a movie that had some of the best word-of-mouth of the 1990s, one that made “Keyser Söze” a household name. Then he added to his own legend by providing the first Marvel movie to be a mainstream success. It’s easy to forget now, eighteen years later when “Marvel Cinematic Universe” is synonymous with “the most popular movies on the planet,” how impossible that sounded at the turn of the century (though I think this rewatch has illuminated the wasteland that had been Marvel’s movie oeuvre of the 20th century).

Prior to X-Men, the only superheroes that were true mainstream successes starred either Superman or Batman—but it had also been two decades since there was a Superman movie. Warner Bros. wanted to change that, and they turned to the man who had done the impossible to do so.

[“Kitty, what did my father used to say to me?” “‘You’re losing your hair’.” “Before that.” “‘Get out!'”]

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

Incident at Mutant Pass — X-Men: The Last Stand

The revolution had begun. Not only had Fox produced two hit movies featuring the X-Men, but by the time the third X-film hit in 2006, Sony had produced two hit Spider-Man films, and several other Marvel characters had hit the big screen with varying degrees of success: Daredevil, Elektra, the Hulk, the Punisher, and the Fantastic Four, not to mention two Blade sequels.

Suddenly, Marvel heroes were all over the big screen, and they were actually faithful to their comics roots and not goofy or ridiculous. They weren’t all good movies, mind you, but at the very least there had been a sea change, and it started with X-Men.

[“Maybe you should go back to school.” “You never should have left.”]

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

Hooray for Licensed Fiction! — More Star Trek Discovery Stories in Prose & Comics Form to Tide You Over until 2019

Ah, the joys of the interregnum, the break, the between-seasons hiatus. It’s even more pronounced in an era when TV shows are less and less constrained by the seasonal model of seasons, as it were, with new episodes running around the same time that kids are in school.

Plus, seasons are even shorter now, for the most part, which is actually a boon to most shows. It reduces the filler episodes, the flashback episodes, and just generally has a tendency to tighten up the storytelling somewhat. However, an unintended side effect of that is that the actors are free to take on multiple jobs, but that also means it becomes harder to juggle everyone’s schedule, thus making the break between seasons even longer

Luckily, we have something to fill in the gaps: licensed fiction. And Star Trek Discovery is doing a bang-up job in providing us with that, in both prose and comics form from the fine folks at Simon & Schuster and IDW.

[Hey, kids, comics! And books, too!]

“Have you ever tried not being a mutant?”—X2: X-Men United

To the surprise and joy of, basically, everyone, X-Men was a huge hit in 2000. Comics fans loved it, as it was a philosophically faithful adaptation of the long-running series, distilled as it was down to only a few characters.

More to the point, mainstream audiences ate it up, and it was one of the top ten grossing films of 2000, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Naturally, they didn’t wait long to green-light a sequel.

[“What exactly are you a professor of, Professor Logan?” “Art.”]

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