Saturday, March 26, 2016

Review: Batman v Superman

In regards to Batman v Superman, there are tons of highly negative reviews which also still single out an aspect or two for deserving praise (mostly that Wonder Woman is really awesome and some that say Ben Affleck is a good new Batman). Both of the latter are correct, Gal Gadot is exceptional as WW and every precious minute that she is on screen you just want more of her. Thankfully her standalone film is currently in production for release next year! Ben Affleck, perhaps surprisingly, turns out to be a terrific choice to inherit the role of Batman and when his solo flicks come along (also with the great Jeremy Irons as Alfred), I will be more than glad to buy a ticket.

This film is really not very bad at all, general audiences are going to love it, however the sheer weight of the studio bypassing all those separate hero movies in order to quickly bring the Justice League together "Dawn of Justice" remember (as Marvel patiently did with their Avengers), means that this film lays all of that groundwork with one serious side effect as a result. The first half of the film seems over long and plodding; it simply takes its own time to get down to the real nitty gritty. However once it does and the trinity comes together, Superman-Batman-Wonder Woman, things hit their stride in a potent way. Those three classic characters together have as much heft as the entirety of the cinematic Marvel Universe. I’ve been surprised to read so much diverse and often derogatory stuff about the depiction of Superman in this sequel to Man of Steel? He comes off nearly nowhere as bad as some armchair critics are stating and I have to wonder whether most of those reviews were written prior to those critics having even seen the film? Rather in total, the Kal-El that we would all like seems to finally emerge to some degree over the course of the movie - at least to me. The collective media commentary of harsh criticism seems more like an intentional dog pile with everyone expected to just dive in, so let's just give most of those folks what they clearly want ("hey, you're all geniuses and the rest of the audience aren't as smart as you guys"); now the rest of us can move along, whatever.

I still believe that while Amy Adams plays her role quite well, she is sadly miscast and too old [at 41] to portray Lois Lane against Henry Cavill's Superman [he is 32], and it's less their age difference itself and more how they appear alongside one another; but again whatever. The depiction of Luthor did not sit well with me and I regret that the filmmakers chose this route as it is long past time to stop having Lex appear dopey and/or weird on-screen. The original character has been an alpha-male type for decades in the published source material comics, and that version would have been right at home in this movie? Alas. The huge Doomsday fight at the end of the film was fantastic; so in conclusion I say just forget those reviews and give this blockbuster film a chance to win you over!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1970's Flashback: The Tomb of Dracula

Tomb of Dracula #13 (Oct.1973)
In 1971, the Comics Code Authority finally relaxed some of its longstanding restrictions regarding horror comics, such as a virtual ban on vampires. After having recently tested the waters with a "quasi-vampire" character, Morbius, the Living Vampire within the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Comics was now prepared to launch a new line of horror books. The Tomb of Dracula was published by Marvel Comics from April 1972 to August 1979. The acclaimed 70-issue series featured a group of vampire hunters who fought Count Dracula and other supernatural menaces. On rare occasions, Dracula would work with these vampire hunters against a common threat or battle other supernatural threats on his own, but more often than not, he was the antagonist rather than protagonist. In addition to his supernatural battles in this series, Marvel's Dracula often served as a super-villain to other characters in the Marvel Universe, battling the likes of Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night, and the X-Men.

The series suffered from lack of direction for its first year but gained stability and hit its stride when writer/editor Marv Wolfman became scripter with the seventh issue. The entire run of The Tomb of Dracula was penciled by Gene Colan, with Tom Palmer inking all but #1, 2, and 8-11. Colan based the visual appearance of Marvel's Dracula not on any other familiar actor who had played the vampire on film, but rather on actor Jack Palance (who actually did later portray the Count in a televised production).

Monday, March 14, 2016

1980's Flashback: Groo the Wanderer

Groo #1 (Dec.1982)
Groo the Wanderer was one of the first widely successful creator-owned comics, one of the few successful humorous comic books in the United States during its time, and one of the longest-running collaborations in comic book history. Created, plotted and drawn by Sergio Aragon├ęs, written, co-plotted and edited by Mark Evanier, lettered by Stan Sakai and colored by Tom Luth. Over the years it has been issued by various publishers including Pacific Comics, Eclipse Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics.

Groo first appeared in Destroyer Duck #1 (May 1982) as a parody of the brutal sword and sorcery heroes who were popular at the time of his creation in the 1970s. Groo is a large-nosed buffoon of unsurpassed stupidity who constantly misunderstands his surroundings. Possessed of superlative skills in swordsmanship (the only task at which he is remotely competent) he delights in combat but otherwise is a peaceable and honest fellow who tries to make his way through life as a mercenary or by working odd jobs. He is incredibly accident prone, and despite generally good intentions causes mass destruction wherever he goes. Most of his adventures end with him either oblivious to the mayhem he has wrought or fleeing an angry mob. His penchant for destruction has become so widely known that just the news of Groo approaching is sometimes enough to cause chaos among the population. Such is Groo's incompetence that so much as stepping onto a ship can cause it to sink.

Friday, March 11, 2016

In Memorium: Paul Ryan

Comic book artist Paul Ryan, who previously worked extensively for Marvel Comics and DC Comics on a number of super-hero comics passed away on March 7, 2016 at the age of sixty-six. Until his death, he had penciled and inked the daily comic strip The Phantom for King Features Syndicate off and on since 2005.

Ryan had a succesful career in engineering graphic design prior to his entry into comics while still in his early 30s. Some titles that his work appeared in include Fantastic Four, The Flash, The Avengers, various Superman series, Quasar, D.P. 7 and Iron Man. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.
(photo) Paul Ryan - inset- upper right.