Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Fantastic Four Trailer: My Reaction

I'm a pretty huge Fantastic Four fan....

Decades worth of  FF comics looking surprisingly small when piled together.

See!

As a result I've been looking forward to the new Fantastic Four film in a very big way. A lot of fans seemed to have written the film off already for the usual reasons: "These plot fragments that are emerging with no context sound slightly different to the comic!" etc. There's also been some bloody daft moaning about Michael B. Jordan playing Johnny Storm. (Needless to say, Johnny Storm is hot-headed, impulsive, vain, loyal, heroic and enjoys fast cars and teasing the Thing, and being portrayed by a black actor doesn't change any of these traits.)

Despite the barrage of online negativity I've remained optimistic, and after seeing the trailer today my optimism has turned to full blown excitement. Here's a few things that excited me about the trailer....

1. The Stars!

A few seconds into the trailer and we've already flown over literal "new horizons" and turned our gaze up towards the stars. This film is looking in the right direction.



2. L'il Reed & Ben!

Is this Reed as a kid, trying out some dangerous experiment while a young Ben Grimm looks on? It would seem likely. Ok, so they were best friends from college onward in the comic, but I have no problem with that being extended back to childhood. As long as Reed & Ben are best friends, that's the important thing, and it's looking like that's what we'll see in this film.


3. Reed is passionate about science and discovery!

This bit conveys that beautifully. He looks utterly content and at home surrounded by this complex machinery.


4. Johnny's fixing up a fast car!

Just this one small thing, that harks back to the character's first appearance, is enough to convey that yes, this guy IS Johnny Storm!


5. Astronauts!

Ok, so it doesn't look like a space mission (hope it's something to do with the Negative Zone though) but nevertheless they've certainly got "the right stuff". Four friends risking their life to brave the unknown. (Or in this case, five. I imagine that's Doom with them.)


6. A Thing egg?

Is this Ben's transformation? It looks awesome! To paraphrase '80s Fantastic Four writer/artist John Byrne, the Thing is not Fozzie Bear, he's a monster. He should look like a monster. It sucks being the Thing, that's why he's such a likeable but tragic character. Whatever's going on here looks weird and creepy and monstrous, and that's good.


7. New Frontiers!

Not much to go on here, it could just be a volcano, but is this the Negative Zone? If it is, will we see Annihilus? Hope so!


8. Reed & Vic

Looks like Reed and Victor Von Doom have some kind of bond here. This bodes well. The great thing about Reed & Doom is that they could both so easily become the other. Without his family Reed is pretty much one bad day from becoming Doctor Doom and there have been occasional flashes of nobility from Doom over the years, in between all the evil. Doom seems to be warning Reed here, or he could almost be advising him. Reed and Doom should always be enemies, but at the same time they should also be a bit too close to each other for comfort.


9. A family braving the unknown together!

Not only does this bit look cool, but it also raises some interesting questions. Is this the Negative Zone? Is that a plane in that big shaft of light? Is the Thing not wearing any pants?


Ok, so I could have done with a bit more Sue, bit all in all, this trailer looks great. Judging from the characters' youth, the set up of their power-granting experiment, the presence of Doom and what looks like Johnny & Sue's father at the experiment, and the possible involvement of the Negative Zone, this looks like it's based heavily on Ultimate Fantastic Four. This is fine with me as I really like those comics, especially the Warren Ellis stuff.

Obviously this film isn't going to be to everybody's tastes, and yes, it could still be rubbish, but there's one comment that's kept popping up online today that really, really irks me, so I figured I'd finish this article by disputing it. It's the wrongest thing that's ever been said about the Fantastic Four, and everybody seems to be saying it.



Let's get something straight. The Incredibles is not "Fantastic Four done right". In fact, beyond a few superficial similarities, the Incredibles are nothing like the Fantastic Four.

They're both a family. They both have members who are strong, who can turn invisible, and who can stretch. THAT'S IT!!!

The Fantastic Four is a comic about an occasionally dysfunctional family of sci-fi explorers and adventurers who do what they do because of their love of adventure, their thirst for discovery, and their loyalty to each other. The Incredibles is an animated film about a family of superheroes who go into hiding because of the public's fear and distrust of them and find themselves struggling to deal with anonymity and a "normal" life. It is entertaining enough but, as my pal Madeley has observed many times, it is also a staggeringly right wing, Randian wank-fantasy where superior beings triumph over us ordinary slobs and our attempts to drag them down to our puny level. "If everybody's special, nobody is" etc. And, hey, if that's your politics, more power to ya, but it's not, in any way "the Fantastic Four done right."

This new film however, certainly looks like it might be!

 

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Have a WONDERful Christmas!!!



My girlfriend got me the first five collections of Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman (the sixth & final book is out in a few months) so my Xmas has been full of warring gods and headless horses this year. Perfect!

Merry Christmas internet pals! Hope you've had a great year. xxxxx

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Norm Breyfogle Medical Stroke Fund

Over the past 75 years many great artists have drawn Batman, but none have been greater (in my opinion) than Norm Breyfogle. Unfortunately Breyfogle has recently suffered a stroke. His family have set up a fundraising page for his medical bills. If you've ever enjoyed his work, please consider donating something.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/legendary-batman-artist-norm-breyfogle-stroke-fund/281723

For those unfamiliar with his work, Breyfogle drew Batman comics from 1987 to 1993. Along with writer Alan Grant he co-created many memorable characters, including The Ventriloquist, Zsasz and Anarky and drew the first in-costume appearance of Tim Drake, the third Robin. As far as I'm concerned he is the best Batman artist ever. Better than Bob Kane, Dick Sprang, Jim Aparo, Neal Adams or Frank Quitely. That's seventy five years of artists and in my opinion he is the best one of the whole damn lot.

Breyfogle has an amazing knack for drawing any kind of Batman the story requires. He can draw a Batman flushed with pride at his new Robin, a Batman reflecting in quiet sadness at the plight of homeless children or a Batman pumped full of Scarecrow fear toxins and crapping his pants, all within pages of each other. One of the things that I feel sums up Breyfogle's versatility as an artist is the way he draws Batman's utility belt. Now this may seem like a minor detail but when I first encountered Breyfogle's work as a child it was the first time I had ever seen Batman's belt drawn as if it could conceivably hold Batman's entire arsenal. It's bright yellow and chunky with capsules and pouches hanging off it, a proper superhero gadget belt. And yet in the very next panel the belt is only barely glimpsed as Batman fades into the shadows and the gadget loving superhero becomes a dark creature of the night. I could write pages and pages of lengthy prose describing Breyfogle's greatness but I'll just let his work speak for itself.

















For those who've never known the delights of Breyfogle's Batman see if you can find the following back issues.

John Wagner, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s run on Detective Comics (1988-1990)
(Detective Comics #583-594; 601-621)


The iconic run in which Breyfogle, along with writers Alan Grant and John Wagner created a vast array of villains that straddled the line between the ridiculous and the terrifying, including The Corrosive Man, The Ventriloquist and Scarface, The Ratcatcher, Anarky, The Obeah Man and Cornelius Stirk. They were also equally adept at handling established villains. One memorable story involved a team comprised of every version of Clayface while another involved Batman teaming up with and then battling Jack Kirby’s Demon.

Batman #455-457

Tim Drake saves Batman's ass from the Scarecrow and then debuts his new costume.

Shadow of the Bat #1-4 

Grant and Breyfogle take inspiration from Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum and give us the first appearances of Jeremiah Arkham and Zsasz.

Batman: Holy Terror

A chilling Elseworld tale in which Batman exists in an America governed by an evil theocracy.

I've never met the man, but I'm such a fan of his work I wanted to draw some attention to this cause. I hope he recovers quickly and that he and his family are okay.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/legendary-batman-artist-norm-breyfogle-stroke-fund/281723

The Best Stuff of 2014 (according to me)

(Click here for The Best Stuff of 2013)

Best comic of 2014: Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Batman


It's the same comic I chose last year but it's still so damn good. Every issue my jaw is literally made to drop by some plot twist, or a spot on character moment.  Snyder is a very wordy comics writer, but not in an amateurish way. His characters give beautiful speeches that can inspire a city or chill you to the bone. But Snyder also knows when to get out of the way and let Capullo do his thing. Capullo is the greatest Bat-artist since Breyfogle. His faces seem simple and a bit cartoony at first glance but convey so much complex emotion. As I observed last year, they are a writer/artist team in perfect synch with each other. We are in a new golden age for Batman comics.

Runners Up: Superior Iron Man, She-Hulk, Batman Eternal, Geoff Johns & John Romita's Superman. Also, with Justice League #28-29 Geoff Johns wrote one of the greatest Metal Men stories ever.


Most underrated comic of 2014: James Robinson's Fantastic Four


With all the rumour and panic over whether Disney are forcing Marvel to cancel this book, the fact that it's really actually very good has been somewhat overlooked. When the run began it seemed like we'd seen it all before: Reed messes up, the public turn against the team, they split up etc. But it very quickly became apparent that this was something new. Each of the four characters' personal story arcs (Reed's new job, Sue raging at the world over her lost children, Johnny powerless, Ben in prison) could sustain a story in itself but they've recently begun to come together in a very satisfying fashion. Forgotten corners of Fantastic Four history have been mined for story potential and character growth in a way that will satisfy the long time fans but not alienate any newer readers. Please don't let the rumours put you off checking out this great comic.

Runner Up: Justice League United. Cosmic superhero fun and great characters. DC are cashing in on the hype over Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy in the best way possible.

Best event of 2014: Multiversity


With Multiversity Grant Morrison hasn't so much been giving us stories as windows into fully formed Universes with characters that feel like they've been around for years. But it's not just sitting back and admiring his cleverness, these are genuinely fun Universes to explore. Every issue will leave you wishing you could spend more time with these characters. Not only that but each issue is drawn by one of the industry's best artists, and they've been given loads of time (in some cases years) to get Morrison's vision just right.

Runner up: Spiderverse. I initially thought this would suck as the build up to it felt quite long and drawn out and the premise (multiple Spider-men from multiple universes) seemed a bad match for Spidey. But as it turns out, it's become a hugely entertaining story that, even with the multiple Spideys involved, never loses sight of the importance of "our" Peter Parker, the real Amazing Spider-Man.

Most disappointing comic of 2014: Superman - Doomed


This event started off quite well, with Charles Soule's first few chapters in Superman/Wonder Woman being a definite highlight. But the whole thing went on for aaaaaaaaaages. There just wasn't enough story to sustain it's length so we ended up with Superman being taken over by Doomsday and saying "must...fight...urge...to ...kill" for what felt like 100 issues. And then Brainiac turned up at the end or something. I don't know. It grew more impenetrable as it went on. Or maybe I'd lost so much interest by then that I wasn't taking it all in. Either way, this should have been a four part story, not a multi-issue epic. The worst thing about it was it interrupted Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's amazing Action Comics run.

Runner Up: Original Sin. A nice idea dragged out into a boring story. Why were we supposed to give a monkeys about Dr Midas and the Orb? I barely knew who they were and they ended up having very little impact on the overall story. And why did the Watcher let himself get killed in the first place? The whole thing feels like Marvel got really excited about where the characters would end up and then cobbled together something really half arsed to get them there.

Best Comic Book Film of 2014: Captain America - The Winter Soldier


Absolutely brilliant stuff. The cast are spot on, the action's amazing, and the Winter Soldier looks like he's stepped off the comic book page. The film moves events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe along significantly while still standing up as a great film in it's own right. Quite a feat.

Best non-comics related film of 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Wes Anderson's best film since The Royal Tennenbaums and possibly Ralph Fiennes best role ever. It's beautiful to look at, hilarious, and genuinely moving.

Best TV show of 2014: Obviously it's Doctor bloody Who


Peter Capaldi's first series has been the best series, and the best Doctor, since Christopher Eccleston. The execution of the sci-fi concepts has mostly been complete bobbins (moon egg hatches, giant space bird craps out another moon egg, Earth is fine), but the character stuff has been better than it's been in years. There's been none of the old River Song style dialogue that tells us all why the Doctor's so great ("That man, that wonderful man.."), the characters are all actually saying stuff that real people might conceivably say. Capaldi's Doctor is way more interesting than his immediate predecessors, showing a manipulative streak that's reminiscent of the Seventh Doctor. Jenna Coleman really seems to have stepped up her game and her and Capaldi have a real rapport that's a joy to watch. Danny is brilliant, and it's immensely satisfying to see him tear the Doctor down a peg or two. We've had some intriguing insights into the Doctor's character this series. The whole "not a soldier" thing has been fascinating. The monsters have been proper creepy, the jokes genuinely funny, and the only duff episode was the one with the trees.

Runners Up: Arrow, The Flash, Gotham. Genuinely can't decide which one's the most fun. Probably the Flash, but it's a close one.

Best things I discovered in 2014 that everybody else already knew about:


Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's Green Arrow, Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill's Marshal Law, Garth Ennis' Hellblazer run. Also, Hot Tub Time Machine may be the greatest movie ever made.

Best things I did in 2014:

I delivered a lecture about Aquaman at a science centre. I got tweeted by Gerry Conway. I met Pat Mills, Simon Bisley, and Glenn Fabry. I also met Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, William Russell, Bonnie Langford, Peter Purves and Frazer Hines.  All in all, a great year.

What have been your geeky highlights and lowlights of 2014?

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