Roaring into theaters in the wake of Batman vs. Superman and before the summer movie season really gets going, the latest Marvel launching pad for yet more movies and series, Captain America: Civil War opens everywhere this week.
My review is at PopMatters:
When Shakespeare wrote about the quality of mercy in The Merchant of Venice, chances are he wasn’t thinking about perpetually quipping guys in shiny suits slamming each other into walls…
Here’s the trailer:
Every December, Publishers Weekly surveys its reviewers — including yours truly — for an idea of what they thought were the best graphic novels of the past year. After our votes and comments were tabulated, the results were published here.
The winner was Scott McCloud’s gorgeous and adventurous The Sculptor.
Some of the runners-up were:
The band gets back together in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is now playing everywhere throughout the Multiverse.
My review is at PopMatters:
A sturdy piece of inessential workmanship, The Avengers: Age of Ultron begins where it ends, with Joss Whedon shooting the works. In “Sokovia,” another made-up slice of the Balkans, the Avengers are assaulting a mountain fortress controlled by Hydra. That would be the world-spanning network of bad dudes discovered at the end of the last Captain America to have infiltrated the S.H.I.E.L.D. network. It’s not entirely clear what their motivations are besides being evil. Perhaps they’re ticked off at not having quite as cool a name as Cobra Command…
Here’s the trailer, in case you haven’t already seen it two dozen times:
From 1966 to 1968, ABC showed one of the greatest series ever to grace the American TV screen. The original Batman TV show was different from pretty much everything that came before. Full of bright Pop Art colors and tongue-in-cheek satire, it both celebrated and mocked the superhero genre in a way that kids could take straight and adults could enjoy as comedy.
Finally, after years of legal wrangling, all 120 episodes are finally available for your viewing pleasure on DVD and Blu-ray. My review of Batman: The Complete Series is at PopMatters.
Also, here’s The Jam performing the unassailably cool theme to Batman:
In a development that would seem highly overdue, the Pixies’ frontman Frank Black wrote (or co-wrote at least) a graphic novel. Called The Good Inn, it’s something of a laundry list of his likes, particularly Surrealism and early French cinema.
My essay on The Good Inn and the Pixies is at Avidly:
Why did Black Francis take this long to write a graphic novel? Sure, he’s been busy of late with reunion tours of both the actual Pixies and their more recent and inexcusably Kim Deal-less zombie incarnation (in that one, audiences must suffer not just listless performances but the travesty of hearing somebody not Kim sing “Gigantic”)…
There’s an excerpt of it over at the A.V. Club.
It’s big, it’s everywhere, it’s somehow much better than your average Marvel output—even Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy is playing now throughout the known universe; check it out.
My article “Guardians of the Galaxy out-Whedons The Avengers” is at Short Ends & Leader:
There’s a lot to appreciate—and maybe even love—about Guardians of the Galaxy. The oozing and eager-to-please sprawl of Gen-X references, from Mom’s ‘70s pop music mixtape to hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, surfer-dude sly) romancing the green-skinned assassin babe Gamora (Zoe Saldana) by referencing the “legend” of Footloose. Banter threaded slyly through the action instead of airdropped in by executive committee looking for humor beats. A talking raccoon skilled in jail-breaks and bomb-making. David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”. A genocidal villain thwarted by a dance-off. The two-hour running time, practically unheard-of brevity for modern blockbusters. Howard the Duck…
You can see the trailer here:
There’s a series of Japanese novels by Hiro Arikawa (already turned into manga and animated series and film) about a dystopian future where the Japanese military has been instructed to remove all “objectionable” printed material from libraries. In response, a group called the Library Force is formed to battle said censorship with full Wolverines-style mayhem, if necessary. The live-action film version is called, you got it, Library Wars! Much bookish awesomeness is guaranteed.
Library Wars is being released in Japan later this spring. Who knows if this will ever make it to the States … but one can hope.
Trailer is here:
As one of the longest-surviving comics publishers in the business, DC Comics did so (like everyone else who made it) through a combination of quick turnaround, constant reinvention, and relentlessly squeezing every last penny out of their comics. In one of their less-inspired moves, in the 1950s, DC created a spinoff to their tentpole property Superman that came with the highly prosaic title Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.
So far, so bad. However, in one of those granular moments of surreality that comes when publishers chase every cultural trend and damn the logic, that series produced one bona fide classic. We give you: 1969’s fabulous freakout Hippie Olsen’s Hate-In!
Firstly, there’s the issue that Jimmy Olsen looks here more like a bearded dandy from the Edwardian era than hippie (details). Then there’s Jimmy’s tendency throughout the entire series to want to kill Superman. Blog into Mystery notes:
…You don’t have to be Freud or Jung or whoever to see that he has some issues with the most important people in his life. He has no problem with dreaming about punching them, tripping them, or KILLING THEM, without a whole lot — let’s be honest – of provocation for any of those deeds.
This strikes me as a problem.
It seems that Superman has always had this problem. Unlike some superheros—Batman, Spider-man—whose enemies have wanted to do away with them for interfering with their dastardly plans, Superman’s very existence appears to be the driving force behind the hatred, from friend and foe. The very indestructibility that makes him so powerful a force for good and (unfortunately) so uninteresting as a character also engender some very mixed feelings in the all-too-weak people (villains and not) who surround him.
Must make for a lonely life.
Even though he hits the Times bestseller list on a regular basis these days with novels like American Gods and The Graveyard Book, back in the 1990s Neil Gaiman was not on the mainstream reading public’s radar. He was still mostly known on the fanboy circuit as the guy who created the stunning, magical graphic novel series Sandman (which, reports now have it, he’ll be returning to in 2013).
Then in 1998, Gaiman published Stardust, a beautiful fable about love, other worlds, and — most importantly, and like all good fairy tales — the dangers of magic. It also came with these gorgeous, early 20th century-style illustrations by Charles Vess that aren’t available in every edition. Fortunately, this fall you will be able to buy a nifty gift edition with new artwork and a gorgeous new cover that was designed to Gaiman’s specifications:
I wanted it to look and feel like something from 90 years ago, like the books I treasured as a kid that I found in the school library (the ones I’d buy for a penny in the school library sales, and loved ever after).
Gaiman (aka “British Fonzie” when he had his cameo on The Simpsons) has done plenty of great and magical writing since then, but decades from now this novel (you can read an excerpt here) — and the collected volumes of Sandman — might well end up being the works that endure.