Stan Lee (1922-2018). News today that comics legend Stan Lee has passed away. There will only ever be one Stan Lee in the comics industry. You will hear that today and in the days and years to come. As a kid in the ’70s, I have fond memories of the iconic figure of Stan Lee. He was the guy leading the Marvel Comics Bullpen. He was the guy who was always yelling out, “Excelsior!” He was part salesman and part creative genius. This, in no way, takes away from the collaborative work he did with such greats as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. At the end of the day, Stan Lee was Stan Lee, a force of nature and an integral part of Marvel Comics and comics in general. May he rest in peace.
Category Archives: Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics, and Marvel Studios, has a solid track record for keeping in step with the zeitgeist, sometimes with uncanny relevance. “Black Panther” arrives in theaters not a moment too soon. What gives this movie added significance is clear as day and it wears that role well with wit and grace. You know, the original Black Panther comic book came out at a fractured time such as we experience today. The first appearance of the character was in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) in the Silver Age of comic books. Fast forward to the present, and Black Panther is needed more than ever. Just look at this week’s TIME magazine with Chadwick Boseman gracing the cover. Yes, this is a significant movie now projected to take in about $165 million for the opening weekend.
You certainly don’t have to be a loyal geek follower of all things to do with Wakanda. You don’t need to already know about the origin story involving a magical meteor composed of the miracle element vibranium (more powerful than uranium) that collided thousands of years ago with the remote settlement of Wakanda and energized it into a super civilization. But now you know this. And it gets cooler. The story of Wakanda is a story of isolationism in reverse. As far as the outside world is concerned, Wakanda is one of the poorest countries in the world but, in fact, it is hiding the most sophisticated technology in the world. A monumental struggle plays out as rival forces fight for Wakanda’s destiny: will it guard or share its resources with the rest of humanity?
Chadwick Boseman plays the role of the noble new king, the legendary Black Panther, easing his way beyond the borders of Wakanda. There are outsiders who have made off with chunks of vibranium and that threatens not only Wakanda but the whole planet. Then you add to the mix a ferocious challenger to the Black Panther’s crown and you have all the action you could hope to enjoy in one of these Marvel Comics epics.
Right up there with the action is a whole lot of heart. If you’re looking for an uplifting story, with compelling character-driven twists and turns, this is it. When you stop and think about it, Black Panther is reaching out to audiences on a similar genuine level as last year’s Wonder Woman. Both of these origin stories are wonderful comic book fantasy but also grounded with a hefty helping of food for thought, addressing heartbreaking struggle in the real world. That struggle continues, no doubt, and the burden is lifted just a bit, even if only for the length of a movie, if only for one child. The fact is that this movie will do quite a lot of people some good.
I will throw in a tiny tad of a spoiler. This isn’t really taking anything away but I just wanted to report back to you that the whole audience I was part of dutifully waited through the credits since we’ve all grown to rely upon some Marvel extras after the main show. And there are two so don’t leave too soon. Let’s just say there is a little more right at the end and then there’s the quick teaser at the very, very end. And I’ll just say here that it involves another nerdy fact: one of the materials used to construct Captain America’s shield is vibranium. It’s important to know that moving forward. Enough said.
Havaianas, the world’s favorite rubber flip flops, has combined forces with Marvel Comics to launch a new collection of flip flops, Marvel x Havaianas, featuring some of the world’s most iconic super heroes.
This limited edition collection is Marvel’s first official flip flop collaboration and includes six unique men’s, women’s and kids’ styles. Some of pop culture’s greatest super heroes, including Captain America, Spider-Man and Iron Man, are highlighted in bright Havaianas colorways and designs as part of the collection. The diverse variety of styles and sizes offered allows Havaianas the opportunity to tap into and celebrate Marvel fans of all ages for the first time.
The collection will launch tomorrow (March 30th) exclusively in Havaianas’ U.S. concept stores, as well as online at havaianas.com. The kids’ styles retail for $19, while the adult versions go from $26 to $30.
Did you see “Deadpool,” starring Ryan Reynolds? Well, it’s faithful to the comic book character and quite good. Deadpool’s profile has gotten a lot bigger over the years and that movie has helped to put him over the top. But, no doubt, this subversive anti-hero was quality goods right from the start. We expect raw send-ups of superheroes from the alt-comics community but it’s entertaining to see when the Big Two comic book publishers spoof their own genre. Marvel Comics unleashed Deadpool in 1991. Created by artist/writer Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza, the character first appeared in The New Mutants #98 (cover-dated February 1991). He’s grown into a satirical force to reckon with ever since. To celebrate one of comicdom’s most flawed and irreverent characters, Insight Editions recently released a gorgeous full-color hardcover: “DEADPOOL: DRAWING THE MERC WITH A MOUTH: Three Decades of Amazing Marvel Comics Art.”
This is truly a must-have coffee table art book for any superhero fan. It clocks in at a whopping 11″ x 14″ and its 184 pages are chock full of amazing art.
For more details, and how to purchase, visit Insight Editions, publisher of your favorite pop culture icons and much more, right here.
And, for a chance at our giveaway, do us a solid and LIKE us on Facebook. AND Email us to enter. We’re going to need a name and address. And make us proud by commenting at Facebook and directly at Comics Grinder in the Comments section. Let’s have a great 2017, folks!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our contest is now closed. Congratulations to our lucky winner…Jim Hayes!
Hope everyone is making the most of this holiday season.
With a big thank you to Insight Editions, your home for pop culture goodness, I hope that Jim enjoys this special coffee table art book devoted to Deadpool Marvel Comics art:
“DEADPOOL: DRAWING THE MERC WITH A MOUTH: Three Decades of Amazing Marvel Comics Art,” which you can find here.
Thanks to all who entered, make sure you stay up to date with this blog and our Facebook page right here.
After already having to endure a less than satisfying superhero face-off this year with Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and with reports of a less than critically acclaimed blockbuster in “Suicide Squad,” 2016 is not shaping up to be the best year for superheroes.
The good news however is that there is hope for 2017! There’s 11 new features lined up, which will be drip fed to cinema goers over the course of the next 3 years, and in November 2017, a third entry in the Thor franchise will be unleashed.
“Thor: Ragnarok” will be helmed by New Zealander Taika Waititi, one of the co-creators behind hilarious Kiwi comedy “What We Do in the Shadows,” and he’ll be directing from a script penned by Stephany Folsom, Craig Kyle and “Thor 2: The Dark World” scribe Christopher Yost.
The movie is already set to see Aussie star Chris Hemsworth return to don the iconic red cape and wield his powerful hammer, but we will also be seeing his on-screen brother and all-round cheeky nemesis back for more antics. Loki, played by the charismatic Brit actor Tom Hiddleston, will be making his 4th appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and as fun, malevolent and comedic as the God of Mischief has been, how is his future set on-screen?
He popped up as the main antagonist in “The Avengers,” as well as all the other standalone Thor features, but is the character destined for doom? In 2014, even Tom himself hinted at the possibility of Loki’s cinematic fate.
There are plenty of good reasons to finally kill off the character as new threats and other-worldly entities are slowly coming to the surface for hopeful superhero intervention.
So is Loki a superfluous villain or is there still life in the old dog yet? Already immortalised in popular media through a range of toys, clothing and whacky wobblers not to mention his cult status in the gaming and casino world, appearing in some of the best slot sites, the character is unlikely to be forgotten soon.
This is all pure speculation and obviously there’s no official reports whatsoever that the green meanie will be done away with in the near future. But with Hiddleston himself becoming a more bankable actor and picking up larger roles, would a supporting supervillain part be enough for him going forward?
It’s no secret that “Thor: Ragnarok” is likely to feature the famous destined apocalyptic battle taken from the pages of the original comics which ultimately predicts the total annihilation of Asgard, and it’s Loki who is the catalyst for the battle. We can’t really imagine that his brother will be too happy about that and it could finally lead to Thor putting to rest sibling rivalry forever.
Guest column by George Brandes
In the heyday of the 1990s, the X-Men were far and away the most popular Marvel comic on the shelves. The animated series from the same era remains beloved by fans and the movies still consistently put up big numbers at the box office. But today, one place we’re seeing the X-Men less and less is in the pages of the actual comics. With the attention of the comics becoming ever more focused on reflecting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has begun to look as though one popular franchise is being left behind, the X-books.
Unless you’ve been living under a particularly large rock, you know there’s been a bit of a clash of the titans concerning the ownership rights for Marvel properties between Disney and Fox. Fox has the rights to the X-Men and Deadpool while Disney (and subsequently Marvel) gets the Avengers and everyone else. Disney has apparently made nice with Sony, who have the rights to Marvel’s other flagship hero, Spider-Man. The latest iteration of the web-slinger appeared in the recent Captain America: Civil War while Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark will make his own appearance in Sony’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. This reconciles the two once disparate cinematic continuities and their partnership is being reflected in the comics. Marvel continues to push new and exciting Spider-Man stories while experimenting with and expanding the character’s world.
Unfortunately, no such deal has been reached between Disney and 20th Century Fox. As a result, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the big-screen exploits of the X-Men remain at a noticeable arm’s length from each other. Even in the Avengers films with their inclusion of characters such as the Scarlet Witch, they’re careful to never specifically mention the world “mutant” lest they step on the toes of the films from Fox or recognize that mutants are even a thing in the MCU.
In the publisher’s latest relaunch with its All-New Marvel campaign, fans noticed a significant dearth of mutant-related titles, with the company instead choosing to focus more on the extraterrestrial Inhumans. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Marvel and Disney still have the film rights to a potential Inhumans movie while Fox retains its death grip on the X-Men franchise. It should also be noted that Marvel is no longer publishing The Fantastic Four as an ongoing comic, a property whose film rights are also owned by Fox. As a result of this impasse, Marvel has taken to slowly but surely erasing both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four from its merchandising as well.
The lack of X-books certainly isn’t because the characters are no longer popular. If anything, the X-Men are just as popular as ever judging by the money made at the movies. The mutants also continue to make their mark in video games, with three separate X-Men-themed casual titles among similar jackpot-based offerings online. They feature classic line-ups of characters that fans know and love while using the time-tested gameplay of a traditional slot-reel. These games work to expand the property’s reach to a much larger audience than would be possible through just the comics, or even the movies. Also, with the massive overhauls being seen throughout the X-verse, these games are one of the few places you’ll still be able to find the take on Wolverine that you remember from the original cartoons. The comics are now populated by Old Man Logan while the female mutant formerly known as X-23 now wears the Wolverine mantle.
If fans didn’t still connect with the mutants on a personal level, there’d be little incentive to use them as a draw for mass audiences. Clearly, there’s something larger at foot for their notable absence from the comics. The X-Men are obviously still a popular property, so it would be surprising to see the team disappear entirely from comic book pages. Marvel would be cutting off its nose to spite its face if they made such a move, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising given what happened to the Fantastic Four.
The X-Men have been a pivotal property in helping shape Marvel into the company we know it today, and they were also largely responsible for the modern day superhero film boom. While we would seriously doubt to see the mutants disappear completely, the future for homo superior has never looked more bleak. We can only hope that Marvel can reconcile with the property that helped to save it in its darkest hour.
What is most important to us? Freedom or security? Can both coexist? What if national security is involved? We have been grappling with this dilemma anew since 9/11. The current hit movie, “Captain America: Civil War,” pits superheroes in a bloody battle: Iron Man defending national security; Captain America defending individual freedom. “Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology,” published by Sterling, is a thought-provoking collection of ten essays exploring these very issues. One easy-going Sunday, Jen and I made our way to Miir, a favorite local coffee shop and store. We relaxed, chatted, and I put this review together.
Such basic issues as security and freedom naturally make their way into the often engaging world of superhero comics. Some readers dismiss superhero comics as just a genre full of capes and tights. But, as I always feel compelled to point out: Follow the story, not just the superhero! Always take note of who is writing the script! Because, without a doubt, compelling stories are there to be told. Mark Millar’s original comic book script for Marvel Comics is an exploration of this conflict between freedom and security. Congress passes a law requiring all superheroes to register just like any other law enforcement officer. Captain America is against such limits to his actions. Iron Man supports the new law, even if it leaves him at odds with Cap. And so you end up with a classic in the superhero genre.
Now, let’s place these two battling warriors on the psychiatrist’s coach. What are the root causes behind Iron Man battling Captain America? A Freudian could see this dispute as symbolizing the battle waged by the superego and the id to control the mind’s ego. And, since this is Freud, this would also be about masculine sexual competition. This is how we begin one of the essays to be found here, “Punching Hitler: Symbols in Red, White, Blue, and Gold.” It is written by the book’s editor, Dr. Travis Langley, and Tommy Cash. This essay represents the concise insight to be found in the rest of the book, steadily building from one idea to the next.
So, what further motivates this conflict? This strikes at the core beliefs of each character. Captain America originated during World War II and embraces America’s hopes and ideals of that era. Iron Man originated during the Vietnam War and cynically embraces the military industrial complex, “all the things the hippies hated,” for the sake of a greater good. You take those two symbols of heroism, Langley and Cash argue in their essay, and see how they clash with the contemporary framework of the War on Terror. You have the stage set for conservative fans on the side of Iron Man; and liberal fans on the side of Captain America. Each character represents a charged symbol, a distinctive way of seeing America and the world, one an ideal, one a reality.
Well, I hope this provides you with an intriguing taste of what to expect from this unique book. I was so happy to take the time out for this review and the setting I chose for my reading could not have been better. You see, MiiR is part of something really special. You could say they take individual freedom, and responsibility, very seriously. It all began with the goal of creating the perfect bottle and Miir did just that plus so much more. MiiR keeps giving back every step of the way. Each MiiR item you purchase directly supports a project helping those in need around the world. Hmm, talk about super powers! Check them out right here.
“Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology” is a 192-page paperback. For more details, visit Sterling Publishing right here.
Guest column by Joseph Byrd
There was a time when comic books and graphic novels seemed like old-fashioned forms of fiction and entertainment. However, thanks in large part to a modern film industry that’s become obsessed with adapting these comics and novels, a whole new generation has become attached to them. Really, it’s been a gradual but fascinating development in popular fiction.
It begins with the films themselves. Since Iron Man debuted in 2008, the movie industry has been utterly dominated by superhero cinema. The Marvel Cinematic Universe now consists of over 10 films and will only grow larger in the years to come. This article reveals that the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (due out in 2018) will include a whopping 67 characters from Marvel Comics. And it’s not just Marvel bringing comics to life on the big screen. DC Comics adaptations provide regular competition, and there have even been other prominent examples not related to the two publishing giants. For instance, popular 2010 superhero comedy Kick-Ass was based on a comic published by Icon (which to be fair is a Marvel affiliate), and movies like Sin City and 300 were based on Frank Miller works published by Dark Horse Comics. All of these films have helped to spark a renewed interest in source material among modern fans.
It’s also become particularly helpful that a number of the most prominent superhero movies have been based on very specific comics or graphic novels. For example, while a given Spider-Man movie might pull elements from several different comics and origin stories, some projects have essentially adapted screenplays from individual editions. This list ranked Frank Miller’s 1986 novel The Dark Knight Rises as the single best graphic novel out there, and millions of fans have now come to know it nearly 30 years later through the film of the same name. Likewise, Marvel has seemingly made a clearer effort to connect its own movies to specific projects. The aforementioned Infinity War movie will be based on a six-issue series of comics published in the ’90s, and this spring’s Captain America: Civil War actually pulls its story from one of the more modern chapters of Marvel lore, published in 2006-07. As long as movies remain so deeply rooted in comics, they’ll continue to spark new interest for younger generations.
But it’s not solely the movies that are helping to spread the word about some of the great comics and graphic novels out there. The gaming industry has also played a major role, largely through famous console-based titles like those in the Arkham Asylum series (which took its inspiration from a Grant Morrison graphic novel). But other areas in gaming have embraced the popularity of comic book characters, and in doing so helped to reach out to alternative audiences. This site is best known for catering to fans of casual casino games through offering a range of bingo, roulette and poker options to suit the genre. However, it’s also expanded to include slot and arcade games that invoke images and character names from popular comics and graphic novels. Iron Man and Batman are directly used, an “Amazon Queen” game implies a Wonder Woman connection, and even the Spartan 300 are used as thematic material for a game.
And then of course there’s the outreach to young kids, which is done differently now than in decades past. When comics and graphic novels originally rose to relevance, it was at least in part because there just wasn’t as much visual entertainment available. There was no regular television or film content, let alone any fit for children. Now kids have all kinds of other ways to entertain themselves, which means comics and graphic novels have lost what once may have been their greatest advantage. Still, there are a number of ways in which these characters and stories have been made available and appealing to kids.
Perhaps the most noteworthy development is LEGO’s partnerships with Marvel and DC to create gaming content that brings characters and storylines to life in a cartoonish manner. But on a more straightforward note, we’ve also seen comics and graphic novels made available electronically through app developers who recognize their new audience. Kids as young as two or three these days are learning to use smartphones and tablets, and parents now have the ability to load those devices with age-appropriate comic book material over time. It’s essentially modernizing the concept of a comic book.
Through all these developments, we’ve seen comics and graphic novels make a pretty remarkable transition into modern entertainment. And their popularity is only growing greater.
Critics have not been kind and I don’t think there’s anyone holding their breath expecting this latest “Fantastic Four” movie to blow them away. Given the appeal of superhero movies, this movie could end up a top grosser for 2015.
Miles Teller as Reed Richards, the super elastic leader of Marvel’s very first superteam. Sound like a stretch? Well, I don’t know. I figured Miles capable of anything. Maybe if Miles Teller had been provided with a drum set and a maniacal band director, then we would have gotten something truly out of this world. But we can’t really blame Miles. It’s the script that takes us down a long and ponderous road which no superhero fan, let alone any moviegoer, should be made to endure.
How do you like your comics? Dark? Light? With just a smidgen of sugar? Well, it’s not like you can turn this into a recipe and then hope for the best. That’s the crux of the problem. We’re just not seeing the love for the Fantastic Four in this latest effort to get it right. When in doubt, create a origin story, right? No, if anything else, just create a great story. Haven’t we all been on this superhero franchise road long enough to deserve that?
Great production but a tedious story at best. Ah, well. People will say it’s the Fantastic Four curse. But all it would take is a great story and that can still happen in the future. Well, maybe. Just take Jonathan Hickman’s recent run on FF and you shouldn’t go wrong. Wasn’t “Guardians of the Galaxy” sort of a gamble? A very calculated gamble but still these were totally unknown characters to the general public. And it worked! And it’s working with “Ant-Man.” Unfortunately, when it comes to the FF universe, Hollywood tightens up when it should relax.
“Fantastic Four” ends up a shining reminder that even superhero movies have their ups and downs. Having taken the time to catch an early screening, I have to say that I came away disappointed. This movie seems to take itself seriously with long-drawn-out explorations of each character. But, at the end of the day, there is little to no story and no one to really root for.