Odds and Ends: Beginnings Even for Spirit, Rocketeer, and Batman Beyond

Two announcements have excited me for…last Summer!  I have been sitting on some posts for months, and they are only now hatching.

Batman Beyond 2.0 Kyle Higgins Thony Silas 1 Cover

According to the first announcement, Kyle Higgins will be taking over writing duties on DC’s ongoing monthly title, Batman Beyond.  The character has been written by Adam Beechen since 2010.

Higgins is a young writer broke into the comics industry a few years ago.  He has already written two of the oldest superheroes, Captain America and Batman.  Before that, he directed an interesting short film, The League, set in 1960’s Chicago and around the world’s first superhero labor union.

The comic, based on Bruce Timm’s animated series of the same name (1999-2001), began and ended several times, whether as miniseries or ongoing series.

After the success of Timm and crew’s two animated Batman series (1992-95 and 1997-99), which rode on the success of the Tim Burton films (1989 and 1992), Timm was tasked with producing a series for a new audience and therefore with a younger cast.

The result is a futuristic vision of Gotham, not in a perpetual 1930’s-40’s era from which the inhabitants never escape, nor in a later era of techno-architectural progress but the same ethico-political status.  The city has changed.  Architecturally, it is a city of dark surfaces and neon lights, like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns but further in the timeline, as may be expected.  Politically, however, economics have ineluctably raised the city.  Crime–to turn a phrase–has become rust on metal and flickering fluorescence instead of dirt on brick and yellowed incandescence.

In the first episode, we see Batman in a modified suit, black and red, without a scalloped cape on his back to simulate flight but with a pair of jets built into the bottom of his boots to achieve it.  After he feels himself a failure in his latest mission, he calls it his last, and he doffs the cowl and quits his crusade, until he finds Terry McGinnis and appoints him as his protégé.

The animated series ingeniously keeps the tone specific to the Dark Knight, by retaining the presence of Bruce Wayne himself, while it also develops the fugue to its fullest measure, as the heroes, the villains, and the city around them change in the time allowed.

According to the second announcement, Mark Waid will be penning a crossover between Will Eisner’s city-dwelling, hat-and-tie hero, The Spirit, and Dave Stevens’ high-flying, jetpack-and-leather-jacket adventurer, The Rocketeer.  What more needs to be said?

Rocketeer Spirit Mark Waid Paul Smith 1 Cover

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Trailer Released for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Our friendly interweb iTunes has debuted the first trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, due out April 4, 2014.  The trailer looks great, and some of my remarks follow below.

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The new costume looks sleek and stealthy while retaining the emblematic quality of the heavy canvas-like original and the lighter, sportier sequel in The First Avenger and The Avengers.  So far, the filmmakers have not ventured the chain-mail of the original comic book, but I, for one, can muster no complaint.  Perhaps Steve Rogers would not disagree with me.Image

Good, and the design is clearly reminiscent “super soldier” uniform that Cap wore briefly in the monthlies, which was a design that I found appealing.

Other things: allies, both familiar (Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow) and new (Anthony Mackie’s Falcon); a dubious authority (Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce); and a mysterious foe (Sebastian Stan’s The Winter Soldier).

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The Rolling Helps: Marvel Studios Barrels Forward

Marvel Studios is barreling forward with its film and television projects.  Upcoming films are Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter SoldierGuardians of the GalaxyAvengers: Age of Ultron, Ant Man, and further unnamed films.  On the television side, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has already premiered on ABC, and with high ratings, and the tapering of those ratings is no source of angst, since the network has purchased a full season.

Still more interesting is the “sixty episode package” that Marvel is rumored to be shopping around at various outlets, including Netflix and Amazon.  Reportedly, the sixty episodes may comprise four series and one miniseries.  My wager for the four series would be on Daredevil, Punisher, Runaways, and Captain Marvel.

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Captains Marvel and America in action against Absorbing Man

Other likely projects to my mind are Doctor Strange, Avengers Academy, Hulk, Alias (Jessica Jones), and Heroes for Hire.  I feel that I am missing something that would rank with Iron Man in the pitch from magic to technology, but I cannot think of a character that recommends himself or herself.

This supervillain heist plot may lack a crack team of thieves.

This supervillain heist plot may lack a crack team of thieves.

For the miniseries, I hardly have an opinion, but the gentlemen of Modern Myth Media tender the enticing idea that the miniseries, being shorter, could budget more money per episode in a plot that would cross over the four series and angle them toward a feature film.  They cite various comments in support of the idea also that some of these episodes will supply series about the Inhumans or Agent Peggy Hill, but I would be much surprised by either and even more surprised if both.

They said that car chases couldn't be done in sequential art.

They said that car chases couldn’t be done in sequential art.

Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and Cloak and Dagger are probably not soon to headline their own television series, and the film rights to Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men are still held by other studios.  I believe that that keeps Venom well out of the realm of possibility, although a compelling story could be based on the recent run first by Rick Remender and Tony Moore and then by Cullen Bunn and Declan Shalvey: Flash Thompson, the bullying classmate of Peter Parker turned emulator of Spider-Man come legless war hero, melds with the symbiote for short-term military missions.

Shalvey uses expressionism to depict the military-sanctioned Venom (Flash Thompson) face off against the villain who originally held the name (Eddie Brock).

Shalvey uses expressionism to depict the current Venom (Flash Thompson) face off against the original villain (Eddie Brock).

Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s bumbling-villains-ensemble Superior Foes of Spider-Man or Matt Fraction and David Aja’s “on that Avenger guy’s days off” Hawkeye would thrill me, but so much of the success of these titles comes from the narrative style of these writer-artist teams that the greatest difference could be made by the talent chosen to derive television from them.

Peer Gynt “In the Hall of the Mountain King”

I asked my special someone to the ballet the other day. Yes, I asked her. Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt was playing.

Grieg’s music for the ballet is well-known–specifically “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” which will be familiar to those in the classical music scene and outside of it. “Hall” is just a few minutes long, but gripping. The gradual build from quiet melody to swirling frenzy is unforgettable.

So remarkable is it, that various artists from the metal scene cover it.

Apocalyptica, the heavy metal cello quartet from Finland, recorded a curiously simplified version on 2000’s Cult–sadly simplified, because they delete the key change in the modalized melody, and that change of key is especially sweet.

Epica did the tune great justice on their live album, 2009’s The Classical Conspiracy. The Dutch symphonic metal band, note for note, true to Grieg’s spirit, seems to have “moved every zig,” to lift a phrase from Zero Wing.

Also, Trent Reznor, the frontman of Nine Inch Nails, arranged a delightful industrial-themed version for 2010’s The Social Network in his new stint as a film composer.

The Texas Ballet Theater did a wonderful job with the production. Particularly fortuitous was the “found harmonium” of the dancer cast as the dark stranger who abducts Peer and imprisons him in an insane asylum.

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New Animation: Bat Man of Shanghai–and a Word about Old Animation

As industry-types and fans speculate and opine about the next iteration of Batman in one medium on the big screen–a pleasant and painful activity, like following hype, that I will have to say something about before too long–another medium, animation, is presenting new material.

Russ Fischer at /Film has already said just about everything else that needs to be said, but he may have left me one or two things to say.

Think: Batman in 1930’s China.

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Two Trailers for “Man of Steel,” Zack Snyder’s Take on Superman

Source: Collider.com

Two Trailers

Two teaser trailers have been released for Man of Steel.  They show very little, but what they show looks quite good.  The two trailers feature the same footage with different voiceovers, one from Superman’s Kryptonian father and one from his Earth father.  The strangely suitable music throughout is Howard Shore’s music for the death of Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring.  The solemnity of the fallen father suits the rising of the son.

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SDCC 2012: Marvel Film Announcements

ComicsAlliance reports from the San Diego Comic-Con that Marvel has make several announcements about its slate of upcoming films.

Captain America 2, Thor 2

Marvel announced the titles to the Captain America and Thor sequels.  Captain America 2 will bear the subtitle The Winter Soldier.  I could not be more excited.  This is the possible story arc that has interested me most, but I supposed that Marvel would not make it the A plot of the film and either not adapt it at all or at best make it the B plot.  We saw all too little of James Buchanan Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in The First Avenger.  The sequel will be a chance to see more from him.

 

The sequel to Thor will have be subtitled The Dark World.  This news also seems incredibly promising.  In the first film, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) introduces the audience, by way of the audience stand-in Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), to the Marvel version of Norse myth’s nine realms.  One realm is Svartalfheim, home of  the swarthy elves, metal-working dwarves in the mold of Mime.

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