Monday, April 27, 2009

Comics versus The Movies

In my last post, I briefly mentioned how different the two major comic book publishers treat their heroes in the movies. I thought more about it and figured it might be worth looking at in more detail.

Marvel and DC both have a history of making tweaks to their heroes for the movies, but who does it more? And who really messes up big when they do it? Let's go to the movies and see!

First, let's look at Marvel's history of recent film:

Spider Man:

This was the movie that seemed to take forever to see the light of day. Yes, the 70's series saw the web-slinger come to life for a bit, but movies had the big budget and we knew we'd see some cool stuff there. Marvel didn't disappoint with the Spider-Man trilogy of films (though number 3 had some moments that were close to the edge of really dumb...dancing Peter Parker anyone?). They managed to take this flagship hero and turn him into a reality for us. I, for one, was a very happy fanboy when I left the theater after the first one. Of course, I didn't care for the Power Rang...err, Green Goblin look, but whatever. They made up for it with Doctor Octopus and Sandman later.


Perhaps the most drastic appearance change for Marvel's heroes came from this trilogy. Basically, the costumes were gone completely with the exception of Storm.

For the most part I can understand the change, but I do wish we'd seen at least a couple of the costumes. Even if it had been nothing more than a passing shot of a wardrobe laying out, it would have been cool.

HUGE PROPS to Marvel for Magneto though. They left him very close to the comic book version (even keeping the helmet), and I don't think they could have picked a better actor to bring Magnus to life. And Patrick Stewart's Professor X was perfect casting as well.

Fantastic Four:

I never thought I'd see the day when they could pull this off, but they managed to. The movie version of the characters was so close to the comic book version it's scary as far as appearance and powers go. Chris Evans was spot-on as Johnny Storm to me.

The weak spot was, yet again, the villain here. Doctor Doom was a genius in armor. If you can do that in Iron Man, why did you have to screw it up twice in the Fantastic Four films? But again, HUGE PROPS to Marvel for the Silver Surfer! They found a way to make this guy come to life exactly as we saw him in the original comics.

However, MAJOR LOSS OF POINTS FOR GALACTUS! Marvel blew it big time with that one. At any rate, the buzz is that Fox is rebooting the franchise anyway, so possibly they'll get it right the second time around. But the whole "cloud from outer space" thing was horribly lame. I have no idea who's idea that was, but they were very, very wrong.

Captain America:

When rumors began to fly that Captain America had a cameo in the new "Incredible Hulk" film, folks were more excited to see that than the Hulk himself! After the killer Nick Fury cameo at the end of Iron Man, this was going to be the icing on the cake. Well, we left the theater pretty disappointed since he was nowhere to be found, but he did eventually make it to the DVD version.

Now this was literally a "blink and you'll miss him" cameo, but thanks to the modern miracle of the internet we can stop the film long enough to catch the frame he's actually in. Too early to call this one, but it looks like they have the right idea for his appearance so far.

And yes, I remember the Marvel live-action film they put out a few years back, but like most everyone else, I choose to ignore it.

Iron Man:

All right, who thought they'd get this so close to the comic books? Not me, that's for sure. And yet, Marvel took this one and kept him so close to the comic book version you got chills watching him move.

They even managed to get Tony Stark right in this film. Robert Downey, Jr. was the absolute dead-on choice for Stark, and that's another thing that made this film a hit and ripe for a sequel. They honored not only the hero's appearance, but that of his secret identity.

With Iron Man 2 coming out next Summer, here's hoping they keep the magic alive on this one!


Ok, let's pretend like Ang Lee's crap-fest never happened and go straight to "The Incredible Hulk", shall we?

Marvel kept this one more in line with the comics and the character's design was flawless. Yes, he was CGI, but there's just no other way to make that character come to life. Lou Ferrigno was awesome, but that was then and this is now.

Even down to the purple pants, this was the Hulk come to life. Just like the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four movie, however, they made some pretty drastic changes to his core villain, Abomination. It didn't look anything like the comic book version. But I realize that would have probably been almost impossible to pull off onscreen.

Ghost Rider:

If there was ever a character they could really mess up in live action, it was this one. Come on, a flaming skull riding a motorcycle? But Marvel proved once again that they have a good idea of what their fans want to see.

Like the Hulk, Ghost Rider was CGI all the way (for obvious reasons), and yet they managed to keep him true to the comic books. As a matter of fact, I don't think they could have come any closer to the comic book version in any way.


Again, we choose to ignore Dolph Lundgren's first incarnation of the character, and we also ignore the latest one from last year. Instead, let's look at the Thomas Jane version in "The Punisher".

Ok, so there was no black-and-white spandex, but they kept the skull emblem at least. Also, this one was very much like the Max version of the character rather than the Marvel U. version. Marvel did tweak the appearance of this character a little, but they still managed to get a few nods in for the fans.


No denying it, this one was a hard one to call. Marvel really tried to stay close to the character, but at the same time they got "The Batman Movie Syndrome" as well. In the comic books, he's a guy in red spandex who fights crime with nothing more than his amazing skill and radar sense. Unfortunately, they didn't feel confident in that for the movie version so they gave him red leather to run around in.

I'm not trying to be ugly here, but have you ever walked around in leather pants? You have a tendency to squeak a little as it rubs together and it also gets pretty hot. Now imagine an entire costume of that. Better yet, imagine a character who is supposed to use stealth wearing something like that. Doesn't work at all.

And again, the weak spot here is the villain. Bullseye doesn't look anything like his normal appearance, and there was a little something different about Kingpin as well. While Elektra's little change was nice, overall Marvel dropped the ball on this one.


This is actually the film that is credited with making super-hero films cool again. It's hard to imagine taking a D-list hero and giving him a major movie, but Marvel did just that. It paid off in spades for them! Three movies and a failed television series later, the character is still popular in the comic books (though his big screen days are probably over).

Marvel did tweak the appearance of this character substantially, but for once they got it right. Blade's success brought us other C-list characters like Daredevil and Ghost Rider.

And for DC, it's not always quite so simple. There's definitely not as much to choose from since they were very slow in recovering from the fiasco that was "Batman and Robin". That kept them from film for years on end, but when they returned did they learn from the mistake?


Another movie that seemed to be floating around forever, Superman Returns finally saw the light of day. Christopher Reeve truly did the character right in the first three films (and no one blames him for that last one that sucked big time), so Brandon Routh had his work cut out for him. Unfortunately, Superman's costume was considered "too bright" for the feel of this film and they proceeded to darken up the colors and shrink his chest emblem down some as well. Neither of these were massive changes, but when you have such an iconic character, it's not wise to do too much.

The buzz around this one is a reboot too, but with a darker version of the character. No longer the wide-eyed farm boy visitor out to help the city, he'll become the angst-ridden alien trying to fight his personal demons. Sounds like a stinker in the works to me.


More actors have tried their hand at this character onscreen than Hamlet! We've had West, Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, and Bale. One thing remains constant: the costume makes or breaks the film.

For some reason, DC will not stay faithful to the comic book here. Maybe it's the thought of Adam West's bulging tummy flopping over his utility belt, but they stay far away from the spandex. Yes, I understand they're trying to make him more real-world here (how would any man survive on the street without armor, right?), but you have to admit the character is cool as-is.

But I'm not complaining too much. At least they keep the newer outfits tough and mobile. The outfits from "Batman and Robin" were horrible.


While not technically a DC team, they still fall into the movie category. Since we're dealing strictly with the appearances here, you have to say DC went the right direction here.

This one is so hard to call because they took liberties with Ozymandius (thank goodness), Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre, but then got Rorschach dead-on (and unfortunately left a little too much showing of Doctor Manhattan). Overall, you'd have to call this one a success. The minor tweaks they made to the characters really were good moves for the most part, and they were far more faithful to the comics than not.

And I don't care what he says, you know as well as I do Alan Moore snuck into a theater somewhere to catch a late-night showing of this.

And the hands-down award winner for all-time worst movie tweak has to go to...


Ok, how hard is it to mess this up? You have a girl who is an athletic cat burglar with a thing for cats. Pretty simple, right? Holy cow, did you see that movie?

And they said "Batman and Robin" was the worst DC movie ever made...I say this one beats it hands down. Completely reinventing the character in every detail has to be a crime somewhere. But at least they got it right one time in their movie history:

Michelle definitely brought the cat back to the public eye with her performance in "Batman Returns". The entire romantic angle between the characters had never been really explored up to that point, but after that movie they have formed a tragic relationship that has kept going to modern day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why We Need a Kingdom Come Movie!

All right, I'm man enough to admit the fact that there's no way on earth any director could ever pull off a Kingdom Come film. I know they said that about "The Watchmen" and it would appear Zack Snyder managed to create at least a passable film version, but KC is a movie on an epic scale. While I understand the advances of green screen films like "300" and "The Spirit", I still don't see it happening.

But still...

So rather than dream cast this movie, I decided to bring out some of my favorite iconic scenes in the series to prove why we need to see this film in live action. The artwork of Alex Ross is about as close to live action as you could ever hope to see, and it's very easy to visualize real actors from his work.

So in no particular order....

This was never actually a scene in the book, though it was drawn by Ross as sort of an opener for the story. I love the way this looks.

The Spectre in this series was great, and his appearance in the church here really sets the stage for what's to come. Here is the avatar of God showing up in church to a minister who is about to have to judge the entire human race!

I could easily see this ending up as a movie poster or at the very least a teaser poster that has a simple street date at the bottom. Folks who knew the comic books would instantly know what's coming, while folks who didn't would think it was another horror flick. Their loss.

Of course, the super-powered battle that saw the death of Captain Atom and eventually the entirety of Kansas would be awesome if done correctly.

You can practically see the scene anyway. The shaky camera shots (ala "Cloverfield") and suddenly the bright explosion, followed by a far away shot of the mushroom cloud forming.

Two interesting notes here: first, DC actually used this scenario with the death of the first Firestorm character. Ronnie Raymond died this exact way (body torn open, but by a sword). The only difference is that he chose to fly far away to explode instead of doing it in the crowd.

The other note is that Marvel used this scenario to open the Civil War miniseries. The explosion wasn't big enough to take out a state, but it was this same setup.

And of course, there's no way on earth to miss my particular favorite moment from the story: the introduction of Red Robin!

Unfortunately, I have the feeling the movie folks would do what they usually do to a DC hero movie. They'd change his costume dramatically to give him more of a tough guy feel and completely mess up the character.

Still, since it's such a small part of the story, he might just be able to slip in there unscathed. It's doubtful though. Have you ever noticed how DC has a tendency to really change their characters for the films, while Marvel is (for the most part) true to the comics?

This beautiful splash scene comes as Batman leads his troops to save the day when Wonder Woman's crew is getting overwhelmed by the bad guys after they break out of the super prison. You can practically feel the lightning here!

And speaking of feeling the lightning...

This powerful shot brought us to the ultimate climax battle of the film. Superman had run pretty much unopposed throughout his clean up of the world. And then this moment came. We were treated to the first true appearance of Captain Marvel in the story (he'd been Billy Batson up until that point), and there was no doubt a smackdown was coming.

In truth though, we had no idea how badly Supes would be beaten. Captain Marvel used his magic lightning to take the Man of Steel on a pain ride that only stopped when Superman was finally able to get through the haze of Billy's mind and ask him to be the hero one last time. He then sped off and sacrificed his life to stop the nuclear bomb before it could kill all of the remaining heroes (it just killed most of them instead).

And imagine this incredible shot there at the end of the film:
Superman sits alone in a wasteland of superhero bones and screams to the wind just before taking off to destroy the U.N. building. You can see this shot pan out from Supes and just fly back further and further showing more bodies along the way. That, my friend, would be one of those "Lord of the Rings" battle shots that would take your breath away.

Truthfully, we'll probably never see this film, but I hope I've given you just a few reasons to understand what a tragedy that is.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Comic Characters Who Really Need an Action Figure

I am a toy collector, and I can live with that. As a kid, the hero figures were few and far between, but today it seems like just about any hero can get a figure given time. With so many new figures pouring out on a regular basis, it's cool to see some of those secondary (and even third-tier) characters getting the action figure treatment. Folks we never thought we'd see in plastic are finally finding their way to our shelves.

Still, there are those comic characters who really deserve an action figure. Let's take a look at a few we'd love to get our hands on.


This tough little Alpha Flight hero is no longer with us, but there's no reason he shouldn't get a figure. Guardian has had two of them, so let's move to other members of the team now.

His costume was simple, his origin complex (he's harboring a demon inside that keeps him small), and his powers almost nonexistent, yet he stood toe-to-toe with Canada's premiere super-team for years. How hard could this one be to create? Two basic colors and you're done.


Yes, another dead hero looking for treatment. I'm not talking about the Steve Rogers version, but the Jack Munroe take on it years later.

I never thought the original suit was much to write home about, but that last version really worked well. It's got that basic Desperado Cowboy kind of look while still keeping a little superhero edge.

I could easily see this figure with a little shotgun, and a small Baby Bucky that you could strap on his back.

Hawk & Dove

Since the DCU packs usually try to come up with a double-set most of the time, this is a sure winner! I'm talking about the originals here, not the pale imitations and reboots we've had to deal with over the years.

These costumes by Steve Ditko were based on other popular hero costumes he'd drawn in recent years (Spider-Man and The Creeper), but as simple as they are there's just something really cool about them.

They've gotten the JLU versions (not bad) and the proper Heroclix treatment recently (finally), so let's see them taken to the next level!


Yet another trenchcoat hero, but this new Madrox has developed into a pretty interesting character.

He's the leader of the new X-Factor, and he's got enough emotional issues going to keep the series moving along for quite a while.

Of course, this character would come in a multi-pack, with perhaps two or three other versions of himself with different expressions on their faces to represent the myriad sometimes-unstable dupes he creates.

The Question

Yes, he has a JLU version, and even a smaller Infinite Heroes version, but where's the DC Universe treatment? We need to see that 8-inch treatment that catches all the nuances of his trenchcoat and mask.

He has received a treatment, but it was his first appearance look, and not the modern one he had just before DC killed him off. Forget the Renee Montoya version, give us this in-between look that really set the stage for the guy.

Ant Man (modern version)
We've had quite a few versions of the Hank Pym Ant Man over the years, so we can't complain about that. Still, the new look deserves a chance too.

I'm not a fan of those freaky arms coming off the back of the suit, but otherwise it looks pretty good. Hey, at least he finally has a few offensive weapons for once (and it only took 4 decades to make that happen).

Yes, he reminds you of a cross between Spider-Man and Ambush Bug, but he still has potential.

Vigilante (both classic and modern versions)

Adrian Chase became the Vigilante in the pages of the now-classic New Teen Titans in the 80's before moving on to his own title for 50 issues. Though Adrian is dead, DC has recently brought the character back to his own title (as basically their version of the Punisher).

The new version keeps a basic look reminiscent of the original, but they are both different enough to deserve a shot at plastic immortality.

If I can only get one, give me the original.

Hawkeye (Ultimates version)

This fresh new take on an old character is a welcome change for Clint Barton. Though he was originally introduced to the Ultimates Universe as a glorified archer, we soon found out he could use anything he could get his hands on as a weapon, making him a tough opponent for Bullseye.

When Ultimates Volume 3 began, his appearance changed radically again. A lot of people immediately called him a Grifter rip-off, but whatever you think of the change you have to admit it was a nice touch. Suddenly Hawkeye threw the bow and arrows out for pistols, and developed a death wish that made him seriously dangerous. His new look is sleek and seems like a combination of the original suit, Deadshot, Grifter, and Deathstroke. Any way you look at it, we should see it in plastic.

Anybody you're watching the shelves for?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dream Casting Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" Movie

Ok, so Watchmen is over now and we can all start looking forward to the next major comic movie release. For all the critical attacks it took, one thing about Watchmen that was consistently mentioned was how it remained faithful to the book (for the most part). Props to Zack!

With Zack Snyder calling his "dream project" a chance to film Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, I thought it might be fun to consider who could take the central parts.

Bruce Wayne/Batman - Chuck Norris

This one was hard to figure. We're looking for (according the comics) a man in his 50's who is tough as nails and right on the edge of crazy. He has to be someone we believe could easily jump into a fight with the leader of the mutants and take on Superman. The obvious choice is Clint Eastwood, but he's so old now it wouldn't be practical. If this movie had been made 20 years ago though, he'd have been the one. Instead, I went with the obvious choice: The Chuck!

I realize Chuck would have to take some serious acting lessons, but is there any doubt at all he wouldn't kill every freakin' villain in the movie--including the stuntmen and any extras he didn't like? And let's be honest, we all know Chuck could beat Superman right now anyway.

Alfred - John Cleese

While not a pivotal role in the story necessarily, this is a major character in the mythos. He's going to die at the end, so this is a one-shot role (who would really want to see the inferior sequel anyway?). He needs to be British and he needs to be reasonably smarmy. As such, I see John Cleese handling the role beautifully. He has the accent, he has the attitude, and he's the right age. He did a great job with the dramatic role in the recent "The Day the Earth Stood Still" movie, so there's no reason to think he couldn't take this one.

Robin - Dakota Fanning

Ok, so this one wasn't the hardest to cast. It's not that I consider her some amazing starlet or anything, but we're talking about a girl in her early teen's that's not a member of the Disney Channel. "Push" wasn't the greatest movie ever, but it did give us a look at her action chops to an extent, and you can't say she doesn't have the attitude. Keep in mind this movie would be a couple of years down the road, and by that time she might have grown up enough to pull off the sometimes-emotional role.

Joker - Tim Curry
To me, this one is a natural. Tim Curry fits the age range, and he's always had that creepy smile he saves for the bad guy roles he gets pulled into from time to time. This wouldn't be some over-the-top Joker like the cartoon version. This would be a menacing, malevolent mass-murderer out to end his war with Batman once and for all.

His low voice and rolling tones would allow him to have the simmering madness needed to make the role interesting. Heath Ledger may have forever taken the role of the Joker to the next level, but Curry could probably pull off a good older version of the villain.

Superman - Bruce Campbell

First of all, I know he doesn't have the body for this role. He have to do some serious getting in shape to make this happen, but you have to admit he's got the chin. Campbell has been around the geek circles for so many years it's about time he had a shot at a major hero role. Besides, all he has to do in this movie is spend most of his time getting beat up by Batman, so how hard can that be?

Seriously though, Campbell has the voice, the attitude, and the older look that could make the role interesting. I'd say give him a shot.

So that's my choices. Feel free to fire away and disagree!
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