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- 08/03/17--14:29: _Star Wars IX Writer...
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- 08/03/17--14:29: Star Wars IX Writer Jack Thorne: 7 Stories To Check Out
- 08/03/17--14:38: Stardust Is Still One of the Best Neil Gaiman Adaptations Out There
- 08/03/17--18:08: The Dark Tower Movie Feels Like a Prologue (And That's Okay)
- 08/03/17--21:22: The Dark Tower: Why Roland Doesn't Wear a Hat in the Movie
- 08/03/17--22:49: Teen Titans TV Series Casts Raven
- 08/03/17--23:02: A Guide to DC Animated Movies
- 08/04/17--13:27: Black: Controversial Superhero Comic Optioned For Movie
- 08/04/17--22:56: The Dark Tower Easter Eggs and Reference Guide
- 08/05/17--12:15: A Reading Guide to Stephen King's Dark Tower Universe
- 08/06/17--17:54: Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps #26 - Exclusive Preview
- 08/07/17--10:17: Complete DC Comics Superhero Movie Release Calendar
- 08/07/17--11:50: Netflix Acquires Millarworld
- 08/07/17--12:45: Deadpool 2: First Look at Cable
- 08/07/17--13:18: Hellboy and the BPRD: 1955 - Secret Nature Exclusive Preview
- 08/07/17--17:00: The 10 Greatest Supernatural Stephen King Villains
- 08/07/17--19:30: Stephen King's 10 Greatest Heroes
- 08/08/17--01:08: Deadpool 2: Who is Cable?
- 08/08/17--10:15: Stephen King's 10 Most Terrifying Human Villains
Star Wars scribe Jack Thorne is already a celebrated TV writer. Here is some of his best work!
Earlier this week, it was announced that Jack Thorne will be re-writing Star Wars IX. The prolific British writer is constantly popping up attached to projects we care about (he's also writing the upcoming His Dark Materials TV show), so it wasn't such a surprise to see him snag this much sought after gig.
If you're interested in learning more about Thorne's writing style, here are seven projects to check out...
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
We absolutely adored the latest story in the story of The Boy Who Lived, aka Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. The West End play tells the story of Harry, Ron, and Hermione all grown up, while also focusing on the next generation of the British wizarding community through the characters of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy.
Though The Cursed Child story was created by J.K. Rowling, director John Tiffany, and writer Jack Thorne, it was Thorne who scripted The Cursed Child.
Skins was something special — a drama about young adults written by young adults. Running for seven seasons with different cycles of character-groups, the British comedy-drama (there was also a shortlived, vastly inferior American remake on MTV) set out to tell the story of what it is really like to be a teenager in all of its complicated, heartbreaking, glorious rawness.
Set in Bristol, U.K., each episode generally focused on an individual character and dealt with complex issues from mental health to bullying to drugs to death. Thorne was one of the original writers on the show, penning five episodes, including season 1 standout "Effy," demonstrating his ability to write from a young person's perspective.
Episodes to watch: Season 1's "Effy" and Season 3's "Naomi" (co-written with Atiha Sen Gupta).
Available to stream on Netflix and YouTube.
Starring Game of Thrones' Natalie Dormer and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Iain De Caestecker, The Fades was a supernatural horror series about an English teenager named Paul (De Caestecker) who can see the spirits of dead people known as the Fades. The Fades are what's left when the rest of a person moves on from this world, and they are vengeful, dangerous beings who have developed the ability to basically turn into zombies.
The premise is a bit high concept, which (along with BBC Three's budget cuts) may have resulted in the show being cancelled after only one season of six episodes, but it's still well-worth the watch. It won the 2012 BAFTA for "Best Drama," has a great cast, and is one of those supernatural shows that is not only builds incredibly momentum, but is built on a premise that's not super derivative. The Fades creates its own mythology, for better or worse.
Thorne was the show's creator and wrote all six episodes, demonstrating the sheer imagination and world-building-construction he is capable of.
Episodes to watch: All of them (There are only six).
Available to stream on Hulu.
This Is England
Spun off from the 2006 film This Is England, This Is England '86, This Is England '88, and This Is England '90 were all three-or-four-part TV miniseries that followed some of the film's young skinhead characters further through their adolescence. Thorne wrote the TV miniseries along with the film's director Shane Meadows.
Like Skins, the This Is England miniseries take young people as their focus, and doesn't let up on the bleakness of its characters' realities, even whilst interspersing the drama with moments of humor, lightheartedness, and love.
Episodes to watch: This is a heavy one, and one best viewed in order. Start with the BAFTA-winning This Is England '86 and, if you can stomach it, go from there. You can stream This Is England on YouTube.
Cast Offs is a dark humor dramedy mockumentary telling the story of six disabled people sent to a remote British isle as part of a fictional reality show, and it is probably like nothing you have ever seen — not least of all because disabled people are severely underrepresented on TV (especially as main characters). The BAFTA series cast six disabled actors in the main roles, following one character per episode (a la Skins or Lost).
Cast Offs decidedly doesn't ask its audience to sympathize with its disabled characters, who are, at times, rude, vindictive, and self-destructive — you know, just like able-bodied people. Thorne co-created the series that never found much of an audience, though it was nominated for a BAFTA and pushed the boundaries of diversity on mainstream TV.
Episodes to watch: Episode 1, "Dan," is the best place to start, given that this high-concept mockumentary takes a bit of explaining.
Glue was touted as "Skins — but in the country," and its focus on a group of boundary-pushing youth certaintly bears a strong resemblence to the famous drama, but Glue is decidedly its own beast. The influences of the rural setting and the murder mystery component cannot be understated. Glue uses the murder mystery structure to explore the deep chasms of this country community, exposed by the shocking murder of a local 14-year-old boy. In many ways, Glue bears some resemblance to Broadchurch, though with its focus on the friend-group of the victim, is interested in telling a very different story than its seaside counterpart.
Thorne grew up in the rural countryside he represents in Glue, and the personal knowledge shows in this show he created and wrote. Glue is a beautifully-rendered, gorgeously-shot exploration of what it means to grow up in this part of England.
Episodes to watch: Glue is highly serialized, so it's best to start at the beginning with episode 1.
The Last Panthers
The Last Panthers (created and written by Thorne), a crime series starring Samantha Morton and John Hurt, has a decidedly different vibe than much of Thorne's other work. Starting with the theft of a diamond modeled after real-life Balkan jewel thieves the Pink Panthers, the plot follows a British insurance investigator as she follows the trail across Europe, clashing with gangsters and bankers in a system of corruption and greed.
David Bowie wrote an original theme song for the show, and its six parts met with critical acclaim despite a slow start. With a pan-European setting and funding, not to mention the use of multiple languages throughout the story, The Last Panthers is trans-nationally unique to much of what is on TV.
Episodes to watch: The first episode, which features the nervewracking theft that spirals the entire plot forward is can't miss. Luckily, the series is scheduled to air in America on Sundance sometime this spring.
Gaiman's work makes crossing mediums look easy, but the 2007 Stardust film remains one of the best adaptations of his work...
Matthew Vaughn's film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust is officially a decade old, but it hasn't lost any of its magic. With an all-star cast that included Daredevil's Charlie Cox and Homeland's Claire Danes, a director who would go onto make X-Men: First Class and Kingsman: The Secret Service, and a story from the mind of Neil Gaiman, Stardust is a funny, clever, and heartfelt fairy tale of a movie that happens to be criminally underrated by most mainstream movie audiences.
On the tenth anniversary of its release, we're taking the time to talk about the reasons why Stardust remains one of the best Gaiman adaptations out there, even if the box office numbers didn't reflect that or if the story didn't remain faithful to the book...
The history of the book.
Stardust originally began publication life as a comic book — specifically a prestige-format, four-issue miniseries. With the story by Gaiman and the illustrations by Charles Vess, Stardust began life as an inherently visual tale, which is perhaps one of the reasons why it works so well as a film.
However, in 1999, Stardust was released as a more traditional novel by Gaiman without the illustrations from Hess. For me, this edition loses much of the story and magic of the original illustrated, comics-based version, which is perhaps why — when comparing the illustrations-less novel version of Stardust to the film version of Stardust — the former is left slightly wanting.
Luckily for all fans of the original Stardust comic-based storybook, Vertigo released a new hardcover edition in 2007 (to roughly coincide with the release of the movie) with 50 new pages of material, including some new artwork. Thus far, the Matthew Vaughn film is the only screen adaptation of Stardust...
The story of Stardust.
Stardust is a surprisingly complex story for a fairy tale adventure film that was also marketing as a family-friendly movie. The heart of the story comes in the quest of young Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox), who ventures out of his small town of Wall into the magical kingdom of Stormhold that lies just next door, on the otherside of a wall.
Tristan is on the search for a star that has fallen from the sky, a gift for his lady crush Victoria. Things get complicated, however, when he discovers the star is not a piece of celestial rock, as he assumed, but rather a living, breathing woman in the form of Claire Danes' Yvaine.
Elsewhere in Stormhold, others are searching for the star. Michelle Pheiffer's witch Lamia wants to cut out the star's heart and eat it so she and her sisters can continue to enjoy immortal life. The kingdom's royalty — a gaggle of cutthrout princes — are also on the hunt, as their dying father made a proclamation that whoever retrieved the stone around the star's neck would ascend to the throne.
Stardust juggles these multiple, interweaving storylines beautifully through imaginative, kinetic editing (one of Vaughn's hallmarks as a director). And, though many people point to the changing of the story's ending in the film, I find the movie's ending much better-paced and complementary to the other subtle (and not so subtle) changes the film makes to the book's worldscape.
Stardust's specialty lies in upending tropes in unexpected ways, while also celebrating them. It reminds me a lot of Hot Fuzz in that way. It is a great example of the Have Its Cake and Eat It Too mode of self-aware storytelling. In a rather cynical age, it manages to give us a satisfying fairy tale by subverting enough of its tropes to lure us hypnotically into embracing other ones. It doesn't always succeed — there a few too many damsel-in-distress moments for my liking — but, for the most part, its few flaws are overshadowed by its innumberable charms.
A great cast, led by Claire Danes & Charlie Cox.
Many of Stardust's aforementioned charms come in the quality of its expansive cast. Seriously, everyone is in this movie and they are giving it their all, making the script come to life with complexity, humor, and heart. In the central love story, we have Charlie Cox and Claire Danes as Tristan and Yvaine. Past that, highlights include Michelle Pheiffer's Lamia, Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, and Mark Strong's Prince Septimus. (Strong would also go on to star in Vaughn's Kingsman as Merlin.)
Past that, we get some fun, memorable performances from Rupert Evertt as Prince Secundus, Peter O'Toole as the King of Stormhold, Henry Cavill as the prissy Humphrey, Ricky Gervais as the comedic Ferdy the Fence, and Sienna Miller as the haughty Victoria. And have I mentioned that it is all narrated by Ian McKellen? Yeah, the extras are basically all played by Oscar-winners in this movie.
For me, one of the chief strengths of the film over the book lies with the realness and development of the characters. That is in no small part to the impressiveness of this cast, but it also has something to do with the screenplay. While Gaiman tends to be more interested in archeypes, themes and prose, the film — perhaps by necessity, as a product of Hollywood — has much more interest in making these characters three-dimensional and relatable.
Which emphasis you prefer all depends on what kind of story-consumer you are, but, for me, Gaiman's archetypal characters tend to be the least interesting part of his imaginative works.
The changes from the book.
Anyone who has read both the book and seen the movie will know that the Stardust film, co-written by Vaughn and frequent collaborator Jane Goldman, changes quite a bit from its source material. As is common with adaptations, a lot is simplified — on both sides of the wall.
Tristan's home community is much less vast and complex. Likewise, the world of Stormhold is less strange and magical. In the book, there are all manner of magical creatures. For the sake of narrative simplicity or perhaps for budgetary concerns, that same scope of magical-kind is much more limited in the film.
The film also adds in an entire sequence around De Niro's Captain Shakespeare that is barely present in the book. For me, this is actually an important decision. Brushing past the potentially reductive depiction of Shakespeare's marginalized identity, for me, this is where the film makes one of its smartest decisions: the montage. I am a big proponent of the montage in Hollywood blockbusters that have any interest in building a believable, meaningful relationship for two characters who have just met.
A montage gives us the illusion that an indefinable amount of time has passed and (more importantly) that, in that time, a whole manner of significant interaction could have and probably has occurred. In a two-hour film, the montage can cover all manner of underdeveloped character and character dynamic sins, and more Hollywood blockbusters should take advantage of it.
In Stardust, there's no way the Captain Shakespeare montage could have lasted more than a few days at most, given that only a week passes over the course of Tristan's journey in Stormhold. However, this is where Tristan and Yvaine fall in love, this is where Tristan makes his transition from gawky shopboy to more confident man, this is where Stardust makes us believe in the true love it must to pull off its fairy tale ending.
There is also the matter of the book vs. film's endings. In the book ending, Lamia finds Yvaine in the market town near the wall, but — when she tries to take Yvaine's heart — Yvaine explains that she can't because she has already given it to Tristan. This is different from the film's more action-geared ending, which includes a fight between the reanimated corpse of Septimus and Tristan, as well as some rather extensive glass-smashing.
Ultimately, it is Yvaine who saves the day by using her love for Tristan to let out a burst of starshine, killing Lamia. Perhaps the larger change to the book's story is found in the epilogue. In the book, Tristan and Yvaine leave Stormhold for a time, leaving Una (Tristan's mother in charge). They eventually return, Tristan lives out his life as ruler, and then dies, leaving a heartbroken Yvaine to return to the sky alone.
In the film, the two live into their old age together as rulers of Stormhold, then — when they are very old — ascend to the sky to live as stars together. It is a thoroughly happy ending, one that doesn't make Tristan give up his ties to his family and friends in Wall, and one some Gaiman fans have problems with. For me, it is a minor point that has less to do with the story than the ending that occurs in the more immediate sense, completing Tristan's quest and Tristan and Yvaine's love story. And that ending is much better-paced and climactic than the one we get in the book.
Of course, the book is interested in much different things than the movie, and the less climactic, quieter ending reflects that. While the Stardust book is much more interested in engaging with and challenging pre-Tolkien English fantasy at a novelistic and prose level, the film doesn't even try to do the same. It would be a foolish attempt, after all, to try to mimick and subvert a style that lives so entirely in the pre-cinematic world. Instead, the Stardust film sets its sights on subverting and celebrating the three-act Hollywood blockbuster.
Gaiman's role in the movie.
Montages and ending specifics aside, all of the changes from the book to the film were made with the blessing of Gaiman, who also acted as a producer on the film and had some say in creative decisions. Speaking on the changes made for the Stardust film to MTV, Gaiman said:
What I did with Matthew was this thing you must never do. Don't do this; it is very, very wrong: I gave him the option for nothing. I phoned him up and said, 'OK, Stardust is yours; I really trusted him, and you don't run into that very often. He offered me the script, but I said, 'No, I wrote the novel, but this is your film, your vision. But I will help you.'
The first thing I did was find him a writer, Jane Goldman, who hadn't written a script before but I loved her novels, I loved her journalism, and she got the book. I was involved with the casting and set locations too.
For me, Stardust is one of the few examples of a film adaptation that aren't afraid to make changes that work much better for the format. Personally, I like the Stardust film more than the Stardust novel — though both contain their own, separate joys. In an era of remakes and adaptations, more filmmakers and writers of adapted screenplays could learn from Matthew Vaughn's and Jane Goldman's example.
What would a Stardust sequel have looked like?
Den of Geekchatted with Matthew Vaughn in 2015 about what a Stardust sequel would have looked like. The director already had a rough idea in place, if the movie had made enough money to warrant moving forward on another one — which, sadly, it did not.
Here's what Vaughn said:
I had a really crazy fun idea for a Stardust 2. The opening scene was Charlie Cox's character, being the king and throwing out the necklace. This time the necklace goes over the wall and bounces off Big Ben, and you're suddenly in London in the early 1960s, with these mad kings and princes and princesses running around London. All on the quest for the stone.
What sets Stardust apart.
Despite its status as both an adaptation of existing material and an interest in commenting on so many of the genre tropes that have come before, Stardust still feels like a wholly original work. It also manages to do the fairy tale genre with a commitment to whimsical sincerity that is rarely seen in today's media climate — especially for adults.
One needs look no further than the ridiculously popular Game of Thrones to see what kind of fantasy drama is valued in today's pop culture climate. It's downright refreshing to revisit a fantasy that doesn't let its use of irony ever endanger its commitment to comforting fairy tale values that are all-to-often dismissed as unimportant or childish.
No, Stardust manages to capture some of the silly self-awareness and unabashed sentimentalism of Princess Bride in a contemporary movie-making era where only one of those things is truly valued. For that — and for so much else — Stardust remains one of the best Neil Gaiman adaptations out there, even (and perhaps especially) when it's not particularly Gaiman-like at all.
Read and download the full Den of Geek SDCC Special Edition magazine here!
The Dark Tower is more of a prologue than the first chapter in an epic saga. Here's why that's not such a terrible thing.
This Dark Tower articles contains spoilers.
Almost 40 years after the first Dark Towerstory was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Stephen King's magnum opus has finally made it to the big screen. That in itself feels like a reason to celebrate. Like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Ringsbefore it, King's fantasy/sci-fi/western/horror epic was once thought unfilmable by Hollywood. The books were considered too sprawling, perhaps a bit too complicated for the coveted PG rating, and definitely too expensive to shoot. With a ten-year development cycle almost as epic as the books themselves, from being optioned by J.J. Abrams to Ron Howard's very long quest as first director and then producer to Sony finally signing off on this franchise starter, it's a miracle to see Idris Elba (Roland) dressed as the gunslinger at all.
The result of all that work and waiting? An okay fantasy movie that many hardcore fans will find controversial and general audiences will probably enjoy. Critics certainly haven't been kind to it, including our very own Don Kaye, but that's almost to be expected when it comes to a movie that takes as many creative liberties with the source material, King's coveted fictional universe, as The Dark Tower does.
You could sense trouble in the air for The Dark Tower as soon as the production started to tease some of its more questionable narrative choices. The Idris Elba casting silliness aside (Elba is excellent as Roland and one of the better parts of the movie), things like making the the movie a sequel to the novels and not a straight adaptation of the first book, The Gunslinger, soured the experience for Constant Readers before they even sat in a theater.
King explained in an interview with us that it was important to not just cater to the fans who'd read The Dark Tower series but also those who were more familiar with his other books. The writer suggested that Stephen King fans and Dark Tower fans aren't necessarily in the same group.
"Some of those [narrative] decisions are related to telling a story that the general public will get," said King. "Not just the hardcore Dark Tower fans, the guys who show up at the fantasy conventions with Roland tattoos or something like that. You have to keep in mind that of all the books that I've written, the fans of the Dark Tower books are the most zealous, the most fervent fans of all, but they make up a small subgroup of the people who read books like The Shining or Misery. You know, they're required taste. They're fantasy."
For many hardcore fans, there's nothing more important than being faithful to the source material and The Dark Tower is decidedly not that kind of take. Instead, it remixes events from the book series into a 95-minute movie that speeds through events faster than one of Roland's bullets. While it has elements from all the books, the movie mostly focuses in on plotlines from the first and third books. The Waste Lands gets the most play since the biggest chunk of the movie takes place in New York City and follows Jake Chambers' (Tom Taylor, who is also great) journey to Mid-World.
If you're a huge fan of the books, you can already sort of see where the problems with this adaptation lie and where the cuts happened. The Drawing of the Three, the second book, is almost completely ignored and the other members of Roland's ka-tet are nowhere to be found. And the things that are taken directly from The Gunslinger and The Waste Lands sometimes feel like they've been run through Cliffs Notes first. There's one shining example of this about midway through the movie when Jake visits the Dutch Hill Mansion on his way to Mid-World.
One of my biggest issues with the movie is the villain. Walter Paddick, the Man in Black, is played by Matthew McConaughey, who does his best with a script that really overdoes it with the character. Way too much time is spent establishing Walter's powers, which are cheapened by all the telekinesis and telepathy involved. There are a couple of scenes in the movie in which you might even confuse Walter for a dressed down Sith Lord. His climactic confrontation with Roland will definitely be the most reviled part of the movie (although Elba looks damn good in a gun fight).
Again, this much more digestible version of Walter better serves the general audience. He's the evil wizard who uses dark magic to plunge the world into darkness -- a villain we've seen plenty of times before. Certainly, King's work is full of agents of chaos, and for good reason when you get down to deciphering how many of his books are tied together by The Dark Tower series. (I'm not going to do that here, but I wrote a beginner's reading guide to King's Dark Tower universe a while back if you're interested.) But Walter (better known as Randall Flagg in King's larger mythology) always stood apart from the other monsters for the simple reason that his abilities and goals were always a bit more difficult to comprehend. It also helped that King practiced restraint when writing him in the series, unlike the movie, which spends way too much in time in Walter's shoes.
In the books, Walter's an enigmatic man of many names and faces who walks from one disaster to the next, looking for ways to bring about and exploit the apocalypse. And for a long time, it was hard to pinpoint Walter's origins as anything other than a supernatural force for evil. He doesn't really use telekinetic powers or stop bullets with his bare hands. Instead, Walter stands out for the evil he is able to impress on others. His true gift is one born from charisma, his greatest power the ability "to appeal to the worst in all of us," as King once said in an interview.
The Walter of the movie is able to get people to do things for him, but even that ability is dumbed down to sheer brutality. McConaughey's Man in Black is more interested in disposing of witnesses and punishing his henchmen than being the evil that festers inside of every human being.
But despite the film's many problems, there's something really refreshing about The Dark Tower's earnest approach. At a time when Hollywood has become all about cinematic universes, The Dark Tower feels like more of a standalone film. It doesn't try to build up more of the mythology than it can handle. There's a Tower that protects the universe from the dark forces beyond its edges and Walter needs Jake's "shine" (a retcon and questionable nod to The Shining, yes) to bring it down. When the Tower falls, Walter will be able to reign over the apocalyptic universe that's left in its wake. Roland, the last of an order of gunslingers sworn to protect the mythical structure, is the only one who can stop Walter and save Jake. That's the movie, with a couple of nods to other works by King and a mention of the Crimson King to boot. Most of the action takes place in New York City, with only one key bit taking place in Mid-World, which makes the adaptation a much easier pill to swallow for someone who hasn't obsessed over the eight Dark Tower books for 40 years.
The Dark Towerhas a definite beginning, middle, and end, which is something we don't often get anymore from genre storytelling. Don't get me wrong: there are suggestions throughout the film that there is much more to the story than what's happening on screen (for example, Maerlyn's Rainbow makes an appearance in the movie and so does the Horn of Eld), but these hints at a larger cinematic universe aren't quite as gratuitous as, say, the infamous cave scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron, a movie that spends more time setting things up for future installments than telling itself.
In a way, The Dark Tower movie feels more like a prologue than the epic first chapter of a film series -- 95 minutes of what happened before Roland set out on his journey to the Tower in earnest (much like in The Gunslinger) without delving too deeply into the mythos besides a couple of moments of exposition. It seems like a counterintuitive move for Sony, which probably invested in the project with every intention of turning this into a lucrative cinematic universe. Instead, The Dark Tower plays like a proof of concept, a slice of a larger story waiting to be told. That feels a lot like the narrative of The Gunslinger to me.
*Art by Michael Whelan.
Roland is very singularly focused throughout the first book of the saga. As the opening line states: "The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed." Add some Slow Mutants, a way station, and an important death to the mix and that's about all he wrote. Roland really is more interested in catching the man responsible for the fall of Gilead than saving the Tower. It's not until the end of the novel that the hero really embarks on his journey to save reality itself. Roland's arc in the movie plays out in much of the same fashion, just with a few deviations in between. It's "one last time around" that doesn't go quite the way you expected but doesn't pretend that it's earned a cinematic universe just for the simple fact that it exists.
If you look at The Dark Toweras The Gunslinger's narrative counterpart, the movie does a good job of establishing the major players, the important relationships, and the stakes, with the bonus of a proper ending -- albeit an unnecessarily explosive one that nonchalantly nullifies one of the key moments in one of the later books. It doesn't try to do more than it can handle, which will certainly piss off audience members who love Marvel-style storytelling (which is fun in its own right), but the result is a movie that never becomes distracted with things it doesn't have the time to resolve. Instead, The Dark Tower is all about the chase. As King said on Twitter a few weeks ago, the movie is "all killer and no filler."
It's disappointing that the execution is ultimately muddled. A restricting budget, obvious reshoots, cheap effects, and some creative decisions that don't quite gel together keep The Dark Tower from reaching its full potential. But its biggest risk of all should not be downplayed, because it's something we rarely get these days: a small movie about a big universe. Hopefully, with a TV series and a potential sequel on the way, we'll get to explore much more of it.
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!
While Idris Elba is a fine Roland Deschain, there's one thing missing from The Dark Tower's protagonist: his signature hat!
There are going to be a lot of questions on people's minds regarding The Dark Tower in the next few days. Many of them will probably have to do with some of the creative decisions that forged this "sequel" to Stephen King's beloved 8-book series. Some fans will wonder what's next for Roland and Jake (we got some hints from King himself). But one question will trump all others for diehard fans: where the heck is Roland's iconic hat?
In case you haven't noticed, Idris Elba's version of the character doesn't wear a hat in the movie. None of the promotional materials depict him wearing one, and neither do the trailers. I watched the movie earlier this week at a screening and guess what? Still no hat. So where is it?
King addressed the elephant in the room during a press event I had the pleasure of attending. I'm sorry to write such a cliche line, but King's answer might actually surprise you. The writer dropped some inside baseball knowledge about Hollywood and the Western genre that we weren't expecting.
"It's funny, isn't it? [It's a] trade secret," King said. "In a lot of the pictures, not only is he white, he's wearing a hat in most of those pictures. And I talked to the producers of the movie about that and they said that Western movies where the main character wears a hat don't do well."
Even King chuckled at that bit of unexpected info: "And I said, 'Really? Well, Denzel wore a hat all the way through The Magnificent Seven and that did pretty well at the box office. But they didn't pay any attention to that."
For anyone who's interested, The Magnificent Seven remake made back all of its $90 million production budget, making a total of $162.4 million in the worldwide box office.
Interestingly enough, there are some inconsistencies about whether Roland wore a hat throughout the book series to begin with. It's stated early on in The Gunslinger (the first book) that Roland had lost his hat long ago, yet most of the illustrations in the books depict the character with a hat. It's a weird little continuity hiccup that was probably made worse by the revised edition of the book that came out years later. It's mentioned in Wolves of the Calla that he does in fact have a hat by that point. Some fans speculate that Roland picked up a new hat in the town of Tull before continuing on his journey.
Either way, you could make the point that it would look kind of weird if Roland was wearing the complete cowboy get up while walking around New York City (the fish out of water scenes involving Roland in our world are actually the high point of the movie), but King doesn't think so. He's quick to make some fun of the Big Apple.
"Have you been to New York lately? They actually have a guy in Times Square who's called the Naked Cowboy."
Yes, we've all seen him. He ran for Mayor of New York City and then for President. He apparently supports the Tea Party.
The Dark Tower is out on Friday, Aug. 4.
More news on The Dark Tower and Roland's garments as we learn it!
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!
The long in development Titans live action TV series will premiere in 2018, and the first member of the team cast is Raven!
A few years back, word got around of a Nightwing and the Teen Titans TV series, known simply as Titans, that Warner Bros. Pictures was developing for cable network TNT. Akiva Goldsman wrote a pilot script (we have some details on that here), and things were moving along before the plug was pulled. We figured this project was dead. It turns, out, Warner Bros. was just biding their time. Instead, Titanswill be one of the centerpieces (along with Young Justice Season 3) of a new, subscription digital TV service that will launch in 2018.
Here's the official synopsis for Titans:
Titans follows a group of young soon-to-be Super Heroes recruited from every corner of the DC Universe. In this action-packed series, Dick Grayson emerges from the shadows to become the leader of a fearless band of new heroes, including Starfire, Raven, and many others. Titans is a dramatic, live-action adventure series that will explore and celebrate one of the most popular comic book teams ever.
Akiva Goldsman (Underground, the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery, and, of course, Batman and Robin) is back as writer, which makes us wonder how much of that original pilot script remains, along with DC President and CCO Geoff Johns, and DC TV guru Greg Berlanti. Goldsman, Johns, Berlanti will be joined by Sarah Schechter (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Supergirl) as executive producers of the series from Weed Road Pictures and Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television.
Raven, "the daughter of a demon, is a powerful empath who must keep her emotions in check or risk unleashing her demonic side," is the first member of the team to be cast. Deadline broke the news that 13-year-old Teagan Croft has scored the role.
Here's an earlier casting breakdown for Raven (see below for details) that sheds some more light on what to expect...
Troubled, bullied, often scared but unwilling to show it, Sarah is a loner more comfortable hiding in her hoodie than making friends. Haunted by a dark force inside her, Sarah experiences violent episodes that she cannot understand or control. She is also plagued by recurring nightmares that lead her across the country in search of help.
No word yet on whether this takes place in the same universe as the other DC superhero TV shows, but given the "multiverse" approach we've seen so far, it's a safe bet.
As far as the roster goes, the "and many others" from that synopsis is worth noting. Goldsman's previous Titans pilot script also included Barbara Gordon and Hawk and Dove. Geoff Johns tweeted that we can expect Beast Boy in the lineup this time, as well, and now there's some evidence for that.
The folks at That Hashtag Show have scored casting breakdowns for the series, which gives us an idea of who will be coming to the party.
The first is "John Crossland" which is totally code for Dick Grayson...
Male, late 20s-early 30s, Caucasian. Equal parts charm and impenetrability, John is a cop. He has a nice smile, tired eyes and a cool, distant manner. However, when provoked, his eyes are so lethal “they drain a man of every last bit of spleen.” John is haunted by the murder of his family. Unbeknownst to those around him, he is also a vigilante. In the shadows, he fights with the commitment and conviction of an artist, the brutal grace of a dancer. Mentally and physically, he is covered in a map of scars. And though he fights to escape his past, it is often a losing battle…SERIES LEAD
Then there's "Sarah" who is almost certainly Raven.
Female, Mid teens, Open Ethnicity. Troubled, bullied, often scared but unwilling to show it, Sarah is a loner more comfortable hiding in her hoodie than making friends. Haunted by a dark force inside her, Sarah experiences violent episodes that she cannot understand or control. She is also plagued by recurring nightmares that lead her across the country in search of help…SERIES REGULAR
And "Casey" who we can safely assume is Starfire...
Female, 20s, Open ethnicity. Casey is a tall, stunning woman, her beauty so magnificent it’s almost inhuman. Elegant, refined and mysterious, she is on the hunt to discover who is trying to kill her and why. And those after her are in for a surprise because she’s more deadly than anyone they’ve ever encountered…SERIES REGULAR
And then there's "Jax" who sounds like Beast Boy to us...
Male, Mid-late teens, Open Ethnicity, Asian preferred. Funny and charming, this amateur thief’s humor hides his insecurities and past pain. Not the toughest kid on the streets, he’s learned to survive in the world with his wit and quick-thinking…SERIES REGULAR
We'll update this with more information as it becomes available, but this is very exciting news!
We look at all of the DC animated movies released since 2007, and make sense of the ones worth checking out.
In 2007, DC’s animation department announced that they were creating a line of direct-to-video, feature-length movies free from many of the constraints of regular television. It was a controversial move, mostly because the most recent forays into animation from DC had been really well received by fans - Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans had just ended, and fans were eager for more series set in the DC Animated Universe, not stand alone adaptations of comic stories.
Despite the initial trepidation, most of them have been a success. They do follow some general rules, though: usually, the Star Trek movie rule applies, where every other one is good. There are a couple of stretches of two bad or three good in a row, but over the course of the line, that’s generally the pattern.
Also, the quality of the movie is almost always in proportion to the quality of the comic it was based off of. And the more original the story, the better the movie. Let’s take a look at what are now officially known as DC Universe Original Movies...
Superman: Doomsday (2007)
The first feature in this new initiative was based on 1992’s hottest college fund investment, The Death of Superman. The story is perhaps looked back on too harshly as emblematic of ‘90s comic excess, and maybe because of that, this movie wasn’t well received.
Superman: Doomsday made significant changes to the storyline, compressing two years of stories into one 75-minute feature. It also combined all four replacement Supermen into one clone, and tweaks the relationship between Lois and Superman to add a bit of drama.
Superman: Doomsday set the tone for a lot of what was to come, structurally. The action sequences were well done, something that will remain a constant throughout these movies. It suffered because of some iffy voice acting (Adam Baldwin wasn’t great as Superman, and Anne Heche was similarly middling as Lois) and also because it was like, 50 issues of comics boiled down into an hour’s worth of movie. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it was very middle of the road.
Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
Darwyn Cooke’s retro-Justice League origin story is one of the most highly regarded DC books of the last 20 years, and that strong foundation served the movie adaptation well. That the story works in either medium is a minor miracle. Justice League: The New Frontier mixes a noir story (Slam Bradley, J’onn J’onzz, Batman, King Faraday, and the GCPD investigating a cult) with the bright, shiny superheroics of the Flash, Green Lantern, Superman and Wonder Woman, and all comes together well at the end.
It’s all wrapped up in an art style designed to mimic Cooke’s Bruce Timm-meets-50s-art-deco-print-ads style, and the animators do a great job of matching it (something they won’t do nearly as well with later movies). The voice cast is superb, too, with Kyle MacLachlan as Superman, Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman, Jeremy Sisto as Batman, and Neil Patrick Harris as Flash all being inspired choices, and David Boreanaz’ Hal Jordan is the best Hal ever, for at least another couple of these movies.
DC has started packaging the comics with their movie counterparts recently, and if there is ever the opportunity to grab both versions of The New Frontier, you should jump on that.
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
Remember The Animatrix? And remember how people used to try and talk themselves into digging it? And then remember how it was actually just not very good, but we were so starved for Matrixstories that we’d take anything? I do, and I guess this is a little bit confessional.
Gotham Knight was just like that: an anime-style anthology of stories written by some big names, and it was closely tied not to the comics, but to the Batman movies of the time. These six stories were supposedly set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. They were a disaster.
Kevin Conroy is the greatest Batman of my lifetime, and I don’t think you’ll find anyone who will argue that point too strenuously. But the decision to keep him voicing Batman in these stories contributed to the tonal disaster that they were: his voice in anime characters fighting Deadshot and Killer Croc in a universe that was supposed to be “more realistic” just made me confused and a little nosebleedy and possibly a touch stupider from trying to reconcile it all. Skip it.
Wonder Woman (2009)
Written by Gail Simone (who had a solid run writing Diana just prior to this) and based loosely on George Perez’s “Gods and Monsters” story from just after the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths, this movie is widely considered one of the best Wonder Woman stories in any medium of the last 15 years. This movie is great.
It takes Perez’s story - Ares has a grudge against Hippolyta and her people, and uses his son Deimos and a convoluted international nuclear strike to try and destroy them, only to have Diana and Steve Trevor stop him - and streamlines it. Keri Russell is a great Diana, and even though subsequent casting decisions add a little dissonance with Rosario Dawson as Artemis and Nathan Fillion as Steve Trevor, the movie works just as well if you pretend that Artemis later takes over as Wonder Woman for a little while and Fillion is still playing Hal Jordan, only in disguise.
And if you’ve never read Perez’s original story before, it really is one of the best Wonder Woman comics ever, and it is regularly packaged with this DVD. This is a good excuse to pick it up.
Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)
First Flight, despite the name, is less Hal Jordan’s origin story and more yellow lantern Sinestro’s. Green Lantern is maybe the one character who has fared the best in these films, because his powers look the best in animated form. First Flight is a fun, longer exposure to that world.
There is a...lot...of killing in it, but that bothers me less when it’s Green Lantern than it does when it’s Batman doing the murdering. I think part of what smoothed it over for me is some more great voice casting: Victor Garber (half of television’s Firestorm) is great as Sinestro; Michael Madsen’s Kilowog is only second to Dennis Haysbert’s; and Chris Meloni was great as Hal.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
I’ve come around on this since I first saw it. It’s still ridiculous: this is a story about Superman and Batman teaming up to fight off a President Lex Luthor-led team of heroes and bounty-thirsty villains while they get into a composite Superman/Batman robot to punch a kryptonite meteor back into space, and that hasn’t changed or become any less silly since 2009.
But I didn’t realize at the time how great the animators did of capturing Ed McGuinness’ art style, or how much McGuinness’ art looked like old cartoons to begin with. Everybody looks like if Rob Liefeld was trained to draw in a Hanna Barbera studio in the ‘40s: absurdly overmuscled, but kinetic and bubbly and fun instead of scratchy and angular.
Narratively, this movie is still unnecessarily complex and pretty stupid, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch, one of the few clear improvements on the comic source material in this series.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)
I’m a bit of a Grant Morrison fanboy, so I was excited for this movie, which purports to be an adaptation of JLA: Earth 2. It is not. I mean, it has some of the trappings of Morrison and Frank Quitely’s original story, but the plot is pretty dramatically different, at least in how it works out.
Earth 2 is the world of the Crime Syndicate of America, where Ultraman and Johnny Quick and Power Ring and Superwoman are the evil rulers of the world, and Lex Luthor and the Jester are fighting to save the world. Earth 2 Luthor escapes to Earth Prime to get the Justice League’s help.
In the comics, he’s being manipulated into accidentally causing the destruction of both Earths by Earth 2’s Brainiac, who wants to capture the energy given off by the explosion for comic book science of some sort. In the movie, Owlman has allowed the discovery of alternate worlds to turn him into some sort of Nihilist John Calvin, and plans to destroy the multiverse because why not.
So there’s a big superhero fight, and here’s where my problem comes in: the League uses Johnny Quick’s speed and vibrational frequency to open a portal to an uninhabited Earth, so they can deposit Owlman and his ennui bomb there and let Owlman defuse it and live alone and unable to hurt anyone again. Batman specifically uses Quick and not Flash to open this portal because doing so kills Quick. So Batman pulls the “I won’t kill you but I don’t have to save you” stuff that lets him skate on a technicality in Batman Begins only here he does it to Owlman, and in doing so, he straight up causes the death of Earth 2 Flash. That’s a dealbreaker for me.
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
Bruce Greenwood was a great Batman. Under The Red Hood is another story that was better as a movie than it was as a comic, in part because of the voice casting (Greenwood, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing), and in part because the action sequences were fantastic. The comic was the story of Jason Todd, post resurrection, rejoining Gotham’s crimefighting community as DC’s Punisher, rounding up a bunch of mob types and eventually the Joker to get his revenge.
Thirteen Days is an amazing movie, so Greenwood could have spent his next 10 movies drooling and laughing at the audience and I still would love him, but here (and in the gone far too soon Young Justice), he’s a great, understated Batman. The fights are really top notch, though, and they're the absolute biggest draw to this movie: acrobatic, with great flow and excellent choreography.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
I first watched this right after I saw Crisis on Two Earths, so I was a little harder on it initially than I needed to be. Then again, even without my initial reservation, this is terrible.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypseis an adaptation of Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner’s second arc of the Superman/Batman comic, this one gave us Supergirl’s emergence on Earth, Darkseid’s attempt at making her into a Female Fury, and cheekbones so high every guy looked like a starving, effeminate Punisher symbol.
My problem with it stems from Batman commiting murder again - he frees Kara from Darkseid’s clutches by (ugh I hate that I’m going to type this) turning on Apokalips’ self destruct sequence with some spores or something. He tells Darkseid he’ll shut the destruct sequence off if Darkseid lets Kara go. This is the rough equivalent of Batman holding a gun on someone’s spouse and saying “I won’t shoot if you stop doing crime.” It’s patently ridiculous, and grossly out of character for Batman, and you know what? I’m still mad about it. Did not like.
Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (2010)
This wasn’t so much a movie as it was a lost JLU episode that works Black Adam into the world, and then a collection of a few other shorts that had been released on DVDs. The Superman/Shazam/Black Adam story is fun and entertaining, and the other stories on here are pretty good.
One is a fluffy, insubstantial Jonah Hex story; one has Neal McDonough playing Green Arrow, which is probably going to be difficult to reconcile for people currently watching Arrow; another has Gary Cole as ‘70s detective Jimmy Corrigan, who becomes The Spectre. These are all fun enough to watch if you find them in a bargain bin somewhere, but I don’t think I’d spend full price on one.
All-Star Superman (2011)
All-Star Superman is tough. The original comic, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, is probably my favorite comic of all time, so on the one hand I was excited to see it adapted, but on the other I was furious to see it adapted.
My rule for moving stories between mediums is that there has to be a compelling point to make the switch - that it would look amazing in action, or that it would bring the story to more people, or something. There wasn’t really any point to doing All-Star Superman, though. It was so peculiarly comics that I think it lost something when it became animation. It was competently done, and had I not had any knowledge of the comic, I probably would have been happy with it, even if it was a little forgettable. But I really think the comic is a vastly better use of your time and money.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011)
Like Gotham Knight, this is an anthology. But unlike Gotham Knight, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is actually good. The movie has a unified framing sequence involving Krona destroying Oa, but most of its time is spent on a collection of stories that are either fundamental to the Lantern mythology or all-time classics.
Alan Moore might not do great in the movies, but in animated form (well, here, at least...there's another attempt down below that we'll get to), his work is treated very well. Emerald Knights has two of his stories – “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize,” about the planet that’s also a Lantern, and “Abin Sur,” the story of Hal Jordan’s predecessor’s last mission (which led to the formation of the Red Lanterns). Both of them retain the spirit of his work, and fill out a casual viewer’s understanding of the GL mythos.
Kilowog gets a spotlight, and it’s as fun as you’d expect (note: Kilowog is awesome). Laira gets into a fistfight with her Dad and sets up her eventual trip to Ysmault, and there is a story of how the Lanterns eventually came to use creative constructs in their regular duties.
This is good for long time GL fans, and it’s good for people who are just getting to know the character and want more about his world.
Batman: Year One (2011)
Only once has a casting decision completely overwhelmed everything else about one of these projects, and it was here. This is a very compressed adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s classic story. As a result, they miss some parts and pay too little attention to others because the run time is barely over an hour.
But that’s not important.
Casting Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon is so unbelievably perfect that I can’t believe there isn’t some kind of internet petition demanding that this happen in perpetuity. It’s like JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson: it doesn’t matter how many times the story gets rebooted or how many different studios are in charge of the movies or how many different eras the story covers, there is now and will always be only one correct casting for Gordon, and that’s Cranston.
A brief note about the combo packs: I believe they used the latest printing of Batman: Year One in the combo release with the DVD, and because of that, you should buy the two separately here. There were real problems with the coloring in the new edition, so make sure you get an older version of the comic.
Justice League: Doom (2012)
I’m sure it wouldn't be so well regarded were it not for this, but Justice League: Doom reunites most of the old DCAU voice cast (Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Michael Rosenbaum, and Carl Lumbly as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Martian Manhunter), so I will always love it.
It helps that it’s based (very loosely) on “Tower of Babel,” Mark Waid and Howard Porter’s story from JLA. In it, Vandal Savage uses the Xavier Protoco…I mean countermeasures designed to take out the Justice League – Batman’s parents’ bodies are stolen; Wonder Woman gets all hopped up on nanites that make her think everyone is Cheetah (and thus needs a good punching), Superman gets…uh…shot with a kryptonite bullet… You know, killing some of these dudes isn’t rocket science.
Anyway, it turns out all these countermeasures were designed by Batman, but stolen by Vandal Savage and the Secret Society of Super Villains, and everybody gets saved by Cyborg. The fights were good, while the writing was clever and changed enough from the comics that it showed Dwayne McDuffie’s wonderful grasp of the characters.
Superman vs. The Elite (2012)
Action Comics #775 (“What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?”) is a really good comic. It was a direct response to The Authority’s “if superheroes were real, they’d all be murderous assholes” attitude, and it had some really sweet Doug Mahnke art. As a restatement of Superman’s core principles, it was incredibly effective, but also fairly complex philosophically...at least for a Superman comic.
So that’s why Superman vs. The Elite is utterly puzzling.
It’s fundamentally the same story. Superman battles “The Elite,” a group of morally grey anti-heroes who reflect the dark, shitty world of today. They start killing all the villains, and Superman tries to stop them, so they fight, and Superman wins by showing them he can kill them whenever he wants, but he refuses to because he wants them to be better than that. But the whole thing is done in this ridiculous cartoony art style, like if someone wanted to hand draw a more violent Super Hero Squad Show, and it undercuts any complexity or nuance that the script might have been trying to get across.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2013)
Warner Brothers released this adaptation of Frank Miller’s genre-changing, character-breaking work in two parts, but they’re one movie and you’re fooling yourself if you treat them differently. The first part takes the mutant story, and the second has the showdowns with the Joker and Superman.
In my head, when I envision Batman, it’s always Miller’s. I like a Batman that’s massive and hulking, who carries himself in the most intimidating way possible and terrifies people just by being in the same room as them. This movie was one of the more successful ones at adapting the art style as well as the story, and the fight in the mudpit between Batman and the mutant leader is one of my favorite moments from any film in this series.
Superman Unbound (2013)
Superman Unbound was based loosely on Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s story of Superman meeting Brainiac from just before the New 52 reboot, and it's certainly better than this movie. In it, Superman is helping Supergirl adjust to life on Earth and dealing with a secret relationship with Lois when a robot drone hits just outside of Arizona. It’s a scout for Brainiac, and it means the villain is coming to destroy the planet and capture a city.
The biggest crime of the movie is that it wastes John Noble as Brainiac. Also, there's a faint whiff of anti-intellectualism. And the anti-museum-ness of it. And how Superman beats Brainiac by exposing a latent mental illness.
It feels hurried, like they had a little more exposition that would have made all this feel less mean-spirited and on-the-nose, but it got cut for time. Noble doesn’t really get much to do besides gently sneer at Superman, a gross waste of the man who should have won every Emmy imaginable for his work as the various Walter Bishops on Fringe. Yes, even Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
It might be controversial, but I think I liked the movie version better than I did the comic mega-crossover that started the New 52. The Flashpoint Paradox is a what-if story where Barry Allen successfully goes back in time to stop his mother’s murder, and wakes up in a horrible world where his mother is alive, but Themyscira and Atlantis are about to destroy the world; Batman is Thomas Wayne instead of Bruce (and he murders), while Cyborg is the leader of the Justice League, trying to stop the Amazon/Atlantis war.
It really works. In the comics, it was large to the point of unwieldy, and tough for someone not already neck deep in DC lore to get passionately invested in, because we’d seen it before, and that robbed it of anything resembling real stakes.
On screen, though, it’s much more interesting and effective, and a lot of excess is cut away by the short run time. Michael B. Jordan is a good Cyborg, and Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne did a good job of fitting into the continuum of Batmans.
Justice League: War (2014)
I have a confession to make: remember how I said that the quality of the movies is usually directly related to the quality of the comic they’re based on? Well, I HATED the first arc of New 52 Justice League. Anakin burbling rage crawling out of a lava pit doesn’t even begin to describe how angry the comic made me.
So...it was tough to watch Justice League: War. Everyone in it is a monosyllabic douche canoe except Wonder Woman, who just talks like a naive 5 year old who’s just leaving the house for the first time. Yes I know that’s the point of this Wonder Woman, but she sounds like an idiot and that’s not what she’s supposed to be.
I’m baffled, after we’ve had so many good individual Darkseids that they would choose to do that awful composite voice for him, and by the time I turned the movie off in disgust, the movie was also well on its way to turning Billy Batson into a smarmy little dipshit.
Son of Batman (2014)
I don’t get why Deathstroke had to be shoved into this. He shows up exactly once in Grant Morrison’s entire run, and that’s as much out of obligation (Deathstroke is a good Robin villain, but not a good anyone else villain, so having him show up for five minutes to fight Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian was nice), so it’s not like the source material screamed for his inclusion.
But Warner Bros. just keep pushing him into other media trying to make him seem cool. Look, he worked okay in Arrowand he was one of the best parts of TeenTitans, but there is no reason to shoehorn him into the League of Shadows.
Son of Batmanmovie is okay, but Deathstroke was a symptom of its bigger problem. It tries too hard.
Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)
The clubhouse leader for best Suicide Squad movie right now is Assault on Arkham. It’s an original story set in the world of the Batman: Arkham games.
Nothing about Assault on Arkham is Earth-moving. It isn't even a terribly clever look at any of the characters (Deadshot, the Riddler, King Shark, Harley, Joker, Captain Boomerang, or Batman). It’s just a brief-ish action flick that’s a lot of fun and worth your time.
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015)
Thankfully, the direct sequel to Justice League: War turned off almost all of the qualities that I hated, and kept up a solid action base. It even managed to make some of the douchery fun (very likely attributable to the switch from Justin Kirk back to Nathan Fillion for Hal Jordan's voice).
This story combined a couple of arcs of Geoff Johns’ New 52 Aquaman- the first arc that introduces Arthur as a serious player in the DCU, and the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover with Justice League. Sam Witwer as Ocean Master was a lot more fun than I figured he’d be, even if I do usually enjoy him because I loved him as Starkiller in The Force Unleashed.
Arthur Curry discovers his origin as a half-Atlantean heir to the throne and with the help of the Justice League and his Civil War general-esque mutton chop sideburns, he manages to stop a war between Atlantis and the surface world. I wouldn’t put this in the top five, but it was enjoyable enough.
Batman vs. Robin (2015)
The Court of Owls has been a good addition to the Bat universe in the comics, but in their first animated appearance, they fall a little flat. Damian is being willful and sneaking out to do crimefighting, and Batman wants him to slow it down a little. They run into Talon, and the Court tries to bring Bruce into the fold, but he declines (with punches) and everybody fights. It’s a little more complex than that, but not by much.
As with the rest of the latest batch of new movies, the fights in Batman vs. Robinare great. Hell, I think Talon even moved like Mugen from Samurai Champloo in his fight with Nightwing.
But the big problem here was the writing - it was a weird combination of on the nose and clumsy that took me out of the movie. Like at the end, when Talon is leading his army into Wayne Manor to fight Batman, and he’s already found out that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same, but he walks into a room saying “End of the line, Bruce. Or should I say...Batman!” and it’s supposed to be this big dramatic moment, but he’s dressed as Batman, so it’s not really surprising that he’s deduced that Batman stands in front of him.
Or when the Court is first mentioned, it’s in a flashback conversation between Bruce and his father, after his father recites the Gotham-specific Court of Owls nursery rhyme. Bruce asks his father “Is it real?” and the conversation goes (rough paraphrasing)
“Is there a secret cabal of billionaires controlling Gotham and sending their Talon out to kill anyone who disagrees with them?”
“Well principles of mediocre storytelling dictate that that’s exactly what’s going to happen, Bruce. We didn’t even bother shading it a little.”
Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015)
As time has gone on, DC Universe Original Movies have drifted from comic adaptations to encompass projects like this one, an entirely original story that fulfills all the promise of the feature-length animated movies. Gods and Monstersfeels like a classic Elseworlds story, a world where small changes mean wholesale differences in the “modern day” world.
In it, Superman is the child of Not Jor-El and Lara, but Lara and General Zod, found and raised by undocumented immigrants on their way into the USA. Wonder Woman is Highfather’s granddaughter. Batman is Kirk Langstrom gone full vampire.
Like the best Elseworlds stories, there is plenty of fanservice (every DCU super-scientist except Professor Milo gets some face time), but it also wisely avoids the What If trap - there’s no mention of Diana or Bruce Wayne. Just a story about a violent, cynical Justice League coming to terms with a darker world. It’s really great.
Batman: Bad Blood (2016)
Bad Blood is technically an original story, but it might as well be Batman, Inc.: The Movie. Batman seemingly dies saving Batwoman from The Heretic (!) and his gang of z-lister backup. Oh, and we find out that Talia has a plot to hypnotize the most powerful people in the world into obeying her. Dick as Batman, Damian, Batwoman, and Luke Fox in the Batwing costume all have to save the day.
Dick Grayson is my third favorite Robin, but Dick and Damian are my favorite Batman & Robin pair, and as soon as I realized that that’s what this movie would be, I got excited. It’s a direct sequel to the last two Batman movies (Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin), but it’s vastly superior in every way. The opening fight sequence might be the best out of all these movies, and even a full day after watching it for the first time, I’m still ASTOUNDED that they put The Heretic in there and didn’t make it silly or pointless.
Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016)
This movie came at what seemed to be a weird transition time for DC Universe Original Movies. DC was pushing hard for everything to be Justice League related, hence the shoehorned in title and adult team. The story ended up being a very loose adaptation of the classic Teen Titans storyline, "The Terror of Trigon," where Raven's father, the lord of Hell, Trigon, attempts to take over Earth by controlling members of the League.
The end product is fairly middling. It suffers a bit from the weird continuity of the animated movies - it's also a loose sequel to the previous handful of DC movies. It's also hurt by something endemic to the Teen Titans features on this list: the story was already done better by the mid-aughts Teen Titans animated series. However, the fight scenes continue to improve over the prior movies, and that's enough to make this entertaining and watchable, even if the movie isn't really anything to write home about.
Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)
Piping hot garbage.
Oh, you want more? Ok. Don't adapt Alan Moore stories.
[Editor's note: Jim...]
Okay fine. The original comic this movie was based on was roughly 60 pages long, enough content to fill probably 45 minutes without long, uncomfortable silences to pad the length. The story follows the Joker as he shoots Barbara Gordon in the spine, then kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, strips him naked, and makes him ride through a funhouse full of pictures of her naked and bleeding out. So rather than pad it, they put a half hour of prologue on the story where they turn Batgirl into a whining narcissist with a weird hot/cold sexual relationship with Batman and a Gay Best Friend (tm). This Batman/Batgirl relationship is probably the worst thing that Timm et al have foisted on Batman continuity - it came up in Batman Beyond, and it was super weird there, too.
Ultimately, the Joker is unsuccessful in his attempts to torture Commissioner Gordon into insanity. Maybe he should have just shown him this movie. The subpar animation alone probably would have worked.
Justice League Dark (2017)
Matt Ryan is a gem. TV's John Constantine has managed to successfully inhabit the role, from his own show on NBC, through Arrow and then here, in an animated story about DC's magical heroes banding together to save the world. Dr. Destiny the sneakily good and criminally underused villain, is causing regular people to hallucinate that they are surrounded by demons, making them commit horrible crimes against their fellow man. Constantine, Zatanna, Batman, and Deadman gather a team of mystical heroes, band together, and eventually defeat the bad guy.
This movie is a lot of fun. Ryan's voice and screenwriter Ernie Altbeck's script do a great job of capturing scumbag Constantine. The story ends up featuring Etrigan heavily, and that's always a good thing. Justice League Dark ended up being one of the best recent entries into the DC animated movie universe.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)
Despite facing the same structural weaknesses as Justice League vs. Teen Titans, The Judas Contract overcomes almost all of them thanks to much stronger writing.
The Judas Contract was one of the first movies announced for this slate, but for a variety of reasons took the better part of a decade to come out. That's usually the kiss of death for a movie, but the strength of the source material is such that the various shifts that went into it - Damian as Robin, Jaime Reyes' Blue Beetle - ended up making the movie stronger. Terra, a geomorph, joins the Teen Titans as they adjust to life as a superhero team. Turns out she's a plant, put in place by Deathstroke the Terminator to rip the team apart from the inside.
The voice work is stellar. Christina Ricci makes Terra vulnerable, badass, and creepy all at the same time, and Miguel Ferrer does great work as Deathstroke in one of his final roles. And much like Justice League vs. Teen Titans, the fight scenes are exemplary, especially the ones involving Nightwing. The Judas Contract easily ranks in the top 5 of these animated movies.
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Black Mask Studios' excellent Black is getting the film treatment.
The comic, which imagines a world where only black people have super powers and examines all the repercussions of that setting through the journey of Kareem Jenkins, a teenage boy who survives being shot by police thanks to the emergence of his powers. The series sees him swept into an underground full of black heroes and facing off with a shady government agency.
Osajyefo and Smith join the film project as producers, along with Black Mask boss Matteo Pizzolo and Jon Silk and Rishi Rajani from Studio 8. This project is expected to be a part of Studio 8's distribution deal with Sony Pictures. No further information on the film is available.
The sixth and final issue (for now) of the comic series was released to comic shops on July 26th, and is available digitally now. Stay with Den of Geek for more news about Black and any other film projects from Black Mask Studios!
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Here's everything we know so far about Marvel's The Defenders on Netflix.
Marvel's master plan for teaming Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist (plus some members of their supporting casts) in The Defenders Netflix series is well underway, and we'll see it later this year. The Defenders showrunners are Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez (Daredevil Season 2), with Drew Goddard (Daredevil Season 1, The Martian, Lost) returning as executive producer. Marvel's The Defenders Netflix series will consist of eight episodes (the usual count for their assorted solo series if 13).
We recently had a behind the scenes look at the show with the stars and showrunner. You can read the full article here.
Here's everything else we know about the show:
The Defenders Release Date
A security footage-style teaser video revealed that The Defenders will premiere on August 18, 2017.
The Defenders Trailer
Here's the first trailer...
Huge points for appropriate use of Nirvana's "Come as You Are."
And here's the latest trailer...
And some clips...
— The Defenders (@TheDefenders) July 22, 2017
— The Defenders (@TheDefenders) July 23, 2017
Netflix released promo starring Stan Lee himself that doubles as a kind of spiritual recap of the Marvel Netflix series thus far and a preview of The Defenders. Besides Stan Lee's narration, the most notable aspect of this preview may be The Punisher's appearance towards the end of the clip. Could this be a hint that he will appear in The Defenders?
Read and download the full Den of Geek SDCC Special Edition magazine here!
The Defenders Story
It's not much, but it's all we've got...
Marvel’s The Defenders follows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. A quartet of singular heroes with one common goal - to save New York City. This is the story of four solitary figures, burdened with their own personal challenges, who realize they just might be stronger when teamed together.
And how about this cool poster from Joe Quesada?
The Defenders Cast
Charlie Cox will return as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, as will Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Finn Jones as Iron Fist, and Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Don't be surprised if some other characters we meet along the way join the party, like Jon Bernthal's Punisher. Expect supporting cast from each of their shows to at least make appearances, and that will likely include Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson.
“We're incredibly excited to be able to bring our four street level heroes together in an epic tale woven by Doug and Marco whose work on Marvel’s Daredevil speaks for itself,” said Executive Producer/Head of Marvel Television, Jeph Loeb in a statement when the showrunners were announced in April 2016. "They write and produce not only great action and adventure, but also the heart and touch of humor that's makes us Marvel. With the inclusion of Drew Goddard, we've got a team that's as formidable as the Defenders themselves."
“This is the big one. Four amazing casts, four amazing series, now all in one amazing story,” added showrunners and Executive Producers Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez. “We are thrilled at the opportunity to deliver the show that both we and the fans have been waiting for.”
The first hero who isn't yet a headliner to be confirmed for the series is none other than Simone Missick's Misty Knight. “I believe I’m safe to say that I will be on The Defenders,” Simone Missick told The Wrap.
Misty is a huge highlight of Marvel's Luke Cage Netflix series, so having her in The Defenders should be treat.
Elodie Yung will appear as Elektra. This show gets better by the day.
Jessica Henwick, who first appeared in Iron Fist, will reprise her role as Colleen Wing in the upcoming Defenders team-up series. Here's a brief snippet of Henwick kicking butt:
— The Defenders (@TheDefenders) November 3, 2016
Supporting characters from other Netflix shows like Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil like Elden Hensen's Foggy Nelson, Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page, Scott Glenn's Stick, Simone Missick's Misty Knight, and other will be part of the series.
— The Defenders (@TheDefenders) November 2, 2016
— The Defenders (@TheDefenders) October 31, 2016
— The Defenders (@TheDefenders) November 1, 2016
The Defenders Villain
Sigourney Weaver was announced as the antagonist to deafening applause on the NYCC Main Stage back in October. Since then details have been scarce.
Ms. Weaver spoke to Movies.com a little about what to expect.
"It has a wonderful cast, and we're doing it right here in New York, which means a lot to me...Basically the four heroes come up against this really nice woman, who I'm playing...It's been a blast and I really love my character. I love the shows, too, which I wasn't familiar with before doing this. A real love letter to New York. To me they're not superheroes; they're people with a gift. It's just a different scale, and I'm really enjoying the scale of it. The apocalyptic thing is a little harder for me to understand."
We picked apart The Dark Tower movie and went back to the book series to find all of the easter eggs and references you need to know!
This Dark Tower article contains spoilers.
The Dark Tower has arrived on the big screen, bringing with it one of the most extensive mythologies in all of literature. Since 1978, King has been creating a web of connections between many of his most famous novels, such as 'Salem's Lot and The Stand, and it all leads back to the Tower, the most important structure in all of the Kingverse.
Director Nikolaj Arcel's film adaptation contains so many references and easter eggs to the books and movies that I've decided to dissect The Dark Tower for all of its secrets. Of course, this is based on a single screening of the movie, which means I probably missed a few blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments. If you spot something that's not on this list, shout them out in the comments or hit me up on Twiter.
Okay, so here are all of the easter eggs and references we found in the movie:
The Dark Tower
We'll start with the big one. The Dark Tower is the center of all worlds, created by Gan, the King universe's version of God. The Tower is six hundred floors high and can only be accessed from one of an infinite number of worlds. It is held up by six beams, which contain two portals at each end. The twelve portals are protected by hulking magical Guardians. We don't meet any such Guardians in the movie.
Why is this Tower so important? Well, without it the multiverse would crumble and all that would be left is chaos. Walter's goal in the movie is to destroy the Tower, bring about the apocalypse, and rule over whatever is left.
The Tower takes different forms on different worlds. It can only truly be accessed in Mid-World, the place Roland and Walter Padick are from.
Roland is the last of the gunslingers, an order of peacekeepers tasked with protecting reality and, therefore, the Tower. The Gunslingers were once the highest authority in all of Mid-World, the planet on which the physical manifestation of the Tower is located. Roland is descended from the legendary Arthur Eld (think King Arthur), who was the greatest protector of the Tower and the first king of a unified Mid-World.
One of Arthur's original knights, Kay Deschain, died protecting the king from a demon known as the Crimson Queen, who tricked Arthur into impregnating her with a son known as the Crimson King, the main antagonist of the series. You could say that Kay Deschain was one of the original gunslingers.
Roland's entire order was decimated in a war against the forces of John Farson, an agent of the Crimson King who sought to topple the ruling feudal government of Mid-World known as the Affiliation. The gunslingers' final defeat came at the Battle of Jericho Hill, which only Roland survived.
When we first meet Roland in the books, he's not all that interested in reaching the Tower. Instead, he's chasing the Man in Black, whom he blames for the fall of Gilead, his home, and the death of his mother. In fact, the Man in Black basically ruined Roland's entire life through a series of manipulations orchestrated to further the Crimson King's agenda of destroying the Tower.
In the movie, the Man in Black kills his father, Steven, and flees across the desert. (They're actually very clearly in the woods and not the desert at all in the movie. There isn't a single scene where the Man in Black is fleeing across the desert.)
Walter goes by many names. He is the Man in Black, the man Roland desperately wants to kill in order to avenge the death of his loved ones and Gilead. In the books, Walter (then known as Marten Broadcloak, the court magician and chief advisor to Roland's father) seriously fucks Roland over by tricking him into being possessed by a demonic magic sphere and killing his own mother. Later, Marten killed Roland's childhood friend at the Battle of Jericho and fled across the desert, taking on the persona of Walter O'Dim in the book.
While Walter seems to be at the height of his power in the movie, which sees him trying to topple the Tower once and for all, he's very different in the first book in the series, The Gunslinger. He's more mischievous than anything else, someone Roland needs to catch in order to learn about his true destiny to climb the Tower and save it from the Crimson King. It's not until his later incarnation, Randall Flagg (who you might also know as the main villain in The Standand Eyes of the Dragon), that he decides that he must also climb the Tower, which he believes will make him a god.
Walter is the son of Maerlyn, a demonic sorcerer from the Prim, the primordial chaos that existed before Gan created the multiverse and the Tower. At one point, Maerlyn tried to convince the Great Old Ones, the civilization that preceded Roland's on Mid-World, to replace the Tower with one of their own making. This would have, of course, been disastrous. It seems like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Unlike in the movie, Walter doesn't have a definitive death in his first appearance in the books. After he talks to Roland about his destiny, he puts the gunslinger to sleep for a hundred years. When Roland wakes up, he finds nothing but bones under the black cloak. It is strongly suggested that Walter simply faked his own death by planting those bones there while Roland was catching some much needed Zs.
Interestingly enough, much of the film is presented from Jake's perspective, although that's not really the case in the books. The Waste Lands, the book the movie borrows the most from, does have sections from Jake's POV, though.
Jake's storyline in the movie is changed quite a bit from the books. While Jake can sense the existence of the Tower, Roland, the Man in Black, and Mid-World, it's only after he's already traveled and met them in a past life. You see, things get really really complicated in terms of time with Jake. He is first introduced in The Gunslinger when Roland runs into him at a way station in the desert. Jake joins Roland on his quest to find the Man in Black, which ultimately leads to the boy's death on Mid-World.
It's later revealed that Jake, who is originally from New York City, first arrived on Mid-World because he was killed in our world. A serial killer named Jack Mort pushed him into oncoming traffic and the boy was run over by a Cadillac.
Well, in The Drawing of the Three, the second book in the series, Roland stops Mort from killing Jake, taking control of the killer's body by going through a magic door on a beach in Mid-World (I know, I know), which causes a paradox for Jake. If Jake never died on our Earth, it means he never arrived and died on Mid-World, which means time is ripping itself apart!
Okay, so most of that is done away with for the movie. Jake simply senses "other worlds than these" and eventually finds his way to Mid-World through a portal in Brooklyn. He also has the power of "the shine," which is an obvious nod to Danny Torrance's clairvoyance in The Shining. Jake's telepathic powers and precognition are known as "the touch" in the books. Also, Walter doesnt need Jake's abilities to bring down the Tower.
It should also be noted that Jake's father is actually a douchey TV executive in the books and not a fireman who died in the line of duty. The filmmakers really wanted to push the father/son relationship when it came to Roland and Jake. They've both lost their fathers by the time the movie begins.
Mid-World is the only world on which the Tower physically exists. While we only really see the Mohaine Desert in the movie (it's also the setting of the first book), Mid-World is actually a vast place, separated into three sections: In-World, Mid-World (a little confusing), and End-World. In-World is where Roland's city of Gilead stood, while End-World is where the Tower is located. Roland basically has to cross the entire landscape in order to make it to his destination. Above, you can see a map of Mid-World (which is also known as All-World, although the two names are interchangeable, according to Robin Furth, author of The Complete Concordance reference book).
The Crimson King
The Crimson King is barely mentioned in the movie beyond a key piece of graffiti inside of the Dutch Hill Mansion, so I won't go into too much detail. (He's already been fleshed out quite a bit above!) He's basically the main villain of the series, a demonic figure bent on destroying the Tower and ruling over the chaos leftover. Ultimately, even Walter serves the Crimson King, who commands a huge force of monsters and minions known as the Red. Perhaps we'll learn more about him in the next movie?
Steven Deschain is Roland's father. He was the "dinh" (or leader) of Gilead and a gunslinger. In the books, he dies during the fall of Gilead after Roland is framed for the death of Gabrielle, Steven's wife and mother to his son.
The movie handles Steven's death a bit differently. Father and son are side by side after a big battle, the only two remaining gunslingers left. Together they face Walter, who easily kills Steven by telling him to stop breathing. Steven's death is the reason Roland is after Walter in the movie.
Battle of Jericho Hill
It's unclear which battle has just occurred right before Roland and Steven face Walter, but it does seem like it could be the Battle of Jericho Hill, the final battle between the gunslingers and the forces of John Farson. It was the end of the Affiliation, the ruling government of Mid-World. It would make sense that it's this battle since Roland and Steven are the only gunslingers left at this point in the movie.
We also know that Walter (then known as Marten Broadcloak) fled across the desert after this battle. In the movie, the famous line, "The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed," is whispered right after the scene between Walter, Roland, and his father. That would seem to indicate that it's indeed the Battle of Jericho Hill that's being referenced.
This time, of course, Roland remembers to take the Horn of Eld with him.
Horn of Eld
The fact that Roland has the Horn of Eld in this movie is what first tipped off fans that this was not going to be a direct adaptation of the books. It is revealed at the end of the series that Roland's journey is actually cyclical and that he's been stuck in a loop for a very long time. His made it to the top of the Tower before and then been sent back to start over with slight variations each time. At the end of the final book, it's revealed that Roland now has the Horn of Eld, an ancient family relic that he had abandoned at the Battle of Jericho Hill the last time around.
The fact that Roland is in possession of the Horn of Eld this time around is a sign of hope in the books that perhaps the gunslinger is getting closer to his redemption and the end of his journey. The Horn first belonged to Arthur Eld and was passed down for generations until Steven gave it to Roland. It is hinted that the Horn is vital to Roland's entry into the Tower.
The Sandalwood Guns that Roland uses in the movie are said to have been forged from the metal of Arthur Eld's legendary sword Excalibur. They are engraved with the sign of the Eld, which is what ultimately grants Roland access into the Tower. Roland sometimes calls them "the widowmakers." Yikes.
The introduction of the Manni people comes as a surprise since they don't show up in the books until Wolves of the Calla, the fifth novel. They are best known for their ability to travel to other worlds, which is why they help Roland and Jake get back to Keystone Earth in the movie.
Arra Champignon is one the Manni seers in the movie. She doesn't actually appear in the books, but does show up in a few issues of the Marvel comics. In both instances, she is pregnant and is killed.
The Taheen aren't very different to humans except that they have the heads of animals, such as cats or birds. They work as minions for the Crimson King in the book, especially as guards at the Devar-Toi, a prison for psychics.
I'm not sure if the movie ever refers to Can-toi, but the ability to pass off as human in our world is specific to Can-toi (also known as Low Men in other King works). The very obviously fake skin is definitely a staple of their appearance in the books.
It may be that the movie fused the Taheen and Can-toi together. It's not far off either since the Can-toi are the result of the Taheen mating with humans. When not wearing flesh costumes, the Can-toi look like humanoid rats.
19 is a very important number throughout The Dark Tower series and in other King books. The movie definitely calls attention to it. You basically see the number scribbled everywhere. In fact, 19-19 are the coordinates Jake uses to travel to Mid-World in the movie.
The number really begins to pop up in the books towards the end of the series. Roland and his ka-tet (his group of followers) begin to see the number everywhere. It is explained that 19 is an indicator for Keystone Earth (our world), the second most important place in the multiverse.
Keystone Earth is where we live (it's also where Stephen King lives in the books, but we're definitely not going to get into that meta-narrative if we don't need to). It's the only other world in the multiverse besides Mid-World where time flows in one direction, meaning that Roland and his ka-tet can't fuck up when on missions on our world because there's no way to reverse it.
Unlike the other worlds in the multiverse, Keystone Earth doesn't have its own version of the Tower. Instead, it has a separate nexus of reality known as the Rose, which is still vitally connected to the Tower. If the Rose were to be destroyed on our world, the Tower would be destroyed.
We never actually see the Rose in the movie, but there are teases of it in Jake's drawings. Of course, he may just like drawing roses.
The Devar-Toi is Walter's weird Bond villain base in the movie. It's also a prison for powerful psychics known as the Breakers, who Walter is using to shoot beams of psychic enery at the Tower. There's a key battle at the Devar-Toi in the last Dark Tower novel, but the movie pretty much nullifies that in its third act.
Oh, we are entering easter egg territory. 1408 is the number the bad guys use to travel to the Devar-Toi. It's also the number of the haunted room in the King short story of the same name. Fun fact: the room 1408 in the story is down the street from the Dixie Pig, a hideout for the Crimson King's forces on Keystone Earth. Coincidence? I think not.
While Roland and Jake are sleeping in the woods, the boy is seduced by a demon, who looks like Jake's dad. This happens in The Gunslinger except the scene is way more fucked up. You see, the demons of Roland's world feed off humans by mating with them.
There isn't a big gun fight or monster in the book. Instead, Roland saves the boy by having sex with the demon... This would later lead to the birth of Roland's son, Mordred, who was half-human and half-spider. Uhhh.
We're not going to dwell too much on this because Maerlyn's magic spheres only show up for one scene in the movie. It looks like Walter uses Black Thirteen, the most powerful and dangerous magic ball of all to follow Roland's footsteps. There are 13 colorful spheres in total: Crimson, Orange, Yellow, Pink, Dark Blue, Dark Green, Indigo, Lime, Azure, Violet, Brown, Pearl Grey, and Black. Each has a different power, whether it be a window into another world or teleporting, and represents a different thing. Black Thirteen represents the Dark Tower itself.
Dutch Hill Mansion
This evil mansion is located in Brooklyn and is a portal to Mid-World. The only problem is that the house is a demon that will try to kill anyone who enters it. That's bad news for Jake, who needs to go through the house to get to Mid-World for the second time. In both the movie and The Waste Lands, he prevails. (The mansion doesn't give up as easily in the book, though!)
I already went over this in the "Jake Chambers" entry, but for the sake of being thorough: Jake has the power of "the shine" in the movie, which is a direct reference to Danny Torrance's power in The Shining. It's sort of a gratuitous nod, but go with it.
I mentioned the Breakers above as well. They're powerful psychics who the Crimson King captures in order to take down the Tower. Several Breakers show up in the latter half of the series and many of them were first introduced in other King novels. Perhaps the most famous Breaker of all is Ted Brautigan, who first showed in the novella "Low Men in Yellow Coats."
In the movie, the Dixie Pig looks like an underground Mos Eisley that Walter uses to rally his forces on Keystone Earth. In the books, the Dixie Pig is a restaurant. Stuff happens here, but not like what happens in the movie. Enough said.
Sayre is probably Richard Sayre in the books. He is a high ranking can-toi and resides at the Dixie Pig. He is played by the very talented Jackie Earle Haley in the movie.
When Abbey Lee was cast as Tirana in the movie, people assumed that this very minor character in the books would have a major role in the film adaptation. That is not really the case. Tirana is a Can-toi in the books and she appears to be one in the movie. She exists so that Walter can make suggestive remarks at her and later burn her face when she's mad. I'm rolling my eyes as I write this.
The Rita Hayworth poster from the great King novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" makes an appearance during a fight between Roland and Walter in the gun shop. It's a blink and you'll miss it moment. In the novella, main character Andy Dufresne uses the poster to cover up a hole he's digging to escape prison.
There's one shot in the movie where a woman is walking a St. Bernard in the street. This is without a doubt a nod at Cujo, the rabid dog who terrorized a boy and his mother in a novel of the same name.
This is a not so subtle It easter egg. A sign reading "Pennywise" once welcomed the people of Mid-World to a theme park. I probably don't have to tell you that Pennywise is the name of the killer clown in King's infamous novel about a monster who eats children.
The Overlook Hotel
A picture of the Overlook Hotel can be spotted in the psychiatrist's office. This is a reference to the hotel where the events of The Shining take place.
This image of twins cannot be ignored. You can spot these twins sitting in the nice little community in the Devar-Toi. This is yet another reference to The Shining. You remember the creepy twins who want Danny to play with them, right?
There's a toy 1958 Plymouth Fury in the movie that's undoubtedly a reference to the novel Christine about a teenager and his killer vehicle. And I don't mean killer as in "cool."
The Smiley Face
Brady Hartsfield, the serial killer in the novel Mr. Mercedes, uses a smiley face as his calling card. Walter leaves a smiley face for Roland and Jake after he pays the boy's parents a visit.
A book called "Misery's Child" makes an appearance in the movie. That is, of course, the novel that drove Annie Wilkes to kidnap and torture writer Paul Sheldon. The fictional novel features the death of Annie's favorite character. That's a no no.
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For years, Stephen King has been crafting a fictional universe that revolves around The Dark Tower.
Editor's Note: This guide tries to keep it light on the spoilers, but there are some, gunslinger. This article originally appeared on Jan. 30, 2015.
For the past four decades, Stephen King, an American master of letters, has shown time and time again why he's the king of pop fiction. Whether you've only read his horror stuff, or are all about his hard techno-fantasy books, you've probably read more than one of King's works and have undoubtedly started to see the connections that form. Because for almost the same amount of time as his entire professional career, King has been creating his very own fictional universe.
You see, King has written several books that connect in very specific ways, whether they share characters or plot points or locations or monsters. These "standalone" works are part of a much larger meta-story. Books like The Stand, Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, Hearts in Atlantis, 'Salem's Lot, and Everything's Eventual in some way affect the outcome of The Dark Tower series, which you could almost refer to as "Crisis on Infinite Kings" if you're a comic book fan. But the "Crisis" of reality that takes place in The Dark Tower books is probably best left for another, much bigger article.
I want to take a look at how King got to that series by first examining the essential books a reader needs to understand the larger King universe. I won't be cross-referencing every single little connection in the books, but rather provide a good look at the Kingverse in broader strokes. If you want an intense flowchart of connections, though, check this out. So let's begin...
'Salem's Lot (1975)
Why it's important: Father Callahan
Father Callahan's story spans 29 years and 4 books, making him one of the most important characters in the entire Kingverse. The story begins with his fall from grace in King's seminal novel about a vampire that decides to move to the town of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine. You'll find that King loves doing terrible things to Maine, where most of his tales take place...Because it's his home state, I guess.
The vampire, whose name is Barlow, begins causing all sorts of havoc in the town, biting the townspeople and infecting them with vampirism. Pretty soon, Jerusalem's Lot is plagued with the undead, who are thirsty for blood. A particularly terrifying moment involves a school bus full of vampire children that scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.
Along with the novel's protagonist, Ben Mears, Father Callahan decides to fight back against Barlow and his vampire army. But when Callahan confronts Barlow, he stumbles in his faith in God, and Barlow shatters the cross in the Father's hand. Then, in a sick punishment and heinous show of strength, Barlow forces Callahan to drink of his blood. From that point on, Callahan is no longer able to step into a church, feeling the same effect vampires do when before a cross. He leaves the town in shame.
But the real story begins from that point on. He returns in The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, and we get to enjoy King's best redemption tale, as Callahan regains his faith and gets his hard-earned revenge on the evil vampires that plague this world and all the others.
The Stand (1978)
Why it's important: Randall Flagg, The Big Battle Between Good and Evil, Postapocalyptic Kansas, The Cyclical Nature of the Kingverse
In case you don't know, this is early King -- his best era, in my opinion -- at its most ambitious. This sprawling novel tells the story of two groups of survivors after a weaponized superflu known as "Captain Trips" obliterates most of the Earth's population. As you can imagine, these groups are at odds with each other, which triggers the first big battle between good and evil in the Kingverse. The winner? Well, the outcome is pretty shocking and definitely worth a read. At the end of the novel, in a pretty grim moment, the remaining characters wonder what they can learn from their past mistakes, but they can't come up with an answer. King seems to say that humanity is meant to commit these same atrocities over and over. It's like an episode of The Twilight Zone without any hope.
But the most important thing about this novel is its villain, who pretty much ends up being the BIG BAD of the entire Kingverse, although it isn't immediately apparent. A master of disguise, deceit, and all things evil, this novel introduces readers to Randall Flagg, an all-out agent of chaos who would go on to stalk other worlds, including the ones of The Dark Tower series. Flagg can rally others to do his bidding and wage war against the forces of light, and that's what he's often up to. But his big scheme isn't apparent until his very last appearance in the final Dark Tower book. At the end of the day, what do all men with power want?
Roland Deschain, the gunslinging protagonist of The Dark Tower books and the main hero of the entire Kingverse, runs into Flagg at several points in the series. At one point, the two meet in The Stand's version of postapocalyptic Topeka, Kansas. It's a very nice nod to this book.
The Talisman (1984)
Why it's important: The Territories, Twinners
Things get a bit funky in this novel by King and collaborator Peter Straub, who's a horror legend in his own right. The most important lesson you'll get from this book, which arrived two years after the first Dark Towernovel, The Gunslinger, is that King loves parallel universes and parallel versions of characters. Although The Gunslinger hinted at these other worlds -- Jake Chambers' famous line "Go, then. There are other worlds than these" comes to mind -- The Talisman delves deeper into the concept.
In the novel, little Jack Sawyer must save his mother from cancer by finding a mythical crystal called "the Talisman." While on his journey, Jack learns how to switch between the world he knows and an alternate fantasy version known as The Territories, where there exists parallel versions of the people in our world known as "Twinners." The parallel version of Jack has died, and so he's able to travel between both worlds. Like all good fiction, this is a special circumstance, since most other individuals usually have their twinners in the other world, but even then, they can flip between bodies with their counterparts. It's the kind of string theory that will make your head spin.
The nature of The Territories was later retconned a bit in the sequel, Black House, to be a parallel version of Mid-World, the world on which the true Dark Tower -- the center of all creation and the point in the Kingverse that holds up all of reality -- is located. All of a sudden, Jack Sawyer might be the Twinner of Jake Chambers himself. This is all good fun if you have the patience.
Why it's important: Pennywise, Energy Vampires, The Macroverse
Even if you haven't read the book or seen the TV film, you probably know about King's evil clown monster that preys on children from the sewers of Derry, Maine. (Yes, it's always Maine!) Chances are that you think clowns are scary JUST because you heard about this story or saw a promo or anything at all resembling this terrifying clown's face.
First and foremost, this big horror novel is worth reading for the ridiculous and gruesome story alone. A group of friends who have been haunted all their lives by the memory of the demonic clown must return to their hometown and destroy Pennywise once and for all. It's another great battle between good and evil that's not to be missed.
In terms of larger connections, there are three things you should know: 1) Pennywise is an enemy of The Turtle, one the guardians of the six beams that hold the worlds together and lead to the Dark Tower. So basically, yeah, Pennywise is one of the big bad guys of the Kingverse; 2) Pennywise is an energy vampire, a kind of monster that feeds on emotion, much like Dandelo, who is one of the villains in The Dark Tower VII; and 3) Pennywise is from a place called The Macroverse, which is like Todash Darkness -- a sort of nothingness that exists between alternate dimensions in the Kingverse where all the really awful creatures come from. Think H.P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. Although it's never stated that The Macroverse is the same thing as Todash Darkness, they sound like the same awful place. King might've just missed a retcon.
Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
Why it's important: Randall Flagg can traverse different worlds and times, the land of Delain
Okay, I'm going to draw a theory here because it's wide open: the most obvious connections to the Kingverse in Eyes of the Dragon(the first King book I ever read) are King Roland and his advisor, Flagg. While Flagg is the same evil sorcerer from The Stand -- this was technically his first official appearance since that book, although he'd been in disguise all along since 1982's The Gunslinger -- the origin of King Roland is still open to speculation. My theory is that he's Roland Deschain's Twinner (remember those?) from a parallel world, although King Roland lived way before gunslinging Roland.
Anyway, this a fantastic high fantasy tale that King decided to work on when his daughter asked him to write something that she could read. You know, something that wouldn't make her cry at night...
Eyes of the Dragon is still one of my favorites and a spectacular entry point into the genre if you haven't jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon yet. It's the tale of two brothers, who at first fight for the throne of their dead father in the Kingdom of Delain, but must join forces to defeat a much darker threat. That's the very watered-down summary.
The most important thing you learn in this novel is that Flagg can travel through different worlds and times. No matter where you are, the evil wizard can get you. And he was able to flee Delain and into Roland Deschain's world at some point after this novel, because Roland later crossed paths with two men from Delain who were chasing the wizard. Delain is somehow connected to Mid-World. How? You'll have to do the math.
Why it's important: The Crimson King, Patrick Danville, The Purpose vs. The Random
Insomnia is a really weird 800+ page book with some pretty strong connections to the Kingverse. To try to explain the plot or endorse the novel (it's definitely my least favorite on this list) would be a bit of a stretch. This is for the most seasoned Constant Readers, but it's also required reading to really understand the backstory of two pivotal characters in the final phase of King's meta-story.
Basically, the main character, Ralph Roberts, has insomnia and develops the ability to see the auras of life force that surround other people. He can also see these white-coated beings known as "little bald doctors," who recruit him to fight the Crimson King, the supreme ruler of the Red (aka The Random). Yeesh, he's the leader of dark side, okay? It is revealed that the things that are happening in the Kingverse -- this recurring battle between good and evil throughout the novels -- are part of a larger conflict between The Random and The Purpose (aka the good guys, I guess...).
In this novel, the Crimson King is especially interested in killing a little boy named Patrick Danville, who will one day grow up to help Roland save the Dark Tower. Oh yeah, the Crimson King is trying to bring down the tower so that he can rule over the chaos in the aftermath. Moving on.
Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
Why it's important: Ted Brautigan, The Low Men in Yellow Coats, The Crimson King
The Crimson King is pulling his bullshit again in this collection of two novellas and three short stories. But first of all, Hearts in Atlantis is a heartfelt piece of work by King about conflict, childhood, memory, and hope. It's a great book about the Vietnam War and a fine addition to his longer fantasy yarn.
A little boy named Bobby Garfield meets an older man named Ted Brautigan, and his life is changed forever. Brautigan, who has the psychic abilities needed to bring down the Dark Tower, has been running from the forces of the Crimson King for quite some time, and he thinks he can avoid the conflict between The Random and The Purpose in 1960s Connecticut. Boy is he wrong. The Crimson King sends his henchmen, the low men in yellow coats, to hunt Brautigan down. Eventually, he gets him, but not before passing on some of his powers to Bobby.
Brautigan later aids Roland in his quest against the Crimson King. Good for him!
Everything's Eventual (2002)
Why it's important: Dinky Earnshaw, Little Sisters of Eluria
This short story collection has some whoppers in it! The first tale, for example, "Autopsy Room Four" is an insta-classic. Read all of these stories and call me in the morning.
"The Little Sisters of Eluria" is a little tale that precedes Roland Deschain's quest in The Dark Tower novels. His adventure is still in its infancy, but he's already getting himself into trouble. After battling some Slow Mutants (King's version of zombies when they're in Mid-World) and losing, Roland is saved by the Little Sisters, who pretend to be nurses but are actually vampires. Remember, all of the vampires in all of these books are bad guys. No Lestats here.
In my opinion, this prequel story isn't really necessary for the larger enjoyment of the Kingverse, but it's there if you want a little bit of fun. At the time, this was King's first Dark Tower story since 1997's Wizard and Glass. He'd finish up the remaining three books in the next two years.
Meanwhile, "Everything's Eventual" tells the story of a psychic assassin named Dinky Earnshaw who works for the Trans Corporation, a company that's using his particular gift (the ability to make people kill themselves) for personal gain. The story is fairly simple: Dinky is planning his escape (and hopefully a name change) from the corporation. Dinky is also captured by The Random after this story, but manages to escape and, like Ted Brautigan, helps Roland defeat the Crimson King.
The Dark Tower series (1982-2004)
Why it's important: Crisis on Infinite Kings, Mid-World, The Dark Tower, Final Showdown with Flagg & Crimson King, Stephen King is a character
This is the big one. The maxiseries. The meta-story that includes Stephen King himself as an alternate version of the author -- a dead alternate version that doesn't survive the accident that King actually suffered in 1999. A fantasy western that leads to the final destination in King's cycle of stories: the Dark Tower.
To tell you too much about these seven books would be to rob you of an epic, hard-earned reading experience. The final confrontation between good and evil, a journey through multiple parallel worlds, vampires, demons, gunslingers, evil wizards. Flagg and the Crimson King's plans in full swing. The very strange Mid-World -- the land on which the entire fate of our universe (and others) lie.
You have this guide. The books are out there. Go, then. There are other worlds than these.
John Saavedra will talk to you about the Kingverse all night if properly drunk. Offer him a drink on Twitter.
Fall of the Gods starts in the next issue of Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps!
DC Comics sent over an exclusive first look at the upcoming Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps #26, the first issue in a new arc titled "The Fall of the Gods."
With all the festivities surrounding King Kirby's 100th birthday, it's not surprising that DC is pushing the New Gods. They might not his greatest creation (then again, how do you even pick?) but they're particularly beloved.
I'm not a complicated man. I don't need much from my comics. All I ask is for a periodic massive, epic blowups between space cops with magic wishing rings and the weird space deities who exist outside and inside the multiverse simultaneously. I'm glad that DC agrees with me that this isn't too much to ask.
Here's the official synopsis...
HAL JORDAN & THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #26 Written by ROBERT VENDITTI Art and cover RAFA SANDOVAL and JORDI TARRAGONA
“FALL OF THE GODS” part one! Ancient hunters awaken across the cosmos to end Highfather and the New Gods! Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps draw the line between gods, but that won’t stop the body count as the most powerful deities in the universe go to war.
Check out the preview pages here...
The DCEU continues to expand, with the Justice League movie up next, and Green Lantern Corps, Batgirl, and more in the works!
With Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman now in the books, the DC Extended Universe is in full swing. It's all leading up to the Justice League movie in November of 2017.
So, it's time to take a look at all of the DC superhero movies that will be released over the next few years. And trust us, there are a ton of them on the way, and we expect more details will be announced as we go forward.
We have all the release dates for every one of 'em right here, as well as official details, the most interesting rumors, and suggestions for further reading where appropriate.
Click the blue links to go to articles containing everything you need to know about the movies!
Here's how this works, because the schedule is getting a little weird. We're starting with the dates that we know Warner Bros. has reserved specifically for DC superhero movies. You'll find that in some cases, there isn't officially a project attached to that date yet. Then we'll get into the stuff that we know for 100% certain is in development, but that don't have release dates. Then we'll get into some of the long shots at the bottom.
Zack Snyder will direct Justice League, and BvS co-writer Chris Terrio is back. The villain of this one is Steppenwolf, one of Darkseid's relatives, and it focuses on Batman building a team to confront him.
Here's the official synopsis:
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
July 27th, 2018 - Unknown
This was formerly the date occupied by the Aquaman movie, but that was bumped to December. At this point, with nothing aggressively in production, it's hard to imagine anything actually making this release date. But as far as we know, it hasn't been officially scrapped. The more likely scenario is that Warner Bros. just gives this date to a different, non-DC superhero related blockbuster.
Jason Momoa is playing Aquaman. There's no doubt that they've been taking Aquaman very seriously. Amber Heard will also appear as Queen Mera. Patrick Wilson is Ocean Master and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is Black Manta.
James Wan (Furious 7) will direct from a script by Kurt Johnstad (300: Rise of an Empire).
April 5th, 2019 - Shazam
Shazamhas both a writer (Henry Gayden, of Earth to Echo fame) and a star (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the villainous Black Adam) announced. Lights Out director David F. Sandberg is directing, although recent talks indicate that Johnson's Black Adam won't be introduced here, and they'll save the big Shazam/Black Adam throwdown for a sequel.
The movie begins production in 2018, so expect more casting announcements shortly, and it's a safe bet to make this 2019 release date.
June 14th, 2019 - Unknown
This was long ago announced as the Justice League 2 release date, but this is apparently about to change. Director Zack Snyder would like to take on another project, and there are recent indications that Warner Bros is prioritizing the Batmansolo movie over this, and that this could end up being that film's date instead.
It's also possible that this could end up being David Ayer's Gotham City Sirens movie. Or maybe it will end up being the new date for...
After losing two directors/writers in Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) wrote a screenplay, and Rick Famuyiwa (Dope) this one needs some work, and potential directors now include Matthew Vaughn and Robert Zemeckis. The latest is that it's being completely rewritten by Joby Harold and it will be based on the Flashpoint story from the comics.
Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Madame Bovary) is playing Barry Allen, but probably a very different Barry Allen than the one we currently love on TV. Billy Crudup will play Dr. Henry Allen, with Kiersey Clemons as Iris West.
November 1st, 2019 - Untitled DC Film
No information has yet been given as to the story or what characters will be featured in the film. Man of Steel 2is back in active development at the studio. Could this be it? It's yet another potential landing date for Ben Affleck's Batman solo movie, too. In fact, given that movie's ongoing troubles, this is probably its most likely arrival date.
The truth is that we just don't know what DC has planned for Nov. 2019, so we'll just have to wait and see.
The most critically acclaimed DCEU movie is definitely getting a sequel. Patty Jenkins will return to direct Wonder Woman 2, which will move Diana's story forward in time...but possibly not too far forward. Expect what might be another adventure set in the past.
February 14, 2020 - Untitled DC Film
We're not quite sure what this one is just yet, but there are a couple of possibilities down below. Either of the above two dates could be good fits for On the other hand, this could also be a good fit for Gotham City Sirens, Suicide Squad 2, or Nightwing (see below for details on those).
April 3rd, 2020 - Cyborg
Ray Fisher made his first (very brief) appearance as Vic Stone/Cyborg in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and will clearly have a crucial role to play in both Justice League movies. At one point he was supposed to feature in The Flash solo movie, too.
No other details are presently available, and there are also rumors that this one might be reworked into a movie that would introduce the Teen Titans to the big screen.
June 5th, 2020
Just like that February date, we don't know what this is, but after Green Lantern, there are a few possibilities...
Fairly or unfairly, Green Lantern has the most working against him. The 2011 film failed to kickstart the DC Universe as planned, and received a lukewarm (at best) critical and box-office reception. There are, of course, ways around this.
One way is to simply not make Hal Jordan the central Green Lantern of the movie. This one may focus on as many as three Green Lanterns, with the main focus on a kind of buddy/cop movie with John Stewart and Hal Jordan. David Goyer and Justin Rhodes are writing the script, but there's no director in place yet. Rupert Wyatt may be directing.
Now, let's get into the projects that are in the works, but don't have release dates yet. We've grouped these roughly in the order we expect to see them based on how far along they are.
Gotham City Sirens
Harley Quinn isn't just for the Suicide Squad. Warner Bros. has tapped David Ayer to direct Gotham City Sirens, which will team Harley Quinn up with other female DC villain, most likely including Poison Ivy and Catwoman. It's not totally clear if this is replacing a Harley Quinn solo movie, which we have a few details on here.
This one is on the fast-track, so it could take over that June 14th, 2019 release date vacated by Justice League 2. There are really thin rumors that Warner Bros. wants to release four Batman themed movies in 2019: Gotham City Sirens, Nightwing, Batgirl, and that Batman solo movie they keep promising us. I wouldn't put too much stock in that just yet.
But let's talk about two of those other Bat-themed movies for a moment...
The Lego Batman movie director Chris McKay has been tapped to direct a Nightwing movie. Bill Dubuque (The Accountant) is working on a script. No other details are currently available, and this one doesn't have a release date yet, although there are rumors of a 2019 window. We wrote more about it here.
Joss Whedon will write, direct, and produce a Batgirl movie, one that is reportedly based on Gail Simone's recent New 52 take on the character. We have some more details here, but there's no casting or release date to report yet. This is another one where there are rumors of 2019 in the wind, but don't put any stock in that yet.
While the critical response to the first film wasn't so hot, the box office was blazing, so Suicide Squad 2 is definitely happening. David Ayer going to be too busy with Gotham City Sirens until further notice, though, and a number of interesting directors have been named in connection with the project. Adam Cozad, who wrote The Legend of Tarzan, is working on a script.
Justice League 2
Don't be fooled by the fact that this lost its 2019 release date, Warner Bros. is still planning a second installment, since the first one is bound to make all kinds of bank. Things will stay quiet on this for a few more months.
Shazam doesn't have a star to play its title character yet, but it sure does have a villain. And that villain, who will be played by Dwayne Johnson, is certainly strong enough to sustain his own movie. There's no release date set for the Black Adammovie, and this is the kind of thing that could work as a nifty prequel to set up the mystical world of Shazam if they choose to go that route. We're currently on the lookout for more info.
Booster Gold (and maybe Blue Beetle)
Flash and Arrow executive producer Greg Berlanti is going to executive produce and possibly direct a Booster Gold movie. Zack Stentz (Thor, X-Men: First Class, a recent episode of CW's The Flash TV series) will write the script.
Early reports described this as a "superhero buddy cop movie" that would involve Blue Beetle. We'll get you more updates on this as they become available.
And now for the long shots...projects mentioned, rumored, or that haven't had any movement in a while.
Warner Bros. knows they have one of the biggest stars in the world already in costume, so they're reportedly considering a Deadshotsolo movie, as well.
Back on the schedule after years of being dormant, the Lobo movie may attempt to be the DCEU equivalent of Deadpool. Jason Fuchs must have impressed Warner Bros. with his work on Wonder Woman, because he's on board to write the script for this one.
We'll update this with more information as we get it, but it should be a fun ride.
Sandmanisn't a superhero movie, so the fact that he wasn't involved in an announcement that primarily focused on high-profile franchises (along with the superhero slate, Warner Bros. focused on Lego movies and Harry Potter spinoffs). It isn't a DC Universe movie that will have any bearing on future Justice League films. But it is one of the most successful, enduring comics of all time.
The latest news on this isn't encouraging, though. It appears to be a dead project.
Dark Universe might be more familiar to comic book fans under its comic name, Justice League Dark. This one will feature the supernatural characters from the DC Universe. Characters like Swamp Thing, Demon, Deadman, Zatanna, and possibly even John Constantine.
Guillermo del Toro was attached to this one for quite some time, but had to leave the project. Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) will now direct.
Legion of Super-Heroes
This one came as a big surprise when the rumor surfaced a couple of years ago. The word is that Warner Bros., perhaps inspired by the runaway success of Guardians of the Galaxy, is looking to put together their own superheroic space opera. Nobody has been hired. Warner Bros. have simply placed this one on the table as a DC property potentially worth developing, and are inviting writers to make pitches.
Perhaps the longest of the long-shots, the Metal Men movie is something that's been in discussion as far back as 2007. It's the most bizarre concept of the bunch, involving a mad scientist and his group of sentient elemental robots, but like Suicide Squadand Legion of Super-Heroes, perhaps that uniqueness is what makes this one so appealing. Warner Bros. can't be seen to copy the Marvel model too closely, so veering away from solo outings for traditional heroes and into this kind of territory might be the very best thing they can do for the brand.
The Metal Men recently received a New 52 facelift at the hands of writer Geoff Johns, the co-chair of DC Films. If they're a favorite of DC Entertainment's Chief Creative Officer, it would be wrong to count the Metal Men out, even if there's been no public movement on this project in recent memory.
We'll keep updating this with new information as we get it!
Read and download the full Den of Geek SDCC Special Edition magazine here!
Expect lots of Mark Millar comics to get adapted for the small screen on Netflix.
Expect more Mark Millar comic book projects to make it to the screen, except this time it will be the small screen. Netflix has purchased Mark Millar's Millarworld publishing line, and the plan is to bring its associated characters and franchises "to life through films, series and kids’ shows available exclusively to Netflix members globally."
“As creator and re-inventor of some of the most memorable stories and characters in recent history, ranging from Marvel’s The Avengers to Millarworld’s Kick-Ass, Kingsman, Wanted, and Reborn franchises, Mark is as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “We can’t wait to harness the creative power of Millarworld to Netflix and start a new era in global storytelling.”
“Mark has created a next-generation comics universe, full of indelible characters living in situations people around the world can identify easily with,” added Sarandos. “We look forward to creating new Netflix Originals from several existing franchises as well as new super-hero, anti-hero, fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories Mark and his team will continue to create and publish.”
“This is only the third time in history a major comic book company has been purchased at this level,” added Millar. “I’m so in love with what Netflix is doing and excited by their plans. Netflix is the future and Millarworld couldn’t have a better home.”
It's not immediately clear what this means for currently in-development Millarworld screen projects like Jupiter's Legacy, Superior, or Empress. Maybe Netflix will do a better adaptation of Wanted than the one we got. In any case, expect lots more superhero and genre content to make its way onto Netflix in the next few years.
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!
Here's your first look at Cable! Plus, everything else we know about Deadpool 2...
Deadpool 2 has the lofty task of following up the film industry's biggest surprise story of 2016 in Deadpool, which turned a meager (for a blockbuster) $58 million budget into a $783 million global phenomenon. With Ryan Reynolds set to reprise his role as the Marvel Comics Merc with a Mouth, he will be joined by a classic comic book rival in Cable, played by Josh Brolin, who makes a detour from his Marvel Studios gig as Thanos in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War to play an equally-iconic antagonist to our antihero.
John Wick's David Leitch is directing Deadpool 2. While the Deadpool 2 script is still officially in the hands of original film scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, it was revealed to Collider that screenwriter extraordinaire Drew Goddard has been brought onboard to work on the film’s script as a consultant.
Deadpool 2 is now in production, so expect news to hit faster than bad chimichangas! Here's everything we know:
Deadpool 2 News
Ryan Reynolds has dropped a photo of Josh Brolin as Cable! Below is your much awaited first look at the character:
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) August 7, 2017
Josh Brolin also posted a picture of his character on Instagram, which you can check out below:
Emulating Ryan Reynolds's habit of scooping his own stories, Domino actress Zazie Beetz took to Instagram to post a second Domino photo, this time a close-up.
Interestingly, this new Domino photo seems to explain Deadpool 2's version a bit more. Of course, in the pages of Marvel Comics, the character – a government-bred experiment to create the perfect assassin – is depicted as having chalky white skin, blue eyes, with a black circle tattoo around her left eye. Here, we have an approach that’s arguably more grounded in reality, with Domino’s signature eye mark manifesting as a spot that appears to be whitened by vitiligo (this is not yet confirmed). We can also see that her eyes are heterochromiac (each different colors).
Ryan Reynolds, who has made himself the #1 source for official Deadpool 2 news in the universe, was the first to (officially) announce that Atlanta's Zazie Beetz landed the role of Domino. In true Ryan Reynolds fashion, he did it on social media. And now he's done it again, revealing the first official look at Ms. Beetz as Domino, mirroring how Reynolds' Deadpool costume was first revealed.
Domino is an assassin for hire, and founding member of X-Force, who first appeared in the very same comic that first introduced Deadpool, New Mutants #98. With an X-Force movie set to follow Deadpool 2, we can see where this is going.
Anyway, don't expect this to turn into an X-Force movie or anything like that.
Deadpool 2 Release Date
Production on Deadpool 2 is now underway, which gives it plenty of time to make its June 1, 2018 release date.
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!
Deadpool 2 Trailer
Logan didn't have a post-credits scene. Instead, it has kind of a pre-credits scene, which is basically a wacky teaser for Deadpool 2. It's not quite a trailer, but it's 100% legit, stars Ryan Reynolds, and was directed by David Leitch. This won't appear in the movie, but there's definitely a touch of what you'll see in it here in terms of tone.
And by "tone" we mean "exactly what you expect/want out of a Deadpool movie." There's some nice symmetry to letting Ryan Reynolds drop this one before 20th Century Fox, since he's apparently the person responsible for the test footage leak that finally got this movie the greenlight in the first place a few years back. He continues to "deny" that.
Watch it here. It's pretty great. ALSO it has come to our attention that mobile users are having trouble seeing the video, so you can click here to watch it if it isn't coming up. Sorry about that.
A couple of things worth noting here:
1. You can see the word "Hope" scrawled on that phone booth. This could be a joke, considering the Superman: The Movie theme is playing, that Superman's "S" is "a symbol of hope."
However, it probably refers to Hope Summers, who is Cable's adopted daughter and holy moley does this get too confusing to get into right here.
2. You can also see "Nathan Summers coming soon!" written on there. In other words, that's Cable, and it's no secret whatsoever that Cable is in this movie.
Hellboy is back and this time he's on a mission in Oregon. Here's an exclusive first look at Hellboy and the BPRD: 1955 - Secret Nature!
Despite the fact that Hellboy's story came to an end last year with Hellboy in Hell #10, the brilliantly quiet finale by Mike Mignola, there's still so much unexplored territory for the character. In fact, there's a whole gap of stories between Hellboy's arrival during World War II and the first arc, Seed of Destruction, which takes place in the 90s.
For the past few years, Mignola and a rotating stable of talented artists have been working on a series of books that take place during Hellboy's early days with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. Starting with the year 1952, the Hellboy and the BPRD series shows a greener Hellboy fighting the good fight against all manner of creatures and supernatural threats.
The latest is 1955 and we have an exclusive preview of the first one-shot, "Secret Nature," below!
Here's the solicitation:
Hellboy and the BPRD: 1955 - Secret Nature One-shot
On sale date: August 9, 2017
Writer: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
A missing group of teens in Oregon's backwoods leads Hellboy to confront a cryptozoological horror with origins similar to his own!
Check out the first few pages and the awesome cover below:
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!
Know the madness and terror of Stephen King's 10 greatest supernatural villains!
Pennywise the Clown isn't the only monster you need to fear at night. The King has created plenty of other horrific things that go bump in the night...
The name Stephen King conjures up images of horrific creatures, monsters, places, and stories, and some of the most enduring villains in fiction. These are beings of unimaginable evil that test the limits of the protagonists' will to survive, and some of these villains have gone on to become almost as famous (or infamous) as the writer himself. While many Stephen King villains are monsters of the human variety (serial killers, power hungry despots, nihilists, etc.) his most memorable are the supernatural ones who use their dark powers to twist the orderly world around them into a special place of chaos and pain.
Here are just a few of King’s best supernatural madmen and monsters.
10. Gage Creed and the Pet Sematary
Pet Sematary (1983)
“Don’t go beyond, no matter how much you feel you need to, Doctor. The barrier was not made to be broken. Remember this: there is more power here than you know. It is old and always restless. Remember.”
When Louis, Rachel, Eileen, and Gage Creed moved to Ludlow, Maine from Chicago, their cat Winston Churchill in tow, they wanted a peaceful new life in the more rural locale. What they got was a descent into death and madness almost unmatched in modern horror fiction. In the novel, the Creed cat is killed. Louis fears telling his daughter and buries the beloved pet at a nearby “Pet Sematary,” an old Micmac Indian burial ground. The cat returns home, much to Louis’ shock and delight, but it’s not the same friendly animal. It’s a listless, mean, half-alive creature that does not have a fondness for life.
When Gage is killed by a truck, overcome with despair, Louis buries his son in the Sematary. What comes back is a true horror of epic proportions. Gage is such a disturbing villain because he once existed as an object of the purest affection. The once totally innocent soul is now corrupt and ridden with supernatural darkness. The Pet Sematary itself is rumored to once have been a burial place for cannibals, and the spirit of a Wendigo dwells in the soil.
Now, Gage is back with the most ancient of curses coursing where blood once flowed. Every father’s nightmare turned even darker. King felt the book was too dark even for him and shelved it until his wife, Tabitha, and his friend, the author Peter Straub, encouraged him to share his bleak vision of paternal loyalty with the world.
9. The Leatherheads
Under the Dome (2009)
“God turned out to be a bunch of bad little kids playing interstellar Xbox. Isn't that funny?”
Much more frightening than typical villains, the Leatherheads are an alien race responsible for the construction of the Dome that covers Chester’s Mill. They are in the same vein as H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors, beings much older and more powerful than humanity. The mere sight of them could drive a man mad. They are beings with the power of gods but no connection to or feelings for humanity. Just cold observers that exist on a different layer of reality.
The Leatherheads construct the Dome the same way a child makes an ant farm, out of a morbid curiosity to watch how lesser creatures exist. Their casual disregard for humanity makes them truly terrifying, because unlike some of King’s other antagonists, there is really no way to fight them.
The Leatherheads are mentioned in King’s chilling short story N., but it is in Under the Dome where readers get to experience the sheer paralytic terror that would occur if an alien species of ancient intelligence turned their attention towards our little backwater planet.
8. The Overlook Hotel
The Shining (1977)
“This inhuman place makes human monsters.”
If there is one thing King’s constant readers have learned after decades of nightmares is that places can be as evil as people, an idea that is personified in the Overlook Hotel, the setting of The Shining. On the surface, The Shining is a classic haunted house tale, but beneath the surface, it is so much more. It is a deep look into the fragility of fatherhood, the bond of trust between father and son. As Danny Torrance, the psychic child who journeys to a secluded Colorado hotel with his caretaker father and loving mother discovers when the father he trusted is transformed in a raging madman by the power within the Overlook.
The novel’s most riveting sections feature past accounts of other times that the Overlook weaved its dark magic, transforming good men into monsters. The walls of the Overlook can barely contain the rage within the heart of the hotel, and as The Shining plays out, readers discover just how corrupt the place is. Make no mistake, it may not have arms to swing an ax, or legs to chase down its victims, but the Overlook is a hungry sort of evil that demands to be fed. Just try staying at a Motel 6 after reading King’s classic. I dare you.
7. The Raggedy Man
“What Darwin was too polite to say, my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle.”
Fans of the Walking Dead need to recognize. King does zombies too, and they are sphincter-tighteningly scary. In Cell, a pulse travels into cell phones all over the world. Anyone on their phone at the fateful moment is turned into a zombie. These villains are a different breed than the popular Romero clones, as the pulse also unlocks latent powers of the human mind like telepathy and levitation.
The Raggedy Man is the leader of the zombies. He thinks, organizes, and commands. He has all the nihilistic hunger of a zombie, but he has planning skills and foresight which make him a truly frightening antagonist. His goal is to spread his people around the globe and take the planet for his horde. He sees humanity as a threat to his people and seeks to destroy them to protect his new race, which could make him literature’s first sympathetic zombie villain. He is often seen wearing a crimson Harvard hoodie giving the creature an atypical zombie air of intelligence and capability.
The name of Harvard’s sports teams by the way? The Harvard Crimson. Well played Mr. King, well played.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Importance of Stephen King's Cell Movie
6. Kurt Barlow
‘Salems Lot (1975)
“That above all else. They did not look out their windows. No matter what noises or dreadful possibilities, no matter how awful the unknown, there was an even worse thing: to look the Gorgon in the face.”
King’s only foray into vampires (the classic ones, anyway), Barlow was the writer’s way of getting the whole mythos right the first time. ‘Salems Lot was King’s second published novel and his first of many novels centering on the idea of a preternatural creature releasing the beast inside of regular people. It was also his first small town novel, a setting King would return to many times over the decades.
Barlow’s story mirrors that of Dracula, from the shipment of his coffin and native soil from overseas to his arrival and reign of terror in a contemporary setting. He even has his own personal Renfield, Richard Straker, his own gothic mansion, his own legion of dark minions, and a twisted grip on the residents of ‘Salems Lot.
Barlow was more of a catalyst, using embraced residents as pawns to tighten his grip on the town, but his very presence on the page was accompanied with a sense of urgency and dread.
In a 1995 BBC radio drama of ‘Salems Lot (that is well worth seeking out), Barlow is played by Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley, which automatically gives the vampire tons of villain cred.
5. George Stark
The Dark Half (1989)
“Cut him. Cut him while I stand here and watch. I want to see the blood flow. Don't make me tell you twice.”
Stephen King once wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman and published some of his more experimental works like The Running Man, The Long Walk, and Thinner. His experience as somewhat existing as another person inspired King to write the Dark Half, and inspired the creation of one of his most cold blooded killers, George Stark.
In the novel, Thad Beaumont was a successful author who wrote violent crime novels under the pen name of George Stark. After revealing to the world he was actually Stark, Thad and his wife stage a mock funeral for the author to symbolically cut ties with the violent crime fiction Beaumont wanted to leave behind. This is where King brings the terror.
The novel started with a flashback that dealt with the removal of an eye from the brain of a young Thad. It was the eye of a twin that was conjoined in the womb to the writer, an incident Thad had all but forgotten about. It was actually the eye of George Stark, who later rises from the mock grave the Beaumonts planted him in to go on a killing spree that leaves even the most seasoned reader with PTSD.
Stark is the embodiment of the darkness in the hearts of all men. The most frightening part of the book is that even though Beaumont is desperate to rid the world of Stark, part of him is attracted to the freedom evil gives Stark, and the realization that the evil is a part of him.
RELATED ARTICLE: Stephen King's 10 Greatest Human Villains
4. Blaine the Mono
The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands (1991)
“Choo-Choo, thought Jake, and shuddered.”
You will never look at Thomas the Tank Engine the same way again. Blaine is a sentient train in the Dark Tower series, a machine driven insane by underuse. Blaine once housed a powerful computer mind, but the network has since broken down, making the train deranged, cruel, and suicidal.
Roland and his ka-tet need the train to travel out of the Wasteland so Roland can finish his quest for the Dark Tower. They board Blaine. They are horrified when they find Blaine has gone completely insane. The train forces them into a game of riddles. The situation gets worse, as the ka-tet realizes Blaine will kill himself by derailing at great speed with them aboard.
A crazy, sentient, thundering locomotive with a face is scary enough, but couple that with the fact that the train suffers from crippling mental health issues, and you have one of the most unique monsters in literature. There is a second voice inside Blaine, Little Blaine, who begs the ka-tet to help him, adding even another layer to the tragic nightmare that is Blaine.
So essentially, Blaine is Gollum if Gollum was a runaway train: a riddle loving, murderous, schizophrenic machine who has been ruined by pain and emptiness.
3. The Crimson King aka Los'Ram Abbalah, The Kingfish, The Red King, Lord of Discordia, Lord of Spiders, Satan
“I am the Eater of Worlds.”
The Crimson King is often mistaken for It, and it is not completely clear if they are the same monster, but the regality and level of reverence the King’s minions hold for him seem to suggest that he is different than the sewer-dwelling eater of children.
The Crimson King is the embodiment of evil in King’s shared fictional universe. He is first introduced in Insomnia, where he tries to kill a child prophesied to topple the rule of the King forever.
The King is later revealed as the monster behind the events of the novel Black House, and he is the overarching villain of the Dark Tower series, the monster responsible for trying to bring down the structure of reality.
Stephen King suggests that all his villains, supernatural or otherwise, are pawns of the Crimson King. The name itself carries some great metatextual flavor as, of course, Stephen King himself is the one truly responsible for the evil in his worlds. The half of the writer that creates and is responsible for these horrific monsters is also named King. Stephen King is the writer, father, husband, and Red Sox fan. The Crimson King is the dark overlord of the fictional universe and the monster maker.
2. It aka Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Robert Gray, Bob Grapes
The clown seized his arm.
And George saw the clown’s face change.
Every twenty-seven years It rises to devour the children of Derry. It awoke when a homosexual couple was beaten by a gang of thugs in 1984 to again reign terror on the children of Derry. It was put to rest by the Losers Club, a group of misfit teens, in 1958 only to rise again, decades later. It killed the leader of the Losers’ (Bill Denbrough) little brother in one of the most hair-raising prologues in horror history.
It is another of King’s manipulator villains, as It controls the darker residents of Derry, such as bully Henry Bowers to do Its bidding. It is a cannibalistic clown that lives in the sewers, a leprous mummy, a giant spider, or a series of orange lights called the Dead Lights that drive people mad when gazed upon.
Unlike the similar creature, the Crimson King, It does not commit evil for glory or power. It devours because It hungers. The lives of innocents exist only to fill the void of It's being. And let’s face it, nothing, NOTHING is freakin’ scarier than a hungry clown in a sewer.
1. Randall Flagg
aka The Ageless Stranger, The Walkin' Dude, The Dark Man, The Hardcase, The Man in Black, The Tall Man, The Midnight Rambler, The Antagonist, The Grinning Man, Old Creeping Judas, He Who Walks Behind The Rows, The Covenant Man, Richard Fry, Robert Franq, Ramsey Forrest, Robert Freemont, Richard Freemantle, Russell Faraday, The Monster, The Man with No Face, Richard Fannin, Raymond Fiegler, Walter o'Dim, Marten Broadcloak, Walter Padick, Walter Hodji, and Bill Hitch
The Stand (1978)
Eyes of the Dragon (1986)
Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
The Dark Tower series
“My life for you.”
Not so much a single villain, but the archetype of all villains, Randall Flagg is King’s greatest singular creation of evil. Flagg first appeared in The Stand, the Dark Man who gathers the worst of humanity to rebuild a new civilization in his own dark image. The Walkin’ Dude had a propensity for crucifying any whose beliefs ran contrary to his.
Flagg is the greatest of King’s manipulators, able to inspire loyalty in those with dark hearts, as seen by the Trashcan Man in The Stand and even Mother Carmody in The Mist. All they have to do is say “My life for you,” and mean it, and Flagg will be there to inspire their dark deeds.
He was revealed to be the antagonists to Roland in the Dark Tower series, and is the ever present evil in all men. Flagg is walking the back roads of reality just waiting for a chance to whisper in humanity’s ear and stir up some good, old fashioned chaos.
A version of this article first appeared on October 19, 2013.
Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talks about how weird and otherworldly the series might get.
The past few years have seen a darkness come to the pages of Archie Comics, thanks to the inspired horror writing of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. First came Afterlife with Archie, a collaboration with artist Francesco Francavilla that turned the industry on its head by mashing up the classic Archie characters with zombie terror. Comparisons to Afterlife and The Walking Dead came quick, but in reality the book owed more to Romero and Lovecraft than Robert Kirkman.
After the title's immediately success, the Archie Horror imprint was born, and a follow-up title, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, was soon commissioned. Again featuring scripts from Aguirre-Sacasa and featuring suitably creepy and autumnal art from rising comics star Robert Hack, this ongoing series took a more psychological terror approach -- which isn't to say that there wasn't heaps of gore to be found.
Soon, the writer who was once issued a cease-and-desist from Archie due to an amateur production that utilized the characters, found himself as the company's Chief Creative Officer. Then came Riverdale. His ongoing showrunning duties for the series means that fans of Afterlife and Sabrina have found themselves enduring long waits between the issues (from a fan's POV though let me tell you, much rather this than the titles get cancelled or replace Aguirre-Sacasa as writer). Meanwhile, Archie has recently announced a new title, Jughead: The Hunger under their new horror imprint, Archie's Madhouse.
All of this context isn't even getting into the freaky fun of the short-lived Chilling Adventures in Sorcery in the '70s, or how Archie books of the era regularly featured otherworldly weirdness. The point here is, that Riverdale has been a weird place for awhile. So it only makes sense that this strangeness would eventually rear its creepy head on Riverdaletoo.
In the past, Aguirre-Sacasa has hinted that elements of Afterlife with Archie may turn up on Riverdale. That, coupled with the fact that Sabrina the Teenage Witch's arrival was hinted at throughout the show's first season means that plans to get a bit supernatural on the series are underway.
Or are they?
Our Chris Longo spoke with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa today at San Diego Comic Con to find out. Here's what Archie's horror master had to say:
I love horror stuff, and I'm always trying to get horror imagery and beans in that. We've talked a lot about it. We've started a pretty aggressive suspenseful noir storyline that has definite horror elements. It's not specific to Afterlife but it very much is a suspense kind of thing. so there are different kinds of horror, I think there's also some psychological horror in this season. But no elements of Afterlife so far. But we're only on episode 5.
That's a decidedly non-committal answer to be sure. But our money is on the fact that you'll eventually see Riverdalegetting supernatural. When exactly? Well, that's the question isn't it. Try to figure it out...if you dare. Bwahahahaha.
Read and download the full Den of Geek SDCC Special Edition magazine here!
Stephen King hasn't only created some of the scariest monsters ever put in fiction. He's also written many of the most compelling heroes...
In the Kingverse, there are monsters aplenty, but what of the heroes? There may be villains of every shape and size dwelling there, but King’s dark worlds are also inhabited by bright lights who keep the monsters at bay, brave beings of complex integrity who are tasked with questing through landscapes of pure terror while not losing their souls in the process.
These are King’s heroes, his protagonists that act as a line of defense between sanity and the creatures of unknowable corruption that slither between the cracks of King’s stories. They walked through the valley of the shadow of death and oh, they feared evil, but these heroes kept their heads held high. These are King’s greatest champions.
10. Bill Hodges
Fights the Darkness in Mr. Mercedes (2014)
Possibly the most human of King’s many heroes, retired cop Bill Hodges, does not have special powers or great strength, but he has a will to confront a very real act of evil that threatened to tear his life apart along with the lives of many others.
When readers first meet Bill, he could be considered a failure. He failed to find the driver of a fateful Mercedes that left eight people dead and fifteen wounded. When Hodges retires, he is lost, depressed, and on the verge of suicide. When the murderer sends Bill a taunting letter, the ex-cop decides that he will put aside his demons and be a champion of justice to find the man who snuffed out the lives of so many innocents.
Along the way, Bill serves as an inspiration for a number of characters that helped the retired cop try and solve the crime. A middle-aged woman who suffers from mental illness is able to overcome years of irrational fears and help Bill find the killer, while a brilliant young student finds purpose in aiding Bill on his case as the three track down the killer before Mr. Mercedes can commit an even more horrible crime.
Bill has a paunch, a heart condition, and is oh, so human, an unglamorous man in his early years as a senior citizen who will not allow age to keep him from stopping an evil before it strikes again. All Bill Hodges has in his mind, his will, and the loyalty of those he inspired to catch a killer that is ready to destroy even more lives. Men like Bill are the unassuming lights in the darkness ready to take a stand and be that thin line between good and evil.
So here’s to you, Bill. You may not have had strange powers like many of King’s heroes, but you had courage and will. Sometimes, that’s enough.
The adventures of Bill Hodges continue in Finders Keepers, a sequel from King, which is out on June 2.
9. Rose Daniels
Fights the darkness in Rose Madder (1995)
Rose Daniels, the brave heroine of Rose Madder, faces many challenges. At heart, she is not strong or skilled, but she was so much more than that. Rose is a woman who suffers at the hands of her abusive husband, and one day, after spotting an old bloodstain on her sheets, decides she had enough. Her husband is a skilled police detective, and Rose knows he would be able to track her, but she left anyway.
Beaten down but determined, Rose arrives in a small town and found a new life for herself, settling in at a clinic for battered women and finding a job and a purpose. It took courage to escape the domestic trap she was in and find a new and better life for herself, but Rose’s heroism wasn’t done yet.
Rose goes to pawn her wedding ring, which she discovers is worthless. This indignity does not deter Rose. Instead, she buys a painting at that pawn shop. Turns out, the painting is a magical portal to another world, and like so many heroes before her, Rose steps through and into an adventure.
In this world of monsters and madness, she saves an infant from a one-eyed bull named Erinyes. The infant’s mother, Dorcas, whom Rose refers to as "Rose Madder" because of her obvious insanity, promises that she owed Rose Daniels a favor. Rose doesn't flinch from saving the baby. She sees a task that needs doing and she does it. Just as she bravely escapes her husband and breaks a long cycle of domestic violence, Rose faces down the terror of another world to save an innocent, because that’s what heroes do.
When Rose’s husband tracks her down, Rose retreats back into the painting and faces off against her abuser one final time, this time in a setting of her own choosing. Rose’s real courage is in her desire to change her life for the better.
So many people trapped in Rose’s situation cannot break the chains of abuse, but Rose dies and masters another world in order to punish the man that hurt her. Rose may not be a vampire hunter or a demon slayer, but her light shows readers that there is hope in any situation, that nothing is inescapable, and that there is a special form of heroism in just saying “Enough."
8. Nick Andros
Fights the Darkness in The Stand (1978)
Nick and Tom, two of the heroes of King’s The Stand, prove that courage and heroism comes in many forms. Nick is a deaf mute who is attacked outside of Arkansas during the early days of Captain Trips, the super flu that wiped out most of the world’s population. Nick is befriended by a kindly sheriff and his wife and deputized to help keep law and order as the super flu spread.
Nick never loses faith in humanity, even though he was attacked and left for dead. He even frees one of the thugs from prison so the man doesn't die in jail. Nick ends up joining up with Stuart Redman and Mother Abigail’s crew of survivors, serving on their leadership committee and using his wisdom to help Abigail build her new civilization. He becomes like family to the other survivors, but is killed by an agent of Randall Flagg.
Andros’ loss is one of the most profoundly painful moments of the long novel. After his death, it is revealed that Nick was supposed to lead Abigail’s people in their war with Flagg. When Stuart Redman is injured, the spirit of Nick appears, finally able to speak, and informs his friends how to find and save Redman.
Andros may have died too early, but the lessons the man without a voice taught his fellow survivors went a long way in defeating Flagg.
7. Andy Dufrense
Fights the darkness in "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemptio" (Published in Different Seasons, 1982)
In "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," Andy Dufrense has to combat a corrupt justice system and hopeless despair in order to escape Shawshank prison.
Andy Dufrense is probably the most well-known Stephen King hero, thanks to the beloved Frank Darabont-directed film. Andy is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, a crime, despite all appearances to the contrary, he did not commit. In life, Andy was a simple man, a quiet accountant who was as unassuming as he was profoundly intelligent. Therefore, he is not the type of man that would thrive in prison.
It looks like Andy will be eaten alive when he arrives at Shawshank prison, but Andy has the one quality that many do not. He has an indomitable will and a spirit that does not allow him to give into despair. When the Ladies, a violent group of prison rapists, repeatedly attack Andy, he does not give up. When he was put in the Hole for weeks, he does not give up.
Andy builds the prison a library and ekes out every ounce of human dignity he can for his fellow prisoners. He even becomes a vital member of the prison staff, as he works on all of their taxes. He makes the best of his situation, but he never forgets that he is innocent, and that one day, he will leave the place behind.
That day arrives when Andy finds out who actually killed his wife, a fellow prisoner who confesses the act. Instead of freeing Andy, the warden, who needs Andy to keep doing his finances, refuses to let Andy go. This would break most men, but not Andy Dufrense who, through sheer brilliance and will puts his escape plan into action. A shocking escape that has left book and film fans breathless for decades.
6. Jack Sawyer
Fights the darkness in The Talisman (1984) and Black House (2001) Co-created with Peter Straub, and briefly in The Tommyknockers (1987)
Is there anything more heroic than a boy risking everything to save his dying mother? How about a boy risking everything to save his dying mother in two worlds?
In The Talisman, Jack Sawyer, the son of a B-list Hollywood actress, leaves the sanctity of his hometown to go on a quest that will save his dying mother from cancer. To do so, Jack must travel to the Territories, a land of magic that mirrors the real world. Throughout the book, Jack bounces between worlds using a mystical Talisman and must face all the worst both worlds have to offer.
In the Territories, Jack’s mother is a benevolent queen who has fallen into a death sleep thanks to a dark spell. Jack must face unthinkable danger on two worlds, including werewolves, Sunlight Gardener's School for wayward boys (a terrible place where Jack is horribly abused), and the evil of Morgan Sloat, also known as Morgan of Orris in the Territories, who plans to steal Jack’s mother’s business in the real world and take the Territories from Jack’s mother in the other world.
Jack has many companions, including a sixteen year old werewolf named Wolf, his childhood friend Richard, and many more, but it is his hero’s heart and the loyalty he holds for his imperfect mother that allows Jack to be the champion both his dying mom and the Territories needs.
Jack’s bravery is universal, and like all the great heroes of old, he endures. For his mother, he endures. Of all King’s heroes, he is armed with the least amount of weapons with which to combat evil, but he manages to quell the darkness. And for that, Jack is rewarded.
Jack’s adventures continue in Black House. As an adult, Jack retains very few memories of his time in the Territories, but his repressed adventures have led him to a career as a cop. World weary, Jack reluctantly goes up against a vicious serial killer, the cannibalistic Fisherman, a puppet of the godlike Crimson King -- a being that pops up in many of King’s books. Jack may be almost burnt out in Black House, his childhood innocence long gone, but he still shows the same courage against cannibal serial killers as he did trying to save his mother in the Territories. As a child and an adult, Jack Sawyer is a hero of two worlds using his unbending will and morality to defeat any evil.
5. Bill Denbrough and the Losers Club
Fights the darkness in It (1986) and briefly in 11/22/63 (2011)
Bill, Ben, Bev, Richie, Eddie, Mike and Stan, were ordinary kids, social misfits who faced the challenges life threw at them with grace that bellied their young years. Bill had a severe stutter and lost his brother, Georgie, under very mysterious circumstances. Bev was abused by her father. And the rest of the Losers had to endure many abuses from their parents and peers as well, but their true challenge came when they discovered their town’s darkest secret.
For generations, Derry, Maine played host to an ancient evil, a devourer of children that had preyed upon Derry since the town’s inception. Bill and his friends did not cower from the darkness. They confronted It, kicking off a journey through the darkest corners of reality.
The kids of the Losers Club not only had to combat It, who took the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to terrorize It’s enemies, they had to scape the cruel attentions of town bully Henry Bowers, a young man who had almost committed as many cruelties as Pennywise. The kids faced down the monster and defeated it, Beverly making a very brave and adult sacrifice to allow the Losers to escape It’s clutches, but their story did not end there.
Years later, as adults, the Losers Club is called back to Derry to once again face It. All the lessons of bravery they learned as children have to be rediscovered as adults in order to defeat It once and for all.
4. John Smith
Fights the Darkness in The Dead Zone (1979)
After John Smith suffers a car accident, he falls into a coma for four years. When he wakes up, Smith finds that he can tell people’s future just by touching them. Instead of cashing in on his gifts, Johnny, reluctantly at first, uses his powers to help police find a vicious killer. The publicity garnered by this act of mercy causes Smith to lose his job as a teacher.
He picks up and moves his life to New Hampshire, where he becomes a private tutor and takes an interest in politics, or more accurately, his vision of politicians’ futures. Upon shaking rising political star Greg Stillson’s hand, Smith sees a future where Stillson will become President and plunge the United States into a nuclear war. To prevent this, Smith knows he must assassinate Stillson, but is loathe to murder anyone. This shows that, despite his visions, Smith still sees good in the world and wants everything to remain pure. He is a gentle man, a man who understands the old adage of power and responsibility.
Smith does not act at first, but as Stillson gains power, he must become a political assassin to avoid the darkest of futures. Smith tries to shoot Stillson at a political rally, but misses. But Stillson grabs a young bystander and hides behind the kid during the attempted assassination.
When pictures of the cowering Stillson using a child as a human shield hit the papers, Stillson’s career is over. Smith is killed, but mission accomplished. A hero has stepped from the darkness and exposed a corrupt soul. Smith is a tragic hero.
The Dead Zone’s epilogue reveals that Smith was dying of a brain tumor, a fact that did not drive him into the pits of despair but drove him to live up to his responsibilities while he still had time. John Smith lived an unfair life, one cut short, but that did not stop him from fighting for a better world.
3. Stuart Redman
Fights the Darkness in The Stand (1978)
When he was fourteen, Stu Redman’s father passed away, leaving it up to Stu to help his family survive. Redman lied about his age and secured a job at a meat packing plant, accepting the grueling and morbid work in order to help his family. Family was always important to Stu, which is why he becomes a de facto leader of Mother Abigail’s tribe of good hearted survivors.
Right as readers meet Stu, he is already performing heroic deeds. When military security guard Charles Campion crashes into the gas station where Stu works, Redman smartly shuts off the leaking pumps, saving everyone’s life. That quick thinking serves him well as he and his companions journeys across a ruined America to find salvation after Captain Tripps, a weaponized super flu, brings about the end of civilization.
Redman leads Glen Bateman, Fran Goldsmith, and Harold Lauder to the waiting arms of the saintly Mother Abigail, sparking a deep and enduring romance with Frannie during the journey (much to the secretly murderous Harold’s dismay). Stu bravely volunteers to face off against Randall Flagg, the Dark Man, an overwhelming threat to Abigail’s group of survivors. He could have settled down with Frannie, but Stu, along with a small band of would-be saviors, journey to Las Vegas to confront Flagg. Stu falls along the way and is not there for the final confrontation because of a broken leg, an injury that almost kills him. But Flagg is defeated, and Redman survives, and is rewarded with a family and a purpose.
Redman is the everyman of The Stand. Before the world fell, Stu was not extraordinary or gifted. He was an average guy trying to do the right thing and stay free from the taint of greed and corruption, aspects that would later attract the likes of Randall Flagg. This simple, but powerful morality in the face of mankind’s darkest hour makes Redman one of King’s best and brightest.
2. Danny Torrance
Fights the darkness in The Shining (1977) and Doctor Sleep (2014)
At the end of The Shining, all King fans know for sure is that Danny Torrance is safe, that his father, Jack Torrance, is dead, and the Overlook Hotel has been destroyed. Danny seems to have been given a happy ending, safely in the loving arms of his protector, his brave mother. But there is an undercurrent of tragedy. How could a boy maintain his innocence after experiencing the horrors of the Overlook and, more importantly, such abuse at the hands of his own father?
Fast forward many years, to the pages of Doctor Sleep, in which Daniel Torrance is now a recovering alcoholic. To mask the horrors of his childhood, Torrance tries to drown the memories and the Shining in a liquor fueled haze. It would be easy to let the darkness overwhelm him like his father did, but the younger Torrance fights back.
Not only does he bravely ignore the ghosts and the ever beckoning bottle, he also uses his Shining gifts to help ease the passage of others to the afterlife. Daniel takes a job as a hospital orderly and holds the hands of others who are about to die. He sees what they see, feel what they feel, as they die. He is their angel, their personal guide to the next world, a true Earth angel of mercy.
Daniel also stands between mankind and a traveling band of terrifying vampires that feed on those gifted with the Shining. No one had a darker childhood that Danny Torrance, but no one shines brighter when it counts.
1. Roland and the Ka-tet
Fight the darkness in The Dark Tower series
Roland Deschain and his Ka-tet of Susannah Dean, Jake Chamber, Eddie Dean, and the billy bumbler Oy, cannot be put on this list of heroic Stephen King characters individually, for they are one. Roland leads his group of Gunslingers, patterned after King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, through seven books worth of adventures. All the evil of this reality (and every other) stands between the Ka-tet and their goal of finding the Dark Tower.
Along the way, this group of stalwart heroes relies on each other for life and love. They fight Randall Flagg, the Crimson King, and survive a ride on Blaine the Mono (and he’s a pain). They save an innocent village from the robotic Wolves of the Calla, and they prevent all of reality from being consumed by the forces of darkness.
And they all have their own personal challenges to contend with. Eddie was once a drug addict who had to free himself from his addictions to become Roland’s greatest gunslinger. The wheel chair bound warrior Susannah had to defeat her villainous alternate personality, Odetta Holmes, a vicious and evil woman who stood as the brave and loving Susannah’s polar opposite. Oh, and she is missing both of her legs. Finally, there is Jake, a boy who's like a son to Roland. The boy has to endure the fact that Roland once sacrificed Jake’s life to complete his quest. Despite his fear and young age, Jake is a knight equal to Roland and the others, a boy who proves that true heroism transcends age.
And then there’s Roland himself, the stoic, immovable hero who has journeyed through every age to stand between mankind and the void. Roland iss Arthur and Robin Hood, Achilles and Odysseus, Luke Skywalker and Batman, the archetype hero with a bombardier’s eye. Roland sacrifices everything for his quest, his true love, his comfort, and his future, because that’s what heroes do. They quest and they protect. Roland is the ultimate hero.
A version of this article ran on June 5, 2016.
Now that we've seen Josh Brolin as Cable in Deadpool 2, the bigger question is...who the hell is Cable?
With Cable making his film debut in Deadpool 2, where he'll be played by Josh Brolin, it’s been a common refrain amongst casual comics fans lately to ask those of us steeped in the folklore “Who is Cable and why should I care?”
Five hours later, when our response ends with a pile of X-Men comics being used to light an effigy of Bob Harras while we chant “NO MORE RETCONS! NO MORE RETCONS!” many of those casual fans are often scared away from the X-Men, comics in general, and our homes.
I’m here today to give you a clear, concise rundown of the history of Nathan Christopher Charles Summers...ha! Almost got it out with a straight face. The reality is Cable is a continuity black hole, but there’s a reason why he’s enduringly popular and I’m going to explain it to you in one sentence:
He’s a badass soldier from the future.
That’s the core of his appeal. There are layers (and layers and layers and layers...sweet Jesus are there layers) added over that, but at his core, he’s always just been a badass soldier from the future trying to build a badass army to prevent his awful future from coming to pass.
Cable was introduced in 1990 to be a new mentor to the second generation of X-students, the New Mutants. He was more militaristic than his predecessors: Charles Xavier, the secretly monstrous founder of the Xavier school, and Magneto, the surprisingly incompetent reformed nemesis. He also showed up packing heat - he was covered in giant guns to the point where he eventually became a parody/poster child for the excesses of '90s comics. But at the same time, he was placed at the center of the third age of X-Men comics, one defined by Apocalypse and soapy family relationships.
Cable was eventually revealed to be Nathan Christopher Summers, the child of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, taken into the future to save his life after he was infected with a virus that caused his body to morph into a pile of loose technology. While there, he discovered that he was destined to take down Apocalypse, the nigh-immortal mutant who eventually takes over the world and turns it into a Darwinist shitscape. He jumps back in time and takes control of the New Mutants to help further that goal.
He becomes an interesting case study in comics storytelling - almost a decade after his first introduction, he actually succeeds in destroying Apocalypse and averting his terrible future (don’t worry, it’s comics: Apocalypse gets better). That set him adrift for a little while, but his core stayed the same. He was a badass soldier from the future, and he stayed that way whether he was fighting brushfire wars in eastern Europe, protecting a mutant messiah as they’re chased through the future like it’s Lone Wolf and X-Cub, or saving the world with his omega level telepathy and telekinesis after his techno-organic virus was completely cured.
His link to Deadpool comes mostly from two things: they were both created by Rob Liefeld around the same time, and they shared the headlining role in one of Marvel’s better mainline hero books of the aughts, Cable and Deadpool. In that, Nate was mostly just the straight man in a straightforward superhero action/humor comic. Deadpool would do his thing (Bugs Bunny with an arsenal) while Cable did his (overpowered messiah saving the world with over-the-top action). It was a solid examination of some of Cable’s more absurd character elements, while also being a good, epic X-Men comic.
Most recently, Cable had a new series announced at Marvel. In it, he’ll be (wait for it) a badass soldier from the future, jumping through time to protect the timestream. So it looks like they see what we’ve been enjoying, too.
- In the Age of Apocalypse, Nate Grey was a clone made by Mr. Sinister to eventually challenge Apocalypse’s dominance. He was shunted to the 616 reality at the end of that mini-event and served no purpose in the main universe for a little while, until he was later reimagined as a weird mutant shaman and continued to serve no purpose but without being a direct rip on Cable.
- Ultimate Cable is genuinely funny. The Ultimate Universe was a stripped down version of the main Marvel universe, a direct response to '90s excesses in convoluted continuity and overused guest appearances. With that in mind, Ultimate Cable was actually a future version of Wolverine.
- Cable also appeared as a playable character in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. He had a giant gun beam spam move, and anyone who chose him was of loose morals.
- New Mutants #87 - Cable’s first appearance. It’s easy to see why he got so many people pumped. Rob Liefeld’s art, while not everyone's cup of tea, was also full of energy and enthusiasm and a lot of fun to look at.
- X-Cutioner’s Song - This 1992 X-Men crossover is almost entirely gibberish. This is where the Summers connection was revealed, and it was all about Cable, Stryfe, Cyclops, Jean, and Apocalypse. The art, however, is actually pretty good. It’s got early Jae Lee, Greg Capullo, Andy Kubert ,and Brandon Peterson, and they do a great job of giving the reader something to do besides get a headache trying to chart a family tree.
- The Twelve- Again, this is not a good comic, but it’s the pivot point of Cable’s story: here is where he stopped being Apocalypse’s nemesis and started being an ex-messiah.
- Cable & Deadpool - This is where people started taking Cable seriously again. It was a fun, fairly uncomplicated superhero book that had great Deadpool moments, and did a lot of good character work on Nate.
- Messiah Complex, Cable (vol. 2), Messiah War, and X-Men: Second Coming - This is my personal favorite era of X-Men comics. The three big crossovers are all very good, and focused on Cable and Hope. Cable’s solo book is also excellent, and you get some really good Badass Nathan Summers stuff in all of these.
- X-Force vol. 4- Simon Spurrier is a madman. This series is like if Grant Morrison played with Transformers as a kid: it’s got a vivid ‘80s feel to it, but it’s just weird and good. This series prominently features a character whose mutant power is you forget about him if you’re not looking directly at him. And it has Dr. Nemesis, who is hilarious.
- Uncanny Avengers - Gerry Duggan’s latest version of the X-Men/Avengers hybrid team has actually morphed into a follow up to Cable & Deadpool. It’s a straightforward superhero action book, but it’s got good character bits and is almost Busiek-like in its appreciation of Avengers and X-Men continuity.
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Stephen King's human villains are by far his most frightening. Here are 10 of his most deranged human antagonists...
Stephen King is the creator of many preternaturally terrifying villains. Vampires, devils, demonic clowns, aliens, witches, werewolves, dark wizards, and even a killer automobile or two, but it is his human monsters that are the most frightening. King’s serial killers, despots, murderers, bullies, and crooks of all types could be our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers, and even our family. They exist in the real world and lurk around every corner, just waiting for their moment to strike.
Here are just some of King’s most enduring human monsters that may not exist under your bed, but they could be next to you on a bus, in the next bathroom stall, or next to you on the couch.
10. Margaret White
"I can see your dirtypillows. Everyone will. They'll be looking at your body.”
Is there anything more vile than an abusive mother? In Carrie, Stephen King’s very first novel, the pig’s blood and the prom incident may have been the dynamite that caused Carrie White to finally explode, but make no mistake; Margaret White lit the fuse long before that fateful night.
Margaret’s first thought when she got pregnant with Carrie was that she had contracted "cancer of the womanly parts," and she didn’t treat her daughter much different after she was born. Insulting, torturing, punishing, judging, Margaret wielded religion like a sword. She betrayed her motherly duties by not educating Carrie about changes a young girl goes through which causes the inciting events that takes place after Carrie panics over the simple act of menstruation.
Margaret is a subtle evil, her every word possessed the power to shame her mentally fragile daughter. Carrie was a broken girl, broken by the woman that should have been her protector. Margaret drove her daughter insane and may have been the cause of Carrie’s incredible mental powers bursting free in a fit of her rage over her mother’s cruel hand. There are many villains on this list, killers and criminals who have no regard for anyone, but Margaret was a mother who should have protected her most precious gift, a child with incredible powers. Instead, Margaret was the demon she accused Carrie of being, and her brutal hands caused the first sting of cruelty in Carrie’s sad life.
9. John “Ace” Merrill
The Body (1982)
“We’re gonna get you for this. You're dead."
If The Body, adapted into the film Stand By Me in 1986, was about the last days of simplicity before the rigors of adulthood, than “Ace” Merrill was the wolf waiting to devour that innocence. Merrill went beyond a simple archetype of a bully; he was seemingly made of cruelty, a constant threat to a group of boys trying to live their last summer of true childhood. The four young protagonists' quest to see the dead body began out of innocent sense of curiosity, but Merrill seeks out the body in question with almost a serial killer’s obsession with death.
There is no goodness in Merrill; he exists to torment and to threaten. Merrill seems to have a sexual glee in the fear he inspires making him much more than a mean teenager that wants to bloody a few noses. Merrill seems to want to beat all joy and innocence out of the boys in his quest to be able to look death in the face. King again uses Merrill in Needful Things as an employee of Leland Gaunt. Listen, if a person works for Leland Gaunt, that person is a special kind of evil.
8. “Big” Jim Rennie and Junior Rennie
Under the Dome (2009)
“Murder is like potato chips. You can't stop with just one.”
Before Dome Day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, “Big” Jim Rennie was a meth dealing parasite disguised as a local politician who sucked his town dry of resources and morality. After Dome Day, he became a pocket Hitler that was determined to rule his town or destroy it. His son, Junior, was a serial killing sexual predator and a necrophiliac. Together, they were Chester’s Mill worst nightmare, and the residents of the domed city were trapped with them.
“Big Jim” is probably King’s most selfish villain, a black hole of greed that sucked everything into his void, while Junior was a time bomb, suffering from migraines, paranoia, and fits of rage. Father and son’s evil fed off each other with “Big” Jim’s apathy feeding Junior’s neediness and rage.
Junior was a more overt threat, with an attic full of rotting women he enjoyed diddling and a hunger for more, while his father was a subtle threat, a control freak that did not kill for appetite like his son, but for a need for control. “Big” Jim used the tragedy of the dome for his own benefit, becoming a dictator of a town besieged by tragedy, while Junior became the monster under the bed, Chester’s Mill’s own Grendel.
“Big” Jim hides behind a veneer of religious virtue while lying and betraying with every word he speaks, which makes him not only an irredeemable monster but a hypocrite of the highest order. He is the classic villain that truly believes himself to be the hero. Stephen King said that “Big Jim” was patterned after former Vice President Dick Cheney. We’ll let that one just sit there.
7. Craig Toomey
The Langoliers (1990)
“Time? What the hell do YOU know about time? Ask ME about time, ask ME!”
A man like Craig Toomey is dangerous in any situation. He is the ticking time bomb that will walk into a diner or a school and open fire just because he had a bad day. He is the rage and the hatred that could live behind the eyes of any man. When you put this type of volatile sociopath on an airplane that gets lost in time, you have a scenario of pure soul chilling terror.
In The Langoliers, a commercial airplane gets displaced from time. The people on board are forced to witness giant, round creatures devour the seconds left behind them. Lost, confused, and desperate the passengers must work together; it’s too bad that one of them had just become completely unhinged.
Toomey was evil before the plane disappeared, he cost his company millions of dollars, and he did it purposely, to watch the suffering it caused his co-workers and peers. He has an overinflated sense of self importance that feels the world exists only for him. As he sits on the lost plane and slowly tears paper, each rip signals another piece of his sanity unraveling. The Langoliers presents an extraordinary situation, but the truly frightening aspect of a man like Toomey is that he can appear anywhere at any moment, on any plane or any shopping mall, ready to snap and make sure innocents are caught in his explosion.
6. Mother Carmody
The Mist (1980)
“The end of times has come. Not in flames, but in mist.”
When a group of shoppers are trapped in a supermarket by a mist containing otherworldly, flesh hungry creatures, it is the evil on the inside of the store the survivors must be most wary of...the evil of Mother Carmody. Like Toomey, Carmody is one of King’s recurring villainous archetypes, the everyday human evil that makes a bad situation so much worse.
Carmody thinks she has God on her side, a cruel Old Testament God that is punishing humanity with the Mist. She is so charismatic that the terrified shoppers start to believe her. She is the worst of the Westboro Baptist Church mixed with Jim Jones, a charismatic lunatic who is able to sway people to her cause. She turns the supermarket into her own mini-Salem Witch Trial, and demands sacrifice to her God so the mists will dissipate.
Her ability to turn normal people into bloodthirsty zealots through manipulation is her most frightening ability, along with the way she takes God’s words and ideals and uses them to fill her own bloodlust. She is a mythical witch, a hag in human form that always has a Bible quote ready. She is everything potentially wrong with religion and faith embodied in the form of a lone woman. All she has to do is evoke the name of God, and people do her killing for her.
5. Henry Bowers
“You're dead meat, fat boy.”
Like “Ace” Merrill, Bowers is a school bully who terrorizes his neighborhood. The gleeful joy in human suffering makes him a terrifying human evil in a book fraught with supernatural danger. Bowers torments The Loser Club, King’s protagonists in It. Bowers carves part of his name in Ben Hanscom’s belly, he whitewashes Stan Uris’ face in the snow until Stan is lacerated, he breaks arms and glasses, Bowers’ presence is almost as soul clenching as Pennywise the Clown, and in many ways, Bowers is worse.
Pennywise, or It, was put on Earth to kill, he is a monster whose existence is defined by killing, Bowers chooses to cause pain and spread fear. His potential for violence informs readers that as he gets older, Bowers’ cruelty will escalate to rape and murder. Bowers is so evil that he is framed for It’s killings because people fully believe that the abhorrent boy was capable of such acts. Later in life, as The Losers return to Derry, It is able to use Bowers as an agent. Bower’s cruel but human heart makes him a perfect puppet for Pennywise, a manipulable bag of cruelty in human skin.
4. Wardens George Dunahy, Greg Stammas, and Samuel Norton
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (1982)
“Nothing stops. Nothing...or you will do the hardest time there is. No more protection from the guards. I'll pull you out of that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the Sodomites.”
In the novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, it is three greedy and wretched wardens that force Andy Dufresne to come up with an escape plan for the ages. The three wardens combine together to make one piece of crap. They don’t see Andy or the other prisoners as humans, they seem them as means to an end, pack horses to be worked and ridden till they die. All the evil in Shawshank happens under their watch, the beatings, the rapes, the murders, and all three are so apathetic to the plight of their charges that it makes the three wardens of justice worse than the prisoners they are charged with keeping.
All three take a perverse pleasure into robbing Andy and the others of life’s simple pleasures, they enjoy playing gods, all knowing and cruel. When Andy and his accounting skills become important, they would do anything to keep him there so they could make a buck off his skills, innocent or not. The wardens are the devil of Andy’s Hell. When Andy does formulate his escape he does so in a way that he can also bring down Norton, a fitting end for the last of a series of vile men whose evil managed to make the unendurable worse.
3. William “Wild Bill” Wharton
The Green Mile (1996)
“You can come in here all you likes, but you'll go out on you backs. Billy the kid gon' guarantee you that.”
The prisoners of The Green Mile, like those of The Shawshank Redemption, were meant to be sympathetic, everyday men who had made horrible mistakes and waited for their day to exit this world. They were real people, who had interests, loves, fears, and hopes...all except “Wild Bill” Wharton.
Wharton was the anti-John Coffey. Where Coffey lived to ease the pain of others, Wharton lived to cause it. Wharton was no more responsible for his actions than a hurricane or a tragic car accident; he was a force of destruction in human skin, an uncaring blade in the darkness. John Coffey was in jail for killing two little twin girls, an unspeakable act of cruelty that set into motion the events of the novel. It turns out; Wharton committed the act, and enjoyed it. He did it not for money or to gain power, he did it because the twins were just there and Wharton could not abide beings so innocent to simply exist. Wharton’s sins are many, like the murder of a pregnant woman during a robbery, and every word he said made readers want to shower.
2. Percy Wetmore
The Green Mile (1996)
“You've been declared competent, son, 'know what that means? 'Means you gonna ride the lightning.”
Yeah, two villains from The Green Mile. It really is that darn good. While William Wharton is a primal sort of evil, Percy Wetmore is a cruel and petty evil that can be potentially more dangerous. The inmates living on the Green Mile must constantly face the specter of death that is their punishment. Wetmore makes sure that each moment these lost souls spend on the Mile is filled with mocking cruelty that sucks any hope and joy from their last days.
As fans know, one of the inmates kept a mouse named Mr. Jingles as a pet, as a way to find joy and self-worth during the prisoner’s last days. When Wetmore steps on the mouse just to watch its owner suffer, it is one of the most enduring moments of pointless cruelty in modern literature. Wetmore does not stop there; he sabotages an execution just to watch a man suffer, causing the prisoner to catch fire and making his last moments an unspeakable agony.
Wetmore does all this because he can. He is a man completely corrupted by power and his position of authority. When confronted with a true evil, Wharton, Wetmore wilts, losing his bravado and reveals himself to be a coward. His hypocrisy and random acts of abject cruelty makes him a greater evil than a man like Wharton. Wharton’s evil just is, while Wetmore chooses to cause pain because it makes him feel like a man. Wetmore’s evil is a coward’s sort of evil designed to make a small man feel large.
1. Annie Wilkes
“SLIPPED AWAY! SLIPPED AWAY? SHE DIDN'T JUST SLIP AWAY! YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT! YOU MURDERED MY MISERY!”
King fans are more familiar with Annie Wilkes, Paul Sheldon’s number one fan, than probably any other King villain besides maybe Jack Torrance or Pennywise the Clown, but Annie possesses the insidious evil that makes her top this list. She is the evil lurking behind the eyes of even the most unassuming person.
On the surface, Annie is a lonely spinster, a woman who lives for her novels by author Paul Sheldon. She is seemingly as harmless as a sponge cake, until poor Paul gets into a car wreck and ends up in Nurse Annie’s care, right when he killed Annie’s favorite character in his books. Annie is not happy and what follows is a harrowing journey through pain and control. It turns out Annie was a dragon lady, having committed several infant murders as well as murdering her own father. Sweet, matronly Annie, seemingly so naïve and out of touch was a cunningly evil master criminal who now had her favorite author under her complete control (no fans, do not dream of having George R.R. Martin in this situation, it wouldn’t be right).
Miserybrings up the themes of the responsibility of a caregiver and how much power someone like a nurse really has on her charges, a power that Annie profanes by torturing Paul and inflicting her iron will on his helpless person. Annie cuts of Paul’s leg and seals the wound with an iron and slices off his thumb for daring to complain that the typewriter she forces him to use is missing a letter. She takes glee in causing his suffering which makes her more than a sick person, but a devil disguised as an angel of mercy.
Annie is like a cruel and ancient god, stone like and immovable, a powerful will and a cunning mind in a doughy and harmless looking body. Annie’s evil is sudden and shocking, making her King’s greatest human villain, and if you disagree, well, that’s just to bad for you Mr. Man.
A version of this article first appeared on September 5, 2014.