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- 10/20/17--10:07: _The Sandman: The Es...
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- 10/20/17--10:07: The Sandman: The Essential Horror Comic of the '90s
- 10/20/17--12:30: The Walking Dead Season 8: A Spoiler-Filled Guide to All Out War
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- 10/20/17--13:36: Project 13 Will Be The CW’s Next DC Comics Series
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While The Sandman had plenty of literary aspirations, it was always a horror comic at heart.
When Sandman began in 1989, Neil Gaiman was just another British writer following in the footsteps of the likes of Alan Moore. When it ended, Gaiman had created one of the most enduring long form pieces of fiction of the twentieth century and carved out a niche for himself as an industry giant. Sandman broke barriers and expectations taking comics into a new dawn of possibilities. By creating stories about the nature of dreams, Mr. Gaiman and his team of artists (including luminaries like Sam Keith, Dave McKean, Jill Thompson, Michael Zulli, and more) dared the comic industry to dream bigger.
Sandman transcended so-called industry limitations because it didn’t pigeonhole itself into one genre. Sandman was epic fantasy at its finest, grand in scope and ideas, it was a metaphysical examination on the nature of fiction, and it was, at its heart, a horror story. In a 1998 interview with Hero Complex, Neil Gaiman discussed the nature of horror at Sandman’s beginning, “At the beginning it was a horror comic. Those first eight issues was a sort of horror comic. After that it became more of, I guess, a fantasy tale, but one that allowed me to go off and write about Shakespeare or history.” Yes, after the first eight issues, Sandman morphed into something beyond a horror comic, but the horror roots remained throughout the book's 75 issue run, a dark sun at the center of a complex and ever changing universe, making Sandman one of the most influential horror comics in history.
Sandman was a unique project in that it explored myths and legends from every angle and iteration. It made the concept of story a character within a story, as all stories live in Dream, the series' Robert Smith quaffed protagonist. It was a non-linear endeavor, jumping around through time and space as quickly as it jumped around point-of-view. One issue would be told from the POV of Dream, another from William Shakespeare, another from an obscure, almost forgotten comic book character like Prez or Element Girl.
Not only did Sandman mine horror tropes of modern and classic fiction, it made the horror icons of the DC Universe an important part of the story. For years, DC Comics featured Cain & Abel, the Three Witches, and Destiny as the hosts of their line of horror anthologies. By the time Sandman was published, these characters were all but footnotes, but Gaiman made them integral parts of his mythos. Cain and Abel and the Witches would soon return in other titles, becoming iconic Vertigo staples. While Gaiman weaved his horror legend in Sandman, he made sure the roots of DC horror were never forgotten.
From the earliest issues of Sandman, the title’s horror roots were evident. In the first issue, Sandman is captured by the magician Roderick Burgess, who, in Gaiman’s story, is a rival of famed occultist Aleister Crowley. The Faustian deal is the first of an endless series of horror tropes utilized in Sandman. Burgess, based in part on seventeenth century real life alchemist, mathematician, and wannabe demon summoner, John Dee, was originally trying to capture Dream’s sister, Death, but ended up with the Sandman.
With the center of a familiar horror story beating, Gaiman spread his tale throughout the DC Universe and real life occult history. The inaugural issue ends, decades later, with Sandman escaping, punishing Burgess’ son with a lifetime of nightmares. The ironic and suitable revenge gives the first issue a Poe-like finality, as the guilty is punished through the destruction of a family legacy.
After Dream’s escape, the first volume of Sandman, "Preludes and Nocturnes," centered on Dream’s exploration of the DC Universe as he sought his magic totems. This quest took him inside the dreams of DC mainstays like Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle, and even inside the walls of one of DC’s most horrific settings, Arkham Asylum. The very name of the prison for the insane was lifted from the works of H.P. Lovecraft creating a perfect synergy of horror elements from pulp literature and comics.
Before his journey takes him to Arkham, Dream finds himself in Hell, the root point of all supernatural horror tales. In this setting, Gaiman gets to play with horror elements like demons, the damned, and the nature of eternal torment. Most of all, readers are introduced to Lucifer, a character who defies his own archetype and comes off as a multi-layered character where evil is just a small piece of a complex puzzle. He is a sophisticate, an aristocrat, a polite devil (and occasional David Bowie lookalike), who wants to play a game of wits with Dream.
There is no greater horror icon than Lucifer, but Gaiman stretches the genre to shape Lucifer into a new type of horror, a self-aware demon inflicted with ennui. Gaiman ask the question, if the most evil being in creation finds existence meaningless, what chance do the rest of us mere mortals have. At Lucifer’s side was Mazikeen, a demoness who had half her visage rotted and peeled away. In Mazikeen, we see the temptress on one side, the crone on the other, a physical horror who had her once beautiful form transformed into a monstrosity. The kiss shared by Mazikeen and Lucifier remains one of the most enduring and disturbing visuals in the entire series. In The Sandman’s new world of horror, the things that go bump in the night had fears of their own.
This willingness to shake the fabric of myth and legend was seen in Sandman’s next stop, Arkham Asylum. Gaiman took readers to Hell, but now he took them to Hell on Earth, where readers were reintroduced to the Silver Age Justice League villain, Dr. Destiny. Veteran readers knew Dr. Destiny as a classic Justice League villain, but as usual, Gaiman defied convention, and even the most stone hearted comic book reader could not be prepared for what Destiny would do next.
Wielding Dream’s mind controlling ruby, Destiny experiments on a group of diner customers, what follows is one of the most claustrophobic, harrowing, and visceral stories ever to appear on a comic page. The reading experience is enhanced by the fact that readers were familiar with Destiny: once he was a "safe" villain, going only as far as comic villains go, no different than, say, a Kanjar Ro or an Insect Queen, but now, this familiar baddie from the bygone days of childhood had committed unspeakable acts. Like all great horror stories, Sandman had turned the sacred into the profane, the innocence of the Silver Age into the anything goes carnival ride that was the experimental age, or, as MTV Geek says in this 2012 review, ”the story asks what would happen if you gave a complete and utter lunatic the power of a god?” After the Destiny issue, fans knew that there was no safety net for this series, that the horror was real, and it would not spare the innocent.
The Sandman series became more of a modern Dark Fantasy in “The Doll’s House” rather than the pure horror of “Preludes and Nocturnes,” but there can be no doubt that both classic and innovative horror elements are part of the second volume. Where the story starts out as a modern fantasy quest, there are plenty of stopovers in the protagonist’s (Rose) journey into realms of true horror. Early on in the second volume, Sandman meets an escaped nightmare from the realm of Dreaming, the Corinthian.
If one considers horror to be reality out of control, the Corinthian is the metaphysical idea that pushed reality off the rails. He is a horrid creature, two mouths where his eyes should be and absolutely no morals. The Corinthian is the nightmare archetype, to match the Jungian ideas embodied in other characters like Cain, Abel, Eve, and Fiddler’s Green. When readers see the Corinthian’s gaping maw of an orbital socket they understand a cloud just passed over the sun of the Dreaming. It’s one thing to have the Corinthian exist on metaphysical realm of the Dreaming, but it’s another to have this nightmare made flesh tear into the real world and threaten our all too flesh and blood heroine. In her brilliant look at horror archetypes, author Shannon Appelcline describes the archetype of the devourer, a category that the Corinthian certainly fits, “Some things do not wish to simply murder us, but rather to prey upon us instead. We provide some sort of substance to them, and in this way we are no more than cattle.” For the Corinthian, that sustenance would be human fear.
Along with beings like the Corinthian, there were contemporary nightmares to focus on. One of the most memorable of these modern terrors was the serial killer convention featured in “The Doll’s House.” Comic fans are certainly familiar with the convention experience, and by applying this joyful community activity to serial killers, Mr. Gaiman showed the horror of his world is just part of the landscape. The examination into the serial killer was given a fresh coat of paint in the fresh idea of a serial killer gathering, or as a 2013 article on this gathering of killers states, “Gaiman offers poignant observations that disturb and fascinate. What do serial killers talk about at a convention? Do they enjoy dancing? What do they like to drink? Indeed, their casual intrigues are some of the most notable moments of the issue.” This casual approach to the serial killer archetype somehow makes them even more frightening. The idea that these monsters get to enjoy their life through play and social interactions contrasts the final state of their victims. The convention shows that nightmare is not limited to the Dreaming.
The nature of horror is change, from the predictable to the uncontrollable, to the mundane to the unknowable. This theme can be seen in the transformation of man to wolf in the Wolfman, from living to dead in the countless zombie films of the past half century, or from man to demon in many films and stories, including DC’s own Etrigan the Demon. The nature of dream is change, from wakefulness to sleep, from reality to dream logic. Horror and dreaming are similar states where a person has no control. When a man dreams, he rolls the dice between metaphysical experiences, surreal experiences, and nightmare, so it was only natural that the natural order of things in the Dreaming was, at times, horror.
Volume three of Sandman, “Dream Country,” was an exploration of the different possibilities of dream. One such story juxtaposes the familiar elements of a super-hero tale with the horror of body alteration and mental illness. The unlikely protagonist of the story was Element Girl, an almost forgotten DC heroine. In the tale, Element Girl longs for death as she grows weary with her freakish metahuman anatomy. Tired of her existence as a super freak, Element Girl ponders suicide even though her powers make her functionally immortal. The tale explores the dark heart of a once innocent genre as Gaiman forces the horrors of self-doubt and self-loathing into the heart of a once innocent symbol of heroism. The story explores the theme of the horrors of everyday life to a being who has been gifted, or cursed, with the extraordinary. It is a poignant and gut wrenching tale that strangely ends on a happy note when Dream’s sister, Death, finally visits Element Girl granting her release. The constant irony of The Sandman is that Dream potentially brings horrors but Death always brings mercy and release.
The Sandman, being the living embodiment of dream, hands out rich fantasies and nightmares depending on his situation. Dream saves Rose in Doll’s House but willingly inflicts horrors on his own true love, Nada. In volume four, “Season of Mists,” Dream returns to Hell to release the woman he imprisoned there so long ago. Nada’s tragic tale is one of feminist horror as she takes on the role of victim and is tormented for her feminine nature. She is the roll of love, not temptress or vixen, but of a pure love that Dream could not reciprocate. She is the victim wandering in the darkness waiting for the monster to strike, but In Nada’s case, the monster was Gaiman’s protagonist blurring the lines between hero and monster in Gaiman’s world.
These lines are further blurred as Dream is given the key to Hell by Lucifer, who wishes to abandon his duties as Hell’s keeper. What follows is Dream’s quest to find the new ruler of Hell, as horror archetypes vie for the key. Gaiman humanizes them, filling the demons with unfulfilled desire and ambition. They become more than just boogiemen, but dreamers themselves. In fact, the story ends with the greatest monster in world history, Lucifer, the devil himself, sitting on a beach admiring a sunset. By having the antithesis of God studying God’s divine work, the traditional horror role is cast away, informing the reader that the greatest monsters are not always the ones cast in the role, as the suffering of Nada at the usually magnanimous Dream reminds us.
The horrors in Sandman are sometimes friendly, like the Dead Boy Detectives and Death herself, but they never stop being unsettling. Readers want to be Superman or Batman, that is the nature of heroic storytelling, but what reader is not chilled to the core by the Dead Boy Detectives? The reader is drawn to them, feels for them, and roots for them, but no reader would ever want to be them. That is their role in the hierarchy of horror: they may be likable, but they will always remain removed from the reader’s reliability. The same idea of the likable but chilling archetype is embodied in the witch, Thessaly. Like the Dead Boys, Thessaly is every inch a witch, and while she is likable and compelling, she is an incredibly unsettling character, because her character roots are firmly planted in the realm of horror.
Thessaly is introduced in volume five, “A Game of You,” a story that plays with gender identity and societal acceptance of those who dwell outside the accepted moralistic reality of the waking world. The main characters of the story are Barbie and Wanda. Wanda is a cross dresser defined by her birth role of male, but readers of Sandman get to see her in the metaphysical context of the Dreaming and she is every bit a women. The horror she is forced to endure is that her identity does not match up in the physical world and the dream world. In the world of Sandman, even monsters have their place, but Wanda is forced to exist removed from her given role. Her death and subsequent funeral are heart breaking and stays with a reader. Her tombstone, with her male name carved into it for eternity because her own family refuses to accept her identity, is as chilling and as brutal as any vampire, zombie, or serial killer. It is the horror of omission, and it is subtle but as enduringly brutal as any other event in Sandman.
Barbie defies her role as token bimbo and takes a heroes journey, but her greatest asset was Wanda, who was vilified and ostracized the same way monsters are because of her lack of comfortable gender role. Wanda’s horror is that nobody recognized the endless potential within her, or as Gaiman writes, “everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds … not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe,” Wanda’s tragedy is that these worlds were marginalized and deemed impure. In this story, human judgment became the monster as equal to the Corinthian in its destructive power.
“Fables and Reflections” is volume six of Sandman and is an ambitious non-linear look at power throughout history. Each story not only focuses on the nature of power, but also the horror myths of many cultures. Within the confines of these stories The Sandman gives readers takes on classic monsters like Werewolves (The Hunt),demons from many cultures (Ramadan), the Greek version of Hell (The Song of Orpheus), the human horror of the French Revolution (Thermidor), and even a tale set firmly in the DC Universe is not excluded from the dark horrors of those that hunger for power (The Parliament of Rooks).
“The Song of Orpheus” is particularly embedded in horror tradition as Dream must sacrifice his son, Orpheus. Orpheus’ tale is an ancient myth given a modern spin by Gaiman, one that darkens an already enduring horror tale. Orpheus is forced to endure a beheading and an eternal existence as a sentient head. The trope of dismemberment and decapitation is ripe throughout horror history, and having it be a part of the story of someone so close to Dream makes the use of the body modification horror that much more effective and visceral. In the Orpheus tale and through the victimization of Nada, Dream, like dreams are wont to do, takes on more of a monster role.
Monsters, as Appelcline says, are “an easy formula — an easy way to create both feelings of horror in the face of evil and feelings of powerlessness in the face of power. It's an easy way to marry subtext and text in a well-known and accepted way,” and aren’t dreams a place where we often feel powerless and fearful? The creator of that state must be defined by the uncertain roles of dream. In Sandman, at times, the very nature of Dream is the ultimate horror, or as Rose Walker puts it in Doll’s House, ”If my dream was true, then everything we know, everything we think we know is a lie. It means the world's about as solid and as reliable as a layer of scum on the top of a well of black water which goes down forever, and there are things in the depths that I don't even want to think about. It means that we're just dolls.” If horror is manipulation of accepted reality, than the nature of dream is the master manipulator, the sleeping Satan that cannot have a stake driven though its heart and will not wilt to holy water.
It’s this dichotomy that makes Dream so fascinating. He can be the being saving Rose from the serial killers, or the monster that turned Nada into the eternal victim. His family, the Endless also exist in a series of dichotomies, the most disturbing being Delirium. Delirium takes center stage in “Brief Lives,” from Sandman volume seven. In “Brief Lives,” Delirium and Dream go on a heroic quest through modern America to find their lost brother Destruction.
Delirium fits the horror archetype of the broken girl, her every utterance a reminder of a horrific tragedy that forever altered her being. Delirium was once Delight and something so bad happened to the once giddily happy girl that she is now a Dadaistic amorphous creature barely held together. She is the consequence of being a victim and a constant reminder that even hypothetical beings can know suffering. The quest takes Dream and Delirium to the dark corners of America, and Dream must reconcile with the horrors that betook his son Orpheus. In this story, Sandman is a caretaker for Delirium but also still the monster responsible for what happened to Orpheus, two opposing natures that he must rectify if he and his little sister are to find Destruction.
The apotheosis of any effective horror story is finality or death. In Sandman, the last three volumes, “World’s End,” “The Kindly Ones,” and “The Wake,” are meditations on the final nature of death but also the immortality of stories. In “World’s End” a group of travelers are stranded in, another horror trope, a strange inn. There, the stranded travelers tell tales to pass the time. The first story, “A Tale of Two Cities,” is clearly in the grand horror tradition of H.P. Lovecraft. In the story, a man who believes himself to be living in a world dreamed up by a slumbering city. The old Lovecraftian technique of a reality that exists just beneath the surface of the accepted reality is on full display, giving the reader a sense of chilling unease, the last story in World’s End (Cerements) focuses on the burial rituals of many diverse cultures allowing the reader to feel the inevitably of death.
The penultimate arc of Sandman, “The Kindly Ones,” explores literary horror traditions by combining the structure of an ancient Greek tragedy in the context of a modern graphic novel. The ancient Greek play writers were no stranger to visceral horror. One reading of Oedipus the King or the Bacchae and modern readers will understand where horror tradition stemmed from. From images of anatomical atrocity to tales of human suffering, the Greeks pretty much created many traditions that still endure in horror literature. In the Kindly Ones, we see modern comic book imagery (like casting the Three Witches of the Bronze Age DC horror titles in the role of the Greek chorus) and uses the classic literary monsters (the Kindly Ones, or the Furies) as the means of punishing Dream for his many transgressions, particularly the death of Orpheus.
The Kindly Ones appeared in the Oresteia as vengeful spirits that exist to destroy those who spilled familial blood. They play the same role in Sandman, horrific beasts that are forces of nature. Their existence is one of pure literary terror as they fulfill the role of the unstoppable creature that the protagonist cannot hope to survive. Their very existence speaks to a level of darkness in both literal and fictional reality, the all-consuming entropy that all must face. Throughout the Sandman series, Lyta Hall played a peripheral role, an obscure and almost forgotten super-hero, the Fury; Lyta blames Dream for the disappearance of her son, Daniel. Lyta, a being that once existed in the black and white world of super-heroes, lashes out at Dream for making her suffer the loss of her child. Through Lyta, Gaiman inserts a character that was not created to exist in a world of cosmic horrors. Her insertion into the dark story spells Dream’s end, as Lyta, the heroic Fury, summons the Kindly Ones, the literary Furies to devour their intended victim. Having spilled the blood of his only son, Dream is the right victim for the ancient horrors, and is devoured by the beasts. Soon, Dream is reborn in Lyta’s son Daniel, signaling the rebirth of Dream and a new beginning for the endless cycle of stories.
Sandman was many things; it was a balance between hope and horror, dreams and nightmares. It was an examination of how stories have potential to inspire or to scare, to carefully deconstruct the best the world has to offer or serve as a warning of the monsters that lurk in every shadow. As a celebration of story, Neil Gaiman and a host of brilliant artists offered readers all kinds of horrors, from the ancient Greek monsters, to devouring myths from every culture, to modern serial killers, to contemporary comic book horror hosts, Sandman cast its dark shadow throughout the entirety of the horror genre. Of course, Sandman was more than just a venue for scares; it was a loving tribute to the art of story and the nature of the subconscious, but horror was the glue that held the world of Sandman together.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Hey, remember that time Dracula fought the Hulk? Or the X-Men? Or Spider-Man? No? Well, you're in luck, because we do!
Dracula. The very name conjures images of sexuality, corruption, and decadence. From the original novel written by Bram Stoker in 1897 to the moment Bela Lugosi donned the famed opera cloak in 1931, the character of Dracula has been an iconic horror staple.
In fact, Dracula has been the subject of 217 films, second only to the number of films starring Sherlock Holmes. But films, novels, and television aren't the only genres that have contained Dracula’s bloodlust. Comic books have been a compelling source for new Dracula material. Marvel Comics in particular have been a happy hunting ground for the Lord of the Vampires.
After the easing of Comic Code restrictions in the early seventies, Stan Lee and Marvel were eager to explore classic monsters in the pages of their books. When the code loosened its grip, Lee and company were able to resurrect the four color boogiemen that lay forgotten for so long. In 1972, writer Gerry Conway and artist Gene Colan introduced Tomb of Dracula and a legend was born. Now there was a version of Dracula that borrowed from Stoker and Lugosi stalking the same fictional universe as Spider-Man and the Avengers.
Soon, writer Marv Wolfman would take over the writing chores on Tomb of Dracula and create one of the greatest continuing horror sagas in comic book history. Within the pages of Tomb of Dracula, Wolfman introduced the vampiric detective Hannibal King, Lilith (Dracula’s Daughter), and most importantly, Blade, the Vampire Hunter, who, as all fans know, kicked off the current superhero movie boom.
Dracula existed within the Marvel Universe, but other than rare occasions not many Marvel heroes appeared in Dracula’s book, giving the title a sense of isolation from the rest of the Marvel Universe. That is not to say that Dracula has not stalked the titles of the mainstream Marvel heroes. Oh no, dear reader, the Prince of Darkness has cast his shadow on many Marvel heroes, making him one of the greatest, if often overlooked villains in Marvel history. Here is a look at times Dracula, the greatest monster of them all, has stalked the Marvel Universe.
Dracula Meets Spider-Man
Giant Sized Spider-Man #1 (1974)
By Len Wein and Ross Andru
In this tale, Aunt May is suffering from a rare blood disease because she’s Aunt May. Spidey learns that the only man that has the cure is an eccentric doctor that refuses to travel by plane. Spider-Man learns from Reed Richards that the scientist is traveling by ship, so Spidey gets his webbed ass to the ship to find the doctor.
Also on board the ship are members of the Maggia who want the formula, and of course, Dracula himself who is also after it. Hilarity ensues as Dracula dispatches the crooks one by one, and throws the Maggia leader overboard.
The book is a send up of the classic death at sea sequence of Stoker’s Dracula, as Dracula feeds off the Maggia onboard. While never featuring a direct confrontation between hero and vampire, this issue served as a warning...Dracula is out there.
Allied with the Avengers (1973)
by Steve Englehart and Bob Brown
Ironically, one of the first times Dracula was drawn into the events of the Marvel Universe, he did so to defend humanity! In the Avengers/Defenders war, often considered to be the first true crossover in comics history, the Dread Dormammu opened a dimensional gateway to Earth. The Avengers and Defenders were stuck in Dormammu’s dimension so could not defend the Earth from an incursion by the savage Mindless Ones, headless beings that thrive on destruction. A group of super-powered champions on Earth, not knowing where the Mindless Ones were pouring on from, took up arms to protect their home.
One of these beings was none other than Dracula, who along with such heroes as Power Man, the Fantastic Four, and Ka-Zar, fought back against the Mindless Ones. But don’t think Dracula was acting magnanimously true believers; imagine if a horde of beasts was smashing your favorite eatery. That’s what Earth is to Dracula, a theme restaurant with an all you can eat buffet of jugulars.
Yes, Dracula fought the Mindless Ones, but in doing so he made sure his food supply remained strong and proved to Marvel readers just how badass he was by taking on the Mindless Ones...creatures capable of going toe to toe with the Hulk!
The Creation of Baron Blood (1976)
By Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins
One of Captain America’s most enduring foes was created by none other than Dracula. What’s more evil than a Nazi vampire? Pretty much nothing, which makes Baron Blood one of the most vile creatures in the Marvel Universe. In the dark days of World War II, John Farnsworth was an English aristocrat obsessed with vampire lore. When he travels to Transylvania, he encounters Dracula, who transforms Farnsworth into the living dead.
Dracula sends blood to England to punish the country for the actions of Dracula’s nemesis Jonathon Harker. As Baron Blood, Farnsworth fought the Invaders, Captain America, and even his own brother who adopted the heroic persona of the first Union Jack.
Blood’s days of fighting for the Axis were cut short when the Sub-Mariner staked the bejesus out of him. Blood was resurrected in the modern day by a minion of Dracula and fought a legendary battle with his old foe, Captain America. Now, a Nazi vampire is pretty badass, but a Nazi vampire created by Dracula himself? That’s some legendary bloodsucker right there!
Dracula vs. Doctor Strange (1976)
Tomb of Dracula #44
By Steve Englehart and Gene Colon
The Lord of Darkness fed off Dr. Strange (he probably tasted like sage, cinnamon, and quickly forgotten dreams), in the pages of Tomb of Dracula #44. In Strange’s own book, Dracula locks the Sorcerer Supreme in a dungeon so he can watch the embraced Doctor arise as a vampire. That’s quite a sense of irony Marvel’s Dracula possesses, huh?
Little did Dracula know that Strange astral projected out of his body before Dracula could finish the fateful bite. Strange uses his astral form to mess with Dracula who furiously arrives at the dungeon after days of being mocked and prodded by the wizard.
An awesome fight ensues between a vampiric Doctor Strange and Dracula which Strange wins by conjuring a blazing crucifix. The edge in the battle went to Strange who seemed to be one step ahead of Dracula, but let us not forget that during their first encounter Dracula easily dispatched Strange with one bite. Dracula’s mistake was letting Strange have time to plot, but the first struggle would foreshadow a climatic future encounter between the magician and vampire.
Dracula vs. Howard the Duck? (1980)
Howard the Duck Magazine #5
By Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden
Not all Dracula appearances in the Marvel Universe are legendary but that doesn’t make them any less cool. The following is a treatise on why comics are awesome.
While visiting Cleveland, Dracula spots Howard the Duck. Thinking Howard to be a midget in a duck suit, the Lord of the Undead bites Howard (did I just type that?) but is disgusted by the non-human blood flowing in Howard’s veins. However, Howard is transformed into Drakula (not Duckula or Quakula?) and preys on other ducks.
Howard is restored to his normal self and is actually able to stake Dracula before the vampire can feed off Howard’s hottie girlfriend, Beverly Switzer.
Dracula Joins The Defenders (1981)
By J.M. DeMatteis and Don Perlin
Ah, the Defenders, the parking place for awesomely odd Bronze Age characters.
In one of the non-team’s most memorable storylines, the Defenders were being beleaguered by the Six Fingered Hand. With newer members Hellcat, Gargoyle, and Son of Satan in tow, the Defenders arrive back to Doctor Strange’s mansion only to be attacked by a possessed Dracula. It seems the Six Fingered Hand had gained control over all vampires.
Proving his awesomeness, the Son of Satan breaks the Hand’s control of Dracula, and agrees to help the Vampire Lord take back Transylvania from the Hand. The team with powerhouses like Strange and the Asgardian Valkyrie are just window dressing as the Son of Satan kicks the Hands' collective butts, destroys a metric ton of vampires by summoning sunlight, and saves Dracula’s undead bacon.
This was the first time Marvel used Dracula as an anti-hero in a super-hero title, an honorable villain who was as comfortable in the role of defender of his people as he was bloodsucking fiend. It was a brief union, but among his many roles in the Marvel Universe, Dracula will always be recognized as a Defender.
Dracula vs. The X-Men (1982)
Uncanny X-Men #159
By Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz
Monster mash-ups are a staple of the genre. While not traditional monsters at all, mutants meeting Dracula have the same cache as Dracula versus Frankenstein or the Wolfman, it’s just a match made, erm...not in heaven.
Structured like a classic horror film, Uncanny X-Men #159 sees Storm the victim in a very odd mugging. When someone overpowered the weather goddess and cut her throat, Storm suddenly finds herself wanting to die, inviting a stranger through her window at night, drawing back from Kitty Pryde’s Star of David, and shunning sunlight. You don’t have to be Bram Stoker to see where this is going and an epic confrontation between vampire and mutant takes place. The X-Men take out Dracula’s monstrous rat and canine minions, but fall before Dracula, all except Nightcrawler who has the faith to drive the vampire off with a makeshift cross.
When Storm arrives, Dracula finds that he cannot control the primal Storm, who stands tall and proud. In an awesome moment, Dracula tells Storm it was her inner strength that compelled him and after a standoff, Dracula retreats. This was Claremont at his finest, giving each X-Man a moment to shine and writing a classic and pretty damn scary Dracula in the process. The issue created an indelible bond between the X-Men and Dracula, one that stands till this day.
In the 1982 Uncanny X-Men Annual #6, the battle between the X-Men and Dracula continues as Kitty Pryde is possessed by Dracula’s daughter and one of his most enduring foes, Lilith. It was another compelling confrontation that deepens the threat Dracula had on mutantkind.
Dracula vs. Thor (1983)
By Alan Zelenetz and Don Perlin
Not satisfied with feeding off ducks, mutants, and wizards, Dracula sets his sights on embracing Lady Sif. In Thor #332, Dracula succeeds in feeding and turning Sif. In issue 333, Thor must face a Dracula empowered by god blood (comics = awesome), and an embraced Sif.
This story was significant in showing what a powerhouse Dracula was and established the idea that if Dracula fed off a non-human being, he would be fueled by their powerful blood. Thor managed to free Sif, but not before fans realized that Dracula was a threat to everyone, god, mutant, or human.
The Death of a Legend (1983)
Doctor Strange #59-62
By Roger Stern and Dan Green
In Doctor Strange #59-62, Strange and a group of companions including Dracula hunters Blade and the vampiric detective Hannibal King close all the plot threads left over from Tomb of Dracula and close the door on Marvel’s vampires for a quite a while. Aided by Avengers Captain Marvel (then Monica Rambeau) and the Scarlet Witch, Strange and company race to secure the Darkhold, a book which contains the Montessi Formula, a spell that will rid the Earth of Dracula and the curse of vampirism. Keep in mind that the Darkhold is an ancient magical book that created vampires in the first place.
These issues are the type of storytelling that made Stern a legend, taking elements from Dracula’s appearance in X-Men (the first mention of the Formula) and Thor (whom Dracula is reluctant in facing when he sees the other Avengers by Strange’s side). By the end of the story, Strange does recite the formula and Dracula is finally destroyed.
Like all good vampires, Dracula would eventually return, but the storyline has an epic sense of finality to it. After years of being plagued by Dracula, the Marvel heroes fight back destroying all vampires. For now…
Dracula vs. The Fantastic Four (2000-2001)
Before the Fantastic Four: The Storms
By Terry Kavanagh and Charlie Adlard
Dracula’s shadow is cast far and wide across the history of the Marvel Universe. Before they were legends, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm find a mysterious amulet. The young siblings are attacked by zombies seeking the amulet for its power, zombies controlled by none other than Dracula, who lays inert, staked and comatose, using his mind to control the zombies so they may deliver the amulet to the vampire.
The Storms, before they were Fantastic, must stop the zombies from taking the amulet to Transylvania to resurrect their puppet master. Even immobile, Dracula proves to be one of the most evil and capable beings in the Marvel Universe.
X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula (2006)
By Frank Tieri and Clayton Henry
The cool thing about this series is that it gave added weight to the idea that Dracula has had an impact on the history of the Marvel universe and that his ties to the world of mutants did not begin the day he tried to embrace Storm. Dracula begins embracing members of Apocalypse’s cult which wakes the legendary mutant to defend his followers. The book ties the history of the Van Helsing family into the war between mutant despot and vampire lord.
Dracula on the Moon (2009)
Captain Britain and MI:13 #10
By Paul Cornell and Michael Collins
The so-called end of vampires arc in Doctor Strange was a large scale storyline bringing in many mainstream Marvel mainstays, but it had nothing on the grand tapestry of cool that was the Dracula arc in the late, lamented Captain Britain and MI:13 title. So, Dracula gathers a sect of vampires on the moon to set up a front for his attack on Earth. Just typing that sentence was awesome. Dracula forms a non-aggression pact with Dr. Doom and only the magic of MI:13 led by Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom has a hope of stopping Dracula.
During the course of the arc, fans find out how brilliant Pete Wisdom is, that Dracula still holds a grudge against Muslims stemming back from his Vlad the Impaler days, that seeing Black Knight duel Dracula is pretty much better than anything else in the world, and that the legendary sword Excalibur wielded by a Muslim woman is more effective against Dracula than any crucifix.
Seriously, stop reading this and track down this storyline, we’ll wait.
Hulk vs. Dracula
By Victor Gischler and Ryan Stegman
Part of the Fear Itself mega-event, this battle between two legendary monsters took a form fans did not expect. During the course of Fear Itself, the Hulk was transformed into Nul, the Breaker of Worlds. When Thor knocked Nul into the Carpathian Mountains, the Hulk became a threat to Dracula’s sovereignty. Once again taking up the mantle of reluctant defender, Dracula most take on Nul with a group of vampires, the Forgotten at his side. The event book was another step into the modern evolution of Dracula and was the first time he appeared alongside the Hulk.
An X feud renewed (2011)
X-Men: Curse of the Mutants
By Victor Gischler and Paco Medina
Dracula’s return to the X Universe also served as the introduction of the modern interpretation of the Lord of the Undead. Gone is his rocking ‘stache and suave opera cape, arriving is the white hair and Coppola-esque armor. The story is pretty cool, if needlessly complex at times, and introduces Dracula’s son, Xarus. Xarus goes to war with dear old dad with the X-Men and a group of Atlanteans caught in the middle. The whole thing ends with a fierce reminder, family or not, do not mess with Dracula.
The new look for Dracula would stay consistent across all Marvel media as it was this look that appeared in a recent episode of Avengers Assemble on Disney XD. The story arc also brings vampirism closer to the X-Men as never before as Jubilee, once the most innocent of the X-Men, is transformed into a vampire. What Claremont and company began in the early '80s continues today as Dracula’s influence on the X-Men looms like a constant shadow over the heroes!
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As The Walking Dead heads towards all out war, we take a spoiler-filled dive into the comics to see what might happen in season 8!
This Walking Dead article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the show and comics.
The Walking Dead season 7 ended with a bang, as all of the different factions introduced this year converged for war. Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie will lead Alexandria, the Kingdom, and the Hilltop, while Negan and Jadis round out this universe's version of the Axis Powers. The Saviors and the garbage people certainly have the numbers, but the heroes are determined to fight back and free themselves from the oppressive villains. I put my money on Sheriff Rick.
While the first half of the season was a bit slow in terms of story progression, the second half covered quite a bit of story in eight episodes. In all, season 7 adapted three arcs: "Something to Fear,""What Comes After," and "March to War," with a few liberties taken here and there - such as the introduction of Jadis and the garbage people and Sasha's fate.
The first half of season 8 will probably take its time with the conflict between Rick's Militia and the Saviors, if for no other reason but the budget. Call me a bit cynical, but it's likely that season 8 won't deliver a big battle sequence until the midseason finale - usually the moment The Walking Dead tends to go very big (except in the case of season 7's midseason finale, of course.) The show has a tendency to drag out certain character arcs or events from the comics at a sometimes frustrating pace, and I don't see that really changing much when it comes to one of the comic's most action-packed arcs.
Here's what might happen in The Walking Dead season 8 based on what we know from the comics:
All Out War
The first half of season 8 (which is what I'm focusing on here - I'll do a separate guide for the second half) will most likely cover material from just one arc, "All Out War," from the comic book series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. If you want to pick up the complete arc in trades, that's Vol. 20 and 21 or issues #115-126.
The "All Out War" arc really is what it says on the cover. It chronicles the war between the Militia (Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom) and the Saviors, including several battles both at the Sanctuary and Alexandria. Again, these events will most likely be spread out - and one of the fights in the first part of the arc was sort of remixed for the season 7 finale, actually - so you can probably expect to see only one of these battles in 8A.
My guess would be that we'll see the Militia's first attack on the Sanctuary, where Negan is bunkered in after being surprised by the Hilltop and Kingdom's forces at Alexandria - much like in the season 7 finale. In the comics, Rick's plan is not to go head to head with the Saviors at the Sanctuary but to lure a large walker horde to the enemy base in order to cut off Negan's main force from the smaller Savior outposts. The Militia's plan is then to take the outposts, chipping away at the Saviors' numbers.
It's a plan that works for the most part except that a character named Holly dies after being captured by Negan. Much of Holly's final storyline plays out like Sasha's. Negan offers a zombified Holly back to the settlement as a peace offering. Holly, who has a bag over her head as she walks into Alexandria, bites Denise (yes, the doctor who died in season 6 of the show) and all hell breaks loose in the settlement, as the Saviors begin to lodge grenades over the settlement's walls. This actually inspired a bit of the battle in the season 7 finale, except zombie Sasha caught Negan by surprise when he opened the coffin.
Moving up this second confrontation to season 7 means that the writers are free to add a lot of build-up to the first battle at the Sanctuary. For example, I fully expect that we'll see a version of the attacks on the individual outposts BEFORE the bigger attack on the Savior base.
In those smaller confrontations - which would be a fun, action-packed way to open season 8 - Rick and Ezekiel split into two groups to take out two outposts. While Rick's team succeeds in taking out all of the Saviors at their outpost, Ezekiel's force is ambushed and many are killed, including Shiva, who sacrifices herself in order to save the King from a walker horde. The loss of his men and loyal pet seriously shakes up Ezekiel's confidence in his own leadership, which could be a major setback for his TV counterpart as well. It's likely that we'll see the Militia beaten back a bit in the early part of the season, especially since Negan has overwhelming numbers at his disposal, and the midseason finale will inevitably be when the tide turns in the good guys' favor.
There are still plenty of threads left over from season 7 that will undoubtedly fill in the blanks in season 8. Character-focused storylines will still make up the bulk of the season, even though it's adapting a largely action-oriented arc. This doesn't account for any original storylines the show might throw at us. Will we get our first glimpse of the Whisperers, for example? (That's probably not going to happen, considering how many factions already exist in this universe, but this fan-favorite zombie cult could eventually make its way to the show in the latter half of the season.)
Gregory is perhaps season 7's most glaring cliffhanger. It's pretty clear to me that Gregory will not join the Militia's cause on the show, instead choosing to side with Negan in order to save his own life at the expense of his people. In the comics, Gregory makes a surprise appearance at the Sanctuary during the Militia's attack, and he declares that the Hilltop will side with the Saviors. While several Hilltoppers switch sides at Gregory's behest, Paul "Jesus" Monroe remains at Rick's side.
Fortunately for the Militia, the Hilltop doesn't make up the bulk of their fighting force in the comics, something Gregory led Negan to believe when they struck a deal to work together against Rick et al. Negan literally kicks Gregory out of the Sanctuary during the battle, and the cowardly leader is forced to make his way back to the Hilltop where he's welcomed by Maggie's fists. Yes, it's safe to assume that Maggie will take full control of the Hilltop by the end of season 8.
As for Gregory, it can be assumed that the cowardly villain will follow a similar trajectory to his comic book counterpart, especially since he was headed to meet with Simon in the penultimate episode of season 7. While we didn't catch up with him in the finale, I think we'll probably see what Gregory's up to at some point in 8A. I have a feeling that things won't fare well for him.
The writers have taken a few liberties with Eugene's storyline in "All Out War," especially when it comes to the character's allegiance. While he's also captured by the Saviors in the comic book, Eugene shows a bit more resilience on the page, refusing to make ammo for Negan and eventually escaping the Sanctuary. The show has played this storyline a bit differently, making Eugene a fully pledged Negan follower by the end of season 7. While Eugene hasn't done anything truly questionable under Negan, it's clear that the coward has shifted his allegiance just enough to warrant Rosita trying to blow him up.
Of course, it's not too late for the man with the iron mullet. He does show that he still cares about his friends when he helps Sasha commit suicide instead of letting her suffer under Negan's rule. Eugene could yet redeem himself by continuing to be a saboteur inside the Sanctuary.
In the comic, Eugene is helped in his escape from the Sanctuary by other Saviors, something that could potentially repeat itself on the show. My guess would be that Dwight will eventually help Eugene escape, although this particular storyline has a lot of potential to play out very differently.
Oceanside was one of season 7's bigger surprises, primarily because the settlement has never actually been explored in the comic. While it does exist and is mentioned several times in Kirkman's original work, the show has fleshed out this particular settlement far beyond the writer's original intent.
This settlement by the sea is unique in its own right, being made up of women and ruled by women. It's a very welcome counterpart to the Saviors' much more patriarchal society. Oceanside is also a great addition to the already impressive cast of female characters on the show. It'll be interesting to see if they actually join the fight in season 8.
The last time the show visited Oceanside, it was for a very tense meeting with Alexandria. Ambushed by Rick and his group, the women of Oceanside were rounded up and forced to give up their guns. Some members of the group, such as young Cyndie, felt that Alexandria's cause was just, though, and willingly gave up their weapons and even considered joining the fight. In time Oceanside may finally agree to join the Militia. After all, Oceanside has a very big bone to pick with Negan.
Speaking of new settlements, Jadis and her garbage people are perhaps the standout new group of the series. Straight out of a Mad Max film, Jadis' group is something of an enigma. We've not spent too much time learning about their past - which honestly might be the reason why they work so well, although a flashback episode in season 8 would certainly be justified.
After the twist in the season 7 finale, the garbage people have been established as villains, and it remains to be seen how their relationship with the Saviors might evolve - or if the alliance is only temporary. I'd certainly like to see much more of this group and learn more about how they work and why they live in a junkyard.
While Jadis actress Pollyanna McIntosh revealed on Talking Dead (via Bustle) that the group's name is the Scavengers, the garbage people don't really have any relation to the Scavengers from the comics. (The Wolves filled in for the comic book Scavengers in season 6 - this all gets a little confusing!) In fact, some fans have theorized that the garbage people might actually be the precursor to the Whisperers. As Jadis mentioned in her introduction, her people are good at adapting, which means that whatever happens in season 8 could turn Jadis' group into a full blown killer zombie cult. Again, it's a theory.
Dwight remains one of the most polarizing characters on the show, and now there's the question of where his allegiance truly lies. By the end of season 7, he's working as a double agent for the Militia. Although he must side with Negan in public, Dwight is secretly feeding Rick and his people information about the Saviors' plans.
We last see Dwight with Negan, Simon, and Eugene, as they prepare to go to war. Dwight and Simon remain Negan's most important lieutenants, and Dwight will have to figure out how to exploit that next season. There's also the possibility that Dwight is actually playing Rick et al at the behest of Negan, who loves to play mind games with his enemies. It could be that Dwight has faked his defection in order to get more info on the Militia's plans. As far as the comics go, Dwight does indeed turn against Negan and helps the heroes during the war. Negan has pushed Dwight to the limit and now he wants revenge.
One thing left hanging for Dwight is the whereabouts of Sherry. This could be something season 8 will explore further. Sherry is the reason Dwight decides to turn on Negan, so bringing her back might add a bit more tension between the two, especially if Dwight has to help her hide from the Saviors.
Speaking of Negan...
While the villain is far from meeting his maker by the end of season 7, many fans are wondering what might await the character next season. Assuming all of "All Out War" plays out in season 8 - I have my doubts - there could be some major cold-blooded retribution awaiting the SOB. It's really a question of how close the writers want to stick to the comics in terms of the aftermath to the war.
In the comic, Negan is eventually defeated and taken prisoner, sentenced to life in an Alexandria jail cell. While this certainly works well in the book, it might be a little tricky when it comes to the show. Keeping Jeffrey Dean Morgan locked in a cell for whole seasons might not be the best use of the actor's time, unless he only makes guest appearances every few episodes.
It doesn't help that the reception to the live-action version of Negan has been a bit mixed. JDM is very charismatic and plays the character pretty close to the source material, yet there have been issues with how the villain translates to TV, seeming cartoonish at times - at points almost a parody of the comic book character. More than once, the villain was cited as one of season 7's biggest flaws. The show could perhaps rid itself of a bit of baggage by killing Negan. It would certainly take hardcore fans of the comic by surprise.
So if you're wondering if the show will eventually kill off Negan, I'd say its very up in the air at this point, although given showrunner Scott M. Gimple's penchant for sticking pretty close to the source material, I'd say we may still have quite a bit of time left with Negan - perhaps well beyond season 8.
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The prequel comic to Pacific Rim: Uprising shows new characters & a fallen world
John Boyega's character in the upcoming sequel to Pacific Rim won't be making his debut on big screens. He's going to first show up in a comic prequel to Pacific Rim: Uprising.
Titled Pacific Rim: Aftermath, Boyega's Jake Pentecost is one of the main characters helping bridge the events of the first movie with it's follow up. Written by Cavan Scott (Star Wars Adventures, Doctor Who) with art from Rich Elson (Thor, Sonic the Comic), the book is a six part miniseries that starts in January.
The series takes place in a burnt out Santa Monica, California nine years after the events of the first movie. We meet Jake; the Mech Czar, a criminal who presumably (from the name) has mechs at his disposal; and Griffin, a Jaeger pilot who used to fight for the resistance and now fights to protect a mob boss. In his Jaeger. The book will layer in detail about the greater world, like death cults who worship the Kaiju; where Jaegers go to die; and more time with the street criminals who, led by Ron Perlman in the first movie, were such a delight to deal with.
The first issue of Pacific Rim: Aftermath is due out on January 17, 2018. Pacific Rim: Uprising, the sequel film starring John Boyega, will be released on March 23. For more information on all things Pacific Rim related, stick with Den of Geek!
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The CW is adapting Project 13 as its next comic book series, putting a paranormal spin on its DC Comics show lineup.
The CW’s lineup of DC Comics television shows has just added another entry to its backlog. The network, which is dominated by DC-adapted mainstays Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow– soon to be joined by Black Lightning– will later welcome Project 13, focusing on the story of paranormal-themed DC Comics characters, which will feature actress Elizabeth Banks as a key producer.
The CW will adapt Project 13 as another DC Comics hour-long drama, reports Variety. The prospective series, which is to showcase extrasensory concepts, will focus on Traci Thirteen, a twenty-something woman, who is a forensic scientist by trade. When Traci’s latent psychic abilities start to manifest, she seeks out her heretofore estranged father, Dr. Terrence Thirteen, a parapsychologist and renown skeptic of the supernatural, with whom she forms a partnership to investigate cases of purportedly paranormal nature. Thus, the series will not only see its primary duo deal with the baggage of their broken family, but Dr. Thirteen’s recalcitrant skepticism, which will contrast with Traci’s burgeoning magical-based psychic powers, which allow her to use auras to divine the location of people and objects – and, in some cases, the future. Additionally, she is able to conjure destructive magic blasts.
The character of Doctor Terrence Thirteen dates back to DC’s Star Spangled Comics #122, dated November 1951 (in which he was introduced as “The Ghost-Breaker.”) He has since been a tangential staple in the DC Universe, crossing paths with characters such as Batman and John Constantine and is a regular frenemy of the magical, mortal-coil-crossing hero Phantom Stranger. Traci, however, was a more recent canonical addition, introduced in Superman Vol. 2 #189, dated February 2003. She and her father have since been re-introduced in the New 52 Prime Earth continuity.
Project 13 will be run by Daegan Fryklind, who serves as writer and executive producer. Fryklind comes into the TV project after a run as executive producer of Syfy’s 2014-2016 Laura Vandervoort-starring werewolf drama Bitten, previously serving as co-producer on series such as Motive, The Dark Corner, The Listener, Being Erica and jPod. She is joined by actress Elizabeth Banks, who serves as an executive producer alongside husband Max Handelman, via their Brownstone Productions company, producing in association with Warner Bros. Television. The Banks/Handelman producer team are also currently developing a Laverne Cox-starring series, called Spirited.
Project 13 certainly sounds like a unique comic-book-inspired flavor for a network that’s dominated by comic book fare – even with teen drama Riverdale, which puts a darker spin on the classic comical Archie mythos. Yet, the idea that The CW is getting a paranormal-themed series may be a bitter pill to swallow for fans who still clamor to see NBC’s Constantine resuscitated on the more-thematically-appropriate network. However, an animated series is set to arrive, and it does appear that star Matt Ryan is dusting off his trench coat, finalizing a return as John Constantine as a member of the Legends of Tomorrow team.
There’s no word yet on when to expect Project 13 on The CW.
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Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming Justice League movie!
This article contains some Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice spoilers.
This is the one that the DC Extended Universe is building towards. Five years after The Avengers showed us that it was possible to pull off a non-mutant superhero team on the big screen, we'll finally see a JusticeLeaguemovie. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder has wrapped filming on Justice League (with an assist from Joss Whedon), from a script by Batman v Superman's Chris Terrio.
According to recent reports, Justice League clocks in at a lean 121 minutes, making it the shortest DCEU movie so far!
Justice League Trailer
Check out all the footage from Justice League released so far...
Justice League Movie Release Date
Justice League is scheduled for a November 17th, 2017 release. The complete DC superhero movie release calendar can be found here.
Justice League Movie Villain
In order for the Justice League to form, they need a threat with power levels that only a team of heroes could take down, right?
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice made it pretty explicit that Darkseid is on his way to this world, and there were several visual cues for those who are interested. We broke those down (along with lots more comic references in the movie) right here. But he isn't the villain of the Justice League movie. A deleted scene from Batman v Superman released online offered a look at a monstrous creature on a Kryptonian ship, who turned out to be another Fourth World related despot (and Jack Kirby creation), Steppenwolf.
Steppenwolf is basically Darkseid's cousin, a powerful warrior from Apokolips who wields a pretty crazy energy axe.
Ciaran Hinds (you may know him as Mance Rayder on Game of Thrones which makes him a particularly cool choice for this part) is playing Steppenwolf in the film, and the actor spoke about how they got him into character. "Basically they’re going to construct something, digitally, and then they will use my eyes and mouth,"the actor told The Independent. Hinds describes Steppenwolf as "old, tired, still trying to get out of his own enslavement to Darkseid, [but] he has to keep on this line to try and take over worlds.”
Here's what Steppenwolf looked like in that Batman v Superman deleted scene:
And here's Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder. You may start your Photoshop engines accordingly...
It's still inevitable that we'll see Darkseid in these movies, and he'll probably still be a presence in the first one. DC Comics used him as the catalyst for the formation of the Justice League in the current comic book series. He's a pretty big gun to burn this early, though, so holding him back for Justice League Part Two sound about as logical as anything else we've heard.
Hit the next page for more info on the cast and story!
DC has a brand new Deadman #1 coming in November, featuring the work of one of comics' most celebrated artists.
There is no doubt that Neal Adams is one of the greatest living comic creators. His work on Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and X-Men are transcendent and stand out as some of the greatest artistic moments in any of those characters’ rich histories. But Adams is also remembered for his work on Deadman.
Deadman was first introduced by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino in Strange Adventures #205 (1967). Deadman was the story of Boston Brand, a murdered circus aerialist who was killed during a performance. Brand was resurrected and granted the power to possess any living body. As Deadman, Brand uses his ghostly powers to try and solve his own murder. Starting with Strange Adventures #206 (1967), Adams and writer Jack Miller began an 11 issue run that defined the character visually and narratively for decades to come. In those issues, Adams introduced the hidden city of Nanda Parbat, a setting that still informs DC media today in frequent appearances on CW’s Arrow. That’s why it is so darn exciting that in November Adams is returning to the ghostly character he defined in a brand new Deadman #1. At New York Comic Con, it was our distinct honor to talk to Adams about the legendary artist’s return to DC’s deadest hero.
“I always wanted to come back to Deadman,” Adams says. “Because I didn’t finish the story. I started the story, but I didn’t finish. I didn’t tell everyone the story.”
Indeed as we mentioned, Deadman only ran less than a year, but Adams knew that there was something special about Boston Brand. “You have to understand I move ahead faster than other people and I see the future faster than other people," Adams says. "I knew Deadman was the type of hero that had staying power.”
Deadman has been a weird staple of the DC Universe since Adams’ departure decades ago, but as he puts it, “The thing people don’t understand about Deadman, even the writers at DC who tried to write stories after me… this is not a comic book about a guy in spandex doing superhero things and getting cats out of trees. This is a story about a guy who’s dead. That’s a big event. If he stays around after he’s dead, that is an ever bigger event- it’s a very different story to tell.”
Adams' run on Deadman was abrubtly cancelled, but the fact that the character still resonates speaks to the fact that Adams’ work goes beyond those less than a dozen issues. “I was beginning to tell that story," he says. "I was managing to tell a story that Arrow rips off all the time – with my cooperation, of course- because of course, they have good taste. They’re big fans on that show, and they recognize cool things like Nanda Parbat.”
As to why Deadman was cancelled back in the day, Adams recalls, “When I was finishing up the series, Deadman was going on just as the direct sales market was being created. People didn’t actually know what comic books were selling because across the country, guys in leather jackets and pony tails were going to distributors and buying comics that way and selling them in garages and motels. So sales on Deadman weren’t that good, but they were selling like hot cakes in other ways and sales weren’t reported to be that good. So Deadman got cut off. So I decided one day I’d go back to Deadman.”
“I’m a long lived fanboy from a long lived family, so I knew I’ll get my shot," he adds. "And when I do, I’ll tell the rest of the story.”
So what can fans can expect from Adams’ Deadman #1?
“There are things no one knows about Deadman. For instance, he has a brother and sister. He has parents that own their own circus. His father made a deal with Ra’s al Ghul because the father’s wife was dying. And Ra’s al Ghul doesn’t save someone without exacting a price. And now Deadman’s brother is missing, and his sister followed, Now Deadman has a grudge against his dad. There’s a very deep story going, we never told it. We only began to scratch it when the book ended.”
One would think working on Deadman would be like going home again, but Adams considered the decades old wait between Deadman issues a minor hiccup. “What it’s like is having a lot of friends, and having someone interrupt a story you were telling. And now I get to say, ‘Where did I leave off?’”
Adams gets to return to the world of Deadman, but Boston Brand isn’t the only DC horror icon that Adams will explore. “We’re going to use some of the stranger characters of the DC Universe. Etrigan, Phantom Stranger… these characters travel where super heroes don’t travel. They’re doing things that we don’t understand, and Deadman has one foot in that, and Deadman doesn’t like them very much.”
Deadman will be a six issue series, but Adams says DC is already hot for more. As for long term goals with the characters, Adams teases that, “The goal here is to get people in Hollywood that might be interested in making a Deadman movie, interested again.”
A Deadman film or TV series seems like a no brainer, but until then, fans will get to find out the rest of Adams’ Deadman tale as the story telling prowess and deft penciling of Neal Adams returns to Boston Brand in November.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
How has nobody used that joke on this book before?
Mother Panic was the first Young Animal book that set off alarm bells in readers because it was set in and alongside the current Batman comics. But despite that initial wariness, Jody Houser, Tommy Lee Edwards, and now Shawn Crystal have done a great job expanding Gotham to include this weird, edgy, super-dark-even-for-Batman-comics anti-hero.
Violet Page's world, while only mostly Bat-adjacent, feels like the Gotham that I still can't figure out why anyone would live in. The world is gothic and shadowy, and Houser is skilled at hitting the right tone - especially compared to her work on Valiant's Faith, Mother Panic feels sparse. Edwards and Crystal are almost diametrically opposed in style, but they each bring something interesting to the book: Edwards with his grainy, noir-ish atmosphere, and Crystal a weight to the characters that makes the fights more impactful.
The book wraps up its first year by digging more into Violet's past, while she tries to escape becoming a murdered statue. DC Comics sent along an exclusive preview of Mother Panic #12. Here's what they have to say about the issue:
MOTHER PANIC #12 Written by JODY HOUSER, Backup story written by JIM KRUEGER, Art by SHAWN CRYSTAL, Backup story art by PHIL HESTER, Cover by TOMMY LEE EDWARDS, Variant cover by JOELLE JONESWith the true face of an old friend revealed, Violet Paige must fight her way free or risk Mother Panic becoming a part of Gala’s grisly art exhibit. Back at home a disturbing revelation about Rebecca’s mental state comes to light. Includes the finale of “Gotham Radio” by the acclaimed team of Jim Krueger and Phil Hester!
Check out these pages and tell me I'm wrong about being dark and edgy while also feeling JUST like a Batman comic.
Supergirl washes up on Paradise Island in this exclusive preview of Injustice 2.
You might want to put on an oven mitt, because the timer just dinged on this scorching hot take:
DC does non-movie other-media tie-ins better than Marvel. By a LOT.
Case in point: Injustice 2. Despite taking place on a world where Superman is in jail for being a murderous tyrant, everything about the game feels right set within the DC multiverse. Probably in no small part because they lean so heavily into the multiverse concept - setting arcade towers on parallel Earths, referencing the multiverse in half the arcade mode endings (Green Arrow's made me reread Multiversity. Again). A big part of the success of the game is how invested in the world the comics side of the company has been: Injustice: Gods Among Us years one through five were great, surprisingly nuanced looks at what could have been a brutal, simplistic world.
Tom Taylor's writing was a big part of that, adding subtle emotion to characters that could have been throwaway bits. He's back for this series, along with Mike Miller on pencils. DC sent over a preview of Injustice 2 #29, a digital first book releasing this week, and Miller's linework looks a lot like John Romita, Jr. here. Here's what they have to say about the issue:
Black Adam and Damian send Supergirl out on a mission to rescue Wonder Woman from a Themiscyran prison. But before her would-be liberator arrives, the former Princess Diana is visited in her cell by an old antagonist.
Take a look!
Get a look at what's coming up for Thor in the Marvel Universe.
Spoilers for Thor #700 follow. You should read it.
As part of the Marvel Legacy initiative, Marvel is going back to classic numbering on most of their long-running titles. The most significant renumbering so far was Thor #700, the first Legacy anniversary issue and the start to what feels like the culmination of five years worth of Asgardian epics by Jason Aaron.
In that anniversary issue, Aaron and his most recent artistic collaborator, Russell Dauterman, dropped a classic splash page tease of upcoming stories...
“You see a lot teases for upcoming stories here,” says Aaron. “Some of those stories will play out in the pages of Thor. Others will play out elsewhere, some across multiple titles. Between Thor#700 and Marvel Legacy #1, I'm really setting the stage for the biggest stories I'll be doing for Marvel in 2018. Probably the biggest stories I've ever done for Marvel, period.”
Considering Aaron's title has so far tackled; Shi'ar theology; environmentalism and corporate greed; political intrigue between ten realms; WAR THOR \m/; the creation of a multi-realm strike force; nihilism and the point of gods in a universe full of heroes; and Surtur's family, to call this the "biggest stor[y]" he's done for Marvel is patently ridiculous and exciting in a wonderful way.
Marvel has asked readers to send guesses as to what's going on in the spread to MHEROES@marvel.com, but we at Den of Geek feel it's important to provide our own speculative analysis to our readers, so here is what we are stone-cold certain is going on. Clockwise, from the top left corner:
- Loki gets the Infinity Gauntlet.
- Mangog gets mad.
- Namor gets crowned.
- Thor gets bloodied.
- Valkyrie gets pissed.
- Loki gets the Necrosword.
- Asgard gets got.
- Jotunheim gets New York.
- Jane Foster gets what we have been worried was coming since she took on the mantle of Thor.
- Arshem the Judge and Ziran the Tester don't get what they were looking for.
- And in the center, Odinson gets his hammer back.
Disagree? Tell us in the comments! For more rhythmically themed speculation about upcoming Marvel cosmic stories, stick with Den of Geek!
The swine at MGM will turn the life of Gonzo Godfather Hunter S. Thompson into TV swill. Drink deep, it's good for you.
When times get weird, the weird turn pro, Hunter S. Thompson once wrote. It’s been 13 years since the father of Gonzo journalism acted his old age and put a bullet in his head, ending the games, the fun, the walking and the swimming. Since then, times have gotten weirder than any hallucinogenic chemical fantasia might have imagined. There’s an orange man in the White House and Ku Klux Klansmen have taken off their masks. It’s time for an authorized, televised Hunter S. Thompson biography to tell the story. There are no details on what it will be, but it will be directed by Davey Homes, who runs the TV adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 1990 novel Get Shorty, and written by Bob Nelson, who wrote screenplays for The Confirmation and Nebraska. The Thompson biography project is being produced by MGM Television.
"Davey is tremendously talented and has demonstrated that he can deliver quality programming that will resonate with viewers," MGM Television Group president Mark Burnett said in a statement. “As we look to the future of MGM Television, it is imperative that we forge long-term relationships with creators who have an eye for dynamic storytelling.”
Thompson story was certainly dynamic. He had guns that had the firepower of dynamite, as did his words. He started writing while he was in the Air Force. He got fired from a lot of his jobs for insubordination until he found kindred spirits in the gang he lived with to write his book Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. He might be best known for the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which Terry Gilliam turned into a movie starring Johnny Depp. But from his taunting of Jack Nicholson, his run for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado and his renowned constitution for all things imbibable, his writings might be the least of what the series will focus on.
Thompson started out as a sportswriter, he ended up a legend in his own time, caricatured in Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip as the indefatigable Duke, and by Bill Murray in Where the Buffalo Roam, by tearing down myths, legends and traditions. Everything was first person to Thompson, from America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde, President Richard Millhouse Nixon to President Bubba Clinton and his personal mafia to the Kentucky Derby.
MGM Television is still developing the show and based on the life of Hunter S., it could be a full series.
Logan breakout character Laura, a.k.a. X-23, has been eyed for a spinoff movie and director James Mangold updates on that process.
Logan, Hugh Jackman’s claw-swinging coda to his legendary 17-year onscreen X-Men tenure as Wolverine – which hit back in March – opened a wellspring of poignant possibilities for the still-pumping comic book movie genre. It also left the Fox-Marvel cinematic continuity with a prodigious gift in the form of Dafne Keen’s Laura, a.k.a. X-23, the newly-discovered young cloned daughter of Wolverine/Logan, with whom the title character forms its central dynamic. Now, James Mangold provides an intriguing update on the speculated X-23 spinoff project.
In an interview with THR, Logan director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman sit down to discuss the state of the film, since speculation is high that its powerful, surprisingly accessible drama, along with its financial success of $616.8 million worldwide off a budget of $97 million (the lowest-budgeted of all three Wolverine spinoffs and the lowest-budgeted X-Men movie since 2000’s original,) makes it a legitimate contender for awards season accolades, even Oscar nominations. Indeed, Mangold (credited for developing the Logan story,) reaffirms that a Laura/X-23 spinoff project is still in the works, stating, “We’re just working a script.”
While the Laura/X-23 spinoff talk started immediately after Logan’s release, it has been a consequential seven months in the comic book movie world, notably for projects looking to tout female protagonists, since the June release of director Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman ended up becoming a $821.6 million global-grossing runaway hit, undeniably proving that action, reverence and pathos can make female heroes into bankable blockbuster headliners, contrary to industry stubbornness. Thus, the market is more auspicious for this spinoff than it was, even back in March when first Logan hit. As Mangold continues of the Wonder Woman phenomenon:
"Patty's success with that film only solidifies more for studios that there's less to fear with a female protagonist. The more that keeps getting hit home, that ends up giving me more space turning around and going, 'Well here we are with a female protagonist. That's incredible. And what are we going to do with her?' And that's where we are with that [the Laura script] right now, dreaming."
However, don’t look for the prospective X-23 spinoff to continue the gritty, moody, arid atmosphere of Logan, since it does appear that the creative coalition is looking to branch out from that approach. Laura/X-23, who was first introduced in a 2004 episode of animated series X-Men: Evolution (and later absorbed into the Marvel Comics continuity,) was designed to replicate the appeal of Wolverine for younger fans. She subsequently became a popular character in her own right, who has run the comic book gamut, notably with a tenure as a member of (the film adaptation-imminent) super-team, X-Force. Indeed, X-Men movie series producer Hutch Parker also chimes in on the spinoff conversation, implying that Laura/X-23’s individual story will be bear different influences, stating:
"Yes, there are other facets of that character and some others potentially to explore in their own way. It may not be in the same exact tonality or with the same genre orientations as Logan, but I think part of what has been opened up in this universe to all of us now is, drawing on different genre traditions, there are new pathways to be opened for new characters that populate this universe."
As for star Hugh Jackman, whose Wolverine was the center of an emotionally heartbreaking exit in Logan, don’t expect him to be back for the X-23 spinoff, either onscreen or creatively, since the actor himself reaffirms his retirement of the character (at least, his version, anyway,) and his involvement in the X-Men franchise. As Jackman clarifies:
"No, I won’t be a producer on a Laura sequel. But I will be lining up on the Thursday night at 10 pm to watch it though. She [Dafne Keen] is just phenomenal."
Of course, we’re still a long way from knowing the exact date of that Thursday night, since, as Mangold mentioned earlier, the untitled X-23 spinoff film is still in its earliest of scripting stages. However, we do know that 2018 will be a promising year for the X-Men movie mythos, with team spinoff The New Mutants arriving on April 13, followed by X-Men: Dark Phoenix on November 2.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Game of Thrones might be our favorite fantasy show ever, but here are the 10 best fantasy series that could possibly be even better...
With the end of the Game of Thrones TV series in sight, it's time to start speculating on which fantasy book series might pick up the TV adaptation mantle once Game of Thrones is gone.
Game of Thrones is one of the greatest fantasy epics ever written and it makes for the perfect episodic television experience, but it's far from the only fantasy book series that deserves to be on TV. There are plenty of other epic fantasies that would make killer television shows, and they would grip fans just as much as Martin's tale of dragons, White Walkers, knights, magic, and betrayal has.
Hollywood is already taking notice, with everything from The Kingkiller Chronicle to The Dark Tower getting movie and TV adaptations. So come, join us, as we sing of other tales that are worthy of television consideration...
Authors: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Essential Reading: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night, Dragons of Spring Dawning, Time of the Twins, and more!
From the world of Dungeons and Dragons comes the world of Krynn. A world rich in history and on-the-nose archetypes that have been involved in the bestselling series for decades. Originally conceived by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the Dragonlancesaga has had countless spin-offs as many other writers have carved out there piece of Krynn history.
The series' weakness is the familiarity of the character types: you have the outcast Half-Elf, the muscle bound but simple warrior, the noble knight, the rapscallion thief, the gruff dwarf, and the mysterious mage, but it’s what Weis and Hickman do for these familiar character types that have made generations of fans come back to the world of Dragonlanceagain and again despite the predictable nature of the characters.
There is a gentleness to Dragonlancethat could scratch an itch not satisfied by the always ultra violent and dark Game of Thrones. Fans would delight on going on old-fashioned dungeon crawls with the Heroes of the Last Home, but it’s not all rolling D20s in Dragonlance.
From the complex sibling relationship of the sickly and power hungry mage Raistlin Majere and his brother, the oafish but loyal Cameron, to the love trial between heroic Tanis Half-Elven, the noble Elven woman Laurana and the recently turned to the dark side Kitiara (who also happens to be Raistlin and Cameron’s half sister). There is the Vader-like Lord Soth to provide some villainy, Tasselhoof Burrfoot the Kender thief to provide the comic relief, and dragons.
But the best part? Tons and tons of dragons...all different colors of the rainbow, good dragons and bad, all fighting for control of the skies of Krynn. Fans waiting for Khaleesi’s dragons to finally grow will be able to get their dragon fix with the heroes of Dragonlance, a sometimes soft but always epic fantasy that is just waiting for some daring cable channel to shell out the cash to bring this beloved series to life.
Conceivably, the show would focus on the core group of heroes, but like Game of Thrones, Dragonlancecould also explore the world of Krynn’s past, present, and future, and cover some of the better work from all the authors that have visited Krynn during the series’ long run.
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Essential Reading: "The Word of Unbinding" (short story), A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind
Earthseais one of the most beloved worlds in fantasy. Originally conceived in 1964, Earthsea amassed a vast following of fans who love the diverse world of magic as envisioned by the great Ursula K. Le Guin.
No doubt, an Earthseaseries would be expensive as most of the story takes place in the water, on ships, or on the archipelagos of the Earthsea realm. The story deals with good wizards who use their magic to restore balance to the world, and dark wizards that use their necromancy to take from the well-balanced environment.
Le Guin has been critical of fantasy, particularly its focus on primarily Caucasian characters that limit the genre's potential. The world-building of Le Guin’s series redefined the genre in the mid '60s, showing readers that a good fantasy series is possible without cribbing from Tolkien.
The diverse cast and environmental and social themes would fuel any TV show for years. Le Guin borrowed liberally from Taoist philosophy and combined these old schools of thought with allusions to Dante’s Inferno and Greek myth to create a world like no other...a world that needs to come to life now that technology and special effects have evolved to match Le Guin’s grand vision.
The Syfy channel gave Earthseaa whirl in 2005 with a two-part, three hour mini-series. The network felt it would be a good idea to cast almost every role with Caucasians and fundamentally change the original structure of Le Guin’s story. It didn’t go well, and it managed to anger loyal fans and Le Guin herself.
It's time for a network that fully understands Earthsea's brand of thoughtful fantasy to bring the series to life.
The First Law
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Essential Reading: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings
Joe Abercrombie has become one of the most original voices in fantasy over the last decade. He deals in gritty realism and pragmatic characters but somehow remains fully embedded in a functional fantasy setting that is as complete and whole as any Martin, Rothfuss, or Tolkien epic.
There are not many fantastic creatures in the pages of these books. Instead, Abercrombie’s series centers on a world at war in three separate theatres of combat. It’s like the sword and sandals version of Band of Brothers, featuring a diverse band of characters who must survive and find a way to win an all consuming war.
The narrative stretches from the kings and generals of the war to the lowly foot soldiers, each character’s tale fraught with drama and meaning. Magic is well represented in the novels, but Abercrombie’s take on wizardry as just another weapon of war entrenches the more fantastical elements of the world in the same grim realism as the muck-encrusted soldiers that fight on the same battlefields.
Let’s face it, many fans come to epic fantasy to see the battles. The romance, politics, intrigues, and high concepts are nice, but who doesn’t like a good prolonged fantasy clash like Helm’s Deep, the battle of Pelennor Fields, or the Battle of the Black Water? The war in The First Law lasts for the entirety of the series. So pick a side, because if this one of its kind drama of First Country ever comes to television, fans will line up to join the front lines.
Author: Clive Barker
Essential reading: Weaveworld
Most people think of Clive Barker as the master of horror that brought us Pinhead and his flesh rending hooks and chains. But Barker is also a folklorist and mythic storyteller of the highest order and some of his fantasy work includes some of the most original creations the genre has been gifted in over a century.
Barker’s most compelling fantasy work is Weaveworld, the tale of a world that exists inside an intricately woven carpet. Every thread of the Weaveworld contains the possibilities of adventure.
The story centers on a world called the Fugue, a place created by the magical Seerkind to hide from humanity over centuries of persecution. The story of Weaveworld is limitless, and a TV show can go way beyond the confines of the novel. The Seerkind are a fascinating race with a long fictional history that would take an entire television series to explore.
The idea of a fantasy world, particularly one conceived by the limitless imagination of Clive Barker, existing in the intricate weave of a rug is such an awesome concept that fans would eat it up, and the amorphous nature of the Seerkind would make them a fascinating race to explore week after week.
There have been rumors of a Weaveworldmini-series for years, but a finite series couldn't do Barker’s vision justice. Game of Thrones proves that fantasy for adults will work on television, and it just doesn’t get any more adult than the mind of Clive Barker.
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Essential Reading: Mistborn: The Final Empire, Mistborn: The Well of Ascension, and Mistborn: The Hero of Ages
In his first multi-part epic, Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson created a world very different from the typical Tolkien-esque fantasy realm. Sanderson, the writer who was hand chosen to take over the Wheel of Timeseries from the deceased Robert Jordan, created a world with functional rules of magic and a complex but understandable history.
In the world of the Final Empire of Scadrial there are beings that can control metal, so, yes...Mistborn is pretty much a planet full of Magnetos warring for control of the Empire. The series also crosses genres as Sanderson recently announced that the new Mistborntrilogy will be set in a futuristic city.
This genre-bending epic would make for great television as the book doesn't feature your expected fantasy settings and familiar swordplay. Imagine a show where Sanderson’s metal controlling wizards, known as Allomancers, use their powers to battle for the fate of Scadrial. Here, the combatants don’t use swords or axes; they use coins to wage epic battles. Picture that visual.
Mistborn could take viewers past the comforting confines of familiar fantasy elements into a new world of endless possibilities. There is enough political intrigue to please any Game of Thrones fan, but the well thought out system of magic and combat would make Mistbornappointment viewing...if only a network was brave enough.
The Dark Elf Saga
Author: R.A. Salvatore
Essential Reading: The Dark Elf Trilogy, The Icewind Dale Trilogy, and tons more Salvatore/Drizzt goodness...
Drizzt Do’Urden is like fantasy’s very own James Bond: an adaptable and enduring character that can fit into any type of fantasy story. For those who have never had the pleasure of reading a Drizzt novel, the long running series penned by R.A. Salvatore takes places in the Dungeons and Dragonssub-world, The Forgotten Realms...but Drizzt and his companions have grown way beyond the confines of that license. Drizzt’s book series has been a perennial mainstay on every bestseller list. Once a year or so, Salvatore revisits the Dark Elf champion and fans keep coming back for more.
In the Realms, Drizzt is the only member of his race, the vile Drow Elves, who was born with a sense of morality. His people see it is a tragic birth defect, but the people Drizzt help see the Dark Elf as a hero despite his dark lineage.
Drizzt and his status as the only altruistic member of an evil race is a story engine like no other in fantasy, but the drama does not end with Drizzt, who is surrounded by friends like Catti-Brie, a beautiful ranger turned mage, Wulfgar, a lost son of an aggressive race of barbarians who also must overcome his heritage to be a hero, Bruenor, the adopted Dwarven father of Catti-Brie and Wulfgar, and Regis, the somewhat cowardly Halfling thief.
Even the villains have an incredible amount of depth, antagonists such as Artemis Entreri, an assassin who is obsessed with defeating Drizzt in one on one combat, and Obould Many Arrows, an Orc warlord whose morality and motivations will surprise even the most jaded fantasy fan.
The Kingkiller Chronicle
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Essential reading: The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man's Fear
Lionsgate is moving forward with a movie and TV adaptation of The Kingkiller Chronicle, complete with a Lin-Manuel Miranda as part of the project. Thank the gods, because the tone and world of Rothfuss’ epic is the closest thing to Game of Thrones fantasy lit has going at the moment. It sounds like the main narrative of this world will be made into movies, but we're not giving up on an epic TV adaptation just yet.
But there are stark (ha!) differences that would make this new fantasy classic a television staple. For one, The Kingkiller Chronicle is told from the point of view of one man, a hero named Kvothe, who is almost every heroic archetype rolled into one: a wizard, a warrior, a scholar, and even an accomplished musician...so he's kind of like Conan, Harry Potter, and Eddie Van Halen all rolled up into one.
Rothfuss establishes political alliances, social structures, and rules of magic without robbing readers of any character development. And what a character! Kvothe doesn't always do the right thing for the right reasons; he is a flawed hero who makes mistakes as he has to navigate a complex world of danger and intrigue.
Whether it is on the streets as Kvothe learns to become an accomplished musician or in a mage school that is about as different from Hogwarts as it gets, Kvothe's adventures are never redundant and constantly surprising. Fantasy fans are reading Martin, but writers like Martin are reading Rothfuss.
Robert E. Howard Presents
Author: Robert E. Howard
Essential Reading: Any collected editions featuring Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Cormac Mac Art, El Borak...
Everyone knows Robert E. Howard created Conan the Barbarian, but he also created a legion of characters...and not all of them connected to the world of fantasy. As amazing as the first Conan the Barbarian film was, there has never really been a true film adaptation of any of Howard’s works on the big screen or on television.
Imagine an anthology series where the mission statement is an exploration of the myriad time periods and characters created by Howard in his prolific but all too brief career. A show that could jump from the mist shrouded battlefields of Conan’s Hyboria, to the unexplored godless jungles of Solomon Kane’s era to the modern day boxing ring of Steve Costigan’s day.
There is so much to Howard beyond Conan, but the fickle nature of his fiction would make features difficult to construct for most of his characters. The short form nature of television would make a perfect platform for Howard’s children. By Crom, someone make it happen, I’ve been dying for a Solomon Kane show since I was about five!
The Dark Tower
Author: Stephen King
Essential reading: All of it.
So, the movie didn't exactly meet expectations, but that's only good news for TV fans. Stephen King recently told Vulture that the planned Dark Tower TV adaptation will be a complete reboot rather than a continuation of the story begun in the feature film.
It’s past time that Stephen King’s mythic quest series comes to television. The story contains everything that makes for great television drama: its own mythology, an incredible cast of characters, more action than you can shake a six shooter at, and an all abiding mystery. King doesn’t reveal till the end exactly what is in the Dark Tower and why his hero Roland has sacrificed everything to find it.
To completely tell the story of The Dark Tower and Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and a billybumbler named Oy, a network is going to have to make quite a commitment in terms of years and money...but it would be worth it. The Dark Toweris one of the greatest contemporary fantasies of our generation.
The tale is an epic quest for truth and an examination of the nature of heroism and sacrifice, and it has some of literature’s most badass villains. The story of The Dark Tower ties into most of King’s other works including The Stand, It, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Talisman, The Mist, Heart of Atlantis, From a Buick 8, and so many more. A TV series can examine those threads and show even the most casual fan that all of King’s books and movies they have enjoyed over the years are all bound by The Dark Tower.
It would be a long term gamble (Hollywood isn’t exactly enamored with Westerns lately...thanks, Lone Ranger), but someone just has to aim with their heart to bring King’s Dark Tower to life.
Lord of the Rings
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Essential reading: Do we even have to say it?
Yeah, we know. This has all been covered perfectly in the past decade by Peter Jackson, but with the release of the final chapter of The Hobbit trilogy, the cinematic exploration of Tolkien’s world has come to an end, leaving us Hobbitless for the rest of our natural days. That just can’t be.
As perfect as Jackson’s films were, they were still limited by time. A Middle Earth show can break the confines of a film’s pacing and allow fans to meet Tom Bombadil and Goodberry for the first time or reinsert the Radagast subplot back into Lord of the Rings or allow fans to linger in Hobbiton just a bit longer at the beginning of the saga and return there at the end to meet Sharkey, the new boss of Hobbiton.
Pieces of the appendices and The Silmarillion can be liberally inserted throughout the series creating a more detailed history of Middle Earth. Most of all, we just want more Tolkien, in any form, produced by talented people that love the work. Jackson’s interpretation is valid (and darn near perfect), but Middle Earth is fertile enough to contain multiple creative visions, and we wants it precious.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Den of Geek caught up with James Tynion IV to talk about his groundbreaking run on Detective Comics.
Don’t call them the Batvengers. In fact, these Bat-themed heroes are closer to the X-Men. With the DC Rebirth relaunch of Detective Comics, James Tynion IV was given the unique opportunity to tell stories featuring all of Batman's extended family.
What was once a series containing mostly standalone Batman stories is now the Dark Knight's vey own team book. Batman, Batwoman, Batwing, Cassandra Cain, Spoiler, Red Robin, Azrael, and even Clayface join forces to fight threats too big for just one hero. The result is epic, sometimes hilarious, and always fun. Most importantly, Tynion’s team has thrust Batman into a role that he is not familiar with, that of a nurturing leader.
We sat down with Tynion IV at New York Comic Con to discuss the genesis of the team concept and his take on each of the diverse members of Batman’s new band of heroes.
Den of Geek: How did you land the gig on Detective Comics? Did DC come to you with that concept?
James Tynion IV: Well, before working on Detective, I worked with Scott Snyder on two weekly Batman comics - Batman Eternal and Batman and Robin Eternal - and, as we were building towards Rebirth, DC knew and I knew that the book we wanted was the book that was going to continue the stories of the entire Bat family. I had the idea for a while that I wanted to handle that as a team. Not just as series or an ensemble book, but as a literal team.
Originally, they thought it would be a new book. The way that everything shaped out was that they felt that the perfect title would be Detective Comics. For a while, the name on my documents was Shadow of the Bat, but they were like, no, this was a Detective Comics story. They felt that over the last decade the most iconic runs of Detective Comics were the ones that were outside the box. It was the Snyder/Jock run with Dick Grayson as Batman, before that it was the Rucka/Williams run starring Batwoman. Other than being the ones that people remember, they are the ones that keep selling in trades. You need to do something new and different.
Let’s talk about the team. No one has really explored Batman as a team guy outside of the Justice League. Yeah, there was the Outsiders, but he was more of that team's mentor figure, an outsider to the Outsiders. You’re writing Batman as a leader of his family.
One of the things I’ve always hated was these moments when there would be young upstart vigilantes in Gotham City and Batman would basically say, “No.” He would try to stand in their way and prevent them from becoming heroes. It occurred to me that at some point Batman needed a way to say, “Yes.” If these guys are going to go out and do it, he needs to give them the skills to do it right. That’s where the idea came from to do it as a sort of boot camp. Once we started using the language of boot camp, we realized that Batman doesn’t have the expertise of running a kind of boot camp. But there’s a character in Gotham who does.
Which obviously brings us to Batwoman. Tell us about your take on Batwoman. Where is she now, and what does she want?
Obviously, going all the way back to the Rucka run the key question is: what is her mission? That’s the difference between Kate Kane and Bruce Wayne. He had his life ripped apart by faceless crime, and in that moment he made an oath to build himself into the perfect crime fighter to prevent that from ever happening again. When Kate was only a child, she had her life destroyed by faceless terrorism and decided to build herself into the perfect soldier to fight that and prevent it from happening.
But because of her sexuality, society didn’t let her.
Exactly, because of her history, Kate hit a wall. She was on the path to, you can imagine her rising in the ranks and becoming a Captain America sort of figure, but she was kicked out of the armed forces. That was the only way to become what she set out to do. She stumbled, she became lost. She would be lost in bars. That’s where she met Renee Montoya for the first time.
So you have a character that has a kind of humility that comes with Kate that Batman will never have, and there’s kind of a core realism that says the world can stop you sometimes. But the Batman gives her a symbol for her mission. Part of the Detective story has been Batman letting her in and making her part of the core mission.
Let’s get to my favorite character in the book, a character you took from somewhat of a two-dimensional villain to a really fascinating hero. Clayface. You did an amazing job with this character. You found something in Clayface. What was it that you found?
It’s a sadness. It’ the sense of loss. It’s the fact that he faced something similar to Batman, and something we all face. Life comes at you, and there’s a moment where you don’t know if you’re strong enough to face what life has thrown at you. Bruce Wayne built himself into Batman to cope with that. Clayface, because his accident disfigured him, instead of rising to his moment, it darkened him. Batman sees that. He sees that Clayface doesn’t have to be a villain, he could be more if he wants to be. And he does want to be, but there’s part of himself that worries that at the end of it all, he will fall down again. He’s worried that on the inside there’s a monster, that Batman is wrong.
Seriously, your Clayface is like a Lon Chaney character thrust in the DC Universe. So let’s talk Spoiler. Spoiler fans can be rough on a creator. How have fans received your Spoiler?
There are a lot of people really happy that Stephanie is back. For every fan of every character, there is a definitive run on that character. Which defines their take on it. My Stephanie Brown, my Spoiler, comes from the Chuck Dixon Robin run. That’s the one I grew up with, and that’s the one that informed my take on the character. I think there are same younger fans who focus more on the Batgirl era or when she was Robin for a moment. That’s the stories that matter to them, and I understand that. But it’s something I have deep respect for - for the love of Batman family characters. You can see what characters I love, and that I want to bring back. I’m doing what every writer does, I’m building my iconic DC Universe.
If you could pick one other DC character to throw on your team, who would it be?
I already did it. It was Zatanna.
In our brief conversation, we did not get to talk about the remaining team member Batwing or the shocking return of a lost Bat character. But check out Tynion twice monthly on Detective Comics to witness some truly groundbreaking superhero storytelling.
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This primary antagonist of Riverdale Season 2 has some deep Archie Comics ties that you may not realize.
This Riverdale article contains spoilers.
The character of Archie Andrews made his debut when he appeared as a support story in Pep Comics #22 in December of 1942. At the time, Pep was arguably the most successful publication from MLJ Comics. With the first appearance of Archie, interest in all things Riverdale became the company's primary focus and it wasn't long until they changed their name to that of their red-headed breakout star.
But what often gets ignored is how many other characters MLJ/Archie already had in their stable. Most notably there was The Shield, a patriotic superhero who pre-dated Captain America, as well as other heroes like The Hangman, The Crusader, and The Black Hood.
That's right, the origin of the same character who is currently wreaking havoc on Riverdale dates all the way back to 1940 when The Black Hood first showed up in the ninth issue of Top-Notch Comics. Or at least it's kind of the same character, as the Hood's history gets pretty complicated pretty fast.
Created by Harry Shorten and Al Camy, The Black Hood is the crime-fighting alter ego of police officer Matthew "Kip" Burland. Donning the mystical headgear from which he got his name, Burland would go out and fight bad guys without the sort of fuss, muss, or bureaucracy that marred his day job. His coloring out of the lines style of bringing the guilty to justice struck a chord with the noir-obsessed readers of the era and the Hood's popularity soon earned him a radio show that ran for one year and 120 episodes. Unfortunately archiving in the 1940s isn't quite what it is now, and the series was largely lost to the ages.
Below is what is considered to be the only surviving episode of the show. It's still a rather entertaining listen, if obviously dated.
With Archie taking up most of MLJ's attention and resources, it wasn't long until The Black Hood was retired. But the character still had plenty of life left in him. When Archie formed their equivalent of The Avengers, The Mighty Crusaders, in the 1960s, The Black Hood was front and center. After interest in that title waned, the Hood experienced a brief period of dormancy before a new incarnation of the character -- Thomas "Kip" Burland, who was the nephew of the original Hood -- debuted in 1979.
"No evil can escape the merciless vengeance of The Black Hood," says our hero on the cover of his comeback, glass shattering all around him as he leaps out at readers to catch their attention. This revival came courtesy of Man Thing co-creator/all around comics inspiration Gray Morrow and famed DC creator Neal Adams. The late 1970s was a fascinating period for Archie Comics. With their various comedy titles and digests devoured by fans each month, the company decided to return to its roots and bring back their heroes through their Red Circle imprint.
Eventually, these stories were compiled for the (regretfully) short-lived Superhero Digest Magazine that aimed to do for the MLJ heroes what the regular Archie digests did for their characters...namely act as an impulse buy for parents and kids at supermarkets and drug stores across the country, serving as an introduction to the wonderful world of comics along the way. Quickly, lack of demand and/or low sales put an end to the hero centric digest, although stories featuring the MLJ characters would pop up in the main line of Archie digests throughout the 1980s.
The Reagan era also saw a renewed push for the Red Circle line, with The Black Hood getting another short run and the character also appearing in a revival of The Mighty Crusaders. Perhaps due to the fact that these heroes were obscure from a mainstream point of view compared to a, say, Spider-Man or Batman, or maybe because readers wrongly believed that the same company who put out titles like Archie's T.V. Laugh Out couldn't possibly tell gripping, gritty tales in this genre, these books were largely ignored and relegated to the three-for-a-dollar section of stores (which is where this writer first discovered the wonders they possess). And then, it seemed like they would be untethered from Archie for good when DC got the license for the characters from the early 1990s (including several stabs published by Impact) but that too failed.
Then the unexpected happened. Archie became one of the most risk-taking companies in the industry. Light years away from the dark times that had Al Hartley licensing the characters for Spire Christian Comics, Archie was releasing headline-grabbing titles like Life with Archie: The Married Life and Afterlife with Archie. Then in 2015, spearheaded by Archie's Alex Segura -- himself a brilliant noir/mystery writer -- the Dark Circle imprint was born.
Pre-dated by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel's short run on The Fox and a testing of the waters via digital exclusives featuring the MLJ staples, Dark Circle brought back the characters of The Black Hood, The Shield, and The Hangman and grounded them in a realistic and often grim world. Although uniformly excellent, the best of the batch was Duane Swierczynski's run on The Black Hood. This time around, the story shifts its focus to Greg Hettinger, a Philadelphia cop who is disfigured when he takes a bullet to the face while trying to break up a gang fight outside of a public school. During this melee, he kills the previous Black Hood, Kip Burland. His brain addled from a growing addiction to pain killers, he begins working as a Death Wish-styled vigilante, a move that is only heightened after Hettinger is framed for his involvement with drugs.
The inital "The Bullet's Kiss" story arc included compelling visuals from Michael Gaydos, replete with Philly landmarks aplenty that just add to the book's commitment to reality. It also makes some subtle statements on the opiod epidemic tha result in a story that is both compelling and timely. A new "Season 2" storyline went three issues, but the current run of the Hood is currently on hiatus. (Whether or not he turns up in the upcoming, and seemingly lighter, The Mighty Crusaders remains to be seen).
This massive infodump brings us back to Riverdale. Who exactly is The Black Hood on this series? That question is shaping up to be season two's central mystery. From the third episode we can glean a few things. First and foremost, he sees Riverdale as a city in moral crisis. In his letter to Alice Cooper he notes that those he has attacked to date he views as sinners that he must cleanse. "I am the wolf, you are the flock, this is the bloodletting," he writes.
Then there's the fact that everyone so far has some link to Archie, which could be a red herring that exists to repair the season one problem of having the show's main character regularly sidelined from the action. But it does indeed seem as if he is being targeted. Or at least he was at first. (Moose, Midge and even potentially Ethel aren't really in Archie's orbit on this series).
So who and why? The first and most obvious answer seems to be someone hired by Mr. Lodge to screw with Archie. We don't know anything about Hiram's history with Fred Andrews, but we do know that he seems to be a smoke and brimstone kind of guy -- which is absolutely in line with the Hood's Old Testament-esque anger. For all we know, Fred and Hermione could have had a thing in high school that Hiram is still pissed about, so when he learned about the pair rekindling their romance, even briefly, he could have gone off the deep end.
Who else? Maybe Sheriff Keller. Him actually being a crook explains his utterly inept crime-fighting skills. He wants Riverdale to be in chaos.
Honestly though, it's most likely to be someone we don't know yet but will become important later.
In the past, even when The Black Hood has been seen as a vigilante he still had good intentions. His television counterpart seems straight up evil. So what's the deal? From a practical perspective, Archie already had the IP and the Hood looks cool, so they could use him without the aggro in creating a new character. This take on the character, whoever is secret identity is, is clearly different from all that has gone before. You can expect to see elements from previous Hoods incorporated into him, but like Riverdaleitself, this guy is a bold new take on something that has been kicking around for decades. And isn't that the most exiting part of all of this?
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After many years a new and updated Robotech art book will cover the Macross Saga in detail.
Back in the 80's the landmark Robotech art books opened a generations eyes to the inner workings of the cult science fiction anime hit. Now, UDON Entertainment is not just updating the old art books but giving fans a whole new presentation of archived material with Robotech Visual Archive: The Macross Saga.
Covering the entire first generation of Robotech, we'll let the description from the press release give you more info on what the book contains.
This 248-page hardcover tome gathers classic mecha designs, dynamic character artwork, early roughs, key art, storyboards, character profiles, and more. Mecha designs are accompanied by detailed tech specs and armament info, as well as text write ups. Additional material in the book includes a complete episode guide, an interview with Macrosschief director Noboru Ishiguro, and a unique essay by Robotech producer Carl Macek on the development of the Robotech property and its place in anime history.
While some of this material has been seen in Robotech Art 1 back in the day, much of it will be cleaned up. Take a look at these previews below for some examples.
This book will be the first in a series of Robotech art books, with future volumes covering both The Masters and The New Generation eras. Curiously, the press release also mentions that it will also feature, "new material created to expand the Robotech universe for international audiences." Does that just mean the art that's been all over the Chinese products for Robotech or something else? We can't wait to find out.
Robotech Visual Archive: The Macross Saga will be in stories everywhere December 2017 and will cost $44.99USD. You can find more information at UDON Entertainment's website here.
Shamus Kelley can only hope Khyron's hair will be featured in this book. That's a RoboSkull Cast in-joke. Follow him on Twitter!
Jughead's devouring more than just burgers in the latest horror title from Archie Comics.
"This is not Mom and Pop’s Archie where they’re at the Chok'lit Shoppe sipping milkshakes together. This is going to be people getting whacked here. This is some serious shit."
With those words, writer Frank Tieri -- best known for his work at Marvel, including an extended run on Wolverine -- gets to the essence of what Jughead: The Hunger is all about. Following a successful one-shot try out this past March, the first regular issue of the ongoing series that features art from Pat and Tim Kennedy hits stores today as part of the Archie Madhouse line of horror books (which also include Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Afterlife with Archie, titles that have experienced delays due to writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's showrunning duties on Riverdale). Not burdened with the responsibilty of bringing these iconic these characters to television on a weekly basis, Tieri has the time to craft his own twisted take on the Archieverse.
The story so far: Jughead's insatiable hunger is partially due to the fact that the members of the Jones family have sufferd from lycanthropy seemingly for generations. But he is not the only one in Riverdale with a secret. Seemingly ordinary girl-next-door Betty Cooper is actually descended from werewolf hunters tasked with taking down the Joneses before they can ruthlessly slaughter their innocent victims whenever a full moon rises. The one shot saw the apparent demise of several beloved characters -- including Reggie Mantle -- while Archie, in typical Archie fashion, found himself suddenly bumbling through a new world he had no idea that was hiding in plain sight the entire time.
In the issue of Jughead: The Hunger that was just released, we see our crown-wearing hero taking work at a travelling circus in an attempt to put some distance between him and the only home he has ever known. He chains himself up at night for fear of harming anyone, but as his plans slowly unravel a surprising evil emerges in Riverdale while Betty enlists another family member to try to take down Jughead once and for all.
It's a riveting story, one that wears its influences on its sleeve just like pins on Jughead's ever-present beanie. While speaking to him at New York Comic Con earlier this month, Tieri is quick to cop to the pre-existing horror sagas that are flavoring his unfolding tale. "For the people who say it's a tip of the hat to Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Yes, absolutely. Guilty as charged." But its hardly the only pop culture product to have its DNA embedded in Jughead: The Hunger, including a certain John Landis werewolf film from the 1980s. "Literally if you read my script for the one-shot I call for an American Werewolf in Londontransformation," he tells us, speaking of the first time we see Jughead becoming his hairy, flesh-eating alter ego. "That beautiful special effect where he’s transforming? Yes, there’s a definite influence."
Which isn't to say that Tieri's storytelling isn't also impacted by classic horror characters.
"When I approached them with this I said they have great stuff in their horror line. They have zombies, they have witches. But they don’t have a classic movie monster. This is my version (of that). I’m a big fan of the classic Universal Monsters -- Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man. In the Wolf Man’s case it’s a tragic story. It's the reluctant man who has this thrust upon him and does these horrible things but he doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t want to be doing it and that’s what we have here. It’s our ode to classic movie monsters."
The added pathos of a character saddled with lycanthropy also opens up plenty of creative doors for Jughead: The Hunger to tell stories that are scary, action-packed and melancholy all at once. But will other types of monsters find their way into the pages of the comic?
"I love stuff like Frankenstein vs the Wolf Man, you know what I mean? And after I pitched it (Jughead: The Hunger) I joked and said hey who knows where it could lead? Jugwolf vs. FrankenMoose. Who knows? Yes, we could definitely have other monsters."
Tieri told us that his favorite characters to write for in this series are Jughead, Reggie, and Betty, the latter of which is unlike any take on her that readers have ever seen before.
"I was always a Betty guy over a Veronica guy. I always felt that there was something underneath there that was worth exploring and that’s kind of what we do here. There’s sweet betty all American-girl but secretly she’s been this bad ass werewolf hunter all this time."
Readers of Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina have come to expect a certain level of chills and violent gore, and the tradition is carried over into this latest horror title, a fact that Tieri is quick to point out. "The Archie Horror line gets pretty brutal" he tells us, punctuating his point by adding "if you read the one shot, right off the bat we chop off Ms. Grundy’s head."
Whether killing beloved characters or slaying expectations, Jughead: The Hunger seems unafraid to take chances. This ideology has become something of an company trademark over the past decade, to keep readers interested by challenging preconceived notions about the kind of stories that can be told in Archie comics. Nothing reasonable seems off the table right now, and that inventiveness is infectious.
When asked about what we can expect from upcoming issues, Tieri gives us a tantalizing glimpse of what's to come.
"In addition to seeing other werewolves and werewolf hunters, something is going on in Riverdale. Reggie might not be as dead as you thought he was and he may be gathering forces let’s say. Stay tuned on that. We’re not quite done with Reggie yet."
Like Jughead, we are hungry for more.
Hulu will adapt Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man as a series, bringing the same spirit as its success with The Handmaid’s Tale.
In the quickly-evolving, Netflix-dominated, arena of premium streaming services, Hulu managed to make a monumental mark this year with its Emmys-accumulating television series, The Handmaid’s Tale, adapting Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, showcasing a dystopian society in which a totalitarian theocracy institutionally subjugates women; a series loaded with timely topical themes. Consequently, the streaming outlet will continue that winning formula by adapting another socially poignant literary work in Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man.
Hulu is in early development stages of adapting Invisible Man as a series, reports Variety. The streaming outlet, which acquired the rights to the 1952 novel from the Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust, is moving forward with their small-screen serial adaptation, having appointed John Callahan as executive producer. Indeed, The Handmaid’s Tale proved to be a proverbial North Star for the streaming outlet, something that tends to occur after winning EIGHT Emmy awards for a single season of television. As Hulu’s senior Vice President of content, Craig Erwich, told the trade shortly after those September wins:
“We’re looking to tell intimate character stories against large worlds and large canvases that have really strong, resonant, and permanent dramatic underpinnings.”
Ellison’s Invisible Man will certainly fit that mission. The novel, considered to be one of the most important pieces of literature to deal with racial strife in 20th century United States, is told from the perspective of a never-named African-American narrator, who recalls a painful odyssey, starting with his youth in the South, where his achievement of getting into college is stultified by a series of wrong-place-wrong-time incidents and disingenuous faculty members sabotaging his prospects. While seemingly finding some acceptance after a migration North to New York City, his disillusionment eventually returns after experiences with a black nationalist group, arriving at the unfortunate epiphany that his dehumanizing status as an “invisible man” is not quite restricted to racial lines.
Invisible Man made a contemporaneous impact in a generally white literary world, winning the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953 and is frequently cited amongst prestigious lists of the best novels of the 20th century. Indeed, the work proves itself to be more than just a “racial” novel, showcasing a groundbreaking surreal representation of personal alienation filtered through the prism of perspective – almost akin literary contemporary J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” – that is inherently identifiable to just about anyone.
There’s no word yet on when to expect Invisible Man on Hulu, since the planning gears for the series are just starting to turn.
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Focus Drama is talking with Scarlett Johansson to star in movie adaptation of the novel The Deepest Secret
Scarlett Johansson is about to go to go dark, darker than the Black Widow. Johansson is in talks to star in Focus Drama’s upcoming film Reflective Light. The film will mark the directorial debut of art photographer Gregory Crewdson, who wrote the screenplay with Juliane Hiam.
Reflective Light is an adaptation of the 2014 Carla Buckley novel The Deepest Secret, about a boy who is allergic to sunlight, and the mother who will do whatever she will to cover him with darkness.
“Eve Lattimore is barely keeping things together,” according to the official Penguin Random House synopsis.
“Her husband works fifteen hundred miles away, leaving Eve to juggle singlehandedly the demands of their teenaged daughter and fragile son. Tyler was born with XP—the so-called vampire disease: even one moment of sun exposure can have fatal consequences. So Eve does what any mother might do: she turns their home into a fortress. Every day, she watches the sun rise and fall, and keeps a close eye on her child. Friendships fall away. Her marriage is on the rocks. Her daughter’s going through something but won’t talk about it. Still, Eve believes that it’s all a matter of time before a cure is found, and everything can resume its normal course. Until the night she makes a terrible decision, and it’s not only the sun she has to hide from.”
Reflective Light will be produced by Marc Platt along with Platt Productions’ Jared LeBoff.
Dive deep into the mouth of madness with these three great Batman Halloween specials from the 90s!
This article contains spoilers for Batman: Haunted Knight.
In 1993, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, now famous for Batman: The Long Halloween, performed a mad experiment to remind us that the Dark Knight's worst fears were gravely domestic and close to home. And how else to achieve this, but in Batman's own tales of horror and madness.
The creative team produced three Batman Halloween specials from 1993-95 for theLegends of the Dark Knightanthology series. The original Legends ran from 1989-2007 and featured a rotating team of artists and writers, including Grant Morrison, Klaus Janson, Mark Millar, Dennis O'Neil, Mike W. Barr, Warren Ellis, Mike Mignola, and many, many more all-star creators. The stories in Legends were meant to be self-contained arcs, set in the early days of the Dark Knight, before Robin but after Batman: Year One, and could be described as the "weird tales" of Batman.
In the pages of this series was the opportunity for these unique creators to treat Batman like they had made him up, to play with his mythos, and delve deep into his psyche. It's no wonder Loeb and Sale's Halloween specials fit so well within these guideliness. The series was indeed very popular in the 90s, and the three stories I'm about to discuss are among the biggest factors of its success.
A Lonely Man
I'm in no way green to Batman comics, but I do have to say that good Bruce Wayne stories have eluded me for the most part. In other words, I feel that, while there are plenty of great Batman adventures, there aren't as many memorable stories about Bruce Wayne the man. Yes, there's Frank Miller's iconic work on the character in both Year Oneand Dark Knight Returns, which has pretty much influenced every comic book since, but beyond that grand scale, there aren't many smaller stories that tackle the character as efficiently. We've seen a few great contemporary examples, including Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's work on Batman since 2011, and there's plenty to be said about Grant Morrison's take on Batman of Zur-En-Arrh (this is what happens when you take Bruce out of the equation and all that), but even these take the form of epics.
What about a great intimate story about what it is to not only be Batman, but Bruce Wayne? It surely takes as much courage to fight the monsters of the night as it does to live a life unfulfilled during the day. This is at the center of Loeb and Sale's stories, which focus heavily on Bruce as Batman's greatest strength and weakness.
In the first special, titled "Choices" when originally released and "Fears" in the Haunted Knight collection, which contains all three Halloween stories, Batman faces his greatest challenge ever: the promise of a romantic encounter and domestic bliss as Bruce Wayne. Fittingly enough, the story begins with Batman chasing Scarecrow through Gotham. Scarecrow's latest fear gas is the most potent he's ever created, and he manages to give Bats a very strong dose. Yes, it seems that the story is going in an expected direction: Batman must fight his greatest fears in a gas-induced fever dream...and for the most part, it's true, but not in the way you'd expect. Batman doesn't go under the spell when first gassed, instead punching out the bad guy and delivering him to Gordon.
Back on the homefront, Bruce Wayne is having a costume party with the most distinguished guests in all of Gotham, the rich, the pampered, the gluttons, all of the people Bruce despises but has to keep tabs on in order to stay in touch with his city. But he never expected to meet Jillian Maxwell, a mysterious woman clad in red who immediately grabs Bruce's attention, as they share a dance. Almost immediately, Bruce is intoxicated with her. Even when Scarecrow obviously escapes and Bruce has to once again give chase, all he can do is think of her, the way he had to leave her after a night of romance to save his city, how he can't quite figure her out.
During his second fight with Scarecrow, we get flashbacks of his time with Jillian, who is good at invading every single nook and cranny of Wayne Manor. When he comes home tired, defeated, Jillian is waiting for him in his bedroom—much to Alfred's chagrin, I might add. When faced with a situation where he might have to use force as Bruce Wayne, Jillian shows him another way, that all that matters is protecting those you love and living your life with them. These things put Batman's mission in doubt. Is he wasting his life saving a city that he feels has never been kind to him, when he could be happy and have someone to love? Has he squandered the love he has?
Symbolism runs heavy in this story, as you have to read between the lines to understand how the Scarecrow's gas has affected the Dark Knight this time around. Batman's biggest fear is giving up on his mission, that one day he'll no longer be around to protect his city. Yes, he's going to die one day (we've seen it happen plenty of times), but there is no good death for him. It's tragic that he'll die fighting for his cause, a victory in most eyes, but even that means giving up on tomorrow. On saving one more life. Stopping one more crime. So in this way, as Bruce considers taking a vacation with Jillian and leaving Gotham behind, he is facing his greatest fear.
At one point, Batman has his symbol ripped out of his chest and finds himself trapped in a hedge maze of poisonous thorns, unable to escape, as the walls grow higher between him and Gotham. He hallucinates his wedding day with Jillian, who asks him to finally take off his mask because he has finally made his choice to live as Bruce Wayne. While Batman figures out his escape—he eventually does escape, of course—Alfred has grown more suspicious of Jillian and decides to run a background check on Ms. Maxwell. What he discovers is tragic for Bruce, but also snaps him out of his spell.
Jillian marries wealthy men in order to murder them for their money. Bruce is angered by this revelation, frustrated that he can never have a normal life. He believes he lives without choice, chosen by Gotham to protect it. Batman takes his anger out on Scarecrow. The story concludes with Bruce realizing why he's chosen to live a life unfulfilled in order to fight crime. He knows he's made a choice and that it's the best one he could possibly make.
The second story, "Madness," is a neat trick. A play on Alice in Wonderland, Batman faces off against Mad Hatter, who the Dark Knight considers to be his most disturbing adversary—at least in this story. Hatter, a violent schizophrenic who lives in a fantasy world, affects Batman (and more importantly, Bruce) in a very personal way: the villain has perverted a good memory he has of his mother, specifically when she used to read him Alice in Wonderland as a boy. In fact, Batman considers that remembering his mother at all is dangerous to his mission. It's interesting that the story begins with Bruce thinking a mother's love is a weakness because by the end it proves to be his greatest strength.
As a brilliant parallel, little Barbara (yes, that Barbara), who is Jim Gordon's orphaned niece in this continuity, also plays her part in the story. Like a younger Bruce, Babs wonders if she belongs in her new life with the Gordons. Would she be better off on her own without guardians to care for her? Babs, like Batman, considers pushing that love away.
When both Batman and Babs fall into the Hatter's clutches, they're forced to reconsider letting it all back in. Batman is shot by Hatter and goes "tumbling down the rabbithole," so to speak. Seriously injured and alone, he is apparently aided by the ghost of his mother in Crime Alley. Of course, it's actually Leslie Thompkins that saves him. Batman recalls the days after the death of his parents—the infamous murder scene is drawn to perfection by Sale, by the way—when Dr. Thompkins arrived to Wayne Manor to comfort him and act as his surrogate parent, along with Alfred.
A beautiful line spoken by Thompkins acts as a refrain throughout the story. In past and present, she asks Bruce to let him in: "I'd like to help you...if you let me." Batman understands that she is a big reason why he was able to go on after his parents' deaths. A mother's love was his guiding light. He uses his newfound strength to save Babs from the Mad Hatter, who's made her his Alice in a sick tea party.
Besides the main bits of the story, there are two other things that will catch the eye. The first is the way Loeb and Sale compare both Gordon and Thomas Wayne as fathers. In separate sections we see Gordon and Thomas express their distaste for baby-ing children. Gordon tries to convince his wife, who's also named Barbara, that she should take their infant son off bottles. (Might've prevented the kid from becoming a serial killer, in retrospect.) Thomas also asks Martha to stop reading Bruce "fancy tales" and also suggests they skip The Mark of Zorro for something "more inspirational." (That might've saved their lives, actually.)
It's interesting to consider how the latter might have affected Bruce's psyche and opinion on weakness. His mother shrugs his father off, telling him she's excited to go see Zorro. Of course, by going to see that movie, they've doomed themselves. Might Bruce be angry at his mother's sympathy for him, at her insistence to show him a fantasy world? The scene cuts to little Bruce asking his mom to please wear her pearls for the occasion...followed by the pearls being ripped from her neck and the muzzle of a gun..."I never saw her again..." Batman narrates to conclude the memory. After that, when Thompkins tries to read him Alice in Wonderland, little Bruce pushes her away, shouting that he doesn't want anybody to help him. An adult Bruce realizes that his entire life has been populated by people who have helped him. He ponders that without the death of his parents, without that fateful night, he would never have met such "a remarkable woman" in Leslie.
We must also quickly consider the Hatter's own obsession with the Queen of Hearts, which runs rampant in this story. In several instances, he is waiting for her or believes to be standing before her (he and Batman get into a fight in the Gotham Playing Card Co. because comics), and he is desperate in his admiration for her. He even hosts a big tea party full of kidnapped children for her. It's a great juxtaposition between a man who wants to forget his mother and a man who is obsessed with his.
In my opinion, "Madness" is the strongest of the three stories, a good play on a classic tale that also provides deeper, unexpected looks into several characters. Loeb and Sale find a unique angle to explore Bruce's relationship with his parents, and that's always impressive when it comes to a character that's been around for over 75 years.
A Serious Man
The third and final Halloween special is a play on Charles Dickens'A Christmas Carol and has a much more clear message than the other two stories. In fact, the message clashes directly with the conclusion of the first story. The ghosts of Batman's past, present, and future arrive on Halloween to show Bruce that living only for Batman and forgetting the good things in life is a mistake. In a way, Loeb and Sale bring their tales full circle in the story fittingly titled "Ghosts."
I will say that this story is the weakest of the three, in part due to its setup. Bruce is attending a charity gala with Lucius Fox when the Penguin attacks. You have to have Batman's most Dickensian villain for this story, after all. While Penguin seemingly kills Bruce during the robbery, Batman shows up to save the day, savagely beating Penguin with his fists. As he captures the Penguin, Batman tells us that "justice must be blind" and that "his decisions cannnot be encumbered by one's personal indulgences." So basically, he's about to learn a valuable life lesson, courtesy of his rogues gallery.
Bruce arrives victorious to Wayne Manor but suddenly comes down with what seems like food poisoning. We see him about to eat a gnarly looking shrimp in the opening page of the story, and that puts him down for the count. Yes, this is the story where Batman is temporarily defeated by bad shrimp. I told you I'd be talking about Bruce as a weakness, right?
Whether it's a fever dream or the surpernatural, the ghost of Thomas Wayne appears to Bruce (the scene above is rendered expertly by Sale, whose close-up on Thomas' face is quite creepy) to set him on the journey to past, present, and future. His father also expresses regret for his obsession with medicine, which he says was the reason he lost sight of what was really important: the people he loved. Thomas carries heavy chains all over his body as the burdens he brought over from his life into the afterlife. "Your obsession with Batman creates an even greater and more thunderous chain!" Bruce's father warns.
The first ghost takes the form of Poison Ivy, who shows Bruce two moments from his past. He is reminded of one Halloween when he was a boy and his father didn't show up to take him trick-or-treating because of a medical emergency. Little Bruce is determined to wait by the large windows of the mansion until his father returns. "Even if it takes all night." (Interestingly enough, little Bruce is dressed as Zorro for this particular Halloween.) She also shows Bruce the night he met Lucius Fox, who he saved from a group of thugs in Paris. Fox makes him a proposition that Bruce declines—a decision that is in large part the crux of the entire story.
Batman's present is best represented by the Joker's madness, as he shows Bruce how he's shut out the outside world and even turned into a bit of a monster for those on the outside looking in. Bruce and Joker stand on the gates at Wayne Manor, looking down at little trick-or-treaters who are too afraid to enter the grounds because they think the house is haunted. And in a way it is, right? Bruce has allowed nothing but monsters to fill his life and bad memories to live in and under his home. The Joker shows Bruce how he has become an extension of all that.
The final ghost sees Bruce face Death itself, as he's led to his lonely grave in the future. His tombstone is cracked and vines grow thick around it. Only Alfred ever comes to visit. Presumably, Bruce has died in his mission as the Batman. Bruce asks Death, "How was I so easily forgotten?" He understands what his father was trying to tell him all along: "For all the good that Batman does, have I left nothing for myself?"
In the morning, Bruce awakens to set things right. Alfred assumes that he should prepare the Batsuit for another Halloween "fraught" with all sorts of criminal activity," but Bruce suggests things might be different this year. He finds Lucius to take him up on the offer from years ago, establishing the Wayne Foundation "to help the less fortunate." Finally, Bruce decides to stay home on Halloween for once and open his doors to trick-or-treaters.
"Ghosts" serves as a pretty satisfying coda for Loeb and Sale's cycle of stories. Bruce goes full circle, from obsessing over a singular mission to realizing that a life outside of Batman is also worth living. And that's why these are great Bruce stories: Loeb and Sale, as a perfect companion piece to Year One, want Batman to embrace Bruce. They take the obvious symbol of terror (just look at how Sale draws Batman in these stories and in later adventures) out of these Halloween tales to reveal the real fear: the very vulnerable man underneath the cowl.
A version of this article first appeared on October 27, 2015.