- RSS Channel Showcase 1162830
- RSS Channel Showcase 2638968
- RSS Channel Showcase 1159768
- RSS Channel Showcase 6314366
Articles on this Page
- 12/03/17--00:40: _Left Behind and the...
- 12/03/17--21:15: _The Walking Dead Se...
- 12/04/17--02:04: _Happy! Season 1 Rev...
- 12/04/17--13:29: _Star Wars: How Phas...
- 12/04/17--17:54: _The Gifted Season 1...
- 12/05/17--01:11: _The Gifted Episode ...
- 12/05/17--16:40: _Den of Geek Book Cl...
- 12/05/17--17:00: _Why the X-Men Don't...
- 12/05/17--17:53: _Marvel's Runaways S...
- 12/06/17--01:13: _Legends of Tomorrow...
- 11/30/17--11:45: _The Star Wars Canon...
- 12/06/17--15:31: _Slaughterhouse-Five...
- 12/06/17--15:44: _John Green's Turtle...
- 12/06/17--16:06: _How Harry Potter Sh...
- 12/07/17--10:50: _Doctor Star Takes C...
- 12/07/17--16:30: _J.K. Rowling Defend...
- 12/07/17--17:21: _How Batman Returns ...
- 12/08/17--03:38: _Holiday Shopping 20...
- 12/08/17--08:17: _The Punisher Season...
- 12/08/17--13:06: _Ready Player One: T...
- 12/03/17--00:40: Left Behind and the Worst Movie Break-In of All Time
- 12/03/17--21:15: The Walking Dead Season 8: A Spoiler-Filled Guide to All Out War
- 12/04/17--02:04: Happy! Season 1 Review (Spoiler-Free)
- 12/04/17--17:54: The Gifted Season 1 Finale Will Address Magneto
- 12/05/17--01:11: The Gifted Episode 9 Review: outfoX
- 12/05/17--16:40: Den of Geek Book Club Podcast: Annalee Newitz on Autonomous
- 12/05/17--17:00: Why the X-Men Don't Belong in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- 12/05/17--17:53: Marvel's Runaways Season 1 Episode 5 Review: Kingdom
- 12/06/17--01:13: Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 9 Review: Beebo the God of War
- 11/30/17--11:45: The Star Wars Canon Timeline: A Beginner's Guide
- 12/06/17--15:31: Slaughterhouse-Five TV Series in the Works at Universal Cable
- 12/06/17--15:44: John Green's Turtles All the Way Down Gets Movie Deal
- 12/06/17--16:06: How Harry Potter Shaped Modern Internet Fandom
- 12/07/17--16:30: J.K. Rowling Defends Johnny Depp's Fantastic Beasts Casting
- 12/07/17--17:21: How Batman Returns Became The Greatest Anti-Christmas Movie
- 12/08/17--03:38: Holiday Shopping 2017: Best Books For Gifts
- 12/08/17--08:17: The Punisher Season 2: What's Next?
Apocalyptic thriller Left Behind stars Nicolas Cage. Its reviews were not kind. And it features perhaps the worst movie break-in ever...
Films are sometimes critically panned not because they're inherently bad, but because of the larger story surrounding them. Consider Battlefield Earth, for example: a terrible movie, sure, but its production history (not to mention its connection to the Church of Scientology) made it an easy target.
Solar Crisis, released in 1990 was an equally awful movie -- and with a budget of $55 million, just as calamitous, financially -- but it was largely ignored while Battlefield Earth's hideousness was trumpeted from the rooftops.
Which brings us to 2014's Left Behind, a film so universally panned by critics that its Rotten Tomatoes score sits at an abysmal two percent. This places it a mere whisker above such legendarily bad films as Jaws: The Revenge and Mac And Me, and a startling 10 percent below the poverty-row superhero sequel, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.
But is Left Behind really a terrible film, or has it been subjected to a critical drubbing because of its overt religious themes? To be clear: it's the former. For this writer, the core idea in Left Behindis a really effective one, and could have made for a properly eerie apocalyptic thriller. People all over the world are suddenly vanishing into thin air, and those remaining are quite understandably freaking out. The problem with Left Behind isn't its concept, but its execution. This is best summed up in one particular scene, which we'll get to in a moment.
But first, here's a bit of context.
A decidedly out-of-sorts seeming Nicolas Cage stars as airline pilot Rayford Steele, who is thousands of feet above the Earth when the planet's good-hearted souls are whisked off into the ether. While Rayford deals with terrified passengers and the disappearance of his co-pilot, Steele's daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) is having an equally bewildering day at ground level. Chloe's little brother has just disappeared during a shopping trip, leaving her to roam a panic-stricken city in a fruitless search.
Directed by Vic Armstrong (perhaps best known for his work as a stuntman), Left Behind adapts a relatively small portion of the source novel -- one of a series of best-sellers written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The result is a kind of disaster movie with an apocalyptic, biblical edge, with the later, Book of Revelation-inspired events of the novel presumably being saved for a sequel.
At present, plans for a follow-up to Left Behind appear to be on hold, which is quite disappointing in a strange sort of way. With its bizarre dialogue and inexplicable filmmaking decisions, Left Behind presents one of the funniest apocalypses yet committed to film.
We could pick all kinds of moments that illustrate just how uniquely strange Left Behind is: the scene where Lea Thompson (who plays Cage's wife) stares adoringly at an appallingly photoshopped picture of her family.
Or maybe the scene where Chloe's left holding the clothes of her vanished little brother.
Or the way everyone reacts to these mass vanishings not with confusion or horror, but with the kind of unrestrained enthusiasm you usually see at a Black Friday sale.
Or the bit where this woman shrieks, "Please staahhhpp!" to the unaccountably angry guy ramming her car with his pick-up truck.
Instead we'll concentrate on this:
The worst movie break-in scene of all time
As the world descends into a maelstrom of looting and screaming, Chloe heads off in the search for her brother. Her travels eventually lead her to a pair of glass doors leading into a hospital. Taken with the idea that she'll find some answers within, Chloe picks up a large "no smoking" sign and uses it to smash a hole in the glass.
Gingerly lowering herself onto her hands and knees, Chloe slowly -- painstakingly -- crawls through the hole, trying to position her hands in order to avoid the tiny cubes of glass.
The scene runs for a scant 40 seconds or so, but actually feels much longer. It's weirdly voyeuristic, to the point where it no longer feels as though we're watching Chloe, the character in the story, but Cassi Thomson the actress trying not to injure herself.
It's as though Left Behind ceases to be a movie at this moment, since we're suddenly become sidetracked by the apparent drama Thomson appears to have faced in this scene: is that real glass? As she drags herself through the shattered doorway, she wears the expression of someone truly concerned about the possibility of accidental harm.
Having made it through the glass and back on her feet, Chloe's look of relief looks genuine. In a movie full of illogical character decisions and moments that never quite ring true, it's a distracting moment of verisimilitude. Like the looks of exhaustion on the faces of everyone in Fitzcarraldo or the very genuine looks of fear in the eyes of The Exorcist's cast, Chloe's un-athletic break-in attempt sees reality and illusion collide. But rather than heighten the effect of the story, as in Fitzcarraldo or The Exorcist, the sudden realism merely underlines just how unreal the rest of the movie is.
Just to top things off, Chloe then slips through a door into the hospital, which is positively humming with activity. It's a reminder of how odd Chloe's break-in really was; she could have entered via the front door, but chose not to because there were a few people in the way, pushing and pulling each other around.
This whole escapade sums upLeft Behind as a whole: as Nic Cage sits gloomily in his plane and Chloe wanders around hospitals and supermarket car parks, the movie itself seems to be searching, in vain, for a meatier story to tell.
Nic Cage, clearly uneasy with the whole situation, finds his own way of passing the time.
All out war continues on The Walking Dead. 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 Heapsters 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.
Happy! demonstrates the pitfalls of poorly conceived comic book adaptations and the strength of Chris Meloni: action superstar
Adapting a comic book for a live-action visual medium seems like it should be as easy as shooting Aquamen in a barrel.
What are comics if not for storyboards for an eventual TV series or movie? But as anyone who has slogged through eight increasingly interminable seasons of The Walking Dead or watched Ozymandias flip those would-be assassins in super sexy Snyder slo-mo in Watchmen can attest to: it’s not always that simple.
Syfy’s Christmas-time violence fest Happy! is another in a long line of comic book adaptations that can’t quite realize a TV show or movie is its own unique beast.
Happy! is put in every position to succeed. It’s based on a comic by the same name from CMYK legend Grant Morrison, and brings all the style, depth, and dysfunction to the table as any other Morrison property. This time around, Morrison himself is even involved, executive producing the show and co-writing the pilot’s script alongside showrunner Bryan Taylor (of the Crank film franchise).
The plot features the kind of gonzo, stylistic nonsense that’s hardwired to thrive on television right now. Chris Meloni inhabits Nick Sax, a disgraced ex-cop turned contract killer who after a near-death experience during the holiday season comes to be haunted and harassed by a little girl’s imaginary friend, a blue unicorn named Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt).
With Happy’s help, Nick must navigate the criminal underground of New York and save the child, Hayley, who has been captured and imprisoned by a hulking, demented Santa Claus impersonator who wants all children to never grow up.
That’s…a lot. And it reads refreshingly weird and appealing on the page. As translated to screen, however, it’s tired and cliche in a way no show featuring an imaginary blue unicorn partnering up with a hitman should ever be.
Happy! is curiously dated and not in the timeless dicks-and-dames way it intends to be. The bad guys are Italian underworld greaseballs (though one family in particular is hilariously named the Scaramuccis). Cops are shockingly uninterested in missing children’s cases around Christmastime. The villains go on extended monologues about grapes and winemaking as a metaphor for violence. In an extended fantasy sequence, Nick ends up on a daytime talk show so far removed from the public consciousness that he can’t help but remark “I didn’t know you were still on the air.”
Then there’s Happy, himself. Happy is ironically the biggest factor keeping Happy! down. Oswalt was brought on to replace Bobby Moynihan after the pilot and his work through the first two episodes seems rushed and disinterested. It’s hard to fully blame him with just how little Happy adds to the proceedings himself. “Imaginary blue unicorn aids hitman in quest for justice” is a fascinating concept but the characterization of Happy and his relationship with Nick never moves beyond that: a concept.
Our blue friend is about as insightful and welcome as Ocarina of Time’s Navi. Happy exists only to keep Nick on a narrative quest that he doesn’t want to be on. And when he does stick around, he proves to be a frustratingly inconsistent personality. Is he the child-like extension of Hayley’s mind right down to parroting her elementary school teacher’s lessons? Or is he the roguish Puck who dresses up in funny outfits to motivate Nick and share self-aware, adult jokes?
At one point Happy does an R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacketimpression. R. Lee Ermey. In 2017. Through two episodes the purpose and characterization of Happy fluctuates so wildly that he becomes little more than an annoyance.
Thankfully, Nick mostly treats Happy as an annoyance as well and finds ways to sideline him throughout his various rampages. Chris Meloni is a very welcome addition to our culture’s fixation in elevating good actors into action stars following their 50th birthday. Meloni has always been equal parts charming and menacing and he’s an excellent fit here. The best parts of Happy! involve Meloni’s Nick as a human pin-cushion, bouncing around to violent encounter after violent encounter so we can delight in seeing how many bullets, blades, and beatings he can endure.
From the pilot’s opening moments in which Nick pukes blood into a disgusting bar urinal, Meloni is never not covered in blood whether it be his or someone else. The actor is so up for this physically and creatively that it becomes hypnotic in a way and elevates the material that Happy comes so close to completely sinking.
Weirdness is always welcome on television. Don’t let anyone else tell you different. Some of the best shows in our canon currently feature a depressed ex-actor horse trying to find his way in the world, survivors of a rapture-like event dealing with loss by getting Wu-Tang tattoos, and an alcoholic übermensch traveling the multiverse with his grandson. Shit, David Lynch took a look at the current TV landscape and thought “maybe they’re ready for more Twin Peaks.” And he was right!
Happy! should fit right in with the weirdness but can't offer much beyond simple weirdness. Happy! would have been better served by ditching Happy altogether or at least coming up with a better way to integrate him into Nick Sax’s very bad, very violent Christmas season. Perhaps it still can. The first two episodes just don’t.
At least we now have Meloni warmed up for his next John Wick-esque opportunity.
The First Order's Captain Phasma fought her way back to the top after her embarrassing ending in The Force Awakens.
This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Captain Phasma is ready to fight Finn, a soldier formerly under her command, to the death for his betrayal and work against the First Order. But the last time any fans will remember seeing her on screen is on her way to an undignified end in the trash compactor of Starkiller Base. So how did Phasma end up back in the fight after the superweapon was destroyed? Released as part of the Journey to the Last Jedi line of books and comics, Marvel’s Captain Phasma miniseries has the answer.
Written by Kelly Thompson, with art by Marco Chechetto, Captain Phasma is a five-issue series for now, although the "Book I" title in the text crawl might allow for more to come. We assume Marvel has paused the story until after The Last Jedi to avoid any overlap or spoilers.
The story of "Book I" follows the fearsome First Order captain from a daring escape from Starkiller Base to an inhospitable planet populated by warring species. Phasma is willing to betray and backstab almost anyone to get her way, even a fellow member of the First Order.
Her backstory was also explored in the novel Phasma, which we reviewed here. From the sands of her homeworld Parnassos to the stormy seas of Luprora, the captain has always been a mysterious figure, a woman who doesn’t let other people get close enough to even see her face. Her fate in The Last Jedi is sealed, but the comics showed us more about where she found herself after Finn and Han pushed her aside on the way to their destinies.
How Phasma Escaped the Trash Compactor
During Kylo Ren’s ill-fated encounter with his father, Phasma was not experiencing such dark apotheosis. Six minutes before the base is ready to fire its weapon, she is trudging through trash, calmly and deliberately making a record of her own survival. The problem: that record includes the fact that she lowered the shield around the base, allowing the Resistance starfighters through.
The comic doesn’t linger on what happened inside the trash compactor. While Phasma seems to share the disgusting space with a tentacled alien not unlike the Death Star’s dianoga, she isn’t nearly as inconvenienced by it as Luke Skywalker was on the Death Star. She steps past the creature and goes on her way. The fact that the comic doesn’t linger on the trash compactor helps sell Phasma as a villain — even though she caved under Han, Finn, and Chewbacca’s threats, she finds her way back to the working part of the base pretty quickly after the Resistance blows a hole in the trash compactor during a bombing run.
Phasma's escape off the planet involves her running through the snowy forest where Kylo and Rey are having their fateful lightsaber duel. She sees the fighting, but doesn't do anything to help her fellow First Order comrade. Instead, she makes it to a TIE fighter and flies off before Starkiller Base exploded.
The real problem for her is her treachery. The comic also answers what could be big plot holes for her character. Why did she lower the shield? Additionally, did General Hux and Kylo Ren ever discover her role in the destruction of their base?
Killing the Scapegoat
The answer to the second question is a resounding no. As soon as she emerges from the trash compactor, Phasma discovers that only one other person has a copy of the record of her actions in the control room: Sol Rivas, a lieutenant in the stormtrooper corps. She creates a false record, with no mention of her part in the matter, then erases the original and frames Rivas for lowering the shields. The lie shows how Phasma is willing to throw her own soldiers under the bus if she thinks it will benefit herself.
Phasma tracks down Rivas first in the exploding Starkiller Base, but he is able to escape on his own TIE fighter during the chaos. Eventually, Phasma finds Rivas on the environmentally-unstable planet Luprora and kills him by the end of the miniseries, eliminating the "traitor" and covering her tracks.
Her quest to kill Rivas is where the comic and the novel jive together well. The novel shows how Phasma was forced to make tough choices, including hurting her own people to keep their lives as safe as possible in their dangerous, irradiated wasteland of a planet. What loyalty she had to her family and her people died when they did on Parnassos, and the First Order seems to have hardened her even further.
The one thing she has left to value is herself. That identity now includes her position in the First Order — whether for the power it gives her or because as a child of Parnassos she witnessed a world run by warlords. Perhaps she values her role in the First Order because it guarantees her food, shelter, and overall survival. Whatever her motivation, she needs to clean up her loose ends to keep that status. That means Rivas never stood a chance.
Why Phasma Lowered Starkiller Base's Shield in The Force Awakens
Phasma’s ruthlessness scares even her own troopers. She recruits a First Order pilot, TN-3465, to help her chase Rivas to Luprora. She later winds up in trouble, too: TN-3465 overhears Phasma’s conversation with Rivas and tries to hide her knowledge from Phasma.
The last issue also explains more of Phasma's thinking towards others. She believes that the species that colonized Luprora must evolve or die to stand up against the violent weather and rival creatures on their planet. If they die, they have simply been rejected by their world. Phasma does not bother to try to save them.
“I’m a survivor. No matter what the cost,” Phasma says.
Those words answer the question posed by her actions in The Force Awakens. She lowered the shield because it was the best way for her to survive. In the end, she executes TN-3465 despite the time they spent together, all in order to keep her secret hidden.
In The Last Jedi, she seems to still believe that the First Order is her best route for survival. But in true Star Wars fashion, villains get their comeuppance, and Phasma’s fatal flaw seems to be her selfishness. By the end of the comic, she has regained her place in the First Order. Believing her lie, General Hux welcomes Phasma back and congratulated her on her loyalty and determination. The Last Jedi starts just when The Force Awakens left off, but we now know exactly what happened to the First Order’s enforcer in between.
Magneto will plays a "big part" in The Gifted's season finale, when it comes to the character of Lorna.
Magento, aka Lorna "Polaris" Dane's father, has remained an unspoken X-Men connection thus far in The Gifted's first season—but that's about to change.
Speaking to Comicbook.com, Emma Dumont (Lorna) teased that "Magneto plays a big part in the rest of the season." While Magneto will not actually appear on the show, he will play a major part in Lorna's storyline, specifically in Episodes 12 and 13, aka the Gifted Season 1 finale, set to air on January 15th.
Polaris ... thinks there are two paths: What she believes and what she wants, what her personal beliefs are and what she thinks is right, and then the other path is what she was born to do, which is be Magneto's daughter, which is to take over his legacy. But what Lorna doesn't realize is those two things are exactly the same, and she finally does realize that eventually in the season, later on, and that really terrifies her.
Does this mean that Lorna may turn more villainous in the Season 1 finale? Or might The Giftedhave a different perspective on Magneto's philosophy then what we've seen from on-screen adaptations of the X-Men so far—i.e. perhaps Lorna following in her father's more aggressive footsteps is contextualized as the right path forward by a show that is more revolutionary and anti-institutional then many of its predecessors.
[Lorna] hasn't heard great things about her father. She's heard bad things about her father, in fact. Her chosen family, the Mutant Underground, they don't think highly of him. They think he was a bad guy. Anyone would hurt a human is bad, even if it saves 200 mutants lives. It's still bad. But, for her, it's not that bad.
Speaking more specifically about Lorna's personal relationship with her father, Dumont said:
You know, having this man who, every couple of years will reach out to her, very ominously, or whatever, but still refuses to be in her life, she hates him, as most daughters whose father's abandoned them would. But she still can't deny she is exactly like him, in every way. Even her mutant abilities are the same. She is his only living birth child. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, sure. They're just made from his DNA. She is literally exactly like him, and she can't deny that, but she's really scared of it. She's really, really scared of it.
I'm glad The Gifted is going to address Lorna's connection to Magneto, which represents a larger connection to the X-Men universe in general (i.e. what happened to the X-Men and the Brotherhood in the universe of this show?).
However, it's always tricky when telling a story in the quieter parts of on-screen adaptation canon. There's no way Michael Fassbender is going to show up on this show, which is a major bummer, although completely understandable, and I can't see the show being allowed to recast the character for this smaller screen universe, either.
The Gifted moves the plot forward and ignores pretty much everything else. Our review of "outfoX."
This The Gifted review contains spoilers.
The Gifted Episode 9
That was fine.
I'm probably being a little tougher on "outfoX" than I need to be, but many of my issues with this week's episode stem from the scheduling. The last episode was the high point for the series so far, succeeding on multiple levels. Then Fox killed the show's momentum with a week off, and followed up the off week with an episode that didn't do much other than barrel towards the season finale.
The last episode succeeded in merging the plot propulsion and character development. We got a ton out of the conversation between Reed and his father, not just for him, but for the kids as well. The twists introduced to his life by the revelation that he came from a line of mutants, was a mutant himself, and passed the X gene down to his kids, was material enough for a full half a season of shows. But most of that was swept away in a couple of conversations between him and Kate.
What did get developed this week were the kids' powers. We had a bit of a discovery process at HQ, as Andy went through the library and found an encyclopedia/published version of Ahab's Fenris press clip scrapbook. Then they try and use their powers jointly, but Lauren stops them before they blow up the entire building because she senses her own power. The way she talks about it, how she fuses her consciousness with Andy's, seems like she's describing a gestalt consciousness, by the way - more on this in the Phoenix Eggs later.
Then the team, pushed by Esme, their new telepath, decides to try and pull a heist at the Trask black site, so they send Blink, Dreamer, and the Strucker kids to a power station a few miles away to disable the lab. They get rumbled by a supremely paranoid (and lucky) Jace and Sentinel Services, and the team gets picked off one by one until the Struckers are cornered in the basement of the power station. As they join hands to blow the building up, Andy pulls away from Lauren at the last second, arguing that he didn't want to kill a building full of people.
This is actually a fairly big piece of character development for Andy. Up until now, he'd been the one complaining about how he's never allowed to cut loose with his powers. But right after the first time they tried to merge their powers, Lauren talked about feeling the way someone battling addiction describes a first high, and Andy is the one to take responsibility for the destruction they might cause in their escape at the end of the show. That's something, I guess, but it's not really enough to make this episode better than "fine."
- The one so far unmentioned subplot from this week is Esme being a creepy shit. The team's new telepath from last week is up to some shady stuff, trying to manipulate the Resistance into doing what she wants. This tracks with her comics version - Esme was the Stepford Cuckoo who broke with the rest of the Five in One, got all lit up on kick, imagined she was Magneto's girlfriend, then died when he got all hopped up on kick and decided he was tired of her crap. Morrison's run is probably due for a critical reexamination, I think.
- The way Lauren describes merging with Andy when they use their powers sounds like they're becoming a gestalt being, which is interesting given the show also decides to have Esme creeping around in the background. The Cuckoos were a hive mind, a gestalt consciousness when they were using their mutant abilities together.
- Apparently the von Strucker twins were known as Fenris everywhere. And apparently the X-Men were active in the '60s to stop them?
- The Fenris twins were ALSO members of the Hellfire Club, which is pretty dope. We haven't seen the Hellfire Club since X-Men: First Class, in which Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, and others were members.
- The fuck is a "non dairy cheese and chive omlette?" Does somebody in the resistance have the mutant ability to strip things of their fundamental essence? Taking the dairy out of a cheese omlette is like taking the oxygen, liquid, and meat out of a human. You're pretty much just left with a pile of powdered fat and some salt. THIS REALLY BOTHERED ME.
We talked to Annalee Newitz about Autonomous, gender, capitalism, artificial intelligence, and Riverdale.
Annalee Newitz's science fiction debut Autonomous is a gutting tale of love, identity, and artificial intelligence in a future where anything, or anyone, can be owned.
Newitz is not only a science fiction author, but also (among many other things) the co-founder of io9 where she served as Editor-in-Chief from 2008-2015, the author or non-fiction book Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, and the current Tech Culture Editor at Ars Technica where she writes about the cultural impact of science and technology. She is also a very nice person.
You can follow Newitz on Twitter at @Annaleen.
We had a chance to sit down with Newitz at New York Comic Con, shortly following the release of Autonomous in October, to chat to the author about where the idea for this book started, crafting the vivid points-of-view in this tale of artificial intelligence, and why Riverdale is such a good show.
Note: Please excuse the chair-screeching sometimes going on during the recording of this podcast. If you're ever been to New York Comic Con, then you know how hard it is to find a quiet corner.
Despite fan reactions to recent reports of a Disney/Fox deal, the X-Men aren't a good fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As per reports earlier today, 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company are close to a deal that would sell Fox's film studios and various other adjacent entertainment divisions to the Mouse House. If agreed upon, this deal would have a sweeping effect on the movie industry as two of Hollywood's biggest studios merge, consolidating resources and throwing confusionupon the future of American entertainment. But be that as it may, and ignoring the horrifying ramifications of culling one of Hollywood’s oldest studios, the big takeaway in geek culture is, of course, the X-Men. And more explicitly how these mutant brothers and sisters might be making their way home to Marvel Studios and the movie universe so many fans cherish. From social media to internet forums, this was a cause for online celebration, for in short order Wolverine could be trading quips with Iron Man, and Magneto might finally offer the MCU a foe with some menace.
As appealing as all that potential fan service could be on a surface level though, I have to say the fact that it is disappointing to hear the previously scuttled deal is back on and nearing fruition. Yes, despite surely committing heresy among the fanboy set, I’ve never really considered Marvel Studios to be the “home” of any property, and I find this growing sense of brand loyalty, where pledging an oath of fealty to one studio or another is demanded, to be reductive.
On simply a narrative level, there are reasons to view the mutants as a beat apart from the impressive universe built by Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios. The implicit appeal of X-Men from one generation to the next is it celebrates “the Other” and allows any marginalized youth to find power in their differences and individuality. In short, the X-Men are often allegorical stand-ins for persecuted minorities, whereas the Avengers, especially in recent Marvel Studios films, are mainstream icons to be as celebrated onscreen as they are off. Even being considered “a war criminal now” does not mean Captain America can’t be a local high school hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
This uneasy distinction between born and bred mutants and the Marvel superheroes who are gifted their powers by luck or providence has always been confounding on the page and would undoubtedly be even more cumbersome to explain on the screen. However, this is not the real issue. The best Marvel films paper over inconsistencies with well placed deflections or witticisms (again, “Pretty sure this guy’s a war criminal now”). The real reason they should stay separate is for the sake of the fans, who risk getting everything they want—which is more of the same.
At this point, the X-Men movie franchise has become a true cultural oddity. Having existed for nearly 20 years and spanning 10 films, it’s outlasted several shifting epochs in comic book movie history, from its original heyday as a somber, leathery reclamation of comicdom following the infamous Batman & Robin to somehow weathering the multiple ages of first gritty and then lighthearted, universe-building reboots that claimed both Batman and Spider-Man. Twice.
During all of this, the X-Men movies have kept trucking, which has led to some dubious continuity issues. However, it has also forced filmmakers and executives at 20th Century Fox—particularly, ahem, after the Tom Rothman era at Fox—to consistently reevaluate the mutants until you ended up with what we have today, a semi-shared universe that is currently surviving on risk-taking and diversification, as opposed to hegemony and solidification. While superhero franchises at both Disney and Warner Bros. in recent years have chased the rewards of a “shared universe” multi-franchise Hydra, the X-films have flourished in the last six years by rewarding individuality. Like the mutants they chronicle, it is their differences that become cause for celebration.
The reason Fox has gone this direction is multi-faceted. In part, Fox’s fleeting attempts to replicate the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been stumbling and, much like the course correction Warner Bros. is currently under with its DC Universe films, there has been a pivot toward focusing on individual stories, as opposed to turning them into disposable entries in an ongoing saga. Further, the lack of merchandising rights to the X-Men brand allows the studio to take risks in the actual filmmaking, as opposed to always focusing on the four-quadrant appeal of its brand.
Consequently, I would argue three of the last four X-Men-related movies have had more personality than most of the modern superhero slugfests. This is best crystallized in Logan, a film that is unafraid to take its time with its exploration of the weight of comic book-mythmaking on flesh and blood humans. In addition to its gore and swearing, there is a measured patience in its gait, and it’s as deconstructive of the superhero genre as the best revisionist Westerns of the 1970s.
James Mangold took major risks by genuinely departing from what is considered to be the “superhero movie,” as opposed to merely suggesting in the press that because Robert Redford is in a movie, it should qualify as an espionage thriller. Mangold is poised to push his deconstructionist impulses that value character and acting even farther in his currently developing X-23 spinoff. Meanwhile, Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool is as different from Logan as Animal House was from McCabe and Mrs. Miller. A raunchy, fourth-wall obliterating comedy, the Merc with a Mouth also deconstructed the clichés other studios toil in with gleeful scorn.
This level of experimentation is likely to continue with the X-brand, as Noah Hawley pushes artful boundaries on FX’s Legion, and Josh Boone only begins teasing his fascinating “mutant horror movie” concept with New Mutants, which looks like A Nightmare on Elm Street and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest had a super-powered baby.
As other superhero franchises push closer and closer to a narrative singularity, and even concepts as bleak as an apocalyptic “Ragnarok” are sandblasted into the familiar constraints of a comedic “get the band together” team-up yarn, creative ambition within the genre is hardly anything to throw away. While the main line X-Men movies hit a misstep in last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, there has still been significant creativity in its predecessors to suggest the brand can endure. X-Men: First Class resembled an actual spy movie, if of the goofy Sean Connery variety, and was a warm up for Matthew Vaughn before taking on Kingsman, while X-Men: Days of Future Past churlishly used mutant superpowers to challenge its heroes with the temptations of drug addiction and political assassination.
Just as Logan was not afraid to turn its proverbial immigrant song into a subplot that was actually aware and vocal about the increasing scapegoating of foreigners who’ve crossed a border out of desperation, most of the recent X-films have been forced to embrace and constantly reconsider the allegorical appeal of mutants, if only because a franchise this old is compelled to dig deeper past formula.
So as much as I would enjoy seeing a comic book accurate costumed X-team fight the Avengers, with Gambit calling Captain America “Mon ami,” the tradeoff of storytelling and filmmaking possibilities is too severe. In many ways, the losses of putting the X-Men in the MCU are a microcosm of what is wrong with a potential Disney/Fox merger. As the resources of Hollywood studios consolidate, the chance for competition in the market drastically shrinks. Consumers lose the opportunity of larger diversity, and everything starts looking the same. There cannot be anything more antithetical to Charles Xavier’s dream for a better future than that.
We get our first proper superhero team-up as Pride finds another teen to sacrifice.
This Marvel's Runaways review contains spoilers.
Marvel's Runaways Season 1, Episode 5
"Why would our parents do all these horrible things?" Molly asks big sister Gert as they chill in their dinosaur's room. "I guess because they're horrible people," Gert tells her, in one of the best scenes of this week's episode of Marvel's Runaways, and an example of why this show is worth watching: it's not afraid to call the bad guys what they are. There are no anti-hero redemption arcs here.
It's actually pretty refreshingly subversive for these kids to declare their parents horrible people so readily and without qualification. Alex, Nico, Karolina, Gert, Molly, and Chase might not know what to do with their newfound knowledge — which, fair enough — but that doesn't mean they aren't seriously judging their parents right now. It doesn't mean they're not going to try to take action against them to protect those who don't have supervillain parents to keep them safe.
This leads to Runaways' first real superhero team-up moment, which makes up for its lacks of kineticism with the exhilarating rawness of the moment. When Nico, Chase, Karolina, Gert, and Molly race to save Alex from the clutches of Darius, they have basically no plan. Not only that—they either have never used their powers, or have only used them once or twice, in far lower-stake situations. If Nico's Staff hadn't worked, these kids would be dead right now, and that's scary.
The team-up also works well because it centers motivation before power. Sure, it's foolhardy that these kids run head-first into danger (without even properly checkin their blindspots, no less!), but it's also admirable that their motivation to help is there before their powers are—a nice reverse from what is usually the progression in on-screen superhero stories.
It's telling that, even after they've saved their own, Alex, they ultimately decide to try to save Andre, too. This isn't just about saving your loved ones; it's about saving those who don't have the same privileges as you—when it comes to superpowers, but also when it comes to real-life privilege, too. As we learned from the flashbacks to Geoffrey and Darius' time in jail, Alex could have easily been born into a life with far less economic privilege, if not for the intervention of the mysterious Jonah and the sacrifice of Darius. Alex sees that, too.
While the kidnapping of Alex is specifically related to Geoffrey's choices, it's still a result of Pride, in some way. Without the opportunity for power that Jonah offered Geoffrey, Geoffrey never would have turned on Darius, leading Alex to this specific danger, leading Alex to shoot Andre himself in order to keep his father safe. It may not all be teen sacrifices that the Runaways are trying to stop, but that doesn't mean it doesn't all lead back to Pride in some way.
At this point, the only teen character who is hesitant to see his parent for what he is is Chase, whose father, Victor, is only just starting to pay attention to him after years of abuse and neglect. The taste of affection has Chase wondering if their relationship could be different and, perhaps, if his father might not be the villain all signs seem to point to. It's an especially tragic storyline because, unlike someone like Gert or even Karolina, Chase has more personal reasons for believing his parent is probably not a good person—even before he saw him sacrificing teenagers.
Of course, as we learn in a big reveal scene, Victor's change-of-heart and behavior when it comes to his son has to do with the terminal tumor currently growing in his brain. This makes Victor even more unpredictable. To what lengths will he go to a) save himself and/or b) ensure his legacy? Here, we see Victor desperately working to develop a machine that can see into the future. It's a hokey plot device that doesn't quite gel with the grounded tone this show is going for, but the image of a crumbling Los Angeles that Victor and Chase manage not to see is pretty darn eerie, nonetheless. The stakes on this show just went way up.
Why didn't Geoffrey just help Nana B. out? It doesn't seem like he's hurting for the cash, and helping Darius and his family seems like a much easier route than screwing over his childhood best friend, who also happens to be handy with a gun. It's not enough to paint these parents as bad people; we need to understand why they do the things they do. Bad people have internal logic, too.
Alex not being surprised at all by Darius' revelations that his father is a bad person was a pretty great moment.
Will there be any long-lasting effects to Alex shooting Andre? Superhero shows, and TV shows in general, often gloss over the trauma of inflicting violence on others, but Runaways seems like the kind of show that might lean into the effects of something horrifying like this.
Too bad Old Lace couldn't come to the superhero team-up. Oh, well. Next time.
Karolina and Nico totally have a romantic moment (at least it's a romantic moment for Karolina), but Nico kisses Alex. Does Nico have feelings for Karolina, too? Does she have feelings for Alex? I like how slow-burn these romances are. I also feel for Karolina, who destroys her room in an uncharacteristic, but no doubt necessary moment of fury.
While Leslie is making out with Jonah, her husband Frank is failing his church level-up ceremony. Was this always Leslie's plan or did she intend to sacrifice Frank before Pride secured Andre as a sacrifice instead? Whatever the answers to these question, one thing is sure: Frank is hilariously out-of-the-loop about what's actually going on in this show. Poor guy.
Nico's mom is nice to her for the first time in the history of the show. Is she onto these kids or what? Run, Nico. Run.
It seems like Jonah is Karolina's biological father, which would explain why she should glow. When he comes out of his cocoon or whatever, he tells Leslie that he wants to see her, which presumably means Karolina. Does this mean he's been gestating for the last 15 years? Or was he off doing something else between the time he visited Geoffrey in jail and now?
More change comes for the Legends of Tomorrow ahead of the midseason break, and it left us floored.
This Legends of Tomorrow episode review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 9
So Jax left.
About halfway through the episode, I wrote in my notes "Man, how are they going to make this emotionally poignant when it's so goddamn funny?" So needless to say I didn't see the end of "Beebo the God of War" coming, which is part of why Jax's departure hit me that hard.
It makes perfect sense as to why. After last week and the death of Martin Stein, he's powerless, alone and a bit of a loose appendage on the Legends. If he stuck around, we'd be constantly wondering when he would get his Firestorm powers back. That doesn't make this hurt any less though.
This wasn't the best episode of Legends, but in a way, it was the perfect episode. The show has completely shaken off the early season doldrums and is back to consistently treating the Legends like heroes. And yet, they still managed to make the first half of this episode almost entirely hilarious. A younger Martin Stein, after just getting his hands on 1992's hottest Hannukah gift, a Cuddle Me Beebo, gets transported back to Newfoundland in the year 1000. Leif Erikson and his sister discover Stein and Beebo, and promptly set about worshiping a Tickle Me Elmo analogue.
At the same time, the crew (including a newly sympathetic Agent Sharpe) is processing their emotions after losing old Stein. They are doing this by talking with Earth-X's Leo Snart, who has no shit a Martin Stein muppet for them to talk their guilt out to.
Legends has always been funny, but this is some next level absurdity. I feel like the writers room just got really lit and said, "You know, we don't do nearly enough with stuffed things." And thus "Beebo the God of War" was born.
But a perfect episode of Legends isn't just jokes. In a way, losing Franz Drameh aches a little more than losing Victor Garber. At least we knew that was coming. Drameh did a wonderful job these last two weeks processing grief for us--last week, it was raw and harsh, and this week it was subdued, a low burn. He spends the episode trying to figure out a way to warn young Stein of his eventual fate. Stein knows what's coming, and at the end of the episode makes a (mostly) convincing case for not heeding Jax's warning. Jax comes to terms with Stein's death by deciding to leave the ship to heal, and they send him off with a wonderful, fun Beeboday dinner and a speech about family.
Speeches about family often feel hollow. They're routinely the parts where you see behind the curtain, because that family relationship is very difficult to replicate. Legends of Tomorrow has spent two-plus seasons building that, and has assembled a cast that seems to genuinely enjoy each other. That lets them get away with ridiculous absurd comedy like Beebo or Puppet Stein or Mick's alcoholism, but it also adds an emotional heft to the show that they couldn't possibly make up.
DC UNIVERSE TIME BUBBLES
- It speaks to the quality of the show that the most significant plot development for the season arc is also the least important to the episode: Sara gets transported to Mallus'"alternate dimension," as she calls it, where we get a vision of a giant hand coming toward her before she's pulled back to Vinland by Sharpe. This is going to be a long time bubble, but bear with me: this scene fuels an argument that the DoG staff is going to have for the next month and a half. Some of us think that Mallus is the Time Trapper, a Legion of Super-Heroes villain responsible for shitting up their entire continuity who creates pocket universes and feeds off of anachronisms. This makes a lot of sense, but the Legion is shaping up to be a Supergirl thing. I think Mallus might be Krona, the Oan scientist who created a machine that would let him see the dawn of time, and in doing so, created the fracture that caused the Multiverse to emerge. The birth of the universe has always been presented in DC as a giant hand closing, and that's very much what I saw here. It could go either way, I think.
- Stein's case is only mostly convincing because he says in 1992 that he dies at the age of 67 in 2017. That makes him 42 in this episode, and there is absolutely no way this guy is 42.
- Apparently young Marty Stein was quite the archer.
- Mick thinks two days is 42 hours.
- Line of the night: me yelling, "CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLED IT" at the TV when Agent Sharpe tells Viking Henchperson #2 that "I'm not really the husband kind." A close second was "BEEBO IS A FALSE GOD FULL OF FALSE PROMISES."
- Zari playing Mileena in MK2 just makes me like her more.
-mNext week: nothing! But in February, CONSTANTINE.
Need help figuring out where to begin your Star Wars adventure before The Last Jedi? Check out our beginner's guide to the canon timeline!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens ushered in an entirely new generation of fans looking for more adventures in the galaxy far, far away, but with the whole issue of Legends canon vs. the new canon and a whole slate of new books, comics, and movies arriving in the next few years, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Luckily for you, it's become a bit easier to dive into the canon materials now that a clear line has been drawn between Legends (pre-Disney) and new canon (post-Disney) stories, but that new material is quickly growing, too.
In order to help new fans get a clear look at the official Star Wars timeline, we've put together a list of the most central Star Wars books, comics, and games and detailed how they relate to the movies and TV series.
What won't you see on this list?
Most Star Wars Insider short stories, Star Wars Rebels Magazine comics, Forces of Destiny shorts, some Disney novelizations, such as The Princess, The Farmboy, and The Scoundrel, or upcoming books. Star Wars Insider stories have been included where we felt they contributed most to the overarching timeline, or if we felt they were particularly good.
This timeline is intended to help you find the the best jumping-on point. (There's always the "pick up whatever you find first" approach, though.) Dates are sometimes approximate, and are based on years before (BBY) and after (ABY) the Battle of Yavin, equivalent to A New Hope, as per the official canon chronology.
32 BBY - Marvel's Darth Maul
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Luke Ross
Set before the events of The Phantom Menace and the villain's first demise at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi, this comic book miniseries follows Darth Maul in the early days of his apprenticeship under Darth Sidious. While he's not allowed to engage the Jedi just yet, Maul still manages to come face to face with a young Jedi Padawan during one of his missions for the Dark Lord of the Sith. The events of the series show how the dark side makes Maul more powerful but also incredibly flawed.
32 BBY - The Phantom Menace
Directed & Written by George Lucas
29 BBY - Marvel's Obi-Wan & Anakin
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Marco Checchetto
This comic series, written by Charles Soule and penciled by Marco Checchetto, is Disney’s first foray into deep Prequel territory, without even The Clone Wars to hang on to. Devoid of any ancillary material. Obi-Wan & Anakin paints a slightly different picture of the iconic Jedi team-up than the Legends stories did before. Anakin is a headstrong tinkerer, but there is also an edge of vengefulness or self-hatred around him in the first issue, when he summons a hologram of Darth Maul that surprises and disgusts the Jedi Council.
The series expands on how Anakin’s life as a slave affects the way he views the Jedi. This isn't an easy apprenticeship for either Jedi, but we know that it’s leading up to at least some camaraderie by the time of Padme’s attempted assassination in Attack of the Clones.
22 BBY - Attack of the Clones
Directed by George Lucas
Written by George Lucas & Jonathan Hales
22-19 BBY - The Clone Wars
Created by George Lucas
21-17 BBY - Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
Written by James Luceno
Before Jyn Erso embarked on her fateful mission to steal the plans to the Death Star from the evil Empire in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, she lived on Coruscant with her parents, Galen and Lyra. Galen is a scientist who means to use his kyber crystal research to produce renewable energy for the galaxy, but his friend Orson Krennic has very different plans. The scientist doesn't know that he's actually helping create a weapon for the Death Star!
19 BBY - Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir
Written by Jeremy Barlow
Art by Juan Frigeri
Although Mother Talzin appeared to have perished in The Clone Wars, she returns in what may or may not be a spiritual form during the many battles in Son of Dathomir. This comic miniseries, like Dark Disciple, was adapted from unused scripts from The Clone Wars, and is something of a battle royale, pitting Darth Maul against a variety of foes, including Count Dooku and General Grievous.
19 BBY - "Kindred Spirits"
Written by Christe Golden for Star Wars Insider #159
Often, Star Wars Insider stories will tie directly to one of the recently released novels, exploring side characters or presenting scenes before or after the book. In the case of "Kindred Spirits," the author was also the same: Christie Golden penned this tale of Asajj Ventress finding an unlikely ally shortly before Dark Disciple. Readers interested in the bounty hunter persona Ventress adopted during The Clone Wars might especially appreciate the tone of this one, which also features another tough female character.
19 BBY - Dark Disciple
Written by Christie Golden
While fans clamored for more of The Clone Wars after the animated series’ cancellation, stories set in this era, and overseen by many of the same writers and producers, began to emerge in different formats. Some unaired episodes of The Clone Wars were aired during conventions or released online; others were adapted into comics, as in Son of Dathomir. Dark Disciple was one of the more high-profile results of this effort, as it is a full-length novel telling the story of Asajj Ventress after her story on the television show had ended.
Ventress is reluctantly recruited by Quinlan Vos, a morally ambiguous Jedi in pursuit of Count Dooku. Dark Disciple is, in part, a love story, showing Ventress and Vos’ relationships with one another and how that affects their views of the Force. It’s also a war story, with the inventive action typical of The Clone Wars.
19 BBY - Revenge of the Sith
Directed & Written by George Lucas
19 BBY - Marvel's Kanan
Written by Greg Weisman
Art by Pepe Larraz
If you watch Rebels but haven’t read Star Wars books or comics before, Kanan series is a good place to start. The stories alternate between the crew of the Ghost undertaking what at first seems to be a simple mission on Lothal, and Kanan’s memories of Order 66 and his training with his Jedi Master. This is a good way to learn about this fan-favorite character.
19 BBY - Marvel's Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
This series literally starts at the moment Darth Vader is born, a second after the end of Revenge of the Sith. Unlike Marvel's first Darth Vader series, this new ongoing book tackles the earliest days of Anakin's transformation into the feared Sith apprentice, more machine than man.
18 BBY - Ahsoka
Written by E.K. Johnston
What happened to former Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano after leaving the Order in The Clone Wars? This is the story of what led Ahsoka down the path to becoming the Rebel agent Fulcrum. Anyone who loves the character's appearances in the animated series should read this book.
14 BBY - "Orientation"
Written by John Jackson Miller for Star Wars Insider #157
Like "Kindred Spirits," John Jackson Miller’s "Orientation" has some of the same characters as the Star Wars novels that came out around the same time. It was packaged along with Lords of the Sith, but touches some other Star Wars material, too.
Darth Vader is ostensibly the main character of the story, strutting his way around an Imperial training ship. But the other star of this story is Rae Sloane, a young cadet. Remember that name.
14 BBY - Lords of the Sith
Written by Paul S. Kemp
Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine have crash-landed in the dangerous wilderness of Ryloth in this dark side road trip. Lords of the Sith also has a connection to Rebels and The Clone Wars: freedom fighter Cham Syndulla sees a potential advantage for his rebels and tries to assassinate the Sith while they’re working their way through the wilderness.
The novel explores Vader and Palpatine’s tense power struggles as well as the things that bind them together. Lords of the Sith also has the new canon’s first LGBT character, the slovenly Imperial Moff Mors, who has her own character arc as the story goes on.
14 BBY - Tarkin
Written by James Luceno
Another tale from the dark side, Tarkin shows the history and martial rise of the man who would one day command the Death Star. James Luceno was known for writing big, encyclopedic novels in the Legends timeline—he’s particularly good at fitting different parts of the canon together and talking about the political landscape of the galaxy far, far away. The Tarkinnovel brings both of those things into the new canon, and tells the story of Tarkin’s attempt to retake an experimental starship from Rebel saboteurs.
11-5 BBY - Lost Stars
Written by Claudia Gray
Although Lost Stars spans throughout the Original Trilogy, it starts beforehand, with two young people joining the Imperial Academy. It’s essentially a love story, with Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree still holding their feelings for one another even after Thane joins the Rebellion. This book is also a great look at the psychology of the people inside the two armies.
The new Star Wars books have dispensed quickly with the idea that all Rebels are noble (or noble scoundrels) and that all Imperial loyalists are scheming. Lots of different things drive people to make their choices in war, and Lost Stars shows that. It also culminates in an exciting battle that ties into The Force Awakens. After reading this one, you’ll never look at Jakku quite the same way again.
11-2 BBY - Thrawn
Written by Timothy Zahn
When the old continuity was turned into Legends, it meant that many of the greatest characters introduced in the old EU were no longer canon. It seems like even that couldn't keep the Empire's greatest tactician down, though. The cold, Chiss admiral Thrawn returns to continuity with this new origin story from writer Timothy Zahn, the man who created the character back in the 90s.
11 BBY - A New Dawn
Written by John Jackson Miller
For fans of Rebels, A New Dawn shows the origins of some fan favorite characters and sets the tone for the new canon Imperials. It introduces the ruthlessly efficient Count Vidian, who goes up against Hera and Kanan when the fate of a planet is on the line. Joining them are the unlikely duo of conspiracy theorist Skelly and ex-Imperial surveillance officer Zaluna. Although it explains more about Kanan’s history than Hera’s (more about her can be found in the short story “Mercy Mission,” in the Rise of the Empire collection), A New Dawn is a good piece of the continuity puzzle for Rebels fans.
It was also the first book in the new canon, making its title doubly appropriate. Author John Jackson Miller was well-known for Legends material, like the novel Kenobi and the Knights of the Old Republiccomic series, before he contributed the first book to the new canon.
6-4 BBY - Servants of the Empire
Written by Jason Fry
This four-book young reader series follows Zare Leonis, the Imperial cadet who helped Ezra escape the stormtrooper academy in season one of Rebels. Like Rebels itself, the series can be enjoyed by people outside of its grade-school audience, too. Part of the appeal is the characters: the story switches between Zare and his conflicted ideas about the Empire to his friend, hacker Merei Spanjaf, who launches her own investigations while trying to avoid being caught by her security expert mother.
Zare is on the hunt for his sister, a promising, Force-sensitive Imperial recruit taken by the Grand Inquisitor. Like in A New Dawn, Rebelsfans will be able to find plenty of connections to their favorite characters.
Subscribe to our Star Wars Blaster Canon Podcast! iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud
6 BBY-3 ABY - Battlefront / Battlefront: Twilight Company
Video Game Developed by DICE
Novel Written by Alexander Freed
Like John Jackson Miller, Battlefront: Twilight Company author Alexander Freed came to Star Wars novels through short stories and comics. His canon short fiction has appeared in Star Wars Insider before (“One Thousand Levels Down” and “The End of History”).
Twilight Company visits some of the same locations available to players in the 2015 Battlefront video game, but its characters are new and unique. The cynical protagonist is Namir, a soldier who fights doggedly for the Rebellion’s cause without ever really believing that the cause is as noble as others do. He finds an unlikely ally in Chalis, a former Imperial governor whose ruthless plans for the Rebel squad’s success cause some dissent in the ranks.
5-2 BBY - Rebels
Created by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, & Carrie Beck
3 BBY - Leia: Princess of Alderaan
Written by Claudia Gray
After winning fans' hearts with the political novel Bloodline, Claudia Gray returned with a young adult novel about Leia's youth on Alderaan and her first missions with the Rebel Alliance. Leia: Princess of Alderaan focuses on the princess and her parents, Breha and Bail, but also includes cameos from characters such as The Last Jedi's Amilyn Holdo, Captain Panaka, and Grand Moff Tarkin.
0 BBY - Guardians of the Whills
Written by Greg Rucka
A fun look at Jedha before the decidedly less fun events of Rogue One, Guardians of the Whills captures Baze and Chirrut's voices well and shows what Jedha City was like before its destruction.
0 BBY - Rogue One
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Written by John Knoll, Gary Whitta, Chris Weitz, & Tony Gilroy
0 BBY - A New Hope
Directed & Written by George Lucas
0 BBY - 5 ABY: Battlefront II/ Battlefront II: Inferno Squad
Video Game Developed by EA DICE, Motive Studios, Criterion Software
Novel Written by Christie Golden
A prequel to the video game Battlefront II, the novel Inferno Squad introduces players to Iden Versio, special forces commander and daughter of Imperial loyalist Admiral Garrick Versio. Assigned to infiltrate a group of Saw Gerrera's Partisans, she and her team grapple with the morality of both the Empire and the violent splinter group of the Rebellion.
The video game's campaign follows Inferno Squad from shortly before the destruction of the Death Star to the Battle at Jakku, where the Empire finally fell. Fans who read the novel will have much better context for the relationships between the characters in the campaign, which also introduces playable versions of Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren.
0 BBY - Marvel's Princess Leia
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Terry Dodson
Many of Marvel’s Star Wars comic series so far take place in the Original Trilogy time period. Before information about The Force Awakens was public, Marvel was already doing all it could with its re-acquisition of the Star Wars brand, launching three ongoing series (Star Wars, Darth Vader, and Kanan), along with a succession of miniseries. The Princess Leia story picks up immediately after the end of A New Hope, touching on Leia’s feelings—or lack thereof—about the destruction of her home planet.
Although Rebel High Command wants her to keep a low profile, Leia makes it her mission to recruit surviving Alderaanians to the Rebel cause. They are in diaspora, but not all of the people she meets want to go to war. She’s helped by Evaan, a Rebel pilot with a not-so-favorable view of the woman she calls “ice princess.”
0 BBY - Heir to the Jedi
Written by Kevin Hearne
Heir to the Jedi was published right in the middle of the transition from Legends to new canon. Originally branded as part of the Empire & Rebellion series, along with Razor’s Edge and Honor Among Thieves, it alone of the three books in that series survived the cut-off. Kevin Hearne’s story explains how Luke learned the telekinesis he used in The Empire Strikes Back.
Since Obi-Wan never taught him that, someone had to encourage Luke to use the Force—and in Heir to the Jedi, it’s Nakari Kelen, a fellow Rebel pilot with whom Luke goes on a mission to retrieve a Rebel codebreaker.
0 BBY - Marvel's Chewbacca
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Phil Noto
Some time after the events of A New Hope, Chewbacca finds himself comfortably crash-landed on the planet Andelm IV. He’s willing to have a bit of a nap before beginning a leisurely search for parts for his ship, but there are other people on the planet who aren’t so relaxed.
A girl named Zarro and her father have been conscripted into working essentially as slaves in a mine run by a man who plans to profit off of the Empire. Chewie and Zarro hatch a plan to free her father in this fun, five-issue series with beautiful art by Phil Noto.
0 BBY - The Weapon of a Jedi
Written by Jason Fry
Prolific Star Wars writer Jason Fry tells a quintessential Luke story in The Weapon of a Jedi. A young Luke travels to Devaron on a hunch sent by the Force and discovers an ancient Jedi Academy where he can hone his skills—and where he fights with a lightsaber for the first time.
Although we don’t know for sure whether the Jedi Temple on Devaron will affect the Star Warsuniverse going forward, it’s Luke’s best canon example of a place where Jedi can go to learn, and maybe influenced the academy he eventually built in the New Republic. The book also features flash forwards to Jessika Pava, the Resistance pilot who flew with Poe Dameron at the battle of Starkiller Base.
0 BBY - Marvel's Star Wars & Darth Vader
Star Wars: Written by Jason Aaron, Art by John Cassaday et al
Darth Vader: Written by Kieron Gillen, Art by Salvador Larroca
Some of the best—and more surprising—stories in the Marvel Star Wars line come out of the ongoing series, which occur concurrently and crossed over in their first big event, “Vader Down.” The series follows both heroes and villains of the Original Trilogy, including Luke’s earnest, enthusiastic slide into learning how to use his Jedi powers; Vader’s conflicted relationship with Emperor Palpatine and the Sith legacy of betrayal and competition; and Han’s maybe-wife Sana Solo.
The longest-running Marvel Star Wars series so far are also the ones that most clearly show how Marvel is handling the core characters going forward, so check these out if you want to see what Luke, Han, and Leia are up to after A New Hope.
Darth Vader recently wrapped and it's easily one of the best stories to come out of the new EU so far. You NEED to read this series!
0 BBY - Marvel's Doctor Aphra
Written by Kieron Gillen & Simon Spurrier
Art by Kev Walker et. al.
After becoming a breakout hit in the comics, Doctor Aphra became the first Star Wars character who never appeared in the movies to helm her own comic book series. Her title reveals her history, including her parents and how she became a rogue archeologist.
0 BBY - Smuggler’s Run
Written by Greg Rucka
Smuggler’s Run is one in a series of three young reader books put out as part of the Journey to The Force Awakens line. Along with Weapon of a Jedi and Moving Target, Smuggler’s Run follows one member of the Original Trilogy trio and is bookended by scenes set in the Sequel Trilogy era.
This one focuses on Han Solo and Chewbacca balancing living the lawless life with their work for the Rebellion. Written by Greg Rucka, Smuggler’s Run shows Han as he reluctantly takes on a mission to save a Rebel scout from the Empire.
0 BBY-3 ABY - Marvel's Lando
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Alex Maleev
Lando, written by Charles Soule, with art from Alex Maleev, shows the suave baron-administrator before he got his title. Lando thinks he has scored big when he plans to steal a valuable starship, but it turns out that the ship once belonged to Emperor Palpatine (and Darth Maul), and there are plenty of unpleasant Sithly surprises in store.
As well as featuring Lando himself, the comic has a lot of great supporting characters, including mysterious twin aliens and Lobot himself. Watching Lobot’s stoic expressions in The Empire Strikes Back will never be the same after reading this comic.
0-3 ABY - Marvel's Han Solo
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Mark Brooks
3 ABY - The Empire Strikes Back
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Written by Lawrence Kasdan & Leigh Brackett
4 ABY - Moving Target
Written by Cecil Castellucci & Jason Fry
Leia’s installment of the Journey to The Force Awakens series follows her on a mission to distract the Empire from the Rebellion’s growing fleet—the fleet that will attack the second Death Star at Endor. Her team travels through various adventures in their effort to do that, while Leia weighs her feelings about duty against the idea that she might be sacrificing some Rebel sympathizers in order to buy time for others.
Like the other two Original Trilogy books in the line, Moving Target is a quintessential Star Warsstory with a few connections to other parts of the saga. The flash forward involves PZ-4CO, the blue droid seen in the Resistance base in The Force Awakens, interviewing Leia for her memoirs.
4 ABY - Return of the Jedi
Directed by Richard Marquand
Written by Lawrence Kasdan & George Lucas
4 ABY - Marvel's Shattered Empire
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto
The timeline between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens is a bit sparse right now, with the Aftermath trilogy expected to fill up the years after Return of the Jedi. Another novel, Bloodline by Claudia Gray, due out in 2016, is set about six years before Episode VII.
However, Shattered Empire wastes no time in showing where Luke, Han, and Leia were immediately after Return of the Jedi, while also introducing Poe Dameron’s parents. Pilot Shara Bey and soldier Kes Dameron join the Original Trilogy heroes in mopping up what’s left of the Empire on Endor—and find some strange, Force-sensitive trees.
4 ABY - Aftermath
Written by Chuck Wendig
The first novel set after Return of the Jedi brings a new cast of characters to the story, Rebels who, with varying degrees of reluctance, find themselves embroiled with a meeting of the surviving Imperial officers. Remember Rae Sloane? She’s back, as an admiral this time—and she has her own plans for how to restore the Empire to both greatness and stability.
Aftermath also stars Norra Wexley, an X-Wing pilot who fought at the Battle of Endor. She has become estranged from her son Temmin, who will one day become “Snap” Wexley of The Force Awakens’ Resistance fighters, and recruits him, plus a bounty hunter and an Imperial deserter, on a quest to find her missing husband. Aftermath is followed by two sequels, Life Debt and Empire’s End.
5 ABY - Aftermath: Life Debt
Written by Chuck Wendig
5 ABY - Aftermath: Empire's End
Written by Chuck Wendig
28 ABY - Bloodline
Written by Claudia Gray
Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray gives a clearer picture of the state of the galaxy before The Force Awakens than any other new canon entry. The New Republic has been standing strong for almost thirty years, and the events in the novel tips things toward the chaotic scenario we saw in Episode VII.
28 ABY - Phasma
Written by Delilah S. Dawson
The history of the First Order's feared enforcer is revealed secondhand through a Resistance spy interrogated by the First Order. The Phasma novel explores the irradiated planet Parnassos and the way Phasma first met Brendol Hux, shedding some light on the premier stormtrooper without explaining everything behind the mask.
28 ABY - "The Perfect Weapon"
Written by Delilah S. Dawson
"The Perfect Weapon" by Delilah S. Dawson was the first short story to feature one of the new characters from The Force Awakens. Like the young reader books listed earlier, it’s part of the Journey to the Force Awakens line, and was released as an ebook and excerpted in Star Wars Insider #163.
Bazine Netal, the woman who informs the First Order of the Resistance fighters’ presence at Maz Kanata’s castle, works as a bouncer and hired gun in this story. It doesn’t take place at the same time as The Force Awakens, or particularly illuminates Bazine’s actions during the movie, but if you’re interested in her from the few glimpses in The Force Awakens, it might be worth checking out.
28 ABY - "Bait"
Written by Alan Dean Foster for Star Wars Insider #162
The Star Wars Insider story that ties most closely with The Force Awakens so far is also tied to "The Perfect Weapon.""Bait" follows Grummgar, the alien seen lounging with Bazine in Maz Kanata’s palace. Like "The Perfect Weapon," it takes place at an unspecified time before the movie and shows a hunting trip that doesn't quite go as expected.
28 ABY - Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens
Written by Landry Q. Walker
Although four of the stories in this collection were released as e-books, six of them, all by Landry Q. Walker, are only available in this collection. The anthology tells selected tales from the lives of the denizens of Maz Kanata’s palace, including the Jakku lawman Constable Zuvio and the red-masked Crimson Corsair. The stories follow in the tradition of Legends'"Tales" anthologies that were set in the Original Trilogy, and have some surprising connections to the Prequels.
34 ABY - Marvel's Poe Dameron
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Phil Noto
Before he destroyed Starkiller Base, ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron was already taking on missions from General Leia and fighting the good fight against the First Order. This comic book series shows what Poe was up to before he met Lor San Tekka on Jakku.
34 ABY - Marvel's C-3PO Special
Written by James Robinson
Art by Tony Harris
Want to know what was up with Threepio's red arm in The Force Awakens? This touching one-shot tells the story of a droid adventure for the ages that is surprisingly full of emotion. Who knew droids could feel so much?
34 ABY - Before the Awakening
Written by Greg Rucka
There’s something to be said about not having to answer every question about a large science fiction universe in a movie, but for people who have questions about The Force Awakens, this is the book that answers them.
How did Poe Dameron become part of the Resistance? What was life actually like for Finn in the First Order stormtrooper corps, and why does he make his decision on Jakku? When did Rey hone her piloting skills? Before the Awakening answers all of these questions, as well as tell three fun stories suitable for young readers.
34 ABY - The Force Awakens
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt, & J.J. Abrams
34 ABY - Marvel's Captain Phasma
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Marco Chechetto, Andres Mossa
Set immediately after The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma follows the titular stormtrooper captain out of the trash compactor in which she was imprisoned at the end of Episode VII. She quickly finds her way to an inhospitable planet in pursuit of Sol Rivas, a First Order lieutenant and the only person who knows that Phasma lowered Starkiller Base's shield. The comic shows how Phasma escaped and some of the tough choices she had to make in the aftermath.
34 ABY - Canto Bight
Written by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, John Jackson Miller
The Canto Bight novella collection includes four stories set in the lavish casino city from The Last Jedi. Its varied visitors include a down-on-his-luck gambler, a casino servant, and a salesman who won a trip to the city.
34 ABY - The Last Jedi
Directed by Rian Johnson
Written by Rian Johnson
Megan Crouse is a staff writer.
Patrick Macmanus, showrunner of Syfy’s Happy!, will develop a TV series based on Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
It appears that a long-overdue live-action adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic time-bending 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, is about to happen, the first since director George Roy Hill’s 1972 movie. However, it will take shape this time as a television series for Universal Cable Productions, whose purview notably includes USA, Syfy and Bravo.
According to Variety, the studio’s effort to bring Vonnegut’s novel to the peak television arena will involve the appointment of a talent already under the NBCUniversal umbrella in Patrick Macmanus, showrunner of Syfy’s imminently-premiering series, Happy!, which adapts the similarly-surreal Grant Morrison-created comic book of the same name. Macmanus has signed an overall deal for Slaughterhouse-Five that will see him write and executive produce the TV adaptation. He will be joined by a gaggle of executive producers in the nigh-ubiquitous Gale Anne Hurd (via Valhalla Entertainment), along with Ensemble Entertainment’s Jon Brown, and Brand Y Media’s Bradley Yonover.
Elise Henderson, senior vice president of development for UCP, claims that the project was on the studio’s radar for “many years” as they waited for the rights to be freed up. She explains:
“As soon as they did, we jumped in. At that point, we needed a writer, and we had just been introduced to Patrick for Happy!. Having read his material, we knew that he has the ability to do the emotional character depth that we need but also the ability to figure out a complex story and how to crack it, and capture the humor and the tone.”
Slaughterhouse-Five centers on the experiences of Billy Pilgrim. A prototype for the “unreliable narrator” trope that USA’s Mr. Robot embraces, Billy finds himself lost in time, living out things that unfold in a non-linear fashion, such as his experiences during World War II as an Army chaplain’s assistant and eventual prisoner in Germany, where he survives the Allies’ firebombing of Dresden (since, ironically enough, war prisoners were safely stowed in the basement). Elements of Billy’s post-war life also come into focus, consisting of marriage, children and, in a radical thematic departure, abduction by aliens, during which he is kept in a dome menagerie, forced to mate with a missing movie star. The novel, which also implies ambiguity over the veracity of Billy’s experiences, has long been fodder for scholarly analysis.
Indeed, showrunner Macmanus (formerly of Netflix’s Marco Polo,) implies his intention to delve deep, stating:
“There are no lines that Vonnegut ever throws away. But there are certain lines within the book that allude to a much larger world. I’m not just talking about going off into outer space. He alludes to the Balkanization of the United States and to the hydrogen bombing of the United States. I feel like today’s TV is the only way to tell this story. Even though it’s only approximately 275 pages, I think that it’s ripe to be expanded upon exponentially.”
For now, the work that Macmanus has done with Syfy’s Happy! will have to serve as a preview of sorts for Slaughterhouse-Five, with the Christopher Meloni-starring series set to premiere on December 6 (tonight!) at 10 p.m. EST.
Fox, the same studio that brought The Fault in Our Stars to the screen, has bought the movie rights to Green's new novel.
John Green's latest book, Turtles All the Way Down, is getting a movie! Or, at least a movie development deal...
The YouTube vlogger and novelist, who also wrote The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, made the announcement via his YouTube channel (you can see the video at the bottom of the page). Fox has bought the movie rights to Turtles All the Way Down, a novel about a 16-year-old girl who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder and who embarks on solving the mystery of a missing billionaire.
As Green highlights in his video, Fox is the same studio and production company that made the successful film adaptations of The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. Green also spoke about the enormous responsibility of making a decision on whether or not the book, which already means so much to so many, could or should be made into a film.
"For the last two months, we've been talking about it: is there a way to tell this story visually without relying on the old tropes that are usually associated with portrayals of OCD?" asks Green, who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder himself, and who has opened up about his experiences via his YouTube channel.
Ultimately, Green believes the answer to that question is yes, with the author saying: "I'm really excited for the opportunity and also the challenge of the Turtles All the Way Down movie, and I hope you're excited, too."
For many, the true magic of the Potterverse lies not in its prose, but in the model of internet fandom it helped nurture.
In this second era of Harry Potter content, it can be hard to forget a time before the boy wizard and his magical world ruled the internet.
Harry Potter and the internet are so inextricably intertwined. Star Trek fandom may have written many of the rules of modern slash fanfiction. The X-Files fandom gave us the term "shipping." But it was the Harry Potter fandom that defined much of the community-based internet fandom culture we know and (mostly) love today.
As Harry Potter fandom continues to struggle, shape, and define how we engage with the most popular stories in the world, and with the other people who love them, let's take a look back at th fandom that helped shaped how we use the internet today...
(Image above via Dorkly.)
Harry Potter and The Birth of the Internet
The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was published in 1998 in the U.S., somewhere in the middle of the process that saw the internet graduating from a resource used mostly at universities and by privileged uber-nerds to mainstream use. By mid-1999, the internet was in a third of U.S. households. By 2001, it had reached the 50 percent mark.
Where was Harry Potter fandom in 2001? It was the year the first Harry Potter film was released. It was also one year into the so-called "Three-Year Summer," the longest stretch between the publishing of any two Harry Potter books (after The Goblet of Fire and before The Order of the Phoenix.)
The Three-Year Summer is known within Harry Potter fandom as a period of intense creation, discussion, and collaboration. It was when the Potterverse really came into its own, and it was perfectly aligned with the spread of internet technology across the U.S.
So was Harry Potter just in the right place at the right time? Definitely, but that doesn't negate the strength of J.K. Rowling's characters, plot structure, and world-building. It also doesn't negate the serialized nature of the Harry Potter story, a feature that Francesca Coppa argues made Harry Potter perfect fodder for fandom. In The Fanfiction Studies Reader, Coppa writes:
Harry Potter comes to us as the embodied protagonist of a series of stories that retell Harry's adventures during a series of school years ... The ongoing series of novels was then made into an ongoing series of films. In all these ways, the Harry Potter books resist the status of 'finished literary text' made up of particular words in a particular order, and instead construct themselves as the open-ended inspiration for future performative supplements that will allow its audience to reconstitute itself on a regular basis.
The stage was set.
Harry Potter and The Fanfiction
Fanfiction has always been a thing. From The Great Game to Wide Sargasso Sea to Spockanalia, fans have long been inspired to become creators in the fictional worlds they love. Fandom as we now know it today, however, is a more modern development. It has become much easier to create a community around fannish excitements since the development of mass media and, even more recently, the internet.
As we've already established, Harry Potter came around at a time when modern fandom was given its first chance to be. A huge part of this fannish revolution was in the writing, reading, and sharing of fanfiction. Websites like Fanfiction.net, FictionAlley, and LiveJournal gave Harry Potter fanfiction writers and readers a place to gather with like-minded fans, to find other people who enjoyed nerding out about and becoming creators within the world of their favorite story in a way that, previously, might have made you an outsider. The internet created accessible community in a way like never before. This was the first step toward mainstreaming fannish activities and behavior.
On September 4th, 1999, the first Harry Potter fanfiction story was uploaded onto Fanfiction.net. That same month, the Harry Potter for GrownUps mailing list is started. The following month, in October 1999, MuggleNet launches. Both were sites where fanfiction was shared and welcomed, though that was far from their only purpose. August 2000 saw Cassandra Clare (who would go on to write the wildly popular YA series The Mortal Instruments, source material for current Freeform TV series Shadowhunters) publish the first chapter of "The Draco Trilogy." The series would continue to be updated over the next six years and included almost one million words spanning three, novel-length stories.
For many young fans, fanfiction was (and is) more than a way of engaging in their favorite story; it is a way of better understanding the world and their own identities. It is a way of breaking outside the narrow boundaries of most canon culture and normalizing something other than the straight, white, male, financially-secure experience that dominates stories with corporate backing. Fanfiction is a way of saying: whoever you are, that's OK.
It's not a secret that much of the fanfiction (though definitely not all) involves queer pairings. Slash fanfiction is the name for fanfiction written about two same-sex characters in a romantic and/or sexual pairing. The term "slash" refers to the "/" between the two characters in question and comes out of Star Trek fandom, specifically the Kirk/Spock relationship.
Jameson writes about the influence of megafandoms like Harry Potter and Twilight on the sexual education of younger generations in her book Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, saying:
Harry Potter slash helped shape and challenge attitudes toward sexual diversity among the generation that grew up reading it and arguing about it (a lot) online ... Where previous generations may have looked to parental porn stashes and the pages of Cosmopolitan, today's teens increasingly find such information in fanfiction.
They write it in fanfiction — and in some version or another, they always have. They used to write it in notebooks, and now they write it and share it online. Like it or not, this has become normal and public, a part of growing up for millions. If Twilightand Harry Potter have taught us anything, it's that authorial intent has nothing to do with the afterlives of characters.
The representation of queer characters has come a long way in the last 15 years, and I think it's fair to credit some of that progression to the mainstreaming of a fandom culture that has long been more comfortable with focusing on queer relationships.
Intellectual property attorney, FictionAlley co-founder, and fanfiction writer Heidi Tandy writes about the early days of Harry Potter fandom in Fic, saying:
A decade ago, I was slammed as immoral for letting teenagers discuss whether gay wizards even existed; in 2007, J.K. Rowling told us they did. Kids who were thirteen in 1999 and 2002 and 2004 are in their twenties now, and those who were college students then have kids of their own. If you told them that it was immoral to let thirteen-year-olds read YA stories about gay teenage wizards, they would probably laugh and tell you it'd be immoral to ban them from reading those stories. Or anything else.
Today, readers don't only have fanfiction for gay teen wizard stories. In 2015, Rainbow Rowell published Fangirl, a young adult novel about a college-aged girl and fanfiction writer. Her follow-up novel, Carry On, focuses on the Harry Potter-like characters first introduced as fanfiction characters in Fangirl. (Yes, Simon and Baz are teen wizards. And, yes, they fall in love.)
Carry On might not actually be fanfiction, but it does use many of fanfiction's most beloved tropes and serves similar functions, challenging, expanding, and dismantling many of the narrative constructs utilized in Harry Potter canon, most especially the "Chosen One" trope.
The story prioritizes interiority and emotionality, in a way that is much more common in fanfiction than it is in canon fiction, as Elizabeth Minkel explains in her Medium article "Harry Potter and the Sanctioned Follow-Up Work (or, Fanfiction vs. the Patriarchy)."
The privileging of character, of emotionality, of interiority, is par for the course in female-dominated transformative fandom, and pretty rare in the largely male-authored source works that rule the fan world, especially big-budget blockbuster franchises. It's at the heart of the shipping clashes between creators and fans, when creators throw up their hands and say "stop making this about romance and/or sex!!" Creators are making plot-oriented worlds first, then thinking about what the characters will do; female-dominated fandom is thinking about who the characters are, and in a given situation, what they feel.
Notably, an interest in interiority and emotionality are common traits in contemporary young adult fiction. One could make the argument that YA fiction partially gets this trait from the fanfiction tradition that many of its writers (and many of its readers) hail from.
Harry Potter and The Powers That Be
We've written a bit on Den of Geek about the ongoing tensions between sanctioned creaters and fandom. With the rise of social media, conversations between The Powers That Be and fandom are easier than ever. This means that it's easier than ever to give creators praise for and ask questions about the stories they've created, but it's also easier than ever to critique content directly to its creators, corporate backers, and rights-holders. Though this might seem like a more modern phenomenon, it has its foundations in the earliest years of internet fandom.
When Harry Potter fandom first began, the legal definitions of "fair use" and "transformative works" had not been tested in this new pioneer of internet fandom. They would be. In 2000, Warner Bros. bought the merchandising rights to all things Harry Potter, aside from the books themselves. They began sending out cease-and-desist letters that were, in the words of Tandy, "Umbridge-esque threatening letters to teens around the world, insisting they hand over domain names that included terms from the Harry Potter series."
What I, as a newcomer to online fandom, didn't know at the time was that a few fans who'd come to HP from other fandoms thought that the only proper response, if The Powers That Be asked you anything, was to shut down your site, pull down your fics and your discussions, and go away— maybe even change your online name, which definitely had no link to your real-world self. But how could you be a fan of a book that was premised on standing up to evil and saying no to overreaching by The Authorities, and just do that?
Henry Jenkins writes about this period of fandom history, known as The Potter War, in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. Jenkins tells the story of how Heather Lawver, the then-teenage fan who ran the website The Daily Prophet, launched the Defense Against the Dark Arts campaign, coordinating media outreach and activism against the studio with other Harry Potter fans and site-runners across the world. Lawver told Jenkins:
Warner was very clever about who they attacked ... They attacked a whole bunch of kids in Poland. How much of a risk is that? They went after the 12 and 15 year olds with the rinky-dink sites. They underestimated how interconnected our fandom was. They underestimated the fact that we knew those kids in Poland and we knew the rinky dink sites and we cared about them.
Warner Bros. wasn't prepared for the Harry Potter fandom to be so well-organized, or perhaps to be a community at all. Unlike fandom before the rise of the internet, these groups of fans could communicate and coordinate like never before.
Fandom crossed boundaries of age, nation, language, and culture to push back against Warner Bros.'s campaign to keep this fictional universe firmly in the hands of The Powers That Be. And it worked. Diane Nelson, Warner Bros. Family Entertainment's senior vice president at the time, told Jenkins:
We didn't know what we had on our hands early on in dealing with Harry Potter. We did what we would normally do in the protection of our intellectual property. as soon as we realized we were causing consternation to children or their parents, we stopped it ... [Now,] we are trying to balance the needs of other creative stakeholders, as well as the fans, as well as our own legal obligations, all within an arena which is new and changing and there are not clear precedents about how things should be interpreted or how they would be acted upon if they ever reached the courts.
The reaction from internet fandoms of the time, including the ever-growing Harry Potter online fandom, shaped the rules for the current relationship between The Powers That Be and The Fans. If those Harry Potter fans had been less organized, who knows what the internet would look like today?
Harry Potter and The Conclusion
Books could be (and have been) written about the expansive Harry Potter fandom. From wizard rock to the Harry Potter Alliance to LeakyCon, the Harry Potter fandom is no one thing. It is massive and diverse. Fans participate for different reasons and in different ways and that makes it hard to come to any sweeping conclusions about its nature, purpose, or growth. However, it does seem safe to note its vital importance as one of the first major internet fandoms. A fandom that developed along with the internet and, in some small part, helped shape what it would become.
For many, Harry Potter fandom is just as if not more powerful than Harry Potter canon itself. Any why wouldn't it be? Fandom involves millions of creators rather than just one. Of course it is richer than the book, stage play, and prequel movies that, by the broadest definition, include thousands of creators.
Fandom is a conversation. Canon is a lecture — often times, an articulate one, but one-sided nonetheless. Or, if you'd prefer, the statement that starts the larger cultural discussion that, through fandom, more people than ever before are able to participate in.
As Alanna Bennett touches on in her recent Buzzfeedpiece "The Harry Potter Fandom Is At A Crossroads," the current angst in the Harry Potter community is as much about seeing canon fall short of the infinity of fandom as it is about the lackluster quality of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
"The Potter fandom has crafted a legacy of engagement and creativity that the series’ modern canonical efforts are struggling to live up to. For so many fans ... it can be hard to get hype about Cursed Child when they recognize in it so many of the tropes they explored themselves a decade ago — in content they created and championed."
An entire generation of fans is being asked to reevaluate the presumed value of canon vs. fandom and coming up with an answer The Powers That Be might not like. The Harry Potter book series is often credited with getting an entire generation of kids to read, but, perhaps even more importantly, it gave an entire generation of nerds community-based fandom.
In turn, Harry Potter fandom gave us (with the rise of the internet) the mainstreaming of nerd culture. It taught an entire generation of nerds that they are not alone and that they don't have to wait for The Powers That Be to write people who look, act, and feel like them into the stories they love. They can do it themselves.
There is a nostalgia for these early days of Harry Potter fandom as much as there is a nostalgia for the Harry Potter books themselves, but I'm not sure how many people would want to go back to a time when fans' rights to act as creators in the stories that act as our modern myths were so uncertain. Not when, now, this community-based form of loving, challenging, and expanding the stories that make up our popular culture has become so normal.
Harry Potter canon might be aging into something less relevant and more problematic than its earlier incarnations, but the modern fandom it helped create is more important than ever.
Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows is the next Black Hammer spinoff from Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston & and Max Fiumara!
The world of Black Hammer, the Eisner-award winning comic that made our Best Comics of 2016 list, just keeps getting bigger. The first volume of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's tale wrapped to much critical buzz, and it was followed by the great Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil. And now, Den of Geek has an exclusive first look at the next series in the Black Hammer universe: Doctor Star and the Kingdom of LostTomorrows.
Doctor Star is a dual-narrative story that chronicles the legacy of the Golden-Age superhero Doctor Star. An aged crime fighter desperately wants to reconnect with his estranged son, who he hoped would one day take the mantle of Doctor Star. Over the course of the story we learn his World War II-era origin, how he got his powers, his exciting astral adventures, the formation of some of Black Hammer’s greatest heroes, and more in this heartbreaking superhero tale about fathers and sons.
The first issue (of four) of Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows goes on sale March 07, 2018 and will be available for preorder at your local comic shop on December 20, 2017.
Check out the cover for the first issue:
"[Dean and I are] very excited to continue to expand the Black Hammer universe with Doctor Star with Max Fiumara as the artist," said Lemire. "This new series examines a difficult relationship between a father and son, which I think many people will relate to."
Black Hammer is about a team of champions from Spiral City, trapped in an inescapable idyllic farm village after defeating a multiversal crisis. The world is a beautiful pastiche that only someone like Lemire can pull off - bonkers Silver Age concepts, like a ghost trapped in a robot body named Mectoplasm, married to Lemire's deeply emotional plots. Joining him on art have been Ormston, whose style is so much like Lemire's own that it took a while to realize they were separate people; David Rubin on Sherlock Frankenstein, who is a credible Paul Pope replacement on Battling Boy and the art behind a beloved Beowulf adaptation; and Max Fiumara on Doctor Star, who has been working most recently on Abe Sapien, and is someone Mike Mignola chose to work on his stories. That's quite the crew.
Dark Horse sent over some character work by Fiumara, as well as a variant cover from Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. More variants are promised from industry heavy hitters like Dustin Nguyen, Annie Wu, and JG Jones. Have a look!
The Harry Potter author & Fantastic Beasts screenwriter has broken her silence about the casting of Johnny Depp.
For many Harry Potter fans, the world of the boy wizard represents a safe space, a place where people stand up against injustice and call out abuses of power. This is why the casting of Johnny Depp, an alleged domestic abuser, as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, has upset so many.
Rowling's previous lack of response to the concerns, which first surfaced following Depp's surprise cameo in the first Fantastic Beasts film, as well as her policy of blocking Twitter users who asked her about it via the social media platform, has been unacceptable to many Harry Potter fans.
As promotional material for the Fantastic Beasts sequel — the supremely awkwardly subtitled The Crimes of Grindelwald — has begun to be released, Rowling has broken her silence on the issue. The Harry Potter author and screenwriter of the Fantastic Beasts films released a short statement via her own website on the subject of Depp's casting or lack of recasting following ex-wife Amber Heard's accusations of Depp's physically and emotionally-abusive behavior.
While Rowling said "around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories [about Depp] had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise" and "I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen," she ultimately defended the casting of Depp.
Rowling implies that she is not able to talk about the issue as honestly as she might want to, saying:
For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected. Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.
Previously, Fantastic Beasts director David Yates also defended Depp's casting in an interview with EW, saying:
Honestly, there's an issue at the moment where there's a lot of people being accused of things, they're being accused by multiple victims, and it's compelling and frightening. With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He's full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn't tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.
There are some dangerous patterns at play in both Yates and Rowling's responses: calling into question Heard's claims of abuse, using examples of healthy relationships in Depp's life to defend accusations of his abusive behavior, and just generally placing the career of a male abuser over the safety and mental health of a female survivor.
J.K. Rowling is a politically-progressive creator known for writing a story about what happens when those in power abuse it or don't use it to stand up for those of us who are most vunerable. Viewed through this lens, Rowling's response here is incredibly disappointing, at least to this Harry Potter fan.
How did Batman II, the sequel to one of the most successful summer movies of all time, turn into the anti-Christmas Batman Returns?
Who broods more than Batman? That is at least the point of view filmmakers took with Batman Returns, a Tim Burton art-piece masquerading as blockbuster entertainment. The bleakest and kinkiest superhero movie ever made, Batman Returns takes the first line of the original Sam Hamm screenplay to heart: “It’s finally happened; Hell’s frozen over.” Decorating his urban decay with shiny Yuletide wrapping, Burton and his collaborators crafted the most artful cape and cowl picture—a German Expressionist painting so cynical about the holidays, abhorrent commercialism, and the supposed goodwill of man that Ebenezer Scrooge might even cringe.
How this definitively anti-Christmas movie got made on a staggering $80 million budget and then slapped on the back of McDonald’s Happy Meals is almost as fascinating as the skintight vinyl of the movie itself.
Following up on the financial rewards of 1989’s Batman was a no-brainer in the immediate aftermath of its world domination. The highest grossing movie all time upon its release, the Caped Crusader took in an unheard of $400 million worldwide and toppled the summer’s other heavy hitters, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Ghostbusters II. But more impressively, the Dark Knight reached pop culture icon status in a way never before seen when his simple gold-and-black logo became ubiquitous on every T-shirt, trading card, and toy store window. It was inescapable for everyone… except for perhaps a slightly nauseous Tim Burton and Michael Keaton.
Whereas studio executives and even screenwriter Hamm were clamoring at the idea of “Batman II,” Burton famously called a continuation of the film in 1989 a “dumbfounded idea.” Consider that while Batman was nigh universally loved during the heights of Batmania, Burton described the film to Empire magazine in 1992 as “a little boring at times.”
Keaton held out for a significant pay raise, but Burton wanted the discretion of choosing a screenplay and story different than what came before—a decision that would drastically change the direction of the picture and perhaps the entire franchise.
In the months before Batman’s phenomenal success, screenwriter Sam Hamm hinted to Comics Scene that he really wanted to use Two-Face and explore how heroic DA Harvey Dent (played by the unflappably charismatic Billy Dee Williams in the 1989 film) became the tragically deranged Two-Face. However, Warner Bros. and Burton had other ideas.
Likely based off the popularity of Burgess Meredith’s foul performance in the 1966 Batman TV series, WB insisted that Penguin be the big bad of Batman II. Further, both Hamm and Burton had a thing for Catwoman.
“They really wanted the Penguin,” Hamm explained in the 2005 documentary Shadows of the Bat. “Because they sort of saw the Penguin as the number two Batman villain. We wanted to do Catwoman, so we wound up doing Penguin and Catwoman.”
The result was two drafts Hamm turned in for Batman II, which would have made a very different present than what we finally unwrapped in 1992. Literally continuing from the first line of his 1988 Batman screenplay (which began by describing Gotham as “hell has erupted through the sidewalks”), Hamm’s treatment was a direct follow-up to the 1989 film.
While it was certainly Hamm’s conceit to set the Batman sequel in the doldrums of Holiday Cheer, the blanket of snow and Christmas wreaths were more a decorative ornamentation around St. Batman, and the story feels like a direct expansion of what came before: Bruce Wayne is still dating Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale and is even engaged to her by the end, and he is fighting criminals of the same cartoon-noir decadence as Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Sure, one bad guy is dressed like a dastardly Santa Claus, but instead of having a comical toy gag like the Penguin’s umbrellas in the final film, evil Santa is sporting an AK-47 and mowing down police officers with the kind of stylized grittiness associated with the first Batman picture.
Batman II might have been an interesting film since it would have carried over many more of the elements from the 1989 experience that people loved. The villains were psychotic and violent, but they were not freaks in that patented Tim Burton way. The Penguin is a small time criminal with a penchant for birds—which he often uses as weapons with Hitchcock-inspired attack pigeons—and Selina Kyle is the highly sexualized vamp that she’s usually portrayed as in the comics, albeit turned up to 11. Her costume is described as literal “bondage” gear, and she has no qualms about massacring large groups of men with assault rifles or her own claws.
However, Batman II further attempted to ground the title character back in his comic book roots. Bruce Wayne (and even Vicki Vale) is far more the protagonist than he ended up being in the finished film, and one who has developed a strict “no kill” policy. The story is also haphazardly about Bruce Wayne trying to protect the homeless, who are about to get Giuliani’d in Gotham’s Central Park equivalent. He’s also uncovering the secret history of the Waynes.
This leads to the rather lackluster main plotline about Penguin and Catwoman murdering the wealthiest men in Gotham (and framing the Batman while doing it) in an attempt to collect secret “Raven” statues, which ultimately leads to a Christmas Eve Agatha Christie-esque visit to Wayne Manor in the bizarre hope of finding buried treasure hidden (unbeknownst to Bruce) in the Batcave. Oh, and it also introduces Robin as a 12-year-old homeless orphan kid that knows martial arts.
Obviously a busy take on the character, these early drafts needed plenty of work. Still, they maintained the old Hollywood feel of the previous movie. If Batman drew liberally from wiseguy gangster dramas, Batman II appeared to be pulling from The Maltese Falcon except with Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor doing the public service of bumping off the most corruptible of one percenters.
Burton was severely disappointed in this approach and wouldn’t sign the dotted line. Not until WB promised, in Hamm’s words, to let Tim make a “Tim Burton movie,” as opposed to a Batman sequel.
“A Tim Burton Movie”
What finally brought Tim Burton onboard for the sequel was the free rein that he and his handpicked new screenwriter, Daniel Waters, received for their vision. Burton had been a fan of Waters’ work on the ultimate dark teen comedy, Heathers (think Mean Girls except actually mean). As a result Burton and Waters had a level of latitude relatively unprecedented before or since with superhero movies.
“Tim and I never had a conversation about ‘what are fans of the comic books going to think?’” Waters said in the Shadows of the Bat documentary. “We never thought about them. We were really just about the art.”
As a result, and with Keaton’s insistence (who deleted much of Batman’s dialogue by choice in the scripting process), the focus bounced back from Batman to the villains, who changed dramatically in the script. As Burton himself expressed, he never really got the appeal of his main villain in the comics. “You could find the psychological profile of Batman, Catwoman, Joker, but the Penguin was just this guy with a cigarette and a top hat. What is he?!” Burton mused in 2005.
The result was Waters and Burton agreeing to turn the Penguin into a tragic figure every bit as freakish as the Batman. Indeed, Oswald Cobblepot became a repulsive mirror for our hero, a child of wealth who lost his parents when he was abandoned in the sewers on Christmas Eve like a freak show version of Moses.
Also, as Burton admitted to Empire in 1992, Waters brought a political and social satire element to the plot by taking from the Batman TV series and having this repellent oddity run for Mayor of Gotham in a recall election (think episodes “Hizzoner The Penguin” and “Dizzoner The Penguin”). This was only made possible by the smiling machinations of Gotham industrialist Max Shreck, a Waters invention. “I wanted to show that true villains of our world don’t necessarily wear costumes,” Waters said to Empire.
However, his most unique change was his metamorphosis of Selina Kyle from street-wise femme fatale to the ultimate 1990s feminist allegory. “Sam Hamm went back to the way comic books in general treat women,” Waters told Film Review in 2008. “Like fetishy sexual fantasy. I wanted to start off just at the lowest point in society, a very beaten down secretary.” While the ripped costume stitches came from Burton, Waters imagined Catwoman being a psychological (and sexual) fable about the feminine. It was a change Waters half-joked in 2005 that he was ready to “lose the job” over.
Other changes included distancing itself from Batman II’sstrict “no kill” policy subplot. Instead, Batman liberally murders many, many people in Batman Returns. “A lot of people complained that our Batman actually killed people,” Waters said in a 2005 Batman Returns special feature. “Some purists would say, ‘Batman would never kill people!’ But I would always say, ‘We don’t live in the time where you can drop criminals off with a net on the front of City Hall.’ The times are darker, so you have to make your character darker.”
Waters ultimately wrote five drafts, which changed aspects drastically. Max Shreck was initially Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent (Catwoman’s electro-kiss at the end of Batman Returns would have left him with the scar and split personality), and in a later draft, Shreck became the Penguin’s long lost brother, a secret Cobblepot (a layer that had to be removed from an overstuffed script). Even Robin made an appearance. However, as Waters later described Robin as “the most worthless character in the world,” his and Burton’s attempt was half-hearted at best: Robin was a fully-grown Batmobile mechanic with a faded “R” on his jump suit uniform. Marlon Wayans was even cast in the role and an action figure was made until the character’s last-minute excision from the screenplay. Wayans still gets residual checks for his two-picture Robin deal (Joel Schumacher later opted to recast Robin with white actor Chris O’Donnell for Batman Forever).
Christmastime in Hell
The actual production of Batman Returns went relatively well after more pre-production nightmares. Danny DeVito was the first and only choice to play the Penguin, a role that Waters admitted he wrote for with DeVito in mind, but the casting of Catwoman was an ordeal unto itself. Despite casting Annette Bening in the role, even Burton and company couldn't anticipate how strange the role's importance would become. After Bening had to drop out at the last minute due to pregnancy, many, many actresses campaigned for the part through traditional channels—including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madonna, Bridget Fonda, and Cher—but they all paled in comparison to Sean Young, the actress who played Vicki Vale for several days until a horse riding injury caused her to be replaced on the original Batman production.
Convinced that as a result she should have been given the female lead in Batman Returns, Young appeared unannounced on the Warner Bros. lot in a homemade Catwoman costume with the intent of making an on-the-spot audition for Burton. The director reportedly hid under his desk from what he later described as a “UFO sighting,” but producer Mark Canton recalled the event vividly for Shadows of the Bat.
“Michael Keaton and I saw Sean Young dressed as Catwoman leap over my sofa and say, ‘I am Catwoman!’ We looked over at each other and went, ‘Woah.’”
Burton wisely went on to finally cast Michelle Pfeiffer in one of her most iconic roles.
Burton had similar struggles with WB about the new approach to the film, causing him to abandon the sets and aesthetic of the 1989 film. Tragically, the designer of those Oscar winning sets, Anton Furst, committed suicide in 1991, but WB had left them untouched at Pinewood Studios in the UK for the inevitable sequel. However, Burton was adamant that a new look and approach be designed from the bottom up for Batman Returns, leading to the claustrophobic gothic fantasias created by Bo Welch at WB and Universal’s Californian soundstages.
“I wanted to use American actors in supporting parts,” Burton told Empire in 1992. “I felt Batman suffered from a British subtext. I loved being over there, but it’s such a different culture that things got filtered. They could have brought somebody else in for the sequel, and had the same sets, and shot in London, but I couldn’t do that because I’d have lost interest. I wanted to treat it like it was another movie altogether—there’s no point in doing the exact same thing again.”
Indeed, the result was a very, very different movie.
The Greatest Anti-Christmas Gift of All
After all the production grappling hooks and fights, it’s still a bizarre wonder to behold: a superhero film in the studio system that purely and unapologetically revokes the mainstream culture it pertains to exist for. In the days of the Marvel Studios assembly line, this is a Christmas miracle.
Batman Returns is not a Batman movie; it’s a modern psychosexual gothic fairy tale that happens to enjoy some broad similarities with characters that have appeared in DC Comics. In short, it really is a Tim Burton movie, much more so than even the studio could have expected.
Rather than having a three-act structure of escalating narrative tension, this Batman sequel acts as an intentionally obtuse physical manifestation of its supposed protagonist’s fractured psyche, as well as a denouncement of the culture that birthed Batman and made him a merchandising must-buy item during the heights of Bat-mania—a fact someone may have tried to dull since a self-satirical “Bat-mania” merchandising store that gets smoked by the Penguin’s goons was erased in editing, as seen in the picture below.
This actual purpose of Burton and Waters’ approach is so overbearing that Wesley Strick was brought aboard to do an uncredited polish of Waters’ final draft. The main reason? WB wanted Penguin to have a master plan, which only added to the nastiness of Burton's reverse Moses. If Waters and Burton had Penguin abandoned by his parents as a baby in a raft on Christmas Eve, Stitch gave us the relatively dippy third act scheme of Penguin trying to lure all of Gotham’s first born children into the sewer and to a deep watery grave. This then gives way to blowing them all up with rocket-sporting penguins.
But that paradoxically disturbing kitsch did little to undermine the true purpose of the film: all three villains, including Christopher Walken’s scene-stealing and truly evil businessman, Max Shreck, are twisted reflections of the hero.
Shreck is a populist businessman who makes fools out of Christmas revelers early in the movie by gaining their love with worthless presents tossed into a crowd (not unlike how Joker earned Gothamites’ adulation by throwing away $20 million to the greedy and materialistic masses in Batman). He shares the same public persona that Bruce Wayne mimics, except there is not much beyond his greed. Maybe Bruce Wayne could be every bit as vain and self-interested as his rival billionaire if the death of his parents hadn’t set him on the path of the freak?
Shreck is also thus the true protagonist of the movie, as his proactive manipulation sets everything in motion. Keaton has the wonderful early moment of sitting near-comatose in his brooding Wayne Manor until the Bat-signal comes on, but Shreck waits for no one else’s time. He’s the reason the Penguin made good on his fiendish fantasies of bedeviling Gotham. Initially, Penguin may have wanted revenge on all the wealthy children that had the life he never enjoyed, but the blubbering freak is also the character that Burton spends the most time with and is by far the most sympathetic towards.
As seen in an above portrait, drawn by Burton’s own hand, the Penguin’s childhood is imagined to be an unhappy one robbed of the materialism afforded to Bruce Wayne and the far less vengeful Max Shreck. While Wayne used his wealth to become a vigilante, and Shreck uses it to procure more power—as Walken gleefully muses, “There’s no such thing as too much power; if my life has a meaning that’s the meaning”—Penguin just longs to be accepted like an even more grotesque version of the Phantom of the Opera that would not have tween theatergoers swooning at his sorrow.
When the Penguin’s monstrous visage is embraced by the fickle masses that literally buy anything Shreck sells them (he owns all the department stores on Christmas), Oswald is contented until Shreck convinces him to run for mayor. This is merely done to obtain more of that aforementioned power from the mindless electorate who sigh for Penguin one day and throw tomatoes at him the next. Oswald Cobblepot is a freak of nature, an oddity as coded by his animal nom de guerre as Batman and Catwoman, but he longs for acceptance. He only begins blowing up storefronts when Shreck eggs him on to create a phony crisis for a recall election, and it’s only when he’s rejected by society that he literally goes Biblical on Gotham.
The end of the movie is not focused on Batman, because his villains are both the stars and his character arc. As they reach and fail, the empty gestures of the Dark Knight’s pathetic crusade are underlined and unpacked for both the hero and his audience. That is why the climax of the picture is about Selina Kyle’s revenge and the Penguin’s ultimate demise, a death treated with far more tragedy than Bruce Wayne’s pity parties.
During their final confrontation, the boorish Penguin hisses to Batman, “You’re just jealous because I’m a genuine freak, and you have to wear a mask.” Batman concedes, “You might be right.” Burton and Waters certainly think so.
But the crowning achievement of Batman Returns is Selina Kyle’s expressionistic arc to the edges of 1990s feminism and beyond.
Forget comic book changes—for a more panel-accurate Catwoman, see the also excellent and memorable (if intentionally subdued) turn by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises—Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is one of the all-time great villainesses of film, and is certainly a richer role than any actress has enjoyed in a superhero movie since.
Pfeiffer plays Selina Kyle as a modern day storybook princess that is decidedly the antithesis of the kind that sell out Disney department stores every December. Selina Kyle begins the picture as a mousy secretary who doesn’t even get a close-up for the first 25 minutes of the movie. Taught be the “good girl” her whole life, Selina lives in a one-bedroom apartment adorned with all the codifying trinkets of eternal girlhood expected of her. Dollhouses; stuffed animals; pink furniture. Yet, strangely, her prince has never come, but she is told via intrusive phone solicitors that if she buys the right perfume that maybe she’ll be able to seduce her boss and get a promotion.
And as it so happens, Selina’s boss is, of course, Max Shreck. He instigates her transformation when he makes her admit that he is being “mean to someone so meaningless.” This is her plea for mercy before he has his way with her and pushes her out the top floor of a skyscraper. The fall should have killed her and probably did, but in typical Burton fairy tale logic, she is resurrected by cats and she now has nine lives. In the hands of typical studio hacks, this would have been unbearably awful (and it was when WB made a belated cash-in spin-off with 2004’s Catwoman, starring Halle Berry), but in Batman Returns, it serves a purpose for both her tragic arc, as well as Batman’s.
Selina Kyle becomes the Catwoman and in the process destroys all tokens of her submissive girlishness, taking control of her sexuality with a fetishistic homemade costume. But while Burton plays up the kinkiness of her relationship with Batman by having their foreplay fights devolve into actual cat-licking make-out sessions, Selina is never anything less than victimized or marginalized by men in the story.
After joining forces with Penguin, he decides to kill her when she won’t go to bed with his flippers. Having a romance with Bruce Wayne during the day leads to him trying to arrest her at night. And with each negative encounter, her costume is further destroyed. A literal representation of the expressionist ideal, Selina can only give order and sanity to her world by making this cat-costume. After each tear and rip, her visually expressed dream crumbles, as does her mental faculties. The influence on this concept is heavily apparent by simply the name of the man who first abused her by pushing her out that window: Max Shreck, which is also the name of the actor who played the vampiric Count Orlock in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece, Nosferatu.
At the end of the picture, the Disney happy ending is achieved. Realizing that Selina Kyle and Catwoman are one in the same, Batman unmasks himself as Bruce Wayne, crystallizing how she (as with Penguin and Shreck) is a doppelganger for his own inner-turmoil. “We’re the same, split right down the center,” Bruce pleads, begging her not to lose her soul by murdering Shreck. She agrees they are the same, but Batman is a hypocrite who lost his own soul long ago when he gave into to his demons and put on this costume; we’ve even seen him kill plenty of times in this very movie. To give into Bruce would be allowing a man to once more make her decisions—to domesticate her for his own ends.
“Bruce, I would love to live with you in your castle forever, just like a fairy tale,” she deliriously mumbles before scratching him across the face. “I just couldn’t live with myself. So don’t pretend this is a happy ending.”
Indeed, it is not; it’s a tragedy of operatic proportions, a fact that's heightened by Danny Elfman’s eerily melancholy score. Catwoman rejects finding redemption with Batman and does murder Max Shreck in the sewers. This is the beating heart of Batman Returns; Bruce Wayne loses because he’s only fighting shades of himself. Batman fails to stop Catwoman from following his dark path when she kills Shreck and gets away with it, and he likewise suffers only a pyrrhic victory over the Penguin, as he watches his grotesque reflection die from a self-inflicted fall. The monster is carried off by mournful penguin ushers to his aquatic grave.
Despite the colorful costumes, the giant rubber duckie Penguin gets around on, and plentiful groan-inducing puns spat out like a horrid open mic night by all the villains, Batman Returns is infinitely darker than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. While each of Nolan’s masterful films is far more violent than Batman Returns, and each is littered with more serious downers, even its dreariest entry The Dark Knight concludes somewhat triumphantly. The Batman may only win because of a political conspiracy and cover-up, but he is still the “hero Gotham deserves.”
There are no heroes in Batman Returns. Tim Burton’s second film ends in complete misery and cynicism on Bruce Wayne desolately alone for Christmas Eve with only Alfred Pennyworth and Selina Kyle’s abandoned cat to keep him company. He failed to save Catwoman and he admitted to the Penguin that he’s jealous of the short man’s natural freakishness. Returning to the noirish undertones of the first Batman film, Burton has a truly noir ending where the hero fails to simply be even that. The materialistic masses of Gotham City go on oblivious to the evil machinations of the owner of their department stores, and Bruce vanishes into the snowy darkness.
Besides Nolan, no filmmaker has had so much carte blanche in making a superhero movie, nor has one reached the heights of artfulness attmpted by these two filmmakers. There are better superhero movies than Batman Returns (I wouldn't even call it Burton's best Bat-film), but few are as personal, and none are as unforgivably grim… on Christmas.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we never saw Tim Burton’s Batman 3 (which is an article unto itself), but he still got his own final word on the Caped Crusader. That's probably the greatest gift of all. With goodwill toward men. And women.
***This article was originally published on Dec. 16, 2014.
Here's a rundown of the best books to give and to get this holiday season!
Once again this year, physical book sales are outpacing those of e-books. This is no surprise as there is still nothing like the tactile feel of having a book actually in your hands. There's something about having an immensely readable tome in your hands that these newfangled Kindles and Nooks and whatever can't replicate. (Also, GET OFF OUR LAWN). And can an e-book reader freak you the hell out by sometimes having a book scorpion -- look it up -- crawl across the screen? Nope! So here's a rundown of the latest and greatest books spanning spectrum of pop culture that you'll want to be giving/getting this year.
As Commander William Adama once said: "It's a gift. Never lend books."
A Field Guide to the Aliens of Star Trek: The Next Generation
Taking the guise of a school assignment-turned-zine-turned-book, A Field Guide to the Aliens of Star Trek: The Next Generation is both a hilarious skewering of the series' lesser new civilizations and a somewhat disturbing look at the perils of growing up. Allegedly written by a troubled youth named Joshua Chapman who grew up in Dormont, Pennsylvania (though pay close attention to that Edited by Zachary Auburn credit on the cover), this title espouses wisdom on aliens ranging from Acamarians to Zibalians -- taking plenty of time to praise Data and complain about Counselor Troi along the way. However, the nerdery often veers into bizarre tangents about Chapman's negative upbringing and overbearing mother that will make you question everything you are reading and wonder if you should put down the book and pick up a phone to call a social worker. Mindfucks it seems are the true final frontier.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Art of Juan Ortiz
Despite this being the 30th anniversary year of Star Trek: The Next Generation, merchandise marking this milestone has been unexpectedly light. With that in mind, Juan Ortiz's coffee table book tribute to the series is nothing short of a valentine to the crew of the Enterprise-D. Just as he previous did in a book dedicated to the original series, Ortiz has created art commemorating each of Next Gen's 178 episodes. Some of these, like the Twilight Zone-y illustration of "Who Watches the Watchers?" play up the series' sci-fi conceit, while goofball installments like "Qpid" get the irreverent treatment you'd expect. We suppose you could say that this book is, forgive us, quite engaging.
The Princess Bride Deluxe Edition
As you may have heard, 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the beloved film adapted from this source material. This means that now's the perfect time to buy this deluxe edition of The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Come for the story of Wesley and Princess Buttercup's undying love. Stay for Michael Manomivibul's gorgeous illustrations.
Black, Volume 1
What if only black people had superpowers? That question is at the heart of the graphic novel Black. Collecting the first six issues of the ongoing title from Black Mask Comics, this effort is a visceral and timely exploration of race relations in America from writer Kwanza Osajyefo. After a young African-American is shot by police and seemingly killed, he rapidly recovers and begins to discover secrets that could further divide a country already divided between white and black. Despite the weighty subject matter, Black remains an entertaining and thought-provoking read throughout this terrifically paced first installment. That's too rare a thing in contemporary comics, and we're lucky to have this one.
The Legends of Luke Skywalker
Disney has compiled an amazing group of authors to pen the books in their Journey to Star Wars series. In the lead up to The Last Jedi, this includes Ken Liu, the author of The Grace of Kings and the translator of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. Liu wrote the junior novel The Legends of Luke Skywalker, which follows a group of children on their way to casino world Canto Bight. The narrative acts as a frame for six tales about the legendary Luke Skywalker. Throughout the book, the children debate about whether or not Luke Skywalker is real or a myth. Read The Legends of Luke Skywalker with the kids in your life and decide for yourself.
Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Cards Series
Abrams Comicarts' latest entry in their insanely beautiful line of books based on old Topps trading cards line pays tribute to the Planet of the Apes saga. Packaged in a very satisfying wrap-around cover that is a nostalgia-inducing facimile of the old wax packs, this release presents an overview of the Topps Company's relationship with the franchise before launching in to pictures of all of the card sets they've released over the years from the original film, the 1970s TV series and the 2001 Tim Burton remake. It also comes packaged with some exclusive to this release cards, which is another reason you'll want to get your damn dirty hands on this one.
Autonomous: A Novel
io9 founder Annalee Newitz’s debut science fiction novel Autonomous is a story about the future of intellectual property law, told from the dual perspectives of Jack, an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, and Paladin, an indentured military bot hot on Jack’s trail. While Jack works to create an antidote, the latest corporate-made smart drug, Paladin grows physically and emotionally closer to their human International Property Coalition partner Eliasz. Set on Earth in 2144, Autonomous asks the question: What does freedom look like in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?
Star Wars: Topps Classic Sticker Book
Or if you are more into the old Topps stickers than the trading cards, Abrams Comicarts also has this companion volume to their Star Wars-themed book sets that covers the original trilogy plus The Force Awakens. If you don't want to cover your laptop or walls with these repros of the vintage stickers, you can make your own collages using the included posters that are an extension of this book's retro vibe. Rad.
Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual
Wanna survive the inevitable Xenomorph invasion? Then you'll need this book. Alien: The Augmented Reality Survival Manual is an in-world guide to all of the creatures and scenes from the Alien movies, beamed back to us from the future reality we see in the movies. (Maybe we should just start calling them documentaries?) This book includes both paper pages and 3D animations, sound, and vision. You know, like they read in the future...
Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies
Creating maps that illustrate the paths on which characters -- and their viewers -- take in films is such an inspired idea that its shocking something like this hasn't been done before. Indeed, this creative collaboration between illustrator Andrew DeGraff and film historian A.D. Jameson (who shares written insights on the film being reinvented in map form) is unlike any movie book we've ever seen before. Illustrations of locations and swirling colorful lines attributed to filmic favorites explode out of the page, shedding new light on 35 movies like Alien, The Breakfast Club, Clueless, and, most impressively, the Lord of the Rings saga, in the process. Cinematic cartography. What will they think of next?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History
It's hard to believe it's been 40 years since Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind first hit cinemas, but there you have it. Celebrate this iconic science fiction film by diving into the creation, production, and legacy of the movie in this behind-the-scenes book, created in conjunction with Sony Pictures and Amblin Entertainment. It includes rare and never-before-see imagery from the filming, concept art, storyboards, and more. Special inserts include script pages, call lists, concept sketches, and more, that really bring this book to life.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase
If you’re looking for a young adult option during the 2017 holiday season, then look no further than The Afterlife of Holly Chase, the contemporary teen retelling of A Christmas Carol that you probably never asked for, but will nonetheless enjoy! The novel tells the story of Holly, a 17-year-old ghost girl who didn’t use the insight provided to her five years ago when she was visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. Now Holly is a Ghost of Christmas Past, helping other misers see the error of their ways and watching her friends and family move on without her. But this year, everything will change…
Star Trek: The Book of Lists
Um, not to go too Star Trek-y on this list (just kidding — there's no such thing!), here's another fun gift for the Trekkie/Trekker in your list. Star Trek: The Book of Lists by Chip Carter is full of hilarious, insightful compilations of (mostly useless) Star Trek data, like all the times the number 47 is mentioned in the Star Trek universe or the best pets in the Star Trek universe. You're welcome.
The Best of Josie and the Pussycats
Chronicling from the 1960s to today, this value-packed paperback ($10 for over 400 pages) is the ideal gift for the Riverdale obsessive in your life who is still bummed that Hot Topic doesn't seem like they are ever going to restock their Jughead beanies. This collection is not only a fascinating time capsule that celebrates times and fads gone by, but it also contains some truly oddball stories -- such a meta outing in which the Pussycats visit the Hanna-Barbera studio to see how the cartoon about them is made. Best of all, includes is what could very well the best comic tale of all-time, 1973's riff on The Exorcist "Venegance from the Crypt" in which Josie gets possessed by the devil. Seriously.
Kirby: King of Comics
Originally released in 2008, Mark Evanier's definitive comics biography gets a revised and expanded paperback edition in honor of the King's 100th birthday. This hugely enjoyable volume is highlighted by beautiful splash pages, a touching intro by Neil Gaiman, and, best of all, fantastic full-page reproductions of art that illustrate once more how Jack Kirby was the best that ever was and ever will be.
The Name of the Wind (10th Anniversary Edition)
With The Kingkiller Chronicle becoming a movie, TV series, and even a video game, there’s never been a better time to dive into Patrick Rothfuss’ beloved fantasy world. DAW is releasing a 10th anniversary hardcover edition of the first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, which tells the story of Kvothe, a magically-gifted young man who grows up to be one of the most notoriously powerful wizards that the world has ever seen. Complete with illustrations from Dan Dos Santos, a brand new author’s note, and an appendix detailing the world’s calendar system and currencies, the deluxe edition includes 50 pages of extra content. The perfect gift for the fantasy nerd in your life!
Octavia Butler, the author of The Parable of the Sower and Kindred, is one of the most important science fiction authors of all time; this book aims to celebrate her contribution to the genre. Luminescent Threads is an anthology of letters and original essays written to, for, and about Butler by writers and readers for whom her work has meant something. A follow-up of sorts to the Locus Award-winning Letters to Tiptree, Luminescent Threads is a book for anyone who has ever loved Butler, or for those who want to learn more about her legacy.
Paperbacks from Hell
When it comes to offbeat horror stuff, Grady Hendrix can both talk the talk and walk the walk. Having already written sly takedowns of the genre that are also filled with genuine affection like the Ikea-spoof Horrorstör and the YA skewering My Best Friend's Exorcism, Hendrix now serves as a tour guide to the bizarre world of horror fiction in Paperbacks from Hell. Whether focusing on books that were written to cash in on trends (Rona Jaffe's immortal Mazes and Monsters) or faithfully looking at popular subgenres like murderous animals, evil children or haunted houses, he presents an informative and at times deeply funny look at how weird/awesome scary books were during the rise of Gen X. If you get this for someone on your gift list or yourself, we highly recommend you pair it with some of the titles included within. Personally, we are dying to read the Nazi dwarf tale The Little People.
Artemis: A Novel
A heist… on the moon. Do we have your attention? The latest novel from The Martian author Andy Weir, follows criminal Jazz Bashara, one of the many struggling inhabitants of the moon’s only city, Artemis. Jazz is a contraband smuggler who gets in over her head when she tries to commit the perfect heist but falls into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself. We probably had you at “author of The Martian,” right?
Spinal Tap: The Big Black Book
We'll spare you yet another "goes to 11" joke and instead say that this tribute to Britain's loudest band is a must for fans of This Is Spinal Tap. Author Wallace Fairfax's authorized all-access pass to the band won't help you figure out how to get on stage in Cleveland, but its assortment of removable Tap memorabilia, rare pictures and interviews is enough to make you want to listen to "Stonehenge" yet again.
Imperial Radch series author Ann Leckie is back with another science fiction story set in the same universe as her Ancillary books. Provenance is a novel about a young woman named Ingray who lives on a planet called Hwae. In an attempt to earn the approval of her foster mother, she unwittingly stumbles into an interplanetary conspiracy. As you do. Exploring themes of power, privilege, and birthright, Leckie’s much-anticipated return to this science fiction world is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the holiday season.
If Marvel's The Punisher Season 2 happens on Netflix, what form might his return take? We ponder the options...
Warning: contains spoilers for The Punisher season 1, and potential spoilers for season 2.
The Punisher was arguably the most well-written Marvel-Netflix show produced so far, and that – combined with the company’s will to recommission shows regardless of reaction or performance – suggests that a second series of The Punisher isn’t so much a matter of if, but when.
But with Frank’s story so well wrapped up, where might it go?
A sequel season
Any second season of The Punisher would have to resolve some fairly large narrative problems, not least how to get Frank Castle – who has now satisfactorily avenged the death of his family twice – back into the saddle without it being a retread of previous ground. The comics version of the character is the virtual embodiment of the phrase 'nothing personal', happy to murder criminals just because they are who they are, but thus far the Netflix version is a lot more discerning – or at least, he has been up until now.
What Frank needs most for any future stories is a reason to come out of retirement. To shed his assumed identity, pick up some automatic weapons and use them to disappoint his friends, the US government and everyone in-between. In part, his former friend Russo – the future Jigsaw – might provide that impetus. But there’s something else we’d like to see even more...
Welcome Back Frank
In the first episode of his Netflix series, Frank Castle offs a low-level member of the Gnucci family mid-card game. As any fan knows, this was a reference to the family first seen in Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Punisher series, Welcome Back Frank. Conceived as a back-to-basics soft relaunch, the story sees Frank slowly working his way through the extended Gnucci family while avoiding the authorities and hiding out in suburbia.
Already used, in part, as the basis for the Thomas Jane’s Punisher movie adaptation, there’s material to spare in this year-long maxi-series, though perhaps the most interesting thread would be the emergence of several copycat vigilantes who follow The Punisher’s lead and hope to see him lead them in a war on crime. For this version of the character, the responsibility of creating those vigilantes might be enough to draw him back out and give the Gnucci family a chance to find him and take the revenge they undoubtedly deserve.
A prequel season
Showrunner Steve Lightfoot took the opportunity to use The Punisher to tell a story about traumatized servicemen abandoned by their country, and stuck pretty close to that theme. If a second series was to follow the same ideas, there’d be plenty of mileage in making the season a prequel rather than a sequel. That solves the problem of having to undo Frank’s relatively-happy ending, and adds a layer of tragedy onto whatever story gets told: we know that Frank and Russo aren’t exactly going to end up the brothers that they might be.
If Marvel-Netflix goes this route, it could do worse than mine The Punisher’s 2003 'origin' series, Born, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Set during the US-Vietnam war (but easily transplanted to Afghanistan, per the Netflix version’s backstory) the comic made clear that while the murder of his family gave Frank the excuse to become The Punisher, it was his experiences in a warzone that made him that way.
Admittedly, no-one likes a prequel despite what Hollywood studios keep trying to tell us, so it’d be a hard sell – not least because we know exactly where it’s going and that the real villains of the piece would get away with it. That said, it’d be a good chance to reunite many of the characters from the first series in a different context, and maybe they could use the device of two parallel stories (á la Lost) to give us both prequel and sequel together.
A one-off movie
It’s not a given that The Punisher would have to come back for an entire series. There’s no particular reason that Netflix couldn’t fund a TV movie instead – and if they did, they could really have some fun with it. Personally I’d be quite interested in seeing a version of The End, in which The Punisher roams a post-apocalyptic landscape proving that to him, nothing is more important that killing criminals – but if you’re going to step out of continuity there’s only one place to go...
Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe
Having done the servicemen-with-PTSD story, maybe Marvel-Netflix would like to go for a completely different tone for the follow-up. Written by Garth Ennis (spotting a theme?) and illustrated by Doug Braithwaite, this 1995 comic depicts The Punisher tooling up for a war on the most prominent superheroes in the Marvel Universe – which he eventually wins. Yeah, that’s right, wins. It’s out-of-continuity, so everyone dies!
In an ideal world, we’d get to see The Punisher working his way through the entire MCU, taking them down as only an angry man with a gun can – but realistically, that’s not going to happen. Even as a joke, you’re not going to see Jon Bernthal offing an Avenger. Killing a Defender would probably be a little too far (although let’s not be too hasty about Iron Fist).
That said, there are tons of minor super-powered characters who are technically part of the MCU thanks to Agents Of SHIELD. Why not give Frank the will to take down people with superpowers and go for something we’ve never seen on TV before: a guns vs. superpowers story in which the guns win?
Defenders season 2
One potential problem with a second season of The Punisher is that there are only so many openings in Netflix’s calendar. The rotation for these series is already slower than normal and we’ve already got a second Jessica Jones, third Daredevil, second Luke Cage and second Iron Fist on the slate. So why not save The Punisher for a return of The Defenders? After all, we don’t just need a good reason to bring those guys back together – we also need a reason for the audience to come back and watch it after last time.
Whether Frank Castle is a hero or villain is immaterial: he’s a big enough draw that if the next time we see him is part of a Defenders follow-up, we’d have reason to get excited about an 8-episode non-event (sorry, event) miniseries all over again.
And if you’re going to do that, why not draw on Marvel Knights for inspiration? Written by Chuck Dixon (Hey, someone who isn’t Garth Ennis!) and drawn by Eduardo Barreto, this series would loosely follow the ethos of the short-lived 2000 comic series: Daredevil assembles a team of street-level heroes to capture The Punisher, only to find themselves forced to team up with him against a greater threat.
Admittedly, a lot of the best Punisher/Daredevil material in comics was already mined for Daredevil Season 2, but who doesn’t want to see more of their on-screen chemistry and self-righteous philosophical sparring? And for that matter, after the disappointing flop that was Sigourney Weaver’s pseudo-mystical Alexandra, The Punisher would be a far more convincing foe even before a greater opposition was revealed.
Whatever direction they choose to take The Punisher’s future in the Marvel-Netflix Universe, you can bet that between Bernthal’s charisma and the series’ strong track record of making even Karen Page watchable, we’ll be looking forward to more.
Holy pop culture references, Batman!
Steven Spielberg's first science fiction adventure since the last Indiana Jones picture is taking shape. Previously intended to come out in time for this Christmas, Ready Player One is now slated fo March 30, 2018, and as it adapts Ernest Cline's popular novel of the same name, it is definitely one we're watching with interest like a gamer waiting for his turn at the arcade.
Here's what we know about the casting decisions that have come to light over the past few months and the film's amusing, retro gaming premise.
EW just released some sneak peek photos of the film. Check it out...
Here's everything else we know about the movie adaptation...
Ready Player One Trailer
The first trailer for Ready Player One is a pop culture extravaganza. Whether it's the Back to the Future DeLorean speeding through virtual city streets filled with famous vehicles or Freddy Krueger being incinerated by a giant mech, Ready Player One is starting to look like an overwhelming cinematic experience. We can't wait to see more.
Latest Ready Player One News
Just in time for San Diego Comic-Con, WB has graced us with its first image of Tye Sheridan in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One. And he looks prepared for the game in the image released via Entertainment Weekly. In it, we're offered a close-up of the would-be boy hero. EW also helpfully called out real pop culture items from that set drenched in '80s nostalgia, including a He-Man lunchbox and Garbage Pale Kids and Garfield stickers.
Ready Player One Cast
The cast of Ready Player One is of course being spearheaded by Tye Sheridan. Sheridan hails from the indie scene where he made a splash in Jeff Nichols'Mud as a child actor. He also appeared as Cyclops in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse and will reprise the role in 2018's X-Men: Dark Phoenix. In Ready Player One, he portrays Wade Owen Watts (alias Parzival), an orphan living in the stacks with a deep passion for '80s culture and video games... which will aid him in his virtual reality quest throughout the film. He enters this world due to the contest of the long-dead James Donovan Halliday, here played by frequent Spielberg collaborator Mark Rylance.
Somewhat of a VR Steve Jobs crossed with Willy Wonka, Rylance's character leaves a trail of digital breadcrumbs for a potential gamer to one day inherit his VR kingdom. He will appear in the film through digital projections he has created in his OASIS program.
Joining them are Olivia Cooke as Art3mis, a fellow game competitor, and Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento. The film will likewise feature Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) as Ogden Morrow, the co-founder of OASIS. Also in the cast is T.J. Miller of Silicon Valley fame as a forum troll who irritates Parzival and others by being very much like today's trolls.
Also boarded on the project is Japanese boy band pop star, Win Morisaki, one of the gunters that Wade will eventually compete against.
Ready Player One Story
Adapted from the popular 2011 sci-fi novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is set about 50 years in the future where the world is a dystopian wreck. The only refuge is the virtual reality distraction of OASIS, a futuristic melding of augmented reality and VR with retro '80s gamer love. Its creator is long dead, but he will bequeath his company to anyone who can find a treasure he has hidden within the depths of OASIS. Many years later, no one has achieved this, including the corporations who are playing simply to takeover OASIS and turn it into a luxury for the rich. In this context, orphaned Wade Watts is a kid with plenty of nostalgia himself for the 20th Century, even his online handle of "Parzival" is a play on Percival the Arthurian knight who found the Holy Grail... as well as the preferred name (as opposed to Galahad) used by the '80s cult classic, Excalibur.
He will enter OASIS... but will he win? Here is the official synopsis.
When the creator of an MMO called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all Oasis users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. Wade Watts finds the first clue and starts a race for the Egg.
Ready Player One Development
Warner Bros. has been very interested in getting a top-tier talent to direct Ready Player One. Just last December, word came out that they offered adapting the Ernest Cline cult classic to Christopher Nolan. As first reported by Deadline, they eventually found their blockbuster auteur to bring their vision to the screen… Steven Spielberg.
In this story of virtual reality, a game creator offers his entire company to the man that can discover an Easter Egg he has paced in a virtual reality wonderland called “OASIS.” Thus in 2044, teen gamer Wade Watts will attempt to succeed at this virtual sword in the stone quest after many have failed over several decades—by immersing himself into video game and pop culture trivia of the 1980s and ‘90s.
Spielberg appears to be working more closely with Warner Bros. these days after a near-15 year absence from the studio following 2001’s A.I. Spielberg also landed the chance to adapt Lynsey Addario’s war journalist memoir, A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, at the studio with Jennifer Lawrence set to star as Addario. Ready Player One is being fast tracked ahead of the Addario film, though Spielberg’s line-up is already very crowded. He is still scheduled to adapt Roald Dahl’s The BFG as his next film. Ready Player One is slotted to be adapted directly after that production.
The most recent script for Ready Player One was written by Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, The Avengers) with earlier drafts turned in by Eric Eason and the Ready Player One author himself, Ernest Cline.
Assuming all the rights can be acquired from the book’s gamer paradise of references, this should be quite the nostalgia trip. Perhaps Spielberg can even find space to give a nod to the buried landfill of E.T. Atari cartridges, which by 2044 might have great archeological worth all on their own.
We also recently learned exclusively that Ernest Cline is working a sequel to Ready Player One.
Read and download the full Den of Geek SDCC Special Edition magazine here!