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Articles on this Page
- 02/26/18--19:58: _Miskatonic Institut...
- 02/27/18--13:12: _Black Panther and t...
- 02/27/18--16:29: _"Forty Years of Poi...
- 02/27/18--19:33: _The New Mutants Res...
- 02/27/18--19:49: _Shazam Movie Costum...
- 02/28/18--08:44: _Doctor Who Noveliza...
- 02/28/18--10:12: _For The Man Who Has...
- 02/28/18--21:44: _Original Thor Retur...
- 03/01/18--09:58: _The Punisher: Frank...
- 03/01/18--11:02: _Captain America Rel...
- 03/01/18--12:00: _Shadows of the Empi...
- 03/01/18--12:34: _Ursula K. Le Guin's...
- 03/01/18--14:37: _World War Z 2 Produ...
- 03/01/18--14:49: _Discworld TV Show i...
- 03/01/18--15:42: _Peggy Carter Assume...
- 03/01/18--16:11: _Rick Famuyiwa To Di...
- 03/01/18--16:25: _Star Wars: The Esse...
- 03/01/18--17:44: _The Sandman Univers...
- 03/02/18--10:10: _The Sandman: The Es...
- 03/02/18--10:57: _Amazing Spider-Man ...
- 02/26/18--19:58: Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies Teaches Shirley Jackson Class
- 02/27/18--13:12: Black Panther and the Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- 02/27/18--16:29: "Forty Years of Pointed Ears": ElfQuest Reaches Its Final Issue
- 02/27/18--19:33: The New Mutants Reshoots Include New Character Being Added
- 02/27/18--19:49: Shazam Movie Costume First Look
- 02/28/18--08:44: Doctor Who Novelizations Get Cover Reveal
- 02/28/18--10:12: For The Man Who Has Everything: The Superman Stories of Alan Moore
- 02/28/18--21:44: Original Thor Returns to Marvel in May
- 03/01/18--09:58: The Punisher: Frank Castle's 15 Most Humbling Moments
- 03/01/18--11:02: Captain America Relaunch Coming From Marvel
- 03/01/18--12:00: Shadows of the Empire: The Gritty Star Wars Epic of the '90s
- 03/01/18--12:34: Ursula K. Le Guin's The Telling To Get Big-Screen Adaptation
- 03/01/18--14:37: World War Z 2 Production Delayed Until Fall?
- 03/01/18--14:49: Discworld TV Show in the Works at BBC Studios
- 03/01/18--15:42: Peggy Carter Assumes the Captain America Mantle
- 03/01/18--16:11: Rick Famuyiwa To Direct Film Adaptation of Black Hole
- 03/01/18--16:25: Star Wars: The Essential Han Solo Reading Guide
- 03/01/18--17:44: The Sandman Universe Coming From Neil Gaiman
- 03/02/18--10:10: The Sandman: The Essential Horror Comic of the '90s
- 03/02/18--10:57: Amazing Spider-Man Relaunches at Marvel With New Team
Horror students win the lottery in a class on horror author Shirley Jackson at Brooklyn’s Film Noir Cinema.
“Fear is the relinquishment of logic,” according to one of the professionals quoted in Shirley Jackson’s book The Haunting of Hill House, “the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.” Jackson always delighted in what she feared, like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, and given out whole to her readers. The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in New York City will present Shirley Jackson's Weird, a new class devoted to the work of the reclusive Vermont author.
Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” holds the record for the most letters of protest sent to The New Yorker for publishing it. Jackson’s deft and creepy touch can be felt in the works of horror writers Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, but the best-selling author has been relegated to obscurity by scholars. That isn’t stopping instructor Kristopher Woofter, who teaches courses on the American Gothic, the Weird tradition, and literary and cinematic horror in the English Department of Dawson College, Montréal.
Woofter will explore the haunted spaces of Jackson’s four major works: The Lottery And Other Stories (1949), and her “uncanny house trilogy,” The Sundial (1958), The Haunting Of Hill House (1959), and We Have Always Lived In The Castle (1962).
Jackson’s books spanned the “domestic satire in her darkly humorous memoirs Raising Demons and Life Among The Savages, to young-adult fiction in the book The Witchcraft Of Salem Village. She put words to uncanny psychological studies in works like The Road Through The Wall, and The Bird’s Nest.
Woofter is co-editor of the upcoming collection Joss Whedon vs. Horror: Fangs, Fans and Genre in Buffy and Beyond. He also programs the Montréal Underground Film Festival. Woofter served as a co-chair for the Horror Area of the PCA/ACA annual national conference for ten years.
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies was named after H.P. Lovecraft’s spooky predecessor to Hogwarts. founded by film writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse in March 2010, it offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses with regular branches in London and New York, and events worldwide. The NYC branch is co-run by Janisse and Joe Yanick, journalist and festival coordinator for Visit Films.
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – NYC Presents: “Shirley Jackson’s Weird” at Film Noir Cinema, 122 Meserole, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It runs March 13, 2018 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It costs $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
Black Panther will play a crucial role in what's next for the MCU.
This article contains Black Panther spoilers.
Black Panther is now in theaters and Ryan Coogler’s movie has surpassed box office expectations, and garnered almost universally positive reviews. Marvel’s first movie of 2018 brings a fresh new feel to the MCU, introducing audiences to King T'Challa's world, Wakandan technology, culture, and beliefs. But it also recalls a key element of 2008's Iron Man: the feeling that great change is coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther’s 1966 debut in Fantastic Four #52 made him the most high profile black hero in comic book history at the time (he followed lesser known characters like Lion Man from 1947’s All-Negro Comics and the African American cowboy Lobo’s brief stint for Dell in 1965). But the character is better known as the first black superhero, with abilities and technology that could contend with characters like the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and others. Black Panther was also the first black superhero purely of African descent, rather than African-American. Along with Namor the Sub-Mariner, King T'Challa is also the only other character in the Marvel Universe who is active-duty royalty, and Wakanda happens to be one of the most technologically advanced countries in the Marvel Universe.
It’s no surprise that fans and people of both African and African-American descent were hyped to see a Black Panther solo movie, especially with its release right in the middle of Black History Month. The movie is a perfect landmark for black culture and its place in both domestic and global blockbuster entertainment, crushing box office expectations with a massive $200 million opening weekend, and accumulating over $700 million worldwide in its first 10 days.
By now, everyone is aware of T’Challa’s importance in the MCU. His country of Wakanda is well-known for its vibranium, the ore that makes up Captain America’s shield. He is now both king and diplomat. He has a genius level I.Q. (only briefly hinted at in the movie in a conversation with his equally brilliant sister, Shuri), nearly limitless wealth, and is one of the most accomplished fighters in the world, right alongside Captain America himself. With Infinity War looming, actors’ contracts ending, rumors of the possibility that some Avengers will be killed off, new characters are being introduced to usher in Marvel’s next phase. It's clear that Black Panther will have an important role in the future of the MCU.
After Marvel releases the still untitled Avengers 4 in 2019, the scene will be set where Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor might no longer be the major staples of the franchise, leaving Black Panther, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, and the Wasp to lead Marvel’s new phase. Just as it is in the comics, as new characters and worlds are introduced, there will always be a need for a team which can deal with situations to big to take on alone, and the Avengers roster of the screen will also have to evolve. While this dynamic may play out a little differently in the movies, the end result will likely be the same. If Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark or Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers exit the MCU, who will be able to lead or provide funding for the Avengers? Well, maybe a man with a genius I.Q., unparallelled fighting skills, trillions of dollars in resources (including advanced technology made from the most sought after mineral ore on the planet) and a personal army of bodyguards and undercover Wakandan spies. Tony Stark has long been considered the centerpiece of the MCU, but it's not clear, after 10 years in the role, if Robert Downey Jr. will be sticking around much longer. Considering the popularity (and proven financial success) of Black Panther, it would make sense for Chadwick Boseman’s T'Challa to be the new face of the MCU.
Of course, T'Challa won't be alone. We're going to meet Brie Larson's Carol Danvers soon, and Captain Marvel will prove to be one of the most powerful beings yet introduced in these films. Danvers' military background will make her a qualified leader, while T'Challa can provide the Avengers with funding for housing, transportation, and other endeavors. Thanks to his diplomatic status, he’ll have more pull and access to government entities than Tony Stark or Steve Rogers ever could have, allowing the Avengers to move more easily through the bureaucratic red tape inside the Marvel Universe, a skill they can certainly use after the events of Civil War. Much like the co-captain team of Stark and Rogers for the first lineup of Avengers, Marvel may build a similar dynamic between Captain Marvel and Black Panther, with Carol Danvers taking the military hero role, and T’Challa filling in the role of billionaire/super genius/superhero. It's possible that as early as Avengers 4 in 2019, we'll see a female and an African share command of one of the biggest superhero ensembles to date on the big screen. That's a big milestone for race and gender representation.
But out of everyone else on a potential new Avengers roster (Spider-Man is still a teenager, Doctor Strange is secluded and more concerned with mystical matters, Ant-Man is a known thief, and the Guardians are more concerned with off-world matters), only T'Challa will be the one that a government will take seriously. We see hints of this in two key scenes in Black Panther. When T’Challa addresses the United Nations and makes a declaration to share Wakanda’s technology and resources with the rest of the world, there's an echo of the first Iron Man movie. Tony Stark had caused a stir first by announcing that his technology would no longer be used for weapons manufacturing, and then later by revealing that he is Iron Man. T’Challa’s speech is not only reminiscent of Stark’s revelations, it also captures the intensity of how that announcement will change the MCU for better or worse. The second is when T’Challa reveals that he has bought the group of condemned projects where Killmonger was raised to create a Wakandan International Outreach Program with a Science and Information Department, a move reflective of Stark’s purchase of facilities in upstate New York to house Captain America's Avengers team after Age Of Ultron or Stark’s funding for all M.I.T. students’ projects through his September Foundation in Civil War.
These scenes also echo the source material. In the comics, it was during T’Challa’s actual induction into the Avengers that he decided to address the United Nations and become more involved with the issues of poverty and violence in the inner city by going undercover as a high school teacher named Luke Charles. It was during this same time that Hank Pym has his breakdown before resigning and leaving Black Panther to be appointed as leader of the Avengers. The last few years of Marvel Comics have seen Black Panther play an increasingly central role in the Marvel Universe. Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers comics focused heavily on Black Panther's role on the team, and even led to T’Challa to founding a new ensemble of heroes (with Captain Marvel) called the Ultimates. He played a pivotal role both in the fight against Thanos in Infinity and the 2015 Secret Wars event. While it's unlikely those specific stories will be adapted, when Marvel foregrounds a particular character or team on the page, it often means they're setting the stage for their cinematic future, as well.
Of course, this is all just speculation but one thing is certain, we're going to see a lot more of Black Panther and his world on screen in the next few years. We'll next see him in Avengers: Infinity War, which opens on May 4.
We talked to the creators of ElfQuest about bringing their beloved fantasy graphic novel series to a conclusion...
In 1978, Wendy and Richard Pini launched ElfQuest, which has become the longest-running fantasy graphic novel series in America. The series, which has tens of millions of copies of comics and graphic novels in print worldwide, centers on Cutter, the chief of the Wolfrider elves, and his quest to learn the truth about where the elves came from--as well as lead his people to safety and freedom.
The final issue, ElfQuest: The Final Quest #24 publishes on February 28, 2018, the same day as the original ElfQuest debuted in 1978. The creators are launching a year-long tour of appearances across the United States and Europe in their "Forty Years of Pointed Ears" tour. We had a chance to talk with Wendy and Richard about the conclusion of the series and what it has been like to create a story that stretched over forty years of comics.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length.
Den of Geek: First, congratulations on the forty-year mark with ElfQuest. That's so exciting!
Wendy Pini: Oh, thank you.
Richard Pini: Thank you so much.
And this is the real conclusion of the series, right?
Wendy: Not the dead end of the series. This is the conclusion of a master hero's journey story arc that we've been telling for forty years. But there still is more story to come.
The world is so rich I can see how it could expand in a bunch of different directions.
Richard: We have already dipped our toes into the water of some of those different directions. We have told some stories that take place in the future of this world, and there are some stories that I guess you could consider prequels. So there's a lot more fertile ground. But this is the big forty year conclusion to a major hero's journey.
And you had planned a conclusion from the beginning, is that correct?
So how has it changed since you started? Did you know exactly where it was going to end, and now you've gotten there?
Wendy: We had a skeleton, a treatment of the overall story. We knew where we wanted to get to. The wonderful thing about that is when you have that skeleton, you can hang all sorts of ornaments on it. You can come up with characters that take the story in interesting side-trips, and you can do lots of things that really enrich and make the world more believable and bigger. In the final analysis, you always come back to that skeleton treatment, and you always keep your hero on track on his hero's journey.
How does it feel to get to the end of that skeleton?
Richard: Imagine being pregnant for forty years.
Oh gosh, no, please!
Richard: And then you finally get to give birth. There's joy, there's amazement, there's all kinds of feelings, but one of them is that strange post-partum feeling of, "Okay, what now?" Because we're used to a certain way of living, a certain way of interacting as we create, a certain way of producing things that's been going on for four decades. And now, we have what looks like nothing but free time ahead of us, which isn't really true because 2018 is jam-packed already. But it's a medley of feelings: amazement, gratification, relief--you name it, it's probably in there.
Wendy: ButI bet you'd be surprised to hear that one of the emotions we feel the least is sadness. We are not sad that it's over, because even though the story ends on a bittersweet note, we just feel that the ending is the only way it could have ended, and therefore it's very cathartic. In that sense, we're very pleased with it.
I'm actually a latecomer to the series--I didn't start picking it up until the Dark Horse Complete ElfQuest volumes came out. Did you see a lot of readers like me come in when the series is released in a new format?
Richard: There have been several instances of that. The first goes back to about 1985 when Marvel took "The Original Quest" and reprinted it for their Epic brand. They got ElfQuest out of the direct market shops and onto newsstands, and many many new people discovered ElfQuest as a result. In 2008-2009 we were hearing [from readers] "My God, there's so much stuff, how do I access it? A lot of these things are out of print; I can't get the comics; how do I start?" So I said, I'm going to put the whole thing, 7000 pages worth, online, and I'm going to make it free. That took a while, let me tell you! But once word of that got out, people realized, even if they couldn't hold it in their hands, they could read every page from start to finish for free. We got a lot of new readers that way. Now we're looking at the Dark Horse Complete ElfQuest as serving the same function. If somebody says, "I'm forty years late to the party!" we can point them to Dark Horse and say, "Well, you start right there, and you're perfectly welcome. There's still punch, and there's still cake."
When you started putting everything online in 2008, that was an immense undertaking. What was it like to revisit the material as you were going along?
Richard: The point of this forty-year journey is that we have known how this is going to end almost from the beginning. So we have lived with all of these stories pretty much continuously throughout the creative process, making sure that if we refer to a character in 1997, it's consistent with how we talked about that character in 1987. All I had was many, many, many pages of books to scan and to put online, but it wasn't like "Oh my God, I have completely forgotten about this." I've known all these stories as long as we've been doing this.
Wendy: One of the things that mainstream comics tend to play fast-and-loose with is continuity. That's because they have to keep rebooting their stories and characters every few years as their audience, in their expectations, turns over. But it's been a very different experience for us. Our audience doesn't turn over so much as it builds. Older readers will bring new readers in. It's a generational thing. Parents pass their ElfQuest books onto their children and their nieces and nephews and on and on. So with ElfQuest, for forty years you get great story continuity. You can go back and research something in the earliest issues that gets referenced in a very recent issue, and you find that it's consistent.
That's a lot for you to keep track of!
Wendy: Oh, very much. It's like walking around with two universes in your head.
In the last forty years, you've seen the comics industry change quite a bit, especially with the rise of webcomics. You've published independently, and you've worked with the three largest comic book houses. What are the things you miss from the old days?
Richard: There are so many humorous answers, but I'll give you a semi-serious one. What I miss as a co-creator and independent publisher from the old days is the feeling that you had room to make a mark. The field wasn't so crowded as it is today. I'm not saying that [a] crowd is necessarily a bad thing, but we introduced ElfQuest into a brave new world that had very little competition in our segment of the market. I think what I miss most is the feeling that I could stretch my shoulders out and say "We're going to do this" and have it mean something, have it be received easily--more easily than new things are received today.
Wendy: I'll tell you what I don't miss! I don't miss India ink under my fingernails that I can't get rid of. I don't miss spilling an entire bottle of ink over a page that I've just drawn and having to start over again from scratch. I became digitally savvy in the early 2000s and taught myself how to draw on a Wacom tablet. I have not looked back since. Digital is enormously forgiving. You don't spill bottles of ink in digital. If you make a mistake you can go simply back through history and go back to where you started, and it will preserve everything up to the point of the mistake.
Richard: Unless your computer crashes and you haven't saved.
Wendy: Which happens every once in a while. In every creative endeavor you have to expect a disaster or two. But I do not miss messing around with eraser rubbings and paper tearing and all of that. I'm very much a creature of the digital age, and I look forward to doing more. I look forward to getting into animation now that I'm done with this project.
I know there was a failed animated version of ElfQuest at one point--is there any thought of revisiting the series in animation?
Wendy: Oh, always.
Richard: Hollywood has been after ElfQuest since about 1981. We get taken to the altar all the time, and we get jilted there all the time. We've made a kind of peace with the process. There are discussions happening now about ElfQuest as an animated series, or a Game of Thrones style series, or an animated movie, or a CGI movie... we feel very calm and level about that. What Wendy's talking about with regard to animation, though, is not directly related to ElfQuest. She's been a lover of animation all her life, and I think she's looking forward to just seeing what she can do on her own with all of these amazing, high-powered technological tools that are available today.
Wendy: I think the reason that we get jilted at the altar so often is because Hollywood auctions ElfQuest with one expectation, and they don't really read it. When they finally do read it, they realize they haven't got what they thought they'd got. Hollywood wants ElfQuest to be Lord of the Rings. They always want ElfQuest to be about Good vs. Evil. They want villains and heroes bashing the snot out of each other. That is not what we have in ElfQuest. It's never been that. ElfQuest is a hero's journey of discovery, about identity and the origins of the [elves], and if there's any conflict at all, it's ignorance vs. knowledge.
In your final pages, there seems to be a goal of peace, and of being able to cross bridges and reach out to people who are different. I don't want to ask if that's a greater metaphor for humanity right now, but how do you see that message playing out in a world that's often so conflicted?
Richard: We've known the skeleton of ElfQuest for forty years. There's stuff in the final issue that was written down and drawn twenty years ago. We knew that long ago where certain things were headed and what events had to take place. We're really kind of surprised over the last year or two of Final Quest at how amazingly and disturbingly the real world that we're all forced to live in seems to be mirroring issues that we wanted to tackle ten and twenty years ago, about identity, about violence, about intolerance, about prejudice, about getting over these things. We have kept telling the story the way it was meant to be told. We have not changed the story to adapt it to current events. Current events, in a very scary way, seem to be mirroring what we wanted to do all those years ago. We're not quite sure what that's all about!
Wendy:ElfQuest was born in an era of bellbottoms and Flower Children and hippies and free love and peace and all of that. Those were our ideals when we were starting, and we wanted to tell a story about characters that lived that way. They treated each other as well as they could, given circumstances. Forty years later, here we are, looking at racial intolerance and homophobia and all these issues that we thought [we] were going to be done with in forty years. It's a little disheartening, but if our story is more relevant now than ever, then maybe that's a good thing.
In a series that stretches this long, there will always be characters that don't make it to the end. What was it like to say goodbye to those characters along the way?
Wendy: We have such love and affection for these characters, and it was really tough, because we knew twenty years ago that all of this was going to happen to several of the characters. We had to keep our lips zipped whenever fans would ask us or speculate, "What's going to happen to this character?" We would just have to keep our peace, knowing exactly where the story was going to go. That was tough. But saying goodbye to the characters, if what happens to them in the story is inevitable, there's a certain peace with it.
Richard: There's also the element of, if I'm looking at a given character, I know, in ten years, you're going to bite the bullet. But we've got, between now and then, 100 issues with you in it. And so the challenge is to just forget that you know that this is happening and get with that character, get with that family, get with that situation, in the moment of the now of that particular bit of story. They're alive now, they're vital now, they're acting now, they're doing their thing now, and forget that you know. Because otherwise, I think it would cripple some writers or artists to portray a character being all kinds of happy knowing that down the line they're going to die.
Wendy: We never wrote any of the characters with a sense of doom. It's kind of like being alive in this world. When you're born, you're not going to get out of Earth alive. And you know you're not. But it's all those wonderful times in between that make it worthwhile, and we have a line very much like that in issue 24.
What comes next?
Richard: Speaking only for myself, I've still got a lot of ElfQuest kittens to herd, because the publishing program, the reprint program, and the repurposing program with Dark Horse are scheduled for at least the next two or three years. I'm going to be overseeing that. Plus, we are talking with them about the possibility of engaging new and different and exciting writers and artists to create and produce some of these stories in the future of the world of ElfQuest, or maybe in the past, to keep ElfQuest itself going.
Wendy: Not many people know that I have a great love of musical theater. In a four-year period when I wasn’t doing ElfQuest, I did a graphic novel called Masque of the Red Death based on Edgar Allan Poe's famous short story. Out of that grew the book and lyrics for a musical Masque of the Red Death. I'm working with an amazing young composer, Gregory Nabours, and we are getting ready to do our third staged reading of the musical this year. It's as different as can be from doing ElfQuest, but at the same time, it's graphic novel related.
ElfQuest: The Final Quest #24 hits the stands on February 28, 2018.
A report suggests this summer's The New Mutants reshoots will include the filmmakers adding a new, unspecified character to the film.
There has been some unsurprising apprehension and details in the fan community ever since was revealed that 20th Century Fox was moving The New Mutants from April 2018 to February 2019. To be fair, the second month of the year has obviously proven to be a pretty lucrative (and quality) time for genre films in recent seasons with tentpoles like Kingsman, Deadpool, and Black Panther, and perhaps more indicative of New Mutants, The Witch and especially Get Out, doing major business. As The New Mutants is something of a hybrid between superhero movies and more intimate horror cinema, it seems like an apt time to open. However, a 10-month delay is about more than timing: It means reshoots.
Now we have some further details about what those reshoots will entail. In a brief glimpse into the studio politics of 20th Century Fox post-Disney deal, The Hollywood Reporter got a few small updates of all the X-related movies in development, including The New Mutants. We have heard conflicting reports in the past about what the reshoots will be about, but intriguingly, THR reports that the reshoots at least in part include the insertion of a new character into the film.
Which character it will be and what it means for the overall story is currently unknown. This could simply suggest that a familiar mutant would cameo, or a small part is added. But it being dropped in the trade leads us to speculate it could mean a major reworking for the horror-superhero hybrid’s entire structure. We personally hope that early rumors last month are accurate. They suggested the reshoots will result in the film pursuing a darker, more horrific tone after Fox decided the test screening version “wasn’t scary enough.”
With that said, this is a film with a lot riding on it since it continues Fox’s new ethos of doing “experimental” superhero movies that get away from the formula that has surrounded much of their competition, as well as a majority of the X-Men centric films. Set inside a mental institution, as opposed to Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, New Mutants intentionally evokes ‘80s slashers like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, as well as perhaps One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest. It is about young mutants, including stars Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, and Blu Hunt, learning to harness their powers and turning their “home” into a horror show.
It’s been a passion project for Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars), an up-and-coming director who’s long desired to direct Stephen King adaptations, including The Stand, which this movie also seems to take notes from. Whether the final version will resemble that remains to be seen.
A photo from the set of the DCEU Shazam movie reveals a look at a perfect Shazam costume.
We generally don't go overboard when it comes to running set photos on Den of Geek. Most of the time, they don't really offer much other than something vague and out of context, or worse, a spoiler. But as someone who is dying to see what the character will look like in live action for the first time in over 40 years, well, I couldn't resist showing everyone what appears to be the first look at Zachary Levi in the Shazam movie costume. Coincidentally, the other time I couldn't resist the pull of a set photo was to reveal Brie Larson in the Captain Marvel costume, and of course, the guy we're all gonna know as Shazam from now on spent the first 60 plus years of his existence known as Captain Marvel...but that's another story.
Anyway, the Shazam movie is currently filming in Toronto. It stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a troubled orphan kid who is granted the powers of Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage), and Mercury (speed). What does that spell? You know exactly what it spells. And yes, I did that from memory and without looking it up, I know this stuff better than I knew the Pledge of Allegiance when I was in school, stop asking. So when Billy speaks the magic word "Shazam" he is transformed into an adult version of himself, and that adult, god-powered version is played by Zachary Levi. And he comes complete with the kind of costume a little kid would dream up.
One of the chief worries about the prospect of Shazam in the DCEU would be whether they would be willing to go along with the sense of humor and whimsy that has always set the character apart from his other caped contemporaries. Enlisting David F. Sandberg, a director know for intense fare like Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation also raised an eyebrow. But if this set photo of Zachary Levi in the Shazam costume is anything to go on, they're leaning into this the right way.
The image comes from Reddit user vivaelsam, and it shows Levi on set in a mall at Christmastime.
Check it out...
So, let's unpack this, shall we? Bright red costume? Check. Minimal texturing or padding? Check. Really, it would have been a mistake to try and modernize or darken the Shazam costume. But just as the other DCEU costumes serve specific story purposes, so does Shazam's. The Man of Steel Superman costume has an ornate design because of its Kryptonian origin. The Aquaman suit is Atlantean armor. Wonder Woman's garb is Themysciran (a recent issue of Justice League by Christopher Priest and Pete Woods described it as having religious significance). There's a functional hi-tech quality to Ezra Miller's Flash suit. Batman is a rich fascist weirdo who likes bats. You get the idea.
But there are two possibilities at work with the Shazam costume we're seeing here. In the comics, when Billy says "Shazam" he's transformed, and the costume is right there on him. In that case, this is a kid's ideal of what a cool superhero costume should look like. On the other hand, I have to wonder about a few little details here. The boots in particular look like repurposed cowboy boots, and maybe this suit is something Billy had to assemble himself. Something tells me that isn't the case and they're going the traditional magical suit transformation route, though.
And not that we needed any more confirmation that this movie is taking a lot of its cues from the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank Shazam origin story from 2012, the addition of a hood to the cape is definitely from that era. The Christmas setting is a tip off as well, as that story takes place during the holiday season in Philadelphia (Toronto is standing in for Philly in this production).
Hopefully the fact that sneaky pics like this have made it onto the internet will prompt Warner Bros. to finally give us an official reveal of the costume. Funny enough, director David F. Sandberg referred to exactly this just the other day on Twitter...
Frankly I can%u2019t believe we%u2019ve actually made it this long shooting outside with the suit and nobody has gotten a picture yet.
— David F. Sandberg (@ponysmasher) February 24, 2018
Levi had previously revealed his comics accurate Shazam hairstyle as well...
...and hinted at the Christmastime setting and mall scene by trolling fans with Batman toys...
Shazam! opens on April 5, 2019. The full DC superhero movie release schedule can be found here.
Four NuWho episodes and a beloved Classic Who ep are to get the novelization treatment. Authors include Steven Moffat & Russell T. Davies.
We have to wait an unbearably long time until the next season of Doctor Who, but we'll have some novelizations of four previous NuWho episodes and one Classic Who episode to keep us company. BBC Books is reviving their Target Books novelizations, and they've hired some Doctor Who writers to help in the effort.
There are five new Doctor Who novelizations that have been announced, with one being written by former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, one by former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies, and another by Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell. A fourth NuWho novel will be penned by novelist Jenny T. Colgan, with novelist James Goss taking on a Classic Who episode.
Both Moffat and Davies will be adapting episodes they wrote. For Moffat, it will be the 50th anniversary episode "The Day of the Doctor." For Davies, it will be NuWho series starter "Rose." Colgan is adapting "The Christmas Invasion," which introduced the Tenth Doctor, and Cornell is taking on the recently-aired Christmas episode (and Capaldi farewell) "Twice Upon a Time." For those keeping track at home, that's one novelization for each NuWho Doctor.
The classic episode being adapted will be Douglas Adams'"City of Death," the highest-rated episode of Doctor Who ever and the first to film outside of the UK. "City of Death" originally aired in 1979 and features the Fourth Doctor and Romana II facing off against the Scaroth.
We already have a sneak peek (via BBC Books) at the covers for the first few novels, which will all be available on April 5th and are currently available for pre-order.
We discuss Alan Moore Superman stories and answer the question: when is Superman's birthday, anyway?
Alan Moore’s body of work for DC Comics isn’t exactly small, but its impact far exceeds the actual page count. Whether it was the psychedelic horror of Swamp Thing, the violent madness of Batman: The Killing Joke, or the industry changing Watchmen, the importance Moore's DC Comics output can't be overstated.
He's probably not a writer you immediately associate with Superman, though. Mr. Moore only wrote three proper Superman stories (although he would revisit many of the character’s tropes with Supremefor Image Comics in the late ‘90s), but they’re all essential reading. Moore's Superman stories all came within roughly one year of each other, at a time when Superman’s popularity was waning among fans already looking for more mature takes on superheroes, like the work of Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, and others were doing at Marvel on Uncanny X-Men, or that Marv Wolfman and George Perez were bringing to The New Teen Titans at DC.
Superman himself was the most powerful he would ever be, (the power levels of this era are often referred to informally as “juggling planets,” although that’s not something I ever remember actually seeing in a Superman comic) with eyes that “watched quarks at play” and a level of invulnerability of such a level that he “bathed in the heart of the sun, careless at the mile-high geysers of flame.” Perhaps as a result, the comics themselves, the occasional standout tale by Cary Bates, Marv Wolfman, or Elliot S! Maggin aside, were becoming increasingly formulaic and dull, despite continued artistic contributions from legends like Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, Kurt Schaffenberger, Gil Kane, or Keith Giffen.
Between 1985 (when the first of Moore's Superman stories was published) and 1986 (the last), DC was in the midst of a massive continuity housecleaning known as Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of the end results of Crisiswould be a Superman with more manageable power levels, less of a reliance on bizarre sci-fi concepts, and a creative team consisting of some of the hottest names in the business telling more grounded tales theoretically more suitable for modern audiences.
But it was the virtually all-powerful pre-Crisis Superman that Alan Moore and friends got to play with and subvert. And to hear Moore tell it (or to read his work on Superman love-letter Supreme), he wouldn't have had it any other way. "What it was with Superman was the incredible range of imagination on display with that original character,"he said in a 1996 interview. "A lot of those concepts that were attached to Superman, which may seem corny and dated now, were wonderful at the time. The idea of the Bottled City of Kandor, Krypto the Superdog, Bizarro, all of it. These are fantastic ideas, and it was that which kept me going back each month to Superman when I was ten. I wanted to find out more about this incredible world with all of these fascinating details."
Of course it was those very aspects of the Superman legend that would be swept out of Superman continuity a month after Moore's final Superman story. He still added a few "fascinating details" of his own in his time, though. Here's a quick look at them.
“The Jungle Line”
DC Comics Presents #85 (1985)
In the 1980s, Superman was unquestionably the face of DC Comics, starring in four monthly titles: Superman, Action Comics, World’s Finest (a team-up book with Batman, the title of which will be nicely utilized for the upcoming Flash/Supergirl TV crossover), and DC Comics Presents. DC Comics Presents would pair Superman with another hero (or heroes), usually a more obscure character, and DC Comics Presents #85 marked Swamp Thing’s turn.
In 1985, only two DC Comics characters had ever made it to the big screen for a feature film. Superman had three under his belt (although the quality of those movies was already in decline, with 1983’s Superman III leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouths), while Swamp Thing had his first big screen outing in 1982, with a flick directed by Wes Craven. They don’t seem like prime team-up candidates in any case, though.
“The Jungle Line” is far less famous than Moore’s other two Superman stories and his essential, defining run as writer of Swamp Thing's monthly book. But check out the talent that brought this one to life with him. Rick Veitch (Moore’s ultimate heir on Swamp Thing) provides pencils with the legendary Al Williamson (Star Wars, Flash Gordon, you name it) and Tatjana Wood (who also provided colors for Moore’s Swamp Thing and the Grant Morrison Animal Man era) on colors.
In short, Superman has been poisoned by a piece of Kryptonian fungus that made its way to Earth on a tiny hunk of meteorite. Now he’s losing both his powers and his mind as his body dies. Mad with fever, “the Man of Tomorrow is heading south to die.” After wrecking his car, a hallucinating Supes wanders into the bayou (as one does), where he attracts the attention of Swamp Thing.
Superman doesn’t do any actual heroics in this one. The story kicks off with him already seriously ill and hallucinating before it gives us a brief flashback establishing how this happened. Superman accepts he’s going to die, but then he encounters Swamp Thing, who cleanses and heals his fevered brain. Moore’s Superman stories routinely put Kal-El in situations he can’t punch his way out of and “The Jungle Line” is probably the most passive Supes is in any of these outings.
There may or may not be something to be said about a fungus causing Superman to trip his indestructible balls off while it takes a mellowing, peaceful green sensation to bring him back down:
Keep in mind that about a decade later, when Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon were steering John Constantine's adventures, ol' Swampy counted this little number among his party tricks...
So, yeah, draw your own conclusions.
Interestingly, this is the only time I can remember seeing the Bronze Age Superman with a five o’clock shadow. After he has been healed by Swamp Thing, he uses his heat vision reflected off a mirror to shave. This little trick is generally credited to John Byrne's Superman reboot of 1986 with the Man of Steel limited series, but here it is in all its glory, just over a year before that story hit the stands.
Other than that, this is unquestionably a pre-Crisis Superman story (Crisis on Infinite Earths reached the halfway mark the same month “The Jungle Line” was published). Moore proves himself thoroughly literate in Silver/Bronze Age Superman lore by referencing obscure bits of Kryptoniana (in this case the Scarlet Jungles of Krypton, which had been kicking around the margins since the '50s). Moore's love of obscure Super-history is something we’ll see again in “For The Man Who Has Everything” and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.”
“The Jungle Line” is collected in DC Universe by Alan Moore (available through Amazon here) and would fit in chronologically roughly between Swamp Thing #39 and #40 if you're going by publication order, although it isn't reprinted in any of the actual Swamp Thing volumes. It doesn't matter, though. You don’t need any prior knowledge of Moore’s ongoing Swamp Thing series in order to appreciate this. It's admittedly the weakest of the Moore Superman tales and doesn't approach the weirdness Moore and Veitch were delivering in Swampy's solo title.
Side Note: Can anyone tell me who the astronomer who does the necessary scientific exposition on page 3 of this story is supposed to be? He’s identified as “Dr. Everett,” but Veitch/Williamson draw him like he’s supposed to be someone a reader would recognize. If you have some insight, drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter, and I’ll update this story.
"For The Man Who Has Everything"
Superman Annual #11 (1985)
If the creative team of “The Jungle Line” didn’t kick your ass, then the team behind Watchmenshould do the trick. Dave Gibbons steps in for art duties on this one, a solid year before the ultimate Moore/Gibbons story, Watchmen, would arrive in June of 1986.
This one is really the main event for this article. “For The Man Who Has Everything” is one of the finest Superman stories ever told, one of the most perfectly crafted superhero stories in DC Comics history, and one of the best stories Moore ever put his name on.
You have to consider when “For The Man Who Has Everything” was published in order to fully appreciate its impact. With the occasional exception, the Superman comics of the early 1980s were extraordinarily pedestrian affairs, so “For The Man Who Has Everything” surely stood out from its peers. But even for today's more demanding readers, and in an industry that has spent the past thirty years chasing its tail looking for the next Watchmen, if “For The Man Who Has Everything” were published today, it would still hit with the force of a Kryptonian haymaker.
The story plays loosely with the “imaginary story” device that was popular in the Superman titles from the 1950s through the early 1980s. Simply put, they were “what if” tales with no place in continuity, often dealing with hypotheticals like "The Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue" or the original "Death of Superman" (the one that had nothing at all to do with Doomsday).
But Moore and Gibbons chose not to simply tell a “what if Krypton never exploded” tale, which would have still allowed them plenty of opportunity to play around with the darker take on a hypothetical Kryptonian present. Instead, their story of a Krypton that survived and a Kal-El who lived his life on it is happening only in Superman’s imagination, while a very real battle involving Wonder Woman, Batman, and Robin rages around him, with his very life at stake.
As he did in “The Jungle Line,” Superman once again finds himself a victim of alien plant life. The issue’s villain, Mongul (who had famously tangled with Superman a handful of times in the pages of DC Comics Presents), describes the Black Mercy as “something between a plant and an intelligent fungus” which “attaches itself to its victims in a form of symbiosis, feeding from their bio-aura.” The telepathic plant “reads them like a book, and...feeds them a logical simulation of the happy ending they desire.” It shouldn’t be fatal, but why would you fight a parasite that gives you a convincing illusion of your heart’s desire?
Superman’s fondest wish is, of course, a Krypton that was never destroyed, and where he has lived twenty-something years of his life and raised a family of his own. Perhaps in a sign that he subconsciously suspects something is wrong, this "dream" life isn’t free of complications. His mother, Lara, died of “the eating sickness,” while his father, Jor-El, was disgraced after his predictions about Krypton’s end failed to come to pass. As a result, Jor-El is courting religious and cultural extremists who have taken root on Krypton, while Kryptonian citizens decide to take out their frustrations with the House of El by beating Kara Zor-El (who only actually appears in one panel of the story) nearly to death.
“For the Man Who Has Everything” once again takes Superman off the board as an action hero for the majority of the issue, as he’s trapped in a fantasy world created by the Black Mercy. But Superman doesn't need to hit stuff in order to solve his problems, and he begins to shake off the effects of the Black Mercy once he realizes that this world can't be real. It's heartbreaking when it happens, though...
Superman woke up from his bad fungus trip in “The Jungle Line” feeling like he had conquered an inner demon (unaware that he was assisted by Swamp Thing), perhaps spiritually refreshed in the way that experimentation with certain psychoactive substances has been known to affect people.
Here, he wakes up righteously pissed off, and with good reason. He just lived about 25 years in his head and raised two children there. Waking up to find they aren’t real, ummmm...he doesn’t take it very well.
Quick note: Dave Gibbons also did the lettering for this issue, which gives us such unforgettable onomatopoeia as “THRUTCH” and the above “SSSHIZZZZZIIT”
While the idea of Superman basically losing his shit on Mongul like this may seem like old hat to people who just expect their Kryptonians to behave like video game protagonists most of the time, it's really much more effective when it only happens rarely. When written properly, Superman, even in action, is a calm, level-headed guy who uses violence as a last resort. He's got a long fuse, but when it goes off, well..."burn."
Moore and Gibbons effortlessly weave references to Kryptonian history throughout the story, including a quick mention of Fort Rozz, which was also made famous on the SupergirlTV series. And right on the first page, there’s a sideways reference to Moore’s previous Superman story, which was published exactly two weeks earlier than Superman Annual#11. As an exhausted Kal-El returns home, he contemplates reading his children “another Scarlet Jungle story before bed.” Maybe that story is a variation on "The Jungle Line" and this is a manifestation of Supes' unconscious from his previous adventure.
While its basic elements and structure are timeless, "For The Man Who Has Everything" is a story that really does work best within this particular era of Superman. Superman isn't just a hero to Earth, he's an intergalacticaly recognized figure. The Black Mercy gets to him because he just assumes it's a birthday gift from some alien civilization he has helped out on one of his countless adventures. Saving worlds, even alien worlds, is just a day at the office for this Superman. The kind of inner turmoil that nearly 30 years lived inside his mind that the Black Mercy gives him is something else entirely. The story gives us a wonderful contrast between Superman as a physical, interstellar man of action, and the mortal, human soul that lies within.
While Superman is obviously the central character here, the rest of DC's Trinity shouldn't be ignored, either. Dave Gibbons draws perfect renditions of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Robin. Batman is a suitably aloof, analytical "Mr. Spock" for the tale, but far from the brooding paranoiac we've come to expect in recent years. Wonder Woman is given not one, but two fist-pumpingly badass moments, since she's the only one in the Fortress with the raw power to stand up to Mongul. She's as comfortable with her demigod status and has a worldly, almost laid back personality that I don't believe was really a factor in 1985. It’s somewhat fitting, too, that the Watchmencreators chose Robin, the least powerful of the bunch, to ultimately defeat Mongul.
Take a brief moment and imagine an alternate universe where Moore and Gibbons didn't take on Watchmenin 1986, but rather spent a year or so as the creative team on Supermanor Action Comics. Holy moley, that would have been something.
“For The Man Who Has Everything” was also adapted as an episode of Justice League Unlimited. It's a shame that we'll never see anyone with the guts to try and do this as a movie.
You can find “For The Man Who Has Everything” in DC Universe Stories by Alan Moore.
A note about Superman's birthday.
"For The Man Who Has Everything" contains what I believe is the first mention of Superman’s birthday falling on February 29th (if I'm wrong, yell at me in the comments), traditionally known as Leap Day. It's unknown whether this was a sly reference to Superman being "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound," an editorial mandate, or Moore/Gibbons playing with the idea that if Superman only has a birthday every four years, it explains why the guy still fits into the same tights he did back in 1938. The February 29th date was utilized for Superman’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 1988, too.
But Supes has had several birthdays established. For one thing, Clark Kent's birthday would always be the date the Kents found baby Kal-El in a rocket. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Superman: Secret Origin put Clark Kent's birthday on December 1st. What Kal-El's actual Kryptonian birthday would be in relation to Earth's own trip around the sun is only relevant if you want it to be, but some accounts place it in October while others put it on June 18th (coincidentally, that's the birthday of the first actor to portray Superman, the great Bud Collyer). Action Comics #1 has a June, 1938 cover date, but probably actually hit newsstands in late February of 1938. There was no February 29th in 1938, though.
Alright, I spent way too much time on that. We've got one more story to get to...
"Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"
Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 (1986)
I’m going to tread lightly here, but it has to be said: “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” is a great Superman story, but it’s no “For The Man Who Has Everything.” Just a word of warning...it's impossible to talk about this one without spoilers, too, but I'm trying my damndest to keep this light on those. No matter what, as with "For The Man Who Has Everything," you should absolutely read this comic.
This story marks the official "end" of the Silver/Bronze Age Superman, as well as Julius Schwartz's 15-year tenure as editor on the Superman titles. The decision to treat the final issues of Supermanand Action Comics before John Byrne’s Man of Steelreboot (the word used at the time was "revamp" because there was no such word as "reboot") as if they were actually the final Superman stories was a brilliant one, and it's difficult to imagine anything this ballsy ever being allowed by DC's corporate masters ever again.
Schwartz wanted to get Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel to write the final story (Siegel was also the author of one of the finest Superman "imaginary stories" of all time, 1961's "The Death of Superman"), but he was unavailable. Over breakfast with Alan Moore, Schwartz casually mentioned his plan and was told "if you let anybody but me write that story, I'll kill you." Have you ever seen Alan Moore? I'd take that seriously, too. Schwartz felt the same way. "Since I didn't want to be an accessory to my own murder,"he recalled, "I agreed." Perhaps in a final attempt to hedge their bets, the tale is billed as one of those famous "Imaginary Stories" but it's ultimately up to the reader to decide whether it suits their needs.
Moore is paired not with a Watchmenor Swamp Thing artistic collaborator this time around, but Curt Swan. Swan is unquestionably the Superman artist of the Bronze Age, and he is indelibly associated with this era of the character. There is something almost jarring to seeing Alan Moore helping to steer "traditional" Curt Swan Superman illustrations down a darker path, but really, nobody else should have been allowed to draw this story. It all helps with the illusion that this is indeed the abrupt end of Superman's nearly 50-year publication history.
But there’s something aggressively downbeat about the proceedings, and it’s far from the triumphant sendoff that one might expect (for a more optimistic look at what Superman’s final days might look like, you can and absolutely should seek out Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman). Nearly every important piece of Superman's supporting cast makes an appearance in these 48 pages, and it doesn't turn out well for the vast majority of them. Superman breaks down and weeps at one point after a masterful piece of emotional manipulation by the creative team that is equally as effective on the reader.
Even a formerly comedic character like Bizarro gets a chilling makeover, while the new, aggressively cybernetic Brainiac/Luthor team is an effective, if subtle, piece of genuine (if Comics Code approved) body horror. It’s not something you would normally see come from Curt Swan’s pencil, which makes these moments even more effective than they might have been from a Rick Veitch or a Dave Gibbons. Superman does take a life in this story, and this story has found itself cited in wrongheaded "See? Superman does kill sometimes, bro" defenses. It's no accident what he does, to be certain, but his self-imposed penalty is a suitable consequence.
There are a handful of parallels to Watchmenworth noting, too. There's the weight of decades of superhero adventures that the reader may or may not be privy to, and a creeping sense of middle age dread and inevitability informing our hero's actions. The ending reveals Lois Lane and her disguised/retired husband living a life of domestic bliss a decade removed from the events of the story. This faintly recalls Night Owl and Silk Spectre’s future from the conclusion of Watchmen, while Clark’s decision to become a mechanic in his post-superhero career is reminiscent of how the Golden Age Night Owl spent his retirement in Watchmen, as well. These might be coincidental, especially since the final issue of Watchmenwouldn't see the light of day until well over a year after this story.
But as any Superman story should, it ends on a hopeful note...and with a wink. "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow"is available in a deluxe edition, or you can just (say it with me) get it in DC Universe Stories by Alan Moore.
It has been said that Mike Cecchini spends too much time thinking about Superman stories. Worship Rao with him on Twitter.
Thor Odinson will headline a brand new series when Marvel gets its fresh start in May.
Thor Odinson is back. After years of being "unworthy" and with Jane Foster wielding the hammer in the pages of The Mighty Thor (which is excellent, by the way), the original god of thunder will return with a brand new first issue.
The new series, titled simply Thor, comes from longtime Thor writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Del Mundo. Marvel promises "the start of a new mission for the god of thunder."
Here's the official synopsis:
The artifacts of Asgard have been scattered across the Earth, and to reclaim them, Thor will have to face some ugly truths…Like the production cost of hundreds of new hammers! And he’ll need every last one of them if he’s going to stop the unstoppable when none other than the Juggernaut joins the fray.
"On the one hand, I still feel like I’m writing the same Thor story that began six years ago," writer Jason Aaron said in an interview with Marvel. "But at the same time, God of Thunder had a very different look and feel and focus than Jane Foster’s story. And even though Thor Odinson is now reclaiming his mantle, this new volume will also be going in a very different direction. Thor has a completely new status-quo. Actually the entire landscape of his corner of the Marvel Universe has been changed in the wake of the ‘Death of the Mighty Thor’ arc in Mighty Thor. But there’s still a War of the Realms raging, and Thor isn’t looking to stand on the sidelines.”
That certainly sounds like a good time. Aaron, of course, has been writing Thor since 2012, and has crafted a genuinely legendary run on the character, one that stands shoulder to shoulder with work done by the likes of Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson.
The new Thor series is part of Marvel's "Fresh Start" initiative, which will see new first issues and new creative teams across the entire line.
Thor #1 arrives on June 13th.
Frank Castle may be this slick, overly-competent killer of bad guys, but even he gets embarrassed from time to time.
Even though The Punisher is now the star of his own Netflix series, let's not forget that Frank Castle has been building bodycounts for over forty years. He’s starred in many fantastic storylines and has become one of the more iconic heroes in Marvel history.
He’s had several movies, a handful of video games (including one of the best arcade brawlers ever), cartoon appearances, and more. He’s taken up the mantle of Captain America, turned black one time, became an angel, became a Frankenstein, befriended Archie Andrews, and even killed Gwar.
Okay, they were called “Warg,” but same thing.
The thing every Punisher writer – especially Garth Ennis – always has to push is how unflappable and badass Frank is. He’s the coolest guy ever and punks out everyone in his way. When he does lose, he at least goes down with his dignity, whether it’s via losing a knock-down-drag-out fight with Daredevil or simply refusing to fight back against Captain America. His pride has almost as much plot armor as he does.
Still, there are some times where Frank Castle gets clowned and looks like a fool. Moments that he’d choose not to remember. Here are 15 of those moments...
TAKING BAD ADVICE
Amazing Spider-Man #129 (1974)
Gerry Conway and Ross Andru
Frank’s first appearance is a wonderful debut. He’s tricked into going after Spider-Man, thinking him to be a criminal. They fight a couple times, things get relatively smoothed out, and they go their separate ways with Frank focusing on THE WAR.
It’s just...man. Nobody’s perfect and we’re all susceptible to misinformation, but look at that guy. Look at the Jackal. Imagine that guy trying to convince you that Spider-Man is a bad guy who needs to be murdered. Imagine taking his word at face value without questioning how you’re getting your intel from St. Patrick’s Day Gollum.
You dropped the ball, Frank.
SUDDEN HULK FIGHT
Incredible Hulk #395 (1992)
Peter David and Dale Keown
In at least two alternate realities, Frank’s been able to actually kill the Hulk. One time he snuck up on him while he was asleep in Banner form and the other time he shot him through the eye with an arrow tipped with one of Wolverine’s claws. In terms of main continuity, Frank’s first meeting with the gamma giant didn’t go so well.
Hulk, in his Banner-minded phase, returned to his old alter-ego of Mr. Fixit, the Las Vegas bodyguard. The Punisher was in town, after the same threat, but heard rumors of the legendary Mr. Fixit and figured he was probably worth shooting down. Frank isn’t about wasted motion.
When they finally clashed, Frank opened fire and was a bit surprised that Fixit’s “body armor” could withstand his bullets. He kept upping the ante on his weaponry until flinging a grenade at him. One of Hulk’s buddies knocked it back and it certainly would have blown Frank to kingdom come had the Hulk not snatched it out of the air and stared him down.
Too bad we can’t see things from Hulk’s point of view. I’m sure Frank’s expression was priceless.
Anyway, Hulk then proceeded to knock him out with a flick of a finger.
STAY OUT OF GOTHAM
Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights (1994)
Chuck Dixon and John Romita Jr.
The Punisher has crossed paths with Batman a handful of times during Marvel/DC crossovers. In the '90s, they had two team-up stories. One was actually about Frank working with the Jean-Paul Valley version of Batman and later coming to blows with him. Frank got the best of EXXXTREME Batman and found himself admitting – almost as if realizing it was an editorial mandate – that he did it via cheating.
The follow-up story had Bruce Wayne back as Batman as the two of them went up against the alliance of the Joker and Jigsaw. While Batman took down Jigsaw, Frank cornered Joker with intent to put a bullet in his brain. Batman stopped him and let the Joker run off into the distance. He was letting the worst criminal free, but he wasn't letting him die.
Frank, understandably, dropped his gun and punched Batman in the face.
Batman responded by claiming that, “I let you have that one because you probably think I deserved it.” As childish as that sounded, Batman backed up the claim by easily catching the next punch, throwing the Punisher into a pile of boxes, and telling him to get out of his city or else he’d be going to Arkham.
Frank sulked off, claiming that Batman and the Joker deserve each other.
Wolverine #186 (2003)
Frank Tieri and Terry Dodson
Ugh. Just because I’m writing this list doesn’t mean that I think every entry is actually good or well done. For instance, this one.
Garth Ennis, who is a fantastic writer much of the time, has a tendency to write stories about how a military-trained antihero badass is able to humiliate and outright destroy any and all tights-wearing superhero pretty boys. It happened a LOT with the Punisher and Wolverine tended to be a regular target. This included a team-up in Punisher’s book that ended with a fight where Punisher shot Wolverine in the balls, blew his face clean off with a shotgun, ran him over with a steamroller, and then left him there. Ennis just savaged him there.
But turnabout’s fair play and at the time, Frank Tieri was writing Wolverine’s comic. He decided to respond to Ennis by having Wolverine get his win back. Now, bringing in Tieri to counter Ennis is like bringing William Hung to a rap battle and it already started off a bit petty with the bullshit claim in the recap that Wolverine tends to beat up the Punisher more often than not. Uh huh.
The entire issue was dedicated to a fight between Castle and Logan in an empty mall and it’s actually a fun and great-looking battle. The two humorously beat the crap out of each other and tossed insults until Wolverine won out by tossing Frank through a window.
Then, with Frank motionless on the cracked sidewalk, Wolverine proceeded to discover – much to Frank’s sudden embarrassment – that some magazines of dudes in speedos had fallen out of the Punisher’s bag. Despite Frank’s desperate claim that they were just suspects (a reference to Murder by Death) Wolverine made fun of him and left him to be taken in by the authorities.
Seriously, Tieri’s best comeback to the excessive steamroller beatdown was, “Yeah, but...but the Punisher’s totally gay! So there!”
JLA/Avengers #1 (2003)
Kurt Busiek and George Perez
JLA/Avengers was the final Marvel/DC crossover before the two companies turned their backs on each other for good. The comic treated it as the first meeting between worlds, so when the Justice League looked through the Marvel universe, it was a bit eye-opening for them. Green Lantern and Aquaman saw the horrors of Dr. Doom’s rule in Latveria. Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman saw the ruins of Genosha. Superman saw the aftermath of a Hulk rampage.
In each instance, Batman told them to stay the course and NOT interfere.
Then he and Plastic Man saw the Punisher gun down drug dealers in New York City. Batman decided to go against his own advice. According to Plastic Man on the next page, Batman spent twenty minutes beating the crap out of the Punisher, just to save the lives of those criminals.
I'LL BE DAMNED. VAMPIRES.
Marvel Team-Up #8 (2005)
Robert Kirkman and Jeff Johnson
The first meeting between the Punisher and Blade was sort of adorable in terms of how in-over-his-head Frank was. The two watched a mob deal go down below. Blade, an admirer of the Punisher, tried to explain that one of the parties was made of vampires. Blade explained that he too is a half-breed vampire and is essentially to vampires what the Punisher is to criminals. While Blade was pretty jazzed to be on a rooftop with Frank, Frank was a bit too close-minded.
Vampires? Don’t be ridiculous. Blade was probably just a violent nutjob, no better than the mobsters below. Frank even shot him in the back to very little effect. Blade shrugged it off and Frank figured it was merely Kevlar. Blade spent minutes trying to explain who he was to Frank’s unbelieving ears.
Then the vampires started feasting on the human mobsters. Blade’s targets took out Frank’s targets. All the while, Frank just glared wide-eyed and shocked at the carnage. He finally broke the silence to ask Blade if he wanted help. Blade simply smiled and jumped off the rooftop.
“No. I got this.”
BLEEDING HEART PUNISHER
Mark Millar and Jim Mahfood
There have been a handful of joke What If stories done based on turning the Punisher concept on its head. One time he was a stern figure who made the Blob go to sleep without dinner while Dr. Doom had to sit in the corner and think about what he did. One time his family survived instead and became a family of gun-toting sociopaths.
In Wha...Huh? Mark Millar got to do a two-page story where Frank ranted in his narration about the rich owning the poor, sweat shops, and how hurtful such labels as “criminals” are to people who live without privilege. All while watching an old lady get stomped on by two armed gang members. Frank tried to see eye-to-eye with them, but then suffered from a literal bleeding heart as they opened fire on him.
Frank died, feeling bad that these poor youths would have murder on their souls for the rest of their lives.
Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #2 (2007)
John Layman and Fabiano Neves
Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness had Ash Williams tossed into the ill-fated Marvel side-universe while shit went down. Zombie Sentry infected the Avengers and the Zombie Avengers went on to devour anyone in sight while spreading the virus. Amongst the early madness, Ash came across the Punisher, who seemed kind of dismissive about the whole apocalypse going on.
Proving himself a bit too close-minded from his lack of humanity, Frank proceeded to gun down a collection of mafia-based villains even after Kingpin explained that they needed to work together to survive the zombie outbreak. He even chose to ignore the plight of Thunderball, who despite being a villain, was shown to be a buddy of Ash’s.
With a wave of zombified heroes and villains coming at him, Frank told Ash to stand to the side and toss him a loaded gun when commanded. Ash figured he had enough of Captain Kill-Happy and ran off to do his own thing.
Frank didn’t notice this until running out of ammo. He was swarmed and infected immediately.
SHE’S A LITTLE RUNAWAY
Runaways #26 (2007)
Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan
Joss Whedon openly hates the Punisher and here we get to see that play out in a comic.
The Runaways went to New York to meet with the Kingpin under the guise of a criminal syndicate. The underaged team was cornered by the Punisher, who had no qualms with shooting teenagers, admitting it wouldn’t be the first time. As he argued with Chase and pointed a gun at him, Molly – a mutant tween with super strength – surprised Frank with a punch to the gut.
While Frank underestimated the Runaways, Molly overestimated Frank and figured he had powers himself. Instead, he stood there, paralyzed in pain with only his military willpower keeping him standing as he declared to himself that a soldier doesn’t fall. All the while, Molly pleaded for the others to forgive her, though they each had their own opinion on whether or not to be proud of her actions.
Several issues later, as the arc finished up, Frank was shown to STILL be struggling to remain on his feet.
Eminem/The Punisher (2009)
Fred Van Lente and Salvador Larocca
For some reason I may never understand, there was a Punisher/Eminem team-up comic that involved them taking on Barracuda. On his way to take down Barracuda (who Eminem grew up with), Frank shot up Eminem’s entire entourage. Soon after, Eminem beat Frank down with a pistol and unloaded it into Frank’s chest.
Turned out Barracuda was hired by the Parents Music Council to assassinate Eminem. Through a little indirect teamwork, Frank and Eminem were able to defeat Barracuda and seemingly kill him with a chainsaw. Then Frank abandoned Eminem on top of a sheet of ice over a frozen lake and offered to go kill the Parents Music Council for hiring Barracuda.
Yeah, you may have stood tall at the end, but you still got punked out by the Real Slim Shady. That’s on your permanent record, man.
Punisher Annual #1 (2009)
Rick Remender and Jason Pearson
Early on in Rick Remender’s Punisherrun, the Hood resurrected a bunch of dead supervillains and gave them an ultimatum: either they killed the Punisher within 30 days or his magic would wear off and they would go back to being dead. Two of those villains included Letha and Lascivious, a pair of female wrestlers/villains who were killed by Scourge back in the day. Letha was granted the power to make people aggressive and Lascivious could make people fall in love.
Their powers failed to work on Frank due to his emotional emptiness. Luckily, when Spider-Man entered the fray, Letha was able to set him off and make him want to murder Frank. Punisher vs. Spider-Man wasn’t a new concept, nor was mind-controlled hero vs. hero. In the end, it didn’t work out and it returned to the old trope of Spider-Man going, “I’m not going to let you kill them!” while Frank rolled his eyes.
That’s when Lascivious figured to make Spider-Man fall in love with Frank and never let him go. While Frank was very, very uncomfortable with what was going on, the two wrestler ladies escaped and remained as free as their ass cheeks.
While Frank certainly had a bad time, he got it better than Spider-Man. Without getting into it, Spider-Man may have had sex with a Doc Ock tentacle in broad daylight.
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #4 (2012)
Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic
There was a miniseries called Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe which...that’s actually pretty self-explanatory. An alternate universe version of Deadpool became aware of his fictional status, went violently insane, and decided to take out every hero and villain over four issues. It wasn’t very good.
Deadpool killing the Punisher was the cover image for the final issue and it made sense. Frank already starred in Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe back in the '90s. It was like a passing of the torch.
As the fourth issue began, various villains were shown mindlessly committing a mass suicide. Punisher took advantage of the madness by sniping Deadpool through a window and rushing to the scene before he could regenerate. Instead, Frank found the dead body of the Puppet Master dressed up like Deadpool.
Deadpool appeared behind Frank with one of the Puppet Master’s voodoo dolls with a tiny skull insignia on the chest. Helpless to stop himself, Frank was compelled to put his own pistol to his head and pull the trigger.
Afterwards, Deadpool bragged about being better at “killing the Marvel Universe” by using a Puppet Master doll of Galactus to cause some damage on a cosmic scale.
AND MORE DEADPOOL
Uncanny X-Force #29 (2012)
Rick Remender and Julian Totino Tedesco
Uncanny X-Force was about a team that would go around killing threats to mutantkind before they could act first. Deadpool was somehow the conscience of the group. In one adventure, they ended up decades into the future, where the world was run by X-Force in a Minority Reportsense. If anyone was even thinking about committing a violent crime, X-Force would hunt them down.
One member of the future team was an elderly Frank Castle. At one point he warned Deadpool (present version) about an incident that would start a huge war. Rather than come up with any other kind of way out of it, Frank told him to kill Daken, kill the kid version of Apocalypse, and kill the never-before-mentioned son of Archangel. Deadpool groaned at this advice and proceeded to make fun of all this kid-killing.
Then it got personal.
“Look, for what it’s worth, I always hated you. You are a boring, two-dimensional, self-serious relic from the ‘70s. Oh, and Chuck Bronson called – he wants everything he ever did back.”
Frank angrily pulled a gun on him and Deadpool was able to stop him by pointing out the kind of havoc that would cause through history.
Thunderbolts #22 (2014)
Charles Soule and Carlo Barberi
I easily could’ve made this list into just “dumb Punisher stories” because “Punisher was in a dumb story” means he theoretically should be embarrassed. But it doesn’t really work like that because usually characters don’t admit that they’re in a bad story and if they do, it’s after the fact. It’s not like in Grounded, Superman was all, “Man, this is the stupidest shit ever. I miss fighting Zod.”
Even though the brief status quo in the '90s where Frank Castle was reborn as an angel who went around shooting demons was indeed silly, at the time, Frank acted completely on-board with it because the guy writing it at the time thought it was super cool. Granted, once it was passed on to the next writer, Garth Ennis quickly buried the entire concept while going back to “mortal who shoots mortal criminals” storyline.
Years later, Frank joined the Thunderbolts. In one story, Frank fought the unstoppable goddess Mercy and got beaten by her so badly that his body was mangled beyond medical hope. The rest of the team returned from an adventure in Hell (which involved screwing over Mephisto in a legal agreement) and realized that there was nothing they could do to help him.
Said Hell adventure involved Deadpool sneaking into Heaven to steal an angel feather to go with his new pimp hat. Don’t ask. The feather reached out and healed Frank completely.
None could understand it. Deadpool pointed out that it was like the angel feather recognized Frank and wanted to be with him. Almost like there was some kind of history between Frank and angels.
Frank simply grumbled, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
DON’T MOCK THE SHOCKER
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17 (2014)
Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber
Superior Foes built up the Shocker as a big loser in the villain community and...well, he pretty much is. His name is Shocker. You can’t live that down no matter how cool your costume looks.
In the final issue of the series, the various mob factions in New York were converging for a big battle for supremacy. Like a moth to light, the Punisher made his way there (and may have stopped for a cronut after hearing good things from his Uber driver) to wipe out the whole lot of them.
Instead, the Shocker arrived, in a Shocker version of the Spider-Mobile, while yelling, “DON’T MOCK THE SHOCKER!” If you’re wondering, that was a direct reference to the bizarre, kid-friendly Spidey Super Stories comic from the '70s.
Shocker then used his gauntlets to blast the Punisher off into the distance before bringing unity to the NYC underworld.
There isn’t a single part of that scenario that didn’t hurt Frank.
Like everyone, Frank Castle isn’t perfect. No matter how badass and serious he’s supposed to be, he can’t be the best of the best in every single situation. Even the ultimate soldier has to stumble now and then. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get disrespected. But you keep on with your mission and hold your head high because at the end of the day, you still have dignity to your name.
Yes. Exactly. This guy knows what's up.
Gavin Jasper has his fingers crossed for Franken-Castle in Daredevil season 3. Follow him on Twitter!
The Marvel reboot rolls on with Ta-Nehisi Coates writing a new Captain America series.
The current Captain America title by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee will draw to a close in May with the release of Captain America #700. And to take its place, Marvel is launching a new Captain America series in July as part of their "Fresh Start" reboot initiative. And they've enlisted none other than current Black Panther writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to guide Steve Rogers' adventures.
“I think it’s a really exciting time to be writing Captain America right now,” Coates said in a statement. “The country is in an interesting place, and I look forward to inhabiting Steve Rogers’ character - this guy who has been a sort of awkward fit for the world, out of time as people say. I hope fans are excited to see something different, and I think there are some really compelling villains old school Captain America fans and Marvel fans will be familiar with.”
Coates went into more detail about why he decided to take on writing Captain America in an essay at The Atlantic. It's definitely worth a read, and he'll certainly bring a different focus to the character.
“Finding the right voice to tell the tales of Marvel's beloved characters is never an easy task, but when it came time to hire the new hand to guide Captain America, we just knew it had to be Ta-Nehisi Coates!” added Editor-In-Chief C.B. Cebulski. “After re-inventing the Black Panther for the modern era, Ta-Nehisi now brings his sharp scripting sensibilities to Steve Rogers and his new place in the Marvel Universe. With Leinil Yu and Sunny Gho bringing all the incredible action to life in big, bold visuals, you will not be able to put this book down. And our launch is timed perfectly for release on the Fourth of July!”
Coates will be joined by Leinil Francis Yu on art, while Alex Ross will provide painted covers for the series. The first Coates/Yu Captain America story will appear in the Avengers/Captain America Free Comic Book Day Special, which arrives on May 5. This is all good news, but what is also good news is that Captain America will not take the place of Black Panther on Coates slate. Considering his two years and counting on Black Panther have been some of the best in the character's history, it's great to hear he has room on his schedule for both.
The new Captain America series launches, appropriately enough, on the Fourth of July.
In the 1990s, Lucasfilm decided to take Star Wars in a much darker direction with Shadows of the Empire.
This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Star Wars in the '90s
The ‘90s were the dark ages of Star Wars. George Lucas’ happy cinematic accident was still a beloved pop culture tentpole, and the entertainment industry was still busy learning from its business model. But it was also a time of relative quiet for the franchise. Another film with the main cast was implausible, and the excuses for new merchandising were slim to none. So Lucasfilm started brainstorming new ways to capitalize on the Star Wars brand and ensure all of its media channels were fully functional before the arrival of the Prequel Trilogy.
Enter Shadows of the Empire—a mad scientist’s experiment in cross-promotion that would make editors at Marvel weep at the complexity of its moving parts. This multimedia initiative was designed to tell one large narrative across various mediums, with each platform contributing an important piece of the story. To get the full Shadowsexperience, fans would have to read the novel and the comic books, play the video game, listen to the soundtrack score, buy the toys, collect the trading cards, etc.
When Shadows was conceived by Lucasfilm heads Howard Roffman and Lucy Wilson in 1994, it was intended to be set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This era has always been a “safe zone” for expanded universe material to play around in. In fact, it’s still mined by Marvel and Disney for tie-in material to this day. Shadows would join the ranks of the classic Marvel comics with the giant talking rabbit (who was never considered canon, sadly enough) as an expanded universe story set during the actual trilogy itself.
After the pitch was tossed around the Lucas subsidiaries, a memo from LucasArts designer Jon Knoles changed their minds. He suggested setting the Shadows project after The Empire Strikes Back instead of before it, as this was a.) fertile ground for storytelling. and b.) way more intriguing. And he wasn’t wrong. This new setting made the task of telling a huge movie-like story a way to test the boundaries of the franchise before its inevitable rebirth for Episode I.
Post-Empire was a sweet spot for Star Wars to hit at the time. If you couldn’t already tell by its name, there was a push to make Shadows“dark”—which basically translated to “’90s as fuck.” This slick new edginess would keep Star Wars relevant in a time of geek culture dominated by the over-muscled caricatures of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane and the low-tech barbarism of Mortal Kombat. Instead of behaving like it was still the early 1980s, it was time Star Wars hit puberty and toughened up some.
Even in today’s climate saturated with spin-offs, webisodes, and other ancillary materials, telling one big cohesive story across different media formats is still a highly experimental undertaking. There had to be a center to all the tales that would be told under this umbrella, an axis on which all peripheral events spun around. This anchor point was the bestselling Shadows novel published by Bantam in 1996.
Writing the Book
For all intents and purposes, Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire was to be considered “the movie.” It had what everyone was craving—a new adventure with the core characters the audience loved and the promise of mature themes and content.
Steve Perry was hand-selected to be in the Shadows talent pool by Bantam editor Tom Dupree as a payback for writing a quick and dirty novelization of The Mask for free. Perry’s background writing for Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, and Spiral Zone made him a shoo-in for the job. Designing the core narrative of an intricate brand opera would be a collaborative process best suited for a writer with a background in television. (That he’d written novelizations for Dark Horse’s Alien graphic novels might have also helped.)
Before long, Perry found himself writing down page after page of notes during a lengthy creative meeting with all creative stakeholders at Skywalker Ranch in the fall of 1994 to keep track of the many different needs every licensee had for the story. Each medium demanded their own set pieces, action scenes, and settings to be interesting. Perry would think up ways to sew these into the pockets of his overarching story.
Armed with his reams of notes, the author banged out a twenty-five page outline detailing all major action beats for the primary story arc with suggestions on how they could cross over. The outline was well-received, even if it came back with a ton of notes. But the cooks in the kitchen found it agreeable, and that was all that was needed to move the crazy Shadows train forward. Perry got to work at tackling the manuscript at the beginning of 1995, making his own version of a missing Star Wars movie from his home office in Oregon.
The storyline of Perry’s Shadows book follows the adventures of Luke, Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca in their efforts to locate their carbonite encased buddy Han Solo. Their quest takes them through the galaxy’s criminal underworld, where they meet gritty new ‘90s characters that either try to kill them or help them out. In the process, Luke becomes a badass, Darth Vader gets a new nemesis, Chewie gets a haircut, the droids get to drive the Millennium Falcon, and Princess Leia gets to be sexually objectified like crazy. Okay, that may be an oversimplification, but basically, Shadows is a story about Star Wars that’s not quite told like a Star Wars story—but it is an entertaining page-turner. Yet the risks Shadows takes are really just recycled moments from the Original Trilogy, a classic symptom of being a media tie-in novel.
However, the book did intrigue readers everywhere with certain storylines it juggled, like the attempted assassinations of Luke Skywalker, the details behind the “many Bothans” tragedy hinted at in Return of the Jedi, and the Empire’s dealings with the Black Sun crime syndicate. Reading about the hijinks of the Skywalker twins and friends during a mysterious era is always intriguing, and Perry did as much justice as he could to the voice of the characters.
If Shadows of the Empire has a main character, it’s probably Xizor himself. After all, this villainous character was being fleshed out long before any official creative meetings had been held. The Dark Prince was the mascot for the grimdarkness of Shadows and the underworld it would explore.
Based on the plot outline he turned in, Steve Perry received notes with very specific instructions from Bantam on how they wanted Xizor to behave, citing the Godfather films as a tonal guideline. Bantam wanted an evil clone of Aristotle Onassis, the infamous Greek tycoon that married Jackie Kennedy. They wanted a villain who was corrupt, crafty, and had enough hubris to take on the franchise’s most beloved big bad: Darth Vader himself.
When creating this major expanded universe villain from scratch, the creative team at Lucasfilm approached the task just like they would for any creature you’d see in a Star Wars film. Xizor’s design process fell somewhere in the middle of thoughtfully crafted and painstakingly conceived. Xizor was meant to have an “exotic” flavor to his appearance, which designers translated as looking vaguely Asian. Yet Prince Xizor was more than just a vehicle for bizarre cultural appropriation. He was the powerful leader of Black Sun, a criminal syndicate functioning on the Outer Rim.
His reptilian style inspired a new race of beings for the Star Wars universe: the Falleen, who lived on a planet called, ironically enough, Falleen. As a Falleen, Xizor could breathe underwater and secrete pheromones to manipulate the opposite sex, which were so strong that even our favorite tough cookie with the hair buns fell under his thrall. His olive skin tone also changed according to whatever mood he happened to be in. And that iconic claw pose of his? That was inspired by unused concept art of Bib Fortuna.
Meanwhile, Xizor’s seduction of Princess Leia—or, rather, the quasi-Asian lizard dude’s date rape of Star Wars’ headlining female character—was awkward. In this sequence, Xizor uses his pheromone powers to roofie Leia into submission after forcing her to wear a revealing outfit. Shadowswent beyond the humiliation of tricking Alderaanian royalty into wearing a kinky slave outfit for a giant slug. This was technically assault. When Perry received feedback on his story outline asking for Xizor and Leia to go all the way, he refused. He didn’t want to deal with the backlash from the fans, as such an event would incite the same emotional reaction as killing off a main character. So instead, Leia gets out of the situation by kneeing the Falleen studmuffin right in his iguana dick, then dashes off (pun intended).
Perry handled Prince Xizor’s character incredibly well considering all of the creative suggestions he received. He knew the Dark Prince wasn’t just a character, he was a test for each member of the Skywalker family. Xizor spent literally all of his time and energy obsessing over Luke, Anakin, and Leia, discovering their weak points and pressing their buttons. In this respect, Xizor is an embodiment the novel’s central theme: vulnerability. The vulnerability of the each member of the Skywalker family.
A new protagonist was also introduced—Dash Rendar, aka ‘90s Han Solo. Although Dash was conceived by Perry himself, that didn’t mean he had any more creative control over his character than he did with Xizor’s. Lucasfilm and Bantam both made it clear they didn’t want an exact carbon-copy of Kylo Ren’s dad to fill the void he left behind. They did, however, want a substitute space pirate to act as a guide through the wrong side of the interplanetary tracks.
Dash was the macho middle ground between Kevin Costner and Tom Cruise—a smuggling mercenary that traveled around the galaxy in his Outrider (aka ‘90s Millennium Falcon) with a droid named Leebo riding shotgun. He held a lifelong vendetta against the Emperor for ruining his family after his brother crashed his freighter ship into Palpatine's private spaceport museum. Rendar helped Rogue Squadron fend off the Empire’s forces during the Battle of Hoth. He even helped the “many Bothans” that died steal the new Death Star plans! Despite all of this, Luke still thought he was kind of an asshole. Hmm. Maybe that’s because the Force told him Dash was secretly made out of cardboard, old issues of Youngblood, and testosterone.
If Dash Rendar were to be described by one word only, it would be “functional.” He doesn’t serve a function for the Shadows narrative per se, but boy does he ever for the multimedia campaign. After all, Dash was the star of the video game component of Shadows of the Empire, which featured his participation in the Battle of Hoth. I wouldn’t say that Dash is a person, but more of a Frankenstein’s monster of pastiches culled from Star Wars and its imitators, stitched together with Harrison Ford’s casual cockiness. Basically, he was an endless library of “shit Han Solo says.”
The real fan favorite of Shadowsturned out to be a character that still doesn’t have a decently sized action figure to this day: Guri, Prince Xizor’s deadly fembot bodyguard. She was the only replica droid trained to be an assassin—a hybrid of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct and Sean Young in Blade Runner. Compared to Princess Leia, Guri was a lightning rod for pent-up sexual tension in the Star Wars universe. In fact, Xizor took advantage of her more built-in “intimate” functions whenever he could, which only amplified the rapey nature of the crime lord.
Much like Han Solo’s sugar-free counterpart, Dash Rendar, Guri the sex assasin was a Steve Perry original. The femme fatale was conceived as a character who would be loyal to the paranoid Falleen leader, someone he could trust. Since Xizor could never trust another living being with his life, he bought a synthetic humanoid for nine million credits to be his lieutenant, enforcer, and information gatherer. Basically, she was like having a ninja as your personal assistant, which further reinforced the vaguely Asian motif surrounding the Dark Prince. But it was strongly suggested that he used her to run everything, and probably couldn’t handle the weight of his responsibilities on his own.
Luke & Leia
Core characters were subject to redesign as well, specifically their wardrobe. Lucasfilm wanted to visually convey to the audience that their heroes were in between two very distinct eras (Empire and Jedi.) While Chewie and Leia got “extreme” disguises to play dress-up in, Luke Skywalker’s wardrobe was meticulously reconceptualized.
Lucasfilm’s Lucy Wilson would send notes to Dark Horse’s cover artist Drew Fleming on the Jedi knight’s garb, asking him to “please dress [Luke] in the same black outfit he shows up in in RotJ…the same black long-sleeved top, pants, and boots…but make his tunic a khaki color and give him a utility belt with various tools/etc. hanging off of it…”
But playing with Luke’s fashion choices wasn’t the only way that Shadows of the Empire illustrated that Luke was in a transitionary phase. Jon Knoles wanted the the overarching narrative of the project to tie up a loose end that had been bugging him since the early ‘80s—where did Luke get his new green lightsaber?
Thus another plotline to juggle was born, one of Shadows’ most interesting: Luke’s quest to build his fancy new weapon. Watching young Skywalker learn how to build his own based on Obi-Wan’s instructions was fascinating for aspiring Jedi everywhere to read, but there isn’t as much symbolic weight behind this act as there could have been in a film made by Lucas. At least it was treated as a pivotal step on the protagonist’s figurative journey to becoming a Jedi Knight and not just another macguffin to scratch off the list. (Or was it?)
What’s frustrating about this sidequest is that it takes the place of a solid character arc for Luke, which is a shame. Dealing with the fallout from Vader’s reveal at the end of Empire would make Anakin Jr. the most captivating character in the dramatis personae. But no, learning his father’s secret doesn’t seem to affect Luke’s inner world much at all. Why wouldn’t we want to know what our hero’s state of mind was during this mysterious stretch of time?
If Shadows didn’t give us insight into its most pivotal character, it did give us a glimpse at Leia’s emotional landscape following the loss of Han. The first loss of Han, rather. If anyone was at their “most vulnerable” here, it would be the Princess—someone who fears showing weakness. SotE’s journey into the seedy Star Wars underworld caused all of her issues to rise to the surface, making Leia the heart of Perry’s book.
Despite the third-person take on her inner-monologue, Leia was treated as a character best handled from a distance. When she’s not being objectified, harassed, or protected from objectification and harassment by Chewie and Lando, she’s busy pulling up her sleeves and getting to the nitty gritty of propelling the novel’s major plotlines. As such, Princess Leia comes across as the Skywalker that’s the real hero here.
The only real worthy piece of continuity from her storyline was how she got the Boushh disguise she wears in Jedi, a detail that most fans probably never wondered or cared about.
The attempted Han Solo rescue, which is the driving force early on in the story, obviously turns out to be the MacGuffin that leads the Skywalkers and their friends on other adventures. The video game tackles the earliest part of this mission, when Dash tracks down the bounty hunters who were originally tasked with capturing Han. Fighting his way through the planets Ord Mantell and Gall, Dash finally locates Fett and his prized slab of carbonite. Leia, Lando, Luke, and the Rebellion launch a rescue mission that sparks the Battle of Gall. It fails and Fett gets away again.
Fett’s struggle to get the frozen Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine is the major subject of the Shadows comic. On his way to the desert planet he is attacked both by the Rebels and rival bounty hunters Bossk and Zuckuss. Ironically, he even has to hide out in an asteroid field at one point to fight off his assailants. Ultimately, Fett proves why he’s the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy, outsmarting his pursuers and getting the payday.
Things get more intricate from here. Prince Xizor, who vows to avenge his family after they’re killed by Darth Vader before the events of the book, plans to destroy Vader by killing his son and replacing him as the Emperor’s right hand. Xizor tries to have Luke assassinated several times in Shadows, only to be thwarted at the last minute every time by Rebels or Vader’s own bounty hunters. Vader, on the other hand, is still trying to find Luke and turn him to the Dark Side, which brings him in direct contact with the leader of Black Sun. The only reason Vader can’t Force choke Xizor out of an exhaust port is because the Emperor needs the crime lord to finish the construction of the second Death Star.
Which brings us to the mission to steal the Death Star plans. Dash and Luke are informed by Bothan spies that the plans are being transported in a fertilizer freighter called the Suprosa. The Rebels launch an intercept mission. You can actually play through this mission as Dash in the Shadows video game.
After some maneuvering, Xizor has Luke captured on the planet Kothlis, where the plans are being decoded by the Bothans. Luke manages to escape Kothlis with a little help from the Force, Lando, and Dash. Vader, who arrives on Kothlis too late to pick up Luke, is informed by his bounty hunters that there’s a rival group of bounty hunters trying to kill young Skywalker.
Meanwhile, Leia is kidnapped by Xizor, who tries to seduce the Princess in his palace on Coruscant. Shadows of the Empire is in fact bookended by rescue missions, as Luke and his friends infiltrate the Imperial capital to save Leia from the evil crime lord. The story climaxes in spectacular fashion in a space battle above the city planet between the Rebels and the Empire, as Xizor attempts to escape but is stopped by Vader, who shows absolutely no mercy.
Shadows of the Empire ends right before Return of the Jedi begins: Luke, Leia, and friends prepare to go on a daring rescue mission to save Han Solo from the clutches of the dastardly Jabba the Hutt, their latest adventure ultimately only a detour.
Dark Horse gave Steve Perry a shot at telling a follow-up story in 1998 with the Shadows of the Empire: Evolution miniseries. Without so many requirements and stipulations from different Lucasfilm branches, Perry was given the freedom to tell a snappy, focused, personal story about Guri. The underappreciated badass got her time to shine in the Star Warslimelight, and although there may be too many panels (and pages) devoted to her posing around suggestively, the story did give her character a sense of resolution. As far as Perry was concerned, Guri was the only loose end from Shadows that needed to be dealt with (or the only one he felt the most inspired to tackle, anyway.)
What’s interesting about Evolutionsis that much like Shadows itself, it’s built around the absence of a pivotal character. It’s Prince Xizor, this time. His spirit still permeates throughout Ron Randall’s gorgeous panel art, much like Han Solo’s did in the Shadows adaptation. In fact, Evolutions is loaded with so many references to Xizor that you expect him to show up during its final moments. But no, in the true spirit of Shadows of the Empire, this turns out to be one big tease.
Instead, we get a highly convenient Dash Rendar cameo at the very end. Guri runs into him at a bar after she gets reprogrammed and loses her memories. Diet-Han looks alive and well to me, so the end of the N64 game was definitely canon (Rendar fakes his death during the space battle above Coruscant). But the romantic overtones of their chance encounter suggest that the two run off into the sunset together, which is a patronizing fate to give a character whose indepence you just spent five issues celebrating, is it not?
Because Episodes I-III tainted Star Wars for a good long while, Shadows of the Empire became an instant obscurity. After all, it was an outdated snapshot of a dormant brand waking up after a long nap to get back to work. Maybe bored gamers may have dusted off their N64 cartridges on lonely Saturday afternoons to play through the Battle of Hoth again in the early 2000s. But that was the only way anyone interacted with this brand experiment again.
Filling a movie-sized hole in the public’s imagination without a movie was a great opportunity to begin the process of redefining Star Wars. Yet even after taking in all Shadows related materials (not including the Sourcebook, sorry folks), I don’t feel as satisfied as I do when I actually see a Star Wars film—even when it’s a bad one. There’s an aura of incompleteness that haunts Shadows, that attitude of “hey kids, you need to read x to understand y” that I found so distracting. Even Perry’s novel, the supposed focal point, suffers from the inclusion of characters like Dash who are obviously shoehorned in for other purposes that are counterproductive to telling an already crowded story.
For a book that was advertised as being so dark, Perry’s Shadows shied away from going too deep into Luke’s psychological scars from the events at the end of Empire. That’s it’s biggest problem: for a “personal” story, Shadows is impersonal, prioritizing shallow action over emotional complexity. In fact, there’s more “darkness” in Empire’s surreal Dagobah cave scene than there is in 300 pages of Shadow’s novel and ten hours of its video game combined.
What Shadows most prepared fans for in terms of Star Wars’ future was the business side of the galaxy far, far away, introduced through Black Sun’s shady dealings with the Empire. While I was reading these scenes, I couldn’t help but flashback to countless scenes of council meetings to discuss tariffs or something. Granted, Shadows’ meetings between Xizor, Vader, and the Emperor were far more engaging, but the signs were there.
The Shadows initiative garnered enough success that it later served as real time inspiration for the Clone Wars marketing campaign in the early oughts. The concept of telling a movie-sized story in the negative space between film installments was ahead of its time, and couldn’t be pulled off in a pre-gaming era. Which is why the mid-90s (a literal negative space for Star Wars) was the perfect time to pull off a crazy stunt like this.
As a whole, the Shadowsexperiment may have added an extra slimy texture to Star Warsthat hadn’t been there before. Exploring the darker corners of its universe through various media formats defined its nebulous gray area in ways the older films couldn’t. This was the most important lesson Lucasfilm learned from Shadows of the Empire, as it helped change Star Wars from a lost movie franchise into the rich multimedia brand experience it is today.
Believe it or not, Stephen Harber is actually Supreme Leader Snoke. Follow him on Twitter at @onlywriterever or visit his website for updates on more Ewoks movies that will never happen.
Star Trek: Discovery's Rekha Sharma will star in the science fiction story from director Leena Pendharker.
Hollywood should thoughtfully adapt all of Ursula K. Le Guin's stories, and The Telling is a good start. According to THR, the science fiction novel written by the renowned author is getting the big-screen treatment from Bayview Films. Le Guin was working alongside the studio before her death in January.
The Telling is the story of Sutty Dass, a woman who travels from a war-torn Earth to the planet of Aka. Once there, Sutty discovers that Aka has suppressed much of its rich culture in the quest for further technological advancements. As she travels deeper into the countryside, she learns about the Telling, the old faith of the Akans, which has been banned. As with all of Le Guin's works, The Telling is a thoughtful reflection of the struggles and joys of our own world wrapped up in a great story.
Sutty Dass will be played by Rekha Sharma, which is exciting news because Sharma pretty much always plays antagonists (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Discovery, The 100). It will be nice to see her in a different kind of role. Leena Pendharker (20 Weeks, Raspberry Magic) will be adapting the book into a screenplay and directing the film.
"I'm honored to bring the work of one of science fiction's most esteemed writers to the screen especially in these times when strong female voices are needed," said Pendharkar. "The Telling is a humanistic science fiction film about a woman trying to find her way in a culture overrun by technology."
The Telling is slated to start filming later this year, with a planned release in 2019.
David Fincher will reunite with Brad Pitt to direct World War Z 2, though the film continues to be mired in production delays.
World War Z turned out to be quite a decent film, given the large amount of negative press it generated during the build-up to its release. Granted, it didn't have the most notable resemblance to the Max Brooks novel on which it was based. Yet, the 2013 Brad Pitt-headlined feature overcame having its back third restructured late in the day, and went on to gross $540 million at the box office.
Unfortunately, even with the promising acquisition of David Fincher as director, the seemingly inevitable World War Z 2 has hit plenty of obstacles getting off the ground. – We'll explain:
World War Z 2 News
World War Z 2 has delayed production until this fall, according to a tweeted update from a Variety reporter.
The claim lines up with the recent news that star Brad Pitt has joined Leonardo DiCaprio in director Quentin Tarantino's crime drama, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; a production that’s more urgent, since it’s attempting to meet an August 9, 2019 release date. Consequently, it appears that production for World War Z 2– already no stranger to delays – will, allegedly, be put on the backburner for a fall shoot.
The purported delay might be a welcome one by all parties involved with World War Z 2, since director David Fincher has been working with Dennis Kelly, of U.K. television’s Utopia fame, for about a year and a half. Fincher, who, earlier in the film's pre-production, had his hands full with the development of the would-be Netflix hit TV series, Mindhunter, is currently fielding producer duties on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/Millennium franchise reboot The Girl in the Spider’s Web and drama film Lange. Kelly, on the other hand, has been placed in charge of Amazon’s ultra-ambitious television project, adapting Iain Banks’s sprawling sci-fi novel series, Consider Phlebas, and is attached to the script for a revival of Roald Dahl's Matilda.
Fincher, who reunites here with star/producer Brad Pitt, having directed him in a trio of classics consisting of Se7en, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, was initially asked to come aboard World War Z 2 by Pitt himself and was also apparently convinced by Paramount's new CEO, Jim Gianopulus.
World War Z 2 Release Date
At one point, World War Z 2 was scheduled for June 9, 2017, but that was yanked ages ago. At this moment, it has no release date. It WAS expected to shoot in early 2018; an idea that was likely nixed, especially with the alleged production shift to this fall. So, maybe we'll get this somewhere around early 2020?
When World War Z 2 was first announced, the project seemed to be going much more smoothly than the infamous production hiccups experienced by its predecessor. Steven Knight (Locke, Eastern Promises) was attached to write the screenplay and J.A. Bayona, fresh off the indie darling The Impossible and in the midst of filming 2016's moving A Monster Calls, was poised to direct.
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett spans 41 books and includes dozens of characters.
Talk about ambitious, but potentially infinitely-rewarding adaptation material. According to Deadline, BBC Studios is adapting Terry Pratchett's Discworld series alongside Narrativia, the production company founded by Pratchett before his death. Given that Pratchett's Discworld series spans 41 books and dozens of characters, this only gives us so much information about what this fantasy series might look like, but with mentions that this will be a "major international co-production," it sounds like there will be enough money behind this series to do it right.
The Discworld TV series will be in six parts, though this world has the potential to have many seasons and spin-offs. Deadline reports that the series has a working title of The Watch, which is not only very Game of Thrones-y, but also implies that the series might be set in the city of Ankh-Morpork, where the City Watch works. For those unfamiliar, Discworld is a fictional flat-disc world that rests on the backs of four elephants who stand on the back of a giant turtle called Great A’Tuin. Ankh-Morpork is the world's principal city-state and was the location of a previous TV adaptation attempt.
Ankh-Morpork's City Watch is run by a working class cop character named Sam Vimes who fights against dragons to keep the city-state safe as it undergoes its own industrial revolution of sorts. Other characters on the force include werewolves, trolls, and zombies, so obviously this TV show would be awesome.
Narrativia and BBC Studios currently have another Pratchett TV adaptation in the works: Good Omens, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. Co-author Neil Gaiman is showrunning, and the production is currently filming in South Africa and the U.K.
More news on the Discworld TV show as we hear it.
The Exiles team will meet Captain America Peggy Carter in Exiles #3, out in April.
We always knew Peggy Carter was a superhero, but now she has the official title to go along with it.
According to Nerdist, the upcoming Exiles series from Saladin Ahmen and Javier Rodriguez, will see the new Exiles team, which includes Blink, Cartoon Wolverine, and an older Kamala Kahn, running into none other than Captain America Peggy Carter, who you may recognize from the Marvel Puzzle Quest game, during their multiverse travels.
This alternate universe version of Peggy exists in a world where she took over the Captain America mantle following Steve Rogers' death during World War II. Peggy is currently tasked with killing Red Skull (#achievable goals), who controls this version of the world. The Exiles team turns up just in time to help in what sounds like an epic team-up of some of our favorite characters from across Marvel mediums.
Here's the full official synopsis from Marvel Comics:
Captain Carter kills the Red Skull! That’s her mission, anyway! The fan-favorite Captain America — Peggy Carter of the Marvel Puzzle Quest game — faces off against an apocalyptically armed Red Skull! And the Exiles are just in time to join the fight — ’cuz they’ve been kicked off their mission! There’s a new team of Watchers in town, and they’re cracking down on the Exiles’ interference in the timestream — even if it means the death of everything. Can the Exiles salvage Peggy Carter’s world, fix the Tallus and get back to saving reality before the Time-Eater tracks them down again?
Exiles #3 hits shelves in April.
The future looks really messed up in Charles Burns’ graphic novel Black Hole. Rick Famuyiwa will direct film version.
A new film will bring us to a bad place we always come back to in our dreams. Charles Burns’ graphic novel Black Hole turned teen dreams into an adolescent nightmare. A sexually transmitted virus was being spread and it had the strangest side effects. Dope and Confirmation director Rick Famuyiwa will write and direct the New Regency and Plan B’s film adaptation, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Black Hole was a 12-issue graphic novel published between 1994 and 2004, and collected in book in 2005. Set in Seattle in the 1970s, it follows a group of teens contract a sexually transmitted disease called “the Bug.” The side effects included mutations like having a second mouth grow on someone’s chin.
“We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact,” according to the Amazon synopsis.
“The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back. As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it , or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself — the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape. And then the murders start.”
A film adaptation of Black Hole, which won the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards, has been in the works intermittently since 2005. It was originally supposed to be helmed by Alexandre Aja. Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery, who co-wrote Pulp Fiction, wrote a screenplay. David Fincher was slated to direct it for Paramount, but dropped out in 2010.
New Regency and Plan B previously partnered on The Big Short, 12 Years a Slave, and the James Gray’s upcoming Ad Astra, which stars Pitt, and Wrong Answer, which was directed and produced by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, and starred Michael B. Jordan.
We will update with details as they come in.
Want to read the best Han Solo stories the galaxy far, far away has to offer ahead of the release of Solo? Check out our reading guide!
Han Solo has long been the coolest, scruffiest, and most compelling smuggler in the galaxy, and we’re about to learn a whole lot more about the captain of the Millennium Falcon when Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters in May.
When this blockbuster lands, fans will get to experience the secret origin of the man who shot Greedo (first!), saved Luke Skywalker’s bacon at the Battle of Yavin, was frozen in carbonite, and ended up becoming royalty by marrying a princess. The movie will tell the story of how Han met Chewie, how he became captain of the Millennium Falcon, and why he became a smuggler.
That's not to say that Lucasfilm hasn't explored Han Solo's earliest adventures before. In fact, there are quite a few Legends novels and comics that explore Solo's days with a band of pirates and his days at the Imperial Academy. These stories are no longer canon but they remain compelling looks at the life of Star Wars’ coolest cat.
And since Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars, the company has continued to explore the life of the scruffy-looking nerf herder in his very own Marvel miniseries and the ongoing Star Wars comic. Even though, Han might be dead on the big screen - at least when it comes to the Harrison Ford version - the scoundrel lives on in the Expanded Universe.
So hit light speed and join us as we look at the greatest Han Solo tales from the non-canonical past and the Disney present:
The Han Solo Adventures (1979-90) - Legends
Han Solo at Stars' End, Han Solo's Revenge, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy
Writer: Brian Daley
Journey with us to the bygone days of 1979, when the Star Wars universe consisted of a handful of comics, a really big film (you may have seen it), and a couple of novels. That's pretty hard to imagine now, when a new Star Wars film is announced or released every year, along with several novel and comic book tie-ins, but that was the nerd landscape back in the end of the '70s.
Into this world of non-prolific Star Wars canon came Brian Daley and The Han Solo Adventures. Yes, a series about Han and Chewie’s adventures before they met that young farm boy and crazy old Jedi in the Mos Eisley cantina was an exciting prospect back then, and Daley presented a powerful prequel trilogy before prequels were a thing. In The Han Solo Adventures, Han, Chewie, and their loyal droids - the elder maintenance droid BLX-5 and the box-like computer probe Blue Max - go on a series of adventures and heists before the events of A New Hope.
Daley, who also collaborated with fellow Star Wars writer James Luceno on a series of Robotech novels, was a master world builder and really had a handle on the Han and Chewie character dynamics before countless EU novels and comics fleshed the pair out. Daley captured the Solo voice perfectly, and even the author’s Chewbacca was a compelling character and not just a fun background.
These novels were basically breaking the prequel ground twenty years before The Phantom Menace even hit theaters, the clones had not yet attacked, and the Sith had not yet had their revenge. Han and Chewie were flying high in these rollicking disco era adventures that tonally still hold up even in this modern era of constant Star Wars. In fact, when we saw the first Solo trailer, the feeling we got when we first read these books came bubbling to the surface.
The Corellian Trilogy (1995) - Legends
Ambush at Corellia, Assault at Selonia, Showdown at Centerpoint
Writer: Roger MacBride Allen
From Han’s past to his future, set eighteen years after Return of the Jedi, the Corellian trilogy gave readers a worthwhile adventure featuring the non-canon Solo family. That’s right, before Star Wars belonged to Disney, Han Solo and Leia Organa had not one but three children. Back in the old canon, Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo were three of the most important members of the next generation of Star Wars heroes. (Check out The New Jedi Order series for their most bonkers adventures.)
In this Solo-centric series of novels, Han takes his family on a trip to his old stomping grounds of Corellia. While Han tries to show his kids where ‘ol dad cut his teeth, a vast conspiracy arises on Han’s homeworld that threatens the New Republic. In fact, Thrackan Sal-Solo, Han’s evil cousin, is at the center of this vast plot to return the Empire to universal glory.
Luke, Leia, Chewie, and Lando also come along for the ride, as Han must deal with a very personal threat to all he holds dear. With all the Kylo Ren/Ben Solo stuff at the center of the Sequel Era, the Corellian Trilogy stands as a fascinating alternate look at what a post-Return of the Jedi future held for the Solo clan pre-Disney.
The Han Solo Trilogy (1997-98) - Legends
The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, Rebel Dawn
Writer: A.C. Crispin
Back in the late '90s, A trilogy of books by sci-fi author A.C. Crispin presented the secret origin of Han Solo. These books are no longer canon, and we're sure the upcoming Solo film will cover some of the same ground (there are definitely some notes from The Paradise Snare in the trailer) that Crispin’s trilogy hit in the late '90s, but these Expanded Universe adventures are still rollicking reads that, like Daley’s early novels, perfectly capture the tone of what a Han Solo adventure should be.
Crispin’s novels scratch every itch Solo fans want scratched (except for seeing Han punch his quivery lipped, weirdly nippled son off that bridge in The Force Awakens). In The Han Solo Trilogy, fans will witness the days of Han as a street urchin on Corellia, Han joining and betraying the Imperial Academy, Han’s rescue of Chewbacca and the ensuing life debt that led to the most enduring friendship in the galaxy, Han’s first encounter with Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett, Han’s first meeting with Lando Calrissian, and how Han came to own the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
Crispin takes fans on a complete Han Solo origin tale that fits seamlessly into the Original Trilogy. Think of Crispin’s work as the spiritual successor of the coming film.
Tales #19 “Into the Great Unknown” (2004) - Legends
Writer: W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Sean Murphy
And just because it’s too insane to be true, we have to mention “Into the Great Unknown,” a one of a kind, mynock-shit crazy story from Dark Horse’s Star Wars Tales series. In this totally non-canon (even back in the Legends days) story, Han and Chewie get shot down by Imperial forces over a planet with a breathable atmosphere. The Falcon crashes in a lush jungle and the heroic pair is attacked by primitive natives. Han takes an arrow to the gut while Chewie fights off the attackers. A mortally wounded Solo asks his hairy pal to place him in the chair of the Falcon, where he passes.
Over a century later, an archeologist comes to the region in search of a big foot-like monster - and yes, that archeologist is Indiana frikkin’ Jones! He finds Han’s skeleton and says it feels strangely familiar.
So yeah, Han meets Indy, Chewie is Bigfoot, and the Falcon comes to Earth and whhaaaa? “Into the Great Unknown” might be as outside of canon as the Star Wars Holiday Special, but it has to be experienced to be believed.
Scoundrels (2011) - Legends
Writer: Timothy Zahn
The Solo film trailer totally had an Ocean’s 11 vibe, didn’t it? Well, Timothy Zahn, the man who led the '90s Star Wars literary movement with his seminal Thrawn Trilogy, did it first with Scoundrels, a heist novel that features Han, Chewie, and Lando putting a crew together to crack the galaxy’s most unbreakable safe.
Scoundrels has everything a Solo fan could want. Crime, space battles, scum, villainy, and more crime, as Han must complete the impossible heist to pay off Jabba the Hutt in the days after A New Hope. This novel is Frank Sinatra by way of George Lucas and is a cheeky and fun romp through the Star Wars underbelly.
Smuggler's Run (2015) - Canon
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Phil Noto
Heck yeah, Greg Rucka, writer of Wonder Woman, Lazarus, Black Magick, Old Guard, Gotham Central, and so many other great comics, penned a Han Solo novel. This YA adventure is the first Solo novel of the Disney era and features Han and Chewie going on a top secret mission in Imperial territory to rescue a lost Rebel recon specialist.
Rucka masterfully presents Solo as the smuggler still conflicted with either returning to his life on the run or serving his Princess in the Rebellion. A reader can see the utter love that Rucka has for Solo and his struggles. Smuggler’s Run serves as a perfect tonal prequel to The Force Awakens. Most of all, Rucka’s take on Solo presents the brash captain of the Falcon at his battling best.
Star Wars: Han Solo (2016) - Canon
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Mark Brooks
If there are two things that define George Lucas, it’s space battles and drag racing. This 2016 Marvel series by Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks features both, as Han Solo uses an intergalactic space drag race as a cover to rescue some very important Rebels from the Empire. This adventure has an awesome '50s vibe and really feels like the Solo story Lucas forgot to make. Most importantly, this Marvel miniseries is the type of pedal to the floor action Solo fans have grooved on for decades.
Neil Gaiman returns to the Sandman Universe to help launch a new Vertigo line at DC!
Without Sandman, there would have been no Vertigo, and without Vertigo, DC Comics might not have had an entire line of some of the most interesting comics of the 1990s and beyond in its stable. Recently, DC's Young Animal imprint has felt like it is filling the old Vertigo space, taking offbeat, subversive characters and concepts and pairing them with creators willing to take risks with their storytelling.
Well, DC is finally reviving Vertigo, and they're going right back to the source (not to be confused with The Source, although if the shoe fits...) to do it. The new Vertigo line (which will see Mark Doyle serve as executive editor) will kick off with a range of titles curated by Neil Gaiman himself, returning to and expanding on the world of The Sandman.
“The Sandman Universe has always been very close and personal to me and I am thrilled to open up the world once again to an extremely talented group of writers and artists,” Neil Gaiman said in a statement from DC. “I get to see the joy in these brilliant people whom I’ve selected, as they get their chance to play in this world.”
The line will kick off with The Sandman Universe #1, plotted by Neil Gaiman, and written by the folks taking on the assorted ongoing series, Si Spurrier, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters, and Kat Howard. Bilquis Evely provides the interior art with a cover by Jae Lee.
Daniel, the lord of Dreams, has gone missing and it causes chaos in the kingdom of dreams…A rift between worlds has opened, revealing a space beyond the Dreaming. Meanwhile, A book from Lucien’s library of all the unwritten books ever dreamed is discovered by a group of children in the waking world. Simultaneously, a new House appears—the House of Whispers—joining the Houses of Secret and Mystery in the Dreaming. Its proprietor is a fortune teller called Erzulie, whom the inhabitants of the Dreaming suspect may be responsible for all the strange goings on. Elsewhere, Lucifer has fallen again, only this time he might be in a Hell of his own design. And in London, a young boy named Timothy Hunter sleeps, in his dreams he becomes the world's most powerful magician, but in his nightmares, he becomes the world’s worst villain, which future will become reality?
From the mind of Neil Gaiman, a new world filled with dreams and nightmares, all of his wonderful characters living together in a shared universe for a story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
And this, of course, will launch the new line of Vertigo titles.
The Dreaming will be written by Si Spurrier, a favorite around here, who has done some great work for DC on Suicide Squad. Here's the official synopsis:
There is a place where gods are born and stories are spun. But twenty-three years after he was anointed as its master, Dream of the Endless has inexplicably abandoned the dreaming. His absence triggers a series of crimes and calamities which consume the lives of those already tangled in his fate, among them Lucien the librarian, Matthew the Raven, and Dora, a monstress without memories. But while they struggle to restore the King to his throne, they face intrigues from within and conquest from without. As usurpers circle the defenceless domain and an impossible shadow awaits its own birth beside a rip in reality, the denizens of the Dreaming play out their stories of loss and love, resignation and resistance.
House of Whispers will be written by Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber, New Moon’s Arms) Here are the official details...
Latoya is in a coma. Her girlfriend enlists the help of Latoya’s two younger sisters. Using the Book of Whispers, they mistakenly steal the essence of Erzulie, a deity of voodoo mythology. The psychic blowback of the spell causes her house to crash into the Dreaming, beside the Houses of Secrets and Mystery and their custodians, Cain and Abel. In the real world, the awakened young woman suffers a mystical form of Cotard’s Delusion—she believes she is already dead, and she’s transmitting her belief to others, causing them to become guardians of the Gap that has appeared in the Dreaming.
And of course, there will be a Lucifer book. Long a favorite side character in the Sandman mythos, and currently enjoying renewed popularity thanks to his TV series. This one will be written by Dan Watters. We see the TV magic words "police" and "Los Angeles" here in the official synopsis, so there's a little synergy there...
A few years ago, the devil vanished. Some people say he died or simply ran away, while others believe he never existed at all. But we aren’t some people. No. This is the one true story of what happened to the Prince of Lies, the Bringer of Light—Lucifer, the blind, destitute old man, who lives in a small boarding house in a quiet little town, where nothing is quite what it seems and no one can leave. He’s trapped, you see? Trapped in a bizarre prison with no memory of how he got there or why. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a dying policeman believes his suffering may be a call to a divine mission—one that draws him towards revelations regarding the devil himself.
We're also seeing the return of Books of Magic! Kat Howard (Roses and Rot, An Unkindness of Magicians) writes.
Timothy Hunter may be destined to become the most powerful magician in the universe, but he’s still a London teenager and having magical abilities complicates things more than it helps. It's not like he can use magic to pass his exams, stop being bullied, or convince his cute friend to date him. And while Tim’s trying to live his life, there are cultists who want to kill him, believing his power will eventually corrupt him, and turn him into a merciless mage. Oh, and those are the good guys. Luckily, his new substitute teacher is more than she appears, and may be able to help Tim discover the mystery behind the Books of Magic…
No word on the artists on these other titles yet, although those might be revealed at the Vertigo panel at Emerald City Comic-Con on March 3. We'll update this with details as we get them.
While The Sandman had plenty of literary aspirations, it was always a horror comic at heart.
When Sandman began in 1989, Neil Gaiman was just another British writer following in the footsteps of the likes of Alan Moore. When it ended, Gaiman had created one of the most enduring long form pieces of fiction of the twentieth century and carved out a niche for himself as an industry giant. Sandman broke barriers and expectations taking comics into a new dawn of possibilities. By creating stories about the nature of dreams, Mr. Gaiman and his team of artists (including luminaries like Sam Keith, Dave McKean, Jill Thompson, Michael Zulli, and more) dared the comic industry to dream bigger.
Sandman transcended so-called industry limitations because it didn’t pigeonhole itself into one genre. Sandman was epic fantasy at its finest, grand in scope and ideas, it was a metaphysical examination on the nature of fiction, and it was, at its heart, a horror story. In a 1998 interview with Hero Complex, Neil Gaiman discussed the nature of horror at Sandman’s beginning, “At the beginning it was a horror comic. Those first eight issues was a sort of horror comic. After that it became more of, I guess, a fantasy tale, but one that allowed me to go off and write about Shakespeare or history.” Yes, after the first eight issues, Sandman morphed into something beyond a horror comic, but the horror roots remained throughout the book's 75 issue run, a dark sun at the center of a complex and ever changing universe, making Sandman one of the most influential horror comics in history.
Sandman was a unique project in that it explored myths and legends from every angle and iteration. It made the concept of story a character within a story, as all stories live in Dream, the series' Robert Smith quaffed protagonist. It was a non-linear endeavor, jumping around through time and space as quickly as it jumped around point-of-view. One issue would be told from the POV of Dream, another from William Shakespeare, another from an obscure, almost forgotten comic book character like Prez or Element Girl.
Not only did Sandman mine horror tropes of modern and classic fiction, it made the horror icons of the DC Universe an important part of the story. For years, DC Comics featured Cain & Abel, the Three Witches, and Destiny as the hosts of their line of horror anthologies. By the time Sandman was published, these characters were all but footnotes, but Gaiman made them integral parts of his mythos. Cain and Abel and the Witches would soon return in other titles, becoming iconic Vertigo staples. While Gaiman weaved his horror legend in Sandman, he made sure the roots of DC horror were never forgotten.
From the earliest issues of Sandman, the title’s horror roots were evident. In the first issue, Sandman is captured by the magician Roderick Burgess, who, in Gaiman’s story, is a rival of famed occultist Aleister Crowley. The Faustian deal is the first of an endless series of horror tropes utilized in Sandman. Burgess, based in part on seventeenth century real life alchemist, mathematician, and wannabe demon summoner, John Dee, was originally trying to capture Dream’s sister, Death, but ended up with the Sandman.
With the center of a familiar horror story beating, Gaiman spread his tale throughout the DC Universe and real life occult history. The inaugural issue ends, decades later, with Sandman escaping, punishing Burgess’ son with a lifetime of nightmares. The ironic and suitable revenge gives the first issue a Poe-like finality, as the guilty is punished through the destruction of a family legacy.
After Dream’s escape, the first volume of Sandman, "Preludes and Nocturnes," centered on Dream’s exploration of the DC Universe as he sought his magic totems. This quest took him inside the dreams of DC mainstays like Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle, and even inside the walls of one of DC’s most horrific settings, Arkham Asylum. The very name of the prison for the insane was lifted from the works of H.P. Lovecraft creating a perfect synergy of horror elements from pulp literature and comics.
Before his journey takes him to Arkham, Dream finds himself in Hell, the root point of all supernatural horror tales. In this setting, Gaiman gets to play with horror elements like demons, the damned, and the nature of eternal torment. Most of all, readers are introduced to Lucifer, a character who defies his own archetype and comes off as a multi-layered character where evil is just a small piece of a complex puzzle. He is a sophisticate, an aristocrat, a polite devil (and occasional David Bowie lookalike), who wants to play a game of wits with Dream.
There is no greater horror icon than Lucifer, but Gaiman stretches the genre to shape Lucifer into a new type of horror, a self-aware demon inflicted with ennui. Gaiman ask the question, if the most evil being in creation finds existence meaningless, what chance do the rest of us mere mortals have. At Lucifer’s side was Mazikeen, a demoness who had half her visage rotted and peeled away. In Mazikeen, we see the temptress on one side, the crone on the other, a physical horror who had her once beautiful form transformed into a monstrosity. The kiss shared by Mazikeen and Lucifier remains one of the most enduring and disturbing visuals in the entire series. In The Sandman’s new world of horror, the things that go bump in the night had fears of their own.
This willingness to shake the fabric of myth and legend was seen in Sandman’s next stop, Arkham Asylum. Gaiman took readers to Hell, but now he took them to Hell on Earth, where readers were reintroduced to the Silver Age Justice League villain, Dr. Destiny. Veteran readers knew Dr. Destiny as a classic Justice League villain, but as usual, Gaiman defied convention, and even the most stone hearted comic book reader could not be prepared for what Destiny would do next.
Wielding Dream’s mind controlling ruby, Destiny experiments on a group of diner customers, what follows is one of the most claustrophobic, harrowing, and visceral stories ever to appear on a comic page. The reading experience is enhanced by the fact that readers were familiar with Destiny: once he was a "safe" villain, going only as far as comic villains go, no different than, say, a Kanjar Ro or an Insect Queen, but now, this familiar baddie from the bygone days of childhood had committed unspeakable acts. Like all great horror stories, Sandman had turned the sacred into the profane, the innocence of the Silver Age into the anything goes carnival ride that was the experimental age, or, as MTV Geek says in this 2012 review, ”the story asks what would happen if you gave a complete and utter lunatic the power of a god?” After the Destiny issue, fans knew that there was no safety net for this series, that the horror was real, and it would not spare the innocent.
The Sandman series became more of a modern Dark Fantasy in “The Doll’s House” rather than the pure horror of “Preludes and Nocturnes,” but there can be no doubt that both classic and innovative horror elements are part of the second volume. Where the story starts out as a modern fantasy quest, there are plenty of stopovers in the protagonist’s (Rose) journey into realms of true horror. Early on in the second volume, Sandman meets an escaped nightmare from the realm of Dreaming, the Corinthian.
If one considers horror to be reality out of control, the Corinthian is the metaphysical idea that pushed reality off the rails. He is a horrid creature, two mouths where his eyes should be and absolutely no morals. The Corinthian is the nightmare archetype, to match the Jungian ideas embodied in other characters like Cain, Abel, Eve, and Fiddler’s Green. When readers see the Corinthian’s gaping maw of an orbital socket they understand a cloud just passed over the sun of the Dreaming. It’s one thing to have the Corinthian exist on metaphysical realm of the Dreaming, but it’s another to have this nightmare made flesh tear into the real world and threaten our all too flesh and blood heroine. In her brilliant look at horror archetypes, author Shannon Appelcline describes the archetype of the devourer, a category that the Corinthian certainly fits, “Some things do not wish to simply murder us, but rather to prey upon us instead. We provide some sort of substance to them, and in this way we are no more than cattle.” For the Corinthian, that sustenance would be human fear.
Along with beings like the Corinthian, there were contemporary nightmares to focus on. One of the most memorable of these modern terrors was the serial killer convention featured in “The Doll’s House.” Comic fans are certainly familiar with the convention experience, and by applying this joyful community activity to serial killers, Mr. Gaiman showed the horror of his world is just part of the landscape. The examination into the serial killer was given a fresh coat of paint in the fresh idea of a serial killer gathering, or as a 2013 article on this gathering of killers states, “Gaiman offers poignant observations that disturb and fascinate. What do serial killers talk about at a convention? Do they enjoy dancing? What do they like to drink? Indeed, their casual intrigues are some of the most notable moments of the issue.” This casual approach to the serial killer archetype somehow makes them even more frightening. The idea that these monsters get to enjoy their life through play and social interactions contrasts the final state of their victims. The convention shows that nightmare is not limited to the Dreaming.
The nature of horror is change, from the predictable to the uncontrollable, to the mundane to the unknowable. This theme can be seen in the transformation of man to wolf in the Wolfman, from living to dead in the countless zombie films of the past half century, or from man to demon in many films and stories, including DC’s own Etrigan the Demon. The nature of dream is change, from wakefulness to sleep, from reality to dream logic. Horror and dreaming are similar states where a person has no control. When a man dreams, he rolls the dice between metaphysical experiences, surreal experiences, and nightmare, so it was only natural that the natural order of things in the Dreaming was, at times, horror.
Volume three of Sandman, “Dream Country,” was an exploration of the different possibilities of dream. One such story juxtaposes the familiar elements of a super-hero tale with the horror of body alteration and mental illness. The unlikely protagonist of the story was Element Girl, an almost forgotten DC heroine. In the tale, Element Girl longs for death as she grows weary with her freakish metahuman anatomy. Tired of her existence as a super freak, Element Girl ponders suicide even though her powers make her functionally immortal. The tale explores the dark heart of a once innocent genre as Gaiman forces the horrors of self-doubt and self-loathing into the heart of a once innocent symbol of heroism. The story explores the theme of the horrors of everyday life to a being who has been gifted, or cursed, with the extraordinary. It is a poignant and gut wrenching tale that strangely ends on a happy note when Dream’s sister, Death, finally visits Element Girl granting her release. The constant irony of The Sandman is that Dream potentially brings horrors but Death always brings mercy and release.
The Sandman, being the living embodiment of dream, hands out rich fantasies and nightmares depending on his situation. Dream saves Rose in Doll’s House but willingly inflicts horrors on his own true love, Nada. In volume four, “Season of Mists,” Dream returns to Hell to release the woman he imprisoned there so long ago. Nada’s tragic tale is one of feminist horror as she takes on the role of victim and is tormented for her feminine nature. She is the roll of love, not temptress or vixen, but of a pure love that Dream could not reciprocate. She is the victim wandering in the darkness waiting for the monster to strike, but In Nada’s case, the monster was Gaiman’s protagonist blurring the lines between hero and monster in Gaiman’s world.
These lines are further blurred as Dream is given the key to Hell by Lucifer, who wishes to abandon his duties as Hell’s keeper. What follows is Dream’s quest to find the new ruler of Hell, as horror archetypes vie for the key. Gaiman humanizes them, filling the demons with unfulfilled desire and ambition. They become more than just boogiemen, but dreamers themselves. In fact, the story ends with the greatest monster in world history, Lucifer, the devil himself, sitting on a beach admiring a sunset. By having the antithesis of God studying God’s divine work, the traditional horror role is cast away, informing the reader that the greatest monsters are not always the ones cast in the role, as the suffering of Nada at the usually magnanimous Dream reminds us.
The horrors in Sandman are sometimes friendly, like the Dead Boy Detectives and Death herself, but they never stop being unsettling. Readers want to be Superman or Batman, that is the nature of heroic storytelling, but what reader is not chilled to the core by the Dead Boy Detectives? The reader is drawn to them, feels for them, and roots for them, but no reader would ever want to be them. That is their role in the hierarchy of horror: they may be likable, but they will always remain removed from the reader’s reliability. The same idea of the likable but chilling archetype is embodied in the witch, Thessaly. Like the Dead Boys, Thessaly is every inch a witch, and while she is likable and compelling, she is an incredibly unsettling character, because her character roots are firmly planted in the realm of horror.
Thessaly is introduced in volume five, “A Game of You,” a story that plays with gender identity and societal acceptance of those who dwell outside the accepted moralistic reality of the waking world. The main characters of the story are Barbie and Wanda. Wanda is a cross dresser defined by her birth role of male, but readers of Sandman get to see her in the metaphysical context of the Dreaming and she is every bit a women. The horror she is forced to endure is that her identity does not match up in the physical world and the dream world. In the world of Sandman, even monsters have their place, but Wanda is forced to exist removed from her given role. Her death and subsequent funeral are heart breaking and stays with a reader. Her tombstone, with her male name carved into it for eternity because her own family refuses to accept her identity, is as chilling and as brutal as any vampire, zombie, or serial killer. It is the horror of omission, and it is subtle but as enduringly brutal as any other event in Sandman.
Barbie defies her role as token bimbo and takes a heroes journey, but her greatest asset was Wanda, who was vilified and ostracized the same way monsters are because of her lack of comfortable gender role. Wanda’s horror is that nobody recognized the endless potential within her, or as Gaiman writes, “everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds … not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe,” Wanda’s tragedy is that these worlds were marginalized and deemed impure. In this story, human judgment became the monster as equal to the Corinthian in its destructive power.
“Fables and Reflections” is volume six of Sandman and is an ambitious non-linear look at power throughout history. Each story not only focuses on the nature of power, but also the horror myths of many cultures. Within the confines of these stories The Sandman gives readers takes on classic monsters like Werewolves (The Hunt),demons from many cultures (Ramadan), the Greek version of Hell (The Song of Orpheus), the human horror of the French Revolution (Thermidor), and even a tale set firmly in the DC Universe is not excluded from the dark horrors of those that hunger for power (The Parliament of Rooks).
“The Song of Orpheus” is particularly embedded in horror tradition as Dream must sacrifice his son, Orpheus. Orpheus’ tale is an ancient myth given a modern spin by Gaiman, one that darkens an already enduring horror tale. Orpheus is forced to endure a beheading and an eternal existence as a sentient head. The trope of dismemberment and decapitation is ripe throughout horror history, and having it be a part of the story of someone so close to Dream makes the use of the body modification horror that much more effective and visceral. In the Orpheus tale and through the victimization of Nada, Dream, like dreams are wont to do, takes on more of a monster role.
Monsters, as Appelcline says, are “an easy formula — an easy way to create both feelings of horror in the face of evil and feelings of powerlessness in the face of power. It's an easy way to marry subtext and text in a well-known and accepted way,” and aren’t dreams a place where we often feel powerless and fearful? The creator of that state must be defined by the uncertain roles of dream. In Sandman, at times, the very nature of Dream is the ultimate horror, or as Rose Walker puts it in Doll’s House, ”If my dream was true, then everything we know, everything we think we know is a lie. It means the world's about as solid and as reliable as a layer of scum on the top of a well of black water which goes down forever, and there are things in the depths that I don't even want to think about. It means that we're just dolls.” If horror is manipulation of accepted reality, than the nature of dream is the master manipulator, the sleeping Satan that cannot have a stake driven though its heart and will not wilt to holy water.
It’s this dichotomy that makes Dream so fascinating. He can be the being saving Rose from the serial killers, or the monster that turned Nada into the eternal victim. His family, the Endless also exist in a series of dichotomies, the most disturbing being Delirium. Delirium takes center stage in “Brief Lives,” from Sandman volume seven. In “Brief Lives,” Delirium and Dream go on a heroic quest through modern America to find their lost brother Destruction.
Delirium fits the horror archetype of the broken girl, her every utterance a reminder of a horrific tragedy that forever altered her being. Delirium was once Delight and something so bad happened to the once giddily happy girl that she is now a Dadaistic amorphous creature barely held together. She is the consequence of being a victim and a constant reminder that even hypothetical beings can know suffering. The quest takes Dream and Delirium to the dark corners of America, and Dream must reconcile with the horrors that betook his son Orpheus. In this story, Sandman is a caretaker for Delirium but also still the monster responsible for what happened to Orpheus, two opposing natures that he must rectify if he and his little sister are to find Destruction.
The apotheosis of any effective horror story is finality or death. In Sandman, the last three volumes, “World’s End,” “The Kindly Ones,” and “The Wake,” are meditations on the final nature of death but also the immortality of stories. In “World’s End” a group of travelers are stranded in, another horror trope, a strange inn. There, the stranded travelers tell tales to pass the time. The first story, “A Tale of Two Cities,” is clearly in the grand horror tradition of H.P. Lovecraft. In the story, a man who believes himself to be living in a world dreamed up by a slumbering city. The old Lovecraftian technique of a reality that exists just beneath the surface of the accepted reality is on full display, giving the reader a sense of chilling unease, the last story in World’s End (Cerements) focuses on the burial rituals of many diverse cultures allowing the reader to feel the inevitably of death.
The penultimate arc of Sandman, “The Kindly Ones,” explores literary horror traditions by combining the structure of an ancient Greek tragedy in the context of a modern graphic novel. The ancient Greek play writers were no stranger to visceral horror. One reading of Oedipus the King or the Bacchae and modern readers will understand where horror tradition stemmed from. From images of anatomical atrocity to tales of human suffering, the Greeks pretty much created many traditions that still endure in horror literature. In the Kindly Ones, we see modern comic book imagery (like casting the Three Witches of the Bronze Age DC horror titles in the role of the Greek chorus) and uses the classic literary monsters (the Kindly Ones, or the Furies) as the means of punishing Dream for his many transgressions, particularly the death of Orpheus.
The Kindly Ones appeared in the Oresteia as vengeful spirits that exist to destroy those who spilled familial blood. They play the same role in Sandman, horrific beasts that are forces of nature. Their existence is one of pure literary terror as they fulfill the role of the unstoppable creature that the protagonist cannot hope to survive. Their very existence speaks to a level of darkness in both literal and fictional reality, the all-consuming entropy that all must face. Throughout the Sandman series, Lyta Hall played a peripheral role, an obscure and almost forgotten super-hero, the Fury; Lyta blames Dream for the disappearance of her son, Daniel. Lyta, a being that once existed in the black and white world of super-heroes, lashes out at Dream for making her suffer the loss of her child. Through Lyta, Gaiman inserts a character that was not created to exist in a world of cosmic horrors. Her insertion into the dark story spells Dream’s end, as Lyta, the heroic Fury, summons the Kindly Ones, the literary Furies to devour their intended victim. Having spilled the blood of his only son, Dream is the right victim for the ancient horrors, and is devoured by the beasts. Soon, Dream is reborn in Lyta’s son Daniel, signaling the rebirth of Dream and a new beginning for the endless cycle of stories.
Sandman was many things; it was a balance between hope and horror, dreams and nightmares. It was an examination of how stories have potential to inspire or to scare, to carefully deconstruct the best the world has to offer or serve as a warning of the monsters that lurk in every shadow. As a celebration of story, Neil Gaiman and a host of brilliant artists offered readers all kinds of horrors, from the ancient Greek monsters, to devouring myths from every culture, to modern serial killers, to contemporary comic book horror hosts, Sandman cast its dark shadow throughout the entirety of the horror genre. Of course, Sandman was more than just a venue for scares; it was a loving tribute to the art of story and the nature of the subconscious, but horror was the glue that held the world of Sandman together.
The Amazing Spider-Man returns with a new writer for the first time in over a decade.
We're about to witness the end of a Spider-Man era. Dan Slott has been the writer steering Spidey's adventures for over a decade, one of the longest sustained creative runs in the character's history. But with Marvel rebooting its entire line with the "Fresh Start" initiative beginning this summer, change must also come to Peter Parker and friends. And that's just what's going to happen with a brand new The Amazing Spider-Man #1.
The new creative team of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley will launch a new era for Spidey. Spencer's name should make longtime Spider-Fans happy, as he wrote the incredible and hilarious Superior Foes of Spider-Man, about a group of second-rate Spidey villains and their assorted misadventures. I seriously can't recommend that book enough. Ryan Ottley has more than enough experience with teenage superheroes, as he was half of the Invincible creative team (with Robert Kirkman). Ottley is no stranger to long runs on characters, either, having worked on Invincible for over 15 years. This, boys and girls, is one hell of a creative team.
Here's the official synopsis of the new series:
An alien invasion attacks New York City and the only one who can stop it is…Spider-Man?! But that’s far from all you’ll find here—a revelation from the past puts Peter Parker’s job, relationships, and whole life in jeopardy! And if even that’s not enough, you’ll see a new roommate, new love interests, and a new villain!
“After his ten year run on the title, writer Dan Slott leave some big shoes to fill. But after reading what Nick Spencer has planned for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, I can assure you that the future of Peter Parker and his pals is in good hands,” Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski said in a statement. “This new #1, with jaw-dropping art by Ryan Ottley and Laura Martin, is not only a perfect jumping on point for new readers – it builds on everything Dan’s been doing for the past ten years and seamlessly continues the adventures of everyone's favorite wall-crawler! Amazing Spider-Man is one of our flagships titles, steering the Marvel Universe in an exciting, new direction, perfect for readers new and old.”
Amazing Spider-Man #1 arrives in July (the same month we'll get the new Captain America #1). But before that, you can get a taste of the new creative team in The Amazing Spider-Man/Guardians of the Galaxy Free Comic Book Day special on May 5.