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    Emma Newman's Planetfall novel is a compelling mystery built around a deep study of anxiety and suspicion.

    In Planetfall, author Emma Newman introduced readers to a world in which space colonization was enabled by 3D printers that could produce almost anything. Within the story of exploration and first contact was another, much more personal narrative about perspective, mental health, and personal trauma. With Before Mars, Newman does the same thing closer to Earth, following geologist and artist Anna Kubrick onto a Mars colony set up for both scientific research and a reality show.

    Before Mars is the third book in Newman's Planetfall series, but acts as a standalone if you've yet to read the other entries in the series. The book follows Anna Kubrick, a geologist and artists who will be on Mars for a year, away from her husband and baby back on Earth. When Anna finds a note seemingly from herself telling her not to trust the colony's psychologist, she starts to wonder what is real and what is not. Is Anna caught up in a corporate conspiracy or is she losing her mind?

    The question is a complicated one. Anna's family has a history of not always being able to trust their own eyes. She also lives in a world where hyper-realistic, "immersive" virtual reality can be manipulated by implanted artificial intelligence to create recorded or fabricated scenes that look and feel real. Is it paranoia if they're really out to get you? The question drives her investigations on Mars, where mysterious messages and behaviors from the crew indicate that something strange is going on. 

    Anna's first-person point-of-view creates a feeling of claustrophobia and anxiety, her deep wells of emotion for her family held at a distance by her traumas and pragmatic personality. Her thought processes are expressed with an impressive level of detail and honesty; Newman has a knack for including why characters feel things in a way that feels natural, tracing their feelings back through memory. That honesty also ties directly into the mystery and keeps the reader guessing. At times, Newman's symptoms sound like imposter syndrome, or anxiety—but what are the difference between those and investigative observation when something might really be going on? These themes explored within Anna's characterization are fascinating and inextricably tied to the larger story. 

    While the science of the Mars mission (including the aforementioned printers) isn't the focus of the story, Newman explores many technologies and political structures extrapolated from today's. Corporations in her near-future world have grown to become governments. The calmness with which characters discuss things like pay grade-assigned housing is chilling in its own way, and starkly highlights what would happen if some of the capitalist structures of today were written out into law. Other consequences of this are louder and more shocking: a clause in the system allows for slavery in all but name. Before Mars explores this aspect of the possible future with gravitas and clear vision. Social consequences are explored as well—gender roles have been largely scrubbed away, but married people have an advantage from a corporate finance standpoint because government-corporations consider them "more predictable."

    The characters inhabiting the space station are diverse and vivid, defined strongly by their relationships with one another. Anna arrives into what is clearly a web of complex interpersonal relationships, and the process of her integrating with (some of) the members of the crew provides an immediate hook. At times, characters don't act in what appear to be rational ways or in their own best interests, including Anna, and this adds an impressive level of realism.

    Because all of the characters are stressed and seen through Anna's relatively focused perspective, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether their characterization is fleeting or an intentional result of the Mars station's stressed atmosphere. None of the crew members felt poorly drawn—each have their own history revealed quickly or slowly—but nor did they feel as complete as Anna. Like the people in Anna's paintings, they have just enough of a sense of depth to add to the art. Readers looking for an ensemble piece instead of a character study will not find it here.

    Anna herself is treated with careful attention. Often when reading books with flashbacks I find myself frustrated by the way scenes are held in reserve to create tension, widening the distance between the characters and the reader because the author withholds the main character’s complete history. However, Anna's flashbacks work well to maintain suspense, and she has good reason not to want to remember some of her history.

    One of my favorite moments in the book comes when Anna drives on the surface of Mars for the first time and sees the often-illustrated landscape; she expects to feel overwhelming wonder, and so is instead disappointed when she feels the same as she has inside. Her self-destructiveness and uncertainty are portrayed as deeply human but also without sappiness or pity; the text leaves the reader some room to judge her, and then encourages them to be gentle inside that space. 

    Although the main story isn't a romance, the book also comments in interesting ways on marriage and relationships. At times it reminded me of Grass by Sheri Tepper, in which a woman displeased with her cold and convenient marriage finds herself enamored in many ways with a dangerous alien ecosystem instead. Newman's impression is a bit more optimistic. Institutions in this book are both restrictive and full of the excitement of exploration, and love is an institution as certainly as the government-corporations are. 

    Pulling a book with this many neatly-organized themes together into a satisfying ending is undoubtedly difficult, and some of Anna's concerns are not so much dropped by the wayside as carried in pockets instead of out on the open. The ending slumps, but the mystery up to then is fantastic. It works on many levels—as a thrilling science fiction mystery, a societal critique, and a character study. 

    Buy Before Mars by Emma Newman

    ReviewMegan Crouse
    Mar 30, 2018

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    What you need to know about Netflix's The Umbrella Academy, including latest news, release date, trailer, and much more!

    News John Saavedra
    Mar 31, 2018

    Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba's The Umbrella Academy is coming to Netflix as a live action series. The comic book series, which debuted in 2007, was first optioned as a movie before Dark Horse signed a deal with Universal Cable Productions to adapt the comic as a TV series. 

    The live action series follows the estranged members of a dysfunctional family of superheroes -- The Monocle, Spaceboy, The Kraken, The Rumor, The Séance, Number Five, The Horror, and the seemingly powerless Vanya -- as they work together to solve their father’s mysterious death while coming apart at the seams due to their divergent personalities and abilities. 

    Way began writing The Umbrella Academy just a year after the release of My Chemical Romance's magnum opus, The Black Parade. The series is 15 issues of Eisner Award-winning goodness that has continued to inform Way's career as a comic book writer, especially with his current run on Doom Patrol and his Young Animal line at DC. Artist Gabriel Ba has also done some of his best work on the series. (If you want something really great by Ba, check out Daytripper, which he created with his twin brother, artist Fabio Moon.)

    The Umbrella Academy has been on a bit of a hiatus since 2009. Only two volumes, The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, have been released thus far, although Way and Ba plan at least two more volumes. The third volume is called Hotel Oblivion, and it's been in the works since at least 2013 when Way tweeted out an update with some sketches of new characters. Way and Ba had agreed to begin work on Hotel Oblivion in 2014, but a lot's happened since then. Besides his music projects, Way has his own line of comics and two comic book series to write.

    While it's not likely the Umbrella Academy will return on the page any time soon, fans will at least gave the show to look forward to.

    Here's everything else we know:

    The Umbrella Academy Release Date

    Netflix has given the series a 10-episode order that will arrive sometime in 2018. 

    The Umbrella Academy Cast

    Netflix has revealed the core cast of the show. Here are the actors who will portray the members of the Umbrella Academy:

    Ellen Page (X-Men: Days of Future Past) will star as Vanya, who is estranged from the rest of the family because of her lack of powers. Vanya is a very important character in the first arc of the comics, as she goes through a bit of self-discovery that puts her at odds with the superheroes she once called a family.

    Tom Hopper (Game of Thrones) plays Luther, aka Spaceboy. He has super-strength, and after a terrible accident during an expedition to Mars, his head had to be transplanted onto the body of a gorilla. Ehem...

    Emmy Raver-Lampman (Hamilton) will play Allison, aka The Rumor, who can alter reality by lying. 

    David Castaneda (El Chicano) is Diego, codenamed The Kraken. He is sort of a fuse between Aquaman and Batman. He can hold his breath indefinitely, which gives him an advantage when in water, and is an expert knife thrower.

    Robert Sheehan (Misfits) is perfectly cast as Klaus aka The Seance, the most morbid character of the group. His powers, which manifest only when he's barefoot, include levitation, telekinesis, and the ability to contant the dead. In the comics, Klaus is killed at one point but rejected from both Heaven and Hell.

    Aidan Gallagher (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn) is Number Five, simply codenamed The Boy. He can effortlessly travel in time and does not age due to a temporal condition. 

    Colm Feore (House of Cards) will play Sir Reginald Hargreeves, the leader of the Umbrella Academy. He is the billionaire who adopted all of the strange children that made up the superhero team. Hargreeves was known to be manipulative and cold towards the kids, something that has scarred the heroes later in life.

    Adam Godley (Breaking Bad) will play Pogo, a genetically-engineered and talking chimpanzee. Pogo is a point of comfort for the Umbrella Academy, acting in much more of a fatherly and nurturing role than Hargreeves ever did. 

    Ashley Madekwe (Revenge) plays Detective Patch, who is at odds with the vigilantes that protect her city. She prefers to play things by the book.

    Mary J. Blige has joined the cast as well. She will play the role of Cha-Cha, the insane time-traveling assassin first introduced in the second arc of the comic, "Dallas," which reimagines the Kennedy assassination. Cha-Cha, along with her partner Hazel, believes in using the most violent method possible to dispatch her prey. 

    Hazel will be played by Cameron Britton (Mindhunter). According to the official character description, Hazel will become at odds with Cha-Cha at some point after their time-traveling blood-soaked adventures begin to wear on him. 

    John Magaro (The Big Short) will be a series regular, playing Leonard Peabody, described as “a sweet Average Joe,” who, while dismissed as being somewhat of a milquetoast, strikes up an unlikely romance with Vanya (Ellen Page) that plays out against the backdrop of the larger events of the series.

    The Umbrella Academy Poster

    Here's the first promo poster for The Umbrella Academy:

    The Umbrella Academy Details

    The Umbrella Academy will be produced by Universal Cable Productions. Steve Blackman (Fargo, Altered Carbon) will serve as executive producer and showrunner, with additional executive producers Bluegrass Television and Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg from Dark Horse Entertainment. Gerard Way will serve as co-executive producer. The pilot script was adapted from the comic book series by Jeremy Slater (The Exorcist).

    In 2016, Slater talked to Collider about his script:

    I definitely wrote the pilot for The Umbrella Academy. I think it’s really exciting. I think it’s really surprising and funny. I took the job because I’m such an immense fan of what Gerard [Way] and Gabriel [Ba, the artist] did with that book. It’s one of those things where I would rather be the guy to screw it up than sit back and let someone else come in and do the bad adaptation. So, I was really adamant about taking the job, but the only way I was going to do it was if I could make it weird and make it true to the spirit of the book. There’s a lot of weird shit in The Umbrella Academy, and it would be very easy to sand down some of those weird edges and make it more familiar to American audiences. I’m fighting very hard to not let that happen. We’re shopping around the pilot, at the moment. We’re trying to find the right home for it and trying to find someone as excited as we are.

    Rawson Marshal Thurber (Dodgeball) was originally tied to the project when it was still being considered for the big screen. He told CBR in 2016 that the series would be too difficult to adapt as a film, citing the weirdness of the book as something that could be lost in translation at a big studio. 

    Slater echoed Thurber's thoughts in his interview with Collider:

    I think the relationships and the dynamics are so rich in that book that, if you tried to distill it down to 90 minutes, everyone gets reduced to a cartoon and a caricature. It really is The Royal Tenenbaums with superpowers. In order to do justice to that premise, you need time to unpack those characters, and dig into what makes them tick and the different relationships that they have with each other. There is so much fertile material there to tell really interesting, really funny, really unique stories that to compress it all into an hour and a half and throw in a bunch of giant action sequences, you’re going to wind up with some total mish-mash. It’s going to be Mystery Men. It’s going to be yet another wacky comedic superhero movie that no one really wants to see. It has its own unique DNA, and I think people should respect that DNA, or they should not do the project.

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    The Dark Tower TV series, which is now a reboot, is on the way at Amazon. Here's everything else we know about the show!

    News John Saavedra
    Mar 31, 2018

    The Dark Tower TV series is in development at Amazon. While the series was originally planned to tie into the 2017 film, that is no longer the plan, according to Stephen King in an interview with Vulture

    "The TV series they’re developing now … we’ll see what happens with that. It would be like a complete reboot, so we’ll just have to see," said King.

    Glen Mazzara, who previously helmed The Walking Dead season 3, has been brought on as showrunner. Akiva Goldsman, who produced and co-wrote the film adaptation, will executive produce, along with Jeff Pinkner, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer. Nikolaj Arcel, who directed The Dark Tower movie, and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen wrote a script for the pilot and will also executive produce. 

    Of course, it's unclear if Amazon plans to move forward with Arcel and Jensen's script now that the film has turned out to be a failure. That pilot was said to feature Idris Elba, who played Roland in the movie, and Tom Taylor, who played Jake. It's unclear what their involvement will be at this point. Mazzara might prefer to start from scratch completely. 

    MRC and Sony Pictures, who also released the film in 2017, will finance a 10-13 episode first season.

    Here's everything else we know:

    The Dark Tower TV Series Release Date

    EW had confirmed that the TV series would begin filming in 2017, with a potential premiere in 2018. As we've heard little about the show since the release of poorly received film, it's probably safe to say that the release date might be pushed back just a bit.

    The Dark Tower TV Series Showrunner

    THR reports that former Walking Deadexec producer Glen Mazzara will serve as showrunner for The Dark Tower TV series.

    "I’ve been a Stephen King fan for decades and the opportunity to adapt The Dark Tower as a TV series is a great honor," Mazzara told THR. "The events of The Gunslinger, Wizard & Glass, The Wind Through the Keyhole, and other tales need a long format to capture the complexity of Roland's coming of age — how he became the Gunslinger, how Walter became the Man in Black, and how their rivalry cost Roland everything and everyone he ever loved. I could not be more excited to tell this story. It feels like being given the key to a treasure chest. And oh yeah, we’ll have billy-bumblers!"

    Mazzara's involvement is definitely great news. He's responsible for what is arguably the greatest season of The Walking Dead after taking over for Frank Darabont in season 3. Hopefully, he'll bring a bit of his magic to The Dark Tower

    The showrunner has also been attached to a prequel to The Shining called The Overlook Hotelfor some time. No news on that front, though. 

    The Dark Tower TV Series Details

    The show will reportedly flesh Roland's origin story and his first adventure as a young gunslinger from the fourth book in the series, Wizard and Glass

    In 2017, MRC released a cool promo that teases the setting of the show. It's a map of the different places in the Barony of Mejis, where most of Wizard and Glass takes place: 

    Roland's instructor, Cort, and his original ka-tet, Cuthbert and Alain, will appear on the show, although none of those roles have been cast yet. 

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    Ready Player One's James Halliday is treated as an eccentric visionary, even though he helped ruin his world by turning it into an arcade.

    Feature David Crow
    Mar 31, 2018

    This article contains Ready Player One spoilers.

    By now, if you are a geek of a certain age, you have seen Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. Perhaps if you really like to wear your nerd bonafides on your sleeve, you’ve seen it multiple times and also read Ernest Cline’s bestselling novel of the same name. To be sure, it seems the world’s love affair with the 1980s continues to smolder, as Spielberg is enjoying his biggest hit in 10 years with what’s poised to be a $53 million opening.

    And there is a lot to enjoy about Ready Player One, from how Spielberg reinvented the movie as a slick love letter to the kind of popcorn entertainment he defined so many decades ago, to just the sheer volume and breadth of its references and easter eggs. Personally, I have a real affinity for the director’s tribute to his mentor and rival, Stanley Kubrick. Even so, one should take a pinch of salt while enjoying this fantasy vision of 2045 conjured up by Cline and Spielberg. For no matter how rosy colored they make a future beholden to the past appear, there is something rotten in the state of VR Denmark.

    Of course Cline and Spielberg are faintly aware of this too. Cline’s novel features protagonist Wade Watts bemoan early and often the world left to him by his parents and ancestors (us) as one falling apart. In the film, Wade laments, “People stopped trying to fix problems and started just trying to outlive them.” In the book, Wade is downright angry at the literal dump he was born into with the Stacks and the God in Heaven that he doesn’t believe exists; plus everyone else in-between. Except for James Halliday, of course.

    While the film and book also both allude to Hamlet’s disdain for a frivolous Danish court by naming the central nightclub of the story “The Distracted Globe” (Act I, Scene 5 of the Bard), it is a mere equivocation. They both might find this globe overly distracted, but they wish to glorify the person most responsible, Jimmy Halliday and his OASIS. Without his invention, an entire global population would be left to stew in the rotten hand they’ve been dealt… and maybe try to fix it, but with the OASIS, all currency, commerce, and concern about tomorrow have been transferred to his VR paradise. Let the Stacks pile up.

    Not all of the characters in Ready Player One are quite so apathetic as that. In fact, Art3mis’ goal on the page is to inherit Halliday’s $500 billion and use it to start fixing the ills of the world, which in 2045 only look like exponentially worsened variations of our own: climate change, overpopulation, famine, and income inequality. But the fact that she needs to be the one to do that with the richest man in the world’s estate gets to the real underlying horror of Ready Player One, which both Cline and Spielberg are all too happy to ignore: James Halliday is a monster.

    That’s right the seemingly benign creator of a relatively inexpensive and heightened form of social media, and person who only wishes to pass it on to someone as equally egalitarian as himself, is a greedy, miserly, selfish fiend who is every bit as self-centered in his desires as the story’s villain, Nolan Sorrento. The key difference being what Nolan Sorrento covets is money, and what drives James Halliday is nostalgia. While he never directly murders anyone, he is willing to let a whole world collapse, just so we all obsess over the same things he is so passionate about: movies, television, video games, inanimate objects, impossible-to-replicate memories, and anything and everything from a world gone by, except for the people who inhabited it.

    In the book, and especially the movie, Halliday (who's beautifully played by Mark Rylance) is romanticized as some kind of eccentric genius with the vision of Steve Jobs, the technical brilliance and social skills of Steve Wozniak, and the magic of Willy Wonka. And to Cline’s credit, there is more of an ugliness there too in the way, like Jobs, he’d belittle and torment employees. Yet his most defining characteristics—his passion for the OASIS and his mementos of youth—are celebrated, even though the seeds are plainly placed on the page as to how toxic this really is.

    During the very first sentence of Cline’s novel, Wade Watts gushes, “Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.” Wade’s of course referring to the contest designed by Halliday to find a worthy heir to his nearly trillion-dollar OASIS empire. But after all the gaping and fawning over Halliday’s brilliance by our narrator, including at his questionable ‘80s dance moves, eventually Wade concedes, without knowing it, the real purpose of the contest:

    “The Hunt, as the contest came to be known, quickly wove its way into global culture. Like winning the lottery, finding Halliday’s Easter egg became a popular fantasy among adults and children alike… The only thing Anorak’s Almanac seemed to indicate was that a familiarity with Halliday’s various obsessions would be essential to finding the egg. This led to a global fascination with 1980s pop culture. Fifty years after the decade had ended, the movies, music, games, and fashions of the 1980s were all the rage once again. By 2041, spiked hair and acid-washed jeans were back in style, and covers of hit ‘80s pop songs by contemporary bands dominated the music charts. People who had actually been teenagers in the 1980s, all now approaching old age, had the strange experience of seeing the fads and fashions of their youth embraced and studied by their grandchildren.”

    Halliday’s business partner, Ogden Morrow, more succinctly sums this up later in the novel as, “Jim always wanted everyone to share his obsessions, to love the same things he loved. I think this contest is his way of giving the entire world an incentive to do just that.”

    And that right there is both what is so chilling and humorous about Ready Player One: It is set in a dystopia where one man tries to bend all of global culture to live in the hermetically sealed bubble of his own arrested development, and the story is completely oblivious to how nauseating that is.

    As Cline would be in the same generation as Morrow and Halliday, it is easy to imagine he might be pleased to see grandchildren dressing like the cast of John Hughes movies. However, the prospect of robbing a future generation of their own culture and identity, until even their popular music is just a pale imitation of their grandparents’ glory days, also robs them of a future. They’re caught in some horrible time paradox like Marty McFly.

    Instead of devoting his considerable resources and brilliance to help improve a planet that descended into the dumpster fire that Wade Watts was born into, Halliday created a glorified opioid for the masses. The ancient Romans called their gladiatorial games “bread and circuses” for the mob of Rome, and Halliday created a bread and circus that was 24/7 and infinitely more addictive. And then in his final days, he figured out how to use it to manipulate children into reliving his own youth.

    So it is in this context we meet Wade Watts, who in the book watches the same sitcoms as Halliday (Family Ties), memorizes the same movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and listens to the same music (they’re both crazy about Rush). As someone who loves two of those three things—who really enjoys 1980s sitcoms if they weren’t there when they were new?—I still find this repellent. Wade has no culture of his own, just hand-me-downs and ghosts of a world long gone. He isn’t being taught to value history, he is romanticizing a world that never existed, which is as dangerous a version of historical revisionism as a South reared for generations on the fallacy of a noble Confederate gentry that’s become “gone with the wind.”

    Meanwhile, it is left to Art3mis in the novel and film to be the only person fighting to improve things, even if she must also subscribe to Halliday’s fantasy of a Hughes-ian vision of the 1980s and early ‘90s, which in its own way is falling into the patriarchal structure of one man. For actual pop culture remnants of that era that appealed to women—say cartoons like Jem and the Holograms, anime like Sailor Moon, or popular films actually written, directed, or starring women like 9 to 5, When Harry Met Sally, A Room with a View, or The Little Mermaid—are unsurprisingly left in the dustbin of history by Halliday. That’s not his culture, so he curates the one where Molly Ringwald teaches Ally Sheedy how to feel good about herself by dressing to please the high school jock. That or they’re token, smiling love interests for the male’s adventure. (Halliday does include a visual homage to Heathers, but notably mutes Winona Ryder while allowing Parzival to quote Matthew Broderick in full from WarGames).

    Yet Art3mis must live in Halliday’s vision, as will most of the world, if she actually wants to use his vast resources to change it. Meanwhile his great legacy is leaving behind a scrapbook that for five years forced everyone to wallow in greed, excess, and self-delusion. You know, maybe he did do the ‘80s justice.

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    Oliver Queen sifts through the wreckage Slade Wilson left in Rhapastan in Green Arrow #39.

    NewsJim Dandy
    Apr 2, 2018

    Casual interconnectivity is a dying art in modern comics. It feels like modern books refer back to themselves all the time, but you almost never see Superman on his way to fight, like, Mongul, flying past Gotham as Batman's trying to solve a murder anymore. 

    That's why it made me irrationally happy to see Oliver Queen trying, in these exclusive preview pages of Green Arrow #39, to clean up a mess created by Deathstroke in Deathstroke Annual #2. The latter comic is only two years old, but the combination of it happening pre-Rebirth and all the fun stuff that's been happening in the world since then makes it feel utterly ancient, so it's really nice to see it popping up again.

    In that issue, Slade destabilized an entire country mostly for the hell of it, and walked away. That destabilization led to a civil war, and a bunch of Queen Industries relief money coming in. Here, Oliver, after a hellish year of plots within plots within plots in Star City, decides to go on a bit of a walkabout to fix other cities for a change. Here's what DC has to say about the issue:


    “THE CHILDREN OF VAHKAR” part one! Following a hellish year in Seattle, Oliver Queen heads to the war-torn city of Vahkar to use his considerable resources to help its starving citizens. But Oliver soon finds himself in over his head when he discovers that Vakhar is being run by a mysterious new warlord known as NOTHING…and all the town’s children have gone missing. Oliver Queen can’t save the children of Vakhar…but can Green Arrow?

    Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzig are solid writers, but this is exceptional art from Marcio Takara. Takara has mostly been a go-to fill in guy for both Marvel (All-New Wolverine) and DC (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey) but this is a the best I've ever seen from him. It's a little bit Sean Murphy, a little bit Olivier Coipel, and the motion and perspective is fantastic for an archery comic.

    Take a look...

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    There's nothing better than an evil talking psionic gorilla, and The Flash's hairiest villain Grodd is the very best (or worst) of them all!

    Feature Marc Buxton
    Apr 2, 2018

    The world is learning what faithful DC Comics fans have known for decades, Gorilla Grodd freakin’ rules. Since his first appearance in 1959, Grodd has been one of DC’s most enduring and unique villains somehow transcending the innate silliness of the concept and becoming one of the biggest badasses in comics.

    Seriously. Grodd is like a fevered mash-up of Caesar from Planet of the Apes, Professor Xavier, and Stalin. That’s one scary ape right there.

    Recently, the world has learned that it is Grodd’s world and we just live in it. So to catch new fans up on some of the greatest Grodd moments over the years, we present this list of Grodd’s greatest capers, atrocities and monkey shines. Moments that speak to why this despotic super ape is one of the greatest foes the heroes of the DC Universe, particularly The Flash, ever faced. 

    So join us as we present...

    The Prime 8: 8 Moments that Prove That, Grodd Damn It! That’s One Awesome Gorilla!

    1. Flash #106 (1959)

    by John Broome by Carmine Infantino

    How much is that homicidal, despotic, feral gorilla in the window?

    Before Gorilla Grood made his debut in The Flash #106 in 1959, Flash fought his fair share of gimmicky human criminals and non-descript aliens, but when a certain super gorilla debuted, the insanity of the Silver Age can be said to have truly begun.

    Now keep in mind, that back in the early Silver Age, most comics contained two or three stories, so in like half a comic, John Broome and Carmine Infantino introduced the world to Grodd, Gorilla City and Solovar, the wise king of the gorillas. In this issue, Grodd invades Central City to learn the secret of mind control in order to take control of Gorilla City’s mighty army. Why Grodd thought the secret of mind control was located in Central City is anyone’s guess, but hey, it was 1959, just go with it.

    Infantino’s renderings of Grodd rippled with raw sinew and power as the legendary artist established Grodd’s physical presence. But it was the look in Grodd’s eyes that made the character so enduring...a look of malevolent intelligence to go with his raw brute strength. Yeah, Flash defeated Grodd in this, the gorilla’s debut, by running around the ape so fast that Grodd couldn’t think straight and passed out, but Grodd would return, again and again.

    Before we leave this issue, just think about what an insane concept Gorilla City truly is, a city where a race of gorillas gained sentience through exposure to a UFO (later retconned into a meteor) and built a super secret advanced society. It was like Edgar Rice Burroughs meets...I don’t know what. And it worked, becoming one of the strangest but constant locales in the DC Universe.

    Who woulda thunk it?

    2.  Flash #115 (1960)

    by John Broome and Carmine Infantino

    It’s like a crossover between The Flash and The Biggest Loser.

    So "The Day Flash Weighed 1000 Pounds!" began with our ape of the hour, Grodd, sitting in his cell in Gorilla City contemplating how the Flash always defeats him when he clearly has a superior intellect. You see, Grodd has a pill that allows his mind to leave his body and take over a human of his choosing.  Grodd chooses and pill possesses a man named Willie Dawson and gets a job in a circus so he can communicate with and have access to apes.  Grodd uses the monkeys to commit petty crimes instead of, I dunno, the President of the United States or the Flash never occurs to anybody, but hey...Silver Age! 

    As Dawson, Grodd creates a gun that will increase a target's weight by 1000 pounds, so he’s now like the opposite of the gypsy from Stephen King’s Thinner. Anyway, Grodd zaps Flash who now looks like Homer Simpson in that episode where he got really fat and wore a Mumu. Another side effect of the gun was amnesia so the confused Flash becomes a circus freak now that he looks like a scarlet blimp. When fatty Flash passes a funhouse mirror, he remembers who he is and sadly doesn’t get a reality cable show. He then dehydrates himself to get rid of the weight and defeats Grodd. All total in this issue, Grodd used a mind swapping pill and a fat gun.

    Hey Berlanti! Hey Johns! I dare you to adapt this issue for TV. I freakin’ dare you!

    3. The Challenge of the Super Friends

    “Revenge on Gorilla City" Season 1, Episode 8. Original airdate Nov. 4, 1978

    Saturday Morning Simian.

    Oh, to be young again. Most people’s exposure to the greatness of Grodd was in the Challenge of the Super Friends cartoon where the simian psycho was a member of the Legion of Doom. Who can forgot Grodd’s snarling voice (masterfully performed by television vet Stanley Ralph Ross, who also wrote almost a third of the 1966 Batman series. Who knew?) his fevered visage and his crudely drawn but imposing ape physique. Grodd really stood out amongst the saccharine villainy of Saturday morning and must have scared the Cocoa Puffs out of more than one pajama clad child.

    In "Revenge on Gorilla City," Grodd did what he did every night, Pinkie...he tried to take over Gorilla City. The Legion of Doom backed his play, feeling that conquering Gorilla City and then Africa would allow them to conquer the world.

    Anyway, Grodd uses a penis shaped power neutralizer invented by Brainiac to nullify the Super Friends’ powers. It even works on Batman and Robin for some reason and renders their utility belts useless. Without their belts, the Dynamic Duo crumble like a house of cards as the Super Friends‘toon taught kids across the world that Batman and Robin were pathetically useless without their toys. Oh, '70s.

    As silly as this and all other episodes of the Super Friendsusually got, Grodd stood out among the usually disposable weekend villainy that was featured on Saturday mornings. He really was a frightening, snarling bundle of rage and even in the confines of '70s children television, there was vast badass potential for our fave super gorilla.

    4. The Flash #295 (1981)

    by Cary Bates and Don Heck

    The Gorilla of Your Dreams.

    Writer Cary Bates had one of the longest runs of the Flash of any writer in the character’s rich history. Bates worked on The Flashin three separate decades and much of the greatness of The Flash TV series is owed to concepts and characters utilized by Bates. So here’s to you Cary.

    Of course, during his long tenure on the Flash, Bates utilized Grodd because no true creative spirit can resist an evil psychic monkey dictator. This issue not only shows Grodd in all his putrid glory, it gives him a new ability, the ability to enter and control someone’s dreams. I don’t want Gorilla Hitler in my dreams, do you? (shudder) 

    In this issue, something called Operation Wordwash has wiped out all memory of Gorilla City from the memories of every human being except the Flash. It opens with confused New Yorkers gazing at the Gorilla City Embassy building, wondering what its purpose could be. That’s right, in the DC Universe; there is an embassy smack dab in New York that houses super intelligent gorilla diplomats.

    God, I love comics.

    Anyway, Grodd sabotaged the Orwellian Operation Wordwash to erase all memory of himself from King Solovar and the Super Apes’ mind as well. Solovar and Flash began having dreams that they are fighting each other in intense battles. Turns out, this was actually real as Grodd was twisting reality to make each champion think they were fighting each other. See, the Flash and Solovar were actually fighting Grodd who shielded his true self from his enemies’ minds by using the dream forms of Flash and Solovar. Oh, that damn, dirty ape.

    Flash figured the whole thing out because he dreams at super speed and these Grodd induced lucid visions were happening at regular speed. Now, think of the consequences of this, a super powered, sociopathic ape can control dreams. No wonder I have been waking up flinging poop lately with a hankering for bananas.

    5. Flash #69–70, Green Lantern #30–31 (1992)

    by Mark Waid, Gerard Jones, Mark Bright, and Greg LaRocque

    A giant evil gorilla and a guy with a huge head walk into a bar…

    There are about a billion and a half Grodd stories entitles Gorilla Warfare and there will probably be about a billion and a half more before we're done, but this crossover between Flash and Green Lantern is certainly the best of the bunch. This can be considered the first modern age Grodd tale and while he is still recognizable from the Silver and Bronze Ages, master '90s scribes Mark Waid and Gerard Jones crafted a more politically fueled Grodd.

    In this four parter, it is revealed that the villainous Hector Hammond (the big headed villain from the Green Lantern movie...don’t hold that against him) was actually mutated by a similar meteor to the one that transformed the apes of Gorilla City. Hammond and Grodd team up and take on Hal Jordan and Wally West. Allied with Hal and Wally are the Bureau of Amplified Animals led by Silver Age classics Rex, the Wonder Dog and Detective Chimp.

    Any story that features Detective Chimp automatically rules.

    Over the course of the story, readers got to meet the insurgents that blindly follow Grodd’s every whim as Jones and Waid explored Grodd as a charismatic dictator, a gorilla terrorist who now has an army backing his evil whims. With Hammond by his side, this more megalomaniacal Grodd is a new threat for a new age and actually succeeds in transforming Green Lantern into a gorilla by exposing him to that fateful meteor. This story has it all, a modern Grodd, a monkey Green Lantern, and a chimp wearing a deer stalker with a magnifying glass. It needs to be sought out in back issue bins immediately.

    6. Martian Manhunter Annual #2 (1999)

    by Len Kaminski and Gus Vazquez

    Martian Monkey Shines.

    In 1999, DC Comics bound that year’s JLA annuals together with the story, (wait for it) JLApein which Grodd tries to transform humanity into apes to use as his army against King Solovar and Gorilla City. In this issue, the Martian Manhunter utilizes his keen detective skills and gathers the greatest apes in DC history to gather information on Grodd. The issue features Detective Chimp, Monsieur Mallah (monkey with a beret!), Sam Simeon (the ape half of Angel and the Ape, who is revealed in this issue to be Grodd’s brother!), and Congorilla.

    That’s a heaping helping of monkeys for your comic book dollar.

    It concludes with Martian Manhunter and Grodd having an epic psychic battle as the two most powerful mentalists in the DCU go at it, Martian versus gorilla. Once again, this is the more despotic, Machiavellian Grodd who pushed the Justice League and the Martian Manhunter to their absolute limits.

    Seriously, it’s a detective from Mars versus a psychic gorilla dictator. What’s not to love?

    7.  Flash Vol 2 #178 (2001)

    by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

    Not So Funny Anymore.

    Grodd didn't appear for a few years following JLApebut when he did, boy, was he freakin’  scary. This issue was the first time legendary Flash writer Geoff Johns utilized Grodd, and it was so unforgettably brutal, it changed the character forever. You know that rampaging beast you have thrilled to on CW’s The Flash? yeah, that version of Grodd began right here. Scott Kolins rendered Grodd as a snarling, unstoppable force of nature while Johns created a perfect balance of animalistic fury and serial killer cunning. 

    Basically, a new company called The Cage Factory creates a cell that they brag could hold any being. When Grodd is transported to Iron Heights prison, the unstable villain known as Magenta releases the lock on Grodd’s cage and the following rampage has become the stuff of nightmarish legend. Johns presents Grodd as a being who takes great joy in mentally showing his victims just how he is going to rend them limb from limb by imprinting the image in their brains, and then actually did it, leaving a trail of carnage and death behind. That JLApestuff was now a thing of the past as Grodd wasn’t a joke anymore but one of the most savage and feared creatures in the DC Universe.

    8. The Flash #13 (2011) 

    by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul

    Don’t Worry, he’s ‘armless.

    It took thirteen issue of the New 52 Flash comic, but when the new version of Gorilla Grodd made his debut, it was quite memorable for all involved. Barry Allen first encountered the bloodthirsty gorilla despot after being shunted to Gorilla City by the Speed Force. Barry narrowly and luckily defeated Grodd but when the murderous beast arrived in Central City, this new Grodd proved to the world that he was just as savage as his pre-New 52 predecessor.

    During Grodd’s rampage, the young Rogue known as the Trickster decided to get into the ape’s good graces. Well, being the grumpy goose that he is, Grodd answered the Trickster’s offer of friendship by tearing the Trickster’s arm off. So that was Grodd’s first introduction to the DC New 52...limb removal. Hey, the Trickster was played by Mark Hamill, who is well known for losing a limb as Luke Skywalker and here we have the modern version of Hamill’s character losing a limb at the hands of Grodd. Whoa...mind-blown!  

    So there you have it, and there are so many other great Grodd stories in addition to our Prime 8. One wonders if any of these Grodd tales that we listed here will be featured in CW’s The Flash someday. Will Grodd mutate other gorillas in Planet of the ApesCaesar like fashion and create a new version of Gorilla City, or will Grodd be the lone ape beneath Central City ready to strike when Barry and company least suspect it? 

    We'll just have to wait and see, because...

    This article originally ran in May of 2015.

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  • 04/03/18--00:04: Grey Sister Review
  • The sequel to Red Sister might be even better than the original.

    “There are some lessons that must be written in scars,” Sister Tallow tells her students early in Grey Sister. That ends up being in important lesson to take to heart in a story such as Grey Sister.

    A year ago I reviewed Red Sister, the first in this series. Now the sequel has arrived and one can wonder: does it live up to its predecessor? I say that it does.

    The first book followed Nona, a young girl sold to a child taker who is eventually taken in by the kindly Abbess at the convent Sweet Mercy. At the convent, Nona and her classmates study and train to be warriors. This is not a pious place of quiet reflection. These nuns mean business.

    At the end of Red Sister, Nona is betrayed by a friend and has another friend perish while apprehending the true villain of the story. I'm keeping it vague in case for some crazy reason you haven't read it yet. Read it. Trust me.

    Grey Sister picks up shortly after the first novel, with Nona and her friends still in school, now in some more advanced training. She has to deal with normal school stuff, you know, major evaluations, childish rivalry and unspeakable vengeance against the one who stole the convent's shipheart and killed her best friend. Normal school stuff, really.

    Joeli Namsis, a privileged and conceited girl, serves as the antagonist for the majority of the book. Though she's not the Big Bad, she does play a crucial role. Think Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series. Joeli is a truly wicked girl who will stop at nothing to torture Nona. I was very frustrated for Nona's sake. Nona could level this girl easily, but has standards.

    Abbess Glass really shines in this novel, pun intended. We get a number of chapters from her point of view, especially when Nona must leave the convent due to some underhanded business with the church inquisitors. Glass is in major trouble for a number of “crimes” that are mostly just an excuse to unseat her from her position at the convent. We simultaneously see her in grave peril and in complete control. The cool, collected way she deals with the superiors who try to destroy her makes her a strong, formidable woman. She is my hero, and she's probably fantastic at chess given how good she is at planning multiple steps ahead.

    Mark Lawrence writes women really well. This can't be said of all authors. He also doesn't shy away from representing women in positions of power. With good descriptions and witty dialogue, the number of girls and women at the convent and abroad are portrayed as unique individuals. Nona is still an excellent main character, but you'll find yourself picking favorites among her classmates as well. Just don't get too attached to everyone. If you know this author, you'd know why.

    During a good portion of this book, Nona and her friends explore the caves below the convent. It's part adventuring, part sleuthing as they try to find a new way to the place where a friend died in the last book. The exploring revealed more mysteries, ones that I'd rather not give away before you get a chance to discover yourself. It also introduces a creature that is pure fear. I'd like to revisit this creature in the next book if possible, because it was both terrifying and fascinating. My bad timing led to me reading that part late at night, which meant I was only a little paranoid of the shadows in my room.

    We are also still getting clues about The Missing – the people who inhabitited the planet before the ice started closing in. I'm always curious to get more morsels about these people, and hope that more will be revealed about the original tribes, the ships they came in on and what happened to The Missing. So many things point back to the mysterious origins of Nona's people. Even the devil that takes up residence in Nona at the end of Red Sister is a relic of that past somehow.

    There's a lot to be said also of the socioeconomic realities of this world close to its end. There's a wide divide between the privileged rich who attend extravagant galas and the poor people who struggle in hunger and are pushed from their homes by the encroaching ice. The hierarchies of power, the struggles between the last world powers and the different religious factions will surely come to climactic conclusion in the next book. I've enjoyed the ride so far and I look forward to more.

    ReviewBridget LaMonica
    Apr 2, 2018

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    Justice League and DC Universe epic Dark Nights: Metal was quite a ride...but a confusing one. So what happened?

    FeatureJim Dandy
    Apr 3, 2018

    As you probably guessed, this article contains massive Dark Nights: Metal spoilers.

    We can describe Dark Nights: Metal, DC’s first post-Rebirth crossover event as Greg Capullo muttering “Memento Metal” in Scott Snyder’s ear as they walk into a DC writers’ retreat...or maybe Snyder and Capullo’s Prometheus. But unlike Prometheus, Metal wasn’t written by randomly drawing from a Cards Against Humanity deck (“The main villain will be penises and nihilism, and the day will be saved by giving everyone abortions. Sounds like we’ve got a hit!” - Sir Ridley Scott). Instead, Metal is the capstone to four years of Snyder/Capullo Batman tales - like what Multiversity was to Grant Morrison’s Superman story.

    Also, it restarted DC’s full multiverse. That's a big deal.

    So let's get to it...

    DC's Dark Nights: Metal Required Reading

    Structurally, Metal was tough. Too much happened in the tie-ins, but there were also tie-ins that were unimportant to the main story. Here’s what you need to read to get everything out of the story:

    Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting - these two are prologues that bridge the gap between Snyder and Capullo’s Batman through All-Star Batman to the main series. The prologues, along with some other stuff, are collected here.

    Dark Knights: Metal - the main story. Obviously necessary. That's collected here.

    Batman Lost - Read this between Metal #3 and #4. Available here.

    Dark Knights Rising: Wild Hunt - Read this between Metal #5 and #6. Available here.

    You can feel free to ignore the crossover issues of ongoing series, though some of them were very good (I’m looking at you, Flash). The same goes for the various Dark Batman one-offs: some were excellent, and the Batman Who Laughs issue was dark as hell, but they’re not essential. Nor is Hawkman Found (although that helps make sense of Hawkman's insane continuity and sets up his upcoming solo series).

    What Happened in Dark Nights: Metal?

    Some CRAZY STUFF, that’s what.

    The short version: the multiverse got a whole new origin story and was greatly expanded, while some of the wildest plot points of Grant Morrison’s tenure in the main DCU - and his Batman run in particular - were integrated into that foundational mythos. The big bang now created the positive matter universe and the anti-matter universe (or Dark Multiverse), but it also created a forge of worlds manned by a forgemaster creating universes out of untamed possibility and feeding nonviable worlds to the dragon Barbatos, who ate them and pooped...stories. Barbatos eventually killed the forgemaster and took his place, using the forge of worlds to create dark reflections of the multiverse and get a bunch of cavemen at what would become Gotham to worship him as their Bat-God.

    Hawkman figured this out but failed at chasing it down. Batman almost figured it out, but was tricked into following Hawkman into the dark multiverse and captured, used as bait to lure Superman in so his body could be used to fuel the merging of both multiverses. Batman escapes, saves Superman, gets rescued by Sandman, and then the two are returned to the forge of worlds. There, they meet up with Wonder Woman, who frees Hawkman with her lasso, and the trinity relights the forge, defeats the gaggle of dark Batman/Justice Leaguer hybrids that Barbatos unleashed on the world, and harnesses the power of the various metals used as macguffins through this story and all of Snyder’s run (Electrum from “The Court of Owls,” Dionesium from “Endgame,” Promethium from “Superheavy,” nth metal from The Casting, and Batmanium from the second issue of the series) to finally defeat Barbatos.

    Because of changes to the multiverse from this battle and the relighting of the forge, the new status quo for the DCU is set up: many of the dark Batmen are still out there, Sandman’s library is missing a book and its master, the Darkstars are back, the Flashes are at war, Atlantis is rising, Batman is building a Hall of Justice, and there’s a tear in the Source Wall.

    No, Seriously...What Happened?

    It is a little confusing. But at the same time, it’s a celebration of how insane and ridiculous the DCU is. I mean, here’s a partial list of things that happen in this story:

    - Hawkgirl ominously flips over a map of the multiverse to reveal...THE BACK OF THE MAP. But it feels like a big deal all the same.

    - There’s a Justice League Voltron mech made by Toyman that actually pays off in the last issue.

    - The entire Bat-family leads the Justice League on a high-speed chase through the Amazon, with Damian driving an oversized tank.

    - Batman’s initial plan is to shoot himself with baby Darkseid’s omega sanction so he can go back in time with Hawkman’s mace to kill Barbatos.

    - Kendra Saunders addresses the immortals of the DCU in the Legion of Doom HQ that rises out of an Antarctic volcano.

    - Batman wears a glove that has five different color Kryptonites in it and threatens three parallel universe Supermen with it.

    - Batman punches a Joker dragon in the face and rides it to the final fight.

    This comic is bonkers, both because of the crazy stuff that happened in it and because of the devil-may-care referencing of Morrison’s DC oeuvre that peppers the whole story. We’ve got Batman using Element X (the glowy metal from Metron’s chair used to power the miracle machine at the end of Final Crisis) to armor the Justice League. Mr. Stubbs, Nix Uotan’s chimp partner in Multiversity, is actually an alternate version of Detective Chimp, and the two of them team up with Flash, Raven, and Cyborg to recruit Batmen from across the multiverse to battle the dark Batmen. And the entire mythology of the DCU is now basically the mythology Morrison set up for Bruce in The Return of Bruce Wayne. It’s only fitting that Metal is one of the few comics to successfully follow up on a Morrison superhero tale.

    Each arc of Morrison’s Batman peeled off a layer of the character. Batman and Son stripped away the swinging playboy Batman by giving him a kid. The Black Glove attacked the adventurer aspect by looking at what the adventurer life would do to various people who weren’t Bruce. Batman RIP stripped away his supporting cast and Gotham itself. Final Crisis even pulled off his core principles: no killing, no guns, and Batman always finds a way.

    By contrast, Batman and Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne were about putting Batman back together, piece by piece. B&R inverted the typical Batman formula, making Batman into Robin and Robin into Batman and showing Damian slowly appreciate the world of Batman for what it is.

    Each issue of The Return of Bruce Wayne was about putting a different piece of the Batman mythos back on - the paleolithic issue was about his inventiveness; the puritan issue was about the cowardly and superstitious criminals; the pirate issue was about the swashbuckling adventurer; the western was Batman the Hardass (and conspicuously about the no guns/no killing rule); and the noir issue was about the dark detective. The final issue summed the whole run to that point up by putting Batman in an absurd, ridiculous sci-fi premise: shaking off a divine supervirus in a bubble at the end of time because of his affection for Robins and a hug from his friends. The point was that Batman exists because of his friends - because Alfred and Robin and Superman and Wonder Woman and whatever we have to call Tim Drake now are all there to keep him a hero and not a brooding asshole.

    Metal takes a little bit of a different approach but with the same goal. It’s obviously a capstone to Snyder and Capullo’s run, but it integrates Morrison so well by signaling its connection with Final Crisis and Multiversity call-outs, and it folds perfectly into the metanarrative that Morrison laid out in his story. The first two issues of Metal are spent with Batman isolating himself from the rest of the story to try and fix the problem of Barbatos. The difference here is the day isn’t saved by friendship and love. It’s saved by insane DC continuity.

    This story is much looser than Snyder’s writing typically is. He’s a horror guy who does mystery really well, and the reason he’s effective in both is because he’s meticulous about information release: he gives the reader precisely the information necessary to move to the next portion of the story and sets up the twist or punch line at the end so that you don’t see it coming. He takes you from A to D without skipping any points in between, but he also doesn’t waste time between points.

    Metal is different: it goes from A to D to R back to M to N, then jumps to the invention of writing, then back to Q. So at first glance, it gives off a “lol nothing matters” vibe that too much of comics (and, let’s be honest, too much of the real world too) exudes these days. The difference is, Metal says “some stuff matters, but let’s not sweat so much of the in-between parts,” while shooting itself full of deep cut DC lore to prove that while Batman needs all the things Morrison put back on in The Return of Bruce Wayne, he also needs to exist firmly within the broader DC continuity to be the Dark Knight. Otherwise, you’ve just got The Dark Knight Rises.

    And while Metal is a celebration of how ridiculous the DCU is, it also reads like a triumphant scream in the face of some of the stress Snyder has faced writing Batman so far. He’s been fairly candid about the anxiety he fought during “Zero Year.” And on Twitter, he’s discussed why Damian played so little a role in his Batman tales - because of how much Damian reminded him of his own son. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Metal starts with Batman facing down his greatest fears and ends with Batman being pulled out of the darkness by his best friends before he goes on to save the day by fixing his story. That it is looser and so much fun to read just makes it that much more successful.

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    What can we tell about Legion Season 2 from his X-Men comics appearances?

    Feature Jim Dandy
    Apr 3, 2018

    With Legion Season 2 looming, it seemed like a good idea to take a look at the title mutant’s history in the comics. So just who is Legion? Or specifically, who is David Haller?

    Or maybe who are Legion? Maybe we can give him the power of easily understood verb tense.

    David Haller is a complicated guy or 250. He’s a mutant with multiple personalities. Many, many multiple personalities, each possessing a different power. And not all of the personalities are his - he can also absorb the psionic essences of people who die in proximity to them, and then they, as distinct mental architecture in his mind, are assigned a different power.

    Legion is the second most powerful mutant in the Marvel Universe behind Franklin Richards, but at the scale we’re talking, trying to figure out who is more or less powerful is like two grains of sand on Bikini Atoll trying to figure out which atomic bomb that hit them was bigger.

    At one point or another, David has:

    - rewritten all of reality.

    - Destroyed a horde of Elder Gods with the wave of a hand.

    - Rewritten all of reality again.

    - Reset the rewritten reality back to normal.

    - Destroyed an invading army of Nimrod sentinels with the wave of a hand.

    - Rewritten all of reality a third time.

    - Escaped the end of a universe to wander Limbo.

    - And finally, you have probably guessed by now that he rewrote reality a fourth time.

    Despite all this, despite the fact that his overarching power is that he is a black hole stretching the very concept of the X-Men to an unrecognizable point, he’s actually been in a ton of really good X-Men comics. If the show is going to match what’s been printed, they’re going to have to work pretty hard.

    David Haller was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in New Mutants volume 1 #26, which retconned work that Claremont did with Dave Cockrum back in Uncanny X-Men #161. He’s the child of Gabrielle Haller, a Holocaust survivor sent into a catatonic stupor by the horrors of that ordeal and Charles Xavier, a world-class scumbag who routinely puts minors in harm's way in the name of his ideals. When she realized she was pregnant, Gabrielle thought about what kind of father Charles would make, and she wisely decided that it would be safer to be an Israeli diplomat in the 1970s than to allow Charles any contact with his son. So she didn’t tell him. He found out anyway, though.

    The man who raised Legion with his mother was killed shielding David from a terrorist attack on the Israeli embassy in Paris, a trauma that kickstarted David’s psychic powers and caused him to kill all of the terrorists in the embassy at the time. He absorbed one of their psyches into himself, Jemail Karami, and then became catatonic. After nine years in what was for all intents and purposes a coma, Gabrielle went to Moira MacTaggart for help, and the Professor found out he had a son when David’s catatonic form started absorbing the minds of all the people on Muir Island. The New Mutants eventually fought inside his mind alongside Professor X to give Jemail control over the other personalities - Jemail gained empathy through the use of Legion’s telepathy, while the other two personalities were sadists or nihilists.

    David is, as a character, defined by his mental illness. There are three main phases to Legion since his creation: the original story discussed above; his existence as a plot device for about five years real time; and the story of him learning to manage his condition. He remained an occasional character in New Mutants for a couple of years before the power of being an X-universe macguffin kicked in, and then he got possessed by the Shadow King.

    The Muir Island Saga is a minor X-crossover that marked the transition of the X-line from a tight, continuity-focused set of comics to the sprawling ‘90s mess that they became with the introduction of the Blue and Gold teams (and X-Force), marked the exact spot where Chris Claremont walked off the X-Men books he had been writing for a decade and a half, and it was a bit of a placeholder story that was originally supposed to be something dramatically different, but Uncanny X-Men #280 was also one of the first comics I bought with my own money, so I still think highly of it. The Shadow King took over Legion’s mind, controlled everyone on the island and caused X-Factor and the X-Men to reunite and co-mingle. It set the tone for this era of Legion stories in that he was a plot device more than an actual character.

    The same is true for “Legion Quest” and the Age of Apocalypse. David got better and decided that Magneto was the true impediment to his father’s good intentions (reminder: he brought a woman out of a coma to have sex with her), so he used his powers to travel back in time and kill Mags. Except he missed, killed Xavier instead, and created a splinter timeline where Apocalypse was in charge and everything was very bad. Then he got caught in a timeloop undoing the Age of Apocalypse and disappeared.

    He returned in a story that paralleled his original appearance: the reformed New Mutants, tasked with “cleaning up mutant messes” around the world, hunt down the being behind a mysterious murder and discover that it was one of Legion’s bad personalities. After a fight (and a sneaky deal with Illyana Rasputin), he is brought back to the X-Men’s floating sovereign island in San Francisco, where he is treated by a genius ex-Nazi hunter, a guy who is really into robots, and the woman who came up with the “cure” for being a mutant in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men.

    He then popped up briefly in X-Men: Second Coming, the closeout crossover to the Messiah era of the X-Men (which was awesome) before being the catalyst behind Age of X. David had been capturing and cataloguing his personalities and their abilities with the help of the assorted science people on Utopia (the X-Men’s island). Unfortunately, one of those personalities really doesn’t like this, so she completely rewrites reality. In the new world, mutants have been hunted to near extinction. The only ones left live in a fortress, where all of the telekinetics (one of whom is Force Warrior Legion) reinforce a telekinetic wall every night after a regular battle with the human forces laying siege to their home. We learn that it was created by a rebellious personality, one he confronts and reabsorbs, but in a critical shift from previous Legion stories, one he learns and grows from. That growth continues after he restores the normal reality, and has to confront another handful of personalities impacting the real world.

    He works with his father and Dr. Nemesis to continue to conquer his demons until Avengers vs. X-Men, when the Professor is killed, an event that shakes David to his core. He then spends the rest of X-Men Legacy (volume 2) working to regain control, to find his place in the world in the shadow of a father who was the mutant equivalent of rich white Ghandi, and to process his feelings for Blindfold, a precognitive mutant who saw herself becoming David’s nemesis in the future. I’m not giving anything away about that book beyond this: its beauty is in its unexpectedness. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    Legion is a tough character with a history that doesn’t lend itself to adaptation, which is why so many people were surprised to see him as a TV star. But season one was so good that there's no reason to doubt. Really, the show is dedicated to giving us Legion in all of his unfiltered weirdness, as a continuity-refracting prism, and it's a beautiful thing.

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    As Avengers: Infinity War approaches, directors the Russo Brothers (and Thanos,) are making a special effort to discourage spoilers.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Apr 3, 2018

    Avengers: Infinity War used to feel like an unapproachably surreal concept, but it will become a reality by the end of the month. Consequently, as the entirety of the big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe arrive for a gigantic megamovie to battle one of Marvel Comics’ most powerful villains, Thanos, directors Joe and Anthony Russo will take special measures to prevent spoiler proliferation with help from Thanos himself.

    The Russo Brothers have posted a letter to the collective fandom calling for discretion; an increasingly necessary request as the Avengers: Infinity War release date of April 27 looms ever quickly.

    One method that’s being used is the pushing of the hashtag #ThanosDemandsYourSilence for the coming months, using the menacing omnipotence-coveting specter of Josh Brolin’s Thanos (with the presumably-completed Infinity Gauntlet in view,) to cement an anti-spoiler ethos amongst the fandom. Additionally, the Russos will take a more proactive approach for this cause, revealing that the film’s Los Angeles premiere will not screen in its entirety. – That’s a new one.

    While Marvel Studios has long embraced its reputation as the tightest keeper of cinematic secrets in the industry, known to use lengthy contracts to lock down its stars – and everyone involved with its productions – into a strict code of silence under penalty of financial and personal excoriation, the concept of actually cutting the premiere version of a film short is a major measure that not only protects the sanctity of Avenger: Infinity War, but, as recent rumors imply, a major detail about its untitled follow-up film, Avengers 4, which is scheduled to arrive on May 3, 2019.

    Indeed, the Russos recently took time to reply to – and seemingly affirm – a tweet that speculated that the mystery title of Avengers 4 should scare audiences regarding what happens in the stakes-heavy Infinity War (we certainly already knew the title of Infinity War by this point a year ago). Thus, it is widely believed that the end of Avengers: Infinity War will reveal the mystery title of Avengers 4, be it through dialogue or a James Bond end-credits, “The Avengers will return in The Man with the Golden Glove” type manner. It's quite possible that said title could manifest intrinsically as a spoiler, necessitating this level of secrecy.

    What we do know is that Avengers: Infinity War will be a major turning point and, for what it’s worth, the start of a climactic event for the decade-old MCU, said to be a jumping-off point for some of the O.G.s, notably Chris Evans’s Captain America. Thus, a great deal of the speculation will center on which major characters could die in the film.

    Avengers: Infinity War will reveal its stupendous secrets when it hits theaters on April 27.

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    Ernest Cline's next novel, Armada, is being adapted at Universal with a writer of The Flash following Ready Player One's success.

    News David Crow
    Apr 3, 2018

    Success breeds success right? After Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s first novel—which Cline helped turn into a screenplay—earned about $54 million in its opening weekend, Cline’s literary follow-up to Ready Player One must look awfully appealing in Hollywood. In this vein, Universal is moving ahead in its adaptation of Armada, another geeky video game-meets-wish fulfillment narrative that Cline saw published n 2015.

    Indeed, news came late Tuesday that Universal has tapped Dan Mazeau to write the latest screenplay adaptation of Armada. Mazeau has also recently been tapped to pen the latest Flash treatment for Warner Bros.; he also has a pre-existing relationship with Universal, where he previously wrote a treatment for Van Helsing, which is (was?) to be part of Universal’s Dark Universe. His previous credit is one of three writers on WB’s Wrath of the Titans from 2012.

    Although not published until several years ago, Cline and Random House signed a deal with Universal to adapt Armada one year after Ready Player One became a New York Times bestseller in 2011. In the book, Cline follows Zack Lightman (who has the same last name, ahem, as Matthew Broderick’s protagonist in WarGames). Zack is a small star in the online community for the air combat simulator Armada, which becomes useful after an actual UFO alien invasion begins. As it turns out, the video game was a covert military recruitment tool that was searching for ace pilots to fight the aliens. Yeah, that’s right.

    Cline apparently sold the concept to Universal more than five years ago based on a 20-page script treatment. However, the studio has been chastened to pursue it faster after Cline’s other novel about a video game nerd who excels at online play became a Spielbergian hit. Literally.

    Below is the novel’s official synopsis.

    Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day some fantastic world altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space faring adventure. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe. And then he sees the flying saucer. Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada, in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. No Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills, as well as those of millions of gamers across the world, are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it. It’s Zack s chance at last to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science fiction stories he grew up with and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little familiar? At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline, could Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before, one whose every page is infused with the pop culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

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    Don't hold your breath for a Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina crossover any time soon...

    News John Saavedra
    Apr 4, 2018

    When it was announced that Riverdale creators Greg Berlanti and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa were bringing The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to Netflix, many fans immediately suspected that there might be a crossover between both shows. After all, Riverdale is already prone to a bit of the uncanny and macabre - Kiernan Shipka's young Sabrina would fit right in!

    This will not be the case, though, according to Archie Comics CEO and Riverdale exec producer Jon Goldwater, who shot down potential crossover hopes at a panel at last week's PaleyFest (via TVLine).

    "Right now, we’re not thinking about that," said Goldwater. "They’re two separate entities for right now."

    We imagine the really tricky part of bringing these two shows together is that Riverdale and Sabrina are on different networks. Crossing over characters from The CW and Netflix would undoubtedly take a bit of legal gymnastics. That said, Goldwater would love to see some characters from Sabrina's Greendale pop up for an episode of Riverdale.

    "Going forward? You never know. Maybe."

    Goldwater is not saying the crossover will never happen. He just means not now.

    In other news, Riverdale has been renewed for a third season at The CW, while The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has already been given a two-season order from Netflix. It's good to be Archie Comics right now.

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    Deadpool switches to pink to take on his old enemy, cancer, in a new video promoting a campaign for charity fundraiser Omaze.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Apr 4, 2018

    Deadpool 2 quickly approaches its May release still without an official title; a fact that increasingly appears to be a characteristic meta move made by the mirthful Merc with a Mouth. However, donning an appropriately pink outfit, Deadpool’s latest meta moment, a promotion with charity fundraising organization Omaze, will attempt to use donor-fueled resources to wage an attack on an old enemy that’s cost him dearly: cancer.

    Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds, is the focus of an Internet video exposing his “heart-on” on full display. The clip, which premiered on Tuesday night with the FX broadcast premiere of the original Deadpool, represents a partnership with 20th Century Fox and Omaze. The focus of the heart-on in question is to raise funding for support and preventative treatments for cancer patients. Thus, in a Deadpool-esque manner, Omaze’s latest drive is called F**k Cancer.

    With just a $10 donation, Omaze is dangling a most intriguing incentive with a chance, via drawing, to win some “movie marketing memorabilia,” which, quite literally, will be the suit off Deadpool’s back – with, as they tease, potential for residual Wade Wilson perspiration – in the pink battle suit that he boldly sports in the video. Of course, the more you donate, the more entries you receive, raising your chances to don the suit with an impoverished, punk-rockish, pride akin to a homemade pink-dress-rocking Molly Ringwald daring to defy James Spader’s rich jerk by showing up to the big dance (yes, that was a Pretty in Pink reference, Deadpool would have totally got that).

    Of course, Deadpool’s attempted beneficence also comes with yet another opportunity to drop a major (self-deprecating) diss on Ryan Reynolds’s maligned 2011 cinematic turn in Green Latern, when he pitches:

    “This is one fight were everyone can be a hero. No superpowers, capes or lame CGI costumes needed.”

    Omaze has used the platform of Hollywood blockbusters to raise charitable funds several times in its still-young existence, having only launched in 2012. The organization has worked with Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, as well as the cast of Game of Thrones, the cast of the current Star Trek movies, and, notably, provided some proper fan freak-outs using Harrison Ford in the buildup to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now with Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool 2 (or whatever it’s ultimately going to be called,) serving as the latest such cinematic platform, it’s got a character with an appropriate cancer-connected backstory, the perfect kind of humor and, for what its’s worth, a sweet sartorial reward glistening.

    Omaze’s F**k Cancer campaign runs until May 21. That’s only three days after Deadpool 2 (“The Quickening?") arrives at theaters on May 18.

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    So you want to learn more about Asgard after enjoying the hell out of Thor: Ragnarok? We've got a Thor comics reading guide for you!

    Feature Marc Buxton
    Apr 5, 2018

    Thor has always been one of the biggest, boldest, brashest, sweepingly epic comics that Marvel publishes. For decades the exploits of Thor and the gods of Asgard were positively unfilmable. Which is why it's so hard to believe we now live in a world where there are three Thor movies. 

    Creative team after creative team tried to top one another and create the grandest, the most mythic, and the most epic Thor stories possible. And since the character debuted in (1962), Thor has attracted some of the most finest and groundbreaking creators in comics. 

    So if you're a movie fan and you're looking for a place to start with the comics, we've got you covered, with an easy and accessible Thor comics reading order!

    Thor Reading Order

    Thor: The Mighty Avenger

    This all too brief series by Chris Samnee and Roger Langridge is a perfect introduction to the world of Thor for readers of all ages. The story centers around the budding love between Thor and Jane Foster and it's something of a fish out of water series, a romantic approach to the Marvel legend of Thor, and just a kickass throwback comic that breathed new life into classic Thor foes like Mister Hyde. Thor the Mighty Avenger is just waiting to be discovered by fans eager for some note perfect Thor tales by two true modern comic book masters.

    Read Thor: The Mighty Avenger on Amazon


    When J. Michael Straczynski took over writing Thor in the late 2000s, the God of Thunder had been missing from the Marvel Universe for quite a while. But J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel brought Thor and his family of characters back in a big bad way. Thor was reborn and had to quest throughout reality to awaken all the other gods of Asgard.

    This story introduced Lady Loki, a cosplay staple, and found new ways to present the gods crafted by Kirby and Lee. Many of these tales are set in Broxton, Oklahoma, combining the most fantastical elements of Thor and them with an everyday setting. Many of the Broxton elements were used in the first Thor movie.

    Start Here - Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Vol. 1


    Looking for one of the major inspirations for Thor: Ragnarok? Look no further than Avengers Disassembled: Thor, which brought about the end of Asgard, and took Thor off the playing field for a while. Beautifully drawn by Andrea Di Vitto and written by Michael Avon Oeming, this comic book version of Ragnarok already felt like a movie waiting to happen, and you can see echoes of it on screen, although it's far more serious than it's movie counterpart.

    Read Avengers Disassembled: Thor on Amazon

    Planet Hulk

    Yeah, it's not a Thor story, and Thor doesn't even appear in the comic book version, but this story is so tied up in Thor: Ragnarok that we just had to include it. And anyway, Hulk as Space Gladiator just sells itself. If you haven't read this one yet, do yourself a favor, it's far more epic than even the movie version could possibly encompass.

    Read Planet Hulk on Amazon

    Thor: God of Thunder

    It’s like a Slayer concert but with Thor on bass. When people think of Jason Aaron’s Heavy Metal-esque run on Thor, they mostly envision the Jane Foster version of the God of Thunder. And with good reason. As Thor, Foster has become one of the most vital, powerful, and fascinating characters in the Marvel Universe, becoming worthy of the power of Thor while she is undergoing treatment for late stage cancer, and her unflinching bravery in the face of both medical and cosmic nightmares is incredibly inspiring. 

    But Jason Aaron has also has explored the original Thor, the Odinson who is every inch the hero as he was when he once wielded the mighty uru hammer. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic introduced such concepts as Gorr the God Butcher, the serial killer of the gods, the God Bomb, and explored Thor in his brash youth and Thor when he is a one armed king billions of years from now. When Marvel starts looking at ideas for the next round of Thor movies, this is where they should start.

    Start Here - Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1

    The above stories are the ones most accessible to modern readers and fans of the Thor movies. But if you want to dig a little deeper into Thor history (and you should), then you absolutely can't skip two of the greatest creative runs, not just on Thor, but in superhero comics history!

    The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Years

    When historians discuss the greatest moments of the immortal Lee and Kirby partnership, they usually begin the conversation with the duo’s collaboration on Fantastic Four. But their time on the God of Thunder both in Journey into Mystery and Thor rivals Fantastic Four for pure sheer scope and majesty. The world of Thor was made for (and by) Jack Kirby, who birthed some of his greatest creations on the world.

    In Thor, Kirby got to do what he was best at, world building the Nine Realms by combining a sense of myth, fantasy, and bombastic sci-fi. Through the solo Thor feature and the Tales of Asgard backups, “The King” used his boundless imagination to bring some of the greatest characters of world myth to life. Kirby created all the familiar players of Asgard like Thor, Odin, Loki, Sif, the Warriors Three, Balder, Hela, Tyr, Fenris Wolf, the Midgard Serpent, Fafnir the Dragon, the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Destroyer, and so many more that were thrust into the Marvel Universe fully formed.

    With Kirby was Stan Lee who infused Kirby’s concepts and characters with a grounded sense of humanity and humor. The vulnerability of Thor’s earthly identity, the crippled Doctor Don Blake was a pure Lee conceit. The romance between Blake and Jane Foster was right out of the Lee soap opera playbook as Lee and Kirby combined the fantastical with the mundane to create something truly great. As the series continued, it actually got more experimental and daring. The last few years of the Kirby/Lee collaboration saw Thor sent to the farthest corners of the galaxy and allowed their Thunder God to explore the boundaries of the Marvel Universe. One can say that the Marvel Cosmos was born in Fantastic Four, but it reached a maturity in Thor. Every issue of Kirby and Lee’s run provided generations of creatives with the DNA by which the Marvel Universe evolved in comics, TV, and film. 

    Start here - Thor Epic Collection: The God of Thunder

    The Mighty Thor by Walt Simonson

    Writer/artist Walt Simonson takes what Lee and Kirby established in the early days of Marvel’s Thor and turns the booming heavy metal soundtrack of it all up way past eleven. First off, Simonson loves myth and he loves comics, combining each of these passions into an operatic tribute to all the things that are great about Thor.

    Simonson’s Thor was huge with complex battles, monsters that take up the entirety of dramatic double page spreads, and some of the most profoundly godlike moments in Marvel history. Yet, Simonson never loses the human elements and quiet moments that make Thor so special. For example, when Skurge the Executioner makes his last stand to help Thor and the gods of Asgard invade Hela’s ream, it brings a tear to the eye of even the most hardened comic fan.

    Simonson didn't just play the hits as he also introduced a number of new characters and concepts into the world of Thor. This includes the mega-popular Beta Ray Bill, the weird, horse-like alien who lifts Mjolnir and transforms into a strange and awesome version of the Thunder God. Simonson’s renderings of the world of Thor were so dramatic that each image is like a thunderclap. Simonson’s dynamism and imagery are all over the Thor films (Malekith, the villain of Thor: The Dark World comes from Simonson's time), and with good reason, the creator was a bard worthy of the gods and his work remains arguably the highest point in the history of the character.

    And oh yeah, did we mention that he penned a tale where Thor was transformed into a frog? Yeah, that happened and it was just as earth shaking as everything else that happened in Simonson’s immortal run on Thor.

    Start Here: Thor by Walt Simonson Volume 1

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    Steven Spielberg is interested in adapting The Talisman, the 1984 adventure novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Apr 5, 2018

    Stephen King’s literary library remains an unending source of industry adaptation fodder, notably with last year’s box office success of It and the myriad television shows in the works, which just added a remake of The Stand. Interestingly, legendary director Steven Spielberg has long wanted to tackle a King project, recently revealing that he came close to adapting one of King’s collaboration novels, The Talisman. – And he still wants to do it.

    The Talisman, a darkly surreal interdimensional novel that King co-wrote with Ghost Story’s Peter Straub, apparently caught Spielberg’s attention back in the day as a potential directorial effort. As King reveals in an interview with EW of his unrealized collaboration with Spielberg:

    “Several times he came very close to making it, and there were a lot of discussions about that.”

    The Talisman depicts a world defined by the concept of alternate universes, specifically, “the Territories,” in which a person's doppelganger ("twinner,") exists, carrying bizarre metaphysical connections. The story centers on 12-year-old protagonist Jack Sawyer, who sets out on a dangerous odyssey from his New Hampshire home to search for the titular Talisman, which has healing properties necessary to cure his mother’s cancer. Of course, it's a perilous journey across this version of America, one that’s ruled by a monarchy and filled with fantastical beings, including werewolves. Plus, the story carries some connections to the gunslingers of King’s The Dark Tower. – The novel has also been adapted in more recent years as a graphic novel by Del Ray Comics.

    Indeed, The Talisman is a tonal intersection of horror and adventure that would translate well through Spielberg’s directorial lens. Spielberg himself seems to believe that, as well, since he still holds the rights and seems intent on eventually tackling an adaptation. As he states in the EW interview:

    “I feel that in the very near future, that’s going to be our richest collaboration. Universal bought the book for me, so it wasn’t optioned. It was an outright sale of the book. I’ve owned the book since ’82, and I’m hoping to get this movie made in the next couple of years. I’m not committing to the project as a director, I’m just saying that it’s something that I’ve wanted to see come to theaters for the last 35 years.”

    The Steves have come close to working together in the past, not just with The Talisman, but a narrowly missed opportunity with the 1982 horror classic, Poltergeist, which Spielberg co-wrote with Michael Grais, with the late Tobe Hooper serving as director. As King explains, of his prospective Poltergeist gig:

    “It didn’t work out because it was before the Internet and we had a communication breakdown.”

    Nevertheless, the idea of a collaboration of some kind between Stephen King and Steven Spielberg seems to have plenty of “shut up and take my money” potential amongst the visionaries’ respective fandoms. We will keep you updated should some fruit spring from these hypothetical musings.

    Steven Spielberg's fantastical futuristic film, Ready Player One, is in theaters now.

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    Amazon’s developing Lord of the Rings TV series is carrying an ever-increasing price tag, now believed to be around $1 billion.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Apr 5, 2018

    The Lord of the Rings is, of course, one of the most beloved (and lucrative) fantasy properties the world has ever known, a status that was exponentially upgraded by director Peter Jackson’s landmark, Oscar-generating, trilogy of films, later increased with his The Hobbit films. This fact clearly motivated Amazon to break out a $250 million check last fall to acquire the rights to the J.R.R. Tolkien-crafted property with designs for a TV series. Yet, with that check only covering the deposit, the rent for this proverbial apartment appears to be too damn high.

    New details have emerged about Amazon and Warner's untitled, five-season-committed, Lord of the Rings television adaptation series, notably about its price tag. While last month, Reuters reported that production and marketing for the series could end bringing costs to around the $500 million mark, the latest rumblings, as reported by THR, indicate that said expenses may double that, around the $1 billion mark, manifesting as “the most expensive TV show ever.” The new number accounts for more elements such as casting, producers and visual effects, all of which are not even close to being finalized.

    The staggering cost will certainly raise the narrative that, despite the prestige the Tolkien-created property provides, that Amazon may have unwittingly mired itself in the entertainment industry equivalent of the Dead Marshes; something that HBO avoided during the bidding stage. Contextually, 2001-2003’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy cost $281 million and 2012-2014’s The Hobbit Trilogy cost $655 million, a shocking figure in its own right at the time that could become dwarfed (hobbited?) by a television series that costs more than all six films combined. That’s a sobering thought.

    Consequently, the focus is turning to speculation on who has the know-how to help Amazon navigate this perilous predicament. Of course, the first name that likely springs to mind is Peter Jackson, who, with writers Fran Walsh (his wife) and Philippa Boyens, has served as the authority of all-things Tolkien in the live-action arena. Interestingly enough, Jackson remains unattached to the TV project. He wasn't even involved with the initial TV deal, which an involved attorney, Matt Galsor, called, "the most complicated deal I've ever seen."

    However, there is a reasonable chance that could change, with Jackson’s prospective involvement of some kind, likely as an executive producer. Jackson’s attorney, Peter Nelson, spoke to THR – a positive sign that talks are on the horizon – stating of the Lord of the Rings TV project:

    "It's very much a creature of the times. We are in an era where streamers are bidding up the price of programming. I think Amazon is taking a page out of the studios' emphasis on franchises. They also are realizing that with the overproduction of television, you need to get the eyeballs to the screen, and you can do that with franchise titles."

    It would be odd if a Tolkien-related live-action project, especially a TV series of this apparent magnitude, does not have the involvement of Peter Jackson. His presence would certainly be a morale booster for this still-nascent television project, regardless of what arena of Tolkien’s sprawling Middle Earth mythology it covers, or which characters it will choose to showcase.

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    Want to make a short film based on one of Stephen King's stories? Chances are that it'll only cost you a dollar...

    Feature John Saavedra
    Apr 6, 2018

    In case you didn't know, Stephen King is a bit prolific. With over 50 novels, 6 nonfiction books, and 200 short stories to his name (or Richard Bachman's), King has one of the hardest-working pens/typewriters/laptops in the writing world. And best of all, when it comes to King's work, quantity DOES equal quality. 

    That's probably why Hollywood is constantly optioning his countless works for big blockbuster film adaptations. Guys like Frank Darabont, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Lawrence Kasdan, and Robert Reiner have all taken stabs (no pun intended) at his work. Many of them are even great films that hold their own, which is very rare in the novel-to-film adaptation business, especially when the source material is as high-profile as King's.

    But for every Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, Carrie, IT, and Shining we see, there is a secret sector of King films that have never seen the light of day beyond a classroom and/or film festivals. They're called Dollar Babies.

    The Dollar Baby is a term coined by King himself, and is the author's humble attempt to share his work with film students and aspiring filmmakers who are trying to make a name for themselves in the industry. For $1, these young filmmakers can adapt his stories as long as they never commercially distribute the films (yes, that includes uploading them to the internet...sorry!). They also have to send King a finished copy of the film, which is pretty nerve-racking if you ask me. What if Uncle Stevie hates your film more than Kubrick's?!

    Although the Dollar Baby goes as far back as 1982, King first publicly acknowledged the "dollar deal policy" in 1996 in the introduction for The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script. Despite all the oogie-boogies, creepy crawlies, and generally undead/paranormal things chewing on your flesh, King is a pretty nice guy:

    Around 1977 or so, when I started having some popular success, I saw a way to give back a little of the joy the movies had given me...'77 was the year young filmmakers - college students, for the most part - started writing me about the stories I'd published (first in Night Shift, later in Skeleton Crew), wanting to make short films out of them. Over the objections of my accountant, who saw all sorts of possible legal problems, I established a policy which still holds today. I will grant any student filmmaker the right to make a movie out of any short story I have written (not the novels, that would be ridiculous), so long as the film rights are still mine to assign. I ask them to sign a paper promising that no resulting film will be exhibited commercially without approval, and that they send me a videotape of the finished work. For this one-time right I ask a dollar. I have made the dollar deal, as I call it, over my accountant's moans and head-clutching protests sixteen or seventeen times as of this writing [1996].

    King, who is a lifelong fan of film (if you read his non-fiction work Danse Macabre, you'll see just how much he loves the creature features of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff), has shared many short stories with Dollar Baby filmmakers over the years. And it's no accident that he revealed his dollar deal policy in the intro to The Shawshank Redemption's published script, since Frank Darabont was one of the first directors to take advantage of the dollar deal.

    Although Jeff Schiro's 1982 "The Boogeyman" (Night Shift) was the first Dollar Baby, it was Darabont who really capitalized on this deal. He wrote and directed an adaptation of "The Woman in the Room" (Night Shift), which King became so fond of that he allowed Darabont to commercially distribute the short film along with Schiro's as the Nightshift Collection (you can still find this baby on Amazon).

    In an interview in 2007, Darabont spoke to Lilja's Library, THE Stephen King fan site, about his experience with the Dollar Baby:

    I wrote Steve King my letter, he said yes, and it took me three years to make The Woman in the Room. It took a while to raise enough money (from some kindly investors in Iowa) to shoot the movie and get it in the can. But then I had to personally earn the rest of the money needed to put the film through post-production: editing the film, doing the sound, paying for the lab work, etc. By 1983 I was working as a prop assistant on TV commercials -- not great money, but it was enough to get my movie finished. I earned $11,000 dollars that year and spent $7,000 of it finishing my movie -- how I survived on $4,000 that year is something I still can't explain; to this day I have no idea how I did it. (The IRS was also quite curious...that was the only year I've ever gotten audited for taxes, because they couldn't believe anybody could survive on $4,000 a year.) All I can say is, my rent was cheap and I lived very frugally. I spent that entire year with a borrowed Moviola in my bedroom, editing the film. I had heaps of 16mm film piled all over the place. At night, I had to move all the piles of film off my bed onto the floor so I could go to sleep. In the morning, I'd have to move the piles of film from the floor back onto my bed so I could walk to the bathroom. Very glamorous!

    Darabont was certainly rewarded for his efforts and sacrifice, though, as 1994 saw the release of The Shawshank Redemption, an Academy Award-nominated film adaptation of another King short story. Almost universally considered one of the best films born from King's work, it is now considered a cinematic classic (it was a box office flop in its first theatrical run). And it is that first Dollar Baby that sparked the collaborative efforts between King and Darabont for Shawshank as well as blockbusters such as 1999's The Green Mile (also Oscar-nominated) and 2007's The Mist.

    King's been honest, of course: since most of these films are very low-budget and made by inexperienced filmmakers, many of them are hard to watch twice. Still, for many broke artists, this is a great first shot. Others, like Darabont, have taken a good crack at it.

    2000's "Paranoid" by Jay Holben is an 8-minute adaptation of a poem of the same name, which was published in Skeleton Crew. The short film premiered on the internet (with King's permission, of course) for a limited run of 8 months. You can still find the film archived on the web if you look hard enough...

    Something to note about Dollar Babies: there does seem to be a give and take. Although the aspiring filmmakers do get the better end of the deal (Hollywood/TV pays REAL good money for King's stuff), these films do give a lot of King's lesser known works some time on the big/small/computer screen. And when the films are good, all the better.

    Until I started researching for this article, I had no idea anyone had dared to adapt King's 100-line poem about a paranoid schizophrenic man (a woman in the Dollar Baby) who may or may not be stalked by King supervillain Randall Flagg (see: The Dark Tower series, Hearts in Atlantis, The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon). It's kind of difficult to adapt a poem for the movies, isn't it? Unless it's something epic with swords, of course.

    But that's the kind of creativity these Dollar Babies nurture. Give a buck and put your all into adapting a story you love. In my opinion, that's what being a Constant Reader is all about: enjoying the stories and then making them part of your life in a meaningful way. This article, for example, is my way of sharing with you, Less Constant Reader, my love of short films based on King's work. 

    When asked by Lilja's Library why he chose to adapt King's poem, Holben said:

    I've been a Constant Reader (for those non-fans read: constant Stephen King fan) for many years - ever since my brother handed me a copy of Thinnersometime around 1985. Paranoid: A Chant has always been a quiet favorite. It's a great piece of writing that is often overlooked and forgotten. So many people quickly label King as a "Horror Writer," but I think he's much more of a sociologist. He has an extraordinary gift for capturing the souls of people and putting them down on paper. It is his characterizations and expressions of humanity that keep me coming back to King's words time and time again. Paranoid is a great example of how he gets you inside a person's head in a short, concise and powerful way. 

    Some of these guys just get it, and that's what makes these Dollar Babies such a great expansion of King's work -- like his secret Expanded Universe that you have to be cool enough to be there for.

    To this day, King still encourages the Dollar Baby. If you visit King's official site, you'll find a long list of short stories waiting for the Dollar Baby treatment. The stories on the list come from the author's major short story collections, spanning much of King's life and his growth/change as a writer. From classic boogeyman stories such as "I Am the Doorway" (Night Shift) to later stories with a more literay approach such as "The Things They Left Behind" (Just After Sunset), which is now being adapted for TV, there is something for every young filmmaker to sick their teeth into (pun intended).

    Even "The Woman in the Room" is still available for a dollar deal. Think you can top Darabont's version? (You can find his short film on the internet, as well, in case you want to compare notes.) Take your shot for a dollar.

    John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek US. Find more of his work on his website. Or just follow him on Twitter.

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  • 04/06/18--09:11: Legion Comics Reading Order
  • Legion Season 2 is giving even more love to The First Son of the X-Universe. And if you want to learn his history, we've got you...

    Feature Jim Dandy
    Apr 6, 2018

    David Haller is a complicated dude. Or...complicated dudes.

    The omega-level mutant, currently featured on FX's Legion, has a long history in the comics that is tied closely to the history of the X-Men, and shares their penchant for broken continuity. So where  exactly did David Haller come from in the comics?

    Let's take a look...

    Origin: New Mutants volume 1 #26-28.

    In addition to seeing exactly where David started, these issues are drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, and y’all know how I feel about him.

    In Sienkiewicz and writer Chris Claremont's often groundbreaking style, we get the story of young David. He gets caught in a terrorist attack, and is the only survivor. In the process, his powers emerge and he absorbs the mind of the terrorist who commits the crime. From there, his mind splinters, and each personality is assigned a power. This story shows his origin, and shows the New Mutants (the first class of students at Xavier's school after the X-Men) meeting him, fighting him and linking up with him.

    Read it here.

    Muir Island Saga: Uncanny X-Men #278-280; X-Factor #69 & 70

    Legion Quest: Uncanny X-Men #319-321; Cable #20; X-Men vol. 2 #40 & 41

    Age of Apocalypse: X-Men AlphaX-Men Omega

    None of these is foundational to understanding who David is, but they are important to his overall plot. The Muir Island Saga is actually important to the background of the television show, as well: it's the first time Legion and the Shadow King butt heads.

    The Muir Island Saga is the culmination of years of buildup in X-Men comics. It has the Shadow King nibbling away at the minds of Moira MacTaggart, David, Polaris, and Jamie Madrox (the inhabitants of Muir Island, a science lab/generic Scottish island). When Amahl Farouk finally gains control of David's mind, he uses David's powers to poison the entire world, making people more angry and violent and hateful, like leaded gasoline. The X-Men and the original X-Factor eventually confront the Shadow King, and Professor X, in some baller astral conquistador armor, takes him down and destroys him "forever." It's comics forever, but whatever.

    The Age of Apocalypse is one of the ballsiest comics events of all time. It starts with "Legion Quest:" David awakens from his catatonia following the Muir Island Saga and decides he really wants to help his dad. So he goes back in time to kill Magneto before Magneto can turn evil. It goes...poorly. Instead of killing Magneto, Charles jumps in front of David's psychic knife and sacrifices himself, wiping David from the timeline and paving the way for Apocalypse to come to power millenia before he was supposed to. Apocalypse turns America into a real dump, and the rest of the story, while excellent, only barely involves David at the end. Short version: there's a time loop, Bishop, and David wipes himself from existence.

    Read Legion Quest Here.

    Return: New Mutants vol. 3 #1-4

    Zeb Wells' run of New Mutantswas a delight. This tale brought David back to reality and reunited much of the original New Mutants cast on a book that was as much about legacy as it was chasing down David's multiple personalities. After his resurrection and some requisite battling, David was brought to the X-Men's new San Francisco-adjacent lair, Utopia, where he worked with the team of X-science bros cataloguing and harnessing his many personalities.

    Read it here.

    X-Men: Second Coming, while not strictly necessary to Legion's tale, should absolutely be read because it is dope. It's the last great X-Men crossover: huge, widescreen action with years worth of story payoffs, and while Legion gets precisely zero character development, he does parachute in for a total badass moment or two. Really, you should read the big X-Men books from Messiah CompleXto Second Coming. Not for Legion, he has nothing to do with it until the end. Just because they're great.

    Read it here.

    What if David had been important to Age of Apocalypse instead of a plot device: Age of X

    Age of X,a crossover between New Mutants and X-Men Legacy, was basically "What if David's character development was important to the plot of Age of Apocalypse, instead of just being a breathing macguffin?"Age of Xwas, like its forebear often was, impossibly bleak and gorgeous to look at, but this new story was emotionally resonant from every aspect. Mike Carey is the most underrated X-Men writer of all time, and very quietly maybe the third best. Here he created an alternate world, filled it with fascinating X-analogues, made all of them feel real, and then brought it all down in a way that made David the emotional core. Carey followed this up in the pages of X-Men Legacy in another great, but less essential story.

    Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat's X-Men: Legacy might be the most important comic to the tone of the TV show. It was also the weirdest, sweetest X-Men comic of all time. When they relaunched X-Men Legacy following Avengers vs. X-Men,they had Legion deal with human problems. He struggled to work through his illness. He fell in love with someone - Blindfold, the precog from Joss Whedon's run. And he worked through his issues with his father, who was appearing to him as an all-powerful gold-coated version of himself, bursting out of David's brain to try and murder him. Totally normal, right? It was funny, weird, beautiful, and ultimately heartbreaking. And it was so good. 

    Read it here.

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    Joelle Jones gets her own Catwoman series spinning out of the wedding of the century.

    NewsJim Dandy
    Apr 7, 2018

    Joelle Jones, who has been on a ridiculous hot streak in the pages of Batmanof late, announced at the Batman panel at C2E2 that she's about to take one of the main characters of that story out on her own.

    Catwoman#1 marks Selina Kyle's first solo outing in the DC Universe since the close of the New 52. It's also the first time Jones will be writing and drawing a DC superhero in the main continuity. Jones has already had very successful stints on Batman, first introducing Selina to Talia al Ghul as Bruce's fiancee, and then trapping Batman and Wonder Woman in an alternate dimension where they spend a millennium fighting unstoppable hordes. In the process, Jones drew two of the best fight scenes in Batmansince the all-splash-page issue by Mikel Janin, back when Batman raided Santa Prisca to steal the Psycho Pirate from Bane. I love writing about comics sometimes.

    While Batmanis her first in-continuity work, and Catwomanher first solo in-continuity book, she is also coming off a stint on Supergirl: Being Super, an Ultimate-ish reimagining of Supergirl's origin story that has Kara discovering her powers as she runs track, saves her friends, and pops a pimple so disgusting they would shut down all of YouTube were it to happen in real life.

    Jones made the leap to superstardom with her work on Dark Horse's Lady Killer, the story of a '50s housewife-slash-contract assassin.

    Check out the official synopsis from DC:

    "The wedding night’s barely over, but Catwoman’s back on the streets, this time to expose a copycat who’s pulling heists around Gotham City. As Selina cracks the whip on her former criminal cohorts, she’s attracting unwanted attention from one of Gotham’s most dangerous groups. The mob? Nope. Try the GCPD. And as if the Bat-Bride didn’t have enough problems, don’t miss the debut of an all-new villain determined to make trouble for all nine of Selina’s lives."

    Batman and Catwoman are due to be wed in Batman#50, the anniversary issue that hits the same day as Catwoman#1, July 3rd, 2018. For more on their relationship, or for more breaking news out of C2E2, stick with Den of Geek!

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    The Justice League is giving Donna Troy the cold shoulder in this exclusive preview of Titans #22

    NewsJim Dandy
    Apr 9, 2018

    Between the events of Metal and the impending resolution to the missing years of the New 52 era in Doomsday Clock, it seems like this intergenerational crew of ex-Teen Titans has their days numbered. Indeed, folding into No Justice, writer Dan Abnett and artist Paul Pelletier are relaunching  the grown up first wave sidekick crew as a globetrotting team of metahuman problem solvers this summer. But they still have to wrap up their current story, and we got a glimpse into the next issue for you.

    Here's what DC has to say about it all:

    TITANS #22 Written by DAN ABNETT • Art and cover by PAUL PELLETIER and ANDREW HENNESSY • Variant cover by NICK BRADSHAW“Titans Apart” part three! As Arsenal follows the trail of a conspiracy that no one else can see, he finds himself at the mercy of Cheshire, who’s both a deadly assassin and his ex! Only Donna Troy takes Roy at his word, but she’s trapped in the Watchtower…and must escape to save the man she loves!

    Take this with the same caveat that comes with predictions in our Legends of Tomorrow coverage (i.e. that I'm always wrong), but it's hard not to notice some similarities to the final season of the GROSSLY UNDERAPPRECIATED Teen Titans cartoon. That season focused on Beast Boy and the Doom Patrol and the legacy battle against the Brain and his lover, Monsieur Mallah; it dramatically expanded the Titans' roster, including Wally West, Speedy, Jinx, Red Star and others; it had a worldwide focus, with the Titans going to Siberia, underground caves in the Arctic, and Jump City; and it was generally wonderful.

    Abnett and Pelletier look to be setting up the same scenario here, with Roy Harper trying to stop the Brain's plan and leading directly into a team with a global perspective led by Dick Grayson. But the path we're taking to get there happens to be really well done. Pelletier's combination of expressiveness and action is perfect for this pure, uncut superhero melodrama, and Abnett continues to be amazing.

    Check it out!

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