Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

Books On Comics On Film

If you’re a regular reader of this blog it will come as no surprise to you that I love the current spate of superhero movies and television shows. Comic book fans live in a golden age of media where this stuff just seems to get better and better, and something new and exciting waits around each new turn of the calendar–I’m looking at you, Suicide Squad! In the meantime, if you like this stuff too, and you’re anything like me, you want to interact with it beyond the movie itself. This might include playing a tabletop or video game based on a particular superhero movie, chatting about it in online forums or on social media, or maybe reading a book about it! Yes, most big superhero movies generate a number of interesting, printed products that ride along with the film and add further details and insight.

My current favorite of this crop of books is The Art Of Guardians Of The Galaxy. Yes, I know I mention the movie a lot. No, Guardians director James Gunn does not pay me $25 every time I mention it in one of these posts. Anyway, books like this one provide insight into the design process behind these amazing movies, and they give us an inkling into how much energy and work went into making them great. Check out this scan from the book:

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It’s amazing to track the development of a character like Rocket from the comic books, to the graphic artist board of the movie illustrators, to the actual screen.

Here’s a short list of a few other “Art Of…” titles from various superhero franchises:

Captain America: The First Avenger

The Art Of Marvel: The Avengers 

The Art Of Marvel Iron Man 3 

The Art And Making Of The Dark Knight Trilogy 

A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into these amazing films, and these books provide us a window into that complex world of concepts and pre-production we might otherwise never see.

–Scott P.

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Opinions, Assemble!

I saw Avengers: Age Of Ultron this past Sunday. Brilliant! A movie with so many important characters and so much action and CGI runs a real risk of becoming a hot mess. Like a great symphony conductor, Joss Whedon kept this film moving, hit all of the right notes, and gave just about every character at least one moment to shine. Movies with large ensemble casts need just the right pacing and attention to detail to pull this off. Being a big Hawkeye fan, I was floored that he played such a pivotal role in the film and enjoyed so many amazing moments. Jeremy Renner did a superb job capturing Hawkeye’s core conceit–the “normal dude” among godlike beings–normal being a relative thing in this case.

Seeing Age of Ultron marks a good time to go back and assess my top three superhero films of recent memory, and just to add a bit of spice, I will throw in my bottom three as well!

Top Three

Guardians Of The Galaxy. Guardians masterfully blends sci-fi and superheroes and only gets better with repeated viewings.

Iron Man. The first Iron Man film remains the best as Robert Downey, Jr. forges the role he was born to play.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I loved the first Cap movie, but Winter Soldier establishes Captain America as Marvel’s paragon of what’s best in a hero.

Honorable MentionThor. Chris Hemsworth is The God of Thunder, and his chemistry with Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) flows so naturally it adds a lovely bit of romance to the rollicking action.

Bottom Three

X-Men: The Last Stand. Everything Joss Whedon did right in Age Of Ultron, Brett Ratner did wrong in this hot mess–uneven script, key action occurring off-screen, and not enough special moments for characters.

Superman Returns. Watch this one up to the point where Supes saves the space-plane, then turn if off and put in the original Superman with Chris Reeves and Brando–it’s Supes vs. a bad real estate scheme in both films.

Punisher: War ZoneCosmic villain Galactus has a robotic watchdog named the Punisher; I wish this movie was about him.

Dishonorable Mention: Fantastic 4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer. Significant divergences from the comic book versions of Dr. Doom, Galactus, and the Surfer himself helped ruin this poorly paced film for me.

–Scott P.

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“The Fantastic Four And Wolverine Are Dead, Jim”

Well, that’s what the late, great Deforest Kelly might say in the role of Bones, from Star Trek. In two recent and stunning moves, the cognoscenti at Marvel Comics killed Wolverine (a good thing if he would just stay dead) and cancelled august superhero title The Fantastic Four.  It will be hard for me to continue with this post and not seem like a curmudgeonly old man screaming for some snotty kids to get off the grass in his front yard. I will still try.

For a while in the early 2000s it seemed like every story-based decision Marvel made involved length of arc and fitness for inclusion into a trade. That’s what Library Journal would call a graphic novel. Stories, and the nature of storytelling in comics, changed because of this. The monthly comics became secondary to the collected work in the more popular and marketable graphic novel.

So be it. At least then Marvel (and DC) were still thinking in terms of the comic books themselves.

Then sometime after the very first Spider-Man movie killed it at the box office, Stan Lee’s long held dream of Marvel’s marriage to Hollywood and wider media came to pass. Sean Howe covers Stan’s Hollywood vision-quest in his amazing book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. It’s now gotten to a point where even the mediocre Marvel movies make mad loot. That old adage that money ruins everything is not true. Money ruins most things.

While they will never admit it, the folks at Marvel “killed” Wolverine and cancelled Fantastic Four because both properties belong to rival movie studios. They might cite creative reasons, or the low sales of FF, but we should know better. Making these moves undercuts in some small way the creative impetus of rival studio Fox. For an awesome visual of exactly which studio owns each major Marvel superhero property, check here.

While I was born on a Tuesday, it was not last Tuesday. I know Wolverine will be back (dude, he’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does is sell comics). I also know FF will rise again. Comics are a business. They have been since the halcyon days of Timely. The business used to be about selling comics. Now it’s about pillaging them for the next movie script.

My position is not without hypocrisy. I saw Guardians Of The Galaxy five times. I will content myself with cherry-picking the Marvel and DC movies I like.

Meanwhile, I need to go see my grief counselor; Wolverine is dead after all.

–Scott P.

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