Kurtzman, Picard, Discovery, and Tarantino: What the Trek Is Going On?

“Are you sure it isn’t time for a colorful metaphor?” — Spock to Kirk, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

You may have noticed that there are a lot of rumors going around about the various Star Trek projects lately — some are fairly accurate, other not so much. I considered trying to tackle one or the other this week, but they are sort of complicated. Then I came across the Midnight’s Edge video below. It does a great job of reviewing what has been said and sorting out what’s what. I certainly learned a lot, anyway, and thought it was well worth the 13 minutes (or less, if you bump up the playback speed).

Topics include:

1) Has Alex Kurtzman been fired?

2) The Bidding War

3) Discovery Season 3 in trouble?

4) Picard Test Screenings

5) Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek

Ready…?

Whether any of that is good news, bad news, or indifferent to you probably depends on how you feel about what Kurtzman’s done with the franchise, your feelings about “Discovery”, expectations for “Picard”, excitement (or not) for an R-rated, Tarantino-created ST film, etc. I, for one, am “meh” regarding a Tarantino project, but I’ll be rather disappointed if any of this mess over finances and licensing results in a cancellation of “Discovery” or reduced production value of same. I also count myself among fans with high hopes for “Picard”, and it would be a frickin’ shame for CBS/Amazon to screw that up, too.

Fingers crossed…

P.S. Before going to press, I came across this new article, in which Kurtzman gives some updates and observations of his own.

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Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2019: Special Comics Edition, Part 2 of 2

“SHAZAM!” — Billy Batson, who then transforms into Captain Marvel

Continuing from last week’s Part 1, we have four Silver and Golden Age superheroes celebrating notable anniversaries this year. Is one of them a favorite of yours?

Showcase #22

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) (1959): 60 years

Hal Jordan was not the first ‘Green Lantern’ of Earth — that honor goes to ‘Alan Scott’ — and several Green Lanterns have been introduced since. But, Jordan became the Green Lantern of the Silver Age of Comics when he debuted in Showcase #22 from DC Comics. The character went on to become a perennial favorite, especially for those who grew up on DC comics in the 1960s-90s. Created by John Broome and Gil Kane and based on the likeness of Paul Newman, Jordan may have temporarily adopted a couple other important aliases along the way (e.g., Parallax, the Spectre), but he has survived death, cancellation, and several retcons and rebirths to remain a beloved and influential character in the DC Multiverse.

Hal Jordan has either co-starred or made appearances in many animated series and films, as well as in multiple video games. The Jordan Green Lantern has also headlined a live-action film and is set to co-star in 2020’s Green Lantern Corps live-action reboot. Of course, merchandise based on the character runs from action figures and maquettes to power rings and lunch boxes. The character has ranked quite well in IGN’s lists, too: #7 in 2011’s “Top 100 Comic Book Heroes” and #4 in 2013’s “Top 25 Heroes of DC Comics”.

Marvel Mystery Comics #4

Namor, the Sub-Mariner (1939): 80 years

Prince Namor of Atlantis, the Sub-Mariner, was created by Bill Everett for Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 (1939) — a planned black-n-white giveaway for movie theaters. When the promotion fell through, Everett introduced the public to his new creation in Timely/Marvel’s first regular color comic book, Marvel [Mystery] Comics #1, later that year. (See pic of Namor’s first cover appearance.) Of course, like many characters, he had to weather wars (real and fictional), economic downturns, amnesia, cancellations, etc. Despite the character’s arrogance, aggression, mercurial temper, and fluctuating loyalties, he has maintained a respectable fan-following after all this time. In addition to guest-appearances and co-starring in other books, he has starred in several miniseries and at least five regular comics series — in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960/70s, 1990s, 2011.

“The Avenging Son” has had two aborted TV series (in the 1950s & 1970s) and an on-again/off-again live-action film project (1990s-2000s). The character has appeared in several animated series and video games, as well. Namor has been ranked by Wizard as the 88th greatest comic book character. IGN ranked Namor as the 77th greatest comic book hero of all time and 14th in their list of “The Top 50 Avengers”. For something a little different, ComicsAlliance ranked him #16 on their list of the “50 Sexiest Male Characters in Comics” (2013).

Whiz Comics #2

Captain Marvel / Shazam (1939): 80 years

Long before Marvel’s ‘Carol Danvers’ took the monicker Captain Marvel (or was even conceived of), there was another “Captain Marvel”. In Whiz Comics #2 (cover date Feb. 1940; release date Dec. 1939), Fawcett Comics published the first appearance of the original Captain Marvel character, alter ego of young orphan ‘Billy Batson’. Much to the delight of Fawcett and creators Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, the character was an instant hit and outsold all other superheroes during the 1940s — even Superman himself. In the early 1950s, National Comics Publications (owner of Superman) sued Fawcett for copyright infringement and won, forcing Fawcett to stop publishing Captain Marvel-related comics. In the 1970s, National (now known as DC Comics) licensed the rights to the character and bought them completely in 1991. There have also been trademark conflicts with Marvel Comics (for obvious reasons), resulting in at least one version of the character to be renamed “Shazam!”. But, let’s not get started on the retcons, reboots, and relaunches….

The Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel has the distinction of being “the first comic book superhero to be adapted into film, in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial, Adventures of Captain Marvel“. There was a brief radio serial in 1943. The character has been featured in a 1970s live action TV series and a 1980s animated TV series. There have been animated films, appearances on other animated series, and various video games. And, of course, 2019’s Shazam! live-action film (which I have yet to see) was a big hit. The “Big Red Cheese” was ranked as the 55th greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard; the 50th greatest comic book hero of all time by IGN; and UGO Networks ranked him as one of the top heroes of entertainment.

Detective Comics #27

(The) Batman (1939): 80 years

One of the most valuable and sought after comic books — well, by those with big bucks, anyway — is Detective Comics #27, the debut of the Batman! (Or, “Bat-Man”, as he was originally named.) Bruce Wayne’s alter ego got his own self-titled, regular series the following year, and creator Bob Kane (with Bill Finger) continued to refine the character. There have been a number of “interpretations” of the character over the decades — from the gun-wielding, pulp-style vigilante in those earliest years; to the more light-hearted, even campy version of the 1950s-60s; to the grim-n-gritty “Dark Knight” of the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond — and there have been a number of revamps and relaunches. But, through it all, the Caped Crusader’s popularity and iconic imagery continue to rival even that of his friend and colleague Superman.

There have been times when there were four regular Batman comics published each month, along with various related series, miniseries, and one-shots. Merchandising has produced untold numbers of Batman-themed clothes, toys, and collectibles. Over the decades, there have been Batman comic strips, books, radio dramas, a stage show, two movie serials (the second co-starring ‘Robin’), live-action TV series, animated TV series (including the multiple-Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series), live-action films (including a couple that won Academy Awards), animated films, and video games (including Batman: Arkham City (2011), which holds a Metacritic ranking of 94%). This doesn’t include guest appearances and co-starring roles in other shows, films, serials, comics, etc. And, of course, Batman continues to rank at or near the top of various superhero lists by Wizard, IGN, Entertainment Weekly, et al. (He is in my book, too!)

I’m sure some of you noticed a few names missing that I could have included in this list — e.g., Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) (1959), Teen Titans (1964), Guardians of the Galaxy (1st version) (1969), Alpha Flight (1979), TMNT (1984), Robin (Tim Drake) (1989). But, not only did I need to limit myself for time and space reasons, I also had to leave some “fresh” ones for when I do this list again in 2024, right? 🙂

L8r…

Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2019: Special Comics Edition, Part 1 of 2

“I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice.” — Wolverine (Marvel Comics)

As promised, here is the comics-focused addendum to this year’s “Notable Genre Anniversaries” — well, part 1, anyway. Read on, pilgrim….

Saitama

Saitama (2009): 10 years

The ‘Saitama’ character debuted in 2009 in the first issue of the One-Punch Man webcomic, created by manga artist ONE. Saitama may be strongest of all the heroes on his planet, but he becomes “bored by the absence of challenge in his fight against evil and seeks to find a worthy opponent.” ONE described his idea for the character thusly, “Punching is oftentimes pretty useless against life’s problems. But inside One Punch Man’s universe, I made Saitama a sort of guy who was capable of adapting his life to the world that surrounded him, only armed with his immense power. The only obstacles he faces are mundane things, like running short of money.” (Sounds like an alternate-Earth mashup of Superman and Spider-Man to me.)

Despite the creator’s taking a couple hiatuses from the series over the years, One-Punch Man became immensely popular right away and remains so. As of April 2019, the webcomic had released 111 chapters, and the site has received millions of hits. There have been several collected editions printed, and the ninth volume included a drama CD. There was a spinoff webcomic, and a separate North American edition of the series began publication in 2013, with printed editions beginning 2015. And, of course, we can’t forget the anime adaptation that first aired in 2015. One-Punch Man was nominated for a Manga Taisho Award in 2014. The first two printed volumes made appearances at the top of the New York Times Manga Best Sellers list, with the series being nominated for an Eisner Award in 2015. The anime even maintains a 100% score at Rotten Tomatoes.

I may have to check it out someday….

Wolverine cameo at end of The Incredible Hulk #180

Wolverine (1974): 45 years

Ever since he debuted in The Incredible Hulk #180-181 (Oct. & Nov. 1974), Wolverine (aka Logan, aka Patch, aka James Howlett, aka Weapon X) has easily become one of the most popular American comic book characters of all time. Whether working solo or with the X-Men or some other partner/team, fans just seem to love the enigmatic, often surly, mutant Canucklehead with retractable claws and an uncanny healing factor. Best of all when he has the adamantium lacing his skeleton and giving his claws an indestructible edge. (You may remember that I listed him among my Top 5 favorite Marvel superheroes.)

Some of the character’s mystery began to be peeled away beginning with writer-artist Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Weapon X” story (1991), the wisdom of which some fans have questioned. But, he has nonetheless maintained legions of fans — thanks in part, I’m sure, to the popular movie version. Created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita Sr., Wolverine has appeared in every media adaptation of the X-Men franchise, including multiple films, (animated) television, and computer and video games. The character was ranked #1 in Wizard magazine’s 2008 Top 200 Comic Book Characters; 4th on IGN’s 2011 Top 100 Comic Book Heroes; and 4th in Empire‘s Greatest Comic Characters.

Amazing Spider-Man #129

Punisher (1974): 45 years

The Punisher (aka Frank Castle) was very much in contrast with the ever-joking, heroic star of Amazing Spider-Man #129. Created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., and Ross Andru, the character was inspired by ‘Mack Bolan’ from Don Pendleton’s The Executioner book series — a grim Vietnam vet with a vendetta against the mob. Initially cast as an antagonist, he was only too happy to visit the same sort of brutal violence and death upon his targets/opponents as they did against their victims, which included Castle’s family. While Castle left a trail of blood and body parts, he also garnered a huge following of comic fans, many of whom could (at least partially) identify with his frustration and desire for revenge against injustice. Given the lengths he was willing to go to (e.g., torture and murder), the Punisher became an iconic anti-hero and symbol of vigilante justice.

The hit character began with more guest appearances and a miniseries before getting a regular series of his own. At one point, there were four Punisher-oriented monthly comic titles, and he made appearances — though somewhat toned down — on at least a couple of Marvel’s animated series. There have been three live-action Punisher films (each with a different lead actor) and most recently two seasons of a live-action TV series from Netflix (after guest-starring on the Daredevil series). And, of course, there are the video games, too. Accolades include being named the 19th Greatest Comic Book Character of All Time by Empire; #27 in Top 100 Comic Book Heroes by IGN; and ranked #39 in Wizard‘s Top 200 Comic Book Characters.

Daredevil #1

Daredevil (1964): 55 years

Though best known for his classic all-red costume, Daredevil (aka blind attorney Matt Murdock) debuted in Daredevil #1 in a half-red/half-yellow “acrobat” costume (see pic). Stan Lee and Bill Everett created what would be a beloved character with many ups-n-downs — both as a character and in terms of publication. Daredevil is a complex character — a man with a good heart but always struggling against the desire for vengeance and other inner demons. He is a more “street level” hero who typically deals with street thugs, drug dealers, human traffickers, and other vices in the seedier parts of town. Yet, when necessary, the “Man Without Fear” can mix it up with powerful supervillains (often alongside his superhero pals) and deal with some big-league threats. Still, as with the best characters, it is his humanity through it all that attracts his fans.

Daredevil has appeared in various of Marvel’s animated TV series, video games, guest-starred in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk TV movie, had his own big-screen movie in 2003 (which was only somewhat successful), and was the focus of 3 seasons of Netflix’s recent “Daredevil” TV series. The character was ranked as 37th Greatest Comic Book Character by Empire; #21 in Wizard‘s list of the 200 Greatest Comic Characters of All Time; and #10 on IGN’s “Top 100 Comic Book Heroes”. Also, comic book readers surveyed by Comic Book Resources (CBR) website named ol’ DD as Marvel’s 3rd best character.

So far, so good. Next week, we’ll continue with four more in Part 2….

The Future Is Next Door

I’m not normally “into” architecture, but I am occasionally impressed either by size, ingenuity, and/or a particular aesthetic. So, given the usual subject matter of this blog, it shouldn’t be surprising that I like to see futuristic building designs. When I saw this recent article — really, the results of a community survey — at Atlas Obscura, I thought some of you might appreciate it, as well.

The title is “16 Real Places That Look Like They’re From the Future”, but I have grabbed pics of my 5 favorites and put them below, along with additional information on each….

 

“Due to their sheer height and fantastical appearance, Gardens by the Bay’s defining feature is almost certainly its collection of 18 “Supertrees.” With heights ranging from 80 to 160 feet and light displays that come alive at night, the Supertrees complement the nearby high-rises and add distinctive flair to the Singapore skyline.”

 

 

 

“The Atlanta Marriott Marquis is a 53-story, 168.86 m (554.0 ft) Marriott hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. It is the 14th tallest skyscraper in the city. The building was designed by Atlanta architect John C. Portman, Jr. with construction completed in 1985, and because of its bulging base, it is often referred to as the “Pregnant Building” or the “Coca Cola” building as it looks like a bottle of Coke from the side elevation. One of the defining features of the Marriott Marquis is its large atrium. It was the largest in the world upon its completion in 1985, at 470 feet (143 m) high. The atrium spans the entire height of the building and consists of two vertical chambers divided by elevator shafts and bridges. The record was later broken by the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.”

 

 

 

“The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was designed by American architect Antoine Predock, who took his inspiration from the Canadian landscape. He certainly didn’t hold back when describing his vision: “Carved into the earth and dissolving into the Winnipeg horizon, the abstract ephemeral wings of a white dove embrace a mythic stone mountain of 450 million-year-old Tyndall limestone. The structure is a timeless landmark for all nations and cultures – a symbolic apparition of ice, clouds and stone set in a field of sweet grass.””

 

What the heck is this thing? A giant tinker-toy?

Designed by AndrĂ© Waterkeyn (the director of a federation of metallurgical companies and not a sculptor by trade), the Atomium was built for the Brussels World’s Fair of 1958. “Essentially the Atomium is a 335-foot-tall giant iron crystal, replicated in shiny steel. It is formed by nine spheres arranged in the shape that iron atoms take in their delta and alpha allotropes. (In iron’s gamma allotrope, there are extra atoms at the center of each face of the cube.) The Atomium is magnified 165 billion times the normal size of an iron crystal.”

 

The largest 3D amorphous structure in the world, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a multi-cultural complex located at Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station in Seoul, South Korea. “From the very beginning, DDP garnered much attention as Korea’s first public building for which its design was chosen through an international design contest, held by Seoul Metropolitan Government. The DDP was designed by late Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born British architect who was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In her design of DDP, Hadid focused on the dynamism of the Dongdaemun area, which is in a state of constant flux from the early morning to late at night. Her DDP design, entitled “Metonymic Landscape,” uses the historical, cultural, social, and economic characteristics of the Dongdaemun area as its foundation and adds futuristic values and vision to it. Hadid created a space that flows without boundaries, based on her observations of the region’s continuously changing dynamics.”

Pretty cool, eh?

Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2019, Part 3 of 3

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — opening line of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Back in March, we began this series of “notable genre anniversaries” for this year, and the second part came out a couple weeks later. After a detour into giant monsters and Star Trek and stuff, we’re back for Part 3 this week. Ready? Here we go…

(First edition)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (aka 1984) (1949): 70 years

First published in June 1949, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel set in — you guessed it — 1984, when much of the world was characterized by endless war, propaganda, and government surveillance. According to Orwell, “[The book] was based chiefly on communism, because that is the dominant form of totalitarianism, but I was trying chiefly to imagine what communism would be like if it were firmly rooted in the English speaking countries, and was no longer a mere extension of the Russian Foreign Office.”

A combination of science fiction and political fiction, the novel has been surprisingly popular and influential. How?

“Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common usage since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four also popularised the adjective Orwellian, which connotes things such as official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state, as described by the author. [By 1989, it had been translated into 65 languages, more than any other novel in English until then.] In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels, reaching #13 on the editors’ list and #6 on the readers’ list. In 2003, the novel was listed at #8 on The Big Read survey done by the BBC.” [Wikipedia]

Most of the world was far different than Orwell’s fictional world when 1984 actually rolled around. But, the novel is still recognized as quite insightful — even prophetic — as English-speaking nations do indeed seem to be inching (or, running, in certain cases) ever closer to this end. Current communist regimes (e.g., Russia, China) serve as models for our Orwellian future, and it ain’t pretty.

OK, enough politics…

(Title card)

Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949): 70 years

As the first science-fiction show on American television, “Captain Video and His Video Rangers” was the precursor to a heckuva lot of genre fare that fans have enjoyed over the past 7 decades — from “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” to a couple comic-strip adaptations I’ll get to below, as well as the various Star Treks and Battlestar Galacticas, et al. Sure, it was black-n-white and even hokier looking and sounding than the original “Star Trek” or “Lost in Space”. But, kids & adults alike ate it up back then. Plus, there were special “Video Ranger messages” during commercial breaks, and cool premiums were sold like rocket ship keychains, plastic spacemen, ray guns, decoders, etc.

Broadcast live 5 or 6 days per week, the program was set in the far future and followed the adventures of the eponymous Captain Video (initially played by Richard Coogan, but primarily by Al Hodge) and his fellow fighters for truth and justice against villains like Doctor Pauli and Hing Foo Sung. Over 1500 episodes aired between June 1949 and April 1955, including 20 episodes of the Saturday-morning spinoff “The Secret Files of Captain Video”. But, only 24 episodes are believed to have survived, with only 5 available to the public.

Critics originally mocked the very low-budget series for its bargain-basement effects, sudden plot-shifts, and incoherent scripts. Things improved a lot in 1952, though. The writing became smarter and more imaginative when (now-)big names like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Cyril M. Kornbluth, Damon Knight, James Blish, and Jack Vance began producing scripts. Also, the team of Russell and Haberstroh took over special-effects.

In 1951, a Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere movie serial was produced and starred Judd Holdren. Fawcett Comics put out a 6-issue run of the “Captain Video” comic that same year.

Flash Gordon (1934): 85 years

The “Flash Gordon” comic strip was first published on Jan. 7, 1934, in hopes of competing with the already popular “Buck Rogers” strip. (I’ll get to Buck in a minute.) It was the creation of a King Features staff artist named Alex Raymond, who wrote (with assistance) and drew the strip until he joined the U.S. Marines in 1944. Other than the obvious “Buck Rogers” parallels, the character/story appears to have been heavily influenced by the recently published novel When Worlds Collide (1933) by Philip Wylie. Following Raymond’s departure, several writers and artists contributed to the character’s adventures, either on a regular or temporary basis, including such notables as Harry Harrison and Gray Morrow, culminating with Jim Keefe’s run (1996-2003).

“King Features sold the Flash Gordon strip to newspapers across the world, and by the late 1930s, the strip was published in 130 newspapers, translated into eight foreign languages, and was read by 50 million people…. [It] is regarded as one of the best illustrated and most influential of American adventure comic strips.” [Wikipedia]

The Flash Gordon comic strip has been adapted into film serials (starring Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe), an American movie (1980) and a low-budget Turkish version (1967), both live-action and animated TV series, comic books, novels, radio serials, and even a musical play. The latest was a live-action TV show on the SyFy channel (2007–2008). As with earlier adaptations, its success led to numerous licensed products — e.g., pop-up books, coloring books, toy spaceships and rayguns.

Raymond’s artwork and designs on the comic strip have been lauded by genre professionals and led genre historians to consider him “one of the most famous science fiction artists of all time, although he never contributed an illustration to any science fiction magazine or book”. The strip has influenced superhero comic artists, including elements of the costume designs for Superman and Hawkman.

Buck Rogers (1929, 1939, 1979): 90, 80, & 40 years

I’m gonna cheat a little bit with this one, because we missed last year’s 80th anniversary of the character’s debut in the novella Armageddon 2419 A.D., published in the Aug. 1928 issue of Amazing Stories, which followed up shortly with a sequel, The Airlords of Han. But, the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D. newspaper strip that made the character popular began Jan. 7, 1929; Buster Crabbe starred in the “Buck Rogers” serial in 1939; and the “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” TV show that I loved to watch debuted back in 1979.

Buck Rogers was the brainchild of Philip Francis Nowlan, though he originally named the character ‘Anthony’. The name changed to ‘Buck’ when Nowlan and illustrator Dick Calkins adapted that first story for the new comic strip by John F. Dille Company (later changed to National Newspaper Service). As already mentioned, the strip was very popular, causing competing syndicates to develop or license similar heroes (e.g., Flash Gordon, Jack Swift, Brick Bradford, Don Dixon, Speed Spaulding, John Carter of Mars).

“Buck Rogers was initially syndicated to 47 newspapers…. At its peak in 1934, Buck Rogers appeared in 287 U.S. newspapers, was translated into 18 languages, and appeared in an additional 160 international papers.”

Calkins left the daily strip a few years later, replaced by Rick Yager. After that, what artist drew what strip gets murky (and the signatures are unreliable). There were a number of illustrators over the years, ending with George Tuska’s run (1959-1967). The New York Times Syndicate produced a “revival” of the strip with Gray Morrow in 1979, which continued until 1983.

Not surprisingly, the popular character has also been adapted for movies and movie serials, TV series (in which ‘Buck’ is established as a nickname for ‘William’), radio programs, comic books, novels, an aborted web series, RPGs, video games, and even a pinball game. Let’s not forget the toys, too, like various rayguns & pistols, spaceships, and action figures. There have been many pop-culture references to Buck Rogers, including in “Duck Dodgers” (obviously), “Futurama”, The Right Stuff, and the XZ-38 Disintegrator Pistol on the cover to the Foo Fighters’ self-titled album. More importantly, “Buck Rogers has been credited with bringing into popular media the concept of space exploration, following in the footsteps of literary pioneers such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs.”

Zorro (1919): 100 years

As a kid, I loved Zorro! In fact, in recent weeks I have re-watched the 1940 classic The Mark of Zorro starring Tyrone Power (and Basil Rathbone as the primary villain) and 1975’s Zorro starring Alain Delon (and Stanley Baker taking the main villain role). (Loved the theme song of the latter one!) I’m on the lookout for 1974’s TV movie The Mark of Zorro starring Frank Langella (with Ricardo Montalban as the main baddie), too. Great fun!

Set in 19th-century California under Spanish rule, the character is sort of a cross between Robin Hood and the Scarlet Pimpernel, with elements of an ennobled Spring-heeled Jack — i.e., a nobleman who is a bit of a dandy and a coward in public, but who secretly dons a black mask and costume to steal from corrupt noblemen & politicians (and return the funds to the poor & oppressed commoners) and fight the military attachments working for them. Like most such heroes, Zorro is quite the athlete and hand-to-hand combatant, as well as a skilled equestrian. Our hero’s favorite weapons are the smallsword (or possibly a rapier) and the bullwhip, both of which he uses expertly for offense and defense and to slice his trademark “Z” into walls, tables, and the occasional clothes/flesh of unfortunate opponents. He isn’t opposed to using other weapons (e.g., daggers and pistols), too, if need be.

Zorro was created by American pulp writer Johnston McCulley and debuted in the serialized novel The Curse of Capistrano. The 1920 film adaptation, The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks, was so successful that McCulley spent the next few decades capitalizing on it. Here’s a brief rundown from Wikipedia:

Comic cover w/ Guy Williams from the Disney TV series

“[T]he character was featured in a total of five serialized stories and 57 short stories, the last one appearing in print posthumously in 1959, the year after [McCulley’s] death. The Curse of Capistrano eventually sold more than 50 million copies, becoming one of the most sold books of all time. While the rest of McCulley’s Zorro stories didn’t enjoy the same popularity, as most of them were never reprinted until the 21st century, the character also appears in over 40 films and in ten TV series, the most famous being the Disney-produced Zorro series of 1957–59, starring Guy Williams [later of “Lost in Space” fame]. Other media featuring Zorro include stories by other authors, audio/radio dramas, comic books and strips, stage productions and video games.

Being one of the earliest examples of a fictional masked avenger with a double identity, Zorro inspired the creation of several similar characters in pulp magazines and other media, and is a precursor of the superheroes of American comic books, with Batman drawing particularly close parallels to the character.”

Bravo!

That’s the end of the regular series for 2019. I hope you liked reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. You might have noticed that, unlike the 2018 series, I left out comics/superheroes this time around. In a few weeks, I’ll do a “special, all-comics edition”, so keep an eye out for that one, too!

Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2019, Part 2 of 3

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call… The Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling’s opening narration of “The Twilight Zone” original series

A couple weeks ago, I wrote briefly about The Matrix (1999), Stargate (1994), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), The Terminator (1984), and William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) novel. This week, we’ll look at a few more of 2019’s anniversaries of significant sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genre properties. Let’s begin with…

Alien (1979): 40 years

Forty… years. Holy cow!

Written by Dan O’Bannon & Ron Shusett and directed by Ridley Scott, this sci-fi/horror masterpiece became a nearly instantaneous modern classic and kicked off a panoply of sequels and imitations. The horrific xenomorph of the title, with “acid for blood” and jutting mouth-within-its-mouth, was designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, making both Giger and the alien into genre icons. The film, which cast included talents like John Hurt and Ian Holm, made relative newcomer Sigourney Weaver, who portrayed the Nostromo‘s reluctant heroine (‘Ellen Ripley’), into a genre fan-favorite, as well.

Alien, which had been pitched to studios as “Jaws in space”, enjoyed both critical and financial success, grossing $80.9 million in the United States, while international box office estimates have varied from $24 million to $122.7 million. (Total worldwide gross was somewhere between $104.9 million and $203.6 million.) It won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and was also nominated for Best Art Direction. It received BAFTA nominations for Best Costume Design (John Mollo), Best Editing (Terry Rawlings), Best Supporting Actor (John Hurt), and Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Role (Sigourney Weaver). It received awards and additional nominations at both the Saturn Awards and Hugo Awards. Jerry Goldsmith’s score was nominated for a Golden Globe, a Grammy, and a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music.

Critiques of the film have become generally more positive, but early critical analysis was somewhat mixed. Much of the controversy has been centered on its sexual overtones. O’Bannon admits that he very much intended to mess with audiences’ — especially the males’ — heads re sexual fears, assumptions, etc. This is all done via the xenomorph’s somewhat androgynous design and various features and behaviors that represent sex organs, rape, etc. Nasty stuff, and I’m glad most of it went right over my head, so I could enjoy it as a straight-up sci-fi/horror flick. Apparently, some astute critics picked up on it, though. O’Bannon has also stated that the story was “strongly influenced, tone-wise, by Lovecraft,” which was the aspect that most attracted Giger to the project.

Moving on… There have been three direct sequels (Aliens (1986), AlienÂł (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997)), two crossovers (AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)), two prequels (Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017)), all with varying levels of success. (I have written here about an Alien 5 being developed by Neill Blomkamp, but that appears to have been shelved.) There have been multiple comic series, novels, video/computer games, various home video options, etc.; and, just the other day, a High School in New Jersey began performing their play adaptation. I’m guessing it’s at least PG-13….

Starship Troopers (1959): 60 years

Following the U.S. suspension of nuclear testing, legendary writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote the military science fiction novel, Starship Troopers. (He was fiercely anti-communist and pro-nuclear testing.) Actually, it was first printed in two parts as “Starship Soldier” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Heinlein’s regular publisher found it too controversial; besides, they were used to Heinlein’s more youth-oriented fare. So, he turned to Putnam, which published it in Dec. 1959.

The story is interspersed by scenes with the central protagonist (‘Johnny Rico’) and others discussing “philosophical and moral issues, including aspects of suffrage, civic virtue, juvenile delinquency, and war; these discussions have been described as expounding Heinlein’s own political views…. A coming-of-age novel, Starship Troopers also critiques U.S. society of the 1950s, argues that a lack of discipline had led to a moral decline, and advocates corporal and capital punishment…. It won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960, and garnered praise from reviewers for its scenes of training and combat and its visualization of a future military.” Sci-fi critic Darko Suvin has called it the “ancestral text of U.S. science fiction militarism.”

But, not everyone agreed with Heinlein’s views, of course. The book (and Heinlein himself) was accused of everything from fascism & militarism to racism & sexism. Heinlein is credited with introducing the novel (heh-heh) idea of powered armor exoskeletons. These, along with his political views and ideas about a futuristic military, have influenced or inspired other authors/novels, which sometimes present an opposing view (e.g., Haldeman’s The Forever War, Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero). The live-action movie adaptation (1997), written by by Ed Neumeier and directed by Paul Verhoeven, used many character names and plot details from the novel; but, it had a very different, ironic/sarcastic tone, with a lot of fascist imagery. Also, fans of the novel didn’t like that the powered armor technology had been left out.

There have been four, straight-to-DVD sequels to the film: Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008) were live-action, whereas Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012) and Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017) were animated. An animated, Japanese adaptation (“Starship Troopers”, in 6 parts) was released on Laserdisc in 1988 which was “far closer in tone to the original novel”, and an English-language animated TV series (“Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles”) ran from 1999-2000. There have also been comics, board games, and PC & web-based games.

The Twilight Zone (1959): 60 years

Another genre landmark from 1959 was CBS’s debut of the world-renowned anthology TV series, “(The) Twilight Zone”, created and presented by Rod Serling. Recognized for its signature creepy music and Serling’s opening and closing narrations (see quote at top of post), the series blended sci-fi & fantasy with psychological horror, suspense, and the supernatural/macabre. There were often surprising twists, and some episodes were quite bizarre. The show was also noted for its socio-political commentary and moral-of-the-story lessons, while exploring such themes as prejudice, love, war, revenge, obsession, etc.

The series was both a popular and critical success, and several episodes (e.g., “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” starring William Shatner; “It’s a Good Life” starring Billy Mumy; “To Serve Man” starring Richard Kiel; “Time Enough at Last” starring Burgess Meredith; “Eye of the Beholder” starring Maxine Stuart) have themselves become genre icons. The talented Mr. Serling wrote nearly two-thirds of the episodes, but the show also boasted noted writers that included Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Damon Knight, Jerome Bixby, et al. No big surprise, then, that the show is often considered one of the best dramas of all time — genre or otherwise.

The franchise has gone on to include a radio series (2002–12), a comic book, novels, a magazine, various types of games (e.g., board, card, video, pinball), live theater productions, and a theme park attraction. A Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) feature film led to a revival of the TV series that ran on CBS from 1985 to 1989. A 1994 TV film, Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics, was based on two previously unknown pieces discovered by Serling’s widow. A second series revival aired 2002-2003 on UPN, and a third reboot just kicked off on April 1, 2019, on CBS All Access. Unfortunately, I understand that the first episode of the latest series was laced with ham-handed bits of leftist ideology. Not a good sign. But, one can always return to the earlier series for more subtle — or, at least, more deftly handled — socio-political commentary while traveling the fifth dimension.

Godzilla (1954): 65 years

Directed by Ishiro Honda and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the Japanese film Godzilla (transliterated from Japanese ‘Gojira’) initiated both the kaiju subgenre and “suitmation” F/X. (Btw, can you imagine if they had stuck with their original idea of a gigantic octopus instead of the dinosaur-inspired monster we know and love?) “Kaiju”, you ask? That would be a reference to giant monsters (literally, “strange beasts”) that typically cause massive amounts of mayhem, either on their own or fighting each other. Other examples include Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Gamera, Megalon, Mechagodzilla, Hedorah, etc. It should be noted that Godzilla is sometimes portrayed as the “bad guy” (as in the original film), but sometimes he is a “good guy”, defending humanity from other monstrous foes.

The 1954 film contained “political and social undertones relevant to Japan at the time.” When it was licensed to Jewell Enterprises in 1956 for a North American version, roughly 30 minutes of Japanese-specific themes and commentaries were cut and replaced by new scenes “featuring Raymond Burr interacting with Japanese actors and look-alikes to make it seem like Burr was a part of the original Japanese production. In addition, sound-effects and soundtracks were tweaked and some dialogue was dubbed into English.” One of the more transferable concerns reflected in the story was that of reckless use of nuclear power and resulting radioactivity, as embodied by Godzilla himself. Later films also addressed threats like pollution, genetic engineering, and extraterrestrials.

Originally commissioned by Toho to capitalize on the successes of the 1952 re-release of King Kong and 1953’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla‘s popularity led to an incredibly successful franchise. According to Wikipedia,

“It is recognized by the Guinness World Records to be the longest continuously running movie franchise, having been in ongoing production from 1954 to the present day, with several hiatuses of varying lengths…. From 1954 through 2018, there have been 32 Godzilla films produced by Toho in Japan. There have been several American productions: adaptations including Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla 1985, and three Hollywood productions: Godzilla (1998) produced by TriStar Pictures, and Godzilla (2014) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) produced by Legendary Entertainment in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures.”

In addition to inspiring giant monster movies around the world, the Godzilla franchise has expanded into television (including animated series and even guest appearances in the live-action “Zone Fighter” (1973)), books, comics and manga, video games, and references in music, along with tons of related merchandise. In short, it is a surprising, pop-culture phenomenon that brings joy to millions.

Who would have thought that a big lizard with radioactive breath and a “yell” as distinctive as Tarzan’s would be such a hit? All in all, what 1954’s Godzilla began is quite impressive, considering most of the time the main star is basically a guy in a monster suit, kicking and smashing his way through miniature sets and wrestling other guys in monster suits.

All done. See ya next time…

Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2019, Part 1 of 3

“[A] crackling thriller full of all sorts of gory treats… loaded with fuel-injected chase scenes, clever special effects and a sly humor.” — from the L.A. Times review of The Terminator

As some of you may remember from last year, I did a series of posts celebrating the anniversaries — i.e., those in some multiple of 5 — of certain iconic characters and stories in the sci-fi fantasy and action/adventure genre(s). The oldest was 200 years! Well, this year’s subjects are (roughly) equally noteworthy, though the oldest is “only” celebrating 100 years. I also decided to eliminate comic books/characters from the regular, 3-part series. (I’ll likely do a follow-up for comics-only.) Hope you enjoy learning and reminiscing with me.

Shall we get started…?

The Matrix (1999): 20 years

Can it really be 20 years already since audiences were first introduced to Thomas ‘Neo’ Anderson (Keanu Reeves) and his compatriots, as they tried to free their fellow humans from the virtual reality known as “the Matrix”? The cyberpunk tale, written and directed by the Wachowskis, is known for its Hong Kong-influenced martial arts choreography and for popularizing the slow-motion, “bullet time” visual effect. It is also (in)famous for throwing in elements of philosophy & theology, including “existentialism, Marxism, feminism, Buddhism, nihilism, and postmodernism”. (Personally, I find great fault in those ideologies, so those moments were minor annoyances for me, as I preferred the action, effects, and the rest of the story.)

In addition to Reeves, the film starred Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, et al. Commercially quite successful, it grossed over US$460 million worldwide at the box office. (I’m sure that DVDs and other media have proven very profitable, as well.) Many critics were favorable, too, and it won four Academy Awards, as well as BAFTA Awards and Saturn Awards. It has also been voted one of the greatest science fiction films. Two rather successful sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, were both released in 2003. Comic books, video games, and animated short films based on the movies have been produced, as well as books and theories about the religious and philosophical questions explored in the franchise.

I haven’t watched the Matrix films in ages. (Yes, I’m gonna put them on my re-watch list.) But, I remember being very impressed with the effects and the being-immersed-in-a-computer-game feel to them. The whole thing was a very cool concept that was executed quite well — acting, directing, fight choreography, F/X, etc. And it’s 20 years old, now…. Wow.

Stargate (1994): 25 years

I very much enjoyed the original Stargate movie, created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, which debuted in Oct. 1994 and starred James Spader, Kurt Russell, and Jaye Davidson. The central idea — i.e., an alien Einstein–Rosen bridge device that allows for nearly instantaneous, interstellar transportation — may not have been completely original, but it was a well-done movie with wonderful performances and great action. As a result, it went on to gross US$197 million worldwide.

I never “followed” Stargate after the theatrical release, but I know that there is a huge following for the franchise and its many beloved characters and alien species. How do I know? Because MGM went on to produce a hugely popular “Stargate SG-1” sequel TV series (1997-2007), which then spun off “Stargate Atlantis” (2004-2009) and “Stargate Universe” (2009-2011). Then there are the direct-to-DVD movies: Stargate: Children of the Gods (2009), Stargate: The Ark of Truth (2008), and Stargate: Continuum (2008), which concluded the first television show. If that weren’t enough, there are many books, comic books, video games, an animated series (“Stargate Infinity” (2002)), and a recent prequel web series (“Stargate Origins” (2018)).

One of these days, I’m really gonna have to start watching these “Stargate” TV series….

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989): 30 years

Ten years before The Matrix, Keanu Reeves co-starred in this comedic, time-traveling gem. Who knew that a couple of not-so-bright ’80s high schoolers could be the subjects of such a fun tale? In addition to Reeves (‘Ted’) and Alex Winter (‘Bill’), we get comedy legend George Carlin as their quasi-mentor from the fututre, ‘Rufus’. Add in a lot of surfer dude-speak, hard-rockin’/metal music, improbable visits with historical figures (e.g., Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, et al.), and a valuable “lesson learned” or two along the way. Ya just can’t help but root for these two lovable dimwits.

Sure, there are other movies about lovable (or, at least, somewhat likable) dimwits — e.g., Tommy Boy, Dumb and Dumber, Wayne’s World, The Waterboy. But, Bill & Ted are different. Thanks to inheriting a time machine, they have a rollicking and “most excellent” adventure through time (and, somehow, are able to speak with certain historical figures who aren’t supposed to know English), hopefully in time to put together a vitally important history report. Hint: It not only worked out, but they got a sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), and a second sequel has just been announced. Awesome!!

P.S. Wyld Stallyns rule!

The Terminator (1984): 35 years

Speaking of time travel… I have written about The Terminator elsewhere, noting that it is one of my favorite “Ahnuld” movies — one of my favorite movies, period, in fact. It made both Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron superstars and gave us fan-favorites like Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and the late Bill Paxton. In addition to being an intense thriller with gun battles and other R-rated violence, the film explored the theme of artificial intelligences becoming self-aware and rebelling against their human creators/masters. Cool cyborgs, too!

The movie was not an easy project, though, and had some hurdles to overcome. Cameron, whose inspiration for the film was a dream he had, ended up firing his agent over it. There was difficulty getting funding, until Hemdale’s John Daly and Derek Gibson came aboard and got additional money from HBO and Orion. Still, the total budget was only about $6.5 million. Originally, Cameron didn’t want Schwarzenegger (who was being considered for ‘Reese’), and once signed, “Ahnuld” dismissed it as a “$h1+ movie”. There were filming issues due to, for example, Schwarzenegger’s being tied up finishing Conan the Destroyer and Linda Hamilton spraining her ankle. After its release, writer Harlan Ellison threatened to sue for infringement, claiming it was based on an “Outer Limits” story/episode he wrote. (Orion settled out of court.)

Despite all that, The Terminator grossed $4 million dollars it’s opening week, making it #1 at the box office. It was both a critical and commercial success and went on to gross US$78.3 million worldwide. (I’m sure the various VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray editions over the years have earned a pretty penny or three, too.) The movie spawned several sequels, the best and most popular being 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, as well as books, comics, and video games.

The Terminator has received recognition from various magazines (e.g., Time, Empire, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly), the American Film Institute (AFI), the Independent Film & Television Alliance, and the Library of Congress decided it was worth preserving in the National Film Registry. Quite an accomplishment for a dream-inspired, low-budget film from a barely-known director with no big stars in the cast.

Neuromancer (1984): 35 years

This post began with a cyberpunk cinematic blockbuster, so it’s only fitting that this book be here, too. But, other than the fact that it was authored by the godfather of cyberpunk, William Gibson, I don’t know much about it. So, here’s a bit from the start of Wikipedia’s entry:

“It is one of the best-known works in the cyberpunk genre and the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. It was Gibson’s debut novel and the beginning of the Sprawl trilogy. Set in the future, the novel follows Henry Case, a washed-up computer hacker, who is hired by the mysterious master criminal Armitage and the equally mysterious mercenary cyborg Molly Millions for one last job: to help a powerful artificial intelligence merge with its twin into a super consciousness and take control of a virtual reality global network known as “The Matrix”….

The novel’s street and computer slang dialogue derives from the vocabulary of subcultures, particularly ‘1969 Toronto dope dealer’s slang, or biker talk’…. After watching The Matrix, Gibson commented that the way that the film’s creators had drawn from existing cyberpunk works was ‘exactly the kind of creative cultural osmosis’ he had relied upon in his own writing.”

The novel has been adapted to hypertext, graphic novel (well, the first 2 chapters), video games, radio play, audiobook, opera (though never performed in full), and finally has a film in the offing. Since I’m pressed for time, I’ll add a bit more from Wikipedia regarding the novel’s significance:

Neuromancer‘s release was not greeted with fanfare, but it hit a cultural nerve, quickly becoming an underground word-of-mouth hit [and legitimizing] cyberpunk as a mainstream branch of science fiction literature. It is among the most-honored works of science fiction in recent history, and appeared on Time magazine’s list of 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, [as well as being] nominated for a British Science Fiction Award in 1984.

Neuromancer is considered ‘the archetypal cyberpunk work’. [O]utside science fiction, it gained unprecedented critical and popular attention as an ‘evocation of life in the late 1980s’, although The Observer noted that ‘it took the New York Times 10 years’ to mention the novel. By 2007 it had sold more than 6.5 million copies worldwide.

The novel has had significant linguistic influence, popularizing such terms as cyberspace and ICE (Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics). Gibson himself coined the term ‘cyberspace’ in [an earlier novelette], but it was through its use in Neuromancer that it gained recognition to become the de facto term for the World Wide Web during the 1990s.”

There ya have it. Pretty impressive for a lesser-known author in a “blind animal panic”, who had been challenged to write a full novel in a year’s time for Terry Carr’s second series of Ace Science Fiction Specials. Gibson may not have invented the Internet, but he certainly had more influence in that area than Al Gore. 🙂

Thus endeth Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next few weeks (or, maybe even next week)….

Captain Marvel: Feminist Icon?

(Many looks of) Carol Danvers, by Pryce14

I have followed Carol Danvers’ career as Ms. Marvel, Binary, Warbird, and Captain Marvel for decades. She’s a powerful, complex, and enjoyable character with a long comic-book history, and I’m glad she’s finally getting a movie of her own. (FYI, I did a bit of fan-casting back when the film was first announced.)

However, I’m a bit dismayed by some comments made by the star, Brie Larson. It seems that Ms. Larson is an outspoken feminist and “diversity” activist, and she’s not above trying to use Captain Marvel to serve her agenda. (Groan!) This became apparent from a couple of recent interviews/articles I came across.

First, in a New York Post piece, Larson is quoted as expressing her annoyance with the “overwhelmingly white male” composition of critics and other press that she has observed at her press tours over the past couple years. She even went to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to confirm her observations and, lo and behold, their study did just that. It found that “of the 100 highest-grossing movies in 2017, 67 percent of top critics were white males, less than 25 percent were white women, while 10 percent were men of color and 2.5 percent were women of color.”

I have to admit, I am suspicious of studies by activists commissioned for the purpose of supporting their own cause. However, even if the numbers are accurate, is it not possible that these numbers simply reflect the general makeup of the “movie critics” industry? Nevertheless, Larson has decided that this is unacceptable and is determined to enforce more “diversity” on her press tours by selecting to work with only women and people of color.

To be fair, I am sympathetic to the desire to see underrepresented people given “the same opportunities as others.” However, I have a problem with anything that attempts to artificially push “diversity”, especially when the “problem” has not been independently studied. This leads to a clear bias of its own. I think it would be better for Larson to use her platform to encourage more women and people of color to study to join the journalistic ranks. I would also hope that people can be chosen for their assignments due to talent and dedication, with color/ethnicity, sex, and other such identifiers being largely irrelevant.

As for Captain Marvel in particular, I refer you to a piece at “Bounding Into Comics”. Quoting Larson from when Entertainment Tonight visited the set last year,

“I had a meeting with Marvel and what we discussed is they wanted to make a big feminist movie.”

Was that really Marvel’s intent? Might they have used that angle to entice Larson to the role? Or, perhaps Larson has convinced herself that Marvel’s feminist goals matched her own? I dunno.

Note director Anna Boden’s somewhat less zealous response:

“The story lends itself to it. We’re not trying to make this movie about all women. We can’t make it about all women’s journeys, but just be really true to this woman’s journey.”

It sounds like Boden is being careful not to oversell it as a “feminist” film, and I hope it isn’t. True, Carol Danvers has had to deal with her share of sexism in the workplace, etc., in the comics. She even wrote/edited Woman Magazine for awhile, working for male chauvinist(?) J. Jonah Jameson. If there is a little of that in the film, fine. It helps to drive and shape her character. But, imho, it would be a mistake to overemphasize modern-day feminist themes in this movie. One simply doesn’t go to an action flick to be hit over the head with such things.

Also, as The Daily Wire‘s Emily Zanotti pointed out,

“Although Marvel promises an epic superhero flick in “Captain Marvel,” fans — and particularly female fans, including your fair reporter — of the genre, do fear that turning Captain Marvel into a feminist icon the way Wonder Woman was marketed will have a detrimental effect on the character herself. Often, characters that are repurposed to be typically ‘feminist’ (or ‘feminist’ in the modern sense of the word) become stereotypes, betraying the decades of character development that takes place in their respective comic books before a movie ever premieres.”

Yup.

Advice for the Aspiring Evil Overlord

“Attention all Evil Overlord List Aspirants: Contrary to popular belief, taking over the universe is not as easy as it would first appear…. As soon [Peter] is able to respond in a timely manner — or until he becomes unquestioned lord and master of all things, whichever comes first — the list will not be updated and no new suggestions will be considered. He would sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, were it in character for an Evil Overlord to do so.” — nameless henchman (on behalf of Supreme Lord Peter Anspach)

Over twenty years ago, a fellow by the name of Peter Anspach compiled a list (with the help of fellow fans online) of “classic blunders” committed by villains in shows like “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Hercules”, “Xena”, “Conan”, James Bond movies, et al. (Go here for the full story.) You may have seen some of them around the inter-webs. I offer his official Top 100 list below for your enjoyment:

Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice. It pays well, there are all sorts of perks and you can set your own hours. However every Evil Overlord I’ve read about in books or seen in movies invariably gets overthrown and destroyed in the end. I’ve noticed that no matter whether they are barbarian lords, deranged wizards, mad scientists or alien invaders, they always seem to make the same basic mistakes every single time. With that in mind, allow me to present…

The Top 100 Things I’d Do
If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

  1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
  2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
  3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
  4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
  5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
  6. I will not gloat over my enemies’ predicament before killing them.
  7. When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him. No, on second thought I’ll shoot him then say “No.”
  8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks’ time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
  9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled “Danger: Do Not Push”. The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.
  10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum — a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.
  11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.
  12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
  13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
  14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.
  15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.
  16. I will never utter the sentence “But before I kill you, there’s just one thing I want to know.”
  17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.
  18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.
  19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero’s rugged countenance and she’d betray her own father.
  20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it’s too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.
  21. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
  22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.
  23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way — even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless — my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
  24. I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line “No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!” (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)
  25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
  26. No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.
  27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
  28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.
  29. I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
  30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
  31. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
  32. I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.
  33. I won’t require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
  34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.
  35. I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.
  36. I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.
  37. If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he’s my trusted lieutenant.
  38. If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.
  39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.
  40. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.
  41. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.
  42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.
  43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.
  44. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.
  45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say “And here is the price for failure,” then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.
  46. If an advisor says to me “My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?”, I will reply “This.” and kill the advisor.
  47. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.
  48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.
  49. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.
  50. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.
  51. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess’ cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.
  52. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.
  53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says “I’ll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!”, I will say “Oh well” and kill her.
  54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.
  55. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.
  56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.
  57. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner’s manual.
  58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.
  59. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.
  60. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.
  61. If my advisors ask “Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?”, I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
  62. I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.
  63. Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.
  64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.
  65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.
  66. My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.
  67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.
  68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they’d better save my life again.
  69. All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.
  70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.
  71. If I decide to test a lieutenant’s loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
  72. If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.
  73. I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.
  74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk “Project Overlord” and leave it lying on top of my desk.
  75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.
  76. If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)
  77. If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.
  78. I will not tell my Legions of Terror “And he must be taken alive!” The command will be “And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical.”
  79. If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.
  80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.
  81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
  82. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.
  83. If I’m eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
  84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.
  85. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. “Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse.” Instead it will be more along the lines of “Push the button.”
  86. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
  87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
  88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.
  89. After I captures the hero’s superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
  90. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.
  91. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
  92. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)
  93. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.
  94. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.
  95. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it’s an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
  96. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.
  97. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.
  98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others’ lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.
  99. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.
  100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Anspach had several suggestions that didn’t make it onto the final list, and he keeps those in a couple “dungeons” (linked to at the bottom of his web-page).

**This Evil Overlord List is Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach. If you enjoy it, feel free to pass it along or post it anywhere, provided that (1) it is not altered in any way, and (2) this copyright notice is attached.**

Happy Hulkin’ Christmas!

I’m gonna turn over the final post of the year to my alter-ego. He’s a little late/”slow”, but it’s kinda hard to say ‘No’ to the big guy. So, here he is…

Hulk wanted to do Christmas blog and show some of Hulk’s favorite Christmas pictures. First, Hulk do selfie…

OK, now Hulk tell story. Hulk meets Santa…

Then, Santa goes on potty break and leaves Hulk to sit in chair and give presents. But, some kids dressed like Hulk’s friends come and tell Hulk Hulk is not Santa. Of course, not! Stup… um, Hulk means, silly kids! Hulk is always Hulk!

Later, Santa asks Hulk to visit little girl on roof. Santa says little girl wants to give something to Hulk. (Hulk wonders how little girl got up there, but Hulk forgot to ask…) Little girl is big fan of Hulk and got Hulk a present. <<sniff!>> Now, little girl is Hulk’s fave-rit!

Here is picture (by egobus) of Hulk with Avengers at party. Hulk looks like tree with star on top.

This gives Black Widow idea, so… SpiderWee made this picture after Black Widow “decorated” Hulk like Christmas tree… (Hulk pretended not to like it, but Hulk liked spending time with Widow.)

No Hulk in last picture. Hulk just likes Santa with baby Jesus…

OK, Hulk done now. Hulk hungry. Does Hulk smell beans…?

Whew! Have to admit, that could have gone much worse. Alright, folks, have a belated but…

Happy Hulkin’ Christmas!!!