Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
(Time once again for ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman to email each other about the year in DC and Marvel superhero comics. This year’s exchange took place between DEc. 26 and Dec. 30. And be sure to check out Part 1 of the conversation.)
Tom Bondurant: One of the more pleasant surprises this year was the extent to which the Big Two started going after a different audience. New books like Ms. Marvel and Gotham Academy, and makeovers for Batgirl and Catwoman, have found success with distinctive, unconventional approaches. How long can they keep this up? Will digital distribution help these books, if it’s not doing so already? Are the Big Two really committed to branching out?
Carla Hoffman: Branching out is such a double-edged sword. It sounds weird to say that, because diversity is so championed online, but when a book can alienate old readers, you really have to draw in a lot of new readers to make up for it. Believe it or not, there were some who complained that Kamala Khan took the Ms. Marvel name rather than getting her own moniker. The good news is that Ms. Marvel is such a quality book and so important to the next generation of comic readers, not to mention Marvel Comics itself, I couldn’t care less if a (pardon my use) grumpy old fan can’t change with the times. Marvel published about 40 new titles this year — everything from Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu to Rocket Raccoon. Not all of the titles stuck (R.I.P. She-Hulk, try again later), but that’s still a lot of new stuff to try that isn’t just another variation of a Wolverine comic.
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Could the timing be anything other than magical? Following word that Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch is in talks to play Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Mondo is offering prints from the We Buy Your Kids gallery exhibit that include two downright psychedelic renditions of the Sorcerer Supreme and his classic foe Dormammu.
The two takes on the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creations look as if they should be rendered on black velvet, which may not be such a bad idea. Each18-inch by 24-inch print is $40, with Dormammu limited to 110 copies and Strange to 125. Keep the Eye of Agamotto trained on the Mondo Twitter feed, where they on-sale time will be announced sometime today.
In a move that we can only presume is tied to Marvel’s upcoming television and movie plans, the publisher has announced the addition of some of its Season One graphic novels to the Marvel Unlimited digital library — specifically, Ant-Man, Daredevil and Doctor Strange.
Launching in 2012 with Fantastic Four: Season One, the line features current creators retelling, and expanding, the origins stories of some of Marvel’s most popular characters. Neither Fantastic Four nor Season One titles devoted to the X-Men, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man, the Hulk and Thor are mentioned in the announcement.
The past few weeks have given us drips and drabs of drama regarding two movies on Marvel’s amazing slate of cinematic wonders: Ant-Man lost long-attached director Edgar Wright and hunted down a new one (successfully, I might add; Peyton Reed’s indie-comedy cred is solid with Mr. Show and Upright Citizens Brigade, plus Down With Love is a personal favorite), and Doctor Strange now has Scott Derrickson directing and a slew of casting rumors. It’s made my Twitter feed abuzz with opinions and fancasts and denouncements of studio interference in the creative efforts of the auteur. It seems everyone wants to talk about the next Marvel breakthrough hit.
But not the comics. God forbid we ever talk about the comics. Ant-Man and Doctor Strange are absent from the shelves, outside of cameos in Original Sin, a canceled gig on the FF for Scott Lang and … well, something odd going on with Doctor Strange in New Avengers. As I scroll through Tumblr and Twitter demands about how Doctor Strange and Ant-Man should be presented, no one seems all that keen on picking up a comic with either character in a starring role. When contradicting someone’s fancast, I offered my own choice for Doctor Strange as a Ming Doyle sketch, and was told that “drawings are not good actors.” Oh, man, I hope they were joking …
We’re living in an age where increasing aspects of our comics heritage is being protected, with all manner of work coming back into print in fittingly deluxe packages. However, we can all think of great comics that will probably never be reprinted, for various obscure reasons. For example, all manner of great work published by Marvel and DC in the 1970s and ’80s will never see the light of day again due to lapsed licensing deals. Other titles, other creators, simply fall from fashion, to await rediscovery by another generation. Others still end up in complicated rights battles and litigation.
One field of comics-related work that seems to be just lost to the unrelenting march of time and progress is that of the pre-Internet fanzine. Many significant figures in comics history contributed text and art to this near-dead medium, and it’s hard to see any organization having the will to invest in researching, reprinting or digitizing this lost legacy.
Colin Smith is a blogger and the author of Sequart’s “Shameless? The Superhero Comics of Mark Millar,” and as a critic has written about comics for some of the United Kingdom’s top magazines. He has a secondary blog where he has been recently sharing some great art from old U.K. fanzines and convention booklets.
By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth! Doctor Strange is joining Marvel Pinball!
Zen Studios announced Saturday at New York Comic Con that the Master of the Mystic Arts will join the arcade pinball video-game lineup in December, pitting Strange (and his allies Clea and Wong) against his greatest enemies: “Strange’s rival sorcerer Baron Mordo has called upon the demonic forces of the Dread Dormammu and the Fear Lord, Nightmare, all part of his plot to assume the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme for himself.”
Get out your scissors and tape, because you’re about to have some fun with a Doctor Strange board game — straight from 1982.
On his blog Sanctum Sanctorum Comix, Doctor Strange fan Peter C. Knight (aka Ptor) has uncovered an official Doctor Strange paper-craft board game from 31 years ago called Doctor Strange’s Haunted Pathways: The Game of Mystic Mindrot. Published inside Marvel’s humor magazine Crazy, this forgotten oddity was created by writer Steve Skeates and artist Steve Mellor, and took the Sorcerer Supreme — and you, the player — down a strange path of MAD-style antics, psych-ward jokes and drug humor. Take this introduction, for instance:
Do you have an uncontrollable urge for power? Would you like to transform all your enemies into toads, have the prettiest, most popular girl in your whole school fall madly in love with you, strike your parents mute whenever they start to bawl you out and tell you to clean up your room? Well then, we’ve got the game for you!
To win the game, you must use various sets of random cards to go down the path of the game to the final panel — a la Monopoly — but in this case, called “Total Enlightenment.” If you lose you become a resident of a psych ward.
You can see some of the pages below. Visit Sanctum Sanctorum Comix to print all the pieces and play.
If DC Comics can do 3D covers for Villains Month and Marvel can release Deadpool variants, it seems like they could make room on their publishing slates for, oh, I don’t know, a series that depicts some of their most recognizable characters on classic album covers.
That request isn’t as random as it seems (well, maybe it is), as artist Robert Jiménez painted Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Catwoman, Doctor Strange and Lobo on LP sleeves for an art show, and they’re pretty amazing. Unfortunately, he’s already sold the originals, but he hopes to create more soon.
Check out some of the pieces below, and the rest on Jiménez’s website.
These last few days, the good burghers of the Essential Sequential agency have been posting sketch after sketch by Italy’s Matteo Scalera to their Instagram account. Scalera might not be the biggest name in their stable of artists (which includes Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson and Dan Panosian), but he’s producing stylish work, redolent of another couple of Essential Sequential artists, Eric Canete and Sean Gordon Murphy. I’d throw Declan Shalvey and Robbi Rodriguez in as another couple of touchstones, too. A little further digging reveals Scalera’s blog and his DeviantArt page are the places to find better-quality, less ruthlessly cropped, versions of these illustrations. His DeviantArt account reveals him to be an absolute sketch machine — he’s numbering them, and has reached 533.
As Marvel Studios builds toward its Phase Three plans, which we already know include a Doctor Strange movie, we can expect the comics division to launch numerous projects starring the often neglected, and frequently mistreated, Master of the Mystic Arts. When it comes time for editors to recruit writers for one of those — say, a miniseries or original graphic novel — they may want to give novelist Irvine Welsh a call.
In a new interview with our sibling blog Spinoff Online, the acclaimed author of Trainspotting and Filth discusses comic books at length, and reveals that if he were given the chance to tackle a DC Comics or Marvel hero, he would “would do a Grant Morrison and deconstruct the character.” And who would he like that character to be?
For those who might’ve missed this 2006-2007 miniseries, Doctor Strange: The Oath is a five-issue story written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin — that pedigree alone should ensure it has a place in your long box or the handy trade paperback sits on your shelf. Vaughan’s clear, lyrical writing style is in full force, and Martin’s art is as fluid and dynamic as it’s been for Mark Waid’s Daredevil. The story delves into the occult to save Wong, who’s been stricken with a fatal disease. Not only does it have magic and mysticism, it also reminds you of Strange’s classical origin as an arrogant surgeon who had to learn humility in an area both street-level and far-flung dimensions. It also brought Night Nurse in as a strong supporting character to the good Doctor’s retinue and, as the back cover tells me, firmly establishes Doctor Strange in the Marvel Universe.
A nice idea, but it really did nothing of the sort.
Debuting in 2001, Marvel’s MAX line was an attempt to draw a clear line between its vaguely older-teen comics and distinctly “adult” titles featuring some of the well, edgier, characters from its library. The imprint largely excelled at that, with the flagship Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, and Garth Ennis’ takes on Nick Fury and the Punisher. However, in recent years it’s become a shadow of its former self, existing solely to carry Ennis’ recent return to Fury, and the noble but ill-fitting Wolverine MAX. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a revival.
In today’s Six by 6, I look at six characters that straddle the fence separating “popular” from “popular enough to carry their own series in the long-term” that would do well to take a trip to the MAX line. Some are no-brainers, while others might surprise you.
To quote our very own Michael May, “wish this was real”: Brendan McCarthy plugs the release today of IDW Publishing’s The Complete Zaucer of Zilk by slipping this sketch out into the ether, of the three magic-wielding characters he’s drawn over the years: the Zaucer, Doctor Strange, and Mirkin the Mystic, of the all-too short-lived Paradax! comic from 1987 (two issues, and one was all-reprint).
It comes with a companion piece: this sketch, of Paradax himself meeting Doctor Strange. As I never tire of pointing out, Pete Milligan and McCarthy’s Paradax (in Eclipse comics’ Strange Days) pretty much invented the whole “superhero as an unlikeable wannabe celebrity” subgenre, three years before Morrison’s Zenith in 2000AD, and 15 years before Warren Ellis’ The Authority made that trope de rigueur for mainstream comics for an extended period. And also in passing invented that whole “leather jacket over your superhero costume” thing that ruled the 1990s.
Comics have become ideal source material in Hollywood’s eternal search for the next blockbuster. But in the numerous attempts to transform comic-book heroes into movie stars, some have, inevitably, failed in the making. I don’t mean failed as in bad, but rather adaptations that were announced only to be canceled before moving into production. For today’s “Six by 6,” I look at six instances of movies that spiraled into an early grave, and commiserate over what could’ve been.
1. George Miller’s Justice League: In 2007, Warner Bros. was hard at work developing a a feature based on DC Comics’ top superhero team. In September 2007, the studio announced the hiring of director George Miller of Mad Max and Happy Feet fame, and pushed to get the film finished before the writers’ strike. The proposed budget clocked in at $220 million, with set already being constructed by early 2008 in Australia. Producers even went so far as casting Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern and Adam Brody as the Flash, before the project was abruptly shelved. After the creation of DC Entertainment in 2009, this Justice League movie was permanently canned in favor of a new approach. I would love to have witnessed a movie like this. Miller is an excellent, and mind-bendingly diverse, director, and much of the movie would have relied on the strength of the script.
George R.R. Martin, author of the bestselling fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire, is a Marvel fan from way back, with a letter in 1964’s Avengers #12 counted among his earliest published writing (he was a New Jersey teen at the time). So it probably should come as little surprise that, in theory at least, he wouldn’t mind taking a crack at writing Doctor Strange, whom he says “was always one of my favorites.”
A comic with “From the Creator of Game of Thrones” slapped across the cover would seem like a license for Marvel to print money. However, before Martin would even consider tackling the Master of the Mystic Arts, he would require an unlikely guarantee from the publisher.
“Before I would ever do that, I would have to have my lawyers to meet with Marvel’s lawyers and work out an absolutely iron-clad contract that would say whatever I did in the story would continue to be canon forever, and would never be retconned, rebooted or reimagined out of the universe when some later writer decided to mess around with it,” Martin tells MTV Geek in an interview recorded at Worldcon. “Because I hate that, I hate — I’ve always hated reboots and retcons and the fact that a writer comes in and undoes what a previous writer did and, y’know, brings dead characters back to life, kills new characters that weren’t intended to die. That’s the one thing I don’t like about comics. That drives me crazy.”