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Comics-based movies: Breaking ‘the book was better’ rule


“Demon in a Bottle” will probably be better since well, you know…

Are you getting excited? New teasers and trailers are being released almost every day now. The countdown to Summer Movie Season is officially on, and the big blockbusters adapting comics are looking promising. Iron Man 3 has an armada of armors flying around; can’t really go wrong there. The Wolverine has ninjas as far as the eye can see. And the bearded and brooding Man of Steel might even end up being good. Throw in a little Kick-Ass 2 and RED 2, sprinkle with R.I.P.D. and 300: Rise of an Empire, and top it off with 2 Guns, and you’ve got yourself one fun summer.

While we still get clunkers, the ratio of good to suck has definitely improved. It used to be that the old chestnut response to a movie adapted from a novel could be more often than not applied to movies adapted from comics: The book was better. And it’s often still true. But there are times when the movies do it better than comics, and while that’s great for the filmmakers and audiences, in a way it’s an indictment on the comics-makers.

Comics offer more boundless creativity than almost any medium. With comics, there’s no studio executive, no creation-by-committee made up of shareholders and board members with less experience creating and telling stories than their companies’ interns. It’s why Tony Stark being an alcoholic doesn’t fly with Disney and was removed from Iron Man 3. Comics can still include collaboration and compromise but they can just as easily be the result of a single voice. Even with the most heavy-handed editorially mandated comics, they’re still created by a fraction of people needed to make a Hollywood movie. Comics are generally more spontaneous, imaginative and clever than most major studio movies. But sometimes, Hollywood gets the jump on comics.

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Julie Taymor settles ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ lawsuit

spiderman musical

Ending more than a year of intermittent negotiations and aborted deals that left even the presiding judge frustrated, the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and ousted director Julie Taymor announced today they have reached a settlement in their legal battle over copyright, royalties and credit for the most expensive show in Broadway history.

“I’m pleased to have reached an agreement and hope for the continued success of Spider-Man, both on Broadway and beyond,” Taymor said in a statement. Lead producers of Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris offered: “We’re happy to put all this behind us. We are now looking forward to spreading Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark in new and exciting ways around the world.”

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Six by 6 | The six best superhero costume redesigns of all time


One of the most symbolic moments of Superman is when he changes from his guise as Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. The idea that the wearing of a costume imbues some kind of unquantifiable power is a key part of what makes superhero comics work; otherwise, they’d just be adventurers and action heroes.

But speaking of change, changes in superhero costumes have become as much a part of the comics as the heroes themselves. From Superman’s early days with his golden emblem to the modern “S” today and on through to other years (including Batman’s countless wardrobe changes), the design of a superhero isn’t static and a redesign has proved, many times, to be just the thing to make a character work.

In this week’s “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six of the most dynamic and powerful redesigns in superhero comics. Redesigns that saved a character from obscurity, put them in a new light or simply simplified what was already there.

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Jerusalem store settles lawsuits over superhero yarmulkes

spider-kippaA Jerusalem retailer has reached a settlement with Marvel and Warner Bros. regarding the sale of unlicensed yarmulkes featuring Spider-Man and Superman.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Kippa Man owner Avi Binyamin agreed to pay each company $17,000 for infringing on their trademarks; they’d originally sought $27,000 in damages.

Binyamin told The Jerusalem Post in September that he doesn’t produce the yarmulkes, but merely sells them like many other shops in the area. “They make them in China, I just bring them,” he said. “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” Indeed, the newspaper reported that nearly every store on Ben-Yehuda Street displayed yarmulkes outside. However, Kippa Man is the most successful and best known outside of Israel.

The Times of Israel then characterized the lawsuit as “the first move by Marvel against what it perceives as widespread copyright infringement in Israel, where products featuring its copyrighted superheros are commonly sold.” Lawyers for Marvel and Warner Bros. told the Israeli newspaper Maariv that the companies will pursue legal action against other small stores that violate their trademarks.

‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ dispute heads back to court

spider-man musical

Considering all the drama that once surrounded the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — cast injuries, delays, a ballooning budget, terrible reviews, the ouster of the original director — it was probably too much to expect that the resulting lawsuit between Julie Taymor and the show’s producers could be settled quickly and relatively quietly.

However, that seemed to be the case in August, when a federal judge announced that the Tony Award-winning director had reached a settlement with lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris regarding dueling lawsuits that followed her March 2011 firing from the $70 million musical she co-wrote. The case was dismissed, leaving the parties to put the finishing touches on an agreement. Unable to reach a deal by January, they agreed to revive the lawsuit in hopes that they could arrive at a final settlement before a May trial date.

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From McFarlane to ‘Weird Al’: Six questions with Ryan Stegman


Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.

Our special guest today is Ryan Stegman, artist of Superior Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, Fantastic Four, She-Hulks and more.

Now let’s get to it …

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Take that, Doc Ock: Spider-Man’s web could stop a subway train


It turns out that scene in 2004′s Spider-Man 2 in which Peter Parker used his webbing to stop a subway train from hurtling off the tracks and into the river may have been the least-outlandish thing about the movie.

Playing MythBusters, physics students from the University of Leicester put the sequence to the test and discovered that, yes, some spider silk is strong enough to stop a runaway train. Their findings were published in the new issue of the Journal of Physics Special Topics, which is undoubtedly on pull lists everywhere.

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Rare comics and original art fetch $4.4 million at auction

John Higgins' color guide for the cover of "Watchmen" #1

John Higgins’ color guide for the cover of “Watchmen” #1

Vintage comics and original comic art brought in $4.4 million over the weekend during a Heritage auction in New York City, Artinfo reports. Among the bigger sales were a CGC-graded 6.5 copy of Detective Comics #27, for $567,625, and John Romita Sr.’s original cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #121, which fetched $286,800.

As we noted on Friday, Dave Gibbons’ original cover art for Watchmen #1 sold for $155,350, with the first three covers going for a combined $216,892.50. John Higgins’ color guide for the first cover was bought for $7,767.50. The remaining covers for the 12-issue landmark series are expected to go up for auction later this year.

Wired.com delves into the history of the 12 covers, which were purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in 1993 by former Wizard Publisher Gareb Shamus for what’s been reported to be in the neighborhood of $26,000. The article doesn’t repeat that figure, but it does say what was paid was “a bargain price” (for instance, Higgins’ color guide for the cover of Watchmen #1 was picked up for $50, which was then five to 10 times the usual price).

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Man of faith dons Man of Tomorrow for children’s Mass

Catholic priest Alvarez wears a robe with an image of cartoon character Superman during a mass at Ojo de Agua church in Saltillo

Father Humberto Alvarez isn’t a typical Catholic priest. Every Sunday, the 40-year-old dons a tunic emblazoned with images of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, and, armed with a Super Soaker loaded with holy water, delivers a special Mass to the children of Saltillo, Mexico.

It’s an unconventional approach, but one that appears to work, drawing parishioners young and old to the service. Alvarez told Zocalo magazine, that he embraced the superheroes because, “We talk about attitudes of struggle and effort to achieve overcome fears, find peace and forgiveness.” He began using the water gun to bless the congregation following a series of fatal shootings in Saltillo.

While not everyone agrees with Alvarez’s tactics, he’s undaunted, saying, “Jesus was different and always sought justice, we must follow his example.”

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John Romita Sr. Spider-Man cover hits $268K in online bidding

asm121John Romita Sr.’s original cover art for the landmark Amazing Spider-Man #121 has reached $268, 875 in online bidding ahead of a live auction scheduled for today in New York City.

The piece is being offered as part of Heritage’s Vintage Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction, which includes Dave Gibbons’ iconic Watchmen covers, an original Calvin and Hobbes strip by Bill Watterson, and 10 pages from Dave Sim’s Cerebus: High Society.

The Amazing Spider-Man #121, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” was a defining moment not only for Peter Parker but for the comics industry; as Heritage Auctions notes in its description, some point to the story as the end point for the Silver Age. (This was the end of innocence for comics,” Arnold Blumberg wrote in Comic Book Marketplace. “It remains one of the most potent stories ever published.”)

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Spider-Man has turned into a wedding (cake) crasher


When it comes to food-related television, I prefer Chopped, Top Chef and BBQ Pitmasters to the seemingly dozens of cake- and cupcake-decorating shows that dot the programming schedule. Therefore, I’m not familiar enough with the latest trends to guess where, or why, this originated, but apparently … hiding a little Spider-Man on your wedding cake is now a thing.

That’s according to Neatorama, which has been spotting edible wall-crawlers climbing out from underneath the fondant of otherwise normal cakes. Because what better to complete that four-tier cake with its hundreds of painstakingly crafted pink flowers than a tiny Wed-Head?

If it’s merely a concession to that nerdy bride or groom then why, as io9.com asks, is it always Spider-Man? Perhaps it’s some stealthy confectionery protest of “One More Day” …

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The Fifth Color | Love stinks in the Marvel Universe

Astonishing X-Men #51

Enjoy this while we can.

Love stinks. Yeah, yeah.

It’s the ugly truth and a catchy song, but neither of those makes the statement any less real for the Marvel Universe. If I ever found myself trapped in the funny pages of my favorite Marvel comic, the first thing I’d do is move out of New York City. The second would be to never, ever fall in love. It’s just bad news, a death sentence, a waste of time that will only be written and rewritten at the first sign of a sales slump or a lazy story. Lust is one thing, one-night stands, longing looks, flings and things are all a different story, but love? Real, true, committed love? The kind that some believe you only see in fiction? Don’t look for it in the pages of Spider-Man.

More sad truths persist: There’s just not a lot of profit in true love. The Stable Adventures of Spider-Man and His Wife is way too long to grace a comic cover and doesn’t grab our attention as much as an unanswered question will; the romantic chase is what keeps readers tuned in, but even that can sour if it’s not shaken and stirred from time to time. Look at Rogue and Gambit! They’ve been Will-They-Won’t-They since they laid eyes on one another and became such a staple of shipping hearts of ’90s children (like myself) that their very characterization withered on the vine. They lost all sense of who they were without one another but still couldn’t commit to a permanent relationship. And those who have? The merry, married Marvel heroes?

It’s not pretty. If I was the Beaubier-Jinadus, I would have made a very firm pre-nup. Is there any hope for a happy Valentine’s Day for these newlyweds? Read on!

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Spider-Man arrested after Times Square fight with woman

spiderman-threat or menaceLife isn’t easy for Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, particularly if your neighborhood is Times Square.

Philip Williams, who’s just one of two wall-crawlers who lurk around the New York City tourist magnet charging for photos, was arrested Sunday after he allegedly punched a 44-year-old mother who refused to pay him for posing with her two kids.

The New York Post reports the woman stormed off to find her husband, intent on revenge. But upon her return … she angrily confronted the wrong Spider-Man. “A woman came to me and said, ‘What did you do to me, you fucker?’” the other webhead told the newspaper. “Her husband came over and said it was a different Spider-Man. They went over to the other one and started fighting.”

With that web of confusion untangled, the husband beat the 35-year-old Williams with a backpack until police arrived and hauled Spidey away, proving once again that J. Jonah Jameson was right.

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Marko Manev’s Superhero Noir

Macedonian illustrator Marko Manev has designed minimalist superhero-themed posters before (check out his Watchmen and Marvel projects on Behance), but his latest series, Superhero Noir, is quite a step up from that work. These are powerful, cinematic, renditions of classic comic book heroes. No wonder these images are showing up all over the internet right now — they’re breathtakingly good, reminding you of how dramatic (or downright majestic) these characters can be when used right.  No wonder that when the Bottleneck Gallery announced they were selling prints of a couple of these designs yesterday, they sold out in minutes.

Check out the examples below, then head over to see a few of these not featured here or in Manev’s Behance gallery over at his Tumblr blog. Continue Reading »

Watch Paolo Rivera draw a Daredevil cover in 11 minutes

Yes, I realize I just posted something about Paolo Rivera on Friday, but this is too good to pass up: The artist has put together a time-lapse video detailing his process for Daredevil #22 (above). It’s at 20 times the normal speed, compressing three hours of work into just 11 minutes.

“It’s a pretty straight forward time lapse, but there are 3 things that I’d like to point out as you watch,” Rivera writes on his blog. “First, I use reference of my own hand to facilitate the drawing process. This photo is taken on the fly using Photo Booth on my iMac. It’s as easy as using a mirror, but with more options. Second, I employ a digital perspective template of my own design for the background. It’s extremely useful, but has a steep learning curve — I plan on releasing it to the public later this year. Lastly, toward the end of the video, you can see that I had trouble with Daredevil’s legs as he’s scaling Stilt-Man’s serpentine legs. The cover as a whole went pretty smoothly, but it took me a long time to find a pose for him that didn’t look totally awkward to me. Spidey, on the other hand, was a breeze — characters who are flying/falling are always easier to draw since they don’t have to interact with any other entities.”

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