Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review - Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC

reviewed by Mike Rhode

There are a lot of comic book studies and histories coming out these days, as movies based on them have become a multi-billion dollar business and the academic world has accepted them as a legitimate field of study. I would estimate 40-50 prose books about comic books are published per year now, and there's at least five academic journals covering the field. 

Slugfest is aimed at a popular audience who have some basic knowledge about the fact that there are two major publishers of superheros comics, and are curious about the history of how they interacted over the years. Tucker is a journalist from New York City and writes a breezy story running from the 1930s up until the present. He frames the story as an ongoing "war" (his term) between the companies, beginning in earnest in the 1960s as "DC represented Eisenhower's America, Marvel John F. Kennedy's." (p. xix) He concludes his introduction by stating, "This is the story of the fifty-year battle between the two companies - some of it driven by DC's desire to copy Marvel, some of it driven by Marvel's desire to copy DC, and some of it - the most fun stuff, let's be honest - driven by pure gamesmanship and spite." (p. xx) If that sounds appealing, you'll probably enjoy the rest of the book. I did.

Tucker cuts his take on the companies relationship into logical breaks. DC is the older company, having published Superman first in 1938, and the first chapter is "DC Becomes the Industry's Eight-Hundred-Pound Gorilla" and covers about a twenty-five year period. For the second chapter, "Mighty Marvel Comes Out Swinging," Marvel returns to its roots as a player in superhero comics, after chasing trends including romance, funny animals, westerns and science fiction from post-World War II until late 1961, when the Fantastic Four were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Having laid the groundwork, Tucker writes about the initial competition on the newsstand, when DC controlled Marvel's distribution, through ongoing poaching of talent and storylines, event-driven sales such as The Death of Superman, both companies being absorbed into bigger corporations, revolving editor-in-chief seats during tough times, and the battle for television and movie dominance, ending in 2016 with sales at both companies markedly depressed.

He does this largely through the use of interviews rather than primary sources or archival research. The advanced copy I received has incomplete notes (and no index), but he seems to largely have worked from published interviews given to a wide variety of media outlets over the years. Thus, this is a very dialogue-driven book, and one that's intensely personal - there's no reviews of corporate annual reports studied for absolute bottom line earnings. As a result, one should probably think twice about accepting as absolute truth a story or interpretation presented by Tucker, but you can certainly enjoy hearing the story.

I enjoyed this book much more than a lot of what I've read about superhero comics in the past few years. I may very well purchase a replacement hardcover to keep on my shelves. It's a fast read, and if you're curious about the history of the companies, this is a good place to start learning about fifty years of superhero publishing.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Local papers on the Wilson movie, based on Clowes' graphic novel

Regarding Wilson, in 2010 I wrote a brief review of the book and interviewed Mr. Clowes, who at conventions is very personable and approachable, unlike his characters.  

 Wilson Is Only As Good As It's Narcissistic Protagonist's Warped Worldview

And Wilson's worldview isn't too appealing. [in print as Narcissist Sandwich].

Noah Gittell
Washington City Paper Mar 24, 2017
online at

'Wilson' fails to humanize its cartoonish title character [in print as Graphic novel's grouch better on page]

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post March 24 2017, p. Weekend 29
online at

'Wilson,' With Woody Harrelson as a Misanthrope

A version of this review appears in print on March 24, 2017, on Page C6 of the New York edition with the headline: I'm Not O.K. You're Even Worse.

And in a similar vein, the Post ran online an AP article on Iron Fist...

Netflix/Marvel's 'Iron Fist' epic fail, say viewers, critics

Washington (March 23 2017):

Friday, March 03, 2017

DC papers review Logan

I saw the movie in a sneak preview last week. It's pretty darn bloody and earns its R rating. However I liked it a lot, and Dafne Keen, the actress who played the young girl, did a fantastic job. Any movie with Shane in its DNA is ok in my book.

In 'Logan,' one enemy is time [in print as Before sunset: In 'Logan,' the years take their toll]

Express March 3 2017, p. 24

'Logan': Hugh Jackman, as the Wolverine, goes out fighting [in print as The 'X-Men' grown up, and brooding].

Washington Post March 3 2017 
, p. Weekend 27

Aw, heck, here's the NYT too -

In 'Logan,' a Comic-Book Stalwart Turns Noirish Western

A version of this review appears in print on March 3, 2017, on Page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Noirish Western With Comic-Book Claws.

James Mangold Narrates a Scene From 'Logan'

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Of Trees and Beasts

by Steve Loya

Yesterday, Kris and I went to see the movie A Monster Calls in the theaters. Words can't really describe this sad and beautiful film, but I felt a real connection to it, as did Kris. It might have had to do with the monster and trees - two things I love, especially when combined, as well as the story, not to mention the strong emphasis on the power of art and imagination. The acting and the visuals were incredible as well, and I'm hoping for a Blu-Ray release of this gem, if not on DVD at least. I dug into my Splotch Monster archives for two (of many) Splotch Monster/tree mash-ups from recent years, that reminded of the wonderful giant tree beast in the movie. Below is a trailer for the film. A Monster Calls is one of those truly special works of cinematic art that only come around every once in a while, and I recommend seeing it to anyone who appreciates good film.   -Steve

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hang Dai Studios at Baltimore Comic-Con: Jonathan 'Swifty' Lang speaks

by Mike Rhode

Baltimore Comic-Con is one of the best and friendliest of the mid-size superhero focused cons. Under the leadership of Marc Nathan and Brad Tree, it's grown quite a bit in a decade and a half, but still remains enjoyable for all ages and interests. Hang Dai Studios is based in Brooklyn, but as usual will have a big presence at Baltimore. My friend Dean Haspiel (and Hang Dai Studios founder) will be there with the whole studio, a week after he, Christa Cassano and Gregory Benton attended the Small Press Expo. We hope to have interviews with everyone in the studio throughout the week. Our first interview is with writer Jonathan 'Swifty' Lang (because he sent his answers in first. We're egalitarian that way).

Where does 'Swifty' come from?

For my comics exploits, I use Swifty. There were a lot of serious-minded Jonathan's in Brooklyn who were writers at the time (Ames, Lethem, Saffron Foer) and I needed something unique. A college nickname did the trick.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

 I am a writer and am working with genre. Predominantly horror, but am also exploring crime. I am interested in using genre as a lens to explore contemporary social issues. I am also working on a weekly three-panel Tijuana Bible because the current comics environment is suffocating expression in the name of egalitarianism. My current book is Plunder (Archaia 2015). I am the writer on this project and all the art is by Skuds McKinley (and the panels shown here are his work).

As a writer, why have you joined a studio? Historically in the comics field, studios have been organized around artists who had a pile of equipment and who also could pitch in and work on each others assignments.  

 While the mechanics of writing and drawing are certainly different, those of storytelling are not. I am surrounded by a trusted group who will always serve as readers, offer input, and be critical of my work. I am also encouraged by the sheer productivity of what is happening around me. How could I not be inspired when I look to over and see what studio mates are working on? Also, I have a trusted group I can seek advice from when it comes to working with publishers and other artists. Their experience in the industry is greater than any class I could have taken. When it comes to sharing inspiration, whether that be a movie I could recommend or a great podcast I may have missed, we are all there to share ideas. Collaboration goes beyond equipment. It is about respect, support, and I'm not afraid to say it, love. 
When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born? 

I was born in Liege, Belgium in 1976, but moved when I was two and a half. I grew up in South Florida (Miami then Hollywood, FL) I went to school in Boston (Brandeis) and then Film School in Amsterdam. I have lived in Brooklyn now for 14 years. I have done some bouncing,

What is your training and/or education in cartooning? 

My background is in English Literature and Film.

Who are your influences?  

David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, Charles Wileford, Roman Polanski, Bernard Malamud, Henry Miller, Luis Bunuel, Alejandro Jodorowski, Luther Campbell, my studio mates.

I notice you cite mostly movie directors as influences. Why are you working in comics as opposed to film?

I work in comics because the way I work, there is overlap. It is visual story telling built on collaboration. I enjoy telling stories and exploring the medium has made me a better writer in terms of film as well. I consider myself a student of the medium rather than an expert. I think that not growing up with a strong comics background (my love was Mad magazine) has allowed me to tell stories that are not necessarily referential or homages to existing properties. It is vital to know the history of medium as it allows for another layer of storytelling. I think it is the equivalent to someone who is a fine artist making films. I think a broad range of influences makes for diverse storytelling. I do have writers I really admire right now (Ed Brubaker, Scott Snyder etc.) but I can't cite them as influences as much as people who I think are doing fantastic work. Colleagues would be weird as well since I don't know them personally. I think in some ways I have tried some stuff I wouldn't have had the courage to otherwise if I had been more schooled in the history. I rarely feel a "you can't do that" in the same way I do for film when there are restrictions like time and budget. I am still trying to figure it out each day. 
What work are you best-known for? 

Feeding Ground.

What work are you most proud of? 

All of them. I am all about process. 
What would you like to do or work on in the future? 

I would like to direct a feature film.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block? 

I take a shower. I do a tarot reading then I get back to the keyboard. 

Why are you at the Baltimore Comic-Con this year? 

To celebrate the hard work of those I care for. To meet new people to inspire me and collaborate with.
What monument or museum do like to take visitors to? 
The Film Forum. It's not really a monument, but it's monumental to me.

Do you have a website or blog? It's the website of the production company I share with my wife. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bus stop ads continued - The Wolverine

Matt caught one of The Wolverine movie ad posters in a Fairfax bus stop a few days ago. Here's some more.




Monday, June 17, 2013

Superman posters in Crystal City

Tom Spurgeon caught an article in Mother Jones about the use of the Man of Steel Superman movie in National Guard recruitment ads. I should have done something earlier, because I saw one of these posters in Crystal City over a week ago.

Man of Steel - National Guard ad 1

Honestly, the themes don't seem to match up.

Man of Steel - National Guard ad

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Friday, December 02, 2011

Dec 8: "An Evening with Michael Uslan, Executive Producer of The Dark Night"

"An Evening with Michael Uslan, Executive Producer of The Dark Night"

CINE is co-hosting a book party with PGA-East for Michael Uslan, who is the Executive Producer of The Dark Knight and the other Batman movies in Silver Spring on December 8 at 6:30 pm. To pre-register, go to - there is a charge which varies between $10 and $30. Uslan will be mingling and available to chat as well as signing books.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Griff the Invisible reviewed in City Paper, Onion

Griff The Invisible C+
 by Alison Willmore
Onion (online August 18, in print September 1 2011): 14,60576/

Griff the Invisible: Yet another film about a wannabe superhero with a heart of gold [in print as Caped Copycats, p. 38]
By Tricia Olszewski 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Another comic movie contest

Until 5 pm today, you can enter to win tickets for Priest from the Washington Examiner. The movie is based on a Korean comic book, and the advance showing is for May 12th with the movie opening on May 13th.

Also in the theaters now, based on Italian comic books, is Dylan Dog, but it wasn't screened for reviews. Thor opens on Friday.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty reviewed in City Paper

Fincher's hyper, fictionalized Facebook flick; Disney's dysfunctional family
By Tricia Olszewski
Washington City Paper October 1, 2010

I guess the Disney documentary is playing here somewhere, but it's not on the City Paper's movie site yet.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Post on Iron Man 2

The Post, in its continuing efforts to confuse its readers, has run 2 reviews of Iron Man 2, by the same reviewer, but with different content:

'Man' of the hour [online title: Ann Hornaday on 'Iron Man 2' and 'Casino Jack and the United States of Money'], By Ann Hornaday, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, May 7, 2010; C01 should be the premier article, but a review of a totally unrelated type of movie is interwoven.

Movie review: 'Iron Man 2' loses its magnetism, By Ann Hornaday, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, May 7, 2010; WE37 should be the minor article, but is the one that actually makes more sense.