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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Friday, June 07, 2019

Washington reviews of the last X-Men movie

Dark Phoenix is the Disappointing End of an X-Men Era [in print as Ashes to Ashes].

The franchise tries the Dark Phoenix Saga once again.
Washington City Paper June 7, 2019 p. 19

With 'Dark Phoenix,' the X-Men saga goes out with a whimper, not a bang [in print as X-Men's probable swan song is a dirge]

Washington Post June 7 2019, p. Weekend 21.
online at 

'Dark Phoenix' Channels The Cosmic Power Of The Comics, Avoids Going Down In Flames 


NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour


'Dark Phoenix' Review: X-Women Power? Nah

The new installment in the long-running franchise has blowouts and Jessica Chastain channeling Tilda Swinton (so it could be worse).
A version of this article appears in print on June 7, 2019, on Page C6 of the New York edition with the headline: Superhero Tale With Feminist Spin, Till Momentum Fails

Watch Sophie Turner and Michael Fassbender Battle in 'Dark Phoenix'

The writer Simon Kinberg narrates a sequence from his directing debut in the X-Men franchise.
  • June 7, 2019

Friday, November 23, 2018

Exhibit review: Superheroes at the National Museum of American History

by Mike Rhode

Superheroes. Washington, DC: National Museum of American History. November 20, 2018 to September 2, 2019.
The Smithsonian museum has mounted a small, but choice, exhibit made up of some extremely surprising pieces. The terse description on their website only hints at it:
This showcase presents artifacts from the museum's collections that relate to Superheroes, including comic books, original comic art, movie and television costumes and props, and memorabilia. The display includes George Reeves's Superman costume from the Adventures of Superman TV program, which ran from 1951-1958, as well as Halle Berry's Storm costume from the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Of the five exhibit cases, two concentrate on comic books and original art, while the other three contain props from movies and pop culture ephemera. Surprisingly, the Black Panther costume from the Marvel movies which the African-American History museum collected this summer is not included, but as noted above they have displayed George Reeve's Superman costume (since it is in color rather than grey shades, it came from the later seasons of the television show), Halle Berry's Storm uniform, along with Captain America's shield, Wolverine's claws and Batman's cowl and a batarang. Those three cases are rounded out with the first issue of Ms. Magazine which had a Wonder Woman cover, two lunchboxes (Wonder Woman and Marvel heroes), and a Superman telephone.

courtesy of Grand Comics Database
 Surprisingly, the two cases of comic books and original art include a very wide variety of comic books including some that just recently came out such as America (Marvel) along with older issues such as Leading Comics from 1943 which featured Green Arrow among other heroes such as the Crimson Avenger and the Star-Spangled Kid. The existence of an apparently extensive comic book collection in the Smithsonian comes as a surprise to this reviewer and will need to be researched more in depth. Even more of a surprise were the four pieces of original art on display – the cover of Sensation Comics 18 (1943) with Wonder Woman drawn by H.G. Peter, a Superman comic strip (1943) signed by Siegel and Shuster, a Captain Midnight cover that the curators did not bother to track the source of (it appears to be an unused version of #7 from April 1943), and a April 27, 1945 Batman comic strip. Actually, none of the creators of any of the works are credited, although the donors are.
The small exhibit lines two sides of a hallway off the busy Constitution Avenue entrance of the Museum, but the location has the advantage of being around the corner from a Batmobile from the 1989 Batman movie that was installed earlier this year. The car may be tied into the nearby installation and branding of a Warner Bros. theater showing the latest Harry Potter spin-off movie which seems like a true waste of space in the perennially over-crowded and under –exhibited (i.e. they have literally hundreds of thousands of items worthy of display in storage), but one assumes that besides the Batmobile, the theater came with a cash donation or promise of shared revenues.

Notwithstanding that cynicism, the Batmobile and the superheroes exhibit are fun to see, although most people quickly passed them by during this reviewer's visit. Also of interest may be a bound volume of Wonder Woman comics and a reproduction of an unused idea for her original costume, around the other corner from the Batmobile in the Smithsonian Libraries exhibit gallery. The museum has recently acquired some Marston family papers.

Bruce Guthrie has an extensive series of photographs including the individual comic books at


(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 20:2, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on November 23, 2018, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)

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.