Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Fistful of films translated & expanded in comics



Conceived and used with the permission of Matthew Constantine and Brad Gullickson, the original dorks.

Everyone has a “Top 5.”  But Brad and Matt, choosing to walk a different path, amended that to “A Fistful…” over at their blog, In the Mouth of Dorkness.  A film-centric blog where they also discuss comics and books and TV, these two regularly share their top 5, ranging from “Heroic Kids” to “Spies” to “Summer Movies” to “Punches” to all things in between.  Always fun, often insightful, and something I hope to regularly pilfer for Warrior27.  As they say:  If you’re going to steal, steal from those you know relatively well, who will not sue you.

We are in the middle of a deluge of comic books translated to films, with Marvel leading the way, but DC and others working to grab some piece of that same pie.  With that in mind, I thought I’d look at a fistful of films that were translated, and expanded, in comic book form.  If you’re a fan of any of these films and have not had the opportunity to read these comics, I would wholeheartedly recommend you seek them out.  They are all great, and many add a lot to some already rich filmic experiences. 

In reverse order: 

5. Clerks: the Lost Scene, written by Kevin Smith, art by Phil Hester & Ande Parks, published by Oni Press.


If you enjoy the coarse humor found in Smith’s early films, you will love this.  It fits perfectly into the film, at the point where Randal and Dante attended the funereal viewing of Dante’s ex-girlfriend.  And the art team of Hester & Parks, one of my favorites, fits nicely with the nastily quirky nature of this short story. 

4. Star Wars (the original run), written by Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Mary Jo Duffy, et al., art by Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, Cynthia Martin, et al., published by Marvel Comics


There are many who pan these late 70s/early 80s comics as bad, and there may be some truth to that (one major hindrance was the fact that Darth Vader could not have much contact with our heroes, and changes in the status quo were not allowed, as there were movies to be made that would do that), but this was still a fun series for a kid (me) growing up with those films.  Personally, I think some of the best issues are those that come after Jedi, when Jo Duffy was able to play with the characters a bit more, while also introducing one of the more interesting villains, Lumiya.  If you haven’t given these a try, or just haven’t read them in a while, and want a serious hit of nostalgia, check them out.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.    

3. The Matrix comics, written by the Wachowskis, Neil Gaiman, Paul Chadwick, et al., art by David Lapham, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave Gibbons, et al., published by Burlyman Comics.


The Matrix was a touchstone, as far as science fiction films go, and I love it, to this day.  The comics that followed were similarly engaging and exciting.  With a murderers’ row of talent—Peter Bagge, Troy Nixey, Ted McKeever, Geof Darrow, as well as those noted above, and others—there was no way this could not be a collection of great comics.  Overseen by Chadwick, whose Concrete is an all-time favorite comic book, these short tales fleshed out the world seen in that initial film, fulfilling the promise that was lost in the sequels.  Great, great stuff.  Check it out. 

2. Ghost Dog, written & drawn by Scott Morse, published by Oni Press. 


It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, from Jim Jarmusch, with Forest Whittaker in the lead role, and it’s been a fair amount of time since I’ve read this comic.  But I cannot recommend either of these highly enough.  I love that movie—maybe my favorite Jarmusch film, though Broken Flowers is high up there—and I love this comic.  Morse is one of my all-time favorite cartoonists, and he tells a simple, elegant, and engaging tale within the 20-some pages here.  The man can draw anything, and he always hits you with an emotional impact that will resonate long after you finish one of his books. 
What are you waiting for?  Watch the movie, then read the comic!

1. Aliens (book I & II, and Earth War), written by Mark Verheiden, art by Mark A. Nelson, Denis Beauvais, and Sam Kieth, respectively, published by Dark Horse. 


This trilogy of Alien comics, all written by Mark Verheiden, is the best sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic film, Alien.  I re-read these three stories every few years, and they always manage to entertain.  The first book, with black and white art from Mark Nelson, is appropriately moody, while the second one goes for a brasher approach with fully-painted art from Beauvais, and it’s all wrapped up with the stylized art of Sam Kieth, as the aliens come to Earth to be rid of these pesky humans.  I love these comics, and they prove that a strong film franchise can find life in a comic series, exploring more deeply the world set up on film. 



-chris

Monday, March 28, 2016

SUPERMAN EPITOMIZED, for me



This is not a response or review of Batman v. Superman, which opened this weekend.  I haven’t seen it and, with my schedule, probably won’t until it’s available to stream.  With these two iconic superheroes currently flooding the internet, and, to a lesser extent, my iPod (shout-out to @ITMODcast  and to @sidewalksiren, who brought this scene up on the recent Fistful of Superman episode!), it got me thinking about what it is that perfectly encapsulates Superman, for me.  Took me all of three seconds to land on it.

1978. 
The first Superman film. 
Christopher Reeve. 
That scene where he turns back time by flying superfast around the Earth. 


Why I Love It

First: 

It fully embraces comic book physics.  With the rise of the internet, there have been people who’ve either tried to explain how this tactic could actually work to reverse time (Superman was moving at faster-than-light speed, and that’s theoretically possible) or worked to discredit this scene (time travel’s impossible; that’s stupid).  My response…who cares?  This is a great, comic-booky moment that reveals characters, evinces emotion, and exhilarates an audience fully invested in this story.  Sure, I know rotating the Earth backward won’t turn back time.  But this is a superhero movie, and superheroes do the impossible, especially Superman.  You don’t need explanations, you just need a sense of wonder.

Second: 

This scene perfectly encapsulates what it means, to my mind, to be Superman.  Superman is Kal-El, an alien from Krypton, orphaned and adopted here on Earth.  But he isn’t human.  Kal-El has amazing abilities—super-strength, X-ray and heat vision, flight, super-breath, et al.—abilities that alienate him further, from everyone around him, abilities that isolate him.  Kal-El can never be like us, and he is told, by Jor-El, his biological father, through teachings encoded on Kryptonian crystals, that “It is forbidden for [him] to interfere with human history.”  But, in this moment of anguish—and you feel that anguish in Christopher Reeve’s performance, as well as his relief at the end, when he returns to Lois; this is some bravura acting, seriously—Superman chooses humanity over his Kryptonian heritage.  This is the epitome of Superman, as a character—the immigrant, come to America (which can be read as a stand-in for all Earth) to find a new, and better life.  Kal-El is not an emotionless automaton, but a passionate human, thanks to his upbringing by the Kents, and, in the end, it is that nurturing that wins out over his inherent, Kryptonian nature, and we get all of that in this short, but powerful scene.  

-chris