The LXB adds to my list of favorite films

I’m going to take the week off from the LXB (I’m unqualified to talk about reality TV treasure hunters), but won’t let that keep me from pointing out that last week’s Top Ten Movies assignment was super popular and successful.

I especially love the themed lists that three of the members came up with, so I’ll list those first.

But, as predicted, there were lots of movies that could easily have gone on my own list.

  • Pee Wee’s Big AdventureSummer School, Back to the Future, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [Flashlights Are Something to Eat]
  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Monty Python and the Holy Grail [Life With Fandom]
  • Can’t Buy Me Love and The Avengers (I debated including The Avengers on my list, but decided I needed some distance from it to give it an objective ranking. I’m glad to see not everyone was that shy, because my feeling is that it deserves to be there.) [Random Toy Reviews]
  • Terminator, Die Hard, and First Blood [Movie Hodge Podge]
  • This is Spinal Tap [That Figures, who gets bonus points for also picking Night of the Demon.]
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Aliens, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Batman (1966) [My pal Erik Johnson]
  • The Crow [Jason Vorhees]
  • Lean On Me [Team Hellions]

Some of those were picked by multiple bloggers, so I linked to the one I saw first. Seriously, the LXB roll call on this one is full of great films, so if you’re looking to kill some time, you should check them all out.

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LXB | Avengers, but with spies, but without Steed and Peel

For nerds of a certain age, there can be some confusion around the name Avengers. Most people are going to think of the Marvel superheroes, but there’s still a dedicated group of fans for whom the name automatically brings to mind Patrick Macnee in a bowler and Diana Rigg in a catsuit. I neither blame nor pity them. Those are excellent things to spring to mind under any circumstances. But when I say “spy Avengers,” that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about my response to this week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers. Inspired by the Joss Whedon movie, Brian asks:

What pop culture heroes or stories would make for the ultimate crossover?

My mind immediately went to that March Madness bracket we did with all the action heroes. How cool would it be to do The Expendables the way we all want to see it done? Not with new characters, but with Stallone actually playing John Rambo and with Bruce Willis playing John McClane. Clint Eastwood could still play a threatening Dirty Harry. Maybe Schwarzenegger could bring back Dutch from Predator. That would be something to see.

But as I kept adding in characters from that bracket, I grew less pleased with the result. Snake Plissken and Indiana Jones wouldn’t work without a time travel angle that would take over the whole movie. It also makes my head hurt to figure out a plot in which cops, spies, and soldiers all have something to do and can interact with each other for an entire film. So I decided to pick one genre and expand on it.

I picked spies partly because Bond and Bourne did so well in the bracket, but mostly because a) it’s my favorite of those three genres, b) it’s easy to add women to the cast, and c) there have been a ton of spy movies lately. That last one is important because it means that it’s much easier to believe that these characters are all active and available to team up. With Rambo and Dutch, we’d have to spend the entire first act explaining why they’re still (or back) in the game.

I already revealed them in the header image, but my ultimate spy team would be a 50-50 male/female mix: James Bond, Natasha Romanoff, Evelyn Salt, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, and Hanna. I stopped it at six to keep it manageable (and limited myself to movie characters), but there’s plenty of room for additional characters in cameos or whatnot: Mallory Kane, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, or any of the surviving cast of Red. Maybe not Maxwell Smart, but Anne Hathaway as Agent 99? Heck yeah. You could even throw in some TV spies for fun: Michael Westen, Jack Bauer, Annie Walker, or Carrie Mathison, for example.

What do you think? Would you pay good money to see that? What would your ultimate movie crossover be?

The Marvel 52, Part Four: Marvel Knights

I’ve never been especially fond of the name “Marvel Knights,” but I don’t hate it either and since Marvel’s used it a couple of times to identify its street-level, edgier characters, it’s recognizable. So I’ll use it too.

22. Dakota North by Ed Brubaker and Phil Noto

I don’t know much about Dakota North. I don’t think I’ve ever read one of her adventures, but she’s a private eye working in the Marvel U and that could be a lot of fun. Maybe it’s similar to Alias – I’ve never read it either – but with Brubaker writing it, it could be a fun, adventurous, Marvel version of something like Gotham Central. I picked Phil Noto for the art because he knows how to give female characters cool attitude without making them obnoxious.

21. Kraven the Hunter by Gail Simone and Marian Churchland

I admit that I picked Gail Simone for this because of the wonders she worked on Catman and because Kraven’s a similar character. But visually, Kraven’s much cooler and I’d love to see her do something comparable with him; give him some kind of moral center instead of just being whackadoo. Marian Churchland’s soft, elegant work would give the series a pastoral look that would reinforce the idea that Kraven’s seeking peace, even when he’s involved in violence.

20. Hercules by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puvilland

There are a few reasons I’m not reading the current Herc series; none of them having anything directly to do with the creators involved. Indirectly though, I wouldn’t be able to pass up a Hercules series drawn by the wife-and-husband team (I think they’re married; doesn’t matter) of LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland (Prince of Persia, Solomon’s Thieves). They’ve got a strong, mythic quality to their work that’s totally unique and exciting.

As for why Hercules is in this category: it’s a tonal thing. He was the original street-level hero. In Greek mythology – a world filled with iconic, superpowered beings – Hercules was the grounded one whom people could relate to. That feeling is important to who he is and last time I checked in, Pak and Lente were already doing a great job of presenting him that way.

19. Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu by Phil Hester and Mark Smylie

I love Phil Hester’s writing because there’s always a layer of something deeper going on underneath the action. That’s crucial to Master of Kung Fu, a series that in the ’70s was filled with as much thought and philosophy as martial arts and espionage. Mark Smylie (Artesia) would complement that balance beautifully. He can paint the most brutally violent battle scene in the most exquisitely lush and contemplative way.

18. The Falcon by Greg Rucka and Steve Rude

The Falcon is one of those characters I wish I knew more about and would totally jump on if some exciting creators told a story about him. He’s got a great look and I’ve loved him in Captain America and on Super Hero Squad, but I’d love even more to get him away from the other superheroes and see what makes him tick. I think Rucka and Rude are the guys to do that.

17. The Sub-Mariner by Ed Brubaker and David Petersen

Some of you have already pointed out that Namor would fit in well in other categories and you’re right. He’s a versatile character. I’ve put him in Marvel Knights in great part because of his attitude. I like Namor a lot, but he’s a nasty dude with some serious problems he needs to get figured out. I’d certainly want this to have some great, undersea adventure to it, but I’d love for the tone to be similar to what Brubaker did with Captain America. It’s exciting and fun, but it’s grounded in real emotion as Cap continues to struggle – even after all these years – with being a man out of his own time. Namor’s dealing with even more than that.

I picked David Petersen because he’s got a realistic style and could draw the hell out of some undersea life.

16. The Panther by Mark Waid and Amy Reeder

One of the things I love most about Waid is that he knows how to dig into a character and find the approach that best suits that character’s strengths without having to go off in a radical, new direction. Recently, Black Panther has changed gender, painted himself like the US flag, and borrowed Daredevil’s tag line, so it’s pretty clear that he’s lost his way and needs someone to center him again. That’s why Waid. Meanwhile, Amy Reeder (Madame Xanadu) has a sleek, romantic style that could be really cool for a series about a jungle king who dresses like a cat.

You’ve noticed that I dropped the “Black” from the title. I don’t think it needs it, but I could be persuaded differently if it helps identify him as a black character. Unlike Falcon, when he’s in costume you can’t tell just by looking at him.

15. She-Hulk by Peter David and Cameron Stewart

Peter David’s an underrated writer these days and his time on She-Hulk was done too soon. He inherited the character at a time when she was just coming off the tragic events of Civil War and World War Hulk and not only did he deal with that, he made her dealing with it an integral part of the story he was telling. He was also vocal though about wanting to eventually move past that to get back to the light-hearted She-Hulk he really wanted to write. The series was cancelled though and he never got the chance. I wanted to read those stories, so I’d bring him back. Artwise, I’ve been a big fan of Cameron Stewart since I discovered The Apocalipstix and would love to see him draw this.

14. Daredevil and Elektra by Mark Waid and Hub

Like Wolverine, Daredevil’s another character I don’t have a lot of affection for, but it wouldn’t really be Marvel without a series that featured him. I haven’t read Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s current run at Daredevil, but I’m not surprised to hear that it’s very good. In order to make this interesting for me, I’d keep Waid on it, but turn it into another two-character team-up book by having Elektra co-star. Not that I’m a big Elektra fan either, but the two of them together may be more interesting than either of them separately.

The final push though would come from having Hub (Okko) on art. As great as Martin is, I can’t not buy a book by Hub. He’s also really excellent at depicting a fantastic version of Southeast Asia that could come in…er, Hand-y (sorry) when doing a book about a couple of ninjas.

13. The Champions by Kurt Busiek and Becky Cloonan

The founding line-up for this short-lived team was Black Widow, Hercules, Ghost Rider, Angel, and Iceman. The Russian superhero Darkstar joined later. I didn’t read this as a kid, but discovered it later thanks to my fondness for Black Widow. It’s pretty cool that she was leading this team in the ’70s. That’s not as unique an idea now as it was then, but the line-up of characters is still unexpected and weird, especially having Ghost Rider on board.

Angel and Iceman aren’t quite as interesting now as they were when the team debuted either. They were fresh out of the X-Men after the All-New All-Different team sort of pushed them out and they had something to prove. They were looking for a new home and since they were going through it together, they were able to talk about it and compare their new team to their old one. I don’t know if I’d use the same two characters today, but maybe someone comparable. Characters who are immediately identifiable as X-Men, but could reasonably feel pushed out of that group for some reason. It sort of needs to be former X-Men because while that’s not the most familial group of superheroes Marvel has (that would be the Fantastic Four), it’s a big enough family that there are by necessity fringe members. Gambit and Psylocke might be good choices. Maybe Jubilee? Someone who’s been central to the team in the past, but isn’t anymore. It could be interesting watching them to try to adapt to life outside an X-group.

Anyway, Busiek is a writer who loves to try new things and would be perfect for this. Becky Cloonan has a gorgeous, gritty style that would work well for this street-level team as well.

On Monday, we’ll wrap up with the last 12 titles: Marvel Heroes.

The Marvel 52, Part One: Marvel Pulp

I’ve kept pretty quiet about DC’s whole New 52 deal up to now. For better or worse, I don’t form opinions quickly, so I gave DC some time to get all their announcements out and respond to the first couple of waves of concerns. I will say that my initial reaction was positive though. I haven’t followed DC comics for a couple of years now, so it doesn’t affect me personally that they’re cancelling everything and starting over. If anything, some of their new series sound really interesting. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman, for instance. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl again, as another example.

My main criticism is that DC seems to be hoping to eat its cake and have it too in regards to balancing current fans with potential, new readers. The New 52’s been promoted as an “all-in” approach to reinvigorating the line, while at the same time refusing to call itself a reboot and insisting that fan-favorite stories (an extremely loosely defined category) still count. That’s not very “all-in” at all and I suspect that their wishy-washiness will cost them some of those potential, new readers they’re wanting.

I don’t expect that they’ll lose many readers though. As much complaining as fans have been doing, they’re still fans. They’ve stuck with DC through Countdown to Final Crisis; I expect that they’ll stick around through this. And it’s not like Marvel’s got anything especially exciting going on to compete. Yeah, yeah, Marvel still routinely beats DC in sales; all I’m saying is that I don’t expect current DC readers to suddenly start switching to Marvel as a result of the “non”-reboot. Whatever you think of DCnU, it’s certainly interesting. Marvel, on the other hand, continues to publish the same kind of crossover stuff they’ve been doing for the last five years. I’m not saying that none of it’s good, ’cause some of it really is, but seriously…their section of Previews the last couple of months hasn’t been nearly as exciting and expectant as DC’s.

I wish I’d thought of this myself, but it was Comics Should Be Good (Robot 6’s sister blog at CBR) that came up with the idea of developing your own Marvel 52. I like DC’s idea of creating smaller imprints within the DCU (JLA, Batman, Superman, Dark, Edge, etc.). so I used that for my Marvel list too. Not that DC came up with it. Marvel’s done the same thing before with Marvel Knights, Tsunami, Marvel MAX, and whatnot. I even used some of those in my list.

Because this could get long, I’m going to divide this up into a series of five posts going into September when DC launches their stuff. That’ll give me some room to talk about why I picked the concepts I did as well as the creators I’d love to see work on them. We’ll start with a category I call…

Marvel Pulp

The idea behind this “imprint” is to focus on some of the great, not-quite-superhero concepts that Marvel’s had over the years: Westerns, jungle adventures, period heroes, spies, and space opera. We’ll do this in countdown format, so:

52. Gamora by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Sam Hiti

Gamora’s got a lot of history in Marvel’s cosmic comics, but the focus on this would be her traveling the universe as an intergalactic bounty hunter. Gamora’s extremely hard to kill and has a wicked sense of humor. Kelly Sue DeConnick (OsbornSupergirl) can deliver the goods on funny (and excitement) while Sam Hiti (Tiempos Finales, Death-Day) knows everything about drawing beautiful women and exotic, alien landscapes.

51. Guardians of the Galaxy by Roger Langridge and Shaun Tan

As fun as a Gamora solo-title would be, we also need a book that can capture the rest of Marvel’s cosmic characters like Silver Surfer, Thanos, and Rocket Raccoon. Roger Langridge (Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Snarked!) has the imagination to make that incredible, while Shaun Tan (The Arrival, Tales from Outer Suburbia) has the ability to mix the real and the odd in a unique, believable way. He’s not known for action sequences, so I’d be interested to see how he tackled that, but I can already imagine his depiction of the arrival of Galactus and it’s mind-blowing.

50. Sabra by Carla Jablonsky and Laurenn McCubbin

Sabra isn’t a well-known character, but I’ve been fascinated by her since I first saw her in The Incredible Hulk #256. Maybe because she took her Israeli heritage so seriously, yet didn’t seem to have been created specifically to fill a slot as Israel’s Superhero for Contest of Champions or something. She eventually became just another of the many, international mutants running around the X-Men’s corner of the Marvel Universe, but I’ve always thought she was better than that. I’d love to see her in a series that focused on the issues of the Middle East in a thoughtful, objective way. Not that Sabra herself should be objective about them, but that the series could explore the region and its history in a way that educates as well as entertains. Carla Jablonsky’s done something similar with Nazi-occupied France in her Resistance series, so I picked her to write.  Laurenn McCubbin has a great, realistic style that would complement that kind of story beautifully.

49. Black Widow by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Amanda Conner

I don’t know if this was the right thing to do, but though I picked 52 visual artists for my list, I only picked 26 writers and gave them each two books. That was partly because most writers can handle multiple books in a month, but it was also partly to make list-making easier on myself. I’m sure I’ll regret it later when I realize I’ve forgotten one of my favorite writers.

At any rate, this is the second book I’d give Kelly Sue. I promise that I didn’t purposely match up women creators with women characters, but it worked out that way in Kelly Sue’s case. I’d love to see her write Black Widow. As for Amanda Conner: I love seeing anything she draws, but one look at her variant cover from Secret Avengers #6 above and you’ll get why I want her on a Black Widow comic so badly.

48. Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD by James Turner and Luc Jacamon

If you’ve read James Turner’s Rex Libris or Warlord of IO, you know how insanely, awesomely inventive he is. Just the guy to put the “super” back into super spy. And Luc Jacamon (The Killer) knows all about drawing deadly people in diverse settings, both urban and exotic.

47. Mystery Men by Susan Kim and Guy Davis

I really hate not to have David Liss and Patrick Zircher continue the concept they started, but one of the criteria I wanted for my list was to have as many women as possible on it. So I’m giving this ’30s-set heroic pulp series to Susan Kim, who did such a great job with her adventurous City of Spies set in a similar time period. And I’m aching to see Guy Davis do some more stuff like he did on Sandman Mystery Theatre.

46. Tigra by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Kerry Callen

The inspiration for this book is two-fold. First, I wanted a jungle comic and Tigra would work great in that setting. She wouldn’t have to stay only in that setting, but it would be a great homebase for her.The second inspiration was this description by Kerry Callen of what he wanted in a Tigra series: “a fun-loving character whose cat-like curiosity gets her into interesting predicaments.” Pak and Van Lente would be perfect for that and one look at Callen’s blog and you know he’s the only guy for the visual part of the job.

45. The Savage Land by Joshua Fialkov and Jeremy Bastian

It’s another jungle comic, but this one’s different from Tigra. Her comic would be much more versatile with lots of guest-stars from other Marvel characters. The Savage Land of course would be set exclusively in the prehistoric world beneath Antarctica. At first I thought I’d call it Ka-Zar and Shanna (the first of several two-character comics you’ll see in my Marvel 52), but then I remembered the temptation to take those two out of the Savage Land to interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe. Renaming it The Savage Land (which is a much cooler title anyway) removes that temptation.There’s a whole world to explore there and as long as I’m fantasizing about my dream comics (as opposed to worrying about sales), I want to keep these characters out of the rest of the Marvel Universe. I don’t care if other Marvel characters stop by for a visit, but I want the setting to stay consistent.

Josh Fialkov (Elk’s Run, Tumor) does really well with setting and small casts of characters, so I pick him to write. Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl) draws lavishly and I’d love to see the creatures and landscapes he could fill the Savage Land with.

44. The Rangers by Alan Moore and J Bone

Based on another group of characters I once read about in The Incredible Hulk (#265 this time). The Rangers were a goofy team created by Bill Mantlo, but I liked their modern-Western concept and the sheer zaniness of it would be a great playground for Alan Moore. The team included Firebird (probably the most famous character to come out of the team) as well as modern versions of Red Wolf and the original Ghost Rider (renamed Phantom Rider to avoid confusion) and a couple of very Mantlo characters: Shooting Star (her gun shoots stars!) and Texas Twister (tornado powers). In keeping with making the series fun and versatile, J Bone can draw absolutely anything and make it look wonderful.

43. Gunslingers by John Ostrander and Leonardo Manco

Counterpoint to The Rangers, this would be a real Western set in the late 1800s. Really it’s just a continuation of Ostrander and Manco’s two mini-series, Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies in which they updated Marvel’s classic, Western heroes for modern fans of Westerns.

Coming Monday: Midnight Sons!

Art Show: Zombie Spoor

Pirate

By Jim Silke. [Illustrateurs]

Mermaids

Artist Unknown. [Never Sea Land]

Tannhauser at Hoerselberg

By Willy Pogany. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Namor Meets the Beatles

By Chaz Folgar. [Puffdoggydaddy]


Aquawoman

By Buddhaful.

Black Widow and Deadpool

By Kyle Baker.

Tarzan the Invincible

By Neal Adams. [Giant-Size Geek]

Judy of the Jungle

By Alex Schomburg. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Ki-Gor

By George Gross. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Princess Pantha

By Alex Schomburg. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Chimps

By Dave Hoover. [Shanna the She-Devil Blogger]

10 movies I loved in 2010

So here they are. My ten favorite films from last year. Not necessarily the “best” in any objective way, but the ten I unabashedly dug the most.

Number 10

The other Leonardo DiCaprio movie that invites more than one possible interpretation. I like this one more though because though everything wasn’t spelled out, it didn’t need to cut away just before a crucial moment to deliver the ambiguity. We got the complete story. How we interpret it is up to us.

Number 9

Iron Man 2 got a lot of flack for not being Iron Man. And its critics are right that it isn’t as tight a movie as the first one and feels like it spends a lot of time setting up The Avengers. But it was very entertaining in the process and though I never felt like Tony was actually going to die, I was engaged by the mystery of how he was going to survive. Which really, is as much as any adventure series with a recurring character can do. Besides, if nothing else, the film brought Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow and that’s Top Ten worthy all by itself.


Number 8

Way too much energy gets spent on trying to figure out if this is scripted or a true documentary. It doesn’t matter. It’s brilliant and it’s timely and it needs to be seen. I saw it spoiler-free and recommend that anyone else do the same. I’m not sure it would have the same impact if you knew what to expect.

Number 7

Like Iron Man 2, this is another one that drew heavy criticism. Mostly for not being familiar enough as a Robin Hood movie. I’m typically impatient with origin stories, but this kept my attention all the way through. I don’t know that it’s a great version of Robin Hood (though it had enough of those elements to keep me happy), but it’s a very cool Ridley Scott medieval adventure film and I love Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.

Number 6

Best seen as a romance with a spy twist rather than a spy movie with a romantic element. There’s some action, but not a lot and the two leads aren’t butt-kickers. I also figured out the mystery early on, but that spoiled nothing for me. I enjoyed watching to see if Depp could win Jolie over. I wanted him to.

I just read a disparaging comment about Jolie’s acting in this, but I thought she did a fine job as the Mysterious European Woman. Then again, I tend to like her, so maybe I’m being lenient. I stand by the comment I made on Facebook or Twitter or someplace though: the hardest role Johnny Depp has ever had to play was Man Intimidated by Angelina Jolie. It took me a couple of scenes to get past his Johnny Deppness, but I thought he pulled it off admirably.

Number 5

Everything that The Expendables was supposed to be. Just the right amount of over-the-top without going into cheesy territory.

Number 4

I’m the only person I know who loved this movie. Maybe I was just in the mood for a fun, Arabian Nights adventure, but I don’t have any of the problems with Prince of Persia that everyone else seems to.

Number 3

I can’t stand Will Ferrell and I’m prejudiced against superhero parody, so I went to this somewhat begrudgingly. I was surprised to find it not only funny, but really touching. I fully expect Dreamworks to kill it with excessive sequels, but it’s new enough that I haven’t let that get to me yet.

Number 2

Perhaps the least controversial item on this list. Everyone loved Easy A and for good reason. It’s hilarious, it’s charming, Emma Stone is wonderful in it, and it transparently displays its John Hughes influence while perfectly capturing what made Hughes’ movies so great.

Number 1

While it’s true that the Futterwacken was anticlimactic after the build-up it got earlier in the film, I loved everything else about this movie. (Especially when I took off the dark 3D glasses and saw it a second time in 2D.) I could go over again why it’s so great, but I’ll save the space and instead direct you to my original review. I haven’t changed my mind about any of it.

So that’s it for me. What were your favorite films of last year?