Tag Archives: marvel

My comics prayers have been answered

Last July I had written about my love of Disney comics and how I hoped Walt Disney Comics and Stories would be resurrected from comic limbo.

Apparently, the fine folks at IDW Publishing listened to me (I know, I’m sure they didn’t, but still).

From IDW's website
From IDW’s website

Check out July. Yup. It’s WALT DISNEY COMICS AND STORIES. WITH THE ORIGINAL NUMBERING.

I am over the moon and Duckburg over this news. This means Disney comics will be out on shelves in America once more. And we’ll get to see some stories that were only available overseas. My wallet, of course, will be giving me the evil eye even more, but that’s OK. I’ll probably get Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and WDC&S , although my wallet is probably saying, “Well, if you’re buying three, you might as well get the fourth one, ya maroon!”

But wait, you might say. IDW? Why isn’t Marvel putting these comics out since Disney owns them? To be honest, I really don’t know. Disney has all sorts of licenses floating out there. Fantagraphics has been reprinting the Mickey Mouse newspaper strips, as well as (my personal favorite) the Carl Barks and Don Rosa Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge stories. Maybe Marvel’s plate is a bit full to add even more issues. Who knows.

I do have complete confidence in IDW treating this material right; I’ve been enjoying what they’re doing with the Transformers franchise, and my two girls are especially fond of the My Little Pony line (they like flipping through the digital versions, and they’ve got dog-eared copies of those mini-comics).

So now we wait until April for Uncle Scrooge, May for Donald Duck, and July for Walt Disney Comics and Stories. Good thing I’m patient. Mostly.

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Comics! On television!

via DC Comics' Facebook page
via DC Comics’ Facebook page

Fifty years from now, when we’re all flying around in our rocket cars and taking an elevator up to Mars, historians will look back on 2014 as a banner year for seeing comic books in other media besides comic books.

It’s especially been a banner year for DC Comics on the smallish screen. For the fall season, it’s got four shows on the air: Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and Gotham. From what I hear, they’re doing gangbusters. While Marvel has a stranglehold on the multiplex, it does have one show on TV: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with several more in development. I guess I should mention that 100-pound zombie in the room, The Walking Dead, but I’m not a zombie kind of guy. Sorry.

As much as I would love to watch every single one of these shows, most of them air when my kids are heading off to the realm of Dream. Thankfully, since we live in THE FUTURE, I can watch them later online with limited commercial interruption (usually the same ads over and over).

When the fall season began, I knew I had to see The Flash, with Gotham lurking in the shadows for a tie. I was a big fan of Batman and the Flash’s earlier TV incarnations. One was a bit silly, the other had a mix of comedy, drama and action. All these years later, we would get another look at these characters.

The Flash would take on the Barry Allen version with some revisions to the origin story. It’s serious, but there’s a sense of fun among the characters. It’s not all doom and gloom. With Gotham, this would be more Batman: Year Minus One, giving the origins of some of Batman’s rogues gallery as well as the Gotham Police. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to catch any episodes of Gotham. I guess I’ll wait for the DVDs.

I drop in occasionally on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., mainly because “it all fits” but I haven’t seen a Marvel movie since Iron Man. Some of it is good, but I feel like I’m missing something. I saw a few episodes of Arrow last season and liked it once I figured out the scenes on the island were flashbacks and not scenes from the future. Nice, moody stuff borrowing a lot from Batman’s world. Sadly, I’ve fallen behind this season, the one where Ra’s al Ghul is primed for an appearance.

Then there’s John Constantine.

I’m not much of a horror fan, so I have stayed away from Constantine’s DC/Vertigo comic book adventures. But whenever he did pop up in comics I was reading at the time (mostly by some bloke named Neil Gaiman), it was always entertaining. Thankfully, I never did see Keanu Reeves’ cinematic turn as the character.

Out of all the shows DC was bringing out, this was the one I was waffling on seeing. Did I want to have nightmares every day and wonder if there’s some hellspawn masquerading as a lamppost?

The hell with it, I thought. I watched the pilot, and it was great. It had just enough horror to not give me fits at night, and actor Matt Ryan fits Constantine’s character like a well-worn glove.

I, for one, am glad to see the comics world on TV. It helps that the special effects have grown to the point of being able to re-create someone running at the speed of light or people turning into demons. But the biggest thing is that the stories don’t play down on the material. And above all, they’ve made me ask, “What happens next?”

Now I just have to carve out time to find out what does happen next, and pray that they don’t get cancelled.

Feeding the nostalgic beast

We are living in a golden age of sorts. The world has shrunk, everything is connected, comments sections are a cesspool. Glorious times, these are.

But it wasn’t always this way. Way back in the 1980s, living in ruralish northeastern Florida, news may have traveled fast, but only through the television airwaves or through slower methods in magazines. I wouldn’t experience the Internet until the mid-1990s. Add to the fact I didn’t actively seek out any and all information about a particular subject, and I was not very information-savvy.

Example A: The Transformers.

Back when those robots in disguise burst onto the scene in 1984, I don’t remember which medium I had encountered them first — comics, cartoon, or toys — but I know that I concentrated on the last two in the beginning. I probably knew of the comics but didn’t pay much attention to them.

Once the Transformers got cooking, I did pick up a few issues of the Marvel comic. I noticed right away the continuities between the cartoon and the comic book were vastly different.

As the cartoon faded away, the comic soldiered on, which was around the time Simon Furman took over writing duties. While this was going on, I had no clue that across the pond, the Brits were treated to their own Transformers comic in addition to the American stories, many of them written by Furman.

marvel TF TPBs

Recently, IDW Publishing has been re-printing these Marvel and Marvel UK stories in trade paperback form, giving me the chance to read many of these stories for the first time, especially the UK tales. Reading these stories with grown-up eyes, some are still great, some are worse than cosmic rust.

Along the same lines, IDW has created a new continuity for the Transformers universe, which are, in some respects, a heck of a lot better in terms of story and art than what came before. And yet,  if it weren’t for those old issues, we wouldn’t have gotten the new issues.

Then there’s those Michael Bay Transformers movies. I saw the first movie in the theater, and I felt goosebumps as Optimus Prime drove down that alley to meet Shia LaBeouf. But upon a second viewing, the movie grated at me (maybe because it wasn’t that great a movie). All it took was one viewing for the second movie for me to be disgusted. My wife fell asleep about halfway through it. She was the lucky one. The third one was ever-so-slightly better than the second, but that’s saying a lot. I haven’t seen the fourth movie yet.

Nostalgia is a strange beast.

Which leads me to something completely different: Walt Disney World.

The Happiest Place on Earth is a strange vortex of nostalgia. On the one hand, it seeks to create new memories for kids and relive those memories for adults, but then it has to stay current with just about every experience.

Because it seems everything in my life is connected to each other, let’s use as an example Star Tours, the Star Wars thrill ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (or MGM Studios, for those of a certain age). I probably went on that ride for the first time in the mid-1990s (high school-age) and thought it was absolutely brilliant. But as the years went on, I started noticing things. The biggest nit to pick: it seemed like the soundtrack was about a half-second behind the film projection. Drove me NUTS.

Star Tours, circa 2004
Star Tours, circa 2004 (photo by Michael Fortuna)

When I heard the folks at Disney were refurbishing the ride a few years back, I was sad, yet hopeful. Sure, there was a part of me that loved the old version, but I was eager to see what they’d do in the new version.

In June, I finally got the chance to ride Star Tours 2.0, and I loved it. It’s still Star Tours, but now you’ve got the added fun of not having the same ride twice, although with my luck I probably will.

You could apply that to the Haunted Mansion. The original ride at the Magic Kingdom was hauntingly wonderful, but the enhancements are just as mind-blowing.

At the same time, a smile gets plastered on my face when I ride the WEDWay PeopleMover. As far as I know, it’s pretty much the same ride as it was back in the 1970s. I do wish I could see the original Journey into Imagination ride at Epcot again, and sometimes I miss Walter Cronkite narrating Spaceship Earth.

Maybe it’s the kid in me (or everyone, for that matter) longing for those olden days while living through these chaotic adult years. Maybe that’s why I turn to stuff from my childhood like the Transformers and Star Wars and Disney. But, I also long to see what new things these respective companies have got up their sleeves. I also get a kick out of finding new stories in various media to devour.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch Transformers: The Movie. The one with Orson Welles and Eric Idle.

One little spark

Comic books in America featuring Disney characters have become as rare as a short line to get into Soarin’ at Epcot.

At one time back in the 1940s and ’50s, Disney comics were some of the biggest-selling in America. But they slowly faded into near obscurity during the 1970s and ’80s, while they have thrived across the ocean. (Dan Cunningham has put together extensive blog posts on Disney Comics during the late ’80s and early ’90s) One of those ’70s comics is the fabled Donald Duck and the Golden Helmet issue, which I’ve documented elsewhere.

The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic
The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic

In the 2000s, there was a glimmer of hope. Boom! Studios picked up the license and brought Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories back from publishing purgatory, along with other stuff. It was cool seeing these stories that originally appeared in Europe. Boom! also brought in writer/artist Roger Langridge for some Muppet Show comics (I read one issue, it was fabulous).

But Boom! and Disney parted ways. My memory’s a little foggy on this, but it may have been right around the time Disney bought Marvel. While the immediate jokes of Mickey joining the Avengers appeared, part of me hoped that maybe WDC&S would return once more.

Seekers of the Weird No. 1, via Comic Book Resources
Seekers of the Weird No. 1, via Comic Book Resources

Instead, the House of Ideas went with a Disney Kingdoms imprint, kicking things off with Seekers of the Weird, which takes its cue from an abandoned Disneyland attraction called the Museum of the Weird that would have been within the Haunted Mansion. Plans were scrapped, but the legend grew over the years. Now, it has become a comic book written by Brandon Seifert, drawn by Karl Moline and  Rick Magyar, colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and lettered by Joe Caramagna. I’ve read the first two issues of the miniseries, and it’s pretty good so far.

My spider senses really went off the scales when I learned the next miniseries in the Disney Kingdoms world was … FIGMENT! That lovable purple dragon, along with his partner-in-crime the Dreamfinder from the Journey into Imagination! ride at EPCOT Center (or Epcot, depending on how the wind blows) was going to get his own comic! It would be written by Jim Zub, illustrated by Felipe Andrade, colored by Beaulieu, and lettered by Caramagna.

But I kept reading stories on Twitter that the issue was selling out at comic shops. I bit my fingernails off. But! Someone on Twitter said that it was available at several places in Disney World, including a store in Downtown Disney. Our family was planning to go to the latter that weekend, so we had a new quest. We checked out the World of Disney store first (mainly because a massive thunderstorm hit), but I didn’t see any. The rain let up a bit, so we headed to Once Upon a Toy next. We reached the section where they have all the Marvel stuff. Lo and behold, tucked in with some other books was Figment No. 1.

Figment in the wild!
Figment in the wild! (photo by Michael Fortuna)

They also had the other issues of Seekers of the Weird elsewhere in the store, so I got No. 2. Strangely, they didn’t have No. 3. Weird, indeed.

As for the Figment issue itself: it was a great introduction to how Figment and the Dreamfinder met, and the ending sets the stage for a rather fanciful adventure. I’ve now heard the second issue of Figment sold out before it even hit comic shop shelves. Wow. Hopefully, Once Upon a Toy will have copies.

Add to Fantagraphics reprinting the mouse and duck tales of Floyd Gottfredson, Carl Barks, and Don Rosa, and it seems we’ve come into a bit of a golden age of Disney comics. Perhaps if we wish upon a star, we’ll see a lot more, maybe a resurrection of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories

Walt Disney Comics & Stories No. 715, via the Grand Comics Database
Walt Disney Comics & Stories No. 715, via the Grand Comics Database

It is a world transformed…

And now, another chapter in the Continuing Saga of Childhood Nostalgia…

It is the fall of 1984. The Star Wars saga concluded the year before, but its fire was slowly going out of the universe. What’s an impressionable 8-year-old to do? There were some Saturday morning cartoons, but my mind escapes me as to what was on at the time (for some reason, I’m thinking of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but that may have come out a year or two earlier).

And then, something from Cybertron beamed its transmissions (and its accompanying wares) to Earth.

The NBC affiliate in Jacksonville (which became the ABC affiliate, which is now the CW affiliate) started airing The Transformers. I was immediately sold on the premise of the Heroic Autobots battling the Evil Decepticons, AND THEY TURNED FROM ROBOTS TO VEHICLES AND BACK! To make matters worse, they made TOYS BASED ON THE CARTOON? (or maybe it was the other way around) I’m sure I bugged my parents and grandparents to get me two or seventy-three of the toys.

The first toys I did acquire were Soundwave with Buzzsaw, as well as Twin Twist (he’s an Autobot that transformed when you pushed the car back and let it go). They each came with small folded catalogs showing you all the other toys available, including the leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron. Through the luck of the Matrix of Leadership (and my parents’ and grandparents’ endless searching), they were welcomed into my home.

Artwork from the 1984 Transformers boxes
Artwork from the 1984 Transformers boxes

Besides the cartoon’s stories, I found myself drawn to the voice actors, trying to match the name listed in the credits with the character. Eventually, I put two and seven together to find many of these actors were in other Marvel/Sunbow productions. Who could forget the bravery of Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime, the over-the-top evil of Frank Welker’s Megatron, the screeching of Chris Latta’s Starscream? Then, to learn one guy did three or four different characters? Mind. Blown. My ear also picked out sound effects that sounded familiar to what was heard in Star Wars. That, of course, made the show doubly cool.

In August 1986, my dad drove me to the local mall to catch a showing of Transformers: The Movie. I had been seeing previews on TV constantly and couldn’t wait to see these guys on the big screen. We walked into the theater just as the DEG lion logo twirled onto the screen.

I was gobsmacked as Unicron ripped a planet to shreds. I got goosebumps when the hair metal band Lion (boy, did they go far) rocked out the theme song. But, I’m sure I felt a little queasy when the Decepticons dispatched the crew of an Autobot shuttle like it was nothing. Seeing smoke spew out of Prowl’s mouth freaked me out. I liked Prowl! How were they able to die so easily when they got through the cartoon without much injury? Of course, this was the toy company’s way of making way for the new line, but still. To that 10-year-old me, they were real.

Then the unthinkable happened. The epic clash between Prime and Megatron. One would stand. One would fall. For a moment, it looked like Prime was victorious. But that wasn’t meant to be. Optimus died.

Looking back, that event hit me hard, though I probably tried not to show it. I’m sure lots of kids my age who saw that were affected. Here was this amazing robot who led the good guys into battle, and he lost.

Thankfully, toward the end of the third season, Hasbro had a change of heart. They brought back Optimus Prime. His toy version was as a Powermaster where you put this tiny robot engine onto his chest, and you can transform Prime into this bigger robot.

Unfortunately, as the toys went off in strange directions (the Pretenders: hide a robot inside a giant human-looking shell; yeah, that didn’t seem right), I lost interest.

Transformers No. 26, via Grand Comics Database
Transformers No. 26, via Grand Comics Database

The comic book that started it all (which actually came out May 8) hadn’t quite entered my universe just yet. The first issues I got were part of a three-pack: issues 26-28, which came out in 1987 or so. These issues dealt with the aftermath of Optimus Prime’s death (great! I get to experience it twice!). I discovered the Marvel version of the Transformers was a tad different than the cartoon continuity. For one thing, the cartoon had jumped to 2005 in the movie, but the comic stayed in the present. I didn’t pick up a lot of this series when it was around.

Just like Star Wars, it seemed like the Transformers were going to fade into the dustbins of history. At least it did in the U.S. for a while. Then came the Energon, Universe, and Armada lines, which I didn’t follow that much. I watched and enjoyed the Transformers Animated series. I watched the first of Michael Bay’s rendition of the franchise in theaters, and I did feel goosebumpy when we see Prime driving down the alleyway. It was an OK movie. The second one, I will never speak of again. The third one, meh.

Rhino brought back the original series on DVD, so of course I had to buy them. Watching them with older eyes, yeah, some of the stories are stupid, the animation gets kind of wonky at times, but it still holds up.

Star Wars may have been a defining moment in my life, but the Transformers really got the ball rolling. If I wasn’t a fan of science fiction-type tales, this sealed the deal. Right around this time, Voltron appeared on TV screens, and I ate that up. I became fascinated with other Japanese animated shows and movies. I thought, maybe I’ll be a voiceover actor when I grow up (that didn’t pan out). It also showed me that you can give a robot a backstory and a personality, and it will work just as well as a human. Sometimes.

A couple of years back, I unearthed my toy collection from storage and displayed them for a few weeks. I was amazed I remembered how to transform them all, and that they stayed mostly intact while sitting in a garage for many years. They looked like they had been through a war lasting millions of years.

tf collection 01

Thanks to the fine folks at IDW, I have enjoyed the Bots’ comic book adventures once more, including All Hail Megatron, More Than Meets the EyeRobots in Disguise, and Regeneration One, as well as reprints of the Marvel and Marvel UK stories. Whenever I had a chance to watch, I’ve enjoyed the recent iteration, Transformers Prime. I even bought the Masterpiece edition of Optimus Prime. Now THAT thing is a pain in the Matrix to transform. Looks cool, though.

20th optimus

Megatron’s pointing his fusion cannon at me, telling me to wrap up, so I better do that. Happy 30th, Transformers. May you continue for another 30 or 30 million.

So long, and thanks for all the Star Wars comics

I learned the news on Friday that Marvel will be taking over the Star Wars comic book franchise from Dark Horse in 2015. Just about everyone figured this move was coming when Disney (which owns Marvel) bought Lucasfilm. Part of me hoped that it wouldn’t happen, but clouded by the Dark Side of the Force, I must have been.

But I jest.

I was first introduced to Dark Horse’s Star Wars offerings when “Dark Empire” arrived in finer comic shops back in the early ’90s.

Star Wars: Dark Empire No. 1; cover by Dave Dorman
Star Wars: Dark Empire No. 1; cover by Dave Dorman

My memory is a bit foggy as to how I learned of this momentous event (I was in high school at the time), but I scooped up the first four issues and devoured them. Up until that point, the only other new Star Wars fiction out there was Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. Now we had COMICS!

Boy howdy, did this story kick my butt and take names. The art from Cam Kennedy was astounding, and Tom Veitch’s story about how Luke Skywalker turns to the dark side compelled me. Sadly, I didn’t pick up the last two issues to find out how it ended. I had to wait to get the trade paperback.

Soon, Dark Horse was re-presenting some of the newspaper comic strips from Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson in color. At the time, I had no idea there were comic strips in the newspaper detailing more adventures of Luke, Han and Leia. Then, the fine folks at Dark Horse start telling tales from waaaaay before the original Star Wars movie, as well as some adventures of Rogue Squadron. I was happier than a Tusken Raider shooting podracers.

A long time ago, I knew that Marvel was publishing stories in the Star Wars universe, but for whatever reason, I didn’t get any of the issues, save for the four-issue adaptation of “Return of the Jedi.” Thanks to Dark Horse and their omnibuses, I finally read the first few issues of Marvel’s initial run; not too bad, considering how much was unknown back then.

Covers for Marvel's adaptation of "Return of the Jedi"
Covers for Marvel’s adaptation of “Return of the Jedi”

Around 2000, I walked away from buying comics for a few years, but I read a news post here and there. When I returned to the fold some eight years later, a few Star Wars series made it onto the pull list, including “Legacy,” which takes place more than 100 years after “Return of the Jedi,” but it was right near the time it was ending (I have a strange track record with buying series only to have them cancel, except for Batman), and “Dark Times: Blue Harvest,” which takes place after the events of “Revenge of the Sith.”

Star Wars: Legacy No. 37; cover by Jan Duursema
Star Wars: Legacy No. 37; cover by Jan Duursema

I have no idea what Marvel has in store with the Star Wars universe once it picks it up, but I will reserve judgement until then. I would hope they treat it with the same care Dark Horse did. (insert Luke Skywalker/Spider-Man crossover issue joke here)

I wanted to thank all the countless writers, artists (pencillers and inkers), colorists, letterers, and editors who took me on trips to that galaxy far, far away for these 20-some-odd years. It’s been an amazing ride.

The Force is strong with you all. Maybe I’ll go get that “Dark Empire” trade paperback off the shelf. Then I need to start saving up for all those trade paperbacks I need to get by the end of the year.

Oh, these? I collect them.
Oh, these? I collect them.