Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Marvel Comics adapts The Mandalorian

45 years ago, the original Star Wars movie, written and directed by George Lucas (American Graffiti), was released in the US. Lucas' space opera would change moviemaking forever.

To coincide with the anniversary, this week is Star Wars Celebration and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres with a double episode this Friday on Disney+.

Whilst fans (myself included) wait for the third season of The Mandalorian on Disney+, Marvel Comics is releasing an eight-issue adaptation of the first season through the lens of writer Rodney Barnes (Everybody Hates Chris) and artist Georges Jeanty (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)!

“The story of the Mandalorian checks so many boxes of the stuff I’m passionate about,” Barnes told “I love Westerns, fantasy, science fiction, comedy, drama…it’s a dream gig for any writer. I’m just glad I was chosen for this assignment!”

New adventures would have been preferable to another Star Wars adaptation. However, you can discover Marvel Comics' take on The Mandalorian when it hits newsstands this July.

Pre-order The Mandalorian #1 (affiliate link) today!

Will you be reading Marvel's The Mandalorian? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Battle of the exes in Thor: Love and Thunder

On Monday, Disney dropped an official trailer for Marvel Studios' Thor: Love and Thunder.

Director Taika Waititi's (Jojo Rabbit) follow-up to his Thor: Ragnarok looks a lot of fun, with Natalie Portman (Thor: The Dark World) reprising the role of Jane Foster opposite Chris Hemsworth as the titular Avenger, and is in cinemas on 8th July.

Are you looking forward to Thor: Love and Thunder? What was your reaction to the trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 23 May 2022

E.T.'s Funkoween

Halfway to Hallow's Eve and Funko has announced a wave of Pop! figures for Funkoween.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Funko is releasing a collection based on director Steven Spielberg's (Jaws) iconic 1982 movie.

Spielberg's most autobiographical movie resonated deeply with my ten-year-old self - still coming to terms with a life-changing trauma and struggling to make sense of where I fitted into the fabric of the cosmos - a crippled child who looked to the night sky for escape but had to deal with the day-to-day reality of rehabilitation on terra firma. Like Spielberg's previous sci-fi opus, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it was all too much...

Pre-order Elliott & E.T. Pop! Moment from Entertainment Earth (affiliate link) today!

Will you be adding fan-favourite characters from E.T. to your Funko Pop! collection this Halloween? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

The first 8 minutes of Stranger Things 4

On Friday, Netflix released the first 8 minutes of Stranger Things 4.

The Duffer brothers channel the cinema of Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket) with aplomb. Personally, the clip resonated as I was reminded of endless days in paediatric and neurology departments following a life-changing head injury in primary school. Mr Men books, LEGO and puzzles were a welcome distraction during a traumatic time that continues to inform my life.

Stranger Things 4 reportedly has a budget of $30 million per episode. Netflix is betting big on the fan-favourite franchise as it finds itself no longer dominating a streaming space filled with competitors from Apple TV+ to Paramount+. Despite the secrecy surrounding the upcoming season, spoilers leaked online from official Monopoly merchandise.

The upcoming nine-episode supersized season will be split into two volumes. Beginning on Netflix on 27th May and continuing on 1st July.

What did you think of the first 8 minutes of Stranger Things 4? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 20 May 2022

George Pérez: Infinite Titan

Poignantly, George Pérez's passing was announced on Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). An artist whose work I admired long before I knew of the man.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, remembers a beloved creative titan who has left an enduring legacy at both DC and Marvel Comics.

Guest post by Nick Smith

There has been a justified outpouring of tributes to artist George Pérez since he passed away on May 6th. The wealth of well-meaning is justified. Pérez was lauded as a man who cemented the modern look of comic book icons like Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans. He was also a joyful bloke with an infectious enthusiasm for his craft.

His death seems sudden, even though he announced last year that he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. By that stage, cancer had spread beyond his pancreas. A late-stage diagnosis gives a patient less than a year to live.

Pérez faced the news with great courage and decided to ‘let nature take its course.’ Now he’s gone, leaving a mountain of treasure in the form of stories he wrote and/or drew. He’s being remembered as the man who could do anything - draw any and all characters in epics like War of the Gods; write character-driven drama, kung fu thrillers, monster comics or cosmic epics.

My first brush with the artist’s work was in a strip that showed his versatility – a short story called War Toy, originally published in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2. I found it when it was reprinted during the Star Wars craze of the late ‘70s. Written by Tony Isabella with art by Pérez and Rico Rival, it tells the tale of robot soldier FM-1 (“Fighting Man-1”) blessed with independent thought, left to rust in a gutter in peacetime.

There’s action, as FM-1 aces a test run; an alien invasion of Australia; a tribute to “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima;” and a touching relationship between a father and son, even though the son is a robot.

The story is a heavy-pistoned analogy for our treatment of veterans. Yet the way the characters are drawn shows great finesse and humanity, from FM-1’s military dad to a sympathetic reporter to the tin soldier himself, who bares his teeth-grille and flashes his eye as he considers his fate.

I could pick any one of a hundred Pérez tableaux and have positive words to share about them. But War Toy has stuck with me for over four decades and still gives me goosebumps when I read it today. Pérez had a way of heightening and humanising ideas and making them resonate with readers.

His legacy goes beyond comics, to TV (epitomised by The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths), movies (including 2017’s Wonder Woman and Marvel’s Infinity War, which pulled many details from the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries he co-pencilled) and cartoons (with at least one generation of children happily raised on Teen Titans). He has left a great gap in the creative world of comics, one that will never be filled.

What are your memories of comic book legend George Pérez? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

For All Mankind goes to Mars

The third season of For All Mankind, an alternate reality sci-fi series created by Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), begins streaming this June exclusively on Apple TV+. Don't tell Elon Musk that the Cupertino-based company's streaming service is going to Mars.

Read the official synopsis:

“The propulsive new season of the alternate-reality series takes viewers to a new decade, moving into the early ’90s with a high-octane race to a new planetary frontier: Mars. The Red Planet becomes the new front in the space race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. Our characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion.”

For All Mankind season three premieres on 10th June on Apple TV+.

Are you watching For All Mankind? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Predator prequel this summer on Hulu

Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for Prey, a Predator prequel directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), coming to Hulu and Star on Disney+.

Read the official synopsis:

"Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, “Prey” is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries."

Prey premieres exclusively on Hulu and Star on Disney+ on 5th August.

Are you excited about Prey? What did you think of the teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

The Tenth Doctor and Donna are back

Allons-y! Following last Sunday's announcement of Ncuti Gatwa as the next Doctor after Jodie Whittaker leaves Doctor Who later this year.

David Tennant is back as the Tenth Doctor with fan-favourite companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) for the 60th anniversary in 2023.

Russell T Davies, Showrunner says: “They're back! And it looks impossible - first, we announce a new Doctor, and then an old Doctor, along with the wonderful Donna, what on earth is happening? Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback. The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.”

Are you excited about the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to the television series? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Doctor Strange's House of Horrors

20 years ago, director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man reinvigorated superhero movies and foreshadowed the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) beginning with Iron Man (2008).

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, reviews Raimi's return.

Guest post by Nick Smith

One thing is constant across the multiverse: Doctor Stephen Strange and Doctor Christine Palmer love each other but they never seem to be able to make their relationship work. Kind of like Sam Raimi and Hollywood.

Raimi’s first horror movie, The Evil Dead, is revered as a genre classic despite – or because of - its low budget limitations. It has inspired many filmmakers, including myself. Raimi went on to direct several memorable films, including two Evil Dead sequels, a western (The Quick and the Dead), a slapstick comedy (Crimewave), a noir drama (A Simple Plan), a sports romance (For Love of the Game) and his own variation on a pulp superhero (Darkman).

His production company Renaissance Pictures gave us cult favourite TV shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, who in turn paved the way for the heroines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias and Kill Bill. But Raimi’s best known for his horror flicks and his Marvel movies, which include 2002’s phenomenally popular Spider-Man.

Unfortunately, Spider-Man 3 was deemed a disappointment when it arrived in 2007. Raimi went back to his evil roots with Drag Me to Hell. Imagine a cross between the two and you’ll have a mental taste of Raimi’s comeback epic, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – the first film he’s directed in 9 years.

Marvel has been rolling out its movies and streaming shows at a conveyor belt pace, using the same basic parts to create products that are well made, good looking and heavily branded with the same formula – heroes face a monstrous menace, havoc is wreaked, heroes make a great sacrifice in the hopes of defeating the said menace.

Director Raimi plays it safe plotwise but the tone is dark and sometimes scary for little kiddies.

This movie’s real hook, though, is its promise to show us parallel worlds and some old favourite characters. While DC’s TV shows have been playing with the ‘infinite earth’ concept for several years with entertaining results, Marvel has had more recent success with the animated feature Into the Spiderverse. Since it earned over $375 million worldwide, a live-action trip across dimensions was inevitable.

Unfortunately, we’ve already seen spectacular cameos in Spiderverse and Spider-Man: No Way Home and some of the latter’s best moments were due to the nostalgia element of seeing characters from Raimi’s trilogy. So in a way, the director is overshadowed by the ghosts of his own previous work. How can he compete with his past self?

One way is to up the scariness. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness brings us darker versions of beloved heroes, demonic monsters and undead creatures.

Another way is to pack in a lot of fights, magical environments and eye-bending spectacle to keep us entertained through its 126 minutes running time. The action set pieces are drawn out, leaving little room for the actors to show their chops – although kudos is due to them for holding their own amongst all the visual chaos and brutally destructive injustice that seems like it’s ripped from a Zack Snyder DC film.

As Doctor Stephen Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch does get one chance to stretch his thespianism in a touching scene about Strange’s dead sister. But it’s gone in an Agamotto blink. Thankfully, the movie does have time to include some delicious references to Alan Moore’s universe numbering system (first mentioned in the comic book adventures of Captain Britain!); the kind of monsters that were prevalent in classic Marvel Comics like Strange Tales; and the What If? animated series on Disney+.

Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) loses the nuances she gained in her own Disney+ show, seemingly taking a step backwards from her character development to make her more formidable. We’re presented with a younger, more naïve version of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) than we’re used to in the comics.

Here she’s protected by Strange, who is obsessed with being in control and doing good deeds. He is willing to help one girl he’s never met before at all costs. However, he uses means that might not justify the ends – a risk Wanda takes as well. These challenges and Raimi’s dark side make the film gripping enough to make it more than just another Fin Fang Foom factory grind-out.

So come to the Multiverse to see the Steve Ditko-inspired alter planes, the themes of misused power and parenting, the star cameos and the indelible Raimi touch. Stay for the bittersweet love story between Doctor Strange and Christine (Rachel McAdams), the endearing performances by Benedict Wong and Xochitl Gomez and a magical, crotchety music-note battle that would make Walt Disney proud.

One cameo we do get is from Bruce Campbell, who has been a Raimi mainstay throughout his career.

At the time of writing the film has grossed half a billion dollars in its first weekend and it’s great to see the Evil Dead duo back on top. Now can we have Campbell playing Mysterio in a Raimi-directed Spider-Man 4?

Have you seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Hasbro & LEGO combine for Optimus Prime

LEGO Optimus Prime is a transforming thing this June. The heroic leader of the Autobots is an icon from the Transformers toy line.

“It has been an honour and a joy to work together with Hasbro to develop a LEGO version of Optimus Prime,” says Senior Designer at the LEGO Group, Joseph Patrick Kyde. “I am excited to see these two toy companies come together for the first time to celebrate the leader of the Autobots. Optimus Prime has become a pop culture symbol of courage, selflessness, and great leadership as well as an awesome toy that embodies the problem-solving and creativity skills that both companies value so much. It’s been a wonderful and challenging task to bring him to life using LEGO bricks, especially making sure that he can shift modes without disassembly and stay true to his signature look and style.”

Of all the Transformers, Optimus Prime is held in greatest reverence. On a personal note, my late mum bought me the original Optimus Prime toy - as a surprise gift - whilst I was off, sick, from school in 1984.

Casey Collins, Head of Licensed Consumer Products and Business Development at Hasbro, adds: “We’re excited to bring two of the world’s greatest play and entertainment companies together to celebrate this larger-than-life, iconic character – Optimus Prime. We know fans everywhere will be thrilled by this collaboration as it enables fans and families of all ages to create memories as they work together to build the LEGO Transformers Optimus Prime.”

LEGO Optimus Prime is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Optimus Prime to your collection? Which Transformers would you like to see in the future? Let me know in the comments below.