Arms and the Man — Spider-Man 2

One of the sources of Spider-Man’s lasting appeal has been his rogue’s gallery of villains. Over the 55 years of the character’s existence, he has had an impressive array of colorful bad guys to face. In fact, I’d argue that no other hero at Marvel has as wide a range of interesting villains as Spidey: the Green Goblin, the Vulture, the Hobgoblin, Venom, the Lizard, the Sandman, Electro, the Shocker, the Rhino, Carnage, Tombstone, the Scorpion, Kraven the Hunter, etc., etc., etc.

Having said that, the prime spot in Spidey’s rogues gallery has pretty much always belonged to Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Dr. Octopus. Many of the seemingly endless drafts of Spider-Man had Doc Ock as the bad guy before they settled on the Green Goblin instead. So it’s not real surprising that Octavius would be the villain in Spider-Man 2.

From his first appearance in Amazing ...

A Friendly Neighborhood Movie — Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man

Created in 1962 as part of the big wave of superheroes that began in 1961 with Fantastic Four, Spider-Man proved to be one of Marvel Comics’s most successful characters. A teenaged nerd who was made fun of by the jocks, an orphan raised by his elderly aunt, and a young man with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility thanks to his indirect involvement in the death of his uncle, and also one of the funniest heroes around thanks to his predilection for witty banter, Spider-Man quickly became Marvel’s flagship character.

In the late 1960s, several Marvel characters were adapted into animation, with Spidey’s being by far the most popular (and getting an iconic theme song), and the character continued to show up on TV in either live-action or animated form through the 1970s (the Nicholas Hammond live-action show), 1980s (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends), and 1990s ...

“You’re an even more screwed-up mess than I thought” — Ang Lee’s Hulk

A movie featuring the Hulk—the only Marvel character whose 20th-century adaptation to the screen could be considered an unqualified success—was first hatched by Avi Arad at Marvel and Gale Anne Hurd as early as 1990, shortly after The Death of the Incredible Hulk aired. They sold the rights to Universal, and that started a lengthy development process that saw numerous scriptwriters and directors brought in. At various points, Joe Johnston and Jonathan Hensleigh were attached to direct before Ang Lee was hired.

A Taiwanese director, Lee came to prominence as the director of Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But it was more likely his genre film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that got him the gig directing a comic-book movie…

While the movie went through an absurd number of script drafts, one element that was in most of them was a part of Bruce Banner’s backstory that ...

“You’re an even more screwed-up mess than I thought” — Ang Lee’s Hulk

A movie featuring the Hulk—the only Marvel character whose 20th-century adaptation to the screen could be considered an unqualified success—was first hatched by Avi Arad at Marvel and Gale Anne Hurd as early as 1990, shortly after The Death of the Incredible Hulk aired. They sold the rights to Universal, and that started a lengthy development process that saw numerous scriptwriters and directors brought in. At various points, Joe Johnston and Jonathan Hensleigh were attached to direct before Ang Lee was hired.

A Taiwanese director, Lee came to prominence as the director of Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But it was more likely his genre film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that got him the gig directing a comic-book movie…

While the movie went through an absurd number of script drafts, one element that was in most of them was a part of Bruce Banner’s backstory that ...

Come for the Health, Stay for the Self-Improvement — One Writer’s Martial Arts Journey

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how they inform the author’s literary identity!

Writing is a very sedentary profession. You spend most of your time sitting at a computer. Thanks to the march of technology, you don’t even need to get up from that computer to do research anymore, as most of what you might need to look up is accessible from the same machine that you’re writing on.

In my twenties, this was hardly an issue. I was young, I was energetic, I was active. But by the time I hit the age of 35, the warranty had run out, as it were. My doctor stared at my growing ...

“How many F’s in ‘catastrophic’?” — Superman Returns

By 2006, Bryan Singer was a hot property. He put himself on the map with The Usual Suspects, a movie that had some of the best word-of-mouth of the 1990s, one that made “Keyser Soze” a household name. Then he added to his own legend by providing the first Marvel movie to be a mainstream success. It’s easy to forget now, eighteen years later when “Marvel Cinematic Universe” is synonymous with “the most popular movies on the planet,” how impossible that sounded at the turn of the century (though I think this rewatch has illuminated the wasteland that had been Marvel’s movie oeuvre of the 20th century).

Prior to X-Men, the only superheroes that were true mainstream successes starred either Superman or Batman—but it had also been two decades since there was a Superman movie. Warner Bros. wanted to change that, and they turned to the man who ...

Incident at Mutant Pass — X-Men: The Last Stand

The revolution had begun. Not only had Fox produced two hit movies featuring the X-Men, but by the time the third X-film hit in 2006, Sony had produced two hit Spider-Man films, and several other Marvel characters had hit the big screen with varying degrees of success: Daredevil, Elektra, the Hulk, the Punisher, and the Fantastic Four, not to mention two Blade sequels.

Suddenly, Marvel heroes were all over the big screen, and they were actually faithful to their comics roots and not goofy or ridiculous. They weren’t all good movies, mind you, but at the very least there had been a sea change, and it started with X-Men.

That there would be a third movie in the series was never in doubt, especially since X2 had so aggressively set up Jean Grey coming back as Phoenix, with the climax of the second film being their riff on ...

Hooray for Licensed Fiction! — More Star Trek Discovery Stories in Prose & Comics Form to Tide You Over until 2019

Ah, the joys of the interregnum, the break, the between-seasons hiatus. It’s even more pronounced in an era when TV shows are less and less constrained by the seasonal model of seasons, as it were, with new episodes running around the same time that kids are in school.

Plus, seasons are even shorter now, for the most part, which is actually a boon to most shows. It reduces the filler episodes, the flashback episodes, and just generally has a tendency to tighten up the storytelling somewhat. However, an unintended side effect of that is that the actors are free to take on multiple jobs, but that also means it becomes harder to juggle everyone’s schedule, thus making the break between seasons even longer

Luckily, we have something to fill in the gaps: licensed fiction. And Star Trek Discovery is doing a bang-up job in providing us with that, in ...

“Have you ever tried not being a mutant?”—X2: X-Men United

To the surprise and joy of, basically, everyone, X-Men was a huge hit in 2000. Comics fans loved it, as it was a philosophically faithful adaptation of the long-running series, distilled as it was down to only a few characters.

More to the point, mainstream audiences ate it up, and it was one of the top ten grossing films of 2000, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Naturally, they didn’t wait long to green-light a sequel.

Fox commissioned both Zak Penn and David Hayter to write treatments, which were then combined into a single script, the final draft of which was done by Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris. Singer read several comics stories looking for inspiration, and the final product was particularly inspired by the various Weapon X comics stories that dealt with Wolverine’s background, as well as the seminal 1982 graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, which ...

The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch X2: X-Men United
The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch X2: X-Men United
The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch X2: X-Men United
The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch X2: X-Men United
The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch X2: X-Men United
The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch X2: X-Men United
The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch X2: X-Men United

Nifty Mutants in the New Millennium — X-Men

The X-Men were not, initially, one of Marvel’s successes. Part of the wave of superheroes created in the early 1960s by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko, the X-Men never quite captured the reading public’s imagination the way the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, the Avengers, and Spider-Man did.

In 1975, that changed. Len Wein & Dave Cockrum provided a new team of X-Men in Giant-Sized X-Men #1, and then Chris Claremont took over writing duties with the following Uncanny X-Men #94, and a legend was born. Providing a multiethnic team of mutants along with founding member Cyclops, the title quickly became one of Marvel’s most popular (it’s almost like diversity sells or something!), particularly once Claremont was joined by artist/co-plotter John Byrne, with whom he’d also had successful runs on Iron Fist, Star-Lord, and Marvel Team-Up.

By the late 1980s, there were no comic ...

We Come in Pieces — Star Trek Discovery First Season Overview

“I dunno,” the Star Trek fan says with a sigh. “I mean, the uniforms are all monochrome, I feel like the timeline’s all messed up, they’re just rehashing stuff they’ve done before, it all feels so military with the metal insignia, and they’re killing characters off, and it just all doesn’t feel like real Trek, y’know?”

This Trek fan is, of course, from 1982 and complaining about The Wrath of Khan.

Yes, I can do this all day.

But I won’t. Instead, let’s look back at a most uneven first season of Star Trek Discovery

This season has been a spectacular mix of really great and really wrong, crowning moments of awesome right alongside incredible head-scratchers.

There are five particularly frustrating elements of the show: two decisions that did significant damage before an episode had even aired, a third that showed a disconnect between how the show was ...

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Marvel’s First Theatrical Success — The Blade Trilogy

One of the most popular comic books during the horror boom of the 1970s was The Tomb of Dracula, which from issue #7 on was written by Marv Wolfman, with art throughout its run by Gene Colan, both grandmasters of the field. Focusing on Marvel’s version of Bram Stoker’s creation (itself inspired by the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler), Tomb of Dracula had as its heroes a collection of vampire hunters, some of whom were members of the Harker and van Helsing family from Stoker’s novel, as well as (among others) a reluctant vampire named Hannibal King and an African-American vampire hunter who simply went by the name Blade.

In 1998, a feature film starring Blade was released, only loosely based on the comic. It was only Marvel’s second actual theatrical release (after Howard the Duck in 1986, also a product of the 1970s comics market), ...

A Waterskiing Dog — Star Trek Discovery’s “Will You Take My Hand?”

Star Trek: Discovery episode Will You Take My Hand

At one point during “Will You Take My Hand?”, the season finale of Star Trek Discovery, Tyler is explaining the ease with which he is able to chat with Klingons in the vicinity of the Orion embassy—which, the Orions being glorified pirates, means it’s pretty much space Vegas—to Burnham. “I’m a human who speaks Klingon. To them, that’s like a dog that can waterski.”

I really doubt that executive producers Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, and Akiva Goldsman, who among them wrote and directed the episode, meant that line to be a metaphor for the episode, but it totally fits. Because a dog that can waterski is actually really really cool and would probably be fun to watch. But it’s also something that you kinda stare at and go, “Hang on, why exactly did that just happen?” And there’s a lot of both those reactions in ...

Star Trek Discovery Enterprise NCC-1701

Making Will Eisner Dizzy in His Grave — Two Terrible Versions of The Spirit

While there are other people who qualify for the title, it isn’t hyperbole to say that Will Eisner is one of the greatest comic book artists in the history of the world. Co-founder of the Eisner-Iger Studio that produced a ton of comic strips and comic books in the 1930s, Eisner was hired in 1939 by Quality Comics to create a sixteen-page Sunday supplement to the comic strips section that would tell full-on comic-book style stories. Eisner created a masked hero who fought crime nicknamed “the Spirit.” The Spirit quickly became hugely popular throughout the 1940s, and it ran in Sunday newspapers until 1952.

Lots of attempts were made to bring the Spirit to radio, film, and television, but only two actually made it to the screen, only one of which aired in Eisner’s lifetime: a pilot for a TV show in 1987 that wasn’t picked up, and a ...

Moving Forward — Star Trek Discovery’s “The War Without, the War Within”

Star Trek Discovery The War Without the War Within

One of the constant complaints about Discovery that I have seen online is that it isn’t “real” Star Trek. We’ve been down this road before, of course. In 1979, people wrote letters to magazines about how they had “Star Wars“-ified Star Trek and how this couldn’t be the same universe as the beloved TV show. Gene Roddenberry spent much of 1982 telling fans to boycott The Wrath of Khan because it wasn’t “real” Star Trek and it violated his vision. Fans howled in 1987 at the notion of a Star Trek TV show that didn’t have Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and how it would never work and it wasn’t “real” Star Trek, and then again in 1993 at the notion of a Star Trek TV show that wasn’t on a starship. And many of the complaints levied against Discovery now were also levied against Enterprise seventeen-and-a-half ...

Star Trek Discovery The War Without the War Within mess hall
Star Trek Discovery The War Without the War Within Tyler and Burnham gaslighting
Star Trek Discovery The War Without the War Within Georgiou assumes command

More Team-Down than Team-Up — Generation X and Justice League of America

DC Comics rebooted and/or revitalized many of their superheroes throughout the late 1950s, and when that had proven successful, Julius Schwartz and Gardner Fox then provided a new version of the Justice Society of America, now called the Justice League of America, in 1960, which brought all those heroes together in a single team book.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-Men in 1963 to serve two needs: provide an easy out for origin stories by creating mutants—people born with powers—and also do a school for superheroes where they learn about their powers in an academic environment.

Over the years, both the Justice League and the X-Men went through numerous permutations—and also subsidiary teams. In the latter case, in 1982 Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod created a new team of mutant students. The X-Men at that point had moved far past the school notion, so the New Mutants ...

“We will not accept a no-win scenario” — Star Trek Discovery’s “The Past is Prologue”

Star Trek Discovery The Past is Prologue

My introduction to Michelle Yeoh was when Jackie Chan’s third Police Story movie was released in the United States in 1996, retitled Supercop. It was released here to cash in on Chan’s newfound American popularity following Rumble in the Bronx. I went to see the movie for Chan, but was completely captivated by Yeoh, who was as good as Chan as a choreographed fighter and as an actor. In fact, she was a better actor, and Chan’s actually quite good…

I’ve followed her career with assiduity ever since, from her amazing turn in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to her being the primary reason why Tomorrow Never Dies is the only Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie I like. Her movements are elegant and beautiful, and ones I’ve grown to appreciate more the last thirteen years since I started training in martial arts.

So I freely admit that my second-favorite moment in ...

Better Off Unreleased — Captain America (1990) and Fantastic Four (1994)

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Marvel Comics kept trying to do their characters in Hollywood. In 1981, Stan Lee moved from New York to California to head up Marvel’s screen department. There were tons of false starts and poor attempts, as Marvel sold their film rights to any number of companies that made a pig’s ear out of it, or never got the film out. (I lost track of the number of Spider-Man films in development in the last two decades of the twentieth century, one of which was supposed to be directed by James Cameron.) We’ve already covered two of the disasters that got made: The Punisher and Howard the Duck.

Two more that were actually filmed, after long and tumultuous production histories, were never released theatrically in the U.S. Captain America, starring Matt Salinger, was released to theatres in the UK in 1990, but didn’t ...

You Can’t Go Back to the Way Things Were — Star Trek Discovery’s “Vaulting Ambition”

There are three separate-but-connected things going on in this week’s Star Trek: Discovery, and the heart of each and every one of them is embodied by the line of dialogue I borrowed for the headline, a line spoken directly by both Emperor Georgiou and by Lieutenant Stamets. Everyone wants to go back to the way things were. Stamets wants Culber to be alive and the two of them to be happy. L’Rell wants Voq not to suffer (for all that she insists that Voq’s sacrifice was voluntary and necessary). Georgiou wants her foster daughter back. And everyone on the U.S.S. Discovery just wants to get home.

The one person who does get things back the way they were? Lorca. Go fig’.

Lots of things are pulled into focus this week, which is good, as we’re running out of episodes.

First off, we find out why Stamets has been ...

Star Trek: Discovery Vaulting Ambition Stamets Culber kiss
Star Trek Discovery Vaulting Ambition Emperor Georgiou and Burnham
Star Trek Discovery Vaulting Ambition eating Saru

Trapped in a World They Never Made — Howard the Duck and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The 1960s was the decade of the secret agent: James Bond, Our Man Flint, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Danger Man, The Avengers (the British TV show, not the American super-team), and so on. Marvel decided to cash in on this trend by taking the star of their World War II comic Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (which debuted in 1963), aging him 20 years and making him a colonel, and putting him in charge of the Supreme Headquarters of International Espionage, Law-enforcement Division, or S.H.I.E.L.D. for short. (It was later changed to Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.)

The 1970s was the decade of wackiness: mainstream comics took their superheroes into different places, from martial arts to horror to blaxploitation to just plain crazy. One of the particularly crazy ones came from Steve Gerber ...