“Don’t waste your life, Stark” — Iron Man

Iron Man was part of the huge first wave of superheroes co-created by Stan Lee in the early 1960s, in collaboration with a variety of artists, mainly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but also Bill Everett, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck.

While never a headliner in the Marvel Universe, ol’ ShellHead was always a major player at the very least. He was a founding member of the Avengers, a presence in a lot of stories as the inventor (or at least the owner of the company that invented) much of the Marvel Universe’s fancy tech, the financial backing of the Avengers, and the centerpiece of several major events in the comics, from the Kree-Skrull War to the Armor Wars to Operation: Galactic Storm to Civil War.

Since the movie rights to most of Marvel’s biggest names—Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, and the Fantastic Four—were already gobbled up by other studios, Marvel ...

Sons of Lei Kung, Daughters of the Dragon — Marvel’s Iron Fist Season Two

Two of the major supporting characters for Iron Fist from shortly after his debut in Marvel Premiere were Misty Knight—an ex-police detective with a bionic arm—and Colleen Wing—a sword-wielding martial artist. The pair of them teamed up as private investigators as Nightwing Restorations, and also have done the superhero thing as the Daughters of the Dragon.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Netflix edition), Wing was introduced in Iron Fist, while Knight was introduced in Luke Cage, and where Danny Rand dated Knight in the comics, he falls into bed with Wing in his series, and they have remained a couple. Wing and Knight finally got thrown together in The Defenders (where Knight lost her arm) and they reunited for two glorious scenes in Luke Cage season two (where Knight got her bionic arm).

Then we have the middle episodes of Iron Fist season two and can we for ...

“I used to hang out with a lot of losers” — Kick-Ass 2

Both the comic book and the movie Kick-Ass were successes, so each got a sequel. Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. did a more open-ended sequel to the original miniseries, which lasted seven issues, and followed it with a bridge between the two series, Hit Girl, which focused on the breakout character from the comic.

Matthew Vaughn returned to produce a sequel film based on those two new miniseries, tapping Jeff Wadlow to write and direct.

Most, thought not all, of the cast returned, most notably Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the title role and the magnificent Chloë Grace Moretz as Hit Girl. Clark Duke returns as Marty (now a superhero also, Battle Guy), Christopher Mintz-Plasse reprises his role as Chris D’Amico (who is now the super-villain the Motherfucker), as does Garrett M. Brown in the expanded role of Kick-Ass’s father. Also back in smaller roles are Lyndsy Fonseca, who’s in ...

Punching Upward — First Impressions of Marvel’s Iron Fist Season Two

Wow, this is so much better.

I was not kind to Iron Fist season one when it aired, nor did it deserve it. Show-runner Scott Buck evinced no understanding of kung fu or martial arts in general, nor of the character that Marvel has been producing comics with since 1973, and then he doubled down by casting an actor with no martial arts experience whatsoever to play one of the greatest martial artists in the Marvel canon.

After that, the character appeared in The Defenders—where they leaned into his being a twerp—and an episode of Luke Cage season two—in which Finn Jones acted and sounded more like the Danny Rand I’ve been reading since I was a kid than he had anywhere else.

Raven Mentzer took over the show-running duties with IF season two, and while I was a bit nervous that they were giving the show ...

“With No Power Comes No Responsibility” — Kick-Ass

Mark Millar sold the film rights to his four-issue comic miniseries Kick-Ass before the first issue was even published, and before the miniseries, which was drawn by John Romita Jr., was completed.

Inspired by conversations Millar had with his friends as a teenager wondering why no one had ever tried to become a superhero in real life, Millar’s goal with Kick-Ass was to take those conversations and see what would happen if a kid decided to actually put that thought to an action. It’s pretty much what the original Nite Owl decided to do in the 1930s in Watchmen, except for the Internet age.

Millar’s comic and Matthew Vaughn’s film both were finished simultaneously, though both worked toward the same general ending.

Vaughn met Millar at the premiere for the former’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, and the development of the film was far more collaborative than ...

A Brief History of Iron Fist in the Comics

Iron Fist Danny Rand racebending white #AAIronFist

In 1966, Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin—an Okinawan karate style that still exists and thrives today—sent one of his best students and teachers, Tadashi Nakamura, to New York City to bring karate to the United States. Nakamura was but one of many people who came from Asia to the United States to bring martial arts to a country that was growing ever-more curious about it. I mention him in particular because there’s a direct line from Oyama sending Nakamura to America and my own study of the martial arts. In 1976, Nakamura formed his own karate style, Seido, and one of his best students and teachers—William Oliver—formed his own in 2001, Kenshikai, and that’s the discipline that I study today.

The same year that Nakamura traveled to New York City to open a dojo here, a young man named Bruce Lee co-starred in a TV show called The Green ...

ironfist-origin
Iron Fist #6 (1976); Art by John Byrne
Iron Fist #7 (1976); Cover art by Ron Wilson

Old Man Jackman — Logan

In 2008, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven did an eight-issue storyline in Wolverine’s solo book entitled “Old Man Logan,” riffing on an appearance a future version of Logan that appeared that same year in Fantastic Four (also written by Millar). Postulating an alternate future where super-villains won and killed most heroes, the older Logan in a dystopia proved hugely popular, and he got his own title, and was brought into the present of the Marvel Universe after the present-day Logan was killed.

When Hugh Jackman and James Mangold sat down to figure out the third and final film in the Wolverine trilogy, Old Man Logan was a natural starting point.

Given the dystopian future for mutants postulated by X-Men: Days of Future Past (which we’ll get to later this year in this rewatch), portraying a future in which things had gone badly for mutants worked quite well in the movie ...

Big in Japan — The Wolverine

In the late 1970s, DC experimented with the notion of a limited series: a comics series that wasn’t an ongoing monthly or bimonthly, but had a set number of issues (usually four or six). The notion proved successful, and it wasn’t long before Marvel did the same, using the shorter-form to spotlight characters who might not have been able to support an ongoing (or who they wanted to test the possibility of an ongoing), or to tell a story that wouldn’t work in any particular monthly book. Now, of course, limited series are the most common form of comics storytelling, but it was brand new and very experimental forty years ago.

One of the first ones Marvel did was to team up two of their hottest talents—Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont with the guy who revived Daredevil, Frank Miller—on the most popular member of the X-Men, Wolverine. This ...

Weapon Blech — X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wolverine was introduced in 1974 at the end of Incredible Hulk #180 by the late, great Len Wein & Herb Trimpe, inserting himself into a battle between the Hulk and the Wendigo. A Canadian secret agent, codenamed Weapon X, Wolverine spent issue #181 fighting both Hulk and Wendigo, failing to stop either one. A year later, Wein used him as part of his new team of X-Men introduced in Giant-Size X-Men #1, and he quickly became the most popular of those new characters; his combination of snotty-brawler personality, tendency to explosive violence, and mysterious past proved to be incredibly compelling, particularly in the hands of Wein’s successor, Chris Claremont, and his longtime collaborator, Canadian artist/co-plotter John Byrne. He became Marvel’s most popular character, matching, if not supplanting, Spider-Man as the company’s flagship hero in the latter two decades of the 20th century.

When the X-Men hit the big screen in ...

Reductio Ad Absurdum — Watchmen

Charlton Comics was never one of the heavy hitters of the comics industry, but the company had a long and respectable run as a publisher from the end of World War II until the early 1980s. They had a reputation as a “minor league” comics company, as a lot of people who became well regarded artists for Marvel and DC started out doing work for Charlton: Steve Ditko, Sal Trapani, John Byrne, Roger Stern, Denny O’Neil, Jim Aparo, Sam Grainger, Bob Layton, and Mike Zeck, among many others.

In response to both DC and Marvel reviving the superhero comic book in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Charlton created their own superhero line, including Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question, the Peacemaker, Nightshade, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. That line eventually petered out, and Charlton did mostly licensed comics in the 1970s.

This all relates to Watchmen, trust me.

By ...

“A vestige of the vox populi” — V for Vendetta

Warrior was a British anthology comic book in the 1980s edited by Dez Skinn and which rivaled 2000 A.D. (the source of Judge Dredd, among other things) in terms of critical acclaim for its stories, but never had the same sales as the other magazine. The contributors to the title were a who’s who of British creators in the 1980s: John Bolton, Steve Dillon, Garry Leach, Steve Moore, Grant Morrison, Paul Neary, Steve Parkhouse, John Ridgway, and many others—notably Alan Moore, who ran The Bojeffries Saga, Marvelman, Warpsmith, and V for Vendetta in the magazine.

At least until it was cancelled.

A dystopian science fiction story, Moore was at least partly inspired by the reign of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister of the United Kingdom as well as the Cold War paranoia about nuclear war and what the world would look like after the bombs flew. ...

V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta

“You’re the devil’s baby mama” — Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

While Ghost Rider wasn’t exactly a huge critical hit, it did well at the box office, and a sequel was green-lit right away, with Nicolas Cage signed up to return as the title character. However, he was the only one to return. Nobody else from the 2007 film came back for the 2012 sequel, not even the actors whose characters are retained, as Ciarán Hinds replaced Peter Fonda as the devil, while Ionut Cristian Lefter played the younger Blaze instead of Matt Long.

In 1998, Marvel Comics, having already succeeded in outsourcing their flagship non-mutant titles (those related to the Avengers and Fantastic Four) to Image Comics founders Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld with the “Heroes Reborn” event in 1996, did likewise for Daredevil, Black Panther, The Inhumans, and The Punisher with Event Comics, a studio run by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. The imprint, called Marvel ...

“You’re the devil’s baby mama” — Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

While Ghost Rider wasn’t exactly a huge critical hit, it did well at the box office, and a sequel was green-lit right away, with Nicolas Cage signed up to return as the title character. However, he was the only one to return. Nobody else from the 2007 film came back for the 2012 sequel, not even the actors whose characters are retained, as Ciarán Hinds replaced Peter Fonda as the devil, while Ionut Cristian Lefter played the younger Blaze instead of Matt Long.

In 1998, Marvel Comics, having already succeeded in outsourcing their flagship non-mutant titles (those related to the Avengers and Fantastic Four) to Image Comics founders Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld with the “Heroes Reborn” event in 1996, did likewise for Daredevil, Black Panther, The Inhumans, and The Punisher with Event Comics, a studio run by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. The imprint, called Marvel ...

“We’re not going to have a meaningful conversation, are we?” — Ghost Rider

Marvel’s first character called Ghost Rider, appearing in 1967, was a cowboy in the Old West named Carter Slade who rode a horse and wore a costume that made him appear to be a ghost. It was actually based on a 1940s comic on which the copyright had lapsed, and Marvel jumped on it.

A few years later, Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Mike Ploog all collaborated to create a new contemporary Ghost Rider. Originally conceived as a Daredevil villain, Thomas decided he needed his own storyline, and the character—this time riding a motorcycle, inspired by the popularity of Evel Knievel and his ilk—debuted in Marvel Spotlight in 1972, later getting his own title.

The character was hugely popular for a while before flaming out (sorry), and his title was cancelled. But a guy named Nicolas Cage was a big fan…

A flaming skeleton riding a motorcycle with flaming wheels ...

“Victory has defeated you” — The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan wasn’t a hundred percent sure that he wanted to return to the Batman well, as he was worried that he’d lose interest. He also was struggling to come up with third films in series that were well regarded. (Just on the superhero end of things, you’ve got Superman III, Batman Forever, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Spider-Man 3 as cautionary tales.) But once he and his Bat-collaborators David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan hit on the notion of using the “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land” storylines from the comics for inspiration for, in essence, the end of Batman’s career, he found the story he wanted to tell.

The studio was pushing for the Riddler to be the villain in the third installment, but Nolan wanted someone with a more physical presence. He focused on Bane, the antagonist in the “Knightfall” ...

Rage in the Cage — Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 2, Episodes 1-4

Based on the first four episodes of the second season of Luke Cage, there are two primary themes of this latest baker’s dozen episodes of Marvel on Netflix: family in general and parents and children in particular, and actions of the past having consequences in the present.

This season doesn’t really waste much time getting into that, either. An issue with far too many release-the-season-at-once shows is languid pacing of the early episodes in an attempt to get people to keep watching, so revelations and actions are stretched out. Not so much, here: they’re not rushing, but they’re not taking their time, either. So far, so good, I’d say.

SPOILERS for the various Marvel Netflix shows in general and episodes 1-4 of Luke Cage season 2 in particular

In these first four episodes, Cage has embraced his status as the hero of Harlem. Everywhere he goes, people are admiring ...

“All that you know is at an end” — Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

While it was far from a critical success, and while the fan community seemed pretty divided on it (a common refrain was that Brad Bird had already done a better Fantastic Four movie with Pixar’s The Incredibles), Fantastic Four made a pretty penny in 2005, riding the new wave of Marvel films suddenly seemed to be all over the filmic landscape.

Green-lighting a sequel seemed a no-brainer, and so they brought most everyone back two years later, and decided to adapt one of the most iconic Fantastic Four comics stories ever: the coming of Galactus.

During their lengthy run on Fantastic Four, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created many brilliant stories and introduced many amazing characters: villains like Dr. Doom, the Mole Man, Rama-Tut, Annihilus, the Puppet Master, and the Skrulls, plus nicer characters like Wyatt Wingfoot, the Black Panther, Alicia Masters, the Watcher, and the Inhumans.

But ...

How the Cloak & Dagger TV Miniseries Compares to the Original Comics

FreeForm’s new Cloak & Dagger miniseries is doing a very Netflix-style slow burn, as through the first three episodes, the title characters have barely had any screen time together. However, they’ve established quite a bit about Tyrone Johnson, Tandy Bowen, and their lives tinged with tragedy.

While showrunner Joe Pokaski and his team of writers have kept the basic structure of Cloak and Dagger, a significant number of details have been changed from their comic book origins. Herewith, an accounting of what we’ve seen so far.

SPOILERS for the first three episodes of Cloak & Dagger (as well as various comics featuring the characters, many of which are 35 years old)

New Orleans

Cloak and Dagger’s comics adventures are primarily set in New York City, but neither character is from there. Both Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen were runaways who came to New York to escape their lives—Tyrone from Boston, ...

“We’re all in this together” — Fantastic Four (2005)

Dubbed “the world’s greatest comic magazine,” Fantastic Four changed comics when it was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961. At the time, DC (or National Periodical Publications) was having huge success rebooting their superhero comics, with new versions of the Flash and Green Lantern and renewed interest in Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman—and they also had a huge team book in Justice League of America.

Over at Marvel (or Timely Publications), whose bread and butter was mostly monster comics at this point, they decided to cash in on the trend with their own superhero team, though this one was less like the Justice League and more of a family of adventurers, more akin to Challengers of the Unknown. They were the first of many new superheroes to debut from the company, quickly followed by the Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, and more, including another couple ...

Slogging Through Even More Muck — Man-Thing

First created as part of the horror boom of the 1970s, Man-Thing initially appeared in Savage Tales, a black-and-white horror magazine, which only lasted one issue in 1971. The character eventually became the primary feature of Adventure Into Fear. Created by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway based on a notion by Stan Lee, eventually Steve Gerber took over the writing chores on Fear, and he created Howard the Duck in one issue.

Dr. Theodore Sallis was transformed into Man-Thing, a silent, barely sentient ambulatory swamp creature. Anyone feeling fear burns when touched by Man-Thing, leading to his infamous tagline (created by Gerber), “Whoever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!”

Like Howard, Man-Thing was adapted into a movie. Like Howard the Duck, 2005’s Man-Thing was pretty awful.

Man-Thing eventually got his own book in 1974, written by Gerber, which was cancelled after he left. This was ...