“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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

“I’m not bedtime story lady, so pay attention!” — Barb Wire and Tank Girl

The 1990s was the era of the “bad girl” in comics, with such characters as Shi, Witchblade, Razor, the women of Gen13, and more. Two of the earliest and most successful examples were Tank Girl, which started in a UK comic magazine called Deadline, and which was more of an underground comic tying into the punk scene of the era; and Barb Wire, a dystopian future series from Dark Horse.

Both got made into mid-1990s movies that did remarkably poorly at the box office.

Barb Wire is one of many films produced by Dark Horse Entertainment, an arm of the comics company designed specifically to produce film and TV versions of their funnybooks. Barb Wire was their fourth film (following The Mask, which we’ll cover next week, along with Dr. Giggles and Timecop), and their first big flop. Intended as a starring vehicle for Pamela ...

Marvel’s The Punisher First Impressions of Episodes 1-3

The Punisher first impressions episodes 1 2 3 Marvel Netflix Jon Bernthal Frank Castle

“I actually care what happens to you, which makes precisely one of us.”

There were three separate attempts to adapt the Punisher for live-action, including one from Marvel Studios itself, Punisher: War Zone. Marvel found movie success in their big-time heroes, and their more street-level types wound up thriving in television, specifically Netflix.

To that end, instead of a fourth attempt at the Punisher in film as part of the MCU, the character was folded into the Defenders set of shows by being half the plot of season 2 of Daredevil. Jon Bernthal inhabited the role so magnificently that Netflix green-lit a wholly unplanned Punisher series to go along with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders.

Based on the first three episodes, we get a story that, at least so far, is the most connected to the real world of soldiers and violence ...

Secret Identity as Role Model: A Look Back at Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman

The Wonder Woman TV show—which ran on ABC from 1975-1977 and on CBS from 1977-1979—is remembered quite fondly by many, even those who didn’t actually like it much. The cheesy theme music, the spinning around to change identities, the different suits for different needs (a swimming suit, a motorcycle-riding suit, a skateboarding suit), the snotty IRAC computer, Lyle Waggoner’s perfectly unmoving hair—it’s all grist for the fond nostalgia mill. Most of all, though—and this is the main reason why the show is remembered with a certain fondness even by those who disdain it—there was the absolutely picture-perfect casting of Lynda Carter in the title role, who ended almost every episode with a bright smile. This was the third attempt to do Princess Diana of the Amazons on the small screen. William Dozier, trying to ride the wave of the 1966 Batman’s popularity, filmed a promo piece for his appallingly ...

An Action Hero without Action or Heroism: Iron Fist Season One

After watching the first three episodes of Iron Fist, my initial impressions were that Finn Jones was engaging and mostly harmless in the title role, that Colleen Wing as played by Jessica Henwick was a breakout character with whom you do not mess, and that the show started out as an unfocused mess. Well, ten episodes later, and the first two impressions are soured, and the third has held true, sadly. This is not to say that season one of Iron Fist is a complete disaster, but it is the least of Marvel’s Netflix offerings so far, and there are three primary culprits—the treatment of the lead character is a scattershot mess, the show can’t make up its mind who the villain is, and there’s very little fun to be had. SPOILERS AHEAD FOR IRON FIST SEASON ONE Here’s the biggest issue with Iron Fist: this is a ...