S.H.I.E.L.D. writer-artist compliments Craig 007 films

Jim Steranko caused a sensation in the comic book world in the 1960s as the writer and artist of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was Marvel’s entry in spy craze and Steranko came up with story telling techniques that seemed experimental at the time.

Nick Fury originally was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. But Steranko came in later and made the strip his own.

Steranko also was a James Bond fan. And it would seem, he still is.

In one 1960s issue (which Steranko drew but only plotted), there’s a supplier of gadgets named Boothroyd. Later, in a 1967 story (by which time he did the full scripting as well as drawing), Steranko provided the Sean Connery version of Bond a cameo. See below.

Anyway, Steranko, now 82, likes to hang out on Twitter. This Sunday night, he indicated he still likes Bond films, specifically the Daniel Craig movies. Take a look for yourself.

Warner Bros. bets big on streaming for 2021

Warner Bros. logo

Warner Bros. plans to make its 2021 film slate available on the HBO Max streaming service the same day the movies are released in theaters, Variety reported.

The movies will be on HBO Max for 31 days. After that time, they will be only available in theaters until the normal home video window opens up, according to the entertainment-news outlet.

The films involved include a new version of Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve (a one-time contender to direct No Time to Die); The Matrix 4; and Suicide Squad.

Warner Bros. is doing something similar with Wonder Woman 1984. That film opens in international theaters in mid-month but will be on HBO Max and theaters in the U.S. starting Dec. 25.

AT&T owns Warner Bros., HBO and HBO Max, the latter intended as a streaming competitor to Netflix.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the James Bond films, reportedly had shopped No Time to Die to streaming outlets. No leasing deal took place. The 25th James Bond film currently has an April 2021 release date in theaters.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has played havoc with movie release plans, with many films being delayed multiple times.

About political comments in comic books

Cover to Captain America issue 1, 1941.

If you view YouTube videos and other sources, you would get the idea that comic books making political statements are a source of controversy.

The thing is, comics have dabbled in real-life controversy for decades.

Captain America, for example, made his debut in 1941, punching out Adolph Hitler on the cover of his first issue. It was published months before Germany declared war on the United States.

In the 1960s, comics were published in the midst of the Cold War. Marvel’s Iron Man was a prime example. The Soviets kept sending out assassins to kill Tony Stark, who was supplying weapons to Western powers.

The Soviets, in fact, kept trying to create their own versions of Iron Man, including the Titanium Man.

In his first climatic battle with the Titanium Man, Tony Stark says, “You made the same mistake all tyrants and bullies make! You tought you’d just have to flex your muscles and show your strength, and your enemies would fall by the wayside! Well, you picked the wrong enemy this time, mister! You made the worst mistake any red can make — you challenged a foe who isn’t afraid of you.”

A few years later, 1968 to be exact, writer-editor Stan Lee apparently changed his outlook.

“If (George) Washington were alive today, we’d call him a protester!” Matt Murdock says in a Daredevil comic book.

Regardless, comics and politics have combined for controversy in recent years.

WW 1984 becomes 1st ‘tentpole’ to debut via streaming

Wonder Woman 1984 publicity still

Warner Bros. blinked, becoming the first studio to debut a big-budget “tentpole” film, Wonder Woman 1984, via streaming in the United Sstates.

The studio will release the sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman on Dec. 25, both in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service, Variety said. The movie will be shown in theaters internationally ” wherever theaters are open on Dec. 16,” Deadline: Hollywood said.

During this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, studios have played a game of chicken, with nobody wanting to debut their biggest movies while the coronavirus rages. COVID-19 has intensified this fall in the U.S., a major movie market.

As a result, the studios have delayed their big films repeatedly, including No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film. The Bond adventure was pushed back from April 2020 to November 2020 and again to April 2021.

The conventional wisdom is the big budget movies need a theatrical release and can’t debut on streaming services.

But, as the pandemic has dragged on, inhibiting theater attendance, there has been more financial pressure on studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, reportedly explored leasing No Time to Die to streaming services. For now, there’s no sign that will happen.

There are promising COVID-19 vaccines being developed but there are questions how quickly they can be deployed.

HBO Max is the streaming service being marketed by AT&T, parent company of Warner Bros. and HBO. AT&T is looking to HBO Max to compete with Netflix.

Trade group chief says Bond will remain a theater product

No Time to Die poster

The head of a movie theater trade group predicted to Variety that James Bond films will remain a theatrical product first.

“The backers of the Bond movies have told us that they really want the movie to play theatrically,” John Fithian, chief of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in an interview with the entertainment-news outlet.

“We believe that franchise will continue being a theatrical one and we look forward to selling a ton of tickets for ‘No Time to Die.'”

Fithian made the comment in response to a question concerning reports last month that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, sought bids from streaming services, including Apple Inc.’s service, for No Time to Die.

Details of the reports varied. One of the most detailed appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. THR said Oct. 27 that Apple considered an offer of $350 million to $400 million for a one-year license for No Time to Die but that wasn’t enough for MGM.

The studio has said No Time to Die isn’t for sale. Meanwhile, MGM reportedly is incurring interest expense of $1 million a month while the 25th James Bond film figuratively sits on the shelf.

No Time to Die had been scheduled to come out this month. It was delayed until April because of COVID-19.

“There’s a reason I don’t think blockbusters like Bond are going to debut on streaming services,” the trade group official told Variety. “Our challenges are dire in the short term, but in the long term we know this business is going to be healthy again. The model works best for studios and they make the most money when they release movies in theaters first.”

Fithian expressed concern in the Variety interview about the lag between Warner Bros.’s planned Christmas release of Wonder Woman 1984 and No Time to Die.

“There are a bunch of movies in January, February and March, but Bond is the next biggie” after Wonder Woman, Fithian told Variety.

“If ‘Wonder Woman’ sticks with its Christmas Day opening and people come out for that, we hope that other studios will move titles from later in 2021 into the first quarter,” he said. “That’s certainly the hope. We need movies to get back into business.”

Black Widow may be delayed again

Poster for Black Widow

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow may be delayed again, further muddling the U.S. movie release outlook, Variety reported.

Variety said Black Widow, currently slated for a Nov. 6 release, was “likely” to be pushed back. The Marvel film originally was to have come out in early May. But it was delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

COVID-19 earlier spurred Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal to delay the release of No Time to Die from April to November.

From the perspective of Bond fans, the question is whether a Black Widow delay (assuming it happens) affects No Time to Die.

This month, MGM and Universal seemingly doubled down on the November release for No Time to Die. A new trailer was released. Also, a new online promo featuring Rami Malek as the Bond film’s villain came out.

One view: A Black Widow delay opens the field more for No Time to Die in November.

Another view: Walt Disney Co., assuming it delays Black Widow, shows is not confident about releasing a major film in November.

In the United States, about 70 percent of theaters are open. But COVID-19 closings on movie theaters are still in effect in New York and Los Angeles, the two largest movie markets.

The main major film that has been released during the pandemic is Tenet, the new Christopher Nolan-directed movie. Warner Bros.-released Tenet’s box office has been mixed, doing better internationally than in the U.S.

As usual, we’ll see.

About No Time to Die saving cinema

Last shot of No Time to Die spot on Saturday Night Live last spring.

The past few weeks, there’s been a repeated trope saying that No Time to Die will save cinema.

The 25th James Bond film had been set to be released in April. But it was delayed until November because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Recently, a new trailer was released again saying the movie would be out in November. That, in turn, generated the idea that James Bond was coming to the rescue of the traditional movie theater.

The thing is, the Christopher Nolan-directed film Tenet was also supposed to be saving cinema. It was the first major movie to come out during the pandemic.

At the moment, Tenet is the only major new movie out in theatres. Its global box office total as of midday Sept. 12 is $152.3 million, according to Box Office Mojo. 

For a movie with a production budget of $200 million (with additional marketing costs), that’s not so great. But these aren’t ordinary times. Tenet shows that some people will show up at a theater, pandemic, or no pandemic.

Still, saving cinema? Here in the United States, movie theaters are closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest movie theater markets. They’re still closed where I live, in southeastern Michigan.

The U.S. accounts for about 25 percent of the global audience for a James Bond movie. If No Time to Die really makes that November release date, there may be big chunks of the country where theaters aren’t open.

Perhaps there will be enough international markets open where No Time to Die will do OK. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros., Tenet’s studio, has delayed Wonder Woman 1984 again, this time from Oct. 2 to Dec. 25. That’s not the biggest vote of confidence.

Will No Time to Die follow suit? Who knows?

Another possibility: Cinema won’t be saved until people feel comfortable going to the theater again. That includes those with pre-existing health conditions (diabetes, etc.) or those 60 or older. Or both.

All of that will depend on a lot more than a single movie.

Bond 25: The release date (again) edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

No Time to Die is cruising toward a November release — or is it?

The blog has some questions. Let’s take a look.

What’s the latest?

Deadline: Hollywood is reporting that Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman 1984 may be delayed (again) from a scheduled October release to November or December. This follows mixed results in the U.S. for Tenet, the spy-fi/sci-fi film from director Christopher Nolan.

How is that significant for No Time to Die?

There’s a lot of volatility amid COVID-19 for movies and their release dates. If this news pans out, it will be another bit of volatility.

Another superhero movie, Marvel’s Black Widow, currently is scheduled to be released on Nov. 6 in the U.S. It was originally slated to come out in May but was delayed because of COVID-19.

Anything else going on?

The U.K. is banning social gatherings of more than six people starting next week in England, according to the BBC.

That applies to “schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports,” the BBC said.

That suggests it will be difficult to hold the kind of grand premieres normally associated with James Bond films.

In a follow-up story, the BBC said: “Pubs, restaurants, shops and other venues will remain open, but people can only attend in groups of up to six. Venues should also allow for social distancing between groups.”

Halle Berry provides a Jinx footnote

Die Another Day poster

Variety is out with an interview with Halle Berry where she describes her efforts to become a director. Her debut as a director, in a film titled Bruised, is being shown at the Toronto Film Festival.

The story also provides a kind of footnote to the proposed spinoff based on her Jinx character from Die Another Day.

Here’s the key excerpt:

After the success of “Die Another Day,” “Bond” producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson lobbied for Jinx to get her own spinoff, an idea that thrilled Berry. But MGM balked at the $80 million price tag. “It was very disappointing,” Berry says. “It was ahead of its time. Nobody was ready to sink that kind of money into a Black female action star. They just weren’t sure of its value. That’s where we were then.”

At the time, Berry had appeared in X-Men (2000), a 20th Century Fox adaptation of the Marvel comic book. But that was an ensemble project and it was dominated by the debut of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Jinx, on the other hand, would have highlighted Berry. According to Variety, when the Jinx spinoff didn’t happen, that spurred Berry to star in Catwoman (2004), a movie that didn’t work out so well.

Meanwhile, this was an odd period for Eon Productions as well.

Dana Broccoli, the widow of Eon-co-founder Albert R. Broccoli and the mother of Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, died in 2004. Eventually, “the kids” decided to start the James Bond film series over with 2006’s Casino Royale. Barbara Broccoli was the force behind the casting of Daniel Craig in the series reboot.

Chadwick Boseman dies

Black Panther poster

Chadwick Boseman, who brought to life real-life figures such as Jackie Robinson to life as well as the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby character Black Panther, has died at 43, according to The Associated Press.

Boseman played Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film 42 (referring to Robinson’s uniform number), James Brown in Get on Up (2014) and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017).

The actor also played the title character in Black Panther (2018). He had earlier played the part in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and did an encore in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Black Panther was the first Marvel Studios film to receive a Best Picture nomination. It was seen as a sign that comic book-based movies could reach beyond their humble origins.

When the film came out in 2018, it had a big impact. Black audience members embraced the phrase “Wakanda Forever!”

T’Challa, the Black Panther, was introduced in 1966 in an issue of the Fantastic Four. The character was the head of an African country with advanced technology. Black Panther ever since has been one of the major characters of Marvel Comics.

News of Boseman’s death was shocking to fans. The actor was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, AP reported.

UPDATE (Aug. 29): Here is a tweet on Chadwick Boseman’s Twitter feed announcing his death: