Marvel pitches support of movie theater experience

Marvel Studios, the Walt Disney Co. unit, put out a video today in support of the movie theater experience.

Marvel did so while promoting its upcoming releases, some of which have been pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s the video Marvel put out:

Marvel has its own issues. Black Widow was pushed back from May to July. The movie will be available on both the Disney + streaming service as well as theaters.

Marvel also has movies based on characters that aren’t that well-known to the general public. One example is The Eternals, a Jack Kirby title originally published in the 1970s after Kirby returned to Marvel Comics. Overall, Kirby’s Marve return wasn’t a happy one for the artist-writer.

On the other hand, Eternals is directed by Chloe Zhao, who won two Oscars last month, including one as best director. The general public may soon learn a lot about The Eternals.

In any case, the Marvel video does seek to rally support of seeing films in theaters. Over the past year, there has been a repeated trope that No Time to Die will be important to “saving cinema.” After repeated delays, No Time to Die is scheduled for release in Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

We’ll see. Studios still need traditional theater releases to generate enough revenue to make super-expensive “tentpole” movies worth it.

Broccoli decries superhero films while using their tropes

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Eon Productions, which makes James Bond movies, says the 007 film series is better than superhero films despite using some of the same tropes.

An April 26 story by The Express had this passage:

Ms Broccoli believed moviegoers connected with Bond because he remains an “ordinary” and “regular person” unlike “superheroes”.

She claimed this was reemphasised in (Daniel) Craig’s portrayal where “he bleeds” and “he cries” like any other person. 

Almost a decade ago, Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, acknowledged how he adapted ideas from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies that ran from 2005 to 2012.

With SPECTRE (2015), Eon adopted the notion of multi-film continuity made popular by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios unit.

With No Time to Die, director Cary Fukunaga in 2019 talked up “the joy of continuity.” He commented about how No Time to Die embraced the continuity of Daniel Craig’s first four James Bond films.

So it goes.

Jim Steranko still having an impact on spy-fi

Jim Steranko’s 1968 cover to Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD No. 4, which influenced the cover of a James Bond comic book from Dynamite Comics.

Decades after Jim Steranko made his spy-fi flash with Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, the writer-artist still is having an impact on spy entertainment.

Dynamite Comics, as part of its continuing series of James Bond stories, opted to have one cover modeled after a Steranko Nick Fury cover from 1968 (see above; the same cover was also used on a 2000 trade paperback book collecting many of Steranko’s SHIELD stories).

However, there has been a bit of a fuss. Artist Aaron Lopresti disclosed he had been told to alter the image of a woman in underwear holding a gun but then was instructed to put more clothes on her. Nevertheless, the Amazon.com entry for the issue includes Lopresti’s original image.

The artist complained about having to make the change. See a March 31 story at the Bounding Into Comics site and an April 15 story at the MI6 James Bond site for more details.

A short while later, another Steranko SHIELD creation, Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, showed up in the Falcon and the Winter Soldier MCU series on Disney +. As created by Steranko, she was a SHIELD recruit. Over the years, Marvel Comics turned her into a villain and that’s what showed up on the streaming series.

The contessa, more informally known as Val, was played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and is expected to show up more in Marvel movies. Louis-Dreyfus took to Twitter on April 19 to make note of her new role.

Nostalgia can be powerful. Where Jim Steranko is concerned, nostalgia can be like a boomerang, coming back at you.

Countessa Val causes an MCU fan reaction

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine at left in this cover for Strange Tales 167 (published January 1968)

Yes, there be spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

A character originally created by writer-artist Jim Steranko for Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via the streaming series The Falcon and The Winder Soldier.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, depicted as a S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit in Strange Tales No. 159 in 1967, appeared in the latest episode of the show. Except she’s now Madame Hydra, leader of the villainous organization that’s caused trouble throughout the films produced by Marvel Studios.

On the streaming series, Val (as she was often called in the comic books) is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. For a time on Friday morning, “Madame Hydra” and “Julia Louis-Dreyfus” topics on Twitter.

The development spurred various outlets to do stories, including VANITY FAIR (“Marvel, reportedly, has even bigger ambitions for Louis-Dreyfus’s villainous figure”), NEWSWEEK, (“…fans are treated to a cameo that no one saw coming), and CBR.COM all did stories about it.

UPDATE (April 18): I asked Jim Steranko about this on Twitter. He hasn’t seen Louis-Dreyfus’s performance yet. Here’s his response.

Brosnan joins DC film universe as Dr. Fate

The Justice Society of America, including Dr. Fate (gold helmet and blue costume) in 1940

One-time film James Bond Pierce Brosnan is joining Warner Bros.’s DC film universe as Dr. Fate, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Brosnan is joining the cast of Black Adam, a Warners/DC film starring Dwayne Johnson. Chances are a lot of the general public or Bond fans) may not be familiar with Dr. Fate.

The good doctor made his debut in 1940 in More Fun Comics No. 55. The sorcerer would soon be part of the new Justice Society of America.

The character was co-created by DC writer Gardner F. Fox, who would also write racy spy novels under a pen name. Besides Dr. Fate, Fox also had a had in creating the Justice Society (and the later Justice League), the original Flash and the original Hawkman.

It makes sense that Warner Bros. is bringing Dr. Fate into the movies. Marvel Studios has featured Dr. Strange, a sorcerer character created by Steve Ditko, into its movies.

UPDATE: Dwayne Johnson confirmed the Brosnan casting in a tweet:

Black Widow to debut on streaming and in theaters

Poster for Black Widow

Oh me, oh my. Black Widow, the Marvel Studios film that was delayed by a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, will debut on Disney Plus as well as in theaters in July, according to the Deadline entertainment news website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Just when it looked like studios were going back to a theatrical window release pattern with today’s news of Regal and Warner Bros’ deal, Disney has smashes that to bits.

Disney said Tuesday that it is opening both of its key summer events pics Cruella and Marvel’s Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access (which is usually $30 a purchase extra for subscribers) in most Disney+ markets on Friday, May 28 and Friday, July 9, respectively.

To recap: 2020 was the first year since 2009 without a Marvel Studios film. That was because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest news indicates that COVID still is having an impact on movie releases. In recent weeks, here in the U.S., there had been optimism that vaccinations are putting a serious dent into COVID. This latest news is a sign things aren’t back to normal yet.

To be sure, No Time to Die currently isn’t due out until late September in many countries (including the U.K. and Brazil) with other countries (such as the U.S.) until a week later.

There’s no reason for James Bond film fans to get upset yet. But No Time to Die making it’s current release date isn’t necessarily a sure thing.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: It turns out The King’s Man, prequel to Matthew Vaughn’s two Kingsman films, has been delayed yet again to December from August. OK. It has been delayed quite a bit already already, so what’s a few more months?

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.