Black Panther gets raves as critics weigh in

Black Panther poster

Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, received a surge of positive reviews as critics began to weigh in on the movie.

The character, the ruler of a technologically advanced African nation, was introduced in a 1966 issue of the Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) became part of the Marvel movie universe with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

What follows is a non-spoiler sampling. The movie is due out Feb. 16.

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:  “With uncanny timing, Marvel takes its superheroes into a domain they’ve never inhabited before and is all the better for it in Black Panther…(T)his entry sweeps you off to a part of it you’ve never seen: a hidden lost world in Africa defined by royal traditions and technological wonders that open up refreshing new dramatic, visual and casting possibilities.”

MANOHLA DARGIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Part of the movie’s pleasure and its ethos — which wends through its visuals — is how it dispenses with familiar either/or divides, including the binary opposition that tends to shape our discourse on race. Life in Wakanda is at once urban and rural, futuristic and traditional, technological and mystical.”

IRA MADISON III, DAILY BEAST: “To describe Black Panther as a black superhero film doesn’t do enough to praise how utterly disinterested it is in appealing to a white audience. At its core, (director Ryan) Coogler’s film feels like a love letter to every black person who will step into the movie theater to see it, be they of American or African descent. It is a film that honors the history of black bodies on our entire continent, from the kingdoms they built, to the bondage they were shackled in, to the world that has treated them with cruelty at every possible turn.”

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “Coogler makes good on the landmark project’s potential by featuring a predominantly black ensemble, casting some of the best young actors around — from Chadwick Boseman (who proved his dramatic chops playing James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall in recent years) to Michael B. Jordan (even more buff, and twice as charismatic, than he appeared in the director’s two previous features, “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”) — as well as such legends as Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. But historical significance aside, what superhero fans want to know is how ‘Black Panther’ compares with other Marvel movies. Simply put, it not only holds its own, but improves on the formula in several key respects, from a politically engaged villain to an emotionally grounded final showdown.”

JIM VEJVODA, IGN: “It may utilize the mix of action and humor that now defines the Marvel movie formula, but Black Panther refuses to blend into the crowd of superhero films. It stands out boldly, in part by opening up a beautiful new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also with its topical themes. Not everything works across the board, but when it sets this fantastic cast of relatable heroes on one side of real-world ideological debates and the MCU’s most compelling and dimensional antagonist in years on the other, a huge amount of it works wonderfully.”

Advertisements

Jack Kirby’s version of The Prisoner gets official release

Splash page to Jack Kirby’s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner

Jack Kirby’s 1970s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner has been scheduled for an official release by Titan Comics, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Titan also is releasing a new comic book series based on The Prisoner. Here are the details about the Kirby material:

In July, Titan will also release The Prisoner: Original Art Edition, a hardcover edition of previously unreleased work by Kirby, (artist Gil) Kane and writer Steve Englehart from their attempt to adapt the pilot episode of the TV show to comics during the 1970s. In addition to featuring the complete Kirby artwork for his unpublished issue — six pages of which were inked and lettered by his long-term collaborator, Mike Royer — the collection will also feature 18 pages of Kane’s pencils, and the complete script for Kane’s issue by Englehart.

Background: Kirby (1917-1994) returned to Marvel — where he co-created many of the classic Marvel characters of the 1960s — in 1975 after spending a few years at rival DC.

In the ’70s, Kirby wrote, drew and edited most of his projects. In the previous decade, Kirby did the heavy lifting at Marvel with plots while editor Stan Lee did the scripting.

Jack Kirby self portrait, circa 1970

With his second stint at Marvel, Kirby took over Captain America (a character he co-created in 1941 with Joe Simon) and went about mostly creating new characters.

Beginnings: Steve Englehart, 70, a one-time writer at Marvel, described the origin of The Prisoner project in a post on his website.

“I plotted an adaptation of the first episode, and Gil Kane handled the art (with Joe Staton providing his layouts),” Englehart wrote. According to the scribe, it was put on the shelf by Marvel. (Kane died in 2000, at the age of 73.)

“Sometime later, remembering they’d paid for the rights, they got Jack Kirby to do an issue,” Englehart wrote. “I always thought Patrick McGoohan looked like a Kirby character, with his nice brow ridge, but apparently they didn’t like Kirby’s version and it, too, went on the shelf.”

Kirby themes: Charles Hatfield, in a detailed article on the Two Morrows website, said the original Prisoner series, starring Patrick McGoohan, was a great match for Kirby.

“It’s not hard to see why The Prisoner appealed to Kirby,” Hatfield wrote. “Indeed, the series’ concept, which Kirby glossed as ‘an individual’s stubborn attempts to wrest freedom from subtle but oppressive power’ makes perfect sense within Kirby’s oeuvre. Its paranoiac, Orwellian premise dovetails with the dystopian future of Kirby’s OMAC (1974-75), as well as the Orwell riffs in Kirby’s ‘Madbomb’ saga in Captain America #193-200 (1975-76).” (OMAC was one of the titles Kirby created at DC in between his stints at Marvel.)

Pages from Kirby’s one issue of The Prisoner has been seen before online, including the Forces of Geek website.

Still, this year is the the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner being shown in the U.S. Also, Kirby’s original work has been getting renewed attention thanks to Marvel Studios movies that rely heavily on Kirby-created characters.

Marvel’s next movie is The Black Panther, which is being released next month. The title character was introduced in a 1966 issue of The Fantastic Four by Lee and Kirby. The film version of the character was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Happy 95th birthday, Stan Lee

Stan Lee on a 1971 episode of To Tell The Truth

Dec. 28 is the 95th birthday for Stan Lee, the long-time editor and writer at Marvel Comics. More recently, he has been part of the marketing of Marvel Studios movies.

Stan (born Stanley Martin Lieber) has outlived many of his collaborators, including Jack Kirby, Wally Wood, Gene Colan, Don Heck and John Buscema. Others, including Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. are hanging in there. Also, Stan’s wife Joan passed away earlier this year.

As the blog has remarked before, Stan’s legacy is a complicated one. He has been depicted as the creator of the Marvel Universe while Kirby, Ditko, et al. did considerable work in devising those stories.

That legacy remains complicated today. There’s plenty of time to analyze that again later. Today? The blog wishes Stan a happy birthday.

With that in mind, here’s one of Stan’s many comic book cameos (along with Joan) in an issue of Daredevil from 1971:

Stan Lee (and his wife Joan) make a cameo in Daredevil No. 79, written by Gerry Conway, drawn by Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer

Jack Kirby: Hail to the King, 100 years later

Jack Kirby self portrait

Jack Kirby self portrait (enhanced version, adding other characters from the original drawing)

Hail to the King! Aug. 28, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of comic book artist Jack Kirby.

“Comic book artist” actually is an inadequate description. Comic book creator is more like it. His nickname was the “King.” It was deserved.

Kirby lived the stories he drew in his mind. The characters he depicted existed in that fertile imagination. At one point his beloved wife Roz banned Kirby from driving. He was so distracted devising new stories he wasn’t safe behind the wheel.

In the 21st century, much of the output of Marvel Studios wouldn’t be possible without Kirby’s contributions: Captain America (co-created with Joe Simon in 1941), the Avengers (co-created with Stan Lee in 1963), Iron Man (co-created with Lee, Larry Lieber and Don Heck, also ’63), Thor (co-created with Lee and Lieber, ’62), Ant-Man (Lee and Lieber, ’61), the Black Panther (co-created with Lee, 1966). Not to mention the X-Men (co-created with Lee, ’63) that are licensed by 20th Century Fox.

Walt Disney Co. reached an out-of-court settlement with the Kirby family that ensured the company would maintain control. Terms weren’t disclosed but ever since Kirby’s on-screen credit in Marvel-made movies is more prominent.

Still, Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) isn’t as well known among the public as Stan Lee is. Stan was the showman and promoter. Kirby was the workhorse at the drawing board who dreamed up much of the story content. Stan gets cameos in every Marvel movie. Kirby got a cameo in one episode of the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV show.

This isn’t intended as a criticism of Stan. For several years in the 1960s, there was a magic every time there was a Stan Lee-Jack Kirby story published by Marvel. It’s just that Kirby deserves more notoriety than he has received.

Kirby has some detractors who note his drawing style wasn’t realistic. In a 2005 documentary, artist Neal Adams said that missed the point.

Paul McCartney and Jack Kirby in 1976

“I don’t think Jack could really draw anatomy,” Adams said. “I don’t think Jack could draw a real car. That wasn’t Jack. He was a visceral animal. (He) drew impressions of things.

“If you sit around with artists and talk about Jack’s anatomy… you would get the artist who was critical. ‘Oh, he doesn’t know how to do anatomy and everything,'” Adams added. “Then you say, ‘But can you do the power that he can do? Can you do it?’ Let’s just say I ask you to do it. Would you know what to do? Wouldn’t you essentially be held back by what you knew?”

Finally, Adams had this thought: “Me as an artist, it overwhelms me to see this gutsy, ballsy thing and in a way say to myself, ‘I can’t do it.'”

No one else could. That’s why Kirby was the King.

To read about the 1976 meeting between Jack Kirby and Paul McCartney, CLICK HERE to read a post from the Jack Kirby Museum website.

To view frequently asked questions about Kirby, prepared by his biographer Mark Evanier, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE (2:45 p.m., Eastern time): Evanier, who once worked as an assistant to Kirby, has his own tribute you can view by CLICKING HERE.

Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, sent out a post on Twitter on Monday afternoon.

 

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Flo Steinberg, Marvel Comics stalwart, dies

Flo Steinberg

UPDATE II (5:55 p.m. ET) The New York Daily News says Flo’s age was 78.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. ET): I don’t have a specific age for Flo. Apologies.

ORIGINAL POST: Florence “Flo” Steinberg, at one point Stan Lee’s “Girl Friday” at Marvel Comics and later a comic book publisher, has died, according to the Newsarama website.

Today, Marvel is a part of Walt Disney Co. and known mostly for its movies. When Steinberg worked there in the 1960s, Marvel was a modest operation. It had nearly gone out of business in the 1950s. It actually relied on a sister company of much larger rival DC Comics for distribution.

She gained the nickname “Fabulous Flo.”

Steinberg departed Marvel in 1968. Here’s an except from the Newsarama obituary about what happened next.

Steinberg was also a key figure in the independent comics scene, launching what many consider to be the link between “underground” comics and modern-day “alternative comix” with the 1975 one-shot Big Apple Comix. Featuring work by such luminaries as Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Mike Ploog, and Marie Severin, Big Apple Comix broke ground in employing “mainstream” comics creators in stories featuring more sexual and real-world elements than most typical fare of the time.

Another website, The Comics Beat Culture, also posted a tribute. Heidi MacDonald wrote, “Flo returned to Marvel in the 90s as a proofreader, where I met her, as did many Marvel staffers of the era and she become an icon all over again.”

Flo didn’t receive regular credits in Marvel Comics published in the 1960s. But she was a presence in a 1965 record. That year, Marvel started a fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching Society. The record was part of what you’d receive if you joined.

The record is part of this YouTube video:

Some tributes to Steinberg were posted Sunday afternoon by comic book professionals past and present.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Spider-Man: Homecoming and the art of the twist

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

No spoiler unless you consider mention of a plot twist a spoiler.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, this weekend’s big movie opening in the U.S., has a lesson about how to spring a plot twist on the audience.

We’ll avoid details here. However, this paricular plot twist may be a bigger surprise to those familiar with the original source material, i.e. the 1962-66 original comics run by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

The movie’s creative team does take some creative liberties with those Lee-Ditko stories in updating them for a 21st century setting.

That’s not a surprise in and of itself. Ever since Marvel began making its own movies, it has picked and chosen among comic story lines going back decades. The first Marvel Studios film, 2008’s Iron Man, moved the site of the character’s origin from Vietnam (as in the 1963 comic book) to the Middle East.

In any case, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s plot twist works.  Viewers who know the original stories may not see it coming.

One other non-spoiler note, the movie also adapts a major sequence from the original (plotted and drawn by Ditko and scripted by Lee). That will probably also catch the attention of fans of the original comic stories.

RIP, Joan Lee

Joan Lee, the wife of long-time Marvel Comics editor Stan Lee, has died at 93, according to an obituary published by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Joan Lee, 93, in some versions of the story, encouraged Stan to try different comics ideas in the early 1960s, when Marvel began creating its line of super heroes.

By other accounts, Joan Lee was an influence in different ways.

Writer Gerry Conway, in Sean Howe’s book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, described why it made sense to kill of Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy in a 1973 story.

“Only a damaged person would end up like a damaged guy like Peter Parker,” Conway told Howe. “And Gwen Stacy was perfect! It was basically Stan fulfilling Stan’s own fantasy. Stan married a woman who was pretty much a babe — Joan Lee was a very attractive blond who was obviously Stan’s ideal female. And I think Gwen was simply Stan was replicating his wife.”

A more detailed examination of all that is best left to another time. For now, here’s a sequence from a 1971 Daredevil comic by Conway, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. Not only did Stan Lee make a cameo, but so did Joan Lee.

 

Cameo by Stan Lee and Joan Lee in Daredevil 79 (1971).