More Foolish Predictions: Marvel’s Movies

I thought I’d join the chorus of know-it-all geeks by suggesting what films Marvel Studios could possibly be cooking up to go with their recently-announced release dates. I reckon some of these (well, two of ‘em) are definitely on the money, but the other ones are probably just nonsense.

July 8, 2016: Doctor Strange
May 5, 2017: Black Widow 
July 28, 2017: Thor 3
November 3, 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2
July 6, 2018: Captain Marvel
November 2, 2018: Black Panther
May 3, 2019: The Avengers 3

I know there are rumours of a Runaways movie, and Inhumans, but I think these films are more likely. I also don’t think we’ll see a solo outing for The Rufflehulk this side of Avengers 3. But, of course, I’m probably, massively, wrong.

And, of course, there’s the third Captain America film, which is notoriously going up against Batman V Superman in 2016. That’ll be an interesting opening weekend…

And, I’ll say it again, if Marvel needs someone to write them a Death’s Head movie, my fee is a crate of Root Beer and this toy.

Weekend Top Ten #122

Top Ten Things I’d Like to See at SDCC

It’s San Diego Comic Con time! The Con begins this week, and so - nerd that I am - I’d like to list some things that I hope will be announced or revealed or whatever.

These are listed in order of probability with what I consider to be a dead-cert at the top, down to something I genuinely doubt will happen there at the bottom.

  1. The first proper image of Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman, stood together, from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
  2. First image of Wonder Woman’s costume from Batman V Superman, too.
  3. Announcement of new Marvel Cinematic Universe movies following Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man (let’s go crazy and predict Captain America 3, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and a new Hulk).
  4. DC/Warners announce their slate of superhero movies - including a solo Wonder Woman movie.
  5. More IDW Transformers comics - either new miniseries announcements, or even a third full ongoing title.
  6. Marvel announce who’s playing Doctor Strange.
  7. Announcement of a DC event or comics line featuring, essentially, the pre-Flashpoint DCU (the “Old 52”).
  8. Hasbro announce a range of straight-to-DVD animated movies adapting stories from IDW’s Transformers run, starting with Stormbringer and Last Stand of the Wreckers.
  9. Confirmation that the TV series Arrow and The Flash are set in the same continuity as Man of Steel and its sequels (meaning Stephen Amell could join the Justice League).
  10. DC/Warners announce a Justice League movie by “doing a Marvel” and getting all the actors that form the Justice League on stage at once (including Stephan Amell!).
deantrippe:

Listen to the lady, pals.


Buy comics, they’re good.

deantrippe:

Listen to the lady, pals.

Buy comics, they’re good.

Weekend Top Ten #121

Top Ten Monty Python Songs

In honour of the current Python reunion (and the fact I’m going to see them this month), my ten top tunes.

Apologies, by the way, to the easily offended, for there may be the odd swear in these songs.

  1. Every Sperm is Sacred 
  2. Eric the Half-a-Bee 
  3. Accountancy Shanty
  4. The Galaxy Song
  5. Brian
  6. I’ve Got Two Legs
  7. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
  8. Penis Song (Not the Noel Coward Song)
  9. Sit on My Face
  10. Christmas in Heaven

The takeaway from this? I feel like The Meaning of Life is much-maligned, and yet it has some truly cracking songs in it.

More Than Meets the Eye: My Life with The Transformers (Part II: Better to Fight and Die)

I remember the event about as vividly as I remember anything that happened during my university years. I was walking through a shopping centre in Nottingham, past Forbidden Planet, when I spied in the window of aforementioned geek retailer a solitary comic book. There it was, in the window, one little comic. On the cover there was a chunky rendition of Optimus Prime standing earnestly beside a rather diminutive Bumblebee in his classically chunky VW Beetle form. Prime clenched a fist and held aloft his rifle. Bumblebee looked fat and silly. THE TRANSFORMERS, screamed the comic, in the original hard-lined, metallic-looking typeface that adorned early toy boxes and movie posters, rather than the italicised logo that came later.

It was, in short, a brand new Transformers comic. Starring old-school Prime and old-school Bumblebee.

I’d never heard of “Dreamwave”, but at this point my comic-book knowledge was a shallow pool. I knew Marvel, of course, because the original Transformers had been a gateway into the wider Marvel world, especially Marvel UK. I knew that DC were their “Distinguished Competition”, and I knew (more or less) which superheroes belonged to which publisher. Thanks to the “Books & Comics”, the indie retailer in Middlesbrough, and a couple of hand-me-down copies of Wizard my cousin had sent me from America, I was buffeted by the currents of the 1990s comics boom, if not exactly swept along; therefore, I was familiar enough with Image and Dark Horse, and had for a little while collected Spawn. But Dreamwave - no, these guys were knew. They clearly weren’t Marvel, though, and therefore the classic Simon Furman run remained at an end. This was a bold, fresh start.

Needless to say, I bought the comic (and a rather nice flocked Autobot logo t-shirt, that I later saw one of the special effects artists wearing on a behind-the-scenes video of one of the Matrix movies). Now, I’m a little bit fuzzy as to whether I bought the “0” preview issue or issue 1; but I was sufficiently informed by the comic itself that another issue of Transformers was already out there, waiting, and fortunately the other comic book store in Nottingham had one copy left. This was it: once more I was buying brand new Transformers comics, reading a brand new Transformers story. I remember at the time marvelling (no pun intended) at the quality of the art, but I think really what impressed me was the quality of the production; I wasn’t familiar with computer-produced comics at that point. In fact, the art - by the, ahem, notorious Pat Lee - I have come to regard with very little affection; ridiculous blocky Transformer designs, with tiny heads and massive hands, dodgy proportions and frankly terrible expressions (seriously, Google “dull surprise”). To be honest, even at the time I felt that this wasn’t “my” Transformers - this was some interloper, someone who just didn’t get the franchise the way I did; it wasn’t “real”, it wasn’t “the” Transformers. I think the original Furman run had burned itself so profoundly onto my consciousness that anything that disregarded his work - anything, in fact, that didn’t genuflect at his stories, treat them as gospel and attempt to adapt them as faithfully as possible - was heresy.

Even today, more objectively, I have to say the story isn’t great: the backstory, with the presumed-dead Transformers being resurrected by money-grabbing humans to serve as weapons of mass destruction, was actually alright, but once the plot itself kicks in, and Autobots and Decepticons face off in San Francisco, it’s very one-note. Weaned as I was on the precise linework of Geoff Senior and the characterful detail of Andrew Wildman, Lee’s fat-limbed and uncoordinated ‘bots were disappointingly static, and their fights totally bereft of the circuit-spewing, metal-rending destruction Wildman in particular excelled at. Prime warbles the sort of wan, noble sentiment that has become his default mode of address (a world away from the more aggressive character from the old Sunbow cartoons, let alone the wracked, doubt-ridden, semi-tragic figure portrayed by Simon Furman); the story ends with predictable sacrifice, but somehow rings rather empty. I also remember finding the human bodycount a touch offensive, as skyscrapers tumble beneath Megatron’s assault; this comic came out in the months following 9/11, so smoke-filled skies above ruined American cities had lost some of their appeal (although, to be fair, I also found the scene where Prime drives up Devastator’s chest and blasts him in the face very exciting).

Regardless, Dreamwave’s Transformers was a massive success. I remember reading about it in The Guardian, the writer marvelling that a twenty-year-old toy franchise would be now outselling the mainstream likes of Batman and Spider-Man. I also remember the article ending with a quote from a comic store employee claiming that the following year’s Thundercats reboot would blow Transformers out of the water – clearly a regular Mystic Meg, that guy. But for now, Transformers was back: a fresh new toyline and cartoon (Armada), a new Generation 1 comic, and – at last! – Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman back together and doing Transformers again, albeit in the ancient-Cybertron-set tales, The War Within, which shed new light on the origins of the Autobot-Decepticon war and which (quite frankly) was loads better than the main, present-day-set storyline.

And then all the Pat Lee-ishness happened, Dreamwave imploded, and really a lot of wind left the Transformers sales. By the time yet another company had revived the series, the entire comic book market had shrivelled to a fraction of its former self. But even if the (for me) core component of the Transformers franchise was somehow now sidelined, Transformers itself was making a full-fisted assault on popular culture once again.

Yeah, “yet another company”. Don’t worry, I’m getting to it. 

I’d enjoyed the Dreamwave books, and by the time they were sucked into the black hole of Pat Lee’s ego, they were putting out some very compelling stories. But I know, because my brother was a kid at the time, that the new Armada toys were almost as popular among kids of the 2000s as the original G1 line was in the 80s. Transformers toys, suddenly, were everywhere again; and even if, as with Beast Wars before it, I felt that these toys weren’t really “for me”, I was still overjoyed to see my beloved favourite franchise do so well. And then one day, at uni, I was reading Empire Online, when lo and behold, they announced that Steven Spielberg was going to produce a live-action Transformers movie.

Steven. Spielberg.

Now, in all honesty, my first thought was disappointment that someone else had got to the franchise before I could (my Hollywood career not quite advancing as quickly as I’d hoped). But even so, Spielberg! My favourite director of all time! Producing a TRANSFORMERS MOVIE! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, you could argue, everything went right. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that Transformers has never been more popular, because quite frankly it was (in my memory, at least) the Harry Potter of the 80s, a true mega-franchise that touched every kid in the playground. But who could imagine that one day a Transformers film would gross a billion dollars? That a new Transformers film might be the biggest-grossing film in a year that also included new X-Men, Spider-Man, and Captain America films? Or that Transformers could attract Oscar winners and nominees in supporting roles? This is a remarkable world we live in for a long-standing fan; a world that has, arguably, been conquered by Cybertron. As the money rolls in for Age of Extinction, one starts to feel that maybe, just maybe, Transformers is the biggest franchise in the world right now (of course, a new Star Wars film comes out next year, and the year after that Batman fights Superman, but for now let’s go with it).

But I can’t escape the sagging, old-man feeling that Transformers has left me behind. You’d think that I, a thirtysomething father with disposable income and and three decades of love for the franchise, would be the ideal audience for a new Transformers film. Yet they leave me cold; I have to conclude, quite frankly, that I am not the target audience. I don’t wish to criticise people I’ve never met, working in a discipline I’m only on the peripheries of, and at a scale I can’t comprehend, but in all honesty I remain fiercely disappointed by the films. It reeks of the lowest standards of internet forum hand-wringing, but as I watch them all I can think is, “Optimus Prime wouldn’t do that”. And, of course, he wouldn’t; not my Prime, the Prime of Simon Furman or Bob Budiansky. But, although he sounds more-or-less the same, this is a different Prime for a different age and a very different audience. I can criticise the aesthetics of the new robot designs all I want, and find the Sturm und Drang of city destruction numbing and depressing, but these films are phenomenally successful, and have brought a whole new generation of fans into the Transformers fold. They have, most probably, secured for decades the viability of one of my favourite fictional universes, and even if I’m not a fan of them myself, I have to applaud them for that at least. In fact, it’s entirely plausible that they have given parent company Hasbro the financial clout and confidence to invest in other areas and allow the part of the franchise that I am in love with to take bigger and bigger risks.

And it’s here that I begin to talk about the single greatest thing to happen to Transformers in thirty years. The absolute pinnacle of the franchise, the zenith, the tippety-top. Because after we all woke up from the Dreamwave, the comics carried on. And what happened to them is simply amazing, and continues to amaze, and in all probability is going to get better and better.

And that’s the subject of my next little essay…

kierongillen:

kris-mtg:

owlturdcomix:

We go forward.

That setup. Those feels.

:(

I find this genuinely very emotional.

Share a Story 2014 Winners Announced!

Yep, does what it says on the tin - CITV have announced the winners of this year’s Share a Story competition!

We’ve made a little video, as part of my colleague Yvette Kirtley’s “CITV Exclusives!” strand on the website, in which our star reporters, Oscar and Olivia, reveal who has won. Check it out on the Share a Story site by clicking this very sentence!

So congratulations to the eight talented writers who’ve won, and commiserations to the thousands that didn’t. Rest assured, the decision was difficult, and a very close run thing! Don’t despair, and please enter again in 2015!

Above: former Share a Story winners came into the office last month to take part in the final round of judging, and helped pick the winning stories for 2014.

Weekend Top Ten #120

Top Ten Batman Stories That Could Make Excellent Movies

So according to rumours, 2019 will see Ben Affleck’s Batman stepping out from under Superman’s shadow and having his first solo adventure as The Batman. Presumably any kind of origin story is out of the question, coz Batfleck is, like, old; but the very fact of having an experienced Batman, in a less realistic universe than Nolan’s, offers intriguing potential for stand-alone stories. Here are ten tales that I think they could adapt.

PS. Sorry I’m a little late this week.

  1. Batman & Son: Affleck is the perfect age to play Batman as a father; audiences are familiar with the al Ghuls thank to the Nolan-verse; and the opening - where Batman is at the top of his game before having the rug pulled from under him - is a great starting point. But most of all, it allows a version of Robin to be introduced that is different from what you’d expect. Damian Wayne in a movie? Yes please.
  2. Arkham Asylum: whether it’s Morrison’s terrifying nightmare from the eighties, or Rocksteady’s excellent game, the basic premise is the same: Batman is locked in the asylum with his enemies. Allows for a more claustrophobic film than we’re used to, and could showcase a number of villains.
  3. Heart of Ice: okay, from an audience perspective, perhaps it would be seen to be retreading story beats from Batman & Robin, but come on: with the right cast, who wouldn’t want to see this classic Animated Series story brought to life? It’s got action and tragedy, and the preposterous sic-fi setting would serve as a good counterpoint to Nolan.
  4. Batman R.I.P.: like Batman & Son, it features Batman brought low, but in this case it’s a devastating psychological attack. Dr Hurt is a new and intriguing villain for a Bat-movie, and as it features an alpha-Bat in the shape of Zurr-en-Arrh, it would satisfy fans of the grim and gritty, before offering a redemptive closure. Obviously a lot of the dense backstory would have to go, though.
  5. Strange Apparitions: Hugo Strange has never been done in a movie, and he’s rather great. Unmasking Batman would be a big mid-film twist, and the idea of Strange trying to build a better Batman is interesting.
  6. Mask of the Phantasm: a great opportunity to tell an origin story for this new Batman, but do so in such a way as to offer Affleck a meaty role to chew (in short: flashbacks). Phantasm is still my favourite Batman movie, and takes in everything from gangsters to the Joker to sci-fi villains with magic clouds.
  7. A Lonely Place of Dying: okay, this may sound weird, but hear me out: like Batman & Son, this offers the opportunity to bring a new Robin into the mix. And whilst we may or may not have had a Jason Todd, the concept of Tim Drake wanting to be Robin so uncovering Batman’s ID is pretty cool. And by having Robin save Batman from being too dark and gritty, you have a nice meta-commentary.
  8. The Clown at Midnight: another potentially claustrophobic tale, this allows them to introduce a Joker that is fundamentally different to what has come before. Plus it allows Bats to be more of a detective, and with the Joker in jail the whole time it’s got a great Silence of the Lambs vibe going on.
  9. The Court of Owls: again, we begin with successful and complacent Batman being brought low. The Owls are new and distinct villains, and it ties it in to the modern comic series. Plus the idea of secret societies beneath Gotham is rife with franchise potential.
  10. Hush: another whodunit, another villain parade, another new bad guy at the end. This massively popular tale has a lot going for it. Might need to make it shorter though…

Pictures from a Second Birthday

Emilia’s party was a very pleasant little soirée today, featuring bouncy castles, barbecues, Transformers, Toy Stories, and Peppa Pig icing.

Weekend Top Ten #119

Top Ten Emiliaisms

It’s my daughter’s birthday party this weekend, and so to commemorate the occasion - and also act as a sort of time capsule of Emilia-ness - here are the top ten phrases you’re most likely to hear her say (more or less!).

Presented in no particular order…!

  1. What am I doing? 
  2. Zurg’s not coming here. 
  3. I want to go outside!
  4. Abracadabra, you a frog. 
  5. I done a poo. 
  6. I want a big milk. 
  7. Where is my lasso?
  8. It’s not bedtime. 
  9. It’s morning time!  
  10. I make coffee for you!

Happy birthday, baby!