Friday, 31 October 2014

A Legend Lost

It was a bit bizarre yesterday, with Burgess Hill hitting the national and then global news twice. In very sad news, John Moore, the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, has died.

For better or worse, the Coke adverts are part of Christmas for a lot of us. It's a bit like hearing Slade for the first time in the year - once you've seen the Christmas Coke ad, you know it's properly Christmas time. The thing is, I had no idea that the legendary Coca Cola Santa, who appeared in many of those adverts over the years, lived in my town. I must have seen him in his his other jobs as a barman and driver. I may even have seen him as Father Christmas in his local appearances. And yet I never knew such a widely seen face made his home here.

The gods have seen fit to grant a pleasant day for the funeral. My thoughts to his family and friends.

The Woman in a Black Beehive

While on the subject of Mssr Magrs, Bafflegab productions have just announced that his creations, Brenda and Effie, the spooky sleuths of Whitby, are getting their own audio series. Paul has written six novels in The Brenda and Effie series, some of which have been adapted for radio, and now they shall return in The Brenda and Effie Mysteries, starting with The Woman with the Black Beehive. Bafflegab have released subscription and release details and even included a free sample track.

Click here - happy Hallowe'en!

Life on Magrs: The Girl with the Pink Hair

I was considering blogging on this, but Paul puts it so much better. This is my home town, Burgess Hill. Not a bad place to live, but very close-minded, full of the upwardly middle class and restrictive. What harm would it do to let this little girl wear a pink wig and let a little joy into her day? What harm would it do, really, if all the kids had coloured hair?

Life on Magrs: The Girl with the Pink Hair: I read an upsetting story this morning. An old friend had shared it on Facebook from a local newspaper. It was about a girl of eleven in a...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Marvel Phase Three: What do we know?

Last night while I was out, ahem, socialising, in the States it was mid-afternoon and Marvel was making a buttload of announcement regarding their next wave of movies. They revealed the complete set of films that make up Phase Three, right through to 2019. It's fair to say I am a little bit excited, and was immediately texting and sharing the hell out of the news over my Guinness.

So, what have we got? New bits of info keep coming to light, but here goes, with a little speculation thrown in:

May next year sees the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, for which Marvel released an extremely exciting trailer last week, and now followed up with a clip with a slightly different cut of the trailer. All the main heroic characters from Avengers Assemble are back, along with Don Cheadle as War Machine, potentially setting him up for future Avengers membership. Also included are Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Emily Olsen as the Scarlet Witch, briefly seen at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. James Spader is scary as hell as Ultron, seemingly created by Tony Stark in this version of events, but apparently taken from an old weapons programme, so Hank Pym might still have some level of involvement in the backstory. Seeing that he's a major part of the next movie, Ant-Man, this would make sense. Paul Bettany plays the Vision, almost certainly a development of the JARVIS AI. Andy Serkis has an undisclosed role, but it's been suggested that he plays Ulysses Klaw, which would tie into the Black Panther release scheduled. And Ultron will be needing some ultra-hard metal for his new body, and what better than a job lot of Wakandan vibranium?

Black Panther villain Klaw?

Age of Ultron is the eleventh film released by Marvel and finishes Phase Two. Phase Three kicks off in July with Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man and creator of the shrinking suit. Evangeline Lily is Hope van Dyne, who seems to be filling the role as Lang's romantic interest, and is also probably going to be the Wasp in this version of things. Corey Stroll is Darren Cross, the villainous Yellowjacket, and John Slattery is back as Howard Stark. So this would seem to involve flashbacks and potentially tie in to the Agent Carter TV series. 

May 2016: Captain America: Civil War. Marvel did a huge fake-out with this, putting the title up as Serpent Society, which went round the internet and changed to the real title in the time it took me to text someone the false information. I initially thought this would be a difficult one for Marvel to adapt. The Civil War crossover event involved superheroes from all over the Marvel universe, including an absolutely vital role for Spider-Man. The major problem for the MCU is that they smply don't have enough characters set up for a Civil War style event, and those they do have don't really have secret identities to protect. On the other hand, it looks like only the generally gist of the series is being used (it's not like Age of Ultron is much to do with the crossover event beyond having Ultron in it). Marvel Supremo Kevin Feige says "Events of the whole cinematic universe will make all governments in the world want regulation. Not so much about secret identity, but about who reports to who." 

We do know that Robert Downey Jr. will appear, and that he and Cap will go head-to-head. Whether this will be RDJ's last film for Marvel we don't know, but rumours abound that Steve Rogers will end up dying in these events, seeing that Chris Evans is coming up to the end of his contract. There's also the question of the Winter Soldier, who hasn't been mentioned, but surely will have some time devoted to him. We do know that this film will have a significant role for Prince T'Challa, aka the Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman. Given how early Marvel have announced the actor playing the Panther, he might even appear as early as Age of Ultron. Now, while there has been a ton of speculation regarding Sony and Marvel finally finding a way to work together and use Spider-Man, any details on this has been conspicuous by their absence. It's no secret that Sony are in a state of crisis regarding their Spider-Man movies, and allowing Marvel to use the character, if only for crossover and team-up movies, would allow them to broaden their scope. If they can agree terms, Marvel could use Spidey in Civil War or future Avengers installments, and pay Sony a stipend; it'll basically be free money for them. On the other hand, there's no news whatsoever on whether this is true, and many have suggested that T'Challa could take Peter Parker's place in the story.

November 2016: Doctor Strange. No confirmation on the lead actor for this feature, but it sounds as though Benedict Cumberbatch has got the gig, but negotiations are still going. This is the first all-out mystical character to make it to the movies, after Thor and the Asgardians were interpreted more as hyper-advanced aliens than gods.No details on the plot yet, but a tenner says Dormammu is in it. May 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2. This will probably deal with Peter's parentage to some degree, and all we know is that he is not the son of the king of Spartax as he is in the comics. Peter's father seems to be something very old, and Den of Geek have suggested he's an Eternal, which might link him to the mad Titan Thanos to some extent. This is all major speculation right now, but Thanos is definitely going to be involved somehow, building up to the big events in Avengers 3. Suggestions are that some new members of the team will be introduced; I'd go out on a limb and say we'll at least get Nova and maybe Adam Warlock. Fingers crossed Howard the Duck and Cosmo will appear, but I doubt it.

July 2017: Thor: Ragnarok. Where's my fiver? Since we caught a glimpse of the realm of the fire giants in The Dark World, it seemed likely we would see Surtr and the Ragnarok storyline for the third Thor film. This will also have to deal with the ongoing thread of Loki's relationship with Thor and his usurping of the throne of Asgard. I dare to suggest it might go some way to tying together Dr. Strange's mystical world and the bigger cosmic side of things. Planets, realms and dimensions being explored. Edit: It's just occurred to me that Ragnarok is not the end of the world in Norse mythology, per se, but the critical step in a cycle of destruction and renewal. What better time, it they so wished, to recast Thor? Perhaps even with an actress in the role?

November 2017: Black Panther. No news about this beyond the casting of Boseman and probably Serkis. There's one issue in that Marvel can't use Storm, who is a huge part of T'Challa's story in the comics, but there's still plenty to be told about the Prince of Wakanda. I'm really looking forward to what they're going to do with this one.

May 2018: Avengers: Infinity War - Part One. July 2018: Captain Marvel. November 2018: Inhumans. May 2019: Infinity War - Part Two

Marvel aren't immune to the lure of the two-part event movie, and it looks like we'll have one huge cosmic war played out over these four films. So happy that Captain Marvel is going ahead, with Marvel confirming that this is the Carol Danvers version of the character. As one of Marvel's heaviest hitters, and a member of both the Avengers and Guardians in the comics, Captain Marvel's introduction into the franchise is big news. I'd say it's also extremely likely the Guardians will show up in her movie, and at least some of them will come to Earth for the final part of Infinity War. The Inhumans will also likely tie a lot of things together. The Inhumans are genetically part-Kree, the alien race who have already appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy and are presumably the blue-skinned creature glimpsed in Agents of SHIELD. Also, Captain Marvel gains her powers from an encounter with the Kree, so this big cosmic bust-up is already full of links. The Inhumans are not unlike X-Men's mutants, albeit with a different backstory, and could massively swell the roster of superhumans in the MCU if there was a Terrigen event that caused some unknowing Inhuman descendants to manifest their powers. Kamala Khan, please come to the MCU! It's also implied that Skye's father in Agents of SHIELD is Inhuman, but I'm stuck on UK airtimes for this and so behind the times.

As for the grand finale, all we know is that Thanos is coming, Infinity Gauntlet all ready. Marvel have released a teaser made up almost entirely of old footage and dialogue but one big reveal at the end. What's more, Mssr Feige has suggested that the characters from the Defenders miniseries - including Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Charlie Cox as Daredevil - might cross to the movies for this big event. They could also bump up the numbers in Civil War if the series are far enough advanced by then. No news on the long-scripted but unfilmed Black Widow movie, although at least we're getting one female-lead movie from Marvel (DC are actually getting there first, with Wonder Woman set for a 2017 release, but I am yet to be convinced they won't foul that up). It's also unlikely we'll ever see a Runaways movie, despite early work on it, but Feige has suggested that there may be a future for it on TV. Indeed, the addition of magic and more alien races in the MCU makes it easier to bring in (and you'd just make the mutants into Inhumans).

As for Big Hero 6 - it doesn't look like that's part of the MCU, but I'm still excited about it and going to count it until proven otherwise. Frankly, I'm going to count the 1980s Howard the Duck movie until proven otherwise, just to be perverse.

Addendum: While I am very excited for both Black Panther and Captain Marvel, and encouraged to see films headlined by a black hero and a female hero, it is not as if Marvel are pioneering things here. The media are going on as if these things have never been done before. Apparently everyone has forgotten about the three Blade movies released by New Line in the nineties and noughties. Supergirl came out way back in 1984 (a fine year). Then there's the 2004 DC/WB Catwoman movie, which, awful as it was, featured a black female superhero. Indeed, Halle Berry was a major part of the first two Fox X-Men films as Storm, although she was sidelined after that. As excellent as Marvel's output has been so far, and as encouraging as these developments are, let's not forget what came before OK?  

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Comics Round-Up: October (3)

Here are the comics I've been reading at the end of October. Christmas is coming, which means a tightening of the belt, so I'll be dropping some titles soon. Some titles are coming to an end anyway, others I haven't followed up on some promising first issues (or not found them easy to come by). On the other hand, there are some interesting miniseries starting up, so we'll see what we see. Last issue of the current run of Saga is due out tomorrow, and is going to get lumped in with the November reviews.

TMNT/Ghostbusters #1  (of 4) (IDW)

My local comic shop are struggling with the whole putting aside comics for customers when they say they will, so I buckled and downloaded this. It's worth it, although I'll still look out for a print copy so that I can fully appreciate the artwork (I mostly read downloads on my phone, which is convenient, but hardly ideal). If you're a child of the 80s/early 90s, this has got to be an exciting prospect, a Turtles/Ghostbusters crossover.  I really like the set-up they've used, using three different artists to differentiate between the various dimensions and time periods. Given that this jumps from mediaeval Japan to modern day New York, then to a different New York, introducing a new villain and bringing the characters together, it's surprisingly coherent. Very good fun so far.

Amazing Spider-Man #8 (Marvel)

An unremarkable issue this week. The interplay between Spidey and Ms Marvel is still great, but the story itself is nothing special. It ties into yet another Spider title that I haven't followed, so the significance is probably lost on me, Still, the improved focus on Silk is good stuff, and I'm very pleased that the creators have made a conscious decision to change her costume into something with a bit more class. There's another "Edge of Spider-Verse" installment, this one set in the MC2 universe and following May Parker, Peter's daughter. Given that this is an established character and reality they can hit the ground running, but it's still just a vignette as opposed to an actual story. It's all building up to the main event kicking off this month.

Rocket Raccoon #4 (Marvel)

Aw, poor Rocket. This finally gets into some actual story alongside the silliness, as Rocket faces another member of his people... or so it seems. It's still great fun, especially when all of Rocket's ex-girlfriends turn up for the reckoning (he used to date a Galactus lady?!) There's even a tiny bit of gender politics thrown in. Briefly.

Wild's End #2 (Boom!)

What's so good about this title is how seriously it takes itself. It's an absurd premise told completely straight, and is really quite gripping for it. That's not to say there aren't some really sick jokes in there too. A straightforward tale about the horrors of war... with talking pigs.

The Multiversity: The Just (DC)

The third release in Morrisson's Multiversity series is the first misfire. The idea behind it - a reality where all crime has been stopped and superheroes are nothing more than bored, attention-grabbing slebs - is cute, but doesn't really have much mileage for a story. Earth-Me is populated by the offspring of the Justice League and its enemies, and while seeing the different characters' relationships play out has some appeal, the whole thing runs the risk of being as vacuous as the culture its parodying. Still, the ongoing plot, with a force breaching the dimensional walls through a cursed comicbook, is moving on nicely.

Thor #1 (Marvel)

I've finally got hold of this - it, predictably, sold straight out - and while it's a decent enough read, it's not the new beginning it was marketed as. In honesty, I doubt Marvel is really capable of doing a fresh start on any of its titles, they're all so bogged down in continuity. So, while this is the new issue one, it's very much continuing on from the previous volume, albeit with enough handy exposition to roughly get what's going on. Hoping that it improves next issue as we actually get to meet the new Thor.

Edward Scissorhands #1 (of 5) (IDW)

IDW continues to prove it's the publisher that owns the media tie-in market, with a not-particularly-timely sequel to the classic 1990 film. Kate Leth's story shows promise, dealing with Kim's nearly grown-up granddaughter searching for the truth about Edward, and Edward's misguided decision to awaken one of his maker's other creations. I'm not sure about Drew Rausch's artwork though. It's certainly very Tim Burton-y, but not really in keeping with the tone of the story. Eli is an interesting creation, with his mechanical claw hands - could Vincent Price's character just not do hands? - and it has the confidence to go for pages with virtually no dialogue, but this has yet to prove itself to me.