Friday, July 06, 2012

Steve Ditko Week: Out of this World covers - original art

We wind up our week-long tribute to Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko with a look at his original art covers for the Out of this World sci-fi/suspense series.

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Like a lot of folks, I questioned the need for a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise just five years after "Spider-Man 3." But I also can understand why Hollywood decided it was a good idea.

A fresh take on Spidey in the context of the other recent films from the House of Ideas makes sense: Marvel is now a household name. And a lot of kids who were too young to see the Tobey Maguire Spidey films are now in their teens and primed -- thanks to "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers" -- for a new take on the Webslinger.

The new Spidey film also benefits from improved special effects technology and a younger cast, making it possible to put Peter Parker back in high school again, where he's most sympathetic and compelling as a character.

The result is a pretty entertaining -- thought not completely necessary -- flick.  No, I wasn't crazy about having to sit through Spidey's origin story again. But a well-formatted script and some great performances makes this version very enjoyable.

I thought Tobey Maguire was a great Peter Parker and enjoyed his quirky/geeky take on the character. Andrew Garfield is also fantastic in the role. I'd hate to choose one or the other. But I will say that  Garfield perhaps brings a little more raw emotion to the role. This is a Peter Parker you truly feel sorry for. You want to pat him on the back and tell him everything's going to be ok.

Garfield's portrayal and the film's script and direction do a great job of capturing that can't-catch-a-break feel of the early Stan Lee-Steve Ditko Spidey stories. It helps that much of the film's action takes place in Midtown High. This is all pre-Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson, although it's clear that Peter has an interest in and aptitude for photographing. It's all more slowly unfolding than the first Spider-Man trilogy. We get a better sense than in the earlier films, I think, about how badly Peter's life sucks.

I won't spoil too much of the plot, but we're clearly set up for at least a couple more films with this cast and storyline. Norman Osborn will clearly be a factor, though we don't see him on screen. And the love interest this time out is Gwen Stacy, not Mary Jane Watson. Comics fans know this will mean some tears shed in film two or three.

Emma Stone is a fantastic actress and is her typically great self as Gwen. This is a strong, capable character who holds her own with Peter/Spidey. There's a real chemistry and exciting, first-love intensity between the two leads, to the extent that they could have skipped the superheroics and made a nice film about the high school misfit who wins over the most popular girl in school. Garfield and Stone are top-notch actors and incredibly well cast.

Rhyss Ifans as Curt Connors/the Lizard is good, too, although I think the writers missed an opportunity. As well-played as the part is, there's not a lot to it. Basically: Smart-but-misguided guy becomes big amphibian (repile?). The thing that made the comic book Lizard interesting and tragic was the appearance of Connor's wife, Martha, and child, Billy, and his struggle to control his rage while trying to be a good person for them. This struggle humanized the character. Without that, we don't have too much reason to sympathize with the Lizard.

In terms of action, I think this film trumps the previous trilogy. As scripted and depicted, this Spidey swings and fights more like the comic book version. The effects are very impressive and there's some nice imagination to the fight sequences. An underwater battle between the Lizard and Spider-Man is especially exciting and impressive.

If you're a longtime Spider-Man fan, you may complain about having to sit through the hero's origins again. But there are rewards for doing so, namely some very good performances by Garfield and Stone. And  kids who missed out on the earlier trilogy, will meet an exciting, relatable new hero to follow.

Now that everything's setup, I'm eager to see the next installment.

Pop culture roundup: Spider-Man meets Doctor Who; a peek at J.K. Rowling's new novel; remembering Andy Griffith; Diana Rigg meets Doctor Who!; Steve Ditko's Gwen Stacy

A Spider-Man/Doctor Who crossover? Turns out the new Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield had a part in a two-part "Doctor Who" episode back 2007:
In the two episodes with David Tennant - "Daleks in Manhattan" and "Evolution of the Daleks" - Garfield played Frank, a young ragamuffin who joins up with the Doctor and Martha Jones - the then current Companion - before getting captured by evil Daleks in the Cult of Skaro, who hope to evolve the human race into Dalek human hybrids or something. Frank was left to live in Hooverville in poverty by the Doctor after having his life horribly ruined, so just another typical day for a guest star on Doctor Who.

Here's a cover shot and plot summary from J.K. Rowling's upcoming post-Harry Potter novel out Sept. 27:
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?
A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J. K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

I really enjoyed Mark Evanier's remembrance of Andy Griffith, who passed away earlier this week. You need to read the whole piece, but here's a nugget:
But of course you watched The Andy Griffith Show. Everyone did and many still do. Its timelessness is amazing and its popularity endures, long exceeding shows that got higher ratings back when it was in first run. There's something so primal and warm about that series that new generations latch onto it and old ones won't let it go. No one can quite explain it but whatever it is, it came from Andy Griffith. He was the core. He was the heart of that show and that's what it still runs on: Heart.

Dame Diana Rigg and her daugher, actress  Rachael Stirling will appear in an upcoming episode of "Doctor Who."
...details are being kept to a minimum, but Rigg and Stirling will play a mother and daughter on-screen and their characters are said to share a "dark secret." Described as "funny and original" by Stirling, the script for the episode arrives from Mark Gatiss who, in addition to appearing as an actor in two episodes, wrote "The Unquiet Dead," "The Idiot's Lantern," "Victory of the Daleks" and "Night Terrors."

The seventh season of modern "Doctor Who" will begin this fall and is slated to the feature the final episodes with Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill as Amy and Rory with Coleman said to debut in the 2012 Christmas special.

Nick Caputo takes a look at Steve Ditko's Gwen Stacy and ponders what the artist/plotter might have had in mind for Spider-Man's love interest had he continued to work on the comics series.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

DC Comics announces Joe Kubert anothology title

Here's a nice move: DC Comics is paying tribute to a still-with-us master of comics art, providing Joe Kubert with a six-issue series in which he evidently gets to do whatever the heck he wants:

 JOE KUBERT PRESENTS kicks off on October 31st.

The inaugural issue spans 48 pages and includes a Hawkman epic written and illustrated by Kubert, a tale of Angel and The Ape from writer/artist Brian Buniak, and a return to comics for writer/artist Sam Glanzman with a new tale of the U.S.S. Stevens.

“I've been given the privilege to design the kind of comic book that I would enjoy reading and one in which I'd like to participate,” Kubert told THE SOURCE. “This is it. I'll be doing Hawkman, Spit, The Redeemer, Sgt. Rock and The Biker in this 6-issue anthology. In addition, the book features the wonderful talents of Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak. I had a blast doing it. I hope it blows you away.”
 Here's the cover of issue 1:

New York Post profiles Steve Ditko

Just in time for our Steve Ditko Week! The New York Post has published a story about the elusive artist. True to form, Ditko refuses to be interviewed, but answers a few questions nevertheless:
“No,” he tells The Post, when asked if he was paid anything for the four recent Spider-Man movies.
“I haven’t been involved with Spider-Man since the ’60s.”

Whatever the case, the artist doesn’t seem much interested in money. Although he could make thousands doing commissions for fans, he consistently refuses. Instead, he forges ahead on black-
and-white, self-published books with titles like “The Avenging Mind.”

“I do those because that’s all they’ll let me do,” he tells The Post, suggesting big publishers aren’t interested in his work anymore.

BBC Radio this week: Stream radio drama, comedy, music documentaries and more

Click the links to stream the following programs.

Doctor Who Time-travelling adventure series

Ghost Stories: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Martin Jarvis reads from Irving's spooky classic

HP Lovecraft - At the Mountains of Madness
HP Lovecraft's tale of terror read by Richard Coyle, set high in the Antarctic

The Scarifyers
Author Professor Dunning and Inspector Lionheart team up to unravel spooky mysteries

Stories of Ray Bradbury
Short stories from the celebrated science fiction writer. Read by Sean Barrett

The Goon Show
Classic material from one of the all-time radio comedy greats

Jagger's Jukebox
The Rolling Stones' frontman hand-picks a selection of favourite and influential artists.

The Rolling Stones Story
Alexis Korner tells the story of the band.

The Stones by The Stones
Paul Sexton digs into his extensive interview archive with the rock icons.

Steve Ditko Week: Books by and about Steve Ditko

Here's a selection of books collecting, and looking at, Steve Diko's influential comics art. Click the links to order discounted items from Amazon.

The Creativity of Steve Ditko

The Art of Steve Ditko

Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko

Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol.1

Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2

Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3


Amazing Fantasy Omnibus

Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 1

Doctor Strange, Vol. 1 

Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko

Action Heroes Archives, Vol. 1

Action Heroes Archives, Vol. 2

The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1

Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 2

The Creeper by Steve Ditko