I’m not sure about anyone else out there, but I’ve always found myself drawn to certain characters in comics and repelled by others based on nothing more than their designs. I’ve read very few Creeper comics, but can say that he’s absolutely one of my favorite characters based solely on design and aesthetics. As a kid coming up in comics fandom in the 90s, I saw a lot of darker themed characters that I did not want anything to do with. One of those characters was Venom. Back then, the large-tongued symbiote muscle man was the king of of the edgy miniseries and I was admittedly a bit nervous about his whole deal (which, as a die-hard DC fan, I only really knew about from looking at covers and reading Wizard). The great thing about being a human, though, is that we can grow past our early thoughts and evolve into new people who are ready, willing and able to read Venom comics (that’s what evolution’s all about, right?).
I’m returning to the well a bit with today’s Toy Commercial Tuesday. I’ve been writing about the Wall-Crawler a lot for Marvel.com lately and it reminded me how much I enjoyed the Toy Biz line in the 90s. So, having already covered the original line, Spider Force and even Web Splashers, I hope you enjoy this look at the Spider Wars line!
Of the figures shown in this spot I’ve got Hydro Man, Kingpin, Black Cat and Doctor Strange. Hey, since I have all of my toys here, I can now back that up with photographic proof and talk about them in a bit more detail!I still love the enormous Kingpin figure, Doc Strange and his bendy cape (it’s still in the garage somewhere) and, no kidding, everything about Hydro Man from his six pack to his water squirting action feature.
My daughter and I both like the look of the Black Cat figure, but she refuses to stand up. In fact, moments after snapping the picture, she and Kingpin both toppled over. The resulting pile is NSFW. I remember seeing that crazy Cyber Spider-Man and the Doppleganger figure in stores, but they didn’t really appeal to me. I do give Toy Biz credit for coming up with interesting takes on their lead character, though.
You wouldn’t know it to look at the blog here, but I’ve been reading a LOT lately. I’m working on a few posts that will cover my experiences reading Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter books while I also watched the series Hannibal and then the films, but they’re not ready yet. However, after finishing the book Hannibal, I found myself not wanting to get into Hannibal Rising, but still needed something to read. A buddy had just recommended Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One from 2011 and I figured why not? I really enjoyed the book, but a few things stuck with me in different ways. Continue reading Book Report: Ready Player One By Ernest Cline
Here’s a statement I don’t often make, but I was super excited when the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films popped up on Netflix Instant not long ago. Now, I love a good geeky documentary, but I usually stumble across them while looking around instead of knowing about them ahead of time. But, Electric Boogaloo comes from Mark Hartley, the same guy who made Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens, the former of which is a masterpiece and the latter of which is highly entertaining.
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, cousins, bought a US film company called Cannon Films that would go on to make some of the best and worst action and sci-fi movies of the next few decades. They particularly dealt with stars like Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris, but also made movies like Cyborg, Superman IV, Masters Of The Universe, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II and more than I can even count.
The doc itself tells the story of how these two guys hustled, begged, borrowed and even stole their way to Hollywood success by making more movies than anyone could keep track of. Unfortunately (for them and audiences paying good money for a ticket) the movies tended to be pretty bad, but a goldmine for fans of less-than-perfect cinema like me and a lot of my friends.
Told at a breakneck pace, Electric Boogaloo feels like an open and honest recounting of a company that was neither. Everyone from producers and directors to editors and stars appeared on the film to talk about the slap-dash way some of their projects were put together and presented to the world in general. Ultimately, it’s a story of how quickly these two men and their company could rise and how fiery they eventually fell. The only downside is that Golam and Globus, who are both still alive, refused to appear in this film in order to do their own doc called The Go-Go Boys, which doesn’t seem to be available on Netflix. Actually, there’s one other downside: there’s no mention of James Cameron’s Spider-Man film which was set up there for a while. I’d like to have seen them talk about that, then again, maybe there’s a full doc in the works for that. I hope.
This one was supposed to go up yesterday, but thanks to some technical differentiates (I forgot the schedule the post), it didn’t! Anyway, here’s an amazing looking Remco Spider-Man toy that would have delighted me to no end had I been alive in 1979 (or found one in relatively good condition at a garage sale some years later).
This version of Spidey not only climbs up his own webs but also comes with a working flashlight? That seems a little odd, but as a kid, it would have seemed a lot rad. He also has Spider Sense which seems to translate into a hole in his head you could look through that would make external images look like they were moving in some way. All in all it’s a pretty damn cool looking — and enormous — toy that also fit perfectly on a Spider Copter. I had a Matchbox car-type version of that machine as a kid and think it’s still got one of the cooler heli-designs around. Webs for blades!
Longtime readers might remember a time when I was reading so many books a week that I would simply take pictures of them in a stack and do a quick hit kind of report on them. Well, I’m not knocking down nearly as many books these days, but I did read through a good number from the library and figured I’d return to that form for this post. Let’s hit it! Continue reading The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books
Jason Aaron’s one of those comic writers whose career has interestingly intersected with my career as a writer about comics. When I first started at Wizard one of my buddies and an editor at the magazine was huge on his Vertigo series The Other Side. I didn’t read that one, but I did check out the Ripclaw one-shot he did as part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season not too long after that and the first few books in his Scalped series.
The first of his works that really captivated me, though was Ghost Rider. But it wasn’t until my second attempt at reading it. As I’ve written, I love the down-and-dirty, grindhouse-y tone of that book and the wild places he took it. I assumed for a while that that was pretty much his wheelhouse, but as I’ve learned recently from branching out into X-Men: Schism, Wolverine & The X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Thanos Rising, Incredible Hulk, Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine and Thor: God Of Thunder, this guy has more tricks up his sleeve than all the magicians in Vegas. Continue reading Jason Aaron Is Awesome
It might have been a few months since I wrote about how much I enjoyed Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, but I’ve been burning through every subsequent trade and issue leading up to Superior Spider-Man with a quickness and anticipation I haven’t felt in a long time. Since we’re talking about nine more trades here, I’m going to talk in a few broad strokes about this excellent piece of longform comic book storytelling.
As I wrote last time, I was emotionally blown away by what Slott did with ASM #655. He didn’t stop there. In fact, he got me again not much later when Spidey joined the Fantastic Four after Johnny Storm seemingly died. It’s been a while since I read those FF issues, but I was really moved by how Spidey honored his good friend and also worked with these new teammates.
In fact, Spider-Man’s team interactions are a real high point for me in these books. He’s a great superhero on his own, but he’s even better as part of the FF and the Avengers. Some solo books do their best to avoid the idea of calling in the teammates, but Slott has Spidey utilize them in ways that make sense and feel organic (they are all in NYC at the same time, after all).
I also love how complex, yet surprisingly easy to understand the villains are. These are characters older than your parents and yet Slott makes them feel fresh, new and yet filled with just the right amount of history (instead of info dump/continuity overload territory). He makes you love and hate characters like Lizard, Morbius and even Doc Ock in ways that make them real.
And then Slott goes and does the unthinkable, he made me love a story about everyone in New York getting Spidey powers. When I heard about this mini event, I kept thinking of things like JLApe, but it turned out to be an incredibly compelling crossover that felt big enough and important enough to keep me interested. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about the “Ends of The Earth” story which finds Doc Ock threatening every living thing on earth as he gets closer to his deathbed. This was by no means a bad story — in fact, seeing Spidey, Black Widow and Silver Sable try to save the world is pretty rad — but I think I have had my fill of Big Two “the world might end” stories. Slott does a great job of getting me interested, mainly from the villain side, but the more of these stories you read the harder it can be to suspend your disbelief. Of all the books in this series, this one took me the longest to read.
And then BAM, I was right back into it with the amazing Lizard story which also circles back around to Morbius. It just so happens that I read and wrote about Morbius’ first appearance for Marvel.com last Halloween, so I knew the background on this particularly strange relationship. This added some depth to what I was reading and also gave me the slightest insight into how much fun this book must be for longtime, diehard Spidey fans.
Speaking of the fans, I’m sure they were pretty distraught when they read what happens to Peter Parker at the end of ASM #700. As someone who covers comics, I knew about the big reveal (which I won’t spoil here, but will in the next paragraph) so reading this whole run was kind of like watching Usual Suspects for the second time. I knew where it was going (to some extent) and could keep an eye out for the seeds Slott planted throughout.
Okay, SPOILER time. How amazing were those last few issues where Peter is just desperately trying to save himself, not because of ego, but because he’s worried that Doc Ock (now inhabiting Spidey’s body) will surely do some evil stuff with it? The way Slott figured out how to keep that from happening was great. I didn’t know about that specific bit, so it was a wonderful surprise that makes me incredibly excited about diving into Superior Spider-Man which is not something I thought I’d say after enjoying a character for over 50 issues and losing him.
I can easily say after reading this run on Amazing Spider-Man that it is one of my all-time favorite runs of comics and that Slott is a ridiculous talent when it comes to crafting these kinds of stories. Now on to the next nine-or-so trades!
Oooh, I stumbled upon a doozey this week! Even though I was a die-hard fan of 80s toys and cartoons growing up, most of them were gone by the time I started getting an allowance or going to the toy store with my grandma. Luckily, by then (the mid 90s) a whole slew of comic-based cartoons were hitting the airwaves as their toy counterparts appeared in stores. I was already into comics by then and loved watching superhero adventures, even if they were based on Marvel books (I was a DC kid through and through then). So, the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons and toys were where it was at for me. Back then you could get a figure for about $5 and if you happened to hit a sale, you could walk out with a bag of figures for what it costs to get one today.
In other words, I have a lot of Spidey toys, including some of the ones from the Spider Force line which included the Avenger Wasp, Beetle, Nazi bee villain Swarm, Tarantula and CyberSpider Spider-Man. Oh, and apparently a Spider-Mobile (or Web Car) too! This is a pretty bonkers line-up when you think about it, but a fun one nonetheless. Notice how pose-y the bodies are. That’s the influence of companies like McFarlane Toys on the industry back then. I know for sure I picked up the Wasp and maybe a few others.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott, drawn by Humberto Ramos with Neil Edwards & Stefano Caselli
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #648-651
Want to know something? I’ve never really read Spider-Man comics. I’ve loved just about every incarnation I’ve seen on TV, some of the movies and really dig the idea of the characters, but every time I asked someone to recommend a definitive Spider-Man run from the modern era, there wasn’t much of a general consensus. That all changed in the past few years when Dan Slott took over the book. He was part of the rotation when the line was slimmed down to just Amazing Spider-Man after One More Day, but eventually took the reigns himself. I actually tried getting into the run with New Ways To Die, but it didn’t stick. Still, I wanted to give it a shot and Big Time seemed like the place to go.
And boy, was it! I think I’m in love with this run and have already requested the next six or seven volumes from the library. Much like with Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run that I love so much, Slott takes what the general public knows about the character while also incorporating new elements and (I assume) offering plenty of tasty bits for longtime fans. No, I didn’t know that Aunt May was married to J. Jonah Jameson’s dad or that JJJ had been elected mayor, but those details didn’t derail me at any point from enjoying the story. Even when characters with highly complicated back stories like Hobgoblin and Mac Gargan come into play, Slott conveys the exact right amount of information without coming across as a mega info dump.
But, you don’t stay on a book for so long just because you write stories that are easy for me to read. You stay on a book because you create great stories with characters readers can’t get enough of. I’m reminded of the love I had for Peter Parker when I watched the 90s cartoon. Sure he has the problems he’s always had (or new versions), but he’s also not a total sad sack about them as he was in Spider-Man 2. In fact, as these two books move along, things start going really well for Pete as he scores a killer new job. But these are comics and we’re talking about Spider-Man, so it can’t really last, can it?
The Amazing Spider-Man: Matters of Life and Death (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott with Fred Van Lente, drawn by Stefano Caselli, Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, et al
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #652-657, 654.1
The fun times start to decline for Spider-Man and Peter in this volume as Smythe attacks J. Jonah Jameson’s family and loved ones with an army of insect-enhanced people who share his distaste for the former Daily Bugle Editor-In-Chief. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Smythe makes good on his threat and offs someone Jonah loves and, even though I’ve only read these few issues with this character, I’d grown quite fond of them and felt pretty darn bad myself.
Though nowhere near as bad as Peter who shuts down a bit before deciding that he’s not going to let anyone else die. Leading up to that, though, we get Amazing Spider-Man #655, an issue that deals with death and loss in such a raw, real way that it’s easily one of the best, most honest comic books I’ve ever read.
There’s a lot more going on in these books as well including the first appearance of Flash Thompson as Venom (which spun out into its own series), Parker’s new workmates and what they think they know about Spider-Man and not one, but TWO different costumes for our hero. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.
Most of all, I love how fully Slott embraces Peter Parker’s intelligence. Before I worked at Wizard and was exposed to a lot more comics, I never really thought about how Parker fits up there with Banner, Stark and Richards, but he does and Slott goes right in for that idea. Smart is sexy and nerds are cool. We need more of that pretty much everywhere.
I’m also a big fan of the artwork in these books. Ramos is an artist I generally associate with horror comics like Crimson, but drawing Spider-Man is in his blood! He mixes the flexibility of the character with the ability to capture facial expressions perfectly AND kill it when it comes to the villains. I also quite enjoy Caselli’s style and have since I first saw him draw Secret Warriors. And, boy, I hope Martin won all the awards for Amazing #655. The script for that was top notch, but the art came up to the same level.