Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ms. Marvel across the formats

Ms. Marvel has become a star for Marvel Comics. So much so that a tweet by actress Eden Sher, who is on the sitcom The Middle, about being in New York and visiting Marvel sparked speculation that she was being cast as Kamala Khan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Of course she was just visiting Marvel in NY which is different from Marvel Studios, which is responsible for Marvel’s films and television shows. Celebrities visit Marvel Comics in New York all the time and pick up free comics. Side note, if I ever become famous I'm visiting Marvel as much as possible. But rampant net speculation is a sign of how big Ms. Marvel is becoming. Marvel has a special opportunity on its hands. And while I may not be a fan of how Marvel’s parent company, Disney, occasionally over markets it popular properties, Marvel is in a good position to take a page from Disney and further expand its fan base. Let's look at the options.

Marvels version of Super Best Friends Forever
At one time, Cartoon Network ran a few animated shorts called Super Best Friends Forever in it's DC Nation bloc of cartoons.

It consisted of Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Girl. It was very lighthearted and very funny. But unfortunately it did not last long. Marvel could steal DC’s one time thunder and make their own version of the series. I’m thinking:

Spider-Girl – May Parker
Ms. Marvel – Kamala Khan
Jubilee – Jubilation Lee

The series needs to be light and I think these three characters would make it fun.

Marvel Cinematic Universe
It wouldn’t happen anytime soon. If at all, look for a Kamala Easter Egg in Phase 3 with the eventual Captain Marvel film. My guess would be in that Kamala will appear somewhere in the background. Well, what will probably happen is that two people in the background will look like Kamala and Bruno. Or maybe a reference to the Circle Q convenience store Bruno works at.

Standalone Animated series
DC and Marvel have done fairly well with animated series. And there was a time you could find a few Marvel heor cartoons on different channels. With the massive resources of Disney, a Ms. Marvel animated series on the Disney Channel or could do well.

Animated movie
This is probably the most likely place we will see Kamal Khan outside of the comics. Direct to DVD/BluRay animated features are common these days for superheroes. It would be the best place for Marvel to test the waters for other media options.

Kamala, Disney Princess?
Okay, hear me out. This is an extreme longshot at best. But either with traditional animation or with Pixar’s help, a Ms. Marvel animated feature could be something spectacular.
Disney Infinity
The popular game that features playable characters from across the Disney universe recently added Marvel characters. So in a game where you could play the Incredibles, the Avengers, Captain Jack Sparrow, and even classic Disney characters, could Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel be too far off? It is another way Disney and Marvel can test the waters for other media ventures.

Marvel and Disney have an amazing opportunity with Ms. Marvel. It's a safe bet that she will not be living in just the pages of a comic book for very long.

Ms. Marvel #5

Ms. Marvel #5 completes the first story arc and origin of Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel. Although, technically with five months in the job, I won’t be addressing her as “the new” anymore. She declared her name and has her costume set. In the last issue there was a standoff between Kamala and the teen thugs keeping Bruno’s brother Vic captive. Well, there was a lot of small robots with lasers too. And… it didn’t go well. Again.

Kamala realized she can’t be the charge in guns blazing hero. At least not yet. She is forced to retreat and rethink her strategy. Bruno helps her put the finishing touches on her costume and Kamala plays it smart this time. But in victory, she has also caught the attention of her first archenemy, the Inventor, who is reveled at the end. And in fitting with the tone of this series, the Inventor is also… the Birdman?

But this is Ms. Marvel and she is the guardian of Jersey City. "Don’t mess."

A new urban legend has taken stage in the Marvel Universe. The series in contrast to most titles, is crafted to also appeal to teen girls instead of just the male teen demographic most comics apply to. But don’t take that to mean this is a girls comic. In making Ms. Marvel more accessible to girls and women, Marvel has successful made a comic more accessible to a wider audience, including young males and grown up fanboys like myself. It’s just a fun read. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the first new series I’ve collected in a while. And it looks like I’ll keep collecting

Read my wife's review at Owl Allow It: My thoughts after reading Ms. Marvel #5

Monday, July 21, 2014

Guardians is the best for last

Gamora, Star-Lord (aka Peter Quill) , Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Groot

The summer is almost over and Marvel looks set to close out this movie season in main event style. Guardians of the Galaxy is only weeks away and it is the most anticipated film of the summer. Besides Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, there isn’t much else out there to grab people’s attention anymore. Sure, Transformers Age Of Extinction opened big, but it had a large drop off at the box office and well... It's had... various reactions. The Chinese love it though, apparently. Guardians has been building a buzz since last year’s San Diego Comic Con with its surprise announcement, and it has been said numerous times, but it is truly a risk on Marvels part. It is not set on Earth, the characters are mostly unknown outside the comic community. Even within the comic reading community, these characters are not headliners. If you are into the marvel comic universe, you probably have heard of them and possibly seen a few of them pop up here and there, but Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rockett Racoon, and Groot have never been huge names and big sellers. This current roster of Guardians isn’t even the original lineup.

So why the fascination? Mostly, it is literally like nothing else out there. It exists in the same universe as the Avengers, but has an obvious absurdity that sets it apart. It has a taking raccoon with a sidekick that is a talking tree. Well, Groot sort of talks in that all he says is “I am Groot.” But that translates into other things his friends can understand. As for the less absurd characters... Gamora is basically one the most dangerous woman in the galaxy when it comes to hand to hand fighting. She was raised by Thanos, who we saw at the end of Avengers. Peter Quill (You know, Star-Lord?) is a human who was taken into the far reaches of space when he was a boy. And he kinda still is a boy. Drax, in the comics universe anyway, was human. His family was killed by Thanos and his spirit was placed in a new more powerful body. It is plainly obvious that he film does not take itself seriously. There will be serious themes, but fun seems to be the point of all this.

Another reason this will be big is because it also appeals to some pretty huge fandoms. It was a smart move to cast Karren Gillen to play Gamora's insane step-sister (or is it adopted sister? Some version of sister) Nebula.

That’s not to say attracting the Doctor Who fandom was the sole reason for this casting, because Karen is a talented actress. In the comics, Nebula for a while cons Thanos into thinking she is his granddaughter. In the movie it appears Gamora and Nebula were raised by Thanos together. The Walking Dead fandom is also going to be well represented with the inclusion of Michael Rooker as Yondu.

Yondu is actualyy a founding member of comic book Guardians of the Galaxy. In the film he will be the one responsible for taking Peter Quill into space. The only main character we have not gotten very much information on is Ronan the Accuser, portrayed by Lee Pace.

He appears is the main villain in the film. The comic book version of the character is a member of the Kree race. The title of Accuser is a Kree government title for a governor/jurist/judge. We'll see how the character play out on screen. Side note, the blue alien corpse in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV series was also a Kree. All indications point to Guardians of the Galaxy to be yet another huge success for Marvel. It will further expand the possibilities for the cinematic universe and set up more story for Phase 3 of Marvels films.

UPDATE: In the film it is Ronan who kills Drax's family.

Another UPDATE: Well, not really an UPDATE. I forgot Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes out Aug. 8, but I think my argument still stands.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Skeksis and the Goblin King

On December 17th The Dark Crystal will be thirty two years old. In two years, on November 26th, Labyrinth will become thirty years old. Many, including myself, have grown up with these films. Both have become staples of fantasy entertainment and the fact that puppets and animatronics hold up after decades is a testament to the skill and talent of The Jim Henson Company. A production company best known for Sesame Street and The Muppets.

The story of The Dark Crystal is about Jen, who believes he is the last of a race called the Gelflings, on a quest to restore the Dark Crystal with a shard that was broken off of it one thousand years ago. Jen meets Kira, a female Gelfling. He is no longer the last, but even with Kira they are still just a remnant of their kind.

This is a basic chosen one saves the world story, but done in a way that is still unique. On another level, it’s a story about the unity of souls. The evil Skeksis, withered reptile/birdlike creatures, and the gentle Mystics are literally two sides of the same coin.

They were born when a race of ancient creatures fractured the Crystal of Truth. A shard was broken from the Crystal and the ancient race was split into the Skeksis and the Mystics. Jen is tasked to be the chosen one who will heal the world. But he needs Kira to help him on the journey. They are an Adam and Eve of their race in a sense. They are not the first of their kind, but they enter a new age on their planet as the only members of their kind.

As hard as it is to believe, The Dark Crystal was originally conceived as a children’s movie. Obviously as production progressed it got dark and parents at the time were reluctant to let their kids see it. The film does not seem so out of place today, but at the time there wasn’t anything like it. To quote the lead character, Jen, “This place is weird.” It didn’t do very well with critics at the time either. It also didn’t help that it was in box office competition with Tootsie and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Like many original concepts, it did not do very well when released but over time managed to turn a profit.

Labyrinth is the story of Sara, Jennifer Connely, trying to save her kidnapped brother, Toby, from Jareth the Goblin King, David Bowie. Technically, Sara asked the Goblin King, Jareth, to take her baby brother. When reciting a story to put a crying Toby to sleep, an angry and frustrated Sara calls out to the Goblin King to take her brother away.

She just thought it was a story. But apparently the Goblin King was real. The story is mostly about a girl finding her way through a maze into adulthood but finally dealing with what life hands her instead of complaining with what almost becomes her catchphrase, “It’s not fair!” The world of the Goblin King, the Goblins, and other creatures, some of which become Sara’s friends and allies, are beautiful amazing creations.

Labyrinth was constructed to be more consumer friendly. JimHenson and Brian Froud, conceptual and costume designer for both films, decided to make a lighter film with more comedy since The Dark Crystal turned out darker and heavier than originally intended. It is worth noting that the first draft of the film was co-written by Monty Python and George Lucas was a co-writer for the final drafts. With David Bowie adding to the pedigree of the production it is surprising that Labyrinth did not succeed at the box office. And again, critics had mixed feelings, with some being very critical of the production, story, and acting. Even though part of the box office problems can be attributed to Labyrinth’s competition (The Karate Kid Part II, Back To School, Top Gun, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, among others) Jim Henson became very discouraged. Labyrinth would be the last feature film he directed.

Jim Henson and his company created two amazing worlds. And not enough is said about Brian Froud, whose designs are responsible for what we see onscreen. Like many films in the fantasy and sci-fi genres, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth found little appreciation during their initial release. All this time later both have become cult classics with Labyrinth enjoying a little more mainstream success. It’s not a coincidence that David Bowie and Jennifer Connely are still recognized and lovedby new generations of fans for their roles in Labyrinth. And it’s not hard to find someone who does not know what a Skeksi is. Although admittedly that might be because most people I would associate with would know what a Skeksi is. Either way, the continuing influence of these films cannot be denied. Their legacy has inspired generations of fans and creators. The legacy of the Skeksies and the Goblin King does not look likely to fade away for a long time.