Super News From SDCC

Superman Returns….Again!

I normally avoid mentioning much of anything about San Diego Comic Con in my blog because there is so much hype and noise about the event that I am pretty sure that anything I say has been covered a hundred times over already. Saying that, I just had to pop in and mention that there were actually some pretty big announcements made at SDCC.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – JULY 20: Brandon Routh speaks at the “Arrow” Special Video Presentation And Q&A during 2019 Comic-Con International at San Diego Convention Center on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

First and foremost was the announcement that Brandon Routh would once again don the cape and tights of the Man of Steel, Superman, in the upcoming CW Crisis On Infinite Earths event that will span across most of DC’s popular CW shows including Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Batwoman. Black Lightning will most likely not be a part of the event as it has its own established universe according to industry insiders.

Title image of Kingdom Come, artwork by the brilliant Alex Ross.

But doesn’t Routh already portray Ray Palmer, the Atom, in the Arrowverse? Yes, he does, but in the Crisis event, he’ll portray another Superman. Specifically, Routh will portray one of my favorite incarnations of the Big Blue Boy Scout, the Kingdom Come Superman. Tyler Hoechlin will portray the same version of Supes that he has been portraying ever since he was introduced on Supergirl. I wonder how the two versions of the hero will interact with one another? We can only wait and see this fall!

Tyler Hoechlin.

Also joining the Crisis event will be Burt Ward, best known as the classic 1960’s Robin from the Batman television series. Mums the word on exactly which character he will portray, but I’m glad to see Ward getting a nod in the CW line of DC shows.

Burt Ward.
Burt Ward as Robin and Adam West as Batman.

Not to be outdone by DC Comics, Marvel offered up their slate of upcoming series and films in Phase 4 of the MCU. Rumor has it that the list isn’t complete, but Marvel and Disney are definitely hoping to keep the ball rolling after the success of the first three phases of the MCU.

The current list of films and series with release dates in Phase 4 of the MCU.

Television shows such as The Falcon and Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and the animated What If…? were announced as well as films like Black Widow, The Eternals, and Thor: Love and Thunder. With many of these titles featuring characters that are unfamiliar with mainstream audiences, it will be interesting to see how successful this phase of the MCU will be.

Also teased at SDCC were two highly anticipated film announcements. Blade and The Fantastic Four were mentioned but not given release dates. Mahershala Ali (criminally underused in Luke Cage and brilliant as Prowler in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse) was officially announced as the Day Walker himself in the upcoming Blade film and I am honestly extremely happy with this announcement. Hopefully the character will find a good home in the PG-13 friendly MCU. It would be great if the MCU allows Blade to play out in all of his R-rated glory.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Broadimage/Shutterstock (10342723ac) Natalie Portman Marvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International, San Diego, USA – 20 Jul 2019

One announcement that was met with both excitement and criticism was that Natalie Portman would be reprising her role as Jane Foster in the fourth Thor film. It was also said that her character would take on the mantle of the Mighty Thor just like she did in the comics. This put a sour taste in a lot of fans’ mouths.

So what’s the problem? Despite many people saying that it’s Marvel’s perceived attempt at forcing an agenda on movie audiences by having a female take hold of Mjolnir (which actually did happen in the comics), I honestly believe that most of the issues people are having are with Portman herself. Portman has been very vocal about how she didn’t enjoy being in any of the Thor films and was MIA in the MCU after the first two Thor films. In fact, old footage of her from the first Thor film was used in Endgame. She only recorded a few lines of dialogue for the scenes. Top that off with the popular opinion that Portman just didn’t do a very good job as Jane Foster and I can definitely see why fans are a tad miffed.

Also teased by Marvel at SDCC was the upcoming Captain Marvel 2 and Black Panther 2. Nothing is set in stone for either film except for the obvious lead roles, but it will be interesting to see where Marvel takes both of these characters. I’m particularly interested to see what happens with Captain Marvel as I didn’t particularly care for the first film. It will be tough to reproduce the success of the first Black Panther film, but hopefully the sequel will give fans something to cheer about. The first film’s cast was superb for the most part, and I hope to see all of the core characters return for the sequel.

There were tons of other announcements and reveals for established franchises such as Star Trek and The Walking Dead, and also plenty of surprises from upcoming series such as The Watcher and the new The Dark Crystal Netflix series. So many, in fact, that I can’t list them all here. Thankfully Gizmodo has a one-stop shop for all of your SDCC news here. It breaks down pretty much everything you want and/or need to know about SDCC, so give it a look if you so choose.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you’re most excited for in the comments section and feel free to share this post.

A Super Partnership?

At Your Local Walmart

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the reach of Walmart. While I personally tend to do most of my retail shopping at Target or other stores, sometimes a trip to Walmart is unavoidable. Starting last year, DC Comics gave me one more reason to risk life and limb down the aisles of the Big Blue Box Store. DC began releasing exclusive 100 Page Giant comic issues featuring twelve pages of original content and reprints of recent stories from DC’s collection. Stories featuring Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and other popular characters were released in a monthly format that allowed more casual readers a chance to not only read an original story, but catch up on fairly current stories as well. Most of the reprinted stories appear to be from the New 52 line or just a tad bit older. The books sold so well that DC expanded the line to include books for characters such as the Flash and Teen Titans and also released holiday-specific books as well. I own the Halloween Horror Giant that features Swamp Thing, Aquaman, Blue Devil, Scarecrow, Reaper, and Zatanna. It’s an excellent book.

Earlier this year, DC announced that they would be dropping Walmart’s exclusivity on this line and would begin selling the books at comic shops. They’ve also begun reprinting the original stories from these 100 Page Giants and releasing them as individual stories at comic retail shops. This is a great thing, as it has been somewhat difficult to find many of these books at Walmart. In many cases, I couldn’t find any books at all. At other times I was able to easily find multiple issues of books both new and old in the same area of certain Walmart locations. I also found plenty of damaged books as well.

The success of these books had opened the door for even more exclusive items at Walmart. The first exclusive is a wave of Batman: Black & White miniature statues based upon the DC Collectibles Black & White 7″ polyresin statue line. These statues, standing roughly 3.75″ tall, are plastic versions of their larger counterparts and feature a blank base. The 7″ statues feature a black and white Batman logo.

Mike Allred’s Black & White Batman miniature statue.

At the time of this post, three series have been released of these miniature statues. Each series features six statues based upon the work of artists such as Frank Quitely, Patrick Gleason, Amanda Conner, and Dick Sprang. They come in blind bags and cost about five bucks each. With such a small amount of figures to collect, though, getting duplicates is rather easy. In fact, I’ve purchased five blind bags far and already have a duplicate.

The full-sized Darwyn Cooke Batman with a stylized base.

DC announced that these figures would be released as a set at comic shops and would include a seventh exclusive figure. If you’re a fan of Batman, I highly recommend nabbing some of these statues if you can find them.

Series 3 of the Black & White Miniature line.

Teaming up with Walmart has proven to be profitable for DC Comics. Yes, the giant retailer has shut down plenty of independent comic book shops over the years, but by exposing potential new readers to some great stories and cool exclusive items, this partnership might actually help local comic retailers. I especially like the fact that DC has started releasing reprints of the stories and full sets of the miniature statues with exclusive bonus statues at comic shops, as it gives folks that might have missed something a second chance at picking up what they want.

Have you read any of the Giants? Do you own any of the statues? Let me know in the comments and also tell me how you feel about DC Comics or any other comic company teaming up with big retailers such as Walmart. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you all again real soon.

Stranger Things Season 3 Review

In a quiet little town called Hawkins….

Things definitely got a little stranger in the third season of Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers changed up the dynamic of our core group by having not only an evil being out to get them, but also having them tackle topics such as teen romance, infighting, bottom of the barrel jobs, and Russians…..yep, Russians.

Non-spoiler review ahead.

Lucas and Mike are in love with Max and El, respectively. The season fires up with Lucas and Max on the outs and eventually Mike and El end up in the same boat. Lucas, being the more experienced romantic, attempts to walk Mike through the highs and lows of a teenage breakup. You’ll have to watch to see how successful he is with Mike. Poor Will gets left in the dust by Lucas and Mike.

Max and El trek out on their own, embracing the sister-like bond forming between them. Their friendship strengthens via activities that include sleepovers, trips to the mall, using El’s powers for questionable purposes, and checking out comic books. There’s even a brief fashion montage thrown in for good measure.

Hopper and Joyce bond as well, as they set out to find why magnets won’t work anymore in certain parts of Hawkins. They team up with Murray Bauman, the conspiracy theorist that exposed the love that existed between Nancy and Jonathan in Season Two. Together they battle it out with a foreign power that has infiltrated Hawkins in an ingenious way.

Jonathan and Nancy find themselves working as a photographer and office runner for the local newspaper. Much like Hopper, Joyce, and Murray, they stumble upon something that brings back old memories for the group. Their relationship also runs into a few mild snags, but nothing too major.

Then there’s good ol’ Billy, the trashy stepbrother to Max. He finds himself in a very tight spot early in the season and we get to watch as his character develops into a major threat for the group. The flirtation that happened between him and Mike’s mom in Season Two progresses into something more this season as well, but I won’t spoil anything here.

Last but not least, the best bromance in all of streaming programs is revisited hen Dustin, fresh from summer camp, teams up with Steve, stuck in a dead end job at Scoops Ahoy in the new Starcourt Mall. Added to their group is Erica, Lucas’ younger sister, and Robin, Mike’s co-worker at Scoops Ahoy. I’ll get to them a little bit later.

So how is the season? In my opinion, it’s very good. It’s stronger content-wise when compared to Season Two and it doesn’t have any jarring episodes that throw off the rhythm of the series like Season Two did with that episode where El goes to Chicago. The relationships built in this season are powerful as well, especially the bond between El and Max, El and Hopper, and Robin and Steve.

This season also feels like an 80’s film more than either of the other two seasons. There are real threats present for all of the cast members as they are broken up into smaller groups. Each threat that they face eventually comes to a head at the climax of the series.

The special effects were very solid, especially considering the size of one of the creatures that the group has to face. There are also plenty of nods to classic 80’s films and television shows such as Evil Dead, Magnum P.I., and The Thing, and a few blatant tips of the hat to shows and films like Back to the Future, Cheers, and Day of the Dead. Much like the show did in previous seasons by adding popular 80’s stars to the cast such as Matthew Modine, Paul Reiser, and Sean Astin, this season brought us Cary Elwes as sleazy Mayor Kline.

New additions to the cast such as Elwes as Kline and Maya Hawke as Robin and an expansion of roles for returning characters such as Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Murray (Brett Gelman) also strengthened the show as a whole. Robin and Erica held their own while featuring in almost every scene with Dustin and Mike. While Erica did get a little mouthy at times, she still injected some much needed humor in an otherwise dark season.

The series wasn’t perfect, however. Product placement was terribly noticeable. Seeing old storefronts for extinct stores like Wicks N’ Sticks and Waldenbooks was cool, but the blatant New Coke moment and massive Burger King shot and references were annoying. The Seven-Eleven moments fit into the story quite well, however.

I also got annoyed by the use of 80’s music throughout the season. Don’t get me wrong, music is just as important as any other element in a film or television series, but the placement of 80’s hit tunes felt forced at times.

Overall, this season was better than Season Two and can hold its own against Season One. The kids have grown up a lot and the adults didn’t skip a beat. The character development was solid and the ending…..well, it was just brutal. Things are left wide open for Season Four and there is already a ton of speculation as to who or what might turn up next season.

As always, thanks for reading. I’ll be posting again real soon.

The Next Chapter Is Coming!

Sulphur, LA

For the sixth year in a row, the cliffhangers of yesteryear are returning to southwest Louisiana at Calcasieu Serialfest! This free event will once again be held at the Brimstone Museum in Sulphur.

You’ll get to watch selected chapters from serials of the 1930’s and 40’s featuring such heroes and adventurers as Spy Smasher, Captain Marvel, and the Lone Ranger. There will be free popcorn and drinks served at the event and even a free lunch!

The festival always highlights specific individuals that had an impact on serials over the years. Usually this is an actor such as Buster Crabbe or Tom Tyler, but this year Serialfest will celebrate the work of two pioneering special effects artists, the Lydecker Brothers! Howard and Theodore Lydecker became known for their effects work using large and detailed props. They were nominated for two Emmys during their time in film, with Howard winning the Individual Achievement in Cinematography for his work on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Some of the serials that will have chapters shown at the event include Adventures of Captain Marvel, Darkest Africa, Undersea Kingdom, The Crimson Ghost, and The Lone Ranger. Be sure to also keep an eye out for Gene Autry in The Phantom Empire.

A special surprise for attendees will be a viewing of selected chapters from Mystery of the Bat-Man. This lost serial, recently “uncovered” in 2015, is a tribute not only to Batman’s first comic appearance, but to serials as a whole. Director/producer/actor Ryan Bijan will be in attendance. Be sure to check out all of the available chapters of this serial on YouTube.

Cosplayer Bill Necessary will also be in attendance. He’ll be dressed as some of your favorite classic serial heroes. Mr. Necessary has become a fixture of Calcasieu Serialfest, and it’s always great to see him bring many of these amazing characters to life.

The event will take place at the Brimstone Museum located at 900 S Huntington Street in Sulphur, LA on Saturday, July 20th. Serials will begin playing at 10 AM and continue until 5 PM that evening. As already stated, free popcorn and drinks will be served throughout the day and a free lunch will also be offered to attendees. There will also be door prizes given out at the event.

I’ve been a huge fan of Calcasieu Serialfest since its inception. I’ve attended the festival every year save one where other things got in the way. If you are in or near the Lake Charles/Sulphur/southwest Louisiana area, make plans to attend this great event. See the earliest live action versions of some of pop cultures biggest heroes.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my latest post. Feel free to share it with others and be sure to leave a comment as well. More great things are coming to Ken’s Alternate Universe very soon, so keep your eyes and ears peeled!