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As in “editorial edict,” not “the model of car.”

§ November 17th, 2023 § Filed under does mike ever shut up, fantastic four, the thing § 11 Comments

So Matthew brings up another option I’d totally forgotten aboiut in the Thing eyebrow/no eyebrow raging debate: TWO eyebrows, as per Fantasic Four #502 (art by Casey Jones):

Now I was all ready to not like this, based on the description. This issue, though, was one I had read, probably a couple of times, given this particular run of the book was a favorite of mine, and I don’t recall being put off by the appearance of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew at any point.

Pulling up that above image and giving the dual-brow look a once-over, I find…I don’t hate it. (And to be fair, I don’t really hate any of the Thing’s various visual permutations, despite some interpretations of his “pineapple Thing” days proving…challenging.) I can picture Benjy waggling his eyebrows up and down, individually, Groucho-style, stogie in his better-be-toothless mouth if he were still allowed to have his stogies (banned long ago via editorial).

The aforementioned “raging debate” in the comments of Wednesday’s post is described as such in the Mighty Mike’s Facetious Manner, as folks from both sides of the conflict, the no-eyebrow people and the wrong people, have cheerfully piped up with their love for the character no matter the state of his forehead. As I said then, either interpretation of the Thing is perfectly fine, and though my personal preference is no-eyebrow, the charm of the expressive separate eyebrow is certainly not lost on me.

One thing (cough) we can all agree on, as brought up a couple of times in my comments, is “Woe Betide You If You Give the Thing Teeth,” as so:

Look, God bless Neal Adams, that man did a lot for our beloved funnybooks, at his peak his art was unmatchable, he gave us Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, he was instrumental in Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster getting their due. And maybe he had some…odd ideas about science, and maybe his latter-day comics were…idiosyncratic, but he was a legend and absolutely rightfully so.

But when I turned the page and saw the above image in his Fantastic Four: Antithesis series, it was like a jump scare in a horror film. I mean, wow, that is not a Thing I am used to. It was an entertaining series, and the art was nice overall, but the Toothsome Mr. Grimm took some getting used to, not that I really ever did.

The Thing is one of those characters that is open to a wide amount of variation and still being “The Thing,” but there are certain elements that to his look that can just look wrong if pushed too far or simply not done correctly.

John Byrne’s “How to Draw the Thing” from the early ’80s is oft-cited:

…and my early exposure to it, and internalization thereof, has definitely influenced my opinions on the Thing’s appearance. I notice when someone gives him a neck, for instance, and it always reads as “wrong” to me. Despite this, I am up for versions of the character that don’t necessarily follow Byrne’s fiat.

However, with increasing talk about the forthcoming Fantastic Four movie, and Marvel’s predilection for letting the tail wag the dog, one wonders how much a live-action/CGI Hollywood Thing design will alter the character in the comics. I got to wondering about this after seeing a post on…probably Xwitter, lamenting the fact that whatever is done with the FF in the movies will be reflected by the comics for the following few years.

This doesn’t take into account that Marvel movies may very well be entering a period of decline, as moviegoers appear to be becoming pickier about the movies they see, and films budgeted with near-billion box office takes in mind are barely breaking even, if at all. Lots of reasons for this, and it’s less the ever-threatened “Marvel burnout” and more “COVID has changed movie-going patterns” and “people have turned increasingly to streaming options” and “it’s just easier to wait a month or two and watch at home instead of going to a theater.”

And maybe it is a little bit about “Marvel burnout,” as I saw an article recently ask, nonironically, “why did The Marvels, the 33rd film in the franchise, fail?” Well, maybe after 2 1/2 dozen films, the novelty’s worn off, and folks just won’t go to see any movie with a Marvel logo in front of it. The movies might be perfectly fine (I myself would like to see The Marvels, but I haven’t been to a theater since the pandemic started and have no plans to return) but unless it’s something special, it’s not going to pull people in. (Compare to Barbie, which was new and different and had a point of view and an individualistic style and made that coveted billion bucks.)

And I’m not picking on Marvel movies specifically. DC’s last few movies underperformed, and I don’t see that trend changing even under James Gunn’s purview. That last Indiana Jones film made $300 million in the box office, an impressive take under normal circumstances, but its production costs were about that much, and that’s not even counting the advertising. It had to become a phenomenon to turn a profit, and there just wasn’t enough of an audience that excited for the last installment of a decades-old franchise. Which is why I think forthcoming Star Wars movies may also see the same fate.

Anyway, what all this means is that maybe we don’t need to worry too much about an FF movie having undue influence on its poor print cousin. Even if they make the Thing purple with eight arms and teeth for days, there’s every possibility the film will come and go without making a ripple and ol’ Bashful Benjy will be safe. Except if there’s too many flops Marvel The Comic Publishing Company may outlive its usefulness to Disney and be scrapped so they can spend that money on cleaning the Star Tours queue area instead.

Not that I expect that to happen. Marvel movies will more likely slow down in production, maybe one a year if that, making them more “events” again and giving them a better chance at bringing in viewers. Like, Spider-Man movies will always make money. This new Deadpool film will do fine. If Marvel ever gets around to doing a new X-Men movie, that should also do well, assuming they don’t screw it up. But I just don’t see the Fantastic Four capturing audience excitement in the way it needs to in order to justify that likely $250+ million budget. Which would be disappointing because I love the FF.

Well, that’s not where I expected this post to go. Please take a lot of the above with all the authority that I, a dude that sells comic books for a living and doesn’t make Hollywood movies, bring to it. I hope I’m wrong about the movie end of things, since I enjoy superhero films and want them to continue, even as I’m part of the problem by no longer attending theaters. It’s a trickier marketplace than ever, and I’m glad I’m just working at the nickel-and-dime level I’m at rather than having millions upon millions of dollars on the line.

Honestly, I think he’s a grown-up Herbie Popnecker (and that he’s teamed up with Herbie does nothing to dissuade me).

§ September 15th, 2021 § Filed under fantastic four, flaming carrot, this week's comics § 4 Comments

This issue of Marel Two-in-One was the first Fantastic Four-related comic I remember reading. Sometime after that I remember looking at some random issue of Fantastic Four my cousin had, which one I can’t remember, but I do know it was in the middle of some ongoing story and it was weird and strangely fascinating to someone mostly used to DCs and the occasional Charlton.

It wasn’t until the early ’80s that I began my full-on dive in Marvel Comics readin’, and my gateway was…an issue of The Thing, which brought me to John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four (starting with the then-current issue and picking up the previous ones as I could) and then on to just about everything else Marvel-ish.

Fantastic Four, though, was one of the main two I stuck with (the other being Incredible Hulk and all its later permutations). I would occasionally not follow the title (there’s a big chunk of ’90s FF I skipped) but I have all those Byrne issues, the Waid run, the Millar run (which I still think is actually pretty good), Fraction and Hickman, Simonson, and now Slott…all readable, enjoyable and imaginative. I’ve also since read all the original Lee/Kirby stuff, with all its primal energy, laying the foundation for a fictional universe that is essentially dominating all popular culture today (even if its mostly been without the FF’s direct interaction, though not for lack of trying a couple of times).

None of this really says anything about the comic, so let me just say it’s a fun tribute to the team’s long history, with cute “chapter break” images that really drive home the time the team has spanned. You will not be surprised at all by one of the story’s “twists,” but really, it’s a wild trip though the FF’s history and that’s entertainment enough. It’s mostly a standalone book (though one major subplot does carry through from the previous issues, but the exposition train pulls into the station long enough to catch you up) so if you haven’t read FF in a while, it’s a good sampler of the title’s current status, and worth checking out.

• • •

On a copmpletely different topic, I was looking at my old Flaming Carrot action figure the other day. It has a feature where if you twist the little plastic plume of “flame” that sticks out of the top of his head, it will light up. Or would light up if the battery wasn’t long dead, I thought as I twisted the doodad, but lo and behold:

…LET THERE BE CARROT LIGHT. I wondered just how old this figure was, as I couldn’t recall exactly when I picked it up from the previous place of employment. A peek into Diamond’s database revealed 1) it was still listed in said database, and 2) it came out in December of 1998. Nearly 23 years later, that little light is still working. Amazing. Now if we can only fnd out what the Carrot’s actual secret identity really is, and where that speaker in his chest came from.

The official Dark Horse Comics site still has a page devoted to the figure (which gives a release day of November ’98). A closer look is in this pic I “borrowed” from an online source:

All that does is make me wish I hadn’t discarded the packaging for my figure.

“Leaps and bounds” — I see what you did there.

§ February 13th, 2019 § Filed under fantastic four, marvel, promo § 8 Comments

From Marvel Comics Retailer Spotlight #16 (August 1990), here is the hype for the Walt Simonson/Art Adams “New FF” run on Fantastic Four #347 through #350:

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what the first issue looked like:

Now, it’s been a long time, and I think in 1990 I was still in the “huh-yuk, I’m a’sellin’ comic books!” starry-eyed haze and not worried overly much with the behind-the-scenes ordering hoohar that the boss concerned himself with, so I probably didn’t know at the time that this first issue was in fact returnable. (Returnability is only occasionally afforded to retailers on certain books today, but it was a real rarity back then.)

As it turned it, it sold extremely well, eventually going to a second printing (also not a very common occurence in those long-ago Young Mike days). I know we didn’t have much backstock on it, and we’d buy back copies as they came in collections. This was quite the popular item for some time after its release, and even still today gets an inquiry from curious fans here and there.

It’s an interesting look at the cross-promotion and sales strategies used for a comic that one would think would almost sell itself anyway. This was during the big 1990s comics boom, so something like this seemed like it was almost guaranteed to outsell the Bible anyway, but even in those times when the gold poured out of the rivers and the oil flowed freely, no one was going to take any chances. Even dragging in ol’ Fin Fang Foom and referencing the rest of the Marvel Monsters to get that crowd (you know, “them”) shows the extent of hype for this book.

The listing of each guest star and why he’s of import is certainly a sign of the times, when any of these characters popping into any book usually meant at least something of a bump upward, if not necessarily in rack sales, but at least in retailer order numbers. It may still sorta be true today, but not nearly to the extent it once was, a combination of readers being a little choosier with their comics money and the fact that “Special Guest Appearances” of “hot” characters are no longer the huge sales pull due to overuse and overexposure. Wolverine’s “sales power,” once taken for granted as shown here, is no longer the sure thing.

I think most interesting to me is the characterization of this storyline as a “fill-in,” which I think maybe surprises me a little. It never felt like a fill-in, like some inventory story or reprint pulled out of storage thanks to the Dreaded Deadline Doom. I mean, it was the same regular writer and a special guest artist…it may have interrupted the main storyline, but it didn’t feel intrusive (like a fill-in in the Simonson run a couple of issues later, which was…okay, but it was a real case of “well, I guess this’ll do ’til Simonson’s back”).

Anyway, this is one of those few cases where the publisher was all “better order lots of these!” and being correct. It was quite the item, and stil is today, thanks to fans with long memories or a deep interest in comics past. Also a rare encouragement to stock up for later back issue sales, which you don’t see too much of anymore. (I think Crossgen was the last company to really push the “better have back issues for new fans!” thing.)

But as far as that advice to place copies of this comic “all over [our] comic racks” — yeah, I know one of Marvel’s publishing strategies was (and maybe still is) to make a retailer fill up his/her shelf space with all the Marvel product they could possibly carry, and crowd off everyone else. I mean, I get it, they wanted copies of this next to Ghost Rider, etc. However, I’m pretty sure we just had them up on the rack under “Fantastic Four,” and it seemed to do fine.

One last note…as to this being the Punisher’s “most unique” role…yeah, I think there’s a challenger.

Things to Do in Southern California When Your Power is Out.

§ April 9th, 2018 § Filed under fantastic four, retailing § 4 Comments

Yup, came to work Sunday morning only to discover there was no power coming into my business. Now, for me, that’s not as big of a deal as it could be, since I can still sell comics and make change out of the register and such, so long as things are reasonably visible inside the building and, you know, they could pay cash and not by credit card. Several of my neighbors, what have to prepare food for their clientele, were not so lucky…particularly the Chinese restaurant just next door that was expecting a party of about 50 people. Oof.

Anyway, stuck it out as long as I could, but alas, the shadows encroached too far and it was time to depart. And looking at the parking lot when I left, I was one of the last holdouts. Ah, well, power should be reinstated by 11 PM this evening (as I type this, it’s about 5 PM), so we’ll see what happens.

• • •

So it was announced that the Fantastic Four comic book is coming back, and whether absence has made the heart grow Fantastic-er and people will go for it this time. I would certainly hope so…I would like to read a Fantastic Four comic again, and I’ve had a little feedback from customers along these lines as well. The current Marvel Two-in-One series, featuring the FF’s Thing and Human Torch (and also will continue alongside the new Fantastic Four series), has been doing quite well, particularly for a recent Marvel series launch, which tells me there’s at least some demand for half of the FF, at any rate.

A couple of years back, I wrote a bit about a feasibility of a new FF comic, and about the line one must straddle between “doing new things with the FF which make them feel NOT like the FF” and “oh there’s Dr. Doom and Galactus again.” It’s a weird running-in-place that, to some extent, all mainstream superhero comic have to do…”the illusion of change,” as has been said, and when they do BIG changes, like marrying Spider-Man and Mary Jane, or giving Superman a son, it’s an even bigger to-do to get things changed back, a constant stuffing of worms into their cans.

Not that the Fantastic Four really did go through any kind of big change like this…it felt more like they just kinda wore out their welcome, that nothing was really grabbing folks, so it was time to shuffle them off the board for a while. Now why them specifically and not, say, the Avengers, which could also have used a little time off (aside from the whole movie thing), given that many of Marvel’s longstanding properties could use a bit of rebuffing. One clever way of doing so was “retiring” characters without necessarily retiring them, such as having new people take over as the title character (as in the recent Thor comics) to rebuild interest in a property that had sort of felt a little moribund.

They couldn’t do this with the Fantastic Four, really…the FF is specifically Those Four People, and occasional rejiggerings of said Four usually just serve to remind people, oh, hey, why isn’t, oh, Mr. Fantastic around? (The one possible exception to this was, outside the deliberately-gimmicky “New Fantastic Four” with Ghost Ride an’ such, was She-Hulk’s inclusion on the team.) My idea in that old post I linked was what would have basically been a Thing solo series, with the rest of the FF as back-up characters…maintaining the team dynamic, but making one character the focus and giving at least what would feel like a different perspective on the group. This is sort of what we got in the new Marvel Two-in-One series, with the Thing and Human Torch supposedly seeking the other lost half of their family…it’s a new take on the FF that doesn’t have the “Fantastic Four” logo on the cover and thus doesn’t feel burdened with the expectations that title brings.

That’s a long way of saying “the creative team on this new Fantastic Four have their work cut out for them.” I want it to be good, and I have no reason to think it won’t be. Now will it do well, that’s harder to say. The comics market is still a bit unstable, and new titles, even with long-established characters, are struggling to survive. I’d like to think a comic starring the Fantastic Four, as quote-unquote “Marvel’s First Family,” would be above such economic concerns, that they would always have a starring role with the publisher, but sad to say the world doesn’t work like that. I really do hope for the best here…I’d love a good Fantastic Four book on the stands again. We’ll just have to see how everything shakes out.

And yeah, I know, it’ll have a big ol’ “#1!” on the cover. What should the actual issue number be now? It’s #646, I think…unless they want to add all the Future Foundation comics to the total and get it closer to #700 before going to #1. I mean, at this point, why not?

“There are more Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

§ October 10th, 2016 § Filed under fantastic four § 7 Comments

So for whatever reason I started spouting off about the Fantastic Four on my Twittererers over the weekend, wondering if the concept is simply just played out and resistant to any form of forthcoming newsstand success. Now…frankly, I’m not sure what put the thought into my head, because:

1) Recent FF comics have been pretty good, actually. The main issue of late with ongoing FF titles, or any ongoing Marvel title, is that given current publishing strategies, a series doesn’t stick around for too long before being given the ol’ reboot/relaunch. And, FF titles of late, when they reach the endpoint of their “current” series, are given fairly definitive endings that wouldn’t naturally flow into a new storyline from a new creative team, thus necessitating reboot-ering.

2) There’s also the thought that Marvel is hesitant to publish comics that would provide grist for other movie studio’s mills, as film rights for the FF are held outside of Marvel Studios, which would explain the lack of a title for them right now. Of course, Marvel is still publishing X-Men comics, also not under the purview of Marvel Studios, but not publishing X-titles maybe a financial hit Marvel can ill afford, compared to the relatively small loss from not having a current FF title. Anyway, I’ve heard both support and debunkings of the “Marvel won’t publish books licensed to other studios” thing, so I have no idea what’s going on there.

Whatever the reason, I shouldn’t be saying that the Fantastic Four idea as a concept is over and done with. Pretty much any comic book just needs the right take from the right people and suddenly it’s viable again. Part of my thought process here may have come from the fact that the Fantastic Four movies have had such a hard time finding traction. I didn’t dislike the film adaptations from the mid-2000s, and even the much-maligned movie from last year had its moments (and I suspect a sequel building on that film could work a lot better). But it feels like if Marvel Studios were to get the FF back under its roof and integrate it into its cinematic universe, then the team might have a better chance of catching on. (One idea I’d heard was to make them “period” characters from the 1960s, and the rocket flight that gave them powers back then also shunted them forward to the modern day, which I think is kind of brilliant.)

There are other points, too, that brought me to the position of thinking the Fantastic Four are past their sell-by date. Chris and Matt on the War Rocket Ajax podcast often mention about the repeating of certain character/plot developments, such as “Johnny has to learn to grow up and be responsible” which has happened a few times in recent memory. And then there’s the idea that if you keep going back to Dr. Doom and Galactus and the Negative Zone and “Is This The End of the Fantastic Four?” you’re just rehashing, but if you try to do different things and switch up characters and whatnot, suddenly “this isn’t the FF.” It strikes me that Fantastic Four probably isn’t the easiest comic book in the world to write.

In the course of my Twitter-babbling (different from my blog-babbling, in that the paragraphs are shorter), I did say that while the Fantastic Four idea may be in need of rest right now, the simple fact of the matter is this:

For support of that statement, I refer you to this piece I wrote long ago as part of an article about a sadly still-forthcoming Thing graphic novel (at the end of the page, in italics). The Thing really is one of the best characters, not just in comics, but in all of fiction. Yeah, that’s right, I’d put him up there with, like, Hamlet. In fact, I bet the Thing could totally take Hamlet in a fight.

That brought me to think about how they could bring back the Fantastic Four in a way that would have a little more staying power (beyond whatever behind-the-scenes movie-stuff wheeling-and-dealings to which we’re not privy), and that gave me an idea reminiscent of my old Legion of Super-Heroes concept:

While that doesn’t remove the family-relationship drama that we may have seen over and over again in the title, presenting it from the Thing’s perspective will at least give us a slightly different angle on it. And by making it Thing-centric, the pressure is off from regularly featuring the other members of the family in the title…while possibly opening it to guest-appearances and other team-ups Marvel Two-in-One-style. Since this book wouldn’t technically be “The Fantastic Four,” that kind of character ‘n’ situation switch-up wouldn’t (hopefully) result in complaints that this isn’t the FF folks are used to.

Plus, everyone loves the Thing, so I feel like this would be one heck of a book if done right.

Oh, and someone remind me to add an “armchair publishing” category to my site. Just came to mind for some reason.

So this is like the third post in a row about a movie I haven’t seen yet.

§ August 10th, 2015 § Filed under fantastic four, movie reviews, self-promotion § 11 Comments

Yeah, I know I’m stretching this thing a bit, adding more fuel to the fire on something studios would rather just vanish into thin air. However, it occurred to me over the weekend that perhaps one should have some measure of pity for the poor guy(s) and/or gal(s) in charge of the official Fantastic Four movie Twitter account:

I’m sure they’re not locked away in a secret bunker somewhere, away from all media…they know the film is critically despised and tanking, but they’re still plugging away, hyping the film and trying to generate interest. And, of course, what else would they be doing? Presumably someone’s being paid to run that account…I mean, I’m guessing, I don’t suppose they’d throw some unpaid intern on there. And right now, that’s probably the last place they’d want an unpaid intern.

So, yeah, you’re not going to see “um…hey, everyone, sorry about the film” tweeted on there anytime soon, though that would be amazing. But if this account hasn’t yet, well…. But still, those folks running the Twitter account have a job to do, and they have to do it as best they’re able, because I’m sure the last thing they want is the studio deciding the reason the film flopped was because the Twitter campaign was insufficiently compelling and pointing their big ol’ stogie-wielding movie mogul fingers at them.

The other issue with running a Twitter account for a less-than-popular movie is that, well, on the Internet everyone gets their say. Sometimes it’s erudite and refined educated folks like all of you fine readers perusing my site, and sometimes it’s just straight-up dummies. I wondered aloud about the temptation of whoever’s in charge of the FF account to click the “Notifications” link and see how everyone’s responding to them. Because, boy howdy, are people responding to them, letting them have it with both barrels. You can pretty much just click on any post there and see the parade of haters venting their keyboard rage, for whatever good that’ll do. But I have to tell you, this particular exchange cracked me up:

So there are defenders for the film, too, presuming that they’re not all Fox employees.

There’s beginning to be some backlash to the backlash, suggesting that maybe we’ve gone from “well, that movie didn’t turn out as planned” to just dogpiling on the dopey film because it’s the fun thing to do. And, yeah, okay, it’s a little fun, and a small heaping of deserved scorn onto a studio once in a while helps remind them that maybe there’s some shit we won’t eat. But thanks to the Internet, any creative product with a social media presence gets hit with waves of anger over anything, sometimes deserved, usually not, and it all just blurs together into one bit ol’ mass of “why are we bothering reaching out to the fans again?” Who knows if the FF people are even paying attention to online reaction. I suspect the box office returns are keeping them occupied.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. I think I’ll hold off further comment ’til I actually see the darned thing, rented from Netflix in three or four months. Like I’ve been saying, the look of the film is very appealing, so I’d at least like to enjoy that aspect of it. And if it’s all that bad, I’ll just throw on my Blu-ray of Frank Miller’s The Spirit and wash that taste out.

• • •

As mentioned last week, I am now contributing to the Trouble with Comics group blog, mostly to the weekly roundtable question discussion thingie. This week’s question is regarding the future of the comic book periodical, and I pitch in with my usual overlong, rambling and nonsensical response.

Plus, here is an overview of what’s been going on over there, and boy, those folks have been busy as all get-out. And there’s plenty more to come!

A lot about the Fantastic Four, and a wee bit about Miracleman.

§ August 7th, 2015 § Filed under fantastic four, miraclemarvelman § 5 Comments

In response to yesterday’s post, Earl asked:

“Out of curiosity, regarding Doom, do you have a favorite version of him from the various Marvel animated series?”

And to be honest…aside from my memories of watching a whole lot of the 1960s Spider-man cartoon, and some random installments of various series here and there over the decades, I really wasn’t much of a Marvel cartoon watcher. I have a vague memory of watching some animated version of Doom who spoke with a heavy accent, but I’m not sure what cartoon that may have been from, assuming I didn’t just cook that up myself in this aging brain of mine. The end result is that I don’t really recall enough about any of these cartoons to be able to pick out a fave Doom.

Earl suggested the Dr. Doom from the 1960s Fantastic Four cartoon [EDIT: um, Earl actually said the Doom from the 1970s FF cartoon – oops, my brain apparently needs new batteries], and having taken a brief look at a sample:

…why, he’s adorable! That’s some voice he’s got, so watch enough of the video I linked there to experience it yourself.

Other comments from yesterday: esteemed longtime reader G23 suggests that maybe they should just stop trying to do a live action FF altogether, and while I understand the frustration, I’d hate to not see one at all. Now, I realize a live action FF wouldn’t add anything to the comics, wouldn’t improve the overall state of culture, wouldn’t cure the common cold, etc. and so on, but boy I’d like to see one anyway, and I don’t think it’s so insurmountable a task that it can’t be done. I know it’s fanboyish wishful thinking, but it’s so fundamentally a part of the artform I’ve devoted most of my life to, I’d hate that the world at large wouldn’t get to experience at least some portion as to why we all like the FF so much. In fairness, though there was a lot they didn’t get right, at least those two previous Fantastic Four movies managed to do a good job with Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew. The Thing, as I have noted before, is one of those creations that is so strong on its own that its basic essence can survive even the worst circumstances, though I understand the new film puts even that to the test.

Anyway, I think a good FF film isn’t impossible. It’ll probably just take a little more understanding about what made the original comics work, and a little less fixing it ’til it’s broken.

Another longtime commenter Jer notes that the problem with getting a Dr. Doom that’s like the Dr. Doom in the comics comes down to basic Hollywood blockbuster film-making. Everything’s gotta tie together, that gun in Act One better shoot something in Act Three, an’ all that. The trend — and Jer lists several examples — is that the villain is inextricably tied to the hero’s origin. And, in a way, the Doom of the comics is tied to the heroes…specifically, to his old college roommate Reed Richards, who tried to warn him about his experiments, and, well, you get the picture. But that’s probably not dynamic enough for a Big Moving Talkie, so we get the Doom who’s caught in the same accident as the rest of the FF and thus also gets superpowers.

Now arguably, one could say that there’s no such connection between the film versions of Superman and Lex Luthor, or between Nolan’s version of Batman and the Joker. But even without an origin/plot connection, there’s a thematic connection: brain versus brawn, order versus chaos. I suppose Reed Vs. Doom could be “science for good vs. science for evil,” but that’s not quite as basic a thematic struggle on which to hang your superhero movie, I guess.

At any rate, we’re probably some ways away from the next attempt at the World’s Greatest Comics Magazine That Hasn’t Quite Managed A Great Movie Yet, but I hear tell the final battle in the new film actually approaches the FF we know. Maybe, on the very slim chance the planned sequel actually happens, we can get past this rough set-up and get down to the business of punching Galactus and tangling with the Impossible Man, as God, and Stan and Jack, intended.

• • •

In other news, someone asked Neil Gaiman on the Twitterers how many new issues he and Mark Buckingham were going to produce to wrap up his Miracleman story, and the answer was “about nine.” The reprints for the previously-issued Gaiman and Buckingham comics are about to start up, so we’re that much closer to seeing some decades-old plot threads finally getting resolved. Barring any more production errors, of course.

What if the surprise villain in the new Fantastic Four movie is just a completely faithful adaptation of the Impossible Man?

§ January 28th, 2015 § Filed under fantastic four, retailing § 12 Comments

So I put it in my Twitter feed, I put on my store’s website, I put it on the store’s Facebook page, so what the heck, let’s put it here, too:

My first response upon cracking open the case of these Dancing Groots was “oh no, they have ‘try me’ buttons” which means I can expect to hear these every single day for what little remains of the rest of my life. And then the thought occurred to me “I wonder what it would sound like if I pressed all of the buttons at more or less the same time,” quickly followed by the idea that I should take a video of it and share it in all the places listed previously. And thus, there it is…the Camarillo Local Groots Choir, performing just for you.

In other news, there’s buzz about for the new Fantastic Four trailer, mostly because we’ve been hearing terrible things about changes made to the concept that strayed perhaps too far from its comic book origins, and this is our first look at what the filmmakers were actually doing. And…well, it at least seems like it will look nice. Some have noted that the trailer seems a mite too serious for something that’s called the “Fantastic Four,” but the more somber tone does differentiate itself from the previous FF movies. Plus, it now looks like a highbrow sci-fi movie rather than just another superhero film, which I find a bit more interesting, and perhaps more in line with the actual origins of the comics. Well, okay, maybe not the “highbrow” part, but you know what I mean.

As for the reported changes in the FF’s origin….I don’t know, I think so long as we end up with something approximating the characters and relationships we know from the comics, it almost doesn’t matter how they start out. It’s almost enough that the receive their abilities from scientific misadventure, which is close enough. (And most people going to see the movie won’t notice or care that the origin’s been fiddled with.) At any rate, the trailer did its job: it’s piqued my interest in a film I was somewhat indifferent/mildly negative about. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to someday have an actual Doctor Doom in a Fantastic Four film who was Reed’s college roommate who blew up his own face in a failed experiment and later got armor from monks, but there’s always the next reboot in, like, four or five years from now.

The Arkham House of Ideas.

§ October 15th, 2012 § Filed under fantastic four § 19 Comments

So the other day I was goofing around on the Twitter, as one tends to do there, and decided, in the wake of the announcement of the forthcoming Superior Spider-Man title, decided to adjectivize some typical Marvel titles myself by way of classic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft:

I think that was probably the best one, though I came up with a couple of others which were okay, I guess. I do have a fondness for The Ichorous Hulk, I must admit. (Also, my name is briefly changed to “Mike Ghostling” because it’s a Twitter Halloween thing. What can I tell you.)

As I was thinking about this diversion over the next day or so, I realized that I quit before getting around to the Fantastic Four, which could only be “The Phantasmagorical Four,” so obvious a name that I’m certain I’m stealing it from some read-but-now-unremembered comic. But it also got me to thinking that one of the elements associated with Lovecraft’s horror stories is that the very thing that is horrible is hidden, or indescribable, or otherwise obscured from full understanding or comprehension.

Anyway, this is what I cooked up:

Professor Richards leaned forward at his desk, studying intently the papers laid out before him. After a few minutes of this quiet contemplation, he sat up, his wooden chair creaking at the movement. He looked over his shoulder at me, as if just now remembering that he had an assistant, one that had been waiting patiently for the good professor to finally turn his attentions to him. “My apologies,” Richards said, though his tone did not sound apologetic at all. “I am currently attempting to unwrap a particular historical puzzle, and have need of my volume of Egyptology.”

I inferred from this statement that he intended for me to fetch this book for him. Though I have spent little time in Richards’ personal study, I had no trouble spotting it amongst the many shelves burdened with books of science and history, both well-studied and obscure. It was a thick tome, discolored by age and resting on a shelf just barely out of my reach. I turned away from the professor to find the stepping stool or ladder that he must have somewhere nearby to facilitate the retrieval of books stored at such an inconvenient height. However, oddly enough I found none immediately evident, but my curiosity regarding this discovery was interrupted by….

What could I call it? A sense? A “feeling,” like the sort one would have when another person is peering intently at you, and you know for certain that you are being so rudely stared at even without directly confirming it yourself. This, however, was not the weight of another’s intense observation I felt upon me. This was the feeling that something was behind me, not approaching me, but passing by, twisting and serpentine, splitting through the air with haste. I saw nothing of what it was, frozen briefly by the sensation, staring blankly at a crowded row of books only a foot or two away. I heard nothing, save for what sounded for all the world like the hard cover of a book briefly scraping along a high and distant shelf.

Just as suddenly as the feeling had come upon me, it was gone; and, the spell broken, I spun around to try to determine what had just occurred unseen behind my back while I had vainly looked for a ladder that wasn’t there. Professor Richards was still seated in his chair, as if he’d never left it, and it creaked again lightly now as he once more leaned forward over his desk. It was not to study his papers, I saw to my surprise, but rather to read the book of Egyptology, the very one that had been sitting on the shelf moments before. I thought perhaps it was simply a twin of the volume, maybe one that Richards had stored in a desk drawer and removed unheard, but a quick glance upward revealed that the book that was once there, was no longer.

I tried to form the words, to ask the professor how he had done it, but as I was even drawing the breath to speak, Richards turned away from his studies only long enough for a terse “That will be all.” I found my need to question wither away, replaced by a relief at having reason to depart.

Yeah, I know, not enough ten dollar words to truly emulate Mr. Lovecraft, but you get the idea. I also had an idea for Johnny Storm, the Human Torch:

As I approached the door of Master Storm’s room, I felt the chill of the house alleviate somewhat, which I naturally attributed to a roaring fireplace or a radiator. I rapped my knuckles on the wooden door, and even that brief contact related the warmth of the room beyond. A cheerful welcome was called out to me by young Jonathan, bidding me to enter, so I grasped the door’s handle…and found it hot to the touch. Not so heated as to cause injury, but certainly enough to take notice at how unusually hot it was. Irrationally, I feared for Storm’s life, though I had heard his voice, unafflicted by fear or pain, only seconds before. I quickly twisted the handle and pushed open the door, expecting…gouts of flame, perhaps?

Inside, however, was not a raging conflagration; there was simply Master Storm, reclining on his sofa, obviously in no distress as all. I cast my gaze about the room, seeing no radiator, finding the fireplace unlit and unstoked, apparently for quite some time. Even the lamps were dimmed and barely provided enough illumination for the space in which I found myself. I found no source for the warmth I could still feel beating against me, except from the devilish grin upon Storm’s countenance, taking untoward amusement in my bafflement.

I didn’t really come up with a scenario for Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman, beyond perhaps she’d be invisible all the time, a ghostly presence always near Professor Richards, leaving some clues to her existence for visitors to pick up on, but never enough to really pin anything down. Or maybe she’d be visible on occasion:

I’d turned away only for a moment, but when I turned back, there was Mrs. Richards, who had seemingly materialized out of nothingness as far as I was concerned. Even with my back to the professor, the one entry to the study was still within my eyesight, and I am of absolute certainty no one had entered.

And of course, there’s Ben Grimm…the Thing. The most inhuman-seeming of the quartet, with his monstrous appearance but, it should be noted, containing a giant heart inside. But since I’m low-rent Lovecrafting it up in here, let’s focus on the monster part. Of course, no one would ever get a clear look at him…he obviously would be kept under wraps by Richards in his family home, hidden away in a cellar or something, only let out when need arises. And the poor bastards that had to face the unknowable terror of the Thing…well, imagine a gibbering Paste Pot Pete, driven into madness having come face-to-face with Richards’ most horrifying secret weapon:

“The rocks that moved…the cracking…that rumbling laugh…those eyes, those piercing, soulless blue eyes blazing from the crevices…!”


“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons
It’s clobberin’ time.”

What is even going on in #6.

§ October 9th, 2005 § Filed under fantastic four Comments Off on What is even going on in #6.

And now, for no good reason whatsoever, and with the welcome assistance of pal Dorian, brings you…


10. “Unleashing the Doombots”

9. “Ruling the kingdom with an iron fist”

8. “Extending the power of Doom”

7. “Mastering the diabolical”

6. “Allying with the Sub-Mariner”

5. “Demanding total, blind obedience”

4. “Incurring the wrath of Doom”

3. “Penetrating the invisible force field”

2. “Paying for this effrontery a thousandfold”

And Doctor Doom’s number one euphemism for sex:

1. “Besting the accursed Richards”
Updated 4/2017