Superman: The Man of Steel Volume One (2020)
Reprints The Man of Steel #1-6, Superman #1-4, Adventures of Superman #424-428, Action Comics #584-587
Written by John Byrne and Marv Wolfman
Art by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Terry Austin, and Dick Giordano
Crisis on Infinite Earths was both a special event to celebrate 50 years of DC Comics and a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. One of those characters given a fresh coat of paint was Superman, the company’s flagship star. This wasn’t the first attempt to reboot the superhero; he’d been through several soft reboots since his creation. From a visual perspective, you can see how Superman’s costume has evolved but so too have his powers, supporting cast, villains, and backstory. To make everything more cohesive and move the character out of his Silver Age tropes, DC brought on comics superstar John Byrne who had made a significant name for himself at Marvel with work on X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Alpha Flight. The changes Byrne implemented wouldn’t last forever, but eventually, they would become part of the mishmash of ideas that keeps the character going.
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I am surprised how little I could find about the creation of Amazing Stories on the internet. It wasn’t the most popular television series, running for two years, from 1985 to 1987, and doesn’t often come into conversations about 1980s pop culture. Having rewatched many of the episodes now, it feels like an imperfect but completely perfect encapsulation of how the Spielbergian 1980s felt. I noticed that story credits often go to the filmmaker, who was a co-creator, producer, and sometimes directed episodes. You can feel his influence on American films at the time, with each episode centered on a sense of wonder and often humor. Unlike the later Tales from the Crypt, which had its own stable of 1980s directors in producer roles, the stories here are very in line with E.T. or The Goonies’ tone.
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Written & Directed by Lee Isaac Chung
I personally find the American Dream to be a complete fantasy, and it basically always was. This fantasy of bootstrap independence leading to wealth & success is a myth. People achieve wealth in the United States on the backs of workers who toil for very little. Now, this is what our culture labels as “success,” but I would that most of us know that the acquisition of money, while definitely alleviating stress tied to providing for our families, crosses a line at some point into exploitation. I would like to define success as creating a life collectively with family and friends. But for so many native-born people and immigrants, the allure of that capitalist myth is so strong they get lost in it and become consumed.
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Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
Written by Julie Brown, Charlie Coffey, and Terrence E. McNally
Directed by Terrence E. McNally
When I was a kid, this film, in its edited for television version, seemed to play often on one of the local channels, which pretty much bought and played anything they could find to fill airtime. My memories are incredibly spotty, and I remember images of the furry aliens and their transformation into resembling people. I haven’t revisited it since those years, now; as an adult, I figured it could be a part of this series, and I was interested to see what I would get from it now. With 1980s nostalgia being at its peak in the last few years, you would think a movie like this would get more attention, but it still remains a very obscure picture, or at least not brought up in discussion in the internet corners I frequent.
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Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Written by Ed Naha, Tom Schulman, Stuart Gordon, and Brian Yuzna
Directed by Joe Johnston
There are some movies from my childhood where I wonder if they were as big a deal to the rest of the world as they seemed to me at the time. So often, a lot of movies turn out to be a thing your family owned a copy of, so you watched and rewatched it. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was actually as big as I remember it as. Its box office returns are the equivalent of $457 million in today’s money. Pretty good for a movie that cost only $18 million to make. It was the directorial debut of Lucasfilm special effects artist Joe Johnston, and it was at the height of Rick Moranis’s career.
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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and David Callaham
Directed by Patty Jenkins
I can’t say I was excited to watch Wonder Woman 1984. The first film was fine, but all of Warner’s attempts to build their superhero universe since Man of Steel have just not been my style. Shazam was pretty okay, but as a whole, the DCEU, or whatever they call it, is dull & boring. I won’t waste your time if you are here to see me get to the point, but I was bored for most of Wonder Woman 1984 and just didn’t really like it. I am definitely a DC Comics fan, but the films don’t capture what it is I love about these characters in any way. They are a flat, soulless trudge through two hours.
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New Teen Titans Omnibus Volume 5 (2020)
Reprints New Teen Titans v2 #32-49, New Teen Titans Annual #3 & 4, Tales of the Teen Titans #91, Infinity Inc. #45, Secret Origins #13, Secret Origins Annual #3
Written by Marv Wolfman (with Dan Mishkin, Roy Thomas, RJM L’Officer, and Paul Levitz
Art by Eduardo Barretto, Erik Larsen, Michael Collins, Romeo Tanghal, Kelley Jones, Colleen Doran, Ty Templeton, and Paris Cullins
And so we reach the end of the road. New Teen Titans would end with issue 49, becoming New Titans with number 50. It was decided the characters had grown beyond being kids, and Marv Wolfman apparently wanted to tell more adult stories with them. The Nightwing/Starfire relationship with images of them in bed together unclothed already hinted that we were dealing with legal adults. Then Donna Troy’s marriage to Terry Long was also a significant signal that the “teen” days were coming to an end. Wally West had become The Flash with the closing of Crisis, and so it was that this generation joined their adult counterparts as peers now, not just sidekicks. That doesn’t mean these are good comics though, in fact, I think we got to some of the worst stories Wolfman ever wrote on this series.
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A Christmas Story (1983)
Written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark
Directed by Bob Clark
A Christmas Story is a great little holiday comedy about childhood but also one of the most disgustingly overhyped pieces of Americana in recent years. The TBS 24-hour marathon of the film definitely didn’t help things and has honestly led to the oversaturation of the picture. It’s a look back at the Depression Era Midwest and dramatizes Jean Shepherd’s memories of his childhood. The film is done in a series of vignettes that make it easy to consume by casual viewers or kids whose attention spans might wan after too long. But it definitely doesn’t deserve as much licensed merchandise or a Broadway musical based on the picture.
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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Written by John Hughes
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
This might be my favorite Christmas movie of all time, but it might not. I have watched Christmas Vacation probably over two dozen times, and while I was a child and teenager, I loved the film, my views have become more complicated as an adult. I still think it is hilariously funny, a perfect ending to John Hughes’s tenure on the series. They tried to keep squeezing gold out of the series in later films, which were embarrassingly terrible. I’ve noticed in recent viewings that Christmas Vacation is a total mess, not sure if it wants to be sentimental or cynical about the holiday.
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An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Written & Directed by John Landis
I don’t think I have ever been able to put my thumb on John Landis. He is such an enigma of a director to me. He makes fantastic comedies like The Blues Brothers, The Three Amigos, and Coming to America in the 1980s. In the 1990s, he churned out crud like The Stupids, Blues Brothers 2000, and stopped directing films in 2010. I would never say he’s my favorite director, but I don’t hate his work as a whole either. It just wholly stumps me when I think about his career building potential in one decade only to ultimately flounder in another. Right in the middle of his seemingly impervious series of hits came this horror-comedy that is much more horror, in my opinion, An American Werewolf in London.
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