Movie Review – Popeye

Popeye (1980)
Written by Jules Feiffer, Songs by Harry Nilsson
Directed by Robert Altman

The making of Popeye began with a bidding war for the film rights to the Broadway stage adaptation of Little Orphan Annie. When producer Robert Evans found out Paramount had lost the bid to Columbia Pictures, he held an executive meeting about what comic properties they owned that could replace Annie. One person chimed in “Popeye,” and so it was decided they would make a movie musical based on the spinach-eating sailor man. The original concept was to cast Dustin Hoffman as Popeye and Lily Tomlin as Olive Oyl, but that fell through. At one point, even Gilda Radner was considered for Olive. However, when things finally settled and production began, we ended up with a picture that Paramount wasn’t too happy with, but that has become a cult classic.

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Movie Review – Darkman

Darkman (1990)
Written by Sam Raimi, Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi, Daniel Goldin, and Joshua Goldin
Directed by Sam Raimi

What do you do when you want to make a superhero movie, but you don’t have the rights to any superheroes? Well, you invent your own. That’s what filmmaker Sam Raimi did as he embarked on making his first Hollywood studio feature. Originally, Raimi wanted to make a movie about Batman or The Shadow; however those characters were already in development with other directors at the time. Raimi managed to combine the shadow mystery men of comic books’ Golden Age with the brooding angst of classic Universal monsters to bring audiences Darkman.

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Comic Book Review – Miracleman: The Golden Age & The Silver Age

Miracleman: The Golden Age w/The Silver Age
Reprints Miracleman #17-22, extra material from #23-24
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Mark Buckingham

Alan Moore’s departure from Miracleman did not mean the end of the character. Instead, Moore personally handed the reins over to Neil Gaiman. This was 1990, and by that time, Gaiman was growing in prominence with The Sandman title for DC Comics. This was not the height of Gaiman’s fame but definitely at the moment where he became one of the premier writers in the genre. Gaiman set out with big plans for the Miracleman title, a trilogy of six-issue volumes that would explore the utopian world Moore set up. However, Eclipse, the company that published Miracleman was struggling in the direct market distribution model, publishing exclusively for comic book/hobby shops. This was to be an unfinished magnum opus, ending on a cliffhanger.

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Comic Book Review – Miracleman Volume 3

Miracleman Volume 3: Olympus
Reprints Miracleman #11-16, Annual 1
Written by Alan Moore
Art by John Totleben

After the first six issues of Miracleman published in the United States by Eclipse, they got Alan Moore to return to continue the story. This was happening right as Moore was breaking out as the writer on the critically beloved Swamp Thing and Watchmen. Because so much time had passed between the events of the original UK Marvelman short comics and these reprints, the writer decided to use a framing device, jumping a few years ahead. Now Miracleman is reflecting on what happened while flying through a palatial tower. The reader would immediately wonder where he is and what led to this place, creating an evocative narrative hook.

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Comic Book Review – Miracleman Volume 2: The Red King Syndrome

Miracleman: The Red King Syndrome
Reprints Miracleman #5-10
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Alan Davis and Chuck Beckham

In 2012, researchers at the University of Cambridge did a survey of the British people about their beliefs in conspiracy theories. It was found that 60% of Britons believe at least one conspiracy theory. Some of those theories accepted by residents of the U.K. include the government hiding the exact immigration numbers in the country, a plot to make Muslims the political majority in the kingdom, and most telling, that while they are told their country is a democracy, everything is run by a power elite. (The Guardian UK). These theories about the actual workings of the world have percolated in Western cultures for centuries, but it was the 1980s and 90s where they came to full fruition, able to guide the momentum of elections and referendums. In this second volume of Miracleman, Alan Moore fleshes out a conspiracy related to the rulers of the world that speaks to some more significant metaphysical points.

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Comic Book Review – Miracleman Volume 1: A Dream of Flying

Miracleman Volume 1: A Dream of Flying
Reprints Miracleman #1-4
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Garry Leach and Alan Davis

Your first question may likely be, “Who is Miracleman?” Well, you start with Fawcett Comics and their flagship character Captain Marvel. You know him today as Shazam. Captain Marvel was more popular than Superman at one point in the 1940s. Elvis Presley’s hairstyle is based on Cap’s sidekick, Captain Marvel Jr. In 1951, DC eventually sued Fawcett claiming that Cap was too similar to Superman and thus a copyright violation. The courts ruled in favor of DC and Fawcett ceased publication of Captain Marvel. Years later, DC would buy the now failed Fawcett Comics and fold Cap into their properties.

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Comic Book Review – Black Hammer Volume 4: Age of Doom Part 2

Black Hammer Volume 4: The Age of Doom Part 2 (2019)
Reprints Black Hammer: The Age of Doom #7-12
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart

What makes someone a hero? A colorful costume? A suite of superpowers? A catchy name? Jeff Lemire brings us a story about the ultimate sacrifice to give up your life and hopes to save the rest of reality. He plays with the metafiction of writing superhero comics, revealing a world where ideas never came to fruition. The continuity reboot also gets examined as we see what happens when our heroes forget who they were and have to rediscover their heroic identities.

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Comic Book Review – The Quantum Age

The Quantum Age (2019)
Reprints The Quantum Age #1-6
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Wilfredo Torres

In the tradition of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes, Jeff Lemire jumps 125 years into the future of Spiral City to introduce the Quantum League. And just like the core series of this line, things are not what we expect. Once there were bright, youthful heroes operating in the tradition of their 21st-century idols. Now a totalitarian regime has taken over the city. This stems from a conflict with the Martians years earlier. This story also ties into the overall narrative happening in Black Hammer in ways that will surprise longtime readers.

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Comic Book Review – Black Hammer Volume 3: Age of Doom Part 1

Black Hammer Volume 3: Age of Doom Part 1
Reprints Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1-6
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston

Black Hammer has always been a series that felt like it had an end date. You could only keep the premise going for so long before the readers needed some resolution. Thankfully, Jeff Lemire understood that and brought us a 12 issue mini-series that provides a definitive ending to the story of these characters. The World of Black Hammer is still a wide-open place to explore. But for now, we focus on the story of Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbalien, Colonel Weird, Talkie Walkie, Madame Dragonfly, and Lucy Weber.

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Comic Book Review – Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Max Fiumara

This kicks off a marathon of reviews for Jeff Lemire’s World of Black Hammer comics over at Dark Horse. I started reading the series three years ago and like to revisit it every so often. This particular comic is profoundly inspired by James Robinson’s Starman comic that was published during the 1990s/early 2000s. The main character, actually named Dr. James Robinson, was a Golden Age hero of Spiral City. He constructed a device that allowed him to harness the power of distant stars and set off on a lucrative career fighting alongside his contemporaries.

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