Entertainment Round-Up: Margot Robbie, James Gunn, Telltale Games, Pee-Wee comes to Netflix

james gunn

There’s snow on the ground here in Atlanta, and I can’t wait for Spring to finally arrive. Seriously.

Here are the big updates for this morning:

– This is not a big surprise, given that probably every actor that signs up for a superhero film these days has a multi-picture contract, but Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie has confirmed that she has one too. Get used to seeing lots of Harley Quinn in future DC movies, provide all goes well for the studio.

– Making the rounds yesterday was James Gunn‘s Facebook post regarding the awards-season/Birdman-birthed narrative that superhero movies are the death-knell of creativity in Hollywood, it’s pretty wonderful:

Whatever the case, the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. I’ve already won more awards than I ever expected for Guardians. What bothers me slightly is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films.

I’ve made B-movies, independent films, children’s movies, horror films, and gigantic spectacles. I find there are plenty of people everywhere making movies for a buck or to feed their own vanity. And then there are people who do what they do because they love story-telling, they love cinema, and they want to add back to the world some of the same magic they’ve taken from the works of others. In all honesty, I do no find a strikingly different percentage of those with integrity and those without working within any of these fields of film.

If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we’re dumb. But if you, as an independent filmmaker or a “serious” filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.

At this point, I have a hard time imagining that a comic-book based superhero film will ever win a live-action Best Picture Oscar (if The Dark Knight couldn’t even be nominated), but does it actually matter? Not really. Let’s just continue to hope for more Avengers, Dark Knights, Winter Soldiers and films with a nice personal stamp on them and less of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 variety.

– Telltale Games has, over the the past few years, sparked a revival of the adventure game genre with comics-based titles like The Walking Dead and Fables (along with Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands). Today, Lionsgate Films and Telltale announced the former’s investment into the burgeoning game developer. What does it mean for Telltales’ output? We may see some television and video game co-development soon, particularly in terms of an original property. At the very least more Lionsgate properties will surely be headed into the development cycle.

– Former Bat-Mite voice actor Paul Reubens is bringing his famous Pee-Wee Herman character back to television, as Netflix has announced that the feature, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, will be coming to the streaming service. The new film is co-written by Reubens and Paul Rust (Comedy Bang Bang), with John Lee (Inside Amy Schumer) directing. Judd Apatow will produce under his Apatow Productions banner.

Once again, it’s time for the “nerd categories” of the Oscar nominations

Feast was one of the short animated features nominated today.

There’s quite a bit of discussion today regarding today’s Oscar nominations (I remain very sad for Ava DuVernay’s snub in the Best Director category), but let’s talk about the stuff that’s collectively of greater interest to the readership of The Beat, because there’s great work to celebrate there too!

Here are the nominations that include films that are based on comics, or have some kind of comics/cartooning based slant:

Best Visual Effects
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”
This seems like a shoe-in for Interstellar, though the work done on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell was pretty stunning in its own right.
Best Animated Feature Film
“Big Hero 6″
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2″
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

The lack of a nod for The Lego Movie is surprising given the critical and popular acclaim, but if I had to bet money on one, it’d be The Tale of Princess Kaguya. But, Big Hero 6 may surprise here, given that it was a huge hit and perhaps may have engendered more screener viewings from members of the Academy.

Best Short Film (Animated)
“The Bigger Picture”
“The Dam Keeper”
“Me and My Moulton”
“A Single Life”

And regarding this category, it’s sadly one of my big blind spots. Feast, being under the Disney brand, seems a likely choice as any.

Time to get your betting pools together, the 2015 Academy Awards will be held on February 22nd.

CineFix and Guardians of the Galaxy Make A Retro Gaming Love Letter

By David Nieves

CineFix has given the 8-bit treatment to some of the most beloved things in pop culture ranging from A Christmas Story to Ninja Turtles. Today they posted a new Guardians of the Galaxy treatment with retro game music and all. Is it possible to demand something be made through crowd funding?  Take a look


Bendis and Humphries delve into Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: The Black Vortex

Cover for Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Alpha #1

Cover for Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Alpha #1

Hitting stores next month is Marvel’s latest cross-over between the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy: “The Black Vortex”, just 12 months after 2014’s “Trial of Jean Grey” which brought together these two Brian Bendis written teams for the first time.  For this event, Bendis is following the lead of Sam Humphries, writer of The Legendary Star-Lord, who is the “showrunner” for this event which sees the two teams cross paths thanks to a powerful artifact (the entitled Black Vortex). This event, which begins in an Alpha issue written by Humphries, then spreads to titles like All New X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Legendary Star-Lord, Nova, Captain Marvel, Cyclops and other series. Both creators joined the comics press today on a call to discuss the upcoming event, how it impacts each team going forward, and to elaborate on just how central the new-found relationship between Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde is within the pages of the event.


Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Alpha #1 Interior Art by Ed McGuinness

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Alpha #1 Variant, Art by Alexander Lozano

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Alpha #1 Variant, Art by Alexander Lozano

“The Black Vortex” was born out of the regular Marvel retreats that occur among its key writers and editors, says Humphries: “This grew bigger and more exciting as we shared it with our colleagues at retreats and in Editorial…It became clear that this was an event-caliber story.” The writer stated that it was his hope to challenge the Guardians, the current “it” property at Marvel, on a level on which they hadn’t yet been. The Black Vortex, as an object, has been appearing in Humphries’ run on The Legendary Star-Lord, but expressed that this escalation called for a number of great writers to work on the concept and that scribes like Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Gerry Duggan all stated their desire to be involved in the project, and that they each had their own unique take on the concept for their given titles. Humphries also mentioned that there are big Captain Marvel and Nova moments in the story, the latter hitting a rather funny note for the character.

Bendis also made mention of the artistic talent involved, from Ed McGuinness (who is the artist on Black Vortex Alpha #1) to All-New X-Men artist Andrea Sorrentino, who is freshly joining Marvel after an incredible stint on Green Arrow. Bendis says the cosmic landscape is what really drew them in: “The artists are given the freedom within the story to express themselves. This gave us an opportunity to give quite a handful of artists who were itching for their chance to let go cosmically their chance.”

And speaking specifically about Sorrentino, Bendis shared:

You just write your ass off and then you just let him do what he’s going to do because it’s almost indescribable what he does. You just get out of his way and let it happen…it’s so exciting when the pages come in. Every artist in the group is like that. When you go into an event – even when it’s an artist you’ve worked with – there’s something about how an artist will take the opportunity to draw bigger. After an intimate storyline, they feel when they’re drawing an event.

On the subject on Sorrentino, Bendis also stated that he and the artist already have their next project lined up and compared working with the artist to his acclaimed runs with Alex Maleev, David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz.

All New X-Men #38 Interior Art by Andrea Sorrentino

All New X-Men #38 Interior Art by Andrea Sorrentino

The concept behind The Black Vortex itself is that when characters come into contact with it, they become cosmically empowered, in much the same way that Jean Grey became empowered by the Phoenix Force, and Norrin Radd obtained the Power Cosmic. With certain characters obtaining this power, they also were given new designs by McGuinness, speaking on that topic, Humphries said:

I’m convinced that Ed McGuinness found the Black Vortex when he was a teenager, and that’s why he’s such an amazing artist…He didn’t just come back with new costumes. He came back with new character twists and new powers…what he delivered was so compelling and intriguing that I ended up rewriting part of the outline to give it more focus…you want to get more in their mindset and see what kind of havoc they’re going to wreak on the cosmic landscape.

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Alpha #1 Interior Art by Ed McGuinness

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Alpha #1 Interior Art by Ed McGuinness

The impetus of the story, according to Humphries, is that Peter Quill’s father (Mr. Knife aka J’Son of Spartax), has been amassing a number of cosmic forces, and seeing himself as an “empire builder”. As a consequence of that, Quill, and his new love interest Kitty Pryde, are drawn into the power of the mysterious title object and call upon the X-Men for help. On this note Bendis said:

I don’t know if it’s the Claremont influence…but the X-Men every so often have to take an adventure that goes beyond their typical scope. But for a return trip, I didn’t want to do a “Trial of Jean Grey” sequel. I wanted to do something new if we were going to go back out there

Bendis stated that he wanted to be part of a story that had a big impact on the characters and both he and Humphries assured that not all the players in this event would land back in the place they started. Bendis particularly singled out one X-Man:

Hank McCoy is one of these characters that struggles with being the smartest man in the room, and this is a perfect example of a character that will altered because of his experience with the Black Vortex, this is something that will change the character dramatically.

Bendis also added that McCoy would obtain knowledge of a cosmic and universal nature.

According to the writers, “The Black Vortex” also leads right into Secret Wars, indicating that perhaps even bigger changes are on the horizon for Marvel’s heroes.

At this point, press questions were asked, the first among them being how the relationship between Kitty Pryde and Peter Quill affected the story given the positive reaction from fans, to which Bendis responded:

It doesn’t alter what we do with it. We have to tell the stories that the characters dictate to us, but when there’s a response like this it makes me happy…when you write relationship stuff, you’re revealing things about yourself in there…and when you put your ass out there a little bit, you want people to respond favorably to it and not go ‘Eww!’ That inspires us to go forward, but I don’t think we’d stop if we weren’t getting this response.

On whether the younger “All-New X-Men” will have a different reaction to the Black Vortex than their older counterparts, Bendis replied:

Jean Grey damn well knows what happens to her when she grows up. She knows EVERYTHING. But others are on a path – like Beast – of desperately looking for knowledge and power. And just because this power is offered, it doesn’t mean every character will have a horrible price to pay. Some will get a power up. So the X-Men are coming at it young and raw…there are also other characters, like Angel, who has his own experience with a dark power.

Guardians of the Galaxy 24 Interior Art by Valerio Schiti

Guardians of the Galaxy 24 Interior Art by Valerio Schiti

The heavy Jim Starlin influence of McGuinness’ redesigns was brought up, to which Humphries responded that the artist was great fit for the task from the get-go and that McGuinness “knows the history of the cosmic stuff, and while that wasn’t something they specifically through at him (the Starlin-like look)…you could see the electricity jumping off those designs”.

Bendis also drew a very strong connection between both teams when asked about the challenges of bringing the two teams together:

There’s a connection of spirit there. They’re oddballs. Even the Guardians are the oddballs of the universe…these characters see themselves as outsiders looking in and unique. Sometimes it’s great to be unique, and sometimes it’s f***ing depressing to be unique.

He also admitted that getting the X-Men into space and on the same playground as the Guardians was the toughest task by far.

Finally the topic of possible mainstream response to their work was broached, particularly given the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy film this past year. Humphries said that he’s encountered readers who came to his work via the film, as well as the Rocket Raccoon and Guardians title, and that they liked “what they saw in the movie and they were ecstatic to find more that they could read without having to wait for the sequel.”

And Bendis was quick to mention that fans realize that the only place you’ll currently see the Guardians and X-Men cross-over is in the comics, and that adds an exciting element to what “The Black Vortex” offers, particularly for new readers and that it’s “exciting and an honor to be delivering that to readers who want it”.

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Alpha #1 releases on February 4th.

The below designs are all created by Ed McGuinness


Cosmically Enhanced Drax Design


Cosmically Enhanced Ronan Design


Cosmically Enhanced Beast Design


Cosmically Enhanced Gamora Design


Cosmically Enhanced Drax Design Close-Up


Cosmically Enhanced Nova

Cosmically Enhanced Nova Design




Guardians of the Galaxy gets Best Adapted Screenplay nod from WGA

gotg.jpgWell, this is a shock. The script by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman for Guardians of the Galaxy has been nominated for the very prestigious Writer’s Guid of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Superhero movies very rarely get award nominations outside of tech categories. so this is quite a kudo for a movie that the much oversued descriptibe “much-loved” definitely applies.

The WGA awards are seen as an Oscar preview although they are honored in their own right.

Other nominations in the category include American Sniper, Gone Girl, The Imitaion Game and Wild. In the Best SCreenplay category the nominatiosn were Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler and Whiplash.

The screenplay was not without a bit of controversy as Perlman’s contributions—an early draft in DIsney’s screenwriting program—were mostly overshadowed by Gunn, who, to be fair, has his stamp all ver the movie.

Gift Guide: Guardians of the Galaxy


By Matthew Jent

If you are a human and alive, you know someone who loved Guardians of the Galaxy this year. Odds are high you have a Guardians fan somewhere on your holiday shopping list, too. Whether they’re long-time comics fans or they’re new to space opera, here’s some gift ideas for cosmic Marvel fans of any level.

The Basics

01 GotG cover

Guardians of the Galaxy 3D Blu-Ray + Blu-Ray + Digital copy. The film, just as you saw it in theaters. There’s two discs, but not a lot of bells and whistles — concept art, commentary by director James Gunn, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and all the other stuff you might look up on YouTube one day but never actually watch on your blu-ray. But still — Chris Pratt!

02 Awesome Mix Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1. A real compact disc of the fake mix tape from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy. All of the songs you might have listened to secretly/ironically before they were featured in the year’s biggest hit movie. If the person you are shopping for can find an operational cd player, they will love this mix. If they live in the actual present, it exists as a digital download.

03 GotG comicsGuardians of the Galaxy: The Complete Collection, vol. 1 by Abnett, Lanning, & friends, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers by Bendis, McNiven & Pichelli. Oh, hey! Comics! There isn’t really a collection that the movie is based on, but these are the most recognizable to a Guardians fan who knows the team from the movie. The Abnett/Lanning Complete Collection collects issues 1-12 of the 2008 relaunch that introduced the new team to the Marvel Universe, bringing Star-Lord, Rocket Racoon, and Drax to the fold. The Bendis-penned Cosmic Avengers collection was released this summer and collects the Marvel Now! relaunch and also features Iron Man as a member of the team. There’s a relatively large amount of GotG collections out there, but these are two versions that look closest to the team on the movie screen.

Intermediate Studies

04 GuantletInfinity Gauntlet Omnibus. Not a Guardians title, but this is the cosmic Marvel event by which all others are compared. Thanos, infinity gems, Avengers, Drax, Silver Sufer, Jim Starlin, George Perez — this one’s got it all, true believer. The omnibus is the motherlode collection, collecting the complete Infinity Gauntlet 1-6, the prequel series Thanos Quest, a good dozen Silver Surfer tie-in issues, and an assortment of other crossover titles. You can also find more economical collections of the Infinity Gauntlet series itself, as well the not-quite-a-sequel collection, Infinity Gauntlet: The Aftermath.



http://marveltoynews.com/ has a LOT more Marvel toy gift ideas.

Funco POP! Groot or Rocket Racoon. Star-Lord and Gamora and Drax are nice and all, but obviously it’s Groot and Rocket that you’d want to put on your desk at work. There’s an obviously preferable dancing Groot bobblehead available for pre-order, but if you need something under the tree for Christmas morning, all you have to do is decide between tree or raccoon.

06 LEGO MilanoLego Milano Spaceship Rescue. The only thing I like more than building Ikea furniture is building Lego spaceships. Maybe I like the sound and feel of plastic pieces snapping together? Maybe I just like to follow directions? Either way, the blue & gold spaceship design is neat, and there are 5 minifigures in the box, including Gamora. You’ll have to look to other sets for your Lego Groot/Rocket fix, but if you gift only one Lego Guardians set this year — this is the one.


A Doctorate in Galactic Guardians.

 07 valentino

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy by Jim Valentino, Vol. 1. Your mileage will vary, but these are the Guardians I remember. Tomorrow’s Avengers includes the team’s earliest 1960s & 70s appearances, back when the Badoon had taken over the Earth. Valentino, Vol. 1 collects issues 1-7 of the 1990s series by Jim Valentino, chronicling the team’s search for Captain America’s lost shield. It has a time travel, a lady with fire-hair, and a peek into the Marvel Universe of a thousand years from now. I can’t really separate the contents of these books from the nostalgia-filter I see them through, but the Valentino series was from the last wave of Marvel books before the great migration to Image. Yondu aside, there’s not much to link them to the movie — but if you’re buying for someone who likes cosmic superhero adventure stories, you can’t go wrong.

08 StarLordStar-Lord: Guardian of the Galaxy and Rocket Racoon and Groot: The Complete Collection. The title of the movie is Guardians of the Galaxy, but the characters onscreen are a consortium of 1970s/80s characters created and fleshed out by folks like Steve Englehart, Bill Mantlo, and Jim Starlin. These volumes collect some of the wonderfully weird space adventures that inspired the characters in the movie. Star-Lord is introduced in a Claremont/Byrne adventure from the 1970s, and Rocket Racoon and Groot collects everything from a Jack Kirby Groot story to Bill Mantlo’s 1980s Rocket Racoon mini to some modern era Annihilators titles. 09 warlock

Warlock: The Complete Collection. This is the business. Thanos is Jim Starlin’s most recognizable cosmic creations, but it’s Adam Warlock — created by Lee & Kirby in the pages of the Fantastic Four – who brings out Starlin’s best work. I can’t say it has the Guardians sense of humor, but this complete collection of 1970s Warlock stories has cosmic grandeur, moral complexity, and a real sense of the weird.

And One More Thing…

Know someone who loved that post-credits tag? Take them from the end of reality t’ the middle of nowhere. Happy Holidays!

Unused Guardians of the Galaxy endings reveal that sadness is banned in the MCU


The Guardians of the Galaxy dvd comes out next week (BluRay following a few weeks later) and director James Gunn is making the press rounds to promote the extras, including stuff that was left out of the ending:

There are three characters that got cut out [of the “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” montage]: Nebula, the Collector and Grandpa Quill. Nebula and Collector we decided, at a certain point, they’re kind of bad guys in the first movie. It was a real joyous experience with that finale so we thought we’d keep it to the characters that were part of “the good team.” Which includes Yondu. He did fight on the good guys side. So we thought we would keep it to them.

Grandpa Quill we cut because he was in old age make up and we were a little afraid people wouldn’t recognize that it was him from the beginning of the movie. And also, it was a pretty sad moment. It was Grandpa Quill and he has this photograph of Meredith and Peter as a little boy and he looks up at the stars and we go up to the stars and it was really sweet. It means that he must have seen Quill getting abducted at the end of that day and is still waiting for him to return but it was freaking sad so we took it out.

Nebula’s was actually my favorite. Nebula’s I really liked a lot because she’s lost her arm and she’s just pissed off and she’s just walking through this field all pissed off with a busted Ravager vehicle behind her. And she’s just pissed off and I loved it.

You can see how all of these might have added to the film a bit. The Mary Sue link above does a good job of showing how adding to Nebula’s story would have been cool, as her arc with Gamora wasn’t really worked out all the way. But the bit with the grandpa…yes it sounds sad, and I know the ending was all Buckaroo Banzai triumphal stuff…but would it really hurt to be LITTLE sad sometime, Marvel? Not Agent Coulson is dead but he’s getting his own TV series sad, but human beings are frail and life is tragic and beautiful and it isn’t all exoskeletons and CGI sad. Feelings. Guardians broke a lot of MArvel molds, but it ended up being a ragtag bunch of heroes who save the whole freakin’ universe again. Superhero movies have fallen into a rote pattern of gaudy noisiness without much actual human emotion involved. I mean we don’t have to have Cinema Paradiso or Alexander Payne, but like…a sad grandpa? Is that really too much?

None of these scenes will be on the DVD BTW. Saving them for the ultra super deluxe version I guess. OH and here’s the trailer for the DVD:


NYCC’14: Baby Groot Officially ‘Grooting’ to a Store Near You!

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 7.35.46 PM

By Alexander Jones

There has been a lot of hullabaloo on Marvel Studios not capitalizing on the ‘Grooting’ phenomena that has been sweeping the internet. This is in reference to the Guardians of the Galaxy character Groot dancing behind Drax the Destroyer a.k.a. actor Dave Batista’s back during the end credits of the film. In the meantime, the seedy underbelly of the arts & crafts internet websites, such as Etsy, have been taking advantage of the merchandising hole left by the lack of an official Marvel figure. Even internet videos containing cast members of the film like Michael Rooker (Yondu) and Dave Batista can be viewed reenacting the ‘Grooting’ moment. The figure was made by Marvel Entertainment and KIDdesigns, and the news broke via Mashable. Included with the figure, is a tiny speaker which allows fans listen to an alternate version of Jackson 5‘s I Want you Back, in order to get the full ‘Grooting’ experience. Each toy will set your wallet back by a light $14.99. Look for the figure on store shelves Christmas day, and be slightly angry that the toy’s arms don’t move! Also, make sure you keep this toy away from any talking Raccoons, in fear they might strike up an unlikely friendship!

Check out this video featuring Groot ‘Grooting': http://bcove.me/6p15csky

Guardians of the Galaxy out on BluRay on December 9

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy3DComboPack GuardiansOfTheGalaxyBluray GuardiansOfTheGalaxyDVD

You gift giving problems are solved—some of them anyway. Guardians of the Galaxy comes out on Digital HD and Disney First n 11/18, and on Blu-ra 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray and On-Demand on December 9th. Bonus features on the DVD:

·       Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes
·       Exclusive Look at “Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron”

And extras on the deluxe formats:
·       Making-of Featurettes
·       Gag Reel
·       Audio Commentary

Now you’ll be able to get “hooked on a feeling” over and over again.

Starlord’s jacket now available in both men’s and women’s sizes


It’s Autumn now, and it’s been a long time since we attempted to ride the coattails of Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014’s breakout stars. But now that the weather is getting colder you may be needing a transitional jacket, for those snappy autumn days (or warming autumn days if you live in the South). Anyway, New American Jackets is selling pleather replicas of Starlord jacket from Guardians of the Galaxy — available in both mens and women’s sizes. It looks to be a nice detailed jacket in a flattering burnt sienna color. Men’s runs $140 and women’s $139 but both are “on sale” now.





New American Jackets sells various other pop culture themed coats, like a Rick Grimes jacket—inexplicably crisp and clean and not gore clotted, bu you can fix that my sleeping in in every day for a month—a Keanu Reaves Hellblalz er trenchcoat—hopefully to be upgraded with the new TV series—a Smallville duster, a Katniss coat, a Drive jacket with the scorpion and all. So whatever your Halloween or cosplay plans, they can be purposed as a practical if nerdy garment for even non-con days.




Via Geek Tyrant

And finally…here is the dancing Baby Groot you have been clamoring for

Disney has released a clip of Dancing Baby Groot even though (spoilers)


it spoils the end of the movie. I guess good social media is worth more than spoiling movies in the era of downloads and….social media.

Anyway…..it’s sweet.

Howard the Duck Comics Suddenly Available For Some Great Unknown Reason

Howard the Duck

On July 29th, Marvel released a whole bunch of old Howard the Duck comics onto ComiXology for what appears to be no reason. Okay wait, I guess they are fantastic books by the late great Steve Gerber and Gene Colan (among others), but wow, that sure does seem random.

Oh, and Marvel VP David Gabriel recently confirmed that the long out of print Howard the Duck omnibus would be back in print as of October, also for absolutely no reason. What crazy times we live in. Anyway, I’m off to watch the new Guardians of the Galaxy. I hear it’s pretty good.

Wanna listen to the Awesome Mix Vol 1 from Guardians of the Galaxy?


Perhaps no movie since the last Quentin Tarantino film has used familiar music as effectively to cue emotions as Guardians of The Galaxy. Starting with the trailers, director James Gunn picked out 70s music that has both nostalgic schlock value and hooks as big and irresistible as the universe. The result is music that grounds us in an unfamiliar world, bringing us right into Peter Quinn’s mind-set as ia dramatic link to his earth heritage.

And there’s even dancing and Footloose as the best story. I’d almost call Guardians a musical, in fact. It was probably my favorite part of the movie. And you know that scene at the end, that even bought a tear to my eye,

The official Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack includes Tyler Bates’ stirring if typical score instead of the 70s classics. However, Hollywood Records has a playlist on Spotify that has the whole Awesome Mix Vol. 1:

I dunno if this is 100% legit or not, but who cares. Fire it up and get ready to rob some space orbs.

Analysis: ‘Guardians’ rule the galaxy with biggest ever August opening, and Marvel keeps mining the head

Whoa, Guardians of the Galaxy…where to start. In a summer of unexceptional sequels and remakes, Marvel and Disney triumphed with a new creation that had a fresh take on the space opera genre, while introducing such comics elements as Thanos, Infinity Gems, and Rocket Raccoon. I never thought I would type that sentence outside of a fever dream.

By the numbers, GotG was the biggest August opening ever by a wide margin with a domestic take of $94 million, handily beating The Bourne Ultimatum $69.2M from 2007. (To be fair I paid like $10 to see Bourne, and $20 [ouch] to see GotG in 3d Imax.) Guardians had the biggest Thursday of the year, and an A tracking on Cinemascore and 90+ on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience was 56%/44% m/f with 59% adults.

At also reversed what has been a generally crappy summer at the box office, at least for one magic weekend. But as Nikki FInke pointed out, it’s not enough to lift the entire summer from the doldrums. Only a scant number of movies have even broken $200 mil domestically this year, and they are:

1 Captain America: The Winter Soldier — $258,923,934
2 The LEGO Movie — $257,709,556
3 Transformers: Age of Extinction — $241,166,000
4 Maleficent — $234,711,000
5 X-Men: Days of Future Past — $231,702,000
6 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — $202,408,526

Do you sense a pattern here boys and girls, because I sure do. In other words, Marvel movies are going nowhere. Sony may have had to pull back a bit on its Spider-Man plans, but they’ll be back for another hit on the pipe. Because Marvel is the biggest thing in the movies right now.

And Guardians is the biggest triumph for Marvel Studios. Let’s get something straight, people know Iron Man before the movie, but NO ONE went around identifying as “I’m a Guardians of the Galaxy fan!” This success story was completely manufactured from a cauldron of elements including the massive pool of imagination at Marvel Comics, Kevin Feige’s uncanny planning ability, Nicole Perlman’s fearless reinvention of the franchise, James Gunn’s wholehearted empathy with the material, and Disney’s immense marketing machine.

And make no mistake, this was massive. While the spin is that Marvel made a quirky comedy with an indie director, the REALITY is that they spent $170 million dollars to make this the first in a tentpole franchise! That the “quirky indie” story survives at all is testament to good marketing and the inherent charm of the material.

I’ll forego writing a full on review, but as much as I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy as a movie—the opening scene with Star-Lord dancing to an 80s hook more seismic than any weapon in the film was the best musical scene in a Marvel movie since Peter Parker looked vacant to “Raindrops keep Falling on my Head”—it still had the same flaws as must MCU films: no matter how grungy the heroes they must save THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD by the end of the movie, leaving little room to up the excitement in the next film. Except I guess they’ll save the UNIVERSE next time? There was also, by Star Wars standards, a lot less banter than you’d think. In CGI films, the talking scenes are rewards for sitting through the action, whereas in practical effect days the reverse was true.

All that said, Guardians was, like The Matrix, an amazing amalgamation of everything before it: Raiders, Star Wars, Miyazaki, Disney, Full House. It was far and away the most beautifully art directed Marvel movie yet, with breathtaking vistas and wonderfully set up shots that have the characters—all acted totally on point—their due as both ruffians and heroes. And more importantly, it had—oh God I’m choking as I write this but I have no choice—the Marvel Magic. Guardians was set in a world where anything could happen, from a mining colony set in a Celestial’s head to a tree man who was more human than anyone else on screen. From Thanos’s cold star swept throne to a raccoon with a big gun. Ronan was the latest in a run of rather faceless generic world-threatening adversaries, but he looked cool and Lee Pace has the franchise in arrogant, judgmental magical villains. everyone says that in comics you can do ANYTHING whereas movies have budgets, but in Guardians the comics vision was put front and center and it was…magic.

Yet that scene with the mining colony set in the Celestial’s head may be a metaphor a little too close for comfort. This is another Marvel film where original creators could have been shut out, but Marvel Disney did the right thing as Jim Starlin—creator of Gamora, Drax and Thanos—and Bill Mantlo, co-creator of Rocket Raccoon, have both been looked after. But so much of the movie was an homage to Jack Kirby, whose heirs continue to battle with the studio.

And the final post-credits sequence? SPOILERS BELOW! BEWARE BEWARE!

It features Howard the Duck, followed by a card saying “Howard the Duck was created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.” I don’t know how Marvel dealt with the living Mayerik or Gerber’s surviving family, but I think it’s safe to say Gerber himself is probably spinning in his grave at that one.

That scene says so much though, about Marvel and where it is now. It’s Feige’s ultimate victory lap—even the studio’s worst failure, a movie so horrific it has remained a watchword for awfulness (and a harbinger of George Lucas’s inability to make good movies) for generations. But Haward is back in the pack, Disney owns him, and they’re free to go on mining that head for years to come.

I don’t mean to piss on anyone’s wheaties, here. Guardians of the Galaxy was a triumph of studio filmmaking, and my big regret is that I had seen so much of it before hand covering the story so that I couldn’t experience it freshly and unexpectedly.

Part of the reason for Guardians success has to be James Gunn. The guy’s social media campaign for the movie was sheer genius, something he had to work with ultra-secretive Marvel to develop:

Obviously that’s something you like to do, but at the same time, is it something that you have to talk to Marvel about, due to the studio’s secretive nature?

I did at the beginning. Like at the very beginning, I kind of shut up about the movie when I first got hired. And didn’t say anything for a long time. And then little by little, something would come about and I’d be like “Please let me quench this stupid rumor?” You know, “Please let me say there is no fucking Planet Hulk movie.” That’s the dumbest fucking thing. There’s no fucking Planet Hulk. You know, please let me do that… That’s a way for me to get that out there. I’m like, please let me do whatever. And then sometimes they say, “I don’t really think so. We’d rather not engage in this type of thing.” And then there’s other times they’re like “Yeah, go ahead.”

Likewise, Kevin Feige has legitimately put Marvel in the same breath as Pixar as a trusted studio, and if they haven’t yet made their Ratatouille, Guardians contains perhaps the first genuinely tear jerking moments in Marvel films—if you’ve seen it you know what I mean. They’ve also completely utterly owned the WB’s efforts to get a DC Cinematic universe off the ground. DC gave us Ben Affleck looking jet lagged and puffy for less than a minute in Hall H. Marvel has a charming, fit Chris Pratt offering diet tips as he races across chat shows and social media after starring as a character who got started in a black and white SF magazine.

BUT — read on to the next post for the fatal flaw of Marvel studios!

Liked Guardians of the Galaxy? Check out this preview of Thanos: The Infinity Revelation

It looks like Marvel has done the utterly impossible by turning Guardians of the Galaxy—a movie based on an obscure SF team of misfits—in a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, $65 mil at the BO certified feel good movie of the summer.

And their also releasing a bunch of comics that will keep the characters as fresh on the page as the screen. Among them is Thanos: The Infinity Revelation, a standalone graphic novel by Jim Starlin, the greater of GotG mainstays such as Gamora and Thanos. To make sure movie fans are aware of the book, Marvel has just released a newly lettered preview of the book, which goes on ales next Wednesday, 8/6. The story features Thanos and Warlock in the kind of cosmos battle for life and death Starlin is best known for, with guest stars along the way: the Guardians of the Galaxy, Silver Surfer, the Badoon, the Annihilators and—because this is a book by Jim Starlin—Death.

The book is part of a new line of oversized, original Graphic novels—a genre Marvel hasn’t had much presence in in recent years, but one they are putting some muscle behind. THe book also includes a code for a digital edition redeemable via the Marvel Comics app or online at the Marvel Digital Comics Shop.
Written by JIM STARLIN
Art & Cover by JIM STARLIN
On Sale 08/06/14!








Composing for Heroes: Continuity and Emotions

Composers Tyler Bates, Christophe Beck, Blake Neely, John Ottoman, and Brian Tyler.

Composers Tyler Bates, Christophe Beck, Blake Neely, John Ottoman, and Brian Tyler.

By: Nick Eskey

There are many pieces that go into creating a successful movie and television series, especially when trying to bring something to life from a printed medium. There has to be a solid script, right choice of actors, a fitting venue, and of course perfect music score. All of these aspects paint a story, carry themes, and convey emotions.

Located at the Indigo Room of the Hilton Bay Front Hotel across from the San Diego convention center, The 2nd Annual Musical Anatomy of a Superhero: Bringing a Comic Book to Life returned. On hand this year was an impressive panel of composers: Tyler Bates, Christophe Beck, Blake Neely, John Ottoman, and Brian Tyler. You might recognize some of their work, like Watchmen, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Iron Man 3, and the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Each one of these men have had a hand in crafting fantastic scores for hit media, and are well versed in using music to sell a story.

Tyler Bates is a combination of a rock star and composer. He is currently on tour with Marilyn Manson as lead guitarist, and he’s worked on some notable movies such as 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Dawn of the Dead. His upcoming work will be Guardians of the Galaxy. When asked if the movie will feature a lot of “epic guitar,” surprisingly Tyler said, “No actually. I wanted to stay as close to a traditional orchestral as possible.”  He felt that for the story, it would be a better vehicle.

Though the right feel for the music could be fleshed out, it’s also important for the right placement. Apart from the new release of the movie he worked on, Edge of Tomorrow, Christophe Beck has also worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, the movie Electra, and Disney’s Frozen. With Frozen, Christophe talked about the importance of music placement. “The songs were pretty much already written and in place when I started, but there’s still an involved process with working with filmmakers and songwriters… There had to be proper placement of where a song should go; does it fit. Also on where the scores should go; how subtle they should be.” The prominence of a piece can affect how long a particular feeling lingers, and how it can influence the current scene.

But no hero story is created equal, as Blake Neely pointed out. He currently composes for both Arrow, and the soon to premiere show The Flash. He had a lot to say on the subject of these heroes and the differing emotions of each show. “Arrow is a dark world [where] there are no super heroes. Flash, he’s a scientist who, spoiler alert, is struck by lightning and get’s super powers. His character is lighter. Both shows are unique in the emotions that need to be conveyed.”

Speaking of unique, John Ottoman is not only plays the role of composer, but typically the role of editor. “It’s always hard to find time to write,” he confessed. John scored X-Men: Days of Future Past. There were a couple challenges he said with writing the music for the movie. One was that was there were a few different time periods that he had to balance, both future and the 70’s. And the other as John put it was, “I felt that there needed to be redemption for the 2nd X-Men movie, so I did my best to resurrect the score from it and use it for Future Past.”

The act of actually writing for super heroes isn’t particularly a different set of skills as one would think it is. Super heroes still live and act the same emotions that general public would said all the composers universally, so it’s really a retelling of those same, well-used themes in a more action packed environment.

But what about a level continuity between a studio’s franchises? Should each and every story use a similar, connecting sound to show their relation? For the most part all of the composers said that really it should be up to each story to dictate the music for it. Brian Tyler however had something different to say. “Let’s use Marvel. All the movies go back to a general sound, like Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3 which I’ve worked on. Marvel wants to keep them connected, because they do after all play into each other somehow. And you should also be able to notice it in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In short, it doesn’t take any special rituals or set of rules to write an epic hero story. What a good composer does need is an understanding of emotions and themes, and how to relay them to the audience. If this is achieved, then the super heroes really do feel super.