Sep 032014
 

c6586c90ec6931294a066c96e0d5dc4b1a597ca2 (1)by Michael Brown, staff writer

Are you super-heroic? Have you got what it takes to be a Marvel Super Hero? Are you or a family member smart like Iron Man? A leader like Captain America? Responsible like Spider-Man? If so, Marvel wants to see how you power up in their September-long Power Up Like A Super Hero Sweepstakes. You can enter the sweepstakes by uploading a photo that shows a moment of achievement, an important moment in time, or anything that celebrates being heroic to Marvel’s Super Hero September sweepstakes page.

Your Grand Prize, should your photo be truly heroic, will be a 7-night Disney Cruise vacation for four aboard the ultra-luxurious Disney Magic cruise liner. On board, your family can experience Marvel’s all-new, action-packed, and totally epic Avengers Academy for superheroes 3-11 years of age. Other prizes will include Disney Store gift cards for Marvel swag, gift cards from Party City for Marvel party wares or costumes, and other Marvel stuff from great super hero supporters like K-Mart, Hasbro, Walmart, Target, and more.

Marvel asks that contestants keep it safe, keep it original, and keep it clean when sending in photos, and you must be at least 13 years old to enter. Marvel’s Power Up Like A Superhero Sweepstakes runs all month, every day of September. For further information, complete contest rules, and a neat slideshow of the new Avengers Academy, click the link we’ve provided and begin your heroic journey.

Good luck, heroes!

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Aug 202014
 

Marvel logoby Michael Brown, staff writer

One step forward, two steps back. That’s what happened Monday when Marvel released in its November solicits a variant cover of the upcoming Spider-Woman ongoing series. Drawn by Italian artist Milo Manara, who has worked with Marvel for a few years now, the cover has become quite the focus of  widespread criticism from both Internet genre and mainstream outlets for its obviously sexualized portrait of the character. Not to mention, it comes at a time when the comic book industry is under fire for its treatment of female characters, creators and fans.

To further exacerbate the situation, there’s a striking — ahem — similarity between Manara’s Spider-Woman cover and a blatantly sexual pose of a character in his erotic comic, Click. [Editor's note: this image is a little beyond our PG-13 rating level, so we'll leave it to you to decide whether or not to go look it up for yourself. If you've ever seen a cat in heat, you get the idea.] Geek culture sites and blogs are ablaze with writers and editors taking umbrage with the cover, calling it “lewd and irresponsible,” “not a good idea,” and, “looking more like a colonoscopy than a costume.”

Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, who will also pen the Spider-Woman series, and Chris Claremont, a long time Marvel scribe who’s best known for his work on Uncanny X-Men both came down as defenders of Manara via Twitter.

Now, with the facts out of the way, here’s the take of a guy who’s been reading and enjoying comics for 30 years. This is ridiculous. As I said above, the comic book industry is taking criticism for the way it’s been treating female characters, fans, and creators. If Spider-Man had been drawn in that position, the cover wouldn’t have gotten as far as it did. Women have been a constant joke for comic book artists for years, and this cover is one more example of the industry not taking women seriously. Another fine example is DC’s Power Girl, with her gravity-defying breasts packed in a skintight white costume with a window in the front so you can see her cleavage.

It’s easy to forget that comics, while maintaining a mostly adult demographic in the current market, are historically aimed at children, and kids still do read them. Intentionally or not, some comics have become soft porn. There’s a place for adult-themed comics with sexual themes and nudity, but Marvel is not that place. Marvel has always produced mainstream comics that are wholesome enough for parents to trust as a brand for their kids; you never worry when your kid is browsing the Marvel section of the comic book store.

In all fairness, over the last few years, Marvel has made a conscious effort to be more thoughtful of female readers, who by the way, are starting to make up a large part of comics readership. Not only do female readers have to endure snotty and holier-than-thou comic shop owners who mock and alienate them, now they get to deal with ridiculous treatments of their gender on the page.

When Joss Whedon announced his plans to revive Buffy the Vampire Slayer in an eighth season for comics, he insisted that women be portrayed as women. You’ll find no back-breaking busts or porn-mag poses over there. When I read stuff from other publishers and I see an outrageously drawn woman, I think, “Joss Whedon would never allow that.” But Milo Manara isn’t the only offender. Greg Land, who I admittedly enjoy at times, has taken heat for some time now for his depiction of women, even being accused of drawing from porn mags for his poses.

Variant cover of Spider-Woman #1 Drawn by Milo Manara

Variant cover of Spider-Woman #1
Drawn by Milo Manara

And, I might add, this is the same comic that was introduced at the Women of Marvel panel at San Diego. Marvel should have known better. As one reviewer said, it’s like Marvel’s doing it on purpose. Ass-splosion aside, Manara’s art is lifeless and dull, and while we sure get a look at Jessica Drew’s red-and-yellow-clad booty, we also see her other features, like her almost non-existent nose, and her hair that wraps all the way around her neck in some kind of weird, twisted neck beard.

I’m not being prudish and saying that erotic art doesn’t have its place. If you’re drawing for erotic comics, then that’s where it belongs. But does it belong as a representation of our hero, from a company who is leading the way with a slew of new female-led titles? Nope. Could Marvel have chosen a better artist to launch their first issue? Yep.  Anyone remember The Hawkeye Initiative? Where Strong Female Poses were redrawn by putting Hawkeye and other male heroes in their place? Could be, this pose would find a good home there.

Marvel, which I might remind my readers is owned by Disney, dropped the ball, in my opinion, and this thing is going to be everywhere in the days and weeks ahead. Creators and publishers have to do a better job at making their female readers happy. As the number one publisher in the country, Marvel would do well to remember the words of one Peter Parker: “With great power …”

This isn’t the 1960s, where Reed Richards called his wife an insufferable, emotional female, and tells her that the only reason he keeps her around is because she’s pretty. Women play a larger role today than The Pretty Foil, or the Professional Plot Device. They take up arms and defend the country. They’re breadwinners, not always babymakers. We are the Enlightened Age. More understanding and sympathetic. Comics readers are, too.  Comics creators and publishers need to follow suit.

What do you think of the cover? Do you think it fits in with the Marvel brand and image? Sound off in comments!

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Aug 052014
 

By Nur Hussein, staff writer

Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee, writer and co-director of ‘Frozen’

A Wrinkle In Time, a beloved children’s book by Madeleine L’Engle, is getting the big-screen treatment with a movie adaptation in production by Disney. Writing the movie’s screenplay will be Jennifer Lee, writer and director of the hit animated film Frozen.

A Wrinkle In Time is a story about a girl, her siblings and a friend traveling through time and space to find their missing scientist father. They do so with the help of fantastic beings who can travel with through a thing called a tesseract, which can bend space and time. The book has received critical acclaim and has won numerous literary awards; the Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.

The book was a favorite of Lee growing up, and her pitch to Disney impressed them enough to give her the project. The book is also the first in a series of five novels, so if this turns out to be a big hit, Disney will have yet another franchise in their hands.

Apart from the hugely-successful Frozen, Lee was also the writer behind 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, a well-received animated film that was loved by both critics and audiences (especially those who love video games). No director has been attached to the project yet; maybe Lee will be given a chance to, considering the huge runaway success of Frozen which she co-directed.

This isn’t the first project to attempt a film adaptation of the book; in 2003, there was a Canadian television movie directed by John Kent Harrison starring Canadian actress Katie Stuart as Meg Murry. It was not aired in the United States until 2014, and it was met with very negative reviews from critics.

Let’s hope Lee brings her magic touch to this story and it gets the great film treatment that it deserves.

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Jul 262014
 
Author, Illustrator, and Animator, Elizabeth Watasin. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

Author, Illustrator, and Animator, Elizabeth Watasin. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

by Aly Runke, contributing writer

Krypton Radio DJ Willow Leafstorm has been scooping up amazing and interesting interviews on the floor of San Diego Comic-Con International all weekend and her interview with author, illustrator, and animator Elizabeth Watasin is no exception. If you don’t know Watasin’s name already, you definitely should because chances are she’s had a hand in animating pieces of your or your children’s childhoods, maybe both! She has  contributed her animation skills to an impressive list of Disney classics including The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, and Mulan. And if just the fact that she worked on these films at all doesn’t excite you, she worked on them straight out of college! Watasin got to experience the golden age of animation first hand. And it helped her spur her own comic projects, including the ongoing Charm School graphic novels she is currently writing and illustrating.

Charm SchoolLeafstorm asked about how Watasin was inspired to do Charm School. Watasin said it had been her de-stresser when working for Disney. She also wanted to do something family-oriented with her comic that was fun, had humor, and teen romance. She got a lot of inspiration from Grease and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. “I wanted to do kind of a contemporary fantasy thing, ’50s kind of era, a magical world with vampires and witches and demons and hot rods and malt shops.”

And with Charm School it is safe to say she succeeded. Charm School, if you haven’t picked it up yet, is about a teen witch named Bunny, who is dating biker-butch vampire Dean. However, a bad faerie has also got her eyes on Bunny. To find out who wins Bunny’s heart, well, you will have to dive into Watasin’s magical fifties world yourself.

Balancing a fun, family friendly comic with the LGBT themes present in Charm School is sometimes a hard line to walk. When asked how she pulled such a feat off in face of all the questions of how family friendly Charm School really was Watasin told Leafstorm she simply wanted to have fun. She isn’t out to live out some fetish just make an enjoyable paranormal story where the main characters are lesbians. The stories told in Charm School are “not meant to entertain you sexually” she iterates clearly, “they’re not prurient at all.”

And she succeeds. Charm School is a lot fun to read and the world is fun to immerse oneself into, as well. There are tons of paranormal aspects to explore. Watasin also enjoys playing with different myths and folklore involved in her characters. When it came to research, she pulled form traditional supernatural creatures as well as some of Asian influence. She admits to reading up quite a bit on faeries for Charm School as well as adding her own spice to characters such as the vampire Dean. Dean is a character whose story Watasin is still forming in her head. She is a vampire but Watasin also wants her to have a family, so she isn’t sure how that will play into how vampires are made or born in her world. In creating Dean, she mixed traditional ideas of what a vampire is, taking from western and Chinese folklore. She still wants to keep it fun; She laughed and joked  about “doin’ the Chinese Vampire bit.” And for Dean, Watasin uses traditional Chinese vampire lore where vampires are re-animated corpses who can only hop (not walk), and suck out life force or chi, not actual blood. The character Dan’s mother is a westernized vampire so she sucks blood. This has yet to be revealed in the comic Charm School and is still in Watasin’s mind, being configured for the story. Thus far, Charm School has nine issues out digitally and Watasin is working on the tenth. The issues will be gathered into five books, two issues a piece, along with extras. After these are released Watasin will continue the story of Charm School as novellas.

The Dark VictorianWatasin has also made herself known in the world of writing novels; her series The Dark Victorian has two books out on Amazon. Once again, Watasin delves into the world of the paranormal but with this world, there is more steampunk Victorian England. The main character is Artifice, an artificial ghost. When Leafstorm asked how she came up with Artifice’s existing as a sort of ghost,  Watasin explained that Artifice is like an alchemic formula. “She is written is how I see it, and it is possible to un-write her and that’s something I’ll be able to explain better in the later novels.” A lot of what Watasin wants to do with this series and character is to show Art’s self-discovery, both in terms of her paranormal existence as an otherworldly crime-fighter in Victorian London, and as a woman who loves other women in a world where the view on such existence is changing.

This theme of self-discovery is also, according to Watasin, at the root of making Artifice a Quaker. She told Leafstorm, “I wanted someone who was outside the society and who spoke in an archaic sense, and then I realized she is a very good contrast from Victorian values, she functions outside of that, as a woman.”

The time of The Dark Victorian novels is a point when society was changing, in the Victorian age was when the standard of LGBT persons being abnormal and outside-of-society became widespread: a standard that would prevail for the next hundred-plus years in society as we know it. Watasin wanted to show an outsider character dealing with the LGBT community at the point when such lifestyles were normal, respected, and accepted and then through that character’s story show when that changed in the society she was already an outsider in. Of course in the midst of these themes is the story of a detective solving paranormal crimes when the normal police cannot with a talking animated skull as her partner. And it is that image that birthed The Dark Victorian.

Watasin was working on another novel, never finished, when she drew a poster with a ghost detective holding an animated skull. From there this, magnificent world was born. And Artifice isn’t this world’s only story subject. Watasin also writes Elle Black penny Dreads: stories about a young housewife in an unconventional marriage with a woman who has telekinetic powers. She solve crimes that are too small for newspaper star Artifice, but still too paranormal for Scotland Yard. This universe Watasin has created is so rich, we  cannot wait for more!

Charm School,  The Dark Victorian, and the Elle Black penny dreads are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble now.

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Jul 212014
 
J.J.Abrams and the new X-Wing.

J.J.Abrams and the new X-Wing.

by Nur Hussein, staff writer

J.J. Abrams has released another video for Disney/Lucasfilm’s charity drive for Unicef, Force For Change, which invites you to give charitable donations in return for a chance to win a trip to the set and have a cameo in Star Wars Episode VII, as well as a private advance screening of the film.

In the video, we are treated with a reveal of what looks like the new X-Wing, which looks almost exactly like Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the X-Wing in the original Star Wars in’77. It’s sleeker, has a less bulbous tip, and the engines look like they split with the s-foils when they are in attack position.

Ralph McQuarrie's X-Wing concept art.

Ralph McQuarrie’s X-Wing concept art.

It’s a cunning move by Abrams to re-use McQuarrie’s ideas for the film (if indeed that’s what he did and that it’s not a huge, suspicious coincidence). In many ways the look and feel of the original was almost entirely McQuarrie’s doing. The prequels’ set and vehicle design, while gorgeous, look uninspired compared to the originals (and the prequel ships look just wrong and out of place; with colors in chrome and yellow). This new ship captures the essence of the original trilogy precisely while updating the look, making it seem like a natural evolution of in-universe spaceship design.

In the (now-defunct) Expanded Universe, the X-Wing was described as being designed by the in-universe company Incom, and was a progression from an older design called the Z-95 Headhunter. Many fans on social media are speculating if the revealed new ship is in fact a Z-95, but Lucasfilm has put the matter to rest by tweeting that it is indeed a new X-Wing and not a Headhunter. 

With the release of this new X-Wing, I guess I’ll have to get yet another X-Wing Lego set.

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Jul 162014
 

by Michael Brown, staff writer JUL120594_1Marvel Comics and parent company Disney have released the first full-length trailer for their first collaborative animated film, Big Hero 6. The Marvel comic-turned-film takes place in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, and centers around a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada and his robot Baymax who stumble onto a criminal plot, and assemble a team of fledgling crimefighters, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, GoGo Tomago, and Fred, to help thwart the criminals. The film, which will be Disney’s 54th animated film, will be the first to feature Marvel characters since Disney’s acquisition of Marvel back in 2009. Big Hero 6 will be produced entirely under the banner of Walt Disney Animation Studios, but will employ a number of Marvel Comics staffers for creative assistance, including Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer.

“The relationship between Hiro and his robot has a very Disney flavor to it…but it’s combined with these Marvel heroic arcs.” Quesada said.

Marvel and Disney agreed to keep Big Hero 6 out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which contains The Avengers, the Iron Man trilogy, Thor, and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, and set it in their own stand-alone universe. In the original Marvel comic, written by veteran X-Men writer Chris Claremont, both Sunfire and Silver Samurai were members of the team, but will not be featured in the film due to Marvel’s contract with Fox Studios, which gives Fox the rights to those characters.

A new, serialized, manga version of Big Hero 6 will be published by Kodansha’s Magazine Special beginning August 10, 2014, with a prologue to be published in Weekly Shonen Magazine August 6. The new series will mark the first time a Disney movie’s story is previewed before its release. Kodansha also publishes the manga version of the award-winning Knights of Sidonia, which is now an anime series on Netflix.

The cast will include Damon Wayans, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, and Alan Tudyk. Big Hero 6 will hit theaters November 7, 2014.

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