NEW YORK COMIC CON / OCTOBER 2015 / WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
BRUCE CAMPBELL BACK FROM THE DEAD JACK KIRBY COMICS GREATEST STORYTELLER
HOLLYWOOD'S FIRST MOVIE UNIVERSE
COMBATING MENTAL HEALTH STIGMAS CHILDHOOD’S END EXCLUSIVE
FALL TV’S FRESHMAN CLASS
RETURN OF THE
X-FILES HOW THE GODFATHER KILLED THE MAFIA
BASED BASED ON ON THE THENOVEL NOVELBY BYARTHUR ARTHURC.C.CLARKE, CLARKE,AUTHOR AUTHOROF OF2001: 2001:AASPACE SPACEODYSSEY ODYSSEY
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MIKE MIKE DE DELUCA LUCA 2 2 DEN DEN OF OF GEEK GEEK ■■ NEW NEW YORK YORK COMIC COMIC CON CON EXTRA EXTRA
SAG SAGAWARD AWARDWINNER WINNER
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DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US 3
THE FIRST EDITION NYCC 2015
Letter from the Editor
elcome to the inaugural print edition of Den of Geek. This limited edition magazine will only be available at New York Comic Con and surrounding New York Super Week events. Just in case you don’t already know, we’re a collection of superfans and experts who are perhaps a little too passionate about movies, television, comic books, and video games. Our audience has exploded over the last two years, and we now reach roughly five million readers worldwide every single month. That’s five million dedicated fans who come to Den of Geek to get their pop culture fix, and there are more of you every single day. We’re flattered. Seriously, I’m not sure how you put up with us. Den of Geek was founded in the UK in 2007 by Simon Brew, and over the next few years became a destination for readers who wanted an authoritative film website with a sense of humor. As readership grew, so did the site, and in 2013, Den of Geek went global, which brings us to this magazine. So why the “limited edition” print version? We wanted to give those unfamiliar with Den of Geek a taste of the kind of fun and in-depth coverage that can be found on DENOFGEEK.US and DENOFGEEK.COM every day. While the internet rewards immediacy, and we’re constantly staying on top of breaking entertainment news, we’ve always felt that what sets Den of Geek apart from other websites is our dedication to long-form content. Our Best-of lists, movie and video game retrospectives, detailed guides to comic references in superhero movies and TV shows (and more… there’s always more) are really our favorite things to write, and they seem like they’d be just as at home on a page as on a screen. And there’s also something to be said for holding a glossy product in your hand — it’s why at least 50 percent of my own comic book diet is still physical rather than digital. There’s even more to be said for giving NYCC attendees something to take home with them, especially since so many fans (that includes us) measure the success of their own convention adventures by how much swag they end up with at the end of the day. So, here’s one more thing to stuff in your bag, read on the subway, and maybe collect some autographs in. New York Comic Con has grown into one of the largest pop culture events in the world, and we’re thrilled to be part of it. We wouldn’t be here without you, though. So, if you see any of us around NYCC, please introduce yourself, make sure our caffeine levels are where they should be, and point us at any cool stuff happening around the building that you’re afraid we might miss.
PRINT EDITION EDITOR
Chris Longo CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Kaitlyn Richert ASSISTANT PRINT EDITORS
David Crow John Saavedra Nick Harley
COVER STORY: ASH VS. EVIL DEAD
We rev up the chainsaw and 1973 Oldsmobile with Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless for a look at how the Dead have risen again. Groovy.
FEATURES 20 MANHATTAN: TV’S
BEST-KEPT SECRET Fiction meets history in the New Mexico desert as we step on set of WGN America’s wartime drama.
Olivia Reaney COPY EDITOR
38 HOLLYWOOD’S ORIGINAL
MONSTER MASH Find out the story behind the first cinematic shared universe with nary a superhero to be seen.
DEN OF GEEK IS…
46 JACK KIRBY: COMICS
GREATEST STORYTELLER In honor of New York Comic Con, we pay tribute to the King, born and raised on New York’s Lower East Side.
Jennifer Bartner Indeck EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Mike Cecchini DEPUTY EDITOR
51 THE CW’S DC COMICS ROOTS
Arrow and The Flash get a lot about their characters right, but there’s one thing they do that nobody else has done successfully.
David Crow GAMES EDITOR
John Saavedra CONTRIBUTING EDITORS
Tony Sokol Don Kaye
FOUNDER & UK EDITOR
Coming Attractions: WWW.DENGEEK.US in October C O N TA C T U S
Join us online as we have more special coverage of New York Comic Con and beyond on WWW. DENOFGEEK.US during October. In this issue, we detail the new fall crop of television shows that look ripe for picking (page 16), but online you’ll find the most comprehensive coverage of your favorite returning shows, including Arrow and The Flash (read about their DC Comics history on page 51). If Fear the Walking Dead isn’t satisfying your zombie fix, The Walking Dead returns on October 11th. We’re keeping tabs on both shows with our
Walking Dead podcast, No Room in Hell, which you can find on soundcloud.com/denofgeek. It’s to die for. Film buffs, we’ll have reviews of The Martian, Steve Jobs, and Pan, as well as the other highly anticipated films in our fall preview (page 30). Finally, our horror movie and video game coverage reaches its zenith as Halloween draws near. Can’t wait? Flip ahead to our cover story as Bruce Campbell brings the Dead back to life with the new Starz series, Ash vs. the Evil Dead (page 26).
4 DEN OF GEEK ■ NEW YORK COMIC CON EXTRA
EDITORIAL : firstname.lastname@example.org CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS :
email@example.com 646.717.9555 PRINT EDITION INQUIRIES :
firstname.lastname@example.org DoGTech LLC
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56 THE ARCHIE RENAISSANCE
60 HALO 5
Where to follow us
(8) TELEVISION (30) MOVIES (44) COMICS (59) GAMES (63) CULTURE
TWITTER: @DenOfGeekUS FACEBOOK: @DenOfGeekUS INSTAGRAM: @DenOfGeekUS TUMBLR: DenOfGeekUS.Tumblr.Com Soundcloud.com/DenOfGeek YouTube.com/DenOfGeekTube
Archie Comics is reaching beyond its Americana roots to become one of the most daring comics publishers in the business.
60 GUIDE TO THE EXPANDED
HALO UNIVERSE Get ready for the release of Halo 5: Guardians with a breakdown of the space epic’s expanded, multimedia universe.
DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
FALL MOVIE PREVIEW
THE VERY BEST IN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
COLUMNS 55 WOMEN OF TOMORROW
With Supergirl heading to TV, we look at some other deserving heroines ready to be adapted for the small-screen.
Join us for Pathfinder ® and Deadlands ® freebies, promotional giveaways, and in-booth signings with Charlie Jane Anders, Seth Dickinson, Ian McDonald, John Scalzi, Catherynne Valente, and many more!
8 JOKES PER MINUTE
Can you quantify how funny your favorite TV shows are? We blend scientific data and belly laughs to tally these comedy series’ Jokes Per Minute.
12 RETURN OF THE X-FILES
The revival is a reality, and the talented people behind the sci-fi touchstone pay tribute to those who never stopped wanting to believe.
36 THE SUPERHERO CALENDAR
The superhero boom is just beginning. We map out every confirmed superhero movie coming between now and 2020!
44 NEW YORK COMIC CON’S GROWTH
Comic conventions like New York Comic Con are growing exponentially and drawing super crowds. We chart the amazing growth of NYCC.
59 HOLIDAY VIDEO GAME GUIDE
PREVIEWS 10 DRAGON BALL SUPER
Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama is back, continuing the adventures of Goku and friends in the new anime series Dragon Ball Super.
24 THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE
After years of delays, the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternate post-WWII history has finally found a home.
16 FALL TV PREVIEW
The television landscape keeps expanding, which means there are more great shows on the air than ever. Find out which Fall TV programs we’re excited about.
Visit Booth #2223 at New York Comic Con For a full list of signings and giveaways visit: torbooks2015.com
Don’t bother making a list for Santa, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best games hitting consoles this holiday season.
CULTURE 63 UNMASKED AND OK
A Force For Good, a panel at this year's New York Comic Con, looks at where pop culture and mental health issues intersect.
64 THE GODFATHER KILLED THE MAFIA Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia masterpiece shed unwanted light on the underground groups controlling organized crime.
30 FALL MOVIE PREVIEW
Take a look into the future with some of this season’s most anticipated blockbusters and awards contenders. 6 DEN OF GEEK ■ NEW YORK COMIC CON EXTRA
FOLLOW TOR BOOKS | GET FREE EXCERPTS when you sign up for the free Tor/Forge monthly newsletter GET UPDATES about Tor /Forge authors when you sign up for Author Updates | tor-forge.com DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
: S I C M O N O K GELCE U L AT IN G JO K E S P E R M IN U T E CA
BY ALEC BOJALAD
d to be examined. Comedy more than it is ever intende far ent inm down erta ent ing min ans exa and if you decide to break it eing a geek sometimes me ething is funny or it’s not — som er Eith . this to ion . ept t that notion seems like it would be the exc way. Well, we decided to tes bably not funny anymore any pro s most beloved comedies: it’s t TV’ tha of n tha one of ) her furt any es Per Minute (or JPM Jok cise pre the k and Morty. d ate cul cal twisted animated series Ric It all started when we expanded with the brillantly we n The p. Vee ire, sat l HBO’s stellar politica edies for comparison. sodes of classic television com And now, we've selected epi
Venture Bros.’ masterminds Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer dish about the long-awaited sixth season.
After six seasons and constant reinventions, they’re still the same old Team Venture. Image: Adult Swim
BY: DANIEL KURLAND
SEINFELD Season 4 Episode 11 “The Contest” JPM: 5.33
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 2 Episode 4 “Good Grief” JPM: 6.62
THE SIMPSONS Season 4 Episode 12 “Marge vs. The Monorail” JPM: 7.14
SEASON FOUR 4.28 JPM “TESTIMONY” 4.92 JPM
SEASON ONE 5.40 JPM “RIXTY MINUTES” 6.60 JPM
HIGHEST EPISODE JPM LOWEST EPISODE JPM
“PILOT” 4.74 JPM
SEASON ONE EPISODE EIGHT
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turing a cable box “Rixty Minutes,” fea and space, is Rick that transcends time JPM episode. and Morty’s highest n just how many Here we breakdow nute. jokes are in each mi
DOC HAMMER: We didn’t do it in a calculated, “let’s reboot the show” way, but we just came up with these stories, and said won’t it be fun to take these stories in a new direction? And a side benefit is that it’s sort of like a weird reboot.
MINUTE IN EPISODE NUMBER OF JOKES
DOC HAMMER: But our inclination is to make this kind of storytelling. So I think when we cleared down the house and built up another one, we kept putting doors in there. So it’s not like you’re getting a brand new Venture Bros. A lot of the old stories are still in play, and many new ones are in play.
JACKSON PUBLICK: Yeah, we did consciously cleanse the palette and we were excited going into a sort of — unofficially — reboot of the show.
Beyond writing and directing every episode of the series, Hammer and Publick take on an unheard of amount of responsibilities as nearly everything, except for what is animated overseas, falls on their backs. The series that began as a humble Johnny Quest and Hardy Boys homage has slowly transformed into an insanely intricate show with a respect for continuity and serialization that’s as deep as what you see in Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Ahead of the anticipated 2016 premiere of season six, we spoke with Hammer and Publick about the future of Venture Bros. DEN OF GEEK: It’s certainly not a reboot or anything, but this season feels like a new energy with the regime change happening at the Guild now, Rusty’s fortune, and everything else. Did the series feel fresh in a lot of ways?
“RIXTY MINUTES” JPM BREAKDOWN
“EAST WING” 3.81 JPM
extent that it has. I knew, probably both of our natural inclinations were to keep digging deeper.
he Venture Bros.’s sixth season is finally happening and it sounds like it could be well worth the wait. This is a show that truly pushes that expression to the limit. Since the Adult Swim cult series debuted in 2003, there have only been five seasons (and the occasional special) so far. Series creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick acquired a perfectionist reputation along the way, not unlike that of Dan Harmon or Aaron Sorkin. Still, fans are willing to wait extremely long spans of time for small bursts of episodes because of the universe they’ve created.
DEN OF GEEK: The show has one of the deepest wells of continuity of any series on television. There are so many different factions on the show now. Did you ever think this universe would get so thorough when you began? JACKSON PUBLICK: No, I mean not to the
JACKSON PUBLICK: Yeah. To keep continuity going. We were never interested in a sitcom “everything goes back to zero every episode” kind of thing. But it got pretty convoluted and that’s part of the reason why we did the “Gargantua” special, to kind of clear the decks and go in a new direction. We realized we just had a lot of complex stuff to wrap up. We just wanted to clean up. It’s like a house you’ve been building additions on for ten years, and then you go, “let’s just knock it down and build one that makes sense.” Why don’t we just paint over these not-level floors?
JACKSON PUBLICK: Some of it will always be this unending Winchester mansion of a show, but things got a little cleaner and more focused. All the old is still a part of these characters’ lives, but there aren’t as many unanswered stray things going on throughout their lives. There aren’t characters who are walking around that we haven’t figured out their motivations, or fully explained their situation. DEN OF GEEK: This season you have the Ventures headed to New York and spreading the walls of your sandbox even further. Living there yourself, does this add anything at all to the season since it’s now in your backyard? DOC HAMMER: It’s been tough having them in New York, because Jackson and I are New Yorkers, which meant we had all these little jokes and incidents that were very New York that we wanted to get into the show, but we could never get them in. It became a burden-we wanted to lampshade all of these funny things that happen to New Yorkers, but you get so involved with your new characters, you get so involved with your plots, we just kept pushing these great subway jokes, and Jew jokes--It’s more of a burden! There’s so much to say about the city that’s already been said.
JACKSON PUBLICK: Here and there, we manage. It’s been great location scouting for just interesting places to set up that are just quintessentially New York. I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted to, because the stories took over, and you’re like, well they’re just in the penthouse the whole time… I’ll tell you this about New York though: it’s hard to draw, and it’s full of people. So that’s been a bit of a production nightmare because it’s such a complex place to take on. And any time you’re outside, you’re like, well we need fifty extras walking around. And oh, by the way, there’s cars in New York. Those have to be in the background, moving around, stuff like that. Organizationally and design-wise, it’s been really, really hard. It’s one of the many reasons we’re a bit behind schedule, but it’s also great and I hope we get to do some of the stuff that we didn’t get to do in the fifth season. DEN OF GEEK: The idea that the show’s theme was “failure” was thrown around a lot in the infancy of the program. I think you’ve outgrown that for the most part. If there is a word or theme that encapsulates season six, what would you say it is? DOC HAMMER: It borders around the idea of “misunderstood destinies.” Who you are, who you’re supposed to be, and not really quite knowing it, which is also part of failure. JACKSON PUBLICK: Yeah, and also still the idea of how you can’t escape from your past, no matter how much everything else around you is new. How to be a new version of yourself, that I guess pays homage to the past and the present at the same time. DOC HAMMER: It’s the season of trying to become what you’re supposed to become and just not having it mapped out for you. Like human destiny--you know when you’re on the path, and you can feel it, but you never know where the path is. You’re just kind of stumbling around until it feels good. Also, it’s the season of the Monarch. I’m just going to say that. Season six of The Venture Bros. is expected to air on Adult Swim in early 2016. You can read the full interview at www.denofgeek.us/ magazine. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
Top Left: Goku must reach a whole new power level to defeat Frieza in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F. Top Right: Beerus the Destroyer is a new villain for the Dragon Ball saga. Bottom Right: Longtime rivals Goku and Vegeta must team-up to defeat Beerus and Frieza in Dragon Ball Super. Image: Funimation
DRAGON BALL SUPER
Dragon Ball Super brings back the world's greatest heroes for a new series! BY JOHN SAAVEDRA
ragon Ball Super is the latest addition to auteur Akira Toriyama’s magnum opus manga and anime series. It continues the adventures of Saiyan martial arts superhero Goku and his butt-kicking companions, as they prepare to save the Earth from yet another otherworldly threat. Only this time, the heroes are dealing with a god. Battle of Gods, like the straight-to-video film that put Dragon Ball back on the map, deals with the arrival of the cat-like Beerus, God of Destruction, an entity that even the Supreme Kai fears. Beerus has awoken from a long slumber to search for the Super Saiyan God, a warrior who, it is said, will become his ultimate challenge. Of course, we’ve never heard of a Super Saiyan God and neither have the heroes of Earth. Yet, we all suspect that this Super Saiyan God will at some point turn out to be Goku at a new power level. But that’s just speculation, right? If you’ve been keeping up with Dragon Ball since the end of GT, you know that this story has already been told in the films. The most recent film, Resurrection F, continues this specific storyline while also bringing back Frieza for one last Spirit Bomb. The first saga in Dragon Ball Super retells and formally canonizes the Beerus story and will also re-use the Resurrection F storyline. The recycled content is a bit of a weakness
for the new series, and only the most hardcore fans might bother watching the first few episodes — which have not yet aired outside of Japan — but it’s good fun overall. The humor is as good as it’s ever been, and the fight scenes have the classic drawn-out feel that is Toriyama’s trademark. Crisper animation and Toriyama’s writing— he returned to create the story and character designs for this series—are more than enough reasons to check this show out. And even if it does recycle content, the story is quite good and worth a watch, if just to get the expanded version of events. Where Battle of Gods only had an hour and a half to tell its tale, Dragon Ball Super has a long episode run ahead of it. We’ll hopefully see a better version of Battle of Gods and plenty of other, new adventures. During a showcase for the series in July on the V Jump Channel, Toriyama teased some of the future storylines, which include new villains from a neighboring universe and Super Dragon Balls. He also promised plenty of new characters. Welp, count me in! The show even has its own companion manga from Toriyama himself. You can read those stories in V Jump magazine. Dragon Ball Super airs every Sunday on
Fuji TV in Japan.
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also... Meet Jaco the Galactic Patrolman
In 2013, series creator Akira Toriyama wrote a prequel manga to Dragon Ball that introduced fans to Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, an alien policeman in charge of protecting Earth from the Saiyan threat. Unfortunately for Earth, Jaco isn’t as competent at his job as he’d like to think. In fact, he causes more trouble than he’s worth. Crash landing on the planet he was supposed to protect, Jaco quickly finds himself running from the police. Along the way, he befriends the richest man in the world, Dr. Briefs, who also happens to be Bulma’s father, and Tights, the Doctor’s oldest daughter. Jaco also meets Omori, a scientist obsessed with inventing time travel. With his new allies, Jaco must find a way off this planet and back home. As a prologue to the entire universe, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman is a romp absolutely worth the read, especially if you want to keep up with Dragon Ball Super, which will pick up on these threads. Jaco made his big screen debut in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F and is set to appear in Dragon Ball Super. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US 11
THE FANS ARE (STILL) OUT THERE
AN EPISODE ROADMAP FOR BEGINNERS BY JULIETTE HARRISSON We probably don’t need to tell you that The X-Files was a phenomenon. Fans of the series are credited with originating the terms “shipping” and “Monster of the Week,” it brought genre television to the mainstream, and it made stars of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Now that The X-Files is returning in January, chances are there is a whole generation of fans wondering what all the fuss is about (plus an enormous number of people who watched it at the time but gave up somewhere around season six). Whether you’re ready to jump into the conspiracy or looking for a Monster of the Week, here’s your beginner’s’ guide to The X-Files.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will reprise their roles as FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in revival of The X-Files. Credit: Fox
n a dark world with aliens, mutants, ghosts, anomalous activity, and government conspiracy, The X-Files found a light. It spoke to people who felt like outsiders or felt disenfranchised in some manner. It found a truth that meant something different to every loyal follower. That truth was always out there, but so were the fans. The X-Files was undoubtedly the forerunner to how we discuss and debate our favorite television shows online today. While the first season of The X-Files had a small following in terms of total viewership, it grew via word of mouth on message boards and devoted fan sites. The creative team was savvy enough to build up an interactive relationship with the fans who went online to comment on every aspect of each
new episode, from monsters of the week to Scully’s morphing hairstyles and Mulder’s dry humor. Early fans adopted the phrase “X-Phile,” which in Latin, Greek, and French means enthusiast. The production crew felt the impact of these enthusiastic fans as they lurked on message boards for feedback, even naming characters for actual fans. With the excitement for the revival of The X-Files building, the talent behind the show weighed in on what X-Files fandom has meant to the show and their respective careers.
“I came on The X-Files in season two, and I watched season one as a fan. Now I feel like I’m back at the beginning watching this as a fan. I’m enjoying that part of it. It’s very bittersweet because I never stopped wanting this to happen and supported the fans.”
- Matt Allair, Den of Geek X-Files Correspondent and Webmaster of The X-Files Lexicon
– FRANK SPOTNITZ, FORMER X-FILES EXECUTIVE PRODUCER AND WRITER
“The X-Files fandom is rooted in love and support for the greatest paranormally-investigating duo we’re ever seen in Mulder and Scully. Fans aren’t just invested in the mythology and monsters, but the characters and their long, winding relationship with one another.” –JOE HARRIS, WRITER FOR THE X-FILES SEASON 10 COMIC
This January, The X-Files returns to television for the first time since 2002. We asked the talent behind the show to give an ode to the X-Philes who never stopped wanting to believe.
“THE ERLENMEYER FLASK” 1X24
24 23 22 21 20 19
KEY SEASON 1 EPISODE # ROUTE 1 ROUTE 2 ROUTE 3 ROUTE OVERLAP
16 15 14
“BEYOND THE SEA” 1X13
“When the show was on, it was a family show. Not that they had young kids watching it, but it was like Seinfeld, a family event. To me, it seems now there’s a specific group that seems to follow it.” –SHEILA LARKEN, ACTRESS, MARGARET SCULLY
“Sometimes you hark back to what was successful before and think ‘well that could be successful again.’ By some extent it was driven by the fans. The fans had been demanding, asking, pushing for the longest time.” –WILLIAM B. DAVIS, ACTOR, THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN
“EVE” 1X11 “FALLEN ANGEL” 1X10
7 6 5 4
“The audience is more fractured today than it was during The X-Files, which really felt like some collective international phenomenon. The X-Files was absolutely, directly a formative experience in my education as a writer and a producer. I really cut my teeth on that show and discovered what was possible on television.” – H OWARD GORDON, HOMELAND SHOWRUNNER AND FORMER X-FILES WRITER AND PRODUCER
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“DEEP THROAT” 1X2
If you want to watch all the arc plot episodes and skip all the Monsters of the Week, this is the route for you.
THE SHIPPING NEWS
This list is for the shippers, a term coined by fans who wanted to see Mulder and Scully get together in a romantic relationship.
TOP MONSTERS OF THE WEEK
The term "Monsters of the Week" was coined by and for The X-Files fandom, and over the years the show produced many, many great individual hours of spooky television. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
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DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
DEN OF GEEK
TELEVISION’S FALL HARVEST
CHILDHOOD’S END SYFY BY JOHN SAAVEDRA
Image: Ben King/Syfy
The Walking Dead Season 6:
Image: Ben King/Syfy
lthough many consider him one of the most important writers of 20th century science fiction, it’s not surprising that most of Arthur C. Clarke’s work has remained largely untapped for the screen. What’s the hold up? Like in the work of fellow sci-fi grandmaster Philip K. Dick, Clarke often deals with existential, abstract, all-encompassing studies into the human psyche and our vast universe. What works on the page is harder to realize on screen. “What happens a lot these days is that writers write novels designed to be movies or TV shows,” says screenwriter Matthew Graham, the man in charge of bringing Clarke’s Childhood’s End to screens for the first time. Graham notes that Clarke came from a generation who wrote novels that only existed as novels. “I’m sure he never thought for a second about whether the book would ever be a film.” In terms of Childhood’s End, it was a complicated process for Graham (Life on Mars, Doctor Who) to adapt the novel. “It’s not a linear narrative,” he says. “It jumps around in time, it dispenses with major characters halfway through, and it doesn’t follow the structures we tend to employ in
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popular entertainment.” It’s true that auteur Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was written by Clarke, changed the way we approached sci-fi films, taking the genre from B-movie adventures to serious philosophical and metaphysical endeavors. But many argue it was at the cost of coherence and entertainment value. Yes, 2001 is for the initiated, those ready to take the next evolutionary step from Star Wars to something more serious and frightening. One could even argue that 2001 has done as much damage to Clarke’s legacy as it has good. In the years since the film’s release in 1968, Clarke’s writing has earned a reputation for being unapproachable to casual fans. It might even be that modern sci-fi fans aren’t familiar with his work or don’t know his name. That’s what makes Syfy’s Childhood’s End, the first TV series to ever be adapted from the writer’s work, all the more important. Here is a chance to bring Clarke to a wider audience, without the long intermissions, classical crescendos, long, winding tunnels of color, or star-children, and ulti-
mately tell a story about what it means to be human. Nothing the network has attempted is as ambitious as this three-part miniseries that adapts a book that has remained unfilmable since 1953. Most famously, Kubrick planned to make a film based on the book before he decided to pursue 2001. But Childhood’s End is largely responsible for attracting the director to the writer’s work in the first place, creating one of the most important partnerships in cinema history. Childhood’s End is a daunting challenge. The six-hour event has to capture the themes, scientific concepts, philosophies, quirky characters, and dense plot of the surprisingly slim novel. Here are tales of existential crises, man’s purpose in the universe, alien invasion, surreal journeys through space, and lavish dinner parties, all culminating in a twisted look at the perfect utopia on Earth. Graham says his way into adapting the novel “was by taking ownership” of the material. But don’t worry, everything fans love about this novel will be intact in the finished product. “I feel I’ve been very respectful of the novel,” Graham says. “All the major sequences, ideas, and moments in the novel are in the miniseries.” The miniseries will ultimately tell the tale of a peaceful alien invasion of Earth by unseen captors known as the Overlords. Their takeover effectively ends war, crime, poverty, and unites the entire world under one banner. This should sound like the best outcome to centuries of bloodshed, suffering, and cruelty, but some humans aren’t so convinced. Why won’t the mysterious Overlords come down from their ships? Who is Karellen, and why has he chosen to speak to only one human on the entire planet? Graham teased how this would all tie in to the current state of our planet. “We explore the notion that we are overwhelmed by media,” he says. “That’s the big way we get into it. Everything is reported and regurgitated endlessly. You really get the sense of a planet that’s constantly chattering to itself.” It’s no wonder the Overlords decide to reveal themselves on TV screens, through radio waves, and presumably on the internet. Our alien captors know we’re listening. Childhood’s End premieres on December 14th at 8 p.m. on Syfy. It stars Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Julian McMahon (Fantastic Four), Mike Vogel (Under the Dome), Daisy Betts (Persons Unknown), and Yael Stone (Orange Is the New Black).
Who Are the Wolves?
The Walking Dead season 5 introduced plenty of new characters and mysteries, many of which Rick and his group had to deal with head-on. But one question still remained unanswered by the end of the season: Who are the Wolves? Speculation has run rampant in the last few months as to the identity of this group of survivors who leave behind a calling card after they’ve slaughtered their prey. You undoubtedly saw a few zombies creeping around with big Ws carved into their decaying foreheads. That’s about all we have to go on so far. But all evidence points to the Wolves as the new villains of the show. After a run-in with one of the main cast, it seems that these survivors aren’t just your average bandits trying to make the best out of a walker-filled situation. Their banding together to steal, kill, and leave their mark on the world seems to point to some kind of religious experience. Like a cult. For fans that have kept up with Robert Kirkman’s fantastic The Walking Dead comic book series, the Wolves’ appearance may have rung some warning bells. A particular arch-villain may even come to mind. Of course, we’ll let you revel in that knowledge on your own or find out in season 6. Showrunner Scott Gimple and executive producer Greg Nicotero have both teased the origin of the Wolves and what they’re up to in the upcoming season. We absolutely haven’t seen the last of these new, creepy villains. How creepy are they? Well, even the Terminans were afraid of them. We have way more Walking Dead news, spoilers, rumors, and clips at denofgeek.us. And don’t miss our weekly TWD podcast, No Room in Hell, on our SoundCloud.com/denofgeek.
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DEN OF GEEK
TELEVISION’S FALL HARVEST
THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER
Summer is long gone, and now we retreat to the comfort of a cozy couch and a dimly lit room, sunburnt and salivating for peak television season. From bastards to heroes, we zero in on the freshman television shows that we’re excited about in this year’s Fall crop.
Kurt Sutter had amazing success on FX with his biker crime saga Sons of Anarchy and now he’s back for The Bastard Executioner. From guns to swords and hogs to steeds, this historical fiction drama centers on a knight in King Edward I’s army who’s forced out of retirement and into the role of executioner in the midst of the Madog ap Llywelyn Welsh rebellion. The series stars newcomer Lee Jones, True Blood’s Stephen Moyer and will feature appearances from Sutter’s wife Kathy Sagal and even musician Ed Sheeran.
BY NICK HARLEY, DAVID CROW AND JOHN SAAVEDRA
Image: Ollie Upton/FX
Looking to recapture the magic of its first season while also cashing in on the superhero boom, NBC has resurrected Heroes, bringing back creator Tim Kring to shepherd a 13-episode mini-series titled Heroes Reborn. Set one year after a supposed terrorist attack at the hands of an individual with special abilities, any of the super powered who haven’t been rounded up by the government are in hiding. Jack Coleman’s Noah Bennet returns to tie in the events to the original series as well as former cast members Masi Oka, Greg Grunberg, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Cristine Rose, and Noah Gray-Cabey. New cast members include Zachary Levi, Judith Shekoni, and Henry Zebrowski. Image: Christos Kalohoridis/NBC
Image: Michael Becker / FOX
Acting as a sequel to the classic short story by sci-fi grandmaster Philip K. Dick and the film by Steven Spielberg, Minority Report stars Stark Sands (Inside Llewyn Davis) as Dash, a man who can predict crime before it happens. Besides helping Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good) prevent these offenses, Dash is also searching for his twin brother (Nick Zano) and running from those who want to acquire his power for their own interests. This sounds like classic PKD fare. Let’s hope Fox does right by the original tale.
Image: Jason Bell/Syfy
Image: Darren Michaels/CBS
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no wait, it’s a redcaped DC superhero unafraid to fly with a sense of joy and fun! While the big screen adventures of her cousin have taken a turn toward the dour, Kara Zor-El is earning her wings (and red S) on CBS with this new superhero show from Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler. Don’t expect Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl to crossover with Berlanti’s other DC superhero shows on CW (at least not this year), but she soars just fine on her own.
This space opera continues Syfy’s push for ambitious original scifi programming. It stars Thomas Jane (The Mist, Hung) as a fedora-clad detective named Josephus Miller who must find a missing woman in a fully-colonized solar system. The pilot has already garnered praise for its visuals and characters. The show is based on a series of Hugo-nominated novels by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (under the pen name “James S. A. Carey”).
Listen up, you primitive screwheads: Ash is back and he’s bringing the boomstick with him. The Dead will rise again on Starz this Halloween night, but luckily Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have re-teamed to read from the Necronomicon on Ash vs. Evil Dead. It is said wisdom comes with age, but for Ashley Williams, let’s just hope it comes with buckets of gore.
Fargo technically isn’t a new show, but it’s heading in a new direction. After all the glowing press and word of mouth, a second installment seemed inevitable, but the FX drama will follow in the footsteps of fellow anthology series American Horror Story and feature a brand new cast and a new story the second time around. Creator, writer, and executive producer Noah Hawley will return to helm the new season, set in 1979 and focusing on a young Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) investigating a case involving a local crime gang and a major mob syndicate. The new season will also feature Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Nick Offerman, Jean Smart, Brad Garrett, and Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan, among many others.
Continuing the trend of popular movies getting televised sequels, Limitless picks up after the events of the 2011 film, with Jake McDorman starring as Brian Finch, a new pharmaceutical guinea pig. After discovering a mysterious drug that increases his IQ to four figures, Brian will unlock his unlimited potential and become a crime-solving investigator for the FBI. Bradley Cooper will gueststar as the 2011 film’s Eddie Morra, last seen running for U.S. Senate but now sharing his miracle drug with Brian for unknown reasons.
ASH VS. EVIL DEAD
Image: Chris Large/FX
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Image: WGN America
BUILDING THE BOMB The site of the world’s first atomic bomb is the home to one of television’s best-kept secrets. We went to Los Alamos to investigate. BY CHRIS LONGO
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WELCOME TO NOWHERE: A WINDING DIRT ROAD THAT STRETCHES FOR MILES ACROSS THE DESERT TERRAIN, CUTTING BETWEEN ROLLING HILLS WITH SPOTTY SHRUBS THAT BLANKET THE BUMPS IN THE EARTH LIKE MOSS ON A ROCK. A planted yellow sign that says “Atom” directs you past The Hill, a popup city where “silence” reads loud on World War II propaganda billboards and secrets are traded like currency. Most of the houses are as hollow as they appear on television, where the re-imagining of the famed Manhattan Project comes to life on WGN America’s Manhattan. On set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, not far from where the world’s first nuclear bomb was conceived and tested, shooting for season two is coming to a close and the bustling, self-contained city seen on screen is mostly dormant. Loosely centered on the real-life origin story of the atomic bomb, Manhattan uses history as a jumping off point to construct its own narrative. As rewritten history goes: Frank Winter, a brilliant, yet emotionally detached (fictional) scientist, is leading a team working to build a nuclear weapon
that could end World War II. While the race toward nuclear functionality forges on, the series prods the collective psyche of the men and women on The Hill. Brainy co-workers have workplace squabbles, moral and ethical lines are drawn in sand, and marriages and families hang by a thread, all amidst increasing wartime paranoia. It’s Mad Men with an industrial-military complex set in the desert. Manhattan debuted with a bang for a network still finding its way onto televisions across the country. The series premiered on July 27, 2014, and pulled in 1.8 million viewers across three airings that night, a sizeable audience considering WGN America was only available in about 70 million homes at the time. Viewership never returned to the plateau set by the premiere, but the network is counting on a positive critical reception and the generous boost streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
WGN AMERICA GOES UNDERGROUND By Nick Harley
John Benjamin Hickey takes direction before shooting a scene on the set of Manhattan season two. Image: WGN America
tend to give cable shows (Manhattan is a Hulu exclusive) to help cultivate a larger audience. To get there, they’ll have to prove that the journey is more important than the Manhattan Project’s outcome. “There’s the luxury of being a well-kept secret,” says actor John Benjamin Hickey, who stars as Frank Winter. “We’re still in our nascent stages and you want to enjoy that childhood and hope you get to grow into very old people on this show.” On July 16, 1945, “The Gadget,” a 19-kiloton plutonium bomb was dropped on an 18 by 24 miles tract of land in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin, Spanish for “Journey of the Dead Man.” It sent a blast radius extending far beyond a region, state, and country. The secret government project, now known in history textbooks as the Trinity Test, set the world on a collision course with its nuclear destiny. As season two sets out to tell the story of the Trinity Test on its 70th anniversary, the scientists who spent the first 13 episodes worried about how to make the bomb now begin to question how it will be used. “The blinders come off,” Hickey says. “Frank sees how remarkably naïve he’s been about the purpose of this bomb. The nature of building a bomb by definition can’t mean one thing.” “They’re all about the advancement of science without thinking about what the consequence would be,” adds Katja Hebers, who plays Helen Prins, the lone female scientist attached to the project. “They just want to do the best work they
“THIS WAS THE BIRTH OF THE ATOMIC AGE. IT’S A STORY THAT DEFINITELY DOESN’T HAVE AN ENDING YET.” possibly can.” Creator Sam Shaw wrote the first draft of the Manhattan pilot six years before WGN America agreed to make it the network’s second original series. Roughly a year before getting a green light, he got together with Emmy-winning director Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing) to map out a plan to bring Shaw’s version of the Manhattan Project to the small screen. Then something rare in television happened: WGN America stepped in and offered a complete season order before they shot a pilot. “Tommy had very specific and really brilliant insights about how to make this show producible and how to tell this story,” Shaw says. “So I’ve been beneficiary of all that experience and wisdom.” When the script hit Schlamme’s desk, he recognized it not as another World War II piece, which there’s been little shortage of in recent years, but a commentary on issues of the era that are still relevant today. “It’s the origin story of the America that we live in right now,” Schlamme says. “This was the birth of the atomic age. It’s a story that definitely doesn’t have an ending yet.”
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Shaw says he went into the process of making the show with “lofty hopes of what six or seven years of storytelling would look like,” but the inescapable fact is someday the bomb will have to drop. “From the beginning, Tommy had joked that I had an itchy trigger finger and I wanted to drop the bomb and if it were up to me, I’d drop it in episode four,” Shaw recalls. As the characters begin to deal with the moral hangover of the Trinity Test, Manhattan will play with time in season two. While season one remained linear, Shaw says they’ll approach structure in different ways with episodes that more forward in time, one as much as six months. One episode in particular finds Frank Winter battling issues of moral and mental clarity as he’s physically removed from the rest of the ensemble. “[The episode] takes place in this contained world and it’s this psychological thriller between two characters,” Shaw says. As for how Hickey prepared for demanding episode shot unlike any other thus far? “Tito’s Vodka,” he says with a smirk. The veteran actor and Tony Award winner re-
Top: Frank and Liza Winter (John Benjamin Hickey and Olivia Williams) find their relationship strained as season two picks up. Bottom: Charlie and Abby Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman and Rachael Brosnahan) navigate the secrecy of The Hill in season one. Images: WGN America
lies on his theatre background when it comes time to rehearse for the show. “A lot of us come from the theater and that’s when you realize what great gifts the theatre gives you,” Hickey says. “The writing is so good that you make sure you get together with that actor you’re playing opposite, whoever it is that week, and know your stuff. Through form there is freedom. You work your butt off so you can let go and put yourself in those imaginary circumstances.” Hickey doesn’t have to look far for a rehearsal partner. Actress Olivia Williams, a star of stage and screen in her own right, most notably for The Sixth Sense and Rushmore, stars as Frank’s wife Liza Winter. Giving up her own promising career as a scientist to support her husband’s wartime duty, Liza goes on a mission to find her own sense of purpose among the isolation of Los Alamos.
“In season one, Liza said she would make this sacrifice for her husband and he asks of her again, and again, and again,” Williams says. “It’s that thing where at what point do you say to your partner, ‘no.’” Disconnect between partners is a constant theme in the first season, partially due to the stress related to the project and the uneasy living situation. The Hill was only meant to house a few hundred people and it ended up expanding into the thousands, turning the home into a case study on how people respond when they’re under a microscope. “This was ground zero for the way we relate to each other, our society, and our government now,” says actor Ashley Zukerman whose character, Charlie Isaacs, begins the season as head of the project, stepping in for the displaced Frank Winter. “This place is a construct of the time. It helps us drive our story,” he says.
The most memorable drama series center on scared, cornered characters pushed to their breaking point. History is full of these types, but perhaps no more so than when slavery was prevalent in the United States. WGN America is set to explore the harsh realities of American slavery with its new drama series, Underground. The series marks the third period piece for the network after debuting Salem, loosely based on the Salem Witch Trials, and Manhattan, in 2014. Created by television veterans Joe Pokaski (Heroes, CSI) and Misha Green (Heroes, Sons of Anarchy), Underground was conceived out of natural curiosity. “Part of the genesis of this is all that I knew about the Underground Railroad was that little square you found in your Social Studies book,” Pokaski says. “It was oversimplified. Not only the struggle of slavery, but the heat of the scheme, and the more we did our research, the more complex and dramatic everything about the Underground Railroad was.” “Really, this time in American history was a desperate and dangerous time,” Green adds, “and it created desperate and dangerous people and I think that’s what we love: to watch characters that are going to surprise you on television week after week.” The series stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Friday Night Lights) as house slave Rosa Lee, a young woman who has never stepped off the plantation her whole life and Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton) as Noah, another slave who believes he’s meant to be free. The series also will star Christopher Meloni, but Pokaski and Green remain mum on his character. In researching the show, Pokaski and Green focused on first-person narrative they found in the Library of Congress from former slaves. Hearing these harrowing accounts from primary sources helped crack the series open for the duo. “To just hear this girl talk about how she had never been off this plantation and her whole family was there,” Green says. “It was this real choice; you had to have the courage to kind of break the entire system that you’ve known your entire life.” Underground premieres on WGN America in 2016.
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Images: Liane Hentscher/Amazon Studios
HUGO AWARD–WINNING AUTHOR
RETURNS TO HIS BESTSELLING OLD MAN’S WAR UNIVERSE
THE ADAPTATION LIES HEAVY After years of false starts, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE stormed Amazon pilot season to glowing reviews. Now, the first season aims to capture the imagination of the streaming world.
BY CHRIS LONGO
It’s been an odyssey,” says Isa Dick-Hackett of the eight years it took to find a home for the television adaptation of her father’s beloved novel, The Man in the High Castle. She remembers a phone call with producer David W. Zucker, who had been involved on the project from the very beginning, during which they debated the merits of participating in Amazon Studios’ pilot season, which came with no guarantee of a season order. They ultimately chose to enter the streaming world, and along with executive producers Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files), they shot a pilot for the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternate history of World War II. It went on to become the mostwatched of the more than 40 pilots produced by Amazon Studios since 2010. High Castle ascended like a von Braun rocket from production hell to critical acclaim almost overnight, and its journey through the Amazon pilot process could be a look into the future of the television industry. “When we started, Amazon wasn’t even an option,” Zucker recalls. “We’ve gone through quite a transformation in terms of what the business is.” Zucker and Dick-Hackett brought their pitch overseas and back again, weathered false starts for a miniseries at BBC and Syfy, and endured the death of a screenwriter before Amazon came calling with an offer that would
allow them to develop their ideal project. The catch was that Amazon Studios adopted a system in which the greenlight process becomes a democracy: anyone can submit a screenplay or video pitch; the worthy ones get pilots; and then fans vote for the shows they’d
“I think with every film adaptation, the following grows, and hopefully it brings people back to the written work.” - Isa Dick-Hackett, producer; daughter of Philip K. Dick like to see ordered to series. Zucker remembers pacing around a department store while on the phone with Dick-Hackett as they weighed their options. If the pilot was poorly received, the risk would essentially shelve the project for good. But the reward was a greenlight from a studio with money to spend and a desire to make ambitious programming.
“It’s pretty scary because you’re exposed,” Spotnitz admits. It was an added pressure for the executive producer since he also penned the first episode. “The whole world is going to see your pilot and see whether you succeed or fail.” When the pilot dropped in January 2015, viewers were mesmerized by a story that imagines a world in which the Allies lost World War II, and the Axis powers — Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany — now controlled the United States. The only real viewership issue involved fans having to wait until November to watch the first season in full on Amazon Instant Video. With High Castle finding a home on a progressive media platform, it could help introduce a new generation to the world of Philip K. Dick. “I think with every film adaptation, the following grows, and hopefully it brings people back to the written work,” Dick-Hackett says. For as long as it took to get Dick’s source material before a camera, the people behind the lens are careful to make sure they pay ode to a classic. Spotnitz seems particularly aware of both the challenge and advantage of transferring High Castle to a new medium. “What we’ve done, I think, is reorganized the narrative for television, because it’s a short book, and we want this to be a big canvas,” Spotnitz says. “The gift of a television series is you can take your time.”
Humans expanded into space…only to find a universe populated with multiple alien species bent on their destruction. The Colonial Union used the Earth and its excess population for colonists and soldiers. It was a good arrangement for the Colonial Union. Then the Earth said: no more. CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson and the Colonial Union diplomats he works with race against the clock to discover who is behind attacks on the Union and alien races, to seek peace with a suspicious, angry Earth, and keep humanity’s union intact...or else risk oblivion, extinction, and the end of all things.
“If anyone stands at the core of the American science fiction tradition at the moment, it is Scalzi.” —The The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition
JOHN SCALZI this Thursday:
TOR: THE NEXT GENERATION! PANEL Moderated by John Scalzi with Seth Dickinson, Ilana C. Myer, Lawrence M. Schoen, and Fran Wilde
1:30pm in Room 1A18 Autographing: 2:45pm at Bookstore, Hall 1-B Book signing and giveaway of John Scalzi’s The Human Division 5pm at Tor Books Booth #2223
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9/3/15 12:16 PM
Left: Bruce Campbell with his chainsaw at the ready. Above: Pablo Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) after a grisly encounter with a Deadite. Images: Starz Entertainment
BRUCE CAMPBELL DOES NOT CARE MUCH FOR TORTURE PORN.
THE EVIL FAMILY BUSINESS Bruce Campbell and Friends Bring Horror Back from the Dead BY DAVID CROW
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He made that point explicit, highlighted, and then underscored with a chainsaw both times we spoke this summer. “I’m very glad we’re out of that sort of shitty filmmaking stage,” Campbell says with a pause during a phone interview. “Now, we’re going back, I think, to horror that’s a little more genuine.” Campbell should know. He’s at the forefront of a cult revival for the style he helped revolutionize alongside Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert in a Tennessee cabin, oh so many moons ago. Only this time, the revolution is going to be televised—and aired weekly on Starz, no less. Noting that there is little talent required for churning stomachs, Campbell thinks audiences are ready for “good old-fashioned pumping blood,” and the kind of filmmaking ingenuity that relies on building suspense and jumps, as opposed to shock and disgust. Plus, a few wellplaced puns and punchlines never hurt either. “[The series] is a counterbalance to anybody who isn’t really interested in grim horror or unremittingly dark horror,” Campbell continues. “If you’re interested in little rays of sunshine in your horror, we’re the show for you.” That blood and sunshine of which Campbell speaks is Ash vs. Evil Dead, the unlikely but welcome resurrection of cinema’s most beloved
“video nasty” legacy. It’s been 36 years since Campbell, Raimi, and Tapert first went to that cabin in the woods, but fans demanded to see more of Campbell’s big screen alter-ego; the loudmouthed and vainglorious Ashley Williams has persisted from Evil Dead II (1987) to Army of Darkness (1992), and now into the 21st century. “We did a remake a couple years ago to try and placate fans, but they wanted more,” the actor muses about Ash vs. Evil Dead’s genesis. “They wanted Sam to direct, they wanted me to be Ash, and so with television the way it is now… we thought, ‘What the hell? Let’s do it as TV!’” For Campbell, there might have never been a more fitting venue or format for his fourth Evil Dead adventure. As a performer, he professes to love the speed and expediency of a television schedule that allows him to both shoot a death scene and pay his taxes before lunch. It is also the medium where he has built an eclectic on-and-off career, playing cowboys, American Revolution superheroes, and perhaps most memorably, retired spook and braggart Sam Axe on USA’s Burn Notice. Indeed, it is the melding of that legacy with his even more iconic movie one that has created such strong potential for hype and excitement right out of the gate. It’s also the kind of potential that Starz is ready to bet on all the way to the presumed cult glories that come with boomsticks and gallons of blood. When I first met Campbell during July’s San Diego Comic-Con for a roundtable interview, he immediately came across as a thoughtful and gracious man, quick to punctuate interviews with a quip but otherwise remaining a deliberate and straightforward professional. Yet the moment Campbell takes the stage of a convention floor filled with a thousand fans and a half-dozen cosplayers dressed as his big (and now DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
State University. And incidentally, Ivan Raimi helped Sam with the screenplays for all three Evil Dead films, earning a co-credit on Army of Darkness, which featured one of the many cameos of brother Ted Raimi, who appeared throughout the series. While Ted Raimi is not in the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, both Campbell and Lawless are adamant about getting him on the set of a possible season two, with Lawless in particular hoping that he will soon be slathered in Deadite makeup; she insists that of all these franchise veterans, only Ted can withstand more prosthetic pain. “[Evil Dead] has been part of our life for 20 years,” Lawless said with the faintest hint of pride during our first sit down in San Diego. “So, it’s kind of a family business.” She would elaborate during a follow-up interview that whenever she and Rob visit Sam Raimi while away from their New Zealand home, it is something of a communal gathering. “Sam is like Uncle Sam in LA. We all go visit him, and he cooks massive barbecue, and we have a bunch of children running around in the backyard. But as a director he is so loved; he’s a very interesting director [because] he plays every role. You can sit him down and he’ll inhabit the role opposite you, and then with the other actors, he’ll be playing my role. It’s how he feels out the comedy dialogue.” This might be true of all his players’ experience, but he is also a director who is infamous for acutely focusing on Bruce Campbell for physical punishment on the set, both while he is in character and when he is out of it. In particular, Campbell remembers with equal measures of nostalgia and discomfort a time on the set of Army of Darkness when he was strapped into a visual effects rig and could not move as Sam Raimi surprised him from behind with a twoby-four to the ankle. “Are you ready for this!?” he kept shouting while Campbell wrenched in pain. Apparently, not much has changed in this playfully extreme version of motivation. “Only he’s a better filmmaker now,” Campbell remarks. “So, he can torment me in more sophisticated ways. But I’m a clever little actor now, so I can duck around that sometimes, too.” Lawless, who has never been the target of such precise direction by Raimi, is amused by his Campbell-specific process, suggesting that this is the real heart and appeal of the Evil Dead franchise: “People want to see Bruce being treated badly.” It is also likely something that returns to the original brand of stunningly off-color humor and horror that made The Evil Dead such a visceral experience for her first viewing, and which remains a facet of Ash vs. Evil Dead. When I sat down with Sam and Ivan Raimi for a roundtable interview in July, Ivan Raimi suggested that they intended to maintain the horror of the first film and the tone and tenor of Ash’s trash-talking vanity from the sequels. Similarly, Campbell says the series is basically the “companion and amalgam of the movies.” Campbell even states that they went to Starz with an edict for marketing: don’t advertise this like it’s the next The Walking Dead. For the actor, this meant from the beginning that Ash would be the sum total of laughter and gore that was accumulated during the three previous films, with only a few new accessories to go
along with the bad one-liners, like dentures, a girdle, and a mysterious new weapon. “Ash has become more set in his ways [and more] stubborn,” says Sam Raimi, who also directed the first episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead. “Believe it or not, he’s a little more ignorant and even less open to new ideas.” Yet, despite loving to pile the blood and bizarre onto this protagonist, Raimi also spoke about Ash Williams and his new role in the TV series with occasional eloquence, and even reluctant admiration. “I think as dumb as Ash is, for some reason in [the minds of Ivan and me], and as written of in The Book of the Dead, his destiny is somehow all bound up with the Necronomicon. And I think it’s because on a bigger scale, there’s a battle between the spirits of the Good Lord above and who knows what, but there is a contest going on between evil and good. And it’s playing out through representation of the average man, which is Ash. I think if evil can defeat him at any time or place, then it will be again time for evil to walk and rule the Earth. And if the average man is strong, if he’s strong of heart and spirit, and soul, it will again be time for that evil to sleep for 10,000 or so years… I don’t think any of us know this, and I don’t think it’s brought out, but I think that’s what’s probably happening below the surface.” Raimi takes a momentary pause while his brother Ivan begins to chuckle in preparation for the punchline. “But I wish we had better representation for mankind than him, but unfortunately he’s been chosen for some reason.” Ivan then causes his brother to also break earnestness by adding, “You play the cards you’re dealt.” As with Ash himself, it seems likely that the monkey’s paw of self-righteousness and blooddrenched perversity are totally intact for Ash vs. Evil Dead. In fact, this tonal whiplash remains the best point-of-entry into the show and overall universe’s sense of humor. This definitely held true for Lawless’ understanding of Ruby Knowby and her character beats. Despite being Samuel Gerard to Ash’s Richard Kimble in this story, chasing the protagonist down for his idiotic tendencies to read from the Book of the Dead, Lawless’ straight-man character gets into just as many gonzo scenarios as Ash. This includes eventually succumbing to Ash’s lothario ways for a love scene that Lawless describes as “just wrong,” as well as making out with a 10-year-old boy who has been possessed by the soul of her character’s dead lover. That sequence presented an awkward and legitimate ethical dilemma for Lawless. However for the actress, there was a specific moment where who her character was and exactly what kind of tone this horror-comedy series evokes clicked into place. Lawless distinctly recalls with a laugh the very scene she was shooting with Jill Marie Jones, who portrays law enforcement agent and fellow Deadite slayer Amanda Fisher. “There was a scene where it started to crystallize for me what my role was,” Lawless recalls. She was sitting next to Jones while filming in a car “and my character kind of hits on her. It was so funny. I saw it on the playback, and it was like ‘Bam, now I get it.’” One imagines that this epiphany, not to mention the ethical dilemmas, will likewise be a common occurrence when viewers tune in to the first episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead on Halloween night.
“I SAID THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THIS MOVIE ARE SICK MISOGYNISTIC ASSHOLES, AND THEY SHOULD BE IN PRISON! AND 12 YEARS LATER, I WAS MARRIED TO ONE OF THEM.” – LUCY LAWLESS
Lucy Lawless as Ruby Knowby is on the hunt for Ash and the Book of the Dead. Image: Starz Entertainment
small) screen hero, his persona becomes as loud as his adorned, tacky red suit. Hyping the crowd with the kind of mania usually reserved for the “King” himself (a role Campbell also played in Bubba Ho-Tep), the cult star’s chin holds similar sway over his fiefdom as those fabled hips commanded another. Once he turns on his trademark Ash Williams bravado and grade school charm, Campbell can dominate a room with or without the chainsaw. It is just as much the selling point of Ash vs. Evil Dead as the prospect of Deadite zombies doing nasty things with nasty tree limbs to soon-to-be nasty corpses. “Bruce is such a virtuoso performer,” Lucy Lawless marvels about her Ash co-star after watching him battle his own possessed hand in Evil Dead II. “That was unbelievable. He’s Buster Keaton in blood.” Lawless, a television icon in her own right following Xena: Warrior Princess, has nothing but respect for Campbell, whom she has considered a friend and a colleague for years. “We are like two comrades from the trenches, who really see a completely different side,” she says. “We see [the industry] through a completely different prism from a lot of people, and we see a lot of humor 28 DEN OF GEEK ■ NEW YORK COMIC CON EXTRA
where others haven’t seen it.” Perhaps that is a major reason why Lawless has now officially joined the Evil Dead family. Cast in the role of Ruby Knowby, daughter to the original Evil Dead’s hapless Professor Knowby who first read from the Book of the Dead while in his austere fruit cellar, Lawless is entering a franchise that she already has an evolving history with. Recalling the first time she watched The Evil Dead on video when she was 17-years-old, Lawless can still vividly recollect her then-boyfriend telling her it was a classic. “After the first five minutes, I got up in a fit of feminist angst and stomped off, leaving my boyfriend and his buddies to endure the rest,” she recalls with a knowing smile at the impending irony. “I said the people who made this movie are sick misogynistic assholes, and they should be in prison! And 12 years later, I was married to one of them. It’s the ultimate never say never.” Indeed, Ash vs. Evil Dead has become something of a reunion for almost all involved. In 1998, Lawless married Rob Tapert, the producer on all three Evil Dead films and executive producer of Ash vs. Evil Dead. And Tapert has been friends with Campbell and Raimi (who go back to childhood) since rooming with Raimi’s brother, Ivan, at Michigan
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FALL MOVIE PREVIEW AS S U R E A S T H E CH AN G I N G OF TH E LEAV ES, A NEW SEA SON O F B LO CK B U S T ER S AN D AWAR D H OP E FUL S IS HERE! BY JOHN SAAVEDRA
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…
ove over superheroes and other masked adventurers: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most anticipated film of the past few years. This is the blockbuster that gave birth to blockbusters. After more than 10 years, the Star Wars saga finally returns to the big screen. The Force Awakens brings with it the promise of a new era for the franchise, and new characters and stories for its legion of fans. Disney has taken over the reins of this universe for a new trilogy of “episodes,” as well as several standalone films that will expand the roles of characters like Han Solo. It all kicks off with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which arrives in our galaxy on Dec. 18. Director J. J. Abrams, who also directed the two latest Star Trek movies, helms the film from a script that he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan, one of the screenwriters on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (not to mention the scribe of Raiders of the Lost Ark and writer-director of The Big Chill). Keeping with the Star Wars tradition, the film stars relatively unknown actors, at least by blockbuster standards. Daisy Ridley (Blue Season), John Boyega (Attack the Block), and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) play the three main heroes of the film. The supporting cast includes Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, and Max von Sydow. Oh, and let’s not forget that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford,
Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels are all returning as well. What can be surmised from Disney and Mr. Abrams’ unsurprisingly tightlipped production is that The Force Awakens takes place approximately 30 years after Return of the Jedi and will follow the next generation of heroes who must fight against a rising intergalactic threat. After the fall of the New Republic — a fledgling government that was formed by the Rebellion following the Empire’s demise — a second civil war has broken out between the Resistance (the good guys) and the First Order (the bad guys). Throw in whatever is left of the Jedi (Luke Skywalker) and a new faction of warriors known as the Knights of Ren, of which Adam Driver’s villainous Kylo Ren is a member, and you have quite the messy situation. Amidst all this is the tale of Rey (Ridley), Finn (Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Isaac)—how they met, how they fought, and how they (presumably) saved the galaxy. As you can imagine, continuing the Star Wars saga is no easy task for Disney and Lucasfilm. George Lucas’ prequel trilogy left behind a bitter taste in many fans’ mouths. Luckily, Disney has specialized in turning waning fictional universes into billion-dollar blockbuster behemoths on the scale of a Rancor. Ever heard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Disney is approaching Star Wars the same way: by build-
ing a universe of both main movies and standalone films that will create a web of interconnected stories for generations to come. But there is another challenge to The Force Awakens’ success: can this post-Jedi film deliver on the canon that came before? For many fans growing up after the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, there was only one way to stay in the galaxy far, far away: the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Starting with the original Marvel comics, which featured a giant, green bunny rabbit named Jaxxon at one point, fans could read the further adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia on the page. These stories continued into books, starting with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. Zahn’s novel effectively created the foundation for the New Republic, as it was also known in the old (or “Legends”) canon, introduced new Force-users, and proved that the Empire could still cause a lot of trouble for the galaxy even if it was no longer in power. The result is 400 of the best pages written about Star Wars. Disney, Lucasfilm, Abrams, and Kasdan basically have to build from the ground up, ignoring an already cherished history. While the blank slate gives an enormous freedom, it is also undoubtedly terrifying. The universe we’ll have to live with until at least 2020 will be from the minds of this new Rebel Alliance. May the Force be with them.
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FALL MOVIE PREVIEW 2015 E OCTOB
BY DAVID CROW
SPECTRE NOVEMBER 6 A funny thing happened on the way to making the Daniel Craig James Bond movies: they developed a sense of continuity and emotion! From the bitter defeat of 007’s first adventure—and the last Ian Fleming novel to properly make it to the big screen—in Casino Royale to his fiery homecoming on the grounds of Skyfall, this Bond has gone on a journey, and it’s been a painful one. It’s perhaps most intriguing of all that he will finally greet the man responsible for it in Spectre. It’s the 24th James Bond film and the one that brings him face-toface with Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), “the author of all your pain.” Spectre marks the second consecutive 007 feature from director Sam Mendes and screenwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade. After Skyfall, they’ve earned the chance to pen this seeming denouement, which has attracted the impressive talent of Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux as the new Bond girls—the latter of whom is introduced in the Spectre trailer with John Barry’s iconic “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” theme. Ominous things indeed for the most discerning of Bond aficionados.
CRIMSON PEAK OCTOBER 16 When you talk to Guillermo del Toro about gothic horror, there’s always a glint of joy in his eye. For the auteur of all things macabre, this isn’t another stuffy genre or period piece; it’s an art form for the passionate and lurid, the whispered and supernatural. There’s something beautifully grotesque about the style, and it’s rotting away from the inside of that evil house on a hill in Crimson Peak. When a beautiful young author (Mia Wasikowska) is swept up in a whirlwind romance with the dashing Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), she can scarcely fathom what secret hells await her at his country estate of Crimson Peak. There she’ll find a new sister-in-law, played with cryptic venom by Jessica Chastain, and a household haunted by centuries of nightmares… or worse. Tired of found footage horror with “B-value budgets,” del Toro seeks to exorcise demons from past cinematic triumphs like The Innocents or Rebecca. Indeed, Crimson Peak even opens on the anniversary of Jane Eyre’s 1847 publication. But between del Toro’s legacy and the R-rating, you can expect something much more bloody.
BRIDGE OF SPIES OCTOBER 16 If ever there was a collaboration that could hype a movie alone, the combined talents of Steven Spielberg, the Coen Brothers, and Tom Hanks on Bridge of Spies should be it. Add in the backdrop of the Cold War, and it just might be the definition of a must-see film. For Bridge of Spies, Hanks plays James B. Donovan, a Brooklyn-born attorney who was recruited by the CIA in 1962 to journey to Berlin to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), a downed U-2 spy plane pilot who was flying for Langley. Unfortunately for Dono-
van, this can only be accomplished by swapping Powers for Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a KGB agent who was famously captured years earlier by the FBI in New York City. Set during the heart of distrust between two world powers, Bridge of Spies emerges at a not-so-surprisingly fortuitous moment from Spielberg, whose last film, Lincoln just happened to coincide with a presidential election year. Also marking Spielberg and Hanks’ fourth pairing as director-and-star, Bridge of Spies appears to be a path well worth traveling.
THE LAST WITCH HUNTER OCTOBER 23 Following up on the $1.5 billion grossing Furious 7, Vin Diesel discovers a new enemy to confront on the movie screen, and she’s now quite bewitching. As The Last Witch Hunter, Diesel plays Kaulder, a valiant warrior who once vanquished the nigh-unbeatable Queen Witch. But that was many centuries ago. In her dying breath, she damned Kaulder to live for eternity, forced to walk the ages alone after his wife and child have shuffled off this mortal coil. Now in the present day, Vin Diesel’s medieval hero will find help from a modern priest (Elijah Wood), a comely good witch (Rose Leslie), and the impeccable Michael Caine as… Michael Caine. With their assistance, he might just be able to stop a coven of ancient witches that still walk this Earth as they plan to unleash the Black Death upon us all. 32 DEN OF GEEK ■ NEW YORK COMIC CON EXTRA
THE PEANUTS MOVIE NOVEMBER 6 Good grief, has it already been 65 years? Why yes it has been, Charlie Brown! Just in time for the anniversary of Charles M. Schulz’s timeless comic strip comes The Peanuts Movie, the first full-length theatrical adaptation of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and the rest of the Peanuts gang. As the latest effort from Steve Martino and his team at Blue Sky Studios, The Peanuts Movie arrives with mighty expectations, as well as a screenplay co-written by Craig Schulz and Bryan Schultz (and Cornelius Uliano). Unlike previous screen adaptations of the beloved strip, Blue Sky is ambitiously attempting to recreate Schulz’s iconic art via 3D animation. While perpetual underdog Charlie Brown embarks on the greatest quest yet in his young life—to woo the new redhead girl in his school—his best pal Snoopy will take to the skies in pursuit of his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron. The question is, will there be a football?
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 NOVEMBER 20 As the film to conclude the most successful young adult franchise in movie history, expectations are running high for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. But that has been par for the course for Miss Katniss Everdeen her entire life, and it might even be the edge this film needs to surpass the more deliberate first half of Mockingjay. All the stars, including an impressively large cast, appear to be in alignment for the final Hunger Games drama that brings the revolution to the very door of the Capitol—and to the throne room of the wonderfully repellent President Snow. Framed just as much as Jennifer Lawrence versus Donald Sutherland as the Peeta/Gale love triangle’s finale, Mockingjay – Part 2 seeks to end this war with more than a girl being on fire. An entire country will burn too. Viva la révolution! DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
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FALL MOVIE PREVIEW 2015 B N OV E M
JOY DECEMBER 25 VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN NOVEMBER 25 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the genesis of all horror, and it’s as much about post-romanticism philosophy as it is a horror tale. Shelley was only 18 when she gave the world a secular creation myth, and created a genre unto itself. It also eventually birthed the most iconic of movie monsters. Victor Frankenstein puts the focus back on the original protagonist of Shelley’s novel with a new take from director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) and screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle). Foregoing the hunchback of Bela Lugosi’s paterfamilias “Ygor,” Daniel Radcliffe embodies the dashing Igor Strausman, assistant to a gifted but enigmatic medical student named Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). Together, they will play God and raise the dead. But their friendship will need to endure these resurrected monstrosities, lest they soon go on to meet their own maker too.
With all the biopics released in any given year, the subject of Joy Mangano never seemed like an obvious candidate for the big screen treatment. Nonetheless, this New York businesswoman who invented the “Miracle Mop” is the titular character in one of Christmas Day’s most anticipated movie house gifts. That’s what happens when director David O. Russell and star Jennifer Lawrence team up. Joy is the third collaboration between director Russell and Lawrence that seeks to maintain the filmmaker’s interest in grandiose drama and sliceof-life human comedy, not to mention the frantic energy of familial dysfunction that’s a Russell hallmark. For Joy, this means tracking four generations of a family that informed how inventor Mangano became a matriarch in her own right while facing treachery, back-stabbing, and all the other hidden betrayals locked into the glistening world of commerce. The movie also returns Russell stalwarts Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper to his troupe of players, and welcomes to the fold Édgar Ramírez, Isabella Rossellini, and Virginia Madsen.
THE REVENANT DECEMBER 25 CREED
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
After Rocky Balboa, it seemed that the Italian Stallion franchise had gone the distance for the last time. But despite the return of Sylvester Stallone to his signature role, we are actually most curious about Michael B. Jordan and his portrayal of the son of Apollo Creed. As Adonis Johnson, Jordan reteams with his Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler for what looks like the most authentic Philadelphia-set boxing movie since the original Rocky. Adonis might lack Apollo’s actual surname, but Creed looks permeated with the legacy of what came before. Rising up from streets just as mean as those stomped by Balboa, it is Stallone’s Old Man Rock that will get Adonis into fighting shape, ready for professional boxing. Creed has a lot of history on its shoulders, which should be all the better for delivering a Thanksgiving haymaker.
The reception among families and animation enthusiasts has been so jubilant this year for Pixar’s Inside Out that they often need to be reminded about how Pixar has another picture coming out this year, and it looks to be (pre)historic. The Good Dinosaur seeks to answer an amusing bit of Mesozoic speculation about what could have happened if an asteroid didn’t kill the dinosaurs. Apparently, they would not only remain the dominant life form on an agrarian Earth, but they’d also be having adventures with those furry things called humans after a few more eons. In that vein, Pix-
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ar turns its gaze to Arlo, a young Apatosaurus who befriends a human boy named Spot. Together, they are homeward bound on a journey to return Arlo to his family, but not before meeting a variety of scaly critters, including a clan of backcountry Tyrannosaurus Rex and even a beatnik Velociraptor or two. The Good Dinosaur was delayed from its original 2014 release date, but the film’s new vision by director Peter Sohn, which meshes photorealistic American landscapes and animated talking dinosaurs, offers some genuinely new ground for Pixar fans to traverse.
Fresh off his Oscar win for Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu has his next project ready to make a wintry bow, and it appears to be an even more extreme experience. Describing The Revenant as the harder film to shoot, everything Iñárritu has so far revealed about the frigid western confirms that it’s a uniquely grisly cinematic vision. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, the early 19th century fur trapper who was famously abandoned to die following a grizzly bear mauling. While on an expedition in the Northwestern corridor during a period when the United States was still in its infancy, Glass was left bleeding 200 miles from the nearest American settlement… yet he still somehow survived, if only to deliver a furious vengeance upon those that left him to die. The Revenant squares DiCaprio against Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson as Glass’ treacherous companions, and it promises to be another curious experiment; it was shot exclusively on location (first in Canada and then Argentina) with only natural light and there is not one frame of CGI. Since the shoot sounds almost as hellacious as Glass’ survival, The Revenant appears to really have bled for its art.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT DECEMBER 25 There is nothing like a roadshow theatrical release. That’s probably because there hasn’t been a serious or grandiose roadshow film in about 35 years. Until now. For Christmas, Quentin Tarantino fans and cinephiles everywhere will be able to see in limited engagement, and with reserved seating and film programs, The Hateful Eight in glorious 70mm. Composer Ennio Morricone will provide a classical overture for his first western in 40 years. In a little bit of monkey’s paw amusement, Tarantino has finally made his first full-fledged “Spaghetti” western—set in Wyoming during the dead of winter. It’s six, or eight, or perhaps 12 years after the Civil War when a stagecoach with John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his soon-todie prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) arrives at a stopover mountain pass during a blizzard. There, eight personalities will lie, spy, and die as Tarantino builds from his trusted repertoire of actors. Since The Hateful Eight almost didn’t happen thanks to an internet leak, the fact that it still came to fruition, and was shot with the same 70mm lenses used on Ben-Hur no less, raises this Stagecoach-meets-Ten Little Indians’ profile immensely. Happy holidays. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
JUNE 3, 2016
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 2
MARCH 25, 2016
MAY 6, 2016
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
AUGUST 5, 2016
OCTOBER 7, 2016
MAY 27, 2016
NOVEMBER 4, 2016
FEBRUARY 12, 2016
JULY 28, 2017
MAY 4, 2018
NOVEMBER 3, 2017
NOVEMBER 17, 2017
JUSTICE LEAGUE: PART ONE
JULY 6, 2018
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR PART I
JULY 27, 2018
APRIL 5, 2019
MARCH 23, 2018
JULY 13, 2018
NOVEMBER 2, 2018
MYSTERY 20TH CENTURY FOX MARVEL MOVIE
MAY 3, 2019
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR PART II
JUNE 14, 2019
JUSTICE LEAGUE PART TWO
Please note that some movies are subject to change (especially later dates). But get ready, because there are a whopping eight movies starring caped crusaders, merry mutants, and masked marvels on the way just in 2016! We hope you like popcorn...
There are so many superhero movies on the way that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. With an unprecedented number of costumed heroes and villains coming to movie theaters in the next five years, we thought you might enjoy an at-a-glance guide.
MARCH 3, 2016
MAY 5, 2017
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
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JUNE 9, 2017
FANTASTIC FOUR 2
JUNE 23, 2017
JULY 12, 2019
APRIL 3, 2020
JUNE 19, 2020
GREEN LANTERN CORPS
Images: 20th Century Fox, Marvel Studios, Warner Bros./DC Comics, Paramount Pictures. Actual photo of Spider-Man courtesy of Brice Nihiser (instagram.com/macrobrice).
DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
In an age of superheroes, we look back at the Universal Monsters, the first shared movie universe, and how the Wolf Man united it all. BY DAVID CROW
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Images: Universal Pictures / Photofest
ne only needs to peruse the headlines of the last few years to realize that Hollywood’s big-budget franchises have graduated to the more expansive realm of “universes.” Marvel might have been the first to popularize it, but shared brand synergy is underway at nearly every studio. Warner Bros. has a superhero stable, as does 20th Century Fox, and Paramount is even trying to find a path toward expanding their Transformers films into a “universe.” But while everyone else is looking forward, Universal is glancing back. And why not? After all, Universal Pictures is responsible for the first shared cinematic universe. Over 80 years since it began, the Universal Monster legacy continues to stretch into the new century, spreading its celluloid immortality like a juicy Transylvanian kiss. The Universal Monsters did it first, and in many ways their directness has a charm that is sorely lacking in the self-seriousness currently masking those bloodless, caped descendents. And it really all goes back to one monster in particular: Lon Chaney Jr.’s eternally unblessed Wolf Man. In the decade preceding The Wolf Man, Universal horror began its high-pedigree breeding when Carl Laemmle Jr. successfully won over his father to pursue all things supernatural. Carl Laemmle Sr., a co-founder at Universal, saw little initial appeal in the stories of Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley. But the success of Lon Chaney Sr.’s silent films eventually led to the advent of Tod Browning’s Dracula (which Chaney the elder was originally set to star in before his death) and James Whale’s Frankenstein, both of which were released in 1931. In purely geeky terminology, Bela Lugosi’s vampire was Tony Stark, but Boris Karloff was Robert Downey Jr. since he benefitted the most from these two Universal chillers. Despite being the first (official) silver screen realization of Count Dracula and the first talkie iteration of Dr. Frankenstein’s arrogance, neither of these pictures were “small,” much less the B-movies that
OVER 80 YEARS SINCE IT BEGAN, THE UNIVERSAL MONSTER LEGACY CONTINUES TO STRETCH INTO A NEW CENTURY, SPREADING ITS CELLULOID IMMORTALITY LIKE A JUICY TRANSYLVANIAN KISS. would later be invented for the slums of horror cinema. Universal and Carl Laemmle Jr., as the head of production, treated all of their horror pictures with the same kind of reverence that MGM would come to shower upon the musical. Maverick filmmaker and human being James Whale, who amongst other things was an openly gay man living proudly in the early 20th century, was provided special leeway by the Laemmle family that tended to recognize a brilliance most of the industry would ignore in his lifetime. Subsequently, films like The Old Dark House (1932) and The Invisible Man (1933) were allowed near carte blanche for Whale to introduce his acidic sense of humor, lacing the scares with just as many laughs. Indeed, the studio bent over backwards to lure him for the first major horror sequel ever made, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which is widely considered by film historians to be the crown jewel in Universal’s legacy, as well as possibly the horror genre as a whole. It is certainly difficult to top for pure emotional catharsis the sequence where Karloff ’s Monster stumbles upon a blind man’s shack (though Mel Brooks tried his damnedest in 1974). However, just as Whale was attempting to stretch out to more “respected” fare like Show Boat (1936) and the ill-fated All Quiet on the Western Front sequel, The Road Back (1937), it seems the studio was stretched too far, period. Despite the success of Show Boat and DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
almost all of their monster movies, the rest of Laemmle Jr.’s gambles had gone bust by 1935. That year, John Cheever Cowdin’s Standard Capital began the process of buying out the Laemmles share of Universal Pictures. In 1936, father and son were pushed out, and Universal became a very different company—one that wouldn’t necessarily make a horror sequel the centerpiece of its expensive production year (or keep an openly gay director in its favor). Considered the transition film between Universal’s “A-picture” horror and what would become the cash-in monster mashes of the 1940s, The Wolf Man (1941) still stands underrated in its own right as a masterpiece of the genre. Produced and directed by George Waggner, the movie was a commercial effort to tap into werewolf mythology better than Universal’s less successful (and highly undervalued) preceding lycanthrope adventure, Werewolf of London (1935). The far greater reception for the ‘41 iteration was due to a number of reasons, including Chaney’s unforgettable pleas for audience mercy and Jack Pierce’s iconic use of Yak fur. But also high among its qualities is Curt Siodmak. A German Jew with secular leanings, Siodmak already had begun pursuing creative writing and script doctoring when he immigrated first to England and then Hollywood in 1937 following the rise of the Nazi Party. Siodmak was a mercurial figure who had seen, firsthand, neighbors turn into monsters before his eyes; so, he had little trouble envisioning a good man that could transform into a murderous beast with the right encouragement. It also allowed him to write, “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright.” Perfection. Factor in an all-star cast that included Claude Rains as Sir John Talbot, the Welsh lord and father of the ludicrously American Larry Talbot (Chaney), and supporting work from Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, and Bela Lugosi, and most of the movie’s budget was literally up on screen in the cast listing. As a picture that won over audiences with its deep reservoirs of tragedy, mostly from the over-spilling guilt within the pools of Chaney’s eyes, the film was a major success in 1941 despite opening less than a week after Pearl Har-
bor was bombed. This was the real transition. As the U.S. entered World War II, Hollywood was tasked with coming up with quick, efficient, and cheap entertainment. Suddenly, Universal needed to find a way to churn out its decade-long monster stable in a fantastic fashion. Thus enters again Curt Siodmak. As Siodmak told it, he desperately wanted a new car, so he joked to George Waggner at the Universal commissary during lunch that he had the perfect idea for a new movie: “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.” Later that afternoon, Waggner called Siodmak to his office and told him to buy the car, because he had a script to write. Despite Universal already churning out monster movies like they were B-24s, such as The Mummy’s Tomb (1942) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), both of which starred
of the few that appeared to definitely take place in modern times (WWII notwithstanding), as Larry Talbot was exceedingly a mid-20th century American with a background in electrical engineering; the only horse drawn carriages are from the backwards-looking gypsies, personified by Maleva (the wonderful Maria Ouspenskaya). With Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the film’s brisk 74 minutes are cut in near symmetrical half when the film begins as a direct continuation of the 1941 movie—Larry Talbot is conveniently awakened by two dimwitted grave robbers that sneak into his crypt and remove his death shroud of wolfsbane on the night of a full moon—and then abruptly enters the twinkling fantasy of the Frankenstein franchise, which long forgot its world was created by a director with a mischievous smile. When Larry Talbot crosses the English Channel to continental Europe in search of a permanent death at the hands of Dr. Frankenstein, he is crossing over from his own mythology into another from the Universal canon, thereby stitching them together like the good doctor himself. In short, this is the moment where the Wolf Man became the Agent Coulson of 1940s cinema. The second half of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is decidedly less interesting than the first. While it still has the strength of Chaney and Ouspenskaya’s returning Maleva, not to mention the sparkling charms of Ilona Massey slumming it in her one and only horror movie as Elsa Frankenstein, the daughter of Ghost’s most recent mad scientist, the latter portion is a bit of a mish-mash. When Chaney is interacting with Massey or the superstitious folks of Vasaria, the movie tends to work, jarring anti-Nazi imagery notwithstanding. There’s even a genuinely creepy moment when Larry locks eyes with a teenage girl in a small tavern, allowing both parties an implicit acknowledgement of pre-destined ravishment and doom, as he will soon devour her later that night. However, the actual “Frankenstein” of the film, the Monster now played by Bela Lugosi, remains an afterthought. Lugosi is widely criticized as the worst onscreen depiction of Universal’s Frankenstein Monster, yet it is not entirely the acting legend’s fault. The then 60-year-old Lugosi was given the unenviable burden of continuing a lousy subplot from Ghost of Frankenstein where the creature was awarded Ygor’s brain (also played by
“THE UNIVERSAL MONSTERS DID IT FIRST, AND IN MANY WAYS THEIR DIRECTNESS HAS A CHARM THAT IS SORELY LACKING IN THE SELF-SERIOUSNESS CURRENTLY MASKING THOSE BLOODLESS, CAPED DESCENDENTS.” Lon Chaney in excessive amounts of make-up, 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was the studio’s relatively delayed follow-up to their last pre-war classic. And it seems Siodmak found that the best way to continue the sad sack tale of the doomed Larry Talbot, who tragically died in the last picture, was for him to wake up and commence biblical combat with the Frankenstein Monster. In essence, Siodmak inadvertently made his creation the lynchpin of cinema’s first shared universe. Despite the Universal library already brimming with fangs and teeth, the only one that had really continued as a series beyond a spare sequel was “Frankenstein” (now simply signifying the Monster since the last Dr. Frankenstein in the series appeared in The Ghost of Frankenstein). And all of these works were standalone, taking place in a twinkling Neverland of dusty roads populated by automobiles and horse drawn carriages. The Wolf Man is one
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Image: Universal Pictures / Photofest
Lugosi) but had gone blind as a result. So, Lugosi was now forced to stumble around the set as an unseeing Monster while speaking with a Hungarian accent. The effect… was apparently not good, and Universal executives had all of Lugosi’s speaking lines cut in post, rendering the performance more incomprehensible. Luckily, the aftermath was Siodmak and Chaney’s creation taking an even more central focus as the star of the movie, and soon the Universal Shared Cinematic Universe. And no matter what, there’s also not a person alive who cannot grin at Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man’s grand finale when these mutual masters of malevolence have their much hyped Combat in the Castle—throwing lab equipment and each other around like a prophecy of WWE shenanigans to come. For matching the sheer gonzo joy of this epic brawl, the ball is in your court, Zack Snyder. Very quickly, Universal realized there were greater rewards with keeping their most popular monsters together than having them stay apart. The following year saw the original Universal Dracula (and not his “son”) make a first official showing without qualifiers since the 1931 film. Played by John Carradine sporting a wispy moustache, this Dracula was angry after having a wooden stake pulled from his heart—and he was not alone in a movie that also featured the Frankenstein Monster, a mad scientist, a hunchback, and of course the Wolf Man. House of Frankenstein (1944) solidified Universal’s Cinematic Universe when wacky Dr. Niemann (Boris Karloff ) escapes with a hunchback assistant ( J. Carrol Nash) from prison to wreak revenge on the men who imprisoned him. First, Niemann enlists Dracula into his plan by removing the stake from his heart, and then he
finds Larry Talbot and the Frankenstein Monster encased in frozen ice from their last encounter. Soon, all of them, plus a lovely gypsy girl (Elena Verdugo) are attempting to play God over Frankenstein’s creation. It’s a nutty movie with production values occasionally as flimsy as its plot, but there is an undeniable appeal with the film as well. Attempting to organize a chronology around most of the Universal’s Monster catalogue is a fool’s errand since they all take place in anachronistic landscapes and misty soundstages, often populated by the same actors. For example, Lionel Atwill appears as a small-town constable in House of Frankenstein, even though he was the Mayor of Vasaria in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. In that earlier picture, he hits it off well with Elsa Frankenstein, which shouldn’t be a surprise since he played her father, Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein, in Ghost—however she was played by Evelyn Ankers in that picture (who perhaps did not return for the crossover since she already was a Wolf Man love interest in the 1941 film). Similarly, the geography is a muddle since the Monster resides in the vaguely Swiss village of Vasaria in both Ghost and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Yet, when Dr. Niemann thaws him out in House of Frankenstein, the village is now titled “Village Frankenstein,” while Niemann seeks to take Larry, the Monster, and the whole brood to his old lab…in Vasaria! As these movies were released annually in the days before television (never mind Blu-ray or digital download), the filmmakers could play fast and loose with the material. But also, there is something to be said with the freedom to do whatever you want.
While it is reassuring that shared franchises have master plans and are building to something presumably epic today, during the Second World War, people already had enough “world-building” in their real lives. Nobody had time or the inclination to worry about continuity or canon, or any other buzzwords when they went to the movies, especially franchise films that were far more unapologetic in their cash grabbing aspirations than they are now. If director Erle C. Kenton wanted another monster mash with Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and now a lady hunchback in 1945’s House of Dracula, then he’d have it! How did they all meet up when they each bought the big silver one in House of Frankenstein? Does it really matter? Apparently not to screenwriter Edward T. Lowe Jr. House of Dracula followed up on the previous house party by more or less ignoring it. In fact, this is at first glance the story of a not-yet crazy scientist trying to cure an inexplicably stillalive Dracula of vampirism until the Wolf Man barges in again to make it all about him and his pity party. Talbot even discovers the Frankenstein Monster for the maddening scientist. At the very least, Lowe and Kenton seemed considerate enough to give Larry a happy ending for once when he becomes the real hero by getting cured and saving the girl from the doc and his beastly pet. It is all so unapologetically absurd in its quest for audience appeal and entertainment (and money) that it’s a wonder the crossovers only were relegated to Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man. Strangely, the Mummy never showed up in these pictures, nor the Invisible Man. Purportedly, the Invisible Man and the Ape Woman were set to appear in House of Frankenstein when it was originally entitled The Devil’s Brood, however it seems that even in 1943 there were concerns with overstuffing a film with too many characters. Around the time that WWII ended, so too did the public’s appetite for Universal’s imaginary monsters. The three ghouls only teamed up one last time, including Chaney as Larry again and Lugosi’s first-and-only filmic reprise of the Dracula role, in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Even the Invisible Man got the ‘48 equivalent to a “post-credits” stinger in that one. Whether this could be seen as a harbinger for the dangers of oversaturation or merely a generational distancing from the vestiges of death in strange European lands is still debatable. Nonetheless, for a brief time during the World War II era, Universal’s biggest monsters—Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man—all shared the same screen universe for four pictures. And by extension, so too do the rest of the Universal Monsters interconnect due to Larry Talbot’s best intentions to do what is right. Like the story of his life, it ended in a bloodbath, but at least it continues to leave horror fans howling. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
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BY DANIEL KURLAND
e’ve come a long way from the simpler times, when comic book conventions were niche events that struggled to fill up a hotel lobby. Today, cons have slowly morphed into juggernaut cultural events that pull together the biggest stars of cinema and television. This transformation is almost as drastic as Bruce Banner’s shift into the Incredible Hulk. You probably had to fight your way through a horde of other costumed pedestrians to get your hands on this magazine. We broke down the numbers to explore just how much our friendly neighborhood New York Comic Con has grown in recent years, while using some of the other biggest comic conventions in North America for comparison.
How do other comic cons measure up?
Breaking Down the Growth of New York Comic Con
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9 10 11 12 13
Top Image: Reedpop
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Artist. Writer. Jack Kirby is Comics’ Greatest Storyteller. Comic book artist Jack Kirby’s contribution to pop culture involved much more than just drawing comics. By Randolph Hoppe
ow is it that the work of Jack Kirby, which contains some of the most colorful characters and influential mythology of the last century, still manages to feel so personal? Comic books are now known at least as much as source material for exciting movies as they are for being currently published graphic stories. Kirby’s work has been adapted into roughly a dozen of the most successful feature films of recent years, with more on the way all the time. Jack Kirby may primarily be known as a great and influential comic book creator, but above all else, he was a storyteller. He understood the powerful impact that stories, any stories, could have. His mother and other elders told tales that enraptured him as a boy. The adventures in newspaper comics and in movie theaters did the same. Jack drew as a child, he drew as a teen, he drew as a young man, and he drew well into his old age. Kirby learned that he, his pencil, and a piece of paper could engage the mind and emotion of the audience as much as his own mind had been engaged. He learned that science fiction could serve the same function in the present as mythology had in the past. He knew, from his time spent with his gang of buddies in New York City’s toughest ghetto, the Lower East Side, his fellow soldiers on the battlefields of Europe during World War Two, and the lifelong love he shared with his wife Roz, how we all
used drama and myth to help cope with the best and the worst of times. Early on, Kirby’s drawings became more than just lines on a page, they became the raw material for stories. Jack Kirby was there at the beginning of the comic book as it is known in America. Comics were the perfect place for his distinctive stories, and through his career he drew literally thousands of pages of them, often at the almost superhuman rate of four pages a day. He helped shape what was initially considered disposable entertainment into the enduring art form we know today. Jack, along with his onetime boss, Will Eisner, his partner Joe Simon, and Jack “Plastic Man” Cole, learned the new creature of the comic book was a unique, valid narrative art form. They took comic books seriously, and it showed. It was no surprise that Jack would later put that seriousness to work in epic tales like “Mother Delilah” in the pages of Boys’
Ranch, “The Galactus Trilogy” in The Fantastic Four, or “The Glory Boat” in The New Gods. Between the comic book boom of the early ‘40s (where, in addition to superhero work like Captain America, the Simon & Kirby team developed the Young Allies, the Boy Commandos, and the Newsboy Legion, setting the stage for other, better known bickering teams of adventure comics characters), his distinguished service in combat during World War II, and the superhero renaissance of the jet age, the S&K team also invented the incredibly successful genre of romance comics during the late 1940s. And that was only the beginning. In case you’re one of the uninitiated, let me give you an idea of the sheer scope of Kirby’s work as a comic book writer and artist over his fifty year career. Get ready, because this reads like a greatest hits collection of some of the most recognizable characters in popular fiction.
Comics were the perfect place for Jack's distinctive stories, and through his career he drew literally thousands of pages of them, often at the almost superhuman rate of four pages a day.
The Essential Jack Kirby Want to know which Jack books are absolutely essential for your comic book reading diet? While you’re at NYCC, keep an eye out for these volumes…
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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1-4
Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine
Silver Surfer Epic Collection: When Calls Galactus
The Avengers Epic Collection: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
Captain America Lives Again Epic Collection
Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps
Jack Kirby’s Kamandi Omnibus Vols. 1 & 2
The Simon & Kirby Library: Superheroes, Crime, SciFi, & Horror
Young Romance Vols. 1 & 2
Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier
Marvel Comics: the Untold Story by Sean Howe
Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby by Charles Hatfield
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proclaimed that “Kirby is here!” In 1970, comics companies didn’t engage in that kind of promotion, but such was the power and influence of Kirby’s work at the time. At DC, an entirely new mythology sprang from his pencil. His Fourth World comics brought a host of characters and concepts that DC Comics and Warner Bros. continue to use to this day. These concepts became a cornerstone of DC’s own cosmic mythology, an element that had been sorely lacking in their books until that time. Perhaps his most memorable contribution to DC lore was cosmic warlord Darkseid, a character with power-levels that could match Superman, but whose motivations were far more layered than merely using his strength to cause destruction. Darkseid and the New Gods made their way into action figure lines and animated series, and their influence can be seen reflected in pop culture titans from Star Wars to Masters of the Universe. If ru-
Jack Timeline AUGUST 28, 1917
Jacob Kurtzberg is born on NYC’s Lower East Side. Kirby works on Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons at Fleischer Studios.
“The Romance of Money”, arguably Kirby’s first comic book, is published.
The first issue of Joe Simon & Kirby’s Captain America Comics is released by Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics, a Marvel predecessor.
Splitting with Goodman, Kirby and Simon move to National (DC) Comics. Their Boy Commandos was one of National’s top million-sellers, along with Superman and Batman.
JUNE 7, 1943
Drafted into the US Army, Jack spends the next two years fighting in World War II, having earned several decorations, including a bronze battle star.
Simon & Kirby’s Young Romance #1 started the popular and lucrative romance comics genre.
Kirby’s comic strip, Sky Masters of the Space Force debuts. It lasts less than two years.
Co-creates the Fantastic Four, Thor, Hulk, X-Men, Ant-Man, and Avengers with Stan Lee.
Leaves Marvel for DC where he creates The New Gods/Fourth World Saga, Kamandi, the Demon, and, O.M.A.C.
Kirby returns to Marvel to create The Eternals and produce spirited runs on Black Panther and Captain America.
After finishing a groundbreaking Silver Surfer graphic novel with Stan Lee, Kirby leaves comics to work in animation, notably Thundarr the Barbarian.
Kirby debuts Captain Victory and his Galactic Rangers with publisher Pacific Comics giving comics’ nascent Direct Market a shot in the arm.
February 6, 1994
Kirby produces two last New Gods stories for DC, including the graphic novel “The Hunger Dogs.” Jack Kirby dies at home at the age of 74.
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mors are to be believed, Darkseid will square off against a number of DC superheroes on the big screen soon enough, too. The New Gods probably won’t be far behind. So, yes… Jack Kirby helped bring many of your favorite superheroes to life, and they are the current lifeblood of blockbuster cinema. But decades before dystopian futures were a sub-genre of their own in Hollywood, Jack produced OMAC and Kamandi for DC Comics. He explored themes of ancient aliens back at Marvel in The Eternals. Even his lesser known latter-day creations like Captain Victory are brimming with the kind of mythic interpersonal sci-fi dynamism Kirby brought to all his work. Jack Kirby was a storyteller above all else. Science-fiction, action-adventure, mythology, romance...he put himself into all of those stories. It just so happened that when he told his stories, many of these characters became the superheroes we know and love.
Spread from Captain Victory #13 (Pacific Comics 1984), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mike Thibodeaux, colors by Steve Oliff. Main photo of Jack Kirby courtesy of Susan Skaar.
THE JACK KIRBY MUSEUM & RESEARCH CENTER
is honored to have been promoting and encouraging the study, understanding, preservation and appreciation of the work of Jack Kirby for ten years. Our one-week pop-up on the Lower East Side, Prototype: Alpha, was a great success in 2013, and we are planning a three-week pop-up this November. We’ve built a digital archive of 4,000 pages of Kirby’s original art, participated in exhibits worldwide (New York, Lucerne, Angouleme, Northridge), supported Kirby publications (IDW, Abrams ComicArts), and more. Visit kirbymuseum. org for information on how you can support our future efforts. If you’ve ever spoken to us at our convention booths, you know we’re excited about Kirby’s 100th birthday in 2017. We hope you’ll join us in not only making 2017 a fantastic year, but a lasting tribute to this amazing American storyteller.
“At Last I Am Free!” Third Eye Poster, 1971. Color artist unknown. From “Stranded In Sub-Atomica!” Art by Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott, Artie Simek; dialog by Stan Lee. Fantastic Four #76, July 1968.
Jack was there at the birth of Marvel Comics as we know it and helped bring Captain America into existence. He created or co-created (with Stan Lee) future box-office sensations like The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Avengers, Nick Fury, and the X-Men. Groot began life as a Kirby-drawn short story long before he became a beloved supporting member in Guardians of the Galaxy, and if you look closely, you can even spot one of Kirby’s cosmic Eternals in an easter egg in that film. You’ll be seeing Black Panther and The Inhumans on the silver screen soon enough. There’s more, but you get the idea. Before detailed credits in comics became the norm, many young readers
would still recognize Kirby’s stories. The art pulled them in like no other. Readers recognized the eyes, the hands, the staging, the action. When creator credits proliferated in the 1960s, Kirby’s name became associated with dynamic action, compelling drama, and mind-blowing concepts. No one did comics at the level Kirby did. When DC lured Jack away from Marvel, which seemed like an unthinkable creative coup, the cover of his first issue of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen (which had previously been a rather milquetoast tertiary Superman title before Jack imbued it with a psychedelic energy and dynamic storytelling that the normally staid DC wasn’t known for at the time) proudly
VISIT THE BOOTH WHERE: Booth 1040 MORE INFO: Visit kirbymuseum.org Wild Kirby-Tech from “To Free A Brain-Slave”, by Kirby, Howard Purcell, Mike Esposito, and unknown colorist. Dialog by Stan Lee. From Strange Tales 143, April 1966. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
THE DC COMICS ROOTS
OF THE FLASH, ARROW, AND LEGENDS OF TOMORROW The CW stable of superhero TV shows is capturing the spirit of the DC Universe in a way we never thought possible. BY MIKE CECCHINI
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IF YOU INVITED THE ROSTER OF LEGENDS OF TOMORROW TO A PARTY, “THEY WOULD BE THE MOST LIKELY TO BURN THE HOUSE DOWN.” That’s how showrunner Phil Klemmer described the group of misfit superheroes and villains who make up Legends of Tomorrow, which will become the third DC Comics superhero show to hit the CW in recent years when it arrives this winter. “We put these people on a spaceship and sent them throughout time because they will be like bulls in a china shop," he told the press in July. Legends comes from the same minds behind Arrow and The Flash, two notable successes that boast spectacular core casts, with leads who have turned in character-defining performances and non-costumed supporting characters who have developed fan followings that rival those of their more colorful co-stars. Arrow routinely delivers some of the best stunts and fight scenes this side of the big screen while The Flash has special effects that are second to none on the networks. But there’s something else that Arrow and The Flash have done that no previous DC Comics adaptation has managed to accomplish. They’ve embraced the inherent wildness and weirdness of a comic book history that developed over 75 years. This is more than the simple “shared universe” model that Marvel uses to great effect with its movies and TV shows. DC was known for an infinite supply of parallel universes
and characters who passed on heroic identities from generation to generation, and where even secondary superheroes or sidekicks could find themselves as headliners, just like they have on Legends of Tomorrow. The Legends of Tomorrow roster certainly isn’t a who’s who of DC Comics’ most recognizable characters. When the biggest name on the team is comparatively obscure Silver Age superhero The Atom, it’s a safe bet that calculating potential action figure and t-shirt sales wasn’t the driving force behind the roster. Instead, we’ve got a team that consists of The Atom (played by Brandon Routh), who is joined by the similarly obscure White Canary (Caity Lotz), Rip Hunter (Doctor Who’s Arthur Darville), Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee), Firestorm (Victor Garber and possibly Franz Drameh), and villains Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell). Legends’ reliance on DC’s second-string is nothing new, though, as Arrow and The Flash have been laying the groundwork for some time. That was by necessity, though. With Warner Bros. busy rebuilding heavy hitters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman for the big screen, those characters and most of their attendant mythology weren’t available for TV
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use when Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim were ready to start branching out from the street-level stories that characterized the show’s first season. Arrow turned that perceived weakness into a strength. Green Arrow has a history nearly as long as Batman’s and he’s starred in some fine comics, but never became a household name until Stephen Amell strapped on the quiver. Arrow spent its first three seasons exploring some of the relatively unexplored corners of the DC Universe, introducing the Suicide Squad to new audiences long before Jared Leto and Margot Robbie stole that spotlight for the big screen, and turning longtime comics favorite Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson (played to perfection by Manu Bennett) into one of the best villains on TV. Arrow brought fans Brandon Routh as Ray “The Atom” Palmer, two different versions of Black Canary (the identity switch playing lightly on that character’s impossibly complex comic book legacy), relatively obscure Golden Age brawler Ted “Wildcat” Grant, and a guy named Barry Allen. By comparison, The Flash had it easy. He’s a much more well-known character, with one of the most instantly recognizable costumes and power sets in pop culture, and the finest rogues’ gallery this side of Batman or Spider-Man. He also is indelibly tied to the more out there elements of DC Comics, notably their nearly infinite assortment of parallel universes containing multiple heroes and villains. Instead of running from it, The Flash embraced it all, mixing obscure DC villains — when disposable villains of the week were needed — with more substantial arcs for his greatest foes, while telling elongated origin stories for secondary he-
roes like Firestorm and Vibe. The show dropped references to DC’s massive continuity-altering Crisis on Infinite Earths (a book that sends even seasoned DC scholars to their reference books to keep track of the characters crammed into every panel) as early as the first episode and dropped visual clues that had longtime fans of the comics salivating. “One of the things we haven’t been shy about is embracing some of the pivotal stories from a lot of the various runs over the years," executive producer Andrew Kreisberg told us at San Diego Comic Con, "we're not gonna stop doing that." They certainly aren’t. The Flash season two will introduce a Flash from a parallel universe, Jay Garrick. Garrick was the first comic book character known as the Flash. He slipped into publishing obscurity as superheroes waned in popularity after World War II, before meeting Barry Allen in “Flash of Two Worlds” in 1961’s The Flash #123. Jay became a semi-regular supporting player in various DC titles for the next fifty years, and a kind of elder statesman and mentor to younger speedsters. But like many of these other characters, when Teddy Sears brings him to life on TV, it will be his first real moment in the mainstream spotlight. So, this is where we are now. A place where once-forgotten characters step up to become co-stars on popular superhero dramas, and a virtually unknown group of heroes and villains
can get their own show, one dealing with time travel, no less! “They cannot get along,” Klemmer joked in San Diego. “They have to get along because Rip [Hunter] has seen the future and he tells us that they’re legends, but they’re so clearly not.” Well, maybe not yet. But if Arrow and The Flash have taught us anything it’s that TV audiences are ready to embrace what comic book fans have known for years: that the characters from the margins of DC’s publishing history
can be just as beloved as their more well-known stablemates. If the almost uniformly impeccable casting decisions we’ve already seen on these shows hold true, and with Arrow season four, The Flash season two, and Legends of Tomorrow about to get underway, then television viewers should get ready to love (or love to hate) Mr. Terrific, Lady Cop, Killer Frost, Zoom, Hawkgirl, Rip Hunter, Atom-Smasher, Damien Darhk, Vandal Savage, Jay Jackson, Dr. Light, White Canary, Anarky, and many more.
RECOMMENDED READING ARROW
LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
The best part of the Arrow universe isn’t necessarily even all about Green Arrow. These DC graphic novels should help get you involved in the wider DC Universe the show portrays.
Barry Allen has a tricky comic book history, but if you just need to get your fix in between episodes and seasons, you can’t miss with these…
There aren’t any Legends of Tomorrow comics out there, but if you want something that captures the energy of a team of lesser-known characters, check these out.
THE FLASH: REBIRTH by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver
JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL VOL. 1 by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire
GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE by: Andy Diggle and Jock
A detailed, and beautifully illustrated look at Oliver Queen’s time on the island that led to him becoming the greatest of all archery-based superheroes.
This comic was the backbone of The Flash season one. You’ll get bits of Barry’s origin story interspersed with his quest to solve his mother’s murder, as well as the return of the Reverse-Flash.
GREEN ARROW VOLUME 4: THE KILL MACHINE by: Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino
FLASHPOINT by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert
If you’re looking for a full-blown Green Arrow comic that has the flavor of the TV show, this is a good place to start. Features the introduction of Arrow season three villain, Komodo!
SECRET SIX VOLUME 2: MONEY FOR MURDER by Gail Simone and Nicola Scott
While there’s no sign of Oliver Queen or his compatriots here, Secret Six is a wonderful exploration of the seedier side of the DC Universe, full of the kind of minor villains who you would expect to pop up on Arrow from week to week.
The other heavy influence on season one, this one brings back the Reverse-Flash, and shows exactly why altering the past is such a bad thing.
THE FLASH VOLUME 1: MOVE FORWARD by: Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul Need the easiest possible entry point into the world of The Flash? This comic is designed for you, and features some spectacular Francis Manapul artwork. Bonus points for bringing in Patty Spivot, a character TV viewers will meet in season two.
Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Booster Gold, Black Canary, Mr. Miracle… you call this the Justice League? Yes. Watch them try (and fail) to get along while saving the world. It’s hilarious.
JSA: THE RETURN OF HAWKMAN by David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns
Co-written by Flash and Arrow executive producer Geoff Johns, this one features Flash season two star Jay Garrick, spotlights Legends of Tomorrow member Hawkgirl, and finally makes sense of Hawkman’s impossible history.
BOOSTER GOLD: 52 PICK-UP by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, and Dan Jurgens Booster Gold is the greatest hero you’ve never heard of… and it has to stay that way. Legends of Tomorrow star Rip Hunter guides the lovable screw-up through the DC Universe to keep the timestream from unraveling. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
COMICS Want to help protect the climate? Use energy more efficiently. When you use less energy, fewer greenhouse gases are released. EPA’s ENERGY STAR® is the simple choice for saving energy at home and at work. For the most comprehensive energysaving information that works best for you, visit energystar.gov.
WOMEN OF TOMORROW
Why Ms. Marvel and Batgirl should be TV's next super heroines. BY KAYTI BURT
upergirl is one of the most anticipated shows of the 2015-2016 season — and with good reason. Not only does it have impressive TV superhero production pedigree behind it in Arrow universe producer extraordinaire Greg Berlanti, but it brings about the return of the female-centric superhero narrative to live-action television. Frankly, there needs to be more like it: TV shows telling a superhero narrative from somewhere other than the white male perspective. Here are two more heroines deserving small-screen adventure…
BARBARA GORDON’S BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE THE CHARACTER The Batgirl comic book character got a soft reboot in 2014 with Barbara Gordon moving out of Gotham and over the bridge to neighboring Burnside — aka a fictional Williamsburg, complete with artisanal microbreweries and pretentious art gallery openings. The 21-year-old daughter of police commissioner James Gordon is just an ordinary graduate student trying to have fun, put a traumatic past behind her, and protect her new city the only way she knows how: by putting on her cowl, cape, and yellow Doc Martens and taking down troublemakers with her fists and mad hacking skills. WHY BURNSIDE BATGIRL? Many of Burnside Barbara’s dilemmas are relatable to a modern young adult TV audience: She gets emails from her bank notifying her of over-withdrawal. She has trouble balancing work (in this case, the cowl-related kind), school, and friends. And, perhaps most relevantly, she lives in a world of social media — not only through her identity as Barbara Gordon, but through her identity as Batgirl. As a “viral vigilante,” Babs attempts to use the strengths of social media to fight crime and express identity without falling prey to too many of social media’s very real pitfalls. Texts, emails, and even playlists are integrated into the very panels of the comic book story. The formal integration of technology would make a cool transition to the screen if done innovatively, something that could set a Batgirl series
apart from both other superhero stories on TV and other incarnations of Batgirl popping up on film and television. WHERE IT FITS INTO THE TV LANDSCAPE A potential obstacle to the adaptation of Batgirl into a CW-like series is the Teen Titans TV show, currently in development at TNT, that features Barbara Gordon’s other alter ego, Oracle. Batgirl is also rumored to be appearing in 2016’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice film. That being said, she could fit nicely into the current DC TV universe. One of the most compelling relationships in the Burnside book is the one between Barbara and The Black Canary, aka Dinah Laurel Lance (or, as Arrow fans know her, simply Laurel Lance). More generally, Babs’ hacker prowess, superhero connections, and martial arts skills would make her an ideal ally for the heroes of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and even Supergirl.
KAMALA KHAN’S MS. MARVEL THE CHARACTER If you haven’t heard of Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan, then you might be living under a pop culture rock. The 16-year-old Pakistani American made a big splash when she took over the mantle of Ms. Marvel in February of 2014, becoming the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel comic book. Kamala is a NuHuman, a normal girl with Inhuman heritage who gains shape-shifting superpowers when she is caught in a Terrigen Mist. Now, Kamala is a polymorph with super-healing powers and the ability to enlarge or shrink herself (or parts of herself ) when she sees fit. She uses her newfound powers to protect Jersey City, the city she was born and raised in. WHY MS. MARVEL? It can’t be stressed enough how vital it is to see a diversity in superhero characters on TV, and Kamala would be a great contribution to the effort. Superhero comic books have always taken on “identity” as an important theme, and Kamala’s own quest to figure out who she is as a young, female Muslim American growing up in Jersey City is compelling and relevant to many
Image: Marvel Comics
Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani American girl from Jersey City, is one of the new faces of Marvel comics as Ms. Marvel.
of today’s youth torn between multiple cultural identities. Both Kamala’s identity as an American and as part of her Muslim community are treated as equally valid, as she struggles to balance her faith, commitment to her family, and her own ambitions for herself outside of the ones that have been imposed upon her. Have we mentioned that Kamala is also a fangirl? She took on the mantel of Ms. Marvel because of her own superhero idol: Carol Danvers. The teenager spends her free time reading and writing Avengers fanfiction and almost has a squee-induced heart attack when she meets Wolverine for the first time, telling him: “I totally put you first in my fantasy hero team-up bracket!” Wolverine quickly falls for Kamala’s selfie-taking charms because the teenaged girl is a badass in her own right. WHERE IT FITS INTO THE TV LANDSCAPE Kamala fits into the Marvel cinematic universe extraordinarily well. Inhumans were introduced as a plot point in season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and will presumably be the focus of the Inhumans film, slated for July 2019. Furthermore, though it’s hard to believe, we currently have zero teenage superheroes headlining their own live-action TV series. Could Ms. Marvel be the teenage superhero TV adaptation to change that? We hope so. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
"The wonder of
Afterlife With Archie is
that it manipulates the audience's familiarity with the characters to heighten the terror."
In Mark Waid and Fiona Staples' bold Archie relaunch, Riverdale's resident teens are given a contemporary makeover -- proving that although Archie Comics are 75, these characters are forever young.
Archie has become one of the most fascinating publishers in comics today. Here’s how they did it.
ten by Alex Segura with art by Dan Parent, the four-part mini-series chronicled how Archie and his friends enlist the help of the veteran rock band after one of Sabrina’s spells transformed the residents of Riverdale into mindless monsters. Horror and Archie, huh? Hmm, interesting. Inspired by an alternate Life with Archie cover by Francesco Francavilla, Afterlife with Archie was the biggest risk in company history. Adult-oriented and unrelentingly bleak, the ongoing comic from artists Francavilla and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa chronicles life in a Riverdale where Jughead is undead, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is forcibly married to Cthulhu, and Jason and Cheryl Blossom are involved in some serious Flowers in the Attic shenanigans. The wonder of the book is that it manipulates the audience’s familiarity with the characters to heighten the terror. Seemingly no one is safe, and even the deaths of secondary
BY CHRIS CUMMINS
travel back to 2010 and meet a new kid in town named Kevin Keller. Making his first appearance in Veronica #202, Kevin Keller is an all-American army brat who arrives in Riverdale and soon becomes the romantic focus of the town’s richest teen. But when Kevin tells Jughead that he is gay, he becomes the first openly homosexual character in Archie comics history. He is instantly accepted by his classmates and in the ensuing Kevin Keller mini-series and its 15-issue follow-up he deals with the typical teen concerns, only from a gay perspective. The brilliance of what creator/writer/artist Dan Parent did with the character has made Kevin a figure of admiration and respect, who is exactly the same as his peers with the exception of being gay. Keller’s sexuality is just accepted at every level, making him a gay role model (he served as GLAAD’s Spirit Day ambassador in 2013) and illustrates the Archie company credo that Riverdale is a welcoming and loving place for all. Later that same year, Life with Archie: The
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Married Life debuted. This magazine-sized comic (which initially featured teen-baiting filler articles on topics like Justin Beiber) chronicled two possible Archie futures: One in which he married Betty, and the other in which he settled down with Veronica. Inspired by Michael Uslan’s popular “Archie Marries” storyline from earlier in the year, the series realized pretty quickly that kids weren’t so much reading the title as former Archie fans who were now adults. As such, the Teen Beat-esque features of the comic were removed and the storylines, under the leadership of main writer Paul Kupperberg, slowly transformed from a weird, vaguely sci-fi story about parallel universes into a ripped from the headlines epic sprinkled with liberal doses of fan service. While Archie was enjoying these successes, they unleashed the first of their recent high-profile crossovers upon an unsuspecting public in the form of Archie Meets Kiss (laying the groundwork for subsequent crossovers like Archie Meets Predator, Archie vs. Sharknado and, most intriguingly, Archie Meets Ramones). Writ-
listing the help of major comic industry talent. The current Archie reboot (which ditched the company’s familiar house style in favor of more realistic depictions of everyone’s favorite teenagers) by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples immediately garnered critical acclaim when it debuted earlier this year by having the Riverdale High gang seem very much tuned in to 2015 attitudes and still manage to maintain their trademark innocence and humor. Likewise, Chip Zdarsky’s new take on comicdom’s most-beloved non-conformist in his new Jughead book and the upcoming relaunches of Kevin Keller and Betty and Veronica will further help bring these characters into the 21st century. Archie is a company whose longevity has not resulted in creative stagnation. As the past few years have illustrated, no reasonable storyline or idea featuring the characters will be refused either. Along with the aforementioned Riverdale series on the CW (which promises to have a weird tone), there is also an Archie musical in the works featuring a book from Anchorman director and Saturday Night Live veteran Adam McKay. These projects will be non-traditional takes on the Archie characters that will emphasize how malleable these icons are. They may be adjusting to the times, but at their heart, all of these efforts will hold the core, well, Archieness that is so beloved. So after all of this, what can the Archie creative team do next? The answer is simply: whatever they want. Clearly they’ve proved that they are willing to take risks and try new things. Like the old cartoon theme says, everything’s Archie. Fortunately, that won’t be changing anytime soon.
From top left to bottom right: Kevin Keller marries his longtime boyfriend; Archie dies; Dark Circle Comics revives The Fox and Riverdale is overrun by zombies in "Afterlife with Archie." PHOTOS: MICROSOFT
erhaps not entirely unexpectedly, one of the most anticipated panels at this year’s New York Comic Con comes from Archie Comics. The company, currently celebrating the 75th anniversary of “America’s Typical Teenager” will shed new light on their upcoming production slate — both for their main line and their edgy Dark Circle Comics imprint. In case you’ve been Rip Van Winkle-ing it for the better part of the past decade, the independently owned and operated company has made major waves throughout the comic industry thanks to a tireless effort to creatively invigorate their product line. This is due largely in part to the willingness of Archie president Mike Pellerito, Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Director of Publicity and Marketing/Dark Circle editor Alex Segura to leave no innovative stone unturned in an effort to figure out how to ensure that Riverdale’s teens stay relevant. How did this current creative renaissance happen? To answer that question, we have to
characters like Archie’s dog Vegas feel like real gut punches. While it originally began as a zombie comic (and continues to regularly best The Walking Dead in terms of engaging storylines), it is dabbling in other supernatural genres made the Archie higher-ups realize that they could paint more than one picture on the horror canvas. And so Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was born. Drawing inspiration from the short-lived 1970s Archie anthology series Chilling Adventures in Sorcery (the initial issues of which originally were “hosted” by Sabrina), the new series debuted in late 2014 with art by Robert Hack and words from Aguirre-Sacasa. By the time the second issue hit stands, Archie had committed to a dedicated Archie Horror imprint. The upcoming Archie TV series, Riverdale, also written by Aguirre-Sacasa, is rumored to contain horror elements, as well. In a decidedly more serious take on death, Archie himself met his end in the 36th issue of Life with Archie: The Married Life that was released in the summer of 2014. Ever the selfless friend, Archie leapt in front of a bullet meant for Kevin Keller, who became a Senator whose policies on gun control made him the target of a right wing extremist. The issue resulted in huge headlines and bigger sales, indicating to the world at large that Archie was by no means strictly a laughing matter. With 75 years already under their belt, Archie is managing to keep things fresh by hitting that sweet spot between keeping longtime fans happy with their ubiquitous digests and various reprint paperbacks and bringing in new readers by en-
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HOLIDAY GAMING 2015 BY JOHN SAAVEDRA
amers have a lot to look forward to this holiday season. With big AAA blockbusters, action-packed wrestling, sci-fi space battles, and terrifying encounters with ghosts, there’s something for everybody. Halo 5: Guardians introduces long-time fans to a new generation of Spartan heroes, as the Master Chief embarks on a quest to save an old friend. Elsewhere, a new survivor sets off into post-apocalyptic Boston with his trusty dog in Fallout 4. And for those looking for something on the scary side, Fatal Frame makes its return to our side of the world after a 10-year absence. Maiden of Black Water intends to haunt your nightmares. November also treats us to the return of Star Wars video games with the new Battlefront from the makers of the Battlefield series. Take the fight to the Empire on foot, in an AT-AT, or lock S-foils into attack position with your very own X-Wing. If you’re good enough, you might even get to play as Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, the Big N is releasing one of the cutest little sequels we’ve ever seen: Yoshi’s Woolly World is the little green dinosaur’s own take on 2010’s Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Our painfully adorable hero must traverse a world
of yarn and cloth to save his little woolly friends from the evil wizard Kamek. Star Fox also returns for a whole new space adventure in Star Fox Zero. As the first original title in the series in nine years, Star Fox Zero takes everything you loved about Star Fox 64 and adds the Wii U GamePad for more intuitive controls. For those who like a little bit more bloodshed, you probably can’t go wrong with Hitman or Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which both put you in the role of a trained assassin as you hunt down your targets for money and happiness. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is also more than enough to satisfy your yearly dose of gratuitous violence, of course. And you can round out the holiday with WWE 2K16, which boasts the largest roster of wrestlers in the series; the return of Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider; a daredevil-turned-spy in Just Cause 3; and Xenoblade Chronicles X; the most awaited sequel to the beloved sci-fi/fantasy RPG series.
Here’s when you can expect these titles:
YOSHI'S WOOLLY WORLD OCT. 16–WII U (NINTENDO)
FATAL FRAME: MAIDEN OF BLACK WATER OCT. 22–WII U (NINTENDO)
ASSASSIN'S CREED SYNDICATE OCT. 23 –XBOX ONE, PS4 (UBISOFT)
HALO 5: GUARDIANS OCT. 27–XBOX ONE (MICROSOFT)
WWE 2K16 OCT. 27–XBOX ONE, 360, PS4, PS3 (2K GAMES)
FALLOUT 4 NOV. 10–XBOX ONE, PS4, PC (BETHESDA)
RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER NOV. 10–XBOX ONE, XBOX 360 (MICROSOFT)
STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT NOV. 17–XBOX ONE, PS4, PC (ELECTRONIC ARTS)
STAR FOX ZERO NOV. 20–WII U (NINTENDO)
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES X DEC. 4 –WII U (NINTENDO)
HITMAN DEC. 8 – XBOX ONE, PS4, PC (SQUARE ENIX)
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III NOV. 6–XBOX ONE, PS4, PC (ACTIVISION)
JUST CAUSE 3 DEC. 1–XBOX ONE, PS4, PC (SQUARE ENIX)
DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
Top: Mike Colter stars as Jameson Locke in Halo: Nightfall, the origin story of the co-star of Halo 5: Guardians. Right: Poster art for Halo: The Fall of Reach, a prequel animated series to Halo: Combat Evolved. Images: Microsoft
A Guide to Halo’s Expanded Universe BY MEGAN CROUSE
t’s a very big year for Halo, the space opera franchise that changed the face of video games, and ignited a growing trend in the industry: the video game as multimedia franchise. Since Halo: Combat Evolved launched in 2001 to huge critical acclaim and blockbuster success, there have been books, comics, and TV specials that expand the universe of the games. Halo 5: Guardians is the next big chapter in the series, arriving on October 20th to the Xbox One. It will introduce new stories to the epic saga, many of which are rooted in the expanded universe. Fans who never look beyond the Halo games are missing the rich expanded universe that solidified the best video game franchise of all time. Microsoft, through the efforts of Bungie and 343 Industries, designed an interwoven project that branches out into different parts of a layered and entertaining story. Besides 10 video games, the Halo franchise boasts 13 novels, one short story collection, six comics series, the Halo Graphic Novel collection, the live-action film Forward Unto Dawn, and special promo-
tional material like Dr. Halsey’s journal or the ARG game I Love Bees. Not to mention Ridley Scott’s effort, a digital series called Nightfall, which introduces the co-star of the latest Halo game, Agent Locke. And even before that, director Neill Blomkamp’s films District 9 and Elysium have been more than a little reminiscent of a particular sci-fi video game series. One game sparked the imagination of authors, artists, and filmmakers over night, and the Halo Expanded Universe was born. The books vary from relatively straightforward novelizations of the games, like The Flood by William C. Deitz, to entirely standalone series, such as Karen Traviss’ Kilo-Five Trilogy. So, where should fans who wants to dive into the world of Spartans and space marines start?
It’s probably a good idea to start with the books set just before Halo: Combat Evolved and go chronologically from there. The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund is a fasci-
60 DEN OF GEEK ■ NEW YORK COMIC CON EXTRA
nating look at the Master Chief ’s training, and a good entrance into the world of Spartans and the Covenant since Chief is learning about it at the same pace as the reader. Other characters like Kurt-052 and the Spartans of Blue Team stick around for multiple books and draw readers in with their camaraderie. The Fall of Reach comic book series covers roughly the same ground as the novel. The Fall of Reach is followed by The Flood, First Strike, Ghosts of Onyx, Contact Harvest, and The Cole Protocol. They are contiguous books that chronicle Spartan teams Blue and Gray. The Kilo-Five Trilogy, written by Karen Traviss, directly follows the previous novels while introducing a new cast of characters. In Karen Traviss’ books, the existence of the Spartan program is explored as morally wrong. The army for which the Master Chief fights isn’t a one-dimensional recruitment ad - the Marines are noble, but the intelligence division is providing weapons to the enemy. The books mostly follow soldiers, lending backstory and context to Master Chief ’s friends
and allies. Some of the books are ancient history, like the Forerunner Trilogy (Cryptum, Primordium, and Silentium) by notable science fiction author Greg Bear, which directly tie in to Halo 4. Bear’s books explain the motivations of the villain and the side characters more fully than in the game, but are also so far separated from the games in time that they feel like original science fiction. If you find yourself interested in the Forerunners of Halo 4, you’ll find that Bear’s novel series, set tens of thousands of years before the games, explains their backstory and culture. The upcoming Broken Circle goes into the more recent past, focusing on the Covenant before the games. The short story collection Evolutions contains a great variety of tales that can help fans fit the expanded universe together. Especially memorable are “Human Weakness,” showing Cortana’s perspective during Halo 2, and the exquisite “Mona Lisa,” in which a lack of resolution makes the expanded universe feel like an ongoing, dangerous place.
COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS
The Halo Graphic Novel, published by Marvel, is likewise an anthology that offers readers various perspectives on the universe. The short, sweet “Armor Testing” is a simple story with a twist that tells as much about the reader as the fictional characters. The gory, stylized adventures of Sergeant Johnson in “Breaking
Quarantine” shows how the Sarge escaped the Flood on Installation 04. The series Uprising follows the Master Chief between Halo 2 and Halo 3. Other Marvel books Blood Line and Helljumper follow Spartan Black Team and ODSTs, respectively. Dark Horse has published two series that tie in with Halo 4. Initiation is set before the game and tells the story of Spartan-IV commander Sarah Palmer. Escalation follows Palmer, Infinity executive officer Thomas Lasky, and other Spartan-IVs into a negotiation with the Covenant that could turn into an all-out war. If you want to jump into the expanded universe in the comics, it’s probably best to start with Uprising, or try out the collected Graphic Novel to get a taste for Halo comics.
Halo has an anthology: the animated Legends, which was produced in 2010. It features a variety of stories – seven vignettes from six different production studios. The stories don’t always quite line up with the main canon, like “The Package,” in which Master Chief and Blue Team rescue Dr. Halsey or “Odd One Out,” a wacky, humorous tale about “Spartan-1337.” Legends also includes “The Duel,” a stylized historical epic about an Elite Arbiter, and “Homecoming,” a quiet, heart-wrenching look at the side effects of the Spartan-II program. The live action web series Forward Unto
Dawn comes from the period of Halo 4 tieins and tells Lasky’s history. It also contains a cameo by Master Chief. It wasn’t the first live-action Halo film, though. That honor goes to Landfall, a short promotional trailer campaign for Halo 3. Last October, we saw the release of Halo: Nightfall, which came bundled with The Master Chief Collection. This digital feature shed light on the origin of Agent Locke, the new Spartan featured in Halo 5: Guardians. It’s probably a good idea to watch this one if you’re interested in playing the new game.
RED VS BLUE
Fan series Red vs Blue has gained a life of its own, separate from Halo, but the 12-season science-fiction series is still filmed using all things Halo, and has the Microsoft stamp of approval. Red vs Blue is only tangentially related to the Halo story—Master Chief ’s name is dropped in the first season and never mentioned again— but it uses canon Halo ideas like armor enhancements and artificial intelligence to tell a story about hapless space marines and tragic super-soldiers. This Machinima series started out as a comedy produced by a group of friends in their spare time, and became the flagship product for what is now the fully-fledged internet content company, RoosterTeeth. It’s highly recommended whether you’re knowledgeable about the rest of the Halo universe or not. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
UNMASKED AND OK A panel at NYCC hopes to dispel myths about mental illness, expose the ongoing stigma, and discuss pop culture’s long, oftentimes strained history with mental health. BY ALEC BOJALAD
DLIFE PROTECT WIL O T T N E T A PITCH
P AT M A C O T E G D PLE UT NWF.ORG/CA
Photo: Emily Shur
op culture has a history of characters with mental illness, whether they’re aware of it or not. Depression, antisocial personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all traits that have long-existed within the panels of comic books… and that’s just Batman alone. Despite that history, however, issues surrounding mental illness are rarely addressed directly. Occasionally, it’s demonized. Ever notice how all of The Dark Knight’s villains end up in Arkham Asylum as opposed to jail, while Bruce Wayne seems to go a frightfully long time between therapist visits? This year at New York Comic Con, mental health specialists will gather to look at pop culture’s role in discussing mental illness and combating the stigma associated with it. The “A Force for Good” panel, first successfully held at San Diego Comic Con, will feature Broadcast Thought’s Vasilis K. Pozios, M.D., comedian and Project UROK founder Jenny Jaffe, actress Mara Wilson, and Superhero Therapy’s Janina Scarlet and will delve deeper into how issues of mental health are presented in pop culture and comics. “We’re going to take some questions from the San Diego con and answer them pre-emptively,” Jenny Jaffe says of the panel. “One person raised the point that it’s really scary to be a fan of comic books. At one point (people with mental illnesses) ask ‘based on this, am I destined to be a villain?’” Jaffe is well-versed in the realm of mental illnesses and society’s perception of them. Having been diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder at 10-years old, much of her professional and personal life has been dedicated to combating the stigma of mental illness. In 2014, she founded a non-profit called Project UROK (pronounced “you are OK” but Jaffe says the often misread “you rock” is perfectly acceptable as well) to advocate for those with mental illness and offer a safe space for discussion and support. The project started off modestly, shortly after Jaffe wrote a piece for the blog XO Jane about her struggles and sought to do more. “Honestly, what I sort of thought is that my background is in comedy, so I could assemble a crew and make a web series,” she says. “I never expected creating a non-profit. I’m really glad I didn’t know how much work that would be.” Sarah Hartshorne, comedian and former
contestant on America’s Next Top Model, joined Project UROK as vice president in January after being inspired by Jaffe’s message and reconciling with her own post-traumatic stress disorder. “I was just planning on producing some videos,” she says. “But then it grew so fast and unexpectedly. We took it one step at a time. Filing the paperwork, getting the office. Then one day I looked up and it was a fully formed organization.” The Project UROK website, in addition to being a central hub for all the organization’s endeavors, features It Gets Better-style videos from people sharing their stories about their own experiences with mental illness and the stigma surrounding it. Among the heartfelt and affecting videos from regular day-to-day YouTubers is a scattering of celebrities hammering home just how big a role pop culture can play in changing the stigma about mental illness. Panel member and former child actress Mara
“Pop culture has the capacity to highlight issues and change minds.” Wilson (of Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire) recorded a Project UROK video in April. In it, she describes helpful breathing techniques for combating anxiety; but just as importantly, she describes the experience of having anxiety and depression so perhaps the ordeal can feel at least a little less lonely. “I’ve basically been an anxious person all my life,” she says. “I wish somebody had told me it’s okay to be anxious. That you don’t have to fight it. You don’t have to be depressed. You’re not the only one who has this. Other people can and have fought these battles before. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone and you are OK.” Actor and nerd culture icon, Wil Wheaton made a video for the project in which he discusses his ongoing experiences with anxiety and depression. It’s heartfelt and well-spoken, but another video of Wheaton on Project UROK speaks to the organization’s goals in a different,
New York comedian Jenny Jaffe founded Project UROK in 2014 to combat stigmas against mental illness. Image: Project UROK
Where to Watch A FORCE FOR GOOD Sunday, October 11 4:00 p.m. Room 1A24 ProjectUROK.org
equally effective, way. In it, Wheaton is speaking to the camera about mental illness when comedian and Wheaton’s longtime friend Chris Hardwick walks into the room, interrupting the video. Wheaton beams and they discuss the same inconsequential stuff nerdy friends like to discuss. The message is subtle but clear: even when ruminating on the difficult and often dark topic of depression, people who suffer from it and similar ailments are every bit as human as anyone else. Pop culture has the capacity to highlight issues and change minds. And the “A Force for Good” panel hopes to cover exactly how. “We’re becoming more sensitive of what we portray and how,” Jaffe says. “How to write characters that are more fully formed: that’s an interesting, fun challenge.” As for that ultimate, admittedly stubborn comic icon? “If Batman were ever diagnosed, that would be a huge deal in the mental health advocacy community,” she says. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
THE GODFATHER KILLED THE MAFIA The mob kept quiet in America for years, and then THE GODFATHER comes along with its “olive oil voice and guinea charm,” and all the gangsters suddenly wanted to be Sonny Corleone.
BY TONY SOKOL
World War II generation was taught. Americans got nothing on Sicilians. You don’t have to be in a crime family to distrust cops. It’s part of our DNA, forged by centuries of betrayals. Fugati. Button men kept their lips buttoned for centuries. Leaks like Joe Valachi and Abe Reles got plugged up, one way or another. That was before the movie came out and all the gangsters wanted to be Sonny. No one ever wants to be Fredo. My aunt was related to the Lo Cicero family, Camorra, not Cosa Nostra. When I was 10, "The Godfather Theme" blasted out of car horns all over Bensonhurst. When my aunt’s boyfriend got one she was livid. “What? Are you fucking advertising?” she screamed, and you could hear his button pop. Omertà means silence unto death, especially when talking to cops. It’s better to do another guy’s rap than get a bad rep. People who break omertà end up with their brains splattered and
Image: Paramount Pictures/Photofest
oodfellas, Martin Scorsese’s movie about the wise guys that pulled off the biggest haul of the 20th century, the $6 million Lufthansa heist, turns 25 this year. Goodfellas was a direct descendant of The Godfather, which raised the gangster movie genre to high art. Goodfellas was faster, brasher, and louder. Gangsters got louder after The Godfather, so loud the feds heard them and shut them up. The Godfather, the 1972 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, was based on the best-selling Mario Puzo novel. It told the history of the mob in America by focusing on Don Vito Corleone, the head of one of the Five Families. Goodfellas focused on Henry Hill, a rat. Hill, who was not a made man because he was half-Irish, broke the code of omertà. America hates squealers. In my favorite movie, Dead End, finks were given the “mark of the squealer.” “Loose lips sink ships,” the
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a dead rat shoved down their throats. Cosa Nostra lasted as long as it did because Mafiosi are secretive. History says the Mafia began in Sicily sometime between 1812, when most of the island was owned by nobility, and 1861, when it was annexed into the Kingdom of Italy and a fifth of the island became the private property of peasants. But the tradition started long before that. When I was a kid, my grandmother told me the story of “The Night of Sicilian Vespers.” It is usually a variation on this: On Easter Sunday, 1282, a French soldier in Palermo raped a virgin bride on her wedding day. The woman’s mother ran to the street yelling “my daughter, my daughter” which some versions translate to “ma fia, ma fia,” a regional dialect of figlia mia. An outraged mob turned into an uprising, and finally a revolution that spread across Sicily. Two thousand people died as these men of honor, in my grandmother’s version, slit the throats of every French soldier on the island and on the boats offshore. The War of Sicilian Vespers is the only recorded incident in medieval times where a monarch was removed from power by the people. It changed the face of the Mediterranean. My grandmother’s version didn’t have the “ma fia” bit in it. As far as I knew, there was no such thing as the Mafia. My family was from Palermo, which was run by the Camorra, who couldn’t care less about the Mafia. But that story told the beginning of an honorable society of protection. The Godfather never mentions the Sicilian Vespers. Puzo based the story on the Gallo-Profaci Wars of the late 1950s and early ‘60s. “Crazy” Joe “The Blond” and his brothers Larry and Albert “Kid Blast” Gallo, drove city gangsters “to the mattresses.” In the book, Tom Hagen explains that Luca Brasi is “sleeping with the fishes,” but he wasn’t reciting an old Sicilian message. That phrase only went back to 1961 when Sally D’Ambrosio iced “Joe Jelly” Gioelli. The Profaci family hitman wrapped a fish in Joe Jelly’s coat and dropped it in front of a candy store in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn.
Joe Gallo was made by gangster cinema. Like the Sonny wannabes of the post-Godfather generation, he’d emulated Richard Widmark’s Tommy Udo after seeing the 1947 classic Kiss of Death. As part of the “Barbershop Quintet,” Gallo popped Albert “the Lord High Executioner” Anastasia at the Park Sheridan barbershop on West 56th Street on Oct. 5, 1957. Gallo was killed on his birthday on April 7, 1972 at Umberto’s Clam House. Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran took credit for the hit; he also claimed to be the guy who disappeared Jimmy Hoffa. Gallo saw Don Rickles at the Copacabana earlier that evening with future Law & Order actor Jerry Orbach and comedian David Steinberg. The mobster and the actor became friends after Orbach played in the film version of Jimmy Breslin’s book, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, which also starred Robert De Niro in a part originally offered to Al Pacino, who passed on it to play Michael Corleone in The Godfather. According to The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld by Tom Folsom, to the day he died, Orbach never revealed what happened on Gallo’s last night. Even when he was playing a cop. That’s a standup guy. Omertà. The Profaci family became the Colombo family. Joseph Colombo formed the Italian-American Civil Rights League to strongarm production of The Godfather. Producer Albert Ruddy made sure the words “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” never appeared in the film. The Mafia was the unnamed face of American crime in the 20th century. It operated as a social unit, mixing business with pleasure and family. Joseph Bonanno considered himself the father of his crime family. He didn’t call himself the don and never claimed to be the godfather. The Mafia survived as long as it did because it was a secret organization. To fight organized crime, disorganized crimefighters built their arsenal: They got faster cars to chase John Dillinger; J. Edgar Hoover invented stereo in his attempts to bug criminals; the FBI got their biggest weapon when the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act passed. The RICO bill was named after Edward G. Robinson’s character in Little Caesar (1931). Omertà couldn’t stand against that. The first cracks in omertà came from Abe Reles, one of the most feared and respected killers in Murder, Inc. Without his testimony, there would be no record of the Jewish mobs and the legend of Dutch Schultz would have been lost to the ages. Abe “Kid Twist” Reles was born in Brooklyn in 1906. He was a bootlegger and an enforcer before he became a member of the assassination
borgata of the National Crime Syndicate. The master of the ice pick was 32 when he rolled over on Murder, Inc. in 1940 to beat the death penalty. It didn’t work. Reles fell out of a hotel window in Coney Island the following year while under the watchful eyes of the police. Some say he was pulling a prank. Others say he was pushed. Either way, he never got to trial. Peter Falk portrayed Reles in the movie Murder, Inc. He was ruthless, witty, and totally sociopathic in a role decades ahead of its time. Joe Valachi is probably the best known mob informant. Everything outsiders understood about the structure of the Mafia in the ‘60s was because of him. He was the poster child for rats even before Charles Bronson played him in The Valachi Papers. Valachi sang the first song about the American Mafia in 1963. The Lucchese and Genovese
HOLLYWOOD CELEBRATES RATS. families’ soldier ratted after a prison execution attempt. Valachi died in prison in 1971 with a $100,000 contract still out on his head. The next generation grew up on The Godfather and it changed the way they acted because of what was being projected. Most true crime books of the period mention mob bosses screening the film with more affection than Frank Sinatra ever gave to Puzo. Cops were also emboldened by the film, which they saw as glamorizing an affront to society. They often circumvented due process to get criminals to flip. The new generation wasn’t as stand up as their predecessors. One of the best-known and highest-ranking finks was Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano. John Gotti promoted him to Gambino underboss in the ‘80s. Gravano and Gotti were arrested at their own Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy. Like Reles, Gravano got word that he was on the hit list and cut a deal with the feds. His testimony against the Teflon Don stuck. Gravano had his face fixed and went into Witness Protection
but got nabbed for dealing ecstasy. Joseph “The Ear” Massino was the first official Mafia boss to flip. He wore a wire to get dope on his Bonanno family successor Vincent Basciano. That’s as bad as it gets in the mob. Tony Soprano never forgave his sister for taping him when he was a kid. The indignity wasn’t enough. Massino was sentenced to life in prison in June 2005. Alphonse D’Arco was the acting boss of the Lucchese family when he gave up Colombo family boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena, Genovese family boss Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, and Bonanno family consigliere Anthony Spero. He also gave up the “Mafia Cops” Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito. But their deceits pale in comparison to the alleged duplicity of James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger. Whitey was giving up the Mafia to the feds for years. Bulger maintains, to this day, that he was using the feds to do his dirty work. That would make him a genius. The Irish-American boss of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang had the FBI on his information payroll from the mid-1970s until January 1995. He then took it on the lam to escape murder charges after his FBI handler John Connolly tipped him off. Bulger was caught in 2011 and sentenced to two life terms in prison on Nov. 14, 2013. Johnny Depp plays him in the movie Black Mass. Goodfellas is based on the testimony of Henry Hill, part of Paul Vario’s crew in the Lucchese family. Hill was arrested for peddling dope in 1980 and figured there was a contract out on him. His testimony led to 50 convictions. He entered the program but was kicked out for staying in the life. Hill gave further evidence to Nicholas Pileggi for the book Wiseguy, which Scorsese turned into Goodfellas. Hollywood celebrates rats. One of the greatest rat films is On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando as a punch-drunk ex-middleweight contender in a cozy “no work” job on the Jersey City docks. It was directed by Elia Kazan, who some call one of the biggest rats in the pack. Kazan named names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. On the Waterfront was his defense. When Kazan was given an honorary Oscar, De Niro and Scorsese stood up for him. Sicilians keep their traps shut at all times, like Johnny Tightlips on The Simpsons. The people of Naples are outgoing, fun-loving, and have a tendency to show off. The families of the Dapper Don John Gotti and Al Capone came from Naples. Capone loved watching movies that depicted him. Gotti loved The Godfather. Sicilians say “va Napoli” as a curse. The Godfather gave gangsters bragging rights. Sometimes, it’s best to let sleeping fishes lie. DEN OF GEEK ■ WWW.DENOFGEEK.US
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