Wanna Know the Surprise Villain in 'The Avengers'?

Tom Hiddlestone as Loki
We all know Thor's seriously disturbed and vengeful brother, Loki, is the main villain in Marvel's The Avengers - but will he have help wreaking destruction on the world? According to an article on Heat Vision, he just might. Seems a previously seen baddie from another Marvel movie is going to raise his ugly mug again in the battle against Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.

As often happens with superhero movies, the merchandisers start promoting their products and inadvertently giving away spoilers long before the movie opens, and that's the case here. It looks like a toy company has released a promo that shows the (up until now) surprise villain in The Avengers.

If the report is accurate, this is a big spoiler, but if you can't stand the suspense, check the rest of the post after the jump.

Looking Back on 2011 - Plus New 'Dark Knight' Pics

Poster from Marvel's The Avengers
Looking back on the year that was, the superhero movie that dominated the news in the first half of 2011 was Marvel's - The Avengers. In March, word started leaking about the Avengers screenplay - with some people in the know, such as director, James Gunn, calling it the best Marvel movie script to date.  In April, we started getting reports from New Mexico, where the film was being shot - then, at the San Diego Comic Con, Marvel unveiled character posters that amped up fan interest even more. Later in the summer, we got our first look at the Avengers trailer when Captain America: The First Avenger opened on July 22.

Beginning in August, The Dark Knight Rises started taking over the headlines with almost daily reports from shooting locations in Pittsburgh and New York. In the early fall, on-set spy videos appeared on the web, showing TDKR being filmed, and  immediately went viral. Then, as we got closer to the big holiday movie season, TDKR director, Christopher Nolan and some of the cast started giving interviews that whetted fans appetites for anything and everything Bat-related.

So, here we are on Christmas Eve, and The Dark Knight Rises is still the hottest movie topic on the web, thanks to the release of the official trailer on Monday (Dec. 19). As if we needed any proof that TDKR is red hot - according to Apple, the trailer smashed the record for number of downloads on its iTunes Movie Trailers site in a 24 hour period.

From The Hero Complex  -
The trailer went online at 10 a.m. Monday morning and was viewed more than 12.5 million times in the next 24 hours, breaking the previous record — held by the trailer for Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” — by well over 2 million.
Now, perhaps as a holiday gift to the throngs of Bat devotees, Warner Bros. has released this batch of images from TDKR that gives a good look at the new and improved Batsuit and baddie, Bane. Granted, these pics appeared in an issue of Empire magazine a few weeks ago, but if you missed em then, here's another chance to take in the coolness.

Trailer for 'The Dark Knight Rises' Now Online!

Fan-made poster by Andrew - deviantART
"When Gotham is ashes", a seemingly victorious Bane says to a battered and bleeding Bruce Wayne, "you have my permission to die." 

That's one of the quotes from the first full length trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. When I saw the trailer this weekend in the theater, it looked magnificent on the big screen, and fortunately Warner Bros. has released it online today. Take a look at what Christopher Nolan and company have in store for us next summer - and while you're at it, explain to me why Wayne appears to be a captive in some sort of prison. Very interesting...

Thanks to The Hero Complex for the heads up

Scarlett Johansson on Her 'Avengers' Role

Scarlett Johansson talks to MTV News in the video below, about the Black Widow's screen time in The Avengers. Of course, the Widow is a supporting character and her story won't get as much attention as Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk, but it sounds like she'll still play a key role.
“There are a lot of people to serve in that, for sure,” she told MTV News during the "We Bought a Zoo" junket. “The Widow has a great story. I think Joss did a great job of weaving together all these characters’ stories. It was no small feat for him.”

Joe Simon - Captain America Co-creator Dies at 98

Joe Simon (Oct. 11, 1913 - Dec. 14, 2011)
Like comic fans everywhere, I was sad to hear about the passing of Joe Simon, earlier today. Mr. Simon was, of course, the co-creator (along with artist Jack Kirby) of Captain America, one of the most popular and legendary superheroes of all time. I can only imagine the excitement that issue #1 of Captain America Comics caused when it hit the stands in 1941. Cap was so immediately popular, that he was one of the first superheroes to be featured in a live action motion picture, with the release of a 15 chapter serial in 1944. Unfortunately, the filmmakers made many changes to Simon and Kirby's creation, but the serial is still an interesting artifact from that era.

This year, Cap made a triumphant return to the big screen in Captain America: The First Avenger, and the movie earned both critical praise and was a hit with public - making over $368 million at the worldwide box office. Below, I've re-posted an article about that first serial that I wrote some time ago.

Here's what Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics said in a statement regarding Mr. Simon -
"Among many accomplishments in the comic book field, Joe Simon co-created one of the most enduring superhero icons -- indeed, American icons -- of the 20th Century. If there ever were a superhero who needed less explanation than the red, white and blue-clad Captain America, I've yet to see him," 
Captain America poster - Republic Studios (1944)

Captain America (1944), a Republic serial,  was loosely based on the character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. According to the film's Wikipedia entry, many changes were made to the original story. This has lead some film historians to believe the screenplay was actually a rewritten version that was meant for another character called The Copperhead.
Note - The title in the trailer is The Return of Captain America because Republic Studios often changed titles when serials were re-released. This clip is from the film's re-release version.

Some of the major changes from the Captain America comic book (source: Wikipedia):
  • His secret identity is District Attorney Grant Gardner rather than U.S. Army Private Steve Rogers
  • The "Super-Soldier Serum" origin is not used.
  • His famous shield does not appear, replaced by a standard gun.
  • Despite the fact that this serial was made in 1944, and Captain America regularly fought Nazis in the comics, the Nazis are not part of the story in any way.
  • His sidekick, Bucky, does not appear.
If you'd like to check out the entire serial, all of the chapters are available on YouTube.

Fan-made Posters - Batman, Spider-Man, Avengers

by Ryan Luckoo

Check out this collection of posters from Toronto-based artist, Ryan Luckoo. According to his deviantART page, he wanted to create some images for the most anticipated movies of 2012, and I think he nailed it. Of these three, I think the most striking is the one for The Dark Knight RisesI like the way he combines Bane, Batman and Gotham City into one instantly recognizable symbol - and it perfectly conveys the serious, dark tone of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. To see more of Luckoo's work, click on his name below each image.  
by Ryan Luckoo
by Ryan Luckoo

Amazing Spider-Man Poster is Revealed

Thanks to SuperheroHype, we got an early look at the first official poster for The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and it definitely has a mysterious vibe. If this image is any clue, we're in for a darker (perhaps creepier) Spidey tale than we've ever seen before.

Two things are worth noting with this poster - first, there's no Spidey logo or title (besides the shadow), which is an interesting choice. Just guessing, but apparently Sony Pictures believes the spider shadow alone is so recognizable that a title is unnecessary - after all, everybody knows who Spidey is, right?

Second cool thing about this poster are the words "the untold story". Again, I'm speculating here, but I think that's referring to the story of how Peter Parker was orphaned and wound up being cared for by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. I'm not being a spoiler, because the trailer that was released months ago hints at that in the first few seconds. (see below) We already know that Richard and Mary Parker (Peter's parents) will appear in the movie, so I'll wager that their backstory is a big plot element. Think I'm wrong? Let me have it in the comments.

We only have to wait until July 13 to find out.

Was the First Superhero Movie Made in 1920?

This week, I've been reading Comic Book Comics, which is a history of comic books in, you guessed it, comic book form. It's published by Evil Twin Comics and is available in both paper and digital format. Why am I telling you this, you ask. To begin with, I think it's a very well-written series of books (six in all) and deserves a plug. Besides that, it inspired me to think about the early days of comics, because it does a great job of explaining the timeline of how comics as we know them today, came into being - and a part of that history involves Hollywood. 

The Mark of Zorro
The author, Fred Van Lente, points out the influence that one movie in particular had on the creation of the first comic book superhero - of course, that being Superman. Van Lente pulls together all of the things that influenced Superman's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, in the early 1930s - such as Philip Wylie's novel Gladiator and Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books. However, the one film that Van Lente includes as a major inspiration for Superman is 1920's The Mark of Zorro, starring Douglas Fairbanks. In just a few panels, Van Lente and artist, Ryan Dunlavey, explain how Fairbanks, after reading Johnston McCulley's 1919 novella, The Curse of Capistrano, created the screen version of Don Diego Vega and his heroic alter ego Zorro. They point out that Fairbanks created Zorro's signature "Z" sword mark for the film - *sidenote - was this the first instance of a character having an instantly identifiable symbol, something that in a few years would be standard issue for all superheroes? Van Lente and Dunlavey contend that Zorro's "Z" was the inspiration for Superman's "S" chestplate. They also draw a parallel between another element from the film and one of Superman's key characteristics - that element being Zorro's "populist class consciousness". In other words, Zorro's defense of the lowly peasants against rich landowners might have inspired Siegel and Shuster to make corrupt businessmen and politicians Superman's earliest foes.  

Evil Twin Comics
So, why is this bit of comic book/movie history important? Two reasons. First, it highlights the earliest example of what I like to call the "symbiotic relationship" between film and comic books. The more I study the history of comic books, the more convinced I am that movies have influenced the medium in ways that many fans aren't aware of. For example, I recall reading how Citizen Kane (1941) inspired some of the legendary comic book artists to try new techniques in order to emulate Orson Welles' classic film. Now, it's like we've come full circle - comic book-inspired films are dominating the box office, so the comic book half of this pop culture beast is influencing the film half.  

Here's the second reason I think it's important to re-consider The Mark of Zorro in the context of comic books - It reminds us of how nothing is created in a cultural vacuum. As Van Lente and Dunlavey show, even the greatest superhero of all was an amalgamation of elements from at least half a dozen creations that had come before. I think it's good to bring this up sometimes, because I often hear critics complaining about how this movie or that book seems similar to a previous one. I always like to make a clear distinction between something that's draws inspiration from a previous work and an outright copy. Of course, that opens the door to a debate about all the characters that Superman has "inspired" over the decades, and that's a debate we'll save for another post.

While I'm on the subject of comics and movies, I'll throw this question up for debate - If we slightly stretch the definition of what a superhero is, could we consider The Mark of Zorro the first superhero movie?  I admit, except for the clip below, I haven't seen the film, but from descriptions I've read, it wouldn't be out of place in a collection of other films in the superhero genre - a lone hero with highly honed fighting skills, a mask and costume, an identifying symbol (the "Z"), a secret identity, fighting for the oppressed...sure sounds like a superhero. I know, Zorro is considered a "pulp adventure hero", but it's interesting to look at that 1920 movie and wonder how much impact it had on Siegel and Shuster, and other early superhero creators. Have you ever thought about these early film influences on Golden Age comic book writers? If you have any opinions on the subject, feel free to start a discussion in the comments.

SNL Spoofs The Dark Knight

Steve Buscemi
Steve Buscemi hosted Saturday Night Live on December 3, and in this hilarious take on Batman's freaky ability to pop up when you least expect it, he plays Commissioner Gordon to Andy Samberg's Dark Knight.

Dark Knight / Dragon Tattoo Mash-up Fills Today's Awesome Quota

Fan-made poster by Andrew - deviantART
So help me, I can't resist any mash-up featuring the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. Today we have one that uses the soundtrack from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and damn if it doesn't fit perfectly with the stunning visuals. The music is a cover of Led Zeppelin's The Immigrant Song, as performed by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Karen O. Kudos to the YouTuber who made this.