What Stan Lee Meant To A DC Fanboy.

The pop culture world has been mourning the loss of Stan Lee this last week after he passed away on Monday at the age of 95. The internet is still flooded with social media posts paying their digital respects to the man who will be remembered for co-creating some of the most iconic comic book characters ever to exist. Stan’s influence had an immeasurable impact on my life as well, and I wanted to write about that briefly.

Avengers #1. Art by Jack Kirby.

I definitely read plenty of comics as a kid, but some of my earliest memories interacting with the Marvel Universe are actually from watching two of the most legendary cartoons of the 90’s: Spider-Man and X-Men. Cartoons like these played a key role in getting me hooked into comics and cultivating a love of art in general. I remember buying several books over the years from school book fairs that detailed how to draw the Marvel characters, and for a long time I even considered becoming a cartoonist or comic book artist.

The X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons of the 90s were the best.

If you were unfortunate to have missed these animated gems growing up, the animation in both were top quality while also doing a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the comics. Both shows had memorable opening themes as well, with music that screamed 90s. Once either of these two shows started, nothing else mattered until the episode was over.

Do yourself a favor and check out the opening titles to both Spider-Man and X-Men.

Honestly, whenever forced to choose I’ve always leaned more to the DC Universe. My parents named me after Superman actor Christopher Reeve (a tale for another day), which naturally made me gravitate to that side of the superhero aisle. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe there is enough geek love to go around for both companies’ cast of characters.

Marvel and DC have always offered 2 sides of the same coin for me, allowing me to jump back and forth depending on what kind of story I’m in the mood for. And who was the person responsible for differentiating Marvel from the rest of the superheroes at the time? In large part it was Stan Lee of course.

The DC Universe roster has been around longer and excels at telling entertaining stories that provide an escape from reality. These heroes live more in the realm of fantasy and mythology as the universe is crowded with super powered beings from other planets who always do the right thing to protect their imaginary cities from the forces of evil. They are truly larger than life.

Stan saw this even back in the 60’s and decided to tell his stories from a different angle. He created characters along side legendary artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others who at their core were every day humans, based in real cities, dealing not just with bad guys wanting to wreck everything but their own real life dilemas as well.

This famous panel drawn by Steve Ditko was paid homage in Spiderman: Homecoming.

This artwork from iconic artist Steve Ditko was paid homage in Spiderman: Homecoming.

The Marvel characters don’t just provide entertaining escapism, they also resonate with readers. They’re not just tireless do-gooders who always do the right thing. They make mistakes. They fail. They give us hope that it’s possible to do great things while also struggling with every day life. I’m not saying these qualities are completely absent from the DC Universe; only that Stan set up Marvel to consistently do a far better job.

The X-men constantly face prejudice and racism from a world that doesn’t understand their mutant abilities. Tony Stark is his own worst enemy with a monster size ego and inner demons of alcoholism. Mathew Murdock, a nobody from Hell’s Kitchen, turned his crippling disability into one of his greatest strengths as a hero. Peter Parker is constantly forced to juggle the pressures of his personal life with crime fighting. The list could go on for pages.

The immense success of the Marvel movies over the past decade is also proof of how much these characters resonate with the world. I was 23 years old when Iron-Man released and now at 33, married, and a baby on the way the franchise is 20 movies in and still going strong. I, like so many others have been to every single opening weekend, and have collected each film as it came out on DVD/Blu ray. I absolutely love and am fascinated with how these movies all contect together and reference each other as every iteration builds the universe just a little deeper, just like issues of comic books.

President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige deserves a large amount of credit for crafting films that appeal to the masses, but the heart of the these characters wouldnt exist without Stan. Honestly, seeing Stan’s cameo in every single film is also part of the experience that will sadly end after his last cameo in the upcoming Avengers 4.

Despite all of this, I don’t find myself overly saddened thinking about Stan’s passing. He had a long and fulfilling life, and is now at rest after accomplishing more with his life than most ever think is possible. He has inspired countless artists and creators to leave their mark on the world and will continue to do so as future generations experience his universe for the first time.

My wife and I meeting Stan at Awesome Con.

I’m beyond grateful to have met Stan a year or so ago at Awesome Con in DC, but as incredible an experience as it was, I was surprised at how little he resembled the comic book rockstar from my childhood. He kept reminding me of someone’s grandfather that should probably just be at home, resting. I think it was in that moment that I knew and accepted this marvelous man (see what I did there) wouldnt be with us much longer.

However, this is not how he will be remembered. He will be remembered for all the things previously mentioned in this post; as the man that revolutionized not just comics but art, TV, and film as well. He will be remembered for his bombastic story telling, a knack for alliteration, and his trademark sunglasses and mustache.

Never fear true believers. Though he is no longer among us, his legacy on pop culture will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Excelsior.

Venom: Movie Review

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate

Run-time: 2hr and 20 min Rated PG-13

Check out the trailer here

Venom has been a “dark horse” of sorts pretty much since it was announced a few years ago. The thought of Sony making a stand alone film with one of Spider-Man’s most popular foes without everyone’s favorite wall-crawler even making an appearance seemed destined for failure. The movie’s outlook improved only slightly when the talented Tom Hardy was announced as taking on the lead role of investigative journalist turned alien powered anti-hero: Eddie Brock.

Fast forward to 2018 and we are now into the third week of its theatrical run. Despite opening to a more than expected thrashing by movie critics, something unexpected has happened. Venom is actually a damn fun time.

As word of mouth spreads, Venom has broken records and become a box office hit (currently having raked in over $400 million).

I went in expecting to be disappointed with a mediocre action CGI-fest and was shocked at how much I enjoyed the film. Not only that, but I’m also looking forward to the already announced sequel.

Let me be clear: Venom is light years behind 95% of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a clunky story that suffers from several issues.

Despite that, the movie makes you look past all of its flaws with a relatable anti-hero and his strange but endearing bond with Venom that is entertaining to see develop. It’s a solid attempt on Sony’s part of bringing the character to the big screen and a hell of a lot better than the garbage we were given, shoe-horned in at the end of 2007’s Spider-Man 3 (I’m looking at you, Topher Grace):

Spider-Man-3-Topher-Grace-Venom

It’s no secret that Hardy is a brilliant actor and he was a smart choice for Eddie Brock. While I’m a huge fan of his work normally, I was definitely questioning the decision based on the first trailer, as the accent he was going for didn’t seem to work nor did he come across as a believable reporter.

Now, having seen the movie, I think a lot of that was a result of poor editing choices in the trailer. He feels like a much better fit in the actual film, minus a few scenes, and actually has a sort of awkward charm that helps make his character relatable and endearing. The first trailer also butchered the pronounciation of “symbiote,” but I was releaved to see they fixed it for the film.

Interestingly, he’s also the voice of Venom, proving once again he’s the cinematic master of weird voices. Hardy explained in an interview how they created and implemented Venom’s voice into the scenes.

The relationship / bonding moments between Eddie and Venom are hands down the most enjoyable parts of the movie. The interactions are so fun that it’s a shame more time was devoted to pre-Venom setup and not more so to these moments.

This a long movie at 2hrs and 20 mins, but the time flies by. Another 15-20 more mins of Eddie and Venom time would not have been a bad thing.

The rest of the cast worked but could have been better. Riz Ahmed was a supreme dick as the villanous head of the “Life Foundation”, though he really never came across as menacing or as powerful as he was supposed to be. He’s just a dick…with money to waste on irrational science experiments.

Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate were fine, but could have been given more to do. Williams, who plays Eddie’s girlfriend, does have one awesome moment towards the 3rd act but by time you realize what’s happening, it’s over.

Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake, head of the Life Foundation.
Jenny Slate as Dr Skirth.
Michelle Williams as Eddie’s girlfriend Anne Weying.

The action scenes are well done and there are a couple solid fights. A car chase involving Venom made for some great stunts and effects. I do think Venom would have benefited from an R rating. I understand that the studio wants to make as much money as possible, however this is another example where the more adult rating fits the character. Movies like Logan and Deadpool prove if done right, studios can still make tons of money with an R rating.

I think much of the negative reviews by critics comes from not really understanding the personality of the source material. Possibly, they went in expecting a dark and gritty film, almost bordering horror and didn’t know what to do with the hybrid action/comedy with an alien creature making childish jokes about eating people. He does have an off kilter sense of humor and some of Venom’s comedic lines were actually ripped straight from the comics:

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The plot is the movie’s biggest stumbling block. It isn’t terrible…but it isn’t amazing either. It feels like a trip back in time to a 90’s superhero flick. That may be in large part due to the director drawing heavily from the 1993 Venom comic arc “Lethal Protector.” The issue is this story features Spidey in the comics and you can tell Sony stumbled around trying to figure out how to redo the story without him. They actually did a respectable job all things considered, but it is hard not to think about how much better it could have been.

With the financial success of this one maybe the sequel could have a least a guest appearance from Spider-Man…if only long enough for Venom to gain his signature white symbol and ability to shoot his own version of webs.

There are two after credits scenes: the one at the very end is only worth watching if you’re interested in Sony’s upcoming “Into the Spider-Verse” Animated film as there’s a short clip for it.

I won’t spoil who the actor is, but the middle credits scene is where it’s at, teasing the villain of the Venom sequel: Cletus Kasady aka Carnage.

Final Verdict

Overall, while Venom could have been a much better movie and has several issues, the relationship between Eddie and Venom makes you forget the film’s short comings and just have a great time.


Cinematic Quality: 3.5 out of 5

Fun Factor: 4.5 out of 5

Worth the price of admission: 3.5 out of 5

Re-watch Value: 3.5 out of 5

Overall Score – 3.75 body part Venom snacks out of 5

VENOM Trailer Reaction

Here it is ladies and gentlemen; the first look at the infamous Venom movie, starring Tom Hardy:

So this trailer doesn’t actually reveal much; just establishes some foundation for Tom Hardy’s character Eddie Brock, who is clearly having a rough time. The trailer does establish a nice suspense, almost horror vibe. I would have liked to have seen just a quick look of him as Venom, but the trailer at least shows enough to make you want more…which isn’t that the goal?

Hardy is a fantastic actor and also a master of voices, but I can’t decide if I like what he’s doing here yet or not. He sounded better as the trailer progressed, but those first couple lines just sounded a little weird for me.

There are some interesting shots throughout the trailer though. The beginning starts with what seems like a very serene mountain location and ends up being just the opposite: Hardy in some type of facility, having tests run. The camera trick is a nice touch, and is an ironic play on what’s most likely about to happen to him.

Also worth noting is that most of the shots of Hardy are looking at his back, as he walks around like a brawler who’s expecting to have to fight at any moment. These are some silent cues as to how Hardy will play the character.

Their are a lot of doubts floating around right now about this Sony made Marvel movie, and while it’s still too early to tell if the movie will be any good, I think this trailer is at least a small step in the right direction.

Who is Venom?

venom-purpletongue

A very quick rundown for those not familiar: Venom is essentially the name given to the result of an alien creature called a Symbiote, bonding with a human host for survival. The Symbiote looks like squirming black goo, and once it overtakes its host’s body, the two become one symbiotic creature, known as Venom.

Venom enhances the abilities of whatever host it’s joined with. Due to its first host being Spider-Man, any future versions of Venom take on all of Peter Parker’s abilities. Eddie Brock is the most well known host the Symbiote has joined with, however there have been several others. Primarily a villain in the Marvel world, there have been quite a few instances of him taking on more of an anti-hero role (which is closer to what we’ll see with Tom Hardy here).

An even darker and more powerful Symbiote creature named Carnage is rumored to be the main villain of the of the movie. This Symbiote bonds with a lunatic in the comics named Cletus Kasaday (originally modeled after DC’s Joker, if that tells you anything about his personality) While Venom represents the dark side of Brock, Carnage takes things to another level: a truly psychotic and blood thirsty creature with absolutely no morals.

Venom_VS_Carnage__Venom_Wins_

So What’s the Story Going to Be?

Promised to be “as true the the comics as possible,” the story will be based on 2 different Venom story arcs:

Lethal Protector

Planet of the Symbiotes

Both titles see Venom actually team up with Spider-Man to take on other Symbiotes. This all has posed a very important question fans want answered: will we see Spider-Man in Venom? After all, it seems almost wrong to have a movie devoted to one of Spidey’s greatest “frenemies” without the web-slinger himself. There’s been a lot of back and forth on that subject. First, there was an emphatic no; this Venom exsists in a separate universe from that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, now it’s being at least rumored that Tom Holland could be in the film in some form. Either way, if he is in the film, it will most likely be a minor role.

What are your thoughts? Are you excited or will not even the great Tom Hardy with the clever promotional hashtag #wearevenom keep the movie from flopping? Time will tell for sure.

Venom is set to release October 5

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse Trailer Released

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Via Sony Pictures Animation

Marvel unveiled a fantastic trailer this past weekend at the Sao Paulo, Brazil CCXP (Comic-Con Experience) for a new animated film that will release in theaters titled Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse.

You may have noticed in the trailer that this Spidey doesn’t seem to be Peter Parker. That’s because he isn’t. He’s actually a different character: Miles Morales, a fan favorite Spidey from the comics.

Image via Sony Pictures
Via Sony Pictures Animation

That’s right; more than one person has put on the mask, which is the premise of this film. To make a long story short, in an alternate universe, Miles (for different reasons, depending on which comic story you read) decides to take on the role of Spider-Man after getting similar powers from a spider bite of his own.

While it’s still not known for sure what his origin story will be here, Miles will undoubtedly stumble upon the discovery that there are countless alternate universes…a “multi-verse,” with each having it’s own version of Spider-Man. Hence the title, “Spider-Verse.” This was explored in detail by a 2014 comic story run, under the same name:

Cover art from Amazing Spider-Man Vol 3 Issue 13

The movie’s art style looks fascinating: a hyper-stylized blend between traditional 3D animation and comic book art style. This definitely looks like it will be one to check out for any fan.

There’s no news yet on a rating: so it will be interesting to see who the target audience is. While Marvel is the current champion of big screen movies, DC has typically fared better than Marvel with their animated features. This movie, however from Sony Pictures might be the first real contender to change that.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse will be released Christmas of 2018.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Side note: I ended up seeing this in 3D because there wasn’t a price difference and the theater was less full. There is literally no reason to see this in 3D.

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton

Trailer: Click Here!

Spider-Man Homecoming is the third version of the wall crawler to hit the big screen. Even though Tom did a solid job in Civil War, there was a legitimate fear of Spider-Man fatigue and that the movie would bomb, becoming the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) first failure since the beginning of it’s run back in 2008 with Ironman. However, not only is Homecoming on track to do well over $200 million opening weekend; it’s arguable the best Spider-Man film in years, if not ever.

Tom Holland nails both Peter Parker and Spider-Man: the sarcastic and humorous quips, the teenage awkwardness, it’s all there in the perfect amount. I don’t think there was ever a moment when I wasn’t laughing or at least had a smile on my face. The movie is hilarious from start to finish, but a better description is full of joy. It fills the movie and is infectious. You can tell that Tom loves playing Peter and Peter loves being Spider-Man. The movie opens with Peter coming down off the high of fighting alongside (and against) the Avengers during the events of Civil War. All he can think about is getting the next call to help out his mentor, Tony, again.

Above anything else, Spider-Man is a teenager who has to balance having superpowers with the stresses of being a teenager in high school. That is this movie in a nutshell. There isn’t a threat of some world ending destruction. The movie takes things a couple notches down to focus on Peter and his development into a hero. It’s a nice change of pace from the gravity of the last several Marvel films. There is an excellent villain, however he’s a small timer compared to the likes of Ulton, Dormammu, or Loki. As Tony puts it, Peter is still just a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.

The Rest of The Cast

Robert Downey Jr is used sparingly in the movie, which was a good choice. There was a concern for awhile that he would overshadow the film in an effort to draw movie goers. This did not happen, I’m glad to say. Pretty much what you’ve seen in the trailers already is about it. Happy Hogan, played by Jon Favreau is actually in the movie more than Tony. He’s basically in charge of making sure Peter doesn’t get into too much trouble…and doesn’t bother Tony. Both a great for the amount they are in the movie.

Michael Keaton played a fantastic villain as Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture. He’s a lower level villain who isn’t on the radar of the Avengers. Perhaps one of the most believable marvel villains so far; he’s a blue collar worker, striving to provide for his family the best he can. He sees Spider-Man as a direct threat to his family and will do anything to protect them. He’s a villain you can relate to. I won’t spoil anything, but the way his character is written is genius and fits perfectly with the name “Vulture.” Keaton brings a lot of depth the character and it is fun watching him work.

Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is Peter’s best friend. He is hilarious and brings a lot of laughs to the movie. It’s questionable whether he is actually a good friend to Peter sometimes; he’s very selfish in a couple scenes. Overall, he was a good change a pace from having yet another Harry Osborne show up just yet, and will hopefully be in the next film as well.

Zendaya who, I’m not going to even lie: I’ve never heard of until this movie (apparently she’s a thing) played Michelle. A fun character to watch, and although she doesn’t really have any friends, she enjoys to pick on Peter and Ned for being nerdy and awkward, even though she is guilty of the same. There’s a reveal at the end of the movie which raises some questions for future movies. It remains to be seen if it will be a smart move and I’m not sure if I’m on board with it yet.

Marisa Tomei continues her role as Aunt May. It was a little weird to think about Aunt May as being younger and hot, but it fits with this version and makes for some great jokes throughout the movie. Also a bit of a departure from the norm, she’s more of a “cool” parental figure to Peter. However, there are still moments where she stresses over what Pete is up to in his spare time.

Tony Revolori plays the bully Flash Thompson. In another change up that worked well, Flash isn’t a jock this time around, he’s actually someone that runs in the same social circles as Peter. Flash is also usually white, and it was nice to see some more ethnic diversity in the casting than there usually is: not just with Flash but with the rest of the cast as well.

Laura Harrier plays Peter’s love interest, Liz. She does a decent job, but is the least interesting out of the main group of supporting cast.

Spidey Joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Another aspect the movie hits out of the park is it’s placement in the MCU. It feels so organic, like Peter has been there the whole time. He’s been living his life watching the events of MCU unfold in the world around him. Homecoming is a fantastic look at the Avengers from the viewpoint of supporting characters. Even Toomes: his whole motivation centers around being the “little guy” and Tony or the rest of the Avengers really not caring how their actions affect him and his family. It’s just such a smart angle to take that adds yet another layer to the MCU.

There are so many easter eggs and references in this movie it’s ridiculous. Little nods here and there that really help to tie the MCU together and make it feel real. The MCU is getting close to 20 movies and is starting to hit it’s stride with world building and complexity. Each new movie doesn’t feel like a separate story; more like a continuation of the same overall story from a different character’s point of view.

Ironman “Lite”

While it is a brilliant move to use Tony as the spring board for introducing Spidey into the MCU, there is a small gripe, but worth noting. It’s not a deal breaker by any means; it just doesn’t feel like it fits. I’m talking about the Spidey suit; it has way too many features, especially the computer AI. Obviously, since we know that in this version Tony has made the suit for him, it’s only natural that it would bear some similarity to how the Iron-man suits function. But Peter is a genius and coming into his own as a hero by the end of the movie so hopefully he’ll realize he doesn’t need the fancy Jarvis-like AI and design his own suit. What I would love to see in future movies is maybe his spidey-sense starts to develop and it clashes with what “Karen” tries to tell him. That could be an easy transition.

Spider-Teen

The only other negative I can possibly find for this movie is that because it’s still ultimately an origin story, we don’t start to see a full fledged Spider-MAN until the end of the movie. You leave the movie hungry for what he’ll be able to do in the next movie. It may be annoying to some, and it was to me at first until I started to think about it more. Once you embrace it, it’s honestly one of the movie’s strengths. Part of the charm of Spider-Man is that he’s a kid, he’s an everyday, average person. He doesn’t always have it together or have all the answers. He’s awkward. He makes mistakes. That’s basically what this movie gives us. Very few superhero movies give us this perspective of what it’s like to be an average person and then suddenly have powers. It’s a fresh change of pace. At one point Peter is told, “You really need to get better at this part of the job.”

Final Verdict:

8.5 Hot Aunt May’s out of 10.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fantastic edition to the MCU and has a ton of heart and humor. Some are calling it a superhero version of The Breakfast Club, and that is a fitting description. It was a brilliant choice to scale back the stakes and focus on the development of it’s newest hero-in-training. There are a couple surprises with the story and a few great cameos. As always, there are after-credit scenes. The second scene is without a doubt one of the best end credit scenes ever in a Marvel movie.

At the end of the day, Tom Holland has solidified his place, not only in the MCU, but as THE Spider-Man for the next several years.