All posts by JC Alvarez

Writer | Producer | Personality. Pop-Cultural Agent. Music | Entertainment & Genre Enthusiast. I knew comics were cool before primetime. The voice of "Out Loud & Live! with JC Alvarez" on Internet Radio. Visit www.thefanzite.com for more!

The “Rebirth” Continues… iReview: SUPERGIRL #1

It’s the Maid of Might’s turn at the “Rebirth” carousel. Just what can fans expect from accomplished comics scribe Steve Orlando as he takes the wheel of the new ongoing title…

When Supergirl premiered as part of “The New 52” reboot at DC Comics the character was among the most dramatically overhauled to fit in with the new, more contemporary wave that the imprint was riding. In an effort to bring in more savvy audiences, Superman’s famous cousin was given a much edgier persona and a more fleshed out background. Kara Zor-El had a life on Krypton before it was environmentally destroyed, and was actually resistant about being part of her father’s plan to be rocketed away from her family in her planet’s final days, with a mission to keep her infant cousin Kal safe on their voyage to a new alien world.

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Kara arrives on Earth much later than anyone anticipated and crash lands in Russia. Her cousin Kal El has grown up and become Superman emerging in an era where people are sceptical about these so-called “super-heroes”, gods on earth, that walk among them. With no understanding of Earth’s customs or language, Kara’s arrival is met with a flurry of firepower from a military organization that is investigating her arrival. Fortunately Superman arrives just in time to intervene before Kara, who is just learning to control her new found powers, unleashes her own attack on her assailants. That was just the beginning of Supergirl’s introduction to the modern DC Comics multiverse.

For the rest of the Maid of Steel’s run she often found herself at odds with her cousin, and battling as furiously as any angry, average and rebellious teenage girl would. It made for a dramatically different take on a beloved character that in a much simplier time sacrificed herself in the midst of a major crisis to save Superman and the entirety of the multiverse. This new modern-era Supergirl certainly had her shining moments, joining forces with other disenfranchised heroes to help form the Justice League United and take the battle to the stars. She even joined the Red Lanterns Corp for a short time to work out those anger issues.

Now most recently, Supergirl is enjoying an entirely new popularity having joined the primetime universe as one of the successful series of DC Comics based action series on The CW. Returning to the optimism and hopefulness that made the heroine’s journey so attractive, the television series takes a classic approach to evolving Kara’s personality although making her a completely contemporary young millennial charmingly played by Melissa Benoist in the hour-long series Supergirl. The series has proven so popular that when obviously when the publishing imprint at DC Comics decided to return to a more character driven base with “Rebirth” the decision was made to pattern the relaunch after the show.

Overseeing the effort is veteran Comics writer Steve Orlando most notable known for his notorious turn on the recent Midnighter book that put the vigilante front and center. Now Orlando has a turn on working the same magic with Supergirl: Rebirth #1 which puts Kara Zoe-El/Danvers (her new Earth-born surname and cover) and to work for the DOE – the Department of Extra-Normal Operations. Sound familiar? It should. Although the DOE was introduced toward the final issues of “The New 52” Supergirl book’s run, the agency was enlisted to help Kara with her recent power loss. When Kara’s cousin Superman faced his “final days” it became imperative that Kara return to full strength.

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The Rebirth issue addresses that immediately as the DEO Director Cameron Chase assigned to be assist Supergirl with her case sends the Maid of Might rocketing straight ahead into the heart of our yellow sun! At the same time, a breach at the launch site releases a prisoner from the Krytonian Phantom Zone, a scientist and enemy of Zor-El, Kara’s father, who is sick with red krptonite poisoning. Rather than help him find a cure the man is imprisoned in the Phantom Zone until a remedy for his condition could be found.

What gets unleashed on Earth is a Kryptonian werewolf!

Another item co-opted from the television series are Kara’s Earth-bound foster parents. Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers are both very much an active part of their alien ward’s life, as well as active scientific agents under the employ of the DOE and under Chase’s direction. Whether her foster sister, Alex — who is her closest relative on the primetime series — appears on the page still remains to be seen, but whether this direct adaptation will refine Supergirl’s legacy going forward readers will have to stay tuned.

Supergirl is a title that has changed often over the years; the decision to have killed her off during the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot of the DC Universe rocked Superman’s world and it wasn’t until recently that the “real” Supergirl was reintergrated into the DC Universe — and boy was she missed! Whether “Rebirth” does the Girl of Steel justice in the long wrong, we’ll hold out and hope. Orlando has proven a gifted auteur with great skill at telling unique stories and nuturing character personalities.

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iReview: DC Comic’s JUSTICE LEAGUE #3

The “Rebirth” continues and Earth’s mightiest champions are caught in the middle of an alien invasion with an “Extinction Agenda” on its mind.

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The entire premise of “Rebirth” the current imprint-wide rebranding that’s taken over DC Comics is a reset to more pratical storytelling. After the widely admonished “New 52” reboot which was a far more dramatic retcon of established continuity as well as a contemporary cosmetic retooling of the major comics icons, “Rebirth” is taking a step back to get back into the types of adventures that got audiences hooked on the books in the first place. That is none-more apparent than what is happening in the pages of the publisher’s biggest team book.

With Justice League #3 the DC Comics premiere team-book that many of us depended on to deliver on the more cosmic, more epic elements we have all come to enjoy, it appears that the “Rebirth” is being taken very seriously. When the series ended its most recent run, which began with the collaborative legends Geoff Johns and Jim Lee retooling the origins of the Justice League (and the multiverse for that matter) and introducing the initial “Super Seven”, the entire first fifty-two issues of Justice League were larger than life! Really!

For most of those first fifty-issues the team roster (also) hardly changed. There was only a minor draft moment during the “Throne of Atlantis” arc (that was also turned into an animated movie), but none of those “reservist” remained on the team after the end of that mission. The next draft came shortly before the “Forever Evil” arc was implemented and brought most notably Firestorm into the mix, and Atomica (who turned out to be a double agent for the Crime Syndicate). Although the Justice League of America was also incorporated into that crossover, the core leaguers remained the same.

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Now that the “Rebirth” is taking shape, the line-up has also evolved. It includes not just one, but two rookie members of the Green Lantern Corps intergalactic police officers, and there’s a new Superman on the block — or rather — the original is back! It all may sound a bit confusing, but in the realm of comic books, these are gods onto themselves, and the spirit of them never dies. So although Justice League has been renumbered and rebranded to fall in with the “Rebirth” initiative, it still very much feels like the same team book fans have come to expect.

And this is a very good thing!

Though not necessarily really needing to be heavily overhauled, from the beginning Justice League was heralded as the flagship title for the line. It introduced The New 52 continuity and now continues to illustrate how this new multiverse is continuing to evolve. Now being helmed by writer Bryan Hitch and illustrated by Tony Salvador Daniel it continues to present all the favorites just as we’ve all come to expect them.

And maybe that’s the bad thing!

It all feels like we’ve been here before. In the latest arc opening up the new series “The Extinction Machines” an alien and element threat is possessing the population, stealing our heroes powers and sending Superman on an errant mission to the center of the earth that only he can save us all from. Sure, they are the best that the planet has to offer, but where is the character drama, the human element that really makes these characters stand out from the rest?

The mystery of this alternate-earth Superman that walks among them still has to be explored, but there’s a greater threat out there — the one that Wally West, the original Kid Flash presents at the beginning of “Rebirth” — the missing years and who’s behind them that still has to be addressed. Hopefully the Justice League will get to solving that mystery too, or at least give its readers more story per bi-weekly issue release at the bargain price of $2.99.

JOHN WESLEY SHIPP…Back In the Suit

The primetime hero returns to a role he first originated in the 90s, but with a golden twist for The CW’s “The Flash”!

Summer may be signaling the last of its record breaking heat across the country (one would hope), but for fans of the hit CW show The Flash fall couldn’t come soon enough. For actor John Wesley Shipp Season 2 couldn’t have been more remarkable, with the most unpredictable whiplash of a twist that threw him back headlong into the midst of the Speed Force. John has a unique connection to The Flash franchise having originated the role of CSI investigator Barry Allen in the 1990 prime time series that premiered on CBS, and was invited much to the delight of his fans to become an integral part of the contemporary reboot starring Grant Gustin.

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John Wesley Shipp in the cowl of his Scarlet Speedster from the 1990’s The Flash which debuted on CBS.

When John was approached about being initiated into the new action series, he had his trepidations about what the producers might have in mind. Having already established a working relationship with Greg Berlanti — the two worked together during a run on the popular Kevin Williamson drama Dawson’s Creek — John was interested in how the new show would evolve. After meeting with DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns it became apparent that Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg were excited to integrate John into their cast, in the role of Henry Allen.

Rumors began to circulate that John would be joining the cast, and many anticipated he would be playing Jay Garrick, the original Flash. “If I’d been asked to play any other character, I don’t know if I would have been as interested to join the show,” the actor said. “Henry Allen was the perfect way in for me; to bring me into The Flash. It would be completely different than what I’d done before as The Flash. Henry was all new.” As the wrongly convicted heart surgeon, father and husband, John spent most of the show’s First Season incarcerated in Iron Heights Prison, playing most of his moments behind glass and opposite Gustin. Their heartfelt moments between father and son delivered some of the season’s most memorable and powerful moments. “It was easy working with Grant,” John said, “because we were both getting to the truth of this father and his son relationship. Our scenes served to reveal a side of Barry we wouldn’t see anywhere else inside of that hour — the human side.”

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John Wesley Shipp as Henry Allen inspired many of the show’s most memorable moments between himself and series lead Grant Gustin on The CW’s The Flash.

John has nothing but high praise for his entire cast, but reserves the most affection and respect for the series’ star Grant Gustin. “He’s exceptional and handles it all so well; with grace and enthusiasm. I can’t help but feel proud of him.” So you can imagine that after spending more than 14 years locked up in a fictional jail cell, before finally becoming a free man in the Season 2 premiere episode, Henry Allen might have wanted to stick around Central City and make up for lost time with his son, the Fastest Man Alive.

“But it’s like Henry says in the episode…can Barry be everything he needs to be, worrying about his dad, and can Grant come into his own, with John watching over his shoulder. It’s an interesting parallel.” John’s logic is sound, but fans were broken hearted when Henry essentially walked out on Barry, or at least it looked that way. “Henry would always be there for Barry, when he needed him,” says the actor, “and he comes back to Central City when Barry needs him the most.” Perhaps it was inevitable — at the conclusion of Season 2, and after a lengthy battle with the evil speedster ZOOM, Henry Allen is murdered!

It’s a turning point for Barry, who now feels the weight of having lost both of his parents to circumstances beyond his control, and when ZOOM’s captive — the man in the iron helmet — is rescued by Team Flash, no one could have imagined what came next! ZOOM had not only stolen the powers of a speedster, but also the identity of another. When the iron helmet came off, we learned that the man being held captive by ZOOM was none other than Jay Garrick/The Flash of Earth-3 — and he looks just like Henry Allen!

To put that into the most “meta” terms the actor John Wesley Shipp, who originated the role of Barry Allen in the 1990’s CBS primetime series The Flash, returned to The CW 2014 The Flash as Barry Allen’s father Henry Allen, is murdered, and has been recast as the “original” Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick for the upcoming new season! Once a Flash, always a Flash, but it would seem as if the actor, John Wesley Shipp, was born to play this role — it was in fact the role that fans assumed he would be cast in when his name became connected with the reboot. The news of the recasting even came as a surprise to John.

“I just thought, what a great idea,” he said. “What a gift to the fans. They all thought I was going to be Jay Garrick, but I was so grateful to have been given the role of Henry to play first. Henry’s story has already been written, but as for Jay Garrick — well, that’s a whole other story. The possibilities are endless!” The audience is certainly hoping that will be the case, especially as bits of plot lines began to surface revealing that Barry causes a “Flash Point” event, basically rewriting history for himself.

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Wearing the familiar helmet, Shipp has assumed the role of the Golden Age Speedster Jay Garrick the original Flash for Season 3 when the series returns this fall.

So what will that mean for Barry? What will that mean for Henry? In fact, what does that mean for Jay Garrick even? John knows about as much as the rest of us do, and he doesn’t have any plans to ruin anything for the fans. “Who knows what’s going to happen,” John said, “but isn’t it wonderful? Anything can happen!” With rumors circling that the Justice Society of America would be connected to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is it possible (perhaps inevitable) that Jay Garrick will play into that arc? “I don’t know,” John admitted. “We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s a big, television universe that we have to play in.”

Back in uniform, 25 years after his own series ended (prematurely by some opinions) and having grounded himself in the more realistic role of Henry Allen first, John Wesley Shipp is ready to join the speed force once again, and show the new kids on the block exactly what he’s made of. “It’s certainly a lot of fun, and there is some pressure — I mean, I’m running around in a super suit, next to a bunch of 20-somethings, playing one of DC Comics biggest icons…but Grant is so enthusiastic about it how could I not jump in?” With Season 3  of The Flash ready to premiere in October, fans are bracing themselves — The CW just got real super in primetime.

John Wesley Shipp returns to The Flash in Season 3, and will be appearing this weekend at Terrificon, the Terrific Comic-Con, at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, Aug 19 – 21.

Star Trek 50 Years Later…More to Discovery

As one of the greatest science fiction franchises celebrates a landmark, more details surface about the latest installment.

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That’s one small step… The words are legendary. Spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong upon his famous lunar march across the landscape of our very own moon. It was one of America’s and our space programs proudest moments and would herald in the “Space Age”. The Apollo 11 mission would inspire generations of us to look to the stars and imagine all sorts of possibilities. Among them most — what more is out there.

That spirit of exploration was the clear foundation for an aspiring and ambition screenplay writer Gene Roddenberry envisioned a future — a wagon train to the stars — where mankind has taken to the stars to seek out new life, and new civilizations. Roddenberry gave birth to a new kind of television series, a phenomenon really and 50 years later Star Trek would still endure.

After the syndication success of The Original Series the franchise would continue in films, before returning to television for The Next Generation and so on. The original cast was reimagined in 2009 continuing the voyages of perhaps the most famous starship in popular culture. The Starship Enterprise would become one of the most iconic images in television history.

50 years later the franchise welcomes a new motion picture. Star Trek Beyond the third to feature the rebooted crew patterned after The Original Series and soon Star Trek will return to television when CBS prepares to launch an entirely new adventure and fans eagerly anticipate the launch of Star Trek Discovery the fifth spin-off series and the first in more than a decade.

The project is in the capable hands of Bryan Fuller who was handed the reigns to head the new Star Trek for CBS and will be exclusively airing on the network’s “All Access” pay service (as well as Netflix) after the first episode premieres on the network in 2017. An enticing “first look” teaser trailer was unveiled at SDCC this year, and just recently Fuller has given out some additional details about Discovery and its mission.

The series will be set chronologically 10 years before The Original Series which would insinuate that the events of Star Trek (2009) the reboot may not “obviously” play into the plot, although it has been suggested that original cast characters may appear on Discovery. The show will also have a 13 episode first season run and the stories will be serialized, and not necessarily stand alone episodes.

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Fuller has said that the entire series will play a novel and each episode an encapsulated chapter, with a beginning, middle and an end, that connects to the overall thread. The main character of the show will be female, but not the captain of the ship. The story will focus on her journey and growth, supported from her perspective and not the captain’s seat.

Elements of the established Trek mythology will weave their way into Discovery including Section 31, the clandestine shadow organization that is part of the Federation. There will be a centrifugal event from Trek history that will be revisited and will serve as the backdrop for the drama. Expect for some other familiar faces from Trek lore to show their faces and be a significant part of the story.

The ship herself is based on a design by legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie who had introduced designs when Paramount first decided to resurrect Star Trek for its Phase II which eventually evolved into Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Fuller describes the ship’s design as something that is still in development, so the version seen in the teaser may not be the final that will eventually appear when the show premieres in January 2017.

The cast is currently being cast and will also feature a gay regular character, as well as more dramatic alien races than ever seen before, although some established favorites will be integrated into the story.

We’ll be closely following more details about Star Trek Discovery as they come to light.

“STAR WARS” Actor Kenny Baker Passes Away

The beloved actor who gave rise to the equally beloved R2-D2, hero of the film saga, dies at the age of 81.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… a galactic civil war was waged. It was a story about good versus evil, a rebellion rising against a tyrannical empire, and a family determined to rescue a lost soul. When George Lucas unleashed Star Wars on an unsuspecting generation, how could he have imagined that his story — a space opera — would three decades later continue to inspire. That may have been the farthest thing from his mind, but the filmmaker would also go onto to revolutionize the industry with a series of incredible special effects achievements, and colorful characters, some of which would win our hearts.

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Kenny Baker will forever be remembered as the heart and soul of the “Star Wars” saga’s most beloved character R2-D2. The force as always with him.

When Episdoe IV begins it’s experienced through the eyes — or more accurately — the photoreceptors of a pair of droids (re: robots) that are on a mission! The ever-oppressive galactic Empire has attacked a rebel transport, and in an effort to valiantly fight another day, C-3PO and his trusty astromech counterpart R2-D2 are dispatched as a special envoy, to locate a long lost warrior and general of a previous battle, and deliver vital information that will turn the tide of the growing war. C-3PO and R2-D2 emerged as the tale’s two most unlikeliest heroes, and as the story would evolve we would learn just how important their role would be.

Star Wars changed my life. When I was a child, the film was released in theaters at about the same time that my parent’s marriage was unraveling. I can recall vividly the day we ventured as a family, the last time that we would, to a local theater in New Jersey where we lived, to see the film. We would often go to the movies, and the experience of entering a darkened auditorium, or sitting in the backseat of our car (where I saw Jaws) at a drive-in, would begin to inevitably shape and influence my imagination. Going to the movies was safe. It was life a refuge from the world.

As the 20th Century Fox fanfare began, I knew that my life would be irrevocably changed forever, and as the final credits rolled I understood that everything was going to be all right. Just like R2-D2 had survived the attack on the Death Star, I would also get past the trials of a divorce. And I had two of the unlikeliest role models to remind me to persevere. I walked out of the theater that day empowered, reinvigorated and knowing that the force is strong.

I became fascinated with George Lucas’ world and especially in the magic behind the film. That included one of its most impressionable personalities. If it wasn’t for R2-D2, the heroes would never have found their way; if it wasn’t for the droid the rebels would never have destroyed the Death Star, an ultimate weapon determined to obliterate freedom.

When my father revealed to me that there had been an actor inside the barrel-shaped astromech droid responsible for how R2-D2 moved, it blew my mind! That actor was Kenny Baker and his name would become synonymous with that of Anthony Daniels the actor who portrays C-3PO. It was always obvious to me that there was a person inside the golden suit of armor bringing the protocol droid to life, but I couldn’t see anyone but a puppeteer on the outside animating R2.

It was in that moment that R2-D2 became all the more real to me. In that instant I realized that a robot could have a soul. Kenny Baker was the heart that pumped within the shell, and the spirit of determination that gave R2 his personality. Because of Baker’s participation in the Star Wars saga, R2-D2 would eventually be revealed to have been one of the most important components of the long running adventure, even as most recent as last year when Star Wars: The Force Awakens continued the story.

With the passing of Kenny Baker, at 81, it’s important to celebrate one of the unsung heroes in filmmaking. As R2-D2, Baker brought us all so much joy and had an entire generation fall in love with him, and also reminded us all that good guys come in all shapes and forms. Even the littlest spirit, can be largest presence in the room. To Kenny Baker…thank you for saving me too.

The Flash: Rebirth “Version 2.0”

With the “rebirth” of a legacy once again in the balance, the Fastest Man Alive faces a new crisis that may deal Barry Allen an unexpected hand as lightning strikes again in The Flash #1!

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After a stellar run during The New 52 relaunch, the latest “reboot” or rather Rebirth has brought a new energy into Barry Allen’s life, pitting him in the race of his life to remain the DC Universe’s fastest man alive!

If there’s any hero that understands the significance of how much difference a day can make leave it to Barry Allen to relate! As the entirety of the DC Comics universe braces itself for the “Rebirth” no other single character can perhaps be more connected to the upcoming series of events as is chronicled in the relaunch of The Flash #1. The special one-shot The Flash: Rebirth issue hinted as it elaborated on the consequences of the return of one of the DC Universe’s most favorite characters Wally West and how it relates to Central City’s fastest man alive.

As is theorized in the DC Universe: Rebirth #1 special issue, ever since the FlashPoint event and the emergence of The New 52 timeline, Wally has been lost in-between universes. Only recently has the former Flash (and one-time Kid Flash) been able to pierce the veil into this world. Finally making a breakthrough once contacting his friend and mentor, Barry Allen was West able to escape his prison and inform The Flash that “10 years of their lives have gone missing.” Almost immediately Barry recognizes Wally and his memories begin to resurface, but that hasn’t answered the question of who has reshaped the universe.

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Is there something far more sinister at work here? A lightning storm reminiscent of the one that first struck him and gave him his super speed powers, has begun to rain down on Central City. Since then, The Flash has dedicated himself to being “the people’s hero” and continuously made sacrifices at his own expense to serve those innocent in peril, but even Barry has to admit that he can’t be everywhere at once, and something (or someone) is on the hunt!

In the previous series runs, Barry has already encountered a “new” version of the Reverse-Flash and battled  Professor Zoom one of the more nefarious characters in his rogues gallery of villains, but there is something else out there, and still more dastardly — it looks like the Speed Force itself may be working against. Amidst the flames of a burning building and a hostage crisis in another part of Central City, one of Barry Allen’s colleagues tempts fate and is suddenly struck by lightning! Almost immediately something else intervenes — something is watching! A new speedster is in town!

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The Flash #1 written by Joshua Williamson with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico continues in the tradition of what has made The Flash such a standout run to follow since The New 52 relaunch. It’s worth keeping pace with a story that has as many twists and turns, but still feels very much like “classic” superhero storytelling. The creatives that have worked on The Flash most recently have also benefitted from the hero’s primetime presence and have given the comic Barry as big a heart as the one that actor Grant Gustin has embued his version with.

The start of a brand new arc “Lightning Strikes Twice” this is sure to spiral headlong into the mystery surrounding the DC Universe: Rebirth and with two Flashes running around, what more could fans want?