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!

Countdown to the Force Awakens!

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Star Wars…the space saga that inspired a movement is about to ignite a new era of storytelling in filmmaking as movie audiences return to a familiar territory, with new excitement!

Every generation has had its own imaginative explosion! Whether it was the life journey of a boy wizard, a rebellious archer moved to incite change, or a lost girl from Kansas who just wants to get home after following a twister into a magical land. All these flights of fancy share a common vision — a heroic journey — a pattern that can be traced to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Back in 1977, when George Lucas introduced moviegoers to the wide-eyed adventure-seeking Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) he couldn’t have imaged that his small-budget, effects heavy space opera would become the near religious experience that four decades later is still drawing so much attention. Star Wars as it was simply entitled then broke all expectations at the box office, and its subsequent sequels followed suit.

Lucas had always said that the story which prominently featured our hero Luke Skywalker and a band of rebels that battled to free the galaxy from the tyranny of an evil Empire, were only the beginning of the tale. The original trilogy’s villain Darth Vader (David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones) became one of the modern film era’s most iconic antagonists though the character would be redeemed by the series climax.

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The practical effects that were a signature sign of the original trilogy, will be at the center of the next chapter. Here creator George Lucas stands amid a menagerie of his creations including R2-D2 and the starship Millennium Falcon both set to appear in the new film.

 

Although a “Special Edition” revisiting of the Original Trilogy wooed fans back into the theaters — Lucas’ enhanced versions of the original films included additional scenes and advanced CGI technology to extrapolate more of the original narrative — audiences would have to wait until 1999 for the promised “prequel” series that further explored the downfall of Anakin Skywalker (a young Jake Lloyd played Anakin as a boy).

Actor Hayden Christensen played the fallen Jedi Knight that would become the Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader and the role of the mother of the Skywalker twins went to Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman who played Padmé Amidala — who embodied the rebellious spirit that is evident most in her daughter Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). At the conclusion of Lucas prequels, it was clear that Star Wars was here to stay.

Handing the keys to his company to long-time producing partner Kathleen Kennedy may’ve proven the franchise’s greatest move since securing the plans to the Death Star. After selling his company to Disney for a near mint, Lucas bestowed upon Kennedy the outline for another series of films which pose the question: Who is Luke Skywalker? And with that the next trilogy was born.

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The Force is strong! On April 29, 2014 rumors were confirmed when fans got a glimpse of the cast and crew sitting down to read the script to Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens with director J.J. Abrams at the helm.

Plans for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens were confirmed on April 29, 2014 when the first cast and crew picture from the first script read through was released by the film’s new director J.J. Abrams. Though at first reluctant to take on the Star Wars franchise, Abrams was the most likely and intellectual choice to set the gears in motion, after all the filmmaker had reinvigorated another space epic Star Trek with great flare!

“I wanted to feel that thing I’d felt when I was a kid watching this movie.” — J.J. Abrams in Time Magazine

Poised now for its premiere, the next chapter in the epic battle between good and evil and the complexities introduced regarding the balance of the Force — an energy source that binds and penetrates us all, The Force Awakens is prepared to break all box office records and anticipation for a Star Wars renaissance is at a fever pitch! Along with the next trilogy about to begin, spin-offs are already in the works.

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To recapture the feel of the original films, Abrams returned to the practice of practical effects to tell his story, a practice that George Lucas mastered for the first features, and all-but substituted with CGI for the “steely, clean elegance” of the prequel films.

At the center of The Force Awakens are a trifecta of heroes. The desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), the fallen soldier Finn (John Bodega) and the resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). They will be joined by the original trilogy’s cast of heroes including Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his trusted co-pilot Chewbacca, and fans are happily waiting to embrace the lovable new droid BB-8 who joins R2-D2 and C-3PO.

At this writing there is very little known about the film’s plot; most of it is speculation, but everyone is keenly aware the among the original cast Mark Hamill was the most reluctant to accept that a new film was in production, and when he finally agreed to get in on it, it looks like his character Luke Skywalker is all-but missing from all the new episode’s ad campaigns.

How Luke will play into the adventure is still be seen, but fans can be assured…the Force has indeed been awaken and Star Wars is once again at the fore of our imagination. It’s a story that will resonate yet again with an entirely new generation, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, when hope is really a fleeting notion we must all accept and learn to embrace. The Force is strong.

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“The Flash” Goes Rogue for Mid-Season

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Talk about a holiday send-off! “The Flash” faces his most dangerous adversaries in Season 2 mid-season cliffhanger introducing yet another long-anticipated member of the Flash Family!

There are still many of us catching our breath from this year’s 2-part crossover event that (dare we say) was legendary! Some in the popular lexicon of network television production may be under the illusion that the “superhero” genre is on the inevitable “outs”, but if anyone needs a reminder about what makes for good serialized drama and adventure in primetime, you don’t have to look any further than at The CW’s hit series The Flash.

Going now into its mid-season slumber, no one can argue that CSI investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) hasn’t earned a little r&r. In his super-heroic secret identity that Allen is trying very hard to maintain, the Flash has faced a cadre of new enemies including a threat from the parallel world of Earth-2 named “Zoom” that nearly crippled the Scarlet Speedster. If it wasn’t for the timely arrival of his father Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) the Flash may not have gotten up to speed!

Along with his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs he helped send the intelligent ape named Grodd through a breach and into a “gorilla city”. The Flash also teamed up with his Star City allies including the Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) to challenge the merciless immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) whom we are pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of yet…certainly not after Dark Archer (John Barrowman) helped himself to remnants left from the 2-part class of titans.

So if Barry chooses that he needs some time to use his speed force to get some holiday shopping done, we’re not going to judge him. Unfortunately some of his most dangerous adversaries have a different idea all-together…and these rogues mean to rub-out the Flash! In Episode #9 of Season 2, “Running to Stand Still” a prison break at Iron Heights has the Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre) and Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) unlikely allies alongside a wildcard named Trickster (Mark Hamill).

Now that Mark Mardon is back in Central City, Det. Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) is looking to exact her revenge on the man she blames for her father’s murder. While the Wizard and Trickster plan their attack on the Flash, Cold drops in on Barry and Iris (Candice Patton) to let him know that he’s in danger. Flash asks Cold to help him take on the rogues, but Snart declines — he’s not into playing heroics (at least for the meantime). Cold sets for parts unknown.

Meanwhile Iris has revealed to Barry that she has a brother named Wally, and that it’s about time she told her father Joe (Jesse L. Martin) the truth about him. Joe doesn’t take the news very well, but before anyone has the time to cope with it all, the rogues attack unleashing a plot against the Flash that has everyone rallying to save the day! The highlight of the episode one would suspect was the return of the Trickster, the role reprised by Mark Hamill from the “original” The Flash 1990 series.

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Mark Hamill returns to The Flash and takes over as the villainous Trickster bringing a whole new bag of tricks with him.

Though the Trickster’s maniacal gambit pays off in true comic-book style, the villain single-handedly distributes hundreds of bombs into the unsuspecting hands of innocent (though greedy) children throughout Central City! The Weather Wizard prefers to take a more direct approach and attacks the Flash with an arsenal of bad weather, including blizzards and lightning. Barry attempts to stop him using the “weather wand” Cisco (Carlos Valdes) had developed in an “alternate” timeline.

All the episode’s action plays out beautifully and is well integrated into further realizing this “comic book” world that our heroes, but the strength in the arc this week is provided by the revelation from Iris to Joe that they have an additional family member. Candice Patton hasn’t been given moments like this often to play, and her Iris is at her most vulnerable when tell her father (and Barry) about Wally West. It’s both tender and engaging to see the show return to its emotional base.

The relationship between Barry and Patty is beginning to grow and take on a whole new depth that is really coming together. It’s nice to see how comfortable Grant and Shantel are at playing intimate…it’s really endearing the character with fans. As the show takes its well earned winter break, fans are again left to ponder as the cast comes together to celebrate the holiday season and the West family welcomes home Wally, where in all this was Henry Allen? Fishing again?

“Fear” Begins Here

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The zombie apocalypse moves to the West Coast in the AMC prequel series “Fear the Walking Dead” now available on Blu-ray.

When Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) woke up from his coma six years ago, his world was turned upside down. While he lay incapacitated recovering from a bullet wound, The Walking Dead had claimed the planet. As the police officer made his way out of his hospital confinement, Grimes couldn’t have anticipated what was waiting for him — and neither could television audiences.

What ensued has been one of the most unpredictable fights for survival ever televised, and one of primetime’s most watched events. Rick and his makeshift family have faced insurmountable odds while dodging growing hordes of the undead with an insatiable hunger for destruction. So when AMC announced that it would introduce a spin-off series, fans waited with great anticipation to see what the show’s creators would come up with.

Fear the Walking Dead isn’t essentially a prequel, but it does fill in the blanks. Where the original series flung audiences into the thick of the horror, the new show — situated on the opposite coast — sets the gears in motion. Through the lives of a small family in East Los Angeles, we learn how it all began — though not necessarily who (or what) is responsible.

Similarly to how The Walking Dead launches with Rick Grimes waking up from a long sleep, Fear the Walking Dead similarly stirs into existence. Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) finds himself phasing into reality after experiencing a drug binge. When he can’t find his girlfriend he starts to weave his way through the mostly abandoned crack den he’s spent the night in; when he stumbles into the main atrium, he finds several dead bodies.

One body though is feasting on the remains of another, and as it comes for Nick he stumbles his way into the daylight and gets struck by a car on an East Los Angeles street. Nick is our introduction to this show’s nuclear family. Which includes Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) and his live-in girlfriend Madison Clark (Kim Dickens). Nick is Madison’s drug addicted son.

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Their world begins to fall apart around them as Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Madison (Kim Dickens) attempt to navigate the impending threat and  Fear the Walking Dead.

Not completely sure that what he’s seen is in fact reality, Nick tries to pursued his family, but it isn’t long before the world around them starts to systematically fall apart. After a riot moves across the streets, the military moves in and quarantines the safe neighborhoods, but it isn’t long before everyone begins to take matters into there own hands.

Where TWD has set-up the rules of surviving against walkers, in Fear there are no rules because no one knows what’s going to happen yet. Audiences are in the unique situation to actually no more about what’s happening — or going to happen — than the show’s characters. It’s made for a very slow leap into the action, but at least it’s helped to really flesh out (no pun intended) the family at the center of it all.

The six premiere season episodes of Fear the Walking Dead are now available on Blu-ray and are suitable for binge watching especially before the return of the full Second Season returning in 2016.

DC’s Legends…In Print and Before Primetime.

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DC gets ready for its “Legends” coming to primetime, while we take a look at the print series that (re)established the legacy.

While the world gets ready for the DC Comics TV Universe (yes…we’re going to make that a “thing”) to unleash it’s latest effort in primetime, we’ll look back at a moment in DC’s comics history, when legends lived only in print. Where as now we live in a reality that has our heroes inhabiting almost every facet of multimedia. They come to life every fall on television, and the summer season is earmarked for all of the biggest blockbusters on the big screen. Where else can gods on earth face off against mortals in capes and cowls.

The success of The CW hit series Arrow and its spin-off The Flash, have literally opened the floodgates and unleashed the possibilities. Television executive producers Greg BerlantiAndrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim have made it their mission to not only adapt the world of superheroes into a action-packed, one-hour format that is engaging and entertaining, these producers along with their core team of show-runners and writers have dedicated themselves to honoring the source material. An idea that many entertainment executives have often tried to steer away from when adapting comics for life-action.

The fact that the television series Arrow has cultivated elements of the Green Arrow’s comic adventures to the small screen, and its sister series The Flash has also followed suit — it’s what has made these series ratings hits and brought them legion of fans. Berlanti and Kreisberg along with Allison Adler have also added to the palette the daring adventures of the Maid of Might — Supergirl premiered in the fall of 2015 on the major television network CBS. And the creative team hasn’t stopped there…while their premiere CW series may be going on hiatus for mid-season, this opens the schedule for the introduction of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

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They’re ready for primetime! The new series – the third spin-off – in the line of DC Comics series on The CW premieres in 2016 and will feature an all-star line-up of heroes and villains from across the DC Comics Universe.

 

This will be the first “team show” to continue elaborating on the DC TV Universe continuity that began with Arrow and will feature an assemble cast of heroes (and villains) some already been introduced within the scope of the other CW shows.

A side note — though there has been some speculation that eventually the CW shows may overlap with Supergirl on CBS, it’s still now confirmed, so Legends may be the closest that fans will come to having the DC Universe continuing to unravel in primetime, bringing the total of hours of television to feature superheroes in a connective story arc to about 59! That’s incredible!

But Once Upon A Time…

The only way that audiences could digest their favorite superhero’s adventures were in the monthly publications of DC Comics. Big screen adventures were few and far between, and it wasn’t until the 1989 with the success of Tim Burton’s Batman starring Michael Keaton in the lead role, that the adapted media would be taken serious by Hollywood, though it would be a slow crawl until hits like Marvel’s Spider-Man and X-Men came along and opened up the market.

Nope. You could only get comics at your local newsstand or specialty store, and they were usually under a dollar! During the summer of 1985 DC Comics was taking a great risk. The long-running imprint was revitalizing their brand and that meant a publishing wide initiative to revamp all DC Comics. For the first time in its then 50 year history, DC Comics and its heroes would all belong to one seamless continuity establishing a legacy.

The first big move was felt during the earth-shattering events of the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths which revised most of DC Comic’s history and gave the world a new, more contemporary Superman, a darker and meaner Batman, and brought Wonder Woman up to her rightful place as one of the imprint’s “Big 3”, establishing the trinity. After the dust had settled with Crisis, the next step was to start to place the heroes into a more appropriate and modern context.

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The cover to the first issue of Legends the comic series introduced most of the characters into the contemporary DC Comics continuity after the events of the first “Crisis” which revamped history.

The series that would help make that happen was released the following year after Crisis ended and was called Legends. As told by comic legends John Ostrander and Len Wein (both wrote and scripted the story) and drawn by John Byrne and Karl Kesel (the two creatives were behind the revamping of the Superman title and mythology) the 6 part mini-series would help to reestablish the Justice League and reintroduce characters that were in a state of flux after the events depicted in Crisis.

In the story the menacing evil of Darkseid once again threatens the planet as he attempts to prove to the world at large that their belief in heroes, their faith in these “legends” is misbegotten at best. The heroic Captain Marvel — now more appropriately known as Shazam! is tricked into thinking he’s killed an innocent man, while the younger heroes in the pantheon including Firestorm and The Flash confront the responsibility that comes with being a hero.

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The Flash fitted prominently into the story, though the “Flash” that appeared in Legends would actually be Wally West, the successor to Barry Allen who went missing after the events in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In the end, the heroes eventually succeed at stopping Darkseid’s plan, and many are introduced to each other for the first time. Helping to reestablish the Justice League, the “Golden Age” mystic Dr. Fate becomes a core member (if only for a short time) of the new team consisting of founding members BatmanMartian Manhunter and Black Canary (taking the place in the new continuity of original founding member Wonder Woman). Joining them in the relaunch is Blue Beetle.

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Another familiar face that took part of the action was a still relatively unknown and inexperienced Firestorm who faced the larger than life menace of Brimstone!

The series also depicts the contemporary introduction of Wonder Woman properly into “Man’s World”. The amazing amazon was one of the prominent casualties of the Crisis but was reintroduced into continuity with new powers, a new origin and mission in her new series, before moving into her place in the spotlight alongside the other big guns. It’s worth diving into this bit of nostalgia, although this 6-issue run will not necessarily be the story to springboard the TV Legends.

It’s still exciting to experience some of the story from its early conception, understand why these characters have come to mean so much to generations since and especially become a part of the first “reboot” in contemporary DC Comics history.

 

DC Comic’s “Convergence” Re-Converged

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Part II. Writer Jeff King took on mission impossible revisiting highlights in DC Comics multiverse for the event series “Convergence”

Tasked with marking the 30th Anniversary of DC Comic’s milestone, the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths writer Jeff King had several years of the publishing giant’s history to comb through, but it would all begin with its most iconic champion. At the core of King’s epic is none other than the Man of Steel. Superman is caught in a game of wills with his arch nemesis Brainiac…and the winner takes all!

But what’s at stake? Only the fate of the multiverse. It started with “FlashPoint” — the events that followed reshaped the DC Universe, “The New 52” relaunched every major character in the DC pantheon. The contemporary Superman, after finding himself cured of a Doomsday virus,  is whisked away to a null space in time and confronts a version of Brainiac he has never faced before.

Brainiac subjugates the Man of Steel easily. The contemporary version of Superman is still very young and inexperienced in using his superpowers, but that does not mean that he’s not still a formidable force. Buying time to learn everything he can about Brainiac’s plan, Superman learns how throughout the multiverse every version of himself is purposefully linked to a “crisis” event.

In essence, Brainiac has been gathering bits of “history” throughout the multiverse and incapsulating “moments”. Each one an effort to learn more properly find a weakness in the Man of Steel, but each time he fails. Brainiac’s efforts, a generation’s worth of work, is killing him — causing a cancer that is ripping him apart all throughout the multiverse.

Seeking the information he needs to guarantee his survival, Brainiac has harvested doomed civilizations from throughout the timeline and brought them to a planet…a living planet named Telos. There was no question to series writer King, the scope and magnitude of the work he was about to undertake. “The stories we are doing in Convergence come from everybody who’s contributed to the stories that have come from [DC Comics] Crisis on Infinite Earths to Zero Hour to Kingdom Come — all of those events,” said King, adding: “I’m working with a laths of characters, and we’re going to be answering some very important questions.”

By the time King came to Convergence many of the thematic details had been graphed for him. “A lot of the groundwork had already been laid,” King revealed. “I inherited a lot of the work.” Events within the then established DC continuity were also in upheaval due to the weekly series Future’s End which placed our favorite characters five-years into a future that appeared particularly hopeless. How would our heroes prevail?

“The beauty of it all is that it will culminate in a big change for all of them.” King promised that by the end of his Convergence the heroes would all be irrevocably altered, and the DC multiverse would also be forever changed. On the planet “Telos” the heroes (and villains) found themselves in a bizarre “contest of champions” with the fate of their cities hanging in the balance.

At the end of Convergence, in order to save the entirety of the timeline, FlashSupergirl and Hal Jordan — all casualties of previous “crisis” events must travel to pivotal points in history — specifically the collapse of the multiverse. Again they face sacrificing themselves to save all of existence!

Convergence written by Jeff King is now collected in a single hardcover edition that includes Issues #0 – #8 of the now classic event.

Excepts from this feature first appeared in an Alter-EDGE Interview featuring Jeff King.

DC Comic’s “Convergence” Re-Converged!

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It was a crisis to end all crisis, DC Comics revisited its past while unraveling its multiverse with a mighty “Convergence”.

Thirty Years Ago the universe came undone. Creators Marv Wolfman and George Pérez looked on the expansive DC Comics history and realized that after nearly five decades the DC Universe was in complete disarray. For one thing, the “Golden Age” of heroes had given way to the “Modern Age” without so much as a bat of an eyelash — the preverbal baton had never been properly handed off.

And although there was an incredible legacy to behold, there was very little connectivity and just way too many inexplicable redundancies that were just mucking up the works. For example, without having to explain how the Man of Steel was able to survive from his humble beginnings, into becoming a living legend and the inspiration for every marvel that followed.

After all, superheroes should be ageless and an inspiration to each and every generation that adopts them. During the milestone events of the now classic Crisis on Infinite Earths the 12-part limited series and one of the crowning achievements of the aforementioned creative team of Wolfman and Pérez, the duo did what no one in comic book publishing had been able to do before, and streamlined years of comic book history.

Where there was once a multiverse, there emerged a single linear universe where the “Golden Age” inspired the “Modern Age” of heroes, and where once there were two Last Sons of Krypton — now there was one. There existed, for a very long time, a cohesion that established a legacy, but as time went by, there were elements of the DC Universe that didn’t coalesce — fractures and inconsistent instances that couldn’t be easily explained.

Over the years, several other “crisis” events took place, but in 2011 DC Comics entered into its most dramatic reboot ever, and every major character in the universe was reinvigorated — reimagined for today’s more contemporary audiences. The centrifugal pantheon of heroes in the DC Universe are at the height of their super powered careers in the prime DC universe.

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Then there’s the multiverse…

In 2015 DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio promised that the imprint would pay proper homage to the 30 year anniversary of Crisis with a unique crossover experience that would only slightly exist outside of the regular scheme of comics continuity. The event was called Convergence and it would span the entirety of DC Comics continuity, suggesting that elements from every era of the publishing house’s history would be represented.

Convergence resulted in an epic confrontation between elements of DC Comics history that were basically battling for survival, and the outcome would be anyone’s guess.

Next: The story as envision by its writer Jeff King and how he incorporated more than 30 years of DC Comics. At the center…the battle between good and evil is embodied in Superman and Brainiac, and the secret of Telos!