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MARVEL :: Year For Year

The Mighty MARVEL Universe has never been so well visited in this latest “Updated and Expanded” Edition of MARVEL: YEAR BY YEAR A Visual History just released by DK Book Publishing.

Looking at the world of comic book publishing, it’s hard to imagine at time when Marvel Comics wasn’t innovating and changing the way readers digested these fantastic stories, with heroes and villains engaged in combat and bestowed with incredible powers! There’s an entire generation that has never known that before their larger than life, blockbuster film versions were killing it on the big screen, the Marvel Super Heroes were even far more as engaging in the two-dimensional realm as monthly books collectors and enthusiast fawned over with undying devotion.

Marvel Comics has had (and continues to evolve) one of the greatest histories and is worth diving into and visiting especially given that it’s been well chronicled in a sleeve-cased, hardback “Updated and Expanded” and released by DK Publishing. Perhaps the most definitive guide to the Marvel Saga Marvel: Year By Year – A Visual History is now available and is a must-have for fans, and a sure-fire hit for the uninitiated soon-to-be devotee who is just familiarizing themselves with the Marvel Universe.

Literally breaking down the historical narrative of Marvel Comics by year beginning with 1939 the year that marked the appearance of the publishing giant’s first super-powered heroes. Marvel Comics #1 hit newsstands in October and debuted the original Human Torch, the first mutant Namor, the Submariner and the first Angel. All appeared in the anthology produced by then Timely Publications, which would morph into Marvel Comics. Even then with the introductions of the Torch and Namor, a narrative was developing of the superhero as the “outsider”.

The cover art for the latest edition of MARVEL YEAR BY YEAR is an homage to the imprint’s diversity in character development of the years.

The encyclopedic tome details the rise of the “Marvel Age” which introduced many of Stan Lee’s most innovative creations including the Fantastic Four and the various members of what would become the founding members of the Avengers including Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the eventual modern era appearance of Captain America. The 1960s also saw the introduction of Spider-Man. This marked the beginning of what would become the most popular characters, and best selling, for Marvel Comics.

The eventual introduction and rise of additional characters including the X-Men is detailed from the mighty mutants inception, to their rise as the best-selling book, and the deconstruction of Xavier’s dream, as the X-Men fracture and evolve further into the New Mutants, X-Factor and Wolverine as the break-out hero of the line. Year By Year gives unprecedented detail to all the major storylines throughout Marvel’s history, and marks the debut of titular characters like Cloak and Dagger (in 1982) and the more obscure like Beta Ray Bill (in 1983).

Sidebar bullet points also detail the comparable “real life” events in history that may have also impacted the overall direction of major storylines. Even the cover art by Dan Panosian brilliantly breaks down the various eras of Marvel Comics history, spotlighting the diversifying headliners that have defined each era from the publishing giant’s “Golden Age” (1939 – 1948) to it’s defining “Modern Age” to the twenty-first century evolution that has brought us to Marvel NOW and Beyond! 

Marvel: Year By Year — A Visual History Updated and Expanded with a foreword by Stan Lee and published by DK Publishing.


TITANIC Team :: Marv Wolfman and George Pérez

Two of the greatest creators in comics are profiled in a bonus feature appearing in the DC Universe Original Movie TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT — an arc from the 80’s by MARV WOLFMAN and GEORGE PÉREZ.

With the release of the feature length animated DC Universe Original Movie Teen Titans: The Judas Contract one of the greatest story arcs ever explored comes to life  — continuing to evolve the continuity of these popular flicks that have adapted several other milestones from DC Comics. Yet no other storyline ever captured the imagination of its readership like “The Judas Contract” which ran during the 1980’s in Tales of the Teen Titans and concluded in Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3.

The original book remains one of the most popular story arcs in comics history and one of the most unforgettable and shocking moments in the group’s history!

The creators of those books Marv Wolfman and George Pérez are very affectionately and appropriately profiled in a special bonus featurette bundled in with the release of the film entitled “Titanic Minds: Reuniting Wolfman and Pérez — the nearly 30-minute discussions examines the pair’s contribution to comics including Teen Titans, and how they came to become two of the most influential creators in comics. The interview reveals wonderful insight to their relationship and their creative process.

The two lived only blocks apart when they started would on The New Teen Titans and neither had any idea that the book would become a sensation. Wolfman and Pérez not only turned the Teen Titans into one of DC’s most popular books, but would eventually collaborate on arguably the most important book series ever published Crisis on Infinite Earths which rebooted and realigned the entire DC Universe continuity at its 50 year publishing history. The creators reveal how they broke into comics and continued on their winning streak!

Among some of the greatest moments captured during the revelatory interview is the behind-the-scenes leading up to very popular and highly controversial arc for “The Judas Contract” which gave comics fans the first appearance of Nightwing, the origin of Deathstroke the Terminator, Jericho and the most diabolical character ever designed by the pair and the star of “The Judas Contract” Terra.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is available now on Digital HD and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD soon.

Marvel Comics :: The All-New, All-Different X-MEN PRIME #1

It hasn’t been easy for the mutants of the Marvel Universe and after a battle with their Inhuman counterparts, the X-MEN are returning and reclaiming “Prime” time with some help from DC TV’s Marc Guggenheim.

In the recent evolution of the Marvel Universe the story arcs that have commandeered the center spotlight have included those of the heroes and characters that have emerged as major players of the Marvel Films Cinematic Universe or their comparatively running television paramours. Although the X-Men who arguably lead the charge (alongside Spider-Man) to the big screen have gotten sidelined by the rising popularity of the Avengers.

Earth’s (so-called) Mightiest Heroes have found themselves again and again at the center of a civil war that has torn alegeneance and pit brother against brother. The X-Men have largely found themselves on the outside of these internal squabbles, but it looks like the mighty mutants are getting themselves a much-needed re-alignment!

Entertainment Weekly unveiled the cover to the first issue of the all-new X-MEN PRIME on newsstands now.

The latest relaunch set to reboot the all-new, all-different mutant line-up begins with X-Men Prime #1. The first issue follows up on the heals of the Marvel Universe wide challenges that included the recent Civil War II and the just ended X-Men vs. Inhumans storyline. Given the recent acceleration to the forefront that has been allotted to the Inhumans (especially with their recent inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic continuity via a season-long arc on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) that these two evolutionary branches of man have again risen.

With the irrational fear of mutants having continued to escalate, and the infighting among the various factions of the species escalated those tensions, the X-Men have had little resort except to move their entire operation off the grid — literally! The school that had become home to so many generations of mutants has had little other resort but to seek shelter in Limbo, the inter-dimensional hell that is controlled by the “Darkchilde” X-Man Magik.

After a sojourn guarding the galaxy Kitty Pryde has returned to fertile ground and has been doing her best to reestablishing a “normal” existence, that is until her former teammate, and one-time leader of the X-Men Storm seeks the young woman out. Storm has a request for Kitty: she wants her to return and lead the X-Men, especially since the time has come for her to move on. Not entirely convinced that this is the move for her, Kitty agrees to accompany Storm.

Echoing a moment from when they first met in an original issue of THE UNCANNY X-MEN, Kitty and Storm sit in a local diner to talk about the future and what’s in store for them in life as X-Men.

Unprepared for the journey into Limbo, Kitty is heavily discouraged to find little of the intention her mentor Professor Charles Xavier always had and especially the dream of peaceful co-existence between regular humans and mutants. With the X-men in hiding in Limbo, they are basically no working towards that goal. The worst of it all, Kitty learns that the time-displaced “original” five X-Men have gone off on their own!

Determined to set things on a course that is more aligned with all they’ve learned, Kitty agrees to lead the X-Men, on several conditions, the first of which is that Storm must remain a part of the team, and the second that they rejoin the rest of the world. Kitty has Magik transport the mansion, the X-Men and their students back to Earth and places them squarely in the middle of Central Park. Just how New York City is going to respond to that bit of prime real estate being taken over…

It is for all intents a new dawn for the X-Men, but with so much against them, how will they reacclimatize to life on Earth, or even the Marvel Universe for that manner? Are the X-Men even relevant anymore? Even with Marc Guggenheim the executive producer of DC TV’s Arrow at the helm of this reboot, the X-Men just don’t feel fresh, and at least on the outset don’t have the cohesion — that sense of family — that has been at the fundamental core of the group’s storytelling especially at the height of its popularity.

With so much competition coming at them from all directions, Marvel’s decision to return to the X-Men as a viable aspect of their overall brand is a formidable task. The X-Men hasn’t lived up to the box-office figures of its Avengers counterparts on the big screen, although the recent solo film featuring the lead star of the mutant franchise, Wolverine in Logan did very well with critics and on first week sales.

But in today’s market, a good reception with theater audiences translates to decent sales on books, at least that’s the lesson that Marvel seems to have adhered to over the several last cycles of the publishing imprints company-wide initiatives. With Guggenheim a talent that is easily recognizable to a television audience, perhaps they are looking to cross-pollinate their worlds and see if the X-Men can be rescued from obscurity.

X-Men Prime #1 written by Marc Guggenheim and James Tynion IV with art by Steve Epting is on sale now from Marvel Comics.

DC Comics :: A DARK NIGHTS Rising!

Two of the most popular creatives in DC Comics, BATMAN’s Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo return for the highly anticipated event DARK NIGHTS: METAL that will separate the true super powers in the DCU from the wimps!

This current industry wide publishing “reboot” has truly lived up to its name! With “Rebirth” DC Comics has returned to telling stories with their core characters that emphasize the importance of the legacy our favorite characters have trail-blazed throughout their more than 75 year history. The last reboot, 2011’s “The New 52” dramatically retooled most of the pantheon and the extensive continuity, and mostly left diehard fans in the dark.

Now with nearly a year of “Rebirth” continuity effectively and positively pulling a much appreciated retcon of “The New 52” effect, the heroes — including all the major players — are returning to form, but as everyone knows as with every good drama — it’s always darkest, before the light! The comics industry, parrying the film industry in many ways, has relied on creating its own “blockbuster” story arcs, and this season DC will be taking its heroes into a Dark Nights.

Batman like you’ve never seen him before and “darker” than ever!

There aren’t very many details released yet about the upcoming Dark Night event except that it will affect all the major players in the DC Comics Universe in a very dramatic way. Comic book greats Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo will be reuniting for the Dark Nights: Metal arc which the pair have suggested to in stories appearing in Batman during their very inspiring collaboration on the Dark Knight’s title. Metal will be taking our heroes to some very “dark” places.

Snyder said in a recent press release, “I’ve been planning Metal for as long as I’ve been writing Batman, but this is bigger than Batman.” The pair have been leaving clues that
go all the way back to their arc that introduced the Court of Owls, and continued through their stories that pitted the Caped Crusader against his most infamous adversary the Joker. “Our biggest hints in the run culminated with Batman #50, and now we’re back to tell a story that breaks everything apart.”

The pair have suggested that Dark Nights: Metal will be the definitive project of their careers, but as fans of their work on Batman hope it will not be the last time that these two work together. “I’m looking forward to rock’n’ and roll’n’ together again,” Capullo admitted. “Fans have been loud and clear – they want more from us. We’re primed and ready to blow it up!” Building on the foundation they’ve worked on, the expectations for Dark Nights: Metal couldn’t be greater!

Dark Nights: Metal will be terrifying the thrills out of readers beginning in August of 2017.

THE WALKING DEAD Season Finale! “The First Day…”

It’s come to this! After one of the most dangerous and dark seasons of its entire run, the Seventh Season of THE WALKING DEAD leads to a climatic end in “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”.

(Warning! Spoilers Ahead:) Is Sasha experiencing her entire life as it nears its final moments? The ominous open to the Season 7 finale of The Walking Dead is already making things terribly uneasy for fans. Negan still has her prisoner and is trying to convince her to turn against her friends — all she has to do is choose one. One of them has to die!

Meanwhile Dwight, one of Negan’s top guys,  has turned traitor — or so he says — and has presented Rick and his allies a plan to finally take down the Saviors. So it begins! The beginning of the end! The most tense story arc ever to take hold of a popular series in primetime and plunge its audience into an unmitigated death spiral that would last this long.

It’s been unprecedented indeed, but this is the world of The Walking Dead and in the zombie apocalypse when expectations should be really, the AMC Original Series has proven that it can still surprise. Rick had apparently rallied plenty of support to take on the Saviors, including some help from the shifty looking Scavengers.

Having ended up borrowing a weapons cache from Oceanside, and arming the Scavengers may have ultimately not been the smartest move after all. The confrontation between Negan and Rick was all season building to this moment; the two leaders have completely different ideas of how to survive, and living under Negan’s boot is just not living.

It’s no surprise that the battle goes the way that it does (ultimately) and that in a crafty twist utilizing story editing that juxtaposes Sasha’s relevancy during this entire final act — she becomes the secret weapon that turns the tide, and proves just how big a coward Negan is. The citizens of Alexandria are joined by the Hilltop and The Kingdom — in the nick of time.

And oh…there’s also a tiger. Eugene seems to have turned on his friends, though it appears that he may have been instrumental in synching Sasha’s Trojan attack at the last minute, so do we rule him out?

The final monologue, the “eulogy” that Maggie delivers explains it all, and also vindicates the audience’s depth and dedication to this show, that isn’t about zombies. It’s about the human condition, what inspires it survive despite the circumstances. To survive you accumulate a family along the way, and Maggie knows that especially since the fallen Glenn served best at exemplifying that ideal.

So Negan is repelled from Alexandria, with the combined help of a new family that’s emerged — together now Rick along with The Kingdom and the Hilltop will have to stand together, for the battle has only begun. With the climax of Season 7 reach its apex, now we have months to anticipate Season 8, and the 100th episode of The Walking Dead.

Thanks for bringing the tiger.

Madonna :: Her Live Ambition (Part 1)

For three decades the unopposed Queen of Pop revolutionized the live stage show and toured around the world commanding record audiences with an unparalleled ease!

The benchmark of any pop-artist’s career is the live show! The ability to sell out a venue whether a house as epically regarded as Madison Square Garden or Los Angeles Staples Center is sure an easy enough swift kick to the ego, but once you have those fans in the house, you best be prepared to set a table! No other artist has evolved more dramatically and pushed the creative of the live pop-show than Madonna.

When she first hit the road in 1985 on her critically well-received and perfectly named premiere showcase, Madonna didn’t mince words and The Virgin Tour was not only about getting her music out to her fans, but it was also about introducing herself to the world as a force in entertainment. That initial concert tour broke records as it criss-crossed North American and Canada and played to sold out venues, including a record-breaking 3 nights in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

Madonna would solidify herself as one of the world’s biggest stars when she launched the Blond Ambition Tour in 1990.

Madonna had come a long way since her days hitting the pavement and securing appearances at downtown East Village venues including Max’s Kansas City and CBGBs.

Appropriately designed The Virgin Tour predominantly promoted her first two album releases and immediately set the pace for what Madonna had in store for her audience. She would continue to evolve and charge the expectations of her audience especially with each consecutive live stage appearance, and the next time Madonna brought her music to life, she took it globally and never looked back.

Who’s That Girl took Madonna to the global stage and marked her first world tour. Arbitrarily coordinated to promote the comedic film of the same name starring Madonna as well as its accompanying soundtrack, it incorporated tracks from her then-latest release True Blue, but no one would be prepared for what was to come next, as Madonna took herself off the live stage forum to focus on reassessing her priorities in life (her marriage to actor Sean Penn was ending) and recharged her creative energies.

With the release of her fourth full-length studio album Like A Prayer Madonna was poised to reintroduce herself as more than just a pop-act! The critically successful release positioned her (finally) as one of the music industries most innovative and unique artists. With a new blockbuster film set for a summer release, Madonna had secured a key role in Warren Beatty’s big-screen adaptation of the comic strip Dick Tracy, and a new single that would ignite a wildfire.

With so much swirling around her at the time, 1990 would prove one of the most pivotal years in her career, both creatively and personally. Her high-profile marriage to Penn was behind her and the artist dove herself emphatically into her work including her music and movie projects. Like A Prayer would prove one of the year’s biggest hits and give her audience a unique insight into Madonna’s world, although it was only a glimpse. To maximize her exposure Madonna would chart all new territory and mount a world tour unlike anything anyone had ever experienced.

Perfectly christened the Blond Ambition World Tour it would span the globe the summer of 1990 and redefine the live pop music concert! The tour was designed to engage both the artist and audience in an experience that was transportive. Madonna, an accomplished dancer, directed a nearly two-hour stage performance (along with long-time collaborator Vincent Paterson) with an all-male troupe of dancers, back-up singers Niki Haris and Donna DeLory and her full band. The tour would be artistically directed by Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone with costumes by fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Mixing elements of Broadway and old Hollywood glamour, with high-fashion and state of the art stage and lighting execution, Madonna’s Blond Ambition World Tour established a new dictum for how to approach live concert tours, and imitators would follow, though none would match Madonna’s sensibilities and her taste for controversy. The themes explored within the two-hour long installation did not only serve to spotlight her growing catalog of hit songs, but it explored a narrative.

Not simply content to sing at the microphone any longer, Madonna was more interested in giving her fans a cathartic experience. She brought to life many of her already innovative videos, by building the sets of the dystopian future from the “Express Yourself” video inspired by the film Metropolis to taking it to the oceans and fashioning fishtails for her dancers turning them into mermen to evoke the “Cherish” video. Madonna has said that the tour was about her “growing” — “Once you get on this train, you can’t get off.”

The Blond Ambition Tour certainly suggested Madonna had grown-up as an artist and personality, and she was decidedly taking us all along for the ride. Evoking many religious themes and exploring the contradictions of life, faith, sex, endings and new beginnings, the show pushed Madonna’s agenda as a provocateur and feminist, mostly she intended to inspire, to give her audience reason to ask questions and come up with conclusions of their own.

It was a liberation that was told through the lyrics of Madonna’s hits “Like a Virgin”, “Papa Don’t Preach” and culminated with the fierceness of “Vogue”, but the entire time it was Madonna finally putting it all out and truly expressing herself.

This is “Part 1” in series discussing the contributions and innovations made to the live concert stage by Madonna. In the next feature the Queen of Pop’s ambition continues to grow and her follow-up to Blond Ambition goes further than anyone could have anticipated.