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How the Movies Saved Christmas

Christmas, my friends, is under attack. I’m not talking about some vague conspiracy, the encroachment of “Happy Holidays” into our lexicon, or red cups at Starbucks. No, I’m talking about the clear and present danger of evil corporations, extraterrestrial invaders, ancient curses, and Martin Short. Every year, it seems, there is some terrible calamity that faces the holiday season, and it’s up to somebody from our favorite movies and television specials to step up and save the day.

Today, we’re going to rank ten movies and TV specials in which a hero rises to the occasion and saves Christmas. Now keep in mind, saving Christmas is a delicate operation. Not just anybody can do it, and not every disaster really qualifies. There are hundreds of stories in which Christmas is going to suck for our protagonists until some miracle makes them merry after all. You won’t find those stories here. In order to qualify as “saving Christmas,” the holiday has to be in danger for people outside...
 

DC Universe: Early Impressions

It’s been a couple of weeks now since DC Universe, the new online streaming service, was launched. I’ve spent a good bit of time playing with it, and I know some people wanted to hear my thoughts, so I’m going to give you guys a quick rundown on the three major components of the service, going from the least satisfying to the most.

First off, the movies. The movie selection is fairly small -- the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, the first two Christopher Nolan Batman movies, several of the animated films. Part of the issue here may be one of availability -- I have no idea who currently has the streaming rights to, for example, the two Swamp Thing movies, so it’s possible that DC couldn’t offer those even if they wanted to. But there are other things that they definitely DO have that aren’t there -- the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies, for example, were put on the site for two weeks following “Batman Day” on September 15, but were then removed on October 1. Why? They...
 

The Superhero Watch: X-Men Movies United (Part 2)

In the beginning, there were Stan and Jack, and yea, they begat the children of the atom. And yea, it was good, And as always seems to happen with good things, eventually they made some movies out of them. In part one of this two-part installment of The Superhero Watch, we looked at the six movies (so far) that make up the main X-Men movie franchise. Today, in part two, we're looking at the three solo Wolverine films, the two adventures of Deadpool, and we glance ahead at the future of the 20th Century Fox X-Men universe once it moves over to its new overlords at the Walt Disney Global Media Consolidation Phalanx and Tiki Bar. And don't forget to read the previous installments focusing on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Spider-Man franchise, and the Superman films. And if you want to keep track of my progress in-between articles, there’s a Letterboxd list just for that purpose.

The Wolverine Trilogy: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), The Wolverine (2013), Logan (2017)....
 

The Superhero Watch: X-Men Movies United (Part 1)

Before the MCU, before Spider-Man on the screen, and well after Howard the Duck, there was a different sort of Marvel Movie Universe. It wasn’t Marvel’s first hit -- that honor belongs to Blade-- but it was the series that redefined the superhero movie. In many ways, I don’t think the current dominance of superhero movies would exist if it weren’t for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise. Today in the Superhero Rewatch Project (you’ll notice I dropped the “2018” -- I’ve resigned myself that there’s no way in hell I’ll finish this before the end of the year), we’re going to look at the eleven films that make up that universe thus far. And of course, feel free to read the previous installments focusing on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Spider-Man franchise, and the Superman films. And if you want to keep track of my progress in-between articles, there’s a Letterboxd list just for that purpose.

The story of the X-Men films to date is the story of three trilogies, plus Deadpool....
 

Someone is Dying in the DCU, and Honestly, That's Okay

In a few weeks we’re going to be treated to the first issue of Heroes in Crisis, DC’s latest event series, which is being promoted as a “murder mystery.” Sanctuary -- a hidden location in the DCU where heroes can go to recover from traumatic ordeals, both physical and emotional -- is supposed to be a safe place for champions, so someone getting killed there is a shocking concept. And DC is doubling down on the shock value, with the latest issue of DC Nation magazine proclaiming “in 21 days, one of these characters DIES!” and giving us the six candidates for the victim that will kick things off. These days, though, comic book characters die and come back to life with such regularity that it’s almost impossible to get worked up about it. Heck, one of the potential victims -- Tim Drake -- has already “died” and came back since the Rebirth relaunch two years ago. So it’s really hard to believe that this death, whoever the corpse-to-be is, is going to stick.

But the more I think...
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  • The Man of Steel (2018) #1: A New Era Begins

    The Man of Steel (2018) #1: A New Era Begins

    The Man of Steel (2018) #1 (DC Comics)
    By Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Jay Fabok, Alex Sinclair, Cory Petit, Jessica Chen, Michael Cotton, Brian Cunningham)

    Well, some 6 weeks after Action Comics #1000, and four weeks after DC Nation #0, we finally have a new, actual Superman comic. And in many ways, THE new Superman comic. (Sure, there was the Action Comics Special and the Superman Special...but as those seem to have been granted as ways to wrap up the individual runs of the prior creative teams without messing up the numbering for how DC wanted to start Bendis' stuff, those don't exactly count for me.) So...some weeks later, here we are...with the first issue proper of "The Bendis Era" on Superman.

    First off, there's the cover. It's a bit generic to me--not a bad visual, and I believe this is part of a multi-part image that'll span the 6 issues of this weekly mini. I have a bit of a problem with it, though, as it shows Superman...
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  • Amazing Spider-Man #800: A Finale That Goes Down With the Greats

    Amazing Spider-Man #800: A Finale That Goes Down With the Greats

    Amazing Spider-Man #800 (Marvel Comics)
    By Dan Slott, Nick Bradshaw, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Marcos Martin, Edgar Delgado, Java Tartaglia, Marte Gracia, Muntsa Vicente & Joe Caramagna

    With the exception of Brian Michael Bendis, I don’t think anyone in history has written Spider-Man as long as Dan Slott, and when you’re talking about the “main” Spider-title (be it Amazing or Superior), Slott probably holds the title outright. With Slott finally walking away from the title and character he has steered for so long, the urge has to be to go out on the biggest boldest, most character-defining story you’ve ever written.

    Slott nails it.

    As we go into the final chapter of “Go Down Swinging,” things are looking bleak. Peter Parker’s arch-enemy, Norman Osborn, has merged with the homicidally insane Carnage symbiote, creating a “Red Goblin” far more powerful than...
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  • Why the Shazam Poster is Just What We Needed

    Why the Shazam Poster is Just What We Needed

    If there’s one undeniable thing about the DC “Extended Universe” movies thus far, it’s that the response has been pretty divisive. The series that launched with Man of Steel in 2013 is typically viewed as being darker than expected, which has been a turn-off for some fans. When it was announced that a Shazam! film was being woven into the DCEU tapestry, then, some people were concerned. Shazam, after all, is a historically bright character. The hero originally known as Captain Marvel (long story, if you don’t already know it, ask in the comments) is a young boy who, through use of a magic word, is transformed into a hero with power levels to rival Superman. Since the protagonist is, in fact, a child, stories of the Marvel family have often taken a lighter tone than their contemporaries, and there was concern that this wouldn’t work within the context of the world that has been established.

    Then, this week, we got the first poster for the film, and frankly, it’s exactly...
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  • The Cure For Fatigue-Modern Mytholgy

    The Cure For Fatigue-Modern Mytholgy

    Strap in, guys, I’m about to hit you with a revelation that will gut you to the core. Robert Downey Jr. will not be the only actor to ever play Iron Man. And that’s okay. It’s actually part of what superheroes are. It’s part of why we love them.

    The Cure For Fatigueis an irregular feature in which we’ll gather around the campfire, take a look at something that people may be feeling burned out on, and talk about what makes it so great in the first place. Today, let’s talk about one of the reasons superheroes, in all their forms, endure.

    I’m going to make an observation that’s older than Aunt May’s wheatcakes recipe, something you already know, but I need to say it to make my point: superheroes are our modern mythology. I know, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. But have you ever really thought about what that means? Superheroes have power like the gods of ancient myth. They go on adventures on the scale of Perseus, Odysseus, and Jason. They are divided into...
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  • The Sound of the Doctor - Silenced

    The Sound of the Doctor - Silenced

    The “Whoniverse” has lost a very important figure this week in Graham Strong, who passed away at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.

    Strong never acted in an episode, nor did he write, produce, film, arrange, or direct an episode. In fact, he wasn’t involved with the production of Doctor Who at all. Graham Strong was a fan – he was one of us. And we owe him a lot.

    Younger geeks may not understand this, but in the days before the internet (and instant access to everything), we were at the mercy of broadcasters. If we wanted to watch something again, we couldn’t just pull it up on iTunes or Netflix – we had to wait for it to be broadcast again. That, or tape it!

    When I was young, I can remember taking episodes of Star Trek on a VHS recorder, so I could watch them again whenever I wanted. That is probably familiar to most geeks over a certain age - fans at that time commonly recorded episodes of the programs they enjoyed. They did this well before...
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  • The 2018 Superhero Watch: Reflections on the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    The 2018 Superhero Watch: Reflections on the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    As both a movie lover and a ginormous geek, I like to periodically set movie-watching goals for myself. I’ll try to tackle the films in a certain genre, or featuring a certain character, or built around a certain theme. And as a writer and a ginormous geek, I also tend to document some of these challenges. In the past, I’ve done film study projects about the history of horror, the legacy of horror/comedies, my favorite TV Christmas specials and, one memorable December, 25 different incarnations of Ebenezer Scrooge. That I missed out on that Family Ties episode where Alex P. Keaton plays the part is my one regret in life.

    Like so many other things, though, my movie watching habits had to evolve when my wife and I had a baby. It simply wasn’t feasible to set aside an entire month to watch slasher movies and write a detailed analysis of each one. So in 2018, I set a different kind of goal for myself: to watch as many superhero movies as possible, and in the case of those I’ve...
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  • Three Wishes: Release These Comics!

    Three Wishes: Release These Comics!

    Having several friends who own or work in comic stores, I get a lot of good opportunities to talk about trends in the business. One thing I’ve heard almost universally over the last few years is that the comic book back issue market has completely tanked. Even though selling old comics is what the comic shop industry was built on, shop owners now have to turn to alternative sources of revenue like collectibles, toys, cards, clothing, and appearing on AMC network reality shows. With the exception of rare issues, first appearances, and other things that hold serious monetary value, there’s simply no need to hunt for back issues anymore. In the Oughts, publishers began to grow much more aggressive with their bookshelf program. What once had been reserved for “special” storylines or archival reprints soon began to apply to virtually every comic book published. Nowadays a reader can be fairly well assured that any comic book appearing on the shelf will see print in a paperback or hardcover...
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  • S.H.I.E.L.D. Feels the Force of Gravity!

    S.H.I.E.L.D. Feels the Force of Gravity!

    There are SPOILERS ahead, but dear not - Talbot will show the world that he can indeed fix this!

    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 Episode 21 - The Force of Gravity (IMDB)
    Directed by Kevin Tancharoen, Written by Drew Z. Greenberg & Craig Titley

    The episode cold-opens with Daisy, who has seemingly just woken up in the council chambers of the Confederacy. Before her is Tarian, Kasius’s father – who tries to convince her that she should become his disciple. He is very interested in the inhumans on Earth (as he continued to be in the future), and insists that they deserve a better life. When she refuses but fails to use her powers to break free, he reveals that none of this is real, she is still unconscious, and he is supremely confident that he will break her very soon. Daisy doesn’t have time for this nonsense, so she shows Tarian how unprepared for her he really is. She channels her abilities inward, shatters the device keeping her unconscious and starts...
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  • Justice League: No Justice #1: Crazy Configurations and a Strong Start

    Justice League: No Justice #1: Crazy Configurations and a Strong Start

    Justice League: No Justice #1 (DC Comics)
    By Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Francis Manapul, Hi-Fi, and AndWorld Design

    In the aftermath of Dark Nights: Metal, the Source Wall at the fringes of the DC Universe has been breached. From the cracks comes something dark, deadly, and dangerous… so dangerous that the insidious Brainiac has taken it upon himself to create a new Justice League from members of the old, some Titans, the Suicide Squad, and a few surprise guests. The four unconventional groups will have to work together against the threat of the Omega Titans, with all life in the universe hanging in the balance.

    On the surface, there are a lot of things about No Justice #1 you could be cynical about. The four teams Brainiac has assembled seem in some ways tailor-made to capitalize on characters that are in the zeitgeist right now, and outfitting each of the squads in color-coded uniforms could be taken as a plot to crank out a new...
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  • The Cure For Fatigue

    The Cure For Fatigue

    ​Blame James Cameron for this one.

    Recently, the director of Aliens and Titanic has expressed some… shall we say “disappointment” about the proliferation of superhero movies. The man who is working on a Terminator reboot and four new Avatar sequels was famously quoted as saying “there are other stories to tell,” when speaking about the success of Marvel’s Avengers franchise. The man who helped make Arnold Schwarzenegger a megastar and who once almost made a Spider-Man movie went on to bemoan “hyper-gonadal movies about males without families.”

    I’m picking on Cameron a little here, I know, but that’s because he’s the most famous name that has jumped onto this particular bandwagon. He is by no means the first one. Lots of people have talked about “superhero fatigue” setting in, and with so many films in the genre coming out each year, it’s not an unreasonable concern. Marvel Studios is the juggernaut, but let’s not forget Fox’s X-Men franchise (which...
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  • A New Kind of Comic Fan

    A New Kind of Comic Fan

    I have a confession to make.

    Those of you who have accumulated a few decades may find this familiar. When it comes to the kinds of media we consume, it evolves over time. There are similarities – if you live 4-Color culture, it’s a good bet that sci-fi, comics, board games, and other things in that realm have held your attention at various points. In my life, I’ve eagerly devoured sci-fi television, various novel series, comic books, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Firefly. City of Heroes and Guild Wars, Kerbal Space Program, various board games from Risk and Axis & Allies to Gloomhaven – specific things come and go, but they all seem to fall in the same wheel-house.

    I went through one of those evolutions about 7 years ago, when I gave up comic books.

    Don’t get me wrong – I still loved the medium, and I still considered myself a supporter. I spent about 10 years actively commentating on them, and supporting others doing the same thing – I couldn’t...
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  • Memories on the World of Magic: The Gathering

    Memories on the World of Magic: The Gathering

    I was introduced to Magic: The Gathering in Spring of 1995…and as I remember it, that was within just a few weeks of the end of the Revised ("3rd") Edition. I'd missed Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark…and the then-current expansion was Fallen Empires.

    I was there for the arrival of 4th Edition, and the first new expansion I was there for was Ice Age. Shortly after, we got Chronicles, and I remember that the card I most wanted from that set was Chromium--the Elder Dragon. (Which I got in my first purchase of several boosters!) Those gave way to Homelands, which was the first/only set I ever got to get an entire booster box--I remember getting that as a Christmas present that year.

    I remember the release of Alliances, and Mirage…and remember being aware of Visions and then even Weatherlight…though as I recall it, I only got a few boosters of Alliances, and I think only a "starter deck" and a couple boosters of Mirage. (After...
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  • Kneel Before "The One Who Will Save Us All"

    Kneel Before "The One Who Will Save Us All"

    SPOILERS AHOY! - A bed full of lemons? Quake vs Yo-yo? Graviton vs. Thanos? Madness!

    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 Episode 20 - The One Who Will Save Us All
    Directed by Cherie Gierhart, Written by Brent Fletcher

    One of the best things about this show is how in any given episode, a bunch of things can be resolved, but you always come back to the original problem staring you right in the face. Despite all of the plot movement, when this episode closed, we are still left with the team struggling to break the time loop and stop whoever The Destroyer of Worlds happens to be from shattering the Earth. We know now it isn’t Ruby, and it still could be Daisy Johnson – but maybe it is General Talbot?

    I have to say that these last few episodes have very much felt like a comic book. It’s hard not to make comparisons to the first season since there are so many call-backs, but I recall back then thinking that there just weren’t enough super-powered people...
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    Last edited by Craig Reade; 05-07-2018, 12:40 PM.

  • Three Wishes: What We Want in Avengers 4

    Three Wishes: What We Want in Avengers 4

    In Three Wishes, we take a look at something in pop culture and express three hopes for the future, whether those wishes are almost inevitable or pie-in-the-sky dreams.

    Spoiler Warning: This article contains all manner of spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War. If you are one of the three remaining people in North America who hasn’t seen it, read no further.

    In the run-up to Avengers: Infinity War, more than one person called it the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As it turned out, in terms of consequences, it made Empire look like Benji. After killing several of the MCU’s heroes in the preceding 140 minutes, Thanos successfully assembled the Infinity Gauntlet and completed his stated goal of killing off half the population of the universe with a snap of his fingers. People who read the comic books upon which this was based probably weren’t totally shocked, but even hardcore fans lost their breath when the devastation turned out to include...
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  • Free Comic Book Day Frenzy

    Free Comic Book Day Frenzy

    There are certain dates you spend all year waiting for: Christmas, Halloween, St. Crispin’s Day for an excuse to do that speech from Henry V to your English Lit students... but as a card-carrying nerd, there’s a day that has stood out to me for several years now as THE day, the one I’m waiting for, the experience around which the whole geek year revolves. The first Saturday in May, tomorrow, is Free Comic Book Day.

    It’s a simple enough concept: every year the comic book shops, distributors, and publishers of North America collaborate to give out thousands of free books to anyone who walks into a shop. Some of the books are new, some are reprints, some are samplers of a publisher’s various wares, some are used to launch upcoming titles or storylines. It’s a nice no-risk (for the customer) way to get people to try things out and see what’s what. Aside from the bigger titles that everyone knows about, over the years FCBD has helped introduced me to future favorites like Atomic...
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  • Chess

    Chess

    So I’ve always wanted to be one of those chess people. You know, you’ve seen them in the movies. The unassuming girl who everyone underestimates, but she sits down at the chess table and demolishes the most genius-y of the geniuses there. I want to be crafty. I want to be impressive. I want to be the owner of that goddamn board.

    But I’ve never learned how to play, mostly because I’m afraid I would be none of those things. Because from what I understand, chess takes patience and attention to detail — not my strong suits. I’ve never wanted to embarrass myself.

    Recently, my husband and I took our four year old daughter to a STEAM festival in Costa Mesa. It was a pretty cool event, with robotics and science experiments and craft projects and violinists.

    There was also a chess table.

    You already know where this is going, but bear with me.

    My daughter saw the giant chess board and was immediately enchanted. She sat...
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    Last edited by Craig Reade; 05-03-2018, 04:53 PM.

  • Avengers #1: It's Been a While

    Avengers #1: It's Been a While

    It’s been a while.

    I’ve always been an Avengers fan, but it’s been a very long time -- nearly 200 issues, in fact -- since I’ve read an Avengers comic. Oh, I’ve read comics called “Avengers” in that time (and sometimes “New Avengers,” or “Avengers Academy,” or “Uncanny Avengers”) and some of them have been very good. But even the ones I’ve enjoyed have had a different feel, a different flavor. Some of them were close. But it was like drinking a Coke Zero when you really wanted a Coke. Even the best of runs since the infamous “Avengers Disassembled” began in issue #500 have felt… off.

    For a few pages, Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s Avengers #1 tasted wonderfully familiar.

    The centerpiece of the issue is a summit between Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and Thor about whether it’s time to get the band back together. (Why, exactly, the band is broken up after their victorious finale in last week’s Avengers #690 is not adequately explained, but that’s a...
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  • The Adventures of Superdad

    The Adventures of Superdad

    After a prologue in Action Comics #1000, we stand here a few weeks before the Brian Michael Bendis era of Superman truly begins. As is to be expected, Bendis and DC have both played details of his story pretty close to the vest, aside from a little playful trolling and a reassurance that Bendis doesn’t want to just blow up what the previous creative teams did as they move on. I’m not here to speculate on what comes next, nor to plead with DC to keep things one way or another, but rather to talk about what those previous teams have done right, and why it has meant so much to me. I’m here to talk about Jon Kent.

    But first, let me backtrack. Although I was, of course, aware of the character as far back as I can remember, the first Superman story I ever bought new off the stands, eagerly awaiting each new chapter, was “Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite.” This 1990 storyline culminated in Superman #50, in which Clark Kent proposed to Lois Lane. So you see, while fifty years of comic...
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  • The Zealotry of The Doctor

    The Zealotry of The Doctor

    Have you ever heard of the Zeal of the Convert? This phrase comes from the perception that converts to a new religion are frequently more fiercely devout than those who were born into it. Of course, not all converts are aggressive zealots – I wouldn’t even say most of them are. Despite the negative implications of this stereotype, l believe it is logical and perfectly understandable that someone who reached an epiphany about their own existence would be very excited about their new awareness and passionate about traveling down the path they just discovered. They might even try to convince you to go with them!

    This phenomenon isn’t limited to religion. You can find examples of it among people of all kinds wherever someone adopts a new idea or way of thinking. There’s the ex-smoker who becomes fiercely anti-smoking or the new vegetarian that proselytizes about their food choices – no matter what way of thinking you are talking about, it seems like you can find examples...
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  • Welcome to Forgedby4.com!

    Welcome to Forgedby4.com!

    Now, let's talk about some things we love.

    You know that feeling you get right before you move in to a new house? That's kind of like what I am feeling now. The house is shiny and new and full of possibility. You just haven't moved any of your stuff in yet. That's kind of the state this site is in right now - full of possibility, but since it is brand new, it isn't quite home yet.

    To give you an idea of what you can expect in the coming days and weeks, Forgedby4.com (or Forged by 4 Colors, if you like) will become a place where you can read about a whole host of things related to could be called 4-Color Culture that we enjoy, and that we think you will enjoy too.

    The 4 Colors in our name refers to the 4 Color Process (also called process color printing). This printing process became synonymous with classic comic books that were printed on inexpensive newsprint. For those of us who have grown up or lived for a long time enjoying those 4-color classics (and...
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