Strip Talk #13: Let’s talk a minute about comic book movie reboots

Lyndsey Hicks, editor in chief

I am by no means someone who doesn’t love movies. I do, especially those of the comic book variety. I just have this thing where I can’t stand seeing a story done a million times with different people and different takes on the subject.

Let’s start with exhibit A, “Spider-Man.” Now, I sat through “Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Spider-Man 3” because I can look at Tobey Maguire all day long and twice on Sunday. He was perfect as Peter Parker, though the abomination that was “Spider-Man 3” is a whole other topic. But did Spider-Man really need to be remade? No, it didn’t, and I’ll tell you why: The movies were fine the way they were. We didn’t need a fourth movie, and we certainly didn’t need a new franchise because someone at Sony couldn’t come up off some money for Maguire and Sam Raimi.

In exhibit B, I’m looking directly at you, Mr. Frank Castle. Seriously, there have been more Punisher reboots than there have been actual people who saw the Punisher movies combined. The crazy thing is, I loved Punisher: War Zone and I thought Ray Stevenson did an excellent job in the lead role. But I’m of the mind that if Marvel had actually bothered to cast him the first time around or waited to do that Punisher film, there wouldn’t have been three attempts. Let’s face it, the Punisher isn’t that hard to do. You get someone to be sufficiently tortured because of the loss of his family and you make it work well. Mark Harmon manages to accomplish this every week as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS,” so I’m not understanding how this can’t be made to work in a motion picture of this caliber.

In exhibit C, the X-Men find themselves raising their hands to answer the question of which group of people need not apply for more reboots. Like “Spider-Man,” I’ve seen all of the films in question except for “X-Men: First Class,” and I’m not exactly dying to see it. Why should I? What was the point of redoing “X-Men”? And, who thought it was cute to replace Patrick Stewart? Whoever made that call should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t care how good folks supposedly were in First Class; do not take away my beloved Patrick Stewart. I will not go see your movie.

In the final exhibit, we have Superman. Now, why someone thought ruining the Man of Steel’s legacy as singlehandedly wrought by Christopher Reeve with his bare hands molded from clay of the earth was a good idea, I’ll never know. But ruining Superman’s legacy as wrought by Christopher Reeve with his bare hands was a bad idea, a really bad idea. I have nothing against Brandon Routh who tried and miserably failed to fill Reeve’s shoes, but there will never, ever be another Superman as long as I live and breathe other than the late Mr. Reeve. And I will go on the record now: I realize that Henry Cavill’s fine self has been tapped to play Clark Kent in yet another reboot, but he will fail and fail completely to this child of the ’80s.

My major problem with all of these reboots ― and I’m blaming Marvel for this because they seem to be the worst at this ― is that if it doesn’t work, I have to ask why the companies don’t realize it just isn’t going to work. Rhetorically speaking, if it doesn’t work, why keep banging your head against the proverbial wall trying to force it? It doesn’t make sense to keep trying to find that “right fit” because you’re never going to find it for some projects. In some of these cases, the right fit was found and then torn up because of money, which is usually the root cause of the problem. Because believe me, none of these reboots would have happened without an unlimited supply of money.

Folks, if you’re on your third reboot, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for that source of comic book gold. Obviously, the ink isn’t subjective to the Midas Touch.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner #12: Death Note Vol. 5

Death Note heats up in Vol. 5

Brandon Beatty, editor-at-large

Hello readers, and welcome back to “Otaku Corner,” the section of GI that covers quality anime and manga series for those who deserve the best in Japanese animation. Thus, with this great expectation, our motto is “For the otaku, by the otaku!” (patent pending). I’m continuing our coverage of the worldwide smash manga series Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata and English adapted by Viz Media LLC.

Before I get into the review, I want to give those who have not yet read the manga a quick summary of the story plot: Death Note is the story of Light Yagami, a top student with immeasurable prospects who suffers from an extreme case of boredom. That changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook of death dropped by a shinigami (Japanese god of death) named Ryuk. Any human’s name written in said notebook dies, and after a few uses on known and would be criminals, Light vows to use the Death Note to rid humanity of evil. However, Light’s work does not go unnoticed by law enforcement authorities who, in turn, send world-renowned detective L to stop Light aka Kira.

In volume five of Death Note, Light and L (aka Ryuzaki) are playing masterful-yet-blistering mind games via TV, hidden cameras, police officers and even on a college campus! These actions ultimately led Light and his cohort (yet disposable girlfriend) Misa Amane to be confined by Ryuzaki in separate locations. After weeks in confinement, Light was able to dispose of the Death Note and his memories of using it. As a result, Ryuzaki forces Light’s father, Soichiro who is head of the Kira Task Force to perform a final test of Light’s and Misa’s innocence, which resulted in Soichiro performing a mock execution that not only clear Light and Misa, but also continued the partnership of Light and Ryuzaki. Later on Ryuzaki and company established a new base of operations ( largely bankrolled by Ryuzaki), that with new resources leads the task force to find that Kira has returned; only, this time he’s using his powers to the benefit of the Yosuba Group, an multinational business group.

However, this victorious gain is not without setbacks as Aizawa leaves to return to the NPA because of a disagreement with Ryuzaki, and Matsuda’s near death forces the task force to form a new plan. Fortunately, clear heads prevail, and at the end, readers are introduced to the Kira Eight, a group of men who work for Yosuba who are  dedicated to destroying anyone (including their own members) who would stand in their way to obtain absolute power. This is seen at the very end when one of their members is “sacked,” meaning that poor individual is another victim of Kira.

Fans of Death Note will not be disappointed in the new arc as it forces the main characters to again join forces against Kira in a new persona: Greed. As I continued reading, I realized that these eight men are after power and are determined to use Kira to achieve these goals, instead of simply joining forces to use their combined talents to be a success. Obata-san has again performed the skillful combination of plot and philosophy, this time adding in a mix of corporate corruption. The usual supporting cast of Ryuk and Rem (Misa’s shinigami) make their appearances but do not endanger the new plot, coming in only when absolutely needed. Obata-san’s drawings continue to succeed in keeping the plot fresh, especially when presenting the Kira Eight where one of the men truly has the appearance of a demon. I have, so far, in reading this series, not been disappointed as every new volume has without fail brought the elements of ethics and mystery without being silly. I also would be wrong in not giving Viz Media their lion’s share of the credit, thanks in part to the great translation and adaptation of Alexis Kirsch and the Shonen Jump graphic novel team. This again proves that Viz was the right choice in unleashing Death Note upon the U.S.

Will the Kira Eight prevail? How long will Ryuzaki and Light continue their “alliance?” Will the Death Note claim more lives? And, will Misa succeed in wrapping Light around her little finger? The answers to these burning questions and more are coming in the future of Otaku Corner.

Brandon Beatty is editor at large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #03: Toradora! Ep. 1-12

Series: Toradora!

Episodes: 1-12

Premise: Toradora! revolves around two characters mostly: Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka. Ryuuji has a crush on Minori Kushieda, while Taiga has a crush on Yuusaku Kitamura, Ryuuji’s best friend. Ryuuji and Taiga have a run-in on their first day of second year, and later discover that they are next-door neighbors. Ryuuji has an undeserved reputation as a delinquent while Taiga is known as the “Palmtop Tiger” because of her diminutive size and With the mutual goal in mind of capturing the hearts of each other’s best friends, Ryuuji and Taiga decide to team up.

Is it worth watching?: If you love school/romance anime, you’ll probably love Toradora. There are some genuinely funny moments, but darker themes such as abandonment and maturation are explored. The only stumbling block that really came up immediately was the tsundereness (cold outside, warm inside) of Taiga. She kind of grates on your nerves but eventually you learn the reasons behind it. I grew to like the character immensely.

Breakout character: Ryuuji is a scene-stealer, even as a main character. He shines as the voice of reason throughout the first half of the show, and makes an impression as someone who has a lot on his shoulders but manages to keep a level head despite the inequities of his life.

Funniest episode: Episode 1 (Tiger and Dragon) has probably one of the funniest scenes in the series. After Taiga and Ryuuji agree to team up to land their respective crushes, Ryuuji visits Taiga’s opulent apartment next door. The horror that greets him forces him to clean. Taiga is completely helpless when it comes to domestication, and Ryuuji is not. Hilarity in the form of the depths of Ryuuji’s neat-freak nature ensues.

Where it’s going: With the plan to snag their respective crushes in full swing, Ryuuji and Taiga begin to learn something more about their own relationship and how to work with their growing dependence on each other. Taiga’s foil in Ami Kawashima has been introduced, so it’s interesting to see just how far Ami is willing to go to cozy up to Ryuuji, where Kitamura’s feelings have evolved after his previous confession to Taiga and her rejection and just how Minorin feels about Ryuuji.

Top 5 on the Strip: Spider-Man’s weirdest foes

J. Jonah Jameson

What’s the deal with some dude putting your paycheck in your hands and then constantly snatching it away because he wants to fire you on a whim? We couldn’t work for J.J. Simply put, there’d be a labor dispute, and he’d be sued a million times over. All because he was having a bad day.

Mysterio

Spider-Man’s foes, though grounded in reality most of the time, sometimes give us the distinct impression that there’s problems afoot in the world that we don’t know about and don’t want to know about. Case in point: Mysterio’s head is screwed up, figuratively and literally. All we know is that in one version, he’s a special effects master and in another, he’s an android, sent by the special effects master, from a different dimension. Right.

Venom

Eddie Brock’s version has made our Top 5 list before and for pretty much the same reason: He’s weird and awesome. Anytime you go around screaming “We want to eat your brains,” you make a list of weird. And also, referring to yourself in the plural third-person point of view because your body has bonded with an alien symbiote automatically means you qualify for the crazy.

Doctor Octopus

The guy has four tentacles welded to his back that he can telepathically control to kill. That’s all that needs to be said about him.

Green Goblin

Dear Norman Osborn, We at GI would like to thank you for being sufficiently crazy and paranoid because you mixed chemicals that gave you a green hue and sent you on a killing spree. We do appreciate the myriad crazy attempts you and your (equally crazed) offspring have made over the years to kill Peter Parker. But, please, do us a favor and lose the tights the next time you’re resurrected. Sincerely, Gaming Insurrection folk

Marvel character highlight #12: Spider-Man

Name: Peter Parker

Affiliation: The Avengers, Future Foundation, Heroes For Hire, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, Superhuman Task Force (pro-registration superheroes), Outlaws, New Fantastic Four, Secret Defenders, mentor to Misfits, Frightful Four, Eddie Brock (Venom), Ben Reilly (Scarlet Spider), Horizon Labs, Daily Bugle, Daily Globe, Front Line, Tricorp Research

Special abilities: A radioactive spider bite gave Parker the abilities of a common house spider. With the arachnid abilities, Parker has superhuman strength and agility as well as secondary abilities that most common spiders have. These include:

1. Wall-crawling

2. Mark of Kaine: He can burn or tear distinctive scars in the faces of others.

3. Superhuman strength: Spider-Man can press lift approximately 10 tons. He can leap several stories in a single bound and must control his punches because a normal thrown punch could possibly kill a human.

4. Superhuman speed

5. Superhuman stamina. He can also hold his breath much longer.

6. Superhuman durability: He is more resistant to some types of injury and can heal faster than normal humans.

7. Superhuman agility, equilibrium and reflexes: He has perfect balance and his reflexes are about 40 times greater than those of a normal human.

8. Foreign chemical resistance:He has a higher tolerance for drugs and diseases than normal humans, and he can recover from the effects of larger doses rapidly.

9. Spider-Sense: Spider-Man possesses an extrasensory “danger” or “spider” sense,” which warns him of potential immediate danger, and links with his superhuman kinesthetics, enabling him to evade most injuries.

10. Radio frequency detection: The spider-sense also enables him to track certain radio frequencies.

Background: Peter Parker was an average student in Forest Hills, N.Y., an orphan living with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben Parker. Peter showed an early aptitude for science but was bullied throughout his school years. During a high school science trip to a laboratory, Peter was bitten by a radioactive spider, which transmitted its mutated venom to Peter through the bite. Peter then began developing spider-like traits and super powers. Parker, as Spider-Man, has battled numerous foes within the Marvel universe throughout his crime fighting career and nearly as many as his civilian alter ego. More recently, Peter has given up existence of his secret identity and life as he knew it through a deal with demon lord Mephisto to protect his family and spare his loved ones from further pain.

Relationships: Richard Parker (father, deceased); Mary Parker (mother, deceased); Benjamin Parker (uncle, deceased); May Parker (aunt); Will Fitzpatrick (grandfather, presumably deceased); Jay Jameson (step-uncle); John Jonah Jameson (step-cousin); Ben Reilly (clone, deceased); Kaine (clone); Spidercide (clone, allegedly deceased); Guardian (clone, deceased); Mary Jane Watson-Parker (ex-wife, ex-fiancée); May Parker (daughter, allegedly deceased); Philip Watson (former father-in-law); Madeline Watson (former mother-in-law); Gayle Watson-Byrnes (former sister-in-law); Venom Symbiote (former symbiote)

First Versus game appearance: Marvel Super Heroes, 1995

Appearances in other media: Spider-Man (2002 film), Spider-Man 2 (2004 film), Spider-Man 3 (2007 film), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012 film), Spider-Man (1967), The Amazing Spider-Man (1977), Spider-Man (1981), Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981), Spider-Man (1994 animated series), Spider-Man Unlimited (1999), Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003), The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008), Ultimate Spider-Man (2012), Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (2010 Broadway musical), Spider-Man: From Beyond The Grave (1972 radio show), Spider-Man (1982 video game), Questprobe: Spider-Man (1984), The Amazing Spider-Man (1990 video game), The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin (1990 video game), Spider-Man: The Video Game (1991), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (1992 video game), Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (1992), Spider-Man/X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (1992 video game), The Amazing Spider-Man 3: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers (1993 video game), The Amazing Spider-Man: Lethal Foes (1994 video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (1994 video game), Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety (1995 video game), Spider-Man Animated Series (1995 video game), Spider-Man: Web of Fire (1996 video game), Marvel Super Heroes (1995), Spider-Man: The Sinister Six (1996 video game), Marvel vs. Street Fighter (1997), Marvel vs. Capcom (1998), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (2000), Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six (2001 video game), Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (2001 video game), Spider-Man (2002 video game), Spider-Man 2 (2004 video game), Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006), Spider-Man: Battle for New York (2006 video game), Spider-Man 3 (2007 video game), Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (2007 video game), Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (2008 video game), Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009), Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (2010),Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (2011), Spider-Man (2000 video game), Ultimate Spider-Man (2005 video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad (2009) , Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet (2010), Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010 video game) and Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (2011), Spider-Man: Edge of Time (2011 video game), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012 video game)

Property review: TMNT Vol. 1 (1987 animated series)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1

Lionsgate Home Entertainment, 2004

Turtles fight bare bones DVD

True children of the ’80s will tell you that one of the things imprinted in their memory is what they watched on television. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were important then, and children soaked it up. So, imagine GI’s surprise when the DVDs were finally released for public consumption. Spanning nine seasons, some of the most important establishing material is found in the first season, and the DVDs provide a look at the opening five-part miniseries that launched the show. But, if you’re looking for a quality introduction to the Turtles, keep looking because this version isn’t all that great.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

The quality of the presentation is terrible for starters. While it’s obvious this is a show from the ’80s and broadcast quality isn’t going to be as good as say 2004, when the disc was released, it still should be better than what’s here. Then, add in quite a few graphical errors, a lack of extras on the disc and the confusing inclusion of several episodes from the 10th and final season and you have a poor mess of a DVD.

Great voice acting and a killer soundtrack help, though. It’s something when a series can draw you in because of its soundtrack and perfect casting, and the first season of the show managed that greatly. Practically speaking, the first season’s merits save the DVD from most of its negative traits.

And, we can get around it all because it’s the Turtles, and having the series on DVD greatly increases the amount of problems we’re willing to put up with just to have the series in our collection. We can’t complain that much as children of the ’80s and as superfans of the series. We just wish the quality was a little better and some of the behind-the-scenes material had been added here. That would be have tubularly awesome.

Plot: 8

Like the comics: 3

Casting: 10

Total score: 21 out of 30 or 7

What to watch

The five episodes here are the five-part miniseries that introduced the Turtles in animated television.

1. Turtle Tracks: The introduction and origin story of the Turtles. Keep in mind that this origin story greatly differs from the comics and film.

2. Enter the Shredder: The introduction of Krang and Shredder, and also the creation of Rocksteady and Bebop.

3. A Thing About Rats: Baxter Stockman is introduced and joins with Shredder.

4. Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X: Krang’s partial backstory is given and Dimension X is named. Michaelangelo gains a love interest.

5. Shredded and Splintered: Shredder and Splinter switch bodies, and Splinter’s bond with Turtles is fleshed out.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 and 30 overall.