Monday, September 30, 2013

Black Canary by Billy Tucci

This gorgeous sketch of pre-Flashpoint Black Canary was drawn for me by Billy Tucci this past Saturday at Granite State ComicCon in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Tucci, a regular cover artist for DC and Marvel, is the creator of the comics character Shi.

I attended GraniteCon mostly to meet Ethan Van Sciver and track down some back issues of Action Comics Weekly which featured Canary, but I didn't have any custom convention sketches lined up, nor did I foresee getting any from the name artists in attendance.  I assumed Van Sciver's price for anything more than a head shot would be more than I was willing to pay, and the problem with a Black Canary head shot is it looks like any blonde haired woman.

As I made my way to the far end of Artists Alley, I came upon a veritable wall of full-color sketches of beautiful women done by Billy Tucci.  His wall included multiple sketches of his creation, Shi, as well as DC and Marvel women such as Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Spider-Woman, and others.  He also had two books of prints and sketches, one of which had a Birds of Prey print with Black Canary, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk.

Tucci was charging $100 for full-color/full-body commissions and $40 for simple head shots.  The longer I stared at his wall of female beauties, the more I knew I wanted an original Black Canary sketch  from him.  Again, though, a simple head shot wouldn't be enough.  I offered him an extra $20 to draw a little more of her torso and he was really cool with it.  He knew as soon as I requested Black Canary that he could add more of her body to show off her costume.

He told me to come back in half an hour, and when I did, I was floored by what the artist had produced--and by what I assume my extra twenty bucks merited!

He was just putting the finishing touches on the sketch when I returned, but before he finished, he took out his colored pencils to give her some color highlights: red lips, blue eyes, and yellow outlines around her hair!  I'm not sure how much the colors will pop on this blog, but take my word for it--they're great!

But quite possibly my favorite part of this image is the very bottom.

It would have been so easy for Tucci to draw a simple bust that stopped at Dinah's mid-torso; he could have done that sketch, and I would have been happy to get it.  But he went down to her hips to show her fishnets!  Hell-to-the-yeah, Mister Tucci!  Fishnets are the defining part of Black Canary's costume and that little detail makes this already awesome sketch even greater!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Post Granite Con/The Week Ahead

Whew!  Busy Saturday: I had a great time this morning at Granite State ComicCon in Manchester, New Hampshire!  Obviously, it was a much smaller show than the Boston Con I attended a few months back, but I went to GSCC a much smarter con-goer, and I think this was a lot more productive.

Looking ahead at this week's schedule:

Monday: I'll put up the awesome Black Canary sketch I commissioned from Billy Tucci!

Tuesday: Review Birds of Prey (vol. 3) #11.

Wednesday: General reflections about the Con and meeting Ethan Van Sciver and Aaron Kuder.

Thursday: Maybe a look at the back issues of Action Comics Weekly I picked up with stories featuring Black Canary from the late '80s.  (Just tonight I ordered the remaining issues from her time in this series from; when I have them all, I'll start reviewing.)

Friday: Probably going to start posting my fan-cast outline for Justice League: The Brave and the Bold movie.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Super-Team Family: Black Canary and Elektra

Another Thursday is upon us, and another opportunity to showcase one of my best friend Ross' custom DC/Marvel crossover covers from the Super-Team Family blog.  Below, Ross has depicted Black Canary teaming up with the sexy ninja assassin, Elektra, better known as "Electric Nachos" to anyone who saw the Daredevil movie.

Courtesy of Super-Team Family: The Lost Issues blog.
I'm not sure where exactly the Elektra part of the image comes from, but Dinah and the shadowy brutes closing in on them come from the cover to Wonder Woman (vol. 3) #34, drawn by Aaron Lopresti. This issue was the first of a two-part Wonder Woman adventure guest-starring Black Canary.  I had completely forgotten about this story, but I now remember really enjoying the interplay between the Amazon Princess and the Blonde Bombshell.  I might have to dig those issues out and review them sometime soon.

Check out Super-Team Family: The Lost Issues for many, many more DC/Marvel crossover covers!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Birds of Prey by Justin Orr

This beautiful Birds of Prey pinup was done by Justin Orr.  I love this image, and all of his other comics and pop culture-inspired pinups and posters, though I have absolutely no idea how I would describe his art style.  It's like a crazy mashup of The Boondocks-style manga and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie and The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Or Bruce Timm fused with Skottie Young.  Whatever.  I don't know what to call it, but I like it.

You can find tons more pinups, posters, and sketches of Orr's at his website.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

BIRDS OF PREY #10 (New 52)

I haven't reviewed this series in a while--been caught up in fan-casting the DC Universe--but I need to get back in the routine of reviewing while I outline the rest of my Justice League movie series.  It's been well over a year since I read this issue of Birds of Prey.  I don't remember liking it much at the time, but maybe it holds up better over time.  Maybe…

Birds of Prey #10: "Heat Seekers" is written by Duane Swierczynski with art by Travel Foreman and colors by Gabe Eltaeb.  Foreman and Eltaeb also provide the cover.  I have no idea of Eltaeb is his real name, but spelled backwards it does read "Beatle" for whatever that's worth.

The issue begins with the Birds riding in a private helicopter over the Amazon basin in South America. Starling chartered the ride, piloted by an old friend of hers named Leyden.  In the cargo/passenger hold, Black Canary, Batgirl and Katana ride with a container that looks an awful lot like a coffin.  And in the coffin is Poison Ivy, barely alive after she stopped the Talon last issue.

Yep, somebody launches a heatseeking missile at the chopper.  Everyone in back gets sucked out and falls hundreds of feet to the jungle below, where they all manage to land safely, without injury, even the pilot who goes down in the burning chopper.

They're not sure who tried to blow them out of the air; was it one of Poison Ivy's enemies or one of the people involved in the still-unresolved death of Black Canary's husband?  Canary is adamant about getting Ivy out of her coffin thingy so that the jungle can rejuvenate her.

We then flashback to Gotham City, two days ago, in the immediate aftermath of the "Night of the Owls" crossover, where the Birds got sucked into one of Batman's adventures, for no apparent reason.

In the first appearance of Batman in this book that clings to the Batman family of comics for dear life, the Caped Crusader tells Black Canary that her choice in teammates is as laughably bad as, well, as I've been saying since issue #1.  He says Starling is a dangerous whack job and calls Poison Ivy a betrayal waiting to happen.  And when Dinah tries yet again to defend them, Batman says what we've all been thinking, but didn't want to admit.

This single panel is heartbreaking, not just because it's the ugliest damn depiction of a supposedly attractive woman that I've ever seen in a comic, but because Batman's statement is painfully accurate.

Black Canary was Chairwoman of the Justice League of America a couple years ago, and while I never agreed she was the right person for the job, considering the Big Three were there, it at least paid respect to the character's history and credentials as a superhero.  In the New 52-verse, she has no credentials.  She's never been a Justice League member; they chose Element-Woman over her.  And as for her history, well, I would comment on that but we've never been told what it is.  Her involvement in her husband's murder no longer qualifies as a mystery; it's just bad storytelling.

Batman calls her sloppy and dangerous.  She is.  Batman, Batgirl, everyone says she's wrong to trust Starling and Poison Ivy.  She is at that, too.

Back in the Amazon, Starling saves her buddy, Leyden, and reveals that his helicopter was used to traffic liquid cocaine (but she's totally a heroic person worthy teaming up with Batgirl and Katana). Is that why somebody shot a missile at them?

Before that question can be answered, the ladies are attacked by plant Medusa monster creatures.

They blow up what's left of the helicopter and all the cocaine (aww!) and start running from the fire, which attracts further heatseeking missiles.  Seriously, who is firing missiles at them?  Katana gets her mad gardening on since none of the plant monsters have souls.

Leyden and the Ladies are chased through the jungle until they reach a sheer cliff.  The rope bridge extending from their side to the other has been cut and Batgirl's grapple gun doesn't have the range to get them over the gap.   They're trapped, about to die.

This is where Black Canary can show her stuff and save the day.

Unfortunately, where the exchange with Batman broke my heart, her heroic act at the end of the issue made me groan in disgust.

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you.  That's Black Canary flying in the page above.  She $@#%ing flies across the gap.  She uses her stupid sonic scream to stupid fly, because, hey, it works for Banshee and Siryn over at Marvel, why shouldn't it work for Black Canary?  Well, aside from the physics involved (or not involved), Dinah has never displayed this kind of power before, and it's a pretty significant power, so if she can use it, she better use it often.  It's like suddenly revealing that Aquaman can telekinetically control water; if you introduce that power once and never show it again, it's not really a superpower, it's just a deus ex machina.

Because that's not dumb enough, Swierczynski piles on the bad storytelling by having Starling blow up the bridge after they get across, separating the ladies from the plant monsters chasing them.  Then another missile flies out of nowhere and blows up all the monsters!  Where are the missiles coming from and if they're heat seekers, why did they target the plant creatures which should have minimal if any body heat?

Also, basic storytelling tip: If Starling blows up the bridge separating the heroes from the monsters, then the heroes are safe and Starling gets the credit for being resourceful and smart.  But if the now harmless bad guys are immediately destroyed by unseen forces that could have destroyed them back when the bridge was still in tact, well, then Starling's act of clever heroism is moot.

The issue ends with Poison Ivy waking up, telling her teammates to enter the bunker on their side of the jungle where she'll explain everything.

The Characters

We don't really learn anything new about the supporting characters, just Black Canary.  In any other case, that would be just fine with me.

We're told that Black Canary still thinks of her late husband, Kurt Lance.  We're also told/shown that Kurt pushed Dinah to embrace her sonic scream and test its limitations.  This allowed her to detonate the first missile before it struck the helicopter, and this allows her to fly when she needs to get across the gap in the issue's climax.  As such, this makes me hate him, because these forced changes to her power set are more off-putting than anything.

I don't need Black Canary to have a super power.  I'm fine with her being one of the five or ten best hand-to-hand combatants in the world.  But if they want to give her a metahuman ability to shatter stuff with her scream, okay, fine, whatever.  But to elevate the power to this degree to me feels closer to the electric blue Superman.


This series has not been flattering to Black Canary, but this issue kicked her in the stomach by having Batman rightly characterize her as incompetent and foolish, and then giving her a stupid gimmick power that will never come back again.

I like Travel Foreman's art on some comics, but not on this one.  This series has nothing going for it other than the gimmick of a bunch of sexy ladies doing espionage stuff.  For that you need a more mainstream artist with a style that shows off cheesecake and the female form.  Foreman's art lends more toward the heroic, which kind of works for the plant monsters, but not enough.

Overall, everything about this issue was a little better than what we've been seeing in the series lately, but the blows done to Black Canary are crippling.

Grade: C-

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Black Canary on World's Finest Cover by Jim Aparo

Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. Green Arrow. Black Canary. The Creeper.  Wait, the Creeper?  Yes, the Creeper!  Is this the most intriguing and oddball Justice League lineup ever imagined?  Not quite, but it is a glorious image by the masterful Jim Aparo.

The above image was lifted from the cover of World's Finest Comics #250 from April 1978.

I'm not sure who is responsible for transposing the characters onto that dynamic orange background in the image on top, but I like it.  It has a very Challenge of the Superfriends feel, I think, which makes me wonder again what cartoonish adventures these six particular DC heroes could get up to if they were ever made an official team.

Here is the information for WFC #250, provided by  

Cover art by Jim Aparo. The Reality War starring Superman and Batman, script by Gerry Conway, pencils by George Tuska, inks by Vince Colletta; Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, and Black Canary team with the Wonder Woman of Earth-Two in 1942 against Agent Axis II and the Ravager.  Collision with Destiny starring Green Arrow and Black Canary, script by Gerry Conway, pencils by George Tuska, inks by Vince Colletta.  The Ravager of Time starring Superman, Batman, Green Arrow and Black Canary, script by Gerry Conway, pencils by George Tuska, inks by Vince Colletta.  Return of the Past starring The Creeper, script and art by Steve Ditko.  The Joker stars in a one-page Hostess ad, Laugh, Clown, Laugh!  84 pgs. $1.00. Cover price $1.00.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Black Canary by Amy Reeder

I have never been fond of Black Canary's post-Crisis sweatsuit costume from the Legends and Justice League.  I think she looks like a rejected body double from Flashdance.  And the chest plate thing--what is that supposed to be?

Some artists, though, can make diamonds out of any crappy mineral, and from the looks of this sketch, I'm thinking Amy Reeder is one of them.

I wish I could say this sketch was done for me, but sadly, I just grabbed it from Google images.  Whoever "Jamie" is, he/she is one lucky fan!

Incidentally, I met Amy briefly at the last Boston ComicCon.  While we talked about her work on Batwoman and Supergirl, as well as Halloween Eve and Rocket Girl, it became obvious how super cool she was.

Like a fool, of course, I was so caught up in talking to her that I didn't think to ask for a Black Canary sketch or even how much it would cost.  What makes me feel even dumber is that she was working on a sketch during our conversation!  (I didn't get a good look at it, but for all I know she was sketching Supergirl for Anj over at Comic Box Commentary.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DC Women in Step by Dick Giordano

Just one bottle of black cherry vodka away from a Sex and the City homage.

This Dick Giordano piece came from the Super DC Calendar for 1976.  As well as the major national and religious holidays (except Talk Like a Pirate Day--Arrrgh!), DC's calendar celebrated the birthdays and milestone events in the lives of its heroes and villains.  For instance, our very own Black Canary's birthday is designated April 10th.

Along with the days and weeks and usual calendar stuff, each month of the year had an accompanying pinup picture.  Nearly all of the images were drawn by Neal Adams with inks by Dick Giordano; the above image for the month of September, is one of the few drawn by Giordano himself, and I freakin' love it!

Black Canary, Mary Marvel, Supergirl, Lois Lane, and Hawkwoman locking arms and looking lovely--makes me want to read a comic starring these Wonder Women every month.  Marvel has their all-female X-Men book.  I don't see why DC can't publish a double-x chromosome Justice League squad.  Put Gail Simone and Amy Reeder on the title and it would always be at the top of my reading list!

You can view scans of the calendar dates here and scans of the rest of the pinups here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fan-Casting DC's FIRESTORM: Part 5

Click here to review part 4.

So far: 
In the second Firestorm movie, titled The Fury of Firestorm, Professor Martin Stein helps his former colleague, Crystal Frost, develop a thermafrost research chamber.  But when the experiment goes wrong, Crystal is transformed into Killer Frost.  Firestorm is unable to stop her during their first confrontation.  After the battle, Professor Stein is killed.

Immediately following the death of Professor Stein (David Strathairn), we get one of those now-classic sequences where the music kicks up and all the in-scene sound is muted.  The tempo slows down as Ronnie (Reid Ewing) wakes up and rushes to his mentor's side.  He cradles the body, crying, screaming in rage, all in slow motion while the score reaches crescendo.

After Stein is dead and buried, the rest of the second act sees Ronnie (or Jason) having to deal with the death of his friend.  There is a lot of unresolved emotional baggage, because they were fighting before Stein died, and Ronnie feels like he never committed as much to being a good, responsible hero like he should have.

At this point we'll also see an agony and vengeful Ronnie attempting to harness the Firestorm matrix without merging with Stein.  The result is something similar to the Elemental Firestorm-era of the comics.  He tries to attack Killer Frost (Mena Suvari) in this form, but cannot control the powers and endangering even more lives than her.

Ronnie knows that Firestorm is the only being powerful enough to stop Killer Frost, but he cannot control Firestorm alone.  He needs to fuse with another person to fully capture the Firestorm matrix.  He needs help.  He needs a new partner.

Firestorm 2.0

This next part is contingent on who our main character has been for the first movie-and-a-half.  If the protagonist is Ronnie Raymond, then he partners with Professor Stein's last protege, a young scientific genius named Jason Rusch.

Firestorm/Jason Rusch (Luke Youngblood)

Wait, wait, waitaminute! you say.  Didn't you already cast Donald Glover as Jason Rusch?

Indeed, I did, but that was for a different role; that was for a Jason that would carry the franchise on his shoulders.  I think Donald Glover is capable of--and overdue for--driving a superhero adventure series on his own.  So if Jason Rusch was our hero from the onset of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, I would definitely cast Glover.

If he wasn't, though, if Jason Rusch doesn't appear until the second movie, and then as a replacement for Stein, functioning more as a supporting character than lead, well, then Glover's talent and star power would best be served with a different character (and yes, I'll name that character at another time).  In that case, I'm going with my second choice, Luke Youngblood.

Youngblood is chameleonic in his ability to capture different characters on screen--and no character is more different than Magnitude on Community.  He's also a Brit, and I think letting him keep the accent would be cool way to further differentiate him from the All-American athlete Ronnie.

On the other hand, if our main character always was Jason (played by Donald Glover, remember) but written more like Ronnie, then his new partner in the Firestorm matrix would be his girlfriend.

Gehenna (Liu Yifei)

Okay, cards on the table, I don't know who this young woman is.  There are lots of other, perhaps more recognizable Chinese actresses, but most of them I'd already cast in other roles.  But Liu Yifei's imdb credits testify to her talent, and a google images search testifies to her sweet, wholesome beauty.

Now we have two options for Firestorm, each dynamic and interesting in its own way.  By the third act, a new Firestorm is born.

In the third act, Firestorm confronts Killer Frost again.  This time, with Jason (or Gehenna) providing some clutch insight into thermodynamics, Firestorm realizes that using fire and heat against Killer Frost only empowers her.  That cold is actually her enemy.  Firestorm uses his powers to lower the temperature somehow/somewhere and Killer Frost is shut down.

Ronnie, of course, wants to kill her to avenge Professor Stein, but Jason talks him out of it.  Killer Frost is immobilized and taken into government custody.  Ronnie and Jason (or Jason and Gehenna) mourn Stein's passing, but move on as a newer, stronger version of the hero, Firestorm.

That's the second movie, in a nutshell.  The dignified, iconic Martin Stein dies to be replaced by a younger, more ethnic character, because that's what comics do.  Ronnie goes through an emotional crisis and emerges stronger, more mature, more grounded, and a better all-around hero.

But there are still Firestorm stories to be told…

Beyond the Sequel

I won't get into additional movie synopses, but here are the casting choices for some more villains and supporting players.

Black Bison/John Ravenhair (Adam Beach)

Probably the biggest actor of Native American descent in Hollywood at this time is Adam Beach.  I've seen him play a soldier a couple times, and he's always kind of a good, noble guy.  I would like to see him stretch that range, playing a good, noble guy that succumbs to his darkest urges for vengeance as Black Bison.  And Wes Studi could play his great-grandfather, Bison-Black-As-Midnight-Sky.

Plastique/Bette Sans Souci (Clemence Poesy)

Clemence Poesy was the French girl from the fourth Harry Potter movie that competed for the Goblet of Fire.  She's the one who wasn't Robert Pattinson.  Beyond that, she's beautiful and she's French.  What more could you ask for in the sexy, explosive terrorist known as Plastique?

Hyena/Summer Day (Hilary Duff)

A bit of stunt casting, and a bit of my own weird sense of humor--casting an attractive, highly visible star to play a monstrous inhuman character.  (You'll see more of these from me in future DC fan-casting posts, trust me!)  My first thought, when picking Hilary Duff to play Summer Day, the cursed were-hyena, was the darkly comic juxtaposition between her beauty and a snarling, hairy beast.  My second thought was, she could easily play the sister of Dianna Agron, already cast as Doreen Day.

Slipknot/Christopher Weiss (Marlon Brando)

After the Joker and Catwoman, Slipknot is probably DC's most recognized villain.  To really do justice to this character, you need a serious Hollywood star.  Marlon Brando's breakout performances in On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire prove he has the acting chops to make this character every bit as formidable on the screen as he appears on the comics page.

Firehawk/Lorraine Reilly (Caroline Dhavernas)

Firehawk could make for a cool sidekick or professional rival in a third or fourth Firestorm movie.  I knew I wanted to use Caroline Dhavernas in my DC Universe fan-casting after watching her in the TV series Hannibal.  I wasn't sure what character she worked for until I remembered Firehawk.  Dhavernas still has youth and beauty, but she can also play stately and more mature, two valuable characteristics for someone like Lorraine Reilly.

There you have my fan-casted outline for two Firestorm movies.  I hope you enjoyed them almost as much as I hope Warner Bros. makes them.  My fan-casted Justice League trilogy will pickup again in a week or so.  See you then!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fan-Casting DC's FIRESTORM: Part 4

Click here to review part 3.

In the previous post, I outlined my vision for Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, the first movie in a film franchise based on the DC Comics superhero, Firestorm.  Inspired by the first couple Firestorm comics by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom, and borrowing heavily from the origin tropes utilized in Spider-Man and Iron Man, the movie finds college football star Ronnie Raymond fused with the mind of the brilliant physicist Martin Stein and gifted with amazing powers to transmute matter.

Additional powers include: flight, fire hair, puffy sleeves.

So, you ask, what are you going to do for an encore?

Relax, I shout, I'm getting to it!

Who's Who?

As I detailed last post, there are two options for the protagonist.  The star could be Ronnie Raymond, played by Reid Ewing.

If so, his father is Edward Raymond, played by Tony Goldwyn

…and his girlfriend is Doreen Day, played by Dianna Agron.

Or the star could be Jason Rusch played by Donald Glover.

If so, his father is Alvin Rusch played by LeVar Burton

…and his girlfriend is Gehenna played by Yifei Liu.

Either way, the hero of the first movie is written like Ronnie, and for most of this post I will refer to the lead character as Ronnie.

The Sequel

The second movie in the Firestorm movie franchise is called The Fury of Firestorm.  In typical sequel fashion, we witness an escalation in Firestorm's profile as well as the danger level.  The main villain strikes at the heart of the hero, leading to a profound and momentous character death.  The fallout of this death leads Firestorm down a path of anger and aggression.  When Firestorm at last confronts the murderous villain again, he must avenge his fallen friend without succumbing to darkness and losing himself in vengeance.

In the beginning of the movie, we find that some time has passed--a couple months to a year.  Ronnie is still in college, preparing for another football season.  Professor Martin Stein (David Strathairn) hasn't fared so well.  The nuclear meltdown that created Firestorm and Multiplex in the first film has tainted his credibility.  He lost his teaching job at Hudson University.  His relationships are pretty strained.  Maybe he's started drinking.

The one thing Professor Stein has committed to is halting the proliferation of nuclear reactor devices based on his own notes and inventions.  When we first see Stein in the sequel, he has chartered (or stolen) a helicopter and taken it to an offshore oil refinery or ship called The Neptune Explorer.  There, a scientist is creating a nuclear powered bathysphere for deep sea observation/exploration.  Stein tries to stop the experiment, and in the process, a research technician named David Drake is caught in the bathysphere when it sorta/kinda explodes and is transformed into Typhoon.

Typhoon/David Drake (Clifton Collins, Jr.)

Clifton Collins, Jr. plays a great thuggish bad guy, and that's what I was looking for in Typhoon.  Once given his incredible powers to control winds and rain and effectively become a giant storm, the actor's performance would be a lot of motion capture for CGI.  I also thought his ethnicity would bring a new, different intensity to the character.

So Typhoon emerges, literally mad with power and ready to destroy the oil rig/ship and everyone onboard.  Stein summons Ronnie (somehow), which comes at an inopportune time for the young man.  Maybe he's about to score in practice, or maybe he's about to score with Doreen.  Either way, he is transferred to the site the bathysphere meltdown and merges with Stein to become Firestorm!

Firestorm fights Typhoon over the water and has to stop the raging storm from devastating a coastal city.  Of course, thanks to Stein's brilliance, they come up with the saving formula to stop Typhoon.

This is all in the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the movie.  Typhoon is not our main villain; this intro is just an excuse to showcase another super villain with a power he haven't really seen before.  After that, we see more of the state of Ronnie and Stein's relationship.  Ronnie actually feels smothered by the older man, who wants to use the powers to fix his own mistakes, while Ronnie wants to enjoy his normal life.

Things between Ronnie and Stein begin to sour and they get into a fight.  At the same time, an old friend walks back into Stein's life.  Doctor Crystal Frost * was a student and research assistant of Stein's, and they were lovers at one time, before she went to Antarctica to study cold energy.  Crystal wants Stein's help in creating a lab at Hudson University where she can experiment on thermafrost.  Stein, at first, wants nothing to do with it, but she convinces him.  She wants to resume their former romance, but he rebukes her advances.

He helps her build the thermafrost lab, but something in the experiment goes wrong and the cold energy affects Crystal on a subatomic level, transforming her into the nightmarish Killer Frost.

Killer Frost/Crystal Frost (Mena Suvari)

For the part of Killer Frost, I wanted an actress who is beautiful, sexy, and young-but-not-too-young.  She shouldn't look like a college student, but she should be desirable to both Stein and Ronnie.  Mena Suvari has a history of enticing an older man in American Beauty, and I think there's a psycho chick in her waiting to get out.

Frost survives the accident and is put in a containment chamber where her new physiology can be studied.  Ronnie and Stein fight over the professor's culpability in the accident and say some harsh words to each other.  While Ronnie and Stein are basically breaking up with each other, Frost awakens and busts out of her containment field.

To live, she must now drawn heat into her body, which causes everything around her to freeze.  She kills the other doctors, kills the security guards that come after her.  Ronnie and Stein temporarily table their fight and become Firestorm so they can stop Killer Frost.

Their first fight with her goes horribly, tragically wrong.  They throw every energy blast and matter trick they can think of but they cannot stop her.  Killer Frost uses her power back at them, reducing the temperature so much that Ronnie begins to lose consciousness.  Killer Frost forces them to separate, and Ronnie and Stein fall to the floor as individuals.  Ronnie is out cold (pun!) and Stein staggers in a kind of daze.

Frost captures Stein in ice.  She's a little nuts, a little jilted ex-lover, and she blames him for her present condition, even though she begged him to make the thermafrost lab in the first place.  Killer Frost kisses Martin Stein, drawing all of his body heat into her, killing him.

Yeah.  Killer Frost kills Professor Stein.

* Crystal Frost is a ridiculous name that could only exist in comics.  The second Killer Frost was named Louise Lincoln, and maybe this one needs a name like that so it's not so distracting.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fan-Casting DC's FIRESTORM: Part 3

Click here to review part 2.

Last time, I posted my choices for the characters who combine to make the hero Firestorm.  Casting the protagonist comes down to one question: black or white.

No undertones were harmed in this picture.

I've cast Reid Ewing as Ronnie Raymond for the classic Firestorm, or Donald Glover as Jason Rusch for the newer Firestorm.  Whichever direction we go, the hero for the first movie will be treated like the stud athlete Ronnie.

What other superhero has the awesome power
of Hula Hoops?
The Origin Movie

The first movie is called Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, and it would follow a pretty standard superhero origin structure as near-perfected by Marvel Studios with their movies.  Obviously, it would also borrow heavily from Firestorm's first comic appearances (pictured: right), which deftly introduced all the principal characters who would appear in this first movie.

Firestorm's origin was conceived as an homage to Spider-Man, so much of the character and thematic beats of the movie would mirror Spider-Man's.  But in order to give the movie a little distance from the Wall-Crawler's origin, which has been told twice in the last decade, I would make a few minor adjustments.

First, I would age the protagonist (Ronnie or Jason: I'll call him Ronnie) a couple years.  Instead of captaining his high school football team, Ronnie is a college football star at Hudson University.  That way, we have a more natural explanation for how Ronnie meets Professor Stein (David Strathairn) and gets caught in a nuclear blast.  We want to avoid repeating the Peter Parker destiny of getting irradiated during the worst supervised school field trip ever.

So in the beginning of the story, Ronnie is a cocky football star, maybe a Heisman Trophy candidate.  He's big man on campus, and he's got a terrific girlfriend.

Doreen Day (Dianna Agron)

Dianna Agron has the look, the age, and she can act the part.  I didn't think long about this one; I didn't have to.  Doreen isn't a big or complicated part, but she can be a source of conflict for Ronnie.  Unlike her depiction in the comics, which was kind of a nag, Doreen in this movie is supportive to a point.  Maybe she's Ronnie's physics tutor, too, so he can stay eligible for the team.

Did I say physics tutor?  Oh, that's right, because Ronnie is enrolled in the course taught by Professor Martin Stein, who is teaching for a year while he works with the university to create a fancy sci-fi fusion/fission reactor thingamajig.

At some point early on, Ronnie gets in trouble and faces disciplinary action by the university.  Ronnie gets lured into a fight with Cliff Carmichael, a young genius and pompous teacher's pet.

Cliff Carmichael (Charlie McDermott)

Again, this casting decision was based on age and appearance more than anything.  I haven't seen any of Charlie McDermott's movies because I don't see a lot of movies anymore, especially those with younger casts.  But hey, I'm sure he could do it, and the point of Carmichael at all is to lay seeds for his future as a villain far down the line.

Anyway, we see that Cliff Carmichael clearly instigates the fight, calling Ronnie a dumb jock and such, maybe even antagonizing Doreen.  Ronnie is simply defending himself and his girlfriend, but with the media scrutiny on him, any trouble is big trouble.  Ronnie's stern father, Edward Raymond, meets with the University to resolve the issue without getting his son kicked out of school or off the football team.

Edward Raymond (Tony Goldwyn)

Really, where's Tony Goldwyn been for a decade?  This guy was all over the place in the '80s and '90s, and he always played kind of a douche.  I guess he ran out of those roles because he's been directing TV for a while now.  I think he could easily play an unforgiving father who is thoroughly unimpressed by his son's superstar status, but goes to bat for him with the university to protect his own image more than anything.

Though his Heisman Trophy contention takes a hit, Ronnie's college career is saved with the condition that he performs some kind of work study or community service activity, and that puts him in Professor Stein's lab.  (It would make sense that Carmichael was working/interning for Stein; maybe Ronnie has to replace Carmichael.)

Now Ronnie has a working relationship with Stein and we witness a bond being formed despite their contradictory natures.  Or… they could hate each other.  More conflict makes for better story, so either way works.  Through Ronnie or Stein, we meet the professor's lab assistant, the unscrupulous Danton Black.

Multiplex/Danton Black (Simon Woods)

I really enjoyed Simon Woods' time on HBO's Rome.  He played a conniving, sleazy little bastard very well, and I think he could inject that same kind of energy into the film's villain, Danton Black.

Fast-forwarding a bit, eventually we discover Danton Black's treachery.  He's been stealing the secrets of Professor Stein's reactor to sell them.  Stein discovers this one fateful night and the two men fight in the lab and the reactor is damaged.  It goes critical.  Ronnie happens to be there, maybe working, or maybe coming back to apologize to Stein for doing something stupid.  There could be other people around, people who need to be evacuated, but Ronnie does the one selfless thing and rushes back to get Stein (or Black) out of the blast zone.

Of course, he fails, or this would be a very different kind of movie.

The fusion effect bonds Ronnie and Professor Stein, merging their bodies into one nuclear powered being, driven by Ronnie with Stein riding shotgun.  The powers of Firestorm include the ability to transmute matter to different states and forms.  Getting diamonds out of coal is as simple as recalling the chemical compositions of the desired element.  An iron cage can become jello with the snap of his fingers.  This power is limited, however, to inorganic matter.  He cannot point to a bank robber, for instance, and instantly change the man into solid stone.  Nor can he turn his fists into titanium when punching a bad guy.

His other powers include flight, a somewhat enhanced degree of strength and invulnerability, and the power to unleash bolts of fiery energy.  Plus: fire hair!

The merging of of Ronnie and Professor Stein is not permanent.  With great mental effort, they separate so as to return to their individual lives.  But when some kind of danger arises, Ronnie or Stein can reignite the Firestorm matrix by will, telepathically siphoning the other into their combined form.  (The rules for this back-and-forth transformation will have to be clearly defined for the audience.  Questions about their proximity to each other and who controls what are bound to arise.  Some changes from the original source material will probably have to be changed here.)

The second act of the movie is the Learning Curve.  We watch Ronnie and Stein learn to grapple with this thing they inadvertently created.  Playing with their powers.  Getting creative.  Lots of opportunity for humor, and naturally some kind of montage set to popular music.  Along the way, we'll raise and answer questions about our characters.  How does Ronnie feel about being part of Firestorm?  Would he enjoy the power?  Would he want to be a high-flying superhero that protects people?  Or would he feel shackled by the responsibility?  Would he chafe under Professor Stein's constant judgement?  How would this affect his romance with Doreen and how would it affect his status on the football team?

How does Martin Stein feel about this?  Guilty?  Proud?  Terrified?  Would he feel compelled to use this power for the benefit of all mankind when it actually involves risk to his own life?  Can he trust Ronnie to follow his advice and do what's right?  Or is this power too dangerous to ever be used by even a learned man such as himself, let alone an irresponsible college kid?

Meanwhile, as our hero(es) take their appropriate steps forward and back, we witness the rise of Firestorm's first true villain.  Danton Black was also caught in the nuclear blast.  While Ronnie and the professor were fused together, Danton was stricken by the machine's fission effect.  His body was split into a bazillion identical atoms, with his consciousness spread out among them all.  He pulls himself back together, rebuilding his physical structure, but as he does so, he discovers that he now has the ability to replicate himself and control each cloned body.  He was already backstabbing intellectual property thief, but the effect of splitting his mind over so many different bodies is enough to drive him crazy.  Thus, he becomes the villain known as Multiplex.

Naturally, in the third act of the film Ronnie and Professor Stein must set aside any problems they have with either each other or the weight of being Firestorm so they can save the day.  Multiplex becomes a serious threat.  Maybe he's trying to reproduce the nuclear accident from Stein's notes, either to undo the effect or to replicate it on everyone in the city.  Whatever his mad scheme actually is, it puts Doreen Day in danger, if not the entire Hudson University campus.

Firestorm can't just blast Multiplex because his powers don't work on people, so he needs to get creative.  Maybe Professor Stein's voice is blocked, or he's somehow incapacitated, necessitating that Ronnie remember something he learned in school and applying it in a real life situation.

Whatever.  It doesn't really matter how it goes down, but Firestorm thwarts the evil scheme of Multiplex.  Danton Black is killed or captured or maybe duplicated into so many different clone bodies that he loses mass and becomes small, or his consciousness diminishes and each duplicate is nothing but a mindless, drooling vegetable.  (I also have this image in my mind of Ronnie or Firestorm coaxing his entire football team to rumble with a horde of Multiplex duplicates.  Seems silly, but I still kind of want to see something like that.  Go figure.)

By the end of the movie, all is relatively well.  Ronnie and Stein understand each other, respect each other, and appreciate each other.  Ronnie loses his Heisman, and maybe he loses his girl.  But he knows what is really important to him.  He'll keep playing football and keep going to school, but when the time arises, he will gladly become Firestorm, and step up to protect humankind from whatever evil threatens to destroy it.

Is this an original story?  No, but that's the point.  It doesn't have to be.  Beyond pilfering specific plot points and scenes from the first two issues of the Firestorm comic, it's a paint by numbers plot line for superhero origins.  It doesn't have to be revolutionary, it just has to be.  And it can be.  This movie can work, because it already has.

Warner Bros. and DC: go make Firestorm: The Nuclear Man a movie like I just did!

In the next installment, I'll breakdown the sequel and provide the cast for Firestorm's rogues gallery.