August 2009


By Zack Smith

Jake Black received a terrible diagnosis earlier this year that inspired the comics industry to come together to help him.  But as 2009 comes to a close, he’ll have several things to celebrate – the end to his treatment, and the release of several new projects bearing his name, including Ender’s Game: A War of Gifts from Marvel Comics.  Just announced at Fan Expo Canada 09’s Mondo Marvel panel, he’ll be adapting a story from Orson Scott Card’s popular Ender series. It’s a holiday tale of Battle School, and a student who learns the holiday spirit.  Black gave us an early look at the book, and an update to his situation.
Read the full interview here!


By Zack Smith

World War Hulk nearly tore the Marvel Universe apart…and that was when there was just one Hulk running around.  After an eventful year that has seen a Red Hulk, a new She-Hulk, and at least one Hulk-Spawn wandering around, it all comes together in December with the start of…wait for it…World War Hulks.

Guest blogger: Weird ’80s kids’ movies … and why we love them 

By Zack Smith (Zack)

Everyone remembers classic kids’ movies from the 1980s like E.T., or maybe something more eclectic like The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story or The Monster Squad.


An unforgettable, yet disturbing ’80s film: ‘The Peanut Butter Solution.’

But there are also those films that are just … weird. And I’m not just talking about how the original Transformers movie from 1986 included the voices of Orson Welles, Judd Nelson, Scatman Crothers, Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle (not to mention The Touch).


There are many films out there that only briefly played in theaters, but still enjoy a cult following from video, cable screenings or just the childhood trauma they inflicted on their viewers. Some are weird E.T. knockoffs, like Mac & Me, featuring deformed aliens who love McDonald’s (almost as much as Paul Rudd loves showing clips from this on talk shows). And some … some kind of defy description.

Everything from a Claymation Mark Twain to peanut-butter-loving ghosts coming up after the jump …

Catching Up: HULK SMASH Puny History

By Zack Smith

With World War Hulks almost upon us, we thought new or casual readers could use an explanation of what’s been up with the Hulk.  After all, the last few years have seen quite a number of transformations, setbacks, and sort-of children enter his life. 

Confused?  You won’t be after tonight’s episode of Soap…uh, we mean this simple primer.  Here’s 47 years of Hulk history made easy!  

Married Co-Creators Talks Marrying X-MEN & MANGA for Del Rey

By Zack Smith

Two of the most popular things in comics are manga and the X-Men. So why not put them together?

Once again, America – we give you what you want.

by Zack Smith

 Reprinted from the Independent Weekly

by Glen David Gold
Alfred A. Knopf, 559 pp.
Glen David Gold’s first novel, Carter Beats the Devil, was a marvelously over-the-top historical fiction that by the time you were finished with it, had educated you thoroughly in the workings of stage magicians, the Secret Service, the early years of television and much more.

By the end of Gold’s follow-up, Sunnyside, you will know quite a bit about Charlie Chaplin, British general Edmund Ironside, psychologist Hugo Münsterberg and a great deal of other things, not the least of which is the birth of the studio system. Even Rin Tin Tin shows up. If this sounds like a heady brew, you’re right.

Sunnyside starts with a real-life incident in 1916, where Chaplin was sighted in 800 places simultaneously, prompting mass hysteria. Chaplin himself figures as one of the three major narrative figures in the novel, the other two being Hugo Black, a soldier under Ironside’s command, and Leland Wheeler, who will wind up meeting a very unlikely movie star while servicing airplanes in France. And then there’s Sunnyside itself, one of Chaplin’s oddest films, whose filming contrasts with the actor’s complicated and tragic personal life.

This is, as you might have guessed, a bit overstuffed—the sequences with Hugo rank alongside the Antarctica bits in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay as one of the longer military digressions in a good historical novel—but Sunnyside, like Carter Beats the Devil, has a way of making you feel wiser for having read it.

At times, it’s difficult to tell where the truth ends and fiction begins, but the effect is like being caught up in the whirlwind of the early 20th century. You’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for the history of liberty loans, diamond cutting and Wild West shows. It’s a powerful look at both Chaplin the man and the power of cinema. Not only that, but you’ll pick up some nifty trivia that will come in handy at parties.

Reprinted from The Independent Weekly

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
Adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
IDW, 144 pp.
In the Indy‘s look at the best books from 2008, I named the University of Chicago Press’ reissues of Donald Westlake’s crime books that he wrote as Richard Stark as one of the best of the year; days after that review was published, Westlake passed away. But before his death, he approved cartoonist Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of his books, and the first release should only fuel his posthumous reputation.

Donald Westlake was known for his comic, witty thrillers; under the pen name of Stark, he scripted ruthless, pared-down tales of a professional thief known only as Parker. Cooke, a longtime Stark fan best known for his 1950s-themed DC Comics series The New Frontier, hasn’t so much adapted Stark’s prose as literally translated it into a visual format.

The Hunter, the first Parker tale, chronicles his ruthless path of vengeance after being left for dead by his wife and his partner. It’s been adapted into films, most notably John Boorman’s Point Blank and Brian Helgeland’s Payback, but none has completely captured Parker’s sheer ruthlessness. (Payback, which starred Mel Gibson, was notoriously recut to make the main character more sympathetic, though a director’s cut last year rectified that.) But Cooke retains Stark’s hard-boiled character, so much that this is the only adaptation where Westlake allowed the character to be called by his original name, as opposed to Point Blank‘s “Walker” or Payback‘s “Porter.”

Cooke’s take on The Hunter renders the tale in stark black-and-white with blue tones, contributing to the dreamlike atmosphere. His figures have the curves and squiggly features of animation, which add to the fluid action of the time-hopping tale. He lets the tale stay visual; the bravura opening sequence is reminiscent of the camera-as-POV from the 1947 film of Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake, only revealing Parker when he looks in the mirror.

The sequences showing the details of the heists are quickly condensed using prose; other sequences erupt into startling splash pages that enhance the unexpected violence. And Cooke doesn’t shy away from the scenes that portray Parker as a cold bastard; he’s equally violent toward women and men, and his moments of conscience are fleeting.

The Hunter might be the best adaptation of a crime novel into comics since David Mazzucchelli’s take on Paul Auster’s City of Glass. (Mazzucchelli also has new work out this summer with the superlative Asterios Polyp.) IDW currently plans to do at least four Cooke adaptations of Stark, and the University of Chicago Press is approaching the halfway mark on its Stark reprints. There couldn’t be a better tribute to one of crime fiction’s grand masters.

Incidentally, Raleigh-based TwoMorrows Publishing has a Modern Masters collection of Cooke’s work coming out in late August; preorders are available at

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