Comic Con Express – Bengaluru - 2012

Another year and another Express Event from Comic Con India. Our Pre-show coverage of the event in the Garden City.

Comic Con India – New Delhi - 2011

Get to know, more about India's first ever Comic-Con, how does it rate among the rest.

Chennai Book Fair - 2011

We catch up with the Annual Chennai Book Fair, and see what it has to offer for Comic fans.

Lion Comics Jumbo Special - XIII Collector's Edition

An inside look into a collection, touted as the biggest Comic Book released in India

Feb 2, 2009

Thigil Comics #56 – The Thirteenth Floor | 1992

Thanks to all the Comicologists, who loved our special Republic Day post last week, covering Indian based comic characters from the stable of Tinkle.  I enjoyed every comment registered in the post, and my replies for the same could be found at the end of the post. To say the least, Jan 2009 was the best month for Comicology, second only to Aug 2007, when I started blogging regularly. It meant, that I had to sacrifice a lot of family ties in blogging about our passion through the month, which I am not planning to do so regularly.

But the number of visits and comments recorded last month, shows that the Comicologists are always appreciative on the effort put-forth, which makes me feel fulfilled. Thanks to all the passionate followers who choose to leave their relative and meaningful comment, to record their presence at Comicology. You are my source, keep me afloat.

Thigil Logo Moving on to this week, it is another attempt to rekindle the old memories, by bringing up erstwhile Tamil Comic series from the stable of Prakash Publishers (known for the long running Tamil Comics Lion & Muthu, in South India), Thigil Comics (திகில் காமிக்ஸ்).  It was the brainchild of Editor S.Vijayan, who originally intended it as a medium to publish Horror, and Creepy series (famous in the 80’s British Genre), targeted for mature audience. 

The Tamil series was introduced in the late 80’s, and it ran for a total of 60 issues, stretching till 1993.  Apart from the British Genre, it also touched based on the famed Franco-Belgian Genre, in the process introducing some famous comics characters to Tamil Comics fans like, Ric Hochet (as Reporter Johny), Batman, Bernard Prince, and XIII.

Even though, the series was more heavy on Thriller genre during its later run, the initial issues were full of Horror stories, and I should admit that I was at times scared to collect these issues in tender age, fearing the elders irate at home.  I managed to sneak some issues here and there, heavily during its last run, so I obviously missed out on many of these collectible issues.  Going by which, our first review of Thigil at Comicology, will be the creepy series ‘The Thirteenth Floor’, issued during its end-run.

13th-floorcover The Thirteenth Floor, was originally published in the British Horror Comics Scream! from Mar ‘84.  Unlike other comic characters which are largely in human form, the plot-hero of 13th Floor, is an indigenous Computer (Artificial Intelligence, AI, for computer geeks) named Max, which was deputed in the Maxwell Towers, to look after the residents of the tower block.  His Mainframe was located in the penthouse of the Towers, with an adjacent flat where its controller Jerry Knight resides.

As it is a common practice in high-rising buildings, Maxwell Towers also does not have a 13th floor (which is just numbered 14, after 12th), due to the superstition associated with the number 13.  But unknowingly to its controller Knight, Max had the ability to create a virtual reality in the form of Thirteenth Floor where he could lure anyone who threatened the good of his residents. 

Most of the times these troublesome goons are caught when they use the elevator, where Max creates a series of illusions mostly through hypnotism, bringing the innermost fears of those who are tested. 

While its intentions are mostly to correct the corrupt individual, there were instances when the mental tension, leads to forced heart-attacks resulting even in death.

Max IllusionMax defecting the Wrong-Doers with its Illusional 13th Floor

This often puts Max in question, with the local police finding it hard to disassociate the list of co-incidental deaths, with the crime scene often in and around Maxwell Tower’s Lift. To avoid such incidents, Max had hypnotically controlled an inmate named Bert, to do his works like moving people from lifts, or in some cases bringing some forcefully to it.  The entire series is told from the first person account, with Max being the narrator himself.  Despite its scary nature, 13th floor was indeed a fun strip, where there is no stopping to the imagination laced with humour all along, which made this one of the famous series ever published in Scream.  The series was continued in Eagle magazine, after Scream was acquired by them. 

There were a total of 15 episodes of 13th Floor, with each episodes spanning around 4 pages (A4 Size), with the end of an episode typically being carried over as the start of the next episode, thus keeping the users intrigued by following them passionately every week in Scream Magazine.  The Scream series is now a collector’s edition, drawing a high premium price at eBay.  I have a tendency to get a cold feet being in auctions, so it’s clearly not my forte.

Now let’s look at our Indian debut of Max, in Thigil Comics.

Thigil #56: Marma Mandalam (மர்ம மண்டலம்) – Jun ‘92 – INR 3 – Size: B6 – Pages: 68 – B/W – SoftCover

Thigil 56 c1Front Cover of Marma Mandalam

Max was officially unveiled to the Tamil Comics fans with Thigil issue #56, titled Marma Mandalam, which carried 9 of the original 15 episodes of The Thirteenth Floor series from Scream.

The series was largely edited panel by panel to fit it into the B6 size of Thigil, as the original was of an A4 Size.  Due to which, an episode which ran only 4 pages in its original form, was actually reproduced in 8 different pages, in Thigil.  Editor should be commended for his work on maintaining the story tempo, even after the heavy work which he had to do for restricting the content in a budgetary size (obviously since B6 was the most commercially successful size, due to the lessons learnt from Lion Comics' past success).

The initial pages introduces Max, as an obedient maintenance computer of the residential towers, as narrated in his own words.

His first act in protecting its inmates is shown when he steps in to protect a new tenant from the evil hands of Money Launderer.

He is eventually lured into the illusional 13th floor, where Max plays his own money game with him, in a Computer game of Maze, where he considers himself physically partaking as.  The emotional trauma, which the guy truly deserves, causes a seizure resulting in his death.  Editor’s remarkable translation is shown where he has replaced the texts from the original, with meaningful sentences, in line with the target language.  Look at the two scenes, to see the power of Mr.Vijayan’s translation, when compared to the original text.

Max expressing his love towards TenantsMax expressing his love towards Tenants

Scene 1: Mom says to the kid - “I’ll bet it can’t get you to wash behind your Ears”, while approaching the new building, jokingly points out that the powerful Max can’t do all the work.

Scene 2: The Computer Screen which displays - “Debt Collector” in the Original

The result is right in front of you to take the judgement.

Moms Fun with Kid Scene 1: Moms Fun with Kid Debt Collector in Tamil Scene 2: Debt Collector in Tamil

The other stories which could be found in this Thigil extravaganza,

  • Max confronts two road goons, who arrive chasing a inmate kid of Max Towers;
  • Max Teaches lesson to a troublesome paint can kid, for which he utilises the help of his hypnotized inmate Bret to bring the kid into the elevator;
    (The Cover art seems to have been drawn from one of the scenes in this story where the kid takes a nose-dive into the streets from the Maxell Towers, obviously in his mind not physically. As much, we agree to believe on that aspect, incredibly stunning artwork, implies otherwise. For the original, refer to end of the post)
  • Max decides to punish an arrogant Bailiff, sweetly translated in Tamil as Ameena (அமீனா), who tries to snap the livelihood of an aged couple.  The illusional punishment, he goes through in line with his profession, is a top-pick.
  • Finally, Max punishing an inmate family, which turns out to be a dacoit group.  The climax was little way too-much with brothers killing each other, but don’t say they that ‘What goes around, comes around’.

Again look at what the Trouble Kid is drawing on the outer walls of Maxwell Towers.  The original text was “Cheezy Was Here”, which finds it Tamil form as “சின்ன தம்பி வாழ்க”.  Mr.Vijayan at his best. A lesson to be learnt for the others who think that mere translation of text is enough to get a comics to the target market (as witnessed by the “Junoon-Tamil” used extensively in erstwhile Indrajal Comics Tamil version).

Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 14, 6, 7, 4, 5, of the original episodes finds there place in this issue, in the listed order, due to Editors scissor work (or should we say Computer provess, as in modern way of editing).  Editor has also ensured that he takes out the panels from the original content in these episodes where a Police sergeant suspects Max’s involvement in all the incidents and probes it further, before getting fooled by the computer to think otherwise.

Bret HypnotizedThe Trouble-Kid with Paint Can
& Bret being Hypnotized by Max

Obviously, Editor would have had hard time editing this particular scenario, which was lazed inside 3 of those episodes, so he promptly cut them away to present the 9 episodes in a little jumbled order. But, a first time reader would not notice this editing work, as the story flows superbly right till the end.

Look at one of the end scenes, as it is typical in many episode’s end notes with Police arriving at the scene, and finding the laid bodies of mischief makes often in the lift.  Isn’t it typical like in our movies, where they arrive always at the end.

The Thirteenth Floor, was written by Ian Holland, which surprisingly is a pseudonym for not one but two writers, who worked on it in unison – Alan Grant and John Wagner, who are both known for their thriller works on 2000 AD Series.  The artist for the series was José Ortiz.

Since the size of the post has grown too big, let’s look at the Bio of these “Three Amigos” in our next Thirteenth Floor Comic post at Comicology (Oops, did I leak out a suspense in here?)

Police arrives at ScenePolice arrives at Scene, in the last story of the issue

This Max instalment of Thigil ends with Max re-iterating its stand that he only does these things, to protect its inmates, and to teach the guilty of their sin.  He agrees that there may be some unexpected deaths, but it was clearly not its intention.

Editor further, makes us all in waiting by announcing that there will be another instalment of Thirteenth Floor with Max returning for a different issue of Thigil very soon.  The message from Max also secretly indicates Editors note, saying “If possible, we will meet again”, which is not a text you find in the original version of the same.  Clearly, Editor knows how to add his charm in every bit of piece throughout an issue.

By now, you would have all understood that that eventual issue would be our next Thigil Comics review post soon at Comicology.

End Scene with PoliceThe End Scene with Editor claiming “More of Max”

Supplement StorySupplement Story: Doomcrest Palace and its mysterious inmates

That is not all, as typical to many Thigil issues, we also have a 8 page feature of Doomcrest Palace inmates receiving an audience from another wanderer who tries to impress the Master Hugo of the Palace, with his real-life story, for a bounty.  Does he succeed in that? you can find out by reading the story from Thigil #56.

By the way, could anyone help me by giving a reference to the Original of this series, which is often featured in the Thigil issues? Pls. mail or add your comment, if you do. 

Twilight Zone Dell No-43Overall it’s an issue, which certainly deserves its place in your collection, if you are a Tamil Comics fan, with a different taste.  Looking at the relative recent past this issue was released, I hope everyone do have this already in your cherished possession.  The English Originals can be found on BackfromDepths weblog, if you want to check out.  I initially refrained from providing this link at Comicology, as it may be against the copyright of the said content.  Anyways, we are only providing a link to another site, so there is no harm done.  So enjoy while the content lasts over there.

Before I close here is the a cover from Dell’s 1972 issue, which was the inspiration for this Thigil Comics venture. Mr. Vijayan does have the passion to link up cover arts from different genres to be based on the storyline. All Kudos to him.

And that brings us to the close of this first ever Thigil review at Comicology.  Hopefully, you would have found it useful and fun reading, just like I felt while working on it.  If so, why not leave your comments to let others know, for which you could use the Comment section below.

Wish you all a Happy Week ahead.  Have Fun & nJoY, while I will be back with another post shortly (about which you would have already had a Preview on the Updated Sidebar). Adios Amigos !.

Jan 25, 2009

Tinkle – Kalia | Suppandi | Shikari Shambu | 2007

ACK Media | Price: INR 80 | Color | Pages: 72 | Size: B5 | HardCover

I hope everyone are enjoying another weekend with nears and dears, and to those in India, who are enjoying another long weekend, on account of Indian Republic Day, which falls on Jan-26.  In keeping up with the spirit of India, here is an Indian Authentic Special Comics Post.

Tinkle LogoIf you had spent your childhood in India and in 80’s and early 90’s, then you are sure to get an euphoria of sensation when you hear the name of “Tinkle”.  Tinkle, is a Monthly Children's Comics Magazine, which was originally founded by Dr.Anant Pai in 1980, with the help of media-mogul India Book House (IBH), has had a continuous run spanning more than 600 issues, till date.

Dr. Anant Pai / Uncle PaiDr.Anant Pai, who is fondly called as Uncle Pai, was a known figure in children's magazines, with his already well established Amar Chitra Katha (ACK, founded 1967), and the brand Tinkle only made him more famous among masses.

The idea behind starting a comic book series devoted to Indian culture and history came to Pai from a quiz contest aired on Doordarshan in February 1967, in which participants could easily answer questions pertaining to Greek mythology, but were unable to reply to the question "In the Ramayana, who was Rama's mother?"

He left his job at Times of India, and started ACK the same year, with the help of late G.L.Mirchandani of IBH, (who also took charge as the CMD of Tinkle late when it was formed), when most other publishers had rejected the concept. Later, he took on the role of writer, editor and publisher. The series went on to become a publishing milestone for the Indian comic book scene, selling over 90 million copies of about 440 titles (as per last count till the end of 2008).

Tinkle No-1 On the other hand, Tinkle was an instant success with a circulation of 140,000 copies in India, at its peek, by which the comic book Tinkle has managed to capture the imagination of children since 1980s. Eventhough, it is now published mostly in English, but at the times of its popularity, it had its presence in many Indian languages.  The 500th issue of Tinkle was released on Apr 18, 2004, with a grand function.

In 2007, Tinkle released 3 Collector’s Specials featuring 3 of their flagship characters, Kalia, Suppandi, and Shikari Shambu.  I noticed this set on newsstands when they were reprinted early 2008, and grabbed them first-up.  This special post, is to highlight the history of these Indian Genre characters, while introducing readers to this new collectibles.

#1: The Adventures of Kalia“The Saviour of Big Baan”

Tinkle’s Collectors Special : KaliaThe first Tinkle Special, collects some of the favourite stories of Kalia, the Crow, which is considered a flagship character of Tinkle magazine.

Kalia, the Crow made its first appearance in a comic in the first ever Tinkle issue on Dec ‘80.  Luis Fernandes, the current Editor of Tinkle magazine, and an integral member of the Tinkle creative team, originally proposed this idea, amidst mixed reactions from his fellow colleagues, because of the sheer reason that Indian customs often consider Crow as inauspicious. 

But, Anant Pai, along with another colleague, Subba Rao supported Fernandes in his idea, which motivated him to utilise the help of artist Pradeep Sathe to give his idea some form.  The duo went on to create other support characters like Doob Doob, the Crocodile; Chamataka, the Jackal; and Keechu-Meechu, the Rabbits.

Sathe believed that the cartoonisation of an animal should not result in distortion of the animal’s anatomy, which made his drawings less cute. Eventually it turned out to be an USP for the series, contributing to its stardom.

An Intro about KaliaKalia’s storyline are typically depicted as him saving his friends (and even strangers, sometimes) like Keechu-Meechu, Elephants, from the claws of the carnivorous Doob Doob and Chamataka.  While the majority of the fans felt this as a heroic act, there were some fan base who rated Kalia as interfering busybody, snatching away food from the animals, for whom the nature had intended them as a rightful prey. 

The justification for this criticism, was soon felt by Fernandes, and he quickly tried to base the new storylines in a different setting, where in some stories Kalia was even shown helping, and rescuing Doob-Doob and Chamataka from several incidents.  Sathe resigned from Tinkle in late 1983, and he never drew for Kalia again.  Fernandes continued writing stories for a few months, after which new writers and artists kept the flag flying high, which has resulted in the Kalia series lasting till date, completing 28 years of existence, as of Dec ‘08.

C D Rane, the current artists of Kalia, adds “I’ve been illustrating this character since 1992, when Kalia’s creator Pradeep Sathe left for another job. When I first started drawing Kalia, I kept to the original construction and the way in which he had been formed. After noticing crows, I’ve made Kalia’s beak and wings longer and if I had to draw him in a crowd, I’d make him different by putting expressions on his face.”

But, the debate of Kalia’s existence is still a hot topic, which recently prompted a group of fans, to create an exclusive website which features a web-comic relating to the Death of Kalia.  More than the humour associated to it, it goes to show that Kalia has made an impact in many children's memories, which they carry over even after their teens, and try to impart it to their kids, and so on.

Tamil Comic fans, will remember that Kalia used to be a regular feature in the erstwhile Tamil Children's Magazine Poonthalir (பூந்தளிர்), where it was named as Kaakai Kaali (காக்கை காளி).  No wonder it continues to remain one of my favourite comic characters ever to have been released in India.  Thus, this Special collection turns out to be a favourite pick for anyone who shared the same passion.

Poonthalir Kalia 01 copyKalia in Poonthalir as Kaakai Kaali

#2: The Adventures of Suppandi - “The Village Simpleton”

Tinkle’s Collectors Special : SuppandiThe second Tinkle Special, collects some of the favourite stories of Suppandi, the village simpleton, which is considered the most famous among the lot offered by Tinkle. 

Suppandi made his debut in Tinkle No.27 in Jan ‘83.  For a change, he was not originally conceptualized by the creators of Tinkle.  He was born out of 3 narrative stories sent by P.Varadarajan from Chennai (makes me proud, as I a Chennaite too).  The concept was rendered into comics format in Tinkle studios, with the illustrations by one of the famous yesteryear artists, Ram Waeerkar. 

Even though, stories of dim-wits, always had an universal appeal, Suppandi fans would not describe him as a fool.  He is more a simpleton, who gets into troubles because he insists on thinking for himself, then being dictated by the orders of his master.

Best example, is in the very first story, where his mistress wants him to call a doctor as she has a fever, but instead of following orders as any other domestic help would, he gets a brainwave and decides to treat her himself.  The consequences of course are, as expected, disastrous.

An Intro about SuppandiNo wonder, Suppandi was an instant success with Tinkle readers, as they were able to relate him to every day common man found in their locality (no pun intended).  Readers were amused and Tinkle’s editor Fernandes states that they started receiving a lot of story contributions from Suppandi fans, and the editors realised that the simpleton with the funny, rectangular head, had come to stay.  Suppandi is loved across genre, by children's, teens, and adults. 

Ram Waeerkar carried on drawing for Suppandi till the early 2003, after which it is now being taken care by the talented Ram Waeerkar’s daughter, Archana Amberkar.

Archana adds

“I’ve given my identity to the character, though it’s a challenge to continue my father’s work. I’ve given him a squarish head and rectangular chin; also the parts I like to draw best.” 

The popularity of Suppandi even prompted Tinkle, to introduce an offshoot comic series based on Suppandi’s early life, titled as “Little Suppandi”.

Tamil Comic fans, will remember that Suppandi was also featured in the erstwhile Tamil Children's Magazine Poonthalir (பூந்தளிர்), where the comic strip was titled as “Suppaandiyin Saagasam” (சுப்பாண்டியின் சாகசம்), which literally translates to the current title of Tinkle Special.  Need I have to say that this is my favourite character too, as it goes without saying from the narration above.

Poonthalir Suppandi 01 copy Suppandi in Poonthalir as Suppaandiyin Saagasam

#3: The Adventures of Shikari Shambu: - “The Hunter with a difference”

Tinkle’s Collectors Special : Shikari ShambuBy 1983, Tinkle was already on its way becoming the most popular children’s magazine.  There biggest rival that time was another children magazine named Target, run by Living Media.  Unlike Tinkle, Target was more a narrative magazine, with a few pages of comics. 

Their flagship character that time was Moochwala by Ajit Ninan, which literally means a ‘man with a moustache’, who was a detective with penetrating eyes and a huge moustache.

Tinkle always wanted to create a character which can stand toe-to-toe against Moochwala.  Subba Rao, one of the creators at Tinkle, once proposed the idea to the editorial team, to base a character in similarity to a character in the then famous TV Serial, I Love Lucy (which seems to be more classical for my genre’s liking), where he was described as a boastful but cowardly big game hunter.

Luis Fernandes then worked on producing the first story, which was originally named Shambu, before Subba Rao prefixed Shikari (meaning Hunter, in Hindi) to the name.  Some of his editorial team-mates had reservation over the use of the name Shikari, as the Wild-Life Conservation theme was in its prominence. But, the sheer charisma of the name, they and Edtor Pai, decided to let it continue.  But, contrary to the name, the creators ensured that Shambu never would shoot or kill any animal in any of its episodes.  More than that, creators slowly even disassociated him from his trademark hunting gun, after few episodes.

An Intro about ShambuOne of the reasons for the popularity of Shikari Shambu, was due to the comical illustrations of the artist, Vasant Halbe.  Halbe, who was a freelancer at Tinkle that time, had impressed the editorial team with his earlier works. One he was confirmed officially as the artist for the series, he showcased his character sketches, of which a drawing of Shikari with his Topi (hat) pulled down over his eyes, caught everyone’s attention.  The sketch went on to be the among the flagship character of Tinkle.

Savio Mascarenhas, the current artist of the series, adds “I began illustrating Shambu only when Halbe retired in 1997-98. His style was brush/free hand drawings that flowed and it was tough to copy that. But I think both our styles have blended beautifully.”

Like Suppaandi, Shambu also has an offshoot series featuring his young life, titled ‘Little Shambu’, who was created and being drawn also by Mascrenhas.  Till date the creators have managed to hide the eyes of the famous hunter from public viewing.  A legacy it shares with the Lee Falk’s Phantom, where his pupils are seldom shown to fans.

Tamil Comic fans, will also remember that Shikari Shambu was a regular feature in the erstwhile Tamil Children's Magazine Poonthalir (பூந்தளிர்), where the comic strip was titled as “Vettaikkaara Vembu” (வேட்டைக்கார வேம்பு).  I especially liked the way Shambu is made to run for his life, often fearing for his wife’s beating at home.  Many believe that Shambu is fearless, but only his wife knows what he is really “capable of”.

Poonthalir Shambu 01 copy Shambu in Poonthalir as Vettaikkaara Vembu

Dr.Pai adds “Amar Chitra Katha had to wait for four years to achieve some measure of success. In the case of Tinkle the success was instantaneous, perhaps because it came piggy-back riding on Amar Chitra Katha.  The 40,000 initial book prints sold out, and new orders started pouring in from dealers. When I conveyed this news to Mirchandani, he was so moved that for the first time I saw tears glistening in his eyes.  I have also often been asked questions about the title of the magazine. I remember Subba Rao, my associate editor, and I were pondering over various possible alternatives. When one of the staff members said there was a tinkle (meaning a telephone call) for me. Subba Rao said, ‘What about Tinkle as the title for the magazine?’ That is how it came to be Tinkle.”

On Nov 2007, ACK media announced the acquisition of a popular Indian comic book brand Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle for $2.5 million and is reportedly planning to invest $15-20 million in the next 3 years, in digitizing characters like Suppandi, Shikari Shambu, in the form of TV or direct to home DVDs, as conveyed by Samir Patil, founder & CEO, ACK Media.  Tinkle is eyeing the growing audience for children movies as Hanuman grossed a record $1.5 million - the highest-ever for the genre in India. Not just that, Tinkle comics will also foray into foreign bookstores in the US and UK to reach out to the large NRI audience in these markets.

Since the change in the ownership of Tinkle brand, the new company ACK-Media, has ensured that these collectors items never run out-of-stock, as they continue to do reprints, on a regular interval.  So, you can rest assured to pick these copies whenever you find time to visit your local bookstore, and if not, you can always order them online on ACK Media’s website.  No secret, that I am one of the frequent visitors to the online store.  All the stories contained in these specials are from the original writer and artist, and the cotemporary cover design, which adds a classic touch to the series, is designed by Arjun Gupte.

To turbo-charge you for the same, here is a sneak-peek into some of the first page of the first ever comic strips featuring the respective characters, found in these trio of collections.

Tinkle Kalia Collection First Story Page Tinkle Suppandi Collection First Story Page Tinkle Shambu Collection First Story Page

That completes our review of the Tinkle Collector Specials. If you liked this post, then I would be eager to hear your comments on the same, for which you could use the section below.  On the next Tinkle comic post at Comicology, we will look at the other famous characters which were missed out from these collector items from Tinkle, but certainly are no strangers in the popularity among comic fans.  Doesn’t that makes for an interesting wait ? Stay Tuned to know more.

And just for a reminder, the Voting for Best of 2008 is now complete, and the results are announced.  Please pay a visit to the blog post, to appreciate the winners in different categories, and commemorate the first-ever Comicology awards, which will be a regular year-end feature hence forth, probably with few more categories as we expander to a bigger level.  Thanks to all those who have voted and commented in the post already.

Before I close once again wish all the Indians spread across the globe, a Happy Republic Day.  Let’s wish that our nation goes stronger, and wiser, with the unique blend of tradition mixed with our own ethics.  Adios Amigos !!

References: Editorial Pages of Tinkle, Suppandi, and Shambu’s Collector Editions, Wikipedia, and Uncle Pai’s Website

Jan 17, 2009

2008 Comics/Animation Movies Round-Up – II

The recent post on Year End Movies Review Part 1 was well-received among Comicologists, where we chose to review only the movies which were based or inspired by Comics, coupled with the Animation, which is considered its sub-genre.  Thanks for all those who responded to the post, and my reply to the comments could be found at the end of the same.  If you haven’t read that post, then I strongly recommend you to read that before proceeding on with this instalment.

Let’s quickly wrap-up our second and concluding post to this 2008 Movies Round-Up.  Again, they are sequenced based on their their US release date.

HellBoy 2008HellBoy 2: The Golden Army (July 11, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 3.5/5 >>

Hellboy 2, is the sequel to 2004 film, which were both directed by Guillermo del Toro (who is known as the Three Amigos of famed Mexican line-up.  It is said that Ron Perlman, who is usually known for his negative roles, was the first-choice of the director and producer duo, right from the time the movie was originally conceptualized.  There is no doubt that their choice was a master-stroke, as the Hellboy character suits well to his huge size, which makes him more aligned to the character plot.  I didn’t like the first instalment of HellBoy film franchise (which was more an intro into Paranormal Research organization, and an overdose of Nazi desertions and mad scientists), but I should admit the 2nd version was one of the best creative work filled film.

hellboy2-elementalYou should see that to experience the thought Provoking Character Designs (Tooth Fairies, Abe Sapien, Krauss, Forest God, etc.), Costumes, Artwork, and finally the self-repairing Golden Army at the climax.  Particularly, The scene where Hellboy confronts the gigantic Forest God, and the resultant dialogues with evil Prince Nuada, while he contemplates ending the last one of its race, or be spectator to the massacre of innocent earthlings.  A touching scene to say the least.  (Thanks to fellow Comicologists ShankarV, Viswa and Josh for reminding me of this scene)

A total visual treat, and a little effort on the plot could have made wonders.  But then wasn’t this a comics fantasy movie, so that seems to be on the expected lines.  It is said that the movie plot was totally written anew, rather than relying on any comics storylines released so far.  That’s definitely a change from the 1st instalment.

I wonder what effort Perlman, would have gone through with the heavy masked layer on him, to depict the Hellboy’s demonic looks.  He seems to have been gung-ho about these characters with his past movies around on Beauty and Beast, Island of Dr.Moreu, which had similar heavy make-up for him.

The movie is intriguely set for final sequel of the Trilogy as originally planned by Del Toro, with the Hellboy’s love-mate expressing that they would be expecting twins.  I wonder how would they look like (Hell & Fire combination) in the 3rd instalment which is yet in discussions

Hellboy was a fictional comic character created by Mike Mignolio (who is also the co-writer of the movie franchise), which is one among the very few characters with a plot-work involving the dark concept of Hell. After being shunned out by the DC for the same reason, Mignolio launched it as a creator owned comics venture with Dark Horse. Wouldn’t he be considering it as a blessing in disguise, as it is now one of the very few comic based movie ventures not backed by the Big Two: DC & Marvel.  I was never a big fan of this comic series, now the movie franchise, has tempted me for the same.

I had to revisit my reviews for this movie, since my fellow Comicologists had requested this be considered in equals to one of the classic fantasy tales, and I must admit that my rating was little lesser to the quality which was in offer.  Hence the new update in the review and further ratings point, then the original.

Batman 2008The Dark Knight (Jul 18, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 5/5 >>

Clearly, the run-away favourite for all the masses, and the biggest hit of 2008 among all genre Movies.  This sequel to the new Batman move franchise (rebooted with 2005’s Batman Begins), directed and co-written by the incredibly talented Christopher Nolan, redefined and set high standards for all Comic based movies for the present and future.  Batman faces his biggest arch-nemesis Joker in this dark-sinister suspense thriller, which is breath-taking from the start to finish.  Character plot-work, action sequences, technical gizmos, this is a movie which will make any Batman comic fan proud.  Thanks to Nolan Brothers.

The stunning climax scene, where the Good’s and Bad’s of the society are pitted against each other, with their fate lying on the opposite camp (a switched remote detonator on either side of the ships), is wonderfully scripted.  The result is the slap in the face of the so called Gentlemen of the higher society.  The ending scene with Batman taking up the blame for all the Incidents, to save the hero face of the villain turned Harvey Dent, has nicely setup the next movie instalment, with Batman now being termed as a Fugitive.  It is best exhibited as conveyed by Commissioner Gordon, as an ending note (also adding to the movie title):

“He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A Dark Knight."

No wonder you find much of the Quotes from the film in our “Comic-Quotes” Section in the sidebar of Comicology.  I am planning to move them to a separate archive page for ready quick reference.

You talk about the Batman Movie and it will be a sin if you forget the contribution of Heath Ledger.  It can be clearly noted that more than protagonist Christian Bale as Batman, Ledger outperforms everyone (including a scary looking Two-Face) with his portrayal of Joker, ironically in his last act.  No wonder, he is tipped for a posthumous Oscar award for the Best Supporting Role.  He deserves that for sure.

The DC owned Batman character, originally created by Bob Kane, is considered one of its two flagship comic characters along with Superman.  It’s popularity is only rivalled by the Marvel’s Spiderman, who have traditionally held the upper hand in the comics based movie franchises, ever since DC stepped back with their Superman movie franchise (heavily due to the Christopher Reeve’s accident), and their repeated box-office failures with the badly made Batman movie franchise.  But with Batman: The Dark Knight, they have recaptured their past dominance, just in time when Marvel were pitching for their Avenger Movie launch.  So we are in for a great battle between DC & Marvel, this time to be witnessed in the Movie Industry.

Space Chimps 2008Space Chimps (Jul 18, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 1.5/5 >>

A movie from the little know production house, called Vanguard Animation.  It talks about a set of Space Chimpanzees who are lead on a space mission, by the reluctant grandson of the first Chimpanzee on space, where they put an end to an tyrant in a distant world.  Not much could be said on the movie plot, as it has few glimpses to have been based on the Planet of Apes movie franchise, but fails on the execution of it.  For the sheer reason, of being their first international release, it makes up the list barely.  The production house seems to have got rewarded with a sizeable profit, mainly due to the low production cost associated with the venture.

X-Files 2008 X-Files: I Want to Believe (Jul 25, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 1.5/5 >>

It’s another comeback movie franchise in the house, in form of X-Files (inspired by the 90’s hit TV series X-Files.  The last film was released in 1998, even though the 9th and last TV series aired until 2002.  The stars from the TV series, David Duchovny (looks rather old for the lead role) and Gillian Anderson (surprisingly still good-looking) make their appearance again to boost up the movie star cast.  But, unlike the earlier movie this doesn’t follow the extra-terrestrial theme for which the Original X-Files series is known for.  Instead it follows the age-old theme of horror/thriller, and it even dwindles at the level of basing the plot on the self-proclaimed messenger of god, to unravel the mystery.

I didn’t follow the TV series, but I should point out that the first movie was actually good.  The second instalment is surely a let-down, and I wonder why they took 6 years to devise a plot for this failed attempt. 

Reason for this movie in our list: Little known Topps Comics released few comic sets during TV series prime, which unsurprisingly remains their only significant comic releases ever.

Mummy 2008Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Empire (Aug 1, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

The failed attempt for rebooting forgotten movie franchise continues, with the latest addition being the ever-famous Mummy movie series.  Eventhough they were greatly put down by the critics, I had liked the the first 3 movie instalments, which as per me where a visual treat.  They brought the Golden genre of the mysterious Egyptian civilization through breathtaking virtual reality.  But the latest movie comes out of its original theme, by moving over to Chinese Terracotta Warriors and lost prince.  It seems the creators wanted to hit jackpot, by casting Jet Lee, but like his numerous Hollywood attempts, this is another failed attempt for him.

Another failure in this movie franchise, is the non-appearance of incredibly beautiful Rachel Weisz to reprise her character.  Instead another unknown face Maria Bello makes up the number with, a certainly old looking, Brendan Fraser. It is said that Weisz opted out due to the storyline featuring her in as middle-aged women, and setting up for a motherly role in future movie series.  A Wise decision, as I like many others wouldn’t want to see her in that state :).  Maria does show her credentials in few fighting sequences, but she can never match up to Weisz’s popularity.

It should have got only 1.5 in our rating, but scores a extra fraction due to its stunning visual effects (even though they are a touch lesser than the standards set in the 3 prequels).  Talks are ripe that the movie is actually being rebooted with Jr. Connel taking the lead role in the future instalments.  Hopefully they will be better and newer than the 2008 instalment.

Reason for our listing: IDW Publishing has released some comic sets based on Rick O’ Connel’s character in 2008.

Igor 2008Igor (Sep 19, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

A different plot with the lead character portrayed as the strangely looking Igor (ones with hunchbacks), who were long portrayed in many movie genres as an understudy to some evil maniac.  In a village dominated by the Evil Scientists, who rule supreme with their frightening machines, Igor's are considered and treated as their under-study and lower cast.  One Igor, who is incredibly talented aspires to be the Greatest Evil Scientist, and the plot takes us through the oppressions and his struggle in his quest.  Eventhough it’s wonderfully animated (from the new film group Exodus) it fails largely on the plot-work.  The fact that it is an attempt from a lesser known animated group, also made it a prime candidate for lesser acceptance and publicity.

Roadside Romeo 2008 Roadside Romeo (Oct 23, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

The first Bollywood based international animation movie to have ever released, co-produced by Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney Studios.  The movie even though boasting of a superior animation (mainly because of WD involvement, and hard work of 2 years) failed to reach the same stardom of its partner.  The plot is nothing better from a Bollywood love story, which the first-time director Jugal Hansraj, tried to imitate in animation industry.  The result when you try to combine a theory from one genre to another without significantly tweaking it to fit the target market, is here to see with the box-office failure of the film.

Bollywood’s Real-life Love Couple  Saif Ali Khan, and Kareena Kapoor have lent their voice to the movie, but it seems their combination taboo made their effect on this movie too, like their other Bollywood films.  It enjoys a rating of 2, for the simple reason that it is the first ever Indian International venture in animation industry. 

Fellow Comicologist Siv, had recently blogged about a comic adaptation for this movie in his blog here.  I am planning to do a further post on Indian Comics based on Movies, so we will have more details on to that sooner at Comicology.  Stay Tuned.

Madagascar 2008 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Nov 7, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 3/5 >>

It’s a sequel to the hit and much critically acclaimed 2005 animated film.  It continues the story of the Zoo escaped Lion, Hippo, Zebra, and Giraffe, all known by their human names than their race.  The fact that it comes out of the DreamWorks studio, says more about the stunning animation as witnessed in every frame of the Movie.  It picks up from the 1st instalment, where the animals actually decide to move back to their captured life, but crash-land in central Africa, finding their own species.  Now, it’s decision time again for our favourite folks.  The Forest life is incredibly brought before our eyes, with wonderful combination of colours, and our title heroes comical activities makes it for an interesting watch.  Certainly a must see for all animation movie lovers.

QOS Bond 2008 Quantum of Solace (Nov 14, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

Incidentally, the most anticipated movie of 2008, which ironically was also the most disappointing comics movie franchise of the year.  Daniel Craig reprises his Secret agent role in 22nd James Bond Movie franchise.  Unlike the earlier movies which always are stand-alone versions, this movie is actually a follow-up/sequel to the 2005 Casino Royale, where Craig made his stunning debut as James Bond.  Bond sets up about on the task of avenging those who were behind the killing of her lady-love in 21st Bond Movie.  What we get to witness are Betrayals, and Pure adrenaline action, where James Bond even forgets to deliver his punch-line: “My name is Bond, James Bond”.  

The one bright spot of the movie was Olga Kurylenko, who seems to be the first-choice for all animation/comics based movie as witnessed in recent times (2007’s Hitman, & 2008’s Max Payne).  Surprisingly we don’t get to see a romantic interlude between her and Bond in this movie, as common among the so called “bond girls”.  Another new style being adopted Craig’s Bond Movies (but, nevertheless, we have another Bond-Girl in the movie ;) ).  One more unique feature is that, this is the first ever Bond Movie (or maybe any other movie) to have made its release in India, even before it was released in North America.  Doesn’t it make we Indians proud enough, and it seems India is considered a bigger movie market then how it was treated with 2nd, 3d rate Hollywood movies hitting the theatres years back :).

Despite the storyline, Daniel Craig impresses in his stylish act, and he is obviously the most ably fit actor ever to have praised the James Bond character. I can only laugh at the initial critics who were so crazy over his selection for Bond, just for the simple reason that he was a Blonde.  I hope they would have got their answers.

With that said, I would love to give it even worst rating, but the action sequences, and the intention of the newly formed Bond team to set this movie different from the earlier instalments, managed to eek out this rating at Comicology.  Let’s see what they make up with their next movie planned for 2011.

You don’t need any introduction to James Bond  when it comes to comics.  Classical comics enthusiasts (or Comicologists as we term them over here at Comicology) would remember the legendary comic-strips from UK’s Newspaper media.  We are going to have a long line-up of these Comics review as we go down dissecting the James Bond Comics released by erstwhile Rani Comics, shortly.

Bolt 2008 Bolt (Nov 21, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 3.5/5 >>

Walt Disney animation Company launched its 48th theatrical animated feature (the Roadside Romeo doesn’t count because it’s billed from the Indian based Yash Raj Films), to the industry they revolutionized, in the form of Bolt.  The film is strengthened by media heavyweights like John Travolta, and Miley Cyrus lending their voice to the lead characters.

The plot revolves around a white dog named Bolt, which is grown from a pub with the image of a super powered dog. But it was a myth as the production crew were hosting a live program of events featuring Bolt. A supposedly accident, drives Bolt out of its comfort zone to the reality of outside world. The rest of the movie features Bolt going on a cross-country tour to see its companion, who is supposedly has deserted him for another dog, replacing him in his live serial.  The film has so far received 85% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, for all the credit the movie deserves.

Punisher 2008Punisher: War Zone (Dec 5, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 1.5/5 >>

The movie reboot doesn’t seem to be stopping, with 2004’s Punisher movie in the frame this time.  Marvel comes back to re-launch another of there never-ending comic heroes into movie.  This reboot is unique in the sense that it is the only franchise, which has been re-booted for the second time in row.  Comicologists would remember that the 2004 film, was actually a reboot to the 1989’s original movie.  Isn’t this a new trend.

But, it must be said that they are yet to achieve the popularity and acclaim they received for their Spiderman series.  The initial reviews about this movie also seems to be pretty disappointing.

Punisher is one of my favourite characters in the Marvel Comics, as he is the one who is human (and not those super freaks), and is only driven by his rage towards putting an end to the growing crime in the neighbourhood.  A hero everyone of us aspire to become, deep in our self.  The new creative team, cast makes for an interesting watch, but failed miserably in terms of plot and execution. The character of Punisher deserved more.

Spirit 2008 The Spirit (Dec 25, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

Will Eisner’s famous comics character The Spirit, which was originally created in 1940s, finally made it’s way to the mainstream media; with the ‘300’, ‘Sin City’, ‘Dark Knight Returns’ series fame Frank Miller donning the Directorial duties for a change.  Obviously inspired by his earliest directorial debut, with the critically acclaimed Sin City Movie adaptation.  But it should be noted that he was then assisted by a two more able directors.  Overall, I didn’t like the movie a bit, which was often slipping in screenplay and direction at various scenes.

Movie-critics and followers, it’s a failed attempt, and one which shows the great character of Eisner in poor light (a fact strengthened by the personal account of Love of Dreams ShankarV).  It looks Frank Miller should have stayed on with the job which he does best, which is comic book writing, and artist.

That completes our 2008 Movies Round-Up. Overall, 2008 was an eventual year, with so many comic based movies hitting the theatres, and many garnering critical acclaim. 

There were even some other movies which had comical relationships, but weren’t based on any Comics for actual say, hence weren’t covered in our year end movie review posts;

Like SuperHero Movie (a shoot comedy on Comic based Movies) Hancock (billed as Redefining the Summer of Super Heroes), and Max Payne (from the famous video game; Original inventor of Bullet time effect, but was actually revolutionized through Matrix Trilogy).  But, we aren’t missing anything, as they are sloppy ones to say the least.

So with the ratings it might clearly show what could probably be my Top 3 Best Movies of 2008.  But just to reiterate the same, here they are:

        1. Batman: The Dark Knight
        2. Wall-E
        3. Iron Man

2009 promises to be even better, with the announcement of Watchmen, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Whiteout slated in for the year.  We will have a complete review of these movies at Comicology when they hit the theatres.  So, stay tuned for more.

I hope you liked Comicology’s complete account of Comic and Animation based Movies round-up of 2008, spread over 2 lengthy posts.  If yes, why not share your views on the same, for which you could use the Comment Section below.  I would be eager to read them.

And before I close, Wish every Comicologists a Happy Pongal, which is now also considered as Tamil New Year.  While many fellow Comicologists decided to have a special post for the event, I believe every post at Comicology is special enough to be among the list :).  Happy Reading and Watching, and I will be back with another post very shortly.

Jan 9, 2009

CineBook - Green Manor #1 | 2008

West Land | Price: INR 195 | Color | Pages: 56 | Size: B5 | Laminated/HardCover

After a small gap, we are back with one more CineBook issue review, which was part of the batch release in India, last year.  CineBook are the only UK publishing company which has proved their stature competing against the overall odds of DC & Marvel influx, by banking on the famed Franco-Belgian era.  So there is no wonder their fleet of issues finds it presence more often on our website.

The title to be reviewed in this post is Green Manor, which is part of the “Double Expresso” series from CineBook.  Double Expresso, essentially means that it may be a volume of one or two editions, which are originally published in French or other language.  The plot revolves around a little known fictional English club called Green Manor, where the story unfolds revealing the secrets behind the thick walls, in the process enlightening the readers of the the greatest con artists Queen Victoria’s England has ever seen.

Green Manor 1: Assassins and Gentlemen
ISBN: 978-1-905460-53-3
Green Manor 01 c1
Green Manor 1: BackCover 
Published: May 2008
Green Manor 01 c2

Fabien VehlmannGreen Manor is a brainchild of French comics writer Fabien Vehlmann (b.1972, France).  Vehlmann like typical kids, is said to have been fascinated with toys and comics from his childhood.  But at the age of 23, he suddenly realized that the childhood love is still not lost in him.  He jokingly quotes

“My parents were subscribers of Spirou for years.  Leafing an issue, I discovered a contest for writers.  Like all budding writers, I first wanted to draw, before realizing that it is one of those which I ridicule better.”

Even though, he ultimately didn’t take part in that contest, it paved the way for shaping his interest.  He eventually joined the Spirou Magazine in 1997, and started contributing with various short stories, including writing one adventure for Spirou and Fantasio, a series which was reviewed here at Comicology earlier.  Fascinated by his works, Yvan Delporte, who was the Editor-in-Chief of Spirou magazine during the golden age of Franco-Belgian comics, once credited Vehlmann as the "The René Goscinny of the third millennium".  Comicologists would recollect Goscinny from his legendary works on Asterix, and Lucky Luke.

Denis BodartWhile at Spirou, he got his first official break in a full series, when he joined hands with artist Denis Bodart (b.1962, Belgium), to create the Green Manor series.  While Vehlmann is known for his intriguing plots, and mystery woven writing style, Denis Bodart is known for his toon-style artwork, while not compromising the seriousness related to the base plot.  Refer the Sample Artwork below, to see for yourself.  With this distinction, we could safely term Green Manor as a “Comics” Graphic Novel, for the fact that the Toon-styled comic artwork is used to depict a plot-work aimed for mature audience.

n an interview with Character Design, Bodart quotes about the difficulty associated with the artwork of Green Manor, which is typically a series of stories all spanning 7 pages each, as follows:

Green Manor Sample Artwork“I am most proud of the character designs I did for all the characters in the three volumes of Green Manor. The main difficulty resided in the very form of the série ( 16 short stories of 7 pages). In this framework, giving enough consistency to the characters so they get credible since the very first boxes was a real challenge… especially when you known that none would live more than 7 pages. A constraint that generates much frustration as you can easily guess. In the other hand, it also allowed me to explore several graphic possibilities.”

If you are interested to read the complete interview click here.

The 1st volume of Green Manor: Assassins and Gentleman contains 7 short stories, which are narrated as if they were told by a psychotic prisoner, who was an inmate at Green Manor, to a visiting doctor.  This gives us a first-hand accounting of the events as they occur, which reveals the blackness lurking in the minds of people rated as the top cream of Victoria’s England. 

Green Manor Original French Album 1Despite the subject matter, Green Manor is murder-lite; all the killings are offstage, and there is little gore as witnessed in the stories. But that's not all, the ending strongly suggests that Green Manor is all inside the patient’s head, which puts a different spin on all the stories you have read so far.

This English translation for this French album has been done by Elaine Kemp for CineBook.  The translator has taken enough care in maintaining the core storyline to retain its context. The Original French album was released back in 2001 by publishers Dupius titled “Assassins et gentlemen”.  Look at the cover art of the original edition, which shows how much rework it has gone through before finding its place as part of the CineBook stable. 

CineBook’s professionalism on display.

The duo of Vehlmann & Bodart have totally worked on 3 albums of Green Manor, which all have been released  by CineBook in US/UK.  With the reception it has garnered with Volume 1, they would be a collectors item, when Volume 2 and 3 finally makes their way to India.

Jan 5, 2009

2008 Comics/Animation Movies Round-Up – I

We have reached a New year in 2009, but there are still a lot of blog posts which were originally planned at Comicology for the year 2008. So, let's quickly wrap them up one by one.

First-up would be a Movies Roundup for the year 2008. Don't panic, we aren't going away from the main Comics theme of our Blog. In fact, all the movies which are being covered here will be those which has some sort of relationship with Comics, or its sub-genre Animation. There were a total of 20+ movies released in 2008 related to these genre, which is an enormous list to be covered in a single post.  Hence this is a 1st of the two part series in this write-up. 

Let’s start with our first post, where the movies are ordered according to their US release date.

Rambo 2008 Rambo (Jan 25, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 1.5/5 >>

Sylvester Stallone tried to imitate his past success by re-booting the long forgotten movie franchise Rambo after a decade (since Rambo III).  This instalment takes him to Burma in a bid to save the missionaries from evil clutches of savage Military Officer.  The film was said to be the most gory of the franchise, with as many killings, but I was somehow not impressed seeing a legendary character being portrayed as in his last breath. 

The storyline didn’t give much justice either to the franchise, but the producers are poised to make a 5th instalment of series in 2009, unlike Rocky Balboa two years earlier, which was confirmed as the last instalment of the Rocky series.  

You might wonder why this movie is part of our list. But, I just came to know that Blackthorne Publishing, had produced some comics based on Rambo character in 1988.  While the Comic based Movie adaptations have mostly been successful, the vice-versa does not show a rosy picture.  No wonder the company folded shops the very next year.

Jumper 2008 Jumper (Feb 14, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

A partly successful movie based on the original novel by the same name in 1992.  It follows the adventure of two secret mutant genres, which are destined to fight and hunt each other.  Oni Press had actually released a prequel graphic novel before the movie, hence it finds mention in our list.  Mostly it is a disappointing movie, which failed to live up to the expectations set by the famous novel.  The unknown cast and crew didn’t help the matter much. 

But, the film actually did a decent turn out in box office prompting the producers to think on a sequel.  One of the attraction of the movie is that its said to have been filmed in 14 different countries. So we get to see a world-tour, when the lead character jumps from one location to another (which was a cute concept).

Horton 2008 Horton Hears A Who (Mar 14, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 3/5 >>

The first Animation movie released internationally in 2008.  Many in India may not be aware of Dr.Seuss, who is known for his literary work targeted for children.  Two of his earlier books have also been made as films, with the first one featuring Jim Carrey.  But, this is the first movie which was made fully in CGI.  It’s a touching storyline which talks about the importance of living things irrespective of their size.  Horton the Elephant is comically drawn and wonderfully voiced by the talented Jim Carrey (who seems to love Dr.Seuss work).

The movie could have been made better, if it had avoided lengthy scenes and screenplay.  But the climax scene made up for it all, where I was one among those who wished that the voice from the tiny world makes it to what we call as our world.

Iron Man 2008Iron Man (May 2, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 3.5/5 >>

The long awaited movie featuring one of the famous Marvel characters, Iron Man, finally hit the theatres in 2008 (It was in pre-production for almost 2 decades, changing number of hands in the process).  Marvel seem to have an upper hand over the arch-rivals DC when it comes to Movie franchise.  Somehow their comic characters were tailor made for a movies, and the number of characters in their disposal is fascinating, to say at least. 

Tony Stark is wonderfully portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., whose dialog delivery, and style, overshadows his ageing face. It’s said that the production house initially preferred a younger actor, but then decided to give it to Downey, since the chracter resembled lot in him, and also because he is a great fan of the Iron Man comics.

The evolution of the Iron Man Costume in 3 stages; Introduction of Iron Monger, Iron Man’s arch enemy, and the plot revolving around him;  Saviour of the people in war-torn states;   are wonderfully portrayed in the movie, which would make any Iron Man Comics fan proud.  There is also a romantic interlude with the personal secretary, Pepper Pots (isn’t that a cute name), which seems to have been set in motion for the sequels to come.

The last scene press conference, where everybody expects Tony Stark to make announcement disassociating the rumours of him being Iron Man, is closed perfectly with the punch line sentence.  Credits to the Director, Jon Favreau, for making a movie which was in “Development Hell” for near 2 decades, with incredible plot-work.  It should also be noted that the director allowed actors to create their own dialogues.  The humor part in-lined with the entire script, with flashy comic dialogues, is said to be due to the involvement of Downey Jr., contributions in the movie’s screenwriting.  He claims to have made it stand out from the rest of the hard-hitting super-hero movies.  It turned out as a master stroke for the movie.

The Director didn’t let any stones unturned by silently introducing the Avengers Initiative at the end of the movie, setting up the show for 2009.  And, Iron Man-2 with the same cast is in for a 2011 sequel.

Speed Racer 2008Speed Racer (May 9, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 1/5 >>

A prime candidate for the worst movie franchise, this time made out of Japanese Anime series.  I should honestly admit that I was never a great fan for the Japanese Manga style of art and anime, and it could have helped me to write-off this movie completely.  But, the overall rating of the movie, does justify my premonition.  The plot talks about a young racer, trying to win a prestigious racing championship, in which his older brother was killed.  In the process he uncovers the corporate games of cheating, and backstabbing.  Lesser said about the plot the better.

Indiana Jones 2008 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull (May 22, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2.5/5 >>

The successful duo of George Lucas (Star Wars fame) and Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park fame), join hands once again to bring back the famous movie character Indian Jones back onto silver screen after nearly 2 decades.  To go by the strong theme of, “If Indiana Jones, then it is Harrison Ford”, 56 year old surprisingly made his return to play the lead character again.  Harrison Ford simply has charisma wooing all over him, and it helps bring back the glory days.  The Nuclear Bomb Blast, Car chasing scenes and a climax with pre-historic monuments, and encounter with aliens its makes (which was kind of too comical) for an interesting watch.  The next instalment may be better.

Even though I wasn’t from the genre when Indian Jones was making headlines, I have heard it from seniors in the biz that it was one of the interesting movie franchise they every witnessed.  Since the movie franchise is actually said to have been rebooted, Shia LaBeouf (Transformer fame) is introduced as Jr. Jones, to centre future movies around his character.  Even though Indian Jones is typically a movie franchise, Marvel Comics and Dark Horse have long printed graphic novels based on the character, hence he makes into our list.

Kung Fu Panda 2008 Kung Fu Panda (Jun 6, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

A movie from the famed DreamWorks studio, which made its way after a huge marketing campaign.  But, even then I wasn’t particularly impressed to a great extent with jumping Panda.  It shows how a movie from a bigger brand can get mass attention through the strength of campaigns.  My rating is sure to create uproars among the comic/movie fraternity, some of whom have rated it even on the top 3 movies of the year.  But, with that said, this is my honest rating.

There is also a controversy fuming, that the Americans utilized the Panda as the lead character so as to make profit out of the beloved and national figure in China.  I believe that actually worked up pretty well for the success of the movie.  Didn’t they say Controversy creates Cash. :)

Incredible Hulk 2008Incredible Hulk (Jun 13, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2/5 >>

The Green angry giant makes a comeback to silver screen after 5 years, but as it turned out it was a complete reboot of the Incredible Hulk series from the failed attempt earlier.  A lead character and cast change didn’t help matters, as the movie didn’t impress any better than the 2003 instalment.  We get to witness the introduction of Hulk’s deadly enemy Abomination, who also fails to hype up the tempo.  It looks the producers were never interested to take this hulk movie franchise further, and only attempted to reboot the character to appear as part of the The Avengers Movie planned in the coming years.  A fact justified by Tony Star (aka Iron Man) making his presence again at the end credits.

Wall E 2008 Wall-E (Jun 27, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 4/5 >>

Finally a strong contender for the years best Animation movie award, from the famed Pixar Studios (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille).  Wall-E simply shakes us out of our irregular life style of dumping and littering our neighbourhood, ultimately destroying the planet.  The scene opens up with a deserted Earth, which has now been reduced to piles and piles of garbage, effectively prompting the Humans to leave it for a search among the stars for a better place to live.  But, they forgot to switch off one last robot meant to clear up the Waste, which goes about its task everyday as instructed.  In the process it meets its love of life in form of a new generation Robot, aptly named EVE.

What we get to witness is then a romantic interlude among these unrelated machines, and a race against time to bring the humans back to earth.  The fact that the half of the movie from the opening scene didn’t feature any dialogues, but still managed to sweep us off our feet, is a testament to the legacy set by Pixar’s animations. Some of the scenes depicted as future humans turning to a lazy chunk of pile, seems to represent partly on our current life style.  Pixar’s animations have a richness associated with its work, and it is no lesser witnessed in Wall-E, which is said to the be the costliest movie ever produced by the Studios till date.  No wonder, Wall-E finds itself being nominated in various award categories in different film festivals.

Wanted 2008 Wanted (Jun 27, 2008) << Comicology Rating: 2.5/5 >>

The first comic series based movie franchise of the year, which is not from the famed Marvel.  Wanted was originally a Comic Series written by Mark Millar (Ultimate series fame), and published in Top Cow (a comic publishing company started by creators to own their work and related licensing).  It follows a young executive who suddenly finds that he is a successor to the secret cult of 1000 year old Super-able assassins cult, and he should either be part of them, or see they turn against him.  Even though the plot had all the ingredients for a successful movie franchise, the resultant movie is a great failure to the original concept.

The movie even though featuring a strong cast with the likes of Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, failed to live up to its hype.  Often losing its way in the screenplay, and a struggling actor in its lead character.  The only bright spot in the movie is Slow-Motion Fast paced action sequences, and an ever beaming Jolie, with some bare-dare acts ;).

[Concluded on Round-Up II]

That completes our first part in this 2008 Comic/Animation based movies review.  The second part to this mini-series is also online now.  If you liked the post, why don’t you leave your comments and reviews about this topic and the movies discussed in this post in the section below?  I would be eager to read them.


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