Monday, December 1, 2008

Which X-Men Should Be First Class?

By Graeme McMillan

Now that we know that Fox has brought Gossip Girl and Chuck creator Josh Schwartz on board to write a new X-Men movie, the obvious next question is, which X-Men should the movie feature? The writers of both the Young X-Men and X-Men: First Class comics have weighed in on the subject, but we've got our own ideas, as well...

As yet, neither Fox nor Schwartz are saying whether the new movie, X-Men: First Class will be a retro look at younger versions of familiar characters (like the Marvel comic of the same name), or a new team of mutants that follows on from the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (a la the comic Young X-Men). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Young writer Marc Guggenheim would prefer the latter, as he told MTV's Splash Page blog:

What movie would you rather see? There’s more in the next generation than the junior versions of the very first group, now that you already have movies where they’re established as adults. Do a sequel, not a prequel.

First Class comic writer Jeff Parker doesn't think that it's really about any characters in particular as much as it is a central concept, as he also told MTV:

To me, the heart of it is that young people who were different found others like themselves and for once, they didn't feel like freaks.

We agree... and with such a wide variety of unexplored mutants already in Marvel's library, we've come up with five that we'd like to see hit the big screen big time.

Call me old-fashioned, but there's just something oddly charming about a superhero whose only power is flying and crashing into things. It helps that Sam Guthrie is the sort of character whose intentions are good, even if he's not always the smartest guy in the room - Give High School Musical's Zac Efron the role and get that all important Disney Demographic interested.

It's Britney, but with superpowers. Who can resist the lure of a pop star who's also secretly a superhero - and whose powers rely on turning pulsing pop beats into laser light shows? So what if she's still stuck in the '80s despite numerous attempts to update her? She's the closest thing Marvel have to a mutant Miley Cyrus, and in terms of potential crossover marketing dollars, that can only be a good thing.

Every X-Men movie needs a point of view character, and now that Rogue has spent three movies in the spotlight - or, really, one movie in the spotlight and then been drawn more and more towards the background in each successive installment - why not give Pixie a chance to shine? The brand-new X-Man (She officially joined the book in this year's Uncanny X-Men #500) is pretty much a clone of former teen POV character Kitty Pryde, right down to demonic weapon made out of her soul or something, to please the old school fanbase, plus she looks like a fairy, which'll bring in the Harry Potter crowd. It's win-win. Unless you happen to have something against things with wings.

Despite Marvel continually killing off different versions of the character, there's too much potential in Canada's second-most-popular mutant (The movie Wolverine is still Canadian, right?) to keep him from the silver screen for too long. I mean, he's Marvel's first openly gay superhero, who also happens to be an Olympic gold medalist champion skier - no, really - and an asshole with superspeed powers. If Josh Schwartz really can't do something with that, then I want to know who really wrote all of those OC episodes I adored.

This one's more unexpected, I admit. In fact, I'm not even sure if Xorn even officially exists in X-Lore anymore - He was (spoiler) a fake identity used by Magneto in Grant Morrison's run on the series early this decade, and later retconned into a real person whose identity had been stolen by Magneto, but I have no idea if that's just been quietly ignored these days or not. But nonetheless, there was something magnetic - no pun intended - about the silent, naive buddhist with a black hole for a head, and making him a character in his own right could provide an interesting counterpoint to the lights and violence that'll otherwise seep through the movie.

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Geoff Johns: Telling Superman's Secret Origin

By Matt Brady

Click for covers 1-4 as one large image

Click for covers 1-4 as one large image

As DC Universe Executive Editor revealed to Newsarama on Wednesday, in early 2009, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank will leave Action Comics, and move to the six-issue, standalone, Superman: Secret Origin, a re-telling of Clark Kent growing up and becoming Superman.

As DiDio described the series, “With the Superman books following Infinite Crisis, we made some suggestions as to some of the changes that might be occurring within Superman’s origin and who he is. There were a lot of things that have been changed over a period of time, and what Geoff has done, what Geoff always does so well is that he incorporates so many of the various aspects of Superman’s origin to what I feel is really a clean, definitive take on the character as he exists today, and more importantly, how we will continue to present him in the years to come.

“The John Byrne changes were important and strong when they occurred back in the ‘80s, and I feel that Geoff’s origin is going to make that same imprint now, for 2009 and past that.”

So what does Johns have planned along with Frank for Secret Origin? We asked him just that.

Newsarama: Geoff, why does Superman need a revised/tweaked origin now, or rather, a definitive one?

Geoff Johns: Because people have been asking for it. And so have we.

The new official "Secret Origin" of Superman is a project that Gary and I have been planning since we began working together on Action Comics. With the changes going on it made sense for Gary and I to move onto Superman: Secret Origin as a standalone series. The issues are longer than normal and it's given us time to work ahead of schedule. This incredibly important to us and the quality and eventual scheduling, must be perfect.

To me, origin stories - particularly "Secret Origin" stories in the DC Comics universe - are vital to the introduction of characters and mythology to the larger audience, and I think they can be to the long time audience as well. We haven't seen a modern day retelling of Clark's first adventure as Superboy with the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the day Superman met Jimmy Olsen or the origins of Superman's long time enemies like the Parasite and Metallo. More importantly, Clark Kent himself will be explored in his earlier years in a way I don't think he's ever been explored before. And freaking Gary Frank, one of the greatest Superman artists in history already, is illustrating it. Every cover, every panel, ever line.

For long time readers, with the inclusion of the Legion of Super-Heroes back in Superman's history, General Zod introduced and all the other changes made post-Infinite Crisis nearly 3-years ago, they've been requesting a definitive secret origin. Man of Steel was brilliant and Birthright was a beautiful book, but Superman: Secret Origin will be what lines right up for the modern day monthly books. It will feature new looks at the origin of not only Superman, but some of his greatest allies, enemies and supporting cast and it will tie into everything Gary and I have done so far on Action Comics as well as setting the stage for the future.

NRAMA: As readers of Gary and your work on Action know, you’ve been adjusting things on Krypton in New Krypton as well as touching upon Clark's early years, so what's the scope of this story, time-wise?

GJ: It goes from Clark's teenage years, through his first adventure with the Legion of Super-Heroes and into his arrival and introduction to Metropolis as Superman. We've included the first three covers with the interview and you can see a pretty big part of Clark Kent's history is being reintroduced as well - namely, Superboy. But with a bit of a twist.

NRAMA: Can you tell us any characters or beats that you're going to play up more than they've been mentioned previously? Any that you're going to de-emphasize?

GJ: You'll see Ma and Pa Kent, Lana Lang, Pete Ross, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Mordru, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, the Parasite, Metallo, Lex Luthor and others...

NRAMA: In telling Superman’s origin, what has to be there? What is inviolate, in your eyes?

GJ: I can only say, unlike previous Superman origin stories, this will be told almost entirely from Clark's eyes. We won't be spending an issue on Krypton. We'll be opening on one of Clark's earliest memories as a kid and moving forward from there. This is his story of self-discovery and the world's story of meeting Superman.

NRAMA: There've been many tellings of Superman's origins and early years - from the versions in comics to that of your mentor, Richard Donner in Superman: The Movie, to Smallville... what would you say yours is closest to?

GJ: This isn't Smallville or Superman: The Movie or Superman: The Silver Age, this is Superman: Secret Origin by me and Gary. It's a different look at the beginnings of the characters and mythos of Superman that will set the stage for the monthly Superman comics. And this does not signify the end of my involvement with the Superman Family.

This is also not the end of Gary and I as a team. We're in sync creatively on a level I think either of us have ever reached. Gary is one of the greatest storytellers and artists in comic books and these characters are as lucky as me to work with him. I am incredibly thankful for it all. And after Superman: Secret Origin, Gary and I already know what comes next. It'll be a monthly.

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

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No Final Cylon Will Ever Be Good Enough

By Graeme McMillan

With Battlestar Galactica returning in less than two months, anticipation is at fever pitch over the identity of the show's Final Cylon. We've looked at the clues to date and offered some theories of our own, but with SyFyPortal claiming that it knows the character's identity for sure - and then offering up five possible choices to choose from - it's time to look at it from another angle: Which character would be ruined if they turned out to be the Final Cylon?

While Charlie Jane isn't convinced by SyFy Portal's claim of spoilage, at least three of the five contenders seem particularly believable (Especially when you consider the WTF-age of Tigh, Anders, Tory and Tyrol's reveals at the end of last season). But at what point does the revelation that "[character X] isn't who you thought they were at all!" cease to be shocking - or even interesting - and start to be annoying? Isn't there a chance that the mystery of the identity of the Final Cylon has been ruined by being built up so much, and that no solution will end up being satisfying enough to fans? Here are SyFy Portal's five choices for Final Cylon, and why we'd rather that none were true:

Lee Adama
Why It Sucks: Short of the Final Cylon being Bill Adama himself, isn't this the second most obvious - and boring - choice? The son of the man who led the fleet back to Earth, and the one who's been presented to be some kind of voice of a greater morality (See his defense of Baltar and new political career), being revealed to be a Cylon would feel to be a cynical "gotcha" moment on behalf of the writers... but, on the other hand, it may finally manage to make the character interesting.

Felix Gaeta
Why It Sucks: While it'd give him an excuse for that terrible singing episode - He was clearly trying to drive humanity insane with his maudlin wailing - there would be a strange feeling of Deja Vu if Gaeta turned out to be the Final Cylon. Haven't we already seen the mid-level administrative Cylon reveal with Torry? And, more worryingly - and this is actually enough to make me convinced that Gaeta is going to be revealed to be the Final Cylon - considering Tigh, Anders and Tyrol have already been revealed to be Cylons, wouldn't this make all of the main players in the New Caprica resistance Cylons? If that's the case, then that's not retcon irony, that's just a bucketload of fail.

Laura Roslin
Why It Sucks: It's too clean a wrap-up for all of Roslin's storylines, for one. The visions? She's a Cylon who was predestined to be The One. Being cured of cancer by Cylon genes? Because she's a Cylon! Pushing suspected Cylons out of airlocks? Because her subconscious was overcompensating for her secret! Falling in love with Bill Adama? Because she had to get close to the leader of humanity! And so on, and so on. It's too neat that I don't really believe that it could be true - and, also, I can't see Mary McDonnell going for the idea, either.

Ellen Tigh and Cally Tyrol
Why Both Suck: The last two suggestions on the list are disappointing for exactly the same reasons - Because they're dead, and because they were married to another member of the Final Five, without any of them knowing. Sure, both have a "They were killed by a member of the Final Five" thing going for them for those who like the gritty irony thing, but it feels like lazy melodrama for the long-awaited reveal to be about someone who's already dead at the unknowing hands of one of their own (Although, were it Cally, then Torry's cruelty would come to light - and she'd arguably see her the wrongness of her actions). Worse yet would be if it did turn out to be one of these two characters, and they then came back from the dead; this isn't Heroes, thank you very much, even if BSG's Mark Verheiden has jumped ship to NBC's superhero soap.

Assuming that SyFY Portal's list is real - and that the Final Cylon is amongst these five characters - there are some things to be thankful for. That Starbuck isn't in there, for one thing, and neither is Admiral Adama himself. But otherwise, it's a worrying look at what may be to come... partially because it gives the feeling that no-one will be good enough to be the Final Cylon, and that there's no "good" way to finish the series.

Battlestar Galactica returns to SciFi on January 16th.

The Final Five On The Final Cylon [SyFyPortal]

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Metal Council Convenes To Discuss 'Metal Hand Sign' Abuse

VATNAJÖKULL GLACIER, ICELAND—In an emergency session Tuesday, members of the Supreme Metal Council strongly condemned the increasing use of the metal hand sign in lay society, claiming that its meaning has become perverted by overuse.

Enlarge Image Metal Council Convenes To Discuss 'Metal Hand Sign' Abuse

Elders of the Supreme Metal Council examine amateur-video evidence of what they are calling "a worrisome trend."

"The metal sign, or 'sign of the goat,' has all but lost its impact as a token of respectful recognition for something truly 'rocking' or 'metal,'" SMC president Terence "Geezer" Butler said. According to Butler, members are upset that their sacred gesture is being used to acknowledge and celebrate "favorable but clearly non-metal events."

"We have all heard the reports of people using it to greet their in-laws, or after starting their lawn mowers with a single pull," Butler said. "But recently it was brought to our attention that someone used the gesture in a Texas convenience store after snagging the last box of carrot cakes. This simply won't do."

Formed in 1972 and comprising 12 of the most revered leaders of the metal community, the council meets annually in its majestic hall atop Vatnajökull, Iceland's largest glacier, to discuss metal affairs. The SMC convened for a special session after Nikki Sixx, Overlord Of Glam Metal Affairs, was sent hard photographic evidence of metal-sign abuse across the nation. Sixx's fellow high priests said they were "shocked," calling it "one of the most serious affronts to metal's integrity since the rise of rap-metal in the late 1990s."

"I remember a time not long ago when the Devil Horns were reserved for only the most righteous of person, deed, or riff," Grand Elder Lemmy Kilmister said. "To see someone throwing the horns to his mate at the launderette because the clothes dryer came to a full stop just as he finished reading his copy of Circus... It breaks my heart."

Nodding in silent agreement were council members Adalwolfa, a curvaceous Frank Frazetta-drawn Teutonic she-warrior magically brought to life by the council, and the spirit of slain Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.

Compounding the problem, Sixx said, is the fact that many people who use the sign are not recognized members of the Metal Roster, the list of true metal acolytes engraved in medieval calligraphy on gleaming pages of steel.

"This man here, who invokes the sign merely to indicate his joy that his microwave popcorn is done: He is not metal," Sixx said. "We have it on good authority that he prefers the music of Tim McGraw and that the magic word of 'Zoso' has never passed his lips."

The council discussed several harsh punishments to deter further metal-sign abuse. Paulo Pinto, bassist for the Brazilian thrash-metal band Sepultura and Overlord Of International Metal Affairs, suggested that the hand of a suspected signer should be immediately cut off. A contingency of death rockers from Gothenburg, Sweden recommended that any sign abuser, or anyone who is not sufficiently metal, should be forced to eat his severed hand while having his eyeballs burned with a superheated metal crucifix, and then be slowly skinned alive.

More charitable members, such as former Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, suggested that "a helpful list of guidelines could educate others, allowing them to distinguish between metal and non-metal occurrences."

"A lot of people who incorrectly make the sign have traces of metal in their hearts and minds, they just need the proper direction," Mustaine said. "Remember that many are outcasts and losers. To punish them further is to destroy the future of metal."

Until the council decides what course of action to adopt, Butler said he believes that a simple rule of thumb will help reduce the incidence of metal-sign abuse.

"If your head is neither banging nor thrashing, you should not be throwing the sign," Butler said. "It's that simple."

Yet, in a later interview in his private, skull-bedecked chambers, Butler expressed the concern that the problem has grown too widespread for even the mighty SMC to solve. He said he worries that metal standards have been on the decline for so long that few have any clear idea as to what is metal and what is not. The SMC has experienced deep ideological rifts in the past that have affected its ability to make strong decisions, most notably during the lengthy trial and eventual sentencing of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who was indicted in 2004 on charges of cutting his hair, pussing out on Napster, and contributing to the original motion-picture soundtrack of Mission: Impossible 2.

"To this day, there are many on the council who deeply resent the presence of [Poison guitarist] C.C. DeVille,'" Butler said. "In fact, so do I. Despite our differences, the council still remains the sole arbitrator of all things metal. We must get through to those who wantonly abuse the sign of the goat. They must be informed that watering down the sign's meaning will result in serious consequences."

Should the abuse continue, Butler said the council "will defer the matter to Satan."

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Tron 2 Plot Synopsis And New Title

By Josh Tyler

When Disney debuted test footage from their impending, long-awaited sequel to Tron at Comic Con, it came with the rather lame title of Tr2n. The good news is that it seems they’ve come to their senses and decided to call it something else. The bad news is that they’re calling it TRZ.

At least I sort of knew what Tr2n meant. You see that and you think, “oh they’re making a Tron sequel and they’ve given it a horrible, MySpace/Text Speak title”. When you see TRZ on a billboard, you’ll have absolutely no idea what it means. Well done Disney, you’ve accomplished something truly incredible. You’ve made the title worse. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time to change the title again.

The new title comes courtesy of the latest, jam-packed edition of Production Weekly, where they also have a brief plot synopsis for the film. Here’s what they think it will be about: “After being transported into the surreal landscape of a mainframe computer to destroy an intruder (Tron), a programmer finds himself allied with the leader of a rebellion against a corrupt cyber-entity.”

Read that synopsis carefully and you’ll get a few important clues as to what TRZ may be about. In the first movie a programmer named Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is sucked inside the computer to be destroyed. In the sequel, it sounds like the computer is bringing a programmer inside to help defend it. The test footage from Comic Con hinted at the possibility that Jeff Bridges might be playing the bad guy, an evil computer entity in the sequel. If that’s the case, it might actually make sense for a digitized Flynn, once a computer programmer himself, to bring in another programmer to aid him in fighting off rebels led by his once friend, Tron. The title may be awful, but as a story this is really starting to sound good.

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Hot Flashes: 10 Uses For Lightning That Ben Franklin Never Guessed

By Elizabeth Weinbloom

It can power a time machine, steal Superman's strength and even help Zack Morris graduate high school. Oh, lightning – is there anything you can't do? Long before nuclear energy and genetic engineering joined the team, lightning reigned as the top catch-all explanation for the funky phenomenon of the week, even transcending genre to become a standard sitcom plot device. Click through for clips of the flashiest lightning this side of Mt. Olympus.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods but Hollywood nabbed lightning from Zeus himself - and here are the ten best ways they've put those thunderbolts to use.

Create Life
This is the one that started it all. Before Frankenstein, lightning was just a handy way to collect some insurance money. After Frankenstein, it could do anything. Although Mary Shelley's novel provided no description of Victor Frankenstein's methods, the classic 1931 film cemented lightning's place in the popular imagination as the giver of life. Part classical Zeus imagery and part flashy spectacle, the revivifying lightning bolt is now inseparable from Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.

Save gas on your DeLorean
Great Scott! The entire plot of the first Back to the Future is centered around a lightning strike, necessary to power the DeLorean and send Marty McFly back to… well, you know. Doc Brown's plan to swap lightning for plutonium to get the necessary 1.21 gigawatts is also a clever nod to the history of technobabble – by the 80s, nuclear power had become the all-powerful pseudo-science of choice, but in the 50s lightning was still the dominant fix-it. Which leads to the most dramatic "should've gotten the longer extension cord" moment in all of movie history.

Scramble tv transmissions and DNA samples
Considering Doctor Who's long history with scientific hand-waving, you'd think they'd be old pros at the lightning fixit. But lightning saves the day in only the very lamest of the new series episodes, proving that we are better off with paradox machines and timey wimey detectors after all.

First, the mildly dreadful Idiot's Lantern climaxed with the Doctor clinging to a tv tower while some flashy pink lightning somehow trapped a face-eating television monster inside a Betamax tape. Then a year later, the exuberantly dreadful Daleks in Manhattan two-parter found the Doctor once again struck by lightning while clinging to a tower, this time the Empire State Building, causing his Time Lord DNA to mix with that of the already genetically awkward Human-Dalek hybrids. Somehow this saves the day. I don't know. I really try not to think about these episodes too much, and neither should you. If you want to try to suss it out, here's a clip:

Leap tall buildings in a single bound
It's a fairly established bit of Superman lore that a freak lightning accident can transfer the Man of Steel's powers to an ordinary human – a random Army private in a 1958 comic, a woman who would become electric villain Livewire in The Animated Series, even Lana Lang on Smallville. But my favorite example is Lois & Clark's "A Bolt From The Blue," in which lightning strikes while Superman is stopping a suicide, turning a 90 pound weakling into a 90 pound Hercules. Metropolis's newest superhero charges citizens for his services, asking Lois to print his price list, but in the end everything is put back to normal thanks to that other great scifi fixit – reversing the polarity.

Control lightning itself
The power to control lightning is not as common a side effect as you might think – so leave it to The X-Files to cover the obvious angle for us. Third season episode "D.P.O." features a young man whose lightning strike left him able to harness the power of electricity. Soon, four other men in town are conveniently struck dead by lightning, bringing in our favorite FBI agents so that poor Mulder's cell phone can get zapped as well. Check out the clip below to see Giovanni Ribisi use his powers to defibrillate Jack Black.

Teach robots to love
Yes, yes, we know: Short Circuit's Johnny 5 bears a remarkable resemblance to his adorable robot successor Wall-E. But while Wall-E gained his sentience through years of isolation on the desiccated Earth, Johnny 5's personality burst into life and into our hearts in a bolt of lightning. The lightning itself isn't the interesting part, so here's Johnny 5 busting out the moves with his friend Stephanie.

Help you cheat on tests
Saved By The Bell's Screech was one of the greatest of the tv nerds – you never knew when he was going to fall out of a locker, masquerade as a woman/teacher/alien to further one of Zack's schemes, or get struck by lightning. The wonderfully cheesy Saturday morning sitcom never shied away from patently ridiculous plot devices – see the famous Jessie Spano caffeine pill freakout and, my personal favorite, Zack's 1502 on the SATs – and it only took till the series' third episode for lightning to strike. The bolt hits Screech, of course, who becomes instantly but temporarily clairvoyant, and he uses his newfound lightning-powers to help Zack and the gang cheat on a history exam. Good thing it wasn't earth science!

Magnetize all available metals
You may be seeing Danny Kaye on your tv this time of year in White Christmas, but it was in the 1956 classic The Court Jester that he taught us how lightning can save the day even in vaguely-medieval England. The lead-up to the jousting scene is well-remembered for its impossible tongue twister about the pellet with the poison in the flagon with the dragon, but it wasn't fancy word-play that saved Danny Kaye's neck in the end – just good old-fashioned lightning. The bolt, in all its cheesy 50s special effects glory, magnetizes his suit of armor, giving him that vital edge against his enemy's mace. This is one of the greatest sketches of all time, so if you watch only one of the clips in this article, make it this one.

Magnetize all available non-metals
In another fine instance of random lightning-induced magnetism, Gilligan's Island had good old Gilligan go bowling in a storm and get struck just as he's throwing a strike. Naturally, this causes the bowling ball to become magnetized to Gilligan's hand. If the idea of a rock getting magnetized to a hand sounds implausible to you, just wait for the Professor's explanation at 3:30 on the video, one of the finest feats of technobabble ever recorded. Oh, and when they try to remove the bowling ball? Gilligan turns invisible. Of course.

Score free plastic surgery
And sometimes, lightning just makes you pretty. In a subversion of the classic Frankenstein trope, 1960's monster-family sitcom The Munsters had patriarch Herman Munster – normally green-skinned and bolt-necked like a traditional Frankenstein monster – turn magically, hideously normal after a freak lightning accident in Grandpa's lab. True to family form, the rest of the Munster clan is disgusted by Herman's newly handsome appearance. But fear not! Another lightning strike at the end of the episode turned Herman back into his usual ugly self. Check out the clip to see actor Fred Gwynne in his only appearance as Herman Munster sans make-up.

So next time you walk through a storm, hold your head up high - because if you get struck by lightning, who knows! You just might discover another fantastic power of the sci fi world's greatest fix-it.

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