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Underrated: Six 90’s Comic Book Movies

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Comic Book Movies From The 90’s

With the cinematic landscape jam packed with comic book inspired movies these days, I had to wonder what the 90’s looked like, and whether any of those movies held up today. So I asked myself, I said “self, are there any movies that you feel are, for whatever reason, somewhat underrated?”

Turns out, there is.

A few things before we start; firstly, these comic book movies may have been well received when released, but may never have garnered as much attention as they deserved. Secondly, some of these movies I’m probably viewing with the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia so be prepared for some potentially foolish claims. Thirdly, this isn’t a complete, or inclusive, list and it is completely subjective.

phantom.jpgThe Phantom (1996)
This is probably one of the only comic book movie on this list with an actual spandex bodysuit in it, and Billy Zane does admirably well in the roll. I haven’t seen this movie since the 90’s, but not for lack of trying – it is very tough to track down for a reasonable price. The Phantom is a hugely enjoyable movie, so long as you take it for what it is (Guardians of the Galaxy, it is not), you can’t fail to not enjoy it. But do yourself a favour and skip the two part mini series released in 2010.

Batman Forever (1995)
Joel Shumacker ruined the Batman movie franchise with Batman and Robin, that’s no lie, but before he did that he made Batman Forever. I still enjoy this flick to this day. It echoes the Adam West TV show of the 1960’s, updating the camp foolishness of that time into a slightly more modern and darker time, bridging the gap expertly between Tim Burton’s films and the TV show. The movie stars because of its villains; Tommy Lee Jones’ Two Face and Jim Carry’s excellent portrayal of the Riddler.  No, the film isn’t the best batman movie out there, but it isn’t as bad as Shumacker’s other offering.

crow.jpgThe Crow (1994)
The Crow is a certified cult classic at this point, and with a new adaptation of the source material coming in the near future, I thought it would be worth familiarizing myself with one of my favourite movies (and was the genesis of this column). Brandon Lee is a revelation in this film, and the tragedy of his untimely death during filming only adds to the overwhelming sense of sadness and the themes of love that are woven through the movie. The film is a love story at heart, with just shy of half a dozen characters’ fates being intertwined through their actions; you’ll also notice some of the cinematography and visuals having an influence on some of the darker comic book movies that would follow.

rocketeer.jpgThe Rocketeer (1991)
A film in the vein of Indiana Jones and the adventure films of the 80’s, The Rocketeer is an entertaining romp set during the late 30’s as war brews in Europe. A stunt pilot finds a secret weapon, the jetpack, and struggles to win back his girl and stop the weapon from falling into the wrong hands. A genuinely entertaining film that you can watch with your kids (assuming you watch the adventures of Dr. Jones with them), The Rocketeer has long held a special place in my heart.

The Mask (1994)
Jim Carry’s rubber face is on full display in this outrageously fun and completely stupid offering. You can’t watch this without either laughing or rolling your eyes because The Mask is a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and nor should you take it seriously. Just watch it and enjoy the fun.


That’s all we have for this week, folks. Come back next time  when there’s something else Underrated to talk about.

The Rocketeer is coming to Disney Junior in a New Animated Series

Disney Junior has begun production on The Rocketeer, a new animated adventure series for young kids and their families slated to debut in 2019.

Inspired by Dave Stevens’ popular comic book series, The Rocketeer follows Kit, a young girl who receives a surprise package on her birthday revealing she’s next in line to become the Rocketeer, a legendary superhero who has the ability to fly with the help of a rocket-powered jet pack. Armed with her cool new gear and secret identity, Kit is ready to take flight and save the day with her gadget-minded best friend, Tesh, and airplane mechanic uncle, Ambrose, who join her on her epic adventures. The announcement was made by Joe D’Ambrosia, senior vice president, Original Programming, Disney Junior.

D’Ambrosia said the comics provide a perfect opportunity to create new adventures told from a young girl superhero perspective for the whole family. The series is geared towards kids 2-7 and their families. each episode of The Rocketeer will feature two 11-minute stories and include an original song. Nicole Dubuc is executive producer. The series will be produced by Wild Canary in association with Disney Junior.

Mondo’s Rocketeer & Betty Statue!

Soaring from the pages of Dave Stevens’ classic comic, The Rocketeer launches into action with his girl Betty by his side! This statue features both characters in comic-faithful outfits and gear, with a semi-translucent rocket exhaust base supporting them in the air. Join these two on a high-flyin’ adventure and get yours today!

The Mondo Exclusive version – only available until Friday (10/8) at 12PM (CT) – comes with an interchangeable “Surprised Betty” head!

Rocketeer & Betty Statue (Pre-Order). Approx. 13.5″ in Height. Material: Polystone. Artists: Trevor Grove, Mara Ancheta, Simon Garcia, Eric Siebenaler, Paul Roman Martinez. Expected to Ship 3rd Quarter of 2018. $200 – Payment Plans Available

Rocketeer & Betty Statue -Mondo Exclusive (Pre-Order). Available until Friday (12/8) at 12PM (CT). Approx. 13.5″ in Height. Material: Polystone. Artists: Trevor Grove, Mara Ancheta, Simon Garcia, Eric Siebenaler, Paul Roman Martinez. Expected to Ship 3rd Quarter of 2018. $205 – Payment Plans Available

Fashion Spotlight: Don’t Open Bugs Inside, Ale of Isengard, Rocketeer Flight Corps

Ript Apparel has three new designs! Don’t Open Bugs Inside, Ale of Isengard, and Rocketeer Flight Corps, by AtomicRocket, Kempo24, and inkone, are on sale today only! Get them before they’re gone!

Don’t Open Bugs Inside


Ale of Isengard


Rocketeer Flight Corps




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The Importance of Faithfulness in Comic Book Costumes

It wasn’t that long ago that the world’s first glimpse of a new superhero costume for a live-action project would premiere in, say, the pages of a fan magazine, or even an early trailer. Now, we live in a time when every major news outlet scrambles to score the first run of such an image. The recent debuts of Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman costume from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Melissa Benoist‘s Supergirl costume from the upcoming CBS show got me thinking.

With so many examples of superhero costumes for fans to examine, which have been the most faithful to their four-color roots? And is there any connection between the loyalty of a costume to its source material and the quality of the adaptation; that is, do they go hand in hand? Let’s take a look through some of the most reverent examples and see what we can find. All of the costumes I considered for this article were from live-action projects, as animation doesn’t carry as many challenges for transitioning a costume. I also omitted CGI characters such as The Hulk and The Silver Surfer, since their creation was primarily digital.


1) Christopher Reeve as Superman, Superman: The Movie (1978): What better place to start than with an icon? While the suit doesn’t conform expressly to any one comic artist, it does replicate all the hallmarks of the widely accepted Superman look: spit curl, wide “S” on the chest, secondary yellow “S” on the cape, thin yellow belt with circular buckle, even the subtle “M” shapes cut into the top of the red boots. The thorough translation of that look, along with Reeve’s heartfelt performance, lifted Superman: The Movie to its status as both the first serious superhero blockbuster and the grandfather of the entire comic-book film landscape.

Andrew-Garfield-Spider-Man The_Amazing_Spider-Man

2) Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014): Another iconic hero, another familiar costume, though perhaps not from a film afforded the same affection as Superman: The Movie. Whatever your thoughts regarding Marc Webb’s second stab at Spidey, you have to admit that the costume is hard to criticize. It’s all there, as if he just swung in from an early Stan Lee/John Romita Sr. issue: the rounded white eyepieces (not pointed; a detail that bugged me about the Raimi films), the bright blue and red in their classic configuration, even the black web-rings that encircle the web-slinger’s fingers. If anyone ever thought that the Spider-Man costume wouldn’t work on film as is, here’s proof to the contrary.

CAPA011_covcol captain-america-the-winter-soldier-poster-sebastian-stan

3) Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): A more recently created character, but another successful translation from page to screen. The Winter Soldier springs from the mind of Ed Brubaker into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, complete with metal arm and a half-mask that makes him look like a Cobra trooper. The comic design of the Winter Soldier already lent itself to cinematic copy, and the recent debut of the character allowed much of the general audience to experience the character on film without prior knowledge.

3811 1624712-wonder_woman

4) Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman (1975 – 1979): Much like Christopher Reeve’s super-wear, this costume was a crystallization of Wonder Woman’s history of slightly modified battle attire (sometimes shorts, sometimes a skirt, etc.) by cementing the “swimsuit” style look in the public’s mind. Like Reeve, it helped that Carter was a solid physical match for the character. This is generally what springs to mind when one thinks of WW: golden tiara with red star, gold and red top, blue star-spangled lower piece, bullet-stopping bracelets and striped red boots. While the show suffered from an overabundance of camp and the absence of a generous budget, the costume would continue to appear in much the same form across multiple media formats for decades.

adi-granov-iron-man-marvel-170985-480x320 iron-man-32

5) Robert DowneyJr., Iron Man, Iron Man (2008): An instant classic. Utilizing Adi Gradov’s Extremis-era armor design from the comics (which made sense as Gradov worked as a concept artist on the film), the Stan Winston Studio delivered a detailed, believable armored battle suit that filtered the multitudes of Iron Man suits into a crowd-pleasing singularity. Bonus points for the design of the Mark 1 armor, capturing the DIY feel of a clunky, first-draft walking tank with panache. A rare example of all elements of a film working together to produce something special and unexpected.

4336738-art10 The-Crow-brandon-lee

6) Brandon Lee as The Crow, The Crow (1994): While admittedly a relatively simple look to replicate on film, the late Brandon Lee’s striking performance leapt out from behind the rage-mime makeup to create a truly memorable character: raw, emotional, caring and vengeful. The unadorned black clothing kept the focus on the power of the character and his mission while satisfying the fans of James O’Barr’s graphic novel.

Rocketeer_Flying the-rocketeer82120125

7) Billy Campbell as The Rocketeer, The Rocketeer (1991): Such a period-evocative costume design that feels as if it could only have exploded out of the 1930s, yet Dave Stevens’ high-flying aviator first appeared in 1982. Disney’s 1991 film followed Stevens’ lead exceptionally well, nailing the thick-buttoned leather jacket, jet pack, puffy pants, boots and that Art Deco helmet that looks like Dr. Fate’s blue-collar cousin. This adherence to Stevens’ design helped the film achieve its rollicking derring-do and high adventure as an energetic throwback to the early days of cliffhanger serials.

677586-ghost_rider ghost-rider-2-release-date

8) Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider (2007): Ghost Rider’s costume design isn’t necessarily the most eye-popping, from the neck down. From the neck up, well, it’s just hard to beat a burning skull that can talk, laugh and spew brimstone. But the filmmakers did an admirable job of equipping that flaming skull with all of his comic-accurate accoutrements: lots of leather (with buttons that transform into metal spikes), a long length of lethal chain, and of course, that seriously intimidating bike. While the film may have stumbled with wild shifts in tone, the look of the main character was handled with aplomb.

Hellboy_The_Wolves_of_St_August Ron Perlman stars as Hellboy. Photo credit: Columbia TriStar Films

9) Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Hellboy (2004): A great example of an above-and-beyond creation of costume design. The Hellboy design team, under the direction of Guillermo del Toro, duplicated Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic design even down to the underbite that gives him that tough-guy profile. The devil’s in the details: the filed-down horns, the symbols cut into his skin, the worn duster jacket, and of course the Right Hand of Doom. The character’s relative human-like size allowed practical effects to create him believably in live-action, as opposed to Michael Chiklis’ Thing in Fantastic Four, who was rendered much smaller than his on-the-page counterpart. Coupled with Ron Perlman’s surly yet lovable performance, Hellboy translates improbably well into our world.

2002920-watchmen_window_rorschach Rorschach

10) Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Watchmen (2009): Aside from the shifting mask, the rest of Rorschach’s ensemble may seem a bit pedestrian. But this one’s all about the little touches: broken belt loops, old bloodstains; all the effects of an obsessive crime-fighting mission on a man without Bruce Wayne’s resources. This wear and tear, combined with Haley’s mastery of the character’s objectivist rage and bulldog tenacity, made Rorschach as much of a standout in the film as he was in the graphic novel.


Now obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, or even particularly ranked on a subjective scale of comic-faithfulness. It’s simply my opinions regarding the examples that bridged the visual gap between comic and film in the best way. But within these picks there seems to be one through-line that pertains to the best examples: attention to replicating a character’s costume usually runs parallel to attention paid to the character’s inner workings and personality. Not always the case (Ghost Rider may be an exception) but many times a commitment to the legacy of a character’s outside equals a respect for the character’s inside.

The Legacy Collection: The Rocketeer in May

Take flight with The Rocketeer!

The Rocketeer comes equipped with a removable jetpack for his adventures in flight! He also comes with two interchangeable heads! One with his mask and one without. He may be a stunt pilot by day, but by night he zips through the Los Angeles skyline fighting crime as The Rocketeer!

The Legacy Collection: The Rocketeer is out in May from Funko.

The Legacy Collection The Rocketeer

The Internet Archive also brings us Superman, TMNT, Spider-Man, Rocketeer, Fantastic Four, and X-Men Games to Play

X-Men 2 - The Fall of the MutantsThe Internet Archive is becoming an amazing arcade, especially with its release of 2,400 MS-DOS games on top of the hundreds of Atari and arcade games it already hosted. Add on top of that a new browser-based emulator that’s still in beta, and you can experience some classic games that are still as fun to play today as they were twenty something years ago.

I went through the archive and pulled out the comic related video games from the 2,400. This is on top of the couple I reported about earlier today.

The Amazing Spider-Man – published in 1990 by Paragon Software Corporation for the Amiga, Atari ST, and Commodore 64, this game has Spider-Man rescuing Mary Jane who was kidnapped by Mysterio. Primarily a platformer the game also includes puzzles, mostly to deactivate Mysterio’s tricks.

Fantastic Four – published in 1986, this text adventure takes you through Latveria to battle Doctor Doom.

The Rocketeer – published in 1991 by Walt Disney Computer Software and developed by NovaLogic Inc., this game has you participate in several action sequences that mimic the same sequences in the Rocketeer movie, like racing a plane, a shootout in a warehouse, and hand-to-hand combat on top of a flying blimp. It’s based on the Dave Stevens’ original comic book series and the movie made by the Walt Disney Company.

Superman – The Man of Steel – published in 1989 by First Star Software and developed by Tynesoft Computer Software, you play as Superman on a mission to save a kidnapped Lois Lane from Darkseid and Lex Luthor. The gameplay consists of different action-oriented sections including 3D flying, overhead vertical scrolling and side scrolling. Sections are linked by comic book graphics which tell the story…. so that’s kind of cool.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Manhattan Missions – published by Konami and developed by Distinctive Software in 1991 this is a side-scroller where you battle Shredder. Players have 48 hours to complete the game, I mean really 48 hours… and you need to rest your characters to gain health! Luckily you can save the game to reload it later, so you don’t have to play for 48 hours straight.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II – The Arcade Game – also released in 1991, published by Image Works, and developed by Konami, the game is a 3rd-person perspective side scroller. Here, April is kidnapped by Bebop and Rocksteady and you must save her by facing familiar foes. I lost a lot of time and quarters playing this one.

X-Men 2 – The Fall of the Mutants – released in 1991 by Paragon Software, players must assemble a team of five X-Men from a selection of fifteen, and eliminate the evil mutants while playing in a top-down RPG-style environment. When battles commence the player has two choices for how the combat takes place: either side-scrolling action, or turn-based RPG-style combat. In the side-scrolling action fights, the player can use each of the team members’ powers to kill the foes.

So, any favorites or fond memories of these?

Mark Waid! Paul Smith! IDW! DC Entertainment! The Rocketeer! The Spirit!

IDW Publishing and DC Entertainment have announced the meeting of two of comics’ greatest pulp heroes! Dave Stevens’ high-flying Cliff Secord will finally cross paths with Will Eisner’s iconic Denny Colt this summer in The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction! The four-issue series, taking off in July, will also pack quite the creative wallop, being written by multi-Eisner Award-winning scribe Mark Waid and drawn by the legendary Paul Smith!

The Rocketeer/Spirit: Pulp Friction features a murder mystery and political intrigue. From the grim and gritty streets of Central City where The Spirit navigates through the urban underbelly of corruption to the sunny skies of Los Angeles where The Rocketeer soars above the Hollywood elite, these two classic characters will become enthralled in murder, mayhem, and all manner of danger—and with a healthy dose of signature humor tossed in for good measure.

The Rocketeer/Spirit: Pulp Friction arrives in stores July 10th.

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day, what’s everyone getting?

Around the Blogs:

Bleeding Cool – What If The Founder Of Comic Con Was Outed And Nobody Noticed? -I missed this bit.

Bleeding Cool – Rocketeer Reboot On The Blocks At Disney? Isn’t The Timing All Wrong? -I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original, but it’s grown on me over time.


Around the Tubes Reviews:

Talking Comics – Invincible #94

What Culture – The Underwater Welder

IDW Honored with 12 Eisner Nominations

Official Press Release

IDW Honored with 12 Eisner Nominations

Nominations include Best Continuing Series and Best Archival Collection

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM coverSan Diego, CA (April 7, 2011)—With today’s announcement of the 2011 nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry awards, IDW Publishing and its team of stellar creators and editors have been honored with twelve separate nominations, the most in company history. Showcasing the company’s wide range of projects, six separate books and series received nominations.

“These many nominations covering the breadth of IDW’s diverse product line are so gratifying to see,” said Ted Adams, IDW co-founder and chief executive officer. “We strive hard every month to produce books that run the gamut of comic book fans’ interest, and it’s nice to see a spotlight shined on so many of these books.”

Recently the basis for a FOX Television pilot, IDW’s acclaimed series LOCKE & KEY tops the company’s nominations with four separate nods. Created by best-selling prose author Joe Hill, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez, LOCKE & KEY is up for Best Continuing Series, Best Single Issue (Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1), Best Writer (Joe Hill) and Best Penciller/Inker (Gabriel Rodriguez). Hill is also a member of the creative team for THE CAPE, nominated for Best Single Issue, along with Jason Ciaramella and Zack Howard.THE CAPE cover

“I’m really gratified by all the nominations and especially the nods for LOCKE & KEY and THE CAPE,” said Chris Ryall, IDW’s chief creative officer and the editor of both nominated comics. “Anything that brings more focus to these two great series makes me happy. We really believe in LOCKE & KEY, which is why it’s the focus of our Free Comic Day issue this year, and we’re very high on its chances to get picked up as a TV series. And THE CAPE has gone from a little sold-out one-shot to an all-new series this June, so I love the idea of these nominations bringing more attention to the great work the creators are doing on both of these comics.”

THE OUTFIT coverTHE OUTFIT, the second installment of Darywn Cooke’s graphic novel adaptation series, Richard Stark’s Parker, is nominated for Best Writer/Artist (Darywn Cooke) and Best Lettering (Darywn Cooke). The first book in the series, THE HUNTER, won the Eisner for Best Adaptation from Another Work in 2010.

“I’m very happy that Darwyn has once again been recognized by the Eisner voting committee,” said editor Scott Dunbier. “He’s a terrific writer and artist and never gives less than his all—congrats, my friend!”

After launching to huge praise at San Diego Comic Con in 2010, IDW’s inaugural Artist’s Edition book, DAVE STEVENS’ THE ROCKETEER, is recognized with two Eisner nominations, for Best Archival Collection/Project – Strips and Best Publication Design. This amazing edition is edited by Scott Dunbier and designed by Randall Dalhk.DAVE STEVENS' THE ROCKETEER: ARTIST'S EDITION cover

IDW’s archival imprint, the Library of American Comics, again dominates its category with three nominations. The inaugural volume of POLLY AND HER PALS COMPLETE SUNDAY COMICS received nods for both Best Archival Collection/Project-Strips and Best Publication Design. POLLY AND HER PALS COMPLETE SUNDAY COMICS, Volume 1 is edited by multiple award-winner Dean Mullaney and designed by Mullaney and Lorraine Turner.

Rounding out IDW’s twelve nominations is ARCHIE: THE COMPLETE DAILY NEWSPAPER STRIPS, 1946-1948. Recognized in the category of Best Archival Collection/Project – Strips, ARCHIE features the classic work of Bob Montana and the first editor credit for the company’s chief operating officer, Greg Goldstein.

POLLY AND HER PALS, VOL 1“I’m glad our efforts at the Library of American Comics continue to be recognized,” said creative director Mullaney. “These are our ninth nominations in our first four years. I’m particularly proud that tribute this year is being paid to the incredible cartooning of Cliff Sterrett and Bob Montana.”

LOCKE & KEY comics and graphic novels are available in comic and book stores.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #1 ($3.99, 32 pages, full color) is available in comic stores.

THE CAPE ($3.99, 32 pages, full color) is available in comic stores.

THE OUTFIT ($24.99, hardcover, 160 pages) is available in comic and book stores.

DAVE STEVENS’ THE ROCKETEER: ARTIST’S EDITION ($100, hardcover, 136 pages, 12” x 17”, black and white) is available in comic stores.ARCHIE: THE COMPLETE DAILY NEWSPAPER STRIPS, 1946-1948 cover

POLLY AND HER PALS COMPLETE SUNDAY COMICS, Volume 1 ($75, hardcover, 176 pages, 16” x 12”, color) is available in comic and book stores.

ARCHIE: THE COMPLETE DAILY NEWSPAPER STRIPS, 1946-1948 ($39.99, hardcover, 328 pages) is available in comic and book stores.

Visit IDWPublishing.com to learn more about the company and its top-selling books.

About IDW Publishing
IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The Transformers and G.I. JOE, Paramount’s Star Trek; HBO’s True Blood; the BBC’s Doctor Who; Toho’s Godzilla and comics and trade collections based on novels by worldwide bestselling author, James Patterson. IDW is also home to the Library of American Comics imprint, which publishes classic comic reprints; Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio; and is the print publisher for EA Comics.

IDW’s original horror series, 30 Days of Night, was launched as a major motion picture in October 2007 by Sony Pictures and was the #1 film in its first week of release. More information about the company can be found at IDWPublishing.com.

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