Monday, April 29, 2013

NASA Confirms Planet Similar to DOCTOR WHO's Gallifrey


"I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous..."
-- The Tenth Doctor, DOCTOR WHO: "Voyage of the Damned"

Time War, Shmime War...The Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey exists.  Sort of.

An article in the Register states that NASA came across what it calls a "transiting circumbinary multi-planet system," which means two worlds orbiting two suns, using its Kepler telescope designed for locating planets.  The Register compares them to "Doctor Who’s Time Lord homeworld [of] Gallifrey – or alternatively the luxury-planet-builders’ planet Magrathea [from] The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy."

The fictional planet Gallifrey is located within a binary star system in the constellation of Kasterborous at "galactic coordinates ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two from galactic zero centre" some 250 million light years away from Earth.  It first appeared in the final Patrick Troughton Doctor Who story "The War Games" in 1969, where the fugitive Second Doctor was finally brought home to stand trial for stealing his Type-40 TARDIS and interfering with the time/space continuum.  The planet remained unnamed until the Jon Pertwee story "The Time Warrior" in 1973 and was later revealed to have been destroyed somehow during the events of a mysterious "Time War" first mentioned in the Christopher Eccleston story "The End of the World" in 2005.

The Register quotes Jerome Orosz, associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University, who was the lead author of the study.  "Each planet transits over the primary star," said Orosz, ":giving unambiguous evidence that the planets are real."

The discovery of "Gallifrey" was first reported in January but the full study report has just been published in the journal ScienceThe new system has been named Kepler 47 and has two stars circling each other every 7.5 days.  One of them is similar in size to our sun, whereas the other is approximately one third its size.  The inner planet, Kepler-47b, is three times the size of Earth, making it the smallest known transiting circumbinary planet, and it orbits the stars every 49 days.  The second, Kepler-47c, lies in the habitable zone around the two suns.  According to the Register, Kepler-47c is "slightly larger than Uranus and circles its stars every 303 days, making it the longest transiting planet currently known.  The whole system lies about 5,000 light years away in the Cygnus constellation."

Of course, Whovians already know that the appearance of Gallifrey isn't exactly unprecedented.  After all, it did return briefly in 2009 during the final David Tennant story "The End of Time"...

Gallifrey rises!


 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

DAMN Good Comics -- EAST OF WEST #2

Boy, nothing says Apocalypse like American Presidential politics.

The second issue of writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta's sci-fi Western saga continues our introduction to life in 2064 America.  We pick up the pieces from last issue's brutal murder of the President with three of the Four Horsemen interviewing his replacement.  It seems belief in the power of The Message is pretty important to them and one by one, the Horsemen work their way through the line of succession before finally settling on a new President they can use.

(Of course, they probably should've done some homework first and realized their new handpicked President has the feminized name of Anton LaVey.  You know, that wacky author of The Satanic Bible and founder of the Church of Satan?)

In addition to East of West, Hickman is producing an insane amount of work right now -- Two issues per month of Avengers, plus issues of New Avengers, The Manhattan Projects and the upcoming Infinity event.  All of those titles have big ideas and East of West is certainly no different.  It's quickly becoming a series you could easily see developed for television, preferably on HBO or Showtime, and unique enough that people aren't going to shrug it off as another Firefly or even Syfy's current series Defiance.

Nick Dragotta, meanwhile, is proving to be the perfect choice as creative partner.  Together with colorist Frank Martin, Dragotta is cutting loose with bold, stylish designs that blow his previous work with Hickman on Marvel's first FF series right out of the water.  Regardless of his art style that partially resembles animation, Dragotta brings tons of mood and gravitas to every scene.

We're introduced to several more major players this issue, with the closing exchange between Death and Andrew Archibald Chamberlain, Chief of Staff of the Black Towers, the seat of power for The Confederacy.  Chamberlain drops a cliffhanger bombshell on Death straight out of Kill Bill Vol. 1, one that practically dares the reader to not come back next month to find out what happens next.  East of West is one of the most promising new series of 2013, so if you're in the mood for a fun and fascinating ride, hurry up and jump on board now.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Trailer for THOR: THE DARK WORLD Debuts


The Odinson has returned.

Earlier this morning, the first trailer for the Marvel Studios film Thor: The Dark World debuted online, giving us our first good look at the sequel to 2011's Thor starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman.  The official synopsis for the film:

Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s “Thor” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano and Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins as Odin, “Thor: The Dark World” is directed by Alan Taylor, produced by Kevin Feige, from a story by Don Payne (credit not final) and screenplay by Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (credit not final) and is based on Marvel’s classic Super Hero Thor, who first appeared in the comic book “Journey into Mystery” #83 in August, 1962.

“Thor: The Dark World” is presented by Marvel Studios. The executive producers are Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Victoria Alonso, Craig Kyle and Nigel Gostelow. The film releases November 8, 2013, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.


The trailer opens with a voiceover from Sir Anthony Hopkins, reprising his role as Odin, the All-Father of Asgard.  "Some believe that before the universe, there was nothing.  They're wrong.  There was darkness...and it has survived."

We see a gigantic stalactite-shaped object carving a path of destruction through the University of Greenwich in London, where Thor's astrophysicist love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her research assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) are apparently still trying to find a way to get Jane to Asgard.

Well, guess which God of Thunder finally decides to show up.  "I gave you my word I would return," Thor tells her in another voiceover.  He takes Jane into his arms and tells her to hold on as a familiar beam of energy transports them both to Asgard, leaving Darcy behind.

"We're from different worlds," remarks Jane as Thor shows her around the Golden Realm.  "Maybe they're separate for a reason."

As the growing menace looms, Thor pleads to Odin for action.  "If we do nothing, they'll destroy us."  We then see Thor in the midst of a battle involving Asgardian warriors creating a shockwave from the force of his hammer Mjolnir striking the ground.

A voiceover from Christopher Eccleston's character Malekith follows.  "Ask yourself, what will you sacrifice for what you believe?" he says as we see Jane suspended in mid-air, captive by some mystical force of Malekith.  As you might expect, an anguished Thor drops to his knees and bellows "NOOOOO!!!"

And just to make things even more interesting, we cut to a prison cell within Asgard and find Thor's adopted brother Loki Laufeyson inside, with considerably longer hair but still as arrogant as ever.  "You must be truly desperate to come to me for help," he remarks. 

"You should know that when you betray me, I will kill you," replies Thor.

"When do we start...?"

Thor: The Dark World arrives in theaters on November 8, 2013.  You can view the trailer below thanks to the Jo Blo Movie Network...

Monday, April 22, 2013

First Look at Halle Berry as Storm in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

One month after X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer announced that actress Halle Berry would reprise her role as Storm/Ororo Munroe, he's returned to Twitter with the first look at her new costume.

On his official account earlier this afternoon, Singer posted "Storm watch " and revealed that Storm's hair continues to get shorter to match Berry's own hairstyle while her X-Men uniform continues to get...well...duller. 

Presumably, the uniforms for the older X-Men featured in the film will have a similar team design.

Now at the age of 46, this will be Berry's fourth appearance as Storm and her first since X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006.  X-Men: Days of Future Past is scheduled to arrive in theaters on July 18, 2014.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Man of Steel: 75 Years of Superman


"Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you...my only son."
-- Jor-El, Superman (1978)

Exactly seventy-five years ago today, Action Comics #1 was published in 1938 by National Allied Publications, the early version of DC Comics.  The most important comic book ever made featured the debut of the world's greatest superhero, Superman, in a thirteen-page story by Glenville, Ohio creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster that paved the way for the entire superhero genre that continues today.

The issue also featured the debut of Superman's love interest (and occasional wife) Lois Lane, who was based physically on Siegel's wife Joanne.  It wasn't long before supporting characters JImmy Olsen and Perry White and arch-nemesis Lex Luthor were added to the world of Superman, which continued to grow over the decades to include Superman's parents Jonathan and Martha Kent, his cousin Supergirl, his Smallville love interest Lana Lang, and a number of great villains including Brainiac, General Zod, Metallo, Bizarro, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Mongul and Doomsday.

In 1939, Superman became popular enough to receive his own self-titled series, which sold even better than Action Comics.  Just a year later, Superman branched into other media with The Adventures of Superman, a radio drama series starring Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander that ran until 1951.  In 1941, Fleischer Studios produced the first of seventeen Superman movie cartoon shorts that remain some of the best ever created.

Superman continued to grow in popularity and in 1948, the first live-action movie serial starring Kirk Alyn began with a second, Atom Man vs. Superman, following in 1950.  The first Superman featured film arrived a year later, with George Reeves taking over in Superman and the Mole MenReeves remained in the role for Adventures of Superman, the first regular Superman television series, that ran for six seasons in syndication from 1952 through 1958.  Bud Collyer returned for a new series of television cartoons titled The New Adventures of Superman in 1966 that ran for a few years and then in 1973, Danny Dark defined the role for Generation X kids on the various Super Friends Saturday morning cartoons on ABC.

Those Super Friends cartoons were my first introduction to Superman at the age of four, creating my deep lifelong fondness for the character and encouraging me to read his adventures in Action Comics and Superman.  As the adopted son of two loving Midwestern parents, cursed with glasses at a young age, I easily identified with Clark Kent and was constantly inspired by his neverending battle for truth, justice...and simply doing the right thing.

My fan appreciation for Superman was made even more permanent in 1978 with Richard Donner's Superman, starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder.  Reeve defined the role of Superman for me and most of my generation in the first truly epic superhero film with gorgeous cinematography, powerful music by composer John Williams, and an incredible cast including Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Glenn Ford and Jackie Cooper.  The sequel Superman II folowed in 1981, which helped me get through one of the most difficult times of my young life.

In 1986, DC Comics relaunched its fictional universe in the limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths and restarted Superman continuity from scratch in the six-issue series The Man of Steel by writer/artist John Byrne.  For far too long, Superman comics had lost much of their appeal with bland, repetitive stories and I, like a number of fans, was only checking in every so often.  Byrne's reboot gave Superman's world a desperately-needed cleaning, updating the characters and storytelling for the eighties.  As Byrne continued on with Action Comics and the renumbered Superman series, my interest in Superman was reignited and I haven't stopped buying the comics since.  I attended the 1988 International Superman Exhibition in Cleveland, Ohio, which celebrated Superman's 50th anniversary and gave me the opportunity to meet Noel Neill and Kirk Alyn, along with a number of Superman comics creators.

Later that same year, the syndicated television series Superboy debuted starring John Haymes Newton and later Gerard Christopher.  The series was film at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida and in 1990, I was able to appear as a background extra in the episode "Roads Not Taken, Part II" and managed to get a personally autographed photo from Christopher that I still have to this day.

In 1992, DC Comics began one of the most ambitious Superman storylines ever in "The Death and Return of Superman" saga.  The Man of Steel was killed in Superman (vol.2) #75 by a new creation called Doomsday, in a devastating battle on the streets of Metropolis.  DC left Superman dead for almost a year, with four different Supermen filling in, until revealing the character was slowly recovering in stasis inside the Fortress of Solitude.

Superman returned to ABC in 1993's Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher.  The show blended superheroics with a romantic comedy, resulting in the long-awaited marriage of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  In an attempt to capitalize on the event, DC Comics also had the two characters marry in the Superman: The Wedding Album special published that very same week.  On a personal note, my future wife Lori and I spent time together watching the series, growing closer as time passed, and enjoyed all four seasons the show aired.

Superman appeared in animation once again in 1996, with the popular Superman: The Animated Series starring Tim Daly and Dana Delany.  The series captured a lot of what made the original Flesicher cartoons so appealing, while incorporating various elements from nearly sixty years.  As part of an animated universe crafted by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, the series carried into a new Justice League animated series starring George Newbern in the role of Superman.

Just one month after the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the television series Smallville debuted to an America in desperate need of inspirational heroes and who better than a fictional icon like Superman?  The series starring Tom Welling continued to beat the odds and lasted for an incredible ten seasons on the WB network though its rebranding as The CW.  And thanks to the kind people at DC Comics, I was finally able to contribute my own tiny addition to the Superman mythos by writing four stories for the Daily Planet 2017 newspaper included as an extra feature for the Smallville: The Complete Series DVD gift set.  After all these years of reading and watching Superman stories, the feeling was indescribable.

At long last, Superman returned to the big screen in 2006 with Bryan Singer's appropriately-named film Superman Returns starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey.  Despite pulling in almost $400 million worldwide, the film was considered a disappointment and took the Superman film continuity that began in 1978 into a creative dead end.

2011 saw DC Comics relaunching its fictional universe once again in the five-issue series Flashpoint.  Superman's continuity from 1986-2011 was wiped clean and the character was given a heavily detailed armored look.  In the renumbered Action Comics, writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales took Superman way, way back to his original depiction by Siegel and Shuster as a social crusader.  The character was made single, slightly younger and according to the new timeline, has only been active for five years.

And now in 2013, we're less than two months from another Superman movie, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon.  The third trailer for the film was released earlier this week to rave reactions, promising a different approach to Superman's origin than the Richard Donner film while maintaining elements essential to that film and to the original comics source material.  After replaying Trailer #3 several times, I absolutely can't wait to see Man of Steel when it premieres just two days before my birthday.

Seventy-five years of Superman, the last son of a dying planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities beyond mortal men.  My deepest and sincerest gratitude to the late Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for...well...for everything.

Look.  Up in the sky...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DAMN Good Comics -- HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1

Once upon a time in the eighties, kids known as Generation X came home from school and watched a crudely animated syndicated TV series called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, based on the popular toy line by Mattel.  For half an hour, they were transported to the fictional fantasy realm of Eternia to see the adventures of Prince Adam and his allies Battle Cat, The Sorceress, Teela, Man-At-Arms and Orko.  The series lasted only two seasons, but featured a total of 130 episodes, and launched a spinoff series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, centered around Adam's sister Adora.

Well, there's nothing that now-fortysomething Generation X loves more these days than reliving childhood nostalgia, so it's no surprise to see He-Man and the Masters of the Universe making a comeback in comic book form.  After an initial six-issue limited series last year, He-Man finally returns in a new monthly ongoing format by writer Keith Giffen and artist Pop Mhan.

In this first issue, "Desperate Times," we return to Eternia for the funeral of The Sorceress, who was killed and beheaded by Skeletor in the previous limited series.  Teela, who has recently learned The Sorceress was her mother, apparently copes with the news by giving herself a drastic hairstyle change from blond to traditional animated series red.  She also learns that she was named after The Sorceress' real name, Teela Na, which doesn't exactly sit too well either.  Meanwhile, Despara has arrived with a Horde invasion force and launches an attack on Eternos that culminates in a surprising revelation for He-Man and Teela.

The script by Giffen is well-paced, as you would expect from him, with plenty of action balanced with the right amount of lighthearted humor.  He has a solid enough grasp on the characters without writing them too rigidly and wisely focuses most of the first issue on Teela and Despara, who have more interesting storylines right now than their male counterparts.  It was also nice to see Skeletor put on the backburner for a while in favor of the less obvious Hordak.  My only minor concern is that for a first issue, some parts aren't friendly to new readers and may require picking up the previous limited series to bring them quickly up to speed.

As for the art, Pop Mhan produces some excellent work here.  I first started noticing Mhan on the SpyBoy series for Dark Horse and The Flash for DC Comics and it amazes me how much he's grown as an artist since then.  His depictions of Eternos are big and lavish as you would want them to be, and they look even better with the solid color work by Kathryn Layno.

All in all, a very promising return for the Masters of the Universe characters.  With this new monthly format, Giffen and Mhan have the power -- Yeah, I went there -- to craft a great fantasy series and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Full Cast Announced for JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX


Are DC Comics animated projects about to showcase "The New 52"?

TV Guide has revealed the full cast for Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the new animated home video release based on Flashpoint, the five-issue limited series by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert from 2011.  Using the concept of an altered timeline, the series closed the book on the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe that began in 1986 and relaunched into the current version known as "The New 52."

The animated adaptation is described in the article as focusing on The Flash, "the super-speedster hero whose life is thrown into chaos when the reality around him suddenly changes into a world where the Justice League was never formed, Superman is unknown and Aquaman and Wonder Woman are waging a vicious war against each other that is tearing apart Europe."  As in the original comics, the alternate timeline version of Batman will feature someone different under the cowl.

The cast listed for Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is as follows:

The Flash/Barry Allen -- Justin Chambers (Grey's Anatomy)
Batman (Alternate Reality) -- Kevin McKidd (Rome, Journeyman)
Cyborg -- Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale)
Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash -- C. Thomas Howell (Southland)
Aquaman -- Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights)
Wonder Woman -- Vanessa Marshall
Superman -- Sam Daly (Son of Tim Daly)
Deathstroke/Slade Wilson -- Ron Perlman
General Sam Lane -- Danny Huston
Batman -- Kevin Conroy
Green Lantern -- Nathan Fillion
Lois Lane -- Dana Delany

The Warner Bros. Animation movie is scheduled to arrive on July 30, 2013 on Blu-Ray, DVD, On Demand and digital download formats.

Monday, April 15, 2013

James Bond Goes SOLO in September 2013

While waiting for Daniel Craig to return to the big screen for his fourth outing as James Bond in a couple of years, Bond fans can spend some time this fall with a new OO7 novel by William Boyd titled Solo.

While speaking at the 2013 London Book Fair, Boyd revealed the novel's title and provisional cover art shown to the left.  According to CommanderBond.NetSolo will be published by creator Ian Fleming's original publisher, Jonathan Cape, on 26 September 2013 in the UK and by Harper Collins in the US and Canada on October 8th.

And look, there's even a handy press release:

William Boyd, whose James Bond continuation novel is set to be one of this year’s publishing highlights, has today announced that his book will be called Solo.

The announcement came on the opening day of The London Book Fair, where Boyd is Author of the Day.

He explained his choice of title:

‘Sometimes less is more. For me as a novelist the simple beauty of Solo as the title of the next James Bond novel is that this short four-letter word is particularly and strikingly apt for the novel I have written. In my novel, events conspire to make Bond go off on a self-appointed mission of his own, unannounced and without any authorization – and he’s fully prepared to take the consequences of his audacity.

‘The journey Bond goes on takes in three continents – with the main focus honing in on Africa. It’s what happens to Bond in Africa that generates his urge to “go solo” and take matters into his own hands in the USA.

‘Thus far and no further, at this stage…’

He continues: ‘Titles are very important to me and as soon as I wrote down Solo on a sheet of paper I saw its potential. Not only did it fit the theme of the novel perfectly, it’s also a great punchy word, instantly and internationally comprehensible, graphically alluring and, as an extra bonus, it’s strangely Bondian in the sense that we might be subliminally aware of the “00” of “007” lurking just behind those juxtaposed O’s of SOLO…’

Very little else has been revealed about the book at this stage, other than that it will feature a veteran secret agent, with Bond aged 45. It will be published on 26 September in the UK by Fleming’s original publisher, Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Vintage Publishing, part of The Random House Group, in hardback, ebook and audio editions. HarperCollins will publish the book in Canada and the U.S. on 8 October.

Quote from Corinne Turner, Managing Director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd:

‘Ian Fleming had a great aptitude for naming his books and his Bond titles have become true classics. Solo is a simple yet striking title which fits perfectly alongside the other books in the Bond canon. The announcement of the title marks the lead up to the launch of William Boyd’s novel in September, which we and the Fleming family are looking forward to immensely.’

Quote from Richard Cable, Managing Director, Vintage:

‘We are delighted to be announcing Solo as the title for the new James Bond novel on the day on which William Boyd is celebrated as Author of the Day at London Book Fair. The few of us with the good fortune to have read Solo can testify that Will has written an absolutely brilliant book and we look forward with mounting excitement to a huge worldwide publishing event on September 26th. The timing of the announcement is particularly apt as we mark the 60th anniversary of Jonathan Cape’s first publication of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.'

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Live-Action GATCHAMAN/BATTLE OF THE PLANETS Movie Teaser Debuts


"Battle of the Planets!  G-Force, five incredible young people with superpowers!  And watching over them from Center Neptune, 7-Zark-7!  Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space.  G-Force!  Fearless young orphans, protecting Earth's entire galaxy.  Always five, acting as one.  Dedicated!  Inseparable!  Invincible!"
-- Narration from Battle of the Planets credits

As a rapidly-decaying member of Generation X, one of my fondest-remembered joys from childhood in the late 1970s was from coming home from elementary school every day in time to watch the Japanese anime import Battle of the Planets on my local independent TV station WUAB-43 out of Cleveland. 

In an attempt to capitalize on the huge sci-fi pop culture boom created by Star Wars, the series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman was repackaged for American audiences by Sandy Frank Entertainment.  The five lead characters were renamed Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop and Tiny, and some story elements were replaced with footage of a new R2-D2-like robot named 7-Zark-7.  10-year-old Charles could care less, however, and simply enjoyed each "new" episode.

Well, at long last, it looks as though I'm finally going to get to see Battle of the Planets (Okay, fine, Gatchaman) in a live-action adaptation.  The movie, directed by Toya Sato, stars Tori Matsuzaka as Ken Washio (Mark), Gō Ayano as George Asakura (Jason), Ayame Gouriki as Jun Ohtsuki (Princess), Tatsuomi Hamada as Jinpei Ohtsuki (Keyop) and as Ryohei Suzuki as Ryu Nakanishi (Tiny).  Here's are images from the movie's official website, spotlighting each character:


Yeah, I have no idea what "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" means either.

In any case, here's the teaser trailer for the movie, which is scheduled to arrive on August 24, 2013...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

ELEMENTARY Casts Natalie Dormer as Irene Adler


At last, CBS' Sherlock Holmes series Elementary has found "The Woman."

The network has announced that actress Natalie Dormer has been cast as Irene Adler, the prime romantic interest for Sherlock Holmes, for a three-episode arc ending the show's first season.  Adler was first mentioned in the seventh episode, "One Way to Get Off," as a former love interest of Holmes, who was later revealed in "M." as murdered by Sebastian Moran's employer, Moriarty.  Adler's death sent Holmes into his downward spiral of drug addiction that set up his pairing with Dr. Joan Watson.

The character of Irene Adler first appeared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "A Scandal in Bohemia" in July 1891 and was initially described as follows:
"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex."
Adler was recently featured in the Sherlock episode "A Scandal in Belgravia," played by Lara Pulver, and also was in the movies Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, played by Rachel McAdams.

"We're moving to the next chapter in our show -- and in some ways, to a previous chapter in Holmes' story," said executive producer and creator Rob Doherty.  "Irene Adler is perhaps the most pivotal relationship in Sherlock's life, and I can't think of an actress better suited to the challenge than Natalie."

Dormer also plays Margaery Tyrell on the HBO series Game of Thrones and also starred as Anne Boleyn on Showtime's The Tudors.  Her film credits include Captain America: The First Avenger and the upcoming movies The Counselor and Rush.

Elementary airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS and Dormer's first episode, "Risk Management," is scheduled for May 9th.

Monday, April 8, 2013

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Synopsis and Casting News


Production has officially begun on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the second Captain America film starring Chris Evans.  Marvel Studios announced that filming has commenced in Los Angeles, with additional filming in Cleveland and Washington, D.C.

In a detailed press release, they also revealed a brief plot synopsis and confirmed some significant information concerning some of the featured characters.  Robert Redford, who was announced last month, will be playing Alexander Pierce, who first appeared in Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. #3.  Emily VanCamp's character will indeed be Sharon Carter/Agent 13, as speculated back in February.  In addition, Hayley Atwell from Captain America: The First Avenger will reprise her role as Peggy Carter for the sequel.

Here's the full press release:

Following in the footsteps of the record-breaking Marvel Studios’ release, “Marvel’s The Avengers,” production on the highly anticipated release, Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has commenced in Los Angeles, Calif., with production also including locations in Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington D.C. Directing the film is the team of Anthony and Joe Russo (“Welcome to Collinwood”) from a screenplay written by Christopher Markus (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) & Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The First Avenger”). Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” returns Chris Evans (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Marvel’s The Avengers”) as the iconic Super Hero character Steve Rogers/Captain America, along with Scarlett Johansson (“Marvel’s The Avengers,” “Iron Man 2”) as Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson (“Marvel’s The Avengers,” “Iron Man 2”) as Nick Fury. In addition, film icon Robert Redford has joined the all-star cast as Agent Alexander Pierce, a senior leader within the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is set for release in the U.S. on April 4, 2014.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” will pick-up where “Marvel’s The Avengers” left off, as Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and teams up with Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, to battle a powerful yet shadowy enemy in present-day Washington, D.C.

Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in in 1941, Marvel's “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” features an outstanding supporting cast that includes Sebastian Stan (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Black Swan”) as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker,” “Million Dollar Baby”) as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Cobie Smulders (“Marvel’s The Avengers,” “How I Met Your Mother”) as Agent Maria Hill, Frank Grillo (“Zero Dark Thirty”) as Brock Rumlow and Georges St-Pierre (“Death Warrior”) as Georges Batroc. Rounding out the talented cast are Hayley Atwell (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) as Peggy Carter, Toby Jones (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “The Hunger Games”) as Arnim Zola, Emily VanCamp (“The Ring 2,” “Revenge”) as Agent 13 and Maximiliano Hernández (“Marvel’s The Avengers,” “Thor”) as Agent Jasper Sitwell.

Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige is producing the film. Executive producers on the project include Alan Fine, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee. The creative production team on the film includes director of photography Trent Opaloch (“Elysium,” “District 9”), production designer Peter Wenham (“21 Jump Street,” “Fast Five”), editors Jeffrey Ford, A.C.E. and Mary Jo Markey, A.C.E. (“Star Wars: Episode 7,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and three time Oscar®-nominated costume designer Judianna Makovsky (“The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”).

Marvel Studios’ upcoming release schedule includes “Iron Man 3” on May 3, 2013, and “Thor: The Dark World” on November 8, 2013. The studio most recently produced the critically acclaimed “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which set the all-time, domestic 3-day weekend box office record at $207.4 million. The film, which shattered both domestic and international box office records, is Disney’s highest-grossing global and domestic release of all time and marks the studio’s fifth film to gross more than $1 billion worldwide.

In the summer of 2011, Marvel successfully launched two new franchises with “Thor,” starring Chris Hemsworth, and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” starring Chris Evans. Both films opened #1 at the box office and have grossed over $800 million worldwide combined. In 2010 “Iron Man 2,” starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury took the #1 spot in its first weekend with a domestic box office gross of $128.1 million.

In the summer of 2008, Marvel produced the summer blockbuster movies “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk.” “Iron Man,” in which Robert Downey Jr. originally dons the Super Hero’s powerful armor and stars alongside co-stars Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub and Gwyneth Paltrow, was released May 2, 2008, and was an immediate box office success. Garnering the number one position for two weeks in a row, the film brought in over $100 million in its opening weekend. On June 13, 2008, Marvel released “The Incredible Hulk,” marking its second number one opener of that summer.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Synopsis and Casting News


The highly-anticipated S.H.I.E.L.D. television series pilot by Joss Whedon may have a new identity.

Some new information was recently found on ABC's website for advertisers, including a different series title, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and a detailed description.  As Entertainment Weekly points out however, an ABC network representative claims the title is not official and may change again, but it's possible this was done to distinguish the series more from the acclaimed FX police series The Shield.  One thing is certain, though -- Everyone will probably refer to it as just Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or simply S.H.I.E.L.D., because no one will care that it's a Marvel branded property except Disney/Marvel.

The detailed synopsis for the series:

Joss Whedon (MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) shows us not all heroes are super with MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Fresh from his role in the summer’s box office smash, MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) returns to the worldwide law enforcement organization S.H.I.E.L.D. He puts together a small, highly trained, team of Agents to tackle the cases that haven’t been classified yet, the new, the strange and the unknown. That team consists of straight arrow Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), an expert in combat and espionage; pilot and martial artist Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen); and brilliant if socially awkward scientists Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). They’ll be joined by civilian new recruit and computer hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet).

Prepare for an epic adventure that showcases the hope and wonder of the human spirit. This is a world of Super Heroes, aliens and the unusual – of action, spectacle and world spanning stories. The show will speak to the human condition through the lens of our very human, non-powered S.H.I.E.L.D agents – that together we are greater than we are apart, and that we can make a difference in the world.

Executive Produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen (Dollhouse, Dr.Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), Jeffrey Bell (Angel, Alias) and Jeph Loeb (Smallville, Lost, Heroes) comes Marvel’s first live-action TV series, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.


In other news, TVLine reported on Friday that actor J. August Richards, who formerly played Charles Gunn on Whedon's series Angel, has signed on for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in an undisclosed role.

The pilot already wrapped filming in February, but is highly likely to be added to ABC's fall schedule.  Given the secrecy around Richards' role, it's possible that he could be a younger version of Samuel L. Jackson's character Nick Fury that appears in flashbacks or he could be his son, Nick Fury, Jr., who was recently introduced past year in Marvel Comics' Battle Scars #1.  Richards is roughly 25 years younger than Jackson, so it seems unlikely he would assume Jackson's role in a modern-day setting.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

THE FLASH's Carmine Infantino Passes at 87


A very sad day in the world of comics as we learned that one of the industry's legendary artists, Carmine Infantino, passed away at the age of 87.

Infantino is probably best remembered as the co-creator and longtime artist of DC Comics character Barry Allen, the second person to become The Flash.  He drew The Flash's first four appearances in Showcase #4, 8, 13 and 14 in 1956 through 1958, and stayed with the character from the relaunched The Flash (vol.1) #105 in 1959 through #174 in 1967.  Infantino eventually returned to the book in 1981 after a long hiatus in issue #296 and remained with the series until its end in 1985 with issue #350.

During this time, Infantino co-created an incredible number of classic Flash characters and Rogues, including Iris West Allen, Wally West/Kid Flash, the Elongated Man, Professor Zoom the Reverse-Flash, Captain Cold, the Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang, the Trickster, Abra Kadabra, the Pied Piper, Heat Wave, Mr. Element, Dr. Alchemy, and Grodd.  He also drew the 1961 comics classic, "Flash of Two Worlds," in The Flash #123 that reintroduced Jay Garrick, the original Flash, and introduced the parallel world concept of Earth-Two.

The artist was also responsible for the co-creation of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, Black Canary, Deadman, The Human Target and Animal Man.  In addition, he drew a number of notable series runs, including Batman, the Dial "H" for Hero feature in Adventure Comics, The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, V, and Marvel Comics' Star Wars, Nova and Spider-Woman.

While at DC, Infantino held a number of managerial and editorial positions, including art director starting in 1966, editorial director in 1967 and publisher from 1971 to 1976.  During this time, DC hired significant creators such as Jack Kirby, Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil, and published the first DC/Marvel crossover special, Superman vs. Spider-Man.  Infantino was also involved in the development of the 1978 Superman film adaptation starring Christopher Reeve.

On a personal note, I was able to meet Infantino for a brief time at the Orlando, Florida comics and sci-fi convention MegaCon in 2002, where he graciously signed my copies of Flash Archives Vols. 1 - 3 as well as my large hardcover copy of DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes by Les Daniels.  I remember him as a bit gruff but otherwise polite, yet still engaged even at the age of 76.

My sincerest condolences to Infantino's family, friends and, of course, my fellow fans.  And to Infantino himself, my many thanks for all the wonderful characters and issues of The Flash that remain such an important part of my life to this day.  Rest In Peace.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Zygons Return for DOCTOR WHO 50th Anniversary Special

Well, well, well...So one classic Doctor Who monster made it.  I wonder what happened to the others...

Just days after revealing that David Tennant and Billie Piper will be returning for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, the BBC has just announced that classic monsters the Zygons will be returning as well.  The picture to the left was posted on their official website as well as Twitter, showing very little redesign to their original costume and makeup.

One of the most-requested monsters yet to return to Doctor Who, the Zygons have only appeared on television in the 1975 Fourth Doctor story "Terror of the Zygons."  They did, however, appear in the Eighth Doctor audio adventures The Zygon Who Fell to Earth and Death in Blackpool from Big Finish.  Also, they received mentions in Eleventh Doctor stories "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Power of Three."

This news follows on word that Gavin & Stacey actress Joanna Page will join John Hurt as guest-stars in the special.