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PCR #166  (Vol. 4, No. 22)  This edition is for the week of May 26--June 1, 2003.

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This summer...action...adventure...a film production like none other -- Marvel mania comes to Tampa: July 2003.

The PunisherYep. In the wake of the Marvel's big Hulk mania, "The Punisher" heads to central Florida. Mania is definitely the scene as the area thirsts for a feature film of this caliber. I have received a couple of e-mails since the announced feature film starring Thomas Jane ("Dreamcatcher","Sweetest Thing") and John Travolta (too many to list.) Everyone wants to know if another comic book movie can keep pace with the Spidey and X-Men franchises. Well, let's begin with recent source material.

Both the Punisher and the Hulk have great legacies. The Hulk was an inaugral member to the Avengers, there were early tangles with Wolverine, there was a great stints by Todd McFarlane and Dale Keown. The Punisher rampaged through the Marvel universe combating criminals and often crossing paths with Spiderman and Daredevil. The 90's reduced the characters to shallow stories that involved the latest guest appearance and forgot content. The Punisher was cancelled while Marvel tried a fleet of changes to bring interest back to the Hulk.

Then there was Garth Ennis (Punisher) and Bruce Jones (Hulk) - no more "Hulk Smash" or special guest appearances.

Hulk 34Marvel's classic Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde tale saw an unprecedented re-launch with Incredible Hulk #34 when Bruce Jones took over as the writer. "Return of the Monster" was a fitting title for the tale and our big green hero hasn't been the same since. Many writers had forgotten the intrigue and struggles of Bruce Banner. Jones brings this to the forefront of the title. BTW, check out current issues #50-54: the Abomination can actually be cool.

Former Preacher scribe, Ennis, brought back meaning to "shoot first, ask questions later" for the Punisher. There is a balance between the violence and gore with the sarcastic humor that was Frank Castle - the Punisher. The anti-hero takes the law in his own hands in a manner that would shock Jules from "Pulp Fiction."

Will the recent comic successes reach the big screen? Two hopes: in Ang Lee we trust and Thomas Jane - nuff' said.


The reviews...

Heavy LiquidHEAVY LIQUID: Paul Pope cracked the corporate world of comics with his strong vision and characterization. This six-part miniseries was published by DC on its Vertigo line. Unfortunately, Pope's weakness is his writing particularly dialogue. His characters are diverse, interesting - they just don't have anything that interesting to say. A weak plot muddles a beautiful cascade of images. Paul Pope needs a writer to complement his unique vision and style. His anti-hero, "S" for stooge, is gets involved in a plot to transform and incorporate the highly mysterious liquid into the art world. Heavy LiquidWe get to see the hallucinations experienced by "S" caused by the liquid, but about halfway through the series Pope doesn't find his mark and I got disinterested. The story does carry the classic tale of the hero just attempting to "do his thing" and not get caught (or killed) in the process.

Anyway, I was anxious to see the work of the indy artist (I would recommend his THB graphic novel) as his success parallels that of the indy filmmaking world. With his future still uncertain, one thing Paul Pope can say is that he realized his vision and got it to our there for all of us to see and enjoy.

THE SANDMAN (21-28): I love mythology - classic literature, "Star Wars", even Anne Rice's vampires and witches. The Sandman has always been a favorite and I re-read this story. Each issue leads perfectly into the next. Neil Gaiman reveals more about the rest of the Endless: Destiny, Despair, Desire, Death, Delirium and allusions to the missing sibling. The Lord of Dreams ventures to hell to redeem himself for condemning a woman to hell (Nada) only find that Lucifer is resigning and handing over hell to our Sandman. Gaiman introduces various figures begging, bartering and threatening Morpheus for the vacant home of the condemned and that damn Loki just won't go away quietly.

A great tale whether you read this title regularly or not.

On the pile...

Scary stuff that wasn't meant to be scary.

CHECK YOUR LONG BOX (key back issues to watch):

Amazing Spider-Man #300: This is the first appearance of Venom and he is more popular than ever. With comic graders snatching up copies of key issues, you may want to dig out this key issue and see what condition it's in.


COMIC AND TOY CONVENTION: SUNDAY, JUNE 8 - DOUBLETREE HOTEL 4500 Cypress Street. (1-888-370-6108 for directions). Scheduled to attend: Ethan Van Sciver (Batman, Hawkman, X-Men), Mart Nodell (creator of Golden Age Green Lantern), Alex Saviuk (Spidey artist), Arne Starr (artist and reviewer), Mark & Stephanie Heike (AC Comics), Tom Alvarez (Sherlock Holmes comic strip), D. Squire Wells (Scooterman comics), Ben Rose (Invisible War), and B-movie scream queen/Vampirella Leslie Culton and stars from IPW Wrestling. For more go to: http://www.comicbookconventions.com/tampaconvention/ or contact Tim Gordon 727-522-9032, or email: trgordon@peoplepc.com.

Venom is back: Ultimate Spider-Man 33 resurrected the evil symbiote and is a headliner in the Marvel scene these days with a regular series coming soon. From the first appearance in Amazing Spiderman 300 to the one panel in DC vs. Marvel #1, Venom is on the comeback and in a big way.

Get your magazines out of their paperbags: The CGC has expanded their grading process to include comic magazines. Mad, Sword of Conon, Vampirella, Cerebus and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will join the intense world of professional grading. The grades will be the same and the CGC definitely intends to move on to commercial magazines such as National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.

Hulk mania (con't): ABC Family will showcase a special June 21st showing of Hulk cartoons. "Spideymania" has filled the airways broadcasting classic episodes from the 60's to today. From the famous catchy theme song to a team-up with Iceman and Firestar to the long running 90's series - they are showing it all. I can't wait to catch up with Stan Lee's classic Hulk episodes.

Tim Burton to direct "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": While I am conflicted with the notion of a sequel to the classic "Willy Wonka", adding Burton renews my interest. His melancholy and conflicted tones will be great applied to this picture (comparable to "Beetlejuice" and "Nightmare Before Christmas") Unfortunately, I expect Burton to show me a "vermicious knid" and make the Oompa Loompas creepier than they already are.

Florida Police on Convert Patrol: In Kissimmee the police have disguised themselves as homeless to snare lawbreakers and in Ft. Myers, they stake out the drive thru. The McDonald's sting resulted in six arrests and twenty-nine citations. Too close to "Big Brother" or just a better mousetrap? Well, I see too many idiots weaving in-and-out of traffic and I don't feel comfortable letting any of my kids out of sight, so maybe the police just need to take a longer look around instead of coming up with creative covert operations. BTW, I need that double-quarter to absorb all of those illegal substances - isn't this a first amendment issue or something?

Quick sports note:

Clemons denied: ESPN was frothing at the mouth like Pavlov's dog to get the potential 300th career for Roger Clemons back in Fenway Park. Clemons himself donned a patch that honored a milestone which we had NOT yet reached. Well Yankee fans, it didn't happen. Denied. So, how does that $156 million dollar payroll taste right now. Oh, yeah, Steinbrenner will go out buy a couple of more players to ensure the Yankees make the playoffs. I often forget how baseball works these days.


Horror comics: where did they all go?

"Splash Page" is ©2003 by Brandon Jones.   Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.