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Author Archives: Richard Kirwin

Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel – Reviewed by Richard Kirwin

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I’m old enough to remember Stan’s Soapbox and to have the Origins of and Son of Origins of Marvel trades on my shelf. I’ve known Stan Lee as the mastermind of my favourite comic universe my whole life. His trademark wit and that infectious grin have both been synonymous in my mind with the Marvel Universe since long before “The Man” started popping up twice a year in his Marvel Cinematic Universe cameos. To me, Stan Lee has always been as much a character as his creations, a larger than life fictional version of himself, not the very real and, dare I say, uncanny creative mind presented in fantastic detail by Bob Batchelor in his extensively researched biography: Stan Lee, the Man Behind Marvel.

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Too Big to Fail: The WWE No Mercy Double Main Event

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I keep thinking that one day I will grow out of my pop culture pursuits; comics, movies with aliens and explosions, action figures, and the one that gets the most side eye from other serious adult people: Professional Wrestling.

I know its “fake,” I know its lowbrow, I know that watching two grown men in tight stretchy pants getting sweaty and pinning each other to a mat is kind of suspect, but the thing is… I just don’t care.

If you had tickets to a Maple Leaf Stanley Cup final game in one hand and tickets to NXT TakeOver in the other, let’s just say that you would still have Leaf tickets while I was running out of the room trying to catch people with a classic “too sweet” high sign.

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Under Construction – looking back at the summer franchises

Another summer has come and gone and with it another leg of the now never ending, race to build cinematic universes.  What started with a surprise appearance by Nick Fury at the end of 2008’s Iron Man has led us to a world where the Universal Monsters are making a comeback and nobody ever dares to leave the movie theater until the curtains close and the ushers give them the “all clear” for hidden scenes. With so many universes on the go, I thought it was worth checking in with some of them to see whats being built and if it’s worth sticking around.

When it comes to universe building, the big dog in the yard is Marvel. Not only have they successfully created a film formula that prints money at the box office, but they have also used the Disney machine to turn their pantheon of heroes into house hold names.  This summers entries included Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the long awaited Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Picking up where it left off, Guardians 2 gave audiences more of what they never knew they wanted: more heart, more classic tunes, more space adventure, more obscure comic references and more Groot. While it could be said that some of the humour may have been a little much for an action movie (Drax’s nipples…) the introduction of Kurt Russel as Ego the Living Planet, Star Lord’s long lost father, proved to be yet another casting slam dunk for the MCU.

While it didn’t leave us with a direct connection to Avengers: Infinity War, the end of credits did tease the introduction of Adam Warlock, a character with heavy comic ties to Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. Providing us with one more reason to be excited for the magical moment when all the Marvel Chrises (Pratt, Evans & Hemsworth) appear together on the big screen alongside their team mates. Read the rest of this entry

GEEK GIRL chapters 1 – 4 Reviewed

Before I get into my thoughts on Geek Girl by writer/creator Sam Johnson and artist Carlos Granda, I want to acknowledge that I know what it takes to go end to end with an idea and produce a finished product. I know that ideas are hard to tackle and even harder to put a saddle on and ride across the finish line. So, in keeping with the tone of this sports analogy filled opening paragraph, good on these guys for stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences. Everyone involved should be proud that they got the work done and that their comic is out there for people like me to examine and critique from the comfort of my desk. So credit to you guys, but if I’m honest, as is my nature, your game needs work.

Published by Markosia comics (whose logo looks really, really similar to the Star Wars rogue squadron symbol), Geek Girl tells the story of college student named Ruby, who wins a pair of glasses that give her super powers in a game of strip poker. She then dons a skimpy costume, calls herself Geek Girl and tries to balance her normal life with new career as a super hero.

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‘The Defenders’ arrive on Netflix – our review

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*The following post contains NO SPOILERS whatsoever.*

Besides making the phrase “I am Groot” part of the pop culture landscape, the great and lasting legacy of the Marvel Films will be the introduction of the “shared universe” concept. The idea that, within a series of films, hints and plot threads can be woven together to build to a bigger, bolder super film! From that first end of credits scene at the end of Iron Man, right through to the leaked trailer for Avengers: Infinity War; this has all been going somewhere. And wherever that place is, its full of money.

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No Girls Allowed? Not Anymore.

For several years I had the ridiculous good luck to be a paid instructor of a museum-based Dungeons & Dragons summer camp program. One of the great accomplishments I had during this run, along with spending an entire week discussing zombie prevention, was helping to transform the typically awkward teenage boy group into a group of awkward teenage boys and girls. It wasn’t a quick process, and credit goes to the first girls that felt comfortable enough in their weirdness to join the group, but it happened.

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Richard Kirwin plants a review of Trees Volume 1

“Even here in sleepy old Cefalu. The Trees affect everything. The way we behave. The way money moves around. The things we believe.”

Trees vol 1: In Shadow (issues 1-8)
Warren Ellis
Jason Howard
5/5

Just to get it right out of the way – I am a Warren Ellis mark. In terms a non-wrestling fan can understand, I’m a big fan. If something has a name on it, there is a good chance I will give it a read.

As a writer, he possesses a real gift for taking a concept or premise in a direction you would never expect. He does this while managing to not get stuck in any one creative lane and over a wide variety of characters, from mainstream super-heroes to independent science fiction.

Because I’m a trades guy, I came across Trees while picking through the 3rd floor of BMV (Bloor and Spadina location in Toronto, amazing selection).

With Ellis name attached I felt comfortable grabbing something I had no ideas about going in. As usual, Mr. Ellis did not disappoint. Read the rest of this entry

15 Years of Marvel Legends and the modern age of Toy Collecting

I was so blown away by my first Marvel Legends action figure, Captain America to be precise, that I wrote a movie about it. Okay, so the figure was more of a McGuffin than a central aspect of the plot, but the point is I loved the thing. I should add, that while this may seem like a piece on a child’s nostalgia for a cherished play thing, but these are actually the reflections of a then 20 year old man that still bought toys.

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The Superior Spider-Man and the challenge of Marvel “Legacy” Heroes

If there are two things that I remember about comics in the 90s, they would be unnecessary pouches and DC heroes being “replaced” by a new character.

The idea of super hero identities as legacies have been explored on both sides of the eternal comics divide (DC vs Marvel), but DC really leaned into the concept with the transition from the silver age to the, then, modern age of their universe. Hal Jordan went nuts and complete new comer Kyle Rayner was given the last Green Lantern ring. Batman was broken and passed his cowl onto Azrael. Superman died battling doomsday, only to see four guys pop up with flowing red capes. The list goes on.

That isn’t to say that Marvel didn’t take a few swings at this device (shout outs to Beta Ray Bill and Jim Rhodes), but the idea of a “legacy” hero has always struck me as a very DC gimmick. And a gimmick, that I at least, have always enjoyed. Back when I bought issues instead of trades, I was totally dialed in each week to follow the decent of Jean Paul Valley as he tried to reconcile his programming as the assassin Azrael with his new role as the Batman. I followed in the background as Bruce Wayne battled back from his injuries and Robin and Nightwing struggled to make sense of their mentors decisions. I was a Kyle Rayner, Wally West and John Henry Irons fan. The idea that there needed to be a Batman, a Superman, a Green Lantern… this made for good stories.

Which brings me to what I thought was a really good story: the 30 issue run of The Superior Spider-Man by writer Dan Slot and artists Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos and Giuseppe Cammuncoli. I was a few years late to the table on this one, so I knew where the story was going but, thanks to the Marvel Unlimited App, I finally sat down last week and dove in.

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