The Independent Comics: Unmined Gold For TV & Film

When comic books are brought up in conversation, most people think of the big two comic book publishers, Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Yet, true comic book fans know of the countless independent publishers that put out entertaining and sometimes off-beat comic books that aren’t just about superheroes, but most of the genral public never heard of them. That was until recently, when more and more popular TV shows were revealed to be based on independent comics.

Thanks to the popularity of films and TV shows based on superheroes from DC and Marvel, film studios, television channels and streaming services are now creating their next big superhero film or TV show. The problem for entertainment companies not called Disney or Warner Bros. is that film and TV rights for popular characters like Spider-Man or Batman are off limits. So what can they do to take advantage of the current superhero craze? These companies could create their own characters from scratch as we saw with Heroes and Chronicle. However, the companies do not have to this since there are so many superheroes from independent comic book publishers. What’s more, is that these independent comic books are great treasure troves for other types of genre material from sci-fi to fantasy to horror or a combo of all three.

There have been successful hit films or TV shows based on independent comics that came out years ago, Some examples that come to mind include The Mask (Dark Horse Comics), The Crow (Caliber Comics), and The Kingsman (Icon Comics), but the biggest hit television program based on an independent comic is course, The Walking Dead from Image Comics, the survival saga taking place during a zombie apocalypse. The runaway success of The Walking Dead prompted film and TV studios to mine other properties from independent comics. While these studios did not find the next zombie apocaplyse they found a diverse slew of properties that were begging to be adapted, and yes, this included superhero fare, as well.

Many of these properties are currently airing/streaming and have been well received. These include The Boys (Dynamite Entertainment), Invincible (Image Comics), Jupiter’s Legacy (Image Comics), Resident Alien (Dark Horse Comics), Locke & Key (IDW Publishing) and The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse Comics). Part of the reason for the success of superhero-related shows like Jupiter’s Legacy or The Boys is because the shows are more graphic and mature compared to the more youth-oriented DC fare airing on The CW, for instance. In other words, they offer a different take on superheroes.

Thanks to the success of these TV shows, even more independent comics are in various stages of development. These include Paper Girls (Image Comics), Ice Cream Man (Image Comics), Port of Earth (Image Comics), Harbinger (Valiant Comics), Oblivion Song (Image Comics), Spawn (Image Comics), and BRZRKR (Boom! Studios). The latter comic book, about a prehistoric immortal warrior, seems to be tailor made for films or TV and it’s no wonder since Keannu Reeves co-wrote it. Any idea who would star in the upcoming television film adaptation from Netflix? The success only confirms that a well-crafted story formed in one medium will be able to crossover to another medium. In this situation, the comic book medium is a great place to find material that is ripe for adaptation.

Of course, there are so many other quality comic books that would make terrific films or TV shows. The list would be exhaustive but should include Saga (though the creators of the comic are not interested in having their sci-fi/fantasy epic being adapted), The Department of Truth, Geiger, Canto, Give Me Liberty, Stray Dogs, The Undiscovered Country, Concrete, Something is Killing the Children, and Astro City.

Thanks to the popularity and success of the live-action adaptations, more and more attention will be paid to the independent comic books. Surveyors will find an impressive and endless trove of reading material spanning a wide variety of subject matter.

One Reason Why Fear The Walking Dead Failed

The bloom is off the rose for The Walking Dead as a franchise while ratings continue to slide. But the franchise is in even more dire straits when considering its spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, which is a failure. The fourth season begins this weekend and the marketing is hyping up that it will feature a crossover with the addition of Morgan (Lennie James) from The Walking Dead. Ages ago, that would have created intense online activity among fans, but there is hardly any buzz going on about the show and its latest developments. The ratings are anemic, especially when compared to its sister series.

There are many reasons for why the spinoff has been poorly received and they are valid. They include unlikeable characters, uninteresting scripts and a failure to reproduce the tension and thrills of the classic seasons of The Walking Dead. Keeping that in mind, there is one main reason why Fear the Walking Dead does not work and it is because it fails as a proper prequel.

The justification for prequels is that they are supposed to help explain the story and characters of the main source. They go into the background of established characters and embellish them and their world.  Like them or not, the Star Wars prequels are excellent examples. Sure they’re derided but they accomplished the goal of delving into the history of Darth Vader and the fall of the Galactic Republic, which were events not shown in the original trilogy.

When it was first announced, it was accepted that Fear the Walking Dead would not examine the backgrounds of the famous characters in The Walking Dead. So Daryl Dixon’s mysterious backstory would remain obscure and any insights into the main characters would only exist as flashback sequences. Instead the prequel would focus on all-new characters in a different locale in a different time.

When Fear the Walking Dead first premiered, there was hope that an explanation would be given for why the dead were reanimating into mindless flesheaters. People wanted to see how civilization actually collapsed, which had already occurred by the time Rick Grimes woke up from his coma and met Morgan in the pilot of The Walking Dead.

But that did not happen with this prequel series. After some dull early episodes that did not give us any answers about the walkers, the show took a time jump to a point where society already disappeared. This left the show looking too much like The Walking Dead as it copied its premise: a bunch of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world full of the undead, only badly done.

Frankly, we get that already in The Walking Dead. Why bother watching Fear the Walking Dead if it only offers the same thing, but less compelling? The prequel is not different enough to justify its existence, which is why it has largely been abandoned by the dwindling fans. Thinking about it, the prequel’s existence can be thought of when the original show started its decline. It could have gone another route if creator Robert Kirkman allowed some kind of explanation for the walker outbreak. But that is not going to happen and despite Morgan’s addition to the castt, it is probably too late to salvage it and the showrunners should concentrate on the original show.

 

Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2016

For 2016, superheroes continue to reign in film and TV, while other genres like sci-fi, fantasy, horror and related combos offered refreshing alternatives. Many of the best films and TV shows on this list were very profound and pushed the envelope, while others were just plain fun to watch.

Films

10-cloverfield-lane

10. 10 Cloverfield Lane: The spiritual sequel to Cloverfield was a tense and suspenseful thriller with a great performance by John Goodman as a doomsday prepper.

xsuicideTIE: 9. Suicide Squad/X-Men: Apocalypse: Despite their flaws both superhero (and supervillain) films were enjoyable romps with unforgettable characters (Harley Quinn, the Joker, Deadshot, Magneto, Quicksilver, and more) and eye popping action-packed moments.

8. Doctor Strange: With the big-screen debut of Marvel Comics’ Sorcerer Supreme the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to remind us why their superhero films are currently the best of the crop compared to Fox’s X-Men Universe films (Deadpool aside, of course) and the DC Extended Universe movies.

zootopia-team

7. Zootopia: The best animated film of the year dazzled us with eye raising animation and a clever script that highlighted important social messages about tolerance and prejudice.

kirk trio

6. Star Trek: Beyond: The film’s back-to-basics approach with Star Trek’s iconic characters paid proper homage to the TV show while having a genuine adventurous tone.

the-jungle-book

5. The Jungle Book: Even though the CG-created animals and environment were flawless and stunning, the film to its merit emphasized story and characters, which left a bigger impression.

deadpool

4. Deadpool: As a faithful adaptation of the irrelevant and violent comic book, Deadpool proves that it’s possible to be true to comic book source material and still be an entertaining film.

alien-language

3. Arrival: A provocative, well-acted and beautifully shot film about first contact with aliens smartly emphasized the communications hurdles humanity would face. The film’s ending was a true surprise and was just one of Arrival’s highlights.

rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-rebels

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars spinoff not only neatly ties in with Episode IV but is a great and exciting film in its own right with more nuanced characters and situations than seen in a typical Star Wars film.

cap-vs-iron-man

1. Captain America: Civil War: The Avengers are torn apart from within as Captain America and Iron Man philosophically, then violently disagreed over allowing the government to supervise their team. Featuring strong performances and the best superhero fight scenes ever filmed, the film was an emotional ride for viewers.

TV Shows

ash-vs-evil-dead

10. Ash Vs Evil Dead: Grossly fun and action-packed as everyone’s favorite deadite fighter Ash Williams and his gang continue delighting horror fans.

redhats invade9. Colony: Unexpectedly well done look at life under alien domination and that “big, beautiful wall” separating American cities is a chilling portent of what lies ahead.12 Monkeys Cole time travels8. 12 Monkeys: Of the many time travel themed TV shows out there, this is the best of them as many episodes explored the convoluted nature of time travel.

dareflashTIE: 7. The Flash/Daredevil: The two best superhero TV shows were on the opposite ends of the tonal spectrum. The Flash is pure Silver Age awesomeness, while Daredevil reflects a more gritty and grounded mood, especially with the introduction of the brutal vigilante, the Punisher. Both shows  featured intense and enjoyable comic book adventures thanks to well written scripts and engaging lead actors, plus supporting characters/actors.

6. The Walking Dead: The megahit series about brutal life after the undead destroy civilization has  hit a creative wall and is past its peak according to many fans. Yet, for the most part The Walking Dead is still delivering more than adequate thrills, gross out moments and entertainment, even if the show went to far in Negan’s introduction and certain character deaths.

black-mirror

5. Black Mirror: A dark anthology series about the downside of technology offered many disquieting episodes about technology’s impact in our lives today and tomorrow.

El confronts monster Stranger Things4. Stranger Things: A wonderful ode to ’80s sci-fi movies featured terrific child performances, geeky Easter eggs and an intriguing mystery revolving around a missing child and an interdimensional monster.

expanse cast

3. The Expanse: This well-crafted series about a brewing war among human colonies in our solar system during the next century could wind up being the next great TV space opera.

westworld

2. Westworld: HBO’s potential successor to Game of Thrones went way beyond the original Michael Crichton movie about theme park robots running amok by presenting a thought-provoking series about existentialism and ethics.

before-battle-of-bastards

1. Game of Thrones: Even though the fantasy series is drawing to a close, the sprawling epic continues to captivate viewers with its visceral tale of power struggles among kingdoms. One of the highlights was the epic episode  “Battle of the Bastards” that put rival films to shame with its gut wrenching fight scenes.

 

Lead Actress Cast For Star Trek: Discovery

new-commander-trek-discovery

For most of the year, we Star Trek fans have been teased with the casting of the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery TV show that is premiering next year. We were excited over the casting of Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones and others who would play diverse characters in the show, but no lead had been cast. That all changed today when word came that after an exhaustive search Sonequa Martin-Green has just been cast to play the lead role Lt. Commander Rainsford in Star Trek’s eagerly awaited return to TV.

Most fans know Martin-Green from the hit TV show The Walking Dead. For those of you out there who don’t she plays the role of Sasha, one of the few survivors of the walker apocalypse. Not to beat up on The Walking Dead, but that show has been in a rut this season with the Negan overkill and the tropes that the characters, including Sasha had been going through.

Obviously, Sonequa Martin-Green’s casting means that Sasha will probably be the next victim of Negan on The Walking Dead. It’s just as well, since her arc had come to a conclusion last season and the men she cared about in her life, her brother, Tyreese, and her new lover Abraham are both dead. In other words, The Walking Dead’s loss is Star Trek: Discovery’s gain.

sasha

Her casting is quite inspired, since it covers many important areas. One, she is the first woman of color to have the lead role in a Star Trek show. The honor of the first non-white goes to Avery Brooks who starred as Captain Ben Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine back in the 1990s. Ironically enough, like Sisko, Sonequa Martin-Green’s Rainsford won’t begin the show as the captain but as a lieutenant commander. Hopefully as what eventually happened with Sisko, her character will get promoted to captain before too long because she has the look of a Star Trek captain.

But more importantly, as seen in The Walking Dead, Martin-Green has the acting chops to headline a TV show and being that she has experience in a related genre, she will please many fans who only want the best casting options for the beloved Star Trek franchise. Finally, her landing the role cements the notion that Star Trek: Discovery will be populated by a diverse group of people with different backgrounds. This is actually reflective of our society today, despite what some on the fringe-elements may wish for, and this casting proves that Star Trek on the whole is able to keep up with the times.

Seriously, this is an excellent cap to Star Trek’s 50th anniversary as this year draws to a close.

T. Rod Jones

The Walking Dead Goes Too Far In Its Season 7 Premiere

negan

The following will contain spoilers from the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead...

The question that we all wanted to know and not know has been answered this past Sunday with the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. That question being who Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) killed among Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) group. It turned out that the madman didn’t just kill one, but two beloved characters; Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun). Let’s be clear, this episode was brutal, raw and frankly, it went overboard in its portrayal of violence and depravity.

That isn’t to say that the episode “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” isn’t without its merits. abe-ford-killedTechnically it was well done, well acted, well shot; it emoted tension like you wouldn’t believe. But the  bottom line is while it was too gruesome, it had the air of a bad car wreck. You want to look away but can’t help but look. However, you often wind up regretting watching what was on the screen because it was so gratuitous to the point that it bordered on torture porn. Did we really have to see Negan repeatedly bash in Abraham and Glenn’s skull until mush was left? Sure, creator Robert Kirkman and the showrunners probably wanted to convey some message about helplessness and the ugliness of violence. The problem isn’t just the violent display of Negan’s sadistic violence, but what went on before and the presentation.

For months, we had to wait to find out who was Negan’s victim. The season 6 finale was overhyped (as was the season 7 premiere with all the images of Negan and his barb-wired bat Lucille) and we were all expecting to see Negan kill someone. But we didn’t. Instead we had to wait for months to find out that the reveal  largely followed what happened in the comic books. In The Walking Dead #100, Negan bashed in Glenn’s skull, but Abraham had been killed beforehand issues past. So “the Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” threw off viewers with Abraham’s death.

negans-choice

The only problem with that death was that it was very telegraphed in season 6 of The Walking Dead. Abraham has had a death wish for much of the season. He seemed aimless with little to live for. In the season finale though, he began to muse about a life where he can settle down…a dead (forgive the pun) giveaway in The Walking Dead that he is doomed. This happens to all characters who find a measure of peace (look out Morgan, you’re next), except Rick. Another clue was when he told his friend Eugene Porter (Josh McDirmett) that he’s come a long way and  become capable of taking care of himself. It was a way for the two men to say goodbye to each other and it was obvious by that small scene that Abraham wasn’t long for the world.

Continue reading