Thursday, June 23, 2016

Definitive takes on my favorite comic book characters (Wolverine, Wonder Woman, X-Men)

Welcome back to the Cary's Comics Craze series about the definitive takes on my favorite comic book characters. You're just in time for the conclusion of what's ended up being a seven-part series!

WOLVERINE by writer Chris Claremont and artist Frank Miller: Don’t dare call yourself a Wolverine fan if you haven’t read these four issues of comic greatness.

Claremont shows why Logan’s “the best at what he does” by delivering an interpretation that no writer has managed to grasp since this 1981 limited series — a Wolverine who is equal parts violent, intelligent, caring and emotional.

There are great interpretations of Wolverine. And then there's this one.

WOLVERINE is just as good on the upteenth reading as it is the first time. This is a must-have/must-read story, one that gives surprising depth to Logan and cemented his cultural position as the coolest and most complex of all mutants.

All that and Miller is at the top of his art-game. And don't forget a killer inking job by Josef Rubinstein.

Wolverine by actor Hugh Jackman: There aren't enough times in six "X-Men" films and two solo "Wolverine" outings when Logan calls someone “bub” — or drinks beer, for that matter — but I'd say it's safe to say any longtime Wolverine fan might say the same thing.

But honestly, that's my only criticism of Jackman who delivers a Logan who is as easy to accept for his compassion as he is for his bezerker moments.

Ironically, fans first wondered how a 6-foot-tall song-and-dance man could portray a ruffian who is just over 5 feet tall. But from the first time we saw Logan crouched over, ready for another ugly brawl in a seedy bar in the opening of the first "X-Men" movie, Jackman has owned the role. And stole every scene in which Wolverine appears!

Over the course of eight films (and one more to go!) — including a hilarious cameo in “X-Men: First Class” and a violent, extended one in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” Jackman has helped make Wolverine one of the most popular comic book characters ever.

The buff Aussie steals the first “X-Men” film from his first scene — and our hearts with every subsequent interview.

To top it all off, Jackman seemingly ages backwards. He somehow only gets more cut, buff, muscular and physically impressive as he gets older. Jackman's dedication to staying in/getting in prime shape for his iconic role — one which will be difficult to recast once he's done — is nothing short of astonishing.

“Wonder Woman” animated film: Director Lauren Montgomery and co-writer Gail Simone give fans a believable Wonder Woman — who is equal parts warrior and princess. The Amazonian princess is all that while also being an empowered, yet altogether feminine woman.

The characterization is spot on. This thoroughly enjoyable story throws in all the characteristics that are iconic to Wonder Woman and make her so dynamic, appealing, complex  — and until this 2009 film, difficult to write. Princess Diana is a gorgeous, heroic warrior who embodies athleticism and sexiness. She stands up for women’s rights in “man’s world,” yet can kick some serious butt.

For some ridiculous reason after "Wonder Woman" was released, the powers that be behind the DC Universe Animated Original Movies decided they no longer would put out films with female leads. Even seven years later, this is one of my five favorite animated films. And the closing sequence still begs for a sequel that likely will never come! :(

Wonder Woman by actress Lynda Carter: A classy, driven a**-kicker with centerfold looks, Carter sets a high standard for portraying Wonder Woman.

Carter's likeness and the Amazon Princess’ have been tied together in people’s minds for years since the short-lived TV series. Much like Christopher Reeve's Superman, Carter's take on Wonder Woman isn't just unforgettable; the actress and the character are forever linked. Talk about definitive — not to mention legendary superhero casting!

And honestly, what girl — or even woman, for that matter — hasn't thought that by simply spinning around she could turn into Wonder Woman?

One of my favorite Wonder Woman cosplayers — and certainly my biggest cosplay crush! — Viva WW Cosplay puts the character and Carter's portrayal in the most appropriate perspective I've ever heard in this CCC exclusive interview.

Take it away, Viva!

“Lynda Carter's portrayal of Wonder Woman has definitely been the biggest influence on me since I was very young. I loved that Wonder Woman was a genuine, kind and nurturing woman, but could also be a fierce and confident hero as well. I've been a fan ever since,” she said.

X-Men by writer Chris Claremont: Cosmic yet personal, his UNCANNY X-MEN stories are complex but easy to understand, not to mention historically significant (especially the early ones). Even as one story links to a grander storyline, it's quite possible to read one issue and understand what's happening.

As my good buddy Andrew Gates reminded me, it’s Claremont’s contribution and creations that expanded the X-Men mythology to be what it is today — a universe that almost could be independent of Marvel’s.

Claremont's earliest adventures are the greatest and most memorable, partly because they are rendered by a trifecta of fantastic artists: The late Dave Cockrum, John Byrne and Paul Smith. Each artist delivers his own style to the X-Men (although honestly, Cockrum's and Byrne's are tough to tell apart) — classic depictions that defined the team through the early to mid-1980s, a definitive version in itself.

(Go here for Claremont talking about working with Cockrum and Byrne, as heard during a 2014 Q&A session at a Michigan comic book convention.)

X-Men by writer Joss Whedon: In some ways, Whedon’s ASTONISHING X-MEN stories are anti-Claremont (only because there is minimal dialogue and even fewer action sequences), but they’re quite Claremont-esque in their cosmic yet personal scope.

Most brilliantly, Whedon breaks down the essence of Scott Summers’ complex personality and standing in the X-Men (via verbal smackdown by girlfriend Emma Frost no less!). This story — really told in three parts — deepens the love relationship of Colossus and Kitty Pryde and by the very end, makes Pryde the bravest X-Man of them all.

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