Comic Review: Defenders of the Earth

Published: January, 1987 – July, 1987
Written by: Stan Lee, Michael Higgins
Art by: Alex Saviuk
Based on: Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond, The Phantom & Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk

Star Comics, Marvel Comics, 110 Pages

Review:

I don’t know how many people remember Defenders of the Earth. It was kind of big in the ’80s, as it spawned this comic series, an animated television show, a toyline and other product tie-ins.

For those that don’t know, it was a team that was formed of three old school pulp heroes that were originally published in comic strips by King Features Syndicate. They would go on to be really popular and even had serials produced back in the days when serials were still a thing.

The team consists of Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, as well as their kids and some other allies. The Defenders are unified in their battle against famous Flash Gordon foe, Ming the Merciless.

This comic series was published by Star Comics, which was a short-lived imprint of the much larger Marvel Comics. With that, they were able to get the great Stan Lee to write the first issue of the comic. Michael Higgins would take over for issues two through four with Alex Saviuk providing the art for all four issues.

The story sees Ming do something horrible to Flash Gordon’s wife, which inspires these heroes to come together in an effort to defeat Ming and his desire to conquer Earth.

Defenders of the Earth was an entertaining read, especially that Stan Lee issue. It had a lot of energy and it got you excited for what could have come but sadly, the series ended at issue four, even though it promised a fifth. It doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger but it ends unfinished, which kind of sucks.

I didn’t remember much about this series but the comic has made me nostalgic for the television show, which I haven’t seen since about 1987. I may go back and give it a watch in the very near future.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s comic book tie-ins to toylines and animated series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 12 – Spotlight on Whilce Portacio (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Whilce Portacio

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 52 Minutes

Review:

Well, this is it, the final episode of The Comic Book Greats. There was one more video released after this one but that was a “best of” compendium of all the episodes. I’d also like to review that one but it’s not up streaming anywhere that I can find. If it does become available, at some point, I’ll check it out and let you know how it is.

This series really did go out on a bang, though. I didn’t know what to expect from this episode as I never saw it and I also haven’t seen much with Whilce Portacio in other interviews. But I have always liked his work, especially the stuff he did on X-MenX-Factor and his own creation for Image Comics, Wetworks.

Portacio is very engaging and had a good rapport with Stan Lee. Lee seemed genuinely fascinated by Whilce and his backstory, especially regarding Filipino culture.

Whilce also does a good job at the drawing table, discussing his technique during his creation process. Like the other Image guys that had videos before this one, I think Whilce would make a good teacher.

It’s kind of sad that this is the last episode of the series, I feel like there were a lot of other greats that the series could have showcased but this final episode was pretty darn good and a solid end to the series.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 11 – Spotlight on Will Eisner (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Will Eisner

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 50 Minutes

Review:

Well, this is the penultimate episode of The Comic Book Greats (omitting the “best of” compilation) and it has been a nice journey getting to this point. But looking at all the volumes and who is featured on each, I was really anticipating getting to this one, which sees Stan Lee sit down with the great Will Eisner.

When I started reviewing this series, all the episodes were available on YouTube. As I worked my way through them, I noticed that this one had been pulled down. But luckily, after being patient, someone else re-uploaded it. So that saved me a bunch of money from having to track down the original VHS tape and having to borrow a working VCR, as my last one died some time ago.

This episode was worth being patient for, though. Stan Lee and Will Eisner talked about a great deal of things and even had some really good, friendly debates about the aspects of storytelling and meaning in art as a whole.

Like most of the episodes, the first half was a sit down interview at a table. Then, about midway through, Stan and Will went to the art table and continued conversing as Eisner did some cool sketches, one of which was a damn good piece of his most famous creation, The Spirit.

This was another stellar episode and one of my favorite ones of the lot.

Next up is the final episode, which features Stan Lee sitting down with Whilce Portacio.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Release Date: December 6th, 2018 (Singapore sneak preview)
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Written by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Miles Morales by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine, Lake Bell, Marvin Jones III, Stan Lee (cameo), Cliff Robertson (archive recording), Oscar Issac (cameo), Donald Glover (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Lord Miller Productions, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 117 Minutes, 143 Minutes (Alt Universe Cut)

Review:

“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” – Stan Lee

I intended to see this in the theater but the holidays are really busy for me and I didn’t get around to it or any other movies around that time. I heard great things about this movie though, so I rented it as soon as it was available.

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of animated films. At least I haven’t been in my adult life. I still love a lot of the old cartoons and anime I watched as a kid but due to the overwhelming positive fan response to this and my love of Miles Morales, I wanted to give this a chance.

Overall, it’s a mighty fine motion picture and the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2.

I thought that the CGI animation was really well done. I prefer traditional animation and have never found CGI animation to be that interesting but this shows how great this animation style can be when pushed to the max and utilized for its strengths while being meticulously crafted with heart.

The story doesn’t really follow the comics but how many comic book film adaptations do? Still, it was engaging, it captured who Miles is and it examined a lot of different aspects of heroism. I absolutely love how it presented and handled the life of an aged Peter Parker. And ultimately, the bond between Miles, Peter, Gwen Stacy and the other heroes was strong and everything human and emotional felt natural.

I was really excited to see Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham, especially. I loved Gwen’s earliest stories and I’ve been a Spider-Ham junkie since childhood.

This also features a lot of villains and even does a gender bending twist to Doctor Octopus that worked for me.

I think that this movie definitely did exactly what it set out to do which was to launch Miles Morales into the minds of normal moviegoers and kids that don’t pick up the comics while incorporating a nice array of other Spider-heroes in a fun and unique way. It also humanizes the vilest villain and makes this a more emotional and touching movie than most of the live action Spider-Man adaptations.

I’m definitely excited for the multiple sequels and spinoffs that Sony seems to have planned for the very near future.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: I’d assume, the future sequels and spinoffs. As well as Miles Morales Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 10 – Spotlight on Jim Lee (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Jim Lee

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 51 Minutes

Review:

Well, I think I have found my favorite installment of The Comic Book Greats video series!

This episode was stupendous and Jim Lee was such a treat to see on this show. He has a great rapport with Stan Lee and he does an fantastic job of talking the audience through his method for creating comic book art that it works even for the most inexperienced layman.

Jim Lee, as I also said about Todd McFarlane, would be a great teacher. He is thorough in his lessons here and covers a lot of ground in a limited amount of time.

I also liked the interview segment of this episode a lot, as Jim Lee gets very personal about his life up to the point when this was recorded and it’s just an interesting story, as comic books weren’t where he originally intended to end up, career-wise.

Lee would go on to be one of the most prolific creators in the history of the comic book industry. Seeing him so young and this early in his career is a real treat for anyone that’s a fan of the medium.

Jim’s got a great personality, a real love for what he does and he still does all these years later. This is why I watch his YouTube channel where he live streams periodically and talks to his fans as he works on new art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 9 – Spotlight on Bob Kane (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Bob Kane

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 38 Minutes

Review:

Batman is the character that really made me buy comic books on a monthly basis. Because of my love of everything Batman, especially after seeing the 1989 movie, I always had a love and appreciation for Bob Kane, the creator of the Caped Crusader. Granted, I knew nothing about Bill Finger back then because Bob Kane was a credit hog and a dick.

This episode of The Comic Book Greats doesn’t help Kane when you watch this now, knowing what we all know about the man. I didn’t see this episode in 1992 and I’m not sure if I would have picked up on it back then but man, Kane really is a dick… like all the time.

Stan Lee was a gracious host, as always, but Kane would get sidetracked in this interview to bitch about people taking credit for his work. Funny, because that’s something he was guilty of for decades. The dude just has a hell of an ego and he probably bottles his own farts to sniff later.

That being said, I wouldn’t call this episode off-putting or a waste of time, it’s actually one of the more entertaining ones because Kane is animated and charismatic. The banter between these two men is good, even if Kane tries to take shots at people and it’s obvious Stan isn’t comfortable in those moments.

The Comic Book Greats is a solid series that I wish would have lived on longer than it did. While I don’t like Kane, the man, I still found this to be pretty damn engaging.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.