I will never understand the reasoning behind Frank Miller ever wanting to direct his own superhero movie. It’s not that he’s directing a movie, either, it’s that he’s directing a movie in the style of Robert Rodriguez’s fast and cheap process where he merely places his cast in front of a green screen for ninety percent of his film. And we must endure a hundred minute crime thriller with people that stumble around a CGI world. Frank Miller has no idea how to grasp at anything other than dark, violent, and gritty thus he takes Will Eisner’s groundbreaking comics and tacks it on to his “Sin City” neo-noir universe. Miller doesn’t outright say it to us, but Miller wants us to very much believe that “The Spirit” is a shared universe with “Sin City.”
Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz’s “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” is that kind of zany superhero spoof that, with some watering down, probably could have been a Warner Bros. cartoon in the nineties. After having such immense success with Toxie, Troma makes a second grab for cult fame, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle once again. Thankfully, not only is Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. one of Troma’s most iconic and popular characters who stands proudly beside Toxie, but his movie is good to boot. “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” is filled with the typical Troma tropes that make it such a blast. The acting is iffy, the violence is gruesome, the humor is off the wall and original, and the pacing is break neck.
A small time criminal, Enzo, jumps in the Tiber River to escape his pursuers. Little does he know, the river hides a secret and he gains super strength. With this new power, he starts off looking out only for himself until he gets to know his neighbor Alessia. Written by Nicola Guaglianone and Menotti and directed by Gabriele Mainetti, They Call Me Jeeg Robot is an interesting take on the superhero myth and how a person who is at the basis bad would take the powers and run with them. The characters built here are majorly flawed people, starting with the hero, Enzo Ceccotti who finds himself with this super strength while also being completely broke and in need of something to get him out of the hole he dug for himself.
Pretty much all of the later series from Hanna Barbera included a group of snot nosed teens solving crime along with some odd sidekick. After “Scooby Doo” the company repeated the successful formula thirty times with varied results. Often times it was incredibly awful like “Jabberjaw” and sometimes it was fun like “Space Ghost.” One of the last Hanna Barbera shows to feature that awkward laugh track addition, “Captain Caveman” mixes the studios odd fixation on the stone age, with crime solving teens, and the whole “Scooby Doo” formula to create a pretty decent animated adventure show.
In the late eighties, all of the nineties, and some of the early aughts, comic books were our number one hobby. We collected literally every comic that drew our interest. Over the years, especially in the nineties, many of the major comic book companies attempted to draw in new readers by changing the costumes of some of their major superheroes and super villains. If that wasn’t bad enough, for a very long time, many of the live action efforts for superhero movies often got the superhero costumes so painfully wrong, that it was almost tough to admit to anyone that you were a fan of comic books. Over the years, superheroes have undergone a lot of major changes to their costumes in many platforms, and these are five of the worst that we just can’t get over.
One thing I found most inexplicable about Albert Pyun’s 1990 “Captain America” adaptation is the curious presence of the cast of “A Christmas Story.” Either, they were in town for a press junket, or Pyun just loves the movie, because they appear throughout the film. Melinda Dillon has a walk on role as Steve Rogers’ mom who gives him a memento to take to the war with him, while Darren McGavin has a supporting role as a corrupt politician working with the Red Skull. What, did Peter Billingsley opt out of playing Bucky? In either case, director Albert Pyun does the best he can with so little, and 1990’s “Captain America” is still a terrible comic book movie, in spite of the nostalgia value it holds. Only real collectors will want to pick up this latest Shout Factory release, as director Pyun really doesn’t know how to construct a great Captain America movie.
Man, what the hell happened?
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. The Syfy Channel or The Sci Fi Channel has had a good track record for television series that excelled in epic space adventures with hit shows like “Stargate” and “Farscape.” Plus, they engineered one of the most critically acclaimed award winning reboots of all time, “BSG: Battlestar Galactica” which ended up being an important touchstone for science fiction in the twenty first century.
So what in the heck happened with “Flash Gordon”? Syfy and their executives not only seem to miss the point with these characters of the pulp era, but completely seek out to alter their personas rather than re-invent them.
The comic book movie has never been bigger in the age of modern cinema, and as a commodity, it’s still a very valuable asset for many studios who once considered the notion of basing a tent pole movie around a superhero laughable. For a long time comic book movies were C grade Television fodder like “Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD” and “Generation X,” and now they’re raking in humongous profits at the box office, have helped fuel media empires, saved comic book companies like Marvel, and have attracted humongous movie stars to portray iconic characters. As such with comic book movies still being doled out in as fast a pace as studios can dole them out, here are ten of my Top Ten Comic Book Movies of All Time. So far. I expect this list to be different in ten years.