Summer’s over, school’s begun … but the drumbeat of genre material on screen, in print and on TV continues unabated. Fall will be (in some cases literally) fantastic. Let’s preview:
At the movies
“Joker” is the first to arrive, and the one we know the most about – most of it really positive. Premiering Oct. 4, “Joker” has won the Venice Film Festival top prize, The Hollywood Reporter says it will probably post an $82 million launch, Rotten Tomatoes critics give it 75% fresh rating and there’s even Oscar buzz.
Of course, there’s controversy, too. For one thing, it’s completely unconnected to other DC movies – because the director doesn’t want them dragging down his film.
“The time (period) for me … one reason was to separate it, quite frankly, from the DC universe,” director Todd Phillips said to CinemaBlend. “This is like a separate universe. So much so, it takes place in the past, before everything else.”
And there’s some concern over the movie’s violence, and the fear it could inspire copycats. Which every study in the world says doesn’t happen, and is a charge that if taken seriously would mean all entertainment, from “Casablanca” to “The Godfather,” should be neutered into inoffensive pabulum.
Sigh. People sure like to find things to complain about.
Other films to anticipate: “The Addams Family” (Oct. 10), “Zombieland 2: Double Tap” (Oct 18), “Terminator: Dark Fate” (Nov. 1), “Jumanji: The Next Level” (Dec. 13) and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Dec. 20). Just a guess here, but I bet some of them have violence, too.
In comics, “events” are big storylines that often cross over among many titles. Usually their announcement is accompanied by the stock phrase “… and nothing will ever be the same again!” Which, you know, nobody ever believes. We comics fans are a cynical lot.
But here they come. And DC Comics has so many events in the works that it requires bullet points:
• “The Year of the Villain” ends, at least theoretically, when 2019 does. But this monster storyline (whose spine occurs in “Justice League”) promises ramifications far into the future. Currently Lex Luthor has absorbed Martian Manhunter (pause to absorb that) to become the “Apex Predator.” Apex Lex is working to free Perpetua, a cosmic being who created our universe, and is offering dozens of villains an upgrade and a spot in the Legion of Doom to create the chaos necessary to achieve his goals. The Justice League, despite recruiting just about everybody who has ever chafed in Spandex, is grossly outmatched. Any time the reader thinks “How can they get out of this?”, the writers are doing a good job. “Year of the Villain” is a good job.
• The final issue of “Doomsday Clock” is scheduled for December (although almost every issue has been incredibly late, so virtually no one believes that). “Clock” brings “Watchmen” into the DC Universe in a big way, by depicting Dr. Manhattan’s manipulation of reality as the reason DC’s entire superhero line rebooted in 2011.
This changes DC’s superhero universe in both a physical and metaphysical way, establishing that the superhero world we read about is the foundation of the multiverse, with every change to Superman’s history rippling across every other Earth, rewriting every character’s backstory – which, you know, is exactly what happens whenever DC editorial reboots its universe. Cool.
• In “Batman/Superman,” The Batman Who Laughs – a Dark Knight from a parallel universe who is merged, sort of, with The Joker – has infected six Justice Leaguers and allies with Joker venom. These Secret Six haven’t been disguised very well – they are Blue Beetle, Commissioner Gordon, the original Wonder Girl, Hawkman, Shazam, and Supergirl – but they’ve been sowing seeds of chaos and corruption for a while.
How the World’s Finest team can stop them without hurting them is quite a puzzler.
• Veteran TV horror host Svengoolie will co-star with a bunch of DC superheroes in a story that continues through a bunch of inserts in October titles. That’s not really an event. It’s just … weird.
Marvel Comics is similarly busy:
• “Incoming” is a huge crossover involving the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Daredevil, Spider-Man, the Champions, the Agents of Atlas, Valkyrie, the Immortal Hulk, Jessica Jones, Venom, Ghost Rider and the Masked Raider (a 1940s Western character re-introduced by this event). It starts with a mysterious murder – so mysterious Marvel hasn’t told us who the victim is yet.
“Incoming” #1 arrives in December, and will, according to the PR, “affect everything in 2020 and beyond!” In other words, nothing will ever be the same again.
• Superstar writer Jonathan Hickman is rebooting the X-Men in two related, six-issue miniseries, “House of X” and “Powers of X,” that are alternating every week for 12 weeks (we are currently in Week 9).
So far, HoX/PoX has been so creative, wide-ranging and X-plosive with possibility that even old hands like me are impressed. Once those miniseries have set the stage, the reboot proper begins with “X-Men” #1 Oct. 16, followed by five other X-series.
As you’d expect, virtually every major and/or fan-favorite X-person has a spot in one or more of those titles.
– There’s something called “Annihilation – Scourge” coming in the latter part of the year, involving most of Marvel’s cosmic characters, like the Silver Surfer and Beta Ray Bill. Not much has been revealed yet, but “Annihilation” references the insect-like Annihilation Horde from the Negative Zone, so that region of the multiverse seems the source of our heroes’ woes.
The second week of October is a bonanza of genre fare on the small screen.
That means the return of “The Walking Dead” (Oct. 6), the premiere of Nerd Canon superstar “Nancy Drew” (Oct. 9) and the debut of DC Universe’s animated “Harley Quinn” (Oct.11). More importantly, it features most of The CW’s comics-related shows, including “Batwoman” and “Supergirl” (Oct. 6), “Black Lightning” (Oct. 7), “The Flash” (Oct. 8) and “Riverdale” (Oct. 9). For some reason, “Arrow” doesn’t return until Oct. 15, and “Black Lightning” holds off until Oct. 21. “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season 5 won’t begin until January 2020.
While the soapie “Riverdale” (returning Oct. 9) is a guilty pleasure, the big news is, of course, the superhero shows generally referred to as the “Arrowverse.” That’s because they will be building toward the biggest TV crossover in history, which is going to adapt one of the biggest conics stories in history: “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
The beauty of this particular story is that any actor who has played any DC character at any time can appear as a doppelganger from a parallel world. We already know that Burt Ward (Robin from the 1966 “Batman” show) will appear in some capacity, Brandon Routh will reprise his “Superman Returns” Man of Steel and Kevin Conroy, who voiced the lead character in “Batman: The Animated Series,” will appear as an aged Bruce Wayne. Just last week it was announced that Tom Welling and Erica Durance will reprise their roles as Clark Kent and Lois Lane, respectively, from “Smallville.”
Then there’s the regular lead characters from individual shows who will appear, some with supporting characters in tow (although we don’t know who). That will include Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) from “Batgirl, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) from “Black Lightning,” Sara “White Canary” Lance (Caity Lotz) from “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) from “The Flash” and “Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) from “Supergirl.”
“Crisis” will also include Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) from “Arrow,” in the denouement of that show and, presumably, that character. It’s been foreshadowed (with a hammer) that Green Arrow will die in this crossover, and “Arrow” will end shortly thereafter. “Crisis” will air on “Supergirl” Dec. 8, “Batwoman” Dec. 9 and “The Flash” Dec. 10, then wrap up Jan. 14, 2020, on back-to-back episodes of “Arrow” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”
And there’s plenty on the small screen beyond the Arrowverse this fall. Disney+ launches Nov. 12, with “The Mandalorian” beginning straightaway. That will be followed by “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” “Hawkeye,” “Loki” “Moon Knight,” “She-Hulk,” “WandaVision,” and the animated “What If …?”, although we don’t know exactly when.
“The Expanse” returns on Amazon Prime Dec. 13, as does Marvel’s “Runaways” on Hulu. Speaking of Hulu, they will debut at some unspecified time the live-action “Ghost Rider” and “Helstrom,” and the animated “Hit-Monkey,” “Howard the Duck,” “MODOK,” “The Offenders” and “Tigra and Dazzler.”
That’s a lot of TV beginning in October, and extending well into 2020. The problem is that there’s a lot of current genre fare we have to finish first, like “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Pennyworth,” “Preacher,” “Stumptown,” “Titans” and “Van Helsing.” So whip out those remote controls, folks – and maybe invest in some Visine.
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