Hard-Traveling Fanboys: The Rundown (March 2014)

Mild-mannered reporters by day, Greg Phillips and Nick Duke share an intense love of comic books that has made them the Hard-Traveling Fanboys. And with that intense love comes an appetite for the latest news from the comic book world. Each month, in The Rundown, the Fanboys will run down their top news and notes from the comic book world.

Nick: Welcome back once again, fellow comic fans to the special corner of cyberspace occupied by the Hard-Traveling Fanboys. It’s the final week of March, which means it’s time for us to take a look back at the news from the comic world and pick three of our favorite stories that broke.

Greg: Many of these are directly about comic books, and other stories have to do with other media interpretations of our favorite superheroes and villains.

To kick things off, let’s hit a story that should be near and dear to many here at the Place to Be Nation, as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson confirms he has agreed with Warner Bros. on a DC Comics character to play in the future.

"Lex Luthor, The Rock ain't next -- you're next, ya whisker biscuit bald headed bitch!"
“Lex Luthor, The Rock ain’t next — you’re next, ya whisker biscuit bald headed bitch!”

Nick: This is one that has been rumored for a while, and while we still don’t know who the character in question is, this is the first time The Rock has been so direct in terms of confirming that he’s likely to be in a DC movie in the near future.

Greg: Also interesting is that the Rock took to Twitter recently to basically shoot down rumors that had him playing Green Lantern John Stewart in a future Justice League movie. He’s said the character is well known but has never been brought to life. He also said the character is a “badass” with “Superman-level” powers.

With all that said, and if Green Lantern is truly off the table (be it Stewart, Simon Baz or any others), who’s it gonna be? We don’t have any insider info, but that won’t stop us from baselessly speculating or fantasy casting. Nick, do you have any guesses? What about any wishes for “The Great One”?

Nick: I’m still not convinced that John Stewart is completely off the table. It’s entirely possible that Rocky is using a bit of his old wrestling mentality to mislead fans. DC is clearly getting ready to build up to a Justice League movie, and it’s hard to imagine a League without a Lantern.

"RINGS 2 ASSES" (clap clap clap clap clap)
“RINGS 2 ASSES” (clap clap clap clap clap)

However, I could also see Rock possibly playing Aquaman if they wanted to go with a less traditional (Caucasian) take on Arthur Curry. Plus, for those casual fans who mock the character, having one of the top action stars in the world play the king of the seas might make them more willing to buy in.

"Oh yeah, Aquaman,  the dude that talks to the fish he'll whip that little candy ass just like that."
“Oh yeah, Aquaman, the dude that talks to the fish? He’ll whip that little candy ass just like that.”

Finally, and these two are possible, yet I’d say longshots due to their relative obscurity in the eyes of more casual fans — Lobo or Black Adam. Both share some characteristics with The Rock, but I’m betting the role in question will wind up being a member of the League.

Greg: Aquaman is definitely one of the most intriguing outside-the-box possibilities. I agree it would add some “street cred” to the character in transitioning it to the screen, and I could definitely see the Rock pulling off the necessary confidence and badassery.

There are three other big possibilities that haven’t been discussed as much as Adam and Lobo.

First, and least likely, is Hawkman. If they pulled a New 52 JLA and ran with the question of whether he’s really a lost Thanagarian cop or just a psycho, it would give Rock the emotional weight he wanted while letting him truly unleash with some big-screen violence.

"Let me tell you what Hawkman is gonna do. He's gonna take this Nth metal mace, shine it up real nice, turn that sumbitch sideways and stick it straight up your candy ass!"
“Let me tell you what Hawkman is gonna do. He’s gonna take this Nth metal mace, shine it up real nice, turn that sumbitch sideways and stick it straight up your candy ass!”

Second is the enemy of Black Adam, Shazam. It’s surprising more people haven’t considered the possibility that Johnson could play the Big Red Cheese in grownup form. It would also give him a chance to flex some of his comedic chops on occasion.

"Your house started to shake, the heavens opened up, and the Wizard himself spoke to you and said this: "Bob..." "But my name's Billy!" "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!"
“Your house started to shake, the heavens opened up, and the Wizard himself spoke to you and said this: “Bob…”
“But my name’s Billy!”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!”

And the possibility I’m personally leaning toward at the moment is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. He’s pretty much Superman’s equal from a powers standpoint, has a massive physique, and the Rock could certainly pull off the Manhunter’s human identity, police officer John Jones.

"Take a little walk down Know Your Role Boulevard, hang that right on Jabroni Drive, and then proceed to check your Choco, no-cookie-havin' ass di-rect-ly into the Smackdown Hotel!"
“Take a little walk down Know Your Role Boulevard, hang that right on Jabroni Drive, and then proceed to check your Choco, no-cookie-havin’ ass di-rect-ly into the Smackdown Hotel!”

Nick: Martian Manhunter could definitely work. But, in other comic book movie news, while The Rock is getting ready to jump into the superhero game, a Marvel actor isn’t just looking to get out of the tights business, but out of acting altogether.

Greg: As we discussed briefly in our recent comic book roundtable podcast (thumbs up, cheap pop!), Chris Evans blew us away with his performance as Steve Rogers in both “Captain America” and “The Avengers.” This announcement certainly caught me off guard, especially as Evans’ popularity appears to be reaching its peak.

chris-evans-captain-america-21

Nick: You know, it’s a bit surprising to me as well, but I can certainly understand where he’s coming from. He’s experiences the kind of fame that can certainly be life-changing, and some people just aren’t comfortable with it. He’s not complaining, either. He’s made it clear he’s going to fulfill his contract without any complaints. I wish he’d change his mind, but by the time Avengers 3 rolls around, he’ll have been playing the character for nearly 10 years, which is a long haul for anyone.

Plus, it would seem that Marvel is preparing for the possibility, with Sebastian Stan, who played Bucky and will play a certain titular character in next week’s Cap sequel, signed to a nine-picture deal. That could certainly set the stage, Greg, for one of your favorite comic concepts — the legacy character.

Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier
Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier

Greg: You know me well. I am indeed a huge fan of the concept of in-canon superhero legacies — the Flash and Starman being prime examples. I just love Evans’ portrayal of Rogers so much that it’s hard to cope.

To be frank, I never liked Captain America growing up. I found his comics boring, for the most part. It was Evans that caused me to rethink my stance and re-examine the character. He opened up new layers I never realized were there, and his earnestness just forces you to like him.

If this does lead to Bucky as Cap, though, I’ll likely buy into it hook, line and sinker, assuming Stan’s performance lives up to expectations. Those are some mighty big red boots to fill, though.

Greg: But speaking of Marvel icons, an iconic Marvel writer is reuniting with one of the most popular mutants in the X-Men family.

nightcrawler

Nick: While the news of Claremont’s Nightcrawler series has been floating around for a while, this is the first time Claremont has really opened up on his plans for the character. I wish I had more to say here, but I don’t have a lot of experience with the X-verse and the iconic Claremont run, so I’ll let Greg say his piece here.

Greg: While we’re cheating a bit with this one — it was announced a couple months back — this interview reveals a lot about Chris Claremont’s approach to bringing a character he knows so well back to a universe with which the writer is no longer as connected.

Claremont is the writer, more than any other, who shaped Kurt Wagner’s personality and cemented him as one of the greatest and most complex X-Men. Yet he admits here that many of the changes that have occurred in the X-Men universe in the last decade have essentially left him in the dust.

I can relate. I loved the X-Men growing up, but the labyrinthine continuity has continually kept me from going back to the family. Every time I pick up a critically acclaimed X-book, I find myself lost at best and angry at worst due to the changes made to some of my favorite characters. While I recognize the “whiny fanboy” aspect of that, it’s just been too hard to wrap my head around, for instance, Wolverine as the leader of the Jean Grey School.

Claremont seems equally outside-the-loop, which makes me want to buy this book as soon as it comes out. The sense I get is that we’ll be seeing Kurt as he reacts to these changes, meaning they might be explained to newcomers in ways that make sense. I’m not going to lie, another plus to this series is the likelihood of seeing Claremont once again write my favorite Marvel character, Wolverine, as he hopefully goes on some adventures with “the elf.”

I applaud Marvel for giving this book to Chris, and hopefully the sales will be strong enough to keep it afloat for a while.

Nick: And while Claremont is pulling the curtain back a bit on his plans, DC is making us wait a bit longer to see theirs.

Forever_Evil_Vol_1-7_Cover-1_Teaser

Greg: Apparently Geoff Johns and David Finch are trying to give this Nightwing fan a heart attack.

Nick: Now, I understand that delays are certainly a part of comics. However, it’s hard to understand numerous delays for a storyline that has been so heavily featured and is undoubtedly the center of the DC Universe.

Also problematic is the fact that since the issue was originally solicited for April, there are going to be issues shipping on time that could theoretically follow up on an event that hasn’t finished yet. Plus, Batman Eternal will launch before FE7 hits, so you’d have to imagine that Nightwing doesn’t play a major role in the early going of that story, if he even plays a role at all.

But, I guess my ultimate complaint is that I have to wait a few weeks longer to see how Forever Evil concludes and how the new status quo for the Justice League begins. This story has been nearly a year in the telling if you count Trinity War, and I’m ready to see a satisfying conclusion.

Greg: You have to count Trinity War, as it served as a (really compelling) prologue to the main event that is Forever Evil. I’m antsy because the fate of my favorite character, Dick Grayson, is hanging in the balance after the events of Forever Evil #6. It reminds me of the first time I saw “The Empire Strikes Back,” wondering how the heroes would ever topple the villains.

My stance on delays is that, due to my purchasing habits, they don’t bother me that much and I’d rather the story be done right than rushed to meet a deadline. However, I’m beyond anxious to see how things wind up for DC’s most prominent good guys and bad guys after teaming up to launch an assault on the Crime Syndicate.

Another concern is the recent abrupt ending to Matt Kindt’s Justice League of America story arc with Martian Manhunter and Stargirl. I could be way off base, but it felt rushed, out of left field and (possibly) editorially mandated. In a way, it invalidated what had happened in the previous few issues, which had been well executed.

Hopefully there aren’t last-minute creative battles being fought. In any event, the delay will only be worth it if the finished product is good. I trust Johns.

Nick: Yeah, the events of JLA certainly had a strange feel to them in that, like you said, it seemed as if they were forced to switch direction late in the game. Let’s hope that isn’t an ominous sign for the end of Forever Evil.

Greg: Let’s stop worrying about ominous endings and look, instead, to lighthearted beginnings and stories of a simpler time – that of Adam West’s Batman and the Green Hornet. 

batmanGH

Film director and occasional comic book writer Kevin Smith, alongside his friend and podcast partner Ralph Garman, have announced an upcoming Batman ’66/Green Hornet crossover comic, set to hit digital stores in May and comic shops in June.

One of the most historically significant episodes of the 1960s Batman TV series was a two-part crossover with the Green Hornet show. It introduced many fans to Bruce Lee, in his role as the Green Hornet’s faithful sidekick Kato, and marked an extremely rare example of two live-action superhero properties crossing paths.

Nick: There are reasons for both optimism and pessimism here. Smith and Garman are undoubtedly huge Batman fans, as they’ve had numerous discussions about the character on their podcast Hollywood Babble-On. Smith has written the character in the past, while this will be Garman’s first comics project.

Michael Buffer might call him "THE MASTER of the comic book delay."
Michael Buffer might call him “THE MASTER of the comic book delay.”

However, while I’m a big fan of Smith’s past work, his more recent fare hasn’t been quite as palatable. I’m concerned he may try to dirty up the Adam West Batman a bit too much for me, and whenever he’s writing something, there are always the concerns of potential, even likely, delays.

The saving grace here is really Garman. Even though he’s never written a comic before, he’s a huge Batman fan, specifically of this version of the character. Most people don’t know that Garman actually headed up the effort to get Adam West a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I think Garman’s intense love, devotion and respect for the 1966 show will help keep Smith in check and make sure the comic turns out to be a loving homage, rather than an attempt to reinvent the wheel.

Dude's a bit of a fan.
Dude’s a bit of a fan.

Greg: Smith also has some experience writing Green Hornet comics. One of the things that made the crossover interesting back in the ’60s was the difference in tone of the two shows. It’ll be interesting how Smith matches the comedy of Batman with the more straight-up action of Hornet.

It’ll also be interesting to see if there are any nods to the backstage stories of Burt Ward’s run-in with Bruce Lee. I just hope Garman and Smith understand what Hong Kong fans did even back then — Kato is the real star of the Hornet/Kato team.

Nick: While we’re on the subject of crossover titles, we’ll close with a major crossover Marvel just announced — the supremely ambitious Spider-Verse.

Just a small sampling of the Spider-Men we'll be seeing.
Just a small sampling of the Spider-Men we’ll be seeing.

We live in an era where so many comics strive to have a cinematic feel, in that fans could easily imagine it translating to the big screen. Most comics these days are also intended to be fairly accessible, particularly those from Marvel. That’s why it’s somewhat refreshing to see Marvel attempting a series that is so “comicky” that it could never work on the big screen and involves literally hundreds of obscure, alternate universe characters. I’m excited because I can’t remember something on the level of this being attempted in quite some time.

Sure, there are logistical challenges. I have no clue how they’ll fit in all those characters in just five issues. And yeah, Morlun isn’t my favorite Spidey villain in the world, but it became an instant buy for me thanks to three little words — ULTIMATE. PETER. PARKER. As long as each issue has one Ultimate Pete panel, I’ll be satisfied.

Never forget.
Never forget.

Greg: And I’m pumped to see BEN FREAKING REILLY back in the land of the living, if only briefly. I thought I’d never again see Ben or his badass alternate Spider-Man costume again, but hopefully that shows up here (rather than simply his more famous Scarlet Spider duds).

Greg's favorite 90s clone of a superhero that was revealed to be the actual version of the hero until it was revealed that he wasn't the actual version of the hero before subsequently dissolving into dust.
Greg’s favorite ’90s clone of a superhero that was revealed to be the actual version of the hero until it was revealed that he wasn’t the actual version of the hero before subsequently dissolving into dust.

I’m not a fan of Morlun at all, but this is probably the first event in a decade that might inspire me to pick up the mainstream Spider-Man book. The approach Slott is taking to Morlun actually sounds interesting, though — Peter knows this guy killed him in the past, so it’s kind of like Superman’s post-death encounters with Doomsday. Except, you know, hopefully this won’t suck like most of those. I just worry I’ll find myself sad at the end when these characters drift back into the abyss!

Nick: I’m just worried we’ll get very little of our respective favorite Spider-Men and too much Spider-Girl and Spider-Ham.

spiderham

Greg: Mmmm … Spider-Ham.

Nick: But anyway, that about does it for this month’s Rundown. We’ll be back next week with the latest edition of Off The Page. In many ways, our entire existence as the Hard-Traveling Fanboys has been building to this, as we’ll share the soul-crushing experience that was the Green Lantern movie with all of you.

Greg: Assuming we survive both that column and the WrestleMania experience in smelly New Orleans, we’ll be back here next month to bring you yet another Rundown.

Nick: Oh, come on. We’ve been in auditoriums with ROH and Dragon Gate fans before. If you can survive the stench of Bushwhacker Luke, New Orleans will be like playing on easy mode.

He's an offensive smelling individual. Somewhere, there's a small arena in Orlando that still doesn't smell quite the same.
He’s an offensive smelling individual. Somewhere, there’s a small arena in Orlando that still doesn’t smell quite the same.

But anyway, as always, we welcome any and all feedback. You can hit us up on Facebook, Twitter (@gphillips8652 and @nickduke87) or through our Place to Be Nation email accounts, GregP@placetobenation.com and NickD@placetobenation.com.

Author: Greg Phillips and Nick Duke

Greg and Nick share two passions above all others, both of which involve people in spandex punching each other. Reporters by day, they also insist on being called "Two Dudes with Attitude" but can't decide who is Kevin Nash and who is Shawn Michaels.