2011 is the Year of the Super Hero, video-wise. Several major motion pictures, including ones from both DC and Marvel, as well as some independent ones, and various tv shows and at least one direct-to-DVD animated movie, are all debuting this year, and this should be enough to make any hero-geek (like me) a happy one.
From Marvel, we actually get three movies this year. On May 6th, Marvel continues the set up for its eagerly awaited Avengers movie by introducing possibly the most powerful member of the team: Thor, god of Thunder. The trailer looks great, the teaser at the end of Iron Man 2 held a lot of promise (you DID stay all the way through the credits for that, right?), and I’m really looking forward to it. Besides, Anthony Hopkins as Odin? How can you go wrong with that?
In July (fittingly enough), Marvel gives us Captain America: the First Avenger. I’ve seen a bit less on this one, but it looks good from what I’ve seen, and I have always liked Cap. His shield has popped up in the Iron Man movies as an Easter Egg kinda thing, and heck, two of the supporting actors are Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones, who are always great to watch. Cap himself is Chris Evans, no stranger to super heroics, as he’s been the Human Torch twice now (guess the Avengers wont be teaming up with the Fantastic Four in any movies anytime soon), and was the lead in Push, another flick about people with super powers. He was also in the Losers movie, based on the DC comic. All of this holds a lot of promise– we’ll just not talk about the last Captain America movie.
NOT part of the Avenger Initiative is X-Men: First Class, coming out June 3rd. I admit, I am have a lot more reservations about this one. I thought Origins: Wolverine was pretty bad, and this one seems to be setting up for some of the same problems. Take some stuff from the early history of the team, and then change it a lot– this never plays well with the fans. Yes, the first issue of the X-Men did deal with missiles, Magneto, and the military, but that seems to be close to where it stops following the comic. The trailer has scenes with Mystique and Emma Frost, among others, who didn’t come along until decades after this first adventure. But hey, if nothing else, it should be a good popcorn flick. I hope.
Also in June, DC releases a movie that isn’t about the Last Son of Krypton or the Dark Knight. Finally. Green Lantern comes out June 17, and has a lot of fans excited already. Personally, I hope it’s good not only because I want to see a good superhero movie, but I’m hoping this will finally give DC the realization that they own other characters besides Superman and Batman who might make for good movies. This one stars Ryan Reynolds, who was also Deadpool in the Wolverine movie (amusing this is coming out the same month as X-Men). The trailer looks ok, but I’d feel a bit better about it if we saw more ring constructs than one hasty shot of a fast moving fist. The movie has Hal Jordan, Sinestro, and Kilowog among others, so it should be fun.
Aside from the big two in comics, there have been a few other points of interest this year. Mid-January saw the release of the Green Hornet, one of the first masked heroes, who actually goes back to pre-comic book days, starting as a radio drama. The current comic from Dynamite is a fantastic read. I didn’t see this one, mostly because of the casting. When your writer is one of your stars, and a super hero movie is billed as an “action comedy,” I tend to wait for cable. Still, it’s exposure for an obscure hero, so maybe it will help the cause of getting more of them out there.
February gave us I Am Number Four, another movie about people with super powers. Not based on a comic as far as I know (Seems to based on a book from what I can find out), it’s still got super powered action, so I’m including it here. I’ve heard some mixed things about it, but I intend to see it in the near future. Besides, it’s got Timothy Olyphant in it and he’s been great in everything I can recall him in. The hero seems to have energy and TK powers, his love interest seems to do force fields, and at least one of the others is a blade welding teleporter, always a nasty combination. Looks like it should be fun.
But hey, your options for super heroics aren’t limited to the movie theater. Marvel and DC both have shows going on the small screen, as well as some other, non-affiliated ones. And these, too, are at least some different from the standard super hero fare in terms of character selection and story lines.
Marvel has The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes running on Disney XD network. It’s a great cartoon, IMHO, beginning with the Avengers’ actual starting line-up, and then expanding to such favorites as Cap, Hawkeye, and the Black Panther. They’ve also dropped big hints about others to come, such as Captain Mar-Vell, Ms. Marvel, and Wonder Man. It’s been a very enjoyable show, and I can’t wait for it to come back. OK, it technically started last year, but it’s still going, so I get to put it on this list. Hey, it’s my list, I make the rules.
DC’s current cartoon is Young Justice, which has a cast that blends different eras of Teen Titans, Young Justice, and some that haven’t been in either. They established early it’s on a different Earth than the “main” DC Universe, so they have a lot of creative freedom. The writers have brought in different characters for the main team, the Justice League watching over them, and the villains. I’m loving this show, and personally prefer it to the Cartoon Network’s last outing with the Teen Titans.
If you prefer live action to animated, Smallville is ticking down through it’s last season. The adventures of not-quite Superman have pulled in characters from all over the DCU. Green Arrow is a major recurring character, and we’ve seen others as diverse as the Justice Society, the Suicide Squad, and an amazing looking Zatanna, plus many more. The big bad this season is supposed to be Darkseid, who they’ve hinted at but only shown in one brief scene. With a ten year run, I’m betting (and hoping) the finale will be something impressive.
There are also two prime time, live action, super heroic tv shows that have nothing to do with established comic books. So many options this year…
ABC has been running a show called No Ordinary Family, which I review for this site. A normal family of four gains powers, and tries to deal with keeping secrets and using their abilities. They have some great supporting cast, some interesting powers, and are bringing some interesting subplots into play. The show started off kind of rocky, but has been steadily improving. It stars Michael Chiklis, better known from the cop drama the Shield, as well as playing the Thing in the two recent Fantastic Four movies. The show’s current status is unclear, lost amid a swirl of rumors. They expanded the episode order for the first season, which is a good sign, but there are persistent whispers of cancellation. If it continues to improve as it has, I really hope it sticks around.
Not to be outdone, NBC has created The Cape. Good cop Vince Faraday is framed for a series of crimes, and then believed to have been killed. To fight back, he goes undercover and off the radar as the star of his son’s favorite comic book, the Cape. I personally have enjoyed this show a lot, but have heard various others don’t. Masked hero action, vanishing in a cloud of smoke, with some decent humor and great supporting cast, I don’t see how folks don’t like this. One of the best characters is Max Malini, played by Keith David, who helped Vince become the Cape for reasons we’re not sure of yet. He has a great presence and a fantastic voice. One of the other supporting characters might be a bad sign for the show’s future. Orwell, a computer hacker fighting a corrupt system, is played by Summer Glau. Now don’t get me wrong, I like her a lot. She did great as River in Firefly, and pretty good in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. But, much as I hate to admit it, what those shows had in common were two things- Summer, and a very short run on TV. Hopefully this breaks the cycle.
And for the direct to video animated crowd, we have Green Lantern: Emerald Knights and All Star Superman both coming out.
It’s a great year for watching superheroes!