Hellboy II: The Golden Army opens this weekend, and the film's dark visual splendors affirm that director Guillermo del Toro is one of the major visionary filmmakers of our time even though some of its thematic and emotional content doesn't have the same punch as the first Hellboy. Del Toro is such an outlandishly stylish film fantasist that sometimes it's easy to overlook the contribution of Mike Mignola, the comic book artist/writer who created the Hellboy for Dark Horse Comics and works closely on the films. Mignola shares a writing credit with del Toro for Golden Army.
In the comics, Mignola's shadowy, Gothic-drenched artwork tends to be more stark and his dialogue more spare than their equivalent images in the Hellboy movies. There are two animated Hellboy films, but perhaps the best cartoon showcase for the tone and look of Mignola's work is "The Amazing Screw-On Head." This exceedingly odd 20-minute animated horror spoof features the voice of Paul Giamatti as a low-tech mechanical secret agent circa the Civil War called "The Screw-On Head." (Yes, other characters, like Abraham Lincoln, address him as "Screw-On Head.") David Hyde Pierce voices his arch-villain, the foppish ghoul Emperor Zombie. From Bryan Fuller, creator of "Pushing Daisies," the 2006 pilot film looks exactly like what you'd get if the creators of Adult Swim made a Halloween-themed version of "Wild Wild West." The introductory scheme perfectly captures Mignola's penchant for occult action scenes and demented whimsy:
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The new film Hancock (reviewed here) takes two steps forward and at least one step back in advancing the cause of black superheroes, who are solely underrepresented in pop culture. On the plus side, Hancock is a lavish summer movie scheduled for the prime July 4 weekend spot, starring arguably the world's most popular African-American screen actor. In the debit column, the title character is a surly, accident-prone boozer who sets such a bad example, he makes Charles "I'm not a role model" Barkley look like, I dunno, President David Palmer from "24."
Black superheroes have a spotty history in comics, cartoons and movies. Before the mid-1960s, you'd be hard-pressed to find any African-American comic book superheroes, and the ones who subsequently emerged were frequently treated as tokens with either utterly bland or highly stereotypical characterization. With so many real-world heroes breaking the color bar in arts, sports, politics and civil rights over the past generations, it's not a surprise that the likes of, say, Black Vulcan from "Super Friends" never made much of an impact. For simplicity's sake I'll focus here (mostly) on the black superheroes who have crossed over to other media, with varying degrees of success.
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By default, the character to make the most successful leap from comic books to other media is Blade, played by Wesley Snipes. The super-powered vampire hunter first appeared in Tomb of Dracula in 1973, remained on the margins of Marvel Comics but in 1998-2004 received the big-screen treatment in three films (not to mention a short-lived TV series with Kirk "Sticky" Jones). The success of the Blade films blazed the trail for higher-profile Marvel Comics adaptations like X-Men and Spider-man. Despite his pointy silver weapons and vampire-type powers, Blade is arguably more of an R-rated horror/action hero than an iconic superhero in his own right. Still, director Guillermo Del Toro made Blade II into one of the most surprisingly entertaining guilty-pleasure hero films. The clip above features Ron 'Hellboy' Perlman as a racist vampire and includes some of Snipes' liveliest macho posturing.
I want to clarify a little something I wrote in my review of the new Angelina Jolie shoot-em-up, Wanted, which is based on a graphic novel series by Mark Millar, J.G. Jones and Paul Mounts. I remarked that the film's hyper-stylish portrayal of magical hitmen "proves that graphic novels don't have to be about superheroes to provide material for silly movies."
I read the Wanted graphic novel over the weekend, after I'd seen and reviewed the film, and must acknowledge that my last line, though technically correct, deserves elaboration. While the Wanted film depicts a thousand year-old group of assassins called The Fraternity, the graphic novel is about comic book-style supervillains, not hitmen (or superheroes).
1) The Wrights perform at Eddie's Attic with Scott Miller.
2) Tibetan Sacred Arts, a night of cultural art and philosophy, is at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.
3) Dunwoody Library hosts screenings of new independent and foreign films at the Film Series Movement.
4) Denis Johnson discusses and signs Trees of Smoke at the Decatur Library.
5) Flicks on Fifth continues with The Bourne Ultimatum at Technology Square in Midtown.
(Photo courtesy the Wrights)
Usually the audience doesn't care what male stand-up comedians wear, as long as they bring the funny. The question of wardrobe will be a little more pressing when EDDIE IZZARD brings his "Stripped" show to the Cobb Energy Centre Tues., JUNE 24. A self-described "executive transvestite," Izzard nevertheless comes across as the kind of garrulous bloke who'd be great company on a pub crawl. He doesn't always appear in drag these days, though (particularly not as a screen actor, recently seen in FX's "The Riches" and heard as a swashbuckling mouse in the new Narnia movie). Izzard can be expected to present a wry perspective on current events as well as the quirks of history but who will he be wearing? Through June 25. $36-$56. 8 p.m. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway. 404-249-6400. www.cobbenergycentre.com.
(Photo by Lorenzo Agius)
Editor's note: In the spirit of George Carlin, here's a hilarious early clip of Eddie Izzard riffing on religion. Somewhere up there, Carlin must be smiling at one of the best contemporary observational humorists out there.
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1) Spike and Mikes Animation Fest continues at the Plaza Theatre.
2) Women and a Claw Foot Tub continues at Apache Café in conjunction with Art Mondays.
3) Michael ONeal Singers perform at Ahavath Achim Synagogue.
4) Author and music industry insider Ellis Nassour discusses his book, Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse.
5) Rancid performs at the Masquerade with the Legendary Shack Shakers.
(Image courtesy Spike and Mike)
1) Comedian Bill Burr finishes his three-day run at the Punchline.
2) Sha'ni and the Tiger's Eye Collection host A Midsummer Nights Dream with world-renowned dancer Ava Fleming at Sketchworks Theater.
3) Lakewood Amphitheatre strikes a fun trifecta: R.E.M., Modest Mouse and the National perform.
4) Leslie Jordan reads and signs My Trip Down the Pink Carpet at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse.
5) Blues Traveler and more perform in Candler Park for the Midsummer Music Fest.
(Photo courtesy APA Agency)
1) Nick Longo Band plays at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center's Jazz on the Lawn series.
2) Monster Mayhem opens at the Gallery at East Atlanta Tattoo, with more than 50 artists paying homage to their favorite monsters.
4) Comedian Henry Cho performs at the Punchline.
5) Wordsmiths Books celebrates its one-year anniversary with a weekend of poets, music, authors, food and festivities.
(Photo courtesy Nick Longo)
1) Ingrid Michaelson plays Variety Playhouse.
3) Comedian Dale Jones begins his three-day stop at the Punchline.
4) Stevie Nicks performs at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
5) Whole World Theatre hosts Improv Comedy.
(Photo courtesy Variety Playhouse)
1) Don Dixon performs at Eddies Attic.
2) Virginia-Highland Summerfest wraps up its final day on Virginia Avenue.
3) Jim Breuer finishes his four-day stop at the Funny Farm.
4) Apache Café hosts FFX: Free Forum Exchange spoken-word open mic.
5) Atlanta Stage Write Productions presents the second annual 9 x 9 '08: Nine Plays by Nine Playwrights at Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center.
(Photo courtesy Don Dixon)
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