He’s officially out as the DIRECTOR of the forthcoming BATMAN movie. That he will not be playing the character, either, is just a rumor at this point, and probably a rumor is all it will remain, despite all the online prognostication to the contrary. Nor is it necessarily a bad thing that Affleck is stepping down as director. He states that it is because he doesn’t have the time to devote to both starring in and directing the feature, that he doesn’t want to limit himself by dividing his energies. He could have let his ego drive him into doing both, and as such he might have failed to give either his full effort. The film would have suffered because of it. I’d much rather see him focus on playing the lead role. There are plenty of competent directors out there.

Don’t forget, also, that Affleck is co-writing the screenplay, so there’s another labor to potentially distract him, as it is doubtful that the script, once completed, would have remained set in stone once filming began; revisions large or small would have likely been necessary. This is another reason why stepping down as director was a prudent move. Lastly, the fact that the script has undergone several rewrites does not bode ill for the production, as some have said. Affleck has gone on record that he will not be involved in the film until the script is “perfect.” His commitment to keep working on it until it IS perfect should give fans hope rather than make them doubt. IF—and note this is a big IF—Affleck leaves the project altogether, it would mean that the studio has made it impossible for him to create a quality film. THEN we can all give up hope. Until then, give the man credit for not settling and for demanding the best of himself.

I’m a tad behind on this one, but I’m bringing it to you in real time. I’ve been behind in all my reading as of late, and I couldn’t very well review the comic before I read it. (Sure, I coulda lied about it, but you all would have seen through that, plus it would be disingenuous of me.) I finally read the comic this morning; it’s now one o’clock in the afternoon. That’s as “hot off the press” as you can get, even if the review itself is coming several weeks after the comic hit the stands.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the series overall, I was a tad disappointed in this final issue. It sorta felt like a cop-out by writer Brian Michael Bendis. I’m a big mark for the guy, but this time he seems to have taken the easy way out. He gets rid of the character, Ulysses, who is causing all the problems with his premonitions of future events, by having him “evolve” to a higher spiritual plane or some such. No satisfying answer is reached over whether or not it was morally right for the superheroes to seek to prevent crimes from being committed before they could happen. Maybe there IS no satisfying answer. And then Bendis puts Tony Stark into a coma for a little while, conveniently allowing him (flowing Marvel’s orders, probably) to ramrod his new character, RiRi Williams, down everybody’s throat as the “new” Iron Man. (INCLUSIVITY AND DIVERSITY AT ANY COST—EVEN GOOD STORYTELLING!) It does afford him the opportunity to give us Dr. Doom putting on Tony’s armor and playacting as a good guy—no, I still don’t think he’s sincere—as the “infamous” Iron Man, so it isn’t a completely disappointing move. Even so, this last issue of CIVIL WAR 2 felt anticlimactic to me. Unlike with the first CIVIL WAR, which was solidly based on real world politics, this one came off as contrived –which, let’s be honest, it was. The first series had long-lasting reverberations. I don’t see this one has making the same sort of impact. Tony will be out of commission for a few months, long enough for the ALL NEW! ALL DIFFERENT! Iron Teenager to get established. That’s about it. The only thing this series really accomplished was to make me dislike Captain Marvel, who came across as a total b*tch. After the original CIVIL WAR I never again cared for Reed Richards. Will I likewise be turned off to Captain Marvel? Or will some other writer manage to make her likable again?

File this one under “It’s about time!” It seems that visionary director Guillermo del Toro is ready to move on the long-awaited HELLBOY 3. He posted on Twitter, posing the question: “Informal poll (let’s see how many votes we get in 24 hours) Hellboy III” and gave responders the choice between a simple “yes” and a “Hell yes!” He then promised that, if the responses reached “100K” he would have “a serious sit down w Mignola et Perlman!” Did he get enough votes? Probably—but it hardly matters.

Guillermo del Toro wouldn’t be flippant about something like this. He is far too professional. The fact that’s he mentioned it at all means he has already had that meeting with Ron Perlman and character creator Mike Mignola, and that HELLBOY 3 is at least in pre-production. This is cause for celebration for all us fans both of the films and of the comics, who’ve waited patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) all these years to see Hellboy back on the big screen again. Both Del Toro and Ron Perlman have gone on record in the past confirming that the HELLBOY cinematic story was always intended to be a trilogy. It was just a matter of getting all the ducks in the proper row. Now those ducks seem to be lining up.

Make it happen, Guillermo! Hell, yes!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. Okay, not quite a year yet, but it’s getting darn close. DEADPOOL hit theaters last Valentine’s Day weekend—and stole all our hearts in the process. It also proved two things that were far from certain, or even suspected: One, it showed that an R-rated comic book movie could rake in the mega bucks (and made it possible for us to have the upcoming Wolverine picture, LOGAN, delivered to us with the same rating, critics and One Million Morons be damned!). It also proved that Ryan Reynolds actually CAN act. Who would have ever suspected? Not only was he good in the role, he was SO good in it that now I couldn’t possibly imagine anyone else ever playing the part, and I daresay neither can anyone else. He IS Deadpool. And I didn’t even expect to like the movie when I bought my ticket!

DEADPOOL 2 is in the works. They’re bringing back Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Cable is gonna be in it, though no actor has been cast as of yet. (Cable’s supposed to be kinda old, so how about Schwarzenegger? His career needs a boost, and it would offer Deadpool lots of opportunities to make “I’ll be back!” jokes.) We don’t know a lot about the script, and we won’t unless some details or footage gets leaked online, like it did with the first Deadpool picture. The Russians were probably the ones who leaked it, after hacking some Hollywood exec’s computer, although we don’t know why they did it, unless they just wanted to see Colossus onscreen that badly. Thanks, Pootin!

I started to title this article “How NOT to Make Money in Hollywood” but it was a little too long, I thought. Basically, as we have established previously, Hollywood execs (which really ought to be considered a separate species from Homo sapiens) are really, really stupid. (Maybe that isn’t fair of me. It could be that there are some fairly intelligent Hollywood execs, but Hollywood execs are to be judged on a different scale than regular humans. A really smart Hollywood exec would only be an average dullard on the human scale. It’s like the whole Fahrenheit and Celsius thing. They don’t line up properly.)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR was the biggest movie of 2016. Comic movies are major box office. A thinking person would understand that the characters and the quality of the storylines are big factors. Not a Hollywood exec! “Hey, a comic book movie made a lotta money,” they figure, “so ANY comic book movie is gonna make a lotta money.” That explains the decision to create a shared cinematic universe based on Rob Liefeld’s characters from Image—which constitute the lowest point of the comics industry. They are literally the bottom of the barrel. They are the underside of the barrel. Even fanboys who go and see every comic book movie they make will avoid this flotsam. The first of the Liefeld flicks will likely be the LAST of them and the end of the shared universe, but by then some studio will have lost gazillions by betting on a broken-down, flea-bitten old nag that some exec told them was a thoroughbred.

I don’t like to watch trailers on the Internet. I prefer to wait, to see them on the big screen before a movie, the way it used to be. Sure, you have to wait for them, and it’s a gamble. You never know when and where that trailer you’re looking for will show up. (And why do they call them “trailers” when they come BEFORE the feature film?) But there’s a magic when one of them flickers to life in the darkened theater. You don’t get that watching something online. This past weekend, when I went to see PASSENGERS (an excellent flick, by the way), I finally got to see the trailer for the next Spider-Man film. From what I saw, it seems Marvel has gotten the formula right. Spidey is wisecracking, uncertain, awkward, brave, and in every other respect what the character is supposed to be, what he was like in the early days of his superheroism, when he was new to his powers and trying to find his way. He looks like Stan Lee’s Spider-Man. I predict this will be the most comic-accurate Spider-Man we’ve seen yet.

I also got to see the trailer for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2, and it looks to be as much fun as the first installment. Rocket trying to instruct baby Groot on the proper operation of a bomb had me laughing raucously in my seat, as did Drax ragging on Starlord over Mantis’ outing of him and his secret love for Gamora. I’m looking forward to May and July, respectively.

I was six years old when I developed my first crush. Linda Carter as Wonder Woman. It would still be some seven years or so before I would hit puberty, but even at such a tender age, when I knew nothing at all about girls (or girls’ bodies), I knew there was something about her that I liked. That I liked a LOT. Four decades later Ms. Carter is still a beautiful and classy woman. I really dig Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, don’t get me wrong. But Linda Carter will always be the definitive Wonder Woman for me. And, oh, that smile…

Shifting gears, I make no bones out of my contempt for PC culture. These losers sit around wringing their hands over such nonsense as their perceived racism in Disney cartoons or the new Tarzan movie, yet pay no heed to the REAL racial problems that confront us as a society every day. Sure, people can care about things both mundane and magnitudinal, but these losers typically DON’T. I think it’s because they know they’re powerless to effect any real change in the world, so they want to pick apart pop culture to make themselves feel important and enlightened. They are beyond worthless, and I wish we could ship them all to Hyperborea. They argue that Wonder Woman just CAN’T be a feminist icon, because—Gasp! (Cue hand-wringing)—she wears a skimpy outfit(!). Ms. Carter recently shot them down, and did so with style. If only these brainless jerk-offs would STAY down, but they’re too stupid to learn from any such public excoriation. A bunch of turkeys, staring up at the rain with their mouths open, drowning themselves. Pathetic.

This news gave me goosebumps. (Sorry. I had to.) Noted children’s Horror author R. L. Stine has announced that he will be writing a new MAN-THING series for Marvel, set to debut in March. To quote Mr. Stine: “I’m going to do a lot of action and a lot of great violence and make it creepy, but I’m going to make it funny at the same time. It’s what I try to do in my books.” Sounds like a recipe for some great comics to me!

I’ve loved Man-Thing since I was a wee tyke. It was a natural fit. I loved old monster movies, and I learned how to read from comic books (true story), and here was a monster starring in his own comic series! Yes, as an adult I can appreciate that Manny has always been a tough sell; it’s hard to keep readers engrossed with a character that has no personality and never speaks, but if anybody call pull it off Stine can. He’s so groovy, there was once a crusade to have all his books removed from Walmarts across the land because they were spreading satanic propaganda. (This was back in the days when people were really, really stupid. They’re not any smarter nowadays, but we have snopes.) And Stine is making one big change to the character to fix that problem I just mentioned. This new version of Man-Thing can TALK.

There are a bunch of high school kids in New York who spent three days in the presence of Spider-Man, and they never even knew it. Spidey even tipped off one kid, revealing his secret identity, but the kid didn’t believe him. How close were the experiences of actor Tom Holland to those of Peter Parker? One hopes Tom wasn’t bullied and that there was no equivalent of Flash Thompson running around. The whole secret identity thing, though, that was the same.

Holland, who played the new Marvel Studios version of Spider-Man in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and who gets to headline in the perfectly named SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING in June of 2017, spent three days undercover as a high school student to research his role. How cool is that? “…I was enrolled in a high school in New York, in the Bronx, as a secret,” says Holland. “No one knew who I was or what I was doing. I had a fake name and a fake accent.” Just imagine all those poor high school girls, who missed their chance to mack on Spider-Man. Think they’re liable to be kicking themselves right about now? What I wonder is, were the teachers and the principal in on it? How exactly does one go about enrolling in high school undercover, anyway? In 21 JUMP STREET (the show, not the godawful movie) the police department always set things up for them. Did Stan Lee make a few phone calls? Or maybe Tony Stark set the whole thing up?

It’s a challenge, no doubt, but there’s no doubt that Marvel is up to it. The challenge is how to update Spider-Man after—how many movies has it been, now? Five? And two of those five REALLY sucked. Fortunately Marvel is golden right now. I suppose it’s inevitable that Marvel Studios will make a bad picture at some point, but right now they sure got the juju, and I entertain no uncertainties that their version of Spider-Man will be the best yet, and the most accurate to the character’s origins and depictions in the comics. Those folks at Marvel Studios know what they’re doing.

As far as faithfulness to the comics, we can say one thing for certain already: this rendition of Spider-Man will be the most accurate ARTISTICALLY. They’re basing the design for his costume on the original artwork of Steve Ditko, back in 1963 when he and Stan “The Man” Lee first introduced Spidey to the world. What’s different about that, you ask? Aren’t all Spider-Man’s costumes the same? Nope! This one is gonna have the traditional UNDERARM WEBBING! As in, web wings! As a longtime reader who always enjoyed the “webbings” part of Spidey’s costume, I am stoked to see them as part of the Wallcrawler’s onscreen get-up. What, you’re not?