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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 147: Jack Kirby Centennial

To celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Jack "King" Kirby this Summer, we dive into the career of one of comic's most important and influential figures. We start by discussing 10 single issues that Kyle picks as a must-read list, but really dig into the ups and downs of his career as we go through them. You can follow along by reading these issues, with links to Comixology:

  1. Captain America #1
  2. Young Romance #12
  3. Challengers of the Unknown #3
  4. Tales to Astonish #13
  5. Fantastic Four #51
  6. Thor #160
  7. The New Gods #7
  8. Mister Miracle #9
  9. OMAC #1
  10. Captain America #193

Enjoy, and Happy Birthday Jack!

You can listen below, or subscribe on iTunes to never miss an episode! If you like the show, or have any comments or ideas, we'd love to hear them! Check us out on Facebook or Twitter. See you next week!

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New Atlanta-based Critics Association, The Atlanta Film Critics Circle, Established

For those of you who do not know, our EiC (yours truly) is a member of Georgia Film Critics Association, a group that annually votes on the best in film and performances therein each year and gives its own awards in respective categories. It's a tremendously fun and exciting process that I'm consistently delighted to take part in. As of yesterday, a number of its members local to the Atlanta area, members of the Southeast Film Critics Association, and other critics have joined together to form the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. This is a brand new, and very exciting critics organization representing the best in film criticism from the continually growing and thriving Atlanta metro area, and I'm so honored to be a part of such prestigious company. Please see the below press release announcing its formation:

For Immediate Release
September 20, 2017

                                       Launch of Atlanta Film Critics Circle

Co-founded by longtime Atlanta film critics Michael Clark and Felicia Feaster, the Atlanta Film Critics Circle is an attempt to fill a void in the local film community and in the representation of Atlanta’s media on the national stage. “With so much film production happening in Atlanta, the city has gained incredible prominence within the film industry” says Feaster. “We’d like to see our critical community, many of whom have been longtime voices in the media, receive their due recognition as well, and promote film art at every level.”
“We’d like to do our part to raise the profile of film criticism in particular in the city and nationally,” says Feaster.
Composed of a dynamic mix of Atlanta-based critics working in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, the newly launched Atlanta Film Critics Circle solidifies Atlanta’s status as a Top 10 film market with a robust media presence and a booming film production industry. Georgia is currently number 1 in feature film production over any other market according to FilmL.A. Inc.
The AFCC mission is to establish a national presence for a film critics group in Atlanta and do its part to foster a vibrant film culture in Atlanta.
Founding members (critics living in and/or currently writing for global, national, regional and/or Atlanta metro area outlets) of AFCC will vote in early December for the group’s annual awards including best picture, best animated feature, best documentary feature, best foreign film, best director, the four solo acting categories, best ensemble cast, best writing (original and adapted) and best cinematography.
Founding members (in alphabetical order) of AFCC are: Ed Adams (Kaleidoscope Reviews), Christopher Campbell (Movies.com), Michael Clark (The Gwinnett Daily Post), Jake Cole (Slant.com), Jim Farmer (Out on Film), Felicia Feaster (Burnaway, Creative Loafing, Travel Channel.com), Matt Goldberg (Collider.com), Jonathan Hickman (Newnan Times-Herald), Curt Holman (Creative Loafing, Living Intown Magazine), Will Leitch (New York Magazine, Paste Magazine, The New Republic), Michael McKinney (the CW), Steve Murray (ArtsATL), Kyle Pinion (Comicsbeat.com, GeekRex.com), Eleanor Ringel-Cater (The Atlanta Business Chronicle), Gil Robertston (Kaleidoscope Reviews), Matt Rodriguez (Shakefire.com), Elijah Sarkesian (Outtakes ATL), Josh Sewell (Times-Georgian, Douglas County Sentinel), Jeff Stafford (ArtsATL), Jim Vorel (Paste Magazine), Steve Warren (InSite), Drew Wheeler (Athens Flagpole).
For more information, please contact Michael Clark at clarkwriter58@gmail.com or Felicia Feaster at ffeaster@bellsouth.net
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kyle's Comics Picks - September 20, 2017

This past weekend I was at SPX for the first time. For those who aren't aware what that is, it's the Small Press Expo aka a show of independent publishers and freelance creators who do not work for either of the Big Two or Image comics generally (though there's a few exceptions every once in a while). I have a whole article going up at The Beat later today on the subject of everything I bought that I'll come back and link within this article when it goes live. But I'll just say this, I spent a lot of money on really cool stuff, including the new collected edition of Michel Fiffe's Zegas, Ben Marra's Night Business, Charles Forsman's I Am Not Okay With This, and GG's I'm Not Here, among a lot of other fascinating looking material.

It's a great show, and one I encourage anybody who wants to learn a little bit more of what superheroes are like beyond the cape crowd to visit. Admittedly there's not much else going on in Bethesda, Maryland but you could make a day trip out to Washington DC just ahead or after the show if you're so inclined. That's still a thing I find recommendable, even in my days of extra back pain and exhaustion.

It's cheap too...25 bucks to attend the whole weekend! Though if you have no impulse control like me, that savings will evaporate real quick.

Let's get to this week's comics:

Black Hammer #13: Jeff Lemire's best series yet continues its vaunted path as maybe Dark Horse's best current title, and one of the best books on the stands. I think it perfectly threads that needle between his quieter rural stuff and the high octane superhero action it echoes.

Dark Knight III The Master Race h/c: I'm mostly buying this because I want to see those Frank Miller mini-comics blown up to standard size and how they're incorporated into the narrative. I only read the first three issues of this as it came out, and I have no idea what the final reaction to it all was, but it seemed to elicit not much of a peep by the end. Still, Miller's Dark Knight efforts will never not be fascinating to me, even if this one only seems to kind of count, given the amount of co-collaborators here. DK2 4 lyfe, yo!

Bug #4/Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #12: The Allreds' Kirby odyssey continues, and maybe the oddest of the Young Animal titles goes on a quite long hiatus after its 12th issue (and they all are). I like both of these books a lot, though the former hits me where it hurts just a little more.

Legion by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning: Here's a formidable collection that is basically to blame for yours truly getting back into comics his freshman year of college in 2001. This is when Abnett and Lanning were tasked with revitalizing a series that had hit some pretty moribund lows, and desperately needed a revamp. For a time the duo, along with a young Olivier Coipel, provided just that. Once they went the ongoing series route, all was lost, but for a while, there was real hope The Legion of Super-Heroes would hit some X-Men level heights.

Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby tpb: Speaks for itself. If you love the current title, pick up the original. The art here is some of my favorite of the King's.

Daredevil Epic Collection: Heart of Darkness: I'm sure these don't read that well to modern eyes anymore, but I remember loving these old Ann Nocenti era DD's, which included some great Rick Leonardi art, among others.

Fantagraphics Studio Edition Hal Foster's Prince Valiant: My lone "if you have the money" suggestion. Foster's work was formative for the very young years of artists like Kirby and Ditko and others who have basically created the backbone of our modern superhero landscape. I'd probably recommend picking up Fanta's collected editions instead for a cheaper option, but if you're really itching to see those brushstrokes up close, this is a historically important piece. 
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The 25 Best Superhero Movies of All Time: 10-1

Welcome back to the Top 25 Superhero Movies of All Time! Today, we count you down from 10 to 1 - as voted by you. You can see yesterday's list by clicking here, and at the bottom of the page, a small group of people we wanted to thank for helping us put all this together. Enjoy!

10. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
dir. Joe & Anthony Russo

This movie should have been a mess. It should have proved that yes, you can have too many superheroes in one movie. It should have clumsily introduced Spider-Man and Black Panther to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it should have had the same world ending, giant ship crashing ending that every other MCU movie before it had. Luckily for us, the Russo Bros, hot off the success of their first Captain America film, managed to somehow avoid all those pitfalls and create perhaps the most fun superhero beat-em-up thus far. The action is exciting and well executed, and the central conflict is one that is understandable and interesting, and doesn't rely on a cosmic-level villain to do so. I certainly left the theater feeling like a kid again, unable to contain my excitement and inexplicable need to purchase action figures!

9. The Incredibles (2004)
dir. Brad Bird

The Iron Giant is Brad Bird's masterpiece, but I think it's fair to say that The Incredibles is the film that put him on the map, a big, warm, family-oriented superhero film about a mid-life crisis writ large. Some of the themes of the film, particularly those that hew towards objectivism, are subjects of controversy to this day, but for many, they don't impact what is Pixar's most thrilling action film -- and one that smartly re-purposes the childhood power fantasy of comics history into something that speaks powerfully to adults and kids alike, on different levels. The Incredibles is, in a very real way, the best Fantastic Four movie we've ever received.

8. The Avengers (2012)
dir. Joss Whedon

This was it. Would this entire, ambitious project that Marvel had put together work? It's almost hard to believe today, but at the time, people genuinely weren't sure if this would work. A supermovie bringing together the casts of four disparate franchises into one massive blockbuster, given to a TV director who hadn't had a hit in some time? But The Avengers wasn't just big; it was colossal, a massive success that put Marvel Studios on the map. As the superfranchise expanded, the threats and the teams have gotten bigger, but in many ways, The Avengers remains one of Marvel's most enduring treats, a big, bold action movie that is both endlessly quotable and filled with entertaining setpieces. This set the template for what a superteam movie should be, and gave Marvel the go-ahead they wanted to enact a nearly decade-long plan to try and repeat the surprising impact of this movie.

7. Wonder Woman (2017)
dir. Patty Jenkins

After critics and fans tore apart Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, it became clear that Warner Bros and DC were in need of a critical hit. So, yes, leave it to the woman to clean up the mess of other men. Both director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot made Wonder Woman a massive hit, grossing more than $800 million world-wide and, more critically, gaining accolades from the public to earn back just a slight bit of trust from fans who were quickly losing faith in the studio. Wonder Woman dropped the grim-dark tone and steely demeanor of the studio's previous efforts, giving some of the best character development we've seen in a superhero film in some time. Jenkins is already set to direct the sequel, and her payday for the sequel has made her the highest paid female director in Hollywood.  

6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
dir. James Gunn

When Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy as a film, it seemed like an underdog in the studio's line-up of films (Kevin Feige referred to the source material as an "obscure title" at the announcement). It's hard to think of director James Gunn or actor Chris Pratt as less-known quantities, but this is the film that shot both of them to the level of fame they have now. When he was selected to direct Guardians, Gunn had directed only a few well-known feature films, including Super and Slither. Pratt was a fan favorite on Parks and Recreation as the goofy Andy, but had only made a few serious appearances on the big screen in smaller roles (Zero Dark Thirty, Her). Gunn's creative use of color, music, and the way he made Guardians of the Galaxy stand out from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films we'd received before earned Guardians recognition as an iconic superhero film and has launched 2 more films in the same franchise.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
dir. Joe & Anthony Russo 

Of Marvel's line-up, the Cap films seem to be some of the most consistent and solid franchise offerings, but The Winter Soldier was widely regarded as a step up from the franchise's first offering, The First Avenger. Part of the success was due to the genre imitation worked into the film - rather than feeling like another blockbuster CGI action fest, The Winter Soldier inhabited the thriller/espionage realm of film, relying more on practical effects and hand-to-hand combat than large set pieces. Script writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely cite Ed Brubaker and conspiracy fiction films like Three Days of the Condor as heavy influences on the film, and these strong influences help guide the narrative in a way that feels appropriate for Cap's return to the modern day world. Not to mention, it's probably the closest thing we'll ever get to a Black Widow film.

4. Logan (2017)
dir. James Mangold

The point where they finally got one of these X-Men spin-offs truly right. As a film, it has every trapping you’d imagine Mangold is aiming for in this western-derived take on a retirement age's Wolverine's journey by way of a latter day Clint Eastwood vehicle: the tortured protagonist who must again take arms, the child who presents a new side of the hero, the wise old-timer that imparts moral support, the handsome blackhat rogue in pursuit, and multiple attempts at communal charity that lead to calamity. From that description you may think Logan lacks originality, but using these iconic tropes allows the filmmaker to pay homage not only some of the greatest motion picture visionaries to ever grace the screen, but also to the source material that embedded deep into Wolverine’s DNA. He’s had his Eastern in The Wolverine, also by Mangold, and with Logan, he got his Western. They made a real movie, you guys, and it's one of the best of 2017.

3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
dir. Sam Raimi

Paired with the first Bryan Singer X-Men film, Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-Man ushered in the modern era of superhero films. In classic Raimi Evil Dead fashion, he took everything that was great about Spider-Man, trimmed some of the fat, and dove into making one of the finest superhero films of all time in Spider-Man 2. Continuing to focus on Peter Parker trying to reconcile his dual identities, this film knocks both sides of the story out of the park. Maguire is earnest and believable in his struggles to deserve the love of Dunst's Mary Jane, and the conflict between selfishness and selflessness is about as central to the superhero mythos as you can get. Alfred Molina gives the performance of his career as the brilliant fallen scientist Doc Ock in one of the best villain turns on this list. Raimi's live action cartoon style combined with his clear love for the characters makes this the most memorable film about everyone's favorite wall-crawling web-slinger.

2. Superman (1978)
dir. Richard Donner

The movie that's inspired just about every other major superhero effort. It wasn't the first adaptation of a comics character to the big screen, far from it, but it was the first one that fit itself snugly into the post-Star Wars blockbuster landscape and paved the way for every other superhero film to come. There's a reason Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins and others have followed the origin template laid down here to a "t" and spoke in such glowing terms of Donner's efforts here. With three very distinct environments (an Elizabethan sci-fi Krypton, the Andrew Wyeth-esque Smallville, and a Metropolis ripped right out of the 70's comics), and a central performance from Christopher Reeve that is definition of iconic - it's hard to imagine this, but before Reeve, the idea that Superman and Clark Kent had distinctly different manners and physical stature was not exactly apparent in popular culture - Superman: The Movie is the blueprint for comic book fidelity, while also crafting a new status quo within its very source material's landscape. And its worth noting, the modern day MCU and its DC equivalent found its start through Donner's employ as both Kevin Feige and Geoff Johns got their start as his assistants. The seed from which all of this sprouts.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)
dir. Christopher Nolan

In the end, it wasn't even close. The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's landmark 2008 film that featured Heath Ledger's instantly iconic final complete performance as the Joker, is the best superhero movie of all time. The People have spoken. But if they had to pick a runaway winner, this was a good one to pick. It's not just Ledger's performance that makes The Dark Knight sing; Nolan's film is just that damn good. Praise the film's thematic heft, which finds Gotham City - and Batman - wrestling with morality of security and privacy. Praise its updated take on Harvey Dent's Two-Face, a brutal, tragic affair that forces Batman to make the ultimate sacrifice. Praise the surprisingly uplifting ending, which finds the Joker defeated by the goodness of the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight remains a fan favorite and a high water mark for superhero films.


And with that, the list concludes. If you want to see a complete list of every film nominated, with the number of votes received included, click here. We got a lot of contributors, not all of whom wanted to be recognized. So this is a short list of the people who helped us out. Check out their stuff!

Thank you to...

Heidi MacDonald, Comics Beat
George Foster, 1214a Design
Shane Perry, Geek Rex
Spencer Perry, Coming Soon
Arlo Wiley, Gobbledy Geek Podcast
Robby Bragdon, Robby Bragdon Fine Art
Phillipe Leblanc
James Dawsey, Vigilance Press
Salim Garami, Movie Motorbreath
Harper Harris, Geek Rex
Alex Lu, alexanderlu.com
Anthony Dorsey
Zack Clopton, Zack's Film Thoughts
JJ Masino
Guy Vollen, Medleyana
Finn Jones
George Carmona, Fist Full of Art
Monjoni Osso
Talya Kelly 
AJ Frost
Ryan Dice
Matt Miller
Stephen Milligan 
Jasef Wisener 
Peter LaCara
Jennie Law
Elessar, Football in Tuxedos 
Darius Washington 
Scott Garner
Troy Giles
Billy Snyder
Ty, The Bastards of the Universe Podcast
Jenn B.
Mike & Christy

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The 25 Best Superhero Movies of All Time: 25-11

25. Spider-Man (2002)
dir. Sam Raimi

In a way, it was Raimi who started the superhero explosion we're seeing today, or at least serves as the most direct forebear. Bryan Singer's X-Men may have came out two years earlier, but as superhero films have moved further and further away from Singer's dour vision, Raimi's odes to the four-color extravaganzas the comics came from are a clear early sign of where Marvel movies would eventually move. Some of Raimi's campier touches don't work terribly well; the Green Goblin suit was goofy at the time and it's goofy now. But some, like the brief stint in the wrestling ring ripped straight from the comics - and another era - are immensely charming, and Raimi's dedication to quiet, personal drama where it was needed is something that modern superhero films could stand to remember. Raimi's trilogy would eventually peter out due to executive interference, but the first entry is still a lively delight.

24. X-Men: First Class (2011)
dir. Matthew Vaughn

After the dreadful X-Men: The Last Stand and even worse X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it was clear the X-Men movie franchise needed a big change if it wanted to survive. Enter First Class, with an exciting new cast, stylish 60s time period, and a fresh look at the early lives of Professor Xavier and Magneto. Although Kevin Bacon makes a fun enough villain as Sebastian Shaw, it's the Nazi-hunting Magneto played masterfully by Michael Fassbender that steals the show.

23. Robocop (1987)
dir. Paul Verhoeven

When we put forth the call for voters, we were pretty clear: There weren't really any rules as to what could be called a superhero film unless things got pretty out of hand. So imagine my surprise when we got ballot after ballot for Robocop, Paul Verhoeven's 1987 dystopian masterpiece. It fits the trend, though, as an early forerunner for a certain kind of superhero film: The tragic origin that gives him his powers but pits him against the very people responsible for his creation is an iconic superhero trope, and Verhoeven delights in the 80s ultraviolence that wouldn't have been out of place in the Frank Miller-influenced comics scene at the time. Speaking of Miller -- he wrote a Robocop comic, and came back to script Robocop 2. Robocop remains one of the 80s bleakest, most iconic action films and a staple of the excellent, odd career of Paul Verhoeven; I suspect the only reason it isn't higher on the list is because it didn't occur to many to put it on there.

22. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
dir. James Gunn

There's a raging debate occurring among Guardians fans as to which film is better between the sequel and its predecessor. Either way, there's no arguing that this second-go at James Gunn's ragtag group of interstellar misfits isn't a unique spin on the Marvel movie formula. Essentially a big budget bottle-episode, the ensemble cast is given a good deal more to chew on in terms of character growth and depth, and the revelations provided by the presence of Starlord's dad, EGO (played with a fun swagger by Kurt Russell), at the very least, makes this an vital epilogue to the original journey. Terrific soundtrack too.

21. Watchmen (2009)
dir. Zack Snyder

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is arguably the greatest graphic novel of all time–along with The Dark Knight Returns, it is often credited with the maturing of the comics medium. It was also notoriously called, “unfilmable” by Terry Gilliam, a director who was perhaps uniquely suited for it’s neon action. Zack Snyder, hot off the surprise success of his first comic adaptation 300, certainly made a valiant attempt and in many ways succeeded. While it changes a few key things from the comic, it captures the look and feel with impressive accuracy, and a few of the casting choices are inspired. If you’re a fan of the graphic novel, it’s hard not to get swept up in this big screen adaptation.

20. Dredd (2012)
dir. Pete Travis

Start with a screenplay by one of modern sci-fi's best screenwriters, Alex Garland, then add an excellent cast consisting of the ubiquitous Karl Urban in the lead and Lena Headey playing opposite, and you've got a pretty exciting thing to look at. Dredd's thrilling visual style, thumping score, and genuine love for the 2000 A.D. source material all add on to make this one of the most rewatchable of modern superhero films.

19. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
dir. Joe Johnston

One of the purest distillations of comic book source material brought to screen, Joe Johnston makes a roaring comeback as he reinhabits the throwback vibe that made his earlier The Rocketeer such a joy. Between the sepia tones, the pitch-perfect casting of its central player (if we were ranking superhero castings, Chris Evans might be at the very top, as he just lives in the "aw shucks" demeanor of Steve Rogers), Hugo Weaving doing a great Werner Herzog impression, and maybe the best love story of any of these films. The Cap movies are the best of the Marvel franchises, and this one got them off to an exuberant start in the Simon-Kirby mold.

18. Superman 2 (1980)
dir. Richard Donner & Richard Lester

Kneel before Zod!! One of the more intriguing entries on this list, most especially due its troubled production history. A good portion of Superman II was conceptualized and shot during the creation of its preceding entry, but after Richard Donner had quite a falling out with the the Salkinds, producers of the Superman films, they turned to A Hard Day's Night's Richard Lester to come in and finish the sequel. With an awareness of what occurred behind the scenes, its hard to not spot what was filmed by Donner and Lester respectively (one goes for mythic grandeur, the other tends to lean comic slapstick), but to many who watched this film as it released with virgin eyes, it was the superior Superman adventure - finally portraying in live action the first Superman vs. super-powered villains fight that fans had been craving for decades, and Terence Stamp's portrayal of General Zod is legendary for a reason.

17. Blade (1998)
dir. Stephen Norrington

Superheroes and horror are tough to mix; one is a power fantasy, while the other depends on making you feel powerless. But one of the early successful comic book trilogies, Blade, walked that line well. Blade would help modernize and popularize the action-horror template that would continue in the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises, focusing on an implacably cool hero hunting monsters out to harm humanity. In Blade, that implacably cool hero is played by Wesley Snipes, and his villains are a who's who of excellent character actors: Donal Logue, Sanaa Lathan, and the eternally villainous Stephen Dorff. There have been a lot of movies that have tried to mimic the success of Blade, but few have been successful.

16. Batman Begins (2005)
dir. Christopher Nolan

Batman, at least on the big screen, was pretty much dead. The two previous films by Joel Schumacher effectively destroyed all that Tim Burton had created, and there hadn’t been an attempt since 1997. (Side note: kind of hard to imagine a world now where there isn’t a movie with Batman for 8 years!) After the success of 2000’s Memento Christopher Nolan had tried his hand at the Hollywood thriller in his Insomnia remake, but was interested in reviving the DC Comics hero after the recent success of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises. Nolan took a different approach to those, however, shying away from the comic book visual style and instead aiming to ground the hero firmly in the real world. Batman Begins is maybe not the best of his trilogy, but it launched a whole new era for Batman and created a visual and narrative style that has been the house style for DC ever since.

15. Deadpool (2016)
dir. Tim Miller

Remember Ryan Reynolds regrettable character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Before the release of 2016’s Deadpool, you couldn’t be blamed if you didn’t. Add onto that Reynolds’ equally regrettable turn as Green Lantern in 2011 and you’d expect his days in superhero cinema to be long over. To the shock of many, Deadpool smashed box office records, opening at #1 and making $132 Million in its first weekend, and still sitting as the #2 R-Rated movie of all time. Deadpool relaunched Ryan Reynolds’ career with the role he seemed born to play, and the wise-cracking, fourth-wall-breaking anti-hero paved the way for the R=Rated superhero film and cemented the character as the most common cosplay at every convention.

14. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
dir. Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm

Batman: The Animated Series is still the definitive Batman for a whole generation that grew up watching it on Saturday mornings, and Mask of the Phantasm is the culmination of that show. Taking the wonderful voice cast from the show and adding the talented Dana Delany (the voice of Lois Lane in the Superman animated counterpart), this film aims to reach an older audience with a tragic love story. Pulling in parts of the classic comic Batman: Year One, Phantasm fires on every dramatic cylinder and easily holds its own among the live action Batman films.

13. Batman Returns (1992)
dir. Tim Burton

In some ways, the appeal of Batman Returns can be summed up just by looking at a handful of stills, because this is, for my money, the best-looking Batman movie that exists. Burton's 1989 Batman may have created the template, but with Batman Returns, Burton's villains fit his visual sensibilities far more than the Joker. Danny DeVito remains almost eerily perfect casting as the Penguin, but the real star of the show is Michelle Pfeiffer's instantly-iconic Catwoman, a slinking, prowling villain who fits so flawlessly into Burton's Gotham City that I'm frankly disappointed that the movie isn't just about her. It's hard for a sequel to outdo the original, but when it comes to creating a distinctive aesthetic, Batman Returns is a step above.

12. Iron Man (2008)
dir. Jon Favreau

This is, in many ways, the movie that kicked off the modern superhero trend. Spider-Man and X-Men showed that the demand was there, but it was Iron Man that suggested that you didn't need an A-list hero to make truly blockbuster bank, and the massive success of Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr.'s take on the character spawned the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Avengers, and Marvel Studios, a gajillion dollar film empire now trying to plan movies 5-10 years in advance. But Iron Man remains a small, surprisingly slight movie, with few of the massive set-pieces that would come to define Marvel. Mostly, it's a character study for Downey's Tony Stark, a movie that forces him to come to terms with his sin and puts him on an insane path for redemption. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Iron Man is how natural that arc feels.

11. Batman (1989)
dir. Tim Burton

In a way, there are three major eras of comic book films, though only the most recent hasn't petered out rather quickly. Tim Burton launched the second with the release of Batman, a gothic action extravaganza that used Burton's odd aesthetics to immortalize Gotham City for generations of viewers. Batman has aged very well, from its iconic soundtrack by Prince to its visual design that remains influential to this day, and I think it's telling that both Burton's Batman films were so close on the list. In the end, the original won out, but both present a compelling artistic vision of a strange and beautiful Gotham City. Without Batman, there is no Blade, there is no Hellboy, and, I suspect, there is no X-Men.
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