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Marvel Comics news: "Guardians of the Galaxy" and other Marvel movie madness

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"Guardians of the Galaxy" take over the Internet with trailers and posters!

Despite the next Marvel Studios film coming down the pipe being April's "Captain America: the Winter Soldier", the studio is wisely choosing to begin promotion of their later and riskier summer blockbuster, August 1st's "Guardians of the Galaxy". Amid much ballyhoo and high expectations, the trailer went live last week after debuting on "The Jimmy Kimmel Show" and already has over twelve million views on YouTube. The studio went on to release an official poster as well as snippets delving into the strange and eclectic cast of the series - plucked from the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run on the book from 2008-2010 rather than the older one from the 1980's and 1990's.

The film is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave "Batista" Bautista as Drax, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot. While most of these space characters originated in the later 1970's, the living tree-monster Groot actually pre-dated the "Fantastic Four", having been created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1960 when "monster comics" were Marvel's main feature. "Star Wars" naturally put science fiction on the map to mainstream audiences in the late 1970's and the trailer seems to imply a similar tone.

However, whenever obscure characters get mainstream exposure and are set to earn millions, if not billions, for a major corporation, attention shifts to the fates of their original creators. Thus, attention online turned to Bill Mantlo, the creator of Rocket Raccoon who has been in institutionalized care after since being hit by a car in 1992 caused severe brain injuries to him. Fans have rallied to donate towards his medical care, although his brother (and legal caretaker) Mike Mantlo set the record straight on "The Beat", claiming that while his fate isn't peaches and cream, that it isn't as dire as some as suggested and that Marvel Entertainment at least gives half a fig about him in terms of "compensation". In fact, he encourages fans to see "Guardians of the Galaxy" if they wish to help Mantlo. While most major comic book companies are under little legal obligation to compensate creators who make characters for them under old style "work for hire" contracts, many feel they have a moral obligation to them.

At any rate, "Guardians of the Galaxy" represents Marvel Studios' biggest gamble in five years and the reaction it gets from critics and the all important box office will likely be the tale of the summer.

"Original Sin" is 2014's crossover event!

Marvel's annual crossover event is "Original Sin", a murder mystery written by Jason Aaron ("Wolverine & the X-Men", "Wolverine", "Ghost Rider") and set to clog the comic book shelves later in the year. The premise? One of Marvel's greatest heroes has gone to the moon and killed Uatu the Watcher. If this sounds drastically like something commissioned from 2006, remember, comics are written by men pushing middle age. At any rate, this also means more variant covers than there are stars in the galaxy - in comics, sales gimmicks never die, they merely hibernate. At any rate, those covers feature "suspects" like Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Captain America, and Spider-Man.

Fox's "Fantastic Four" reboot cast!

The second biggest story of the past week was the near official announcement of Fox's cast for their next "Fantastic Four" film. Having reportedly abandoned their license to "Daredevil" back to parent company Marvel in exchange for a last extension to their "Fantastic Four" license, Fox Studios is moving full steam ahead. Josh Trank ("Chronicle") is directing and the Hollywood Reporter is confident with their report. Michael B. Jordan, who was also in "Chronicle", is apparently a lock to play Johnny Storm/Human Torch, which has been rumored for months. New to the mix are Kate Mara as Sue Storm/Invisible Woman, Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm/the Thing, and (if scheduling allows), Miles Teller as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic. After a series of rewrites, the film is now slated for June 19th, 2015.

Rumors are that the series will draw more from "Ultimate Fantastic Four" than the original 1961 comics, which was stated by Fox back in 2004-2005 when they filmed and released their first "Fantastic Four" film. That effort earned a less successful sequel in 2007, and since then the studio has sought to reboot the franchise before their license from Marvel Entertainment lapsed. As expected, the most notable part of this announcement was the "outraged" reaction by some fans online due to Jordan being cast as Johnny, which leads to the predictable call for tolerance within our fan base. Should this be successful, Fox fully intends to have this cross over with their "X-Men" film franchise, which continues to be profitable for them.

"Ghost Rider" comic promoted towards another audience!

It is rare when mainstream comic book companies actually try to market their creations directly to any audience outside the regular weekly Wednesday crowd. Often times they either hope for films to entice sales or kill/marry off a major character and let the mainstream news media read or print a press release. However, this time Marvel are wisely choosing to reach out for their "All-New Ghost Rider" coming in March that features a new, younger, car riding incarnation of the character. To this end the comic will be advertised and featured in "Lowrider Magazine". The magazine is seen as catering to a similar demographic as the series' lead (Robbie Reyes, a Latino muscle car lover from L.A.). Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore will produce art for the magazine. "Ghost Rider" has struggled in terms of sales for a solo series for years, so this is a fascinating effort by Marvel's editorial team to reach out towards anyone other than normal comic book readers.

Is "Doctor Strange" up for a Phase Three film?

Ever since "Harry Potter" became a mega bucks franchise for Warner Brothers and especially ever since Disney purchased Marvel Comics in 2009, rumors of longtime magician Doctor Strange appearing on the big screen have swirled. Along this vein, the Hollywood Reporter claims that four director are being vetted by Marvel Studios to begin work on such a series to be released at some point in 2016-2018. These directors are Mark Andrews ("Brave"), Jonathan Levine ("50/50"), Dean Israelite (the upcoming "Welcome to Yesterday"), and Nikolaj Arcel ("A Royal Affair"). In addition, Jon Aibel and Glenn Berger, the writers of the two "Kung-Fu Panda" films, are being eyed to pen the script.

Aside for a TV film in 1978 and a few animated guest spots here and there, the character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963 hasn't seen much success in adapted media. The story of an arrogant surgeon being humbled by an accident who ultimately chooses to become his world's foremost sorcerer is similar enough to the formula of "Iron Man" that the character seems to be an ideal fit in the "Marvel cinematic universe" that Marvel Studios has forged since 2008. The studio has been hesitant to include true "magic" in their technologically inclined heroes, but once an alien raccoon with laser guns graces the screen, all bets seem to be off.