Sunday, April 15, 2018

Best X-Men Writers

Even though they did not gain popularity until 15 years after their creation, the X-Men franchise exploded in a big way and never really slow down.  Since the late eighties their have always been multiple books lead by many varied creators.  At the end of the day, these are the ten that I feel that either left the most lasting influence on others or just wrote the best X-Comics.

For this list I focused on writers for the main X-Men team books, but I'm still including writers of some of the more mainstream spin-offs (sorry X-Statix).  Solo books have never had the same weight of the main series (although Sina Grace's recent work on the Iceman solo has become one of my favorite series).  I'm sure a lot of 90s readers will notice the lack of Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell who wrote much of that decade's stories.  For me I can't point to a perfect story or lasting change from either of them, as loved as some of their work may be.

Mike Carey is the writer who just missed the cut.  Personally I love certain stories from Ed Brubaker, Peter Milligan, Marc Guggenheim and Marjorie Liu.  Craig Kyle & Chris Yost definitely earn mention for their mass of work, as do their New X-Men predecessors Nunzio DeFillipis & Christina Weir.  There are good alternate reality stories from the likes of Brian K. Vaughn and Jeff Parker, but there are so many X-Books that I really just focused on accomplishments within the 616.

Of course any X-Writer will be able to identify writers that will not be mentioned or take issue with certain rankings, but that is why this list is worth doing.  So many creators have touched these characters and each fan has their own relationship with the books.  So for me: the ten best X-Men writers:

10. Joss Whedon
Notable Work: Astonishing X-Men vol. 2 #1-24, Giant Size Astonishing (2004-2008)
Astonishing X-Men took its time to come out, didn’t reinvent the wheel and probably only needed to be 12 issues.  That said, Whedon still earns a place on this list for delivering well-written characters in an accessible prestige book.  Whedon gifted the X-Mythos with plenty of memorable lines, new characters and concepts that would continue in other books and possibly the best Kitty Pryde ever.  When all is said and done Whedon did not leave as large of a stamp on the X-Men and some would have you think.  But what he did was well loved and continues to be an easy starting point for new readers.

9. Stan Lee
Notable Work: X-Men vol. 1 #1-19 (1963-1966)
It took the X-Men a long time to gain popularity.  Those early issues really pale to Lee and Kirby’s work on Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and others.  The original X-Men are kind of a generic superhero team with a simpler origin. But Lee laid the groundwork and writers have gone back to the original five student set-up many times.  Lee introduced enduring concepts like the Danger Room, Cerebro, Magneto, the Brotherhood, Juggernaut and Sentinels. Not a fully fleshed out franchise, but an important foundation that new writers really ran with.

8. Brian Michael Bendis
Notable Work: Ultimate X-Men #35-45 (2003-2004), All-New X-Men vol. 1 #1-41,
Uncanny X-Men vol. 4 #1-35 (2012-2015)
Bendis wrote some of the best stories for Ultimate X-Men, but he made this list for his two year run of dual double shipped books.  Following his successful tenure as Avengers architect, where he made them Marvel’s number one team, BMB really changed the status for the Merry Mutants.  In All-New X-Men he brought the original, unconvoluted team to the present time.  Giving an interesting perspective for the franchise’s current state and rescuing many broken characters by bringing them back to basics.  In Uncanny he made excellent use of Cyclops and introduced many memorable new members.  Bendis’ run was a bit divisive and not everything left a large impact, but he had a clear, valid direction that did new things with the franchise and kept it exciting.

7. Kieron Gillen
Notable Work: S.W.O.R.D. #1-5 (2010), Generation Hope #1-12 (2011-2012), Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #531-544 & vol 2 #1-20 (2011-2012), Avengers vs. X-Men: Consequences #1-5 (2012)
Gillen started gaining notice with X-Men spin-offs S.W.O.R.D. and Generation Hope, which were both well received.  His early issues of Uncanny marked an improvement in the series with bold choices like turning Colossus into the Juggernaut and satisfyingly ending the original volume before relaunching the title in a clear direction.  While readers were clearly supposed to sympathize with Wolverine’s side of the Schism, Gillen did amazing things with Cyclops band of former villains.  The Extinction Team was an understandable development for Utopia and Gillen played with the morality of the survivalist mentality.  With AvX Consequences Gillen regained some sympathy towards the disgraced Cyclops.  It is a shame his run ended so soon, his often overlooked side of things was very worthwhile.

6. Rick Remender
Notable Work: Uncanny X-Force vol. 1 #1-37 (2010-2012), Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 #1-25 & 2 #1-5 (2012-2015)
Uncanny X-Force was a shot in the arm for an X-Men spin-off that never earned much prestige. Wolverine’s black ops squad had excellent characterization and fascinating moral dilemmas.  It was not a book of cheap violence, but a book about dealing with violence.  Remender found depths for the mutant concept that few writers have without devolving into misery and pretention.  His follow-up, Uncanny Avengers, did not maintain as satisfying of a run.  But the heights of Uncanny X-Force have more than earned Remender a top ten status.

5. Peter David
Notable Work: X-Factor vol. 1 #70-89 (1991-1993), Madrox #1-5 (2004-2005), X-Factor vol. 3 #1-50, #200-249 (2005-2013), All-New X-Factor #1-20 (2014-2015)
A veteran Marvel writer known for creativity and success on characters nobody wants has been a great fit for the X-Universe.  His three X-Factor teams (government agents, private investigators and corporate heroes) all had such a unique flavor and grew personalities for countless characters on the fringe of the franchise.  The X-Men have a bad habit of introducing characters and abandoning them. David excelled at finding them purpose. His teams have some of the best chemistry of any X-Team.  While never top sellers and he had not touched a main X-Men title, his work on the fringe is some of the best and was vital to the maintenance of countless mutants.

4. Louise Simonson
Notable Work: X-Factor vol.1 #6-64 (1986-1991), New Mutants vol. 1 #55-97 (1987-1991),
X-Terminators #1-4 (1988-1989), Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown #1-4 (1989) X-Factor Forever
During Claremont’s run nobody could successfully touch the X-Men.  The few writers he did left little impact, until Weezie.  She was an editor that Claremont and Ann Nocenti championed to take over X-Factor.  She then took over the New Mutants.  Simonson set the example for all future X-Writers, she used her own personality and added new developments while adhering to the Claremont establishment.  Simonson was vital to the stewardship of the original five, development of the new characters and expansion of the entire line.

3. Jason Aaron
Notable Work: Wolverine: Weapon X #1-16 (2009-2010), Wolverine vol. 4 #1-20, 300-304 (2010-2012) X-Men Schism #1-5 (2011), Wolverine and the X-Men #1-42 (2011-2014), Amazing X-Men
Made his mark at Marvel as one of the best Wolverine writers, whom he focused on in several series. Made his way to the X-Men proper with one of the best X-Events and created an exciting new title.  Wolverine and the X-Men brought fun into that is rarely found in a main title.  It was a book where anything could happen and often did.  Aaron’s book was not overly reverent to previous runs (although Morrison’s influence is clear), it showed you could do new things with the X-Men and kept it from continuing to jog in place.

2. Grant Morrison
Notable Work: New X-Men #1-41 (2001-2004)
Morrison was the first X-Writer to just do something new.  All previous writers either kept things in place or harkened back to Claremont. After a decade of massive team books, Morrison had a set line-up with all-new characters.  He had a new direction, new villains and did some truly challenging things.  He may have shook things up too much for many fan’s liking, but the importance of his work for the growth of the franchise cannot be overstated. 

1. Chris Claremont
Notable Work: Uncanny X-Men #94-473 (1975-1991), New Mutants #1-54 (1982-1987), Excalibur #1-34 (1987-1991), Wolverine, X-Men vol. 2 1-3 (1991), X-Treme X-Men #1-46 (2001-2004), etc.
Was there any question? 17 years straight where he brought the All-New All-Different X-Men to prominence with classic stories of Phoenix, Proteus, Days of Future Past, God Loves Man Kills and LifeDeath.  Claremont defined Cyclops, Jean Grey, Xavier, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus and Magneto.  He created Shadowcat, Rogue, Mystique, and so many other important characters and concepts.  Claremont expanded the line and wrote much of The New Mutants, Excalibur and Wolverine’s early solo exploits.  It was Claremont that made this story feel huge while also making you care about the small, personal moments of these people.  He is the writer that others cannot escape.  Although he various returns to the franchise have not been as fruitful, he has never left the X-Men and they have clearly never left him. Claremont and the X-Men are forever tied to one another.  For better or worse, he made this franchise and nobody will ever leave as much of a mark as he has.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Best Picture Predictions (1/7/18)

This year is really interesting for best picture because there is no set frontrunner.  There are seven films that are locks for nominations and among them six could win.  Making for an exciting race where we really don't know what will happen.

The best bets are Lady Bird, Call Me by Your Name, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Get Out, The Shape of Water and Dunkirk.  The winner is somewhere in there and there is a strong case for all of them.  The Post is guaranteed a nomination, but won't have enough steam to cross the finish line.

With the Oscars preferential voting system there can be anywhere from 5-10 nominees for Best Picture.  Since the change to this system there have usually been 9 nominees.  But we had 8 nominees in 2014 and 2015, think this will be one of those years.  There seems to be enough steam for The Big Sick to get that last slot.  But The Florida Project or I, Tonya could also get the 8th or 9th nomination.

There are some outside chances for Mudbound, The Disaster Artist and Molly's GameWonder Woman and Logan are still in the conversation, outlasting the a hoard of well received blockbusters including Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, War for the Planet of the Apes and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Other Oscar contenders like Battle of the Sexes, Last Flag Flying, Detroit, The Beguiled and many others could be shut out entirely, barring some artistic categories.  Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread will have to settle for acting nominations.


Best Picture
Top Five
Lady Bird
Call Me by Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing
Get Out
Shape of Water
 Pros: Getting notices across the board.  Strong chances for important categories of director, acting and screenplay.

Cons: Gerwig could be left out for director.  Smaller comedies don't often win.
 Pros: Most traditional Oscar drama contender this year and its been getting all the right places.

Cons: Some minor controversies.  Its director and actors could be considered too new for wins.  Smaller film among larger ones.
 Pros: Topical film with strong script and ensemble.

Cons: The humor and some of the harsher content might not sit well with traditional voters.  McDonagh could be left out for director.
 Pros: Most talked about film from last year.  Stayed in the race. Consistent in precursors.

Cons: Early release date, genre film, actor turned directors.  A lot for voters to get past.
 Pros: del Toro is definitely due for Oscar attention.  This film has been a staple in precursors.

Cons: Still a genre film.  Going to be a tough win, but it will be nominated.
Next Predicted Three
Runner-Ups
Dunkirk
The Post
The Big Sick
Florida Project
I, Tonya
 Pros: Nolan finally playing the Oscar game.  Big financial and critical hit.  Based on a true story.

Cons: Earlier release and it has been post over in precursors for others.
 Pros: Spielberg's true story about politics starring Streep and Hanks.  Was a lock from the announcement.

Cons: Not strong enough for more than a nomination.
 Pros: Early release that has stayed in the conversation, earning a SAG ensemble nominations and a lot of writing recognition.

Cons: Early release and a comedy in a year with a lot of comedy. No directing contender.
 Pros: A film many feel strongly about.  Lock for Best Supporting Actor.  Been receiving precursor notice.

Cons: Smaller film from a newer voice.  Not guaranteed much other than Dafoe.
 Pros: Just received a surprise PGA nomination.  Acting is getting a lot of attention.

Cons: Smaller film with a new distributor that has never gotten a film to the Oscars before.
Longer Shots
Wonder Woman
Mudbound
Molly’s Game
Disaster Artist
Logan
 Pros: Received a PGA nomation and other precursors.  Successful film that is important to many.

Cons: Competition with Logan.  Still a blockbuster.   There is criticism for the film.
 Pros: Good reviews.  Lock for Best Supporting Actress and screenplay.

Cons: Not popular enough to overcome streaming bias.
 Pros: Got a PGA nomination.

Cons: Not getting noticed for much else aside from Chastain and screenplay.
 Pros: Well received film with Oscar buzz.  AMPAS loves movies about movies.

Cons: Has not been getting much notice for Best Picture or Director.
 Pros: People really responded to this movie.  WGA nom helps.  Easiest superhero movie for voters to recognize.

Cons: Early release, still a blockbuster, other competition.

Oscar Predictions (Night of the Golden Globes)

I have been meaning to share my Oscar predictions for some time, now that the Golden Globes are going to happen in an hour I want to make sure I share my pre-Globe predictions.  I will be adding commentary throughout the show.


Best Picture
Top Five
Lady Bird
Call Me by Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO
Get Out
The Shape of Water





Next Predicted Three
Runner-Ups
Dunkirk
The Post
The Big Sick
The Florida Project
I, Tonya





Longer Shots
Wonder Woman
Mudbound
Molly’s Game
The Disaster Artist
Logan






Best Director
Top Five
Guillermo del Toro,
The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig,
Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan,
Dunkirk
Luca Guadagnino,
Call Me by Your Name
Martin McDonagh,
Three Billboards





Runner-Ups
Jordan Peele,
Get Out
Steven Spielberg,
The Post
Sean Baker,
The Florida Project
Paul Thomas Anderson,
Phantom Thread
Aaron Sorkin,
Molly’s Game






Best Actor
Top Five
Timothee Chalamet,
Call Me by Your Name
Gary Oldman,
Darkest Hour
James Franco,
The Disaster Artist
Daniel Day-Lewis,
Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya,
Get Out





Runner-Ups
Denzel Washington,
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Tom Hanks,
The Post
Robert Pattinson,
Good Time
Jake Gyllenhaal,
Stronger
Hugh Jackman,
The Greatest Showman





Best Actress
Top Five
Frances McDormand,
Three Billboards
Sally Hawkins,
The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan,
Lady Bird
Margot Robbie,
I, Tonya
Meryl Streep,
The Post





Runner-Ups
Jessica Chastain,
Molly’s Game
Judi Dench,
Victoria and Abdul
Emma Stone,
Battle of the Sexes
Gal Gadot,
Wonder Woman
Vicky Krieps,
Phantom Thread






Best Supporting Actor
Top Five
Willem Dafoe,
The Florida Project
Sam Rockwell,
Three Billboards
Armie Hammer,
Call Me by Your Name
Richard Jenkins,
The Shape of Water
Michael Stuhlbarg,
Call Me by Your Name





Runner-Ups
Woody Harrelson,
Three Billboards
Steve Carell,
Battle of the Sexes
Christopher Plummer,
All the Money in World
Jason Mitchell,
Mudbound
Patrick Stewart,
Logan






Best Supporting Actress
Top Five
Laurie Metcalf,
Lady Bird
Allison Janney,
I, Tonya
Mary J. Blige,
Mudbound
Holly Hunter,
The Big Sick
Octavia Spencer,
The Shape of Water





Runner-Ups
Hong Chau,
Downsizing
Tiffany Haddish,
Girls Trip
Melissa Leo,
Novitiate
Lesley Manville,
Phantom Thread
Lois Smith,
Marjorie Prime







Best Original Screenplay
Top Five
Lady Bird
Get Out
Three Billboards
The Shape of Water
The Big Sick





Runner-Ups
Dunkirk
The Post
Phantom Thread
I, Tonya
The Florida Project






Best Adapted Screenplay
Top Five
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly’s Game
Mudbound
Wonderstruck





Runner-Ups
Logan
Wonder
The Lost City of Z
The Beguiled
Blade Runner 2049






Best Animated Feature
Top Five
Coco
Loving Vincent
The Breadwinner
The Boss Baby
LEGO Batman Movie





Runner-Ups
Big Bad Fox
and Other Tales
Ferdinand
Despicable Me 3
In this Corner of the World
Napping Princess