Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Despite the absence of some big players, Comic-Con International: San Diego had the usual tsunami of movie, TV and comics news on July 18-22. Virtually all of it is of interest to genre fans – like those who usually read this column – so let’s try to pack in as much as we can:
James Gunn (center), shown directing Michael Rooker (Yondu, in blueface) on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy, has been fired by Disney in a controversial move.
Gunn Misfire: After a right-wing troll weaponized some nasty, 10-year-old tweets by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, Disney fired Gunn on the Friday of the convention. This has caused some controversy.
Gunn has long since disavowed and apologized for the tweets, and did so again over the weekend on Twitter. He also released a statement:
“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative,” he wrote. “I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time. Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today.”
Unlike most men accused of professional misbehavior, Gunn has a lot of defenders. As you’d expect, Gunn’s brother Sean (who plays Kraglin in the Guardians franchise) rose in James’ defense on Twitter. But so did Dave Bautista (Drax), who tweeted in support, and Michael Rooker (Yondu), who quit Twitter in protest. Chris Pratt (Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis) all tweeted general support of the franchise’s “family” without mentioning Gunn specifically, although it was pretty obvious they’re in his corner. And recently friend-of-Gunn Bobcat Goldthwait asked Disney to remove his voice from a Disney attraction in protest.
Fans also seem to be generally supportive of Gunn, who directed the first two “Guardians” movies and was scheduled to helm the third. A petition launched at change.org had 200,000 supporters as of July 22.
It is a tough call. On the one hand, Gunn’s youthful tweets were, in fact, vile. And if we’re serious about stamping out bad behavior in the workplace, we really shouldn’t make any exceptions.
On the other hand, Gunn was pretty young when he made his mistakes, and has led an exemplary life since disavowing that behavior. Do we have no room for youthful indiscretion or genuine redemption in the #MeToo era? And do we really want to reward a political hitman for his nasty behavior?
And how can we end a movie director’s career for ancient, minor indiscretions when a man who has bragged about assaulting women is still in the White House? As one left-leaning man after another takes a hit, and Republicans like Trump remain untouchable, it’s starting to feel somewhat one-sided.
Hear Me Roar: Maybe it’s #MeToo, the zeitgeist or just coincidence, but women were in the vanguard all over Comic-Con.
Superfan Yvette Nicole Brown moderated several panels at Comic-Con, including “The Walking Dead,” while former host Chris Hardwick sweats out his own #MeToo accusations. Aisha Tyler (“Archer”) held court over the two-hour Warner Bros. presentation in Hall H, which included the “Wonder Woman 1984” trailer. Another woman, Terri Schwartz, moderated the BBC America panel, which introduced Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor Who to thunderous applause.
Women also cleaned up at the Eisner Awards, voted for by comic industry professionals. Writer/editor Taneka Stotts accepted the award for Best Anthology for Elements: Fire, a Comic Anthology by Creators of Color. Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing is Monsters won for Best Graphic Album – New. Writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda’s Monstress swept up five awards, including Best Writer – a first for a female writer.
And the Supergirl panel announced transgender activist Nicole Maines has been cast as TV’s first transgender superhero. She’ll play Nia “Dreamer” Nal, an obvious riff on Nura “Dream Girl” Nal of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
The CW announced transgender actress and activist Nicole Maines will join Supergirl in Season 4 as Nia Nal, “a soulful young transgender woman with a fierce drive to protect others.”
Near-Miss: It wasn’t a clean sweep for #MeToo. Johnny Depp appeared in support of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, carefully avoiding ex-wife Amber Heard (Aquaman), who has levied abuse charges against him. Joss Whedon, also enduring #MeToo complaints, showed up to announce a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot. Both appearances caused some grumbling.
MIA: HBO’s two blockbusters, Westworld and Game of Thrones, had no presentations, for an obvious reason: Neither show returns to TV until deep in 2019. And juggernaut Marvel Films didn’t show for a similar reason. The info clampdown on next year’s Avengers 4 means there’s nothing to talk about except Captain Marvel. That film won’t premiere until March 8, 2019, so Marvel plans a presentation at the New York Comic-Con (Oct. 4-7), when they’ll have more to screen.
The result? Marvel’s absence has made fans’ hearts grow fonder – of DC, whose Aquaman, Shazam and Wonder Woman 1984 footage was met with enthusiastic approval.
#GroupHug: Speaking of Avengers 4, Marvel offered tongue-in-cheek grief-counseling sessions for Avengers: Infinity War viewers.
“Fans can line up at a booth next to Petco Park in San Diego,” wrote Germain Lussier of Gizmodo.com on July 22, “put on a name tag, and enter an air-conditioned room where an actor who is there to talk with the group about their best memories from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You get a donut, you watch a deleted scene from the Infinity War Blu-ray and then you get a T-shirt on the way out.”
Seriously, that’s genius.
* Arrow star Stephen Amell says his character, Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen, will do something really un-heroic in the first episode of Season 7 on Oct. 15. “I hope people watch the premiere and are super-pissed at Oliver,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “There’s one scene in particular where he should be better, and he’s not. He sucks.” Um, yay?
San Diego Comic-Con had a lot of news about The CW’s DC-based shows, including more on the crossover in December that will introduce Batwoman. Photo: Stephen Amell at the CW Upfronts on May 17, 2018.
* Batman writer Tom King appeared with a bodyguard, due to death threats after the wedding of Batman and Catwoman failed to occur. Come on, folks – it’s just stories. Get a life.
* The Aquaman trailer was a show-stopper. Apparently star Jason Momoa can make even talking to fish sexy.
* The Riverdale panel introduced Penelope Ann Miller as District Attorney Ms. Wright, who will try to nail Archie for first-degree murder, a crime he didn’t commit. Bummer. But Archie has committed other crimes. He worked for Hiram Lodge’s criminal organization, assaulted a guy who had two broken legs and organized a violent vigilante squad. Are we sure this guy is the hero?
* Renewals for Wynonna Earp (Season 4) and Cloak and Dagger (Season 2) were announced. If you haven’t been watching those comics-based shows, it might be time to start.
* It’s true: Iron Fist Season 2 (dropping Sept. 7) actually looks great. In addition to Danny Rand (Finn Jones) finally wearing his trademark mask, Alice Eve will play Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary, and Davos (Sacha Dhawan) will achieve his destiny as arch-nemesis Steel Serpent. Also, Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Misty Knight (Simone Missick) will be prominent, which is reason enough to watch.
* Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, as if you didn’t know) strolled freely around the Con, unrecognizable in Imperial Stormtrooper armor. Because of course he did.
* The Gifted Season 2 (returning Sept. 25) will enjoy a mutant-palooza, introducing the Morlocks (who live in tunnels under New York) and expanding the Hellfire Club (which includes Polaris and the Frost sisters). And keep an eye on series star Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer), whose father chemically blocked his mutant power … so far.
* The Legion panel was tight-lipped on the Season 3 status quo, now that David Haller (Dan Stevens) has taken a heel turn, and Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) has stepped up as the new leader of the good guys. But here’s what’s important: They promise more dancing.
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