Back Issues: The Crow

Story Title: “Inertia”, “Pain”, “Fear”, “Irony”, and “Despair”
Published:
January 1989; February 1989 to May 1989
Writer/Artist:
James O’Barr (as “J. O’Barr”)

The Background:
The Crow began life as a comic book published by Caliber Comics in 1989, with the title character’s first appearance being a short prequel tale, “Inertia”, which was published in Caliber Presents #1 (January 1989). The comic book was the creation of writer and artist James O’Barr as a way of coping with the pain and loss he felt after losing his fiancée to a drunk driver. Although it took O’Barr nearly ten years to find a publisher, The Crow became an underground success thanks to its bleak tone, striking black and white artistic style, and emotional narrative. Wildly regarded as one of the most unique and poignant tales in the industry, the comic book achieved even greater mainstream success with the release of a suitably bleak feature adaptation film in 1994. Although The Crow (Proyas, 1994) was a cult hit, its sequels were disappointingly lacklustre; nevertheless, the original comic remains a highly regarded masterpiece and was succeeded by a number of spin-offs and subsequent stories.

The Review:
I first became aware of The Crow in very much the same way as I’m sure a lot of people did: by watching the first movie, which immediately captivated me and made me curious enough to seek out the original comic book. The story begins in the grimy, dangerous streets of Detroit, where gangs and crime and vice run rampant; the first thing we see is small-time thug Jones Transfer, a muscle-bound skinhead desperate for a fix of cocaine and having just swiped a Toshiba cassette player. His exhilaration turns to horror, and then anger, when a large, shadowy figure draped in a long black trench coat and with a face painted into the image of irony (a perpetually smiling clown-like face that is decidedly at odds with his generally more stoic and column appearance). Completely unfazed by Jones’s switchblade, even after it’s stabbed into his shoulder, the clown-faced mystery man demands to know the whereabouts of another local thug, T-Bird, and his cronies (Tom Tom, Top Dollar, Fun Boy, and Tin Tin). Jones is terrified to see the ghostly figure remove the switchblade, lap blood from the blade, and reveal that he tortured Jones’s friend and associate, Shelby the Giant, by clipping off his fingers one by one until he gave up everything he knew. Convinced, and desperate to save his own miserable life, Jones reveals that where each of the ghost-man’s targets can be found throughout the city, and is left alive to tell the thugs that he (as in, the painted-up vigilante) is coming for them.

Tormented by his fragmented memories, the Crow executes his first victim.

When the story proper begins, both the art and the presentation has shifted somewhat; text boxes allow us into the mind of the ghost-faced vigilante, now identified as “The Crow”, who stalks through the murky city streets and broods in an abandoned house outside of the city, constantly reliving the memory of a girl being attacked, though he cannot remember the exact specifics. All he can think about are the names of those responsible, and we transition over to find one of them Tin Tin, testing out a gun on a hapless pedestrian. He guns down the seller, and the little punk who arranged the sale, caring only about sending a message to Top Dollar’s would-be competition and little for the innocent woman’s cat, Gabriel, who would be left homeless as a result of his actions.  Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long for Tin Tin to pay for his reprehensible nature as the Crow immediately confronts him down a dark alley; showing no fear and completely no-selling an errant shot to the head, the Crow downs Tin Tim with a bullet to the wrist and, after bombarding Tin Tin with nonsensical religious statements, triggers his victims memory by detailing his part in attacked a man and a girl on a cold October night. Although Tin Tin begs for his life, pinning the blame entirely on T-Bird and the drugs they were on, the Crow, wracked with fragmented memories of happier times, shows no mercy and blows the asshole’s head clean off.

The Crow wastes no time in dispatching the top player in town.

The Crow ties a shotgun shell into his hair to indicate that the first of his victims has fallen, and Tin Tin’s death causes some concern amongst his shit-kicking associates; Top Dollar, the self-styled head honcho of the neighbourhood, is unconcerned, however. He doesn’t give two shits what the street punks think about it, or that Tin Tin got killed, and vehemently asserts that he owns the dope, the neighbourhood, and that “[his] word is the law!” Top Dollar is quickly convinced to give a shit, however, when the Crow gate-crashes the meeting and guns down everyone there. Some of the punks are sporting bulletproof vests, but the Crow is as unfazed by this as he is by their wild bullets, which strike him and draw blood but do not drop him, and simply executes them with a shot to the head while preaching a sermon on their evil ways. In the end, only Top Dollar is left; he attempts to barter for his life with money and drugs, but the Crow ignores him and simply stoically tells his story of a man, a woman, and a 1971 Plymouth on a rainy night. the second Top Dollar admits to remembering what the Crow is talking about amidst his angered ranting, the Crow executes him with two shots to the head. That’s right, in the original comic book, the Crow went pretty much directly to the top of the pecking order and then worked his way down, rather than working his way up the chain of command in the gang responsible for his suffering, showing him to be slightly more efficient and direct than his filmic counterpart.

The Crow retrieves Shelly’s engagement ring and catches the attention of the local cops.

Those that were concerned about Gabriel’s welfare can rejoice as the Crow takes the fluffy white cat in brings her (Gabriel is initially thought to be a boy but is later revealed to be a girl, and pregnant to boot) back to their old home, where he presents the cat as a gift to his lost love. This triggers a cute flashback to when the fresh-faced, unscarred and far less tortured Crow (then known as Eric) proposed to his beautiful girlfriend Shelly, during a playful bout of painting their home. Later, as Christmas closes in, Gabriel triggers another memory of when Eric surprised Shelly with the news that he had secured the house for them, leading to the Crow lamenting that the cat “[makes him] smile too much”. The Crow then arms himself with a samurai sword and heads out to confront Tom Tom, beheading his punk-ass friend Skank before taunting the gun-toting thug with the iconic gag about Jesus Christ being “put up for the night” at a hotel. Shrouded in darkness, Tom Tom has no chance to land a shot quickly has his legs literally taken out from under him with one swipe of the Crow’s sword. Bleeding out, and suffering from shock, Tom Tom seems mildly repentant for his part in Eric and Shelly’s murder and tells the Crow where he can find Shelly’s engagement ring. This leads the Crow to Gideon Resale, a pawn shop in a seedier part of town, where he calmly confronts the grouchy owner, stabbing him through the hand and forcing him to hand over a box full of rings. After locating Shelly’s ring and taking it for himself, the Crow executes Gideon, loads himself up with armaments from his shop, and sets it ablaze using a makeshift kerosene bomb. Young police officer Albrect attempts to interrupt the Crow, but is suitably intimidated by the vigilante’s stoic demeanour and conviction, bringing the Crow to the attention of the police for the first time. Based on Albrect’s description of the Crow, Sergeant Hook figures out that he’s Eric returned from the grave pretty much right away since, as we later find out, he visited Eric in hospital after he was attacked and offered his condolences. Hook was shocked when Eric utters his dying words: “The crow said don’t look!!” and is later less than impressed to find that the Crow has left him the pregnant, flea-ridden Gabriel to look after.

The Crow wades through Fun Boy’s goons and grants him a merciful death for his honesty and help.

On his way to confront Fun Boy, Crow comes across a young girl, Sherri, whose mother is one of the punk’s concubines. Feeling a connection with the girl’s innocence, the Crow gifts her with Shelly’s engagement ring, much to the girl’s emotional appreciation, and promises to return her mother to her. Later, before bringing his vengeance to an end, the Crow bids a heartfelt farewell to Sherri and promises her that things in her life will one day get better, or at the very least she will find serenity in the afterlife. Barging in on Fun Boy and Sherri’s mother in bed, the Crow demands that she leave and compels her to do better by her daughter with the memorable “Mother is the name for God” line, before getting into it with Fun Boy. Unlike his film counterpart, who was a wacked out junkie, the comic book Fun Boy is far more defiant and integral to the plot; he talks snark to the Crow and agrees to gather the rest of the gang together in a bar for a big gun fight. After intimidating the hugs with his loquaciousness, the Crow dispatches them in a blood-soaked battle that sees him burying an axe in one guy’s neck and gunning them all down with two pistols without missing a single shot, all while shrugging off any bullets that happen to hit or graze him until only Fun Boy is left. Unlike his associates, he doesn’t beg or plead or even repent for his actions; instead, he owns his reprehensible actions and even admits to perpetrating even worse acts against his fellow man. Tired of all the killing and vengeance, the Crow demands that Fun Boy go and get T-Bird so that they can finish this where it all started, at the side of a road outside of town where Eric and Shelly were tortured and killed. In return for Fun Boy’s assistance, the Crow promises him a quick, clean death, but makes no such promises for T-Bird, the man who pulled the trigger on himself and his lover.

Eric and Shelly are brutally murdered by a gang of coked up assholes.

After following the Crow’s vicious and bloody path of vengeance throughout the story and being treated to brief flashbacks and memories of Eric and Shelly’s lives together, the final chapter shows us exactly what happened to the two on that fateful night. After proposing to Shelly, Eric takes her on a night out to celebrate but, on their way home, their car suddenly breaks down. As Eric is attempting to fix it, T-Bird and his cronies, completely off their heads on cocaine, alcohol, and other drugs, randomly happen to drive past them and, spotting Shelly, decide to circle back and harass them. Eric has Shelly lock herself in the car and attempts to reason with the gang and, for his efforts, is violently shot in the bac of the head by T-Bird. The bullet blows part of his skull off (giving him the scar over his nose and the one glazed over eye we’ve seen him sport throughout the book as the Crow) but doesn’t actually kill him. Even when T-Bird follows this up with a second, direct shot that briefly sets Eric’s hair on fire, Eric still doesn’t die; instead, he’s left helpless and paralysed on the cold, wet road and forced to watch as Shelly is beaten and raped by the gang before being killed by T-Bird. As Eric lies there, mortally wounded and barely clinging to life, he is berated by a vision of the crow, who begs him not to look and urges him to give up the mortal coil so that he can have his revenge.

The Crow destroys T-Bird’s crew and finally completes his mission of revenge.

After burning his house down and leaving Albrect a note to look after Sherri, the Crow heads to the final showdown at a dilapidated house in the city after Fun Boy was unable to convince T-Bird and the others of the Crow’s threat. Still, the Crow remains true to his word and allows the junkie to kill himself with a lethal dose of morphine, before pumping a dose of the drug directly into his heart, killing a number of T-Bird’s cronies (with the exception of Two-Tone, whom he allows to live), and finally confronting T-Bird himself by stowing away in the back seat of his car. The Crow endures a bombardment of bullets from T-Bird’s gang before brutalising them with his superior strength and turning their weapons against each other, butchering them all in violent fashion and even walking away from a bullet shot through his neck at point-blank range. Terrified by the Crow’s manic violence, T-Bird races away in his blood-soaked and ends up crashing at the exact location where he killed Eric and Shelly; suffering from two broken legs, T-Bird remains defiant to the end and the comic cuts away as the Crow approaches his helpless foe with nothing more than a hammer in hand. The story ends with the Crow resting at a cemetery, having succeeded in avenging himself and his lover, and allowing himself to be spirited back to the afterlife by memories of himself and Shelly as the crow lies overhead.

The Summary:
Each chapter of the story is preceded by a quotation or a short poem that sets up the theme of the chapter, and the entire book, be it “Pain” or “Night”. Flashbacks to Eric’s journey to the afterlife, or his far happier life, are rendered in a far different visual style; these are beautiful, soft paintings rather than harsh pen strokes of black and white and, from the very first interlude, set the tragic tone for the entire story. “Shattered in the Head” appears to show Eric in a dream-like memory of riding a train but is, in actuality, a representation of his journey to the afterlife; he sees a beautiful white horse get tangled up in barbed wire, suffering in agony as it bleeds to death, which is an obvious parallel to how Shelly died. Just like in that instance, Eric was helpless to do anything to help and powerless to do anything but look on in horror, something which the Crow admonishes him for as the skeletal train conductor as for his ticket (an obvious representation of the Grim Reaper or, more specifically, Charon, with the train being an interpretation of the ferry he uses to take souls to the realm of the dead). Another interlude shows the Crow performing Kata-like dances while brooding over pictures of his former life and being tormented by memories of Shelly’s dead; we also see that the Crow regularly engages in self-harm, cutting and scarring his arms and wrapping them up in black tape in an attempt to either commit suicide and return to his love or feel something, anything, other than his eternal emotional torment.

Eric is guided by a snarky, supernatural crow that keeps him focused on his violent mission.

Unlike in the film, only Eric can see the crow; it advises him here and there throughout his mission but noticeably disappears between panels, indicating that it’s much more of a supernatural entity. It also has far less play then in the film; there, it was a mysterious guide and commonly seen at Eric’s side but, here, it appears sporadically and directly communicates with him, chastising him for constantly tormenting himself with memories of his past and distracting himself from his vengeance. In one of the interludes, the Crow chastises Eric for losing himself to the throes of passion with Shelly in what appears to be the closest representation of his paradise, before the conductor (now dressed as a Skull Cowboy) violently shoots Shelly in the head and forces him out of his heaven. In another, the crow scolds Eric for juicing up on Fun Boy’s drugs and reliving sexual memories of him and Sherry; while the crow is overly blunt and direct, it’s clear that it cares about Eric, his feelings, and his need for revenge and just wants to keep Eric on track rather than constantly dwelling on the past. After Eric is shot and left for dead, the crow immediately appears before him and its first advice is to turn away from the horrors being performed by his killers; it tries to comfort him by telling him that it wasn’t his fault and then chastises him for clinging to life, eager to give Eric the power to avenge himself on his killers.

The Crow is a tortured, tragic, invincible figure who is the embodiment of vengeance and fury.

The Crow’s mission is fuelled by rage and a lingering sense for brutal justice; there’s very little “heroic” about the Crow in that he’s acting solely to appease his need for vengeance rather than for the benefit of others. However, he remains a tortured and vulnerable character; he has no desire to hurt Albrect or those who aren’t on his list and shows a great deal of love for Sherri. At the heart of his motivation is, of course, Shelly; he curses a God who would allow someone as beautiful and innocent as Shelly to be molested and murdered in such a violent fashion, and who would allow him to suffer so badly by association, and regards the scum he guns down and brutalises as being little more than vermin deserving of punishment. Eloquent and largely impassive, the Crow is prone to bouts of intense rage and emotion when avenging himself; thanks to being undead, he has nothing to fear and willingly walks into gunfire and knives without hesitation. Although the comic doesn’t actually go into detail in explaining exactly what Eric has become, how he was resurrected, or the extent of his powers, it’s largely inconsequential to the story; all you need to know is that he is retribution personified on what he sees as a Holy mission to purge the city of undesirable sinners. The Crow remains a powerful, intense, and brutal tale of revenge and love; it’s far from a traditional comic book story and is more akin to a Gothic mediation on loss and chaotic emotion, and is bolstered by some great use of shadows and pen work. The black-and-white art style makes the story as beautiful as it is violent and it remains a passionate, tragic story to this day; it’s made even more enjoyable for fans of the movie as the film directly lifted entire scenes and dialogue from the original comics and perfectly captured, and expanded upon, the atmosphere of this dark, gritty story that I would definitely recommend everyone check out.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Have you ever read The Crow? What did you think to the story, artwork, and the narrative structure? How did you feel about Eric and Shelly’s plight, their love story, and their deaths as the motivation for the Crow’s mission? What did you think to the Crow; did his loquacious nature annoy you or did you find him intimidating and compelling, and do you think he was overpowered? Were you a fan of the interludes, poetry, and symbolism employed throughout the comic? Which of The Crow’s follow-ups was your favourite and how were you introduced to the franchise? How are you celebrating Devil’s Night tonight? Whatever you think about The Crow, leave a comment on my social media or sign up to reply down below.

10 FTW: Comic Book Crossovers We Need To See

If there’s one thing comic books allow, it’s the grandiose crossover between characters. Ever since Barry Allen met Jay Garrick all the way back in 1961 and introduced the idea of multiple parallel universes, comic book characters have existed in both isolated shared universes and travelled across a near infinite multiverse. However, while it’s relatively common to see Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman interact with the Justice League or the Teen Titans, or to have Peter Parker/Spider-Man randomly join forces with the Fantastic Four or the X-Men, we’ve also seen the characters of DC and Marvel Comics interact with each other. We’ve seen Superman and Batman both cross paths with Spider-Man, the X-Men team with the New Teen Titans, and both publishers’ greatest heroes go head-to-head in the epic DC Versus Marvel Comics (Marz and David, et al, 1996) crossover.

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There have been some weird crossovers in comics.

In addition, Dark Horse Comics snapped up multiple science-fiction and horror film franchises, giving us crossovers such as RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Miller, et al, 1992) and a whole slew of Aliens vs. Predator (Various, 1989 to present) comics. It doesn’t end there, either; we’ve seen Batman cross paths with Judge Dredd on multiple times and Frank Castle/The Punisher team up with not only Eminem but also pop up in Archie Comics, and it was thanks to such comic book crossovers that we finally got to see the three-way mash-up between Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Ash Williams! Yet, as many and varied and seemingly limitless as these crossovers can be, it seems like we’ve missed out on a few seemingly-obvious crossovers. Maybe it’s because of licensing issues or the fact that DC and Marvel Comics don’t tend to do a lot of business together lately, but, either way, I figured I’d talk about ten crossovers I’d love to see in comic books.

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10 Justice Society/Watchmen

After DC Comics finally put an end to the largely-awful New 52 run, they teased Alan Moore’s seminal work, Watchmen (ibid, et al, 1986 to 1987), becoming part of DC canon when Edward Blake/The Comedian’s iconic smiley-face button turned up in the Batcave. Cue the extremely delayed publication schedule of Doomsday Clock (Johns, et al, 2017 to 2019), a storyline that revealed that Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan had been influencing DC canon for decades. While this, obviously, brought the characters of Watchmen (or, at least, versions of them) into conflict with Superman, Batman, and other versions of the Justice League, it’s the older, more seasoned members of the Justice Society of America (JSA) I’d like to see have extended interactions with the Crimebusters.

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A battle between these two could destroy realities, much less worlds!

The JSA were at their peak around the time of World War Two, meaning they are decidedly more optimistic and pragmatic about their approach to crimefighting. The Crimebusters, meanwhile, existed in a largely dystopian version of the 1980s that was pretty bleak and constantly on the verge of another World War, meaning this team up could produce an interesting clash of styles and philosophies that would probably be more in keeping with Moore’s more reflective text rather than an all-out brawl. Plus, who doesn’t want to see who would win a battle between Jim Corrigan/The Spectre and Doctor Manhattan?

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9 Pulp Heroes United

Before Batman and Superman, there were the pulp heroes of the 1930s to 1950s. Names like the Phantom, the Shadow, the Spirit, the Rocketeer, and Green Hornet may have faded from mainstream relevance in recent years, but they live on thanks to publications from Dynamite Comics and crossovers with DC Comics. Speaking of Dynamite Comics, they came very close to this crossover with their Masks (Various, 2014 to 2016) series, which saw the Shadow teaming up with the Green Hornet and Kato, a version of Zorro, and the Spider but this crossover has so much potential to really pay homage to the heroes of yesteryear. Ideally, such a comprehensive team up would be similar to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Moore, et al, 1999 to 2019) in its scope and legacy; hell, I’d even have the Phantom, the Shadow, the Spirit, the Rocketeer, Green Hornet and Kato, Zorro, Doc Savage, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and the rest of their ilk butting heads with the Martians from The War of the Worlds (Wells, 1897) at the turn of the century. A proper sepia-toned, steampunk-filled piece that sees these wildly different pulp heroes begrudgingly working together to save the world could be a great way to thrust these overlooked classic heroes back into the spotlight.

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8 Red Hood/Winter Soldier

If the comic industry was like it was back in the mid-nineties, we would surely have already seen this crossover, which is as obvious and as fitting as the team up between the Punisher and Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael during his brief tenure as Batman. Speaking of which, a team up between Jason Todd/Red Hood and the Punisher is just as enticing but, in terms of thematically complimentary characters, you’re hard pressed to find two more fitting that Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes. Both characters were well-known sidekicks to greater heroes whose deaths shaped, influenced, and affected their mentors for years, and both even returned to life as violent, broken anti-heroes around the same time.

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Jason and Bucky’s deaths weighed heavily on Bat and Cap for years.

Yet, while Bucky has gone on to not only redeem himself and assume the mantle of Captain America (and is largely far more mainstream thanks to his prominent inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Jason Todd has floundered a little bit. It didn’t help that Jason’s resurrection was directly tied to DC’s latest reality-shattering Crisis for years (even though there have since been far less convoluted explanations, and he really should have been Hush all along) but, even ignoring that, Jason’s place is skewed as one minute he’s a sadistic killer, then he’s a violent anti-hero, then he’s wearing the Bat embalm and is an accepted (however begrudgingly) member of the Bat Family. However, both characters have carved a name out for themselves as being willing to go to any lengths to punish the guilty; each has blood on their hands, a butt load of emotional and personal issues, and a degree of augmented strength, speed, and skill thanks to their training or resurrection. While both are similar, Bucky is far more likely to be the bigger man and take the more moral ground, which would be more than enough to emphasise the differences between the two (provided Jason feels like being more antagonistic in this theoretical crossover).

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7 Judge Dredd/RoboCop

It’s no secret that RoboCop exists almost solely because of Judge Dredd; without 2000 A.D.’s no-nonsense lawman, we’d likely never have seen the excellently gore-and-satire-filled sci-fi action that is RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). While Batman has had more than a few run-ins with Judge Dredd, Detroit’s resident cyborg supercop has yet to meet his cinematic counterpart. The story is so simple is basically writes itself; you could have RoboCop awakened from suspended animation or reactivated after decades of being offline in the war-ravaged dystopia of Mega City One and briefly come into conflict with Dredd.

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Robo might need an upgrade to two to make things even…

I’d wager that RoboCop would be the more likely of the two to be more morally inclined; RoboCop generally operates based on very specific, law-abiding directives (or, depending on the version, his own conscience) that justify violence in service of protecting the innocent. Dredd, meanwhile, is just as likely to arrest victims of crimes as those who perpetrate them and is generally more an example of totalitarianism and uncompromising brutality in the name of the “law!” Yet, just as Dredd and Batman were able to work together despite coming to blows over their methods and philosophies, these two would make quite the formidable team once they’d ironed out their differences…though RoboCop may need an upgrade or two to survive in the future.

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6 Deadpool/The Mask

DC Comics have had many crossovers with Dark Horse over the years, resulting in numerous interactions between DC’s finest and the Xenomorphs, Predators, and Terminators. Similarly, both companies worked together on a number of crossovers revolving around the violent, big-headed cartoon anti-hero “the Mask”.

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Both characters are known for their comic violence.

It stands to reason, then, that if the Joker acquiring the magical mask and gaining its powers is a natural fit, a crossover between the near limitless power of the mask and everyone’s favourite fourth-wall breaking Mutant, Wade Wilson/Deadpool, would be just as fitting. Both characters are known for their over-the-top, cartoony violence, springing weapons out of thin air, directly addressing the reader, and busting heads with a maniacal glee. Hell, DC and Dark Horse had Lobo team up with “Big-Head” and even acquire the mask in another crossover and, given Lobo’s similarities to Deadpool, it wouldn’t bee too hard to imagine a crossover between these two being little more than a non-stop bloodbath as they tried in vain to damage each other, before Deadpool inevitably acquires the mask for himself and, in all likelihood, reduces all of conscious reality to a cheesy puff.

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5 RoboCop vs. Terminator vs. Aliens vs. Predator

Speaking of Dark Horse Comics, they really have brought us some great crossovers over the years; RoboCop Versus The Terminator and Aliens vs. Predator were natural stories to present in comics, videogames, and toys that were (arguably) too big for movies. They also merged three of these franchises together in Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator (Schultz, et al, 20000), though that story was more a sequel to Alien: Resurrection (Jeunet, 1997) and a continuation of the Aliens vs. Predator comics than anything to do with the Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) films. Instead, this four-way crossover would give Dark Horse a chance to take the time-hopping, action-packed story of RoboCop Versus The Terminator and merge it with their complex Aliens vs. Predator comics.

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RoboCop should lead the fight against these monsters.

RoboCop would probably be best served as the central character of the story; a member of the human resistance could travel back in time to try and eliminate RoboCop, only to run into a T-800 right as Predators come to clean up a Xenomorph outbreak in Detroit. A time dilation could transport them to the war-ravaged future, where RoboCop could team up with a reprogrammed T-800 (or John Connor) against the aliens, or perhaps the future war would be changed by the reverse-engineering or Predator technology. There’s a lot of potential in this crossover but, for me, it only really works if you include RoboCop. Without him, you end up with a poorly-executed concept like Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator, which really didn’t utilise the Terminator franchise enough. But imagine a Terminator/Xenomorph (or Predator) hybrid exchanging plasma blasts with a Predator-tech-upgraded RoboCop and tell me that doesn’t sound cool!

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4 Hellboy/Constantine

We’re scaling back a bit with this one. Honestly, I am very surprised we’ve never seen these two team up before, especially considering the amicable relationship DC and Dark Horse Comics have had over the years. Hell, we did get a brief team up between Hellboy and Batman but, arguably, this is the far more fitting choice. In this concept, I would go with the idea that John Constantine and Hellboy co-exist in the same world and have them cross paths when investigating the same supernatural threat or mystery. Obviously, they’d have to fight before teaming up (or, perhaps, they’d just rub each other the wrong way after being forced to team up), but can you imagine the quips and taunts and insults Constantine would have for Hellboy all throughout this crossover? Toss in guys like Swamp Thing and Etrigan, or even the Justice League Dark and the rest of Hellboy’s buddies (and absolutely have Mike Mignola provide his distinctive art style to the piece alongside co-authoring the story with either Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman) and you could have a very dark, moody, and entertaining paranormal crossover.

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3 Batgirl/Spider-Gwen

This one is more of a light-hearted pick but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of unapologetic fun amidst all the big action set pieces and violent action. After her debut in the “Spider-Verse” (Slott, et al, 2014 to 2015) storyline and prominent inclusion in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Persichetti, Ramsey, and Rothman, 2018), this alternative version of Gwen Stacy has gained quite the fan following over the years and has become firmly entrenched in Marvel canon as Ghost-Spider.

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These two have quite a bit in common, it seems.

Meanwhile, since the New 52, DC have returned Barbara Gordon to the role of Batgirl; this wasn’t without some controversy as, for years, Barbara had operated just fine as a paraplegic and the Batgirl mantle had been assumed by other, far more suitable candidates. Yet, DC have continued unabated, largely changing Barbara from a smart and capable tech and information wizard, to a far more catty, athletic, and socially-conscious young lady. Despite this, this has the potential to be a really fun crossover between these two; while Babs should really be the older and more mature of the two, they’re both around the same age these days (somewhere between fifteen and twenty-one, depending on DC and Marvel’s sliding timelines), meaning there would be a lot of common ground between the two. No doubt they would have plenty to say about each other’s costumes, hair, and ex boyfriends (throw Nightwing in there and have that cause a bit of tension between the two) and I would even have them team up against C-list villains, like the Vulture, Chameleon, Shocker, Mad Hatter, or Killer Moth, just to keep the focus on fast-paced, witty action rather than getting all sour and bleak.

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2 Spider-Man 2099/Batman Beyond

I know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t this be a crossover between Batman Beyond (1999 to 2001) and Spider-Man Unlimited (1999 to 2001), considering both cartoons aired at the same time and both characters wore similar, futuristic costumes? Well, you might be right, but Spider-Man Unlimited really should have been based on the initial Spider-Man 2099 (Various, 1992 to 1996) comics as that cartoon is largely remembered for being a poor follow-up to the superior Spider-Man (1994 to 1998) animated series and for featuring a pretty neat new costume for Spidey. Instead, I’d go with Spidey’s futuristic counterpart, Miguel O’Hara, who is more famous for operating in an alternative future of Marvel Comics. Again, the easiest way for him to interact with Terry McGinnis would be to have them exist in the same world but there’s a bit of an issue with that: Batman Beyond was set in 2039 when Terry was sixteen. The Justice League Unlimited (2004 to 2006) episode “Epilogue” (Riba, 2005) jumps to fifteen years later and Terry is a thirty-one-year-old Batman but the story would probably need some kind of time travel plot to bring these characters together at their peak.

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Both characters come from similar futuristic worlds.

Luckily, neither character is no stranger to time-hopping adventures; perhaps the best way to do this would be to have two similar villains in each world experimenting with time/reality-bending technology and cause a dilation that threatens to merge both timelines unless Miguel and Terry can stop them. I’d even have them both swap places; have Miguel wake up one morning in Neo-Gotham, running into the aged, grouchy Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and battling some of Terry’s foes, while Terry randomly finds himself dumped in Nueva York and running afoul of Alchemax. After two issues of them exploring each other’s world, the third issue would be the obligatory fight between the two before they agree to team up for the fourth and final issue and sort out the problem. Both characters’ futuristic costumes have very similar traits and exist in visually interesting futuristic worlds, making a potential clash and eventual team up between them an exciting prospect for the art work and banter alone.

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1 Batman/The Crow

Easily the top choice for me, and the genesis of this list, I literally cannot shake how perfect a crossover between Batman and Eric Draven/The Crow would be. Neither are strangers to inter-company crossovers but, while the Crow has had to settle for teaming up with the likes of Razor, The X-Files (1993 to 2018), and Hack/Slash (Seeley/Various, et al, 2014 to 2018), Batman has met Al Simmons/Spawn, Spider-Man, Judge Dredd, and even Elmer Fudd and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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Batman could put his detective skills to use when Eric comes to Gotham.

Yet, this crossover provides the opportunity to get Batman back to the gritty, noir-inspired style of stories like The Long Halloween (Loeb, et al, 1996 to 1997) utilising an art style that is part Dave McKean and part James O’Barr. As for the plot, I’d have Eric return to his undead life once again after it is revealed that there was another figure pulling the strings of Top Dollar’s gang. This would, of course, bring Eric to Gotham City, where he’d start killing members of this extended gang of thugs with his usual brand of violence and poetic justice. Naturally, this would lead him into conflict with Batman but, rather than the two descending into a poorly written, childish brawl as in Spawn/Batman (Miller and McFarlane, 1994), it would probably be better to focus on Batman’s detective skills as he investigates Eric’s murder, those behind the murder, and Eric’s violent actions on the streets of Gotham. In fact, I probably would only have the two interact right at the conclusion of the story, just as Eric is about to kill his final target; they could have a discussion on morality and the meaning of justice but, ultimately, Eric would fulfil his mission and return to the grave regardless of Batman’s protestations, leaving Batman to ponder the line between justice and vengeance.

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What comic book crossover would you like to see? Which comic book crossover has been your favourite, or most reviled? Whatever you think about comic book crossovers, leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Films That Need Remakes

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It seems blasphemous to say it but, sometimes, films do deserve a modern remake. The stigma that remakes are “bad” or “unnecessary” is one that I have already contested before, as some of the best films in cinema history are actually remakes. However, whether because they haven’t aged too well, or sequels ruined the original concept or expanded upon it in ways that actually affect the original negatively, or there is the potential that some films could just be done better, I put it to you that there are some movies that totally are in need of a remake and here are just some of them.

10 X-Men

I’ve already discussed, at length, my ideas for the surely-inevitable X-Men reboot that will come once Marvel Studios decides to integrate Mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it needs repeating here: the X-Men franchise is a mess! 20th Century Fox could have rebooted the franchise with X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011) but, instead, they chose to produce a sloppy mish-mash of sequel, reboot, and retcon because God forbid that they lose the revenue produced every time Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine pops his claws. Similarly, X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014) could have straightened things out using time travel but that clearly was asking too much; the focus was on powering through with a nonsensical, confusing timeline, not on any sense of continuity or logic. Therefore, X-Men really needs to have the plug pulled and a whole new retelling to help bring some kind of order and logic to one of Marvel’s biggest and most profitable franchises.

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9 Street Fighter

What’s that, you say? “Street Fighter already had a reboot; Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (Bartkowiak, 2009)!” Really? You’re happy for that atrocity to stand as your Street Fighter adaptation? Jeez, at least Street Fighter (de Souza, 1994) was fun; dumb, yes, but fun. The only things Legend of Chun-Li had going for it were higher production values, Robin Shou, and the use of chi; literally everything else was a slap in the face to any fan of the videogames or action movies in general. Now, you might also be wondering why I didn’t pick Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1995) and the answer is simple: it is a fantastic film; fun, witty, with some great fight scenes and decent effects. Street Fighter, however, is still waiting for a halfway decent adaptation; go old-school with it, make it a gritty, Kickboxer (DiSalle and Worth, 1989)/Bloodsport (Arnold, 1988)-style action movie; maybe throw in some inspiration from Warrior (O’Connor, 2011). In today’s climate, where MMA and UFC are mainstream and popular, Street Fighter has the potential to be a pretty solid action film if handled correctly.

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8 The Mask

Our first remake where my overriding advice is simple: “Go back to the source material!” Don’t get me wrong, I love The Mask (Russell, 1994); it’s a great vehicle for Jim Carrey’s talents and looks fantastic as a live-action cartoon but it’s not really a great adaptation of Mike Richardson’s original comic book. In the comics, “Big-Head” was a complete and utter psychopath and the titular Mask was anything but a force for wacky comedy. Therefore, rather than simply trying to ape Carrey’s performance, do a complete 1800 and make a super-stylised, hyper-violent action/horror movie. Honestly, given how successful Deadpool (Miller, 2016) and its sequel were, I am surprised that we haven’t heard rumblings of a new Mask movie as it’s basically the same premise but even more over the top, if you can believe that!

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7 Resident Evil

Easily the most inevitable of all of these films given recent news that a director has already been picked, I once again would advise revisiting the source material this time around (or, you know, actually bother to look at the source material at all) as the movies churned out by Paul W. S. Anderson have little to no resemblance to Capcom’s survival-horror series. Seriously, stop trying to copy Aliens (Cameron, 1986) and concentrate on making a dark (literally and figuratively), tense, atmospheric movie where two characters have to survival against some gory, fucked up zombies and gristly, practically-created (CGI just for enhancement, please!) monsters. It’s a bad sign when Doom (Bartkowiak, 2005) is a better Resident Evil movie than any of the actual Resident Evil movies so, come on, bring back the splatter-gore zombies movies of old and make a real Resident Evil adaptation for once!

(Side note: I actually love Doom. Fight me).

6 The Crow

Here’s one that’s been in and out of development hell for decades now; we have come so close to getting a new Crow movie so many times, with names like Bradley Cooper and Jason Mamoa both attached at one point, only to have it snatched away at the last second. Honestly, I am fine with this as The Crow (Proyas, 1994) remains one of the most haunting and beautiful movies (and adaptations) of all time. However, while I am in no hurry to see a remake, if we do ever get one I again urge those behind it to look a little closer at James O’Barr’s original 1989 comic book, if only to differentiate the new film from the original. Go for a moody, stylised, neo-noir piece, taking inspiration from Sin City (Miller and Rodriguez, 2005), and craft a dark, sombre film that has little to do with heroism and more to do with cold, uncompromising vengeance.

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5 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Ah, yes, the film that notoriously caused Sean Connery to retire from Hollywood altogether. Again, I am actually a bit of a fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Norrington, 2003); it’s not perfect but I liked seeing all these literary characters come together and the steampunk aesthetic of the movie. However, I would not be against Hollywood giving this one another go as it could definitely be done better. Keep the steampunk aesthetic but really emphasise the gritty, world-weary nature of these characters; you’re bringing together some of the most beloved, nuanced, and interesting fictional characters ever created so don’t belittle them with goofy antics. Go back to Alan Moore’s comic books, maybe take some inspiration from the second volume in which Moore has the League participate in the War of the Worlds (Wells, 1897) and for God’s sake do not promote the movie as “LXG”!

4 Fantastic Four

Another pick that is surely inevitable given Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox, I could go into a lot of detail about how the first family of Marvel Comics should be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and hey, maybe I still will!) but, suffice it to say, the Fantastic Four really need a movie deserving of their longevity and popularity. There were things I liked about both of Tim Story’s movies, and even the much-maligned reboot by Josh Trank, but all three films failed to capture the essence of the Fantastic Four and really do them justice. This is a chance for Marvel Studios to make a film with actual responsible adults in it; bring in an older cast for Reed Richards and Susan Storm (Bruce Campbell is a great choice for Reed but may be a bit too old; I’d suggest Pierce Brosnan, if he isn’t used for Magneto), get a popular, utterly handsome guy in his mid-twenties-to-late-thirties for Johnny Storm (Zac Efron?), and use that patented Marvel CGI wizardry (preferably in conjunction with practical effects) to create a truly lifelike Thing (voiced by, I dunno, Danny DeVito?). Whatever they do, though, it is crucial (and I mean absolutely crucial) that they get Doctor Doom right (and I mean pitch perfect); Doom should be a premier villain in the MCU and they shouldn’t shy away from his mystical origins. Get someone who isn’t afraid to wear a mask the entire time and who has the presence and gravitas to pull off such an enigmatic role (again, I would go the older route, maybe try and bring in Arnold Vosloo?)

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3 Spawn

Oh, Spawn, you’re so very nineties! A Spawn remake/reboot has also been kicking around for decades, with creator Todd McFarlane constantly banging on about how it’s being scripted, in production, coming soon, won’t feature Spawn much (which is insanity!), will be super dark, super scary, and loads of other talk but, until we see a poster, a trailer, and the film in cinemas it’s just that: talk. Spawn (Dippé, 1997) is not a great film; you could argue that it’s not even a good film. It’s rushed, sloppy, disjointed, and some of the effects have aged terribly. This is the reason we need a new movie, one that isn’t afraid to go dark, be super violent, and really do justice to the character and his original run. Take the effects work from Venom (Fleischer, 2018), go balls-deep with the violence and surreal nature of the concept, take notes from the excellent animated series, and bring in Denzel Washington to play the titular hellspawn and you could have a winning formula.

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2 Hellraiser

Here’s another remake that’s been doing the rounds for a while; despite all the talk and anticipation of a remake, however, it seems we’re doomed to getting ashcan sequels and direct-to-DVD releases that keep this franchise limping along on life support (would you believe that there are ten films in this series!?) Hellraiser makes the list because the original 1987 movie and its immediate sequels have not aged well; in fact, they have aged terribly. I applaud them for using practical effects and making the most of their obviously limited budget but it’s clear to see that this movie could be made so much better with modern filmmaking techniques. Indeed, one of the few good points of the later sequels is how much better the effects are and, done right, a Hellraiser remake could really surprise at the box office. So, I say to you: Go back to Hellraiser and Clive Barker’s original novel, look at the lore and legacy of the series, and put some time, effort, and money into making a truly nightmarish, surreal, and atmospheric horror movie. And if you’re not going to cast Doug Bradley as Pinhead, at least have him dub the lines or something.

1Highlander
1 Highlander

Oooh, boy, this film. Similar to Hellraiser, Highlander (Mulcahy, 1986) makes the list because it just doesn’t hold up; the effects are bad, the fight sequences are shit, and, thanks to all of the nonsense introduced in the sequels, the original movie is a laborious chore to sit through. Yet, the concept is a good one; the franchise clearly had some staying power as well, if the television series is anything to go by. However, we really need to look at the lore and iron out some specifics: what is the Prize? How many Immortals are there and will we address where they come from? What is the exact nature of the Quickening? Seriously, these concepts are so ill-defined in the original and bogged down with retcons and illogical additions in the sequels that I have no idea what’s going on. Either get a clear picture and make a decent fantasy film based on that or ignore some of the sequels and bring back Christopher Lambert in the mentor role; either way, you absolutely must cast Thomas Jane in the title role…and maybe Dave Bautista as the Kurrgan.