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Overrun with Mice

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In the late 1980s, Hollywood fell in love with the body-swap movie genre. Between 1987 and 1988, Hollywood studios put out four films where children switched bodies with adults, adults switched bodies with children, and, in many cases, it went both ways. Most of the films from this genre, like Vice Versa, 18 Again, and Like Father, Like Son, have been consigned to the dustbin of history. The fourth, Big, is regarded as a classic.

In 1991, controversy erupted when two film studios, Warner Brothers and Twentieth Century Fox, were both developing movies based on the legend of Robin Hood. Both films were made, but only Warner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves hit theaters in the U.S.; Fox's version was relegated to a U.S. television debut. 

A similar thing happened in 1998, when two movies about humanity facing extinction from outer space hit the theaters. In Armageddon, the threat was from an asteroid and in Deep Impact, the threat was from a comet. Both were successful at the box office, although the former, a slam-bang blockbuster, did better than the latter, a more realistic and dramatic look at the subject matter.

These are only a few examples of the many times when creative minds came up with similar ideas at the same time. But this type of weird synergy is not exclusively the domain of the film world. It happens in comics as well.

David Petersen released his first volume of his Mouse Guard series in 2006. One year later, Michael Avon Oeming and Bryan J. L. Glass came out with their first volume of Mice Templar.

Both series are sword-and-sorcery, fantasy epics where the main casts are mice. Since the Mice Templar series came second, this lead some less than charitable critics to claim it was imitating Mouse Guard.

However, Oeming came up with the idea for Mice Templar in 1998 while he was working as a security guard. And before Mouse Guard ever hit stands, characters from Mice Templar made their first appearance in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s 2003 benefit trade, More Fund Comics

The series is also of a darker tone and has a different narrative style than Petersen's work.  If anything, the concept borrows more from Star Wars than Mouse Guard. Both Star Wars and Mice Templar feature young heroes who are mystically chosen to become heroes who would fight an evil oppressive system of rule by training to become a member of a long dormant society of knights. There are differences, of course, but the themes are very similar.

Since mice fantasy epics are not as prevalent as zombie or vampire stories, the unfair condemnation of an imagined deliberate duplication continues to this day. But the undue criticism hasn’t affected the success of either series. Both are heading into their third volume this month. And Oeming’s co-writer, Glass, has gotten the attention of Marvel, who has picked the author to write for their company.

The next volume begins with series hero Karic in a coma after rescuing his family from captivity. While his spirit is trapped in a nightmare state, his body is defended by his master, Cassius.  Can the old Templar fight off the Mortair, the sisterhood of rat assassins, the bad guys have sent after Karic by himself? Not likely.

Also out this week:

Top Cow Holiday 2010 Special:

Usually, when comic companies put out holiday specials, they are anthologies featuring some of the company’s characters in individual stories done by various writers and artists. Not so with Top Cow. This special is one story by one creative team and features pretty much all of the Top Cow characters.

Most times, you do not need to call on a superhero when a mother surrenders their child at a New York City fire station. But this is not your ordinary newborn. Sinister forces have taken an interest in the child, and it will take more than New York’s Bravest to keep the child safe. As a matter of fact, even the greatest heroes of the Top Cow Universe might not be enough.

Phil Smith (W), Alina Urusov (A), Top Cow Productions, $3.99. One-Shot.

Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #1:

In 1974, to capitalize on the character’s enormous popularity, Marvel created Savage Sword of Conan, a magazine-sized, black-and-white magazine. Even though Conan was the lead character in the magazine, the book was also home to other Robert E. Howard characters such as King Kull and Red Sonja. The series lasted over 20 years, finally coming to an end in 1995.

Dark Horse is the company that holds the copyright of many of Howard’s creations and they have had great success publishing miniseries for a number of them. Taking this into consideration and using Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan as an example, they have decided to start up a Howard-focused anthology of their own. And even though he is featured prominently, Conan’s name is left off the title this time around.  

Various (W), Various (A), Dark Horse Comics, $7.99. Ongoing Series.

Ultimate Doom #1:

The Ultimate Enemy is revealed and it’s—Reed Richards? The boy genius is sick and tired of being laughed at, picked on and made to feel guilty over all of his failures. He is now going to do what he thinks is right without a care to what other people think or say. His recent attacks were just the beginning. He is determined to set the world straight as only he can. But the surviving heroes have issue with his mission and his tactics. This fight is about to turn nasty.

Turning Reed Richards “evil” seems less like something organic and more like them saying, “look, the ultimate universe is different from the mainstream Marvel universe.”
At least they have one of the men who brought the Ultimate Fantastic Four into being, Brian Michael Bendis, to be the one to turn Ultimate Reed into a bad guy.

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Rafa Sandoval (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special #1:

One of the characters that made the most impact coming out of the Green Lantern universe has to be Larfleeze. The sole member of the Orange Lantern Corps—because he doesn’t want to share the power with anyone else—is truly an example of greed and avarice that his power ring represents. As a result, he has become a fan favorite with readers clamoring for more.

Well, Larfleeze fans are going to get what they want this Christmas. Larfleeze is getting a special just in time for the holiday. What do you get an alien who wants everything he sees? Santa Claus, the man who gives good boys and girls whatever they want. Only, Larfleeze is more naughty than nice. But being on the bad list isn’t going to stop him from taking Santa for his very own. That job falls to Green Lantern Hal Jordan.

Geoff Johns (W), Brett Booth (A), DC Comics, $3.99, One-Shot.

Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising #1:

For most people, a vacation involves lying on a beach somewhere, visiting a historical location, or even resting all alone in the comfort of your own home. Seldom do any travel agencies advertise holidays that involve hold-ups, murders, car chases, fistfights, kicks in sensitive regions, a thousand pairs of panties, and a pile of dog feces.

This makes me wonder what travel agent Tank Girl uses so I can avoid them in the future, because her latest holiday involves all of this and a gang of dangerous, mutated kangaroos hellbent on killing the heck out of her. This is going to be the kind of vacation Tank Girl will need a vacation to recover from. Well, at least this vacation features copious amounts of vodka, which is nice.

Alan Martin (W), Rufus Dayglo (A), Titan Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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