ScreenCrush’s Comic Strip is a weekly roundup of the hottest superhero movie/TV news items. From Marvel to DC and points in between, if it pertains to costumed comic book heroes, we’re covering it here, bringing you our expert analysis. This week, dive into the latest news about Lex Luthor and the Joker, ponder whether Ava DuVernay is actually directing Black Panther, and see which Marvel heroes are getting new comic series.


Updates From Actual Comic Book Land

We’re nearly halfway into the summer movie season and you know what that means: the superhero movies we’ve been talking about for months (years!) are finally hitting theaters. Unfortunately, it also means that superhero movie news has slowed to a trickle. Captain America: Civil War is filming and all is quiet. Suicide Squad is filming and has apparently decided to stop leaking. Ant-Man is entering its final marketing stage, which consists almost entirely of TV spots cut out of footage we’ve already seen a dozen times before. Fantastic Four is...who knows anymore?

So in these lean times, we have to resort to actually — Gasp! — talking about actual comic books!

Well, to be fair, comic book publishers and the studios who make movies based on their wares are connected at the hip these days. What happens in one is always reflected in the other. Character personalities change to accommodate one another. Superheroes always suspiciously get new costumes that look like their movie counterpart. So when we talk about a new Doctor Strange comic and a radical change in the status quo for Spider-Man, we are really asking “How does this reflect upcoming movies or vice versa”?

First up, there’s that new Spider-Man comic on the way and it’s a doozy. Once the complicated Secret Wars crossover event concludes in a few months (don’t ask), the Marvel Universe will look significantly different, with characters from various universes jammed together and others retconned to fit whatever everyone has planned. One of the new books will star Miles Morales, the former Spider-Man of the “Ultimate Universe” who will soon exist in the main Marvel universe (don’t ask, part two). Anyway, it seems that the new status quo will find the mixed race Miles taking on the main mantel of Spider-Man while Peter Parker takes a breather and acts as a mentor. Brian Michael Bendis will write. Sara Pichelli will provide pencils. Some fans will grumble. Others will cheer. And, most importantly, groundwork will be laid to introduce Miles in a future Spider-Man movie down the road.

And like Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy before him, Doctor Strange is getting a brand new series from writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo just in time to take advantage of the about-to-shoot movie. This is actually something of a big deal — the Sorcerer Supreme hasn’t had his own solo book in quite some time. More importantly, since Marvel comic characters tend to reflect their cinematic counterparts these days, this comic may very well give us a hint about what to expect from Scott Derrickson’s upcoming movie. Here’s a quote from Aaron::

We wanted a Doctor Strange who was always having to work for what he gets, and to show that when he shows up and uses his powers, it’s not like Captain America throwing his shield or Thor throwing his hammer. Strange has to worry about repercussions that those other heroes don’t have to worry about, because he’s a Sorcerer Supreme. We’re talking about the forces of magic. So whatever he does has repressions. Any of this stuff with magic, there’s always a cost to it. I think that’s kind of the only rule of magic we ever really talk about—everything he does, there’s a price to it. So he always has to kind of balance those skills and worry, “if I save the day here, what repercussions will that have for me, or elsewhere in the world? We liked him having to deal with that, and liked him being able to get his hands a little dirty, rather than just having him stand around, waving his hands and saving the day.

He goes on to describe other aspects of the character that seem fresh and new, like how the good doctor will use a variety of mystical weapons and have a peer group of magical buddies that he shares beers with on a regular basis. That actually sounds more like John Constantine than Stephen Strange, but it makes sense. The Marvel movies love a roguish scoundrel, so of course the comic version will take on those attributes.

Diving Into Lex Luthor and the Joker

By this point, we know what to expect from Marvel Studios villains. We know that they tend to be after Infinity Stones and that, with the exception of the Red Skull and Loki, they tend to be fairly dull. That makes the apparent anarchy of DC’s upcoming movie villains all the more intriguing. While Marvel has settled into a rut with its baddies, Warner Bros. is going out of its way to shake things up, for better or for worse.

Plenty of words have already been written about Jared Leto’s heavily tattooed and trashy take on the Joker in Suicide Squad and we haven’t even seen his actual performance yet! Imagine how nutty things will get when more official photos arrive! Or when we first hear his voice in a trailer! The internet is going to be unbearable as everyone (ourselves included) tears apart every little detail and looks for as much to criticize or praise as possible.

Well, here’s some fresh fuel for the Joker fire. Jai Courtney, who is playing Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad, was asked about Leto’s performance during an interview (because no one in the world has questions about Jai Courtney himself) and he dropped this little nugget:

I don’t think any of us are naïve to the pressure he’s under. I haven’t seen him, since we started working, out-of-character, let’s put it that way.

Yikes. Jared Leto is going full method with the Joker? That Joker? Now we’re even more curious about what this interpretation of the character will look like in action. We must know how unbearable Leto is on this set! This is a matter of total urgency!

Now, let’s leap over to another controversial actor playing an iconic part. We’ve always liked the idea of Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s definitely a left field choice. In its own special way, it’s just as insane as Leto playing the Joker as a tattooed gang-banger. So, what can we expect from his take as Superman’s egotistical arch-nemesis? He finally spoke out on the matter:

There’s an emotional core to character. It’s not a silly villainous character … it is an entirely different thing. Also, the tone of that [Superman] movie is so different, like that movie wouldn’t be made now. Like the way we expect movies to be now is to have some kind of — I mean, it’s probably for the best — there’s some kind of psychological accuracy. That the person is coming from a place probably diagnosable in some way.

Luthor has been played very silly in the past by Gene Hackman and, to a lesser extent, Kevin Spacey, so it’s only natural that Zack Snyder’s Dark And Serious new movie will give the character more of an edge. In recent years, Luthor has often been portrayed as more of an anti-hero, an “ends justify the means” type who genuinely believes that Superman is a threat and genuinely believes that he is doing the world a service by trying to bring him down. That sounds like a Luthor made for an actor as crafty as Eisenberg. Few actors are so capable of blending charm and arrogance into something ultimately tragic and relatable. We’re calling it: Luthor will be the secret weapon of Batman v Superman.

Is Ava DuVernay is Directing Black Panther?

Is Selma director Ava DuVernay officially directing Black Panther, as reported by this fan site with no real sources?

No. At least not yet. Moving on.


Everything Else

If you’re a college student in Atlanta, Captain America: Civil War needs you!

Ron Perlman still really, really wants to make Hellboy 3.

Daredevil star Charlie Cox was honored at the 19th annual Helen Keller Achievement Awards for his work as Marvel’s blind superhero.

Jon Bernthal has already begun his Frank Castle research for Daredevil Season 2.