Thursday, June 20, 2013

"My fully developed, reasoned argument need not be told... especially to you!" Thoughts on the Ditko Public Service Package

For as much as I enjoy Steve Ditko's work and claim to prefer creator-owned comic books, I've made little effort at obtaining Ditko's creator-owned material. I find the books Ditko publishes via Robin Snyder to be unrefined, unpolished; the storytelling is sometimes very difficult to grasp and the plots are often little more than an excuse for him to assault a straw man target. Nevertheless, I helped support Snyder's recent Kickstarter to reprint the 1990 book the Ditko Public Service Package and received a copy in return.

It's actually a bit of fun; Ditko takes aim at the comic book industry, leaving no one untouched (not even himself). Although he doesn't grapple with specific people, he does take aim with various parties - publishers, editors, writers, artists, critics, collectors, fans and the press. Part of the book deals with the process of creating a comic book, how new ideas (represented by a light bulb) are often ignored as the creators prefer old ideas (represented by a burned-out bulb) and little effort. Later, the book turns to the idea of a mass hysteria over the state of comic books (demonstrating such a thing didn't begin with internet threads titled "are comics doomed?") as self-serving solutions to the problems facing comic books are proposed and nothing is resolved.

One of the few sympathetic characters is the comic book itself, who at one point takes us through his transformation from a hopeful blank-paged booklet to a thoroughly generic, overdone super hero book. "There's no limit to what glorious, triumphant, awe-inspiring adventures, heroic heights, that can go on inside me." declares the comic book; he dreams of following in the footsteps of great comic books of the past, but the creative personnel have utterly terrible ideas for his pages ("the Cry-Baby: He Drowns Out Crime").

Comic book critics are among Ditko's targets; the critic is seen to have a "perfect model" in his mind which no actual comic book can measure up to. I rather like this caricature, it's not entirely false to suggest critics employ Platonic idealism - it reminds me of Robert Warshow's commentary on Fredric Wertham: "Dr. Wertham is largely able to ignore the distinction between 'bad' and 'good' because most find it hard to conceive of what a 'good' comic book might be." In my own efforts at criticism, I try to make it clear whether I enjoy the work is the only way I can measure the book's success and it means very little to anyone else's opinion (but if something I've said on this blog has led you to sampling the material for yourself... right on).

At one point Ditko seems to target Jack Kirby - at least, I assume the above figure is meant to represent him. I'm not certain what it might be referencing - certainly Kirby was semi-retired from comic books at the time and was always opinionated; if Kirby had been bad-mouthing comics after his retirement, I wonder if he received a similar reaction to the hostility fandom gave Alan Moore for commenting on comic books he wasn't reading. I'm just now realizing while I've seen a few of Ditko's opinions on Stan Lee, I don't think I've read his opinions on Kirby; I wonder how he felt about him?

Although Ditko is an artist, he doesn't identify himself with the artist caricature in this book; here, the artist is just one member of a four-man cabal (with the publisher, editor & writer), each wrong-headed in how they approach comics. Rather, Ditko identifies with the idea, which keeps trying to make itself heard by the cabal; at one point the idea successfully forces itself inside the artist, resulting in a creative piece of art... then the rest of the cabal become involved and the page becomes cluttered with text and meanings changed. It seems to be referring to Ditko's thoughts on the collaborative process he endured in the comics industry... although I'm quick to recall that terrible panel in Eclipse Monthly#3 where Ditko's Static was so cluttered with speech that the art suffered. Even working on his own, it seems Ditko isn't immune to cabal-like thinking.

The Ditko Public Service Package doesn't seem to have been a watershed moment in Ditko's career; he continued to toil in the comics industry for 10 years afterward, employed by virtually every publisher. Although many refer to Ditko as "retired," he's actually still working, regularly releasing new material through Snyder; I've decided it's time to give the Ditko-Snyder material another chance - I don't want to start eulogizing Ditko while he's still with us, but enjoy what he's creating right now.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tales From the Crypt-style irony... it ain't.

Chamber of Chills#20's cover (by Ron Wilson):
Alanis Morissette, what hast thou wrought?

I believe if the man being strangled could speak he'd be saying: "Well, duh!"

Sunday, June 16, 2013

An All-Too Likely Scenario

From "There is a Brain Behind the Fangs!" by Don Heck (Journey into Mystery#62, 1960):

During the Cold War, no one was above suspicion; not even man's best friend!

Also, am I alone in thinking the dog looks like he's practicing some kung fu?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Unearthed: Action Comics#593

It's been awhile since I ran an "Unearthed" feature, but with a new Superman film on its way, I wanted to look back at one of my first Superman comic books. I can only barely recall my very first Superman comic - I know it involved Superman & Hawkwoman, but the book itself was thrown away too long ago. I didn't begin following Superman myself until 1987, during the reign of writer-artist John Byrne, who masterminded both Superman and Action Comics.

Although Byrne occasionally ran continued stories between his two Superman comics (and even less frequently included Marv Wolfman's Adventures of Superman), the two books usually held separate continuities. While Byrne's Superman involved Clark, Lois, Luthor, the Daily Planet and their various running subplots, Byrne's Action Comics tales were usually self-contained team-up stories. Coming so soon on the heels of DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths and its revised continuity, teaming Superman up with various DC heroes provided a means to reintroduce characters to the readership and reestablish their connection to Superman (if any). Although Byrne's time on the Superman franchise was a major landmark in the character's history and featured possibly the most significant revision of his backstory, ultimately Byrne was gone within just two years!

Action Comics#593, featuring a team-up between Superman & Mr. Miracle (actually continued from the previous issue's Superman & Big Barda story) is a little notorious amongst comic book fandom - this is the story where Superman and Big Barda become porn stars! You can see a fairly apoplectic video review by Linkara here. This was where I began following John Byrne's Superman, thanks to the copy given to me by my grandmother on my birthday.

Yes, my grandma gave me a comic book where Superman became a porn star. Thanks, grandma!

I can't believe just 16 years later, I'm suddenly wondering why Barda's feet aren't touching the ground on this cover. I mean, she and Superman appear to be about the same height in the story within, so how is this possible? Is Superman standing atop a steep ramp? Or hovering about 2 inches from the ground?

Our story ("the Suicide Snare") opens with a fairly neat 9-panel grid page of Mr. Miracle assembling the doorknob to his front door to prevent a bomb from going off; it's an extreme form of home security, but also a neat way of establishing Mr. Miracle's prowess at evading traps (even traps he evidently places in his own home to test his abilities). I should mention, while this comic book was my first exposure to Mr. Miracle, I did own his Super Powers action figure, so I was eager to see what the hero was like.

Mr. Miracle enters his house with his diminuative aide Oberon at his side; however, instead of finding his wife Barda waiting for him, Mr. Miracle is greeted by Darkseid, sitting in an armchair sipping wine. Seriously, I wouldn't kid you. Even though Keith Giffen's Ambush Bug mocked the idea of Darkseid's ubiquity in DC Comics all the way back in 1985, it seems no one got the memo as Darkseid would continue to make appearances like this up to present times. Darkseid sipping wine in Mr. Miracle's living room is about as menacing as Darkseid serving Ambush Bug a hamburger in Ambush Bug#2. Ah well; in 1987, I knew of Darkseid through the Super Powers figures and Super Friends cartoon show, so at least he was a familiar face.

At any rate, Darkseid hasn't come to start a fight with Mr. Miracle... heck, Darkseid's power level is such that if he actually fought his enemies, they'd be killed... and then their friends would avenge them and we wouldn't have Darkseid stories any longer. So Darkseid is best left uttering impotent threats rather than picking fights. Darkseid hands Mr. Miracle a VHS tape and instructs him to watch it. We don't see what's on the tape, but instead watch as Mr. Miracle's face becomes increasingly troubled; Oberon describes some of what they're seeing, notably recognizing Big Barda in their video. Their shared surprise indicates something terrible is happening to Barda on film, but it's left to our imagination to determine what. This is the "porn" part, but it's not explained at a level this nine-year old could have figured out.

Darkseid explains his "agents" acquired the tape from a shop in Suicide Slum, a crime-ridden section of Metropolis which became very popular during the Byrne era. I wonder who exactly Darkseid sent as his "agent." I think Desaad wouldn't look too out of place in an adult video store - the clerks would probably assume the hunched-over ugly guy in the cloak was a flasher or something.

Our attention turns to a porn director named Grossman (a very subtle name) although the exact nature of his job is, again, left vague for the kiddies. Grossman is visited by a little green creature in a trenchcoat named "Mr. Smith." That could be an alias! We can quickly infer from dialogue Grossman made the film of Barda seen earlier with "Smith's" help; Grossman notes he's had "thousands" of orders for the tape. "Smith" then introduces Grossman's next star: Superman! At first, Grossman doubts this could be the real Superman, but "Smith" explains Superman is "completely" in his power and demonstrates by having Superman smash a desk. Grossman likes the idea of using Superman in his films, but wonders how "Smith" controls him; "Smith" refuses to explain but mentions his goal is to earn enough money to "forge my army!" One wonders why a fellow with mind control powers needs to finance himself through the porn industry; why not simply mind control an executive and have him empty his corporation's coffers into "Smith's" hands?

Grossman wonders who he could possibly use as Superman's partner when "Any co-star's gonna wind up looking like my desk!" Ah, yet another pervert who spent too much time thinking about Larry Niven's "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex." "Smith" reminds Grossman they already have a superhuman woman making pictures for them: Big Barda (garbed in a bikini costume)! I have no idea what I thought Grossman and "Smith" were talking about back in 1987; I was a naive child then (I'm a naive man now).

Our story returns to Mr. Miracle, who glides over Suicide Slum wearing "aero discs" on the soles of his boots (easily my favourite thing about Mr. Miracle's gadgets). As he searches, he recalls his origin, which was a very nice treat for me and continued to my growing interest in the character; in just two pages, Byrne summarizes the plot points of Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle series. We also learn Miracle is carrying a "Mother Box" on his right shoulder; the device somehow can sense danger; just as he checks it to learn there's "no immediate danger," Mr. Miracle is jumped by a gang of men who beat him over the head with a club, throw him into a sack, tie up the sack with chains, throw the sack into a dumpster, weld the dumpster shut, then drop the dumpster into the river. On the very next page, we see Mr. Miracle: hale hearty and not trapped inside a dumpster. "Mother Box was right... there was no immediate danger." This goes unexplained for a few pages and again made a great impression on me as to Mr. Miracle's abilities.

On a meager soundstage, Grossman is trying to direct Big Barda & Superman, but finds Superman's reactions are very unnatural; he and Barda haven't even removed their clothes, they're just sitting together on a bed (further ensuring we 1987 kiddies wouldn't figure out what the story was really about). "Smith" realizes since Superman is essentially subject to hypnosis, he can't perform any action he wouldn't normally; "Smith" attributes this to Superman's particular "strong moral fibre," so one wonders how Grossman successfully made a Barda picture earlier? Is Barda's moral fibre lacking? Having suffered through a childhood on Apokalips as one of Darkseid's servants, surely Barda's own natural resistance to being dominated would be awfully strong?

"Smith" amps up his power, his own thought balloons helpfully explaining he's an empath who feeds on the emotions of others: "The base emotions. The dark, hidden depravity buried deep in the core of every human soul." He tries to increase Superman's "depravity," then. However, Mr. Miracle has finally arrived and leaps into the room via a skylight. "Smith" wonders how Miracle survived his trap, but Miracle explains he used a cutting laser in his "multi-cube" to escape his bonds and cut a hole through the bottom of the dumpster while the flunkies were still welding it. As I'd later learn, this was a tradition inherited from Kirby's Mister Miracle stories.

"Smith" attempts to control Miracle's mind, but Miracle explains he was trained to resist anyone "less powerful than Darkseid." Again, then, how did "Smith" control Barda? "Smith" makes a run for it; before Miracle can stop him, an octopus-like Ash-Crawler attacks the hero, having been evidently held nearby by "Smith." I don't know if the Ash-Crawler originated in Kirby's "Fourth World" comic books - heck, I don't know if Sleez (the true identity of "Smith") originated with Kirby either (checking online sources... no, Byrne created him). Evidently Mr. Miracle's arrival broke Sleez's control over Superman & Big Barda, because Barda comes to her husband's rescue, reaching inside the creature and crushing its brain. Mr. Miracle apprehends Grossman, but Superman has already departed after Sleez.

Superman follows Sleez into Metropolis' sewers, somewhat inhibited by lead pipes which restrict his x-ray vision. Superman finally hears Sleez and flies after him, but Sleez declares, "Are you a match... for a match?" Striking a match, Sleez causes an immense explosion in the sewer, burning away most of Superman's cape (a Byrne tradition!). Sleez has seemingly been destroyed (but since he must have known the explosion couldn't kill Superman, we readers assume he caused the explosion to cover his escape).

By the time Superman returns to Mr. Miracle & Big Barda, Barda has resumed wearing her full costume. The trio compare notes, piecing together Sleez was one of Darkseid's former henchmen who'd been banished to Earth. Miracle supposes Darkseid told him about Sleez because he "Couldn't be bothered with it himself!" I don't get that - how does Darkseid have enough time on his hands to review Sleez's activities, sit around Miracle's living room sipping wine and talk Miracle into pursuing Sleez, but not enough time to finish off Sleez himself? Or dispatch one of his own minions to deal with Sleez? He can be bothered with pulling Miracle's strings, but not getting off his fat duff?

Barda notes in the previous issue (via a footnote) Superman had tried to stop her from attacking Sleez and wants to know why; Superman won't explain, which is a bit confusing for those of us who began the story with this issue, but the last page illuminates Superman's reasons. Finally, Superman addresses what went on between he and Barda while under Sleez's mind control; their memories are clouded and Barda isn't inclined to explore what happened. So, it's a healthy dose of suppression for everyone!

On the final page, Clark Kent visits a clinic where some old people are being treated; we quickly learn these people were all victims of Sleez, kept alive by a connection to his life force. Clark assumed they'd be dead if Sleez died in the explosion; their survival indicates Sleez yet lives...

Overall, it's interesting to note what a small impact Mr. Miracle has upon this story; his biggest moment is leaping through a skylight and causing Sleez to run away. The Ash-Crawler is killed by Barda, Superman chases after Sleez, Darkseid sets the plot in motion... I love seeing Mr. Miracle go through the paces, but I wish there'd been more for him to do; there's no reason he couldn't have entered the comic searching for Barda in Suicide Slum.

As to the Superman/Big Barda porn: per Sleez & Grossman, Superman's willpower prevented him from giving in, but Barda? We never learn what exactly she did on film and she's not inclined to review it in her own mind. Whatever Barda did is left to your imagination (you buncha preverts!). I don't think it's too outrageous - this is the most kid's friendly-possible story you could get out of a super hero being brainwashed into becoming a porn star. Of course, I would later discover the previous issue was somewhat more egregious.

Ultimately, the story and art still hold up for me (although there are a few colouring errors). But it's a very light story, what with spending two pages on Mr. Miracle's origin recap and the length of time spent maneuvering the characters into place. It's average Byrne, which is pretty much better than any other "average" comic book.

"The gods themselves shall hear my tale..." Jaka's Story (Cerebus vol.5)

As promised, my gradual journey through Dave Sim's Cerebus has brought me up to the fifth volume, Jaka's Story. Cerebus has a decreased role in this entry, with the focus reserved for Jaka, Cerebus' recurring love interest. Up until now, Jaka's been somewhat thinly-defined (not being the lead character); by the end of this book, we learn the story of Jaka's isolated upbringing, adolescent humiliations and her contemporary troubles as she and her husband Rick deal with her recent miscarriage, Jaka's career as a dancer working in a tavern run by one Pud Withers, Rick's friend Oscar (Wilde) who's writing a book about Jaka's life (without her knowledge); Cerebus himself is just a minor complication in Jaka's present; by the end of the book, she's in much worse shape.

Although the first volume of Cerebus demonstrated a marked improvement in Sim's craft as the book progressed, it's clear he was still finding himself as he went into Jaka's Story; this is the first Cerebus volume which reads like a novel, rather than a set of serialized comic books collected as a trade. There are no sudden halts to spend (roughly) 22 pages with the Rolling Stones, Elrod or Artemis. It must have been something to experience when the series was first published, to find Sim mastering how he would change the monthly comic book to better suit the eventual collection - the format people like me know it as today.

In his introduction (which I withheld reading until after the story), Sim described his character Pud Withers as being one example of a certain type of men:

"Their desires, natural and organic, fester within them, their shyness and their unappealing physiques the frail but insurmountable barricade which makes what is difficult for the rest of our gender, unattainable for them. That the merest handful of them surredener, finally, to internalied rage and sick need is testimony (to me) to the monumental restraint which characterizes the existences of nearly all men..."

He also notes Pud's character is representative of "much of the comics-reading community." He's not too far wrong, from my own experiences. As Jaka's Story progresses and it becomes clear Jaka's employer is harbouring a terrible crush on her - repeatedly rehearsing in his mind how he wants to express it - I could definitely see something of myself in there. I held a weird mixture of sympathy and dread for Pud - sympathy from our similarities, dread to imagine how his story would wind up. As I surmised, there was ultimately no way Pud's story could have a happy ending. He would either force himself on Jaka or allow his feelings to fester within him until he destroyed himself... or, so I assumed.

I'm not sure why Oscar Wilde is now a character in this book - no more so than I understood why Groucho & Chico Marx or Rodney Dangerfield were series recurring characters or Margaret Thatcher one of this volume's antagonists. I'm probably hamstrung by being very under-educated on Wilde - I think I've just read the Canterville Ghost & Picture of Dorian Gray and have never read his biography. In the introduction, Sim notes Oscar demanded more effort to write than his own parody characters; there is something interesting to be found in Oscar's all-too-proud cleverness, something almost pathetic given that Rick is the only character in the book he tries to impress.

By the end of the tome as Jaka is being held by the rigidly-dogmatic Cirinists, I wondered if the story was headed to an ending similar to Orwell's 1984 - the destruction of the hero's personality, reprogrammed into a tool of the oligarchy. Instead, just as Pud's fate is worse than rejection or eternal festering, Jaka's fate is worse than 1984's Winston Smith; she isn't remade by the oligarchy through an act of betrayal, but rather has her betrayal exposed by them in the worst way.

I'm curious to see where this now-focused narrative will go; I'll hopefully obtain volume six before too long...

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Blow your horn, you invisible juggernaut!" Donald Duck: the Old Castle's Secret

The most recent entry in Fantagraphics' Carl Barks Library is the Donald Duck collection dubbed "The Old Castle's Secret" after the first tale reprinted therein. It's another fine hardcover collecting Barks' Donald Duck stories circa 1948, featuring Donald, his nephews and some early Scrooge McDuck appearances, plus the very first tale to feature Donald's insufferably lucky cousin, Gladstone Gander. The titular story involves Scrooge inviting Donald and the nephews to his ancestral castle in Scotland to investigate the legendary ghost supposedly haunting the premises. Other lengthy tales include a trip to Africa to find rare butterflies in "Darkest Africa;" Donald entering a rocket race in "Rocket Race to the Moon;" and Donald becoming a lawman in "Sheriff of Bullet Valley."

In "the Old Castle's Secret," it's amusing to note the supposed ghost is intended to be one Sir Quackly, a member of the McDuck clan - and therefore, a duck. The ghost's shadow, however, is definitely not a duck's, which you'd think the Ducks would take as their first clue that there's something screwy about the hauntings. I suppose in the adrenaline of the moment, they didn't connect the dots. Or ligaments.

Uncle Scrooge was still a new character in 1948 and while his personality is mostly in place (although his buried conscience seems dug into a deeper grave in this collection than in later tales), visually he's just a little off from later appearances. His whisker-feathers are bushier than the length they'd eventually settle upon and his top hat wasn't yet his chapeau of choice (he doesn't wear any hats in this collection).

"Rocket Race to the Moon" is a fun little tale; Donald is often punished in his own stories for ignoring problems, unwittingly aiding antagonists and hindering people trying to solve problems (like his nephews); in this tale, Donald gets to be a true protagonist, naively playing a gentleman as he races his rocket against Baron de Sleezy, only for de Sleezy to prove himself less than a gentleman; who could have expected a man named de Sleezy to be such a reprobate?

In Fantagraphics' previous Carl Barks Library volumes, I'd previously encountered at least one story from each collection; this is the first collection to be all-new for me, so it's a fine treat; if you can spare the change, it's worth following the series. Don't we all deserve something a little fun?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"And so it came to pass" Sharaz-De: Tales of the Arabian Nights review

We live in a time where an embarrassment of comic book riches are available to us, not only the wealth of decades mined from the western world, but also the profit of the international comic book market; although for some time the Europeans distributed only so many translated materials for we English-speakers (ie, Tintin, Asterix, Smurfs), of late the likes of Blacksad have winged their way. Thus it is I find myself looking at Archaia's handsome hardcover book, Sharaz-De: Tales From the Arabian Nights by Sergio Toppi, a collection of Italian comics originally published in the 1970s (Toppi died last year just as this was published).

Drawn from the 1001 Arabian Nights, Sharaz-De adapts the framing sequence from the Arabian Nights featuring Sharaz-De (better known as Scheherazade). Ten stories follow as Sharaz-De herself narrates them to her husband in order to stave off her execution; the stories themselves are frequently tragic and violent, full of sex, the supernatural and divine retribution.

Although most of the stories are black & white, there are two forays into full-colour; one of them is a rare happy story, the tale of the man who outsmarts a djinn (better known as "the Fisherman and the Jinni"). Not only is the beautiful colour a welcome change, but with so many tales of men making foolish errors which lead to punishment, it's nice to find Toppi adapting at least one tale where a common man outsmarts the supernatural.

Archaia's collection features a foreward by Walter Simonson; a great creator, to be sure, but it wasn't until I experienced Sharaz-De that I understood his connection to the material - there's a lot of Toppi in Simonson's style. The first of the tales concerns a hunter and his falcon - one look at the falcon diving for its prey instantly brough to mind how Simonson visualized Odin's ravens during his work on Thor. Toppi's depictions of mystical winds and ornate clothing also bring to mind Simonson's work; every Simonson fan owes to themselves to seek out this tome to better understand his influences. It wouldn't surprise me to learn many other creators in western comics have been influenced by Toppi - I wonder if Toppi's cross-hatching influenced Barry Windsor-Smith?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Favourite films: 1930-2012

Some years ago I laboured over a list detailing my favourite film picks, decade by decade. Here's a slimmed-down list of my favourite films for each year from 1930 to 2012.

I should note that to me, the most important thing about a particular film is that I find it engaging on an emotional level, rather than appreciating a film for its intellectual or artistic achivement (sometimes, the two coincide). Obviously, I don't consider these films peers to each other - each is simply the film I most enjoyed from the particular calendar year.

I should also note I find it extremely challenging to list films from the 1970s; despite being the decade which birthed me, I find the 70s to be the least-interesting era of filmmaking. To each his own.

1930: All Quiet on the Western Front
1931: City Lights
1932: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
1933: Duck Soup
1934: It Happened One Night
1935: The 39 Steps
1936: Modern Times
1937: The Prisoner of Zenda
1938: The Adventures of Robin Hood
1939: Gunga Din
1940: Fantasia
1941: The Maltese Falcon
1942: Casablanca
1943: Shadow of a Doubt
1944: Arsenic and Old Lace
1945: Dead of Night
1946: It's a Wonderful Life
1947: Miracle on 34th Street
1948: Rope
1949: The Third Man
1950: Sunset Blvd.
1951: Scrooge
1952: Ikiru
1953: The Big Heat
1954: Rear Window
1955: The Ladykillers
1956: The Wrong Man
1957: 12 Angry Men
1958: Vertigo
1959: North by Northwest
1960: Psycho
1961: One, Two, Three
1962: To Kill a Mockingbird
1963: The Great Escape
1964: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
1965: The Sound of Music
1966: What's Up, Tiger Lily?
1967: Wait Until Dark
1968: Rosemary's Baby
1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1970: Patton
1971: And Now for Something Completely Different
1972: Deliverance
1973: Serpico
1974: Dark Star
1975: The Man Who Would Be King
1976: Murder by Death
1977: The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It
1978: Magic
1979: Being There
1980: The Empire Strikes Back
1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
1983: A Christmas Story
1984: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
1985: Ran
1986: Aliens
1987: The Untouchables
1988: Die Hard
1989: Glory
1990: Dances with Wolves
1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1992: My Cousin Vinny
1993: Gettysburg
1994: Leon: The Professional
1995: Die Hard: With a Vengeance
1996: Star Trek: First Contact
1997: Grosse Pointe Blank
1998: Dark City
1999: Fight Club
2000: Chicken Run
2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2002: About a Boy
2003: X-Men 2: X-Men United
2004: Shaun of the Dead
2005: Serenity
2006: The Lives of Others
2007: Hot Fuzz
2008: The Dark Knight
2009: Avatar
2010: Toy Story 3
2011: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
2012: The Avengers