Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Comic News: What Price Victory?

SIEGE: THE CABAL [Prologue to Siege] (OCT090467)
Penciled by MICHAEL LARK
Variant Cover by ALAN DAVIS
Sketch Variant Cover by DAVID FINCH
Rated T+ …$3.99
FOC—11/12/09, On-Sale—12/2/09

SIEGE #1 (of 4) (NOV090419)
Pencils & Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL
Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
Sketch Variant by OLIVIER COIPEL
Rated T+ …$3.99
FOC—12/10/09, On-Sale—1/6/10


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Betrayal begets blood.
This is the law of the Nine Clans.
This is the way of the ninja.

They are the stuff of legend, but for their victims they are all too real. Their swords and shuriken fly fast and, in the blink of an eye, cut to the bone, creating a bloody spray in the wake of the blade. The masters of stealth and dealers of death, these specters strike without warning and strike fear in the hearts of their enemies. No one is safe. Ninjas are the special forces of the martial arts world, and director James McTeigue and producers Joel Silver, Andy and Larry Wachowski and Grant Hill wanted to bring them to the screen as never before.

States producer Silver, “We each felt that the pure martial arts film is a kind of a subgenre that hasn't really had its due in the U.S. We were always talking about doing something like taking the legend of the ninja, which dates back to the 14th century, and dropping this silent killer into a truly modern world.”

The filmmakers wanted to utilize the classic ninja movie structure in which an enigmatic master schools select children to become unbelievable fighters or assassins, who people in the “real world” of the film believe to be a myth. That is, of course, until their two worlds intersect and the disbelievers witness these incredible martial artists in action.

“Ninjas were the shadowy characters who always came out of the darkness,” says director McTeigue, who also recalls the influences of his upbringing in Australia.

“We got anime from Japan and a lot of the TV serials as well, like ‘The Samurai’ and ‘The Phantom Agents’—shows that had elements of the folkloric ninja in them, where the characters were raised in an orphanage or the like. For this film, we talked about those classic elements, but also adding an edgy film noir aspect to it.”

“It’s no secret that each of us, Larry and Andy in particular, has a strong affinity for Japanese storytelling and culture,” offers producer Hill, “but how does the world of the ninja wrap itself around the 21st century?”

That became the job of screenwriters Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, who were brought on board to pen the script.

“I trained in karate all through college, and the martial arts have been a big part of my life for a long time,” says Sand. “So to get to write the kind of ninja movie I’ve always wanted to see was a dream come true.”

“I’ve always loved the genre, but it seemed like no one had made a serious ninja movie in a long time, at least not in the West,” notes Straczynski. “Ninjas have been used so often for comic relief that it felt as if no one was taking them seriously any longer. The chance to make a movie that presented ninjas as being scary as hell was very appealing,” he smiles, “and working with the Wachowskis is always rewarding and intellectually daunting because they both have these 12-story brains and you really have to be on your toes to keep up with them.”

The screenplay began to take shape. Says Sand, “It’s an origin story. The orphanage—the idea of these ninjas being a family in a twisted, dark way—and one man, Raizo, coming to terms with a substitute father who was the most awful father imaginable. Where Raizo came from as a character is exactly what the ninja clans are all about. They made him. Motivated by a lost love, his reacting against them rather than becoming what they had in mind, along with the story of the agent investigating the clans, made it a different type of a ninja movie than we’d ever seen.”

In order to be certain they could make the kind of film they all wanted to see, they had to find the perfect Raizo—someone who was not only able to take on the physical demands of the character’s warrior side, but who could also be a believable leading man.

“The day that Rain did his first scene in ‘Speed Racer,’” recalls Silver, “the Wachowski brothers called me and said, ‘This guy is unbelievable. He's a natural. He is our dream come true.’ And we began to plan ‘Ninja Assassin’ immediately.”
McTeigue says, “Even though it was a relatively small role, Rain’s physical ability
was so good that we thought if we could do an all-out ninja movie, he would be the one to do it with.”

“When we were working on that film, Larry and Andy approached me and asked
if I would be interested in being a ninja,” remembers Rain. “How could I say no to that? I told them, ‘Tell me when and where and I’ll be there.’”

Although Rain plays Raizo, the central role, the filmmakers knew that the real
star of “Ninja Assassin” would be the stunning martial arts sequences, and to accomplish them they’d need the best. They called in legendary stunt choreographers Chad Stahelski and Dave Leitch—who’ve worked with the Wachowskis, Silver and Hill since “The Matrix” days and who got their start as stunt coordinators on McTeigue’s “V for Vendetta”—to help devise a style of fighting that would speak to the kind of movie they wanted to make.

“For this film, we didn’t want to rely on wire work, camera tricks or visual effects,” states Silver. “We wanted the verisimilitude of seeing and believing what’s happening right in front of you. Chad and Dave thought outside the box and wanted to bring in the best in the business—parkour and free runners, acrobats, and guys from Jackie Chan’s stunt team. They all worked together to deliver unbelievable stunt sequences above and beyond what we imagined.”

Wherever you are, wherever you may go,
you must never forget who you are, how you came to be.
You are Ozunu. You are a part of me as I am a part of you.

The character of Raizo, played by Rain, is brought as a child to the orphanage
run by Lord Ozunu, who heads the Ozunu Clan. There Raizo is trained to be a heartless
assassin, but he also finds someone to give his heart to, Kiriko, another young trainee. Her terrible fate, however, seals Raizo’s as well and he rejects the clan, making it his life's mission to try and stop them. Raizo’s main objective is to trace his way back to the secret location of the Ozunu clan’s orphanage and to make sure that no more children are kidnapped, brutalized and turned into assassins. At the same, time he must prevent them from killing him as well.

Says Silver, “Raizo is so genuine, he is really trying to rise above the hand that
was dealt him, to reject the monster who trained him, and become a better person than
he was taught to be.”

“Raizo is a great assassin, one of the best students Lord Ozunu has ever had,”
says Rain. “But the bloodshed gets to him, and he has to escape. But you can never
leave openly. And by leaving, he must betray Ozunu, who will then stop at nothing to
destroy Raizo. So Raizo leads a quiet, anonymous life…knowing that one day, Ozunu
will find him.”

The role of Raizo called for an actor with a special intensity, who could convey a
lot of emotion in a very subtle way.

“Rain is smart and instinctive and incredibly dedicated,” says McTeigue. “He was
a joy to work with.”

Silver adds, “Rain really is a magnetic personality. You can’t take your eyes off
of him, he commands the screen.”

Operating in the outside world, Raizo must stay one step ahead of the clan. But
the murders are being investigated, and one researcher at Europol stumbles onto the
notion of the nine ancient clans that have trained assassins—ninjas—to perform
murders for a fee: the price of a pound of gold. But she is getting too close, and she is now marked for death by the Ozunu clan. Raizo saves her life, and they are forced to go on the run together.

Naomie Harris plays agent Mika Coretti. “I just loved the character and felt a real
connection with Mika,” relates Harris. “She is different from any character I’ve played before. I really liked her passion and enthusiasm, and that she believes anything is possible, which is what I always believed as well. Like the fantastical is possible.”

“Naomie absolutely got what we were trying to do,” says McTeigue. “The
character of Mika is really strong and Naomie saw that and completely took her on.”
“Mika’s investigating this bizarre myth, this legend, this rumor,” says Sand. “Her
obsession leads her into terrifying danger, but also leads her to the truth.”
“Mika’s work is really her entire life,” says Harris. “So when she finds something,
she is like a dog with a bone. She doesn’t let go of it until she’s worked everything out.

She likes putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. She’s found a lot of evidence to prove that ninjas exist, and she’s not letting it go.”

Mika’s initial challenge is convincing her boss, Ryan Maslow, that she’s onto
something real. British actor Ben Miles, who plays the skeptical agent, says, “I play a kind of hardened cop. One of his young researchers, Mika, comes to him with a
seemingly harebrained scheme about ninjas assassinating people now, in the 21st
century. He tells her that she can’t seriously think that some guys dressed in black with swords are going around knocking off these high-profile political figures. But Maslow doesn’t always do things by the book; he has a bit of a maverick approach and may have his own plans, so he lets her go with it, and the movie takes on this suspenseful layer upon layer of who you can trust, who you can’t trust, whose side should you be on.

It’s a great kind of clash of thriller, film noir and martial arts.” Miles, who first worked with McTeigue and the producers on “V for Vendetta,” enjoyed working with his old friends again. “They have this verve and enthusiasm and a kind of unpredictability, so it was great fun on many levels. Plus getting to do all the
action stuff, you can’t beat it.”

Through Mika’s research, she helps Raizo find his way back to the source: the
orphanage and his original master, Lord Ozunu. Legendary martial artist and famed
ninja movie veteran Sho Kosugi—who has participated in more than 300 tournaments
and numerous films, including five previous ninja movies—took on the role, which thrilled the filmmakers.

“If you’ve ever watched any ninja films from the 1980s, you know that Sho Kosugi
is the ninja; he is the man,” asserts McTeigue. “He was the only person who could
impart the discipline of Lord Ozunu. He embodied the clan master.” Of course, the
actor was nothing like the character he played. “Every time he had to do something
mean or aggressive, he did it, but as soon as I called ‘Cut,’ he’d say, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s a very bad man, that clan master!’ And he’d start laughing and smiling.”

Although he was playing a bad guy, Kosugi—who has studied martial arts since
the age of five and who still practices about three hours daily—truly appreciated the
thought that went into creating his character. “I was shocked when I saw the script,
when I saw the name Ozunu, I smiled because what most people don’t know is there
was a real Ozunu, who was born in the Kinki District and is the ancestor of the
Shugenja, mountain warriors who practiced Shugendō. He’s an ancestor of the ninjutsu.
So the research was so good. To play this role, I was honored to do that.”

Ozunu’s strongest weapon in the fight against Raizo and Europol is his protégé
and Raizo’s onetime “brother” in the clan, Takeshi, played by Korean-American actor
Rick Yune. Yune has something of a martial arts background himself, having qualified
for the Olympic Trials in Taekwondo, the national sport of Korea, when he was 19.

“Ozunu is a father figure to Takeshi, and he wants to emulate him, to stay loyal to him,” offers Yune. “This is Takeshi’s family and this is what he’s been brought up to be. He is all the things that Raizo did not want to become.” The actor found his way into the character by connecting with a phrase he found in the script. “It says that ninjas only kill two kinds of people: those they’re paid to kill and those who get in their way. All he wants to do is be the best ninja possible, and to get closer to Ozunu, his so-called father.

So he lives by this code in order to stay true to his family, to the clan.”
Raizo’s only real friend at the orphanage is Kiriko, played by Kylie Liya Goldstein
as a young girl and Anna Sawai as a teen, who tries to convince Raizo that there is a
better life outside the dojo and away from the clan. Her punishment for trying to escape becomes the catalyst for Raizo’s eventual desertion.

In the film, Ozunu kidnaps children from around the world—ostensibly lost
children who don’t have families—and brings them into the clan, giving them a family.

“What we did initially to find the children,” reveals McTeigue, “was go out to a lot of dojos throughout Berlin, where we were going to be shooting. We then brought them in and trained them for a few months, and they became the other orphans who lived in the clan alongside young Raizo and young Takeshi as their brothers and sisters.

Being a part of that kind of family entails training, through a series of disciplines
and over a number of years, to become a killing machine, an assassin who acts without
a moment’s hesitation.

Strength is the only virtue that nature respects.
Hone your body. Sharpen your mind.
Become the weapon you will need to survive.

In an attempt to revamp the ninja genre and make it as cinematic as possible, the
martial arts performed in the film are a hybrid of several styles. To design the fight sequences, the filmmakers turned to their stunt partners from the “Matrix” films and “V for Vendetta,” award-winning stuntmen Chad Stahelski and Dave Leitch, who run their own stunts and training company, 87Eleven. Both served as stunt coordinators as well as second unit directors on “Ninja Assassin.”

“Part of the objective in making the film was to take it to another level, beyond
what we’d all done before,” says McTeigue. “To coalesce all the energies and the
disciplines we’ve had in other movies and bring them into one required a certain level of knowledge and skill, and that’s what Chad and Dave deliver every time. They know that stuff inside and out.”

“There’s definitely a shorthand between Larry, Andy, Joel, James and Chad and
Dave,” observes Hill. “They each have a broad knowledge of the others’ functions, how
they think, and a methodology in common that makes it easy to work together. But at
the same time, they all have their own strong, creative ideas to bring to the party.”
Because the prowess of a ninja fighter should be beyond the skills of any
ordinary martial artist, the filmmakers wanted to bring together a unique blend of martial arts and other physical disciplines to take those skills to new heights. Leitch notes, “Ninjutsu, a Japanese style of martial arts, is the main ingredient. However, we incorporated elements of Chinese Wushu, an acrobatic type of kung-fu, as well as Krabi-Krabong, a Thai style of sword fighting. We also used a new acrobatic style of sport karate called tricking, and a Filipino martial art called KALI, taught to us by legendary martial artist Dan Inosanto.”

Pointing to various influences such as Chuck Norris in “Good Guys Wear Black”
and “Breaker Breaker,” Jackie Chan’s work with Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” and, of course, Sho Kosugi and Franco Nero in “Enter the Ninja,” Leitch continues, “I don’t think we wanted it to be realistic at all. We wanted it to be over the top. One of our biggest influences for this film, conceptually, was “Ninja Scroll,” so when you see blood bubbling up out of a guy’s chest, well…it’s a visual style. That’s what we were going for.”

Once McTeigue, Stahelski and Leitch all agreed that they wanted live action
stunt work, with no camera tricks, the choreographers invited a wide variety of “stunt” performers to join in the fun. Says Leitch, “In order to achieve what we wanted, we sought out some younger guys that had really specific skills. Their participation allowed us to get away from the wire-assist standard and to make the stunts about real acrobatics. That was something we always wanted to do.”
Stahelski relates, “The wire work is very different on this film from what we did,
for example, in ‘The Matrix.’ Our goal was to remove the supernatural element from the wires, remove all ‘float,’ and focus on human performance. Most of the wires used in the film were just for safety, or for very slight assist. The stunts and martial arts are real, we hired the best.”

Each artist brought extraordinary skills to the film; among them were Damien
Walters, a five-time world power tumbling champion from England; Jackson Spidell,
famous for his loopkicks and his acrobatic martial arts skills all over America; Jon Valera, a five-time forms champion; Kim Do Nguyen, a World/U.S. forms champion and
acrobatic martial arts competitor; Jonathan Eusebio, a former instructor at the Inosanto Academy and one of the better choreographers in Los Angeles; Brad Allan, one of Jackie Chan's lead team members; Peng Zhang, Jet Li's stunt double and an up-andcoming choreographer from China; Hyun Jin Park, another of Chan's team members
and one of the better stuntmen in Korea; and Xiang Gao, a member of Donnie Yen’s
stunt team. “And of course we had our team from 87Eleven, our action design
company,” says Stahelski, “who are all specifically trained in acrobatic martial art
choreography. It was an awesome lineup.”

Leitch adds, “We also had Noon Orsatti as a stunt coordinator on the film. He is
one of our mentors in stunt coordinating and we asked him to come on board to help
organize everything. And we had Jim Churchman, our rigger who has done a lot of big
shows and can do both the simplest rigs as well as be really innovative and

One of the most progressive decisions the filmmakers and stunt choreographers
made was to go beyond martial arts. Explains Stahelski, “We incorporated parkour—a
discipline of motion, of getting from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible, whether it’s under, around or in a direct line over an obstacle like a wall or a fence—and free running, which is the essence of parkour but with more acrobatics and showmanship. Richard King is an L.A. stuntman who started Team Tempest, which is probably the best free running/parkour team in the States. Rich helped us choreograph some of the sequences.”

They turned to parkour and free running because “we wanted the ninjas to move
a little differently,” continues Stahelski. “Not to just run across the shadows, but to swarm or infest whatever location they happened to be in. They were going to be very athletic, very cat-like.”

The filmmakers put these newer action arts to the test in a sequence involving a
martial arts fight in the middle of traffic. In the scene, shot in a traffic circle in Berlin, they used cars and vehicles as the obstacles coming right at the ninjas, who would then hop, flip or jump over them.

Surrounded by some of the best of the best in the martial arts world as well as
top form athletes, Rain also needed to engage in an intense training regimen so he
could appear to be a ninja trained from childhood. His performance impressed them.
“Rain can mimic the action and then put a little emotion into it—he could act within the action,” offers Stahelski. “I think he picked things up faster than anybody we’ve ever worked with. He had good physical aptitude, but he also had a great mental capacity for the action, which I think is even more important.”

“Rain has amazing discipline,” admires McTeigue. “You can show him something once, even very complicated choreography, and he remembers it almost immediately. Show it to him a second time and then he’s able to add his own style to the choreography you showed him. There were days when he had to learn 25 moves and shoot them in one shot. His performance was well beyond what we even imagined.”

Stahelski concurs. “As he went through the training, Rain kept getting better, so
we had to keep re-choreographing. What we had designed originally, he outgrew by the
time we were ready to shoot. The more Rain’s abilities developed, the more our
choreography had to evolve.”

“I trained for six hours a day for six months,” recalls Rain. “Five hours on martial
arts and one hour on total body fitness. Their system is amazing. It’s not just about
lifting weights and cutting out chocolate. It combines a re-growth diet and a lot of core strength building. It’s about the entire body, inside and out, not just single muscle building. It was hard, but it was incredibly rewarding.”

The actor completely transformed himself. “I’m absolutely sure people won’t
believe that it’s his body on screen. They’ll think we digitally altered him,” McTeigue laughs, going on to say that during filming his star “joked about the idea that, on the day that we wrapped, he would just eat noodles and drink beer and smoke cigars.”

Rain’s training regimen also included extensive weapons work. “We worked chains, single and double swords and shuriken, which are known as throwing stars,” the
actor states, “and I had to learn to use them with force, and while doing jumps and rolls. Very difficult stuff, but I enjoyed it.”

The amount of training was necessary considering the beating Rain’s character,
Raizo, would have to take. Says Leitch, “It's hard to show everybody else suffer if you don’t show your hero suffer. I think if you see the ninjas, all the blood and the sheer visceral imagery that we put into it, when you see Raizo, you buy it a little bit more.

They suffer, he suffers. He doesn't go through an entire 15-minute battle and come out with a fat lip.”

Raizo isn’t the only character that gets roughed up in “Ninja Assassin,” and
Stahelski and Leitch, self-confessed martial arts nerds, were more than a little excited to work with Sho Kosugi as Lord Ozunu. “We’re both huge fans,” says Stahelski. “He’s a master martial artist. I remember the first day he came to our training facility in Berlin, in his sweat suit, with a bag of practice swords. He was in fantastic shape, warmed right up, jumped right in. We thought we were going to have an easy day with him, since he was right off the plane. But he didn’t want to stop. He was there for a solid two hours with us, and then was in the gym every day with us after that. His dedication to the craft was extraordinary.”

“I’ve been studying martial arts since I was five years old,” offers Kosugi.
“Physically, it’s easy to teach, but mentally…that’s where it’s very tough.”

He travels with a group of orphans that are being taken from a city devastated by war
to the Shido of the Ozunu clan. The people of the surrounding province refer to the Shido as “The Orphanage.”

“Ninja Assassin” unfolds primarily in Germany, with a few scenes in Japan.
Filming took place entirely in Berlin, but the filmmakers tried to give it an overall
international flavor, with the help of production designer Graham “Grace” Walker.
Walker, who has worked with Silver on a number of films, also has a fan in his
director. Says McTeigue, “When I was growing up in Australia, Grace Walker was really
one of the icons of Australian filmmaking.”

This was McTeigue’s first opportunity to work with Walker, who says of McTeigue, “James was fabulous—extremely particular about what he wanted but that was great because it kept me on my toes, and I knew I was giving him exactly what he

That was especially true of one of the film’s major set pieces. “The orphanage
set he designed, which is one of our largest, is really one of the greatest sets I’ve worked on,” acknowledges McTeigue.

“I’ve always appreciated Japanese architecture,” says Walker. “It's just so simple
yet so beautiful. One of the things I like most about it is the fineness of the screens and grills, the intricate designs. I also love an open plan and that’s something the Japanese do extremely well. We built the dojo so we’d get that feeling of being inside and outside at the same time.”

One of the challenges Walker faced in the dojo—the film’s “orphanage”—was specific to a critical moment in young Raizo’s training in the film: the nightingale floor.
“The nightingale floor is designed to squeak when you walk on a certain board, to let you know of an enemy approaching,” explains Walker. “James wanted it to be intricate, so we built it out of about 3,000 pieces of different-colored plywood put together like a puzzle.”

The director wasn’t the only filmmaker with specific requests for the dojo. “Larry
and Andy wanted the artwork to appear to be from the earliest days of the ninjas in the 14th century,” says Walker. “Funnily enough, the old text that I found looked really good, but no one could translate it for me, no matter how many Japanese-speaking people we found in Berlin. They said the writing was all too ancient. We felt safe putting it in, but I hope it’s not saying anything we wouldn’t want it to!” he grins.

The extensive dojo set also featured a bonsai garden that had to be furnished
with trees that would appear to have been there for hundreds of years. Says Walker,
“We hand-picked everything for the garden from a large nursery outside of Berlin, and
hired a gardener to look after them. After the movie, everything went back, they were
just on loan.”

While investigating the required flora for the shoot, Walker also discovered an
interesting city requirement. “In Berlin, you’re only allowed to dig down one meter when planting. So anything that didn’t fit, we had to mound up around it.”

Explaining the unusual regulation, Walker offers, “There’s still a scare that there could be landmines around, so that’s the law.”

Not every set was built from the ground up. The safe house, where one of the
bigger fight sequences takes place, required the designer and his team to transform an existing building. “The safe house was an old, empty power station,” Walker relates.

“The ninjas had to have things to run and jump and leap about on, so I came up with the idea of partially refitting it again with parts, air conditioning, all of that sort of stuff.”

Moving to the exteriors, “Berlin provided the sort of film noir aspect that we wanted,” states McTeigue. “I was interested in showing Berlin because it is a very filmic city.”

The city offered exactly what the cast and crew needed for one of the film’s key
stunt sequences. Notes Silver, “There’s a great scene in a traffic circle in the middle of Berlin, near the Freedom Tower and the Brandenburg Gate.”
Due to the time of year, however, they only had about four-and-one-half hours of
nighttime to get what they needed. But that didn’t deter the production team. Silver
continues, “We got right to it and shot ninjas jumping on top of and around and over the cars, fighting the whole time. I’d never seen anything like it before; it was a really fresh and exciting sequence.”

I have reason to believe that a group
of ninja may be on their way here.
-I think these gentlemen can handle a
few whack-jobs wearing pajamas.

The filmmakers knew that a key component in presenting ninjas in a modern
context was the look, and enlisted the talents of costume designer Carlo Poggioli. “Carlo was great,” says McTeigue. “He was another person who got what we were trying to do.

We wanted the ninja costumes to be simple but textural. If you’re going for the feeling of terror, with people emerging from the blackness, you need something that can dissolve into the shadows but, when they do appear and it’s black on black, have some sort of texture. They’re not just amorphous shapes that come out and you never really see anything.”

Because ninjas, and therefore their costumes, date back several centuries, the
challenge was in keeping with the simplicity of the original design, but updating it enough to suit the needs of the film and its setting. “I was lucky because I had done a movie two years ago with many scenes in Japan,” relates Poggioli. “I had already done research about samurai, about this strange world. For this movie, I started to study the ninja world, and a friend of mine in Japan sent me reference from the ninja museum. James was very happy when I showed him some really special things that you cannot find in books.”

One of the designer’s initial hurdles was updating centuries of tradition in a way
that would provide both the right look with the flexibility required for all the stunts.

“Getting the right shape was hard,” says Poggioli. “Our ninjas are modern ninjas, but
Japanese tradition requires a certain silhouette. The shape of the body, the arm pieces, the belt, the shoes.” The shoes were particularly tough to create. “To understand what was going to work, we had so many different soles. They had to be able to run up walls and so many other things, and still look right to the eye.”

Dressing the film’s lead posed an unexpected snag, remembers Poggioli. “When
we fit Rain the first time, he had one body. When he came for filming, his body was
completely different. He changed everything, his muscles, his figure. In the end, we had to make his clothes a lot bigger.”

Due to the number of stunts, Poggioli and his team initially planned to make
between 12 and 20 ninja costumes, but wound up creating about 200. “We used so
many, probably 100, just for the scenes with blood,” he says. In addition, all of the fabric was hand-dyed. “The ninjas were dressed in black, but to obtain the right color, it was not completely black; it’s violet inside, which then gave us the black we needed.”

Says McTeigue, ”Ninjas should be able to move, unseen, through the shadows, which adds to their mystique.”

You can call them spooks, or assassins, or whatever you want if it makes you feel better,but they’re out there. They’re killing people and nobody is doing a thing to stop them.

“Is it nature that makes you the person you are, or is it nurture?” director James
McTeigue poses the question, a central theme of “Ninja Assassin.” “I feel as though we did what we set out to do and made a modern-day ninja film that has incredible action but is also grounded in great characterization.”

Rain agrees. “The film blends a great story with a lot of depth and feeling, with
some of the most spectacular, awesome action sequences. The guys who made this
movie make great action, and this is no exception.”

Says producer Grant Hill, “I think ‘Ninja Assassin’ will grab audiences’ attention
from the very first scene. It’s a film that gets going quickly, and just keeps going.”

Producer Joel Silver elaborates, “It’s a fun, although bloody experience, but it
also has themes of loyalty, honor and identity. For fans of the genre, it's a pure ninja movie—gritty and violent, with every kind of fighting, every type of martial arts you've ever seen, and some you haven’t. It's a real kick-ass movie.”


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This year, three BOOM! Studios titles have been nominated by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) to be included in its annual Great Graphic Novels for Teens List. CTHULHU TALES VOL. 2: WHISPERS OF MADNESS, IRREDEEMABLE VOL. 1 and SCREAM QUEEN were all nominated.

“Librarians are our unsung heroes because they are on the front lines of getting a whole new generation of teens reading comics,” said BOOM! Studios Sales Director Jennifer Christopher. “Everyone at BOOM! and the creators involved in these three works are completely humbled to be nominated this year.”
The list nominates books that have teen appeal, including fiction and nonfiction titles. For the full list, please visit:


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From Eisner Award-winning, Emmy Award-winning, New York Times best-selling scribe Jeph Loeb and legendary artist John Romita Jr, the man behind World War Hulk, comes one of the most important chapters in the Hulk mythos!

Fall of The Hulks Gamma brings Marvel’s finest together to mourn a hero—but just who’s dead? And why are they murdered in the opening pages of this landmark special? It’s been building since World War Hulk and it’s bigger than any Hulk story you’ve ever imagined! Who is the Red Hulk? Who is Red She-Hulk? What’s the fate of Bruce Banner? The answers begin here!

This is the issue that changes everything—and you can’t miss the shocking ending as an unholy union may spell the end of the Marvel Universe as it ignites the most incredible of wars! And if that wasn’t enough, just which long thought dead characters—yeah, plural—are back? Loeb and Romita Jr rock, smash and rearrange your world in Fall of The Hulks Gamma!

Retailers, please note that this issue features a Santa Variant, by superstar artist Ed McGuinness, for which ordering instructions are available in this week’s Marvel Mailer.

Written by JEPH LOEB
Pencils by JOHN ROMITA JR.
Variant Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR.
Santa Variant by ED MCGUINNESS
Rated T+ …$3.99
FOC—12/3/09, On-Sale—12/23/09


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Comic News: The Astonishing X-Men Motion Comic Continues on iTunes Today!

The hottest motion comic of the season continues as Astonishing X-Men Motion Comic Episode 2 is now available on iTunes!

Based on the award-winning story by superstars Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and John Cassaday (Captain America), the X-Men head into battle with a villain they’ve never fought…but help is on the way! Meanwhile, the world continues to reel from the revelation of a cure for the mutant gene, one that will push the X-Men closer to one of the most shocking discoveries in their history! What are you waiting for? CLICK HERE to purchase the latest episode now!

Don’t miss a single episode of the chart-topping Astonishing X-Men Motion Comic-- subscribe to a season pass, available on iTunes, by clicking HERE!

For more information on motion comics please visit at


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Comic News: The Critically-Acclaimed Stand: American Nightmares HC is ON SALE NOW!

The last hope for humanity struggles to survive apocalyptic fallout in The Stand: American Nightmares HC, ON SALE NOW exclusively at your local comic shop!

The critically acclaimed team behind the lauded The Stand: Captain Trips returns as powerful scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Eisner Award nominated artist Mike Perkins present the aftermath of the deadliest force ever known to man! The few survivors that managed to escape the fatal grasp of the super-flu are now haunted by the menacing figure known as Randall Flagg! He continues to make his way across a desolated America, but what, or who, is he after?

Critics and fans alike are raving about this masterful adaptation:

“The creative team behind the Marvel adaptation of The Stand impresses on nearly every level.” – Kyle Posluszny,

“An enjoyable story with three-dimensional characters, a compelling core plot, and a high standard of artwork. This is a well-written, well-illustrated comic.” – David Wallace,

“Aguirre-Sacasa and Perkins are firing on all cylinders in this series…Marvel's vision of The Stand remains one of the most faithful adaptations on the market.” – Jesse Schedeen,

Though ninety-seven percent of the world is dead, the remaining three may be the unlucky ones…Run to your local comic shop and pick this red-hot collection up The Stand: American Nightmares HC because it’s ON SALE NOW exclusively at your local comic shop!

To catch up on the disease that ravaged the world, don’t miss Sacasa and Perkins’ first stunning collection, The Stand: Captain Trips HC, ON SALE NOW! Also on sale is the first issue of the next thrilling chapter, The Stand: Soul Survivors #1!

For more on The Stand, please visit or

Published by arrangement with The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. This graphic novel is produced under license from The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group and Stephen King.

Penciled by MIKE PERKINS
Parental Advisory …$24.99

Penciled by MIKE PERKINS
Parental Advisory …$24.99

Penciled by MIKE PERKINS
Variant Cover by MIKE PERKINS
Parental Advisory …$3.99


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TV News: Super Hero Squad Show—Silver Surfer Profile Video

Here's a profile of the Silver Surfer from the Super Hero Squad Show.

Silver Surfer

As the Squad's resident alien, the Surfer is a fish-out-of-water, constantly puzzled and amazed at the strange customs and culture of Earthlings. The Surfer, for all his innocence, is in hiding. Even as he learns more about this pleasant oasis called Earth, taking in its mountains, rivers and beaches (where he’ll be a sensation among the surfer dudes) he’s worried that his presence may draw his former master, that world-devouring barrel of laughs called GALACTUS, into the fray, and possibly get the Earth eaten.

The Surfer and the other Squaddies

The other teammates respect him, but don't even pretend to understand him. While Iron Man tries to fathom the mysteries of the Surfer's powerful surfboard, Falcon has taken it upon himself to educate the alien in the ways of Earthlings. The Surfer stays on Earth because he finds a sense of belonging and higher moral purpose with the team. His moral standards and calm demeanor make him the team’s conscience. We will see him adjusting to life on Earth and confronting his fear and shame over the awesome evil he escaped from, the aforementioned Galactus.

The Surfer adds his cosmic ENERGY FACTOR to the team.


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