1.  BUCKY! It was predictable that any movie telling the origin of Captain America would have to include Bucky.  Well, with Chris “Human Torch” Evans now on board as Cap, they’ve announced Sebastian “Hot Tub Time Machine” Stan as the future Winter Soldier.  Reports say Stan has a five-picture deal, so I guess Marvel is hoping for many future episodes.  As am I.  Seriously, Joe Johnston: Don’t screw this up.  Evans and Sebastian look to be about the same age, and Evans if a pretty lean guy, so the Cap we see on the screen will definitely be a different type of character.  It’s hard to imagine how he’ll be next to Robert Downey, Jr., in the Avengers film—particularly because Downey doesn’t dumb-down his acting for anyone—but I’d be willing to accept Cap as a younger guy (physically) as long as Evans can bring us a man (and idealist) out of time.  The movie begins filming in June with a July 22, 2011 release date.

2.  SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN! If I had to make a list of my favorite directors, I’d have to include Sam Raimi, George Romero, David Fincher, M Night Shamalyan (recent work notwithstanding), Joss Whedon, John Carpenter, probably Spielberg (even though that’s an obvious choice) and, of course, the great Wes Craven.  So I’m doing the Snoopy happy dance over the fact Wes will return to reboot and direct “Scream 4.”  The Scream trilogy is a rare example of a series that for the most part maintained high quality throughout (except maybe for the third one).  And best of all, it will be written by Kevin Williamson, who wrote the original.  I’m not sure there are that many more horror tropes to satirize, and the fact that most recent horror films are just remakes of old ones means that there aren’t any new tropes in the game, either.  Still, I’m hopeful.

3.  A HELLUVA LOT MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE. Okay, I admit that I loved Transformers, and I truly think Shia La Beouf is a very talented actor.  However, to my credit, I wasn’t a fan of Trans2 and I think Megan Fox is a better cardboard standee than an actress.  That said, for “Transformers 3” Michael Bay has cast John Malkovich and Frances McDormand(!)  The real question isn’t how did he do that (it’s the money, stupid) but why?  They won’t bring new butts into the seats.  He seems to be fishing for critical acclaim (since the first two flicks were not exactly well-received), but is Bay really that pathetic?

4.  THOR NEWS! Director Kenneth Branagh and members of the cast are doing more talking, now that filming has begun on the Marvel Norse epic scheduled for a 2011 release.  They say the movie will take place evenly between Asgard and Midgard (Earth, to you non-Thor fans), but really they’re trying to dispel rumors that cast members are fighting even more than the characters they portray.  The volume of leaks about disgruntled stars (a big one was the report that Odin (Anthony Hopkins) thinks Christopher Helmsworth (Thor) is a lightweight) is definitely troubling.  Except for a few brief shining moments, I’ve always thought of Thor as Marvel’s second-most-laziest character in terms of developing a unique heroic character, largely due to the reliance on Norse mythology.  I’m hopeful that Matt Fraction (who takes over the main title) and Brian Michael Bendis (who will include Thor in the new Avengers title) can rescue the character, but clearly that won’t happen soon enough to inform the film version.  Too bad they didn’t go for the sexy (albeit creepy) female Loki . . .

5.  EVEN MORE THOR NEWS! Incidentally, on May 1 we’ll get our first taste of Marvel’s attempt to rescue Thor from the huge quality drop post-JMS’ run on the title, when free comic book day offers a one-shot “Iron Man and Thor” book written by Fraction and illustrated by John Romita, Jr.  It takes place on the moon(!).  I’ve said here often that JR Jr. is my favorite Marvel artist of all time, but I have to say: His sketches for the new Avengers promos have been less than impressive—but previews of his Thor drawings for the free comic book are awesome.  Anyway, I’m hopeful for the Fraction Thor book because, like JMS and Walt Simonson before him, Fraction has a proven track record of being able to reboot characters with long histories, stay true to past legend, but also make the book completely accessible to new readers.  He did it twice already, with Iron Fist and Iron Man.  Thor will be his first non-ferrous reboot!

6.  LOTS OF AVENGERS. All of the Avengers titles will end at the end of Siege, only to be relaunched as The Avengers, Avengers Academy, and Secret Avengers.  The main team has pretty much been confirmed, and the only real surprise there is that Cap will be Bucky not Steve, but Marvel recently also announced that The Beast is returning to a non-mutant team as a member of The Secret Avengers, alongside War Machine.  The series writer, Ed Brubaker, is of course brilliant at turning second-stringers into A-list characters, and I can’t wait to see artist Mike Deodato—my favorite New Avengers artist—take on War Machine.  I also can’t wait until they haul in Howard the Duck.
7.  R.I.P. I don’t usually do death announcements, but I have to mention the passing of Archie Comics artist Henry Scarpelli on April 4.  Who didn’t love Archie as a kid?

8.  AND SPEAKING OF DEATH . . . Rumor is someone’s gonna die in the last Smallville ep.  Rumor hasn’t been confirmed, but what has been confirmed are appearances by Hawkman, Black Canary, Cyborg, and Stargirl.  This is a show that has really lost me.  I watch to see other D.C. heroes, and when they’re just whining about romance (see the recent “romance in the haunted cabin” episode), I tune out.  It’s too bad.  There’s so much potential for greatness here, but for whatever reason D.C. won’t let them make the show more than just intermittently good.

9.  AND FOR THE GEEKIEST OF THE GEEKS . . . SALES NUMBERS! A lot of my readers come just for the music.  I’ve had more than one person tell me, “Comic books?  I’m a grown man!”  But I dig ‘em.  And this blog is about what I dig.  But even I can say that only a few of you will care at all about this last item: On Thursday, Diamond Comic Distributors released their March sales numbers.  Of course, Marvel dominates the overall market (they saturate it, after all)—40% to D.C.’s 30%–but surprisingly, only one Marvel title made the top 5 (Siege #3).  Here’s the top 10 regular books:

1     BLACKEST NIGHT #8     $3.99     DC
2     SIEGE #3     $3.99     MAR
3     GREEN LANTERN #52     $2.99     DC
4     BATMAN AND ROBIN #10     $2.99     DC
5     GREEN LANTERN CORPS #46     $3.99     DC
6     NEW AVENGERS #63     $3.99     MAR
7     DARK AVENGERS #15     $3.99     MAR
9     UNCANNY X-MEN #522     $3.99     MAR
10     AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #623     $2.99     MAR

In the trades category, indie publishers and imprints dominated, with Kick-Ass at #1, and top-10 entries by well-deserved books like Kirkman’s “Haunt,” Ennis’ “The Boys,” and the latest installment of Buffy Season 8.  If you’re not buying (or at least reading) The Boys, you’re truly missing out…

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