One of Andy Kubert's sketches from 'The Dark Knight III: Master Race' hardcover edition, released this week.
Image: DC Entertainment

Like him or not, you have to admit Frank Miller is a comics legend.  

Though he’s faced criticism over the years for his controversial, conservative stances and his attitude toward female characters, Miller wrote books such as the groundbreaking Dark Knight Returns and its sort-of-prequel Batman: Year One, which comics fans the world over now consider sacred texts. 

But Miller, who usually illustrates his own stories, stumbled with the forgettable, critically panned, sketchily drawn sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again in 2002.

Miller knew he wanted to continue the series after that, so why did it take so long to do so? 

“The material had to come together,” he says. “You don’t jump in on the job until you have enough material and a good enough idea … It needed some new wrinkles, some new places to go.”

Returning 15 years later for Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race, which is published in graphic novel form this week, Miller assembled what he calls “the best talent out there:” co-writer Brian Azzarello and artists Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson.

Frankly, they made all the difference.

One of Andy Kubert’s sketches from ‘The Dark Knight III: Master Race’ hardcover edition

Image: dc entertainment

Miller’s women 

There are some neat touches that only Miller could bring to this comic — such as the character of Carrie Kelley (the best of all the Robins — fight me). She absolutely shines opposite the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman, Lara Kent.

“Carrie Kelley was a real breakthrough for me because she was such a fresh character,” Miller says. “Her perfect contrast was Lara … I loved the fact that the dark guy (Batman) had the bright daughter and the bright guy (Superman) had the dark daughter.”

The fact that these two (and many more) well-written women exist in the book is testament to a fact Miller admits: he’s grown up.  

“Over the years, I had to listen to criticism,” he says — and he actually listened: “My female characters have gone from kind of an adolescent fantasy about women into much more fully formed characters.” 

These women are more than just their relationships to their fathers. Carrie and Lara are young women developing their own personalities and powers. They’re a delight to read and they keep you turning the page.

Miller’s other accomplishment is political satire. With writing partner Azzarello, Miller brought the kind of commentary that we saw him introduce with his take on Ronald Reagan — who he remembers as “quite funny in a terrifying way” — in The Dark Knight Returns. But this time, he’s showcasing both the media and now-President, then-candidate Donald Trump.

Miller says that Trump and his administration are is “a cartoonist’s dream” and that there hasn’t been this kind of political figure that so lends himself to that craft “since Nixon.”

These moments will make you laugh uncomfortably, which is something Miller’s work tends to do.

One of Andy Kubert’s sketches from ‘The Dark Knight III: Master Race’ hardcover edition

Image: dc entertainment

The team that makes it shine

If nothing else, this book looks awesome. From Kubert’s pencils, to Janson’s inks, to Anderson’s colors, this book really finds it feet in the art.

Kubert especially, who Miller himself calls “remarkable,” pulls off something really impressive in this project, marrying his own drawing style with echoes of Miller’s own art. He found that balance while creating the original sketches Mashable is exclusively debuting here. 

Kubert’s family is prominent in the industry and he’s worked with many notable creators, but he found this project to be “daunting.” Kubert considers Miller to be “god-like” in the comic world, and he says he was under a lot of pressure to measure up. 

“I idolized Frank big-time growing up.” He laughs and remembers, “I was scared shitless.”

Kubery says the key to the book was two pieces of advice Miller gave him after he sent his first roughs (11×17 conceptual versions of a page.) Kubert was told to “be more experimental,” and warned not to “forget about negative space.” 

One of Andy Kubert’s sketches from ‘The Dark Knight III: Master Race’ hardcover edition

Image: dc entertaiment

Kubert collaborated a lot with Azzarello and Miller through the process, working with ample feedback. For him, that made this one of his favorite scripts to work on.

The other members of the art team more than carry their weight here, adding depth and character to the art.

Kubert and Janson had been close for years, but this was their first project together. 

“I always knew this guy was good,” Kubert says of the inker, “but you don’t really know how good he is until he works on top of your pencils … the guy is so freaking good.”

It was a similar story with colorist Anderson. Kubert says that Anderson has a way of just getting what Kubert is trying to do in a piece. “He kind of finished my sentences … (but) he brought his own distinctive voice to it.”

The art team worked so well together that they’re partnering on a book called New Challengers with yet another legendary Batman writer — Scott Snyder. 

Image: dc Entertainment

Another chapter to come?

Miller won’t say exactly what the next chapter in his Batman story will look like, but he does hint that it would involve the next generation — Lara and Carrie, and perhaps even Jonathan Kent, too!

And he says he definitely has the drive to do more: “Every project makes you want to do more projects.”

As for Kubert, he’s just extremely proud of the work he’s done here. 

“I hope I can do this again sometime … how am I gonna top this?” With the kind of talent he, Anderson, and Janson put on the page, there’s no doubt there are incredible things to come.  

Check out more of Andy Kubert’s sketches below. You can also find them in the hardcover edition of Batman: The Dark Knight: The Master Race, which hit shelves last week.

Image: dc entertainment

Image: dc entertainment

Image: dc entertainment

Image: dc entertainment

Image: dc entertainment

Image: dc entertainment

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Sorry to kill your buzz.
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

One highlight stands head and shoulders above all the rest from the Golden State Warriors’ 132-113 drubbing of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night: Steph Curry, feinting and probing against the smothering defense of LeBron James before knifing to the rim for a layup against the much bigger man.

The play instantly lit the internet on fire with emphatic reactions. It stood out for several reasons: the size difference between the two stars; as an illustration of Golden State’s dominance through two games in this year’s Finals; and finally, as a bit of revenge for a vicious block James had against Curry in last year’s Finals matchup.

But upon further review, there is a problem: The play technically shouldn’t have counted at all because Curry double-dribbled. How do we know this? Thanks to a clip the NBA itself shared on social media.

First, here’s the play in question, which came early in the third quarter Monday night. Watch Curry struggle to free himself from James before finally getting the separation he needs to sneak in two points.

It’s remarkable and nearly impossible to spot his double-dribble when viewing at game speed. Curry gets the advantage he’s seeking around the seven-second mark of this clip, using a head and shoulders fake near the three-point line to get James off balance before he drives to the rim.

Remember that moment.

Now, the NBA has something called a “Phantom Cam,” which is basically a camera that shoots super-slow motion in super-high quality. They use the “Phantom Cam” to create cool clips that are sharable on social media and did just that with Curry’s drive on James.

Let’s pay careful attention to the 22-second mark of this clip, though it corresponds to the seven-second mark of the first clip we showed you, the moment when Curry found his advantage on James.

But slowed down and from an alternate angle, we see this:

It turns out Curry didn’t just get James with a head-and-shoulder fake that made the Cavs star briefly expect an outside shot was coming. No, it turns out Curry was able to trick James because he actually put two hands on the ball as if he was going to shoot before double-dribbling to begin his drive to the rim.

Now, a missed call on one drive to the hoop is not even close to being the worst of Cleveland’s problems losing games one and two by a combined 41 points proves that beyond a doubt.

But perhaps Cavs fans can take solace in one small mercy: Sunday night’s viral highlight wasn’t quite what it seemed.

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An artist's illustration of Cassini at Saturn.
Image: nasa

Who knew that teaching actors about space science was part of NASA’s mandate?

Milo Ventimiglia who plays Jack in This is Us and Jess on Gilmore Girls begged NASA via Twitter on Monday to keep the Cassini spacecraft “alive” in orbit around Saturn. And, because Twitter is the great equalizer, of course the space agency replied.

NASA’s official Cassini account explained that the agency has no way to keep Cassini functioning after September, when the spacecraft is scheduled to make a planned death dive into the huge world’s atmosphere, burning up in the process.

It’s not that NASA doesn’t want to keep Cassini alive at the ringed planet, you see. I promise you, Milo, no one will be sadder to see that spacecraft go than the scientists who have devoted their careers to it. It’s just that Cassini is running out of fuel.

Plus, Cassini is plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere in September for a very specific and not to mention altruistic reason.

If scientists were to just allow Cassini to totally run out of fuel and free-fall somewhere in the Saturnian system of moons, it could actually contaminate a world that might harbor alien life.

It’s possible that Enceladus and Titan two moons circling Saturn both have subsurface oceans that may actually be habitable. Who knows what microbes lurk there?

If Cassini were to slam into one of those moons, it could bring Earthly organisms to the surface of the world, possibly harming native life. By burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere, Cassini avoids that possible issue.

The spacecraft has been studying Saturn and its dozens of moons since it arrived in 2004 after launching in 1997. In other words, this is a long mission.

Saturn as seen by Cassini.

Image: nasa/jpl-caltech

It’s actually rare for spacecraft to live as long as Cassini has. In fact, it was never expected to survive so long in the first place. Cassini’s initial mission was only set for four years, but NASA extended it twice.

Cassini’s long life has transformed the way we understand Saturn and its place in the solar system, revealing new information about the planet’s moons and rings.

So, Milo, please, let’s just thank Cassini for its service and send it on its way to the great space robot heaven in the sky.

Cassini has done enough.

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Grab your DC Comics books, because your favorite supervillains are back at it again.

Homemade Movies makes its epic return with the Suicide Squad trailer, recreated shot for shot.

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Image: Sony Pictures/Screen Gems

Don’t Breathe buttoned up a sweet, little $26.1 million (estimated) opening weekend box office the final of the summer and it was enough for a dominant #1 finish.

The movie, directed by Fede Alvarez, features few stars Avatar villain Stephen Lang is the most established and came together around a relatively tiny $10 million budget. And yet it’s already a moneymaker.

A mix of high critical praise and efficient Sony marketing definitely played a role in that. Don’t Breathe earned an impressive 87 percent “Fresh” rating from RottenTomatoes, and trailers have prominently featured hyperbolic pull quotes.

It’s the third success story this summer for horror. The Conjuring 2 opened on June 10, surpassing its $40 million budget after one week and rising to $319.5 million worldwide in subsequent weeks.

The Purge: Election Year followed on July 1, immediately tripling its $10 million budget in one weekend. That total grew to $105.6 million worldwide in the weeks that followed.

Summer is traditionally a good time for horror, but it’s more apparent in 2016 because of all the high-profile busts. Blockbuster sequels like Indepedence Day: Resurgence, Star Trek: Beyond, Jason Bourne and Alice Through the Looking Glass have largely fallen flat during this year’s spring/summer months.

These films are all designed to fill theaters, but audiences are opting for more niche-centric fare like horror or comedy (Bad Moms, Neighbors 2, Sausage Party). Family-friendly movies like Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets have brought in the crowds as well, but that’s normal for the school-free summer months.

Trailing well behind Don’t Breathe is Suicide Squad, now in its third week of release, with an estimated $12.1 million. The DC Comics anti-superhero flick faltered quickly after an opening week surge. It’s now just a little bit shy of $600 million worldwide, and likely won’t climb much higher than that.

After Suicide, the rankings get a lot murkier. Five weekend box office totals for Kubo and the Two Strings, Sausage Party, newcomer Mechanic: Resurrection, Pete’s Dragon and War Dogs are all estimated in the $7 million range.

That makes the weekend’s final lineup hard to predict, though the numbers are small enough that the final order isn’t very relevant. The biggest takeaway from the weekend’s box office middle ranks comes from Mechanic: star Jason Statham clearly isn’t as bankable as he once was.

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