With the exception of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, July is a relatively quiet month for high-profile movies from the geekier side of Hollywood, but you should probably consider this the calm before the storm, given next month's rush of big-budget, highly anticipated films.
Of course, next month's big movies are this month's big comics, toys and other items launched ahead of a film's arrival in theaters, so there's plenty of wallet-breaking opportunities for fans of Guardians of the Galaxy. Batman's 75th anniversary also kicks into high gear this month with an assortment of books and collectibles for devotees of DC's Dark Knight.
Here is some of the cool stuff hitting shelves (and theaters) in July that you might want to look for...
What to Read
This year is the 75th anniversary of DC's Dark Knight, and Batman certainly won't be left wanting for cool, collector-edition material to mark the occasion. Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years and The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years both hit shelves this month and offer a fantastic collection of stories from both characters' long histories. Not only are they great reading material for anyone who wants to get reacquainted with some of the most iconic stories from each character's continuity, but they're both hefty, high-quality hardcover editions that collectors will love.
For some of the younger Batman fans out there, DC Comics Presents: Batman Adventures #1 collects some of the most popular all-ages, kid-friendly stories starring the Dark Knight from recent years – because why should the older kids have all the fun?
With Guardians of the Galaxy arriving in theaters next month, it's no surprise that there are a bunch of books arriving this month to help you get prepped for the cosmic side of Marvel's cinematic universe. For those looking to take a deep dive into the comics canon of Chris Pratt's character in the film, Star-Lord, this month's Star-Lord: Guardian of the Galaxy collection pulls together all 12 stories from the original, 1970s incarnation of the character created by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan. And for something a little different, pick up Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon & Groot – Steal the Galaxy! A prose novel written by fan-favorite author Dan Abnett, the book follows Rocket Raccoon and Groot on a universe-spanning adventure that has them running from cosmic police, alien conquerors, and just about everyone else they encounter along the way.
As if that's not enough, there's also Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Art of the Movie Slipcase, an impressive collection of behind-the-scenes photographs, production stills, and all sorts of other content for fans of Marvel's cinematic universe.
And just in case you missed the recent Black Widow solo series, Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread collects the first six issues of the series, which was quite good and offers a little more background on the former KGB assassin and current Avengers superspy.
Worlds collide this month in Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1, which pits Snake Eyes and the rest of the G.I. Joe squad against the robots in disguise in a weird, wonderful mash-up of these two '80s franchises that you have to see to believe. It's just as epic as it seems, and fans of either line of toys – or movies, cartoons or comics – will want to put this on their must-buy list.
And while we're on the subject of believing, The X-Files: Year Zero #1 promises to reveal the true origin of The X-Files and its creation. If you're a fan of Agents Mulder and Scully's adventures, you'll want to believe... and pick up this issue.
There's something special for Star Trek fans this month, too. Star Trek Special: Flesh and Stone brings together three of Star Fleet's greatest medical officers in a search for the secrets of a fourth, famous doctor. Star Trek: The Next Generation doctors Beverly Crusher and Katherine Pulaski join Star Trek: Deep Space Nine medical officer Julian Bashir in an adventure connected with original Star Trek medical officer Leonard “Bones” McCoy. It's a crossover of planet-hopping proportions!
And because convention season is almost here, you should probably keep an eye out for Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International: San Diego #1, a one-issue adventure featuring Joker's favorite girl with a taste for mayhem. How will Harley handle the massive crowds and get her own comic published? It's probably a safe bet that the answer involves a high body count... and a lot of cosplay jokes.
What to Watch
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the surprise hits of 2011, so the level of anticipation is high for the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which hits theaters July 11. Set nearly a decade after the events of the first film and utilizing even more of the impressive motion-capture techniques that made the first film so amazing, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes chronicles the next chapter in the apes' rise to become the dominant species on Earth. Along with mo-cap veteran Andy Serkis – who's made quite the case for motion-capture performances to earn some Oscar attention – the film also stars James Gordon himself, Gary Oldman, as one of the human survivors.
July 18 kicks off the limited release of producer Zach Braff's Video Games: The Movie, a documentary about the rise of the video game industry and a celebration of gaming geekery through the years. The film is narrated by Sean Astin and features a cornucopia of interviews with some of the geek elite when it comes to gamers and gaming culture.
Oh, and that other movie about Hercules premieres at the end of the month (July 25), but this is the one you'll probably want to check out. Why? Because it stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and just about anything with him in it is worth the price of admission. (Okay, maybe not The Scorpion King.) The upcoming Hercules casts Johnson as the legendary hero and son of Zeus who must strap on his sandals once again to battle a powerful, savage warlord threatening the kingdom of Thrace. The film is based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars, and also stars Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes and John Hurt in supporting roles.
On the DVD and Blu-ray side of things, action fans will want to take note of the July 8 release of The Raid 2, which picks up where the critically praised, 2011 martial arts hit The Raid: Redemption left off. This time around, Rama must go undercover to infiltrate a deadly gang, and as anyone who saw the first film will probably guess, fists (and feet and tables and chairs and lead pipes) will inevitably fly.
What to Put on Your Shelf
Batman isn't alone in hitting his 75th anniversary this year. His arch enemy the Joker is celebrating 75 years of sinister shenanigans, too. That's why it's fitting that two very cool products depicting the Clown Prince of Crime are hitting shelves in July. For fans of the earlier, campier iteration of the character portrayed by Cesar Romero in the classic television series and 1966's Batman: The Movie, Diamond Select Toys has the Batman Classic TV Series Joker Resin Bust, complete with painted-over mustache.
On the darker side of Batman's big-screen history, NECA has an 18-inch action figure based on Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. The 1/4 Scale Joker Action Figure comes with various, sinister accessories and a likeness that's eerily accurate.
That's not the only action figure worth a look this month, as NECA also has a new figure based on Bruce Campbell's twisted “Deadite Ash” version of his character in Evil Dead 2. The posable, eight-inch Evil Dead 2 Deadite Ash Action Figure comes with its own Necromonicon and other accessories – including a fabric outfit like the classic toys of the '70s. It somehow manages to be retro, horrifying and geeky, folks.
Naturally, there's no shortage of Guardians of the Galaxy gear hitting shelves ahead of the film's premiere, but I can't help calling out Hasbro's Rocket Raccoon Action Mask, which lets kids (or let's face it, you) pretend to be the galaxy's greatest raccoon heavy-weapons expert. Apparently, its eyebrows, ears and mouth move, so now we can all be Bradley Cooper.
Finally, it may have been a few years since Iron Man 2 was in theaters, but eFX Inc's Iron Man 2 Mark V Armor Suitcase Mobile Fuel Cell has a universal charger and spare battery for mobile devices that's designed to look like the briefcase that contains Iron Man's “Silver Centurion” armor from the film is all sorts of awesome. Not only is it an officially licensed replica of the briefcase armor from Iron Man 2, but it's compatible with a long list of smartphones, tablets and portable game consoles. And it looks supercool, too.
Question of the Week: What are you most looking forward to watching, reading, or adding to your collection in July?
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and his personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.
MORE FROM AROUND THE WEB: