Monthly Archives: February 2012

Why not these comics as movies & TV…?

With all the effort and money being spent on movies and TV shows based on comic book properties, I was thinking about some of the untapped potential out there to convert comic properties into either movies or TV series.

The first one that seems to get the most regular fan service is Sandman.  Personally, I think this would make an awful movie, or at least need to be so changed to translate, that it would offend every fan of the book out there.  Make no mistake, I am a fan of this book, but this is just not going to make a good film.  It would make a great TV series though.  I know they are working on American Gods and I hope that it translates well giving Gaiman and the producers the desire to try it with Sandman

Another book I would really like to see done for TV is Mage by Matt Wagner.  The style of this story would lend itself well to the format and be a very fun series.  Despite the need for some serious special effects in the story, they are manageable; the cast would be a relatively small one.  To be honest though, I would just be happy if the final book of the 3 book series would show up before I die.  Wagner’s other property; Grendel would also make for a pretty decent ongoing TV series.

Something that might make a fun all ages film is Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy.  It could be done as light or as dark depending on what the film makers want.  The story is something that could be very malleable without wholesale changes and is a touching and involving story that can reach any audience.  Another good potential source for another all ages film is I Kill GiantsThis is still one of my favorite books and I cannot imagine this one failing if it were done by someone good.  Hey, Pixar, jump at it!

Why Strangers in Paradise has not been done as a TV show is beyond me.  Terry Moore’s masterpiece has it all.  Drama, complex relationships, sex, violence and plenty of room for melodrama of the prime time soap variety.  It crosses most of the adult target demographics and still manages a very powerful and intense story.  This would most certainly need to be on a network like HBO, as the content would need to be fairly adult, but this show just screams “must watch”.

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete might translate well to either medium, really.  It is such a well told story that just about any way you decided to tell it, could work.  There is the sci-fi/fantasy element and the dramatic aspects that could really set a show based on this one of the coolest offerings in either medium.

Am I the only one out there that would love to see another Rocketeer movie?  Slap Zac Effron or Taylor Lautner in the helmet and that is a movie that makes a pile of cash. (The wife unit agrees strongly on this one)

Since Hollywood is doing so much rebooting, it would be nice to see some of the books that were ruined back in the day, be given a proper treatment.  Dr Strange could be super cool now and Marvel is said to be working on it.  The 1978 made-for-TV movie starring Peter Hooten was so cheaply done that it is actually a little trippy and cool, but with all the play sparkly vampires and young monster hunters get these days, just make him a 20 something (or a very youthful and cool 30) and this film sells itself.

I would like to see another try at Isis too.  The Saturday morning Shazam/Isis Power Hour was fun for the mid 70’s and could probably be well done today.  But that is just me wishing. 

A failed attempt to bring Wonder Woman back last year shows that the mainstream is not ready for this one yet.  Either David E Kelly tanked it or a Linda Carter-less show is just not going to fly .  Speaking of failed tries, Global Frequency had lots of potential but Warner Brothers soured on it when they failed to grasp the viral quality of fans on the internet. At least the pilot is out the to be downloaded.

These and all the great series that have made good cartoons series like FF, Justice League etc; there are piles of worthy material waiting to be tapped.

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The Comic Book films of 2012

In 2011 the comic book movies were quite a mixed bag, really. From the tent pole films (Thor, Captain America etc.) to stuff that even the diehard fans didn’t know about (Priest, Dylan Dog). In 2012 things are a little less diverse, but that is not a bad thing. There are almost certain hits and a few that are not likely to do all that well.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (February)

This one came out recently and has underperformed at the box office. Marvel/Disney was looking for something in the area of 33 million and ended up with an opening weekend more like 22 million. Maybe it’s just me, but was anyone really looking for this film? This one is getting better reviews and cost less than half what the first one did to make, so it is already more likely to be a money-maker for the studio. My issue is that it didn’t really have a built-in audience waiting for it, so why bother? This is not the kind of film that will draw lots of casual viewers. I would expect this to clear a profit and end its initial theatrical run with 80-90 million, so we can expect a third one if the studio thinks the overall result is positive.  The Negative press that Marvel has been getting this year could affect this film and possibly the other 2 Marvel character releases.

The Avengers (May)

This should be a huge hit. I imagine Marvel is thinking something north of 60 million for the opening weekend. The set up for this has been the previous 5 Marvel films, all of which did well at the box office, so the fans will be making squeeeee noises all the way through it. Even if this is a great shining turd of a film, which is unlikely given Joss Whedon’s involvement, this thing makes at least 150 million. If it turns out to be what most are expecting, tack on another 100 million.

Men in Black III (May)

A long time in coming, this one is pretty likely to have the broadest appeal on this list. The first 2 were monster hits and there is no reason this will be any different. The premise looks really fun and is likely to be fertile ground for the director Barry Sonnenfeld to go wild and make this and even bigger hit than the previous 2 films. $200 million. Easy.

The Amazing Spider-Man (July)

This has had an impressive build up, and the excitement is high. There are some changes being made to the franchise in this reboot. Some of them are returning the character to something more closely resembling the books. This time there are actual web shooters instead of goo from his body. However some of the changes are being met with grumbles from fans. Having Peter’s parents involved in the story at all, let alone being pivotal to the plot, is not going over well. If they fail to kill off Uncle Ben, then that will be what really drives the wedge in for fans. This film is the one that is most likely to end up like last year’s Green Lantern, highly anticipated but met with no real enthusiasm for the film once the end credits roll.

The Dark Knight Rises (July)

Oh God, please don’t suck. This is the film that will break the record for opening weekend currently held by the last Harry Potter film (just under $170 million), which took that away from the Dark Knight ($158 million). No comic book film franchise has put together a 3 film run that was good all the way through. Some people count the films like Iron Man and Thor because they are leading into the Avengers franchise, but I do not. Even if I did, Iron Man 2 was not great. Christopher Nolan will not let us down, and yes, we will be able to understand Bane. So relax, we are in for a huge and fantastic movie. Warner Brothers will have another Batman cycle started up within a few years, and that will have a tough act to follow. Dark Knight made just over half a billion dollars domestically, in part due to the Heath Ledger factor. This film can only hope the people who went to that will want to see this as well. I don’t really see this hitting the same mark without that. More likely this one breaks the opening weekend mark on its way to somewhere just north of $400 million.

Dredd (September)

I hated the first try at Judge Dredd. So did everyone else that saw it. I loved Dredd growing up in the pages of 2000 AD and his own book from Eagle Comics, but the only thing that has me interested here is the fact that it looks like it will be REALLY dark and true to the comics. Karl Urban is an interesting choice to play the lead and I am excited. Unfortunately this film will die a quick death, not because it won’t be good, but because it will just not reach the audience and be seen by anyone not actively searching for it. I will be pleasantly surprised if this film hits $75 million.

G.I. JOE 2

Really, who cares? The first one was exactly what was expected. It was harmless fluff. A clown in an expensive suit. While this one looks like a more serious attempt at a good film, it still has more restrictions on it that any of the other films on this list. The toy company will be strict and want the most family friendly product they can put in theaters. While that does not guarantee a bad film, it does make it likely that this film will fail to hit the $100 million mark.

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Where do you buy YOUR comics?

There is and always has been a fair bit of debate about where to buy comics. Should you always get your fix only from your LCS (local comics shop) to support a market sector that could always use the help, or should you spread it around and help the entire industry as evenly as possible? Realistically, I don’t think there is much of a debate on this topic, at least not one worth the time. Any comic purchase is a good one. Any way that you can support the industry is better than nothing. The original way of getting your books is all but gone. Newsstand delivery has gone the way of the vinyl record and the telegraph. Up until the rise of the direct market, the huge majority of readers got their fix from the local newsstand/gas station/convenience store. These retailers got their product on a returnable basis, like most monthly mass market magazines. Anything that didn’t sell, they would rip off the cover and return for credit and throw away the rest of the book. This was an awful business model for most of its history. Publishers would just base print runs of a book on sales of earlier/similar titles and hope. It would not be until months later that they would discover the actual sales of a book. Seems laughable now, given the almost instantaneous info flow now, but this was the way of things back in the day. In the Golden Age the sales were so high on some books and the profit so great, that this was actually the most viable model. As soon as the sales started to drop and the profit margins began to shrink things started to get dicey. The retailers were confronted with a product that was not selling very well and was a lower profit per each square inch of rack space compared to regular magazines.  Publishers realized that the model was bleeding cash. They began to push home delivery subscriptions and for a while, that really helped. I recall getting my Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers in the mail covered in those stupid brown paper bag covers for a couple of years as my local newsstand was not bothering to carry them any longer. But that really only served to show more flaws in the model. A “good” selling book by the 1980’s would be in the range of 150 to 200 THOUSAND copies a month. This at the time was not taking into account the returnable books, but they really couldn’t at this point. A book on the bubble of cancellation was, at least at Marvel, selling 100k or lower. For most of the Claremont/Byrne run of X-Men, the book was always skirting that edge. That was one of the reasons they were allowed to get away with what they were doing. It was not until after Byrne left that the sales were up high enough to call the book a real hit. Hard to imagine now, but it’s true. Today if you include every form of distribution available, a book selling 40k plus is likely to be considered a reasonable hit.

The cancellation point for most books now is 20k or lower and some creator owned books, because of the payment structure to the folks doing them, manage to survive at around the 10 thousand copy mark. Once the publishers shifted to the Direct Market things looked bright, for a while. Then the flaw in that model started to show up. Comics were no longer available everywhere, and as a result, long term sales continued to slide as the casual reader either became a serious one or got out of the market entirely. Publishers were now able to print more accurate numbers of the titles thanks to a pre order system, but at the cost of total revenue. This showed they were really not doing very well as a business and things started to get worse.

Now with the Direct Market, Bookstores, comic shops and digital distribution, comics are limping along. 100k+ books like the DC relaunch are the exception rather than the rule. Digital books are higher profit for the publishers once they are able to amortize the infrastructure costs out, much like any other cost of doing business, and the retailers pay a higher percentage for what they buy. The books are also not returnable now, for the most part. Comic shops feel the pain and some are rebelling against digital distribution, but really they need to embrace it. Comics are a medium that is on the verge of failing if digital does not save it. The print model is expensive and wasteful. Any way you buy your books is good. You are making it viable for publishers to continue making the product we love (or love to hate).

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The continuity dustbin…

The new, if not improved Power Girl with Huntress

I find myself very surprised that there are still some negative reactions to the New 52. As expected, there were fans that left the books, using the newly coined phrase “52 jumping off points!”, but there are still people out on the web that are complaining 6 months on.
First of all, to those of you that complain for the “fun” of complaining: get over it. They are comics, and throughout the history of the medium, change has been constant. Not always consistent or in any way meaningful, but constant. More on that in a minute…
Next, find other books. If you are complaining and not reading, shut up until you know what you are talking about. Uninformed bitching is what the internet is all about, but this got old a while ago. If you don’t want to read them, don’t. Vote with your dollars. There are piles of worthy books out there. To those people that maybe were not all that thrilled, but gave the books a chance anyway, good for you. Even if you have since dropped all of them in disgust, you tried and that is all anyone can ask.
The people that have really gotten my goat are the ones with no memory, or at least very short memories. This is far from the first time a company has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and it will not be the last.
The biggie is of course, the original Crisis. This was not popular in its day with the long time fans, but once it was over, things really took off. Once the plan to clean up the continuity was made, nothing from the old era, mostly Golden Age stuff was safe. They gutted the mess that was DC history, getting rid of complete areas of the universe. Without the first crisis, many of the best things in the DCU would not work or just not exist. Batman: Year One, the Superman reboot by John Byrne and much of what is now very popular in Green Lantern would be gone. Many characters were given the boot, mostly Earth-2, but major Earth-1 one heroes like the Barry Allen Flash and Wonder Woman were killed off. Some of the origins were made worse and more of a mess, but for the most part, it made the books more believable. DC has done several of these since to correct, clean up or otherwise hammer things into shape for stories they wanted to tell or stories they wanted to simply go away. Victims of this include the Legion of Superheroes, rebooted a few times since then, and much of Superman’s back-story and supporting cast.
Many small events have lead to merging continuities such as Captain Marvel and the Charlton characters like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom becoming part of the DCU. Some characters have had to vanish for other reasons…
ROM and the Micronauts at Marvel disappeared when Marvel lost the licensing rights. Despite the decent popularity of both at the time, these once in canon books are mostly gone. They are only hinted at for the most part, although the Miconaut Bug managed to exist beyond the death of the series and has shown up in the Marvel cosmic books by DnA recently.
What changes like this boil down to is that they will continue to happen. The New 52 cleared up some sticky issues that have been hampering DC for a while. The biggie for most fans is Lois Lane. She is no longer married to Superman. Done. Bam. HA! Suck it! Never really liked that marriage. Then there is all the history. The result of doing the “everyone has been around 5 years” that most of the books have done, is that you can keep the stuff you want to keep, without nailing down exactly what those things are. Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle is still there, and that makes officially canon, The Killing Joke. All of the Robins are still around and can still be explored (it appears that Jason will have a very different origin though). Identity crisis appears to have been voided, which is a bummer as I quite liked it. This has all given the writers a chance to tell better stories, and isn’t that the whole point?
With the announcement that Power Girl and the Justice Society are coming back in some form with the release of World’s Finest and Earth-2, things are really shaping up and may eventually click together.
You should stick with them too. Or give books and characters you were less than thrilled with before a try. Maybe even the most cynical fan will find something to like.

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Must be something in the water.

The issue of creator’s rights has been a sacred subject for years.  Since the Siegel and Shuster fight in the 70’s, it has been a real issue for fans and creators alike.  Without getting specific about any one fight, it is clear that the issue is a tough one, and the farther away we get from the early battles, the more divisive it is.

Which is why I find it odd or maybe hypocritical that it does not get brought up much when it is creator vs. creator rather than creator vs. “Evil Corporation”.

There has been a lot of jerk-like behavior lately on the creative front.  Disputes of every kind have been cropping up.  Most like the above creator vs. “Evil Corporation” is Gary Friedrich vs. Marvel over the credit and money etc, involved in Ghost Rider.  Marvel has won both the original suit against then and their countersuit and now Friedrich is on the hook for $17,000 for money he made selling Ghost Rider prints.  Legally, Marvel is 100% in the right.  Based on what I have seen of this, it was the textbook definition of work for hire, and Marvel has every right to protect profits by preventing Friedrich from selling their prints.  (If they were original sketches by him or someone that gave him explicit permission to sell their work, this would be different).  But Marvel is just making an example of him, and being dicks in the process.  Friedrich can now no longer claim to be the creator of Ghost Rider for any kind of personal gain.  They didn’t even do that to Kirby!  With a movie coming out with the character, Marvel needs to back off if they want to save face, however since it is Disney, now really and truly protecting their house; they are likely to grind Friedrich into powder because they legally can.  They have ever legal right to do so.  But this is just piling on.

Then there is Static Shock from the New 52.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this book has not been great, so much of what has been said publicly may be pointing the blame for a failing and now cancelled book.  John Rozum was the writer that decided to leave, citing the old chestnut “creative differences”.  He claims he was being pushed aside for Scott McDaniel and the editor to have greater story input.  They in their turn have said that they were just trying to make the best book possible, and they thought everyone involved was on board.  I think the only real jerk here is DC editorial for bringing on a very talented writer, known for odd, introspective and intelligent work to write something completely out of his wheel house.  Not that he couldn’t have done it, just that they didn’t want that.  If what you want is a book with all the hallmarks of “X”, you hire “X” or the nearest available equivalent.  You don’t get Shane Black or Paul Verhoven to write a screenplay adapting Pride & Prejudice, so why expect Rozum to write this book when he clearly had a different direction in mind?

Next up  is Robert Kirkman.  He has gotten his fair share of bad press lately and is rapidly on his way to becoming the Dave Sim of the 2010’s.  First he had a very public break with Rob Liefeld over The Infinite.  With very little actually done on the series they have cancelled it because they cannot agree on what sounds like some pretty simple stuff.  Again, I think that one party (Kirkman in this case) just did not adequately express what he was really looking for.  If you bring a guy like Liefeld onto a book, you are going to get some pretty specific things.  Like him or hate him, Rob’s stuff is very distinctive and has a very specific style that cannot be confused with anyone else’s.  Sounds to me like someone who is a little too full of his own success and thinks that he is infallible.  Because he and Rob were more or less equal partners in the book, it is easier to kill the book than buy out one partner.

In what sounds more like 2 people that really need a time out, Tony Moore is suing Kirkman over payments he says he is owed for The Walking Dead.  I’m sure there IS money there, but at issue are the terms of the contract that was signed between the two of them.  Sounds like Kirkman feels he more or less bought Moore out and owes him no further money.  Moore for his part states that the deal was pushed on him and misrepresented. To be blunt, much of what I have seen and heard from Kirkman himself in video posts, about his view of things in general, leads me to believe that he is being the jerk here.  This is strictly my impression on this, and is just my opinion.

Many people look at the original Image revolt of Lee, Larsen, McFarland etc, was about creator’s rights.  I’m sorry, but that really is oversimplifying it.  They wanted THEIR rights.  As they felt they were being denied.  Were they correct?  Probably.  Were they interested in improving things for ALL creators?  As a secondary objective, yes.  Did other creators benefit from their actions?  Eventually, yes.  Who gained the greatest benefit?  They did.  But ascribing this noble goal and lofty visions of equality is not correct.  In much the same way that Kirkman, Moore and even Alex De Campi and Jimmy Broxton/James Hodgkins (if you have not heard about the Kickstarter hassle on this one—look into it.  It is fascinating) all want their own rights protected, they will, at times damage other creators to get them.  It is all a long way from Neal Adams fighting for Jerry and Joe with DC over Superman.  Was Neal 100% right and pure in his motives?  I cannot say.  Surely he knew if he won, things would be better down the road for him and others, but I really don’t think that was the main motive.  There was a wrong, and he wanted his voice heard.

All creators have rights.  The trick is to know when those rights begin to trample on the same rights of others.  Let’s all keep that in mind before we run screaming into the hills in outrage.  Neal Adams is a legend in the industry.  And all legends, like everyone else I have mentioned here, is human.  They are not perfect, and sometimes they make questionable choices that are in their own interests only.  Other times they make altruistic choices with no clear benefit to themselves.  Putting on the blinder called creator’s rights, just does not allow you to get deep enough into the issue.  Look closer.  Look seriously and without undue passion.  Sometimes these are legal issues only, and others they are moral issues of right and wrong.  It is sad that the right and wrong are rarely decided fairly, and often we need to “think” solely with our emotions for the right side to win.  Just remember that in creator vs. creator, there really ARE two sides.

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So Far, So Good…

It has been 6 months since the New 52 started.  Mostly, it has been a spectacular success.  With the first few title cancellations announced (predicted here and reviewed after the fact here), and the second wave announced, it feels very much like there is a plan.  There may not be, but DC is really making it look as thought out as anything I’ve seen in comics in a long time.

Seems like an eternity since everyone was terrified by this image.

The plan as stated at DC is that the books will be on time, even if it means that they will replace creators (in mid arc if needed) to keep things moving.  So far only one book has been late, a Justice League book got pushed back a week or so, and now that book will go to a fifth week release schedule and will have an art fill in for a couple of issues to allow Jim Lee some catch up time.  I cannot say I like this emphasis.  I want the books on time, but if I have to chose, I want consistently good stories over an on time schedule.  There have been several very public changes and moves, most were always going to happen.  George Perez was really only ever going to do the first arc on Superman, but David Finch was behind on the Dark Knight book before he even started, so he got help on the writing, which can only help the book.  Dark Knight was a vanity project from the start to utilize a popular, now exclusive creator, to the greatest benefit.  If the changes make for an on time book that is actually better as well, then great, but that remains to be seen.

As the second arcs begin on the titles there have been other changes, most notably is Travel Foreman leaving Animal Man to do Birds of Prey.  AM was a huge surprise hit and has been the poster child for the success of the New 52, so his departure from the art duties there, may sting a little, and to be honest, I cannot picture him on BoP.  That mix seems off somehow.  But he is a good artist, and things may improve over there, as Birds has been in the middle, and floating down if the sales figures I have seen are accurate.  And there are the other surprise hits, like Detective Comics.  Was any fan out there all that excited?  But it is one of the standouts.

Having read about half of the new books, the only complaint I have is that the reboot, did not reboot enough.  Some of these books are seamless continuations of the pre New 52 titles, like Green Lantern and some of the bat-books.  JLI is a direct, but kind of clunky transition from Generation Lost, etc.  Action Comics, Superman, the Dark books etc, are much more of a reboot/revamp and are almost all much better for it, but the lack of a line wide wipe of old continuity bothers me.  I am something of an “in for a penny, in for a pound” kind of guy.  Go big or go home.  Insert whatever clichéd phrase you want.  While I may not have liked everything that was changed, had they really thrown caution to the wind, I think the overall response from the people that actually read the books (instead of just complaining about them) would have been even more positive.

I am going to defiantly pick up 8 of the new trades/hardcovers, and am deciding on 3 or 4 others that may make the cut.  As a trade waiter, that will be the big test.  If they read well as complete stories, I’m convinced.  The low page counts make them a not very enjoyable read month to month, so this will be the final test for me.  But at this point, I’m still enjoying the biggest and most controversial thing to happen in comics in years.

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Review–Doom Patrol: We Who are About to Die & Brotherhood

Keith Giffen has always been a hard writer for me to pin down.  I was never all that familiar with Giffen the artist, but rather the writer.  I remember Ambush Bug and the fairly stupid scandal created by the similarities between the art in that book and the art of Jose Munoz.  It was a big deal then, which really damaged Giffen in the public eye for a while.  Now it would be just another entry in “swipe File” at Bleeding Cool.

My interest was always in the writing.  His approach was funny and irreverent, and yet he knew how to bring the serious.  His work on the series 52, in both story and breakdown art really helped bring that book some of the attention it deserved, and brought me deeper into the DCU than I had previously been.

With Doom Patrol, a series that he was born to write, there is everything that a fan would expect.  This book ignores the previous John Byrne series that itself ignored all previous continuity.  In doing so, it brings the series back to what long time fans of the book were hoping for in the characters they knew from “back in the day”.  (Nothing against the Byrne series.  I have not yet read it, as I don’t think it has been collected.  But it was a very divisive series when it came out)  My own knowledge of these characters was very limited before picking the books up, limited to appearances in other books as guests, so I was coming in fresh.  My limited interest in the Grant Morrison series, had actually made me pass this by originally as that take just didn’t do it for me.  I may have to give it another try later, but for these books; I had very little pre-formed opinion to slow me down.

Our heroes are Robotman, Negative Man and Elasti-woman(girl), along with Niles Caulder, the Professor X of the bunch and some newer supporting players.  The story pretty much jumps in as though no real intro is needed, and it really isn’t.  Everything you need to know gets put out there fairly early on.  The dynamics between the members of the group are harsh at times, but very much like a family.  These people are the X-Men’s dark mirror in a lot of ways, an approach that served the book well in the 60’s for quite a long time.  Here it is the defining trait of the story.  Any fights and “plot” are incidental to the interesting character interplay.  In fact, the story can even slow the flow of the books at times.  This is partly due to the Blackest Night crossover that really sucks the life out of book 1, but in other parts of these trades (covering the first 13 issues of the series-I am waiting on the last trade collection) the need to further the plot can derail the important part, the characters and the way they deal with each other.

The art is very strong, done mostly by Matthew Clark, the line is strong and fun, brining out all the subtlety needed in a book that always has to balance humor and pathos carefully.  Another artist would have overwhelmed the book too much, but Clark’s clean, but not too clean line, is perfect.

I look forward to the final book(s) to wrap up the series, which ran 22 issues before being cancelled, and hope that it does not get lost in the shuffle of trade collections that come from the New 52.  This a very solid book and a fun read.  While not Giffen’s best, it IS up there and well worth a look.

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