Wednesday, August 20, 2014 

Frank Miller interviewed about his career

Miller was interviewed by Playboy prior to the premiere of the new movie sequel for Sin City, and he's got some interesting stuff to tell them about his past and present work, including Holy Terror, and what he thinks of Superman too. Some of the more challenging topics come on the second page of queries, like the reception 300 got in Iran:
PLAYBOY: Through a spokesman, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the film “an insult” to Iran, as well as a “fabrication” and an act of “cultural and psychological warfare.” Do you consider it an accomplishment to have pissed off Ahmadinejad?

MILLER: I’m ready for my fatwa now. [laughs] I’m banned from Iran, but believe me, I’ve made much greater sacrifices. What I love is that I actually made the Iranian government change its historical policy toward Persia. It went from despising the empire of Persia to all of a sudden loving it, after 300. Persia had been a globe-spanning empire, then Muhammad came along and changed the mentality and rewrote all the histories. Iran’s days of empire are long gone, and they were just looking for something to get pissed off about.
Very courageous answer! And he's right about how Islam changed much of the middle east, save for Israel (and Armenia, which is more or less mideastern too), and Islamofascists like Iran's are always looking for excuses to turn into tantrum machines.
PLAYBOY: More recently you angered a lot of people with Holy Terror, your 2011 comic book about a superhero who fights Al Qaeda. In Wired, a writer called it “a screed against Islam,” and others accused you of depicting Islam as a violent religion. Do you stand by the book?

MILLER: Yes. Why not? I felt the response to 9/11 was tepid, if not disgusting. It’s almost as though they killed 3,000 of my neighbors and we spent the next bunch of years apologizing for it. Since superheroes have a tradition of fighting fascism, why not do it one more time? I don’t know where anyone got the idea it was anti-Islamic. I used, I believe, three Islamic words, which are common Al Qaeda usage. I didn’t feature their religious services. I happen to believe terrorism is a pungent evil, and I’m glad we’re fighting it. It’s incomprehensible to me that people apologize for it or pretend it never happened.

PLAYBOY: You described Holy Terror as “propaganda” in the tradition of Thomas Paine and predicted it would “offend just about everyone.” Has offending people been a goal in your career?

MILLER: I’ve been through periods when I wanted to spend my career annoying or offending people and other times when I wanted to inspire or spin a good yarn or draw a particular kind of car. I remember coming into the worlds of Marvel and DC and wanting to shake things up because they’d been the same way for so long. I wanted to be the bull in the china shop. And sometime in the 1970s along came Will Eisner with A Contract With God, which showed that comic books could have a shelf life and be read repeatedly, not just come out and disappear in time for next week’s cycle.
While his desire to be defiant in the face of tyrants is admirable, this got me to thinking about a downside: it's not always a good idea to anger people, depending on what the subject is, and if it's pissing off the Spider-Man and Green Lantern readerships, as Terry Kavanaugh, Ron Marz, J. Michael Straczynski and Dan Slott have done, that's where it's something very bad. So while I'm sure Miller's intentions of who to outrage were meant for all the right reasons, I think it's fair to argue that "pissing people off" does have a downside, and it pays to be careful not to take steps that can alienate people, as Marvel and DC have spent the last 20 years doing with superhero fans, for all the wrong reasons.

That aside, it's impressive he brings up Eisner, because, as noted earlier, Eisner's last graphic novel, The Plot, focused on Muslim anti-semitism, so I think it's safe to say that, whatever his opinions on the finished product, Eisner would support his old buddy Miller's idea on principle. Since we're on the subject, it makes me wonder what people like Slott might think of Eisner. I'm sure there's some people in comicdom today whose alleged admiration for Eisner turned to hatred and spite after they heard he was going to confront Islamofascism in his last days, and would probably denounce him as a "racist", and it wouldn't make any difference that he apologized long ago for his embarrassing renditions of Ebony White's character design in the original Spirit strips.

Miller also reveals something that happened in the mid-80s I wasn't aware of till now:
PLAYBOY: Early in your career the first thing you did to annoy people was to kill off Elektra, a beloved female ninja you created for the Daredevil comic. Did you have any hesitation about doing that?

MILLER: Sure. I had the jitters. There were death threats: “You killed the woman I love. I’m coming after you,” that sort of thing. I was worried for my girlfriend, so I went to the FBI, which explained that because the letters had been opened and had no postmarks or proofs of postage, they couldn’t be considered mail, so I was to take the threats and like it. But killing her was true to the character and true to the story. That’s all that matters.
Yikes. So Marv Wolfman and George Perez weren't the only ones who got a threat letter after the ending they wrote for the Judas Contract in New Teen Titans. And the worst part is that, at the time this happened, anti-stalking laws in the USA hadn't been properly drafted yet (it took at least until 1990 before that happened), otherwise, Miller could probably have gotten a case filed more easily and the authorities wouldn't have refused to help.

Despite what he says about Elektra Nachios, either he or another writer reversed her fate 4-5 years afterwards, so that's something he hasn't clarified fully here. (And how doesn't it occur to the interviewer that the real word for female ninja is "kunoichi"?)

He also has an interesting take on masculinity:
PLAYBOY: Your work is clearly influenced by film noir and pulp magazines. Do you prefer the older ideal of masculinity to the one you see represented in culture these days?

MILLER: I believe there has been a crisis of masculinity in modern times, and the 1940s-style gentleman needs to make a comeback—the sort of man who opens the door for women and compliments them and does things for them. I believe it’s a biological function of men, because we tend to be larger than women, to be protective of them. If I were to try to zero in, comic-book-like, on when masculinity went awry, I’d say it was when Rod Stewart sang, “You are my lover, you’re my best friend,” rather than allowing there to be two people in his life who served two very important functions.
I agree that, no matter how helpful it can be for women to learn self-defense and keeping their calm when faced with danger, honorable men who can defend an innocent lady in distress is an idea in serious need of improvement. Lastly, he has something to say about Superman:
PLAYBOY: A lot of Dark Knight readers think you love Batman and hate Superman. Any truth to that?

MILLER: The Dark Knight series is all from Batman’s point of view. But if you look at Dark Knight 2, you’ll see a Superman who’s much calmer than the one in the first Dark Knight. Batman and Superman are dead opposites. I love Superman. Do I love Batman more? They’re not people. They’re only lines on paper.
Rest assured, I don't think he dislikes the Man of Steel (or even Wonder Woman, though he had a very questionable take on her in his All-Star Batman book), though it's worth arguing guys like him should have tried writing Superman's solo tales more often, and using an optimistic POV more often too. But if he's acknowledging that the World's Finest are only fictional characters, that's good, because it shows he's one writer who recognizes why it makes no sense to think of fictional characters as though they're real people we bump into on the streets. Even today, there's still people out there who haven't grown up and understood the differences, which has only resulted in a lot of bizarre hatred for fictional people instead of criticizing the writers/editors for any faults they see in how the characters are depicted.

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Several comic writers see only what they want in Ferguson riots

For the past week or so, there's been a race riot in Ferguson, Missouri, started when a police officer shot a robber at a store. But some comic book writers don't want to see all the facts, or prefer to rely on leftist sources for their info. Let's start with Sam Humphries, who's written some of the X-Men stories of recent:

He relies on a would-be reporter who's either not telling everything, or denies that at least 12 eyewitnesses were found by a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter telling that suspect Mike Brown "bum-rushed" the officer Darren Wilson, and caused him a serious eye injury. According to this additional news (also via Gateway Pundit):
The officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri was injured in the alleged altercation, according to Ferguson Chief of Police Tom Jackson.

Jackson, who spoke on the phone with News 4′s Laura Hettiger Wednesday morning, said the officer “was hit” and the “side of his face was swollen.” The chief did not say if the officer suffered any broken bones.
And the whole "hands up" story initially reported has also come unglued. Humphries and the following are also disinterested in how the supposedly "peaceful" protestors also threw molotov cocktails and urine containers at the police, and the Post-Dispatch has suspended/fired the reporter who did what they asked and spoke to witnesses (H/T: Front Page Magazine). Nor do they seem particularly interested in CAIR/Hamas involvement in the riots, nor that of ISIS. Some of the rioters didn't even come from the city.

Now, here's some of the other so-called pros besides Humphries:


If that's what he thinks, how come he hasn't posted the same data Jim Hoft and Pamela Geller did? No wonder Slott is an equivalent of J. Jonah Jameson.

If the MSM were honest, they wouldn't suppress the whole story. What, is Waid suggesting St. Louis is a police state?

What about media accountability? Does Waid really think J. Jonah Jameson's MO is justified?

Wow, he relies on that crappy site to deliver the facts? I knew it, Waid has sold out to J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow's angle.

And that's because Marz has no wish to do so. Otherwise, he would've reported what Jim Hoft did, along with this latest news that officer Wilson is afraid to go out of his house, and the MSM hasn't made his situation any better. Curiously enough, he does take issue with a CNN contributor:

Sometimes, I have noticed him being critical of CNN, which is odd, since you'd think they're a news company he agrees with, and he does seem like the kind of man who thinks J. Jonah Jameson's tactics are fine.

Seriously? This is just what race hustlers like Al Sharpton do want people to think, ditto the MSM that intially concealed some of the facts, yet Simone acts like that didn't happen. Nor does she seem particularly worried about the publicity seekers exploiting this travesty for their own agendas.

Let's also add some tweets by a CBR reporter:


What would he say if a CNN or NBC reporter did what he's accusing Hannity of? I'm not saying Hannity can't do wrong, but based on the info I found, it's hardly what Phegley's saying it is. He may claim to side with the direction of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but in reality, he takes that of J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow.

Such irresponsible writers/reporters are doing no favors for comicdom. I hesitate to think what plans Waid might have to inject a metaphor for this case into Daredevil, if he's still writing it, much like he did with the Zimmerman/Martin case the other year.

Update: here's a few more from other leftist comic writers:


I guess that means the original riots in Tahrir square really were for the sake of "freedom", one that saw CBS reporter Lara Logan fall victim to pure horror along with the brief rise of one tyrant called Mohammed Morsi. Thank goodness he didn't last long in his undeserved role.


Mainstream press propagandists make hard jobs ever more so. What's his point?



Sigh. What does he expect when scores of hooligans turn up with no interests other than wanton destruction and looting?

What about newspaper editors who take their anger out on employees who did what they were asked? Conway wrote Spider-Man at two points in his career between 1968-93, and you'd think he'd know what he was talking about. Does that mean today he sides with J. Jonah Jameson?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014 

What makes Marvel and DC's movie production different

Wall Street Cheat Sheet wrote about Marvel and DC's movie business and the differences between them. At the beginning, however, they start off with:
Since the 1930s, Marvel and DC Comics have had a friendly rivalry, stemming from the comic book pages and now transcending onto the big screen.
A friendly one? As any expert can tell you, their relations over the years have been anything but. In fact, Marvel may have begun it in their Timely days back in the Golden Age, after management let Jack Kirby and Joe Simon go because they wanted to make a shift over to DC. It got worse over time, as DC's management reciprocated with some of their own dislike. Later on, they did reconcile in the late 70s-early 80s, leading to some joint projects like a special co-starring Superman and Spider-Man, and in 1984, Warner Brothers almost did license DC for Marvel to manage. But come this century, Bill Jemas knocked any warm relations back decades when he got the big, bright idea to launch nasty, one dimensional attacks on DC, insulting them as "AOL Comics", as though being owned by a conglomerate in itself is wrong, when even before the buyout by Disney, Marvel was under consideration for a purchase by Sony Corp. Yet DC's own staffers like Paul Levitz did little to prove they were better than Jemas and Quesada, as they fully approved of their own publicity stunts, done with very much the same MO as Marvel used for theirs. So once again, we have a situation where the two companies fell apart and are now competing to see who can produce the worst denigration of their own properties, and don't give a damn if they're alienating their audiences with stunts, or even their leftist politics.

But, they do note the curious differences in the movie adaptations:
In DC Universe films, superheroes such as Batman and Superman seem to carry all the weight of humanity on their shoulders — and they broodingly act out that way. Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman is the darkest superhero adaptation on screen. Batman goes through whatever dubious means to catch a villain such as the Joker; audiences have also noted the political undertones in the reboot trilogy.

Marvel films tend to take on a lighter note. The heroes are ultimately virtuous and shining rays of hope — even with wild playboy-types like Iron Man and Star-Lord. Both characters often lighten the mood, joking around in the midst of action. Even Captain America, who isn’t exactly a Marvel class-clown, is never ruthless in his quest for justice. Batman or Superman? Not so much.
As surprising as it is the Marvel movies don't take the bleak vision their current comics output does, it does show how DC is blowing it by contrast with Superman, if they can't portray him with a more optimistic vision. This dark approach looks like it's going to be the setup for Batman vs. Superman too, and with the Man of Steel's second billing in the title, it probably isn't so surprising. No wonder some people aren't upbeat about the film's chances.

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Monday, August 18, 2014 

"Events" have morphed into major disappointments and crutches

A writer for IGN's admitting that crossovers, once seen as a fun pastime, have transformed into one of the worst ideas that could happen to superhero stories, but is still intent on apologizing for bad ideas and the people who wrote them:
The phrase "event comic" has practically become a four letter word for many comic book readers these days. On the surface, events seem like a great concept. The whole point is that a publisher gathers its greatest and best-selling writers and artists and allows them to tell a big superhero epic on a scale grander than usual. The creators tend to have more freedom to make big, sweeping changes to characters and the world around them, resulting in a major new status quo for the universe in question. The comic gets big hype, sells well, and everyone's happy.

Except that last part seems to happen more and more rarely. Plenty of readers complain about event fatigue. Some make a point of skipping events entirely and dropping books that happen to tie in with those stories. And while events tend to be among the best-selling comics of any given year, recent events haven't made the sales splash books like Civil War and Infinite Crisis did a decade ago. More and more, the consensus is that event comics aren't living up to the hype. Why is that? And why is it that writers who routinely deliver some of the best, most exciting superhero adventures on their monthly titles often fail to meet that standard when they tackle these event comics? Why is the ongoing Ultimate Spider-Man comic always so good, but last year's Cataclysm event wasn't? Why can't Original Sin impress the same way Jason Aaron's work on Wolverine and the X-Men or Thor: God of Thunder does?
Oh come on, the Ultimate line "good" with terrible writers like Brian Bendis and Mark Millar behind the wheel? Even that's fallen off the radar nearly a decade ago, and doesn't sell as big as it used to. On the plus side, at least it does make a better place for "diversity" if that's really so important, but as seen lately even the 616 universe is starting to fall victim to the diversity mishmash.

The part about creative freedom is also pretty awkward. Even back when Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths were originally published, I doubt all the writers had the freedom they wanted. I think a few even left because of that. DC may have suffered worse because they thought a crossover was the only way they could make all the changes needed, when Marvel, by contrast, usually did this individually, title by title. Since 2004, that's clearly no longer the case and crossovers like House of M could be used to make changes that help no one.

And the writer's blowing it if he's calling Civil War and Infinite Crisis a success, even in sales receipts, because, despite all the hype, they didn't sell in the millions, and were just another nail in the coffin of decent storytelling that isn't rife with political intrusions. Plus, what's so great about Aaron's work when he too is operating according to Quesada's visions?
[...] one of the most obvious problems with event comics right now - there are too many of them. It was one thing when they only came around once in a while. Event comics were still a novelty in the days of Infinite Crisis and House of M. They were something to get excited about and look forward to for several months. But as commonplace as events are, there's no chance to build up any sort of anticipation. They're not special anymore. Nor is there adequate opportunity for writers to explore the ramifications of events. That was a problem even when Marvel followed an annual cycle. Writers would craft one storyline where their respective books dealt with the fallout of an event, and then their next storyline would already be setting the stage for the next. That's a pattern Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers books and Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's cosmic books followed for years. But now that Marvel publishes at least two line-wide, universe-spanning events a year, the problem is only compounded. There will only be a matter of weeks in between the conclusion of Original Sin and the start of AXIS.
Is that a joke? Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths were "events" two decades before Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled became catalysts for "events" of the worst kind.
Editorial interference also seems to be an issue. It's a massive undertaking to plan a crossover that links the Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and other franchises into one big story. [...]
At least here, they're admitting the obvious, but not quite: many of these crossovers are editorially mandated and planned by the senior editors, giving one or more writers a plan they want them to develop under their pseudo-guidance. Take the death of Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis (and later Elongated Man in 52), for example, the death of Spoiler in War Games, the deaths of civilians in Civil War and the current death of the Watcher in Original Sin. All those are deaths mandated by the editors in charge, whether they'll admit it or not. So too are the villifications of Jean Loring in Identity Crisis, Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Disassembled, and same applies to One More Day in Spider-Man: editorial mandates. How doesn't the IGN writer get that? Yet that could explain why, on the next page of this 2-paged article, he delivers a real groaner:
One of the reasons I suspect Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison have more success than many writers in handling event storylines (Johns with The Sinestro Corps War and Forever Evil, and Morrison with Final Crisis) is that they tend to have a larger degree of freedom. In Johns' case, he's DC's Chief Creative Officer. He's one of the primary people responsible for shaping the direction of the DCU in the first place. And Morrison is pretty much on his own wavelength as a creator. DC seems content to let him do his thing and sort of plan around it after the fact. I don't think it would be the worst thing for Marvel and DC to try that approach more often with these projects.
Sigh. Missing the point again. Johns and Morrison are on a list of writers who've gained the main editors' favoratism, just like Brian Bendis, because their grimy visions are just what Quesada and DiDio are looking for - storytelling laced with bleakness and shock tactics, aimed at a limited audience. Worst, Johns and Quesada have something in common: they both hold a position at DC and Marvel called "chief creative officers". Is it any wonder the former has such bad influence while the latter's can still be felt behind the scenes?
There's also the problem that event comics don't surprise us like they used to. Every major story development is spoiled ahead of time. It was hard enough reading Civil War and learning about Spider-Man's public unmasking or Captain America's assassination by actually reading the stories and not having it spoiled on release day by CNN or NPR. But now these plot twists are being revealed days, weeks, and even months ahead of time. We learned about the Inhumanity storyline long before its genesis in Jonathan Hickman's Infinity last year. We were told that Age of Ultron #10 would introduce Angela into the Marvel Universe long before that issue shipped. Not that you can entirely blame Marvel and DC for this behavior. The Internet makes it extremely difficult to keep secrets. [...]
Maybe they shouldn't be keeping secrets. They certainly shouldn't touting deaths of both major and minor characters as if it were something absolutely wonderful, nor should they be so adamant about keeping badly conceived deaths in place. And they shouldn't be hyping divisive stories like a gay wedding for Northstar, if that's one of the "surprises" the IGN staffer speaks of.
But I think the most fundamental flaw with how event comics are handled these days is their awkward story structure. Civil War in particular established a format where the core event mini-series sets up a loose sort of story framework. The big developments and action-oriented set pieces will happen in the main event, but all of the character development and back-story unfold in various tie-in books and ancillary series. And all too often, the end result is that you have an event with big action but hollow storytelling. All the humanity and character growth is unfolding somewhere else. The Civil War reading experience is greatly diminished without the benefit of Civil War: Front Line and Amazing Spider-Man to flesh out key events. Secret Invasion suffers without the character-first focus of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers. And as much as I enjoyed Final Crisis, its final issue makes little sense without the accompanying Superman Beyond mini-series to provide necessary context. It's as if these stories are being run through a centrifuge.
Still missing the point. Those ongoing series tying into Civil War aren't hindering the hub, it's the hub that's hindering them. The writers are expected to come up with ideas that connect to the hub, yet the end results don't make any sense because these aren't ideas being developed on their own. As mentioned before, in the old days, Marvel usually wrote retcons as stand-alone stories, whereas DC often made the mistake of depending largely on crossovers to justify the retcons, which was ridiculous - Swamp Thing's retconning the plant beast into a separate entity from Alec Holland was done on its own a year before Crisis, and it worked well. Why did DC have to base much of their other retcons on what a miniseries sets up? Let's also remember that, as needless as the first Secret Wars was (and definitely the second, which got a worse reception than the first), it wasn't promoted on the pretense that heroes and co-stars would die spectacular deaths and nothing would be the same again. It was just about the superheroes matching wits with a seemingly all-powerful being called the Beyonder.

Nevertheless, it did have a bad impact on individual storytelling, since some writers were required to make room in the series they wrote for at least one issue telling a tale connected to Secret Wars, and it didn't always seem necessary or essential. What did it add to the stories in the ongoings? Practically nothing. Crisis gets an even colder reception by some because it did away with many parallel dimensions and wasn't necessary if they needed to make changes and updates. And Peter David, at the time he was more talented, quit writing X-Factor because the editors forced him to put some stories on hold for the sake of the crossovers.

And the writer's blowing it when he says that, despite all the embarrassments that have been pretty obvious for years now, he still enjoyed Civil War and Final Crisis. Why can't he understand those contrived crossovers are just the problem with modern superhero tales? Sure, on the surface it might seem like a great idea, but that still depends how you handle it. Maybe if everybody were whisked off to a faraway planet by a warlord who wants to toss them into a mind-numbing game of wits, it would be worthwhile, but it'd work much better if that idea were all done in a stand-alone miniseries or OGN, and not as something that has to be put on display in an ongoing monthly to boot.
[...] Marvel and DC need to focus more on delivering events that tell cohesive, well-rounded stories in and of themselves, tie-ins not required. That was one of the strengths of Forever Evil. And despite my problems with Original Sin, that's been one of its strengths too. Original Sin introduced a concept that can apply to any number of Marvel characters in any number of tie-in comics. [...]
This argument almost works, but here too, he fails to recognize that Forever Evil is a product of a bad idea: political correctness and the obsession with touting the villains as the people to root for. Worst, they're not coherent, nor are they very inspiring. Why must we be told that Tony Stark has some guilt to harbor in Bruce Banner's acquiring an alter ego? That in itself is distorting continuity, something the worst DC crossovers are guilty of too, especially when the characterization is inconsistent with past efforts.
I think both publishers would do well to reexamine how they structure these projects and not rely on the traditional "one core mini-series plus several spinoff mini-series plus several tie-in storylines in ongoing series" so much. Marvel's Age of Apocalypse event had a great structure that I think could work well for other storylines. [...]
While the former note is something I can agree with - they need to stop publishing all these hubs connecting to spokes in a wheel - I fully disagree with the latter part: Age of Apocalypse from the mid-90s was one of the weakest from its time; just a measly excuse to show what the world would be like if Magneto were leading the X-Men, since Legion altered history, with just Bishop to save the day. And some structure it had: the X-books were affected, with Excalibur momentarily renamed "Excalibre" and Generation X changed to Generation Next! Seriously, who needs it?
Above all, there needs to be less event comics overall if these projects are going to regain their dwindling appeal. Like I said, events just aren't special anymore because there's always another one coming right on the heels of the first. It becomes a grind for readers to navigate and for creators to produce.
I can agree with this, since the crossovers were very unfair to many writers who wanted creative freedom to tell a self-contained tale without crossover interruptions. But he screws up when he says:
Writers like Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman, Geoff Johns and Charles Soule are perfectly capable of telling epic, creative, event-worthy stories each and every month in their respective ongoing titles.
It's regrettable he keeps falling back on apologies for any of those writers, since Johns is particularly one of the worst writers foisted on the readership, and nobody should be fooled into reading his dreck.
Events are sometimes a necessary evil. They still sell pretty well, and they can be used to prop up the sales of flagging books. Without annual event storylines like War of Kings and The Thanos Imperative to draw more attention to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's cosmic saga, would that saga have lasted as long as it did? And events can be fun when they're used in moderation. But there's been little moderation involved when it comes to Marvel and DC's output lately. [...]
"Sometimes"? It depends. If the Spider-marriage was an event back in 1987, I can agree that was one well worth the efforts. But much of today's are awful and the editorial mandates are almost tangible. But using them as a last resort for boosting sales on floundering books is a superficial way to make bank, and cannot substitute for good advertising and promotion based on how good the writer's efforts are.
[...] There's no story creators can tell in an event comic that can't be done equally well in a normal comic. And as much as they might provide a sales boost to Marvel and DC, these publishers should be seeking more long-term and forward-thinking ways of driving up sales.

Maybe the best thing that can happen is for the phrase "event comic" to disappear from our lexicon entirely. Once publishers get into that mentality, problems invariably ensue. Simply tell good stories in a clean, accessible format, and readers will come.
Oh, I can agree with the above in principle, but when you've got such pretentious, otherwise untalented writers and editors minding the store today, it's impossible to expect a convincing withdrawal from events, and you cannot expect good storytelling either. The only way long-term ideals can be reached successfully is for the main editors and publishers to be replaced with people who aren't as cynical and filled with contempt as DiDio and Quesada are. That's the why the writer's real argument should be why the publishers and their conglomerate owners should be replacing their leaderships and seeking contributors with more rationale, respect for past continuities and characterizations, and a desire to appeal to wider audiences looking for decent escapism that isn't laced with blatant political tones.

Or, better still, license the publishing arms to people with better visions, or sell them to the same entirely. That's something that almost happened with DC in 1984, when WB offered to license them to Marvel for oversight, but never went through. With the current situation, it could be the right time after all.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014 

Reader on Twitter scans old letter written by Geoff Johns

One where he seemed quite enthused by a story with jarring violence:

It was published in issue 48 vol. 2 in reply to 44, and what's really head-shaking is when he talks about reality leading to gloom and seriousness, yet that's what he ended up doing himself, most notably at the time his tie-ins to Identity Crisis were published. He certainly knows how to be alienating and write repellently, that's for sure. And while the Flash did have a sense of humor at one time, Johns threw it away.

And being so obsessed with alleged nostalgia, he went and realized his vision for the Reverse-Flash to return in the worst ways possible. It makes no difference if the fate of Wally and Linda's children was reversed by the end of that storyline; the audience had to endure such irritating violence before getting to that, and the whole story premise was something that did not need to be done in the first place. Nor was Johns helping with his subsequent retcon to Barry's background and Rogues Revenge, which only resurrected a problem he pretended to get rid of.

Johns also gave an interview to CBR about Superman, where they discuss how he's supposedly bringing some optimism back to the Man of Steel, but knowing his MO, it's apparent they're not telling the whole story, and I won't be surprised if he does pull something we could do without. He says at the end:
...a human Superman, which is what we've always talked about. Everyone's like, "He's so powerful, I can't relate to him." Are you kidding me? He's the most relatable character ever. He grew up on a farm, he doesn't have a lot of friends, feels isolated, he can't tell everybody what his secrets are. He's a great character. He feels overlooked -- who hasn't felt overlooked, or wanted to connect with people? All social media is, is people wanting to connect with other people. That's all it is. Because people long to connect with other people. And Superman is the embodiment of that. He's more relevant now than ever.
Not with Johns writing him, I'm afraid. Louise Simonson made a far better Superman writer than Johns does. And I don't take the cynical view he speaks of, dismissing Supes simply because he's supposedly too powerful. My view is based on how entertaining the script is, and in Johns' case, it's basically zero.

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Friday, August 15, 2014 

Another exaggeration of monetary value

CNBC's published the gazallionth claim that old comics collections could be a gold mine:
If you have a collection of old comic books in your basement, it might be time to dig them out.

Several recent big-ticket sales bolster the belief among several analysts that collectible comics are becoming a viable alternative investment for some people. [...]
Even "collectible" comics aren't proving very lucrative, and anyone looking to make money off of Rob Liefeld products would have to be out of their minds. As earlier reports I found prove, some of these collections that weren't done for the entertainment value have proven far less valuble than expected.
The market for rare comics is growing partially thanks to Hollywood, said Vincent Zurzolo, COO of Metropolis Collectibles and a 27-year veteran of the business.
But only the rarities, not the modern output, and if the stories are terrible, then owning those could be extremely embarrassing.
"I think the advent of the movies, I think the increased visibility of comic book prices, the realized prices at marketplace, have really helped to galvanize customers, bidders, people looking for alternative investments to find comic books," said Zurzolo, who is getting ready to sell early issues of Batman owned by creator Bob Kane.

The economic recession in 2008 is another factor, Zurzolo said.

"After the stock market was extremely volatile, the real estate market was extremely volatile. So people were looking for tangible assets to put their money into. And what did they see? They saw all these superhero movies coming out. And they said 'wow, maybe I can invest in the stuff I loved from when I was a kid,'" said Zurzolo, who owns Comicconnnect.com, which sold [Nicholas] Cage's record-breaking comic book.
If the stock market and real estate could end up volatile, why couldn't the comics become the same? Even plastic toys can turn out that way. Why not invest in agriculture? That's not something that could use a little bit of help from everybody?

However, they do say towards the end:
Experts warn that not all comics are good investments, so how can you tell if yours is collectible? The key is rare issues, preferably that feature the debut of celebrated characters or key plot twists, said Zurzulo.

And the older, the better. The 1930s and '40s are the golden age of comics, and those are some of the most-prized titles.
Well doesn't that prove why comics aren't a good investment, because only the Golden Age products are rarities as pamphlets? Beyond that, very few have as much worth, and what if one day, the Golden Age pamphlets turn out to be a bad investment too? As for "key plots", I think it's a safe bet One More Day in Spider-Man will never be regarded as a valuble one.
So if you're looking to buy comics as an investment, you should "collect what you like, figure out what your budget is and talk to an expert," Zurzolo said.
I think some people who believe this should talk to a psychologist. They feed the MSM's selective interests in the medium, which is either covered for publicity stunts involving meaningless character deaths or the speculator market that should've been put to rest in the 90s, but has sprung up again in an era when movie adaptations are being made, while storytelling quality is never an issue.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014 

Monthly sales are still sugarcoated

The Christian Science Monitor is doing sugary takes on comics sales while talking about the ostensible success of a new book starring Rocket Racoon:
...in the weeks before the release of "Guardians of the Galaxy," the hype surrounding the movie propelled the anthropomorphic raccoon superhero into history, with "Rocket Raccoon #1" topping sales charts in what has been estimated to be the most profitable month in comic book history.
Two decades ago, they would've said the same thing about the release of the sans-adjective X-Men series, which saw many premiere issues gathering dust in cardboard boxes after not selling to many people at all. How is this any different?
According to The Beat, July's profits beat previously held records to become what may have been the most profitable month in comic book history, at least according to monthly records recorded since 1997. Customers bought comics in some form or another worth a total of $53.63 million this July, beating October 2013's record by more than $3 million.
Are they aware that cover prices are getting pretty high at 4-plus dollars, and if it keeps on that way, there won't be much point calling the next decades "profitable"? Nah, guess that doesn't mean anything to them. What makes this year's profits any more signifcant than sales in the 1960s, when far more copies were sold?
Last year, sales of comics and graphic novels generated $870 million, according to Publisher's Weekly, the largest amount for the industry since 1993. And the profits show no signs of dropping anytime soon.
Maybe not for smaller companies. But the larger ones are selling poor numbers and come to think of it, the smaller ones aren't faring much better, which doesn't guarantee long term profit. Indeed, after premiering with maybe 30,000 copies sold for their revived series, the new Valiant's output has dropped to very unimpressive numbers on the sales charts. No matter how good the books from smaller companies are now in terms of storytelling, the sad reality is that they're not selling in the millions that would make them more noteworthy.
With millions going to see movies like "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight," and "Iron Man," interest in comics has steadily increased over the past several years. The success of "Rocket Raccoon #1," for instance, owes a great deal to the hype for Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."

With blockbuster after blockbuster making superheroes an increasingly mainstream part of pop culture, comic book stores are seeing more and more interest from newcomers in increasingly obscure characters.
Yep, they're making superheroes part of pop culture...except for the comics they began in. Nobody cares about books with bad writing and publicity stunt/collector's mentality written all over them, and those books won't be worth diddly in the next several decades.
“The 300th book [on bestseller lists] used to sell 1,000 comics, now it sells 5,000 copies,” says Milton Griepp, an expert on sales in the comic books industry, according to Publishers Weekly.
But 5000 is still very pathetic compared to movie sales, and what if it turns out Griepp's not being entirely honest here? What if sales were a bit better in the late 90s than today? Some of the sales they're citing here come from smaller publishers, and the mainstream certainly aren't doing much to prove they want an audience anymore. A few decades ago, the 300th book on the listings could surely sell 20,000 and they act like this paltry sum is noteworthy? Please.
Comic book publishers have realized the potential profits a growing base of readers has to offer.

"It's very important that we honor our tradition and, in doing so, our long-term fans, but also have an eye on the future to make sure we are always up with the times," said Axel Alonso, editor in chief of Marvel Comics, according to CBS.
Yeah, let's take Alonso seriously, why don't we. The man who was number two after Joe Quesada in wiping out the Spider-marriage is not someone to trust. And Quesada's still lurking in the background as their "chief creative officer", so it's clear why this sad affair is still continuing. Nor are they keeping up with the times if they still view conservatives as evil, think Islamic terrorism doesn't exist and regard heterosexual marriage as a plague. And their disrespectful view of Spider-Man et al is just why they're not honoring long time fans nor appealing to new ones. And how can they be honoring tradition if they blur the differences between good and evil?
"The thing about digital comics is that they are super portable, so you kind of always have access to your library," said Jim Lee, DC Comics co-publisher, according to CBS. "But there's something very charming about the print books themselves and ... people collect them."
Hmm, look who's being elusive! He's not being clear whether they collect for reading or monetary value. But since he began his career at a time when the speculator market brought down the medium, that's why I wouldn't be surprised if he still cherishes the latter.
With movie blockbusters, rising sales, and the embrace of the latest technology, the future has never looked brighter for the comic book industry.
Yes, keep being naive about it please. Not all these movies have been blockbusters. In DC's case, the Jonah Hex and Green Lantern movies were failures, and not many people are optimistic about Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even the Spider-Man films are running out of steam, and may eventually lose popularity altogether. Sure, some of these films do look to be successful. But to think they all will end up that way is being overconfident, and the company wide crossovers, another detail overlooked by the paper, only ensure those allegedly jumping sales will sink down again.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014 

Forbes says Gwen Stacy's death in 2nd Spidey movie is self-defeating

Something I'd wanted to bring up earlier, but only now was able to remember and work on. An entertainment writer for Forbes was disappointed with the second Spider-Man reboot movie, which featured a new take on the Green Goblin to boot, and unhappy they chose to kill off Gwen Stacy:
The good news is that no one cheered. I’ve written before of my concern that the inevitable death of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (from the Sony Corporation) would bring cheers from the audience, as hardcore fans would applaud the somewhat iconic story turn. They didn’t cheer. Even with painfully obvious foreshadowing starting with Emma Stone’s “I could die at any moment!” high school graduation speech, it stands to reason that the vast majority of general audience members who saw the film this weekend were actually surprised when Spider-Man tried but failed to save his girlfriend from said death plunge inside a clock tower. But in terms of killing off Peter Parker’s girlfriend to mimic a story that was groundbreaking 41 years ago, Marc Webb, Emma Stone, and company spent so much time being excited that they could that they didn’t stop to wonder whether they should.
I'm glad to know nobody in the auditorium celebrated. Because no matter how well written the death in the original story or the movie's take on it is, it's not something wonderful to party about, though as recent publicity stunts in the comics world suggest, there are some out there who think it is.

And honestly, thinking how they decided to go this route in the film, I'm disappointed. Just because Gwen was killed off in the comics doesn't mean it has to be that way in other mediums too. IIRC, when Brian Bendis was writing Ultimate Spider-Man, it initially looked like it would feature a different take on Gwen, but subsequently followed the path taken by Gerry Conway and closed the curtains on Ultimate Gwen to boot.
...the adherence to comics dogma opens up a gigantic can of worms for upcoming Amazing Spider-Man films, harming the would-be appeal of future installments by turning its most popular character into a “woman in refrigerator.”

The phrase “woman in refrigerator”, coined by future comic book writer Gail Simone 1999, referred to the tendency of comic books to do harm upon the girlfriends, wives, or female siblings of a male hero for the sole purpose of making the hero feel bad and/or seek vengeance. It was named after an incident in a 1994 Green Lantern comic where Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend was murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator. It soon became the de-facto phrase for the pattern in comic books by which the female supporting character in a male-centric title would be raped, murdered, assaulted and/or de-powered so that the male here could “have a sad.” And that’s really all the death of Ms. Stacy is for this second Spider-Man film. Emma Stone gave us a rather amusing and engaging female character, the filmmakers did their best to sell the notion that she was her own character with her own agency, then she got chucked down a clock tower so that Peter could feel bad.
It's good he brings up this sad case that's still prevalent today, even in movies and TV. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, Simone all but threw away any point she was trying to make simply by going along with DC's plans, even if it meant her efforts on Birds of Prey would be destroyed. Identity Crisis wasn't just difficult to ignore since the staff deliberately used it to affect the whole DCU, it also rubbed off on BoP's own cast, making them look ridiculous and less credible as crimefighters.
There is a reason why Han Solo didn’t stay frozen in Return of the Jedi,why Jack Sparrow eventually came back in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, or why Optimus Prime didn’t stay dead in Revenge of the Fallen. You don’t make a sequel by taking away the very thing the audience came to see. And this film was all about setting up future sequels. With Gwen now deceased, the third film will find a new replacement girlfriend for Peter (because nothing takes the mind off your murdered ex like bumping into your hot red head neighbor who calls you “tiger”) and/or put even more emphasis on its villains, which is the one thing most everybody agreed was most problematic. Few moviegoers walking out of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were excited about the prospect of seeing more of the Green Goblin, more of the Rhino, a resurrection for Electro and/or a return of the Lizard.
Even before movie Gwen's death became a fact, I couldn't be bothered to care about this franchise reboot, because it felt very retread, and I already long knew the story of Spidey's origin, so seeing it take place yet again, a decade after the first major movie, was only tedious this time around. Who cares if they went with mechanical webshooters this time? The thrills were gone. They might reintroduce Mary Jane Watson, but after the awful treatment she's undergone back in the comics for the past 6 years, it's hard to care how she'll be portrayed in a rebooted film franchise either.
The fact that Amazing Spider-Man 2 made $369 million in 19 days of worldwide play with no buzz shows how potent the Spider-Man character still is. But Sony and company just played their trump card, offering the iconic “death of Gwen Stacy” scene that many hardcore fans were waiting for ever since the character was announced. [...]
Not so fast. Even if the original death of Gwen was done well, I wasn't hoping she'd bite the bullet in the movie. If they hadn't gone that route, it might've been possible to take a direction that could make us care about her as movie material. But they went the obvious path, and only compounded the perception they don't have the guts to try giving Gwen a better role than just a girlfriend doomed to die.
And on a cultural level, millions of young audience members, male and female alike, just got a profound lesson on the value of female human life in pop-culture entertainment. You can talk all you want creating “strong”, “independent”, female characters who are “strong role models” for young girls in otherwise male-centric entertainments, but if the plot negates those qualities by turning her into a victim, taking away her agency, and/or punishing her for those very qualities, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. [...]
Sadly, this may not be so new in movies any more than it is in comics. And if that's all they can do, I think this is just why it's time to put Spider-Man as a movie franchise to bed.

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A clue to Scott Snyder's political positions

A couple days ago, he revealed what Marvel series he's reading:

Well at least we know where he could stand on the political spectrum, along with Islam, and the kind of company he likes to keep. And this was the same writer who made that sleazy boast about how far he'd take the Joker. What a disgrace. Upholding a book with a dishonest view on the Religion of Peace doesn't help one bit.

And that's not the only thing Snyder's doing that alarms me. Take a look at this picture taken of him at one of the recent conventions:

He - and the other guy with him - has a very crude sense of humor too. This is another example of what's wrong with comicdom and its representatives today. Anybody who wants the medium to be taken seriously wouldn't go out of their way to pull such a disrespectful stunt.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I do not know if I'll ever be as good as him, but I do my best.
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