Thursday, April 17, 2014 

A review I wrote of Sword of the Atom TPB

Here's a review I wrote for the Sword of the Atom TPB for the Longbox Project, collecting the 4-part miniseries and 3 specials from the mid-80s by Jan Strnad and Gil Kane (with Pat Broderick drawing the last part). It's something I was very happy to write as part of my belief that even minor superheroes can make for great storytelling if we put the story quality ahead of the popularity ranks of various superhero casts. Many thanks to webmaster Max Delgado for asking me to work on it.

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Monopolies don't help the medium

Wired is trying to tell everyone that Amazon didn't ruin comics by buying out Comixology. Well gee, no one ever said they had. As a distributor, Diamond's had a monopoly on market for nearly two decades. They say:
Is the concern is a distribution monopoly? If so, the direct market is in no position to criticize: over the last 15 years, Diamond Comics Distributors has consumed almost all independent print distribution in comics, and dictates practices and policy to retailers and publishers alike. The idea that print comics are somehow more independent than their digital cousins—or a scrappy underdog fighting the good fight against evil corporate profiteers—is frankly ridiculous.

No idea has proven more damaging to the comics industry than the myth that its professionals—not just creators, but retailers, even distributors—work for love and not money. It’s a philosophy that has justified exploitation of creators and theft of intellectual property. It’s allowed the entire industry to pass the buck for its failures—from publishers to retailers, and retailers to —for decades. And it’s why the comics industry lingers in a frozen adolescence, clinging to a shrinking target audience like a sea captain railing at the storm—when the real problem is the rotting wood of his own hull.
True, that's how far the medium's fallen. Even conglomerates have no idea what to do with comics companies they own, other than use them as a movie wellspring. But that doesn't mean it's a good thing Diamond is the only significant distributor for comics today, even if pamphlets is their chief specialty. Yet that's probably to be expected when the mainstream companies throw away all their cohesion for the sake of the speculator market.

Again, this is why I think comics have to abandon the pamphlet format and go for something more along the lines of paperbacks. If they did so, and even shaped up their writing talents, I think a lot of book companies would be more willing to publish their products, and it would make it easier to build up the number of distributors once again. Nor can they work for just money. If there's no love, there's no money either. Were somebody with a heart to come along and buy out the publishing arms of the majors for starters, I'm sure something could get done. Of course the distribution monopoly is nothing to be happy about, but so long as there's no interest in making artistic improvements, then there'll be no new distributors.

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Artist Brett Booth goes bonkers because he wasn't criticized

At least a week ago, Janelle Asselin, a former editor at DC, took issue with the cover drawing of Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark on a new volume of Teen Titans that's soon to debut, because she doesn't think it looks appropriate for a girl who's potentially set at underage being depicted as a sexpot:
Let's start with the elephant in the room: Wonder Girl's rack. Perhaps I'm alone in having an issue with an underaged teen girl being drawn with breasts the size of her head (seriously, line that stuff up, each breast is the same size as her face) popping out of her top.
Well if Cassie's been reverted to more of a 13-year-old like she was at the time she originally debuted in 1996, then I'd say there's a valid argument here. After all, when Donna Troy first debuted in 1965, unlike Cassie in the new 2014 rendition, she didn't wear a topless outfit, not even when she became more of a fashion plate nearly 4 years afterwards at age 16, and Nick Cardy still pulled off a fantastic job making her gorgeous with a costume that was sleeveless but not superfluous. It was only several years later, when she became more of an 18-year-old, that she began to wear cleavage. Since the New52's depiction of Cassie is likely to depict her much younger, that's why it just doesn't work out. But then, I knew DC hadn't abandoned the otherwise negative approach they had to women that reached its zenith with Identity Crisis. Nice to see Valerie D'Orazio isn't the only former woman staffer at DC who came forward and admitted she wasn't happy with what she's had to deal with. I'm a bit surprised CBR ran this though, because they've been suckups to the big two for years on end. They do have objective contributors, but not enough of them.

But the subject didn't end here. Even though the cover for the new TT volume is drawn by Kenneth Rocafort, another DC artist named Brett Booth took offense, and attacked Asselin without even naming her. There's another list of the tweets at The Outhousers, and at least three I find laughable or just plain absurd. For example:

What a laugh. When has the media ever really been "biased" against DC? It's not like much of the press, comics or otherwise, ever condemned them for brewing up Identity Crisis, or even followups like Day of Vengeance, Countdown to Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis, which wasn't. Booth's claim the company he works for wants to "control" interviews is also worrisome, since he's suggesting it's a good thing, and not many people working for DC/Marvel proper are likely to be critical of them for doing it. Then, there's these 2-in-1 tweets:

Coming from a potential leftist who's probably never protested recent efforts to lionize Islam in mainstream, that's amusing in a way. I found Booth retweeted this item from Greg Pak, which is likely a swipe at the GOP, so I wonder if he's got the guts to say a]the same about Grant Morrison's creation seen in New X-Men called Dust, b]that it's regrettable Marvel would depict Islam positively with the Muslim Ms. Marvel, or even c]to call out Geoff Johns for doing the same in Green Lantern.

Booth's not the only one who goofed here. Let's also make space for a tweet by a writer who's already earned a bad reputation:

Well well, am I reading this right, or is Slott trivializing the issues of sexual harrassment on the internet? Why should he be amazed or even surprised? This has been a problem for some time, and he didn't help one bit with his fanfictionish approach to Mary Jane Watson in the Inferior Dr. Octopus. It's also a shame he's defending deplorability rather than lamenting they'd do so at the expense of great mediums. Mainly because he's justifying his own deplorable attitude, like calling anyone he disagrees with "idiots".

Booth's accomplished nothing by attacking a woman for her opinions on artwork, and neither has Slott with his apologetics. This is just why not many women are into the superhero genre per se, because narrow male "fans" are being so callous and selfish.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 

The history of race relations in comics

A writer for the Chicago Tribune spoke about how mainstream comics dealt with race relations in past history and how they introduced heroes of black background. Unfortunately, the article fumbles when he alludes to DC's lurch towards political correctness in the past decade:
...the 90s would see DC Comics pick up the pace as well with Firestorm, the Blue Beetle, The Atom and others.
Firestorm already debuted in 1978, initially part of what's known today as the "DC Implosion" since they'd cancelled several titles that didn't sell high enough, and the new Firestorm of black background, who was called Jason Rusch, turned up in 2004, at which time Brad Meltzer killed his predecessor, Ronnie Raymond, in Identity Crisis. It wasn't during the 90s all this happened but post-2000. If they hadn't gone such a nasty route, there wouldn't be any objections to replacing Raymond with Rusch. But they just had to do that for the sake of PC and a lack of creativity, and what they did actually embarrasses minorities more than helps them. The same goes with how Ray Palmer with Ryan Choi in the same repellent miniseries, and Ted Kord in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. How is that "picking up pace"? The silliest thing about those steps is that they adhered to a notion that minorities can only be introduced as superheroes, and not as co-stars, which could make it easier for writers to give them better depth as characters.

And it's already a moot point that none of these weird experiments in changing a character's race were successful as series. All 3 were cancelled at least two years after launching, and at least one of the characters (Choi) was killed off before the New 52.

The following has some good points to raise, however:
Samuel L. Jackson successfully played S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, a character who was previously white in the Avengers, as well as other Marvel tie-ins. Film characters that are traditionally of another race often cause comic book fans to lose their minds when a familiar character is re-colored for the purpose of casting the hottest new thespian. When Heimdall was played by Idris Elba in "Thor 2: The Dark World," nerds across the globe lost their minds. Some of it was just plain racism, while others were legitimately concerned with accuracy.

Honestly, when Michael B. Jordan was cast as the traditionally blonde haired, blue eyed Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, I was vehemently against it. No offense, but comic book nerds like characters to remain as close to the original blueprint as possible. Any deviation is frowned upon. Both Terrence Howard and Don Cheadle played James "Rhodey" Rhodes, the best friend to Tony Starks who would become the similarly armored hero War Machine.
That's amazing and impressive to know he understands why all these changes in a character's race all for the sake of it can do more harm than good to the movie. But I'd appreciate this more than I do if I knew he understood what's wrong with DC's very own tactics back in the comics, which were an insult to past writers and artists and all the hard work they did to offer some decent escapism in the Silver Age. If they'd depicted the heroes retiring and offering their roles to the new protagonists, then there'd be no serious outrage. Towards the end, he says:
In 2011, Marvel introduced a black Latino character named Miles Morales to replace Peter Parker, who had been killed in that story arc as Spider-Man. Though the "real" Spider-Man was not dead because this took place in an alternate universe, the comic book world was up in arms because of what was deemed a blatant attempt at political correctness.
To be fair, mileage can vary, but in a way, it was. More to the point, it suggested another tired attempt to shoehorn a minority character into a role already played by a white protagonist instead of giving them their very own role. For Miles Morales, it could've been one with a different codename, and for all we know, that could've sold the character much more easily. But today's industry doesn't have confidence in new creations to sell, so they go the desperate route instead, only making things worse than need be. Their lack of interest in developing supporting casts with minorities - or even white co-stars, for that matter - is another serious detractor.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 

Scott Snyder believes losing is great for Batman

In another interview with the LA Times, he's told what kind of emphasis they've used for Batman: Zero Year. First, what is the plot of this particular story:
Batman is defeated, presumed dead. And the Riddler has the run of a transformed Gotham City.

Welcome to “Savage City,” the final arc of “Zero Year,” which writer Scott Snyder says is “where the biggest, most fun and craziest elements of the story begin.” Where the “Secret City” and “Dark City” segments re-envisioned the classic elements of Batman’s origin story, the third part is what the Eisner Award winner says is the reward for readers letting the “Batman” team tread on “sacred” ground — an “out-and-out battle with the Riddler for [the city] in a post-apocalyptic Gotham.”
Haven't we gone this route before? Oh yes, we have, nearly 6 years ago in Grant Morrison's "Batman RIP" storyline. Why should we have to do it again? Certainly not under such a dreary, pretentious writer as Snyder or Morrison. Now, here's the part about their emphasis on failure:
HC: Major ideas of guilt and failure that have been building in this part of “Zero Year” reach a fever pitch for both Bruce and Jim Gordon – with not just present failures but long-ago deaths weighing on them: the Wayne murders for both of them, and Bruce learning that Dr. Death’s son and others perished searching for him in his wandering years. How do you see the importance of guilt in this part of the story, and how do you see it affecting them going forward?

SS: We tried to make this section heavy with the idea of failure. The important thing here was to show Batman losing. It was difficult too. I went back and forth with Greg and with a couple of my friends, saying, “Do you think it’s too terrible to have him go down so epically and lose here and have the city flooded and have all of these terrible things happen?” What I decided was that it wasn’t at all too much. Instead I felt it was key to show him fail. But to make that redemptive, at least for me, was for the lesson to be that he fails because he does something wrong that he can correct in our third section…. In the first section he realizes he needs to mean something, he can’t just be a ghost. In the second section he realizes that he needs to be something inspiring … he can’t be an angel of vengeance, he can’t be someone that’s out to punish the city for taking away his parents. … He locked Jim Gordon out for so long because he blamed him so deeply for being part of what happened on that night with his parents’ deaths, for not being there and for nobody being there, that he moves too late in terms of trying to stop Dr. Death and ultimately the Riddler.

So that’s something he’ll certainly correct in the third part. The third part is sort of about how he needs to mean this thing forever, in some ways.

But that’s really what this second part was about for me was learning he can’t be ruled by the demons of the past; he can’t be someone who operates out of anger and vengeance. Instead he has to be someone who also inspires hope and camaraderie and a movement of rebellion and a movement of defiance.
What idiocy. The city did not take away Bruce's parents. It was the hoodlum Joe Chill who did. It's tiring how they repeatedly go out of their way to make Bruce sound like such a narrow mind who puts blame in all the wrong places.

Even more disappointing is how they put so much more emphasis on Batman failing than on what successes he could have. Cases where he could save lives and come away feeling glad he did a good deed. Despite what Snyder says, I don't think they're going to change the angle so easily, and even if they're depicting Batman as bizarrely vindictive, that doesn't mean they can't show him succeeding. If they still insist on making him a control freak, that's not bound to change in the forseeable future either. Nor are they likely to turn him into somebody who can be more inspiring, at least not in a way that'll be readable or interesting. And nor are Snyder's "elements" in this story likely to be fun by any stretch.

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DC and Marvel want trademark on "superhero" to extend overseas

The big two have already declared a ridiculous monopoly on the word "superhero" back in the USA, but now, they're going so far to take this trivial greed of theirs across the globe, suing a British company for making use of it:
Comic book giants Marvel and DC have been accused of threatening small firms over using the word ‘superhero’ in their marketing because they have registered it as a joint trademark

The two groups, usually fierce rivals, have swung into action against British entrepreneur Graham Jules, who has written a book called Business Zero To Superhero about setting up a small firm. His attempt to register a trademark to the title for use on a website is being contested by Marvel, home of Spider-Man, and DC, which has Batman and Superman.

[...] Daniel Herman, founder of British diet supplements firm Bio-Synergy, has also fallen foul of the giants. He registered the phrase ‘Fuel the super-hero inside’ in 2005 and escaped the X-ray eyes of Marvel and DC. But his attempt to renew it was rejected two weeks ago by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office.
What do they expect to accomplish by monopolizing the use of the word? And why is the UK government's trade departments going along with this? This is just what's making people lose respect for the genre along with the medium, since the big two are going out of their way to clamp down on other businesses' right to use a simple word, and they're making mountains out of molehills. Superheroes aren't the sole dominion of the big two and instead of showing their appreciation for people who want to create their own properties, they're hurting that right by trying to make it illegal to use the word to describe their creations. If they keep this up, it's bound to precipitate their loss of audience.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 

Will Amazon's buyout of Comixology really change the industry?

Business Insider wrote about Amazon's aquisition of Comixology. I'm sure it'll help in some ways, but, there are certain sources for whom it may not help, or it's too late to do wonders at this point because they've failed to make their comics appealing to the right crowds:
...comic book publishers will need to give their product a second thought. In recent years, major publishers have abandoned all hope of attracting young new audiences, focusing instead on providing byzantine plot convolutions and adult-themed takes on iconic characters for their core demographic of 18 – 45 year-old men.
Unless Marvel and DC can change their management and formatting for print - that is, find people with better manners than Dan Buckley and Dan DiDio, there's no chance any second thoughts will be given at major publishers.
Women 17 – 26 have risen to comprise over 20% of ComiXology’s users, and that’s certain to rise after Amazon’s acquisition. The books will now be exposed to millions of newcomers, so it will behoove major publishers to make their stories more female-friendly, streamlined, and accessible. With comiXology’s new aim to make “every person on the planet a comics fan,” publishers will need to consider new genres, greater variety, and more varied age groups.
Despite what the majors might have you believe, they're not being very welcoming to women, or they're foisting bad ideas upon the books supposedly geared at the girls crowd, and even women in the audience don't take kindly to having a shambled continuity coming from Marvel and DC. Nor are they bound to find the direction Spider-Man took since late 2007 appealing, and come to think of it, not even the direction taken with Superman. It's the smaller publishers who've been gaining over the years, as more people came to realize the majors don't want them anymore, now that they're dominated by mental adolescents with the full approval of the conglomerates who own them.

I wonder if Amazon thought of buying an ownership of the major publishers as well as another website, they might actually make serious changes for the better? The answer for now is only a maybe.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014 

5 types of stories that need to be put to rest

ComicBook.Com listed five types of stories they think shouldn't have to be copied again by future writers (Hal Jordan getting booted from the GLC, the Fantastic Four losing their wealth, Superman losing powers, secrets and unfixed handicaps). When they get to the part about heroes having secrets though, they run the gauntlet of insulting the intellect, while commenting on Original Sin:
Look, Identity Crisis was a neat trick. I get it.

But do we really need this poor man’s version revolving around the Death of the Watcher?
No, it was not. It was a sick, perverted and hateful trick. That line is taking a serious risk of legitimizing an insult to victims of sex crimes, but I'm not sure they get it. And if Original Sin is a poor man's mystery, what do they think Identity Crisis was? A poor man's mystery story that doesn't even hold up well as part of the genre, because they deliberately make some parts so obvious.
Back when it was going to be a cosmic-scale murder mystery, it was one of the stories I was most excited for in 2014. But as the promotional campaign has turned to laying bare the “secrets” of the Marvel superheroes’ past by inserting “original sins” into their backstories,

This isn’t the first time this has happened, either, and at some point it’s diminishing returns.

There’s also the matter of internal consistency; when you make a story about how Batman turned against the Justice League because they mindwiped a bunch of supervillains — and then Batman — without consulting him, you really shouldn’t have a story shortly thereafter where you learn Batman and Martian Manhunter made the decision to mindwipe another villain because…reasons.

And that’s the problem, here: if you’re trying to insert events into the backstory of these characters with long and detailed histories, perhaps it’s best to accept that it’s difficult to pull off well if those events are character-defining, without totally screwing up everything that has happened in the timeline since.
This part is almost better, but in light of the first two paragraphs still comes with a dampened impact. Yes, it's stupid how Identity Crisis set things up as though the heroes were doing all sorts of questionable things behind Batman's back, stuff he was actually okay with back in the Silver/Bronze Age like the mindwipes, and knew about too. After all, he had his own secret ID to worry about, and on those grounds had little disagreement with anyone else about erasing the villains' memories of his alter ego if they'd found out. But then, why must the website's writer bother to call the miniseries a "neat" trick to start with? Even if that was meant as an ironic jest, it's still very poorly timed and drowns out whatever point he was trying to make.

Just like we don't need a mystery oscillating around the death of the Watcher, we didn't need one oscillating around the death of a minor recurring co-star (Sue Dibny). Mark Gruenwald once said that every character is somebody's favorite and you shouldn't kill them off lightly or ruin their past appearances, far worse. That's what Identity Crisis was doing, and Original Sin is bound to follow the same route. ComicBook.Com's writer would do well to ponder that.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014 

Spider-Man stories that will never be adapted to film

What Culture listed 10 stories from Spider-Man they don't think will ever be turned into screenplays. Some of these examples are pretty recent, and most definitely should not be turned into movies. For example, there's the Inferior Time-Wasting Doc Ock in Spidey's Body tale, which they've unfortunately been sugarcoated about:
Despite the acrimony the storyline initially caused, The Superior Spider-Man has been an unqualified success. Writer Dan Slott found a way to develop an entire series around the idea of lifelong villain Doctor Octopus stealing the identity and body of his enemy Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and masquerading as a new and improved version of the Web Slinger.
Yawn. The story couldn't have caused much more acrimony than it did because not enough people are left to care about what happens with Spidey now. It should be pretty obvious from the declining sales receipts not many could be bothered to read it save for the most brain-dead collectors who fail to comprehend why their continuing purchase - sometimes for perceived monetary value only - will only prolong the nonsense. I've got a feeling their use of the word "unqualified" is meant more as a positive tip of the hat than a pan. Slott's vision was more along the lines of the "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter", and Dr. Octopus did take advantage of Mary Jane Watson, however briefly, at the beginning of the volume's run. "New and improved", my foot.
But, the tastes of comic book fans and moviegoers are not always aligned, and it’s more likely than not that The Superior Spider-Man is far too wacky and abstract of a concept to work as a two-plus hour feature film. [...]
"Wacky"? I wouldn't call it that at all. I'd only call it a ridiculously protracted shambles with an idea few moviegoers with good taste would care for that took at least a year to finish, when in better days, such a story would only go as far as 2 or 3 issues. Why would moviegoers care about a plot that focuses on the villain more than the hero who got kicked to the curb?

They also bring up the aforementioned miniseries called Reign, but here, they're less honest:
Despite the fact that it recycles much of its content from the far more acclaimed Dark Knight Returns, the Spider-Man: Reign miniseries by Kaare Andrews is filled with interesting ideas and good intentions. [...]

The problem with this storyline is that nobody who has read it can ever get past the reason Spider-Man is all alone: Peter’s wife, Mary Jane, died from radiation poisoning. She was exposed to this radiation via sexual intercourse and Peter’s semen.
Not mentioned here is that, IIRC, in the course of this miniseries, Peter fell victim to immolation, too repulsive to mention here. What good intentions or interesting ideas could a mini like this possibly boast? As for radiation poisoning, as if Betty Banner's own poisoning in 1998 wasn't enough. Ugh.
Fans of Reign will justify their love for the book by talking about Andrews’s elegant writing and art [...]
I'm no fan of such a book, and neither writing nor art will salvage such an embarrassment.

The Clone Saga is also brought up, and they say:
To make matters worse, in order to sell the clone idea in the comics, some writers had Ben talk about Peter as if he were a villain of sorts who had stolen his life away from him. Comic book fans responded poorly to this idea, and there’s no reason to believe moviegoers, who tend to have a lower tolerance for comic book logic, would respond any better to it.
Of course not. But it's worth noting that the 3rd Spider-movie borrowed a bit from this atrocity when Peter accidentally knocks Mary Jane over with his super-strength. That's a very galling moment in the movie, and anyone turned off by that scene who finds out about the Clone Saga is going to think - maybe with justification - that screenwriters get their ideas from the all the wrong places to create drama.

When they get to the part about One More Day, they fumble with the following:
Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson had been a point of contention within Marvel’s hierarchy for decades. Many saw the union as nothing but a sales-driven stunt concocted by former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. Some thought it was unrealistic for an anti-social “wallflower” like Peter to land a supermodel like MJ, while others argued that married superheroes just don’t work, because creators inevitably have to “age” the characters by depicting them growing old together, having children, etc.
Oh please. Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead married early in their comic strip, had two children who grew to teenage years, and never lost their popularity. Dick Tracy may have married co-worker Tess Trueheart in the 1950s, and they didn't age by any stretch. Mr. Fantastic married Invisible Girl in the mid-60s and the Silver Age Flash married Iris West around the same time; the former had a child, and the latter went along fine without getting into all that hassle about whether they should have kids and aging. That part only came along post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, after Wally West took over the spotlight. So why would anyone think it couldn't be done with Peter and Mary Jane? They knew it could be, and resorted to denial tactics to justify their ghastly tactics breaking up the marriage.

All that aside, I don't see why they think this was a stunt concocted by Shooter. If memory serves, Stan Lee wanted it to happen, and the audience embraced it. I also don't get their terminology of Peter as "anti-social". He was anything but that, and when looking for a lady love, he usually handled himself best as possible.

They're also not fully honest about Sins Past:
[...] Marvel is so clearly embarrassed by “Sins Past” that nary a reference to the storyline has been made in the comics since it was first published in 2004. Either way, there’s no way “Sins Past” will ever find its way onto the big screen.
Wrong. Any editor who's willing to break up the marriage via Faustian pacts, then have Peter thrown out of his body in a pointless mind-switch with Dr. Octopus, is not somebody ashamed of their past mistakes. And Joe Quesada made it pretty clear he wasn't. I think they even hinted some of the elements from Sins Past are still in continuity. Come to think of it, what if Sins Past does find its way onto the silver screen one day? We shouldn't underestimate them.

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The mistakes non-comic readers make about the medium

What Culture listed 10 mistakes made by people outside the comics sphere about what goes on within. Along the way, they also note an interesting fact about modern DC output:
DC, as a general rule, print darker comics than Marvel and, although that isn’t a completely universal truth, it’s something that fans can spot from a mile away.
As anyone familiar with their output from the past two decades knows, yes, there are quite a few comics DC's published in their flagship lines with darker visions, the result of a misperception they have about Marvel fans, who they assume only care about bleak storytelling angles. Speaking as a Marvel fan, I find that insulting, because it actually enforces stereotypes about comic readers that their tastes are very narrow.

They also bring up a cast member of Legion of Super-Heroes with the skills to take on Batman:
[...] People know Batman is a great martial artist, but he’s not as good as it gets. Karate Kid, for example (the DC character, not Daniel San) would easily beat the caped crusader in a martial arts battle. How many non-comic book fans would think that Batman would beat this relatively little-known character?
More to the point, how many even know about Karate Kid and the futuristic series he's appeared in? That's the problem with DC - and Marvel - they don't care to promote a lot of their third-tiers, and so, how many people outside comicdom would know squat about the Legion of Super-Heroes?

On the page where they make a point about comics not being for kids anymore, they have a minor flaw:
[...] Basically, comic books are now not just for kids at all.
Most often, mainstream superhero series aren't even suitable for kids at all. Even before One More Day, Spider-Man was already deteriorating into a mess, like with the story where Morlun showed up again in 2006 and ate a part of Peter Parker I'd rather not mention here. There was even a repellent miniseries published at the time called "Reign". The Green Lantern story where Alexandra deWitt got stuffed into the fridge in 1994 wasn't suitable for children, and the GL series became even less so after Geoff Johns took over. That's something they don't bother to make clear, and worse, they're not being terribly objective about it.

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Friday, April 11, 2014 

Is Kevin Feige really a Marvel fan?

That's what Bloomberg Businessweek says about the Marvel Studios executive, but there's reasons why I'm skeptical:
Feige identifies himself as a Marvel comic fan, but he’s a recent convert. Growing up in Westfield, N.J., he was obsessed with movies such as the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones and Star Trek franchises, Back to the Future, and the first RoboCop. When he read that George Lucas had studied film at the University of Southern California, Feige decided to do the same. After graduating, he worked on three movies for producer Lauren Shuler Donner. The first was Volcano, in which lava bubbles up from the La Brea Tar Pits and threatens Los Angeles. “It was my first movie, and we were blowing things up,” he says. The second was You’ve Got Mail. He taught Meg Ryan how to use America Online.

The third movie was 2000’s X-Men, which director Bryan Singer was making for Fox. To better understand the genre, Feige immersed himself in Marvel comics. “I did a much deeper dive than I ever had before,” he says. What he discovered was extraordinarily rich. In the 1960s, the writer Stan Lee and a team of artists including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko transformed Marvel into the nation’s leading comic book publisher by creating a generation of superheroes with complicated inner lives. Spider-Man could scale walls like an insect, but his alter ego, Peter Parker, was bullied in high school and couldn’t get a date. In 1966 the New York Herald Tribune called Spider-Man “the Raskolnikov of the funnies, a worthy rival to Bellow’s Herzog for the Neurotic Hipster championship of our time.”
For somebody who says he's a Marvel fan, or any company's fan, he sure hasn't done much on his part to save the publishing arm from the dire strait they're in, thanks in no small part to Joe Quesada. Granted, Feige may have read a lot of older material, but many of the stories they're using for adaptations are brand new.

And that's not very accurate that Peter Parker couldn't get a date. He came close with Liz Allen, the first standout female member of the supporting cast, and Betty Brant was the first girl he was seen dating seriously, before Gwen Stacy and then Mary Jane Watson came into the spotlight.
As Feige consumed stacks of Marvel comics, he wondered why others working on X-Men didn’t do the same. “I would hear people, other executives, struggling over a character point, or struggling over how to make a connection, or struggling over how to give even surface-level depth to an action scene or to a character,” Feige recalls. “I’d be sitting there reading the comics going, ‘Look at this. Just do this. This is incredible.’ ”
I once found out the director of the X-Men movie, Bryan Singer, wanted no comics on the set while they were filming it. Obviously, he didn't have much faith in the material himself, or the actors' ability to avoid delivering cartoony performances should they read even one pamphlet. Still, this is one thing where I'm in agreement with Feige on. Not so much on the following, though:
Arad and Feige spent much of their time trying to persuade executives making Marvel movies at Fox, Sony, and New Line not to screw them up by deviating from the original source material. They cut up comics and created guidebooks to get their point across. “I was like a preacher,” Arad says. “I would go in and say to these people, ‘Look at the comics. You can cut the panels, put them together, and you have a beautiful storyboard.’ ”
There's just one little problem: the original source material today is barely recognizable from what it was like in years past. Put another way, if they were worried about the movies doing it, how come they have no qualms about Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso doing the same? Speaking of which:
Typically, movie studios hire outside producers to make individual films, but Marvel thought that would be the road to ruin. Instead, it formed a six-member creative committee with people steeped in comic book lore. Feige was a member, along with Louis D’Esposito, co-president of Marvel Studios. It also included some guys who actually made comic books, such as Dan Buckley, president of publishing; Joe Quesada, Marvel’s chief creative officer; and the writer Brian Michael Bendis. People in Hollywood sneer about the idea of making movies by committee; it’s supposed to result in lifeless products. But it worked for Marvel, in part because the members were willing to go along with Feige on key decisions. “Kevin is essential,” says Alan Fine, president of Marvel Entertainment, who oversees the group. “He’s the key to how our characters translate into filmed entertainment.”
People who did otherwise terrible jobs in comics were hired to work on movies to boot. I'm honestly not happy, because they didn't deserve the jobs. Quesada breaks up the Spider-marriage, and what happens next? He gets a job with the film production division. That Feige was willing to work with Quesada and Bendis puts his fandom in question, IMHO.

And if the third Iron Man movie was made by committee, that's one of its kind that certainly didn't work well.
Despite the shouting, everybody agreed on a fundamental principle: The movies needed to please the hard-core comic book readers first. “Really, you have to start with the loyalists,” says Quesada. “If the loyalists reject it, then we feel that everyone is going to reject it.”
Why should loyalists listen to him? Many of the loyalists parted ways with Marvel after Quesada destroyed the Spider-marriage. If the movies need to please, why mustn't the comics do the same?
When it was time for Marvel to make The Avengers, Feige was nervous. Combining Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk would sell tickets, but making a film with so many superheroes meant more action, more fights, and more mayhem. That may sound splendid to a modern producer, but it might not leave room for the dramatic elements that draw larger and repeat audiences to Marvel films. “I was afraid the movie would just become a bunch of explosions and visual effects,” says Feige.
Ironically, that's exactly what the comics have become, and worse: as mentioned before, they've been reduced to hero-vs-hero quagmires, as seen in Avengers vs. X-Men.

The success of various Marvel movies is great on the surface, but for a comics purist, they're a mixed blessing at best, since no matter how well the movies are handled, the comics back home became a terrible mess. And not a word from Feige about that.

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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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