INTERVIEW: "Fantastic Four" EP On Character-Driven Approach, Sequel Plans
Comic Books, Film
Tied to last night’s official announcement of a Justice League movie, The Wall Street Journal takes another look at Warner Bros., comparing its superhero output to that of Marvel — that’s a familiar story by now — and, more interesting, highlighting the changing position of DC Entertainment within the media giant.
The studio in 2009 announced plans plans to better exploit its comics properties (across film, television, video games and consumer products) with a corporate restructuring that saw the creation of DC Entertainment, a new division overseen by Diane Nelson, a Warner Bros. veteran who headed up its direct-to-video label and served as shepherd of its Harry Potter franchise.
Time once again to revisit some thoughts about the year just ended, and offer some thoughts on the year to come.
First, let’s see how I did with 2013:
1. Man of Steel. Last year I asked “a) how well will it do with critics and moviegoers; and b) yes, of course, will it help set up Justice League?” It got a 55 percent (i.e., Rotten) ranking from Rotten Tomatoes (although 76 percent of RT visitors who cared to vote said they liked it). Financially, Box Office Mojo called it a “toss-up,” putting it in the same category as Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, Pacific Rim and, uh, The Smurfs 2. I liked it well enough — I seem to like a lot of things “well enough” — but perhaps Super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s musings about missed opportunities speak best to the film’s reception. MOS itself didn’t help set up a Justice League movie, at least not as expressly as, say, Nick Fury talking about the Avengers; but I think it’s safe to say that the sequel will go a long way in that regard.
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2012 will be remembered in some quarters as the year of some of the most overrated comic book movies ever. Fancy grabbing yourself a piece of permanent reminder from easily the best and most underrated of last year’s crop? Then eBay is the place for you, as DNA Films and the Prop Store are auctioning off over 200 props and costumes from Dredd over the next fortnight. In time you’ll be able to buy yourself a (hopefully fully working) Lawmaster motorbike, but the first batch includes the only complete Judge Dredd costume that’ll be available in the auction.
No word from anyone involved yet, but this sale may well be tacit confirmation that DNA has no intention of developing a sequel to the film, despite its recent success both as a download and in DVD and Blu-Ray sales, a second bite of the cherry that will probably result in putting the movie in profit after its initially disappointing international box office takings.
At the end of every year Carla Hoffman and Tom Bondurant exchange emails about the fortunes of the Big Two. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday!
Carla: Here we are, heading toward the year the Mayan calendar might not have thought would ever come: 2013. The future gets closer and closer! Technology advances! Politics change! And yet, comic books are still here. How cool is that? It’s been a heck of a year, full of ups and downs, movie premieres, new #1 issues and the never-ending race to produce better, faster comics.
I have to admit, Image has been doing a really great job keeping up with the Big Two, producing award-winning books in a variety of formats and getting involved in TV to draw new readers into a wide array of comic book genres. But we’re not here to talk about them! We’re here for the greatest shows in town, the Merry Marvel Marching Society and … our Distinguished Competitors.
My first question is kind of a no-brainer: How’s the New 52 treating you these days? And, after a year, is it still the “New 52″?
Tom: Well, as a practical matter, it’s the “New 52″ for as long as DC wants it to be. Actually, I think I have stopped seeing that little blurb on the covers. I happened to look at Aquaman #15 yesterday, kind of out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised it was there. Part of me thinks that it could confuse those hypothetical new readers, but then I thought that about “Earth One,” and that doesn’t seem to have hurt those books.
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We’ve featured the Brazilian artist Butcher Billy a couple of times in Art Barrage; he’s an illustrator whose work demonstrates a keen eye for modern culture and a wicked sense of humor. His latest portfolio of work, posted at the creative network Behance, is “The Superhero Media Crossover Project,” a collection of images inserting comic art into stills taken from their movie adaptations. It’s very effective, and strangely moving, for this fan of classic comic art, anyway. These images demonstrate what, to me, is missing in just about every comics-to-film adaptation — a little pop-art brightness and fizz (Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World being the only one in recent times to get a pass on this matter — am I really the only one who wants to see sound effects rather than just hearing them?). In Billy’s own words:
– Craig Schulz, son of Charles Schulz, on the ripeness of a CGI Peanuts movie
“Yeah, the technology is right. Because pen and paper was never quite good enough.”
– Russ Fischer, commenting on the story for /Film
I get what Schulz is saying. “This film” doesn’t refer to just any Peanuts movie. There have already been at least two of those in traditional, hand-drawn animation. What he’s saying is that if they’re going to try to translate the Peanuts characters to CGI, that’s not something he wanted to rush into.
But while I’m not sure that Fischer’s snark is all that fair, I’m also not exactly sure why now is suddenly the time where technology has caught up and is adequate for portraying Charlie Brown’s round head and Lucy’s lumpy hairdo as computer animation. Is Schulz suggesting that the Peanuts CGI movie needs a level of technology greater than say, Toy Story or How to Train Your Dragon?
Somewhere in California, Batman is setting up shop–not to fight crime, but to watch movies in a glorious Batcave-inspired home theater.
Elite Home Theater Seating has put together this artistic rendering of “the Dark Knight Theater.” It includes a Batcomputer, a secret tunnel and bookcases that hide a Batmobile behind them (really!) According to their site, “Our goal was to fuse together the cozy elements of Wayne Manor, with the Art Deco styling of Gotham City.” They also note that the cave/theater is being built somewhere in California–probably underneath someone’s home and accessible only via Batpoles.
What if Brave and The Hunger Games are the top grossing movies this year? Will girl-lead adventure movies become less like unicorns? Maybe we’ll actually get that one female-lead superhero movie? HAHAHAHAHA. Oh, I kill me.
Do you think that the time is ripe for a superhero movie starring a woman? Are we over Elektra and Catwoman enough that Hollywood could consider Black Widow or – finally – Wonder Woman? If female-led films become extremely profitable, what other female superheroes are ready for the big screen?
Creators | Market Day creator James Sturm explains he’ll be boycotting The Avengers movie because he believes Jack Kirby, co-creator of many of Marvel’s longest-lasting characters, “got a raw deal”: “What makes this situation especially hard to stomach is that Marvel’s media empire was built on the backs of characters whose defining trait as superheroes is the willingness to fight for what is right. It takes a lot of corporate moxie to put Thor and Captain America on the big screen and have them battle for honor and justice when behind the scenes the parent company acts like a cold-blooded supervillain. As Stan Lee famously wrote, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’” Tom Spurgeon notes the position seems to mark a shift for Sturm, who wrote the Eisner-winning 2003 miniseries Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules for Marvel. [Slate, The Comics Reporter]
As the licensing machine revs up for the May 4 premiere of The Avengers, fragrance company JADS International — the company behind such brands as Sulu Pour Homme, Slave Leia Perfume and Shirtless Kirk Cologne — has rolled out scents inspired by Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury and even Loki. Sorry, Hawkeye, you’re out of luck.
The Avengers Cologne Set boasts “four unique fragrances”: PATRIOT, Mark VII, SMASH! and Worthy; you can probably piece together which name goes with which hero. Loki, meanwhile, gets Mischief Cologne (“Made to Rule”), and Fury has Initiative Cologne (“Activate the Initiative”).
Check out the details below, or on the JADS website.
One of the key figures in modern comics is Chris Claremont. After the epic period of creativity that came out of the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, Claremont emerged as one of the preeminent storytellers in the Bronze Age. Claremont became a defining voice for modern superhero comics through his work on Uncanny X-Men and related titles, and although he didn’t create the concept, he’s the one who made it work–and made it flourish.
After doing a number of peripheral X-Men titles and other work in recent years, the writer stepped away from mutants–and comics at large. The final issues of X-Men Forever 2, New Mutants Forever and Chaos War: X-Men came out in early 2011 but were written by the New York-based writer in late 2010. For over a year now, Chris Claremont hasn’t written a single page of comics script.
Although he’s turned his focus to prose novels for the time being, Claremont remains in tune with developments in the comic industry that he worked in for so many years. In a far-ranging discussion with the London-born writer, we talked about the modern comics movie blockbuster, digital comics, the seduction of work-for-hire and news about his own creator-owned comics.
Chris Arrant: 2011 was a different kind of year for you and for fans of your work, Chris. What are you planning for 2012?
Chris Claremont: Well, I’ve got a prose novel making the rounds to potential publishers, and a short story in Simon & Schuster’s Under The Moons of Mars: New Adventures of Barsoom anthology. I’m working on another novel that’ll hopefully be in a position to start sharing with publishers soon as well. This year’s the first time I’ve been able to do things that are all totally mine and all totally different.
Chris Arrant: Are these sequels to your Willow novels or perhaps the First Flight novels you did a few years back?
Chris Claremont: No, the Willow books are George Lucas’; the fate of that is up to him. And these aren’t connected to First Flight either. They’re all in different genres with different emphasis. The novel making the rounds now is a young-adult adventure, and the novel on my desk right now that I’m stitching together for my agent is much more of a mystery/suspense.
Chris Arrant: Even if you’re working outside of comics currently, you’ll always be associated with the medium. Given that you have a little distance from the day-to-day of working in comics, what are your thoughts about the comics industry and medium as a whole?
Chris Claremont: This is the first time in 40 years that I haven’t written a line of comics work in a year. That is part of what’s enabled me to do a lot more prose. It’s a totally different experience, and I’m getting used to being on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out.
As the end of 2011 approaches, websites and publications are unveiling various year-end lists and gift guides — so many that keeping up is a challenge. Here’s just some of what’s been released in the past few days
• Matt Madden and Jessica Abel, editors for the Best American Comics series, have released their annual Notable Comics list. Every year they try to get their hands on every North American comic that’s published every year so they can narrow them down to about 100 or so comics for their guest editor to choose from for each edition. This year’s list includes comics by Matt Kindt, Brandon Graham, Megan Kelso, Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, Michael Deforge, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, Mike Dawson, Joshua Cotter and many, many more.
• In a list of their favorite music, movies, books and more of 2011, The Tulane Hullabaloo spotlights Mark Waid, Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera’s run on Daredevil: “The series contains a sense of pure, manic glee missing from many of today’s dark, gritty and realistic superheroes, with Daredevil grinning as he makes snow angels on the rooftops of his beloved city rather than brooding over his internal demons. It’s a joy to read every month and cannot be recommended more, even to non-comic book enthusiasts.”
• MTV Splash Page counts down the top five comic book movie deaths of 2011.
• Brian Truitt at USA Today offers a list of gift ideas for comic fans.
• Lauren Davis at ComicsAlliance offers a guide to various webcomics collections and merchandise she thinks would make fine gifts — “a fantastic way to convert friends and family to your favorite webcomic.”
Saturday at the New York Comic Con brought news for the Avengers, Superman, Legendary Comics and … Disney’s Prep & Landing? Here’s a round-up of announcements from the show today.
• With a big, blockbuster Avengers movie scheduled for next May, Marvel announced a new ongoing series, Avengers Assemble, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley. The book will launch next March and will feature most of the Avengers featured in the movie — Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk. The first arc will feature the villainous group the Zodiac.
• Marvel also announced that writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman will take over Secret Avengers with issue #21.1, adding new members and pitting them against a new Masters of Evil.
• At the Cup O’ Joe panel today, Marvel also announced a Disney/Marvel crossover — Prep & Landing: Mansion: Impossible. It features the elves from the Disney television special who prepare homes for the arrival of Santa Claus every Christmas eve — only this time they’re trying to break into Avengers Mansion to get it ready for Santa. Written by director Kevin Deters and drawn by story artist Joe Mateo, the story will run in the back of the Marvel Adventures books as well as Avengers #19 in November.
France gets some cool comics movies. Last year there was The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec; now in a couple of weeks they’ll have Poulet Aux Prunes, an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Chicken with Plums.
Oddly, Satrapi’s story of a relative of hers who decides to kill himself after his wife destroys his cherished tār looks like it’s played for laughs in the film. The trailer below shows some surreal fantasy sequences in which Nasser Ali Khan imagines various ways of committing suicide. It’s been a couple of years since I read the book (I reviewed it for Robot 6 at the time), but though I remember its using humor, it’s certainly not the comedy that the trailer makes it out to be. While the suicide plan sounds extreme and ridiculous at first, there’s a hidden reason for it that makes sense once it’s revealed. Discovering the answer to that heartbreaking mystery is one of the book’s most captivating and powerful elements and I dearly hope the film doesn’t sacrifice it for laughs. Satrapi both co-wrote and co-directed the film, so there’s reason to be optimistic.
Spike TV has unveiled the nominees for the sixth annual Scream Awards, which honor the best is science fiction, fantasy, horror and comic books. This year’s nominees were selected by an advisory board that includes Neil Gaiman, Wes Craven, Tim Burton, Damon Lindelof, George A. Romero, Robert Rodriguez and Rob Zombie.
The Scream Awards will be taped Oct. 15 in Los Angeles and broadcast Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Spike.
Here are the nominees in the three comics-specific categories:
Best comic book or graphic novel
• American Vampire, by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo)
• Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image Comics)
• Daytripper, by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (Vertigo)
• Locke & Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez (IDW Publishing)
• The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image Comics)
Best comic book writer
• Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Captain America: Reborn, The Marvels Project, Steve Rogers: Super Soldier)
• Joe Hill (Locke & Key, The Cape)
• Robert Kirkman (The Astounding Wolf-Man, Haunt, Invincible, The Walking Dead)
• Grant Morrison (Batman Incorporated, Joe the Barbarian)
• Mike Mignola (Baltimore, The Amazing Screw-On Head)
Best comic book artist
• Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead)
• Mark Buckingham (Fables)
• Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy)
• John Romita Jr. (The Avengers, Kick-Ass)
• Bernie Wrightson (Doc Macabre)
Also worth noting are nods in other categories for comic-book adaptations Captain America: The First Avenger, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, RED, Thor, The Walking Dead and X-Men: First Class. A full list of nominees is available on the Scream Awards website, where fans are encouraged to vote often.