"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Infamous for its protests against the Church of Scientology and website attacks on Sony, Visa and, most recently, Bay Area Rapid Transit, the loose-knit hacker group Anonymous is perhaps best known for a single image that’s become a symbol of its anarchic movement: The V for Vendetta-inspired Guy Fawkes mask worn by its members in public protests.
However, as The New York Times notes this morning, each of those masks purchased by the largely anti-government, anti-corporation activists puts money in the coffers of Time Warner, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. The parent company of DC Comics, which published the Alan Moore-David Lloyd miniseries in the United States, and Warner Bros., which released the film adaptation in 2006, owns the rights to the image, and receives a licensing fee for each mask sold.
And there are a lot sold, thanks largely to the Anonymous movement. Rubie’s Costumes, the New York company that produces the masks, sells more than 100,000 a year; by comparison, it sells only about 5,000 of each of its other masks.
But it wasn’t until recently that Rubie’s knew why Guy Fawkes was a bestseller. “We just thought people liked the V for Vendetta movie,” Rubie’s executive Howard Beige tells the newspaper. “Then one morning I saw a picture of these protesters wearing the mask in an online news article. I quickly showed my sales manager.”
Movies | National Public Radio commentator John Ridley critiques Hollywood for being even less diverse than the Big Two when it comes to diversity in lead characters, and demolishes their blame-the-audience theory that white people won’t go to see a movie with a black lead by pointing to a study by Indiana University professor Andrew Weaver: “Weaver found that white audiences tended to be racially selective with regard to romantic movies, but not necessarily when it came to other genres. So, sorry, Hollywood. You can’t blame it on the ticket buyers.” [NPR]
Creators | Becky Cloonan talks about the joys and the hardships of being a full-time comics creator: “Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it loves you. And you will look into its eyes and know it’s true, that you love comics back.” [Becky Cloonan: Comics or STFU]
The Last Lonely Saturday, by Uptight and The Clouds Above cartoonist Jordan Crane, is one of my favorite comics of all time. Why? You can find out if you read the entire beautifully bittersweet story online at Crane’s webcomics portal, What Things Do.
It’ll only take a minute or two. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
There now. Need a hankie? I figured. The story of an elderly man bringing flowers to his beloved, The Last Lonely Saturday is where I first discovered Crane’s impeccably cartoony character designs and near-wordless storytelling chops, as well as his knack for teasing both the darkness and the light out of issues of love and loss. And now the comic has been adapted into a live-action short film by director Seth Craven. The movie premieres as part of the HollyShorts Film Festival at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in Los Angeles on August 12 at 5pm. Get ready to be heartbroken.
The filming of The Dark Knight Rises in Pittsburgh is expected to pump millions of dollars into the economy, giving a boost to hotels, restaurants, lumber yards and more. So, hey, why shouldn’t the criminal community get a little benefit?
WPXI reports that on Saturday evening, Pittsburgh police Det. Robert DiGiacomo was in an unmarked vehicle looking for the suspect in an assault. Suddenly a man matching the suspect’s description opened the car door, sat down and told the detective to get out. When the officer drew his gun and ordered 21-year-old Micah Calamosca to exit the car, the suspect reportedly responded that he was part of the cast of the Christopher Nolan film … and that stealing the vehicle was just part of the script.
As you may have guessed, DiGiacomo didn’t buy the explanation. Calamosca was subsequently arrested, and faces a charge of robbery of a motor vehicle. A police vehicle. I’d have at least gone for Batman’s Tumbler. Heck, he has three, so he may not have missed one.
Ahead of the July 19 release of Captain America: Super Soldier, SEGA has debuted new art and background information for some of the villains players will encounter in the third-person action game.
Tying into the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger feature film, Super Soldier allows gamers, playing as the Sentinel of Liberty, to engage in free-flowing combat and acrobatic platforming to infiltrate a mysterious castle and battle the Iron Cross, the forces of HYDRA and a host of enemies serving the Red Skull in an attempt to stop evil scientist Arnim Zola.
You can see screenshots, art and descriptions for Baron von Strucker, Madame Hydra and a sniper after the break.
Honestly, most comic book movies feel like most tie-in-videogames do. Those things get made to service the trademark. They aren’t very good games. There’s nothing amazing going on in innovation or gameplay. They’re cool because you get to roleplay Batman kicking skulls in or the like. I’m sure they’re entertaining enough, but they’re not memorable above and beyond that.
–Strangeways writer (and Robot 6 veteran) Matt Maxwell, with a comparison that really clarified a lot of things for me about the pleasures and disappointments of superhero movies. Fatherhood has done to my movie-going time what I do to about 20 diapers a day and thrown it right in the garbage, but I’ve looked forward to and seen a lot of these flicks over the years, and on an alternate Earth I’d have seen two more already this summer in the form of Thor and X-Men: First Class, with another two, Green Lantern and Captain America: The First Avenger soon to join them. I’ve disliked many of them. I’ve liked some of them. I’ve liked a handful — the Marvel Studios suite of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2 — well enough to own them on DVD. But with the exception of the first Tim Burton Batman movie, I’ve never seen one that offers the never-seen-that-before sensation that superhero comics still regularly afford you, if you know where to look.
My son is 10 and a romantic, as all 10-year-olds surely have the right to be. How then do I speak to him of this world’s masterminds who render you a supporting actor in your own story? How do I speak of the Sentinels whose eyes melt history, until the world forgets that in 1962, the quintessential mutants of America were black?
—from a New York Times op-ed piece on Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class by Atlantic contributor Ta-Nehisi Coates. In the piece, Coates praises the film as “the most thrilling movie of the summer…narratively lean, beautifully acted and, at all the right moments, visually stunning” — and at the same time finds the makeup of the film’s mutant heroes and anti-heroes an unintentionally revealing glimpse into the American psyche. “Here is a period piece for our postracial times — in the era of Ella Baker and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the most powerful adversaries of spectacular apartheid are a team of enlightened white dudes.”
Coates elaborates on both points, and more besides, on his blog. “It is easily one of my top five comic book movies ever, and significantly better than any of the other X-movies to date,” he writes, even after comparing it unfavorably to the racially homogeneous but racially aware Mad Men and calling it “a period piece blind to its own period.” He also offers a quick take on the pros and cons of the film’s treatment of women, a point examined in depth by The Mary Sue’s Susana Polo.
Elsewhere on the “sociopolitical examinations of the latest X-movie” beat, ThinkProgress’ Matthew Yglesias agrees with a point of Polo’s and argues (twice) that Magneto’s out-and-proud Brotherhood of Mutants has a far more appealing message than Xavier’s accommodationist group; Ezra Klein disagrees, pointing out that Magneto’s agenda is a supremacist one, and wondering if the real dividing line between rival mutant camps would be one between those who could profit monetarily from their abilities (eg. Storm selling her rainmaking services to agribusiness conglomerates and drought-stricken nations) and those who couldn’t; and Adam Serwer connects the film with Avatar‘s enlightened-colonizer-goes-native storyline as “another example of the way the quest for racial innocence so permeates American culture that it’s almost unrecognizable.”
“I think audiences are ready [for more challenging superhero films]. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anyone in Hollywood who could drum up the $300 million it would take to make [a Final Crisis movie]. But entertainment has changed, again. We’ve been concerned with realism for a while, but we’re getting back into psychedelia and fantasy again. Look at James Cameron’s Avatar or Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which are two of the most successful films of the last two years. Both happened to catch a wave that few were ready for.”
My recent entrance into the world of fatherhood has done to my theatergoing what Bane did to Batman’s back, but that hasn’t kept me from eagerly anticipating new superhero movies, for good or for ill, nor has it stopped me from picking them apart with my friends. During one such recent discussion about Kenneth Branagh’s hit Thor adaptation, two of my friends said it feels a lot like Marvel Studios’ other movies — one of them meant it as a compliment, the other as a criticism, but both agreed that this similarity was the plan all along. Thor’s roots in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s cosmic take on the Norse myths may be a million miles away from Iron Man’s weapons-manufacturer-turned-roguish-hero science fiction, but both properties are being filtered through Marvel Studios’ version of Marvel Comics’ “as close to the real world as the presence of superheroes will allow us to get” tone — specifically, the military-industrial version thereof that was pioneered, I’d say, by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates a decade ago. Most of the other big superhero movies have been similarly earthbound, aesthetically speaking, from Christopher Nolan’s dark, Chicago-set Batman movies to the paramilitary jumpsuits of Bryan Singer’s X-Men. In those cases you could make a reasonable argument that toning things down made sense. In other cases, like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, making Spidey as much of an everyman as possible is part and parcel of the concept’s appeal.
With less than a month until the opening of the Warner Bros. movie, Six Flags Great Adventure today premieres its 15-story Green Lantern roller-coaster — excuse me, stand-up thrill coaster — in Jackson, New Jersey. Season pass holders get an exclusive preview through Sunday, with the ride opening to the general public on May 25. That is, as long as the rapture doesn’t arrive on Saturday, throwing a wrench into the rollout.
Designed by the engineers behind the DC Comics-themed Bizarro, Superman-Ultimate Flight and the unimaginatively named Batman the Ride, Green Lantern reaches speeds of 63 miles per hour, and features a 121-foot-tall loop.
Check out video of the ride after the break. The Green Lantern movie, which stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Mark Strong, opens on June 17.
Updated: Though many of the comments about this article (below and elsewhere) indicate that people read the entire thing and understood my point, enough didn’t that I now realize that the tile of this post is unintentionally misleading. This is not a post about how the story presented in the movie is better than the best stories presented in the comics. It’s about how Marvel’s trade program is impenetrable enough and how the quality of stories over a series’ 50-year history varies enough that people who enjoy Marvel movies and would enjoy reading some similar comics often end up just throwing their hands in the air and deciding to watch the movie again instead. Sincere apologies to those for whom this was not clear.
In his response to the news that Marvel’s putting a lot of their cartoons on Netflix, Tom Spurgeon noted that “the Marvel cartoons are probably a bigger factor than we realize in building a core audience for many of their properties, but I haven’t seen anyone seriously engage that subject since the first X-Men movie came out.”
I don’t expect that this article constitutes “serious engagement,” but Spurgeon did remind me of my own reaction to last weekend’s Thor movie. My dominant thought as I watched it (and one that lingered into the parking lot and beyond) was that I enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed a Thor comic in a long, long time. Since I was a kid really. The same is true of the Iron Man films – even the second one – only replace “in a long, long time” with “ever.”
Take into consideration that I’ve yet to read Walt Simonson’s Thor or any of Matt Fraction’s stuff with either character, so I realize that my viewpoint is extremely limited. But that’s not the point. I’m not trying to claim that the story presented in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor is objectively better than every comic ever written about the same character. I do suspect however that the experience of watching it is – for most people – a more satisfying thing than the experience of trying to read the books on which it’s based. As a life-long comics fan, my surprise is that I’m not only sympathetic to that perspective, but have adopted it myself.
Really, it was always just a matter of time before these two great products of the 1980s, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen and Hasbro’s My Little Pony, met. Even if it is The Hub’s strange new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon — seriously, that’s the name — mashed up with Zack Snyder’s 2009 comic-book adaptation. “From the visionary director of 300 Ponies,” it’s … Ponymen. Stay gold, Ponymen. Stay gold.
(via Colleen Doran)
Politics | The controversy in Minnesota continues over Neil Gaiman’s speaking fee, with a state House Republican committee chairman now recommending a $45,000 cut to the Twin Cites’ regional library system budget to make up for the Legacy Fund money paid to the author and comics writer in May 2010. “I simply subtracted out $45,000 — just making a point,” Rep. Dean Urdahl said. Gaiman responded that the move “seems like a sad way to make a point.” He talks at length with CityPages about the controversy. [Star-Tribune]
Passings | Prolific Argentine comics writer Carlos Trillo, co-creator of CyberSix, passed away over the weekend while on vacation in London. He was 68. Trillo, whose career spanned five decades, collaborated with such artists as Eduardo Risso, Jordi Bernet, Juan Bobillo, Carlos Meglia and Domingo Roberto Mandrafina. [TN.com, via The Beat]
Retailing | Peter Panepinto turns a Free Comic Book Day preview into one of those perennial articles about the potential effects of superhero movies on comic-book sales. [Carroll County Times]
E-books | Amazon announced it will allow Kindle users to read e-books from more than 11,000 libraries, marking a reversal of the company’s policy. Previously library users who borrowed e-books could read them on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader and other devices, but not the Kindle. “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” Jay Marine, Amazon’s director of Kindle, said in a statement. The Kindle Library Lending will debut later this year. [The New York Times, press release]
Publishing | Several DC Comics staff members laid off as part of the sweeping corporate restructuring — among them, editors Mike Carlin and Pornsak Pichetshote — have been hired by DC Entertainment’s newly formed Burbank-based Creative Affairs division, which operates alongside Creative Services. [Bleeding Cool]
Legal | Japanese police have arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of using Share file-sharing software to upload about 28,000 manga and anime files without the copyright holders’ permission. [Anime News Network]
Bluewater sent out a press release last week to announce that Morningside Entertainment has optioned the film rights to Bluewater’s Sinbad: Rogue of Mars comic from 2007. There are several interesting things about that.
According to the press release, Morningside has optioned the comic in order to adapt it into a feature film for 2012. Not a reboot, the movie is intended to be an extension of the Sinbad films that started with 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and continued into the ‘70s with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.
The release went on to quote Executive Producer Barry Schneer as saying that Rogue of Mars would be the first film in a new trilogy. “I’m thrilled to continue the amazing legacy my uncle, Charles Schneer began with 7th Voyage and to bring to the screen the Sinbad movie that he and Ray Harryhausen never got to make.”
Since Bluewater published Sinbad: Rogue of Mars as part of its Ray Harryhausen Presents line of comics, I started wondering how this fit together and who owned the rights to what. I assumed that Morningside already owned at least a portion of the rights to the Sinbad films. Since Rogue of Mars was based on those movies, why would Morningside need to option the story from a comic book company that had bought the license from them in the first place? What exactly was Morningside optioning? And how does Ray Harryhausen himself fit into all of this?
Creators | Ruling that cartoonist Albert Uderzo can’t benefit from tax breaks extended to authors, French authorities have ordered the Asterix co-creator to pay $273,000 in taxes on the 24 books he and late collaborator late René Goscinny produced between 1959 and 1979. The country’s tax office asserts the extra tax exemption applies only to “people who have participated in writing the texts of the comic strip.” “This is an injustice and a scandal,” the 84-year-old Uderzo said. [The Telegraph]
Creators | Cartoonist Dick Locher is retiring from the Dick Tracy comic strip after 32 years, handing the reins to artist Joe Staton and writer Mike Curtis. Their first strip will appear in newspapers on March 14. “It’s time to move on to other things,” the 81-year-old Lochner tells Michael Cavna. “It’s time to do normal things with my family, to travel, to paint in the American Southwest.” [Comic Riffs]