Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
“A couple months ago someone on Twitter wrote me that something one of my characters said in my movie hurt him. I’ve gotten hundreds of tweets from people angry about moments in my films over the years, and I just ignore them, or get angry in return. But that one tweet affected me profoundly. The last thing I want to do with my work is hurt someone, especially someone who already feels disenfranchised. That made me think about what I write and what I put in my films, and I will be more thoughtful about situations like it in the future. That is, one honest and vulnerable tweet affected more change in me than hundreds of angry ones.
So, again, it’s easy to be outraged by these tweets. But whatever these angry tweeters are in need of, I don’t think it’s more anger and more rage thrown back at them on Twitter. I actually think that’s what they’re seeking. But what they need is something different. Compassion, maybe? A kind request for boundaries? I don’t know. Maybe you guys have some ideas.”
— Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn, in a longer Facebook post on Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon’s recent departure from Twitter, which came amid criticism and abuse from fans online concerning storylines from the film.
If you ever wondered how actor Clark Gregg prepared himself for Agent Coulson’s death scene — or, rather, “death” scene — in The Avengers, you only need to listen to KCRW’s “Guest DJ Project.” Hint: It’s music, but any additional information is probably above your clearance level.
For this week’s episode of the Los Angeles radio show, the star of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. compiles a track list that includes Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” Public Enemy’s “Caught, Can We Get a Witness” and Radiohead’s “Go to Sleep.”
With April sales numbers released from Diamond Comic Distributors, a subtle pattern has revealed itself: Dark Horse has reclaimed its position as fourth-largest publisher from IDW Publishing for three months straight. It’s a streak of growth in market and dollar share that hasn’t happened for Dark Horse since fall 2011.
It’s great news for an industry mainstay that seemed to be getting eclipsed by the younger IDW at its own game of mixing licensed properties with creator-owned titles. Whether it’s temporary or not, digging into the sales charts, it’s clear there’s more stability in Dark Horse’s catalog than there might first seem.
Obviously Star Wars is the property many know the company for, and when it was announced the license would move at the end of this year to Marvel, some worried how Dark Horse would carry on. However, most publishers realize that no license is forever, so Dark Horse has built a diverse library that seems to be lifting it up now. Despite such diversifying, Star Wars is still the big seller at comic shops, but it’s only the beginning. The back-to-back launch of The Star Wars, a comics adaptation of an early draft of George Lucas’ screenplay, and a back-to-basics Star Wars by Brian Wood provided two accessible titles; if you’d ever seen the original Star Wars trilogy, you’re all set. The last issue of The Star Wars comes out later this month, with a collection in both hardcover and softcover to follow in July.
Mark your calenders, folks! Marvel again reached a milestone as it ventured into the world of television once more. If you think about it, when was the last time Marvel had a live-action television series? The first thing I think of (and I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one) is the Generation X TV movie/pilot that aired in 1996.
Some of you might remember the Mutant X TV show that actually did pretty well (“pretty well” meaning it lasted for more than one season — three, in fact! — in syndication) but it doesn’t legally count. Effectively, it’s been 17 years since Marvel has attempted live-action television, and 25 years since it’s been a hit, back when The Incredible Hulk was all the rage. So score one for the House of Ideas, as ABC aired Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week to exceptional ratings, with 11.9 million viewers watching the premiere live.
Despite having the name in the title, I can’t bring myself to call it Marvel’s show after seeing the pilot. If anything, this is Joss Whedon’s show, as his earmarks are all over every scene, plot point and casting choice; this makes sense, considering Whedon is, primarily, a TV guy. His name conjures up a list of cult series, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dollhouse, all serving a die-hard audience that will watch his works because of the man behind the camera. Whedon is comfortable enough here (and probably has enough free rein over Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to work in his classic tropes and story style to make a hit (that hopefully won’t get canceled this time).
“There’s never a headline-grabbing agenda. I did the abortion storyline [in Buffy the Vampire Slayer] because I was becoming very frustrated with a lot of narratives where people either don’t even say the word abortion or have a very facile reason for not going through with it, and two-thirds of American women will have one in their lifetimes. It is a part of the reality of our society that people weren’t even talking about and a young woman who is no position to raise a child gets pregnant very often has to make that decision. It’s not an easy one, it’s not fun, it’s not something to be taken lightly but it is something that needs to be discussed. It needs to be out there and so I very baldly said, ‘We’re gonna do this because it needs to be done.’ And we bought it in a sort of, you know, in a ‘Buffy’ way — ‘Oh no, I’m not pregnant, I’m a robot.’ But that wasn’t to shy away from it. Because it wasn’t about the process, it was about the decision.”
– Joss Whedon, discussing balancing sensational storylines with those that advance the larger plot, in an interview with CBR TV at Comic-Con International in San Diego
And just like clockwork, Comic-Con International organizers have rolled out the programming schedule for Friday, July 19.
On its second day, the San Diego convention kicks into high gear, with publishing panels from Dark Horse (including one dedicated to Joss Whedon’s titles, and another to Star Wars), DC Comics, IDW (including the Hasbro licenses), Marvel (including the perennial “Cup O’ Joe”), Oni Press, Titan Comics and UDON, retrospectives devoted to ElfQuest, Walt Kelly, Aspen and Strangers in Paradise, and tributes to the late Carmine Infantino and Kim Thompson.
Oh, and don’t forget the Eisner Awards ceremony, which caps off the day.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Even as some attendees unpack from last week’s Fables Con: Fabletown & Below in Rochester, Minnesota, other folks are checking off their to-do lists before heading off to Anaheim, California, later this week for WonderCon.
Meanwhile, our contributors rattle off their picks for the best comics going on sale Wednesday, from Bad Machinery, Vol. 1, to Superman Vs. Zod to East of West #1.
One of the strongest voices in comics over the past 20 years has been Warren Ellis, a write whose impressive body of work ranges from Next Wave: Agents of H.A.T.E. and Transmetropolitan to Global Frequency and Planetary to Fell and FreakAngels. In 2012, however, that voice was largely absent from the medium. For the past few years, Ellis has split his time at his time between writing comics and, increasingly, prose novels such as 2008’s Crooked Little Vein and commentating on society and culture for magazines like Wired and Vice. On Tuesday, Ellis’ second prose novel Gun Machine was released by Mulholland Books, combining his fascination with the layered history of cities with crime noir. I reached out to Warren on Tuesday and we corresponded by email to discuss the future of his career, of comics, and his place in it all.
Comics have become ideal source material in Hollywood’s eternal search for the next blockbuster. But in the numerous attempts to transform comic-book heroes into movie stars, some have, inevitably, failed in the making. I don’t mean failed as in bad, but rather adaptations that were announced only to be canceled before moving into production. For today’s “Six by 6,” I look at six instances of movies that spiraled into an early grave, and commiserate over what could’ve been.
1. George Miller’s Justice League: In 2007, Warner Bros. was hard at work developing a a feature based on DC Comics’ top superhero team. In September 2007, the studio announced the hiring of director George Miller of Mad Max and Happy Feet fame, and pushed to get the film finished before the writers’ strike. The proposed budget clocked in at $220 million, with set already being constructed by early 2008 in Australia. Producers even went so far as casting Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern and Adam Brody as the Flash, before the project was abruptly shelved. After the creation of DC Entertainment in 2009, this Justice League movie was permanently canned in favor of a new approach. I would love to have witnessed a movie like this. Miller is an excellent, and mind-bendingly diverse, director, and much of the movie would have relied on the strength of the script.
In between writing the screenplay for the sequel to The Avengers, developing ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot and executive producing Dark Horse’s Buffy-verse comics, Joss Whedon somehow found time to shoot a video “endorsing” Mitt Romney for president. Sure, it’s a bit surprising, considering that Whedon and Romney differ on myriad social issues (today, in any case), but the filmmaker has found common, if post-apocalyptic, ground.
“Y’know, like a lot of liberal Americans, I was excited when Barack Obama took office four years ago,” Whedon explains, “but it’s a very different world now, and Mitt Romney is a very different candidate — one with the vision and determination to cut through business-as-usual politics and finally put this country back on the path to the zombie apocalypse. Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks in healthcare, education, social services, reproductive rights that will guarantee poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting — all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland.”
There’s more, of course. And along the way, Whedon gets in a little jab at Ayn Rand devotees, sure to make a few libertarians rethink their interpretations/warm embrace of Firefly.
The webseries Husbands is a sitcom about two gay celebrities who get drunk, get married and decide they have to stick with it because, well, it’s the right thing to do. It’s new to me, but with guest stars like Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day, it has picked up a bit of nerd cred, so this should come as no surprise: Dark Horse has a Husbands comic in the works. The creative team includes Husbands creators Brad Bell and Jane Espenson (Bell also stars in the series) and artist Ron Chan. The six-issue series will be published digitally and priced at 99 cents per issue, and it sounds like it will diverge a bit from the show. Espenson told The Insider, “Our show is set in a marriage-equalized world, so it’s already got a hint of an alternate-universe thing going on, [b]ut the comic books are going to totally dive into a whole [alternate-universe] premise. So we’re going from genre-curious to full-on genre!”
More of Chan’s art can be seen below.
That’s right, Joss Whedon now has his own action figure. Or, rather, figurine, as Entertainment Weekly notes it doesn’t have moveable joints. But whatever you want to call it, you can get Whedon as one of four mini-figures packaged with the collector’s edition of Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Spurlock, Stan Lee and Harry Knowles are the other three.
The Whedon and Spurlock figures will be available with the DVD exclusively at Toys ‘R’ Us beginning July 10, which means fans may even get a chance to have them signed by the filmmakers themselves at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Wait, that means you’d have to take them out of the package — so just have them sign the plastic case.
Where do I start? There are so many things in the Avengers movie that it’s super difficult to find just one idea and use it to explain that this was … this was a dream come true. In my lifetime, there is a big-budget Avengers movie written by and starring incredibly talented people, and everyone I know is going to see this. Not just a few friends with a bootleg tape we can groan over, but a real-life movie full of real live people who have no idea that Hawkeye is deaf in one ear or that the Avengers have a charter by which they elect chairmen to lead them. But there they are, selling out seats in midnight showings, crowding theaters overseas, all there for the excitement of seeing these characters do heroic deeds on the silver screen.
I once asked Geoff Johns at a signing if he liked the (at the time) new Teen Titans Go cartoon show. Johns was writing a very in-depth and classic Teen Titans run in the comics, and I would have thought that the incredibly anime attempt at storytelling might have irked him. Instead, he told me that he loved the show and that it was amazing that thousands of kids who watched it now knew who Cyborg was. As I left the theater and two teens passed me by in delirious midnight showing glee and shouting to one another about “Oh my god, Arrow Guy! I thought Captain America, but- ARROW GUY!!” I think I get what Johns was talking about.
So where do I start? At the amazing fact that this movie even exists and will make tons of money? At the continuity kept between this movie and the rest of Marvel Studios productions? With all the massive character development or all the massive action that took place around (and during) the character development? In fact, this movie has so much going for it, it’s nearly overwhelming to watch. If anything, its great success as comic book storytelling brought to film could be its greatest detriment.
WARNING: I’m going to try and not reveal too much as far as spoilers, but it’s safe to say that’s going to be difficult in a movie this awesome. I’m just going to want to grab you and shout, “Oh my God, Arrow Guy!” So if you’ve seen the movie or just want to read about someone who has, join us in the link below!
“I guess the thing that I want to say about fandom is that it’s the closest thing to religion there is that isn’t actually religion. The love of something and what it’s trying to accomplish or mean are usually very separate. The people who are like, ‘Well you can’t do it. That staircase was seven steps, not five.’ They totally missed the point of this. When I first met the comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, we were talking about comics and he told me his favorite letter was, ‘Daredevil would never say that. Die. Die. Why can’t you just die?’ […] And Bendis can’t, by the way. Sunlight, stake through the heart, beheading, he won’t die. He’s actually very powerful. […] Yeah, you know, he likes to get his head cut off at parties. But that thing of needing to replicate and to venerate this thing that we love isn’t about that thing’s philosophy. Those two things are separate. Hopefully, the idea in Buffy was that they were so entwined that there wouldn’t be people who loved that show excessively that didn’t get it.”
NOTE: The images have been removed at the request of GQ.
Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang and GQ designer Benjamin Bours have revealed Chiang’s illustration of director, screenwriter and comics scribe Joss Whedon for a feature in the May issue of the magazine titled “The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth.”
“It’s always a treat to do some editorial illustration,” Chiang writes, “and when it’s a portrait of somebody as beloved in the comics scene as Joss Whedon, I couldn’t ask for a better subject.”
See a much larger version of his illustration below, and visit Bours’ website to see more pages from the Whedon profile.