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Now you too can be Wallace Wells (in ‘Scott Pilgrim’ video game)

wallace-wells

Following a nearly year-long delay, Sony has finally released downloadable content for its Scott Pilgrim vs. The World game that not only adds Scott’s roommate Wallace Wells as a playable character but also introduces an online multiplayer feature.

Released in 2010 by Ubisoft in conjunction with the big-screen adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is a side-scrolling beat-’em-up that, in its original form, allowed gamers to play as Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine or Stephen Stills, who must to battle their way through Ramona’s Evil Exes (Knives Chau was later offered as DLC).

The new content pack is available for $4.99 on the PlayStation Network. Watch the trailer below.

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales up 18.6% for first half of year

Avengers vs. X-Men #6

Retailing | Sales of comics and graphic novels in the direct market rose 18.6 percent for the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2011, reports the retail news and analysis site ICv2. John Jackson Miller adds that, “Retailers have already ordered more material through June — nearly $223 million in retail dollars— than they did in last year through July.” He also points out that the second half of the year has outperformed the first half every year for the past decade, by an average of 10 percent, meaning we can probably expect 2012 to finish strong. [ICv2.com, Comichron]

Publishing | The new Valiant Entertainment would like to follow the movie “blueprint” that Marvel has laid out, according to a new profile of the reborn company. “Investors like to be able to compare concepts to other concepts,” said Valiant chairman Peter Cuneo, former CEO of Marvel. “With Valiant, we very much have a blueprint to follow, which is Marvel.” The profile mostly focuses on the business side of Valiant, as well as some of its history. [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Anya’s Ghost, Zita the Spacegirl win Cybils Awards

Anya's Ghost

Awards | Two titles from First Second won the graphic novel categories in the 2011 Cybils Awards, literary honors given by bloggers who write about children’s and young-adult books: Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl received the graphic novel prize in the Elementary & Middle School category, while Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost won in the Young Adult division. [Cybils]

Digital | With the Vita on the way, Sony is shutting down its PSP comics service, and users will lose their comics come September. [Gameranx]

Graphic novels | Craig Thompson’s Blankets made Oprah’s list of the eight greatest love stories of all time, taking its place alongside Brokeback Mountain and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. [Oprah.com]

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Sony ends its digital comics service for the PlayStation Portable

This week’s update will be the last for the PlayStation Digital Comics store, bringing to an Sony’s nearly two-year-old service for the PlayStation Portable.

Announced in August 2009 and launched four months later, PlayStation Digital Comics permitted users to download comics from such publishers as DC, Marvel, IDW Publishing, Archie, Tokyopop and BOOM! Studios to handheld game console. The service amassed a library of more than 4,000 titles, which Sony says will remain available to PSP users.

In a brief announcement made Wednesday on the PlayStation blog, Grace Chen, director of the PlayStation Store, wrote that, “The Digital Comics Team will continue to work on bringing the comic service to other Sony devices.” That suggests the service, or one similar to it, may be available for the PlayStation Vita, expected to be released in early 2012.


Frank Cho to bring back Liberty Meadows

Good news for Liberty Meadows fans: Frank Cho is working on the long-awaited issue #38, after dropping plans (for now) to make it into an animated cartoon.

Liberty Meadows was originally a newspaper strip, but Cho’s art and sense of humor kept bumping up against editorial standards, and he ended syndication in 2001; “I got tired of the censorship and the low pay,” he told CBR in a 2006 interview, adding that his weakest strips were rush jobs done to fill in for strips that editors refused to run. Cho moved to a comic book format, first self-published, then through Image, but he put Liberty Meadows on hiatus in 2004, after issue #36. Issue #37 came out in 2009.

Cho let loose on his blog about his frustrations with Sony, which acquired the rights to create a downloadable Liberty Meadows cartoon for their Sony Digital division. Here’s his account of how that went:

I wrote the original pilot episode but it was rejected for being too “risque”. So other writers were brought in to tone it down and make it more kid friendly. Once I read the rewrite, I thought it completely missed the point of Liberty Meadows. So I rewrote the rewrite, and this went back and forth couple of times until we reached a compromised script. We turned that script into an traditional 2D animated pilot episode.

Enter Sony Television division. They saw the pilot episode and liked it. Liberty Meadows get bumped up to their television division and a TV series is planned. However there is one request, Sony Television people wanted Liberty Meadows to be more “risque” with adult humor like the “Family Guy”. This is the point where I rip my hair out in frustration.

Then the recession hit and all the executives involved with the project left the company. Fortunately, Cho’s contract had an inactivity clause (something the Tokyopop creators could have benefited from) so the rights have now reverted back to him.

His plan for now is to simply go back to drawing the strip, although he doesn’t rule out another movie or TV deal “if the right offer comes along.”

Another performer injured in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

T.V. Carpio

The beleaguered Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was dealt another blow Tuesday with the announcement that T.V. Carpio, who plays the villain Arachne, will be sidelined for the next two weeks following an injury sustained during one of the show’s many fight scenes.

According to The New York Times, Carpio was hurt during a March 16 preview performance in an aggressive Act II showdown between the eight-legged Arachne and Peter Parker (played that evening by Matthew James Thomas). Although the newspaper reports the nature of the injury was not disclosed, it’s believed to be a neck injury; Broadway World contends it’s “whiplash.”

Understudy America Olivo has been performing as Arachne, and will continue in the part until Carpio’s return.

Carpio is the fifth performer injured in a production plagued by difficulties. In fact, she took over the role of Arachne from original actress Natalie Mendoza, who left Spider-Man in late December after she suffered a concussion during the problem-filled first preview.

The $70-million musical, by far the most expensive and technically ambitious show in Broadway history, has had a tumultuous month — which is really saying something, considering its rocky past: In the wake of overwhelmingly negative reviews and rumors of behind-the-scenes tensions, director Julie Taymor stepped aside on March 9 to make way for an expanded creative team tasked with overhauling the production. And just this week a report surfaced that producers are seeking to replace choreographer Daniel Ezralow, a Taymor loyalist responsible for designing the ambitious flying sequences.

Preview performances will be shut down from April 19 to May 11 to accommodate what are expected to be sweeping changes to the show — including a reduction of Arachne’s role. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is now scheduled to open on June 14.

Details surface of sweeping changes to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"

A post-Julie Taymor Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will likely be a radically changed show, with many of the director’s trademark elements altered or removed, multiple outlets report.

Among the rumored revisions are the strengthening of the love story between Peter Parker and Mary Jane, said to have been a point of contention between Taymor and some cast members, the loss of the widely panned “Deeply Furious” number, and a clarification of the Green Goblin’s story arc (he dies in Act I only to reappear in Act II). But perhaps most notable are the plans for Arachne, the eight-legged villainess created by Taymor in 2002. The character, who dominates the second act, will see her scenes reduced or cut entirely, Bloomberg reports.

The details surfaced today, less than 24 hours after producers finally announced what many had expected for some time: that the beleagured director would leave and the critically savaged musical shut down for two weeks to undergo a massive overhaul. Philip William McKinley (The Boy From Oz) was brought in as Taymor’s replacement to work with an expanded creative team that includes composers Bono and The Edge, musical consultant Paul Bogaev, playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and sound designer Peter Hylenski. Opening night, most recently scheduled for March 15, will be delayed for a sixth time, to early summer.

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Julie Taymor exits Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, new director hired

Julie Taymor

As expected, the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark announced this evening that Julie Taymor will step aside as director of the much-delayed and derided $65 million musical. They also confirmed that opening night has been moved from March 15 to early summer, marking the show’s sixth postponement.

Taymor will be replaced by Philip William McKinley (The Boy From Oz), who joins an expanded creative team — it includes playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, musical consultant Paul Bogaev and sound designer Peter Hylenski — that will overhaul the production over the next three months. Performances are expected to shut down for two to three weeks in April and May to accommodate the retooling and rehearsals.

According to The New York Times, the producers, along with composers Bono and the Edge, told the cast this evening that Taymor was out but would remain involved in the show, although not in a day-to-day capacity.

That point was emphasized in a joint statement from lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris: “Julie Taymor is not leaving the creative team. Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie’s previous commitments mean that past March 15th, she cannot work the 24/7 necessary to make the changes in the production in order to be ready for our opening.”

The Times notes that the producers’ press release doesn’t include a comment from Taymor, an omission the newspaper characterizes as “a sign of the discord among them.” Indeed, today’s announcement follows weeks of friction, during which the Tony Award-winning director reportedly refused requests by producers to allow outsiders to make changes to the widely panned show.

Reports: Taymor leaving Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, producers shutting down musical for overhaul [Updated]

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Besieged director Julie Taymor will leave Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark as producers prepare to shut down performances for two to three weeks to overhaul the $65 million musical, multiple sources report. However, The New York Times now contends she could remain in some capacity, “perhaps in name only,” following her rumored resignation Tuesday night.

The news follows two days of negotiations that were believed to center on the Tony Award-winning Taymor either working with an expanded creative team to retool production, or possibly exit the show she co-wrote and shepherded to Broadway. “Taymor is out. She’s left the building,” a source close to the production tells the New York Daily News.

The shutdown dates for Spider-Man, which was supposed to open March 15, are expected to cover late April and early May, The Times reports. However, a spokesman sticks by the line that “the opening night is still scheduled for March 15.” A shutdown would mean a loss of about $1.3 million a week — although still in previews, Spider-Man is one of the highest-grossing shows on Broadway — and push the production past the April 28 deadline for Tony Awards eligibility (apparently not a concern). Producers are now thought to be eyeing a June opening date, the show’s sixth.

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Julie Taymor could depart Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark

Julie Taymor

Director Julie Taymor, who just last week said she was “in the crucible and the fire of transformation,” could be on her way out of the beleagured Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

According to The New York Times, producers were negotiating Monday for the Tony Award winner to work with an expanded creative team — including veteran musical supervisor Paul Bogaev and possibly playwright/comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa — to overhaul the much-delayed and derided $65 million production. They’re reportedly also deciding when to officially open, now that a sixth delay is inevitable.

The show was scheduled to open next Tuesday, a date described in January by lead producer Michael Cohl as “the final postponement,” but The Times notes that theater critics have not received invitations, which are typically sent about two weeks before.

Taymor’s departure would, of course, be a seismic change for the trouble musical, which she’s steered from its genesis in 2002 through near-bankruptcy, repeated delays, cast departures, prolonged previews, injuries and critical scorn. Along the way, she’s been called everything from a creative genius to a megalomaniac, all the while serving as a lightning rod for criticism.

By far the most expensive and technically complex show in Broadway history, Spider-Man added another superlative to the list on Sunday: With its 98th preview performance, it broke the record set in 1969 by Jackie Mason’s A Teaspoon Every Four Hours.

Another Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark delay seems all but certain

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

When even the show’s most vocal defender is reporting on an apparent sixth delay for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, you begin to think there’s something to the growing belief that the $65 million musical won’t officially open until June.

Roger Friedman, a longtime friend of director Julie Taymor who’s used his Showbiz411 website to chastise theater critics and counter reports by the New York Post’s Michael Riedel, now says the March 15 date — described in January by lead producer Michael Cohl as “the final postponement” — is being called a “Hope-ening.”

“One source says every time the show doesn’t open they call it a ‘Faux-pening’,” Friedman writes this morning. He frames the move as a way to sidestep the April 28 deadline for the Tony Awards while giving the creative team more time to retool the show as much as possible within the constraints of the highly complex mechanics: “I am told that the feeling is that week to week the show is selling well enough ($1.55 mil last week.) that opening now, getting panned again, and then getting snubbed by the Tonys — which is likely — is worse than just staying the course and continuing to make improvements.”

This latest delay was perhaps telegraphed early last month by a wave of negative reviews, followed by reports that comics writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been approached to rewrite the book, and the hiring of veteran conductor and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev.

The troubled production, which has been plagued by mechanical glitches, injuries and cast departures as well as delays, was cited Friday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for three serious safety violations for four separate incidents last year — including the one in which Christopher Tierney plunged from a platform on stage, breaking ribs and fracturing his skull. Producers were fined $12,600, a drop in the bucket for the most expensive show in Broadway history.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark cast performs on Letterman

Reeve Carney on "Late Show with David Letterman"

It was a busy Tuesday for the cast and crew of  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark that began with an upbeat appearance by the stars on CBS’s Early Show and ended with a subdued performance on the Late Show with David Letterman. In between, Bono was expected to tell producers whether he thinks the troubled $65-million musical is ready for its scheduled March 15 opening.

On The Early Show, stars Reeve Carney, Jennifer Damiano and T.V. Carpio brushed aside the production’s largely negative reviews, even one saying that Spider-Man ranks among the worst musicals in Broadway history. “Everyone has a right to their opinion,” said Carney, who stars as Peter Parker. “If anything, maybe thanks for — in some ways, we kind of get a kick out of the negativity, just because (of) that whole thing — ‘any press is good press’ is not entirely true, but you have to have a good sense of humor about yourself, as well. We’re just trying to make the best show we can. So it’s one person’s opinion, and I think the audience reaction is so positive every night that that’s kind of what we’re focused on, just trying to please the audience.”

Likewise, Carpio downplayed the show’s injuries, pointing out she received a concussion while performing in Rent. “Not to minimize what has happened in our show,” she said, “but there’s no flying in Rent and these things happened and nobody heard about it.” (That said, Spider-Man producers can’t be pleased by the headline on The Early Show website: “Spider-Man stars rationalize injuries.”)

On David Letterman, it was all about the music, with the trio performing the obviously Bono-penned ballad “Rise Above” (watch the video below). They might’ve been better-served by something a little more pulse-pounding, but what do I know? How about Carney’s Spider-Man jacket, though? I’d buy one of those from the gift shop (which will be stocked with merchandise sporting Greg Horn artwork).

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Spider-Man musical brings in help, could delay opening again

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, by Annie Leibovitz

Producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have brought in outside help for the beleaguered musical amid growing expectation that the show’s opening will be delayed a sixth time.

The New York Times reports that veteran conductor and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev was hired about a week ago to work with Bono and the Edge and to help improve the performance, arrangements and sound quality. Bogaev was the musical director and conductor of the technically complex Starlight Express, and collaborated with Phill Collins on Tarzan and Elton John on Aida.

News of Bogaev’s involvement comes less than a week after a report that comics writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been approached to rework the book originally penned by Julie Taymor and Glen Berger (The Times says he’s yet to be hired). It also follows quickly on a rumor that producers wanted to bring in a co-director for Taymor — something a show spokesman and Taymor herself deny.

Spider-Man spokesman Rick Miramontez wouldn’t comment to the newspaper regarding speculation that the show’s opening could be pushed past March 15, the date selected last month by lead producer Michael Cohl “to ensure that this will be the final postponement.”

The $65 million musical, which began preview performances on Nov. 28, has experienced numerous setbacks, including technical glitches, serious injuries, cast departures and, early this month, an avalanche of scathing reviews from theater critics. Still, it’s the second highest-grossing show on Broadway, behind the long-running Wicked.

Big-budget Spider-Man musical turns off the critics

Patrick Page as the Green Goblin and Reeve Carney as Spider-Man (The New York Times)

After five delays and nearly 70 preview performances, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark received its first wave of “official” reviews overnight from the nation’s top theater critics — many of whom went to great pains to point out that the $65-million musical was supposed to open on Monday, at least before the most recent postponement.

The results are perhaps predictable, if certainly not flattering. Words like “incoherent,” “cheap” and “atrocious” are used, much to the production’s dismay. (Comic Book Resources reviewed Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark last month, with Staff Writer Josh Wigler describing it as “awful.”)

“The PILE-ON by the critics was ridiculous and uncalled for,” show spokesman Rick Miramontez said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. “Their actions are unprecedented and UNCOOL!”

“Unprecedented” likely refers to the publishing of reviews before the show’s official opening on March 15, a baton Showbiz411′s Roger Friedman — a longtime friend and frequent defender of director Julie Taymor — picked up when he described the move as an “ambush” in a post titled “Spider-Man Musical: Told Not To, the Critics Review it Anyway.” That’s the same Roger Friedman who, in 2009, downloaded and reviewed a copy of a stolen unfinished print of X-Men Origins: Wolverine weeks before the movie’s opening.

Here’s a roundup of some of the early reviews that reportedly left Spider-Man producer Norton Herrick “gobsmacked”:

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At long last, the Spider-Man musical has a ‘triumphant’ finale

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (by Annie Leibovitz)

After seven tempestuous weeks of previews during which a temporary, and unsatisfying, ending was used, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has a dramatic new finale.

The New York Times reports the new, technically complex ending features a flying sequence in which Spider-Man flies “in a triumphant manner” around the 1,932-seat Foxwoods Theatre. The change comes in response to complaints that the show’s current ending — Spider-Man and Mary Jane embrace, then the curtain drops — was lackluster at best.

A spokesman for the $65-million musical would only say that the new ending involves “an airborne finale moment that will be familiar to Spider-Man fans around the world.”

Producers announced last Thursday that Spider-Man‘s opening would be delayed a fifth time, to March 15, to allow more time to fine-tune the finale and other aspects of the show. Grammy-winning record producer Steve Lillywhite was also been brought in by Bono and director Julie Taymor to work with the performers on the music.


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