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Monday, 10 November 2014 08:33
Gold_Key-The_Devils_Isle_of_SpaceRemember the time when I presented the feature where I attempted to compare the Japanese animated television multi-series Pocket Monsters (known outside Japan as “Pokemon”) to the British television multi-series Doctor Who through multiple facts? Well, I had fun doing that, and just recently, I thought of another topic where two unrelated media properties could compare to each other. To begin with, back in 1960, comic book publisher DC Comics introduced a band of super-heroes created by Gardner Fox known as the “Justice League of America” (or simply “JLA” or “Justice League”) in the pages of the comic book series The Brave and the Bold, only for the time to later have its own self-tiled ongoing comic book series, also launched in 1960. Five years later, then-active American film studio Desilu (later fused into Paramount Pictures) launched a legendary space adventure live-action television series called “Star Trek” (nowadays better known as “Star Trek – The Original Series”). Anyway, although both science-fiction properties each maintains an entirely different premise (Justice League of America being a superhero series sometimes set on Earth and the original Star Trek being a non-superhero action/adventure show generally centering around a five-year mission in outer space) and represents a different lore (JLA representing the DC Universe franchise and original Star Trek representing well Star Trek franchise), there are certain tropes that make the original Star Trek series’ protagonal group of characters, the crew of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, comparable to the Justice League itself. Now, get ready to see the whole picture of how this is possible.   Read more...
Published in Movies & TV
Thursday, 06 November 2014 10:05
damm 2In an age of social media reactions and trolls, nitpicking fan persons and historians one thing is clear – people have beefs with the big two, Marvel and DC. With reboots, crossovers, mis-characterizations, dark tones, bad art and a first person shooter perspective, the internet has become a buzzing hive of quick jabs to downright nasty attacks on both WB/DC and Disney/Marvel. Corporate comics (and the superheroes therein) are here to stay and the changes (pick one) have not always sat well with the fanbase – especially the purists. However, the explosion of the geek culture in popularity and its growth, plus the fact so many care and that so many complain is proof that DC and Marvel are doing things the right way. If it didn’t matter…if there was silence…then no blockbuster film could pull them out of the grave. So what exactly, amidst all what is clearly dereliction of direction in content to fans (no matter which particulars) are the big two doing that keeps them in the public eye and growing exponentially like never before into the popular culture? To wit, what makes this thang – a thang? So let’s get this monkey smoking… 1. Brand Recognition/Marketing If there is one thing the House of Mouse knows it is brand recognition anddamm 1 marketing. Just try to name an object that hasn’t had a form with Mickey Mouse printed on it. Disney has taken Marvel (after the success of the first couple films) under its media blitz wing. At every turn there is an image of Captain America or Iron Man – on donut boxes, in donut shops, on soda, on crackers, on fruit snacks and candy. High end collectibles from Star Wars to Avengers are available like never before. With so much going on in comics and the wait between films the merchandizing department has picked up some of the slack. It is interesting to note a majority of this marketing is from the cinematic universe with classic versions splattered here and there on clothes and WB/DC is no slouch either as towels, toys, clothes, key chains and the like all display DC heroes and villains. While not nearly as big of a machine as Disney, Warner Brothers has flooded the market to its fullest potential and set the stage for the debut of its expanded cinematic universe when Dawn of Justice is released. However most of their merchandising campaign is based on the classic versions of these characters which is smart because it allows fans alienated by the New 52 and Man of Steel to still spend their money on merchandise while keeping icons like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in the public eye. DC has also exceled in marketing to the geek culture directly using toy companies and game companies to release limited editions and collectible one-of–a-kinds. Why it’s good: High profile is what every fan wanted in the beginning. No matter if you just read your first comic or whether you have been reading them all your life it is obvious that the key to the survival of comics and our beloved characters is demand. High profile usually always equals demand (as does incessant internet wars). When superheroes are in demand there is always hope you will get one or more of them done the way you want, plus be pleasantly surprised from time to time along the way. Whether movies, comics, TV or book the fact WB and Disney have embarked in such mass marketing (and we haven’t even seen the Star Wars blitz yet) means that they believe in the properties and that in an age of 5 minute attention spans comic book superheroes are here for at least a while longer. 2. New Audience Appeal   damm 7It used to be that in order to grow a property you had to continually add new fans to the numbers already existing. However in recent years video game and TV have led the way in a new kind of audience building technique. This technique has been implemented in the open since 2011. Yep when DC’s reboot took place. Both marvel and DC are using now with great success. The technique or strategy is one of regenerating new audiences at different intervals, allowing for ebb and flow and allowing readers, movie-goers and show watchers to leave and return at will. Basically recycling audiences and every time a few more come to stay. Let me explain. Think of games like Halo that have die-hard followings but whose numbers in recent years have dwindled. This was of no concern to Bungie or Microsoft I am sure because they knew that Destiny and the upcoming for fall of 2015 Halo 5: Guardians would not only bring in previous players and of Halo and sell more units of the previous versions as well, but those who had never played would join too. What they figured out was that it was OK to give people a break from the product to create demand. And when there is demand people want to be in on it so audiences grow overall while ebbing and flowing in the moment.   damm 3   Why it’s good: With all the reboots (Marvel’s next year and whatever Convergence actually does) the big two have decided to start everything over at intervals to recycle their audience like games. With #1 issues, short runs on series and announcements every day of “world shaking proportions” people are coming in droves, leaving when the next thing comes along and coming back when it is new or hot again. Well played big two. And while weekly comics would seem to refute this logic think of those who don’t read comics because a month is too long to wait. Those people will come and go as they please from storyline to storyline as they choose and now they do not have to wait. 3. Not Listening to “Purist” and “Get Off My Lawn” Fans For decades the Kryptonite of hardcore old timey comic fans (I include damm 10myself here) was that we clung to continuity for dear life. It kept us from major movies and TV shows, kept new readers away and created hundreds of debates now invalid by retcons. However we clung to our poisonous green rock with zeal and withsnarling defensiveness every time it was broken. Eventually it was broken too much and had to be erased. Over and over…and the culture grew stagnant and stayed small. Our intentions were good (standing on the shoulder of giants and legends is serious business) but in the end it was this need for utter sameness that repressed us to dirt malls, basement rat trap comic shops and conventions of 1,250 people in some cities. Again we screamed at the dark characterizations of icons of light (I am among them, I know) saying no one wanted these versions. Again we were proven wrong as sales for films like the Dark Knight trilogy, Watchmen, and Man of Steel rose and the worlds of comics became grim and nearly post-apocalyptic. Doing as they have always done comics continued to reflect society as both mirror and harbinger. damm 9As we did this we hurled insults and incredulous accusations at the two companies (some well-deserved ha ha *shakes fist) and they did what was right instead. You see what fans forget sometimes is that from the beginning of both companies it was business revenue (through subscription) and publishing that drove the industry, followed by storytelling and craft and lastly by artistic value – of which it was rarely acknowledged back then. My point is, they didn’t listen to the fans in the 30’s, nor the 40’s, nor the Silver Age nor the Bronze Age except in letters pages they hand selected and gave to the readers. This practice of not listening to fans but to the cash register is HOW we got all these fantastic classic tales we love. It is unrealistic and unfair to criticize these companies for not hearing the reader when for decades we let them tell US what we liked. Why it’s good: If you think the stories and events in comics are hard to follow, convoluted and a mess now, imagine if the editors and owners changed direction every time outrage reached fever pitch. While there is much that fans have every right to complain about the fact is that money is the best indicator of success to two companies who know business as well as any. Marvel and DC have done what any successful company would do, take control of their own reigns and drive their own caped horse. This has led to the new age of pop culture where geek is chic and superheroes are king. 4. Embracing Other Mediums, Other Mediums Embracing Back damm 6In years past due to technical limitations in film and TV, bad planning and storytelling in gaming and the general attitude of large media to comics in general superheroes have been reduced to bumbling teachers in alien suits and largely non-existent up until Blade made its debut spawning a small explosion of films that led to the current boom like X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman Begins. Marvel sold their souls and the rights to their properties and may have lost them forever out of house to Fox and Sony but the movies (despite not always being very good films) did well at the box office and awakened a culture for Iron Man. By the time Thor hit theatres film studios for the first time had a new attitude about superheroes pics. First the comic companies gave up their bright shiny costumes, dialogue and spandex, and then the studios gave up the cash. All the while DC invested in Vertigo and Non-Superhero properties like 300, A History of Violence, From Hell and V for Vendetta, (along with other companies jumping in from the Crow to Hellboy) waiting to see where Marvel’s superhero movies would go, and the culture’s reaction to the genre in general. DC also jumped into TV with Smallville and Birds of Prey. One a hit, the other not so much. But they established a tone and a relationship with a new audience and started their own superhero films by continuing with the dark Knight trilogy, Green Lantern and Jonah Hex with Man of Steel being released in 2013 where geek culture and superhero enthusiasm had struck fever pitch. There seems no end in sight. These basic approaches spawned a massive branching out by both damm 4companies into other mediums with DC leading the way in sheer diversity. With four Game of the Year editions (Arkham Asylum Series and Injustice) DC has mastered what superhero fans want in video games with stories that are far more entertaining and complex than their comic counterparts often are. Marvel has joined the Disney Infinity sandbox and collectible Marvel heroes and characters go a long way to increasing appeal of the Infinity universe. Marvel Heroes and DCU Online are booming with members and widely regarded as good games. Marvel is still waiting for its breakout hit like Marvel Alliance did for the company way back when. DC has more TV shows in development by far (not to mention airing) but Marvel has stepped up its game too. TV audiences are often very different than comic and even movie audiences and the long running story concept is proving to be perfect for seasonal episodic TV as all shows about Marvel and DC characters are killing it in the ratings. Why it’s good: While overload and burnout are always concerns exposure and variation are the best tools for keeping superheroes alive in this new age. With more variations there is more chance for appeal. If given a hundred versions of Superman even the stodgiest of fans can find at least on version they like. Choice opens up the potential for a legendary run or a new definition of a character that completes the original intent. The variation so inherent in comics is a perfect fit for multiple mediums and is a sort of built-in self-defense mechanism against over saturation because there are so many stories to draw from and so many characters to play them. 5. Embracing Geek Culture damm 8There was a time that while both companies were proud of their product they were not always thrilled with the fans comics created. At least not at the business and marketing level. Time and time again through the 70s, 80’s and 90’s attempts were made to made the fanbase (Dazzler anyone?) hipper and more mainstream. Garnering the same regard as stamp collectors and geologists on the cool scale by the general populous was bad for companies who marketed larger than life stories by handsome, popular and social characters seemed in-congruent for so long to the sensitive, thoughtful introspective fans who had migrated from all over nerdom when the golden age of sci-fi ended in the mid-70s. Fans themselves often retell stories of exclusion and ridicule from not only other facets of society but from the publishers themselves after writing them or sending submissions. All of that has changed. With popular TV shows outside of the family tents like Big Bang Theory geek is chic and Marvel and DC are largely responsible for this. It really started to change in 2001 in this reporter’s eyes when DC and Marvel started pouring vast resources into comic-cons and geek events all over the country like never before. Wizard World was in its heyday and new cons sprung up all over the country, little by little (except you Denver, Montreal and Salt Lake you just sprung up HUGE). Exclusives, big name talent properly promoted and sneak peeks brought fans in and they brought their friends. When Cosplay started its resurgence further sealing the popularity of the open geek culture the TV crews and the News came too. Why it’s good: To this day the Big Two are letting their geek flags fly. Even DC has adamm 5 superhero on TV in a bright red suit. This embracing of the culture facilitates inclusion (some would say too much but not me) and it creates a sense of unity rarely felt over other topics or in other sub-cultures. It enriches the trust needed to connect with other fans and eliminate the animosity while preserving our different opinions of our heroes. So while I still despise David Goyer’s Superman… I like his Constantine. Remember the big two are doing some things right. Tell the monkey to crush his butt… Read more...
Published in Let's Talk Comics
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:15
OS coverIt's October, the spookiest month of the year and the harbinger of the winter season to come. There is a change in the wind when October rolls around. Some say the wind switches from the east to the west, but I have never noticed that. Some say it's because it is the spookiest month of the year, but if you watch the news they are all pretty scary now. For me it is the southern winds have been replaced for the winds coming down out of Canada, the cooler days followed by the even colder nights. No matter what it might be, it is a change and for comic books it is the same. Big changes occurred in September and it even meant a new King of Comics. It has been a long time since I was truly surprised, and this months numbers did just that. Enough of this, lets get to it. Read more...
Published in Breaking News
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 20:31
3697076-wolverine_3_months_to_die_logo Wolverine is a character that has been around for forty years, debuting in Incredible Hulk #171 taking on both Hulk and Wendigo. Soon after, that scrappy little Canadian mutant would find his way into the super team The X-Men in Giant Sized X-Men, which sort of rebooted the team and really set the tone for the series for years to come. Wolverine, all 5’3 of him, became the breakout star on the team with his antisocial attitude and indestructible adamantium claws and skeleton. This led to him getting his own series and being overused throughout the 90s and 2000s. Now, with 3 Months To Die, we may finally see this fascinating character come to an end. Read more...
Published in Comic Book Reviews
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 13:10
gog leadIt is once again time to do the Top 20 comic books. This, the August edition marks the Anniversary of when I started doing this column 4 years ago. I was at a different site then, but no matter this column has run monthly now for four whole years. Things I have noticed over the 4 years are: Some of you folks really like the breakdown portion of the column, but most couldn't care less. Batman has had the number one book on the Top 20 list almost twice as much as any other book on the list. Marvel has been the Top producer almost twice as many times as DC. DC has only taken the top slot this year once. Finally I have written NA more times this year on the Top 20 list more than any other year, or two years combined. What does all that tell you? Not a dang thing. Well maybe that there have been more number one books this last year or so than any other time I have been writing the list other than the New 52 debut.   Read more...
Published in Breaking News
Sunday, 07 September 2014 13:59
3802601-2447916540-35805Do you smell what Black Adam is cookin’? Among all of the crazy news this week what with the passing of yet another legend of comedy (R.I.P. Joan Rivers), nearly every young female celebrity’s naughty pictures getting leaked onto the internet and Cee-Lo Green making us want to delete all of our Gnarls Barkley records, some of you may have missed the bit of GREAT news that broke. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Warner Bros. finally confirmed that the big role that he has landed for a big DC Comics film was indeed Black Adam in a (also confirmed) Shazam live action feature film! This is something the fans have wanted for quite some time, seeing as Black Adam is quite a cult favorite and is a perfect role for the "People’s Champ". Adam is a former Egyptian pharaoh and has disdain for all he encounters. He believes he is better than everyone and isn’t shy about saying it or showing it. Read more...
Published in DC Comics
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 17:35
“Knightcon Star Cars & Heroes has always felt like a family, and that will always be the heart of the event; the rest is the shell.”   knightcon 2014 logoAs the world of genre television, comic books and science fiction and fantasy movies continue to reach further into the popular consciousness; conventions are attracting more and more exhibitors and fans year-on-year. They’re popping up worldwide. The United States was originally the forerunner of such an idea – hiring out a show hall specifically to bring fans of a particular medium together to celebrate what they love – but now most cities and towns internationally are putting on their own version. As well as being a place for like-minded individuals to gather and talk about what they enjoy the most, conventions also attract stars – whether they’re actors, creators or members of the production team – and allows them to connect with their fan-base on a much more personal scale. Read more...
Published in Convention Circuit
Thursday, 14 August 2014 06:08
Supermannov539As "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" battles "Guardians of the Galaxy" at the box office, collectors who once feared they might not be able to find the latest issue at their local store can relax that the Heroes in a Half Shell are now available digitally. Gone are the days when Turtles creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had to borrow $1,300 to self-publish 3,000 copies of their first issue, sending fans, fearing scarce supplies, into a buying frenzy. But how does the traditional reading experience of anxiously awaiting the next issue compare to today's ability to digitally download issues at will?   Read more...
Published in Let's Talk Comics
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