Disney to Buy Marvel

This… is unsettling news indeed.

While, without a doubt, this partnership has its benefits, it could have its downsides none-the-less.

One of the benefits is the immense amount of money Disney has that it can through behind Marvel projects. Imagine the budget on Marvel’s upcoming movies? Or the animation quality behind their films and series? These things can’t be denied; with Disney in their corner, Marvel’s movie and cartoon quality will increase tenfold.
Or imagine walking around Disneyland and getting tapped on the shoulder by Spider-Man? Or taking a photo with Wolverine and Cyclops? Or riding Captain America’s Wild Ride? This partnership would do wonders for the visibility of Marvel characters, introducing them to millions of children and their parents every year.

But, for every positive to this deal, there are about a hundred downsides. Yes, Disney can provide Marvel with top-notch animation services. But will they step in and censor what they feel isn’t family-friendly enough? We have all seen how Disney has bastardized the tales of Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, which were dark, sordid stories to begin with. Will Disney do this with Marvel? While, for the most part, Marvel films and cartoons are fairly tame, but there have been exceptions to the rule. Hulk vs., for instance, has quite a bit of over-the-top violence. And the Punisher films have been bloody and grotesque over the years. I’m worried that Disney would step in and say, “Nope, can’t do this” and destroy the loyalty to the characters.

But let’s not forget the services Marvel can offer Disney. Top notch comic writers and artists can go a long way to a company that has made comic books based on its characters. Will Marvel have to start publishing comics based on Mickey Mouse and Uncle Scrooge? Or will Disney continue to publish these stories, with Marvel’s army of writers and artists in tow? Will doing these stories keep these artists and writers from contributing to the Marvel stories, bringing down their quality? I would hate to see Marvel’s characters suffer because of a business relationship between two companies.

My opinion of this situation is that Disney wants to answer the partnership that its rival, Warner Brothers, has. Warner Brothers has owned Marvel rival, DC Comics, for years, and things have worked out pretty well on that end. Movies based on DC properties have, for the most part been well made. Appearances at theme parks are fantastic money makers, as evidenced by Six Flags and their numerous roller coasters and rides by DC Comics characters. And it doesn’t seem that the quality of DC Comics suffers due to creators being on projects about Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck.

But this relationship hasn’t always been the strongest partnership creatively. For instance, with DC being owned by Warner Brothers, a big-time movie studio, then Warner Brothers would, naturally, make all movies based on DC characters. Makes sense, right? But what if Warner Brothers decides to put all DC based films on hold, like they did in January of 2009? What happens then? With the success of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, you would think DC would be frothing at the mouth to create a movie based on the Flash or Green Lantern, instead of bleeding Batman dry. But they haven’t been given that chance, because of parent company Warner Brothers. However, were they a separate entity, DC would be able to shop the franchise around. By taking their property to Sony or 20th Century Fox, DC’s other characters would have a chance.

I would hate to see Marvel suffer the same fate. For some time, Marvel had a good thing going for them. Since the turn of the century, their movies had all become big-budget, blockbuster successes. Their animation team is at their strongest, with Wolverine and the X-Men and their direct to DVD films they release every so often. Despite the financial woes Marvel suffered during the 1990’s, with being on the verge of bankruptcy, fending off the likes of Carl Ichan and his desire to sell the company piece by piece, and finally being bailed out by ToyBiz, a company that made action figures based on the Marvel franchise, Marvel has managed to pull ahead and become a heavy hitter in the industry, all but burying amateur upstart Image Comics.

This buyout decision is clearly not a financial one. Marvel is stable enough where it doesn’t need a backer to keep them above water. The decision to purchase Marvel rests purely on Disney’s shoulders. And I keep going back to the one reason I stated before. And I’m afraid of it. Disney wants a partnership like Warner Brothers. I can’t say for certain that I don’t like this news. But I can say I’m extremely hesitant of the future of Marvel. I will have to wait and see what happens, but my fingers will be crossed.


War Is Heck: A Serial Drama, Or Something

As I was going through some old files on my computer the other day I came across this little comic strip I made a few years back. It was instigated by the discovery of these creepy military action figures I found in a dollar store. I thought that these figures were so weird looking that something good had to come from them. So I gathered up one of each and decided to do a little photography comic, a la Twisted Toyfare Theater.

Now I’ll be the first one to admit these action figures are really shitty. The arms and legs barely move, and when they do they look just plain awkward. The black guys are just repainted white guys, so every soldier literally has a “brother from another mother.” But the way they look, with the expressions on their faces, just struck me as something humorous. I had an idea, maybe not a good idea, but it was an idea.

I’ve dabbled in creating comics in the past. My year long stint of Clit and Pecker proved mostly fruitless. I loved the premise behind CnP, but lacked the time and energy to keep up with it. Not to mention the added expense of servers and promotion and what not. I am currently in the process of moving CnP to a blog here on Blogger, and I have a never before seen strip waiting in the wings for when that is completed. I do plan on updating, but not with regularity. My biggest hurdle is inspiration. And when I try to force inspiration, I get stuck. When I try to rush things, it comes out like shit. I don’t want that for my creation, so I decided to back off and let it happen whenever it does.

This is the approach I will take with my photo-comic. I currently have three strips in the bag, and I will pull those out when I am ready. But now I’m in some planning stages. I just bought one of those marble notebooks, and I glued photos of each of the figures on separate pages. Now comes the brainstorming of each character as well as background write ups. When that’s complete, I work on scripting individual storylines. After that step, I’ll move into production.
I never took those steps with CnP. That, I think, was the problem. I wanted to update twice a week. But without a path to go down, I always had to come up with new strips on the fly. And, I’ll admit, they sucked. Once I get this new strip planned, I’ll work this magic on CnP, and hopefully get that to a better place.

Like I said, I never wanted it to evaporate the way it did. But I will fix that. And when I do, things will be better. But right now I want to work on this project and see if I can make anything of it. I’m sure I can, but whether it will find an audience is a different story.

If you enjoyed this, leave a comment and let me know. Encouraging words are always welcome.


Mary Jane: A Story of Teenage Angst and Superheroes

I recently finished reading Mary Jane by Judith O’Brien, and I have to say it was pretty good. Now, before you start wondering if I’m really a 13 year old girl who is pretending to be a grown man, allow me to argue my point. (And in my defense, it was on my bookshelf for quite awhile, after my girlfriend bought it at Midtown Comics in Manhattan two years ago.)

The novel tells the story of a young Mary Jane, and the troubles she goes through. Her father walks out on her and her mother, leaving them to fend for themselves. Because of a lack of a steady income, Mary Jane and her mother have to move from apartment to apartment, and Mary Jane from school to school. She leaves her beloved Bradford Academy and all of her friends, including a gangly, awkward kid who partnered with her on the science fair, a kid named Peter Parker. Seeing Peter’s family life, and his interaction with his parents, makes her yearn for a normal home life. That is, until the day Peter’s parents are killed in a plane crash, and his aunt and uncle move in to raise him. They cannot afford to send him to Bradford anymore, and place Peter in public school, separating him from Mary Jane.

Years go by, and due to the Watson’s transient lifestyle, Mary Jane ends up attending the same school as her childhood friend. They begin to get to know each other again, but Peter is still the weird kid, picked on by everyone else, and MJ is warned that being friends with Peter can ruin her reputation. She heeds this advice, but soon Peter starts to change, and she, and all of the girls in the school, begin to see Peter less of a nerd and more of a sexual God.

Mary Jane deals with a lot of issues that a normal teenager deals with, such as being accepted by her peers and dealing with her own self-image. But, she also is introduced to some topics that are a little more abnormal, like her friend’s father giving the entire class a sports drink laced with a highly addictive performance enhancer.

Though Mary Jane was written for younger audiences, it really captures the essence of how it is like to be a teenager. The anxiety of being a teenager is almost tangible, especially when Mary Jane starts dealing with her weight issues and takes drastic measures to improve her self. Her diary entries are realistic, as well as her inner monologue. The dialogue is a little cheesy in the way the teenagers speak to each other, but in many cases, that was intentional. In others, well, I didn’t think teenagers actually spoke like that.

I also have to commend O’Brien on the way she handled the appearance of Spider-Man, one of the driving forces in Mary Jane’s life. In every other incantation of Spider-Man, we get the story from peter Parker’s perspective. But since this is Mary Jane’s story, we get to look at it a different way. When Spider-Man hits the scene, taking on the Demon Knife Master for a prize of $1,000 a minute at the Wrestle Cage Rage match, we watch as Mary Jane recognizes a few acrobatic moves she herself taught Peter Parker, and begins to wonder if it can be possible. When Spider-Man saves her from being hit by a car, she examines the sound of his voice, wondering again, and even outright asking, if Peter Parker is Spider-Man. And the way she is kept in the dark, when she discovers that the two cannot be the same person, is believable, a simple cover but plausible nonetheless.

My one gripe, however, is the show-and-tell Peter gives Mary Jane when he discovers that he has changed. The day after getting bitten by the radioactive spider (though they don’t make it clear it the spider was in fact radioactive) Peter shows off his new abilities to the entire school, literally running circles around the previously more athletic kids. Later that day, he tells Mary Jane about how he doesn’t need his thick glasses anymore, he begins showing her his new muscles, and she starts touching her abs and biceps. Though this idea of showing off to his peers is a true teenage attribute, I was a little disappointed in it. The Spider-Man that I know knew that this new powers would make him an almost instant celebrity in his school, but he decides to keep it a secret anyway. With great power comes great responsibility, right? And flaunting that power is not responsible. So to see Peter Parker act in so flippant a manner was slightly irritating, but I managed to get over it.

One other aspect in the novel is the illustrations. No Marvel book would be complete without a few pictures. Mary Jane isn’t overdone with pictures, but what it has are amazing. Done by the great Mike Mayhew, the illustrations manage to capture the essence of the novel’s young stars, and place them in their everyday situations. Peter being ostracized by his peers, Mary Jane studying her body, and Peter and Mary Jane sharing an intimate moment are all snapshots that Mayhew gives the reader. And the emotion on their faces is so precise that you can almost understand the story completely without reading a single word.

Though it may be strange for a guy like me to read a book aimed at teenage girls, I am proud to say that I did. Being the fan of Spider-Man that I am, and with Mary Jane being such an important part of the Spider-Man myth, I felt that it was important for me to read this novel, so that I can see another author’s take on both characters. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Spider-Man like I do. It is a short novel, only about 200 pages, and a quick read. But it is worth it to the true fans for a new take on the story they know so well.

And now that I am done with the first novel, I will be moving onto the second very shortly.


Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD

Today, Marvel released its first Motion Comic on iTunes. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Alex Maleev, “Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD” is an intelligent, harsh look at the life of Jessica Drew after her ordeal with SHIELD, Hydra, and the Skrulls.

There has been a lot of talk about this Motion Comic for a few weeks now, since the trailer debut on the internet. Reactions to it have been greatly positive. The reactions are correct. Bendis does a great job with the writing. The story is well written in its noir style detective story. Internal thoughts give us most of the storyline as Jessica Drew tries to come to terms with the way her life turned out.

The art, courtesy of Alex Maleev, is simply gorgeous. His grim and gritty style blends well with the story-telling, and helps to make the viewer feel just what Jessica is going through. Another point I have to tip my hat to is the animation. Done by a company called Motherland, the movement is very fluid and well directed. I have seen a few animated comic book stories before, but nothing like this. Most of it works like a cut-and-paste style of animation, with each piece drawn by Maleev. But it’s done so well, with added touches like the raindrops on the city street that I almost got lost in it. There were quite a few times that I have to rewind the timeline because I was so engrossed in the art that I missed a line of dialogue.

Is the comic worth the purchase? Yes. For 99 cents, you get 10 minutes and 47 seconds worth of entertainment. The amount of story, the art, the animation; all of it is worth the price. In fact, I kinda feel like I’m ripping Marvel off.

Needless to say, I’m excited about future installments of the comic. I’m looking forward to see what other characters will get a motion treatment. Seeing Abigail Brand, the Director of SWORD, was a bit of a surprise (though I’ll admit, I should have expected it). Will Bendis write the Avengers into the story? Captain America? Wolverine? I really hope this new format takes off, and Marvel decides to create more Motion Comics. I, for one, would love to see a Cloak and Dagger comic in this style. Especially one written by Bendis. If he can make Spider-Woman this interesting, I’d love to see his take on Cloak and Dagger.

A Terrible Excuse for News Reporting

So the good folks at Probably Bad News posted this little news clip that aired on WJW Fox 8 in Cleveland. At first, it seems like an honest to goodness story about black bears in the woods near a residential home. But this it just gets, well, really fucking stupid. I don't want to give anything away; you're just going to have to see what I mean.

Why do people do that to themselves? This is the kind of thing that gets on the news in Cleveland? Maybe I'm just spoiled, having lived in New Jersey all my life, where news actually happens.


A Trifecta of Spider-Man News

So recently Sam Raimi starting to hint at the villain in Spider-Man 4. In fact, the script hasn’t even been completed for very long, after being rewritten twice. However, Sony just signed a writer for the scripts of parts 5 and 6 of the series.

James Vanderbilt, who wrote the scripts for Darkness Falls and Zodiac, and also wrote the script for Spider-Man 4 before it was rewritten by David Lindsay-Abarie, has been signed to penned the fifth and sixth films. Sony is plowing forward and getting things ready to complete the second triology, despite the fact that Same Raimi, Tobey Maguire, or Kirsten Dunst are not signed on to shoot anything past the fourth film. But Sony wants to be prepared for that situation. Or, if the trio decided not to do any further films, Sony will use the scripts as a template to reboot the series. Why they would need a reboot so early in the films history is unnkown at this point, but hopefully that don’t make any bad decisions.

I just hope the original crew signs on to complete the second trilogy.

The New York Post has reported that the Broadway envisioning of the webslinger, ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” has hit quite a few roadblocks on its path to production.

Apparently, the show’s cash flow has run out, due to the over-the-top production by director Julie Taymor. The director has some high vision for the show; however, high vision on Broadway tends to cost big bucks. And unfortunately, the show’s producer, David Garfinkle, doesn’t have the stones to reign her in and keep her in check. Now, due to that vision, there is little money left for the rest of the show, including the remodeling of the Hilton Theater. The Hilton has been completely gutted for reconstruction just for the show. But now, it’s just an empty shell waiting to be filled.

It’s been reported that the show would have a weekly running cost of $900,000, which is an astounding figure for a Broadway show. Experts say that it would take the entirety of the theater, which is approximately 1,700 seats, to sell out completely for 5 years in order for the show to break even. Not even in New York…

About the only people who would benefit from the show, whether it opens or not, would be Bono and the Edge, of U2 fame, who were tapped to write the score to the show. Worse comes to worst, they at least have a few completed songs that they can release as singles, on their next CD, or just as B-Sides. I’m sure they can figure something out.

I’m not a fan of Broadway, but I have to admit I was excited about “Turn Off The Dark.” I love how Spider-Man gets the big audience recognition that he has been getting lately, and having his webbed face plastered all over Broadway would certainly bring him even more recognition. I may not have gone to see the show very often, but I would certainly have gotten a ticket. Maybe even have bought a t-shirt. Hopefully Sony and Marvel decide to find a new director or producer and save the production.

And in happier news, Spider-Man is making his return to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Spidey made his first appearance in the parade in 1987, and ran every year through 1998. Now, after a decade, he’s back with a newly redesigned balloon. He will still be in the classic crawling pose, but he has been beefed up, with a much more muscular physique.

The bad news is that Spider-Man is only expected to be in the parade through 2011. Why only three years? I don’t know, but hopefully with the release of Spider-Man 4 as well as “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” Macy’s will decide to keep him in the parade much longer. Spider-Man is an icon, and as much a part of New York City as the Empire State Building and King Kong. So to take him out of a New York parade is a slap in the face. New York has already been slapped once. Macy’s better not be getting ready to hit for a second time.


Siegel Family Awarded Some Rights Of Superman

In April of 1938, Action Comics #1 hit the news stand. Its pages told a story of an alien child coming to Earth and raised by a couple of all-American farmers, discovering that he had abilities far beyond those of normal men. He had immense strength, was bullet-proof, and couple leap extreme distances. This amazing character, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, became one of the most recognizable characters, bearing the name Superman.

But Siegel and Shuster would not garner the same amount of fame as their character for another almost half century. It had appeared that when National Periodical Publications, which later became DC Comics, agreed to run the story, they would assume the credit for the character. This “agreement” would be the starting point for a number of legal battles throughout the year.

On August 13, 2009, a judge awarded the estate of Jerry Siegel control over many aspects of the Superman character, such as his origins of landing on Earth, his Kryptonian heritage and name, and a few of his abilities. The judgment is basically a legal slap in the face to DC Comics, who had fully control over the character and all of his traits. But now, there are some aspects of Superman that they cannot use without authorization from the Siegel family.

I, for one, am happy that Jerry Siegel’s family now has control over the Superman character. He was a hard working individual who had his creation taken from him, in a time when he, more than likely, had no idea what he was doing. Jerry Siegel was 23 years old when Action Comics ran his story. He wasn’t a skilled negotiator, or a shrewd business man. He was a poor Jewish kid who grew up in Ohio, and was just excited to see his character, who had gone through a few revisions to become what he did, printed in a national magazine. I’m sure he never expected Superman to become as big as it did, otherwise he may have asked for a little more from National Periodical Publications.

But he didn’t. And since 1938, Jerry Siegel didn’t make much money off of Superman. Nineteen Forty six brought about the first of many lawsuits over Superman. First, Siegel and Shuster sued National for the rights to Superman, after nearly 10 years of writing for the magazine. Siegel sued again in 1967, after returning to DC to write Superman again, but was summarily dismissed in his case, and also his job. In 1975, Siegel initiated a protest against Warner Communication and DC Comics, bringing to light the abuse of both him and Shuster over the years. To placate the duo, Warner agreed to pay them $20,000 a year each, for the rest of their lives and to credit them for the creation of Superman.

There have also been other lawsuits, concerning copyright termination as well as the character of Superboy. But despite the agreement in 1975, neither Siegel or Shuster have been awarded as large of a stake in Superman as they have recently. While the most recent ruling only gives the Siegel estate control over some aspects of the character, an article on Variety.com states that Shuster’s estate will receive the same awarding in 2013.

This ruling could be astronomically devastating to Warner Brothers and DC Comics. Not only will it be interesting to see how they handle the character of Superman in the future, since most of his origin is out of their control, but whether or not they will return to court to fight it. I feel that they should bite the bullet and pay the Siegel and Shuster estates for the right to use the information they lost, but I doubt that will happen.

Anyway, I wish the best to Siegel’s family. They have fought long and hard to get what they received yesterday, and they deserve it. For many years, Jerry Siegel struggled financially, so it’s good that wrong has been righted.

But this just proves that Jerry Siegel was a visionary. When he described Superman as fighting for “truth, justice, and the American Way,” he had no idea that the “American Way” of the future would be so sue-happy. Talk about irony.


Green Lantern: First Flight

DC has always had a superb animation team. It must be one of the perks that comes with being owned by the company who created Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Look at some of the cartoons DC has had in the past: Batman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans, and Justice League Unlimited, just to name a few. So now that DC has moved into full-length, direct-to-DVD films, they are trying to maintain their quality of animation. And it’s working.

Their newest offering is Green Lantern: First Flight. The plot of the film tells the story of how Hal Jordan became the Green Lantern and how he had to prove himself within the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps. He goes head-to-head with his arch-enemy, Sinestro, and proves to the Guardians and the rest of the Corps that he is worthy to wear the ring. The movie is full of action, with lots of violence and murder. In short, it’s fun to watch, and not expected from one of the Big Two in comics. With all of the new animated movies coming out, it’s plain to see that both Marvel and DC are pushing the envelope a little bit harder these days. This is, of course, a welcome change to the days when the Comics Code required everything be watered down and kiddie-like.

The story is well-written, concentrating on Hal Jordan and Sinestro. But it lacks something in the long-run. We see how much of a badass Hal Jordan is but, since the film starts with him receiving the ring, we never really find out why. The audience is left to assume that his will is much more powerful than his enemy’s, an idea that is illustrated throughout the movie, but there is never any explanation to support this theory. The writers also managed to create a nice balance between action and comedy. There have been too many movies that have disappointed because the filmmakers didn’t know when to stop with the shitty tongue-in-cheek jokes. Thankfully, the writers of Green Lantern know what would be funny, and when, and leave it at that.

The animation itself is very well done. Blending traditional 2-D animation with 3-D animation, the film has a nice depth to it that not many animated movies have been able to pull off. The 3-D aspects are not overdone, so they don’t inundate the audience. They are also smoothly blended, so the times they are used are not blaringly obvious. However, there are times when the transition is not perfect, and the 3-D sticks out like a sore thumb. But these moments are few and far between, so it does not detract from the viewing experience too much.

Another great aspect of the movie is the voice acting. Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) isn’t the kind of actor you would expect to voice the main character in a comic book movie, but he is perfect for the role. Ten years in the role as a hardened police detective was enough of a pre-cursor to become one of the most beloved wielders of the Green Lantern ring. Victor Garber plays Sinestro to perfection. His cold inflection and almost poetic enunciation makes the viewer feel the contempt that Sinestro has for the Green Lantern Corps. Garber brings so much power to the role. Tricia Helfer, Michael Madsen, and John Larroquette round out the big-name voices in the movie, and though they don’t really add anything recognizable to the film, at least their performances don’t detract from it.

I’m not one to watch the special features on most of my DVD’s, but I made an exception on the Green Lantern. One of the reasons why is the behind the scenes featurette on the upcoming movie of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.

They don’t give much information on where the film stands now. Though the visuals of the feature concentrate on the comic book version of Public Enemies, I was happy to see as much animation as they showed. There will be a shitload of characters in the movie, both heroes and villains, and they talk about one huge fight scene that starts big and ends bigger. I have never read the comic story, but after learning that it was written by Jeph Loeb, then I am lead to believe that it is good. And if the animation team can keep up with their most recent films, then this one will not disappoint. DC also made the right choice in casting the original voice actors for the stars of Public Enemies. Tim Daly as Superman. Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. And Kevin Conroy as Batman. These voices are so ingrained in my mind and so connected with these characters that I get offended when I hear another voice coming from their mouths. With how much I liked The Brave and the Bold and Deidrich Bader, I cringed every time Batman spoke in that show. Kevin Conroy is the epitome of Batman, and I’m so happy that they brought him back for Public Enemies. Not to mention the other actors that they secured. Allison Mack, from Smallville will play Power Girl. Xander Berkeley, from 24, is Captain Atom. LeVar Burton is Black Lightning. Even if you watched this movie with your eyes closed, it will still be amazing.

There is also a nice feature about DC’s newest event, Blackest Night. I’m glad that someone, like me, who is not entirely familiar with the DC heroes, is able to get a background on what the hell is going on. I picked up the first issue of Blackest Night and was completely lost when I read it. Now, I can kind of understand what is happening, and should be at least able to follow it when I go through the rest of the issues.

Even if you have no intentions of purchasing Green Lantern: First Flight, you should at least rent it. This is a film for anyone who likes the Green Lantern. It’s for anyone who likes super hero movies. At first glance, it would seem that this is another animated movies aimed at kids. But the depth of story works for fans of all ages. Hell, even the special features themselves are worth the three bucks to rent it from Blockbuster.
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