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That Captain America Thing

May 25, 2016 Leave a comment

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Marvel Comics has started a bit of hoopla this New Comic Book Day, with the release of CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #1. In this issue, Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, dons the costume once more and sets out to fight the good fight against the forces of evil. But in the closing pages, a huge twist that will have ramifications for the entire Marvel universe is revealed.

I won’t say what that twist is here, I won’t spoil for you a comic that has just come out. Comic Book Resources goes in depth with the spoiler here, if you’d like to be spoiled.

No, this isn’t about the spoiler specifically, or even the reaction to said spoiler, but rather the reaction… to the reaction of the spoiler. I know. My head hurts, too.

People are outraged by this spoiler. People are boycotting Marvel, people are threatening to burn their entire collections of Captain America comics, people are taking to Twitter and Facebook to voice their disgust. These are not the people I’m talking about.

No, the people I’m talking about are those responding to these fans. The people who are saying things like “it’s just a character!” or “it’s just a comic book, he won’t be a [SPOILER] for much longer!” or “stop overreacting!”

Here’s the thing, this particular twist isn’t the run-of-the-mill story twist. It’s not your cookie cutter plot twist that you see coming from a mile away and know in your heart will be retconned in a few issues. This twist is one that stretches all the way back to the conception of Captain America, it tarnishes the very idea of Captain America and what makes him who he is and always has been. It spits in the face of his Jewish creators in a way that is heartbreakingly sad and honestly very hard to deal with. It’s more than a simple change of personality or costume that fans don’t care for, it’s a change of the very definition of the character itself.

I feel the reaction has been justified. I feel like the people calling out fans as “overreacting” and telling them that “it’ll all be different in the next storyline, anyway! comic stories are retconned every month!” don’t get what Captain America truly symbolizes and what he means to, not just Americans in general, but a very specific cross-section of Americans.

Count me in the camp of people who hate this twist, count me among the masses who feel this is a cheap and dirty ploy to grab some media attention away from DC Comics and their big story changes going on right now (“REBIRTH”).

That said, I am willing to see where the story goes. I’m willing to see how they handle this grievous misstep in character management, this colossal misunderstanding of their own flagship character, and where they go from here. I’m a fan of story, after all.

But don’t fool yourself for one second into thinking that Marvel didn’t just do irreparable damage to one of the most beloved, and culturally important, characters in modern mythology.

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Island #1 (Image Comics, July 2015)

July 29, 2015 Leave a comment

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Risk. Not the strategy board game that made your cousin cry that one time, but real risk. It’s something that I feel isn’t seen much in the mainstream comic book landscape. Even some of what could be seen as the biggest risks taken by the big comic book publishers in recent years feel too carefully calculated. Like they boiled their risky idea down to a series of charts and graphs and then ran those through a few too many focus groups before deciding it was just risky enough to capture the imagination of their audience. One company who was built on risk taking is Image Comics. I have to say that a lot of my favorite comics in recent years, not all, but a lot, have been Image books. I’m not saying that charts and graphs and focus groups aren’t a part of their process, because it probably is. The creation of comic books is still a business, after all. But when the origin of your company, the very genesis of your entire business model, came from ditching the mainstream and focusing on giving true control of the art back to the artists, you kind of gain a certain level of street cred. Even when the company you created to rival “The Big Two” becomes one of “The Big Three”.

There are a lot of truly interesting things out there, if you look hard enough, great stories and some fantastic art. The independent comics scene has flourished in the digital age, even if the term “underground comics” doesn’t carry the same weight as it once did. In a world where more and more people are reading their comics on screens rather than on the page, and whether you view that as a good or bad direction is another discussion for another time, it’s obvious that what is considered “mainstream” isn’t what it once was. While Marvel, DC, and Image Comics continue to split a majority of the business in the comics industry, the little guy/girl isn’t as little as he/she once was, either. A good social media presence can make that number of followers translate to a number of paying readers, no matter what your clout in the industry is. Whether you work in the Marvel Bullpen, or you’re just someone with artistic talent and a regularly updated webcomic on Patreon, you can find yourself on almost equal footing in readership. Which is why the big publishers can be seen, in recent years, as less of an endgame for creators and more of another showcase for their work. One that can serve a much larger audience than they might be used to.

Image Comics can hardly be considered an independent publisher anymore, but they still have much of that independent spirit that made them such trailblazers in the early 90’s. And even though they might now be seen as part of the big comics machine, chugging away, they always strive to showcase talent and know when to take risks.

Island #1 feels very much like one of those risks for a couple of reasons. First of which, the $7.99 price tag might be enough to make casual readers and those of us who have a limited monthly comics budget keep walking. That risk pays off, however, when one realizes that they receive 112 pages of comic goodness for their money. The second risk is that not a lot of publishers make comic anthologies anymore. I’m not talking about trade paperbacks collecting story arcs, but anthologies that exist with the purpose of showcasing several different stories all beholden to a specific theme or even similar vibe. Heavy Metal is, of course, one of the first that comes to mind. A few others. But in terms of print anthology comic book magazines, the the field isn’t exactly cluttered.

As far as anthologies go, Island handles the format perfectly. Each of the five entries in this issue are great for different reasons, and their creators really let their creative juices flow.

I.D., as written and drawn by Emma Rios (who serves as co-editor with Brandon Graham), is a unique and captivating look at the concepts of identity and body image. The art is stunning, the story is a fresh look at important issues, though the dialogue stands out as the only real weak point of the piece. The imagery is what shines in this first (damn those “To Be Continued…”‘s!) installment of I.D.

Kelly Sue DeConnick contributes not a comic but an illustrated essay entitled Railbirds and it serves as a beautiful tribute to the late poet and author Maggie Estep. DeConnick draws on her personal experiences with addiction and self-doubt to encapsulate how deeply Estep touched her life and the effect her friendship had on her own personality and world/self view. It’s beautiful and stays with you long after you finish it.

Brandon Graham, the creative co-mastermind of this whole affair, delivers a visually amazing comic entitled “Multiple Warheads 2: Ghosttown“. As the title would suggest, this is a part of a larger story told elsewhere, so it can be a bit hard to follow at times, but the beauty of Graham’s art is enough for anyone to enjoy taking their time with.

Dagger Proof Mummy, by Ludroe, is just a blast. It’s fun and frenetic and really makes you want to ride a skateboard.

The issue wraps up with Polaris 1, in which Brandon Graham addresses us, the readers, and gives us an inside perspective into his process.

Image Comics has a very special thing on their hands with Island. After receiving my copy, I immediately checked to see if pre-order was available for any further issues. Island #2 through #5 are already spoken for and will arrive in my mailbox as they’re released, and I can honestly say that I’m very much looking forward to watching this project grow.

Even at $7.99, and even though it’s by no means flawless, Island #1 definitely offers a return on your investment. I highly recommend you take a risk of your own and check this out.

If you’re interested in seeing more from the creators of Island, check out:

Brandon Graham on Tumblr
Emma Rios on Tumblr
Kelly Sue DeConnick on Tumblr
Marian Churchland on Tumblr

There’s also this great interview over at AV Club.

Categories: 2015, Reviews Tags: , ,

Misney? Darvel? Spider-Mouse? Mickey-Man?

September 1, 2009 Leave a comment

So, Disney is buying Marvel Entertainment for $4 Billion.

Building on its strategy of delivering quality branded content to people around the world, The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment, Inc. in a stock and cash transaction, the companies announced today.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney on August 28, 2009, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. At closing, the amount of cash and stock will be adjusted if necessary so that the total value of the Disney stock issued as merger consideration based on its trading value at that time is not less than 40% of the total merger consideration.

Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.

“This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories,” said Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “Ike Perlmutter and his team have done an impressive job of nurturing these properties and have created significant value. We are pleased to bring this talent and these great assets to Disney.”

“We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation,” Iger said.

“Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses,” said Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s Chief Executive Officer. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.

The Boards of Directors of Disney and Marvel have each approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, effectiveness of a registration statement with respect to Disney shares issued in the transaction and other customary closing conditions. The agreement will require the approval of Marvel shareholders. Marvel was advised on the transaction by BofA Merrill Lynch.

The wave of intensely worried comic book fans hit the internet with their ramblings of fear and confusion this morning in response.

I have to admit that I, too, am a bit worried. Not about the comic book side of things, as Disney would have to be idiots to buy one of the most successful comic book companies in the world and then try to tell them how to make comic books. I’m far more concerned about the film ventures from here on out.

Granted, the prospect of a Pixar/Marvel cross over is staggeringly awesome. But I can’t help but look at DC/Time Warner and their track record of films being tied up for years in legal/studio mumbo jumbo, only to be shelved and forgotten.

Marvel has had a rocky history with films based on their properties up until recently. The X-Men franchise did well, the Spider-Man films are considered blockbusters. But overall, many fans felt the films left much to be desired. Iron Man was the first Marvel film in a very long time that pleased seemingly everyone. Incredible Hulk followed and, while I feel it was greatly under appreciated, it still served as a piece to a much larger puzzle (read: The Avengers).

Luckily, if we’re to believe the news we’re hearing about the Disney/Marvel merger (or “crossover”, if you will), it seems that all the film properties currently in development will remain on their current tracks. This means that Kenneth Branagh can continue to direct Thor unfettered, whoever ends up helming the subsequent Captain America and Avengers films (respectively) will be free to do so with minimal studio interference. Likewise, Spider-Man and X-Men properties will remain under the control of Sony (Spidey) and Fox (All Things X).

But what of future productions? What of anything that may come around after these films are finished? I’d really hate to see Marvel’s films suffer the same fate as DC, which is to say having their characters lost in pre-production limbo.

Overall, this is a wonderful enterprise for both companies involved. Disney is bound to make a shitload of money and Marvel now has connections to one of the single most powerful business entities in the world. I just hope Disney is smart enough (and certainly they are, right?) to play a silent big brother role in all of this.

Now for something completely different.

This movie trailer has it all: George Clooney telling Ewan McGregor that he’s a Jedi Warrior, Jeff Bridges playing some sort of military hippy, and goats.

I’m contemplating picking up the book, as the synopsis (and this trailer) makes it sound hilarious. Anyone read it?

Apparently this has been making the rounds for years now, but it’s only now reaching me. Like some sort of signal travelling through space.

I fucking love this:

You’re absolutely fine, your lips are taste of wine, I like to think you’re mine.

God bless the Swedish.