Author: Molly Jackson

Molly Jackson: The Big Con!

NYCC-Crowd-2

Did you hear all those panicked screams yesterday? The cold yells of people feeling their hopes dashed before their very eyes?

Yes, yesterday New York Comic Con announced that they were once again altering their ticket sales process. This changes nearly every year (just like DC’s logo!), so every time it happens it shouldn’t be a surprise… but it always is. The big steps are always taken to help the ever-growing hordes to buy tickets and make sure that they don’t game the system.

The newest hoop is the addition of fan verification for anyone who could potentially buy a NYCC ticket. What it really boils down to is this is just NYCC having everyone register on the NYCC website in advance. So if I and my three friends want to go, we need to pre-register. The other change is there will no longer be any VIP tickets or tickets sold at retailers. Everything will be online and announced to members through their email that they verified with. San Diego Comic Con has done the same thing for years, so this isn’t news to serious con goers.

Yet, this small step has built up a lot of discourse amongst fans. Now there are cries of despair and confusion about the system. Now people are convinced that they will never get tickets again and, therefore, the world will end. OK, I might be exaggerating a bit but you get my point. Truth is, this is going to fix things with attendance. Yes, you can’t sit on a line outside Midtown Comics for 10 hours to get a ticket, but that also means the 30 ticket scalpers ahead of you can’t do the same. Will some scalpers still find a way? Yes, of course they will. But NYCC has gone pretty far to make it harder for them.

The big problem with this is that it doesn’t go far enough. As of their announcement, all tickets are non-returnable, non-transferable, non-resalable and non-upgradable. I understand the need to keep tickets non-resalable and non-upgradable. Making tickets resalable flies directly in the face of stopping scalpers, so that is pointless to have. I doubt anyone (except scalpers) would disagree. I can also understand the non-upgradable. There are a limited amount of each ticket to appease the great fire marshal! If you anger the fire marshal, his wrath will rain down upon us all! Oh, and the con will be closed down. Let’s not piss him off.

Now, on to non-returnable and non-transferable. The same scalper warning could be put onto non-transferable. This could be abused by the exact people they are trying to stop. But, if you limited how many tickets could be transferred, like 1-2 by the original credit card holder, it could help fans manage the planning in advance. One argument I saw was for disabled persons that need someone to assist them. If the pass could be easily transferable if the assist person changes last minute, which would be a big help for the disabled fans in attendance. Most likely though, this would not be a change NYCC would make.

NYCC needs to make tickets returnable. If you want me and my party of four to commit almost five months out, give me a small safety net. As NYCC likes to tell us repeatedly, they are as big as or bigger than SDCC. Well, SDCC lets tickets be returned. If I can return my tickets, then why not let me? Put it on me to pay shipping if I already received it and then do a last minute sale online in September. Give fans a chance to go if they couldn’t get through the slog of people trying to buy tickets in June. Look at the fear and panic already. There will be no danger in not selling out.

At the rate all of the conventions are growing, soon a lot of fans will be locked out of conventions. That is a truth we can’t ignore. Geekdom has grown out of the basement and I don’t think it will ever be going back. How conventions react to this growth boom is a different story. They need to remember that their fans are still everyday people, who are incredibly passionate about their fandoms. Giving those loud, excited and social media savvy fans some wiggle room can only help conventions grow more.

Molly Jackson: It’s About Time

About time

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been chugging along for the past eight years. For the most part, almost all of their films are considered hits with the fans. Their most recent offering is up to par for Marvel, pleasing comic and non-comic fans. In fact, there is only one big glaring mark against Marvel – for me at least. Where are my female-led movies?

We are talking eight years of a major blockbuster franchise. In the MCU, there is only one central female character, Black Widow, that has been in it from almost the beginning, and a handful of female supporting characters, like Pepper Potts, Sif and Jane Foster. You can make the argument that Scarlet Witch is now a central figure but she is still very new to the universe.

Before you start yelling at me, yes I know there is a female-led movie on the Marvel schedule. Captain Marvel is set for March 8th, 2019. So almost three years from now. So, eleven years into the MCU, we finally get a female-led movie that fans were asking for four years ago. But even before that, since the moment Scarlett Johannson appeared in Iron Man 2, fans have been asking for her to get a solo film. Or toys (or as I liked to put it, any recognition at all), as in the Black Widow flash mobs in 2015.

Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, has finally gotten the hint. He told Deadline that they are committed to doing a Black Widow movie, after the current slate of films is done. So, maybe early 2020s, if we are lucky.

Traditionally, movie studios like to point to underperforming female-led movies and blame the gender of the character for a bad box office rather than any other issues, like script, direction, plot, editing, set design, general stupidity of the film. Really, who is to blame for Catwoman: Halle Berry or the writers/director/producers? Meanwhile, any high-grossing female-led film is ignored as a happy accident.

What it looks like to me is that Marvel is waiting to see how Wonder Woman does first. BvS might have been horrible, but Gal Gadot’s few minutes on screen really did the character justice. If Wonder Woman can strike gold with a lesser known actress for a troubled DC Cinematic Universe, then things will look brighter for Black Widow. Then on to Ant-Man and Wasp in 2018, to see how fans react to a female character in the title of the film. Finally, if Captain Marvel does well in 2019, I think Black Widow will be greenlit.

I don’t doubt Feige’s sincerity in wanting to do a Black Widow solo film. He has helped mold the character into a rock for the Avengers to lean on. To take her to the next level would be a dream. However, Marvel is traditionally stingy with pay and Scarlett Johannsson has proved her box office worth time and again. She can ask for a larger sum and it is totally justified. With Captain Marvel, they can pick a lesser-known actress and pay her less money for the honor career boost of being in a Marvel film.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us a lot – most of it we didn’t even know we wanted until we had it! (Guardians of the Galaxy, am I right?) Still, fans have been asking from the second movie in for a Black Widow film. We have stuck with you this far Marvel, don’t let us down.

Molly Jackson: Class time!

Class

Happy May the Fourth! It is a big day for Star Wars fans but rather than talk about adventures far far away, let’s look at a comic in this galaxy.

Nigeria has been going through a rough time lately. Falling oil prices, violence popping up regularly affected the country poorly, while changes to school curriculums seem to have made learning history very difficult. Enter Panaramic Entertainment. They have started a new comic series called Okiojo’s Chronicles, which explores the different ethnic groups in the country. There are over 250, so this series will be going on for quite a while.

With Panaramic taking the time to write down Nigeria’s ethnic histories, it can be preserved for future generations. Currently, it is most often passed down verbally through families and very few historical books are available to kids.

History in comics has always been a long standing practice. In the US, it was famously used during the civil rights movement to share the story of the Montgomery non-violent protests. Then, the comic was used to spread a message and now, it stands as a teaching tool to make sure those circumstances never happen again. The first comics from Panaramic serve the same purpose, teaching youth about the two biggest ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Yoruba and Hausa. A third comic, titled 1897, teaches the history of British occupation in southern Nigeria.

Comics as a teaching tool have really taken off in the past decade, with graphic novels being an easier way to get kids interested in reading. It’s been working well in this country, and the concept has continued throughout the globe. Without The Montgomery Story to inspire change and spread hope, it would have been possible to stop the movement before it began. Now, that comic is used globally to show how that movement grew and the impact it had at the time.

The past fuels the future, and to deny that means to deny any growth. Nigeria is currently on the path for pure capitalism. However, if they want to be a global power, understanding each other and where they came from would be a big start.

Molly Jackson is a Purist

the_martian-HD

I really wanted to do something this week about Passover and all the Jewish comic creators. Maybe one day I will, but I saw a movie and now I have it stuck in a loop in my mind. Last weekend on my flight back from the west coast, I finally got the chance to see The Martian. Yes, I know it has been out for a very long time but I fell behind in my movie watching. However, I loved the book, and its science based story points. But the movie irked me, but only because I read the book first.

As for the scenes I wanted to see (at least 15% of the book is missing from the movie), I won’t share the details for fear of spoiling someone. Mostly, I was curious how they would visualize one scene or another. I have fallen in this trap many times before.  Every time I read a book or comic, I build up the world in my mind.

The biggest problem with seeing a book turned movie is that I want to see the picture in my mind up on the screen. I want the director to love the same scenes as me and go out of their way to make them happen.  Written media turned into movies always triggers the perfectionist in me. It’s not fair to the studios, really. Part of me understands that some characters get left out because of budget or time constraints. I understand cutting some characters or changes plot points for better visual storytelling.

What I have to admit is that I am a purist for the original source material. For me, growing up with the written word was everything to me. I would be willing to sit in the theaters to watch a six-hour movie that really encompasses the entire story. I get it, I’m weird.

Comics have less occurrences of this issue only because so many characters have been rebooted multiple times. I admit I still find myself hating adaptations if I know the story it is based on.  This will be tested with Captain America: Civil War coming out in about a week. We all know the story has changed significantly, including the driving force behind the actual war. It will also be missing a few hundred characters. Soon, the internet will be overflowing with tons of complaints. I understand where they will be coming from, even if I won’t agree with them.

For the record, once I got past my own nitpicking, The Martian is a very well done film. You should watch it if you get a chance. As for the next time you read a book about to be made into a film, don’t get your hopes up. Just try to enjoy the moment.

Molly Jackson: What Am I?

DaggerWhen deciding what to write about this week, it was a tough call. There was a lot of good and bad news but in it all, a couple stories caught my eye.

Last week, it was revealed that the new Star Trek series will not take place in the JJ Abrams created universe. If you’re a fan of those movies, I’m sorry but every Trekkie released a sigh of relief at that news. We are returning to our roots!!! The shows format will actually be an anthology series, taking place over different times in Star Trek history.

Now that this has been announced, I can only wish that my hopes for this show can be realized. They have so many opportunities in front of them to showcase the best possible future and traditionally taken that path. With Rod Roddenberry on staff, I fully expect that the show will be steered with diversity in mind. This means we see women and minorities in roles of power, stories about social issues veiled by aliens, and genuine hope that humanity can be better.

On the other hand, last week we got tit windows. Yup, indie creator Kate Beaton went on a tirade about tit windows, in regards to Dagger’s outfit from Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger comic series. This series started getting renewed attention with the announcement that a TV show is in the works.

Beaton’s issues stem from the unnecessary openings in the chest area of the costume. Now, this is far from new for almost any female superhero. Female comic characters, especially in superhero books, tend to display more skin than practicality dictates. It’s long been a subject of contention but has sparked interesting debates and some change in comics.

On the surface, these two topics seem disjointed. However, both represent an idea for how the world works. Dagger’s costume shows that despite being a fully developed and interesting character, sometimes your physical assets are all people see. Beaton is fighting for change in the industry. Star Trek traditionally representing another opportunity for women to shine, with attention placed on their character more than their appearance.

Maybe I’m reaching for this connection. I know deep down that Hollywood, comics publishers and entertainment industry in general will always do what they want, despite calls for change. Still, I think there is hope for the future. I can’t help it. I’m a Trekkie.

Molly Jackson: Invading Reality

invading reality

Valiant announced that Vladmir Putin, also known as the real life leader of Russia, would be the villainous mastermind in Divinity II, their next series event. It was announced only a few days ago in an exclusive interview in the New York Daily News with the comics’ writer, Matt Kindt. In the story, our villain manipulates a ’60s-era cosmonaut who has returned to Earth from deep space with super powers and a desire to build a new Soviet empire.

We all know that this isn’t the first time a real life figure has popped up in a superhero story. Obama’s appearance in Spider-Man may have been the biggest one in my lifetime, but hundreds of politicians and celebrities have shown up as guest stars in comics or had comics done about them. However, the vast majority of the time, the real life person isn’t cast as a villain, and especially not without their permission.

The grand exception to this is of course the Nazi Reich and its leader, Adolf Hitler. The difference being those original Captain America comics were used as propaganda to help encourage and keep the American people invested in the war. While I won’t be the first to point it out, Putin has done some pretty mean stuff lately. The U.S. hasn’t been on the best of terms with Russia. But this comic does not sound like it brings the spirit of Captain America with it. Kindt did go on to say that he used Putin sparingly to not diminish his impact. He also pointed out that he never thought about if this was a good idea to piss Putin off in any way.

The thing that bothers me most of all is Kindt’s insistence that because the story is taking place in Russia, it must paint the leader of Russia as the villain. In an industry of constant make believe, this single fact cannot be changed! No matter how much of the story is complete fiction, it would undermine it to change the single fact of who is the Prime Minister of Russia. Stories based in reality can make that small shift from absolute reality. It’s not like we have superheroes with amazing powers in real life. Or do we and no one told me?! Sci-fi has laid the groundwork for a country leader swap in a story or having it be a never-before-heard-of higher up politician in the government. Stories have always had thinly veiled parodies of real world characters without calling them out by name.

I know, in the other hand is artistic license and freedom of expression. I support those freedoms. And yes, public figures are putting themselves in the limelight to be used by the creative element. If it is the only way Kindt could write the story, then I can accept that. But at the same time, people tend to forget that this is a global community and we need to act like it. Americans come off bratty in a lot of ways in the world.

So my question right now: is this one element crucial to the story? Or is this just the main element to Valiant’s marketing plan?

Molly Jackson: Listen and Learn

listen and learn

So Batman vs. Superman happened. It was a thing. I saw it. But instead of talking about the movie, I’m going to talk about how Batman inadvertently introduced me to my latest obsession.

So last week, I felt bored and restless. Despite the TV episodes backing up on my Hulu account and the ever-growing stack of books and comics, I just wasn’t interested. Finally, after several minutes of staring at my wall, I remembered that I had activated a new skill for my Echo. The Amazon Echo (because I am assuming you don’t know) is a voice-activated speaker that comes with skills rather than apps and mostly wants to assist you with buying more things from Amazon. Still, some of the features are really great and it’s the closest I’ll get to the computer on the Enterprise. My only real wish was that the activation word changed from “Alexa” to “Computer” so I can really go full-on Trekkie.

Ok, the skill I decided to finally try was the voice-powered choose-your-own-adventure game called The Wayne Investigation. Yup, it is exactly like it sounds. You get to catch the killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne! That is, if you are one of the few people who owns an Amazon Echo. This was released as a promotion for BvS, but it was honestly more fun than the film itself. I relaxed on my bed and tried a number of the options. Even after catching the bad guy Joe Chill himself, I kept trying other scenarios. The writing was so well-done and intriguing.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed playing this story. It was a relaxing time but held my interest, despite being one of the most played out stories in comics. (It ties with Uncle Ben dying as totally overdone.) This is more amazing when I consider I have never liked audio books or listening to podcasts and news reports. I think that the difference is that this was created with the medium in mind.

Admittedly, the game stayed with me over the next few days. So when I caught a 24-hour bug that came with a killer headache, I thought about how nice it was to listen to a story created for the auditory senses. That’s when I finally listened to a friend of mine and gave the podcast Welcome to Nightvale a shot.

It’s a radio show that provides community news and updates for the fictional town of Nightvale. Stylized like a serialized radio show on acid; the mix of sci-fi, horror, and sarcasm script a haunting and engrossing tale. And it is the only thing I’ve listened to in the past week. I kept putting off writing this column because I needed to hear what happened next.

It is an engrossing tale in the simplest of ways, with twists coming out of every turn almost because they can. It is almost all told from the perspective of the radio host Cecil, who provides his own commentary on the unusual and bizarre rules of this crazy town. I’ve almost come to care more about the political dealings of this fictional town than reality, but that could be that the fiction makes more sense at this point. Nightvale has been running since 2012, so I still have plenty of episodes to binge.

Ok, so writing about audio stories on a comics site is a little weird. Comics is most definitely a visual medium. I recognize that I’m preaching the exact opposite of what we usually write about. However, sometimes a change is a good thing. The comic-born (and killed) Waynes went audio, and joined the weird and bizarre stories of Nightvale, which might one day grace the pages of a comic floppy.

So if you ever feel the need for a change in medium, listen to that need. Literally.

 

Molly Jackson’s A Better Place

peanuts

Most comic fans have a lot going on this week. Marvel’s Daredevil out on Netflix or DC’s Batman Vs. Superman out in theaters. A new bevy of comics out today. A few religious holidays this week too, including Purim and Easter.  Even with all that, this is not a good week.

It has been a bad week. Frankly, it has been a bad few months.

I struggled to write a column this week. It is a really hard time to talk about comics.

It is a hard time to focus on entertainment when the world keeps being thrown out of whack. When presidential candidates speak in terms of hate.  When attacks are ignored or mourned depending on their heritage.

The world community needs to work together to solve this problem. It’s hard though when the world community never seems to get along.

Last week, I wrote about Young Justice.  If only we had that team here to help us now. Or the Justice League. Or the Avengers. Someone to guide the world around the pitfalls or hate and fear. But those teams only exist in the world of fiction.  We need to take out cues from the superheroes we’ve created and admired. We need to be the heroes now.

Yes, this week is a bad week. Attacks like this should not happen in the world. So whether you sit down to watch a superhero battle or crack open a new issue, keep in mind the lessons learned from the superheroes you admire. Use those lessons to make this world a better place.

Molly Jackson: Binge On!

Young Justice

This week, I was totally stumped on a topic for this column. I turned to my fellow columnist, Joe Corallo, for help and he immediately mentioned the exact thing I’ve been chatting about for the past week. Not really sure why I blanked on it because it is such a big topic right now. So let’s talk about Young Justice.

Young Justice, in case you don’t know, follows a group of young DC heroes as they learn to work as a team and find their place amongst the Justice League. As the series grows through seasons 1 and 2, we watch the young heroes change into the heroes we always wanted them to be. Sadly, it ended on a cliffhanger. It is not based on the comic of the same name but does build off the DC universe.

The DC and Warner Bros. Animation partnership has put out some of the best animated shows to date. I’m confident in stating that Batman: The Animated Series is arguably the best animated show of all time. However, Young Justice is one of the shows that always pops up when people talk animation as the gone too soon. It’s like the Firefly of animated shows.

In the past few years, Netflix has been the resurrection hotspot for a lot of TV shows.  We got the final season of The Killing, a new season of Arrested Development and even the love-or-hate Fuller House. Netflix has the capability to track well trending shows and cherry pick the best ones to revive. And for the most part, they are good at creating original shows, like their stellar partnership with Marvel or their independent creations like Orange is the New Black.

The reasoning for Young Justice being cancelled was poor toy sales. I do understand that; this show appeals more to an older audience, so they are less likely to buy basic toys and more likely to buy higher end pieces. On the other hand, Netflix only cares about streaming numbers and if there is enough interest to bring in some new subscribers. In that case, I think we can do it. There were rumors that Netflix was already considering this, but those are probably not true. However, that momentum should not be lost.

The producers Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti are ready to come back. Character designer Phil Bourassa sounds like he would come back. Illustrator Christopher Jones is supporting this push. Plus, a group of the voice actors have come out and said they are on board. We just need to show Netflix and the WB that it is worth it for them.

So for all you people out there who haven’t seen Young Justice, watch it. Don’t have Netflix? Find your friend that does and watch it with them. (Everyone knows someone with Netflix. Everyone.). Give this show a chance to grow again. #BingeYoungJustice

Molly Jackson: Loud Voices

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I’ve spent the past week or so in a bubble, apparently hiding from the news of the world. Which is why I was startled by the influx of posts yesterday announcing it was International Women’s Day. A day to recognize all the inspirational women in our lives.

It seems odd that I would miss such a day but it is a funny thing to have a single day dedicated to all women from the planet Earth. Women still make up half the planet, and there are similar days on the proverbial calendar. Still, the necessity of such a day is irksome. The year is filled with days where I can laud women from all walks of life.

Being torn on how to move forward with this column, I decided to err on the side of not nitpicking yesterday’s recognition and to try to enjoy the moment.

Truth be told, women have made strides in comics, both in the industry and in the stories. A few decades ago, I doubt Kamala Khan would have made it to the page. Even if she had, I doubt that she would have the same depth that she does now. The same could be said for one of her creators, Sana Amanat, who is an editor at Marvel Comics. But now we have a character that resonates across cultural and gender lines as a role model to the young and old.

The same exact excitement could be applied to Bitch Planet. Could we have had that book years ago? Of course. Would it have received the same praise it receives now? I doubt it.

However, this is still a small percentage of the comics pie.

Female characters still lead fewer books than male characters. Female creators still make up a small portion of the industry. Now, it is a point of conversation and an area of development. Companies are looking for ways to expand as they realize that courting the opposite sex is a growing market. It will continue to be as long as we look towards the future and remind them that we women are still here and will not be ignored.

On this site, we have amazing women who broke barriers in comics for my generation. For starters, Martha Thomases and Mindy Newell both worked in the industry, creating female-driven stories as they worked in a male-dominated industry. Emily Whitten has written for multiple sites about geekdom, something that isn’t easy as a woman. All of them have been an inspiration as well as a source of encouragement.

So, on this random day, I want to thank all the women who made it possible for me to be recognized as a voice to be heard. Everything you’ve done is helping move us to an equal future.