Author: Robert Greenberger

ComicMix flicks hits!

ComicMix flicks hits!

With 300’s $70 million opening weekend, everyone’s eyes lit up. No one expected this number, with the best estimates at least $20 million lower. Now everyone is scrambling to read the tea leaves and try to understand what just happened.

A few thoughts from our corner of the universe. First, this will make 2007 the best year ever for comic book movies. There are six feature films scheduled for release this calendar year and I will guarantee you that combined, they will add up to huge box office receipts.

As a result, this will fuel future comic book-into-movie activity. It also makes Frank Miller a suddenly bankable name. Forget his work on Robocop 2 and look at Sin City and now 300. Once he begins directing The Spirit later this year, expect that to get onto a release schedule ASAP.

Projecting ahead, there are five more comic book movies have firm release dates for 2008 with at least two others penciled in (see schedule, below).

I’ve said all along that the comic book adaptations will continue until there are enough flops to sour Hollywood on the genre. This year opened with Ghost Rider opening to surprisingly huge numbers and then had legs. With 300, the reverse seems to be happening. I suspect production heads will fast track properties in the various studio pipelines and we’ll see one or two more movies added to 2008 and 2009 could possibly get jam-packed even though all that’s for certain that far out is the next Bryan Singer Superman release and Captain America.

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Arnold Drake passes away

Arnold Drake passes away

Mark Evanier posted the sad news that Arnold Drake passed away this morning.

Drake was a prolific writer for comics, prose and film, refusing to be typecast.  In the early 1950s he wrote It Rhymes with Lust which can be argued as America’s first graphic novel (readers can judge for themselves when Dark Horse reissues this later in 2007).

While best known today for creating Deadman, Drake also wrote a wide variety of titles, mostly for DC Comics featuring the Doom Patrol, Space Ranger and Tommy Tomorrow.  Given his versatility, he also handled Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and the delightful Stanley and his Monster.

For film, he may be best remembered for The Flesh Eaters.

Drake was outspoken about the changes he saw happening to comics in the 1960s, as Stan Lee and his Marvel cohorts rewrote the rules.  As a result, he was in the forefront at demanding improved working conditions and tried to wake DC’s editors up that there was finally some serious competition for readers.

The efforts led to his removal from DC assignments although he would return to write now and then into the 1980s.

His last effort, a proposed Doom Patrol graphic novel, was in the works at the time of his death.

Pulps and pulp comics

There has been quite a revival of interest in the old pulp heroes over the last year or two. Moonstone Books launched with the pulp-like exploits of Kolchak the Night-Stalker before adding characters such as The Phantom and The Spider, while Anthony Tollin has relaunched The Shadow and Doc Savage in two lines of facsimile reprint editions. In Hollywood, Sam Raimi has signed on to produce a movie about Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze. With so much renewed interest, we here at ComicMix thought we should dig a little deeper.

The energetic Joe Gentile has been running Moonstone Books for a decade now and has grown the line from a one or two comic books a month outfit to a burgeoning publisher of not only comic books but prose works. I chatted with him by e-mail to learn what’s been going on.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have written one story for Moonstone’s anthologies, with work beginning on a second, and ComicMix columnist John Ostrander has contributed a story to the recently released Kolchak prose anthology.

Robert: Joe, for those not in the know, what is Moonstone’s mission?

Joe: Well, we thought there were some niches that weren’t being filled in comics. We thought that if we could fill some of those, perhaps (with promotion and advertising, which we did a lot of at the beginning) we could bring either new people or readers who left the hobby, to come back to the comic shops. Great stories was always our #1 priority, all things else aside.

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Keep your eye on the body

Keep your eye on the body

I got a note from a long time comic book reader on Wednesday. He was incensed that Marvel disgraced themselves by killing Captain America. Worse, they did it sneakily, without telling the retailers this was the issue so it sold out to the fan boys before the general public could see the bloody body for themselves.

Marvel certainly got a nice boost from the coast-to-coast coverage Captain America’s death received.

But, is Captain America – Steve Rogers – really dead?

It used to be that a death to a major character was a major event. Writers would find themselves running out of interesting stories to tell with a character and decided to shake up the title character’s life by killing off a familiar face. Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway has always said that’s why Gwen Stacy had to go.

That happened time and again, at both DC and Marvel and it made the fans uneasy, since you never knew what would happen next. That certainly helped sell comics for a while. Then, killing the title character seemed the next logical step. Jim Shooter and Jim Starlin helped pioneer that with the Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel and then there was the phone in stunt that saw Jason Todd, the second Robin bite the big one.

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Reboots abound!

Reboots abound!

Robert GreenbergerWith J.J. Abrams now confirmed as not only producing and scripting but also directing 2008’s Star Trek XI, the buzz has begun on the latest reboot of a beloved franchise. As one might imagine, fans of the series have been divided over whether or not this has been necessary, a debate we’ve all heard before.

The entire notion of a reboot is an interesting one because, looking back, reboots were largely throwing ideas against the wall to see what might stick. While there were fans of The Flash, there was certainly no groundswell of support demanding DC Comics bring Jay Garrick back. Instead, management created Showcase as a title to try new things and after three issues of straight-forward adventure, they thought it was time for something different. As legend has it, someone thought the time might be right for a new super-hero and all heads turned to the last editor with any success as characters without S-shields and bats: Julius Schwartz.

Instinctively, Schwartz knew Jay Garrick and his mercury-helmet felt too dated. Things in the 1950s were fresh and new, sleek and shiny. He kept the name and the powers and recreated from the ground up, perhaps pop culture’s first reboot.

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Joe Sinnott ailing

Joe Sinnott ailing

Word is slowly spreading from Marvel’s editorial halls that legendary artist Joe Sinnott has had a heart attack. Joe was at the New York Comic-Con this past weekend, mingling with fans without seeming ill. We’ll post details as we hear them.

Hollywood does comics

Hollywood does comics

There was a great deal of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth when word leaked out of Hollywood that Joss Whedon had left the Wonder Woman film project and David Goyer would no longer write and direct a Flash film. Similarly, people reacted in horror at the notion of Joel Schumacher having anything to do with a Sandman movie.

Here’s the thing: none of this is shocking. Disappointing, yes, but we long time fans have gotten our hopes raised and dashed countless times through the years.

For those less familiar with Hollywood’s inner workings, the studios are always looking for the next great thing, uncertain of what it might be and where they may find it. So, in addition to buying original stories from screenwriters or ideas from producers and stars then assigning the stories to screenwriters, Hollywood goes shopping. They will receive yet-to-be-published books in galley form, they will scour the news for stories to dramatize, and they will see what their kids are listening to, and so on.

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Webslinger

Webslinger

Books about comic books and comic book characters have grown in volume over the past few years. While some, such as Bob Handelman’s biography of Will Eisner, have received mainstream notice, many others fly under the radar.

Texas-based publisher BenBella Books has begun including comic book characters in their SmartPop series of essay collections. They dipped into the world of four-color heroes last year with collections pondering the X-Men and Superman.

Just out, in plenty of time for May 3’s release of Spider-Man 3, is their latest volume Webslinger: Unauthorized Essays on Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Essayists include comic professionals, science fiction authors and other pop culture mavens. Guest editing is television writer and former DC and Marvel Comics editor Gerry Conway, who wrote a long, celebrated run of Amazing Spider-Man and provides some personal insights into the character in his introduction. The other writers are Darren Hudson Hick, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Robert B. Taylor, Lou Anders, Richard Hanley, Matthew Pustz, Michael A. Burstein, Joseph McCabe, Keith DeCandido, Robert Greenberger, Brett Chandler Patterson, J.R. Fettinger, Adam-Troy Castro, Paul Lytle, David Hopkins, Robert Burke Richardson, and Michael Marano.

SmartPop will also devote volumes to Wonder Woman and Batman, although neither are scheduled.