Reynolds’ Deadpool is expected to be the only iteration of the X-Men to make the jump to Disney, with Disney CEO Bob Iger having confirmed multiple times that popular, R-rated version of the character could exist at the studio. […] Marvel Studios has not publicly revealed any plans for integrating members of the X-Men and Fantastic Four into its cinematic universe, though Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is said to have met with several members of the X-Men old guard in recent months. Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley, who was hired to write a Doctor Doom movie in 2017, earlier this month confirmed he’s spoken to Feige about the script centering on the Fantastic Four villain, though Hawley downplayed how serious those discussions were.
This week, I found myself at the center of an internet storm where every entertainment news site and blog I’ve ever heard of has been debating how I predicted the framing device (and selling point) of the new ‘Once Upon a Deadpool’ recut of Deadpool 2, several months before the writers even wrote it. Little did anybody know at the time that all of my ideas involve kidnapping Fred Savage.
He might want to look into a restraining order.
Hello, I’m ‘Some Guy’, AKA ‘A Guy’, AKA ‘Some Bloke’ AKA ‘A Fan on Twitter’, A.K.A. Michael Vincent Bramley. I’m a comics writer and an artist from Queens and this is the strange story of how I spent my Thanksgiving vacation.
This all started in 2017 when the buzz on the internet was that if Disney successfully acquired Fox, then the beloved R-Rated Deadpool series may have to adapt for the PG market or possibly die. I personally love that Deadpool is R-Rated, but seeing as how I was raised on Deadpool comics and am acquainted with some of the talented people who have written and drawn for them over the years, I also know that a PG Deadpool definitely can work. It always has worked. There had to be a way to make it work for the movie version without betraying the current fan base.
These are just the kinds of thought experiments I occupy myself with when I’m bored.
The first idea that sprang to mind was to replace all of the swearing with absurd TV stand-ins, like the infamous ‘find a stranger in the alps’ line from Big LeBowski. The second (though not mutually exclusive) idea was to have Deadpool directly address the censorship by kidnapping former child star Fred Savage and forcing him to reenact his role in the classic 1987 movie ‘The Princess Bride’. This seemed much funnier, so I tweeted it at Ryan Reynolds.
@VancityReynolds If Marvel forces you to make a PG-13 Deadpool, just copy the framing device from The Princess Bride and have Deadpool censoring it for Fred Savage as a bedtime story. A kidnapped adult Fred Savage. There, I fixed it.
I’m not sure what exactly possessed me to send that tweet. It’s not something I’ve ever done before. I don’t usually use Twitter. I barely know how. Most of my tweets are things I share from my instagram or my scarcely used blog, with the occasional retweet peppered in.
You know, a surprising number of strangers have been asking me, if I had the idea first, why didn’t I make it myself? I really hate to say it, but they’re absolutely right. I really should have made a multi-million dollar PG Deadpool movie co-starring Fred Savage instead of sending a tweet to Ryan Reynolds. That one is on me.
My point is that ideas I can’t do anything with myself aren’t worth a whole lot to me. And for the many, many people who have tweeted at me about how you shouldn’t pitch creative ideas on Twitter, yep, I know. The way I saw it, I wasn’t so much pitching a movie as I was making a joke. When I have good ideas that I can actually use, I make them into weird independent comics for weird people who like comics written by even bigger weirdos.
This was just a thing that I thought was funny and because of how little I’ve bothered to learn about using Twitter over the years, I actually thought that by tweeting it at Ryan Reynolds, then maybe one or two of his followers would get a chuckle. Or that maybe he himself might see it and laugh. Maybe there was a Detective Pikachu’s chance in a Ground Themed Gym that it would go viral and that he or someone influential would see how perfect it was… and, of course, on some level that’s still the movie I hoped they would make, but I never really expected them to actually make it.
Then I took a Christmas shopping trip to a Michigan Mall and while I was hunting for Detective Pikachu merch (that I am now certain doesn’t exist yet), my wife (Alice Meichi Li) told me about a trailer on Youtube and my mind was fucking blown.
Watching it the first time was a truly surreal experience and I’d be lying if I said it was a good one. I got a sinking feeling in my gut as I tried to make sense of the matter. Four possibilities sprang to mind.
Maybe Reynolds saw it and knowingly used it without telling me. Something that the law doesn’t acknowledge as plagiarism, but most of civil society would acknowledge as ‘a dick move’.
Maybe Reynolds forgot he saw it and unknowingly copied it. It’s called cryptomnesia and it’s apparently fairly common among creatives (although that one could have applied as much to me as to him until I found from an article that he pitched the idea in May of ‘18).
Coincidence. As unlikely as it seems, synchronicity actually happens. As an Englishman, I grew up knowing that there were two Dennis the Menaces. They both exist because the UK and US versions were released on the same day by two different creators in two different countries. They’d never met or had any way of knowing what the other was working on. It’s rare, but possible.
Something with time travel. Just trying to cover all the bases here.
It might seem counter-intuitive since it’s exactly what started this mess in the first place, but I started tweeting at Ryan Reynolds again.
The next day I woke up to a topsy turvy world where my name was in a SYFY article and then Newsarama and then Screen Rant and so on and so forth until a steady stream of strangers were tweeting support, rage and unsolicited legal advice at me. I watched the comments coming in and this formed a weird echo chamber of sorts where the people who thought that I should sue somebody and the people who thought I shouldn’t sue somebody convinced themselves that I was trying to sue somebody.
If I even had a case (I didn’t), I wouldn’t have the will, the energy, or the money to fight a legal battle against Disney, Fox, or Ryan Reynolds. I half-jokingly/half-seriously asked for things, sure, but I literally never even considered suing as a viable possibility.
That first Syfy article posited that this may all be part of a viral marketing hoax and by the time io9 put their article up it had developed into a full on conspiracy theory citing the timing of when I posted my Domino painting on Instagram as suspicious. By this point, none of this felt unsettling to me any more, it was just really fucking funny.
On Thanksgiving, shortly after internalizing a metric tonne of Chinese food with my wife and her family and after I tweeted a disclaimer about how little interest I had in suing anybody, Ryan Reynolds slid into my DMs.
I’m not going to share what he sent me here, but I will say that it was a respectful friendly message where he acknowledge that they had come up with the idea independently seven months after I did and that yep, I’d gotten there first, but that no; he hadn’t and wouldn’t ever use an idea without permission.
I don’t know what the odds are, it seems incalculable, its like winning the weird lottery. But I guess that lotteries are won every week. And remember there were two Dennis the Menaces. These things can happen and it makes sense that if it were to happen to me, it’d happen with the film series that seems to have been tailor made for me in the first place.
We had a brief conversation, maybe I’ll have more to say on the subject down the line. I did ask if he would sign a photo of Fred Savage for me and we’ll see where that goes.
Since the last tweet I made on the subject didn’t inspire a dozen follow up articles and only a handful of Twitter users still want me to know that I’m a dickhead, I can only assume that things are getting back to normal now and that for the time being I can close the big Deadpool/Princess Bride book on the subject.
Besides, I don’t know anybody else who can say that the exact movie they asked for got made or that it profited a deserving charity in the process. And I’ll know that whether directly or indirectly, I really did crack the PG Deadpool code.
Even when you thought you could get away from watching the news that was on every other channel by watching a rerun of Deadpool on FX, you couldn’t get away from the concept.
Four or five moments – that’s all it takes to be a hero. Everyone thinks it’s a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime, there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you’re offered a choice – to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend, spare an enemy. In these moments, everything else falls away.
Which leads us to John McCain.
Asked how he wanted to be remembered, McCain said: “He served his country, and not always right — made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors — but served his country, and, I hope we could add, honorably.”
And he was right to criticize himself. He made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors. Cheating on his first wife. His time with the Keating Five. Rude jokes about Chelsea Clinton’s parentage. Picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, thereby introducing her to the rest of the world and coarsening the standards for high public service. Ditching an appearance on David Letterman’s show claiming he was needed in Washington, then staying in New York to do an interview with CBS News instead.
But still. Four or five moments. Here are some of them.
During the Vietnam War, he was injured, captured, held prisoner, and tortured. Yet he refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer, and would not consent to release unless every man taken in before him was also released.
When he ran for President in 2008, during a campaign rally Q&A in Minnesota, Gayle Quinnell, a 75-year old McCain supporter said she did not trust Obama because “he’s an Arab.” McCain took the mic back and replied to the woman, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” He knew his base well enough to know that making that statement would cost him votes, and he made it anyway.
When Donald Trump was elected, McCain took it upon himself personally to try and reassure world leaders, visiting multiple countries in the first six months of 2017 at the age of 80, exhausting himself before he got his cancer diagnosis.
Two weeks after brain surgery, on July 28 of last year, he cast the decisive vote against the Republicans’ final proposal that month, the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, which failed 49–51.
I have to imagine production of The Hitman’s Bodyguard started with director Patrick Hughes gathering the whole cast together and giving them some kind of speech along the lines of “Look, we all know this script is a piece of garbage but if we pull together we can elevate it way past tolerable” and then there was some big cheer and they ran out to the set like a sports movie. It’s a laughable script that doesn’t hold together under the smallest bit of scrutiny, but the cast absolutely crushes it. It’s the best bad movie I’ve seen all year and I don’t mean that as faint praise. The world is full of people doing average work with average material but seeing fantastic work come from a wretched foundation is something special. This is a diamond found in a coal mine.
The chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is basically driving the whole movie. We’re getting a Deadpool-lite version of Reynolds thick with meta commentary on the events of the movie and sort of action movie in general. This plays well with the standard action-comedy version of Jackson we’ve been seeing since Die Hard with a Vengeance. This interplay drives the whole movie dragging a murky nonsensical plot and a seemingly endless numbers of big pauses for jokes that just aren’t that funny. Everything that’s Reynolds and Jackson bickering is great, every scene that has Selma Hayek in it is good, everything else is pretty bad.
The action in the movie is good enough, but it feels more like a greatest hits compilation than any kind of new composition. The best sequence in the film is one where Jackson is walking through a Dutch square seemingly oblivious to potential attackers while Reynolds stealthily takes them down. It’s a good sequence but it feels an awful lot like a knock-off of the Waterloo Station sequence in The Bourne Supremacy and while it’s 10 years later feels a bit slower. There’s also a reasonably thrilling chase through a canal with Jackson in a boat being chased by bad guys in SUVs while Reynolds on a motorcycle harasses them. It’s a nice idea salad mixing bits from a number of other movies. Maybe greatest hits is too reductive, more like a remix of some old favorites, you ought bop your head a few times but odds are you’ll go back to the original.
Most of the story of The Hitman’s Bodyguard is just low-level stupid. You know, stuff like trial scenes that were written by someone who has only experienced the legal system from their drunk friend describing Law & Order episodes to them. But then toward the end they try to pretend like there’s some big moral quandary between a life spent protecting terrible people versus a life of killing bad people for money. For one, I don’t believe that you can make a great living as a contract killer just sitting around and waiting for bad people to need killing that badly. Also, people who decide to hire assassins to deal with their problems aren’t people who are on the highest of high grounds to start with. It’s not an interesting moral quandary, and it directly detracts from the stuff that’s actually entertaining in the movie. Wikipedia says that when this script was named to The Black List it was a drama— maybe this is an artifact from those days, but it has no place in this movie. (I also can’t imagine this was a better movie as a drama. I’m bored just thinking about it.)
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is good because you get to see Deadpool interact with Nick Fury. They had to file off all the serial numbers, superpowers, and sci-fi gadgets— but that’s what it is. We’ll never get the actual pairing because of all the various rights headaches (and honestly, what would need to be happening in the MCU for it to even happen) but we can get it here stitched on to a wretched story about the trial of a dictator who commands an army of mercenaries while imprisoned at The Hague. Come for the cast, stay for the cast, leave with a smile on your face, pick it on Netflix 18 months from now, never think about it after that.
This coming week, Marvel is issuing the second part of my work on Heroes For Hire and, as I did when the first volume came out, I thought I’d talk a little bit about it and why I made some choices that I did and what I was thinking when I created the stories.
Background info: my run on H4H began in 1997 and ran for 19 issues. The team was a corporate entity, hiring out groups of superheroes for various missions. Luke Cage and Iron Fist were the core, with the Original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, running the business. Lots of characters cycled in and out, the most constant being White Tiger, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Black Knight and Thena of the Eternals. We also had lots of guest stars such as Hercules, Wolverine, Shang-Chi, She-Hulk and Deadpool who, not surprisingly, was featured on the cover.
Deadpool is probably one of the main reasons Marvel is gathering this collection right now, along with the fact that Luke Cage and Iron Fist both either have had or will have a series on Netflix that will lead into the Defenders miniseries. And, maybe, the fact that I wrote Suicide Squad and that movie is now out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and so on. Ah, name recognition!
Often the guest stars would appear depending on availability and also on with whom I wanted to play. That accounts a lot for Deadpool’s appearance. ‘Pool is a lot of fun to write; he has a deep streak of whacky and I like whacky.
In fact, the entire series has a deep streak of whacky as best exhibited by the narrator. The voice of the narrator started normally but rapidly developed into sort of a character of its own. I was influenced by Stan Lee’s way of talking to the reader, calling them “effendi” and promising to get them caught up when the story started in the middle of a fight scene (which is one of the best ways ever to start a comic). My narrator would complain about not being told what’s going on and once panicked when there was a crash and it appeared all the heroes were dead. She-Hulk, who was also a lawyer, later broke the fourth wall and fired the narrator. We had a new, normal narrator after that; even the font changed to establish this was not the “same” narrator.
I have no idea what readers thought but, hey, I was amusing myself.
Smack dab in the middle of this we had a five-part crossover with the Quicksilver book that I was writing along with Joe Edkin. That year, Marvel was doing “paired” Annuals and, since I was involved with both H4H and Quicksilver, they got paired. Joe and I had inherited a storyline involving the High Evolutionary, the Knights of Wundagore, Exodus and the Acolytes, and ultimately Man-Wolf. In retrospect, Joe and I probably should have wound up that storyline sooner than we did and gone on to our own ideas. We hoped that linking the Quicksilver book with H4H would create an event and would help increase the readership of Quicksilver.
It didn’t work out that way. Quicksilver actually got canceled and I think we hurt H4H in the process. There were just too many characters and plenty of switching sides. Maybe we should have had a scorecard.
The pencilers on the series were generally top notch. Pachalis (Pascual) Ferry was our regular penciler and he’s terrific. Very flowing artwork but with a sense of energy and excitement akin to Jack Kirby. Excellent storyteller, too.
My other favorite penciler remains Mary Mitchell for a lot of good reasons. I first encountered Mary at a Chicago Con; incredible storytelling skills, a great sense of architecture and place, and even minor characters seemed to have a real life. They all had their own stories and we could have followed those but we were following these other characters instead. I helped her get some of her first jobs and she eventually came to live with Kim Yale and me. She stayed during Kim’s fight with breast cancer and stayed after her death. Much later, she and I became a couple and still are but at the time of her doing the story in this volume, we were just good friends.
The story was a solo adventure of the Black Knight who was a favorite character of mine and who I had brought into the group.
Another favorite character that I brought into the comic was Mrs. Arbogast, the older and sometimes acerbic secretary who had worked for Tony Stark. She has a dry disdain similar to Alfred in the Batman movies.
We had lost some readership but it was growing again but this was the Ron Pearlman era when the company was owned and operated by bunch of people who clearly didn’t know what they were doing. One underling decided he would curry favor by saving money by canceling a bunch of books – including H4H. We didn’t really warrant it. Said underling then left the company a short time later. Such is life.
I’m proud of my work on H4H. My approach was consciously different from my work at DC; a bit looser, a bit more in what I considered to be “the Marvel manner.” A plot might not complete in one issue but end at the start of the next issue and we would then plunge into the next story. Sometimes the pace was a bit breathless and that was all by design. I wanted H4H to be fun and the best way to make that happen was to have fun myself. I did and I think it shows. If you take a look, I think you’ll have fun, too.
Boy, do I have Christmas gift ideas for you! Volume 5 of the Suicide Squad reprints, Apokolips Now, goes on sale December 27 (okay, it just misses Christmas). The extended blu-ray for the movie goes on sale December 13. And Marvel is releasing the first of two volumes gathering my Heroes For Hire work on December 20. You’re right, we want all your monies.
Today I want to talk about H4H. It was a team book whose members included Iron Fist, Luke Cage, White Tiger, Black Knight, Ant-Man, Jim Hammond (a.k.a. the Original Human Torch) plus assorted guest stars rotating in and out such as Hulk, She-Hulk, Hercules and, eventually, Deadpool – who shows up in Volume 2 out in late January.
It’s not hard to understand why Marvel is re-issuing the stories in a TPB. Luke Cage is on Netflix and Iron Fist soon will be, they’ll both then appear in The Defenders, and there’s some serious buzz about a Heroes For Hire series as well. There’s a little luster on my name as well right now because of the hoopla about Suicide Squad.
The series was originally set in the Onslaught Era where some of Marvel’s heroes, specifically The Avengers and the Fantastic Four, were thought to have died in battle with a being called Onslaught. In reality, they wound up in a pocket universe from which they would eventually return. Their absence left a power vacuum in the Marvel Universe where other teams, such as Heroes For Hire, were formed to fill the void.
The book was originally going to be written by Roger Stern, a fine writer and Marvel mainstay, but after putting the team together and plotting the first issue, Roger felt that his workload was overcommitted; something had to give and, at that point, H4H was easiest to jettison. However, Roger recommended me to his editor, Mark Bernardo, as his replacement. Mark and I had worked together on other Marvel projects such as Blaze of Glory and an incarnation of The Punisher so Mark was more than willing for me to take over H4H.
I had previously done Suicide Squad over at DC so I was interested in seeing what I could do with a team book at Marvel. I had long been a Marvel fan; at one point, I was an even greater Marvel fan than a DC one and was reading almost everything Marvel put out in those days.
I’m really glad to see H4H reprinted; it became a very different series for me. I plotted it more loosely in a very freewheeling style. Sometimes a story wouldn’t end in one issue but overlap into the next and then plunge right into the next plot.
One of the stranger conceits that I developed was the narrator, the person who speaks in the caption boxes. He got very strange. As early as the third issue, he was addressing the reader directly. It started as him being a Stan Lee type, calling the readers “effendi” and promising to get them caught up as he went. I especially remembered Stan doing that in Spider-Man and it always stuck with me.
This narrator got out of control, however, throwing in pop quizzes and sometimes panicking at what was happening to the characters. He eventually was “fired” by She-Hulk. How’s that for odd?
I always like playing with continuity when I can and there was one element in Luke Cage that I had fun with. Cage is very street tough but, when he swore, he’d say, “Sweet Christmas!” Understandable at the time given language restrictions in comics when Cage was created as a Marvel blackploitation character.
Lot of people thought “Sweet Christmas!” was ridiculous but I gave Cage a reason for using it. When he’s mocked by an opponent during a fight about it, Cage informs him that his grandma objected to swearing and that “my grandma is tougher than you!”
There are some quiet moments as well that I loved. Namor comes over to the building housing H4H and visits Jim Hammond. In their younger days they had been occasional foes and then allies during WW2,along with Captain America in The Invaders. The scene is just the two of them talking as old friends and Hammond gets out a joke that makes Namor laugh hard. “Firebug,” he tells him, “you kill me.” It’s just one page but I really love it.
My penciller on the series was Pascual Ferry, a Spanish artist, and his stuff was and is amazing. The storytelling is wonderful, there’s a Jack Kirby like sense of energy in his work, he has lots of enthusiasm and energy as well as talent and skill and I simply loved working with him. He’s very professional and a great guy to boot.
The tone of what I did in H4H is very different, I think, than anything else I’ve done. There’s just a lot of fun in it; I was consciously trying for a very Marvel feel and I think this, along with my Marvel westerns, are some of the best work I’ve done for the House of Ideas.
As I said, the second and concluding volume of H4H will be published at the end of January and I’ll come back and talk some more about that when we get there. I got to work with one of my favorite artistic partners before the series ended. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of my work I can recommend this to you. Not everyone has seen it and I think it’s worth seeing.
As Stan the Man used to say, Face front, true believers. Because that’s where the future is coming from.
This week I’m going to keep my preamble short. I’d like to call out some friends whose hard work has been poured into their Kickstarter campaign. Without being asked, bribed, or otherwise cajoled, I’d like to use my little corner of the interwebs this week to highlight them — and give you the skinny on why I’m compelled to gush all over their wares. Before that though… a quick digression:
Yes. Last year around this time, my studio successfully funded our own Kickstarter campaign to launch our very first graphic novel. And yes, we’re still working on it. And boy howdy are we a bunch of heels for thinking we could finish a book barely started in half the time the other books had taken us. Lesson to be learned: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. To be fair, the DNC told us the polls were in our favor. Suffice it to say the campaign I plug for you now are for a project that will be in your hands when the respective authors promise they’ll be. Unlike me, they are honest and trustworthy. Digression over.
I love all-ages comics. Period. Akin to Jerry Seinfeld, I believe that going blue is often less challenging (the cheap pop, if you will), and a quicker means to an end. In comics, this is a more grey-area, I admit. But here, Neutron City Comix is an unabashed equal-opportunity riot for everyone under 97 (but certainly anyone over 99 would love it too). In a nutshell, the book combines meta-humor, slapstick, wordplay, visual gags, and a tongue so firmly in cheek I’d fear biting off the tip if I giggle too much.
Neutron City is what happens when a web comic is literally forced off the web onto a conventional page for no better reason than the meta-reason of because the editor said so. The fact that the book refers to this, wraps pseudo-science jargon around it, and devolves (as too many things in pop culture) into yet-another-Star-Wars pastiche is equally hilarious as it is snarky.
The book follows a gaggle of nerds being nerdy, revolving around a comic shop. Haven’t seen that before? You’re a liar. Luckily, Neutron City knows it, and proceeds without wavering. Your normal collection of archetypes (the socially awkward genius, manic pixie snarky girl, slightly dimwitted every-kid, and a handful of adult-ish hangers-on) wax poetic in media res. If Deadpool had a G rating, no predilection for violence, and was totally not like Deadpool, you’d absolutely get Neutron City Comix. Natch.
Under many circumstances, the amount of wit required to be so rote would cause my eyeroll to be audible from space. Danny Limor (artist & writer du jour) is up to the task. When I’d read an advance copy (again, Danny and his brother / partner-in-crime Yoni, did not under any circumstances bribe me to do this), I was admittedly skeptical. To have a book know it’s a book, and continuously hang lampshade after lampshade on that fact requires a depth of comedic talents that Limor excels at. It helps that he’s a standup comedian. Combined with his simplified (but polished) cartooning skills, what makes it to page is a bright and inviting romp that made my four-year old giggle — even if I was the one getting 102% more of the jokes. Balancing act, indeed!
The book itself is 48 pages and is ready to bash your inner snark into submission. Which is helpful, as it was written (and drawn) a long time ago in a galaxy far away. Or… it was written like a year ago, and drawn around the same time. In… like… Nashville. I forget.
See. This is what they do. You get famous for writing on ComicMix, and they just give it to you. I like to grab ‘em by the newsprint. OK, Danny. Can I get my check now? Crap is this still on!?
I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise. I love being out on the water, and have even joked that I’d live in a tiny house surrounded by water if I could. So it’s kind of silly that I’ve never been on a cruise, isn’t it? And I love comic-cons, as anyone who’s ever read my column will know. So when I first saw that someone was organizing Fan2Sea, a comic-con on a cruise ship (and one with an adorably punny name, at that!), I thought, “What? I have to go! Also, this absolutely sounds too good to be true! Because it’s a comic-con. On a cruise ship. How can this be?!?”
So when I went to look up the details of Fan2Sea, and I saw that their line-up includes cast members from Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, and Guardians of the Galaxy, and also Deadpool and Batman comics creators, my mind pretty much exploded from excitement. Add to that the excitement of going on a cruise, with all the cool experiences that has to offer; and port stops in Tampa, Key West, and Cozumel, Mexico (I’ve never been to Mexico! But I’ve been meaning to go!); and it’s a wonder I’ve even been able to pick up all the little brain-pieces.
Fortunately, I recovered my wits enough to determine that I had to know more about Fan2Sea. Like: where did it come from? Who had this marvelous idea? Is it going to be as awesome as it sounds? More awesome?!? (Which I might not be able to handle, but I’m willing to take the risk.)
To get answers to all of the questions swimming through my overheated brain, I got in touch with the people who are putting on this wondrous event, and Stefan Lawrence of Rethink Leisure & Entertainment sat down with me to give me the lowdown on everything all of us con-goers need to know before we decide that we must embark on the grand Fan2Sea adventure. Read on for all the details!
ESW: So who came up with the idea for a comic-con on a cruise ship, and what was the inspiration behind it?
SL: We were brought this project by one of the investors who had the idea of a boutique-style comic-con on a cruise. It’s a response to some of the larger comic-cons. They’re delightful, they’re amazing, but there’s also so much friction involved – there’s the waiting in lines, there’s the crowds – a lot of it can be a little bit stressful even if you love this stuff. So we have partnered with a travel agency that specializes in themed cruises; and had the idea to do basically a boutique comic-con – where it’s a limited number of people, and you’re eliminating all of the standing in line, waiting around…all the bits and pieces that make comic-con both maddening and delightful at the same time. We want to take all the good stuff and eliminate all the other bits. So you’re staying at a luxury hotel, on board this ship. You’re not waiting in line forever to get to huge panels. We’re running the big panels twice so that everybody will get a chance to see all the big panels on the ship. It’s a lot about making this the most artist-friendly and the most fan-friendly convention that anyone’s ever attended.
ESW: I know some of you come from a theme-park background; and it sounds like at least some of you have gone to enough comic-cons to know what they’re like and know why something else is needed. Can you talk about the background of the team that is making this happen?
SL: I work for a company called Rethink Leisure & Entertainment. We’re a theme-park design company made up of a gang of ex-Disney Imagineers, ex-Universal creatives… So the thing that we’re really good at is customer experiences; basically creating fun events and experiences for guests. So that’s always our focus. Because whether you’re master-planning an entire theme park or you’re doing an attraction, you’re constantly thinking about how an experience is from beginning to end. So that’s been our focus from day one. We don’t want to welcome you on board the boat and be like, “Here’s a bunch of celebrities – have at it.” We want to make sure that the experience is fun the entire way though. So for instance, we’re working with the 501st in Tampa so that the moment you get on board, there will be storm troopers that are welcoming you on board the ship on the gangway. We’re going to have themed parties every single night. We really want to make sure that it’s…kind of a “surprise and delight” thing. So that you feel like this is a party that was created and curated just for you.
ESW: It sounds like your Rethink staff comes from some of the best companies geeks are familiar with; what are some other things that Rethink has done that we may have heard about?
SL: We ourselves are a fairly young company; we’ve been around for about three years now. In the sort of comics space, we designed the world’s largest toys and collectibles store, which is in Dubai – it’s called Comicave. It’s 17,000 square feet, it has themed areas – we actually have a full Iron Man hall of armor in there; there’s a Star Wars collectibles room that looks like the Death Star; there’s the “rooftops of New York,” which is where you can buy all of your single-issue comic books; there’s an otaku anime and Gundam area – so that’s one example, and the whole store is pretty spectacular.
In terms of our team here, they’re the people who have worked on everything from – we have the show writer from Harry Potter in Orlando, and Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood. They wrote all the scripts for the rides for Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. One of our senior creative directors here was on the opening day team of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The President and CEO worked on Disneyland Paris. People here have worked on Transformers, the ride. Everyone here in the office lives and breathes pop-culture – so shifting over into this realm of things really is not much of a stretch.
ESW: So are you guys super excited to be getting into this area?
SL: Speaking just for myself – I love this stuff. I love comics, I love movies – this is all stuff that I do anyway – it’s all completely up my alley. So to be in this playground is a delight for me personally. But we also have an office full of people who have desks covered in toys, and we all make the pilgrimage down to San Diego every year and come back with mounds and mounds of stuff. So it’s all a world that we love already. It’s tangential to what we have done in the past, but it’s completely in our wheelhouse in terms of what we love.
ESW: You’ve talked about your goal, which is making sure everyone has an amazing time. Can you give me both the immediate picture of what this particular cruise experience would be like for a fan; and then what goals Rethink has for the future?
SL: The immediate experience is that we want this to be like a big geeky slumber party. As opposed to a comic-con where everybody is on the show floor during the day, and then you have to disperse and go find parties or whatever else you feel like doing. We’re going to be running panels into the evening; but then when the evening time comes, we are going to transition into parties. We’re having cosplay karaoke; themed DJ parties; outdoor movie nights on the pool deck that are going to be themed, with themed cocktails – so like the first night we’re doing a double feature with Jaws and Piranha, and so we’re going to have Blood in the Water themed cocktails that go along with that. We’re going to have complete Stranger Things ‘80s themed parties. So we’re looking to extend the entertainment, so when you come out of your panels and you’re like, “What’s next?” there’s a full array of things to do.
We’re working with the chefs on board the ship to provide special menus – so that you can have a Game of Thrones menu that you can choose in the dining room, or you can have a Bladerunner-themed future Asian fusion-style thing that you can choose as part of your menu. We’re running movie marathons all day every day – so there’s always going to be something to do. And even when you go back to your cabin, we’re partnering with a company called Monster Channel that runs late-night monster movies as programming, so there will be a bespoke monster movie channel that you can turn on in your cabin at all hours of the day. And there’s no one else on the ship except comic-con attendees. Some ships will buy a block of rooms for a themed event – but we have the whole ship; so everybody on the ship is going to be there for this one thing.
ESW: You know what it reminds me of, in a good way, is the way Dragon Con works, in the sense that you get to stay in the place where everything is happening, as opposed to trekking to a convention center. But again, Dragon Con is a big, big show; and the Fan2Sea experience sounds like a more intimate experience without the hassle of the habitrails or anything. That sounds amazing.
SL: Exactly – and we are filling every single venue that we can fill with programming. We are taking over almost every single open bar or space. So you can just wander through the ship and see something cool that’s happening.
ESW: That is amazing and brings me to the question of: what with being on a cruise ship, that has a comic-con, and stops in ports and everything – how in the heck are we going to overcome our FOMO, our Fear of Missing Out? Because it sounds like the sort of thing where I just want to do everything, immediately. Any tips for people who are like, “This sounds good, but I’m overwhelmed by all the potential awesomeness?”
SL: Not to worry: well before the cruise sails, we are going to be releasing schedules and checklists you can put together. I know people who go, for instance, to Disney World, and they program everything to within an inch of its life, and that’s how they vacation; and I know people who want to go on a journey of discovery, and they’re like, “I just want to go out and see whatever I want to see, as I want to see it. We are going to give you the tools to be able to plan everything beforehand, if that’s what you want to do; or if you just want to wander into the cinema and see what’s playing, or wander down to the pub and join the trivia quiz that’s happening, or head on over to cosplay karaoke because you hear it from down the hall; the ship is set up to accommodate both things. You can rigorously plan your day; but then you can also take it as it comes.
We are being careful to get out of the way of some of the bigger stuff – so if you definitely want to see a Stranger Things panel, we are not going to be doing something exactly in that category somewhere else at the same time. We’re trying not to cross programs so that there are two blockbuster programs at once. We are trying to make sure that the program gets out of the way of itself. But, you know, you are going to miss something, because there’s just going to be too much happening for you not to.
ESW: Sure – and that happens at every con. So I’ve been to a ton of comic-cons, but I’ve never been on a cruise. For those of us who are cruise newbies, are you going to be putting up tips for that, and if you want to experience everything on the ship, are you going to feel like you’re losing out on that if you take time to explore the ports?
SL: The ship gets in to port usually at about 8:30 in the morning for both Key West and Cozumel. We are delaying our big programming until later in the morning on those days; so the big panels will probably start around 11 or 12, although that’s not final yet. So that if you would like to go to port, you can do so. You can get off, go check out Key West, go check out Cozumel; but necessity dictates that we will have to start the panels sometime. So we are giving some windows of exploration if that’s what you want to do. We are also cognizant that we are programming things to go late into the evening – most of the programming will last until three or four in the morning. So you can also sleep in a bit, because the earliest programming will start around 9:30 or 10:00. So there’s no crack-of-dawn programming.
ESW: So if this all goes well, what’s next?
SL: Our goal is to be the comic-con destination of the year. Like, we’re never going to be San Diego Comic Con, or that scale; we’re never going to be New York Comic Con. But outside of that, we want this to be the coveted destination so that when this goes on sale, people are excited, and they can’t wait to see what the line-up is. We want it to be something people look forward to every year, and get excited about; and they can sort of make their own, and it can be something special that happens. We want this to be a yearly tradition. And our goal would be to start with one a year; but a West Coast and East Coast launch would be something else we’d be interested in doing – but we’ve got to get this one done first! But I think people are going to be surprised to see what a good-quality experience this will be, for fans and guests – and the quality of our guests is top-notch, as well. And then we want to grow this as an experience every year.
ESW: I like that. So if you are someone who has been to a ton of comic-cons, but you’ve never been on a cruise, what would you tell people about why they should try this experience?
SL: If you’ve never been on a cruise ship before, you might be surprised by actually how nice they are. We went and did a visit to one of the sister ships earlier this month; and the ship is absolutely spectacular, the venues are gorgeous and themed, the cabins are really, really nice, the restaurants are fabulous; it’s going to be completely unlike staying at the Marriott and going over to a con. The actual experience is going to be completely different than your usual con experience – but in a good way.
ESW: It sounds amazing, Stefan; and thank you for this great information!
After our interview, Stefan also let me know that the con has just implemented a fab booking feature for those of us who want to experience Fan2Sea but aren’t sure who else might want to go and be our roomie, and who can’t afford to just book a whole room without roomies. Now, if you go to the Eventbrite page, the ticket choices include several room options where you can book a bed in a four-guest cabin, and roommates will be assigned by gender. The individual bed ticket includes all fees, too, so it’s easy to know what you’re paying for the whole experience. Pretty cool!
Well that wraps up this column, but stay tuned for more Fan2Sea news in the upcoming weeks – and also, when January rolls around, for con reports from yours truly, because I’ll be goingon this amazing comic-con cruise, experiencing everything so that I can share it with you, my faithful readers.
…But really, you should go too and share it with me in person, because OMG why wouldn’t you?!
The battle lines are drawn each time a leaked picture hits the web. The tattooed Joker. The dark-costumed Superman. The old-school-but-with-new-web-shooters Spider-Man. The Flash — the TV one or the movie one? Aquaman, a.k.a. the WWE’s Roman Reigns. Starlord by way of Han Solo. And whatever the hell Lex Luthor was doing with wardrobe from the porn parody of The Social Network. It sets the nerds on fire in heated debates and discussions. At their core, no true fan of a character can draw peaceful breath while their favorite character is reinterpreted by Hollywood costumers and art directors who totallydo not even know what comics are!
And then the stories themselves! What good is Batman v. Superman when it seems like the writer’s room and director are hell-bent on cramming eight major stories into a single bloated cry-fest? Or what of Marvel basically rewriting the same script over and over, but changing the lead character to whatever name is on the title page, to fill in a roster spot for the next massive crossover planned in 2021?
And of course, the studios get their fair share of the blame. How many more retreads of the Fantastic Four will we have to sludge through until the owners of the license finally figure out they can’t make work? Who will tell DC that it’s not a great idea to take the notes on your universally not-loved picture and just apply them willy-nilly to the next movie in line? And I haven’t even scratched the surface on some of the indie debacles we’ve seen that utterly miss the point of their source material.
For every amazing adaptation like Sin City, Hellboy, Deadpool, and Iron Man, we are made to suffer through the muck of Ghost Rider, Catwoman, and Green Lantern. And in all of those cases, it’s seemingly impossible for the nerd masses to unite in love. And even sometimes when the creators totally get it right — Scott Pilgrim, American Splendor, or Ghost World — it doesn’t always spell mind-blowing blockbuster. Which in turn causes the studios to intervene and hire writers and directors to apply their “Hollywood Magic,” and thus we get Batsad v. SuperSerious: Dawn of RainFights or the recently released Batman: The Killing Joke of Barbara Gordon Having Sex With Batman, WTF!
So, how do we deal? Well, I’d say you take a page right out of John Ostrander’s book. No, please don’t tear up the man’s comics! John’s review of Suicide Squad was the best review of the film a fan could ask for. Why? Because John proved that one can love the source material separated from the film is winds up inspiring. What a novel idea! Taken without the source material in mind, Suicide Squad is a loud-brash-loud-angry-loud-bright-loud action flick. A decent one, in fact. Is it Hamlet? No. But it’s a good popcorn flick where things go boom, and the one-liners make you giggle. Are there better comic book adaptations? Yup. Plenty. But taken for what it is — an action movie that will tie-in to future action movies — it was a nifty romp.
This, of course, leads to my unanswered question of the week. How can we, the nerdiest of the nerds, separate ourselves from the horded minutiae of the pulpy roots we commit to memory that now morph into multiple new media? I am truly of two minds on the subject. I think immediately of an adolescent girl who sees Suicide Squad without any knowledge of the source material. I think how she walks away loving Harley Quinn. And I bristle at the thought. “How could you like that vapid one-liner spouting Hot Topic walking advertisement!” I chortle in my mind. But then, the counterpoint seeps in creepily behind the bluster. “If she truly loves the character, she might seek out more information, with which she might partake of Mad Love, or several other better interpretations of the character and come to love Harley more wholly!” And that my friends may end up being the grey answer out of our world of black and white.
We simply can’t blame Hollywood for attempting (and failing) to stick closely to the roots of any license they gobble up. They are in it to make money. That means casting Will Smith and writing Deadshot less like John Ostrander did and more in line with what puts butts in seats instead of eyes at the local comic shoppe. At the end of the day, the character is able to live in infinite iterations. The cream will always rise to the top. Lest we forget: Harley Quinn was made for a cartoon long before she was comic cannon. Starlord as a wise-cracking anthropologist with a love for scoundrels just looks and feels cooler than an uptight space-Nazi.
In a world where every comic has potential to become a great TV show or movie, we are actually allowed to have our cake and eat it too… so long as what makes it to screen is treated with depth, clarity, and care.
This is not a review of Suicide Squad, the latest movie that pisses off the critics. John deserves first crack at that, and you’ll see it in his regular space here at ComicMix this Sunday. And Arthur does his weekly review thing, and I wouldn’t usurp his turf. And I’ll bet our pal Robert gets a few comments in well before the home video release. Yeah, I’ll offer a few opinions here, but after reading the inner-most thoughts of so many of those professional movie reviewers I feel a strong desire to pull the bedsheet off of the painting.
Here’s the bird’s eye lowdown: the professional movie critics are sick and tired of superhero movies. Be warned – no matter what’s up there on the screen, the critics have wandered out of the theater in search of Elvis. Capes and cowls are crap. Enough is enough. Screw you, Robert Downey Junior.
Suicide Squad is not the Gone With The Wind of superhero flicks, and after Batman v Superman and The Killing Joke, it probably seems better to me than it should. Yeah, there’s too many people in it: without them, you can’t establish a squad. There’s one completely unnecessary supervillain plotline, which seems to be the hallmark of recent DC-based adaptations. Big deal. Suicide Squad belongs to three of the most compelling characters in contemporary comics: Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, and The Joker. And The Joker is only there to establish why Harley is Harley – and Harley is… complicated.
Here’s my big review: if you pull the stick out of your ass before it, and you, plump down into your popcorn-littered seat, you just might have fun.
Suicide Squad the movie is fun. It’s not Deadpool type fun, although the first DC/Marvel movie crossover should be Harley Quinn Meets Deadpool. Yeah, I don’t think that will happen either.
If you’re a movie critic or a professional Internet crank, “fun” doesn’t pay the rent. Critics’ vitriol should be measured the way most guys measure their penis, confusing inches with millimeters. The genre is not done. The genre has been with us since Douglas Fairbanks Senior first donned Zorro’s mask. Costumed heroes are a movie staple. If the earth didn’t open up and swallow those theaters playing Batman v Superman, the genre is safe.
Pick up a newspaper. Read about Donald Trump. The zika virus. ISIS. Killer cops. Hurricanes and tornados. Mongo crashing into Earth. After all that, trust me, Suicide Squad is a fun movie worthy of your time and your need to relax after all that heavy lifting.
Superhero movies have been with us for 100 years and, whereas the current fad will lessen eventually, they will be with us for the next 100 years.