Tagged: Hollywood

Martha Thomases Is Outraged!

thomases-art-130913-150x190-1007605In the last week, DC Comics has made me exhausted. I can’t keep up with my own outrage.

At first report, DC reportedly drove off J. H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman from the pages of Batwoman by decreeing that Kate Kane could not marry Maggie Sawyer, a storyline that they had been developing for more than a year.

How could this happen? DC had always been a leader in creating a diverse universe, or at least it did during my tenure there. We were so LGBT-friendly that I was able to work with GLAAD to get an awards category established for comics and graphic novels when they gave out their yearly prizes. And now they’re going all reactionary? That made no sense. The Internet rumor that they were doing this to suck up to Orson Scott Card made even less sense, and, happily, turned out to be complete paranoid speculation.

Was I going to have to boycott DC Comics, which I’ve been reading for 55 years?

Then, as it turned out, the news story was more complicated. The editorial edict was not against gay and lesbian marriage, but all marriages. I don’t think this is what we had in mind when we wanted marriage equality. The editorial theory is that a married hero can’t be interesting, but instead must be miserable and lonely to have a dynamic emotional life with a lot of story opportunities.

I understand what they’re saying here, but I think it’s lazy. It would be like saying that a hero can’t have a successful career, because poverty has more dramatic potential. However, having an editorial edict about marriage does make it easier to manage the stories from a brand perspective, as potential Hollywood blockbusters. Hollywood loves single heroes, considering them to be sexier and more appealing to the coveted 14-25 male audience. It’s letting marketing trump editorial, and, even worse, it’s letting paranoia about movie marketing trump comic book creativity.

Batwoman is currently one of my favorite books. It’s one that I show people who don’t think they would like superhero comics. Even when the story isn’t necessarily to my taste (Killer Croc doesn’t interest me that much), the artwork is always lushly gorgeous, the lay-outs intriguing, and the characters both enigmatic and engaging.

While I don’t know J. H. Williams, I consider myself to be a huge fan, and it upsets me to see him and his colleague treated so poorly. Editors are an important element of the creative process, and nothing I say should be considered anti-editor. However, it’s bad management for editorial to swoop down and demand changes at the last minute, especially on a story-line that was already approved. It’s no way to treat talent. It’s no way to run a company.

Was I going to have to boycott DC Comics, which I’ve been reading for 55 years?

The latest news as of this writing is that Mark Andreyko will take over Batwoman. I enjoy his work a lot, and, while I don’t think we’ve met, we’re Facebook friends and we seem to share a sensibility. I’m curious to see what he’ll do with Kate Kane, so I guess a boycott isn’t really an option, at least not for me at this point.

Here’s the thing. It’s been taking me longer and longer to read my comics every week. The pile will sit there for days, waiting for me to get interested. I’m writing this on Monday, and the “Villains Month” books have sat there since Wednesday. I’m not sure I care anymore. Treating artists and writers like cookie-cutters has made reading the books a chore. I don’t have to spend money for more chores. Chores surround me, for free.

Nagging about chores is something that ruins a lot of marriages. Way more than being the hero.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis (honest)



Reviews: “Crazy in the Blood” and “Fangtabulous”

A nutty-crunchy cult, a human-gorgon PI, a family fit for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, hot god guys (not a metaphor), Federal spooks, zombie minions, and a dreamy Italian detective… welcome to San Francisco and Lucienne Diver’s second installment of her Latter-Day Olympians series, Crazy in the Blood, which delivers all that and a gaggle of ghouls (Samhain, $15 trade, July 2013). The story picks up at its usual breakneck pace soon after the events of the first installment and Hell (literally) hath no fury like a pissed-off mom—putting the whole earth and human race in danger in this family feud between god parental units with Dionysus, maenads, and health food in the mix for good measure. Shredded dead bodies are showing up and Uncle Christos has disappeared and his fav niece, part-gorgon PI Tori Karacis, is determined to find him and discover the links, if any, even addicted to ambrosia and…well…Apollo (blond, bad-boy god) vs. her Detective Armani.

Conflicted romance! Dark and light hot dudes! What’s a gal to do?

But Tori is not alone—BFF blonde starlet Christie won’t let her go alone and Hollywood’s made her tougher than she looks. Grandma Yiayia plays air traffic control—she never appears in the novels, so far, save for on the phone. Fabulous office assistant Jesus is the…well…fabulous assistance. Hermes wants a front row seat to the chaos, of course.  And then Thanatos, the Grim Reaper, shows up on papa Hades’ orders, slashing his scythe like the boss that he is. But there is a bit of anti-deus-ex-machina when the Three Fates step in and twist the threads of the plot even twistier. Demeter is the eternally spurned mom. Hades can’t get along with the mother-in-law, and he and Persephone have their marital problems. Bring in Dr. Drew or Phil or…nope.  Bring in the gods and the spooks and Tori’s Scooby gang. There is a fair dose of Buffyverse flavor here, still—hey, learn from the best!—which makes it fun and familiar even for those who’re new to the Blood series. The Romance tropes’re still there, all adult-like, so those fans will stay happy, but this is a cross-genre work that many can enjoy at almost any over-13 or so age. Let the party begin!

fangtabulous-663x1024-2730161And speaking of parties… we find Gina, Bobby, Marcy, Brent, and the rest of the vampi-nista gang in Salem, Massachusetts (y’know, home of the witch hysteria and trials of old made famous in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible) on the run from the Feds who want them as experimental weapons, battling the Salem Strangler, in Fangtabulous (flux, $9.99 trade/$11.50 Canadian, 2013) #4 in the Vamped series. And it’s all about the magic…from the stage magician to the haunted tours of Salem to the Goths to…the real Big Bads. This volume has all the fun you’d expect from Diver and her gang, but a bit more grit and angst and a dialogue on racism, government corruption, and child abuse that is present but not so heavy-handed as to spoil the fun for younger readers, but surely to be noticed by most readers with a clue. This is not a bad thing, but it does lend the tale a more serious tone amongst the mayhem and quips that are this series’ hallmarks. This is definitely PG-13, with genuine gore and violence, but not gratuitous…no Tarrantino-ing here. And if you know Salem you’ll have the extra bonus of the veracity of the setting. I enjoyed this, in a thoughtful kind of way. The characters growing up. It’s cool. I won’t say more as to keep this a spoiler-free zone.

Martin Pasko: Geek Ennui

Pasko Art 130822My regular readers have figured out by now that when I sit down to write this column every week, my tongue is usually so deeply planted in my cheek that my face scares homophobes.

Which is why I come to you today with a heavy heart. And an uncharacteristically downbeat-sounding bunch of words. I have nothing to joke about – at least, not “above the cut.”

No, all I’ve got is just … flat affect.

Oh, I continue to monitor, and very discriminatingly partake, of the various expressions of Geek culture chronicled, dissected, and celebrated here and elsewhere. But I can’t seem to get as excited about any of it as do all the other too-numerous and overstimulated chatterers.

Something is missing.

Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be a big deal that John Romita, Jr. is maybe gonna draw Superman. And no one can figure out why Kick-Ass 2 was a box office disappointment. And people can’t wait to know what the Guardians of the Galaxy movie is gonna look like, or how Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who is gonna be different from Matt Smith’s. And on and on and on. But, for some reason that’s really starting to bug me, because I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, I can’t motivate myself to give a rat’s patoot about any of it.

From most of the comics and movies and video I sample, something is missing. For a long time I thought it was just that I was somehow managing to miss “the good stuff,” but now I’m not so sure.

It can’t possibly be Just Me. Not with the fistful of antidepressants I take every day. No, of course not. That can’t be it.

I suspect that what I’m really experiencing is a massive case of Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It. And what veterans of the comics biz like myself have always wished for was that comics – the genre, if you can call them that; the type of content, not the physical printed product – would became a mainstream entertainment phenomenon. And they have.

Thanks more to CGI and Hollywood than to their modest printed spawning-ground, comics and related pop culture are, of course Big Business now, and have been for so long that most readers of sites like this one can’t remember a time when they weren’t. Which means they can’t remember, either, a time when all this stuff wasn’t quite as mindlessly escapist, or – at the opposite end of a spectrum that seems not to have a mid-range – leadenly, pretentiously Serious Minded.

That condition obtains, perhaps, because mindlessness sells big-time, while Seriousness of Purpose wins Eisner Awards and fanboy cred (and the occasional crowdfunding bonanza), which freshly-minted capital is then expended by the mintee on being mindless for a much bigger payday.

But something, nevertheless, seems to me to be missing.

What first got me seriously wanting to write comics instead of just reading them were things like Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’s original Green Lantern / Green Arrow series and Steve Gerber’s Howard The Duck. Titles that were a vibrant and perceptively critical commentary on the culture they arose from, but whose Creative always enveloped its core concerns with a sugar-coating of good, solid, old-fashioned fun. Fun as in slam-bang heroic-fantasy action or verbal jokes and sight gags – the stuff that allowed the less demanding readers to remain oblivious, if that was their wont, to the Big Ideas the writers of such comics were trying to explore. In so doing, these comics were hits among fans (as opposed to being successful by the casual-reader-at-newsstands-only distribution “metrics” of their day. But the industry learned, for a brief time in the ‘80s, that such content was solidly marketable in the direct-only environment.

The art of producing that kind of comic book entertainment seems to me almost lost. At least, I haven’t been able to find it – not for a few years now.

If that’s the something that’s missing, I want and need – need – to find it again. Or somehow become a force in reviving it, if not just making it more visible than it is now, if it’s even still out there. And that’s what seems to be preoccupying me this week, and will, I hope, be grist for this mill in weeks to come.

All this is why something else is missing this week: a column that tries to be itself entertaining, while “sugar-coating” with humor an observation or caution that I hope might prove thought-provoking or inspiring of debate.

Oh, well. Maybe next week.

At least I didn’t do what too many in the blogosphere are tempted to do, and write a column about how I couldn’t figure out what to write about.

Or did I?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Martin Pasko: City On The Edge of Forgetaboutit

Pasko Art 130815If you follow this column regularly (in which case I apologize for the feelings of loneliness and alienation), you might remember me mentioning that I now reside in Los Angeles, which is the perfect city to move to if you’re really desperate to live in a comic book. It’s so colorful and exciting and full of funny-looking noises. Like when the valet at Jerry’s Deli on Ventura slides that new car you haven’t even started making the payments on yet into a parking space narrower than its wheel base – at 120 mph – because he thinks he’s Batman.

So I am thrilled to report I’m serene, I tell you, serene as I continue to sit around, keyboarding like this. Only now I do it for fun because the keyboard I’m using is the digital one on my smartphone, and it’s now in my lap as I write this, with the vibration intensity on the haptic feedback set to “Maximum.”


I am, however, finding it somewhat more lonely here than I’d anticipated.

Many of my old friends – the kind who keep insisting I refer to them on social media as “not-old-that-way” – don’t get out much. They glide about their palatial homes in motorized tricycles which have to be loaded into their very tiny cars when a group of us goes out to lunch. Whereupon the one who still has enough use of his legs to actually drive a car keeps asking the voice on the GPS to speak louder, so he can hear her replies to his inappropriate comments about how hot she sounds and what time she gets off work.

Meanwhile, the other three beg me to push their motorized tricycles out into freeway traffic while they are still in them, because their fingers are too arthritic to use a trackpad and none of them has mastered SEO well enough to Google for the guy who inherited Jack Kevorkian’s equipment.

Thus I find myself in the rather odd position of actually looking forward to inviting to lunch Stan The Man, who, as you know, lives in Beverly Hills. And is not too busy to see me because there are no animation studios or comic book companies left out here with whom he can jointly announce a project that will be completed after you and I are dead.

 (“Just came back from The Mansion and I’m way stoked, ‘cause Hef an’ I are This Close to launchin’ that whole Spider-Bunny thing.”)

I’ll have to find a way to break it gently to Mr. Man that Mr. Hefner no longer sits around all day in his pajamas and bathrobe because he needs to be ready at a moment’s notice to fuck a smokin’-hot babe, but because sitting around all day in your pajamas and bathrobe is just what you do when you’re 187 years old.

But, of course, as Bill Maher knows how to say with much better fake sincerity than I, I kid Mr. Man. I have every confidence that he really will be with us many years hence. That’s because, as he has helpfully informed us, he has a pacemaker but no need whatsoever for a motorized tricycle. I am, however, inviting Mr. Man to lunch in my home, where absolutely no effort will be made to point out that he’s standing too close to the microwave.

And, in what passes here in Hollywood for truth, Mr. Man has announced a strategic relationship with Archie Comics, for whom he will be writing Just Imagine Stan The Man Asking You To Believe He Actually Wrote This Comic Book Himself About What It Would’ve Been Like If He’d Created That Really Swell, Groovy Homo Kid We Came Up With That’s Putting Us Out Of Business Because It’s Pissing Off All Those Loudmouthed Jesus People Who For Some Reason Are Still Under The Impression That They Can Buy “Age-appropriate” Comic Books At Wal*Mart.

I, for one, am looking forward to chatting Mr. Man up about that book. I may be totally off-base on this, because I haven’t actually seen Mr. Man in the 20 years since the announcement, but I think Archie is a perfectly natural “fit” for him because, at least at that time, the back of Mr. Man’s head was orange, too.

Now, as we come to the conclusion of what I know all you reverential fanboys, with your keenly developed senses of humor, will have understood was meant as Just Jokes rather than the gratuitous and mean-spirited rant you, you hero-worshiping little cretins, you, mistook it for … I leave you with just these humble thoughts:

Apparently, here in The City On The Edge of Forgetaboutit, the way you fight ageism is by making fun of people who are even older than you are. If you can find any.

And so it is that I whistle past Forest Lawn and rage, rage against the dying of the light from my smartphone.

OK, so I’m a little cranky, too.

Some asshole just totaled my motorized tricycle, trying to park it at 120 mph because he thinks he’s Batman.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


The Book Cave Presents: Panel Fest Episode 17- Pulpfest 2013 Ed Hulse

The Book Cave’s Art Sippo recorded Ed Hulse’s panel on Pulps in Hollywood at the 2013 PulpFest Convention.

You can listen to Panel Fest Episode 17: PulpFest 2013 Ed Hulse here.

About From Pulp Page to Silver Screen:
Blood ‘n’ Thunder editor Ed Hulse explores the pulp-to-movie connection in his PulpFest presentation Hollywood and the Hero Pulps, one of several pre-convention programs scheduled for Thursday, July 25th, at 9 PM.

Motion-picture incarnations of pulp magazine protagonists date back to the medium’s earliest days. Moviegoers of the nickelodeon era—the pre-World War I years—were treated to

cinematic adaptations of Short Stories’ Hamilton Cleek and The Popular Magazine’s Terrence O’Rourke, among others. Tom Mix became the industry’s top Western star on the strength of his 1920 portrayal of Max Brand’s Whistlin’ Dan Barry. And master detective Nick Carter, who successfully made the transition from dime novel to pulp magazine, appeared on screens both in the U.S. and overseas in several sets of short subjects produced between 1908 and 1927.

With the coming of talkies and the emergence of Hollywood as the world’s filmmaking capital, pulp fiction became an even more frequent source of story material. Hundreds of movies released during the Thirties, Forties and Fifties—feature films and short subjects alike—were made from yarns originally printed in rough-paper periodicals.

As Blood ‘n’ Thunder readers know, Ed is the leading authority on pulp-related movies, having researched and written about them for decades. His PulpFest presentation will touch on many, but concentrate on those adapted from hero pulps, with special emphasis on such serials as The Spider’s Web (1938), The Shadow (1940), and The Spider Returns (1941). He’ll present little-known, behind-the-scenes info gleaned in part from his own interviews with people who worked on these episodic epics, including Victor Jory (who played the serial Shadow) and Iris Meredith (who played Nita in The Spider’s Web). Ed will address the rumor that Columbia Pictures planned a G-8 and His Battle Aces serial for 1939 release, and he’ll also report what little is known about the proposed Republic chapter plays that would have featured Doc Savage and Nick Carter.

This program, leading into the screening of Chapters One through Five of The Spider’s Web, promises to get PulpFest’s 2013 hero-pulp tribute off to a fascinating start.

Kenneth Duncan as Ram Singh reads an issue of The Spider in this publicity photo for the 1938 Columbia Pictures movie serial, The Spider’s Web.

You can listen to Panel Fest Episode 17: PulpFest 2013 Ed Hulse here.

REVIEW: Blood and Sand

img5The Golden Age of Hollywood is filled with shining stars, brilliant directors and pioneering films that built a foundation for all to follow. As a result, films from those first decades are viewed with nostalgia and fondness, making us consider them all to be wonderful, especially the ones form the Big Name Stars. The magic of those early years was nicely captured by Martin Scorsese in Hugo and the bets of the best are restored and released on Blu-ray waiting to be rediscovered.

While we bemoan the justifiably bemoan the bloated nature of films, hoping they would be trimmed by 15-20 minutes and emphasis character over mindless action, we cite the classics in the field. And then come along older films that sound promising, look interesting and ultimately show they have not aged at all well. 20th Century Home Entertainment just released Tyrone Power’s Blood and Sand on Blu-ray and despite it being about a bullfighter, does not make you cry, “Ole!”

The 1941 release was shot in color and it is lovely to look at, earning Oscars for cinematographers Ernest Palmer and Ray Rennahan. Based on the 1909 novel by Vincente Blasco Ibanez, it tells the story of a cocksure son of a legendary bullfighter, determined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Sure enough he does, becoming the toast of Spain much to his mother’s regret, who has seen this all before. He marries Linda Darnell but falls for temptress Rita Hayworth. You pretty much know where this is all going since the script lays it all out like a series of tracks to carry the train.

Power’s Juan Gallardo leaves home as a promising teen and returns home a champion, ready for fame and stardom, He is at first mocked then loved then abandoned by the great matador critic Curro (Laird Cregar) who seems to represent the adoring and fickle public. As Gallardo’s star rises, he pays less attention to his craft, indulging in life’s luxuries and does everything to excess. Along the way, the illiterate never takes time to educate himself or pay attention to who handles his money, a situation exacerbated when he enters into the fiery affair.

One of the most interesting scenes in the film is when the two women meet and talk not fight, about the man they both love. It’s subtle and underplayed so is remarkable.

The stars are well supported with some terrific character actors early in their careers such as J. Carroll Nash (Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and the theatrical John Carradine. Accompanying Hayworth and sporting a cheesy Mandrake mustache is young George Reeves and he’s given precious little to do but cock an eyebrow at Power.

8362_2The bullfighting scenes are genuinely boring and you never are made to understand what makes Gallardo so special. And of course there’s one of his childhood friends who is now his rival, played with verve by Anthony Quinn. As The New York Times wrote during the film’s initial release, “In themselves they are good calendar art; as film drama they are as hopelessly static as Jo Sterling’s adaptation is puerile. Most of the fancy capework in Blood and Sand occurs in the script.

“For there is too little drama, too little blood and sand, in it. Instead the story constantly bogs down in the most atrocious romantic clichés, in an endless recital of proof that talented young bull-fighters are apt to become arrogant and successful; that Curro, the critic, will sing their praises, and that thereafter their love life becomes very complicated.”

Jo Swelring’s script is thin and given his credentials I expected far better. Director Rouben Mamoulian keeps the pacing deliberate and stretches things adding a dollop of heavy handed religious imagery. At 2:05, I wanted more story or a faster pace or something because this just plodded along, creaky in terms of dialogue and performance.

The film transfers wonderfully to high definition with good audio. The sole extra on the disc is a commentary from Richard Crudo, former President of the American Society of Cinematographers. His background and anecdotes are sometimes more interesting than the film itself.

Mini-Komix unleashes Deadly Dames and Ghastly Gals!

Atlanta-based publisher, Mini-Komix has released new titles featuring classic pulpy comic book tales from yesteryear.

Press Release:

Ghastly Gals:
Ghastly Gals is our new Daring Dames spinoff comic. It is a collection of horror stories from the Golden Age of comics featuring some monstrous maidens and evil enchantresses. There’s not one but two vampire tales, there’s also murderous mermaids, wicked witches, snake goddesses, satanic brides, and women of the web. Crypt cuties and horror hotties get theirs in their graveyard groove on in this terror-filled romp.

Learn more about Ghastly Gals, along with ordering information, here.

Daring Dames: Distressed Damsels:
Even though the vaults of comics from the Golden Age are filled with heroines, there’s an equal amount of “damsels in distress”. Those sexy but still feisty females who have a knack for getting captured by the resident villains, only to be rescued by the dashing hero. Here are a trio of tales of four of those hot little hostages. There’s the twin Slave Princesses as they put up for auction by evil slave traders, the jungle queen Pha who needs the aid of her savage lord Thun’da, and the plucky reporter Foggy Gibbons that ends up needing the help of her partner Ace of the Newsreels. Real pulp fiction fun and adventure in this troika of titillating intrigue! You can find this at Drive Thru Comics and Lulu.

Learn more about Daring Dames: Distressed Damsels here.

Deadly Dames: Evil Enchantresses:
Another collection of bad girls with Deadly Dames: Evil Enchantresses. Some of the most evil of enchantresses work their wiles on the world to get what they want, no matter the cost. We’re introduced to the Cold War secret agent, the Devil in Petticoats, who spies on gullible American men. Then, the hard-nosed reporter Ray Hale crosses gets on the case of the sexy murder suspect, Pamela Morrison. Finally, the heroic Wonder Boy suspects the blonde bombshell and starlet Tess Labelle is involved in a Hollywood mystery. These seductive sirens want your money or your life, and don’t care which one they get first! This new color special is ready to read at Drive Thru Comics and Lulu.

Learn more about Daring Dames: Evil Enchantresses here.

Deadly Dames: Vile Villainesses:
We’ve got a new digital spinoff to Daring Dames titled Deadly Dames, with its first title, Vile Villainesses. Here, some of the sexiest bad girls from comic’s Golden Age are back to terrorize you. A collection of torrid tales, with two in color! There’s the devil-dealing Aurora Karine, spider-woman Countess Arachni, alluring Kissing Bandit, and the Tiger Queen of the jungle. These ladies will prove that the female is the deadlier of the species! It’s now available for download at Drive Thru Comics and Lulu.

Learn more about Daring Dames: Vile Villainesses here.

Daring Dames: Comely Catwomen (In Color):
We’ve got a new digital color special you can check out. This latest DD issue features two of the finest felines from the Golden Age of comics. It has got the secret origin story of Black Fury, also known as Miss Fury. Plus, not one but two tales of the original Black Cat fighting crime in Hollywood. You can get it at Drive Thru Comics and Lulu.

Learn more about Daring Dames: Comely Catwomen here.

Daring Dames: Cosmic Cuties:
ake off to the stars with our new Daring Dames comic ready for download! Cosmic Cuties is where some of the finest femmes of time and space take off in stellar adventures. There’s Mysta of the Moon, Tara, Sorceress of Zoom, and the Space Sirens. This is available at Drive Thru Comics and Lulu.

Learn more about Daring Dames: Cosmic Cuties here.

Daring Dames: Feral Fatales:
We’ve got another Daring Dames one-shot special online, Feral Fatales (In Color). More jungle jives with some saucy savage queens. We’ve got Camilla, Pha, Princess Mo-Ra in three awesome technicolor tales. Check it out also at Drive Thru Comics and Lulu.

Learn more about Daring Dames: Feral Fatales here.

Daring Dames: Harem Honeys:
Straight out of the Arabian Nights comes three tales featuring hot harem girls! Our new Daring Dames’ digital comic is in color, and has the heroic Son on Sinbad rescuing some gorgeous women of the Golden Age. He helps the Caliph’s dancer Kina, which leads him to the sexy sorceress Rachil. The son of the famous sailor also protects the perilous Princess Zenia of Pirate Cove, and the saucy slave girl Erene. This is available for download at Drive Thru Comics and Lulu.

Learn more about Daring Dames: Harem Honeys here.

Find all of these titles and more at Mini-Komix.

Mini-Komix: mini-comics publishers.
“Size matters not!”

Mindy Newell: Trojan Horse

Newell Art 130701I didn’t know that writer blockitis was catching, but it must be, because just like my buddy and fellow columnist John Ostrander, I seem to be suffering from the same ailment today.

Signs and symptoms include sluggishness, an inability to form ideas, a lack of imagination, a desire to smash the computer, great interest in infomercials, and reading the Sunday New York Times.

Oh. Wait. Here’s something.

It’s an article by Brooke Barnes in the Arts & Leisure section, and it’s called “Save My Blockbuster!” Considering all the words and thoughts that have gone into discussing Man Of Steel by the columnists (including me) here at ComicMix since its opening on June 14, as well as the other comics, science fiction, and pop culture cinematic adventures that have already hit the screen (Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, World War Z) or are still to come (The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D., The Wolverine, Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, Elysium, and The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones) this summer of 2013 – all involved studios praying that their production will be The Blockbuster of the season – Mr. (or is it Ms?) Barnes’s article is not only interesting, but also relevant.

But just when did the summer become the season of the adventure/science fiction/fantasy/comics/pop culture Blockbuster?

The summer of 1975. Jaws.

In 1973, Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown were producers at Universal. David Brown’s wife was Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan. He found a pre-publication copy Peter Benchley’s Jaws in the fiction department of the magazine. Cosmo’s book editor had written a detailed synopsis of the plot, which concluded with the comment “might make a good movie.” Zanuck and Brown both read the book overnight, decided that it was “the most exciting thing they had ever read,” and purchased the movie rights They hired the still chancy Steven Spielberg, although the 26 year-old director was starting to make a name for himself for directing Joan Crawford in the pilot of Night Gallery (“Eyes”), defining “road rage” in his adaptation of Richard Matheson’s Duel for an ABC Movie Of The Week – I clearly remember watching Duel perched on the arm of a sofa in my dorm’s packed-to-the-walls common room, every single one of us with eyes glued to the small 19” television set – and The Sugarland Express, his first theatrical film.

Jaws hit the movie screens of America in 1975. It became the archetype of the summer movie for Hollywood. It had a wide national release (“saturation booking”) and massive media buys, i.e., lots and lots and lots of television, radio, and magazine advertising. It made money, and now every studio wanted a Jaws. According to Lester D. Friedman’s book on Spielberg, Jaws “defined the Hollywood hit as a marketable commodity and cultural phenomenon.” Before Jaws, summer was the seasonal dumping ground for Hollywood studios, the home of films they were sorry they made. After Jaws, summer became “the prime season for the release of the…biggest box-office contenders, [studios’s] intended blockbusters.”

1975 was, let’s see, how many years ago?


This summer Hollywood will have released, as the New York Times relates, “13 movies costing $100 million and up (sometimes way up), 44 percent more than in the same period last year. And because these pictures need to attract the global audience possible” to see any kind of profit, “they are increasingly manufactured by committees who tug this way and pull that way: marketing needs this, international distribution need that” and “the all-too-common result is a Frankenfilm” – I love that description! – “a lumbering behemoth composed of misfit parts.”

To test this assertion, Brooks Barnes conceived a movie titled “Red, White, & Blood” with the tagline “The only thing faster than her car was his heart.” The opening of the pitch reads “Think Fast & Furious meets Nicholas Sparks meets Die Hard.” He (she?) then presented it to a producer, a marketer, a studio executive, a researcher, a global marketer, and a writer.

This is what they said:

The Producer: “We need hotter weapons. Huge, big battle weapons – maybe an end-of-the-world device.

The Marketer: “There needs to be a wisecracking set of man candy here, and those actors are shirtless at least once in a TV campaign.”

The Studio Executive: “I’m a huge believer in a good tragic ending – it worked for Titanic.”

The Researcher: “If you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no one.”

The Global Marketer: “Just be smarter then making a nationality or a culture the bad guys.”

The Writer: “Consider adding time-traveling aliens, or if that’s unrealistic, a regular alien and a time-traveling human.”

Jaws is a great movie. I have seen it at least a hundred times.

But it was a Trojan horse.


TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Partly Cloudy, with a Chance of Davis


How Jon Peters Could Earn $15 Million on ‘Man of Steel’ for Doing Nothing

Martin Pasko Hates Comic Book Movies

Pasko Art 130627It might surprise you that a writer who spent so much time writing coverage on Warner Bros. film scripts for DC and won an award for an animated TV series about Batman … Hates. Comic. Book. Movies.

Usually. Not always, but most of the time. There’s a reason for that, though.

By virtue of my peculiar set of writing credits, I am a graduate of the Berlitz course in Geek-to-Hollywood translating. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, just make enough bank off it to pay back the student loan.

Ever since comic book artist lizards first started crawling out of the four-color slime and evolving into knuckle-dragging primates with Panaflexes on their shoulders, the meme that comics are little more than frozen movies – when what they more closely resemble is storyboards with half the frames cut out of every scene – has visited a host of unfortunate consequences on the medium we supposedly celebrate here.

For one thing, the intrusion of the Hollywood mentality on mainstream comics often results in exactly the sort of Big Mistake that Hollywood itself makes. (Mistake in the art crime sense, mind you, not the ka-ching, ka-ching sense.)

“Auteurs” we have up the wazoo, but directors who write their own stuff are seldom well-served by their writers. The two disciplines aren’t necessary mutually-reinforcing. And it’s a far rarer creature than we generally assume who can do both well. Which is why I think most talented comic book artists probably should have their typing fingers broken. Not everybody who graduates from UCLA film school is Orson Welles, and not everyone who buys a diploma from Joe Kubert’s school is Frank Miller.

And, to put a metaphor into the Cuisinart and push for “puree,” this epidemic of the sins of one medium being visited on another is a two-way street. You can’t get good movies out of styling or constructing a film as if it were a comic book, though Chthulhu knows Hollywood now seems to be trying to.

The two media aren’t the same. Each has a grammar of its own which is part of its unique appeal. (After too many instances of watching Robert Downey, Jr. debase himself and repudiate his profound talent by playing flying Spam, I hesitate to use the word “charm.”) And if you conflate the two, IMO you dilute the unique appeal of both.

That, uhm, whack Batman TV series in ‘66 not only proved that, but leveraged those differences to create its signature whackness. By “transliterating” — as opposed to adapting — the tropes and conventions of one medium (the “Meanwhile…” V.O.s, the POW!s and the ZAP!s, the “I’m a duly deputized law enforcement officer” even though I look like I just escaped from Liberace’s closet) into a completely different medium, it commented on the absurdity of superheroes from a non-Geek perspective. Which is why Geeks hated it.

No amount of redesigning the Spandex as Tutti-Frutti Kevlar can hide the self-evident fact that any grown-up celebrity-wannbe who goes outside looking like that will do his 15 minutes of fame in Celebrity Rehab. But I preferred the Batman: Animated stuff because it worked in animation: everything was stylized, appropriate to the surreality of it all. You could accept that Batman existed when he stood next to a Commissioner Gordon who looked like an inverted pyramid with eyes, in a suit jacket whose lapels grazed his earlobes. By contrast, Christian Bale’s teeth-gritting just looks silly.

The live-action stuff used to make me giggle. Now, of course, it just pisses me off as much as mainstream comic book pacing does: you can’t figure out WTF is going on in any of these things unless you’ve seen the previous five entries in the series. And date night at the Octoplex still costs more than five “floppies.”

All that said, I eagerly look forward to being dragged to see Sin City: A Dame For Our Rape Culture, secure in the knowledge that I won’t be too pissed off to fall asleep on it. If Frank and Rodriguez light this one the same way they lighted the first one, I won’t be able to see WTF is going on there, either, and won’t have to care.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman