Tagged: Jon Bernthal

Mike Gold: Make Mine Marvel Maybe?

If a comics publisher falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound effect?

Marvel Comics has been facing growing dissatisfaction over their sundry practices (both alleged and real) regarding their minority characters, their massive event stunts, some questionable actions by sundry staffers and freelancers… even the less-than-beloved reception to their new Inhumans teevee series, which premiered last month. Long-time Marvel fans – and I’m one of them myself – have never seen Marvel receive the stinky end of the stick before; certainly, not like this.

If you were on Marvel’s staff in some marketing or promotion capacity, you might have looked at last weekend’s New York Comic Con as a great opportunity to shine a light on all the groovy new stuff the House of Idea has in its pipeline. Buff up the shine on the corporate engine, so to speak. After all, New York City is Marvel’s home turf and the Comic Con claims (perhaps correctly) that they attract more visitors than the annual San Diego cluster-kerfuffle. This magic opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ahhh. Sadly, that didn’t work out so well.

First – and through no fault of their own – Marvel had to cancel the NYCC promotion for their new Netflix Punisher series. They even had star Jon Bernthal ready to entertain what was very, very likely to be a standing-room-only crowd. Unfortunately, Stephen Paddock decided to murder some five-dozen people in Las Vegas with a number of his 47 reimagined semi-automatics, and Marvel, like others in the entertainment business in a similar position, canceled the panel. For those who are unaware, The Punisher has been one of the most violent heroic fantasy characters since The Spider, back in the 1930s. It’s completely proper for Marvel to show its respect in this manner.

Still, it was a blow to their promotion campaign.

Almost immediately after that, Marvel found itself getting an overwhelming amount of criticism from just about every conceivable corner of our own personal Bizarro World for climbing into bed with Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest defense contractors. This bothered a lot of people, even though the campaign supposedly focused on Northrop Grumman’s aerospace activities.

Lots of folks – fans, retailers, comics professionals – pointed out that Marvel has spent a lot of time and energy bragging about how war profiteer Tony Stark abandoned his munitions business for moral reasons in their comic books and, now, their movies. If you conflate Northrop Grumman with Stark Industries (in all its names), you’re left with the reality that, unlike Stark, Northrop Grumman is all too real. In other words, they really make a lot of stuff that kills people. Sort of like Stephen Paddock, but without the profit incentive.

So Marvel killed that campaign, removed all presence from its online activities, and cancelled that NYCC panel as well. I feel their pain; nobody enjoys watching Daffy Duck get cheered on by the crickets.

Typically, one would think the only way Marvel can work its way out of their deep promotional hole is to produce better comic books. But, really, comic book sales are so low that the bad press exceeds the positive impact of better stories – even if anybodymreally knew what the general public considers “better comic books.” Besides, it takes a long time to produce comics stories – particularly when one has to consider the four-dimensional domino effect that comes along with being faithful to current continuity.

One would think that, 20 years from now, Spider-Man and the X-Men and the Hulk will still be around and all this would be on the level of a fart in a blizzard. I certainly hope that’s true, but being a Geek Culture historian, I am reminded that damn near everybody in America used to be quite familiar with The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, The Saint and Nick Carter… characters that have been revived frequently (and, often, bizarrely) but achieved little or no traction. It can happen to every commercial product. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to buy Burma Shave.

I hope this does not happen. I’ve been a comics fan since Eisenhower was president; I wouldn’t know what to do with my time.

Besides, I miss The Fantastic Four.


Marc Alan Fishman: Three Thoughts Laying Around

Justice League Gods and Monsters

Sorry, kiddos. I ain’t got no snark to hone into laser focus this week. With a day job literally sapping my inner strength as we prepare a massive brand overhaul alongside our massive summer conference, all I have the energy to do when I make my way home is the bare minimum. Which of course amounts to drawing pages for the upcoming new Samurnauts book, planning a major crowdfunding campaign around said book, organizing video shoots and marketing lists for said campaign, completing sundry freelance gigs for way less money than I ought to be collecting, and of course… writing for you, my adoring public. So, as is the custom when my well seems to be tapped of a singular topic, I present to you a smattering of my simmering speculations from my cerebellum.

Hey, I may be running close to empty, but I’ll be damned if I don’t have spectacular alliterative powers. Natch.

  1. Jon Bernthal is Frank Castle.

As per my choked Facebook feed this afternoon, I learned that Shane from the Walking Dead is now the mafia murdering mook of the Marvel U. As with all of my brethren online, I was happy to see such inspired casting. Now I’m not a big Walking Dead fan by any means, but I’ve certainly caught enough of Bernthal’s work to know he’s got the chops. Combine this with his partially busted (but still Hollywood pretty) nose and you get a Punisher who will have no problem crossing the invisible line from page to screen. Sorry, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson.

What I like the most from the announcement is that the part is hardly bit. From what most are saying, it seems like Marvel read everyone’s online yammering about how the Netflix ‘Devil series presented grit that was pitch perfect. And what better follow up to said grit then the House of Ideas most gritty character, save perhaps for Squirrel Girl, whose grit know no bounds. Suffice to say given the universe they built around Matt Murdoch, Frank Castle will fit right in. Even better: the obvious morality play that might present itself between the costumed compatriots. Whilst Daredevil has shown his willingness to kill, The Punisher is… The Punisher. The fact that it might lead to a showdown with earned angst versus the forthcoming Superman and Batman love-in? Yeah, eat two bullets, and call me in the morning, DC!

  1. Stone Cold Steve Austin Still Has ‘It’.

The other evening with nothing sitting in my DVR, I turned on the WWE Network (which I pay for mostly to allow my father to have something to do when he’s home in the mornings). They featured an hour-long sit-down podcast via Steve Austin and his guest Paul Heyman. While I could have easily spent my entire column lecturing you on how amazing Mr. Heyman is, I’ll leave it short, so the comics fans don’t click away too soon.

After 55 minutes of fluffy storytelling and jovial revelry between host and guest, Paul Heyman asked if he could ask a hard-hitting question – knowing that the last hour was essentially enjoyable nothingness. Mr. Austin obliged. “Why don’t you come back for just one night? Settle the unfinished business you have with my client?” Heyman asked. For the Internet Wrestling Community, this was more than a bon mot. This was poking a bear that has been long hibernating. I found myself on the edge of my chair as Steve Austin morphed into Stone Cold to respond to the potential challenge of Brock Lesnar.

His response was metered. His gaze became like steel. And the string of near-obscenities that dropped from his maw made me remember why he’s one of the three heads on the Mount Rushmore of Pro-Wrestling. In a two-minute response, which would best be described as a shoot promo, Steve Austin played me and a million or so others for the kayfabing fool I am. It was an amazing piece of work.

  1. Evil Batman is Evil.

The uncompromisingly talented Bruce Timm has a new animated direct-to-whatever-media-is-ubiquitous-these-days feature. It’s Justice League: Gods and Monsters and boy, did it get dark in here all of a sudden. Based on no previous work per se, this Elseworlds tale showcases a world where Batman is a vampire, Superman is an unhappy Latino Demi-God, and Wonder Woman is… combative, I guess? While most if not all of DC’s recent animated releases have done little to spur my attention, seeing Timm’s name on the project – along with his patented visual style – certainly caught my eye. With that being said, both the trailer and teaser clips released thus far have not engaged my engrossment to the point of desiring purchase.

Simply put, Timm is a master craftsman making something that looks good but hardly great. With beats (again, based solely on the released trailer and teasers) that come awfully close to similar ones tackled during his decade of animated supremacy prior, I’m left cold by the possibility that without the confines of network notes a darker and grittier Justice League is anything to be excited about. Justice Lords anyone? But, let’s not split hairs; Bruce Timm making a good feature is great for the industry. More ideas – especially original ones – will help spark continued creativity elsewhere. Let us just hope that Gods and Monsters delivers more than what meets the eye.

  1. Bonus recipe time!

Combine 1 thoroughly mashed banana with 2 large eggs and a dash of cinnamon. Fry up in pan. Enjoy your very own banana-fanna-faux-cake. You’re welcome.

Happy Saturday everyone!