Tagged: Red

Martin Pasko: Marvel & DC – The Little Big Two

letterpress2As I was saying last week before I was so rudely cut off by the limitations of your internet-degraded attention span

Mainstream Comics (read: The Big Two) have begun to remind me of that much-mocked TV commercial with the old woman screaming “Help! I’ve fallen but I can’t get up!”

That business seems to me to be in freefall, and only gaming the numbers so as not to scare the horses maintains the status quo, with ongoing monthlies somehow being considered successes with four-digit sell-through estimates that, as few as 10 years ago, would’ve gotten a title canceled long before things got that desperate. And the “top-selling” titles, you’ll note, are all brand extensions – all variations on, or team-ups with, batmen, wolverines, and other tried-and-trues.

Which presents a thorny dilemma.

Neither of the “Big” Two’s corporate parents wants to be in the business of putting ink on dead trees, which – though ComiXology might claim otherwise – is still the major comics delivery-system. And publishing’s a low-margin biz, and low margins are as crucifixes to Count Disnela and Baron Von Warner. But they’ve been persuaded not to drive a stake through the comics divisions’ hearts by being sold on the dubious proposition that comics are low-cost R&D for blockbuster movie and TV development.

Yet not one of the tentpole franchises from the Big Two’s studio daddies has been based on anything created more recently than 50 years ago (the 40-year old Blade being neither tentpole nor generated by Marvel Entertainment). If you’re going to be a stickler and say, for example, that X-Men’s success owes more to the ‘80s reboot than the Lee-Kirby original, okay – 30 years ago. So far the closest Hollywood has come to building a discrete film around a newer character is the alleged Deadpool movie. Since the New Mutants and X-Force titles that whelped the character are both X-Men spinoffs, however, Deadpool doesn’t really count as something that isn’t a brand extension. If Jeff Robinov’s successors don’t share his aversion to making a Lobo film, maybe then I’ll sit up and take notice.

To make matters worse, the comics themselves are not being used as a development lab, since most, if not all, of the new titles in recent years have themselves been brand extensions. (And, when films like Red and The Losers tank, the incentive to look to newer “original” Big Two titles as source material dies with them.)

If the Big Two can’t be profit centers from publishing alone, the only way Pub Ops can truthfully be a development lab is if the publishers increasingly take back control of the creative development of their comics, which they’ve completely outsourced. This, to control new product development focused less on selling comics and more on creating potential movies and TV shows. But they probably can’t do this – at least, not easily.

For one thing, The Big Two seem to be under pressure to roll back the kinds of deals that used to give Creatives limited profit participation in new characters. And in this Brave New World of self-publishing, it’s hard to find strong, seasoned talent willing to let their new ideas be Wholly Owned by the Big Two.

So how much longer can the Big Floppymeisters justify their existence? Especially when they’re completely reliant on the freelance talent … because they no longer have editors who can control the process credibly, even if their bosses were willing to redefine the role of the editor. Few, if any, of them have the chops to pick up a pencil, graphics tablet or keyboard and make the product themselves (and show the newbies how it’s done) – the way the Infantinos, Orlandos, Lees, Romitas, O’Neils, Weins, and Shooters did when they were running things.

More in the third and final installment of this rant, written from the San Diego Comic-Con, where I’ll be looking for signs of a forced-change in Talent Relations – if any – and reporting back from my maybe not-so-uniquely skewed perspective.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

 

Dennis O’Neil: Going Fourth

O'Neil Art 130704The mailbox is empty, Dad’s cleaning the grill, Mom’s making lemonade and the big flag is snapping and flapping in the wind. It’s a holiday, all right. The one that occurs in the middle of the hot weather – which one is that, again? Oh, sure – the Fourth. And what are we celebrating? Barbecued critter and socializing with the neighbors and, after dark, the big fireworks display down by the river? Well, no. Those are the ways we celebrate, not the reason. Then what? Something about the Declaration of Independence? Patriotism? Yeah, that’s it – patriotism!

Only problem with that is, exactly what does “patriotism” mean in a nation that’s as sadly divided as ours is, maybe more divided than at any time since the Civil War? Can a blue stater and a red stater stop bickering long enough to even agree on a definition of patriotism? Can we even agree on what questions to ask? Oh sure, the cable news channels will be full of marching bands and smiling politicians speaking words, but all that’s like the exploding rockets at the fireworks show, nothing more than flash and noise.

Maybe we should seek a reason for the celebration far, far back, before there was a United States of America, or governments, or what we call “civilization.” We’re patriotic for a reason and it’s not because we were taught that patriotism is a virtue.

No, we’ve got to blame it on evolution. Sorry, but we do. It’s really not too complicated: in the distant past, the prehumans who learned to live with others of their kind, to be mutually helpful, to cooperate, tended to stay off some beastie’s menu. The grouches didn’t last as long as the cooperators,who then had time to…you know – procreate. They had offspring who shared their sociability and pretty soon we had villages and tribes and maybe the beginnings of art and religion. But our early ancestors also learned to mistrust what they couldn’t recognize because their collective experience indicated that what they didn’t know might, in fact, hurt them. The result was us, who not only want to live in groups, but have a powerful tendency to identify with those groups. Cheering a local team, joining a lodge or a sodality or a political party or being proud of a certain citizenship – strip away rhetoric and rationalization and ego, get rid of the flash and noise, and you have a naked hominid suffering terror when he finds himself separated from his group.

Call it patriotism, and be proud of it. A cause for celebration? Sure.  But you might want to remember that it’s about cooperation more than mistrust. Red state, meet blue state, and pass the lemonade.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

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?

38.

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 MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Partly Cloudy, with a Chance of Davis

 

Frozen Trailer Debuts

FRZN_IceLogo_Teaser_1s_v8.0C_ComposedDisney has released the first teaser trailer for November’s animated Frozen. The film features the usual impressive vocal cast and comes well pedigreed.

FROZEN (In 3D)

Genre:                                     Animated Comedy/Adventure
Rating:                                    TBD
U.S. Release Date:              November 27, 2013

Voice Cast:                            Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff
Directors:                              Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Producer:                              Peter Del Vecho
Screenplay by:                    TBA

Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio behind Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, presents Frozen, a stunning big-screen comedy adventure. Fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven—to find her sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

The film is directed by Chris Buck (TarzanSurf’s Up) and Jennifer Lee (screenwriter, Wreck-It Ralph), and produced by Peter Del Vecho (Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Frog). Featuring music from Tony® winner Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (In Transit), Frozen is in theaters in 3D on November 27, 2013.

In Frozen, fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter.

FrozenCastle24Flat_r-1_thumbNOTES:

  • Kristen Bell has starred in a variety of films, including the comedies Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat,Hit & Run, Some Girls and the Farrelly Brothers’ Movie 43. On the small screen, Bell is currently starring in the Showtime series House of Lies alongside Don Cheadle; she has also starred in Heroes”and Veronica Mars. Broadway credits include The Crucible and Tom Sawyer.
  • Idina Menzel, who won a Tony Award® as best actress in a musical for her role as Elphaba in Broadway’s Wicked (2004), landed her first role on Broadway in 1995 in the Tony Award-winning musical Rent. Film credits include Enchanted and the feature film Rent. She has appeared in a recurring role on TV’s Glee and recently released Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, a live concert with an orchestra led by the latecomposer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch. Menzel is currently on a North American concert tour.
  • Jonathan Groff appears in C.O.G., which is part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Film credits include Taking Woodstock, Twelve Thirty and The Conspirator. TV credits include Fox’s Glee, the Starz series Boss and CBS’ The Good Wife. Groff received a Tony® nomination for his performance in the Tony Award®-winning musical Spring Awakening, and appeared in the Public Theater’s revival of Hair and off-Broadway plays Prayer for My Enemy and The Submission, among others. He made his West End debut in Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, and appeared in the 2010 Tony Award®-winning Red by John Logan at the Mark Taper Forum.FROZEN
  • Robert Lopez is a three-time Tony Award®-winning writer of the Tony and Grammy® Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon, which was co-written with Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park), and the musical Avenue Q, which ran for six years on Broadway and four years in London’s West End. Lopez teamed with wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, whose Drama Desk-winning show In Transit is Broadway-bound, to write original songs for 2011’s Winnie the Pooh, a stage version of Finding Nemo and a new musical called Up Here.
  • Director Chris Buck helmed the 1999 Disney classic Tarzan (with Kevin Lima) as well as the 2007 Oscar®-nominated Surf’s Up (with Ash Brannon). His animation credits also include 1989’s The Little MermaidThe Rescuers Down Under (1990) and Pocahontas (1995).
  • Director/screenwriter Jennifer Lee is one of the screenplay writers of this year’s hit arcade-hopping comedy adventure Wreck-It Ralph. Her screen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights is being produced by Troika Pictures. She has an original screenplay in development with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, and her original script Lucid Dreams was optioned by Wolfgang Peterson’s Radiant Productions.
  • Peter Del Vecho’s credits as producer include 2011’s Winnie the Pooh and 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. He served as associate producer for Chicken Little and Treasure Planet.
First RED 2 TV Spots

First RED 2 TV Spots

We enjoyed Red so much that we were thrilled to hear that there was a sequel coming. Then we saw the first trailer and knew it was in good hands. Now come the first television ads for the July 19 release.

RED 2

Directed by DEAN PARISOT

Written by JON HOEBER & ERICH HOEBER

Based on Characters Created by WARREN ELLIS and CULLY HAMNER

Produced by LORENZO di BONAVENTURA, MARK VAHRADIAN

Executive Produced by JAKE MYERS, DAVID READY

Starring BRUCE WILLIS, JOHN MALKOVICH, MARY-LOUISE PARKER WITH ANTHONY HOPKINS AND HELEN MIRREN; CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, BYUNG HUN LEE, BRIAN COX, NEAL McDONOUGH

In RED 2, the high-octane action-comedy sequel to the worldwide sleeper hit, retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing, next-generation lethal device that can change the balance of world power. To succeed, they’ll need to survive an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the technologically advanced super weapon. The mission takes Frank and his motley crew to Paris, London and Moscow. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning wits, their old-school skills, and each other to rely on as they try to save the world-and stay alive in the process.

New Red 2 One-sheet

Red2_DomPayoff_fin5_ Summer-theater frameRed 2 is coming this summer and it’s promising to look as much fun as the first one was. Summit is releasing this sequel, based on the WildStorm graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner in late July with the full cast returning (although Ernest Bognine is sadly no longer with us). Instead, we get the addition of Catherine Zeta-Jones, which is just fine with us. The new one-sheet was released today.

REVIEW: Meet the Fraggles

Meet the Fraggles key art 1.15.13One of the most amazing things about the talented and long-missed Jim Henson is that he was always creating something new, exploring news forms of storytelling and puppetry. While he may have started out with single characters, such as Kermit, he went on to create characters that hawked cereal and interacted with humans on Saturday Night Live. In between, he also helped pioneer engaging and  educational children’s television with Sesame Street’s inhuman inhabitants and created a universe of Muppets. When HBO was looking for original fare in the 1980s, it made perfect sense that they turn to Henson who whipped up a brand new universe of characters, the Fraggles. His Fraggle Rock lasted five seasons and 96 wonderful episodes.

Coming this week is Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection, including every episode plus recently discovered behind the scenes interviews, a collectible Red plush keychain, and an all new exclusive Fraggle Rock graphic novel featuring a parent-friendly activity guide. That’s a lot of fun puppetry for the nostalgia-minded.

Also being released is Meet the Fraggles, a six episode sampler for those uncertain if today’s young will respond with the same delight. Wisely, Vivendi Entertainment includes the pilot episode so everyone of the cast is introduced, including the human Doc, who never sees the inhabitants, although his Muppet dog, Sprocket, does.

Much as the residents on Sesame Street were there to help teach numbers and letters, the mixed races of Fraggles were designed as an allegory to the human world. Henson was determined to demonstrate mankind’s interconnected nature and the episodes are fun, but touch on complex issues. Living in their system of underground caves and tunnels, the Fraggle subsist on radishes and Doozer sticks, made from ground up radishes. They can share their dreams if their heads touch one another as they fall asleep.

The series focuses predominantly on Gobo, the leader; Mokey, highly spiritual and artistic; athletic Red; nervous Wembley; and, Boober, the depressive. Whereas the Fraggles were carefree explorers, they frequently encountered the Doozers, who are workers. As a result, there is a great deal of misunderstand and incomprehension between them, allowing the lessons to be learned. Then there are the rules of the Universe, or so claim the Gorgs. Junior Gorg, Pa Gorg, and Ma Gorg are several times the size of a Fraggle and consider them pests.

Described by Henson as “a high-energy, raucous musical romp. It’s a lot of silliness. It’s wonderful”, it began production in March 1982 and debuted on January 10, 1983, becoming the template for many international co-productions that added their own unique elements. The six episodes included on the sampler are culled from the first 37 aired on HBO and nicely focus on the different Fraggles.

We have “Beginnings” that has Doc (Gerard Parkes) and Sprocket set up an old room as a workshop where they discover the first in a series of holes that turn out to be access points to Fraggle Rock. In “Boober’s Dream” we learn that he has a fun side, a split personality named Sidebottom,. There’s also a nice nod to Henson’s other 1980s creation when they go to the drive-in and see a clip from The Dark Crystal. The most charming of the bunch may be “Red’s Club”, where she wants to lead a club that forms without her.

There are no extras on this inexpensive disc but well worth a look if you’ve never experienced these before.

Red 2 Character One-Sheets Unveiled

Red2_OnlineCharacter posters_AH_fin4While there has been a lot of justifiable excitement over the May and June movies, we’re also seeing hints from later releases that proclaim the fun will not relent, as it usually does.

Red 2, based on the WildStorm comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, is one of those films, opening July 19 and Summit Entertainment has released new one-sheets for the retired secret agents, their friends, and foes. The film is being directed by Dean Parisot, working from a script by Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber.

Returning to active duty are Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren while Mary-Louise Parker is back for the fun. Joining the crew this time around are Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung Hun Lee, Brian Cox, and Neal McDounough.

In Red 2, the high-octane action-comedy sequel to the worldwide sleeper hit, retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing, next-generation lethal device that can change the balance of world power. To succeed, they’ll need to survive an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the technologically advanced super weapon. The mission takes Frank and his motley crew to Paris, London and Moscow. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning wits, their old-school skills, and each other to rely on as they try to save the world-and stay alive in the process.  Red2_OnlineCharacter posters_BW_fin6Red2_OnlineCharacter posters_CZJ_fin7Red2_OnlineCharacter posters_JM_fin5Red2_OnlineCharacter posters_HM_fin5Red2_OnlineCharacter posters_BHL_fin2

Robert Morales: RIP

Truth_Red_White_BlackRobert Morales, the comic book writer best known for 2002’s Truth: Red, White and Black which introduced Isaiah Bradley, the black Captain America, has died at the age of 54.

Morales also had a run on the main Captain America title in 2004, and contributed text pieces to Heavy Metal.

This was completely unexpected, we’re all in a bit of shock here at the moment. We will update with more details as they become available.

Wow, it’s Been 30 Years Since Fraggle Rock Debuted

BEAUTY SHOT

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA – Celebrate 30 years of dancing your cares away with the Fraggle Rock gang when Jim Henson’s imaginative series commemorates three decades of music, magic and mayhem with the Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection, singing its way to DVD May 14 from The Jim Henson Company and Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment.  Headlined by the iconic characters, Gobo, Red, Boober, Wembly, Mokey and the adventurous Travelling Matt, the groundbreaking series from the legendary Jim Henson originally aired from 1983 to 1987, and continues to capture the imaginations of adults and children of all ages today through recurring airings on The Hub. Teaching valuable lessons on tolerance, spirituality, personal identity, environment and social conflict, the 30th anniversary collection will give parents who grew up watching the innovative television classic the chance to share the wonderful world of Fraggle Rock with their children.

Fraggle Rock 30th An#B55E30The colorful and exciting world of Fraggle Rock is an underground universe behind the baseboard of Inventor Doc’s workshop, populated by upbeat Fraggles, the industrious Doozers and the giant Gorgs.  Through the different communities, the pioneering children’s series encourages tolerance, diversity, empathy and peace by modeling how these characters learn toto live in peace by working together to achieve common goals.

The Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection DVD, including all four seasons of the celebrated series, along with behind the scenes interviews recently discovered in the archives of The Jim Henson Company, a collectible Red plush keychain, and an all new exclusive Fraggle Rock graphic novel featuring a parent-friendly activity guide, will be available for the suggested retail price of $129.99.   Additionally, the new collection Fraggle Rock: Meet The Fraggles, featuring the pilot, as well as five acclaimed episodes highlighting each of the beloved main characters, available for the suggested retail price of $14.93 will be available to introduce Jim Henson’s world-renowned series to a new generation of fans.

Synopsis: Dance your cares away as you return to the magic of Fraggle Rock in this 30th Anniversary Collectors Set!  Inventor Doc and his dog Sprocket spend their days in a workshop..and a hole in the baseboard of that workshop leads to the underground universe populated by the upbeat Fraggles, the industrious Doozers and the giant Gorgs.  Get ready for music, magic and mayhem from the iconic Jim Henson in this beloved series that continues to capture the imaginations of adults and children alike.