Tagged: Star Wars

Joe Corallo: Rogue One – A Marketing Story

Before I jump into my main point about the latest live action Star Wars adventure known as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I’d like to make some things clear. First, I loved it. By noon this past Friday I had seen it twice. I enjoyed it more than The Force Awakens. I’d be more than happy to go out and spend the money to see it again.

Now that I made that very clear, I’d like to go into two of my observations. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider anything I’m about to state as a spoiler, that doesn’t mean you won’t. If you are very sensitive to anything even remotely resembling a spoiler, please watch Rogue One before you continue reading.

We’re all on the same page now? Great!

The first observation I’m going to make revolves around foreign markets. In particular, the Chinese movie going market. China has become the second largest market for movies in the world and Hollywood has been taking advantage of that. The Force Awakens failed to go over well in China, which made it impossible for the movie to beat out Avatar for the highest grossing film of all time.

In an effort to change that, Rogue One features Hong Kong action mega star Donnie Yen as well as another prominent Chinese actor, Wen Jiang. It’s a solid marketing move and could prove very lucrative for Disney if it gets China’s moviegoers to the theaters for it.

This is more or less a neutral move to pander to an audience. While this does mean precious character real estate isn’t going to other groups or to Asian American actors, it’s still diverse casting. It is also pandering and not really risktaking. While we can discuss this as being good representation, we have to acknowledge it’s also smart business.

Don’t think that considering financial gains to be made in other countries from Hollywood will always have a neutral impact like this. In some cases it’s a positive impact. Movies like Iron Man 3 likely avoided offensive stereotyping with the character of the Mandarin by not wanting to offend that audience. That’s great. Hollywood becoming more worldly for that reason is important and encouraging.

There are drawbacks, however. One of the biggest examples being Doctor Strange. In a politically motivated move, Disney avoided casting someone to portray the Tibetan character of the Ancient One and instead changed the origin of the character to be Celtic while keeping the Asian aesthetic. The thought being that the Chinese government would inhibit the movie’s release and cost the studio precious revenue. While that’s not what is happening with a movie like Rogue One, this mindset could potentially be damaging in other ways. Dehumanizing the people of Tibet or erasing them entirely for a generation will have consequences. As will promoting talent from other countries as Asian American actors and actresses are given more and more hurdles to overcome to make it in Hollywood.

My second observation has to do with the characters of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus who are played by Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. I’ve seen many opinion pieces going around about how they’re clearly a gay couple with evidence from the movie. I’m going to make my thoughts on this very clear.

I’m not happy that Disney’s approach to Star Wars so far had involved queer baiting. If they weren’t aware they were doing that in The Force Awakens they certainly knew for Rogue One.

There is nothing about either sets of those characters that directly implies they’re in a relationship, or that they even want a relationship together. They like having each other around and aren’t shy about their admiration of each other in both movies, but men showing some affection towards each other does not mean they are in a sexual relationship and that kind of thinking can be dangerous and continue to inhibit straight people from feeling they can express themselves that way without implications as well as keeping queer people in the closet longer.

It’s 2016. If you want to have queer characters in your movie, you can.

You don’t need to code them. If you’re coding them, then you’re only speaking to a queer audience. This is an audience that doesn’t need coding anymore; we need real representation. Besides, coding characters so only a queer audience might read them as queer isn’t speaking to straight audiences who are the ones who really need to understand queer characters more and understand that we exist and we aren’t going anywhere.

A reason to code characters in 2016 would be so you can make more money at the box office by not potentially turning away moviegoers who might think twice about wanting to see a queer love story play out while also wanting to make nice with a queer audience. They might also want to make sure people in countries with governments that may be less friendly to the queer community will allow the movie to play unhindered. Not sure something like that would happen? Queer elements have been edited out of anime like Sailor Moon back in the 90s so it could play on TV here in the States.

I completely understand that not everything out there will have queer representation and I am okay with that. What I don’t want to keep seeing are queer baiting story elements like we’ve been seeing in Star Wars since Disney has taken the helm. Either have the representation or don’t. You don’t get to have it both ways and we can’t keep praising companies like Disney for representation that isn’t actually there.

Rogue One was a solid installment in the Star Wars universe and might be my favorite installment since the original trilogy concluded. I highly recommend it. That doesn’t mean we can’t keep hoping for something better even if it means rebelling against some of those in power. Rebellions are built on hope.

Michael Davis, In The Comic Book Closet

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America still has a problem with accepting comics as anything other than kid stuff. There may be millions of “regular” people hiding their comic book lifestyle. This cannot stand and has to stop.

As you’re reading ComicMix, most likely this will not apply to you. Pass this on to a friend who you suspect may need it. If you’re trying to stay in the closet, yes this will help you avoid getting caught but consider the damage you may be doing to yourself.

For god’s sake – stop living a lie!

Don’t see any comic books around his or her place? Somehow they manage to have seen or “has a friend” who has viewed that “stupid” superhero movie? If you’re dating anyone who spends considerable time and or money on things you just can’t understand, chances are you’re in love with a comic book person.

Here’s a few simple tests and topics to find out if someone is hiding a comic book past.

Ask them to name a Captain. Any Captain. If they describe Captain Action, Captain America, Captain Kirk or Captain Nemo, chances are they’re comic book people.

If Captain Morgan is the first name out of the box and they slur, droll and or lick their lips while doing Captain Morgan pose you’re dating a comic fan… and an alcoholic.

Most fans of comic books are fans of movies, bookstores, and bacon. They either like Star Wars or Star Trek a few of us like both but if pressed will pick a side.

A comic book fan will respect both the Beatles and Jay-Z, both Public Enemy and Paul Simon. Yes, different music but all icons. Symbols are important to comic book people. Even if we don’t love what they do, we have an appreciation for what they represent.

Ask if they know anything about Dark Horse Comics, Kevin Eastman or an Apple product besides an iPhone. See if Norman Rockwell or the Wu-Tang Clan sparks a gleam in their eye. If you know anything about those subjects, try and act they like you don’t. We do so love to hear how smart we are or at least how cool we sound.

If the above questions or secondary inquiries don’t work for you, then hit them with one of the following:

  1. Tell them (name of someone with basement or attic) was about to throw out a box of old comics from the 30s they found. You had no idea Batman had real pointy ears and carried a gun back then.
  2. Ask if anyone they know wants an ancient Superman comic with him lifting a car over his head while running.
  3. Say “Some crazy guy named Stan has a flat tire in front of our house. Seemed OK until he said he created Spider-Man…”

If none of the above gets a reaction, they are in deep denial or don’t read comics. If there is a response, stand clear of the door because you’re about to be run over.

Being a closeted comic fan takes work. That fan is often placed in the “never get a mate” or “mentally challenged” category, so he or she hides their obsession.

As an example, I have a mint in the box Japanese G.I. Joe. An ex-girlfriend of mine brought her little brother to see my toy collection.

This 10-year-old little snot opened my display case and was a second away from tearing open the box and 2 seconds away from ever reaching 11.

I yelled no! so loud the Hell Spawn dropped the box and started crying.

My ex, she who must not be named, girlfriend could not understand why I had reacted that way. In what I thought was a well said and reasonable explanation of my behavior I explained to her just what little Satan was about to deface.

All she heard was blah blah, I don’t want anyone else playing with my doll, blah blah. She asked me what I would save first in a fire, her or my “doll.”  I said, “Not the doll…the action figure.”

She said she didn’t think that was funny.

Hell, neither did I but I’m smart enough to know I was talking myself into a cold shower. I said I’d save her and would if there was sufficient time to do so after I got Captain Action to safety.

What?

Rarely are folks like us understood by those who don’t share our love for comics and related stuff. Trying to explain why we do something to those who don’t is like yelling at someone who does not speak English.

No matter how loud you get, they still won’t understand you.

Comics needs all the support we can get, and you in the closet will come out once that respect is granted you won’t have to hide.

Nonetheless, we need your voices too, but no one can hear you with the door closed.

 

Mindy Newell: Letting In The Light

Willy Wonka Pure Imagination

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of Pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination. We’ll begin with a spin, traveling in the world of my creation.

“What we’ll see will defy explanation. If you want to view paradise simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it.

“Wanta change the world? There’s nothing to it. There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.

“Living there, you’ll be free if you truly wish to be.”

“Pure Imagination”• Written by Leslie Bricuse and Anthony Newley • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, sung by Gene Wilder

But I ramble, to turn a phrase…

It’s a tough thing, dealing with depression. It’s a selfish disease, one whose main symptom is that it makes the whole world all about you.

Turn on the television, boot up the web, pick up a newspaper, link into the world – there’s a lot of things going on out there beyond your own life that are terrible beyond anything that Dante ever imagined. I don’t have to name them; you know what they are.

In my line of work I’ve seen a lot of terrible things, things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, things that make me think, and sometimes say out loud, “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should,” things that make me wonder why this culture, this American society, fears death so much that we keep people alive even when in our brains, in our hearts, in our souls we know we shouldn’t, even when we know that we are not abiding by the first rule of healing, “primun non nocerefirst, do no harm”

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure what my overall theme is this week, what my aim is – maybe it’s just to get these thoughts out of my head and into the world, because the one thing the darkness cannot abide is the light, even it is only flickering. That’s always been my weapon against the disease – what some in my life have called a big mouth – or what my father used to call “not knowing when to keep quiet.”

I am writing this to shut it up… I think.

Aloneness is the ally of the disease, or the belief of aloneness; but I don’t walk Depression Street alone. I have my family. I have my friends. I have a job that keeps me actively engaged in the world. I have this forum on ComicMix. I am lucky and I am blessed, and I know that, even when I am in the deepest shadow. That knowledge is another component of the light that scatters the darkness.

Sometimes, even though it is a complete oxymoron, I am glad that I have had this disease. It has made me a better person in so many ways – less quick to judge, more open to empathy. (See, I told you that my depression has been an oxymoronic entity in my life, go back and read that second paragraph.) It has made me a better professional, too – as a nurse, as a writer.

Anger, it is said, is depression turned inward. Well, I have plenty of anger, and sometimes it is displaced, but I have learned, or am constantly attempting to learn, not to turn it inward. Mostly it is anger that the depression went on so long, that it was so long undiagnosed, that it robbed me of what economists call the financially “productive” years, so that here I am at 62 and 10 months and I get scared when I think of the future… will I end up as one of those senior citizens living at the poverty line?

That’s not how it was supposed to be. But whose life is the way it was supposed to be? So very, very, few of us.

To borrow from Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck, “the fairy tales are bullshit!”

But the fairy tales – comics, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, all the wonderfully heroic tales, the myths and the epics from Gilgamesh to The Ugly Duckling – are all parts of the wonderfully nerdiness and geekiness of our imaginations, are also part of the wonderfully beauteous light.

Sorry, Nicholas, but fairy tales can also be not bullshit.

“Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.”

It’s this that keeps me going when the dark is beckoning…keeps you going, too, I hope, when your own abyss is yawning before you. The ability to accept life as it is, but also, and more importantly, to keep imagining.

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it…”

 

John Ostrander: Self-Employable Comics

Hexer Dusk 1

Hexer Dusk 2I love writing and I am so glad I’ve been able to make a living at it. I’m very thankful to all the fans and all the publishers who have enabled me to do that over the years.

The trick is in getting the work. There’s this malady known as “freelancer’s disease” which consists of a freelancer taking every gig offered because you’re afraid that if you turn down any, they will all go away. It’s not rational but it’s real and it’s how some freelancers wind up taking on too much work. I’ve been sick with that disease from time to time. To make a living from writing, though, depends on a publisher saying yes.

That’s changed a bit in recent years thanks to the phenomenon of crowd funding where the artist can put together a project and then, if they can, get it up on the Internet at a crowd sourcing site such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. There you ask the fans to fund the project– and its their interest in what you are doing that counts. You ask the reader to trust you and your past work and invest in this new one.

Hexer Dusk 3I’ve done it with Tom Mandrake for Kros: Hallowed Ground (vampires and the Civil War) and I’m trying to do it again with Jan Duursema for a science fiction project called Hexer Dusk. For over a decade, Jan and I did Star Wars comics at Dark Horse, acquiring a fan base and a rep for doing really good Star Wars stories spread over different epochs. We created a lot of new characters who also became fan favorites and we had a great time.

We stopped doing Star Wars because George Lucas sold his rights to Disney. Disney owns Marvel and the licensing rights for Star Wars comics, which were up, went to them. Since the franchise was re-defining itself and its continuity, Marvel was looking for new talent to do the comics. I don’t blame them at all; I understand the rationale completely.

However.

Hexer Dusk 4Jan and I really loved doing Star Wars and had always talked about creating our own space opera – one that we would own with worlds and characters of our creation. Hexer Dusk is not Star Wars by any means, but it is informed by our work on Star Wars. We have a galaxy with space ships and blasters, yes, but there’s magic and monsters and horror as well. And humor. You can’t have a slightly off kilter combat robot without humor. It’s also gritty and grungy because that’s what we do.

Jan got the idea for the project from a dream she had of great sky cities floating above a planet that were at war with one another. There were massive explosions and both cities were destroyed. It was a very vivid dream and, when she told it to me, the images were very vivid in my mind as well.

Every story has a genesis point and that was ours for Hexer Dusk. We started riffing together, throwing ideas back and forth as we did when working on Star Wars. Jan brought in Xane Dusk, the Weird, KOMBOT, and beadies. I brought in scavvers–Prybar, Sooz, Captain Skargle and The Missus. Heck of a party!  And then there are the Razers who want to destroy all remaining Hexers – including Xane Dusk.

Xane Dusk is one of the last of the Hexers. That’s bad news for the galaxy because, when the Sky Cities exploded and fell, they created an other-dimensional rift in the fabric of space and these strange nightmarish creatures started coming through. They’re called The Weird and they can only exist in Xane’s galaxy by possessing existing bodies – living or dead. It’s a problem because the only ones who can really deal with the Weird are the Hexers and, as I said, Xane may be the last of them.

This story is going to happen. Our Kickstarter is basically funded with enough for printing, shipping, creating art rewards and Kickstarter fees and we’re now working on the stretch goals.  Stretch goals are important because they will provide enough funding so that we can pay for art, writing, lettering, and colors as well as possibly adding pages to the story and a black and white PDF or print version of Hexer Dusk. Stretch goals are a way of bringing those kinds of extras to the backers of the project. If these stretch goals are achieved every backer gets more rewards. Which is cool.

Our Kickstarter project is at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/313324911/hexer-dusk and I invite you to come take a look. There are some preview pages up  with some really nifty art from Jan as well as descriptions of various reward levels ranging from a PDF of the graphic novel to a printed book with sketchcards or a sketch by Jan. You can also read the first nine pages of the book by going to www.hexerdusk.com

We’ve still got a week to go before the Kickstarter ends so we’re hoping for more folks to jump on the Hexer Dusk train – and to spread word about Hexer Dusk to their friends. Getting more eyes on this project is important. People can’t support something if they don’t know it’s there and word of mouth really is the best promoter. As always, we depend on our fans.

As they used to say on the old Bartles and Jaymes TV commercials, “We thank you for your support.”

Clone Wars, Rebels and more in LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens

lswtfa_boxart3Details about upcoming DLC for the already hotly awaited LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens will make fans of the franchise’s various animated series very happy.  Lego announced that available DLC character packs will include characters from Star Wars: Rebels and Clone Wars, as well as characters from the upcoming series Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, premiering June 20th on Disney XD.

The new Star Wars game takes a page from the LEGO Marvel’s Avengers game by offering a season pass packed tighter than a smuggler’s storage bay, offering extra levels for the main characters of the game, as well as sets of characters from other trilogies and the animated series.

The Season Pass features three brand new Level Packs that extend the LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens adventure with exciting new content not seen in the movie. Each add-on pack will allow players to experience key events from the film in different ways, including Poe Dameron’s journey back to the Resistance base after crash landing on Jakku, the assault on Maz Kanata’s castle through the eyes of Kylo Ren and the collapse of Starkiller Base from the perspective of two Resistance pilots. The Season Pass will also include five (5) Character Packs featuring well-known Star Wars heroes, villains and Droids.

The LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Season Pass will be available for $9.99 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Steam (Windows PC). Players can also purchase each DLC Pack individually for $2.99 each. As an added bonus, Season Pass holders will gain exclusive access to The Jedi Character Pack, which will be available at launch on June 28, 2016.

The level packs are:

Poe’s Quest for Survival Level Pack

  • A whole new adventure following Poe Dameron’s journey back to the Resistance base. After his daring escape from the First Order that left him stranded on Jakku, Poe must search for BB-8 and locate a ship to escape the desert planet in an effort to find his way home.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Naka Lit, Ohn Gos, Poe Dameron (Jakku), Strus Clan Leader, Strus Clan Raider, Strus Clan Speeder (Full-size Vehicle), Strus Clan Speeder (Microfighter Vehicle)

First Order Siege of Takodana Level Pack

  • Experience the thrilling assault on Maz Kanata’s castle in a new way. Storm the shores of Takodana with Kylo Ren and the First Order in a quest to capture Rey and BB-8 to crush the Resistance forever.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Jashco Phurus, Rosser Weno, Strono “Cookie” Tuggs, Thromba, Laparo, Jakku Freighter (Full-size Vehicle), Jakku Freighter (Microfighter Vehicle)

Escape from Starkiller Base Level Pack

  • After crash landing on the surface of Starkiller Base, join the battle from the perspective of two Resistance pilots. With the help of a loyal astromech droid, outmaneuver the First Order to escape the planet before it explodes.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: C’ai Threnalli, Colonel Datoo, Lieutenant Rodinon, Lt Wright, R3-Z3, Assault Walker (Full-size Vehicle), Assault Walker (Microfighter Vehicle)

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The season pass will also feature five character packs:

The Jedi Character Pack – Season Pass Exclusive / Available June 28, 2016

  • Features powerful members of the Jedi Order. Available exclusively to Season Pass owners.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Aayla Secura, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Kit Fisto, Luminara Unduli, Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Saesee Tiin, Shaak Ti, Jedi Interceptor (Full-size Vehicle), Jedi Interceptor (Microfighter Vehicle)

The Prequel Trilogy Character Pack

  • Play as select characters from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Anakin Skywalker (Damaged), Captain Panaka, Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Jar Jar Binks, Padmé Naberrie, Watto, Zam Wesell, Naboo Starfighter (Full-size Vehicle), Naboo Starfighter (Microfighter Vehicle)

The Freemaker Adventures Character Pack

  • Showcases the galaxy’s bravest family of scavengers from the upcoming LEGO animated series, debuting June 20th on Disney XD.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Baash (Iktotchi), Graballa the Hutt, Kordi Freemaker, Naare, Raam (Iktotchi), Roger (Battle Droid), Rowan Freemaker, Zander Freemaker, Star Scavenger (Full-size Vehicle), Star Scavenger (Microfighter Vehicle)

Star Wars: Rebels Character Pack

  • Play as the crew of the Ghost from the popular Disney XD animated series.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Ahsoka Tano, Chopper, Ezra Bridger, Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus, Sabine Wren, Seventh Sister Inquisitor, Zeb Orrelios, Ghost (Full-size Vehicle), Ghost (Microfighter Vehicle)

The Clone Wars Character Pack

  • Exciting characters from the acclaimed animated series.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Asajj Ventress, Aurra Sing, Barriss Offee, Cad Bane, Captain Rex, Commander Cody, Hondo Ohnaka, Savage Opress, Republic Gunship (Full-size Vehicle), Republic Gunship (Microfighter Vehicle)

In addition, people who buy the Deluxe edition of the game will receive early access to a sixth character featuring characters from The Empire Strikes Back, better known as “that really old movie on the snow planetwith the walking thingies” by a young super-hero from Queens (who, coincidentally, also got his own free DLC pack for Marvel’s Avengers this week).

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released on June 28, 2016. For the timing and release of all other DLC content, keep an eye on the LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channels for details.

Molly Jackson: Class time!

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Happy May the Fourth! It is a big day for Star Wars fans but rather than talk about adventures far far away, let’s look at a comic in this galaxy.

Nigeria has been going through a rough time lately. Falling oil prices, violence popping up regularly affected the country poorly, while changes to school curriculums seem to have made learning history very difficult. Enter Panaramic Entertainment. They have started a new comic series called Okiojo’s Chronicles, which explores the different ethnic groups in the country. There are over 250, so this series will be going on for quite a while.

With Panaramic taking the time to write down Nigeria’s ethnic histories, it can be preserved for future generations. Currently, it is most often passed down verbally through families and very few historical books are available to kids.

History in comics has always been a long standing practice. In the US, it was famously used during the civil rights movement to share the story of the Montgomery non-violent protests. Then, the comic was used to spread a message and now, it stands as a teaching tool to make sure those circumstances never happen again. The first comics from Panaramic serve the same purpose, teaching youth about the two biggest ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Yoruba and Hausa. A third comic, titled 1897, teaches the history of British occupation in southern Nigeria.

Comics as a teaching tool have really taken off in the past decade, with graphic novels being an easier way to get kids interested in reading. It’s been working well in this country, and the concept has continued throughout the globe. Without The Montgomery Story to inspire change and spread hope, it would have been possible to stop the movement before it began. Now, that comic is used globally to show how that movement grew and the impact it had at the time.

The past fuels the future, and to deny that means to deny any growth. Nigeria is currently on the path for pure capitalism. However, if they want to be a global power, understanding each other and where they came from would be a big start.

John Ostrander: Star Wars – The Trouble with Quibbles

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Spoiler Alert: This column will deal with some plot points in Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens. It’s possible that you may not have seen it yet although I think just about anyone who has any real interest in seeing it has seen it. If you are one of those who haven’t seen it and want to avoid plot revelations, avoid this column. Likewise, if you just don’t give a hang about Star Wars, you might want to avoid it as well. It’ll just bore the life out of you. Fan geek stuff. You know.

I’ve seen the new Star Wars film, Episode VII The Force Awakens a couple of times. Twice at least in the IMAX theater and now on Blu-Ray. Basically, I really enjoyed it. It makes up for the prequels and does what I always wanted in the next Star Wars film – it tells me what happened next.

That said, I do have some quibbles. I don’t mind, as some fans do, that the movie seems to replicate plot points from the first SW film, a.k.a. Episode IV. They had the Death Star, Episode VII has the Starkiller Base. The planet Alderaan gets blowed up real good in Episode IV; the planetary system that included Coruscant got blowed up real good in Episode VII (which, by the way, I think was a mistake). Both films have the mentor figure killed off by the villain dressed in black who wears a helmet. Skywalker males are whiners in all the trilogies. Anakin was a big time whiner in the prequels, Luke whined at least at the start, and now Kylo Ren whines just before he commits patricide. Leia never whines. Han doesn’t whine. Just the Skywalker boys.

Some of the similarities annoy me. Why is it, when the Jedi suffer a set-back, they go off somewhere to pout… excuse me, “meditate”… while the galaxy falls apart? Yoda and Obi-Wan could have found and rallied the remaining Jedi (or created new ones) to go after Darth Vader and Darth Sidious. But no. The remaining Jedi lie in hiding while terrible things happen to the galaxy and the planet Alderaan gets blowed up real good while the remaining Jedi pout. I mean meditate. In the new film, it’s a big plot point that the galaxy is waiting for Luke to come back and save it. The bad guys are hunting for his location so they can kill him and wipe out any possibility of the Jedi really returning. That’s a given. Where’s Luke? Off pouting. I mean meditating. And the flaming Coruscant system gets blowed up real good.

I suppose it could be argued that Luke, after his first attempt to make more Jedi goes spectacularly bad, decides to go look for the first Jedi Temple since he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. However, that’s speculating without any real proof.

In the earlier Star Wars films, it is said that Darth Vader, a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker, still had some good in him. I’ve argued this before: I don’t see it. He killed children, he betrayed the Jedi Order, he helped hunt down remaining Jedi, he was complicit in the destruction of the planet Alderaan but it’s okay because, at the end, he turns on the evil Emperor because the latter is electrocuting Vader’s son.

Now, in the latest film, the new Man In Black, Kylo Ren, a.k.a. the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, kills people, wrecks Luke’s nascent new Jedi Club, orders the destruction of a village, is complicit in the destruction of a whole planetary system and he commits patricide. Yes, this a-hole kills off his Dad, Han Solo, who is one of the favorite characters in Star Wars, who is trying to help him at the time. Kylo does lots of other nasty stuff but we know he will be around for the next film and probably the one after that. If the other films follow the pattern of the earlier films, we may see a desire to redeem the little bugger as Vader was redeemed.

Let me repeat. Kylo (Ben Solo) Ren commits patricide. Throughout history in Western Civilization, that is considered an unspeakable crime, an unforgivable sin. I loved Han Solo and, before he buys it in this film, we’re given some great moments that reminds us all why he’s such a favorite character. And his little snot of a son kills him.

I suppose in the next film or so we’ll get some of Ren’s backstory and maybe understand him better. As it is, I feel no sympathy, no empathy for him. I don’t think he is redeemable any more than I think Vader/Anakin was redeemed. IMO, he needs to die as soon as the plot can arrange it.

However, as I said before, these are quibbles. I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the new Star Wars because I enjoyed it immensely. I found it satisfying and a great return to a galaxy far, far away. I think the female lead, Daisy Ridley playing Rey, is a wonderful addition to the saga. At recent conventions I’ve attended, I’ve seen a lot of young girls cos-playing Rey and I think that’s great. It invigorates Star Wars with new energy.

But they can shoot Kylo Ren any time.

Mike Gold: Do Comics Belong In Comics?

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I am not a sociologist, although I’ve known a few. But let’s assume the fact that “superheroes” (in the broadest sense) fill a need in our lives. They started out in folk lore, they appear in most if not all bibles, they were popularized in the “penny dreadfuls” which evolved into pulp magazines which evolved into comic books.

Blackhawk movieTarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and others helped populate the movie theaters going back to its earliest days back to the silent era. When talkies came around, superheroes became the backbone of the short movie serials that were geared to bring patrons back week after week. Flash Gordon, Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman, Blackhawk, Captain America, Spy Smasher and others joined Zorro and Tarzan in this venue. When network radio came along, comics characters from older media (Superman, The Shadow) joined original creations (The Lone Ranger, Green Hornet) and flourished in the just-home-from-school time slots.

And television – well, television saved the superheroes’ collective ass. The Adventures of Superman, produced by what is now DC Comics, hit the boob tube before most families had teevee sets. At that very time, comic books were branded by the media as a source – perhaps the source – of juvenile delinquency. Comics outlets were disappearing, either from clerks no longer handling the product or from being squeezed out by chain stores and shopping strips and malls.

Captain Marvel movieBut Superman was right there in our living rooms every week using his cape as a placeholder for 75 years of tradition. Over a decade later, as comic book sales were at a comparative low, the Batman teevee series kept the print medium alive. In 1978 Superman led the way into high-budget motion pictures, not only proving a man can fly, but an old man can extend his life by deploying whatever “new media” is burgeoning at the time. Radio, television, motion pictures – Supes was there first.

Today we have more superhero movies and television series than the average person can absorb. Even the average comics fan: most of us do triage. Their popularity is massive, perhaps 20 times bigger than the comic book audience. This has been going on for about a decade and there’s no sign of it slowing down. It will, of course, but history tells us the cinematic comics universes will never go away. Not completely.

(Probably. There haven’t been a lot of successful westerns in the past several decades.)

So I think it is reasonable for me to infer that for most people the superhero story fills a need, probably an emotional, cathartic need.

But there is no washback onto the mothership. Average comic book sales have never been lower, even with the supplemental release of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. The latter has helped, but, you know, Borders went blooie and it’s not as easy to find good general bookstores anymore. It’s even harder to find a well-stocked magazine rack. And harder still to find one that carries more than a handful of comics, if that many.

Back in the day, that day being an hour before the release of the first Star Wars movie, we in the comics business could produce stories where, for example, we can destroy an entire universe on one page, do the Greek chorus bit on the next page, run a full-page cosmic ex Machina on the third, and restore that destroyed universe on the fourth page. Movies simply could not do that.

Well, not only can they do so today, but computers and artistic technicians have brought their gifts to the television screen in a cost-effective manner. And to home computers.  And tablets. And smartphones.

So I humbly ask this question: has the comic book outlived its usefulness?

As you consider this, keep in mind that since the turn of the century Warner Bros. and Disney, two of the largest media empires, took control over DC Comics and Marvel Comics, respectively. They are best known for making movies and television shows. They are not known to have a major presence in the lumberjack game.

Will there always be a comic book publishing industry? Of course not. There won’t always be anything. But will comic books live another ten or twenty years?

Ask me after Warner Bros. and Marvel each release a couple of big-budget superhero bombs.

Dennis O’Neil: Technology Always Precedes Art

 

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Let’s hop on back 40,000 years into the past and watch a fellow named Urg make marks on a cave wall with a piece of flint. We happen to know that Urg has only recently learned that he can make these marks and he is now in the process of finding a use for them. Hey, listen… he’s now making sounds. Could they be words? Can they give us a clue as what he thinks he’s doing?

URG: Ar-chee! Jug-heed! Ann-tee-loop!

And now we fire up our time traveling whatsis and behold! – we find ourselves in the pages of a comic book. The panel we’re in shows those Riverdale High funsters Archie and Jughead strolling down a sunny street. Nearby, enjoying a snack of grass, is an antelope.

ARCHIE: Hey Jug! Isn’t that an antelope?

JUGHEAD: Sure looks like one. Wonder why the artist put that in!

Okay, half turn to the left or right, depending on your political preference, and we find ourselves in the real world – that is, the world we happen to inhabit. We’ve just snuck through a back door into this week’s topic (and yes, maybe I’m being generous in calling what follows a “topic.”) In one sentence, here we go:

Technology always precedes art.

That’s really all I have to say, but I’ll expend a bit more band width anyway.

Remember Urg? He found that he could put scratches on the cave wall and then discovered that these scratches could be pictures and suddenly he was an artist! Time rushed forward and Urg’s descendants put Urg-like scratches into clay tablets and then people had both pictures and writing and then later descendants of Urg invented paint and canvas and various kinds of printing inclluding high speed presses driven by steam and photography and radio and television and silicon chips and the bank width I’m expending…

Urg sure had a lot of descendants and a number of them, maybe without realizing exactly what they were doing, put gadgetry devised by someone else to expressing themselves and amusing their neighbors and pretty soon, there stood Disneyland. And much, much more.

That “much, much more” might be a problem, unless it isn’t. Cinematic technology can put spectacular images on the screen and if we have a toy, we humans will play with it. (I saw a planet explode just the other day.) And all those explosions and chases can serve the story that contains them, but on another level, they’re spectacle. What I fear is that the spectacle is overwhelming drama and theme and the other stuff that can be put on screens and so we’re collectively losing valuable gifts the ancients knew about, things like catharsis and empathy. Am I tilting at windmills? Maybe. Probably.

The exploding planet happened in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’ll certainly see the next episode in the Star Wars franchise.

Ed Catto: Nerd Rage – Is It Clobberin’ Time?

Supergirl_v.5_36There are two sides to every coin. I usually write the incredible passion fans have for Geek Culture. This week I’m thinking about Nerd Rage.

This term probably started as a way to describe frustrations in video gaming. But it is now generally used to describe the intense anger that arises when fans vehemently disagree with development plans or ongoing creative efforts for a brand, mythology or intellectual property with which they disagree.

You’ve seen many examples of Nerd Rage. During the yuletide release of the new Star Wars movie, it seemed as if the whole country waited with bated breath for the core fans’ judgment. There had been months of speculation prior to the debut. Would fans approve or shake their virtual fists with the fury of Nerd Rage?

Sports radio is, in many ways, founded on the concept of Nerd Rage, although they’d never call it that. “Real fans” offer their own opinions on the activities, plans and choices made by coaches, teams and players. And all too often, the fans are angry. That makes good radio, I guess.

The-angry-fanboyAnd closer to home, this past month DC Comics announced their mythology would be undergoing a “rebirth.” Fans anxiously gritted their teeth in anticipation of yet another rejiggering of the fictional background and histories of the characters.

“Nerd Rage is not a joke – fans get upset when their favorite mythologies are changed,” said Gerry Gladston, CMO/CLO of Midtown Comics. As a long-time fan and one of the architects of a best-in-class comic retailer, Gerry has a unique perspective on the ramifications of Nerd Rage.

“Midtown Comics’ long term official observation demonstrates that a large percentage of fans tend to cool off after the initial exposure to their Nerd Rage trigger, and often embrace it if they deem the new direction to be of high quality and to add substance to the mythology,” explained Gladston.

angry-girl-wallpaperRich Johnston is the founder of BleedingCool.com, a leading geek focused news site. With his knack for uncovering rumors of industry changes, he routinely offers prophetic glimpses that often trigger Nerd Rage. “The things we love, inspire passion. People damaging the things we love, inspire hate,” said Johnston. “There’s only so much nerd rage because there’s so much love in the first place. Just sometimes that love … can be seriously misplaced.”

A little while back, Fast Company ran an article called “Why Being Hated Isn’t the Worst Thing For Your Brand.” Tom Denari explored the idea that brands being noticed, and achieving a level of salience, is more important than being liked. He also noted that it’s natural that brands that are loved by many, like The Yankees or Duke University, are also hated by many.

But when it affects sales of a brand or product, that’s a problem. “In cases where a new direction for a mythology is not found to add substance, nor otherwise make sense, Nerd Rage can cause fans to jump off,” said Gladston. And that’s what happened with DC Comics’ last few rebooting initiatives.

article-1283295-0395DFA4000005DC-224_233x333J.C. Vaughn, Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing explains that there are no simple answers in these new directions. “It’s easy to come up with the editorial-or management-driven dictates that have chased readers away in comics, but I’d like to concentrate on one that sparked a fair bit of outrage before it came out and then turned out to be one of the greatest runs in comics history. For years, there were two deaths in the Marvel universe that were sacrosanct, Uncle Ben and Bucky. And then Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting brought back Bucky, made him a Soviet-era pawn responsible for deaths across six or seven decades, and Cap’s foe. Tell me that twelve years ago and I would have thought you were insane (even then, though, I wouldn’t have thought you should be killed). And the result was a truly great, long run on the comic and a wonderful film.” That film, of course, was Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Vaughn concludes that story-driven changes often justify creative change-ups. “We’re talking about fiction after all. On the other hand, we’ve seen the fallout of change for the sake of change.”

But there is a problem when Nerd Rage becomes irrational.

“Nerd Rage is sort of a big boat and a lot of things from irritation and justifiable anger are getting lumped in with out-of-control vitriol that truly has no place in civilized discourse,” said Vaughn.

“Make a website because you know Greedo did not shoot first? Rag on George Lucas for such decisions? Sure thing. I’ve got your back. Saying or posting that a reporter should be killed because she doesn’t ‘get’ Star Wars? Are you kidding? Do you have no sense of proportional response? The world is a pretty horrible place. Comics, movies, books, and video games are among our escapes. And you feel comfortable saying someone should be killed for thinking other than the way you think? You are the problem, not the person you’re criticizing,” said Vaughn.

What’s that old Oscar Wilde quote? “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”