This story is a week old, but I neglected to mention it when it hit: Amazon declares that Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy is the highest-selling series ever for them in the US.
This does not mean that Collins’s books have sold more copies overall than, for example, J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, which was the prior record-holder. And it doesn’t mean any of the things implied in Sara Nelson’s self-lauding statement at the link.
What it means — and what everyone who works in publishing already knows, but doesn’t usually like to say in public — is that Amazon is capturing an ever-larger share of the book business, which means that they sell a larger percent of books now than they did ten years ago — so ofcourse the big sellers now are bigger for Amazon than the big sellers were ten years ago. (Look for a similar statement about those “Fifty Shades of Grey” books in another year, especially if a movie does get made.)
This is good if you think that a single retailer should dominate the entire retail landscape for a particular kind of product. If you don’t think that’s such a good thing, your mileage may vary.
But what the statement really is saying is “we own the book market now, suckers.” So you might as well learn to love Big Brother.
We know, you’re all out buying Hawkeye #1, which we will also be picking up in a few hours. Clearly, it’s the season of the archer and for those following the Olympics, the archery competition has been fun. But now, we have a weird crossover.
The Hunger Games global phenomenon has inspired a surging popularity in the sport of archery demonstrated even further by the success of the United States Archery Team at the Olympics, as well as the highly anticipated Blu-ray and DVD release of the film on August 18 from Lionsgate. Team USA member Khatuna Lorig was there at the beginning to teach actress Jennifer Lawrence how to shoot a bow and arrow in preparation for her iconic starring role. In this image, Olympian Khatuna Lorig poses as “Katniss Everdeen” in a replica jacket from the film, with a symbolic mockingjay pin, in celebration of The Hunger Games’ huge and lasting impact on the sport.
As most recall, archery experts said Jennifer Lawrence’s skill with the bow was far superior to that of Jeremy Renner’s work with the same weapon in The Avengers. This sort of seals the deal on that topic.
The news about Philip Seymour Hoffman being expertly cast in Catching Fire reminds us that we’re just over a month away from the frenzy that will be the Blu-ray release of The Hunger Games. Lionsgate will be releasing the box office smash on Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and Digital Download on August 18, 2012 at 12:01 A.M.
In addition to the Jennifer Lawrence-starring adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel, the release will come with a host of special features. To learn more, check out this Official Special Features Trailer.
Saw my niece Isabel last week. She’s finished The Complete Bone Adventures, Volumes 1 and II and is now reading a collection of Calvin And Hobbes. She also told me that she’s in love with the Percy Jackson And The Olympians series by Rick Riordian; she had already read The Lightning Thief, and was deep into the second book, The Sea Of Monsters. Although by now she’s quite possibly onto the third title, which is The Titan’s Curse. She’s a fast reader. Based on her critiques, I have ordered The Lightning Thief from Amazon, and expect I’ll be ordering the rest of the series, too.
Last I heard Watchmen had not entered the public domain, so I will not be buying any of the Before Watchmen books. I think the whole idea stinks. I don’t understand how other creators who profess to respect creator’s rights could sign on to a rotten deal brokered on a broken promise by DC to Alan Moore. It’s a slap in the face to Alan, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins. Oh, wait. John Higgins participated in this mockery? Says a lot about your character, doesn’t it, John? If you need money that badly, there are other ways to prostitute yourself. And that goes for the rest of you, too.
John Ostrander’s latest column about “bad things he hates that he loves” caused me to go to my DVD cabinet and pull out a couple of movies that I should despise but actually love:
World Without End (1956), in which a rocket ship returning from Mars breaks through the time barrier and deposits four astronauts on an unidentified planet, which turns out to be Earth in the year 2508, 400 years after a nuclear war. The surviving humans live underground and are dying out because the men are scrawny, weak, and unable to perform their manly duties. In other words, they’re impotent. Which sure sucks for them, because all the women of the year 2508 are curvaceous, beautiful, and very, very horny. The reason the humans don’t live on the surface is because of the “surface beasts” – the descendants of those who did not flee underground during the atomic holocaust – roam the countryside. They look like mutated Neanderthals, and all they want to do – well, the men, anyway – is get their paws on the hot tomatoes living underground. Our brave, resourceful – and, of course, American; this was the 50’s, remember – astronauts reinvent the bazooka (“The good ol’ bazooka!” one of the astronauts says with a backslap to his pal) and defeat the mutated Neanderthals, and help restart human civilization on the surface for the Eloi. Oops. Sorry, wrong story. The horny women get the horny astronauts in the end, so everybody lives happily ever after. Except for the impotent guys, I guess.
Queen Of Outer Space (1958) in which ZsaZsa Gabor plays a Venusian scientist on a planet on which once again all the women are curvaceous, beautiful, and very horny. Except for the Queen, who is curvaceous and very horny, but mysteriously wears a mask. But even though Venus is the planet of love, there’s not a man to be found. The story begins when our brave, resourceful, and yes, once again, American astronauts, on board their rocket ship – which looks exactly like the one in World Without End – and on their way to a space station in orbit above Earth, are hijacked to Venus by a strange red ray, which turns out to be the Beta Disintegrator. The ship crashed into snow-covered mountains that look exactly like the snow-covered mountains into which the ship from World Without End end-crashes. Turns out the Queen hates all men, and she imprisons the astronauts. But she’s got a hard-on for the Captain. “A Queen can be lonely, too,” she tells the Captain. The Captain decides to take her up on her, uh, offer to “get information.” This makes ZsaZsa very jealous: “30 million miles away from the Earth,” says one of the astronauts, “and the little dolls are just the same.” Because she has a hard-on for our Captain, too. (No, his name is not James Tiberius Kirk.) Anyway, just as the Queen goes in for the face-suck, the Captain rips off her mask, and – OMG! Her face is burned and scarred and horribly mutated! “Men did this to me,” the Queen says with hatred in her voice. “Men and their wars.” Then she seductively turns to the Captain. “You said I needed the love of a man,” she whispers as she puts her arms around him. “If you will be that man, I will let you all go.” But the Captain is trying not to vomit. Dumb ass. Put a bag over her head and do it for the flag. So the Queen sends him back and aims the Beta-Disintegrator at Earth. Talk about a woman scorned! You really have to see this movie!
It really sucks when your parents are sick.
Here’s the truth. The only thing I really hate about women’s costumes in the comics is that I’m not buff enough to wear any of them.
Political diatribe for the day: Vote for Romney, and we really will be living in the world of American Flagg! (We’re almost there now.)
I can wait for the Garfield/Stone Amazing Spider-Man to hit DVD. I loved the Maguire/Duns Spider-Mans. Perhaps if TPTB had moved the story forward, merely replacing Maguire/Duns with Garfield/Stone, I would have more interest.
Just finished The Lost Wife, a heartbreaking, “based-on-a-true-story,” and beautifully written story about a husband and wife, both Jewish, separated by World War II. He gets out of Europe, she is first is sent to Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz. Highly recommended!
In the middle of The Hunger Games. Loving it. Have to recommend it to Isabel.
The Hunger Games stunned the Hollywood prognosticators when it opened with huge box office numbers back in March. Its stunning success has been easily eclipsed by The Avengers but the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling YA novel remains a noteworthy success story. Now they are trying to seize the spotlight once more with a clever marketing scheme for the home video release late this summer. Here are the details:
SANTA MONICA, CA, May 23, 2012 –Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games juggernaut will arrive on home entertainment at 12:01 A.M. on Saturday, August 18, as the first film in Lionsgate’s (NYSE: LGF) The Hunger Gamesfranchise, which has already grossed nearly $400 million at the North American box office and is approaching $650 million at the worldwide box office, debuts on 2-disc DVD (plus digital copy), 2-disc Blu-Ray (plus digital copy), VOD and digital download with three hours of previously unavailable bonus materials in the biggest home entertainment launch in Lionsgate’s history, the Company announced Wednesday. (more…)
Filming on Dan Schaffer’s graphic novel The Scribbler begins later this week in Los Angeles for a live action theatrical film release.
Schaffer’s graphic novel was originally published in 2006 by Image Comics. A new “director’s cut” of the graphic novel is being prepared by the recently re-launched First Comics™ for release in conjunction with the film’s opening. Schaffer penned the screenplay adapted from his graphic novel.
The thriller centers on Suki, a young woman confined in a mental institution and being treated with an experimental machine dubbed “The Siamese Burn, designed to eliminate multiple personalities. As the “treatment” progresses, Suki starts to be haunted by the realization that if “The Siamese Burn” is successful, which one of her personalities will be the survivor?
Katie Cassidy, already with comic connections as Dinah Lance in the CW pilot Arrow, stars as the title character Suki. The cast also includes Garret Dillahunt (Winter’s Bone), Michelle Trachtenberg (Gossip Girl), Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse), Gina Gershon (Killer Joe), Michael Imperioli (The Lovely Bones, The Sopranos), Billy Campbell (The Killing, The Rocketeer), Sasha Grey (The Girlfriend Experience, Entourage) Ashlynn Yennie (The Human Centipede), Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory), and T.V. Carpio (Limitless). NightSky Production’s Ken F. Levin is producing with New Artist Alliance’s Gabriel Cowan, with Cowan’s NAA co-founder and partner, John Suits, directing. Caliber Media’s Dallas Sonnier and Jack Heller will executive produce the film alongside NAA’s Kerry Johnson.
This is Daniel Schaffer’s seventh screenplay to be optioned, and the second to be filmed so far; the first, comedy/horror film Doghouse from Schaffer’s screenplay, was released in 2009 by Carnaby International and distributed by Sony Pictures (Jake West directing). Schaffer is also known in the comics world for his comic series Dogwitch and his graphic novel Indigo Vertigo (with Katiejane Garside). NightSky is a production / management firm which also reps Schaffer as a writer client.
The Scribbler is the first of four films in a co-production between New Artist Alliance and Caliber Media. The two companies have previously produced two movies together, which are both currently in post-production: Static, a horror-thriller starring Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Sarah Shahi (Fairly Legal) and Sara Paxton (Darcy’s Wild Life), and 3 Nights In The Desert, starring Amber Tamblyn (Joan Of Arcadia), Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty) and Vincent Piazza (Boardwalk Empire), which Cowan directed. NAA, known for making over 2000% profit on their first film Breathing Room, premiered their latest feature Extracted at this year’s SXSW. Growth, another NAA film directed by Cowan, went to #1 on iTunes and has its worldwide television premiere this weekend on The Syfy Channel.
I’m not as good-looking as Tony Stark – not even close. And I’m not a billionaire – not even closer. And as for technology…well, let’s just say that I’m not exactly an early adopter – more like an after-the-sun-cools adopter.
About two feet from where I sit, there languishes an iPod Touch that Mari got at no cost when we bought this computer because she’s a teacher. I don’t know how to make it work. Neither does she.
Her Kindle sat on a table for a month before the lovely and accommodating Perri Pivovar did some wizardry and now Mari’s reading the second volume of the Hunger Games trilogy off the Kindle screen (and enjoying it, you very much.) But without Perri’s kindness? Maybe Mari could have used the Kindle as a bookmark.
I’m reluctant to buy electronica because I fear the frustration I feel when the things don’t perform.
So when the editorial fates landed me the job of writing the monthly Iron Man comics a couple-three decades ago, I wondered what there was in the Tony Stark/Iron Man character for me to identify with. The first Iron Man I ever did was a single issue fill-in and I had Tony able to solve a problem only by shedding the armor that enabled him to claim superhero status (and feel free to read into that anything you like.) But when I agreed to do 12 Iron Mans a year, I knew that Tony’s metallic striptease was a one-time-only trope, best not repeated anytime soon, if ever.
So I had a hero whose very existence was based on gadgetry and I was cursed by Crankus, the evil god of technology, and how was I to bridge the gap between high tech fiction and the Luddite real life me?
Ah. A realization. I drive cars, don’t I? And Tony “drives” his armor and maybe therein lies the commonality between Mr. Stark and me that would save me whatever woe might come from doing stories about a guy I neither knew nor liked. Anyway, good enough. I embarked on what was, for me, a very satisfactory three-years as Iron Man’s chronicler-in-chief.
But I still had trouble with technology, even after I dropped dead in a café and was revived by John Ingallinera, Lizzie Fagan, Michael O’Shea and Bryan Holihan, who knew where a defibrillator was and how to use it. The gadget literally brought me back to life.
Maybe Crankus was easing up?
So a month ago, I decided that I’d had enough of not being able to understand song lyrics, conversations at parties and my wife’s comments on television shows we were watching, among other irritants. I had hearing loss. And a technological remedy existed. And that being the case, it was foolish vanity to go through life saying, “Huh?”
We went to the hearing aid place in a nearby town. I got tested and yep! – loss of hearing in both ears. Conversation was held, a down payment proffered and off we went, to return a few weeks later. I now owned two nearly invisible hearing aids. A new dawning? Should I have another shot at the iPod? Maybe get my own Kindle? A tablet with a Skype attachment? How about those video games the youngsters like?
I put ‘em on, went home and…
Discovered that the one for the right ear didn’t work.
It’s spring, that magical time of year when the flowers bloom, birds sing, and school libraries publish the list of books most frequently banned or attempted to be banned.
This year’s list is a mixture of new best sellers and timeless classics. You’ve got your Hunger Games, your To Kill a Mockingbird, your Brave New World and your Gossip Girl. There is a guide that explains to kids about what happens to mom when she is pregnant, and the reason it’s listed is because it is “sexually explicit.”
Look, I understand that most school libraries have limited budgets and limited shelf space. They can’t stock every book in the world. Someone has to make decisions about what gets purchased and where it gets shelved.
The problem is who gets to decide.
I’ve been the mother of a first-grader, and if there arose a ridiculously hypothetical situation wherein my six-year old came home with Brave New World, I probably would have a talk with his teacher. I think it is inappropriate (my kid would have just learned his ABCs, so I think Alpha and Beta might be a stretch), but rather than try to get it banned, I would hope to understand what the teacher was thinking. Maybe there is a new pedagogical theory that I don’t understand.
But no one is complaining about Aldous Huxley being taught to first graders.
The idea that someone is objecting to To Kill a Mockingbird because of “racism” is ludicrous. It’s a story about racism, how it affects people of all races in a community. It’s great novel, beautifully written and evocative. It’s also a great opportunity to start a conversation with students – most likely middle school or older – about how our country evolved and is still evolving.
A lot of the books on the list made their places because, according to their critics, they contain “sex,” “violence” or both. Some contain “nudity.” Some have “language.” I have trouble imagining books that don’t have at least a few of those elements. How can you describe human interactions without at least one? How can they teach the Bible (any version) or Shakespeare without them?
Some parents say things like, “I don’t want the schools teaching my child about sex/racism/war. I want to do it myself.” And that’s all well and good. However, one doesn’t teach a child by restricting information. If the school teaches something with which one doesn’t agree, one should use that as an opportunity to demonstrate one’s own position. As a Jewish parent in a predominantly Christian society, this was something I did regularly.
Some parents don’t want their children exposed to any ideas that might influence their kids to think independently. I have to wonder why these people had children. They would be happier with dogs.
Why does this matter to comics fans? Because the people who decide to ban books from school libraries are the same people who think comics are just for kids, and therefore should face the same restrictions they think are appropriate for school libraries. These people are why the American Civil Liberties Union has always included comics as part of their mission, because they remember that the attacks against comics in the 1940s and 1950s were attacks on all of us.
Our democracy can only succeed when all members have access to the marketplace of ideas. That includes Mein Kampf and Heather Has Two Mommies, Twilight and The Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter and Captain Underpants. It also includes Superman and Spider-Man, Hellboy and Preacher, Fun Home and The Playboy.
My last two columns generated a certain amount of off-topic political discussion, which is 1) exciting and 2) frightening. The fright stems from the fact that political discussions got us kicked off this site four years ago.
The excitement comes from proving something I have always believed. Feminists claim the personal is political. I think the arts are political, too. You may have a different opinion. It depends in your definition of art. I think art is something created by an artist that makes you see the world in a new way.
Forty years ago I had surgery, and was lying on my parents’ couch zonked on major pain killers. I was reading Dune, watching the Olympics and the political conventions. I couldn’t tell which was which. Maybe that’s because Dune is a mind-blowing book. The sequels never moved me as much. Perhaps it was the drugs, or maybe they need world-class diving in the background.
Different people with different perspectives can find enjoyment in the same entertainment. The Hunger Games, which seemed to me to be a reasonably populist and feminist fable, has made over $200 million as I write this, and I doubt all those ticket-buyers are part of the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
Comic books would seem to be an All-American form of entertainment. Especially superhero comics. Truth, justice and the American Way. Upholders of the law who best criminals and ne’er do wells. And yet, those of us who consider ourselves rebels and/or leftists have found plenty that resonates.
Superman is an undocumented alien. The X-Men are scorned because they are a minority, born different from the rest of us. The Legion of Super-Heroes imagines a future in which we not only survive, but learn to use science to live in peace. Mostly.
Often it is the sensibility of the writer that makes a story resonate politically. Twenty years ago, when Bill Clinton was running for his first term, Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove supported his candidacy. Dan Jurgens did not. If you were reading Superman comics then (when one storyline ran through four different titles, each published a different week of the month), you might have been able to pick out their different points of view.
There are people who share my political beliefs whose work I don’t like, and people with whom I disagrees whose work I read avidly. There are writers like Jamie Delano, who I mostly love but whose work I like less the more I agree with him.
We have an election ahead of us this year, and I hope that, as a nation, we can debate issues on their merits, and not descend into the kind of lies and distortions that frequently foul our discussions. And I hope comics do their part, presenting different issues and different perspectives through the prism of graphic fiction.
This column is going to get to its point in a roundabout way. If you want to get right to the incendiary arguing, skip ahead a few paragraphs. However, once you get there, you may find spoilers for The Hunger Games. Be prepared.
For the rest of you, I have a story to tell. When I was a girl of 10, I had a dog, Nancy. Before she died 11 years later, she and I had many heart-to-heart talks, where I would talk and then imagine what she would say to me.
We had a lot in common, in that we were both female and living in the Midwest. However, at some point, I realized that I was assuming we were even more alike. I thought she loved the Smothers Brothers and the Incredible String Band as much as I did. I thought she was against the war in Viet Nam. I thought she spoke English.
And I thought she was white.
I mean, she was white, except for her head, which was red and brown. Still, this was fur, not skin. It took me a while to recognize my assumptions as racist.
Some of this is how the human brain works. When someone says the word mother, I imagine my own mother. If I read a book with a first-person narrator, I assume the narrator is a middle aged New York woman like myself until the author establishes other characteristics.
Which brings me to my real subject. When I read The Hunger Games last month, I paid attention to the descriptions of the various characters. Sometimes the descriptions, all from the perspective of the narrator, Katniss, merely stated a person’s gender, or hair and eye color. Sometimes the descriptions offered more detail.
The character of Rue is one who inspires more detail. She is small and slight, like Katniss’ sister. She is shy, but smart and good at hiding. Her hair and eyes are dark.
So is her skin.
When I read the book, one of the fun things for me was to try to figure out which territories of Panem corresponded to which parts of the United States. Katniss lived in an area full of coal mines, so I figured she lived in Appalachia. Rue lives in a place that is warm and humid, a place where everyone works in agriculture. I imagined Florida, and maybe her ancestry was African-American with maybe some Cuban.
Apparently, some readers did not pay that much attention. After the movie opened last weekend to record-setting crowds, the Twitterverse was inundated with postings by people who were upset by the casting of a dark-skinned actress to play the part of Rue. There were so many complaints that there is a Tumblr site dedicated to recording all of the posts (which I found via this, so thanks!).
Now, I am not always a fan for color-blind casting. I didn’t like it when they talked about Marlon Wayans for Robin in the Tim Burton Batman movies, although I would like to believe that’s because I didn’t think he was right for the part. I thought making Jimmy Olson black, which was under discussion for a time, was kind of arbitrary and therefore a bit condescending. Both one these opinions may represent a layer of racism I haven’t yet exorcised.
But when an author takes the time and effort to specify a character’s ethnicity, I believe her.
I don’t know who these Twitter posters are, or what kind of lives they lead. I don’t know their opinions on other subjected. I haven’t even seen the movie yet. In any case, Rue is lucky that she doesn’t live in their neighborhoods. Or walk around in a hoodie with Skittles.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman Jumps On Mindy Newell’s Bandwagon