Tagged: Warner Bros

DENNIS O’NEIL’s Crystal Ball

Arm back, arm forward, release the ball and…three it goes, down he lane, heading for the pocket and…Kerflunkl


But uh-oh. Look what happened. Somehow, instead of rolling a bowling ball we rolled our magic crystal ball and sure, we knocked down all the pins, but we also smashed the ball to smithereens. Dozens of shards scattered on the polished wood.

Well, we won’t be using that crystal ball to peer into the­­­­­ – or some – future and let the prophecies issuing therefrom provide fodder for this week’s blather. Nope. And there are things we’d like to know about the forthcoming comics world, like will DC be able to continue the success of its reworking of the superhero pantheon (lookin’ good so far, guys!) and just how damn digital will comics get and if they get any digitaler will the comic shops cope? Will their income really be seriously affected?

(I mean, they’re closing the Blockbuster I’ve been patronizing for the past dozen years or so. Nothing is sacred, or certain, and of course we know that, but it can still kick us in the shins.)

Where was I? Oh yeah. Things we’d like to know. On a personal note…will I finish the book I’ve been futzing with for…is it three years now? And will somebody publish it? (And if our crystal ball had a literary critic app, I’d ask just how smelly a garbage heap the book is, anyway.) And back to comics-related matters: Will the Batmovie really knock everyone’s socks off? (And hey, Warners – must I pay for my own ticket or will one of you folks be kind to the ancient, doddering, mostly-retired, septuagenarian funny book hack and put him on a screening list? And not one for a screening in Los Angeles, please. He’s already scheduled to get on more airplanes than he cares to this year.)

Maybe we could pick up a shard and catch a glimpse in it if what the crystal ball would have revealed if we hadn’t stupidly mistaken it for athletic equipment. But what good would that do? Without a context – without the big picture – what we glimpse in a shard wouldn’t provide much information. Come to think of it…the whole and uncompromised crystal ball, pre-bowling fiasco, wasn’t really all that useful, was it? Not for what counts, not for what we really want to know. (Mostly: will I get what I want? How will it all turn out? And oh yeah…will I get what I want?) That ball was always pretty murky, wasn’t it? The images it presented were fuzzy and soft-edged and weirdly distorted, the colors all wrong, the backgrounds bizarre, and when time had passed and we were existing in the reality of those images, they never meant what we thought they’d mean.  There were also smells, which the ball couldn’t show.

Once, when I was interviewing the great Alfred Bester for a magazine piece, he showed me a statuette, a Hugo, the award bequeathed by science fiction fans for outstanding work – the first Hugo ever awarded for best novel of the year. He was using it as a doorstop because, he said, that’s what it’s good for.

Maybe crystal balls make good bowling balls.

RECOMMENDED READING: Alfred Bester received his Hugo for The Demolished Man in 1953. If you’d like to compare your preferences with those of readers of yore, you can probably find a copy of the novel.­­­

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

DC Entertainment’s We can be Heroes Campaign to fight Hunger in Africa

we-can-be-heroes-advertisement-300x397-1113765(January 23, 2012 – New York, NY)  DC Entertainment, home of the world’s greatest super heroes, today unveiled an unprecedented giving campaign to fight the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa.  This multi-million-dollar commitment over the next two years will be supported across all Warner Bros. Entertainment’s and Time Warner’s businesses and feature DC Entertainment’s iconic Justice League characters, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, issuing the call to action, “We Can Be Heroes.”  The announcements were made at a press conference today in New York by Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros.; Jeff Robinov, President, Warner Bros. Pictures Group; and Diane Nelson, President, DC Entertainment.

We Can Be Heroes will support the efforts of three humanitarian aid organizations working in Africa—Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps—as part of the global effort to fight the current hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa.  The region is suffering its worst drought and famine in over 60 years, with 13 million in need of critical assistance and 250,000 facing starvation in Somalia alone.  Each partner organization was chosen for its track record of effective and expeditious humanitarian aid efforts in Africa.
merchandise-shot-300x195-4575331We Can Be Heroes will be supported via promotional exposure across all of Time Warner’s divisional advertising platforms (Warner Bros., Turner Broadcasting, Time Inc., HBO), generating millions of consumer impressions and creating crucially needed awareness of this crisis worldwide.  Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps will equally share a corporate donation of at least $2 million over the next two years comprised of cash donations, employee matching funds and consumer matching funds.
“Warner Bros. has a long history of corporate philanthropy and outreach, and this campaign proudly continues that tradition,” said Meyer.  “We are a global company, and this is a global issue.  By marshalling our expertise in consumer and fan engagement and creating global awareness, we hope we’re able to inspire others to join us in becoming ‘heroes’ and make a difference in the Horn of Africa.”


MIKE GOLD’s Holiday Trauma

Holiday-themed comics have long been a tradition, along with holiday-themed… everything else. That’s cool; if you can’t make a buck pushing Santy Claus, when can you?

As far as our four-color medium is concerned, we inherited the tradition from the newspaper strips. These guys went all-out, and back when there were still a lot of continuity strips stories would be interrupted for Christmas and New Years (Hanukkah rarely, Kwanza, Ramadan and Saturnalia never) or, better still, holiday themes would be incorporated into the ongoing story. This was carried over into proto-comic book form when Will Eisner and his largely Jewish crew produced their annual “Christmas Spirit” story.

Outside of Santy-themed covers, it took a while for the comic book publishers to reliably produce annual holiday fare. The two that lasted the longest where Archie’s Christmas Stocking (with variations on that title, including the all-embracing evil “holiday” word) which started in 1954, and DC’s Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, licensed from Robert L. May, who owned the glowing streetkill. That title commenced in 1950. Dell had special Christmas editions of the various Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters, and before long most other publishers jumped on the sleigh.

As a child, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer confused me. That’s a statement you don’t often read, but it’s true. The original series ran for twelve years, which meant twelve issues. All were unnumbered. At some point I understood DC didn’t number their first issues (I later discovered why), but I knew Rudolph to be an annual event. A collector even as a child, I wanted to know how many issues I had missed. The title continued in various formats – giants, tabloids – until it was no longer worth the licensing fee. Yet holiday-dedicated superhero comics continued; DC was way ahead of the curve with its Holiday Special (sic) going back at least to 1980.

This year, we continue to have holiday output from Archie – including a trade reprint of Stocking stories – and a pretty nifty tome from Marvel that first appeared as individual digital stories. This latter book is one of my favorite Marvels of 2011. But unless I overlooked a page in the Diamond catalog, nothing from DC Comics. No Christmas title, no Holiday title, nothing from the company that pretty much started it all.

At first I thought Mark Waid just didn’t need the money this year and is probably overbooked writing every seventh title published. But then it dawned on me.

Maybe Bill O’Reilly is right. Maybe there is a War On Christmas. After all, those bleeding hearts at Warner Bros. studios now have full control of the company, and Bill and his friends at the New York Post keep telling us they’re heartless bastards. I guess this is proof.

O.K. Fine. I’ve got my Marvel holiday comic, and my Archie reprints, and besides, I firmly believe there ain’t no sanity clause. But I’m sentimental enough to wish you-all a wonderful holiday season.

Quite frankly, we deserve it.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil



WB Confirms “Dark Knight Rises” Prologue Preview in IMAX December 16

dark-knight-rises-poster-202x3003-8433272More than a month after word of a six-minute prologue surfaced, Warner Bros. has at last officially announced the opening sequence of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises will premiere exclusively on select 70mm IMAX screens with Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. The PG-13-rated prologue will debut on Dec. 16 in North America and on Dec. 21 in the United Kingdom.

The press release notes that Nolan’s 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight was the first major motion picture to utilize IMAX cameras. With its sequel, the conclusion of his Batman trilogy, the filmmaker utilized the extremely high-resolution cameras even more extensively.

“Our experience on The Dark Knight shooting and projecting IMAX 15 perf 65mm/70mm film was inspiring,” Nolan said in a statement. “The immersive quality of the image goes beyond any other filmmaking tool available, and in revisiting Gotham, we were determined to shoot even more of the movie in this unique format. Giving the fans an early look at an IMAX sequence is a great way to draw attention to what I believe will be an incredible way to experience our story when it comes out next summer.”

Review: ‘The Shadow: Behind the Mask’

You have to appreciate the efforts from MGM and Warner Bros., trolling through their film libraries and resurrecting titles that only a handful of videophiles might be interested in owning. After transferring these to disc, they are made available as manufactured to order, largely available only through websites. Warner has over 1000 such videos available in every genre imaginable while MGM is catching up quickly.  Among the recent releases is one curiosity worth noting for ComicMix readers.

While we are all familiar with Conde Naste’s The Shadow, few beyond Anthony Tollin may recall that there were three really low budget features produced in 1946 from Monogram, all starring Kane Richmond. The second of the trio, Behind the Mask, is now out and if you’re a big fan of the character, you might want to check this one out.

The stories are watered down crime adventures; missing the spark Walter Gibson (writing as Maxwell Grant) brought to the pulp magazine that debuted in 1931 and was still coming out twice-a-month but running out of steam by this point. Visually, the gun-toting vigilante wears a full black face mask rather than the red scarf covering the lower half of his face. The slouch hat and cloak are present along with familiar figures for the magazines and popular radio series.

The fairly pedestrian story, from Arthur Hoerl (Reefer Madness) and George Kallahan involves the murder of Daily Bulletin reporter Jeff Mann with people thinking it’s the Shadow when it’s actually an impostor, the Silhouette. While this is happening, Lamont Cranston is about to marry Margo Lane (Barbara Reed), something that was never going to happen. Oddly, despite being his confidante and agent for countless missions, she now wants him to hang up his .45s simply because they are to be married, as if his cause has become superfluous. Others from the mythos include Shrevvy (George Chandler), the faithful chauffeur.

The mystery is predictable but we take our time getting to the obvious, with comedic asides that do nothing to make the characters appealing or counterpoint the story. Richmond handles the comedic elements far better than he does portraying the cold, cruel crime fighter. The film was handled with a by-the-numbers approach by director Phil Karlson, who apparently never thought to make the low budget work in his favor with camera angles and lighting to create some sense of mood, the same mood so easily created on radio. Trust me, the earlier movie serials were better. As for the other two Monogram films, The Shadow Returns and The Missing Lady, last time I looked, both were available for instant streaming on Netflix.

MARTHA THOMASES: Are Interns Slaves?

In Great Britain, they’re trying to change the law to prevent businesses from exploiting students by way of unpaid internships. This is not just good news for a democratic society, but for comics fans as well.

How is it good for society? Unpaid internships are a scam, a way for businesses to get free labor while giving affluent students an unfair advantage over other students. The students with the best connections get the best gigs, and they’re the only ones who can get the subsidy from Mom and Dad so they can afford to work for free. After graduation, it’s the well-connected kids who have better resumes. It’s another example of affirmative action for the rich.

Unpaid internships also rob the community of taxable income. The kids working for free, even those with trust funds, are most likely not paying taxes on those unpaid salaries. They accrue the benefits of being part of our workforce without contributing their fair share. The corporations are certainly not paying taxes on the profits they make from the kids’ work.

How is it good for comics? I just spent a pleasant few days at New York Comic-Con. The show is run by Reed Pop!, and they do a decent job. However (and this is a big “However”), I am always surprised to see people working at the show as volunteers. Reed is a for-profit company. Why do they need volunteers?

I don’t mean to malign the people doing these jobs. Far from it. The deal, as I understand it, allows them to get into the show for free in exchange for doing a few hours work.

This might be a lovely way to run a local show, something put together by fans for fans. It’s no way to run a major exhibition in a major city. It’s scabbing. It’s exploitive. It’s an insult to every person who struggles to make a living in entertainment, marketing and hospitality.

It’s also a liability nightmare. If a volunteer has an accident, or somehow harms a guest, who is responsible? Again, it’s one thing if it happens in somebody’s garage, and quite another when it happens at the Javits Center.

I understand that this is a tradition of fans pitching in to help at shows. I love volunteers, and I welcome all efforts that get us more involved with our various and respective communities. However, I don’t understand why we’re volunteering to make money for corporations, instead of for more worthy causes.

Unlike the New York show, the San Diego Comic-Con is a not-for-profit corporation, a 501(c)(3). They are dedicated to promoting an appreciation of comics. Fae Desmond and David Glanzer are among my favorite people. However, it is my opinion that the show has been completely co-opted by other industries – specifically movies, television, and gaming – and to volunteer for that show is to make a non-cash donation to the likes of Disney, Fox, Warner Bros. and Universal.

Maybe, as comics fans, we hate ourselves so much that we feel we need to pay major corporations for the privilege of their attention.

Let’s make them pay us instead. We can use the money for therapy.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

MIKE GOLD: For Whom The Bell Tolls

There are few songwriters – few writers – I respect more than Pete Townshend. Were this a music column I’d go into detail why I hold this belief, but today in this venue he’s a means to an end.

Last week, Pete (okay, we’re not on a first name basis; the only time we were within 10 feet was when he bashed my boss in the back of his head with his guitar) accused Apple’s iTunes online retail store of being a “digital vampire.” His analysis was fraught with mistakes and revealed a genuine lack of knowledge of the situation. He was defending a system that treated him and his band, The Who, very, very well – a system that no longer exists as a creative outlet for newcomers going back at least a full generation. He also mistook iTunes for a label and not what it actually is: a retail outlet. A very successful one, but then again Pete’s net worth is in the neighborhood of $75,000,000 – a true one-percenter – so success isn’t the issue here.

What does this have to do with the wonderful world of comics? Hang on. I’ll get there.

Pete also said “It would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them … Why can’t music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?” That’s the heart of my diatribe today: people who sort of steal artists’ works instead of paying for it.

Bootlegging is a serious issue, but more a moral one than financial. Sure, Disney and Warners will bitch about all the milions they’re losing but that’s because they see every bootlegged item as a lost sale. Few are.

When it comes to comics, sometimes it’s a matter of convenience. Some people boot stuff they’ve already purchased because they prefer reading on a tablet. After all, we’re in our third generation of comics fans who go bugfuck whenever somebody folds the cover back in order to read the damn thing. Still others are sampling new wares: with literally over 300 new comics released each month and maybe a third of them brand-new titles or “reboots” (a word with unintended irony) a reader can’t afford to sample even a fraction of the new stuff.

And then there are the idiots. Stupid people who live the life of Wile E. Coyote until they finally look down.

Our buddy Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool reports of a guy named Stephen Chandler out in Glasgow, Scotland who is offering every comic book published each month by the “major” publishers (DC, Marvel, IDW, Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, and perhaps others) in electronic form for the low price of about $27.00 a month – 20 Euros, so the price fluctuates.

His is a for-profit operation. No matter what you think of readers downloading comics illegally, this guy is taking money out of publishers’ pockets. Most publishers can’t afford that; even the big guys are responsible for delivering an acceptable bottom line to their masters.

Steve, pal… look. Maybe your heart is in the right place. Most comics readers pay more than $27 a month for a fraction of the content you’re delivering on disc. And you’re entitled to a reasonable profit for your work. But that’s only in the sense that Al Capone was entitled to a reasonable profit for his work.

Eventually, Wile E. Coyote looked down. So will you, Steve. You work and perhaps live near the All-Saints Secondary School. You might dine at the Delhi Darber. Maybe you drink at the Aushinairn Tavern and shop at Asda Robroyston. Or perhaps you go to the Food Cooperative off of Wallacewell Road.

In other words, Steve, you’re an idiot.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

Batman: Year One

Crisis on Infinite Earths reset the playing field for DC Comics (at least for a little while before it was reset again and again and again), allowing management to refresh their top trio of heroes. Given the groundbreaking work Frank Miller did on The Dark Knight, he was invited to help editor Denny O’Neill essentially reboot Batman from the beginning. In November 1986, fans were delighted with the effort in the form of Batman #404, the first installment in “Batman: Year One”. This not only reset the Darknight Detective and his mythos, but gave publishers the mini-series within a series, which became a template along with the chance to revisit the past with the Year One moniker.

Partnered with artist David Mazzuccehlli, who worked so well with Miller on a run of Daredevil, they helped give us fresh takes on Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and most notably Jim Gordon. Controversially, it also gave us Selina Kyle as a prostitute, something creator shave been trying to paper over ever since. Still, the story of corruption, adultery, redemption, and a man learning to become a hero was gripping stuff.

There’s little wonder then why Warner Premiere decided to adapt this seminal tale as part of their largely successful line of direct-to-video animated features. Much like the source material, this film runs a spare 64 minutes. Everything from the four issues is present and we really see that this is more about Gordon than Batman, giving him some deep roots for the first time. (more…)

Eliza Dushku is a purr-fect fit for Catwoman in Batman: Year One and animated short

Eliza Dushku has taken command of Catwoman and she’s not about to give her back.

The star of Dollhouse and Tru Calling, and a vital part of the amazing Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast, provided the voice of Selina Kyle/Catwoman for Batman: Year One, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. A few short months later, Dushku was quick to accept a return to the role as the title character of the DC Showcase animated short Catwoman.

From the moment she accepted the role, Dushku was keen on making this character her own – and coming back to play the character as often as possible. Given her performance, it’s doubtful casting director Adnrea Romano and executive producer Bruce Timm would look elsewhere the next time the sometimes vigilante, sometimes villain appears in a script. (more…)

Warner Home Video to unveil Catwoman animated short, first ‘Justice League: Doom’ footage at NYCC

Warner Home Video, Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation proudly present an action-packed hour of first looks at DC Universe Animated Original Movies properties on Friday, October 14 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. at New York Comic Con.

Central to the panel will be the premiere of the animated short Catwoman, starring Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse) as the voice of title character. The 15-minute short will be included on the release of Batman: Year One, which streets October 18 on Blu-ray, DVD, for Download and On Demand.

The panel will also include the very first footage to be seen from Justice League: Doom, the highly-anticipated next entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies.

The panelists, which include the ultimate voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, DCU executive producer Bruce Timm and casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano, will offer a glimpse into the 2012 DC Universe Animated Original Movies slate, give away some exclusive prizes to inquisitive audience members, and quite possibly welcome a few surprise guests to the stage.

An autograph session with the panelists will immediately follow the panel.