We take a look at two new films from completely opposite ends of the spectrum. LEPRECHAUN:ORIGINS reboots the franchise with a terrifying lead character that offers neither luck or charm. DOLPHIN TALE 2 brings back all the original cast including Harry Connick Junior who talks about how honestly thrilled he was to revisit the role and how much fun he had on AMERICAN IDOL.
It’s been a great week for the folks at SyFy with the combined audience for the second SHARKNADO film plus encores of the first hitting over 18 million viewers. We talk to director Anthony Ferrante about how big ratings don’t necessarily mean big budgets, plus Vivica Fox and Judiah Friedlander explain why they were thrilled to jump on board this franchise. Then we sit down with wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan to talk about how the landscape of the business has evolved light years in recent days, plus the real story behind his flub at Wrestlemania.
Vince McMahon is a certified marketing genius. Always keen to find a new way to reach a new audience, he tied pro wrestling to rock and roll, and in doing so, made it a part of popular culture to a level it hadn’t been since the early days of television. His knack for cross-promotion has struck gold again, with a crossover between the WWE Superstars and the animated adventures of the Great Dane Detective and the Mystery Inc gang in their newest direct to video movie, [[[Scooby Doo WrestleMania Mystery]]], out just in time to help promote WrestleMania XXX, coming to your screens this Sunday, April 6.
The voices and likenesses of the current crop of WWE Superstars like John Cena, Triple H, Divas Champion AJ Lee and Santino Marella team up with Scooby and the gang in a fun throwback to the old days of The New Scooby Doo Movies, which featured guest star crossovers galore. The voice cast of Mystery Inc are the team that have been handling the job for the TV shows as well as the Direct to Video features for some time now. Frank Welker still provides the voice of Stalwart Freddy Jones, and has also capably taken over the voice of the eponymous hound. Mindy Cohn, late of The Facts of Life is Velma Dinkley, and voice talent extraordinaire Grey Delisle Griffin is Daphne Blake. Norville “Shaggy” Rogers is now voiced by Matthew Lillard, who proved to us in the live-action films that it is actually possible to genetically breed actors to play specific parts.
The story is set in “WWE City” a combination resort complex, production center and training camp for the superstars. Scooby and the gang win a trip to the resort after getting a perfect score in the new WWE video game, just in time for Wrestlemania, the unveiling of the priceless new WWE championship belt, and the recent attacks by a mysterious monster, the Ghost Bear. Seems almost like they could be, y’know, connected, huh? The Bear is allegedly the spectral remains of a wrestling bear in a touring show, undefeated until he fell at the hands of the great-grandfather of luchador and current WWE Superstar Sin Cara. With the help of long time wrestling trainer Cookie (Chares S. Dutton) and his nephew Ruben, the gang investigates the origins of the bear attacks, which takes on an extra level of required hurry-up when Scooby is accused of stealing the championship belt. They must find the culprit (and the bear) before, according to WWE City law, Scooby and Shaggy will be forced to prove their innocence on the field of battle, facing Kane in the opening match at WrestleMania.
The film is loads of fun, with a suitably wacky storyline, mixed with well done action and chase scenes. There’s enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing until the mask is whipped off the baddie. The superstars’ charisma carry over to the animated form, and it’s clear everyone had a good time making the movie. Also included on the disc is a behind the scenes documentary featuring the wrestlers’ voice recording sessions and an episode of underappreciated classic of the Doo continuity A Pup Named Scooby Doo, a show The Wife and I loved so much, we named our child after one of its characters, namely Shaggy’s baby sister. (Thank goodness we had a girl, or we’d have had to name her “Red” Hoerring.)
Scooby Doo WrestleMania Mystery is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Last Wednesday, Vince McMahon announced the launching of the WWE Network. Suffice to say it was well received by his hardcore fans just as he’d hoped. To use a bit of hyperbole – which all things considered, seems apropos – the self-made millionaire stands to become a billionaire with the launch.
It’s many things, but above all else, it’s a stroke of genius in the modern era of content delivery. Comic companies might want to take note… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The WWE Network would appear to just be Netflix for hillbillies, but truly those who aren’t in-the-know, and quick-to-judge are missing out the insane deal the WWE is offering. For $9.95 a month (purchased in six month blocks, with a potential discount for year long subscriptions forthcoming), users get access to every pay-per-view since 1985 from the WWE, as well as rival companies WCW and ECW. They also get access to newly created content like countdown shows, reality shows, and plenty of documentaries and retrospectives.
Oh, there’s more. Users get every pay-per-view coming out. At present, purchasing a pay-per-view from VinnyMac sets you back 45-60 dollars, depending on the event, and the quality – SD or HD.
Do the math, kiddos. If the WWE just offered you the pay-per-views at ten bucks a pop, you’re saving anywhere between $440 – $620 a year. But if someone were to offer you an 83% discount, and you were even just a normal fan, certainly you’d find that to be worth considering. Add that insane discount to an increase in content, somewhere around 1900%, and now you’re starting perhaps to see why this is a big deal.
Obviously there are plenty of folks scoffing at the financials of all of this. With an 83% discount on a product, WWE’s PPV buy-rate profits will appear to tank. Vince and family are of course looking for volume profits to achieve the balance. In addition, newly minted subscribers will now be marketed to (in essence) exponentially more than they ever have in the past. This of course creates new advertising revenue streams. Imagine having an audience with decades of trend data sitting in wait, where your product can be hocked to them every single time they decide they want to indulge in their vice. This is internet ads the way companies dreamed they’d exist. Paint me impressed, at very least.
In covering the announcement, Gizmodosaid“…[T]hink about what you’d rather pay for: Netflix and its vast but unpredictable movie library and unproven original series? Or the entirety of [thingyou love]?” Truly, as I’d said: this may very well be the way to save our always-in-a-state-of-dying medium of comics.
Marvel and DC have set to revolutionize content delivery in the digital realm many times over. They’ve offered subscription services in the past (and may still do) and never once have I heard from fellow comic fans “this is how it’s done!” Instead, too many apps produce access to the same material, forcing fans to choose a vehicle, and then commit to it. Same as iTunes vs. Amazon MP3 vs. Rhapsody, etc. Vince McMahon chose instead to Spotify his industry-leading content library. Could any of you imagine a service that for the price of your books perhaps for a single week… granting you access to decades worth of content, as well as keeping you current on your favorite titles for the month? Could you fathom a service that could be easily accessed on your tablet, desktop, laptop, and/or phone? And dare I dream… what if that service gave you Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Boom!, Avatar, the works…?
A boy can dream, but a man faces reality. Warner Bros. and Disney have no need or desire to combine their libraries of printed materials. Nor could they ever negotiate a way to create a subscriber base, and split profits. And they certainly wouldn’t give a rat’s patootie about any smaller publisher, even if say they made The Walking Dead. Instead, our comic books (both in print and digital) will continue to be a publisher-to-publisher game. ComicXology, Graphic.ly and other providers will continue to create proprietary filetypes that prevent the average user from controlling their ala carte purchases in a single easy-to-manage collection. The key of course falls back on the broad shoulders of you-know-who.
When Vince McMahon created Wrestlemania in 1985, he officially buried the original independent scene of professional wrestling. Over the next 20 years he slowly but surely eliminated his only competition. Over the next 10 years after that, he spent his profits slowly building and secretly digitizing the libraries of not only his content, but that of his antagonists. Nearly a decade after that, he’s set to launch a single product to unite every fan he’s gained and lost throughout those 30 years.
I, for one, can’t wait to sign to up. While my recent return to the comic shop has proven that industry still trips over itself with the sins of the past I can at least enjoy one publicly mocked genre in peace, and personal profitability.
The professional wrestler C.M. Punk truly made his mark and broke free of the shackles of mid-card obscurity by way of his infamous pipe bomb shoot promo. For those not in-the-know, a shoot in wrestling is an interview (or soliloquy some of the time) wherein said grappler breaks the fourth wall. As relived in this week’s WTF podcast, Punk was vivid in saying that this promo was done because he was at the end of his rope.
With the WWE wanting him to resign for three more years and Punk decidedly against continuing to not be the guy on the roster, Vince McMahon allowed him to air his grievances live on their Monday night broadcast. If Punk captured the zeitgeist, he’d be a made-man forever in wrestling (which, by my count, is a little over two years). If he failed, he’d be gone, buried back in VA halls wrestling for gas money, and be nothing more than a footnote in WWE’s now 50-year history.
The shoot worked. Punk resigned, and ruled the company with an iron fist until he literally could give no more. The glass ceiling was shattered on the “norm” of the product, and wrestling now is forever changed. Well, maybe not, but I’ll circle back round that idea in a bit.
Why do I bring this up? Well, for one, because it’s topical to me. I was just listening to the podcast on my way home from work tonight. Beyond that, it dawned on me that with all the coverage and snark that exists in the world of comics… there is no C.M. Punk. There is no shoot promo to cut, on any live broadcast. There’s only guys like me; indie creators and op-ed columnists chasing windmills and yelling into the wind. But this here is my stage. This here is my time. So, allow me to speak ill of the industry I wish every damned day I was a part of, but know full well I’ll never actually see.
The WWE’s CEO lives a double life as an on-screen performer. He enjoys his product not only for the money it makes but for the crafted product it actually is. Warner Bros and Disney are just faceless boardrooms ruled not by the glee in little kids’ faces, but cold hard cash. Their publishing branches exist for one reason, and one reason only: to keep the movie and TV machines churning. Don’t think for a second that your issues of Batman mean any more to the execs in Burbank than a roll of teepee. It doesn’t. That rag in your hands? The one that has the blood, sweat, and tears of a dozen hard working men and women broiled into its pulp? It’s an incubator of ideas for a movie or cartoon show. It’s a crockpot keeping the license warm. It’s a mosquito light that keeps the most vocal fans distracted. Go ahead, post your death threats if we make Afflec Batman… but hey! Look over there! It’s Zero Year!
We all desire the notion that those behind the rich mahogany desks (being packed up in Midtown Manhattan in 18 months) lie overgrown fanboys and girls that just want to knock the socks off us, the ever-enduring fans of a dying medium. But it too is just a pipedream. The suits that run your comic book publishing companies are shackled to boulders far too big to drag up the mountain. Beyond the goodwill garnered by our little niche market, and the fervent fans that exist at comic cons lie those aforementioned suits in bigger boardrooms that still demand that at the end of the day everything be profitable. Profits occur when sales increase. Sales increase when gimmicks, #1s, and creators that draw a crowd are given the top spots. When a book stops earning what meager profits it can when it’s hot, it’s tossed out with the bathwater and things start again. The era of continuity is long dead. All hail the retcon.
The closest thing we had to C.M. Punk in comics was Robert Kirkman. He took his indie prowess and love of the craft and turned out The Walking Dead. Now, Kirkman is a suit. Behind a desk. Of a multi-media empire. He won the championship belt, and didn’t even have to work for the man to do it. Now, he is the man, and no longer a voice of the voiceless. Like so many though, atop his mountain of money many years ago he gave birth to his manifesto wherein he challenged the industry to veer towards creator-owned projects. Hey Robbie! Trickle-down economics don’t work in real life or in comics. If every known talent jumped off their pedestals at Marvel and DC to come make indie books at Dark Horse, Image, and Boom! the line to replace them would still be wrapped around the vacant Midtown offices and land somewhere in the opposite ocean. Everyone is replaceable when the end goal is product. Not good product. Just product.
The fact is this: After he changed the world and held the WWE title for longer than any wrestler in the last two decades or so, Punk took a much-needed break. When he returned, he was just as our resurrected Jean Greys, Steve Rogers, or Hal Jordans… a hero to be celebrated for what he was, not who he is now. A long and listless program against his on-screen mentor, and Punk is now booked right back in the mid-card where he started. The comic book industry has no panacea to cure itself of the ills we rally against. Just as the WWE fans buy their John Cena Fruity Pebbles Lunchboxes… so too do we comic fans flock to every worthless gimmick they shove on the racks. We make our excuses, we plunk down our money, and we bitch about it on the Internet later.
The only way to make change, is to make it. There is no utopia. There’s only revolution.
It’s been a few weeks since my pro-pro-wrestling tirade. With another pay-per-view about to hit the airwaves in a day, I figured I’d check in on my on-and-off-now-on again male soap opera. And just as I remembered it, here I sit with a head full of opinions and 1062 words to blather out into the interwebs in hopes one Vincent Kennedy McMahon stumbles upon it and makes sweeping changes to his on-air product I know he never will. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For those uninitiated (but still here, considering that I’ve mentioned pro-wrestling in the intro, and somehow you weren’t instantly turned away), the smart marks of wrestling have long known the biography of Vinnie Mac. The studious entrepreneurial son of a small regional promoter, Vince grew up in the biz but longed for more than just bingo halls and the occasional stadium show.
After his father’s passing, Vince soon acquired more and more territories. In time, his WWF had laid waste to the independent circuits, giving birth to what would end up becoming the largest ‘sports entertainment’ promotion in the world. Per his worked-shoot (or for the laymen, a pre-approved scripted performance that appears to be off the cuff, drenched in 4th wall breaking commentary), Paul Heyman put it best: “…your father shook the hand of every promoter in this country (and said) that he’d never compete against them, that his son would never compete against them. And when your father died, you competed! And with your ruthless, merciless, take-no-prisoners attitude, you drove everybody out of business, didn’t you, Vince? You ran all the competition into the ground and you stole all their ideas and you made yourself a billionaire out of it!”
In short, Vince McMahon built an empire the way we assume Lex Luthor might. On the backs of the broken men he stepped on. And we the people lap up his product like the faithful slaves we are. But what else are we to do? The only other promotion with national distribution is TNA. And their roster, for better or worse, is comprised mostly of people who used to work for the WWE (nee WWF; they lost a lawsuit). I know that I should appreciate their shows more, but when I watch it, it reeks of why I end up tuning into Raw or Smackdown instead: the best production values, larger than life personalities, and every now and again… an amazing in-ring performance that can’t be topped. In their heyday competitors like WCW and ECW were able to match Vince through sheer will power and creativity. But Vince like all great moguls found ways to literally steal the ideas of those who could bump his ratings a notch, and become all the stronger.
When ECW redefined hardcore, and WCW turned Hulk Hogan into a venomous heel, Vince gave birth to the Attitude Era. He poached ECW’s star pupil Steve Austin. He created the Hell in a Cell match to push his very best punching bag – Mick Foley – into the forefront of extreme entertainment. And in due time, both promotions collapsed in a heap under Vince’s checkbook. Their rosters were absorbed, bleached, processed, and what little was left remained a now redubbed WWE Superstar. So WCW and ECW can join Milestone and Wildstorm in the graveyard of the creative. Meanwhile, Vince boldly went where no promoter had in the past: he became his own greatest star. Casting himself as both the evil genius and fool, the McMahon/Austin feuds of the late 90’s are what helped eventually destroy McMahon’s competition. Don’t believe me? It’s the actual story mode of the WWE ’13 video game.
I entitled this article “The Devil In Plain Sight” because I’m truly tickled by the fact that Vince McMahon’s power only continues to rise and ooze out from his Stamford, CT offices. How so you ask? I’ll cite my two favorite examples. The first, C.M. Punk. The Chicago King of the Indies was brought into the WWE and was immediately shoved towards the mid-card. In spite of being an astounding in-ring performer and solid promo-talker, Punk epitomized everything Vince loathed. A natural and fit physique untouched by recreational steroids, a plethora of tattoos, and an attitude that was built to mock authority. Yet, over time, as the crowds continually reacted positively to Punk’s performances, he slowly rose the ranks. I’ll spare you the lengthy diatribe: Punk won the title, threatened to quit, did a Heyman-esque worked shoot, and ended up holding the World Title for over a calendar year. It was an unheard of achievement. But then, as the devil is prone to do, Vince called in his contract. Punk lost the title to the Rock (a far more commercially viable champion), and was forced to lose to the Undertaker at this past Wrestlemania. Given everything he ever wanted, and then tossed back out with the bathwater. When Punk returns, can we still believe he is ‘the voice of the voiceless’?
And sadder still, begets the souls of those never even given the offer. Colt Cabana, C.M. Punk’s friend and Chicago compatriot, grew up a WWE fanatic. He attended wrestling school, and developed his character. He rose the ranks of the independent circuit, all while showing his entrepreneurial spirit. And then, with literally dozens of WWE wrestlers vouching for him, McMahon yielded to give young Cabana a developmental deal. Much like being handed a property like Voodoo in the New52, Cabana was given an uphill battle from the start. A few “squash matches”, and pretty soon Colt was told creative has nothing for you, and with it so too went his dreams. In the wake of this, Cabana doubled down. He started up a podcast and hit the independents harder than he ever had before. And here he continues to exist, lamenting on the life he never truly got a shot at. And when the topic comes up week after week… does Cabana say one ill word of the man who could still yet make his dreams come true? Nay.
Because the Devil is always there, and there’s always a price to pay.
Shortly after writing this article, Marc was offered a staff writer position at WWE. He sent in his résumé, and was promptly smashed in the head with a steel chair.
You what they say – 12 million people can’t be too far off. This new run of episodes of AMC’sWALKING DEAD is breaking even the records they set a few months back. we talk to showrunner Glen Mazzara and cast member Steven Yeun on what it’s like at the center of this success storm. Plus bad news for the DEXTER comic and the LOBO movie.
It’s a little bit of sports, a little bit of science fiction and all action. SyFy is set to debut ROBOT COMBAT LEAGUE with man-controlled machines battling to survive. Series host (and WWE Superstar) Chris Jericho, explains why the new reality show is really a wave of the future. Plus Valiant offers a comic book bargain, and everyone on the net is asking Who Is Writing GREEN LANTERN?
For ten years, The WWE has celebrated the holidays with their tribute To The Troops. This year, however, there a few new twists. WWE Superstars John Cena & Shamus explain it all, plus are you really surprised that AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 has shown up on eBay?
As ARROW hits the halfway mark of the TV season, fans and critics alike say it keeps getting better. We go backstage with the creators and cast to find out how they got this far, and what lies ahead for new characters including one played by fan favorite John Barrowman. Plus How about Captain Kirk, Ron Burgundy or Spock doing your voice mail message? It can happen if you hurry.