Named after Canada’s most famous cartoonist, the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards nominees have been released. Mr. Shuster, of course, was the co-creator of Superman – the original visual look and feel of fabled Metropolis was based upon Toronto.
The winners will be announced at a Satuday, June 9th ceremony at the Holiday Inn, 370 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, during the weekend of the Paradise Toronto Comicon.
According to their press release, the 2007 Shuster Award nominees are:
About 370 million years ago, give or take, swimmy little critters biologists now call lobefish developed appendages that were helpful in getting around the bottoms of the ponds and lakes where they lived. Their descendants eventually flopped onto land and those appendages evolved into things that are useful for tap-dancing, kicking field goals and, attached to the likes of Jessica Alba, drawing admiring glances.
Comic books began as a low-common-denominator, novelty entertainment and became an industry and, arguably, an art form. Lobefish spawned, among other phenomona, karate and Ms. Alba’s thighs and comic books spawned, among other phenomona, comic book conventions. These were, at first, quite modest affairs, as described in last week’s installment of this feature, but, like the lobey appendages, have evolved into quite something else. They’re, some of them, held in gigantic auditoriums – the San Diego Convention Center and New York’s Javits Center, to name two – and attended by tens of thousands of participants. And people far more knowledgeable regarding showbiz than I am say that anyone wanting to launch a fantasy or science fiction-themed movie or television show is well-advised, if not required, to do so at one of these mega-soirees.
They have become an integral part of the huge modern monster media and I wonder if they’re not more influential as that than as places for hobbyists to gather and share enthusiasms. Further – I wonder if some folks forget that the “comi” in comicon refers to these visual narratives still being published in glorified pamphlet form.
A lot more entertainment seekers will see the forthcoming Fantastic Four movie (starring our friend Jessica, by the way) than will read any years’ worth of Marvel’s Fantastic Four comic books. And how many of the millions of ticket buyers who made Ghost Rider the box office champ for two weeks running, despite iffy reviews, even realized that the character had been born as a Marvel superhero?
I think it’s clear that the term comic book is in the process of redefinition, though what it will mean in 10 years I don’t know. It certainly won’t be merely a noun referring to the aforementioned pamphleted narratives. Nor will it any longer be a modifier meaning low, dumb, semi-literate, borderline immoral, as it has been until recently, and might still be in some venues. Probably it’ll describe a genre, or combination of multi-media genres. Or, could be, it’ll be entirely forgotten. After all, we don’t call legs lobes, do we?
And now, in the spirit of Jon Stewart, who on The Daily Show has his moment of Zen, we have our Recommended Reading: Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, by Peter Coogan. Full disclosure: I wrote the book’s introduction. But I won’t profit if you buy it. I recommend it because it is, quite simply, the best treatment of the subject I’ve encountered.
Not to pile on poor little pornographers, but I think, if this image is any indication, that Sinful Comics is going to be hearing from Marvel’s lawyers too. And Sony’s. And probably the lawyers for Jessica Alba and Ioan Gruffudd.
And the hell of it is, the artist is pretty talented and could probably find work in the regular comics industry.
One of the more disturbing things about Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! was how many little things it got right– from the use of digital actors (later to be used in former studio-mate Frank Miller’s films) to some of the overarching political threads. Chief among those in Flagg! was how the powers that be, after taking as much money out of the US system as they could, relocated their corporate headquarters to Mars and acted as absentee landlords.
Fast forward to today, where Halliburton announced they’re moving their corporate headquarters to Dubai. Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s old company) has millions of no-bid contracts from the US government, including a lot of jobs critical to the war effort in Iraq, and they’re not going to pay any taxes on their profits. Oh, and if they’re not a US company, that means they can get around sanctions on US corporations doing business with Iran. And a foreign company will be doing a lot of things for the US military, which could be a major security risk. What fun.
With 300’s $70 million opening weekend, everyone’s eyes lit up. No one expected this number, with the best estimates at least $20 million lower. Now everyone is scrambling to read the tea leaves and try to understand what just happened.
A few thoughts from our corner of the universe. First, this will make 2007 the best year ever for comic book movies. There are six feature films scheduled for release this calendar year and I will guarantee you that combined, they will add up to huge box office receipts.
As a result, this will fuel future comic book-into-movie activity. It also makes Frank Miller a suddenly bankable name. Forget his work on Robocop 2 and look at Sin City and now 300. Once he begins directing The Spirit later this year, expect that to get onto a release schedule ASAP.
Projecting ahead, there are five more comic book movies have firm release dates for 2008 with at least two others penciled in (see schedule, below).
I’ve said all along that the comic book adaptations will continue until there are enough flops to sour Hollywood on the genre. This year opened with Ghost Rider opening to surprisingly huge numbers and then had legs. With 300, the reverse seems to be happening. I suspect production heads will fast track properties in the various studio pipelines and we’ll see one or two more movies added to 2008 and 2009 could possibly get jam-packed even though all that’s for certain that far out is the next Bryan Singer Superman release and Captain America.
Mark Evanier posted the sad news that Arnold Drake passed away this morning.
Drake was a prolific writer for comics, prose and film, refusing to be typecast. In the early 1950s he wrote It Rhymes with Lust which can be argued as America’s first graphic novel (readers can judge for themselves when Dark Horse reissues this later in 2007).
While best known today for creating Deadman, Drake also wrote a wide variety of titles, mostly for DC Comics featuring the Doom Patrol, Space Ranger and Tommy Tomorrow. Given his versatility, he also handled Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and the delightful Stanley and his Monster.
Drake was outspoken about the changes he saw happening to comics in the 1960s, as Stan Lee and his Marvel cohorts rewrote the rules. As a result, he was in the forefront at demanding improved working conditions and tried to wake DC’s editors up that there was finally some serious competition for readers.
The efforts led to his removal from DC assignments although he would return to write now and then into the 1980s.
His last effort, a proposed Doom Patrol graphic novel, was in the works at the time of his death.
To help combat a growing trend, the Virginia health department has commissioned a "fotonovela" – a comic book that uses photographs instead of art, also known as fumetti – to educate Spanish-speaking girls younger than 18 about how they can avoid being coerced into unwanted sex.
Citing cultural tradition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention told CNN Latinas lead the nation in teen births with a birth rate more than double the national norm. Young mothers are extremely reticent to name the fathers of their children.
According Paz Ochs, the Richmond VA Hispanic liason who helped create the fotonovela, "We wanted something that would be appealing. There’s some people that might not realize that this is even against the law." Health care workers in Illinois, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana and Florda have contacted the Virginia Department of Health for more information.
According to this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, teenagers are reading more now than they have in decades. Not only that, but they’re "buying books in quantities we’ve never seen before," says Booklist magazine’s Michael Cart, who also notes that "publishers are courting young adults in ways we haven’t seen since the 1940s."
The reasons for the surge, besides a high teen population at present (over 30 million), include more quality young adult literature in just about every genre, with fantasy and graphic novels being particularly in vogue. But it’s not just buying – teens are also visiting libraries in greater numbers, and many librarians are seeing a greater circulation of teen fiction than adult fiction.
Oddly, the article doesn’t really credit online activity for this upswing; it actually notes, "The staying power of books is especially remarkable given the lure of YouTube, MySpace and other techie diversions." But as any teen or adult can tell you, you need to be able to read, and read well and fast, in order to fully partake of online "techie diversions," and once you’re reading stuff you like, you’re bound to read more.
I was listening with keen interest to Mike Raub’s interview with my old friend, DC publisher and president Paul Levitz, available on the current (#12) ComicMix Podcast. Back in the days of papyrus scrolls, Mike, Paul and I were in an a.p.a. (amateur press association; a forerunner of the Internet) called Interlac. It was great fun, and if I’m not mistaken it’s still around in the more capable hands of those who still own staplers.
Anyway, Mike asked Paul for his opinion as to the single greatest change in the comics medium in the 35 years since he ran a massively influential fanzine called The Comic Reader. Without dropping a beat, Paul talked about the acceptance of the comic art medium.
A couple hours later I found myself debating which would be the least expensive way to see the movie 300: my AARP card or the first-showing matinee. Linda and I piled into the car and drove up I-95 to watch the carnage. I’m referring to the movie, and not I-95.
Later on TiVo showed us the latest episode of Ebert and Roeper, where 300 lead the discussion. Mind you, I regretted the passing of the show’s original co-host, Gene Siskel. Unbeknownst to much of humanity, Gene was a serious fan of Roy Thomas’s Conan work and at one time had at least three complete collections. But then again, he might have reviewed the movie through the eyes of a comics’ fan. I doubt that, but roll with me for a while longer.
Roeper reviewed the movie and loved it. He commented at length about the evolution of the graphic novel-based movie without once referring to costumes and capes (oddly, 300 had both – but you get my drift) and Frank Miller’s influence on comics, film, and our culture in general. He spoke of Miller’s work the way arts critics speak of Martin Scorsese, John Lennon and Philip Roth. Not a single word was condescending. Not one.
And it’s about time. Paul’s perception is right on the money. In earlier days we would look to the movies as justification for our four-color passions, as if to say “see, somebody else is taking us seriously.” That played a big, big part in our enthusiasm for Richard Donner’s Superman – The Movie. Today, we no longer need to prove anything to anybody.
Previously, I stated in this column that respectability might be the death of us. I still feel that’s a possibility: I’d hate to see the comic art medium be taken as seriously by its fans as those many rock’n’roll enthusiasts who lost their sense of humor and perspective a long time ago.
But if respectability is the death of comics, at least we’ll get a well-written obituary.