Archive for Comic Books

Last Comic Book Buyer To Leave, Remember To Turn The Lights Off

Posted in Comic Books, Rants with tags , , , on February 24, 2011 by thelasthonestman

Marvel and DC executive believe that this = profit.

I wrote a month or so ago about the media attention Marvel Comics was getting for their latest “Death of a Major Character” nonsense that they’ve continued to thrust upon their dwindling readership, and I’ve already talked about how both the company and the other major publisher in the industry, DC Comics, seem to be doing everything in their respective powers to kill the comic book business once and for all.  And just when you think the companies can’t get any more creatively bankrupt, you have the Senior Vice President of Sales at Marvel admitting this past weekend at a retailer summit in Texas that the company will “kill a major character every quarter in an effort to drive sales — because why try to revive a dying form of entertainment by trying something positive for longer-term growth when you can rely on short-sighted gimmicks instead?

Don’t get me wrong — I love comic books, and I’m devastated at the idea that in twenty years, the business might be gone forever.  At least I’m not the only one who thinks that way — there’s a host of other comic fans like myself who are sick of much of what passes for modern comic books these days (another good take on this can be found at this link on one of the many comic book blogs I frequent).  I buy a fraction of what I used to ten years ago so far as new material goes (concentrating my money mostly these days on older books), and I can see a time when even a die-hard like myself doesn’t buy anything new anymore.  I definitely will be saddened if I’m part of the last generation to care about comic book characters as something other than movie headliners or television cartoon adaptations.

It’s sad that, as is clearly evident with each passing month, Marvel and DC just doesn’t care.  They’re already reaping what they’ve sowed with what’s currently the lowest sales in their histories — and those dire numbers only look to be getting worse in the future.

Comic Book Wednesday

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2011 by thelasthonestman

There’s a lot of news in the comic book marketplace, both from the publishing aspects as well as the far-more-profitable-these-days movie-making aspects.  None of the subjects today are earth-shattering or new, but there’s items I thought were worth mentioning (and due to a busy schedule, that I hadn’t been able to get to until now).

Pictured here: Marvel editors coming up with new ideas to save the dying comic book industry

The Fantastic Four is catching the attention of the mainstream media, as the news surrounding the latest issue of the team’s title — which features the “death” of one of the team’s members — was broken early, before the book’s actual release into comic book shops.  I’m not going to spoil here who bites the bullet — though clicking on the link above will bring you to an article that has the deceased hero’s identity — and I’ve already pretty much ripped Marvel and the comic book industry as a whole for their lack of vision in keeping our industry alive, so there’s not much reason to rehash things again here.

What I will add in is the latest in ridiculous proclamations by comic book heads — this time by Joe Quesada — who tells us that, if the deceased in question makes a return from the dead at sometime in the future — you know, because we’ve never really seen deaths and rebirths in comic books as a story-telling device in a while (sarcasm alert!) — that “… I can assure you that it’s going to be very, very interesting and not what anyone expects.” (emphasis mine).  Maybe Quesada should have said “It’ll be what everyone is expecting”.  If he had, at least he’d be speaking honestly as to one reason why the sales of new comic books continue to drop to frighteningly low numbers.

— And in another sign of changes in the comic marketplace, there was the announcement that Wizard Magazine (and its sister publication for toys, Toyfare) was ceasing publication, ending its run after almost twenty years (While Wizard was founded in 1991, Toyfare was strarted later, in 1997).

For those seriously invested in the industry, Wizard had stopped being relevant a long time ago.  The price guide — what was left of it — was inaccurate, and the magazine came under heavy criticism at times for being a shill for certain companies and their products, and not an impartial observer of the marketplace.  In recent years, the magazine began covering seemingly everything but comics — movies, television, video games — as its circulation numbers declined heavily.  Still, with all of its fault, the advent of Wizard at the time was a big deal in the industry, and the loss of the magazine is a noteworthy event nonetheless.

— As is often the case these days, the exciting news in the comic book industry revolves around nothing in the publishing arena, but instead in the movie world.  There were two very good tidbits that came out in the last week — and one that was … uh … not so good.

First, the good.  One of the comic-book based movies I’ve been waiting for anxiously for a long, long time has been a Captain America movie worth seeing — and this summer, my wish will become a reality with the release of Captain America: The First Avenger on July 22.  I’ve long thought that a serious take on the heart of Marvel’s universe set in World War II would be a winner, and that’s exactly what we’re going to see in director Joe Johnston’s film.  Early pictures from the film have been leaking for a while now, and this photo of Cap in his war attire makes me feel confident that this picture will be on the right track.

Also making news is the announcement that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle/The Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane in the third installment of  Chris Nolan’s Batman epic, The Dark Knight Rises.

The choice of Catwoman as a villain/love interest in the film wasn’t surprising (even if  the casting of Hathaway was a minor surprise — this sure beats her playing a female Vulture in Sam Raimi’s aborted Spider-Man 4, though), and Hardy’s presence wasn’t a shock either, considering his track record of working with Nolan.  What was a surprise, however, was the choice of Bane as one of the primary bad guys.  I liked the decision myself; the Bane in the comic books was (and is) an intelligent, ruthless, powerful adversary capable of defeating his opponent wither through brawn or through strategy.  Anyone who only knows Bane from his god-awful portrayal in Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin entirely missed the potential of the character.  Judging by Nolan’s work so far, that’s not a concern I have here at all.

On the other hand, I am concerned about the first photos getting leaked out from the new Spider-Man film.  I was already critical of the approach that the film seemed to be taking early on — particularly with the unnecessary retelling of an origin that was done perfectly by Sam Raimi less than a decade ago — but I was at least happy with some of the initial casting announcements that were being made (Emma Stone as Spidey’s first love, the doomed Gwen Stacy and Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy among many), even if I was still worried about the film turning into “Twilight with webs”.  But I was a lot more concerned when I saw the first photos of Spider-Man’s costume hitting the web.

That’s not — terrible — but it looks like it”s immediately deviating from the classic portrayal of the costume (which was nailed 100% true by Raimi in his trilogy).  My obvious question is — why?  Why go away from something that’s iconic and instantly recognizable?  If there’s good reason to — like changing Batman’s garb somewhat in Nolan’s films — then I understand the reasoning entirely.  But change for the sake of change isn’t smart.  My growing skepticism on this film also wasn’t helped by the news that one of the most iconic characters in the Spider-Man universe — J. Jonah Jameson — doesn’t appear in this film either.  Considering that Jameson was a pivotal character in Spider-Man’s earliest years — and that he predates both of the Stacy’s in the character’s history — his omission from this film is bizarre, even if there was no way another actor was going to nail J.K. Simmons dead-on portrayal of the character that we saw already.  As big a Spidey fan as I am — I’m not feeling excited about this movie.  At all.

Later this week I’ll be at the New Orleans Comic-Con — pictures hopefully to come!

So Who’s The Bigger Fools? Marvel Comics — Or The Media That Believes Their Hype?

Posted in Comic Books, Rants with tags , , , on December 27, 2010 by thelasthonestman

And one need not wonder why the comic book industry is slowly dying.

Killing off a member of the FF? What a great idea! We've never seen anything like that before ...

I’m jumping around the internet late tonight, and I see this ridiculous article on MSN detailing how one of the members of Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four, will die in January.  According to Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada, “The beauty of the Marvel Universe is that it is in constant change.  Things are always happening, very much like life itself.”  And  Executive Editor Tom Brevoort is among the voices at Marvel claiming a great significance to the “event”, saying, “It’s a story that will have a transformative effect on these characters — virtually nothing will be the same after the events of this story.”

Whatever.

Just in case you’re not a long-time comic reader like I am, let me save you the trouble of rushing out to your local comic shop to buy the issue, thinking it represents anything more substantial than the continued evaporation of the comic book industry as a medium that’s going to be viable.  Everything — and I do mean everything — about this reeks of Marvel’s attempting to drive short-term sales of the book at the expense of the long-term outlook — which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following the comic book industry over the last twenty years, since that’s largely what the people in charge of both Marvel and DC have been doing for far too long.

... Errr ... never mind.

A poly-bagged issue (which Marvel claims is to keep people from spoiling the surprise, but veteran comic people know is designed to tempt people into buying two copies, one to read and another to keep sealed)?  That’s a sales gimmick we’ve seen too many times before (remember the “Death” of Superman?).  “Killing” off a main character?  Well, there was a time when that actually meant something in comics (look no further than the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the first death of Jean Grey), but that was a long time ago — now, death is a tired cliche that both main companies trot out on a seemingly monthly basis, all-but-obliterating its effectiveness as a story-telling device.  And the idea that “nothing will be the same again”?  How many times do the readers need to hear that tripe until it’s just another case of the boy crying wolf — again?

Enough is enough already.  It’s obvious that what the heads of Marvel and DC are doing with the properties they’ve been entrusted with isn’t working — and hasn’t been — for a long time now.  Sales are lower than they’ve ever been, and all of the success of the movie and licensing aspects of comic book characters aren’t going to save the publishing wings of the Big Two, since neither is luring new readers into the stores.  Neither company seems interested in building a base for the future, instead relying on major “events”  and cheap gimmicks (like the death carousel) to sell books (and in turn, crippling the chances of most titles to sell when there isn’t some huge “event” going on in the book).

Marvel and DC's idea for keeping comic book stores from closing in the future will probably be to kill off their owners -- it works in the books, right?

You don’t have to look any further than this Fantastic Four story to see that in full effect.  The book , which I’ve been picking up, has actually been a great read from Jonathan Hickman — but the sales have been less than spectacular.  Instead of allowing an audience to build by — gasp — actually telling good stories over a period of time and building an audience (you know, the way they used to do it), Marvel is resorting to the cheap gimmick of  “killing” off a main character.  Whoopee.

It would be great if the mainstream media didn’t give Marvel (or DC, when they resort to the same crap) the cheap publicity like MSN gave Marvel on this non-story, and it would be even better if someone like MSN would do a story on the dwindling comic book industry, once-thriving but now seemingly headed towards extinction.  That’s a lost hope, however, as it’s unlikely that anyone at that media level follows — or cares — about comic books beyond whatever movie opens at number one next summer — the staggeringly bad distribution numbers of most books these days would seem to bear that theory out.

If you ask me, it sounds like a great time for me to be jumping off of the Fantastic Four title — hopefully, what’s left of the readership of the book will join me and send Marvel a message that we’ve had enough.  I doubt Marvel will hear it, though — it seems they haven’t been paying attention for the last two decades — why would they start now?

What’s A Superman Movie Without Superman? Probably A Disaster Even The Man Of Steel Can’t Prevent

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies, Rants with tags , , , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by thelasthonestman

When it was announced that Zach Snyder — he of 300 and Watchmen — would be at the helm of the new Superman movie, I was on board.  The two films referenced above had their share of critics, but they were two films I found immensely entertaining.  On the latter especially did I think Snyder proved himself capable of putting a serious comic book movie (tights, powers, and all) on the big screen.

However, word that’s leaking out about the upcoming Superman project makes me believe that Warner Brothers still doesn’t get it when it comes to putting one of their flagship characters on the big screen, and more than ever, it means that the movie battle between Marvel Comics and DC Comics will continue to be won by Marvel.

Anne Hathaway + any movie = worth watching

The news that bothers me isn’t the rumored casting of Anne Hathaway as Lois Lane — not at all.  I absolutely love Anne Hathaway — I’d pay good money to watch her read the contents off the side of a milk carton — and I think she’s got the mixture of sex appeal, spunk, and sass to make her the perfect Lois Lane.  The two previous attempts at getting this character right on the big screen were misfires; Margot Kidder had the right personality for the first four films, but — as bad as this might sound — she just wasn’t attractive enough onscreen to make me think she could sweep the Man of Steel off his feet, and while Kate Bosworth is definitely beautiful, she looked too young for the role and had the charisma of a grilled cheese sandwich in Superman Returns.  Hathaway would take the best of what both other actresses brought to their roles to be the definitive big-screen Lois (though for my money, it’ll take a hell of a performance to top Teri Hatcher’s smoldering portrayal of Lois on the small screen in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman).

My issue is the supposed plot details that are being leaked, namely that we’re going to have a rehashing of Superman’s origin and a film that largely focuses on Clark Kent, with precious little Superman in it — or at least it seems that way from what’s being said.  According to the above linked report,  the film will focus on the Man of Steel’s alter ego as a young journalist as he helps people while not using his superpowers.  Supposedly, the audience will then watch as Clark Kent travels the world only to return to his Smallville home to learn his true origin.

To quote Bill Murray from the classic Scrooged:

Here’s a newsflash for the good people at Warner Brothers and Snyder as well:  We know the origin story of Superman.  All of us do, everywhere — men, women, and even children.  It might be the most famous origin of any fictional character in any medium.  And it was told tremendously in Richard Donner’s original movie, which everyone who’ll be interested in seeing this film will have already seen.  And you won’t do it any better than it was done there.

You're the Man of Steel -- Stop Crying!

And so far as the “finding himself and who he really is” nonsense — well, we’ve seen that too, again, mostly in the first movie (though similar themes were explored in the second movie as well).  A Superman who is unsure of himself and who can’t embrace his role as the protector of mankind?  This take has been tried before in the comics, usually to universal derision and scorn.  No one wants their Superman filled with angst, doubts, and a touch of self-loathing — while there’s plenty of characters that such an approach fit perfectly with, the Man of Steel is definitely not one of them.

What do audiences — both the die-hard comic-book fans and the casual viewers — want in their Superman movie then?  How about no more tired rehashing of the same things over and over again for a start — enough with Lex Luthor as the main villain already.  No more dumb bimbo sidekicks to the antagonist as comic relief.  No more ridiculous subplots involving children that might be the Man of Steel’s, or real estate scams as the bad guy’s motivation, or endless monologues from Marlon Brando as Jor-El.  No more Phantom Zone escapees.  It’s ground we’ve covered enough times already.

Instead, give us a bad guy who really can challenge the Man of Steel on a physical level as well as a mental one.  Brainiac would be a great start, coming to Earth to shrink Metropolis to add to his collection of cities.  Or Darkseid, in an attempt to enslave our planet under the rule of Apokolips.  Or maybe a classic interpretation of Bizarro, in the form of a weapon used by a smarter, less physical rogue like the Toyman.

Once we have a villain to build a story around, then give us action.  Plenty of it.  You have the most powerful being on the planet with an opponent who can match him toe-to-toe — let’s see them go at it.  While one would think that using this formula isn’t exactly rocket science, it’s worth noting that only one Superman movie has had anything resembling this approach in it (Superman II).  Add in some other thrilling action sequences that display the Man of Steel’s powers to their full effect (like the incredibly well-done Shuttle rescue sequence in the most recent movie, one of the only things about that film that actually worked) and presto — a winning formula.  Certainly, it’s a recipe for something better than the some of the bad-tasting films we’ve seen for a character that’s deserved far better.

Will Warner Brothers realize that before they end up with another big-budget debacle on their hands?  If early reports are any indication, you don’t need a Superman to tell you that the answer is apparently not.

An Open Letter to the Presidents of Marvel and DC Publishing

Posted in Comic Books, Rants with tags , on October 17, 2010 by thelasthonestman

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”

–George Santayana

What does this book ...

We’ve been here before.  As a comic book retailer back in the late 1990’s, the landscape I see now has more than a passing resemblance to the one I saw back then.  Considering that the comic book industry seemed well on its way to oblivion during that period  — well, that’s an era that I’d think you, the heads of the two major comic book publishing companies, would want to avoid repeating.  But if the industry’s newfound reliance on gimmicks to boost book sales – gimmicks no more prevalent than that of variant covers – are any indication, those of you at Marvel and DC Comics look determined to play the part of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

... And this book ...

Let’s be clear about why variant covers have made such a strong comeback in the present day – it’s solely a gimmick to artificially boost the sales on a given title.  There’s certainly no one I know in the market who’s clamoring to purchase two and three copies of the same exact book – with a different cover – at three to four bucks a pop.  Those prices are high enough for what is essentially 22 pages of entertainment, and that’s a term that can be used loosely considering the amount of quality that goes into a lot of Marvel and DC’s product these days.  But when a buyer feels the need to purchase multiple copies of a book – sometimes four or five copies if they want to get all of the variant covers – and when some of the prices of those books can range upwards of a hundred dollars or more?  Well, when you’re making someone in the hobby choose between putting food on their table and getting all of the covers for the new X-Men title, that’s how you chase collectors out of the business once and for all.

... And these two books have in common? Answer: they're all the same issue -- Amazing Spider-Man #600 -- and they're all in my collection.

The company line has always been “No one’s forcing someone to buy them all – a buyer can pick and choose what cover they want, and we’re only giving them some variety”.  But that’s not really 100% true, is it?  The collector who is feeling forced to get them all, no matter what the price may be, feels differently.  And in turn, that’s keeping them from spending money on different titles, potentially weakening the company’s line of books across the board.  And the retailers around the country who sell your product are forced into meeting high quotas in their ordering to be able to receive variants to sell, a necessity for their businesses to remain competitive and to be able to offer variants for the collectors who are willing to shell out the big bucks for the rarest of the rare.  This is forcing retailers to over-order books they normally wouldn’t, often leaving them with stacks of unsold products that can’t be returned for a refund and may never sell.  In a business with razor-thin profit margins, that’s a recipe for disaster.

I’m not saying that variant covers don’t have their place, but in today’s market, they’re simply out of control.  It’s too many variants on too many books made by too many companies.  It’s an artificial stimulus to correct sagging sales when the real focus should be on putting out a better product and trying to widen the target audience, and not shrinking it.  A similar approach has all but put the sports card and collectible marketplace on life support – maybe those of you at Marvel and DC might want to brush up on that history lesson as a sobering example of where you don’t want to see your industry headed.

Second Iron Man 2 Trailer Is Out — And It Looks Good

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by thelasthonestman

In case you missed it, the second trailer for the movie Iron Man 2, scheduled for release on May 7, has been released.

There’s not much for me to say other than I like what I see so far.  I’ve become a huge Robert Downey, Jr. fan, and there isn’t much I wouldn’t enjoy watching him in these days.  No good comic book movie works without a heavyweight villain, and even though Whiplash wouldn’t have been my first choice for an adversary, Rourke should bring enough weight to the role to make him memorable.  If it had been me, I would have just cast Rourke as the same character playing either the Titanium Man or the Crimson Dynamo (the Russian-based character of Whiplash in this film takes a lot of its elements from either of them, and it’s not like we’re going to not going to have other armored bad guys either, watching the trailer).  But I trust Jon Favreau and Marvel at this point to give us a winner, so that’s me being extremely picky.

Other high points of the trailer (for me) was seeing Scarlett Johansson actually in action as the Black Widow (the costume looks fantastic and she looks absolutely fantastic moving around in it during the trailer) and Don Cheadle in the War Machine armor.  Seeing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury again means we’re also going to get some more development towards the upcoming Avengers movie as well.  I also love the chemistry between Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I don’t see a whole lot of movies in the theater, but on opening weekend for this one, I’ll be there.  I’m sure I won’t be alone — Iron Man 2 already looks like it could be the big hit of the summer.

Weekend Wrapup Returns

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, MLB Baseball, Movies, News/Current Events, Sports, Television, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2010 by thelasthonestman

And it’s on to the weekend — and some quickie thoughts on subjects in the news:

Now that I'm done helping destroy NBC's prime-time schedule, I'll get back to putting you to sleep when I'm supposed to be doing it -- and not sooner

— Jay Leno is … the bad guy?  It’s certainly feeling like that these days.  In the sequel to the Late Night War that once saw Leno selected in a then-controversial decision over David Letterman to succeed the legendary Johnny Carson as the host of the Tonight Show, it looks like Leno’s disastrous foray into prime-time will be coming shortly to a merciful end.  This occurred after ratings for Leno’s five-night-a-week-suckfest cratered so badly (NBC was expected a ratings hit, but nothing of the magnitude that Leno “delivered”), that affiliates across the country — possibly as many as a quarter of them — were preparing to issue NBC an ultamatum of their own: lose Leno’s show, or be prepared to watch them abandon it themselves for reruns of Seinfeld and whatever else the local stations could program on their own.

Faced with an affiliate revolt, NBC had no choice but to pull the plug on the ill-conceived Leno vehicle — but the decision to shift Leno back into the 11:30 EST time slot — and to bump Conan back 30 minutes — has created more problems.  O’Brien has rejected the change in time for his own show, and now things are apparently headed for an ugly divorce between Leno’s heir and the network — which will possibly land Conan with upwards of $30 million, and should leave him free from his contract and available to pursue a show at a rival network, possibly FOX.

If nothing else, this drama has proven to be more entertaining already than anything Leno was throwing out there, and if early public sentiment is an indication, people are viewing Leno as the heavy (and NBC as the accomplice).  What does it mean for Leno’s ratings, if he returns as the host of the Tonight Show?  Probably not a whole lot, but if Conan ends up with a competing show, it’s almost certainly going to be pulling audience primarily from Leno; if you were watching Letterman or Jimmy Kimmel already, you’re likely not going to be watching Conan now — O’Brien’s audience will be what he takes with him from NBC.

The clear winner here so far is O’Brien, whose show has seen its ratings increase as this has played out.  Long-term, it may be Letterman who sees The Late Show cement itself as the top show in the late-night wars.  What can’t be disputed though, is that The Tonight Show isn’t what it once was, and the name doesn’t bring forth the feelings it used to (and hasn’t, even before O’Brien took over for Leno less than a year ago).  The Tonight Show that a lot of people grew up with ended when Johnny Carson stepped down — and now, after all of this current turmoil has passed, it’ll be a successor to Carson’s juggernaut in name only.

— For me, this week couldn’t have provided a bigger juxtaposition then that of the crisis that’s taking place in Haiti currently and the joke that was a number of Wall Street CEO’s in front of Congress defending, not only their massive irresponsibility in helping create the huge financial crisis we’re still in the middle of, but their own avarice in continuing to pay themselves massive salaries and bonuses, even when having their slimy hands picking the back pocket of the Amercian public that bailed them out.

As the horrors in Haiti unfoled, we saw poverty, despair, and destruction at a level that most of us have never seen before.  Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — and that was before the massive earthquake of this past week.  After this tragedy which has left tens of thousands dead and a country’s infrastructure in complete ruin, Haiti is in desperate need of any assistance it can get from the international community, in a race where every dollar or supply is literally to save lives that are hanging precariously in the balance.

Maybe some of that aid could come from some of those Wall Street Rip-Off Artists who showed an amazing lack of remorse over their actions which have crippled a large portion of the U.S. economy.  One of those men was Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, who in an incredible understatement said, “We did make mistakes and there were things we could have done better.”  You think?  That’s on par with Lindsey Lohan saying she’s made some bad personal decisions over the last few years and “could have done better”.

Those in positions of power with these mammoth financial institutions — businesses that currently hold far too much influence and control over the lives of the average American citizen — continue to live in a world that has no relation to the one that real people, like you and I, live in — and it’s because of that insulation for the real world and its consequences that we should have no faith that any of them are going to do anything but what’s good for their own wallets — and to hell with the damages they might cause to the general public or the economy itself.  President Obama is looking into new taxes on these banking companies as an answer to the latest reports of obscene profits and bonuses paid, but that won’t be enough to change the climate of greed that permeates these companies to their rotten cores.

The direction for the new Spider-Man movie wasn't really what we were expecting

— The announcement came this week that Spider-Man 4 is DOA, and that in its place, we’ll be looking at a complete “reboot” of the franchise, sending director Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst to the curb.  Apparently, disagreements about the future of the film series between Sony and Raimi were too much to smooth over, and the studio has decided to go into a different direction (though still somehow intending to release the next film in the summer of 2012, as originally planned).

I’ve got mixed feelings about this news.  I’d already detailed some of the earlier squabbling between Sony and Raimi and my concerns that the franchise was headed for cinematical disaster.  While I blamed Sony initially, now that there’s more details leaking out about the take Raimi wanted to do with the film, it’s starting to look like taking the series away from Raimi wasn’t such a bad call after all.  The plot (if you want to call it that) sounded like a bad rehash of the 2nd Spider-Man movie, and it would have in all likelihood been worse than Spider-Man 3 was.

But even if you get a new director — and a new star (as Maguire had said he was only interested in returning to the role of Raimi was in the director’s chair) — is that any reason to start completely over again?  If that’s Sony’s approach, then it’s going to be a huge mistake; a reboot of a franchise is only necessary if it’s strayed completely away from its core (Batman and Robin) or if it’s been a suitably long time since the franchise began (rebooting Bond with Casino Royale).  Neither applies to the Spider-man franchise, which is barely a decade old and, the mediocrity of the third film aside, has stayed as true to the vision of Spider-Man as this huge Spidey fan could have hoped for from a big-screen adaptation.  Certainly, there were missed opportunities along the way — and continuity changes for the movies that I wouldn’t have gone with — but, all told, the first two movies were about as good as it gets for superhero fare, and there’s no reason that Sony can’t continue along where the 3rd movie left off.  Cast a new Spidey, go with a new villian (Dylan Baker and the Lizard, for example), bring Dunst back for a well-paid cameo and bump her off (paralleling the loss of Peter parker’s first love, Gwen Stacy, in the comics) — and you’re off and rolling.

Instead, if the early reports are to be believed, Sony looks to be headed on an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the Twlight-phase and turn Spider-Man into some sort of teen drama.  If that’s their approach — and it won’t be surprising, since most movie execs have no respect for the source material or its target audience (which is why Marvel Studios, which does, had such a critical and commercial hit with Iron Man), then they’re going to find themselves with a once-golden franchise that’s been run into the ground.

He's a frog, you say? I can't believe it!

— And finally, there’s Mark McGwire’s “stunning” revelation earlier in the week that he’d taken steroids during his career — an announcement that, as a friend of mine stated, was about as shocking as Kermit coming out and announcing that he’s a frog.

There’s already been a lot of talk about the subject and what it means to McGwire, baseball, and the steroid scandals that have rocked the sport — so there’s not a whole lot I have to add.  Suffice it to say, I’m not surprised he admitted it, as in his eyes, doing so represents the only way he can lessen the distraction he would cause the Cardinals this year as a member of their coaching staff — as well as the only way (he thinks) he might still find election to Baseball’s Hall of Fame someday.

But if I had a vote, it still wouldn’t be coming to him.  It’s my opinion that he still isn’t telling the whole truth about what he used and why he used it, and it’s still clear to me that the whole reason he’s a Hall candidate anyway — the home runs — were in some way fueled by his steroid usage, which makes his entire career output suspect since we’ll never be able to quantify what he would have done without them.  I don’t feel a bit sorry for McGwire — who seemed to be fishing for sympathy in his interviews this past week — since he knew the price of taking illegal steroids (or should have known it) when he did so.  You lived the life of an sports hero for several years because you cheated, Mark (whatever your excuses might be) — now, you’ve paid the price.  As it should be.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone — and we’ll see you on Monday for a look back at the NFL playoff games from this week.