Archive for Fantastic Four

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?