Sunday, February 7, 2010

DC Decision on Rumored New Watchmen Comics Will be Telling

The comics blogospher has been abuzz over a report from Rich Johnston over at Bleeding Cool about plans within DC to publish new prequel and sequel comics to Watchmen. The report states this initiative to capitalize on the success of the original graphic novel — now reported to be DC’s best-selling title ever — is a pet project of Dan Didio and made possible by the departure of publisher Paul Levitz, who resisted previous efforts to sequelize Watchmen.

Johnston has a pretty good track record on this kind of thing, so I’m inclined to think there’s something to this. And with announcements pending on Warner Bros.’ plans for the new DC Entertainment, such a project being the first thing out of the gate for the post-Levitz DC will tell us a lot about the company’s future.

To start with, publishing more Watchmen comics makes perfect sense from a purely business point of view. After nearly 25 years in print, the potential for new products that exploit Watchmen has been pretty much tapped out now that we’ve had the movie version, the motion comic and all the merchandising that came with that project.
And looking at the history of sequels to classics — for example, there have been multiple sequels to Casablanca in print and even on TV that flopped and are remembered pretty much not at all — if new Watchmen comics flop it’s unlikely to diminish people’s affection for the original. We’ve already got the movie version, so there’s no way a controversy would damage the property’s chance of being made.

But without additional material, there are few options for DC and WB beyond collectibles for die-hard fans when it comes to new product. You need something new on which to base another videogame, or DCU cartoon, or toys or T-shirts and books. Everything’s already been played out with the original material.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

$7 Lois and Clark: A good deal or no deal at any price?

My, how the DVD market has changed.

Yesterday, I was standing in the express checkout line at the Von's grocery store just down the hill from my house in Eagle Rock when I saw this racked next to the cheap celebrity mags and Soap Opera Digest

The price? $6.99. I can't say I wasn't tempted by the idea of getting an entire season of a superhero TV show for about the price of a couple of comic books. But then I remembered that I watched some of these when they first came on the air and didn't really care for it then — and I don't think I'll like it any better now.

But still. $6.99! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Blogging update: New design, new blogs, new dilemmas

If you come to this blog a lot you've probably noticed the redesign. I used a program called Artisteer to create the template, and it worked really well. It cost a bit of money to license, but having a good wysiwyg editor for this kind of thing is worth it because I have hated writing code since I had to write typesetting code by counting lines on a piece of graph paper to layout newspaper pages on the Atex sytem back in the mid-1990s.

Now that I've lived with the new design for a while, I am pretty happy with it, but may still tinker with it a bit as time permits. I definitely need to update the blog rolls and links, so send me your suggestions for additions and I'll take a look.

One site that I've come across that is definitely worth your time is Fanboy Wife. It is the funniest comics site I've seen in a long while.

Of course, this all comes just as Blogger makes an announcement about ending its FTP support. I'm still figuring out if this will be a hassle and I'll just have to move to Word Press or not. I think I can do that pretty easily if needed, but I hope I don't have to.

Off the shelf: The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures — Deluxe Edition

The Rocketeer is something of a legendary comic book, one that I’ve heard lots about but only had a chance to read small pieces of before now. If you’re unfamiliar with this comic, here’s the basics: The Rocketeer was a throwback to the pulpy, serial adventures of the 1930s written and drawn with incredible love and attention to detail by Dave Stevens. It may have seemed like just another indie comic when it hit the stands in 1981, maybe even like just another knock off of the successful movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, which made hard-luck heroes of that era very popular.

But there’s this character, Betty, the girlfriend of the somewhat hapless hero Cliff Secord. Based on Betty Page, who at the time was largely forgotten except to a few folks like Stevens, the character focused Stevens’ incredible talent and helped make this a comic few who read it would ever forget.

Looking at this new edition, which is the first time all Stevens’ Rocketeer stories were collected in one volume and features some amazing new coloring from Laura Martin, it lives up to its reputation as one of the finest examples of popular comic book artwork. It’s also a blast to read — Stevens is mostly known as an immaculate artist, but this wouldn’t be the classic it is if he also couldn’t work up a good story to hang it on.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Turning comics fans into comics dealers

Comics used to be full of ads for jobs that kids could do to make a little cash. Like learning electronics or selling subscriptions to something called Grit. But I think the ad below is unique in that I don't remember ever seeing another ad urging kids to become local comic dealers before I stumbled across this 1974 gem in the Marvel Milestone Edition of The Incredible Hulk #181 (click for a closer look):

The basic idea is to get kids to buy a dozen comics for $2 and then sell them at cover price to their friends and family. If they sold them all at a quarter a piece, they'd make a whole buck. Having never heard of this, I can't imagine it got a great response or inspired a generation of fans to get into the comics retailing business. But this was around the time the direct market was being formed. I wonder if Marvel thought they'd get a better deal from kids than from stores, which I'm sure got a greater discount than one third.

On another note, I always liked the Marvel Milestone Edition comics, which were reprints of a single comic that included all the original ads, letter cols, Bullpen pages, etc. The first ones came out in 1991 and were reprints of X-Men #1 (the 1963 version) and Giant-Size X-Men #1, both in honor of the release of X-Men #1 (the 1991 version). When they arrived in the shop, I was a bit disappointed these were printed on modern, glossy paper as I had imagined them being true reproductions of some kind on old-fashioned newsprint. But the owner of the store I frequented at the time said I was in the minority, and he had sold far more than he expected to sell because fans liked the slick production values.

Anyway, I wonder why Marvel doesn't consider a special format for collectors, maybe a box set of fairly accurate reproductions of the original periodical comics on vintage style paper, perhaps oversize to set them apart from the originals. I recall seeing this idea done for some German-language reprints that made it over to Meltdown Comics a number of years back. I would be among the fans who would dig such an idea, should Marvel decide to reprint its classic comics in yet another format.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Super heroes in Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis!

I went to Las Vegas last weekend for the first time in several years, and caught the new Cirque du Soleil show, Viva Elvis!, at the new Aria Hotel and Casino in the CityCenter complex.

The show was, as usual for Cirque du Soleil, impressive and fun. The show is a celebration of the life and music of Elvis Presley, and as such features more straight musical numbers and fewer circus elements than most of the troupe's shows.

But the best acrobatic sequence by far was based on a line Elvis once uttered about loving super hero comics when he was a kid — which opened the door for Cirque to do a full on trampoline act with performers dressed in generic superhero costumes. Using a set that featured multiple trampolines, about a half-dozen superheroes bounced off the ground, ran up walls and leaped over each other and various obstacles. It was many people's favorite segment in the show and a good example of how you could do some superheroics on a live stage. It makes me more optimistic that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark could be more than just another musical.

It also opens up some interesting possibilities. Wouldn't a Marvel Cirque show be incredible? I'm not sure how into the idea Disney would be, especially in Las Vegas, but they do have those theme parks and resorts that are dying for Marvel content and need live entertainment in addition to just rides.

You really don't want to "read" Hulk's "Grab Bag"

You won't like him when he's angry, but you'll like him even less if you make him angry by messing with his "grab bag."

Off the Shelf: The Great Outdoor Fight

There’s a lot to like in Chris Onstad’s webcomic turned graphic novel, most notably the absurd sense of humor and the faux history that forms the core of The Great Outdoor Fight (Dark Horse, $14.95).  This book is a collection of the webcomic Achewood, which Onstad has been working on since late 2001.

Like a lot of the better comics, the premise sounds kind of absurd on the surface: A strange tradition called The Great Outdoor Fight, in which 3,000 men gather to duke it out over three days in a three-acre pitch draws the interest of a strange guy named Raymond Quentin Smuckles. I can’t tell what he’s supposed to be — teddy bear, cat, unknown type of dog — but I do know he wears glasses and a thong worthy of one of those Marvel swimsuit specials of the 1990s. Ray’s father entered and won the 1973 fight, and Ray sets out to do the same with the help of his equally strange pals Roast Beef and Barry. 

Onstad’s invented a whole history for this fight, complete with strange traditions and rules, that’s convincing and perhaps the most fun part of the strip. The humor’s absurd, stemming from the obsessions and tortured thinking of the characters. That their plots make sense, that a lot of folks will see people they know in these characters is both hilarious and down right frightening given their single-minded inventiveness in achieving the oddest goals for the strangest of reasons. 

My first reaction to the art was somewhat offputting — its intentional amateurish quality was my least favorite part of the book. But I’ve since come around and like the fact that this weird story looks like the kind of comic the strange tough-guy kid who only listens to AC/DC in the back of your middle school class would draw to prove how much more hard cord fucking weird he is than you could ever hope to be. The reaction is much the same: this is some sick stuff, but it’s also undeniably funny.