- Posted by Johanna on March 27, 2013 at 3:54 pm
- Category: Movies/TV
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and DC Entertainment have announced they will be producing a documentary entitled Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics to be narrated by classic bad guy Christopher Lee. From the press release:
In this new documentary film, the malevolent, sometimes charismatic figures from DC Comics’ hallowed rogues’ gallery will be explored in depth, featuring interviews with the famed creators, storytellers, and those who have crafted the personalities and profiles of many of the most notorious villains in comic book history.
Noted Geoff Johns, best-selling author and DCE’s Chief Creative Officer, “DC Comics is known for many things, but chief among them is the compelling, diverse and legendary society of super-villains who populate its universe. From the monstrous Solomon Grundy to the brutal Black Adam to the charismatic Sinestro, there is no single greater collection of villainy in all of fiction. These villains are hugely popular comic book characters in their own right and, quite honestly, many are often times more popular than some of our iconic super heroes.”
Jeff Baker, WBHE’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, Theatrical Catalog, added “The DC brand is enjoying a huge resurgence thanks to the entire leadership team at DC Entertainment which is driving opportunities not only for new theatrical properties, but for brand extensions as well. This new documentary will reinforce this evolving strategy and leverage DC assets across the entire studio landscape.”
Johns also reiterated that this year’s initiative will be a turning point for DCE. “It’s time we deconstruct these complex and sinister antagonists and celebrate the role they play as the engine and energy of some of the greatest storytelling in comics. 2013 is the Year of the Villain at DC Comics.”
From my perspective, this fits in with what DC’s comics are already doing, but with more emphasis on bad guys, bad acts, and bad behavior. Plus, count the buzzwords in the studio quote! “Brand extensions” “evolving strategy” and “leverage” are the big three, but “leadership team” also indicates a focus on company over creators.
They’re announcing it now because they will be filming fans dressed as DC villains at WonderCon this weekend at the DC booth Saturday from 10:30 to noon. They’ll be doing something similar at the San Diego and New York comic cons. It has not yet been announced where this film will be available or when. This might make a nice bookend with Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics, which came out in November 2010 both as a stand-alone disc and included as a box set extra.
- Posted by Johanna on March 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm
- Category: Superhero Reviews
There were a couple of series I don’t talk about here that I enjoyed reading, but since I’m catching up on a teetering stack, those issues were a month old. Under the premise that superhero comics that aged are stale, I’ll instead try to talk about those titles when the next issues come out in the next week or two.
Avengers Academy #27
written by Christos Gage
art by Karl Moline and Jim Fern
Who knew? This crossover issue — well, not really a crossover, since the Runaways don’t have a book — was good. We learn something about each of the team members for both teams. We get to see similar and different characters interact across groups. There’s a mission — reuniting the boy with his missing dinosaur friend that I can get behind and go “awww” over. (Although last time I remember seeing the Runaways, I could have sworn that one of the girls had the dinosaur bond.) Typical of this title, there’s some secret plotting, as not everyone has the same motivation.
There was a character I didn’t recognize who wasn’t identified, either in the story or in the introductory text page. That’s the kid riding the Sentinel. His name is Juston, apparently, but I don’t know anything else about him. That’s surprising, since there’s plenty of exposition-speak elsewhere — but I didn’t mind the occasional flat tone, since I appreciated the information.
Still, there were enough cool little bits, from Striker’s public coming out to Tigra’s distraction of little girls by showing them her “kitten” son, that I enjoyed the read. I would like to see more of Klara, particularly, since she’s from a century ago and speaks amusingly anachronistically. She’s responsible for Tigra pointing out that it’s actually sensible for her not to wear very much, the first time I’ve ever heard that explained.
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9
written by Allan Heinberg
art by Jim Cheung and Mark Morales
Almost two years for that? Spoilers follow… if you don’t want them, skip to the next heading.
So the end result of this is that the Avengers look like hypocrites several times over, a promising hero is dead (because there are never enough dead girls in superhero comics), the Young Avengers are blown to smithereens (figuratively), and, most important for Marvel, everyone’s ready for the Next Big Event.
The whole series is best summed up by an accidentally (I assume) placed ad break. On the left-hand page, someone says, “So what do we do now?” On the right is an ad for Avengers vs. X-Men. Never mind the moral debates or mourning, just rush right into a big ol’ battle to sell comics.
What’s heroic about quitting? Especially when you provided role models by being black or female or gay for kids who didn’t see themselves in the regular Marvel universe. But hey, at least the boys got to kiss. That’s nice, but it doesn’t make up, for me, for the bigger losses.
Avengers: Saving the Day
written by James Asmus
art by Andrea Di Vito
Most of the movie Avengers characters are joined by Giant-Man and Spider-Man for this comic to promote financial literacy and the value of saving and budgeting. Giant-Man’s there in order to allow for lots of silly size-changing jokes, especially on the part of Hulk (stupid version), which gave me a giggle. (Although the scene were tiny Thor flies up and smacks the bad guy on the cheek was funny, too.) The team has shrunk to sneak in and prevent a bank robbery. Along the way, we get to hear about how great banks are and all the neat things they do for us.
This comic isn’t one for the ages — although it may be entertaining in another decade or so as an example of this era’s attempt at propaganda — but I enjoyed seeing the characters interact with each other in so light-hearted a manner. It was also good to see a straightforward mission that didn’t spin an issue’s worth of plot into four or six, or one that can’t be enjoyed without a bunch more tie-ins.
I know, saying “this isn’t as bad as the main books” isn’t really praise, but I did want to point readers to this. After all, it’s free.
Captain America #9
written by Ed Brubaker
art by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer
I’m always glad to see more work from Alan Davis, and the concept of exploring what makes Captain America special by taking away his super-serum enhancements isn’t a bad one, but I’m ready for the story to be over already. Read monthly, this and the previous two issues have felt like treading water. In fact, I picked up this installment, started reading, and had to double-check that it wasn’t #7, since it felt much too similar.
I really liked the movie version of the character, and I’m ready to see his modern-day adventures, but it seems that you can’t read his stories these days without already being familiar with his supporting cast and old villains, since this leverages both to make this tale seem more important than it is. Can I just get a story where Cap tries to do the right thing but has to confront how the definition of that has changed over the decades? I’d also like to see heroism and good intent win out at the end, while I’m dictating. Or is Captain America another hero, like Superman, who is more entertaining in the concept than in actual stories?
I also object to all the pseudo-scientific equipment being used to investigate Cap’s condition, since it’s clear to me that causing 80 or so pounds of muscle to disappear instantly isn’t a scientific process.
The Defenders #4
written by Matt Fraction
art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, and Brian Thies
When I read this piece last week on how the Defenders sales are dropping hard, my thought was, “it’s probably because it’s not very good.” Then I read this issue, and I liked it a lot. (One might think that my brain is wired wrong, so that only books that are going to die entertain it, but that would be mean and jaded to suspect about me. I prefer to think that my tastes aren’t well-served by the direct market, which is geared to get material to an audience not like me.)
By focusing mostly on Dr. Strange and some of his relationships, Fraction provides a hook for me to deal with these wacky characters. Plus, I like the mystery of the weird, twisted-pipe machine and its magical abilities.
Strange’s power is solid, but it’s clear that it’s wielded by a very human man, and his decisions on that level shape the story. I hope to see more of Molly, Strange’s embarrassed one-night stand. Yet he’s still wise enough to outsmart an upstart wannabe who thinks he’s got Strange where he wants him. I’d like to see more like this. I hope it’s not too late.
Wolverine and the X-Men #7
written by Jason Aaron
art by Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong, and Norman Lee
It’s really neat to have an X-Men book to look forward to reading. It’s imaginative. It’s got creative use of powers, a diverse group of neat kid characters (who act like teens in their egotism and treatment of others), the teacher/student setup that works so well to create problems (as the kids rebel) and restore order (as the teachers fix things), fascinating and fresh ideas, and most importantly, a sense of humor.
This issue wraps up a three-part storyline, so it may not be the best place to start, but I’m intrigued to find out how Kitty handles the baby Broods inside her and how Wolverine and Quentin Quire (a great new creation, for new meaning “within the last decade”) escape the interstellar casino they’ve been rooking and how the shrunken students wandering around inside Kitty survive.
(For those who think I’m being inconsistent by not complaining about use of the Brood, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything with them. The part I need to know — that they’re crazy killing group aliens — was clearly explained to me through the previous two issues. Plus, now I know more about student Broo.)
I like that there’s more to this than just a showdown, as a galactic xenobiologist is attempting to perform a particularly destructive type of science to maintain the “natural order”. And I like the Bamfs, one of the supporting cast that are used judiciously in just the right amounts to be entertaining without overdoing it. Leave the audience wanting more, right? They also acknowledge the history of the franchise while treating it in new ways for new readers.
I did a bad job here in not talking about the art. None of it impressed me enough to note it, but none of it failed so badly that it got in the way of the story. Overall, these books looked good.
- Posted by Johanna on June 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm
- Category: Movies/TV
Right now (and I don’t know for how long), the Season 4 premiere of Leverage is available for free on iTunes. I haven’t watched this particular episode yet, but I’m planning to, because the show is great escapist summer watching. This time, they go mountain climbing!
- Posted by Johanna on July 6, 2010 at 9:12 pm
- Category: Comic News
I hadn’t been following the tribulations of publisher Devil’s Due, mainly because I don’t read any of their comics. Most of what they’ve put out this year are a handful of issues of Hack/Slash, Jericho (based on the canceled TV show), and Presidential parody Barack the Barbarian. Nothing’s come out since April.
Last year, Rich Johnston reported that they owed a lot of money to their creators — one of whom even won a court judgment against the company — to which publisher Josh Blaylock responded that bookstore returns had been a problem for them.
We’re still dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars in book store returns that rocked us in late 2008 and into 2009, right in the middle of an already aggressive restructuring. … It’s a reminder to publishers not to be too over leveraged in the book stores.
An unpleasant example that, while sales to comic stores are non-returnable, sales to bookstores may be imaginary, and all your stock has the risk of coming back. Given those circumstances, it’s surprising that Devil’s Due is still in business, but they wouldn’t be the first comic company to stick around longer than expected by the simple expedient of not paying artists. Now comes an unexpected press release that states
Devil’s Due Publishing has pulled its distribution of comics and graphic novels from Diamond Comic and Diamond Book Distributors, effective today. The Publisher will soon be announcing its new book store distribution partners and will offer product direct to comic book retail outlets, as well as distribution through Haven Comic Distributors.
According to Blaylock, Diamond has been taking their revenue to cover debts Devil’s Due owed to the comic distributor. So while Devil’s Due comics were selling, DD wasn’t seeing the money, so they couldn’t pay their creators.
This release raises more questions than it answers. Such as, how is DD going to pay Diamond now? How is DD going to continue to sell comics, now that their tenuous financial position is so visible and Hack/Slash has moved to Image? Why isn’t Blaylock giving up now, if he’s under such financial pressure? Why would anyone order from his company? Does Diamond have the right to seize incoming funds that way?
Graeme McMillan asked Blaylock some questions to clarify, but, well, when the publisher is saying things like this:
If not for [Diamond's] withholding of moneys for the past year, according to my estimates DDP would have been able to pay not only all talent owed, but many other creditors as well, plus a considerable amount paid back to Diamond. Instead, funds have been trickled down to us, we’ve had to slash the publishing, and hence each month the ability to rectify the situation gets smaller and smaller.
You can see why Diamond wouldn’t find “but we want to pay other people we owe before we pay you what we owe” a compelling counter-argument. It’s not Diamond’s purpose to keep tenuous publishers going. Blaylock, sadly, sounds like a dreamer who can’t face the truth that his company is unlikely to recover. And just to add insult to injury, here’s a scathing review of Blaylock’s book on How to Self-Publish Comics, which appears to be out of print.
- Posted by Johanna on May 25, 2010 at 10:21 am
- Category: Movies/TV
Out today is the second season collection of one of my favorite summer series, Leverage. Season 2 of the caper show started last July, with nine episodes, followed by a mini-season of six episodes in January.
All 15 are available on this four-disc set. As with the first season, every episode has a commentary, plus these bonus features:
- The Creators of Leverage Q&A
- John Rogers Set Tour
- Behind the Boom Featurette
- “The Hand Job” Spoof Video
- Andy Lange Music Featurette
- Season 2 Wrap Party Gag Reel
Season 3 starts June 20 on TNT. This two-minute clip, from episode 6, “The Top Hat Job”, shows off the action, humor, and cast interaction I enjoy about the show:
While this one, from episode 13, “The Future Job”, features guest starts Jeri Ryan and Luke Perry:
- Posted by Johanna on January 20, 2010 at 8:05 am
- Category: Movies/TV
Tonight airs a new episode of Leverage, the caper mystery series, on TNT at 10 PM Eastern/Pacific. It’s called “The Bottle Job”, in which Timothy Hutton’s character Nate returns to his old Boston neighborhood’s Irish pub on the occasion of the owner’s wake. Unfortunately, his daughter and sole heir has just been threatened by a local loan shark who demands $15,000 or ownership of the bar.
Turns out that Nate, a recovering alcoholic, lives over the pub and feels rather protective of both it and the daughter, who is “like a niece” to him. It’s a bit predictable — who didn’t expect an episode about the bar and its substitute family once the team started meeting clients there? — but the point of this show is how well they handle classic schemes and cons, especially once they toss in a twist or two. The bad guy is so irredeemably bad, propositioning the girl at her father’s memorial, that you’re rooting for his downfall as soon as you see him. At least he has a sense of humor about his job, so it’s not horrible to watch him.
I tend not to like Jeri Ryan’s character very much, preferring Gina Bellman’s softer grifter, but I loved her introductory scene this episode. Nate has called her down to the bar to find more information on the bad guy. He points him out to her as she takes off her coat and exchanges a couple of wisecracks. To prepare, she pulls up her short skirt, raising the hemline, tugs down her V-neck top, shakes out her hair, slugs a drink, and says, “I’m Trish, and I’m lonely.” It’s such an economic creation of a character, all the aspects she needs transformed in a few quick motions.
The main challenge for the team is that the shark is leaving that night and so they have an hour and a half to save the bar. First problem, find enough cash to start up the classic Wire con — that’s the one you saw in The Sting, about betting on sports based on knowing the outcomes ahead of time. (Only now, technology makes it much simpler.) The setup allows Parker (Beth Riesgraf), Hardison (Aldis Hodge), and Eliot (Christian Kane) to work together on the behind-the-scenes prep. I love seeing them interact; their characters play off each other well, and this episode is full of little moments among them that are quite entertaining.
There’s also a bit of drama, as running a con in a bar is a bad idea for Nate, since it will be obvious if he’s not drinking. But it’s the comedy that keeps me coming back — Aldis Hodge in particular gets a great funny scene when he’s called upon to improvise a snow storm. When I first heard about it, I wasn’t as interested in this setup as I was in the previous episode, but it turned out to be even more entertaining, especially the final double-cross. Unexpected, but perfectly plausible.
- Posted by Johanna on January 13, 2010 at 8:23 am
- Category: Movies/TV
In “The Runway Job”, the team aims to take down a sweatshop exploiter and his wannabe designer wife. This setting of course allows Jeri Ryan to model high fashion as well as providing comedy as Christian Kane (the muscle), Aldis Hodge (the hacker), and Beth Riesgraf (the thief) struggle to fit in a world that they know little about and don’t really care for. I wasn’t surprised to see Riesgraf undercover as a model, because she’s beautiful, although she carried it off with the typical wacky attitude of her character, making for some of the show’s best moments.
Ryan is still standing in for Gina Bellman (Sophie), although Sophie is having webcam conversations with the team from Paris and other global locations. I’m glad, because she’s not as brusque as Ryan’s character. I think we’re not supposed to like Ryan much, just as the team feels a bit off about their lack of history with her. Mixing up the interactions shows us more about the characters, as well as allowing the writers to tweak the viewers, since we don’t have a good sense yet of where her loyalties really are.
I enjoyed watching this episode, like all the others, for its blend of action, humor, and caper. Next week, “The Bottle Job” (January 20) has the team attempting to save a neighborhood bar, in an episode directed by Jonathan Frakes. Future episodes include one where they have to break Nate’s ex-wife out of a Ukrainian jail; another guest-starring Luke Perry as a fake psychic (is there any other kind?); and a two-parter written by series co-creator John Rogers involving baseball and a corrupt mayor.
- Posted by Johanna on August 31, 2009 at 11:06 am
- Category: Comic News
Following up on the Disney acquisition of Marvel, I attended this morning’s investor call. A full transcript is supposed to be available later today; in the meantime, here are some quick notes I took. I apologize in advance if there are any glitches; I was trying to type very fast to take down statements.
The call was opened by Lowell Singer, Disney’s SVP of Investor Relations. Bob Iger, President and CEO of Disney, began with prepared remarks. Several times, Marvel’s portfolio of “over 5000 characters” was mentioned as having potential value for development. Terms like “value”, “leverage”, and “revenue synergies” were used frequently. Disney expects that “synergies over time will drive value creation”, that is, they’ll make money by being able to incorporate Marvel characters into their many distribution areas. Also said was “vertical integration removes friction” (which I read as meaning not needing to pay outside companies to do what they can do in-house in terms of movies, properties, licensing, etc.). Comparisons were made to the successful acquisition of Pixar three years ago.
The deal is expected to be complete by the end of the calendar year. I found it interested that, when talking about characters, Iron Man was listed first before Spider-Man and X-Men. Marvel was praised by Iger for showing strength in “increasing the appeal of characters not known outside fan community”. Iron Man was seen as a great example of that, making money from an unknown character who was turned into a huge property.
Iger also said something about how the popularity of Marvel characters and stories transcends gender and age, which I disagree with, but once Disney gets a hold of them, that will likely become more true. Discussion also covered the potential of international expansion to add more shareholder value.
Disney has a “proven ability to maximize value of properties across markets” which they’ll use on Marvel’s “treasure trove of content” across both “traditional and new media platforms”. They aim to “build a business stronger than the sum of the parts.
They then switched to Morton E. Handel, Chairman of Marvel’s Board of Directors, who mentioned in his prepared remarks how both companies have their roots in great storytelling and how Disney will be the perfect home for their great collection of characters and stories. They look to effectively expand their licensing businesses across many media platforms.
Thomas O. Staggs, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Disney, gave some followup on strategic value. The “fit is clear” and they find it “financially compelling” as well. They think Marvel will be more valuable as part of Disney than on a stand-alone basis because of the “many areas of synergy”.
Regarding existing agreements (such as Marvel movies), Disney felt Marvel had “attractive licensing and distribution agreements with third parties”. Disney will assume those agreements as part of this transaction. As licensing agreements conclude over time, Disney will either bring them in-house or pursue third-party agreements depending on what they feel will most create value. I think that this would also cover things like theme park agreements, deals to show the Marvel movies on TV, etc.
There was concern about Disney share dilution, so Staggs stated that Disney intends to repurchase as least as many shares as they issue in this transaction within the next year. Then came Q&A, where I lost track of who was answering which questions. Here’s just some key points I found interesting.
John Lassiter met with key Marvel executives recently to talk about the potential of combining Marvel with Pixar. Everyone was very enthusiastic. “Exciting product may come from that; sparks will fly,” said an executive.
Someone asked how this would impact the film rights of characters at other studios. Disney said they thought Marvel did a good job putting attractive deals in place, and those deals would stay in place under the terms Marvel entered into.
Several time it was reiterated that Disney trusted Marvel as a “good group of people”. They said they were not only buying properties but “buying people who know the brands, stories, characters very well, and they will be relied on in this process. No one knows their characters and stories better than the folks at Marvel.” Disney said they were impressed by both what they’ve done and what they’re doing in approach from both a creative and business perspective. They feel Marvel has managed both smartly and diligently.
Someone asked about other bidders. Disney stumbled a bit on getting started on this. They said they reached out a few months ago to get to know them better, and then, as talks continued, both sides felt this was a unique combination. They also haven’t made any real estate decisions (I think this related to Marvel Studios in Manhattan Beach).
Are there benefits towards Disney in the comic book business? “We have a robust children’s publishing business.” They look to broaden both companies’ publishing and think there are opportunities there. I was disappointed not to hear more on this; it seemed a non-specific answer to me.
“The goal is not to rebrand Marvel as Disney but to shine a spotlight on the Marvel brand.” They aim to create value over and above the purchase price by bringing Marvel into Disney. In summation, they think Marvel has great creative people and great intellectual property and Disney can enhance their value by reaching more people globally.
Note that the NY Times article on the deal (which basically rewrites the press release) does add this context:
The acquisition comes as Disney, with its vast theme park operations and television advertising business, has been struggling because of soft advertising sales at ABC and ESPN and drooping consumer spending at theme parks. Disney’s profit in the third quarter, which ended June 27, dropped 26 percent.
So maybe Disney’s looking for a jolt in the arm of new properties to jazz things up? Or maybe that’s much too superficial an analysis, and I should let the financial pros figure all this out?