Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Amazing Spider-Man 2 Box Office Prediction

Are you looking forward to Amazing Spider-Man 2? If you said No, then it seems you may be in the majority (based on the surprising response to an email movie invite I saw yesterday.) While I'm not sure of the reason, people do not seem jazzed to see this latest installment of the Sony Spider-man franchise. Is all because the Rhino looks so bad?

Or is it because they fear there are too many villains in the movie?

Or is it because the response to the first installment in this rebooted franchise just wasn't as good as people initially thought? (Amazing Spider-Man only ended up with $252 domestic when it finished its US run.)

Personally, I'm willing to wait for this one on DVD. While I enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man, the amount of villains is definitely giving me Spider-Man 3 flashbacks. To this day, I pick Spider-Man 2 as my favorite Spider-Man movie because of its focus on Doctor Octopus.

My box office prediction for this movie is it will have a first weekend haul of somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-85 million. (The first one only made $52 million in the first weekend.)

- Jim

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Metal Men Movie?

I'm trying something new this week - no idea how it will pan out. I'm posting smaller, off the cuff articles rather than trying to create an whole long post. Today's is inspired by another news article I saw on Bleeding Cool about Zak Synder directing a Justice League movie in 2018 wherein it was revealed that a Metal Men movie is in development.

Long time readers of this blog know I love robot characters, but I'm not wild about this news. I think my main objection is that the Metal Men strike me a the type of property that would be better suited for the Marvel Cinematic Universe rather than the current Grim and Gritty DC Movieverse.

Really, I could almost see the Metal Men working better as a Pixar/Dreamworks animated feature. Something with the bright zip of The Incredibles or Wreck It Ralph.

What I'm afraid we will get is a film where the Metal Men have been redesigned beyond recognition. If the movie is written by David Goyer, it's almost a sure bet they will all be wearing long leather dusters and the main villain will be some Euro-Disco reject.

I guess we'll just have to see what develops. In the meantime, click your way over to the Retroist to read a fun write up of a Rat Pack Version of the Metal Men movie that never was (but would have been so Awesome if it had!)

Is that not a great idea or what?

- Jim

Monday, April 28, 2014

Comixology to remove in App purchasing on iOS devices

Yesterday Bleeding Cool reported that Comixology, now owned by Amazon, would be removing the ability to buy comics via in app purchasing on iOS devices.  From now on, if you own an iPad or iPhone and wish to read new comics on such devices, you will have to buy them through the Comixology Web Store, then download the comics to your device.

As digital inconveniences go, this is a minor one, but I can still see some people getting miffed about it. (I don't own any Apple devices, so I'd be interested in hearing from someone who anyone who does as to what they think about this news.)

While I didn't foresee this, I guess it does make some monetary sense for Amazon as this will allow them to sell to people with those devices without having to give Apple their 30% cut. This shows Amazon is definitely plays the game by their own rules which makes me wonder what else they might consider changing.

Here are some predictions:
  • Amazon Exclusive comics from some publishers (or at least pre-release exclusives like they have with On Demand movies now.)
  • Possible lending of comics, as they have with kindle books
  • More print/digital combos as an up sell on the Amazon side (similar to the kindle/print combos offered for many books now.)
One also has to ask if they will be any response from Apple on this? On one hand, Apple is so big and profitable at this point, I doubt the 30% revenue they will lose from Comixology will be notice (though it did regularly rank in the top 10 apps every year...) On the flipside, some people at Apple might see this as opening the door for more companies to do this. What is to keep other companies from offering a free version of their app in the iTunes store and then direct people to a website for a key/serial number to unlock a premium version?

Another question I have is how has Comixology become the only player in this sphere so quickly? Maybe they won't be for long. From what I've heard Marvel/Disney may have  something coming up.

Remember, there is a synergy between Disney/Apple that would allow them to build their own comic reading app quite easily. And the 30% profit Apple gets from each purchase doesn't really hurt Disney like it would people who aren't partnered with Apple. (At some point, you hit a sort of funny money area when you are talking about money going to a partner company.)

With that in mind, the big question is: Could we see a time when Marvel comics become exclusive to Apple devices?

- Jim

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Golden Age Gold: Captain America, Nedor and Earth 2

I have three topics I want to cover today, and as it so happens, they sort of cover recent news events pertaining to superheroes originally created during the Golden Age.

Cap vs Bats?

Reporter Mark Hughes on Forbes has an interesting article about the financial success of Captain America:2 and how that will impact the upcoming (2016) movie showdown between Captain America 3 and Superman vs Batman when both movies are scheduled to release on the same day. The author makes the case that invariably that one of the studios will end up moving their movie to a different day.

I've heard several fans say that a same day showing would not be a big deal and both films would do equally well because people would just go see both (a proposition I would say is logistically problematic for most people as there are only so many days in a weekend. The very reason we have the term "Movie Night" is because people usually reserve one night out of the weekend to go see movies.

While it is possible some people might go see two movies in a weekend, I think it's a stretch to think everyone will. Also, there are only a set number of RPX/IMAX movie theaters. Those screens will have to make a choice between one of the films. With CA:2 doing so well financially and CA: 3 rolling off of Avengers 2, I suspect Captain America 3 will be the more appealing choice (especially if CA 3 includes other heroes in it as Winter Soldier did.)

Nadir or Nedor?

I saw that Warren Ellis is going to be writing a series revamping the Super Powers Project line of comics for Dynamite Entertainment.

For those of you not familiar with the Super Powers Project, it's a series by Dynamite where they've taken many of the more popular Nedor/Standard Public Domain Superheroes and brought them into the modern age. The series has its fans, though I know from previous posts on the comics, that there are quite a number of Golden Age fans who dislike the more modern take on the characters.

I suspect Ellis' revamp will not be to their tastes either. I say that because a lot of Public Domain fans see the characters as "theirs" and no matter what another writer does with the Golden Age Daredevil or The Black Terror, it's not how THEY would do it.

As for me, I'll be interested to see what he does. About half the time I really like Ellis work. This might be a case where I like it. Then again, we might see a more phoned in junk like his Avengers: Endless War.

For those of you new to this blog who are interested in some of the original golden age comics featuring these characters, here's two samples of America's Best Comics to download in rar and zip format. (If you need a reader for this format, click here.)

America's Best Comics1.rar

America's Best Comics

A Weekly Earth 2 Comic

This Summer promises to be a big one for DC with 3 Weekly comics running at the same time. The first one has already started (Batman: Eternal) with Future's End coming out next. The latest one announced appears to be one featuring the new Earth 2 characters.
I haven't been a fan of the Earth 2 series even though I had high hopes for it when it started (as it was originally helmed by James Robinson, whose work I usually like.) Still, the weekly format is one that really appeals to me as the stories can avoid the usual month long refridgerator moment that plagues a lot of monthly super hero comics.

I sort of wish that instead of this sort of bunch of off brand DC superheroes that comprises the current Earth 2, that we were instead getting a genuine weekly featuring the original All Star Society in a real period piece by someone like Darwyn Cooke.

...but that's probably me just dreaming. I don't know that current comic fandom would embrace such a series.

- Jim

Monday, April 14, 2014

Marvel's ORIGINAL Original Sins

So the latest event/multi-comic crossover from Marvel is called Original Sins written by Jason Aaron. This event involves the death (surprise!) of the Watcher.

As I understand it, the series will also reveal dark secrets from various heroes pasts, so if your the type of fan who finds such tabloid like retconning disconcerting (or cliched) then I suspect you won't have much interest in this mini-series.

The premise of a mystery that reveals a tenebrous side of the Marvel universe reminded me of another mini-series written by Dan Abnett and draqwn by Igor Kordey in 1998 called Conspiracy:

 In this series, a reporter stumbles across a cold war conspiracy among several key figures in the Marvel Universe (Howard Stark, Bolivar Trask, General Haywerth, Thunderbolt Ross, Edward Harrison) to arrange circumstances that will end in the creation of American superheroes.

Inspired by a blend of X-files and Marvels, the series rewarded fans by connecting the dots between several significant Silver Age Marvel events in a way that felt respectful to the source material. A fantastic review of the series can be found at The Comics Cube.

I think the key with a series like this is that you suggest connections to the readers but still allow wiggle room for there to be other answers. That way you don't devalue their (precious!) knowledge of continuity.

And I think that's where Original Sins is going to fail. While I doubt there will be anything that subverts continuity in the way that Conspiracy did, be on the lookout for grand scale icon tarnishing. And while it might seem a bit fannish for me to say that's a flaw, here's the problem. If you show a character who has been always portrayed as making the heroic decision for decades making a real line crossing call early in their career, how is that supposed to work exactly? Were there no ramifications in the character's personality or attitude after said dark decision? You've sort of just underlined the unreal-ism of the entire genre by doing that haven't you?

It would be like having a Conan story where the barbarian meets a young son who is the result of celebratory night with some wild wench and then showing Conan all torn up about the act of bringing a boy into the world without a father to guide him.

How do you then turn around and tell business as usual Conan stories after that?

I'll be interested to see how Original Sins turns out.

- Jim

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The State of Captain America comics

As I eagerly await viewing the Captain America Winter Soldier movie today (in America), I have been pondering that state of Captain America in the comics now. Cap's star in the comics has definitely risen over the years. In the Bronze Age, he was at best a B-list hero with some occasional moments of greatness (the Englehart and Byrne eras were particularly good)

but during the 80's and 90's the character sort of languished.

But now, Cap is definitely a A-lister. In part due to the fantastic run Ed Brubaker had on the series but mostly because of his prominence in the movies. So, how are Captain America comics now? To answer that question, I thought would sample some of the current stories to see.

First up Captain America 16 (the main title) vol 7 by Rick Remender and Pascal Alixe

It might seem a bit unfair to use the 16th issue of Remender's run for this sampling, but as it was marked as a #1 in the Marvel Now banner, I figured it would make for a good example, because the purpose of such issues is to give new readers a place to jump on, right?

Well, the first thing you'll notice about this book is Captain America is pretty much absent from the entire issue. Instead, Remender focuses on a character of his own creation, Jet Black, the daughter of Arnim Zola, who is a remnant of the Dimension Z storyline that many readers found off putting. And I must admit, while I was a fan of the Dimension Z storyline, I will agree it seemed to run a bit long. When it finally ended, I dropped the series. So, seeing that the issue was basically a Jet Black solo story really put me off. One, because this felt like a wasted opportunity to get the people who were unhappy with the Dimension Z storyline back on board (and the sale figures make it look like that's a good 20K of people) and two, because Jet Black runs around in one of those costumes that seems like it was created during the worst of the 90's comics era when super heroines were all running around in thongs.

There is even a point when one of the characters in the story calls her out on her costume which I guess is Remender's attempt to pacify criticism, but all it really does is make it more awkward. Outside of that, the art isn't so bad. While Alixe doesn't always make the best composition choices for his panels (like the 3rd water tower panel above) his illustrative skills are quite good.

The story itself is a setup for another multi-issue storyline which introduces an agent of a cabal called the Iron Nail called Tsar Sultan (which I think is a lazy name...) In an attempt to get Black to join the Iron Nail, Sultan causes Jett Black to confront visions of her father and the Red Skull who question her new found allegiance to Captain America.

Overall, this is a pretty disappointing introductory issue, so I give it one star.

Next Up, All New Invaders 1 by James Robinson and Steve Pugh

 My love of the Invaders is well documented on this blog, and over the recent years, I've watched Marvel revisit the title, usually with dismaying results.

But as he's proven in the past, James Robinson has a great knack for breathing new life into Golden Age characters. I see a lot of fans say it's because he respects the source material (which I'm sure is true) but mostly I think Robinson prefers to write stories where characters grapple with remorse, regret and familial obligation and those are themes easily applied to Golden Age characters. Also since such stories carry more gravitas than your average "Can we trust Magneto!" comic, when does Robinson engage in fan service, it feels more substantive and noteworthy.

After a two page prologue with Kree fighting an Imperial Guardsman in the desert, Robinson reintroduces readers to Jim Hammond, The Original Human Torch, who is now working as an auto mechanic in a small town in Illinois. This gives us a vista that is  physically removed from the normal New York Marvel universe and echoes the folksy tone of the book.

Of course, it's not long before the Kree we saw in the prologue show up looking for an artifact that was used by the Nazis in World War II. In explaining what they are looking for, the Kree give us a nice flashback with the Invaders and a few surprise guests:

At the cost of revealing his true identity and alienating his friends in the town, the Torch fights back against the Kree. Outnumbered and overpowered, the Kree seem unstoppable until the end when  Captain America and Bucky show up to join the fight.

It's a pretty standard beginning to a superhero story but where it shines is in the dialogue. Unlike many other Marvel writers who are write dialogue that makes their heroes sound like Starbucks baristas, Robinson's characters have a voice that sounds fitting.  The art for this series is from British illustrator Steve Pugh, whose has been around since 1990 is probably best known for his work on Hellblazer and Animal Man. He doesn't have a lot of experience drawing your standard superhero fight comic which makes for some weird choices during the battle scenes:

On the flip-side his faces are more expressive than you typically see in Marvel comics today which compliments Robinson's dialogue skills.

 I was pretty satisfied with this comic and will continue buying the rest of the (mini?) series. I give it 4 stars.

The last entry in this post is the most disappointing.

Avengers Endless War OGN by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone

Warren Ellis is one of those writers who can sometimes turn in great work with some very creative ideas. I've been a fan of work at times (Doom 2099, The Authority, Planetary, Transmetropolitan, Hellblazer, Thunderbolts) as well as a detractor (Ultimate FF, Iron Man, Secret Avengers) His work is a real mixed bag of good and bad (imo) with the bulk of his good stuff being his personal projects or superhero work from early in his career. He's made statements that suggest he doesn't have the same level of personal appreciation for superhero comics that someone like Grant Morrison has. And I suspect his apathy to the genre has only gotten worse over time. As a result, some of his worst work for the big two has a phoned in feel to it. Still, knowing all that, I sort of expected this maiden launch of Marvel's OGN line to be one of those places where Ellis might shine again.

Instead, this ended up being 120 pages of what felt like a movie tie-in. With a price tag of $20 (for the digital version) that works out to be cheaper (per page) than most current Marvel comics, but a LOT of this book feels like padding. For one thing, there are 35 pages of scenes where the Avengers are just standing around and talking, like this:

And quite a number of panels everywhere where nothing is weird mini-pinups

I almost get the feeling that this was supposed to be a Annual or Giant-size comic (60 pages?) and at the last minute the project was increased to become this longer OGN.

Looking at those pages above, you may notice, as other fans have, that there is a certain stiffness to the illustrations. While I didn't find it as off putting as a lot of other people, it is a little curious. I don't think I remember Mike McKone drawing like that in the past. I think it's a result of extra pages being rushed out. Compare the face of this girl in the first scene of the comic:

With this scene with Steve Rogers

I'm also a bit confused by who was the target audience for this comic. On first glance I figured it was the fans of the Avengers movie since the costumes and lineup (the Hulk is included here) seem to fall in line with the movie. But they do weird things like color Hawkeye's hair blonde and give Iron Man gold and grey (?) armor and add Ms. Marvel to the mix that, again, makes me think somewhere, this was originally going to be set in the regular Marvel universe.

Whatever the audience, this book will probably not entertain them. And it seems the ratings on Amazon back this up. I've seen quite a number of people refer to this as Endless Snoretime and I think that's about right. I give it 1 star.

I'm going to wrap it up here. To those of you going to the movie this weekend, let me know what you think of it!

- Jim


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