Thursday, August 28, 2014

Do you still read comics? If so, how Many?

I'm sometimes taken aback when I encounter fans of old comics (or comic book movies) that do not read any new comics. Usually their reasons are perfectly understandable and fall into one or more categories below:
  • Too expensive
  • Distaste for modern aesthetics
  • Moved to graphic novels
  • Some event or storyline drove them away

It raises the question for me: How many people that read this blog actually buy and read new comics? For me the answer is in the 5-10 range a month.

To get some idea, I created the poll over in the right  here --->

If you no longer read comics, why not? Is it one of the reasons I mentioned above?

G+ and Feedly readers, feel free to comment or pop over to my blog to answer the question.

- Jim

Monday, August 25, 2014

The 3 Types of Star Wars Fans

StevieB returns with a post on a subject I rarely give the attention it deserves: Star Wars!

I once got a piece of advice to write what I’m passionate about. Something that’s always been near and dear to my heart has been Star Wars. If you’re still reading, I know what you’re thinking. “Another one of those crazy Star Wars guys.” Well you may be right but ever since I can remember I’ve been in love with the Galaxy Far Far Away and I hope to share some of that love with you. It seems, to me, that I’m an experiment here in the Flashback Universe Blog. Hopefully I won’t need my targeting computer to shoot the torpedo into that small little exhaust port that is your Star Wars fandom.

For my first blog post, I want to define the three major Star Wars fans as I see them and where I fall amongst the ups and downs of Star Wars Fandom. So, we have the prequel era fans. This is, generally, the younger audience. By younger I mean people in their 20’s. Episode 1 came out in 1999. I was 13. I would make an

Original Trilogy Purist completely Nerd rage by saying that this episode was my favorite; but more on them later. I know what you’re thinking:

I understand that he’s not the most interesting character in Star Wars but you cannot deny the fact that kids love him. George Lucas has always said that Star Wars has always been for kids; and my 5 year old daughter found this character to be very entertaining. As a 13 year old, I loved the city of Theed on Naboo along with the amazing light saber sequence at the end that I still hold as being one of the best duels in the saga.

I won’t break down the other two as much, but Episode 3, the only Star Wars movie to be PG-13, really helped bring up the lackluster Episode 2 (my least favorite of the six). The Anakin and Obi Wan duel at the end of Revenge of the Sith was very brutal and emotional. Very entertaining. The infamous Darth Vader “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” excluded.

The prequel era fans also tend to find the Original Trilogy rather boring. But there are some people who love both. This is what I like to call the “Everything Star Wars” fan. No matter what comes out, they eat it up. The Clone Wars animated show (Which is actually very good and currently streaming on Netflix. I highly recommend it), the comic books, novels, and even the video games. This is the kind of fan that when asked what trilogy they prefer they generally just exclaim, all of them! This is the heart and soul of Star Wars fandom. There is no anger towards George Lucas for “ruining their child hood” or complete avoidance of the original trilogy because the graphics are terrible. I am a little bias here because this is the category I find myself in. But I do like to engage in the occasional argument of which is better, Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi? *cough Empire *cough.

Not so much the “who shot First” argument. Han is a bad ass to me. No Matter what.

So I want you all to know that I debated hard what order to put this in. I was going to save the “everything fan” for last but it just didn’t seem to flow. So, last but not least there’s the Original Trilogy purest. These are the people that didn’t want their beloved Star Wars to be altered at all from the way they vividly remember them from child hood. The fact that George added a Dewback to the background on Tatooine meant their child hood was just raped! I recently watched The People VS George Lucas...

...also on Netflix, and I was astounded by the amount of people that felt like they were owed something because the original Trilogy was altered. This is the group I understand the least. I get it, you grew up with these movies like I did with the altered movies and the new trilogy. But if changes were made to Episode 1 and rereleased I really don’t think I would lose my mind over it. I can guarantee I wouldn’t scream out that my child hood is now ruined. Even when the altered DVDs came out, they came with unaltered versions as well. But that wasn’t good enough, people wanted unaltered Blu Rays along with the new even more altered high def versions released on the same format. At what point is enough, enough? That being said, the current rumor is that Disney is working hard to transform the unaltered into high def for a blu ray release. So, they may actually get their wish.

Now you know where I fall in this grouping that I’ve been judging Star Wars fans for years, where do you fall? With the amp towards Episode 7 I’d like to post some new and interesting things that pop out of the interwebs. Is that something you’d like to read about? I hope you enjoyed reading this as much I did writing it and remember, the Force will be with you, always.

Sorry about the Jar Jar pic.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

WHY Superman's Rogues Gallery isn't better

The original title of this post was going to be Why Superman's Rogues Gallery Sucks, but bowing to some of the arguments put forth since I proposed the notion earlier this week, I've decided to soften the title. With that said, let's examine how the some of the factors that kept Superman from developing a more formidable rogues gallery (for instance,  why, by issue 299 when illustrating his 9 Deadliest Foes, are the Toy Man and The Prankster on the cover?)

I think the start of this development begins with the Frederic Wertham's campaign against violence and immorality in comics in the 1950's. In his book, Seduction of the Innocent, Wertham made many unfounded accusations against comics at the time, some of which included suggestions that Batman and Robin were a sort of homosexual fairy tale.

Wertham's book caused a bit of a sensation at the time resulting in the comics industry developing the Comics Code Association to mollify some of the public outcry. DC (National Comics) responded by moving away from "fight comics" to more outlandish stories - a strategy that Superman editor  Mort Weisinger  developed which worked well for the Man of Steel...

...but not as well for Batman.

During this era of Superman, Weisinger introduced many of the imaginative concepts that have endured to this day (Kandor, The Phantom Zone, The Legion of Super-heroes, Krypto, ect...) Because of the fantastic nature of Superman's powers and his otherworldly nature, this run of Superman was very successful. Over the years, it was not uncommon for the editors to look at sales of prior issues...
...and then develop stories that echoed the more successful issues.

So what you end up with is a cycle wherein the more imaginative/evocative covers sort of dictated Superman editorial for a while. These were covers that rarely featured Superman in a one on one struggle with a villain, as Red Kryptonite and Imaginary Stories provided a means to present more evocative storylines.

On the rare occasion that Superman was shown battling some worthy foe, it was usually tied to some gimmick.

 And as the target audience was (at the time) a sort of ever replenishing pool of juvenile readers, the use of outlandish ideas worked for many years (decades even)

[ image from Superman in the Bronze Age blog ]

And while Batman got a revamp in the 60's which allowed writers to focus more on adventure/crime stories featuring such intriguing opponents as Ras Al Ghul, Superman never got a similar editorial makeover. The best new villains he got was Terra-Man and Vartox (both of which never really gained a fan following)

Vartox is also symptomatic of another problem Superman had in developing a rogues gallery in that often, the opponent would become an ally at some point. Overall, this period didn't really produce a lot of new nemesis for Kal-El. Instead, we saw a revisioning of old Superman foes:

And while the 80's and 90's produced some great Superman villains (Mongul, Cyborg Superman, Doomsday) the fight comics nature of modern stories has given them a certain sameness. That is to say that new rogues all focus on being a physical superior to Superman. That's how we end up with characters like Wraith in Superman Unchained.

In this modern age of retro navel gazing and intellectual property hoarding, I doubt we will see many new inspiring rogues developed for Superman.

And that's sort of a shame.

- Jim

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Does Superman's Rogues Gallery Suck?

Superman is arguably the most recognizable superhero in the world. However the popularity of his rogues gallery pales when compared to the villains of Batman, Spider-man and The Flash.

The problem is there just isn't a lot of depth on the bench as they say in football. If you ask most Superman fans to name a Top 10 Superman villains, I bet you won't get past seven before The Toyman makes the list.

Even when you step forward into the modern era when the value of a good rogues gallery has been recognized, things don't get much better. Check out this cover of Superman's villains:

Who the heck are half of those guys? Seriously, that back row is made of Kalibak, a yellow guy and THREE guys whose faces are hidden. It's like some sort of meta statement on the generic nature of Superman villains.

Oh, and Toy Man get's a second billing after Luthor's Daughter (a character who probably doesn't exist in the DC 52)

I'm going to examine why I think the Superman Rogues is so sucky this week, but before I get into it, I thought I'd introduce the concept in a separate post so people who disagree can get it out of their system early.

So, with that, feel free to tell me why you think I'm wrong. :)

- Jim

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Winter Wyvern - Is the Tongue Too Long?

Here is a design sketch for NorthStars that I'm not too sure about. The tongue seems a bit distracting. (Click to enlarge)

What do you think?

- Jim

Monday, August 11, 2014

Public Domain Superhero Action Figures

Here's a kickstarter project that may be of interest to fans of Public Domain Superheroes - Amazing Heroes Retro Style Action Figures

Amazing Heroes is fronted by Bill Murphy of Fresh Monkey Fiction a studio of artists which has several comic projects under its belt. One comic, The Midnight Men looks especially appealing to me (and it's available as a cbr or pdf on their site).

Of the Amazing Heroes selected to be in the first wave of action figures, I really like The Black Terror and Daredevil the best:

If this project makes it to a second wave, I would like to see a place on the Fresh Monkey Fiction site where fans could vote on which characters to add to the collection. Bozo The Iron Man would be my top choice.

If you aren't familiar with Bozo The Robot (as he was also called) you can read download two comics with his stories from a previous post on this site.

Who would you want to see in future Amazing Heroes collections?

- Jim

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Did DC Blink? Why did they move BvsS?

In case you missed it, yesterday Warner Bros made a big announcement wherein they outlined proposed dates for 10 Superhero movies up to 2020. Among the movies listed was a new date for Batman vs Superman. Batman vs Superman was originally scheduled to come out on the same day as Captain America 3, but now it will come out on March 25th, 2016. What, if anything, does this mean?

Several months ago, when both movies were announced as being on the same day, most everyone agreed one would end up moving. It seemed certain that rather than risk having box office cannibalized by a competing superhero movie either Marvel or Warner Bros would back off the May 6th date. The question was who would move first. Now that WB has moved their movie, one has to wonder: Are they getting cold feet?

Over at Forbes.Com, in an article titled: Batman V Superman Flees The Summer Flees Captain America 3 writer Scott Mendelson, certainly seems to think so:

This move is no doubt spurred by the $94 million opening weekend of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which bested the odds by delivering the third-biggest opening weekend of the year in August while breaking the August debut weekend record by about 36%. At this point, Marvel Studios is a brand in-and-of-itself with the studio itself being the most potent marketing tool, akin to a live-action Pixar.

I too think the timing of the move coinciding with the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy is a bit coincidental. (I'd also be inclined to blame the mix response to the new Wonder Woman design, but that might be reaching...)

So, how will this work out? This might have actually be a smart move by WB as it will allow them to get a big jump on the Summer movie season which might allow them to capitalize on pent up anticipation for the Summer movie season among fans.

As the Forbes article points out, The Hunger Games did quite well in March ($152 million) back in 2012, so it's not impossible that BvS could break 100 million opening in that month.

Still, it does make you wonder why they didn't go with that plan in the first place. Marvel had prior claim to the May 6th date well ahead of Warner Bros announcement to put BvS on that date. Either WB originally didn't think to check for conflicts or thought it wouldn't matter. Both excuses don't speak well for their business acumen.

Nor does it give me a lot of faith for how the movie will eventually shake out.

- Jim

Friday, August 1, 2014

Is Guardians of the Galaxy TOO Funny?

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last night with some friends and while I enjoyed the movie, there were a few things that gave me pause for concern. Note: While I'm not going to discuss the plot in the post below, if you are the type who sees ANY discussion of a movie prior to seeing as a spoiler, then you'll want to skip today's post and come back after you've seen the move.

First, let me state for the record: GotG will probably be one of the biggest crowd pleasers (if not THE biggest) that Marvel/Disney has put out to date. The audience I watched it with enjoyed this movie quite a bit judging from their reactions. The film zooms along at a fast pace, but seems to avoid feeling overly frenetic by injecting character development and humor throughout the film. There are times when it feels like it might careen into the sort of chaos that plagues the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels (which often feel like skits and scavenger hunts more than stories) but it never goes that far.

What some people might find off putting is the amount of funny business in the movie. Without a doubt, this is the most humor laden film Marvel has produced. It sort of reminds me of the old Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder movies from the 70's in its structure and tone.

That's not necessarily a bad thing per se, it's just when you are watching a movie with Thanos and Ronan The Accuser (whose motivations are a bit hazy in the movie btw) the steady stream of one liners and sight gags prevents any real tension or drama from developing.

The other thing I wonder about is where do we go from here? Marvel was already sort of trapped in a box with their movies in that now audiences expect a certain type of movie every time the go see a Marvel movie. Is GotG going to raise the wacky fun bar so high that we will never see a more serious take in future Marvel films? I would sort of like to see Marvel venture out into other genres with some of their upcoming movies (like a Dr. Strange horror movie or a Daredevil Crime/Heist movie) but how would such films be received if the general public starts to expect lots of yuks in every Marvel movie. Remember, one of the criticisms of the Man of Steel movie by many reviewers was it wasn't fun enough.

I don't know. My concern may be all for naught. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier wasn't overburdened by comedy, so Marvel may be embracing the idea that their films can have different tones. I guess we will see when the new batch of films starts to emerge.

Final Word on the movie: If you enjoyed the trailers, you will love Guardians of the Galaxy.

- Jim


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