Movie Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA : THE FIRST AVENGER aka why AMC and REALD 3D should be ashamed

Just came from seeing Joe Johnston’s CAPTAIN AMERICA. Verdict In six words or less?

‘I can do this all day.’

The above being a quote from the film, and translates into me saying: “Yeah. I dug it.”

CAPTAIN AMERICA:FIRST AVENGER is an exceptionally well written encapsulation of a character I grew up with, and yet tweaked to make an easy jumping on point for those coming into the film without any prior knowledge of this character.

The script by the screen-writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delivers the universals of courage and sacrifice, that are as old as the race of man; as old as our ballads of heroism and blood.

Plus I was quite impressed, with how well the movie does touch on much of Marvel Comics’s rich mythology. Offering easter eggs for those in the know, from Bucky Barnes to Stark to the Howling Commandos to Arnim Zola (his first appearance his face framed in glass, ala the comics) to a quick view of the golden age Human Torch, while not bogging down newcomers with exposition on this minutiae… it’s an impressive script.

Impressive, even touching performances, Chris Evans laying to rest any qualms about his ability to own the role, Derek Luke as the howling commando Gabe Jones (I like this character in the comics, and I like the fact of this character in the film. I like the fact the film notices, if only peripherally, the large number of people of color, some would say disproportionate number, that serve in every war, but particularly WWII). Hugo Weaving, even acting under tons of latex, delivers the gravitas, as of course does the great Tommy Lee Jones. And Stanley Tucci and Sebastian Stan of KINGS fame, are also highlights of a very strong cast.

All capably directed by Joe Johnston of the much maligned (unfairly maligned) WEREWOLF. Plus, I did like the present day framing sequence. Nicely done.

All that’s to the asset column. The minus is… while THE FIRST AVENGER is a very good movie, it never really feels great.

You don’t leave the theater going, “that was amazing!”. Like you might… having just left the theater from seeing Spiderman II or Empire Strikes Back or Tombstone or SuperMan The Movie.

So THE FIRST AVENGER is a very good movie, but even while watching it, you’re aware, acutely aware, that it is never more than very good.

And that’s fine, it doesn’t have to be great, though, I guess that’s the hope. But it hits all the points it needs to, and does it in a serviceable manner, I mean even with hindsight being 20/20 I myself can’t say how they could have made the movie any better than it was, and accomplish the inherent goals of an origin and lead-in movie.

It suffers from the needs of its duties.

As must we all.

It does have a tendency to feel long and episodic, but it is not a long movie, so there’s something pace-wise there, that is off just enough to be noticeable; But not enough to be disappointing.

And another problem with the film is you are not with any character long enough for them to be more than caricature.

In fact, I’m thinking through the movie that the film would possibly work better, pacing wise, as one of those 6 part BBC or HBO tv seasons rather than a film. Just because every character is touched on in just such a cursory manner.

And if this occurs to you while watching the movie in the theater, then you do have a pacing issue. And the final battle with Red Skull, both battles actually, come off as anti-climatic. Neither one really wows.

This is coming across as if I didn’t like the film, I did. I liked the film, and will add it to my DVD collection, when it comes out. I just think it could have been more.

I think Marvel Studios is to be applauded for in a market where quality is a crapshoot at best, creating consistently well written and over-all satisfying films, that not only stand alone but integrate into a larger cinematic tapestry. You have to go all the way back to the silent films of Fritz Lang, to get anything close to as cohesive and ambitious a cinematic mythology.

That said, the films CAPTAIN AMERICA and to some extent THOR, I do think illustrate the… lack of climax to Marvel’s individual films. They are being thought of in many ways as episodic television, episodes in a larger serial, which is great for the long term plan, but I think leaves you with a safe, but less then sensational individual movie.

It’s a hard tight rope Marvel Studios is walking, and to this point a quite successful walk. The telling moment will come with their AVENGERS movie, that all these half dozen films have been building toward, and to some extent… sacrificed toward.

Will the Avengers be that amazing, climatic movie that stands the test of time and is the worthy culmination of all this buildup?

Because failing that, failing a really great film (not an okay film, not a good film, not a B grade film, but a GREAT film)… failing that, then the studio that trained audiences to sit through credits to see teasers and trailers (a brilliant move by the way, that if you had asked me if it was possible to do in the age of Attention Deficit Disorder… I would have said no, and am glad to be wrong)… this same studio, may end up training audiences to wait for the DVD when it comes to future comic movies.

Marvel Studios needs a HUGE homerun with the AVENGERS film. Especially with chains like AMC pulling stunts to make the crappy and more expensive REALD 3D versions of the film, the only versions available most of the time.

I went to see a matinée showing of CAPTAIN AMERICA. Turns out that one was in REALD 3D (that was not advertised as being in 3D when I checked the times. It’s like theater chains are starting to hide which versions are in 3D so they can surprise you with the higher price when you get there).

So I’m already at the theater, and no other options available, so not only do I end up seeing this flick in REALD 3D, a crappy process that darkens the screen too much, and the stupid “one size fits none” glasses, sits on your nose just at the right spot to give you an annoying headache, but you have to pay MORE for this mediocre viewing experience??!!! Really???!!!

Anyhow, I spent most of the movie holding the glasses away from the bridge of my nose, and completely taking them off in night scenes so I could actually see some brightness in the picture.

AMC is on my frigging list. AMC and the stupid Sony Backed REALD 3D process.

This is why I say Marvel Studios is going to need a homerun with THE AVENGERS, cause people are not going to continue putting up with this price gouging from the theaters, and annoying viewing experiences, for simply okay films.

AVENGERS needs to be outstanding (and not offered in Reald 3D) or from now on Marvel Studios films gets relegated to the wait for DVD list.

Time will tell.

So Final Thoughts: CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER is a solid B movie. But it’s low on re-watchability and the ‘wow/impressive’ factor. If you haven’t seen it in the theater, if you can get a standard 2d Matinée showing cheap, go for it. Otherwise just rent it on DVD. If you, like me, enjoy DVD commentaries, and are looking forward to cast and crew discussing the film then go ahead and purchase. Otherwise… stick to rental.

MOVIE REVIEW! THOR IMAX 3D… The Verdict is…..????

Well the long awaited THOR movie is finally exploding across screens everywhere, and as I mentioned in my previous posts a lot hinged on this film, not least of which is a turnaround in a string of commercial disappointments for director Kenneth Branagh.

Well having just come back from seeing THOR in IMAX 3D… my verdict….??

It’s good, I enjoyed myself. It’s nicely paced, surprisingly smart film that also hit all the notes and plot points to shut-up people who were complaining about a multi-cultural cast, particularly Idris Elba (who always brings it), for pretty much all the story reasons I surmised.

So I was expecting it be action packed, but not necessarily as inventive, and even touching as it was.

Now that said, it does perhaps not quite meet the Juggernaut action expectations built up, but a solid story and performances, make up for that.

Kenneth Branagh handling perhaps the most difficult of all comic adaptations, exceptionally well, finding that difficult balance between regal and relate-able.

THOR even in the comic books, is extremely hard to a/get right and b/command a storyline. Instead working best as the heavy gun of the Avengers, then as a solo character. So for Branagh to steer this ship safely into movie theater shores, is no small accomplishment.

That said the ending felt a bit anti-climatic, the most effective action is clearly in the early portions of the movie. But that aside, the story beats, the emotional intensity, the Shakespearean like levels of tragedy and sacrifice, Branagh hits well. Hits hard enough… to satisfy.

Now leaving the movie proper to discuss the projection of the movie. I saw this in IMAX 3D, paying rather than the normal $8 matinée price, an exorbitant $14.50 for ‘IMAX 3D’. A $6.50 surcharge.

Before seeing this movie I couldn’t get any reviews to really discuss the 3D and if it was worth it. I’ve seen my share of IMAX 3D movies, real ones and the retrofitted AMC ones, and the ones not shot in 3D but simply post-processed, ie THOR.

Outside of a real IMAX THEATER (5 to 8 stories high, viewable at better science centers throughout the world), the best I’ve seen at an AMC IMAX theater (a midget IMAX) is of course AVATAR. Cameron pushing the technology to create 3D that actually works in a cine-plex.

But beyond AVATAR on IMAX 3D, most other 3D films suffer in comparison. THOR is no exception, it looks okay in 3D, but closer to the inferior Sony backed REALD 3D process, then real IMAX 3D. Sony’s inferior REALD 3D, gives a sense of looking into the screen, but it’s unable to give a real sense of the screen coming forward into real space, your space. This is what true IMAX 3D does so well. Not only offering depth, looking into something, but immersion, the film intruding and surrounding your real space.

So THOR IN IMAX 3D, looks okay, it just isn’t great. It isn’t IMAX 3D, and therefore is not worth the $6.50 surcharge. I personally think 3D movies should be the same price as 2D movies, but particularly if you’re going to charge that premium, the 3D experience should be breathtaking, and THOR IN IMAX 3D is just okay. The 3D almost transparent, and therefore, what’s the point.

So all in all if you can see this in 3D for no price increase, go for it. Otherwise avoid and stick to 2D on a big screen, you won’t be missing anything. And may actually gain something in brightness of picture.

3D is a nice thing for the occasional viewing, for the gee whiz factor, but it is no replacement for a really beautiful rendered and composed 2D film.

Just as HDTV for all its praise is not, nor never will be the equal of 35mm film, much less 70mm film.

HDTV is like DVD, a bastard compression medium, used to compress film into something viewable into the consumer confines of a tv and a living room, rather than the commercial standard of a movie screen and theater. Similar, but make no mistake, inferior, to true film.

And whereas a 70mm true IMAX 3D movie is in no way inferior to standard 70mm film, it is not appropriate for everything.

Cinema is a language.

And just as Black and White film can speak in a way color film can’t, and why I’m a huge Film Noir fan, 2D is also a distinct cinematic language, and sometimes that flat plane is the thing.

Not being in the shot, but observing the shot, is the thing.

Just as you can do THE THIRD MAN in color, but you would lose an ineffable part of the tone by so doing, that’s the same way that David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm, saying things about distance and alienation, would be lost translated into the “in-your-face” histrionics of IMAX 3D.

I like 3D in all its forms, to differing degrees, but even in its best forms I understand it’s a gimmick, that should not be overused.

3D ultimately is about lying to your brain, it’s about forcing a lie onto your brain, that this thing in front of you on the screen has as much depth and reality as the person sitting beside you or the world outside the theater.

In moderation it’s a fun gimmick.

But with this recent push to 3D TVs, you risk making it something else. You risk making the exception of lying to your brain, the rule, and what long term effects this can have, particularly on children’s development, growing up exposed constantly to this new medium, what challenge or aberration to their motor skills, and coordination, and socialization?, are questions that in the rush toward a new revenue stream… too many are ignoring.

Some of these 3D TVs are coming with warnings. You should heed them, and leave the 3D in the theater. My gut reaction? Stick to 2D for the home. At least till all the bugs are shaken out.

Likewise troubling, is the Sony push to digitize cinemas, as it has nothing to do with the best picture quality and everything to do with control and maximizing profit streams. The theaters forced to go this route will see their profit margins dwindle, and find themselves ever more at the mercy of the studios. And true 70mm and 35 mm theaters will go the way of the dodo, becoming a high priced specialty item for the few to seek out.

Here ends the public service announcement. :). Back to our THOR review.

Here on out I’ll be avoiding all 3D movies, unless a/specifically shot in IMAX 3D, with the Cameron cameras, or b/if it’s something especially gimmicky and is the same price as a regular film.

So given this criteria Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS III, which meets criteria # 1, will be the next 3D flick I check out. Unlike some people, I’m still quite enamored of Michael Bay’s visuals and always have fun at his movies. So if any movie can visually give Cameron’s AVATAR a battle, it may be Bay’s TRANSFORMERS.

So getting back to THOR, a very good if not great movie, that is poised to be the critical and commercial hit that Kenneth Branagh was definitely needing. And stay past the credits for the easter egg, if so inclined. Nothing earth shattering, but it’s fun that Marvel continues to do this universe building. Giving people a reason to sit through the credits.

Grade is a strong B/B+.

INTO THE MYSTERY: Remembering DWAYNE MCDUFFIE

“You writers live too much out of the world.”
— Carol Reed’s THIRD MAN.

I just heard about Mr. McDuffie’s passing.

We had exchanged emails, a couple weeks ago, about doing an interview.

I wanted to discuss his work and discuss how DC Editorial had hampered his comic book work on JLA (as well as Marvel on FF), and the success of his animation work, and his future plans.

Life being life and we all being immortal, I had put off following up on the interview until we had more time.

Needless to say, time and tide continues to surprise us all.

A towering individual, not only in terms of height (he was 6’7″) but in terms of talent, and enthusiasm, he will be greatly missed by me and many.

I think in a medium that is ever less inclusive, that is going backwards rather than forwards (how DC and Marvel treated him is part and parcel of people who consider themselves liberal but are not, holding ever more egregious lines of pride and prejudice), he was a rare voice against the inherent prejudice, tokenism, and marginalization of people and more the presentation of people.

He had this outrageous idea that these tales of modern myth, could support more than the single token, and tokenized, character of color and instead provide a multiplicity of characters of color. In a medium that still follows to great degree the Disney model of segregation and marginalization, he wanted the myths and the mythmakers… to be better than that.

And to this end he made fantastic inroads into redefining the myths we feed our kids through shows like STATIC SHOCK and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, and with the latter expanding the scope/expectations of American televised animation. JLU is very much a cartoon that appeals to adults who grew up on these characters, as well as kids, and offers a storyline with scope. And remains a watershed work.

It is therefore sad, and inexplicable that with such a pedigree, the editorial department of DC and Marvel, refused to grant his comic work the same license and freedom as his Animation work, and all readers are the poorer for that… sabotage. DC’s actions seemingly more about getting the Milestone characters, completely under thumb, to no doubt like other multi-cultural friendly properties, such as ZUDA, be misused, marginalized and ultimately taken off the table, and buried from the sight of day.

I love all these keepers of a 50s status quo, of the white way, particularly at DC Comics Publishing wing, who come out now in the wake of his passing to praise McDuffie’s work, when they did nothing but their best to butcher his work while alive. Hypocrisy. Be honest now, in your heart of hearts, be honest. You stink just a little of hypocrisy.

Save your pretty lies, and if true sorrow feel, show it in your actions, and not in your primping words.

You did wrong by him in life, do right by him in death, and in so doing, do right by yourself.

Grow.

Learn the contours of your own prejudice and your own culpability, so you can get past it. Be more open to characters and creators of color. use well the Milestone characters, and support diversity in your mainstream books. Stop trying to erase the good creators have done with characters of color, with Marvel it’s them tearing down all the great work Christopher Priest did (instead of making his BLACK PANTHER and CREW work available again, and better yet getting him back on BLACK PANTHER, Marvel seems committed to killing or marginalizing every strong male Black Character they have), with DC it’s them going back to the 50s in terms of all their mainstream characters.

Don’t wait till someone’s demise, to realize you’ve stunted not only their growth, but by doing so your growth, and my growth, and everyone’s. When new visions are sabotaged, the medium suffers. And the medium has suffered with the interference in Duffie’s comic book work.

But in the face of that, one ever to go forward, to shine lights, rather than curse darknesses, Dwayne McDuffie continued to tell stories. His recent CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS, being the best of the DC Animated Adaptations, and his Animated ABSOLUTE SUPERMAN on my list to see.

So Animation and comics has lost a great ambassador, proponent and crafter for these four colored adventures, but more it has lost a fighter against ignorance, and intolerance and stupidity and stereotyping, in a medium filled with too many people, too many editors and writers and decision makers, who live and die only by these inanities.

But for this one fighter lost, McDuffie’s work has served to introduce many to these fields of wonders and whimsy, and hopefully to inspire new mythmakers and new myths.

My best to him and his, as he precedes us into the Mystery.

I’m going to direct you to this recent 2 pt podcast interview with Christopher Priest, coutesy of the guys at Dollcast, as it touches a bit on Milestone, and is just an invaulable insight into a medium, that while little read, becomes ever more influential to other mediums.

Here’s PART I.

and

Here’s PART II

And once you listen to that feel free to go here for a listing of books written by Dwayne McDuffie.

On DC Comics New york Comic Con 2010 News! Zuda Comics and Milestone comics! Price changes and more! Pt 1 of 2!

Well had hoped to be partaking of New York Comic Con goodness today, I had even prepped a nice itinerary of panels and events, but some last minute snafus got in the way. But (hopefully) that just means I get to bring you the Sunday perspective rather than Saturday, and with Sunday typically calmer, it should allow me to bring you some interesting coverage.

Plan is to head out in the AM so I can crash the Sunday Convention doors when they open. We’ll see how well that plan pans out. :)

But what I can bring you in the interim, is a bit of feedback on the first 2 days of the New York Comic Con (coverage/news has been surprisingly light), and following that offer a slightly sleep deprived, yet heartfelt questioning on what’s going on with DC Comics. Okay… onto the ranting :) :

Home and the Grace of God

ComingSoon.Net- Has a 5 page gallery of pictures from the con. Uhhh— don’t know who their photographer is, but you are at one of the nations biggest cons and all you can think to take pictures of is toys and props???? Wow. Either that’s the most boring con ever, or ComingSoon needs a new photographer. :). Judge for yourself.

Newsarama- True to their name is on the ball with coverage of various panels. Though the bit of news that got my attention was DC’s price drop, dropping their price from the insane $3.99 price point back to the nearly as insane, but just this side of acceptable $2.99 price point.

Now the following stance is primarily regarding the physical form of comics. But drop a $1 off the pricing and the stance is valid for the digital form of the product. For more on my take on tangible versus digital, go here.

I guess their shrinking sales figures woke them up to the fact (a fact that just about everyone told them before they embarked on the path) that $3.99 (ie $4!!) for a couple dozen pages of paper that will take you ten minutes to read… is not good value for your money.

Ideally I’d like to see the big two comic book companies (Marvel owned by Disney and DC owned by Time-Warner) pick up and run with Warren Ellis’ Slimline/Fell model of pricing… $1.99. That’s the price-point you need, particularly in this economy where the Average person’s salary is stagnant or decreasing, to not only maintain existing reader interest, but to create a viable entry price point for new readers.

Now I’m not crazy that DC is cutting 2 pages of story, 20 rather than 22 pages, to bring the price-point back to $2.99. So they are pretty much screwing the people who were just getting $2.99 books, which was pretty much everybody. So to look at this another way you’re still forcing an across the line price increase by reducing the content for the regular $2.99 books, while still asking a $2.99 price tag for them.

Crap! That makes me mad.

Leave it to DC, to make a necessity, lower prices or lose market share, yet another way to screw the consumer.

I think it reeks of unhealthy quibbling from one of the more public faces of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. I mean seriously, you’re going to stiff us across the line for 2 pages.

Johns, Dido, Lee, Wayne… (a company with entirely too many titles, and too few people really willing to steer the ship), are you watching this?! Great Caesar’s ghost! If we’re losing 2 pages across the line, kick the darn price down to $2.50!

Sigh.

I was taken in by this announcement until I really started thinking about it.

I mean don’t get me wrong it is a start. It’s a start… an underhanded, devious, greedy, backstabbing, slimy, smarmy, odious and stinky start. But it’s a start.

Now all they have to do is publish some books worth buying, and I might jump back on the DC bandwagon.

Oooh, riled a few of you huh?!

Here’s the thing, I’m not a DC basher. I like DC.

While Marvel was the comic company that, like most kids my age, galvanized my attention in my youth; heading into my teenage years it was DC who had picked up the coming challenge of the direct market and a more mature customer base and gave us a very sophisticated and yes literate body of work, in an amazingly short amount of time.

Wolfman and Perez’s NEW TEEN TITANS (look at that great cover! We’ll discuss in a minute how current day DC comics have a hard time producing great covers), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, Moore, Bisette and Totleben’s SWAMP THING, Miller’s DARK KNIGHT and YEAR ONE, Baron and Guice’s THE FLASH , Englehart and Joe Staton’s run on THE GREEN LANTERN, O’Neil and Cowan’s THE QUESTION, DeMatteis and Giffen’s JUSTICE LEAGUE, (preceded by the equally good run by Gerry Conway and Luke McDonnell on the closing issues of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA) and of course Wolfman and Perez on CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. All those books in relative spitting distance of each other and in many ways they still define what is best in this medium we call comics.

Those runs are memorable touchstones to a lost holy grail, that to this day, companies are still mining for, still trying to recapture. Not least of all DC itself.

DC

Here’s the thing I’m aware from podcasts that DC has quite a few talented creators out there, and some are doing good books. Some are doing FANTASTIC books! DC has one of the best creators, in my opinion, working in comics today in Mark Chiarello, Art Director (as of this writing) of DC Comics. His SOLO and his WEDNESDAY COMICS, in a time where the height of creativity or thinking outside the box in comics, was Zombie variant covers, or killing/resurrecting characters, are two projects, that continue to blow my mind. Just inventive, thinking out the box audacity. And that he’s also am amazing writer and artist (His Negro League cards are STUNNING!) in his own right, just makes it all the more odd that DC doesn’t just turn over the keys to him.

But they don’t.

Instead DC seems to be retreating from very innovative concepts and growth, growth that seemed to have been building up to a watershed of creativity perhaps akin to that 80s period I mentioned, but seemingly forestalled in what can only be seen as a homogenization of what was becoming an ethnically diverse line.

DCs problem today is the same problem that has always been an Achilles heel of comics. Braindead marketing, and over-saturation/flooding of the market.

“Oooohh. One Batman book is good. That mean’s 16 Batman titles would be great!” No you stupid, stupid men. Multiple titles of the same character introduces confusion into your consumers and into the brand. While you will always capture the one moron, with too much disposable income, who will buy, and probably not read, all 16 titles. Historically, and today currently, what happens instead is for that one who will buy into your gouging ploy, you have 600 people like me who will look at these 16 different Bat titles, scratch their head, and say I can’t be fucking arsed to figure out what title is the ‘good’ Batman title.

And I understand, that with so-called 2nd string titles not selling as well, the impetus is to go with a name, go with a name, go with a name. The problem with that is at $4 a pop, no one is going to experiment on a 22 page comic. At 60cents and 75cents I could take a risk on something called SWAMP THING or $1.25 on something called THE QUESTION. But DC, all comic companies have largely priced themselves out of the impulse buy market. At $4 the book has to offer a definite great experience for the reader’s money. In terms of both story, art, character, and payoff. And typically that’s a lot to ask of a new character where the first several issues is about building the character. And that’s a lot to ask of Dc, in particular, because DC cover artiist, for the most part, not very good. Anytime DC gets a halfway decent artist, Marvel swoops in and steals him away, till you look at today, and DCs covers for the most part look like garbage. The tradedress, the actual art, it’s just not something that wouls impel me to stop, pickup the book, and flip through it. If the cover artist sucks, I can only imagine how bad the interior art is.

I refuse to believe Mark Chiarello is signing off on these covers. But whoever it is, needs to tighten up the ship, because fault Marvel for what you will, but their books, their cover artists… are AMAZING! Like I said, I don’t even buy Marvel Comics with the exception of Brubaker’s CRIMINAL, but if I did I would be drawn to these marvel books.

Why is CRIMINAL the only Marvel/Icon book i buy?

Well, because I don’t buy individual issues that don’t come with a letterspage and/or backmatter/ additional conversational type material. One of the reasons I was such a huge fan of books such as FELL and GUTTSVILLE (Holy Hell I miss that book! Two of the most innovative, beautiful and brilliant books of the 21st, smothered to death by that little flooding the market thing I’m talking about) is because they offer this deeper insight into the material. in the case of Brubaker’s CRIMINAL it’s even more amazing material.

So yeah that’s why. If you can’t be bothered to put together a Stan’s Soapbox style bit for your readers, or do a letters page, I can’t be bothered to pay for your effing book.

However all things being equal, if Marvel and DC were to reinstate letters-pages/back-matter, and get the ads out tof the story, based on the quality of the Marvel artists and to some degree writers, I would clearly be buying Marvel comics.

While it’s inane to let a cover be the sole judge of a comic, this is a graphic medium, so the cover means a bit. It’s the resume that gets you in the door, or the hands of the reader, and it should impress.

Marvel Comics, from trade dress to actual artist, typically rocks.

DC typically sucks.

Examples?

Damn take your pick of nearly any DC comic released this month. Such as:

This is your flagship title, right? You couldn’t tell it by this cover. You could barely tell this is a JLA title. You make the title all but invisible? Really? It’s just piss-poor trade dress design. And the central image conveys and illicits no interest what so ever. No art director should have signed off on this.

This is a good artist, however the central image doesn’t really convey much. The Rebel’s title and trade dress doesn’t help to give any kind of interest to the cover. It’s the type of cover that in the old days would have been saved with a word balloon or caption, but evidently DC can be bothered these days with little things, like making their covers sell-able.

Honestly do I even have to point out how bad this cover is. And me not reading DC comics, this is my first time seeing the costume all the podcasters were talking about. I really have no stake in the character, so change away. But make it good, that costume is utter garbage. Beyond that the art just looks… awkward. I’m not sure if she’s preparing to fight or having some type of hemorrhoid attack. :).

Here are 3 more cover images, that just don’t cut it.

The DOOM PATROL central image is actually good, but the trade dress just does nothing to make it exciting. It’s just floating in a sea of boredom. The FLASH image is busy, but busy in a bad way, it’s just not engaging or interesting, but at least the Trade Dress, typography brings some interest to the image. Just not enough to overcome the weakness in the central image.

THE FLASH has some of the best covers ever, it has to do with artists with a great sense of design and placement, as well as a great color scheme, and finally fantastic typography, captions, and word balloons, a life and energy that is mostly missing from this modern issue.
So DC has only itself to blame that it’s new characters find a steep slope to acceptance. Even at $2 I’m open to dropping $5 and picking up 2 books a week. But when $5 will barely get you one book/story, and typically that $5 experience of piece of story is unsatisfying at best.

SUPERGIRL- I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Super-Girl run, but based on this cover alone, I would never pick up the book. Again the central image itself isn’t particularly bad, it’s just not particularly anything. And once again DCs lack of trade dress, typography, just calls attention to the fact that something is lacking.

How is it with nearly 80 years of comic covers to learn from, people still can’t get it right?

Marvel however, really has not only great artists, but as importantly they understand typography and the effective use of typography and cover organization. Bendis was well known for this with his POWERS work. Some examples of Marvel getting it right? (these are from the same month as the DC ones above):

The above Marvel images speak clearly for themselves.

Marvel just kicks ass on these covers (and this statement comes from me Heroic Times, someone who for the most part has turned his back on Marvel monthly comics)! Marvel has those stunning, painterly artists, such as Simone Bianchi that DC simply can’t hold onto.

Marvel is no less culpable than DC with their 6 THOR or 8 AVENGERS titles, but each issue looks orders of magnitude better than their DC counterparts. And Marvel seems, to come to each cover witn a sense of design and layout, for the most part lacking in the DC titles.

George Perez is still cranking out some masterpieces for DC. Relative newcomer Sami Basri , is knocking it out of the park with POWER GIRL (And if DC doesn’t pay this guy, I predict he’ll be the next artist Marvel takes away from them. He’s that good. Look at his cover to issue #16 of POWER GIL, a great use of negative, a great understanding of creating images that speak), as well as Alina Rusa’s attention grabbing cover to BOP.

But these are exceptions to DC’s rule of rather tired, boring, uninspired covers. Marvel on the other hand, while no less event heavy, and just as guilty of flooding the market, you get the sense it’s a rather cohesive vision driving the Marvel machine, and for the most part it really is creator and quality driven. With DC you get the sense it’s mostly editorial mandates, that tend to be a scattershot approach, and that quality across the board is more miss than hit.

Yet given all this, DC still looks to the consumers for the reason their books aren’t selling. The books aren’t selling first and foremost because they are too expensive. And two because, the DC comics I’ver read in the past few years, individual issues, just aren’t very good, even if they were $2, for giving you a good reading experience. The JLA is supposed to be the flagship title for DC, and in the last few years, they’ve been unable to get anyone excited or interested in these comics.

Part of this, most of this is, particularly with Dwayne McDuffie… editorial interference. I have yet to interview Dwayne McDuffie, but the sense I get was he was courted by DC, following his HUGELY successful JLA UNLIMITED series (which got the JLA absolutely right and is the best they’ve been in any medium in years) and given JLA, mainly to weasle the rights to MILESTONE away from him (more on Milestone in a bit). And once that was done he was pretty much saddled with crippling editorial interference, and a less than stellar art team, until he was pretty much shooed off the book.

So when a company’s flagship books are saddled with high prices, and poor, unsatisfying story and art, very few are going to risk dollars with secondary characters or untried characters from this company. It’s why I think ideas like Chiarello’s SOLO and WEDNESDAY COMICS, somewhat of a reinvention of the company’s SHOWCASE roots, are potentially the future of the medium. A monthly flagship title, containing a mix of classic and new characters, with letter pages, and back matter, and a real conversation like comics of old, with popular characters being spun off into their own titles.

The alternative is the diminishing returns model of current comics.

To be continued….

Microsoft, Apple, Marvel, DC, Boom Studios, FBI, HTML Comics and suing customers to own them

On my mind

A few things.

We’ll start with 2:

1/Marvel and DC trademarking the term Super-Hero and 2/The “Task-Force” of comic companies that unleashed the FBI on HTML comics.

Stick with me, we’ll get to the other stuff. But a lot of it begins here.

With comics.

On the first point, Marvel and DC trademarking the term Super-Hero, yes, as quiet as it is kept these 2 companies have trademarked that term. Originally done in 1978 an odd time, when the field was looking ripe for the plucking. With Charlton on its last legs, and soon to sell their superhero interest to DC. and Time/Kinney/Warner in all its various names having owned DC since 1967, with the Superman Movie on the horizon, the TW/Kinney/WB suits smell… that finally they can make some money from these stupid comic properties. And bringing that studio mentality of trademark everything they’ll let you get away with, they do just that, even partnering (out of necessity) with the only other big player on the field, Marvel Comics, to push their trademark claim through. And having recently (smelling a new generation of superhero money in the water) renewed that trademark.

Trademarking the term super-hero when both companies are quite aware they have no claim to that term. Here is how you know the validity of that trademark. Would DC have been able to trademark the term Superhero without Marvel objecting (and I think successfully spoiling any trademark attempt)? No.

Would Marvel have been able to trademark the term Superhero without DC objecting (and successfully spoiling any trademark attempt)? No.

So if individually neither company has a valid trademark claim, why together should their claim be any more valid?

Answer: It’s not.

I understand they are thinking in terms of 25 year plans, and the new money-making viability of concepts such as comics and superheroes, that were considered, just a decade ago, as beneath notice.

But that mindset taking into consideration, it still takes some fing balls to try and trademark that term, just as it takes a monumental amount of ignorance (or greed) on the US Trademark Office’s part to actually award such a trademark.

But make no mistake, these companies have no more right to trademark that term then they have to trademark the word man or dog or adventurer or witch. It’s part of the popular lexicon and is used by companies besides the so-called “Big 2”. Used before the so-called “Big 2”., and it is used by other companies today. Small startups like Marvel and DC used to be.

If I’m a comic company in the business today, Like BOOM or IDW or Dynamic Forces or Dark Horse or Image, then one of my goals would be putting out a superhero book every other month, or something with superhero on the cover every other month.

Not because you particularly care for Superhero books or have any real interest in that market, but because you one day may have an interest, and you don’t want to, on that day, have to beg Marvel /DC to use that term. You make an issue if it now, because you do not want to roll over for that ideological land-grab by these two companies .

That trade-mark is bs, and any creative person at marvel and DC, is aware it’s bs.

But it is a funny thing, we tend to cede our better natures to the storms that carry us. So while a company may boast talented, creative, and astute, humanitarian people, the actually company they work for may be one step away from barbarism. And because of the storm, they don’t even think of questioning their companies policies (providing they are in positions to do so. Though none of us should be so lowly at a company that we can’t share a constructive viewpoint on that company. If you are unable to, that may be a sign you need to find a different company).

So whether that storm is Marvel or DC or Germany of 1937 or America post 2001, what is best and rational in us, tends to remain quiet to the insane storms that decide to see how far they can blow every so often. But I find that you have to hold your ground, sometimes I think that’s even what the wind is looking for, a man who will stand up to it, until it can put its heavy weight of howling down.

So comic book companies of today would be well served by challenging that particular trademark and getting it thrown out while there is still plentiful proof of prior art, and living reminders to the fact that Marvel and DC did not invent, nor do they own the term super-hero.

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But it never fails, companies that only gained popularity and market share due to certain freedoms, use those freedoms as a ladder, than start outlawing and destroying those freedoms, they burn the ladder, for others. Like robber barons of oil, or rubber or transportation who only gained their status by taking liberties of the most heinous nature, now having the temerity to use their clout to get declared illegal the very practices they used to gain market share!!

Amazing, and predatory and nothing remotely resembling free enterprise, at least not in any sane definition of that term.

In a free enterprise system Linux and not Microsoft would be the major operating system being used. It’s benefits over Microsoft are just staggering, and on a side by side comparison, the best Linux distros, blow Microsoft away!

But what does Microsoft do when they can not out innovate a problem, or buy it out? They get in bed with the movie studios, and they lobby to make various codecs (software) illegal. Like record companies, and every other company these days, they don’t want to earn your business by creating a better product, they want to force, sue, intimidate, and lock, you… their supposed customer, the person they are supposed to be working for, into paying.

21st century companies have become some twisted version of protection rackets selling liquor at the point of a gun. You have to buy their overpriced, and shoddy product, whether you want to or not, or else.

And corporate talking heads, suits, will justify this predatory and clearly immoral business model, as being true to their responsibility to increase revenue for their shareholders.

Anyone who tells you that is full of utter crap.

Fuck the bs about working for shareholders, the purpose of even having shareholders is only to earn money to better innovate and serve your customers. Your real customers! A shareholder is only a means to an end, not the end.

The satisfaction of your customer, and continued improvement of your product is the end. And the fact that companies and wall street have lost sight of this is why, particularly, the American economic outlook is so dire.

It is run by people who increasingly have no fucking common sense. People who lose sight of why they even started a business to begin with.

It wasn’t to crush other companies, and to stifle and outlaw innovation and civil liberties.

Was it Jobs? Was it Gates?

No you started the paltry startup, because it was the fucking wild west, and there was no Microsoft or Apple to legalize you out of the game, and because you were young, and you were having fun, and you had a product you thought was the bomb (yes, I did just say Da Bomb :)), , and the world looked like an endless tomorrow. I was there, I remember.

Microsoft and Apple.

My God, from where you two began how did you get to where you are. Into someplace, odd and petty, and somehow while grandiose and large, somehow… stinking of fear, and afraid of tomorrow.

So that fear at work, Linux basically is legalized into being a crippled system. Competition is legalized away. Law enforcement and the legal system again as thugs, always as thugs, for the deepest pockets.

Companies seeking to take an adversarial approach to their customer base. They seek to maintain and grow their dominance by governmental protections and indeed enforcement of their status qua. That is not free enterprise, this concept of grandfather clauses, and law enforcement and the FBI as the attack dogs of companies from Movie Studios, to Apple and Microsoft, to now the comic book companies.

This recent case of comic companies siccing the FBI on a bloke for offering scans of comics online. And everyone is rushing to roll over or attack or disparage this person’s claim of being a library, or to call it immoral.

Are you fucking kidding me?

I heard someone on a podcast saying “you can’t just call yourself a library.” Why the fuck not? You just called yourself a podcast didn’t you?

Where is your license to do that ?

You don’t need one right now do you? Same with a library.

So shut the fuck up before you do.

It’s getting to the point in this world, because of people who roll over like these fucking podcasters (and yes I like podcasters. But for the love of God, think before you talk), that you are going to need a license even to breathe.

Even to breathe.

The dictionary definition of Library is (if you need one. Or here’s a thought, be original. Define yourself) : A collection of books and a place where books are collected.

It says nothing about you having to be licensed by any particular governmental agency.

It pisses me off when people just roll over and take the side of whoever can pay the press to tell you something. Just cause someone with a badge says it’s wrong don’t make it wrong. Been a long time in this country since the law and right were the same bloody thing.

So the man says he had a library, that’s good enough for me.

Now that said, that definition of his service, does not free him from his responsibility to remove material others feel they have a right to. If indeed he received cease and desist letters for particular works he was holding (that’s another thing that pisses me off, lawyers and their fucking cease and desist letters. Come to someone like a person, before you turn the fucking lawyers loose. You might get someplace that is better than where we’re going, if we can settle things without lawyers first) he should, finding the request valid… comply.

But from what I understand a lot of the site was public domain comics. So I’m not seeing a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and go after this dude civilly and criminally for, bottom line, being a collector.

Maybe not the brightest of collectors, but a collector none the less.

And the lawyer who commented on this case, like lawyers do, is trying to say it’s about sending a message, and a moral victory. Don’t ever say the word moral and the greed of companies (or the culpability of the FBI) in the same sentence. A lawyer has nothing to do with morality.

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I like collectors, always have.

I come from a people who believe in Sineaters. Believe there are those who perform a vital, if not always loved or lauded duty, to the health and functioning of a society. For the Sin-eater it was assisting with the passing of the spirit, clean, into the other world.

I think the collector, while no such spiritual heavyweight, still serves still a most significant function in our culture. Particularly the American culture, because we’re in such mercenary hands, where everything is in flux. Buildings, neighborhoods, stadiums, all having a relatively brief life before they are torn down for something else.

That’s not healthy. Never has been. Never will be.

A collector, seeks to maintain things, that the bankers of a culture, may not find value in, but things that should persist, and still have a life, beyond a mercenary and fleeting view of value. Things that in and of themselves… are beautiful or artistic.

In the words of a long remembered poem, “Against the day of trouble, lays by some trifling thing, a smile, a kiss, a flower, for sweet remembering”. That’s what a collector does. It’s an odd calling, neither loved nor lauded, but necessary. Oh so necessary.

This guy was/is a collector.

It’s because of guys like this that we have today copies of films such as Metropolis or The Third Man or any number of beloved Film Noir movies, saved from the bonfires of Studios that did not forsee a financial worth to old films beyond their cinema release, Companies that burned their films, and ordered theaters to do the same, when the films cinema life was up.

Thank god, for collectors, who gave a finger to big companies back then, and said, “you know what, I like this movie, and I want to keep it around, regardless if you think it has no financial value anymore”. Fast forward a few decades and those saved films now become money making DVD releases by studios that in their short sightedness would have let them burn.

Same thing for Old time Radio shows. I love listening to Old Time Radio. I was not around when that stuff came out, but today I love listening to it. I love listening to stuff like THE SHADOW, or SUSPENSE or ESCAPE, etc.

These shows didn’t survive because of the companies that produced them, or the stations that aired them, these shows survived because of collectors.

Because of collectors.

So when people start ragging about so-called “bootleggers” or “scanners” or whatever, I’m always very mindful that it was these often single minded individuals that kept alive much of what otherwise would have been lost to time and neglect.

When the production companies were erasing old tapes because they could not foresee a financial value to them, it was collectors who often, copying this stuff off the air, preserved much of these classic radio programs, and by so doing preserved not just entertainment for a new generation, but a historical record of a time, and a place in a younger America. The same goes for music.

And the same with comics. The comics medium, has survived extremely lean years, because of rabid collectors like this man they have loosed the FBI on.

“A task force to protect their rights.” really?

A man and his family being raked over the coals, because the suits smell money in the water. And they want to play RIAA. And sheep like you just bow your heads, and say “yes massa” and regurgitate words like “copyright infringement” like dogs being taught to beg.

You make me sick. And you know who you are.

Hell the companies finally caught on, years after the fact, to the viability and need for scanning because of collectors. Now I understand companies, finally pulling their head out of their ass and seeing the viability of digital distribution, may see free labors of love, that offer comics for free, as a barrier to their money making schemes. I get that.

I don’t necessarily agree with it.

I think much of the product companies claim is owned should be in public domain.

I think this continued erosion of public domain, by companies that continually push for extension of copyright is utter crap.

I think all concepts that have persisted for 50 years, should be in the public domain.

Because it means these concepts have been around long enough to be part of the cultural language, the cultural conversation and as such, have been both enhanced, diluted, and changed by that conversation.

I think there is a great beauty in anyone being able to do an Edgar Allen Poe story, I think the world is invaluably richer because we have a million different takes on Edgar Allan Poe tales, From Roger Corman to Marc Olden to Jan Svankmajer and the list goes on. We are enriched as a society by everyone being unhindered to use this common concept, that has made its way, survived as part of the cultural conversation.

So I think Superman should be in the public domain, it is a public domain concept, period. So is Batman, and Mickey Mouse, and Captain America, and the Shadow to name a few. And the fact that companies are disputing the public domain status of concepts such as these is just plain criminal.

They all need to join Frankenstein and Don Quixote and… it shows you how bad the 20th century was for the concept of Public Domain, in that you really have to go back to the 19th century to get unchallenged concepts that are in the public domain. And we as a culture and a society are poorer for it.

All that brings us back to the law being used by companies… poorly.

It is being used to deprive the individual and the culture of rights, at the behest and to the benefit of corporations.

When the last days of America are written, that will be the reason. Is the reason.

Corporations are lobbying our supposed representatives to deprive us of rights, so they can make a nickel more.

Comics were immune from this attention for a long time, but with Hollywood dollars focused on the medium, it means we now get Hollywood type “protection” or “hired thugs” whichever you prefer.

We get the F of the B of the I.

We get one of those pleasant acronyms, designed to make us… relent.

Never relent baby.

Never relent.

So in closing my support is always with the Collector. Not the companies, and not the FBI. Because these companies, these bankers of our age, gray men, with gray souls, seeking to make a gray world, do what they do for petty monetary reasons, no different from their earlier versions that burnt films or smashed records, they do nothing for beauty’s sake.

And because of that, nothing these gray men do… will last. Because in the end, even if beauty fades, the things we do for beauty’s sake… will not. These and these alone… persist.