CBS vs Paramount? Old Star Trek vs Confused Star Trek? ST Discovery = Epic fail? and JUSTICE LEAGUE?!

 

Some Times you wonder how what is seemingly obvious  is utterly lost on people in positions of power.

VALERIAN movie? Great concept on paper , great visuals, the leads are as interesting as watching paint dry. I would not in a million years have chosen those two people to helm that movie. They have no visual interest.

The latest Universal bomb in THE MUMMY, completely predictable. White Egyptians, unless they are Boris Karloff, just never a good idea.

Casting and visuals and chemistry is still a HUGE part of what makes a film or show work and why it is dead on arrival.

It is one reason the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie is despite everything they are trying to course correct and do right, can’t fix intrinsic issues they have done wrong. The comic book decided to put CYBORG in the comic, not because he is a good character, but because he hit three demographics they throught would make for both multiple diversity streams and good merchandising. He was a Black crippled robot.

TRANSFORMERS has proven that robots sell, all day long. On top of that being able to add a character of color to the blindingly white DC universe, ticks that box, and making him a cripple, ticks the handicapped audience. A lucrative and growing segment condsidering how many young men and women this country sends overseas to mutilate and get mutilated.

Here is the issue though. It doesn’t make sense for CYBORG to be in the Justice League, beyond tokenism and a blatant money grab.

From a story point it makes NO SENSE in the comics, and it makes no sense in the movies. I’m all for characters of color toning down the lilly whitness of the Justice League, but not awful characters. The JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED cartoon has shown a great character of color that deserves to be in the Justice League and works great in the Justice League… John Stewart, The Green Lantern, And you know what, he also has kick ass powers and is more than a walking toaster. The late great Dwayne McDuffie made John Stewart a great character, and the Justice League a great AND diverse team without sacrificing quality or common sense. They were great BECAUSE of that diversity and love that Dwayne imbued that series with, that made it great.

Greatness is a thing that seldoms gets said in the same sentence as JUSTICE LEAGUE. Unlike the AVENGERS that has a few notable stories you can hand people to sell them on these characters for live action movies, most notably Mark Millar’s THE ULTIMATES  followed by Steve Englehart’s, Gerry Conway’s, Jim Shooter’s and Kurt Busiek’s runs; the JUSTICE LEAGUE has very little that holds up, or is of appeal to a movie going audience. Outside of deconstructive and apocalyptic stories, the twilight of the Gods type mythology such as KINGDOM COME, and some Morrison work, there are almost no great JUSTICE LEAGUE comic stories. The best the JUSTICE LEAGUE has ever been is in the McDugffie helmed cartoon.

The current comic and the current movie unfortunately, has learned nothing from the late McDuffie’s lead.

Add to that the Cyborg and Flash costumes are crap (didn’t you learn anything from the GREEN LANTERN train-wreck about CGI costumes) and you have a movie that could have been great, crippled by by people who are going to lose dollars to save pennies.  People ignorant or uncaring of the part visual chemistry plays in whether a thing works or not.

And that brings us back to Star Trek.

 

Looking at the cast photo of Star Trek Discovery… that cast has no visual interest, no chemistry. The same issue suffered by THE ENTERPRISE cast, and to a lesser degree the VOYAGER cast. There was no joy or interst or chemistry in this combination of people.

Watching  the latest STAR TREK DISCOVERY Trailer, I find the trailer interesting, however the jury is out on whether that translates into good. There was no excitement in that trailer, a bunch of uninteresting looking people, no visual chemistry or excitement to them, and a general air of uninterst and lack of joy in the whole.

You are in effing space, that should be awe-inspiring to the cast and to the viewer. But all that comes across in that trailer is how dreary everything is. The one male lead, who I know to be a good actor, he perhaps has never been the most rousing actor, and whether lead or not, you need somone immediately that grabs your eye, and you can say, yep, here is a hero or man of action, or somone who can command a screen and command the attention of viewers. Without a doubt great scenery chewing actors is the hallmark of great Star Trek, whether it is William Shatner, or Leonard Nimoy or Patrick Stewart or Johnathan Fraker or Avery Brooks or Michael Dorn.

The star of this series, is a lead actress, and she is clearly charismatic, but you can’t act in a bubble, without that chemistry  of clicking actors around you and fun plots, it is just dreariness. And that’s what came across in the trailer… dreariness.

And a lot of changes for change sake.

The change to the Kilngons… strikes me as… foolhardy at best. THE NEXT GENERATION hit a home run in being able to make an interesting but crude visual race of the Kilingons… better. Not just better, but a rousing transcendent success.  The way the Original Series hit a home run with the Vulcans and the Romulans, the Next Generation hit that Home Run with the Klingons.

You don’t fix what isn’t broken. And in this case DISCOVERY’s redesign of the Klingons just seems change for change sake, that tears down a success, and what could have been an easy inroad to the series for fans craving the popular Klingons, becomes instead a detriment.

Just poor, poor thinking.

Along with that the idea of trying to make American audiences pay to see this series that initially needs as much groundswell of support it can get, is just idiocy. Out of the gate you set an antagonistic relationship between show and audience.

I will, needless to say, not be paying for this show, no more than I had any intest in paying to see VALERIAN or THE MUMMY.

But I will keep abreast of it through online reviews and podcasts, and I hope it can prove me wrong. But if Paramount stick to the visuals and that tone and that cast, that seems clearly set in stone for the first year….you may have an interesting SciFi show, but you arguably wont have a good show, and you definitely won’t have a great Star trek show.

Paramount instued of suing the AXANAR fan film, should have gone with that filmmaker to produce their new show. It is obvious that the fan films have more heart, intelligence, and fun, and understanding of what makes good Star Trek than Paramount has.

PARAMOUNT’s rebooted STAR TREK films, a case of diminishing returns, from the excellence of the first one, to the too self indulgent but still great second film, to the atrocious third film; points to a company that is in desperate need of course correction. And that same folly and arrogant stupidity that highlights their dealings with the fans, mars their handling of this latest television show.

For more on this, I want to direct you to a MIDNIGHT’S EDGE YouTube video, that revealed some of the reasons for Paramount’s mishandling of the latest Star Trek property and where CBS fits in. It’s a riveting and informative bit of reporting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Change comes to one of Comics’ Biggest Publishers! Does it spell DC New or DC Eww??? or DC vs Marvel

Change comes to one of Comics’ Biggest Publishers! Does it spell DC New or DC Eww???

by
Heroic Times
Copyright Heroic Times Jun 2011
All Rights Reserved

Okay most of you comic fans reading this know the gist of the big news that has recently been released. Specifically the recent announcement by Top 2 Comic Book Publisher DC Comics, a subsidy of Time Warner, to in essence revamp their entire publishing line, and their publishing model in September of this year.

Comics being very much serialized entertainment, like soap operas or television shows they build up a history. Overtime, some view that history as a resource and some as baggage. In the face of dwindling sales DC is taking the latter approach and cleaning house, restarting their whole line of books, from number one.

Come September, 52 titles will be kicked out by DC, starting at # 1, with the characters and stories supposedly streamlined to allow easy adoption, by new readers. On top of this they will offer the books via digital distribution, as well as through the traditional dwindling markets of the comic book store.

It is an unprecedented and bold move, in an age where all print media, from newspapers to books, is losing readers. And specifically a necessary move for DC, that has seen its place in the market continue to slip, as its major competitor MARVEL COMICS GROUP owned by Disney, continues to trounce them in sales/market share.

So all in all, I think this bold move by DC, while unexpected, is overall a good one, as obviously they needed to do something.

It’s a hail-Mary pass, and I see it working for them in the short term, generating interest in their books through the line wide shake-up, and the day and date (digital publication that coincides with print publication) digital distribution option, opening them up to a world of new potential readers/consumers. If they capture just a fraction of the digital market, they could potentially move very quickly from servicing tens of thousands of people to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people per issue.

There are some potential roadblocks, most remarked on being the pricing of the digital comic, as most agree the 99 cent or $1.99 cent model is the better price-point for easy mass adoption. However I have no doubt the pricing structure will work itself out in time.

So in short term I see this being a success for the company, however potentially not as great a success as it could be, and potentially not a lasting success as their competitors invariably jump into Digital distribution to compete.

No, I see DC’s biggest drawback to this line-wide overhaul, is the appearance (now this is only going by the miniscule data so far released on the books to come out in September, this is speculation not fact) that the streamlined books suffer the same problem as the pre-streamlined books, which is basically… they are not that good or interesting.

That’s harsh to say, but that is the current problem with DC comics that they seem to, with well meaning overtures to price and distribution and character’s costumes, overlook.

The main problem DC overlooks, to why their sales are dwindling… is the fact that their books themselves, particularly when compared to their main competition Marvel Comics, are not that interesting, they are in fact… lacking.

And it pains me to say this as someone who is not a fan of much of what Marvel does, and infact actively does not purchase Marvel Comics’ individual issues. Generally because of ads breaking up the story, and lack of back-matter or letters pages, failing these things I’ll just wait for the trade, and monthly buy Indie books, such as CHEW or WALKING DEAD that do offer these extras, that for me make the individual issues… worth their price.

If there is a story from Marvel that is getting particular buzz I’ll wait for the trade and pick it up at my local library or on Ebay or not.

On the other hand, DC comics stories are not particularly interesting, I listen to a number of podcasts and read reviews and articles to stay abreast of what’s drawing the buzz in this niche market of comics, and DC seldom… draws the buzz, in any meaningful way. The ones that do I’ll pick up via Ebay or Library, and am generally underwhelmed.

Particularly glaring is the fact that DC’s artwork is bland to subpar. For a medium defined by its art.. that’s not good. In general (in general, not across the board) the writers and artist of DC are not setting the world on fire.

There are exceptions such as Irving Frazier, Basri, Jock, J.H. Williams III (to name ones that spring to mind) in the art camp, and Scott Snyder, Morrison (when he’s the good Morrison) and Rucka (who DC has lost) in the writing camp; but in general the rule applies.

And having looked at some of the talent launching their 52 new books (again not privy to all of them, just going by the early news released as of this date), I see the rule of bland storytellers and bland art and bland takes on characters… continuing.

Where is the talented, amazing writers that are blowing the roof off the place, and everyone is talking about for their Indie work? Where are the Remenders and Aarons and Hickmans and Van Lente’s and Spurrier’s?

With very few exceptions all the exciting writers in comics are working for Marvel. Add to that the fact that Marvel blows DC away in terms of art, and it is a powerful combination.

DC’s art style is largely still stuck in the 90s Image era, and with DC co-headed by Jim Lee, perhaps that’s no wonder, but it is a mistake.

This is the age of the Simone Bianchis and Copiels and Djurdevics and Eptings and Braithwaites and Molinas, guys who offer a level of detail and beauty and storytelling that makes you want to turn pages. And all those guys are Marvel artists.

Now it’s true none of those names, either writer or artist, is known to this new potential readership, that digital distribution offers the opportunity to tap, however my point is… quality will out.

Which means people may be introduced to comics through DCs digital books, but just as in the paper books… they will quickly transition to more sophisticated art and story; which means Independents and Marvel. And they will gravitate to the artists and writers that are steering, capably, the ship.

Now, best of luck to DC’s policy of giving artists they are trying to keep (they tend to lose creators to Marvel), writing assignments of popular characters… to entice them not to jump ship. However, It is a suspect policy.

Not every artist is a Frank Miller (who before being Hollywood Frank Miller, started out as an artist, than became an iconic writer, DARK KNIGHT, 300 etc) and even Frank Miller took a while to be THE Frank Miller.

I am saying it is idiotic to give your flagship titles/characters to unproven writers. No disrespect, beyond the truth, intended to David Finch and Tony Daniels (two popular DC artists and now Writer/Atists), but I’ve never been a huge fan of their art, and by all reports their writing isn’t setting the world on fire. Now it is quite possible with practice they could become kick-ass writers, but you don’t let them practice on your flagship characters such as Batman. It’s thinking like this from DC, again that 90s Image model, mantra of “art is all”, that has been hurting their market share.

Art is important, desperately important. But the writing is also desperately important. And when you can bring top writers AND top artists to a title (which is what Marvel does), then you have a title to hype and to generate sales. And DC fails with both aspects, the writing… and the art.

Nearly every single book Marvel puts out, looks great. That’s how deep their pool of artists is; as opposed to DC that has probably less than a handful of artists I consider great, and the rest, are a “grin and get through it” bunch.

Add to this Marvel Comics are better art designed, and you point out another major failing of DC. The first thing you see of a comic is its cover, and Marvel’s covers are not just better in terms of the actual cover art, they are better in terms of typography and design.

They are, as a whole, as a gestalt, the more interesting covers (exceptions to this being Sam Basri’s phenomenal covers for POWER GIRL).

And fault Marvel for what you will, I think a lot of this has to do with artists such as Quesada and Bendis, who have strong visual instincts, being in editorial control of Marvel and knowing what a compelling cover should look like.

These are the reasons Marvel is # 1. And this whole DC overhaul of their universe and digital delivery announcement while groundbreaking and exciting, will be less effective than it can be if it does not also look at improving quality.

For DC’s announcement to really have had teeth in it, and pit-bull like hang on staying power, they needed to release these 52 titles with a substantial number of amazing creative teams, and from the early solicits, I don’t see this happening.

The most high profile announcement of the new books is Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on the JLA.

Jim Lee’s style was interesting to me in the 90s, but I find it less so in the 2010s. I think part of that is… he’s not the artist he was 20 years ago, looking more like Lee acolyte Ed Benes… than himself, and paradoxically he’s enough of the old Jim Lee for his style to seem very dated. Of course that’s to me, there are huge fans of his, so no doubt the relaunched JLA will garner huge numbers. I just don’t think I’ll be among them.

Along with the art, another thing that raises early flags regarding this new JLA title… is the makeup of this new team. DC makes lip service to diversity, but tokenism is not diversity. First you remove John Stewart as the Green lantern, which is this generation’s Green Lantern (thanks to the JLA cartoon), and you fill it with a boring 70s lineup, and add Cyborg as a concession to tokenism?

I would prefer people not use any characters of color, then drag out just one Black character on a team. I hate seeing just one Black character on a team, give me at least two Black characters, or don’t do it at all. Because without exception that one Black character will be poorly and stupidly written.

And I dislike Cyborg in particular as a character. What is it with Black male characters in comics having to be missing limbs or in someway physically or psychologically damaged? What is that? for the writers to feel comfortable writing him? Be it Cyborg or War-machine over at the esteemed competition. Which is why if you’re going to do diversity, the mass media familiar John Stewart makes more sense than Cyborg, and toss in Vixen and/or Firestorm to go with him. Both characters offering a lot more to work with than the neutered Cyborg. Or don’t do it at all, because (say it with me) tokenism is not diversity.

And while we’re on the subject of Firestorm, what the eff is it with Black characters having to wear yellow? What is that about? You see all these sly little digs they get in? Even as a kid reading Power Man in the day, I was like…”he’s cool and all, but what the f–k is he wearing a big yellow shirt for?!” Even at age 7, I knew that just wasn’t kosher. I mean really? WTF?

Seriously, Mix non-people of color, writing people of color, and typically this is the kind of almost subconscious bs you get. Sad isn’t it? 🙂

Beyond the JLA, everything else mentioned suffers a bit from that underwhelming writer/artist syndrome that DC has.

Now I am interested in the MR. TERRIFIC comic announced, though I’m not familiar with the writer, and while the cover art is good, the interior art… not making me do handstands.

So yeah, it’s great that DC is doing this massive overhaul, and particularly pushing the digital distribution issue, but ultimately how ever you distribute the books… they have to be good, and if DC’s books, can’t currently compete with Marvel traditionally, digital delivery won’t change that.

DC will have the upper-hand for the time it takes Marvel to get a digital presence, but once the playing field is even again, DC loses again… unless they address the underlying problems with their comics. Those being: 1/ that they are still written for a white 1950s audience, rather than a multicultural 2011 audience, and 2/that they actively need to court the hot writers and artists, ala Marvel.

That’s the bottom line. There ain’t no more. I do wish DC well, and here’s hoping they evolve sooner rather than later.