Archive for the 'Comic Books' Category

Jan 14 2013

Justice League Movie Update 2

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Will Beall, the screenwriter for the upcoming Justice League movie, just had his first movie (Gangster Squad) out. It averaged 33% on Rotten Tomatoes (thanks to “lackluster writing and underdeveloped characters”) and disappointed at the box office. I think this bodes poorly for the JL movie.

 

To recap:

  • Writing the Justice League movie will likely be much more challenging than a relatively simple police shoot-em-up. (For example, several of the Justice League characters have their own movies in the works, so the creative coordination will be more complicated).
  • Introducing multiple characters simultaneously on a team would be challenging for a very good screenwriter.
  • It does not look like DC-WB has A-grade writing talent on this.
  • Several directors have passed on Beall’s outline/script for Justice League (which might suggest problems with the outline, or might be totally unrelated).
  • DC-WB’s had some notable problems with scheduling/delays before (e.g. Green Lantern’s production delays set back marketing efforts by months and contributed to the under-editing).
  • Avengers 2 is scheduled for release in May 2015. DC-WB’s under pressure to get JL out in time to face Avengers 2, but Justice League doesn’t even have a director yet. Hollywood studios sometimes rush out godawful movies before they’re ready because of pressure from competing films (e.g. Skyline vs. Battle: Los Angeles).

 

I’m lowering my Rotten Tomatoes prediction for Justice League from 30-45% to 25-35%.

 

PS: Speaking of box office results this week, the three top-performing theaters for Zero Dark Thirty (a movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden)  were within 5 miles of the CIA headquarters in Langley, VA.

54 responses so far

Dec 29 2012

If You’re Worried About Peter Parker…

He’ll be fine after the publicity stunt passes. The only thing that can actually kill a superhero is bad sales.

4 responses so far

Jul 29 2012

16 Comic Book Scenes Probably Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Published by under Comic Books

Guyism has a list of the 16 creepiest comic book scenes. Some of them are okay in context–e.g. in Daredevil 209, Daredevil pushes a girl down an elevator, but he knows that she’s a robot assassin. Some of the other ones are just plain creepy.

3 responses so far

Jul 16 2012

Learning Writing Skills from Green Lantern

(Please see the movie before reading this review).

 

1. The two minutes of voiceover/narration should have been cut. First, do we really need to start the story with the backstory of the Green Lantern Corps? It would probably have been more natural (and less pretentious) to cover this in a conversation with Hal Jordan (probably when he meets up with the Corps on Oa). As it is, I think this information is a distraction from Hal, contributes to a disjoint between what the aliens are doing and what Hal is doing over the first 30 minutes, and is redundant with the two other scenes recapping the purpose and history of the GL Corps.

1.1. When you’re introducing a character and/or organization to readers, I think it’d be more effective to show them in their element rather than through lengthy exposition. We’re later told Abin Sur is a “great light” of the Lanterns, but we never actually see him do anything impressive. Similarly, rather than introduce the GL Corps with a speech, I’d much rather see them doing a typical-but-interesting job (the GL equivalent of a hostage situation or a high-stakes bank robbery). Since the defining characteristic of the GL is supposed to be fearlessness, it’d be better to have them do something memorably courageous than to show them panicking as they face Parallax. Fleeing isn’t the most intuitive way to establish a corps founded on bravery. Moreover, we don’t actually see much fearlessness from the Lanterns over the course of the movie.

 

2. The relationship between Hal and his father was one-dimensional and did not help develop Hal or the plot. This felt like a very forced way to work courage vs. cowardice into the plot. “You’re not scared, are you, Dad?” “Let’s just say it’s my job not to be.” Ick. Here are some more effective examples of family cameos.

  • Ellie, the main character’s wife in Up. In just a few minutes, each character shows how much they mean to the other. (Spoiler): When she dies, viewers really feel the main character’s loss, whereas Hal’s dialogue with his father is so lifeless that there’s no emotional heft. In contrast, Up’s Ellie-Carl scenes help develop why the main character is lonely and surly for most of the rest of the movie and helps set up some of the immediate conflict between the grouch and the cheerful Boy Scout he gets trapped with. Speaking of which, the Boy Scout’s relationship with his family is also emotionally effective—I’d really recommend seeing this movie if you haven’t already.
  • Batman’s relationship with his father mixes respect and conflict. Ra’s al Ghul points out that Bruce trained to become something like the opposite of his father—if the father had been as physically tough as the son became, they all would have survived Joe Chill. This is more interesting than JUST having the character try to fill his father’s footsteps (a la Hal Jordan). I also like that various other characters try pulling Wayne’s legacy in different ways (e.g. Ghul accuses him of being useless and mocks his philanthropic work, Joe Chill falsely claims that he died begging for his life, Batman risks disgracing his father’s name by cutting himself off from high society, and Joker implicitly disagrees with the elder Wayne about whether Gotham is worth saving, etc).
  • The mother of Kick-Ass has an aneurysm and dies while eating breakfast. This adds some ghoulish comedy and helps reinforce that the main character is lonely and sort of messed-up. It also plays on the comic book trope that the character’s parents will always die in some plot-relevant and meaningful way. Not bad for ten seconds of screen-time.

 

3. Main character Hal Jordan makes his first appearance 6 minutes into the movie. While I think it’s generally interesting to try scenes without the main characters (e.g. Dark Knight’s ferry scene), focusing on minor characters to the exclusion of the core of the story is probably unsound. I can’t think of any reason to start with the aliens here rather than either 1) starting with Hal and covering the information about the aliens later, probably when Hal meets the aliens or 2) starting with the aliens doing something which directly involves Hal. For example, it might make sense to start with Abin Sur as he’s looking for a Green Lantern—this would help develop what was so impressive about Hal that he caught Abin Sur’s eye.

 

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53 responses so far

Jul 10 2012

Learning Writing Skills from The Avengers

As always, please see the movie before reading this review.

 

1. The conflicts within the team and between the teammates and Fury/SHIELD were impeccable. One aspect which lends depth to the conflicts is that most of the character have intelligent reasons to disagree and the writers don’t push viewers to side with one protagonist or another. In contrast, the Fantastic Four’s squabbles are usually driven by someone (or everyone) being an idiot, which mainly leaves me wanting to punch everyone. The scene where the Avengers confront Nick Fury over what he’s been holding back from them is vastly superior to anything in the FF movies.

 

2. The writing was very fresh and clever. The arc where Loki allows himself to be taken prisoner in an attempt to provoke Bruce Banner into going crazy is a nice play on the (sort-of-tired) trope where a supervillain breaks out of captivity. Additionally, the scene where SHIELD tries to contact Black Widow (who is being interrogated by Russian smugglers) is hilarious.

  • BLACK WIDOW: “This is just like in Budapest.” *She stabs an alien in the head.* HAWKEYE: “You and I… remember Budapest very differently.”

 

3. I believe the main weak point of the movie was the selection of Loki as the main villain—he wasn’t as cost-effective as more limited, terrestrial villains like the Joker, Green Goblin or Obediah Stane. He got better characterization than, say, the alien antagonists in Green Lantern or FF: Silver Surfer, but I don’t believe the movie would have been much worse if all of his lines of dialogue had been cut out. In particular, a character that is based on deception and trickery should develop the plot and characters more with his dialogue than he actually did.

 

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52 responses so far

Jul 07 2012

Learning from Amazing Spider-Man

(As always, please see the movie before reading this).

 

1. To the extent that you cover a superhero origin story, I’d recommend focusing on things and approaches we haven’t seen much of before. I think it would have helped to either spend less time covering the origin story or make it more different than Spider-Man 1. That said, I thought ASM’s approach to the death of Uncle Ben was smoother and more thematically effective–when Peter has the opportunity to stop the robber, there’s a plausible and immediate threat to bystanders. Peter declines and Ben gets killed seconds thereafter. This makes Peter’s motivation for a life-changing decision (becoming a superhero) more plausible.  In contrast, in Spider-Man 1, Peter gets torn up because he doesn’t get involved in a relatively minor situation with a police officer present, with only a faint connection between Peter Parker letting the robber go and the robber killing a civilian.

1.1. Peter plays a more active role acquiring superpowers. He was only in the laboratory because he stole an ID and figured out how to thwart a keypad. I think the scene develops him more than just getting lucky at the science fair in Spider-Man 1. (Likewise, he makes his own webslingers instead of getting them from the spider-bite).

 

2. Beware the idiot ball–make sure there are believable consequences to actions. Peter Parker displayed his superpowers in public so many times that I think his classmates would have to be idiots not to notice something was amiss. (For example, the NBA-caliber dunk? Or breaking a goalpost with a football? Or lifting enormous Flash Thompson by the neck?)  When characters make decisions, there should be consequences. For example, if the character is reckless with his powers, maybe other characters come closer to figuring out what’s going on. Or at least start asking difficult questions.

 

3. Speaking of consequences, I thought the crane scene was kind of cute. (Peter saves a construction worker’s kid and the construction worker later pulls in favors at the climax to help Spider-Man).  It helps build a contrast between Spider-Man’s decidedly limited means and, say, the lavishly-funded Avengers or X-Men. I think it’s also a more subtle and effective way of showing he’s more of an everyman hero than we saw in previous Spider-Man movies (e.g. subway passengers throwing themselves between Dr. Octopus and a crippled Spidey felt sort of hokey to me).

 

4. I thought it was a bit contrived that Peter Parker just happens to find the love interest working for the villain he’s trying to find. One way to clear out this contrivance would have been to make the two more causally connected. For example, maybe Peter Parker’s trying to figure out how to get to the villain, so he introduces himself to the assistant in the hopes that she’d eventually bring him to work. (This would make the relationship seem a bit more manipulative at the beginning, but he could probably come clean sooner rather than later. I think it’d help that he reveals his secret identity to her relatively quickly–he’s more upfront than most superheroes are).

 

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25 responses so far

Jul 06 2012

Learning Writing Skills from The Dark Knight

(Please see the movie before reading this review).

 

1. The conflicts really help make the relationships memorable. One element which worked out unusually well was the depth provided by protagonist-vs-protagonist conflicts (e.g. Gordon conflicting with Dent over who blew a case, Dent respecting Batman but hating Bruce Wayne, Lucius vs. Batman over libertarian issues, cops pressuring Dent to surrender Batman to Joker, Batman vs. Dent over threatening to kill a deranged patient, Dent angry that Batman saved him rather than his girlfriend, Batman vs. a misled SWAT team, Gordon suspecting most of his own unit of possible corruption, etc). The plot has a lot of angles, but each of these conflicts is very easy to follow and is consistent with the character development. I think that the protagonist-vs-protagonist conflicts help give all of the characters something to contribute to the plot. In contrast, if (say) the Thing were cut out of the Fantastic Four movies or Violet were cut from The Incredibles, I don’t think the plot would change much.

 

1.1.  Few, if any, superhero movies have accomplished as much with antagonist-vs-antagonist conflict. For example, Joker orders a hit on Coleman Reese, Joker fights with mob leaders, Joker turns on his own goons, and turns Dent into Two-Face (both physically and morally). One reason that the bank heist at the beginning of the movie is so memorable is because all of the antagonists involved are criminals—in contrast, many superhero movies have the superheroes warm up by taking down faceless bank robbers who receive no development.

 

2. The characters generally have complex motivations. Probably the most notable example here was Joker trying to prove that everybody is fundamentally as crazy as he is (and that people are only as moral as conditions allow them to be). It made him much more interesting than just another villain trying to make a ton of money or accumulate power without any particular agenda in mind. I’d also recommend checking out how Batman and Gordon conceal Two-Face’s misdeeds to help keep hope and inspiration alive.

 

3. The use of side-characters is phenomenal. Except for maybe Avengers, I don’t think any other superhero movie comes close in terms of character/plot development or creating interesting scenes. Take, for example, the ferry scene. Batman isn’t directly involved and none of the characters on-screen actually have a name. How many series are there where minor characters could have a compelling scene which develops the plot and the villain? Some other interesting examples where Batman isn’t present:

  • Joker’s opening bank heist. If I had to pick a single movie scene which did the best job of introducing a villain and developing his personality and modus operandi in a memorable way, this would be it. The heist is fittingly anarchic and unpredictable in the best way.
  • Joker’s pencil scene.
  • Lucius vs. Coleman Reese. (“You think your client, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world, moonlights as a vigilante and beats criminals to a pulp with his bare hands? And your plan is to blackmail this man? … Good luck with that”).
  • Gordon/MCU fighting with Dent/DA’s office about who blew the bank seizure.
  • Joker in the MCU cell—the cell-phone bomb was a clever touch, but I thought his goading the veteran cop (Stephens) into an imprudent confrontation was most memorable here.

 

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14 responses so far

Jun 05 2012

Warner Bros. Wanted Leonardo DiCaprio as the Riddler

Published by under Comic Book Movies

According to Yahoo News, Warner Bros. originally pushed for the Riddler as the villain in The Dark Knight Rises. “WB’s top executives said, according to [screenwriter] Goyer: ‘Obviously it’s gonna be The Riddler, and we want it to be Leonardo DiCaprio.’”

 

Sometimes I wonder about the decision-making process at Warner Bros. when it comes to DC adaptations. DC/WB’s non-Nolan movies have averaged 38.7% on Rotten Tomatoes since 2000 and 29.5% over the past 5 years (Green Lantern, Jonah Hex, Watchmen, and The Spirit). RED, the only DC property which was made by a different studio, succeeded both creatively (71% on Rotten Tomatoes) and financially (grossing $199 million against a production budget of $58 million). It has a sequel slated for next year, which will make it the only DC property since 2000 to survive to a sequel without Nolan’s involvement.

23 responses so far

May 29 2012

This Is Sort of Cute

A mother needed help convincing her four-year-old (who suffers from severe hearing loss) to wear a hearing aid. He thought it was decidedly unbadass. In response to a letter from the mother, Marvel Comics created a superhero who used a hearing aid to detect crime.  This strikes me as a very thoughtful gesture (and, although it would probably cheapen the moment, very cost-effective public relations).

4 responses so far

May 10 2012

Which Tend to Be Better: Superhero Team Movies or Lone Superhero Movies?

Published by under Comic Book Movies

Since 2000, movies with 2+ superheroes have averaged 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, whereas movies with a lone superhero have averaged 50%.

 

Lone Superheroes

 Company

Average RT Rating

 Marvel

54

 DC

48

 Other

43

 Overall

50

 

Superhero Teams

 Company

Average RT Rating

 Marvel

64

 DC

41

 Other

58

 Overall

59

 

Below, I listed all of the superhero team movies and lone superhero movies which went into these ratings.

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13 responses so far

May 09 2012

How Would You Have Done The Avengers Differently?

Published by under Comic Book Movies

Is there anything about The Avengers you would have done differently? If so, what? (I wouldn’t recommend reading the comments here until you’ve seen the movie–there will probably be many spoilers).

21 responses so far

Apr 30 2012

This Joss Whedon Interview Leaves Me Optimistic About The Avengers

Published by under Comic Book Movies

My main reservation is that a large cast frequently leads to more generic characters used in a more rushed way, more storytelling-by-committee (e.g. the studio dictating what can be done with each of the characters or how the plot has to play out), and less time for each character that viewers find interesting. For example, if you like Iron Man much more than Thor OR if you like Thor much more than Iron Man, then having both in the movie will result in less time for the one you want to see.

 

This Wired article suggests that Whedon and his team are at least aware of these issues, which bodes well. On the other hand, I would have been more encouraged if Whedon had been more involved in the selection of the villain (the company selected Loki for him).

 

UPDATE: Initial reviews for the movie on Rotten Tomatoes (based on an early overseas release) are astronomically high, 94% so far. Among superhero movies, only The Incredibles (97%) has done better.

12 responses so far

Dec 27 2011

10 Reasons to Reboot a Superhero Movie Franchise

Published by under Comic Book Movies

My guest article about when it’s a good time to reboot a franchise just got posted at comicbooks.com.  The editorial assistance was surprisingly good.  The edited article has a slightly more casual voice than most of my content on SN, but I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway.

 

If you’d be interested in hosting one of my guest articles, please let me know at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.  I’d really appreciate if you would suggest an article topic (e.g. How to Write an Interesting Sidekick) or some general genre of articles (e.g. anything about characterization) you find interesting, but it’s not necessary.

3 responses so far

Dec 02 2011

Writing More Realistic Violence

Here are some points I took away from this article on violence.

1. Very few people are actually prepared for a life-or-death, organ-stabbing fight.  ”Herein lies a crucial distinction between traditional martial arts and realistic self-defense: Most martial artists train for a ‘fight.’ Opponents assume ready stances, just out of each other’s range, and then practice various techniques or spar (engage in controlled fighting). This does not simulate real violence. It doesn’t prepare you to respond effectively to a sudden attack, in which you have been hit before you even knew you were threatened, and it doesn’t teach you to strike preemptively, without telegraphing your moves, once you have determined that an attack is imminent.”

 

2. All other things being equal, I would imagine someone that’s pretty mild-mannered and hasn’t been in many fights would probably have quite a learning curve as a superhero.  Most violent criminals (e.g. supervillains!) are used to violence that most people could not fathom.  In a savage fight, it is very possible that a superhero’s mental/moral hesitations and inhibitions and unfamiliarity with violence could be disastrous.  Superhero organizations might want to have new recruits fight nonpowered criminals in relatively low-stakes cases until it looks like they might be mentally and physically hard enough to survive a psychotic killer like Mr. Freeze or a death camp survivor that mentally ripped a foe’s tooth out of his mouth… back when he was a protagonist.  And, let’s be honest, it’s not likely that every would-be superhero can successfully make that transition.  (If you’re writing a larger organization like the Justice League, what does the group do about heroes that are so ill-suited for combat they will probably get themselves killed?  For example, maybe some get retrained as crime-solvers and partnered with ace combatants and maybe others get let go and maybe still more take on important support roles like medic or scientist or whatever that might involve some exposure to violence but aren’t as intense as actually being a combatant).

 

3. Although I think the author discounts the potential benefits of bravery, I agree it definitely has potential costs.  I don’t think we see very much of that in most superhero stories.  For example, violence for Spider-Man is sort of Disney-fied–virtually the only permanent costs of violence (Uncle Ben’s death) are caused by not being brave.   For most superheroes, I think the violence is heavily romanticized.  Being a superhero is more or less fun and games except when a (usually secondary) character dies and, let’s face it, he will probably come back anyway.  On the other hand, I personally don’t enjoy deep-R violence and would feel uncomfortable including it in something primarily meant as entertainment.  (For example, in Kickass, a gangster gets crushed in a car-compactor–it’s decidedly unpleasant and I’m sort of annoyed it was a laugh-line for the audience).

 

4.  It might be dramatic to make a hero choose between his pride and other goals.  For example, if 3+ muggers have guns drawn on Bruce Wayne, it’d be pretty banal for Wayne to flawlessly disarm the criminals and walk away completely unscathed–pretty much every superhero would do the same in that situation.  It might be more interesting if the character allowed himself to be robbed, walked away and got his revenge later.  How much is his pride worth?  Alternately, if the character does decide that his pride is worth risking serious physical injury and/or revealing that he has superpowers, have him pay something for it.  (For example, the first sign to Gary that something is not right about his coworker Dr. Mallow is that Gary witnesses several men rob Dr. Mallow, taking among other things a cherished personal memento.  Over the next several weeks, all of the assailants end up in mysterious accidents and the good doctor has his memento back.  Mallow could have just let it go, but trying to protect his property even after the fact bears a cost for him).

8 responses so far

Sep 06 2011

Erik Larsen’s Comic Book Submission Answers

If you’re interested in submitting a comic book, particularly to Image, I would really recommend checking out these answers from Erik Larsen.

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6 responses so far

Aug 18 2011

Name That Quote: Batman or Shakespeare?

Published by under Badassery,Batman

I found this Sporcle game’s mix of Shakespeare and Batman so dangerously amusing that I wanted to punch an English teacher in the face and throw him two or three stories onto the street.  Then I realized that the closest English teacher was me and I thought better of it.

 

PS: If you’re a long-time fan of Batman, you might remember that Adam West hid the remote control for the entrance to the Batcave inside a bust of Shakespeare.

2 responses so far

Aug 07 2011

The Steelers are extras in the upcoming Batman film

Why use the Steelers as the stand-in for Gotham’s team?  Maybe they couldn’t get any other football-playing rapist* for Batman to strangle on such short notice?

 

*Never proven in a court of law, but Batman isn’t much into legal niceties (like verdicts).  Double points if he does Roethlisberger with a Terrible Towel.

No responses yet

Jul 25 2011

Captain America was very fun

I’d give Captain America 3 out of 4 stars.  If you’re into superhero action, I’d highly recommend it.

  • The writing was consistently clever and entertaining.  I’m not sure how much of it I will remember a few weeks from now–most of it wasn’t brilliant–but it was a very fun time.
  • The movie played with a few superhero tropes.  For example, there’s the obligatory chase scene where a villain tries to escape by throwing a civilian into danger.  A villain throws a boy into a river and runs off.  The Captain glances at the boy, who says something like, “I can swim.  Go get him!”  However, I think they could have more smoothly handled the trope that the super-serum could not be replicated.  Spoiler: The project falls apart because one scientist gets killed and he didn’t have any notes or additional doses of the serum anywhere?  Didn’t he have any lab assistants?  (I don’t think it would’ve been hard to plug this hole.  Maybe he was worried that the Nazis would steal his notes, so he did as much from memory as possible and/or he used a code that only he could understand).
  • I liked that Steve Rogers proved himself, whereas many other superheroes are just passively chosen for greatness (e.g. they’re born with superpowers or happen to be in the right place at the right time for a genetically-modified spider bite).   Rogers is selected as the test subject for the serum because he shows uncommon character, cunning and bravery.  The bravery struck me as a bit banal (he leaps on a hand-grenade without knowing it was a dummy).  The cunning was much more memorable. That flagpole scene was pretty kickass.
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18 responses so far

Jul 14 2011

Green Lantern Was Good for Something (Learning How Not to Write)

Published by under Green Lantern,Plotting

Novelist Jami Gold has two articles about learning from the Green Lantern movie: How Not to Write Characters and How Not to Plot a Story.
 
I’d also use Green Lantern to show why scenes should usually have some transition explaining why a character goes from doing A to doing B.  One of the transitions between a scene of GL talking with his geek friend and a scene of GL talking with his love interest is the geek randomly asking “Hey, doesn’t a superhero always get the girl?”  First, the line comes out of nowhere–they hadn’t been talking about romance or the lady until the geek tossed that line out.   Second, the line probably doesn’t work well as a transition because it doesn’t create a good reason why GL would want to go talk with his love interest.
 
There are so many easy ways to switch a scene without anybody noticing the seams.  For example, the protagonist-geek conversation could have been interrupted by a phone call or a text from the love interest.  Then it would have made sense for the geek to start talking about romance and it would have given GL a good reason to talk with his love interest.  Additionally, depending on what she said in the call/text, it could have added some urgency to the impending protagonist-love interest scene.

4 responses so far

Jun 28 2011

Good news and bad news for Green Lantern fans

The good news is that Warner Bros. is planning a GL sequel.  The bad news is that the preliminary box-office returns look rough enough (so far) that I do not think the sequel will survive.

 

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No responses yet

Jun 19 2011

Are Marvel or DC Movies Better? A Research Survey

Summary

  • Including the older movies, the average Rotten Tomato score was 47.3% for DC and 58% for Marvel.  If we look only at movies since 2000, DC drops to 47.2% and Marvel inches up to 60%.  DC’s movies have actually gotten slightly worse since 2000.

  • Marvel has been having more critical success with more series.  Since 2000, DC’s non-Batman movies have averaged 38.7%.  Since 2000, Marvel’s movies without Spider-Man have averaged 56% and its movies without X-Men have also averaged 56%.

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13 responses so far

Jun 18 2011

Green Lantern’s at 25% on Rotten Tomatoes

Published by under Comic Book Movies

Curses.  I was a lot more excited about GL than the other superhero movies this year (X-Men: First Class, Thor and Captain America) because it’s a more ambitious story, more purely sci-fi than most other superhero stories.  Unfortunately, the initial reviews have been, ahem, not favorable.  (25% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 77% for Thor and 87% for X-Men: First Class).

 

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22 responses so far

Jun 04 2011

X-Men: First Class was surprisingly good

  • It’s less action-heavy than previous X-Men movies.  That’s fortunate, because the action is largely derivative of previous X-Men movies.
  • The character-building is surprisingly good.  I think 2-3 more minor characters like Havok, Darwin, Angel, Riptide (the unnamed tornado villain), Banshee and Moira the CIA agent/love interest could have been removed so that there was more development time for the others, but to the writers’ credit I think each of them had at least one worthwhile moment besides Angel.
  • I feel Beast and Xavier are a lot more interesting here than they were in the previous movies.  Wolverine’s cameo was hilarious and the Magneto-Xavier relationship was good but rushed.  (I don’t think Magneto interacts enough with Xavier that he would be as shaken up about losing him as he was).
  • The cast was generally competent.  However, Kevin Bacon (the lead villain) is notoriously inept.  A few of his scenes were unintentionally funny.  Besides Emma Frost, the ladies were notably not bad, particularly compared to previous superhero disasters (e.g. Jessica Alba and Halle Berry).  However, all of the ladies got small roles.
  • There were several female characters (Mystique, Emma Frost, Moira the love interest and Angel) but, besides Mystique, I thought the writers didn’t accomplish much with them.  The Moira-Xavier romance was half-hearted.  I think it would have helped to eliminate Angel and use that time to develop Moira and/or Mystique.  Also, the movie failed the Bechdel test.  (At least two named women must have at least one conversation about anything besides a man).
  • Spoiler: The black guy is the only protagonist to die?  He barely got enough screen-time to say his name!  (Still, he’s less awful than the jive comic relief in Transformers).
  • The political propaganda was a bit less heavyhanded than usual, mainly because the U.S. military is a potential genocidal villain and not a current genocidal villain yet.  (That’s pretty much as politically evenhanded as the X-Men series gets).   Also, there’s a likable CIA agent and a CIA supervisor that is not totally evil, whereas the military was pretty consistently portrayed as some combination of evil and/or useless.  (For example, Xavier implicitly compares U.S. soldiers to Nazis “just following orders”).   However, I’m inclined to give the screenwriters a pass on making the CIA bosses grossly sexist because that strikes me as plausible for this time period.
  • Besides Mystique, the nonhuman-looking characters looked surprisingly goofy.  Beast and Azazel (Nightcrawler’s dad) looked like extras on a Sy-Fy production.  Yeah, if my dad looked like Azazel, I’d probably join the circus to get out of the house.
  • I noticed two one fairly minor plot hole.  There’s a scene where the characters are staring at incoming missiles and Azazel can teleport himself and others.  Hey, maybe instead of staring at your impending death, Azazel, maybe you can warp everybody to safety like (SPOILER) you did after the missiles were disabled?  Just saying…

22 responses so far

Jun 01 2011

A shakeup for DC’s series

Published by under Comic Books,DC Comics,News

DC Comics announced a few changes that might be significant.  Details are sparse at the moment, but here’s what DC Comics, USA Today and the New York Times have reported.

  • Every DC series will restart at issue #1 and many of the characters will be younger than they were before.  It’s less clear whether the plots will substantially change in noncosmetic ways.  The only substantial changes announced so far are that “a lot” of series are not returning, Justice League will focus more on relationships and DC will branch into genres besides pure superhero action.  “We’re going to use war comics, we have stories set in mystery and horror, we’ve got Westerns.”
  • “We really want to inject new life in our characters and line. This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”
  • DC will be digitally releasing all of its issues the same day they arrive in comic stores.
  • Some titles will return and “a lot” won’t.  Most DC writers and artists are also getting shuffled around. “Series that are successful and writer/artist combinations that work well together won’t be tweaked too much.”
  • The direction for the costume changes is to look more contemporary.   They’re also trying to “alter the physicality of many heroes and villains to modernize the DC Universe.”  I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like a dangerous surgery illegal in most countries.
  • “The recent emphasis on diverse characters such as lesbian superheroine Batwoman, Hispanic hero Blue Beetle and African-American adventurer Cyborg (who will be a core member of Johns and Lee’s new Justice League) also will continue.”

32 responses so far

Dec 25 2010

Tales from the Bully Pulpit was incredible

Published by under Comedy,Comic Books

Tales from the Bully Pulpit was 84 pages of this.  Teddy Roosevelt steals HG Wells’ time machine and meets up with Thomas Edison’s ghost to stop Argentinian Nazis from conquering Mars.

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6 responses so far

Nov 09 2010

Differences Between Marvel and DC Comics

Caveat: Both companies have thousands of characters, so obviously there will be exceptions to every generalization. That said, here are some general differences between the two.

 

1.  Marvel characters usually come from relatively ordinary backgrounds.  For example, Spider-Man, Captain America and most of the X-Men had largely unremarkable lives before developing superpowers.  In contrast, the three most prominent DC characters are a billionaire playboy/ninja, an extraterrestrial, and an Amazon princess that may be a CEO.

 

2.  DC usually uses more epic superpowers.  For example, Superman doesn’t just have eye-beams or incredible strength or incredible speed or the ability to fly, but all of those and more.   In contrast, a lot of Marvel characters get just one (think Cyclops, the Hulk, Quicksilver, Angel, etc).  Most Marvel characters usually have somewhat more ordinary capabilities.  (The Sentry is a notable exception for Marvel).

 

3. DC characters were usually created earlier. Most of Marvel’s main characters date to the 1960s and 1970s, whereas most of DC’s date back to the late 1930s and 1940s.

  • This is one reason Marvel has characters named [Modifier] Man/Woman/Boy/Lad: Iron Man, Spiderman and the Invisible Woman vs. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Aqua Lad, Hawkgirl and Hawkman, etc.
  • Many major DC characters were introduced before superhero teams became commonplace*.

 

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45 responses so far

Sep 24 2010

Plot discrepancies in comic books

FilmFodder wrote a comic book review, How Not to Write a Comic Book. Most of it is helpful–I agree that having too many team meetings or random fights can drive the plot to a screeching halt, as if the writer is trying to burn up time while he figures out where the plot is headed.

However, I’d like to offer a qualification for the following statement: “Here’s a hint to the writer and artist: if the writer has a person saying one thing, don’t show her doing the exact opposite.” Okay, it could be a problem if readers don’t understand why there would be a discrepancy. (I haven’t read the issue, but based on the review it sounds like there isn’t a good reason for the character to explain why she’s refusing to train as she is training). However, under some circumstances, having a character say one thing while doing another might be dramatically effective.

  • The character is being hypocritical. For example, a character talking about the need for sacrifice at the same time he’s eating a lavish dinner.  In most cases, a hypocritical character won’t be aware of the hypocrisy, but perhaps he does know and just doesn’t care what the other characters in the scene think of him.
  • The character’s perspective of the situation is off. For example, if a really angry guy gets asked to calm down, he might scream something like “I’m being perfectly calm.  Don’t ****ing tell me to calm down!”
  • The character is lying from off-panel. For example, John might give Mark’s widow a sob story about the horrible “accident” that killed Mark, but as he says that the camera flashes back to John shooting Mark in the back.
  • The character is using misleading language or a double-entendre. For example, if Mark’s widow thanked him for being there with him until the very end, he could say something like “I always had his back.”

If readers don’t understand why there is a discrepancy between what a character says and what you’re showing the readers, readers will probably get confused.

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Aug 27 2010

Best Free Comic Book Fonts: All-Caps Body

Most comic books and graphic novels letter the body text (dialogue and narration) in all-caps.  Here are some of the best all-caps free fonts. If you’d like to download any of the fonts, please see the links below.


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9 responses so far

Aug 14 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World was both awesomely absurd and absurdly awesome

Published by under Comic Book Movies

Scott Pilgrim’s rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 80%.  It was so neck-deep in every sort of geeky awesomeness that it totally made sense when the hero used a 1-Up as a “get out of death free” card.  The highlight of the movie was definitely the superpowered kung fu. The romantic comedy was reasonably effective, better than suggested in the trailer. The first 33 seconds of the trailer are forgettable, but the movie is substantially better, particularly if you’re into people getting drop-kicked in the face by vegan supervillains.

12 responses so far

Aug 08 2010

What You Should Know About Comic Book Lettering Before You Write Your Script

Blambot has an awesome article about formatting comic book balloons.  It’s aimed at comic book letterers, but I think there are some key points also useful for comic book writers doing a script.  For example, do you know how to handle translated dialogue or when to use quotation marks?

  • Only use quotation marks when somebody is speaking off-panel.  If the speaker is on-panel, readers don’t need quotation marks to know it’s dialogue.
  • If you ever end a shouted question with a question mark and an exclamation point, put the question mark first. Readers will have many context clues that the line is being shouted, such as body language and the bolded/italicized text, but the question mark is pretty much the only indication that a question is involved.
  • Each period should be followed by one space, not two. Double spaces take too much space and look awkward.  (If you habitually use double-spaces, it may help to use your text processor’s Find/Replace feature to replace all periods followed by two spaces with periods followed by single spaces).
  • How to handle text translated from a language besides English. See below.  Note: Generally, the “*Translated from [Language]” caption is necessary just once per scene.  After that, readers can figure out what language the characters are speaking when you use the <greater than/less than signs>.

http://www.blambot.com/grammar.shtml

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