Archive for September, 2013

Look at it this way, the good old USA is a child compared to most other countries. The English have Shakespeare and countless other brilliant writers. Europe has the likes of Norse Mythology, the Grimm Fairy Tales. Greece and Italy have their pantheon of gods and goddesses in their mythologies.
What does the USA have? Yes, you can argue, we have stories like Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed and the like. However, that only reflects part of our history- the frontier days. What about after that? Can you think of anything? Not really.

So take a look at the comic books.  Superman is the protector of the world… but landed in the middle of a Kansas farm field. Captain America, skinny kid from Captain America, Vol. 1 Ish 1Brooklyn who grows up to fight the Third Reich.  Batman or Iron Man- the billionaires with the brain power to come up with gadgets not only for themselves but to share with the rest of the world (ahem, does that remind you of anyone recently? *cough* Gates *cough* Jobs)

I have sat in classes with professors who can correlate how comic book creators are a bit futurists. Captain America punching out Hitler on the cover of Captain America #1 nearly a year before we enter World War 2.

And not to make anyone upset- I am going to talk about 9/11 here for a moment.  If you are not a comic book fan, I need to explain the following picture below.  The Big 2 (Marvel and DC) plan story lines out months, if not years in advance. This gives plenty of lead time for the art team to work on the book. Books are usually (USUALLY) locked into printing at least a month before shipping. New Comic books come out on Wednesdays, so most local comic book stores have their shipments sitting somewhere in their store on Tuesdays.

Now in the original version of this post- a friend pointed out that in this day and age of technology he couldn’t believe that comics couldn’t be printed to coincide with major events.  I see his point, especially in this new age of digital comics. However, this first example- with Captain America- was back in the 1940’s.  There was really no way that Lee and Kirby could have truly known that we were going to enter into World War 2 nearly a year later after this issue was printed.

Even back in 2001, digital comics were still a thought but not fully implemented. Comic books get released weekly on Wednesdays. 9/11 happened on a Tuesday. So, with this particular copy of Adventures of Superman #596, the issues were either already in sitting in the back rooms of stores and/or on trucks out for delivery to comic book shops when the Trade Towers were hit. Did the writer/artist team know? If they did, I bet good ol’ Uncle Sam would like to speak with them.  Readers of this book were surprised to see the next few days when they got their copies the the image below- which in the story, is LexCorp towers in Metropolis.  Note the bottom panel of Page 1 of the book.

Adventures of Superman #596 (9/12/2001) Page 1

Adventures of Superman #596 (9/12/2001) Page 1

Adventures of Superman #596 Page 2 (9/12/2001)

Adventures of Superman #596 Page 2 (9/12/2001)

Comics not only weirdly predict things, but they also reflect the attitude of the people of this country. Here’s another 9/11 example from the infamous “Black Cover” Amazing Spider-man #36 written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by John Romita Jr. (with Scott Hanna on inks) was a tribute to New York City in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Since the Marvel universe takes place in the real world (i.e. New York, not Metropolis) EIC Joe Quesada at the time, felt that the terrorist attacks should be addressed by the characters that live in the city. Who else better than every man, Spider-man?

Amazing Spider-man #36

Amazing Spider-man #36

Comics not only  predict/reflect major moments in history such as 9/11 or World War Two. Sometimes, they reflect societies attitudes about the world.

A few years back Marvel did a story line throughout all their books called “Civil War“. In the story, there is an incident where a school full of kids gets blown up- and its pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back with society. This causes the President to create a “Superhuman Registration Act” in which anyone with “powers” would have to register for the government.  The Marvel Universe is divided down the middle. One side (Captain America’s ideals) says no because then the government tells them who the bad guys are, they want to keep their identities secret and not let the supervillains have a way to get to a database and find out who they are. The other side (Iron Man)  thinks that it’s a good idea, that it would bring a quality control- for the lack of a better word- and also accountability to the superhero set.

It’s a brilliant mini-series written by Mark Millar (you know him from the Wanted and Kick-Ass movies) and drawn by Steve McNiven. However the issue that pulled my heart strings the most, was actually an issue of the first volume of “New Avengers” written by Brian Michael Bendis.

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

Luke later on in this issue, convinces Jessica Jones to take their daughter out of the country. Luke Cage  saying goodbye is the most heartbreaking thing on the face of the planet.

Now this series came out in 2006-2007. We as a country were already halfway through a decade plus long war (Iraq, Afghanistan) we were tired of it. Tired of the politicians. This was also the beginning of the  2008 political campaign.  If you take a look at people’s sentiments at this time, especially around the time this series came out.. you can feel the build up of resentment, anger and frustration pour not only out of us, but out of this book.

A hundred years or so from now, people will be looking at this books and making correlations to what was going on at the time. Just like a lot of us did with Shakespeare or books like “A Tale of Two Cities” or “Homer” while we were in school. Actually, I have sat through classes that dissect comics like this already.

So go and pick up a comic book. There are plenty out there that are non-superhero, superhero, horror or just plain goofy. Not only will it give you the mental/emotional distraction that you need, but you will be contributing to our cultural zeitgeist for your grandkids, great-grand children to stare and dissect.  Support these writers and artists who are telling stories about our society in a unique and interesting way that, until the birth of comic strips here in the good ol’ USA, was never even thought of. Things like this will survive for decades to come to explain how our society is NOW.

That’s why Comic Books Rock- they are an ongoing, evolving, time capsule.

I am quite tired of people looking at me funny when I tell them I am an avid comic book reader. Some cases they are surprised and thinkDr. Fredric Wertham “You are a chick, you shouldn’t like comic books”. However, most of the time, it’s because- despite recent films and tv shows-comic books still get a bad reputation.

Why is that? Well thank you Dr. Fredric Wertham.

Who’s that?

Well, here’s a little history for you: Back in the early 1950’s Dr. Wertham printed a book called “Seduction of the Innocent“. Before this book came out, comics like “Superman” or “Captain America” would each sell a million copies a month. Comics were the coolest thing since sliced bread back then. Heck- they were even part of rations for soldiers back in World War One and World War Two.

Like that cover isn't going to make parents wonder...

Like that cover isn’t going to make parents wonder…

Then this book came out. I know recently you must have heard that “Oh, its violent video games that make kids shoot each other. Or Marilyn Manson. Or Eminem” *eyeroll* I hear this way too much being in Chicago. But it is not true. It’s just regurgitated bad thinking and bad “expertise” back from Wertham.

If you can find a copy of “Seduction..” (which is rare) read it. If you are a comic book fan, you will laugh your butt off.  But for those who have never read it (or can’t find it) I will boil the book down for you ( I have read it).  Wertham’s argument for the rise of juvenile delinquency back in the late 1940’s/ early 1950’s was because of….. comic books. There is an argument in his book that little boys that read ” Batman” will become homosexual.

I kid you not. I really wish i was joking about this. In his book, and later on in his testimony, if you look at the examples that he gives of how comic books ruin children, its twisted to his argument. His “examples” are parts of panels blown up- like (for a current example) a panel of Spider-man swinging through Manhattan that is is normal as could be- Well Wertham would have taken just the crotch shot of the picture and blown it up.

If you read the book, the “research” that Dr. Wertham did was questionable at the least. All the kids he had in his study grew up in Harlem. One neighborhood of a major city in the country. He did not do test groups all over the country- just the kids that came into his clinic in Harlem, New York.

Right there, that should have been questioned. But I digress- the one thing all these kids had in common besides being troublemakers was that they read comic books. So of course Dr. Wertham made the correlation if you are a bad kid that beats others up, it has to be from the comic books you are reading!  But… there were over a million copies of a single title sold in a month. It would have been easier to find kids who didn’t read comic books!

Can I make a side note- did anyone who lived during this time think that the reason there was a rise of juvenile delinquency was because of a number of broken families post two world wars? Or the fact that there was a HUGE shift in ideology (not once, but twice) when it comes to gender roles?

But back to Wertham. Magazines (primarily ones like Good Housekeeping) latched onto Wertham and did interviews and so forth where he

With his four children by the two different woman pictured.

William Moulton Marston With his four children by the two different woman pictured.

got to further go off on his soapbox about how “Wonder Woman” makes girls to be submissive in the bedroom. This tells you the lack of credibility of Wertham. If you actually do some research on the creator of “Wonder Woman”, William Moulton Marston, you would know that he he was in a *very* interesting family structure. He lived with his wife and their children… and his “girlfriend” submissive and their children.He is also the creator of the lie detector. On the first draft of this post, a friend didn’t see how this is related to Wertham. Well a) Writers write what they know and b) if you actually look at the early issues of WW, if anything it taught girls to NOT be submissive, but more dominate.

Wertham’s interviews and book led to such an outcry from frustrated mothers that it led to comic book burnings and also a Congressional Hearing in 1954.  Wertham brought the industry to its knees and nearly severed the head. If you really want to get the full scope of how damaging this hearing was, you can read the transcripts from each day here .

However, in my humble opinion this hearing was completely a waste of time. I am not saying this as a comic book fan, I am saying this because, from a legal perspective it was.  Look at this snippet of Wertham’s opening testimony:

My testimony will be in four parts. First, what is in comic books? How can one classify them clinically? Secondly, are there any bad effects of comic books.  I may say here on this subject there is practically no controversy. Anybody who has studied them and seen them knows that some of them have bad effects. The third problem is how farreaching are these bad effects? There is a good deal of controversy about that.  A fourth part is: Is there any remedy? And being merely a doctor, about that I shall say only a few words.”

Even someone with a basic sense of law from watching shows like Law and Order would have thrown an objection in there for speculation.

If you think that is bad.. read this next part:

“Delinquencies against property; delinquency associated with violence; offenses connected with sex, and then miscellaneous, consisting of fire setting, drug addiction, and childhood prostitution. I may say the latter is a very hushed-up subject. I am not referring to what young girls do with young boys, but I am referring to 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-year-old girls prostituting themselves to adults.”

Really. Really? I mean, this is the biggest form of speculation… just reading this makes me sick. The previous sentence should be the textbook example of speculation. However, Wertham does, for the lack of a better word, redeem himself a bit.

” Now, nobody versed in any of this type of clinical research would claim that comic books alone are the cause of juvenile delinquency. It is my opinion, without any reasonable doubt, and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.”

Wait, so no in front of Congress Wertham begins to backpedal on the ” research was a sober, painstaking, laborious clinical study, and in some cases, since it has been going on now for 7 years, ” 

I could spend a few good days continuing to nitpick his testimony to the Congressional hearing, but that may only interest the lawyer types.

But like most things, the industry evolved. It got past the romance books, the capes, the horror and has become what it is today- even with a burst in the 1990’s that almost collapsed the industry a second time (due to economic issues).

So when you hear the argument that it’s Grand Theft Auto to blame for a kid shooting someone, no its not. Remember Wertham. Do you want someone like him to manipulate not only pop culture but science to prove something inaccurate?

So in the last little bit I wrote about this (read it here ) I was talking about Marvel Studios and their batch of films (better known as the MCU).

Since the last posting, and I apologize for the delay (family matters arose), D23 came and went with no real major announcements.  However, over at the Distinguished Competition (DC/ Warner) a huge announcement almost broke the internet in half.

Batfleck.

Ok. Here’s the thing, Warner did this. It’s a done deal. The likelihood of WB recasting after this… slim to none. Stop wasting time on petitions. Really folks.

I promise this post does circle back to producing, but take a look at some of the commentary over at Comicbookmovie.com about about this news.

Some of my *favorite* comments:

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This is why I have a hard time reading comments on stories such as this. Fans don’t know what they are talking about.

Let me explain the chain of command on a production (in regards to Casting). A Director tells the Casting Director (CD) what they are looking for based on the Director’s interpretation of the script. The CD presents a number of possibilities. The Director auditions/screen tests the actors and makes a decision and hires them. In a big Hollywood production such as this, the Producer needs to sign off on it and deal with negotiations with either the actor and/or agent.

So, at this moment Julie, its not WB’s fault. Blame the producer if you want to blame anyone.

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There are a number of comments similar to this one, comparing Daredevil to Batman. (Which, from a Geek’s perspective, is easily done).

Sigh, they say you “are only as good as your last picture”. Folks, that’s Argo, not Daredevil, but I will go with the comparison for the moment.

I’ve stated before, I am a huge fan of the Daredevil comic book. (my twitter handle is @murdocksgirl). I have watched the film multiple times for multiple different reasons, both the theatrical cut and directors cut. I could got through and list multiple problems with the film (but that’s another post for another day), I can tell you Affleck wasn’t the problem with that film.

But what does this have to do with Producing? Planning. It really does, and I have to give credit to Warner Brothers for locking down a multi-picture deal with Affleck long before he won the Oscar for Argo.  So now you are a director at Warner Brothers and you want a hot star for a lead iconic role? If I was the Director, I would have been calling the top brass at Warner seconds after Afflecks NOMINATION for Argo going “Give me Affleck”

And I am betting that is what happened.

But this makes sense. WB has announced for awhile now they want to set up their team equivalent to the Avengers, Justice League as a picture. Now I personally think they are going about it the wrong way with this detour to Batman V. Superman, but thats just my two cents. Will Affleck be in the Justice League Movie also? I sure hope so, and based on this casting decision from WB, it feels as though they are making Affleck the RDJ equivalent to the film (the “godfather” for the actors).

It’s actually quite smart and also quite dangerous. From my producing chair, it’s nice to have an actor that can also speak director- they can act as a go-between translator for the rest of the cast.

Then again, they can also try to overrun the film (I am having flashbacks to stories surfacing about Edward Norton being a diva on the Incredible Hulk set)

In my previous post I mentioned that producer’s play therapists, babysitters and Captain’s of starships. What I forgot to mention is that they are a bit futurists. You have to think 12 steps ahead of the game and try to mitigate all possible problems that arise.

Don’t believe me?

Scourge can vouch this statement as he is the one I usually play “If I ruled the world” game with.

I predicted Affleck as Batman 3 years ago. Bale was already on the way out of the franchise and wanted to do other things. My reasoning behind that prediction was a) Daredevil and Batman are similar characters, b) Affleck would jump on it to get rid of the Gigli and Daredevil remarks that are still floating around and c) his “star power” was on the rise.

Another Example. Back in late 2007, I was able to go into a very kick ass site used by professionals thank you to a very awesome professor at the time who had access. I knew about Ant-Man being on the production slate at Marvel back then, along with Captain America, Thor and the Avengers.

Good Producers plan far out ahead.

Great Producers plan out far ahead, and avoid problems at all costs.

The Best Producers do all that, and have 30 backup plans in place if something completely left field throws a wrench into the system.