Tag Archives: Marvel

Quote of the Day: Ed Brubaker on superheroes

17 Dec

by Mike Hansen

From Point Blank #1 (the prelude to Sleeper) – click to make bigger:

Ed Brubaker quote

I love it when comics mix genres. Ed Brubaker’s blend of crime and superheroes in Sleeper and Incognito is a blast. His murder/revenge story in Captain America was easily the best thing about Marvel’s Civil War event a few years back. (I’m still woefully behind on new comics, but what I’ve read of his horror/crime series Fatale has been amazing so far…)

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A Very Special Thor Poster

6 Nov

by Mike Hansen

Seen in China:

Thor The Dark World chinese poster

They look adorable together, don’t they?

Source

Upgrade or Downgrade? Hellblazer: Original Sins

19 Sep

by Mike Hansen

Hellblazer: Original Sins (1st printing)

Hellblazer: Original Sins (1st & 2nd DC Comics printing)

Occasionally, I’ll buy more than one edition of a graphic novel. Sometimes it’s by accident (which is surprisingly easy when one has thousands of books!); sometimes it’s because the newer one looks like a better version…

After a big move five months ago, I’ve finally gotten around to organizing my comics again, and I’ve discovered a LOT of duplicate material in some of my books. So as a Public Service, I thought I’d share what I know, so you can make a more informed decision on which books to buy. I’m a giver.

I’m starting with DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer books, as I’ve managed to amass most of them over the last 21 years. It’s one of the best horror comics series of all time, so if all you care about is whether it’s good the answer is YES. Hugely imaginative, massively influential, the stories of John Constantine remain as potent today as they did when they were first published over the last 26 years. Even the character’s creator, Alan Moore, has praised the work of writers Jamie Delano and Brian Azzarello on the series, despite his general hatred of DC Comics.

the 1993 Warner Books edition

1993 Warner Books edition

(It’s a shame that DC decided to incorporate its “mature” characters back into its New 52 superhero line. If only DC knew how to properly manage its intellectual property and branding, instead of taking an “all or nothing” approach to its company-owned material, draining the life and power out of ideas that now fall far short of their potential. I’m grateful that a large enough audience exists for the “real” John Constantine so the Hellblazer stories can continue to be reprinted.)

I’ve given DC Comics a hard time a lot lately (because, let’s face it, that company has done a shit-ton of stupid things in public in the last few years – hell, in the last few weeks), but the company hasn’t survived for over 75 years by being stupid all the time. The DC of today doesn’t Continue reading

San Diego Comic-Con 2013 pictures (part 2)

12 Aug

Photos by Orion Tippens

Occasional caption text by Mike Hansen

Photo Jul 19, 9 02 30 AM

Photo Jul 18, 1 29 39 AM

Dustin Nguyen (Li'l Gotham) rocks the stage.

Dustin Nguyen (Li’l Gotham) rocks the stage.

Photo Jul 21, 1 17 33 AM

Photo Jul 18, 2 30 03 AM

Continue reading

I saw The Wolverine

11 Aug

by Mike Hansen

The Wolverine argentina

Probably my favorite of the international posters, even if the tagline is as cheesy as U.S. posters: “Fugitive, Hero, Legend.” Really? “Inmortal,” indeed…

They finally got the claws right.

Every X-Men film has its nitpicky moments, giving long-time comics readers like me something to complain about (in the right company). The first couple of X-Men films get a pass, because they were at the very beginning of the superhero-film wave that didn’t really get going until the first Spider-Man movie. Both of them have a lot of good visual and character moments, but watching them now reveals a lot of stuff that would make me cringe if they were made in 2013. The near-franchise killer (despite its initial box-office success) X-Men: The Last Stand is still nearly unwatchable for me, with its odd and pointless creative choices. Likewise X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which clearly owed its limited success to the last bit of goodwill fans had for the material (not to mention the rough cut’s leak, marking the beginning of the end for MegaUpload and making it really damn tough for me to complete my AC/DC bootleg collection – but I digress…).

The Wolverine japan flag teaser

I usually like teaser posters more than later ones. For me, less is more.

X-Men: First Class was a big step back in the right direction, with its bold and ballsy 1960s Cold War setting and the kind of reboot no superhero franchise in any medium had seen yet: nailing down the premise’s origins in a specific time in history, despite the unofficial Marvel “ten-year rule” for its oldest characters (i.e., as of 2013, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man got their powers in 2003 – even though their first appearances were in 1961-1962). This kind of thinking has also led to creative disasters like DC’s New 52 reboot (although one of its few good ideas was Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics featuring the early days of Superman), so it can be a fine line to walk between respecting and adapting source material, and just doing overpaid fan fiction. First Class also had that great, super-brief scene with Wolverine, one of the few times I’ve seen a scene designed as fan service really work. (Will its other choices, like an early furry Beast and using Cyclops’s brother, make sense in the long run? Time will tell…)

The Wolverine samurai

I think this poster was for the Japanese market. I dig it, especially its similarity to the new X-Men: Days of Future Past teaser posters.

The Wolverine has none of the problems of previous X-Men films. It’s a tight story set (mostly) during just a handful of days, some time after the events of The Last Stand (none of which are directly referenced, other than that Wolverine killed Jean Grey and is now haunted by this). The story is mainly Continue reading

Catching Up (chunky edition) (Part 2 of 2)

1 May

by Mike Hansen

So what else has happened lately that’s worth a mention?

Gygax Magazine #1 cover

Gygax Magazine #1

A NEW MAGAZINE IS HERE! YAY

The first issue of Gygax Magazine, the spiritual (and visual) successor to the classic Dragon Magazine, was released in February. If you’re a longtime tabletop-RPG fan like me, it’s pretty great; I’ll write more about it soon.

AND AN OLD MAGAZINE IS GONE. BOO

Comics Buyer’s Guide was abruptly cancelled by its publisher, criminally at issue #1699. In its early years, CBG allowed comics fans to connect and feel that they were part of a community (much like Star Trek events did for Trekkies). I always enjoyed reading my weekly CBG in the 1990s much more than Wizard and its magazine competitors, though the strange politics dividing these publications always baffled me (and probably boiled down to the big mouths of a handful of comics “superstars” more than anything). Cofounder Maggie Thompson and longtime contributor Tony Isabella have both found new outlets for their work, so congrats to them.

MORE BOO

Two online manga sites, JManga and Square Enix’s online service, have been/are being shut down. JManga customers are screwed, as there’s no way to access the comics they paid for. Yet another example of why DRM hurts the end-users.

MORE YAY

On a related note, a modder has figured out how to run EA’s near-crippled new SimCity game without being always-online. Since two-time Worst Company In America EA has no intention of making this officially possible, I hope this demonstrates to other publishers that their customers will find a way to use their product the way they want. Here’s what users need to know to modify the game themselves.

(I hope the courts will soon recognize digital purchases as property and not licenses, allowing the first-sale doctrine to apply and allowing end-users to use and modify the content however they choose. There was that recent court decision that digital material (which can be easily copied and redistributed) cannot be resold as “used” content and doesn’t fall under the first-sale doctrine…)

EVEN MORE YAY

Speaking of the first-sale doctrine, I was happy that the Supreme Court recently ruled that publishers are not protected when third-party sellers import their product from other countries and resell it at lower prices. The idea that prices should be higher in America, whether for books or drugs or anything else, has always irritated me. Now, if only that other court ruling from a few years ago that manufacturers can set minimum prices at all can be overturned…

WTF

One of the internet’s best comics sites, Comics Alliance, was surprisingly shut down by its owner, AOL. I’ll miss the commentary and analysis. Hope its columnists find new venues quickly.

ARGH

One of my favorite cable-TV channels, G4TV, is basically dead, now that X-Play and Attack Of The Show are cancelled. Best of luck to all of the talent with finding lucrative work elsewhere. (I notice that Ninja Warrior reruns have recently returned. G4’s owner, Comcast, has no idea how to keep this channel viable, does it? Everything I’ve heard about the replacement “Esquire Network” sounds very Not For Me.)

SAD

I was sad to learn of the death of writer Robert Morales. His 2003 Captain America story, Truth: Red, White & Black, is one of Marvel’s best miniseries. His 8 Cap issues the following year were excellent, too. I just learned about his 1980s work in Heavy Metal; I definitely plan to track it down now. Alan Moore wrote a moving tribute to Morales.

GROOVY

Speaking of Moore, The Beat has been serializing a great investigative series on the history of Marvelman entitled Poisoned Chalice. While the internet is littered with comics opinions/reviews/analysis/hype (often in the name of getting a lot of traffic/clicks – obviously, I don’t care much about that!), there isn’t a lot of true comics journalism, so this series is worth celebrating.

LAME

Disney’s recent suspension/cancellation of numerous Star Wars projects and dismantling of LucasArts isn’t surprising to me. Few companies are as robust in their brand management, and Disney doesn’t want anything to distract from its marketing campaign for the new Star Wars films. (If only Warner Brothers understood how to manage its superhero brands: The cartoon versions are generally terrific (so of course they’re getting cancelled), while the comics and film versions have often suffered from top-down corporate mismanagement.)

OH SO LAME

Disney’s recent layoffs in its hand-drawn animation division did surprise me, though. Yes, the computer-animated “Paperman” short is brilliant and has a “hand-drawn” feel, but that shouldn’t mean the dismantling of the foundation of the company’s legacy. No wonder there will be a memorial service for 2-D animation at Comic-Con

TRUTHINESS

It turns out that comics bogeyman Frederic Wertham made up his not-so-scientific evidence of comics causing juvenile deliquency. Who’da thunk it?

SHARING IS CARING

Last month, a lawsuit was filed arguing that Zorro should be in the public domain, that Zorro therefore belongs to everyone, and that the property’s licensor has no right to force others to pay to use the character. I haven’t found any updates on the suit; it sounds to me like the plaintiff has a pretty strong case, despite today’s ridiculously long copyright periods.

OH, DC…

Sales on Marvel NOW titles seem to be stabilizing much faster than DC’s New 52 lineup. Both lines have brought some new readers into comics shops, so that’s a good thing; but both lines have also lost older readers, so that’s not so good. The overall industry is healthier than ever, though, so maybe it’s just superheroes?

In any case, I hope DC catches up to figuring out what the current market wants soon: of all comics publishers, few have such a high percentage of utterly disposable material as DC these days, and gimmicks like variant covers (which are still way too common), “WTF” plots, and unnecessary character deaths aren’t going to build brand loyalty (but at least universal outrage prevented the killing of Green Lantern John Stewart). DC’s properties and creators deserve better than to be in the company of crap like Bluewater and Zenescope. I really don’t think people want 52 monthly titles from DC; the titles seem to keep getting cancelled before the next rushed replacement series are ready to go…

Kudos to DC for finally pulling the announced Orson Scott Card-written Superman story. While in general I try to keep my opinions of creators and their work separate, I think it’s never a good idea to allow an active hatemonger to be associated with the world’s most recognizable Good Guy.

And now that the Before Watchmen travesty is over, here’s a very brief excerpt from a 1988 letter by Alan Moore, via Steve Bissette’s excellent blog (currently serializing a fascinating history of the prozine WaP (a.k.a. Words And Pictures) – go there to read the whole thing):

Ironically, the higher I progressed in the industry, the more of its indignities were made visible by the elevated vantage point…

It is, after all, difficult to feel cheated when earning more money than you’ve made in your life…

It’s only when you realize that DC could license a Saturday morning Rorschach cartoon series complete with Blot the Dog and two mod teenybopper sidekicks that you realize how much you don’t have. You don’t have the dignity of calling your work your own. You don’t have total control over how it is presented…

– Alan Moore, letter published in WaP! #6, copyright 1988 Alan Moore

(Hope that brings more traffic to Mr. Bissette; he’s one of comics’ most outspoken and intelligent writers on creators’ rights, and he deserves the widest possible platform.)

Death Proof The End

Marvel Omnibus reprints are coming!

4 Mar

by Mike Hansen

Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus 1 cover by Alex RossI’ve been waiting for an opportunity to share some news about Marvel collected editions, now that I’m a researcher on some of them. Just a few minutes ago, Marvel Senior VP of Sales David Gabriel announced that some of Marvel’s most requested Omnibus hardcovers are being reprinted:

For now we’re going with: Uncanny 1 FF 1 ASM 1 DD. Miller 1 These will start to appear in the June previews.

Daredevil by Miller & Janson Omnibus red-black coverTranslation:

Uncanny X-Men (by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, & John Byrne) vol. 1, Fantastic Four (by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby) vol. 1, Amazing Spider-Man (by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko) vol. 1, and Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson will all be reprinted this year.

This is a Big Deal because most of these have already been reprinted before (unlike most Marvel Omnibus volumes, which tend to appear and disappear: and if you missed it, you’re paying big bucks for a secondhand copy).

Fantastic Four Omnibus 1 cover by Alex RossI’m excited for a couple of reasons: One, because these four contain the most memorable and iconic material that Marvel has ever published; and Two, because these are some of the best-quality books that Marvel produces: the reproduction on the classic material is usually stellar, and the packaging (paper, binding, size, etc.) is of very high quality. Plus, since these are among Marvel’s earliest Omnibus volumes (from 2005-2007), this is an opportunity to pay a reasonable price for a better package (as these printings will have sewn binding that allows the book to lay flat without gutter loss, unlike some early printings).

Uncanny X-Men Omnibus vol. 1 variant coverThis is why I dig the Marvel Masterworks Fan Site: you never know when something cool is going to be announced to fans.

Save your pennies…

(My only question is: which covers are they going to use? The last time these were offered, both versions were reprinted – but the most recent Omnibus reprint (New X-Men by Grant Morrison) used completely different cover art…)

Hot Bendy Brokeback Girls: The Modern Artist’s Reference Tool

8 Feb

by Mike Hansen

Apologies for being away for a bit, folks. I’ve had a few back-to-back deadlines for paying (and potentially paying) comics-related work lately (a few Marvel books I got to research, and a script for my first original comics project). More on that soon…

Over the last few months, there’s been renewed controversy over some superhero artists drawing completely unrealistic poses for heroes impossibly bending in midair, from Catwoman to Wolverine. I think I’ve finally found the source for their crazy-ass drawings:

female contortionist 1

“Of course I can maintain this pose in mid-air! Meow!”

female contortionist 2

“Take THAT, office furniture of evil!”

More posts real soon. Stay tuned!

Sales charts and the lies they tell

8 Jan

by Mike Hansen

Michael Jackson Thriller zombiesNow that comics shops have only one nationwide distributor that carries the major U.S. publishers, it’s easy to look at Diamond’s sales figures and assume they’re pretty accurate. Except that Diamond adjusts the numbers for comics with various sales-incentive schemes, and doesn’t release figures on returns or overseas sales.

There are ways of tracking actual sales to customers (not just to retailers). The music industry used to certify Gold and Platinum albums based on how many albums were shipped to stores, not how many sold to customers. Then along came SoundScan, which revealed that a lot of so-called hits were getting returned unsold to the record labels.

Bookstores have a similar program called BookScan, but it doesn’t cover Walmart or book club sales, among others.

A friend shared with me a recent New Yorker article about the top-selling albums of all time, worldwide. It turns out that Michael Jackson’s Thriller didn’t sell anywhere near a hundred million copies, as Sony Music (remember them?) has claimed. Here’s the actual top ten sales (click on the article link for more):

1. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”: 66,200,000
2. Soundtrack, “Grease”: 44,700,000
3. Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon”: 44,200,000
4. Whitney Houston et al., “The Bodyguard”: 38,600,000
5. The Bee Gees at al., “Saturday Night Fever”: 37,200,000
6. The Eagles, “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975”: 36,900,000
7. Bob Marley, “Legend”: 36,800,000
8. Led Zeppelin, “IV”: 35,700,000
9. AC/DC, “Back in Black”: 35,700,000
10. Shania Twain, “Come on Over”: 35,400,000

We already know Continue reading

COPYRAGE: Sony screws Bob Dylan fans with ridiculously limited-edition box set

7 Jan

by Mike Hansen

Bob Dylan 50th front

Way to rub it in everyone’s faces, Sony!

U.S. copyright law tends to revolve around ensuring that Disney continues to own Mickey Mouse in perpetuity (along with Warner Brothers clinging tenaciously to Superman and Batman, Marvel to Captain America, etc.). In Europe, it seems to be all about its music superstars.

Today, Rolling Stone reported something sure to annoy 99.999999999999% of Bob Dylan fans: about 100 copies of an official 4-CD, 86-song Bob Dylan box set of 1962 outtakes (Dylan’s first year with Columbia Records, now owned by Sony Music).

“This isn’t a scheme to make money,” a Sony Music source tells Rolling Stone. “The copyright law in Europe was recently extended from 50 to 70 years for everything recorded in 1963 and beyond. With everything before that, there’s a new ‘Use It or Lose It’ provision. It basically said, ‘If you haven’t used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren’t going to get any more.'”

Bob Dylan 50th backSo even though Sony doesn’t intend to make money from these recordings (most of which are widely available on bootleg), it wants to ensure that they don’t enter the public domain so they can be freely copied and shared. Really? Is Sony that afraid of having to compete with anyone’s ability to package, release, and distribute the material in a manner of their choosing?

Bob Dylan’s 1962 debut LP became a part of the European public domain on January 1st, meaning anybody in Europe can release the music without paying Dylan one dime. “The whole point of copyrighting this stuff is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future,” says the source. “But it wasn’t the right time to do it right after he released Tempest. There are other things we want to do in 2013 though.”

Oh, okay: so Sony DOES intend to make money off it. LATER. So they’re lying. Classy!

I’m all for compensating artists for their work, but these are recordings that sat on the shelf for over 50 years while the artist and record company made no effort to make a penny off them. And instead of just allowing the material to become public-domain (like Dylan’s first album and, I assume, the Beatles’ earliest recordings), Sony released just *100* copies of the material to protect its copyright while ensuring that virtually 0% of Bob Dylan fans will actually (legally) hear the material. In a business where record labels routinely underpay their artists (and overpay their executives), this is simply a corporate move to hold onto property it doesn’t care about, just in case it might be worth a few dollars later. This doesn’t benefit the artist; it doesn’t benefit the consumer; and it doesn’t benefit the corporate behemoth greedily clutching the rights. What’s the point?

According to the New York Times, it looks like only Dylan fans in France and Germany can legally download this material from the artist’s website. What?

… Sony is not alone. Universal, which owns the Motown catalog, has released a series of jazz, gospel and rhythm and blues albums under the rubric “Motown Unreleased 1962,” which makes a large body of its unissued archives eligible for the European copyright extension.

Wow. If this isn’t abuse of copyright law, I don’t know what is. It’s no wonder music fans continue to use extralegal methods to acquire music. This is Exhibit A for why copyright law needs to be amended for the benefit of creators and the public, instead of for corporations that behave like mental patients.

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