Showing posts with label marvel comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marvel comics. Show all posts

Monday, August 07, 2017

What COULD Happen If Disney Stopped Publishing Marvel Comics?

There is an interesting article on (of all places) a site focused on Disney and Disney-related theme parks that asks the question Will Disney Stop Publishing Marvel Comic Books? We all know that one of the basic rules of journalism is that if your headline asks a yes/no question, the answer is typically no.

The thing is that this headline asks a pretty valid question that once would have been a resounding "no," but with the state of the comics market, and the fact that Marvel Comics has been bleeding readers for a while now, I don't know that it is that simple of a question any more. Neither Marvel Comics nor DC Comics are the powerhouses of the comics market that they were 30 or 40 years ago. In fact, the comics market itself has never really recovered from the market's speculator-lead bust of the 90s. Sales of DC Comics are up from what they were a few years ago (thanks mostly to the bump in sales that came about due to the Rebirth initiative that the company started about a year ago), but across the industry the sales numbers are no where near sustainable in the long term.

People have a number of reasons why they aren't buying comics like they used to. The quality isn't what it was. The stories are rehashes. Long-term readers don't recognize the characters in the comics anymore. There is a cycle of events that interrupt the various ongoing books, stalling out their stories. Buying comics on a monthly basis is expensive.

Some of these reasons are probably more valid than others, but regardless of the underlying reasons, people don't read comics like they used to read them. The direct comics market is also increasingly fragile for a number of reasons: many comics retailers aren't the best of business people (having gotten into the business because of their love of comics), declining sales means declining capital, and declining capital means that it is more difficult for retailers to diversify their product base or weather the storm of declining sales. Many comics stores are only just now recovering from the industry implosion of the 90s, and it wouldn't take a lot to cause them to teeter over the brink. Would they be able to bounce back again?

Regardless of the comic buying patterns of many of us comic fans, the comic market lives and dies by the selling power of the Big Two: Marvel Comics and DC Comics. If Disney were to decide that Marvel is a more profitable brand if it focuses on movies and merchandising, there would be an immense and sudden vacuum that would lead to another bust within the comics market. I don't think that another company would fill the vacuum left by Marvel. Image Comics, IDW Publishing and Boom! all publish some good books, but they don't scratch that super-hero itch that the Big Two does.

It is this lack of genre diversity that would be one of the factors that would lead to this bust. By putting so much of a market reliance onto just one genre of storytelling, the industry makes it more difficult to course correct by having other publishers step into the void left by a publisher leaving it. By relying heavily upon one genre, they create their own long term troubles. The collapse of the comics market would hurt the livelihood of a lot of people -- from creatives to distributors to retailers. It isn't an outcome that I would want to see.

If it came to pass that Disney decided to pull the plug on Marvel Comics publishing comics on a monthly basis it would decimate the industry. Even companies like DC Comics, with the deep pockets of Warner backing them, would have problems, because of the impact that it would have on the direct market. Too many eggs have been put into one basket of distribution and sales, just like they have been put into the one basket of genre. This isn't something that I would want to see happen, but I think that it is more becoming a possibility with each passing month.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Doctor Strange And The Shifting Marvel Movie Paradigm?

I think that (inadvertently) this article says more about the Marvel Comics formula back in the day, than it might say about the Marvel movies formula. This is actually something that I thought about while watching Doctor Strange, was how these characters had a similar arc from "asshole" to hero as a part of their journeys. Iron Man. Spider-Man. Dr. Strange. They all started as sort of jerks who had a life changing moment that put them onto the path of being heroes. Partially it is that Stan Lee Doctrine: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

So, yes, there is a bit of sameness to the characters of Tony Stark and Stephen Strange. That's not a coincidence with the characters that Stan Lee was crafting with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Does that need to change in the Marvel movies? Absolutely. I think that we saw Strange's transition from egotistical jerk to hero happen pretty quickly, in the course of this movie, while with Tony Stark, the journey is still going on. I don't think that the plot of Civil War would have happened if the heroes had stopped thinking about themselves for a minute and thought more about what was happening around them. Is Dr. Strange the start of a trend within the MCU to make heroes who are able to overcome their egos? The ego of heroes has been an integral part of the MCU so far (and you could probably argue that it is the same for Marvel Comics), so are we seeing a transition from that?

Dr. Strange has been one of my favorites of the MCU so far. I rank it up there with Ant Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier as the Marvel movies that I have most enjoyed.

I'm a fan of heroes being heroes (which some may wonder about in regards to my enjoying the recent Superman movies), and I would like to see the heroes of the Marvel movies transcend the cynicism that we get in comic movies a lot of the time. It is this heroism that appeals to people in the native form of super-heroes in comics.

Go see Doctor Strange, it is a well-made super-hero movie that has some pretty mind-bending special effects.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

R.I.P. Herb Trimpe

For comic fans of a certain age, artist Herb Trimpe was everywhere, and for those of us who were fans of the Shogun Warriors and Godzilla, Trimpe was a defining part of our childhoods.
Herb Trimpe was born in 1939 and raised in Peekskill, New York, where he graduated from Lakeland High School. Of his childhood art and comics influences, he said in 2002, "I really loved the Disney stuff, Donald Duck and characters like that. Funny-animal stuff, that was kind of my favorite, and I liked to draw that kind of thing. And I also liked ... Plastic Man. ... I loved comics since I was a little kid, but I was actually more interested in syndicating a comic strip than working in comics." As well, "I was a really big fan of EC comics and [artist] Jack Davis."
In the 1960s, during the period known as the Silver Age of Comics, Trimpe was assigned to pencil what became his signature character, the Hulk. Beginning with pencil-finishes over Marie Severin layouts in The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #106 (Aug. 1968), he went on to draw the character for a virtually unbroken run of over seven years, through issue #142 (Aug. 1971), then again from #145–193 (Nov. 1971 – Nov. 1975). Additionally, Trimpe penciled the covers of five Hulk annuals (1969, 1971–72, 1976–77, titled King-Size Special! The Incredible Hulk except for #4, The Incredible Hulk Special), and both penciled and inked the 39-page feature story of The Incredible Hulk Annual #12 (Aug. 1983). Most writers on The Incredible Hulk heavily relied on Trimpe for the plot as well; in most cases he was not even given a written plot, and was left to draw the issue after only a brief story conference. Trimpe has said that he had no difficulty with this level of collaboration, and in fact enjoyed it.
Among the characters co-created by Trimpe during his run on the title were Jim Wilson in issue #131 (Sept. 1970) and Doc Samson in #141 (July 1971).[13] During his time on the comic, he became the first artist to draw for publication the character Wolverine, who would go on to become one of Marvel's most popular. The character, designed by Marvel de facto art director John Romita, Sr., was an antagonist for the Hulk, introduced in the last panel of The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #180 (Oct. 1974) and making his first full appearance the following issue.[14] Trimpe in 2009 said he "distinctly remembers" Romita's sketch, and that, "The way I see it, [Romita and writer Len Wein] sewed the monster together and I shocked it to life! ... It was just one of those secondary or tertiary characters, actually, that we were using in that particular book with no particular notion of it going anywhere. We did characters in The [Incredible] Hulk all the time that were in [particular] issues and that was the end of them." Trimpe co-created nearly all of the characters introduced during his run on The Incredible Hulk, with Wolverine being a rare exception.
I was lucky that I was able to meet Herb Trimpe a few years ago at a local comic show in Tampa and thank him for everything that he did for my childhood. I was also able to get him to sign an issue of the Shogun Warriors comic for me.

Herb Trimpe drew The Hulk for forever, and even illustrated the Hulk story written by Harlan Ellison. He also drew the first appearance of Wolverine. His fingerprints are on the Marvel Universe until the end of time.

He will be missed.

Over on Twitter, writer Ron Marz made a couple of tweets that should be a reminder to comic fans.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Why I Love Superhero RPGs

Comic books have always been my thing. I got into them before I could even read. When I was still a toddler, my parents owned a couple of convenience stores, and they had those wonderful, mythical spinner racks in them. The draw of the brightly colored comics was too much for my young mind, and I was hooked. Even before I could read them.

I really don't know what the first comics that I "read" were, but from vague childish memories I am pretty sure that The Avengers was on that list, most likely (due to my age) something during the Roy Thomas years.

Within a few years, I was going full tilt into comics. The 70s were a great time to get into comics. Marvel was doing some of the best work of their history with creators like Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Steve Gerber, Neal Adams and Jim Starlin among so many others. I do think that DC Comics came along and stole a lot of the thunder of Marvel in the 80s and 90s, with more cutting edge storytelling, but that is a matter of opinion.

I love comics. I love all sorts of comics. I love mainstream super-hero stuff. I love alt comix. I love the indie books (stuff from the I love the foreign stuff. France has had some great SF comics over the years. 2000 AD and/or Pat Mills have revolutionized the British comics scene. If you have an interest in a genre or type of storytelling, there is probably a comic for it. And that is an awesome thing.

This is where I have always fallen a little out of step with other gamers, I'm just not as big of a fan of fantasy or SF stuff as I have been of comics. Luckily there's always been a strong fantasy tradition in comics (whether any number of Conan comics or quirkier fare like Stalker from Paul Levitz and Steve Ditko), so I've had that to keep me afloat, but I have never really had much of an interest in fantasy literature outside of a couple of authors. I tried some of the "Appendix N" writers with mixed success.

Then in 1985, I stopped playing D&D. It has just never really engaged me in the way that other games have since. Although at the time, if it hadn't been for the original Marvel Super-Heroes game and Call of Cthulhu, I may have stopped gaming altogether.

The Marvel game not only appealed to my being a fan of comics (even though by the time the game came out I had switched my allegiance to DC Comics), but it had that breathtaking simplicity that people talk about when they wax nostalgic over the early editions of D&D. Yes, there were other super-hero RPGs, but the only other that was as fun for me would have been the British Golden Heroes, put out by Games Workshop in the later 80s. The sensibility of that game was so in sync with the British comics of the time, and the American comics that they would later inspire, that the game was really ahead of its time.

There was also the college fling with Palladium's Heroes Unlimited, a game that I also have enjoyed over the years, but only when I need that "class and level" scratch itched.

Why is it that I keep coming back to the Marvel RPG? I think that it hits that personal sweet spot of simplicity and robustness. The game's underlying mechanics look back to an earlier era where a more freeform and imaginative route was encouraged, in that time before people thought that something not addressed directly by the rules of a game meant that the game couldn't do that thing. But mostly, I like the fact that comics, and super-hero comics more specifically, are about just about anything: science fiction, romance, adventure fiction, mythology, horror, magic, intrigue, espionage. All of these things are in super-hero comics, and all of those things can and should be in super-hero RPGs. A good super-hero RPG can be about anything, and for me that is what the Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG is. A good super-hero RPG that can do anything.

I'm not going to lie and say that it is a perfect RPG. There's no such animal. What it is, however, is something that is nearly perfect for me. It has flexibility and variety. It holds up fairly well at the high and low ends of the power spectrum for super-heroes. Most super-hero RPGs, I think, hold up better at the higher end of things than the "street level," but there are work arounds for a game like this, and that is why I like it. It has a good framework that I can hack into the game that I want at the table. That is really all that I can ask out of an RPG.

It is true that this game gave my friends and I hours and hours of enjoyment back in college. Everything from random, stupid fights to intricate intercharacter interactions. The rules didn't always support what we wanted to do, but they didn't get in the way of them either. And that, for me, is the point behind an RPG.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Review: Marvel's Defenders #1

I will admit that I'm not a Marvel fanboy. This is the first Marvel comic that I have bought since Agents of Atlas was cancelled. Mostly it's a taste issue...the currently in vogue style of storytelling at the House of Ideas isn't what I am interested in when reading a comic book.

That said, I have been a huge fan of the Defenders since I was a kid. I found The Defenders not long after I discovered The Avengers. For me, the appeal of The Defenders has always been that they are the weird and creepy super-heroes, tucked off in a dark corner of the Marvel Universe. This feeling is the foundation on which this incarnation of The Defenders is built. I'm pretty sure that the last book written by Matt Fraction that I read was his run on Iron Fist (who is a character in this book as well). This issue, to me, had a similar tone to those issues, more than just because Iron Fist is a member of this new version of the team. I liked that feel in Iron Fist, and so far I like that feel here in The Defenders.

The Defenders rolls out of the story of Marvel's latest big event, Fear Itself, but so far I have found that reading that event is not necessary for this book. This first story, The Defenders are brought together by The Hulk to deal with a menace from that book that he is responsible for. "Imagine all of my rage...and power and strength and hate -- imagine it taking a shape," is how The Hulk describes this menace to The Silver Surfer.

The portrayals of The Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange are probably most likely to be sticking points for some long-time Marvel fans. The Silver Surfer is shown at his most alien in this issue. I like that. It is nice to see a comic book alien being portrayed as being, well, alien for a change. This isn't just some guy in silver body paint, this is an inhuman, near-cosmic entity that just does not see the world in the same way, or interact with it in the same way, as his more human companions.

While I (surprisingly to myself) liked the new take on Doctor Strange, I'm not sure that everyone is going to like Hipster Doctor Strange. Hipster you say? When asked about his choice of reading material at one point Doctor Strange responds with "It is something very old and rather frightening I'm afraid. I don't think you'd know it." Yes, Doctor Strange read that old book before everyone else, and probably has a copy of it on vinyl as well. The good Doctor is also introduced in a post-coital scene that has been talked about in a negative manner in a few blogs already. Really, it didn't bother me all that much. Back in the day, Doctor Strange was always shown as one of the more sexual of super-heroes, with he and Clea in states of undress and seemingly interrupted during sex more than once in a comic. So, Doctor Strange having a hook-up, or using his "spooky old conjurer" status (as Namor calls it at one point) to try to pick up women is not really all that big of a stretch to me.

I have to add that I like the way that Fraction approaches the unnaturalness of Doctor Strange in this book, as well as his approach to magic. In some pre-publication publicity, Fraction mentioned that he wanted to give Doctor Strange a sort of William S. Burroughs quality in his "been there, done that" approach to the weirdness of the world. So far, I think it is successful.

The story is nothing spectacular, just your standard "let's get the band together" first issue for a team book. Geoff Johns should look at this story as an example of how to actually get all of the characters on the cover together and into the book. There is a lot of Marvel Universe esoterica in this issue, particularly the stuff with Wondagore Mountain. There isn't a lengthy exposition on it's history in the Marvel Universe, which could be good or bad. I think most comics these days assume that the reader will have more than a passing knowledge of continuity and that there aren't going to be many uninitiated readers picking up a book as there might have once been. There is just enough explanation to justify the story.

I think that, all in all, this was a fairly successful first issue that made me want to pick up the second issue when it comes out. I would have liked a bit more of an introduction to the new Red She-Hulk. If I didn't already know about the character it wouldn't have been obvious that she was long time Hulk supporting character Betty Ross. Also, neither Namor or The Silver Surfer were given much introduction as it was assumed by the writer that these characters would be known to readers already. This is probably the most negative that I had about the issue: do a better job of introducing the main characters. I really think that this issues (particularly being a number one) could have used a few more pages of story to get the cast introduced.

This leads me directly to my main negative. There's too many damn advertisements in this issue. Eight pages were given over to ads for other Marvel books (mostly X-Men books) and I think that half of those could have been cut to give a couple of more pages of background on the characters.

However, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives and I enjoyed this book. I will definitely pick up number two and hope that this book finds enough of a readership to keep it on the stands in this rough comics market. The Defenders has been, at best, always a fringe title and I hope this version finds its way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Look of Ultimates Volume 3

Well, they've released a piece of Mad's cover art for the first issue of the next Ultimates story line:

This art comes to us via

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blah Blah Blog by Tom Brevoort

I'm really not sure if it would have been any better, but Tom Brevoort is posting Mark Millar's original pitch for Marvel Comics' Civil War event on the Marvel website.

Mostly this is being posted so that people can see the process of how a pitch is turned into a book.

As I mentioned on Friday, this week I'm planning on posting a series of documents from the making of CIVIL WAR, since people seem to be interested in that, and since the earlier series on HOUSE OF M was so well-received. So that's what you all have to look forward to in the days ahead.

To start with, here is the first document written by Mark Millar outlining his initial ideas for CIVIL WAR. This was done immediately after the creator conference at which the initial ideas for CIVIL WAR were thrown around, and you'll see Mark make reference to some of those conversations herein. Also, the version I've chosen to upload has notes incorporated into the body of the text from both Joe Quesada and myself, so you can get a sense as to our innediate eractions to the specifics of what Mark was proposing. And because I can't seem to do different colors in this blog, the Joe comments are labeled JQ, and my comments are labeled TB.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Captain America Dies on the Page

Well, since Bucky isn't dead any longer I don't think that Cap should really have all that much to worry about. If you ask me, it is just a gimmick to sell books. I wonder if "Reign of the Captain Americas" is going to follow and a "World Without Captain America."

Captain America Dies on the Page:
Captain America has undertaken his last mission at least for now.

The venerable superhero is killed in the issue of his namesake comic that hit stands Wednesday, the New York Daily News reported. On the new edition's pages, a sniper shoots down the shield-wielding hero as he leaves a courthouse.

It ends a long run for the stars-and-stripes-wearing character, created in 1941. Over the years, some 210 million copies of Captain America comic books, published by New York-based Marvel Entertainment Inc., have been sold in 75 countries.

Stephen Colbert weighs in on the topic: