Comic Book Brain
Disney spends $71.3 billion to get 21st Century Fox
March 20, 2019: The House of Mouse gets bigger with the conquest of 21st Century Fox. What does it mean for comic books?
Since the Jack Kirby heirs lost their battle seven years ago for ownership of Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man and Incredible Hulk, the problem of ownership simplified and all it took was legal moves and money (a lot of money) so that Disney could build up their already considerable advantage from buying Marvel Comics back in 2009, and are now ipso facto the largest purveyor of superherodom in the world.
Now that Disney (and Marvel) have the cinematic rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four, this will probably make for some interesting scenes in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, which is ending a story arc but will presumably try to ignite a whole new one.
A side issue of the purchase is that Disney now could (theoretically) get the original three Star Wars movies out in their original versions, sans the later embellishments of George Lucas.
My Marvel Wish List
March 18, 2019: In a typical Marvel film, somewhere in the cloud of credits at the end will be something like this (from Captain Marvel)
Shouldn't the long list of past artists and writers be at the front end of the movie somewhere, or at least should they not lead the list of credits at the end? (Not jammed into a spot in between the VX dept and the gaffer).
A friend said to me "they may not what to do this as it might create a liability for a claim by the past creative people for money."
If Marvel (aka Disney) isn't already writing appreciation checks to past creative people whose work is being transplanted into the Marvel movies, they obviously need to start. Though there is a credited screenwriter(s) on each of the superhero films of the last decades (including DC and the others), so much of cinematic superhero writing is a collage of material lifted from the four-color world of comics, and shouldn't the credit for that be to simply perform the function of acknowledging the original creative people in some (more) direct fashion?
I expect that the legal situation is that those past comic book creative people have no legal claim on the cinematic adventurers because of those legendary "work for hire" contracts which seemed to have been written with the point of making certain that under no circumstances would the author of a work being published by the comic book companies actually have legal recognition as the author in terms of ownership or a share of ownership. But my point isn't legal ownership, but appreciation.
My sense of the situation on these cinematic legal issues is dark, though, because it is colored by screenwriter Joan Didion who decades ago wrote that the point of typical Hollywood production is the construction of the "deal" not the creation of the artistic work. I took her essay on this matter as a way of explaining how a Hollywood movie can be a bomb and pure audience repellent at the box office, yet the production people walk away declaring it a "winner" because no matter what happens vis a vis the ticket-buying movie-watchers, the people who cooked up the production deal got their money up front and if the whole thing crashes they've already cashed the check. If it succeeds at the box office, that's good but only as far as it creates leverage for concocting the next deal.
Captain Marvel Review
March 11, 2019: The cloud of bad pseudo-reviews and legit reviews with lackluster enthusiasm bode ill for the 21st picture in the MCU release schedule. Politics and social-media harping looked like it was trying to sabotage the ability of the Brie Larson starring movie to get judged by an impartial audience.
With a fantastic opening weekend that's above $153 million in the domestic market and somewhere north of $302 million worldwide, all the moaning and complaining seems to have been for naught, the movie is performing like a top tier Marvel film and is built that way. With this kind of opening Larson's character will probably generate sequels and receive substantial presence when integrated into the coming Avengers Endgame movie, and beyond.
In the movie, Larson's character of Carol Danvers has the traditional tragic origin story, but we get to have it shown to us with a series of conflicting and confusing flashbacks, a lot of them literally happening in Danver's head, and we need the whole film to really get all of it put together (as does Larson' character). During all of this the Skrull and Kree war is involving earth and as might be expected, complications ensue.
Samuel Jackson (as Fury) and Larson have chunks of the movie to themselves (that is, once they meet, prior to that it is Jude Law and Larson) and the dialogue is written up to give them witty lines fitted to their delivery style. Elsewhere the dialogue isn't as sharp and that's probably the weakest item of the movie. Accusations in some negative reviews which I read that Larson is supposed to have given a flat performance not involving any emotional variety is in error.
The plot for Captain Marvel works like a machine, moving the story forward, and the heroes have to relocate often as there is a lot of chasing and fleeing going on. The complexities of the tale and the number of characters is handled adroitly so that clarity is maintained, something the Marvel films almost always excel at (and something DC needs to work on). A logical explanation for the power Captain Marvel wields, and what the limits are (and even an explanation for why she doesn't immediately kill everyone she punches) isn't provided, but that's a universal superhero movie problem.
Special effects are mostly first rate in Captain Marvel, though makeup for the Skrulls gets iffy in a few places, especially the children Skrulls who look like they have watermelons for craniums and the child actors sometimes move a bit wobbly because of the weight atop their noggins.
Another complaint I saw was that the soundtrack of the movie was loaded up with too many pop songs operating as triggers for reactions to scenes, but Captain Marvel comes nowhere near pop-song saturation like Guardians of the Gallery (which uses the device to good effect) or as bizarrely as Suicide Squad (where it is overused within the mayhem of that movie's out of control splicing and editing).
Altogether, Captain Marvel is a well done Marvel movie, it smoothly fits within the series, and it introduces a genuinely unique character.
Implying the Others
"Jean Rousset’s critical scope transcends the boundary of the word. For him ballet, painting, and the lyric, as well as sculpture, tragicomedy, and architecture, are analogous, even interchangeable products of successive, radically different zeitgeists. Shared by all the arts of a given period are repertories of themes, technical devices, and stylistic procedures, each implying the others."
From The Knot of Artifice, by David Lee Rubin, page 4
Feb 25, 2019
‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Wins Best Animated Feature
Ruth Carter wins Oscar for Best Costumes for Black Panther
Classic era Mickey Mouse art on sleepwear - Walmart store, Feb 2019
Someone needs to pay a royalty to Neal Adams
Advertisement in American Art Magazine Feb 2019. See the Anthony Mastromatteo page discussing this oil painting.
Also in that issue:
Spiderman into the Spider-Verse - Complex animation effort combining CGI with comic book half-toning, plus a myriad of other effects, presenting one of the best truly comic book visually-derived films to date. Story is no slouch either, with Columbia Pictures somehow doing Marvel better than Marvel has been of late. I went into the film dreading the boredom of having Uncle Ben getting laid low (again) and the pity-party travails of Peter Parker, instead Spiderverse is a whole team of similar "Parkers" pulled together from other dimensions (one's a talking pig, Spider-Ham), each with similar back stories and dilemmas, but each individually different. Spiderverse has the interesting contrast of a nearly perfect blonde Peter Parker getting killed and replaced by a "loser" dark-haired Peter Parker who has to take over a job he doesn't want, training a schoolkid Spider-Man name Miles Moreles. They have to all get it together to stop an evil (female) Doc Ock and Kingpin who is determined to somehow regain his dead wife and son by plucking them from another dimension, apparently abusing string-theory, the idea that multiple universes are spawned by variables in outcomes. A surprisingly entertaining and better film than expected.
Aquaman - This DC Comics movie is sabotaged in places by it's heavy CGI and tendency for too many pauses in the action to explain Atlantean mythology, politics and Aquaman's background, something that seemed easier to grasp as the actors talked to each other and did things versus the sudden narrative voices popping into the film, slowing everything down and turning it into sort of a slide show. These segments aside, the rest of the movie is a fairly quick-footed adventure tale in which Aquaman (Jason Momea) has to come to terms with a crown he doesn't want (he's a bastard son but all the same first in line of royal succession for the secretive Atlantic kingdom) and he and Mera (Amber Heard) have to run around the globe a bit to sort out what to do about the fact Aquaman's half-brother (Patrick Wilson) wants the crown and Aquaman dead. This global trip gives the film an epic feel much more than the gargantuan amounts of CGI endlessly pushing across the screen. How do Atlantans live? What do they eat? Are there TVs in their living rooms? Why are they always dressed in golden Lord of the Rings armor? No idea, but we see millions of them swimming around, but never get any sense of what they are other than underwater humans complaining about surface humans, and filling up a watery stadium to watch the two half-brothers fight each other. Black Manta is in the story, too (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) but it is peripheral to the main family fight of Aquaman's lineage. For all the money spent on this - $200 million is reported - one expects a smoother-run tale.
Betty and Veronica Jumbo Comics
Dec 2018, WalMart
Under Frank Miller's Christmas tree:
Stan Lee - 1922 - 2018
Born December 28, 1922 with the name Stanley Martin Lieber. Usually billed as the original creator for Amazing Spider-Man and many other Marvel Comics characters, nearly 100% cameo appearances in Marvel-based movies, and perhaps the most famous in the popular imagination as the man most associated with comic books.
The basic history of Stan Lee is that he got his position because in the early days of Timely Comics (which became Marvel later) his cousin Jean Goodman, married to Martin Goodman, a publisher in New York City, needed help in his rapidly expanding business. Not quite 18 years old in 1940, Stanley Lieber joined Goodman's payroll as an assistant working for Joe Simon (who had co-created Captain America with Jack Kirby), becoming one more relative on Goodman's list of employees. The Timely offices specialized in using freelancers to fill up their pages, but Goodman's relatives were there to make sure the core publishing business (which did more than comics) was run efficiently. Lieber's duties eventually included some writing work, fill-in material that wasn't even illustrated, and in between chores as mundane as sweeping the floor, Lieber changed his name to Stan Lee for purposes of keeping his legal name "clean" from the stigma of comic books (then looked upon as one of the lowest ranks of publishing) so he could use his birth name later as a novelist , screenplay writer of playwright.
Official Marvel history (which I guess is now really Disney history) is that Stan Lee imbued his tales with a message when he wrote them, and that he was (along with the sometimes mentioned Jack Kirby) on the cutting edge of civil rights and other social history movements in America, as much as that they existed in comic books in the 1960s, and that under his tutelage Marvel Comics broke barriers for minority representation and on top of that used a writing style in his personally authored tales that pushed the boundaries of what comic books could be.
This 1960s resume demonstrates that Stanley Lieber did not get free from comic books, that he stayed with the business as it evolved each decade, and in fact he eventually legally changed his name to the disguise, becoming "Stan Lee" because, he would explain, it just got too complicated having two different identities.
By the 1980s Stan Lee was on the West Coast to manage Marvel properties, trying to guide them toward success in TV and movies so to boost licensing sales, something which was financially overshadowing actual comic book printing profits which were steadily decreasing across the entire industry. The future for the characters was elsewhere, and Lee wanted California climate and proximity to deal-making for that future. I took until the release of X-Men in July 2000 to show that this jump was clearly a giant success.
November 8, 1932 – May 11, 2012
DeZuniga co-created the Jonah Hex and Black Orchid. DeZuniga was the first Filipino comic book artist whose work was accepted by American publishers, which paved the way for many other Filipino artists to break into the international comic book industry.
Len Wein - 1948 - 2017
Leonard Norman Wein (born in New York City) was a longtime comic book writer for DC Comics, Marvel and other publications. His writing also was a part of many TV and films: Young Justice, Batman Bad Blood, Deadpool movie, the Swamp Thing films, and others.
Credited with creating and co-creating many well known characters, such as Storm (Ororo Munro) and Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) of the X-Men, co-creating Wolverine, and co-creating Swamp Thing (with Berni Wrightson), rebooting Cheetah (nemesis of Wonder Woman), creating Amanda Waller of Suicide Squad, and also Lucius Fox at "Wayne Enterprises."
Official Bernie Wrightson web site
An influential comic book artist who began with various small print run independent comics in the 1960s and then became an integral part of DC Comics' mystery books of the 1970s. He branched out into personal projects (like his illustrated Frankenstein) and Hollywood design work. Along with Len Wein, Wrightson is co-creator of Swamp Thing.
Born October 27, 1948, in Dundalk, Maryland
Died March 18, 2017, Austin,Texas
Art by McCave, Colors by Zombie President
Art by Kudzu
Concerning Green Lantern
All-American Comics #16, July 1940
Unemployed artist Martin Nodell needed work in 1940, went to visit the offices of All--American Comics, showed his art samples and was told to come back with superhero ideas. Completely unfamiliar with superheroes, Nodell walked to the subway, saw a workman with a green railroad lantern, and promptly dreamed up the idea of an avenging hero who is powered by a ring which is equally powered by the light from a green lantern - thus was The Green Lantern conceived.
Segar's Popeye is a unique figure. Bill Blackbeard argues Popeye is the original first "superhero," predating Superman by years. Kids and teens of today may find it hard to reconcile what they picture as a "super hero" with the image of a sailor man whose super power lies in eating his spinach.
But the proof of Popeye's superhero bone fides lies in the argument that Popeye gained super strength from a can of spinach and that's how he defeated his foes, not completely dissimilar to gamma rays.
In his essay "The First (Arf, Arf) Superhero of them All," from the book All In Color for A Dime, published 1970, Blackbeard's description of the Popeye that Elzie Crisler Segar created back in January 17, 1929, is the best one I've ever read:
"Segar's Popeye is a character compounded of vulgarity and compassion, raw aggression, and protective gentleness, violent waterfront humor and genuine 'senskibiliky,' thickheaded stubbornness and imaginative leadership, brutal enmity and warm friendship, who knock out a 'horsk' in a rage and nurses a baby carefully while it is suffering a fever that makes thermometers pop. He is no paranoid daydream, but a realistic, complex, often wrong but determined man of action who suffers continual agonies of decision, who pursues what he believes to be right far beyond the bounds of cop-interpreted law and order, who has to fight his very way to comprehensibility through the warp and woof of an English language that is often almost too much for him."(Page 94, paperback edition)
Blackbeard goes on to summarize the Popeye phenomenon of that era by saying that the popularity of the little sailor far outstripped anything enjoyed by the costumed heroes in capes and masks that began to appear after him, and the Fleisher cartoon versions for movie theatres drew many more people than ever showed up for the Superman and Batman serials that played at local bijou's. All of that underscores how much America has changed, as Popeye has become a fringe character in the current pop art character pantheon.
Besides Popeye, Segar also used his page space provided by Hearst to run another strip titled "Sappo." In this space Segar also provided the artwork for the original reason Hearst brought him in: "Thimble Theatre," a miniature 'movie theatre' diorama, which was a substitute for a previous strip series called "Minute Movies" by a different artist. Popeye was the unexpected phenomenon growing from a minor side character to an already established comic strip.
Elzie Crisler Segar was born December 8, 1894, and died October 13, 1938 at the age of 43 from complications of liver disease. Segar debuted his cartooning career with "Thimble Theatre" on December 19, 1919, the strip featured the characters Olive Oyl, Castor Oyl, and Ham Gravy. In a January 17, 1929 episode of the strip, the character Castor Oyl goes to find a sailor to navigate his ship to Dice Island, his name: Popeye.