Tuesday, January 15, 2013

DC Comics Cancels "Superman Family Adventures" and we ponder how 30 years of having books you like cancelled might affect your enthusiasm


Word came down Monday that DC is cancelling Superman Family Adventures with issue 12 in April, just short of the release of Man of Steel to movie theaters.

On a month to month basis, the series - which was aimed at a truly all-ages audience - was some of the best work at DC in the wake of The New 52 and one of the few monthly DC books (and only Superman book) I would have put in the hands of adults or kids alike to get them interested in Superman.  It also was the only book that understood the basic dynamics of Superman, The Daily Planet, Lois, his extended family and the recurring villains of the Super-books.

Cartoony and goofy, yes.  But so were the first fifty years of Superman comics.

I know sales weren't particularly good, but I also don't know what anyone at DC expects years after comics abandoned trying to be available where kids can find and therefore WANT a comic.  The 18-25 year olds who are going to be buying fifteen iterations on Wolverine and Batman are going to want to even think about how Superman Family Adventures falls in with their hobby.

This is the second time DC Entertainment has ended a brilliant product in recent years for reasons I'm guessing boil down to the fact that the product wasn't in line with the 18-25 year old extreme market.  Batman: Brave and the Bold, an absolutely terrific love letter to the DCU and a great intro to all things DC, ended just around the time The new 52 debuted.  We were told we'd get a gritty Batman cartoon at some point with Alfred carrying guns and shooting at people (so, so many things wrong there).

Mostly, there's just been a complete lack of marketing for the book.  DC put it out there with Free Comic Book Day material, but I'm still not sure how FCBD is translating to awareness and sales for new books for anyone.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Outside our demographic: The Women (1939)

Nothing says "The League" like a 1939 women's picture directed by George Cukor, but I'd been hearing about The Women for what seems like forever, and I'd never seen a Norma Shearer movie, and as it also had Rosalind Russell and Joan Crawford, I wanted to give it a try.

Let us say that this is a movie of its time, and while I salute the movie for never showing a single person of the male persuasion in the film in any way, it's a product of its time in many, many ways that I think had Jamie squirming in her seat throughout the movie.  That said, it actually covers divorce, adultery, acknowledges sex and illicit sex ten years into the Code era in a way that frankly surprised me.

Thursday: Eddie Muller on Turner Classic - Talking Noir

Noir fans are exceedingly lucky to have a few key figures playing ringmaster for the genre mostly out of pure love for the genre.

Eddie Muller is known in some circles as The Czar of Noir.  He's written a few books on the topic.  I read and loved, Dark City, myself.  He also hosts and manages not just the San Francisco based Noir City festival (now in its 11th year), but he also hosts other noir festivals around the country.  

I first became aware of Eddie when I went to The Alamo Ritz to see The Prowler in a print restored with proceeds earned for the Film Noir Foundation at Noir City.  He's spent decades tracking down the films and some of the stars, now mostly forgotten except by the noir audience, and out of that - he's an excellent story teller, warm host for interviews and a really decent guy.

My pal Jenifer (@J__Swift) knows Eddie a bit, and so she introduced me at Noir City X.  Eddie was exceedingly kind to a dopey guy from Texas, making sure we got a tour of the Hammett apartment on Pike Street, and we agreed that the cinnamon laced bourbon they were serving was more than a little iffy.

Eddie isn't going to trot out the crowd pleasers, necessarily.  We've already all seen Gilda and Laura.  But he will uncover gems you might not otherwise ever see, and which have special qualities or performances you don't see anywhere else.

Of the films, Eddie selected four and the fifth was chosen by TCM as a special nod to Eddie and his restoration efforts for the film.
  • Cry Danger
  • 99 River Street
  • Tomorrow is Another Day
  • The Breaking Point
  • The Prowler
I've got my DVR set, and I'm looking forward to seeing the films on this list I've not caught before.  Very much looking forward to the intros we'll see.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

So, Golden Globes. amiright?

You either like award shows for the entertainment industry, or you do not.  I suppose this is true for both participants who have to go to these things, and for those of us who can opt out at home and not watch.

As a media consumer, you either value what an award for a member of the entertainment industry represents, or you do not.  This is also true for the folks who show up for a one-in-five chance of winning a kind of gaudy statue, as well as us, the viewing public.

I won't try to convince anyone to my viewpoint.  That way lies madness.  I don't watch awards shows, and I don't think much of the value of the awards.  I will confess that I am often interested to see what won some of the technical awards and categories such as "score", because it gives me something to consider if I've seen a movie.

This evening I turned on The Golden Globes just long enough to see Lena-what's-her-face win some award for her HBO program, Girls, which I've seen exactly five minutes of, felt terribly aware that the show was aimed at an audience which did not include me, felt I got where this show was headed, and got out before I got emotionally invested in actively disliking everything about the show and those involved.

Because of when I tuned in, all I know is that The Big Bang Theory has fallen from grace with the Hollywood Foreign Press as, this year, it was not funnier than Girls.  Is it possible Louie was not nominated?  Can you see why I can't take this seriously?

I made it for a whole of three minutes before Jamie saw me walking off with my laptop and just turned off the TV again.  I heard enough of Lena-what's-her-face's speech to recognize that it sounded like everyone else's speech.  It sounded like every television or movies award speech ever done that wasn't someone going crazy once they had a chance with a microphone and a massive, captive audience.  This was the banal, overstuffed speech where people who made a thing drop superlatives.

As a facebook friend said:  Dear Hollywood, stop saying it took courage to make your TV show/ movie.  It took money.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Some end of week Media: Bernie, Where Danger Lives, Ghosts of Belfast, Downton Abbey

Watched two completely different movies tonight.  Bernie and Where Danger Lives.  These days I'm re-watching movies less and trying to see new things more.

Bernie was shot somewhat locally by Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater and got a lot of local praise when the movie was released, but I don't know how far and wide it was seen outside of Texas.  A true story of a mortician (Jack Black) and his nebulous relationship with an older woman (Shirley MacLaine) and how everything's relative in a small town in Texas, including murder.

I'd heard a lot of good things, and the locals both cut into the movie in "interview" segments and playing themselves were a very clever twist.  I just wasn't sure the movie actually worked all that well, especially as the murder - which is a matter of public record - doesn't come til the 2/3rds mark...

Probably worth a spin sometime.

Also watched Where Danger Lives with Robert Mitchum, and it's sort of a studio-friendly take on the Detour concept.  Frankly, that is one crazy movie and I'll need to watch it again.  It's so noir, it's almost dripping black off the screen, with Mitchum getting in way, way over his head, while drunk and concussed with a classic femme fatale who doesn't have Ann Savage's brutal, sexy cruelty, but has her own more recognizable looney-tunes-ness.  It's a great "and mistakes were made" kind of story.  Bonus points for brazen sexuality in a 1950 film, all through a lack of camera movement and a few key lines of dialog.

Started listening to the audiobook of The Ghosts of Belfast.  It's an interesting book thus far, and I wish I knew more about the history of the IRA, but even what little I do know is sort of keeping me up to speed.

Last night we tried our first episode of Downton Abbey.  I can't say I exactly see what the big deal is, but it was the pilot.  We'll try again later.  I do not get hot and bothered often by Upstairs/ Downstairs-type dramas, and it's so over the top, it does feel like camp.  Is this show supposed to be camp?  Someone help me out.

All right.  I'm tired.  I'm going to bed.

Siegel/ Superman Case Seems to Wrap It Up (For Now)

According to the articles I read Thursday, Warner Bros. is back to owning/ maintaining/ safeguarding with an army of lawyers - the rights to Superman, more or less as we've always known the character.  A judge somewhere far, far up the court system food chain (but not the Supreme Court) invalidated a 2008 decision to give the Siegel family many rights - essentially anything that had appeared in Action Comics #1 - and reverted the rights to Superman based upon a 2001 agreement that was more or less a "here's a pile of cash as a royalty" deal.

I won't get into the legal maneuvering too much, but it is a sordid, weird tale with attorneys with shady motivations, break-in's at law offices and all sorts of nonsense.  As this whole process has gone on and on, nobody in this has come out a hero, and it seems like the Siegels will get a bundle of money, but not the rights to Superman.*

I have stated before that the Superman comics have been a bit of a disaster in The New 52 because so much of the character was going to be affected if WB lost the case.  They had some part of Superman, just as the Siegels would have a very raw version of Superman.  They had an alien character with exciting powers and the highly licensable Superman shield.  But what else?

By virtue of owning Action Comics #1, the Siegels might have owned things like:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On a Slow News Day, "Django Unchained" Action Figures are a really big deal

I haven't seen Django Unchained, but I'd like to.  It seems interesting.

Sometimes I weep that the only conversation really happening around comics and the underground subculture of collectors and the like seems to be around "Fake Nerd Girls" - an argument that really reflects any time a sort-of-underground scene starts to get co-opted as the public realizes the scene exists and ham handedly starts playing with it like a spastic two-year old who likes shiny things.  I sort of see "Fake Nerd Girls" as the 2012-era equivalent of when Nirvana, etc... became more sellable than LA hair-metal-bands and "alternative" was launched as a major marketing concept in music.  This, of course, meant that a segment of the population actually suddenly started paying attention to "alternative" charts and somehow this culminated in tribal tattoos on suburban dads in Phoenix in 2003.

With The Big Bang Theory netting 19 million viewers recently (that's, like, 6% of the US population or some crazy nonsense - and people generally don't watch TV that way anymore), I kind of assume that the show, as reviled as its become in nerd world, has at least demonstrated some of the behavior and habits of the comics/ toy collecting/ geek community to the populace at large.  I mean, comic collecting may not be a mainstream activity, but since the early 00's, the stigma has lessened to a degree enough that folks like myself don't hide their shame anymore and will answer questions if asked instead of denying that they collect comics.*  We can thank TBBT for at least semi-humanizing the mutants from the comic shop into characters with taglines.

But, apparently, a lot of people aren't watching The Big Bang Theory, and to a lot of folks the notion that grown-assed adults collect action figures (or "dolls" as the press will derisively insist) is complete news or totally unbelievable.  Even more surprising, that a person would buy a movie action figure and then not role-play with the figures like Dark Helmet in Spaceballs seems mind-bogglingly impossible.

It seems that NECA has released a line of officially licensed Django Unchained action figures (or "dolls", if you want to put a certain spin on the story and, therefore, anyone who would dare buy a doll of Jamie Foxx). After years of far, far more questionable product tie-ins, I would not dare question the judgment of NECA, the Weinstein Company or purchasers of this product.  I don't know why you'd want these, but I doubt many folks know why I have literally hundreds of little Superman eyes peering at me from action figures all over my office.

Pre "Man of Steel" Superman-a-thon?

I am planning some sort of epic re-watching of Superman media in the lead up to this summer's release of Man of Steel.

I have several issues.

unlike Superman, I do not go to the moon to ponder.  I bore you guys.

1.  What do I watch?

I own:

  • The Fleischer cartoons
  • The original serials starring Kirk Alyn
  • The entire George Reeves series (6 seasons)
  • the four cycle movie series with Chris Reeve, including the Superman 2 Director's Cut and Superman Returns
  • Supergirl - yes, it's in continuity and it counts
  • the animated series from the 1960's
  • the animated series from the 1980's
  • Season 1 of Superboy
  • Season 1 of Lois and Clark
  • Superman the Animated Series, Justice League
  • a handful of DC/ WB Animation Studios direct-to-video movies like Superman Vs. The Elite

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

end of football season 2012-13 (also, Brent Musberger)

I watched the BCS Championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame, and - as you may have heard - Alabama destroyed Notre Dame, 42-14 (you can argue that last ND touchdown was someone from Alabama being nice).

I don't have feelings one way or another about either team.  It's cool to see Nick Saban earn his 3rd National title in 4 years, and I was glad Notre Dame was back as a serious contender in NCAA football.  But I think this absolute rout of The Fighting Irish will be putting some questions around Notre Dame's unique position as a team without a country/ conference, and that their schedule may be a wee bit lopsided as they milk their TV contract.

It was a fun year for football, and I wish I'd had a less hectic schedule and could have enjoyed more of it.  Even when UT is doing poorly (and we ended up with 9 wins, so as bad as it felt, it's still a decent season), it's something to do.  I still like watching Big 12 teams and a few, random other teams when I can.

Between you and me, I can't stand commentator Brent Musberger.  He certainly knows the sport, but he's still wishing it were 1975.  I like a little fake impartiality in my hosts, and Musberger chucked all that years ago.  Sometimes he's right, sometimes he's wrong.  But having had listened to his nonsense as he's called (and constantly dogged on) UT games over the years, I just sigh when I realize he and Herb are on commenting duties.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My very nice signed pic from Audrey Totter

On Saturday, an envelope arrived with a signed photo from Audrey Totter.  It also came with a signed note.  To put a point on it, while I knew it was coming, I'm still a bit stunned and I know these are items I'll have with me for the rest of my life.  I need to show them off here as so few of you will ever be in my living room.

I can't thank Eden and her family enough.  A truly unique and terrific experience and a very bright spot during a difficult week.

Coincidentally, Jason got me a Film Noir set that included Lady in the Lake for me for Christmas, so it's going to be Totter-Rama around my house this week.  We may need to re-watch Tension, too.

Tomorrow I return to work for the first time since before Christmas.  There's a lot to unpack in all that, so I'm trying not to think about it too much, and just get back to my desk and try to remember what it is I'm supposed to be doing at that desk.

But, that's it for the start of the week.  

You guys take care, and we will consider what regular programming looks like at the Signal Watch this week sometime.