Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Corporate Synergy Fail - CN and IDW

The point of owning a comics company, one would assume, is to publish comics.  But that's not how it works.

Since the 1970's, DC Comics has been owner by Time-Warner.  After buying itself back in the 90's (it was owned by New World Entertainment, I believe, in the 1980's) and going public on the stock exchange when I was in college, Marvel is now part of the expanding Disney empire.

I would assume the reason Disney wanted Marvel had far more to do with the opportunity provided by The Avengers franchise as cash-generating IP for movies, toys, t-shirts, etc... than it was actually interested in the comics themselves.  And, of course, by owning Marvel, they have the opportunity to grab back lucrative properties like Spider-Man when the contract runs out with Fox.

DC's purchase by WB was almost more of a happy accident.  They were part of a mass of companies purchased by Time-Warner, but, certainly the opportunity to exploit Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman had to be seen as a welcome opportunity.  And, of course, their own Warner Bros. studios would have first-look deals on all movies.

But we're talking movies and not comics.  Comics have always been high risk/ low reward for everyone but the company that can spin the character off into a familiar object for licensing.  Frankly, until recent history, I don't know that Time-Warner or Warner Bros. studios knew or cared that they owned a whole comics company.  They cared that they owned Superman and Wonder Woman.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Pam Grier

Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash

Today would have been the 81st birthday of Johnny Cash.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Let Us Break Out the Ketel One and Christian Bros. Brandy and Ponder an "Achewood" TV Show

No lie, one of my favorite things of recent western history has been the web comic/ experience, Achewood.

Achewood is almost impossible to explain, fits a specific comedy and writing niche that is most certainly not for everyone, and is the most quotable text of the 21st Century.

Of late, Achewood has been halted, out of print, or whatever you want to call it when a web comic ceases publication.

It was clear something went down with strip owner and operator Chris Onstead, and that's his issue or issues to share or keep to himself.  But, suddenly, after months of silence, Onstead appeared today announcing that he's trying to sell an animated version of Achewood in LA this week.

Frankly, I don't know how a writer's room and the sort of collaborative environment mixed with the needs of  TV networks can possibly bring the strip to life and retain the creative singular vision of a comic about cats named "Roast Beef" and "Ray".  But you never know.  Axe Cop is headed for television, so anything can happen these days, I guess.

Here's Onstead's announcement.

And here's the video demo of what a televised Achewood might look like.

Achewood Television Trailer One "Hello, world" from therussians on Vimeo.

I know, I'm sort of sweating, too.

Animated Teodor, y'all. Animated Teodor could happen.

Anyway, it's an outside shot, but I would love to see this happen and the name "Ray Smuckles" become a household word.

Killing Robin. Again.

I think I'd been reading Batman comics for all of a year when DC had the famous dial-in vote where readers got to choose whether or not Jason Todd, the second Robin, would die.  I was a Jason Todd fan, and I was also a kid just getting into comics, so I didn't want to see the character get it, but I was buying comics at the grocery store and book store back then, so any comics were catch-as-catch can.  Finding issues of A Death in the Family, the storyline where all this took place, were incredibly scarce, and only one of my friends got a copy.

Long story short, I didn't get my hands on the comic with the phone number until months after the event when I sat on my pal's bed and read the comics of the storyline in one, long read while he and my brother listened to Van Halen albums.  I never got to cast my vote.  And as close as the vote was, I always wished I'd gotten my chance to save Jason Todd.*

Then, around 2004/2005, Stephanie Brown took Tim Drake's place as Robin just long enough to get fired for reasons and then get killed (only not really) by Black Mask.

And, of course, it never actually happened, but word on the street is that DC head honcho Dan Didio really wanted to kill off Nightwing at one point during Infinite Crisis.

A few years back Grant Morrison took over Batman and introduced Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and Thalia al Ghul.  Right out of the box, Damian seemed fully realized as a character, and - unlike most modern new inventions of characters - was in no way an awkward teenager riddled with self-confidence issues nor a Mary Sue.  Pompous, brutal.  Desperately in need of approval from a father figure.  Everything you'd expect out of the grandson of Ra's al Ghul.

Morrison removed Bruce Wayne and put Dick Grayson in the cowl for over a year, during which time Damian put on the domino mask and the "R", and it was actually a great run on the Batbooks.  Bruce returned, as comic characters hurled through space/time/realities are want to do, and we've been able to enjoy Damian and Bruce as Robin and Batman for a while.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Audrey Totter

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Open Letter to The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences: An Idea for 2014

I tuned into the Oscars Sunday night for a few minutes to catch Adele sing Skyfall (a song I quite like in its own right), and ,later, accidentally at one point to hear Seth MacFarlane bomb on a joke about Rex Reed that really just beat around the bush taking a poke at Adele for being on the curvier side.  At this point, I turned off the Oscars.  And, no, I have no plans to watch next year.

Literally billions of people watch the telecast, clearly not caring that it's just absolutely miserable television, and I don't think I remember anyone being satisfied with a host since Billy Crystal was in his hey-day.  I have to assume Seth MacFarlane's sense of humor was a weird fit, just as whatever happened that year when James Franco and, I think, Anne Hathaway (is that right?) hosted.

I have no idea.  The last Oscars telecast I watched I believe was hosted by David Letterman.

But, Academy, I think I have your solution.  I know how to set this right.

In 2014, hire The Admiral as your host and show producer.  He's retired and he needs a project.

This man is TV gold

Signal Watches: The Americans (that Commie Spy Show on FX)

This is how I know I'm getting older.  Time has marched on enough that the scary people of whom we lived in fear during my formative years are protagonists on a new TV show.

FX's new hour-long drama, The Americans, follows the adventures of two KGB sleeper agents in the US at the dawn of the Reagan administration.  The Commies are the protagonists and Ronald Reagan is the looming specter of a heightened state of intensity as (we used to say) the cold war heats up.  We also have a federal agent living across the street from our Commie-heroes, the clammy bureaucracy of the Kremlin, and the rich pageant of life left behind in Mother Russia to contend with.

Movies and TV have taken various stabs at turning the traditional antagonist into the protagonist since Little Cesar pondered how this is how he ended.  Once we dropped the Hayes Code and adopted a rating system that didn't require a moral lesson at the end (ie: the Bonnie & Clyde ending for our protagonist and a realization that crime ends in a premature death and misery), we've explored bad-guy-ness in the movies.  And, of course, Sopranos broke the mold for TV, giving a weekly view and building sympathy for a mob family.  These days, of course, Breaking Bad gives us the drug manufacturers' perspective.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Elsa Lanchester

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Conan's, Orange Julius, Sheep

The evening was looking pretty dull, I don't mind telling you. We had no plans. The hour grew late, and finally, somehow we settled on the faded glory of an Austin now receding into the distant past.

You can have your Paul Qui fancy-schmancy fusion bistros. Food is what reminds you of home, and I grew up in this town when we still had armadillo races as a form of local fun. And back then, we ate our pizza like we had nothing to live for. Conan's Pizza has only a few locations left after the expansion in the late 80's and contraction of the late 90's. They haven't redecorated since putting any of the Conan's in place, and they had a particular look back then that lingers to this day.

The Ms. Pac-Man machine is not there ironically

If you're wondering, why yes, they LOVE Conan the Barbarian.  You can't tell from the pic above, but most of the art is either Frazetta prints or Frazetta knock-offs.  Not too many other places would it seem like part of the tradition to eat under a Molly Hatchet album cover, but at Conan's, it's part of the ambiance.

The pizza you want to get there is called "The Savage".  Get it deep dish with a wheat crust or you're kind of just wasting everyone's time.  The Savage is literally every topping they've got.  You will absolutely feel sick after eating it.  But, let me stop you now and say, if you don't eat The Savage, neither I nor the staff nor other patrons of Conan's have any real reason to respect you.