19 February 2013

who put peanut butter in my chocolate?

Reading list:
Avengers (2012) # 1- whatever
Django Unchained # 1-2
Thief of Thieves # 1-11

If the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Modern Age, the Rape-y Age, or whichever other Ages we've been through have come to a conclusion, surely now must be the IP Age.  Where comics were once the predominant, and often exclusive, home for superheroes, the genre has moved into the movies, video games, TV, and basically every other strata of popular culture in a big way.  We've had superhero movies and TV shows for decades, of course, but only in the last ten years of so have they been this.. awesome.  Even something like Batman '89, which was a mega-hit back in the day, looks dated and lame compared to the Nolan movies.  And where in the past, only the cream of the crop superheroes made the big (or even the small) screen, they're now all over the place.  There's a Thor movie.  Soon there will be another one.  

As superheroes have become more ingrained than ever in our popular culture, the folks who own the rights to most of the popular ones have, increasingly, stopped looking at them as comic book characters and started looking at them as intellectual property.  We see this in the increasing editorial scrutiny over the DC and Marvel lines - where once these little pamphlets with piss-poor circulation might have been beneath the notice of their corporate overlords, now they're being subjected to things like "synergy" and whatnot.  After all, we can't have a Nick Fury comic that might offend George Clooney, because if that happens how we will get a Nick Fury movie made?

Marvel NOW! represents a fairly obvious attempt by Marvel/ Disney to line its comics up with its hugely successful "movie universe", maybe not in every book but certainly in a large percentage.  And from a business standpoint it makes a certain amount of sense.  A jazillion people saw the Avengers movie, and most of that jazillion think the Avengers is Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, and the Hulk.  Never mind that, to my knowledge, this has never been the roster of the Avengers in the comics - this is what people know, so it's what people should get if they stroll into a comic store and buy an Avengers comic.  This type of thinking gets lampooned a good bit, and it's not really how *I* think - but I'll tell you, my youngest daughter LOVED the Avengers movie.  She thinks it is absolutely the greatest thing ever - AND she kind of likes comics - but she wouldn't touch the Avengers comics I handed her.  (These were Bendis issues from around the time of the movie.)  Why not?  Well she told me - specifically - that she wanted the movie lineup.  She wasn't interested in a comic about Wolverine or Vision or whoever.  Anecdotal, of course.  But there you go - and while Hickman's Avengers clearly will have an expanded cast - they're making it very clear that the Movie Six are front and center.

For a long-time fan such as myself, there's something about this that feels... cheap?  Wrong, somehow?  I dunno... probably because I view these characters primarily as comic book characters, I feel like the comics should drive the other media, rather than the reverse.  So when I see that the Hulk is in the Avengers now, even though that doesn't make any sense, it feels like selling out.  Like riding the coattails of something else's success.  But there's a part of me that thinks I'm the bad guy in that story.  The Avengers roster changes literally every few minutes.  I accepted Spider-Man and Wolverine on the team.  Luke Cage.  Daredevil.  Sentry.  Why not the Hulk?  I suppose there's the lingering sense that my entertainment is now being crafted by bean-counters in suits who are making decisions based on graphs and income projections - but bottom line, is it good or isn't it?  If it is, then.. well.. it is.  If we look at 2009 as the flashpoint of all this - Levitz resigns at DC, Disney buys Marvel, people say "synergy" and "iconic" a lot - well okay, it's now 4 years later.  Are either DC or Marvel's output appreciably better or worse than they were in 2009?  I don't think so - in either direction.  They're not identical in either case, but significantly better or worse?  Nah.  Things have trucked along, just with lots more noise and relaunches and outrage.

Into this same headspace comes Thief of Thieves, a series on which I originally passed.  If we're talking about other media adapting comic books, we'd be remiss in ignoring that it's not just a superhero thing, and that one of the big runaway hits is a non-superhero, creator-owned series about zombies.  Thief of Thieves was derided, from the start, as a blatant TV pitch disguised as a comic.  I've lamented that sort of thing here before - I don't really mind stories being adapted for one medium or another, but there's something icky about being expected to PAY to finance someone's movie pitch.  ToT is in development at AMC and my first thought was "geez, if it sounds good I'll just watch the TV show".  Through the magic of comixology, though, Image offered the first issue for free, so I checked it out and discovered that I enjoy it.  For anyone unfamiliar, the pitch is that the lead character, "Redmond", is a professional thief who wants to retire but who has a number of different entanglements that are complicating his attempt to cash in his proverbial 401(k) and leave town.  Each arc is by a different writer with Kirkman acting as a "showrunner".  Could.  Not.  Be.  A more blatant TV pitch.  But it's clever, and well-written, and well-drawn (by Sean Martinbrough, and having one artist keeps the "actors" looking constant much like a.. wait for it... TV show), and you never feel like the creators are slumming by doing a comic so they can pitch the thing they really want to do later.  The series has made its way onto my list, and for whatever reason I doubt I'll watch the TV show.  I like TV, but I like comics better.  

And into THAT headspace comes Django Unchained which, depending on one's perspective, is either a big budget movie or a six-issue Vertigo miniseries.  As a rule I do not like comics that are adaptations of other media.  I tried the preview of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo graphic novel and about fell asleep.  Loved the novels.  LOVED them.  Could tell from six pages of the graphic novel that it was completely lacking most of the depth of the novels.  (I didn't see the movies.)  Thing about Django, though, is that it isn't exactly an adaptation.  I mean, it IS - but it's based on Tarantino's original script rather than the edited movie.  It's like a first draft, and so there's stuff in there that's not in the movie, or is presented differently.  Don't ask me *what*, because I haven't seen the movie (and maybe I'd feel differently about Dragon Tattoo if I hadn't read the books).  But it feels like a comic book rather than a static movie with no sound.  R.M. Guera being the primary artist is surely partially responsible for its "authenticity" because geez that guy can draw purty.  

I wasn't sure what I'd make of Django.  I never touch any of those movie tie-in comics Marvel or DC put out, even when it's original material.  But I dig Django - it's a gritty story about a freed slave and the guy who frees him, and visually it reminds me a lot of Scalped because they share an artist.  Again, maybe it's because I haven't seen the movie (and probably won't).  I feel like I was given a choice of formats - a legitimate choice, as opposed to a lopsided one where the comic is some slapdash BS - and where that choice is legitimate I'm cool with the fact that the material was conceived with another medium in mind.

What it comes down to for me - I *love* comics.  I like other stuff too - a lot in some cases, but I *love* comics.  Lots of self-professed comics fans are actually superhero fans - they gravitate to comics because that's where the superheroes are, but if they can get superheroes in another medium, they'll head there instead.  Which is fine - people like what they like. I'm fully aware I'm in the minority, and I'm not laying any of this out as some weird attempt as self-congratulation - but I *love* comics.  The Avengers movie was terrific, but given a choice I'd rather read a good Avengers comic any day.  Give me a choice between going to see Django in theaters or reading it in a well-produced comic - I'll take the comic, thanks.  An unfortunate by-product of that is that I can be a comics snob from time to time and get proprietary about what is legitimately a comic and what isn't.  Such is hubris.

My daughter is adamant that Spider-Woman isn't really in the Avengers though.  On the other hand, she's convinced that Robin Sparkles IS an Avenger.  Come to think of it, Maria Hill screaming irrationally at Patrice would be pretty cool.


dl316bh said...

Considering Spider-Woman has rarely been a factor in the book despite how long she's been on the team, I don't think your daughter is entirely wrong here. Aside from the Skrull revelation I can barely remember a thing she's done since she's been on the team. I mean, I don't really DISLIKE the character or anything, but aside from being a Bendis pet character I never really understood why she was given membership.

But then again, it's not like it takes much; looking at some eras, you'd get the idea that they'd recruit anyone that walked in off the street.

matches said...

I'm actually a big Jessica Drew fan and thought it was awesome when Bendis put her on the team. I think revealing her as the Skrull Queen short-circuited a lot of her character development though - it was like she had to be reintroduced completely after that happened, and no one wanted to read it all again.

I'm glad she's still around though. I wish Marvel could put together a SW series and make it stick. She has a pretty rich mythology for a c-list character.

dl316bh said...

I wouldn't know. I haven't read her old solo series, so I'm not overly familiar with her mythology or backstory. I know her mostly from what I've read of her through Bendis and she never exactly set my world on fire.

Again, I never hated the character or anything. I just never really got why she was there. Something about the character never really grabbed me; I think the one part of her powers I thought was unique and worthwhile was the whole pheromones thing.

Marvel could probably stand to give her a book though; if they can triple ship Avengers and double ship the rest of the line I think they could feasibly sneak in a Spider-Woman book.