Archive for July, 2014

Iron Giant as Superman

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Nothing I can say can really match the quote I used…. well, I could write something that is as good, but the theology seems inappropriate for this blog….. maybe on Apologies Demanded.

Iron Giant Superman

Titular Iron Giant as thematic Superman

From Jim MacQuarrie:

The Iron Giant is the purest illustration of faith ever recorded.

It’s not just that the giant chooses to be Superman; it’s that he does so in the face of all reason and evidence. He looks like a monster; he’s a giant metal man from space who shoots lasers out of his eyes and can crush cars in his fingers. Every fiber of his being screams that he is the metal monster from space sent to destroy us all, everyone he meets is afraid of him, he has every reason to see himself as others see him, and yet…

and yet…

…he chooses, through sheer force of will alone, to reject his origin and nature and become Superman, a character he bears no resemblance to at all. He has no reason to want to be Superman, not one thing to suggest that he CAN be Superman, nothing except Hogarth’s word for it, and that’s good enough. By faith alone, he declares that he is Superman, and when the need arises, it turns out that he IS Superman, simply because he had faith that he could be.

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SHAZAM: The Art of the Deal!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

from the author/artist/cartoonist Mark Engblom:

One of my favorite comic book concepts has always been Captain Marvel and the power of SHAZAM. A clever synthesis of modern and ancient mythology, the story of Captain Marvel began in Whiz Comics #2 (1940) as orphan Billy Batson was drawn to a mysterious underground chamber. He was met by SHAZAM, a wizard who could channel the power of ancient heroes…all of whom were inscribed as a handy acronym on a nearby wall. Speaking the wizard’s name, Billy was magically transformed into the superhero Captain Marvel, who also possessed the abilities of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.

As cool as the concept will always be, that acronym of gods, heroes, and a Hebrew king continues to fascinate me. I love the child-like simplicity of its assumption that mythic figures would freely share their power with mortals…but my adult cynicism often kicks in and suggests another story behind the wizard’s consolidation of godly power. In other words, it’s…

SHAZAM: The Art of the Deal!

ArtoftheDeal1

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Weird Al’s Mandatory Fun

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Weird Al as Newton

does the Epic Rap Battles of History wikia mind if we steal this?

Oh, Weird Al.  My favorite musician for 30+ years.

The only reason I’m not a member of the Close Personal Friends of Al is that Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz sent my check for $14 back a year later to say that “Polka Party” had flopped and they were kind of thinking that Weird Al Yankovic was over, so the fan club was no more.

I probably should have reapplied at some point.

Sometime back, listening to Weird Al albums became a different kind of experience.  Instead of loving the parodies of pop tunes I recognized in the 1980s and 1990s, now I was having to research who the recording artists are and what their original songs sound like.  (To be fair, when I was 12, I’d no idea what “Yoda” was based on, either.)

What makes it worse, is that Weird Al is now a far superior singer/musician in comparison to most of the people that he is parodying these days.  You notice that his original songs are musically challenging and whimsically inventive, but then every other track on his album has to be a monotonous redo (with better lyrics) of an over-autotuned piece of repetitive junk.

I am loving his new album so far. His first video, Tacky, has a good song, but the video mainly benefits from the superstar guest appearances with goofy dances.

The second video is a huge improvement, with fun animation and lots of inside jokes .

Did ya catch that the homework is graded by Mrs. Krabapple? (Oh, and the song is a huge improvement over “Blurred Lines”)

Then “Foil”, a great song based on a horrible song.

You gotta love the heel turn that the video suddenly makes!

Why Alan Brennert Won’t Be Watching Fox’s “Gotham”

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Barbara Kean, from Detective Comics 500

Barbara Kean, from Detective Comics 500

WHY I WON’T BE WATCHING FOX’S “GOTHAM” THIS FALL:

Back in 1981, in a story called “To Kill a Legend” in DETECTIVE COMICS #500, artist Dick Giordano and I created a character named Barbara Kean, the fiancée of Lt. James Gordon.  (This was set on a parallel Earth where counterparts of the “real” Batman and his cast were twenty years younger.)  A Golden Age “Mrs. James Gordon” (no first or maiden name) had appeared in 1951, mother of a son named Tony, but my character, later picked up by talented writers like Frank Miller and Barbara Randall Kesel, was clearly the prototype (with the same first name) for the “Post-Crisis” first wife of Lt. James Gordon, and—as Barbara Kean Gordon—became a supporting player in Batman continuity, and even made two movie appearances in BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT.

And this fall on GOTHAM, Fox’s prequel to the Batman mythos, one of the supporting characters will be…Barbara Kean, fiancée of Lt. James Gordon.

Ironically enough, on the same day that DC’s online news site listed the results of a fan poll in which I was chosen one of “the 75 greatest Batman artists/writers,” an executive at DC Entertainment—let’s call him “Johnny DC”—dismissed my request for “equity” (a percentage of income received when a character you create is used in other media) in the character.  The justification?  Because I had given her the same name, profession, and appearance as her daughter (at the time, just a sly wink to the reader), she was “derivative” of her daughter Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and equity “is not generally granted” in derivative characters like wives, husbands, daughters, sons, etc., of existing characters: “this is the criteria by which all equity requests are measured.”

I then pointed out to him that writer Mark Waid had been told by then-DC management that DC did, in fact, give equity in “derivative” characters, just a smaller percentage—and indeed Mark and artist/co-creator Mike Wieringo received equity in the “derivative” character of Bart Allen/Impulse (grandson of Barry Allen/Flash) and received payments when he was used on SMALLVILLE.  I suggested DC grant a similar reduced percentage on Barbara Kean, and I was willing to limit this to her appearances on GOTHAM and forget the movies.

How did Johnny DC respond to this?  Did he rebut my argument?  Nope.  When confronted with the, shall we say, lack of veracity of his statement, he simply stopped responding to my emails.

Classy, right?

Now, let me be clear:  I’ve since learned that the amount of money involved here can be as little as $45 an episode for a full equity character.  So clearly I’m not in this for the money, but the principle.  This is small change compared to the fact that the estate of Jack Kirby receives no share of the billions in dollars that Marvel/Disney makes from movies based on characters he co-created.  But I suspect DC counts on the fact that the money is low enough that hiring an attorney to pursue it would cost more than you’d ever receive in equity payments.  They also count on the fact that their freelancers depend on DC for work and thus will not publicly call them out.  (And sometimes these freelancers are the very ones for whom that little bit of extra money would mean a lot.)

But as a novelist I depend in no way on DC for my livelihood, and have no problem recounting the bad faith they have demonstrated to me.  But I take little satisfaction in it.  There was a time—under the management of Jenette Kahn, Paul Levitz, and Dick Giordano—when DC went to great lengths to credit and compensate creators. They felt it was money well spent, because it brought other creators to the company and everyone benefited.  I was actually proud to be associated with a comics company with a conscience.  I hope my experience with the “new” DC is not typical, and that they still have a conscience.  But I sure don’t see it from where I sit.

(If you’re a fan of my comics work, feel free to share.)

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