Carnival of souls: More Wizard, more Fantastic Four, more

* The Wizard/ToyFare fallout continues:

* Heidi MacDonald has another fine round-up of reactions and analysis, including a deeply unappealing self-evaluation of the company’s strengths from a company document. The bit about “we don’t have any of our own employees; we contract them through Wizard Entertainment” is Scott Rosenberg-level unpleasant.

* iFanboy’s Jason Wood walks us through the way that Wizard owner — actually, I’m not sure that covers it; at this point it seems safe to say that Gareb (and perhaps brother Stephen) and Wizard are effectively synonymous, like Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails — Gareb Shamus assembled the shell company through which Wizard now manifests itself. Hmm, I wonder if Shamus’s previous enterprises have something on the ledgers that necessitates picking up stakes.

* On a more pleasant note, toy writer Poe Ghostal laments the demise of ToyFare, which in my experience is the one Wizard product no one ever complained about. And for good reason — it was very very good! I’m glad it will continue to exist in digital form.

* I’m about to write more about the “death” issue of Fantastic Four than I expected to. No spoilers, though, so don’t worry!

* As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been reading Jonathan Hickman’s run on FF, variously illustrated by Dale Eaglesham and Steve Empting, for some time now, for the simple reason that it’s good. Pairing Hickman with the Fantastic Four — not just Marvel’s oldest and most storied franchise, but the one constructed around distinct characters, and indeed around character dynamics, more than any other — is a great way to mitigate his tendency to make the “mad idea” king, as seen in his increasingly less impressive S.H.I.E.L.D. reimagining, a book that feels like some kind of experiment in eliminating character from the storytelling equation entirely. The art is meaty and solid, the pseudo-science is fun rather than merely dizzying, there’s lots of cool creatures and villains to fight or outwit, and of course there’s the recognizable and entertaining Thing, Human Torch, Mister Fantastic, and Invisible Woman (and Namor and Franklin and Valeria and Doctor Doom and Galactus) at the center of it all. So I was gonna read the death issue, #587, regardless. The hype didn’t bother me because, and I say this as someone who makes part of his living following comic book industry hype, there’s no such thing as inescapable comic book industry hype. If you choose to escape it, you can, even while you read the underlying books.

* So! I read the comic and it was a good comic just like the rest of Hickman’s FF comics have been. But I was quite surprised upon turning the final page that the hype machine had cranked up as high and hard as it had, given what I actually saw on the actual pages in question. Even given the transitory nature of superhero-comic deaths, this one — based on what we see and what we don’t see, based on what we know about how the franchise works in general and how Hickman’s take on it in particular, based on the fact that the series is about to start over with a new title and new numbering but its landmark, irresistible-to-marketing #600th issue is right around the corner — felt like a well-executed plot point in service of a larger, longer story much, much more than it felt like a “get me the Daily News on the horn, the people need to know!” pop-culture event.

* And interestingly, the book’s editor, Tom Brevoort, really isn’t pretending otherwise:

[Reader Question:] I think we’ve finally hit a point as a fanbase where a majority of the epople who actually read the books aren’t going “THIS DEATH WON’T LAST” and are instead going “How will the is change the status quo and lead to interesting stories for a while?”

[Brevoort:] Well, let’s hope so.

People aren’t even pretending that deaths will stick anymore; the choice isn’t between deaths that last and stunts that don’t, but between plot points that people care about and stunts they don’t, about stories assembled with care and skill versus meaningless cannon-fodder churn imposed from on high. Or as Hickman puts it:

The question is: Are we trying to have an honest, resonating beat within the telling of a story, or are we trying to shock the reader and score cheap points?

I think it’s a bad idea to completely devalue death in a genre built on the creation and solving of problems through violence, but if that ship has sailed, again, I think you could do a lot worse than treating death as Hickman has and as Ed Brubaker and Grant Morrison did before him: as a door you can open to explore parts of your characters and concepts you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

* But leave it to Tom Spurgeon to move past that silver lining and find a dark lining around it:

the takeaway may be that Marvel has helped create a market that limits the reward that used to be due better-than-usual work, and that drastic ways to goose interest and sales in such titles may be the only tools left to them if they want to move more copies.

Good work relies on gimmickry to get over, is the gist of it.

* Anyway, death was already a commonplace for the Fantastic Four: Bully and Douglas Wolk show us just how common.

* Moving on, Tom Brevoort hated, hated, hated this comic. Place your bets, folks!

* Justin Green has a blog! The Pulse!-reading teenager in me is freaking thrilled.

* Jeffrey Brown talks Incredible Change-Bots Two.

* Yet another name change for the Greg Pak/Fred Van Lente Hercules comic. I wonder how long they can Atlas this thing before it runs out of steam. A long time, I hope!

* I normally don’t go in for geeky “who should play so-and-so” casting speculation, but I’ll make an exception for A Song of Ice and Fire’s Brienne of Tarth. That’s a real challenge.

* Jeet Heer leads this piece on Dino Buzzati’s 1969 proto-graphic novel Poem Strip by saying its 2009 translation and republication hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Insofar as I’d never heard of it until reading Jeet’s piece, I’d have to agree. The cover is gorgeous and the two interior panels Jeet reproduces look like John Hankiewicz 45 years before the fact.

* You can watch this Bollywood Tamil killer-robot action sequence from Shankar’s Robot ironically if you want, but I’d kill to see action this intelligently choreographed and impressively staged (for what I’m sure was a relative pittance) in any of the (non-Neil Marshall or Neveldine/Taylor) genre entertainments I regularly consume. Bonus: The Robot looks like Joe Pesci from toward the end of Casino. (Via Michael Kupperman, awesomely enough.)

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6 Responses to Carnival of souls: More Wizard, more Fantastic Four, more

  1. Ben Morse says:

    I spoke with Pak and Van Lente about Herc in a piece that goes (dramatic voice) beyond the press release, if you are so inclined to explore:

  2. Jog says:

    I realize I sound like a dick whenever I bring this up, so forgive my nerd compulsion, but: ROBOT isn’t a Bollywood movie, in that it’s not a product of the film industry producing works in the Hindi language in the former Bombay (the ‘B’ in the *ollywood). It’s a Tamil movie, from a production company based in Chennai, and conceived in a completely different language, Tamil. That’s not to say different regions of India are walled off or anything — the title ROBOT is actually the Hindi-language version’s title, from the original Tamil title ENTHIRAN — but the finances of Indian movies sometimes rise and fall on regional appeal, enough so that ‘Bollywood’-focused outlets won’t necessarily pay so much attention to a Tamil or Telugu movie, in that their specific appeal can often be seen as servicing a regional audience. ENTHIRAN/ROBOT/ROBO/WHATEVERTHEFUCK is either the highest or second-highest grossing movie in the history of Indian cinema, depending on who you ask, but the star, Rajinikanth, is still more of a proven property to the south of India than he would be to the Mumbai-based industry – other ‘regional’ stars might not get a second look.

    This sounds like a lot of semantics, I know, but the ‘irony’ to which you refer often strikes me as more of simple exoticism, largely without malice, but prone to cooking separate areas and traditions of a shared media into a cultural miscellany, one that’s easier to caricature and stereotype and thereby smoothly dismiss as novel deviations from the Correct aesthetic (not that you or Kupperman are doing that, obviously). A lot of the action seen in that video — and for the record, ROBOT cost about $40 million, which is HUGE for an Indian movie, if not so massive by American-fronted standards — is pretty characteristic of a ‘southern’ aesthetic, most often applied to Telugu movies of the crowd-pleasing comedy/drama/romance/singing/dancing/fighting/shooting/everything-under-the-sun type – like, dudes diving through windows and surfing down the street on other guys and people seeming to float and fast-fast-fast combat. It’s comparable a bit to martial arts, whereby a typical complaint of a ‘bad’ fighting scene would be that it looks less like a fight than a dance routine; to my eyes (and I’m not an expert!), this style of action dissolves the distance between ‘action’ and dancing — and ‘thrills’ and ‘comedy’ for that matter — since many of these types of movies will actually have song and dance scenes too (and comedy and drama are probably going to rub right up together) – it’s all a cohesive part of the artifice, and contrary to what some people might think, there’s often a good deal of self-awareness going on.

    ROBOT’s an okay movie, by the way – there’s a whole innocent-automaton-led-to-violence-by-human-avarice theme intermingling with the every-tone-at-once stuff that leaves it feeling spiritually akin to Tezuka manga – I personally thought some of the CRAZY-lavish dance scenes were better than the action, especially whenever the Robot sings in Autotune. On the other hand, it hits really hard on some cultural assumptions, from the massively helpless dim-bulb heroine (who’s actually a pretty huge Hindi-language performer) to anyone with a speaking role sporting either American hip-hop (“Black”) costume or backward rural characteristics being stone solid guaranteed EVIL… but then, I imagine there’s yet more complications I still don’t entirely grasp.

  3. Didn’t know any of that, thanks. Fixed. In my defense I thought I recognized the actress from when we used to watch Namaste America on weekend mornings.

  4. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Jog, Defender of Kollywood!

    • Jog says:

      You’re laughing now, Tom, but just wait until I’ve self-published my polemical chapbook on Banglar King Kong. We’re talking tens of dollars, buddy! Tens!

  5. Oh come on, everyone knows that Robot looks like Joe Pecsi as Mr. Big from Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker!

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