The problems with fan entitlement are today’s (and yesterday’s) topic du jour

People got really mad.
People got really mad.

Fan entitlement is all over the news this week (well, the part of the news that consists of internet culture dedicated to sharing and retweeting pieces about popular culture). The Alamo Drafthouse publication Birth.Movies.Death published a piece from BMD editor Devin Faraci entitled “Fandom is Broken” about the Internet outrage machine’s searing unpleasantness. F

araci has been a controversial figure now and then but the piece is a solid entry into a conversation that folks are having.

It followed a similar piece (which Faraci cites) by Jesse Hassenger called “Ghostbusters, Frozen, and the strange entitlement of fan culture”

Beating them by a month was Austin filmmaker Clay Liford’s excellent piece “Fanboys, Hollywood Owes You Nothing.”

Then again, this is not exactly a new topic. Check out Scott Mendelson’s piece for Forbes, “‘Batfleck’, ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ And Fan Entitlement Syndrome,” which dates from September of 2013. (Hey, say what you will about ol’ Ben; “Batman v Superman” was a trash fire but it wasn’t his fault. And clearly it was review-proof; “BvS” grossed $328.8 million domestically, $871 million worldwide.)

How “Captain America” stripped this week’s internet outrage cycle clean away from “DC Universe: Rebirth” (SPOILERS ABOUND)

At the end of last week, Warner Bros./DC  was collecting all of the ire mainstream comics fans could muster. By Wednesday morning, all anyone could talk about was Disney/Marvel.

366074._SX640_QL80_TTD_It went something like this:

Last Friday, spoilers leaked for “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1, which launches DC Comics’ latest hard-reboot of its continuity (DC: Rebirth #1 arrived in stores the morning). Written by Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Gary Frank and Phil Jimenez, the one-shot issue sets up a new, line-wide status quo.

This is not too surprising. The last time DC rebooted their line was their much-hyped “New 52” relaunch in 2011. It felt gimmicky, it largely read  gimmicky. And the Justice League seemed to fight each other all the time rather than any bad guys. (And Lex Luthor somehow ended up on the team.)

Sales were good, then plummeted to pre-52 levels: Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which I discussed here, consistently sells over 100,000 copies a month, and Justice League moves around 70k, but most DC titles hover between 55,000-20, ooo a month. So they rebooted again.

A few of the SPOILERS were not too shocking:

  • Wally West, a pre-New 52 fixture, returns, screaming about how nobody remembers him (and stole ten years from everyone’s life, because comics).
  • There seem to be three Jokers
  • The World War II era Justice Society existed and nobody remembers them

It was the sort of thing that indicates that DC is bringing back its multiverse, with lots of different worlds and realities.

The multiverse was always one of the most enjoyable aspects of DC Comics. Not only did it make all of their stories “true,” it opened up the imagination: What was life on Earth-4 like? How are the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Superman different?

No, what really cheesed off the nerd nation was the idea that all of this universe manipulation was due to Dr. Manhattan, a character from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ ground-breaking 1986/87 series “Watchmen.”

“Watchmen” is considered, by many fans, to be something of a sacred text, what with being one of the best and most influential (for good and ill) superhero stories ever written.

It has always existed outside of DC continuity and, until now, DC has respected that.(Though they did crank out a bunch of largely uninteresting prequels called “Before Watchmen.”)

But with Batman finding the Comedian’s yellow smiley-face button  and the strong implication that Dr. Manhattan has a hand in this universal shake up.

It reminded me of a great line from this fantastic movie about the shlock-meisters at Canon Films: Cannon films “always resembled something, minus the good taste.” Right now, Superman and Batman and the rest of the DC stable resembles Superman and Batman, minus good taste.

Add to that the nearly 30-year war between Moore and DC and it was a sharp reminder “Watchmen” remains, for good reason a sensitive topic.

And in light of how disgusting and torture porny DC Comics has felt over the past 15 or so years, this interview creative chief Geoff Johns, in which he calls dragging “Watchmen” into DC continuity a critique (“I think ‘Watchmen’ is a great book, but I don’t think a cynical take on superheroes is the truthful one Everyone says that’s the realistic look. I reject that because I think people at their base core are good,” Johns said) seemed more than a little disingenuous. (Not to mention an epic troll of Moore himself.)

Or as one wag on twitter put it:

And yet, by lunch Wednesday, Marvel managed to turn in the nerd-outrage machine, focused on DC mere hours earlier, towards itself, as  Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 revealed that Captain America had been an agent for the spy organization HYDRA… since World War II.

Cue Buzzfeed pieces like this one

and tweets such as this:

Though given that Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie in the movies) has been Captain America for a bit in the comics, I did like this tweet:

Now, I happen to quite like Nick Spencer, the writer on “Captain America: Steve Rogers.” I think this is pretty obviously a File-000-8e161summer-sweeps style stunt to goose sales. Some people agree with me.  Spencer even hinted at a Man in the High Castle situation in this interview.

Even if it was a little Silver Age-style weird, there was something vaguely unpleasant and depressing about the Captain America thing. Chris Evans has done a bang-up job portraying Cap as a fundamentally decent guy.

(I mean, when I said I was hoping for comics that weren’t like movies, I guess I should have been more specific.)

And I have always loved the characterization of Captain America as an embodiment not of America the nation but America the ideal. As Frank Miller was had him saying, ““I’m loyal to nothing…but the Dream.”

This plot twist felt like a cynical gut punch, albeit an easily reversible one. The “Watchment” thing felt far ickier.

https://twitter.com/MildlyAmused/status/735524133493198848

 

(Much more entertaining?  Google #givecaptainamericaaboyfriend.)

Then again, both Captain America and “Watchmen” are commodities, intellectual property to be dispensed for maximum profit. And both moves are designed to get people talking. Which they are. A hate-click is still a click, no such thing as bad publicity, etc.

If these sorts of moves make a buck, one should always, always expect more of them in the future.

Which is to say: Vote with your wallet, always.

Darwyn Cooke 1962-2016

On Friday, Marsha Cooke, the wife of brilliant comics writer/artist Darwyn Cooke, posted on Cooke’s blog that her husband is receiving “palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer.”

Cooke died early Saturday morning. He was 53.

I mean, look at that cover.
I mean, look at that cover.

Known for a cannily cartoonish style that owed much to Alex Toth’s design sense, 50s magazine illustration and Jack Kirby’s dynamism, Darwyn Cooke is perhaps best known for the still-stunning 2004-2005 series “DC: The New Frontier,” a gorgeous, six-issue riff on the end of the end of the Golden Age of Comics and the start of the Silver Age, a reflection on post-World War II paranoia, McCarthyism and the start of the Kennedy administration.

It has superheroes, the Korean War, dinosaurs on an island, Cold War spies and a very kind Martian who learns English from watching TV, as one does. It also has some of the most beautiful and heart-lifting superhero art ever put to page.

It was made into a DC animated movie called “Justice League: The New Frontier” in 2008. It is a fun watch. But the book is better.

Cooke also adapted several of Richard Stark’s bullet-proof “Parker” novels into tough, elegant graphic novels.

A page from "Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter"
A page from “Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter”

Born in 1962, the Canadian native started his career as a designer in the Canadian magazine industry as an art director and designer, then working at Warner Bros animation as a storyboard artist on popular and critically regarded “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Superman: The Animated Series.”

“Batman: Ego” his DC Comics début, appeared in 2000, followed by a often-brilliant run with fellow noir nerd Ed Brubaker on “Catwoman.”

As much as any artist of his generation, Cooke’s work communicated the almost lizard-brain joy that comics can uniquely deliver. His pages are a masterclass in story-telling, his line direct and sure.

His most recent work was “The Twilight Children,” with Gilbert Hernandez (best known for “Love and Rockets”). It’s an interesting book, two masterclass comics storytellers working in concert, Hernandez loosely scripting for Cooke’s always-gorgeous art.

Cooke was also a beloved figure personally in an industry that can always use more. Here are a bunch of reflections from his peers. Here is an especially powerful one from writer Tucker Stone.

Cooke also kept a toe in animation. Here is his staggeringly-awesome opening credit sequence for “Batman Beyond.”

But in the end, I just keep coming back to his line, his eye for design, his elegant visual style. Indeed, I am looking at a bibliography and realizing that Cooke made zero bad comics. None. You can drop the needle on his output and find something rewarding.

Go ahead, Google his stuff. Wait for yourself to smile. You will.

 

 

“New Frontier” comics artist Darwyn Cooke receiving palliative care for “aggressive cancer”

Marsha Cooke, the wife of brilliant comics writer/artist Darwyn Cooke, posted on Cooke’s blog Friday morning that her husband is receiving “palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer.”

I mean, look at that cover.
I mean, look at that cover.

Known for a cannily cartoonish style that owed much to Alex Toth’s design sense, 50s magazine illustration and Jack Kirby’s dynamism, Darwyn Cooke is perhaps best known for the still-stunning 2004-2005 series “DC: The New Frontier,” a gorgeous, six-issue riff on the end of the end of the Golden Age of Comics and the start of the Silver Age.

He also adapted several of Richard Stark’s bullet-proof “Parker” novels into tough, elegant graphic novels.

A page from "Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter"
A page from “Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter”

Born in 1962, the Canadian native started his career as a designer in the Canadian magazine industry as an art director and designer, then working at Warner Bros animation as a storyboard artist on popular and critically regarded “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Superman: The Animated Series.”

“Batman: Ego” his DC Comics début, appeared in 2000, followed by a often-brilliant run with fellow noir nerd Ed Brubaker on “Catwoman.”

As much as any artist of his generation, Cooke’s work communicated the almost lizard-brain joy that comics can uniquely deliver. His pages are a masterclass in story-telling, his line direct and sure.

His most recent work was “The Twilight Children,” with Gilbert Hernandez (best known for “Love and Rockets”). It’s an interesting book, two -class comics storytellers working in concert, Hernandez loosely scripting for Cooke’s always-gorgeous art.

Here is his staggeringly-awesome opening credit sequence for “Batman Beyond.”

Our best to his family.

So you want to read more about Black Panther

This dude. (phot: Marvel)
This dude. (photo: Marvel)

“Captain America: Civil War” does a whole lot of things correctly — pacing, tone, stakes: all of it works really well.

But what that movie does better than anything else is introduce two (and a half) new characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Black Panther, Spider-Man and Ant-Man becoming Giant-Man.

We all know Spider-Man. Ant-Man isn’t technically new (but it was certainly cool seeing the character bust out the embiggening powers).

So let’s talk T’Challa.

Black Panther, aka T’Challa of Wakanda, is the first black superhero in mainstream comics. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, he first appeared in Fantastic Four #52-53 in the summer of 1966 (which was several months before activists Huey Newton and Bobby Seale put together the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in October).

T’Challa is the ruler of Wakanda, an African nation that also happens to be the most technologically advanced on Earth, thanks largely to being the sole source of the extremely rare, extremely strong metal vibranium.

It’s complicated, but Black Panther has a connection to the Panther God and is both the ruler of Wakanda and its living champion. He has a whole mess of superpowers, mostly involving enhanced strength, agility, senses, that sort of thing. He might be immune to poisons. (His power set was always a mite vague.)

For a few years, writers seemed a little unsure of what to do with the guy (he was an Avenger for a bit, he hung out with Daredevil once) until Don McGregor took a shot at the character in a  feature in a comic called “Jungle Action” in 1973.

Written by McGregor with artists Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Klaus Janson and Bob McLeod.  The multi-issue arcs that ran 250px-JungleAction10in “Jungle Action” #6–24 (September 1973 – November 1976) were essentially the first graphic novel (especially the first, longest arc, called “Panther’s Rage;” the second, shorter arc, “Panther vs. the Klan” is slightly less successful).

While some of the prose scans as a bit purple in 21st century light, “Panther’s Rage” is a jaw-dropping achievement, parts that both stand on their own and add up to a brilliantly realized whole. It remains a terrific primer on how to pace a multi-part arc AND deliver a satisfying reader experience in each issue.

It has been collected in a now out-of-print Marvel Masterworks (which will set you back an arm and a leg).  A new collection, including those two “Fantastic Four” issues, is due in October.

Kirby returned to the character in 1977, but his run is not some of his best work. McGregor returned to the character in the late ’80s and early ’90s for two arcs — both are solid.

But Black Panther really got a shot in the arm in 1998, with writer Christopher Priest, the first African-American writer in mainstream comics, and penciller Mark Texeira’s 1998 “Black Panther,” which ran for 62 issues.  Back in 2002, I noted in the Statesman that Priest “turned an underused icon into the locus of a complicated high adventure by taking the Black Panther to 51qhhqKEtYL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_his logical conclusion. T’Challa (the title character) is the enigmatic ruler of a technologically advanced, slightly xenophobic African nation, so he acts like it.” I stand by all of that. Marvel has collected Priest’s excellent run in three volumes, and it absolutely holds up.

Filmmaker Reginald Hudlin took over the character in 2005 for a new ” Black Panther,” which ran 41 issues, during which Black Panther and Storm (of the X-Men) got hitched. (As long as Fox owns the rights to the film versions of the X-Men, don’t expect to see this union on screen any time soon).  The Hudlin era has been collected in various paperbacks.

Which brings us to T’Challa’s most recent on-going series. portrait_incredibleWritten by Ta-Nehisi Coates and drawn by Brian Stelfreeze, the second issue of “Black Panther” hit stores May 11. The book started strong and stays the course for the second issue, wherein out hero tries to rid himself of an enemy of Wakanda. It goes…poorly. But the book remains on my must-read list.

 

 

So we’re a few episodes into Game of Thrones season 6 — how did we do with our hopes for the characters?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece wondering what was in store for the folks on HBO’s  “Game of Thrones,” which began its sixth season — and first without corresponding source material from George R.R. Martin’s books — April 24.

As of this writing, we are three episodes in. How is everyone doing? (The following contains all of the spoilers. All of them.)

Welp.
“Dude, I just had the weirdest drea–wait, where are my pants?” (photo: HBO)

Jon Snow is a living, breathing, not-dead guy

So, yeah, Jon Snow is totally back from the dead, thanks to some dark magic from  Melisandre, the lady in red (not this one), after Davos begs her to do something.

She looked as surprised as he did that her spell worked. So what did Jon Snow do with his newfound restoration to health? He hung the folks who killed him (including the little kid, which was awful but seemed very “Game of Thrones”)  and promptly quit the Night’s Watch. I didn’t know you could even do that, but I guess one’s watch ends after one dies, so here we are.

Snow’s apparent good health keeps alive my single favorite fan theory about “Thrones”: That its larger title, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” refers to the potential endgame: Jon Snow (Ice) and Daenerys Targaryen (fire) ruling Westeros together.

Sansa and Theon fall in with Brienne of Tarth and Podrick

In this season’s first episode, Sansa and Theon are rescued in spectacular fashion by Brienne (who is shaping up to be the least morally compromised human in all of Westeros) and her loyal squire Pod.  It was the most fist-pumping moment the show has delivered in years. Brienne is, by a wide margin, the most heroic character in the piece, and that is fantastic. Sansa finally catches a break!

Well, this can't be good (photo: HBO)
Well, this can’t be good (photo: HBO)

Ramsay Bolton has not yet been torn apart by direwolves, but he did kill his father and feed his stepmother and infant half-brother to dogs so … oops.

My hope for Ramsay was reversed in a spectacularly cruel way. He consolidated power in his house by stabbing his father, Roose (whose amazing voice we will miss), and trapping his stepmother Walda Frey and her newborn son in a pen of attack dogs. Even off-screen, the screams were pretty rough. And in episode three, Lord Umber delivered Rickon Stark and his pal Osha (both of whom many of us forgot were alive) unto Ramsay, who now has an A-1 bargaining chip. I did love how yeah-you-don’t-scare-me Lord Umber was to Ramsay. He genuinely doesn’t seem scared of him, which is nice to see.

 Arya Stark got her sight back, still being awesome

Finally, Arya got her sight back, thanks to Faceless Man Jaqen H’ghar. She is still training to be an ego-free assassin. In fact, we would like to see her start to kill people, please.

Cersei Lannister’s new guard, same as the old guard?

Post-humiliation and after burying their daughter, Cersei and Jaime seem to be on the same side again. She seems to be getting her mojo back and in episode three delivers a nice variant on the Godfather’s “If he should be struck by a bolt of lightning” speech, wherein she swears Lannister-style vengeance on anyone talking smack about her in King’s Landing. And her new Kingsguard sure looks like the reanimated corpse of good ol’ Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane.

young Ned Stark, sans enormous sword (photo: HBO)
Young Ned Stark, sans enormous sword (photo: HBO)

Bran Stark suddenly gets a little more interesting

So Bran, vision-questing all over the place with the three-eyed raven (played with calm authority by 87-year-old Max von Sydow), has become part Ebenezer Scrooge, part Doctor Who, able to look at various moments in the past but unable to interfere. In episode three, he sees his father, a young Ned Stark, fighting the double-sword-wielding Targaryen Ser Arthur Dayne. But who or what is in the Tower of Joy? Bran’s story has become one of the show’s more unexpectedly intriguing, as his visions are giving fans a bit of Westeros’ past, which pushes all the right geek buttons. (Though I did kind of miss Ice.)

Also, it is slightly jarring to see a gent routinely short-listed as the greatest actor alive on “Thrones,” but hey, the man likes to work.

This man doesn't have enough to do (photo: HBO)
This man doesn’t have enough to do (photo: HBO)

 Tyrion and Varys seem to have taken Bran’s place in the boring plotline sweepstakes

This is a shame, as Tyrion and Varys are great characters, but they don’t seem to be doing much in Meereen. Governing is far less interesting than trying to become the guy who governs, after all. (Tyrion did get a genuinely lovely speech in episode one, when he visits one of the Daenerys’ trapped dragons and talks about wanting one as a child, just a little one, “like me.”)

Daenerys doesn’t seem to be going anywhere

Welp, so much for riding dragons. Not only is Daenerys stuck with Dothraki, she has been shoved into the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, where widowed khaleesi live. My smart pal Alex made a “Desperate Housewives: Khaleesi Version” joke on Facebook, and I am not going to do better than that.

Three episodes and no sexual violence! Is this a new record? 

We are three episodes in and they have been blissfully rape-free. Well, everything isn’t blissful: Walda and her infant were eaten by dogs, but my point stands. There has been no sexual assault so far, and it is a welcome development.

The writing in general seems to have taken a turn, too. Perhaps feeling liberated from Martin’s tone or the purpleness of his dialogue,  the writing in TV’s “Thrones” seems more direct, perhaps a bit less obscure and more expository, and witty in a new way, a tone they have struggled with in the past. The Conan the Barbarian tribute in episode one was kind of brilliant, wherein a few Dothraki sit around and debate what is best in life. It is pretty great.

Which is to say, could this show be getting … funny?

 

 

The Cure released “Disintegration” on this day in 1989

The_Cure_Disintegra_457922a_1On May 2, 1989, the Cure released “Disintegration,” considered by many to be the band’s last truly great album (though their 1992 single “Friday I’m In Love” would prove a smash hit).

Here is my review of the three-CD “Disintegration” set from 2010.

The Cure plays in Austin at the Erwin Center May 13. The band has not released a new album since 2008.