Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Review: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope

April 8, 2012

In my last blog about San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), I said, “Comic books are still at SDCC.  You just have to know where to look.”

Since I have been so hyper-critical about what San Diego Comic-Con has become, I was very skeptical when I sat down to watch the Morgan Spurlock documentary, “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope.” (available for rental on Video On Demand and iTunes)

I am relieved to say that this film is squarely focused on comic books and the fan culture and what little emphasis is given to the movie and television stuff is done mostly in cutaway shots (speaking of which: I’m sure Olivia Wilde was relieved to see her credit as “Actress, Tron: Legacy” and not “Cowboys & Aliens”).

Spurlock understands what does (and does not) make a great and captivating story.

Nobody.  And I do mean nobody, not even the parents of the people involved.  Nobody cares about Warner Brothers trying to pump millions of dollars into their marketing machine to try to convince the world that Green Lantern was anything but a steaming pile of dog sh**.

But we do want to see a guy trying to propose to his girlfriend at a Kevin Smith panel.  We also want to see Holly the costume designer and her friends compete at the masquerade.

Specific to comics, We want to watch two unknown artists try to find work and break into the industry.

Most importantly, from a retail perspective, we want to see legendary retailer Chuck Rozanski  from Mile High Comics selling actual comic books.

All of these stories have weight to them.  They matter to the people that they are happening to and we as an audience are invested in their success.

Did I tear up during this movie?  Quite a bit.

It’s a happy movie.  It’s very positive.  It’s about comic books.  Which is why I liked it quite a bit.

That said, I can tell you that if you’re not into comic books you’ll still like it because at the end of the day these are stories about people who you “meet” and want to see succeed.

I have never played the game Mass Effect, but after watching the passion that Holly and her friends put into their costumes I was rooting (out loud) for them to win at the masquerade.

I’d have liked a comprehensive documentary about the history of the con, but I also know that I’m an audience of about 10 people who want such a thing so I’ll stick to finding that in interviews and online.

This is a fun movie and it brings you either closer to the experience of being at SDCC in the present day, or for people like me it reminds me of what I liked about attending back in the day.

Very much worth a rental.

Before Watchmen? Here’s Why…

February 3, 2012

In 2000,newly appointed Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada made a bold (and controversial) move to tell the origin of Wolverine.

Many pointed to the mysterious origin of the character as being his strength and that telling the origin would ruin the character.

…and yet, here we are in 2012.  One origin and a horrible movie later, and Wolverine is still quite popular.

Which brings me to the news that DC Entertainment will be publishing a series of “Before Watchmen” comic books, a move that I would argue is bolder (and more controversial) than their decision to reboot the DCU with the “New 52.”

The Watchmen: The 12 Issues And The Collected Edition

Consider that The Watchmen was published in 1986 as a 12 issue mini-series which was later collected and has been in print ever since.*

The Watchmen and its creators have a total of 5 Eisner Awards since it was first published and the collected edition remains one of the most successful comic book collections of all time.  (as of last year, it was still in the Top 100 graphic novels that DC Entertainment publishes)

Those 12 issues are some of my favorite comic books of all time.  I hold them up as ‘sacred’ (whatever that means) and read it every year as if it was the Talmud.

Why “Before Watchmen?”

Corporations, like DC Entertainment, have to serve two audiences; the consumer who is buying the product and the stockholders who want to see profit every quarter.

It is not surprising that DC Entertainment feels that they are “leaving money on the table” by limiting The Watchmen to the collected edition.

Right or wrong, DC Entertainment looks at its library of characters as intellectual properties, and it needs to leverage these properties to both give customers what they want and appease the stockholders by turning a profit.

See the statement above about this being one of their most successful comic book collections of all time.

And yet, those characters are “trapped” inside those 12 issues whereas Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. are all quite “portable” and “travel” very well across any number of media.

My Perspective On “Before Watchmen”

Those 12 issues, as a collected edition, will be available forever in the same way they were when I first purchased them as a kid.**  Days, weeks, months, years  from now I can give that to friends to read and they’ll hopefully enjoy it just the same way that I did (and do).

One of the reasons The Watchmen has held its revered status is that it is one of the few super hero comic books that was not handed to a new creative team once it was completed.

Which is exactly the point.

The Watchmen has transcended its peer comic books.  It has moved beyond Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.  It’s moved into the realm of the works of Jane Austen or Shakespeare and become bulletproof in a sense.

Think about how many people have stolen (and continue to steal) from Austen and Shakespeare; and yet, the reputation and the quality of the originals are unharmed.

How about the number of derivatives that have been published based on the source materials?  Bridget Jones’s Diary, West Side Story, Pride Prejudice and Zombies.  Some of them are actually quite great, and yet none of them diminish the source material.  Quite the opposite, they often boost the appeal for the source material.

Exhibit A: the recent spike in The Watchmen collected edition sales was due to the run up to the film.  We know how the film turned out.  And yet, the collected edition remains a best seller long after the movie has faded away.

Whatever “Before Watchmen” brings, it will only help the original collection.  It can not, and will not diminish the original.

A Tale Of Two Franchises

My favorite quote from a retailer was in the Bleeding Cool article, “Retailers Talk Before Watchmen:”

I love DC. I love money. I approve this comic.

Ryan Higgins
Comics Conspiracy
Sunnyvale, CA

Think about Star Wars.  Many of us forget that before the Star Wars prequels, there was a limited amount of Star Wars to be had.

I’m currently watching The People Vs. George Lucas, and they try to explain this in the film but I think that it’s really lost on many people how little there was.

Comics, novelizations, toys and a few video games here and there.  And that’s about it. The scope of Star Wars was contained inside those 3 films.

Lucas Films is a corporation.  Privately held, but they are still a corporation who like to make money.

The Star Wars prequels did three things:

  1. They made a lot of money.
  2. They made a lot of money.
  3. They made a lot of money.

The Star Wars prequels built a franchise that has continued to grow into the multi-million dollar Star Wars industry that has pushed itself into the new millenium.

Would my nephews know what Star Wars was without the prequels?  Probably.  Do they know now what it is?  Of course.

Parents are able to share Star Wars with their kids in large part because there is more to share.  The cartoon series.  The video games.  The comic books.  The toys, etc.

It all feeds back to those original three movies.  The source material.

Or take Star Trek, where Paramount have had their ups and downs with maintaining the quality of their franchise.

They had some successes (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and some failures (Star Trek: Nemesis) but one of the biggest successes to date has been the re-imagining of the original series by JJ Abrams.

The 2009 film did more to open Star Trek up to new audiences than perhaps anything they’ve done since The Next Generation and yet the Trek faithful (like myself) love it all even more.

For the first time since watching Battlestar Galactica have I felt the desire to go back and watch some of the old series.

And let’s repeat after me: none of these things have diluted the original source material.**

That Said, Will They Be Good? 

We’ll see.

What I will say is that this is an opportunity for DC Entertainment and for retailers to expand the audience of the collected edition.

And, to their credit, DC Entertainment is treating this with more respect than many other projects.  The list of creators working on these titles are some of the top writers and artists in the industry.  Between the group of them they have over 15 Eisner awards and two of them are members of the Hall of Fame.

DC Entertainment is investing a lot of time/effort/talent to ensure the  intersection of giving consumers what they want and turning a profit for shareholders goes properly here.

Franchising characters, be it into more comic books or into merchandise is a part of the business.  It’s what often funds the comic books that I enjoy.

I buy what I like.  I don’t buy what I don’t like.  To that point, any sort of franchising/licensing that I don’t like…it doesn’t bother me.

I will pick these titles up.  I’ll either enjoy them.  Or I won’t.  But it won’t have any impact on my love for the collected edition.

There are plenty of things both in the world and in the industry to get upset about.  This is not one of them.

– 0 –

* for an expert analysis on the contract issues between DC and Moore/Gibbons, I would point you to Josh Flanagan’s blog post on iFanboy.  He also hits a number of the same points I made in this post.  My feeling on this is that there are two versions to this story, and then there’s the truth that we’ll never know.  

** colorist John Higgins updated the coloring of The Watchmen to take advantage of modern printing techniques and higher quality paper.  In Watching The Watchmen, he documents this process and the coloring remains true to the original.  It is akin to a painting restoration and helped make the trade paperbacks that many consumers purchased during the run up to the film look so good.  

***I’m not going to get into an argument about the recuts of the Star Wars prequel films.  That’s not the point…  But yes, Han shot first.

Welcome Rangers Of The Dork Forest

January 3, 2012

If you have reached my blog because you just heard me on Jackie Kashian‘s excellent “The Dork Forest” podcast, welcome!

I have not been updating my blog as much as I would like to, so probably the best way to follow me will be on Twitter (@NoahGK).  I always post a link for any new articles I write on my Twitter feed.  So you’re covered.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, check out episode 92 of The Dork Forest where Jackie and I talk comics for an hour.  (here’s the iTunes link)

What Is A SXSW Interactive Campus?

February 14, 2011

As someone who knows (and works with*) the organizers for SXSW Interactive, I can tell you that every conversation with them has the same theme: how do we make the conference better for attendees?

This year, one of the ways that they’re going to do this is through campuses.

It’s the evolution of something I noticed last year.  Many of the sessions I attended were around the Business track, and those sessions were mostly in the Hilton and as a result, much of my interaction (meeting new people, seeing old friends) was outside those rooms.

It was nice.  I spent more time talking to people, and less time pulling “West Wing” walk-and-talks, hurrying to the next session.

A lot fewer “ships passing in the night” moments and a lot more interaction.

A campus is a single location where similar programming is held and their goal is to create micro-events at these locations.

Below is a list of the campuses (here’s the full article) and something that they plan to do shortly is put these into the schedule as “themes” (something we at IBM do for our events, but we call them tracks – and it’s always a favorite thing for attendees).

Hope to see you at SXSW this year and keep an eye out for me (which will be easier this year since I’ll be centralized thanks to the campuses).

AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER
Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15

Keynotes, Featured and Distinguished Speakers
Convergence
ScreenBurn
Book Readings
Meet Ups
Future15
Branding / Marketing
Design / Development
Greater Good

HILTON
Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15

Emerging
Business
Accelerator
Meet Ups

COURTYARD (MARRIOTT)
Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
Work and Happiness

RADISSON
Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
Late Break

HYATT
Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
The Social Graph

SHERATON
Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
The Future of Journalism
Saturday, March 12 – Tuesday, March 15
Workshops

HILTON GARDEN INN
Friday, March 11
Education
Saturday, March 12
Latin America
Sunday, March 13 – Monday, March 14
Health
Monday, March 14
Robotics
Tuesday, March 15
Special Programming

AT&T CONFERENCE CENTER
Saturday, March 12
Special Programming (TBD)
Sunday, March 13 – Monday, March 14
Social Broadcast Track
Special Programming (TBD)
Tuesday, March 15
Special Programming (TBD)

* full disclosure: I am a member of the SXSW Interactive Advisory Board.

Adam Walsh Case Solved

December 16, 2008

I was scrolling Google News and my heart stopped when I saw the headline, “Police Expected to Close Adam Walsh Case.” (New York Times)

I grew up in South Florida, not far from where Adam Walsh was abducted and found dead.

I didn’t know Adam personally.  But I might have at some point.  I could have.  He was one of us.  One of the thousands of kids who grew up down there.

While I don’t know about the rest of the world, I do know that my world.  South Florida in the early 1980’s, dramatically changed.

Parents became more vigilant, down to fingerprinting their kids as a way to assist the police in identifying them in the event of something like this.  There are thousands of kids my age that grew up down there that know exactly what I’m talking about.  How our parents kept closer tabs on us.  How we didn’t leave the house alone as much.  How we become more aware of the dangers around us.

While this brings closure to his family, and while John Walsh (Wikipedia) has done an amazing job with his crusade to rid the world of this kind of evil, it sadly doesn’t bring back Adam.

The only thing I can think to say is that I only wish I’d have gotten a chance to know Adam.

Usually I’m not such a downer.  But like I said, this is a moment, one of those moments in every person’s life, that you remember forever.

Hopefully something lighter tomorrow (I’ve got a stack of Warren Ellis X-Men issues on the coffee table, he’s always good for a pickme up).