Thursday, May 01, 2008

comics: literature, film, marketing.

so i read comics. a LOT of them. and while most of the stuff i read is superhero escapist stuff, there are quite a few "more serious" books that i read. sure, some of this still deals with superhero[ism], but as the lens, rather than the vehicle, through which to tell a story. and while this phenomenon of "serious" storytelling in comics is mushrooming, it is not a new trend. case & point: Alan Moore's Watchmen. in 1987, Moore wove a tale of super-heroics gone awry, spanning generations and examining ethical and personal neuroses. since the first time i read this (several years ago, which i am ashamed to say, is more recent than most), i instantly thought to myself "holy crap! this should be required reading in [high] schools." and i even recently found out that
Watchmen was actually the the only graphic novel to appear on Time's 2005 list of "the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present."

so if you take nothing else away from this post - go read Watchmen. pick it up at your local library or go buy it already.

but that's not why i'm really writing, but this satisfied my need to get one of those aching thoughts out of my head and on paper (or rather, a screen?).


[NOTE: from here on out, there are quite a few links to movie trailers in here, for the sake of good and bad examples. the problem with movie trailers is, they're designed to make the movie look good, which is not always the case]

let's talk about movies based on comics (bear with me as i briefly take another aside to rant on a topic near and dear to my heart), before i get to my ultimate (and anti-climatic) reveal.

at the highest level, comic book movies have also become something that has mushroomed in recent years. no string of summer blockbusters is complete without the tentpole that is the comic-book movie. and by nerd law, i am sworn to consume EVERY one of these. believe me, there is the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly.

you might be familiar with some of the afore-mentioned Moore's works that have also made it to the big screen - most notably V for Vendetta, From Hell, and yes, even the League of Extraordinary Gentleman. the latter proves that despite excellent source material (almost everything Mr. Moore has written is literary gold), Hollywood can always find a way to screw something up.

to me it's quite simple on how to make a good comic book movie. simply a solid story. don't hack it to death when creating the screenplay. stay focused on 1 or 2 salient plot points (don't try to cram everything in!). get some solid actors (this does not equate to big stars). and most importantly, get a GOOD director (although there are some exceptions where a good director makes a bad comics movie).

as far as BAD comics movies are concerned, i've decided that either Joel Schumacher and/or heroes/villains greater than 2 (exceptions made for good team movies) make for a shit comics movie. and combining the two? god[s] help us all. ("freeze! Freeze!"). WHY the original licensing company (Marvel, DC, etc) chooses to impart the all-powerful director's duty on for one of their company gems on say, the guy who directed a movie w/ Queen Latifah + Jimmy Fallon? don't they know that only crap will ensue?after all, 2 scoops of ice cream and 2 scoops of shit = 4 scoops of shit.

and THEN, to add insult to injury, they made a sequel, taking a big dump on one of the greatest comics stories ever. has no one heard of George Lucas (to be clear, i am not citing him as a good director, but rather how he took a great story w/ lots of heritage - that he wrote, got a bunch of GREAT actors, and made a crap set of prequels)?


unfortunately, Hollywood (especially in the context of the summer blockbuster expectation that has come upon comic book movies) is intent on making money, at no mind to cost of the film's integrity . they fail to heed lessons learned from past failures, as articulated in my analysis of what makes a good + bad comic book movie. "who cares about making a great movie, let's make lots of money!" capitalism sometimes makes my heart ache.

but i digress, even further. let's focus on the initial inspiration of this entry (which is nowhere near as good as the above tirade, consider yourself warned)

so i won't entirely write on comics + marketing, but rather continue my thinking linearly to comic book movies and the marketing of them. namely, i just want to share 2 examples of movies i'm VERY excited about, where one is doing marketing the typical way (and it's quite annoying), and another that's doing it in a very smart (and innovative way).

unless you're living under a tree, i'm sure you've heard the hype around Marvel's new Iron Man movie. it looks great. i'm intrigued by the the choice of Jon Favreau as the director (but LOVE that Robert Downy Jr, a recovering Hollywood substance abuser gets to play the role of an alcoholic billionaire i the only one who sees the parallels?). for the sake of eye-candy, let's watch the trailer:

and yes, i plan to see it this Friday night with my fellow nerd-friends. do i plan to be disappointed? i'm not sure. but i hope i have a good time.

but that's not the point (i am really bouncing around today). surrounding this new movie is a TON of marketing spend and partnerships. it's making me kind of sick, but people plan to make a lot of $ on the Iron Man brand (toys, value meals, cell phones!). case and point, the recent co-marketing campaign w/ LG, at
basically, from the point of view of Iron Man (AKA Tony Stark) you get to walk around Iron Man's lab, and what else? take a look at a bunch of LG phones. LAME.

now, let's switch gears (and bring it back home). much to many fan's disappointment/excitement, Hollywood has decided to take ANOTHER one of Alan Moore's gems, Watchmen, and make a full length motion picture of it.

Mr. Moore, is livid, which is nothing new (w/
V for Vendetta, he refused to accept ANY money from the movie in protest of the apparent bastardization of his literary vision, to which i largely disagree), but the fans, are excited. i'm confident the movie will be excellent, given the choice of directors.

the movie's not out until 2009 (and who knows, maybe there will be a slurry of the usual marketing hype), so there's no trailer yet (sorry), but rather, something more interesting:

now THAT is how you market something. take the interested fan base (and potentially some aspiring film makers out them), and put things in their control. sure, is this similar to how many CPG BRANDS are opening themselves up to the consumer generated/social media space? but it definitely goes BEYOND how most films just throw up a MySpace page/YouTube channel to promote their film/trailer. if you were too lazy to watch the above video (and are likely, by now tired of reading everything that i write in such a non-succint manner), here's the gist: the director of Watchmen is asking fans to create the commercials that will show up in the film, hawking many a fake ware by a corporation that plays a major role in the film.

now let's hope the movie does not suck. otherwise what are highschool kids who don't want to read the book going to do?

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