It’s B-roll time, as we wrap up the Watchmen discussion with Sam Mulvey and Rob Kelly.
We get a little bit more into why Zack Snyder’s movies fail — and why they also don’t fail enough to be fun or interesting. We talk about Uwe Boll’s recent crowdfunding meltdown, Steve Ditko’s Objectivist superhero, Mr. A, and why you should be able to hear criticism of your favorite things like a grown-up.
We talk about the possible consequences of Disney’s purchases of Marvel and Lucasfilm, and wonder how truly terrifying it would be to have to repossess the American Nazi Party’s “Hate Bus.”
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Some thoughts as I go:
Yeah, I can handle people disliking stuff I like, if they put some thought into it. For instance, Grant Morrison in his book Supergods made what I thought were some reasonable, valid criticisms of Watchmen. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything he said, but I could see where he was coming from. Most fans, predictably, lost their freakin’ minds – “How dare Grant Morrison criticize Alan Moore?” Bugger that. Nobody is above criticism, not even the greatest comicbook writer of all time.
On the subject of Disney owning everything: People who create things are often reasonable about letting people join in and make fan films, etc. People who had no part in creating things (Disney lawyers, people who buy song catalogs and sue families for singing Happy Birthday in public, estates of dead authors and musicians) take ownership of other people’s creative work, then start acting like they’re the ones who made it and it’s theirs, all theirs, and you can’t have it!
Oh, and Casey (I think) beat me to the Dark Side Of The Moon comparison. Blargh!
Um, Mike? Most sides of beef are covered in leather.
On the subject of criticism, as Mr. Cooper says above, when there is thought put to it, it is less excitable and you can often engage in a lively debate. When it is elitist and dismissive, it can draw out the snark, though I don’t think I ever totally lose it. In my internet “career,” I lost it once, and that was unloading on an IMDB troll who claimed to have been a Navy SEAL, when it was obvious he had never been in the military. I was a commissioned naval officer and have little use for people who masquerade as veterans. I don’t mind criticisms of the military, as I have leveled tons of my own. I applauded Micah Wright’s Get Your War On, when the book version came out. I sent him an e-mail in support of the project and spoke of my military experiences and political awakening, during the first Gulf War. I also sent him a scathing rebuke after it was revealed that he lied about being in the Army, let alone being a Ranger. I still agreed with his sentiments in his work, but felt he was a coward for hiding behind a false military record to fend off criticism and threats. If you are going to take a stand, make it an honest one. Anyway, digression.
I have seen tons of articles that have been dismissive of genre fiction, movies and comics, while praising more “literary” works. I either ignore it or at least point out the hypocrisy of some of their statements and highlight notable genre works that are as powerful as the so-called “literary.” However, maturity means doing it without questioning the critic’s parentage, sexual orientation, patriotism, or sanity. Focus on the gaps in logic and lack of evidence to support their thesis and you will always make a more reasonable rebuttal.
Don Thompson used to write reviews, in the (late and greatly missed) Comic Buyer’s Guide but went out of his way not to outright rip things apart. When he was ambivalent about a work he would say that “..if this is the kind of thing you like, you will probably like this.” If it was just terrible or contemptible, he would ignore it and let market forces make it disappear.
In regards Watchmen, I was a manager for Barnes & Noble (no longer, so I can name names) and was happy to see the build-up getting people to read the book. Same with V for Vendetta and even a few of the Titan Books movie art books (mostly fellow employees, there). However, I had little faith in the movie, since it couldn’t capture the comic (and it was Snyder). The storytelling mechanisms were too different. I had similar feelings with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and tried to promote the original works of Stoker, Stevenson, Haggard, Twain, Wilde, Verne, and others; but, people still wouldn’t touch them (too old timey). Their loss. It didn’t help that the movie sucked.
I did find it ironic that the Occupy Movement latched onto V and the Fawkes Mask, since the commercially available ones gave royalties to Warner Brothers. Let’s protest corporations and the 1% by giving them money; that will show them! Now, I’m off to get a caramel macchiato at Starbucks.
I really have to applaud Rob’s comments about Frank Miller. Prior to The Spirit coming out, he appeared on Turner Classic Movies, as a guest presenter. He was dressed in jeans, a sport coat, and a fedora, while Robert Osborne is in a suit and a tie. Really classy, Frank. Osborne is oblivious to Miller’s comic book credentials and asked if Miller always wanted to make films and he responds, no, he wanted to make comics, which is what he had done for the past 30 years. Osborne never seems to warm up to him. Maybe it was because it was obvious he wasn’t a film person. Maybe he actually watched some of the Spirit or Sin City and recognized that Miller wasn’t a director. God help him if someone showed him Holy Terror.
It is obvious that success went to Miller’s head. At first, he used it as a platform to attack censorship. These days, he seems like a lbertarian whack job. Maybe he idolized Ditko too much. I was never much of a fan of Sin City; but Dark Knight Stikes Again is where I thought he truly lost it.
Ditko’s Mr. A makes The Question look moderate. It’s visually interesting; but, painful to try to process. In regards Spider-Man, I don’t believe Ditko was that rabid a Randite, until time had progressed at Marvel. He was conservative; but, it seemed to grow, over time. The Question and Mr. A came later. I suspect he discovered Rand or read more of her drivel after the launch of Spider-Man. The initial stories were more of a collaboration between Lee and Ditko, while later ones were Ditko plots, with Lee scripting and even that led to arguments. Mark Evanier always said Stan Lee was too conservative for Kirby and too liberal for Ditko. What’s ironic is that the most successful use of The Question was the Denny O’Neil series, which was about as far from Ditko as you could get. Of course, Ditko never fared well at DC. He and Steve Skeates fought tooth and nail over Hawk and Dove and he wasn’t happy with how Shade was handled. Then again, Randians are rarely good at collaboration.
Diamond is “kind of a monopoly?” I’m pretty certain their logo appears in the definition of “monopoly,” in most dictionaries.
In regards to George Lincoln Rockwell and the “hate bus,” one of the biggest interviews with Rockwell was conducted for Playboy Magazine, by Alex Haley, author of Roots. Process that for a moment. Rockwell actually pulled out a pistol and placed it on his desk, at the start of the interview, as an act of intimidation. However, Haley served in the Coast Guadr, during WW2 and had seen action. He calmly went on with his questioning and seemed to charm Rockwell. The scene was played out in Roots: The Next Generation, with Marlon Brando as Rockwell, and James Earl Jones as Haley.
It’s interesting that you brought up Die Hard and the disparate scripts that made up the series, and also mentioned Rambo. The original David Morrell novel had Rambo die at the end. Obviously, Stallone wasn’t going to do that in the film. Funny thing is, Morell did the novelization of Rambo: First Blood II and put a note at the beginning that Rambo died in his novel; but not in the film. The original novel was a heck of a lot more believable and he struggled to rationalize the nonsense of the second movie, especially the arrows.
In regards Valiant. The company made its name on the Gold Key characters, like Solar, Magnus and Turok; but, ironically, the new company has no access to those. Meanwhile, the new fan owner wants to exploit them for other media; he just doesn’t want others to do it. Whether that is good r bad remains to be seen. I haven’t seen the new comics; but, word on the street is pretty good, so more power to him. However, Ultraverse good?
I was always so-so on Ultraverse. I liked the premise of The Strangers and thought it started well; but, it kind of fizzled quickly. Firearm was great, while James Robinson was on the book; but, he quickly went off to greener pastures. Prime was a fun book, for a Captain Marvel rip-off. The rest didn’t do much for me. I thought Malibu had better ideas in their Protectors line, but needed some more polished talent to nurture them and enjoyed the creator-owned Bravura books far more. Ultraverse was still better than Image.
Image was a mess from the start. The books were a lot of flash and noise, devoid of story, with the possible exception of Savage Dragon, and i still think you can debate that. I think it found a voice, but it wasn’t entirely there at the start. Spawn never even had that. McFarlane is not a storyteller; but, he was a decent graphic designer. I think that is what always attracted people too his work. He put together a visually interesting page. He would have made a decent poster artist, in the 60s and early 70s. He was a lousy comic book artist, though he is NC Wyeth, compared to Liefeld. It is ironic that a company that was founded upon arrogance and flash over substance developed into a company that welcomed alternative voices. I don’t think it did so as well as Dark Horse, Eclipse, Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, or First; but, more so than Marvel (DC at least had Vertigo, until it was neutered, in recent years).
Walter Koenig wrote some comics for Malibu. Leonard Nimoy, Gene Roddenberry, Neil Gaiman, Mickey Spillane and some other’s had their names on Tekno comics, though it never seemed like they had much involvement in them.
I enjoy good superhero movies; but, feel like Warner and Marvel are ignoring many more cinematic properties. At Marvel, Killraven, Deathlok, Master of Kung Fu, or Eternals would make great films and Damage Control would make for a much better tv series than Agents of SHIELD. Based on the tv stuff, I’d much rather see Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos in action than the SHIELD agents and some of the superheroes. AT DC, Jonah Hex should have been done as a spaghetti western, while Deadman, Manhunter (Goodwin/Simonson version), Secret Six, Adam Strange, and Warlord would make interesting movies. Metal Men and Sugar & Spike would make great cartoon series. Many of the Vertigo properties are ripe for either and the one superhero book that is crying out for tv or film treatment is Starman. It would make a great HBO series or a movie franchise. Same with Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.
The Rock as Black Adam should be great; but, the film will live or die on who plays Captain Marvel. That’s what scares me. Meanwhile, Black Adam may be his Moriarty in a physical and power sense; but, Sivana was always his true arch-nemesis. I doubt we will ever get a truly great Thaddeus Bodog Sivana, alas. That’s a property that would probably be better as an animated feature or series, where they can be more outlandish.
It’s ironic that DC’s movies are so dark, when their tv has been more lively and fun, Arrow and Gotham notwithstanding. The new Supergirl looks like a ton of fun, with a lead actress who really embraces the character at a level not seen since Lynda Carter, as Wonder Woman (Robert Downey Jr is great; but he isn’t playing the comic book Stark).
Fun mini-epsisode, guys.
6:41 pm? You guys using GMT or something?
Changed it to PST.
Being a book guy, I of course had sought out the DIE HARD seed novels when I heard about them years ago. The interesting thing is how many set pieces from NOBODY LIVES FOREVER made itn into the original DIE HARD; the plots are very nearly identical but in the novel the story is very much Joe Leland’s last hurrah, the tone of the thing is much more “Can my aging self summon the heroism needed to defeat this young punk Hans Gruber?” It’s bleak and somehow melancholy even as the bullets are flying. In fact, picture Alan Rickman playing McClane and the young Bruce Willis as Hans Gruber, and make the wife the daughter, and you’d kind of get the sense of how the book plays out. it WAS deSouza that wrote the screenplay and he is the master of finding the crowd-pleaser. His specialty is keying in on how to turn something into an audience FUCK YEAH! that was never, ever intended to be that. DIE HARD is full of it but the most spectacular example is THE RUNNING MAN, which is nothing at all like Stephen King’s novel. At all. But it still has its good points as a movie and King himself has often said that it’s nothing at all like what he wrote but he still kind of likes it.
The other DIE HARD footnote I have for you is one I only found out myself, a few weeks ago. Walter Wager, the author of 58 MINUTES that became DIE HARD 2, was also “John Tiger,” the guy that wrote all the I SPY and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE licensed paperbacks I adored so when I was a kid. Here’s more about him: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/w/walter-wager/
Also, just as an aside– where the hell does Ditko SELL Mr. A? i have never, ever seen one ‘out in the wild’ for sale anywhere ever, not even at the biggest comic book stores that carry EVERYTHING. I don’t ever notice it listed in PREVIEWS for that matter except as part of scholarly Ditko retrospectives. Never saw it sold as an underground in the old head shops, never at weird indie bookstores, and it predates online sales by decades. Does he do it all by mail-order? How the hell does that work?
Every scanned image I’ve ever seen of Mr. A makes it looks like some sort of zine, rather than something published by a mainstream comic book company.
According to Wikipedia, it was published in an underground comic called “Witzend,” which would explain why he still owns the rights to the character.
Greg, Mike: yes, the earliest Mr. A material appeared in Wally Wood’s Witzend. But Ditko has been releasing a bunch of stuff independently for years, through a publisher/friend named Robin Snyder – all of the titles are listed on the Wikipedia page. Snyder occasionally posts announcements of Kickstarters for new Ditko books at the Marvel Masterworks message board. I don’t know if the stuff gets distributed to comic book shops; my impression is that most people probably order it directly from Snyder. Here’s a link to a page that lists all the titles with ordering information:
That same website also offers a ton of scanned Ditko stories from the 1950s (which are public domain now, I guess):
Now that that’s out of the way, I have to say I really enjoyed the latest point-5 episode (as usual). The Ditko discussion and your observations about altruistic super-heroes contradicting the Objectivist ideal reminded me of the fact that a lot of online Objectivists/libertarians had latched onto the Incredibles as containing a thinly veiled Randian ubermensch moral, because of that brief, off-hand complaint by Dash that he was being forced to be mediocre. Again, that seems to ignore the glaring fact that the heroes in Incredibles all used their powers for altruistic purposes, and NOT to profit from them…
Witzend launched it. I have digital scans of those issues and stories. I did once come across a Mr A comic, published later. This was in the early 90s, in Charleston, SC, while I was stationed there (Navy). I found it at a shop called the Green Dragon, which was an odd little store; a mixture of comics, role playing resources and paraphenalia, New Age books and ephemera, sci-fi books, and martial arts gear. It was run by a hippie couple, whose hours of operation sign said “…from Moonday to Satyrday,” and whose car had a bumpersticker that said, “Smile, Cthulu loathes you!” I had my subscription across town, at a more conventional shop; but, I used to go to the Green Dragon quite a bit and pick up graphic novels and Prince Valiant reprints (the Fantagraphics ones, in the oversized trade paperback format). It was there I first encountered Will Eisner’s graphic novels, the European books published by Catalan Communications and NBM and some of the really small independents, like Apple Comics. That was also the only store where I ever found Vietnam Journal, from Don Lomax. That store also provided me with a copy of that limited edition Monster Society of Evil compilation.
I want to say Fantagrahics either printed some or helped distribute at least one Mr A comic. I know the put out a Ditko sampler pack of sorts.
Just to add another level of wrongness, what if the guy sent to repo the Hate Bus had been a black man?
I’ve been listening to your show for about a six months but this is the first one that I felt compelled to write in about. Just wow, the range of topics and how you went from one to another was great.
First a future episode request I’d love an episode where you discuss Netflix’s Daredevil. I think it is awesome, even if you guys disagree.
A bit about me. I was a big comic reader from about ’84 to ’92 or so. I stopped reading them because they got repetitive and the multi-covered and other gimmicks of the time. I haven’t read any since then. I do love the Marvel Avenger line movies. I mostly read Marvel, Thor, a few Spiderman titles, X-Man, Captain America and others in that like that. I tried a number of DCs titles but Suicide Squad is the only one that I really remember. The last comics I dropped though was the ones in DC’s Vertigo line, Hellblazer, Sandman, Hex etc. It started my Neil Gaimen fanboy obsession that lasts to this day.
I didn’t venture too far out of the mainstream comics. I am proud to say that I do have the original Ben Edlund’s the Tick, the black and white large format comics.
I also remember being blown away by Todd McFarlane’s drawings when he was with Marvel. His Spiderman was amazing. I followed Spawn for awhile but it was too little, too late to keep my interest in comic books going.
I never heard of Mr. A. However there is a fantasy novel series called The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. Like Ditko he is an Ayn Rand nut. His main character Richard Cypher sounds like he is exactly like Mr A. He is supposed to be the hero but in reality he is a complete dick. He gives long (several pages long) speeches before he hacks everyone that disagrees with him to pieces. He is supposed to be the perfect man, people keep remarking how he is the most handsome man they have ever seen, among other things. The TV show, Legend of the Seeker, was marginally better.
There is absolutely no nuance in his world view. Everything he does is good, because he does it. Everything anyone that doesn’t 100% agree with him is 100% evil. Seriously, he’ll go on for several pages about how this or that is evil, but three books later he is doing the exact same thing.
Mad Max Fury Road is the rare movie that the more I think about it, the more I like it. Normally it’s the reverse. I left the theater unsure if I liked it not. Part of the problem was that I just rewatched Tank Girl the week before and kept thinking Tank Girl did it better while viewing Fury Road.. But I’ve separated the movies and I’m happy with what Fury Road did. But I’ll still take Tank Girl over it.