Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Comic (Book) Tragedy

Image: James Sturm

*Update: As if I needed another reason to not watch another shitty movie by Marvel.

Amidst the constant sound and fury of cinematic regurgitations from superhero movies that seem to have taken up permanent residence in movie theaters, comes the ramping up of "The Avengers." James Sturm (also see Center for Cartoon Studies post here) has a provocative essay up on Slate that broaches the subject of corporate ethics in regards to these endless Hollywood franchise cross-overs with comics, with a focus on the legacy of Marvel artist Jack Kirby.:
"What makes this situation especially hard to stomach is that Marvel’s media empire was built on the backs of characters whose defining trait as superheroes is the willingness to fight for what is right. It takes a lot of corporate moxie to put Thor and Captain America on the big screen and have them battle for honor and justice when behind the scenes the parent company acts like a cold-blooded supervillain. As Stan Lee famously wrote, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
The ensuing comment thread (and many others) further expands upon the inherent moral minefield, one additional case in point being seminal writer and perennial industry critic Alan Moore's fear & loathing of DC's announced Watchmen prequel series. Moore's reaction is predictable given his longstanding and outspoken attitude towards lamestream publishers, but it is hypocritical when one considers his own fame and success in comics is in no small part derived from hinging works on already-established characters. Mark Hughes, among many others, points up the glaring relativism in a Forbes essay:
"Does anyone want to guess how the original authors of those stories might feel about Mr. Moore creating a comic depicting those kids having explicit sex constantly in a comic book? They might be as angry as Mr. Moore is about his comic getting prequels. (It’s also worth noting that Moore was dismissive about the licensing claims made by the copyright holders of Peter Pan due to his use of characters.)"
Corporate cannibals picking over the profitable corpse of pop media is no surprise, but what makes this interesting is juxtaposing Moore's criticism against Sturm's, and contrasting the relative merits of both positions. One irony is that Sturm's Fantastic Four book "Unstable Molecules" was one of the exceptionally rare instances which I not only bothered to buy a contemporary comic - the anthologized edition that collected all of the miniseries into one book - but really enjoyed it. The above-posted sample panel mirrors the deliberate aesthetics used in "Molecules," chosen as an homage to Kirby's original style (as illustrated by Guy Davis). So, fast-forward to today, there is quite a turnabout in position as compared to the criticism of The Avengers.

One salient point is left out: ethical issues aside, there's no need to boycott what you'll never see anyways, due to the overwhelming majority of comic book movies being just as
predictably shitty as the source material.
And if you missed the Superbowl debut of the new Avengers trailer (only in the ADD world of sports + comics would sixty-five seconds be considered an "extended version") fortunately it is also now available on YouTube.

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