Category Archives: Commentary

Superhero Movies Face No Kryptonite as They Soar into 2018

A great year ahead for superhero movies.

Author: Anna Galich

When it comes to fighting for the share of a film audience, the battleground is extremely tough. However, amidst the blockbusters, period pieces, and Oscar fodder, one genre has risen above all others and against all odds reigned supreme both in terms of commercial success and cultural reception. That’s right, superhero movies provide us with some of the most lucrative and successful films in recent years, and their star is only going to continue to rise. But what does the future hold for superhero films? And will the current trajectory ever slow down?

Super Success

2017 was a good year for superhero flicks. According to Box Office Mojo Wonder Woman grossed $412,563,408, and was the 3rd highest grossing film of the year, while Thor: Ragnarok achieved $312,641,320 and 7th place, and Justice League closed out the Top 10. The success shows that superhero movies are still drawing in the public and achieving box office targets. As long as the targets are being met, the studios will still continue to produce films about superheroes. The first female-led superhero movie bolstered the position for DC, with Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman being highly praised – and with that success comes a possible new subgenre for countless other female superheroes who may have been overlooked over the years.

Hope for the Future

2018 looks to continue the rise of the superhero movie genre, with Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, and Ant-Man and the Wasp providing sequels of previously successful films. Based on the eponymous villain, Venom will offer an alternate view of the Spider-Man series – which itself received a revamp in 2017, replacing Andrew Garfield with Tom Holland for the Spider-Man Homecoming origin story. Revamps are common in the genre and actually in fitting with the comic books they are based on, which regularly kill off characters, such as when Spider-Man was killed in 2012 only to be revived again. The trick the studios have to pull is to stick to the genre’s roots while finding new and exciting ways to explore superhero backstories and mythos.

Fresh Meat

But with the regurgitation of heroes in sequel after sequel (Iron Man and Captain America both have 3 films each, with appearances in crossovers and the everyone-involved Avengers films), and the retelling of the same story (Spider-Man has had 3 different actors; Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland in only 15 fifteen years), there leaves little space for new superheroes to change the genre up. However, one hero, whose exploits were documented in the 1986 movie Highlander, is in the pipeline for a remake. The remake will introduce newer fans to the character, who already has a fan base and in niche areas even appeared as a popular game on the homepage of Betway Casino, featured as an online slot game. The game features content from the classic franchise and can give you a sense of how popular the movie (directed by Chad Stahleski of John Wick fame) will be.

Superhero movie franchises abound.

Franchise and Fans

The superhero movie continues to see a positive return at the box office due to the franchise nature of the genre. The films are based on premises, not plots, which are conducive to expanded arcs, backstories, and fleshed out worlds of characters long forgotten in comic books. As many are based on comic books, which have established audiences, and come from a genre, which also has dedicated fans, studios are more likely to produce superhero movies due to the likelihood of a higher turnout. The established fan base could explain why so many superhero films are given the green light, but easy fans wouldn’t account for the genuine financial success the films achieve.

Marvel vs DC

The Marvel vs DC battle, which dominates the comic world, and has begun to dominate the world of cinema, is another factor that keeps superhero films alive. If only one franchise existed, filmmakers could grow complacent and produce subpar stories knowing people will watch them. The healthy competition and so-called battle the companies are involved in helps keep each franchise fresh in order to stay ahead of the competition. With DC’s release of the Wonder Woman film, Marvel are already considering further exploring Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in her own feature. The character starred in many of her own comics, which explored the backstory revealed in Age of Ultron. The opening of major action movies to female leads provides a wealth of avenues that the superhero films can go down – just don’t mention Halle Berry’s 2004 flop as Catwoman!

The Comic Book Industry

The superhero genre of films also helps keep the comic book industry alive. By introducing fans to a character, they can then delve into the entire back catalogue of that character, and everything they have done before. Given that many started in the 1950s, fans potentially have a large amount of material to sift through, helping to build the franchise effect that keeps audiences interested film after film.

The superhero genre, after years of hard work and failed attempts, has finally solidified itself as the head of the box office and a creator of sure-fire hits. The future of the genre looks bright, and filmmakers have to just decide which aspect to focus on. While flops can still occur, the unwavering success of the last spate of films shows just how successful the genre actually can be.

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Filed under Comics, Commentary, Guest Column, movies, superhero movies, Superheroes, Superman

Open Letter to Those Protesting the 2016 Presidential Election: Seek Out Your Electors! And Go to Change.org

donald-trump-2016-electoral-college

There is one way out of Trump Nation and that involves galvanizing the individuals chosen to be electors to vote their conscience. Everyone who wants to make a difference, go out and protest and focus on one key message: “Electors, Do The Right Thing. Vote for Hillary Clinton.” Will that work? Hell, yes! That’s working with what you’ve got, within the system. In the United States, we have an electoral college system created by the Founding Fathers of this country. The idea is to assure equal representation between all states.

However, it is possible within this system to end up with one candidate receiving the popular vote while the other candidate ends up receiving the higher number in electoral votes. Here’s where it gets very interesting: according to the Constitution, chosen electors of the Electoral College are the real people who will vote for president, when they meet on December 19 in their respective state capitals. And you can reach out to them now and ask them to vote for Hillary Clinton. The message can be general as well as specific to each elector. Seek them out. Follow these steps right here.

Tell your electors, your fellow Americans who will cast the final vote on Dec. 19th, to vote their conscience.

Take it the streets, take it to social media, tell your electors, your fellow Americans who will cast the final vote on Dec. 19th, to vote their conscience. That’s the only route that could prevent Trump Nation. If only the Founding Fathers were here, I am sure they’d agree. It is the only way to turn it around given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 200,000.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of November 19th, according to new figures released by The Associated Press, Clinton received more than 1.5 million votes than her Republican rival. Clinton received 63,390,669 votes, while Trump received 61,820,845 votes — a difference of 1,569,824, according to The AP. Rounded off to whole numbers, that translates to 48 percent vs. 47 percent.

It’s worth a try, isn’t it? If ever there was a time to break the glass and go for the emergency hatchet, this is it. The Founding Fathers would give that a thumbs up. Trump is a product of the media. So, go out and spread the word to the media. Tell the talk show hosts. Tell anyone who will listen. That’s the best thing I can think to do right now.

For more information, visit change.org. You can sign a petition that will go directly to the Electoral College Electors. Just visit change.org right here.

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Filed under American History, Commentary, Donald Trump, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, politics

Putin leans in. Will only vodka spill, instead of bloodshed?

Illustration by Otto Dettmer, The New York Times

Illustration by Otto Dettmer, The New York Times

Here at the Comics Grinder news desk, things move along at whatever pace seems right. My friend, and editorial assistant, Roy, will occasionally drop off a book or some notes for consideration. One never knows what to expect. But you can always rely upon it being something interesting.

This time around, Roy dropped off a copy of “Vodka Politics” by Mark Lawrence Schrad. It’s one of those refreshingly readable and provocative academic books that he favors.

Before Roy was off to his next adventure, I asked him if he’d gotten the news that Putin is signaling that he’s open to a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.

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Filed under Books, Commentary, politics, Russia

The Power of Cinema: A Movie Review of GIANT

AN AMERICAN DIVIDE.

AN AMERICAN DIVIDE.

“Giant” is not quite as spectacular as “Gone with the Wind,” but it certainly holds its own. Both are colossal movies in star power, production, and size. “Giant,” however, is in a class all its own as it addresses head-on the curious relationship between the United States and Mexico and beyond. It is a powerful indictment on intolerance, expressed boldly and with audacity. And in 1956!

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.

The whole movie can be boiled down to one scene. In fact, the movie could very well have been made simply for the sake of this one scene. You may know it, or know of it. It’s easy to do a quick search and watch the clip on YouTube. But, like most things in life, we gain from digging deeper. You simply must see the whole movie to appreciate its significance. Like I say, this movie came out in 1956. We Americans still have much to learn, as a whole country, don’t we? Some people think all we need to do is build a wall.

HOLD ON THERE!

HOLD ON THERE!

By the time we get to that momentous confrontation in a modest roadside diner, the main character of Jordan “Bick” Benedict (played by Rock Hudson) has grown by leaps and bounds as a human being. The suggestion is that so could America, as a whole, and anywhere else there is ignorance and hatred. It was there then. It is here now. We just pretend it doesn’t exist, at least too many of us do. That’s what Bick did. He never acknowledged, let alone cared about, all the Mexican people around him. He was the patriarch of a cattle empire in Texas. That’s all that mattered. Even if Mexicans worked on his ranch and cared for his children, as far as he was concerned, they didn’t really exist. So, if any harm came to them, that wasn’t his problem.

WE HAVE US A FIGHT!

WE HAVE US A FIGHT!

Some people assume all is well with the world as long as they are doing well. They cannot, will not, see beyond what they consider to be important. Maybe it’s a sewing circle, or collecting recipes, or a family pet. In the case of Bick, all that mattered was the family estate of Reata. In Edna Ferber’s novel, faithfully brought to the screen by George Stevens, we find in “Giant” the sweeping epic story of Texas. We follow the Benedict family from about 1930 to 1950 and see how Bick reacts to the great transition from a focus on cattle to a focus on oil. The fate of the Mexican population seems lost in the shuffle but it is always referred to, demanding some kind of answer.

THE FACE OF A NEW AMERICA.

THE FACE OF A NEW AMERICA.

By the time we reach that moment of truth in that diner, Bick must act instead of just react. The precision drumbeat has begun to the rousing tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” on the jukebox just as Bick and his family walk in. The signal is clear, we have something big that’s about to happen. Bick’s eyes have been opened to the world. He can empathize. His own son is married to a Mexican. And they have a beautiful child, Bick’s grandson. When the family arrives at the diner, the diner’s owner is prepared to throw them out but hesitates. He barks an insult and cowardly walks away. A few minutes later, a serious confrontation is inevitable.

In just a few moments, Bick witnesses the diner’s owner manhandle a Mexican family that had just arrived. Bick is now in a position, in his mind and heart, to take a stand. As the music on the jukebox swells, Bick and the owner engage in a fight. First words, then fists, and then total mayhem. It’s the most direct and honest thing that Bick has ever done in his whole life and, to think it possible, in the defense of the Mexicans. While in may seem amazingly sophisticated and enlightened for such a major motion picture to have been made at that time, it really is not too much to ask. The tide was slowly turning towards social change. The general public, whether or not they admit so in public, know right from wrong. In fact, “Giant,” is a widely acknowledged icon. Like its name implies, it is too big to ignore and too big to dismiss.

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Filed under American History, Commentary, History, Movie Reviews, movies, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Social Commentary, Social Justice

WHERE HAVE ALL THE HEROES GONE? Gloria Swanson and a Talk About How We Got Here From There

Gloria Swanson photograph by Edward Steichen, 1924

Gloria Swanson photograph by Edward Steichen, 1924

“Where have all the heroes gone?” asked Sherman. He asked this plainly and earnestly, without even a hint of irony. He looked to be about 16-years-old and not remarkable at first glance, just a kid. He wore a cardigan sweater, had messy hair, a well-worn t-shirt, jeans, and Converse high tops. Maybe a geek but not a proud geek.

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Filed under Commentary, Creative Living, Culture, Essays, Facebook, Henry Chamberlain, Heroes, Hollywood, Internet, Media, movies, Silent Movies, Social Media, Superheroes, writing

BALLARD COMICS #6

Editor’s Note: Marshall McLuhan is gaining ground, much like Nikola Tesla, as a hero from the past speaking for today. He would certainly have something to say about the hotspot that is today’s Ballard, a far cry from the sleepy little hamlet that it once was. McLuhan was sensitive to such things as the character and identity of a place.

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Ballard-Washington-Comics-McLuhan-001

Ballard-Comics-Grinder-Seattle

Ballard-WA-The-Hi-Life-2013

Has Ballard lost something? Well, it’s always been under development, that’s one way of looking at it. Consider the last panel in this comic. You see what was once a grand old fire station. It was converted into one of Ballard’s leading restaurants, The Hi-Life, long before the arrival of all the other new hotspots that make up the new Ballard. It’s certainly a great place and enhances the whole area. All you have to do is try their famously good fried chicken to know they belong right where they are.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, Ballard, Ballard Comics, Comics, Commentary, Edith Macefield, Henry Chamberlain, Humor, pop culture, Satire, Seattle, Webcomics

BALLARD COMICS: Drawing Ballard in 24 Hours, #4

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October 14, 2013 · 5:47 pm

Cartoonist David Chelsea and his favorite story in EVERYBODY GETS IT WRONG

Jesusland-david-chelsea

What do the critics know? What does anyone really know..unless they take the time to carefully take in the subject? The subject in this case is David Chelsea’s new collection of comics, “Everybody Gets It Wrong! (and Other Stories): David Chelsea’s 24 Hour Comics Volume 1.” Novelist Mary Robinette Kowal put an intriguing question to the master cartoonist. She asked him which piece in his new book is his favorite. His ready reply, “Jesusland.”

Keep in mind that this new collection of comics by Chelsea was created for 24 Hour Comics challenges. That, my friend, is a challenge created by another master cartoonist, Scott McCloud, who first proposed that an entire comic book be created in the span of 24 hours, one page per hour. The book collects the first six (out of sixteen thus far) that Chelsea has undertaken. It’s a very special set of circumstances that you enter into with a 24-Hour Comic. One of the liberating factors is the freedom you have to do whatever you want in real time. And it makes sense that Chelsea would favor “Jesusland” since he was riffing on the current state of affairs: the 2004 Presidential election and the Republicans mobilizing the Evangelical vote to secure Dubya’s second term.

You can read the interview by Ms. Kowal with Mr. Chelsea here.

Visit David Chelsea here.

And pick up your copy of “Everybody Gets It Wrong” here.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, Comics, Commentary, Dark Horse Comics, David Chelsea, politics

‘Ender’s Game’ Facing Boycotts Following Author’s Anti-Gay Views

Photo by 91st™ Shawn via Flickr

Photo by 91st™ Shawn via Flickr

“Ender’s Game” is a controversial movie for all the wrong reasons. As Jergen Hemlock reports, it is at risk of losing at the box office because the work it originates from is by Orson Scott Card, known as much for his science fiction as for his anti-gay comments.

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Filed under Commentary, Entertainment, LGBT, movies, news, Orson Scott Card, Sci-Fi, science fiction

WHAT IS A GEEK?

What is a geek? The question seems simple enough but it is in that simplicity that lies an utter complexity. I’m sorry but, for instance, you’re not truly a geek if you “geek out” on discussing your favorite Merlots. Even if you get really nerdy about discussing letting your wine breathe, it doesn’t guarantee you’re a geek. In “Sideways,” Paul Giamatti gives a star turn performance as a miserable guy, at middle-age, with little to show for it. One thing that gives him solace is his encyclopedic knowledge of wine. He’s not trying to be a geek or even aware of the term. In his case, he has a passion that, by default, makes him a, well, wine “geek.”

Why does everyone now want to be a “geek”? I’m  not sure they even know. It’s a cyclical thing, you understand. Something is underground, it is co-opted by the mainstream media, eventually everyone is in on it, and, then, when the general audience tires of it, it goes back from whence it came and thrives once more in the fertile underground until it is yanked back out for a whole new feeding frenzy. But that never means that, during this feeding frenzy, the general audience digs deeper into whatever is currently in the spotlight, like, for example, “The Avengers.”

“Geek” has gone beyond entering the mainstream, its tipping point has been reached, as CNN declared in 2009. It is common knowledge. Like George Washington, Babe Ruth and the Dalai Lama are considered common knowledge. However, it’s not like “geek” is as well known as, say, Britney Spears, which is ironic given that geek culture has been touted as being part of the pop culture. “Geek” has been equated with what is hot most fervently by those trying to profit off some part of it. You know that your favorite niche comic has lost something once it’s being featured on G4’s “Attack of the Show.” But, most likely, your favorite niche comic will go unnoticed by these expert show biz “geeks.” And, if they do catch on to something that has an intrinsically cool quality to it, for instance, “The Walking Dead,” then you grin and bear it or you can go all counterintuitive and be happy for a wider audience. Sometimes popularity is a good thing. Sometime everyone wins. But, getting back to my point, most viewers of this zombie show are not readers of the comics that the show is based on.

Is there something horribly wrong with “Attack of the Show”? Well, let’s just say, live and let live. There’s no harm if a show is helping to bring in a new audience. This is sort of a game of survival of the fittest for any media, big or small, that is connected with geek culture. Let the content providers do it for as long as they care to. Some will stay just for the love it and not even notice or care where they stand within current trends.

So, people who are geeks are not trying to be geeks but just are geeks. The term defines someone who is totally lost in a particular pursuit and, because of that, is oblivious to other things. This term neatly fits in with the tech savvy crowd. And it moved on to cover other subjects that attract a niche audience. To be a geek, by this definition, is to be removed from general social circles. However, as marketing departments would have it, it’s actually way cool to be a geek! That is the disconnect. But when has a marketing department been sensitive to the finer aspects of human interaction? That’s up you, my friend. And, really, you don’t have to be a geek. It’s all a bunch of hype, unless you know better.

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Filed under Comics, Commentary, Entertainment, Geeks, movies, pop culture