Tag Archives: Marvel

How To NOT Screw Up The Deadpool Cartoon

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/TvByfYT-1N8/maxresdefault.jpg

I thought about doing a post on this sooner. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I got so caught up in talking about the prospect of a second sexual revolution that it kind of slipped my mind. For a subject that involves Deadpool, superhero comics, and a large potential for toilet humor, that’s quite a feat.

Then, as I gave it more thought, it became clear that this was something I had to do. I just couldn’t call myself a fan or an aspiring writer if I just let something like this fall to the wayside. I already set the precedent by doing it with “X-men Dark Phoenix.” Now, I’m doing it with Deadpool. Okay, that came out wrong…or did it? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

As I mentioned earlier this week, with a huge grin on my face and a boner in my pants, Deadpool is getting his own cartoon in 2018. After crushing any and all expectations at the box office, raking in $783 million despite an R-rating and a lot of dick jokes, how could Fox resist? That kind of money will be a lot of chimichangas.

https://i1.wp.com/i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/12/23/01/2F93FBDD00000578-3371340-image-m-10_1450834319539.jpg

Deadpool will be joining FXX, a network that airs shows and cartoons that are distinctly not Disney. With shows like “Archer” and “The Americans,” this is a network that would’ve made Walt Disney faint, but he’d probably still watch. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can’t get some entertainment value out of “The Americans.”

It’s a network that isn’t afraid of raunchy humor and that’s a good thing too because Deadpool is nothing but raunchy. This is a man who tried to have sex with a female incarnation of death and flirts with Spider-Man. There’s just no way a guy like him could operate under Disney’s kid-friendly policies.

By all accounts, Deadpool has everything going for him. He has a successful movie, a fitting network, and Ryan Reynolds’ sex appeal. He couldn’t be in a better position without being in a hot tub at the Playboy Mansion. Even so, I’m not going to assume too much. Fox still has a mixed legacy when it comes to maximizing the X-men’s potential. I don’t want to keep reminding them of “Wolverine Origins,” but I will if I have to.

https://i1.wp.com/www.denofgeek.us/sites/denofgeekus/files/styles/article_width/public/0/65/x-men-origins-wolverine-deadpool.jpg

In that spirit, I’m going to do for the Deadpool cartoon what I did for the upcoming “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie. Namely, I’m going to make a short list of how to ensure this cartoon doesn’t suck.

Don’t get me wrong. I want this cartoon to be awesome. I want it to be every bit as awesome as the movie. However, I’ve learned through experience that establishing a floor is less frustrating than setting a high bar. By pointing out the pot-holes in a road, it’s easier to find your own path.

Deadpool, being the eccentric, walking poop joke that he is, can’t rely too heavily on guidance and standards. Between his style and his limited attention span, micromanaging might as well be his kryptonite. So with that in mind, here’s a short list of ways to not screw up the Deadpool cartoon.


Tip #1: Embrace Deadpool’s Crude Humor

This is actually a lesson Fox already learned the hard way. I know I said I didn’t want to keep reminding everyone of “Wolverine Origins,” but in this case it’s unavoidable. That movie had many problems, but the way it treated Deadpool, turning him into “Barakapool” as X-men fans call him, was at the top of the list.

While the movie was, at its core, a Wolverine movie, it completely robbed Deadpool of all his crazy quirks and crude humor. There were no dick jokes, gratuitous blood splatters, or inappropriate references to outdated pop culture memes. The movie tried way too hard to be PG-13 and that meant giving Deadpool the FCC treatment.

Naturally, it didn’t go over well. “Wolverine Origins” is widely regarded as the worst X-men movie of all time, so much so that Hugh Jackman almost quit the movie entirely. Conversely, “Deadpool” is widely praised as being the best X-men movie of all time and a big part of that success came from embracing Deadpool’s crude humor.

He’s quirky, erratic, crude, violent, and horny. He’s also fun, heroic, likable, and honorable when he needs to be. The movie captured all of these traits and didn’t give a damn if it meant an R-rating. It still worked beautifully and that’s what the cartoon needs to embody.


Tip #2: Craft Stories That Appeal To Adults (For The Most Part)

There was a time when comics, as a whole, were associated with kids. That time wasn’t too long ago either. When I was a kid, cartoons featuring comic characters were geared towards kids. The X-men, Spider-Man, Batman, and the Justice League were all branded as kids shows and that was their primary audience for the most part. Given the billions in merchandising these properties generate, that strategy clearly worked.

However, the kids who grew up loving those cartoons aren’t kids anymore. Their adults and the demographics have shifted considerably, creating large swaths of older consumers who seek more adult-themed material. With “My Little Pony” being the exception, the market is trending towards more adult stories.

At the moment, the comics featuring Deadpool and other major X-men characters are fairly mature. They aren’t exactly “Game of Thrones,” but they do address real-world issues that can make for some pretty iconic stories, some of which end up being big-budget blockbuster movies.

The cartoons, however, are not that mature. They’re the only part of the superhero marketing machine that hasn’t matured. There cartoons out there for Spider-Man and the Avengers, but they are so watered down and so censored in their plot that they’re unwatchable to any fan over the age of 7.

Deadpool can finally break that mold. Deadpool is already on a network that has adult cartoons like “Archer.” While Deadpool has shown up in other cartoons, he’s never been able to be his rude, crude self. This cartoon needs give him that chance. They need to let him joke about dicks, breasts, poop, and everything in between. That’s the only way to capture the true essence of Deadpool.


Tip #3: Keep The Cast Small And Stay Focused On Deadpool

This is an easy trap to fall into with any show, animated or otherwise. Every successful show needs a strong supporting cast. Sometimes, that cast can be pretty damn big. Just look at all the supporting characters “The Simpsons” have gained over the years.

Deadpool may be unique in his love of dick jokes and Mexican food, but he’s had a solid supporting cast throughout his history. Most notably, he’s been closely associated with other established X-men characters like Cable, as well as certain superhero teams like X-Force.

These are all elements that could fit into a cartoon more effectively than the movie. It was a running joke with the movie on how low the budget was. At $58 million, it cost $17 million less than the first X-men movie and that’s in 2000 dollars. It couldn’t have too large a cast because it just didn’t have the money.

As a result, the movie made every character count. With animation, however, there’s more flexibility. Fox could utilize even the most obscure X-men characters, like Doop. Given the sheer size of the X-men mythos, the temptation will definitely be there to throw in as many characters as possible into this cartoon.

Fox needs to resist that temptation as best it can. It needs to focus solely on Deadpool and only a handful of supporting characters. If the number of characters in the cast ever exceeds the number of fingers on both hands, then the cast is too bloated. This isn’t an X-men cartoon that focuses on a team. It’s a Deadpool cartoon that focuses on Deadpool. That should be a given, but it’s still worth belaboring.


Tip #4: Break The 4th Wall, But Don’t SHATTER It

It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits, more so than his iconic costume or love of tacos. He constantly breaks the fourth wall. For those of you who don’t know fancy Hollywood jargon, that means he talks to the audience. He knows he’s a comic book character. He understands he’s part of a show and he embraces it.

He did it in the movie on multiple occasions, but not in “Wolverine Origins.” The critical and box office reception of both should tell you everything you need to know about how important this is. It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits and any cartoon has to include that.

However, like any defining trait, it can be overdone. Like Spider-Man’s origin story, something can be done to death. It can even totally derail the story. The “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon did a lot of fourth wall breaking early on and it made the stories insufferable at times.

In the comics, Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking is only sprinkled in every now and then. It’s usually an aside, never seriously affecting the flow of the story. It’s usually just a good way to throw in some extra laughs. That’s the approach the cartoon should use. Let Deadpool be Deadpool. Let him break the fourth wall. Just don’t let him break it to the point where it undermines the story.


There you have it. Like my list for the Dark Phoenix movie, I’ve no expectations that anyone from Fox or Marvel will ever read this list, let alone take it seriously. This is just me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer and die-hard X-men fan, articulating my hopes and dreads.

Between this cartoon and “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” 2018 is going to be an exciting year for me. I hope it exceeds my expectations, but I’ll settle for it not sucking. These days, when there are way too many things that can go wrong behind the scenes, that’s probably the healthiest mindset to have. If I can draw inspiration from it all and craft some quality erotica/romance along the way, then that’ll just be extra hot sauce on the chimichangas.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Las Vegas Comic Con 2017: Tips, Tricks, And Elvis

I’ve made no secret of it. I love Las Vegas. I love comic books. So when something comes along that combines them both, I just have to talk about it. That something is called “Amazing Comic Con” and it’s taking place from June 23rd to June 25th, 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in the heart of Las Vegas. There is literally nothing about that last sentence that doesn’t appeal to me.

It’s rare you find two things you love merged into one. Sure, you can dip donuts in hot sauce while receiving a massage from Jennifer Lawrence, but the opportunities for that sort of convergence are rare. Mixing Las Vegas and comic books just feels like chocolate and peanut butter. It’s one of those potent combinations that just feels right.

Now, I’ve gone to multiple comic cons in various cities. Some are small. Some, like the New York Comic Con, are among the biggest in the industry. If you’re new to cons, scenes like New York can be pretty overwhelming and I’m not just talking about the insane work people put into their costumes.

https://i2.wp.com/comicsalliance.com/files/2015/10/nycc-extreme-costumes-hulkbuster.jpg

That’s not Photoshopped by the way. That’s real. That’s the kind of awesome stuff you’ll see at a comic convention. That makes a scene like Las Vegas, where it’s not unusual to see Elvis impersonators and men dressed as pirates walking the street, a perfect combination. So if you love comics and Las Vegas, this is quite possibly the best event for you that doesn’t involve free donuts.

Amazing Comic Con” might not be on the same level as New York, just yet, but it still has all the features that make conventions great. There are artists, vendors, cos-players, and celebrity guests. Those names include the likes of Stan “The Man” Lee, Adam “Batman” West, Ray “Darth Maul” Park, and Rob “I Created Deadpool, Bitches!” Liefeld. If you can’t get excited about at least one of those names, then you’re just being difficult.

That said, it’s not just enough for me to encourage you to check out “Amazing Comic Con.” If neither Las Vegas nor comic conventions appeal to you, then chances are you’ve stumbled onto this blog by mistake and for that, I apologize. If, however, those things get your blood flowing in all the right directions to all the right body parts, I’d like to help.

Just getting there is the easy part. Las Vegas is literally an oasis of high-end resorts, full of every possible amenity meant to make you want to stay. There are any number of discount flights and vacation packages available, which you can find right here. Las Vegas wants you to be there. They’ve gone out of their way to make it as easy as possible.

Once you’re there, though, that’s when the real challenge starts. There’s so much to see and do in Las Vegas. There’s so much to see and do at a comic book convention. The human brain may or may not be equipped to handle so much spectacle, but that never stopped anyone from enjoying it as much as humanly possible.

So in the interest of encouraging everybody to go more comic cons and enjoy the sexy spectacle that is Las Vegas, here are a few tips on having an awesome comic con experience. Some of this may sound like common sense, but trust me. When you’re surrounded by comics, gambling, and beautiful women offering you free alcohol, you can’t expect to think straight. So here’s how to make the experience as awesome as it should be.


Tip #1: Arrive An Hour Early (But Not Much Earlier)

It’s always good to be proactive, but like bacon grease and ice cream, you can overdo it. In my experience, arriving an hour early, but not any earlier, works best. You won’t be at the front of the line, but you won’t be stuck at the back either.

If you arrive too early, you’ll get in first, but you won’t get much else. You’ll just be stuck standing around for hours on end, worried about losing your place in line. Odin help you if you have to go to the bathroom at any point. Comic cons are not like standing in line for a blockbuster movie. They’re in big, spacious convention centers. There’s plenty of room. Getting there really early won’t do much for you.

Now, the only exception to this is if there’s a very specific panel or event you want to attend. If that event is happening early or you know it’s going to get crowded fast, then showing up a little earlier would work. Outside that specific circumstance, don’t bother. You’ll just waste time and energy standing in line that you could put to so many other uses in a town like Las Vegas.


Tip #2: Carry Between $100 to $150 Cash (In Addition To Your Credit Card)

This is something I learned the hard way early on. At most comic cons these days, vendors do take credit cards and debit cards. For some merchandise though, as well as autographs and photo ops, they only accept cash. I’ve missed out on a few very critical autographs because I was stupid enough to not have enough cash. Don’t make that same mistake.

Again, most vendors still take credit cards. It’s not 1997, for crying out loud. Plus, unless you’re a high roller or cos-playing as Richie Rich, it’s not a good idea to have a lot of cash on you. Save that for the casinos. Unless you’re looking to buy something really rare, like one of Jack Kirby’s old pencils, $100 to $150 should do the trick.


Tip #3: Buy (And Keep Charged) An External Battery For Your Smartphone

This is probably the most serious tip I can offer. If you scoff at every other word I’ve written on this post, at least take this seriously. Make sure you have a fully-charged external battery for your smartphone and keep it on your person at all times. Even if you’re cos-playing as the scantily-clad Starfire, find a way to include an external battery.

At every con I’ve been to, I’ve seen huge swaths of people hover around wall outlets as though they’re the lone source of heat in a Siberian winter. People will literally fight each other to access an outlet to charge their phone or tablet. I’ve seen it happen. It can get pretty ugly, especially when they’re dressed as Mortal Kombat characters.

That’s why it’s prudent to invest in at least one external battery. It doesn’t matter where you get it. Just make sure it works and make sure it has at least two full charges. You’ll probably be taking a lot of photos and videos. If you’re going with friends, you’ll probably need to stay in touch with them somehow. If, by chance, you get a cute cos-players phone number, you better make damn sure your phone is active.

Again, and I can’t belabor this enough, make sure you’ve got a battery. Make sure you can charge your phone at a moment’s notice. Nothing kills the comic con experience faster than having a dead phone.


Tip #4: Make Sure You Can Store What You Bring (And Buy)

This is especially important for cos-players. If you’re going to wear a costume to “Amazing Comic Con,” even if it’s a small one, make sure you have a place to store it. The Las Vegas Convention Center, and most convention centers in general, have storage areas that you can use for a small fee. Unless you want to lug a ton of crap around, it’s a worthwhile investment.

I wore a costume to the New York Comic Con last year. It wasn’t a very bulky costume, but it became somewhat of an annoyance when I needed to change out of it for a panel. Not having a storage locker made that really difficult. I had to wait in line at a crowded bathroom to get out of it. That was not a pleasant experience.

It helps that the Las Vegas Convention Center is attached to a hotel. Even if you’re not staying there, the staff will go out of their way to help you store your crap, so long as the price is right. Las Vegas is a very service-oriented town. They will accommodate you, so long as you’re not insultingly cheap.

Storage lockers also are a must if you plan on buying a lot of gear. Whether it’s posters or collectors items, a locker ensures you can keep exploring the convention without lugging around all your stuff. If you don’t plan on buying much or don’t have much cash to spend, just bringing a simple backpack will often suffice.


Tip #5: Be Polite To Cos-Players (And Don’t Be A Dick)

One of the best parts of comic cons are the cos-players. They help make conventions the wonderful spectacles they are and in a city like Las Vegas, which was built on a foundation of spectacles, expect to see plenty of wonderful sights. For better or for worse, you’ll see men, women, and children dressed in some of the most astonishing costumes ever.

Most of these cos-players are happy to pose for a photo. Just being polite and asking nicely will suffice. Every cos-player I’ve met, male or female, have been wonderful. They will literally drop what they’re doing to pose for a photo. Some will even go out of their way to talk comics, which is something you just don’t get with a random Elvis impersonator.

Amazing Comic Con,” and every con these days, makes a big deal about harassment. I don’t think that needs to be belabored here. If you’re going to be a dick to a cos-player, especially a female cos-player, you can expect to get thrown out or arrested. Remember, you’re in a big convention center full of people dressed as superheroes. Do you really think you’ll get away with being an asshole in that environment?


Tip #6: Know The Layout (And Note The Restrooms And Food Vendors)

Anyone who has ever had to navigate a convention center usually learns this the hard way. Some of these convention centers are huge. I got lost multiple times at the New York Comic Con because the building was so damn big. I’ve been to the Las Vegas Convention Center before. It’s one of the biggest on the west coast. Make sure you have a map of the place and always keep it handy.

I know that may be common sense, but having a map and using it right aren’t the same thing. I usually get a map at every convention center I go to, but those maps aren’t always easy to read. In my experience, it helps to get an official map of the entire convention center. That tends to be more detailed.

In addition, make a note of the restrooms and food vendors. Comic conventions tend to get really crowded. That means you’ll encounter many long lines at the restrooms. To avoid that, make a note of restrooms in areas that aren’t usually crowded. Sometimes you have to really go out of your way to find them, but when you really got to go, that knowledge can be invaluable.

The same goes for food vendors. I once stood in line for a half-hour just to get a small order of chicken and fries. It cost me nearly twenty bucks as well. Some food vendors will gouge you if you let them. If possible, make sure you eat a good meal before the convention and have a plan on where to get a bite when you need one. The less time you spend hungry and in line, the more time you’ll have to enjoy yourself.


These are just a few tips to help your “Amazing Comic Con” experience. Use them or don’t use them. If you can’t find a way to enjoy yourself at a comic con or in a city like Las Vegas, then you need help I’m not qualified to give. For everyone else, this is a beautiful convergence of pop culture and sex appeal. That’s a potent combination and in a town like Las Vegas, that’s saying something.

https://i1.wp.com/cannabischapellv.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/elvis-wedding-2.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

New Deadpool Cartoon Announced (And Why It Matters)

https://i1.wp.com/media.comicbook.com/2017/05/deadpoolcartoon-995473-1280x0.jpg

In addition to being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I have a fairly diverse set of interests. I talk about many of them on this blog. I love superhero comics, superhero movies, futuristic technology, and activities that involve nudity. I like to explore these topics because the world is a diverse and sexy place. I want this blog to reflect that, as well as entertain/titillate.

So when news emerges that involves superhero comics and a potential for entertainment/titillation, expect me to mention it at some point. When that news involves someone like Deadpool, a character who has built his entire appeal on that and dick jokes, you can pretty much set your watch to it.

I’ve talked about Deadpool many times before. I’m not the only one either. Deadpool is the new golden boy for Fox, Marvel, and the entire superhero genre. He was once a niche character with an especially loyal set of fans and cos-players. Then, former sexiest man alive, Ryan Reynolds, made Deadpool the hottest thing in spandex not named Jennifer Lawrence.

https://i1.wp.com/media.gq.com/photos/58249cdda9546c3d5193215a/16:9/w_1280/1216-GQ-FERR02-01-Ryan-Reynolds-Deadpool-04.jpg

The Deadpool movie wasn’t just a game-changer. It dropped a metric ton of napalm on the game, blew it up with C4, and roasted marshmallows over the entrails while strippers danced in the background. If that sounds crazy, then congratulations. You now have some insight into why Deadpool is so appealing.

The first Deadpool movie completely shocked the established superhero genre, grossing $783 million on a $58 million budget. At a time when many superhero movies need budgets of at least $250 million to be taken seriously, that’s not just impressive. That’s downright jarring.

The fact that Deadpool did this while being rated R, complete with exposed breasts and Ryan Reynold’s jerking off with a stuffed unicorn, makes it all the more astonishing. It proved that superhero movies could be mature, sexy, and appealing. It also proved they can be extremely profitable and nothing speaks louder in the entertainment industry than money. Why else would Disney have made fivePirates of the Caribbean” movies?

The impact is still being felt, but it’s already starting to show. Just this year, Fox proved that Deadpool’s success was not a fluke. The R-rated “Logan” movie made $606 million on a $97 million budget while generated critical acclaim. Once can be an anomaly. Twice is the beginning of a trend.

https://i1.wp.com/media.comicbook.com/2015/11/wolverine-deadpool-158564.jpg

In an effort to continue that trend, Fox and Marvel announced this past week that they will be making a Deadpool animated series for the FXX network. That’s the same network that hosts such kid-unfriendly shows like “Archer” and “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” There couldn’t be a more appropriate home is what I’m saying.

Now, this news might not seem like a big deal to non-comic fans. Deadpool had a successful movie, making Fox and Marvel a boatload of money. With a sequel already in the works, why not capitalize on his popularity with a cartoon? It sounds like a normal money grab by big corporate media giants who are never satisfied with merely having a few pools of money to swim in.

There’s no doubt that’s part of the dynamic here, but there are far larger implications, some of which might have an impact on erotica/romance. Bear with me, here, because this is where I try to gaze into a crystal ball and not throw up. Since I haven’t won the lottery or predicted the Super Bowl yet, assume my ability for foresight is limited.

https://i2.wp.com/laliko.com/uploads/posts/2013-08/thumbs/1376886939_1121rr21w-00-op_03.jpg

Earlier this year, I talked about the success of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, as well as the challenges associated with creating quality erotica/romance. Some of these challenges aren’t insurmountable, but they are daunting. The success of “Game of Thrones” might be nudging public attitudes to some extent, but only to a point.

Since Hollywood is too damn impatient when it comes to exploiting a market, I speculated that animation might actually be the key to future erotica/romance. It effectively circumvents many of those daunting challenges I mentioned. Cartoon characters don’t get too testy when you ask them to take their clothes off.

With a Deadpool cartoon being on FXX, there’s a lot more potential for raunchy sexiness. We already see it in shows like “Archer,” which doesn’t shy away from the kind of crude humor that is usually reserved for “South Park.” Unlike “Archer,” though, Deadpool has more brand recognition. He generates far more attention and not just because he’s been known to cross dress every now and then.

https://i0.wp.com/comicsalliance.com/files/2010/10/deadpool-marvel-girl-costume.jpg

Deadpool will be entering a market that’s ripe for growth. Adult-themed animation has been around for years, but has never been more than a niche market. That might be changing just in time for Deadpool.

In recent years, shows like “Archer” have inspired other shows like “Rick and Morty,” gaining more than just a cult following. These shows get away with plots and humor that would never make it past the network executives who are routinely terrified of getting a call from the FCC. By being animated, they can push the proverbial envelope in ways that go far beyond an exposed nipple.

Deadpool doesn’t stop at nipples, though. He’s a character who married a succubus and flirted with Spider-Man. He does things that made the kid-friendly executives at Disney faint. With a cartoon, they can even do things that Ryan Reynolds would never agree to and he’s the guy who agreed to do “R.I.P.D.

The potential that a Deadpool cartoon has cannot be understated. He can do more than just create another hit cartoon for a network that already has a few under their belt. He can foster a new audience that’s hungry for more mature animation.

https://i0.wp.com/s3.foxmovies.com/foxmovies/production/films/103/images/gallery/deadpool1-gallery-image.jpg

Between the success of movies like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and TV shows like “Rick and Morty,” Deadpool is coming along at the best possible time. By creating a larger audience, it’ll let the big wigs at major media studios that audiences do want sexier content. They want media that’s fun, sexy, and not afraid of showing a few nipples every now and then.

There will always be a place for kid-friendly cartoons, but animation need not be a medium that appeals to one segment of the population. There are many more people out there who want sexier material and they don’t need to whine to their parents for money to buy it.

A Deadpool cartoon definitely has plenty of appeal, especially to those who enjoyed the sex and violence of the movie. It has everything it needs to be success. However, it’s the implications of that success that may have far sexier implications.

2 Comments

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Jack Fisher's Insights, Uncategorized

What “Guardians Of The Galaxy” Can Teach Us About Character Development

https://i1.wp.com/www.projectcasting.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-wallpaper.jpg

What makes a character great, iconic, and memorable? Think of your favorite character from your favorite movie, novel, or TV show. Why do they stand out? What is it about them that just makes you want to hug them, love them, and reenact every scene from every porno ever made since 1982? Take all the time you need. I imagine it involves some fairly extensive thought, among other things.

Creating these kinds of characters is one of the greatest challenges that any director, producer, or aspiring erotica/romance writer can face. It doesn’t matter how great the story is, how awesome the action sequences are, or how gratuitous the nudity is. If there’s no iconic character, then the story just won’t have the kind of impact you’ll feel in your heart or your loins. Just ask Michael Bay. Better yet, ask Megan Fox.

https://i0.wp.com/talkiewood.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Megan-Fox-Transformers-Photos-HD-Wallpaper.jpg

That’s why I’ve often seen characters as the bedrock on which any great story is built. In the same way you can’t build the Empire State Building on a mountain of soft, unstable shit, you can’t craft a great story without lovable, memorable, and iconic characters.

I’ve certainly tried to create those kinds of characters in my novels. Stories like the ones I craft in “Passion Relapse” or “Skin Deep” rely heavily on developing strong characters with strong motivations. I won’t say those stories succeeded. I’ll leave that up to the readers, but that process may very well determine how my career as an erotica/romance writer plays out.

That brings me to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. I know that’s not much of a segway, but cut me some slack. When you’re trying to relate the challenges of character development with a movie that has both a talking tree and a raccoon with a machine gun, there’s only so much you can do in terms of transitions.

https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/11117/111170007/4251409-groot1.jpg

For those of you who have been under a rock and/or in a coma, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the biggest surprise hit in movies since some guy named George Lucas convinced movie producers that audiences wanted to see space battles, Wookies, and light sabres.

The first movie came out in 2014 and made $773 million worldwide. For a movie based on a team of obscure comic book characters that nobody outside the most hardcore of comic book fans knew existed. They are not the Avengers. They are not the X-men. They were the D-list of D-list characters.

The story of how they ended up being one of the biggest franchises that didn’t come from the mind of George Lucas or Stephen Spielberg is epic in and of itself. It might have simply been a matter of pragmatics, given how Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights to all its iconic characters.

Whatever the circumstances might have been, though, James Gunn and Marvel Studios managed to create another blockbuster franchise for Marvel and Disney. For a couple of companies that are never satisfied with just a few billion dollars here and there, that’s saying something.

https://i2.wp.com/www.boonestoons.com/art/disneydeathstar.jpg

The success is undeniable. Just this past week, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” came out and generated $145 million domestically on top of the $427 million it had already generated worldwide. I saw the movie the day after it came out. It’s fun, it’s heartfelt, and it’s dramatic in the best possible way. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s well-worth your time.

In watching this movie and its predecessor, though, I saw something that was actually more remarkable than a raccoon with a machine gun, if you can believe that. I saw, in my opinion, a case study on how to develop endearing, memorable characters that will both entertain audiences and make them care less about overpaying for popcorn.

The best example, in the context of the first two movies, is Peter “Starlord” Quill, who is played by Chris Pratt. That fact alone is both remarkable and telling because before “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Pratt was best known as that chubby dork from “Parks and Recreation.” In a sense, though, the journey of the Andy Dwyer and that of Starlord tell a similar story. One just has a lot more sex appeal than the other.

When both “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Parks and Recreation” start out, both Starlord and Dwyer aren’t presented as likable characters. One is an admitted thief and outlaw. The other is a selfish slacker. On the surface, they give no reason as to why we should hope they succeed at anything that doesn’t involve severe head trauma.

That changes quickly though, especially for Starlord. Shortly after the story begins in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” we start to see that he isn’t just some renegade outlaw looking to steal things, blow stuff up, and swim in a pool of orphan tears. He’s just trying to get by in a galaxy full of rough circumstances.

He and the rest of his crew, including the talking tree and raccoon, are all in a similar boat. They’re not out there looking for baby seals to beat with baseball bats. They’re just trying to get by, making as much money as they can with their limited skills and jaded reputations.

Sure, it leads to a clash that nearly destroys a planet, but that’s not their fault. Those are just more rough circumstances, coupled with an insane alien religious zealot with a big ass hammer. It’s every bit as ridiculous and entertaining as it sounds.

That situation, as well as their lot in life, is a big reason why Starlord and his ragtag team of outlaws gain so much appeal. It’s also a major factor in what made the story so great. These characters, especially Starlord, aren’t born as princes, prodigies, or heirs. They don’t just start at the bottom of the social ladder. They start in a deep hole right under it.

Starlord had a lot of shit luck early on. He never knew who his father was as a kid. His mom died of cancer. Then, a team of alien bounty hunters abducted him and made him their personal bitch for most of his life. He’s not just an underdog. He’s someone that even other underdogs spit on.

That makes his efforts to find a better lot in life, including those involving crime, both understandable and justified. There’s almost no other way for Starlord to pull himself up and carve out a better story for himself. He has to be an outlaw of sorts. Having Chris Pratt’s sex appeal is just a nice bonus.

However, the outlaw persona is not the core of Starlord’s character. It’s never more than a secondary trait at best. Starlord is still a hero in the sense that when the situation gets tricky, his first inclination is to do the right thing. When what he thinks is just a simple heist turns into a galaxy-threatening crisis, he doesn’t need any coaxing. He wants to do the right thing.

That doesn’t just make him heroic. That makes him endearing. That makes him someone we can root for. That makes him someone we can get behind. In terms of creating an iconic and endearing character, Starlord checks all the right boxes and so do much of his teammates, including the talking tree. Given Groot’s limited vocabulary, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” takes that effort a step further by having Starlord meet up with his long-lost father. It both expands on the origins that began in the first movie and adds greater emotional appeal.

The first movie succeeded in making Starlord a character we can root for. That meant that even before the second movie began, we as an audience were already rooting for him. We wanted him to find his father. We wanted him to have the kind of relationship that he wanted with his father.

I won’t spoil the key details of the movie, but I’ll just say that the this sentiment is what makes the story in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” especially devastating. However, it’s devastating in the best possible way because it reminds us how much we were rooting for this character.

We all wanted Starlord, a guy who lived most of his life in the armpits of society, to achieve that happiness he sought. When the devastating truth comes out, it hurts both him and the audience. We empathize with his plight and we share in the devastation.

This is the most potent manifestation of a character that any novel, movie, or TV show can achieve. When it gets to a point where the audience shares in the struggle and plight, it becomes more than just an entertaining story. It becomes personal.

Starlord’s journey might not have been the same as Superman, Captain America, or even Luke Skywalker, but it’s a journey we shared. It’s one that evoked all the right emotions within us. That’s why it was so effective. That’s why James Gunn, Chris Pratt, and Marvel are now swimming in a fresh pool of money.

There are many lessons that can be learned from movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and not just those espoused by talking trees. As an aspiring writer, I want to create characters like Starlord that readers want to root for. I want a character whose pain and pleasure will be felt by everyone who reads it.

It’s not an easy feat to accomplish. I’ve made a concerted effort in every one of my novels. I won’t say I’ve succeeded yet. I won’t say I’ve failed either. However, I do feel there’s plenty of room for improvement. I’ll just have to figure out how to do it without the aid of a talking raccoon with a machine gun.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

How To NOT Screw Up X-men: Dark Phoenix

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity over the past year, then you know I love comic books and superheroes. I try to work them into many topics, from effective superhero tactics to sexy female heroes who are uniquely sex positive. Assume, for the future, that if there’s sexy topic that can be related to comics, then I’ll find a way to discuss it.

In addition, those who follow this blog also know that I have a special affinity for the X-men. I tend to cite them more than most, whether it’s discussing a romance among equals, the future of female villains, or candidates for UN Ambassadorship. Again, I’ll use any possible excuse in any sexy topic to cite them again. I’m both a passionate erotica/romance writer and a passionate fan. I make no apologies for that.

So when some major news regarding superhero movies, particularly X-men movies, comes up, I’m going to discuss it. I may even belabor it. I know that may not be the reason some people visit the blog of an aspiring erotica/romance writer, but superhero movies, especially those involving the X-men, are important to me.

Keep in mind, the X-men also have characters like Emma Frost so that means there’s plenty of opportunities for sex appeal. This news, in particular, has its share of sexy and romantic connotations so it is relevant for erotica/romance fans. If you need proof, I have just two words for you: Sophie Turner.

I’ll give “Game of Thrones” fans a second to hide their boner. I’ll give X-men fans another because some of them, myself included, are still buzzing at her limited, but spectacular performance in “X-men: Apocalypse.” Other than Ryan Reynolds, the sexy piece of man meat who brought Deadpool to life, Ms. Turner may very well hold the key to the future of the X-men movies.

This is because late last month, Fox announced its slate of X-men movies for 2018. To say they’re a little ambitious would be like saying Beyoncé’s ass is only somewhat sexy.

Whereas we only got one X-men movie this year with “Logan,” 2018 will bring us three movies. While “Deadpool 2” is sure to generate plenty of interest and dick jokes, it’s “X-men: Dark Phoenix” that will likely determine the fate and future of the X-men movies. Other than Sophie Turner’s sex appeal, there’s a lot of uncertainty about that effort.

That’s because “X-men: Dark Phoenix” isn’t just attempting something bold. The Phoenix Saga it’s based on is, by far, the most iconic and acclaimed X-men story of all time. Talk to any X-men fan in any capacity and most of them will agree. The Phoenix Saga is the gold-encrusted adamantium standard by which all X-men stories are measured. It also happens to be the story that Fox woefully botched once before.

It’s true and it still gives X-men fans nightmares to this day. Back in 2006, Fox attempted to tell the story of the Phoenix in “X-men: The Last Stand.” The end results were so poorly received that they ended up erasing it completely from the timeline in 2014’s “X-men: Days of Future Past.” Yes, it really was that bad.

I could do multiple blog posts on why the movie was so terrible. In fact, I already did one that covered the nauseatingly awful love triangle involving Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. However, that was just one in a long list of unforgivable crimes that “X-men: The Last Stand” committed.

Chief among those crimes, for X-men fans, was how it handled the Phoenix sub-plot. The mere fact that it was a sub-plot was a huge problem. As I said before, the Phoenix Saga is the most iconic, respected, and beloved X-men story of all time. To treat it as a goddamn sub-plot, while wasting the acting talent and sex appeal of Famke Janssen, is both tragic and infuriating.

Beyond just relegating it to a sub-plot, “X-men: The Last Stand” basically looked over all the major themes of the Phoenix Saga and basically threw them out like expired milk. The Phoenix Saga is a story built around love, humanity, untamed power, and sacrifice. “X-men: The Last Stand” had none of that. It only used the Phoenix as a way to make Wolverine get all whiny about a woman he barely knew. That’s it.

The handling of the Phoenix was so bad that longtime X-men producer, Simon Kinberg, admitted earlier this year that they screwed up. Think about that for a moment. A big-time Hollywood producer, someone with unlimited access to blowjobs and cocaine, admitted a mistake. He didn’t make an excuse, as so many people in power tend to do. He owned his mistake. For that, Mr. Kinberg earns my respect.

I also believe that Mr. Kinberg does not want to go down in history as the man who botched the most beloved X-men story of all time. That kind of reputation can permanently destroy his credibility among a vocal audience. Just ask Joel Shumacher how nasty it can get.

Moreover, Mr. Kinberg already has the resources he needs to make a Phoenix Saga work. He laid the groundwork with “X-men: Apocalypse” by having Sophie Turner shine more in one scene than Famke Jannsen ever could through three movies. He also has an immensely-talented actress in Ms. Turner to bring out the passion and drama that is so vital to the Phoenix Saga.

In other words, Mr. Kinberg and the powers that be at Fox have no excuses this time. They didn’t have any last time with “X-men: The Last Stand,” but the stakes were lower then. The market for superhero movies is going to be very crowded in 2018. Having already screwed up the Fantastic Four, they need to show they can learn from their mistakes.

Being the passionate comic book fan and X-men fan that I am, I want to help in whatever way I can. Given that I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer with precisely zero influence on anything outside this blog, that’s not saying much. I don’t expect anyone from Fox to ever read this blog or know about me. The most I can do is just put the information out there so I can say I did what I could.

With that in mind, I’m not going to offer a wish list on what must occur in a “X-men: Dark Phoenix “movie. If you base the value of a movie or comic book on something specific, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, it’s better to lay out what to avoid, thereby allowing some creative flexibility along the way. No matter how passionate a fan you are, it’s important to be somewhat flexible. Otherwise, you’ll just find yourself among fans whining about how Finn Jones is too white play Iron Fist.

So for X-men fans, comic fans, and superhero fans in general, here’s my list of tips on how to avoid botching the Phoenix Saga again. I write this hoping that the people at Fox understand that X-men fans are a forgiving bunch, but messing up the most iconic story in X-men history twice would be pushing it.


Tip #1: Embrace AND Unleash The Passion

This should be the most obvious, but it somehow slipped everyone’s mind in “X-men: The Last Stand” so it’s worth putting at the top of the list and belaboring to no end. At the core of the Phoenix Saga, which is also its greatest appeal, is the passion behind the story.

It is, in essence, a story about overwhelming power guided by overwhelming passions. Within the story, Jean Grey is possessed by a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force, which pushes her psychic powers to the limit, beyond, and into the depths of space. That’s not an exaggeration either. She actually goes into space with this power.

Now doing that in a movie would be tricky, but Jean doesn’t have to go into space to realize the theme here. She just has to get a chance to emote and lament about the sheer breadth of this power. Her passions are what drive it. They create the huge, emotional spectacle that helped make the Phoenix Saga so iconic.

Famke Jannsen never got a chance to do much in “X-men: The Last Stand.” In fact, all she really did was stand around, look deadpanned, and that’s about it. She never even flashed any Phoenix-like symbolism, which is pretty pathetic since Fox managed to squeeze it in with “X-men: Apocalypse.” A Phoenix Saga with flat emotions is like sandwich without bread. You just can’t have one without the other.


Tip #2: Make Any Sacrifice Feel Genuine

This is somewhat unique to the Phoenix Saga mythos in general. In addition to overwhelming passion and immense power, sacrifice is at the core of what makes a the Phoenix Saga so iconic among X-men fans. In the end, Jean Grey makes a heroic sacrifice for her friends, the world, and the man she loves. It’s one of the most emotional, dramatic moments in the history of comics.

Again, “X-men: The Last Stand” found a way to completely screw this up. In fact, saying they screwed up would be too polite because they didn’t just undermine this critical moment in X-men lore. They did the exact opposite.

Jean Grey does not make any sacrifice in “X-men: The Last Stand.” What she does is basically an act of pure cowardice. She doesn’t heroically sacrifice herself to save the ones she loves. She makes someone else kill her, specifically Wolverine. She doesn’t beg him. She makes him. There’s nothing heroic about that. Hell, that’s a dick move, even by Wolverine standards.

For any Phoenix Saga to work, there needs to be some sort of sacrifice along the way. That sacrifice also has to be genuine, dramatic, and heartfelt. That’s what makes it so endearing. Nobody ever felt any kind of endearment to a coward. Since the X-men are superheroes and all, there’s no room for that kind of cowardice.


Tip #3: Embrace And Expand The Cyclops/Jean Romance

I’ve talked about this romance on multiple occasions and for good reason. It is, by far, the most important, iconic romance in the history of X-men. The romance of Cyclops and Jean Grey goes all the way back to the earliest days of the X-men, as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s a romance that has resulted marriage, death, resurrection, and multiple children. You won’t find many romances with this kind of depth.

Unfortunately, nobody who saw the original X-men movies ever would’ve suspected as such. Those movies gave the impression that the romance only existed to cock-block Wolverine and Jean Grey only existed to be a piece of ass for him to achieve. The love triangle is toxic enough in the comics, but the movies took it to a level so egregious that both the X-men fan and erotica/romance fan in me wants to vomit violently.

There’s no real depth between Wolverine and Jean Grey, especially in the movies. There is, however, a powerful and important dynamic between Cyclops and Jean Grey. Theirs is a uniquely balanced romance, one where they both stand together in ways that isn’t typical of superhero movies or romance movies in general. They’re both heroes. They share in one another’s struggles and burdens.

Most importantly, though, they complement each other. They inspire one another to be better. That’s what we saw, at least in a limited capacity, in “X-men: Apocalypse.” That movie didn’t just thrust them together and proclaim that they’re star-crossed lovers. They actually laid a foundation for a deeper connection. By the end of that movie, it was easy to see a romance between them blossoming.

In the comics, the Cyclops/Jean romance was central to the Phoenix Saga. Their romance was a catalyst for so much of the drama that to remove it is to remove a critical element of what makes the story work.

X-men: The Last Stand” tried to work around it by thrusting Wolverine into the role of Jean’s love interest. That failed miserably though because again, there was never a single goddamn reason for anyone to believe or accept that there was any meaningful chemistry with them.

It was the history and extent of Cyclops and Jean Grey’s romance that made the Phoenix Saga so meaningful in the comics. At one point in the story, they even talked about getting married. A deep, passionate romance is what helped make the Phoenix Saga so impactful on so many levels.

That kind of romance can’t be forced. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed miserably. A Dark Phoenix movie cannot make that same mistake again. The foundation is already there thanks to “X-men: Apocalypse.” The Dark Phoenix movie just has to crank up the passion. Sophie Turner’s sex appeal will do the rest.


Tip #4: Make The Phoenix The Primary Plot

After what I said earlier about how “X-men: The Last Stand” treated the Phoenix Saga, this should be a no-brainer. Then again, the sheer stupidity of circumventing the Cyclops/Jean Grey relationship in the first three movies should’ve been a no-brainer too so I’m not going to assume too much here.

The Phoenix Saga is too dramatic, too iconic, and too emotional a story to relegate to a sub-plot. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed so miserably that no one could really blame Jean Grey for wanting to die in the end. Fox and Mr. Kinberg cannot let that happen again. The X-men, Jean Grey, and the Phoenix Saga deserve better.

From the moment the opening credits begin to the moment the generic 90s grunge music plays at the end, Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force should be the central focus. There can certainly be plenty of sub-plots, as there always are in every superhero movie. However, the Phoenix Saga must take priority. If it doesn’t tie into that story in a meaningful way, then it should be tabled for another movie.

The Phoenix Saga is a big enough story to carry the whole movie. In the comics, it unfolded over the course of several years, diverting into plenty of sub-plots along the way. A movie doesn’t have that kind of flexibility, but it still has plenty of time to set up and execute the drama that makes the Phoenix Saga so endearing.

Movies are plenty capable of creating that level of drama. Movies like “Titanic” and “Terminator 2” are able to do it all within a cohesive narrative. More than anything else, the Phoenix Saga should feel complete by the end of the movie. Other sub-plots can linger for sequels, but the Phoenix Saga must get first dibs.


Tip #5: Introduce New Villains And Tie Them Into The Phoenix Story

This might actually be the easiest part of making X-men: Dark Phoenix awesome. Chances are that’s already part of the plan and not just because there’s no hint that Michael Fassbender wants to return to play Magneto again. Now I love Fassbender as much as the next straight X-men fan, but his role as Magneto has been done to death, going all the way back to the first X-men movie.

The X-men have a long and rich library of villains. Very few of those villains have had a chance to grow within the movies. Some, like Mojo, are woefully impractical. Others, such as a devious figure named Mr. Sinister, are ripe for development. Even Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston, has expressed an interest in playing Sinister. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about his potential.

On top of that, Mr. Sinister has close ties to Cyclops and Jean Grey. It really wouldn’t take much to involve him in the Phoenix Saga. While he did not participate in it directly in the comics, he did go onto influence a great deal of stories that expanded the Phoenix mythos in X-men. Putting him in the center of the conflict in a Dark Phoenix movie makes too much sense.

There are other lesser villains like the U-men and the Purifiers that could find their way into the mix. So there should be no concerns about not having enough villains. The key is tying these villains into the main Dark Phoenix story. If done well, especially with the aid of Bryan Cranston’s acting prowess, then the movie has everything it needs to succeed.


There’s a lot more to consider in making an X-men: Dark Phoenix movie. I’m just a passionate fan so I’m hardly qualified to evaluate every one of them. If I were, Fox probably would’ve hired me and underpaid me by now to make this movie work. Since they haven’t, I can only assume and hope there are much smarter, much more passionate people working tirelessly to make this movie great.

As a fan, I want to see this movie succeed. I want to see Fox and Mr. Kinberg make up for their mistakes in “X-men: The Last Stand.” It would be both an accomplishment and a service for which fans would be forever grateful. Grateful fans are more willing to give money to those who please them. That is, after all, Fox’s ultimate goal.

The incentives are in place. The story is there. The iconic characters are there. The passion is there. The love, heart, and emotions are there. It’s only a matter of bringing them together into a single, cohesive story that will thrill audiences, evoke tears of joy, and soak panties.

It can be done. I pray to whatever cosmic forces are out there that Fox can pull this off. As an X-men fan, a comic book fan, and a fan of iconic love stories, X-men: Dark Phoenix deserves to be that awesome.

2 Comments

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

How NOT To Market Comic Books: A Marvelous Cautionary Tale

Let’s face it. We all make mistakes. We all do dumb things. We’re all just one “reply all” button away from humiliating ourselves and undermine our entire professional career. One time, I accidentally washed my hair with shaving cream instead of shampoo. It made me feel pretty stupid, but at least it happened in the shower and in private.

It’s only when we make mistakes that become public shit storms that we really agonize over our mistakes. For most people, that’s difficult enough, but usually manageable, provided you avoid the “reply all” button and don’t watch porn at the office.

For celebrities, it’s like walking on egg shells on top of land mines on top of hungry lions. If Taylor Swift accidentally washed her hair with shaving cream and did it on camera, it would blow up Twitter and turn into a week-long national scandal. We envy a lot of things about celebrities, but nobody should envy that circus act.

https://i1.wp.com/akns-images.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/2015718/rs_560x415-150818105404-1024-taylor-swift-performance.jpg

Then, there are the non-celebrities who still find a way to make their minor mistake into a national shit storm. Taylor Swift doing something that blows up the internet is kind of an inevitability. A non-celebrity creating that kind of shit storm is an accomplishment.

A man named David Gabriel found that out the hard way last week. Who is David Gabriel, you ask? He’s not a celebrity. He’s not a pop star. He’s not even a famous internet meme. He’s the Vice President of sales at Marvel Comics, a company that’s very important to me as an admitted comic book fan.

It’s a job that’s probably much less glamorous than it sounds. He’s tasked with selling products that include iconic heroes, women dressed in skin-tight costumes, and talking raccoons. His products couldn’t sell themselves better without being laced with nicotine.

 

https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/14/145984/3419084-rocket_raccoon_by_crazymic-d64dqay.jpg

Despite this advantage, Mr. Gabriel’s job has been a lot tougher recently. Overall, Marvel’s sales and overall share of the comic book market has been declining for the past couple of years. That’s somewhat odd, given how Marvel’s movies have made more money than the gross national product of some countries.

Now the reasons for this decline are too numerous and too unsexy for me to cover in a single blog post or multiple blog posts, for that matter. The real story here comes back to David Gabriel, a man whose job it is to figure out why the company he works for isn’t swimming in a fresh pile of money every year.

What’s his explanation for the sales decline? Well, if you thought you’ve ever screwed up badly at your job, take a deep breath and put your feet up. You’re about to feel a lot better about yourself because this is what Mr. Gabriel said in an interview ICv2:

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

The bold parts are my doing because it’s the bold parts that got made David Gabriel the most hated, non-politician man on the internet for a week. Comic book fans, movie fans, and fans of people who publicly screw themselves all took the time to jump in and pile on a man who probably didn’t fully realize what he was saying.

https://i0.wp.com/www.kiddnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/foot-in-mouth-header.jpg

On the surface, the words themselves don’t mean much. Marvel made a push for greater diversity in its comics. I even covered some of the issues that came up during this push. That push didn’t work as well as they’d hoped. Compared to the efforts of DC Comics with their “Rebirth” initiative, there was a lot of room for improvement.

This is where Mr. Gabriel’s internal filter failed him. He looked at the situation, tried to make sense of it, and came up with something that indirectly insulted comic book fans and non-comic book fans alike. I get what he was trying to say, pointing out that the response to their diversity push wasn’t what Marvel had hoped. He just ended up saying way more, if not way too much.

Indirect or not, we’re living in an age where anything you say can and will be misconstrued as bigoted, sexist, racist, homophobic, or anything else associated with the republican party. With Mr. Gabriel’s comments, it didn’t take much for anyone with a Twitter feed to twist his words appropriately.

The implications are as apparent as they are misguided. Comic book fans don’t want diversity. They just want to read comics about the same old white guys who save beautiful women in bikinis that they’ve been reading since the Kennedy Administration. If a character is black, female, or does any that straight white men don’t approve of, then they’re not interested.

Again, that’s the implication. That’s not the actual substance of Mr. Gabriel’s words, but that doesn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t even matter if he meant something else entirely. The angry, politically correct whims of the internet and social media has spoken. David Gabriel and comic book fans are in league with the white male fascist order that’s intent on making the world one big sitcom from the 1950s.

That last part was sarcasm, by the way. I know it doesn’t take much to kick up a shit storm of outrage these days, but I feel like I have to cover my ass with an adamantium plate. There are too many people in the world who just can’t resist a good dose of whining.

Naturally, Mr. Gabriel’s remarks triggered a week-long sideshow where everyone weighed in to voice their outrage, even if they weren’t comic book fans. Most of the outrage was pretty standard. It can usually be boiled down to the following remarks:

“HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE OF US BIGOTRY!”

“HOW DARE YOU TRY TO SPEAK FOR ALL COMIC BOOK FANS!”

“HOW DARE YOU IMPLY THAT DIVERSITY IS A BAD THING!”

“HA! YOU ADMIT YOU’RE A RACIST, BIGOTED, HOMOPHOBE!”

No less than 95 percent of all reactions can be boiled down to something of that nature. One side claims the other is being a bigot/racist/insert-minority-hating-term-here. The other side claims Mr. Gabriel is wrong, stupid, and doesn’t speak for the majority of comic book fans. Somewhere in between the shit storm are just people who want to read awesome comics. They’re basically stuck smelling this stench.

I can already spoil how this is going to play out. The outrage will continue to be a controversy for a while. Then, something else will come along that’ll start another outrage-fueled shit-storm about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. After that, David Gabriel will go back to being a nobody who wouldn’t be recognized if he had a two-foot cock plated in gold. I’m sure that day can’t come fast enough for him.

It’s not just human nature. It’s part of the system/flaws in marketing. People have very short attention spans. Unless it affects their livelihood, they get bored pretty easily. People are also very selective with their outrage. It doesn’t matter how asinine or misguided it is, even if it’s something as simple as a Halloween costume. Outrage is inherently irrational.

It’s an important, albeit bittersweet lesson for anyone looking to market anything in a day where we’re all just one offensive hashtag away from a really bad week. Since I’m trying to sell my own books and preparing to launch my first published book, it’s a lesson worth learning.

We don’t live in an age where a bad add or an off-hand remark can be swept under the rug or forgotten. We live in an age where everybody has a camera and a recorder in their pocket. We live in an age where anything you say or do can be misconstrued in any number of wholly ridiculous ways.

Whether you’re a straight white man working for Marvel or a black transgender lesbian working for BET, your words and actions can and well be skewed if you’re not careful. Professional trolls like Ann Coulter, Lena Dunham, Michael Moore, and Milo Yiannopoulos can get away with it. Most people trying to make a decent, honorable living can’t.

Now I believe that David Gabriel is as decent a person as the rest of us. I don’t think he believes that diversity is a bad thing in comic books or anything else in life. He just made the mistake of saying a certain sequence of words that evoked a knee-jerk reaction from a public that’s more and more sensitive to anything remotely bigoted, regardless of how valid that sentiment might be.

These are strange and volatile times. Today, the worst thing you can be is opposed to diversity. Marvel Comics is behind the curve, unfortunately, because so many of their iconic characters were created at a time when the market almost exclusively favored straight white men. They can’t undo that or the legacy that helped build their company, even if a new generation of politically correct hippies despise that.

If I could say one thing to David Gabriel, I would say, “Take a step back, open a cold beer, and just wait for everybody to get bored being upset with you.” Hell, I’d even buy him the beer.

Even as we forget about David Gabriel and what he said when he underestimated the internet’s capacity for outrage, there will be others like him who fall flat on their face in their effort to sell their products to a public that’ll jump at any reason to get outraged. It’s a challenge, and an annoying one at that, but it’s challenges that make us stronger.

That’s why I still have high hopes for the future of Marvel comics. It’s also why I have hopes for the future of my novels. I doubt I’ll sell anything as well as Marvel sells its comics, but if I can do that without generating misguided outrage, I’ll know I’ve done it right.

1 Comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Why Spider-Man Is The Most Incompetent Hero Of All Time

https://jackfisherbooks.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/4f8a2-1420239869401.png?w=500

Whenever I talk about comic books and superheroes on this blog, I generally try not to single one particular character out unless I’m trying to make a point. I find that singling out one too many characters is like pointing out all the plot holes in a Michael Bay movie. It just becomes too frustrating and futile in the long run.

That means if I’m going to dedicate a post to a character, it better be for a damn good reason. They must be a uniquely compelling sex-positive female character or a potential prelude for future female villains. Well, after talking about why most superheroes are incompetent by design, I feel compelled to single out one particular character who is, within this context, the worst offender.

That character isn’t some obscure, little-known sidekick from a bygone era either. In this case, the worst case of inept superheroes who take their incompetence to the next level is one of the most recognizable superheroes of the past 50 years. He’s had multiple movies, multiple cartoons, and multiple actors play him with varying degrees of success and/or failure.

Image result for Tobey Maguire Dancing gif

Yes, I’m talking about Spider-Man, also known as Peter Parker. He is, by far, the most recognizable and iconic of Stan Lee’s many creations. He’s also, by a ridiculous margin, the most profitable superhero in terms of merchandise sales. He makes enough money for Marvel every year for them to eat caviar every day off diamond-encrusted gold plates.

So why, then, is he the most incompetent superhero of all time? Why is Marvel’s most iconic character a case study in how not to operate as a superhero? Well, some of it has to do with the built-in incompetence I mentioned before. Spider-Man can’t be too competent, otherwise his overall narrative just wouldn’t be as compelling and his toys wouldn’t sell.

However, compared to the many other orphaned heroes who get their powers through accident or tragedy, Spider-Man sets himself apart by not just screwing himself over, but also by completely undermining the very principles of power and responsibility that he pretends to cherish. He’s not just an incompetent hero. He’s a hypocrite, albeit not on purpose.

So what exactly makes Spider-Man so inept by both the standards of a superhero and the standards that he sets on himself? Well, that has everything to do with his tactics and how he goes about them. If you’ve ever read a Spider-Man comic, seen a Spider-Man movie, or watched a Spider-Man cartoon, you know those tactics well. It goes like this:

  • Someone commits a crime
  • Peter Parker springs into action, putting on his costume and mask
  • Spider-Man fights the criminal, making jokes and quips along the way
  • The criminal whines and complains about how he’s ruining their master plan
  • The fight plays out and Spider-Man wins
  • Spider-Man ties the criminal up with his webs for the police
  • Spider-Man goes back to being Peter Parker and uses the pictures he takes of himself to make a living

This is Spider-Man’s primary method for dealing with crime and irresponsibility. It is the primary structure of every major battle he’s ever fought, be it the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, or Venom. While he wins/survives many of those battles, and even goes onto marry a supermodel for a while, it’s only when you step back and scrutinize the larger picture that you see how he loses his war against irresponsibility.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish that Spider-Man is one of those heroes who doesn’t kill. Like Superman and Batman, he goes out of his way to prevent the loss of life, be it innocent life or that of his enemy. That’s an understandable position to take. Killing is one of those unambiguous moral lines and many superheroes define their heroics by respecting that line.

For Spider-Man, however, this moral stand against killing is a major liability and the catalyst for his ineptitude. Granted, it’s not intentional, but the byproducts are unavoidable and those close to him have suffered as a result. Just ask Gwen Stacy.

Now I’m not saying Spider-Man is directly responsible for such suffering. Like all heroes, his intentions are good. He wants to help people. He wants to save lives. The problem is that, with his tactics, he’s doomed to hurt far more people than he helps.

This is because his tactics essentially guarantee that he will be a target, his loved ones will suffer, and his enemies will become stronger as a result. This isn’t just because Spider-Man refuses to kill them, although that is part of it. It’s because of the very persona that Spider-Man creates that his efforts are so inept.

Spider-Man, unlike Batman or Daredevil, doesn’t present a very intimidating presence. He’s many things, but intimidating isn’t one of them. His costume isn’t that intimidating. He doesn’t operate in the shadows or anything. He’s actually a well-known public figure, thanks largely to his own efforts and those of his boss, the ultimate blowhard that is J. Jonah Jameson.

This is a huge problem because it ensures that Spider-Man’s presence isn’t considered a major threat or danger to his enemies. He’s more of an annoyance or inconvenience. Whether they’re the Green Goblin or a simple mugger, they know Spider-Man isn’t going to kill them. He’s not even going to seriously wound them. He’ll just fight them, tie them up, and give them over to the police.

Even for those without access to overpaid lawyers, that’s not so much a threat as it is a frustration. On top of that, Spider-Man doesn’t really have meaningful conversations that get people to rethink their choices. He’s just cracks jokes, makes lewd comments, and generally carries himself with the maturity of a 13-year-old. Granted, this is part of his charm as a character, but it also ensures his tactics are doomed to fail.

It’s one thing to anger and annoy an enemy in the heat of battle. That can work to a hero’s advantage. However, the problems with Spider-Man manifest after the battle is over.

By annoying and angering his enemies, all he does is give them more incentive to fight him and hurt those he cares about. On top of that, he wears a flashy, distinct costume that’s easily recognizable in both night and broad daylight. It’s also well-known, thanks to his own efforts at taking pictures of himself and selling them to a newspaper.

Even before the era of smart phones and Twitter hacks, that’s putting a pretty big target on his back. He makes himself an identifiable figure on which his enemies can focus on. Even if they don’t know his identity, they know the source of their frustration. Since Spider-Man doesn’t scare them, they have every possible reason to fight him.

To make matters even worse, he gives his enemies a common threat to rally against. Anyone who knows anything about social psychology, or has just been to a Taylor Swift concert, knows that nothing unites people better than a common cause. He doesn’t just make his enemies stronger as individuals. He makes them stronger as a team. How is that responsible?

In essence, Spider-Man doesn’t intimidate his villains, doesn’t do anything to deter their irresponsible decisions, and gives them a common enemy to really around. If being responsible is deterring the kind of criminals that killed his Uncle Ben, then he’s the most irresponsible hero of all time.

I’m not saying Spider-Man has to start killing like the Punisher. I’m saying that his own tactics undermine his goals. Now you could make a similar criticism to characters like Batman or Daredevil because they don’t kill and their enemies constantly escape to torment them. However, there is one key difference that sets them apart.

Batman and Daredevil, despite their gaudy costumes, are intimidating. In fact, intimidation is a key tactic of theirs. Batman said it himself in the early scenes of “Batman Begins.” He seeks to strike fear in those that prey on the fearful. In this sense, he does succeed.

You could make the argument that because of Batman’s presence, there people in Gotham City who choose not to enter a life of crime. The prospect of dealing with Batman is scary. Fear is a powerful deterrent. Only the truly deranged criminals dare to enter this life and take on Batman. In that context, it makes perfect sense that the kind of villains he faces are the exceedingly deranged kind.

Spider-Man can’t make that claim. He can’t claim that he scares or intimidates people into not choosing a life of crime. If anything, his tactics may annoy ordinary people who wouldn’t otherwise consider such a life, but try it anyways just to shut him up or make a name for themselves.

Every hero is different. Every hero has their own set of tactics, goals, and ideals. However, no hero is as inept, incompetent, or irresponsible as Spider-Man. So long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, and Marvel has a huge financial interest in never allowing it to change, he’ll continue emboldening his enemies while guaranteeing that everyone around him suffers.

It’s both an irony and a tragedy. In his efforts to be responsible with his powers, Spider-Man conducts himself in the most irresponsible way possible. Even if it’s indirect and unintentional, the results are the same. He can still call himself a hero because of his principles. He just can’t call himself a very competent hero.

3 Comments

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes