23 January 2010

NEWS of the BLOG: HEROES Huge Audience...We Get Heroic 4 HAITI ...Jackson Out of AVENGERS...And MORE!!

Yo, dabblers, we are back! And what better way to get back to the grind of comics blogging than with... NEWS OF THE BLOG! This would be a great opportunity to launch into 'The Week In Review,' but the comics industry can't be summarized so simply -- you know that. Instead, we'll seize the moment and throw out this question: Did you know that today's National Frustrated Writer's Day? Yeah, we were surprised, too. (We thought it was in April.) But calendars don't lie, and neither do we. Two-thirds of the Home Office staff is already at the pub, while the rest of us -- and me, your Dabbler -- are here once again to hold down the fort.  If you're a frustrated writer of any kind, today's your day -- and abbracadabbling salutes you. Have fun, and drive safe. 

Here's another question (because it seems like we're full of 'em this morning): Is NBC's Heroes going to be cancelled or what? We're rooting for the show - don't get us wrong.  The show still has a good eight or nine episodes left in the season, though cast and crew have already wrapped production for the year.  Now, Springfield has a direct line to Hollywood (it's a little known secret here) and from those sources, we've heard that our Heroes are feeling pretty upbeat about their possible predicament. Mainly because  the season ends again on yet another cliff-hanger -- which means, of course, they think they'll be back like a sinister Sylar.  We'd hate to be the one's to tell them quite a few shows before them have seen season-ending cliffhangers...then went right off that cliff after them.  It's called denial, guys. Wear parachutes.

Then again, in the wake of NBC's clash with Conan O'Brien, anything's possible. Shaking up their late night TV has put a gap in the Peacock's schedule -- and we think the wise move would be to gym-it for a stronger Heroes rather than go for the unknown.   Heroes has had a lot of buzz this year: all eleventh-hour improvements then nothing but cancellation chat since Episode One. Entertainment Weekly even quoted one source as saying, “Everyone is expecting this to be the last season. The cast, the crew, everyone.”  Reasonable fears, given the show's pulling in just over six million viewers a week (down from the 14 million it had back in 2005), but hey, that's about three times what Leno had before they, uh, cancelled him.  

However, despite what those numbers suggest, Heroes story does have more to it. Both Heroes and the CW's Smallville were blasted for their early poor ratings last Fall, but both shows were rescued from almost certain comicide* at that point when the DVR data finally rolled in. It seems that the comic book crowd isn't necessarily sitting on the sofa when their favorite shows come on -- but that doesn't mean they're not watching them.  In fact, Heroes may have a larger viewing audience than anyone suspects, because this audience can't be measured directly. 

For the second time in a row, Heroes has topped the list of the year's most-pirated television shows.  According to Torrentfreak, Heroes was downloaded 6.58 million times in 2009, which if you've been paying attention is a larger number than the show's weekly ratings.  In our modern world of 52-inch LCD's, it might be difficult to image that not everybody tunes in to television, even if they have a set. We've known several tech-heads with all the nice toys who get all their TV kicks from Torrents, and considering digital is the way we're headed, it'd be foolish of NBC to overlook its pirating peeps.  Don't be the music industry, NBC, and blame poor physical sales (or weekly ratings shares) on actual Nielsen ninnies. Just as more pirates buy more digital music than the average music junkie, your Heroes' bread is buttered by digital demographics.

We abbracadabblers spent a good part of the week in the Present Magic Comics Shop -- our eBay  store where we sell all sorts of comics and action figure goodness.  As you know, your favorite comicsblog has joined the Heroes 4 Haiti effort to raise money through online auctions for the victims of the Haitian earthquake on January 12th.   We now have FOUR  (4) active auctions in support of the cause -- our latest being another great set of Spider-Man limited series, including Spider-Man: The Final Adventure and Spider-Man: The Lost Years, the latter by fan favorites, writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist- extraordinaire John Romita, Jr. The auction's for a total of eight (8) Spider-Man comics, and you can find them on eBay HERE.   For the list of our first three auctions, go HERE.

You might think we've been too busy with our charitable work (which we have) to even think about  being among the Comic Blog Elite. Nothing could be farther from the truth, though, and we hope that many of you had a chance to check out the Elite's website to see what the fuss is. If you haven't (shame, shame on you, dabbler), don't fret -- Matt Bergin, the CBE's E-I-C, is now posting a weekly CBE feature on Pop Culture Shock, which will introduce you to everything you've ever wanted to know about the comics blogosphere and its member blogs.  But Matt's first blog HERE covers more than just an intro; he's got mini-reviews of several sites (he'll get to us eventually) and he posts the Top 10 Comics Blogs of the week, too. We're not on that privileged list yet -- but with your help and back-links, we will be. 

Samuel L. Jackson, however, may not be making The Avengers' list, though.  Jackson's an actor so ubiquitous that we'd expect to find him hiding in our own home movies, so when The Hollywood Reporter told us last year that he'd reportedly signed a long-term deal with Marvel Studios to play 'Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.', in nine upcoming films we weren't surprised. 

The reverse is true of the latest news, in Jackson's own words:  "There was a huge kind of negotiation that broke down. I don't know. Maybe I won't be Nick Fury. Maybe somebody else will be Nick Fury or maybe Nick Fury won't be in it.  There seems to be an economic crisis in the Marvel Comics world so [they're saying to me], 'We're not making that deal'."    The 'it' in question isn't just one thing; Jackson's referring to those guest-starring roles he's been slated to play in Iron Man 2, Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, and finally, The Avengers.   Marvel's movies -- which are narratively ambitious and set a new standard for superhero cinema, bringing it more in-line with comic book storytelling -- find their origins rooted not in Marvel's primary 'universe,' but in it's modernized 'Ultimate Universe', which presents different, twenty-first century versions of its characters. Creators Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch used Jackson himself as the model for Ultimate Fury, which took the traditional white, grizzled, aging commando with salt-and-pepper hair Nick Fury character (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960's) and re-imagined him as a younger, bald African American ass-kicker. 

Jackson wasn't playing when this news broke last week, and he seemed clearly dissatisfied with Marvel and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau.  The Los Angeles Times article that broke the story does mention that Jackson may be trying to stir the fanboys to pressure Marvel and with the hopes of a bigger paycheck, as clearly many an actor before him have done. But the issue involved does highlight just one of the  potential 
problems Marvel's ambition will encounter -- the cost of bringing the two distinct art forms of film and comics ever closer.  As the Times points out, Marvel will have to weigh each film's budget with the calculating eye of pro-sports franchises who want marquee players but have to fit them under a team salary cap.  

The Times doesn't so clearly or directly mention the assumption that underlies most of their article: the belief that comics and films are different sides of the same coin. With comics today becoming movie properties in record numbers - and many of them being created with an eye on cinematic adaptation from the get-go -- the view that comics are little more than storyboards or, at best, underdeveloped movies, has become quite popular.  We think that there's nothing wrong -- in fact, there's a lot exciting -- about having one's favorite reads and longtime super friends find their way to the silver screen -- the best stories and characters are ones that are able to find life across artistic media.  But comics are unique, and much about them is not translatable to film -- and that, dear dabblers, is a good thing.   From Jackson's problems, it looks like recurring minor characters aren't translatable, either -- if they're played by actors with big names and even bigger tax returns.  Considering comic book lovers acceptance of big screen treatments in the first place, Jackson's model for Nick Fury in the comics is a truth that can be left on the pages of Ultimate Marvel. He's trivia, it's cute, and there are other actors in Hollywood who'd be happy to shave if the role of Nick Fury knocked on their trailer door. * * * * * *  *Comicide - the act of killing a comic book, or a comic book related property.


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