Iron Man

Rumor Mill: Marvel Animation studio to open

A California Raisin tells me Marvel Studios is expanding. A state-of-the-art Marvel Animation studio is currently under construction in Glendale, California. Employees will apparently work in the neighboring city of Burbank, possibly at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, until construction of the Glendale facility completes.

Marvel Animation is part of Marvel Studios, the film and TV production company of Marvel Entertainment, which obviously grew out of Marvel Comics. Located on the other side of Los Angeles in Manhattan Beach, Marvel Studios is behind the successful Iron Man, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger movies. The recently-created Marvel TV division is run by Jeph Loeb (producer on Lost, Heroes), and has authority over Marvel Animation. And of course the entire Marvel structure is owned by Disney.

Marvel Animation was formed in 2008 and has put out direct-to-DVD animated features such as Planet Hulk and Thor: Tales of Asgard (concluding their 8-film partnership with Lionsgate), animated TV series like The Super Hero Squad Show on Cartoon Network and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on Disney XD, animated comics (souped up motion comics) such as Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers under the Marvel Knights Animation banner, and the Marvel Anime project from Japan.

Known future plans at Marvel Animation are somewhat limited. There’s the Ultimate Spider-Man show, based on the comic of the same name, debuting next year, and a Hulk cartoon in development, both for Disney XD. Whatever else is in the pipeline, it appears they intend to increase production capabilities on the animation side.

Do you have any tips for the grapevine? Email me.

Comic Book Movies and TV Shows for the Rest of 2011

Well the big summer blockbusters are all done. But that doesn’t mean comic books are done invading pop culture entertainment. I always think the source material is better, but checking out comic book adaptations, whether TV or film, can be a good way of sampling. Here’s what’s coming down the pike for the rest of 2011:

Piled Higher and Deeper: The PhD Movie – Live action comedy about graduate college.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC this October

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Live action horror TV series about a small group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

Batman: Year One – Animated feature-length movie about the noir-ish retelling of the early days of Bruce Wayne’s superhero career.

  • Schedule: Released on DVD, Blu-ray and for download on Tuesday, October 18.
  • Based on one of the seminal DC Comics graphic novels, Batman: Year One by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli. The story was originally published in Batman comic books in 1987.

X-Men Anime Series – Animated TV series imported from Japan featuring the mutant superheroes Cyclops, Wolverine and others fighting for a world that fears and hates them.

  • Schedule: 12 episodes starting Friday, October 21 at 11 PM Eastern on G4.
  • Based on various X-Men comic books and graphic novels published by Marvel Comics over the years but specifically narrowing in on New X-Men by writer Grant Morrison and various artists, as well as Astonishing X-Men by writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 2 – Animated TV series about Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America and their superhero friends fighting evil.

  • Schedule: 26 episodes starting on a Sunday in October at 10 AM Eastern and Pacific on Disney XD
  • Based on a whole slew of Avengers and other comic books by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others, as well as The Kree-Skrull War by writer Roy Thomas, artist Neal Adams and others, and Secret Invasion by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Leinil Francis Yu, published by Marvel Comics. Plus there’s definitely inspiration taken from the Iron Man movies.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Crab with the Golden Claws

Green Lantern: The Animated Series Season 1 – CGI animated series about a sci-fi superhero with cosmically powered jewelry.

  • Schedule: This was originally set to debut last week but now a preview is going to air this Fall, possibly in November, with the full 26-episode season to start in Spring 2012 on Cartoon Network.
  • Based on countless Green Lantern comics but more specifically this summer’s Green Lantern movie and recent Green Lantern comic books and graphic novels by writer Geoff Johns and others published by DC Comics.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn – CGI animated 3D feature film using performance capture technology. It’s about a plucky journalist and his dog going on a globe-trotting treasure hunt.

Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments or email and I’ll add them in.

Interview: Stan Goldberg

Archie Marries... (click to buy from publisher Abrams ComicArts)

Speaking with comics artist Stan Goldberg was an honor, and I’m very grateful for his generosity with his time. I definitely did not expect this to go 45 minutes but he had a lot to share, and it’s worth it to hear him talk about all of this. His love for his work comes across quickly. He really loves what he does. It’s clear that this is a man still enjoying and exploring his craft and the process of storytelling despite already being a master at it.

I was also struck with how unfortunate it is for someone who has lived and breathed the Archie characters for the last 40 years, who has been the artist on their most commercially successful and buzz worthy books (for good reason), now finds himself with some uncertainty. Fortunately he’s still immensely talented. His abilities not only haven’t diminished, but may be stronger than ever. And he remained classy throughout, with not a bad word to say about his former employers. Already plans are in the works for the next phase of his career, and that to me is exciting. With over 60 years in the biz, he still has a lot of creativity to give.

Here’s the audio of our interview:


MP3 Download

Here’s a breakdown of what he talked about:

  • His 40-year career with Archie Comics, characters he clearly loves and respects, and his recent departure from the company.
  • Creating the color designs for Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four (the Thing is colored like “a wrinkled orange”), the Hulk (his pants were meant to be magenta, not purple), and the rest of the Marvel Comics universe, including the villains like Dr. Doom.
  • Being asked by Marvel to draw the Fantastic Four 50 years after coloring the first issue in 1961.
  • His work being reprinted in prestige hard cover books: Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg [Amazon link] and Archie Marries… [Amazon link]
  • Being mentored by Stan Lee the art director in the ’50s
  • Using the Marvel Method for Millie the Model
  • Creating Kathy the Teenage Tornado (reprint this, Marvel!)
  • On the comics industry during the Senate hearings of the 1950s and the industry’s response: “It almost destroyed the whole industry.” He says the Comics Code Authority, the industry’s content watchdog, went overboard: “They made some corrections, but I guess they had to show what they were then getting paid for.” Marvel even lost their distributor for a time, which resulted in Stan having to go freelance.
  • His work on Millie the Model influencing women in fashion design and magazines like Cosmopolitan, McCall’s and others.
  • Collaborating with Michael Uslan on last year’s “Archie Marries…” story starting in Archie #600, which sold 50% better than Marvel & DC comic books at the time. His pure penciled artwork for the covers of those six issues was reprinted in IDW’s recent Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg
  • The story of the surprise debut of Archie Meets Punisher and the plans for a sequel that never came to be.
  • And perhaps most exciting of all… teasing a future project he’s creating with a writer.

Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg (click to buy from publisher IDW)

(Also a cameo by my cat Cleo climbing up the back of my chair if you listen carefully. I should also apologize for the volume disparity between his voice and mine. Fortunately once we get started, it’s mostly him. Ah the joys of technology. I’ll try to work that out for the next interview.)

FF #1 variant cover by Goldberg (50th Anniversary of Fantastic Four #1, Marvel Comics)

Excessive coverage of Stan Lee receiving Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Stan Lee signs fan's Iron Man helmet on Hollywood Walk of Fame (click for more pics)

Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man and tons of other characters published by Marvel Comics, received the 2,428th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Tuesday in front of the Live Nation Building in Hollywood. I’m fairly confident saying he is the first comic book creator to be recognized by this institution. Stan’s fellow POW! Entertainment executive Gill Champion and Image Comics co-founder and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane were guest speakers.

I was kind of hoping to get away from work and shoot the ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, but the realities of life had other plans. Not that I think it’s some big crucial moment in comic book history (maybe if the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce had created a new category of comic books for the Walk, but no, Stan Lee is in the Motion Pictures category) (plus I became disillusioned some when I found out years ago that recipients pay $30K to get their Star), but still it might’ve been fun to do. I knew coming off the holidays that it would never really happen, though. Plus, when Randy Newman got his Star, there were several videos posted online, so I figured others would already have their cameras ready for someone as beloved as Stan Lee. And I was right. Videos starting hitting YouTube about an hour or two after the event.

For more slick coverage, check out the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog, the LAist‘s collection of pics (like the one above), the Washington Post, and with videos of their own: CNNHollywood Reporter, and LA station ABC-7. Also, Variety has a quick story on the after-party Tuesday night.

Some bold statements in the above links caught my eye, and I just want to touch on them briefly, because while Stan Lee deserves a lot of praise, it’s important to keep things in perspective and not get overcome with hyperbole. Phrases like “father of the super hero” and “created or co-created 90 percent of Marvel’s characters” stand out to me most. The former is pretty silly. I could see him being called the father of the modern super hero (or some such modifying term), but he did not create or co-create Superman (that would be Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster). The latter percentage seems really rounded up. I can agree with 90% of the Marvel characters most people have heard of or know about through mainstream movies and TV shows, but not of the entire library of thousands of Marvel characters. But I’m nitpicking, so enough of that. There is no doubt that Stan Lee helped rejuvenate, even revolutionize, the super-hero genre in the 1960s, and he helped build the foundation of Marvel Comics both as a company and a fictional universe. He has also done a lot as a personality/celebrity to bring comics awareness to the masses. I know plenty of people who have never read a Spider-Man comic (or any other comic) but they know of Stan Lee because he’s a character himself. So congratulations, Stan Lee! And congratulations, comics! There’s no way I could see this happening 5 or 10 years ago.

Click through for your Stan Lee Star Video Feed complete with shaky handheld and subpar audio.

(more…)

Copyrights and comics

As a preview to their upcoming Comic Book Comics #5 by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, Evil Twin Comics has posted a 6-page excerpt titled “The Grabbers”. It does an excellent job encapsulating and presenting copyright law and how it has effected the history of comic books. The piece focuses on Superman, so this is a great prequel to that BBC Superman documentary where we see Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster a few years after the events depicted at the end of this comic.

The comic also covers the legal shenanigans involving Bob Kane (Batman co-creator), Bill Finger (Batman, Robin and Joker co-creator), Jerry Robinson (Robin and Joker co-creator), Joe Simon (Captain America co-creator), and Jack Kirby (co-creator of Captain America and half of the rest of the Marvel Comics superhero universe).

What’s amazing (and kind of sad) is that a lot of these legal battles are still being fought.

Your Brad Link of the Day – Iron Man movie had no script

This is amazing. One of the best modern superhero movies had no script, according to actor Jeff Bridges in this interview at InContention.com.

The 2008 hit Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Bridges apparently relied on the actors and director Jon Favreau improvising scenes out based on a plot outline.

“They had no script, man,” Bridges exclaims. “They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?’ Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on.”

“You’ve got the suits from Marvel in the trailer with us saying, ‘No, you wouldn’t say that,’” Bridges remembers. “You would think with a $200 million movie you’d have the shit together, but it was just the opposite. And the reason for that is because they get ahead of themselves. They have a release date before the script, ‘Oh, we’ll have the script before that time,’ and they don’t have their shit together.

“Jon dealt with it so well,” Bridges continues. “It freaked me out. I was very anxious. I like to be prepared. I like to know my lines, man, that’s my school. Very prepared. That was very irritating, and then I just made this adjustment. It happens in movies a lot where something’s rubbing against your fur and it’s not feeling right, but it’s just the way it is. You can spend a lot of energy bitching about that or you can figure out how you’re going to do it, how you’re going to play this hand you’ve been dealt. What you can control is how you perceive things and your thinking about it. So I said, ‘Oh, what we’re doing here, we’re making a $200 million student film. We’re all just fuckin’ around! We’re playin’. Oh, great!’ That took all the pressure off. ‘Oh, just jam, man, just play.’ And it turned out great!”

Bridges says those “suits” keep telling him, “It’s just a comic book. Maybe we’ll bring you back.”

He also talked about it on his own site in his Making Iron Man photography book, which includes some great images of one of the “script sessions”.

As I said, we were lucky to have Jon as our director. His skill as a writer/improvisor was welcomed, indeed. While the story of Iron Man was pretty much in place, the actual scenes often had to be written on the day we shot them. Once the panic subsided, it was kind of fun, really – sort of like making a multi-million dollar student film. After all was said and done, I think we came up with some good stuff.

Yay! Improv saves the day! (Sorry for the not-so-stealthy plug.)

Now Hollywood, that doesn’t mean fire all of your screenwriters. This worked because fantastic actors and improvisers were able to pull it off by collaborating with a uniquely talented director who also had a knack for improvising. So, cool trick, but use with discretion.

What’s interesting is that this method of movie-making is eerily similar to the mythic “Marvel Method” of making comics in the 1960s. Marvel Comics’ primary writer and editor then was Stan Lee, who became so overwhelmed writing nearly every book put out by the publisher that he started to similarly jam with his better artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. According to legend (some of it still hotly debated today), Stan and the artist would talk out a story idea for an issue over the phone or in person. Stan would then write up a 1 to 2-page plot outline, which would be fleshed out and expanded into a full 23-page (sometimes more) comic book. Stan would then go back and fill in dialogue and narration captions. Eventually Stan got so overworked, and the process became so reliable, that Stan let his best artists turn in full issues of their own stories with plot cues written in to help Stan script. While this resulted in the wildly successful heyday of the Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man comic books of the ’60s, this process led to a lot of intense debate and resentment over who should be credited (and receive royalties) for what.

Now looking back to today, IMDb lists Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway as the screenwriters for Iron Man. Did they just write the outline? I’d be curious to hear their version of this story.

(via io9)

Your Brad Link of the Day is provided to me by my friend Brad Beacom via Google’s Gmail chat. It may or may not actually occur on a daily basis. You may or may not have already seen it. (But in those instances, some classics are worth revisiting.) You may or may not find some enjoyment in it. Essentially, I take no responsibility for anything.

Liked Iron Man? Be a Hero and Help Out

So, how ’bout that Iron Man movie? Pretty cool, huh? You bet it was!

It’s, like, totally over 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It MUST be awesome.

It is so totally the best superhero movie ever in the history of ever since ever first started.

Way.

Yeah, it was tons of fun. You know what’s not fun? Liver failure.

Sorry, I know. Bummer seque.

Sadly, one of the comic book artists that made Iron Man so memorable for hundreds of thousands is suffering. His name is Gene Colan.

Yes, yes. Funny last name. Go on, get it out of your system. I’ll wait.

(*snicker*)

Yes, okay, where were we? That’s right, Gene Colan.

In late 1965, Gene Colan took over drawing the Iron Man stories in an anthology comic called Tales of Suspense. He replaced Iron Man co-creator and artist Don Heck, who is credited in the Iron Man movie along with fellow Iron Man creators Stan Lee, Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s younger brother) and Jack Kirby. Gene Colan’s time with the character proved so popular, that in 1968 the character graduated to starring in his own comic book series, The Invincible Iron Man.

Gene Colan also had a significant run of drawing Daredevil in the mid-1960s to early-1970s, but most people don’t really have fond memories of the Ben Affleck movie, so we’ll just gloss over that part. He also made his mark on Howard the Duck, which was an even worse movie, but the comics were great satire.

Anyway, on May 10th, writer Clifford Meth announced that Gene Colan was sick and because people in comics back in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t get health insurance or 401K plans or anything else beyond a simple flat rate per page, Gene and his wife are facing immense medical bills. As the Iron Man movie rakes in over $200 million worldwide, it seems a shame that some of that financial gratitude can’t be passed on to one of the first artists to portray the character. Without his hard work and talent, it’s possible the character never would’ve lasted long enough to make it to the big screen. So, if you would like to help out in some small way, there are a few ways you can help:

  1. Donate to The Hero Initiative – This not-for-profit organization exists for the sole purpose of helping establish a safety net for comic creators like Gene Colan who did not financially benefit from the success of the comics and characters they worked on. And there are many. Make a donation and ask that your contribution be directed to help out Gene Colan.
  2. Bid on a fundraising auction item – Writer Clifford Meth has begun an auction to help raise money for Gene Colan. The auction started today and includes (or will include) lots of fun stuff by Stan Lee, Harlon Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Gene Colan himself, and lots of others.
  3. Buy cool Gene Colan stuff – Marvel Comics and The Hero Initiative have teamed up to help raise money for Gene Colan. If you’re going to any comic book conventions this summer (I’ll be at Comic-Con in San Diego), be sure to look for limited edition art prints. Additional Gene Colan-themed items will be released by Marvel in August and September.

Okay, that’s my spiel. And if you haven’t seen Iron Man yet, go see it!