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The Dark Knight Returns, Pt 2 Panel Highlights (NYCC)

I attended the panel for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 at the New York Comic Con with executive producer Bruce Timm and dialogue director Andrea Romano. Together they have basically built the entire animated universe and have done an outstanding job in doing so.

The panel led off with the trailer for the movie. A sequel to the Dark Knight Rises, Part 1 (obviously) it picks up right where the first left off. Batman is back, the Joker wants a piece of him, as does the Gotham Police Department. The government is against Batman as well, which is why they put Superman (who is basically the President’s lackey) into action to stop him. Check it out for yourself:

When talking about the decision to make this story into two separate movies, Bruce Timm said that there was no way this could ever be done right as one film. Furthermore, both movies had to be green-lit at the same time. He didn’t want to make the first part and see how it did before working on the second. It was all or nothing and thankfully the studio agreed to produce both movies at the same time.

Three addition scenes were shown during the panel. The first showed Batman attacking the Gotham Police on the rooftop. The music was top-notch, although to me the action seemed slightly off. Up close all the hits had impact and looked great, when they broadened the shot however the movements and speed just didn’t click for me. Next was Batman rallying his troops to not use guns, fighting with their fists and minds instead. It was referred to as the “Braveheart” speech. When you see it you’ll know why. The final clip was of the talk show scene where Joker is interviewed by David Endocrine. Endocrine is played pretty well by Conan O’Brien of all people. Romano said that he nailed getting affected by the Joker’s laugh gas in one take. What we were shown was a very tense scene that got creepier and creepier until the Joker finally went into action.

Timm noted that while he could have cast Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to reprise their famous roles as Batman and Joker, he knew that this was a much different type of film and that he needed to reflect that tone in the voices. Peter Weller (Robocop) was an absolutely perfect fit for Batman. He was also fond of Michael Emerson’s (Lost) work as Joker. He said he doesn’t sound anything like Hamill, or Jack Nicholson, or even John Di Maggio. Romano was also impressed with his ability to do his performance through Skype, as conflicting schedules made it impossible for him to record in studio.

A couple of other notes from the panel:

-Bruce Timm revealed that Jim Gordon chews nicotine gum instead of smoking cigars because smoking in cartoons equals an automatic R rating (film is PG-13). Interestingly, swastika’s on naked women do not have the same impact (you know where I’m going if you read the comic).

-Timm also hinted at working on some films based on Grant Morrison’s work. Could this mean Arkham Asylum? R.I.P? Final Crisis?

-The first thing actually seen in the panel was the trailer for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes United. It’s essentially Joker and Lex Luthor getting all the villains together while Batman and Superman do the same with the Justice League. The trailer was legitimately funny and will appeal to both adult comic book fans and their children. The Justice League they assemble is the New 52 version and it will be released sometime in the spring of 2013.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is set to be released in the winter of 2013.

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Ghostbusters Goggles And More From Mattel (NYCC)

For the second straight year Mattel had a lot to show off at the New York Comic Con. Among their usual assortment of figurines and show exclusives was a peak of the latest addition to their collection of Ghostbusters equipment. To go along with the PKE meter and  ghost trap, you will soon be able to get your hands on the  goggles from the movie! Mattel did another great job recreating the classic look and you can expect to see them available sometime next year.

Here are some more pictures from Mattel’s display including DC, WWE, Masters of the Universe, Ghostbusters and the hoverboard from Back to the Future 2:

The Character/Writer Comic Conundrum

Rick Remender’s run writing Venom came to an end this week with issue #22. It has been one of the surprise series of the last couple of years, bringing back a character that was left behind in the 90’s and remade him into a modern anti-hero that was interesting and fun to follow. Eddie Brock was fine, but Flash Thompson? Back from war without his legs and now he’s a military styled Venom clouded with guilt and rage? Loved the idea from the start. When I started getting back into comics Venom was one of the series that kept up with and it was well worth the ride thanks in large part to Remender’s vision.

But now Remender is leaving Venom for greener pastures and it brings up an interesting question. Do I still follow the same books with a different writer at the helm?

What’s more important? The character…

Back in the day this would have been a non issue. As a young reader I was drawn to the characters and the action. The art was more important to me and I wasn’t smart enough to know if what I was reading had any depth to it. All I knew is that Spider-Man kicking Vulture in the face was awesome! But I need more than that now. Yes the artwork is very important, as it often can make or break a book. However I need that writing to draw me in. This is especially the case as I get into more dramatic book, that are more about espionage and emotion than explosions and fight sequences. I love the current Venom character, but I specifically love Rick Remender’s writing of the character. Would you read a Harry Potter novel if it wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling? Of course you wouldn’t. That might as well just be considered fan fiction.

Remender is still working on X-Force, Captain America and Secret Avengers (which has Venom!). The Dark Phoenix Saga was amazing and the others have been good as well. Would I be best served leaving Venom behind and just following around writers that I like? Could the same go for artists? What if Remender takes on something like the Fantastic Four, which I’ve never been interested in?

Naturally a lot of this also depends on who takes over Venom.

…or the man writing the character?

People will always buy Batman and X-Men and Spider-Man. They are so popular that even if you mess them up badly you will still get at least some people who just need their Batman fix (of course Scott Snyder is doing a great job with Bats and that helps too). But Venom is a little bit more of a niche character. He is still a work in progress that can go either way. Mark Waid has done similar work in remaking Daredevil into a fantastic read again but he did have more to work with. The better comparison might be what Geoff Johns has managed to do with Aquaman. Did anyone thing he would ever be cool again? Will he remain as cool if someone else takes over writing him? Like the King of the 7 Seas, Venom can lose its audience a little more easily. Cullen Bunn is taking over for Remender full time with issue #23. He had been co-writing this recent arc with Rick and has been very busy doing work on Captain America and a miniseries, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, which all point in the right direction for what would make a good Venom book. The other books circulating are getting mixed reviews, but thanks to the run so far I am emotionally invested in this symbiote wielding maniac. Can I just drop it because I don’t like the current author? I guess I’ll just have to read it and find out for myself.

What do you think? How much does the writer influence what you buy? Am I a fool for thinking of ditching a book just because it’s being written by someone else? Sound off in the comments below.

Read comics!

Warner Bros Animation Does the DC Universe Right

While misguided attempts at putting the Justice League in theaters and a Superman reboot cautiously on the way, Warner Bros. Animation has been producing classing stories from DC Comics time and time again. If the trailer is any indication, The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1 won’t be any different. If nothing else it has Peter “Robocop” Weller as Batman! Your move creep! Check it out:

Looks amazing right? This is nothing new for Warner Bros. Animation as they have been doing this for decades now (if you count Batman: The Animated Series). They have succeeded in all of the areas they have failed with their big budget action movies (except Batman of course because anything Batman is good). They take chances and stretch their wings. Different animation styles, different voices to fit those styles, and most importantly they tell the stories we want to see.

How many origin stories can there be? Instead of taking up and entire film introducing every single DC character, they are getting straight into the good stuff with the comics that we love. Doomsday, Red Hood, Tower of Babel, they’ve all been done and done mostly well in these movies. WB tapped into a market of real comic book fans and knows that they are the main audience of these animated features. It’s not like the major films that have to pander to everyone. Marvel took a gamble on giving everyone an origin story and if they didn’t luck out with Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark I’m not sure any of the last few years of success actually happen. Green Lantern tried to do the same thing, but Ryan Reynolds can only take you so far and unfortunately their were so many plot holes and other story issues that the most realistic looking live action take on the Green Lantern and Oa that I could have asked for got completely wasted.

Green Lantern done right

I have seen the Green Lantern movie that works though. Check out Green Lantern: First Flight, the animated feature that came to Blu-ray and DVD two years before the failure in theaters. It’s very similar in theme and hits a lot of the same notes. Hal Jordan gets the ring from a fallen Lantern and has to learn how to be a better man while the universe is in jeopardy and so on. Yet it does it so much better. First of all thanks to it being animated, most of it takes place in space, which is where he belongs. Second, Hal gets his training on the job throughout the entire movie instead of a five minute sequence followed by a bunch of crap. Third, instead of pacing it so poorly because they want to save Sinestro for a sequel, they throw the kitchen sink out there at once. The lack of limitations and big names make it so that there are just some things you can do with animation that you can’t attempt with a blockbuster movie. Want to see how a Wonder Woman movie should be made?  Go to WB Animation again. Don’t even get me started on Jonah Hex. The characters we know less about get their due, while the ones we already know (Superman/Batman) get spared of introductions and instead we get their best stories shown as we know and love them.

As far as films go this is the one area that DC clearly trumps Marvel. Marvel Animation does what they can, but it just isn’t on the same level as DC. They do a fair job, specifically with Hulk vs, but the overall quality and quantity just isn’t there. Eight films in six years, along with some poorly received anime just aren’t going to cut it. Not when DC has almost doubled their production and done so with such high quality. All this while making Justice League and Young Justice TV series that have critical acclaim as well.

DC has plenty of very good movies aside from the Dark Knight trilogy. They are just being shown on the wrong screen. Hell they even nailed it with The Flaming C!

Free Comic Book Day Q&A with Joe Field

Christmas is great, but if you’re looking for a present now know this: Free Comic Book Day is just days upon us. The annual event is exactly what it sounds like. Comic book stores around the world give away comics to anyone that walks in. This year it is this Saturday, May 5th. Yes, that’s the day after The Avengers hits theaters. In honor of the best idea since pizza Fridays at school, I spoke to Joe Field, the founder of Free Comic Book Day, about the comic book industry.

-What inspired you to come up with Free Comic Book Day?
The business of comics had come through a tumultuous time in the late ’90s. When things started turning around, I saw a need for a massive invitation for everyone to check out what’s going on weekly in their local comic shop. I wrote a column for a trade magazine, outlining Free Comic Book Day and suggesting it be modeled after other “free” events. The column was met with enthusiasm!

-What went into getting all of the other comic book stores involved?
I knew that I couldn’t coordinate the event, so I turned to the dominant distributor of comics in the English-speaking world, Diamond Comic Distributors. Their team has regular contact with all comic book stores on a regular basis, so I was confident they could do the job— and they’ve done it exceedingly well for these last 11 years.

-Was there any suggestion by the comic book industry to have The Avengers movie come out on the same weekend as Free Comic Book Day?
Free Comic Book Day  has been the “first Saturday in May” for 10 of its 11 years. In most cases, there has been a comics-related movie attached to the same weekend. I choose to look at it as Hollywood coming to comics, rather than comics being a barnacle on the Good-Ship Hollywood.

-Do you think the industry is taking enough advantage of the comic book movie franchises and their popularity?
Movies are passive entertainment. You pay for your ticket, then sit in your seat and watch. The reading of comics and graphic novels is a much more involved experience. There’s reading the words, interpreting the art, filling in the time between panels ans scenes. In short, there’s more required of a comic book reader than there is of a movie watcher.

Really, I think the movies have been a great calling card for comic books. I honestly hope that more movie-goers will want to check out the source material for all these comics-based movies!

-What do you think of the current state of comic book stores?
With some 2500 comic shops in the U.S. and Canada, I don’t think there is one “current state.” Many retailers are thriving and some are having a tough time paying the bills. That’s just like any other business segment these days.

As the current president of ComicsPRO, the only retailer trade association of comic book specialty retailers, the trends look good right now. More people are reading comics, other media are getting some of their biggest ideas from comics and comic retailers seem to be better prepared and more professionally adept than at any time since I got into the business 25 years ago.

-Are digital comics helping or hurting business?
I have seen no indication that digital comics are putting a dent into print comics. Every other print media would love to have the conditions that are current in comics— handling growth rather than managing a slow steep decline, new ideas, formats and ways of doing business, rather than the same old reliance on advertising to drive the editorial.

Make no mistake, digital comics are a growing segment of the overall comics business, but so are print comics.

-How difficult is it to maintain a store these days?
Owning any small business has a multitude of challenges.  I discovered a long time ago that I had a difficult time have anyone as my boss. Now that I am my own boss, I find the pressure much more significant, but also much more satisfying.

-Do you see this event growing more in the upcoming years?
Free Comic Book Day has been growing for the last ten years and it sure looks like there’s a lot of life in it! This year, events will take place in 2000 stores in nearly 50 countries, with more than 3.5 million comics available to be given away.

-Are there any changes you think should be made with stores or the industry itself?
The most significant thing to come out of the success of Free Comic Book Day , in my estimation, is that it has led to many retailers working much more effectively on reaching outside of their stores to find new customers, to do more events, to really integrate their comics’ businesses in with the overall business of entertainment.

-Anything else you would like to add?
Comics are a lot more than just being about whatever the latest super-hero movie is. If you like to read, if you enjoy reading novels or you enjoy going to art galleries, if you enjoy any of the visual arts, then I maintain that regularly visiting a well-stocked comic book specialty store is definitely worth outing on your “to do” list. Comic books and graphic novels are the white-hot core of visual entertainment!

DC’s New 52 Worked Perfectly

It’s been a few months now since DC debuted it’s New 52 relaunch, and I have to say that their gamble totally paid off. Before hand, the only thing anyone really cared about in DC was Batman’s “death.” Yes there were big events and the die hards have been buying issue after issue forever, but overall interest was pretty limited. The New 52 changed all of that. Yes, there was controversy over what happened to the female characters, but that got a lot of people talking about them too. While major events usually only boost sales in a single comic, this reboot boosted sales of an entire line of comics. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman will always sell. But people are talking about Flash and Aquaman again. Anyone even know who Animal Man was before this year?

Believe it or not, Aquaman is cool again!

I had read comics a lot when I was younger, and as I got older I stopped reading. I think it had something to do with girls. Anyway, with the boom in comic book movies I began to get interested again. I occasionally bought a graphic novel but never considered getting any new issues because I didn’t want to start in the middle of an arc. Besides, who wants to start with issue 456? In this way it’s as if the New 52 was made just for me. I got a chance to buy comics at the very beginning of it’s story. Nothing happened before it. It’s very nice to know that I don’t need to know what happened in the previous 6 months worth of material just so I can understand everything going on in my comics.The best of part? It’s good! Batman is just as entertaining as ever, and watching the Justice League encounter each other for the first time ranges from refreshing to fascinating (If you have no idea who Batman is going in, he’s really kind of a dick).

The New 52 brought me all the way back. I’ve been buying new comics once a month just like when I was a kid. It’s even gotten me back into Marvel by relation (If you get the chance, read the new Venom and Uncanny X-Force, both are awesome). Of course this idea of the New 52 will only last so long. Eventually the history behind the revamped characters will grow to a point where it’s hard to keep up with everything, and it’s up to the individuals to decide if they are going to stay on board. However even if only a small percent of the new readers continue visiting their local comic books shops, it will still be more going than there were before, and wasn’t that the whole point? Much to the dismay of my wife, you can put me among the new readers that are hanging around.

READ COMICS!

Voltron Media Blitz (NYCC)

We’re back with, what else? Media coverage from the New York Comic Con. If you haven’t heard, Voltron is back and running on all cylinders. There is a new cartoon, Voltron Force, on Nicktoons. There is a comic book through Dynamite Entertainment. THQ has developed a Voltron video game, and Mattel stepped up their game with a new line of toys, including a masterpiece version for us big kids. We got to talk to people that work on all the Voltron properties at the New York Comic Con.

First is Peter Armstrong from THQ on the video game, Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Here is Robert Koplar from WEP, the rights holder for Voltron, talking about the tv show

Next we spoke to supervising producer Jeremy Corray about Voltron Force

Cosplay from the New York Comic Con (and a wrap)

Don’t worry, we’re not nearly done with our Comic Con Coverage. We still have video games, tv shows and more to talk about. That will all have to wait until next week though. We know what you really want. COSPLAY! I hope you don’t mind but we added in an overall wrap of the entire 4 day weekend that pretty much wiped Chris and I out for a couple days. Enough of reading what I write though, BRING ON THE COSPLAY

By the way, don’t forget to check out the details of the video on YouTube. We have links to plenty of talented people that all helped us in some way over the weekend. Thanks for watching everyone.

Mattel Showcases DC, WWE, Ghostbusters and more (NYCC)

Mattel was ready to show off a number of their upcoming lines going into 2012. Here of some of the highlights we caught on camera:

WWE

Ghostbusters

 

DC

Here are some extras, She-Ra and DC’s MAD Magazine “Just Us League”

 

All will be coming out between now and summer 2012

Batman: Arkham City panel summary (NYCC)


Today Rocksteady held a panel for Batman: Arkham City, which hits shelves this Tuesday, October 18th. A number of topics were discussed during the session, however the news that brought up one of the biggest reactions was that of the games length. According to game director Sefton Hill, a single playthrough of the game will take up to 30 hours. Thats more than double Arkham Asylum’s length. Including challenge maps, there seems to be more than enough to keep bat fans occupied for a while. The length won’t just mean more of the same either. The game world will be five times the size of the original, with double the moves and animation (and from what I can tell, double the gadgets too).

The crowd was then treated to a demo of the game and it looks outstanding. With help from Alfred via satellite (acting as Oracle did in the first game), Batman had to glide across the city to find the source of the Joker’s radio signal. The might have been a slow leisurely stroll before, but now with the dive and swoop mechanic, Batman practically flies through the air at high speeds. We also saw Bats pick off a few groups of thugs, showcasing almost an entirely new moveset. Dual enemy attacks, catching barrels a throwing them back, and lets not forget behind the back grappling enemies and hurling them back for a knockout blow. From what I’ve seen, this game is on it’s way to outperforming the greatest superhero game of all time.

Video from the panel will be available next week.