My friend Urian gave Nami a little Silver Surfer plush toy after Comic Con this summer… Which lead to many questions about who and what the Surfer was… After a few attempted explanations, we watched a clip from the recent Silver Surfer cartoon, and then Nami decided it would be a good idea to do a “thank you movie” for the gift.
This is, to me, more an issue of economics than anything else – as the cost of production, printing, and distribution of paper comic books continues to rise, it’s harder and harder to profit from a “B-tier serial”, or to expand the audience for any comic outside of hardcore fandom (though it does happen).
“Self-contained stories”, or at least “digestible compilations” such as graphic novels of serializations, however, have taken off in the last decade for a few simple reasons:
economies of scale allow for a much cheaper $/page ratio for the reader ($3/32 pp for comics vs. $10/200 pp for GNs)
the larger format GNs look a LOT like “regular paperback books”, which is a product that all kinds of retailers, not just bookstores, already know how to shelve and sell.
Comics, on the other hand, typically require specifically constructed wall displays, or space-inefficient and clumsily-operated spinner racks… They are smaller and more fragile than other magazines, and while their content should be more evergreen (a big problem with selling older/out of date print mags like Time, say), there are so damn MANY of them, it’s just too hard to keep track of inventory/stage them nicely/etc.
For non-serialized single volume work of appropriate length (150-300 pp), it’s also now possible to make a profit with the more friendly book/box store/discounter/toy and game channels to exploit on top of the dedicated comic book market.
Simply put, it’s easier to display, sell, and manage inventory of graphic novels/longer form comics, and theoretically no less so for a single volume work (especially at book retailers – keeping all 42 volumes of Dragonball in stock at a given Barnes location, for example, is a complete NIGHTMARE).
But, you say, this has not answered the question “do people still WANT to read…”, and you’re right: what people want is not the same as what the publishers want, which also differs from what the retailers want. It’s a game of finding equilibrium between all three, and a messy game at that. Perhaps I could simplify it further: what people want in comics, and how much they are willing to pay for that stated want, are often out of alignment.
This is one of the reasons why digital and online publishing hold so much promise (outside of, er, monetization) – they are FAR more closely linked between creator and reader, with fewer middlemen taking a cut, or enforcing limitations over content or frequency.
Do people want daily/weekly/monthly “chunkable” serials? YES. Do they want nice, tightly wrapped stories/arcs, even if that means a year between releases? YES. Are you more likely to find the latter at Target, or even Amazon.com? Most certainly!
A fairly “stable” power level, affected only slightly to moderately by his anger level
A power level (and even physical body) that increased in direct proportion to anger level
A power level (and physical body) that decreased in direct proportion to anger level (‘Smart Hulk, Savage Banner’ – some of the most interesting modern Hulk stories in the modern era)
Many, many other permutations of the above (The Maestro, various Banner/Hulk splits, Grey Hulk, etc etc).
The Thing, honestly, would have a hard time beating down any of these (Savage Banner excluded)… Nevertheless, The Thing tends to be depicted as being “Stronger than a Hulk at rest”, that is, having a more consistent strength that can beat a “barely transformed classic Hulk”, and able to stand toe-to-toe against a moderately angry one.
The only problem is... There appears to be no limit to the rage potential of the Hulk, and fighting tends to make him more angry (he just wants to be left alone, after all).
Thus, whether they are fighting each other, or even working together, even if the Thing starts out stronger than the Hulk, that advantage will inevitably give way to the ever-increasing power level of the Hulk, at least until whatever conflict/issue is resolved that allows Big Green to calm down again.
While I wouldn’t consider the storyline to smack of racism directly, the “Bachelor-style” run up to the nuptials, combined with the “two African ‘mutant royals’ are a natural fit” logic is just a little too unbelievable to think that this would’ve happened in the real world… At least not without a great many more references to their mutual attraction throughout their respective Marvel timelines. It just seems like they said “Ororo is a black woman, which black dude should we hook her up with?”
For a counterexample for how a good, realistic, and touching retcon-romance is done, check out Brian Michael Bendis’ amazing Alias miniseries, which seeded the spark of what would be an eventual pregnancy and shotgun marriage between Luke Cage (Power Man) and Jessica Jones (formerly Jewel).
As a presumptive “black person” who feels more “ethnically geek” than anything else, I really dislike the appearance in entertainment media that reinforces the idea that people of a given race are happier “with one of their own”… Both because it closes them off to a huge percentage of the general population of potential (better?) matches, but also it just seems… Well… lazy.
“Lazy + Superhero King of Wakanda” just does not compute for me. The fact that it was all just a misguided push to attract black women to comics[*] just makes it sadder, in my opinion.
As for good options for each, I suggest the following candidates:
Sue Storm – scientific genius, similar interests and relationship issues
Pepper Potts – she can put up with Tony, she can put up with T’Challa
Black Cat – Same feline theme, and if he has to marry a “black” girl…
Goliath – I think it’s insulting that no one considered he might be gay
Misty Knight – Great detectives = Sunday morning crossword champs?
Forge – Come on, put ’em back together!
The Falcon – She’s the wind, he’s the bird. Nuff said!
Blade – What can I say, sometimes love bites!
Doctor Strange – Her ancestors were witches, they could share clothes
Yukio – Punk Mohawk Ororo plus Insane Ninja Hottie = Yes, please!
From the original question – Hawkeye has an incredible background and seems like the perfect candidate for a grittier darker film. Thoughts?
You know who else had a nice dark, gritty, incredible background?
Man-Thing (no, really!)
Historically, Marvel’s “dark knights”, if you will, have had a problem: how do you make money on the movie?
Because it’s a licensed film, you can’t go too low budget, or you’ll hurt the overall brand.
If you aim too wide, especially in terms of movie ratings, a lot of the grit/pathos that makes the character interesting is lost.
Related, if you focus too much on star power, what ends up on the screen is Ben Affleck in red leather, rather than Matt Murdock, Daredevil.
Of course, stars are bad for other reasons… It might be easier to get a fan of the title to sign on, but then they may use their leverage to screw up the script or direction because they “know better” – looking at you, Nic Cage!
Sometimes Hollywood gets lost in the origin issue – how can you tell fun new stories about the Punisher without first doing a “set up” piece about how he became a deranged homicidal maniac?
If you ignore the origin and just tell the story, “won’t all the non-fans get lost/turned off?” – this is not entirely unfounded… A lot of Marvel characters, especially, depend on their origin and background in the larger universe to be interesting. The Punisher by any other name… Is a dude with guns killing bad guys. That becomes a “red ocean” problem, where you suddenly ALSO need to just make a kick-ass vigilante action movie to compete with the rest of that genre, on top of everything else.
For these and other reasons, comic book movies tend to have a lot working against them from the very outset… And if the comic title in question isn’t a “household name”, well, for most producers and studios, it’s just too risky to do as a tentpole/blockbuster.
On the brighter side – this is, in large part, why Marvel pulled out of its production deal with Sony in order to found their own studio – use your own cash, make your own rules. And now that they are “free”, their execution has been much better… They will have released the entire “Avengers Core Team” as solo films by the end of 2011 – Hulk, Thor, Cap, and the Tin Can. With the exception of Captain America (not yet released), performance globally has been from decent to astounding.
The next step is to bring them all together in an eye-exploding orgy of hopefully-not-suck called The Avengers, in 2012. That movie should also see an expanded list of tier-two ‘masks’ like Hawkeye getting a bit of screen time… If done right, that might tip such heroes into the household name category, enabling them to star in their own films, gritty or otherwise.
To say the least, there are a lot of “what if’s” involved, and only time will tell. But it’s certainly fair to say that Marvel has learned an important lesson about fully-outsourcing its product to Hollywood, and that while there are likely to be continued misses down the road (Ghost Rider II, whaaaa?!?), the batting averages for the next 20 years are almost going to be better than the last 20.
(* Daniel Shi, like some kind of mothafucka trying to ice skate uphill, pointed out that I left Blade off my list, but I had good reason: the titular hero, while dark and gritty as the rest, had a pretty good “daywalk” at the box office for a movie series of its time – $415,098,928 grossed in theaters across 3 films, with additional revenues from domestic and international licensing, digital, and DVD sales. For more details on the Blade trilogy, check in with my good buddy Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bla… )