The iFanboy Letter Column – 01.13.2012

Hey, guys. I am former rocker Fred Durst of the “music” group, Limp Bizkit.

Friday means many things to many people. For some, it’s when you used to play to huge arenas, get lit and have sex with a ton of girls who may or may not have been underage. For others, maybe you’ll start a violent riot with mudballs, and keep playing, despite the carnage taking place in front of you. And yet for others still,  it’s the day when you stand at the top of the escalator in a Virgin Megastore in LA, and wait for people to “accidentally” recognize you*.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. They answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of iFanboy’s shows or answered here, in the letter’s column keep them coming to contact@ifanboy.com

(*This is a true event, witnessed first hand by your humble editor, though I don’t know him, and he might be a wonderful man)


I was sitting at my laptop the other night trying to think of cool sequences from comics, and for some reason one of the first ones that popped into my mind was that sequence in The Dark Knight Strikes Again where Captain Marvel *Spoiler Alert* dies and tells Wonder Woman he’s going to go to the place where dreams go to die, and in a really cool sequence after yelling “Shazam!” where Frank Miller turned the page layout into the letters that make up the word Shazam, dies. I don’t have a large affection for that story but I’ve always loved that sequence. Are there any stories the three of you don’t really love or even like, but has a cool sequence that makes you go “Man, that was awesome.”

David from Massachusetts

My favorite sequence of all time is from a two page Hellboy story called “Pancakes.” It was the moment I saw why Mike Mignola is considered a master. I love when a creator shows how good their storytelling skills are. They can do it either with or without words, and in comics, usually less words is better. More recently, the sequence that encompassed most of the latest issue of Scalped #55, where two main characters finally, after years of buildup, come to blows. I knew instantly it was going to be a meaningful, and interesting fight. It was the comic book equivalent of Dan’s big fight at the end of Deadwood (my favorite fight sequence ever), and they didn’t disappoint. It’s sort of the opposite of the Hellboy sequence because it’s drawn out, moment by moment, where in the Mignola segment, it’s efficient and ruthless storytelling.

This is exactly what I love about comics.

Josh Flanagan


The question that I wanted to ask is why does DC continuously struggle to create strong movie franchises like Marvel has? Outside of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and Nolan’s Batman films, there haven’t been any strong films that don’t feature those two characters. There is a huge pantheon of DC characters that can be explored on film, especially with the current trend in superhero movies. Also, do you think there will ever be a Justice League movie similar to the upcoming Avengers film?

H.Badesha

Not being involved in development process for these movies it’s hard to do anything but speculate, but speculate I shall.

I think that Marvel Studios’ success has come, for the most, from the fact that it began as its own film producer. Marvel Studios is a production company and they develop and make their movies themselves, with people from Marvel Comics being heavily involved in the creative process. DC has no equivalent. They have been a part of Time Warner for a long time and Warner Bros. handles the movies.

Now, DC Entertainment was formed recently to develop DC characters in other (more lucrative) media, but it doesn’t appear, from the outside, to have the autonomy that Marvel Studios has. Or is it had? We won’t really know if Marvel Studios will retain its autonomy now that Marvel is owned by Disney. A couple of Marvel movie flops and Disney might take a heavier hand in things. It’s hard to say what the future holds.

Will there ever be a Justice League movie like Marvel’s The Avengers? My gut says probably not. Warner Bros. is notoriously dysfunctional these days and Green Lantern certainly put a hurt on those chances. At the end of the day, money runs Hollywood and if Green Lantern had made $400 million we’d have a slew of new DC movies being fast tracked. But it didn’t and we don’t.

Conor Kilpatrick


Have you guys noticed the phrases at the bottom of every page in The Defenders? They are things like “The stunning conclusion to Avengers: The Children’s Crusade is coming soon!!” or “Crossbones! Wolverine! Fear Itself: The Fearless #7!” or “Loki + Son of Satan = Journey into Mystery #633.”

At first glance, this feels like the Chyron or lower third ads networks run for other TV shows on that network. You know, like when you’re watching Temple of Doom on USA on a Sunday afternoon and the bottom of the screen says “All new episodes of Burn Notice start in two weeks!”

But they’re not always ads. One says “#concordance” which appears to be a lot of people on Twitter talking about The Defenders. I figure this is related to Fraction saying The Defenders story will explain everything in the Marvel Universe lately.

Dave S.

I was just talking about this on the podcast last week. It’s funny because this is one of those elements that may represent the generation gap in comics. You see, those little lines of text along the bottom are a callback to the early days of Marvel in the 1960s and 1970s and I realize that many current readers may not know or understand the history of them.

Stan Lee’s greatness goes beyond his ability to come up with characters and stories (When aided by a great artist like Kirby or Ditko), but part of the magic of Stan Lee was his natural talents as a marketer. Stan Lee gave a voice to the promotions of Marvel Comics and was never not trying to get the word out about Marvel Comics. This even extended to the page margins. For decades, for some reason (and it may have been mandated by some magazine bureau or perhaps the Comics Code Authority, I really don’t know for sure) whenever there was a break in the story, like for a double page ad spread or something, they would would include the text “Continued After Next Page”, guiding the reader to let them know the story didn’t actually end on that page, but would continue after the ad. You can see an example of this on the page I’ve included to the right from Daredevil Annual #1 (look in the lower right corner).

Now, I’m not sure if they thought readers were just stupid or what, but literally for 20+ years, every comic had these guide text at the bottom of the page. Stan Lee (and perhaps others at Marvel Comics, I’m not really sure, but it’s way easier to just give Stan credit for it) decided to capitalize on that space, and in the instances where there wasn’t a page guide, he would use that space to promote the other books Marvel was publishing. So if you were reading Avengers, you might see a line of text about Journey Into Mystery or Dr. Strange.

Dave’s observation of these is correct, but not like Marvel was copying the practice used by TV Networks, rather a throwback to their halcyon wacky days of the 1960s and 1970s. Matt Fraction is keenly using this, given the Defenders history as a book of the 1970s/1980s, and naturally working it into the fabric of his story as we get introduced the the Concordance Engine. Sure it’s a bit of fan service, but as a Marvel fan I’m digging it.

Ron Richards

Comments

  1. The Hellboy pancake sequence is what immediately came to mind for me, too. That is the set of panels I show people when they ask me why I read comics.

    • yeah that sequence is hilarious and awesome. I kinda wish the BPRD series would be more “fun”. They’ve kinda gone into a really dark place that, while still compelling, is getting kinda stale IMO

    • Love it. I’ve shared that two page strip with many a friend as well.

      “Truly this is our blackest hour.”

    • Whenever I think of the pancakes one I think of the three panel sequence with Abe Sapien, Hellboy, and a Monkey with a Gun. It’s three panels and it’s beautifully done.

  2. Can we start sending our questions directly to Fred Durst? I have a lot of questions for that guy.

  3. Regarding the third question, some of the earliest issues of Fantastic Four used the text at the bottom of the page to great effect. One issue included text about the exciting new character, The Hulk “Who is the Hulk,” “The Hulk is Coming,” etc. (this went on for multiple pages), and then the next issue had Johnny Storm reading a comic book about the Hulk’s first adventure (“Shucks Reed, I’m just reading the about the Hulk, I sure hope we never have to tangle with that guy!” That’s not a direct quote by the way). I read it a for the first time a few years ago and thought, “Man, if I was a kid in the early ’60s, I would have been SSSOOO interested in finding out who the Hulk was.” I consider it an early form of viral marketing.

  4. The ad lines at the bottom of the Defenders pages made me crazy while reading that book. Took me out of the story.

  5. for the 3rd question, i had talked to a writer who worked for DC way back in the day and he had told me that they used all sorts of dingbats and colored shapes and things like “continued after next page” (as well as the story page numbers in panels) to be a help the pressman keep the pages in proper order during pre-press.. Each page is a plate, so getting it all setup in order with ad placement is tricky. But some of that other stuff has to be the foundations of viral marketing…a generation ahead of time.

    • Personally, I always took “continued after next page” as an insult. OF COURSE it’s continued after the ad! It’s not the end of the story. I’m not going to freak out – “Oh Mylanta, someone stole a page of my comic and replaced it with a full-page ad! What did I miss? Will the story ever make sense now?!” I realize I’m reading a comic, and not some fancy prose novel, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

      I did not think about that text being to help the pressman. All that indignation over nothing…

  6. I read the Hellboy pancake story very early on in my comics-reading life, and it had a big impact. One of those, “Oh… so this is what comics are capable of” moments.

    Also, I wanted to note that writer Rob Anderson wrote an awesome piece on the Dan’s big fight in Deadwood, and what it teaches about writing fight scenes that matter: http://www.thebrutalcircle.com/2011/03/making-fight-scenes-matter.html

  7. I’ve had a really, really shitty day at work today, and that Hellboy bit made it MUCH better. Thanks, Josh.

  8. And now I want pancakes.

  9. It is just the best 2 pages ever done in comics.

    • This is my first time reading that Hellboy story. Comics sometimes make me chuckle, but that evoked a full on belly laugh from me. It’s the ultra-seriousness of the demons that does it for me.

  10. Even the lettering in the last 2 panels is masterful, yet not quite orthodox. BAM BAM BAM, complete story.

  11. Just my opinion, but DC can never make a movie as successful as Marvel – UNLESS THE WRITING IS THERE. The brilliance behind the Spiderman movies? Second Hulk? Cap? Thor? Iron Man? Heck even the Fantastic Four, but not Ghost Rider? These characters were originally written with human foibles, relatable feelings and strong, distinctive personalities. They exist in our world, mighty yet fallible like the rest of us. Supes, GL, Wonder Woman (I’m getting to Batman)? They’re “cosmic”, otherworldly. Find a DC character in which you don’t have to surround them with aliens, amazons or ocean for general audiences to sit and watch for two hours. It seems like only in the past couple of decades has anyone written them like the Stan Lee, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, etc. in the days that made Marvel blow DC out of the water (to today). Here’s the catch: If you’ve got the right writers, you CAN do it. The writers worked hard to make Chris Reeve’s Superman and Bale’s Batman human, relatable (along with great acting of course). Batman has repeatedly worked because he IS human, and if you go back and think about it, also has had some of the best writers in comic history. The biggest part of it, as Conor said, is that every DC movie has had 20 writers and studio execs all putting their hands in the pot. They all have to be part of bringing these comic icons to life, inserting their little touches and taking other things out because they want to be in charge… inadvertently destroying them.

  12. Apparently, Limp Bizkit’s latest album, Gold Cobra, sold 63,000 copies. Think about that. There are 63,000 people out there with legendary and monumentally bad taste. They should be put on some sort of government watch list.

  13. I also love that it’s a three star general that’s trying to convince toddler Hellboy to eat the pancakes. I love the stoic deadpan expressions of every character but Hellboy. I love the relief in the title card. I love the establishing shot. I love that it’s only two pages. It really is fantastic.

  14. DC makes fantastic animated movies, but other than Nolan’s Batman movies they make awful live action movies.

  15. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I share a birthday with Fred Durst.

  16. @stevetwo has a good point. One of the major issues with these films is the writing. The sad thing about the hollywood system nowadays is that big execs will find some chump that wrote some straight to DVD buddy cop film or something along those lines, who they can pay a lot less money to in order to get what they want. And even if they do get a good writer, the system’s become so messed up that by the time the script gets to the screen a lot of times it’s been rewritten over and over and over again by fifteen different people. With the chunks that the execs like kept in, and just enough to put together something mistaken for a good plot. Green Lantern had multiple rewrites and all sorts of credits for the story to the point where half of hollywood probably had a say in the script by the time it was done. One of the good things about the Nolan Batman films was that Nolan himself has had a lot of creative control on the films. So he works closely with David Goyer and his brother Jonathan to develop the stories. And in the end the three of them sit at a table somewhere and pound it out until it’s perfect. With movies like Green Lantern, the whole entire crew was just a bunch of puppets to the execs. In the end though what we truly need in order to see DC films as Good as the Nolan ones, are good directors with strong vision and complete creative control. Either that or Chris Nolan to produce every single one. (Slightly kidding there… We’ll see how Man of Steel turns out before I jump to any conclusions)
    Also, let’s be glad that Warners is at least slightly taking note that Green Lantern sucked. And be glad that we’re not having this discussion over another Schumacher film or the abandoned Jack Black Green Lantern film…

    When it comes to the third question, one of the important things to remember with the older comics is that a lot of the new comic book readers didn’t always have comics in their life. Nowadays we have over 70 years worth of material and anyone of us that tends to frequent this site or any comic store has always spent their life knowing comics. Way back in the day when comics started as just one line of panels each week in the newspaper, you didn’t have the full story contained in one book. My guess is that one of the reasons for adding the tagline at the bottom to say, “hey keep reading!” was so anyone who was new to comics and didn’t realize that these were truly self contained stories within the entire book, and only knew comics as a few panels in their local paper, would keep reading til the end of the book.

  17. Alright, let’s all act like we weren’t digging “Nookie” or the “Faith” cover.

    I can’t act like Rap rock is a subgenre that shook the world, but Limp Bizkit wasn’t all that bad. Maybe it’s because I like rap that I am not down on the fusion.

    Oh, this was about letters, wasn’t it? I’m an ass.

  18. Alas, I’m old enough to remember those old bottom of the page plugs (DC often went farther and had half-page panels of cover art advertising other books). I always thought that was a brilliant move. It’s Marketing 101 when it comes to television networks advertising their other shows, but the plugs in Marvel comics had a more profound effect on me.

    My eye would inevitably catch those lines and read them. As a young reader, I couldn’t afford all those advertised books, nor did I care for some of the titles, but by Iron Man being plugged in Spider-man, or Thor being plugged in Fantastic Four, it gave me a sense that this was one Marvel Universe. That what you read in the plugs was something happening just on the other side of the city, two streets over, or across state lines. Totally cool.

  19. Excellent letter column this week highly entertaining. As for the Hollywood question, that seems to be at the whims of some bigwigs somewhere what gets made and what doesn’t. And as for the quality of what gets made, it hasn’t always been roses for Marvel either, I mean they messed up DAREDEVIL, their best character.

    As for the best 2 pages in comics history, tough one. I’d probably go with the the last 2 pages of any number of Dredd comics, or that issue of Dragon with all the splash pages against Overlord.