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Feb 11

House to Astonish Episode 78

Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2012 by Al in Podcast

It’s been a kind of unpleasant couple of weeks for comics news, and we’ve got lots of discussion of it all for you – we talk about Before Watchmen, Gary Friedrich’s lawsuit against Marvel, Tony Moore’s lawsuit against Robert Kirkman, DC’s creative reshuffles and the results of their readership survey. We’ve also got reviews of Thief of Thieves, Conan the Barbarian and Winter Soldier and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe goes West. All this plus the scripture of the year 2070, ‘roid freaks and the Punisher’s desperate search for manufactured drama.

The podcast is here, or here at Mixcloud, or accessible via the player below. Let us know what you think, in the comments, on Twitter, via email or at our Facebook fan page.

Bring on the comments

  1. The Big Sleep film doesn’t make sense because the studio removed/changed a load of the crucial scenes to a) adhere to the Hayes Code and b) to give Lauren Bacall more screen time. So they decided to change the murderer without actually lining it up with the rest of the plot. I think. Been a while since I’ve seen it, but I read the book recently and that, despite being complicated, does makes sense.

  2. Damien says:

    You’ll find the main reason that Ozymandius is nothing like Judomaster is that he was based on Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. 🙂

  3. Al says:

    I knew it was one of them and took a guess 🙂

  4. Zach Adams says:

    It’s worth mentioning that anyone under 13 wouldn’t be eligible to take the DC survey, at least on line, as a result of US protect-the-children online privacy laws.

  5. Kid Nixon says:

    I know there was a lot of news over the past two weeks, but a little surprised that you didn’t cover the new Smallville series. Not an entirely fascinating book on its own, but the fact that DC is doing a relatively mass-market friendly book A) digital first and B) weekly was a pretty big deal IMHO. Curious if either of you have any thoughts on that?

  6. Alex says:

    I wonder if the friedrich thing is going to lead, slippery slope style, a crackdown on creators promoting from things like con sketches.

  7. Alex says:

    Isnt this the same dc survey that kicked out people if they were above a certain age?

    Given the hyperviolence and smuttiness in 2012 of the dcu, maybe better young kids dont read their books.

  8. Zach Adams says:

    …now that I’ve heard the whole thing and not just the first third or so:

    When you mentioned a video game character, I thought for sure it was going to be one of those godawful Imperfects.

  9. Paul O'Regan says:

    On the DC Survey, apparently only 167 surveys were completed in stores, which seems oddly low. Were the rest lost in the mail?

    I liked Conan, but I’m slightly disappointed Cloonan is gone for four issues after #2. I’m looking forward to seeing what James Harren does, but I’ll probably wait for the TPB.

  10. deworde says:

    I actually really appreciate you guys breaking down the Freidrich case because it did seem weird that Marvel’s trying to stop a 69 year old sketching Ghost Rider at Comicon. Really interesting breakdown.

  11. deworde says:

    @Alex: I reckon the reverse is actually true. I’m guessing Marvel’s going to find it very hard to attract and launch new properties in the next few years from up-and-coming creators, because they fear litigation.

  12. Paul says:

    Fear of litigation isn’t really the issue. That’s much less of a risk in this day and age when they’re making a greater effort to get the paperwork right in the first place. I think the bigger obstacle is that Marvel and DC aren’t offering creators the sort of deal that would make it attractive to bring new characters to them. And I don’t think that’s about greed, so much as a perception (not without foundation) that the audience just isn’t interested in them, so why pay?

    The counter-argument is that neither Marvel nor DC has REALLY tried to seriously push a brand new idea in years, and who knows what would happen if they tried – besides which, logically, you’d think their respective groups would want them to be doing more to create new properties at relatively low cost. But it’s pretty evident that (at least in the superhero genre) this is not a view to which either publisher subscribes.

  13. Kid Nixon says:

    Paul, my counter-point would that since the mid-1980s, anyone who’s had a really stellar idea would be more likely to keep the rights, realizing that it would be better off to own that than the prestige of having, say, Kick-Ass be part of the Marvel Universe.

    Actually, Mark Millar is a very good example. Other than being hyper violent, there is no reason the characters in Nemesis or Wanted couldn’t be slotted easily into either of the mainline superhero universes. But Millar has discovered the real money is in keeping it in house, selling the movie rights off and then keep on having “filmable” ideas. From a strictly business perspective, there is very little incentive of trying to make these characters stand side-by-side with Spider-Man, especially when it is easy enough to make an analogue if you really want to tell that story, then own that property as well.

    The creator-owned revolution has really grabbed the attention of the majority of really creative minds throughout the industry, and made them less reliant on the Big Two to start new properties.

  14. deworde says:

    @Alex: I doubt Marvel will follow through with this. It’s 100% not in the company’s best interest to make creators afraid to work for them. I suppose the financial benefit of driving them to official sketches is there, but the backlash can’t possibly be worth it.

  15. BobH says:

    Re: Thief of Thieves, there is no pearl, the “countess” is stealing an envelope from the deposit box below the box which the pearl was supposedly stolen from. Which sort of ignores a lot of things about how real safety deposit boxes work. Maybe it’s different aboard a ship, but every one I’ve ever seen has a covered top (so the bank employee can’t see the contents when opening it) and a separate room to take the box to add/remove items with privacy. Probably doesn’t pay to think of it too much, and it could definitely have been clearer. Anyway, nice art, but pretty light story, maybe worth a look when it’s collected to see if it actually adds anything original to the standard caper “one last job” framework.

  16. deworde says:

    @Paul: I suppose, but if I was a creator on the fence about working for Marvel, would I really feel secure in them saying, “No no, we’ve had *lots* of lawyers work on this contract. Just sign here, yeah”

  17. kiragecko says:

    I was surprised at the 97% female, or whatever it was. There’s a lot of women blogging online about comics so I guess I assumed I was part of a slightly larger minority. They really don’t have much incentive to care. I wonder if Marvel’s any different. It seems to have more female characters, does that translate to more readers?

    Thanks for the slightly more balanced look at the Friedrich case.

  18. Dave Bell says:

    The Moore/Kirkman litigation sounds a lot like an outbreak of Hollywood Accounting, the all too common reason why the preferred Hollywood deal (by everyone except the studio) is for a percentage of the gross, rather than the net. It’s hard not to think of this as dishonesty aimed at the individual, but it also can be tax avoidance (if not evasion). Whatever the motive, a percentage of the net (or the profit) isn’t worth having.

  19. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Wasn’t Ozymandius based on Peter Cannon … Thunderbolt, rather than Judomaster? The point stands either way, though.

    (Interestingly, it seems to me that Watchmen was a greater influence on later potrayals of the Charlton characters than vice versa. The paranoid conspiracy-theorist Question in JLU draws from the only kiddie-friendly aspect of Rorchach’s character, Ted Kord wasn’t an out-of-shape schlub before we got Dan Dreiberg, and recent portrayals of Captain Atom seem to be doing the whole “Is this being even human any more?” schtick.)

    Regarding the Darwyn Cooke quotemine, it seems to me they could have made much the same point when he was announced as doing The Spirit or New Frontier or heck, Catwoman, except no-one felt as strongly about those.

    I’m not sure how much I buy the DC readers’ survey results for the simple reason this is actually the first I’ve heard about any such survey, which suggests there may be a selection bias. “There’s no barrier to a woman responding online” sure, if she regularly checks the DCU blog. Otherwise, the barrier is that she doesn’t know it’s there, any more than I did.

    Tiny Titans is a very weird case, since as far as I can see its target market is an 8-13 year old who knows the entire history of the Wolfman/Perez era. I’m not sure that’s the case.

    Sticking with the living incarnation of the text adventure Chief Examiner, his tests shouldn’t just be completely illogical and unfair, they should depend on Spidey doing something ages before he met him, which it is now too late to go back and do. And which, just in case Spidey gets hold of a time machine, the Examiner gives no indication is related to the test.

    (Yes, I had the Hitchhiker’s Guide game. How did you guess?)

  20. Andy Walsh says:

    Wouldn’t it be a bit of poetic justice if “Before Watchmen” does so much harm to the Watchmen brand that the original stops selling, it lapses out of print, and the rights revert to Alan Moore? Granted, I’m not sure what good that does him at that point, but given the terms it was hard to imagine a scenario where he got the rights while the property was still a lucrative one.

  21. Billy says:

    Even if DC managed to kill Watchemen, they’d probably keep doing minimum print runs at a loss just to keep the rights, in case it bounced back.

    Or they’d get their lawyers to try to figure out how to claim that digital distribution is the equivalent of a book remaining in print, so that it would be able to stay perpetually “in print” without any additional costs to DC.

  22. Andy Walsh says:

    @Billy – Oh, I realize it’s not a likely scenario, just an interesting one to contemplate. Kind of like an “Elseworlds” tale.

  23. Paul says:

    @Andy: This is actually an interesting question – on the logic that everyone in the mid-80s would have expected Watchmen to go out of print in a year or so and disappear into oblivion just like everything else, what value did Moore actually think the rights-reversion clause would have? Did he figure it would put him in a strong position in relation to any sequels, or was it just symbolic?

  24. Jacob says:

    Shamelessly grabbed from SD but Ty Templeton has an excellent breakdown on the Marvel/Ghost Rider/Friedrich front:-

    Re; Watchmen – makes me wonder if DC are worried that the movie has burned out people buying the TPB copy and thus they (feel they) have to put out new Watchmen stuff that they can recycle for the next decade (until the movie hubub dies down and people start buying the original trade again) to keep the rights to the characters?

    Of course they could just keep putting out the TPB at a loss…maybe one of those out of the box ideas has gathered momentum and Dan Didio thinks ‘Hell I can’t be any more despised lets cranks out some prequels!’

    Personally, in agreement with those who feel the characters are only interesting in terms of the story that was being told.

    I found Rorschach most interesting but only in context of the story; I don’t care for a prequel – the cigarette stub eye flashback plus the anecdotes from other characters about his ‘mad’ crimefighting skillz plus….as I’m typing I realise just how much background has been covered….anything else (to me) is unnecessary.

    And yet I have friends (?) on Facebook who are eager for these Watchmen Prequels.

    PS I thought Paul and Al did a great job and breaking down and discussing the legal issues this podcast as a (mature [in age] recession dodging) law student it was great how you guys got to grips with the issues and tried to fathom why things wen down as they did and potential outcomes

  25. Andy Walsh says:

    @Paul: Do you think perhaps Moore had ideas for a sequel(s), but just decided to sit on them in lieu of giving DC more licenses to print money? Beyond having more control of a hypothetical follow-up, I just can’t come up with any other real benefit to getting the rights back under those circumstances.

  26. Dan says:

    Tiny Titans is odd. It seems to assume a lot of knowledge of obscure Titans minutiae, and DC continuity in general. There was a recent issue with the gimmick of including all of the Robins – including Carrie Kelley. Because kids love Dark Knight Returns.

    I’d have assumed the thing was only read by adults who liked the idea of a kids’ Titans comic. Then I was at a big Free Comic Book Day event last year, and there was a younger kid with “Awww yeah Titans” written on his art binder. So, what do I know…

  27. alex says:

    I dont think watchmen will stop selling, at least as long as we have professors puttng it on their required reading lists. i personally know 3 people that use it in classes, be it english, film, or popular culture classes. So i assume there are plenty more across the globe.

  28. Raoul Raoul says:

    The Big Sleep did suffer from rewriting and the Hayes Code, giving it a convoluted plot culminating in a scene in which Bogart gives a frenetic recap of everything. It didn’t help that one character is killed in the movie, and no one knows who did it. Not only are Philip Marlowe and the police baffled by who kills chauffeur Owen Taylor, but the director and scriptwriters were as well. They asked Raymond Chandler, who wrote the novel, who killed Taylor and he told a friend later, “dammit, I didn’t know either.”

    The original Conan the Barbarian series also had a long sequence with Conan teaming up with Bêlit. The first part of the short story was covered in her first appearance in #58, and the rest of the story was used five years later for #100. In between was the usual Roy Thomas monsters, adaptations of Howard and other authors, and a crossover with Red Sonja. Synergy!

  29. Ethan Hoddes says:

    If Watchmen is the scripture of 2070, then possibly “Before Watchmen” was included in the Watchmen Vulgate but was declared Apocryphal in the Future Reformation. Maybe this will even be the rediscovered source that Future Erasmus draws attention to to set the whole thing off.

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