Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Big Buzz: Animalistic Alter-Ego Anti-Hero... JEKYLL!

Back to broadcasting depth, PLANET GRIFFIN returns to the stage with THE BIG BUZZ! Tonight, we take a look at one of the most innovative interpretations of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde ever seen!


The British BBC miniseries introduces us to Tom Jackman (the incredible James Nesbitt), a descendant of Stevenson's science hero who struggles to survive alongside his animalistic alter ego. Hyde is everything that Dr. Jekyll is not... So when Hyde discovers that Jekyll is married with two children, you can pratically FEEL the tension ratchet up! To further add to the current state of complicated affairs is the shadowy organization that's hot on the heels of our Alter-ego antihero to learn the secret of his transformation to utilize for their own ends. You see, the return of Hyde is NO accident... And in order for Dr. Jekyll and his family to survive, Jekyll must make a deal with his own devil!

What makes this series stand out above previous incarnations of the character is that Nesbitt uses no prostethetics nor CGI to portray the monstrous id- driven Jackman... And if you thought the late Heath Ledger's performance of The Joker was a sight to see, wait until you see Nesbitt's SAME performance of the character a mere 2 years earlier!
A great stylish mix of X-Files conspiracy fiction, Hammer style horror-thriller, and a far better action oriented version of NBC's rip-off, My Own Worst Enemy, JEKYLL is a great science fiction miniseries that's just recently been rediscovered for the American audience. Written by DOCTOR WHO's Steven Moffat (no stranger to kick-ass sci-fi storytelling), it's no surprise that this series will be touring the cult underground circuit for LONG while!

PLANET GRIFFIN definitely gives the show a HUGE thumbs up as part of THE BIG BUZZ!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Burning Question Remains...

Disney bought this.

By now, the industry-at-large, as well as the entire net itself, has been abuzz about the current state of affairs over at Marvel concerning what I like to call the 'Kirby Family Reclamation Act', as the backbone of the Marvel characters goes before a judge. The comments from comic blog sites all over the web are astounding and absurd:

  • ...The Kirbys are "greedy bastards"...
  • ...Kirby's work was done work-for-hire and doesn't qualify...
  • ...Kirby knew what the deal was and nobody should try to change it now...
  • ...Jack was working for Marvel when he created his characters so Marvel owns them, just like if you work for Boeing and design an aircraft, they own that work...
  • ...The Kirby family has no vested interest in Marvel and just wants to see it destroyed...
  • ...Marvel made Jack Kirby and he'd have been nothing without them...
Like I said, astounding AND absurd.

PLANET GRIFFIN took some time reading through various articles entailing the kind of conditions that Jack and others worked under during the early Marvel heyday... Conditions which helped establish, and flaw, the Marvel foundation:

Work-for-hire, originally intended as a special circumstance, was widely used by the publication to seize rights from the artist without paying any more cash than what was agreed upon... Of course, for a creation to be work-for-hire, meaning the company or corporation is the legal "creator" of the work and the freelancer is simply acting as their agent to carry out their wishes, the work-for-hire agreement must be made in advance of the creation of the work, the artist must specifically sign away all interest in the work, and money must change hands. In the absence of these conditions, work is assumed to be owned by the artist.

Marvel then-publisher Martin Goodman using the notorious "back of the check contract" in the 1960s (the Botcc was a waiver that had to be signed in order to sign the check and collect payment for work already done – in other words, coercion – were used to argue that the plaintiffs were aware of terms and didn't contest them). The '60s comics business concept of how things worked was that a single payment to a freelancer for a story bought:

a) The physical art or script to the story

b) All reproduction rights to the art or script (Today, physical art no longer goes hand in hand
with reproduction rights- they must be purchased separately- and artwork held by the publisher is subject to taxation.)

c) Ownership of not only the story but all intellectual property and ancillaries rights deriving from the story, forever and ever. (Property rights must be specifically signed over-transfer can no longer be assumed. )

Point is, these are the kind of double sided dealings, veiled as 'standard business practices', that were used to create the foundation of the House of Ideas as we know it today... This is also the big black eye to Marvel lore that the Kirby lawsuit reveals. Now, while all this is going on, remember: Disney bought this.

Now Disney contends that they 'fully considered' the copyright claims before they pursued it's multi-billion dollar purchase of Marvel, admitting their full knowledge of the legal entanglements of Marvel, The biggest question that burns in the minds of many is why did the Mouse house buy the House of Ideas in the first place? How does the Kirby debacle fit into all this?

Now, for the record, the following is a theory, mind you, but one that could be a very possible reality once you begin to connect the dots. Bear with me a moment and see if it doesn't begin to make sense....

Marvel finally establishes itself into the mainstream zeitgeist in regards to film and multimedia (y'know--- switching out Sunbow for Madhouse, for example) by any means necessary. The legal entanglements aside, Disney prepares to purchase the company for more than what the comic company is actually worth, drawing the ire of Wall Street and flooring the entire industry, leaving the most obvious question to be asked: Why?
Stan Lee is ecstatic over the purchase, claiming to the extent that Disney and Marvel are '2 great tastes that taste great together'... The question still burns quietly... Through all of this (Joe Q's out-of-touch commentary concerning OGN's and Brevoort's double-edged commentary concerning 'the great white alpha male and his place in comics), the Kirby estate prepares a plan that's been brewing since 'The King' died in 1994 (don't forget folks, Jack Kirby was actually a champion in the fight for creator-owned properties and fair ownership rights).
The road to reclaiming the kingdom comes just BEFORE the Magic Kingdom decides to push the sale through. Robert Iger, one of the shrewedest businessmen in the business, goes forward in spite of the complicated lawsuit to come--- Disney buys the company anyway.

Now say the Kirby heirs regain the copyrights outright, and they decide to sell their controlling shares. Disney's known for it's generous payouts ( They paid $8 billion for PIXAR alone), so the idea of buying the controlling share would be a drop in the bucket for them... Excelsior!

It's an interesting premise to say the least... I'd buy it. How about you?

Monday, September 21, 2009

THE BIG BUZZ: No Honor Among Thieves!

On today's BIG BUZZ, we return to the gaming world to look at what is now considered the proverbial top of the heap in action-adventure titles, and the one game that's considered by many top execs in the E3 community as "...The first game that can wear the crown long held by the Metal Gear series..." I don't know about that, but I can definitely say that big bragging rights are WELL DESERVED to the Naughty Dog crew for creating a sequel that puts it's own predecessor to shame!
PLAYSTATION magazine considered this game solid gold across the board (and I can easily see why), and does not disappoint! Returning to the world of Everyman Adventurer Nathaniel Drake, you're plunged into the story from the word GO, as Drake uncovers the possibility of Marco Polo's discovery of the mythical Shambhala during his failed voyage... Of course, seeing as how it's Drake, naturally everything goes tits up from the start. (The opening two minutes alone is cliffhanging gold--- now imagine the next 15 hours upping the ante!)

Everything about this title screams 'Great!', which is rare for any one video game to have... The seemingly all-powerful PS3 engine alone is pushed to it's limits with the incredible graphics-to-gameplay that seamlessly blends together without distinction between the 2. The voice cast is spot on, and the submersive gameplay is more than enough to suck in the most jaded gamer (The demo model I played makes this thing dangerous for me--- I've got pagework to do!)!

The Uncharted series is todays answer to Indiana Jones for the Generation Text Jet Set, making this game series BIG BUZZWORTHY! Don't just take my word for it! Check it out for yourself!

Sunday, Bloody Sunday: Long Live The Caine!

PLANET GRIFFIN maintains its broadcast depth bringing you cool news and the alternate pop culture trip you've come to expect! Not since the return of Clint Eastwood in GRAN TORINO and Liam Neeson in TAKEN has a movie made me geek out to see a 76 year old man kick righteous amounts of ass!


HARRY BROWN is a smashgenre mix of DEATH WISH, GRAN TORINO, THE EQUALIZER, and a return to the character Caine built the British Gangster Genre on in the first place: GET CARTER! Okay, so Caine is the title character, an ex-marine once belonging to a squad known as the 'Wolverines' (nice touch). Now retired, he spends his time visiting his dying wife in the hospital, hanging out at the pub with his friend Len (David Bradley). The two old soldiers live in a severely blighted housing project known as The Estate where the gangs control the urban warfare down to the last bullet. Of course, it's only a matter of time that Len becomes another victim in the crossfire... And the magic of Caine begins to kick in.

LIONSGATE hypes the new Brit film as "... uncompromisingly bloody, pulpy, and is guaranteed to shock and stun you..." After a screening at the recent Toronto film festival, the crowd reaction was overwhelming: Caine wages the bloodiest comeback onscreen; a Death Wish version of the Equalizer--- only harder!

harry_brown_still.jpgThe rogues gallery in HARRY BROWN is definitely worth seeing, particularly the spectacular bloodbath that is Harry's run-in with Stretch (played to maximum menace by Sean Harris), a local drug dealer who interrupts himself between raving, junkie maxims to smoke crack through a gun barrel! The neophyte director, DANIEL BARBER, describes the scene as "... Pure acid poured into a tinderbox... You know the combustion is coming, you see the smoulder building, but you have no idea how explosive the outcome is going to be, making the payoff SO glorious...!"

I personally love the tagline as the film is hailed as 'The Next Evolution of the Brit Crime Genre brought to you by the last line of Old School Tough Guys'. I think it's genius! It's UK date is scheduled for November, but probably won't hit our shores until after Christmas, bringing a new antihero to America wrapped in a bloody British bow!

The Return Of The King: Kirby Heirs Seek The Kingdom

PLANET GRIFFIN returns to broadcast depth to give the gifts that keep on giving! Today's big hit comes to the Mighty Marvel Mouse House as the world-at-large is now becoming aware of a story that's been brewing since the announcement of the Disney/Marvel merger... Last week, 45 notices of copyright terminations arrived in the offices of MARVEL, SONY (currently owners of Spider-Man's film rights), PARAMOUNT PICTURES (currently holding distribution rights to 4 upcoming Marvel film projects, including Iron Man), 20TH CENTURY FOX (currently owners of Fantastic Four and The X-Men's film rights), and UNIVERSAL PICTURES (holding distribution rights to the Hulk films)...

The reason? The 4 heirs of JACK "KING" KIRBY have filed to reclaim the copyrights of the characters created/co-created by one of the most influential men in comics.

MARC TOBEROFF, the attorney who successfully wrangled the copyrights of Superman to the Siegel heirs, now represents the Kirby heirs. This is a pretty tall order, considering that Kirby created/co-created Fantastic Four (copyright eligible in 2017) , The Hulk (2018), The X-Men (2019), The Avengers, Thor, Black Panther, Silver Surfer, Nick Fury (yes, the white one), Magneto, Galactus, Captain America, and Doctor Doom... Basically, the entirety of the Marvel House. The earliest the copyright claims will be heard is 2014, so Marvel's got time.

Under copyright law, the author or his heirs can begin a process to regain copyrights a certain period of years after the original grant. If Mr. Kirby’s four children were to gain the copyright to a co-created character, they might become entitled to a share of profits from films or other properties using it. They might also find themselves able to sell rights to certain characters independently of Marvel, Disney, or the various studios that have licensed the Marvel properties for their hit films.

Copyright issues have become increasingly difficult for Hollywood, as it continues to trade on characters and stories that were created decades ago, but are now subject to deadlines and expiration dates under federal copyright law.

Disney may not end up with full ownership of many of Marvel's Most Famous super-heroes if new copyright claims by the children of the late artist Jack Kirby prove successful. (Or will they? I'll get to that in a moment...) If Marvel, Disney or any of the other companies challenge his claims, it may be a complex legal process to determine what exact role Kirby played as creator or co-creator of various characters who first appeared nearly 50 years ago.
Marvel shareholders must still approve the sale of the company to Disney, which is already battling criticism from some Wall Street analysts that Marvel comes with too messy an array of rights agreements (But that's what happens when commercialism overtakes common sense)... Disney will have a hard time immediately executing a coordinated exploitation of Marvel’s various brands.

The copyrights would then run for 39 more years before expiring, after which the characters would enter the public domain under current law. Of course, you know that Marvel wouldn't allow any one of their characters to float out into the ether.

Stan Lee, who has also been Marvel's editor in chief, has been a public face of the company for decades, Kirby is less well known publicly despite the fact that he worked closely with Lee on many of the publisher's best-known characters, partly because Kirby left to work for competitor DC Comics in 1970. Noting Stan's comment of Disney,'... Being a great match...', it creates another avenue entirely...
Should the claims of the Kirby heirs stand, they could choose to 'assign' their portion of the rights to the current copyright holders for a fee or sell them outright to a new licensee... This move can serve as a HUGE benefit to the Disney corporation if the heirs were to sell their portion to them instead of Marvel. Considering that this lawsuit was filed a week prior to Disney's big announcement and was made known to Disney's Robert Iger, maybe his assertion that 'Marvel will NOT become Disney' is not entirely true, especially considering the abrupt departure of Disney Chairman, Dick Cook, who viewed the new Disney model as '... A conflict of interest...', has me wondering if Iger doesn't have a much larger scheme waiting in the wings...

...In fact, you may even say this little move is timely.

As some of you may recall ( see Marvel? A Mouseketeer?), I ended the post with the question of if Mice ate spiders... (Disney as art of war, perhaps?) If the Kirby clan can be convinced by the Mouse House more so than the House of Ideas, we may very well have a definitive answer in the years to come.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Evil That Dwells Within: The Inhumanoids!

Sitting back from my art table, I catch myself daydreaming about remakes... It was only inevitable that I would ask the question: "... If I could remake a series, what would it be...?" Heh, this is PLANET GRIFFIN WEEKEND EDITION.

Billed as a third tier Hasbro toy property back in 1986 (as a backup to G.I.JOE and TRANSFORMERS toy line), it eventually became a popular Saturday Morning Cartoon (wow... Don't those 3 words sound odd together now?) produced by Sunbow, Marvel, and TOEI animation. (y'know, the cheap stuff) It was considered unusual back in the day that a series would be named for the villians rather than the heroes, The EARTH CORPS.
Ah yes... The Earth Corp versus The Inhumanoids with the Mutores (underground elementals) caught in-between. Sure, the show had it's hokier-than-thou moments and glitchy animation for it's time (of course, so was Transformers and Joe), but the idea of a major underground adventure story and character designs are still cool! (Strangely enough, similar designs would pop up again in The GUYVER series a few years later) This series would definitely be ripe for a facelift--- Of course, I snap back to reality just in time to catch my ink bottle from falling... But the memories do stick, don't they?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trading Up: Evolution Of The Brochure?

"...I’ve stated publicly on many occasions that I’ve never seen the benefits of original graphic novels. The economics just don’t work and are poor for both the publisher, retailer and the creator, especially during this Marvel regime when so much of what we do gets compiled into a collected edition anyway. While I would never discount doing one, I don’t see the outward benefits nor does the model work.

Just look at it from the eyes of the uninitiated, or the neophyte who walks into a comic shop or bookstore. When they decide on a hardcover, do you think it matters to them or that in some cases they even know that it’s an original graphic novel or a collection of a six-issue story?

Yet from an economic point of view it makes tons of sense to release the material in serialized form first because it then allows you to sell the product in several different formats. Also, from the point of view of a creator having their material reach the widest possible audience, the price of an original graphic novel can be too steep for many. That’s why you don’t see OGN’s selling in the hundreds of thousands of copies. Yet, if the story is strong enough, you can certainly serialize it and have that many eyeballs looking at your work in installments. At the end of the day, you can work for a year on a mini series that gets collected later or spend that entire same year on the OGN. I promise you, more people will read your mini series when it’s all said and done and that year of your life will have been spent in reaching the widest possible audience. And from an exposure and marketing point of view, you work for a year on a graphic novel, it comes out and you get one big promotional push and then it’s done. If it’s serialized, you get a push every month a new issue hits the stands and then another when it becomes a trade and then another for the hardcover..."


Ahhh, yes... Another great quotable from the Halls of Marvel, when asked about DC's ability to release Original Graphic Novels (OGN's) and Prestige format one shots (using Warner Bros. as their 'petty cash source') over Marvel, and if the Disney ATM would afford them the same flexibility... Oh yes, PLANET GRIFFIN is back in orbit!

Point blank, I agree with the school of thought that Marvel's highly unlikely to embrace a market that they don't dominate. While the OGN is still struggling to reach the atmosphere of continuous profit, it's still the best thing going for the non-superhero/independent crowd who can best utilize the format's strengths to reach the world at large... Makes sense once you factor in all the changes made by the Direct Market Distributor Cartel known as Diamond. (Hey, if you folks out there haven't started calling them out for what they are by now, shame on you...) The 'brochures' are still cool, but when you face the risk of your 6 issue miniseries getting yanked midway through because the DMDC's not getting enough $$$ in their pockets due to 'the market minimum', you find yourself looking at the collected edition format a little differently.

Marvel dominates the Direct Market already since their company has maintained its profitability through brochures, so the very idea of OGN's aren't economically feasible to them. As far as affordability, we're finding the $4 dollar pricetag a little taxing as is, so I'd rather "...wait for the trade..." where I can avail myself to the entire tale and pay the same (or close to it) amount for the collected edition. Besides, I've seen the look on a parent's face when they look at the price tag on a brochure versus their mental calculations on a trade... Oh, I'm sorry, Marvel's known for their disdain of softcover trades, prefering the pricier hardbacks (C'mon man, I came across the collected HERCULES by Bob Layton for $40 dollars!!! Collecting only 8 issues with NO extras?!! Ridiculous!)--- sorry Joe, but that dog's not hunting too well.

One of the BIGGEST tricks in this business when it comes to the American market versus anywhere else is the fact that American media outlets believe in milking a cash cow to damn death versus 'pacing' it's output! Of course, it's better business to keep those installments rolling monthly, but it's hard enough to keep up with all the titles that carry X or Ultimate in its header... But then, if you've already sold 600 issues of the same title, you would tend to follow the credo of '...if it ain't broke...'

Sad part is, you're selling 600 issues of a brochure within a broken system that you're not helping to fix. I guess as long as the profit margins line up for you, there's no need, huh?

Oh well, maybe I'm getting cranky as the future toils on... One day, either the brochure market will begin reducing their prices (and why not, considering the DMDC/Marvel systematic cleansing of the battlefield, making for a less competitive market--- Well, the Korean Man-Hua market hasn't gotten here yet, wait for it...), or the trade market will begin to pick up steam in reaction to the rising costs of printing and raw materials. Granted, I have yet to see any trade millionaires out there, but that day may very well come.

You can bet Marvel's watching even closer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Inception: Nolan Reinventing Sci-Fi?

PLANET GRIFFIN returns to broadcasting depth to introduce a mystery tucked inside a riddle wrapped inside an enigma--- " A sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind..." As of this post, this is what's widely known of the super secret sci-fi project written, produced, and directed by CHRISTOPHER NOLAN. Simply titled INCEPTION, Warner Bros. is banking on this film hard...

...About $200 million hard.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Nolan regulars Cillian Murphy and Sir Michael Caine among a currently growing cast list... Now, not since The MATRIX has any film in recent memory been held under such intense secrecy--- or drawn in more rumors over exactly WHAT this film is. Shooting in 6 countries (including Japan, Morocco, and France), the cryptic phrase of 'Your mind is the scene of the crime' alludes to the current rumor that recently leaked concerning a team (led by DiCaprio) who enters people's minds/dreams (via injection) in order to plant or extract information of corporate sharks. The brief fight scene in the teaser suggests that getting inside seems easier than getting out. Imagine DREAMSCAPE meets MISSION IMPOSSIBLE or Nolan retelling a certain Wachowski Bros. classic...

Warner Bros. has a website currently under construction... Due to Nolan's deliberate slow burn of information, only a spinning top is featured. Conspiracy theorists currently argue that even THIS post is nothing more than misinformation... But you must admit, a corporate hit team that works within the mind is pretty damn intriguing, as well as taking the MATRIX conceptual to another level! Christopher Nolan's track record in Hollywood has been impeccable thus far (from the slow suspenser FOLLOWING, the back to front genius of MEMENTO, the bizarre now-you-see-it-now-you-don't-but-you-did-if-you-paid-attention of THE PRESTIGE, to what has easily been heralded as the greatest comic adaptation of all time, THE DARK KNIGHT), granting Nolan the rarified autonomy to produce and create as he pleases...

With that said,
INCEPTION is quickly gaining the reputation of '... the wildest, sci-fi action mind f**k your mind may not be prepared for...' Coming from the mind of Christopher 'Dark Knight' Nolan, PLANET GRIFFIN cannot WAIT to put this one to the test!!!!

Unfortunately, we have to wait until July of 2010 to see this future blockbuster. Crap!!

And His Name Was Dalton...

PATRICK SWAYZE 1952 - 2009

PLANET GRIFFIN sends heartfelt tidings to the family of a cool man who fought it to the end. While many remember him best from DIRTY DANCING, POINT BREAK, or ROADHOUSE, I personally remember Patrick during the shooting of BLACK DOG back in 98'... He exuded the kind of humility that bordered on embarrassing--- that's just how cool he was!

And that's how cool he will always be remembered.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Warner Makeover: When Diane Met Paul

After harping on the Marvel Mouseketeers Club for a minute (sorry folks, I had to get it out of my system), PLANET GRIFFIN turns its attention to another shocker, this time coming from DC COMICS and it's parent studio, WARNER BROS. Yesterday, WB Pictures President JEFF ROBINOV announced that the comic company will get a massive makeover, as well as his making DC his top priority... Working alongside Robinov would be DIANE NELSON, the woman that managed the mega successful HARRY POTTER franchise for the WB. Everything seemed to be in working order... And then, this letter from DC President PAUL LEVITZ floated across the press room table:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your efforts, your support, and your contributions to DC Comics over the long years that I’ve had the honor of serving as part of DC’s leadership team. Together, our staff, creative contributors, readers, retailers and business partners have helped bring us to the beginning of what looks to be a new golden age for comics in the United States, and one that will bring more respect for the talent and the medium.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s heard me answer a comic convention request, “When are you going to do more LEGION stories?” that I’m going to step away from my executive desk in coming months to resume my writing career, in comics and hopefully other forms as well. One of the lessons I learned from my many great teachers, from Frank McCourt through Joe Orlando and Jenette Kahn, is that creative work is more enduring than executive acts, and I look forward to adding to the stories I’ve told. Expect to see my byline at DC, as it has appeared for almost 37 years, adding what I can to a mythology and company that has my enduring affection, and expect to see me around the world of comics, which I hope never to leave. I already hear Karen and Dan sharpening their blue pencils with glee, waiting for my first pages.

DC will remain in the hands of the people who have had ultimate responsibility for its success throughout the past two decades, the management team of Warner Bros., headed by Barry Meyer and Alan Horn. They have encouraged our growth as a creative enterprise, and I have confindence that the people they will select to join the DC team, beginning with Diane Nelson, will do their best to make DC a success. While that transition process is taking place, I’ll continue to run DC until the baton can be carefully passed, and afterwards will have a role in which I can provide my advice and help.

On a personal note, I deeply appreciate the warmth and friendship I have found in these halls since my first visit, as a 13 year old comics fan. The relationships I have made here, including one that began in a DC circulation meeting and developed into the first DC marriage in four decades (thereby rebooting a grand tradition?), have been and will remain central to my life.

And now, if you forgive me, the future is calling.

With that done, Paul Levitz steps down from the office, paving the way for Diane Nelson to now step into the role of acting president of the company. Of course, it seems that Paul wants to devote more of his energy to writing, starting his new tenure on ADVENTURE COMICS. It seems that radical changes are happening everywhere in the business lately--- First Marvel, now DC (not to mention the upcoming Olive Branch lawsuit pending against Diamond ), and the questions abound--- What will happen under the reformation? Will DC begin upping their comic-to-film adaptations ? (Well, they're already doing that) What will happen to the Direct Market with such shakeups? (Ask Ellis, he's got an interesting theory on that one)

The only thing we can hope for now is Diane reducing the cover price on Wednesday comics...

And Now, A Very Important Announcement

I received an email from one of my best friends yesterday... I couldn't resist posting this one:


From the House of Black Water, we wanted to show our thanks to everyone in the DKE NC Office by providing the World Photo Exclusive Premiere of Baby ALEXANDRA to the Planet!

Many, many thanks to you all (and you know who you are), and know there are many good things on the way from the house that BLACK built!!

Adarryl L Grant
DKE Studios Catalunya 9-9-09

It's amazing, isn't it? When we were on our own, we couldn't fathom the idea of children AT ALL... After having children, it's mindboggling to think how we made it this far without them...

PLANET GRIFFIN takes this very special moment to introduce little ALEXANDRA to the world, courtesy of my family-a-world-away, ADARRYL & ANNA ! Congratulations to the extremely happy family!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tom's New Cabin: Tradition Or Institution?

When the differential access, better known as institutional racism, becomes integral to institutions, it becomes common practice, making it difficult to rectify. Eventually, this racism dominates public bodies, private corporations, and public and private universities, and is reinforced by the actions of conformists and newcomers. Another difficulty in reducing institutionalized racism is that there is no sole, true identifiable perpetrator. When racism is built into the institution, it appears as the collective action of the population.

"I don't know that it's any one thing, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that it's all part of the same phenomenon that makes it more difficult to sell series with female leads, or African-American leads, or leads of any other particular cultural bent. Because we're an American company whose primary distribution is centered around America, the great majority of our existing audience seems to be white American males. So while within that demographic you'll find people who are interested in a wide assortment of characters of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, whenever your leads are white American males, you've got a better chance of reaching more people overall. That's something that continues to change as the audience for what we do gets larger and more diverse-but even within that diversity, it's probably going to be easier to make a success of a book with a female or African-American lead before it is a British or Canadian-centric character."

- Tom Brevoort, Executive Editor, Marvel

"Tom's syntax following that is a little blunt...man, I wish it were wrong, but it's not. Every comics publisher ever, including BOOM!, can tell you maddening tales of retailers who, even now, in the 21st century, are hesitant to order books with non-white, non-American leads because their community won't support them. It's absurd, it's crazy-making, I don't know what it's going to take to change that other than time...but like it or not, it is an unfortunate truth of the time in which we live."

-Mark Waid, Editor-In-Chief, BOOM! Studios

"He’s right.

In short, we, as in the comics reading community, get the comics industry that we deserve. Our buying habits decide the output of the companies. And if people only want stories starring classic characters, stories that “matter” and pay homage to the knotted and twisted chains of continuity… you’re only gonna get stories starring white dudes, with the occasional green chick or redhead playing the background.

I’m not judging here, this is value-neutral. But, if you’re going to go, “Our best-selling comics tend to be about our universe and continuity. We should do more of those so we can stay afloat,” you’re going to get comics starring people with several dozen years of Marvel history. All but two of those people are white, and the two are Black Panther and Falcon, who no one cares about anyway.

So if the audience wants stories that matter, you’re gonna get stories starring white dudes. It’s not even racism. It’s mathematics.

Good on Brevoort, though. He’s a stand-up guy, and it’s nice to see a dose of realism in comics."

- David Brothers, The 4th Letter

"Comics are no more or less racist than any other business in this country. The problems in comics are exacerbated by how small the biz is, so whatever problems may exist are magnified. Comics are run by liberals who stupidly think they are beyond racism. That is the institutionalized nature of racism in this country. The most racist people are typically those intellectuals who believe they have risen above it. It is also difficult for a Black man to discuss racism, because there is no common reference point. The moment I discuss race or racial components of the political structure in comics, there is moaning and aggravated sighs and hands thrown up because the liberals who run the joint feel wrongly accused, much along the lines of, 'So, when did you stop eating your wife?'"

-Christopher Priest, Writer - Black Panther

"Interestingly, Brevoort seems to view "American" as a far more key component for a book's success than "white" or "male": He goes on to speculate that books whose leads are black or female and American will have an easier go of it than books whose leads are white and male but foreign.

There's an awful lot to chew on in there, from the assessment of Marvel's audience to the characterization of their interests to the comparison of international characters with women or minority characters to the whole chicken-egg question of which came first, the demographic or the subject matter. Is Brevoort's analysis a common-sense observation, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or something else entirely?"

-Sean T. Collins, columnist - Comic Book Resources

"... They say they want you successful/But then they make it stressful/You start keeping pace/They start changin' up the tempo..."

- Mos Def - Poet, 'Mr. Nigga'

Running roughshod through the mainstream consensus like Jet Li from Unleashed with his dog collar on hold, this is PLANET GRIFFIN! By now, everyone has heard of the controversial comments of Marvel's Executive Editor, TOM BREVOORT, over at the Marvel Blogs, as well as the flooding of various industry vets and reporters eager to speak on the recent turn of events. As a voice from the underground, PLANET GRIFFIN speaks.

For openers, I DO find Tom's comments disheartening, for he's selling what some people in the business refer to as 'a hard truth'--- meaning that the chances of success of your product (in this case, your comic) is dependent on how universal said product is. Tom merely stated his position in that hard truth, weakly disguising it as 'a guess'. Is this state of affairs he and others speak of a sad truth, or a happy lie? Here is where the institution takes it's dangerous shape.

Black characters/female characters/international characters as leads are only as difficult to make successful as the team behind its design. Institution and tradition seems to go hand in hand in this business.

In regards to the 'white, American males' dictating sales within the industry... It's comments like this that can actually DISCOURAGE new readership, not bolster it... Ducking the question (sadly, as Priest did during his interview) doesn't help the situation, but then again, BLACK PANTHER is considered a 'sleeper' hit for Marvel, so I can understand the need to 'protect the check'... Moreover, even though Tom's statements doesn't necessarily reflect the attitudes of the rest of the Marvel Bullpen, it can be pretty damning to those who now work under his 'realistic dogma'. It DOES sow a bitter seed for those 'non-white' readers who may feel put off by the question that Tom has now raised: Do I matter as a minority within the majority?

By the way, in concerning how black and female American characters will fare better than foreign will, Tom forgot something... Foreign OUTSELLS domestic by a wide margin; so much so that it's already deeply ingrained in the American consciousness--- It's called MANGA.

Kind in mind, folks, this is only the beginning. The 4th letter says it's not racism, but mathematics... Well, it is... By about 4 billion. Whether right or wrong, it kinda makes everything seem all white, don't it?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

They Are What You Write: Marvel's Secret Sharecroppers

PLANET GRIFFIN returns to broadcasting depth to bring up something that I've been following since March of this year... With the sale of MARVEL yesterday, one of the Marvel programs that went up for sale was one of their latest experiments, a screenwriting program whose guidelines are loosely based on their 'New Parent's' Fellowship program ( The Disney Fellowship pays out a $50,000 a year salary to develop new programming for ABC Family/Disney Channel. Disney Fellowship Programs are considered among one of three of the best programs for a newcomer to make it. ). The Marvel Screenwriters Program places half a dozen neophyte writers exclusively on staff, salaried up to $100,000 a year ( speculated by Variety Entertainment) to produce works based on specific writing assignments by Producers--- assignments ranging from adapting new characters from Marvel's library, assisting script re-writes for adaptations already in production or aiding other hired writers to develop sequels for pre-existing franchises. Marvel Comic writers are not excluded from this program, either.

Now, with all of that said, here's where the true ignorance begins.

Before any prospective writer are allowed in to meet, they must sign a non-disclosure agreement and a 70 page, non-negotiable contract--- a contract that also gives Marvel complete ownership over everything the writers create during the 1 year term PLUS first look/last refusal to any and all projects the writers have previously written for at least 2 years in the future.

Allow me to be among the first to speak openly on this one... To those who feel this type of fellowship, that literally gives M.U. that kind of power ( 2 years BEFORE and 2 years AFTER your first day of work ) over you and your works, is worth selling your soul over, than I say you're a far better fool than I.

If you need a little clarification over 'First Look' and 'Last Refusal', allow PLANET GRIFFIN to break it down (Bear with this folks, I KNOW what I'm talking about.) --- Say you write a script that's considered 'High Concept' enough to reach various levels of multimedia at once (y'know, movies, TV, video games, etc.). Your agent is constantly on the phone, fielding million dollar bidding wars over your material. Because you're under contract with Marvel, they can simply say, "Buy it cheap... He works for us..." Marvel pays Writer's Guild minimum for the material, and then bury it until your contract is up... Once that happens, they can blow the dust off and fast track it into production, secure in the knowledge that that ironclad contract you signed keeps you from filing any claim against them. Moreover, you're locked in for 2 more years AFTER your term expires (or is terminated), making all your networking INERT and on hold if you should get a job offer with another studio.

And I thought carrying original work into the Marvel Bullpens area was a joke.

I'm pretty sure even a Megalith corporation like Disney can see what kind of crap Marvel's Screenwriting Program is, and under the future hierarchy, change it to be more like their fellowship program... Which is like, as stated by a close source, "From slave labor to temporary sharecropping." Of course, after Disney's last run-in with Pixar (a contract fallout which almost cost the Mouse House to lose their golden goose, so to speak), they may ultimately decide to leave well enough alone and let them 'do what they do'. Considering the fact that Marvel's box office emergence is still in its infancy, Marvel's scripting deal is a ballsy move... DC Comics stock in the film business has a far better track record than M.U.'s, so it's easy to see why Marvel's so anxious to get that 'Dark Knight' money.

As a suggestion from an underground independent, I will say this... I'm not so far removed from sanity to not see that business IS business--- big or otherwise--- and that such a deal is still really mindblowing an' all, but if you're really wound up so tight that your 'exclusive people' are nothing more than idea generators that they can't even lay claim to what's in their OWN head, than you should remember what Frank Miller said about 'not giving thanks, because he didn't believe in rewarding thievery'.

Wake up, young bucks... Your young comic life is NOT your own... It's now part of the new $4 Billion Dollar Mouseketeers Club. This IS PLANET GRIFFIN... Keeping your knees clean and your back straight. No bowing down. No bending over.