Friday, June 15, 2012

Comic Books Created as Movie Pitches Only

Let's take a stroll down memory lane before we get into the meat and potatoes of this article. This blog. Whatever you want to call it.

Here we are at another of my posts, and I want to remind you of something: I've loved comics for a very long time. Comics were actually ingrained in my brain from a young age because of two things: Comic book movies like Superman and Batman and cartoons like X-men and Spider-man. This is what happened.

When I was a kid, my dad bought me my comic books, but he didn't start buying them for me until after I started watching the movies and the cartoons. Not until after I had seen Rocketeer and Dick Tracy and a bunch of other comic book/comic strip movies. Not until after I had watched Superman 1 through 4 and not until after I had seen Batman and right before Batman Returns came out. I remember, I had Batman and Batman Returns and He-Man and a bunch of other toys when I was a kid, like Transformers, GI Joe, MASK (I'll talk about that in the near future), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and a slew of other geek culture cartoons and toy series.

I was in hog heaven. I loved comic books before I even knew there was such a thing as comic books. I loved geek culture before I knew what geek culture was. I grew up on Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Last Starfighter and Willow, Princess Bride and Aliens and Predator and Highlander.

Geek culture was completely stuck in my brain.

Then I started seeing cartoons like X-men and Spider-man. Then I started getting the toys. Then I started watching the movies and the cartoons religiously. Then I started reading the comics. That is a bit of background for you as we delve into this topic:

Creating comic books for the express purpose of doing them as movie pitches. How do I feel about it? What are my thoughts about it?

That's a really heavy question. Eric Stephenson, a man much smarter and much more up on the knowledge of comic books and the inner workings of the company of comics, makes a few sound comments. I don't need to post them below because tons of other sites have. I mean, I can link to them if you want, but I won't. Okay, you twisted my arm:

If you look outside comics, there is original new fiction of all stripes – and novels are adapted into films and television shows even more frequently than comics – but are the writers behind those books being accused of generating new ideas simply to pitch to other media?

Or is it just that certain comics readers somehow feel threatened by the fact that not all writers and artists want to filter their creativity through someone else's characters and ideas?

This is pretty much the gist of the argument: is creating a comic book and wanting to keep the rights for yourself so that you can make a movie out of it or a TV show or a cartoon or toys a bad thing? Is it bad to want to keep the rights to your property like novelists do or other people in different walks of life do? 

He's missing a large portion of the argument here, but we'll look at this point first. Is it bad? Absolutely not. I'm in the process of pitching about 15 creator-owned ideas. All of them have the ability to be movies, cartoons, toys, video games, etc etc. Or a combination of one or all. Do I want to keep the rights so that I can then sell a screenplay that I've written and make a movie that maybe I could direct? No, absolutely not.


The argument is immediately flawed because that isn't the argument. Comics fans and comics professionals aren't talking about rights in this thing. They aren't thinking about how Todd McFarlane owns the rights to Spawn or how Robert Kirkman (and Robert Kirkman alone, apparently) holds the rights to Walking Dead. 

They're thinking about people like Mark Millar and countless others who are making comics specifically to make movies. There are millions of comics creators who are making comics because they love comics. I love comics. I want to make my comics because I think they can be insanely awesome comics, on par with crazy stuff like Casanova or Locke and Key (yeah, I'm going for lofty aspirations but I doubt any of my work is close to any of their work).

I want to create comics so that I can tell stories. If I get to keep the rights and I get to make movies out of them and toys and cartoons, fantastic. If I get to tell my stories as comic books and people read them and love them and I never make a movie or TV show out of them, that's fantastic too. I will have given people something fun to read and enjoy and think about. 

Sure I want to write a magnum opus comic book/novel/movie/cartoon series/toy series, but that's not the endgame of every single comic book that I write. I'm thinking about the printed page. I'm thinking about writing something that you may never have seen that will blow your mind.

I'm thinking about comic books. I'm thinking about the now.

Mark Millar, who is the first name in my head who isn't a Hollywood celebrity or whoever, seems to be making comic books for the express purpose of making films. Kick-Ass was number one property. He wanted a superhero book that he could own and sell and make money off. He wanted sequel rights, he wanted toy and television rights, he wanted to make something that would last. He didn't, but some people seem to think he has. Then he did Nemesis and Supercrooks and he's out there, announcing as he is putting the comic books out, who is directing and who is writing the screenplays and who he wants to play them.

It's all pomp and circumstance, because 9 times out of 10, the movie announcement seems to happen before the first issue even comes out. Supercrooks and Kick-Ass 2 are perfect examples. Kick-Ass was out in theaters before the last issue came out. An 8 issue mini-series that couldn't get in stores and make fans of people before the movie could be written, filmed, screened, and damn near hit DVD.

That is the problem. That is one of the major problems. There are tons of creators who are using this method to make their comic books. They think that SuperDuperIronButterflyFrancis is the next big superhero franchise. They think in terms of 6 seasons and a movie, or a trilogy of movies, or 3 movies and a TV spin-off. They think that the Motherfucking Spectacled Bee is the next big summer blockbuster tentpole series.

It isn't. Kick-Ass the movie sucked. It ripped off countless other movies and countless other soundtracks and just seemed like a rushed pile of shit. It didn't have a fanbase because no one knew what it was and no one really understood why there was a little girl killing people or why Nic Cage was awesome in a movie again.

Here's the deal: The only way to stop this is to stop this. But it won't happen until comic book companies and movie production houses pay better attention to their fans and to the people that need them, the people that make their money for them. It'll never happen, but hell, we can dream right? 

Comic book companies, in general, are severely lacking in self-worth. They look down on their fans almost as much if not more than movie companies. No one cares about anything but the next big thing. No one cares about legacies (unless you're DC and you think legacies are the only way to create comics). No one cares about setting up a history that doesn't have to be torn down and rebuilt every few years. 

No one cares, and that's why there are millions of comic books out there by people like Carrot Top and Kathy Griffin and Grant Morrison begging for your money as they're already signing million dollar contracts to make a movie out of something they don't give a shit if you read because millions of people will see it in theaters next summer anyway. 

It's a long walk off a short pier, but it seems like that's the plan. Savage the best of comics and make the worst of movies for the lowest common denominator. We, the fans, mean nothing.

Unless we change our own outlooks. And that's what I'm doing. I'm making comic books to make comic books. I'm writing and creating for the sake of building a legacy and a history. And maybe a name for myself. And if a movie deal happens, fantastic. If it doesn't, just read my comics, would you?


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