Blogging A to Z Day 15: Marvel Cinematic Universe

What is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might ask? It’s the shared movie universe inhabited by all of the Marvel Studios movies – but not necessarily by the movies made by other studios. So in are the Avengers and their solo movies, and out are the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spider-Man. Kind of. And more recently, this is a shared universe also with two television shows, keeping fans entertained between movies.

In an era when so much of movie talk is about re-boots, re-makes, sequels, and adaptations, the Marvel Cinematic Universe just seems to blend right in. And there are plenty of folks who worry that the money the movies are making are going to kill the comics that they are based on – making the comics the secondary focus, rather than the primary.

So instead today, I want to approach this from the other direction. Because while on the one hand these movies might seem like they’re all something old, made new again to turn a profit – on the other hand, they are showing a whole new way of storytelling and franchise building, which has turned out to be both good and bad!

Piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown. The little teaser moments connecting the movies, people like Nick Fury and Agent Coulson (first name Agent), were great for the fans. Sure, it also maybe left us skeptical, and the radical departure from the direction they were heading in Iron Man 2 shows that they are learning and adapting.

Since The Avengers, and its run as the third biggest box-office film of all time, their plans have really grown. At this point, we know what their films are going to be between now and 2019. And if that’s not enough, the TV shows have been getting better – with Agent Carter this year being a particular treat.

Agent_Carter_Official_Logo

There have been shared universes before, between shows, between movies. Star Trek springs to mind. However, Star Trek had a pattern of TV show and then movies. And some periods of multiple shows on at once. Marvel is pulling off something different – a show springing from the movies, and then returning to movies, then back to show.

One of their perceived competitors, DC, is not trying this. They have a separate TV and movie universe going on right now (check out all the great Arrow reviews here on Sourcerer!). Totally different from one another. And then we’re seeing all sorts of other studios trying to create franchises that work like Marvel’s – with multiple movies being made at once, with different teams, in a shared cinematic universe. Shared universes are great and all, but Marvel’s doing something more.

They’re doing a complete, gigantic, all-in shared universe. It’s definitely influencing their comics. It’s definitely making them money. But it’s also definitely entertaining fans and generally just a great time. So while it’s something old, it’s also something new – something hard to duplicate, and so very fragile. Will it hold up over time, as these further movies come out? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see.

This post was by @CompGeeksDavid of the Comparative Geeks and regular Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Comparative Geeks

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How to Make a Comic Book Movie – Part 2

Last week I introduced some characteristics that make up a modern superhero or comic book movie. Winning strategies that you can see used again and again. I focused mainly on the idea of the origin story: something they tend to always go back to, every time they start up with another hero.

So they start with an origin story, and tend to pull it from a comic that includes the origin story… and more. Often with the origin in a flashback, or just as a part. Then, they tend to continue with the stories connected to this origin story – generally by sticking with the same comic writer.

Make enough comics movies, and you could make this one! I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/rewatching-x-men-the-last-stand/

Make enough comics movies, and you could make this one!
I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/rewatching-x-men-the-last-stand/

The reason for sticking with one writer makes a lot of sense: there’s decades of character development and history, based on countless writers and ideas of the characters. How do you adapt a character with that much baggage? By picking one vision of the character, and going with that.

However, once established in an origin story, they move on. Generally, these movies aren’t being made to tell us the origin story. They’re being made to have fun with the characters, as tends to happen in sequels. To include more, to tell more of the stories. To do more. To make a franchise, to bring the larger scope of the characters to life. Or, cynically, to make more money. But hey, all of these things are accomplished, so: here’s three more rules of making a comics movie!

Aim for Sequels – or a Franchise

I think it’s safe to say that just about every comic adaptation movie is shooting to make more than one movie. Part of the reason to tap into a known world, a known franchise, to deal with licensing this instead of something new, is that you can expect to be tapping into an existing fan base. This also aligns very neatly with the fact that so many comic adaptation movies are announced well in advance of release – you can already see them lining up for next year!

Of course, it’s easy to look at the big franchises and see this. And really, the success of The Avengers building off of Marvel Phase 1 can help explain why we’re seeing things like Days of Future Past tying together old-and-new X-Men movies, and then spin-off Spider-Man movies like Sinister Six and Venom. And why DC is working hard on finally actually getting a Justice League movie to the big screen. The franchises are only going to grow, until eventually one falters majorly.

Hopefully that’s not for a while.

But heck, look past the big name titles, and in recent years you still have Kick-Ass 2Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and more. Ghost Rider got a second movie, Blade got 3 movies, and even a movie like Daredevil got an Electra movie spin-off… Meaning I would not at all be surprised to see a Green Lantern 2, an R.I.P.D. 2, or a Hercules 2.

I find it important to note that many of those titles aren’t even directly based on comics! The movies went beyond the simple graphic novel it spun from, like 300: Rise of an Empire, which sounded terrible… maybe it would have helped to have had some source material to work from. But then you take Red 2, and it was great, even though the comic was really only related to the first film.

In short, expect a sequel at least when it comes to a comic adaptation movie. Usually they try to tie up most of the loose-ends and plot-lines in each movie, but still, there’s generally more to come. If done well, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Pick Multiple Villains

It happens so much of the time – a comic-book movie has two villains in it, or a villain and a maybe unrelated bad-guy organization. There’s rarely a team up, though of course Batman Forever exists to make that not true. But look at the movies before and after it: Catwoman and the Penguin in Batman Returns not working together, and Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Bane, not necessarily as a trio in Batman and Robin.

You have Loki and the Frost Giants in Thor, Loki and the Chitauri in The Avengers, and Loki and Malekith (and friends, like Kurse!) in Thor: The Dark World. You have whole rogues galleries the various Batman and Spider-Man movies, you have Magneto and the Brotherhood and other villains in the various X-Men movies – or say, for The Wolverine you have the Silver Samurai and Viper both.

I could go on with more and more examples, but let’s just look at the exceptions. Generally, when there’s only one villain, it’s an origin story. So you get the Fantastic Four with their origin story and them coming to terms with their powers, and then you fight Dr. Doom. You get the second movie, and now we have Doom, plus the Silver Surfer, and then Galactus. While the later Spider-Man movies have multiple villains, the first one (in both recent iterations) has only one villain. Tim Burton’s Batman just had the Joker, but I mentioned all those villains in the later films.

Sure there are a few outliers, but it seems like extra villains are often thrown in to fill the time that in other movies would be filled with the origin story. You sometimes get villains who really just feel like a throw-away, and are dealt with earlier in the movie, or are a gateway to getting to the “real” villain. Think of poor Sandman in Spider-Man 3: why was he really there? Filler, which is kind of a shame, because Venom could have used more time. Continue reading

Comics News: Luthor a Hero, Wolverine a Villain, Avengers Movie Updates

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by Jeremy DeFatta

There have been a quite a few developments in the comic book and comic book movie worlds these past couple of weeks, and I have been remiss in saying much about them. This is my chance to make up for that. Please note: these lists are not meant to be exhaustive; rather, I plan on commenting on a few things from Marvel and DC that have really caught my attention. Please feel free to bring up things I’ve missed in the comments below!

DC Comics

  1. Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. are taking over the main Superman title this summer. I’m not a big fan of Romita’s art (he’s never come close to his father in terms of ability), but I will read anything Johns writes.
  2. The above coupled with a post-Forever Evil Lex Luthor-led Justice League also written by Geoff Johns should make a great pairing of titles to follow. I can’t wait to see how Forever Evil wraps up.
  3. The Rock may have let slip he’s going to play Green Lantern John Stewart in the new DC Cinematic Universe. Either way, he’s involved with their movies somehow, which I am very cool with, though Stewart is far from my favorite Green Lantern.
  4. Stemming from the above, Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Lex Luthor (which I don’t really care about) and Jeremy Irons was cast as Alfred (which is pretty cool). Further, DC is adding way too many people to its movie roster way too quickly. They need to ease off a bit before they go bankrupt trying to make too many movies at once.
  5. Arrow has been renewed for a third season. Huzzah!

Marvel Comics

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5 Classic Marvel runs since 2000

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By Jeremy DeFatta

(These are in No Particular Order)

Daredevil – Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, and various other artists

I have to say, I love it when the perfect character, writer, and penciler are united on a title. A great example of that is the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil. Say what you will about Bendis’s recent work; this may have actually been his prime. This also has some wonderful thematic crossovers with the other titles he was working on for Marvel at the time, namely New Avengers, Alias, and The Pulse. If you’re a big Matt Murdock fan like me, this is a must-read period in the character’s history. While I love Waid and Samnee’s current run on the character, this is a much darker and grittier version of Daredevil whose darkness and grittiness won’t make you roll your eyes in disgust.

Astonishing X-Men – Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

Not long after the idiotic cancellation of Firefly but years before Marvel entrusted the fate of their entire Cinematic Universe to him, Whedon had a roughly four year run on an X-Men title. I have to say, if you haven’t read it, you should. It is a work of genius with great character moments, the usual smattering of witty Whedon dialog, and great casting choices. With a team including Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Emma Frost, Kitty Pride, and Colossus, how can you go wrong? This is definitely worth a read and will make you wonder what else Whedon could do with the characters Marvel no longer has movie rights to.

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