Thursday, March 28, 2019

Stuff Happening

There's some behind the scenes stuff going on right now, so I didn't have time to put anything together for this week. Stay tuned for news in the near future. In the mean time:

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Better Than The Book

It's common knowledge that a movie based on a book will be the lesser of the two, as the book can do more with the story. Whether that's getting you inside the heads of the characters, or just delving deeper into the story than you would be able to in 120 minutes, the books will treat the subject matter better than the movie.

This isn't always the case, though, and here are a couple of examples for you.

Moby Dick (1956)
I once read the novel Moby Dick and, to put it as generously as I can, it was a slog. Even if I read every other chapter, which are the only ones actually dealing with the plot, it was tough going. It might be the writing of the time period, but I just don't think Melville communicated the ideas behind his story very well.

If you want to really get a good version of the tale, I would recommend the 1956 movie. It stars Richard Basehart and Gregory Peck, with a cameo by Orson Welles, and was written by Ray Bradberry and John Huston (who also directed). This is a great tale of the sea and how obsession can get the better of everyone, not just the captain. I watched this movie again this weekend for the umteenth time and I still love it.

Jaws (1975)
Like Moby Dick, I also read Jaws. This wasn't an issue of the story being boring, but the characters in the book are just so ... despicable that I was routing for the shark to eat them all. Martin and Ellen Brody have a marriage on the rocks, to the point where Ellen has an affair with Hooper. No one in the story, in my opinion, is sympathetic.

Compare that to the movie, where they are real people with flaws, but the majority still do the right thing. Even the mayor comes around eventually. The only real "bad" person in it is Quint, and even he gets some sympathy with the Indianapolis connection.

There are a few more examples that I have, but they're a touch more controversial. What about you? Do any of the readers have some examples of where the movie, or even TV show, was better than the written source material?

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Evolution of Comic Covers - Marvel Edition

Last week, commenter Kirk asked for a Marvel version of my analysis, so here it is. I took one of his suggested titles, The Amazing Spider-Man, but I decided to do it a little differently. Since Marvel hasn't been around as long as DC (regardless of the 75 years hype), I chose to start with Amazing Spider-Man #1 and then go with every 60th issue beyond that (61, 121, 181, etc) to give a nice 5 year span. Let's see what we can learn from this.

We start out, as I said, with Amazing Spider-Man #1. As was the style of the time, we have a picture representing one of the two stories in the book. The Comics Code stamp is easy to see, as are the price, issue number, and the fact that there are two stories in the book, the first of which deals with Marvel's highest selling book. Spidey has a speech balloon, but that probably should be a thought balloon. While the book's title isn't in the position it would take up later, is it is the same style we would come to know. Also note the little "MC" in a box, the only indication that this is a Marvel comic.

Five years later we have a more dynamic picture and the corner box has appeared. We have the title of the story on the front, but no speech balloons. The Comics Code stamp is slightly smaller than before and off on it's own, still. We also have "MCG" in it's own box, even though "Marvel Comics Group" is in the corner box.

Now in the 70's, we see the appearance of the "Marvel Comics Group" banner across the top of the cover. This links the corner box with the Comics Code Stamp, which looks to be the same size as five years earlier. We have a lot of text on this cover, both in Spidey's word balloons and Gerry Conway's description of what the consumer can find within. Note how the Spider-Man in the corner is not actually in the corner box, but just next to it on the cover. The image on the cover, though, isn't a scene in the story, just a representation of what's probably going on.

60 issues later and the banner/corner box set-up remains largely unchanged. The only exception here is that the corner Spider-Man is now in a separately colored box as part of it. Much less text here, just the story title, but the Amazing Spider-Man title is larger, now going over to the arm of the Spidey in the corner box. Not being familiar with this story, I'm not sure if what is shown here actually happens inside, but it looks like it could.

We're now in the 80's and, except for the image in the corner box, most is the standard stuff is unchanged. The series title seems to have shrunk back down to where it was, though. No text on this one, just John Romita, Jr's art letting you know what to expect. With the eyes floating over the Vulture, I'm going to say that this is a poster image and not a scene from inside.

This is certainly a poster image and not showing what's going on in the book. We do have some text telling us what to expect, if not the story title. We now see a corner box more like what evolved over at DC, where the issue number, price, date, publisher logo, and Comics Code stamp are all in one place, along with an image of the hero.

Ah, the 90's. While the art is heading the way that most Marvel did in that decade, the corner box is the same, other than the new Marvel logo. We now have the "Part One" box, indicating the larger story going on. This is also the first time we've seen some non-banner text above the series title. Again, I don't remember this story but I'm pretty sure that something like this image could have occurred inside the book.

Later in the 90's, the corner box has been paired down somewhat. The Comics Code stamp, now about half the size that it was, is off on the right side of the cover again. The image of Spider-Man has been replaced by his logo only. We're back to a poster style image, but we do have what appears to be the story title.

In the early 2000's the corner box, and the Comics Code stamp, is gone. We do now have the creator names added to the cover for the first time. The image seems to be something from the interior of the issue, but we have no text telling us what's going on.

Later in the decade and we have our first change to the series title, with the creator names above it. There is also a banner down the left-hand side with the story title and it seems to be coming from a modified corner box. The main part of the cover is a painted poster of Spidey "Back In Black", which has to be at least the 3rd time he's been in a version of that costume by this point.

Five years on and we certainly have a stunt poster image, since J. Scott Campbell did not do the interiors, but I'm pretty sure it boosted sales. We have the creator names for not only the main story but also for the back-up, but no indication of what's going on in either of them.

The last cover we're going to look at dates from 2011 and, in many ways, is a throw-back to much earlier. We still don't have a corner box and the creator names are there, but not only do we two descriptions of what's going on inside, but we also have word balloons! We haven't seen those since issue 121! We also have a scene that is representative of what's inside the pages and not a poster.

From looking at these covers, it seems that Marvel was on a steady progression with regard to design. That was probably due to the "house style" being part of the entire comic production and not only in the character designs. It started to loosen up towards the more recent years, but even into the late 90's it was a pretty consistent style across the whole line.

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Evolution of Comic Covers

Due to a project that I'm doing for Paul over on Back to the Bins, I've been seeing a lot of comic book covers recently. What has struck me is that we are pretty much back where it began. Let me explain that by using Batman, a character continuously published for 80 years, as an example.

This is a cover from the 1940's. What we have is a "poster" image that may or may not reflect what's inside the book. Other than that, we have the title, publisher logo, issue number, date, and price. Very simple and, except for the Joker's presence, we don't get any information about the story.

This cover comes from the 50's, and now we have the Comic's Code stamp prominently featured. In addition to the information we had in the 40's, we now have a speech bubble indicating that Ace is a new member of the team, so he'll probably feature in the story. We still don't know what that story is, though. (Yes, I chose this cover because Ace is on it.)

Here we are in the 1960's and now, in addition to even more speech bubbles, we have the titles of the two stories inside, one of which is represented on the cover. There's much more information to help the consumer decide whether this is an issue that they may want to pick up. Note how the Comic's Code stamps has shrunken from it's premiere.

Now we've made it to the 70's and the cover is less verbose, with only a few speech balloons and no story title. The image does seem to represent something that happens in the story, so maybe a title isn't necessary. The Comic's Code stamp is even smaller now. We also have the beginnings of a corner box, where the issue number, date, and price are all in one place.

In the 1980's we have the corner box also including the, now even smaller, Comic's Code stamp. No speech bubbles but we do have a story title and the promise of a reveal inside the issue. We also have the addition of the creator names, which is a nice touch.

In the 90's, the pendulum started swinging back. We have no story title or word balloons. Everything else is still present, even though the Comic's Code stamp is even smaller. The image seems to be more poster-like and probably not representing something that actually happens in the issue. We do get the obligatory crossover title, though, something there was a lot of starting in this era.

In the 2000's the Comic's Code stamp has practically shrunk out of existence, but the story title is back. This is definitely a poster image, though. The corner box has also been broken up, with the price moved to the UPC box.

This is a cover from a few years ago. What we have is a "poster" image that may or may not reflect what's inside the book. Other than that, we have the title, publisher logo, issue number, date, and price. Very simple and, except for the the fact that it's part of "Zero Year" in "The New 52" era, we don't get any information about the story. So we're right back where we began in the 40's. No corner box, no Comic's Code stamp, although we do have the creator names added.

It's an interesting cycle to look at, but I think the most balance was struck in the 70's and 80's. You get a good amount of information about what's in the issue, but it doesn't overwhelm the cover itself. Too much or too little on the cover doesn't do the issue any favors, in my opinion.

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