Matt Fraction has become the first comics writer to win a prestigious PEN Center literary award for his “Outstanding Body of Work.” The awards are presented annually to writers living west of the Mississippi. A panel of judges choose finalists in ten categories: fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children’s literature, translation, journalism, drama, teleplay, and screenplay.
A couple of quotes from Warren Ellis were making the Twitter rounds this weekend. This one, from 2000 (!), is from Ellis’ column for CBR, and concerns the fine art of writing a comic book pitch:
Two summers later, I am still quite taken with The Dark Knight. I have not encountered an American movie — much less an American movie, designed to be a gigantic blockbuster and based on a hugely popular comic book — that is structured as ingeniously and compellingly as this one. I’ve simply never seen anything like it, and after several viewings it still continues to flabbergast.
I’ve worked on a handful of these types of movies as a screenwriter, and let me tell you: they’re hard. They’re really hard. There are so many issues for the writer to address: the protagonist must be active, the villain’s plot must make sense, there must be a romantic interest, there must be due attention paid to the history of the character and the rules of the genre, they must be both fantastic and grounded at the same time. All these balls must be kept in the air and these concerns must mesh in a straightforward, compelling, swift, action-packed cinematic narrative, consistent in tone and true to its source material. I haven’t seen one — not one — that has managed to get everything in and do everything right. None of the Superman movies do it, none of the previous WB Batman movies do it, none of the Spider-Man movies do it, neither of the Fantastic Four movies do it, and, even after 22 tries, none of the Bond movies do it either. (The Iron Man movies come close — really close.) But The Dark Knight not only does a better job than any other movie based on its source material — and by that I mean “superhero comics” — it does it with a radically ambitious screenplay that challenges any number of conventions and brings a new, added weight to its subject.
With the release of UNEARTHING, a spoken word/music/photograph multimedia project, Northampton legend Alan Moore has done a few interviews which are just as entertaining as the man’s work. At the Irish Times, he waxes lyrical about many things, and reaffirms his distaste for the current comics scene:
While folks like Mark Millar, Mike Mignola, and Robert Kirkman have been deservedly marked by the success of their creations in Hollywood, one hard-working studio of writers has a pretty significant run of hits behind them — without getting too much in the way of recognition. We’re talking about the Man of Action Studios — […]
While the ever-fashionable, erudite, and hobnobbing Beatrix navigates the nerd herd of Comic-Con, I continue Watchtower duty her at stately Beat Manor, munching on Double Stuff Oreos and quaffing Diet Mountain Dew. Once again, I have found the unusual and unseen, because that’s what Comic-Con is all about… discovering that which you never knew existed. […]
It would have pleased Harvey Pekar, I think, that his passing yesterday was noted in every media outlet from the New Yorker to EW, and not just because they made a movie about him, but as a literary figure of worth and stature. Harvey’s life’s work was in showing that the ordinary was important, and a working class existence was not a prison but a journey through the profound and beautiful that anyone could experience if they took the time. He found that beauty in simple, quotidian things and experiences that others might have found trivial or mundane, but in the end his message was that what else is there? Life as it is lived is the most precious gift of all.
The Cleveland Plains Dealer is reporting that underground comics legend Harvey Pekar died last night. Pekar’s wife, Joyce Brabner found him dead at about 1 am. Pekar had battled lymphoma previously, as chronicled in Our Cancer Year, but the cause of death is awaiting an autopsy.
Pekar was best known as author of American Splendor, an autobiographical comic that adapted Pekar’s lowly life as a filing clerk at the Cleveland VA into a journey of humor, drama and insight as memorable as any fictional hero, hiring artist friends such as R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Frank Stack and others to illustrate his stories. American Splendor was an early self-publishing success story of sorts — while its acclaim gained Pekar enough notoriety for him to become a semi-regular on the David Letterman Show (until erratic on-air behavior got him banned) he still had to work at the VA to rely on getting a pension and continuing to make a living — indie comics was not a cash cow.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is in interesting entry in the world of long-form cinematic Batman stories for a few different reasons. First, it manages to do what the Tim Burton movies were unable to — make Bruce Wayne/Batman the protagonist of his own story. Second, it’s primarily a detective story as opposed to an action story. Third, at least half of the story is told in flashback, a parallel-action setup ambitious for an animated movie thought of as primarily for kids. Lastly, the story it tells is rather emotional and internal — Bruce/Batman broods a lot in this movie, even by his own standards. The action sequences feel perfunctory and tacked-on. The two that come to mind — a truck chase and the explosive finale — are poorly motivated and don’t advance the plot in any meaningful way.
Via PR, Gary Friedrich, a seminal figure of Marvel in the 60s and 70s and co-creator of Ghost Rider, and the late Otto Binder, without whom there would be no Supergirl or Krypto or hundreds of other comics, are the two latest recipients of the Bill Finger Award. This honor is presented annually at the the San Diego Comic-Con to honor one living writer, and one deceased who have made significant contributions to the comics industry.
The young people of today can hardly be expected to understand the impact that Tim Burton’s Batman had on movie-goers in the summer of 1989. The general audience of 1989 knew Batman only as the campy, self-conscious, broad-daylight superhero of the Adam West TV show. Nothing in movies prepared viewers for this radical re-thinking of the character, the weird darkness of the themes, the dense, oppressive production design or Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker. All of it was alarming, electrifying stuff back then. (Of course, it was all familiar territory for people who had read The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, but that’s another story.)
During his six years as Marketing Manager at Marvel Comics, Jim McCann definitely established himself as a strong candidate for Nicest Guy In Comics, and certainly helped out The Beat on many occasions. This Thursday will be his last day on staff at Marvel, however, as he leaves to pursue his writing career with both regular Marvel writing gigs and a stiking creator-owned project, THE RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN, coming this fall from Archaia. As McCann mentions in the interview, he long had a background in writing, but his outgoing nature usually ended up spinning him towards marketing jobs, but now he’s sticking with the path to what he wants to do.
McCann has definitely been in the middle of some of Marvel’s wildest rides over the last six years, and when he suggested an “exit interview,” we thought it would be a good way to look back on them. Plus he suggested a music number to end it all, so we had to go along. You won’t find too much muckraking here -—McCann could easily segue into inspirational speaking -— and things might get a little sappy at the end, but not every one can be a tearjerker!