High Five! Comics

Posts Tagged ‘Disney

If you were born in the mid-8os like me, you have fond memories of watching the Disney Afternoon line-up of cartoons. Nothing beat coming home from first grade, plunking down in front of the TV, and binging on Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, TaleSpin, and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers all in a row. BOOM! Studios has already released their surprisingly popular Darkwing Duck book so the next logical step would be to tap into another property that we’re all nostalgic for.

With Darkwing Duck writer Ian Brill taking on scripting duties, BOOM! is taking a crack at the Chip ‘n Dale franchise by not only giving the beloved series its own title but immediately making it an ongoing. Add Marvel Super Hero Squad artist Leonel Castellani, and this book seems like it’d be perfect fare for the kids, not to mention the grown ups who still ong for the feel-good nineties.

Thing is, this book seems to be geared more for people who grew up watching the show rather than those unfamiliar with the characters. While the team tries to recover something called the super-key and fight a bunch of crazed animals who are all surrounded by a weird red aura (none of which is explained at all yet), the book gives us little peeks into the pasts of Gadget, Monterey Jack, and even Zipper which help explain why the characters are the way they are. As a former fan of the show, Brill does an amazing job of keeping the characters just as they were. Chip is still the same unlikeable douchebag he was on the cartoon, Dale is still cracking jokes left and right, and Zipper still wants to be the most heroic housefly that’s ever lived (two week life span be damned).

If you’ve enjoyed Brill’s work on Darkwing Duck or were a fan of the old series, chances are that you’ll get a kick out of this book, out Thursday.

Now I guess we just gotta hold out for BOOM’s inevitable TaleSpin comic (half-joke?).

When I was a small child,  my favorite book was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I loved this book for the pictures. I didn’t especially relate to a wild-child having a tantrum and being sent to his room. I did not own a wolf suit. I had certainly never been across a great sea to a land full of monsters. Even though I was very well behaved, especially compared to Max, I did have an active  imagination. I was enthralled at the sight of such fantastic creatures appearing from the walls of my own room. My favorite part of the book was where Max proclaims that the Wild Rumpus is to begin and the subsequent pages of text-less scenery. I would stare intently at the expressions of the characters. I noticed where they were looking, or who they were looking at. I would imagine how they must feel in that moment and what this might lead them to do next. Where the Wild Things Are instilled in me a love for children’s books that survived my adolescence and continues in my adulthood. To me, an interesting picture – however stylized or juvenile – is more interesting than the most epic, passionate, or complex story. Something about a single moment of time captured by an artist’s clumsy ink leaves me with so many questions and fantasies that children’s illustrations remain among my favorite diversions.

Without any reflection upon these facts I read Wall-E #1. Before we continue, I should mention that I have not seen the Disney/Pixar film this comic is based on. Garnering media buzz and recommendations from my friends, this critically acclaimed, commercially successful film has been at the top of my “See This Movie” list for a year and a half. Regrettably, having such a list doesn’t actually get me into the theaters or excited about my Netflix queue, and so Wall-E remains at the top of a list I largely ignore. Still, when I saw this series I was naturally interested.

Reading Wall-E was like reading 22 pages of Wild Rumpus. I was blindsided by an instant appeal to my love of story through pictures. It may seem obvious that a guy who loves kids books is a comic fan. They do, after all, bear many similarities. But, it really isn’t the same thing. Not to me. When I read a comic I’m more interested in text, dialog, wittiness, and the language of the story in general. The pictures of a comic book are a stylistic choice in presentation that gives a sense of action and movement that plain text writing does not. No, this is an appeal to the pictures themselves. Pictures are the story rather than its aid.

Since I did not see the film I can only assume the bleak and spacious vibe was established by Pixar and that the creators of the comic are continuing rather creating the feel. Though I cannot give credit to Torres and Luthi for the concept I must give them credit for telling a fascinating and emotional comic with basically zero dialog. Not since New X-Men #121 have I read such an interesting book while relying solely on images and expressions to convey story. This last bit is a particular credit to Morgan Luthi for getting emotion out of a robot.

As a comic who’s audience is children, Wall-E has its share of slapstick comedy and goofiness. If you have kids I’m sure they’ll love watching a cute robot caper around having adventures. And if you enjoyed the film then I’m sure you’ll find entertainment in this book. But, if you’re like me and can spend 20 minutes looking at a cartoon-ey picture wondering what sits just beyond the borders of the image, or what an incidental character might be thinking, or what the tree in the background would feel like if you could touch it, if you’re like this at all, then Wall-E bears a quality that too few comics possess.

-JonnyC

fin

unclescrooge1

BOOM! Studios is doing an amazing job getting comics into the lollipop-stickied hands of kids again. They’ve got licenses to the Pixar pantheon, the Muppets, and the classic Disney characters. I skipped Mickey & Friends (my kid brother’s only two years old, I’ll read the TPB to him in a year or so), but I’m a product of the Disney Afternoon generation, so I’m definitely not skipping the new Uncle Scrooge books.

Our wedding DJ was shocked at the elated response of our guests when we insisted he play the Ducktales theme-song, but is it really very shocking that a bunch of twenty-somethings still had love for what was inarguably one of the best cartoons of our childhood? The Disney Duck-verse – and yes, students, the Duck-verse IS it’s own entity – has strong roots in comics; returning our feathered friends to the comics page is a smart move for both BOOM! and Disney. Even if they bring Ducktales back tomorrow, children’s cartoons are never, ever going to be as awesome as they were when I was a kid – but this comic totally is.

The bizarre nature of the Duck-verse lends itself to a classic comic book sensibility more readily than most of the other properties in BOOM!’s stable. There’s an established insular universe, bizarre side characters, and even an intricate continuity that doesn’t exist within the other classic Disney properties. The modern Duck-verse is largely the brainchild of Don Rosa, who wrote nearly all of the late 80s & early 90s Duck-verse comics. From what I understand, BOOM! has been working closely with him on the Uncle Scrooge property; there are even plans to release definitive editions of Rosa’s earlier Scrooge work.

pssageThe new ongoing Uncle Scrooge book by Erik Hedman feels comfortingly familiar, like getting an old friend back. The plot is classic Ducktales (which itself was classic Uncle Scrooge); a missing treasure, a haunted castle in Germany, Magica wants to steal Scrooge’s Number One Dime. Ducktales cartoons always felt like the animation equivalent of a Rube Goldberg device, and Uncle Scrooge doesn’t disappoint. Trap doors, bizarre gadgets, and secret passageways abound; Wanda Gattino’s artwork drops you right back into the bizarre McDuck universe like you never stopped visiting after fifth grade. A few pages in, I realized I was hearing their voices. Scrooge’s brogue, Donald’s lisp, Magica’s vaguely eastern european accent – Ducktales was such a big part of my childhood that my brain was “doing the voices” in my head. Awesome.

Uncle Scrooge is the best kind of nostalgia, the kind that makes you love your childhood all over again without inspiring deja vu. The “first” issue, which is number #384, comes out next week, and if you’re still touchy about walking into a comic shop, you can pick up all the BOOM! Kids titles at Borders. Buy this book even if you don’t have a kid brother to read it to. Seriously, drop the $2.99, make yourself some Tang & vodka (or just eat the powder, yum!) and have fun with this. And just in case you’ve all forgotten how much you loved Ducktales (which, wow, how did you do that?), here ya go:

By the way, BOOM!? When are we going to see Launchpad? Or Von Drake? And when are they going to visit Cape Canard? AHEM? I mean, Darkwing and Scrooge share the same pilot, it’s not THAT much of a stretch, right?

Update: Read a five page preview of Uncle Scrooge!

The comics industry clearly wants to give me a heart attack this week. First, Mickey buys
Marvel and the fanboys freak. Last Monday when the news broke, one of my buddies panicked and
said:
“With Disney calling the shots, I can see Marvel becoming a lot more watered-down. Well, I guess
that takes care of [Marvel] being too ‘moody’, huh?”
But let’s face it, Marvel Publishing makes up what? 17%? of Marvel’s total revenue? Disney didn’t
buy Marvel because y’all like Punisher MAX, ok? The Mouse bought Marvel because after 2008’s Iron
Man, everyone and their mother wants to either do or be Robert Downey Jr. Disney bought Marvel
because they’ve got the market on squealing pre-teen girls cornered (you should see my kid sister
when anyone even hints at anything Jonas Brothers related.) Disney bought Marvel because most
dudes between the ages of 12-24 couldn’t care less about anything the Mouse does; and let’s face
it – the vast majority of that market is buying movie tickets, not funny books.
Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, has insisted more than once over the course of the past week or so that
Disney has no intention of meddling in the business of Marvel Publishing. Iger, by the way, is the
great-nephew of Jerry Iger, who at one point owned a comic studio with Will Eisner (no relation to
former Disney CEO Micheal Eisner, if you’re wondering.) More than one media outlet has pointed out
that because Iger has comics “in his blood,” the man isn’t likely to mess with the creative &
editorial teams at Marvel Publishing. Under Iger since 2005, Disney has become considerably less
evil when it comes to controlling their acquisitions (and existing properties) compared to the
Eisner years, which saw every beloved Disney movie ever bent over and screwed without lube in
sequel form.
Disney owns Pixar, but Pixar has retained creative control over their work. The shoddy ‘Toy Story
3′ was scrapped after the Pixar team took two glances at it and decided the story didn’t really
need to be told again unless the plot was out-fucking-standing. Which it wasn’t. Disney has also
owned the rights to the Muppets since 2004; but because the Henson company had already sold distribution licenses to several different companies, only recently has Disney truly begun to acquire the full rights to work with the characters. Disney is in a similar situation with Marvel now.
Marvel has movie distribution licenses with Sony, Fox, and a few other studios. Disney’s Pixar and
Muppet comic books are currently housed at BOOM! Studios, which holds that license. Universal
holds the rights to walkaround Marvel characters in theme parks east of the Mississippi River.Then there’s the t-shirts and the beach towels and the toys and the toothbrushes and so on. It’s going to be a good long time before Marvel & Disney fully consummate this relationship.
"I'll call your Spider-Man and raise you Batman, doc!"

"Ehhh, I'll call your Spider-Man and raise you Batman, doc!"

The comics industry clearly wants to give me a heart attack. First, Mickey buys Marvel and the fanboys freak. Last Monday when the news broke, one of my buddies panicked and said:

“With Disney calling the shots, I can see Marvel becoming a lot more watered-down. Well, I guess that takes care of [Marvel] being too ‘moody’, huh?”

Simmer down, boys. Marvel Publishing makes up, what? 17% of Marvel’s total revenue? Disney didn’t buy Marvel because y’all like Punisher MAX, ok? The Mouse bought Marvel because after 2008’s Iron Man, everyone and their mother wants to either do Robert Downey Jr or be Robert Downey Jr.  (Or in the case of High Five! Rob, both. ) Disney bought Marvel because they’ve already cornered the market on squealing pre-teen girls, so now they’re going after the 12+ boys, a market that’s eluded them for some years now. Disney bought Marvel because most dudes between the ages of 12 and 24 couldn’t care less about anything the Mouse does anymore; but let’s face it – the vast majority of that market is buying movie tickets, not funny books.

Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, has insisted more than once over the course of the past week or so that Disney has no intention of meddling in the business of Marvel Publishing. Iger, by the way, is the great-nephew of Jerry Iger, who at one point owned a comic studio with Will Eisner (no relation to former Disney CEO Micheal Eisner, if you’re wondering.) More than one media outlet has pointed out that because Iger has comics “in his blood,” the man knows better than to mess with the creative & editorial teams at Marvel Publishing. Since 2005, Disney has become considerably less evil under Iger’s leadership when it comes to controlling their acquisitions (and existing properties) compared to the Eisner years, which saw every beloved Disney classic ever bent over and screwed without lube in sequel form.

The shoddy Toy Story 3 was reportedly scrapped after the folks at Disney-owned Pixar took two glances at it and decided the story didn’t really need to be told again, unless the plot was out-fucking-standing. Which it wasn’t. Disney’s control of Marvel is likely to look something like the Disney-Pixar relationship; Pixar is basically autonomous.  Of course, Disney already held the rights to distribution and marketing of Pixar characters, so the transition was less clunky than others have been and are likely to be. The Muppets, acquired by Disney in 2004,  are another widely recognized property; but because the Henson Company had already sold distribution & merchandising licenses to several different outlets prior to the acquisition, only recently has Disney truly begun to bring the Muppets in-house. Disney is in a similar situation with Marvel now.

Marvel has movie distribution licenses with Sony, Fox, and a few other studios. Disney’s Pixar and Muppet comic books are currently housed at BOOM! Studios, which holds that license. Universal holds the rights to walkaround Marvel characters in theme parks east of the Mississippi River. Then there are the t-shirts and the beach towels and the toys and the toothbrushes and so on. It’s going to be a good long time before Marvel & Disney fully consummate this relationship.

But the deal is a sweet one for both companies. Disney gets control of 5000 some-odd characters which will give them a chance to stake out some territory in the young dudes demographic; Marvel gets the financial backing and distribution power of Disney. Which brings us to this week’s DC bombshell.

With fans and the industry still reeling from the Marvel/Disney announcement, Warner Brothers pops up a week later to tell us that they’re restructuring the DC Comics arm of the business. DC Comics will now fall under the umbrella of “DC Entertainment,” which will include in-house film development in the vein of Marvel Studios. In the past, movies from the DCU have been produced and distributed through Warner Brothers, which has owned DC for decades. Marvel of course, formed Marvel Studios a few years back, after watching some of their properties *cough*hack*angleehulk*cough* completely mistreated by outside production companies.

Bob Wayne (VP of Sales and an old hat at DC) has said that when Tim Burton’s Batman was released in 1989, no one thought it would be a hit. Obviously, it was. But DC Comics and the silver screen have had a rocky relationship over the years. DC characters were inspiring big-money blockbusters long before Marvel properties were. Marvel’s first major financial success with a movie was the first X-Men movie in the late nineties, a good 20 years after the first Superman movie in 1978. But DC’s earlier superhero franchise successes devolved into Superman IV (bam!) and Batman & Robin (pow!) – you get the feeling that Warner Brothers just gave the fuck up.

Many have incorrectly assumed that the DC/Warner restructure came about in reaction to the Disney/Marvel merger. Not really. Warner may have pushed the announcement up, but corporate shakeups like this aren’t conjured in a week. In fact, the plans have been in motion for a while according to writer Warren Ellis. The restructuring (as well as the reboots of both the Superman & Batman movie franchises) was a reaction to Marvel’s box office success; which is what made Marvel worth $4 billion to the House of Mouse in the first place.

But Marvel’s success at the box office has hinged greatly upon the relate-abilty of their characters, which brings us back to one of the oldest Marvel vs. DC talking points.  Audiences identify with Marvel’s “moody” everyman heroes in a way they never quite can with DC’s pantheon of legendary, iconic archetypes; Batman being the notable exception. DC Entertainment’s biggest challenge will be making their cosmically powered heroes accessible and interesting to wider audiences. Hopefully bringing the movie production & comic publishing aspects closer together will help DC achieve that.

Either way, I don’t think either of these announcements will change much of anything for hardcore comic book fans. The Marvel buyout and the DC restructure are largely meant to handle movie production, distribution, and merchandising; so it’s unlikely we’ll see any big shakeups at the comic shop on Wednesday.  With Disney’s financial backing, Marvel Publishing may be able to take a few risks they couldn’t before; such as offering more non-serialized straight-to-graphic novel books, but Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has been a vocal opponent of such releases in the past.  Maybe we’ll see an uptick in comic book sales, and perhaps wider acceptance of fanactical comic lovers, but by and large the publishing side of the business will be unaffected content-wise. For those worried about the fate of Marvel’s adult-oriented MAX imprint, keep in mind that Disney also owns Miramax, home of the Kevin Smith & Quentin Tarantino flicks.

The only thing left to ask is this: Should we start a betting pool on how long FOX will take to make Image Comics an offer they can’t refuse?


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