Apr 162014

Teen Titans #1Other than Amazon’s purchase of Comixology, the biggest comics topic online in the past week’s been yet another embarrassing round of sexism by a vocal segment of comic fans.

To summarize: Janelle Asselin, a contributor to Comic Book Resources and comic creator, wrote a critique of the cover to the upcoming reboot/issue #1 of “Teen Titans.” (Yes, they just rebooted it for the “New 52″ three years ago, I know.) The cover in question is shown to the right. Along with the bad looking costumes (what’d they do with Raven?!), Wonder Girl came in for the most criticism. Wonder Girl’s traditionally a teenage girl—usually Donna Troy—with a teen-sized version of Wonder Woman’s powers. As Asselin notes, Wonder Girl looks rather artificially busty for an underage teenager, not to mention her costume’s design showing such off. Anyway, this criticism somehow attracted the attention not of the cover’s artist, but of another DC employee, Brett Booth, currently the artist on “The Flash.” Booth posted the following response to Asselin (after some Twitter debate) on Twitter (copied and pasted as-is):

I see, the only way I can refute your argument is to not use logic, biology, google and also I can’t have a penis. Sounds fair.

Things, well, went downhill from there. Besides further similar remarks from Booth, a sizable number of fans also posted various remarks slandering Asselin on Twitter, as well as nastier comments, including threats of rape. Asselin’s discussed and summarized all of this (with examples of various crass Twitter remarks) on her Tumblr blog.

While I’m not sure what else I can add that’s not already been stated more eloquently by others, including Asselin herself and The Outhousers, I thought drawing attention to this issue was important. Either way, stuff like this is part of the reason why many in the general public hold such a lukewarm view of superhero comics and its fans, per the still-prevalent stereotypes such as “Comic Book Guy” on “The Simpsons.” They do like superheroes (as last weekend’s “Winter Soldier” box office proves), and they like comics (webcomics, “Calvin and Hobbes,” “The Walking Dead,” etc.), but not the two together. Fans and creators sounding like, or not caring about sounding like, every negative comics fan stereotype (“Neanderthal 30-year-old losers living in their parents’ basements”) doesn’t help the medium of comics, nor the superhero comics genre.

Of course, as far as the general public’s concerned, the Teen Titans are these guys: Teen Titans (Cartoon Network) “Teen Titans Go,” the team’s current TV incarnation, got 1.5 million viewers on a March 26, 2014 telecast on Cartoon Network; meanwhile, the most recent “Titans” comic (“Teen Titans” #29) sold 25,969 copies. If anything, the Titans might want to try resembling their TV counterparts a bit more. (Well, the 2000s TV series version, not the slapstick “Go.”) For that matter, DC might want to avoid yet another round of controversy over a Titans comic’s #1.

Apr 142014

Adventures of Superman (digital)Yes, you read the subject line correctly: DC’s quietly announced that their digital-first weekly Superman anthology series “Adventures of Superman” has been canceled, as of today’s issue, issue #51. Its replacement? A new comic based on a video game, in this case “Infinite Crisis.”

For the past year, “Adventures” (along with the also-axed “Superman Family Adventures”) has been my favorite New 52-era Superman title. Avoiding or ignoring everything about the New 52, this series featured classic-style Superman stories, with most of the cast (Lois, Jimmy, etc.) in their familiar forms. The title made news this time a  year ago over its then-planned, then-dropped initial plan to use Orson Scott Card to write the first few issues.

Now, it’s been given the axe, with no indication if it’s due to low sales (gather it’s being outsold by the less-than-respectful-to-Supes “Injustice: Gods Among Us” title), or just to clear space for said video game tie-in. The cancellation also came with zero advance announcement or warning, despite a well publicized interview last week with Jerry Ordway and Steve Rude for issue #51 (now the final issue…no actual one-year anniversary for this title, apparently). I only learned about it this morning when buying the issue on Google Play, to find this in the issue description:

In the series’ final chapter, legends Jerry Ordway and Steve Rude tell the story of Superman’s first encounter with a hero from the future, OMAC: the One-Man Army Corps.

A few others on Twitter found out the same way. The cancellation was confirmed by the solicitation for “Infinite Crisis.”

With this title gone, that leaves the only DC material I’m regularly buying being “Scooby-Doo Team-Up” and “Batman ’66.” A bit more money on hand to try a few other companies’ titles, I suppose…

Apr 132014

Captain America: The Winter SoldierThis weekend saw much talk that new animated film “Rio 2″ (a sequel to 2011′s “Rio”) might come in first place at the box office. However, it seems that Cap’s mighty shield forced “Rio 2″ to yield, as “Winter Soldier” came in first place, earning $41.4 million (a drop of 56.4% from opening weekend). So far, the film’s earned $159 million domestically and $317.7 million foreign, for a global total to date of $476.7 million.

Meanwhile, “Rio 2″ opened domestically to $39 million. Overseas, the film’s earned $124.3 million, for a global total to date of $163.3 million. Not bad given it only cost $103 million to produce. Given the next animated film opening is June’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” it’ll have plenty of “family” space to itself until then.

Elsewhere in the box office standings, “Muppets Most Wanted” dropped to ninth place, earning $2.2 million for a total to date of $45.7 million. Added to its $14.8 million international take, it’s earned a total of $60.5 million. While it’s earned back its $50 million production cost globally, it’s still disappointing to see its low take.

Finally, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” has dropped to tenth place, earning $1.8 million for a domestic total to date of $105.2 million, and $143.1 million internationally, for a global total of $248.3 million. “Peabody” is probably done after this weekend domestically, though it seems to still be drawing in an audience overseas (particularly China), so it should crack $250 million by next weekend. While it’s on the low end for a Dreamworks film, again it’s quite successful for an animated feature based on a TV cartoon, coming in second only to “The Simpsons Movie.” It’s also better domestically than recent films “Turbo” and “Rise of the Guardians,” and “Turbo” got its own Netflix animated series. Hopefully we’ll see an all-animated (not live-action/CGI) film based on “Rocky and Bullwinkle” themselves.

In other news, Forbes states “The Lego Movie” (still lingering in some theaters) has now overtaken “Despicable Me to become the all-time top-grossing non-sequel non-Pixar/Disney animated film domestically.

Next weekend sees a few new films open domestically, but overseas, the main film watched will be “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ opening Wednesday in the UK.

Apr 102014

ComixologyWhile there’d been rumors over the past few weeks, earlier today came the still-surprising news that the rumors were correct: Amazon will be purchasing Comixology, the dominant digital comics vendor. This allows Amazon to jump from being one of Comixology’s lesser competitors to one of the most prominent names in digital comics.

Although I’ve been lukewarm about Comixology in the past (particularly its near-monopoly position in the digital comics marketplace, as well as its heavily DRMed comics), I’ll give my thoughts below on the various pros and cons of all of this:

  • The biggest advantage for comic readers will be that Amazon buying Comixology makes it much less likely for one’s purchased books to vanish, a la JManga last year. Amazon’s one of the oldest and largest Internet companies out there, and its founding business (and still a major core business) is selling books, both the paper and the digital variety. Barring Comixology being sold off at a later point, the only way Comixology would go under at this point would be for either Amazon to shut it down (unlikely) or for Amazon itself to go under (extremely unlikely).
  • Hopefully Amazon’s infrastructure (if it’s being used at all for Comixology post-merger) will lead to a more robust app and store for Comixology, and avoid a repeat of incidents like last year’s 700 free Marvel comics promotion.
  • There’s no indication how integrated Comixology will be into Amazon proper. Maybe Amazon will stop selling Kindle comics and just point people to the Comixology store? Or fold Comixology more into Amazon’s site?
  • I assume pricewise, things will remain the same for Comixology’s books. I do assume there’ll be more attempts to cross-promote Amazon’s print comics and trade paperbacks, which’re much cheaper than their digital counterparts and what bookstores/comic shops can offer.
  • Given Amazon doesn’t have much concern about brick-and-mortar competitors in their other business areas (which they’ve successfully competed with or even dominated), they definitely won’t be nostalgic about any traditional comics shops that might get hurt by a more robust Comixology.
  • For creators, I doubt things will change much… I assume Comixology will still keep its hefty middleman cut, on top of what Apple/Google take (if bought through an app). There’s a reason Image and a few others have started selling comics on their own sites.
  • I also don’t expect Comixology’s obnoxiously heavy DRM to change any, either, as Amazon also employs similarly heavy-handed DRM on its Kindle comics. They won’t even load on my Kindle for Mac app…
  • Being available through a mainstream store like Amazon might give Comixology’s comics more visibility among the general public, though the prices of digital comics versus ordering print versions from Amazon might lessen Comixology’s appeal. Comixology’s sales might get more promotion through Amazon, however—say, a mention somewhere on Amazon’s main page?
  • Readers’ and publishers’ feelings (for good or bad) about Amazon might start to apply in the future toward Comixology, especially if there’s any major changes to how Comixology operates.

Overall, for now I assume things will operate the same as usual for Comixology, with all the pros and cons outlined above.

In spite of Comixology’s near monopoly on the digital comics landscape, there are more alternatives starting to emerge, mostly from other large digital companies. Among the bigger alternatives to emerge recently are Image selling DRM-free comics on their website, as well as DC selling single issues through Google Play.

Apr 102014

ReptilThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Reptil, a Marvel superhero character with the power to turn into various types of dinosaurs. Created for the 2009 animated series “The Superhero Squad Show,” Reptil also has appeared in Marvel’s comics, which gave him a more expanded backstory. Reptil’s first comics appearance was “Avengers: The Initiative Featuring Reptil” #1 in May 2009; he was created by Christos N. Gage and Steve Uy.

Reptil‘s real name is Humberto Lopez. Per his comics backstory, Humberto loved superheroes as a kid. He also was taught much about dinosaurs from his parents, who were both paleontologists. Accompanying them on a dig one day, the Lopezes found what looked like a fossilized amulet of some sort, which Humberto was allowed to keep. On a later expedition, Humberto’s parents both disappeared, and were declared dead, with Humberto sent to live with his grandfather. One day, Humberto was nearly trapped in a rockslide, which he ran from trying to escape, at which time the amulet he was carrying activated his powers.

Humberto soon signed up with a national superhero registry under the codename “Reptil” (during the events of “Avengers: The Initiative“), which resulted in a few adventures/some training. After this, Reptil wound up enrolled in the Avengers Academy, an Avengers-run training school for young superheroes. There, Reptil had more adventures; he also developed a leadership position among his peers, dealt with the loss of his parents, and learned more about controlling his powers. Said adventures included some time-travel related hijinks, such as Reptil inhabiting his future self’s body; this was followed up by a second incident where his future self inhabited his teenage self’s body. At some point, the fossil also became embedded in Reptil’s chest.

Outside of comics, Reptil’s main media appearance, and reason for his creation, was for “The Super Hero Squad Show.” There, Reptil had similar powers, and joined the Squad as its “rookie” member. In the series, he’s also trained by Wolverine in the use of his powers. Logan expressed occasional reluctance at being a mentor, but ultimately enjoyed tutoring Reptil anyway. One change from the comics was that Reptil’s amulet was revealed to be a fossilized piece of the Infinity Sword. Reptil gave up his amulet at the end of the first season, but discovered he still retained his powers. In the series, Reptil was voiced by Antony Del Rio.

Reptil’s powers consist of being able to turn parts of his body into any type of dinosaur. Eventually, further training, etc., resulted in Reptil being able to turn his entire body into a dinosaur, as well as other prehistoric creatures.

Apr 082014

Life With Archie #36The news came earlier today, and has since spread all over social media networks, comic book sites, and even regular news sites: Archie Andrews will die in this July’s “Life With Archie” #36, which will also be the final issue in the series. In honor of the occasion, Archie plans to release various variant covers (viewable here). As fans already know, “Life With Archie” is set in the future, and follows two alternate timelines, one where Archie married Betty, and another where he married Veronica. Supposedly, Archie will die in a noble, heroic fashion, with obviously no superhero comic-style return from the grave.

Given Archie’s been trying various sales stunts (albeit well done ones) lately, along with innovative storylines, it’d probably make sense to go for the ultimate stunt, as Marvel and DC have done: killing off your company’s star character. Unlike Superman, “Life”‘s version of Archie won’t be coming back from the dead, and this is probably the last we’ll see of this version of the characters. However, I’d love to see four imitation redheads running around Riverdale in a story called “Reign of the Archies”…

I’m disappointed to see that “Life With Archie” is being cancelled. I wonder if the novelty’s worn off, or if the magazine format didn’t do as well as Archie hoped. The latter would be supported by the proposed “Veronica & Betty” magazine never getting off the ground, with its storyline being folded into the upcoming regular “Betty and Veronica” comic. I suppose the regular comic sized “Afterlife With Archie” has also grabbed more attention among comic readers than “Life.”

I guess it also confirms that “Life With Archie”‘s future isn’t exactly the same one as “Archie Marries Betty”/”Archie Marries Veronica,” the storylines that kicked all this off in the first place. Those ended with the couples in each timeline living “happily ever after,” complete with kids. Not that kids aren’t possible here, but it’s definitely not a happy ending for “Life.” Of course, “Life” was also a more melodramatic/soap opera future versus the “Archie Marries” ones anyway… again, Miss Grundy’s still alive in the latter, but not the former.

Finally, while continuity’s a loose concept in Archie comics, it’s also safe to assume “Life”‘s future isn’t part of the same future timeline of January McAndrews, Archie’s 29th century descendant in the early 90′s “Jughead’s Time Police” series. Though we could see Betty or Veronica being pregnant when the finale happens, or January could be a descendant of a cousin of Archie’s, such as his older cousin Andy Andrews from the “Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.” storyline a few years ago.

Apr 062014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” easily took the top spot at the box office, as everyone knew it would…the only debate being how much it’d bring in. The numbers are in: Cap’s film brought in $96.2 million dollars. Added to its overseas take of $207.1 million, it has a global take so far of $303.3 million, easily topping its $170 million budget. While I doubt it’ll reach “Avengers” numbers, or even “Iron Man 3″ (the name “Captain America” might limit its non-North American appeal somewhat), I’m sure it’ll be one of the year’s top-grossing films easily.

Meanwhile, “Muppets Most Wanted” dropped to sixth place, thanks to various newer films rising (presumably religious fundamentalists are flocking to “God’s Not Dead,” plus a wider release for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), earning $6.3 million for a total of $42.1 million. Globally, it’s earned $52.2 million to date, topping its $50 million budget.

In seventh place, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” finally crossed the $100 million level, earning $5.3 million for a total to date of $102.2 million. Globally, it’s earned $238.7 million, which is on the low end for Dreamworks films, but not bad for an animated film based on a TV cartoon. In that category, Box Office Mojo says “Peabody” is in second place on the all-time list, behind “The Simpsons Movie.” I’m guessing this spinoff from a “Rocky and Bullwinkle” supporting segment won’t reach $150 million domestically, but hopefully it won’t discourage a future all-animated film based on the moose and squirrel themselves.

Next week sees “Rio 2″ open domestically. The film’s doing well overseas (as did the first film in 2011), and I’m sure it’ll do well here, too.

Apr 042014

Adventures of Superman (digital)News came a day or so ago that Google Play, Google’s digital media store, has started to sell DC Comics’ single issue comics. While Google Play’s been selling some of DC’s trade paperbacks for awhile, it hasn’t done such for singles until now. DC’s been selling their singles on the Nook and Kindle stores, as well as digital comics giant Comixology, which will continue, of course.

I’d been hoping for awhile to see DC’s singles sold on Google Play, so this is welcome news. Marvel’s singles won’t be joining them, as they’re exclusively available only through Comixology. Besides offering an alternative to Comixology, Google Play also offers the option of downloading one’s purchases as watermarked PDFs (and for some books, also as Adobe DRMed EPUBs), presumably to be as compatible as possible with various Android devices. Well, most of their comics anyway; some random ones don’t seem available as PDFs/EPUBs. A way of checking is to see if anything’s listed under the book description’s “Additional Information” heading. Those available as PDFs/EPUBs will usually have listed devices they’re compatible with (“Android 3.0+ tablet,” “Web, tablet,” etc.).

Now that DC’s singles have been added, hopefully we’ll next see Boom Studios’ single issue books join Google Play someday.

Apr 032014

Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in the WorldThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World.”

Rick & Steve” is an animated series about the misadventures of the show’s stars Rick and Steve, a gay thirtysomething couple, and their extremely dysfunctional group of friends. The series is set in the fictional town of “West Lahunga Beach” in California. (The town seems to resemble the most stereotypical aspects of various famous gay neighborhoods, including West Hollywood, California and San Francisco’s Castro.) As the bad-pun name of their town indicates, the show’s humor style is quite “blue,” with their world at large, as well as the show’s plots and characters, resembling an LGBT version of “South Park.”

The show’s stop-motion animation style was done to resembles Lego or Playmobil action figures. Wikipedia claims the former sued the show’s producers to drop the Lego aspects.

Rick is of Filipino descent (as is the show’s creator, Q. Allan Brocka), and shown as smarter than his husband, Steve; the series shows this is to the point Rick joined a gay version of the intellectual group Mensa. Supporting characters on the show include Rick and Steve’s friends Kirsten and Dana, a lesbian couple. Dana in particular resembles the “butch” stereotypes of lesbians. Another pair of friends of Rick and Steve are Chuck and Evan. Chuck is a 50-year-old HIV+ man in a wheelchair, while Evan is his vapid 19-year-old Latino boyfriend who spends his time at nightclubs.

Plotlines on the series included Rick and Steve dealing with their respective families (Rick’s mother is gay-friendly, Steve’s mother isn’t), Kirsten and Dana’s attempt at having a baby, and other misadventures that play up or ridicule various LGBT stereotypes.

“Rick & Steve” ran from 2007 to 2009, for a total of 14 episodes spread across two seasons. The show ran on Logo in the US (an LGBT-oriented cable channel) and Teletoon’s “Adult Swim”-like nighttime block in Canada.

Rick was voiced by actor Will Matthews, while Steve was voiced by Peter Paige, whose most prominent role was playing Emmett on Showtime’s LGBT series “Queer As Folk.” Kirsten and Dana were voiced by Emily Brooke Hands (season 1)/Jessica-Snow Wilson (season 2) and Taylor Dooley respectively. Chuck was voiced by actor Alan Cumming, while Evan was voiced by actor Wilson Cruz.

Mar 312014

Google+ profileGoogle’s just released a new feature for its social network site (and mandatory YouTube comment system), Google+. Profile pages will now include the number of times said content has been viewed by others, dating back to October 2012. I’ll assume it’s not an April Fool’s joke, given the timing; Google’s April Fool’s joke this year seems to be something about Google Maps and Pokemon.

As you can see by this post’s picture, I currently have 68 followers on my Google+ profile page, with a total of 95,000+ views to date. Despite the double-digit number of followers, I assume the views come from my participation in Google+’s Communities forums, as well as views from Google searches in general (for material I posted as “public”).

If you’re wondering, yes, the feature can be turned off. In your Google+ profile, go to Settings > Profile, then uncheck “Show how many times your profile and content have been viewed.”