Posts Tagged ‘Bugs Bunny

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Apr
11

Classic EBI #89: Sigils at the House of Mouse

And once again, friends, it’s Wednesday. Time for an all-new Everything But Imaginary column! This week, I look at the impact of long-term storytelling, how it can work well, and what sins a writer may commit that loses his audience prematurely.

Everything But Imaginary #396: Gratification in an Instant

But getting into the Wayback machine, we’re looking at my column from November 17, 2004, a column about a topic that’s only really become significant in the last month or so… the story of how the Walt Disney company bought the defunct CrossGen Comics. It didn’t have much of an impact then, but now that Disney also owns Marvel, we’re finally seeing motion on the old CrossGen properties. Let’s see what I said about this way back then, shall we?

Everything But Imaginary #89: Sigils at the House of Mouse

Well gang, as you all know unless you have been living under a rock, in a cave, or simply don’t pay attention to such things, the news that the Walt Disney Corporation and Shadow Government has acquired the properties of the former CrossGen Comics has finally caught a little fire. More so than that, Disney’s DPW productions, the arm of the company that is apparently in charge of such things, has announced that the first project under this banner will be the resurrection of CrossGen’s brilliant fantasy comic Abadazad. [2011 note: This resurrection was, sadly, short-lived.]

Now this is both good news and bad news. I’ll do the good first. Disney is one of the largest media and entertainment companies in the world. Their characters are internationally famous. Even when one of their movies flops, just about everyone hears about it. (C’mon, you know you all saw the ads for Home on the Range, even though only about three of you saw it.)

Having that kind of backing behind a comic book company could be a great thing if it was utilized properly. I’d love to see the long-promised Meridian movie or see The Crossovers as a weekly TV show. Could you imagine Sojourn put on the big screen with the same production values as The Lord of the Rings or Route 666 given the same respect as The Sixth Sense? Heck, I’d even dig going to the theme park to take a plunge on “Po Po the Monkey’s Wild Ride.”

Unfortunately, just because a major media company owns a comic book company doesn’t mean it’ll get that kind of push. You know who owns DC Comics, right? Time/Warner. Now this has resulted in a few good projects — Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, and even cool stuff like Batman: The Escape and other Six Flags attractions (Six Flags being the theme park chain Time/Warner owns).

Heck, do you think if it weren’t for this sort of corporate synergy we ever would have gotten the decades-in-coming Superman/Bugs Bunny crossover?

But these things, unfortunately, are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Time/Warner as a whole treats DC Comics like a redheaded stepchild. Despite having the most recognizable comic book characters on the planet, they shunt the company aside and try to milk the characters for all they’re worth instead of treating them with respect. As a result we get crappy movies like Catwoman, Steel and certain bat-films so atrocious I dare not even speak their names. (And I can’t speak for any other park, but the Batman stunt show at Six Flags New Orleans is flat-out terrible.)

That’s the whole problem with DC movies over the past decade and a half — there’s no competition with any other studio, so there’s no incentive to make a fantastic movie or lose the license. If Spider-Man had tanked, Marvel Comics could have blamed Columbia Pictures, not renewed the license and taken it to another studio to try again. But Catwoman stays at Warner Brothers no matter how bad the movie is. The closest thing we’ve got to an escape on the horizon is the news that a potential Shazam! movie may be made by New Line Cinema instead of Warner Brothers… but New Line is still a subsidiary of — anyone wanna guess? You in the back wearing the Def Leppard t-shirt and the polka-dotted bow-tie? Thaaaaat’s right. Time/Warner.

Folks at DC have often admitted, candidly, that if Warner Brothers could trash the entire comic book operation but still keep the characters viable, they would.

Now one has to assume that Disney wouldn’t do such a thing to CrossGen, at least not any time soon, or they wouldn’t have bought the assets in the first place, but the fact is, we’ve still got to keep a clear head about this. It’s possible.

Then there’s the other question. Disney has its hands in almost every form of entertainment — movies, TV, theme parks, book, music… but can they run a comic book company? Well, the answer last time… is no.

I hear you folks yelling now. “But Blake! I see Disney comics all the time! You yourself talk about Carl Barks and Uncle Scrooge more often than normal guys talk about bikini models and football! How can you say Disney can’t run a comic book company?”

Well, because Disney doesn’t publish any of those comics.

Back in the 40s and 50s, there was a little comic book company called Dell. You may have heard of it. Dell published an awful lot of comics, and a vast number of them were licensed comics. Back then, nearly every TV show, movie and newspaper strip had a comic to go with it. Dell published Looney Tunes, Peanuts, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy and — oh yeah — Disney Comics. But Dell eventually faded away and the Disney license, along with many others, wound up at Western Publishing, which produced the comics first under the Gold Key imprint and later under the Whitman imprint. Then Gold Key went away as well and the Disney license was lost for a while until Gladstone Comics was formed in the 80s. (Gladstone was even named after Donald Duck’s lucky cousin.) Gladstone was immensely successful with rejuvenating the Disney line. So successful, in fact, that in the early 90s, Disney decided to take a crack at doing the comics themselves.

They revoked the license from Gladstone and started publishing their own comics, continuing classics like Mickey Mouse, Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, and adding in titles for the hot properties of the time like Roger Rabbit, Darkwing Duck and Tailspin.

But Disney, which was so successful at everything else, didn’t seem to have the passion for comics to keep the company going. Disney’s first issue of Uncle Scrooge was #243. Their last was #280, then they gave up the ship and Gladstone took over the license again. Gladstone had a good run of a few more years, but then they closed up shop too in 1999. Then, horror of horrors, there were no Disney comics available in the U.S. until just last year, when Gemstone Comics took up the license and brought them back.

So what will be different about Disney trying to publish comics this time?

Well, for starters, the press release said the new Abadazad comics will be under their Hyperion imprint, which typically publishes prose books (including children’s fantasy like Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s recent book Peter and the Starcatchers, an excellent prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan). They also said that four Abadazad books are initially planned. This would seem to indicate that they aren’t going to get into the business of trying to publish monthly comics again, but instead will most likely print books. Whether they’ll be hardcover or paperback, standard size or digest, I don’t know, but printing and marketing books is what Hyperion is good at, so that means there’s a fighting chance. The most important thing, I think, is to make sure they keep writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Ploog, who created the title and own a portion of the copyright. This book is their baby, and they did a marvelous job on the three issues that actually saw print before CrossGen closed up shop.

And the rest of the CrossGen properties?

Well… time will tell. But when Abadazad comes out, give it a read, okay? Especially if you’ve got kids. It’s the best fantasy comic you could ever give to them.

And if anyone at Disney is reading this… please… could you maybe publish the end of Negation War?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 10, 2004

This week’s favorite was actually a tighter race than you might think, folks. Ultimately, Identity Crisis #6 did win out, because the conclusion of that book still has me reeling, and any comic that still so occupies my thoughts a week later is deserving of special recognition.

But since IC gets the glory all the time anyway, I’m also going to give a shout out to Avengers Finale. While I thought the conclusion of the Avengers Disassembled storyline kind of petered out and disappointed with the revelation of the big villain of the piece, this finale was spot-on perfect. It was an excellent examination of the team, the characters, the history and the legacy of Marvel’s major supergroup. Plus it had the Beast in it a lot, and I always liked him as an Avenger. Hey, Bendis, any chance we could maybe sneak him into New Avengers instead of Wolverine?

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.




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