Sunday, June 17, 2012

Green Lantern: Green Lantern Going Gay to Help Boost Stagnant Comic Book Business

Green Lanterns of two worlds: The Silver Age H...Green Lanterns of two worlds: The Silver Age Hal Jordan meets the Golden Age Alan Scott in Green Lantern #40 (Oct. 1965). Cover art by Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Blockbuster movies like ‘The Dark Knight’ rake in billions, but sales of the comic books on which they’re based have been stalled at $670 million annually for years. DC’s gay Green Lantern gimmick is part of an effort to freshen aging characters and boost flagging sales.

In New York’s scorching summer of 1940, Alan Scott toiled on the railway lines. His prospects were limited and his job, perilous. In mid-July, a tragic bridge collapse would have ended his story—were it not for the appearance of a magic space lamp. Alan Scott picked up the powerful lantern, and took its name for seven decades of green flaming and Justice League-ing.

Last week, DC Comics announced that it will reintroduce Alan—the first of at least six Green Lanterns, depending on how you count—as an openly gay man. Normally, when an octogenarian comes out of the closet, it’s fodder for an endearing Christopher Plummer performance. But DC’s PR move is a window into a changing industry. It’s a decision that may have less to do with diversity than it does with new dynamics in the comic-book business, which has seen about as many booms, busts, “zooms,” and “thwacks” as its characters. Switching up sexual orientation is a cunning way of compensating for flagging sales and aging characters. In the meantime, the industry is rebalancing: toward independent publishers, author ownership, and cross-platform digital tie-ins. As small studios sap talent from the giant conglomerates, comics are changing—and there’s a lot of money to be made in the process—just not in the comics themselves.

The business world of comic books is a curious place. The “big two,” DC and Marvel, own the rights to pretty much all the superheroes you know, but most of the artists and writers who actually created them—and those who now draw them—have no intellectual property. Although most artists would love to start at DC or Marvel, the comics’ classic heroes just aren’t selling as well as they used to. In the meantime, investors and creators are seeing major opportunities at independent studios, like Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and Man of Action. In the past year, these groups’ successes have inched up comic sales for the first time in several years, bringing other titles with them.

The heroes of yesteryear—Batman, Superman, Iron Man—still have tremendous value. But today, their worth has almost nothing to do with their printed personae. All the power is in the merchandise or on the silver screen. Marvel is owned by Disney, and DC, by TimeWarner. To the parent corporations and their mega movie studios, the core comic business is practically a rounding error. According to Tony Wible of Janney Capital Markets—who has covered Marvel, DC, and their parent companies—the comics are “too small to move the needle.”

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Green Lantern: Is Green Lantern #0 Among the Worst Superhero Redesigns of All Time?

English: Cosplay: Sinestro Corps, Larflize, Re...English: Cosplay: Sinestro Corps, Larflize, Red Lantern Corps vs. Star Saphire, Green Lantern Corps. Dragon Con 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Superhero costumes get redesigned all the time, for any number of reasons. There are story reasons, trademark reasons, merchandising reasons and, once upon a time, it used to drive enough interest to change it for sales reasons all on its own.

While it’s unclear what motivation, exactly, there is for adding a new Green Lantern–an apparently-Arab one with a tattoo and a pistol in his hand–or for redesigning his costume to look more like an S&M gimp suit filtered through Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass, that cover jumps right out at me as one of the worst of the 55 mainstream superhero titles DC will publish in September.

Here’s the thing about superhero redesigns: good ones will often stick with you for a while, but then just fade into the background of the character’s look and stop being something you really think about. Because of the cyclical nature of mainstream superhero comics, no change tends to take hold for long and so the bad ones are forgettable. It’s only the truly atocious ones that remain a part of the conversation forever.

So here’s a look at some of the worst, most misguided and hideous superhero redesigns of all time. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an authority on the matter–the last time I talked about some awful hairstyles, almost all of the readers disagreed with me, and I actually have a soft spot in my heart for a couple of the looks on this list, which are included for the simple reason that they’re objectively bad in the opinions of the broad majority of the audience.

Keep in mind, by the way, that this is just about the actual design aesthetic, not about whether or not the stories worked. Something like the ghost/angel Punisher doesn’t count, becuase frankly while it was the worst idea ever foisted on a character who had seen his share of bad ideas, it didn’t look sufficiently different from his regular outfit to really stick out on the shelf as monumentally ugly.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Green Lantern: Green Lantern Might Reboot

Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern.Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now that Warner Bros. and DC's Justice League movie is back on track, lots of little details are emerging about the rest of their superhero slate. That includes Green Lantern, which could be facing a reboot already.

Variety has the inside track on the DC projects, with the latest word being that the studio is "figuring out whether to bring back Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern in a sequel to last year's actioner or relaunch the character in a completely new way." Michael Goldenberg, who co-wrote the first film, was commissioned to write Green Lantern 2 back in 2010, a year before the first film debuted. It would seem, however, that script may never see the light of day. (Don't cry for Goldenberg. He's now on the newly re-energized Wonder Woman script, as reported earlier this week.)

Obviously, the notion of rebooting Green Lantern doesn't come as much of a surprise considering the financial and critical hit Warners took with the film. To spitball for a second here, maybe the studio figures they can just relaunch the character in the Justice League movie, perhaps going with the John Stewart version in order to bring some diversity to the team?

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