Friday, June 13, 2008

Mark Millar: Still just comic book-famous, or famous-famous?

Today The Incredible Hulk opens in theaters, and in just two short weeks the next of this summer’s many based-on-a-comic-book movies will see release: Wanted, Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ 2003 Top Cow miniseries of the same name.

See this?

That’s a pass for a preview screening of the film. In most media markets of a certain side, they do preview screenings of movies, to ensure reviews and coverage the weekend of release, as well as word-of-mouth. For studio movies, this usually entails an evening screening in a big theater house, with critics mixed in with a large crowd.

The studios hire local or regional advertising and/or PR firms to organize these, and they in turn usually partner with a local media institution like (newspaper, radio station, TV station) to distribute these passes. Sometimes those media will then partner with a local business to help them distribute passes. For example, when I worked for a local altweekly, our advertising people would get a stack of passes that they would give to a business to give away, usually trying to find a business whose clientele would be likely to appreciate the film (For example, if the movie were based on a video game, they might approach a video game store; for one based on a comic book, they might approach a comic book store, and so on).

The passes usually look like the one in the picture there. On one side, is a version of the movie poster, and on the reverses is all of the pertinent info about the screening—when and where it is, how many it’s good for, some fine print regarding not recording it on your cell phone camera and posting it on the Internet, et cetera.

Sometimes, they contain a little bit of info about the film. That’s the case with Wanted.
(Above: This is what the pass looks like in Looking Glass Land).

There’s a little paragraph about the movie, and I found the phrasing of this paragraph about Wanted to be kind of interesting, from an inside-comics-fandom-looking-out perspective, anyway.

It’s just two sentences long:

Based upon Mark Millar’s explosive graphic novel series and helmed by stunning visualist director Timur Bekmambetov—creator of the most successful Russian film franchise in history—Wanted tells the tale of one apathetic nobody’s transformation as he is introduced to a new life and new powers that he never knew existed. In 2008, the world will be introduced to a hero for a new generation: Wesley Gibson.

We’ve all noticed the increasing mainstream acceptance of comics and comics culture over the last decade or so, something that seemed so gradual for so long, and suddenly, BOOM! the rest of the world suddenly started caring about this art form we’re all so passionate about.

Now terminology has always been a problem in discussing comics/comix/graphic novels/sequential art, and we seem to have settled on “graphic novel” through usage, but it’s kinda problematic, particularly if one cares to sit down and start to draw lines separating around what a graphic novel is and what it isn’t. (Is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman a graphic novel, or a series of graphic novels, or a comic book series? Technically, it’s a comic book series, right? But when the comics are collected into a trade, then it becomes a graphic novel and, hell, collect the graphic novels into a giant omnibus, and suddenly it’s only two graphic novels).

Anyway, Wanted is referred to as a “graphic novel series,” which it isn’t. It’s a comic book series. It was published in six single floppy, stapled, spine-less issues. You could call it a graphic novel, if “comic book” or “comic book series” bears negative connotations—I’m fascinated at the acceptance comics have when referred to as “graphic novels” as opposed to “comic books”—since it has since been collected into a trade paperback format, with a spine and binding and a single cover and all. But to call it a series of graphic novels, you’d have to argue that each and every single issue of it was a graphic novel, and I don’t think one can argue that.

The other thing I found interesting, the thing that actually made me thin there was a post in this at all, was that it mentioned writer Mark Millar, but not artist J.G. Jones.

Now, the credits for the film—the one’s that appear on the poster, anyway—says “Based on the series of comic books by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones,” but Jones’ name isn’t on the paragraph on the other side of the pass above.

That indicates that whoever composed that paragraph thought Millar’s name was more important than Jones’. This surprised me, because I was under the impression that neither of the creators were names that anyone outside of comics would have ever even heard of, let alone be a selling point. Millar might be one of the biggest—and best selling, I’m sure he’d eagerly point out—names in the North American comics industry, but if you don’t read comics (or read about them) would you have ever even heard of him?

I’m not singling Millar out; Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns and Brian Michael Bendis are among the best-selling and most popular writers alongside Millar, but does anyone who’s never seen the inside of a comic book shop know who the hell they are? Hell, even Neil Gaiman’s mainstream name recognition is at this point far stronger for his non-comics work than his comics work; folks who don’t read comics still know the fantasy author who wrote Coraline and Stardust.

Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, maybe Will Eisner, probably Jack Kirby and Harvey Pekar and now Marjane Satrapi, those are names folks outside comics would easily recognize as comics creators. But Millar? This is the first movie based on his work. He hasn’t written for other media the way, say, Neil Gaiman has. I know some of Millar’s work has gotten mainstream media attention—particularly Civil War—but it’s always been in the context of look what Marvel’s doing with their Marvel heroes, not look what This One Writer is doing.

Were those sorts of articles enough to jack his Q-rating up high enough that name-checking him in a one-paragraph description of Wanted makes a lot of sense?


If so, though, I find it pretty surprising.


JohnF said...

Wanted (the movie) is going to have as much similarity to Wanted (the comic series) as a McRib sandwich does to a pig. Not that I care, since the movie looks dreadful and the comic was barely tolerable.

Anonymous said...

Caleb, your points are usually good, but your construct your arguments in the most whiny and long-winded manner.

Fine, Jones' name wasn't on the pass. Does that point necessitate six paragraphs, though?

Patrick C said...

I don't think the point was that J.G. Jones wasn't on the pass, but that Mark Millar's name WAS.

And I miss the time that "Graphic Novels" were just TPB's.

SallyP said...

Caleb makes a very good point. Wanted WAS a comic book, and last time I looked, comic books had artists. It does seem as though Millar's ego has been just a tad rampageous lately.

And Anonymous? It is a little rude of you to go onto another man's blog and insult him.

MrCynical said...

I look forward to Wanted being the "Barb Wire" of this decade of comic movies.

Seriously, I have nothing but antipathy and want to enjoy watching this film fail.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sally,

I generally enjoy Caleb's posts, but in the last month or two he's gotten much more longwinded in his rants and focuses on way too many minutae (one of the worst is his complaint about what Frank Miller is doing with the Spirit movie - even though Caleb hasn't seen the movie yet - based on the fact his costume is black and not blue).

Given that Caleb has enabled comments, I feel I'm justified in expressing my opinion about the way in which he expresses his own.

Caleb said...

Caleb, your points are usually good,

Why thank, I'm glad you--

but your construct your arguments in the most whiny and long-winded manner.


Well, this is a blog.

Okay, this might be more of an answer than you want or need, Anonymous poster, but EDILW has probably always leaned towards long-winded and probably always will. That's because I write it, and I'm a long-winded kinda guy.

I write a lot and I write fast and I'm terrible at self-editing and killing my own darlings and all that. One advantage of the Internet over print is that there are no space restrictions, so there's no real reason not to go on and on and on. .

Other, of course, than the fact that it doesn't always make for the best reading, nor does someone running their mouth about something trivial for a couple hundred (or a couple thousand) words usually constitute great writing.

I'm well aware of that, and I'm not usually trying to do great writing or provide the greatest online reading experience possible here. No one pays me for this so, in general, I don't really knock myself out on these things. What you see is normally a first and only draft; I could spend a couple days on every post, and I could edit them better, but why the hell would I want to do that?

There are exceptions to this, of course. If I feel really strongly about something, or am covering something I think is really important or that a great deal of people might be interested in (The Jeff Smithstravaganza events here in Columbus, for example), I'll generally spend more time on it (Actually, I might have something like that for Sunday, if I have time to write it today).

But yeah, in general what you're getting is stream-of-conscious, usually-not-even-re-read-before posting material. Especially for trivial shit, like last night's post.

Finally, a while back I decided to challenge myself to do this daily, rather than whenever-I-feel-like-it-ly. I posted last night's post right before bed. I coulda stayed up another hour polishing it but I didn't really seee any reason to.

As for the whiny-ness, well, yeah, of course. My blog is the repository for exactly that sort of trivial nonsense because its not like any other media is going to be like, "Sure, we'd love to buy a piece on whether Mark Millar is well-known outside comic shops or not and run it in our publication."

I guess I can either talk out loud to myself about this stuff, call up friends and family and bore them with conversations over whether Wanted is a graphic novel or a comic book, or I could post it on a comics blog, where someone might be interested.

The audience I'm writing for is essentially just me; I doubt anyone is super-intersted in every single thing I post here, but I imagine if one has enough in common with me, they'll like some of the posts, and hopefully more than they hate.

Otherwise, I don't imagine anyone would stick around very long.

There! Even my replies are long-winded!

And Anonymous? It is a little rude of you to go onto another man's blog and insult him.

Eh, I don't really care. I've thought about de-enabling anonymous comments, but I'm vain, and like to read people talking about me. Also, I don't know if I know how to de-enable them.

Given that Caleb has enabled comments, I feel I'm justified in expressing my opinion about the way in which he expresses his own.

Yeah, yeah, express away.

the last month or two he's gotten much more longwinded in his rants and focuses on way too many minutae (one of the worst is his complaint about what Frank Miller is doing with the Spirit movie - even though Caleb hasn't seen the movie yet - based on the fact his costume is black and not blue).

Hmm... I'm pretty sure I've always been long-winded and focused on minutae here; particularly since going daily.

I'm not sure if you're the same Anonymous who brought up the Frank Miller/Spirit post repeatedly, seeing as you are Anonymous and all, but I wasn't reviewing the movie, I was giving my reaction to the minute or two of film that constituted the teaser trailer.

I don't really see how that is essentially unfair to the teaser trailer, or why it's gotten under your skin so (You're not really Frank Miller, are you?!), but yeah, a black-suited Spirit is kinda like a red-cowled Batman or orange-caped Superman. It doesn't look right. Showing the Octopus' face doesn't sound right either. And having Frank Miller direct The Spirit doesn't seem like a good idea either, but that doesn't mean the film won't turn out great.

I'm more than happy to wait and see, but that doesn't mean I can't react to the clues they're giving us as they come out, does it?

Anonymous said...

I’ll admit that I’m one of your readers who doesn’t read every single thing you post – though I do visit the site a couple times a week (hoping I’ll be lucky enough to stumble upon another crudely drawn Caleb superhero epic which, by the way, are too few and far between for my tastes), but often times I’ll start reading a post and discover some crazy comic connection I didn’t notice, or I’ll be introduced to some fantastic art or great characters that I never knew existed. So kudos Caleb for being a bigger nerd than I am – don’t let people like Anon. get you down – and please continue your long winded, often rambling, borderline perverse dissection of the heroes we love so much.

Anonymous said...

Sadly i wouldn't count Jack Kirby as a name known by people who've never set foot inside a comic store, just recently i mentioned his name to a coupe of non-comic reading geek friends and had to expain who he was.

Anonymous said...

Being longwinded isn't a problem - the problem is if there's little substances stretched over too many words, or if the point was reached way in the beginning and is reiterated over and over.

I have no problem with stream-of-consciousness writing - and I did say I've enjoyed this blog for a long time - but something about your writing lately has gotten far too nitpicky. Whereas I used to feel you were observant and analytical, I feel you're lately getting obsessive and overly concerned with negligible minutae. I can't quite put my finger on how, but I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't notice a difference.

To contrast, your cartoon/comic strip posts usually get to the point right away and don't linger on it, making them both witty and entertaining.

And the Frank Miller Spirit stuff, yeah, that was me. I couldn't believe you ranted (in a longwinded manner, if I recall) about the Spirit being dressed in black and not blue. It seems like the most petty thing to care about - or how you complained that the words "My city screams" were arranged in dynamic font as opposed to "The Spirit" itself.

It's not just an obsession with minutae that's the problem - it's when you focus on the minutae and miss the bigger picture.

Thanks for taking the time to reply before.

Greg said...

Well, Millar has desperately wanted rock-star fame for years, so maybe now he'll get it. Probably not, but at least this movie, whether it fails (which I think it will; it looks awful) or not, will allow him to talk about how great he is for another five years or so.

JohnF said...

I have to hope that Wanted will be remembered as "Mark Millar's RoboCop 2"
Then maybe he can come back and do a decent movie 15 years later.

Anonymous said...

I'm anonymous and I just want to say that Caleb looks kinda like a gay porn star, but with clothes.

So there.

Chris said...

I think it just boils down to the fact that writers get more respect than artists.

I'm trying to recall any recent movies where the film was marketed on the basis of the original artist's involvement, and with the exception of some Frank Miller projects, I can't.

(Even those don't count because Miller did double duty)