HEROES debuts tonight

HEROES, the NBC television series about a bunch of ordinary folk who gain mysterious powers that they cannot understand but must learn to live with, airs for the first time on network television tonight on NBC at 9 pm EDT. To say it is debuting would be inaccurate, as the pilot has been floating around on the internet since July and you’ve been able to download the pilot from iTunes and Yahoo for days.


Obviously, in the new, competitive landscape of television, producers have made no effort to keep the pilot under wraps, hoping instead to create a groundswell of grassroots interest based on the developing mystery of the storyline. It’s all viral, all the time. (All similarities to LOST entirely coincidental — and yet it’s funny that Lost was launched with a raft of comics-loving folk on staff — JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Jeph Loeb, Paul Dini — while HEROES’ creator Tom Kring admits he’s not a big comics person. Loeb and Aron Collete are board with HEROES, however, so quality control will be in effect.)

More interesting from our standpoint is HEROES’ online comics support, at a site called 9th Wonders, which bills itself as the “official unofficial fan site for Heroes” but which is very official indeed, with comics and pin-ups by Tim Sale and Dave Johnson (one reproduced above). Apparently this all ties in to the mystery, so you must spend mucho time clicking around to get in on the fun.

In addition, Webcomics by Michael Turner, Jim Lee and Tim Sale will be debuting at NBC.COM as soon as the shows finally “air”, as well. (We’ll link up in the morning.)

As for even more comics connections, Sale is the staff artist for the show — one of the characters is a painter with strange visions, and Sale creates the art used for this character.

200609251328Also, for trivia buffs, actress Tawny Cypress, who plays Simone Deveraux, is the sister of comics artist Toby Cypress, so she may know a thing or two about comics.

As for ourselves, we don’t really watch television aside from THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER and THE VENTURE BROS, so it will be hard to remember to tune in let alone play all the online games. So, we’ll see.

Cartoon Network exposure sells manga!

200609251241ICv2 notes that since BLEACH starting airing on the Cartoon Network, manga sales have soared.

The BookScan list of graphic novels sold in bookstores for the week ending September 17th displays the effect of the debut of the Bleach anime on the Cartoon Network on September 9th. The first volume in the Bleach manga series, which was originally released in June of 2004, soared to #7 on the list, while Bleach Vol. 2 jumped up to #20. It was the strong backlist sales of Naruto that heralded the “Cartoon Network effect,” after the Naruto anime debuted last September.

It’s unlikely that Bleach will be able to fully replicate Naruto’s performance — for one thing there are 14 volumes of Bleach out now versus seven volumes of Naruto in 2005, which means that new adopters have to make a much bigger commitment to Bleach. Also the scale of Naruto’s success was, and remains, staggering. So far in 2006, Naruto Vol. 1 has sold more than 70K copies in the bookstores — and the only books that have sold more are Volumes 9 & 10 of Naruto. According to one industry observer, sales of the 11 volumes of Naruto so far in 2006 account for just under 10% of total manga sales for the year.

Much more of ICv2’s usual insightful analysis in the link.

200609251242It’s worth noting that the Kid’s WB/CW Saturday morning line-up debuted this weekend, with a significant amount made up of comics-based shows.

7:00-7:30 am, KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG (E/I Compliant)
7:30-8:00 am, KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG (E/I Compliant)
8:00-8:30 am, MONSTER ALLERGY
8:30-9:00 am, TOM AND JERRY TALES
9:30-10:00 am, JOHNNY TEST
10:00-10:30 am, LEGION OF SUPER HEROES
10:30-11:00 am, THE BATMAN
11:00-11:30 am, XIAOLIN SHOWDOWN
11:30 am-12:00 pm, LOONATICS UNLEASHED

Is there the potential for any kind of KWB bounce here?

OBSERVATION: When looking at this list we were shocked to see that the much derided LOONATICS was actually on the air, let alone in its second season. Has anyone seen this show. Was it as bad as everyone thought it would be?

Movie news round-up: Surfer cast; Arch Enemies

200609251151Confirmation this morning from THR that Doug Jones will play the Silver Surfer, with the wizards at the WETA workshop finalizing the CGI character for the upcoming FANTASTIC FOUR 2:

Jones will take part in a process similar to that in which Andy Serkis portrayed Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The voice casting of Silver Surfer has yet to be determined, the trade paper reported.

Weta (King Kong) has developed an advanced computer-generated-animation process that employs motion-capture techniques updated to add further dimensionality to the liquid-metal hero.

[snip]Jones is widely known for his performance and mime-like work under prosthetics. He has become a regular player in the oeuvre of director Guillermo del Toro, who previously cast Jones in 1997’s Mimic and 2004’s Hellboy. Jones also co-stars in del Toro’s upcoming Pan’s Labyrinth, in dual roles as Pan and the villainous Pale Man.

Also in the news: Sam Raimi has optioned Dark Horse’s ARCH ENEMIES by Drew Melbourne, Yvel Guichet and Joe Rubenstein,

…the story follows two roommates who, as their costumed alter egos Star Fighter & Underlord, are mortal enemies.

Sam Raimi, Josh Donen and Mike Richardson will all be serving as producers. No writer or director have been decided on as of yet.

Platinum goes to DrunkDuck.com

Platinum is joining the stampede to the web, the New York Times reports. Platinum Studios is the long gestating comics publisher run by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg that has been developing hundreds of properties over the last few years, optioning many for Hollywood development. Now, after some rumblings that Platinum would be ramping up it’s interactive division, comes the announcement that their comics will be appearing on the DrunkDuck.com site, which Platinum purchased. The article is from the tech section of the paper, and focuses on the forward-looking aspects of this deal:

The revamped DrunkDuck site will continue to encourage the growth of independent comic book creators by distributing their work digitally at no cost to them or to consumers, Mr. Rosenberg said. Some of the comics appear as static panels, while others are lightly spiced with soundtracks, audio effects and minimal animation, and this will continue.

But a crucial difference, he said, will be in how Platinum plans to use the site to create a broad mix of revenue streams, “full-circle commercialization,�? for the company and its content contributors.

For example, Mr. Rosenberg said he planned aggressive marketing of the site — which already receives a million unique viewers a month, mostly drawn by word of mouth — coupled with advertising sales. While the advertising revenue would not be shared with the comic creators, artists would share in the revenue from downloadable comics for cellphones and mobile media devices like iPods, comics-related ring tones, wallpaper and items like T-shirts or plastic scale models of comic book characters.

Product creators, Mr. Rosenberg said, can expect to receive 10 percent of the adjusted gross revenue earned by sales.

100 Platinum graphic novels and comics will start appearing online this week, the article says.

We’re sure the webcomics community will have much to say about this, as always. The Times’s “Gosh wow! You can publish comics on the web!” attitude is a bit jarring, admittedly. We’ll just note that this effectively make Platinum the latest “we’re going to the web” publisher, after years of development heck for their properties.

Blanchett is CANCER VIXEN

200609250320Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s CANCER VIXEN is believed to have nabbed the highest advance ever for a graphic novel but it looks like it’s earning its keep, with a movie deal in place before it’s even released, on Tuesday.. Cate Blanchett has signed on to star in the movie version of Marchetto’s battle with breast cancer.

Marchetto’s autobiography, which has been generating buzz ahead of its release by Knopf on Tuesday, describes how she fell in love with a celebrity restaurateur and was planning their wedding when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and realized that she had let her health insurance lapse. Her friends — stylists, gossip columnists, designers — rallied around her as she wore killer shoes to chemo sessions and strove to get married on time.

Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton, are in talks to serve as producers of the Working Title Films project.

Marchetto also write to tell us that she’ll be using some of the money from the book to sponsor a a day of free mammograms for women who don’t have insurance at the hospital where she received her treatments: St Vincent’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

That’s pretty darned swell of her, and she wanted us to pass the news along for any uninsured women cartoonists out there. We’ll pass along details as we get them.

The heartache of Tugger: The Jeep 4×4 Who Wanted to Fly

200609250233Over the weekend we got a mailing from animator Mark Simon leading to a story in the Orlando Sentinal about an animator named Jeffrey Varab who it is claimed has defrauded hundreds of people. The story has cycled off the Sentinal website, but the Google cache is here and you can read a bit of the sad story surrounding an animated film called TUGGER: THE 4X4 JEEP WHO WANTED TO FLY that received limited release in Florida in 2005, and is now the basis of a bunch of lawsuits.

Tugger’s production and failed distribution efforts to date created a trail of angry investors, contractors and ex-employees who say they didn’t get paid. There are now eight lawsuits against Genesis or its founder, Jeffrey J. Varab, including a move by 11 investors last month to have the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Orlando declare an involuntary bankruptcy of the company and wrestle away its assets — notably Tugger.

There’s a bit more at this blog posting. It seems that the animators who worked on the film floated production costs on their credit cards, and the man who came up with the story of Tugger, Woody Woodman, wasn’t invited to the premiere, and has lost all copyright, etc etc. Like we said, sad. What’s remarkable from where we sit is how, given the enormous complexities of bringing an animated film to the screen, so many people could have gone along with what sounds like a very unstable situation for so long.

A coupla links

— The Miami Herald interviews Alison Bechdel, whose recent interviews have mostly been about the after-effects of writing a tell-all family memoir that gets enormous amounts of attention:

”I’m beginning to wonder if they’re right,” says Bechdel of people who suggest that maybe full disclosure is not always the best course. “I thought that revealing the truth is good. I just took that as a dictum, because that’s what my generation believes. But maybe you don’t have to spill your guts all the time.”

— ALSO: Blogcritics reviews Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez:

He has a knack for visualizing all three of his teens as they emote their way through a series of self-inflicted crises – at one point, making a trip into a lonely lemon grove as ominous as a teen-centered horror flick; later, showing Lita screaming in impatient frustration for a pair of concert tickets (as in other Hernandez comics, rock music plays a vital part in the story) – and the ability to convey both the seriousness and absurdity of each moment simultaneously. Though his characters may at times appear to be inhabiting a 2-D world (most clearly repped by the lemon grove with its blackly flattened lemon trees), they remain some of the most vibrantly multi-layered, unpredictable characters in comics.

— PLUS: In an increasingly common marketing move, THE OTHER SIDE, the upcoming Vertigo series by Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart, has its own MySpace page. Friend up to be eligible for cool prizes!

Sook-Yin Lee rides the ShortBus

200609250216The New York times has a looong story about John Cameron Mitchell’s new movie Shortbus. Mitchell is best known as the guy behind HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. Shortbus is a film about sexuality that includes actual sex scenes between actors who were cast because–well you kinda gotta read the article. Why is The Beat writing about it? Because one of the actors is Sook-Yin Lee, a Canadian music personality who is also an ex-girlfriend of cartooner Chester Brown and made a few comic book appearances here and there.

Ms. Lee seemed to be the most unsettled of the group. After just a few minutes of talking about her experience, she asked to take a break, in order to steady herself. “There’s this assumption that everybody’s really cool about their bodies,â€? she said. “I’m not. I’m as repressed as you are, maybe even more so.â€?

She said she grew up devoutly Roman Catholic in Vancouver. She now lives in Toronto and is the host of an irreverent public radio program. Her bosses, she said, initially discouraged her from being in the movie. But she knew Mr. Mitchell, so she forged ahead, even though it meant that naked rehearsal. Even though it meant that marathon with Mr. Barker. Even though it meant masturbating in full view of camera.

Oh my.

Phoenix Cactus Comicon report

Marc Mason has a excellent report on Saturday over at The Comics Waiting Room:

This year’s show displayed its ambition not only in becoming a two-day con, but also in its guest list. The previous one-offs had a small, but solid, list of pros on the bill, but 2006 promised far grander things. Arizona fans weren’t just getting one or two out of town guys and all the locals (like Mike Bullock and Raven Gregory); instead, folks like Mike Mayhew, Billy Tan, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Josh Blaylock were going to show. That not only enhanced the con as a destination for future guests, but should also serve to draw a solid attendance number when badges are counted after Sunday closes

That isn’t to say, however, that all things were pulled off smoothly.

More in the link, including good quotes from panels. Mason notes that the show was almost 50/50 boy girl and had a big manga turnout. Sounds like a show that’s developing nicely.