§ Nice Art: I got to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse the other day at the early bird IMAX matinée and here is a very quick capsule review:
Did I fell asleep? Fully alert and ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE during the whole thing!!!!
Did I Like the score: I think this was maybe the BEST score ever in a Marvel movie, from the new songs to the sting when the Prowler was unmasked.
What else: Like I said on twitter, I cried tears of radiant joy throughout this whole movie, which was filled with life and humor and humanity and web-slinging. To see the work of so many great comics makers – from Sara Pichelli to Bill Sienkiewicz to Dan Slott to Steve Ditko — brought to vibrant realization was so thrilling. Also great job Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez on creating a great character design with Spider-Woman/Gwen. And who knew Gerard Way’s Peni Parker would have such staying power?
It was also the love letter to my home town, New York City. One thing: almost every Spider-Man movie includes a scene with an elevated train running through skyscrapers, but this must not be Earth Prime, because the last elevated train ran in Manhattan in 1955. It’s fair to say that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko must have remembered this since it was only a few years prior to creating Spider-Man – as recent to their time as the premiere of Girls is to this – so Spider-Man has always had the spirit of the el train in him.
A funny thing: I like IMAX matinees because they are NOT in 3D, but as I went in the theater attendant gave me a pair of 3D glasses anyway. I was pretty sure it wasn’t in 3D but the fuzzy edged, off-registered backgrounds looked like it might have been in 3D so for the first few minutes I kept putting on the glasses to see if they had made a mistake.
But anyway, nice art! Upon my return to Stately Beat Manor, my email contained a link to a review pdf of SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE THE OFFICIAL MOVIE SPECIAL published by Titan and given the sumptuous visuals of the movie, we’re all going to want to pore over this, right? Pick one up at your local comics shop, or Amazon link here.
§ Zainab Akhtar is too busy putting together great comics these days to write about comics, but her 2015 essay on the pattern elements from Miller/Sienkiewicz’s Daredevil: Love and War is super relevant now since this portrayal informed the Spider-Verse Kingpin:
There are a few determining facets that mark the Kingpin as a ‘bad guy.’ He’s bald, huge in size, and wears suits -or formal attire. Both the absence of head hair as a malevolent signifier, and the aligning of fat as grotesque, speak to the distrust and fear of anyone beyond the confines of conventional standards of appearance. Fundamentally, his being bald and incredibly fat is used to induce repulsion and menace. At the same time, he’s afforded a singular, undeniable physical presence. Sienkiewicz makes little attempt at realistic proportions with the Kingpin: his girth is vast, looming, and impossible; his head floating somewhere within his body like an afterthought, his face moon-like. His features are close and barely scrutable; brow, eyes, a nose and mouth. The smooth dome curvature of his head and body bring to mind a writ-to-life Humpty Dumpty: both the widely reinforced egg personification, and the cannon to which the rhyme originally refers, are an apt fit. The Kingpin’s size is a constant, overt reminder and manifestation of his power and threat, but here it is largely tempered by a sense of poise, and grace, almost. His posture and carriage are similarly held. At no point does he seems weighed down or hindered by his flesh. It bothers other people, and he is aware of this effect; acting as a mirror to their ugliness; using it to intimidate, impose. Before he does anything, seeing the Kingpin is enough; half the job done. Every fold of flesh makes him him, and the Kingpin knows this better than anyone.
§ While I’m still riding my Spider-Verse high, this interview with co-director Bob Persichetti at Cartoon Brew is essential reading as it explains how the movie broke out of the tropes of CG animation for something incredibly fresh and visionary:
And then we [said] let’s strip out all the stuff cinematically that is baked into all the films of today, even live-action, which is stuff like motion blur, rack focus, and in animation, everything is on ones. You have to run all these simulations for hair and fabric, and the pipeline demands that you have a new image every single frame that’s moving so that these simulations can work. That was when we started to really push against the machine because they had to come up with new simulations that worked for animation that’s on twos. If we’re not going to have motion blur, then how do we do camera moves because we’re not going to lock the camera down every time?
So we came up with all these different devices to counter the inadequacies of cg and let the things that were a weakness become our strength. It all coalesced — we started to see some animation tests that were moving with the crunchy texture that we were hoping to find. And then Justin [Thompson] as our production designer was amazing, and we had an amazing visual development team that were doing paintings for two years just trying to figure out how to represent shapes and light graphically, but on top of cg elements, because we still wanted to be able to move the camera.
§ Oh one more! Producer Amy Pascal and co-screenwriter Phil Lord take their victory lap for Spider-Verse, one that must be sweet after Pascal had to step down from Sony after their email hack, and Lord was fired from Solo:
Pascal, for her part, said the smartest thing she did was keep quiet and out of their way. Though Lord and Miller’s loose, improvisational style caused a much-publicized rift with Lucasfilm—who very publicly fired them from the Han Solo origin story Solo in 2017—it was perfectly suited to the world of animation, where experimentation and alt-takes aren’t nearly so costly.
The resulting screenplay is not only a riot, it’s exceedingly useful for Sony’s future franchising plans. Drawing from Slott’s story line, in which multiple Spider-powered characters from different dimensions team up to combat evil, Into the Spider-Verse opens up a galaxy of possibilities—and unshackles Sony from the continuity concerns that can weigh down other massive superhero endeavors. Sony’s licensing deal with Marvel includes rights to roughly 900 characters—and Pascal sounded downright giddy when she spoke about the potential for “all kinds of stories and worlds that can happen simultaneously.”
It’s safe to say that following the unexpected success of Venom and the critical rapture over Spider-Verse, Pascal is riding pretty high at Sony right now.
§ This is the time of year when I’m swamped with so many best of lists I don’t remember which ones I ran and didn’t, and I missed most but…anyway here’s lists.
Vulture’s Best Superhero Stories 2018
Paste’s The 15 Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comics of 2018
AiPT!’s favorite comics of 2018 Part 3: The best creators – yes there were previous parts to this, so dig around!
§ Steve Morris – still a much loved past contributor to the Beat – has taken on his own mad, Ahab like quest: making a list of the top 100 comic book issues for his site Shelfdust, based on contributions from dozens of writers. Here’s the whole list thus far, up to #20, and it’s quirky as hell, but, damn, so much food for thought and it makes me want to read a lot of comics!!! Also, an issue I edited is on the list so I mattered!
§ Another kind of list: 10 Awesome Comics With Trans Characters by Trans Creators – this reminded of of how much I loved L. Nichols’ Flocks sometime, which belongs on many best of lists, a very touching and emotional look at transitioning, not just in affirming gender but in accepting what parts of your past you can take with you. Here’s John Seven’s review.
§ Oh and here is the first of doubtless many (deserved) victory laps for Kelly Sue: How Kelly Sue DeConnick Made ‘C-List’ Captain Marvel the Most Powerful Superhero in Hollywood
“It was a C-list character and a C-list writer, and a brand new artist,” DeConnick said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I mean, we had so little chance of being successful that I didn’t actually plan past the sixth issue.” Marvel’s low expectations for the book (which DeConnick says she totally understands) meant little to no marketing was done for it, leaving the writer to make dog tags, buttons, postcards, and more on her own. She does not recommend it. “It was a stupid thing to do. It was a straight dumb thing to do,” she says. “But I got real lucky. The character happened to attract a fan base which made that dumb move on my part end up looking smart and worthwhile. But really, it was super dumb.” For the past year, DeConnick has worked as a consultant on the film, which will star Brie Larson, guiding its conception of Carol’s character and squeezing in enough time for duck-face selfies with the Captain herself.
§ Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton is closing and the owner feels “Crappy” about it. The store is doing well but he wants to pursue other things.
§ Writer Eric Esquivel, who has been accused of serious sexual misconduct and had his comics work cancelled by various publishers, spoke out on Twitter with an apology…of sorts. I’m not going to link to it, because it’s probably the WORST apology I’ve ever read in terms of not taking responsibility for his actions that harmed others, saying it was all consensual, and, most weirdly, blaming the influence of James Bond films, The Fonz and Kiss for turning him to the path of toxic masculinity. Fonzie? Really? Millions of men have watched Happy Days and not committed the kind of emotional and sexual abuse Esquivel is accused of. We decided a long time ago that video games don’t cause violence, and falling back on this is such a bizarre path to take. As this circulated, another one of Esquivel’s victims responded by posting text messages of him grooming her when she was 16 and he was 25 – and he was well aware of her age. Believe women.
§ And now it is time for US, the comics community to take a victory lap: Half of IMDb’s Most Anticipated TV Shows of 2019 Are Based on Comics:
The Umbrella Academy, Watchmen, The Boys, Deadly Class, and Doom Patrol are the five comic book titles on the list. None of those series will air on network TV, and each has a separate broadcast partner.
We did it, mom!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.