Midweek movie news

No promises we’ll have a Friday news dump this week, so you’d better enjoy this edition…

* Well, the big news tonight is most definitely the reorganization going over at the Warner Brothers megastudio. As far as I’m able to suss out, what this amounts to is a consolidation of power for CEO Jeff Bewkes. Reading Nikki Finke‘s current summary of the situation is a bit like reading a Television Without Pity post for a very complicated soap opera you’ve never seen, but Anne Thompson keeps it much, much simpler. On his way out exec Alan Horn is a good guy who Thompson believes was simply superfluous. Another case of a nice guy finishing last?

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However, Nikki Finke does allude to a very crucial part of the Warners empire, and that’s DC Comics now being headed by the Warners minded and Finke approved Diane Nelson. As it happens, my deep, deep connections in the comics biz were e-mailing me news earlier today — which I was somewhat aware of but failed to properly cover earlier in the week — of an onging reorganization going on over there which certainly ties into the ongoing attempts at Warners to become more aggressive regarding comics adaptations along the lines of what Marvel Entertainment has been doing for some time — and also to try and avoid more flops like “Jonah Hex.”

There was even talk some talk of DC becoming entirely a West Coast operation, but that would be a major breach of publishing industry tradition with some actual problems involved and, in any case, thanks to FedEx and the ‘net, freelancers can live where they want now. Heidi MacDonald’s great comics blog The Beat has been covering this end of the story and you read about some of what’s going on here.

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RIP Shel Dorf

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The reaction in the film geek/geek film press has been minimal, but Shel Dorf, the founder of what we now call Comicon but was for years known as “the San Diego Comicon” passed on yesterday from complications of diabetes. While comics blogger Heidi MacDonald covered his passing nicely, for the most part the only coverage has been a terse AP story which has been picked up at a few places.

By all accounts Dorf, whose  reputation was as an relentlessly positive and upbeat booster of the arts of comics, was unhappy with what the con is today — for better a worse a multimedia extravaganza and entertainment biz mecca, emphasis on “biz,” where comics themselvees come far down the list of priorities after toys, videogames, and movies. However, his creation is perhaps the single most discussed media event of the year on a lot of web sites and I would have thought his passing merited a bit more discussion. Anyhow, I can personally attest to the part of the AP story that mentions how he helped new talents in the comics field. One of those cartoonists was my good friend, Randy Reynaldo, with whom he bonded over their mutual admiration for comic strip legend Milton Caniff, for whom Dorf worked as a letterer for many years.

As a grown-up geek who grew up with pretty deep love of the comics form, I have no problem with comics derived movies — in fact, some of them are like dreams come true for my inner 13 year-old. (Others are nightmares.) I just wish the comics themselves from which they came got more respect as something more than a source for movie ideas.

It should also be said that Dorf and his cohorts in the early con days recognized the intimate link between comics and cinema, and included all kinds of movies from very early on. A slightly chubby 13 year-old kid who would take refuge in a back room where 16mm prints of obscure genre films, cartoons, and trailers, played continually remains particularly grateful to Mr. Dorf.

  

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Updates….

* A couple of addenda of yesterday’s DC demi-bombshell. First, Heidi MacDonald allows us to “Meet Diane Nelson.” The woman who’ll sooon be running DC spoke to Sharon Waxman at The Wrap and did joint interviews with soon to be former DC Comics president Paul Levitz for Comic Book Resources and Newsarama. Apparently part of the function is to reassure fans that the new DC will be “talent friendly” and that the highly regarded Levitz wasn’t too unhappy to be nudged aside after seven year’s in the prexy-seat.

So, what does “Kremlinologist” MacDonald make of the interviews:

…the emphasis on creators and their importance is heartening. Surely the person who negotiated the interests of J.K. Rowling understands the importance of the sole creator and inspiration, without which big corporations just turn out things like Loonatics. At the same time, the lack of mentions of the phrase “comic books” in most of the answers is troubling.

Of course, Nelson admits readily to not being “by nature” a comic book fan, and she will not be the publisher. Look for the selection of the person to fill that role to be receiving some serious geek attention in coming weeks.

* A fun piece of fall-out from Disney/Marvel merger is the talk of Pixar taking on the planned Ant Man movie, an even more fun thought given that the project when last heard of was resting in the capable and fanboy-approved hands of writer-director Edgar Wright of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Well, CHUD’s Devin Faraci managed to get a missive from Wright who confirmed his ongoing involvement, but not so much Pixar’s.

The news that Pixar is involved is not wholly accurate and a little premature to comment on. I love Pixar’s work more than anyone and indeed would love to collaborate with them.

I’m not sure though that they would want to do a ‘shrinking’ film as a Pixar animation – since Toy Story and A Bug’s Life already cover this territory to some extent…My spin on Ant Man is very different than a straight superhero origin – and very much live action.

Sounds fun, regardless.

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DC’s turn

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Nikki Finke, who scooped everyone by a little bit on this major development, denies there’s a direct connection. It’s still impossible to not think the Marvel/Disney bombshell of less than a fortnight ago isn’t related to this slightly less incendiary news: Time Warner is restructuring venerable DC Comics as DC Entertainment, placing it under the direct control of Warner Brothers and its head, Jeffrey Robinov.

Actually running DC will be Diane Nelson, whom Finke describes as a “brilliant marketer” and credits with the successful marketing of the Harry Potter movie franchise. (She’s also been involved with the direct-to-video DC animated titles that have been coming out recently.) No longer running DC comics will be Paul Levitz, a very well regarded writer and editor whose been associated with the company since his teens and whose been the company’s president since 2002. Levitz will remain as a writer, editor, and consultant — who I hope they actually listen to.

The general verdict on this seems to be that DC is playing catch-up with Marvel’s broader use of its character roster. Though I don’t follow the comic book world the way I used to, my default mode on this was to be slightly dismayed to see a creative like Levitz replaced by a marketer in the top spot, however “brilliant.” In her initial post on the topic ace comics blogger Heidi MacDonald had this to say:

The moves are mostly aimed at shoring up Warner’s movie slate….Where will comics fit? Probably (our own guess) as a smaller and smaller part of the empire.

She also ventures a thought on the long-in-development “Wonder Woman” movie.

Some of you will recall that Robinov is notorious for his “no movies with female leads” edict, which led to the Kate Beckinsale led WHITEOUT being kept on ice for two years.

I don’t read her as regularly as I’d like because I don’t follow comics regularly, but Ms. MacDonald is one of the best there is at this media blogging game. Seems like a fair assessment and a warning worth listening to on both counts. Certainly Robinov’s sub-moronic move in 2007 could give people pause, though it might be less an example of blatant sexism than the kind of bizarre thinking that often runs Hollywood: If I have a hit with a panda one year because I made a great movie starring a panda, then suddenly pandas are the path to success. If, the next year, I make a sucky movie about a koala and it fails because the movie was dull, then koalas are now and forever box office poison. The fact that one was a good movie and the other stank is something studio execs like to ignore because it’s such a sticky and confusing matter. Better to issue pointless edicts about the species, gender, hair color, formats (3-D animation “in!”; 2-D animation “out!”), etc.

Let’s hope that Ms. Nelson insulates DC from that sort of thing, or it’s bad news both for movies and comic books. Something like this probably had to happen, but I certainly hope this doesn’t bland things out in our already too bland media landscape. I also hope that the more diverse DC line, which spans a lot more genres than Marvel, is allowed to stay that way and not turned into a Marvel-like superheroes-only outfit out of some misguided idea of branding. Comics are, if nothing else, a strong idea factory for movie properties and there’s no reason at all to limit the kinds of ideas.

Heidi MacDonald has statements from Paul Levitz and praise for the long-time DC standby, who edited his first comic book at age 20, from others, including herself.

  

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