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November 13, 2014

Casualties of the Marvel Movie War

The rise of Marvel Studios is starting to have a profound effect on the entertainment industry, and not just for what it means at the box office.

Paramount Pictures, which had a distribution deal with Marvel before Disney bought the comic book company, recently reported a significant drop on annual profits without its Marvel deal in the mix. Now that it’s firmly entrenched in the House of Mouse, Marvel has plotted out its theatrical strategies into the next decade, part of a cinema cold war of sorts with DC Comics, which has its own line-up of films slated by Warner Bros.

Given Warner’s inconsistent attempts to adapt its DC properties to the big screen (aside from Batman and Superman), it’s easy enough to assume Marvel has a better chance of making good on its proposed film slate at this point, having already released 10 films as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and seemingly printing more money with each one.

In 2016, Marvel has Captain America: Civil War, an adaptation of a comic book storyline that saw various factions of superheroes turn against each other over political disagreements. Interestingly, the ascendency of Marvel Studios has sparked something of a civil war within the various Marvel comics properties relating to film rights.

Before Marvel Studios was a glint in anyone’s eyes, Marvel Comics licensed the film rights to some of its biggest characters, with the Hulk at Universal, the X-Men and Fantastic Four going to Fox, Spider-Man ending up at Sony, etc. So when Marvel Studios started up, they only had the rights to what were considered second-tier characters at the time, such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. However, the fact that the characters they still had formed the core of the Avengers sparked the idea of building a shared cinematic universe to play in.

The rights to some characters, such as the Hulk, Daredevil, Ghost Rider and Punisher, have since returned to Marvel, allowing for their incorporation into the MCU. And certainly Marvel would like to get the rights Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men back, which they won’t be able to as long as Sony and Fox continue to make movies with those characters.

Fox seems particularly entrenched to keep Marvel from getting some if its characters back, especially after moving forward with a reboot of the Fantastic Four that has many fans scratching their heads. Marvel’s response seems to be a passive-aggressive war of attrition, as the comics division has canceled the Fantastic Four book, meaning it won’t be around to cross-promote the new film. Also, apparently Disney has blocked any merchandising for new “X-Men” products such as action figures, and Marvel has barred its comics writers from creating any new characters for the “X-Men” books, so Fox won’t have any new material to adapt into films.

Oh, and Marvel also decided to kill off Wolverine, the most popular X-Men character in the film series and the only one to appear in all seven movies.

This would seem to be a strategy meant to devalue the properties from within, diminishing Fox’s financial incentive to continue producing films. (It might also appear to be Marvel shooting itself in the foot on the comics side, but they probably feel the popularity of the comics is elastic enough to bounce back after the house studio recovers the necessary rights.)

One result of this animosity is that Fox has banned Marvel from using the term “mutant” in its movies to explain how any of their superheroes have powers. As fans of the comics are well aware, the mutant concept was introduced with the “X-Men” in the 1960s as a way to explain characters born with superpowers via genetic mutation, a plot point played up in the “X-Men” movies through its motif of the evolution of mankind.

Generally, Fox has exclusive rights to all of the Marvel Comics mutant characters, with a few exceptions, most notably Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who are members of the Avengers but also the mutant children of No. 1 X-Men baddie Magneto. The murkiness of these rights issues is playing out in the form of dueling Quicksilvers, with different versions of the character appearing in both X-Men: Days of Future Past and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Using these two mutant characters, however, does raise a story issue of how they obtained their powers within the context of the MCU. That might be one reason that the Marvel is devoting a lot of attention to its “Inhumans” brand. The Inhumans are essentially a race of superpowered descendants of humans who were genetically manipulated by aliens millions of years earlier.

Fundamentally, they differ from mutants in that their genetic distinctions are a result of engineering rather than evolution, but functionally they serve the same purpose. MCU can simply dub its superpowered characters Inhumans instead of mutants and carry on without any concern at all. In fact, the MCU properties are already carefully laying the foundation for these story points, with the means of obtaining superpowers being a central focus of the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show, which is deep into a story arc that involves alien artifacts and DNA unlocking mysterious abilities. The MCU has already trotted out the terms “gifted” and “age of miracles” to explain non-mutant superpowered humans, but Inhumans would accomplish the goal in a much more elegant way.

Certainly, MCU’s adaptation of the Inhumans may differ from the comics presentation to fit its needs, but the fact that an Inhumans movie is slated for 2018 definitely shows they already have some role to play in the MCU.

On the flip side, a rift in character rights doesn’t have to lead to a rift between the studios involved. Contrast the Fox/Marvel rift with the relatively cozy relationship between Marvel and Sony, which are rumored to be in talks to connect the Sony’s Spideyverse to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This isn’t the first time such an idea has been floated. In 2012, the Oscorp building from The Amazing Spider-Man was reportedly approved by Sony to appear in The Avengers but the visual effects couldn’t be finished in time.

It’s unclear if the MCU Spidey would continue with the ASM storylines or reboot the franchise yet again, but obviously an alliance between Marvel and Sony over Spider-Man would be a huge deal for future MCU and Spider-Man films.

It would also shield Sony from the criticism that, following the poor reception of Amazing Spider-Man 2, that it’s only trying to pump out Spidey movies to maintain the rights, without regard to quality. Marvel Studios has clearly demonstrated that it has a firm grasp on how to adapt its characters into popular, well-received blockbuster films, and there’s no reason to think they couldn’t do the same with Spider-Man.

As far as Fox is concerned, it’s not like they don’t work with other studios either. Fox recently reached an agreement with Warner Bros. that paved the way for the long-awaited home video release of the 1960s “Batman” TV series, which is being handled by Warner.

But the impacts of its dispute with Marvel could be felt well beyond just the Marvel properties. For instance, could the feud spill over into Disney-owned Lucasfilm’s efforts to promote the next “Star Wars” movie? After all, Fox still controls distribution of the earlier films for a few more years, and owns the distribution rights to Episode IV in perpetuity, so any plans Lucasfilm has for new boxed sets of the earlier films will require Fox’s cooperation. This is especially the case if the rumors are true that Disney is hoping to release Blu-rays of the unaltered original trilogy, something “Star Wars” fans have been demanding for years.

It’s a mess to be sure, but if anything is certain in Hollywood, it’s that money will always win out in the end.

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March 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, Batman!

March 30, 2014, marked the 75th anniversary of one of the great milestones in comic book history.

March 30, 1939, saw the release of “Detective Comics” No. 27, a little comic book that happened to introduce the character of "The Bat-Man" to the world, featuring artwork by Bob Kane and a script by Bill Finger. Copies of the issue, which bore a cover price of 10 cents, now sell for north of $1 million at auction.

At the time, the book was an anthology of detective stories, and the flagship book for what we now know as DC Comics. Before long, the book became devoted entirely to stories about Batman (dubbed the “World’s Greatest Detective”), and over time was one of several comics devoted to the adventures of the Caped Crusader, and the ways millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne devoted his life to fighting crime after witnessing the senseless murder of his parents. His sidekick, Robin, would debut a year later, in “Detective Comics” No. 39 in 1940, quickly followed by “Batman” No. 1, featuring Batman’s origin story and his first battles against The Joker and Catwoman.

Batman stood out from the early superheroes for a couple of reasons. He quickly emerged as a darker counterpoint to the optimism of Superman, who debuted a year earlier. Batman blended equal parts Zorro and Sherlock Holmes in the form of a masked vigilante with no superpowers, relying on the strength of his own intellect, and trained to the peak of physical perfection. Batman was one of the first antiheroes of comic books, a darker figure emerged from the shadows to fight the criminal elements in corrupt Gotham City, where the cops would often look the other way.

“Batman is one of the greatest characters ever created, in comics or elsewhere, and even after 75 years he continues to wildly fascinate fans. He is an integral part of pop culture and has successfully captured the imagination of the entire world,” said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, and president and chief content officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “The origin of Batman, Bruce Wayne and the famous citizens of Gotham are legendary and likely a story you know inside out, even if you’ve never picked up a comic book in your life, and that speaks volumes to the character’s immense popularity and the constructs of the original mythology.”

The character has been reinvented several times throughout the generations to adapt to the era, always maintaining the same core elements and reigniting his popularity with the fans. The 1966 “Batman” TV series focused on the campy aspects of the character, while Tim Burton’s 1989 film focused on his darker side, and both were responsible for huge bouts of “Batmania.” Christopher Nolan took the character to new cinematic heights with his “Dark Knight Trilogy,” the second film of which, The Dark Knight, is often cited as the greatest comic book film ever.

The nine theatrical movies based on Batman (two from Burton, two from Joel Schumacher, Nolan’s trilogy, the 1966 TV tie-in movie and a 1993 animated film) are more than any other comic book character (and that’s not counting two movie serials from the 1940s).

“From billion-dollar blockbuster films to TV, home entertainment, video games and consumer products, the Dark Knight continues to resonate with audiences worldwide and rightfully deserves his place as a global pop culture icon for the ages,” said Kevin Tsujihara, CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

To mark the milestone, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have prepared a year-long celebration of product releases and special events.

• DC Entertainment recently released a special edition of the “New-52” version of “Detective Comics” No. 27, commemorating Batman’s first appearance in the book 75 years ago. A new weekly comic book series, “Batman Eternal,” launches April 9, and DC plans several exclusive Batman variant covers for San Diego Comic-Con International in July.

• DC Entertainment is also partnering with thousands of comic retailers, book stores and libraries for “Batman Day” on Wednesday, July 23. Each location will host a Batman 75th anniversary celebration and offer fans a free, special-edition Batman comic.

• Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has invited fashion designer Asher Levine to create a cape and cowl based on the Batsuit of the recently announced Batman: Arkham Knight video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. Favorite contemporary artists will have the opportunity to use the replicas as a blank canvas to produce their own, original interpretations of Batman’s iconic attire for an all new “Cape/Cowl/Create” art exhibit that will be showcased at Comic-Con.

• Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will bring fans an array of new Batman titles throughout the year, including the first DVD release of the 1966 “Batman” TV series later this year. New direct-to-video animated films include Son of Batman May 6 and Assault on Arkham in the summer. In addition, a 25th anniversary edition of Burton’s 1989 Batman film will be released in the fall.

• Warner Bros. Animation has created two all-new Batman animated shorts set for debut in April, with producers Bruce Timm (“Batman: The Animated Series”) and Darwyn Cooke (“Batman Beyond”) each presenting a unique and familiar take on the Batman animated universe. In addition, Timm will participate in a Batman 75th all-star panel at WonderCon in Anaheim on Saturday, April 19, which will also feature an exclusive premiere of Cooke’s animated short based upon “Batman Beyond.”

• Warner Bros. Television is in production on the pilot episode of “Gotham,” a potential one-hour drama for the Fox network that explores the origins of eventual police commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and the villains that made Gotham City famous.

• Warner Bros. Pictures will begin production of Zack Snyder’s untitled Superman/Batman film starring Henry Cavill, who reprises his role as Superman/Clark Kent from Man of Steel, and Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne. The film is slated for release in summer 2016.

• Warner Bros. Consumer Products has partnered with an array of licensees to celebrate Batman’s 75th Anniversary through special-edition and limited-release products.

• offers a Batman 75 Sweepstakes that offers one lucky fan a unique prize package. More information about the anniversary events is available at .

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July 18, 2011

Is Comic-Con Losing Its Edge in Hollywood?

The question of whether San Diego Comic-Con has grown too big for its own good seems to have been supplanted this year by the notion that Hollywood’s fascination with the annual event finally is waning.

As fans and studios prepare to trek to the San Diego Convention Center for the annual confab July 21 to 24 (plus a Wednesday preview night), many observers can’t help but notice the schedule lacks many of the types of titles that made the show such a hot spot in recent years.

For example, Marvel Studios has nothing planned for The Avengers after previewing the film last year with a huge panel.

“I think the studios are pulling back from the Con this year,” said Bill Hunt, founder of . “But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Hollywood has kind of taken over Comic-Con, and the studio hype machine has really dominated the event during the past few years. That’s great in one sense, but it’s also made the event more crowded and harder to attend as a fan.”

The problem for some studios, according to analysts, is how a lot of movies promoted at Comic-Con tend not to live up to expectations when they are finally released. One need only glance at feature stories in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Variety, Deadline Hollywood and others to get the point.

In many ways, Hollywood’s love affair with Comic-Con has become emblematic of a studio approach to attempt to buy success for their films through publicity rather than focusing on the quality of the product.

“While the Hollywood studios have really figured out how to get a buzz going in the fan community about some of these big summer blockbusters and genre films, they’re far less good at actually delivering great films that are worthy of the hype,” Hunt said. And I think fans have been disappointed year after year now by these big titles, previewed with grand panels in Hall H, that ended up being pretty lousy.”

Disney promoted Tron: Legacy for three straight Comic-Cons only to have the film underwhelm at the box office (as much as $172 million domestic and $400 million worldwide can be considered "underwhelming"). This year, the Mouse’s presence at Comic-Con is conspicuously light, with little more than panels for DreamWorks’ Fright Night remake, which Disney is distributing theatrically, a few Disney-produced TV shows, and a booth demonstrating the new “Phineas and Ferb” video game.

Many industry watchers speculate that Disney is eschewing Comic-Con in favor of its own D23 Expo, Aug. 19 to 21 in Anaheim, Calif.

But the poster child for the gap between Comic-Con hype and reality has to be Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which turned its ubiquitous Comic-Con presence last year into a meager $31.5 million domestic gross, barely half its $60 million budget.

It’s not as if a Comic-Con appearance is a pre-requisite for success, even for shows and movies that seem like a natural fit for the convention. Warner by-and-large bypassed Comic-Con for promotion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman flick The Dark Knight, which went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide, and its sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, isn’t on the Con agenda either.

If Hollywood is easing up it is doing so just as the show organizers have started to make major adjustments to accommodate the Tinseltown presence. For example, the “Twilight” panel to tout Breaking Dawn — Part 1 is slated for 11:15 a.m. Thursday, making it the first presentation in the cavernous Hall H that houses most of the biggest panels for the weekend. A Comic-Con worker remarked that the move should facilitate clearing out a lot of the “Twilight” fans before the rest of the confab can kick into gear, since their interests don’t always mesh with the rest of the Comic-Con crowd. (An infamous story from the 2009 show involved “Twilight” being mercilessly booed by the Hall H crowd who were mostly waiting to see footage from Avatar.)

Some exhibitors, feeling Comic-Con has been over-saturated by Hollywood, have set up an alternative show called TR!CKSTER across the street from the Convention Center July 19-24. The event was spawned by two Pixar story artists who are also independent cartoonists, Scott Morse and Ted Mathot, and celebrates the Con’s comic book roots and the spirit of creator-owned work, with workshops, free events, parties, signings and live music.

Hunt joins the chorus of those who see Hollywood’s retreat as a good thing.

“I’m happy Hollywood is stepping back a little bit,” Hunt said. “It’ll give fans a chance to attend more of the smaller panels and maybe let the Con get back to its true comic book roots a bit.”

While Hollywood may be pulling back on the theatrical side, the studios are still well represented at the Con through their TV and home entertainment properties.

While quite a few marketing reps have expressed a personal eagerness to avoid Comic-Con in recent years, there are many home entertainment veterans who still see enormous value in using Comic-Con as not only a promotional tool for smaller studios and independents pushing fanboy-driven properties, but to put product directly in the hands of consumers.

“Most elaborate, multidisc boxed sets aren’t in brick-and-mortar stores,” noted one publicist. “Because of the shelf space required and hefty price tag, Walmart or Target is not likely to carry a lot of the $80 or $120 sets that come out. So San Diego Comic-Con has become something of an alternative platform for direct-to-consumer business when comes to these collectibles.”

And there is still plenty of exciting content relating to home entertainment showcased at this year’s convention. Among the most notable events specifically about home entertainment is “2011-2012: The Golden Age of Blu-ray?” panel presented by TheDigitalBits.com Thursday at 5 p.m. in Room 5AB. While the Digital Bits panel usually lets DVD producers preview their upcoming discs, Hunt said they decided to do something a bit differently this year after realizing that several major films and franchises were making their way to Blu-ray over the next couple years, including “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” Ben-Hur, “Jurassic Park,” “Jaws,” Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, Titanic and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

“We’ve been doing a special edition producer panel for over a decade now down at the Con — I think our first was in 2001 — so it just felt like it was time to change things up a bit,” Hunt said. “It really seems that the floodgates for catalog titles on Blu-ray have finally opened up wide in the last 12 months. This is roughly year four or five for Blu-ray and, when you look back, it was at about that same time in the life of the DVD format that the same thing happened. And that’s the period that a lot of fans now think of as the ‘golden age’ of DVD. So I found myself wondering: When we look back several years from now, will 2011 and 2012 be thought of as the ‘golden age’ for the Blu-ray format? What does that mean for the future of Blu-ray, and the future of the home video industry in general? It just seemed like the right time to examine those issues in our panel … yet still do what we do every year at the Con, which is to preview for the fans many of the great titles and special editions to come in the months ahead.”

Hunt will be joined by his Digital Bits cohorts Adam Jahnke and Tood Doogan, as well as producers Charles de Lauzirika (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, Crave) and Cliff Stephenson (Rambo, The Expendables, Crank 2, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), Warner Home Video SVP of theatrical catalog marketing George Feltenstein and others for a Q&A and special giveaways.

Other home entertainment-related highlights from this year’s Comic-Con include:

  • Booth #3528 will present the “Star Wars Blu-ray Experience,” offering a preview of bonus material for the upcoming Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray (in stores Sept. 16) and let fans experience one of the saga’s most iconic moments from an in-universe vantage point.
  • Warner presents a world premiere screening of the new DC Universe animated movie Batman: Year One at 8 p.m. Friday in Ballroom 20, followed by a panel discussion with castmembers Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku and Katee Sackhoff, directors Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu, and voice director Andrea Romano. An encore screening will take place at 10:15 p.m. The movie, based on the Frank Miller comic book miniseries, hits DVD, Blu-ray and digital release Oct. 18.
  • Comic-Con fave “The Big Bang Theory” returns with a panel, screening and Q&A at 12:30 p.m. Friday in Ballroom 20, featuring producers Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady and Steve Molaro with stars Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik. Warner releases the fourth season of the show on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 13.
  • Join Nathan Fillion and the cast of “Castle” for a lively panel at 11:45 a.m. Sunday in room 6BCF. Disney releases the third season of the show on DVD Sept. 20.
  • Animation historian Jerry Beck and Warner Archives' George Feltenstein lead a panel of animation and restoration experts in presenting and discussing selected vintage cartoons from Warner Home Video's fall 2011 Blu-ray release of the newly remastered Tom and Jerry Golden Collection and Looney Tunes Platinum Collections, Thursday at 3 p.m. in room 32AB.
  • A preview of the fourth season of Cartoon Network’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” takes place at 4:45 p.m. Thursday in room 6BCF. A panel at 3 p.m. Friday in room 7AB takes fans behind the scenes of the show’s animation process. Warner releases the third season on DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 18.
  • Get a preview of “Spartacus: Vengeance,” the upcoming second season of the Starz series, at 5:45 p.m. Friday in room 6BCF. The panel also includes a discussion of exclusive content included with Anchor Bay’s Sept. 13 Blu-ray of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.
  • Showtime will present its shows “Dexter,” “Shameless” and “Homeland” with a panel at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Ballroom 20, with actors such as Michael C. Hall, Emmy Rossum, William H. Macy and Morena Baccarin in attendance. Paramount releases Dexter: The Fifth Season on DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 16.
  • The Shout! Factory booth (#4248) will showcase a variety of upcoming and current home entertainment product lines and offers exclusive items with the purchase of several DVDs, such as a Damnation Alley lithograph, iron-ons for “M.A.S.K.” and Battle Beyond the Stars, and a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” stressball. Joe Dante and Elizabeth Stanley will be on hand for a signing in support of Trailers From Hell Vol. 2 at 3 p.m. Thursday. Sybil Danning and John Saxon celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Battle Beyond the Stars” at 2:30 p.m. Friday. And the booth will feature a daily prize drawing, with prizes such as a collection of “MST3K” boxed sets and DVDs from Shout!’s “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” line.
  • Mill Creek Entertainment will sell advance copies of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete Second Season, for $25 exclusively at the Funimation booth (#4135). The DVD will be widely available Sept. 13.
  • A panel for the TV movie Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. in Ballroom 20, with star Bruce Campbell and “Burn Notice” creator Matt Nix. Campbell and Nix will sign autographs at booth 4313 following the panel, and fans who don’t want to wait for the July 26 release of the Fall of Sam Axe Blu-ray and DVD can buy copies at the booth as well.
  • Fans can pose with Frank the Bunny as he hands out four limited-edition exclusive buttons on the streets of San Diego to promote Fox’s Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, available everywhere July 26. Fans can buy copies of the Blu-ray at booth #4313.
  • The “Wrong Turn” character Three Finger will be stationed at roadblocks throughout the city to take pictures with fans to promote Fox’s Oct. 18 DVD and Blu-ray release of Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings.
  • In addition to Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe and Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition, fans can visit the Fox booth (#4313) to buy the DVD or Blu-ray of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (which releases wide July 26), and preorder the Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray, Wrong Turn 4, Archer: Season Two and Futurama Vol. 6.
  • Image Entertainment will preview its horror anthology Chillerama at 7 p.m. Friday at the Gaslamp 15 Cinemas (701 5th Ave., San Diego). ’s Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton will moderate the presentation that features directors Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan.
  • ChromeSkull returns to Comic-Con Thursday and Friday at the Fangoria Magazine booth (#4108) with a ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 poster signing with the filmmakers and stars. The world premiere of the film, which was recently acquired by Image Entertainment, takes place at 10 p.m. Friday at the Gaslamp 15 Cinemas, followed by a Q&A moderated by Barton.
  • HBO’s “True Blood” panel is 5:30 p.m. Friday in Ballroom 20. The first three seasons are available on DVD and Blu-ray.
  • A “Vampire Diaries” screening and Q&A panel takes place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Ballroom 20. Warner releases the second season on DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 30.
  • A panel for AMC’s zombie series “The Walking Dead” will be at 11:15 a.m. Friday in Ballroom 20. The first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Anchor Bay. A “Walking Dead” autograph session will follow from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in booth #3721.
  • Fans can explore the “History of the Modern Zombie” with a panel Thursday at 7 p.m. in room 7AB, as Zombie Survival Guide author Max Brooks leads a discussion about the history and evolution of the modern zombie in film, TV and literature from Night of the Living Dead to “The Walking Dead” and beyond.
  • The “Fringe” panel takes place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Ballroom 20. Warner releases the third season on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 6.
  • A screening and Q&A for “Supernatural” takes place at 11:15 a.m. Sunday in Hall H, featuring a preview of Supernatural: The Anime Series, coming to DVD and Blu-ray July 26 from Warner, which also releases the sixth season of “Supernatural” on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 13.
  • “Voltron Resurgent,” he first-ever “Voltron”-themed panel, is slated for 6 p.m. Thursday in the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Indigo Ballroom, and will preview the upcoming Nicktoons “Voltron Force” animated series and other Voltron products. Classic Media releases Voltron: The Legend Begins, featuring early episodes from the 1980s animated show, on DVD Aug. 16.
  • Check out room 8 Friday at 5:30 p.m. for the “Evolution of Transformers” panel, taking a look back at the adventures of the transforming robot toys on TV and DVD. Panelists examine character development, weaponry, and weaknesses in the original animated series, “Beast Wars” and the Japanese “Headmasters,” “Super-God Masterforce” and “Victory” series, all available on DVD from Shout! Factory.
  • A panel called “Conversations with Sid and Marty Krofft: A Look at the Past, Present and Future,” featuring a discussion with legendary puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft, takes place at 10 a.m. Friday in room 23ABC. Vivendi Entertainment releases the Krofft’s Sigmund and the Sea Monsters: Season 1 Sept. 6.
  • Get a preview of the fifth season of Web series “The Guild” at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Indigo Ballroom with creator/star Felicia Day, producer Kim Evey, director Sean Becker and other members of the cast.
  • A panel for the Warner Premiere Web series “H+” and “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” takes place at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Indigo Ballroom. The Warner booth (#4545) will offer talent from “Kombat” for a signing from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Thursday.
  • The cast and creators of Crackle.com’s “Issues” discuss the Web series during a panel at 9:30 p.m. Friday in room 7AB.
  • “The Guild” creator Felicia Day, actor Doug Jones, “Dragon Age: Redemption” director Peter Einther and executive producer Mark Darrah will discuss the secrets to making a successful Web series during a panel at 11 a.m. in room 7AB.
  • Voice actors from “Dragon Ball Z” and “Yu Yu Hakusho” discuss the anime series in a panel at 10 a.m. Friday in room 24ABC, to promote their release on Blu-ray Disc by Funimation.
  • A sing-along screening of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (on DVD and Blu-ray from New Video) takes place at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in room 6BCF.
  • Epix Pictures presents a special panel at 10:15 a.m. Friday called “The Captains,” featuring “Star Trek” skippers William Shatner and Avery Brooks (“Deep Space Nine”), to preview Shatner’s new documentary about the actors who have played captains on “Star Trek.” Kevin Smith will moderate the discussion and Q&A in room 6BCF. The panel also will be available online at www.EpixHD.com/event-theatre, and Shatner will be tweeting from the event and interacting with fans at EpixHD.com. This kicks off “Shatnerpalooza,” which includes a 48-hour marathon of Shatner’s work on Epix starting July 21, and leads into free screenings of The Captains at Hollywood Forever Memorial Park in Los Angeles July 25 and at the Intrepid in New York City July 30.
  • The “Torchwood: Miracle” day panel is 10 a.m. Friday in Ballroom 20, with stars John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Bill Pullman, Alexa Havins and Lauren Ambrose, plus writer Jane Espenson. BBC Video releases Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series on DVD and Blu-ray July 19.
  • Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken” arrives with a panel Friday at 3:30 p.m. in the Indigo Ballroom, featuring creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, and writer Tom Root. Warner recently released Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III on DVD and Blu-ray and will release Robot Chicken: Season 5, featuring nine never-before-seen episodes, on DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 25.
  • Adult Swim’s “The Venture Bros.” panel, with creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, will be 11:45 a.m. Friday in the Indigo Ballroom. Warner has released the four seasons of the show on DVD, with the fourth also on Blu-ray.
  • Adult Swim’s “Childrens Hospital” panel is 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Indigo Ballroom, featuring a never-before-screened episode and discussion with the show's creative team led by Rob Corddry and Jon Stern, plus castmembers Malin Akerman, Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Rob Huebel and Megan Mullally. A DVD boxed set of the first and second seasons was recently released by Warner.
  • The Adult Swim booth (#3949) will host signings for “Robot Chicken” from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Thursday; “Childrens Hospital” from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. Friday; “Black Dynamite” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday; and “The Venture Bros.” from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday. Adult Swim also presents a “Venture Bros.” costume contest and performance by Flying Lotus starting at 9:30 p.m. Friday.
  • Dark Horse Comics presents Joss Whedon’s annual panel at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Indigo Ballroom, previewing the upcoming comic book series “Buffy: Season 9” and “Angel & Faith,” plus news about new “Buffy” digital comics. The first 19 issues of “Buffy: Season 8” were released as a motion comic on DVD and Blu-ray by Fox earlier this year.
  • Kevin Smith’s annual Q&A panel wraps up Hall H festivities Saturday at 5:45 p.m.
  • Hall H is the site for this year’s “Entertainment Weekly: The Visionaries” panel Thursday at 6 p.m., featuring a discussion on the future of pop culture with directors Guillermo del Toro and Jon Favreau.
  • “Bones” returns with a panel at 1:45 p.m. Friday in Ballroom 20, featuring creator Hart Hanson, executive producer Stephen Nathan, and stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. The sixth season of the series is due on DVD this fall from Fox.
  • The “Psych” panel takes place at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Ballroom 20 with series stars Dulé Hill, James Roday, Kurt Fuller, Maggie Lawson, Tim Omundson, Kirsten Nelson and Corbin Bernsen, plus creator Steve Franks and executive producers Kelly Kulchak and Chris Henze. Universal has released the first five seasons of the show on DVD.
  • USA Network’s “Covert Affairs” panel will be held Thursday at 11:15 a.m. in Ballroom 20 with star Piper Perabo and other members of the cast and crew. The first season is available on DVD from Universal.
  • “Battlestar Galactica” star Richard Hatch will host his annual panel celebrating the BSG franchise at 11:45 a.m. Thursday in room 6BCF. The panel includes a discussion of the politics and philosophy of the “Galactica” universe.
  • Fans of “NCIS: LA” (on DVD and Blu-ray from Paramount) can explore the technologies on the series with creator Shane Brennan, actor LL Cool J and others during a panel at 7 p.m. Friday in room 6BCF.
  • The Indigo Ballroom hosts this year’s “Archer” panel at 4 p.m. Thursday. The first season of the FX animated comedy about a spy agency is on DVD from Fox.
  • Syfy’s “Eureka” gets a panel at 3 p.m. Friday in Ballroom 20. Universal recently released Eureka: Season 4.0 on DVD.
  • Syfy’s “Warehouse 13” gets a panel at 4:15 p.m. Friday in Ballroom 20. The first two seasons of the show are on DVD from Universal.
  • Comedy Central’s “Ugly Americans” panel is 4 p.m. Friday in room 23ABC. Ugly Americans Vol. One is available on DVD from Paramount.
  • Disney Channel previews its upcoming movie Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, premiering Aug. 5, during a panel at 4:45 p.m. in room 6A.
  • Fan-favorite “Chuck” has a screening and Q&A panel at 10 a.m. Saturday in Ballroom 20. Warner releases the fourth season on DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 11.
  • Fans of “Sanctuary” can check out a panel at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Indigo Ballroom with stars Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne and moderator Josh Gates. Entertainment One releases the third season on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 13.
  • “Futurama” is back with a panel Saturday at 12:15 in Ballroom 20, with executive producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, and castmembers Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal and Maurice LaMarche. The panel will feature never-before-seen footage of the show reincarnated as Japanese anime.
  • “The Simpsons” panel follows at 1 p.m. Saturday in Ballroom 20, as Matt Groening and the producers provide insights about the show.
  • Adam West highlights a Seth MacFarlane-less “Family Guy” panel at 2 p.m. Saturday in Ballroom 20.
  • The “American Dad” panel arrives at 2:35 p.m. Saturday in Ballroom 20.
  • Fox celebrates recent Emmy nominee “The Cleveland Show” with its panel at 1:45 p.m. Sunday in Hall H, with a look at the show’s parody of Die Hard. The second season hits DVD Sept. 27.
  • The cast of “Community” will be on hand for a panel at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Indigo Ballroom. Sony Pictures releases the second season on DVD Sept. 13.
  • The “MythBusters” return for a panel at 7:45 p.m. Saturday in room 6BCF with Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Tory Belleci, Grant Imahara, and Kari Byron.
  • Catch a screening and Q&A for animated series “Young Justice” at 10 a.m. Sunday in room 7AB. Warner releases Young Justice: Season One Vol. One on DVD July 19.
  • “Glee” creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk join the show’s stars for a sneak peek at Glee: The 3D Concert Movie at 10 a.m. Sunday in Hall H. Fox releases the complete second season on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 13.
  • Matt Smith and Karen Gillan headline the “Doctor Who” panel at 12:30 p.m. Sunday in Hall H to preview the back half of the sixth season on BBC America. BBC Video releases Doctor Who: Season Six, Part One on DVD and Blu-ray July 19.
  • Check out the “Merlin” panel at 1 p.m. Sunday in room 6BCF with Anthony Head and the rest of the cast. The first two seasons are available on DVD from BBC Video.
  • “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has its Q&A panel at 2:45 p.m. Sunday in Hall H, with stars Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson, and Danny DeVito. Fox releases the sixth season on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 13.
  • Get an inside look at FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Hall H with creator Kurt Sutter and stars Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal and Ron Perlman. Fox releases the third season on DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 30.
  • The “State of the Geek Report: From Avatar to Zardoz” panel takes place at 3 p.m. Thursday in room 5AB, featuring the world's foremost geeksperts discussing the state of contemporary sci-fi, fantasy, and horror cinema and television, ranging from the superhero smackdown of the summer of 2011 to the future of 3D films.
  • Anime distributor VIZ Media celebrates its 25th anniversary at 2 p.m. Friday in room 9 with a special panel offering prizes for fans, updates on new acquisitions and previews of upcoming products.
  • A panel Thursday at 11 a.m. in room 23ABC will explore the nature of fan obsession and how TV shows and movies can grow into a pop culture phenomenon.
  • Animation is the focus of the “ASIFA/Hollywood's State of the Animation Industry” panel at noon Friday in room 32AB, with animation veterans discussing the future of 2D vs. 3D animation.
  • Comic-Con closes with the traditional “Buffy the Musical” sing-along screening of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Once More With Feeling,” playing at 4 p.m. Sunday in Hall H.
  • Fans missing their favorite TV shows to be at the Con can catch up with special screenings. The latest episode of “Torchwood: Miracle” day shows at 9:30 p.m. Thursday in room 6DE, while new episodes of “Eureka,” “Haven” and “Mercury Men” will be shown from 9 to 11 p.m. Friday in room 6A.
  • Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Comic-Con will replay video from that day’s Hall H and Ballroom 20 panels from 8 to 11 p.m. in room 25ABC, with those in attendance voting on what they want to see.

 The complete schedule is available at .


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May 06, 2011

Highlights of Comic Con Lite

I had occasion to check out the 2011 Anaheim Comic Con this past weekend (April 29-May 1), put on by Wizard World at the Anaheim Convention Center. It's still the sort of low-key affair the event in San Diego used to be 20 or 30 years ago before the big studios turned it into marketing central.

The Anaheim Con, like a lot of pop-culture fests not based in San Diego, offers decent but not overwhelming crowds and an inviting show floor, where you can just walk up to the celebrity guests, shake their hands and chat. (Of course, they still charge up the nose for an autograph, and $10 just to take a picture with them with your own camera, but still …)

And then there are the panels, which for the most part you could just wander in and out of without waiting in line. The flip side to this is that they aren’t as high-profile as what you'd get in San Diego. These aren't ‘A’-listers promoting the next big 3D action blockbuster. For the past two years, the big attraction in Anaheim has been a reunion of the cast from the 1960s “Batman” TV show.

It's the kind of event where the “Smallville” panel consists of an actor whose character was killed off five years ago and an actress who has guest starred in six episodes. And a so-called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” panel was just Nicholas Brendan, the guy who played Xander, and it followed a “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” all-star reunion.

Nicholas Brendan discusses "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and other projects.

“Smallville” in San Diego would bring out nearly the whole cast, and fill a room with 4,000 people. In Anaheim the room fit maybe a couple of hundred. And still there was plenty of entertainment to go around.

John Schneider, the former “Dukes of Hazzard” star who played Jonathan Kent (Superman’s adopted father) on “Smallville,” expressed to the crowd how enthusiastic he was about the May 13 series finale of the show that depicts how young Clark Kent eventually became Superman.

“‘Lost’ was good; ‘24’ was good. But ‘Smallville’ is exceptional,” Schneider said. “These are the best two episodes I think they’ve done in their 10 years. It doesn’t end the way you want, and not the way you think it should, but it’s better than both those things.”

(L-R): Alaina Huffman and John Schneider at the "Smallville" panel.

Coincidentally, Warner Home Video announced that Smallville: The Complete Series would head to DVD this fall as a 62-disc set at $339.98. The set will include all 218 episodes, plus a never-before-seen “Superboy” pilot from 1961, a 90-minute series retrospective, the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con panel and more. The box will come with a reproduction of a Daily Planet newspaper highlighting key stories from the show’s run.

I also had the opportunity to speak separately with the other “Smallville” panelist, actress Alaina Huffman, about her other show, “Stargate Universe,” which airs its last episode Monday, May 9, on Syfy.

She said the show does end in a cliffhanger, which is no surprise since producers previously indicated they envisioned the show as a five-year arc. “Stargate Universe” depicts a team of explorers who find themselves trapped on an ancient starship billions of light years from Earth, with no way to get home.

She said producers had hoped to make a TV movie wrapping up the “SGU” storyline, but that all new “Stargate” projects have been put on hold by MGM. If so, it’s kind of a sad end to what was a dominant sci-fi franchise for the past decade.

In the meantime MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are wasting no time with a home video release of the second of “SGU,” slating Stargate Universe: The Complete Final Season as a five-DVD set for May 31.

The set comes with a slew of extras, such as commentary on all 20 episodes and a ton of behind-the-scenes featurettes:

• Robert Carlyle Directs
• Andy Mikita Directs
• Eli’s Mom Comes on Board
• Brian J. Smith’s First Fight
• Crashing a Shuttle
• The Seed Ship with Joe Mallozzi
• Saying Goodbye to Sgt. Riley
• Lou Diamond Phillips on Guest Stars
• Lt. Scott Gets Hit By A Car
• Inside Cloverdale with Brad Wright
• How to Get Sucked Into Space
• “SGU” Welcomes You to New Mexico’s Bisti Badlands
• Deconstructing Destiny
• A Day in the Life of Jamil Walker Smith
• Transplant Day
• Sitting Down with Mike Dopud
• Bringing the Bridge to Life
• Louis Ferreira vs. Colonel Young
• Pitches: A Journey of Friendship and Discovery
• Behind the Season 2 Finale – “Gauntlet”

There’s no word on a Blu-ray release of the season.


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March 31, 2011

‘Superman’ Blu-ray Set Arriving in June

Warner Home Video June 7 (order date May 3) will bow The Superman Motion Picture Anthology on Blu-ray Disc as an eight-disc set at $129.95.

The collection includes the original theatrical versions of Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) and Superman Returns (2006), as well as director Richard Donner’s alternate cuts of the first two films. The set also includes a bonus disc and boasts more than 20 hours of extras such as commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and two documentaries in high-def.

The extras carry over from the DVD anthology that was released a few years ago. This is also the first time the theatrical cuts of Superman II, III and IV will be available on Blu-ray.

The set also includes movie cash for the new Green Lantern film, in theaters June 17.

News of this Superman set comes just as Warner is ramping up production of a new Superman film for 2012, directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen) and starring Henry Cavill as Clark Kent and Amy Adams as Lois Lane.

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March 10, 2010

Trailer Wars: 'Iron Man 2' vs. 'Tron Legacy'

This past week, fanboys were treated to not one, but two new trailers for some highly anticipated blockbusters due in cinemas this year.

First up, after the Oscars, came the Iron Man 2 trailer:


It looks awesome and oh-so-cool, especially seeing Tony Stark deploying the new Mark V suitcase armor. The movie hits theaters May 7.

Also out this week is the new Tron Legacy trailer:


Looks like a slick CGI re-imagining of the computer world created in the original Tron from 1982. I don't know if it can be as groundbreaking as the first one but it still looks like a fun ride with a hefty heap of nostalgia. Tron Legacy hits theaters Dec. 17.

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February 23, 2010

No BD ‘Justice’ at Wal-Mart

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., has resorted to some interesting strategies in positioning its new releases.

All new-release Blu-rays were put near the check-out lanes at the front of the store, forcing movie fans taking the short-cut through the garden section to cross the whole store to find the titles they want.

However, some new Blu-rays are relegated to online-only or limited-store status, such as the new Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. This Wal-Mart’s usual Blu-ray section in the electronics department was stocked mostly with Blu-ray double features.

The new policy was met with confusion by some clerks on the floor, who lamented that most of the offerings were older movies that didn’t offer the best HD experience.

Other retailers were more kind to the new direct-to-video Justice League. Target offered an exclusive bonus disc with the two-DVD special edition, Amazon.com offered lithographs with the two-DVD and Blu-ray versions for a few extra dollars, and Best Buy gave away figurines of the film’s Owlman character.

Best Buy also offered free Alice in Wonderland movie tickets (it hits theaters March 5) with the purchase of select Disney classics at $9.99 each, such as Tron or the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

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February 02, 2010

Planet of Hulk and Zombies

While Zombieland was probably the biggest new release Feb. 2, most retailers still had prominent displays for Michael Jackson’s This Is It, a holdover from the previous week.

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., was playing This Is It on one of its TV endcaps, and had two big aisle displays for the movie.

The only retailer offering a Zombieland exclusive was Best Buy, which had a bonus DVD packed in with limited copies of the Zombieland DVD and Blu-ray. Extra content includes the featurette “Shootin’ Zombies With Ruben Fleischer” and behind-the-scenes footage.

Another title that generated a lot of interest was Lionsgate’s new Marvel animated adaptation Planet Hulk.

Best Buy’s weekly ad circular promoted an exclusive mini comic book on-pack with copies of Planet Hulk. A store in Costa Mesa, Calif., had a nice Planet Hulk display at the front of the store, but DVD copies of the movie were marked with a sticker promoting a simple mini-poster inside the package.

The mini-comic, The Incredible Hulk and Now the Wolverine, actually came with copies of the new Wolverine and the X-Men: Fate of the Future DVD, as well as re-released versions of previous Lionsgate animated Marvel movies Ultimate Avengers, The Invincible Iron Man and Hulk vs.

Best Buy was one of three major retailers offering some sort of “Hulk” comic book exclusive. Wal-Mart offered a 20-page Planet Hulk Prelude: Peace in Our Time mini-comic with copies of the two-DVD special edition of the movie, while Target presented a digital comic with the special edition. (Target didn’t bother advertising the single-DVD version in its weekly ad circular.)

Wal-Mart also is running a promotion for the TV series “24.” Through Feb. 28, fans can get a free CTU T-shirt by mail with purchase of a “24” DVD set.

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November 09, 2009

Take a Trip to ‘Planet Hulk’

The folks at Lionsgate are pretty excited over their latest direct-to-video animated movie based on Marvel Comics superhero characters. Planet Hulk hits shelves Feb. 2 (prebook Jan. 6) and comes in single-DVD ($19.98), two-DVD special edition ($24.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($29.98) configurations.

Based on a Marvel storyline from a few years ago, the plot involves the forces of Earth declaring the Incredible Hulk too dangerous and exiling the big green guy into space. He eventually crashes on the distant planet Sakaar, ruled by the tyrannical Red King. Lots of fighting ensues.

I’m more of a DC guy myself, but this looks like a pretty exciting title for comic-book fans to check out.

Extras include a digital copy, a featurette, a “Wolverine and the X-Men” episode, “Spider-Woman” and “X-Men” music videos, and “Spider-Woman” and “X-Men” motion comics.

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October 30, 2009

Warner Discounts DC Comics Merchandise

The Warner Bros. online store, , is offering up to 40% savings off select branded DC Comics merchandise, including DVDs and Blu-ray Discs featuring such superheroes as Batman and Superman.

Featured items include the Watchmen DVD for $11.36 (40% off) or the Blu-ray for $18.96 (37% off), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies — Special Edition DVD for $16.30 (26% off) or Blu-ray for $19.13 (20% off), The Adventures of Aquaman animated series for $17.66 (23% off), Smallville: Season 8 for $36.27 (24% off), a "Batman" four-film set for $11.36 (40% off) and much more.

The offer expires Nov. 12 and excludes digital downloads.

Other merchandise includes costumes, watches, shirts, sweatshirts and collectibles.

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