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Gen Con Releases a New Statement Concerning Indiana’s SB 101

We’ve been covering Gen Con‘s reaction to SB 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Gen Con, which threatened to leave the state if passed, has issued a new statement about the legislation being signed into law calling the decision “disappointing,” and “not unexpected.”

The short version, the convention has a contract to stay in Indianapolis until 2020, however bidding on where the convention will head after that begins about 5 years out, so in other words, within the next year.

The convention said in the mean time, they will focus on inclusion and fun. They have also want to hear about any positive or negative experiences with local hospitality during the convention, and will solicit feedback from the community about their experiences.

We stand behind the convention fully, and are proud they have stood up for inclusion and against bigotry.

You can read the full letter below.

GEN_Con_SB_101_Follow_Up

Strange Comic Trends: Superheroines Get Impaled, Walk It Off

Warning, Spoilers Below for Realm War #7 and He-Man Eternity War #4

realmwarThis is not a trend over one specific week exactly, but instead covers two months, though the end result of both comics occurred in this week (if the digital release of Realm War is considered to be this week.)  It should be noted as well that there are spoilers here, particularly for He-Man. The interesting trend this time is a duo of unrelated female heroes that are locked in battle and are run through with a blade. Not run through as in a significant cut somewhere on their body, more like a stabbing movement with a blade that pierces both sides of the body, through the visceral mass. Presumably such a kill shot would hit many major organs as well and would likely result in a quick and painful death.  This occurred to She-Ra in He-Man Eternity War #4 this week and in Realm War #7 in February to Britney although the resolution of her injury was shown this week.  What is more interesting is that neither of these acts resulted in the death of the character, and instead was presumably shown more for the shock value.

sheraIt would be hard to remove either one of these characters from their active continuities. Although Grimm Fairy Tales has a fair assortment of female characters, Britney Waters is evidently one of the most popular. To remove She-Ra from He-Man would be even more notable as she is essentially one of only two main female characters in the entire series. In the case of Britney it was obviously even more for shock value as it was her werewolf metabolism which saved her, but although the blow to She-Ra looked just as bad, she was equally able to get away under her own power with the assistance of an old foe and presumably some magic, as her injury did indeed look to be quite fatal.  What is even more interesting is that it happened to two female characters. While there is a move towards the modernization of female in media as able protagonists, their place as damsels in distress is still prevalent enough in culture. That this was done, at least in the case of She-Ra, is an easy way to prove the true evil of the villain. Regardless of the true motivation, the characters probably deserve better than to be treated as recipients of shock value attacks, especially after the degree of characterizations that has been built into them through some solid writing.

We Talk with Min Kim about the Digital Comics Coalition and the future of Digital Comics

digital comics coalitionSeemingly launched out of nowhere in mid-February, the Digital Comics Coalition is the brainchild of Min Kim, the founder of Taptastic. Other members include Mark Waid (Thrillbent), Josh Wilkie (Madefire), Felix Kiner (ComicsFix) and Doug Lefler (Scrollon). The group of comics creators, programmers, businessmen and filmmakers joins together regularly to share ideas on the innovations happening today in digital publishing. But, other than their panel at Meltdown Comics, not much is known about the organization, its purpose, direction etc.

We got a chance to talk to Min Kim about the DCC, and find out more about many of the questions we’ve been waiting to find out the answers to.

Graphic Policy: How did the Digital Comics Coalition come about?

Min Kim: I’ve been living and working in San Francisco Bay Area for about 10 years witnessing all sort of technology innovations in the media and entertainment space. We now stream endless music to our phones. We video-chat with family and friends from anywhere in the world. We consume so much content on mobile including news and books. So, when I walked into San Diego Comic-Con in 2014, I was shocked by how technology, particularly digital comics, was heavily underrepresented. I met Doug Lefler (Scrollon) and Josh Wilkie (Madefire) at the convention and we all just naturally connected because we shared the same frustration. We continued to talk after the convention, and then more of our friends, Mark Waid (Thrillbent) and Felix Kiner (Comicsfix), joined in on the conversation.

GP: What are the goals of the organization?

MK: The coalition is still very new. We’re still in the process of finalizing our manifesto and bylaws. However, the general purpose is to facilitate comic industry’s transition from print to digital. We know that there are other important matters to keep in mind such as content diversity, racial diversity, and gender equality. Mark, Doug, and Josh are all creators themselves. Indie comic creators are an important part of all our companies and the industry. So, we want to make sure that everything we do prioritizes comic creators. Sorry that I cannot provide bullet point answers at this time.

GP: Is the organization going to be formalized as a non-profit or a trade organization?

MK: It’s currently an agreement between the members. We are discussing how we want this group to evolve. If we feel that the group needs to officially register in the future, we will do so.

GP: Are there current coalitions or organizations that the coalition is looking towards as inspiration?

MK: As a group, no specific ones. Personally, I admire organized groups that have been recently fighting for net neutrality. There are also many that are promoting or fighting for advancement of good ideas. Digital comics is a very good idea and very good for the industry and the creators.

GP: There’s a lot of issues facing digital services like broadband expansion, EULA standardization, CISPA, and more. Will the organization get involved in the policy end of things?

MK: We currently do not have plans in place for those issues. Perhaps in the future.

GP: How has the digital landscape shifted since you became involved?

MK: DCC was organized in 2015, and we’ve only done one event at Meltdown, which you can view on Youtube. We’re happy about the turnout and the fact that various organizations like Graphic Policy and creators are contacting us. We’re hoping an accumulation of events will eventually lead to a positive shift in the industry.

GP: One of the major issues I see with digital services is the walled environments, and lack of standardization of formats for the digital goods. Will the coalition work at all together to standardize the digital comic format and make it easier to port comics if a service were to shut down?

MK: This is a tough question because standardization can impede innovation, yet there are also benefits like transferability that you mentioned. Usually free competition determines standards in any industry and the same goes for digital comics. The coalition is a good starting point to discuss how we can work together to minimize bad consumer experience by lowering some of those walls that you mentioned. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that some consumers will feel like losing out when a service shuts down. This reminds me of my HD-DVD that I once purchased that is useless today.

In addition, there is some psychology at play here because the society has hardwired us to think that there’s more value in something physical than digital. For example, consumers associate all the tangible costs such as paper, ink, and delivery into pricing of a book. Although digital books don’t have those tangible costs, there are inherent values such as the ability to instantly download, mobility, and storage that consumer do not think about. Furthermore, purchasing digital comics goes beyond just purchasing a book like we are used to. Digital comics today offer a unique experience that was never available. This unique experience varies based on platforms, but comics today can now support background music, animation, and engagement with other readers. So, we’ve come a long way from purchasing static content. So when something goes away because nothing in life really lasts forever (I’m sure most of your comic books are stashed away in the garage like mine), we should try to stay positive. I hope more people view buying a digital comic as buying a ticket to a movie or a Broadway show.

GP: There’s this founding group for the Digital Comics Coalition, but numerous services that aren’t involved. Will more be joining?

MK: Oh yes, definitely! We already have a few requests and we are in talks. We’ll make an announcement when appropriate.

GP: We’ve already seen one service have a data breach, will the coalition work together to better protect data of the customers?

MK: Security breech happens all the time across all industries. It is very unfortunate that it happened to Comixology, but it’s also a great opportunity for others to learn from such events. So although we did not have a specific discussion around this issue, I can see members of the coalition sharing experiences and resources to protect the consumers.

GP: What do you see as the biggest hurdle for digital comics? What do you see as the biggest advantage for digital comics?

MK: I’ll answer the second question first. I’d say the biggest advantages are accessibility for readers and creative freedom for creators. Accessibility is obvious where anyone with PC or mobile device can instantly read millions of visual stories. In addition, technology has lower the barrier to entry for creators. Anyone can publish and share his or her comics online. Anyone has a chance to display his or talent to the world, so digital has democratized storytelling. As for creative freedom, I think exploring some of the creators’ work on any of our digital comics platforms speaks for itself. In the past, creators were restricted to panels and pages. They had to because economic costs were also factored in – paper quality and ink used for production and printing. Technology has provided more creative freedom. Technology allows unlimited ways for a creators to tell stories. Creators can now add music, transitions, and other animated effects. So many people are doing very cool things out there.

The biggest hurdle? There are so many. Right now, it’s the distribution. How can more people know that these new experiences exist? How can more people learn that digital comics is not just pages scanned for digital viewing? So many people still think of superheroes when they think of comics. No, there is so much that digital comics offers beyond that.

With SB 101 Signed, What Will Gen Con Do? Follow Salesforce?

Gen_Con_LetterOn Tuesday we brought you the news that Gen Con, the four day gaming convention (and one of my favorite conventions of the year) sent a letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence warning the convention may leave the state if SB 101, the supposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was singed into law. The convention, as many else also feel, felt the legislation is discriminatory, and would “allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees.”

The Governor is so proud of the bill, he signed it into law in a private ceremony. Indiana becomes the first state this year to enact such legislation out of the dozen or so states in which similar proposals have been introduced.

The fallout from the legislation signing was quick and fierce. Salesforce, on the the top software as a service companies out there, has decided to “dramatically reduce” their investment in Indiana. The CEO of the company Marc Benioff said in a series of Tweets:

gen-con-logoGen Con isn’t the only convention to take place in the state. Awesome Con expanded this year to host a convention in Indianapolis as well. We’ve reached out to both conventions for further comment as to their plans or reactions, but have not heard back as we went to press.

Geek conventions don’t have the best record when it comes to these things. In 2010, Arizona signed into law SB 1070 which some say unfairly targets Latinos, and is a violation of the civil rights of all Arizonans. Boycotts of the state due to the law cost the state over $141 million in 2010. Announced in 2010, but launched in 2011, the Amazing Arizona Comic Con was launched, though calls for boycotts were still in full effect. We questioned the choice of not just the convention, but those attending and supporting it. Companies who “champion” diversity and inclusion, and “pushing comics forward” have had no issues pumping money into the economy of a state which clearly cares little of these things. Though, in fairness, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill similar to the one Gov. Pence just signed into law. So, they just dislike people of darker skin there, but homosexuals are ok.

We’ll keep on this story as Gen Con has promised a follow up letter today. The convention in 2011 committed to stay in Indianapolis until 2020.

Pence released the below statement after signing the pill into law:

Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith.

The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.

One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.

Fortunately, in the 1990s Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—limiting government action that would infringe upon religion to only those that did not substantially burden free exercise of religion absent a compelling state interest and in the least restrictive means.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States upheld religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that act does not apply to individual states or local government action. At present, nineteen states—including our neighbors in Illinois and Kentucky—have adopted Religious Freedom Restoration statutes. And in eleven additional states, the courts have interpreted their constitutions to provide a heightened standard for reviewing government action.

In order to ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year our General Assembly joined those 30 states and the federal government to enshrine these principles in Indiana law, and I fully support that action.

This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.

Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance, and values of our people, and that will never change. Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.

And a Tweet by the Governor:

Review: Realm War #8

realmwar008If one had any questions as to whether the main universe of the Grimm Fairy Tales universe is overly complicated then this single issue would answer that.  The entire world is embroiled in darkness as the Dark Queen has managed to merge the realms and is in the process of consolidating her power.  Following on the events of the previous issue, Sela is still looking for a weapon which she can use against the Dark Queen, but it would have been a lot easier if she had not been ambushed while doing so at Area 51.

In order to try to make sense of this issue there are Greek gods, characters inspired by fairy tales, characters inspired by legends, characters inspired by fantasy and original characters that have similar qualities to those already mentioned.  Also to keep track, there is a triple cross in this story, in which a character is deceived and then deceived again and then the original deceiver get deceived.  It seems at times that the writers of this series don’t really understand the need for any kind of restraint, and instead just keep piling on the plot twists and the new characters that act for reasons which are not fully developed.

The lack of a single compelling narrative is where this series falls down.  The main series of Grimm Fairy Tales can at times contain stories that are well conceived and well told, but it would seem that with the company wide crossover in mind that the sum is far less than its parts.  There are even compelling characters in play here but they get relegated to secondary roles.  One can only hope that after the events of Realm War that the main series goes back to the drawing board and tries for something more restrained.

Story: Joe Brusha Art: Sami Kivela
Story: 4.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 4.0 Recommendation: Pass

A Short History of Turning Disney Rides Into Fiction

Tower_of_Terror_VideoCoverOne of the common criticisms of modern media is that people have run out of ideas, and that everything that we see is a repetition of something that came before. While this is a contentious enough claim based partially in an over-analysis of tropes and truisms, it is true that those looking to create popular culture stories for movies have looked elsewhere for inspiration in recent years. There have been movies based on blogs for instance, which is a form of media copying another.

In terms of media, many people don’t consider theme park rides to be a form of media, but under certain circumstances they can be. Of courses roller coasters are not really a form of media, but some rides are. After all at Disney World and Disney Land many of the rides consist of a moving vessel which undergoes some mild thrills in the form of chutes or slides, and a story of sorts being told through the depiction of various themes.  In short it serves as a sort of moving theater without a real plot, and is thus is kind of its own form of media (or at least a weird version of theater).

Country_bearsWith the crossover of almost all forms of media from on into another, it thus stands to reason that eventually that someone at Disney would get the idea to base some stories on their own rides, which doubled as extra incentive to take children to the theme parks (if they actually needed more incentive). Surprisingly though, with one notable exception, the transfer to other forms of media has been pretty mediocre, yet recent developments with Disney and Marvel might indicate the path forward for these ventures.

The first movie in this short history of Disney attractions is the Tower of Terror, released in 1997. Featuring Disney staple Steve Guttenberg and pre-Spider-Man Kirsten Dunst, this is the only film of this kind that was released directly to television. It is also notable for its use of the actual ride as a set for the filming as opposed to the other movies which have relied on different settings. This features a fairly typical ghost story and was filmed for a younger audience as it originally appeared on the Wonderful World of Disney.

The second movie in the sequence is the Country Bears, a film based on the ride/show Country Bear Jamboree. This film was released in 2002 and mixed animatronics with real life actors to tell the story of one of the youngest of the Country Bears who discovers his true destiny after being raised by human parents. This was another Disney movie aimed at a younger crowd as it contained rehearsed dance numbers by children and a silly enough premise. Not surprisingly the film grossed back less than half of its budget in ticket sales.

piratesOut of two mediocre films that were either failures or forgettable came Disney’s greatest success. Although it might have seemed absurd at the time, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a film which ventured well past what was offered in the ride. Although the plot was perhaps a little basic in certain respects, it was equally a movie that was full of a lot of elements that make a movie exciting. Special effects provided a realistic enough supernatural element, but the movie is tied mostly to the over-the-top role played by Johnny Depp, which resulted in an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Additionally the movie helped to make stars out of its other two leads, Oralndo Bloom and Keira Knightley, who while already known well enough in Hollywood, had not yet been considered to be proper A-list actors. The 2003 film was followed by sequels in 2006, 2007 and 2011 with another sequel expected in 2017, with the latter to each featuring one half of the married couple of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.  It is by far the most successful of the Disney rides turned into movies, with gross ticket sales surpassing $3.5 billion.

haunted mansionAfter the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, some thought that Disney might be entering into a period of success for these adaptations, but the follow-up to its big hit was another poorly received movie as the Haunted Mansion failed to gain critical success, even if its box office draw was not as bad as the others. Starring Eddie Murphy in a story that was once again loosely based on the ride, many criticized it for now being scary enough, or funny enough considering that Eddie Murphy was involved. Despite its lackluster final product interest rests in retelling the story by Guillermo del Toro, who might be able to realize a stronger concept considering some of his previous works.

In a bit of a twist, the next movie in the Disney catalog, is not one based on a ride specifically, but rather an entire section of the park, known as Tomorrowland. Although it is still unreleased, it holds a great deal of promise, telling a broader story as Pirates of the Caribbean did, and it doesn’t hurt either that big names like George Clooney and Brad Bird are associated. While there are also rumours of a movie based on “It’s a Small World” (which would presumably be somewhat Carmen Sandiego-like), this is maybe not the way forward for Disney films.

big thunderSince 2009 Disney has owned Marvel Comics, and while speculated on what that might mean for the future of Marvel, it has mostly remained unchanged in terms of the Marvel universe of superheroes. What is in interesting possibility though is the new miniseries Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. After the hit-and-miss (though mostly miss) run of fiction based on rides, this is a chance for Disney to test ideas in a safer market without investing millions of dollars into an idea that might make back less than half of the money invested.  If this is the case, Marvel could also act as an incubator for movie ideas which Disney thinks might fail on the big screen, and this could be a place to see if they could succeed and to fine tune the idea before putting it into production.  Thus maybe if there is to be a “It’s a Small World” movie, it might show up at Marvel first.

Graphic Policy Turns 7

That’s right, seven years ago today, Graphic Policy launched. Seven years later we’re still going strong. Thank you all for making it an awesome seven years. Here’s to many more!

In that time we’ve done over 23,000 posts, had 3.2 million page views from 221 countries, 4.6 million views on Youtube, 3.97 million minutes watched…. not bad for a site started for the fun of it. It started as just myself, and now we’re 20 contributors (yes, the “About” is a bit behind). To say I’m beyond proud of the team is an understatement. We’re always looking for individuals to join the team too!

I also have to thank the publishers, conventions, creators…. really everyone…. who took a chance on us, and helped us get where we are.

So, join us in making the next seven years (and onwards) amazing ones.

From me to everyone, thank you.

brett sig

Brett Schenker
Founder
Graphic Policy

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(cake via Cake Central)

TV Review: Arrow S3E17 Suicidal Tendencies

arrowOn this episode of Arrow it’s celebration time as Diggle and Lyla get married. However, Deadshot interrupts their honeymoon and tells them the Suicide Squad has been given a new mission – rescue United States Senator Joseph Cray from a hostage situation in the Republic of Kasnia. Amanda Waller breaks down the mission and introduced them to the newest member of the Suicide Squad, Cupid. Meanwhile, Oliver learns about Ray’s new Atom costume and the two have a heated stand-off. Felicity and Ray hit a rough patch.

The series bounces back from a couple of so-so episodes that dive into a bunch of different storylines that are out there. There’s really two stories here that spin out of the marriage of Diggle and Lyla.

First, Diggle and Lyla get sent off on a mission with Deadshot and Cupid to free some hostages as part of the Suicide Squad. Throughout the missions Floyd/Deadshot’s history is revealed up to the point he was sent to kill Diggle’s brother. There’s a slight twist to it all, and the mission is actually pretty entertaining as far as the action.

The second part is the fight between the Atom and Arrow that we knew was coming. Ray is convinced that the Arrow is a killer, no matter what he’s told. The two clash and it’s not that bad. The only issue is, The Atom feels a bit more like Iron Man instead of The Atom.

Overall, the episode is pretty entertaining with some good action, some decent movement in the plot, and some nice twists here and there. Not the best of the season, but an improvement over the last few episodes.

Overall rating: 7.75

Review: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #1

big thunderIf Disney is looking for a modern evolution of its princess characters, then Abigail from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad very well might be it.  She is introduced as a headstrong and capable young woman, one that even refers to herself as a princess at one point, but at heart she is nothing of the sort.  Although forced into conformity due to her gender at this specific point in time (the Old West) she does not let this stop her from living the life that she wants to live, a life of adventure and exploration.  It helps of course that she has been sent to live with her father, a fickle though not necessarily cruel owner and operator of a potentially prosperous mine which has not yet found fortune.

It takes no longer than the first few pages to throw her into an unexpected action sequence which works to help build her character as much as it does to raise the pulse of the readers a bit.  This works much better to introduce her character, as she reveals her knack for being feminine while also being head strong and inventive.  The story follows her into the town, which is a place full of characters that one would expect to see in the Wild West, but the focus remains Abigail.  She first sneaks into a saloon and then figures a way to sneak into the mine where she is forbidden from entering.  There are a couple of things out of place (a standing dinosaur fossil) but mostly the story proceeds at a quick pace and keeps the fun going.

Of all the Disney rides expanded to a story elsewhere, this one has as much potential as Pirates of the Caribbean.  Disney put a lot of resources into 2013’s The Lone Ranger, but this single issue is proof that this focus should have been placed on a concept such as this one.  As it stands, this is an exciting and fun issue from the very first panel and doesn’t let up throughout, and promises a solid future of adapting theme park rides into stories, provided that the creative team thinks outside the box.

Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Tigh Walker
Story: 9.4 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Inhuman #13

inhuman014There is a common enough formula within comics, and especially for superhero comics.  Not every issue can contain a big spectacular action sequence, as those require several issues to build up to, and equally some issue have to be set up to allow for the development of characters and to introduce new plot points to build other stories from.  After the last issue of Inhuman which resulted in the attack of the Ennilux Corporation against New Attilan, it should not be a surprise to see that this issue is at a much slower pace, instead of the action packed previous few issues.

There is a change of focus somewhat at Marvel, at least is some fundamental ways, as the Inhumans have become the mutants, at least in certain applications.  A few years ago, a popular character like Miss Marvel would have likely been introduced as a mutant but now she is given a background as an Inhuman.  This might have some inspiration from who owns which movie rights, but it is undeniable that the Inhumans have a change of focus which examines them as people first and as superhumans second, and that is the case here.  There is therefore the need from time to time for an issue to build up the characters is stronger.  As this issue focuses on the development of certain characters, it comes at a good time, after Iso has been added to the mix of NuHumans.  At the same time, some ground is laid here for an upcoming story arc as Lineage finally begins to reveal his true intentions.

This series maintains its same level of quality here, even if it is not as pulse pounding as some that have come before.  This simply serves as an intermediate issue, though one which is necessary for the series to catch its breath after recent events.  It still serves as an example of the focus put on characters as opposed to other series which rely more on a concept, and it is that which this series is best known for.  This is not the issue that fans will remember fondly, but rather the one that sets up ones that will become memorable.

Story: Charles Soule Art: Andre Araujo
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

 

 

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