Tag Archives: north korea

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BLUEREB_Cv1_dsIt was new comic book day yesterday. What’d folks get? What’d you enjoy? What’d you dislike? Sound off in the comments below.

While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web.

Around the Tubes

TechCrunch – North Korea launches a Netflix-style streaming service called Manbang – Does it have Kim Jong Il’s films?

CBLDF – Looking Back at a 1980′s Anti-Comics and RPG Crusader’s Campaign – Those were the days.


Around the Tubes Reviews

Newsarama – Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1

Newsarama – Captain America: Steve Rogers #4

The Beat – Captain America: Steve Rogers #4

Newsarama – Deathstroke #1

Newsarama – The Hellblazer #1

Newsarama – International Iron Man #6

Newsarama – Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin’ Heroz #1

Baby Huey Available in August!

Kidrobot has announced Baby Huey will soon be available in stores and online at Kidrobot.com following it’s successful launch at San Diego Comic Con.

It’s all about that fade baby! Pretty hard to step into your Dad’s shoes, even if you have teeny tiny little feet, but a real playa has to try. Relish the opportunity to posses a little whiny evil dictator all your own, either in Playful Pyong Yank Pink or Supervillain Blue!

Retailing for $65 and available in two color-ways, Pink and Blue, the 8” Baby Huey will be available in stores and online at Kidrobot.com starting August 7th at 9AM MST!

Baby Huey 2 Baby Huey 1

Sony Blames Distributors for The Interview Release Cancellation

interview_xlgIn an interview I heard on NPR, Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton stood firm in saying Sony didn’t capitulate to the hackers who have terrorized the company for some time now. The hubbub was around the cancellation of the release of The Interview on Christmas day.

In his view, they saw the film as continuing the grand tradition of political satire, and saw nothing wrong with releasing it.

Lynton’s interview came a few hours after President Obama called the decision to not release the film a “mistake.”

Lynton danced around issues in the distribution system in place for movies. In the interview he stood firm by the fact that Sony had the intention of releasing the film. The movie company didn’t cancel their current plans until theaters decided to not screen the film. With few theaters willing to do so, Sony’s hands were tied, and the decision to delay the release was made.

We did not capitulate. We don’t own movie theaters, and we require movie theater owners to be there for us to distribute our film. We very much wanted to keep the picture in release. When the movie theaters decided that they could not put our movie in their theaters, we had no choice at that point but to not have the movie come out on the 25th of December. This was not our decision.

In the interview Lynton was pressed why the company wasn’t releasing the film digitally. Lynton said it was something they were considering, but were having issues finding partners willing to join them in the release.

While he was much more diplomatic than he needed to be, it was clear Lynton lays the blame at the theaters, and digital distributors fear that they will be the target of a cyber attack if they release the film. That’s exactly what I pointed out in my earlier coverage of the news.

Here’s his direct quote:

Yes, those are other avenues and we are actively exploring them …. to date, we don’t have any takers — neither on the video demand side nor on the e-commerce side. People have been generally fearful about the possibility of their systems being corrupted, and so there have been a lot of conversations about the robustness of various systems to be able to make sure they’re not hacked, if and when we put the movie out digitally.

I shouldn’t say if — when. We would very much like that to happen. But we do need partners to make that happen. We ourselves do not have a distribution platform to put the movie out.

It looks like we’ll eventually get to see the film, it’s just a question of when, no longer if.

In an email release, the company said:

It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.

That reiterates what Lynton said in the interview.

What stood out to me was the emphasis that the film wasn’t being released due to the fact it was pulled from theaters, and that digital distributors weren’t willing to bite. It emphasizes that we as consumers do in fact have our choices limited by gatekeepers such as movie theater chains, and digital avenues like iTunes or Amazon. BitTorrent, the filing sharing technology and company, stepped up to help with digital distribution through its BitTorrent Bundle.

The President said during a press conference:

We cannot have a society in which some dictators some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States. If somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.

Sony seems to agree. They said in their release:

Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion.

You can listen to the interview and get details directly from the company.

Theaters, Sony, and Paramount Cave to Terrorists and Cyberbullies & Why that’s Bad

interview_xlgIn what can only be described as stupidity and cowardice, national theater chains including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Cineplex, and eventually Sony Pictures Entertainment have pulled the December 25th release of The Interview. For those who might not know, The Interview is a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that has them traveling to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un, and are tasked to kill the leader. The country didn’t take the comedy too lightly, and instead North Korea (likely, it’s hard to verify) waged a cyber-war against Sony in retaliation.

That cyber attack proved an embarrassment for the American subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate. Sensitive documents were released, and have been fodder for sites over the past week. That coverage of leaked documents, and the subsequent reaction (which we’ll get to), played right into the hackers hands. Really, the hack showed the continued ineptness of Sony to protect itself in a digital age. They’ve had numerous hacks, dozens of times, that have exposed user accounts, and more.

In the end, the hackers threatened a physical attacked reminiscent of 9/11 if The Interview wasn’t pulled from release. This led to major theaters to cancel the release of the movie. Those theaters account for 18,000 screens of the roughly 40,000 screens in North America. Other theaters stood strong and would have still released the film. Sony eventually completely caved, and as of this post they were unsure if they’ll ever release the film, even on demand (I’d expect a torrent any day now).

The hacks, and even threat, are an example of cyberbullying taken to extreme, and by caving to demands, that bullying has shown to work. It’s akin to attacks on female creators (which include physical and death threats) in the video game industry, and have gotten some women to quit the industry. Its happened to comic creators and critics by those who disagree with what they have to say. It continues because it’s perceived to work.

What the pulling of the film does is encourage more of the behavior in the future, especially from the North Korean regime. The country has been building a cyber force that supposedly comprises 1,800 individuals. The cancellation of the film by theaters wasn’t likely out of safety concerns for movie goers (North Korea doesn’t likely have the ability to act on their physical threats), it’s more likely theaters are looking out for their own necks, and fear a cyberattack on their own systems, and what would come to light if it happened and documents were released. Documents that have been released showed Sony (and other film companies) conspiring against Google, and really consumers, in the battle over piracy. A battle ironically where Sony, the MPAA, RIAA, and other content producers use similar bullying tactics as were just used against Sony. They’ve also bad mouthed their own films, actors, and the direction of the subsidiary. Imagine what would be revealed about movie theater chains if a similar event would occur?

2014-12-18_1602The caving to the threats, and the embarrassment, have already had a chilling effect.

A planned adaptation of Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang by New Regency has been pulled. That film was to star Steve Carrell and be directed by Gore Verbinski with a script by Steve Conrad. The film has been described as a “paranoid thriller,” which has me a bit worried about what it might have been, when in reality DeLisle’s story is more like Lost in Translation. Luckily you can still purchase the brilliant graphic novel. What’s to say a threat and attack isn’t in Amazon’s future to stop the sale of the book though?

Paramount has barred theaters from showing Team America in protest of the cancellation of The Interview.

12 people were killed and more shot, plus numerous other incidences, during the opening week of The Dark Knight Rises, that film was kept in theaters. The Warriors opened in 1979, and lead to vandalism and killings, and only had security added to theaters, and continued to show.

Cyber threats which couldn’t be corroborated, and experts have dismissed the capabilities, are more than enough to stop this film, and more. Where actual physical proof of probable violence existed, a film wasn’t pulled. Think this is about our “safety” or that of protecting the theaters’ digital secrets?

In the coming weeks, and months, this most likely will increase the call for needed cyber legislation, most of which will be draconian, hurt civil liberties, and punish the consumer. Legislation like CISPA, SOPA, or PIPA, will be rammed through like undead zombies infecting and destroying the world before we notice and it’s too late. The attacks also have done more to promote a film which likely have done just ok in a theater (and built up a buzz that it’d be crazy to not release it digitally and capitalize on the hoopla).

This isn’t the first time a hack has led to company secrets being stolen. This isn’t the first time intellectual property has been stolen. The difference here is, that demands were met, and corporations caved to threats. They’ve shown this sort of bullying works, is easy, and effective. It encourages it to be done in the future, creating a chilling censoring effect.

This isn’t the first time issues over a movie and North Korea have come up. In 2002, Bond film Die Another Day depicted a North Korean villain which resulted in the country going on a PR offensive (instead of a cyber one). With these latest threats, the country moves closer to being a real life Bond villain.

Similar issues arose in 2004 of Team America: World Police, and in 2012 and 2013 things changed up a bit with the release of Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen. Both of those films featured North Korean terrorists. Those two films, the country used footage for their own propaganda to show off their military prowess.

It’s all ironic since former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was an avid fan of the James Bond franchise (and movies in general). Jong Il was so obsessed with films he kidnapped Japanese and South Korean actors and directors to star in movies he some times wrote himself.



North Korea Gets Disneyfied

It’s a small world after all? In a performance concert for their new leader Kim Jong Un, some unusual characters took stage. Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, joined North Korean performers behind a backdrop of Disney films such as Snow White, Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast and more. Still photos of the performance were shown on state TV on Saturday.

This is a pretty notable change for the closed and secretive country. In previous years, this performance had panda bears, a nod towards the country’s ally China.

Disney isn’t new to the country though.  Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse have been popular among children for several years adorning goods brought over from China.

The young leader has attempted so far to project an image of youth, vitality and modernity and this is part of a plan to “bring about a dramatic turn in the field of literature and arts this year,” according to KCNA, the official North Korean news.

Great Successor Manga Fan and Gamer?

Not much is known about the new leader of North Korea but it’s being reported that he’s a fan of video games and manga.  A school mate of Kim Jong-un has spoken out and said the 20 something world leader was shy and awkward around women, loves Japanese Manga and video games.  He also wanted to be a basketball player.  With crack intel, I think the CIA has their work cut out for them.

(story and image via Kotaku)

Around the Tubes

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It’s Wednesday which means new comic book day.  More importantly than means the debuts of Justice League #1 and Flashpoint #5.  How many of you went to midnight release parties and how many are grabbing it today?  While you think about that, here’s the news you might have missed.

Around the Blogs:

Korea Herald – Talk lifts lid on North Korean comic books – Not really enough info to justify it’s own blog post, but very interesting stuff.

Con Coverage:

CBLDF – Craig Thompson’s HABIBI Debuts at SPX 2011 to Benefit CBLDF!

CBR – Fan Expo: Marvel’s Next Big Thing

Fantagraphic Books – Exclusive Jim Woodring Tote Bag at SPX

CBR – Fan Expo: The X-Men Regenesis Panel

Around the Tubes Reviews:

Kung Fu Cinema – Infinite Kung Fu

Primary Ignition – Mr. Murder Is Dead

MTV Geek – Ultimate Comics Hawkeye #1

Twitter Tuesday

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It’s been quite a while but we’re bringing back Twitter Tuesday.  Below is a highlight of some of the past week’s more politically oriented Twitter posts from those in the comic book industry showing it’s not just geek stuff they discuss.


Using Comics to Understand North Korea

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We’ve covered how comic books have been used as propaganda AGAINST North Korea.  Heinz Insu Fenkl, a literature professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz is using comic books to understand more ABOUT North Korea.  The professor spends hours translating North Korean comic books call “gruim-chaek” in North Korea that he picks up in shops in China and from colleagues who travel to Pyongyang.

The comic books the professor has gathered tend to be spy thrillers with loud Americans our Japanese as the enemies.  The comics are in black and white and poor paper quality.  To be expected in a country short on resources.

The books are also designed to instill the father of North Korea, Kim Il-sung’s, philosophy of Juche — radical self-reliance of the state, added Nick Bonner, founder of Koryo Tours, an English-language tour company in Beijing that takes visitors to North Korea several times each year.

Fenkl is planning is planning a massive web archive to share his studies to the world.  You can read more about this at the Global Post which has some examples.

Anti-North Korea Comic Books Distributed – Update

Yesterday we brought you the news about the National Police Agency having published a comic book critical of the North Korea regime and it’s nuclear program.  The Financial Times picks up the story and expands upon the story a bit.

The comic is called Ji-yong goes time travelling to school children between the ages of 10 to 15. The plot focuses on a young boy who rides through time with his grandfather’s ghost on a giant, red dragon.  He witnesses the North Korean invasion of the South in 1950 and the Stalinist dictatorship built by Kim Il-sung as well as present-day labour camps, starvation, nuclear weapons and cyber attacks.

The goal of the comic is to provide security education to elementary and middle school students. The creators cite a survey showing that 57 per cent of schoolchildren were “not aware” of the Korean war and 60 per cent of people in their 20s could not say when the war started.

“In the past, national security education was conducted forcefully and stirred up hostility,” the police said. Children’s cartoons would depict North Korean soldiers as wolves and Kim Il-sung as a pig. “These new comic books are based on facts to help children form a fair appraisal.”

The agency invested 90 million Won which is about $77,000 in American dollars.  They produced 150,000 copies and distributed them to schools and police stations.

The comic books follows a “spot the spy” computer game that South Korea’s intelligence agency put online during the summer.

The two nations went to war in June of 1950 and paused confrontation in July 1953.  There has never been an official treaty ending the war (it’s technically still going on for this reason) and occasional flair ups and skirmishes have occurred.  North and South Korea are divided by a demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 38th parallel.

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