[7RQ] Free ebook / Comics v Hollywood / New TIO


We decided to do something a bit mad, and made THE EXPHORIA CODE ebook editions completely free over Easter. Anywhere you can normally buy the ebook, you can get it for nothing — but only until midnight Monday, so act fast.

Amazing what being free will do to your chart position; already over the weekend the book reached #73 in the overall Kindle chart for free books, has been #1 in Espionage ebooks for a couple of days, and was even #2 in Science Fiction ebooks at one point. (I still don't know why it gets listed in SF ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

NB North American readers are out of luck, sorry, as we don't yet have a publisher finalised for that region — you can buy the paperback, as they simply import the UK edition, but the ebook isn't available. not even for purchase. Be assured that when we remedy that situation, I'll let you know. https://amzn.to/2zJ8bL9

Depending on who you talk to, the comics industry is either in some of the best health it’s ever seen, or dying on its feet. (And ’twas ever thus.)

Now, when most people say “the comics industry,” what they mean is Marvel & DC superhero comics — partly because combined they’re the highest-selling comics in the market (though the big indie hits can often top individual superhero titles), but also because they have the greatest mindshare. Which Hollywood is doing its part to reinforce, right across the world.

BLACK PANTHER sailing past the $1 billion box office mark with relative ease doesn’t only bolster people who’ve argued for decades against the conventional ‘wisdom’ (scare quotes very much intended) that people of colour don’t watch action movies — dudes, have you even heard of SHAFT? — it also bolsters the mainstream perception that comics = superheroes. That’s something anyone who’s followed me for a while knows is a subject I can and will rant about at the drop of a hat, but not today. Today I’m more concerned about something only comics people really care about, and that’s the issues of canon and primacy.

Ironically, Hollywood has taken many cues from superhero comics besides the subject matter; editorially-driven events, title crossovers, a revolving door of writers whose primary task is to simply make something that matches the line-wide vision and doesn’t suck. And, just like comics, that a number of genuinely good movies and TV shows have emerged as a result is more a testament to the talent involved than the process itself. But they also appear to be taking something else; the mantra that you can never have too much of a good thing, and thus we can expect eight hundred superhero movies and TV shows to be released over the next three years.

I’m exaggerating, but less than you probably think.

Hollywood has always driven bandwagons into the ground, but I’m not sure we’ve ever seen such an insanely high proliferation of one genre before. All we need now is variant collectible lenticular blu-ray covers [1] and we can truly say that comics has conquered Hollywood…

…Or has it? Because it’s the movies and TV shows that most people around the world now identify with these superheroes. Mention Iron Man, and people think of Robert Downey Jr trading one-liners with Gwyneth Paltrow. Chris Evans is Captain America, to millions of people. Dark Knight fans have a veritable actors’ gallery to choose from, but when they argue about the ‘best Batman’ they’re not talking about Miller v Grant, or Adams v Murphy. And most people outside traditional comic fans wouldn’t even know who those names belong to.

(This isn’t entirely new, of course; James Bond is the most obvious example of a franchise where popular perception is centred almost entirely around the movie version, rather than the source material — and with such stark differences that any Bond movie fan reading a Fleming novel for the first time could be forgiven for wondering if they picked up the wrong book. But superhero comics are an ongoing pulp format, with a regular churn of new stories constantly expected. Most comics published 50 years ago aren’t even in print, let alone appealing to a modern audience.)

This proliferation of movies and TV means we’re approaching a point — hell, maybe we’ve already passed it — where there are more creators working on Hollywood versions of superheroes than there are comic creators making the comics they’re based on. And that makes me wonder; when does the canon and primacy flip?

When do we reach a point where the so-called ‘original’ comic versions of these characters are subservient to Hollywood’s direction? Visually it’s already begun, with many comic characters’ appearance and costumes being tweaked to more closely resemble what movie fans expect to see. How long before the same thing happens with their personalities, even storylines?

To be clear, I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. From an entirely pragmatic point of view, such a canon-flip might be just what’s needed to get more fans of the movies to pick up a graphic novel in the first place. And frankly, hardly anyone was lining up to read BLACK PANTHER comics (or BLACK LIGHTNING, come to that). But they've sure turned out in their droves to see them on-screen. Is that because of availability, or better storytelling? Thanks to comics’ self-destructive tendencies over the past 40 years, we’ll never know.

Somewhere down the line, if creative clashes occur, a comic creator could find it pretty hard to argue their case when a given comic’s audience is less than 0.01% the size of the same character’s movie. And that could signal the biggest change the industry has ever seen.

[1] I’m told these do in fact already exist. Shoot me now.


The latest episode of my heavy metal podcast THRASH IT OUT (and the final regular episode of Volume 3, while we take a break before returning for Vol 4) sees Brian LeTendre and I dissecting the enigmatic, pain-filled roar of Neurosis' 1996 album THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOD, one of the heaviest and most influential albums of the past 25 years. Play loud. https://thrashitoutpodcast.com/episodes/3-12

This week I have emailed youtube links of ’90s pop videos back and forth with one of my favourite authors; been invited to pitch for an exciting multimedia project; rage-deleted a videogame whose ending left me fuming with anger at lazy storytelling; and given up on reading a novel a hundred pages in (I always give a book the benefit of the doubt for 100pp, but if I'm still not feeling it after that, out it goes — life is too short, and my reading pile is too large). On the brighter side, this morning I wrote a new short story. So, bit of a rollercoaster.