By Jaime Weinman - Friday, November 16, 2012 - 0 Comments
The big news of the day—forget wars and stuff, they happen all the time—is that Hostess has chosen to shut down and lay off all its workers as a way of “settling” a strike. That’ll teach those human beings with lives and families.
There’s probably not much likelihood of Twinkies and other popular Hostess products actually disappearing, since the brands are the main asset Hostess still possesses. The company will sell the Twinkie name and the secret formula (the one that led to all the jokes about how Twinkies are the only food that will survive the apocalypse) to someone else. I’m hoping for Disney, since they’ve been buying up everything else.
Actually, in the unlikely event that Disney were to buy the Hostess brands, they could cross-promote it with Marvel and bring back one of Hostess’s most important contributions to our cultural life: the Hostess comic book ads. You probably remember these if you read comic books in the early ’80s, and a lot of the ads later turned up online—Seanbaby has a site where he adopts several different personas to provide colour commentary on the ads. Hostess got the rather terrific idea of paying all the comic book companies to create one-page ads that looked like comic book adventures of famous characters (though not the character who was actually starring in that particular book). The superheroes would foil supervillains by distracting them with the glorious taste of delicious Hostess Fruit Pies.
The in-house artists at the comic companies had all kinds of rules imposed on them by their editors to prevent the ads from destroying the brand of the heroes: for example, the heroes were rarely allowed to eat the Hostess products, since this would somehow cross over into a full-fledged endorsement. And the villains usually had to be one-shot villains with incredibly lame themes: the Chairman, a guy who turns people into chairs, or the Ding-a-Ling Family, a clan of space hillbillies who are impervious to Thor’s mighty hammer but cannot resist Hostess snacks. Usually the bad guy would be lured away from villainy by the yummy filling, but there were some variations and exceptions. For example, this ad, where the Incredible Hulk so dislikes a bunch of roller-skating disco fans that he just kills them all in cold blood. But much like Charles Bronson in Death Wish III, he has the neighborhood cheering for this act of horrific violence, because now they can go buy Hostess products.
Perhaps the most surprising Hostess ad, in view of the events at the company, is this one, where Captain America bursts into a dressmaking operation and interferes with the small businessman’s right to run the business the way he wants. The businessman protests against Captain America’s interference: “Why do you bother me… a poor simple tailor? You have many more important crimes to go after!” But Captain America, that meddling busybody, essentially leads a labour revolt against their boss, just because he was using magic chalk to turn them into dressmakers’ patterns. Cappy’s hatred of efficient business methods and cutting down on the size of the labour force clearly marks him as a secret enemy of the Hostess company, and possibly of capitalism overall.
Well, as I said, Twinkies are not over. (I don’t know about fruit pies; have they even made those for a while? I always assumed that they were featured most prominently in these ads because they weren’t very popular.) But I think it’s fair to assume that if this campaign hadn’t ended, Hostess would still be a thriving business. Once Richie Rich, Superman and Hot Stuff the Little Devil are no longer endorsing you, it’s a short step to bankruptcy.
By Blog of Lists - Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 4:22 PM - 0 Comments
Get ready for The Dark Night Rises with a review of comic book heroes from the Great White North.
1. Northguard: Known in Quebec as “Le Protecteur,” Northguard derived his abilities from a powerful instrument called the UniBand, which gave him the incredible ability to electrocute opponents with a touch of his hand, and allowed him to shoot beams of energy from his arm and create protective shields of electricity. Before being equipped with the UniBand, Northguard was an anglophone Montrealer named Phillip Wise, who worked as the manager of a video store.
2. The Canadian Liberty League: The League was founded by Agent Midnight during the Second World War. Its primary goal was to defeat a Nazi-backed evil mastermind named Fogg, who plotted to set off a doomsday device in Montreal. Agent Midnight was joined by shape-shifter Silk Shadow, the robot called Armada Man and three other superheroes called Ms. Marine, Windstorm and the Redeemer.
3. Wolverine: Famous for his indestructible skeleton, retractable claws and overall gruffness, James “Logan” Howlett is a mutant possessing sharp animal senses and a superhuman ability to heal from wounds. He is also one of the most popular and recognizable members of the X-Men, the troop of mutant superheroes fighting under the auspices of Professor Charles Xavier. Howlett was born in Alberta, raised in a northern B.C. mining town and even fought for Canada in the First World War.
4. Captain Canuck: Tom Evans, a secret agent with the Canadian International Security Organization, gained superhuman strength via contact with aliens, thus becoming Captain Canuck. The red and white costume has also been donned by Darren Oak to fight a global conspiracy, and by an RCMP constable named David Semple, who takes on a biker gang called the Unholy Avengers.
5. Nelvana of the Northern Lights: One of the first female superheroes, Nelvana is the daughter of a mortal Inuit woman and a mythological figure called Koliak. She can turn invisible and travel at the speed of light. She is also telepathic, and can call on the energy of her godlike father to melt metal and disrupt radio signals. Nelvana used her superhuman abilities to fight the Nazis during the Second World War.
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The nswers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
Buy your copy of the Maclean’s Book of Lists at the newsstand or order online now.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:59 AM - 0 Comments
Comic-book blockbuster movies have finally become comic
“Suit up!” That’s the key catchphrase of Marvel’s The Avengers, in which saving the world is unthinkable without first getting into costume. But as the movie’s dream team of comic-book gladiators defend Manhattan from an alien invasion led by a demented Norse god, they’re not just saving the planet. They’re part of a mission to re-engineer the Hollywood superhero. The Avengers, a $220-million blockbuster destined for massive success, could be a game-changer. For comic-book fans, a superhero ensemble is nerd nirvana: anything is possible. For the rest of us, it’s way more fun than being stuck inside the lonely psyche of a single masked vigilante. As they butt heads and swap barbs, comic-book legends finally become comic.
Writer-director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has raised the stakes for the blockbuster. Amid marathons of destructive mayhem, he finds room for dense volleys of witty repartee, much of it dished out by Robert Downey Jr., the film’s resident satirist. His party pack of six Marvel superheroes is a talkative bunch. They range from Downey Jr.’s hyper-ironic Iron Man, the smartest god in the room—“I don’t play well with others”—to Thor, an earnest heavy-metal dude with a hammer and big hair. Adding bonus value is an overqualified cast that includes Jeremy Renner as a bow-weilding sniper, Scarlett Johansson as a Russian ninja and Mark Ruffalo trying to keep a lid on the Hulk.
Superhero ensembles are not new (Marvel’s X-Men is an all-star franchise), but The Avengers recombines Hollywood’s superhero DNA to suggest a world of hybrids. Comic-book legends are a finite resource. Two warhorses are back this summer in The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man, but how long can the studios mine these franchises with sequels, prequels and reboots?
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 1:34 PM - 0 Comments
The Canadian cartoonist chronicles the world’s political hot spots in his comic book travelogues
Over the past 10 years or so, while few people in his native Canada have taken notice, the comic book artist Guy Delisle has been busy writing wry, sharply observed graphic novels depicting life in some of the world’s most remote, strange and forbidding cities. Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China describes his stay at ground zero of the country’s wild economic ascent. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is a postcard from the hermit capital. Burma Chronicles is the story of Delisle’s life as a househusband in Rangoon, where his wife worked as an administrator with the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders. “Some products have managed to take over the entire world,” Delisle, in one typically sardonic slice-of-life observation, thinks to himself in a Rangoon supermarket while holding a package of The Laughing Cow cheese. “You can’t go anywhere without ﬁnding Nescafé and The Laughing Cow. Here, this is the real face of globalization: a grinning red cow.” Later, spotting a man in robes and a shaved head at the same supermarket, he exclaims: “Wow, a monk in the cookie aisle.”
His latest book, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, just released in English by Montreal publishing house Drawn & Quarterly, describes his time as a stay-at-home dad at the centre of the Arab-Israeli conﬂict. In sometimes amusing, often painful detail, Jerusalem outlines the absurdities of the city’s sectarian stalemate from the point of view of a mild-mannered Canadian cartoonist living in an Arab section of Jerusalem who just wants to ﬁnd a decent school for his kids, buy diapers on the Sabbath, and maybe pick up a bottle of wine.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, February 27, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Who else could calculate how many calories the Flash would need to consume to run at the speed of light?
A young Peter Parker stands at a chalkboard, scribbling out numbers while Dr. Curt Connors—whose alter ego is the Lizard, Spider-Man’s nemesis—looks on. In the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, the equations flash by in an instant, but when the movie hits theatres in July, producers know there will be a lot of eyes on the board, so they needed something that looked relevant and real. That’s where Jim Kakalios, a University of Minnesota physics professor who served as scientific consultant, came in.
“The subject being considered involved cellular regeneration and human mortality,” said Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes and The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics, who was also a consultant on Watchmen. “Over a weekend, I looked up some papers. I knew there was something called the Gompertz equation, which describes human mortality rates. I took the equation and changed it around, and they used it.”
Kakalios is a firm believer that comic books can teach us a lot about science, even those who say they don’t like math and physics. Wearing a colourful Spider-Man tie, he was in Vancouver last week to present to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a gathering of about 8,000 of North America’s brightest scientific minds. His seminar was organized by the University of Victoria’s E. Paul Zehr, and drew on examples from Batman, Superman, and Star Trek. “You can get people to eat their spinach by hiding it in a superhero ice cream sundae,” said Kakalios.
By Peter Nowak - Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 9:48 AM - 3 Comments
It’s not often I become a quivering fanboy while interviewing someone, but it happened a few weeks ago when I got the chance to speak with comics legend Stan Lee. As the man who put Marvel Comics on the map in the 1960s by creating the likes of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, he’s pretty much responsible for much of the joy I experienced as a kid.
My childhood revolved around comic books. I’d bike downtown several times a week to buy them, then spend the rest of the week reading them. I learned to draw by emulating the likes of John Romita Jr., John Byrne and Marc Silvestri, and I’m pretty certain comic books contributed a great deal to my reading ability. And that of course led to writing, which is what I do for a living. In some ways, my entire livelihood can be traced back to Stan the Man. Continue…
By Erica Alini - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM - 8 Comments
A new Russian comic book portrays Vladimir Putin as the next action hero—crushing terrorists and the opposition.
Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have had his upcoming Governator comic killed after details of his marital infidelity were splattered in gossip magazines across the world. In Russia, though, the news cycle is actually helping rocket Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the big league of cartoon superheroes. Superputin, A Man Like Any Other, an online comic strip, was released last week, and is already an Internet phenomenon—courtesy of its timing, which coincides with the run-up to the presidential election next year.
Superputin, allegedly the work of a Russian PR freelancer who received no input from the Kremlin, features a kimono-clad Putin darting to rescue a bus from an al-Qaeda bomb attack. Helping him is the cartoon version of President Dmitry Medvedev, described as a “gnome raised by bears” with an obsession for gadgets. The gentle parody of Russia’s political duo registered three million views in its first week, but has also stirred criticism for portraying the political opposition as brain-hungry zombies.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, June 8, 2009 at 5:09 PM - 10 Comments
All the Archie/Betty/Veronica talk the other week got me thinking again about Archie comics, to the point that I promised on my other blog that I wouldn’t make such references for a while. (But I made no such promise here.) One question that interests me: we can see, from the immense public interest in this gimmick, that the Archie characters are some of the best-known comic book characters around, for better or for worse. (I say it’s for better if they are drawn by someone as great as the late Harry Lucey.) Yet they’ve never been adapted into other media with anything resembling real success, unless you count “Sugar, Sugar,” and that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the comics. There have been several TV cartoons, but all of them kind of stunk; the main question is whether the Filmation cartoon stunk worse than “Archie’s Weird Mysteries.” There was that live-action TV movie where they’re grown-up and return to Riverdale, and many, many rumours about possible feature films, TV series and stage musicals, which never come to pass. How many comic book characters are that popular yet have such a dismal track record in adaptations? For God’s sake, they did a flop movie version of Josie & the Pussycats, which flopped because they didn’t include Pepper in it, but not an Archie movie.
One reason why the adaptations never happen is that the Archie world is so generic that you can do virtually the same characters and setting without actually having to adapt the comic book. I can think of at least three successful franchises from the last 20 years that owe an obvious debt of inspiration to Archie comics: 1) Saved By the Bell; 2) High School Musical; 3) Beverly Hills 90210. (I doubt Darren Star intended to do a California Archie show with the Peach Pit standing in for the Chok’lit Shoppe, but that’s what he came up with.) It’s not like superhero comics, where if you want to use the specific powers and villains in your movie, you have to pay for them. There’s no copyright on the concept of teen hijinks and chaste love triangles.
Also, the Archie characters are harder to cast than superheroes, because superheroes depend to a large extent on the costume: you put the actor in a Superman suit, he looks like Superman. Casting someone who looks like Archie, let alone Jughead, let alone Betty and Veronica (who, let us remember, have the exact same face) is much trickier. How do you convince us that this guy is Archie, just because he has red hair and maybe wears an “R” on his shirt?
Still, I think that with all the zillions of comic-book movies around today, it would make sense for someone, somewhere to do an Archie movie. It could even work if they went back to the old Frank Doyle scripts for inspiration on how these characters should talk (which is to say, like old-time Vaudeville comedians).
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 11:00 AM - 1,026 Comments
All those Sharpie-bright spandex boys have helped Hollywood off an awkward hook
No disrespect to Wolverine, who’s the hottest Canadian at the box office since Mary Pickford (even if they do need an Australian to play him), but I wonder about this superhero business. They’ve been cleaning up at the multiplex ever since the dawn of the millennium: Spider-Man. X-Men. Batman. Iron Man. The mid-20th-century long-underwear guys are bigger than ever in the 21st. Truly this is the Age of the Superhero. And it’s beginning to bother me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love comic books. Meeting Stan Lee was one of the great moments of my life. Read a zillion of his masterpieces as a kid—although my grasp of the details decades later is generally frozen circa issue No. 22: Jean Grey will always be Marvel Girl to me. Please, no need to write to point out that she subsequently became Phoenix, and then Dark Phoenix, and then died, and then turned up in a pod at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, which was given to Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, and then she died again but implanted her psyche in the body of the comatose Emma Frost . . . I’m just skimming the CliffsNotes here, so, alternatively, don’t write if my précis has omitted many fascinating plot twists over the decades. My point is that keeping up with these guys is a full-time job. And even the fellows whose basic bio doesn’t change much get “reinvented.” The reinventions are invariably the same: out with the breezy guy swinging through the streets of Gotham to a ring-a-ding-ding Neal Hefti theme tune; in with some morose misanthrope hunched on the rooftops brooding and riddled with self-doubt. In the sixties, the TV Batman was camp. Then he got dark in the eighties movie. But then by the nineties sequels the dark Batman had mysteriously camped up again. So now he’s darker than ever. I think the concept of reinvention could do with reinventing.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 12:23 PM - 2 Comments
Barack the Barbarian takes on Palin in a cape
A new comic book series features Barack the Barbarian taking on “the overpaid despots of the time” and their champion Sarah Palin, who sports a cape made from wolf skin, her trademark glasses—and very little else. Chicago-based publishers Devil’s Due asks readers to follow the adventures of “Barack, Sorceress Hilaria, her demi-god trickster husband Biil, Overlord Boosh and Chainknee of the Elephant Kingdom. Who can the lone barbarian trust, if anyone?”