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TV and Movies: Last week saw three significant mainstream media releases… the Walking Dead season resumption, the Comic Book Men series premiere and the debut of Ghost Rider 2.

Critics were kindest by far to The Walking Dead, but it didn’t escape scrutiny altogether. “Gawd, The Walking Dead can be frustrating sometimes,” muttered one 3.5-star review. “Why do they keep playing out the same patterns?… Someone gets sick, someone goes AWOL, Rick goes to look for him.” Still, the explosive episode ending inspired debate, and the show’s ratings set records for basic cable. The video game is not far behind.

(P.S. to Time Magazine: It’s Lori, not “Laurie.” We really shouldn’t be in a position to correct you on this.)

The Walking Dead

Comic Book Men inspired a more sharply divided response from critics. The New York Times damned it with faint praise: “It’s diverting, a little sad, a little boring, full of geeky macho posturing and ultimately pointless, much like a Wednesday afternoon in a comic-book shop.”

Those whose perspective was more firmly rooted within fandom, such as The Huffington Post‘s reviewers, could also be unkind: “As the owners of Chimera’s Comics in the southwest Chicago suburbs, [we hoped] Comic Book Men… might present a novel look into the people that make up a comic book store community. But the show lacks any relatable cast members.”

Newsday called the show “genial, good-natured, eccentric and dry-witted” if “way too obscure for the average viewer,” and The Philadelphia Inquirer characterized it as “smart” and “winning.”

It’s safe to say nobody’s applying those adjectives to Ghost Rider 2. Still, going through the movie’s Rotten Tomato scores is a revealing experience– at this writing, its “Tomatometer” score is 15%, but selecting “top critics” gives you 29%, while the “audience rating” is at 46%. Either this means many critics are elitists, with top critics slightly less so, or it means that some moviegoers are brainless and “top critics” tend to overthink things. You know, whatever you think it means.

The film only placed third in the box office– but that still means it earned $22 million and will probably be profitable by the end of the year. At the very least, it seems, Nicolas Cage’s approach to acting makes an entertaining spectacle.

John Severin

The great artist of Cracked, Mad and many non-satirical titles passed away last week after a remarkable 80-year career (his first sale was in 1932, at age 10), including 45 years where he was Cracked‘s top creator. Severin’s Cracked work was responsible for many happy hours in my own household, and his desire to work well into his 80s is inspirational. He will be missed.

Marvel

It seems pretty certain that creators will succeed in raising the $17,000 Gary Friedrich needs to pay off Marvel’s countersuit. Joe Quesada and Dan Buckley spoke out about the case, clearing up a few misconceptions along the way. Most notably, they conferred a blessing of sorts onto the general practice ofconvention sketches of Marvel characters.

Marvel also announced a brand-new all-ages line, despite a, shall we say, disappointing precedent.

I’m pretty sure this was intentional nerd-trolling, given that late-night comics, or at least their writing staffs, are well-versed in nerd trivia.

Hackers have been taking Marvel comics directly from the company servers for file-sharing purposes.

LEGO Deadpool.

3 million likes on Facebook.

Avengers

Harley-Davidson Joins Forces With Marvel. ‎”Assemble Your Freedom.” Build a superhero bike (using a HIGHLY selective algorithm) and get it featured in a digital comic. This contest is a real thing that exists. (One would think Ghost Rider would be a much more natural fit, if only it were a brand worth bonding with.)

The Avengers Opening Sequence Detailed. If you need a fresh fix of Avengers news, the special effects supervisor can TELL YOU what the opening sequence looks like. You only think I’m kidding.

The “philosophy in pop culture” book was pretty much inevitable. But the “Earth’s Mightiest Thinkers” subtitle is really pushing it.

Kickstarter

Diesel Sweeties is reprinting its early material thanks to a very generous Kickstarter drive, while the Order of the Stick reprint drive
has passed $1 million.

ASHES: A graphic novel by Alex de Campi & Jimmy Broxton , the Kickstarter comics project that fell apart after being funded late last year, has found new artists and is moving firmly ahead again, relieving some (though not all) doubt about Kickstarter’s long-term viability in the comics market.

Archie

Archie Comics will now sell comics directly via Facebook.

Dynamite

Dynamite Comics is being sued by the trademark holder of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars for producing comics based on the properties. No,  that trademark holder is not Disney, who did a deal with the actual holder to produce the John Carter movie.

Screen-to-Comics

Hot on the heels of the Smallville comic announcement came news about three other TV-based comics projects: True Blood, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Fringe.

Comics-To-Screen

The latest graphic novel to be optioned? One-name artist Jason’s I Killed Adolf Hitler. The title is its own elevator pitch.

Ever wonder what Gareb Shamus is up to these days? The company he’s hooked up with, Benderspink, has one hit comics-adapted movie to its credit, from seven years ago, and therefore has set up an entire “film-friendly comics line” with similarly obscure publisher Arcana.

But hey, at least that publisher is releasing Jim Henson’s old script as a graphic novel… no, wait, that’s Archaia doing that, our mistake.

Finally, while it may seem like more of a “comics-page-to-comic-book” story, the real reason to pay attention to Garfield #1 is the writer who worked on most of the animated cartoons, the veteran Mark Evanier.

Batman

DC, PPW and Hasbro Unveil The Super Spuds. I particularly like the tidbit here that Mr. Bat-Potato Head will be first, to coincide with the Dark Knight Rises release. Because when I think of the Christopher Nolan Batman, I immediately think of Mr. Potato Head.

BATMAN LIVE is now opening in Prague… apparently this show ran in the UK for a while, too.

Superman

Superman has a new kid-friendly title, an upcoming new video release pitting him against postmodern Authority-style antiheroes, and a new “digital first” comic set in Batman Beyond‘s alternate future.

Webcomics

The meme-face challenge.

Sony to shut down PSP Digital Comics service. What, you didn’t know it had one? Well, that’s why they’re shutting it down. (That, and reading comics on it was actually eye-spraining.)

Manga

Is America beginning to assume a larger role in manga’s overall creative direction? First the American comic I Kill Giants wins an International Manga Award from Japan’s foreign ministry, which is a first in the award’s five-year history. Then CNN notes that Japan lags America in the development of digital manga.

If so, Viz’s first official move against scanlators (volunteer translators of manga to English) takes on even more significance.

Comic Strips

Richard Thompson is taking time off for Parkinson’s treatment, which has left Cul-De-Sac, his recently Reuben-award-winning strip, in the hands of substitute artists for a solid five weeks.

Gil, the anti-Family Circus (complete with deadbeat dad and financially struggling mom), is one of the most interesting features to hit the newspaper in years.

As the newspaper market fades, advertisers acknowledge that the comics section is the most-read advertising venue available.

New site remembers Chuck Jones’ greatest failure.

Stan Lee

Stan Lee Media, after losing any rights to Conan, is still suing both Stan Lee and Marvel. Has there ever been a case where a company named for someone was primarily known for suing that person? And how much hubris does it take to sue Marvel for “Stan Lee’s stake in the Marvel characters” after the well-publicized Friedrich and Kirby cases? Let’s put it this way: if SLM ends up countersued for a lot more than $17,000, don’t expect the creative community to shed one salty tear.

Meanwhile, Stan Lee has introduced his latest project, a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet as a cyborg-superhuman romance. Even if he is merely presiding over this one, even if it’s just too wild of an idea, you have to admit there’s more creativity on display from this alone than SLM has ever had any interest in showing without Lee.

Miscellany

Frank Miller-inspired fashion.

Alan Moore is now officially the world’s worst hermit.And he’s starting to repeat himself. But this interview’s still worth it for its insights into the traditional British attitude toward intellectual property rights.

A Suicide Squad game is upcoming.

The Valentine’s Day Google Doodle inspired far more than its share of ridiculous overreactions, from the right and the left. And yet… there is an undeniable power to the image of two grooms on the world’s most popular homepage, even if Not reeeeally comics, but we’ll count it since the Google Doodles are more often non-animated illustrations.

Mitt Romney, the Comic Book. Rick Santorum appears to have lost the crucial “Bluewater” primary.

Meditations on The Zen of Steve Jobs.  The long-awaited graphic memoir can’t compete with the Walter Isaacson book, but makes a nice companion piece.

American news discovers there are other Franco-Belgian comics.

Little Lotta leads to over fifty years of romance.

Peter Panzerfaust #1 sells out for Image, because it is a comic about Peter Pan fighting Nazis, duh.

Blankets by Craig Thompson, has been declared one of Oprah’s “Greatest Romances of all Time.”

Retailers desire two mutually exclusive things, seem unaware of contradiction.

Finally, when searching for a story with which to end the week, one word buried itself into my consciousness and wouldn’t leave: Supervaginas.

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