Blog Archives

At The Risk of Offending: Internet Controversies

Of late, it seems that hardly a week goes by when there isn’t some kind of controversy on the internet. Whether we talk about political gaffes, authors having meltdowns, reviewers calling each other out, authors taking the piss out of other people, publishers doing some really dumb things, fans and geeks laying bare their prejudices and revealing their baser thinkings or whatever else, it all happens with amazing regularity. I’ve seen some really startling controversies of late. And there are two that I want to focus on for this post.

The first of these deals with the controversy surrounding a variant cover that Cartoon Network issued for an upcoming issue of Powerpuff Girls, which are currently being published by IDW Publishing. The cover showed the three sisters in a supposedly sexist and exploitative light, and a comics retailer in the US took incredible exception to it and was quite vocal about it.

The second of these deals with something a bit low key. A fellow blogger posted a really interesting commentary on how a lot of readers today are assigning genders to books and are dividing them by who should and should not be reading those books, creating an even bigger stir in the ocean of sexism and misogyny in the book publishing industry, just to name one of the concerns. Another friend took strong exception to some of the things said in the post, and there was quite an interesting twitter conversation on both sides.

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Star Wars: New vs Refurbished

Last year, news arrived that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and that once the deal was done with, the company owned full rights and licenses to anything involved Star Wars, Indiana Jones and other properties that were under the purview of Lucasfilm. At the time, there was absolutely no news about future Star Wars movies, and the license for all related comics was with Dark Horse Comics, who’ve had that specific license under contract for almost two decades and have done their share of adding to the Expanded Universe over the years, building on what Marvel originally did. But then, as expected and dreaded, it was announced a few days ago that by the end of this year, the license would be shifted back to Marvel and that Dark Horse would no longer publish any new Star Wars materials.

Part of this entire move has been that within weeks of buying Lucasfilm, Disney announced plans to do a third Star Wars trilogy of movies, Episodes VII to IX, and even plans to do several spin-off movies, most notably involving the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett, one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars setting. The big question now is how much of the Expanded Universe would Disney adhere to, and whether it would just chuck out all of it. Details are starting to emerge on this front and there has been a lot of talk about it recently. Here is what I have to say on the matter, as someone who has been invested in the setting since early 2001 and has really come to love everything about it, whether good or bad.

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Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman

By now I’m sure that you have all heard the news. Actress Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel movie. To use the big cliche going around the interwebs, the movie still does not have an official title. It is being referred to as both Man of Steel 2 and Batman vs Superman. Complicating that somewhat is the fact that we know Wonder Woman is going to be in the movie in some capacity and there are rumours going about that we might see Batman’s protege Nightwing in the movie as well, and that there might even be Doomsday, the big bad alien bio-construct who killed Superman in one of the most popular comic events of all times. So there’s a lot to handle.

But the focus of this editorial is the casting of Gal Gadot as the iconic Amazon Princess, who is the most recognisable and most popular female comics hero in the world, despite her 71 year history in the medium. She’s the only female comics hero that I know of who has sustained her own solo title for high triple digits, something like around 650 issues or so, not to mention all the other titles she’s been a part of, or the fact that together with Batman and Superman, she forms DC’s Trinity, the three most important and central properties the publisher and its parent company Warner Bros. owns.

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Publishing and Marketing 09: Reading Women In SFF

This is my 400th post. Naturally, I thought that I would do something a bit different from all the reviews I’ve been doing of late, for almost four months now. Reviews are well and good, but that’s not all that this blog is about. It is also “A Place For The Unrestrained Consumption of Good Fiction”. And this means a lot of things. One of the foremost is talking about good fiction, or just fiction in general beyond the context of a review. And that’s what this post is about. I’ve touched on this topic a little in the past, but with this “anniversary” on hand, I feel it is a good time to talk about it some more.

Over a year and a half ago, a friend pointed out to me that my reviews were all disproportionately of fiction from men. It was an eye-opener. It wasn’t something that I had considered before, and I was startled that such a bias had crept into my current fiction consumption, despite the fact that I consumed a lot of fiction from women growing up. And that’s what I’m here to talk to you about.

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Marvel TV: A Bold New Step

This Fall, Marvel/Disney marked their first major step together outside of movies with Agents of SHIELD, the first live-action TV Show based on various Marvel properties. The show has seen six episodes so far, with varying rating reactions, and it will be going on for a full season at least. You can read my reviews of the show here. Set in the aftermath of last year’s Avengers movie, the show could be said to have been a success thus far, although for me, it has been struggling to define itself and maintain a consistency in tone and mood.

However, it appears that Marvel and its parent company Disney are not about to let that stop them. Recently, the rights to making live-action adaptations of a number of properties were reverted back to Marvel. Most people, including myself, thought that Marvel/Disney would leverage these returned properties by adding some of these characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and make brand-new movies out of them.

Turns out, Marvel has had bigger plans.

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Epic Fantasy: A Personal Definition

Over at her blog, Helen Lowe has had an interesting discussion taking place of late on the topic of what makes epic fantasy what it is. Its been quite an informative discussion to say the least (more). The descriptions and definitions that people attach to this seemingly simple 2-word phrase have provided a lot of new perspectives, many of which I have never considered before.

And that made me think about how I define “epic fantasy”. What are the components of it? What are the essentials? Like with any other discussion about the definition of genre categories, there are no easy answers here either and that has a lot to do with personal biases and preferences. I’ve seen a lot of books come out in the last few years that have been hailed as epic fantasy but that I wouldn’t necessarily classify as such, since for me there are some basic requirements for a book to be hailed with that genre label.

Which is what this post is about.

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Black Widow/Wonder Woman: Impossible Perfections

Yesterday evening, I read an article on the geek news site The Mary Sue, which touched on an interview that ToonZone had with James Tucker recently (link to article). In this interview, he was asked by Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s recent comments that the studio really needs to get on with making a Wonder Woman movie because it is too big a thing to miss out on, essentially. Tucker is a supervising producer of the studio’s DC Animated division and as such, what he says should carry some weight in the discussion that has surrounded this topic of late: Wonder Woman getting her own live action movie, or at least the failed television show being given the go ahead.

I’ve been quite frustrated with all the non-news about the topic, particularly since DC and WB seem to be dragging their heels on the subject. What little comments that have filtered down to the masses, other than Tsujihara’s somewhat positive take, have all been about gender inequality and this notion that Wonder Woman can only work if she has THE perfect script going for her because she is, in a nutshell, too difficult a character to bring to the mainstream cinema audiences. Tucker’s comments fueled that fire further with his own brand of such silliness.

So, in a fit of frustration, I took to Twitter to talk about it and had a very interesting discussion with a few people about what is happening. This post is an offshoot of that entire discussion.

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Diversity In All-New Marvel NOW!

I’ve blogged about diversity in comics before. I’ve even talked about it extensively on Twitter and Facebook as well. As an Indian comics reader, comics diversity is something that I think about a lot, and being a reviewer has helped me to think about it in several different ways that I didn’t quite consider before. Diversity doesn’t just stop with gender, or race. It is much more. It is about religion, geography, physical attributes, mental state, health disorders, etc. One point I’ve iterated on again and again is that today, comics readers aren’t just white males in their teens and twenties and living in UK/US. They are much. Comics readership crosses all sorts of boundaries today. All sorts of people, from all walks of life and with all kinds of backgrounds read comics in this day and age.

Hell, comics aren’t just print anymore. They went digital and they have only been growing despite the ridiculous scaremongering from those who dislike the medium or are hopelessly wedded to their print collections to the exclusion of all else.

In a world like this, diversity is an important topic to discuss. And there are no better agents to discuss this topic than the Big 2, Marvel and DC. They are the giants of the industry who together make up about 67-75% (give or take a couple percentage points) of the market in terms of unit sells and market shares in any given month. They have the longest legacies, and thus the most material to contribute to such a discussion.

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Grimdark Fiction

There’s an article floating around today in which Damien Walter talks about grimdark fantasy within the context of the David Gemmell Legend Award and the World Fantasy Award. There has been a lot of discussion about the contents of the article and grimdark fantasy on both Twitter and on the article itself. In a nutshell, it has been a very interesting argument on all sides and some good points have been made. But, as a reader and reviewer, I feel that something is getting lost in the translation because there are misconceptions being thrown about as to what grimdark fantasy is.

Additionally, there has been a distinct lack of acknowledgement of grimdark fantasy as written by women. Or, you know, just grimdark fiction in general, whether it is science fiction or fantasy. This isn’t something new of course, because the publishing industry and the reader/fan-base have become adept at glossing over the contributions of women in SFF, for the most part. This is a perception that desperately needs to change but sadly, there are very few agents of such change.

Regardless, fact remains that grimdark fiction isn’t what most people think it is. It is much more nuanced than the general public believes to be.

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Are Classics Re-readable?

As part of my “Top 25 Series To Read In 2013” reading challenge, I’ve read a fair amount of books this year that can be considered to be classics of science fiction and fantasy, in all their different forms. There is a certain charm to all these novels that has persisted long after they were first published. Whether we talk about Frank Herbert’s space operatic political intrigue epic Dune or Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s true-to-style epic fantasy Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I’ve had a lot of fun with these novels.

And that is my question: are they re-readable? I’ve read Dune and Dragons of Autumn Twilight several times since when I first read them in 2001. I think they are rereadable, but I’m not completely sure. Is the question answerable in part with regard to whether the book is good or not? We shall see.

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Publishing and Marketing 08: The Black Library Marketing Maze

I’ve been a fan of Black Library for a long time, going on about 11 years now, roughly. It all started with a copy of William King’s third Space Wolf novel, Grey Hunter, and was soon continued on with the first six novels in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Since then, I’ve read a lot of the novels, and the short stories, and the anthologies, in all the different formats that have been put out. I took a long break in the middle, around late 2008 however, and didn’t get back into the swing of things until later 2010, by when there had been some big changes to everything, new series, new authors, new formats even (the Hammer and Bolter eZine). It was an exciting time

Right up until late 2012 that is. For someone just getting back into BL fiction, those two years were well-spent, catching up on a lot of the stuff that had been put out in the intervening years, and during that period. I repeated often last year and the year before that, that BL was enjoying very much a golden year since the Horus Heresy series continued to gain more recognition, with each book going on the New York Times Bestsellers List, with lots of new authors coming in, some truly amazing artwork from a whole new generation of artists and so on and so forth. BL had even embraced digital publishing wholeheartedly and were making some great inroads.

But then, they started dropping the ball with their marketing. Curious, inexplicable decisions were being made. And a lot of it was coming together at the same time. And it baffled me. Still does. Which is why I’m writing this post at this time, and not before. Because by now I’ve seen a lot of the fall-out from all the decisions that they’ve made in the last year or so.

So read on, and enjoy. And if not, I welcome any opinion that differs from mine. Also, authors are welcome. Any time. You can find all previous Publishing and Marketing posts here.

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The A-to-Z Author Survey

Earlier this month I posted two surveys on my blog. Sort-of surveys at any rate. You can find the one about books here and the one about comics here. I really had a lot of fun doing those, and I thought it would be fun to doing them again, but with a cool twist that I hope sounds as inspired to you as it does me. Or maybe not.

I spent the last 3 hours thinking of some kind of a blogpost to write. There are some ideas I had but nothing I could put up today, which was the whole point really. So yeah, this is going to follow the same meta layout as the other surveys. I’m not limiting this survey to just novelists, I’m including comics writers as well.

Hope you enjoy! And do share your thoughts in the comments!

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