Posts Tagged ‘20th Century’

Summer of the Comic Book Movie

June 2, 2011

Yes, summer means longer days, school being out, vacations and blockbuster movies. Yet, this summer the studios will be putting out six, count’em six, movies based on comic books/graphic novels. What gives? There was a time when comic books were considered a sign of the downfall of civilization and were blamed for corrupting young minds. Even Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman, Thor and other superheroes of the Marvel Comics universe, didn’t think too highly of comic books when he first started out. He became a comic book writer because he needed the money and Timely Comics, which later became Marvel, paid him very well for his work. Yet, many years later both he and movie studio executives realized that there’s storytelling gold in comic books. They have action, drama and a love story for when there’s a lull in the action.

Still, if there is going to be a superhero movie during the summer blockbuster season, there is usually one maybe two, not six. Well, here are my theories on the increase, at least for the summer of 2011, of superhero movies:

It’s still the economy, stupid.
Last summer people wanted to escape the recession with animated films, this year the escape “vehicle” is the superhero movie. While last year moviegoers wanted reminders of childhood, this year they want a hero to save them from unemployment and home foreclosure. Unfortunately, superheroes can’t do much about those things, but it is fun to imagine that they could. After all, the U.S. is still in the grips of a recession and escapist films have traditionally done well during difficult times. Last year’s summer blockbuster movie season saw $4.05 billion worth of ticket sales, so the studios must be doing something right.

They get the job done.
Why do people want a superhero? Because a superhero gets the job done. Superheroes get the bad guy without so much of a grumble and they do it with style. Just look at Superman, Batman Spiderman, Ironman and the like. They either have gadgets, strength or a little of both and they get the villain. Crime will not pay if a superhero is on the case.

The story of the superhero goes waaay back.
If you think the superhero story is a 20th century invention, think again. Stories such as Hercules and Samson show how far back the idea of a superhero goes—and those are just from the Western culture. Other cultures have their stories of someone who can perform amazing feats of strength for the good of a community. People all around the world and in all times have had to deal with evil and injustice, so it is no wonder that stories of a person with both amazing physical strength and the will to fight the good fight were told. They were and still are exercises in fantasy and an inspiration for others to fight the good fight, as well.

As for which superhero movies will be very successful and which ones will just bomb, I’ll most likely write about that in a future blog entry.


Cantu, Hector, Heritage Magazine “Stan the Creator” Fall 2008, pg. 52



Yes, Its Art

April 28, 2011

An article in April 15th The Standard of Hong Kong lead to this blog entry. I’m sure many of you have heard of the late 19th century French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. How many of you know that Toulouse-Lautrec got his start by painting advertising posters for the famous Parisian nightclub Moulin Rouge?  Many of you know of  the mid 20th Century American artist Andy Warhol and his portraits of famous actors and those Campbell’s soup cans, yet how many know that Warhol got his start as a commercial artist in the 1950’s and his works appeared in Glamour Magazine and in ads for Schiaparelli gloves?

What’s the point of this little art history lesson, you ask?  Simple, it’s that art isn’t just the stuff in museums. It is even in advertisements, such as those for a nightclub from 19th century France all the way to a movie poster from 21st century America. While the object of both kinds of advertisements is to get the viewer to part with his or her money, they  had to be visually appealing enough to make the viewer want to part with his or her money.

Which leads to another aspect of advertisements, namely they have a job to do. The most beautiful advertisement in the world doesn’t always lead to sales. For example, the first ad designed by David Ogilvy, the founder of the Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Agency and the author of Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising was a flop. What was so bad about it? It was an ad for a cooking stove and he put in a picture of the Edouard Manet painting Luncheon on the Grass. Underneath the picture was copy about how new things shock people. Only towards the end of the copy was the cooking stove mentioned. What does a painting and shocking people have to with a cooking stove? Nothing and it was only after the ad ran did Ogilvy realize that fact. Well, so much for being creative.

The article in The Standard stated that advertisements are accidental art and I disagree. It took a talented artist to create these items, be it a poster for a nightclub or a movie poster. They had bring together both art and business to create something that makes money and that’s no accident. When it works, the client and artist are very happy. When it doesn’t, as in the case of Ogilvy’s Luncheon on the Grass ad, the artist either ends up with something that has the client scratching his or her head or the artist ends up unemployed.

Shock, entice, or befuddle, a good ad, like the good piece of art that it is, is never boring.


Ogilvy, David. Ogilvy on Advertising,  First Vintage Books, March 1985, pg. 25