Friday, 30 September 2011

Captain Chair and the Lost Wand

Nate continued to stare at the screen for a good five minutes after it had ended.  It was only then that he was able to summon the strength to move his finger the centimetre required to hit the button on the remote and turn off the television.

“No.  Not another one of those things.  How low can they go?”

It was four weeks later.  Nate had attempted to put the trailer out of his mind, to pretend it didn’t exist.  But there was little chance of that.  The billboards were everywhere.  Every other commercial on the television seemed to be for it now.  Every website he visited had an advertising banner with COMING SOON emblazed across. The marketing budget for Captain Chair and the Lost Wand must have been huge – well, a lot more than the cost of making the damn film, if the previous instalments were anything to go by.

The fact that it had an internet premiere told you all you needed to.  High-quality, well-developed films didn’t have their premieres as streaming videos.

There had been a slight title change somewhere along the way.  Nate didn’t understand why a ‘lost’ wand would be more likely to attract an audience than a ‘magic’ one.  Maybe someone had just made a mistake typing it out, like with Tomorrow Never Lies or that video game which had nothing to do with donkeys.

“I don’t know why you take it so personally.”  Sat next to Nate in front of the computer, Caitlyn typed the URL into the web browser.  “It’s just a bit of fun.”

“Fun at the expense of a hero.  Someone who gives his all to protect this city.”

Caitlyn shook her head.  “Captain Chair must have a better sense of humour that you do.  You only have to look at that uniform…”

As she turned away to concentrate on the screen, Nate scowled.  A lot of work had gone into putting that uniform together.

“Where’s that link…ah.” Caitlyn clicked the mouse and there it was: a painful read and yellow eyesore that some trainee web designer appeared to have cobbled together in his lunch hour.  “I don’t understand why, if you hate these films so much, you insist on watching them with me.”

It was a good question: why did he watch?  The films (and the puppet show and the cartoon strip and…) caused Nate nothing but embarrassment, not that he could let on.  Other heroes didn’t have to suffer this, why him?  He could imagine all the others sitting round, laughing about it over a pint, at one of the hero socials he was certain took place but to which he had never been invited.

He glanced down to the clock in the bottom corner of the screen.  It was almost 8pm and starting to get dark.  He could go on patrol for a while instead.  Show that Captain Chair was something other than…than…whatever it was these films made him out to be.

But he had to watch.  He had to know.  Like it or not, these films were being made and were the public’s main source of information about him.

If only the studio would reach deeper into their pockets and hand out enough money to invest in a decent script.  And some better special effects.  And some actual actors.  And…

“It’s time,” said Caitlyn.  The screen had changed and replacing the trailer was the full-length monstrosity of a film.

“Come on then, let’s get this over with.”

Caitlyn nodded, moved the mouse across the screen and clicked ‘play’...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Rocky IV

I like Rocky IV. For a start, it's not Rocky V which is, well, it's pretty darn terrible. But Rocky IV has a couple of great scenes and, um, lots of montages.

Yeah, it must have taken Stallone about 2 minutes to write Rocky IV.

It starts - as with all Rockys - with a clip of the last few minutes of the previous film. Then Apollo and Rocky have a chat round a table. James Brown sings a song and we get the first fight. Then there are a whole bunch of musical sequences & training montages. And suddenly we're at the finale. Um, where did the rest of the film go?

"It's Rocky," you say, "it's not meant to have a plot."

Except the first one definitely did. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning 3 - including Best Picture. The second and third had decent plots too. And the forth...

Well, it was educational. Somehow. In my first year at uni, Rocky IV taught a guy on my corridor in halls about the Cold War. Seems he'd never heard about it before.

Seems they let anyone into uni in 1999.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Marvel Point 1

As has been advertised just about everywhere, DC comics has recently rebooted all their comics and started them all with new (/slightly adjusted) continuity and new #1s. The idea is that the long & complicated history of comics is off-putting to new readers who will now be enticed to start reading. I'm not convinced this is a great idea for a number of reasons, but this post isn't about DC. It's about Marvel.

Marvel have been taking a different approach to get new readers in. Instead of restarting everything, over the past few months they've been having 'point one' issues. These are supposed to be stand-alone stories which give a taster of the series and encourage interest in buying subsequent ones.

In theory, I much prefer Marvel's approach over DC's.

In practice, Marvel have managed to mess it up.

Besides the problem of many not being very well written, or not even written by the regular writer, there's the problem of advertising. Again, beside the fact that Marvel haven't advertised what Point One is all about in the press properly, there's the following problem:

Take a look at these two covers:

One is for X-Factor #224. The other is for the special 'enticing new readers' issue, #224.1

Which is which? If you saw #224.1 on the shelf, would you, from a glance, be able to tell it's a 'jumping on' point? Nope, not unless you were specifically looking for it. It's completely ridiculous. There should be a giant 'POINT ONE ISSUE' banner across the top, with 'GREAT JUMPING ON POINT' splashed across it further down.

Really, what is the point of having #224.1 look exactly the same as all the other issues? #224.1 was new out this week so I don't have the sales figures for it. I really wouldn't be surprised if it sold pretty much the same amount as a regular issue.

As it turns out, this issue of X-Factor is actually one of the better Point One issues and does a good job of being - what .1s were supposed to be - a well-written stand-alone story which introduces the main cast and will want people to buy the next issue.

It's great having a 'new' product, but if you don't market it then it's doomed to failure.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The best thing about e-publishing

We are, I am told, entering a new era of reading. Books will soon be gone, replaced forever with the Kindle (/ipad/whatever). I'm not entirely sure books will be gone forever, there are many instances when a paper copy is the best format, but this post isn't really about that.

It's about this...

For the past...quite a long time (years) I've been trying to get hold of a copy of A Stitch in Time by Andrew Robinson. Yes, it's a Star Trek book. Get over it. I've wanted to read this ever since it was first published since a) Andrew Robinson played Garak in Star Trek (and is whom the book is about) and b) it's supposed to be quite good.

For reasons unknown, I didn't bother reaching into my pocket and exchanging my hard-earned money for a copy when it was first released. I can only figure it was because I wanted to wait until it was out of print to try and get it because I like to make my life as difficult as possible.

The key phrase in that last paragraph was 'out of print'. Obviously the market for Star Trek novels isn't eternal and eventually sales fall to the point where it isn't worth the publisher printing more copies on the off-chance some idiot waited ages to try and buy it.

As I found out, when something goes out of print two things can happen:

  1. The book becomes practically worthless and you can pick up the book for nothing on ebay(/wherever)
  2. The book rockets in price.

A Stitch in Time didn't exactly rocket, but it was a bit of a pain to get hold of and it was a little pricey. Which was annoying because, you know, it's a Trek novel and I didn't want to pay very much.

Then it struck me: with e-publishing there's no reason for any book to go out of print ever again.

I could read any book ever written, if I so desired.  All that's needed is that a very small file is kept on record somewhere and then everyone would be able to easily get hold of it, whenever they desired, forever.

Forget about space-saving, or any of those other reasons thrown about. This, I think, is the very best reason for e-publishing to prosper.

For those interested, A Stitch in Time is actually available for Kindle.