Friday, April 8, 2011

Appendix B for Press Kit

As it was impractical to print out several pages of posters, and entirely impossible to print out movie trailers, we have decided to make Appendix B of our Press Kit available here, online.

Fig. 1-7: Movie Posters (Mystery Phase)

A Vague Photo of Bob Grayson/Marvel Boy

A Vague Photo of Derek Khanata

A Vague Photo of Ken Hale/Gorilla Man

A Vague Photo of Jimmy Woo

A Vague Photo of Namora

A Vague Photo of M-11/The Human Robot

A Vague Photo of Venus

Fig. 8-10: Comparable Posters (Mystery Phase)

A poster that reveals very little about the film but builds intregue.  

A poster that sets the tone for the film, but reveals very little else.

A poster that reveals the cast of the film, but does very little to elaborate on who the characters are.

 Fig. 11-12: Movie Trailers (Mystery Phase)

Fig. 13-15: Movie Posters (Character Introduction Phase)

A poster of the main character, in the main setting, with the actor revealed, and a slogan.

A poster that reveals all relevant characters and offers hints to the plot through its slogan.

A poster that reveals a large number of characters and the actors who will portray them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Do or Do Not, There is No Try" - Avoiding Failure in the Superhero Genre

        This week's topic of discussion was superhero failures. We had a lot to say about this subject, especially as it relates to our project's mission statement, and so I will try to be as brief about each point as possible, though this may be a longer entry.
        To open our discussion, we talked about the prescribed topic for superhero flops: female superhero films. Having just watched the monolithic masterpiece Supergirl (1984), a few ideas emerged about why female superheroes may have been unsuccessful thus far. The first, and most comical in the film, is that the female superhero is almost always involved in a schoolgirl crush with a “brawn over brains” type male character. At the risk of reinforcing stereotypes, comic readers and frequenters of superhero films aren't necessarily the type to want the sexy and powerful female lead to end up with what essentially amounts to the high school jock that perpetually tormented them in adolescence. A second idea that emerged is that the female hero is invariably pitted against a female villain. Elektra's (2005) final battle is against Typhoid, a female villain who “breathes death,” while Catwoman's (2004) big baddie is a the cosmetics mogul Laurel Hedare. By focusing on final conflicts with other female characters, female superhero films do two injustices. Firstly, they seem to suggest that woman will always fight with women, especially when a man (or cosmetics) are involved. Secondly, the fact that female superheroes are rarely given the chance to fight against well established male super villains suggests a marginalizing of the female superhero in power. Even in Batman & Robin (1997), a film with two male heroes and one female hero, there is a divide between the female hero's battle with “danger” and the male heroes' battle with DANGER. Batgirl is first given the task of fighting the only female villain, Poison Ivy, and then plays a supporting role in Robin's fight against Bane, a juiced up brute with muscles piled upon muscles. The female superhero genre is one that is repeatedly trivialized by a seeming unwillingness to allow female superheroes to “kick ass” the same way male heroes traditionally do. Hyper-sexualization and reliance on “romantic” sub-plots don't seem to help either. However, females aren't the only group of superheroes that are marginalized.

Batgirl vs. Poison Ivy

And this is what Robin gets to fight.

         It is no small wonder that North America is so safe a place to live. We have thousands of superheroes. In the Marvel Universe alone, there are dozens of heroes in New York City: Spider-man, The Fantastic Four, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Elektra and several others. How bizarre it is then that the entire continent of Africa should be allocated one single superhero in the Marvel Universe. Black Panther, the king of Wakanda, seems to be the sole protector of one billion people. Surely, however, there are many African-American superheroes in superhero movies that do well. Right? Perhaps not so many as you would think.

        The majority of these heroes, primarily sidekicks, are stereotypes and parodies. So, just like female superheroes, black superheroes are marginalized. This extends to almost every other minority and everywhere that isn't the United States. In order to understand what constitutes a “real” superhero, we need look no farther than the upcoming The Avengers (2012). The line up thus far includes: Iron Man aka. Tony Stark, a rich white American playboy who gets bored and decides to go fix problems in the middle east, Thor, the blond haired blue eyed Norse God of thunder, living in exile in America, Captain America, the All-American war machine from an era gone by. This “super-team” hardly seems to represent anyone but the white Anglo-European demographic. In particular, this film seems to be pandering exclusively to American audiences who want to see American heroes fight to better America.

I'm tired of the motha%$^*in white, upper/middle class American superheroes on this motha%$^*in stage!

         It is at this point that our mission statement becomes key. We don't aim to pander to any one audience or any one demographic. It is an integral part of the narrative behind our source comic that race, gender, nationality, and even species should never be a boundary between what is heroic and what is trivial. Having characters like Ken Hale, a gorilla with a gun, and Bob Grayson, an alien from Uranus, may initially prove to be comical, but ultimately helps to show the viewer that everybody has some part of themselves that is unique and interesting, no matter who or what they are or where they're from. When our characters come together, from America, Asia, Africa, the ocean, and another planet, they fight not for one specific country and one specific way of life, but for the collective betterment of humanity. It is this inclusiveness that will set our property apart from flops like Supergirl (1984) and help to offer something different from expected successes like The Avengers (2012).

Catwoman. Dir. Pitof. Perf. Halle Barry, Sharon Stone and Benjamin Bratt. Warner Bros., 2004. DVD.

Elektra. Dir. Rob Bowman. Perf. Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic and Will Yun Lee. 20th Century Fox, 2005. DVD.

Parker, Jeff. Agents of Atlas. New York: Marvel, 2009. Print.

Supergirl. Dir. Jeannot Szwarc. Perf. Helen Slater, Faye Dunaway and Peter O'Toole. Artistry Limited. 1984. DVD.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The question of fans: incorperating them into "Atlas".

This week’s lecture and reading centered upon the idea of fandom and, more importantly, the creation of fan-based cultures. Our group discussed a variety of ways in which we plan to tap into different cultures with the release of “Agents of Atlas” in theaters, but ultimately chose to narrow our scope to what we consider to be our main demographic of fans: that of marvel comic book readers and also the wider fan base of super-hero film enthusiasts. While these particular audiences do comprise a smaller percentage of the general populace, fans of either group do tend to be more vocal and enjoy having some sense of interaction with the production of new franchises. 
Hardcore fans of "Agents" will always been keen to see adaptations of their favorite characters
                 But the question of how to successfully create a strong fan base from fairly unknown characters still lingers. “Agents” has never been a truly well-known franchise, even though the initial miniseries was well-received (only just failing to break the 100 most-issues-sold of august 2006 with a count of 19,256 distributed as seen on As such, we discussed a variety of different ways in which make the franchise more appealing to our target fandoms but felt that the idea of cameos fell within the scope of our franchise. That is to say we are still a marvel property and, as such, do have the added advantage of being part of the ever-growing marvel film universe (which has added emphasis upon building continuity between movies) giving us license to potentially use well-established characters as extra incentive for fans to see the film. For example, Marvel’s recent seeding of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury throughout the recent ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Iron Man 2’ films or Robert Downey Jr’s cameo after the credits in ‘The Incredible Hulk’ work to build anticipation within the audience of future movies and character interactions. Especially as we’ll be coat-tailing the ‘Avengers’ film in 2012 we feel that even brief cameos of characters established in that film could boost anticipation within fans and draw more people to the cinemas to see the film (and seeing as most actors are signed with exclusive character contracts we feel it is in our ability to procure the specific actors necessary for such cameos). We feel this would appeal to both our target fan bases without alienation as there will be adequate knowledge of the characters involved both from extensive comic-book history and the more recent film adaptations. 

“A Rogue. A Scientist. A Spy. A Hunter. A Vampire. A beast. An Immortal”

                While this will inspire anticipation in such niche audiences, we also considered the much larger percentage of people who will know next to nothing about the franchise and how we could potentially get them intrigued as well. We feel comfortable in the fact that while new franchises can have difficulty in finding and exciting their audiences, the super-hero team concept has constantly been met with good filmic-reception in the past. A nice parallel with our film is the release of “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” which was also a fairly unknown franchise with a strong and vocal fan base of comic book readers that managed to gross $$179,265,204 worldwide, with a budget of only $78,000,000. Such success seemed to draw from the notoriety of such iconic literary figures that comprised the “League” (such as Dorian Grey and Tom Sawyer) which more or less reflects aspects our own team (in the iconic sense of character archetypes that is). Such literary references also add a certain academic weight to the concept: helping the film to transcend the general stereotype of other super-hero films, giving the fans a justification for their enjoyment of it.  Moreover, to publicize on the unknown quality of the franchise, the “league’s” tag-line was “A Rogue. A Scientist. A Spy. A Hunter. A Vampire. A beast. An Immortal”, which more or less reflects the “Agent’s” own line of “A spy. A robot. An alien. A goddess. A mermaid. A gorilla”. By just listing the archetypes, the tag-lines work effectively to emphasize that these characters are “new” essentially, yet grounded in popular culture and literary knowledge, showing potential fans that this is something they can easily be integrated into without prior knowledge.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ancillaries - To Buy, or Not to Buy? Is There Really Any Question?

        The majority of focus for the past few weeks in class and in our own discussion has been ancillary markets. For this week's blog post, we will simply walk you through a selection of our ancillary products and our reasoning behind these products. Before we get in to specifics though, we should clarify our intended audience. By releasing our film on Father's Day weekend 2013, we hope to draw two key demographs, younger and older men. The tropes of the story seem to build perfectly into these two demographs by uniting the characters of a golden age with a newer audience. As well the fact that there is constant over the top action and jokes about Uranus insists a more “masculine” audience. As well, I should mention that everything here is still in a tentative state. No final decisions have been made as of yet.
         The first product that comes to mind when thinking about Superhero films is, with little doubt, action figures. Early on in the year, we threw around the idea of action figures as a primary ancillary product for a few reasons. Firstly, the comic book industry and film industry are markets that highly reward collectors. Comic book readers are natural collectors because of the serial nature of the medium, and film viewers prize inter-continuity between works from the same universe. The two markets, united, seem to be a perfect fit for the toy industry as an ancillary. For this characteristic as well, we have decided to release two separate toy lines. The first, “Agents of Atlas: The Golden Era” will focus on just that. Each character will be presented in his or her original form, exemplified in the origin comics. The second, “Agents of Atlas: Rise of the Yellow Claw” will be directly linked to the film. Each character will be recreated as they have been portrayed in the first of our film series. There could, as well, be future action figure lines tied to the films sequels. By providing the audience with two toy lines, we effectively double our chances of making a sale. A collector who intends to buy only one action figure may need to choose between several different lines. By providing two lines, there is a higher choice of him purchasing from ours. As well, those collectors who simply MUST own everything will be purchasing twice as much from us.

A good starting point for the "Rise of the Yellow Claw" line of action figures.

          The second product that we discussed was the tie-in video game. In deciding what type of video game we wanted to provide, and how closely we wanted it to mirror the film, we looked to other Marvel video game adaptations. We decided to employ a similar strategy to two video game franchises that have already succeeded in the Marvel universe: Activision's X-Men Legends and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Both of these franchises allow the player to control up to four characters at a time, allowing for “on the fly” change in action. Each character would perform differently in different situations. For example, M-11 might come in handy when hacking a computer terminal, where Venus could subdue large numbers of enemies. A large advantage to this four player structure, which has been capitalized on in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, is the ability to perform co-op attacks. In this way, we could recreate some of the most iconic panels from the graphic novel for a gamer. In terms of story, we intend to build the game around an expanded version of the graphic novel's narrative. The majority of this expansion would come during the several panels where the Agents infiltrate and overthrow several Atlas facilities. This structure would allow the player to feel involved in the plot of the movie, but also expand the story without interfering with continuity.

A highly popular game franchise, and also highly rated by consumers.

        Finally, we talked about possible DVD/Blu-Ray details. For this market, we once again looked to the collectable nature of superhero products. As you have seen in a previous blog post, we explored the number of products that were presented by Watchmen. While we don't intend to go as far as Watchmen did, we do still want to provide a number of options for consumers. We do intend to release the film on both a standard and special edition DVD and Blu-Ray edition, presuming the DVD market has not all but disappeared by 2013. As well, we discussed a possible combo-pack with the upcoming Avengers movie. As far as special features go, we discussed the basic fare; director and cast commentary, a “making-of” documentary, and basic character information slides. However, on the special edition DVD and Blu-Ray, we intend to include a series of animated shorts based on each character's origins, similar to Watchmen: The Motion Comic. This will give incentive to those who don't necessarily know the characters well to buy the special edition DVD or Blu-Ray. We intend to discuss other possible bonus features even further.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

        The extravaganza that has become Comic-Con has, as pointed out by Derek Johnson in his article Will The Real Wolverine Please Stand Up?, moved significantly away from a focus on comic books or graphic novels and now includes a larger array of exhibits about films and television shows (Johnson 64). This works in our favour when creating our film adaption of The Agents of Atlas. The fact that Agents is not a well known graphic novel, at least not on the same level of Batman or Spider-man for example, does not necessarily mean that an Agents adaptation will not be as successful. If graphic novels have become “merely the source material for a feature film” (Johnson 64), then, as has been seen with Watchmen, a widespread interest, or re-interest, in the Agents of Atlas graphic novel may come with an interest in Marvel’s newest comic book adaptation.
        Based on the case study of Wolverine in Johnson’s article, a reissuing or relaunching of the origins of the members of The Agents of Atlas team could be sparked by our filmic adaptation, with a focus on whichever character the public finds the most appealing or interesting. Wolverine and Spider-man have become character brands and very profitable ones at that (Johnson 77). In considering the afterlife of The Agents of Atlas movie, sequels and/or prequels should not be left unconsidered, perhaps with a focus on the origins of a team member as the stories have already been provided in the graphic novel as well as in the included original pulp comics. 

A rethinking of character origin stories means new products.

Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character was well-liked and therefore received his own origin film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with another Wolverine film in the making. This is based on Marvel’s belief that it is “essential to transition its comic book characters into film, television, and other media” (Johnson 68). An Agents of Atlas Origins film is still only a narrow view of how this adaptation can become a franchise. Origin specific prequels could bring Agents of Atlas Origins comic books. Since the origins of these characters dates back to as early as the 1940s, a revamping of their individual origin stories could be the beginning of a Wolverine- or Spider-man-like character brand. This would still depend on which character is best liked by the public because, as has been said before, the audience is an obvious key perspective in film and franchise.

As audience views of Wolverine change, Wolverine changes.

Johnson, Derek. “Will The Real Wolverine Please Stand Up?; Marvel’s Mutations From Monthlies To Movies”. Johnson. Will the real Wolverine please stand up.pdf. Web. 1 March. 2011.

Parker, Jeff. Agents of Atlas. New York: Marvel, 2009. Print.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Week Six - From Film to Franchise

        The majority of this week's lecture focused on television adaptation. As our group is looking to adapt our graphic novel to the film medium, we had to work through the lecture material and translate it's content to the film medium. What we hit on was the potential for audience participation in the creation and continuation of a franchise as well as the aftermarket potential of a franchise.
         Our screening this week was the pilot episode of Heroes, a television show that spawned a vast, interactive marketing campaign called Heroes 360 Experience. This campaign invited audience members to search through clues dropped on the show and on the series' website in order to find additional content and insight into the ongoing plots of the show. A few examples of these websites, which are at the time of this posting still available, are , , and .
        By including the audience in a mystery “game” that gave them extra content, Heroes achieved two things. First, the built massive hype around the show. Rather than having TV ads that give vague plot summary and attempt to build suspense in a thirty second time span, the audience were given something to delve into, explore, and invest in. An interested participant could easily spend an hour searching for hidden clues or learning the minute details of a character. Second, the audience members who found the hidden clues and websites were made to feel like they were amongst the elite. They had access to information that nobody else did. This built a strong sense of brand loyalty and helped to sustain the show through four seasons.
This type of marketing campaign is exactly what we are looking at for our own project. As described by Jeff Parker in The Temple of Atlas, a viral marketing campaign was used to market the comics by distributing codes and information through the comic book vendors that the readers could then use to find “hidden” information about the team members and the ongoing plot of the graphic novel.
         While thinking about the audience, we also started to consider the aftermarket of our franchise. In order to gain insight, we examined the aftermarket campaign of Watchmen. The first, and admittedly most obvious, area that we examined were home versions of the film. What we found is that Watchmen has had several iterations on the DVD and BluRay market. At present, Watchmen is available on DVD and BluRay in a standard, special edition, director's cut and ultimate edition. As well, there have been several related projects sold under the Watchmen franchise. These include Watchmen: The Motion Comic and Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter, both of which are available on DVD and BluRay. This is a very large number of products that were spawned, in essence, from one source.

These are just SOME of the Watchmen DVD collection

         We believe that our project has the potential to spawn as many, if not more, products. By using a standard to special edition to director's cut strategy, we can release more and more content over time and thus resell the original product as many times as possible. As well, by including related projects, such as the origin stories of each character or a two-for-one deal with the upcoming Avenger's movie, packaged with a third disc covering the “What if?” storyline, we can deliver content that is exclusive to a specific iteration of our film in the aftermarket.
         A second area that we explored was the video game market, a massive market amongst our key demographic. In translating a film to a video game, we discussed two possibilities. We could either mimic the story of the film, giving the audience control over something familiar, or we could build up a new storyline and give the audience a completely new experience. Using Watchmen again as an example, we can see the success of a video game adaptation. The video game Watchmen: The End is Nigh was an immediate seller, despite conflicting reviews amongst critics. As well, the video game was sold packaged with the BluRay edition of Watchmen's special edition and director's cut.

The PS3 version of Watchmen: The End is Night, with the film bundled in.

         The audience is obviously a key point in film, and all other forms of entertainment media. By including them in our adaptation process, there is much to be gained. Whether it be directly, as we've seen done in Heroes and Batman, or through the options provided to them, as we've seen with Watchmen, the audience has the final word on the success or failure of a franchise.

Parker, Jeff. Agents of Atlas. New York: Marvel, 2009. Print.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week Five - I've Got a Better Idea! What if...

        The focus of this week's lectures and discussion was the idea of the Generic Cycle. In particular, looking at Wandtke's article Upon a Time Once Again, we saw an emphasis on the revisionist tendencies of the superhero genre. In looking for examples of revision, we saw immediately why the emphasis is the focus of superhero storytellers. The very act of creating a superhero is a form of revision.
        For examples, we looked at our graphic novel. While one could easily point out that the return of heroes established in the mid 20th century is a revision, we looked at the specific characters and applied Wandtke's ideas to them. What we found was that three different types of revisionism exist in Agents; the revision of origin, the revision of ending, and the revision of identity.
        By revision of origin, we mean that the character has been, or in our case could be, re-created without interrupting the canon. For the revision of origin, we looked at Ken Hale (Gorilla Man). In his origin story, he is cursed into becoming a gorilla by killing the previous Gorilla Man. As well, Ken states several times during the graphic novel that were someone to kill him, they too would take on his curse. This is an immensely powerful tool for revisionists as the character of Gorilla Man, be it Ken Hale or otherwise, could potentially go on forever. This trait also opens up the possibility of several different versions of Gorilla Man. Should, for example, a villainous character kill Ken Hale, the next Gorilla Man could potentially be a villain rather than a hero. This is an idea that could be played with in the further story of Agents, after the events of our film.

I know that Batman and Robin are DC, but I couldn't resist Robin in a dress. What if Batman killed Ken...

        By revision of ending, we mean that a character is brought to a point where the canon claims that they are dead and then a further storyline revives them or explains how they actually managed to avoid death. This type of revision is seen in Namora's involvement in our graphic novel. In her own canon previous to Agents, she was pronounced dead and it was intended for her to stay that way. However, Jeff Parker saw fit to bring her back from the dead by insisting that she was never really dead in the first place, but only appeared to be due to a telepathic field. To a minor extent, Jimmy Woo also fits into this category. However, we are hesitant to consider Woo a full revision as the circumstances of his “death” are presented as part of the self contained canon of the graphic novel in which is rebirth occurs.
         Finally, by revision of identity, we mean that a character is revealed to be someone completely other to who they are said to be. This type of revision is seen most strikingly in the character Venus. It is assumed through the graphic novel that she is in fact the Greco-Roman Goddess Venus. However, she is revealed by Namora to be a siren who forgot her own identity and picked up upon the myth of Venus. This type of revision is effective as a way to change the past of a hero. With Venus, we see a complete disregard for the included origin story.
       While it is fairly evident that revision is an essential part of the superhero genre, it is impossible for revision to exist without established conventions. This paradox was also a major point of discussion for our group. To this point, we came to the conclusion that revision exists as a convention of the superhero genre. This is seen in the film Kick-ass and the graphic novel Watchmen. In both cases, it is the presence of the conventions of the superhero genre within the diegesis that lead normal people to become superheroes. While Hollis Mason gets his inspiration to become the first Night Owl from the pulp comics of his day, Dave Lizewski gets his inspiration to become Kickass from graphic novels like Watchmen. This constant cycle of inspiration is an example of using the established conventions of previous superhero stories in a revisionist way.

Dave gathers inspiration at the comic book store.

Kick-ass. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Perf. Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage. Marv Films, 2010.

Moore, Alan, and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics, 1987. Print.

Parker, Jeff. Agents of Atlas. New York: Marvel, 2009. Print.

Wandtke. "Once Upon a Time Once Again." Wandtke. Once Upon a Time Once Again.pdf. Web. 12 Feb. 2011.