Monday, June 20, 2011

Emails #58: Schedules - More Important Than Content

Note from the editors: Don't worry folks, there is more blog goodness to come! There are 15 posts (oh my!) to follow. Stay tuned!



The Avengers will get made. People, even those with blocks of ice for heads will understand that Cap is part of the Avengers team. The title is clunky and not very catchy. Maybe I will be just blown away by the Cap movie. Maybe my socks will actually come off. I kinda doubt it though. The technology exists to create just about anything for the movies, fully rendered and realistic if need be. This technology has developed rapidly in the last thirty years and the crunching power of computers to do the hard work of making special effects, backgrounds and composites and now actual characters has leap-frogged. The sophisticated matte shots thought up by George Lucas for the original Star Wars are kid's stuff compared to what the camera and computer can do now. I mention this obvious point to bring up the fact that it is good old fashioned storytelling that makes a movie great, not effects. The writing, the performances, the sound, the music, the direction, the editing... Labor intensive human efforts and collaborative at that. A tremendous amount goes into making a big budget film these days and it seems a shame that scripts get rushed through, too many hands are on the page marking it up, schedules are more important than content. Release dates are announced ahead of scripts or casting or even choice of director.

Captain America's origin could be a very inspiring, riveting tale. The story of Cap has already lasted countless cancellations, reimagining, restarts, rebirths, redirects, different costumes... but the basic elements have more than withstood the test of time. Cap has indeed become a symbol of America. The noble America. The good America. YES!

The America that stands for important principles and goes to war against evil in all its forms. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created a super patriotic hero who, in a star spangled fantasy world, could do what ordinary people could never do. Cap could fight the very demons that plagued us in mortal combat. A symbol-- a mythic hero!

He could punch Hitler, drop kick Tojo and smash Mussolini with his shield. The villains were racist caricatures seething with hatred and full of sadistic plans. While a lot of the content was dreck or worse Yeah, not different from other books of the time, the spirit of Cap struck the appropriate chord with both American and worldwide audiences. Cap is well known by a large slice of demographics. The specifics of his adventures may have taken more "realistic" turns of late in the comics but in the collective memory, Cap always stands for liberty and freedom which is a heck of a lot better than standing for revenge like most "heroes."

BEN: I was thinking that very thing today. Even Spidey fights for absolution and out of a sense of responsibility. Cap is more pure- which is why I think the closest other hero is Superman. Sups is not fighting for revenge or to wash his sins, he's an innocent alien who never asked to be mighty. But, through what his parents taught him, he himself chose to use his powers to right wrongs. Cap volunteered because he wanted to fight tyranny, as you said, before Pearl Harbor. Even in my earliest idea, Cap was sent in before the US was officially in the war. His appearance on the battlefield sparks instant legends on both sides, no one being able to confirm.

While many of the whimsical story points I have suggested will not ever come to pass it is forever my hope that writers, directors and producers ask themselves the question,"What is the essence of the character? What is the pure idea of this story?" Before committing expensive resources to a project, wouldn't it be a great idea to think about the characters and dream what it would be like to be in their shoes, to be able to do incredible, dramatic things, to be poised to make a difference at every turn. Real life is seldom so super charged. That is why, sitting in a darkened theater for two hours with strangers laughing or crying at our hero's exploits is such an escape. It is a brief period where the movie goer can disconnect from everyday living and experience something dramatic, something funny, or something awe inspiring. How many times have I left a theater all charged up or sad or numb? Going to the movies can be a fantastical, thought provoking experience. Film has demonstrated this power over and over again.

I am not expecting Cap to be a transformative movie. Unfortunately, I doubt it will even be inspirational. The motivation Simon and Kirby brought in creating the character over 60 years ago will most probably be long lost because it will be feared that today's "sophisticated" audiences won't go for the antiquated ideals of a bygone era. Why not put Cap in outer space? Today's kids love outer space. Too much revisionist and not enough history. The dramatic story of outright evil and WWII as told through the eyes of a hero who was sick and powerless and who became powerful and symbolic. What more could you ask for? Tie-ins. Sequels. Buddy movies. One liners. Product placements. Cap drinks Coke! Shouldn't you! And F@%#&*K the easter eggs. Make me the grand slam breakfast instead! I am sick of the rich history of comics being glossed over in favor of tiny, condescending snippets being crafted into the background to nod at the original source material. I would pay anything to see a Cap movie that simply inspired millions to leave theaters and visit the graves of WWII vets, to thank Vietnam vets or amputees coming back from Iraq. Somehow, in this Coke and Pepsi world we live in, the values of liberty and freedom will end up instead being used as a punch line in the closing credits. Yeah, yeah, yeah Cap is about freedom but we can make the bullets bounce off Cap's shield in 3-D using 100% CGI. The talk is already focused about the ensemble Avengers movie. It has been built into the other Marvel movies in one form or another and perhaps the idea of a group movie with infinite product tie-in and something for everyone is already overshadowing the unique stand alone quality that made Cap a success during one of the darkest periods in human history. Cap gave hope to millions. He was a fiction dreamed up by two Jewish kids during wartime and the power and energy of their creation is primal and evident.

I could continue to write about Cap. His many adventures and technical hurdles. Where he goes as a character. But I feel like finishing here. What started as an email correspondence blossomed into full fledged reimagining. I am thankful for the process. I am thankful Ben has spurred me along and helped create several web-doc sites. He has provided invaluable insight with his numerous comments and critiques and his director/writer point of of view. The two of us have veered off into other territory often and I have greatly enjoyed the adventure of thinking about Cap in both abstract and practical terms. What would Cap be like if he were real? How would he really come about?

I don't have the energy to pound out a screen play based on these disorganized rantings. That is the next logical step for me to take but one I am not prepared for. There are many other projects screaming for my limited attention. Comics, writing, illustration and design. There is not enough time to do it all. Cap was fun for a long time to toy around with. I have an acute affinity for Cap, especially the larger than life Kirby Cap, the one with sledgehammer knuckles in your face. I am going to end here for now. Let liberty and freedom prevail.

Thank you.

God Bless America,
Rick Arthur

RICK: Note from the present day (July, 2011)....

At this point, #58, there are 15! more full posts scheduled to run including a 5-part Cap vs. Red Skull fight to the finish!! Everything up until now came chronologically BEFORE Ben and I even decided to create a blog, this exact blog which you are reading now. The blog has been up and running for over eight or nine months. DID I QUIT CAP? The fact that you are reading some of the 100,000+ words Ben and I exchanged means no, I did not. We had just been developing Cap with an eye toward a screenplay for three full years and maybe longer. Marvel had announced their version, the real version, to come out now. I had other work stacking up like cord wood waiting for me to finish with Cap...

I honestly wanted to write a script. Having an editor, writing partner, coach and critic of Ben's caliber was something that wasn't going to come around too often especially for a dyed in the wool cartoonist like myself. Realistically, I knew that another whole year to churn out the first clumsy draft was probably wishful thinking. My time is short. It could have taken two years. At the end of which people will have forgotten that I was ever an artist and no one would know I was a writer. Plus I would have a script I couldn't sell about a movie that was already made; Cap's origin. What was I to do???

Put a bookmark in it. Learn the lessons Ben has patiently taught and apply film techniques to comics storytelling. Will I ever write a Cap screenplay? Piece by piece. A scene here and there. I could wake up one morning with a solution to a character problem I was thinking about years ago. It has happened before. Sometimes entire stories come spilling out and this has happened a lot with Cap. The Teaser Trailer: The Cold #28 tumbled out 90% complete.

Ben has a different approach. It is one of the things that makes bouncing ideas off him so great. He writes, does computer work, directs, produces, reads scripts, does lighting, sound and special effects, acts when needed. When he is not raising money for a new shoot which is never, he is knee deep in advertising, casting, marketing and branding. The guy just happens to be energetic and really into film! Through his work with Runic Films he has accomplished some pretty amazing things.

Enjoy the remaining posts and keep in mind that having a critical eye and a little skepticism is a good thing for a storyteller.


Okay. I am not sure if I included this anywhere. Steve Rogers has just become Cap. In order to "hide" his existence from the Germans, he is being ferried aboard a regular ship packed with other freshly minted soldier

On the docks, a commotion erupts between sailors and infantry. Heated words between enlisted men escalates into fists and wrenches. Cap wades into the boiling pile of men, pulling them apart, to find out what is wrong. In the center of the fray, Cap discovers that the ship's anchor has broken free and is lodged firmly under the dock and won't allow them to leave. He commands the men to grab the anchor rope and pull when he gives the signal. Cap dives head first into the oily black harbor. With a tremendous effort he frees the anchor and resurfaces. Sailors and infantry alike pull on the rope. Cap climbs back on the dock, soaking wet and jumps in line, pulling as hard as he can. The anchor rises and is secured. An officer who witnessed the whole thing remarks,"We need more can-do Joes around here. He sure knows how to wrangle those men. It could have turned into a major brawl."

COMING SOON! 4th of July Blowout!!!

CAP vs. RED SKULL final conflict!! First Avenger Double Movie Review!!

Whatever has happened in my quest for innovation has been part of my quest for immaculate reality.
-George Lucas

When you are a beginning film maker you are desperate to survive. The most important thing in the end is survival and being able to get to your next picture.
-George Lucas

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