Monday, June 25, 2018

My Favorite Quote About Superheroes

One of my favorite quotes about superheroes comes from Les Daniels.

He was talking about Superman, and the quote comes from his comprehensive book - Superman: The Complete History. The quote reads: "It's a bizarre story, about a strange visitor from another world, but at its heart it's a very human story too, about the dream of having power, and the hope of knowing love."

Though Daniels was talking about Superman, I believe this quote... Minus the "strange visitor" part, can be applied to most superhero (or, in our case True-Hero) characters.

The most important element is at the end: "The dream of having power, and the hope of knowing love." To me, that pretty much sums up what the best of this genre is all about. 

I find it an optimistic quote because the most compelling part of the hero story can be achieved in the real world. It's about finding impossible strength in whatever you decide to do in life, and finding that amazing person to share it with.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Future of Superhero Fashion

I think we're on the verge of another big shift in superhero costume design.

For a while, on-screen superhero costumes have been designed to look as close to their comic book counterparts as possible, with bright colors and patterns. To avoid the total "spandex" look of the 70's, movie costumes often have textured elements that give the costumes a unique and stylish look.

Today, these designs are commonplace, but it wasn't too long ago that people thought designing the costumes to look like they do in the comics wouldn't translate well on screen. That's why superhero costumes of the 80's and 90's were often made of black leather, molded rubber, and not necessarily designed to look like their comic-book counterparts.

As exciting as current movie superhero costumes are, I think audiences are ready for something new. It's not a return to flat poly-lycra of the 70's, nor is it time to return to black leather and rubber. There is, however, something that hasn't been done.

At least...  Not yet...

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Week of Writing

A majority of this past week has been spent writing. Sometimes, the story flows forward so easily, and the pages add up one after another. Other times, I find myself trying to figure out how I'm going to get my main character to arrive on the scene for the next big battle sequence.

This week, there were some definite moments of both. And when the writing was difficult, it had a lot to do with the crafting of the villain.

Heroes are easy. They stop the bad guy from carrying out a master plan. But the villains... They require some work. A well written bad guy needs to have a well written motive. And when they're a serious villain, they need to have a larger than life well written motive. That can be a challenge.

I think that's why there are so many villains with hokey master plans. They need to do something that has the potential for action, but in a way that makes sense. It's so easy to make a villain campy because the nature of their crimes are somewhat campy. A solid motive solves the problem, but it takes work.

I suppose that if I'm saying anything in this week's blog, it's that larger than life action needs to be grounded in real life emotion.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Setting and Weather

Today in Boston, it's raining.  Not a light sprinkle, either.  Heavy rain that soaks through the moment you step outside.

It made me think about environment, and how important setting can be for a character.  Often, I imagine rain being the perfect weather condition for Ember.  Something about him being able to turn into water and at the same time being surrounded by water is interesting.

Bad weather also adds a new element of danger for characters, and it's a great way to increase the tension of a story, without the audience even fully realizing it.

That's why I find it strange that so many superhero movies are set in the summer.  It's so bland...  So unoriginal.  When I'm writing, I think long and hard about the setting and weather conditions for each scene.  Not all stories can take place on warm sunny days, and in the world of fantasy and sci-fi, the more outrageous the setting, the better the story!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Elevated Action

I'm working through some complicated choreography this week for an upcoming scene in RoseForce.  Thus far, I'm happy with how it's looking, but the scene needs to be powerful, and the action elevated.

To do that, I've devised a way to film the scene in a way that hasn't been done before.  At least, it hasn't been done before exactly like this.  It's hard to describe.  You'll know when you see it.

I like my action scenes to be as real as possible.  CGI is great, but if it can be done for real, I like to do it for real.  That becomes tricky when you're working with superhero characters, because the extreme powers, abilities, and feats, are often "added" in post production.

If there is no way to do it in-camera, I'll use CGI.  But more and more, I'm finding there are practical solutions for complicated special effects that look better than CGI.  Mainly, it's because the practical effects are real.  And at the end of the day, real is better than animated.  At least, it is when you're making a live action film.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Time Traveling With Comics

For fans of comics and sci-fi, it is possible to go back in time.  I know it's true, because just last week I made a trip to the late 1990's.

It was a rainy night, and I found myself drawn to an old copy of Stan Lee's and John Buscema's classic book "How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way" resting on my bookshelf.  For aspiring comic artists, this book is a must, and I think anyone who's ever wanted to draw superheroes owns a copy.  Most likely stacked between a couple of books written by Christopher Hart.

I don't specifically remember when I purchased my copy, but it had to be somewhere around 6th or 7th grade.  The late 90's...

Truth be told, I haven't opened my copy in years, but there was a time when I referred to it daily.  So much, that the book has taken on a worn look well beyond that of many others on my shelf.

I've heard that opening up old comics and re-reading them years (or even decades) later has a somewhat transportive effect on people, taking them back to a simpler time, when they were younger.  I've even experienced it myself with some classic issues in my collection.  But I was surprised how Stan Lee's drawing manual had the same effect.

I was reminded how much I practiced, and how long it took me to get my drawing where I wanted it to be.  Knowing that even now, I'm still refining my technique.  When I was younger, I wanted my art to look just like the pros, but looking back, the continued struggle to refine and grow is what keeps it exciting every single day!

Oh, and if you're planning to be the next great comic book artist, you can check out Stan's book by Clicking Here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Real Heroes & Real Muscle

The days of padded muscles are over.

Years ago, Sylvester Stallone lamented that "tough guy" action stars were being replaced with less muscular counterparts. 

In his words, "It was that first Batman movie. The action movies changed radically when it became possible to Velcro your muscles on. It was the beginning of a new era. The visual took over. The special effects became more important than the single person. That was the beginning of the end."

While I do agree with what Stallone is saying, he misses one key point. Superhero movies are not simply action movies. They're part of a specific genre of filmmaking that combines action, sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure.

The reason less muscular actors can be cast for superhero roles is because the nature of the storytelling is more fantastic. Characters have powers and abilities that don't require the actor to be so physically fit, and they perform impossible feats that demand special effects beyond simply punching and kicking an opponent.  

Casting Michael Keaton as batman was inspired in 1989. His performance was amazing, and he stands out as my second favorite caped crusader. That is... Until Ben Affleck embodied the role.

The rules have changed.

Superhero movies are still evolving, and today, putting an actor in a padded muscle-suit wouldn't work. Part of the pre-production process for a superhero movie now involves actors training for the role. 

People want to see the actor become the hero, and they can't do it with just the costume alone. Ben Affleck seriously put on the muscle for his role in Batman V Superman, and the results are well worth it. He delivers a nuanced performance and he looks the part.

I think this is an important step forward in the superhero genre, because it's going to elevate the quality of film. The idea of a superhero being a spandex wearing adventurer with underwear over his tights is becoming a thing of the past, and I predict a future with action stars like Sylvester Stallone finding a place in the comic and sci-fi genre.