About Black Widow’s Box Office…

After what seemed like forever Marvel Studios and Disney finally released on July 9, Black Widow, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Predictions and projections were all over the place over how the film would perform and be received.

At first, Black Widow performed very impressively, earning $80 million dollars in its opening weekend. This may be small compared to some of the bigger MCU hits, but terrific for a film release during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cratered the box office worldwide. In fact, Black Widow has set the record for the highest debuting film during the pandemic.

However, the news was quick to turn against the film and Disney when Black Widow had an enormous drop in its second week, earning only $37 million dollars, a drop of 67 percent, the biggest second week drop for an MCU film. This current weekend it earned $11 million dollars, placing it in third place and it actually beat the film that displaced it in its second week, Space Jam: A New Legacy. Currently its box office haul is $315 million worldwide. Yes, that is impressive but it had a budget of $200 million and it looks like it will barely break even if it reaches $400 million by the end of its run. Consider that the average MCU film of late earned roughly $1 billion dollars and its lower earning films averaged around $500 to $600 million. These figures can be used to conclude that Black Widow will be a disappointment in the box office. In fact, there are tons of reports trying to explain its relatively poor performance.

But that is not necessarily the complete picture.

As anyone reading this knows, Disney simultaneously released Black Widow on its streaming platform, Disney+, for $30 dollars on top of a subscription to the app. Many people scoffed at paying such a high price for a film that could be seen in theaters for much less. Yet, it earned about $60 million dollars to date and that is aside from its box office haul. Surely, Disney’s accountants will point out that the streaming haul means that the film’s earnings to date are close to $400 million and anything over that is just profit.

It was also heavily pirated online, which certainly robbed Disney of a lot of revenue. Being that the film was completed over a year ago, there were many opportunities and time for it to be pirated before it was officially released.

Many have correctly pointed out that the online access to Black Widow robbed the film of its full box office potential. Theater owners are enraged that Disney did this because it undercut their business, and set a precedent for film releases going forward, although after the upcoming Jungle Cruise is released both in theaters and premier access on Disney+, the entertainment company will discontinue this practice.

Others have said that the film had limited appeal since it was not a big-event film like Avengers: Endgame and that it came out too late. Yes, given the film’s setting and the main character’s eventual fate, the film should have been released right after Captain America: Civil War in 2016 or 2017. But many circumstances beyond the film’s control prevented that and while the film is just a standalone film and is not perfect, it is a solid MCU entry that shone an overdue spotlight on Black Widow herself and her world.

Of course, the wildcard in the film’s performance is the pandemic. Hardcore MCU fans braved going to the theaters to see the film, while everyone else thought it was safer to pay for online access or waiting. However, at the time of Black Widow was released, the perception was that the pandemic was winding down given the huge drops in COVID-19 infections and deaths. But since many idiots refuse to get vaccinated or others are unable to have access to vaccines, the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread like wildfire and increased cases. In other words, the rising cases and deaths encouraged potential theater goers to stay home instead. With the pandemic it is doubtful that even an Avengers: Endgame would have performed as well as it did pre-pandemic.

So, saying Black Widow underperformed is not so clear cut. Given the many hurdles it faced it performed remarkably well and helped bring the MCU back into theaters. Hopefully the next MCU films will fare better and Black Widow itself will gain in popularity later on like many other MCU films.

Handling FOMO During The Comic Book Speculator Boom

Comic books have risen recently in popularity thanks to their crossover appeal in live-action media. What is spurring the boom is that as mainstream properties from Marvel Comics and DC Comics are being shown on screen, film and TV studios are mining other comic book properties, not just obscure Marvel and DC characters but those from independent comic book properties.

As properties like The Walking Dead, Invincible, Sweet Tooth, Locke & Key, The Umbrella Academy and The Boys have captured the imagination of television and streaming audiences (along with lower-tier mainstream characters like Scarlet Witch or Black Lightning), these studios have found a treasure trove of characters and stories to adapt. This in turn has made many of these titles increase in value among comic book collectors and speculators. Meaning the prices for key issues have exploded.

A good example of this situation is with Boom! Studios’ Something is Killing the Children, a horror title that only debuted in 2019, yet its first issue commands a price of roughly $1,000 for a near-mint copy. Other hot titles which are increasing in value include The Department of Truth and Saga.

The value of previously insignificant mainstream titles or issues increased significantly as characters or storylines were adapted. A recent example is with The West Coast Avengers, particularly its original middle run by John Byrne that introduced a white version of Vision and a dark version of Scarlet Witch. Both of whom wound up on the hit TV show, WandaVision. That TV show also led to a huge price increase for Fantastic Four #94, which was the first appearance of Agatha Harkness, the major villain of WandaVision.

For collectors who wish to pick up newly important issues or speculators looking to buy low and sell high, this has created a mad scramble to find these books and it’s a textbook example of FOMO. Among collectors that stands for Fear of Missing Out on obtaining an issue before it becomes too expensive. Many collectors have horror stories of passing up titles then regretting their decision as those books too off in value.

Thanks to the speculator boom and relevance of live-action comic book properties, FOMO has gripped the comic book community hard. But fans should not give in to FOMO. How important is it to have that particular title unless you want to make a quick profit? Those sold-out issues always get reprinted or are available for downloading, so for a true fan who wants to complete a run, these are alternatives.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the value of these titles often has peaks and valleys. Sure, some titles like The Walking Dead still command high prices, but the average costs for the first issue these days is only a couple thousand dollars. Back during the heyday of the title and the TV show, the first issue of The Walking Dead often sold for nearly five figures. That is enough to help pay for a new car!

As seen with the above example, once the hype dies down so will the prices and many times tey plummet to the point that the key issue becomes affordable. Consider The Avengers #55, which was the first appearance of Ultron. Back when Avengers: Age of Ultron premiered that issue was unobtainable for the average collector. Today, it can be bought for under $100, and that is for a decent copy. Another example is Marvel Premiere #15, the first introduction of Iron Fist, which was undervalued for a few years because of how poorly the Iron Fist TV show was received. Now is a good time to buy that issue and it should be soon as speculation has reared its head that the character will re-appear again in live action some time in the future.

A more recent and glaring example is Jupiter’s Legacy. There was some hype and speculation with that title since it was going to be adapted into a TV show, but that show was not well received and cancelled after one season. Right now, anyone trying to sell their copy of Jupiter’s Legacy #1 is lucky to sell it for cover price.

So, there is no reason to give in to FOMO. If a title like Something is Killing the Children becomes too expensive, let it go and stop obssessing over it. If you have to read the story get the trade paperback, read it online or borrow a friend’s copy. The key is to be patient, eventually the prices will settle and if you’re lucky you will find a copy you can afford to buy. More importantly, just enjoy the hobby.

Alternate Superheroes & Casting For The DCEU

We’ve been hearing a lot of news about the Flash solo film which is rumored to reboot the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) by loosely adapting the DC Comics mini-series Flashpoint where the Flash time travels and ends up altering his timeline. Evidence of this comes from the fact that Michael Keaton will reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, who last appeared in 1992’s Batman Returns.

Surely, Keaton returning cannot just be the only actor from a non-DCEU film whou could return. The film is also a great platform to explore never-before-seen alternate versions and castings of our favorite DC heroes or for returning non-DECU favorites. In the same manner that we explored earlier this year alternate castings of Marvel superheroes, here is a list of alternate castings and versions of DC characters that should appear in The Flash. BTW, this includes actors reprising their roles of characters who appeared in non-DCEU films. Be sure to drop a comment on your own choices!

10. Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince

Fans will remember that Palicki was cast as the Amazonian princess in a failed TV pilot spearheaded by David E. Kelly. Despite the flaws with the pilot, Palicki still deserves to showcase her take of Wonder Woman. The same goes for Olga Kurylenko who was considered for the role in the DCEU, but lost to Gal Gadot.

9. The Titans

Officially designated as been on Earth-9 in the DC live-action multiverse, this gritty version of the Teen Titans shoule be given the chance to appear briefly in The Flash. Their appearance would be an organic way to help promote their TV show, Titans, since it is one of the better DC superhero TV shows currently streaming.

8. Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern/Hal Jordan

Ten years later, everyone is still trying to forget the misfire that was called Green Lantern, which starred Ryan Reynolds. Keep in mind, that Reynolds was not what was wrong with the film and it would be a fun sight gag to see Reynolds return, especially after the casting was lampooned in Deadpool 2. Another twist would be to recast the cosmic superhero with Chris Pine, who was up for the role during the film’s development.

7. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Rumor had it that if the film studio (Warner Bros.) was unable to convince Michael Keaton to reprise his role, then they would have turned to one of the most revered actors who portrayed the Caped Crusader, Christian Bale. Still, after Bale swore he was done with the role after The Dark Knight Rises, it would have taken a lot of negotiations and money to get him to return, but man that would have been a great payoff!

6. Stephen Amell as Spectre or Oliver Queen/Green Arrow

It’s no secret that Stephen Amell’s performance as the CW’s Batman stand-in, Green Arrow in the recently cancelled Arrow, helped elevate the superhero into an A-lister, at least for the CW. Plus, he turned in a respectable performance as Spectre in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event that deserves to be seen again, but on the big screen with better production values and effects. The same goes for his version of Green Arrow.

5. Bryan Cranston as Lex Luthor

One of the biggest miscastings in superhero films was when Zack Snyder picked Jesse Eisenberg to play the iconic Superman villain Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The prefered choice by fans was that of Bryan Cranston who was so chilling in Breaking Bad, and the fantasy casting was not just because Cranston’s Walter White was bald. It was because of his intense and riveting performance which is still remembered to this day. His potential appearance could go a long way to convince the filmmakers to recast the role more appropriately.

4. Nicolas Cage as Clark Kent/Superman

Never mind the missed opportunities with Joe Manganiello and Matthew Goode as Superman in Man of Steel. We want to see the outrageous! Tim Burton’s aborted take on Superman has been chronicled everywhere with the bizarre reimaginings of the Man of Steel right down to the casting of Superman with Nicolas Cage. Fans have been aghast with the behind-the-scenes test footage of cage sporting long hair and a very plastic-looking Superman outfit. How could this vision not be allowed to be glimpsed at least once? Besides it would fullfill Cage’s dream of playing the Man of Tomorrow

3. George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal

Acclaimed director George Miller was so close to filming his take of the Justice League before events doomed the project. Ever since more details came out about the film, fans have been intrigued by what might have been since Justice League: Mortal predated the DCEU and focused heavily on the Flash. We will never see Miller’s vision but an appearance by his version of the Justice League, complete with his casting picks (including Armie Hammer as Batman), would be a small consolation.

2. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash

The best thing about the CW crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, was when Ezra Miller (who will reprise his role in The Flash) briefly appeared in one scene and met the current TV version of the Flash, played by Grant Gustin. It would be a hoot if the scene was revisted in The Flash but from Miller’s point of view and it would be even better if Gustin later played a role in the film along with John Wesley Shipp who appeared as the Scarlet Speedster in the 1990s live-action TV show, The Flash.

Josh Brolin as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Before Ben Affleck was cast as the newest Dark Knight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Josh Brolin was seriously considered for the role. While Affleck defied expectations and turned in a memorable performance as Batman, we cannot stop wondering how Brolin’s interpretation of Batman would have been like. Of course, we have an idea of how Brolin would have fared thanks to his previous experience in superhero films as he played Thanos and Cable in Marvel films. So, portraying Batman should come naturally to this gifted actor. Another possibility would be to have Jeffrey Dean Morgan reprise his role as Thomas Wayne in the DCEU, which would more closely adapt the Flashpoint story line.

José Soto

Disneyland Resort’s Avengers Campus Is Now Open For Recruits!

After over a year, the Disneyland Resort in California was allowed to re-open in April once the coronavirus cases dropped in the state. To help celebrate the re-opening, Disney California Adventure (DCA) opened its long-awaited Avengers Campus land on June 4 to the public.

Originally set to open last summer, Avengers Campus is a richly themed land based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but not exactly. Avengers Campus is not set in the complex continuity of the MCU, instead it is a parallel reality called the Marvel Theme Park Universe where the Blip or Thanos’ Snap did not happen. No problem, the place still looks like its part of the MCU!

The land right now consists of three attractions, the Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: Breakout, which opened in 2017 and is a redress of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, Ancient Sanctum, an outdoor magic/performance show with Doctor Strange, and the new land’s main attraction, Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure.

The Spider-Man ride is your basic 3D augmented reality (AR) shooting arcade where you board a vehicle and help Spider-Man corral self-replicating spider robots. You actually mimic the way Spidey uses his hands to shoot webs and can shoot webs without web shooters. Just aim your hands and fling your arms out then animated web line shoots out from you to the robots. It sounds like fun, but let’s face it, Web Slingers cannot compare to the classic ride in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. That ride is over 20 years old and is still a beloved, exciting attraction that continues to hold up today. Sure, it’s hard to compete with the Universal ride, but it seems as if Disney did not even bother to match that ride and instead went for a ride similar to Toy Story Midway Mania, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! instead of trying to create something unique.

In reality, Web Slingers is not supposed to be the headline attraction in Avengers Campus. The Avengers Quinjet Experience will open during the Phase 2 expansion of the land sometime in the future. That ride is the definite E-ticket center of the land and seems to be some kind of interactive simulator ride. Not much was revealed about specifics or when it will be complete but construction has not even begun, though the outer building where a mockup of the Quinjet is complete. That spot is currently the location to spot several Marvel superheroes themed after their MCU counterparts.

While Avengers Campus may not compare to Islands of Adventures thrill rides such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man or the Incredible Hulk Coaster, what the land excels with is the overall theming. The Marvel-themed land at Islands of Adventure, Marvel Super Hero Island, is rich in detail and well-executed. However, the look of the place has barely changed since it first opened in 1999. To be frank, the land is stuck in a motif that captures the garish look of comics from the 1990s and since Disney will not allow any further work on Marvel Super Hero Island, the place will remain that way.

However, Avengers Campus just looks wild and immersive from the architecture with countless Easter eggs, unique foods (they even have a shawarma cart!), amd the performers who walk around and interact with guests. They look like they just stepped off the silver screen with their accurate looks. Probably the highlight of the immersive atmosphere is the Spider-Man Stuntronics robotic double that swings through the air just like Spidey does in the comics and films. Disney constructed a special animatronic robot that is capable of pulling off the acrobatic feat that would be too dangerous for a human to pull off.

Looking at what Avengers Campus has to offer and will offer, not just at DCA but at other Disney parks worldwide, it’s easy to see the potential of what can be done to immerse guests into the MCU. In other words, more reasons for fans to visit and burn through budgets! But hey, it’s so worth it! 😀

The Independent Comics: Unmined Gold For TV & Film

When comic books are brought up in conversation, most people think of the big two comic book publishers, Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Yet, true comic book fans know of the countless independent publishers that put out entertaining and sometimes off-beat comic books that aren’t just about superheroes, but most of the genral public never heard of them. That was until recently, when more and more popular TV shows were revealed to be based on independent comics.

Thanks to the popularity of films and TV shows based on superheroes from DC and Marvel, film studios, television channels and streaming services are now creating their next big superhero film or TV show. The problem for entertainment companies not called Disney or Warner Bros. is that film and TV rights for popular characters like Spider-Man or Batman are off limits. So what can they do to take advantage of the current superhero craze? These companies could create their own characters from scratch as we saw with Heroes and Chronicle. However, the companies do not have to this since there are so many superheroes from independent comic book publishers. What’s more, is that these independent comic books are great treasure troves for other types of genre material from sci-fi to fantasy to horror or a combo of all three.

There have been successful hit films or TV shows based on independent comics that came out years ago, Some examples that come to mind include The Mask (Dark Horse Comics), The Crow (Caliber Comics), and The Kingsman (Icon Comics), but the biggest hit television program based on an independent comic is course, The Walking Dead from Image Comics, the survival saga taking place during a zombie apocalypse. The runaway success of The Walking Dead prompted film and TV studios to mine other properties from independent comics. While these studios did not find the next zombie apocaplyse they found a diverse slew of properties that were begging to be adapted, and yes, this included superhero fare, as well.

Many of these properties are currently airing/streaming and have been well received. These include The Boys (Dynamite Entertainment), Invincible (Image Comics), Jupiter’s Legacy (Image Comics), Resident Alien (Dark Horse Comics), Locke & Key (IDW Publishing) and The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse Comics). Part of the reason for the success of superhero-related shows like Jupiter’s Legacy or The Boys is because the shows are more graphic and mature compared to the more youth-oriented DC fare airing on The CW, for instance. In other words, they offer a different take on superheroes.

Thanks to the success of these TV shows, even more independent comics are in various stages of development. These include Paper Girls (Image Comics), Ice Cream Man (Image Comics), Port of Earth (Image Comics), Harbinger (Valiant Comics), Oblivion Song (Image Comics), Spawn (Image Comics), and BRZRKR (Boom! Studios). The latter comic book, about a prehistoric immortal warrior, seems to be tailor made for films or TV and it’s no wonder since Keannu Reeves co-wrote it. Any idea who would star in the upcoming television film adaptation from Netflix? The success only confirms that a well-crafted story formed in one medium will be able to crossover to another medium. In this situation, the comic book medium is a great place to find material that is ripe for adaptation.

Of course, there are so many other quality comic books that would make terrific films or TV shows. The list would be exhaustive but should include Saga (though the creators of the comic are not interested in having their sci-fi/fantasy epic being adapted), The Department of Truth, Geiger, Canto, Give Me Liberty, Stray Dogs, The Undiscovered Country, Concrete, Something is Killing the Children, and Astro City.

Thanks to the popularity and success of the live-action adaptations, more and more attention will be paid to the independent comic books. Surveyors will find an impressive and endless trove of reading material spanning a wide variety of subject matter.