Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Braeden Says Things, or Whatever: Why Avengers Assemble #9 is a perfect comic book


So we've had this blog thing for a while, but I haven't used it much. Since we've cut back to only one episode a week, we'll see if I can't find the time to write an article every week or two, with the compelling title of "Braeden Says Things, or Whatever" (It's obviously a working title). I make no promises, but I figure it's worth a try.

So, friends, some scenarios:

Scenario A: You're an avid comics reader. (This is generally the type of person we figure listens to our podcast, after all.) You have a sizable pull list, filled with characters of many different varieties and types. However, you're not an Avengers reader - for whatever reason. (Maybe you're not a Bendis fan, since he's been running the Avengers show for so long. Maybe you've just never gotten into the team books. Maybe it's just too big of a team, with too many characters and not enough development for you to really latch on to. Like I said, whatever reason.) However, you figure it's about time to give the Avengers a chance.

Scenario B: You used to read comics years ago, but it's been awhile. You know your basic characters, but you don't know what's happened in the last, let's say, ten years or so of comic-book-dom to really jump into many of the series that are going on. You see that they're in their something-hundredth issue and you get intimidated. But you're really jonesing for some good graphic storytelling in the superhero genre, and you're thinking it might be time to dip a toe back into the pool.

Scenario C: You've never read a comic book. I mean, sure, you've read the comics in the paper, or maybe you've picked up some of the seminal things in the artform (like Maus and the like), but you've never followed comics on a monthly basis. But you saw this one movie that came out this summer, I don't know if you remember it, it was called The Avengers or something like that, and consequently you're wondering if it's the right time to try these darn comic magazines out.

Well, intrepid reader, I have a solution that can solve the problem for anyone in scenarios A, B, or C . . . and that solution is issue #9 of the book Avengers Assemble.

Yes, it says #9 on the cover. Yes, that means there were 8 issues that came beforehand. Don't worry about them. Forget about them. They were written by someone else (Bendis, incidentally) and were designed to be a jumping-on place for new readers but the first 8 issues didn't really do that. (For those of you that don't know, Avengers Assemble was actually the name of the film outside of the US, but I digress.)

This book has no ties to any other in the Marvel universe. It stands alone, a welcoming, inviting way to give comics a try. It's got a basic roster of six, four of which you know really well from The Avengers - Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America - and two you'll get to know (and grow to love) over the course of the next twenty pages - Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman.

It's simple - this book pays off on the relationship between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. You saw the beginnings of it in The Avengers, and it grows here as they start a contest to see who is the better scientist . . . by tracking down another scientist. Yes, it's silly. It's clearly supposed to be. The whole thing unfolds beautifully, as they build their teams and leave Cap Marvel as the arbiter of their little contest (left back at base eating popcorn with a complaining Wolverine) and go off looking for adventure. And it all ends with a big action sequence and a great hook for the next issue. What more could you want?

Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick captures the voices of the Avengers characters perfectly. You can imagine Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo uttering the lines you're reading off the page - it sounds just like how Whedon wrote them in the film. Captain America is proper stoic like he should be, Spider-Woman is as quippy as always, Thor gets some of the best jokes of the issue, Spider-Man's cameo appearances are hilarious, and of course DeConnick writes Captain Marvel well - she is, after all, the one who has redefined the character.

Artist Steffano Caselli brings his A game to this book. I was unfamiliar with his work before this book, and more's the pity for it - he's extremely talented, with a vibrant ability to portray emotion in character's faces. Lots of comic artists have a knack for the action scene, but have wooden faces on each character - not so here, especially with a page of all faces, where so much is left unsaid. I mean, that final panel of Jessica Drew using her pheromone powers on the Hulk to get him to make her a sandwich? Priceless.

And really, that's the best thing I can say to sell this book. It has Spider-Woman using her pheromone power on the Hulk to make her a peanut butter sandwich. If you don't want to read that, there's nothing more for me to say to you, methinks.

Go buy it. Make sure Marvel keeps this team on this title, because it's a winner. And when you love it, buy #10. And when you love that, start a pull list already with your LCS and add this book. And then start adding other things you love. You'll thank me later.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kickstarter: A How to Guide on How to Be Successful


Part I
The Beginning Steps

So you’ve just created something you think is unique and amazing, but you have no idea on how to share it with the world. Your friends think it’s great and your family is supportive, but you realize that unless you get it out into the public, it will be trapped in obscurity. Where can you find an avenue to publicize your work, offer folks a chance to support you, and provide your fans with unique incentives to thank them? The answer is a new wave sweeping the internet called Crowdfunding and while there are many different sites out there with this platform, my favorite has to be Kickstarter.com.
Kickstarter defines itself as “providing artists with a platform that helps them to fund their projects through online fundraising, while giving everyone the opportunity to discover projects that may interests and inspire them. Kickstarter’s homepage showcases a variety of creative projects that span the arts, food, technology, and other.”
Kickstarter is the most well known of a newer group of Crowdfunding sites on the internet and continues to grow each year.  The goal of crowdfunding is where a creator can submit a project for others to review and then ask for a pledge of support in exchange for a reward or incentive.  Crowdfunding is unique because your goal is to attract people to your project who don’t know anything about you, so your audience is everyone.
People use Kickstarter for a variety of reasons, but the foremost is to raise funds for their creative venture, such as book, movie, music album, or technology enhancement.  You can also use Kickstarter to gauge the interest in a new creative venture before investing too much of your own personal time, energy, and money.  With some preparation, you can quickly get the public’s reaction to your “next big thing”.
Kickstarter’s tools and resources can be used to assist in marketing of your project, helping you to easily get the word out to the creative community without much effort.  Even failed projects can “regroup” for a later attempt, revamping particular points to make them more marketable.
In fact, even if you have personal funding to cover your latest creative venture, putting it up as a Kickstarter project with a lower goal amount will help you with advertising, connecting with others, and preselling your project to a wide audience who can safely use credit options for purchase.  Exceeding your goal gives you momentum and also showcases your project as an overachiever on the site.
On the surface, it may seem like a quick and easy task to throw something together in a day and just watch the money roll in, but in reality you will need to do your homework and put together a project that sells not just your product, but also you. Too many people think they can provide a quick description of their work, some overpriced incentives, not worry about any personal marketing, and ask for some huge dollar amount that is unachievable. These are typically the folks with projects in the “unsuccessful” category. The goal of this article is to give you some things to think about before you present your work to the world.

         1. Be able to explain your project and goal
If you don’t think you can convey how great your project is to the public, then odds are they won’t want to support you.  Your goal should be to say up front what you want to do, why you need the money, and how the pledges will help you create the end result.  Then be able to clearly state what you will provide that potential backer of your project in exchange for money and why they’ll really like it.
Don’t assume that everyone knows how difficult it is to create what you are making.  If you don’t explain the process and what’s needed, then people won’t understand how much is involved and how much you need help.  Don’t just rattle off a ton of features or details that are too technical, instead describe the experience someone will be getting when they pledge their support.

            2. Create some great incentives to entice people to pledge
What can you offer those potential backers of your wonderful project in exchange for them helping you out?  The goal is to offer rewards that are better than what you’d give to folks after the project is complete.  If you’re publishing a book, possibly offer a discount or free shipping, but definitely a signature and some personalization.  The backers are doing you a favor by giving money so they need to be rewarded with better prices and offers than someone just buying your product after it’s finished. 
Double check your wording for the rewards and make sure they make sense, have others read them over and see if they feel it’s clear what they would receive for each dollar amount.  Once you launch your project you won’t be able to edit the wording, only add updates.  Be considerate of delivering the rewards - will donors have to be present? Can you offer an object, an idea, or an experience? Can you use recognition programs like listing your supporters on a page or website? Identify amazing incentives that are hard to pass up - draw them in!
If you are creating a huge project that seems a bit overwhelming, look at dividing it up into different phases and create rewards based on the individual phases along with the end result. Maybe you use Kickstarter for the creative (most important) aspects, while using other fundraising methods for operational and post-launch costs (marketing, PR, etc.)
Really think about the time involved and cost of getting rewards to your backers when the project is over.  How much will shipping cost and do you need a separate pledge for international orders to cover the additional cost?  What time involvement will be required, such as creating hand drawn art prints for 100 people, then personalizing them, and then shipping them?  How much is that time expense worth to you?
Always think about your $25.00 pledge level carefully and make it enticing.  According to Kickstarter, the most popular donation amount for people to pledge is the 25.00.  The next most popular is the $50.00 pledge, which makes up a bulk of most projects funding.

3. Identify and set a proper goal
Of course you want to raise as much as possible through Kickstarter, but you need to remember that this site is all or nothing.  If you fail to reach your goal by the timeframe you select, then you get nothing and your supporters are sent an email explaining you didn’t make it.  There are some steps you need to think of as you calculate your end goal, making it reasonable.
First, look through the site at comparable projects to see their goals and how they are doing.  If you are printing a paperback book and decide to ask for $50,000 for printing costs and a book tour, it will be unlikely you will reach that amount, especially if other authors are only looking to raise $5,000 for their books.  Sometimes a huge goal will be a turn off to potential backers because they feel like it is just a waste of time.
Second, be strategic about your goal, don’t just make something up.  Calculate your project’s expenses, determine the cost of your incentives (along with the shipping), and then take into account the fees charged by both Kickstarter (5%) and Amazon (3-5%) to give yourself a little cushion.
Third, if you determine the goal you need is not likely reachable, then look for other avenues of funding first before starting your project.  If you don’t have the money to start with, then you are stuck if your project is only 80% funded with a couple of days left.  It is always better to make your end goal reasonable and exceed it with a few days to go, then spend your projects final days begging close family and friends for their support.

4. Prepare a great video
There’s a misconception that making a Kickstarter video is something you can accomplish quickly with a webcam and just speaking from your heart about how cool your project is.  The video, especially the first 30 seconds will need to establish you and your project as something a stranger would invest their money in and a poorly created video is a bad first impression.  Think about your audience and what they want, and then cater to that aspect.  If you’re a wild and creative person with a fun project, you might not want to film yourself in an uncomfortable suit and speak in a montone voice.  Likewise, if you are portraying yourself as professional, you might want to leave the campy sound effects out.
Know your strengths and work with them.  If you don’t do well in front of the camera, think about using pictures of your work and doing voice over recordings.  This will allow you to do multiple recordings with notes and then keep the best one. You will find that Kickstarter.com has some great advice on creating the perfect video, so take some time and check it out. Kickstarter wants you to be successful, so they have tons of great tips for you to help you prepare a great project.

5. Create an appealing page.
Your Kickstarter page is your storefront and many folks will quickly browse through, so make an effort to catch their eye.  Use engaging pictures and well written text to convey your message if for some reason they don’t have the time or capability to play your video.  Make sure your rewards are interesting and look at giving them catchy names instead of just reward 1, reward 2, etc.  For my Christmas book project, the rewards were given names like:  The Elf Pledge, The Mrs. Claus Pledge, and The Santa Pledge.  Find something that ties into the theme of your project.
Before you finalize your project, have people look over your page and give you feedback on the information, looking for anything that might be unclear to the quick browser.  After getting their feedback, make adjustments and then wait until after your soft rollout to activate it.  This will allow you to review it multiple times before you are unable to edit it.

These five areas are a great start to your planning process, but you are still not quite ready to go live yet. In my next post, I’ll talk through the final prep work portions before you click “submit” on your project. Once it’s up and running, there are some other great ways to market your project and keep the pledges rolling in, which will be discussed also. I know crowdfunding is a wonderful avenue for your creative project and hope you’ll use it to your best advantage.


Part II
It's Go Time

So you’ve had some time to think about the initial key points of sharing your creative project with the world through Kickstarter.com.  You can easily describe to people what you want to accomplish, what incentives you will give backers for their pledge dollars, how much money you need to raise, and you’ve almost finished that amazing video that will capture the hearts of the thousands that will watch it. Just when you feel like the tough stuff is behind you, it’s actually time to begin the next phase of project creation to help you start out with a bang.
This blog will discuss some additional important areas you need to think about before you click “submit” on your project. What timeframe should you run your project? How do you get the word out to build some excitement before you begin? Finally, how to use some existing and free tools on the internet to help you keep your momentum going. You may still have a little way to go before your project is live, but that special day will be here soon enough.

1. Set a proper timeframe for your project 
Setting the right timeframe is vital to a successful project on Kickstarter. Setting it too long can desensitize people to your constant updates and requests for pledges, but setting it too short can cut off your fundraising just as you might be building momentum around your project. Kickstarter has analyzed the optimum duration for a project funding, and found that the majority of successfully funded projects chose a 30-day financing window, while unsuccessful ones were more likely to pick longer timeframes.
As you choose your projects starting and ending date, give some thought to how much money people may have available at a certain time of the month or day during the week. Since most people get paid twice a month, think about ending your project in the second half of the month on either a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. The second paycheck of the month typically has some flexibility because most people pay the major bills mid-month. Ending your project on the weekend allows folks to not feel rushed, so they have time to look at your project and their finances to see how much they can support. This may lead to some last minute pledges because some people don’t want to pledge until they’re sure your project will make it, or they might just be procrastinators. You may also find that some people wait because they don’t understand how Kickstarter holds your donation, so you may want to explain in more detail that while you may put in your credit card information, nothing is charged until the project is successful.
There is a typical life cycle of donations for most projects on Kickstarter. When a project opens, there may be a large amount of pledges, especially if you did your prep work on getting the word out. Shortly after, almost all projects see a sharp drop off of pledges, followed by an irregular series of smaller amounts.  Finally, pledges tend to pick up as the project gets close to its deadline, often with a sharp jump just before the end.
There are some tactics you can use to help out the “dead time” of pledging. I was a week into my project when I realized that I had an extra page in my children’s book, No Sweets For Santa, so I contacted folks I felt were on the fence and offered them a chance to be on a special acknowledgement page for Kickstarter backers. I had to get the files to the printer a week from then, so I posted an update that everyone who pledged by two weeks in would be able to list their name or their families name on that special page.  This caused many to make the decision to pledge then instead of waiting until the project was nearing its end date.
Another method I’ve seen that has proved successful for many projects is creating bonus incentive levels as they work to reach their goal. While it may be something small, like bookmarks or a quick sketch, having these milestones mapped out in advance keep folks sharing your project with others. I’ve personally found myself sharing projects that use that method more than others. I want to get that email update that I just got some cool bonus stuff and all I had to do was keep telling my friends and sharing the project with others.

2. Before you go live, start a grass roots campaign first.
There’s so much to think about before you take the leap and put your project up on Kickstarter. Now that you’ve followed the previous steps and are ready to go, I wanted to discuss the prep work you can do to insure your project is eagerly awaited by many folks waiting to pledge their support. You must understand that raising money, through Kickstarter or any other means, is not a simple task. You won’t just put a video up on a webpage and then sit back, waiting for the cash to come rolling in. It’s a lot of work, but in the end, it will be worth it, not just for the money raised, but also the visibility you will receive and connections you can make.
I feel it’s important to get your friends and family used to the concept of crowdfunding.  Share projects you find interesting on Kickstarter and encourage others to look and get in the habit of supporting. There are many methods of sharing projects via email, Twitter, or Facebook, so people will get used to the concept in advance.  When your project starts, people will be comfortable with the idea and be able to quickly pledge instead of trying to figure out what the process is and if they want to trust it.
I recommend doing a soft launch for the project on your website, through email, and via social media around 30 days before you activate the actual Kickstarter project. You want to get the word out and get people interested and talking before you start the fundraising drive itself. At this stage, you’ll need to be able to tell people firm dates for the start and end of the Kickstarter drive, reward levels for backers, and so forth; use your own website as the central location for this because you won’t have a Kickstarter page to send people to until later.
Go to any web message boards you frequent and post about the project (but don’t be spammy — if you don’t regularly post somewhere, don’t announce in that forum). Include links to the project in your message board profile and signature. Keep track of where you posted and what you talked about so you can return after your project begins and place your project link plus updates.
Think about your friends and family, especially who might have connections with web forums that apply to your project. Begin asking them for any creative suggestions to get the word out into the internet community.  While they’re being creative, someone might have an idea of how to take your information into an offline forum, like a book club, comic convention, or music festival to get you more exposure.
Your goal is to build a level of excitement about your project so they will pledge early and begin telling their contacts about your work. This may give you sustainable momentum to last the entire month.

3. Once you’re live, use social media for support and updates.
Crowdfunding and social networking definitely go hand in hand, but there are things to think about so you don’t overwhelm your friends. The main point you must remember is not to become a spam machine, churning out request after request and driving people nuts.
When posting an update on Facebook or other networking site, try to bring up a new point or additional fact about your project, not just “check this out” or “pledge now” over and over. I recommend sharing some pictures of your work, or of you working on your work, to show the progress being made. Try to keep your project posting activity to no more than about 25 – 30% of your overall posts. This will help avoid the zoning out of your posts by the people who care for you.
I am not a fan of the “blanket” email or Facebook message to a large group of people. This can be annoying to your friends because people use the “reply all” button and keep filling up their inboxes. While it may be a little more time consuming, write up a general announcement about your project, that you can personalize quickly for different folks. This will make people feel like they are getting individual attention and allow them to quickly reply and ask any questions about your project. 
Another great advancement is the ability to add a Kickstarter widget to your website and any message board posts where you have announced the project. Once the project is live, this widget can be used to provide a direct link to the project along with its current status (number of pledges, funding level, % of goal achieved, and number of days remaining).

4. After you are successful, what happens.
When you finally recover from the overwhelming sense of joy because your project was successful and you get your funding, the real work begins. The money from your project may take a week to two weeks to reach your account, but don’t procrastinate on preparing your rewards. Immediately send an update thanking everyone for their support and explain to them what happens next.  You will then need to create a survey, asking specific questions of your backers to best fulfill their rewards. Kickstarter helps you create the form that you can ask questions about clothing sizes, book personalization, and character sketch preferences. 
In some circumstances, you may be able to immediately provide your backer with their reward digitally or without much effort through the mail.  Others may have to wait until your project is completed to see the end result, such as book printing or album recording.  In either case, keep a constant stream of communication going so they don’t feel forgotten.
Don’t underestimate the time involved in collecting information from your pledges.  My project involved me personalizing a book to a person or family for my supporters, but I found that some people required multiple emails just to respond with a name for inside the book.  When people sign up for Kickstarter, they often will use secondary email addresses that they might not check that often or they just don’t understand that you need specific information from them, making them hard to reach.
Kickstarter will allow you to organize the surveys you send to your supporters, with the answers to their specific questions. You can easily export these answers, along with their information into a database that you can access into Excel, allowing you to check off your progress. I would recommend using Kickstarter’s database and then exporting it to modify when you’re ready.
In the end, I would highly recommend the use of Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding site for your creative project, whether you need the money or not.  The exposure and ability to promote your project and yourself makes the time investment well worth it.  But remember, no matter the size or goal of the project, you will need to treat it like the most important advertising you have done for yourself.  Kickstarter allows others to gather a quick impression of who you are and what you produce, so it’s always good to put your best foot forward.




Best of Luck!
John Graham
www.FIGIDPress.com

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kickstarter Interview 01: The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup






Darin: Welcome everyone to another Kickstarter interview! As you have noticed, we not only do audio interviews of Kickstarter projects, but are now endeavoring into the world of written interviews as well! Fun, huh? The project that we have before us, and might I also add that I am very excited to learn more about, is a novel called The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup, written by Grover Rockwood http://kck.st/PZOOyA. So Grover, let's get started.

Darin: Where are you from?

Grover: I'm from Springfield, Illinois.

Darin: Hey, that’s close to our neck of the woods! We're from Iowa City, Iowa. What got you into writing?

Grover: I began writing in my sophomore year of high school. Whenever I got bored of the class, I would pull out a notebook. By senior year I had written out a novel and my english teacher was asking for us to make up a story as a project for a weekly assignment. She gave me full marks on the project and said I had good potential as a novelist.

Darin: I know if I had tried to write a novel in high school, my English teacher would have laughed in my face, and through her tears asked me if I was serious. Novel writing is definitely not my forte, so you have my admiration! What are some of your favorite literary genres?

Grover: Fantasy and Science Fiction are my favorite genres. To be honest, I'll read almost anything at least once. The only genre I typically won't (But still might) is romance.


Darin: I totally get the romance thing. Are there any writers that influence your writing, and if so how?

Grover: You can't help but be influenced by J Tolkien if you've read any of his books. I love the complexity of his worlds and try to work the same into my books.


Darin: Tolkien is definitely a common thread between the different writers that we have interviewed here at Between the Bubbles. What is The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup about?

Grover: The book is about Zenas (A lupus pup). He starts off homeless, but is adopted by Bethia and brought to the lupus continent to live with his own kind in a small clan called Tiato. From there events unfold that will change the lives of everyone on Sopho.

Darin: I like how don’t spoil the fun about how Zenas' presence changes the world of Sopho. Now we will definitely have to read your book! Who or what inspired the creation of The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup? The main character Zenas?

Grover: The whole Sopho universe came from a novel I wrote right after High school and abandoned. This book originated from a short story I wrote in late 2002. That short story is actually the first chapter of this book. Zenas became the main character when my friends asked me to write more about this wolf pup.

Darin: How long have you been working on The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup?

GroverA WHILE! I wrote a whole different version of the book that I scrapped in 2006. It wasn't until 2008 that I started the new and current version of the book. The book was finished (draft) in 2009 and it wasn't until the middle of 2011 that I began to consider publishing.

Darin: Wow, when you said A WHILE you definitely weren’t kidding! That’s amazing that you have dedicated so much time into this project. What have been some of the challenges of making this book?

Grover: Creating the lupus continent, lupus clans, and lupus culture. I wanted them to have many of the traits that we see in wolves as well as unique traits that are part of their society. Deciding on what languages would be used in magic was also a hard choice. The single biggest challenges are the fact that the novel point of view isn't always Zenas', and that the antagonist causing the events in the book isn't revealed until the next book.

Darin: I have to ask this because I really liked your kickstarter commercial; especially the images and the music. What inspired the commercial for The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup, and where did you get the music?

Grover: I wrote out what would be said in the commercial. My friend Christopher Keith did the rest. Here's his twitter. https://twitter.com/Mozzaratti

Darin: I will definitely be following him! Last question Grover, and probably the most important. What makes The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup special and different, and why should people support it?

Grover: This is a very difficult question. I'm not going to say that my book will revolutionize the fantasy genre or the Science fiction genre. I did everything I could to make The World of Sopho a unique series, instead of the typical stereotype you see when reading either genre.  I can only hope the reader gets as much enjoyment from the book as I've gotten from developing the Sopho universe.

Darin: Well Grover, it sounds like a really interesting concept and story! The thing I am most intrigued about is the fact that the main character, and the world of your book, is full of lupi. I mean really, who doesn’t like a reading about lupi?! I know I will definitely be backing your kickstarter. We here at Between the Bubbles wish you the best, and good luck on reaching your goal for The World of Sopho - The Silver Pup! Also to our dear readers, be sure to follow Grover on Twitter at @Groverrockwood! 

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Part 2: From Dark Obscurity to Newfound Popularity - The New Age of Comic Books

The following article is Part 2 of a 2 part series. I wrote Part 1 a year ago as a result of me wanting to reach out to fans of the comic book movies who don't read comic books. I observed that even though comic book movies were extremely popular, fans were reluctant to actually venture into the actual source material of these beloved movies. Part 2 of this series is how incredibly a year later, comic books are actually reaching a new renaissance as more fans of the movies are taking the leap into the comic book world, and why. The reason for this 2 part series is for us as comic book fans to contemplate, evaluate, and recognize the remarkable change in view that has happened to our beloved medium.  Enjoy Part 2, and Happy Reading! 

If you read Part 1 of this 2 part series, then you probably got a sense with how frustrated I was with the social stigma of comic book readers. At the time of the article,  telling friends, family, or new acquaintances I happily read comic books was not always peaches and cream. I never felt truly comfortable sharing this passion of mine. I was always bracing myself, like the desperate soldier in a shallow fox hole, for the quick bombardment of verbal assault or questioning stares that was to quickly come my way. The worse was when the people I was talking to would make quick and darting glances around them, hoping no one within ear-shot would hear that they were part of such a socially unpopular conversation. A year later all I can say is wow, how quickly things have changed. The social stigma towards comic books and their readers is greatly differing in the public's eye, and there are three main reasons for this: Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon delivering comic book movies like none other before them, and Apple's creator the late Steve Jobs. 

The most intriguing part about the inclusion of Joss Whedon and Steve Jobs into the renaissance of comic books is that both of these parties had, after experiencing initial success, fallen off their pedestals into the dark world of public doubt and scrutiny, just like the comic book medium. Only through persevering through their own struggles and failures did they eventually rise from the ashes to be even better than they were before; thus having a renaissance of their own. As a result, it's only fitting that they would be incredibly influential into the rebirth of the love and appreciation of comic books. Yet, we first need to start this discussion with Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon, not Joss Whedon and Steve Jobs, because if it weren't for their dedication, passion, and success as filmmakers we wouldn't even be having this conversation. But we are, and it all starts with them. 


This new comic book renaissance didn't just happen in 2012, but four years previous in 2008 with the second installment of The Dark Knight trilogy. Like Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins showing Bruce Wayne that he can be "more than just a man," The Dark Knight showed audiences that comic book movies can be more than just a popcorn summer blockbuster that gives us cheap thrills. Audiences were shown for the first time that comic book movies can be emotionally deep, intelligent, raise moral dilemmas, and have acting performances that will forever change our lives; in essence be a true cinema art form. The potential for comic book movies are now viewed in a whole different light. Who would have thought a movie about an angry billionaire dressed up in a cape and mask could take it's part in such heated debates as personal privacy over personal safety and it's moral cost, what possibly drives men to destroy the world around them, and what lies must be hidden for the greater good? Not only did The Dark Knight explore these topics, it did so in a mature and sophisticated manner. And despite how you feel about about The Dark Knight Rises, it is a solid blueprint of how to make a comic book trilogy work, as it is a great movie that connects, ties, and resolves an entire three movie story; something which had not been achieved in any comic book movie before. It gave non-comic book fans the realization that comic books aren't just about the hero going in and punching out the next costumed villain, but that they can showcase these same type of strong and engaging story traits that were seen in The Dark Knight trilogy. 


The Avengers has only continued and grown this now mature love affair for comic book movies. It must be said that whatever your view towards Marvel's five pre-Avenger movies, the fact that Kevin Feige spearheaded five different movies, all with varying different characters and stories, into one big movie universe is not only unprecedented, it's totally unheard of. Feige orchestrated the entire Avengers project like a true maestro, as it would have been very easy (and even expected) for this entire project to flop harder than Spier-Man on Broadway.  For those who don't like the heavy tones of The Dark Knight trilogy, the Marvel movies under Marvel Entertainment are a great substitute. They're fun, entertaining, and brought in new fans of these previously rather obscure Marvel characters. Despite all of this, Feige's greatest stroke of genius was giving the entire Avengers project to Joss Whedon. People don't understand how gutsy this was, as Whedon hadn't had success since his time on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer TV show. Yet now that The Avengers is over, to name any other person to write and direct this huge and lofty movie seems absolutely ridiculous.


The previous five Marvel movies created new fans, but what Joss Whedon did with The Avengers was pin those fans down for life. Whedon, who is a huge comic book fan himself, knows these characters by heart. He knows what their greatest strengths and weaknesses are, what makes them interesting as characters, and what motivates them to be the heroes that we have grown to love. No other comic book movie has had a person with such respect and passion behind the helm. Whedon's love for the characters is manifested many times in The Avengers, from seeing Black Widow not be a sex symbol but a strong and powerful S.H.I.E.L.D agent, to Iron Man evolving from the self-serving billionaire in Iron Man to the self-sacrificing hero in The Avengers. Joss Whedon showed audiences why Captain America should be every American's hero, the reason for Thor being the "Mighty God of Thunder" in word and deed, and (what I think is Joss's greatest achievement) turn the Hulk from a uninteresting and tolerable movie character into the most loved and praised aspect of the movie. In The Avengers, we don't just get just one character that we love and root for, we get a whole team of them. Non-comic book fans saw, because of Whedon's understanding of the characters, why comic book heroes have lasted more than decades. 

Ultimately what Nolan and Whedon did was give audiences a glimpse into why fans love these heroes and their stories, and it was extremely contagious. This is evident in the fact that I have seen time and time again through personal friends of mine or commenters online mention how they have started reading comic books because of The Dark Knight trilogy and The Avengers. In fact, one of my friends (he teased me so much about reading comic books that he prompted me to write Part 1 of this article a year ago) actually asked to borrow Captain America: Winter Soldier. He even ventured into a comic book shop with me. Words can't even describe how completely shocked I was, and still am. Another friend of mine who never understood why I love comic books and their movies now thinks that me doing a podcast dedicated solely to comic books is an awesome endeavor. A year ago I guarantee he would have laughed at my face. Only a movies like The Dark Knight trilogy and The Avengers, with such love, maturity, and appreciation for it's characters, could have prompted such miraculous turn-arounds. But what about the new comic book fans who want to try out comic books, but are still hesitant because of the social stigma attached to comic book readers and to comic book shops? That is where Steve Job's comes into play. 

Despite how you feel about him, with the creation of the iPad (and all other tablets from other companies), Steve Jobs created a revolutionary way for new comic book fans to deal with their fears and get into comics. This is extremely important. The biggest reasons I hear and read as to why people don't read comic books is because their vision of comic book shops, either founded or not, are that they are dirty and dark hole in the walls that they wouldn't be caught dead in. Let's be honest, sometimes this isn't far from the truth. Thankfully I have found a comic book shop that I love, but there are others in the town where I live that are run down, dirty, and quit frankly do not appeal to me whatsoever. If not for the great shop I go to, I don't know what I would do. But thanks to Steve Jobs, new comic book readers can try out comics with the swipe of their finger. This presents many pluses. For instance, comics can take up quit a bit of space, and realizing this for the first time can be rather disheartening. Yet with digital comics you can store everything through a cloud system and delete and reload comics at your pleasure, thus never having to worry about crowding comics into your bedroom closet. Another great advantage for new readers of comics who aren't comfortable yet with their new hobby due to social stereotypes, is that they can read their comics on their tablet without anyone knowing what they are actually doing. This is vital, as having privacy and not having to worry about what others may think of you when reading a comic will make new readers more willing try more comics. Plus, when The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises came out this summer, there were always promotions and deals for the comics that inspired these movies. This prompted new readers to the medium of comic books to become further engaged not only into the movies, but also into the comics that inspired these movies as well. 

The biggest evidence out there that there are new readers of comic books, and hence this new comic book renaissance, is the creation of DC's The New 52 and Marvel's Marvel NOW!. The "Big Two" saw the trend that was happening, and in my opinion smartly acted on it. New readers aren't knowledgable about current comics, and can be confused by comic book continuity as the characters they know and love in the movies are not always the same in the comic books. But with the new relaunched and revised titles, they can more easily become engrossed and familiarized into the characters in the comic books that they grew to first love on the big screen.

Is everyone that loved The Dark Knight trilogy and The Avengers going to venture into the world of comic books? No, and that's okay. Enough new readers are starting to, and now more than ever with new technology such as tablet computers combined with the launch of The New 52 and Marvel NOW, these new readers will actually stick. As for those who don't read comic books, because of the success and this summers movies, it is becoming less and less likely that they still view comic book readers as awkward weirdo's who won't leave the house. This is evidenced in the fact that we are seeing more and more people wearing comic book T-shirts and other memoribilia. We might even see a trend where owning something comic book related is now looked at as "cool."

The social stigma of comic books and their readers is changing, and more and more new readers are joining the ranks every day. Comic books are rising from their ashes of obscurity and darkness, and like Joss Whedon and Steve Jobs, will finally again triumphantly succeed and flourish. Yes, we are definitely witnessing a comic book renaissance, and the world is a better place because of it.



 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Part 1: The Reason You Don't Read Comic Books


The following article is Part 1 of a 2 part series. I wrote Part 1 a year ago as a result of me wanting to reach out to fans of the comic book movies who don't read comic books. I observed that even though comic book movies were extremely popular, fans were reluctant to actually venture into the actual source material of these beloved movies. Part 2 of this series is how incredibly a year later, comic books are actually reaching a new renaissance as more fans of the movies are taking the leap into the comic book world, and why. The reason for this 2 part series is for us as comic book fans to contemplate, evaluate, and recognize the remarkable change in view that has happened to our beloved medium.  Enjoy Part 1, and Happy Reading! 

Now, I know what you're thinking when you read the title of this post. You're wondering why in the world would I try to attempt to enlighten you as to the reason why you don't read comic books. This will lead you to smirk, cock your eyebrow with exaggerated flair and say, "Darin, I know why I don't read comic books. Comic books are for anti-social weirdo's who are either greasy-faced depressed teenagers, or old fat adults who can't get a date with a real person and who still live with their parents." You're right, it's true. There are comic book readers out there who fit those descriptions. And really, hardly any of us would be caught dead with that type of crowd. So with that thought in mind, of course you don't read comic books.

Yet, to classify all comic book readers under those descriptions would be like saying all sports fans are a bunch of jersey wearing drunks who start fights and punch old grandpas at sporting events, or all musicians are a bunch of skinny melo-dramatic high school drop outs who can't go 60 seconds without getting high. Now, many of us will read those descriptions and say, "Yea Darin, only a select minority actually act that ridiculous at sporting events. I love sports and I never act like that. That's not even in my nature!" Or we might declare, "Well yeah, you might say that about musicians if you want to grossly stereotype! I know plenty of musicians who are educated and would never do drugs." Both reactions would be correct. Actions of a misguided few and general labeled stereotypes should never dictate how we view others. So then why all the tough love for comic book readers and the comic book medium? Heres why: a six decade old observational study.

Dr. Fredric Wertham was a psychiatrist who would interview violent child delinquents in the early 1950's. He started to notice a pattern: a majority of them read comic books. As a result, he started to hypothesize that the comic books held a strong tie to child delinquency; since murder mystery and horror comics were very popular at the time. He even claimed that the highly popular Batman and his famous child side kick Robin were gay, and that reading Batman and Robin could cause children to subconsciously have homosexual fantasies. He wrote a book titled "Seduction of the Innocent," which further delved into this hypothesis. Obviously this lead to many scared parents, which caused a very concerned government to take hard action and become heavily involved. As a result heavy censorship and mistrust in the comic book industry ensued, and put a dark stain on a once beloved medium for a very long time. Most even argue that what happened as a result of Dr. Wertham still affects the industry today (count me in that camp). Comic book readers drastically dwindled as no one wanted to be viewed as a future bloodthirsty rapist and menace to society. And if you did still read comic books, it was at your own social peril. The ironic thing is that just ten years earlier during WWII (called the "Golden Age" of comics), comic book readership was highly popular. People couldn't get enough of reading about the mighty Superman, the heroic Captain America, or the dynamic team of Batman and Robin pummeling Hitler and the leaders of Japan to a pulp. It was even standard for the military to send comic books to the American soldiers to help boost moral, which was referenced in the movie Captain America: The First Avenger.

Now hardly any one today thinks that comic book readers are going to become extremely violent killers. Still, highly unpopular social stigmas are attached to comic book readers. Even with the development of extremely popular and well loved comic book movies that showcase superheroes on the silver screen, the social stigma that only anti-social and backwards people read about these super heroes in comic book form still strongly resonates in the minds of our society today. When you think about it, the notion that the change from enjoying seeing a super hero in a movie to enjoying seeing them in an illustration changes the stereotype of the viewer from normal to weirdo is rather unfortunate. This idea is especially tough for me to wrap my mind around since many times comic book movies get their ideas from specific comic book stories themselves. This formula of taking key elements from the comic books and incorporating them into the movie has actually lead to critical acclaim and box office success. Some examples include The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and the most recent Thor. The biggest movie flops were the comic book movies that strayed away from their source material, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Spider-Man 3, and the cringe worthy Batman and Robin.

I'm not trying to persuade everyone that they have to read comic books. I know for many of you they are just not your thing; and that's okay. What I am trying to do is help people understand that when we picture comic book readers as what I described earlier, it is just as ridiculous as thinking that all sports fans are out of control drunks or all musicians are uneducated druggies. Nor do I think that people shouldn't try the world of comic books because they are afraid how other people will view them. Just like there are sports fans and musicians who fit my previous descriptions, they are definitely not the majority, and it is the same with comic book readers. During my time of reading comic books I have met normal looking businessmen, dads, and sports fans who all read comic books. Hardly anyone has fit what I previously described as the "comic book reader" stereotype.

Are comic books a little silly? Of course they are, but so is enthusiastically screaming at the TV for your favorite player to make the game winning shot, or singing along in your car all by yourself to your favorite song. Silly things like these are what make life great. And so do comic books. 

The information I gained about Dr. Fredric Wertham and the consequences of his study was from the documentary "Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked" found on The History Channel.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Movies Assemble: How the 5 Marvel Avenger Movies Come Together



As of August 24, there are exactly 32 days left until one of the most historical movie events of all moviedom triumphantly falls upon us again, this time in our very own homes: the Blu-ray/DVD release of The Avengers. Like a powerful blow from Thor's majestic hammer Mjolnir, this event will create as much force, thunder, and deafening reverberation throughout Midgard as it's historic theater release. It's important, dear readers, to not discount this incredible event. Just because it arrives in our homes on our small television sets instead of the grand, large screened majesty that is a movie theater, does not mean that September 25, 2012 will not do down as a day of infamy. I've often tried to put into words the voltage of excitement that is constantly being produced from my scrawny and frail little frame. Unfortunately, my expression with words is like a menacing Hydra agent who's just been invited to a good old fashioned S.H.I.E.L.D. Bash hosted by America's own Captain Steve Rogers: they fall flat every time. And sadly for this Hydra agent, this is a dance Captain America never misses.

So after brewing over ideas and formulas like a desperate scientist looking for an alluding cure, an idea struck me like a ray of gamma radiation, unleashing an idea that I could not contain. What if I actually documented how, in every Marvel movie leading up the "The Avengers", the various connections that intertwine and assemble the movies together? At first glance, it may seem that The Avenger movies have pieces of connection flung randomly out there like a mystery of an unknown element. Individually some of these pieces don't make much sense, but as we step back and see the bigger picture, we can start to behold a map for a movie of unfathomable energy and pure awesomeness. I've seen these movies hundreds of times (that's probably a literal statement), and I have gone over in my head on numerous occasions the different ways that these movies relate. I've concluded that my ideas need be shared, and it didn't take a warmly contested senate hearing to make me realize this. Like a hot-wired battery in a far-off dark cave, I hope to jump start some life and excitement for next month's big event. Also, I am definitely ready to admit I could use an iron-clad side kick, so, dear readers, if you happen to catch any omissions, definitely sound off in the comments sections below.

One more thing, I have listed the movies in what I have determined to be their chronological order according to story, not film release. Enjoy!

Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The biggest relation that Captain America has to all of the Avenger movies is the fact that the Strategic Scientific Reserve (S.S.R.), the program that starts the Super Soldier program, later becomes Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistic's Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.).
  • Howard Stark is Tony Stark's dad. It is revealed in Iron Man 2 that Howard Stark helped create S.H.I.E.L.D., which is alluded to in Captain America since he is so heavily involved with the S.S.R.
  • Howard Stark is portrayed as a mechanical genius and a womanizer, which clearly shows that Tony Stark doesn't fall far from the tree when it comes to both his fathers' traits.
  • The Norwegian village where the Tesseract is stored is called Tonsberg. It is the same village in the beginning flashback in Thor.
  • Captain America and his friend Bucky visit the Stark Expo. Somewhere between WWII and Iron Man I, the Stark Expo no longer happens. This is probably due to the death of Howard Stark. Tony Stark starts hosting the Stark Expo event in Iron Man II.
  • The introduction of the Cosmic Cube. It is not given this name in the movie, as it is only mentioned in the film as a "magical tesseract". This item is shown briefly in the post-credits section of Thor, and clearly plays a very large role in The Avengers movie.
  • Notice when Steve Rogers is injected with the Super Soldier serum that his eyes go very wide. Bruce Banner has the same reaction every time he turns into the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk movie.
  • Howard Stark evaluates a piece of the energy from the cosmic cube that fuels the weapons of Hydra. This item was collected by Captain America while he was rescuing the prisoners from the Hydra base. This helps Howard "discover" a new element, which plays an important role in Iron Man II.
  • It appears that when the Red Skull meets his unfortunate demise (for him, not the world), he doesn't actually die. Rather he is transported somewhere in space. This transportation looks very similar to when Thor, The Warriors Three, and Lady Sif are transported away from Asgard to earth, and vice versa. This suggests that the Red Skull was possibly transported to one of the nine realms of Asgard.
  • In the beginning of Captain America, Red Skull attacks a village in Norway as he is desperately hunting for the cosmic cube. When he discovers the Cosmic Cube in the village, he immediately lectures his men and the guard of the cosmic cube (played by Mr. Finch from Harry Potter) about how it is from Odin's treasure room; the same treasure room in Thor. Also, the wooden carving of the tree where the cosmic cube is hidden represents the tree Yggdrasil. In Nordic mythology, this tree represents the nine realms of Asgard.
  • Captain America's shield is made from the fictional metal vibranium. This metal can be found in the fictional African country of Wakanda, where the hero Black Panther resides.
  • It has been rumored (but not to my knowledge confirmed) that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent at the end of Captain America, who is the first person he sees upon waking up from being uncomfortably frozen for 70 years, is Sharon Carter. In the comics she is Peggy Carter's niece.
  • The end of Captain America introduces the most famous one-eyed-man-with-a-plan Nick Fury, the notorious Leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • The extra material that can be found in the blu-ray copy of Captain America shows Agent Coulson (HE STILL LIVES!) kicking major butt at a gas station while driving to investigate Thor's hammer in New Mexico. A very enjoyable watch.
  • Side note: At the Stark Expo you can see a mannequin in a glass tube wearing what looks like a red spandex suit. This is paying homage to the first Human Torch, who first appeared in Marvel #1 in 1939. He was an android, and frequently fought alongside Captain America and Namor (the king of Atlantis) in the 1940's. The Human Torch fell in popularity in the 1950's, but the concept would be brought back in the 1960's in the form of Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four. And yes, I got the background of the original Human Torch on Wikipedia. This is a blog, not a journal article.

Iron Man
  • We know that post WWII, Howard Stark gets married, has Tony, starts a weapons development company with the treacherous Obadiah Stane, and along with his wife is tragically killed in an automobile accident. This last note can be seen as a newspaper clip in the award presentation for Tony Stark at the beginning of the movie.
  • THE Agent Coulson is introduced. Though he was only supposed to have a minor role, audiences and director Jon Favreau liked the character so much that they wrote him on for Iron Man II, cementing his role in the Avenger's movies. Might I add this was one of the best decisions ever.
  • The post-credits of Iron Man introduces Nick Fury, and brings up the Avenger's initiative. Since Iron Man was the first movie made of the 5 pre-Avenger movies, this was a very big deal. At the time I only knew Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. from the video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and as a result I had a good sense of the potential for what could be possible for future Marvel movies. Needless to say I was freaking out for the next month; and maybe slightly peed myself out of excitement. Maybe...
  • During the scene where Pepper Potts walks in on Tony Stark taking off his Iron Man suit, you can see Captain America's shield on the work table.

Iron Man II
  • As mentioned previously, the movie starts with the Stark Expo, previously seen in Captain America. Tony Stark is quickly trying to change legacy of being weapon's developers created by he and his father, as he thinks he is suddenly dying.
  • Natalia Romanoff, also known as the Black Widow, is a very famous S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that is introduced in this movie. She disguises herself as "Natasha from legal", but is really assigned by Nick Fury to keep an eye (pun so intended) on and assess Tony Stark as a possible candidate for the Avenger's team.
  • It is in this movie that the audience is informed how heavily Howard Stark was involved in the development of S.H.I.E.L.D. As such Tony Stark is given a box of old information. Some of the items  in this box includes an image of space (which alludes to the fact that Howard knew about the possibility of other worlds), and a map of the North Pole containing the possible crash site of Captain America.  There is also reference to the Tesseract in the book written by Howard Stark that Tony looks through while he is watching the movie of his dad making an idiot of himself.  It has been noted online that there are documents of an old Captain America prototype shield, but I can never find it.
  • When Nick Fury meets Tony Stark at his house, he mentions how the arc reactor in his chest is based on unfinished technology that Howard Stark discovered. This technology, and the unknown element that Howard Stark found but Tony creates, is the element that makes up the Tesseract. Later Tony creates this element in his workshop, and uses a blueprint of the molecular make-up of the element that was hidden by Howard Stark in the layout of buildings of the Stark Expo. This element saves Tony Stark's life, and is a great power source for his suits. It is also in this scene that Agent Coulson sees a half-made Captain America shield, to which Tony Stark uses to help him stabilize the reactor that makes the new element.
  • Agent Coulson is assigned to watch Tony Stark, but while doing so has to go to the South West region for an assignment. Eventually later on in Iron Man II Agent Coulson comes back, which is a foreshadowing of him coming back in The Avengers II. I actually made that last part up. A fan boy can dream. Anyway, the assignment and it's fulfillment can be seen in Thor.
  • At the end of the movie Tony Stark meets with Nick Fury to discuss his involvement with the Avenger's Initiative. During this scene, you can see a monitor to the right of the screen showing a news image from the Incredible Hulk. The news image is of an asian reporter giving the account of the military attack on the Hulk at the university campus. You can also see a map that has orange dots at various areas. These areas include LA, New York, New Mexico, the North Pole, Europe, Africa (Wakanda), and the Atlantic Ocean (possibly Atlantis). All of these areas of interest represent where the significant events took place. The area of interest in the ocean is perplexing, as there is nothing of significance given to Atlantis. You can speculate that that is where the cosmic cube is found at the end of Captain America, but given the great distance between Captain America's flight path and the orange dot in the map, this seems unlikely. There is also a map that appears at the bottom left corner of the screen that seems to be of Central America (1 h 54 m 42 s into the movie), but it is hard to tell. There are many orange dots. This possibly could be sightings of the Hulk/Bruce Banner, as we know he traveled to and from South America.
  • The post-credits scene is Agent Coulson finding Thor's hammer in New Mexico.

Thor
  • Thor and Captain America really tie-in together. More explanation goes into who Odin is, we see Odin's treasure room, and that one can travel to and from planets that are connected by Yggdrasil; all of which are mentioned/alluded to in Captain America. 
  • At min 11:05 you can VERY BRIEFLY see The Infinity Gauntlet.
  • We see Agent Coulson fulfill his mystery assignment from Iron Man II.
  • After S.H.I.E.L.D. comes and takes away Jane Foster's equipment, Dr. Selvig relates a story of a friend of his who worked in gamma radiation. This is referring to the Hulk. The other collegue he mentions, who has worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. before, is referring to Hank Pym. He is Ant Man, and was one of the original Avengers. An Ant Man movie is currently in the works.
  • Hawkeye is briefly introduced. He is the archer that is ordered to possibly fire on Thor as he infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound to get his hammer back.
  • Loki is introduced, and might I add greatly, in this movie.
  • The post-credits scene is Dr. Selvig visiting a SHIELD compound to meet Nick Fury. Nick Fury shows Dr. Selvig the cosmic cube. It is revealed in this scene that somewhere after the events of the Thor movie, Loki has taken control of Dr. Selvig's mind. How this will play out in The Avengers is yet to be determined.
  • The blu-ray of Thor shows a scene between Agent Coulson and a colleague (who is introduced during the scenes that take place on the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound. This scene explains why Tony Stark is asked to approach General Ross from The Incredible Hulk Movie to discuss with him the Avengers Initiative. It is revealed that the government wanted The Abomination (who is introduced in The Incredible Hulk) to be apart of the team, and not the Hulk. Obviously Nick Fury and Agent Coulson know that this is a terrible mistake, so they arrive at the idea that they need someone extremely cocky to discuss the idea to General Ross. This way,General Ross would only become annoyed and upset. Therefore we would want nothing to do with the Avengers Initiative, hence the Hulk would have to be the other option. It turns out that their set-up for General Ross worked. He became so annoyed with Tony Starks cocky attitude that he kicked Tony Stark out of the bar. As a result Tony Stark purchased the bar so he could tear it down.

The Incredible Hulk
  • General Ross uses the SHIELD database to find the Hulk in New York City.
  • In the beginning credits, you can briefly see blueprints for STARK made military equipment that looks like two hummers with a large circular device on the top. You see these two vehicles be used by General Ross on the Hulk in the middle of the film during the skirmish on the college campus.  Also, Nick Fury's name shows up really briefly in a S.H.I.E.L.D. document during this opening segment.
  • General Ross recruited Bruce Banner to develop a serum to protect soldiers against gamma radiation. What he didn't tell Bruce was that the serum was based off of the Super Soldier serum that was given to Captain America. Hence the result of the Hulk rather gloriously being created when Bruce Banner was hit with gamma radiation.
  • The serum that was given to Emil Blonsky was a knock off of the Super Soldier serum that was attempted to be replicated, but failed. In Captain America, it was mentioned that the serum would make a good man great, and an evil man worse. That is why it was so important to choose a candidate for the Super Soldier program by his character. This principle is evident in Emil Blonsky, as eventually his dark side takes over towards the end of the movie.
  • When General Ross reaches the canister that houses the Super Soldier serum, the name is very different from Dr. Abraham Erskine, the creator of the Super Soldier serum. The name on the canister is Dr. Reinstein. This is because Dr. Reinstein was the name he was given by the US government to hide is identity from the Nazi's.
  • The post-credits show Tony Stark approaching General Ross about the Avengers Initiative. This ultimately showed the potential for what to expect with the Marvel Avenger movies, as cameos, connections between movies, and one large Marvel movie universe could actually be possible.

Well, there you have it! Do you think Marvel crafted these movies together beautifully like Da Vinci piece of art, or are these more akin to a kindergardener's take home project? Let us know!