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Marvel vs DC - Zen and the art of comic book movies

In 1985, I was given a Spider-Man toy. I had no idea who he was at that time but soon after I was reading a comic where he battled the Vulture high above New York City. This is when my love of superheroes began. I have been loving comic books’ characters, art, and mythologies ever since. Because of this, I am far from sick of the superhero genre of films. But as excited I am for every new comic book movie announced, there is something about them that aggravates me. Not that there are so many of them. It’s the lack of DC universe movies that irritates me.

In the 1980’s I loved watching Christopher Reeve as Superman and then Michael Kenton as Batman. Seeing these great characters in a theater was beyond amazing for me. It was all the hours I spent in my backyard with my toys come to life. The only problem was the Marvel universe was missing. They had The Incredible Hulk on TV, but DC already had Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash shows. It wasn’t until 2000 when Marvel’s X-Men movie came out that there was a Marvel character in a major movie.

This opened the floodgates to the Marvel Universe with Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, Punisher, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and Iron Man all getting their own films (and sequels in most cases) within a 10-year period. During this time, DC put out a two Batman films and a Superman movie. Marvel was already 3 movies into their buildup to an Avengers movie and DC was announcing the next Batman film would be ending that franchise.

To me, the biggest difference between Marvel Universe and DC Universe movies isn’t about the tone of the films. What separates them is the Marvel wasn’t afraid of building a shared movie universe with their existing mythology. After Batman Returns came out I remember reading that DC had plans on rebooting the Superman franchise while continuing it’s Tim Burton Batman movies. There would be three films of each character and would end with a Superman vs Batman film. I was so excited at the time but obviously this never panned out. Instead, Marvel is currently filming Guardians of the Galaxy while DC admits that their Man of Steel movie is the only thing they have to lead into a Justice League movie.

DC doesn’t need to following the same formula as Marvel with it’s Avengers Initiative films, and in fact, I think they’d be better off doing a Justice League film differently. Rebooting all their franchises and giving each character their own films beforehand would take several years and prevent them from actually catching up to Marvel.  What I would like to see is Batman introduced in Man of Steel 2 since we already know that character so well now.  The next year give us Flash and Wonder Woman in their own movies - we need for female hero movies! Next, we get Man of Steel 3 which will be that Superman vs Batman movie from years ago other heroes like Aquaman and Martian Manhunter can jump in the fight too - do a human vs alien theme. That will end with a great big group hug and then uniting for the justice League movie. As a way to re-boot the character and have it fit into the continuity of that movie, the Jon Stewart Green Lantern can join the team.

If DC can pull this off in the next three or four years (ambitious, I know), they will be in a better position to complete with Marvel as this will be when their Phase 3 of the Avengers Initiative will be starting up. As with everything else, competition will spur greater creativity. Both teams will be trying to best the other and we’ll start seeing more superhero movies take chances and be better films in general. Then DC can to films of some of their lesser-known heroes - I would love to see Firestorm, Doctor Fate, and Lobo get their own films at some point! There’s a lot of potential movie based on the Kimiyo Hoshi Doctor Light battling the Arthur Light Doctor Light. Like I said, I’m not yet sick of superhero movies, there’s so much they could be doing. I just wish there were more!


Was Steve Jobs was an artist?

Frank Zappa. Warren Zevon. Robert Altman. Steve Jobs.

I feel these artists past away before they were done creating. Their ideas were innovative for their time and continue to influence and inspire years after their passing. Some may disagree with my referring to Steve Jobs as an artist and think of him more of a business man. Using his own words, let me explain why I see Steve jobs as more than a co-founder of Apple Inc. and as a true artist.

“Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.”
- Steve Jobs, 2003

Steve Jobs made his products not only visually appealing but also practical. This usability factor is something all graphic designers must apply to their work. Everything they create must stand out while effectively promoting the client’s message. The products that Steve Jobs created not only look and feel good, but work better than the competition.

“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
- Steve Jobs, 2006

Simplicity is one design rule that should never be overlooked. It’s a hard goal to achieve. If a design is too simple, it can lose its appeal. On the other hand, making a design too busy or complex can confuse the audience. As the ads for the Apple II computer said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Jobs understood that the best user experience is the simplest one, so he applied that to the technology he developed.

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
- Steve Jobs, 1998

This can really hit home for most designers. It’s a daunting task to balance what the client thinks they want and what the designer knows the client needs. This is why it is so important for both client and designer to be able to communicate. Creative input from the designer can help clients see a whole new approach. This may lead to a final product above and beyond the client’s expectations.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
- Steve Jobs, 2009

As a designer, there’s nothing worse than when you’re suffering from a creative drought. During this time, it’s not uncommon to look elsewhere for inspiration. Heck, it’s hard not to. But it’s one thing to drawing inspiration from a role model or an idea, and another to try and replicate someone else. If you’re not a unique designer, then you can’t expect to be a leader in the design world. Apple was created out of original and challenging ideas.

Designers can learn a great deal from Steve Jobs. He brought a technological revolution, changing the world as we know it. He not only changed the way people work but also the way we live and communicate. This wasn’t just because he knew how to make investors happy. Jobs understood the world the way a designer should and it’s not complicated; Honesty, beauty, and joy. As long as you put these three things into your work, no matter what it is, you and your audience will be pleased.


Filmmakers and their favorite font families

When some filmmakers find something that works they like to stick with it. This becomes a trademark of the director that fans will be aware of when watching their films. It may be certain actors like Robert Altman with Shelley Duvall or P.T. Anderson with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Or it may be certain crew members such as Steven Spielberg’s cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. But for some directors, the trademark is more subtle, such as the typefaces they use.

In this slideshow I have collected an assortment of directors here and matched them up with the typefaces they are more closely associated with.

Have I left anyone out? Send me your favorite filmmaker/typeface coupling and I’ll add it to the slideshow with your credit. I would love to compile the ultimate collection of filmmakers’ favorite font families here.


Big Brother and Verizon (actually the NSA and most tech and communication coorporations)

The only thing worse that being spied on is finding out you’ve been spied on. We all knew the government had the ability to get information like our phone records and our internet browsing and assumed that data was being kept somewhere. We just assumed no one was actually looking at it. In a developing story, leaked documents are showing that (starting in April of 2013) the National Security Agency began actively collecting phone records of every Verizon customer in America. Every telecom provider is probably involved as well, it’s just that Verizon happened to be named first.

We’re now learning of a program code-named PRISM, first established as a foreign intelligence-gathering initiative, is also looking at everything we do online as well. Every major Internet corporation is involved including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, AOL, YouTube, and Facebook. This system allows the NSA to see everyone’s emails, photos, videos, documents, voice and text chats, as well as anything you put in the Clouds - all without a warrant or you even knowing about it.

The most upsetting thing about all of this is not the fact that the NSA obtained millions of phone numbers and browsing histories of countless Americans or that all these tech-companies went along with it. The fact that all three branches of the government kept it a secret from everyone. We should know enough not to trust huge corporations with our most personal and private details. But we should be able to trust our own government in having transparency.

President Obama has said in response that you can't have "100 percent security" and also "100 percent privacy." Personally, I have nothing to hide from anyone and don’t fear a what may be known about it. If they want to waste their time reading everything I do online and seeing all the times I’ve drunk-dialed old girlfriends then that’s their problem. I just want to be notified before it happens, why they need the information, what they’re doing with the information gathered, how will it keep this country safe, and how much of tax dollars does it costing to do so? I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

Despite all the allegories to George Orwell’s 1984 and Big Brother, I can’t help but think of another great work of fiction. In the finale of The Great Dictator from 1940, Charlie Chaplain gives an inspirational speech that rings true today just as much as it did nearly seventy-five years ago:

“We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness….

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in man - cries for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all”

Which do you favor more, your privacy or your security? Does one need to be sacrified to have the other?


Death of the used video game

As we learn more about Sony and Microsoft’s next generation of consoles, the future is looking more and more bleak for gaming. Microsoft revealed their latest console, the “Xbox One,” a couple weeks ago and the gaming community’s dissatisfaction can’t be ignored. Some of the frustrations include the mandatory internet connection and the Kinect sensor that is always on to see and hear you. But it’s the Digital Rights Management (DRM) for all games that has caused the most outcry. DRM is an anti-piracy measure that basically makes sure you’re playing a legal game you bought at the store. The way that Microsoft has chosen to implement the DRM, it only allows one person to play to play a copy of that game.

What this means is that if I bought a used game at a store, I would not be able to play that game because someone else had already played it. This also means that if you want to play a game with someone else sitting on the same couch as you, they will have to own a copy of the game was well. Microsoft has tried to makes things a little more fair by allowing people to buy additional licenses to play a game through their online store called the Xbox Marketplace. So instead of having to purchase four copies of Hasbro’s Family Game Night, you would only have to buy one game plus three licenses; or if you buy a used game you will also have to purchase a new license in order to play it.

The fact that you have to pay more just to play a game as a family annoyed me because I think games can more enjoyable in a group setting and this deters it. The effects on playing used games didn’t bother me so much. It’s been years since I’ve been inside a GameStop, and even longer since I bought something there. I don’t buy used games - or so I thought until a couple days ago when I was looking at old Nintendo games at a yard sale. I love buying games I find at yard sales and flea markets for all my old consoles that I still keep around. Then it dawned on me that these were “used games.”

So what happens, ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now with the games that come out for the Xbox One? If I buy one at a yard sale, will a license for that game be available on the Xbox Marketplace? I highly doubt it. Microsoft shut down online support for it’s first Xbox console a few years after the Xbox 360 was released. I don’t think they’re going to be supporting a twenty-year-old console, which means all games for it will then become unplayable. This also means these games will in a sense cease to exist. It’s like if a publisher announced they will now be printing all their books with disappearing ink. After a certain amount of time, it will all vanish.

We should be hearing more about this at E3 in just a couple weeks from now, so we’ll have a better understanding on what is really going on. If we don’t hear anything out of E3 about this, then I’ll REALLY be worried. If the gaming industry wants to be taken more seriously, and have people consider games as art, they’re going to have to start treating the games as art and not disposable consumer goods. Art is preserved and made available for all to experience throughout the years. Art is looked at to learn more about the past. Art does not expire.

Whether the rumors are true or not, how would you feel if this meant the end for used games? Would you be upset if all gams from previous generations were no longer around?

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