Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The comic with something extra

The Golden Age of comics ended in the 1940s or early 1950s, but the High Tang dynasty of comic-book packaging is in full flower now.

I've just finished Volume 3 of Queen and Country: The Definitive Edition, not to be confused with the Queen and Country collected editions or plain old Queen and Country. The modern comic-book industry sells and resells the same stories, publishing "special editions" and bundling books into collections and collections into mega-collections, adding scripts, sketches and other extras at each step to flesh out the page count and entice potential buyers who have already read the stories elsewhere.

Each of the first two volumes of QAC:TDE collects twelve issues of the original comic, leaving just eight for Volume 3. The publishers filled out the space with a lengthy script, notes on the characters, and sketches. I'd rather have more story, because these dramas of adventure on the front lines and behind the scenes of British intelligence are damn good, and I may post about them one day.
***
For now, how do you feel about extras, whether sketches of a super sidekick, commentary tracks on a movie DVD, or new tracks on a greatest-hits album? Are they desirable enhancements, or marketing schlock? What are your favorite and least favorite extras?

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

Labels: , , , ,

46 Comments:

Blogger John McFetridge said...

I like extras. I wish more novels included short stories and flash fictions.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I tend to be sceptical about the 'Super Duper Bells and Whistles, With Knobs On' concept popularised by DVD companies, so I prefer to wait until the 3rd variant of a DVD release before considering buying them.
There are, however, three honourable exceptions to this rule: Criterion, in US; Masters of Cinema, in UK, and Carlotta, in France, which consistently programme their extras, and commentaries, very intelligently, and pertinently.

One, offhand, that I would unreservedly recommend is the Criterion version of Orson Welles' 'F For Fake', a film which I hadn't previously especially cared for , but complemented with excellent extras, is an absolutely essential purchase for cineaste collectors.

Interesting, John, that you should mention that more novels should include short stories; I'm planning to do a short story version of my novel project, as close as possible to classic Hammett short story style as I can hope to attain, as soon as I complete the first draft of the novel
(Of course then there's the publishing hurdle to be overcome!)

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I love extras, directors cuts, bonus footage, forewards and afterwards. I also love when an author tells the reader how he came up with a story. I bought both the Errol Flynne's special edition DVD sets and there was so much great stuff in them, even a great history of Technicolor.

Stephen King is very good about adding commentary to many of his writings and I always love it.

John made a good point and having just read his "Flash", I loved how it mixed flash stories, longer short stories, and interviews. This is a great format and really makes it entertaining for the reader. More authors should try this.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I'm with John, normally I do like extras.

However I just bought the deluxe edition of Superman: Red Son and I have to say that its not really an improvement over the original comic. A few original pieces of art, a few alternative ideas but not really that much. I feel kind of ripped off esp at Australian prices. I hear that DC have taken Superman: Red Son and made it into a stop motion comic on iTunes. I wont be buying that.

December 02, 2010  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

DVD extras run the gamut from blah to superb, in my somewhat limited experience. New unreleased tracks on a greatest hits album are fine with me, but remastered CDs of original albums with bonus tracks can be really spotty. Example: the 2006 remastered Crosby Stills Nash album (their first one, before Young). One of the bonus tracks is a demo of "Teach Your Children." If you remember the hit version, this demo jars like crazy. The band is working on the harmonies, and they're not good at all.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like extras. I wish more novels included short stories and flash fictions.

John, what kinds of extras do you like with DVDs or comics? I'd love to read short stories and flash fictions as an accompaniment to novels. Do any publishers include them?

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sean, I'd like to read some of Stephen King's commentaries. I would imagine that such extras could win an author new readers and please his or her current ones.

Like you, I am intrigued by the possibility of authors and publishers borrowing from comics and movies on DVD in this respect.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I wonder if extra art and alternative ideas are of interest to anyone but hardcore fans. And such fans can be skeptical, too. I brought the matter up with a comics dealer I know, and he shared my skepticism. He held up one trade paperback, indicated the 40 percent of the book devoted to extras, and said, "I'd gladly do without that" and pay five dollars less for the book.

One extra of interest: A collection of Modesty Blaise comic strips includes sketches, one or two of Modesty topless. This is notable because, according to the book's introduction, the strip's occasional nudity inhibited its circulation in the U.S.

I should add that I'm not skeptical off all repackaging of comics. I prefer to buy trade paperbacks over individual issues because they're more durable and because I hesitate to pay four or five dollars for something I'll read in five minutes.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I wonder when extras fever took hold. The first stirrings I remember were in the 1970s, if I recall right, when record companies would include one new song on a greatest-hits album to entice record buyers who already owned the rest of the songs on the original albums.

DVD extras run the gamut you suggest, occasionally dipping a bit below blah. I can't be sure, but I have the idea that re-releases with successively more extras are more common in comics than movies.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, I've been reading flash fiction recently, and I bought Discount Noir yesterday. Are flash fictions today's version of the old short-shorts? Are they identical in form and circumstance of composition to their old predecessors, or is there something different about them?

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, I don't buy movies on DVD, I rent them. Will companies typically release successive versions of a movie larded with ever more extras in an effort to get viewers to buy what they already have, the way some comics publishers do?

I would add the Film Noir Classics, particularly those with commentary by Eddie Muller, to your list of movies that come with worthwhile extras.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

"Will companies typically release successive versions of a movie larded with ever more extras in an effort to get viewers to buy what they already have"
Yes, Peter, I've come to expect this, particularly with Hollywood movies, although I wouldn't have expected it with Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' until an extra 25 minutes was discovered in Argentina about 3 years ago, which has led to the recent release of the most complete version since the original German release

December 02, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Superman Red Son is a hardback so it will certainly last a lot longer than my original comic, but even so this so called "Deluxe Edition" sucks.

Kind of on the same subject. I dropped my old pbk copy of JG Ballard's The Unlimited Dream Company in the bath some years ago. It fell apart and was completely ruined. A few months ago I finally ordered a new copy from Amazon UK and was pretty surprised to find a lot of extras at the back of the book. An author questionnaire, a mini biography, reading lists, lots of good stuff, all thrown in for free. That I liked.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

I'm in favor of the extras. That's not to say that many are just padding, but frequently many are gems.

I enjoy the "deleted scenes" extras that come with some DVDs. I find those often clear up some vague points in the film.

The director's commentary can also be useful in clarifying the director's ideas.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK:

Hmm, German material turning up in Argentina. ...

The additional footage from Metropolis constitutes an entirely honorable reason to release a special, deluxe or collector's edition.

Another example: the DVD that included both the 1945 and 1946 versions of The Big Sleep.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

"Great minds...", Peter! :)
Thats just what I thought.

I think there's a strong immigrant German community there
and Welsh, particularly in Patagonia, I believe

Try and catch the new version, though.
Its a lotta fun, even if some of Thea Von Harbou's ideas were somewhat batty, to put it mildly!

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, paperbacks I drop in the bathtub generally survive, through with warped and wrinkled pages. The ones that fall apart, especially from Bantam, do so before they get anywhere near water.

One marketing extra I've enjoyed in novels is the inclusion of a chapter or two from the author's next book.

I learned last night that Superman Red Son is a "prestige format" comic. That term gets at the heart of this discussion.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, extras with DVDs are less obtrusive that those with comics; one can cram a DVD with vast amounts of additional material without taking up any more space than an 80-minute movie would.

Commentaries vary in quality. I mentioned Eddie Muller's discussions on some of the Film Noir Classics. Not all the non-Muller discussions are up to that standard. Some commentaries can be enjoyably off the wall -- William Goldman's to Harper, for example, which was a string of entertaining stories.

The ancestor of DVD extras has to be the "making-of" movie. These proliferated to such an extent that I suggested someone would make a movie about the making of a "making-of" movie. Not every movie deserves or can bear the weight of such attention. Zany outtakes shown under a movie's credits are a related phenomenon. I grew weary of it rapidly.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, extras with DVDs are less obtrusive that those with comics; one can cram a DVD with vast amounts of additional material without taking up any more space than an 80-minute movie would.

Commentaries vary in quality. I mentioned Eddie Muller's discussions on some of the Film Noir Classics. Not all the non-Muller discussions are up to that standard. Some commentaries can be enjoyably off the wall -- William Goldman's to Harper, for example, which was a string of entertaining stories.

The ancestor of DVD extras has to be the "making-of" movie. These proliferated to such an extent that I suggested someone would make a movie about the making of a "making-of" movie. Not every movie deserves or can bear the weight of such attention. Zany outtakes shown under a movie's credits are a related phenomenon. I grew weary of it rapidly.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, a late cousin of mine worked in Patagonia. I wonder if he moved among Germans and Welshmen.

One set of extras included with a Fritz Lang movie on DVD, maybe The Big Heat or one of the Mabuse films, included discussion of the circumstances surrounding Lang's departure from Germany. This was worthwhile. I had not previously known about the controversy and mystery surrounding that departure.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Funnily enough, Peter, the commentators were claiming on the 'Metropolis' set that Lang didn't find it so difficult to leave Germany as has long been believed.

They didn't elaborate, although they did say that Goebbels hated 'Metropolis' and Hitler loved it, so I believe its at least possible that Goebbels may have wanted him to do work for the Nazi Propaganda Ministry

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That was the center of the controversy in the discussion I mentioned. Doubt was cast on the story that Lang went in for a chat with Goebbels, stayed until after banks had closed for the day, and thus had to flee without his money. In fact, according to some, he left with most of his money and even returned to Germany several times before the war.

A recap of the controversy said Goebbels was censoring the Mabuse movies but still offering Lang a job as head of Ufa, the German film studio.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

That sounds somewhat more plausible than the story, or legend, that he had to hotfoot it out of the country to escape Goebbel's Propaganda Ministry clutches.

Of course you know John Fords views on 'fact' and 'legend'

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't actually know those views. Maybe they're summarized as an extra on a DVD.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A story, or legend, of a hotfooting Lang would obviously have made for easier and more comfortable American consumption both when he first arrived in Hollywood and later.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Aha! Here's the answer. And I've seen The Man WHo Shot Liberty Valance, too.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

It was spoken by a newspaper editor near the end of his 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance': "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend!"

Which might best succinctly summarise Ford's approach to making his great Westerns

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'll see that I was just a little faster on the draw than you on that one.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But then, Ford probably played no small role in creating that legend.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Beginners luck for a 'tenderfoot'! :)

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! John Wayne hacked your computer to make me look good.

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Do you mean that you were Jimmy 'aw shucks' Stewart to my Lee 'mean, moody, and magnificent' Marvin? ;)

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's the truth.

December 02, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, re your wondering "when extras fever took hold." I think you're right that it began in the 1970s. I'm probably more familiar with movies than music. The advent of the VCR gave studios a whole new market for their "repurposed" products. This evolved (devolved?) to the endless add-ons and versions: "director's cut" "unrated version" (great for those always on the lookout for some extra titillation) "bloopers" "deleted scenes" (invariably glad they were deleted) "letterboxed edition" (I'm sucked into these, being an "original aspect ratio" fiend), etc. As a silent film fan, I had to trek all over the place to catch infrequent screenings. The VCS created a cheap way for studios to sell niche material that had been languishing in their vaults.

The compact DVD format in turn permitted next-generation releases with greater precision and clarity, esp. noticeable in b&w films and some wonderful as well as pointless add-ons. I like versions that recreate "a night at the movies" in the Golden Era; i.e. a cartoon, newsreel, theater advertisements (the "let's go out to the lobby and buy ourselves a snack" jingle, for ex.) plus the "digitally remastered" feature.

Like you, we mostly rent DVDs; we're lucky that we have a super, independent DVD/old VCS store within walking distance. But we've bought a few. Those movies that one or both of us want to watch again and again or, as in the case of Double Indemnity because of the informative documentary that accompanies the film. Or because there have been films we want to see badly enough, usually foreign films that are not available in the US. even via Netflix.

I'm a big Russell Crowe fan and freely admit to owning 4 of his films. I love the Gladiator "super premium platinum" edition (or whatever it's called) that features interesting behind-the-scenes stuff like the diary of the young boy who played the son of Maximus's old flame and the version with Crowe and director Scott talking over the action about the making of the film. None of this would have been possible in VCS format.

December 02, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

TCK, re "Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' ... extra 25 minutes was discovered in Argentina about 3 years ago, which has led to the recent release of the most complete version since the original German release."

An interesting "add-on" to the new release is a 1-hr documentary (perhaps you've seen it) tracing the history of the film's release in Argentina through the Argentinian film archive's trip to Germany to show it to a group of very skeptical Germans. Watching their faces change from disbelief to wonder is a hoot.

December 02, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, your comment re "a movie about the making of a 'making-of' movie'"

There have been a number of these. For your delectation I'll note (not recommend) Hollywood North, (2003), set in Toronto, and described at one site as: "a terrible Canadian movie about the making of a terrible Canadian movie."

December 02, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elisabeth I haven't watched that documentary yet; I listened to the two person commentary, though, which was entertaining and informative

December 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I sure hope the composer of "Let's go out to the lobby" is collecting royalties on all these rereleases. I also can't help suspecting that some of the hilarious outtakes that crop up under credits are deliberate.

I've never seen a DVD that recreates a night at the movies in the manner you describe, but that sounds like a worthwhile use of the space afforded by the DVD, something that can enhance the viewer's enjoyment as opposed to just sucking money out of his or her wallet.

At a Hitchcock festival I once saw a highly entertaining trailer/standup routine that Hitchcock did by himself on the Bates Motel set. That would make a fine extra on DVD.

December 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"'Metropolis' ... extra 25 minutes was discovered in Argentina about 3 years ago, which has led to the recent release of the most complete version since the original German release."

An interesting "add-on" to the new release is a 1-hr documentary (perhaps you've seen it) tracing the history of the film's release in Argentina through the Argentinian film archive's trip to Germany to show it to a group of very skeptical Germans. Watching their faces change from disbelief to wonder is a hoot.
"

That sounds worth seeing, not least because of Metropolis' historical importance. Similar importance does not, however, attach to every discarded sketch of a superhero's costume or hilarious between-scenes pratfall. I want to make a movie called "Making of Director's Cut: Deluxe Edition," then release it on DVD with absolutely nothing included except the movie.

December 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

For your delectation I'll note (not recommend) Hollywood North, (2003), set in Toronto, and described at one site as: "a terrible Canadian movie about the making of a terrible Canadian movie."

I'll wait for the deluxe edition of that one.

December 03, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

At a Hitchcock festival I once saw a highly entertaining trailer/standup routine that Hitchcock did by himself on the Bates Motel set. That would make a fine extra on DVD

I like Hitchcock's movies, but Hitchcock's showmanship, his adoption of celebrity and self-promotion is something I can do without. If he'd only lost ten stone and embraced a few Africans he could have been his generation's George Clooney.

Having said that, I agree with you that his Psycho trailer is pretty cool. Have you seen the trailer for
The Birds?
It's a bit long but it has some well-aimed darts at 'mankind.' I particularly liked the line:

They [extinct birds] were simply killed off. This is nature's way - man merely hurries the process along whenever he can be of help.

I like the ambiguity of that line. The sarcasm about 'man's help' makes it sound like it was written by an environmentalist but the phrase 'this is nature's way,' allows for a different slant. Of course, the idea inherent in this, that man (that natural creature) stands outside of nature, is one that drives me up the walls.

I like the first few grotesque shots of the Frenzy trailer. Although, the rest of the trailer, like the movie, has more bad taste than humour.

December 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I might have resented Hitchcock's self-promotion had I been around for much of it, but from where I sit, I can enjoy the showing off. The man could have been a fine, deadpan stand-up comic had he wanted to be. And be careful should you ever think of mentioning Hitchcock and George Clooney in the same breath in my presence.

I agree with you about Hitchcock's enjoyable sarcasm and about the bad taste of much in Frenzy. Bad haircuts, too, though Hitchcock can't be blamed for the fashions of the time.

December 04, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, I (sincerely) apologise for venturing into such dangerous territory. Perhaps, I should hire some protection.

But talking about Darfur, a quote I came across recently said:

In any war, the last ones to die of hunger will be the soldiers.

Don't worry, Peter, Gorgeous G. and his fellow do-gooders will keep the soldiers going strong.

At least, that's what I think.

December 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or, in North Korea's case, in any war or peace, the last ones to die of hunger will be the soldiers.

For some reasons, rock stars who do good are less annoying than movie stars who do good. Could it be that next to movie stars, even rock stars have modest egos (Well, with one huge, though short exeception)?

December 04, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

Generally I don't watch "The Making of" features unless it's a special film.

One exception I remember is _The Heart of Darkness: The Making of Apocalypse Now_, which became a feature length film now available on netflix. Fascinating stuff. I would recommend it for anyone who enjoyed the various film versions.

On another point made earlier, I found that netflix now has _Metropolis Restored_ with the extra 25 minutes. I immediately jumped on it.

Thanks to whomever mentioned this. I wasn't aware of the Argentinian find and had seen the most recent efforts at restoration, which I thought were very good, based on what was then available. I'm looking forward to this version.

December 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But not many movies are surrounded with such drama as Apocalypse Now was. No one needed to show silly on-set pratfalls to get people interested in what happened behind the scenes.

December 09, 2010  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home