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The Wednesday Waffle issue #28: TV or not TV?

It's Wednesday, and it's time to waffle on once more! I'm bringing the opinions again this week, but since it's New Comic Book Day you might want to

CLICK HERE AND BROWSE THIS WEEK'S RACK

And before we get to the ramblings of a middle aged comic store owner, we also have some sad news that you may have missed:


IN MEMORIUM

FRANK THORNE: 1930 - 2021

Frank Thorne, perhaps best known for his work for Marvel in the seventies has left us on 7th March at the age of 90. His wife Marilyn passed away on the same day.


Thorne was known for many features, but none more so than his mainstream success on Marvel’s Red Sonja, with writers Roy Thomas and Clair Noto. Clearly in love with the characters he worked on, he also made a bit of a name for himself playing the Wizard conventions with cosplaying artist Wendy Pini joining him to play the part the She-Devil With a Sword.


He had been retired for some time, but he leaves a legacy of art that will long be appreciated.



TV? or not TV?


So the last waffle pondered the evils of gate-keeping and the toxic concept of the "true fan". And that set me off on another train of thought. How "comics accurate" do film and TV adaptations need to be, and do they help or hinder the comics world?


I mean, I can tell you that for the most part, they don't help sales. Destination Venus is based in a cinema. The Marvel Movies in particular were astonishingly popular and drew huge crowds - many of whom had to walk past our little shop to get to the lift. Almost none of them gave the racks of comics and shelves of collected editions a second glance.


Now, that's depressing for me - but it also raises an interesting* issue. The on-screen versions of The Avengers, Captain America, Scarlet Witch and so on are quite different to the versions appearing in the comics. Now, as a long standing comics geek, I regard the comics versions as the "real" versions.


But the audiences watching the movies and TV shows are significantly larger than the audience reading about the characters in the comics. Indeed - I'd make a bet that a lot of the audience for the adaptations of the less well known comics don't even know that there are comics. How many people watching Charlize Theron in The Old Guard or Atomic Blonde knew that those films were based on comics? How many people watching Alan Tudyk in Resident Alien know that the show is based on a comic?


So which is the really authentic version of a comics character? The one from the page, or the one that most people recognise? I can be as much of a comics purist as I like, but if the vast majority of people think of Christian Bale and not an image by Greg Capullo when they think of Batman can I really say that their version of the character is the fake one?


Sure the movies and TV shows draw on the comics storylines, but never faithfully and for the vast majority of people it's the on screen stories that stick too. We might know that Wanda and Pietor are the children of Erik "Magneto" Lehnsherr. We might know that. But the vast majority of people who would consider themselves to be fans of the characters only know the story about growing up in Sokovia and almost getting blown up by Tony Stark before being subjected to experiments by Hydra.


Who's right?


And, I guess, does it matter?


It's not as though comics continuity is always consistent - and at least when characters die in the movies there's a reasonable chance they'll stay dead.** In the end, as discussed in the previous waffle, the shows and the movies don't bring all that many people to the comics - but they do bring some who wouldn't have found the comics any other way. That's a good thing.


And before the Netflix shows, how many non-comics reading people knew who Jessica Jones or Luke Cage were? Before the AMC shows who had heard of Black Lighting or Green Arrow? Before the movies who had heard of The Vision?


The on-screen stuff raises the character profile. That makes it easier to introduce people to the comics if they come looking - and it makes it easier to sell comics in general if there's a widespread adult audience who count themselves fans of comics characters.


So in the end, perhaps all that matters is "are the adaptations good?" And they are, mostly. Some are better than others of course, Iron Fist looked very weak when it was standing next to Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Justice League looks pretty weak when you stand it next to Infinity War. But none of them are objectively bad. We all have out own opinions - I mean, I wasn't a big fan of Iron Man 3 or Man of Steel, but they're fine. We're a long way away from David Hasslehoff as Nick Fury - and ultimately they don't really change the comics, so we can ignore them if we choose.


What the movies and TV shows do do is make it more likely that the comics will survive. It's surely not a shock to anyone to learn there isn't a lot of money in comics. Not making them, not publishing them, and not selling them. But there is money in movies and TV, and when adaptations are successful the comics companies (and even, on occasion, the writers and artists) make some real profit which will keep them in business just that little bit longer.


So in the end, it doesn't matter. I do think that the likes of Marvel and DC could use their movies and TV shows to market their comics more effectively that they do, but in the end maybe the comics should be able to stand or fall on their own anyway. So, enjoy the shows and movies - or feel free to ignore them.


But - and I really do mean this - if you haven't seen WandaVision yet, you really, really should.




*Interesting to me, at any rate...

**Except The Vision - who died in Infinity War and is now the star of a Disney+ series. No spoilers in case you haven't seen it yet...