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Comic Riffs
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Posted at 12:40 AM ET, 02/11/2012

VIDEO PICKS OF THE WEEK: From Kevin Smith’s ‘Comic Book Men’ to the ‘Ghost Rider’ legal appeal (*plus Avengers, Spider-Man & SFX Gaiman!)

“ALL WE’VE REALLY learned over the years is you have to be a lot like Kevin Smith to enjoy his work.”


KEVIN SMITH (Frederick M. Brown - Getty Images)
So writes Post TV critic Hank Stuever, in his review of AMC’s new reality show from the mind and cartoon mancave of Kevin Smith: “Comic Book Men.”

Strategically debuting Sunday night after the graphic-novel-turned-TV-hit “The Walking Dead,” the six-episode series may just attract enough “like-Kevin-Smith” geeks out there (for whom “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” spring eternal) to be a worthwhile return on AMC’s relatively limited investment.

”Comic Book Men” is set in the Jersey comics shop Smith has long owned, and is populated with dudes Smith has long befriended. More than one TV critic has summed up the show as “Pawn Stars” but with superhero books — instead of diamonds, the talk often turns to jewels from the Golden and Silver ages.

“COMIC BOOK MEN:”

Based on early returns, the critical reaction is mixed.

Praising the show, the Philadelphia Daily News’s Ellen Gray writes: “Smith's original idea — ‘Pawn Stars’ with comics — might have been enough to win him a slot just about anywhere on cable. The podcast just makes it funnier.” And the Los Angeles Times’s Robert Lloyd lauds: “As in “Pawn Stars,” ... there is real pleasure to be had from watching people who know what they’re talking about talk about the things they know about. Knowledge is always attractive — even a knowledge of Chucky dolls.”

By contrast, the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Wiegand calls it ”mildly amusing”; Stuever declares it “remedial and boring”; and the New York Times’s Mike Hale deems it “diverting, a little sad, a little boring, full of geeky macho posturing and ultimately pointless, much like a Wednesday afternoon in a comic-book shop.”

AMC lets you decide whether your Sunday night will now feel like a Wednesday afternoon.

[TALKERS OF THE TOWN: KEVIN SMITH vs. SARAH SILVERMAN, D.C.-style]

GHOST RIDER’s GARY FRIEDRICH:

TO BE CLEAR: This video is from several years back. It’s relevance, however is especially fresh this week.

In case you’ve been cut off from your comics friends for a few days, we’ll quickly recap:

This week, a “final judgment” came in the long-running Gary Friedrich vs. Marvel copyright lawsuit, reported blogger Daniel Best. In short, Friedrich — who co-created the “Ghost Rider” comics launched in 1972 — reportedly failed to gain any legal ownership of the Ghost Rider property, and Friedrich now owes Marvel $17,000.

Writes Best: Friedrich “cannot ever sell anything related to Ghost Rider, nor can he even say that he created Ghost Rider for any form of gain or advertising.” “Ghost Rider” has long been credited as being the co-creation of Friedrich, Roy Thomas and artist Mike Ploog.

Friedrich reportedly filed suit against Marvel, Columbia Pictures and Hasbro in 2007 — the same year the “Ghost Rider” film starring Nicolas Cage was released.(At the tail end of this video, you can hear Friedrich referencing the lawsuit.) Marvel countersued, claiming copyright infringement.

This week’s judgment has sparked heated opinions on both sides. While no legal scholar, what Comic Riffs does know is this: Once you’ve reached senior citizenship (Friedrich is 69) and are reportedly ailing both financially and physically, you would hope that as a longtime comic artist, you could at least make a little money on the comic-con circuit selling merchandise and autographs based on a character you helped birth.

To be unable to do that has to be a crushing blow in more ways than one.

Early Saturday, shortly after midnight, Friedrich confirmed to Comic Riffs that he will appeal this week’s judgment.

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” the film sequel again starring Cage as the hot-wheeling Johnny Blaze, is due to hit theaters Friday.

“THE AVENGERS”:

THIS SUMMER’S MOVIE SEASON, of course, brings with it one heated superhero “tri-valry” — as Christopher Nolan’s “final” Batman film (DC/Warner Bros.) squares off against two Marvel Entertainment/Disney foes: “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Based on the new trailers Marvel unspooled in recent days, Comic Riffs is currently most eager to screen “The Avengers.”

There is a moment — actually, a panning flash of moments — in which the Avengers are assembled in the most literal sense, shoulder to shoulder in a circle, having only each other’s backs. The scene should feel schmaltzy. Or cheesy. Or overwrought.

Instead, Comic Riffs is sucked in, as if ensnared by some blind-siding cinematic Cthulhu.

The trailer wraps with RDJ’s Tony Stark cracking back to Loki: “We have a Hulk!”

If this trailer is a true indication, then the Hulk isn’t the only massive green that “The Avengers” will — in box-office dollars — be showing off this summer.

“AMAZING SPIDER-MAN”:

COULD IT BE that the best action hero sporting a red head this summer won’t be Spider-Man — but rather Denis Leary?

Andrew Garfield — aka the Man Inheriting Tobey’s Suit — is said and done all the right things so far, mixing “aw-shucks luck” with Belief in the Franchise at every PR whistle stop.

But can Garfield be so good as to make us forget that the big screen so brilliantly rebooted Spidey just one swift decade ago.

Watching this trailer, ‘Riffs especially thinks it’s The Family Stacy (Leary as papa George; Emma Stone as daughter Gwen) who will really have to rise to the occasion to make this feel like more than Reheated Raimi.

Fortunately, both have charisma and winning deliveries to burn.

HERITAGE AUCTION :

FIVE WORDS. Just five words:

“Frank Miller will be there.”

No, not just Miller’s original Dark Knight cover art. The New York-based Heritage Auctions house tells us that the Maryland-born legend himself will be on hand for a Feb. 21 auction preview.

His “Absolute Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Returns” cover work will be auctioned off two days later.

The “vintage comics and comic art signature auction” will be Feb. 22-24 in Manhattan.

And that’s just the tip of one sterling iceberg. Other shiny treasures will be a very rare published work of “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson.

From Captain America to Crumb, Steve Ditko to John Byrne, this is an auction to be comic fans salivate.

Especially if, as geeks, they are at all “like Kevin Smith.”

NEIL GAIMAN’s SFX ACCEPTANCE SPEECH:

As taped acceptance speeches for a literary prize go — in this case for penning a “Doctor Who” episode — this may well be the single greatest we’ve ever seen.

Neil Gaiman, as you so often do so well ... take it away!

By  |  12:40 AM ET, 02/11/2012

Tags:  comic book men, neil gaiman, frank miller, heritage auctions, bill watterson, marvel, gary friedrich, ghost rider, amazing spider-man, the avengeers

 
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