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Marvel Comics Takes A Tech Turn: Unleashes An API

on Friday, Jan. 31st

You see it a lot in tech stories: a hot new social media company is lauded for opening up its API, or vilified for keeping it locked down. API being the “application programming interface,” the method by which programmers can tie different programs together, or a program to a website database, etc.

So what does it mean when a comic book publisher–Marvel, no less–goes and puts out an API?

That’s what the Disney-owned superhero powerhouse went and did today, promising to give developers access to assets for non-commercial use. It’s a cornucopia for the technology savvy members of the fan-fiction set for certain. Will other franchises follow suit? There’s at least one big franchise that Disney owns which already has a rather fan-work friendly reputation.

Expect us to follow this one closely.

We’ve reproduced the Marvel press release after the jump.

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What TV Show Will Joss Whedon Make For Marvel? [Transmedia Alert!]

on Tuesday, Aug. 7th

It didn’t take long for the whole Internet to find out that writer-director Joss Whedon will be back for the sequel to this year’s Avengers. That announcement brought with it the wild news that Whedon, who rose to geek icon status as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will also be developing a TV show for the studio.

You may have seen a nerd or ten having an episode over that one today.

Here’s the heart of the speculation at present: that this TV show will somehow tie into the Marvel “cinematic universe”. Which means that charcters from the TV show could turn up in the next Avengers, or Thor, or Batroc The Leaper.

Ha. Kidding on that last one. I sure that Sony has the rights to Batroc as part of the Spider-Man deal.

This comes on the heels of Warner Bros taking interest in Stephen King’s Dark Tower project that stalled out at Universal. The plan there was to create a movie trilogy that would have the downtime between features filled in by a TV show. This almost happened with the X-Files back in the 90’s, when the first film bridged the gap between two seasons of the show.

Let’s assume for the moment that this kind of transmedia play is in effect. That Disney/Marvel are willing to dream big enough to take this kind of risk, which honestly could cause as much confusion amongst casual audiences as it builds goodwill amongst the Nerd’i. What could we wind up getting? (more…)

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Comics Crusader For The Digital Age- Mark Waid’s Thrillbent

on Tuesday, Aug. 7th

A version of this story appears on NPR’s All Things Considered.

He wouldn’t make the claim, but when it comes to comic book writers, Mark Waid is one of the greats.

“I’ve pretty much hit all of the pop culture bases,” Waid told me as we spoke at his Los Angeles home, surrounded by comic book memorabilia. Batman, Spider-man, even The Incredibles have had their adventures dreamt up by Waid.

“January 26th 1979 was the most important day of my life. Because that’s the day that I saw Superman: The Movie,” said Waid. “I came out of it knowing that no matter what the rest of my life was going to be like, it had to involve Superman somehow.

His writing made the DC Comics miniseries Kingdom Come into one of the definitive Superman stories, the ultimate ‘what if’ tale.

“What happens when Superman retires and the next generation of heroes come along and make a mess of things; and Superman has to come back and set the world straight?”

I ask him: isn’t that what he’s doing right now? (more…)

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PHOTOS: WonderCon 2012 Invades Anaheim

on Tuesday, Mar. 20th

Ah, WonderCon. Last time we met I was but the learner… and you were in San Francisco.

Not this year. Noooo… this year you’ve followed me down to Southern California. You say it’s because they’re making extensive renovations to Moscone Center, but I know the real reason. You just can’t get enough of me. Plus by having the Anaheim Convention Center play host you got to spend your after-hours at Disneyland.

Alright… the stars are easier to drag down to Anaheim too. There were so many panels about movies. You even got to see the Prometheus trailer before anyone else. I think that’s just because you’re jealous of your big sister ComicCon and how much attention she gets every July.

Still, you know me. I come for the comic book news, and I have to admit, you kinda let me down a bit on that account. DC didn’t really offer up anything earth-shattering and Marvel saved their news that Brian Wood would be writing both the regular and Ultimate versions of the X-Men for Sunday. Who saves their announcements for the last day of con? At least legendary comics writer Mark Waid had some really interesting thoughts to share about digital comics. He’s even giving out a sample of what he’s been working on.

Ah, to heck with it WonderCon, we both know that these people don’t care about comics and they already watched the movie trailers. They just want to see the cosplayers. That’s the REAL reason to come to Con these days.

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The Funnybook Business: Secret Headquarters

on Thursday, Sep. 29th

Thanks to the DC Comics relaunch, and the introduction of a new half-black, half-Latino Spiderman by Marvel Comics, there’s been a lot of media attention on the comic book industry lately. Which means some people have been seeking out comic book stores for the first time. What they’re finding is the simply spectacular, amazing, wondrous world of comics.

In this first episode of our special series, The Funnybook Business, we begin our tour of Greater Los Angeles’ comic book shops with Silver Lake’s Secret Headquarters.

Music featured in this episode:
Anamanaguchi– “Helix Nebula”
Rushjet1- “Society of Nonconformists”
Rushjet1- “Konamized”

Thanks to the Free Music Archive for the tracks!

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Meet Miles Morales: Your New Spider-Man

on Tuesday, Aug. 2nd

It’s not the first time someone other than Peter Parker has donned the mantle of Spider-Man, but in this week’s Ultimate Fallout #4 fans of Marvel’s Ultimate Comics universe will be introduced to a brand new web-head. His name is Miles Morales, and he’s bi-racial: half-black and half-Hispanic. At a time when diversity in comics is a hot-button issue — DC Comics is making a conscious effort to shake up the ethnic monotony of its line-up as they relaunch their entire line — Marvel has managed to pull off a splashy PR coup by recasting their most famous character.

To be clear, Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line is an alternate universe that the publisher began at the turn of the century as an effort to streamline the backstories of their characters. Much of the architecture of the current crop of Marvel movies have derived from the Ultimate line. Earlier this year, Peter Parker died after a climatic final battle with his arch-nemesis, the Green Goblin. It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that the fanboys began speculating — and complaining — about a possible successor to Peter’s race before the ink was dry on the issue.

In some cases, the cynicism got downright ugly and racist. Earlier this week, comic book store owner Larry Doherty, who had been a respected member of the Twitter comics community, elicited a firestorm by posting tasteless, racially charged quips about a possible black Spidey to his Twitter. Doherty claimed he wasn’t being racist, but actions speak louder than intent. Being an insensitive lout is no excuse.

Doherty doesn’t really matter in the final analysis. What does is the symbolism of a minority stepping into the shoes of one of the great fictional heroes of the past half-century. As noted above, this isn’t the first time there’s been a biracial Spider-Man. In the 1990’s Marvel introduced Miguel O’Hara, half-Latino and half-Irish, Miguel was the Spider-Man of the year 2099. He remains a popular enough character that he’s still featured in video games, like the upcoming Spiderman: Edge of Time.

The fine parsing of the difference between the Ultimate and “regular” Marvel Universes means that Miles Morales could be around for the long haul, as Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis has stated in interviews and on his Facebook page. Yet, there is a real anxiety underlying the cynicism of the comic fans. Publishers — particularly Marvel — are known for their stunts. How many comic book characters have been killed off for the sake of headlines only to be brought back after a few years?

If putting a biracial character under the Spider-Man mask is a great thing for young African-Americans and Hispanics (and I think it is), then how much will it hurt if in a few years Peter Parker comes back in Ultimate Spider-Man, and gets his old job back?

Buried on a sidebar of the USA Today story announcing the debut — amidst talk of how Community star Donald Glover’s campaign to get cast as Peter Parker in the movie reboot was an inspiration for the new look — was the first real insight into the personal motivations of the creative team:

The creation of Miles Morales, a teenager with an African-American father and Hispanic mother, has been personal for his creators. Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor in chief, is of mixed cultures (his father is Mexican, his mother is British), and Bendis has two adopted daughters, a 3½-year-old from Ethiopia and a 4½-month-old African American.

So while there is no controlling the ravenous demands for spectacle and sales bumps from the mega-corporations that own the characters, there is evidence that the flesh and blood men behind the stories have the best of intentions. For now, true believers, that will have to do.

Ultimate Comics Fallout #4, the debut of the all new Spider-Man hits stores this Wednesday, August 3rd.

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Turnstyle in 140 Seconds: Jay Minn, Marvel Super Hero Squad Game Designer

on Thursday, Jul. 7th

Listen to or download the podcast short here.

Jay Minn is the creative director of The Amazing Society, a video game studio owned by MMO publishers Gazillion Entertainment. Minn’s studio is the force behind the Marvel Super Hero Squad MMO, a free-to-play game geared towards younger players and the young at heart. During E3 we talked with Minn about the game, getting to play (creatively) in the expansive Marvel Universe, and how being a parent shapes the way he designs games.

All that, in under 140 seconds.

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To Build The VR Education of Tomorrow One Scholar Turns To The Past

There are plenty of folks in the education technology field who are excited about virtual reality as the next great educational tool.

Sponsors

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We’re Closer To Our Photorealistic VR Future Than You’d Think (INTERVIEW)

A look into the virtual world of tomorrow with USC researcher Paul Debevec.

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Prepare Yourselves For The Personal VR Video Revolution

Virtual Reality is rapidly approaching a watershed moment.

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Spoiler Alert: Hollywood Isn’t Taking Cyber Security Seriously (LA Film Fest)

Tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival, squeezed in between movies and red carpet events, a symposium on Cyber Security is being held at the Grammy Museum.

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Rent Video Straight From Social Media Via Gumroad

The people who brought the “Buy Now” button to Twitter are going all-in on film distribution.

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