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Greetings everyone! This week proved to be very beneficial to the ATLAS Foundation. Regarding Professor Lipsett’s lecture on the benefits of the superhero genre on television, we at the Temple of Atlas feel that the story we are adapting lends itself better to a full length feature film than the “episodic serial form” of television. The first graphic novel, while consisting of five individual issues, is about discovering what ATLAS is and Yellow Claw’s overall plan. It could easily be adapted to a single two hour feature.

Furthermore, many members of the team, specifically Jimmy Woo, Venus, M-11, Ken Hale, and Bob Grayson, were friends before the narrative begins. This stands in stark contrast to the characters on the show Heroes (2006), who have to find each other over the course of an entire season. Even ATLAS characters like Namora and Khanata are incredibly familiar with the other characters, and this helps expedite the narrative. They are also fully aware of their own powers and of the other heroes in the world around them, unlike the characters on Heroes.
Also, we feel that avoiding a heavy use of melodrama is better suited for ATLAS. Whereas “melodrama and action, in television at least, have become intertwined” (Denison 164) we feels that the story we’re adapting does not rely heavily on the emotions of the characters. It’s driven by the action and mystery behind the ATLAS Foundation and Yellow Claw’s plan. With that said, ATLAS is a multigeneric piece. It’s a mystery, action, adventure, and has a decent amount of comedy with Ken Hale’s constant quips. While we still want to have Khanata deal with his conflicting loyalties between the respect he has for Woo and his Agents and his work with S.H.I.E.L.D., this will not be overplayed. Instead, we want to focus on the light-hearted team dynamic that can be seen throughout the comic, such as Venus’ gentle, seemingly naïve nature and Jimmy’s unwavering loyalty to his friends.

However, there are several tips we can take from Heroes to aid ATLAS. We spoke of a viral marketing campaign an earlier post, and Heroes uses this perfectly. The series had a web-comic, which Smallville (2001) also had in “The Chloe Chronicles” (Denison 162). The ATLAS film could have its own web-comic featuring what happened to certain characters, like Ken Hale and his involvement in S.H.I.E.L.D., between their final mission in the 1950s and today. These would serve as “additional storylines that comment on or feed into the core film or television text” (Denison 172). We could also release action figures of the characters, or have marketing deals with certain companies, like having M-11 appear in ads for computers, just as professor Lipsett mentioned with advertising deals for Heroes with Nissan. Another online bonus could be having a radio call-in show, perhaps filmed in the studio where the host is sitting to add a visual element. Fictional people would call in to discuss bizarre sightings relating to the Agents, only to have Ken Hale phone in and complain that nobody is paying enough attention to the talking gorilla. This was done as a transcript at the end of one of the issues of the issues in the graphic novel, and would be incredibly amusing to bring to life.

Looking at Rayna Denison’s article on the Superman franchise, there’s much to consider with DVD extras. The viral marketing campaigns that would precede the film could be included on the DVD and Blu Ray so that the viewers could receive the full narrative. On top of that, we could include several making of features, such as the ones included on the Superman: The Movie (1978) DVD. Whereas Superman included documentaries such as “The Magic Behind the Cape”, which focuses on the special effects of the film (Denison 174), our film’s DVD and Blu Ray could include an entire feature on bringing a character like M-11 to life. We foresee M-11 being a combination of animatronics in the scenes where he simply stands around and walks, and CGI for the more intricate action sequences.

Denison also mentions that many actors from the Superman films have made appearances on Smallville (165). While we do not have a previous film or television adaptation of ATLAS that we could have actors from make cameos in our film, we do have the ever expanding Marvel film universe to draw upon. Actor Samuel L. Jackson has signed a nine picture deal with Marvel to play S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, and could potentially have a cameo in our film. He could appear giving orders to Khanata regarding his handling of Woo and his team, or leading the investigation himself.

Denison, Rayna. “It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! No, It’s DVD! Superman, Smallville, and the production (of) melodrama.” Pdf. Web. Feb. 17 2011.

Lipsett, Joe. Week 7: Alternate Media: TV Superheroes. Carleton University. St. Patrick’s Building, Ottawa, ON. Feb 14, 2011, Lecture.

Heroes. NBC. 2006-2010. Television.

Smallville. UPN. 2001-present. Television.

Superman: The Movie. Dir. Richard Donner. Perf. Christopher Reeves, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder.Warner Brothers, 1978. Film.

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Revisionism and Super Heroes

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

This week Group 1 of Agents of Atlas came together to discuss revisionism and its application to the super hero. Kick-Ass (2010), Matthew Vaughn’s film adaptation of the comic book by the same name, provides a perfect example of a hero born in the modern/post-modern age of comics. Dissimilar to the the Agents of Atlas, Kick-Ass features the general darkening and maturing of the superhero narrative, with excessive violence and minor sexual content (Wandtke).

In regards to the Kick-Ass’s standing in the Generic Cycle, the film could be categorized as both Revisionist and Parodic. With a narrative debatably parallel to that of Spiderman (A teenager fighting crime who unknowingly befriends the enemy and reveals his identity to his love interest) and the reflexive nature of the narrative (A comparison of one character to Batman), clearly Kick-Ass contains many attributes of a Parody.

Fitting into the Revisionist category, Kick-Ass is not your typical hero. There is nothing that sets him apart from any other citizen besides the iconography displayed by his green and yellow costume. He is no stronger, smarter or richer than anyone else in the story. The traditional: extraordinary-supernatural-transformation-into-hero is substituted for a failed attempt at preventing a crime, being hit by a car and subsequently receiving extensive nerve-damage. The ordinariness of his “transformation” allows the spectator to identify with him more so than the more typical tale of gamma-rays and curses.

As previously mentioned, Kick-Ass appears to be a conceptual revision of stories such as Spiderman and Batman as it maintains the same general ideas (Wandtke). Similar to the character’s of Watchmen, the character’s of Kick-Ass share many attributes and characteristics of existing heroes. Big Daddy is compared to Batman and Kick-Ass is closely linked to the origin story of Spiderman as portrayed by Sam Raimi.

Besides the revisionary character of Kick-Ass, the film is vehicle to a level of violence, coarse language, sexual activity and/or horror not usually featured in super hero films. It takes the characteristics of such graphic novels as The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen and steps it up a notch (Lipsett). The presence of Hit-Girl’s dialogue alone puts Kick-Ass on a revisionary level of its own, separate from that of the ‘Revisionary 80s.’

Lipsett, Joe. Week 6. Revisionism. Carleton University. St. Patrick’s Building, Ottawa, ON. Feb7 2011, Lecture.

Wandtke. Introduction: Once Upon a Time Again. pdf. Web Feb 12 2011

Kick-ass. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Marvel Films, 2010.

What is a Superhero?

Posted: February 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

This week the group had to deal with the idea of what exactly it is that differentiates a superhero from a hero or vigilante. In this way Dick Tracy as was screened can be used as the example of the fine line between hero and superhero. This is due to a multitude of examples that can also be applied to the way our Agents of Atlas (AA) adaptation will work. The examples are that of iconography, hero status and the difference between cultural superhero and hero, the idea of ethics playing a role within their actions.
Firstly, there is the idea of ethics and morality. Both heroes and superheroes act on behalf of the morality of their society. Both Dick Tracy and Superman are agents of good within their society. The difference is how they accomplish their actions with ideals in mind. Superheroes act on behalf of their own volitions, out of a sense of desire to see a better world for no recompense. A character like Tracy or the multitude of other pulp heroes are generally paid for their acts by an interested party such as the government. AA are a mixture of the two. They worked for the government, but are now resigned to work outside of that same government to achieve the goals that their government and people would like to see achieved.
Next wee move towards the idea of what makes a superhero physically distinct from a normal hero. Superheroes have a special power(s), Superman is an incarnation of a literal god, Spiderman has strength and sense, even Batman has incalculable wealth to make himself super, that he amasses on his own. Tracy has to earn a living with no physical attributes to help him fight crime. Once more AA is in a grey area here. It is a mixture of powered beings and no powered beings. On top of that to fund their activities they do not work like superheroes, they work more like antiheroes, using ill-gotten gains from conquered villains to fund their acts of good.
Finally and most importantly we have the iconography. Every superhero has a symbol. Not just any symbol but one that is in their universes common knowledge of symbology, the S for Superman, Batman has the Batsignal, in the Marvel universe the personas of the heroes are public knowledge as are their outfits. A hero like Tracy on the other hand has no such common symbology, he is a normal person within the context of their universe. AA is just like that in the marvel universe, they are lesser knowns, run of the mill citizens (when one considers that not all mutants are heroes or superheroes in that universe). That is what puts them over the edge as being heroes as opposed to Superheroes.
For that reason we are looking into making AA not a traditional Superheroe movie, but something more akin to the Hellboy or the Punisher premises. Agents of good, but not superheroes in their own right.

This week we examined the mythology and psychology that influence superheroes and the adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The parallels between Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns are well done and Burton did a efficient job of keeping with the important aspects of the comic.

As discussed in the lecture, DC characters are more concerned with crime control than due process, something accurately portrayed in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Lipsett). The essence of the interventionist justice, seen in the comic book, effectively crosses over into the film version of Batman. Both Batman versions are ultimately concerned with ridding the city of crime by circumventing the law and justice system.

The crime control present in both Batman versions differs from what will be seen in our comic book adaptation of Agents of Atlas. As a Marvel comic, the Agents of Atlas are even further separated from the law and justice (Lipsett). In the comic, our heroes have limited connection with police and we will be aiming to represent this disassociation in the filmic version as well.

Psychology was another important subject discussed in relation to Batman’s origins (Lipsett). In both the comic and film, Batman’s motivations remained, essentially, the same. Just as the comic continually flashes back to the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, so does the film, effectively bringing the viewers and readers into the psyche of Batman. However, in the case of Agents of Atlas, such evocative flashbacks of the characters’ psychology will not be possible. Our comic follows the story of a team; therefore any such flashbacks would add confusion and time to the narrative.

The media was also an important aspect of both Batman and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and both versions effectively demonstrate how their presence shapes the public opinion towards both the villains and heroes. This is directly represented through the Vicki Vale character, a photojournalist. She, like the public, is curious about the mysterious Batman and unsure of his motivations. Finally, just as the public comes to accept Batman as a saviour, so does Vale.

The parallels between the two Batman versions may not exist at a narrative level but they do at a thematic level, something one could argue is more important in an adaptation. By keeping with the tone of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Burton captures the essence of the Batman character and presents his psyche in a way that effectively mirrors Miller’s vision.

Lipsett, Joe. Week 4. Under the Mask: Mythology, Psychology, Metaphor. Carleton University. St. Patrick’s Building, Ottawa, ON. 24 January 2011, Lecture.

Miller, Frank Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Week 2-Adaptation

Posted: January 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


Hello all! This is the second blog post for Group One of Agents of Atlas. We’re excited to update you with what is going on in our adaptation of the work. Before going any further, we would like to clarify something. We didn’t understand that we were only supposed to pitch either a movie or just a pilot episode for a television series. From our last post, you can see that we were under the impression that we could pitch a mini-series/season- our apologies. With this in mind, we’ve decided to go with a movie that will follow the arc covered in the first trade paperback.

Our second meeting together allowed us to hammer out a few more aspects of our adaptation. We specifically tried to look at what Professor Lipsett discussed about the general adaptation process and the film Watchmen (2009) from the past week, as well as what Ashley Ball wrote in her essay on the adaptation of the property. The first aspect of the adaptation process that Professor Lipsett discussed, deletion and addition, got things rolling for our group. We all agreed that keeping the essence of the characters was essential. The team dynamic is one of the best aspects of the comic, and it would be a shame to get rid of it. Things like Ken Hale’s (Gorilla Man) dry humour, and constant snickering when Bob mentions his home-world of Uranus, also adds comic relief that is essential to enjoying the story. It’s things like this that make us think of the camp qualities that can be found in Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1990).

We did think that the most difficult character to adapt for a film would be team leader Jimmy Woo. He’s a boy-scout, and in the initial arc seems to lack depth. Our group discussed showing him having difficulties adapting to the modern world after losing his memories of the last 50 years could add that depth we want. We also debated changing Venus, making her the actual Roman goddess of love as opposed to a siren, or having her be a bit of a celebrity. Ultimately we decided that her naïve personality is too integral part of her character to be changed. As for Derek Khanata, we decided for now to exclude that his homeland is Wakanda, as we want to avoid explaining the existence of this advanced country with a superhero, the Black Panther, as its ruler. We also thought that removing Khanta’s sister would help here. As a result, we would have it so Khanata already had information on where Venus was from his department.

From a more aesthetic perspective, we agreed that changing Bob Grayson’s costume to exclude the fish bowl helmet would be a good choice, as it seems a bit silly looking to be used in a movie set in contemporary times, even if it is a comic book movie. Venus’ initial costume, which has her topless, is also something we feel is necessary to change. There aren’t too many actresses that would be willing to go topless for at least half of the film. On the other hand, we did decide to keep M-11’s appearance relatively the same. Since he was built in the 1950s, having him look like a robot from a cheap sci-fi movie from that time seems appropriate. Ultimately though, the personalities of these character’s matter most, not necessarily their appearance.

Overall, we want to keep relatively close to the first story arc. It does a good job of establishing who the characters are, how they came to be a team, and presenting their unique team dynamic. We did decide to keep out some things, like Bob’s full history on Uranus being presented to the team through telepathy. We felt that moviegoers might see it as simply a rip-off of the Vulcan mind meld from Star Trek (2009), and that the fact that each character experiences it as if they were in Bob’s place might seem a bit odd to the viewers. We also have no issue changing the order things are presented to the audience, such as opening with the elder Jimmy’s failed mission to find the Atlas hide-out to grad the audience, and then using Ken Hale’s interrogation to establish the team’s history through exposition.

With the second aspect, the unique page layout of the comic, we decided that that we don’t feel that we have to shoot the film based on the panels in the comic. We may want to use close-ups of Ken Hale’s hands in the interrogation scene to slowly reveal that he is a gorilla. We do feel that the comic is fast paced. Many of the action scenes, such as Ken and M-11’s rescue of Jimmy early on, are a prime example of this. We do feel that having a linear storyline is the direction we want to go with, but we may include occasional flashbacks to flesh out the characters a bit more. One example of a brief flashback would be how Hale became a gorilla. We could also condense things, such as the numerous Atlas operations the team take out being reworked into a montage.

The third aspect, images and photography, was not discussed too much. However, we do realize that we will be limited somewhat by the production budget. We discussed ways to work around Hale and M-11 in particular, such as using simple costumes and suits, as opposed to having them be computer generated. This would allow us to save on our budget.

The fourth aspect, silence versus sound, ties directly to the first aspect. Getting the voices of the characters right is key. We don’t have to keep the dialogue exactly the same, but how they say it needs to be nailed. Hale having a gruff voice with sarcastic tones, and Venus having a bit more of a typical girly voice would be examples of this.

Comparing our adaptation to the Watchmen film, we remembered that Professor Lipsett said the film was considered a financial failure. Therefore, our group discussed aiming for a lower budget, ideally around the $50-60 million range or lower, in order to increase our chance of making a profit. We also considered viral marketing as a possibility to advertise the film. Ball notes that Watchmen was preceded by several motion comics released online at iTunes and Amazon where it appears that the “elements are brought to life from the panels themselves” (21). Our group thought that taking each of the characters’ first appearance in comics and turning them into motion comics would give people a better idea of who the characters are and increase audience awareness. Another viral marketing campaign that Ball mentions is the Veidt Enterprises Contest where “contestants had to make advertising videos for Veidt Enterprises and then upload them on youtube” (27). We thought that having something similar, like having people create fake articles or photoshop images that show the team from “Agents of Atlas,” would be a fun way to get fans involved. Another route that we could pursue would be having fans donate money online, such as http://www.the1secondfilm.com where fans donate money to have their names in the credits. We could offer the same opportunity to raise money for the film, and entice the fans with the opportunity to have their names in the credits.

Ultimately, we feel that the comic being a lesser known property compared to the rest of Marvel Comics’ materials can be beneficial. We want to respect the fans, but the series being relatively unknown can lure in more casual moviegoers. It’s not the same as Watchmen where established characters from Charlton comics had to be renamed and re-imagined (Ball 13) so that they could be portrayed as neurotic and massively flawed. We’re sticking close to the source material, but recognize the need to make changes when necessary to make it accessible to viewers and to fit the story into a single movie. While 90 minutes is a typical length for films, we think that going for something closer to two hours would be best. We want to give this material the film it deserves. We’re incredibly passionate about these characters and their story. They deserve the best.

Works Cited
• Ball, Ashley. Report on Watchmen The Comic Book & Film
Adaptation
.
• Lipsett, Joe. Week 3. Adaptation. Carleton University. St.
Patrick’s Building, Ottawa, ON. 17 January 2011, Lecture.

Week 1 – Drafting

Posted: January 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Our group’s first week on the Agents of Atlas assignment was mainly centered on brainstorming the overall structure and style of the project. We have agreed that it would be best to present it as a mini-series (about six 60 minute episodes) on premium cable with an option for renewal if the series is successful. HBO is the immediate choice, but broadcast stations such as AMC and Showcase would also suffice in regards to our target audience. The general feeling of our group is to aim for a somewhat dark tone with gritty violence. However, we are also planning to embrace the camp value.  Besides the origin story of Agents of Atlas, some members of the group have gone on to read other instalments of the series.

In terms of the characters not much has been decided on casting since it is still early in the brainstorming process.  But during a session we decided that we should emphasize to the panel that the main characters are not typical of Marvel Comics. They are essentially the b-team of Marvel and “archetypes of pulp adventure” as Jeff Parker claimed in his introduction of the comic. We do not wish to bank mainly on being non-mainstream but embrace the series as a very unique, quirky story in the Marvel Universe. Also, in step with the source material, we will present the super-heroes as villain-like, although their actions are secretly saving the world. Furthermore, the heroes should obviously work well as a team in the action sequences. But we definitely want to emphasize that each character can hold his or her own if placed in a tense solo situation.

For practical production of the series some ideas have been thrown around to save money. This includes not having a Bob Grayson’s flying saucer appear at all, as well as having Gorilla Man be a mix of a suit, animatronics and digital effects. We were also considering using Bob Grayson’s telepathic powers as a convenience for production to put Hale in “human mode” possibly a bit more often than in the comics. As for the television series structure, we have  brainstormed a possible pilot that would open with Woo’s botched rogue mission and followed by opening credits that shows the teams history in the 1950’s and leads up to the “present.” This would then be followed by the interrogation scene with Ken Hale (but this is obviously all up for re-imagining).

Another idea that is sensible for attaining high quality would be hiring the costume designer for Pan’s Labyrinth.  It would be a good help for not only the Gorilla Man suit, but pretty much any super-hero suit that seems other-worldly. Raimi’s Darkman (1990) could also lead as a sort of example of the dark, campy look/feel of the series.

 

Meet the Team

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

“Maybe you’ll recognize people you know in Jimmy Woo’s team, like the winning young leader himself. The incredibly sweet-natured Venus, and the alienated and withdrawn Bob Grayson. The earthy and adventurous Ken Hale. Or the regal, honor-bound Namora. The inscrutable M-11 is probably the model we should all follow in our dealings with others. What little he says gives no insight, but his actions tell Jimmy Woo everything he needs to know about the oddly named ‘Human Robot.’ I’m also very fond of the team’s unofficial member, Derek Khanata, the rational yet empathetic S.H.I.E.L.D agent.”

– Jeff Parker, Writer