Comics on the Can – Titan A.E. #2 (of 3) 2000

GameStop, Inc.

If you look closely at the power point display you’ll notice that our market research has indicated that many people read while on the toilet. This, essentially, is a captive market. Our plan is to create multi-platform exploitable properties that have their origin point rooted in the bathroom reading habits of the most desirable demographics (males 18-35). This being the end of the 90s and Americans are flush with disposable income (as are marketing budgets) the best way to reach our key demographic is a massive mailing campaign featuring samples of reading material on a thing the egg heads call a “CD-ROM” that can allow a windows desktop to access the message boards at leading cyber distribution points such as CompuServe and AOL. All the target market will have to do is print the Microsoft write file on their home dot matrix printer, take it into the poopenhousen and read. Then using traditional methods of communications, which will never go away, word will spread about new products and entertainment properties. Easy. We already have entertainment juggernaut Fox animation studios on board to promote their upcoming summer blockbuster…

titan aeTitan A.E. (#2 of 3)
Writer – Scott Allie, Pencils – Al Rio, Inks – Randy Emberlin & Walden Wong

Ahhh, the end of the 20th century. Probably a lot of you will recall that era as a time of growing up, boundaries being challenged and overcome in much the same way you overcame Andross in Star Fox 64 (rumble pack included). Other, slightly older, readers such as myself recall a time where new artistic directions in music, film, and TV, and the out of the box thinking of the 90’s kinda got stilted into formula and marketing beats. This is the natural order of things, of course, but to be able to chart the progression of, say for example, music from Nirvana to Puddle of Mudd is still a bummer.

The end of the century/millennium was also a time where a lot of new innovations had become established enough to be considered “exploitable” by marketing campaigns; console gaming was here to stay, the home entertainment market was fat, selling millions of DVDs in big box retailers like Good Guys and Circuit City, and this internet thingy could deliver flash animations that almost reach the quality of those old Marvel “animated” anthologies you saw as re-runs in the 70’s.

marvel_spread_lrg

An upcoming movie could promote itself and generate extra revenue based off licensing fees through comic books, video games, novelizations of the expanded universe, toys, clothing, kid’s book, vibrators, and Cambell’s condensed chicken soup with noodle shapes that could almost pass as being characters and things from the movie (consult the useful guide on the back of the can as to what mushy noodle shape is supposed to be R2D2 or a Stormtrooper blaster).

As the stakes (and budgets) became higher for a hoped for cultural node point, aka blockbuster movie, licensing became so much a part of the plan that the original story was focus-marketed to death. Case in point, how ‘bout I tell you that there was a movie out in the year 2000 that was the brain child of Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the only mainstream alternative worth mentioning to Disney’s animation chokehold? Ok, interested. This movie features the voice talents of Matt Damon, Ron Perlman, and… um Nathan Lane. Keep going (I LOVE Nathan Lane). Now add in that this movie combines both hand drawn animation and computer rendered animation (which at this point was still in its infancy) to tell an action tale of cosmic proportions with space battles, aliens, and humans working together against other evil aliens. I got your attention. How ‘bout the fact the movie is scripted by Ben Edlund who has The Tick cartoon on Fox, plus script doctor wunderkind and creator of that Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show that the kids like so much, Joss Whedon? HOLY CRAP! I GOTTA SEE THIS MOVIE! JOSS WHEDON AND NATHAN LANE! IT’S GOTTA BE LIKE THE BIRDCAGE WITH PARTICLE BEAM WEAPONS!!!!!

It was called Titan A.E. and sure, scramble to YouTube to see if the complete movie is there. Search for a DVD copy in the Best Buy $4.99 bin buried under copies of Striking Distance and (future Fanboynation live tweet subject) Event Horizon. Hell, you could probably find a VHS copy (Google it, kids) at your nearby Goodwill. Or don’t bother because it was so forgettable and cookie cutter that I had to consult Wikipedia to make sure I was thinking about the right movie (still not 100% there… 99.9% but, ya know…). I’ll leave the deconstruction of plot and other specifics to Sean Mulvihill’s Revisiting the Reviled column since the only thing I can remember about the movie is that even with an understanding of sci-fi, SF,and space opera tropes that span DECADES, the ending barely made sense to me. My focus is on the marketing put into this movie and how it typifies the formula that became rote by the year 2000.

And eventually I’ll mention the comic I read too… maybe.

Titan A.E. came out at a time where every studio had set up an character that’s available for a reasonable price. Nathan Lane? Yeah, sounds good; Timon voicing an alien fruit-bat. We can’t miss!”animation wing to compete with Disney because A) Computer animation changed the game democratizing (to an extent) the animation field, and B) Disney had blood in the water (Treasure Planet and Home on the Range anyone? …Anyone?”) Some, like Fox Animation, brought on proven talent with a “build it and they will come” mentality but considered the product “kiddie fare”, and probably balked at the much longer turn-around time required on an animated film compared to a live action (not to mention the initial cost of starting up a whole freaking animation studio). Going with something like Titan A.E. and licensing the ever living shit out of it was merely a way of hedging their bets and off-setting costs. Of course this led to conversations that MUST have happened like this:

STUDIO EXEC, LICENSING DIVISION VP: “We need a character that would make a cool action figure. How ‘bout some alien fruit-bat type thing that can be kookily voiced by um… who did a popular Disney
JOSS WHEDON: “Sure, no problem, I’ll throw in a zany frog-guy too… um, I have this idea for a TV show that’s like Star Trek meets Gunsmoke…”
STUDIO EXEC, LICENSING DIVISION VP: Will it have cute space animals, like a talking platypus? Maybe voiced by Dana Carvey?

preen

Look, I’m not against studios making money, and I don’t necessarily have a problem with licensing either, but when such things overshadow telling the story you get something like Titan A.E., which, despite the talent involved, came off as utterly forgettable and “developed by committee”-ed to death. It defeats the purpose of the movie, which is, arguably, to entertain and not sell products related to the movie (which would sell if the movie was entertaining).

I write all of this because the comic I read was part of a prequel blitzkrieg that was riddled with ads for Titan A.E. products; The Titan A.E. prequel book trilogy, The Titan A.E. premium trading cards (a very big market in those times), a postcard insert advertising “Music from the motion picture Titan A.E.” featuring brand new songs by Lit, Luscious Jackson, and Powerman 5000 (be thankful, if the movie was eight months later it would’ve had a Limp Bizkit song on it), Titan A.E. CANDY BARS! MINT CREAM candy bars! Who the fuck wants a mint crème, or worse, raspberry crème candy bar? But you could get one in the spring/summer of 2000, each flavor emblazoned with your favorite Titan A.E. character. Unless your favorite character is the alien fruit-bat thing. We deal with confections licensing, not action figures. That’s Chad down the hall next to soup noodle design.

The comic is competently done with pencils in the style of the times; beef and cheesecake scowling in action movie poses. The action sequences, of which the entire book is, are confusing and poorly staged. It took me three readings to figure out that the bad guys don’t like each other and their bickering loses them the battle… mostly. Hell, it took me three readings to figure out which space ships were the bad guys (hint, the black ones). Dark Horse, normally a reliable source of quality, was total hired gun on this. At least it helped fill the coffers so they could do more Hellboy and Aliens vs. Predator vs. Terminator vs. The Mask vs. Digimon stuff. Whatever was going on in the comic itself was forgettable.

“Reading” the comic the ads were the only thing that made an impression, which was probably the point.

TANGENTAL POINTS RELATED TO THE REVIEW THAT I COLDN’T FIT ORGANICALLY INTO THE MAIN BODY:
Landfills from the 90s HAVE to be 45% AOL disc mailers.
There was a Titan A.E. video game planned (of course), but when the film tanked it was cancelled. Back to playing DOOM!
Campbell’s noodle soup licensing include Frozen, Star Wars – Rebels, and Super Mario Brothers. Needless to say you have to have a really good imagination to distinguish Elsa’s crown from that psychotic droid Chopper.
Other voice talents in Titan A.E. included 90s staple – Drew Barrymore, the pre-Will Smith black man that everyone could agree upon – Tone Loc, Lone Star himself – Bill Pullman, go-to nutty character actor and Super Mario brother Luigi (shut up!) – John Leguizamo.

Here is the trailer for the Titan A.E. movie:

Note that the only song in the trailer is one that isn’t even on the soundtrack BUT Creed (also known as “Jesus and his back-up band”) was a platinum selling band at the time. Marketing kids.
Drawing that line from Nirvana to Puddle of Mudd you can use the exact same line for Pearl Jam to Creed… just as depressing.

To continue bagging on Puddle of Mudd –
The Horrifying Future of Bands From the Late ’90s — powered by Cracked.com

Those Marvel cartoons! I watched that stuff every day and loved them, till my dad pointed out that the animation was shitty. I could never view them the same way again. That and my ex-wife are the reasons for years of costly therapy.

The live tweet thing will be a regular bit for us geeks on the nation. January was “The Black Hole”, February is “Howard the Duck”, March may be “Event Horizon”. Any other suggestions? A NOTE FROM THE FUTURE, 2020 WE NEVER DID ANY OTHER LIVE TWEETS! IF BY SOME CHANCE YOU’RE READING THIS CAUSE I LINKED FROM MY “THE SILENCERS” REVIEW; SORRY FOR MAKING AN EMPTY PROMISE! IF YOU’RE READING FROM 2020, THOUGH EMPTY PROMISES ARE A DIME A DOZEN!

Sean Mulvihill’s Revisiting the Reviled column is damn good. Read one after you finish this. And I think I convinced him to do one on “Titan A.E.” now. ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE FUTURE – HE NEVER DID ONE!

A TALKING SPACE PLATAPUS VOICED BY DANA CARVEY? I’m in!

Seriously… raspberry crème! Yeah, there was peanut butter and caramel, but what about the standard crisp and crumbled up peanut bits. Don’t screw with the classics! At least they didn’t do one with raisins, Christ!

The final thing on the mediocrity of Titan A.E.; consider the dearth of fanfic and/or slashfic out there… a Google search reveals… holy shit there is actually Titan A.E. slashfic!?!?!?!? You sick bastards! FINAL NOTE FROM 2020 – YEAH, THAT SICK SHIT IS STILL OUT THERE!

Next – Ultimate X-Men #46?
Later – Maybe Ultrasylvania vol:1

Anytime Costumes

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