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The State of Genre Fiction

There's no secret to what I'm trying to do in my writing career. I write genre. I write superheroes, fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Right now, I'm aiming for television, but I'd love to write features as well.

Ultimately, my goal is to create original content. My animation development team, Massive Chaos, has about a dozen original series ideas ready to pitch. We've been taking meetings, showing what we have to some pretty big players...and we've been getting great reactions to our stuff. Unfortunately.

The problem is that there is almost no market for original stuff right now. It's all about pre-existing IP. I hate it...but I GET IT. Established IP are easier (and cheaper) to market because they have a built-in audience.

Frankly, there's plenty of room in established IP to tell interesting and original stories, as it turns out.

#Squirrel and I watched the first two episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters last night...and this is an example of doing something fresh and original within the confines of established IP. This is set in the Legendary Monsterverse (Godzillaverse?) established by the more recent American films.

How do you make the stuff between monster attacks more compelling? Make it character-driven! This is way more a story about FAMILY. About family secrets, about fractured families, and about chosen families.

Monarch is ABOUT something besides "big monster smash." While I love "big monster smash," and that's the only reason I've seen all the Legendary Monsterverse films, make it ABOUT something if you want me to keep showing up. (Big monsters smash things too.)

The Marvels is some brave shit. Braver, I'd wager, than taking a chance on an original IP. Brie Larson's Captain Marvel is like Hillary Clinton running for President -- people are going to show up just to vote against it. Once you add in two more superheroines -- women of color, no less -- and then factor in both the post-COVID landscape and so-called "superhero fatigue," the chips were stacked pretty substantially against this film.

It's a shame, too. I really enjoyed this film. It's not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a thoroughly fun one. It fits in really well with the rest of the MCU. It's charming and heroic and funny.

But the writing was on the wall with this one. It was a huge gamble, even if it was put on the schedule at a time when "superhero fatigue" wasn't yet a thing. I mean, if they're gonna make things like this, they might as well make more things like Blue Eye Samurai.

Blue Eye Samurai is not a piece of previously existing IP. The only things it has going for it in the marketing department are the credentials of one of its creators, Michael Green (who created this with his wife, Amber Noizumi), who's written some pretty big and well-received projects in recent years. The poster I've shared here lists Logan and Blade Runner 2049, but he also wrote Alien: Covenant and all three of the Kenneth Branagh Hercule Poirot films.

I guess being set in feudal Japan is a selling point for the show -- one might be fooled into thinking this is anime. Truth is, this is a French production; no one will watch this for longer than three minutes without realizing it's not anime. Still, it definitely features the ultra-violence that adult anime often puts front and center and it is very culturally aware.

I'm doubly drawn to this. It's fantasy adventure and it's a tale about revenge. It's not all that far removed from my own Hunter Black. I greedily devoured each episode. I'll probably watch it again, even thought I'm a little disenchanted with the ending. (I mean, this is clearly set up as a multi-season story, but Netflix offers no guarantees. I'd have preferred something a little tidier.)

Genre fiction remains ascendant -- the powerful performances of Avatar 2, Barbie, and Super Mario Bros. proves it. There are lots of great examples of it out there...and it's not all biug franchises. Hopefully, the box office failures of projects like The Marvels (even though it deserves to have succeeded) will lead a renaissance of originality. Even if it doesn't there is still gold to be mined in even the most unlikely of IPs -- if only creators and studios are brave enough to dig deep for it.

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