Portland – The New Hollywood?

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I recently did a piece for CBR about Portland, its creativity and its thriving comic book scene. I found Portland to be inspirational for many reasons, chief of which is the fact that it just feels like a great place to “get things done.” It has many of the big city virtues but still manages to maintain some of the small-town feel and, dare I say it, innocence, so often lacking in other places — like Los Angeles.

When I was there talking to a great many of the people responsible for putting Portland on the map as a creative town and a town where there are lots of talented people producing some great stuff, I also got a sense that something else was just around the corner. That we hadn’t seen everything that was going to happen in Portland and that comics were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Well, if you take a look at this article in Variety, I guess we now have an idea what that something else might be: Hollywood. Hollywood, it seems, is in love with comic books and wants to make as many comic books into movies as possible. In many ways that’s a good thing. It gives people who work in comics a chance to see their work on the big screen and potentially puts a lot more money in their pockets. It also opens up these stories to a much greater potential audience who may, after discovering the movie they just enjoyed was based on a graphic novel or comic book, go to their local comic book store to check out a few more. They might even end up purchasing some too.

But I wonder if, in the end, this attention will really be good for comics and Portland. My first clue that all may not be perfect in this new relationship is the title of the Variety article. It’s pretty openly condescending to comic book creators, calling them “wannabes.” Of course, that may not be an insult to Hollywood people. After all, doesn’t everyone want to work in the movies?

From experience I know that Hollywood often has a tendency to find that “next big thing,” use it until there’s no more left and then move on to the next thing. Unfortunately, that often leaves quite a bit of destruction in its wake. As someone who likes comics, comic book creators, publishers and Portland, I just hope Hollywood doesn’t do the same to them when its finished squeezing every penny it can.

I hope Hollywood, in its desperation to save a dying business model, bring people into the theaters and sell lots of DVDs, doesn’t end up ruining comics for the rest of us and crushing that last bit of innocence in Portland and comics we could all use a little more of now and again. That would be a shame indeed.

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