Have Superhero Movies Reached Their Peak?

Originally posted on Medium

With the recent release of Black Panther having set a new bar for action movies (as mentioned in my previous post), one cannot help but think that the superhero genre in general may be running out of steam. Batman vs. Superman was incredibly underwhelming, the latest Justice League, while better, failed to live up to its hype, and both Marvel and DC Comics fans have been left with what amounts to a lineup of profitable, yet unimpressive films.

In the last 5 years there have been 23 films released based on Marvel and DC properties alone. You would think that this would create something of a superhero fatigue, right? Well, not exactly, and that’s because the superhero genre, after experiencing a bit of a rough patch in the mid-to-late 2000s, has now hit something of a renaissance. And what is the contributing factor to this renaissance, you may ask? Well, put simply, it is creativity, passion and a clear vision.

Let’s take one my favorite superhero movies of all time, Logan for example. Released just last year, Logan was the 10th film in the hit-or-miss X-Men franchise that saw the final story of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Why was this film such a critical and commercial hit? Aside from the fact that it had a great story, terrific acting and some of the best action sequences ever created for an X-Men film, it had used creativity to disrupt the traditionally conventional superhero genre. 20th Century Fox could have put out another PG-13 movie to make a quick buck, but instead, they took a risk and gave fans what they have been asking for for years: a violent, gritty, almost sociopathic Wolverine. Logan featured no shortage of foul language, grisly death and a realistic tone. This was a huge change of pace for the franchise, which previously leaned on toned down violence and language. Because of the passion of everyone involved in the project, namely by director James Mangold, we were left with a beautiful love letter to a character that many of us grew up with.

In fact, Logan is less a “superhero” movie, and more of an old western. If you haven’t already, watch “Unforgiven” with Clint Eastwood sometime. You won’t regret it.

Now let’s take a look at a film that fared poorly with critics and audiences: Justice League. Also released last year, Justice League was a meager attempt at cashing in on the tremendous success that Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has had. A garbled mish mash of CG action sequences and funny, but off tone comedy, Justice League was destined to fail — but why? Because it relied too heavily on traditional genre tropes, failing to pack the emotional punch that other superhero films (like the Dark Knight series) did before it. In fact, the film made more headlines for its trouble behind the scenes than it did for being a film. As leadership changes troubled DC’s film department, Zack Snyder, the creative director who’d made the DCEU what it was (for better or worse), was having problems of his own. Due to personal reasons, he was forced to leave the film before finishing production, and DC had no other choice but to find a new director.

Enter Joss Whedon, the nerd’s nerd. DC, and by extension, Warner Brothers, were hoping that Whedon would be able to add his creative touch to the film and create a box office darling; they were wrong. Instead, Whedon attempted to undo most of Snyder’s dark and gritty atmospheric choices and replace them with lighthearted fare that would appeal to audiences, leaving us with a superhero film that has no clue what it wants to be. Fans noticed this and didn’t bite. The film failed.

This is precisely where Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and to a certain extent, 20th Century Fox’s X-Men universe, is getting it right. They are taking creative risks and putting their films in the hands of creative and passionate individuals whom all have a clear vision for their project. The MCU is headed by Kevin Feige who understands that taking creative risks and playing homage to the source material of these films pays off big time. The first two Thor films didn’t necessarily flop at the box office, but they were not critical darlings; however, once Taika Waititi’s brand of off-the-wall humor made its way into the franchise, Thor: Ragnarokgave a refreshing take on the character, and saw massive praise and box office receipts; Ryan Coogler’s heavy African influence on and passion for the source material of Black Panther made the film the billion-dollar behemoth it is today.

Is the superhero genre dying? No, I don’t believe that it is. I simply believe that we are now experiencing something of a “revolution” in superhero films in which the traditional genre conventions must be disposed of, in favor of originality and authentic storytelling. Black PantherThor: RagnarokWonder WomanDeadpool and Logan all share one thing in common: they were made with a clear vision, and did not limit themselves to what a superhero film “should” be. Superhero films have not reached their peak, not as long as we have young professional filmmakers who care about these characters as much as fans do.

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Writing Skills Needed to Survive the Digital Age

Like nearly every other facet of the world, writing is something that has been changed by technology in the last few decades. What was once a form of print media manifested through typewriters has since become an entire business of freelancers and employees working to drive their writing to the public eye through computers, smartphones, and tablets. That being said, the skills necessary in order to find success as a writer in today’s digital world have been quite altered.

Branding, marketing, and advertising are fields that require exquisite writing more than most, and are a few aspects of the actual content that writers need to take into consideration. Digital writing today encompasses an array of styles that cover literally every piece of written content on the internet. While writing is (obviously) the most important part of the job, aspiring writers and professionals must do much more than just constructing engaging content.

First, and perhaps the most obvious, writers must develop a habit of writing no matter the setting. Waiting for inspiration to strike rather than just letting your thoughts pour out onto a page is just wasting time. Of course, better content calls for a better source of inspiration, but in order to develop the most basic skills, you should be writing as often as possible.

As previously mentioned, branding is now an enormous part of digital writing. People are interested in who you are and what you write about now more than ever. Because of this, building an audience is key. If your work isn’t seen by anyone, it will never gain traction. Create a following and establish yourself as a professional in the field you write about. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram can be valuable tools for writers who wish to grow their audiences. Once you’ve created a brand that people remain loyal to, more eyes will be exposed to your work.

Patience is key. It is rare that your work will become an overnight sensation. Keeping that in mind, remember that individuals buy either what they want, or what they need. No matter how great your content is, if it doesn’t fall under either of those categories, it will be ignored. Start writing outside the box. Focus on topics that cover a wider range of people. For example, writing about how aspiring entrepreneurs can find success will reach a much larger audience than something on the greatest poets to ever come from France.

Lastly, be confident. Never be afraid to share your work with the harshly critiquing internet. Publishing a piece of yours to the public is the best way to grow, as you’ll learn what people like, and what people may despise. The level of vulnerability that comes with this allows you to see your work in a different light. The fear of judgment forces you to look much closer at your writing than ever before, possibly helping you catch simple mistakes that fell through the cracks. Confidently share your writing with the real world and allow the public to watch your growth as a writer.

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Harmful Habits to Avoid When Writing

They say you should write like you speak, which is mostly true. But when you’re in a creative flow and writing just seems to come naturally, it’s easy to overlook mistakes and fall back into a safety net of repetition. You might be writing just like you speak, but it’s important to remember to avoid using the same exact words and phrases in each and every one of your written pieces. There’s a lot of mistakes that can be made with creative writing, but if you edit with a careful eye, your writing can be that much more impactful.

There’s some truth to the quote “write drunk and edit sober.”

Run-on Paragraphs

We are taught at an early age how unprofessional and awkward sounding run-on sentences can be. In an attempt to avoid these however, many writers end up creating run-on paragraphs. Most readers want clear, concise sentences that are easy to read. A huge paragraph without breaks looks like a giant concoction of information that makes people zone out.

Break up your paragraphs depending on where subjects shift. Varying lines of words are much more pleasing to the human eye, and will keep your readers’ attentions.

Long-winded Introductions

Introductions are obviously key parts of stories to lay ground for what’s to come, whether they are fiction, nonfiction, or news stories. However, a lot of writers tend to ramble with this much creative freedom. I suggest sticking to just 4 or 5 sentences when writing an introduction rather than incorporating a life story that you think a few readers might enjoy. In most cases, they’re here to read the piece of content for what it is, and nothing more.

Exclamation Points

I understand these are basic punctuation marks that are used pretty frequently, but a surefire way to lose credibility in your story is to use too many exclamation points. Personally, I think even one is too many. Unless you are quoting somebody or the situation really calls for it, try to avoid using an exclamation point at all costs. It almost forces the reader to hear the sentence in a surprised, amateurish tone. It’s a step away from using all caps, something we can all agree should never be done (unless on Twitter).

Vagueness

Reading vague sentences that don’t seem to get to the point can be incredibly frustrating for readers. The longer it takes you to clearly explain the main point of your sentence, paragraph, or entire story, the less interested your audience will be. Keep in mind that people’s attention spans are typically very short. If it takes 100 words or more for them to figure out just what you’re trying to say, readers are going to skim your writing.

Though I have just listed a few of many possible writing mistakes, many different errors can be umbrellaed under these considerations. Pay attention to your writing before you hit that publish button. Read it out loud. It’s always better to catch these things yourself, before the rest of the world does.

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Tech Strategies to Boost Your Blog Traffic

In the simplest terms, blogs are web pages that are regularly updated with fresh content. This mostly comes in the form of text-based posts that share information regarding one topic, or a cluster of closely-related topics.

To build a blog, all one needs is a web page. Taking out a WordPress or Weebly site is free, although buying a customized domain name often doesn’t cost more than $20. All that’s required to build a successful blog is experience, know-how, and consistent posting. However, simply writing articles in a blog isn’t guaranteed to draw in visitors. This is where you inner marketer comes into play.

Here are several tips bloggers can lean on to increase web traffic from technological standpoints, which could potentially earn them advertising revenue for the high numbers of web users that may visit their sites as well. Let’s look these as if we were Google crawlers.

Seek out a tightly-knit audience

All communities are different, including digital communities. While it’s never a good idea to write for blogs with topics you know nothing about, it is, in fact, advisable to tailor blog posts to communities that commonly share information with one another.

Look around online for such communities, typically found on sites like Reddit, message boards, or forums. A consistent brand is one that tends to be rewarded by Google.

Make certain to apply SEO strategies

Contrary to my previous blog, search engine optimization is considered a necessary facet of getting exposure on the World Wide Web. Even though some web pages are able to gain popularity without much or any effort expended towards beefing up SEO performance, bloggers should always research the latest SEO tactics and try and implement them into their writing.

Consider asking well-known web pages related to a blog’s concentration if they would backlink to its domain name. Despite the possibility one might have to fork over tens, or hundreds of dollars to earn a quality backlink, doing so is an effective booster of search engine performance.

Bloggers also need to encrypt their pages with HTTPS protocol, as well as increase page authority. These three variables are likely to boost any blog’s standing on the internet and its many search engines (ideally Google).

Don’t ignore analytics

Several free or low-cost analytical tools exist on the Internet for assessing one’s blogging performance. These programs provide valuable insights unavailable anywhere else, and even provide suggestions as to how bloggers can improve their search rankings, average user experience, and other pertinent characteristics. To ignore these is to ignore the internet’s way of saying “Here are the exact reasons why your blog is or is not receiving traffic.”