The Incredible Hulk Assembled

Since his first comic was released in May 1962, The Incredible Hulk is one of the most iconic characters to have come from the imagination of veteran comic writer Stan Lee. From his initial comic fame came a successful TV series throughout the 70s and 80s, and he has appeared in three of Marvel’s recent wave of films, the first of which came out ten years ago in 2003.

Of these three, two are stand alone films for the character, and only two officially take place in the canon of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Each of the three films has different stars, directors, and styles, but they also relate to each other in the form of a varied beginning, middle, and end of the same story. Much like Bruce Banner himself, the films are each different, but inseparable from their alter egos, as a detailed look will reveal.

‘Hulk’ was the beginning of Marvel Studio’s fifth comic book adaptation franchise, after Blade, X-Men, Spider-Man and Daredevil.

First up was the film simply titled Hulk. No ‘Incredible’, and not even a ‘The’, Hulk was directed by Ang Lee, someone noted for character driven films which explore certain themes and ideas, The Ice Storm being a prime example, and so bringing a big green monster to the screen was something of a surprise add to his resume. The result however was a film which combines the nods to classical literature of the likes of not just Dr. Jekyll but also Beauty and the Beast, with comic book action that could only have come from the director of both Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Whilst keeping the themes and inspirations intact, the film does play with the original comic’s story somewhat, particularly in terms of Bruce Banner’s transformation.

Although still getting his gamma infusion by sacrificing himself in front of an invention of his own making, this time his dose of gamma radiation comes from a medical experiment designed to heal wounded tissue. Something which is also combined with genetic mutations passed on from experiments that his father David (a nod to the TV series), tried on himself. The film does include a desert explosion with tenuous links however, again caused by his father, and which occurs as a young Bruce witnesses his mothers accidental death by his father’s hands, when she falls in front of the knife aimed at her son. Thus the psychological trauma of Bruce Banner is born.

While it may have changed the story of the comics a little too much (although you can see why they didn’t risk a hero who builds nuclear bombs just two years after 9/11) this first big screen adaptation unfortunately goes the other way in terms of the medium itself. Lee’s choice of split screen editing is an interesting addition which certainly has its moments that shine, but like the use of slow motion in The Matrix sequels, becomes overused far too quickly. In addition, the fight between Hulk and a mutated poodle, as well as with his father’s own rather curious transformation are perhaps something that should have been left between the pages of an actual comic book.

Over the top they may be, but it has to be said that for a ten-year old film, the CGI is still able to stand on its own feet, and in fact the only thing that risks dating it is the youthful Eric Bana in his first starring Hollywood role.

This is not the only instance of an actor standing out however, as they, along with their characters, are its success. Bana brings out both the vulnerable and enraged sides of Bruce Banner with ease, and Jennifer Connelly unsurprisingly brings a great performance to the role of Betty Ross, having come straight from her applauded roles in Requiem for a Dream and her Oscar-winning performance from A Beautiful Mind. Receiving mixed reviews from critics, it is a film in which its failures come only from trying to hard.

'The Incredible Hulk' bridged the gap between 'Hulk' and 'Avengers'
‘The Incredible Hulk’ bridged the gap between ‘Hulk’ and ‘Avengers’

Hulk’s pseudo-follow up on the other hand, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, is something of an anomaly. Looking back on it now, it seems to try to do a little bit of everything, and doesn’t really achieve as much as it could. Much like Marvel’s Punisher: War Zone released in the same year, it retcons the origin story of its predecessor whilst simultaneously continuing its story; Banner has escaped the US military and is on the run in South America. Still on the hunt is General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, who the film tells us has been chasing Banner for five years, the same time frame between Hulk and Incredible‘s cinematic release. Even Lou Ferrigno cameos once again as a security guard, and also gets to deliver Hulk’s only line, the cheer worthy  “Hulk Smash!”

On the reverse of this however, the film also strives to make new ground, Betty’s scream of calling General Ross “Dad” being a prime example as it seems almost as though it’s meant to be a revelation, but no new ground is really ever made. In addition to this, Banner’s background as a brilliant scientist is hardly mentioned, and where the audience doesn’t have prior knowledge for the film to fall back on, it would seem he is merely a military pawn that just happens to be good with machinery. 

In terms of the retcon, Banner’s transformations now come courtesy of a decades old super soldier serum, a nod to Captain America for those in the know, but for those who aren’t it may seem a possibly unneeded change that still keeps the lab experiment at the expense of the characters established origins. In addition, the fact that the military never told Banner what it was exactly just adds even more to his scapegoat like status. 

While Tim Roth may be a great choice to play the newly introduced Emil Blonsky, his desire for, and transformation caused by the Hulk’s power is merely a better realised version of Banner Snr’s story. The fact that he is a power hungry soldier also only adds to the Hollywood cliche, and is a perfect example of the film as a whole, there just doesn’t seem to be enough originality on offer. 

Unfortunately, the films pitfalls don’t end here either.The attempted humour just feels too forced throughout (“You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry”?), and the cast don’t really live up to their predecessors, although it has to be said that they did leave the bar rather high. The core trio of Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and William Hurt are all fine actors in their own right, but the script (which Norton also had a hand in) just doesn’t seem to let them flex enough of their acting muscles. Unlike Sam Elliot’s, Hurt’s General Ross in particular hardly seems like the type to earn the nickname ‘Thunderbolt’. 

That said, The Increible Hulk is not a bad film altogether, it just doesn’t have much to work with. What it does have however, it uses to it’s best, and the Hulk Vs Abomination showdown is something to behold. It may not have the joy of destroying US military hardware via a gold medal hammer throw, but with the flailingly gruesome deaths handed out to soldiers and civilians alike, it’s fair to say that The Incredible Hulk was aiming at a tone more dark than entertaining. Something which it also makes the most of; the first ‘appearance’ of Hulk amongst the industrial bottle plant’s shadows does bring out the the best of an Alien influenced ‘less is more’ atmosphere.

All in all it seems that the films main function is merely to act as a bridge, essentially nothing more than preparing Hulk‘s audience for the eventual release of (The) Avengers (Assemble) some four years later; it is the simple narrative purpose of Banner getting on the right side of the military (alongside an obligatory Downey jr cameo), in the guise of a cinematic blockbuster. 

(The) Avengers (Assemble) sees Banner matched intellectually with Tony Stark
By being teamed up with Stark, Banner’s intellect is given a lot more precedence in (The) Avengers (Assemble).

As a film that combines elements of four other Marvel movies, it’s unsurprising that Avengers combines elements of both previous Hulk films. As a character with a more rocky filmic history though, it is not unsurprising that only elements important to Banner’s own story are incorporated. While Iron Man, Captain America and Thor may have brought the plethora of supporting cast with them, and even the tessaract central to villain Loki’s plan, not even Betty Ross gets the courtesy mention afforded to Thor‘s Jane Foster, complete with Natalie Portman screenshot.

As such it has to be said that even having been written and directed by Joss Whedon, whose previous film Serenity is a masterclass in exposition designed for both new and old audiences alike, any Hulk fan who hasn’t seen the others won’t exactly be confused throughout preceedings, but may be a little behind those who have.

The first of the main four superheroes to be introduced, Banner’s story picks up where Hulk left off, rather than Incredible, which I’m afraid to say does make it perhaps a little superfluous. Again a brilliant scientist, who this time round is even comparable to Steven Hawking, he is acting as Doctor to those in need when hiding (as Bana is seen doing at the end of Hulk), rather than bottling plant handy man who can build himself a chemistry set. As mentioned previously however, Avengers does continue the super serum origin story, and acknowledges the events of Incredible when Banner states that he “broke Harlem.”

This time he is played by Mark Ruffalo, who was not only the original choice for Incredible, but who is also the first actor to portray the Hulk as well as his alter ego. Alongside a different actor, we also see a different side of the character; this time a Banner who is more paranoid, pointlessly turning away from a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo whilst in the middle of a command centre, and also has a more unique relationship with the Hulk, referring to him throughout as “the other guy”,  even to the point of correcting himself when mentioning him by name. Added to this is his secret at controlling his changes. An idea that Whedon has since hinted at coming from his own experiences in Hollywood, Banner here is “always angry”, in comparison to Norton’s calming breathing techniques.

As an ensemble piece we also get to see a variety of different reactions from the various characters. In the absence of Betty Ross, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is at first wary of contacting “the big guy”, but brings a sense of pity as well as fear when trying to calm him. Perhaps the best though, outspoken as ever, is Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark. Not only is he a great match for Banner intellectually, but openly admits being a fan of both his “work on anti-electron collisions” as well as his ability to “turn into an enormous green rage monster”, which he considers to be Banner’s suiting up. Something Banner refutes however, clarifying that rather than having a suit, as the Hulk he is instead completely exposed.

'The Incredible Hulk' also set up another possible sequel with the origin of comic villain The Leader.
‘The Incredible Hulk’ also set up another possible sequel with the origin of comic villain The Leader.

Although not strictly an end to the Hulk story with The Avengers 2 is already in development and another stand alone film not completely out of the question, this appearance does bring a sense of conclusion to the character. Having fought the Hulk for so long, Banner is now more at peace with his alter-ego (even if he does have to always be angry to achieve it), and by fighting alongside the Avengers to save the earth, he has gained a sense of acceptance that was previously missing.

So what are the connotations of three different actors? For a start, it is not as though Marvel films, even those considered canon to the Cinematic Universe, don’t have a perfect continuity record, with both Terrence Howard and Don Cheadle appearing as Captain Rhodes in the Iron Man films. With recent discussions about the logic behind how (un)generous the wages can be, it’s also entirely possible more changes may also take place in the future.

As I’ve mentioned, we also witness three different sides to the character of Bruce Banner. Whilst film making is obviously a collaborative effort, especially when different films come from different writers and directors, throughout all the Hulk has been through I feel that I have to make a mention to Zak Penn, perhaps the only person to have been involved in the writing of all three films.

While it would be unfair to blame him personally for the differences of the three films, his screenwriting history, especially with Marvel, is an interesting one. Credited as writing the story for both X2 and Avengers, arguably two of Marvels best efforts, he is also credited as writing (presumably the screenplay as well) Elektra and X-Men: The Last Stand, arguably not Marvel’s best efforts by any means.

Actors, directors, and writers may change, and details may not be consistent throughout the three appearances of Bruce Banner and the Hulk, but we do get an over arching, if fractured, story which serves a great modern character. Overall, a great example of the many Marvel films that have been released recently, and why they are so popular.

Whether they be a stand alone, sequel, or part of a franchise, Marvel Studios utilise well respected actors and terrific special effects, but these alone do not make successful films. Marvel films shine in exactly the same way its comics do, by telling enthralling stories about daring characters that have been thrilling audiences for generations.

The bigger they come, the harder they charge.

As someone with two film degrees, I want to tell you something that may come as a surprise; I hardly ever go to the cinema. It’s nothing to do with downloading, only partly to do with not having as much disposable income, but mainly due to the state that cinemas and their latest releases have found themselves in these days.

Like many things it pretty much comes down to money. More than than just how much is in my own pocket though, budget day seems as good a day as any to talk about big companies trying to make as much as they can get away with. Yes, big companies have big expenditures, but they also have more seats to put bums on. Surely they could be more helpful at meeting us in the middle somewhere?

'Argo' is available on DVD for only 14p more than could have been spent on a single Odeon ticket.
‘Argo’ is available on DVD from WHSmith for only 14p more than a single Odeon ticket.

I currently live in Devon, and a trip to my local Scott Cinema, any time of the week, is £6. If I want a VIP seat, or have to watch anything in 3D it’s an extra £1.50 (£3 for both). If we compare this to the Odeon I begrudgingly visited in Colchester while at university, we find that even an off peak ticket (mon-thurs, before 5pm) including a further discount for seniors or students would still be more expensive. I saw The Hobbit in 3D with VIP seats here for less than I’d have to pay for a standard ticket at the Odeon. Needless to say, trips often occurred on Orange Wednesdays.

Back in my ex-local cinema, the Commodore in Aberystwyth, I would now only have to pay £5 (£4.50 on mondays). More than just charging only an extra £1 for 3D, they also have a bar and a car park that is free after 6pm.

Considering all three cinemas I’ve been to are either situated slap bang in the middle, or within walking distance, of the town centre, the only real difference is the size. The Commodore is an independent cinema with one screen, my local which has four is part of a small chain, and I have to admit I lost count at Colchester Odeon.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the bigger a company, the cheaper the deals it could offer? Supermarkets and horsemeat aside, if we use J.D. Wetherspoon as an example we can see that it offers exactly the same pints as any other pub, but does so at a cheaper price. Even with a bigger infrastructure, they can still do this because they get what is essentially bulk discount on a national scale. I don’t doubt that pint and print distribution work in different ways, but surely the principle is the same?

I’m not for a minute telling you to walk straight past your local, overall they’re often the better places (both pubs and cinemas), I’m just wondering if maybe the situation has now got to the point that for so many cities and larger towns, the huge chain cinemas have already squeezed out any smaller competition. This in turn has given them a monopoly that has left the majority of audiences with no choice but to pay whatever they demand.

Even with my less than frequent visits I’ve seen the cinema advert/plea of a cobweb laden auditorium, and unless anyone can offer me a legitimate reason as to why big chains ask for so much when an independent cinema on the edge of Wales can charge less than a fiver for the same thing, I’m sure ticket prices are a major factor that’s drawing in the cobwebs.

Yes, internet piracy is also a factor. Some time ago I wrote an article for The Rabbit, Essex SU’s student newspaper (links will be added when they become available [EDIT: this particular article can now be found here]), which puts forward the argument that piracy hurts the diversity of films, and encourages brand recognition (something else that keeps me away), but allow me here to consider this in terms of cinema audience figures.

The more people download films, the less they go to the cinema, and so the more cinemas charge? In head office propaganda & justification theory, yes that’s how it works, but surely the more cinemas charge, the more people will download?

Another largely overlooked factor, is not just box office takings, but the records they produce. The list of top ten worldwide box office takings contains only three films that were released before 2009. These are some of the most important figures that matter to Hollywood (one day I’ll do a post about why they shouldn’t be), and in today’s environment of appealing to the lowest common denominator by churning out sequels aplenty (there are also only two original films in the top ten), it is often the studios and distributors who are just as guilty. By parting people with as much cash as they can afford to, the higher up these charts they can climb, and the more they can boast about being ‘successful’.

Despite being #1 on that list, James Cameron’s Avatar still only managed second place to 1939’s Gone With The Wind when adjusted for inflationThe film was an innovative use of 3D, but much like Gone With The Wind and colour photography, it was made at a time when it was a spectacle the likes of which nothing could come close to rivalling. Today however, the technology is now taken for granted and abused.

With cinemas worldwide having invested in it, what Cameron helped to engineer as the next step in immersive storytelling is now being flaunted as a cheap gimmick the bigger businesses are using to increase ticket prices without so much as a second thought. Rather than offering anything extra however, these prices now seem only to serve an investment that had so much not already been spent on it, probably would have gone the way of the Betamax. It only works if the effort is put into it, and regardless of the fact many people physically can’t watch it, many more are becoming disillusioned by the fact that such visually stunning films like Life of Pi (which itself is emptying the pockets of visual effects companies now in administration) are too few and far between, and the standard conversion process often achieves only sloppy results.

Some action shots can often look better on a small screen than in a 3D cinema.
Some moving action shots are often made worse by 3D.

It is also because of this that 3D seems to be going hand in hand with downloading, but rather than giving audiences a better experience they can’t download, it could actually be making things worse. By processing the action heavy summer blockbusters (those often topping the download rankings) into 3D, the only thing studios and distributors are doing is to make those same action sequences blurry and confusing. I was disappointed to find that the best 3D effects in The Avengers were the pre-opening credit company logos, and I have to say that the classic ‘camera circling the surrounded heroes’ shot looked far better in the small screen trailer than a 3D cinema.

The fact that there is a growing trend in 3D films that are not being given a 2D release in the UK only makes thinks worse.

So what does the future hold for my own cinema going? Just because I can now afford to go more often than I did this time last year, only by virtue of living the country, that is not to say I am any less picky. For a start, I am pleased there are groups such as Where’s My 2D? which are campaigning for studios and cinemas to go easier 3D distribution, and even lobbying equality ministers in parliament on behalf of those who physically are caused actual pain by 3D, and it is a fight I wholeheartedly endorse.

But while I’m still looking forward to watching several films on the big screen, a list that includes the likes of Robot & Frank and Welcome to the Punch more than Iron Man 3, I have to that as much as I prefer the event of going to the cinema, watching a DVD on my comfy sofa is still my viewing method of choice. Whilst you should never underestimate the discovery of an overlooked classic in a charity shop, I can only look forward to the time when the cinema is back in it’s number one spot.

Transmedia storytelling: Where do we tie-in from here?

Having been around almost as long as cult film and television itself, tie-in media is now serious business. Star Wars alone includes over 20,000 years of “Expanded Universe” history to support only six (so far) canonical feature films. But how do you go about creating such a detailed background, and what exactly is this background in the first place?

Firstly, you don’t have to. Tie-in media is generally anything that takes an already established story, usually a TV show, and tells another story using those characters, settings, etc, and it doesn’t have to be part of an epic sci-fi saga. Something as simple as the novelisation of Snakes on a Plane, or even the Dad’s Army stage adaptations could also fall under this category.

Starting at the beginning, perhaps one of the earliest pieces of original tie-in fiction was 1968’s Mission to Horatius, a young adult Star Trek novel by Mack Reynolds. Like the episodes of the series itself, the novel told the story of the Enterprise crew on an outer space adventure, thrills and danger were experienced, before everything is heroically, and not to forget neatly, concluded. Returning everything to the status quo meant that viewers and readers could dip in and out of adventures and not get lost. Everyone knew the central relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, knew that Uhura would be there to take the messages, and the Klingons were the badguys. As time went on however, things changed.

The 34th Rule, by Armin Shimerman and David R George, filled in many gaps the on-screen 'Star Trek' to regarding humanities future 'Utopia'.
‘The 34th Rule’, by Armin Shimerman and David R George, filled many of  ‘Star Trek’s Utopia’s gaps.

Klingon peace treaties and the civil rights movement aside, Star Trek evolved, and its tie-in fiction along with it. The episodic TV series’ led to feature films with an ongoing story arc. The Voyage Home remains one of the most popular Trek films to date, but without a recap of The Search For Spock, those who haven’t seen it may be a little confused as to why there’s no Enterprise. Likewise novels were joined by comics that contained stories that could often have cliffhanger endings, leaving readers waiting with baited breath for next month’s issue.

Ten years after it’s initial cancellation, the other long running science-fiction series Doctor Who regenerated into audio adventures, reuniting cast members to portray their charcters, even if by only voicing them. With the series once again gracing TV screens, these classic Doctor tales are still going strong.

Following this, the new millennium began with The Matrix gifting the world with a new breed of tie-in, containing almost as much new storytelling as slow motion CGI. More than just new adventures however, The “Wachowski Warship” as the Wachowski ‘Brothers’ are now known, utilised comics, short animation films, and even a computer game, in order to tell the same narrative story, only from different perspectives; While the audience watching The Matrix Reloaded would witness Niobe imparting news of how a ship called The Osiris discovered a Sentinel threat, those who have seen the aptly named Final Flight of the Osiris would witness that discovery first hand, but only Enter The Matrix players would know how the story, and indeed the intel would be picked up and delivered by Niobe after Osiris’ drop off.

While The Matrix fleshed out a story that fans already knew, the TV series Lost would take this one step forwards (or possibly backwards?) throughout the show’s six season run. Although maybe not producing as many tie-ins as other series, what was produced put a twist on traditional elements, such the ‘in-universe’ tie-in novel Bad Twin (whose ‘author’ was also on flight 815, and the manuscript to which was read on-screen by Sawyer), and merged storytelling with mere merchandising, thanks to a collection of four “Mystery of the Island” Jigsaw Puzzles that advertised “exclusive new insight into TV’s most puzzling drama series.”

Jigsaw Puzzles were an original but laboured piece of 'Lost' transmedia story-telling.
Jigsaw Puzzles were a unique, but laboured piece of ‘Lost’ transmedia story-telling.

But despite such originality in their storytelling, they gave at best only the merest hints towards any further information regarding the show’s many unanswered questions. Meta-fiction aside, the puzzles themselves were just collages of screenshots and images from the show itself, each one only showing a quarter of the completed “insights” which were not only hidden on the back of the completed puzzles, but were written in both code, and glow in the dark ink (the cypher for which was only found on the fourth puzzle). As if this weren’t confusing enough, those that solved everything would only be asked further questions by script co-ordinator Gregg Nations; “I’d have to say yes, they can be considered canon. But keep in mind who wrote those coded messages to begin with — Radzinsky and then Kelvin. What were their states of mind when creating it? And can they really be trusted?

Even worse than Bad Twin‘s duplicity however, semi-canonical storylines set on the island itself, Lost: The Video Game for example, only served to complicate ideas even further by leaving players wondering what should be separated as Lost ‘fact’ from Lost ‘fiction’. Frustrations aside however, you can’t help but admire the planning that went into such a tie-in effort, orchestrated by writers and producers of the show itself.

With the advent of serial-arc based TV drama however, a concept that even Star Trek adopted, tie-in media encountered new problems, but which were relatively easy to overcome. With such a vast universe to explore, Star Trek: New Frontier was created to boldly go where no tie-in had gone before, featuring a completely new ship and crew. A short lived series of novels also looked at how the exploration that epitomised Star Trek was conducted by Starfleet’s Klingon counterparts. Needless to say, conquering was involved.

But the main problem came when the series ended. Often tie-in media was the place to go for fans who were hungry for more, but with the number of television programs adopting story arc’s now being the vast majority, there are more than one in which the final episode concludes its story through what would be a major game change in the characters lives. With tie-in authors unable to make any significant contributions to the development of character’s audiences loved, this was often the last they ever heard from them.

Whether boosted by the example set by Lost, or by their own enthusiasm as fans, producers of cult shows have begun to take transmedia storytelling more and more seriously, and continue to tell their stories themselves, after the shows have been cancelled. Something which comic publishers have been keen to capitalise on, releasing stories that not just continue a TV show’s narrative, but do so to the point where they are considered canonical, and even released in mini-series corresponding to the original show’s seasons. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight is an early example of this, and it has just been announced that The X Files will be the latest, with “Season 10” due to be published over a decade since “Season 9” was broadcast. Obviously great news for fans of cult franchises whose cast and crew could not be reunited, but more importantly, those that studio executives are no longer willing to risk money on.

But in the current climate of “Brand Recognition” (the idea that particularly in a recession, audiences are less likely to take risks with unknowns, and spend their money more on franchises they already know), this also comes at a price. As Buffy was a popular money maker throughout it’s seven season run, I’m sure Fox have no problem in allowing Dark Horse to license it’s intellectual property for as long as the royalties will keep on coming in.

Firefly on the other hand, also written and produced by Whedon, is a series that Fox doesn’t generally like or understand, and so was cancelled during it’s first and only season. Unable to establish the widespread fanbase it deserves, what the show lacks in quantity of fans it more than makes up for in quality, and with only fourteen episodes and one feature film produced, they are always eager for more. Joss Whedon’s time management aside, surely I’m not the only one who considers Fox’s dismissal and consequentially the the series’ lack of money making ability to be an important factor in it’s lack of comic production, a mere fraction of the titles set in the already heavily established ‘Buffyverse’.

The slayers' Scythe appeared in 'Fray' before 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'
The slayers’ Scythe appeared in the comic ‘Fray’ before ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’.

Although transmedia has gained popularity and acclaim throughout it’s lifetime, I can think of only one instance in which a piece of tie-in fiction has influenced the TV show which had born it. When writing a comicbook mini-series, Whedon (I know I keep mentioning him, but do so not through choice, but simply due to the prolific and various natures of his work) assumed people would only want more slayers from him, and so obliged accordingly.

Even when considering this is just a very brief overview of its history, it is no wonder that tie-in media is increasingly now referred to as ‘transmedia’ storytelling. These new stories are no longer being written to tie-in with bigger storylines, they now often are the bigger storylines.

Before commenting on the current emerging trends of where it is taking us next, it is important to remember that new developments of transmedia do not always mean the end of the traditional, which are still important in their own right. Whilst Star Trek‘s on-screen adventures may have returned to an alternative view of Kirk & co, with the films writers and producers involved with the parallel and prequel comic series, brand new adventures of Picard, Sisko, and Archer (not so much Janeway) are still recalled through a plethora of novels. Novels which do not just keep characters alive, but which allow newer and previously unpublished writers to be read.

Una McCormack for example, has gone from writing internet fan-fiction, to pretty much holding the fate of Cardassia itself in her hands. More than just Hollow Men and The Never-Ending Sacrifice being two of the best Star Trek novels I have read (and I’ve read more than a few) writing tie-in fiction has given a writer the opportunity to not only contribute to series she loves (she has also written books for Doctor Who), but this has also lead to her own original fiction being publisd as well.

But just as with all evolutions, it seems the tree of transmedia is again spliting into two separate branches. Whereas previous divergences occured from prose to comic to audio however, this one is at the heart of on-screen media itself.

One thing it seems, is that with a rise of adaptations and series such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, transmedia has come full circle. Whereas tie-in material published through books were previously used to supplement on-screen adventures, now it seems that what we see on screens, is more and more filing in the gaps and producing it’s own additional narratives to supplement books and comics. Somehow creating three longer than average movies from a single children’s paperback, The Hobbit immediately springs to mind.

The Avengers Assembled. Six movies that form only "Phase One" of the 'Marvel Cinematic Universe'.
The Avengers Assembled. Six movies that form only “Phase One” of the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’.

More than this however, is the new tradition that has developed in which feature films now seem to be produced at a rate to rival TV episodes, something seen particularly with the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is well worth noting here, as what is being described as “Phase Two”, the continuation of films that culminated in Joss Whedon’s (told you, prolific) recent blockbuster The Avengers (Assemble), will constitute not just Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World et al, but also a S.H.I.E.L.D. Television series.

While it remains to be seen exactly how much this new series will link in with the films, with the inclusion of Agent Coulson who was seen dying in The Avengers (Assemble), filling in the backstory of how the S.H.I.E.L.D. organistation was created cannot be ruled out.

But regardless of the stories the TV series will tell, it seems that where TV has traditionally been the primary narrative with tie-in stories from ‘lesser’ media supplementing them, the twentyteens have not just followed Star Wars’ lead and promoted the primary narrative to cinematic heights, but with S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside The Clone Wars, promoted the supplementary stories to the ‘lesser’ medium of Television.

Although these phases of transmedia are still emerging, it is interesting to speculate who will take them up, and where they might go with them. Not forgetting of course, in the years to come, what other changes might come next…